Focal Points Blog

Europe Gets up off the Mat to Battle Austerity

The Syriza government has made it clear that Greece is finished with the austerity policies that crashed its economy. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr)

The Syriza government has made it clear that Greece is finished with the austerity policies that crashed its economy. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr)

In the aftermath of last month’s Greek election that vaulted the left anti-austerity party Syriza into power, armies of supporters and detractors—from Barcelona to Berlin—are on the move. While Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueble was making it clear that Berlin would brook no change in the European Union’s (EU) debt strategy that has impoverished countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland, left organizations from all over Europe met in Barcelona to drew up a plan of battle.

As Schaueble was stonewalling Greek Finance Minister Yanis Karoufakis, the Party of the European Left (PEL), along with assorted Green parties, gathered for the “1st European South Forum” in Catalonia’s capital to sketch out a 10-point “Declaration of Barcelona” aimed at ending “austerity and inequality,” and promoting “democracy and solidarity.”
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Stephen Walt Ventures Into the Taboo, Calls for Appeasement in Ukraine

Ukraine troops manning a road block. (Photo: Sasha Maksymenko / Flickr Commons)

Ukraine troops manning a road block. (Photo: Sasha Maksymenko / Flickr Commons)

As if arming Islamist extremist rebels wasn’t bad enough, now some are urging the United States to arm Ukraine. In Foreign Policy magazine, Stephen Walt writes about a task force of NATO-friendly diplomats and foreign-policy experts established by three tanks that “wants the United States to send Ukraine $1 billion in military assistance as soon as possible, with more to come.”

These, he explains, “are the same people who have been telling us since the late 1990s that expanding NATO eastwards posed no threat to Russia and would instead create a vast and enduring zone of peace in Europe.” Even though “open-ended NATO expansion has done more to poison relations with Russia than any other single Western policy. … these experts are now doubling down to defend a policy that was questionable from the beginning and clearly taken much too far.”
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Do International Financial Institutions Have a Vested Interest in Keeping the World’s Impoverished Ill?

Structural adjustment just another name for a public health crisis. Photo: Center for Disease Control / Flickr Commons)

Structural adjustment just another name for a public health crisis.(Photo: Center for Disease Control / Flickr Commons)

In the London Review of Books, Paul Farmer, a professor of global health at Harvard, examines “the iniquities of healthcare funding,” as the subtitle to his article Who Lives and Who Dies reads.

Who lives and who dies depends on what sort of healthcare system is available. And who recovers, if recovery is possible, depends on the way emergency care and hospitals are financed.

… Holes in the nets – even the contraction of the notion of common goods like social protection – are one of ‘the causes of the causes’ of both ill-health and the impoverishment it so often triggers or complicates.

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The Islamic State’s Biggest Crime May Be Its Braggadocio

Just like the Islamic State, the United States uses fire as a weapon of war. Pictured: Hellfire missile mounted on a Predator drone. (Photo: Scott Reed, USAF / Wikimedia Commons)

Just like the Islamic State, the United States uses fire as a weapon of war. Pictured: Hellfire missile mounted on a Predator drone. (Photo: Scott Reed, USAF / Wikimedia Commons)

With the burning alive of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, the Islamic State has gone beyond turning slasher movies into reality shows with its beheadings to pushing the envelope of torture porn. But as, at Glenn Greenwald reminds us at the Intercept, it’s not the only armed force in recent times to use immolation as a weapon. In fact, in the tradition of its use of napalm in the Vietnam War, the United States rains hellfire down on suspected terrorists, in the form of Hellfire missiles launched from drones, which gives new life to the cliché “burnt to a crisp.”
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The Confederalists: A Kurdish Movement Bolsters Women and Bashes the West

Female Kurdish freedom fighters. (Photo: Democracy Chronicles / Flickr Commons)

Female Kurdish freedom fighters. (Photo: Democracy Chronicles / Flickr Commons)

Cross-posted from The New Context.

“While the world is discussing what to do with ISIS, Kurdish women are doing it,” Dilar Dirik cried in a September 2014 speech about theories of statelessness at a European conference. Dirik, a PhD candidate at Cambridge, used the speech to give a voice to the embattled Kurds and remarkable Kurdish women, and denounce the Western nation-state. During the last week of January 2015, armed Kurdish groups declared victory over the Islamic State in Kobani, on the Syria-Turkey border. But Dirik spoke back when the city of Kobani was under siege by IS and Western powers were not yet engaged in the fight.
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The Islamic State Singled Out Jordanian Pilot as Symbol of Air War Against It

Portrait of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

Portrait of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

At Global Guerillas, John Robb, author of the outstanding book Brave New War, explains exactly what he thinks the Islamic State was doing by burning alive Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh. First, he writes, it was a three-part presentation: an interview al-Kasasbeh, footage of Western airstrikes on the Islamic State, and the burning of al-Kasasbeh.
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Burning Alive of Jordanian Fighter Pilot More Evidence Islamic State Refuses to Grow Up

Islamic state de facto capital Raqqa. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

Islamic state de facto capital Raqqa. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

It’s well known that revolutionary movements and/or terrorist organizations generally moderate the extreme violence that may have brought them to power. The Islamic State, however, which fancies itself even more than a state — a caliphate spanning existing states — seems intent on overturning the conventional wisdom.

In fact, is the Islamic State’s leadership channeling Satan? By burning Jordanian fighter pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh to death in the most torturous manner possible, its members are apparently making another payment in the deal they seem to have signed with the devil (known as Shaytan in Islam).
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Ukraine Government: “No Russian Troops Are Fighting Against Us”

Thee sanctions against Russia are based on the likely fiction that Ukraine is fighting against regular units of the Russian army. Pictured: Ukraine army helicopters flying over Kiev. (Photo Oleg V. Belyakov / Wikimedia Commons)

Thee sanctions against Russia are based on the likely fiction that Ukraine is fighting against regular units of the Russian army. Pictured: Ukraine army helicopters flying over Kiev. (Photo Oleg V. Belyakov / Wikimedia Commons)

Cross-posted from Global Research.

Ukraine’s top general is contradicting allegations by the Obama Administration and by his own Ukrainian Government, by saying that no Russian troops are fighting against the Ukrainian Government’s forces in the formerly Ukrainian, but now separatist, area, where the Ukrainian civil war is being waged. (View and hear that statement here.)

The Chief of Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, General Viktor Muzhenko, is saying, in that news-report, which is dated on Thursday January 29th, that the only Russian citizens who are fighting in the contested region, are residents in that region, or of Ukraine, and also some Russian citizens (and this does not deny that perhaps some of other countries’ citizens are fighting there, inasmuch as American mercenaries have already been noted to have been participating on the Ukrainian Government’s side), who “are members of illegal armed groups,” meaning fighters who are not paid by any government, but instead are just “individual citizens” (as opposed to foreign-government-paid ones). General Muzhenko also says, emphatically, that the “Ukrainian army is not fighting with the regular units of the Russian army.”
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It’s Official: Netanyahu Has Given up on Obama and the Democrats

Netanyahu may come to rue the day he abandoned pursuit of bi-partisan support in the United States. (Photo: IsraelinUSA / Flickr Commons)

Netanyahu may come to rue the day he abandoned pursuit of bi-partisan support in the United States. (Photo: IsraelinUSA / Flickr Commons)

During the administration of President George W. Bush, when it came to Israel, all you ever heard was how much influence Israel had on U.S. foreign policy, especially toward Iran. Even if it were disinclined not to act in lockstep with Israel (not that the Bush administration was) the power that AIPAC exerted over the Senate and House, the narrative went, was too great for the president to override.

But, in the years since, the heavy hand that Israel has wielded in dealing with Palestinians has created cover under which the next U.S. president, Barack Obama, could peel off the tentacles of Israel and AIPAC. On Jan. 30, in the New York Times, Peter Baker and Jodi Rudoren write of the rift between he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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How Good Is the Islamic State at Governing?

Government building in Islamic State de facto capital Raqqa pictured. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr Commons )

Government building in Islamic State de facto capital Raqqa pictured. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr Commons )

I’m sure many of us have had the thought: Why not just let the Islamic State keep the land it conquered? (Who knew conquering was still a thing? Or a caliphate, for that matter?) After all, thus far, unlike Al Qaeda, it’s shown it’s ready and willing to govern on a local as well as pan-national level.

The answer, of course, is that besides beheading captives, the Islamic State metes out a form of justice to those it rules that harkens back to a time when disorder and threats to the state ran rampant. I didn’t want to say it because it’s become a cliché, but, yeah, the 1300s. Of course, that can’t be allowed to stand.
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