Pan-Turkism, the Ottoman Empire and Turkish imperial ambitions

Pan-Turkism, the ideology that underpins the modern Turkish state, provides the impetus for the imperial ambitions of President Reyyip Erdogan. Negotiations are currently underway between the US and Turkey, the latter intending to deploy troops to Kabul airport once the US completes its Afghanistan withdrawal. Turkish military forces are already present in Libya, staking out a claim in that nation’s affairs.

Pan-Turkism is the political philosophy that holds all Turkic people, regardless of their cultural and linguistic particularities, belong to one supranational and racial Turkish nation – with Ankara at its head. This idea is not new, originating in the late 19th century with the rise of European and Balkan nationalist movements. However, Pan-Turkism acquired a new lease of life in 1990-91, with the disbanding of the USSR. The newly independent Central Asian republics, most of whom have Turkic ancestry, established relations with Turkey.

Is Pan-Turkism a resurrection of the Ottoman Turkish empire? Yes and no. Certainly, bringing all the Turkic peoples into one overarching political and economic union has its similarities with the Ottomans of old. However, Pan-Turkism is also a distinct departure away from the Ottoman Empire template. The modern day Turkish Republic, established by the Young Turk Revolution (1908), advocated a specifically racial definition of a Turkish person.

The Kemalist Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), deliberately cultivated a racist concept of Turkishness, and projected this template onto any territory where Turkish people lived. For instance, Crimean Tatars, while under Russian sovereignty, were said to be one branch of the Turkic family, and therefore to be brought under Turkish control. The Kemalist authorities set about eliminating non-Turkish minorities, carrying out the genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians, and purging vestiges of Hellenism in Turkey.

This is in stark contrast to the cosmopolitan nature of the Ottoman Empire. For while there were conflicts, the Ottoman Sultan accepted the presence – grudgingly – of non-Turkish minorities within the Ottoman realm. Arabs, Greeks, Jews – all found their place within the Ottoman territories. In fact, Ottoman identity was an ethno-religious one, not a racial category. While the Sultan dealt with nationalist rebellions in his empire, the Ottomans attempted to meld a distinctly Ottoman identity from the diverse peoples of the empire.

The European powers, engaging in their own acts of colonialism, postured as ‘champions’ of the Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire. Their concern was not humanitarian, but cynical politics – the weakening of the Ottoman Turkish polity would open up vast territories for European expansion. In fact, European colonialism, rather than providing self-determination for the formerly subject peoples, implemented a sectarian division of the Arab peoples in furtherance of colonial objectives.

When the French took over the former Ottoman territory of Syria, they created not a united Syrian nation, but a divided confessional patchwork of sectarian polities. Alawis, Druzes, Sunnis, Shias and Maronite Christians all had their sectional territory, with the state of Lebanon carved out of Syria for the Maronite minority. The Ottomans, for all their faults, allowed minorities to live together under the one political federation.

Theodor Herzl, one of the founding fathers of political Zionism, approached the Ottoman sultan with a business proposition; in exchange for a financial contribution to alleviate the Ottoman Empire’s debts to foreign powers, the Zionist movement would acquire Palestine as a territory to build a new Jewish state. Attempting to buy land from the Ottomans was initially an appealing idea; but the Sultan rejected the proposal. Indeed, Ottoman Jews rejected Zionism, professing their loyalty to the Ottoman Sultan.

The military assertiveness of the modern Turkish state derives, not from a sense of Ottoman cosmopolitanism, but from an ideology of racist Pan-Turkish exclusivity. Whether it is the Turkish republic’s covert and critical support for ISIS militants in Syria, or the tactical outreach to the neofascist regime in the Ukraine, Ankara’s motivation is not an Ottoman-era respect for multicultural confessionalism, but a desire to acquire strategic depth and establish an ethnically pure Turkish polity.

Indeed, Pan-Turkism is the application of a European settler-colonial ideology in the context of Western Asia (what we normally call the Middle East). The forced Turkification of place names, cities and villages inside Turkey is the domestic face of an expansionist Pan-Turkism. When linguistic and cultural policies are deployed to construct a racialist narrative of Turkey’s pre-Kemalist history, it is an outright denial of the multinational composition of the Ottoman Empire.

As I frequently remind members of my own Armenian tribe, the enemy is not some amorphous mass called ‘the Turks’, or Muslims, or refugees, or mosques, or Islam. The enemy is Pan-Turkism and its manifestation in the Turkish state. It is not only myself saying this – there are mass Turkish and Kurdish political parties and organisations who strongly oppose the Turkification policies of Ankara, reject imperial expansion, and ally themselves with the oppressed and anti-colonial non-Turk minorities.

An anti-imperialist platform, crossing over multiethnic and confessional boundaries, is a necessary first step in defeating the destructive ideology of Pan-Turkism.

Refugees who advocate our prejudices are repurposed into heroic dissidents

It has been at least six months since the January 6 Capitol Hill riot, incited and carried out by white supremacist and QAnon conspiracist groups. It was a jarring assault on the democratic process.

Alongside these white supremacists were a motley collection of ultrarightist multiethnic refugee groupings – South Vietnamese Saigon loyalists, pre-Revolution era Cuban Batista cultists, Tibetan independence flag-wavers, Iranian-American Shah loyalists, and xenophobically-resentful Hong Kongers agitating for US intervention. While this assortment of multicultural footsoldiers for imperialism may seem strange, actually it is not.

Cultivating a multiethnic flavour of imperialism is a cynical and perverse tactic of the United States to portray itself as a bastion of freedom. Those refugees who reflect the imperatives and ideological underpinnings of American empire receive a favourable welcome and a media platform to disseminate their views.

The Australian government imprisons refugees in offshore detention centres, marginalising their presence. However, there are refugees who acquire the status of ‘heroic dissidents’ because of their functional utility in the service of US imperial power.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch-Somali refugee, has received preferential treatment, been given a multimedia platform to advocate her views, and has had books published as a self-proclaimed ‘expert’ on radical Islam. Her personal story, that of a courageous formerly Muslim woman, escaping the clutches of patriarchal and tyrannical Islam to find sanctuary in the enlightened liberal West touches the heart strings. Fleeing war and religious persecution, Hirsi Ali has leveraged her personal journey into a remarkable story of tenacity and hope. That is all well and good, except for one consequential detail – none of it is true.

Provided a comfortable life and education in a UN-funded school in Kenya, she never actually witnessed the war-torn conditions of Somalia. In a 2006 interview, she admitted fabricating huge portions of her personal story, and she was never in danger of being forced into an arranged marriage, or subject to the threat of an honour killing. Playing up the stereotypes of the misogynistic Muslim family, she found favour with the anti-immigrant and far righting Dutch government of former PM Rita Verdonk.

Ali, elected to the Dutch parliament in 2003, did her best to advocate Islamophobic politics, pushing anti-immigrant xenophobia and denying refugees from sub-Saharan Africa a legitimate status. After her bogus claims were exposed in the Netherlands, the Verdonk government fell, and Ali fled to the homeland of the foreign-born bigot, the United States.

Taking up a position as an ‘intellectual’ at the neoconservative swamp masquerading as a think tank – the American Enterprise Institute, she has continued to outdo Donald Trump in promoting Trumpist state violence against the Muslim-majority nations. Her statements, bordering on incitement to homicidal violence, make her the perfect spokesperson for the imperialist project – an African woman demanding the genocidal intervention of the US military.

Interestingly, there is another Somali refugee woman, Representative Ilhan Omar, who has escaped war and violence in her homeland, respected the US political system, and risen through the ranks to become an advocate for the oppressed and marginalised in the US. She is the first woman of colour to represent Minnesota.

While Ali’s star has waned over the years, newer ultranationalist refugees have risen to become repurposed as ‘heroic dissidents.’ Both Alexei Navalny and Roman Protasevich, from Russia and Belarus respectively, have achieved celebrity dissident status in our corporate media. Each claims to be fighting domestic tyranny – Putin in Russia and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko pigeonholed into the respective role of ‘dictator’ – but each has a political track record which indicates white nationalist racism and subservience to American imperial power.

Navalny, rebranded as a liberal defender of democracy in the West, has a long history of racist and anti-immigrant views. Denouncing the peoples of the Caucasus and Central Asia as ‘cockroaches’, he has advocated for the creation of an ethnically pure Russia, in line with white supremacist thinking. A far rightist businessman, Navalny has fallen foul of the Russian business community, and has spent his energies condemning the Putin administration as a reincarnation of Soviet Communism – a demonstrably ludicrous proposition.

At the same time that Navalny was having health problems, allegedly at the hands of devious Kremlin agents, Roman Protasevich was fighting alongside neo-Nazi militias in the Ukraine, using that as a springboard for his regime-change activities in his native Belarus. Arrested by Belarusian authorities after his plane was forced down in May this year, his detention prompted a wave of hypocritical denunciations in the West. It is no secret that the United States, in an act of air piracy, forced the landing of former Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane in 2013.

Protasevich, initially denying his neofascist connections, has lost his initial lustrous appeal once his unsavoury activities came to light. His reputation, virtually unsalvageable, has not stopped the corporate media campaign to cast him as a principled democratic crusader.

The refugees arriving in Australia are victims of wars and economic/ecological devastation wrought by the policies of the United States and its allies. Do not weaponise their stories into a toxic narrative of US ‘emancipatory’ liberation. The politics of Hirsi Ali, Navalny and Protasevich found expression in concentrated form on January 6 this year at Capitol Hill. We would do well to stop implementing destructive policies which create outflows of refugees in the first place.

Cancelling Canada Day is the first step towards justice for the Indigenous nations

Canada, in contrast to the United States, has an international reputation of being the nice one in North America. The quiet Canadian is usually held up as the nicer person as opposed to the loud, ugly American. There is a component of truth to this; any nation with a half-decent health care and education system appears reasonable in contrast to the ultraindividualistic dystopian nightmare that is the US.

However, a closer examination of Canadian capitalism reveals the brutal and racist underbelly of that nation. Why is such a deeper scrutiny warranted? In the wake of the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the grounds of the former residential school for Indigenous children at Kamloops, British Columbia – followed by a similarly grisly discovery of 751 unmarked graves of Indigenous children buried at the Marieval Indian Residential school in Saskatchewan – a spotlight is shining on the genocide of the Indigenous nations implemented by the Canadian ruling class.

These gruesome discoveries are only the tip of the iceberg; the residential school system in Canada was implemented to assimilate the indigenous children, on the presumption that the Catholic faith provided a superior set of morals and values to indigenous ethical systems.

Canadian residential schools, established in conjunction with churches, were intended to forcibly assimilate indigenous children into the mainstream Christian religion and culture. Begun back in 1831, and finally abolished in 1996, the Canadian state, along with their religious counterparts, kidnapped thousands of indigenous children and separated them from their families. This policy of cultural genocide was challenged by indigenous peoples, and in June 2008, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established to investigate the full extent of the residential school system.

In 2015, the TRC concluded that over the span of one hundred years, more than 150 000 indigenous children were taken from their families. These boarding schools, usually run by the Catholic Church, were decrepit places where physical and sexual abuse was rampant. The residential schools were spread out over the nation, and thousands of unmarked gravesites remain to be uncovered. Until today, indigenous communities still struggle to maintain a level of equality with non-indigenous Canadian society – be it lack of access to potable drinking water, or racism in the healthcare system.

You may read more about the impact of the residential school system on indigenous communities here. For our purposes, let’s examine the other troubling, and no less traumatic, features of Canadian capitalism.

There is a persistent myth that Canada, the nice guy, did not have slavery, like the obnoxious United States. Is that true? Yes and no. Canada did not have a large slave-worked plantation economy like the Deep South of the US. The colder climate in Canada made it impossible to construct profitable mass plantations of tobacco, sugar, cotton, rice – all of which were worked by African slaves in the US and the Caribbean.

However, Canada did have slaves – and entrenched slave trading. British and French controlled territories in what became the Canadian federation definitely used and traded in the African slave trade. When the Canadian state was officially created in 1867, the story of slavery had to be glossed over. After all, a new nation cannot afford to admit that one group of its citizens were oppressed, and still uphold itself as an example of constitutional liberty in action.

While Canada has a reputation of being a peaceful nation, as opposed to its militaristic neighbour to its south, the Canadian military has participated in all US imperialist wars overseas. The Canadian military was deployed to the USSR, as part of the multinational foreign intervention in 1918-22 to overthrow the new Bolshevik regime. The foreign military forces, such as the Canadian forces, assisted the White anticommunist Russians in their failed bid to restore the Tsarist system.

Canada has provided military and logistical support to the ultranationalist regime in Kiev, the Ukraine. Canada has a long history of providing refuge to Ukrainian ultrarightist and neo-Nazi war criminals, giving sanctuary to those Ukrainians who collaborated with Nazi forces during World War 2. These Ukrainian communities in Canada have helped to push Canadian politics in a rightward direction.

Canada allowed itself to become a haven for Ukrainian neo-Nazis, and subsequent generations of Canadian politicians have recycled the ultranationalist view of history bequeathed to them. Racism against ethnic minorities – including Islamophobic killings – has reared its ugly head in Canada. Ottawa’s participation in the ‘war on terror’ has brought its domestic consequences of increasing racism against Islamic communities to its doorstep.

It is time to cancel Canada Day as a first step towards confronting Canada’s racist past. Only by being honest about the horrific discoveries of the recent past – and the impact they have on perpetuating racist practices in the present – can we rebuild a new equitable vision of the future.

Zionism and antisemitism are not such strange bedfellows

Zionism, the underlying ideology of the state of Israel, claims to be the Jewish equivalent of Black Lives Matter, and an expression of national self-determination. Israel, we are told, provides a sanctuary for the Jewish people from the ravages of antisemitism. These claims are without foundation – Zionist leaders have a long history of seeking antisemitic allies. Antisemites in Europe have long argued that Jews are a distinct and unassimilable racial minority – a position accepted by Zionism.

The charge of antisemitism is thrown at the supporters of the Palestinian cause by Zionist organisations. If the Palestinians can be portrayed as motivated by irrational bigotry, then their case for self-determination can be easily dismissed. This accusation is obscene and perverse, given that the founders of political Zionism made clear that their platform depends upon the support of European antisemitism. Theodore Herzl, writing in his seminal pamphlet The Jewish State, explicitly says that European antisemitic powers will be the allies of the Zionist project in Palestine.

Antisemitism is in fact a white European creation – an ideology which views the presence of European Jews as a ‘problem’ to be solved. It is not surprising that European Christendom has a long history of persecuting and expelling historical Jewish populations. However, it is with the rise of 19th century European nationalism that provided a racialist basis for the redefinition of antisemitism from its original religious foundations.

It was the Protestant Reformation, with its emphasis on a strict reading of the Bible, that gave rise to the identification of European Jewry with descent from the biblical ancient Hebrews. This alleged historical continuity enabled the Zionist movement to utilise a particular millenarian theology to disguise the colonisation of Palestine as a biblically-sanctioned ‘repatriation’ of the Jewish people. In fact, European Jews are not the direct genetic descendants, over thousands of years, of the biblical Hebrews, but rather, European converts.

In the 19th century, the linguistic category Semitic – denoting a group of languages – became transformed into a racial classification. European antisemitic thinkers, from Houston Stewart Chamberlain to Wilhelm Marr, popularised racist ideas, dividing the white ‘Aryan’ race from the ‘Semitic’ Jews. Antisemitism became an indispensable tool for the construction of white supremacy.

European Jews reacted with furious opposition to the rise of racialist thinking – not so the Zionist movement. Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau and Zionist proponents accepted that Jews were a biologically distinct and unassimilable ‘race’ living in the midst of Christian Europe. Their solution was to build a separate ethnonationalist state in Palestine. Herzl, writing in his diaries, stated that:

The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies.

The Zionist movement sought the cooperation of Europe’s antisemitic governments, finally securing the agreement of Imperial Britain to provide a state in Palestine. In 1920, as the British acquired the mandate to govern Palestine, the first military governor of Jerusalem, Sir Ronald Storrs, made clear Britain’s intentions to create a loyal Jewish Ulster in Palestine.

As Zionist colonisation proceeded in Palestine, there was one particular antisemitic European government that looked favourably upon Zionism – Nazi Germany. Since the 1933 assumption of power by the Nazis in Germany, the one German Jewish organisation that actively sought an accommodation with the Nazi regime was the Zionist federation. In 1935, when the Nuremberg laws were passed preventing Aryans and Jews from intermarriage, German Jewish anti-Zionist groups opposed those laws – but the Zionist federation welcomed them.

While Hitler himself was never a committed Zionist, the Nazi leadership did see a marriage of convenience with Zionism as a practical implementation of their antisemitism – ridding Europe of its Jews and transferring them to Palestine. In the 1930s, the Nazis sent envoys to Palestine to solidify connections with the Zionist settlers there. One of those delegates was none other than SS officer Adolf Eichmann, who spoke glowingly about the Zionist effort to construct a state in Palestine.

With the end of World War 2, the full horrors of the genocide of the European Jews was revealed to the international community. The logical endpoint of European antisemitism was on trial at Nuremberg. However, the end of the world war meant the demolition of the Nazi regime, it did not mean the end of antisemitism. In Europe today, ultranationalist and far right antisemitic parties are among the most enthusiastic supporters of the Israeli state.

Hungary’s PM Victor Orban, known for his praise of Hungary’s antisemitic wartime dictatorship of Admiral Horthy, is a strong proponent of cooperation with Tel Aviv. It is not only the European antisemitic far right that upholds Israel as a model ethnostate worth emulating; Brazil’s ultrarightist President, Jair Bolsonaro, speaks of the Israeli state in gushing terms, and has rejected the demands of the Palestinians.

European antisemitism, a form of racism, has existed symbiotically with Zionism. The latter cannot proceed without the active cooperative of the former. The ideological and practical alliance of Zionism with antisemitism can no longer be ignored. The Palestinians are paying the price, with the loss of their ancestral homeland, for the crimes of European antisemitism. It is time to repudiate this settler-colonial Ulster in Palestine.

Let’s remember the Tulsa race massacre, and stop mythologising the Battle of the Alamo

In early June, the centenary of the Tulsa race massacre was marked in that town, by US President Joe Biden and the Oklahoma state authorities. Biden is the first US President to officially acknowledge that massacre and express his support for the remaining survivors. The suburb of Greenwood, in Tulsa, was reduced to smoking ruins and its African American inhabitants murdered by rampaging white racist mobs – with the connivance and participation of law enforcement authorities.

Greenwood in Tulsa was known, prior to 1921, as the ‘black Wall Street.’ African Americans had successfully started up businesses, theatres, churches, libraries and had proven themselves industrious in the decades after emancipation. The Oklahoma authorities, driven by white racial resentment, seethed at the success of the African American community. The local newspapers, seizing upon a false allegation of sexual assault of a white woman by a black man, incited the Tulsa community to basically attack the African American minority in Greenwood.

The white supremacist mob, armed with weapons from local law enforcement, and backed up by bombs from the air, proceeded to burn and demolish black-owned businesses, and murder black families. One of the survivors, Viola Fletcher (now 107), remembers the dead bodies, the stench, the plumes of smoke, the sheer terror of fleeing as her parents collected their kids to protect them.

The psychological trauma of the survivors, and the loss of a thriving and vibrant community, are incalculable. More than just the financial loss of business, the silence and coverup of the racial massacre added to the injuries of the survivors.

There was no official acknowledgment or apology, and no compensation was forthcoming. Black advancement, and seeing the African American community doing the ‘right’ things – working, getting an education, starting businesses and so on – was met with white racial resentment.

This deadly act of white domestic terrorism – an act of economic injustice as well – should be a cause of concern. President Biden urged his fellow Americans to reflect seriously on why racial terrorism is such a blight on the nation. In fact, the 1921 Tulsa race massacre was not an isolated incident. During the year of 1919, African American communities throughout the United States – especially returning black WW1 veterans – were targeted for racial killings.

African American WW1 veterans thought their service would be a pathway to equality. Sadly, they were wrong. Rejected by white society, denounced as interlopers ‘stealing jobs’ from ‘real’ Americans, black communities were targeted by white supremacist lynch mobs, usually with the connivance of the police. The black veterans, given their combat experience, organised the nucleus of armed resistance against racist attacks.

The Alamo defenders were fighting to keep slavery

While the Tulsa race massacre was suppressed and ignored for decades, the defenders at the Battle of the Alamo have been lionised as martyrs to the cause of freedom. The 1836 battle, portrayed as a David vs Goliath struggle, has become a crucial lynchpin of Texas – and wider American – folklore. The white settlers who fought Mexican troops were not committed to liberty, but to the preservation and extension of slavery.

The Alamo was one battle in a series which resulted in the annexation of Mexican territory by white American colonists, and the foundation of the slave-owning state of Texas. The pro-slavery motivations of the new settlers has been all but written out of the ‘Texas Revolution’ story, and the Alamo’s defenders hailed as a plucky and outnumbered band of liberty-loving patriots dying in the fight against the evil Mexican tyrant, General Santa Anna.

Mexico had in fact abolished slavery in 1829 – sending shivers down the spines of the Texan colonists. Texas, a part of the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas, was still part of Mexico. The American settlers practiced slavery in violation of the Mexican constitution. They refused to pay taxes to the Mexican government treasury, and acted as a law unto themselves. In the face of this refusal, the Mexican authorities sent troops to quell this nascent white supremacist rebellion.

The Alamo defenders were defeated, and their deaths were politically manipulated to construct a mythology of Texan dedication to patriotism and liberty. The larger American army under General Sam Houston defeated the Mexicans, and Texas broke away to form an independent republic. One of the first clauses in the new state’s constitution was to preserve slavery, and indeed declared that the US Congress had no authority to emancipate slaves in its jurisdiction.

The Alamo defenders, still regarded as ‘heroes’ in Texas, rather than the racist agitators that they were, achieved near-demigod status through conservative folklore. The Walt Disney series Davy Crockett, the latter executed at the Alamo, entered popular consciousness as a courageous frontiersman. John Wayne’s epic 1960 movie The Alamo lionised the American settlers, promoting the values of individual liberty and sacrifice.

The Alamo soldiers were perhaps brave, but they died for the cause of white supremacy. The ideology they supported motivated those who demolished the black community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rather than continuing the Heroic Anglo Man narrative of American history, it is high time to educate ourselves on the white nationalism that glues together the racial pyramid of American capitalism.

The UFO craze, Nazis in Tibet and pseudoscience

The UFO craze has experienced a resurgence in recent months. Prominent news stories about a purported ‘government coverup’ have hit the magazines, and various documentaries about ‘sightings’ have gripped the airwaves. UFO cultists have salivated over the prospects of uncovering government secrets.

Let’s take a step back from minor-celebrity full time nutcase UFOlogy, and examine the influence of the occult, the pseudoscientific and the preoccupation with bizarre issues on our societies.

Shambhala, Tibet and the occult

To be sure, the United States is not the first country to host and elevate interest in the occult, the alien and the pseudoscientific. Nazi Germany provided resources and personnel on numerous quests to substantiate – as they saw it – white Aryan racial superiority theories, by delving into mysterious and mythical pasts. Tibet, long considered by the West a Shangri-La of mysticism and esoteric powers, provided the Nazi leadership with a target to indulge their pseudoscientific theories.

Various Aryan racial theories swirled around regarding Tibet as the ancient ancestral home of the Aryan/Germans. The 1938-39 German expedition to Tibet, reinforced the occultism preoccupation of the Nazi elite. Possessing political as well as pseudoscientific objectives, the SS personnel who visited Tibet, at the invitation of the ruling lama elite, were intent on finding rationalisations for their mystical beliefs in a long lost ancient white Aryan race.

The Nazi delegation that made it to Tibet, underscored by the SS think tank the Ahnenerbe, Ancestral Heritage, not only engaged in scientific activities while in Lhasa. They raised the Nazi swastika in Tibet, hoping to detach the latter from China, and use that territory as a base to threaten British-occupied India. The Nazi delegation collected botanical samples, measured the skulls of the indigenous Tibetans, took in the esoteric myths of Tibetan culture, and never lost sight of the underlying Aryan pseudoarchaeology of their mission.

The Nazi leadership never found the remnants of the mythical lost race up there in the Tibetan plateau. What we can see here is the interplay of quasi-scientific elements with political and economic objectives, and access to media channels, and the pseudoscience spreads. No, UFologists are not neo-Nazis, but belief in the occult and paranormal becomes a danger to society when it is supported by powerful economic and political interests.

The Pentagon and UFOs

Over the last few months, there has been a renewed frenzy regarding UFOs – or to use the new term Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP). The CIA released a trove of archival material detailing the Pentagon’s projects to research psychic phenomena, and whether UFOs represent a national security threat. Billions of dollars has been spent, such as on Operation Stargate, to evaluate the veracity, if any, of using paranormal powers to spy on hostile powers. No evidentiary basis has ever been found for alien spacecraft or psychic abilities, but this has not stopped the UFO conspiracy theorists from screaming vindication. Project Stargate ended in failure.

This is not the first instance of the US government declassifying materials on its secretive and expensive forays into the paranormal and UFO subjects. Back in 2018, the federal authorities released information on their multibillion dollar projects, such as the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP), to hunt down UFOs and alien beings. After all that research and funding, the project was terminated – but not before UFO cultists went mad claiming that the US government endorsed their views.

What has occurred is that the same UFOlogists and billionaire advocates of alien astronauts have carried out successful PR campaigns to legitimate their pseudoscientific theories. For instance, billionaire pseudoscientist and UFO cultists Robert Bigelow, has put considerable amounts of money into new ‘think tanks’ dedicated to promoting UFology. Coupled with heavyweight political supporters, the UFologists have been able to spread their views far and wide.

American physicist and paranormal advocate Harold ‘Hal’ Puthoff, a military contractor, helped to platform pseudoscientific views about the occult and UFOs. Using his finances and connections, he has built various science ‘discovery’ institutes dedicated to exploring the mystical side. Skinwalker Ranch, a site of purported UFO activity, has been purchased by alien enthusiasts over the years. The name refers to a Navajo story of a demonic shapeshifter that transforms from humanoid to animalistic form, thus melding myths from differing cultures.

The US government’s embrace of the occult has provided a springboard for the proliferation of pseudoscientific theories and alien astronaut preoccupations. Weaponising psychic powers was the original underlying motivation; investing in the paranormal has given rise to a Frankenstein monster of pseudoscientific myths that infiltrate the general public.

We are all familiar with the impact of Lysenkoism on Soviet genetics; American writers have long been selectively enthusiastic about empirical veracity and the destiny of science in ‘official enemy’ nations. It is time to apply that passion for the fate of science to our own societies as well.

The commingling of UFology, the occult and the paranormal may seem like harmless fun – until we realise that the interconnected threats of climate change, the pandemic, ecological destruction and white supremacy require our urgent attention, and we cannot afford the diversion of our resources to fruitless pursuits.

Memorial Day should not be used to promote further wars

The last Monday of May is set aside as Memorial Day in the United States. A national public holiday, it is intended as a day of remembrance for all American military personnel who were killed in active combat. Official commemorations focus on themes of patriotism and sacrifice. These topics, while comforting, serve to obscure the imperialist and predatory nature of American wars in pursuit of political objectives.

Rather than engage in mindless flag-waving drivel, this day should provide an opportunity to examine why so many generations have served in US imperial wars overseas. First, some relevant background context; the first Memorial Day event was started by African American Civil War veterans, meeting at the site of a former Confederate military encampment. In May 1865, ten thousand black soldiers held a parade in Charleston to honour and rebury their fallen comrades.

They commemorated the sacrifices of their fellow soldiers, not to agitate for more wars, but to remember the heavy price they paid to gain their emancipation from slavery. Interestingly, this year, when Retired Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter, spoke of the crucial role of black veterans in starting Memorial Day, the organisers of the commemorative event in Hudson, Ohio, cut off his microphone.

Memorial Day has always been contradictory

Decoration Day, as the holiday was first known, was originated officially by former Union general John Logan, in 1868. Conceived as a way of honouring Civil War veterans who fought for the North, it involved decorating the graves of the war dead with flowers. The former Confederate states implemented their own version of memorialising their war dead, and this contradictory situation remained for decades following the conclusion of the Civil War.

While American participation in both the world wars expanded the meaning and scope covered by Memorial Day, it was officially mandated as a public holiday by the federal government in 1971. Intended as a measure to counteract the growing domestic antiwar movement, the holiday has involved patriotic themes, emphasising sacrifice and valour. However, the manner of remembering the war dead was contested, not only by civil rights and antiwar activists, but by Vietnam War veterans themselves.

The US Congress, when declaring Memorial Day a holiday in 1971, took no account of rising US casualties in Vietnam. They considered making the day a public event, associated with summer holidays, BBQs and family picnics. A number of Vietnam veterans, incensed that the day was being cooped into a celebration of US militarism, decided to take action.

Professor Elise Lemire, writing in the Washington Post, noted that Vietnam veterans protested turning Memorial Day into a propaganda instrument to agitate for further predatory wars. They rejected the commercialisation of the day, and the underlying premise that America’s Vietnam War was a ‘noble’ undertaking.

In Massachusetts, the chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War group organised a march, following the pathway taken by American patriots during the 1776 war of independence, thus associating their sacrifice with traditional patriotism. This nullified the frequent charge that the antiwar movement were ‘traitors’ or unpatriotic. As they arrived on Boston Common, 10 000 people had gathered to support their antiwar stance.

They emphasised that Memorial Day should not be used to glorify the US military, or disguise the criminal actions of US soldiers in Vietnam with noble-sounding yet hollow cliches about ‘fighting for freedom.’ Indeed, the US ruling class has a long track record of propagandising for future military adventures, wrapping itself in the cloak of purported ‘humanitarian’ motivations.

Let’s stop misusing World War 2 analogies to disguise the imperialist agenda of wars of conquest. Cynically portraying every officially designated enemy of the US as a ‘new Hitler’, the American financial and military-industrial oligarchy cunningly deploys the ‘good war’ rationalisation to indoctrinate its population into supporting new military interventions.

Prior to the 1989-90 US invasion of Panama, we were inundated with saturation coverage of the Hitler-like behaviour of Panama’s President Manuel Noriega. A dictator and strongman, we were informed that US military intervention – code named Operation Just Cause – was necessary to oust a ‘new Hitler’. After doing a modicum of research, one could find out that Noriega was indeed a long-term CIA asset, whose drug-trafficking was tolerated as he was a studious product of US military intelligence and training.

When Noriega the monster could no longer be controlled, he was ousted in a military operation that killed at a conservative estimate hundreds of ordinary Panamanians. The official US government rhetoric of nobility and humanitarian motivations reeks of sickening hypocrisy.

Memorial Day is not a platform for aggrandising conflict or agitating for future aggressions. Whether it be Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, US military defeats – for that is what they were – cannot be deployed into falsified narratives about the nobility of sacrifice. Future generations must know the imperialist character and toxic legacies of these invasions. We would do well to channel Memorial Day into a vehicle for a peaceful future. We must not forget the reasons why we remember.

Africa deserves our attention beyond simplistic stereotypes

Africa, a continent of 54 identifiable nations, rich cultural and ecological diversity, and the cradle of human civilisation, remains a largely ignored and underreport subject in the corporate-owned media. Matthew Amha raises this precise starting point in his article ‘Invisible Africa.’ Why does he make this observation, and how can this problem be addressed?

If we hear of stories from sub-Saharan African nations, they normally follow a predictable and simplistic pattern – warlords, dictators, corruption, child soldiers…..and exotic locales. Africa, in similar fashion to other continents, was hit by the Covid pandemic. Its toll of human suffering has been tremendous. Yet how many of us in Australia – and the Anglo majoritarian nations – are familiar with the stunning success stories of African nations dealing with the pandemic?

Senegal, Ghana and Rwanda – each in their own way – set outstanding examples of how to contain and manage the harmful human and health impacts of the current pandemic. Each nation, relying on its own resources, have efficiently developed vaccines, rolled them out at low cost to their respective populations, minimising the risk of Covid-19 fatalities, and have put the wealthy countries to shame. Senegal, a nation of 16 million people, has had only 30 deaths.

Ghana, in similar fashion to Senegal, implemented a rigorous contact tracing system, and mobilised hundreds of health care workers the moment the first international alerts regarding the pandemic went out. This nation of 30 million has maintained a relatively low Covid-19 mortality rate. This is not to discount the tragedy of each death, but to set a reasonable basis for comparison with the wealthier nations. The USA, with its vast medical and financial resources, has a Covid-19 death toll of 604,416 at the time of writing.

Matthew Amha, in his article referred to above, makes an interesting juxtaposition which reveals the character and agenda of the corporate-owned media. Throughout 2019 and 2020, detailed and sustained coverage was provided of the Hong Kong protests. The latter were promoted as motivated by democratic aspirations. Every nuance and action by the Hong Kongers was given sympathetic coverage. Why were not the similar and contemporaneous political uprisings in numerous African nations not given equally supportive time?

Mali, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda – among other nations – experienced political convulsions and mass democratic movements challenging the established orders in these respective countries. Why does not Ugandan political candidate and democracy activist Bobi Wine, subjected to state-sponsored repression, receive the same frequent and sympathetic coverage as putative opposition candidate and far right Russian racist Alexei Navalny?

In the west African nation of Mali, nationalist protesters have demanded the removal of French troops, a thoroughgoing change to the existing political structures, and an end to the French occupation of the country. Since gaining independence in 1960, the French ruling class has sought to regain influence in its former colony. In 2013, France deployed its troops to Mali, on the pretext of fighting Islamist militias in that country.

Operation Serval, as it was called, was intended to defeat Malian insurgents and reinstall a pro-Paris client regime. While Paris was quick to declare victory in 2014, the French political establishment soon launched Operation Barkhane, an ongoing French military occupation that is proving to be France’s forever war in the Sahel region.

The flimsy pretext of confronting Islamist militias is good for public relations in the Anglo majority nations, but is wearing thin on the ground. The underlying issues of economic inequalities, human rights abuses, mismanagement of land and agricultural resources, has not been addressed by the French military operation. Indeed, the only achievement of the occupation is to extend, in a different way, the colonial power of the French in Mali.

French militarisation in Mali, and its efforts to protect its dominant economic interests, has been thinly disguised as a ‘war on terror.’ This latter excuse has been deployed by the United States to rationalise its own predatory behaviour. The issue of Tuareg nationalism, and the right of the Tuareg for self-determination, remains unresolved. This lack of resolution is only providing a breeding ground for an armed insurgency against the French-backed Malian authorities.

Let’s stop deploying the irrelevant excuse of ‘but there is corruption’ to avoid helping African nations. Yes, there is corruption in Nigeria, Zambia, Mozambique – the list goes on. The late Mike Wallace, American journalist and commentator, rebuked his interviewee, Minister Louis Farrakhan, by claiming that Nigeria – a Muslim majority country – was the ‘most corrupt’ in Africa. Farrakhan responded with an observation we should all absorb – the imperialist countries are in no position to deliver moralising sermons about corruption.

The charge of ‘African corruption’ is only ever wheeled out in order to dismiss and divert conversations about reaching out to African nations. If corruption were truly the object of concern, we would address ourselves to the institutionalised corruption of our own financial elites. As George Monbiot wrote, if you think the UK has no corruption, you are not looking hard enough.

Let’s engage with Africa by first being informed about the continent, rather than recycling tired and simplistic stereotypes.

Asian Americans, anti-Black racism and building anti-racist solidarity

The Proud Boys, a neofascist and white supremacist militia group, heavily involved in the January 6 Capitol Hill riot, received funding and support from an unlikely quarter – Chinese Americans. This is not the first instance of Asian Americans supporting ultranationalist causes – in the 2020 elections, Vietnamese Americans among other nonwhite minorities, voted for the Republican Party.

How is it possible that former US President Trump – a superspreader of anti-Asian racism, would score votes from the Asian American community? Why did some Chinese Americans go so far as to donate thousands of dollars to a racist, far right militia group? Let’s examine this subject.

We can begin to understand this topic by first recognising that Asian Americans, are largely an anticommunist community – working their way into buying the mythical ‘American dream.’ Hostile to the Black Lives Matter and other leftist groups, Asian Americans have long desired to become the ‘model minority’. In a predominantly Anglo society, emulating whiteness is the standard of success. Anti-black racism is a useful device for distancing yourself from African American and other nonwhite minorities.

When success is defined as social mobility, and individualistic entrepreneur worship is virtually a secular religion, the refugees from China and Vietnam – especially the Saigon loyalists who fled at the end of the Vietnam war – form a socially conservative bloc which views the United States as their guarantor of freedom and economic liberalism. The indigenous and nonwhite minorities, excluded from the vaunted American dream, are identified not as another group worthy of multiethnic solidarity, but as marginal elements to be hated.

Jezzika Chung, writing in the Huffington Post, states that:

As Asian immigrants work toward building successes in a foreign environment, they begin taking cues from the people they see as most successful. Because America’s historical oppression of people of color, these people are usually white. To many Asian Americans, whiteness often becomes equated to success, and all the elements that have been conditioned to come with the paradigms of whiteness.

Driving a wedge between African and Asian Americans, conservative commentators have historically dismissed black Americans as the ‘deficient’, unable or unwilling to accept supposedly unique American values of individual initiative and hard work. Asian Americans are thus integrated into the racial pyramid of American capitalism as industrious and entrepreneurially talented.

In fact, in the 1960s, with the rise of the civil rights and antiwar movements, the US ruling circles began a process of downplaying traditional anti-Asian racism, and upholding Japanese and Chinese Americans as model minorities. Rather than emphasise the role of Asian Americans as super-exploited labourers (and frequent targets of white supremacist violence), they were now to be seen as historically integrated into the American business class. Asians were thus ‘likened’ to the white majority.

Opposition to the policies of the Communist party of China is one thing; circulating lurid right wing conspiracy theories about BLM being part of a Marxist plots is quite another. While the US government has been ratcheting up tension with Beijing in a display of great-power politics, such foreign policies have domestic consequences. Racialised outsiders become the targets not only of white nationalist groups, but of socially conservative migrant communities who are adjacent to Trumpist right wing populism.

Democrat state representative from Massachusetts, Tram Nguyen, posted a video on Facebook supportive of the BLM group and its anti racist message. She received denunciations and condemnations from her fellow Vietnamese Americans, accusing her of have Marxist sympathies, and siding with ‘domestic terrorists’. In Houston, Texas, local businessman Lê Hoàng Nguyên self-funded a BLM billboard stating ‘Stop Racism’, in English and Vietnamese. A seemingly innocuous but important statement of solidarity with African Americans, you would think….

Nguyen received death threats, calls to boycott his business, and denunciations of his liberal views from the local Vietnamese American community. Houston’s pro-Trump community, deeply religious and conservative, have helped to platform the white supremacist views that abound in American society.

It would be a mistake however, to portray the Asian American community as politically monolithic.

Caroline Cao, writing in Salon magazine, details how she is challenging the conservative and anti-Black views of her Trump-supporting grandparents. She is risking the heated debates, and fractious family ties, that inevitably accompany speaking out against socially conservative family members. Jezzika Chung, quoted earlier, writes how the new generation of Asian Americans are confronting negative stereotypes of African Americans in their own communities.

Asian Americans have a long standing practice of fighting for the rights of ethnic minorities.

Chinese Americans bravely fought against the slave-owning Confederacy during the American Civil War. Black Americans, in their struggle for civil and political rights, have found staunch anti racism allies in the Asian American community. The pathway to a just and equitable society starts with the construction of a multiethnic alliance against white nationalism. It is high time that Asian Americans stopped being the footsoldiers of the US imperial project.

St George – the patron saint of England was a multicultural Roman soldier

St George, celebrated every year on April 23 as the patron saint of England, was not English, never set foot on English soil, and fought for the supranational project called the Roman Empire. Born in Cappadocia (in today’s central Turkey), he advocated a particular Oriental death-cult belief at the time, called Christianity.

A multicultural figure, part Palestinian and Greek Christian, who fought for a multiethnic Mediterranean superpower, became co-opted into a symbol of English ultranationalism. Military saint, George of Lydda (modern-day Lod) from Roman Palestine, a venerated figure of English nationalist consciousness and Christian sacrifice, acquired popularity in a time of rising religio-nationalism in Western Christendom.

The child of mixed Greek parentage, George was born around 270 CE in Cappadocia, and went on to become a soldier in the praetorian guard of the Emperor Diocletian. He was raised by Christian parents. Serving in the Roman army, he was a globetrotting officer – the Roman Empire was a multicultural and supranational institution, with officers from different parts of the empire serving in regions outside of their homelands. In Rome itself, it was not unusual to find Britons, Greeks and Gauls mixing together.

In fact, as a Christian, George’s life was in constant peril – the Roman authorities regarded these advocates of a foreign Eastern religion with suspicion. The closest modern parallel is the degree of hostility visited upon today’s Islamic communities, bringing their ‘Eastern death cult’ into the ranks of Western European societies. George was very much the foreign fighter, taking his new ‘radical‘ religious ideology into numerous lands.

Falling foul of Diocletian’s persecution of Christians and attempts to revive traditional Roman paganism, George was tortured to get him to renounce his faith. Sentenced to death for refusing to abandon his Christian beliefs, he was executed in 303 AD. St George was put to death by authorities suspicious of his foreign religion.

How did a Roman soldier, venerated as a saint in Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Lithuania, Greece, Palestine, Italy and Malta – to name a few places – become transformed into a dragon-slaying medieval knight of English nationalist folklore? English authorities have assiduously cultivated a hagiographic picture around the life, myth and mayhem of St George.

For a start, George never slayed a fire-breathing dragon – that myth was added centuries after his death. Canonised by Pope Gelasius in 494 CE, the story of George and his exploits began to acquire the stuff of legend, particularly in Byzantine-controlled territories. George is still regarded as a hero in historically Palestinian cities. However, it was through the Crusades that George entered the consciousness of Western Christendom.

Richard I, the crusading English king, adopted the Red Cross on a white background as the Cross of St George – attempting to unify his forces around a single Christian symbol. That symbol was used on military uniforms, and later included in what became the Union Jack flag. King Edward III declared St George the patron saint of England in the 14th century, when he created the Order of the Garter, a British order of chivalry.

Associated with crusading and the promotion of Western Christendom, George became transformed into a standard-bearer of English nationalism, martial courage and integrity. Books about him embellished his legend, and contributed to making George an emblem of inward-looking Britishness as opposed to his real-life status as a multicultural soldier for a multiethnic empire.

Immortalised in the play Henry V by William Shakespeare, St George’s reputation as a venerable militant saint was solidified. Adopted as a patriotic symbol by English conservatives, far right fascistic groups and football hooligans, his status as a symbol of English nationalism has been consolidated, but yet retained flexibility to be adaptable to a wide spectrum of nationalist groups.

In the current political climate of Tory Brexit and imperial nostalgia for the long-lost British empire, it is imperative to remind ourselves about the multicultural roots of much of English society. The goal is not to induce feelings of guilt or shame about being English, but rather to question the tribalist evolution of Little Englander nationalism.

English nationalism is not going to solve the serious problems of the pandemic, economic inequalities and post-Brexit frictions. It is high time to stop the flag-waving and added the socioeconomic problems afflicting England today. Venerating military saints had its time, but that tradition, however well-intentioned, does nothing to contribute to practical and contemporary solutions.