Notes on the News

Notes on the News

By Gwydion M. Williams

Notes on the News

Afghanistan – Taliban and Nothingists

Hurrey for Huawei

Internet – Not Being Free Our Way

Snippets

Russia is Red Again

Anyone For Tennis?

Morocco Congratulated On Thwarting Democracy

Cold Wars – Not In Our Backyard

Wealth Rules in the USA

Anti-State Fears Out Of Control

Post-Leninism and Peru’s Shining Path

Afghanistan – Taliban and Nothingists

On 11th September 2001, the USA got a sample of the suffering that it had inflicted on the rest of the world after the Soviet collapse.

This year, the USA had a grand 20-year commemoration.  Western media fully agreed that 3000 US citizens killed by Islamic foes mattered a lot more than hundreds of thousands of less important persons dying elsewhere.

Embarrassingly, this happened with the Taliban firmly back in command of Afghanistan.  As I said last month, they were just concerned with being Afghans.  They might have handed over Bin Laden and other al-Qaeda operatives, had the USA agreed to ask politely under their version of Islamic Law.  But there, as in Iraq, the New Right believed that they could create ideal Capitalist Democracies if they were only allowed to smash what existed.

Even after all that failed, no one expected the Kabul puppet regime to collapse so quickly.  A common estimate was a couple of years, and Biden is probably not looking for a second term, regardless.  And during the collapse, people were still saying a couple of months.

But those expected to die for the shallow Kabul regime could make this same calculation.  They had no real belief in what the USA wanted.  They were Nothingists – brave at a personal level, mostly with a sense of honour, but without strong wider beliefs.  Always ready to make a deal.  

Meantime the Taliban felt they had something worth dying for:

“Afghanistan ‘a free nation’: Taliban hails US troops departure”[A]

It’s certainly not my understanding of freedom.  But it is just as valid to them as mine is to me.  And mine includes atheism.  Most Westerners are functional atheists, but hang onto ineffective shreds of faith.

Back in the 1980s, the USA put vast efforts into rooting out everything that was genuinely progressive in Afghan politics:

“John Pilger: Afghanistan, The Great Game of Smashing Countries…

“For women, the gains had no precedent; by the late 1980s, half the university students were women, and women made up 40 per cent of Afghanistan’s doctors, 70 per cent of its teachers and 30 per cent of its civil servants…

“On 3 July 1979, unknown to the American people and Congress, Carter authorised a $500 million ‘covert action’ programme to overthrow Afghanistan’s first secular, progressive government.  This was code-named by the CIA Operation Cyclone.

“The $500 million bought, bribed and armed a group of tribal and religious zealots known as the mujahedin. In his semi-official history, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward wrote that the CIA spent $70 million on bribes alone.”[B]

It is not that Afghanistan cannot be conquered:

“Genghis Khan conquered Afghanistan. So did Timur, better known as Tamerlane, and his descendant Babur. So did the Turks and the Huns, the Hindus and Islamic Arabs, the Persians and the Parthians. So did numerous empires, peoples and tyrants you’ve probably never heard of … Most of them stayed for decades, even centuries.”[C]

British India overran it more than once.  Afghan independence was conceded in 1919, with Britain exhausted from the First World War.  Afghans still celebrate it, ignored by most Westerners.  But had things been slightly otherwise, Afghanistan might have emerged in 1947 as just another disorderly region of Pakistan.  

Pakistan holds a majority of the world’s Pathans, the dominant Afghan group.  Much bigger Pakistani ethnicities do not let Pathans tell them what sort of Islam they should practice.  Fears of a Taliban Spread are foolish.

The US failure was likely from the start.  Busting in with their army, they could sign up any number of Nothingists.  But corruption was continuous.  The outside military contractors favoured by the New Right just wanted to draw their pay and get out alive.[D]

With the US committed to quit, the Nothingists listened when the West forecast that they’d be ruled by the Taliban in a couple of years.  And maybe much sooner, as Taliban converts from the northern ethnic groups started capturing northern regional capitals.  It was Nothingists ruling the north who let the USA push in originally.

Biden on 9/11 was left celebrating US failure.  But none of his right-wing critics had any better ideas.

Hurrey for Huawei

Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was grabbed in 2018, while passing through Canada.  Grabbed because the USA was keen to punish her for breaking rules that the USA has set to harass Iran.  And Canada was very eager to please.

It’s not the sort of thing that commonly happens to white and Western business people.

Only a very spiritless Chinese would fail to see this as an insult to Chinese in general.  There are some, much vaunted by Western media.  But the numbers are dwindling.

Contrary to what our media now say, I’d count her release as a big victory for China.

It is possible that the indecisive elections in Canada played a role: I’ve no idea what.

Likewise the failure to create instability in Russia in their recent election.

It is not surprising that other rich Chinese accept Xi’s push to give them a smaller role.

“Xi Jinping’s drive for economic equality comes at a delicate moment for China…

“Rana Mitter, a historian and director of the University of Oxford China Centre, said Xi’s ‘common prosperity’ rhetoric stemmed from genuine concern that previous economic models had created growth at the expense of inequality.

“‘Party officials also fear that the tech giants and the people who run them are out of control and need to be reined in. And then we must add Xi’s determination to be nominated next year for a third term, that changes to the constitution now allow,’ he said.

“Mitter warns that Xi is constructing a broad populist agenda that will make his bid for a third term in power unstoppable.

“‘He might not be facing a general election, but he wants social media to be behind him, cheering on policies that bring tech billionaires, property magnates and even film stars down to size,’ he added…

“Xi’s attempt to close the wealth gap ‘marks the beginning of bureaucratic-level reforms whereby local government officials will no longer be pressured to achieve lofty GDP targets; instead, they will be assessed by a variety of indicators to achieve higher quality growth.’

“He said it was unclear exactly how far reaching the reforms will be, though they are likely to ‘focus on improving the social safety net, improving labour productivity, reducing systemic financial risks and achieving more balanced growth in the long run’.”[E]

That’s The Guardian, suddenly noticing that he needs re-election.  That he is not a dictator with a job for life.  But maybe forgetting again soon enough: reality shifts smoothly for liberals.

Internet – Not Being Free Our Way

“Internet freedom on the decline in US and globally, study finds…

“Domestically, the lack of regulation in the tech industry has allowed companies to grow beyond reproach and misinformation to flourish online. Abroad, authoritarian governments have harnessed their tight control of the internet to subdue free expression.

“Freedom House cited a growing lack of diversity among sources of online information in the US that allowed conspiracies and misinformation to rise, an issue that was gravely underscored during the 2020 elections and the 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol.”[F]

Irish nationalist leader Charles Parnell always identified British Liberals as ‘Cromwell’s People’.  Like the Taliban, Cromwell had a notion of Freedom that included a right to crush stuff he disliked.  And the same views are there in his diminished heirs.

I’d agree that some bad right-wing stuff has spread on the internet.  But I’d see that as a case for limiting freedom in the interests of human welfare.  I see no merit in lying about what the real issue is. 

Western opinion is currently horrified by other people’s authority.  But insists on their own right to keep some views marginal.

This includes the overseers of the Wikipedia enraged by Mainland Chinese daring to include their own views.[G]

I don’t know the details.  But I had my own run-in, when the ‘arbitrators’ backed someone who insisted on adding Tibet to a list of 20th century annexations.[H]

Annexation has a precise meaning:

“Annexation, a formal act whereby a state proclaims its sovereignty over territory hitherto outside its domain. Unlike cession, whereby territory is given or sold through treaty, annexation is a unilateral act made effective by actual possession and legitimized by general recognition.

“Annexation is frequently preceded by conquest and military occupation of the conquered territory. Occasionally, as in the German annexation of Austria in 1938 (see Anschluss), a conquest may be accomplished by the threat of force without active hostilities. Military occupation does not constitute or necessarily lead to annexation. Thus, for instance, the Allied military occupation of Germany after the cessation of hostilities in World War II was not followed by annexation.”[I]

Tibet was recognised as part of Imperial China, when the West imposed its own idea of International Law.  The current Dalai Lama was selected with the authority of the Central Chinese Government, which at that time included the Chinese Communists in their wartime anti-Japanese coalition.[J]  For this Dalai Lama, they set aside the use of the Golden Urn, which had been used for the random selection of candidates under supposed supernatural guidance.

‘Annexation’ is not a word you can validly use for enforcing a long-standing claim.  

I’ve found the Wikipedia very useful, but very imperfect.  It was invented in line with Libertarian views, and shares the same weaknesses.  The default is to accept individual actions and hope this works out.  Often it does not.  I am one of many who uses a quota of my free time to remove silly or malicious changes.

I am also a contributor to IMDb (an acronym for Internet Movie Database.)  It is very useful for film facts.  It is also professional, charging a subscription for certain levels of use.  It vets anything you might want to add.  It is commercial, yet it still works better.

I hope for an eventual alternative Wikipedia, with proper funding and controls.

Snippets

Russia is Red Again

(Photo: Gennadi Zyuganov, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation)

From the Financial Times, a twisted admission that Russia has entirely rejected Western values.

“Ordinary Russians simply do not believe that they can make a difference or effect change. Instead they look for the future in nostalgic visions of the past perpetuated by state propaganda. In a recent poll, half of those asked said they would like to return to the Soviet political system, while 62 per cent would like to have a Soviet-style planned economy. Another poll found that the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s popularity among young Russians was on the rise. Sustained by the empire’s former glory, Putin’s Russia is walking backwards.”[K]

They slide round the awkward fact that there was not much support for pro-Western policies 

The Communists got 18.93%.  Yabloko, the largest survivor of open pro-Western politics, got 1.34%.  Such people used to get as much as 5%, even after ‘reforms’ under Yeltsin shrank the economy.  Even after silly privatisations delivered fortunes to crooks and tricksters.

*

Anyone For Tennis?

I was surprised and pleased to see the unexpected final in the women’s section of the US Open.  A contest between two teenagers, both born in Canada.  And both with parents with diverse origins in the wider world.  Let in because of Canada’s fairly relaxed line on immigrants.

Leylah Fernandez’s father Jorge is from Ecuador.  Her mother is a Canadian citizen of Filipino descent.  Her paternal grandparents are Peruvian. Fernandez is fluent in English, French, and Spanish.[L]

Emma Raducanu was born in Toronto, Canada, to Ion Raducanu and Renee, who originate from Romania and China respectively. She attributed her mentality and ethics to her tennis idols Simona Halep and Li Na, both from countries of her ancestry.  Her family moved to England when she was two years old.[M]

The British contender won.  The liberal left delighted in mocking those who had been senselessly hostile to immigrants.

Many elderly people have been harassed because they were raised in Britain but had arrived as children.  I assume Emma’s parents got that sorted, and also faced less racial hostility.

*

Morocco Congratulated On Thwarting Democracy

“Morocco’s governing Islamist party has suffered a shocking defeat in recent elections – a turn of events reverberating across North Africa given its pioneering role for political Islam amid the Arab Spring.

“The Islamist Development and Justice Party (PJD), which was the first Islamist party to come to power in an election in the region and the wider Middle East, found its share of the vote was decimated from 125 to a mere 12 seats…

“And the king and his courtiers – which has reluctantly tolerated the Islamists – did not block their rise to complete the democratic façade, while maintaining the strings of real power within its grip…

“It is perhaps too early to fully account for the reasons of this dramatic fall. But observers concur that PJD has simply failed to deliver on its electoral promises.”[N]

Someone at the BBC must have had an off day and let real attitudes slip out.  Western media are happy with a ‘democratic façade’ when Western interests are looked after.

*

Cold Wars – Not In Our Backyard

“A majority of Europeans believe a new cold war is under way between the US and its chief geopolitical rivals, China and Russia, according to a report – but few view their own country as a direct participant.

“Based on polling in 12 member states, the study by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) found, however, that more Europeans believed the EU leadership in Brussels was a party to the new international conflict.

“As fallout from the Aukus alliance continues and amid talk of rifts in the western alliance, the report’s authors said the polling data suggested there was a clear danger of a widening gulf between European public opinion and that in the US.”[O]

Russian actions within Europe have not gone beyond places that had been in the Soviet Union, and in Tsarist Russia before that.  Seem to exclude the Baltic States, which weren’t theirs between the two World Wars.

People’s China is simply asserting its right to territory and islands that were legally part of Imperial China, when the West forced it into their own world order.  And they accept losses – Mao conceded that the former Outer Mongolia was an independent Mongolian Republic.  Various disputed borders have been cleaned up, by mutual concessions.  That with India remains outstanding, because all Indian governments have insisted they get the lot.

Globally, Russia and China are simply thwarting the USA’s bungling interference.  There are still Europeans keen to follow in the US wake.  But after the brutal farce in Afghanistan, the numbers must be dwindling.

*

Wealth Rules in the USA

“The top 1 percent are evading $163 billion a year in taxes, the Treasury finds.

“The Biden administration pushes lawmakers to embrace its ambitious proposal to beef up the Internal Revenue Service to narrow the ‘tax gap,’ which it estimates amounts to $7 trillion in unpaid taxes over a decade. The White House has proposed investing $80 billion in the agency over the next 10 years to hire more enforcement staff, overhaul its technology and usher in new information-reporting requirements that would give the government greater insight into tax evasion schemes.

“The proposals have been met with deep skepticism from Republicans and business lobbyists who argue that the I.R.S. cannot be trusted with more power and that the proposals are an invasion of privacy…

“Tax compliance rates are high for low- and middle-income workers who have their taxes deducted automatically from their paychecks. The rich, however, are able to use accounting loopholes to shield their tax liabilities.”[P]

*

Anti-State Fears Out Of Control

“Vaccine hesitancy is a symptom of people’s broken relationship with the state

“From Khartoum to Kansas, vaccine conspiracy theorists have one thing in common: they have lost their faith in government”[Q]

That’s Britain’s liberal-left Guardian, shallow as ever.  Somehow bad things happen.  How very bad.

They do not look back to when Reagan and Thatcher put vast efforts into persuading people that governments fixed nothing and that the state was a threat.  Indeed, much of the liberal-left went along with it.  They put unrealistic faith in small-scale personal actions.

Now it is out of control, but they fail to learn

*

Post-Leninism and Peru’s Shining Path

Leninism liberated much of the world.  In 1917, a rich white male elite dominated.  Even where it let outsiders to vote in elections, it still controlled them.

The Leninist challenge weakened that unequal order.  It continues to do so in China.  But Leninism failed to respond sensibly to massive changes after World War Two.  The West moving towards something more socialist in the West was treated with hostility.  The best prospect of a compromise, the Reformed Communism of the Prague Spring, was crushed in 1968.

Meantime there was still scope for Leninism in Latin America.  But Che, though he never went along with the anti-Stalin stuff,[R] still had a belief in spontaneity that proved false.

Guzman with Peru’s Shining Path was closer.  He helped raise up the original inhabitants, who had never really recovered from the Spanish conquest.  And it was maybe no accident that the man who defeated him was ethnic-Japanese, and so looked somewhat like a Native American.

No accident either that Alberto Fujimori was found criminal after he had done the elite’s dirty work.

But Guzman helped wreck his own cause.  He was vain, not ready to share the sacrifices he asked of others.  He moved to the urban underground when he was ill.  He was caught, put on display and ended up looking weak.  

A serious revolution needs its heroes, including dead heroes.  A serious Leninist would have stayed and died among his people.

Still, Peru has changed.  It goes on changing.

*

Old newsnotes at the magazine websites.  I also write regular blogs – https://www.quora.com/q/mrgwydionmwilliams


[A] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/31/taliban-declares-afghanistans-independence-after-us-withdrawal   

[B] https://www.mintpressnews.com/john-pilger-afganistan-great-game-smashing-countries/278289/

[C] https://www.scmp.com/news/world/russia-central-asia/article/3146755/why-afghanistan-not-graveyard-empires

[D]  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/11/us-afghanistan-iraq-defense-spending

[E] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/sep/02/xi-jinpings-drive-for-economic-equality-comes-at-a-delicate-moment-for-china

[F] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/sep/21/internet-freedom-decline-free-speech-study

[G] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-58559412

[H] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annexation#By_China

[I] https://www.britannica.com/topic/annexation, but it seemed identical with the 14th Printed Edition of 1966.

[J] https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/m-articles-by-topic/42-china/tibet/the-truth-about-the-dalai-lama/

[K] https://www.ft.com/content/854663c3-9598-49e5-9791-9c4a930f7d66 (Pay Site) 

[L] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leylah_Fernandez

[M] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_Raducanu

[N] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-58571178

[O] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/sep/22/most-europeans-believe-us-in-new-cold-war-with-china-and-russia-poll

[P] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/08/business/irs-tax-avoidance.html

[Q] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/aug/15/vaccine-hesitancy-broken-relationship-state-conspiracy-theorists

[R] https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/the-soviet-past/why-che-guavara-approved-of-stalin/

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