Voices from Russia

Monday, 12 February 2018

Why Didn’t Americans Take Fascism Seriously Until It Was Too Late?

Make no mistake, Hillary Clinton is as much of a fascist as Trump is… perhaps, more so. She cackled with glee at the wars against Federal Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, South Ossetia, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and the Ukraine. She’s a soulless bloodthirsty wench with less control than Trump has… she’d have us embroiled in another war by now, perhaps, even with Russia and China, which’d be nothing but a thermonuclear Ragnarok, given her unstable, ruthless, and narcissistic personality. There are degrees of fascism… some are far worse than Trump is.

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A question’s been echoing in my head. One I think that history will ask. “Why didn’t Americans take fascism seriously until it was too late?” Perhaps, that sounds harsh, maybe even absurd to you. So let me qualify it a little. “Fascism”. Friends, when a head of state wants to hold military parades… and not clapping is treason… LOL… is there another word, idea, or concept that fits better? Isn’t it then a wilful denial of reality to say that such a watershed moment in a nation’s history is, if not an outright atrocity, at least not the glittering spark of fascist implosion? “Until it was too late”. There are many ways it can be “too late”. Until we can do nothing about it… or, at least, until the phenomenon itself occurred. Here, I mean the latter. At last, Americans didn’t take fascism seriously until it (quite literally) paraded itself before their very eyes and demanded they applaud on pain of treason. Sieg Heil! Maybe, they still don’t. How funny. How strange.

Now that you understand my question, perhaps, it seems a little less extreme. On the other hand, maybe it still does. Maybe, that reflects the times we live in. “Why didn’t Americans take the possibility of fascism seriously until it trumpeted down Constitution Avenue, letting the whole world know it had arrived?” Either way, let us try to derive an answer. The first way a nation might fail to take fascism seriously is trivial: there was no one left to warn of its dangers. However, in America, at least a few of its thinkers did. They were sidelined, blacklisted, and deliberately erased. Therefore, the question then becomes, “Why did it become a taboo to even discuss the rise of fascism as a remote possibility … if not a likely probability?” Every single major media outlet spent all of the election year publishing pieces warning us not to use words like “fascism”, “authoritarianism”, “Hitler”, and “Mussolini”… when they weren’t doing puff pieces on sympathetic Nazis. Therefore, there was a problem not of a lack of information in America, but of a strange, bizarre, glib kind of wilful ignorance. A nation made itself blind, and now the authoritarians march and demand applause.

Why was that? Well, staying blind, we can go on believing our myths, which comfort and console us… that’s exactly what the élites were doing when they said things like, “You can’t call it fascism! Such a thing will never rise here! We are the best!” However, ironically, here’s the point, it’s the overweening belief in great myths that makes societies most vulnerable to fascism. America has long had a culture of hierarchy, obedience, and overt unforgiving social control. Break a rule… go to prison. Go to work… obey the boss. Go to school … recite the Pledge. And so on. Why? These are ways to enforce a kind of conformity, aren’t they? Not just in thought, but also in appearance, in speech, in behaviour. In that way, they make true believers of national myths.

Now, there isn’t a nation in history whose myths don’t say something like, “We are wonderful and great and noble!” That’s the point of myths… to create a sense of confidence in a tribe. Then, a person can give themselves over to the tribe’s goals, purposes, and uses… you, be a soldier, you, a doctor, you, a ditch-digger. Still, some nations have more grandiose myths than others do, don’t they? Some say, “Well, we’re pretty good”, and some say, “We’re the best in the world!”, and others say, “We’re the best in history! The best there ever was or will be!”

Now, what happens the more grandiose a myth gets? There’s less room left for dissent, for difference, for reflection, for thought at all. There isn’t even any room left for reason, empirical reality, or humanity… but those are harder things. Therefore, in this way, a society as dependent on myths as grandiose as America’s is always at risk of plunging into little fascisms. The dark side of “We’re the best!” is “Those filthy subhumans! They’re stopping us from attaining our God-given destiny! We must cleanse ourselves of them to be the best!” So what do a nation’s myths protect it from? They protect it from reality… from its very real shortcomings, flaws, mistakes, and catastrophes. They mythologise them away… they rationalise them away (“We had to do it!!”), they economise them away (“The benefits were greater than the costs!”), they erase them away (“That really happened?! It couldn’t have been as bad as that!”). The more grandiose its myths are the more detached from reality a nation can get.

What are such mistakes in American history? It’d be an error to label this as the only fascist moment in American history. There have been many such as anti-Chinese laws, Japanese internment, Italian discrimination, and anti-Semitism. Of course, that’s not to mention the many horrors of slavery, segregation, and native genocide, too. Those points make a trend; a leaning towards collapses into fascism, which might seem small relative to Nazi Germany, but assuredly weren’t to those living through them. There’s a distinct fascist tendency in American history that isn’t present elsewhere. This moment in American history isn’t an anomaly. Still, this moment feels special, doesn’t it? Why’s that? Because it isn’t just minorities at risk of fascism’s depredations, but the majority is, too. Do you see how a society that depends on myths can’t learn from its mistakes? Do you see how the societies that rely most on grandiose myths as forms of social control and cohesion are the most vulnerable to fascist implosions?

The more grandiose a nation’s myths, the more vulnerable it is to fascism … that’s why America’s history has been marked by fascist implosions. The more grandiose a nation’s myths, the more harsh and exploitative it must be too, just like any narcissist, who needs to defend his sense of specialness and destiny at any price. The more grandiose a nation’s myths, the less it can ever admit its mistakes. Therefore, the vicious cycle just goes on. Fascist implosions never stop. Progress slows to a halt. Life stops improving. Tribal takes hold. Cruelty becomes a way of life. Sound familiar, yet? So all this is, and I admit it’s hard to understand, come to grips with, get a feel for, the problem that America must face, in a deeper way. It’s reliance on grandiose national myths of greatness and exceptionalism shielded and protected it for too long from at least three aspects of reality. First, history… its tendency to implode into fascism. Second, economics… the failure to write a working social contract that all the above implies. Third, modernity… its inability to keep up with the rest of the advanced world in terms of basic quality of life since the 1970s or so. Unless it faces those three aspects, then, I think that America will be as vulnerable to fascist collapses as it has ever been.

Only America’s fascist collapses are likely to grow worse. Why is that? We have established that it’s now the majority at risk of fascism’s harms, not only the minority. What does that really mean? It means that America never built a working social contract. It was always necessary to exploit, enslave, or turn on someone for the economy to grind away. It’s true to say that much was true for every colonial empire, but it was distinctly not true after the waves of reform that swept the rest of the world from the late 1900s onwards, and established, for example, the NHS and BBC. Instead, America was too busy looking for the next group to exploit… once it had chewed up the last, natives, blacks, Asians, Latinos. Until, at last, there was no one left but poor whites themselves.

One can hardly blame them for turning to fascism, then. It’s much easier to believe in myths of especial greatness and nobility and destiny at the precise moment that they’re exploiting you than to ask yourself to see a terrible truth… they’ve failed you, just as they failed all those around. No one was special, above anyone else, or singular. All were victims of a broken way of life. Myths might liberate us in one way as they allow us to live lives filled with pride and belief, but they subjugate us in others. Pride soon enough becomes hubris and belief soon enough becomes ignorance. Therefore, the more grandiose a myth is, the harder the fall. Americans most need liberation from subjugation to hubris and ignorance. If that sounds harsh to you, I can only say this much… I mean it in a gentle way because the work of freeing one’s self is always difficult. Sometimes, too difficult to bear… especially, when there are pleasant fairy tales of your very own specialness and preciousness to be told, heard, and kept safe and pure. That’s why Americans didn’t see fascism coming until it was too late. They never do.

7 February 2018

Umair Haque

Eudaimonia

https://eand.co/why-didnt-americans-take-fascism-seriously-until-it-was-too-late-445d2e4c387a

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Sophie Scholl Was Beheaded at 21 for Standing Up to the Nazis: She Distributed Anti-Nazi Pamphlets at the University of München

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Like most German children in the 1930s, Sophie Scholl and her five siblings joined Nazi youth groups. However, Sophie and her brother Hans grew outraged that educated Germans went along with racist Nazi policies. In 1942, the two siblings, along with their friend Christoph Probst, amongst others, started a secret society known as the White Rose Circle. The group painted anti-Nazi slogans on the campus of the University of München and distributed pamphlets detailing the genocide of Jewish people. A White Rose pamphlet read:

Since the conquest of Poland, 300,000 Jews have been murdered, a crime against humanity.

They implored readers not to be complicit:

Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil falls from our eyes and the most horrible crimes reach the light of day?

Scholl’s father, an avowed anti-Nazi arrested for criticising Hitler to a colleague, raised his children to stand up for what they believed in their hearts:

What I want for you is to live in uprightness and freedom of spirit, no matter how difficult that proves to be.

His words were prophetic. In October 1943, a Nazi court sentenced Sophie and Hans Scholl, along with Christoph Probst, to death by guillotine. Before her execution at the age of 21, Sophie said:

Such a fine sunny day and I have to go. However, what does my death matter if thousands of people are awakened through us and stirred to action?”

6 February 2018

Timeline

https://timeline.com/sophie-scholl-world-war-ii-anti-nazi-beheaded-history-268030b3d310

Military Balance Shifts: Syria Shoots Down Israeli F-16

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The shooting down by Syria of an Israeli F-16 shortly after Israel carried out an airstrike on Syria provoked world headlines, as well as a mixture of consternation and threats from Israel. Much about this incident is unclear, but the central fact is that Syria shot down an Israeli F-16 and that its wreckage fell in Israel. The Israeli claim is that this happened after an Israeli air strike on an Iranian drone trailer near Palmyra, which the Israelis say they carried out in response to an intrusion of an Iranian drone from Syria into their airspace. The Israelis claim they brought down this drone and offer to display it. Supposedly, Syrian air defence responded to this Israeli airstrike by shooting down the Israeli F-16 with SAMs. Israel claimed that in retaliation it then carried out a further airstrike on Syria.  Reports suggest that this was against Syrian military facilities near Damascus. Here is a report from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

[Syrian] Opposition sources in Damascus said that an Israeli strike targeted a control tower of a Syrian military airfield near Damascus and a weapons depot near the Syrian capital.

The Israeli account of the incident is in Haaretz. For their part, the Syrians said that they shot down two Israeli aircraft, not just one. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to be engaging in “urgent consultations” with senior Israeli officials, and the Israelis published threats warning, “Iran and Syria are playing with fire”. In reality, however, despite these characteristically blood-curdling threats, Israel gave a muted response, with Israel now saying that it doesn’t wish to “escalate” the situation. The IDF insisted:

Israel doesn’t seek escalation with these two states [Iran and Syria]. We’re willing, prepared, and capable to exact a heavy price from anyone that attacks us. However, we aren’t looking to escalate the situation. What we did was merely a defensive effort triggered by an Iranian act of aggression and we defended our airspace, our sovereignty, and civilians.

What’s going on? Firstly, Israeli airstrikes on targets located within Syria and Lebanon are nothing new. They’ve occurred regularly ever since the Six Day War of 1967. Secondly, although the Israelis identified the Iranians as somehow responsible for the original drone incident, there’s no independent corroboration of this, and on the face of it, it seems unlikely. It isn’t obvious why Iran would want to send a drone over Israel. By contrast, it’s entirely obvious why Syria might want to do so. Israeli air raids on Syria and Israeli air support for Jihadi groups fighting the Syrian army in Syria (especially in the Golan Heights) give the Syrian military an obvious motive for flying surveillance drones over Israel in order to find out what the Israelis are doing there. Syria imports weapons from Iran, and surveillance drones… whose technology Iran is known to have perfected, and which Iran operates in some numbers… are an obvious import. Therefore, it’s possible and actually likely, that the drone the Israelis brought down… of course, assuming that it existed, something of which unfortunately one can’t be sure (you should never assume that anyone in the Middle East is telling the truth)… was a Syrian drone. Almost certainly, it was of Iranian manufacture, and possibly Iranians seconded by the Iranian military to the Syrian military operated it, but almost certainly it carried out surveillance on behalf of Syria, not Iran.

Nevertheless, the key point is that following this alleged incident with the drone the Syrian military successfully shot down an Israeli fighter, doing so for the first time since the 1980s, and doing so moreover over Israel, something which I believe hasn’t happened since the 1973 war. That indicates a radical shift in the military balance of power between Israel and Syria. Israel enjoyed unchallenged control of Middle East airspace ever since the 1967 war save for two brief periods… the so-called War of Attrition of 1970… when its adversary was the Soviet air defence forces, not the air forces of any of the Arab states… and during the opening days of the 1973 war. Russian accounts of the air combat between the Israeli and Syrian forces during the 1982 Lebanon war suggest that it may have been more even than Israel claimed and the Western media reported at the time. However, there’s no doubt that in the end the Israelis successfully asserted their air supremacy over the Syrians in that combat.

Since the arrival of the Russians in Syria in September 2015, that situation changed. The Russian Aerospace Forces based at Khmeimim air base are technologically and in training at least the equals of the Israeli Air Force, even if the Israelis heavily outnumber them. The radars and air defence missile systems Russia deployed to Syria… recently reinforced by the despatch of still more S-400 SAMs there… pose an even bigger potential challenge to Israel’s superiority in Middle East airspace over the long term. Yet, the Russians aren’t currently Israel’s enemy… Israel and Russia have cordial relations at present… although this is a worrying development for Israel, especially that Russia decided to establish permanent bases in Syria, it isn’t a reason for immediate concern.

By contrast, the Israelis do perceive Syria as an enemy. In fact, Syria and Israel have been in a formal state of war ever since the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948. Therefore, the fact that Syria demonstrated an ability to shoot down Israeli fighters will alarm the Israelis considerably. Moreover, there are aspects of this particular incident that alarm the Israelis even more. The fact that the Syrians shot down the F-16 over Israel suggests either that the original Israeli airstrike was carried out from Israel… with the Israelis launching long-range stand-off missiles against the alleged drone facility from their own airspace… or that the Syrians waited for the Israeli aircraft to return to their bases after the airstrike before attacking them. In either case, the Syrians showed they’re able to track and target Israeli aircraft flying in Israeli airspace. If the Syrians shot down the F-16 in an ambush when it was returning to its base, then, they also demonstrated a previously-unknown level of tactical skill. Moreover, this development didn’t come from nowhere. I wrote on 20 March 2017 following an uncannily similar incident when Syria also tried to shoot down Israeli aircraft over Israel following an Israeli air strike on a military facility near Palmyra:

It appears that the Israeli aircraft didn’t penetrate deep into Syrian territory. Rather, it seems that the Israeli aircraft slipped across the border, almost immediately launched their missiles against their target, and then turned back home. The Israelis would’ve used standoff missiles, either Popeye missiles or, more probably, longer-range Delilah cruise-missiles, which undoubtedly do have the range to reach targets near Palmyra from the al-Bureij area. The Syrians appear to have retaliated by launching S-200 SAMs at Israeli aircraft after the raid as the aircraft were returning home to their bases. The Syrians seem to have waited until the Israeli aircraft crossed the Lebanese border back into Israel before launching their missiles. The SANA report clearly said that the Syrians launched SAMs at the Israeli aircraft whilst they were over “occupied territory”, which might mean the West Bank or the Golan Heights, but more likely means Israel itself (Syria still doesn’t recognise Israel and officially considers the whole of Israel to be occupied Palestinian territory). The Syrian military is becoming significantly stronger, with the incident of the raid showing that technical help from Russia has made it possible for the Syrians to track and intercept Israeli aircraft over Israel.

It looks as if the pattern of events today is very similar. The original Israel attack on this occasion, like the one in March 2017, was probably against Syria’s Tiyas air base, which is the main Syrian military facility near Palmyra. Possibly, it was against a drone control and launch facility operating from there if the story of the drone is true. Most probably, just as was the case in March 2017, they carried it out at long-range with Popeye or Delilah standoff missiles. Subsequently, just as happened in March 2017, the Syrians tracked the Israeli aircraft as they were returning to their bases, and then ambushed them by launching long-range S-200 SAMs against them as they were approaching their bases. The difference is that whereas in March 2017 the ambush failed, on this occasion it succeeded. In other words, the Syrians didn’t only demonstrate the technical capability to track and shoot down Israeli aircraft over Israel, which they’d already previously demonstrated last March. They also demonstrated the ability to use this capability successfully as well. That suggests a further improvement in Syrian skill and ability since last March.

At this point, it’s worth adding that this radical improvement in Syrian air defence capabilities is matched by equally radical improvements in the performance of Syrian ground forces, as they benefit increasingly from Iranian and Russian advice, training, and technical support. Whereas in early 2016, immediately following the start of the Russian intervention in September 2015, Syrian military advances against al-Qaeda in western Syria were slow and incremental, being measured in one or two kilometres a day, today, as the recently completed Idlib offensive shows, the Syrian army is capable of advances of hundreds of kilometres over the course of just a few weeks or even days. This radical improvement in Syrian military capabilities almost certainly explains the muted Israeli response to the shooting down of their F-16. The Israelis didn’t launch the sort of all-out attack on Syrian bases that their previous history suggests we might expect from them because they fear they’d suffer further casualties if they did so. In other words, for the first time in decades, an Arab state demonstrated its ability to defend itself and forced Israel to draw back. That demonstrates a radical shift in the balance of military power in the Middle East; it’ll cause Israel extreme concern.

10 February 2018

Alexander Mercouris

The Duran

http://theduran.com/syria-shoots-israeli-f-16-military-balance-balance-middle-east-shifting/

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