London Review of Books · 2 March 2017

https://www.lrb.co.uk

    • Private philanthropy in general can be a threat to democratic accountability and a just society. Reverence for big donors implies that billions of underpaid and exploited people should be satisfied with philanthropic crumbs from a self-appointed aristocracy rather than entitled to economic justice. What’s really needed for a fairer, more equal society is not charity but justice, though Gates has long presumed otherwise.

      #philantrocapitalisme

  • Adam Shatz · Dynamo Current, Feet, Fists, Salt: What did you do in the war? · LRB 18 February 2021
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v43/n04/adam-shatz/dynamo-current-feet-fists-salt

    Anxious not to be outflanked on the right by Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National, Macron has shown little desire to make conciliatory overtures to French Muslims. And since the beheading of the schoolteacher Samuel Paty by a young man of Chechen origin, he has dug in his heels, attacking anyone who dares to criticise the increasingly repressive application of laïcité as a terrorist sympathiser or ‘Islamo-gauchiste’. In a recent interview with Mediapart, Stora was asked how Macron could preside over the reconciliation process while fulminating against Muslim ‘separatism’; he carefully finessed the question. But Macron’s Algerian war initiative is losing out as he struggles to appeal to an electorate whose sympathies lie elsewhere. The latest poll puts Le Pen almost level with Macron in next year’s elections.

  • Nathan Thrall · The Separate Regimes Delusion · LRB 8 January 2021
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v43/n02/nathan-thrall/the-separate-regimes-delusion

    The only way for the Zionist left to oppose ethnic domination in the West Bank while preserving ethnic privilege in pre-1967 Israel is to assert that there is an ‘apartheid regime’ in the West Bank separate from the Israeli state. For pre-1967 Israel to be part of an apartheid state would therefore require formal annexation of the West Bank, ‘amalgamating’ the two regimes. But this is a misunderstanding of the crime of apartheid as described in international law. Like torture, apartheid does not need to be applied uniformly or everywhere in a country to be criminal: in international law there is no such thing as an ‘apartheid regime’, just as there is no such thing as a ‘torture regime’. The word ‘regime’ doesn’t appear anywhere in the original 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. And, although the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court does use the word ‘regime’ in its definition (it was added to satisfy the US delegation, which was concerned about the possible prosecution of US citizens belonging to white supremacist groups), it was clearly not inserted to allow apartheid to be restricted to regions or units of a state.

    Yet the notion that only formal annexation can turn Israel into an apartheid state has become intrinsic to left-wing Zionist ideology. In June last year, more than five hundred scholars of Jewish studies, many of them prominent supporters of Israel, such as the American Jewish philosopher Michael Walzer, signed a letter stating that ‘annexation of Palestinian territories will cement into place an anti-democratic system of separate and unequal law and systemic discrimination against the Palestinian population. Such discrimination on the basis of racial, ethnic, religious or national background is defined as “conditions of apartheid” and a “crime against humanity”.’

    The same month, Zulat, a new think tank headed by the former chair of the liberal Zionist Meretz party, Zehava Gal-On, published a report entitled ‘Whitewashing Apartheid’. In a section on the consequences of de jure annexation it performed a whitewash of its own, arguing that apartheid in the West Bank is currently practised not by Israel but by a separate regime: ‘Even if we annex only one square metre, the state of Israel will be relinquishing its democratic pretensions and abandoning its 53-year declared intention to end the conflict, reach an agreed settlement with the Palestinians and cease ruling over them.’ Even annexation, however, ‘does not necessarily make Israel an apartheid state but rather preserves it as a state operating a regime with apartheid characteristics in the occupied territories’. By this standard, apartheid South Africa was a democracy – like all democracies, an imperfect one – operating a regime with apartheid characteristics in the townships and Bantustans. Those Bantustans, incidentally, had their own flags, anthems, civil servants, parliaments, elections and a limited degree of autonomy not unlike that of the Palestinian Authority.

    Perhaps no organisation has promoted the idea of separate regimes more forcefully than Yesh Din , a human rights organisation that has conducted important legal advocacy on behalf of Palestinians subjected to settler violence, unlawful killing and destruction of property by Israeli security forces, Israeli land confiscation and Israeli restrictions on access to farmland. Last year, Yesh Din became the first Israeli organisation to publish a significant report accusing government officials of apartheid. At the same time, it is one of the staunchest defenders of the separate regimes theory. Yesh Din’s shifting, inconsistent answers to the question of at which point Israel would cease to be a democracy have been emblematic of the broader weaknesses in the separate regimes argument.

    #sionisme #Palestine

  • On Quitting Academia

    In​ May, I gave up my academic career after 27 years. A voluntary severance scheme had been announced in December, and I dithered about it until the pandemic enforced focus on a fuzzy dilemma. Already far from the sunlit uplands, universities would now, it seemed, descend into a dark tunnel. I swallowed hard, expressed an interest, hesitated, and then declared my intention to leave. A settlement agreement was drafted, and I instructed a solicitor. Hesitating again, I made a few calls, stared out of the window, then signed.

    My anxiety about academia dates back to my first job, a temporary lectureship in history at Keele University. I had drifted into doctoral research with a 2.1 from Cambridge and an unclassified O-Level in self-confidence. My friends from university, many headed for work in London, had initially been sceptical. One of them, later the deputy prime minister, worried that academic pay was crap and I’d have to read everything. Besides, decent posts were scarce. But I liked my subject, was taken on by a charismatic professor, scraped a grant, and switched Cambridge colleges as a gesture towards a fresh start. Reality had been evaded. To an extent unthinkable today, arts postgrads were left alone to read. At lamplit tutorials and seminars, held in book-lined rooms in dark courtyards, it was hard not to feel like an impostor, though, looking back, I now realise that others were also straining to suspend disbelief in themselves. Then, suddenly, I was out of time and needed a job. It was the end of what feels now like one long autumn of snug teas and cycling through mists.

    The day I arrived in Keele, it was raining. I’d split up with my girlfriend and had arranged to share a house with a colleague I’d never met; my office was still in the process of being built. Ahead lay the prospect of cobbling together dozens of lectures while at the same time somehow writing up my PhD. I was gloomy and apprehensive, but things fell into place. My housemate hadn’t finished his thesis either: we laboured through early mornings and evenings, eventually submitting on the same day. The teaching was exciting and rewarding. There were a lot of mature students, some of them displaced by the closure of the Staffordshire collieries, all eager to learn. My impostor syndrome went into remission. I had articles accepted by peer-reviewed journals, passed my PhD viva, and ascended through a series of jobs. In 2007 I joined the University of East Anglia and four years later was made a professor. I published books, essays and reviews, received grants and fellowships, spoke at seminars and conferences, assessed manuscripts, supervised postgraduates, served as an external examiner and sat on committees. I had become the person I once impersonated. There were still Billy Liar moments: doodling in meetings, dreaming up titles for novels, imagining the present as prelude. But the masquerade was over. What I did was who I was.

    Then, two years ago, things took a turn. A viable application for a big research grant fell at the first hurdle. Two articles I’d spent months on were rejected, one quite quickly, the other after a long ordeal of consideration and resubmission. Some of the assessors, cloaked in anonymity, seemed affronted by what I was trying to say. It was crushing, but also an awakening. They had pecked so viciously because I was an injured hen in the brood. They sensed disingenuousness, ebbing engagement, slippage from relevance, and, behind it all, a loss of faith. When I felt I’d been faking it I was the genuine article; now I was established I’d become an interloper. I realised I’d said all I had to say. So when my wife accepted a job in Dublin and I took a career break to look after our children, settling into non-academic life was easy. I didn’t miss it, any of it.

    It used to be more interesting. In 1993, Keele still bore a resemblance to the world Malcolm Bradbury captured in The History Man (1975): lecturers taught whatever enthused them – one medievalist offered a course on the Holocaust – and the cooler professors held parties to which students were invited. There were eccentrics straight out of Waugh’s Decline and Fall: loveable cranks who had written one or zero books, drank at lunchtime and liked a flutter. They smoked in their offices and let ferrety dogs roam the corridors. They were amused by the arrival of career-minded scholars, and panicked when the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) demanded to know how taxpayers’ money was being spent. The Research Assessment Exercise found them wanting in research, and a dawning age of inspection exposed worryingly heterodox teaching methods. Immediately before a HEFCE visit, a dusty sculpture was rinsed under the tap to make a good impression, as if the inspectors were a bevy of exacting aunts rather than fellow academics pressed into public service. In my next job, a wall of photocopied ‘evidence’ was adduced in the department’s cause, and a crate of booze was bought, in contravention of HEFCE rules, to relax the inspectors. Alas, it was stolen by some students.

    These were in many respects the bad old days, unworthy of anyone’s nostalgia. There was too little transparency, permitting countless small abuses. There was favouritism and prejudice; a policy of laissez-faire concealed unequal workloads and, in some cases, sheer indolence. The tightening of central controls in the 1990s introduced accountability to the system, and the expansion of the higher education sector generally, which happened around the same time, did good by allowing more young people from working-class backgrounds to earn a degree, something that, to their parents as to mine, had previously represented a social distinction as remotely glittering as a knighthood. When I began my PhD, there were fewer than fifty universities in the UK, awarding around 80,000 first degrees annually; twenty years later the number of HE institutions had nearly trebled, and the number of degrees had increased by a factor of five. In 1999 Tony Blair vowed that the 33 per cent of school-leavers then in higher education would rise to 50 per cent in the next century, a goal that was reached in 2018.

    Widening opportunity in education is the noblest of social and political projects. But the cost is now clear. In the ‘bad old days’ students were, as they are today, taught with commitment and passion, but sometimes eccentricity added a spark. Provided he – and it was usually a he – turned up fully dressed and sober and didn’t lay hands on anyone, the crazy lecturer could be an inspiration. Expectations were less explicit, the rhetoric and metrics of achievement were absent, which made everyone feel freer. Even applying to a university seemed less pressured, because it was so unclear what it would be like when you got there. You absorbed teachers’ anecdotal experiences and sent off for prospectuses, including the student-produced ‘alternative’ versions mentioning safe sex and cheap beer. Even after matriculation I had only a vague sense of the structure of my course. The lecture list was to be found in an austere periodical of record available in newsagents. Mysteries that today would be cleared up with two clicks on a smartphone had to be resolved by listening to rumours. This news blackout has been replaced by abundant online information, the publication of lucid curricular pathways, the friendly outreach of student services and the micromanagement of an undergraduate’s development. Leaps of progress all, if it weren’t for the suspicion that students might develop better if they had to find out more things for themselves. We learned to be self-reliant and so were better prepared for an indifferent world; we didn’t for a moment see the university as acting in loco parentis. Excessive care for students is as reassuring as a comfort blanket and can be just as infantilising.

    Academics lament the local autonomy that has now been arrogated to the centre, where faculty executive committees and senior management teams call the shots. Lecturers no longer exercise the discretion that once supported students’ pastoral welfare, and are instead trained to spot mental health problems and to advise students to consult GPs and book university counselling sessions (waiting lists tend to be long: anxiety is the new normal, sometimes reported as dispassionately as one might do a cold). Instances where essay extensions have been granted only on submission of proof of bereavement are not unheard of: procrustean bureaucracy in the name of consistency. Team-teaching is preferred to the one-lecturer show because university managers have an aversion to cancelling an advertised module should the lecturer take research or parental leave, move to another university, or run off screaming into the night. This was once an acceptable risk; now it threatens to infringe students’ consumer rights. Overseeing such concerns are marketing departments of burgeoning complexity and swagger, which manage public relations and promote the brand. National rankings based on several ‘key performance indicators’ – research, teaching, student satisfaction (a revered metric deriving from an online survey) – are parsed and massaged by these departments into their most appealing iterations, in the hope of pushing their institution as close as possible to pole position in an intensely competitive race. The Russell Group, a self-selecting club of 24 elite UK universities, content to be thought of as ‘the British Ivy League’, admits some new members and excludes others. Those refused entry make ingenious claims to be as good as those inside the charmed circle. But it’s a struggle. The Russell Group’s members attract three-quarters of all research income, which matters not least because world-class research-led teaching is a strong selling point for recruiting undergraduates.

    The key factor is tuition fees – currently £9250 per annum for full-time study – which in 2012 replaced most direct funding of universities. Today half of UK universities’ £40 billion annual income comes from fees. Universities are businesses forced to think commercially, regardless of any humane virtues traditionally associated with academic life. Academic heads of department – otherwise known as ‘line managers’, some of whom control their own budgets – are set aspirational admissions targets which often prove unachievable due to the vicissitudes of an unstable market. The usual outcome, in Micawberish terms, is misery over happiness. Academics, already demoralised by declining real wages, shrinking pensions and the demands of the Research Excellence Framework – not least the demand to demonstrate the public ‘impact’ of their research – report feeling not just overburdened by marketisation, but victimised. Some administrators, especially those without teaching duties, can make ‘underperforming’ academic staff feel like spanners in the works, rather than labourers who own the means of production and create the very thing marketing departments have to sell.

    University mottos, with all their classical hauteur, have been displaced by vapid slogans about discovering yourself and belonging to the future. Universities are centres of excellence, hubs of innovation, zones of enterprise. The gushing copy has limited relevance on the shop floor. Lecturers deserve more respect than is found in Dalek-like emails demanding 100 per cent compliance with this or that directive. An infinitely expanding bureaucratic universe displays authoritarian indifference to variety and nuance in the very work exalted in their promotional material. Vice-chancellors and deans always remember to give thanks and praise at graduation ceremonies and other festal moments; but what lecturers want is understanding, not least about the manifold claims on their time.

    So how has all this affected ‘the student experience’? Undergraduates today can’t know how it felt to belong to a state-funded institution whose low-pressure otherworldliness allowed for imagination and experimentation, diversity and discovery. The student experience didn’t need defining because it wasn’t for sale: it magically happened within a loosely idealistic, libertarian countercultural framework. The last thing anyone at a university wanted to wear was a suit: now you can’t move for them. Today’s watchwords are value and satisfaction. Even if it’s a good thing for fee-paying students to have a say in what their money buys, a transactional mentality has led to paradoxical demands for more contact hours and the right not to use them. Whereas lectures have long been optional, seminars and tutorials have remained compulsory. This is now under threat, along with the basic principle that attendees at a lecture are passive consumers and seminar participants are active producers. These days the customer is usually right and the lecturer more like a generic service provider. Supporting observations include students’ failure to learn their tutor’s name after 12 weeks, a tendency to refer to ‘teachers’ and ‘lessons’, dependence on prepackaged fillets of text – whatever happened to ‘reading round the subject’? – and unabashed admissions that set work has not been done. Why pretend the dog ate your homework when you own the homework?

    Students miss out if they duck challenges they imagine to be beyond their capabilities. Punching above your weight can be stressful and tiring, but without doing a bit of it students ironically fail to develop the independent learning skills and confident self-expression that employers value (here I’m talking mainly about the arts and humanities). Unlike other commodities and services, where typically the customer wants no involvement in the manufacture or delivery of their purchases, students get out of a degree what they put in. One of the worst outcomes would be if they unwittingly believed that fees entitled them to a good degree, and when awarded a 2.2 (or that endangered species, a third) reflexively blamed anything and anyone other than themselves. As bad would be a reluctance to award degrees below a 2.1 for fear of complaint, even legal action.

    Universities obsessed with student satisfaction are finding it harder to navigate their obligations. It doesn’t help that students have been hit by waves of strikes, followed by the further disruption caused by Covid-19. As for academic staff, feelings of discontent, disenfranchisement, disillusionment and disorientation are increasing, as academic careers become less and less appealing. The financial impact of the pandemic on universities has been catastrophic, with individual losses over the next financial year predicted to be in the tens of millions. In July, the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated a combined long-term deficit of £11 billion. Deprived of fees from foreign students (especially for postgraduate courses), revenue from rental accommodation, income from the conference trade and returns from other investments, universities are facing Herculean challenges – hence redundancies both voluntary and, in due course, compulsory. The IFS predicts that, without cutting workforces, universities will save only £600 million. I jumped while there was still a lifeboat in the water. UEA has a broad regional base, and will survive with some belt-tightening and structural changes. According to some reports, however, 13 institutions will go bust without government bailouts, which no doubt they will receive in exchange for pruning courses devoid of obvious vocational benefit.

    What will the student experience be now? A new order of one-way corridors, social distancing, teaching bubbles, screened and sanitised everything, and ‘dual-delivery synchronous and asynchronous learning activities’: a minimal amount of face-to-face teaching combined with online lectures, pre-recorded so that lecture theatres can be freed up for use as spacious seminar rooms. Lecturers have been racing to refine lockdown protocols into coherent products, now widely advertised as ‘blended learning’. Many have spent their summers taking training modules in ‘generic breadth and depth e-learning provision’, the warp and weft of embedded skills that look neat on a ‘weave diagram’ but are harder to apply in real life. To keep class discussion buoyant, lecturers are told to ‘encourage students to practise the verbalisation aspect of knowledge’. Multiple ‘learning outcomes’, sacred buzzwords before the pandemic, have been supplemented with ‘learner journeys’, promising against the odds a positive experience as well as a realistic hope of achieving something. But mostly lecturers have been tasked with filming multiple bite-size video ‘segments’ suited to modern attention spans (complete with subtitles and credited imagery), setting ‘interactive tasks’ and building bespoke websites for their modules.

    Who knows how long this set-up will last. Currently we can only applaud the pragmatism and stamina of lecturers, beg the forbearance of students, and wish them well. But if the R-number creeps up, or if there are more strikes (a prospect made likely by redundancies), even the contingency plan will stall and dissatisfaction will soar. School-leavers may question the wisdom of paying so much for so little. As it is, calls for universities to refund fees and rent have fallen on deaf ears. The student experience has already been compromised and the brand damaged. The path to recovery is pegged out with proposals for retrenchment, mostly effected by shedding staff.

    I had dreaded telling colleagues in my field that I was quitting, imagining incredulity and a hushed inference that I was terminally ill or at least having a breakdown. Academia is vocational: people don’t usually pack it in or switch careers – although that may become more common. When I finally broke the news, most of the people I told said they would retire early if they could afford it – a few had made calculations about payouts and pensions and most had at least contemplated it in glummer moments. It’s just no fun any more, they said. One or two admitted that their self-identity was so bound up with academic life they could never give it up, but even this wasn’t a judgment on my decision: they were entirely sympathetic and acknowledged that a wonderful career had lost a lot of its glamour.

    Of course, none of us is lost in space, rounding the lip of a black hole. Higher education will always be worthwhile, if only because for students it provides three unique years removed from family, school and a career. In spite of uncertainty and austerity, versatile and resourceful young people will create their own networks and forums conducive to study and sociability. Academics will carry on doing research that informs their teaching. Learning for its own sake may suffer as courses are honed to a fine utilitarian edge and students evolve into accomplished grade accountants, expert in the work required for a 2.1 – playing the system they themselves finance. But degrees will retain value, and, for those who find graduate entry-level jobs, they will remain value for money. Above all, even allowing for a likely contraction of the HE sector, our universities will still promote social mobility, having already transformed the profile of the typical student, in terms of gender as well as class. There will be no return to sixty years ago when only 4 per cent of 18-year-olds went on to higher education, most of them men. The change is permanent. I’m glad to have played my part in this revolution.

    Perhaps this is why I feel uneasy, and why my future feels more suspenseful than exciting. I’ve had dreams in which I’ve strolled across a platonically perfect ivy-clad campus, been enthralled by a perfect seminar, and had engaging discussions with old colleagues, including my Cambridge supervisor and the people I knew when I was doing my PhD, back in the halcyon days when everything had a point and a purpose. There’s guilt there: a sense of loss, of potential squandered and maybe even betrayed. UEA has made me an emeritus professor, which is an honourable discharge and something to cling to, and my wife insists we can live on her salary. But I still can’t decide whether I’ve retired or just resigned, or am in fact redundant and unemployed. I’m undeniably jobless at 53, able-bodied (I hesitate to say ‘fit’), with a full head of hair and most of my teeth, and haunted by St Teresa of Avila’s dictum that more tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.

    I keep thinking about a short story we read at school, Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Lotus Eater’. It is the cautionary tale of a bank manager who drives off the toads of work, gives up his comfy pension and goes to live like a peasant on a paradisal Mediterranean island. Needless to say it doesn’t end well: his annuity expires, his mind atrophies, he botches suicide. He sees out his days in a state of bestial wretchedness, demoted in the great chain of being as a punishment for rebelling against nature. I don’t see the story as a prediction, and would always choose industry over idleness, but Maugham’s contempt for someone who dodges life’s challenges – the story satirised an effete acquaintance from Heidelberg – resonates. Still, I couldn’t go back. Goodbye to all that.

    https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n18/malcolm-gaskill/diary
    #UK #Angleterre #université #ESR #quitter #fin #jeter_l'éponge #taxes_universitaires

    • Extrait : “I had dreaded telling colleagues in my field that I was quitting, imagining incredulity and a hushed inference that I was terminally ill or at least having a breakdown. Academia is vocational: people don’t usually pack it in or switch careers – although that may become more common. When I finally broke the news, most of the people I told said they would retire early if they could afford it – a few had made calculations about payouts and pensions and most had at least contemplated it in glummer moments. It’s just no fun any more, they said. One or two admitted that their self-identity was so bound up with academic life they could never give it up, but even this wasn’t a judgment on my decision: they were entirely sympathetic and acknowledged that a wonderful career had lost a lot of its glamour”.

  • Machine-Readable Refugees

    Hassan (not his real name; other details have also been changed) paused mid-story to take out his wallet and show me his ID card. Its edges were frayed. The grainy, black-and-white photo was of a gawky teenager. He ran his thumb over the words at the top: ‘Jamhuri ya Kenya/Republic of Kenya’. ‘Somehow,’ he said, ‘no one has found out that I am registered as a Kenyan.’

    He was born in the Kenyan town of Mandera, on the country’s borders with Somalia and Ethiopia, and grew up with relatives who had escaped the Somali civil war in the early 1990s. When his aunt, who fled Mogadishu, applied for refugee resettlement through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, she listed Hassan as one of her sons – a description which, if understood outside the confines of biological kinship, accurately reflected their relationship.

    They were among the lucky few to pass through the competitive and labyrinthine resettlement process for Somalis and, in 2005, Hassan – by then a young adult – was relocated to Minnesota. It would be several years before US Citizenship and Immigration Services introduced DNA tests to assess the veracity of East African refugee petitions. The adoption of genetic testing by Denmark, France and the US, among others, has narrowed the ways in which family relationships can be defined, while giving the resettlement process the air of an impartial audit culture.

    In recent years, biometrics (the application of statistical methods to biological data, such as fingerprints or DNA) have been hailed as a solution to the elusive problem of identity fraud. Many governments and international agencies, including the UNHCR, see biometric identifiers and centralised databases as ways to determine the authenticity of people’s claims to refugee and citizenship status, to ensure that no one is passing as someone or something they’re not. But biometrics can be a blunt instrument, while the term ‘fraud’ is too absolute to describe a situation like Hassan’s.

    Biometrics infiltrated the humanitarian sector after 9/11. The US and EU were already building centralised fingerprint registries for the purposes of border control. But with the start of the War on Terror, biometric fever peaked, most evidently at the borders between nations, where the images of the terrorist and the migrant were blurred. A few weeks after the attacks, the UNHCR was advocating the collection and sharing of biometric data from refugees and asylum seekers. A year later, it was experimenting with iris scans along the Afghanistan/Pakistan frontier. On the insistence of the US, its top donor, the agency developed a standardised biometric enrolment system, now in use in more than fifty countries worldwide. By 2006, UNHCR agents were taking fingerprints in Kenya’s refugee camps, beginning with both index fingers and later expanding to all ten digits and both eyes.

    Reeling from 9/11, the US and its allies saw biometrics as a way to root out the new faceless enemy. At the same time, for humanitarian workers on the ground, it was an apparently simple answer to an intractable problem: how to identify a ‘genuine’ refugee. Those claiming refugee status could be crossed-checked against a host country’s citizenship records. Officials could detect refugees who tried to register under more than one name in order to get additional aid. Biometric technologies were laden with promises: improved accountability, increased efficiency, greater objectivity, an end to the heavy-handed tactics of herding people around and keeping them under surveillance.

    When refugees relinquish their fingerprints in return for aid, they don’t know how traces of themselves can travel through an invisible digital architecture. A centralised biometric infrastructure enables opaque, automated data-sharing with third parties. Human rights advocates worry about sensitive identifying information falling into thehands of governments or security agencies. According to a recent privacy-impact report, the UNHCR shares biometric data with the Department of Homeland Security when referring refugees for resettlement in the US. ‘The very nature of digitalised refugee data,’ as the political scientist Katja Jacobsen says, ‘means that it might also become accessible to other actors beyond the UNHCR’s own biometric identity management system.’

    Navigating a complex landscape of interstate sovereignty, caught between host and donor countries, refugee aid organisations often hold contradictory, inconsistent views on data protection. UNHCR officials have long been hesitant about sharing information with the Kenyan state, for instance. Their reservations are grounded in concerns that ‘confidential asylum-seeker data could be used for non-protection-related purposes’. Kenya has a poor record of refugee protection. Its security forces have a history of harassing Somalis, whether refugees or Kenyan citizens, who are widely mistrusted as ‘foreigners’.

    Such well-founded concerns did not deter the UNHCR from sharing data with, funding and training Kenya’s Department of Refugee Affairs (now the Refugee Affairs Secretariat), which since 2011 has slowly and unevenly taken over refugee registration in the country. The UNHCR hasconducted joint verification exercises with the Kenyan government to weed out cases of double registration. According to the anthropologist Claire Walkey, these efforts were ‘part of the externalisation of European asylum policy ... and general burden shifting to the Global South’, where more than 80 per cent of the world’s refugees live. Biometrics collected for protection purposes have been used by the Kenyan government to keep people out. Tens of thousands of ethnic Somali Kenyan citizens who have tried to get a Kenyan national ID have been turned away in recent years because their fingerprints are in the state’s refugee database.

    Over the last decade, biometrics have become part of the global development agenda, allegedly a panacea for a range of problems. One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to provide everyone with a legal identity by 2030. Governments, multinational tech companies and international bodies from the World Bank to the World Food Programme have been promoting the use of digital identity systems. Across the Global South, biometric identifiers are increasingly linked to voting, aid distribution, refugee management and financial services. Countries with some of the least robust privacy laws and most vulnerable populations are now laboratories for experimental tech.

    Biometric identifiers promise to tie legal status directly to the body. They offer seductively easy solutions to the problems of administering large populations. But it is worth asking what (and who) gets lost when countries and international bodies turn to data-driven, automated solutions. Administrative failures, data gaps and clunky analogue systems had posed huge challenges for people at the mercy of dispassionate bureaucracies, but also provided others with room for manoeuvre.

    Biometrics may close the gap between an ID and its holder, but it opens a gulf between streamlined bureaucracies and people’s messy lives, their constrained choices, their survival strategies, their hopes for a better future, none of which can be captured on a digital scanner or encoded into a database.

    https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2020/september/machine-readable-refugees
    #biométrie #identité #réfugiés #citoyenneté #asile #migrations #ADN #tests_ADN #tests_génétiques #génétique #nationalité #famille #base_de_donnée #database #HCR #UNHCR #fraude #frontières #contrôles_frontaliers #iris #technologie #contrôle #réinstallation #protection_des_données #empreintes_digitales #identité_digitale

    ping @etraces @karine4
    via @isskein

  • Adam Tooze · Whose century? After the Shock · LRB 30 July 2020
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n15/adam-tooze/whose-century

    The question asked by the American left, as well as more hard-nosed right-wingers, is not whether the US negotiators were naive or incompetent, but whose interests they were representing. Were they negotiating on behalf of the average American, or American business? As Davis and Wei show, US economic policymakers were committed to advancing the interests of American business more or less as business articulated those interests to them. [...]

    In 1949, ‘Who lost China?’ was the question that tortured the American political establishment. Seventy years later, the question that hangs in the air is how and why America’s #elite lost interest in their own country. Coming from Bernie Sanders that question wouldn’t be surprising. But it was more remarkable to hear William Barr, Trump’s attorney general, describe American business as ‘part of the problem’ because its corporate leaders are too focused on their stock options and have lost sight of the ‘national view’ and the need to ensure that ‘that the next century remains a Western one’. He warns corporate executives lobbying for China that they may be treated as foreign agents. This is all a long way from the 1990s, when America’s corporate leaders could confidently assume that their way of seeing the world was so deeply entrenched in the US political system that their desired version of integration with China would go unchallenged, whatever the costs it imposed on American society. They folded China into their corporate planning as though all that was involved were private business decisions, not a wholesale rewiring of the global order. Today, that wager on the world as a playground of corporate strategy is unravelling.

    #intérêts_privés #etats-unis #Chine

  • شنشون sur Twitter : “It’s worth repeating that #Edward_Said got pretty much everything right back in 1993. The road here from Oslo was overdetermined if not inevitable” / Twitter
    https://twitter.com/humanprovince/status/1223176080955269120

    Sur la #prescience d’Edward Said concernant la catastrophe qu’ont constitué les accords d’Oslo.

    The Morning After · LRB 21 October 1993
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v15/n20/edward-said/the-morning-after

    The fact is that Israel has conceded nothing, as former Secretary Of State James Baker said in a TV interview, except, blandly, the existence of ‘the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people’. Or as the Israeli ‘dove’ Amos Oz reportedly put it in the course of a BBC interview, ‘this is the second biggest victory in the history of Zionism.’

  • To turn the mass into a class · LRB
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2019/december/to-turn-the-mass-into-a-class

    ‘The growing proletarianisation of modern man and the increasing formation of masses,’ #Walter_Benjamin wrote, ‘are two aspects of the same process.’ The ‘masses’, he explained, can be organised in two ways. One, which led to fascism in Benjamin’s time and is the forerunner of today’s right-wing populism, is characterised by an instinctive, reactive psychology, prone to xenophobia, demonisation and magical thinking. The other, which Benjamin called a class as opposed to a mass, is held together by solidarity, which makes conscious, purposeful action possible. The socialist project, according to Benjamin, is to turn the mass into a class. Socialism, then, in Benjamin’s view, is not primarily a way of organising the economy per se; rather it refers to the spirit or psychology that holds individuals together.

    #masses #classes

  • #métaliste de documents (surtout cartes et visualisations) qui traitent des #migrations_intra-africaines et qui peuvent servir à combattre les #préjugés de la #ruée vers l’Europe de migrants d’#Afrique subsaharienne...

    Voir notamment le livre de #Stephen_Smith qui entretien ce #mythe :
    La #ruée vers l’#Europe. La jeune #Afrique en route pour le Vieux Continent


    https://seenthis.net/messages/673774

    –------------

    Les documents pour contrer ce mythe...

    Le #développement en #Afrique à l’aune des #bassins_de_migrations


    https://seenthis.net/messages/817277

    –-------

    Les migrations au service de la transformation structurelle


    https://seenthis.net/messages/698976

    –-----------

    Many more to come ? Migration from and within Africa


    https://seenthis.net/messages/698976#message699366

    –-----------

    #Infographie : tout ce qu’il faut savoir sur les migrants intra-africains


    https://seenthis.net/messages/615305

    –-----------

    Une population en pleine expansion, fuyant les régions sous tension


    https://seenthis.net/messages/615305#message763880

    –-------------

    Les #migrations_internes vont-elles recomposer l’Afrique ?


    https://seenthis.net/messages/615305#message800883

    –----------

    African migration : is the continent really on the move ?


    https://seenthis.net/messages/605693

    –-------------

    Africa : International migration, emigration 2015


    https://seenthis.net/messages/526083#message691033

    –-----------

    Un premier atlas sur les #migrations_rurales en Afrique subsaharienne - CIRAD


    https://seenthis.net/messages/647634

    #cartographie #visualisation #ressources_pédagogiques

    ping @reka @karine4 @fil

  • En ces temps de #Hirak en #Irak, il faut rappeler comment dés 2003 les #Etats-Unis y ont INSTAURÉ la #corruption et VOLÉ, en compagnie d’Irakiens (les « exilés ») qu’ils ont eux-mêmes placés à la tête de l’Etat, des dizaines de milliards de dollar d’avoirs irakiens débloqués (via des banques US) après avoir été gelés pour cause de (très meurtrières) #sanctions « contre Saddam Hussein ».

    Ed Harriman reviews ‘US House of Representatives Government Reform Committee Minority Office’, ‘US General Accountability Office’, ‘Defense Contract Audit Agency’, ‘International Advisory and Monitoring Board’, ‘Coalition Provisional Authority Inspector General’ and ‘Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’ · LRB 7 July 2005
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n13/ed-harriman/where-has-all-the-money-gone

    The ‘reconstruction’ of Iraq is the largest American-led occupation programme since the Marshall Plan. But there is a difference: the US government funded the Marshall Plan whereas Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer have made sure that the reconstruction of Iraq is paid for by the ‘liberated’ country, by the Iraqis themselves. There was $6 billion left over from the UN Oil for Food Programme, as well as sequestered and frozen assets, and revenue from resumed oil exports (at least $10 billion in the year following the invasion). Under Security Council Resolution 1483, passed on 22 May 2003, all of these funds were transferred into a new account held at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, called the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), so that they might be spent by the CPA ‘in a transparent manner … for the benefit of the Iraqi people’. Congress, it’s true, voted to spend $18.4 billion of US taxpayers’ money on the redevelopment of Iraq. But by 28 June last year, when Bremer left Baghdad two days early to avoid possible attack on the way to the airport, his CPA had spent up to $20 billion of Iraqi money, compared to $300 million of US funds.

    The ‘financial irregularities’ described in audit reports carried out by agencies of the American government and auditors working for the international community collectively give a detailed insight into the mentality of the American occupation authorities and the way they operated, handing out truckloads of dollars for which neither they nor the recipients felt any need to be accountable. The auditors have so far referred more than a hundred contracts, involving billions of dollars paid to American personnel and corporations, for investigation and possible criminal prosecution. They have also discovered that $8.8 billion that passed through the new Iraqi government ministries in Baghdad while Bremer was in charge is unaccounted for, with little prospect of finding out where it went. A further $3.4 billion earmarked by Congress for Iraqi development has since been siphoned off to finance ‘security’.

    That audit reports were commissioned at all owes a lot to Henry Waxman, a Democrat and ranking minority member of the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform. Waxman voted in favour of the invasion of Iraq. But since the war he’s been demanding that the Bush administration account for its cost. Within six months of the invasion, Waxman’s committee had evidence that the Texas-based Halliburton corporation was being grossly overpaid by the American occupation authorities for the petrol it was importing into Iraq from Kuwait, at a profit of more than $150 million. Waxman and his assistants found that Halliburton was charging $2.64 a gallon for petrol for Iraqi civilians, while American forces were importing the same fuel for $1.57 a gallon.

    [...] Waxman raised another question: if Halliburton was being allowed to rip off the Iraqi people, was the Bush administration allowing it to milk the US government as well? [...]

    • Irak : des tonnes de dollars évaporées - Le Temps
      https://www.letemps.ch/monde/irak-tonnes-dollars-evaporees

      Dans cet article de 2007, il y a une erreur dans le premier paragraphe ; il fallait écrire millions au lieu de milliards, comme le prouve indirectement un article (éhonté de damage control) du Monde de 2008*

      Mais le sort de l’argent du contribuable américain n’échappe pas non plus à la critique. Le Trésor américain a déjà dépensé environ 300 milliards de dollars (232 milliards d’euros), dont 21 milliards pour la reconstruction.

      La corruption ne concerne pas que les Irakiens. En atteste l’inculpation mercredi de trois officiers supérieurs de l’armée américaine et d’un homme d’affaires dans une affaire de pots-de-vin dans la reconstruction dans la région de Hilla, au sud de Bagdad. Les chefs d’inculpation retenus : corruption, association de malfaiteurs et escroquerie. A propos de cette ville irakienne, un ancien responsable du CPA, Robert Stein, a été condamné le 5 février dernier à 9 ans de prison pour avoir participé à un réseau de marchés truqués et de blanchiment d’argent. Un de ses complices, l’homme d’affaires américain Michael Morris, a été arrêté hier à Bucarest, en Roumanie, et devrait être extradé.

      *L’article du monde dit :
      https://www.lemonde.fr/ameriques/article/2008/12/14/la-reconstruction-de-l-irak-un-gachis-de-100-milliards-de-dollars_1131018_32

      Au milieu de 2008, 117 milliards de dollars avaient été dépensés pour la reconstruction de l’Irak, dont 50 milliards payés par le contribuable américain, poursuit le document.

    • Ces entreprises qui ont prospéré sur le dos de la reconstruction en Irak
      https://www.france24.com/fr/20130319-irak-anniversaire-reconstruction-kpr-financial-times-gagnant-guer

      Là, carrément, l’argent du contribuable irakien on s’en contrefout,

      “Ces données sont choquantes et rappellent à quel point l’argent des contribuables américains a été mis à contribution dans des projets qui n’ont, au final, pas fait grand chose pour améliorer la situation sur place”, a souligné au "Financial Times" Claire McCaskill, une sénatrice américaine du parti démocrate qui milite pour encadrer plus strictement ce type de contrats.

    • Fraudes en Irak : 23 milliards de dollars ont disparu
      https://www.lemonde.fr/proche-orient/article/2008/06/17/fraudes-en-irak-23-milliards-de-dollars-ont-disparu_1059185_3218.html

      Selon la BBC, des procès pour corruption, surcharge de factures adressées au Pentagone ou au département d’Etat, non-livraison de biens payés et autres coups tordus, visent 70 entreprises américaines contractantes, en tête desquelles se trouve le groupe Halliburton, dirigé, jusqu’à sa nomination à la vice-présidence des Etats-Unis en 2000, par Dick Cheney. Halliburton avait obtenu, sans aucun appel d’offres, le plus gros contrat de reconstruction en Irak, mais ni la BBC ni aucun autre média ne peut publier quoi que ce soit sur les enquêtes et les procès en cours : « L’administration Bush a imposé le silence (gagging order) sur toutes ces affaires », déplore Panorama.

      [...]

      A Bagdad, chacun le sait, pour entrer dans la police, il faut verser 500 dollars de bakchich. Pour monter en grade, c’est 1 000. Besoin de médicaments rares ? Quelqu’un, au ministère de la santé, indiquera où trouver le pharmacien à qui il a vendu ses propres stocks, au noir. Toutes les guerres ont leurs profiteurs. « Mais en Irak, dit Munther Abdul Razzaq, un élu sunnite du Parlement, l’ampleur de la corruption défie l’imagination. »

    • Des milliards de dollars disparus mystérieusement en Irak | Slate.fr
      http://www.slate.fr/lien/39357/irak-vol-dollars-guerre

      Malgré des années d’enquêtes et de vérifications, les responsables de la Défense américaine ne peuvent toujours pas expliquer où est passé cet argent. CBS News a évoqué par le passé la fraude, le gaspillage ou les profiteurs de guerre, dans un pays alors dévasté, où les banques n’existaient plus et la traçabilité financière était impossible. Précédemment, il avait été dit que cet argent avait été égaré suite à une erreur de comptabilité. Mais pour la première fois, l’hypothèse d’un vol est soulevée par le gouvernement fédéral : Stuart Bowen, l’inspecteur général spécial pour la reconstruction en Irak, a déclaré au Los Angeles Times qu’il s’agirait peut-être du « plus grand vol de fonds de l’histoire du pays ».

      Ce contentieux constitue aujourd’hui une ombre sur les relations de Washington avec Bagdad, les responsables irakiens menaçant d’aller en justice pour récupérer cet argent. Ils affirment en effet que le gouvernement américain s’était engagé à protéger ces fonds dans un accord juridique datant de 2004 et tiennent donc Washington pour responsable.

  • 250 auteurs avec Kamila Shamsie, privée d’un prix pour un soutien à la Palestine
    https://www.actualitte.com/article/monde-edition/250-auteurs-avec-kamila-shamsie-privee-d-un-prix-pour-un-soutien-a-la-palestine/96996

    Lundi 23 septembre, des centaines d’auteurs ont apporté leur soutien à la romancière Kamila Shamsie, déchue du prix Nelly Sachs qu’elle avait remporté le 6 septembre dernier pour son soutien affiché à BDS, Boycott Desinvestissement Sanctions, contre la politique de l’État d’Israël envers les Palestiniens. Une lettre ouverte vient d’être publiée dans le magazine britannique London Review of Books et réunit déjà plus de 250 signataires.

    « C’est avec consternation que nous avons appris la décision de la ville de Dortmund d’annuler le prix Nelly Sachs pour l’œuvre de Kamila Shamsie » pointe d’abord la lettre ouverte. « La ville de Dortmund a choisi de punir une romancière pour son engagement en faveur des droits de l’homme. »

    L’autrice anglo-pakistanaise s’est en effet vu reprendre son prix doté de 15.000 € la semaine dernière. En cause, son soutien au mouvement BDS, Boycott Desinvestissement Sanctions, qui vise à exercer toutes les pressions possibles sur Israël — dont le refus d’y publier ses ouvrages — pour obtenir une cohabitation respectueuse avec les Palestiniens.

    Une revendication qui n’a pas vraiment plu au jury du prix Nelly Sachs. Les jurés ont en effet affirmé que l’engagement de la lauréate sur le boycott d’Israël était contraire à la politique et aux valeurs du prix Nelly Sachs « qui vise à proclamer et illustrer la réconciliation entre les peuples et les cultures ». Cette décision fait d’ailleurs suite à l’adoption par le parlement allemand d’une motion qualifiant le mouvement BDS d’antisémite le 17 mai dernier.

    « Quel est le but d’un prix littéraire qui sanctionne la défense des droits de l’homme, les principes de liberté de conscience et d’expression ? Sans cela, l’art et la culture deviennent des luxes vides de sens », déclarent les signataires.

    La lettre critique également la ville allemande de Dortmund, qui gère le prix, pour avoir refusé de rendre publique la réponse de Kamila Shamsie suite à la décision du jury. « Le jury du prix Nelly Sachs a choisi de me retirer le prix en raison de mon soutien à une campagne non violente visant à faire pression sur le gouvernement israélien. C’est très triste qu’un jury doive céder à la pression et retirer un prix à une écrivaine qui exerce sa liberté de conscience et sa liberté d’expression » avait-elle affirmé.

    La lettre réunit déjà plus de 250 signataires parmi lesquels figurent Noam Chomsky, Amit Chaudhuri, William Dalrymple, Yann Martel, Jeanette Winterson pour ne citer qu’eux. Michael Ondaatje, ancien lauréat du prix Nelly Sachs, a lui aussi choisi de soutenir Kamila Shamsie.❞

    #Edition #Littérature #Israel/Palestine

  • Alexander Zevin reviews ‘Globalists’ by Quinn Slobodian · LRB 15 August 2019
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/v41/n16/alexander-zevin/every-penny-a-vote

    Slobodian is right to stress that ‘the main stream of neoliberals saw a world of rules, not a world of #races,’ but this made their theories attractive to many who saw the world in racial terms. The formal freedoms of the marketplace, of buyers and sellers, have always meant that those excluded from it need not be named. Far from dissolving existing social relations, the neoliberal vision of a depoliticised economy offered ingenious ways to seal them in amber – whether in Austria, South Africa or the American South. Hayek designed constitutions for Salazar in Portugal and Pinochet in Chile – as ‘proof’, he told Salazar, ‘against the abuses of democracy’, and proof, too, that ‘it is possible for a dictator to govern in a liberal way.’

    #néolibéralisme

  • Tom Stevenson reviews ‘AngloArabia’ by David Wearing · LRB 9 May 2019
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/v41/n09/tom-stevenson/what-are-we-there-for

    It is a cliché that the United States and Britain are obsessed with Middle East oil, but the reason for the obsession is often misdiagnosed. Anglo-American interest in the enormous hydrocarbon reserves of the Persian Gulf does not derive from a need to fuel Western consumption . [...] Anglo-American involvement in the Middle East has always been principally about the strategic advantage gained from controlling Persian Gulf hydrocarbons, not Western oil needs. [...]

    Other parts of the world – the US, Russia, Canada – have large deposits of crude oil, and current estimates suggest Venezuela has more proven reserves than Saudi Arabia. But Gulf oil lies close to the surface, where it is easy to get at by drilling; it is cheap to extract, and is unusually ‘light’ and ‘sweet’ (industry terms for high purity and richness). It is also located near the middle of the Eurasian landmass, yet outside the territory of any global power. Western Middle East policy, as explained by Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was to control the Gulf and stop any Soviet influence over ‘that vital energy resource upon which the economic and political stability both of Western Europe and of Japan depend’, or else the ‘geopolitical balance of power would be tipped’. In a piece for the Atlantic a few months after 9/11, Benjamin Schwarz and Christopher Layne explained that Washington ‘assumes responsibility for stabilising the region’ because China, Japan and Europe will be dependent on its resources for the foreseeable future: ‘America wants to discourage those powers from developing the means to protect that resource for themselves.’ Much of US power is built on the back of the most profitable protection #racket in modern history.

    [...]

    It is difficult to overstate the role of the Gulf in the way the world is currently run. In recent years, under both Obama and Trump, there has been talk of plans for a US withdrawal from the Middle East and a ‘#pivot’ to Asia. If there are indeed such plans, it would suggest that recent US administrations are ignorant of the way the system over which they preside works.

    The Arab Gulf states have proved well-suited to their status as US client states, in part because their populations are small and their subjugated working class comes from Egypt and South Asia. [...] There are occasional disagreements between Gulf rulers and their Western counterparts over oil prices, but they never become serious. [...] The extreme conservatism of the Gulf monarchies, in which there is in principle no consultation with the citizenry, means that the use of oil sales to prop up Western economies – rather than to finance, say, domestic development – is met with little objection. Wearing describes the modern relationship between Western governments and the Gulf monarchs as ‘asymmetric interdependence’, which makes clear that both get plenty from the bargain. Since the West installed the monarchs, and its behaviour is essentially extractive, I see no reason to avoid describing the continued Anglo-American domination of the Gulf as #colonial.

    Saudi Arabia and the other five members of the Gulf Co-operation Council are collectively the world’s largest buyer of military equipment by a big margin. [...]. The deals are highly profitable for Western arms companies (Middle East governments account for around half of all British arms sales), but the charge that Western governments are in thrall to the arms companies is based on a misconception. Arms sales are useful principally as a way of bonding the Gulf monarchies to the Anglo-American military. Proprietary systems – from fighter jets to tanks and surveillance equipment – ensure lasting dependence, because training, maintenance and spare parts can be supplied only by the source country. Western governments are at least as keen on these deals as the arms industry, and much keener than the Gulf states themselves. While speaking publicly of the importance of fiscal responsibility, the US, Britain and France have competed with each other to bribe Gulf officials into signing unnecessary arms deals.

    Control of the Gulf also yields less obvious benefits. [...] in 1974, the US Treasury secretary, William Simon, secretly travelled to Saudi Arabia to secure an agreement that remains to this day the foundation of the dollar’s global dominance. As David Spiro has documented in The Hidden Hand of American Hegemony (1999), the US made its guarantees of Saudi and Arab Gulf security conditional on the use of oil sales to shore up the #dollar. Under Simon’s deal, Saudi Arabia agreed to buy massive tranches of US Treasury bonds in secret off-market transactions. In addition, the US compelled Saudi Arabia and the other Opec countries to set oil prices in dollars, and for many years Gulf oil shipments could be paid for only in dollars. A de facto oil standard replaced gold, assuring the dollar’s value and pre-eminence.

    For the people of the region, the effects of a century of AngloArabia have been less satisfactory. Since the start of the war in Yemen in 2015 some 75,000 people have been killed, not counting those who have died of disease or starvation. In that time Britain has supplied arms worth nearly £5 billion to the Saudi coalition fighting the Yemeni Houthis. The British army has supplied and maintained aircraft throughout the campaign; British and American military personnel are stationed in the command rooms in Riyadh; British special forces have trained Saudi soldiers fighting inside Yemen; and Saudi pilots continue to be trained at RAF Valley on Anglesey. The US is even more deeply involved: the US air force has provided mid-air refuelling for Saudi and Emirati aircraft – at no cost, it emerged in November. Britain and the US have also funnelled weapons via the UAE to militias in Yemen. If the Western powers wished, they could stop the conflict overnight by ending their involvement. Instead the British government has committed to the Saudi position. As foreign secretary, Philip Hammond pledged that Britain would continue to ‘support the Saudis in every practical way short of engaging in combat’. This is not only complicity but direct participation in a war that is as much the West’s as it is Saudi Arabia’s.

    The Gulf monarchies are family dictatorships kept in power by external design, and it shows. [...] The main threat to Western interests is internal: a rising reminiscent of Iran’s in 1979. To forestall such an event, Britain equips and trains the Saudi police force, has military advisers permanently attached to the internal Saudi security forces, and operates a strategic communications programme for the Saudi National Guard (called Sangcom). [...]

    As Wearing argues, ‘Britain could choose to swap its support for Washington’s global hegemony for a more neutral and peaceful position.’ It would be more difficult for the US to extricate itself. Contrary to much of the commentary in Washington, the strategic importance of the Middle East is increasing, not decreasing. The US may now be exporting hydrocarbons again, thanks to state-subsidised shale, but this has no effect on the leverage it gains from control of the Gulf. And impending climate catastrophe shows no sign of weaning any nation from fossil fuels , least of all the developing East Asian states. US planners seem confused about their own intentions in the Middle East. In 2017, the National Intelligence Council described the sense of neglect felt by the Gulf monarchies when they heard talk of the phantasmagorical Asia pivot. The report’s authors were profoundly negative about the region’s future, predicting ‘large-scale violence, civil wars, authority vacuums and humanitarian crises persisting for many years’. The causes, in the authors’ view, were ‘entrenched elites’ and ‘low oil prices’. They didn’t mention that maintenance of both these things is US policy.

    #etats-unis #arabie_saoudite #pétrole #moyen_orient #contrôle

  • The Plunder Continues « LRB blog
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2018/12/05/john-perry/the-plunder-continues

    In her new book, The Long Honduran Night, Dana Frank asks whether #Honduras should now be called a ‘failed state’. She argues that it shouldn’t, as it works perfectly for those who control it: landowners, drug traffickers, oligarchs and transnational corporations, the US-funded military and corrupt public officials. The Trump administration has seen Hernández as an ally in their project of restoring US influence in Latin America, promoting transnational capitalism and widening the reach of the US military.

    #Etats-Unis#élites#corruption

  • Lorna Finlayson · #Corbyn Now · LRB 27 September 2018
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n18/lorna-finlayson/corbyn-now

    If the path Corbyn has started to follow is again closed off, there are two foreseeable consequences. The first is that anger and disaffection will find another outlet. While frequent reference to a racist and right-wing public opinion has been a convenient device for the protection of the status quo, there is no virtue in maintaining an opposite fiction of the British people as saints and socialists. The appetite for Corbyn’s vision of a more compassionate and co-operative society coexists with a counter-tendency that has been well nurtured in recent years: the tendency towards suspicion of strangers and neighbours, the scapegoating of the vulnerable, resentment and a desire to dominate others. This tendency was on full display during the Brexit referendum campaign, and was given a formidable boost by the result. (There is no need to choose between the interpretation of Brexit as a protest against a neoliberal political establishment or as expressive of an ill-informed, racist bigotry: it is both.) Islamophobic sentiment and related attacks are on the increase, legitimised by a media which has for years been normalising far-right rhetoric. British liberals like to believe that Americans are a different species but they didn’t think that even the Americans would elect Trump. Boris Johnson – limbering up with carefully pitched comments about women in burqas and suicide vests – is a threat not to be underestimated. And there are fates worse than Boris.

  • When the Fire Comes « LRB blog
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2018/07/26/yiannis-baboulias/when-the-fire-comes

    We will see more fires like these. Climate change is making the dry season drier, in Greece and elsewhere. We’re not taking it seriously enough, because we have ‘other problems’. Life is too hard to think about stuff like this. And it’s true, it is. But we should also be asking ourselves: when the fire comes, where will we go?

    #climat

  • Patrick Cockburn · The War in Five Sieges · LRB 19 July 2018
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n14/patrick-cockburn/the-war-in-five-sieges

    The decision to defend certain areas, or to besiege them, was often determined by sectarian or ethnic allegiances. Both the government (dominated by the Shia Alawi sect) and the opposition (dominated by Sunni Arabs) would play down the fact, but divisions between communities were at the heart of the Syrian civil war. These divisions decided the location of the military frontlines that snaked through Damascus and Homs, much as they had once done in Belfast and Beirut. The government-held districts were inhabited by the minority groups, Alawites, Kurds, Christians, Druze, Ismaili and Shia, which together make up about 40 per cent of the population. A businessman in Damascus told me that the weakness of the anti-Assad forces was that ‘the exiled opposition leaders have not developed a serious plan to reassure the minorities.’ Opposition enclaves were overwhelmingly Sunni Arab, though the Sunni community was itself divided between rich and poor and between rural and urban areas. Well-off secular Sunnis in government-held West Aleppo didn’t feel much sympathy for the poor, religiously minded Sunni in the rebel-held east of the city.

    #Syrie #classe #religions #environnement

  • Adam Shatz reviews ‘The Patagonian Hare’ by #Claude_Lanzmann, translated by Frank Wynne · LRB 5 April 2012
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n07/adam-shatz/nothing-he-hasnt-done-nowhere-he-hasnt-been

    That a chronicler of the Holocaust could become a mystical champion of military force, an unswerving defender of Israel’s war against the Palestinian people and a skilled denier of its #crimes, is a remarkable story, but you won’t find it in Lanzmann’s memoir.

    #sionisme

    Via Karim Bitar