Fair Observer: Best of the Month
Fair Observer’s five best articles of June.
This June has been characterized by sweltering heat in many parts of the world. Yet nothing has heated the global landscape more than the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a jihadist offshoot of al-Qaeda. It has captured Sunni areas of Iraq that were once the stronghold of Saddam Hussein and announced the formation of a new caliphate. The Kurds have moved to secure their territory and are fighting ISIS to keep hold of their land. The writ of the Iraqi government runs only in Shi’a-dominated areas. Iraq is no longer a united country. The arbitrary lines drawn up by Mr. Sykes and Monsieur Picot to dismember the dying Ottoman Empire are now being ripped apart. Humpty Dumpty has fallen and no one can put it back together again.
One of the most interesting developments in the Middle East is that alliances are changing even more than the shifting sands of the Sahara desert. Curiously, the US finds itself on the same side as the Russians, the Iranians and the Syrian regime in opposing ISIS. Politics makes strange bedfellows and international politics only takes this further to an exponential degree. The chickens of the Iraq misadventure are finally coming to roost. Clearly, those in the White House, Capitol Hill and the State Department need a lesson or two in history.
This does not seem to be the case with Tony Blair. The former British prime minister suffers from an imperial hangover. Discredited over his fantabulous speech about weapons of mass destruction to the British parliament and over his record as a lackey of George W. Bush, Blair has emerged from his political grave to exhort intervention in Syria and elsewhere. He forgets that the Americans and the British do not have the appetite to spend blood and treasure on conflict in the midst of a continuing economic crisis. Boris Johnson, the charismatic mayor of London who once voted for the Iraq War but now calls it “a tragic mistake,” has told Blair “to put a sock in it — or at least to accept the reality of the disaster he helped to engender.”
Conflict has also broken out in Europe, although so far no one is wielding pitchforks or guns. The European Commission has a new president. Jean-Claude Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg, was chosen for the position by leaders of the European Union (EU). Juncker is a highly controversial choice who purportedly likes cognac for breakfast. He is a wheeler dealer of an ancient era and British Prime Minister David Cameron opposed him strongly. As the recession deepens, the clash between different ideas of Europe is intensifying.
A hundred years ago, 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip shot dead Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, triggering World War I. As Europe remembers the Great War, Bosnian Serbs are building a statue to Princip, stirring fresh debates. Identities are back in focus in Europe and the far-right is increasing its power even in France, the country on which the bureaucracy in Brussels is modeled. By appointing Juncker, the EU has demonstrated that it is run by incestuous elites that are stuck in a time warp.
This does not seem to be the case with Tony Blair. The former British prime minister suffers from an imperial hangover.
Much of the planet is glued to their televisions, laptops, tablets or cell phones watching the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Even the US is falling in love with the sport that the world calls football but the Yanks incongruously call soccer. This World Cup is witnessing attacking football with goals galore, some of which have been a sight to behold. Most of the usual suspects such as Lionel Messi, Neymar and Thomas Müller are driving their teams forward but there is a new man in town. James Rodriguez, a Colombian youngster, has scored in every match so far, including a beauty that set the legendary stadium of Maracana alight.
Whilst the game is captivating audiences worldwide, it is important to remember that FIFA and Brazil have played footloose with the wallets of Brazilian taxpayers. Stadiums have cost too much, promises about public infrastructure have not been kept, and crime continues to blight daily life in Brazil. Yet for the next few weeks the land of the “jogo bonito” — Portuguese for the beautiful game — is going to enthrall the planet and provide joy to billions.
Remember, we welcome your comments, suggestions and articles. We live in what the Chinese would call interesting times and want you to join us in creating a truly global discourse. Please find below some of our best articles for this historic month.
1: Social Inequality in Brazil: The People, Politics and the World Cup
Brazilians are unified in their frustration with the government before the World Cup.
On May 20, bus drivers in São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, went on strike, closing 11 major terminals and leaving many people stranded. The newspaper A Folha ran a headline that stated: “Protest Hurts the People and Not the Big Shots.” After all, the people take the bus, while the political class and the rich do not. Read more
2: The United States, ISIS and the Destruction of Iraq
Washington’s systematic destruction of Iraq is the root cause of the current crisis, not sectarianism.
Barely a month after US President Barack Obama hailed Iraq’s election as heralding a “peaceful, unified and prosperous future,” the country again verges on civil war. As the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) sweeps toward Baghdad, calls for military action gather momentum. In one commentator’s words: “We have a responsibility to those whose democracy we created.” Read more
3: Iraq: Collapse and Chaos in the Cradle of Civilization
Iraq is collapsing and the government has to rely on its own political will and security capabilities.
Iraq, a country where nearly 4,500 American lives were lost and more than $1 trillion spent in an eight-plus year effort to oust a dictator and rebuild a nation, is approaching chaos — perhaps even a “failed state” status. The deterioration in Syria and the commensurate invasion and spread of extremism… Read more
4: Comeback of the Woolly Mammoth: Bringing Back an Extinct Species
What are the pros and cons of de-extinction?
For many years, the icy tundra of northern Siberia has been hiding mysteries of glorious creatures that once walked the Earth. As you travel back in time to the Late Pleistocene age, visualize a magnificent mammal with 15-foot long tusks that intimidate those saber-tooth tigers and plough snow for food. This royal beast was covered in a coat of shaggy hair… Read more
5: A Dereliction of Duty: Homeless Veterans in America
US government efforts to help homeless veterans in America are not enough.
When I first began grappling with homelessness issues in my local community quite a number of years ago, Dave, then-director of the local homeless shelter in our small town, told me a story that illustrates some of the special circumstances faced by homeless veterans in America. Read more