Ukraine’s election: Behind the looking glass

An election billboard in Kiev featuring its Mayor Vitaly Klitschko. Extraordinary parliamentary election to Verkhovna Rada.(RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)

An election billboard in Kiev featuring its Mayor Vitaly Klitschko. Extraordinary parliamentary election to Verkhovna Rada.(RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)

 

The vote taking place this weekend in Kiev-controlled territories is part of the Maidan junta’s desperate quest for legitimacy. Nazis still dominate Ukrainian politics, while Kiev dreams of a military ‘final solution’ for the east.

In 2001, the Austrian economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe wrote a book titled ‘Democracy: The God that Failed’, in which he – among other things – compared the process of voting to a religious ritual. Just as the ancient religious rituals served to confirm the divine right of ancient kings, the ballot box is used today to bestow the same kind of blessing on the secular rulers of modernity. In his study, Hoppe actually demonstrated that the supposedly oppressive monarchies actually safeguarded peoples’ lives and liberty far more than democracy has – before making a case for outright anarchy. Agree with him or not, his comparison of modern democracy to ancient religious ritual strikes close to home.

Western leaders routinely speak of ‘democracy’ as a virtue unto itself, even using religious phrasing such as “rooted in the sanctity of the individual” (BH Obama in Talinn, September 2014). In actuality, democracy is simply a decision-making process in which the majority gets its way.

The way it is practiced by the West in the countries they ‘liberate’, however, democracy means whatever the ‘liberators’ say it means. Thus an overwhelming vote in favor of independence in Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk is not ‘democratic’ – because the High Priesthood in the West says so – while the violent coup in Kiev is the pinnacle of democracy, because it was “midwifed” by Washington (per V Nuland’s famous phone call).

Until it could get itself blessed by a proper ritual, though, the junta that came to power in Kiev in February, following a coup against President Yanukovich, had a legitimacy problem. Its prime minister, Arseny Yatsenyuk, was essentially appointed by the Americans (“Yats is our guy,” to quote Nuland again). Following the separation of Crimea, the junta called for an early presidential vote in May. By the time it was held, Donetsk and Lugansk had already held independence referenda and declared their separation. Even so, the junta’s Western backers proclaimed Petro Poroshenko – elected on May 25 – as the legitimate leader of Ukraine. Quite unlike the “aggressor and invader” it was accused of being, Moscow was willing to accept that, even after Poroshenko launched an all-out war against the two eastern regions.

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Kiev residents and municipal workers clear barricades on Independence Square (Maidan).(RIA Novosti / Alexandr Maksimenko)

That war was lost. Though the Ukrainian Army has resorted to lobbing ballistic missiles at cities, while volunteer Nazi battalions such as ‘Azov’ have terrorized any civilians they came across, all attempts to crush the rebellion in the East have failed. Hence all the crying about ‘Russian invasion’ to the Western press, but also the coming general election. That way, the Kiev junta can try and show their Western sponsors (George Soros being the most recent, outspoken fan) that they are ‘democratic’, and thus worth backing.

More so than anything that has happened in Ukraine over the past nine months, this weekend’s vote will showcase the absurdity of ‘democracy’ as practiced by the genuinely undemocratic. What was the Maidan, if not the rejection of democratic procedures in favor of outright mob rule? With dissidents beaten up, imprisoned, shot or burned alive (as in Odessa), the scope of acceptable political positions in Ukraine today is the triangle between the Nationalist-Socialist Oleg Tyagnybok, Right Sector boss Dmitry Yarosh and Radical nationalist Oleg Lyashko. And with every torchlight parade and fresh honor given to these Nazis – not the ‘neo’ variety, but the actual, unrepentant WWII kind – that triangle keeps getting smaller.

Recent polls – by the Western-funded Democratic Initiatives Foundation and published by the Kyiv Post – suggest a significant lead for President Poroshenko’s party, followed by Lyashko’s Radicals and Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front. Meanwhile, the formerly-ruling Party of Regions and the Communists – intimidated, brutalized and all-but-banned – are polling in single digits. However, some 32 percent of respondents have said they were “undecided”, which suggests they are either afraid to reveal their preferences, or haven’t yet decided on the lesser of evils.

Residents of those parts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions still under Kiev’s control will have a choice to vote for the flavor of their occupiers; 13 out of 21 electoral districts in the Donetsk Region and five out of 11 in the Lugansk Region are to be open for business. But the ‘liberators’ themselves won’t get to vote; for whatever reason, the junta’s legislature failed to pass a law providing for voting by soldiers at the front.

Meanwhile, the ‘civil society’ organizations funded for years by the West (for example, National Endowment for Democracy lists OPORA as one of its aid recipients in 2009) to create fertile ground for the Maidan rebellion are reporting widespread violations of campaign rules. Per the Kyiv Post, OPORA has already reported over “527 violations, including at least 80 cases of alleged voter bribery.” They either haven’t got the memo about how this election should be a showcase of ‘democratic’ Ukraine versus the ‘authoritarian’ Russia, or they did get the memo, and are significantly under-reporting voter intimidation and manipulation.

RIA Novosti / Maksim Blinov

RIA Novosti / Maksim Blinov

For their part, the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics are refusing to go along with the vote, scheduling their own elections for November 7. They may not have a chance to hold them. There isn’t much left of the September ceasefire, if constant reports of artillery and ballistic missile attacks are anything to go by. A renewed Ukrainian offensive as winter approaches may be a stupid idea, but the junta’s generals have certainly demonstrated greater stupidity over the course of the campaign.

When Croatia separated from Yugoslavia, in June 1991, several Serb-majority areas refused to accept Zagreb’s rule. The Croatian government, backed by Germany, initially failed to conquer these areas, and accepted a UN-guaranteed armistice (Vance Plan). Four years later, backed by the US, Zagreb launched an all-out assault and ‘reintegrated’ the territories by force, expelling some 200,000 Serbs that lived there. Poroshenko’s adviser Yury Lutsenko openly stated back in September that Kiev ought to follow Croatia’s example in regard to the Donbass.

The ‘democratic’ West said nothing. After all, what Croatia did was a ‘democracy’ too. Because in the eyes of Western governments, the word means whatever they say it means, nothing more and nothing less. To borrow from Lewis Carrol’s description of logic in ‘Behind the Looking Glass’, “The question is merely which is to be master – that’s all.”

Nebojsa Malic for RT

Nebojsa Malic is a foreign policy analyst and blogger, working in Washington, DC. A columnist for Antiwar.com and Strategic Culture Foundation, he occasionally appears on RT.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

 

 

 

Boys of war: ISIS recruit, kidnap children as young as 10 yo

     Home /     News / ​Boys of war: ISIS recruit, kidnap children as young as 10 yo Published time: July 02, 2014 21:07 Edited time: July 04, 2014 12:05 Get short URL Published photo of young boys lined up in front of a “membership office” for ISIL, in the Syrian town of Al-Bab. Published photo of young boys lined up in front of a “membership office” for ISIL, in the Syrian town of Al-Bab.


​Published photo of young boys lined up in front of a “membership office” for ISIL, in the Syrian town of Al-Bab.

Sunni ISIS jihadists are recruiting children as young as 10 years old to fight for an Islamic state in Iraq and Syria. While there are boys who voluntarily join the ISIS, there are many more who are being forced to fight for jihad.

10-year old Abdullah is the youngest known volunteer fighting with the ISIS in Iraq’s Mosul, according to The Daily Beast. It describes the moment of Abdullah casually walking into a local grocery store. This would be a common picture, except that the boy was masked and had a heavy machine gun, “about as big as him.”

Abdullah is reportedly hopeful about the prospects for the ISIS.

“We believe they will conquer all of Iraq and Persia and that they will liberate Jerusalem,” a gunman, who the news website assumed was responsible for the boy, said. “They have a dream and their dream is to establish an Islamic state.”

ISIS that has seized large parts of northern Iraq is, according to different estimates, between 7,000 to 10,000 fighters.

READ MORE: Live updates on ISIS offensive in Iraq

Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. (Reuters)

Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. (Reuters)

In Mosul, which the group overran two weeks ago, the group is believed to have 4,000 troops and is desperate for more foot soldiers, the Daily Beast reported.

As soon as the ISIS took over the city, Sunni jihadists started looking for young men aged between 10 and 30 “both to control the territories they have and to join the fight on other fronts within Iraq.”

While the 10-year old Abdullah voluntarily joined ISIS, following in his father’s and brother’s footsteps, there are boys who are taken away from their families and forced to be in the group.

In neighboring Syria, a 14-year-old from Raqqa was lured into one of the ISIS camps, The Syria Deeply reported.

Mohammed was convinced the camp, specially designed for boys 15 and younger, had been established to teach Quran and the foundation of Islam.

Still from YouTube video/ITN

Still from YouTube video/ITN

“ISIS said this was the purpose of the camp,” the teenager told The Syria Deeply.

However, it turned out to be more than just that.

“The training was divided into two parts. In religious classes, they taught us their version of Islam, the extremist methods they follow, and the necessary foundations of creating an Islamic caliphate state – their ultimate goal. They also try to convince us of jihadist ideology, like the greatness of martyrdom,” Mohammed said.

The camp’s “curriculum” also included combat training and lessons on how to use arms. The “course” lasted for 25 days.

Abdullah and Mohammed are, obviously, far from the only children in the ISIS ranks.

Last week footage appeared online showing young boys holding what appeared to be assault rifles and sitting in trucks full of militants parading through captured Mosul, ITV reported.

There are cases of children being kidnapped and “brainwashed” by ISIS. Abducted in May in the city of Aleppo, Syria, the fate of 133 of 159 teenagers remain uncertain.

Two of the boys who escaped told the media that ISIS was forcing the children to undergo lessons in Sharia and jihadist ideology. Jihadists beat children who misbehaved.

In its report published on June 24, the Human Rights Watch said that in Syria, ISIS specifically recruited children through free schooling campaigns that included weapons training, and have given them dangerous tasks, including suicide bombing missions.

In its annual report issued mid-May, the UN also said that “children fighting with ISIS [in Syria] are reportedly paid like adults (35,000 Syrian pounds, approximately $200) and undergo both weapons and jihadist indoctrination training.”

 

Pregnant Austrian teen who ran off to join ISIS says she ‘made a mistake’

Photos from interpol.int

Photos from interpol.int

 

Two Austrian teenage girls who ran away to Syria to join Islamic State fighters are beginning to regret their decision. Security service insiders told Austrian media that the girls have managed to contact families and one wants to go home.

The pair left home to join Islamic State (also known as ISIS, or ISIL) in April. Little information was immediately known, aside from that one had been 16 and one 14 at the time of their departure. Both reportedly married Chechen fighters after their arrival in Syria and became pregnant.

Samra Kesinovic and her friend, Sabina Selimovic, are children of Bosnian migrants, but grew up in Vienna. On their departure from Austria, they left a note, telling their parents: “Don’t look for us. We will serve Allah – and we will die for him.”

Since their departure, pictures have emerged online of the pair brandishing Kalashnikov rifles and wearing the full niqab.

However, Austrian police have claimed that their social media accounts were overtaken and manipulated by IS.

“It is clear that whoever is operating their pages, it probably is not the girls, and that they are being used for propaganda,” a security expert told the Austrian Times.

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Photos from interpol.int

Interpol released images of the two girls in April, after they disappeared. Both sets of parents have been attempting to make contact and unconfirmed reports have stated that communication has been established.

Both are currently believed to be in Rakka, in northern Syria. According to Vienna-based newspaper Österreich, Samra wants to return home as the horrors of Syria “have become too much.” The newspaper, which is known for its close links both to the security services and the children’s families, says that death is a “constant companion” for the girls.

There is some hope for women wishing to flee IS, however. In recent days, a Syrian woman fled from IS to Turkey.

However, Sabina was reportedly “not yet ready to return.”

Anyway, they may find attempts to return difficult.

“The main problem is about people coming back to Austria. Once they leave it is almost impossible,” said Karl-Heinz Grundboeck, a spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry.

‘Facebook a gift to intelligence agencies’ – Laura Poitras

 

     Home /     News / ‘Facebook a gift to intelligence agencies’ - Laura Poitras Published time: October 25, 2014 15:07 Get short URL AFP Photo / Jonathan Nackstrand AFP Photo / Jonathan Nackstrand

AFP Photo / JonathanNackstrand 

 

RT news

 

Investigative journalist Laura Poitras says she is worried about intelligence agencies using the all-too-easily-accessible data gathered from social networks – as people share their personal information voluntarily and governments only need to ask.

Poitras, who helped NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden expose illegal activities of the organization, still believes that people should be worried about the amount of power governments have to conduct surveillance searches of what they are doing online.

“Facebook is a gift to intelligence agencies. People volunteer all their social information,” she told the Washington Post in an interview.

Users should be wary about the information that the likes of Facebook and Google have compiled on them, Poitras warns. Still she does believe that these technology companies pose less of a threat than governments.

“On technology companies, we should be concerned, but we are consenting to that relationship – and they don’t have the same powers. They can help the government find out who your sources are, but they don’t have the power to investigate people,” she said.

READ MORE: Defiant Apple, Facebook, other firms to inform public of govt surveillance requests

To try and overcome the problem of unwanted government surveillance, she advocates the greater use of encryption tools, especially for journalists, but does understand that they can often be hard to use for those without specialist knowledge of computer systems. Poitras told the Washington Post she believes this could change in the future.

Laura Poitras.(Reuters / Eduardo Munoz )

Laura Poitras.(Reuters / Eduardo Munoz )

“I think what we’re going to see is a market for privacy that’s going to emerge. I think technology companies will come forward and offer tools that are easier to use. I mean, [email encryption tool] PGP is not easy, but it could be, and I think it will be,” she said.

The investigative journalist also touched on the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which was setup in December 2012 to support free speech and the freedom of the press. It also offers encryption tools, which can be downloaded online, as well as a service called SecureDrop.

READ MORE: Facebook demands DEA stop using fake profiles in investigations

SecureDrop is an open-source whistleblower submission system, which any news organization can install to securely receive information and documents from whistleblowers and sources, according to the Foundation’s website. She also says that the organization can give guidance on what products can be trusted and which should be avoided.

“I think one of the really exciting things about the organization is that we have a technology board who has all sorts of experience in the free software movement who actually know how to determine what are the good forms of encryption and how to handle peer review,” Poitras added.

Poitras also talked about the release of her new film, Citzenfour, which potrays the eight days that she spent in Hong Kong with Snowden, after he began leaking sensitive NSA documents. The film opened on Friday in selected cinemas in New York, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles.

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