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What ever happened to the Iraq war protesters?

The anti-war movement has not gone underground, it has gone online.

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Since George W. Bush’s illegal war on Iraq in 2003, the US has invaded further Arab states using a pattern that is eerily similar to that employed by the Bush White House in 2002/2003.

Whether lies about Libyan revolutionary leader “killing is own people” or more oddly yet, giving sexual stimulant drugs to soldiers, to the fallacy of Syrian ‘chemical weapons’–the US often employs the most crude and unsubstantiated mythology to attempt and justify brazen acts of aggression against sovereign states.

Just yesterday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley made some of the most outrageous claims yet, this time against Iran, saying that missiles had been sent by Iran, to Houthi fighters in Yemen, in the aftermath of the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) coming into effect in the summer of 2015.

While protests continue to fill the streets of the Arab and Muslim worlds, following on from Donald Trump’s Jerusalem/Al-Quds declaration, western streets remain largely free of demonstrations over this issue, Syria, Iran, North Korea and other areas where western countries continue to lead or threaten to lead wars on sovereign states.

As I wrote yesterday,

“Haley’s position is that since the outbreak of the current crisis in Yemen, beginning in March of 2015, Iran has been supplying Yemen’s Ansar Allah Movement, more commonly known as the Houthis, with the missiles they have sporadically used to target Saudi Arabia and allegedly the UAE.

There is a fatal flaw in this line of thinking however. Saudi Arabia has, since the beginning of the conflict, controlled all air and sea traffic coming into Yemen, while monitoring the region with the latest US made technology.

 Yemen has subsequently been surrounded by a Saudi Naval blockade, Saudi borders through which nothing can pass and Omani borders through which there is no evidence of anything passing and which in any case, border areas which do not belong to Houthi fighters, but instead have fluctuated between the Hadi government based in Aden, al-Qaeda terrorists and ISIS terrorists.

Not only has the Saudi blockade caused a man made famine which itself has resulted in a mass outbreak of the disease Cholera, but even the UN has found it difficult to convince the Saudis to allow basic medicine, bottled water and dried foods into the always poor and now starving nation.

But for Nikki Haley, who gave her press conference standing in front of what appeared to be a rusty missile casing–it all makes perfect sense. In Haley’s parallel universe, an aid ship with UN flags cannot bring bottles of water and jars of medical pills to Yemenis, but somehow Iranian ships bearing humongous missiles have easily passed through the Saudi blockade undetected.

 There is simply no logic to the argument, no matter how it is interpreted”.
http://theduran.com/food-medicine-cant-get-passed-saudi-blockade-yemen-nikki-haley-thinks-missiles-can/

While many in the west are experiencing “war fatigue”, it would appear that they are also experiencing “protest fatigue” when it comes to the all important issue of peace.

February the 15th, 2003, is generally considered to be the biggest day of global protests in history. Anti-war marches and rallies took place on every populated continent, as millions came together to oppose George W. Bush’s war on Iraq, which ultimately broke out the following month.

In New York, upwards of 400,000 people gathered to try and stop the war while estimates of upwards of 1 million gathered in London, with two million marching in Madrid.

On that day, the streets of most major capital cities in the world staged events to reject war, with the most substantial demonstrations held in the large cities of Europe, North America, the Middle East and diverse parts of Asia ranging from Malaysia to India.

The protests did not stop the war, but they did help to set the stage for the failure of the war hawks to explain themselves out of the disaster that was and to an extent remains, the illegal 2003 war on Iraq.

Since that time, the US and its allies have successfully destroyed Libya while they continue to meddle in Syria after using proxy forces to instigate the present conflict in Syria starting in 2011.

Now, Iran is subject to much of the same defamatory statements that have been hurled at Iraq, Libya and Syria.

While many people are deeply opposed to the actions the US has taken to destroy sovereign states since 2003, there have been no repeats of the mass protests of that year.

In looking for an answer as to why this might be, there are some negative but also some positive answers.

Social Media 

Social media has come a long way since 2003. In fact, the first major western social media network, Myspace, only launched after the Iraq war. In 2003, the internet was powerful, but nowhere near as powerful as it had become by 2011.

Today, people “protest” and “demonstrate” on a daily basis across a wide variety of platforms including, Facebook, VK, Twitter, Telegram, Instagram, Youtube and many others. Crucially, many popular social media networks are owned by companies based outside of the US, helping to make the corporate governance of major websites and apps far more pluralistic than was the case in 2003.

The power of social media to galvanise public opinion against war should not be underestimated. The fact that so many western corporations and governments try and often succeed in silencing online protest, is clear sign that the powers that be in war hungry western governments, believe that such mechanisms are turning public opinion against mainstream pro-war political groups.

Protest Fatigue 

On the other side of the spectrum, seeing how the anti-Iraq War protests ultimately did not change the policies of the US and its war partners, it would appear that many have decided that the peaceful mobilisation of street protesters is not effective.

Since 2003, organic, big tent anti-war protests have largely been subsumed in the west by a combination of genuine protests over national or local matters and paid “protests” by sectarian foundations. When looking for an example of a genuine local protest, one can point to the frequent anti-economic austerity protests in countries like Greece. Examples of paid “protests” by sectarian foundations are typified by those organised by various bodies funded by and/or coordinated by George Soros. These protests never deal with broad unifying issues such as that of world peace.

Republican versus Democrat

While I believe that there is truth to a great deal of the previous two theories, the idea that anti-war activists are more likely to protest a Republican President in the White House going to war, rather than a Democratic one. seems to be an argument which has passed its use-by-date.

Donald Trump is a Republican US President who won an election based largely on an anti-war platform. The fact that in less than a year, he is creating as much global instability as his two war-mongering predecessors has not resulted in mass protests of the kind seen against Bush and his international partners in 2003.

While members of the political elite will always use party politics as a means of point-scoring against an opponent, the idea of a left-right divide in 21st century anti-war politics, is no longer apt.

Broken Promises 

While it seems to be largely forgotten now, George W. Bush first ran for President on a platform of opposition to “nation building”, as he called it in 1999 and 2000. He even once said that he wanted to avoid being known as the “ugly American” for trying to impose American style governance on sovereign states.

Watching Bush’s campaign clips makes for a surreal experience, as Bush continues to epitomise the arch pro-war neo-con in most people’s eyes. During his campaign though, he expressed a degree of scepticism about Bill Clinton’s illegal war on Yugoslavia which his opponent, then Vice President Al Gore continued to extol as a “success”.

In 2008, Barack Obama’s anti-war message was vocal and visible. The now infamous “change” and “hope” posters were as much about opposition to the Iraq War and the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, as they were about domestic issues.

Long before his campaign, Obama frequently spoke out against Bush’s war, as a rising star in the Democratic party.

Obama ended up going to war with more sovereign states than George W. Bush, while also antagonising Russia and China far more than Bush ever did. Hope soon turned into “nope”.

Donald Trump Tweeted endlessly through Barack Obama’s Presidency about the disastrous Middle Eastern wars pursued by Obama.

These online statements led Trump to eventually run for US President on a similar platform. Once in power, he escalated the war against Syria, threatened to destroy North Korea and is once again making threats against Iran.

In this sense, it seems apparent that people have grown numb from multiple US Presidents campaigning for peace and ruling through war. As such, few protesters seek to mobilise in order to hold lying leaders to account.

The peace is not meant to be won–it is meant to be continuous 

George Orwell once wrote that “the war is not meant to be won–it is meant to be continuous”.

Decades of US wars from the invasion of Philippines in 1899 to the wars of 2017, have proved that for modern America, peace is the exception and war is the rule.

As such, many peace activists and those with a conscience have concluded that a single day of protests is not enough to rally support against a cycle of wars that is a perennial phenomenon.

Because of this, the social media model of constant global, digital mobilisation may well prove to be more effective in the long-term than putting millions of anti-war demonstrators in the streets on a single day. It is also less time consuming and more cost effective.

As it is with all opposition groups, the use of platforms from foreign countries may prove to be invaluable as US owned social media networks continue to crack down on those who oppose war, occupation and inhumane conditions.

There is no guarantee that this will work, but it is certainly the most clear option that those opposed to war in the 21st century must utilise as much as possible.

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“I’m Not A Racist, But I’m A Nationalist”: Why Sweden Faces A Historic Election Upset

Sweden is set to have a political earthquake in September.

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Via Zerohedge


“Trains and hospitals don’t work, but immigration continues,” Roger Mathson, a retired vegetable oil factory worker in Sweden, told Bloomberg on the same day as the violent, coordinated rampage by masked gangs of youths across five Swedish cities.

We noted earlier that Swedish politicians were quick to react with anti-immigrant party ‘Sweden Democrats’ seeing a surge in the polls ahead of the September 9th election.

“I’m not a racist, but I’m a nationalist,” Mathson said. “I don’t like seeing the town square full of Niqab-clad ladies and people fighting with each other.”

Is Sweden set to have its own political earthquake in September, where general elections could end a century of Social Democratic dominance and bring to power a little known (on the world stage), but the now hugely popular nationalist party often dubbed far-right and right-wing populist, called Sweden Democrats?

Sweden, a historically largely homogeneous population of 10 million, took in an astounding 600,000 refugees over the past five years, and after Swedes across various cities looked out their windows Tuesday to see cars exploding, smoke filling the skies, and possibly armed masked men hurling explosives around busy parking lots, it appears they’ve had enough.

Over the past years of their rise as a political force in Swedish politics, the country’s media have routinely labelled the Sweden Democrats as “racists” and “Nazis” due to their seemingly single issue focus of anti-immigration and strong Euroscepticism.

A poll at the start of this week indicated the Sweden Democrats slid back to third place after topping three previous polls as the September election nears; however, Tuesday’s national crisis and what could legitimately be dubbed a serious domestic terror threat is likely to boost their popularity.

Bloomberg’s profile of their leader, Jimmie Akesson, echoes the tone of establishment Swedish media in the way they commonly cast the movement, beginning as follows:

Viking rock music and whole pigs roasting on spits drew thousands of Swedes to a festival hosted by nationalists poised to deliver their country’s biggest political upheaval in a century.

The Sweden Democrats have been led since 2005 by a clean-cut and bespectacled man, Jimmie Akesson. He’s gentrified a party that traces its roots back to the country’s neo-Nazi, white supremacist fringe. Some polls now show the group may become the biggest in Sweden’s parliament after general elections on Sept. 9. Such an outcome would end 100 years of Social Democratic dominance.

The group’s popularity began surging after the 2015 immigration crisis began, which first hit Europe’s southern Mediterranean shores and quickly moved northward as shocking wave after wave of migrants came.

Jimmie Akesson (right). Image source: Getty via Daily Express

Akesson emphasizes something akin to a “Sweden-first” platform which European media often compares to Trump’s “America First”; and the party has long been accused of preaching forced assimilation into Swedish culture to be become a citizen.

Bloomberg’s report surveys opinions at a large political rally held in Akkeson’s hometown of Solvesborg, and some of the statements are sure to be increasingly common sentiment after this week’s coordinated multi-city attack:

At his party’s festival, Akesson revved up the crowd by slamming the establishment’s failures, calling the last two governments the worst in Swedish history. T-shirts calling for a Swexit, or an exit from the EU, were exchanged as bands played nationalist tunes.

Ted Lorentsson, a retiree from the island of Tjorn, said he’s an enthusiastic backer of the Sweden Democrats. “I think they want to improve elderly care, health care, child care,” he said. “Bring back the old Sweden.” But he also acknowledges his view has led to disagreement within his family as his daughter recoils at what she feels is the “Hitler”-like rhetoric.

No doubt, the media and Eurocrats in Brussels will take simple, innocent statements from elderly retirees like “bring back the old Sweden” as nothing short of declaration of a race war, but such views will only solidify after this week.

Another Sweden Democrat supporter, a 60-year old woman who works at a distillery, told Bloomberg, “I think you need to start seeing the whole picture in Sweden and save the original Swedish population,” she said. “I’m not racist, because I’m a realist.”

Sweden’s two biggest parties, the Social Democrats and Moderates, are now feeling the pressure as Swedes increasingly worry about key issues preached by Akesson like immigration, law and order, and health care – seen as under threat by a mass influx of immigrants that the system can’t handle.

Bloomberg explains further:

But even young voters are turning their backs on the establishment. One potential SD supporter is law student Oscar Persson. Though he hasn’t yet decided how he’ll vote, he says it’s time for the mainstream parties to stop treating the Sweden Democrats like a pariah. “This game they are playing now, where the other parties don’t want to talk to them but still want their support, is something I don’t really understand,” he said.

Akesson has managed to entice voters from both sides of the political spectrum with a message of more welfare, lower taxes and savings based on immigration cuts.

With many Swedes now saying immigration has “gone too far” and as this week’s events have once again thrust the issue before both a national and global audience, the next round of polling will mostly like put Sweden’s conservative-right movements on top

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The Turkish Emerging Market Timebomb

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s populist economic policies have finally caught up to him.

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Authored by Jim O’Neill, originally on Project Syndicate:


As the Turkish lira continues to depreciate against the dollar, fears of a classic emerging-market crisis have come to the fore. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s populist economic policies have finally caught up to him, and sooner or later, he will have to make nice with his country’s traditional Western allies.

Turkey’s falling currency and deteriorating financial conditions lend credence, at least for some people, to the notion that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” I suspect that many Western policymakers, in particular, are not entirely unhappy about Turkey’s plight.

To veteran economic observers, Turkey’s troubles are almost a textbook case of an emerging-market flop. It is August, after all, and back in the 1990s, one could barely go a single year without some kind of financial crisis striking in the dog days of summer.

But more to the point, Turkey has a large, persistent current-account deficit, and a belligerent leader who does not realize – or refuses to acknowledge – that his populist economic policies are unsustainable. Moreover, Turkey has become increasingly dependent on overseas investors (and probably some wealthy domestic investors, too).

Given these slowly gestating factors, markets have long assumed that Turkey was headed for a currency crisis. In fact, such worries were widespread as far back as the fall of 2013, when I was in Istanbul interviewing business and financial leaders for a BBC Radio series on emerging economies. At that time, markets were beginning to fear that monetary-policy normalization and an end to quantitative easing in the United States would have dire consequences globally. The Turkish lira has been flirting with disaster ever since.

Now that the crisis has finally come to pass, it is Turkey’s population that will bear the brunt of it. The country must drastically tighten its domestic monetary policy, curtail foreign borrowing, and prepare for the likelihood of a full-blown economic recession, during which time domestic saving will slowly have to be rebuilt.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s leadership will both complicate matters and give Turkey some leverage. Erdoğan has  constitutional powers, reducing those of the parliament, and undercutting the independence of monetary and fiscal policymaking. And to top it off, he seems to be reveling in an escalating feud with US President Donald Trump’s administration over Turkey’s imprisonment of an American pastor and purchase of a Russian S-400 missile-defense system.

This is a dangerous brew for the leader of an emerging economy to imbibe, particularly when the United States itself has embarked on a Ronald Reagan-style fiscal expansion that has pushed the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates faster than it would have otherwise. Given the unlikelihood of some external source of funding emerging, Erdoğan will eventually have to back down on some of his unorthodox policies. My guess is that we’ll see a return to a more conventional monetary policy, and possibly a new fiscal-policy framework.

As for Turkey’s leverage in the current crisis, it is worth remembering that the country has a large and youthful population, and thus the potential to grow into a much larger economy in the future. It also enjoys a privileged geographic position at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia, which means that many major players have a stake in ensuring its stability. Indeed, many Europeans still hold out hope that Turkey will embrace Western-style capitalism, despite the damage that Erdoğan has done to the country’s European Union accession bid.

Among the regional powers, Russia is sometimes mentioned as a potential savior for Turkey. There is no doubt that Russian President Vladimir Putin would love to use Turkey’s crisis to pull it even further away from its NATO allies. But Erdoğan and his advisers would be deeply mistaken to think that Russia can fill Turkey’s financial void. A Kremlin intervention would do little for Turkey, and would likely exacerbate Russia’s own .

The other two potential patrons are Qatar and, of course, China. But while Qatar, one of Turkey’s closest Gulf allies, could provide financial aid, it does not ultimately have the wherewithal to pull Turkey out of its crisis singlehandedly.

As for China, though it will not want to waste the opportunity to increase its influence vis-à-vis Turkey, it is not the country’s style to step into such a volatile situation, much less assume responsibility for solving the problem. The more likely outcome – as we are seeing in Greece – is that China will unleash its companies to pursue investment opportunities after the dust settles.

That means that Turkey’s economic salvation lies with its conventional Western allies: the US and the EU (particularly France and Germany). On August 13, a White House spokesperson confirmed that the Trump administration is watching the financial-market response to Turkey’s crisis “very closely.” The last thing that Trump wants is a crumbling world economy and a massive dollar rally, which could derail his domestic economic ambitions. So a classic Trump “trade” is probably there for Erdoğan, if he is willing to come to the negotiating table.

Likewise, some of Europe’s biggest and most fragile banks have significant exposure to Turkey. Combine that with the ongoing political crisis over migration, and you have a recipe for deeper destabilization within the EU. I, for one, cannot imagine that European leaders will sit by and do nothing while Turkey implodes on their border.

Despite his escalating rhetoric, Erdoğan may soon find that he has little choice but to abandon his isolationist and antagonistic policies of the last few years. If he does, many investors may look back next year and wish that they had snapped up a few lira when they had the chance.

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Why Scandinavia Isn’t Exceptional

Scandinavia is entirely unexceptional.

The Duran

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Authored by Per Bylund via The Mises Institute:


[From the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.]

The Scandinavian countries, and primary among them Sweden, are commonly referred to as anomalies or inspirations, depending on one’s political point of view. The reason is that the countries do not appear to fit the general pattern: they are enormously successful whereas they “shouldn’t” be. Indeed, Scandinavians enjoy very high living standards despite having very large, progressive welfare states for which they pay the world’s highest taxes.

As a result, a large and growing literature, both propagandist and scholarly, has emerged that tries to identify the reasons for this Scandinavian exceptionalism—especially as pertains to their welfare states. I have myself contributed to this literature1 and have previously reviewed others’ contributions to it in this journal.2 But what has been missing is a summary analysis that is accessible to non-scholars. It was therefore a delight to read Nima Sanandaji’s Scandinavian Unexceptionalism: Culture, Markets, and the Failure of Third-Way Socialism, published by British Institute for Economic Affairs.

Dr. Sanandaji is a political-economy analyst and writer, well known in both Sweden and Europe, and as expected does an excellent job summarizing the state of scholarship. He also uses examples and quotes from articles published in Scandinavian news media to illustrate the narrative. The result is a short and informative but easy to read answer to both how and why the Scandinavian welfare states seem to work so well.

The short book provides the reader with insight into Scandinavian culture, an explanation of the causes of the nations’ exceptional rise from poverty, an overview of their recent political-economic history, the distinct structure and evolution of the Scandinavian welfare state, the origins of their egalitarianism and gender equality, and the effect of immigration. I will briefly touch on three of these areas.

First, Sanandaji makes clear that the rosy story of the Scandinavian welfare state, as it is usually told, is at best incomplete. The Scandinavian countries were among the European continent’s poorest by the end of the 19th century and were largely unaffected by the industrialization that had started centuries earlier in the United Kingdom. A combination of classical liberal reform and the adoption of industrialized production created a century-long “golden age,” as Bergh (2014) denotes the period approximately 1870–1970 in Sweden, of economic growth and rapidly rising standards of living.

This growth was partly also made possible by a distinct Scandinavian culture, which is characterized by the “[h]igh levels of trust, a strong work ethic and social cohesion [that] are the perfect starting point for successful economies” (p. 7). As Sanandaji points out, the market-aligned virtues of Scandinavian culture also explain the limited impact of the welfare state as it was erected and ballooned in the 1930s and beyond. Cultural change takes time, and thus old values lag in the face of political change. So it took time for the Scandinavian virtues to give way to the destructive incentives of the welfare state.

It should also be noted, though Sanandaji fails to make this point clearly, that after the welfare state was established, and during its several decades of expansion, it’s growth rate tended to be lower than that of the overall economy. The increasing burden was therefore, in relative terms, marginal. That is, until the radical 1960s and 1970s when Scandinavian governments, and the Swedish government in particular, adopted very expansionist welfare policies. (This political shift is analyzed in detail in, e.g., Bergh.)3

Sanandaji also presents interesting data with respect to Scandinavian gender equality. His discussion begins with the internationally enviable women’s labor market participation rate in Scandinavian countries, and especially Sweden. The background, however, is that Sweden’s government had adopted a radical agenda for population control formulated by Gunnar and Alva Myrdal (yes, the same Gunnar Myrdal who shared the 1974 economics prize with Hayek). The gist of this reform was to enforce a shared responsibility between parents and “the community” for children’s upbringing. By raising taxes on income while offering government-run daycare services, families were incentivized (if not “forced,” economically speaking) to secure two full-time incomes.

Interestingly, while this indeed rapidly increased women’s participation in the labor market, Sanandaji notes that “few women in the Nordic nations reach the position of business leaders, and even fewer manage to climb to the very top positions of directors and chief executives” (p. 102). Part of the reason is that jobs that women typically choose, including education and healthcare, are monopolized in the vast public sectors. As a result, women at trapped in careers where employers do not compete for their competence and many leadership positions are political.

This development is indirectly illustrated in a terrifying statistic from Sweden’s labor market: “Between 1950 and 2000, the Swedish population grew from seven to almost nine million. But astonishingly the net job creation in the private sector was close to zero” (p. 33).

Finally, Sanandaji addresses the issue of immigration and shows that the Scandinavian nations were exceptionally good at integration, with greater labor participation for immigrants than other Western nations, prior to the radicalization of the welfare state. Thereafter, due to rigid labor regulations and vast welfare benefits, immigrants were more or less kept out of Scandinavian job markets.

The literature identifies two potential explanations. First, the anti-business and job-protection policies practically exclude anyone with a lack of work experience, highly sought-after skills, or those with lacking proficiency in the language or limited network. This keeps immigrants as well as young people unemployed (the very high youth unemployment rates in Scandinavia illustrate this problem). Second, the promises of the universal welfare state tend to attract people who are less interested in working their way to the top and thus have a lacking work ethic.

This explains the recent problems in Scandinavia with respect to immigration, which is essentially an integration and policy problem — not a foreign-people problem.

Overall, Sanandaji’s book provides plenty of insights and a coherent explanation for the rise of the Scandinavian nations and their welfare states. Their impressive standard of living is a free-market story, which is rooted in an economically sound culture. This culture also supported the welfare state, until decades of destructive incentives eroded the nations’ sound values. The welfare state, after its radicalization, was soon crushed under its own weight, and Scandinavia has since undergone vast free-market reforms that again have contributed to economic growth and prosperity.

Considering the full story, Sanandaji summarizes the example of the Northern European welfare states simply and bluntly: “Scandinavia is entirely unexceptional.”

  • 1.Bylund, Per L. 2010. “The Modern Welfare State: Leading the Way on the Road to Serfdom.” In Thomas E. Woods, ed., Back on the Road to Serfdom: The Resurgence of Statism. Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books.
  • 2.2015. “Book Review: Sweden and the Revival of the Capitalist Welfare State by Andreas Bergh,” Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 18, no. 1: 75–81.
  • 3.Bergh, Andreas. 2014. Sweden and the Revival of the Capitalist Welfare State. Cheltenham, U.K.: Edward Elgar.

Per Bylund is assistant professor of entrepreneurship & Records-Johnston Professor of Free Enterprise in the School of Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University. Website: PerBylund.com.

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