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10 Dec

Events of Interest and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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News

Thousands across Russia protest poll fraud

Up to 60,000 take to streets demanding an end to Putin’s rule and a rerun of election in biggest protests in decades.
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2011 19:23 GMT

Europe

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US dam removed to check salmon decline

Barrier taken down in Washington state after salmon population dropped from 400,000 to just 3,000.

UN climate talks scramble to reach a deal

Durban conference extended as 194 nations try to reach a deal on how to deal with global warming over the coming decade.
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2011 13:45 GMT

Gingrich calls Palestinians ‘invented’ people

Republican presidential hopeful defends Israel and says Palestinians are Arabs who “had a chance to go many places”.
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2011 15:57 GMT

Three women receive Nobel Peace Prize

Liberia’s president, a fellow Liberian and a Yemeni activist accept 2011 prize at Oslo ceremony.

Last Modified: 10 Dec 2011 13:21 GMT

In Depth

In pictures: When a nonviolent protest ends in death

Lazar Simeonov and Renee Lewis 10 Dec 2011 19:10 GMT
Palestinian villager killed after being shot in the face with a tear gas canister by an Israeli soldier at close range.

Robert Fisk

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Writing from the very region that produces more clichés per square foot than
any other “story” – the Middle East – I should perhaps pause before I say I have
never read so much garbage, so much utter drivel, as I have about the world
financial crisis.

But I will not hold my fire. It seems to me that the reporting of the
collapse of capitalism has reached a new low which even the Middle East cannot
surpass for sheer unadulterated obedience to the very institutions and Harvard
“experts” who have helped to bring about the whole criminal disaster.

Let’s kick off with the “Arab Spring” – in itself a grotesque verbal
distortion of the great Arab/Muslim awakening which is shaking the Middle East –
and the trashy parallels with the social protests in Western capitals. We’ve
been deluged with reports of how the poor or the disadvantaged in the West have
“taken a leaf” out of the “Arab spring” book, how demonstrators in America,
Canada, Britain, Spain and Greece have been “inspired” by the huge
demonstrations that brought down the regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and – up to a
point – Libya. But this is nonsense.

The real comparison, needless to say, has been dodged by Western reporters,
so keen to extol the anti-dictator rebellions of the Arabs, so anxious to ignore
protests against “democratic” Western governments, so desperate to disparage
these demonstrations, to suggest that they are merely picking up on the latest
fad in the Arab world. The truth is somewhat different. What drove the Arabs in
their tens of thousands and then their millions on to the streets of Middle East
capitals was a demand for dignity and a refusal to accept that the local
family-ruled dictators actually owned their countries. The Mubaraks and the Ben
Alis and the Gaddafis and the kings and emirs of the Gulf (and Jordan) and the
Assads all believed that they had property rights to their entire nations. Egypt
belonged to Mubarak Inc, Tunisia to Ben Ali Inc (and the Traboulsi family),
Libya to Gaddafi Inc. And so on. The Arab martyrs against dictatorship died to
prove that their countries belonged to their own people.

And that is the true parallel in the West. The protest movements are indeed
against Big Business – a perfectly justified cause – and against “governments”.
What they have really divined, however, albeit a bit late in the day, is that
they have for decades bought into a fraudulent democracy: they dutifully vote
for political parties – which then hand their democratic mandate and people’s
power to the banks and the derivative traders and the rating agencies, all three
backed up by the slovenly and dishonest coterie of “experts” from America’s top
universities and “think tanks”, who maintain the fiction that this is a crisis
of globalisation rather than a massive financial con trick foisted on the
voters.

The banks and the rating agencies have become the dictators of the West. Like
the Mubaraks and Ben Alis, the banks believed – and still believe – they are
owners of their countries. The elections which give them power have – through
the gutlessness and collusion of governments – become as false as the polls to
which the Arabs were forced to troop decade after decade to anoint their own
national property owners. Goldman Sachs and the Royal Bank of Scotland became
the Mubaraks and Ben Alis of the US and the UK, each gobbling up the people’s
wealth in bogus rewards and bonuses for their vicious bosses on a scale
infinitely more rapacious than their greedy Arab dictator-brothers could
imagine.

I didn’t need Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job on BBC2 this week – though it
helped – to teach me that the ratings agencies and the US banks are
interchangeable, that their personnel move seamlessly between agency, bank and
US government. The ratings lads (almost always lads, of course) who AAA-rated
sub-prime loans and derivatives in America are now – via their poisonous
influence on the markets – clawing down the people of Europe by threatening to
lower or withdraw the very same ratings from European nations which they
lavished upon criminals before the financial crash in the US. I believe that
understatement tends to win arguments. But, forgive me, who are these creatures
whose ratings agencies now put more fear into the French than Rommel did in
1940?

Why don’t my journalist mates in Wall Street tell me? How come the BBC and
CNN and – oh, dear, even al-Jazeera – treat these criminal communities as
unquestionable institutions of power? Why no investigations – Inside Job started
along the path – into these scandalous double-dealers? It reminds me so much of
the equally craven way that so many American reporters cover the Middle East,
eerily avoiding any direct criticism of Israel, abetted by an army of pro-Likud
lobbyists to explain to viewers why American “peacemaking” in the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be trusted, why the good guys are “moderates”,
the bad guys “terrorists”.

The Arabs have at least begun to shrug off this nonsense. But when the Wall
Street protesters do the same, they become “anarchists”, the social “terrorists”
of American streets who dare to demand that the Bernankes and Geithners should
face the same kind of trial as Hosni Mubarak. We in the West – our governments –
have created our dictators. But, unlike the Arabs, we can’t touch them.

The Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, solemnly informed his people this week that
they were not responsible for the crisis in which they found themselves. They
already knew that, of course. What he did not tell them was who was to blame.
Isn’t it time he and his fellow EU prime ministers did tell us? And our
reporters, too?

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