Saturday, September 29, 2007

Capitalism: the Latin American Experiment

The War on Democracy by John Pilger

John Pilger is an award-winning independent journalist and a renowned documentary film-maker. "The War on Democracy" is his latest opus. A startling reminder of the ravages that capitalism has already caused in Latin America, considered for decades to be the American (USA) preserve. Based on an arrogant imperial vision of the world and on the so-called Washington Consensus which theorized and underpinned the neo-liberal policies for the last two or three decades, successive American administrations made sure that no genuine democracy springs in the southern half of the continent: putting absolute potentates at the head of States, overthrowing democratically elected governments and sponsoring a class of plutocrats monopolizing their country's wealth at the expense of impoverished populations. Watch how America tries now to regain the political power it has lost by ways very incompatible with the portrait of an America spreading "democracy and freedom" throughout the world; an image ostentatiously exhibited to justify the unjustifiable.



Here's a link to one of the earliest Pilger's works: "The Year Zero," which reveals a facet of the Vietnam war seldom exposed in western media.
And to further understand the pernicious nature of corporate capitalism, the fundamental motor behind American imperialism, this is Mark Achbar's "The Corporation" which desecates the mechanisms of the boundless corporation greed:



(I must give credit to eatbees who inspired me on this one through his latest post)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Democracy Next Time

A New Cabinet has been Unveiled in Morocco: Cards Reshuffled, the Game is Still the Same.


After an impassioned legislative election, followed by -sometimes- frenzied wranglings about the democratic nature of the "Righteous State" in Morocco, the process yielded a dazzling arrangement of faces at unexpected positions.


It's "mission accomplished" for the Moroccan power: the elections meant primarily at embellishing the face of the regime at the world stage have succeeded in doing just that. And now that the international attention has melted away, it's back to mumbo jumbo business as usual, and we're back to square number one. All powers are now de facto within the very few hands of the Makhzen with a clear repressive pattern. If things go wrong (cause they might), would anybody dare challenging or criticizing the King Divine Right rule? You bet very few will!



(picture credit: "rhys400D")

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Great Oil Robbery: Second Phase?

There is something in the air those days, something strange, that resembles the climate of fear and agitation which was prevailing back in the beginning of the year 2003 when the American administration's propaganda reached it's climax in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. This time the smear campaign is directed against Iraq's neighbour: Iran.

In France, the foreign minister of the newly installed right-wing government, Bernard Kouchner, now a neo-con (emphasis on Con, which means Idiot in French), previously socialist, previously droit-de-l'hommiste (which can -arguably- be translated into "humanitarianist": the '-ist' here is added as a note for sarcasm), suddenly discovered last week that he, again transformed and had become, by the grace of God, a mouthpiece for the far-right American neoconservative administration in Washington. He warns "the world" to prepare for "the war" against the mullah regime. Sarkozy might be very satisfied by his recruit, now playing the role of the neocons' poodle in Europe. A job previously assigned to the not-very-regretted Tony Blair.

In Britain, Gordon Brown will most certainly call for an early general election, trying to take advantage from his current high rates of popularity. Many observers have already suspected that this move is primarily meant at getting the elections out of the way in the hypothesis of "something important" happening in the days to come. What adds to the intrigue is the decision by the British government to retreat its troops from the shiite dominated sudden Iraq and to barricade them inside the Basra airport. In the eventuality of an attack on Iran, it is very likely that this particular region of Iraq would become even more hostile to the Brits, hence the move according to some commentators.

The Arab potentates of the gulf have already (surprise, surprise!) adopted the language of the Bush administration. Amr Mussa, the head of the Arab (regime's) League doesn't miss an opportunity to point out at "the rampant influence of regional forces who want to undermine the arabhood of the Middle East."

Israel wants an attack on Iran and its lobby is fuelling the smear campaign against the Mullah regime. And "what Israel wants, Israel gets!"

In America, the war drumbeat continues to roar, the corporate media carries on "normalizing the unthinkable," acquiescing to whatever the administration and the agenda-driven Washington think tanks depict as the absolute truth.

Talking about the truth, let's put the facts on the table so one could get the propaganda and lies out of the way:
  • For over 200 years, Iran has never invaded, attacked or provoked any of its neighbours. Instead, Iran has been occupied and subjugated by the British who deposed a democratically elected prime-minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, and installed the most brutal dictator the region has probably ever seen: the Shah. After the Islamic revolution, Western powers have constantly conspired to undermine the regime in Tehran by fuelling regional tension and sponsoring a proxy war, arming and supporting Saddam Hussein, then the American ally in the region. This terrible war led to the death of millions in both sides and literally destroyed both countries.
  • The Islamic republic officially announced that it was ready to support the Arab Peace Initiative tabled at Beirut in 2002 and which offers Israel a comprehensive peace with all 22 Arab countries + total integration into the region. Tehran also promised, in the context of the same initiative, to help transforming the Lebanese Hezbollah into a political party (Alain Gresh- Le Monde Diplomatique- June 6, 2007).
  • Iran HAS THE RIGHT to unrich Uranium under the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). What's more it has always said it was ready to impose volontary restrictions on that right and to agree to an increase in IAEA's inspections as a gesture of goodwill. Tehran has also signed the Additional Protocol to the NPT straightening the supervisory powers even further. The Natanz nuclear facility, which the American administration wants to present as the epicenter of what they call "the Iran nuclear weapons program," was at the center of a controversy back in February 2003 when the IAEA found centrifuge machines and criticized Iran for not having declared the matter (concealment is a common practice, by the way, that all Western nuclear powers have been accused of in the past.) The international agency demanded that more inspections should be allowed in Iranian nuclear sites, to which Tehran acquiesced. Yes, the IAEA did find highly enriched Uranium particles at Natanz (august 2003), but it has since been established and confirmed by the agency itself that the particles were imported with the centrifuges. The inspections have never, to this day, found any evidence for a nuclear weapons program. Even CIA leaked reports, seemed to agree with the agency's conclusion. Nevertheless, the US administration still uses the centrifuge machine story as an absolute proof for an Iranian nuclear bomb project.
  • In early 2004, a new harsh tone was glaring out of Washington; the nuclear argument seemed to have been abandoned for a while and the pro-war campaigners invented a new cassus belli: Tehran should be attacked because, as the Washington Times alleged, the Iraqi resistance "is being aided directly by Iran's Revolutionary Guard and by Hezbollah." A line that has since been sang in unisson by virtually every corporate paper and media in America. Iranian diplomats were detained by American forces on the basis of false and ludicrous accusations, prompting protests from the puppet regime in Baghdad itself. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard, part -in principle- of the army of a sovereign country, was declared a "terrorist organization" by an overwhelming majority of the American congress. The goal here is clear: linking Iran to anti-American insurgency and providing an extra basis for a hypothetical attack.
  • In his yesterday's visit to New York to attend the UN general assembly, the Iranian president was ridiculed, insulted by the head of Columbia University (which invited the Iranian leader in the first place.) Protests were organized by the very influential pro-Israel lobby in the city. The Iranian president was accused of being anti-Semitic, a holocaust denier and wanting to "wipe Israel off the map." The basis for the latter accusation is a speech Ahmadinejjad gave in Tehran back in October 2005. The Iranian president quoting the Ayatollah Khomeini said in substance (as translated by Farsi expert Professors): "the occupation of Jerusalem" will be "erased from the page of time" (see Gary Leupp's: "Iran, a Chronology of Disinformation"). First remark: the Iranian president didn't utter the words "Wipe off," Israel" and "Map." Ahmadinejjad was here clearly talking about a system, an Ideology (Zionism) which ought (as he sees it) to "vanish" from History as was the case for other unjust, and cruel ideologies like Nazism, Fascism and Stalinism and he was not talking about the Jewish people. The speech was of course deliberately mistranslated and misquoted and the phrase "wiping Israel off the map" was incessantly repeated in the western mainstream media, mainly owned by influential pro-Israel advocates. Retired US Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner released recently on his website what follows: "We know there is a national security council staff-led group whose mission is to create outrage in the world against Iran. This media group will begin to release stories to sell a strike against Iran. Watch for the outrage stuff." Many stories, some frankly grotesque, appeared in the media since then. The modus operandi unveiled by Gardiner is disturbingly similar to that of the Nazi propaganda machine: “If tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State” Joseph Goebbels was quoted to have said.
  • On the issue of Holocaust denial: One has to understand that Ahma<>dinejad is frankly a foolish man and I don't think he has the wisdom or stature of a statesman. Calling for a so-called "conference" to discuss the "real scale" of the holocaust is simply outrageous. Six million Jews have been literally incinerated on an industrial scale, unprecedented in human History, by the racist and fascist Nazi regime for no reason other than they were Jews. The Iranian president, thinking stupidly that he would sabotage the monopoly and political misuse of this horrific human tragedy by Israel, ended up boosting Israel's propaganda.

Finally, one needs to keep in mind that the power in Iran is collectively managed and that the president on his own has no control on matters of war and peace, something seldom explained. Iran is certainly not the most enviable of regimes. Human Rights abuses and horrific attacks on people's freedoms are legion. But thinking that the Western powers and their allies are more concerned with the democratic credentials of Iran and are seeking charitably to change the regime for the sake of freedom, amounts to total madness and shortsightedness. Next door to Iran, America supports and arms totalitarian and despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia. Countries who didn't even signe the NPT and never promised to halt nuclear proliferation, like Pakistan, India and Israel (which has been stock-piling nuclear warheads for over three decades) are promoted as gold star allies and being given protection and support.

There is a blatant fraud unfolding in front of our eyes. Will the world allow, AGAIN a new criminal war for oil?

(Latest update: no early general election will be called by G. Brown in Britain who apparently chickened out from going to the ballot noticing his popularity shrinking on Tabloids' polls -- October 10, 2007)

(picture credit: "armcurl")

Monday, September 24, 2007

Finkelstein or the Dangers of Criticizing Israel in Today's America - Part II

Interview with Riz Khan of Aljazeera- June 2007.

Since this interview, Pr. Norman Finkelstein has (as it has officially been formulated) reached a negotiated settlement with DePaul University allowing him to resign in exchange of the university recognizing that Finkelstein had met the University's tenure and promotion requirements.

In his departure statement Finkelstein declared:

"It is time for me to move on and hopefully find new ways to fulfill my own mission in life of making the world a slightly better place on leaving it than when I entered it."
Norman G. Finkelstein on September 5th, 2007

The following video is from DemocracyNow with Amy Goodman reporting on and hosting Pr. Finkelstein on the day of his departure from DePaul University:

On the science of the pervasive influence of the pro-Israel Lobby and how it works, the following video gives an unprecedented insight, based on the John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's ground-breaking article: "the Israel Lobby"


Friday, September 21, 2007

Maid in Morocco

"Zahra has married an honest, hard working and loving man. She's obviously overwhelmed with joy even if she's blushing each time she realizes we've noticed her rejoicing." That's what my mother announced to me on her last evening call.

Zahra was a maid working in my parent's house. They brought her when she was still a little child girl, aged about eleven, from the rural area of Shiadma, located in the region of Essaouira . It's a destitute and desolate place where people live in unbelievable poverty. I always vigorously
objected to the Idea that a child could be hired to work, whatever the circumstances and I still feel repulsed by that. I had many spirited arguments with my parents on this issue. My mother's argument has always been that Zahra was better off with us than with her own poor family; with the money she earns, her parents wouldn't have to beg in the streets, she argued. Well, that I objected against too, because giving the money that Zahra was earning by her own work directly to her parents was adding another layer of offense to this already unacceptable situation: it literally transforms it into exploitation. If one cannot handle the money he or she gains, that makes him or her a slave. Plain and simple.

My mother is a very compassionate and tender-hearted woman (I know... I sound grotesquely self-indulgent on this one). My parents cared for Zahra and treated her very well, nevertheless, they couldn't provide her with the education she ought to have. She's still illiterate at the age of twenty. As far as my parents are concerned, they've protected Zahra and made her the lady she's now become. As for Zahra, she's (purportedly) grateful and quite satisfied with the life she spent and the "skills" (the words of my mother) she learned.

Zahra's story is not the worst amongst the so many anecdotes and dramas surrounding the lives of countless house maids in Morocco, many of whom suffer from abominable exploitation, sexual harassment and intimidation. The civil society has for years and still is actively campaigning against this phenomenon which stems primarily from poverty and lack of law enforcement: the Moroccan law banning, in principle, child labor. Let's hope we'll get rid, very soon of this shameful anomaly.

Meanwhile, my warmest congratulations to my dearest Zahra. May you have a long, joyful and successful life!
(picture credit: "veracious jess")

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Al-Fassi: Capo Di Tutti Capi

It's been announced today that Abbas al-Fassi, the leader of the Istiqlal party (made up of a bunch of rich and influential businessmen and landowners, close to the palace, who describe themselves as conservatives and 'nationalists,' and who came first in last september 7th legislative elections) has been chosen by the King of Morocco to lead the next government.

Al-Fassi and his party are the archetype opportunistic, bootlicking politicians, with no ideological basis whatsoever, apart from the constant obsession they have for power and privilege.

Al-fassi has been a member of the outgoing government where he held a non-portfolio ministerial office. Doing what? who knows? Oh... I beg your pardon, he did achieve something when serving as minister of labor in a previous cabinet (2000-2002): His ministry was involved in a monstrous crooked deal, also known as "the An'najat affair," when tens of thousands of young poor Moroccan job seekers paid substantial amounts of money (as premium) to a fake company based in the Emirates, which promised to enroll a big number of candidates, many of whom spent their life savings to pay for the job offer. A convention has been signed at the time, with the Emirati company An'najat by the very official ANAPEC (the Moroccan job agency) under the patronage and advocacy of the then ministry of labor, ignoring warnings by many international organizations like the ITF (the International Transport Federation). At first sight, there was no reason for anybody to doubt of the competence of either Al-Fassi or the government. The whole affair was, of course, trumpeted up by al-Fassi and presented as a big personal achievement, which he used as an electoral argument during the legislative campaign of 2002.

A couple of mounts after the elections, the first cruel signs of the fraud appeared; then the 30,000 applicants were bluntly informed of the trickery and told that their dreams were definitely dashed.


So: either al-Fassi has been cheated upon and double-crossed by an impeccably executed swindle, or he knowingly participated in the con. In either accounts he disqualified as a man worth of respect, let alone trust. Has he been held to account for his crime? Nop! Because in Morocco, you only have to be a sycophant and a servile attendant of the Makhzen to escape justice and have access to power and privilege.

Today's dispatch of the MAP (the Moroccan official press agency) explained that "King Mohamed VI praised Mr. al-Fassi for his 'patriotism' and for his 'commitment to the sacred values,' describing him as a 'statesman with great experience.'"

Don't know whether to laugh or cry?
(picture credit: "Rightee")

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Wonder Why Muslims are Getting Radicalized

Not a single mainstream western paper commemorated the massacre of Sabra and Shatilla, today. As Robert Fisk, the doyen of foreign correspondents in the Middle East and probably one of the latest honest western reporters still around, wrote this morning (and I'm paraphrasing): if 3700 Israelis were slaughtered in the same way as the Palestinians were in Sabra and Shatilla, we would probably had the story in the front-page of every single newspaper, displayed round-the-clock on major news outlets and commemorated at the official level in the smuggest and most solemn way. Not that the commemoration of a hypothetical mass killing of Israelis wouldn't have deserved compassion and empathy, because the murder of any human being is an awful crime that everyone should condemn, but the point is that the lives of Muslims and Arabs are considered of less worth. No wonder why people are getting radicalized!

I strongly recommend this very emotional article by Franklin Lamb. An American who lived in Lebanon long enough to be a first hand connoisseur of the country, having gone through and reported extensively on the many dark hours that Lebanon has experienced.

(The clip bellow contains images that may shock some viewers)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Armistice... Not Peace

Why Paying the Price of Peace When You Can Bully Arabs for an Unfair, Unjust Open-ended Ceasefire.


This week is the twenty fifth anniversary of the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. I'm not going to go through the details and the usual Historical fact reminder, there is enough data out there (and fortunately so) for anyone interested. All one needs to know is that this mass murder was prompted, encouraged, incited and eventually executed by the Nazi-inspired Lebanese Phalangist militia under the plan, protection and supervision of the invading Israeli forces.

Twenty five years, and thousands of victims later, the basic philosophy underlying the Israeli policy in the region, the protracted, systematic and slow ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, together with the "hatred machine" that the US neo-imperialistic vision of the middle east embodies, continue to yield even more frustration, bitterness and permanent demand for revenge.

The summer of hunger in the Gaza concentration camp continues unabated. Some might think that since the "mainstream" media has no "hot" news from the region to serve on the 24/7 display of horrors, things must be quite all right for the moment. Others might thing that the current course of action chosen by Israel and their American protectors to deal with the Palestinians since they've put the wrong party in the government, is working. In other words, Arabs are not the kind of people to talk to or trust and only coercion would force them to submit. Others also, might consider that this is an issue that has been
chewed over enough, and it's maybe time to get over it.

One should always keep in mind that what Israel seeks is not peace, because it is not, has not, will not be prepared to pay the price. Armistice and status quo is much more convenient for the Zionist sate. It allows it to continue its expansionism on the lands stolen from the Palestinians, not to be
bound by any negotiated agreement with its neighbours or with the Palestinians, and continue capitalizing on the ridiculously huge imbalance of power in its favor.

As for the argument that it is maybe time to get over it, I would wonder how to explain that to the Palestinian mother who lost her children in the struggle against the occupying forces, how to tell that to the Lebanese child who, last summer, had to flee with her family from their home, terrorised as they were by the American manufactured, Israeli dropped cluster bombs, how to put that to the hundreds of thousands of refugees driven out of their land and homes and denied any basic human right...
(picture credit: "D S O")

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ramadan Ramblings

Today I had quite a philosophical chatter with one of my colleagues (not a Muslim). He wondered how were agnostics and atheists coping in this holy month of Ramadan within their overwhelmingly practicing Muslim countries. I replied that most of them have to hide their non-practice of Islam or non- abidingness with it's rules, unless they are really looking for trouble!

I think there is a big hypocrisy attached to this issue: while it's not considered a big deal for someone not to pray; while people who don't pay the Zakat (Muslim alms) are generally ignored, others who don't fast during Ramadan run the risk of being ostracized and stigmatized. I witnessed myself, during my years of study in Casablanca, many instances of that.

One example: I remember when I used to meet with a bunch of pals to study in one of our friend's flat in quartier mâarif in Casablanca. We were quite a heterogeneous group of friends, as far as politics and religion are concerned: there was the observant practicing Muslim, the agnostic and the total atheist; the liberal minded, the conservative and the die hard leftist. One thing is for sure: we were (contrary to what one might expect) very tolerant to each other's thoughts and differences. So, it very often happened that we gathered during the month of Ramadan, to study a bit, laugh a lot. Addicted smokers were "allowed" to smoke, as long as they keep the smoke of cigarette away from the observant believers and more importantly, away from the vestibule of the flat, very close to the front door where tobacco odor could infiltrate into the main building's lobby and attract attention (and anger) of the neighbours. Others who might want to eat were "permitted" to take their lunch. Of course the appetizing and tempting smells of food too, had to be kept behind the kitchen door. So it goes, in a spirit of mutual respect... until that day!

I remember this very well: we were "studying" (having fun would be a more appropriate description), making a hell of a noise, the smokers having totally ignored rule N#1 (remember? keep the cigarette smoke away from the front door). Suddenly, we heard voices of people yelling in the main hall of the building and then hysterical knockings at the door. The first idea (of course) was NOT to open the door and pretend that nobody's inside, which was a stupid thing to do because the bloody cigarette smoke's smell was infesting the whole place. So someone, thinking -I suppose- he would sort things out in the most calm and peaceful way, took the "suicidal" decision to open the door. That was it. We were (all of us) gratified by two hours (I kid you not) of tantrums and a barrage of insults, boos, anger and animosity, alternatively interrupted by some (fortunately) aborted attempts of physical attacks. The whole thing ended as it started: chaotic but quick. Followed, some long minutes of silence and contemplation. Then the first mutual accusations. Some chocked laughter. Again some mutual recriminations. Followed by the first courageous attempts to quit the building bearing in mind that some angry lads maybe waiting for that precise moment, so they could appease their wrath (an anger that is aggravated by hunger- remember people are fasting). Finally everybody could get out smoothly with no problem whatsoever, and even if our host that day had some troubles with his neighbours, things eventually settled down peacefully.


Overall, it's a story that ends up quite well. But I know of other instances where circumstances and consequences were far more serious. So I think that there is a serious issue here that needs to be addressed. As I previously wrote, Muslims are overwhelmingly tolerant; backward phenomenas like these, have more to do -as I see them- with ignorance and lack of public debate in the Muslim countries in general. Believers and non believers should learn to respect each other. Common sense isn't it?
... By the way... Happy New Ramadan for believers and non believers alike!
(picture by "Andrea Baldassari")

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Six Years After 9/11

Stereotyping and Preconceived views and imagery on Arabs/Muslims, still poison intercultural relations. A lesson on Orientalism by the late Edward Said...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We're There Because We're There!

The first impression of a hypothetical extraterrestrial observer, listening to yesterday's presentation by Gen David Petraeus before the American Senate, would much probably be: "there is a troublesome country on this planet called Iraq, where another country called the US of A, is trying to help.
"The USA, also known as America, is very compassionate and altruistic: they went into big trouble sending their troops to help those barbaric, sectarian Iraqis get out of their nightmare and become civilized. How nice, how charitable!"

One might want to yell at the ignorant alien..."It's the oil, stupid!"

The American administration's propaganda, has taken a step forward with yesterday's presentation: manipulating the facts and figures and producing an image of Iraq that Petraeus himself, in his deepest conscience, must not believe is accurate.

Now the American people, and indeed, the Iraqi people must accept the illegal occupation of Iraq and the stooge government of Baghdad, because victory is "still possible" where total failure is obvious for anybody who wants to see.

The real assessment of the 'cauldron of animosities,' to use the Chomsky's phrase, that Iraq has become since the Bush-Blair invasion, is the figure of refugees: four million Iraqis have now fled their homes, leaving everything behind. The luckiest will get some help from relatives or friends in neighbouring countries, others (most of them) will end up begging in the streets of Damascus or Amman. According to the UN HCR (High Commission for the Refugees), the number of refugees has now risen to 60,000 a month! And some NGOs monitoring the death toll in Iraq since March 2003 are now suggesting the horrific number of 1 million deaths, many of them civilians.

Those grim figures were nowhere to be heard in Petraeus' report. He rather kept focusing, unscientifically on his chimeric "progress," interrupted alternatively by some courageous antiwar activists who succeeded in entering the hearing room.

To make things even worse, many of those who leave Iraq today, are the elite of the nation; people badly needed in these dire circumstances: doctors, nurses, engineers, university professors. Iraq, which was the leading Arab country in health and education, has now been transformed into a bloody quagmire as a result of a criminal invasion and an idiotic vision based on the "creative chaos" doctrine.

A poll commissioned by ABC-BBC-NHK ahead of the hearing revealed, unsurprisingly that 70% of Iraqis think their security has worsened since the so-called "surge," and 50% thought attacks on the occupation forces were justified.

Iran and Syria were, as expected, singled out as the culprits and the General announced a reduction of troops to the "pre-surge levels." No word will be heard on the basic reasons that led America to lie, manipulate, veto, invade, occupy, torture and kill: OIL.
Well, we better keep this three letters word in mind because we're going to be asked to believe that Americans are there because they're there, because they're there... and once we've forgotten about the real motives of the last war, we maybe asked to support the next one.
Finaly this enlightning quote from Professor Gary Leupp (Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion, and who's articles can be read on CounterPunch):
The world's most reckless gambler sits at the table, playing Texas Hold 'Em. At his elbow are his recent winnings: Afghanistan and Iraq. But he can't take them home yet and may very well yet lose them. In his sights lie Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan. Since 9-11 he's cherished the desire to reshuffle the cards. His greed is boundless. Behind him sit supporters eager to share his winnings, biting their nails nervously, praying he'll win the whole pot and maybe inclined if he doesn't to tip over the table. Crazy people.

(picture by"Lakarae")

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Awful Picture

What kind of consistent, homogeneous government can come out of this awful balkanization of the Moroccan political spectrum?
No further comments.

(Graphic from "Intikhabat 2007")

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Dont follow Leaders, Watch the [Abstention] Meters

Let's give our selves (I mean, those who have been through the painful electoral non-sens in Morocco) some slack. Listen and relax.

("Subterranean Homesick Blues" Bob Dylan; 1967)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

And the Winner is... the Party of Abstention & Disafection

The main figure of significance to come out of the Moroccan legislative elections has been the rate of abstention: around 60% of those registered to vote have not bothered casting their votes yesterday (bear in mind that very few people registered in the first place). The minister of interior himself couldn't deny what he called "a rate of participation lower than expected."

The first results though, surprised many of the observers who were expecting a significant increase in the number of seats for the 'moderate'
Islamists of the PJD (Party of Justice and Development). One spokesman of the party said in an interview with Aljazeera that his party was struggling more against the money used by its opponents, than with opposite candidates themselves. He also referred to what he called "the negative neutrality" of the authorities in the face of such illegal use of money and influence.

The Proto-nationalists of the Istiqlal, a party made up of rich businessmen and some notables and which can be described as conservative to some extent, came first "with 52 seats, ahead of the PJD with 47 seats and the regionalists of the Popular Movement with 43," according to Aljazeera.net (2000GMT).

What wasn't a surprise at all, is the atomized and fragmented political scene the elections have yielded. This scattered picture was planed and encouraged in advance by the regime. Remember that a record number of 33 parties were participating in the poll.

So a question remains: It may sound legitimate or (rather) expected from a regime deeply rooted in Moroccan "tradition" of governing, to preserve itself and try to discredit whatever opponent might appear in the way. But is the repetition of the recipes of the past -and I mean the co-option of the opposition to discredit them in the eyes of the people and the attempts to weaken the recalcitrants-, is this still an intelligent strategy for the regime to preserve itself? As the cousin of the King, Prince Hicham said yesterday on the BBC, "there is a difference this time around: this will eventually have a cost; one can not repeat the same [mistakes] over and over again. Socialist and nationalist movements who have been waiting for decades, have been discredited by their participation in the government over [the last] ten years. It will be difficult to discredit again the PJD without paying a higher cost down the road. And the cost can be a very serious setback for the country and the monarchy itself."

On the phenomenon of the personalization of politics in Morocco, read the first hand analysis of Ibn Kafka (a Moroccan affairs pundit, more recommended -as far as I'm concerned- than the official Moroccan press agency).
(pictures respectively by "Kali.ma" & "Martin and Cathy Daddy")

Friday, September 7, 2007

Chatting With the Prince

I'm afraid I'm about to do a real narcistic thing: This is a post about me (and that of others: namely Lamiaa, Hajjar, Kareem, Abdelilah and Jane) having a chat on today's Moroccan legislative elections with Hicham Ben Abdallah Al Alaoui, the cousin of Mohamed VI (the king of Morocco), on the BBC's phone-in program, World Have Your Say.


Call me egoistic, self-centered, self-loving, stuck-up, vain, vainglorious (these are all the synonyms of the word narcistic I could found on Dictionary.com). Notwithstanding, I invite anyone reading this, to listen to this conversation (Thanks to Abdelilah, from the blog of whom, I got this audio player stuff ):

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What I Think:

Only an inclusive system accepting Muslim-Democratic parties can appease the conservatives in the wider Muslim world, provided that those parties play within the democratic framework as it is internationally recognized, alongside parties who may not have religious reference, and provided, of course that genuine, fair and transparent rules are applied on everybody. That's definitely not the case in Morocco where -as I previously wrote- the constitution provides considerable preeminence to the king and his lieutenants. Prince Hisham himself in the aforementioned conversation (and I was agreeably surprised by that), referred to the Moroccan monarchy, at one point, as an absolute monarchy if we stick to the text of the constitution and the many articles who help the King's claim for absolute supremacy. He also added that in his view, the elections will be more a continuity of the previous experience than a real rupture with the past.

To understand what is going on in the Cherifian Kingdom of Morocco, one should first admit that there is a large consensus for the monarchic system as a guarantor of the stability of the country. A support that could be partly explained by the History of the institution itself which is 12 centuries old, hence deeply rooted in Moroccan psyche. The second aspect that one should be aware of, is that there are three players in the Moroccan political scene:
  • The King and the economic and military establishment around him (referred to in Morocco as, the Makhzen)
  • The Islamists or conservatives, whether radical or 'moderate' (whatever that term may mean)
  • and the secularists and supporters of liberal and progressive politics
The latter group is the weakest, as a result of years of harassment by the Makhzen (sometimes with the help of western governments), internal corruption and greed.

I'm afraid, the biggest winner in these elections will be the party of abstention; it would be interesting to check out the turnout figures.

The central power still is oblivious to the basic urgent needs of the country. Morocco is like a very ill patient who needs intensive care, but who is being given an aspirin tablet every five years.

(the picture is a patchwork of both the images of the King and his cousin, taken from "casafree.com")

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Put Them Face to Face and They'll Realize, They're All the Same

FACE 2 FACE PROJECT trailer by JR AND MARCO.

Vote for the PSU?

Being a Moroccan expat, I'm deprived from my inalienable right to vote. As are all Moroccans living outside their country of origin. However, the Moroccan constitution provides the right, in principle, for Moroccans abroad to cast their votes. But even if I had the opportunity to vote indeed, I would still wonder whether to do it or not, under the current constitution which is anything but democratic.

Despite all the doubts, fears and passions that next Moroccan legislative elections have aroused, I'm not really a supporter of boycotts. The electoral process and the behavior of both the Makhzen and the Cocotte-Minute parties have caused a real disgust and rage amongst supporters of liberal democracy in Morocco (and they are so many), nevertheless there may still be a point in casting its vote, and maybe this time more than ever. The reason is that the Makhzen will have troubles playing the dirty tricks it used to adopt in the recent past (even if the temptation is very strong to stuff the ballots and fabricate the figures again...). The methods used this time are, yes, more subtle but not as effective as the good old political chicanery was. As Ibn Kafka (an erudite and wise Moroccan savvy) pointed out, the only method left for the power to prevent a landslide victory for the PJD ('moderate' Islamists) or any other party for that matter, is gerrymandering: i.e. the multiplication of electoral precincts where the Islamists are believed to be most popular and also by helping create new opportunistic and obsequious "parties," with no ideological basis whatsoever, hence weakening and diluting the vote.

The good news is that there are still honest people out there, candidates, men and women, who are known for their integrity and loyalty for liberal democracy and justice. I'm talking about the PSU (Partie Socialiste Unifié). This party is composed of left-leaning groups mainly the OADP and the Fidélité à la démocracie movement (a splinter group from the USFP). My view is that the PSU has today united under its wing the finest militants and pro-democracy partisans in the country. Many of whom have accepted to go through the painful experience of confronting the power's restrictions and the so many hurdles. They have taken the risk of exposing themselves to the attacks and intimidations. Yes the party is still organising itself and in many respect, is still quite weak, they are far from contemplating the majority in the parliament (who can, anyway), nor are they as popular as the PJD, but as far as many people are concerned, these are part of the elite of the nation, the crème-de-la crème of Moroccan intelligentsia. And If I were to vote next Friday, my vote would definitely go for them. But would that be of any good?

Of course a constitutional reform is crucially needed, and I can understand the view point of many of my countrymen who refuse to vote and/or call for the boycott of the process. Indeed the Moroccan constitution is fundamentally undemocratic, giving the monarch total preeminence over other institutions which are, completely emptied from any substance. That leaves the King, the real power holder, with absolute supremacy. Untouchable. This, obviously, in the final analysis, destroys the elementary notion of accountability. Bearing all this in mind, I wonder if boycott is strategically sound, at this point in time at least. The archaic makhzenian system ought to be defeated by its own means. Casting it's vote tomorrow may be a kind of endorsement for the process, which is touted as democratic by the regime, but dismissed by large parts of the population (very few Moroccans registered to vote). But what if parties like the PSU succeeded in putting some of it's members in the next parliament; wouldn't that be a push for progressive politics in the country? wouldn't that give them some nuisance power by putting them inside the system? I'm wondering...

(picture by"snarl")

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Palestine... Still in Our Hearts: Part II

A Very Nice Evening

It was probably the best Saturday night I spent for years (not for the reasons one might assume!).
We first gathered in a small and humble restaurant in downtown Le Havre (north-western France). About thirty (maybe less) people showed up. I first thought: that's not a good start... it seemed first that people had snubbed the gathering. The meeting was never meant to be pompous or formal in any way. It was organized by a handful number of Arab students based in the region who invited anybody interested in debating or just chatting about the Palestinian plight. We were not numerous, but what a breath of fresh air! I soon discovered the quality of people I was honoured to meet.

In the cold tempered Europe, and the individualistic Western societies within which we have the chance to live, often people don't know each other, interact very rarely and know scarcely anything about each other's political opinions. This meeting was a wonderful opportunity for me to find out how much empathy and sympathy for the Palestinian cause was out there. We talked about different issues ranging from the occupation to the (so-called) peace process. We debated the issue of anti-Zionism vs. anti-Semitism, the question of one-State vs. two-States solution.
The debate went on for the rest of the evening. Sometimes with passion, but with very little basic disagreement. The whole thing finished in a good and enthusiastic mood.
People who prompted the gathering never pretended to change the world but they certainly and positively changed mine -and I believe many others'- that evening.
I couldn't ever thank the organizers enough for the initiative and I'm already eager for the next one.
(pictures respectively by "Delayed Gratification" & "FreePal")

Monday, September 3, 2007

Waiting for Democracy

Yesterday I phoned an old friend of mine back home in Morocco. We talked about the old days and of course we chatted about the elections to come. When I inquired about the enthusiasm for the upcoming legislative poll (if any), the answer of the old friend was:

"ما كاين لا ديموقراطية و لا يحزنون... بنادم غير كيتصطى عالوقت"
(There is no such a think as democracy in this country... they are just fooling around, wasting time)
I think it summed it up. Thinks aren't always as they seem to be in the north African Kingdom.
Notwithstanding the pessimism of my friend but bearing in mind that the center of power lies in the royal palace and that next elections are more likely to produce a scattered, atomised and inconsistent parliament, I engaged in the painful exercise of listening to some of the participating parties' presentations and campaign speeches.
Apart from some rare exceptions -mainly from the 'moderate' Islamists of the PJD and the leftists of the PSU (Unified Socialist Party)-, I often found my self wondering whether to laugh or cry at the abysmal depth of nonsense that most of those so-called political parties have to offer.

Amidst this sea of political cacophony, one may still discern some coherent voices that seem to hit the target in some way. But however sincere these voices may be, and assuming that they will make it to Majliss A'nouab (the lower house of the Moroccan parliament), they would still have to contend with the omnipresence, omnipotence of the Monarch. He still have the power to appoint ministers, dissolve parliament...etc.

Many still argue that Moroccans aren't ready or mature enough to take matters into their own hands and that Monarchy is vital for the stability of the country. Whilst I agree that the royal institution has a pivotal role to play by bringing Moroccans together, cementing the national bound between the ethnically diverse groups in the country and as a symbol of common identity and prestige (no less), I reject the fallacious argument that implies that Moroccans need constant care because of some inherent immaturity! This nation is 12 centuries old and Moroccans have, throughout the years, seen all kinds of hardship and have experienced the worst forms of abuse by the power. There are undoubtedly strong ties between the people and the royal family and Moroccans would much rather see reform under an enlightened and more liberal monarchy, but they are fed up of being patronised and abused by the system.

It seems clear to me that the Makhzen, which cannot afford anymore openly stage the elections as it did in the very recent past, has resorted this time to gerrymandering to disallow any clear majority to come out of the polls. Due to the huge international focus and to the overwhelming development of information means, the regime has opted for a sophisticated (but previously experienced) system, allowing a record number of "parties" to engage in the vote and multiplying the number of electoral districts, hence diluting the votes which were expected to support the PJD in great numbers. So no clear and outright majority expected... as usual.

For the sake of all Moroccans and -in a way- for the sake of the Monarchy itself, real and genuine democracy is needed: Montesquieu style, not the facade, fake democracy aimed more at polishing the image of the regime at the world stage. The Makhzen agents must understand that it is no longer viable to act as if they owned the country, that the world is watching and that Moroccans are in urgent need for change... a real one!

(pictures respectively by "paulbence" & " multum in parvo")

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Palestine... Still in Our Hearts

While the protracted ethnic cleansing continues unabated in the West Bank, with settlements growing larger everyday, the squeezing of the other half of the Palestinian people living in the concentration camp called Gaza, continues to produce more misery and hardship.

Despite the fact that Western media has now shifted its focus from the Palestinian struggle -as it periodically do, hence playing in Israel's hands-, many peace activists in my region of stay and study in northern France, are organizing throughout this weekend an extended gathering around this issue. I hope I'll be meeting some interesting people and maybe going back here posting on the outcome.