On my quest to discover why the channel doesn’t grow anymore, one of the things I’ve identified is my tendency to publish videos at the end of the day on Tuesday. This means fewer waking hours for people to discover the video in the US, and it means that most of my overseas audience doesn’t get the chance to see it until Wednesday.
Which is all to explain why This week’s Tuesday video is an unproduced rant. I’ve got a produced video written, and expect to work hard on it throughout today and tomorrow. But instead of publishing it for an audience that’s mostly asleep, I’ll hold it for Thursday or Friday morning EST, and increase its chances of being seen widely.
I hope you enjoy this rant on Chad. What’s going on in the Sahel has bugged me for quite some time, but the lack of unbiased information has made it hard for me to dive in. Interestingly, the bizarre death of this pillar of French policy in the region is bringing some more scrutiny and ways into the story.
I wrote this video about a month ago, but then got cold feet. I’m glad I did, because the Vienna attack occurred the day I was going to upload it. That attack was initially sold as a serious, organized, multi-person act of terror. It’s now clear that it was committed by just another lone psycho. This video’s central message, that what we are seeing now is nothing compared to five years ago, and that Islamist terrorism has largely run its course, seems pretty clearly true to me.
One interesting aspect, that I left out of the video because it was already too long, is the difference between the US and French attitudes towards counter-terror. Even under Trump there’s a serious effort to move away from worrying about Islam. A Saudi military officer, likely affiliated with Al Qaeda, shot up a US military base last fall, killing 3 US soldiers! It’s been forgotten completely. The French government, on the other hand, is eager to make the actions of lone psychos the centerpiece of its domestic political agenda. What explains this difference?
Well, it’s quite cynical. The US military industrial complex, from defense contractors to the military to the media that promotes them, it’s all moving on to China. We don’t need to freak out about Islam to justify our pentagon budgets anymore. But France’s military budgets depend on fighting “Terrorism” in Africa. So they remain very big on demonizing Islam. Grim. But hard to deny.
I like this video, but it also reminds me of some missed opportunities. For over two years now I’ve been putting out this “Everybody’s Lying About Islam” series, but I think I’ve been falling down on one of the most central points I was trying to make. I am grateful to Ilhan Omar for giving me the opportunity to make that point more forcefully. Throughout the series I vaguely allude to the ways that Islamophobia serves the US government, even as the US government’s most prominent figures preach peace and tolerance.
In this video, I make the connection crystal clear, in ways that I should have done long ago. Islamophobia allows the US government to shield their Saudi partners from blame for 9-11, while also providing an endless series of countries to be lucratively bombed and destroyed. Ilhan Omar is the subject of extraordinary hate and vilification because she points out the facts of Islamophobia, and the ways it is used by our government. I adore her for it. Her outspoken presence in congress, and the fact of her presence alone, is a sign that the US public is tiring of this old Islamophobic ploy, which is inspiring a high degree of panic in Washington, DC.
It’s becoming clear, also, that Ms. Omar may be quite the fallible human being. The questions surrounding immigration fraud she may have committed remain. I looked at those allegations, and why the statute of limitations means they won’t prove to be Omar’s kryptonite the way many in the swamp hope in a tweet storm back when I published this video. It has since been fairly credibly alleged that Omar may be getting a little bit Trumpy with her personal behavior. Her supposed seduction of (by?) a married, very non-Muslim campaign consultant doesn’t fit with the “fanatical jihadist” slurs we find on right wing radio, but it could present an interesting, and very current campaign finance challenge. With growing rumors of petty illegality, campaign finance irregularities, and moral failings, Ilhan Omar sounds a lot like… a congress person. In the world before Trump, who knows, perhaps I’d be bothered by all this. In 2019, I’m not. Let whatever proceedings are appropriate proceed, but I don’t yet see anything that’s likely to derail this vitally important voice in Congress.
When should we panic? Donald Trump has obviously given freer reign to the nativist and racist instincts of my country, but how out of the ordinary is it really? There was a large industry and policy community based around fear of the other long before Donald Trump. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that his cartoonish attempt to put into practice all the ideas that Republicans used to only pay lip service to at election time has INCREASED support for immigration and multi-culturalism in the United States. It’s an interesting question. People are undeniably being hurt, but it’s often just because already existing policies are being carried out in a more haphazard fashion.
This video plays with the question. It focuses on a panic the Trump administration is creating around Chinese students and workers in the US, and places it in the context of decades of hate towards other groups that our country has been swimming in. It points out that the new China-panic might actually be a result of the diminishing panic about other groups. I don’t have any firm answers here, but it’s very worth thinking about.
It’s not really the focus of today’s video, which I wanted to keep light, but it really is fucking outrageous what the Defense Department is trying to pull off with its new National Defense Strategy. The Pentagon continues to use terrorism as a blank check for assassinations, kidnappings, and hyper-militarization in dozens of countries all over the world. The Pentagon has used it to scare the US public for decades now. They want to keep doing all of these things. But now that terrorism is fading, they want to perform a magic trick, keep all their money and toys, and continue with business as usual.
And they’re getting away with it. Washington, DC is super absorbed with talking about how much it hates Donald Trump, but is acting with surprising unity. Trump has started a trade war with China. The Department of Justice is pursuing cases against Chinese businesses with unprecedented and shocking vigor. The recently vacating “adults in the room” at the Defense Department were obsessed with China too. Every media group lightly poo poos Trump’s treatment of China… and then jumps on the bandwagon to talk about how scary and sinister China is. It’s outrageous really. Sigh.
Well at least we’re attempting to hold them accountable. Spill your glass for the War on Terror. It was a terribly wasteful and pointless way to spend a couple trillion dollars and a couple million lives.
I’m excited to announce that with today’s video and last week’s video, I now have enough vids put together a full Iran playlist! It’s weird how this stuff develops. I never set out to make almost 30 videos that deal with Iran in some capacity, but I suppose it’s kind of inevitable when covering the delusions of US foreign policy.
It’s all in here, the foolishness of Trump’s abandonment of the Iran deal, the US press’s inability to cover Iran anywhere near fairly, and so much more. With today’s video, and last week’s vid, I think I’ve got a good core of five vids that cover the most important bases of US policy towards the country. I’d like to really dive in on Iran at some point, the country’s history is absolutely fascinating, but I’m pleased to add another “series” on this channel, even if it was somewhat more haphazardly constructed than the other ones…
So who is scarier, Terrorists or Narcos? This distinction has a lot to do with today’s video, and why I take the Sicario sequel so much less seriously than I do the first one. For me the answer is simple and obvious. Narcos are infinitely scarier than Terrorists. I rag on Al Queda and ISIS all the time. And I do it from a Muslim country. As far as I’m concerned they are a bunch of ridiculous losers, either working directly for the CIA, or indirectly for the Pentagon by helping them inflate US military budgets. “Radical Islamic Terrorism” is largely the result of some poor choices on the part of the US back in the 1980s, and it is in the process of quickly evaporating. I am perfectly comfortable pointing stuff like that out, and broadcasting that message from most Muslim countries.
Would I ever make a video talking about Mexican drug cartels like that? Hell no. Not from Mexico. Not from anywhere. I’m a coward, and Narcos are legitimately scary. They are not the result of a few poor choices by the CIA and the US government (that continues to support Saudi Arabia), they are the result of deep human needs, and deep confusion about the way to deal with those needs. Marijuana legalization may help diminish the power of these cartels, but it’s not like heroin or cocaine are getting legalized any time soon. Drug trafficking, and the powerful criminal networks around it are going to be with us for quite some time.
Both Sicario movies open with horrific acts of violence. The first focuses on a crime carried out by Narcos, that is certainly exaggerated for film purposes, but that seems grimly plausible. The second Sicario movie opens up with a multiple suicide bombing of a shopping center in Kansas City carried out by motivated international terrorists. It was pretty gross, but I couldn’t keep myself from laughing. The whole concept of an organized terror attack in middle America just seemed so silly. In 2002 the preceding sentence would have felt like tempting fate, but at this point I think we can concede: ISIS isn’t coming for Peoria.
There’s a lot wrong with Sicario’s sequel, as I point out in detail in today’s video. But it may be this fundamental silliness more than anything else that put me off the film. Narcos are a real, enduring and very serious threat. Jihadi terrorists are a sad joke, and any movie that talks about them like they are serious just strikes me as US government propaganda. Which is a fair description of Sicario: Day of The Soldado.
I wanted to address another aspect of the comparison between Pakistan and Turkey that the cursed article I talk about in today’s video mentions briefly. The article does concede that Pakistan’s dictator led Islamification under Zia ul-Haq was a completely different example than the attempts at Islamification currently being carried out by Turkey’s elected president Erdogan. As I point out in the video, Pakistan remains desperately poor today and this was even more the case in the 1980’s. Zia was using Islam as tool for nation-building. It remains a key part of Pakistan’s sense of itself as a nation today.
As I laid out in my other twovideos on Islam in Turkey, Erdogan does not have the blank slate to work with that Pakistan’s Zia did. Pakistan of course, unlike Saudi Arabia, has an endlessly rich and varied history. But very few among a population that mostly couldn’t read, and was living on the brink of starvation, were able to benefit from that history and culture. Turkey has a very distinct sense of nationalism that is quite separate from Islam, and that is internalized across the population. No matter how powerful Erdogan becomes, he will not be able to eradicate those underpinnings.
It occurs to me that I haven’t exactly been clear about what I want to be done about Saudi Arabia. I absolutely do not want to employ the conventional arsenal of regime change. I don’t even think our “historic alliance” should be abandoned. We just need to spend less time going in with them on stupid ideas like the Syrian and Yemeni “civil wars”. Because without us, they can’t to much to make their stupid ideas a reality. It’s now abundantly clear to everybody outside of the arms industry or Washington, DC that Saudi Arabia is not a useful ally. So let’s stop treating them as such. When they suggest a foreign adventure or a proxy war, lets treat them with exactly the same level of interest we’d have for a similar project from Bulgaria or Tanzania: Not Much.
This video answers a question I’ve gotten a few times in the comments. How can I be so pro-Iran yet so anti-Saudi Arabia? It’s simple really. I don’t want Iran to become the new Saudi Arabia, I just want to call an end to the decades of useless antagonism. Iran has not done us anywhere near as much harm as Saudi Arabia has. So we should treat Iran the same way we treat a more “distantly allied” Saudi Arabia. That would be quite a step up. It’s quite literally the least we can do.
It’s almost like they’re the same word. In US circles it used to be rare to see a headline mentioning Yemen that didn’t also include Al Qaeda. In media circles I guess this is understandable. US audiences want to read about that which threatens us, and ISIS and Al Qaeda are past masters at getting themselves on our radar. Terrorists generally play the media like a fiddle. What’s less forgivable is the focus of the US government. Instead of taking steps to stabilize Yemen, a country whose collapse was endlessly foretold, we ran around bombing stuff, and further empowering Ali Abdullah Saleh, the kleptocrat who was riding Yemen to destruction. The result, of course, is what we have now, chaos, and a vastly empowered Al Qaeda. Good job team!
This video, the second to last in the Yemen series for now, starts the job of bringing in a different focus for our discussion of Yemen.