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Posts Tagged ‘France

So Difficult: “Independent Info from Syria”

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Clock Tower

All the atrocities are coordinated and conducted from this clock tower. Of course, that's just my assertion (I thought it up), it may not be the clock tower's fault at all, and anyway, I have nothing to back the allegation up, but it sounds good, doesn't it? Besides, a number of people was hanged there by the regime, in 2007.

It is still extremely difficult to obtain independent information from Syria”,writes ARTE, a Franco-German television station. “Now, for the first time”, a journalist, Sofia Amara, succeeded in shooting pictures with a hidden camera, in Syria. Her project was supported by the oppositional “Syrian National Council”.

Yes, it must be extremely difficult to obtain independent information. In June this year, Jürgen Todenhöfer, a German politician, travelled Syria. A video journalist accompanied him and took pictures, too. Not as spectacular – but then, Todenhöfer didn’t need the “Syrian National Council’s” support – and that makes his report much more trustworthy than the one ARTE is mongering, on television, and online.

How did she verify the atrocities reported? How can she tell who commited them? At least on the video shown, ARTE didn’t ask her such questions. A German newscast (ZDF, simply took this into its evening news on October 14, and asked no questions either.

Sure – the Assad regime has failed. How to do business with Syria in the future – or how not to do business with Syria any more – is a legitimate question. Military action should be discussed as an option, too.

But for this kind of journalism, I prefer reading a big German tabloid.

For some more quality, see this interview, conducted by NPR (yes, ARTE, that’s an AMERICAN station).

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Written by taide

October 15, 2011 at 8:41 am

We, the Anti-Democrats

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The following is my – unauthorised – translation of a short article by Adam Soboczynski, a journalist who has attracted a lot of attention and frequently readers’ anger with his articles for Germany’s weekly Die Zeit. In his latest article, he criticises the appreciation for a French manifesto, “L’Insurrection Qui Vient” (German: “Der Kommende Aufstand”). Whenever published online, Soboczynski’s utterances draw great numbers of – mostly angry – comments. His references to Stuttgart in the following are about Stuttgart 21.

– TAIDE

We, the Anti-Democrats

Adam Soboczynski, Die Zeit (online and printed ed. 49), 2 December, 2010

 The angry citizen isn’t conservative. He’s reactionary.

The Coming Uprising (Der kommende Aufstand), the much-discussed, partly printed by Der Spiegel, prized in the feature pages, manifesto of a French “invisible committee” has, despite all revolutionary rhetoric, a conservative nucleus: the loss of traditional conviviality, donnybrooks, good manners. Thought that could be associated with the left – a call for building communes, a celebration of subversive protest, anti-capitalism – are being notched with mourning past everyday habits.

The coming uprising is also anticipated so briskly because it seems to picture the uprisings of angry citizens who didn’t only agitate this country in Stuttgart. That’s what Der Spiegel claims this week. The paper misses the point that the protests are – despite what they may seem to be – of no conservative kind. Certainly, as a pensioner, you don’t want to be confronted with a construction site that is going to stay for ten years. For the last few years of your life, everything should remain the way it has been.

What appears to be, at first glance, a conservative impulse, is in fact reactionary. Reactionary in that secretly, it is moulded by a fervent distrust of parliamentarism and democratic institutions that structure [political or social, probably – Taide] participation.
Apparently, every sense of formal aspects of democracy have been lost: people don’t want to get involved in the political parties’ mean business, but shortcut opinion formation by referenda. No governments relying on discreet communication, people celebrate WikiLeaks. People wish to restrict minorities (such as migrants or smokers) by referenda, while the state is unnecessarily still protecting them.

Just as the sixtyeighters once came from America to Germany, it’s the reactionary Tea-Party movement today which inspires us. Even if only for operating the principle of majority against democratic institutions, quite in accordance with market-economy principles, you can’t consider citizen anger as conservative. If the sixtyeighters believed that the state was mixing with capitalism in a calamitous way, today’s angry citizens structurally align with capitalism.

Henning Ritter, a publicist, has recently noted in his jotter the fine observation that self-fulfilment may be highly appreciated, but without having anything in common with emancipation. The sixtyeighters were filled with the legitimate desire to emancipate from many things – the generation of their parents, or the patriarchy. Despite all revolutionary pathos, the protest soon turned to subcultural recesses or all kinds of careers that were felt meaningful. But from the moment where it dawns on you that self-fulfilment beyond the existing achievements doesn’t translate into individual gains in liberty any more, there will be no march through the institutions any longer, but their dismantlement instead.

Asma al-Assad is the Queen Diana of the Orient, Die Zeit says (not)

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Ooooh! Aaah! Wow! Asma al-Assad is so cool! Her Chic even outshines  Michele Obama and Carla Bruni! And she’s so unassuming, she even takes her and her awkward and stiff husband’s (that’s the president of the Syrian Arab Republic) children to the kindergarten herself! And beside her housework, she beguiles us on the national and international stage!

OK. Anyway, Germany’s weekly Die Zeit, a paper which traditionally minded its reputation as a serious news source, it absolutely beguiled. Asma al-Assad belongs to the growing circle of modern Arab first ladies who – skilled and self-confident – know how to act on the international stage (the term “stage” is used for the second time in the article here), and claim their public position at home, too, Die Zeit advises us.

Why does this picture make me think of... [click on the picture]
Why does this picture make me think of…  [click on the picture above]

And what’s the sensation? Syria’s first lady grew up in Britain. Did Die Zeit believe that wearing a burkha and never inching outside her home without her husband is in an Arab woman’s genes?

At least they don’t refer to her as the Lady Di of Arabia. They only quote Paris Match, a gossip magazine (yes, that how a gossip columnist with Die Zeit refers to gossip magazines) as saying so. Or, rather, Queen Diana, Die Zeit says Paris Match says.

Or who says so? Die Zeit doesn’t mention the name of the article’s author.

Or was it really mohdsuak who wrote it? That’s right, the Die Zeit article is also available in English – everything you ever wanted to know about the Queen Diana of the Orient! If the link should get lost, let me know, and I’ll post the English article here in full.

So was the original in article in German or in English? Was it bulkware written by a histrionic intern writing bulk articles for a news agency? Did he or she meet Mme Assad in the real world and conduct an interview with her?

Who knows? And who cares?

Written by taide

September 12, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Syria: Visitors Welcome, but “Sick of Processes”

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France’s foreign minister Bernard Kouchner visited Syria on July 11 and 12, as he announced in advance, within the framework of the extremely constructive dynamics that characterize the new relationship with Syria. The United States are about to restore full diplomatic relations with Syria, after semi-suspending them following the assasination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. Kouchner received assurances from Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad that Syria would not meddle in the formation of the Lebanese government (that’s how Al-Shorfa, a website sponsored by USCENTCOM puts it, let’s assume that al-Assad and Kouchner used more diplomatic expressions). Their discussions also included an adoption of a comprehensive peace plan between Palestine and Israel, but France’s plans in this regard received rather offish treatment in a meeting between British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem. “They’re pretty sick of processes”, suggested Miliband. Mouallem and his country are now looking forward to a visit by U.S. special Middle East envoy George Mitchell as “the first step of dialogue.” President Obama‘s envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, will be in Damascus on Sunday to meet president al Assad, ahead of meetings in Israel with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The American government may be sick of processes too. “If the Syrians or anyone else can persuade [Hamas] to take a positive path forward, well, clearly, I think the Palestinian Authority and others would welcome that”, secretary of state Hilary Clinton reportedly said.

France isn’t at the centre of the process. That may hurt. Then again, maybe it could also be an opportunity. An NGO would like to remind the French foreign minister that there are issues besides Palestine, the Golan Heights, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Lebanon. Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) points out that five cyber-dissidents are still in prison, among them Habib Saleh and Firas Saad. A Palestinian journalist and expert on Israeli affairs, Helmi Musa, was arrested in Damascus  on July 5 for unknown reasons.  The Syrian Press Law of 2001 prevents any liberalisation, criticizes RSF. Only the prime minister may authorise work permits for journalists, and the press law provides many reasons for arresting journalists, such as damaging the the reputation or dignity of the state, national unity, or the morale of the army.

Aleppo, satellite dishes: You can watch, but You better not Blog

Aleppo, satellite dishes: You can Watch, but You better not Blog

More than enough for Bernard Kouchner to take care of, while Washington and London are doing the sweet-talk. Someone has to be the bad guy after all.

Then again, if he gets the impression that talking with Damascus about Lebanon is more than just a process, maybe he will prefer to  stay nice.

_____

Related: Is Sarko just “showy”? – July 13, 2008

Written by taide

July 25, 2009 at 4:08 pm

German Warriors

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My great-grandfather was buried on Verden’s forest cemetary (Verdener Waldfriedhof). His grave is still there, and it is a nice one, because through all the past nine decades, my family people didn’t have to pay a single Pfennig or Eurocent in fees – it’s a hero’s grave.

He was a Private, but he was in such a hurry to take Paris that the German artillery didn’t keep step with him and his comrades. Many of them died in friendly fire, and on the spot. Great-Grandpa was less lucky. He pegged out several month later, in the Annastift in Hanover, minus most of his back.

When he was dead at last, they decorated him with the Iron Cross.

Then there was the second world war.

German society is post-heroic. Heroes too, are only victims in German eyes. The Bundeswehr is a citizen army, and  the federal parliament’s army. It still knows no heroes, and every embarrassing try to change that has been doomed to fail. Medals and cenotaphs give most of us the creeps, rather than causing respect.

Germany succeeded in building an army with uniformed citizens. The old military caste – fortunately – doesn’t matter in the army any more. Families with military traditions like they exist in Britain, France, or America, and which send officers into the army don’t exist in Germany any more.

But this also means that the soldiers won’t earn much respect here when sacrificing their lives for the nation, and its allies.

Some surveys suggest that about three quarters of Americans believe in circumstances which justify war. In Germany, 25 per cent may believe that. 170 years ago, Carl von Clausewitz coined the saying that war is merely a continuation of politics with the inclusion of different means (“Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik unter der Einbeziehung anderer  Mittel”). Most Germans don’t agree with this any longer, and they want no such extension of our foreign policy.

During the past eight years, German politics avoided the word “war” like the plague (which it obviously is), our politicians enacted a reconstruction operetta in Afghanistan which seemed to benefit everyone and to hurt noone, and they risked no candid communication with their constituencies about combat operations. Now the public (which never seemed to care much until now) is finding out that we are at war (the German defence secretary keeps cursing everyone who dares to use this dirty word), and obviously, few people are inclined to take our duties within NATO as serious as they should – those who accept the need for force of arms are the minority in this country.

Dishonourable? Maybe. But anyone who wants to criticise Germany’s sometimes convenient pacifism should also remember how hard it was to finish German militarism in the first place, and how many of their grandfathers died in the struggle. Having ones cake and eating it is yet another challenge. We are learning. But it will take time, and some more decent politicians. What the Social Democrats’ Peter Struck said about Afghanistan last month could be a beginning.

Obama’s best Revenge: go to Berlin

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Barack Obama visits Germany, but skips Berlin. A roundmail about the president’s itinerary, sent around by the White House, didn’t even mention Germany: it was from Cairo right away to France.

Former concentration camp Buchenwald and U.S. Landstuhl Military Hospital are Obama’s destinations here – not Berlin, although he might have got the Brandenburg Gate this time.

Sarkozy, on the other hand, has engendered the desired attention. Obama will stay one extra night. Well… when you have the choice between nightlife in Berlin, or Paris…

Washington considers chancellor Merkel unwieldy, hesitant, impolite, and therefore unwise. Unwieldy because her refusal to let Obama have the Brandenburg Gate as a background for his speech in Berlin last summer. Impolite and unwise, because she declined an audience at the White House in April, because she didn’t need the plane trip and would see Obama in London at the G20 summit anyway.

On economic matters, she is considered rather uninformed, especially since her conduct at the beginning of the global financial crisis, when she underestimated its magnitude and thought of it as a mostly American problem. The European stimulus action was pushed mostly with French support. Ever since, Germany has been sidelined when important economic decisions are taken, in places such as the IMF. Merkel keeps silent about it.

When Opel’s future was negotiated, the U.S. administration sent a representative with a White House intern’s  decision-making power. In the end, Merkel had to give Obama a phonecall to get decisions.

Stephen Szabo, the Transatlantic Academy’s director: “Currently, France is hip. The impression here is that the Germans are rather useless.”

Meantime, the IMF’s head is French, France is back in Nato’s military structures, it has a military base at the Persian Gulf, and isn’t only active in Africa, and while Merkel demanded the closure of Guantanamo, her interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, declines to admit any of the camp’s detainees into Germany.

The new U.S. administration feels that Germany tries to dodge its military duties within NATO. Merkel had made it clear long before Obama’s inauguration that noone should expect more military contributions from Germany. The country’s 4,100 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan seem to guard their military camps in the first place, while soldiers from other allies have to do most of the fighting – and of the dieing.

The new administration apparently wants to show that it doesn’t need Germany, and Merkel wants to avoid an open confrontation.

Obama’s war without words may feel good for him. It may even help to get Germany to work.

But he could have done better. He could have delivered another big speech in Berlin. And he could have hammered an important news home to the German public: that their country, just as America itself, is at war. He had made some hints last July, in Berlin. But he needs to become more explicit. Once he will have made the German public understand that Germany is at war, too, he will really have hurt Merkel. Because so far, this big war is the grand coalition’s dirty little secret.

And while the American president tours the federal state of Saxony, Germans will happily stay in their state of denial.

Written by taide

June 5, 2009 at 9:04 am

Eight Represents: Exposing Justrecently’s Lies

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Justrecently wrote another biased and distorted post yesterday. He comments on the new bilingual Hualan Magazine‘s story on The Eight Represent Ordinary Women, and by commenting on one of the photos he suggests that The Eight Represents were no real Represents, because the furniture wasn’t ordinary enough. No, he doesn’t say that, he only viciously implies that without saying!

I will expose Justrecently’s lies one by one.

Let’s look at what some of the represents said when they were asked what Germany makes them think of:

Represent One

Hualan Magazine: Represent One

Represent 1:
I don’t know much about Germany. But I like dogs very much, so I’m thinking of German shepherd dogs first.

Represent 2:
Germany? They say that the sausages are very tasty (unfortunately, I haven’t tried one yet). The beer is excellent, too, but I drink no beer.

Represent 3:
When talking about Germany, I’m thinking of brown bread first. Haha, maybe it’s because I don’t like brown bread. (…) Germans are pretty ambitious. (…) They don’t plan today for tomorrow, but much earlier. (…) Don’t be in the way of their fixed plans, otherwise they may fall out with you. That doesn’t mean that they abandon friendly relations, but it shows that they are annoyed about something.

Represent 4:
I’m very cheerful and open-hearted. In the past, I was a model on auto shows, and I once founded an orchestra with three Germans. (…) They aren’t as boring as people describe them.

Represent 5:
Recently, I bought a LV bag in Germany, but the price was 15 Euros above that in France. (…) Germans are very serious, punctual, and act like gentlemen. (…)

LV bag

LV bag

The other three represents talked the same way. And you try to make us believe that they aren’t ordinary? Shame on you, Justrecently! You are too CNN!

Written by taide

May 17, 2009 at 8:54 am