Category Archives: History

Immigration spurs rise in Swedish xenophobia

Scandinavian folks can just as racist as other folks. Our own Danish grandfather, a onetime Klansman, once declared to his son-in-law, our father, that “Swedes is nothin’ but niggers turned inside out.”

The nomadic Roma people have long been the especial targets of violent xenophobia, and as Heather Docalavich and Shaina C. Indovino write in their work Denmark, “A practice of ‘Gypsy hunting’ — similar to fox hunting — was both common and legal in some parts of Europe. Even as late as 1835, a Gypsy hunt in Dennmark “brought in a bag of over 260 men, women, and children.”

And in Sweden, which has a long history of anti-Roma xenophobia, the problem has reached crisis proportions, even before the influx of refugees from the tide of ISIS violence.

Reuters reported in August:

A series of attacks in Sweden on beggars, many Roma, has highlighted a dark side to a country considered a bastion of tolerance but where the far right has been gaining support by claiming society is under threat from waves of immigrants.

An influx of thousands of mainly Roma migrants has shocked affluent Swedes, with beggars now a common sight outside supermarkets, IKEA stores and subways in the capital.

Since most come from Romania and Bulgaria, they are free to travel to Sweden as EU citizens, but their presence has fueled claims by the Sweden Democrats the country is a soft-touch for migrants and is being swamped.

An October Al Jazeera report focused on violence toward immigrants from violence-torn lands in Africa and the Middle East:

A former retirement home slated to house refugees in Sweden was burned Thursday in what police suspect was an arson attack, local media reported. It was the latest in a string of fires at buildings destined to house some of the refugees streaming into Europe from the Middle East and Africa.

The fire in the southern town of Oderljunga followed one at a former boys’ school set to house about 170 refugees in a nearby town over the weekend, according to Swedish newspaper The Local. Three other centers were engulfed by fire in the southern Sweden last week.

Sweden, with a population of 9.5 million, hosts the most refugees per capita of any European country: 142,000 refugees and about 57,000 asylum seekers, according to UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency.

And who are the folks capitalizing on the influx of refugees to inflame the violence?

Here’s a video report from the Guardian:

Meet the young supporters of Sweden’s far right

Program notes:

Sweden’s liberal identity is under attack. As increasing numbers of refugees enter the country, anti-immigrant violence is rising.

And the Sweden Democrats, a radical nationalist group, is now the third largest party in the country. Phoebe Greenwood meets the young Swedes who believe multiculturalism is a threat – and the migrants afraid of what this means for them.

More on supporters of the Sweden Democrats from Linköping University:

After the Swedish general elections in September 2014, there has been much debate regarding how the Sweden Democrats could end up as the third largest party. Some commentators argued that voters were expressing their disapproval with the established parties – a theory rejected by the four Linköping University researchers.

“There is a very strong correlation between negative attitudes toward minorities and the decision to vote for the Sweden Democrats,” says Peter Hedström, professor of analytical sociology and director of the Institute for Analytical Sociology (IAS) at Linköping University.

In the study, the researchers asked respondents how they feel about someone with a Muslim background being their next-door neighbour, caring for their parents or marrying into their family. The questions were asked both before and after the election. The results show that Sweden Democrat voters have a more negative view of Muslims and people with foreign names than other voters. Fifty per cent of Sweden Democrat voters did not want a Muslim as next-door neighbour, and 80 per cent are negative to someone with a Muslim background marrying into their family.

A Polish rebuff to American Polanski injustice

Polish prosecutors issued a remarkable and extremely accurate riposte to Los Angeles courts and the district attorney’s office that precisely parallels our own concerns from witnessing the case firsthand, concerns we raised in many previous posts.

From Mariella Rudi of Westside Today in Los Angeles:

In a statement released today, the Krakow prosecutors said Polanski would be denied rights that are guaranteed by the European Constitution.

They cited “excessive vulnerability of judges and prosecutors to criticism by the American news media” which would prevent a fair sentence from being imposed for the rape of the girl.

The prosecutors also blasted Los Angeles judges for having consulted with prosecutors without Polanski or his attorney present, a violation of European legal codes.

The prosecutors also blasted the American system of sentencing fugitive convicts in absentia.

The point is, Polanski had already served the sentence stipulated in the plea agreement, and fled only after learning that Judge Laurence J. Rittenband had breached the agreement and now sought a longer sentence.

The judge violated basic judicial standards in extensive ex parte discussions not only with members of the district attorney’s office but also with at least one journalist [esnl], assorted pals from his country club, and wives of friends, his mistresses [at age 70, he had three], and others.

In subsequent years, after Rittenband’s retirement, other judges assigned to the case had similar ex parte conversations about the case with representatives of the district attorney’s office but not Polanski’s own attorneys, again, a fundamental violation of judicial standards and Polanski’s own rights.

Most certainly Polanski committed a crime. But he has had no legal problems in the four decades since, and his victim, her family, and the DA who prosecuted the case [scrupulously, we might add] all agreed that Polanski has become the victim of an ongoing injustice.

It’s nice to see that Polish prosecutors also agree.

ISIS and the U.S., legacy of a troubled history

Until 2003 Chris Hedges held one of the most prestigious jobs in American journalism, Mideast bureau chief for the New York Times, until he was reprimanded by the paper for speaking against the American invasion of Iraq at a college commencement in Rockford, Illinois.

These days he hosts Days of Revolt, a weekly interview series for Telesur English.

Today we’re posting a two-part discussion on the rise of ISIS and the long troubled history of imperial ambitions in the Middle East with Professor Sabah Alnasseri, a native of Basra, Iraq, who teaches Middle East politics at York University in Toronto.

And with that, the first episode:

Days of Revolt – ISIS, The New Israel

From the transcript:

HEDGES: So let’s begin with ISIS, which is historically an extremely important movement within the Middle East. The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, which is named for the French and British diplomats that carved up the Middle East among the colonial–among the empire, essentially turning countries in the Middle East into protectorates, has only been changed twice. The first time was the Israeli independence movement, which rose up in Palestine, and now with ISIS, which controls an area roughly the size of Texas.

The mechanisms that were used to redraw the map in the Middle East are the same: the use of foreign money, the use of foreign fighters, the tactics of ethnic cleansing and terrorism, and this mythical vision, in the case of Israel, the re-creation of Judea and Samaria from the Bible, the land of Israel, and in the case of ISIS, the re-creation of the seventh century caliphate.

And these tactics have could prove quite effective. In both cases, in the case of Israel and in the case of ISIS, you could argue, especially with ISIS having roughly 20,000 foreign fighters, that these are forces that are as dependent on the areas outside the Middle East as within the Middle East. And I wondered if you could kind of address that phenomenon, this phenomenon that we are watching.

ALNASSERI: Right. Right. I mean, you are right, because ISIS has a kind of settler colonialist form the way they occupy space, cleanse the space, plunder the resources.

HEDGES: Which is what–as Israel does.

ALNASSERI: Exactly, and carve out territory for itself.

But to understand the phenomenon of ISIS, we needed to contextualize it within the setbacks and counterrevolution against the Arab revolutions, the amount of violence, of intervention, in Libya, for instance, the war in Libya, the civil war in Syria, now the war also in Yemen, and–.

HEDGES: And Egypt. We can’t forget Egypt.

ALNASSERI: Exactly. We don’t forget Egypt. And the failure of this peaceful, nonviolent revolutions, this amount of violence, of counterrevolutionary violence, created this Frankenstein, this phenomenon. So you can say ISIS is a Hegelian-Fischer synthesis of two form of violence.

Now, what is so interesting about ISIS and why it is so attractive for many young, unemployed, mostly Arab fighters–most of the fighters, by the way, they come from Libya or Tunisia and so on, less from Europe, etc. It’s mostly from the Middle East. What attracted them to ISIS is that when these peaceful revolution failed, revolutions turn into kind of jihadism, that ISIS is much more effective in its leadership, organization, logistical structure, and its geologies, than all the other peaceful, nonviolent movements, mass movements.

And the second part:

Days of Revolt – The Revolutionary Age

From the transcript:

HEDGES: So I think what we want to focus on in this segment is the dynamics of revolutionary change in an age of globalism and neoliberalism, how it will look like revolutions in the past, and how it will look like something else. And I know this is something you have examined.

ALNASSERI: Right. Right. I will start with the end of the Cold War and the breakdown of of the Soviet Union, because this world historical context is very important in understanding any kind of politics, revolutionary or otherwise.

Since the ‘90s, we observe the dominant political form [of] Europe, the United States, but also other parts of the world is populism. Before, at least until the ‘70s, political parties were organized around specific classes, articulated interests of classes, the social democracy for the working class, etc. But since the ‘90s, the dominant political form of the ruling classes is populism. And that’s not a coincidence with this neoliberal offensive, with half of the world open to be conquered by neoliberalism after the breakdown of the Soviet Union. There is a radical shift in the form of politics, articulation of interests, representation, etc. So what we see is that the majority of the population on a worldwide scale actually are excluded from the political system, are not represented. Their interests are not articulated.

So I believe that within this context–and that’s why the current revolutions are different than the historical one–that revolutions and revolt probably is the only political form available for the popular classes to introduce a radical change in the [crosstalk]

HEDGES: Well, I agree completely, and that is the thesis of my own book, Wages of Rebellion. But what about nationalism? I mean, nationalism still remains a powerful force.

ALNASSERI: Yes, yes and no, because nationalism now is embedded in an international and global context. So even nationalist movement, if they are not linked to a wider movement and solidarity and support, their prospective of success is almost zero. You can see this. Take the example of SYRIZA in Greece. SYRIZA, the first right approach was to say that you need a Europe-wide movement and solidarity in order to empower SYRIZA in Greece to deal with the European Central Bank, with the IMF, etc., and E.U. Commission, etc. So there’s a sense of embedding nationalist, or nationalist, say, movement within a wider context, a regional or international context. I think this is very important. It’s different than the old form of internationalism we knew in the 19th and 20th century, because the old form of internationalism was different in three instances. The first one, it was mostly European-centered, not international in this sense. The second point is it was mostly class-based. And third, all these revolt and revolution were organized by a political party with a strong leadership.

HEDGES: But that wasn’t true for the Communist Party. There was an internationalist element to that.

ALNASSERI: Yeah, but again, if you look at it historically, we’ll see mostly within Europe–there are some connection to other part of the world, but mostly it was within Europe, and I think that’s a big difference today. We have–you can call it the first international of the people. And it’s cross-class. It’s not nation- or nation states-centered, and it’s not articulated, organized by a specific political party.

Operation Condor is coming home to roost

Operation Condor, by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff.

Operation Condor, by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff.

Wednesday marked the 40th anniversary of the start of Operation Condor [previously], a U.S.-backed pogrom of leftist and populist leaders in Latin America, carried out with the help of then Sceretary of State Henry Kissinger and the Central Intelligence Agency.

In the ensuing purge a thousand or more political activists were tortured and murdered, and a leader figure of the Latin Left, along with a young American woman, died in a car bombing in this nation’s capital. An unknown number of dissidents were disposed of by being stripped naked as they were flown out over the South Atlantic and dropped into the ocean, the basis for the Latuff cartoon.

As for that bombing in Washington, the National Security Archive of George Washington University reported on 8 October:

The CIA concluded that there was “convincing evidence” that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet “personally ordered his intelligence chief to carry out the murder” of exiled critic Orlando Letelier in Washington D.C., according to a SECRET memo prepared for President Ronald Reagan in 1987. “Pinochet decided to stonewall on the US investigation to hide his involvement,” the CIA review also noted, and as part of the cover-up considered “even the elimination of his former intelligence chief,” DINA director Manuel Contreras, who had overseen the assassination plot.

The CIA intelligence review remains classified. But it was quoted in a dramatic report to President Reagan, dated on October 6, 1987, from his Secretary of State, George Shultz, as part of his efforts to convince the president to cut U.S. ties to Pinochet and press for the return of democracy in Chile. “The CIA has never before drawn and presented its conclusion that such strong evidence exists of his [Pinochet’s] leadership role in this act of terrorism,” the Secretary of State informed the President.

The National Security Archive today said it would file a Freedom of Information Act petition to secure the declassification of the CIA assessment and the raw intelligence reports it was based on. “This document is clearly the holy grail of the Letelier-Moffitt case,” said Peter Kornbluh who directs the Archive’s Chile Documentation Project. Kornbluh called on the agency “to release this document to complete the Obama administration’s special declassification project on Chile.”

Letelier, a former minister in the Allende government, and his 25-year old colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, were killed by a car-bomb planted by agents of the Chilean secret police on September 21, 1976, as they drove to work down Massachusetts avenue in Washington D.C. Moffitt’s husband, Michael, was the sole survivor of the bombing.

The memory of the horrors of Operation Condor remain very much alive, and a trial now underway may finally win some small measure of justice for the survivors.

From CCTV America:

Operation Condor: A dark time for Latin America

Program notes:

On November 25th, 1975 – high-ranking officials from several South American countries gathered for a meeting in Santiago with a dark agenda. It was then that Operation Condor was launched and military dictatorships were able to swap information to hunt down political opponents.

Trump trumps Trump for arrogant bombast

First this form David Horsey, editorial cartoonist of the Los Angeles Times:

BLOG Assinine

Just how sociopathic is Trump?

Well, consider his latest demonstration of his total lack of compassionate humanity.

That a self-absorbed narcissist could become the leading presidential candidate for the GOP is hardly surprising, given the inherent narcissistic character ofr the neoliberal corporatist agenda the party has adopted.

But that such a candidate could openly mock a journalist for the simple fact of being disabled is simply breathtaking.

From BBC News:

Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has been criticised for mocking a disabled New York Times reporter.

Mr Trump performed an impression of Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a congenital joint condition, at a rally.

He has used a 2001 article by Mr Kovaleski to back up widely disputed claims that “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the 9/11 attacks.

More from the Washington Post, where Kovakleski worked at the time of the 9/11 attacks:

The gesture was all the more personal because Kovaleski covered Trump while reporting for the New York Daily News between 1987 and 1993, a tumultuous period for Trump in which he struggled through several financial setbacks.

“The sad part about it is, it didn’t in the slightest bit jar or surprise me that Donald Trump would do something this low-rent, given his track record,” Kovaleski said.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to comment on the record about the incident. A campaign official speaking on background said Trump was “not aware of any condition and was not mocking his physical appearance in any way.”

A New York Daily News headline sums up:

Donald Trump’s marathon of meanness reaches new low, mocks reporter’s physical handicap during campaign rally

And now for the video of the event, from CNN:

Trump mocks reporter with disability

Program notes:

Donald Trump is under fire again, this time for mocking a New York Times reporter that suffers from a chronic condition. CNN’s John Berman reports.

As for the rumors of celebrating Muslims, here’s an excerpt of a story from the 23 September Newark Star-Ledger:

Hours after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, a story spread across the state: Palestinians in Paterson were celebrating in the streets.

Braced for a riot, the Paterson police rushed to South Main Street, the center of the city’s Middle Eastern community.

“When we got there,” Paterson Police Chief Lawrence Spagnola said, “They were all in prayer.”

In the ensuing days, the rumor went national, lighting up talk radio phone lines. In the end, it was nothing more than rapid-fire urban myth. But it spawned fear of a backlash against Middle Eastern residents that sent this vibrant strip of Turkish pastry shops and Palestinian groceries into virtual lockdown for days. And for Paterson, a downtrodden city struggling to remake itself, it was yet another black eye that is proving difficult to heal.

Ironically, five men were detained after a witness called police to report a group filming the burning towers, apparently celebrating, as ABC News reported:

Maria says she saw three young men kneeling on the roof of a white van in the parking lot of her apartment building. “They seemed to be taking a movie,” Maria said.

The men were taking video or photos of themselves with the World Trade Center burning in the background, she said. What struck Maria were the expressions on the men’s faces. “They were like happy, you know … They didn’t look shocked to me. I thought it was very strange,” she said.

She found the behavior so suspicious that she wrote down the license plate number of the van and called the police. Before long, the FBI was also on the scene, and a statewide bulletin was issued on the van.

The five were all Israeli citizens — three of them in the country illegally — and at one time were suspected of links to Mossad, the Israeli equivalent of the CIA. The intelligence links were never proven and the five were deported.

But Trump never mentioned them, needless to say.

They didn’t fit the narrative.

Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Getrank: Coke was it

Yep, Americans who arrived in Berlin for the 1936 Olympics were greeted by a familiar brand and a slogan that mixed the familiar with the unfamiliar.

The two words normally following ein Volk and ein Reich [one people and one empire] were ein Fuhrer, but the folks at Coca Cola substituted the German for one drink, followed by the familiar “Coke is it.”

BLOG Nazi coke

It wasn’t the first time Coke played with symbolism near and dear to Nazis, although their 1925 use of the swastika as a key fob in the U.S. may owe more to the sigil’s use as a traditional good luck charm rather than to the Nazi Party, still a German fringe movement at the time:

BLOG Nazi Coke II

When the war began, German bottlers couldn’t import the coca and cola nuts needed to produce the brown beverage, so the company’s chemists came up with a substitute.

Earlier this year, on Fanta’s 75th anniversary, German television featured a commemorative ad, celebrating those “good old times” when Germany’s innovators created such a marvelous beverage.

The ad didn’t sit too well with countless Germans and countless others who lost parents, grandparents, spouses, and siblings during those “good old times,” and the ad was pulled and the requisite apology issued.

Still, major American corporations [including GM and IBM] and banks [including the one which George H.W. Bush’s father helped set up and profited from] made lots of money off the Third Reich. Indeed, it was IBM’s mechanical computers that enabled to Nazis to keep track of Jews in Germany and lands the Nazis conquered and send them on their ways to death camps, where more records were compiled by IBM’s Hollerith machines.

Militarizing academia, a list and an omission

We begin with the latest edition of Days of Revolt, the new weekly broadcast series from Chris Hedges produced by The Real News Network for  Telesur English:

Days of Revolt – Militarizing Education

Program notes:

In this episode of Days of Revolt, host Chris Hedges discusses the militarization of higher education institutions with journalist Alexa O’Brien. They uncover the trail of money and influence from the national security state to college programs. Hedges and O’Brien identify the ways in which this apparatus has long-been in effect, and what it could mean for the future.

While we generally agree with her critique of the military’s increasing grasp on the military, we find one peculiar omission from the list of the 100 most militarized universities she published in VICE News.

Not on the list is the University of California, now headed by former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Lest we forget, it was UC Berkeley’s own Robert Oppenheimer who headed the immense World War II scientific research program responsible for developing the atomic bomb. Berkeley is still involved in running Lawrence-Livermore National Laboratory, where new nuclear weapons are developed, and appoints three members to the board of Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the atomic bomb. And it was UC Berkeley’s John Yoo who provided the guiding legal advice justifying torture in the wake of 9/11.

The University of California also provided nearly half of the scientists of the Jason group, the secret, self-selected cabal of academics who provide research and advice to the Pentagon.

Among the Jasons’ “gifts” to humankind are the border patrolling drone and border-installed remote sensing devices, developed for the Vietnam War under the rubric of the Air-Supported Anti-Infiltration Barrier [PDF].

A 2007 College Quarterly review of Ann Finkbeiner’s 2006 book The Jasons: The Secret History of Science’s Postwar Elite, noted:

She was able to contact a number of Jasons and succeeded in interviewing thirty-six (published estimates of the total roster range from forty to about one hundred). Some refused to be interviewed. Some agreed only on condition of anonymity. Her book reveals that the $850 a day now paid to Jasons, while worthwhile, seems to be among the least of the motives for joining. More important is the sense of self-importance to be had from playing the part of a confident Washington insider. More likely still are altruistic, if naïve, beliefs that the Jasons make positive contributions to society by, if nothing else, exposing strategic errors or technological flaws in government plans and, of course, also solving real scientific problems in the bargain. They certainly have the skills to do so. Nobel laureates and giants of the intellectual community including Dyson, Hans Bethe, Steven Weinberg and the legendary Murray Gell-Mann have been Jasons. Too often, however, Finkbeiner concludes that their bargain is ultimately Faustian.

Jason has applied its collective braininess to such projects as the “electronic infiltration barrier” that did not, as it happens, protect South Vietnam from North Vietnam’s flow of troops (they tunnelled underground). Jason also worked out puzzles in adaptive optics, allowing telescopes to correct for atmospheric interference – information kept under wraps for a decade until the military found a use for it in Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”). Today, they may be providing advice on the occupation of Iraq; but, we won’t get the details on that soon, if ever.

The Jasons have also served as a model for other nations, as noted in a 10 November 2009 report in Nature, the world’s leading scientific journal:

The British government has recruited a group of academics to tackle tricky scientific problems related to defence, Nature has learned.

The programme is similar to a group known as the JASONs, which the US government has consulted on technical issues since the 1960s. “You hear a lot about the JASONs and how much credibility they have in the United States,” says Mark Welland, the UK Ministry of Defence’s chief scientific adviser. Britain needs a similarly “fast-moving, free-floating entity”, he says.

Scientific advice is frequently sought in Britain, but on security-related issues the advice usually comes from inside the government. Scientists at government labs such as the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston are consulted on sensitive topics, in part because academic researchers lack the necessary security clearances.

Though the Pentagon created the group in 1958, it was only in 1971 that their existence became known to the public, thanks to the leak of the Pentagon Papers.

While the group’s membership remains a secret, some names surfaced in 1972, thanks to the release of the in-depth report on the group, authored by UC Berkeley Professor Charlie Schwartz and colleagues.

According to one published estimate, fully half of the Jasons have come from the University of California, primarily Berkeley.

The Federation of American Scientists maintains a database of declassified Jason reports.

So any way you look at it, the University of California belongs on any list of the nation’s most militarized universities.