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"General Khalifa Haftar Moves on Tripoli"


Report by Dr Binoy Kampmark
Signature Journalist
Global News Aruba

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The government of national accord (GNA) is not getting the voices of support in foreign capitals it might have once enjoyed.  In early April, Al-Sarraj was keen to stress his view on how Libya would return to a state of strife-free normalcy. “We will not give up our principles and peaceful solutions to reach a civil state, to ensure that totalitarian rule or militarisation of the state will not return.”


Much stock was placed in having a national dialogue that would lead to “the unification of institutions and the holding of right presidential and parliamentary constitutional elections to allow people to have their say.”


General Haftar, veteran of the Libyan war in Chad during the 1970s and 1980s and touted past collaborator with the CIA, has preferred to spoil the party with his own effort to besiege the capital, despite efforts on the part of Western diplomats to discourage him.  His argument in attacking Tripoli since the chaos of 2011 has been directed at the feeble efforts of Libya’s interim figures, whom he accuses of being oblivious to the Islamist militia problem.  His response to the militia problem has been to create his own ragtag grouping of militias.  It takes one to get rid of one.


Al-Sarraj is doing everything he can to assure that his forces will play by the rules of international humanitarian law, hoping that this will keep him in the good books and add him to others.  A counter-offensive has begun, and clashes have been reported in Wadi Rabea, Airport Road, Ain Zara and Khalit Al-Furjan.


As the recognised government struggles, old formulae of accusations and suspicions are also playing out.  Al-Sarraj and his colleagues are convinced the general is getting support from external sources, though their finger pointing is somewhat awry.  Of little doubt is the assistance Haftar is receiving from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which have done their bit to add some polish in terms of equipment to the LNA.


Russia is keen that Haftar not receive all the blame for the new round of spoliation; the United States seemed confused on the matter in the UN Security Council, though President Donald Trump has done much to confuse the issue.  (Previously, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had called on Haftar to halt his attack.)  In conversations with Haftar, Trump seemed to give his nod of approval to the efforts on the part of the LNA leader to restore order.  In a phone call, Trump “recognised Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system.”


With the regime in Tripoli isolated, the Libyan Interior Minister, Fathi Bashagha, has led the recriminations.  France, despite having supplied six patrol boats to Al-Sarraj’s forces as early as February, not to mention training for the presidential guard, has been singled out as arch villain. The interior ministry has suspended “all relations between the ministry and the French side… due to the position of the French government in support of the criminal Haftar.”


European politicians are observing the latest round of violence with concern less for the humanitarian consequences to Libya than the clouded security picture that will follow.

“If the war persists,” warns former Italian Interior Minister Marco Minitti, “all those fleeing the clashes will turn into refugees per the international conventions, thus bringing among them foreign fighters from Syria and Iraq who usually use chaos to transport from one place to another.”


How inconsiderate of them.

The French response has been one of shrugged shoulders, and some regret.  But the final picture here is one of typical, undermining indifference. It was France who, helped by the United Kingdom and the United States, led the campaign to oust Muammar Qaddafi with catastrophic consequences for a state that has ceased to be.


Since 2011, to call Libya a functioning political entity has been a charade of grotesque proportion assisted by forced theatre on the diplomatic stage.  The post-2014 civil war in the aftermath of the ejection of the internationally acknowledged Libyan parliament by forces working with the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, has seen continuing, crippling conflict.  What is distinctly not a charade are the deaths and refugees that are growing in number, meaning that this failed state is on track to become the next blood soaked Syria.

"Irresponsible Protections: Venezuela and Foreign Intervention"


Report by Dr Binoy Kampmark
Signature Journalist
Global News Aruba


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To date, the political support Guaidó can count on, leaving aside his well wishers in the country, has been externally sourced; Washington and a range of European capitals have decided to turn their noses up at the UN Charter, though all are offering differing measures of encouragement.


The strategy on the part of the opposition has been one of triggering a broader popular insurrection.  While the protestors number many, to date, they have not been sufficient to oust Maduro.  This has led to calls for rallies and marches of such scale that they cannot be ignored.


“We,” Guaidó hopes, “call on all the people to join in the largest march in the history of Venezuela to demand the end to the usurpation so this tragedy can end.”


Maduro, for his part, is making a fist of it, attempting to stem the bite of US sanctions, notably those targeting the state oil company PDVSA.  This is being done by getting cash via Venezuelan oil sales through Russian state energy giant Rosneft, which is one of PDVSA’s largest creditors. Once obtained at a discount rate, Rosneft on-sells the oil at full price.


Interest has now shifted to a provision in the country’s constitution that offers the opposition a snifter of hope.  It is a fitting, discomforting echo to past instances where cabals and groups of officials would beg a foreign power to do the job of retrieving their positions or undermining those of others.  To that end, interest in Article 187(11), governing the powers of the National Assembly to authorise foreign interventions in the country, has spiked.


To hook to hang the argument upon has been that world weary Trojan Horse to state independence, humanitarian intervention.  How far does such generosity for a downtrodden populace extend?  Maduro’s opposition felt they could make much of the February 23 announcement to bring such aid into the state with the assistance of sympathetic foreign powers.  If they could do it, then surely, their virtue demanded reward?  Predictably, Maduro loyalists blocked the effort, leading to a parliamentary faction by the name of Bloque 16 de Julio urging the deployment of the article.


Vente Venezuela chief Maria Corina Machado is a key proponent, seeking to use the article to open the door for the international community to meddle and salvage.  The bricks and mortar behind the intervention would be that most troubling of doctrines, the Responsibility to Protect, a point expressly endorsed by former Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma.

“Maduro,” he exclaimed, “dances over the ashes of a destroyed country.”


For his part, Guaidó is more cautious, demonstrating the imaginary limits about how such a doctrine can be deployed. First, authorising such an intervention was not a decision to be “taken lightly” (read, potentially catastrophic); second, operational logistics, boundaries and protocols of engagement had to be specified.  As the blood spattered record of R2P shows, these limits are often the stuff of boardroom nonsense rather than military reality.  Once the bombs fall, the law falls silent.


The dress of humanitarian intervention is already looking very worn, and its tattered coverings will come off in any traditional invasion or toppling common in the Americas.  But things are bound to get more interesting with Russian counters, suggesting that President Vladimir Putin is ready for his next gambit.  Russia’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta has already made the point that Moscow is considering the deployment of strategic bombers on an ongoing basis in Venezuela to add to recent deployments of personnel in Caracas on March 23.  It is also said that an agreement has been reached between Moscow and Caracas to permit the deployment of Russian aircraft at La Orchila, where Russian advisors already find themselves.


An Ilyushin Il-62 plane carrying some hundred personnel and an accompaniment of 35 tons of material aboard an Antonov An-124 military cargo plane were already troubling additions to the picture for Washington.  It seemed to have, in its template, a Syrian-style propping up, and is nothing less than an act of niggling molestation for the US security establishment.  The official line, predictably enough, is that the deployments are there to shield non-military Russian personnel and provide assistance in maintenance of Venezuela’s Russian designed air-system.


On Moscow’s part, Washington’s intentions are clear enough.

“Now when the Americans keep saying that all options remain on the table,” suggestedRussian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Glavnoye with Olga Belova, “I have no doubt that they are calculating the consequences of a military adventure.”


The spoiling measure on President Putin’s part, with all the grit that comes with such calculation, is a simple admission that any overthrow of Maduro will be, at best, a messy affair and distinctly non-humanitarian in nature.  Washington, for its part, will simply do what it does worst: attempt, if it can, to deploy force clothed in translucent principles under the guise of realpolitik.

"Lethal Bungling: Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings"


Report by Dr Binoy Kampmark
Signature Journalist
Global News Aruba


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While the individuals behind the bombings were hardly forthcoming about their handiwork, there were suggestions as early as April 4 from Indian security sources that one group was readying to initiate various attacks.  National Thowheeth Jama’ath, an Islamic group, had piqued the interest of police enough to lead to the identification of members and their addresses on April 11.


One of the suicide bombers, it transpired, had also been arrested some few months prior on suspicion of vandalizing a statue of Buddha.  Such acts of serious desecration were not alien to the NTJ; the use of bombings on such scale was, however, not their forte.

On Monday, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne, confirmed what had already been a fast held suspicion: even after the warning of April 4, the prime minister and his associates had been “completely blind to the situation.”


The picture painted by the minister seemed a gruesome admission of defiance in the face of detailed warnings.  Intelligence agencies had “informed, from time to time, starting from April 4, 48 hours before the attacks and finally ten minutes before the tragedy struck.  They gave warnings about a possible attack on April 4 for the first time.”  From then on, the National Intelligence Chief Sisira Mendis kept the Inspector General Police (IGP) abreast of the “imminent attacks” having “actually informed that an organisation called ‘Thowheed Jamath’ planned suicide attacks and had even mentioned their names.”


Scenes of confusion and dangerously comic dysfunction unfolded in the government.  Despite various organs being informed about the threat – the ministerial security division (MSD), the judicial security division, and security divisions of former presidents and the Diplomatic Security Unit, there was a failure, according to Senaratne, “to warn the Prime Ministerial Security Division (PMSD) and the Presidential Security Division (PSD) of the attacks.”  When the PM attempted to convene a security council meeting, no one turned up.  When the President had made a previous effort to do the same thing, there was a delay of 20 minutes.  He had to “sit in the State Defence Minister’s room for some time.”  Nor was the Tourism Minister, John Amaratunga, briefed.  “Unfortunately, I did not know anything about it.”


Efforts to minimise, contain and deflect have become standard fare, with blithe ignorance forming the central defence.  Rich lashings of blame are also in full circulation.  This gives the air of monstrous acceptance: we bungled, but haven’t we before?  Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, on Monday, felt that the intelligence assessments had not warranted a serious, full security response, despite the level of detail supplied, and their frequency.


“Intelligence,” he stated disingenuously, “never indicated that it’s going to be an attack on this magnitude.  They were talking about isolated incidents.  Besides, there is no emergency in this country.  We cannot request the armed forces to come and assist as we can only depend on the police.”


Having claimed the received intelligence pointed to mere potential “isolated incidents” (the suggestion here is that a monstrous act, when seen as an isolated one, can be rationalised according to a security and ethical calculus; in short, more permissible), Fernando proceeded to normalise the entire episode.


“It’s not the first time a bomb went off in this country.  During the height of the war, when emergency regulations were in force and roadblocks installed at every two kilometres, bombs went off.  Why are you trying to isolate this unfortunate incident?”


At the highest levels, the Sri Lankan government has suffered political sclerosis.  President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, have been waging wars cold and hot against each other for some time.  When Wickremesinghe was re-appointed after being sacked by the cranky Sirisena in December last year, in turn replacing a cantankerous Mahinda Rajapaksa, the President extolled his own democratic credentials.  While he held a personal dislike for his appointee, he also respected “the parliamentary tradition”.


The post-attack reaction is also proving to be an unhinged affair.  Sri Lankan authorities immediately imposed a social media blackout.  Dazed and confused as officials are, the idea of not containing an agitated public as inquiries are conducted seemed a grave threat.  Besides, a country bathed in the blood of decades of communal violence continues to teeter before the next provocation, the next inflammatory message of inspired retribution.


There was little pride in asserting that the group was “a local organisation”, with all suicide bombers having been Sri Lankan citizens.  But not wishing it to be an entirely indigenous affair, Senaratne wished to speculate that, “there was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”  Another source of blame had been identified.


As Fernando surmised, it would be foolish to put too much stock in future efforts on the part of the government.  Yes, assistance was being sought from Interpol, the FBI and the Australian Federal Police. But he could not “take confidence with terrorism.  No country in the world can assure that it’s not going to happen.  But we are trying our best.”  A brutally frank response, though hardly a cleansing exculpation.


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:  [email protected][email protected]

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'Size Matters: The Demise of Airbus A380'

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Signature News Reporter for Aruba

Global News Aruba


The aircraft business has always been a dear affair.  More than other forms of transport, it remains susceptible to oscillating costs (materials, fuel), ever at the mercy of the uncontrollable.  The Airbus A380 was meant to be a giant’s contribution to aviation.  In time, its makers came to the conclusion that the bird had already flown.

In the solemn words of outgoing Airbus chief executive Tom Enders, “We have no sustainable A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years.”

As much as it was a “technical wonder” (an “outstanding engineering and industrial achievement” boasted Enders), the A380 simply did not have the momentum financially to carry the company.  To a large extent, this may have been embedded in the mission itself: to outperform, at quite literally all cost, the Boeing 747, the super mega jet dream born in 1988 when Airbus engineers went to work on designing an ultra-high-capacity-airliner (UHCA).  This would entail the guzzling addition of four jet engines, and an ongoing headache to the accountants. 

The consequences of this vain if admired project have been more than head-ache inducing.  Carriers who have gone for purchases of the divine beast have underperformed on the revenue side of things. Such large entities, to make matters viable, need orders covering up to four-fifths of the seats.  This leads to incentives to discount prices and seek promotions.  In the penny-pinching world of air travel, this is a tall order. 

And big it is.  The A380 was advertised for its breezy size and proportions – 73 metres in length, 80 metres wide, able to ferry 550 to 800 passengers, depending on type, on two complete decks.  Floor space was increased dramatically (some 49 percent), with additional seating being a mere 35 percent from the previous largest aircraft.  The comfort factor was enhanced: more passenger room, and less noise.  In a machine sense, it made many in the aeronautical side of things salivate: modern computerised systems; powerful Rolls-Royce reactors.  A truly big toy.

The transport routes favouring hubs (Dubai and Singapore) were originally the target of the A380.  Megacities would proliferate; traffic between them would necessitate bigger planes to cope with capacity issues.  Congestion would thereby be reduced.  But there were delays – some eighteen months – before it finally made its maiden flight on April 7, 2005. 

Then came a change in strategy from hub destinations.  A diversification of travel routes took place.  Appropriate capacity for destinations was simply not there.  The market has also grown at a lesser rate.  Projections, in other words, have not been met.

In 2015, it was already clear that the A380 was more than struggling. No new orders were taken. The order book then stood at 317 units, with Airbus needing to make it to 420 to break even. (The original projection had been 270, but delays and currency fluctuations will do that sort of thing.)

The arrival of fuel-efficient, longer-haul flights have also become something of a curse.  The Boeing 787 and Airbus’ own A350 have done more than simply pique interest.  A move in their direction signals a greater interest in the More Electric Aircraft generation.  Qantas Airways Ltd. is seen as an example: initially enthusiastic about Emirates, having made an alliance in 2013, it has moved with greater enthusiasm towards Cathay, courtesy of the 787. This means that the traditional hub destinations like Dubai can be by-passed.

The largest purchaser of the A380 – Emirates – has done its best to keep orders coming in for the company.  (In of itself, this suggests dangers to both purchaser and supplier.)  Gross orders as of January 31, 2019 show Emirates coming in at a staggering 162, with Singapore Airlines a very distant second at 24. Since 2008, it has made the airline its centrepiece.  Emirates’ tastes are also fairly unique, being the only major airline preferring large, twin-aisle, wide-bodied jets.

But the airline is looking elsewhere, downsizing to the smaller A350 or A330.  The numbers are eye popping: of the 56 aircraft still on the order line, 53 are set for Emirates; but Dubai’s national carrier was contemplating switching 20 orders of the Airbus SE 380.  Confirmation that it would cut orders for the A380 by 39 was enough of a call for Enders.

There are, however, still a few tricks available in the A380 bag.  Emirates, for one, managed to do the unusual thing of having increasing numbers of passengers while reducing departures.  It won’t and has not saved the continued production of the A380, but that large creature of avionics is set to be around for a time before a full, unpensioned retirement.  In Enders’ romantic reflection, the A380 would be roaming “the skies for many years to come”.


'Refugees as Business'

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Signature News Reporter for Aruba

Global News Aruba


Despair breeds profits; disturbances supply opportunity.  The genius and venal nature of human nature will always see a possible buck from an impossibly cruel situation.  Globally, a study should be done about how many billions goes into the supply of contracts, tenders and sweetheart deals to companies with a hand in the business of stopping and keeping refugees. They are the modern pimps of a distinctly modern market, and it pays to have a series of companies doing the work for governments.

All too often, the traffickers are saddled with the lion’s share of the blame.  Ignored are the equally vicious exploiters who find form in privately contracted companies.  In some ways, they have even less of a case to make: the right to seek asylum is recognised by the UN Convention on Refugees; the means to facilitate how that is done is a matter that has been seized upon by practitioners in the market.

In Europe, companies such as European Homecare and ORS Service have shown themselves indifferent and, in some cases, openly hostile, to the welfare of inmates and guards. The words of Marie Sallnäs of Stockholm University remain relevant in describing the entire basis of private sector providers when it comes to dealing with refugee arrivals: “cowboys who are only there because they want to make heaps of money.”

Australia storms ahead in these stakes.  Its officials pay the very people smugglers they condemn to take their trafficked goods elsewhere; it has fed a security complex that would make its Anglo forefathers proud (think the reaction of the British Empire to the Boers in South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century; think, dare it be said, concentration and concentrated camps).

The “can-do” country of innovative cruelty has been adding a host of ideas to the mix on how best to tackle those incorrigibles arriving by sea.  To that end, contracts have been awarded to various outfits with a good patina of near as to be criminality.  The contractor Paladin is the most recent upstart in this venture, having received, through a closed-tender process, a range of contracts worth $A423 million for 22 months of work.  It had been receiving $A17 million a month to provide security at three refugee centres located on Manus Island.

The company itself has a curious Australian address: 134 Nepean Esplanade, an inconspicuous beach shack on Kangaroo Island, South Australia.  It had only registered in Australia a month before winning a $A89 million contract to provide security services.  Importantly, Paladin is interested in the grand squeeze, ensuring that the cost for each detainee, minus the actual comfort they receive, exceeds a daily rate twice that for a five-star hotel suite with Sydney Harbour views. In that sense, the Australian tax payer and detainee are given a right royal rogering.

The company itself has done its best to step into the shade.  Founder Craig Thrupp has had a good time of it failing in delivering his contracts, accumulating a set of bad debts in Asia.  (Paladin had been previously known as High Risk Security Asia Pacific, a name oddly appropriate for anybody wishing to do deals with it.)  It has been reported to be running an office out of a beach shack on Kangaroo Island, a classic imposture demonstrating that illegitimate asylum seekers are less relevant than legitimate crooks who know how to cook the books for ruthlessly indifferent governments.

It is an appropriate reminder of another fiasco that took place in the United Kingdom at the end of last year: a ferry contract awarded to a company with no boats.  More digging suggested favours and turning, rather conspicuously, a blind eye.  Paladin’s questionable competence in providing security services does not match the guile evident in moving assets offshore: some 12,000 shares in Paladin Aus finding their way from the Hong Kong holding to its Singapore registered Paladin Holdings Pte Ltd.  The security side of the venture is evidently less relevant than the inventive tinkering of its accountants.

The Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, has retreated.

“I’ve seen this criticism before in relation to closed contracts,” he feebly explained to Sky News.  “There are very few people who can deliver services in the middle of nowhere on an island that is so remote.”

Stunning revelation.  But it was one designed to avoid cabinet responsibility, a concept long lost in Australia’s variant of the Westminster system.  According to Dutton, the ones to be taken to task here were the “secretary of the department ultimately” or some delegated figure “within the department.” Smell the confession.

Money is to be made, but Dutton is not claiming to be part of the scheme. His department, however, was not taking any chances.  Anyone curious enough to investigate the issue using Australia’s stunted Freedom of Information laws will find it interesting that the initial response from the Department of Home Affairs precluded FOI.  That decision was reversed, but Paladin did not need to comply with standard procurement rule set out by Commonwealth guidelines.  Backdoor easing comes to mind.

The Minister for Home Affairs begs to differ.  Nothing to see here, Dutton suggests; move on.  As Bernard Keane, writing for Crikey, explains, there is much to see and more besides, so much so that a Royal Commission into the affairs of the Home Department might be necessary.  And that would just be the start.


'Means of Control: Russia’s Attempt to Hive Off the Internet'

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Signature News Reporter for Aruba

Global News Aruba

(image courtesy Imparcial Mexico)


Such measures were always going to come on the heels, and heavily so, of the utopians.  Where there is Internet Utopia, Dystopia follows with dedicated cynicism.  Where there are untrammelled means of searching, there will be efforts to erect signposts, usually of a warning nature.  Like the librarian ever worried of her reader finding something inappropriate, material will be kept in a different section of the library, forever filed, concealed and kept from overly curious eyes.  The library, however, will never close. 

Like many of President Vladimir Putin’s projects, tackling the internet has all the elements of the improbable, the boastful and the grand quixotic.  It also has a certain Icarus, waxwing quality to it, and may end up melting when approaching its sunny objective.  Be that as it may, the Russian Internet Isolation Bill is simply another one for the books, another project in authority’s efforts to control, in the name of security, the way the world wide web works.  It seeks to impose further restrictions on traffic and data, routing it through state-controlled points to be registered with Roskomnadzor, the federal communications regulator. To this will be added a national Domain Name System, enabling the internet to function even if severed from foreign links.    

The obvious and sensible point here shared by all states with an interest in using, exploiting and controlling the internet is how best to preserve an information web function that is sovereign and resistant to attack.  The Russian suggestion here is somewhat bolder than others: to hive off and keep RuNet (the state’s internet infrastructure) safe from any cyber mauling. This would effectively link the Russian segment to a switch.  Even after an attack, the internet within the country might still function in its provision of online services, minimising internal chaos.

Critics of this Russian venture would do well to note the differing tactics of states towards the internet.  The functionaries in Moscow have never made any secret of the fact that control is the order of the day.  Ditto China, which remains all focused on maintaining its Great Fire Wall, barrier to deemed ills.  Other countries supposedly interested in freer flowing tributaries of information have the same suspicions and paranoias; they merely choose to manifest them in less heavy handed and, in some instances, underhanded ways. 

As a June 2018 piece from those sinister chaps at Stratfor observes with some accuracy, all governments wish to exploit the internet.  They are junkies for control.  “Administrations even in liberal countries such as the United States have attempted to direct online discourse and to sway public opinion toward some outlets and away from others.”  Ever mindful of future solicitations for its services, Stratfor insists that four countries “merit special attention for their efforts to break Western hegemony on the internet and, by extension, to challenge the free internet model.”  Delightfully slanted in selecting Iran, China, Turkey and Russia, the assessment ignores the obvious point: the free internet model is tat and show.

In the United States, where freedom of speech remains, at least in some form, relevant, the National Security Agency remains dedicated, not so much to controlling the net but conducting surveillance of it.  If you can’t beat it, spy on it.  The point was made with amply devastating effect by whistleblower Edward Snowden: “I, sitting at my desk, could wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email.”

The lower house of Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, allowed passage of the bill on February 12 as the first of three votes.  Amendments are bound to follow, but the work is formidable.  A working group of industry figures established to implement the directives of the ensuing legislation insists that various tests and simulations will have to be done by telecommunication companies to test the effect of disconnection.  Its head, Natalya Kaspersky, might well have praised the goals of the legislation, but she was frank enough about the draft law to suggest that implementing it “raises many questions”.

Critics are, rightly, concerned that such bills have a rather nasty effect on how the Russian segment of the internet will work, which is precisely the point.  The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs is suspicious that this is a grand act of self-harm.  The Communists are sceptical.  Vladimir Zhirinovksy of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia will not back it. 

The issues of cost and capabilities in creating the necessary equipment to implement such a regime of strategic isolation have also niggled legislators.  As LDPR lawmaker Sergei Ivanov bitterly mused in debate,

“Russia does not produce any IT hardware, only cables, which some people better hang themselves on.” 

Strange things tend to be suggested in the name of preservation. 

The broader response by onlookers stretching from those in Freedomland to more autocratic outposts is to simply keep Russia in the cybernews.  Cyberwarfare and cyber activities have lifted Russia into the permanent news cycle, and endless churning and turning in the domestic affairs of the United States and Europe.  Spot the hack, spot the Russian. Lose an election, blame it on the Kremlin’s hacking and electoral interference.  If only it were that simple.

For all the fears, coupled with the boast and bark from the Kremlin, this controlling effort, given the constant evolution of networks, may well collapse.  State regulators such as Roskomnadzor have already shown how they bungle when attempting to limit or stop various apps from working.  Last year’s effort to bar the encrypted communications app Telegram in 2018, for instance, disrupted associated IP addresses (15.8 million, in fact), precipitating havoc on Google and Amazon’s cloud-hosting platforms.  Networks will do that to you.

Notwithstanding that object lesson in what happens when swathes of the internet are blocked to target one undesirable gremlin, the utopians of government control are still in full voice. German Klimenko, who had a rough time of it as Putin’s grand wizard on internet affairs last year, may well be yet another name to add to that list, holding the belief that such complex interconnected systems can be protected by a merely “push” of a button without calamitous consequences.

In its ambition to control the internet, Russia is simply another state addicted to yet paranoid about the nature of the internet.  All states, by definition, want control over the highways, the lanes and the alleys of a system that has its origins in survivability in catastrophic conflict.  Paradoxically, it also has the means to inflict it.  That way, a state’s own infrastructure can be spared at some cost, allowing the censor of unwanted ideas to keep it company, rummaging through materials deemed appropriate for consumers.  That’s what you get for believing in utopia.


The views of this news report are only of Dr Binoy Kampmark and not those of Global News Aruba and its associates or the Editor in Chief, read our disclaimer and contact the News Reporter Dr. Binoy Kampmark for any questions on any articles on his page herein. Contact Dr Binoy Kampmark at: [email protected][email protected]

'Sharp Manias: Knife Crime in London'

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Signature News Reporter for Aruba

Global News Aruba

(image courtesy of RT News)

London. A bleak London assailed by daily news about Brexit negotiation, prospects of food shortages and higher prices in the event of a no-deal with the European Union, provides the perfect apocalyptic backdrop for headlines. The city is ailing; the residents are panicked; and the authorities are gloomy.    

Such environments are ideal for talk about emergencies.  One doing much filling on London airtime is that of knife crime.  Not that knife crime in of itself is unusual: for years, stabbing implements have made their way into broader law and order issues in the city’s policing scene, a good number featuring errant youth.  These have encouraged a wide array of myths masquerading as solid fact: London, the city of the “no-go” area; Londonistan, city of perpetual, spiralling crime.

In 2008, Britain’s public institutions – political and public – became darkly enraptured with knife crime afflicting inner city areas, with a heavy focus on London.  Stabbings were reported in lurid fashion; threats to urban safety were emphasised.  As Peter Squires noted in a fairly withering examination of the phenomenon in British Politics,

“The knife crime ‘epidemic’, as it came to be called, coincided with a series of youth justice policy measures being rolled out by the government, and significantly influenced them.”

Kevin Marsh of the BBC, writing at the same time, wondered how best a news organisation might report such crime figures.

“How much does tone and prominence distort the real picture?  Is some coverage self-fulfilling prophecy?  Does it spread fear and anxiety way beyond the rational?” 

Marsh would admit that being a victim of a knife crime was “very, very unlikely”; and that young men, in the main, did not carry knives; “most young people are not components of what some politicians are calling the ‘broken society’.”

For all that, Marsh found himself admitting that “it’s part of the purpose of our media to draw things to our attention, however crudely.”  The crude element remains the sticking point, resisting nuance, despite the hope that reporters might help “us citizens really think hard about possible solutions”.

Knife crime has become the bread and butter of lazy reportage, one hitched to the coattails of the broken society argument.  Describing a broken fence is easier fare than describing a mended one; solutions remain dull, academic matters.  The emergency narrative tends to emerge ahead each time; matters of social causes and complexity receive short shrift.  In 2017, Gary Younge turned his noise up at the panic merchants, and deemed teenage knife crime “a tabloid obsession, blamed on feral youth running riot in our cities.”  Such fears speaks to an obsession with decay and decline; youth go wrong if society does not go right.

In 2018, knife crime became a meme of terror.  The Express shouted with “London BLOODBATH” in a June headline, and subsequently began using it as a running title for any knife-related crime.  Political parties also capitalised on the atmosphere. In the east London borough of Havering, a local Conservative leaflet, buttering up electors ahead of the March local elections, promised mayhem.  “Mayor Khan and Corbyn’s men are desperate to grab power in our Town Hall, so get ready for… A London crimewave with even less police.”  In Lewisham East, UKIP candidate David Kurten added his bit in a by-election with a leaflet featuring the words “STOP THE KARNAGE” placed across a picture of a knife.

The dreary world of knife crime figures is erratic.  Between 2008 and 2014, offences involving knives or sharp instruments fell from 36,000 recorded offences to 25,000.  Then came an increase in 2015/6 – a nudge to 28,900.  The figures on death occasioned by knife crime are even more inscrutable, prompting Spiked Online to conclude that there was “no huge upsurge in knife violence because society overall is becoming less violent, and crime in general is falling.”  This was not to say that no concern should be felt: the issue is particular in London, and its effects disproportionate on young working-class black men. A possible explanation?  Not just indigence or exclusion, but nihilism and plain susceptibility.

Barely two months into this year, and the rounds of panic are in full swing.  As always, it’s the deceptive field of statistics dragged out to give a picture of clear, bolt-the-doors-and-hide doom.  It began with a spate of violent actions on New Year’s Eve, which saw four young men stabbed to death in London, prompting London Mayor Sadiq Khan to berate the government for its squeeze on youth services, policing and education.

Police statistics, pounced upon by the Evening Standard just in time for the evening commute on Monday, suggest that 41 percent across London’s boroughs involve those between the green years of 15 to 19.  Eight percent range from the even greener 10 to 14.

The Standard’s Martin Bentham sliced and spliced the announcement from the police with maximum, terrifying effect, all assisted by a picture perfect grim background of law enforcement officials at a crime scene on Caledonia road. 

“The new figures came as a Scotland Yard chief warned that attacks in the capital were also becoming ‘more ferocious’ as offenders were ‘more and more young’ tried to kill or injure by ‘getting up close and stabbing someone several times’.

Descriptions on police tactics follow, resembling those of urban battle plans keen on frustrating potential attacks.  Chief Superintendent Ade Adelekan, head of the Met’s Violent Crime Task Force is quoted as claiming that “some progress” is being made.  There was also a more frequent use of search and “other tactics” including “the deployment of ‘embedded’ plain clothes officers to work with uniformed counterparts” in acts of prevention.

As Younge rightly notes, such realities are “more complex – and we cannot save lives if we do not understand it.”  But understanding is a term absent in times of panic. These are times rich for exploitation.  With Brexit having become the great psychodrama, all else is ripe for distraction and manipulation.

'Meeting in Moscow: The Taliban Meets the Afghan Opposition'

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Signature News Reporter 

Global News Aruba


It had the semblance of a play lacking key actors.  They were deemed the difficult ones, and a decision was made to go through with the performance.  The Taliban were willing to talk with their adversaries, but they were keen on doing so with opposition politicians rather than the stick-in-the-mud types in government led by the current President Ashraf Ghani.  The assessment from The New York Times over the whole affair held at the President Hotel in Moscow was that the meeting could only be, at best, “a brainstorming session”.

The Taliban officials going to Moscow were a different crew, at least in terms of perceptions.  These were not the intemperate salad day youths of 1996, yanking cassettes from car stereos in Kandahar and ranting against all matters musical and female.  These were men of diplomacy, their guns holstered.  Gone were visions of seizing the whole of Afghanistan and establishing a broader theocratic state.  Doing so, by their admission, would not bring the state to peaceful order. Nor, and here there will be questions, did they seem unwilling to reconsider their position on broader notion of human rights.

The claims from the Taliban demonstrate their continued boldness and durability.  Enemies have come and gone, and they remain steadfast in imposing order.  Their brutality remains common and assertive, but they have become wiser, more discerning in their heavy-handedness.

“Peace is more difficult than war,” suggested Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, one of the members of the negotiating party to head to Moscow. 

The January draft agreement arising from a series of meetings with US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, suggests a commitment on the part of the US to withdraw its forces from the country with a Taliban promise to prevent Afghanistan being used as a staging ground for jihadists in future.

The Wednesday statement did little to add flesh to any potential bargain but did outline nine points.  Continued intra-Afghan talks would take place – the usual talks about talks; involving the cooperation of regional countries and others were “essential to determine lasting and nationwide peace in Afghanistan”. 

One aspiration stood out, making all aware about the traumatic divisions in a society that has resisted internally and externally imposed changes for generations.  Unity has been impossible; centralisation of the state an impracticable and unrealisable dream. 

“All parties agreed that the values such as respect for the principles of Islam in all parts of the system, the principle that Afghanistan is a common home to all Afghans, support to a powerful centralised government with all ethnicities having a role in it, protecting national sovereignty and promoting social justice, to keep Afghanistan neutral in all regional and international conflicts, protecting Afghanistan’s national and religious values and undertaking a unified and single policy.”

The other aspirations follow on from the first: the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghan soil; an affirmation of Afghanistan’s sovereignty and the principle of non-interference.  Then come promises to protect “social, economic, political and educational rights of the Afghan women in line with Islamic principles, protection of political and social rights of the entire people of Afghanistan and protection of freedom of speech in line with Islamic principles.”

Ghani’s spokesman Samim Arif expressed his sentiments on the gathering.

“On the issue of the peace process, we respect the views of all parts of society, including the politicians.  But the ownership and the leadership of the peace process is the authority of the Afghan government.”

Ghani was even blunter:

“With whom, what will they agree upon there?  Where is their executive power?  Let hundreds of such meetings be held, but these would only be paper (agreements) unless there is an agreement by the Afghan government; Afghanistan’s national assembly and Afghanistan’s legal institutions.”

Ghani might as well have asked himself those same questions, his rule itself very much a paper based one, his claims to executive authority adventurous at best.

Notwithstanding the activities in Moscow, there will no doubt be a good number of Afghans, left confused by years of external intervention and promptings, concerned by this affirmation and legitimation of Taliban rule.  While the Moscow declaration insists on observing various rights previously anathema to Taliban theocracy, these are provisional within the remit of “Islamic principles”, which have been shown to be roughly interpreted when needed.  Schools may continue being threatened under any new regime; education for females face the prospects of being reined in (religious reasons apply, naturally), as they always tend to in areas of Taliban occupation.  Aired guarantees are simply that. 

The gathering in Moscow signalled one undeniable reality: the Taliban as a political force cannot be ignored.  Remarks made in the immediate aftermath of the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 by US-led forces that the Taliban would be blown to smithereens and wiped off the lunar face of the country have come to nought.  These fighters have lasted the distance; corrupt officials in Kabul, pampered and sponsored by foreign largesse, remain estranged and politically weak.  The Trump administration, prone to erratic spots of unilateral viciousness, is keen on easing part of the imperium’s commitments in the Middle East.  Eyes will be on Kabul to see how far this goes.


( image press tv )

'The Monitoring Game: China’s Artificial Intelligence Push'

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Signature News Reporter 

Global News Aruba


It’s all keen and mean on the artificial intelligence (AI) front in China, which is now vying with the United States as the top dog in the field.  US companies can still boast the big cheese operators, but China is making strides in other areas.  The UN World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Thursday report found that IBM had, with 8,920 patents in the field, the largest AI portfolio, followed by Microsoft with 5,930. China, however, was found dominant in 17 of 20 academic institutions involved in the business of patenting AI.

The scramble has been a bitter one.  The Trump administration has been inflicting various punitive measures through tariffs, accusing Beijing of being the lead thief in global intellectual property matters.  But it is also clear that China has done much to play the game.

“They are serious players in the field of intellectual property,” suggests WIPO Director-General Francis Gurry.

Machine learning is high up in this regard, as is deep learning, which saw a rise from a modest 118 patent applications in 2013 to a sprightly 2,399 in 2016.  All this is to the good on some level, but the ongoing issue that preoccupies those in the field is how best to tease out tendencies towards bias (racism, sexism and so forth) that find their way into machine-learning algorithms. Then comes that problem of technology in the broader service of ill, a point that never really goes away.

In other areas, China is making springing efforts.  Moving in the direction of developing an AI chip has not been missed, propelled by moves away from crypto mining. 

“It’s an incredibly difficult to do,” claims MIT Technology Review senior editor Will Knight.  “But the fact that you’ve got this big technological shift like it once in a sort of generation one means that it’s now possible, that the playing field is levelled a little bit.”

The nature of technological advancement often entails a moral and ethical lag.  Functionality comes before philosophy.  AI has been seen to be a fabulous toy-like thing, enticing and irresistible.  But what is good in one field is bound to be inimical in another.  The implications for this should be clear with the very idea of deep learning, which stresses the use of neural networks to make predictions on collected data.  Enter, then, those fields of natural language processing, facial recognition, translation, recommendation algorithms. 

Canadian computer scientist Yoshua Bengio, regarded as a storming pioneer in the field of deep learning along with Yann LeCun and Geoff Hinton, has felt his conscience prick in this regard. 

“This is the 1984 Big Brother scenario,” he observed in quotidian fashion in an interview.  “I think it’s becoming more and more scary.” 

Bengio seems a bit late to the commentary on this point, given the prevailing dangers posed by existing technologies in the private sector in the field of surveillance.  He could hardly have missed the fact that the tech company sector took the lead in matters of surveillance, leaving governments in the lurch on how best to get data on their citizens. Where there are the confessional solicitations of social media, monitoring officials have their work cut for them, a result which seems attempts to find backdoors and encourage compliance. 

The PRC has enthusiastically embraced elements of facial recognition in its quest to create a total surveillance society, one that sorts the desirable wheat from the undesirable chaff.  Anti-social behaviour is monitored.  The way services are used by citizens is also controlled through its National Credit Information Sharing Platform, which is fast becoming a model for other states to emulate.  Algorithmic tyranny has become a reality.

In January, George Soros, problematic as he has been in his financial meddling, noted how AI had supplied “instruments of control” which gave “an inherent advantage of totalitarian regimes over open societies.” (It was a pity that his speech was delivered before the failed managers and plunderers of the global economy at that holiday gathering known as the World Economic Forum in Davos.)  China had become “the wealthiest, strongest and most developed in machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

The AI frontier, in short, teems with prospects dire and fascinating.  But the way technology companies deal with data remain as important as those of the states that either sponsor them as champions or see them as collaborators on some level.  The point is, both are out, through their use of artificial intelligence, to get at the basic liberties of citizens even as they claim to be advancing their interests. For some, is the making of a buck; for others, it’s that old issue of control.


( image imparcial mexico )

Everybody Else’s Business: Coup Fever in Venezuela

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Signature News Reporter for Aruba

Global News Aruba

This could have been seen as audacious.  Instead, it had the smell of a not so well concealed sponsorship, the backing of a meaty foreign hand.  Venezuelan opposition leader and President of the National Assembly Juan Guaidó decided to take a quick step in the direction of the presidency.  His own counterfeit theory is simple: he is not being a usurper, so much as a panacea for the usurpation by the current president, Nicolás Maduro. 

“I swear to assume all the powers of the presidency to secure and end to the usurpation.” 

Such language is not that of a principled revolutionary figure so much as a hired hand intent on returning the country to conservative tedium.  The power doing that hiring has had friendly press outlets for Guaidó to express his opinions. On January 15, the president of the National Assembly was permitted space in The Washington Post to claim that his country was witnessing something without precedent. (Be wary of the message claiming the exceptional.)  “We have a government that has dismantled the state and kidnapped all institutions and manipulate them at will.” 

But even Guaidó had to explain, despite deeming Maduro an unrecognised figure, that Venezuela was not your vanilla, crackpot dictatorship wedded to the use of police powers.

“The regime may have ties to drug trafficking and guerrilla groups, but we also have a functioning, democratically elected parliament, the National Assembly.” 

Pity, then, that Guaidó needs so much outside help to make his call.

Maduro, understandably, fumed at the challenge. 

“We’ve had enough interventionism, here we have dignity damn it.”

But dignity is a hard matter to retain in broader geopolitical dramas.  Shame, compromise, and a general muddying of credibility tend to follow in such foreign incursions. 

The official Venezuelan president cannot be said to have been a friend of state institutions.  He is holding power under a form of sufferance.  His interpretation of the democratic mandate can be said to be sketchy at best, a feature not uncommon in the history of the Americas.  Authoritarianism breeds revolt, which breeds authoritarianism, a default revenge mechanism.  But Maduro has good reasons to sneer at his opponent and the warm embrace by US officials of the movement seeking to remove the Chávista. The memory of 2002 and the failure on the part of Washington to remove Hugo Chávez remains strong and, in some ways poisonous; the failed coup resulted in attempts on the part of Chávez to neutralise the power of his opponents, be they in the Supreme Court or the corporate media.  Mass round-ups and executions were resisted, but authoritarian counter measures were used.  Maduro has merely been one of Chávez’s keener students in that regard.

To this dysfunctional mess can be added the pervasive, consistent and persistent molestation of US foreign policy.  Gardens in Latin America have been trampled upon by US thuggery since the Republic was founded, and the tendency is instinctive and genetic.  That thuggery also shares a neurotic relationship with democracy, the product Washington finds hard to export while scuttling the democratic projects of others.  Hustlers and gamblers are not, by their dispositions, democratic: they believe in the doomed nature of change, and, to that end, identify the steady horse they would wish to back in any political race.  If that horse is sympathetic to capital interests, despite kicking in the teeth of liberal democracy, all the better.

While apoplectic hysteria governs the US security heavies from the Hill to the public talk circuit about Russian electoral interference, dispensation will always be given to meddling in the affairs of others. Trump, for one, has acknowledged Guaidó’s declaration as legitimising an interim presidency, one that will arm an opponent of Maduro and ensure a transition of loyalty to the United States.

“The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”  (Richly inconsistent, is The Donald, on matters regarding freedom and the law.)

The international reaction has been illustrative of the broader issues at stake, making it far more than a matter of pure bullying from Washington.  Other countries have decided to make Venezuela their business, some by suggesting that it should not be the business of others.  Mexico remains an observer of the status quo.  China and Russia have taken the view that non-interference should be the policy while Turkey insists that Maduro dig in.  Cuba and Bolivia had defended the incumbent, but Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina have gone the whole hog in accepting Guaidó.

Liberal democratic states have shown themselves presumptuous enough to violate the UN Charter in directly stating their willingness to back Maduro’s opponents.  Even timelines have been advanced and demands issued that directly impair the Venezuelan political process. 

“Unless elections are announced within eight days,” suggested France’s unpopular President Emmanuel Macron, “we will be ready to recognise @jguaido as ‘President in charge’ of Venezuela in order to trigger a political process.” 

Given Macron’s own tarnished legitimacy as leader, harangued as a charlatan intent on market and labour reform, this came across as rich posturing. 

The same with Spanish Prime Minster Pedro Sanchez, yet another figure who has decided to make Venezuelan politics a matter of personal interest. 

“The government of Spain gives [President] Nicolas Maduro eight days to call free, transparent and democratic elections.  If that doesn’t happen, Spain will recognise Juan Guaidó as interim president in charge of calling these elections.” 

And to think that Sanchez can hardly be said to have a standing vote in those elections.

As in other countries, the fate of the incumbent government may be decided by the loyalty of the army.  The position, as stated by the country’s defence minister Vladimir Padrino, is that the armed forces do not, at this point, recognise the usurping antics of the opposition leader “imposed by shadowy interests… outside the law”.  Such stances, as history shows, change.

From this whole mess, one conclusion may be drawn.  Venezuela has ceased being a midget to be pushed over by the obese villain and its allies, though it still risks succumbing to the dictating wishes of others.  Maduro has severed relations with Washington, issuing marching orders to US diplomats. But the schismatic spectacle of two governments seeking to pull the strings has become an absurdly disruptive prospect.  Any state that has suggested this as feasible should be wary of what they wish for. 


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: 

'Shutting Down in Trumpland'

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Signature News Reporter for Aruba

Global News Aruba

It is a political idiosyncrasy that most political systems avoid: the state, as if suffering a stroke, operating at only partial capacity, incapable of paying certain employees and incapable of fronting certain services.  And so it is in the United States, which is facing the longest shut down in its history after the record set under the Clinton Presidency – 21 days in 1995 – was passed. 

Prior to the 1970s, the administration of the day could generally expend moneys without prior congressional approval.  Then came a shifting of power from the executive to Congress in a 1974 law, reorganising the budget process.  Scrapping duly followed between the arms of government, and the legal opinion of United States attorney general Benjamin R. Civiletti provided the kiss of dysfunction to politics in Washington.  Agencies could not, he surmised with high priest severity, continue to operate in the absence of congressional appropriations, bar those engaged in certain vital tasks, such as protecting life and property.

The reasons for the current squabble remain less significant than the process and consequences.  President Donald Trump wants his wall on the Mexico border; the Democrats remain cool to aspects of the idea.  The result has been a standoff and the drying up of pay checks to certain federal employees.

The term “shutdown” is deceptive.  The state itself, for the most part, is still functioning, hence that qualifying word “partial”.  The imperial mechanisms of waging war, procuring weapons of death and lining the pockets of the military industrial complex are exempt activities, the purview of the Department of Defence.  Many agencies have also been funded through the current fiscal year. 

But services out of the news, and on the margins, are the first to go into the world of pro-bono delivery, food pantries and food banks.  An estimate in terms of how many are going without pay runs into 800,000.

Then come those flexing arms of Homeland Security: the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration.  Political decisions can have stinging irony, and for a president keen to press home his interest in border security and impervious walls, not paying members of these parts of the security apparatus seems a jarring, and risible, oversight.  TSA employees have found small ways to inflictvengeance: employees are calling in sick in large numbers; checkpoints have been closing.

The Coast Guard has had to be comforted by words rather than cash.  Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson described members as “brave” in their task of keeping “America’s waters safe” even as they assisted the navy in various “maritime theatres of war” in maintaining security and countering piracy.

The issue with shutdowns is problematic in several ways.  Trump’s loyal base may remain unmoved by his obstinate childishness, but the issue remains depleting to the entire practice of governance. When the money stops trickling into services, the political figures of the day will be noted and marked.  But Trump retains a padding that resists corrosion and wearing.  The same cannot be said either about members of the GOP, or the Democrats.  As the Republic rusts before the fantasy of a wall and a self-engineered, partial paralysis, the man who remains standing, whatever the polls say, is Trump.

The danger for the Democrats is how to stay mighty and distant, instead of close and small.  This has been all but impossible for them.  Trump is ramping it up with delinquent enthusiasm, as he always does, playing the trivial politics of small gains and considerable bellows, and also making it hard for his opponents to escape falling for much the same.

He has, for instance, delighted in preventing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from using a plane that would have taken her on a trip to Afghanistan.  Trump’s administration, in the words of a White House official, “worked with the Air Force and (the Defence Department) and basically took away the rights to the plane from the speaker.”  The note from Trump to Pelosi explaining the decision suggests an emperor keen to prevent an out of favour official from seeing the sights of the imperium. “Due to the Shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan has been postponed.” The “seven-day excursion” (how true) would be rescheduled “when the Shutdown is over”.

Pelosi, not wanting to be left out of the barnyard romp of low expectations, retaliated by insisting that the House of Representatives “will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the president’s State of the Union address in the House chamber until the government has opened.”

Trump, in a previous note to Pelosi, dared and cajoled the House Speaker into seeking to prevent the speech from going ahead. “It would be so very sad for our country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location.”  Trump, inadvertently, is accurate in one respect: if Congress be that great cinema, and theatre, of dissimulation and intrigue, a studio production line insulated from the electors, it is only appropriate for the chief to address its members there and then. 

Trump’s dark pull, Washington’s scolding id, is total and consuming to opponents and followers alike, barrel scraping, and ultimate circus.  Others, as they have done before, will have to busy themselves running matters while those on the Hill and in the White House pursue matters of non-governance.


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: 

"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: 

[email protected]

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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: 

[email protected]

[email protected] 

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: 

[email protected]

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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