2015: A Most Confusing Year. Or was it?
On January 7, 12 people were killed in shootings at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Following the outrage, world leaders marched along the Champs-Élysées to show their solidarity with ‘Charlie’ and with France, hailed as a bastion of free speech and free expression.
We were told by ’free speech’ advocates in the West that free speech and free expression meant nothing if they did not include the freedom to cause offense - and even distress. But, confusingly, a French comedian was arrested for expressing his feelings about the Charlie Hebdo attack on Facebook. It was no isolated occurrence. As I noted here.
"Over 60 people were arrested in France, not for things they did, but for things they wrote about the Charlie Hebdo attacks on social media. Do we believe in the right to cause offense – or don’t we? Or does it apply only if we want to express some ’offensive’ views but not others?"
The Charlie Hebdo attacks and its aftermath left me feeling very confused as to what free speech and free expression really meant.
Also in early January - at around the same time as Charlie Hebdo attacks - there were mass killings by terrorists in Africa. But these killings got nowhere near the amount of coverage as the killing of 17 people in Paris.
Why do victims of terrorism in Africa get much less attention that victims of terrorism in Europe? Isn't that racist? And I thought we’re all supposed to be anti-racist - especially in the ‘enlightened ‘liberal’ west. It’s all very confusing.
A Saudi-led alliance started to bomb Yemen-one of the Middle East’s poorest countries. The bombing continued throughout the year.
By September the UN had recorded 2,204 civilian deaths and 4,711 civilian injuries in a conflict in which 93 percent of deaths have been civilians.
Yet despite the high casualty rate, there has been a strange and mystifying silence from western ‘liberal interventionists’ - who are usually so quick to remind us of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ civilians under attack.
Where are the calls for No Fly Zones to be imposed in Yemen to protect civilians from those who called for them to be imposed in Libya (in 2011) and Syria? Where were those editorials in neocon newspapers calling for ‘Something to be Done’ to save people threatened by the Saudi-led attacks in Yemen? What the UN has called the ‘virtual silence’ on Yemen is, I’m sure you‘ll agree, very confusing.
General Election time in the UK. “A week today, Britain could be plunged into the abyss. A fragile left-wing Labour minority, led by Ed Miliband and his union paymasters and supported by the wreckers of the Scottish National Party, could take power… You can stop this. But only by voting Tory,” The Sun newspaper warned its readers.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Sun, under the same ownership, urged its readers to, er, vote for the ’wreckers’ of the Scottish National Party. If that’s not confusing, I don’t know what is.
In the end, the Conservatives won their first majority since 1992. You might have thought all the UK left would have been distraught at the result, but for some ’progressives’ the most important thing seemed to be that the anti-war MP George Galloway had been defeated. Again, all very confusing.
Greeks voted by a sizable majority to say ‘OXI’ to the austerity demands of the Troika. But a week later, the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras - whose Syriza government was elected on an anti-austerity program just six months earlier - caved in and agreed to even more cuts than were rejected in the referendum. For those who thought democracy in modern Europe means respecting the people’s views, events in Greece in 2015 have been extremely confusing.
Also in July, an international nuclear deal is signed with Iran. The hawks denounced it. But these were the same hawks who have been telling us for many years now that Iran was very close to developing nukes. How could a country that had been only ‘three to five years away’ from getting nukes in 1992 - and again, only ‘three to five years’ away in 1995, still not have them in 2015?
Again, all very confusing.
The rank outsider Jeremy Corbyn pulls ahead in the Labour leadership election. But Labour’ ‘moderates’, all of whom seem to have been strong supporters of the far-from-moderate Iraq war, warn us that a Corbyn victory would be terrible for democracy. In fact, we were told that in the interests of democracy, Corbyn - the most popular candidate -must be stopped. Democracy, it seems, would be best served by a less popular candidate being elected - one who appealed to the ‘elite’ commentariat, but not to the general public. Confused?
Corbyn goes on to win the the contest easily, getting almost 60% of the vote, but even then calls for him to be toppled, for the good of 'democracy', continue.
The refugee crisis makes front page headlines in western Europe. Around 60 percent of the refugees came from three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Libya- all countries attacked and destabilized by western powers or their proxies.
And so what was the solution of the West’s political elite to the refugee crisis? More western military intervention! And there are renewed calls for the imposition of No Fly Zones in Syria- even though ISIS doesn’t have an air-force. Once again, totally confusing.
Russia intervenes militarily in Syria with air strikes against ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates. The people in the west who been all in favor of intervention in Syria don’t welcome the Russian action - but in fact criticized it - saying it would make things worse. All of a sudden those who had shown next to no concern over civilian casualties caused by the US bombing of Syria (and indeed casualties in Yemen) became terribly concerned about civilian casualties.
Hawks became antiwar doves overnight. It was all terribly confusing.
A Russian passenger plane, carrying tourists coming back home from holiday in Egypt, comes down over the Sinai, killing all 217 people on board.
UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond calls it a ‘warning shot’ for Moscow, despite having earlier accused Russia of lying about attacking ISIS. If Russia hadn’t been really targeting ISIS as Hammond and other neocons claimed, why would ISIS target a Russian plane?
And if the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268 really was ‘blowback’ for Russia bombing terrorists in Syria, why was the British government claiming that the UK bombing terrorists in Syria would make Britons safer?
Meanwhile, one neocon piece in early October actually accused Russia of ‘giving ISIS an airforce’.
Confused? Don’t worry, you weren’t the only one.
On November 24, a Russian fighter jet taking part in anti-terrorist operations in Syria is shot down by Turkey. One pilot is killed. Turkish authorities say the plane strayed into their country’s airspace for all of 17 seconds. So can we take it that Turkey takes incursions into other countries airspace very seriously?
Here’s where it gets confusing. It was revealed that Turkey violated Greek airspace 2,224 times in 2014 alone.
Turkey has also violated the airspace of Syria and Iraq repeatedly.
In 2012, Turkey accused the Syrian authorities of shooting down a Turkish F4-Phantom after the plane had entered Syrian airspace.
"A short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack," the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared. The NATO general secretary was also angry, saying that the attack was "another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms”.
Yet in November 2015, Erdogan clearly thought the opposite. And NATO did not call the Turkish action an example of that country’s ‘disregard for international norms’. How very confusing.
Also in November, 130 people are killed in terrorist attacks in Paris.
The UK government uses the tragedy to once more make the case for British air strikes on ISIS in Syria - arguing that attacking will make Britons safer.
At the same time, supporters of ‘intervention’ continue to express regret that Parliament did not support air strikes against a secular government fighting ISIS and hardcore jihadists two years ago - even though if they had taken place ISIS would probably now be in charge of all Syria.
In Venezuela the opposition win the Parliamentary elections. I found this very confusing as I had read repeatedly that Venezuela was a ‘dictatorship’
Meanwhile, the EU extends its economic sanctions on Russia until 31st July 2016. Yet in October, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had said: "Russia must be treated decently. We can't let our relationship with Russia be dictated by Washington."
But despite the economic harm that the sanctions and counter-sanctions are doing to European business and industry, the EU voted for more of the same. We’re told that the EU acts in the best interests of Europe. But how can extending sanctions on Russia possibly be in Europe’s best interest?
When we look back on it, 2015 does indeed appear to have been a very confusing year.
But here’s some explanations. First up, Syria. The West’s strategy in Syria does look confusing unless one realizes that the main aim has always been to topple the secular government of Bashar al-Assad - not to defeat ISIS - whose rise the western elites not only enabled but welcomed.
A declassified secret US intelligence report from 2012 discusses the ’possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality’ in Syria, adding ’AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME’.
The presence of ISIS could also be used as a pretext for intervention in Syria to achieve regime change in the country through the back door.
But the Russian intervention in September was a game changer as Russia, unlike the western powers and its regional allies, does want ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria to be defeated. Hence the hostility of the western elites towards the Russian action. By taking on ISIS, Putin effectively called the West’s bluff and dealt a severe blow to the West’s plans for regime change.
On the subject of Yemen, there have been no calls for No Fly Zones or a ‘humanitarian intervention’ to save civilian lives because the countries doing the bombing are western allies. ‘Liberal interventionists’ in the west only spring into action when it’s an ‘official enemy‘ country doing the bombing; genuine concern for civilians has nothing to do with it. Free speech and free expression only apply selectively too- to those with the ‘right‘ views. The same neocons who lecture us about ‘free speech’ and the ‘right to offend’ are the same people who call for RT to be taken off air.
Incursions into another country’s air space is a Very Serious Offence - if an ‘official enemy’ does it - (even its for only 17 seconds) but if NATO member such as Turkey violates air space it doesn’t matter.
The EU and its governments clearly don’t act in the interests of European citizens but in the interests of Washington. As to democracy, we saw what the ‘elite’ interpretation is with events in Greece and the attempts to derail the Corbyn campaign in Britain.
Venezuela never was a dictatorship (neocons only called it that because they didn’t like the socialist government) and Iran never was developing nuclear weapons - we were only meant to believe they were - in the same way we were meant to believe Iraq had WMDs in 2003.
The pro-war faux-left in Britain cared more about the defeat of George Galloway than they did about the pro-war Tories getting back in because for them the silencing of a powerful anti-war voice was paramount and the Sun told its readers to vote SNP in Scotland but to be scared of them in England because they wanted Labour to lose and the Tories to be returned to power - which they were. And a refugee crisis caused by western wars and interventions was cynically used as an excuse for more western wars and interventions.
I wish all RT Op Edge readers a Happy New Year. Let’s hope that 2016 will not be as confusing.
To avoid confusion, you can follow Neil Clark on Twitter @NeilClark66.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.