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Dr. Binoy Kampmark, is a Journalist & News Reporter of World Events for Global News Aruba. He is a Senior Lecturer at the worlds top 1 % best world's colleges RMIT University in Australia the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, teaching within the Bachelor of Social Science (Legal and Dispute Studies) program. He  holds a PhD in history from the University of Cambridge. He also holds a Masters degree in history and honors degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Queensland.  His field of expertise as an academic are: Institution of war, diplomacy, international relations, 20th century history, terrorism, and international law. Dr Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. 
Contact Dr Binoy Kampmark at: 

"No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit"

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Signature News Reporter 

Global News Aruba

Theresa May’s prime ministership remains one of torment, drawn out, and weakened daily.  But does it really matter?  If it is true to claim that people deserve the government they elect, then there is something madly representative of the debacle of May’s leadership, one where problems are sought for any possible solutions. 

Steering through the waters of Brexit has been a nigh impossible task rendered even more problematic by a stubborn myopia nursed by May.  She nurses dogmas incapable of learning new tricks.  Her latest Brexit plan, as it headed to inevitable defeat, would have rendered Britain bound to the EU in a manner more servile than any sovereign populist would have dreamed.  Benefits would have been shed; obligations would have persisted. While there is very little to recommend the views of the rabid Tory Eurosceptics, there is something in the idea that Britain would become a vassal state. 

As it transpired, May lost by a colossal margin, an indication that few could stomach her vision: 432 to 202, the worst defeat by a British administration in over a century.

“In all normal circumstances,” observed Robert Peston, that legendary pessimist of matters economic, “a Prime Minister would resign when suffering such a humiliation on their central policy – and a policy Theresa May herself said today would ‘set the future of this country for a generation’.”

Such is the nature of the climate: gross failure results in bare survival rather than inevitable annihilation.  Grand acts of quixotic behaviour are not richly punished but given reprieve before the next charge against windmills. So we are left with the idea of uncharted territory, suggesting, in the face of such chaos and uncertainty, a postponement of the departure date from the EU set for March 29.  The Article 50 period, in other words, would have to be extended, but this, again, implies a set of hypothetical variations and ponderings. 

For all that, May survived yet another no-confidence motion by 325 to 306, with Labor’s Jeremy Corbyn incapable of pushing the entire debacle to an election. Not even the Tories wished that upon their own leader, whom they have come to despise in ways verging on the pathological. Corbyn might well have called the May prime ministership a “zombie” administration, but he had failed to supply the necessary weapons to finish it off, prompting colleagues in the Commons to suggest a change of approach. 

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable, advanced the proposition that the Labour leader had to alter “his position and come behind the ‘People’s Vote’ or he will just be seen, and will be, a handmaiden of Brexit.” 

Despite the failure, Corbyn had his own demands.  “The government must remove clearly, once and for all, the prospect of the catastrophe of a no-deal exit from the EU and all the chaos that would come as a result of that.”  The language of cross-party lines on discussing Brexit remain distant matters.

As for the zombie representative-in-chief herself, the government would “continue to work to deliver on the solemn promise to the people of this country to deliver on the result of the referendum and leave the European Union”.  Same words, barely touched up – the May formulae remains incapable of changing form, incapable of elevation, but also seemingly incapable of perishing.

Wednesday’s vote of survival after the calamity of her defeated proposals suggested a change in heart from May.  (Did she have any other choice?)  She ventured talks with various opposition party leaders, though various news outlets in the UK insisted that Corbyn had been ungenerous in snubbing the prime minister. Labour’s leadership remains sceptical at any advances from Downing Street.  As The Guardian editorialised on May’s proposed talks,

“It is a welcome shift in tone, but there is no indication from Mrs May’s record that she has the diplomatic skills required to make such a consultation fruitful.” 

This notable lack manifested in an obsession with “red lines”, a mad faith in a Brexit plan long rendered cadaverous. 

For the paper’s own worth, a new strategy of change focused on a customs union arrangement between Britain and the EU would “transform dialogue with Labour and pro-European Tories.”  Fine thing to suggest, but the darkness refuses to abate.  International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, for one, sees such a union as a way of ensuring that Britain will not have an independent trade policy.  The ship of apocalypse, whatever it might entail, remains on course.

"Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion"

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Signature News Reporter 

Global News Aruba

It’s a messy, though typical picture.  US President Donald Trumpwants to pull out forces in Syria.  When announced in December, jaws drooped and sharp intakes of breath were registered through the Washington establishment.  Members of the military industrial complex were none too pleased.  The President had seemingly made his case clear: US blood and treasure will not be further drawn upon to right the conflicts of the Middle East. 

His national security advisor, John Bolton, prefers a different message: the US will not leave north-eastern Syria till the militants of Islamic State are defeated and the Kurds protected.  If this was a message of intended confusion, it has worked.  The media vultures are confused as to what carrion to feed upon. The US imperial lobby is finding the whole affair disruptive and disturbing.  Washington’s allies attempt to read the differences between policy-by-tweet and policy by representation.

Trump’s pre-New Year announcement suggested speediness, a rapid removal of US forces supposedly indispensable in Making America Great Again.  Once made, US troops were to leave in a matter of weeks – or so went a certain wisdom.  “They’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now,” ventured the president.  But Bolton suggested otherwise.  US personnel, he suggested, would remain in al-Tanf to counter Iranian influence.  Timetables could be left to the talking heads.

A change of heart also came from the White House, with Trump asserting that,

“We won’t be finally pulled out until ISIS is gone.” 

To reporters, he adopted a familiar stance in ever shifting sands: promising to do something meant doing something different.

“We are pulling back in Syria.  We’re going to be removing our troops.  I never said we’re doing it that quickly.”

On Sunday, Trump delivered another streaky note on Twitter, thereby adding another lace of confusion.

“Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions.” 

Last Thursday, information on the withdrawal of some US military ground equipment from Syria was noted.  On Friday, Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the US-led coalition in Syria, issued a statement claiming that the coalition had “begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria” leaving little by way of details.  In Trumpland, the scanty detail often prevails over the substantive.

US strategy in the Middle East has tended to revolve around setting up figures for the fall while inflicting the fall of others.  The Kurds have tended to find themselves in that role, encouraged and prompted to take up arms against their various oppressors, only to find themselves left to the slaughter in the subsequent geopolitical dramas of the region.  The promise by Great Britain and France at the conclusion of World War I that a Kurdish state be chalked out of the remains of the Ottoman Empire never materialised.  In the crude machinations of international relations, they have remained, as Joost Hiltermann describes them, the “expendable” ones. 

Bolton is keen not to make that same mistake, which is exactly why he risks doing so.  The great enemy of the Kurds on this occasion remains a prickly US ally, Turkey. 

“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with the agreed to by the United States”. 

Trump, similarly, suggested in a direct call with the Turkish president that the Turkish economy would be devastated “economically if they hit Kurds.”  In a statement from White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders,

“The President expressed the desire to work together to address Turkey’s security concerns in northeast Syria while stressing the importance to the United States that Turkey does not mistreat the Kurds and other Syrian Democratic Forces with whom we have fought to defeat ISIS.” 

Bolton’s credibility in pursuing that agenda seemed to crumble in Ankara before a notable snubbing by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on January 8.  The national security advisor had to make do with a meeting with Erdoğan’s senior advisor, Ibrahim Kalin. Bolton was not one the Turkish leader particularly wanted to see in light of his comments that Turkey not harm members of the Kurdish Syrian militias in the aftermath of the US withdrawal.  Such views also fly in the face of Turkey’s self-appointed role as an agent of influence in the region.  An absent Washington is simply too good a chance to press home the advantage, and Ankara is bound to capitalise.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not fare much better in his regional whistle-stops in Egypt Jordan, Iraq and the Gulf states.  In Cairo, Pompeo denied that there was any “contradiction whatsoever” about Trump’s position on withdrawal. 

“I think everyone understands what the United States is doing.” 

If not everyone, then at the very least, “the senior leaders in their governments”.  Very good of them.

The views of American functionaries have not necessarily meant much in the righteous intent of other powers, but Bolton is nonetheless happy to pen his name to this mast.  He wishes for the Kurds to hold firm, avoid the temptation of seeking another sponsor who just might do a better job. 

“I think they know,” suggested Bolton, “who their friends are.”  (Bolt is more than nudging here, making sure the Russians or the Assad regime are avoided in any future security arrangements that might supply a shield for the Kurds.)

Daft, can be Bolton, who sees himself as a true appraiser of the international relations system when he is disabled by presumption.  The Turks may, in time, hand Washington another bloody lesson of retribution showing that basic, keen hatreds in historical dramas are far more significant than sophisticated notions of self-interest.  The presence of US troops in Syria will no doubt be reclassified, withdrawal by which any other name would be as confusing.  The Kurds will have to chew over their options with the sort of caution nursed by a history of promise followed by abandonment.  Be wary of the expendable ones.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark, is a Journalist & News Reporter of World Events for Global News Aruba. He is a Senior Lecturer at the worlds top 1 % best world's colleges RMIT University in Australia the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, teaching within the Bachelor of Social Science (Legal and Dispute Studies) program. He  holds a PhD in history from the University of Cambridge. He also holds a Masters degree in history and honors degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Queensland.  His field of expertise as an academic are: Institution of war, diplomacy, international relations, 20th century history, terrorism, and international law. DrBinoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.
Contact Dr Binoy Kampmark at: 

"Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the “Integrity Initiative”

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Signature News Reporter 

Global News Aruba

Is there such a plane of blissful, balanced information, deliberated and debated upon?  No.  Governments mangle; corporations distort.  Interest groups tinker.  Wars must be sold; deception must be perpetrated.  Inconsistencies must be removed.  There will be success, measured in small doses; failure, dispatched in grand servings. 

The nature of news, hollow as it is, is to fill the next segment for the next release, a promiscuous delivery, an amoral ejaculate.  The notion a complicated world can somehow be compressed into a press release, a brief, an observation, is sinister and defeating. 

The believers in an objective, balanced news platform are there.  Grants are forked out for such romantic notions as news with integrity, directed to increase “trust in news”, which is tantamount to putting your trust in an institution which has been placed on the mortician’s table.  The Trump era has seen a spike in such funding, but it belies a fundamental misconception about what news is.

Funny, then, that the environment should now be so neatly split: the Russians (always) seen to distort from a central programme, while no one else does.  The Kremlin manipulates feeble minds; virtuous powers do not.  The most powerful nation on the planet claims to be free of this, the same country that boasts cable news networks and demagoguery on the airwaves that have a distinct allergy against anything resembling balanced reporting, many backed by vast funding mechanisms for political projects overseas.  Britain, faded yet still nostalgically imperial, remains pure with the BBC, known as the Beeb, a sort of immaculate conception of news that purportedly survives manipulation.  Other deliverers of news through state channels also worship the idol of balance – Australia’s ABC, for one, asserts that role.

We are the left with a distinct, and ongoing polarisation, where Russia, a country relatively less influential than other powers in terms of heft and demography, has become a perceived monster wielding the influence of a behemoth on the course of history.  Shades and shadows assume the proportions of flesh and meat.  The fact that the largest country on the planet has interests, paranoias and insecurities other countries share is not deemed relevant but a danger.  Russia must be deemed the exception, the grand perversion, a modern beast in need of containment.

Terry Thompson of the University of Maryland supplies readers with a delightfully binary reading, because the forested world of politics is, supposedly, easy to hive off and cultivate.  The woods will be ignored, and small, selective gardens nurtured.  The United States has been indifferent, even weak, before the Kremlin’s cheek and prodding ways, or so goes this line of thinking.  The time for change is nigh, and the freemen and women of the US imperium must take note.  A hoodwinked US will arise, and learn from those states who have suffered from Moscow’s designs! 

“After years of anaemic responses to Russian influence efforts, official US government policy now includes taking action to combat disinformation campaigns sponsored by Russia or other countries.”

In this intoxicated atmosphere comes the Scottish based Integrity Initiative, a “partnership of several independent institutions led by the Institute of Statecraft.  This international public programme was set up in 2015 to counter disinformation and other forms of malign influence being conducted by states and sub-state actors seeking to interfere in democratic processes and to undermine public confidence in national political institutions.”

This low level clerk depiction is all good, a procedurally dull initiative designed to harden the mettle of debate against those who sneer and seek to discredit certain institutions.  Democracy is often the victim of such paper clip fillers and grant seekers.  Then comes the nub of the matter: the political thrust of this entire exercise.  Where did the Integrity Initiative get its pennies?  Moral citizens, perhaps?  Bookworms with deep pockets?

That political thrust was revealed, we are told, by a hack.  It came from the devil incarnate, those bear like fangs sharpened on the Russian steppes.  “It is of course a matter of deep regret,” came a statement from the group in November, “that Integrity Initiative documents have been stolen and posted online, still more so that, in breach of any defensible practice, Russian state propaganda outlets have published or re-published a large number of names and contact details.”  Transparency is a damn bugger, but forced transparency for outfits claiming that no one else practices it is an upending terror.

The revelations were striking on a few fronts.  Britain’s Labor Party had been a target, with the group’s Twitter account used to heap upon its leader, Jeremy Corbyn.  But more to the point, it blew the lid off the notion of pristine, exalted partiality.  Funding, it transpired, had been obtained, and in abundance, from that most self-interested of bodies, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  In effect, monies had been supplied to the Initiative via a government body to attack the opposition, not exactly a very democratic practice.

On December 3 lasts year, Sir Alan Duncan, in response to a question from Chris Williamson, the member for Derby North, claimed that the FCO had funded the Institute for Statecraft’s Integrity Initiative to the tune of £296,500 in the financial year 2017/8.  That amount has ballooned for the current financial year to the tune of £1,196,000.  “Such funding furthers our commitment to producing important work to counter disinformation and other malign influence.”  Russian practitioners could hardly have said it better themselves.  

The technique here remains dog-eared: discredit the hackers as criminal and sidestep the implications of the content revealed. 

“We note,” claimed the initiative, “both the attempts by Russian state propaganda outlets to amplify the volume of this leak; and the suggestion by a major Anonymous-linked Twitter account that the Kremlin subverted the banner of Anonymous to disguise their responsibility for it.”

In December, the group, as did Duncan, reiterated the notion that it was a “non-partisan programme of The Institute for Statecraft, a non-partisan charity which promotes good governance.”  On no occasion had the group “engaged in party political activity and would never take up a party-political stance.”  Charming in such insistence, if somewhat disingenuous: any statement with a political target is, by definition, political activity.  Not so for the Initiative, which claims that the FCO’s funding merely reflected “their appreciation of the importance of the threat, and a wish to support civil society programmes seeking to rebuild the ability of democratic societies to resist large scale, malicious disinformation and influence campaigns.”

The very idea of insisting on information that corrects disinformation must, by definition, be politically oriented.  It has a target, and objective.  The world is wrong, at least according to one version, so right it.  We know it, and others do not.  The implication is inescapable.

An example of a journalist outed by the hack is illustrative.  He fell from Olympus.  He thought he was all fair and high, a prince of objectivity.  James Ball, somewhat slighted by the exposures stemming from the Integrity Initiative documents, described the Kremlin’s approach to managing the message in The Guardian as follows:

“Russia’s information manipulation strategies are many and varied, and far more sophisticated than simply pushing out pro-Putin messages. It uses a mix of Russian-owned media outlets, most notably RT (formerly Russia Today) and Sputnik, sympathetic talking heads, social media ‘bot’ accounts and state-sponsored hackers to influence western politics and media coverage.”

To deny the existence of such media management strategies would simply be silly.  But equally daft is the suggestion that journalism run through the corporate mill in the United States, or through media conglomerates in Europe, identifies some miraculous golden mean of objective fairness.  Ditto numerous governments, who have a deep interest in selling a particular story within, and without their jurisdiction.  Respective messages are doing a dance, and governments the world over are attempting to influence the course of discussion.  They are the self-appointed bulwark against “post-truth”, a nonsense term that has assumed the very thing it seeks to combat.

Ball falls into the trap of heralding the virtues of free speech and media only to then find fault with them.  Even he doesn’t entirely these tendencies.  Russia, he argues, simulated a “virus that turns its host’s immune system against itself” using an “information strategy… turning free media and free speech against its own society.”  And what of it?  Surely, models of information parry and thrust can drive the bad out with the good, or is there, underlying these criticisms, the latent suggestion that free society harbours the imbecilic and destructive? As with any wading into these murky waters, the danger is that none of these catalytic engagements seeks free speech, merely a managed deployment of spears analogous to battle.  The amoral terrain of the Cold War re-appears, and behind many interlocutors lies the funding of a state.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark, is a Journalist & News Reporter of World Events for Global News Aruba. He is a Senior Lecturer at the worlds top 1 % best world's colleges RMIT University in Australia the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, teaching within the Bachelor of Social Science (Legal and Dispute Studies) program. He  holds a PhD in history from the University of Cambridge. He also holds a Masters degree in history and honors degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Queensland.  His field of expertise as an academic are: Institution of war, diplomacy, international relations, 20th century history, terrorism, and international law. DrBinoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.
Contact Dr Binoy Kampmark at: 

"Ice Matters: A Meditation on Snow"

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Signature News Reporter 

Global News Aruba

Most speak of floods in the age of climate change, when the cooked and the roasted take precedence over the snowed in and the freezing, and the parliaments of lost islands shall be convened in the sea.  Comparatively cruel fates should never be entertained, but the difference here is worth noting.  Flooded islands lost to the rise of sea levels; submerged hopes done by the relentless pounding of storms and water; destroyed civilisations drowned by the supposed folly of the human species.  These take a privileged if morbid position in the discussion on environmental catastrophe and climate change. 

The more neglected aspect of modern discussion is the ice factor, and with that, its attendant literature.  The chill produces its own mental states, a specific way of seeing.  Away from the humidity and the heat, from the tropical sighs and the going-troppo sense of the heat lies another form of threat, beauty and appreciation.  Call it ice, cold, the freeze.

History is replete with its minor and major ice ages, its cold snaps that do last beyond the minor calculations of a meteorologist.  Cold, in short, makes history, altering the course of wars and civilisations.  The Little Ice Age (sometime between the 16th to 19th centuries) features as political weaponry and historical debate, a period that managed to fill diaries and scripts with concern and speculation about glacial doom or imminent redemption for the human species. 

Predictions and assessments become matters of concern and conjecture.  Martin Mlynczak of NASA’s Langley Research Centre suggested last September that the sun’s inactivity could lead to the lowering of temperatures of the thermosphere (a layering of the earth’s atmosphere at some 300 miles above the surface).  “High above the Earth’s surface, near the edge of space, our atmosphere is losing heat energy.  If current trends continue, it could soon set a Space Age record for cold.”  This led, erroneously, to the suggestion that a “grim ‘mini Ice Age’,” would make its presence felt.

“The ‘imminent mini ice age’ myth,” writes environmental scientist Dana Nuccitelli with tired resignation for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, “rears its ugly head in the conservative media like clockwork every year or two.”

From the solidity of ice, its image of hardened bodies, snow bitten parts and paralysis, comes that poetic, if overly sentimentalised spin-off: snow.  Snow remains a source of poetic reflection, a linguistic and cultural house of richness.  The Danish author, Peter Høeg, delved into the theme of snow as the backdrop to understanding a crime in Smilla’s Sense of Snow.  Snow acts as the illustrative vehicle and device. 

“I think more highly of snow and ice than love,” reflects the protagonist, Smilla Jaspersen.  “I have a good relationship with ice.” 

Ice is a measure of existence: it comes in the form of field ice, frazil ice, pancake and porridge.  Inuit terms for snow become a matter of interest: qanik covers large flakes; apuhiniq frozen drifts.  To understand snow and its forms is to understand life.

Today, in the southern Balkans, a captured miniature of the Ottoman Empire past, the scene is replete with soft colours on the horizon, a glazed blue reminiscent of porcelain and pale eyed beauties, as the light gradually fails. The distant blue itself has layers: tenderly soft to the eye to heavy dark; the paleness fades to solemn colours on the lower horizon.  The sun has been banished, but its rays remain stubborn reminders, coming through to play and tease out the last light of the day.     

The snow has been caking, posting its presence on window sills, pavements, cars.  Dirt and mud has been blissfully hidden, ugliness brushed and layered like a model’s makeup.  Snow’s softness belies an utter terror; its crystal dimension hiding the fundamentally dangerous nature of its accumulation.  Cars must be dug out of the clutch of the freeze.  Ditches are hidden, drains covered.  Public transport has been affected; the passengers await for buses that may arrive, at some point.  (The emphasis here is on some, rather than point.)  Time assertions are an irrelevance here, in the land where Romani, Serb and Albanian meet, and the domain of the freeze takes precedence over all.

The snow that falls today suggests, paradoxically, comfort and warmth.  Provided the body has a suitable layering of warmth for the body, the flakes, falling vertically, is at a stalemate.  It does not steal warmth, but nor does the body necessarily win out against it.  It cannot get through to the skin; it acts as a soft cover, falling and sliding off effortlessly.   There is none of the savage biting that comes with a skin searing blizzard, nor a deep, bone chill that comes with the brittle inducing conditions of a shock freeze.  This is snow on the slow kill, a seductive crystallising blanketing that seduces the walker into grand exhibitions of dancing ritual, of gallivanting in feathery ice and attempting to puncture layers of immaculate, cream coverage.

Animals must cope, and so they do.  Sparrows gather together in strings of feathers and flesh across branches iced and weighed down by snow.  Chaffinches seem to bleed their colours into the bare vegetation now carpeted by white.  Stray cats seek shelter; dogs, the same.  These snow levels do not necessarily kill in the same way as certain freezing conditions do, and can create layers of protection for the more enterprising.  Nature, being nature, deals a blow to the rest, and the retreating cold reveals the bodies of those failing to find suitable shelter.

Humans must also cope.  Rounds are made to homes isolated, their occupants caged – in Bujanovac, favours are done, though these are self-serving.  Bills must still be paid, even in the midst of catastrophe, and men make their rounds to gather payment.  (How helpful.)  The elderly must not be forgotten as units of payment for the state craving its pennies – the utilities providers shall have their pound of flesh.  For some, reserves are running out, and humanitarian assistance is sought.  Snow kisses the young who play in it but condemns the aged who would prefer a warmer fate.  The craving for spring is palpable.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark, is a Journalist & News Reporter of World Events for Global News Aruba. He is a Senior Lecturer at the worlds top 1 % best world's colleges RMIT University in Australia the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, teaching within the Bachelor of Social Science (Legal and Dispute Studies) program. He  holds a PhD in history from the University of Cambridge. He also holds a Masters degree in history and honors degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Queensland.  His field of expertise as an academic are: Institution of war, diplomacy, international relations, 20th century history, terrorism, and international law. DrBinoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.
Contact Dr Binoy Kampmark at: 

"" Trump’s Steel Barrier Border Fortification, Partial Government Shutdown, “Where is the Emergency”? ""

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Signature News Reporter 

Global News Aruba

Sunday Online Newspaper 01.13.2019 

New year occasions, given the pleasant fiction it entails, are times to change.  Resolutions are made by that delightful species Homo sapiens, hope packaged for quick delivery to those who promise change.  The weak will become stronger; the strong will show humility.  The venal, well, they just might change. 

Human nature suggests the opposite, and 2019 has begun with an unsurprisingly consistent thud from the White House.  The House Democrats have barricaded themselves on one side; President Donald Trump mans the opposing positions.  A partial government shutdown has been in effect for almost three weeks.  But the new year tidings have merely made the president more insistent.  He demands $5.7 billion to construct a steel barrier as part of the border fortifications along the US-Mexico border, and reminds Democrats that they did, in 2006, vote for a physical barrier of 1,120 km.  Overall, he insists this is small beer, as Mexico will fund the wall through a rejigged North American Free Trade Agreement.  Mexican officials and politicians beg to differ, as they always have.

In his January 8 address, the president insisted on a “growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border” (growth of a crisis is a common Trump theme).  That particular “southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl.  Every week 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border.”

For Trump, selective culling and trimming is essential to any message that winds its way to the public sphere that can be dared called a forum.  He edits texts, perceptions and accounts to oblivion, putting in place his distinct variation.  Where there is something minor, there is bound to be a catastrophe.  Where there is a calamity, it is bound to be distinctly minor. 

This was his view on the use of emergency powers as described by Adam Smith, the sort he hopes to use in dealing with getting funds to resolve his Mexican problem, thereby ending the “humanitarian” and “security” crisis.  Doing so would enable him to access sources otherwise frozen by the current shut down. 

“Congressman Adam Smith, the new Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, just stated, ‘Yes, there is a provision in law that says a president can declare an emergency.  It’s been done a number of times.’” 

That tweet is, as is the Trump method, right and wrong, and even he hopes to make sure that the work is best done through Congress.  Smith did tell ABC News’s This Week that emergency powers were available to be invoked.  But, as ever, the qualifying statement follows. “In this case, I think the president would be wide open to a court challenge saying, ‘Where is the emergency?’  You have to establish that in order to do this.’”  Those words to George Stephanopoulos have managed to make their way into the ether of forgetting, as is the Trump way.

Political emergencies tend to be confections and propagations, puffed realities advanced by demagogues and figures of desperation.  The issue of a Mexican emergency on the border has always been far-fetched, but last Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was insisting that there were 4,000 suspected or known terrorists who had been caught attempting to enter freedom’s land, with Mexico being the “most vulnerable point of entry”.  Such a statement implied that Mexico was playing its own irresponsible part in ensuing this vulnerability to prosper.  A qualifier was subsequently made by White House advisor Kellyanne Conway: the figures used in rather cavalier fashion by Sanders had been from 2017 for the whole set of attempted entrants.

Trump has some latitude in redirecting military funds by a declaration of a formal emergency under the National Emergencies Act of 1976.  The threshold is surprisingly low, a more than generous nod towards executive flexibility in determining what might constitute a state of sufficient disturbance.  What matters from Trump’s perspective is showing how the border wall would fit into the category of a military fortification.  While his judgment might well be challenged in court, the issue of standing for any opponents will be problematic.

Trump has been attempting to make his own crusted resolutions, which seem very much like those made in 2018.  For man quick to disturb and disrupt, he remains painfully, and sometime ineffectively, consistent.  Even he found the issue of giving his January 8 address a bit of a bore, and did his boring best to remind us why he feels the Democrats should throw their lot in to assist the wall project.    

Opponents should now know that the way through the man’s heart is to anticipate the proffering of a promise that can only be made by giving the impression that his wishes will be satisfied, only to then adjust the outcome.  Pretend, and let the rest go.  But politics in the Trump era remains, for the moment, ruled by a classic misapprehension: that the tweet is not only the message, but the whole message, to be attacked for its facts, presumed or otherwise.  Treat it seriously at your own peril.  As things stand after the January 8 speech, the words of Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan are as accurate as any: “Nobody convinced anybody.”  


Dr. Binoy Kampmark, is a Journalist & News Reporter of World Events for Global News Aruba. He is a Senior Lecturer at the worlds top 1 % best world's colleges RMIT University in Australia the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, teaching within the Bachelor of Social Science (Legal and Dispute Studies) program. He  holds a PhD in history from the University of Cambridge. He also holds a Masters degree in history and honors degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Queensland.  His field of expertise as an academic are: Institution of war, diplomacy, international relations, 20th century history, terrorism, and international law. DrBinoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.
Contact Dr Binoy Kampmark at: 

" Oaked Fires in Serbia. “For the Slavs, the Tree Remains all Central and Bearing” "

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Signature News Reporter 

Global News Aruba

They set out early in the morning, men with axes, boys in tow and, for some, the odd girl champing at the bit.  The woods are some way from Bujanovac, but these columns of individuals resembled statues who have moved off their plinths, heading to the woods that call them with mesmerising force.  The groves seem to speak in this part of Europe, where the Serbs still commune with a spirit of past.  Industrialisation has yet to kill off this element, yet to estrange the citizens from the south from their magical ends.

The woods have, historically, served as links between the finitely mortal and timeless supernatural, a manifestation with roots in the earth, deeply grown and burrowed, and leaves in the canopy, a link pointing to the heavens.  The Norse peoples worshiped Yggdrasil, a great, worldly ash tree cosmically sustaining the mortal and immortal, whatever the form. 

For the Slavs, the tree remains all central and bearing, the fecund creature that holds the seeds of all, the progenitor for the verdant world.  To down such a tree, or, in the tradition of the badnjak, to remove a sampling of oak covered in brown gold leafing, would require ceremonial preliminaries.  And so this cautionary note has survived, more in the context of communal gathering and pursuit, as it does on this day, the determined axemen of the village, fortified by wine and local brandy, making their way as if in a deep trance, towards the woods that call them with mesmerising calls.  There is a slow motion carnival feel to this, and this is topped by a horse plumed in red baubles, heading with a look of obedience, to the show.  To the woods, and there, you shall find yourself with a branch’s severance, a small tree’s beheading.

With the necessary badnjak samples gathered, religious authority is consulted.  At the local church in the village of Rakovac in the Preševo Valley, an area awash with mineral goodness from its waters, the priest is buzzing and busy, a man deluged with attention.  He is parachuted in to perform ceremonial duties after his previous counterpart committed adultery and fled for Austria with his new bride.  There, he keeps up a long Yugoslav mission of feeding other economies with the Gastarbeiter.   

Contributions are made as each oak tree is blessed with a dip and a splash, and the icon kissed, all taking place in the church yard and a Christmas freeze.  The line of oak carrying devotees forms like a living forest, moving slowly through snow and frozen mud.  The fire in the church yard burns as welcome and promise, and here, the Christian message is tagged to the pagan, a feat of neat historical reconstruction: the heat brought from burning the badnjak suggests the three shepherds warming the stable of Jesus’s birth. 

The music commences, wind meeting brass, the clarinet engaging the trumpet.  Vocal chords are exercised.  The procession to the village square commences with a noisy enthusiasm that drowns out the doubts of despair and dark thoughts.  Solemn celebration thatches with defiance. 

At the village gathering, evident hierarchies seem to take shape.  The in-crowd is to be found in proximity to the brandy, or rakija, cooking away in a capacious stove overseen by two men whose teeth have seen better days.  The outers, hugging a local convenience shop like frozen sparrows, gaze on with a slightly menacing look, though this is merely temporary and marked more by curiosity than anything else.  They bide their time and will, when the moment comes, commit to the ring dance that is bound to eventuate. 

There are old men, craggily faced and withered with memories and young men with short hair, some even shaved, with suspicions of the new age.  NATO, throbs the sentiment in this crowd, cannot be trusted over the mischief in Kosovo (the recent moves by that confused political entity to create its own army in defiance of the stationed troops from the alliance have released fears).  History remains a set of betrayals, missteps and misunderstandings, a vice that seemingly clamps on this region.  The next disaster is deemed as inevitable as the next tummy upset. 

The bonfire gathers momentum in the village centre, the primeval lusty flame that lights hope and shreds fears.  It is all fire in this region: fire in the woodstove that delivers the distinctly flavoured food of immense quantity while warming houses; fire in the church yard that acts like a beacon for the faithful; fire to dance around; fire as life.  The inferno is sovereign, governs the soul, dictates the process of communing.  It is elemental.  To gaze at this promethean flame in the home stove or in the village square as it rises to consume is to be alive and feel the veins warmed, to embrace something atavistic and deep; to know that you can endure what is to come despite the calamities that might be faced and, truth be known, to deny.

Children release eardrum creasing crackers with irritating enthusiasm, some casting them into the mother flame; flare guns are released, usually by those yet to reach puberty.  (Where the gun speaks, whatever form it takes, the conversation may prove violent.) Earlier in the day, live guns were fired, a stutter in the wintry air softened by the snow-capped earth and the vegetation creamy white from heavy falls.  While celebratory, these have a sinister undertone, a promise from Serbs to counterparts – the Albanians, for the most part – that they are up for a fight in the demographic and political struggle for this region. 

The rakija that heats in the stove overlooking the small centre in Rakovac – one can hardly call it a square, given the misshapen nature – is cooked for the masses, and the men who come to it are filled with its manna-giving properties.  The warming liquid is distributed in plastic cups, and are filled to their dripping brims.  The set of dances start to breakout, vigorous, energetic, even manic.   The gyration and jangling around the fire signals pagan tribute and affirmed living, for it is here, in this dance around the flames, that reassurance comes in abundance.  Then, a man of about forty raises a flaming sample of fireworks, an all glorious flare.  The entire audience is illuminated, faces in rapture. The fire, alive from the oak, continues to feed.


For Media or Viewers Questions Contact
Dr Binoy Kampmark

" Gabon and Coup Mania "

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Signature News Reporter 

Global News Aruba

It starts with a presumption, makes its way through a discussion, and becomes a set, moulded stereotype: Africa is the continent of tin pot dictatorships, unstable leaderships, and coups.  Latin America, attuned to brigandage and frontier mentalities, is not far behind.  Such instances lend themselves to the inevitable opportunity to exploit the exception.  Gabon, ruled by the same family without interruption since 1967, is being stated as a possible example.

The news so far, if one dares trust it, suggests that a coup was put down in the African state with the loss of two lives.  Seven of the plotters were captured a mere five hours after they seized a radio station, during which Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang broadcast a message claiming that President Ali Bongo’s New Year’s Eve message “reinforced doubts about the president’s ability to continue to carry out of the responsibilities of his office.”  Bongo, for his part, had seemed indisposed, suffering a stroke in October and slurring his words in a speech during a December 31 television appearance.

As with other attempted coups, the plotters portrayed themselves as up-market planners in the Brutus mould.  They were killing Caesar to save Rome.  In this case, the men of the Patriotic Movement of the Defence and Security Forces of Gabon were keen to “restore democracy”.  The attempt was put down with some speed.  “The situation is under control,” came a government statement some hours after security forces regained control of the RTG state broadcasting headquarters.  Guy-Betrand Mapangou, true to the sort of form shown by a regime unmoved, insisted that, “The government is in place.  The institutions are in place.”

The coup fascination may not be healthy but is nonetheless fascinatingly morbid.  Jonathan Powell and Clayton Thyne from the University of Central Florida and University of Kentucky cannot get enough of the business, and have compiled a register of failure.  These political scientists insist on defining coups as “illegal and overt attempts by the military or other elites within the state apparatus to unseat the sitting executive”.  But having to presumably stake some exceptional view to the field, the authors insist that those who go through with a coup have power for at least seven days.  (Why not six or eight?)

This cottage industry invariably produces much smoke but a conspicuous lack of fire.  In 2016, with the failed coup in Turkey unfolding, James McCarthy, writing for Wales Online, insisted on a guidebook approach, drawing from Thyne and Powell’s research.  They, according to McCarthy, “found there were 457 coup attempts between 1950 and 2010.  Of those, 227 were successful and 230 failed.”  Invariably, the Americas and Africa feature as the prominent zones of coups.

The BBC has felt free to run with a map featuring African states “with the highest number of coups since 1952,” a kind of morbid horror show of instability.  Sudan is a big league player in this regard with 14, followed by other states which seem to be in competition with each other (Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Benin and Nigeria come in with eight; Sierra Leone and Ghana sport ten).

Unmentioned in the show was the number of times conspirators, cabals and groups have been encouraged, courtesy of external powers, to sabotage fledgling democratic regimes and back counter-revolutionary agents.  As important as the coup plotters are the coup backers, often to be found in Washington and European policy planning departments and company boardrooms.  The story of stuttered, mutated revolutions in Africa and Latin America is very much one of externally directed coups as much as failed local experiments. 

The issue, as if it matters much, about whether a coup is, or is not happening, is a constant theme.  According to Powell,

“Coup leaders almost invariably deny their action was a coup in an effort to appear legitimate.”

This is banally leaden as an observation.  All coups must, by definition, be asserted as acts of dissimulation, and not savage, all extirpating revolutions.  To merely depose a leadership is, by definition, conservative.  In a modern state, decapitation might create some initial chaos but leaves the structure, for the most part, intact.  Coups often have the effect of shoring up the junta, in whatever form it takes.

The field of coup gazing also has a moral edge.  There are coups with supposedly good import, and those that are not.  Portugal’s “Carnation Revolution” ending the seemingly interminable rule of António de Oliveira Salazar, is cited as one example.  A coup might engender fertile grounds for a democratic movement, or suffer entropic decline before authoritarian reassertion.  A good coup, speculated the Washington Post, took place in Burkina Faso in 2015, with the end of Blaise Compaoré’s rule.  The same paper does note the rather banal qualifier: that “policymakers and academics should not get too excited about the allegedly positive consequences of coups in Africa.”  African armies, for instance, might propel democratic elections; they might just as well remain in power.

Scholars such as Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way argue that multiparty elections in the aftermath of change can just be a front.  Democratic talk can be so much babble before manipulating strongmen.  “Competitive authoritarian regimes,” argue the authors, can entrench themselves.  All this seems beside the point in Gabon, a distant murmur to the academic discourse and policy ponderings that dazzle a good number of analysts.  The obvious point tends to be same: coups tend to be rooted in evolutionary orthodoxy rather than earth shattering revolution.  They are also often the work of unseen hands behind unstable thrones.  Identify those hands, and you may well have some answers. 


For Media or Viewers Questions Contact
Dr Binoy Kampmark
Brexit Armageddon
By Dr Binoy Kampmark
 London, New Year’s Eve 2018. It is a very English middle-class trait: the world will end if the price of a certain life style goes up.  Certain services will be cut.  Access to certain travel destinations might be restricted.  (The usual European haunts in France and Spain rendered dearer if not inaccessible.)  But there is no denying that the attitude to the New Year from this side of the world is one of gloom made normal.

Not a day goes by without a digest of panicked revelations about what will happen in the event of a “no-deal Brexit”.  A lack of certainty has propelled a set of speculations so thick as to be asphyxiating.  But there is always room for more, the next desperate act of a government so cadaverous it can only give vague clues that it is still alive, wincing, dodging and avoiding what faces the United Kingdom before the mandarins in Brussels and the nostalgia driven addicts in the Conservative Party.

London itself is the ground-zero of teeth-chattering panic.  Stockpiling of essentials (and various non-essentials) is taking place in a manner reminiscent of the doom that might arise from nuclear holocaust or a crippling blockade initiated by a foreign power.  These fears are not entirely irrational: no one knows what might happen to the smooth exchange of goods ands services with the EU in the absence of any clear set of guidelines.

The latest manifestations of this sense of heightened neuroses can be found in three ferry contracts that have been awarded to French, British and Danish companies.  But the means of shipping do not combat paperwork on the ground, the sort is bound to mount once Britain’s departure from the EU bloc is enforced.   Chief Executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping Bob Sanguinetti puts it bluntly:

“Government is rightly preparing for every eventuality… but it is not clear that government-chartered ships can move goods faster or more efficiently than the private sector.”

The issue of customs remains an obstacle that threatens to hove into view with disrupting menace.

That said, the eve of 2019 featured a comic affair with a bitterly ironic dimension, an episode that rapidly came to be known in Twitterland as Ferrygate, more conventionally termed the Seaborne Freight controversy.  It began with murmurs printed in the Financial Times from the May government that a no-deal Brexit could see the Dover corridor, comprising the port and tunnel, run at between 12-25 percent of normal capacity for half a year.  Given that the proportion of trade being handled through the corridor comes to an eye-popping 52 percent of value of the total trade in goods with the EU (some £422.6 billion), this is more than troubling.

This doomsday scenario was somewhat papered over by the farcical circumstances behind one of the ferry contracts – the British one no less – that was meant to be yet another emergency measure, part of a broader £107.7 million arrangement.  The purpose of the contract will be to provide substitutable capacity to handle exiting volumes of trade that would have otherwise gone through the Dover corridor.

But the jokes piled on quickly: Seaborne Freight, having won a £13.8 million contract to operate ferries on a Ramsgate to Ostend route, had never previously operated ferries and had no intention of doing so till touching distance of the scheduled departure date from the EU.

“It has no ships and no trading history,” observed Paul Messenger, Conservative county councillor for Ramsgate, “so how can due diligence be done?”

The Department of Transport finds itself in a state of pulsating anxiety, churning out the paperwork of woe.  The choice of words in its documents supplies more than a hint about what is coming, even if they genuinely cannot imagine what that might be.  Such agreements are being put in place to counter “unforeseeable” situations, which is more than mildly absurd given that those situations are precisely that: unforeseeable.

The entire Brexit reaction has been characterised by a total absence of planning, which propels the circular reasoning that you cannot plan for what you simply do not know.  This feeds the apocalyptic scenarios of empty supermarket shelves and absentee workers in industries characterised by the employ of vast numbers of EU citizens.

It has also bred a total mistrust. Plans circulate with a giddying confusion that show lack of consultation and engagement.  Major motorworks, by way of example, have focused on the port of Dover.  The plan (dare one use the word?) is to turn the M26 motorway into a holding area for hundreds of heavy vehicles to permit traffic greater freedom to move.  In October, local MP Tom Tugendhat, Conservative chair of the foreign affairs committee, was seething in the House of Commons:

“It’s come to a pretty pass when [an MP] finds out that works have begun on a motorway to turn that motorway into a parking lot without consultation either with the local community or with surrounding [MPs].”

Fittingly absurd, though not as much as awarding a ferry contract to a company without ships.


Contact Dr Kampmark: 

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DR BINOY KAMPMARK ::

“Environmental Buccaneering”: Adani’s Stalling Mega-Mining Project in Northern Australia 

01.02.2019

It should be a sign for this Indian giant, a company that has done much to illustrate the ethical and moral bankruptcy in Australia’s political classes.  Despite support stretching from Canberra to rural Queensland, lifted by the fantasy of job creation, Adani is yet to dig the earth of what would have been one of the largest mining complexes on the planet.  

For one thing, a downsizing was announced suggesting a more compact operation that would supposedly fly under the radar of detractors.  From its initial, lofty ambitions of a $16.5 billion investment, Adani Mining chief executive Lucas Dow now suggests a less extravagant $2 billion reliant on existing rail infrastructure.  Even here, the mission to establish a new coal mine seems grotesque given the dire warnings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  While Adani mines, the world cooks. There is more than a sense that Adani is a poisoned chalice best avoided by all concerned – unless you are an Australian energy or resources minister incapable of evaluating history or the future prospects of fossil fuels.  This point is particularly problematic given the admission by Indian officials that coal is going off the books at such a rate that the Carmichael project is destined to become the most muddle headed of white elephants.  Indeed, existing thermal coal power in India costs twice what renewable generation does. 

The outlook for such analysts as the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis is glum for the coal romantics and fossil fuel adorers.

“Exports have declined since 2015,” goes its report last month, “and more contraction is expected.  High export revenues entirely reflect current high prices which are themselves partially a result of declining investment in thermal coal mining.” 

Banks have refused to grant a line of finance.  Insurance and reinsurance companies have resisted supplying cover for the coal mine – among them, AXA, SCOR, FM Global, QBE and Suncorp.  Some insurance companies – Allianz, Munich Re, Swiss Re, Zurich and Generali – have environmental policies that preclude engagement with the project. 

The hope for Adani is that various ditherers and the morally lax might still be in the market to cover this enterprise of pure environmental buccaneering: US re-insurer giants such as AIG, AXIS Capital and Berkshire Hathaway have yet to make their stance on this clear.

Such reluctance was prompted, in no small part, by the efforts of 73 environmental organisations, topped by a letter to 30 global insurance and reinsurance companies sent earlier this month.  Such groups have been unrelenting in emphasising the dangers posed by the Carmichael project.  These do not only entail the mining operations themselves but the rail line linked to the export terminal that would threaten the Great Barrier Reef.  Biodiversity and a World Heritage Site remain vulnerable targets before a company renowned for its rapacity towards worker and environment.Other animals have also become talismans of resistance to the project, assuming titanic proportions for opponents.  The Black-throated finch has become something of an activists’ cult, marked by the Black-throated Finch Recovery Team’s insistence that Adani’s reassurances in their protection and preservation are, at best, woeful.  A promise to conduct surveys twice a year hardly counted, and the experts were being given the cold shoulder in what was deemed a “closed book consultation”.  Adani insists on those who sing appropriate tunes.The company’s response has been that of a diligent, agonised box ticker keen on following process.

“The claims that the process has not been ‘followed on a number of different levels,’” went a rebuking spokesperson for the company last year, “is without basis as Adani has followed the legislation and conditions set in close consultation with the Federal and Queensland governments.”

Then there is a sticking point that refuses to go away: Adani’s promised, seemingly unquenchable thirst.  Up to 12.5 billion litres of water drawn from the Suttor River in central Queensland is being sought to aid the open-cut coal effort.  The misnamed Environment Minister’s portfolio, inhabited by the near invisible Melissa Price, did not feel any pressing concerns for conducting an assessment on how damaging such a move would be.

Again, Adani is there with qualifiers and dismissive counters, which are hard things to pull off, given the persistent trouble of drought in Queensland: the issue of the mandatory water trigger, which comes into play in such significant projects, should only apply to water used in the coal extraction process, rather than its overall plan of water usage which it has conveniently softened as a water strategy.  As the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy explains, “stand-alone proposals which involve only associated infrastructure, such as pipelines, are not captured by the water trigger because they do not directly involve the extraction of coal”. Such bureaucratic riddling does well in Canberra. the Australian Conservation Foundation is not impressed, and is taking the matter to the Federal Court.  By not considering the issue of how broad the water trigger was, Price had erred in a matter of law.  As things stand, Price and her colleagues, in connivance with Adani, are erring on a lot more besides, making the campaign against the mine a fundamental counter against permissible and ultimately scandalous environmental vandalism.


Contact Dr Kampmark: 

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Cooking Books and Limiting Responsibility: The Goldman Sachs Playbook in Malaysia

by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

World Events Journalism

Global News Aruba

Managing a bank will always be a more lucrative criminal enterprise than raiding one but this Brechtian styled analysis only goes so far.  A closer look at the extraordinary nature of Goldman Sachs and its operations reveals not merely a bank but a cult of considerable proportion, brazen in its operations and indifferent to authorities.  While states have been surrendering their functions to banks with more regularity than unconscious organ donors, the catch-up was bound to happen. In Malaysia, a country at times irritable with the liberties taken by financial institutions, a retaliation of sorts is taking place.

The Malaysian government now claims that the bank’s subsidiaries, two ex-bankers from Goldman Sachs and Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, engaged in an enterprise of misappropriation to the tune of $2.7 billion.  To that can be added claims of bribery and supplying false statements.  But Goldman remains an old hand at this, already doing what it is famed for: minimising any alleged role of impropriety.

Wherever one turns to this mercenary of the finance world, the pattern is tried and familiar.  Clients of varying moral persuasions are targeted; books and accounts are cooked to order; loans and purchases are arranged.  The result is often murky and often seedy.

Examples of this proliferate in the financial jungle.  Greece stands out as one such client, entering into derivatives contracts with Goldman permitting a part securitisation of debt that evaded European Union rules on reporting.  This came via cross-currency swaps on a historically implied foreign exchange rate, meaning that a weaker Euro rate was used to obtain more Euros in exchange for Greece’s Yen and Dollar reserves.  The derivatives effectively functioned as loans from Goldman to the Greek government, enabling an easy fudge on deficit and debt figures.

Malaysia, with its suitable stable of malleable figures and functionaries keen for the quite literal steal, was also ripe for arrangements.

 “We cannot have an egalitarian society – its impossible to have an egalitarian society,” claimed former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak in September 2013 before an audience at the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco.

Najib is now chief target of Malaysia’s current Mahathir administration.

That meeting also had another addition.  Tim Leissner, one of the anointed from the Goldman Sachs Group, was there.  In his role as Southeast Asia chairman, he presided over a financial empire with smooth channels of access to those in power.  Najib’s coming to office in 2009 saw an approval of Goldman’s application to conduct fund management and corporate finance activities.  Then came the deals with the state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).  Goldman made a stunning $600 million in raising $6.5 billion for 1MDB in 2012 and 2013 on three bond sales.  Its justification for such a figure lay in the underwriting of risks undertaken by the bank itself.

The matter with the 1MDB fund started going off.  It was rumoured that money was not going to the necessary infrastructure projects but making its way into private accounts.  Najib is now the target of a corruption case that has legs linking him to a former subsidiary of IMDB, namely SRC international.  Swiss prosecutors are investigating suspected misappropriations from the 1MDB amounting to $4 billion.

Leissner, like Najib, is out of favour, pleading guilty to US bribery charges in August.  Investigators are now interested to see whether Goldman Sachs had the temerity to mislead bondholders and break anti-corruption laws.

The bank is attempting to run by the old playbook of limited responsibility.  (It should be rebadged limitless irresponsibility.)  Isolate the virus; defer focus and accountability.  The rogue employee argument becomes the default position in such a manoeuvre.  Leissner and managing director Ng Chong Hwa, have been singled out as the villainous architects, while Andrea Vella has been put out to grass – for the moment.

Such a tactic is known and questionable.

“No matter how senior you are,” opined an anonymous former Goldman employee to CNBC, “there’s always somebody above you.  So a lot of people had to decide they were comfortable committing billions of dollars to this.”

Individuals like chief financial officer Stephen Scherr would have had a say, not to mention current CEO David Solomon and his predecessor Lloyd Blankfein.

That approach is also supplemented by the added incentive of libelling the client.  When things go wrong, the customer is not always right.  How, argues the company, could they have known that the raised revenue would be misappropriated?  In a statement from Goldman,

“Under the Malaysian legal process, the firm was not afforded an opportunity to be heard prior to the filing of these charge against certain Goldman Sachs entities, which we intend to vigorously contest.”

The institution knows it will get into regulatory hot water and insures against it.  That’s the Goldman way.  It will bet against the very same derivatives it sells to clients while using mortgage investment schemes that are immune to success.  It will engage in insider trading and, as happened in April 2012, be fined a mere $22 million.

The sheer audacity of this financial institution is finally captured by its confidence that failings, when not given minor punishment, might well be rewarded by the state.  Goldman Sachs is the sort of institution which has thrived on the largesse of government assistance – the old socialise your losses but privatise your gains sort of philosophy runs through its operational philosophy.  It knows, whatever the weather, it will always be guaranteed a safe place to moor.

As the financial crisis of 2008-9 began to bite with ferocity, the banking concern received some $10 billion, followed by $12.9 billion in credit default swap insurance via the bailout of AIG.  As John Lanchester pointed out at the time, the sensitive, well-thought out response of gratitude duly followed: the bank paid itself $16.7 billion in pay and bonuses for the first three quarters of the year.  That’s bankocracy for you.


Contact Dr Kampmark: 

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Leaving Syria: President Trump’s Withdrawal

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark 

World Events Journalism

Global News Aruba

“The President announced an apparently impulsive decision that shook the world, showed little sign of nuanced consideration, confounded top advisers and by the end of the day left Washington in chaos and confusion.”  So goes a typical contribution from CNN, this time byStephen Collinson, pooh-poohing President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out some 2,000 US troops based in Syria. Trump had, whether intentionally or otherwise, touched a sentiment that has seethed underneath the US character at stages of the imperium’s muddled history.  “Torn between nostalgia for a pristine past and yearning for a perfect future,” scribbled that self-important sage and practitioner of US foreign relations, Henry Kissinger, “American thought has oscillated between isolationism and commitment.”

Isolationism has become a pejorative used to scold and denigrate any movement that supposedly moves the US imperial machine away from its policing role.  Cheered on from the international relations galleries, the US as an international sergeant has hardly bettered the world, often finding its clay feet in countries it needlessly deployed forces to.  (It’s all in the name of national security, of course.)  Nor can it ever have been said to be truly isolationist in any strict sense.

Between the War of 1812 against Great Britain and the Spanish-American War of 1898, the US maintained a posture of intervention, interference and influence at the regional level, thus designating it an assertive “hemispheric” power.  “Security,” suggested historian John Lewis Gaddis, “could best be assured… by making certain that no other great power gained sovereignty within geographic proximity of the United States.”

It also proved a violation of that keen injunction made by the all too intelligent President John Quincy Adams in his July 4th address in 1821, one that still sums up the US mission in all its doomed sanctimonious glamour.  “Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will be her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.”  But be wary of going abroad “in search of monsters to destroy”; to do so might make the US “dictatress of the world” while no longer being “the ruler of her own spirit”.

Trumpland is a tense, manic place, one where chiding allies and high-fiving authoritarian figures might be permissible; but it is also one that eschews the stifling nature of relationships that entangle.  Alliances, like love affairs, can cloy after awhile.  Accusations of infidelity and poor bedroom performance are bound to follow.

Such an approach is bound to leave powers collaborating with Washington in the lurch, a point exemplified by the latest Syria announcement.  “Does the USA,” tweeted Trump on Thursday, “want to be the Policeman of the Middle East, getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing?  Do we want to be there forever?  Time for others to finally fight…”

For Trump, no one should have raised an eyebrow, or had a complaint.  “Getting out of Syria was no surprise.  I’ve been campaigning on it for years, and six months now, when I very publicly wanted to do it, I agreed to stay longer.”  In what was a classic deferral of authority in the Syrian campaign, a backhanded admission of sorts, he noted how “Russia, Iran, Syria & others are the local enemy of ISIS.”  Why do their blood shedding work?  “Time to come home & rebuild.” Where Trump reverts to full throttle idiosyncrasy (his critics would term it immodest derangement) is his novel assessment of attitudes of those three states at imminent US withdrawal.  “Russia, Iran, Syria & many others are not happy about the US leaving, despite what the Fake News says, because now they will have to fight ISIS and others, who they hate, without us.”  The focus, rather, was on the US “building by far the most powerful military in the world.  ISIS hits us they are doomed!” To round off the announcement, one of the last stalwarts resisting the fever of resignation and sacking that has afflicted the administration, announced his departure.  US Defence Secretary General Jim Mattis added his name to a pre-Christmas evacuation party that has made the Trump tenure one of the most eventful in US history.  His view on leaving remained that of the more orthodox defenders of the US imperium, with its umbrella of “alliances”.


“While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world,” he banally enunciated in his resignation letter, “we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.” Other politicians keen to keep the US brand in foreign military theatres were also dismayed at the move.  House Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi was “shaken by the news because of the patriot that Secretary Mattis is.”  The general had proven to be “a comfort to many of us as a voice of stability in the Trump administration.” Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), having argued that the US troops stationed in Syria were “vital to our national security interests” (he never coherently articulated how) seemed personally stung by the announcement. “I’m going to give you an honest evaluation. I am willing to support a Democrat if he followed sound military advice.  I’m willing to fight a Republican if you don’t.” After reading Mattis’ resignation letter, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) felt that the US was “headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation, damage our alliances & empower our adversaries.”  For Rubio and his extensively spread ilk in the foreign interventionist complex, Adams’ warning of 1821, given an awkward Trump twist in 2018, is not just history but another, very distant country.  Empire is its own global and lengthy commitment; to withdraw from any theatre is an admission that it is running out of gas and giving cheer to rivals.


CONTACT DR BINOY KAMPMARK

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