Afghanistan
Aleppo

Podcast: humanitarian intervention reconsidered II

In Episode 86 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg returns to the book The Responsibility to Protect in Libya and Syria: Mass Atrocities, Human Protection, and International Law by Syrian American legal scholar Yasmine Nahlawi, exploring applicability of its analysis to the current disaster in Afghanistan. This discussion is taken up at the request of Eric Laursen, author of The Duty to Stand Aside: Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Wartime Quarrel of George Orwell and Alex Comfort. Laursen is the first to take up the CounterVortex special offer, by which new Patreon subscribers get to choose a topic for exploration on the podcast. When do we have a responsibility to protect, and when do we have a duty to stand aside, and how can these imperatives be reconciled? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Destruction of Aleppo, via 7ee6an)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Podcast: Afghanistan and the politics of withdrawal

In Episode 82 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out the Orwellian pronouncements from media and politicians that Biden is “ending the war” in Afghanistan—as the war is actually escalating. This is the same imperial narcissism we heard with the much-hyped US “withdrawal” from Afghanistan in 2014, and the US “withdrawal” from Iraq in 2011. In both cases, the war went on—and actually got worse, with the emergence of ISIS and the genocide of the Yazidis. Weinberg recalls with grim vindication that he similarly called out the glib optimism about a  withdrawal from Iraq in CounterVortex commentaries during the occupation. Meanwhile, Hazara women—who face the threat of genocide if the Taliban re-take power—are arming to resist the Taliban advance. The critical task now is to loan what solidarity and visibility we can to such efforts—not to engage in hubristic crowing about the “end of the war.” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

East Asia
hongkong leaflet

Hong Kong police thwart Handover anniversary demos

Hong Kong police arrested 11 for distributing “seditious publications,” as the force erected tight cordons across the city on the 24th anniversary of its handover to China. Citing pandemic restrictions, the Security Bureau warned that those taking part in unauthorized demonstrations may face jail. Police pre-emptively sealed off Victoria Park—the traditional starting point for pro-democracy marches on the date. But there were scattered small gatherings at other points around the city. The 11 arrests took place in Mong Kok commercial district, where activists from the group Student Politicism distributed leaflets. They were detained under the Crimes Ordinance, which dates to the British colonial era. (Photo: HKFP)

Europe
orwell

Podcast: George Orwell’s wartime dilemma

In Episode 76 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses and critiques The Duty to Stand Aside: Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Wartime Quarrel of George Orwell and Alex Comfort by Eric Laursen. Orwell and Comfort were divided on the question of Allied bombardment of Germany in World War II—although they both united to support the free-speech rights of anarchist anti-war dissidents. With fascism and genocide again emerging on the world stage, their quarrell sheds light on the contemporary wars in Syria, Libya and elsewhere—and how progressives and especially anarchists in the West should respond. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: The Orwell Archive)

Syria
Atareb

Protest WHO board seat for Syrian regime

Doctors and healthcare workers held a demonstration outside a hospital in the Syrian city of Idlib, to protest the election of the Bashar Assad regime to the executive board of the World Health Organization (WHO)—the latest coup for normalization of the regime. “How can we trust WHO [when] one of its executive board members is the murderer who is killing my colleagues?” said Dr. Salem Abdan, head of health services for opposition-administered Idlib. Read a banner at the protest: “We reject that he who destroyed our hospitals be represented on the executive board.” Idlib province is part of a remaining rebel-held pocket in the northeast of the country, where Assad regime warplanes have for years been bombing hospitals and clinics. (Photo of bombed hospital in northern Syria via Daily Sabah)

Planet Watch
toad

Podcast: Thoughts on the Common Toad

In Episode 67 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues the Spring ritual from his old WBAI program, the Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade (which he lost due to his political dissent exactly 10 years ago), of reading the George Orwell essay “Some Thoughts on the Common Toad,” which brilliantly predicted ecological politics way back in 1946. Among other reasons for hope this season, Bill notes passage of New York state’s extremely progressive cannabis legalization act. Shout-out to Bill’s old co-host Ann-Marie Hendrickson, who is still carrying on the Common Toad tradition on her own WBAI program, Mansion for a Rat. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: National Wildlife Federation)

Central Asia
ET-Gulag-Archipelago

ICC prosecutor rejects Uighur genocide complaint

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors rejected a complaint filed by exiled Uighurs calling for an investigation of China on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The complaint was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds; the People’s Republic of China, like the United States, does not recognize the ICC. But on the question of forcible removal from countries where the ICC does have jurisdiction, the text of the rejection parsed definitions very closely. While acknowledging forced deportations of Uighurs from Tajikistan and Cambodia back to China to face potential internment and persecution, the ICC stated: “Not all conduct which involves the forcible removal of persons from a location necessarily constitutes the crime of forcible transfer or deportation.” (Photo: ETNAM)

Watching the Shadows
Xinjiang

China elected to UN rights council: Orwellian irony

In another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit, the UN General Assembly elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan—all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with “abhorrent human rights records.” A week before the General Assembly vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun read a statement before the body, denouncing the US for “systematic racial discrimination and violence,” which was endorsed by 25 other nations—including Russia, Iran and North Korea. Of course the perverse irony of this is that Pompeo and Zhang are both correct. And therefore neither has any moral credibility to criticize the other. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

Iran
Persian Gulf

Trump sends more troops to Persian Gulf

In response to the recent escalation in Iraq, President Trump has ordered thousands more US troops to neighboring Kuwait—and hudreds more Marines into Iraq itself. The US and Iran are playing a geo-strategic game for control of Iraq, and the greater region. Both sides are treating the Iraqi people as pawns. As long as ISIS and Sunni jihadists remain a threat, Washington and Tehran can only push things so far. But things could still escalate toward US war with Iran, even if neither side is seeking that outcome. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Syria
Kurdish refugees

‘Ceasefire’ or ethnic cleansing in northeast Syria?

After meeting in Ankara, US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached a deal to suspend Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria for five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a designated area along the border. This is being widely reported as a “ceasefire.” However, Ankara is insisting the deal is not a “ceasefire” but a halt in the offensive to give Kurdish forces time to retreat from zone. Far from being a peace move, the pact amounts to an ultimatum to the Kurds to quit their territory. Some 160,000 Kurds have already fled the Turkish offensive—some to a refugee camp that has been established across the border in Iraq. (Photo: UNHCR via Twitter)

Syria
Rojava

Turkey prepares ‘humanitarian’ genocide of Kurds

Turkey launched its assault on the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria, with air-strikes and artillery pounding areas along the Syrian-Turkish border. Hundreds of civilians have fled the bombardment, headed south into areas still held by Kurdish forces. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is cloaking this aggression in the guise of a “safe zone” for refugees, a humanitarian operation. In reality, Erdogan is exploiting the refugees as demographic cannon fodder, using them to populate areas Kurds are now to be displaced from, creating a new class of refugees, pitting Arabs against Kurds, and establishing the conditions for potentially generations of Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria. (Map: Genocide Watch)

South Asia
Gandhi

Podcast: against Narendra Modi’s Gandhi-exploitation

Amid moves toward mass detention of Muslims in Kashmir and Assam, a growing atmosphere of terror, and persecution of government critcs, India’s arch-reactionary Prime Minister Narendra Modi cynically places an op-ed in the New York Times extolling Mohandas Gandhi on his 150th birthday. In Episode 40 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls this out as Orwellian propaganda, and documents the historical reality: Modi is not the inheritor of the tradition of Gandhi, but that of his assassin. Those who assert that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has fascist roots are factually correct. Progressives in recent years have been rethinking the sanctification of Gandhi, and that is one thing. But Modi should not be allowed to get away with wrapping himself in the legacy of a man who was the antithesis of everything he represents. And US political figures like Tulsi Gabbard who pretend to be progressives while embracing the fascistic Modi must be exposed and repudiated. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.. (Photo via Biography.com)