Saturday, November 21, 2015

Vital Insights into the Friday the 13th Attack on Paris

Brassaï - Night View of Paris from Notre-Dame (1933)
Baghdad and fellow Arab states warned US President George W. Bush yesterday that attacking Iraq will 'open the gates of hell' in the Middle East, although White House officials pressed ahead with a drive to win support for their war plans ... 'We will continue to work to avoid a military confrontation ... because we believe that it will open the gates of hell in the Middle East,' [Arab League chief Amr] Moussa told a news conference after the two-day meeting ended with a statement rejecting 'any threat of attack' against Iraq. -- Anne Penketh, Attack on Iraq will open the gates of hell, Arabs warn, Arab News, 9/6/02

Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast is currently No 1 on Amazon’s French site, where the retailer says it has temporarily sold out. Copies of the memoir have been left among the tributes to the 129 victims of last Friday night’s attacks, reports Le Figaro. According to the French publisher Folio, orders have risen from an average of 10-15 copies per day to reach 500 ...  The book is published in French as Paris est une fête (Paris Is a Celebration), striking a chord with a mood of defiance in the wake of the attacks. This has seen Parisians drinking and eating in restaurants, cafes and bars across the city, and posting about it under the slogan 'Je suis en terrasse' on social media ...  Hemingway wrote: 'There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were nor how it was changed nor with what difficulties now what ease, it could be reached. It was always worth it and we received a return for whatever we brought to it.' The demand for Hemingway’s memoir has also been fueled by a much-shared interview with a Parisian woman named only as Danielle ... Allison Flood, Hemingway's Paris memoir rises to No 1 in France following terror attacks, Guardian, 11/20/15

There is a lot to say about the slaughter of the innocents in Paris on 11/13/15 (and in a Beirut suburb the day before, and on a Russian charter flight over Sharm el-Sheikh two weeks earlier). But little good would come of it, and life is too short. ("Voice crying in the wilderness" is a loser's game, and "I told you so," has a foul taste.) After all, since the slaughter of the innocents on 9/11/01, I have written and spoken out often, both on this war IN, OF and FOR terror in which the West pretends its enemies are its allies, and also on how the Climate Crisis, our greatest national (and global) security threat would warp the full spectrum of all threats, including and especially the terrorist threat. And yet here we are. But Words of Power is an ongoing narrative, and some acknowledgement of this horrific event should be included. So I am sharing these lengthy excerpts from three insightful pieces of analysis, all worthy sources. And I have, of course, included hyperlinks to the full texts. This is what you really need to know, and, of course, Infotainmenstan isn't telling you.  -- Richard Power

Posted on Instagram by Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Joann Sfar after the Paris attacks

"Oil is the Black Gold that Funds ISIS's Black Flag"

Maybe Paris was just hit because of French attacks on ISIS. And maybe the now more likely failure of COP21 to achieve its aims is mere collateral damage in the increasingly savage 'great game' of global power politics. But it may not be. As the FT put it last week in an article titled 'Isis Inc: how oil fuels the jihadi terrorists', "Oil is the black gold that funds Isis' black flag - it fuels its war machine, provides electricity and gives the fanatical jihadis critical leverage against their neighbors ... "While al-Qaeda, the global terrorist network, depended on donations from wealthy foreign sponsors, Isis has derived its financial strength from its status as monopoly producer of an essential commodity consumed in vast quantities throughout the area it controls. Even without being able to export, it can thrive because it has a huge captive market in Syria and Iraq." But ISIS's ambitions surely don't stop there. Its aim is to consolidate its hold of the regions it already occupies, extend its empire to new regions and countries, and establish a Caliphate whose power and income will largely derive from oil. So the last thing it needs is a global climate agreement that will, over time, limit global consumption of fossil fuels. Oil prices are low at around $50 per barrel. The IEA estimates that OPEC states have lost half a trillion dollars a year in revenues since the oil price fell from over $100 a barrel in 2011-2014 to current levels. And this is causing deep tensions among OPEC members - due to meet on 4th December in Vienna to thrash out solutions. The main problem is that Saudi Arabia is over-producing oil in order to suppress investment in and production of high cost oil in the the US, Canada, UK and other countries - and so capture the lion's share of an oil market it thinks will keep on growing for decades to come. Thus OPEC scenarios foresee oil demand increasing from 111 to 132 million barrels per day (mb/d) by 2040. However the International Energy Agency thinks that even modest carbon constraints will see demand for oil slump to around 100 mb/d by 2040 - and considerably lower with tough climate policies. And that is surely an outcome that not just ISIS but all major oil exporters fear and wish to avoid. So, assuming - as seems probable at this stage - that the Paris outrage was carried out by or for ISIS, was it in any way motivated by a desire to scupper a strong climate agreement at COP21? And so maintain high demand for oil long into the future, together with a high oil price? -- Oliver Tickell, Paris attacks - COP21 and the war on terror, The Ecologist, 11/14/15 

Winged Victory (Nike) of Samothrace (2nd Century B.C.), top of the Daru Staircase in
the Denon wing of the Louvre. Photo Credit: Lyokoï88/Wikipedia (March 2015)
"Our Only Hope"

The connection between warming temperatures and the cycle of Syrian violence is, by now, uncontroversial. As Secretary of State John Kerry said in Virginia, this month, “It’s not a coincidence that, immediately prior to the civil war in Syria, the country experienced its worst drought on record. As many as 1.5 million people migrated from Syria’s farms to its cities, intensifying the political unrest that was just beginning to roil and boil in the region.” As Kerry went on to note, many factors contributed to Syria’s instability. The severe drought was one, but so were the repressive practices of a brutal dictator and the rise of a particular strain of religious extremism. Another big factor was the invasion of Iraq, a decade ago. And since that war—like so many before it—was inextricable from the West’s thirst for Iraqi oil (warming be damned), that fateful decision in turn became difficult to separate from climate change. ISIS, which has taken responsibility for the attacks in Paris, found fertile ground in this volatile context of too much oil and too little water. If we acknowledge that the instability emanating from the Middle East has these roots, it makes little sense to allow the Paris attacks to minimize our already inadequate climate commitments. Rather, this tragedy should inspire the opposite reaction: an urgent push to lower emissions as rapidly and deeply as possible, including strong support for developing countries to leapfrog to renewable energy, creating much-needed jobs and economic opportunities in the process. That kind of bold climate transition is our only hope of preventing a future in which, as a recent paper in the journal Nature Climate Change put it, large areas of the Middle East will, by the end of the century, “experience temperature levels that are intolerable to humans.” But even this is not enough. The deepest emission reductions can only prevent climate change from getting far worse. They can’t stop the warming that has already arrived, nor the warming that is locked in as a result of the fossil fuels we have already burned. So there is a critical piece missing from our climate conversation: the need to quickly lower atmospheric CO2 levels from the current four hundred parts per million to the upper limit of what is not considered dangerous: three hundred and fifty parts per million ... -- Naomi A. Klein and Jason Box, Why a Climate Deal Is the Best Hope for Peace, New Yorker Magazine via Common Dreams, 11-19-15

"Enough of This Pathological Fear ..."

The lessons of the post-9/11 world are that the Francis Fukuyama dream of global liberal democracy is at an end and that, at the level of the world economy, corporate capitalism has triumphed worldwide. In fact, the Third World nations that embrace this world order are those now growing at a spectacular rate. The mask of cultural diversity is sustained by the actual universalism of global capital; even better if global capitalism’s political supplement relies on so-called “Asian values.” Global capitalism has no problem in accommodating itself to a plurality of local religions, cultures and traditions. So the irony of anti-Eurocentrism is that, on behalf of anti-colonialism, one criticizes the West at the very historical moment when global capitalism no longer needs Western cultural values in order to smoothly function. In short, one tends to reject Western cultural values at the very time when, critically reinterpreted, many of those values (egalitarianism, fundamental rights, freedom of the press, the welfare-state, etc.) can serve as a weapon against capitalist globalization. Did we already forget that the entire idea of Communist emancipation as envisaged by Marx is a thoroughly “Eurocentric” one? The next taboo worth leaving behind is that any critique of the Islamic right is an example of “Islamophobia.” Enough of this pathological fear of many Western liberal leftists who worry about being deemed guilty of Islamophobia. For example, Salman Rushdie was denounced for unnecessarily provoking Muslims and thus (partially, at least) responsible for the fatwa condemning him to death. The result of such a stance is what one can expect in such cases: The more Western liberal leftists wallow in their guilt, the more they are accused by Muslim fundamentalists of being hypocrites who try to conceal their hatred of Islam. This constellation perfectly reproduces the paradox of the superego: The more you obey what the pseudo-moral agency that the sadistic and primitive superego demands of you, the more guilty you are of moral masochism and identification with the aggressor. Thus, it is as if the more you tolerate Islamic fundamentalism, the stronger its pressure on you will be ... -- Slavoj Zizek, In the Wake of Paris Attacks the Left Must Embrace Its Radical Western Roots, In These Times

Brassaï - The Eiffel Tower At Twilight, Paris (1932)

NOTE: All four volumes of my Primal Reality quadrilogy (listed here in reverse chronological order) are available from in both soft cover and Kindle editions: