“Inside Isis: The first Western journalist ever given access to the Islamic State”

Jürgen Todenhöfer, 74, is a renowned German journalist and publicist who travelled through Turkey to Mosul, the largest city occupied by Isis, after months of negotiations with the group’s leaders.

He plans to publish a summary of his “10 days in the Islamic State” on Monday, but in interviews with German-language media outlets has revealed his first impressions of what life is like under Isis.

For those of us viewing these developments from a great distance, it’s a confusing time.

On the one hand, the battle over Kobane seems stalemated. It’s being progressively destroyed but neither the Kurds nor the IS have yet been able to gain a clear upper hand. Given this was a target of choice for the IS, just now that looks a little like a defeat.

On the other, they seem to be consolidating their hold on vast tracts of Iraq and Syria. And, if Todenhöfer is to be believed, viewed by many as saviours or liberators.

Once within Isis territory, Todenhöfer said his strongest impression was “that Isis is much stronger than we think here”. He said it now has “dimensions larger than the UK”, and is supported by “an almost ecstatic enthusiasm that I have never encountered in any other warzone”.

“Each day, hundreds of willing fighters arrive from all over the world,” he told tz. “For me it is incomprehensible.”

Ultimately, its “success” will probably rest more on its administrative capabilities than its military prowess. If it can consolidate military gains and turn conquered territory into a comparatively safe, supportive hinterland, almost anything becomes possible. If it can’t, in time the whole thing will probably unravel.

via Inside Isis: The first Western journalist ever given access to the ‘Islamic State’ Jurgen Todenhofer has just returned – and this is what he discovered –  The Independent

Update: CNN interview with Todenhöfer.

(h/t FB Ali)

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Torture report highlights consequences of permanent war | Andrew Bacevich

How did this happen? To blame a particular president, a particular administration, or a particular agency simply will not do. The abuses described in the report prepared by the Senate Committee on Intelligence did not come out of nowhere. Rather than new, they merely represent variations on an existing theme.

Since at least 1940, when serious preparations for entry into World War II began, the United States has been more or less continually engaged in actual war or in semi-war, intensively girding itself for the next active engagement, assumed to lie just around the corner. The imperatives of national security, always said to be in peril, have taken precedence over all other considerations. In effect, war and the preparation for war have become perpetual. [ . . . ]

One consequence of our engagement in permanent war has been to induce massive distortions, affecting [the] apparatus of government, the nation, and the relationship between the two. The size, scope, and prerogatives accorded to the so-called intelligence community — along with the abuses detailed in the Senate report — provide only one example of the result. But so too is the popular deference accorded to those who claim to know exactly what national security requires, even as they evade responsibility for the last disaster to which expert advice gave rise.

via Torture report highlights consequences of permanent war – Opinion – The Boston Globe

(h/t FB Ali)

Can Palestine and Israel ever have a “South African moment”? | Mondoweiss

Last Tuesday night, the Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani gave a speech at Columbia University, where he is a professor, saying that Palestine has not yet reached its “South African moment.” [ . . . ]

“The end of apartheid was a negotiated settlement,” Mamdani said. The South African anti-apartheid struggle did not succeed by military resistance so much as by education, bringing whites to understand that they would only be safe if they ceased to be settlers. They [eventually] came to agree. In Israel and Palestine, the work is also educational. Israeli Jews and their western supporters have been indoctrinated in the wake of the Holocaust to believe that Jews will only be safe with a Jewish state. [ . . . ]

The opposite is the case. Jews can have a homeland in the Middle East, but their safety can only be achieved by dismantling the Jewish state, Mamdani said. His speech was a political challenge to Jewish anti-Zionists, now just a splinter, to launch a political struggle inside the Jewish community to liberate it from Zionism.

via The great challenge: convince Jews that they will only be safe without Zionism — Mamdani

“The Moral Path to Peace” | The American Conservative

The notion of universality that I associate with cosmopolitan humanism contains no implication that persons, peoples, and civilizations should conform to a single model of life or that universality can be imposed by means of political engineering. It may be helpful to contrast genuine universality with a type of universalism that today is particularly common and influential in the United States. I am referring to an ideologically intense variant of the Enlightenment mindset that assumes a single political system is desirable and even mandatory for all societies and should be everywhere installed, through military means if necessary. I have called this ideology the new Jacobinism. The French Jacobins summarized their putatively universal principles in the slogan “freedom, equality, and brotherhood.” They saw France as the redeemer of nations. The new Jacobins speak of “freedom” and “democracy,” and they have anointed the United States.

Claes G. Ryn argues for a very different universality, one that welcomes the endlessly diverse particulars of people and place and is ready to acknowledge and celebrate virtue wherever it may be found. Continue reading