Obama has “degraded and destroyed” US foreign policy

Andrew J. Bacevich writes on Reuters Op-ed: “Rudderless and without a compass, the American ship of state continues to drift, guns blazing”.

open link to The Intercept and read about a revolution (albeit maybe short-lived) in US corporate media:



Palestine going to the ICC

In a previous post, we reviewed the pros and cons of going to the International Criminal Court and we concluded that apart from the fact that redress for the Palestinians against Israeli war crimes was possible through other avenues, the ICC was politicised and under the influence of UNSC (United Nations Security Council) with all the problems that that entails.

See link


However, Michael Ratner, President Emeritus for the Centre for Constitutional Rights in New York and Chair of the European Centre of Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin, argues that the crimes in particular of the ongoing expulsion of Palestinians from their lands, and their forcible acquisition to build illegal settlements is a war crime so egregious as to make almost impossible for the ICC not to consider ruling favourably in this respect

Open link:

This is in fact what Taher al-Nunu, a member of a panel discussing this subject on al-Jazeera, confirms on the following link:


Japan at the centre of the unfolding financial crash

Japan came out of a nuclear attack in WWII to become a massive economy, the third largest economy after the US and China, almost twice as large as Germany, and more than twice as large as either France or Germany. But since 1991 Japan has been in recession – called now the “lost twenty years” (失われた20年, Ushinawareta Nijūnen), where GDP and price levels have fallen and where the real wage has dropped. There has been a net population loss due to falling birth rates and almost no net immigration (despite one of the highest life expectancies in the world (81.25 years): so the country is growing old.

The lack of direction and vision in Japanese society is almost frightening: a cultural malaise has seized the nation almost like a nasty viral infection. Young people in Japan are, it seems, no longer in having sex: it is too “Mendokusai”  which translates as “too troublesome” or “I can’t be bothered”, where romantic commitment represents burden and drudgery. This is related to the economic condition of the country in the sense of reflecting an attitude to the exorbitant costs of buying property in Japan and to the uncertain expectations from a potential spouse and the in-laws that come with the spouse. According to the Japanese population institute, women in their early 20s today have a one-in-four chance of never marrying and their chances of remaining childless are even higher at almost 40%. What is shocking about all this is that no-one is concerned. A detailed analysis of this malaise is to be found on:


Add to this depressing picture the results of the Fukushima catastrophe, a cataclysm caused not so much by the natural disaster that triggered it, but by the incredibly bad planning that led the Japanese bureaucracy to build nuclear power stations on earthquake fault lines, and by the now surprising lack of technical prowess, previously strongly associated with Japanese industry, which became clear in the blind trust the Japanese seemed to have in US General Electric designs and their inability either to understand these designs for themselves or to incorporate their own safety or back-up mechanisms into the construction and development. The unravelling cover-up since the initial disaster is only partly a political damage limitation exercise, and mostly sheer lack of an engineering grasp of nuclear power.

Estimates of the total economic loss from this range from $250-$500 billion. See:




The Fukushima disaster represents the largest discharge of radioactive material into the ocean in history, which for a country so dependent on fishing is a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions. See:


All this has lead to the panicky politics of Shinzō Abe which involves a new militarism expressing the country’s malaise and its social and political bankruptcy, as well as quantitative easing on an almost cosmic scale to try and restart a totally moribund economy.

The problem in Japan has always been the lack of flexibility of its society: in fact the whole Fukushima disaster is down to the “untouchable” élitist status of the Nuclear industry represented by TEPCO – the Fukushima operator and holding company for all of Japan’s nuclear power plants. Their ‘untouchability” has in fact led to innumerable cover-ups over the course of the recent disaster, which leaves no doubt that things must be much worse than has been reported, and costs probably much higher than even the worse estimates we have.

So a major part of the Western economic system has terminally failed is being propped up by the rest of the system, while beginning to drag it down. How did we get here? How have we come to have such a disastrous economic situation which seems to have impacted society to the extent of even negatively affecting the younger generation’s normal drives and values.

From the government led 30-year drive to rebuild the Japanese economy from the complete devastation of WWII until 1980, the country public debt had reached only 50% of GDP by the end of that period.  By contrast, today’s public debt in Japan is 250% of GDP, a figure “off-the-charts” relative to all other large developed economies, unparalleled in history, and generated by massive deficit spending, followed by its modern cousin, quantitative easing.

These outcomes have to be viewed from the perspective that Japan’s post-war miracle was never the miracle it was claimed to be at all: in fact the Japanese economy rebounded from the ashes of WWII for three decades due only to massive public and private investment, depending on high household savings, and a rigid mercantilist industrial development and export promotion policy, depending on blatantly protectionist policies that kept imports out and the yen’s exchange rate far below its true economic value.

As David Stockman explains on:


Neither of these aspects was sustainable, leading to a capital goods and export sectors which were enormously over-built, and the double-digit growth in fixed asset investment which had powered Japan’s post-war GDP growth was inevitably destined for a sharp fall. A counter-protectionist reaction in Washington would bring this to an end, such that the drastically undervalued yen creating the country’s export surpluses was going to be reversed. When we think that the US has had exactly the same problem with China from the mid-1990s until now, and that the US administration has tried to force a revaluation of the Renmimbi (the “people’s currency”) of which the Yuan is the basic unit, and failed, we have to remember that Japan, unlike China, was conquered nation. Its bureaucratic élite, that same élite which swore by General Electric nuclear power technology and had made it an “untouchable” sacred cow of the Japanese system, that élite which was usually Ivy League-educated, made Japan – although in geographical terms as “Far-Eastern” as China was – an integral part of the “Western” economic system.

It was James Baker who led the Washington backlash and structured the Plaza Accords of September 1985 which Japan ended up signing. This led to buying programme for the Yen which drove Japan’s exchange rate from about 260 per dollar to 130 over the next few years. But this was not accompanied by any reform to the economy.

Instead, the Bank of Japan began to fund a deficit spending programme in response to these changes by slashing interest rates in early 1986, and this despite the fact that the economy had excess capacity in the capital goods sector, across all of steel, auto manufacturers, machinery, consumer electronics and so-on, as a result of the post-war boom. What Japan had actually needed at the time was higher rather than lower interest rates, in order to alter this chronic over-investment in export capacity.

All the easy money thus produced had to flow somewhere and it flowed into the financial sector, creating a massive bubble in real estate and corporate stocks and bonds. This “financialisation” of the economy led to businesses drastically expanding borrowing in the form of both straight and convertible debt, all of which went into speculation in real estate and financial assets – especially into the stock of other companies within the Keiretsu groups around which Japan’s state-led development model had been organized, artificially driving up stock prices.

The Nikkei index of the Japanese stock market rose fourfold during the 50 months after the Plaza Accord, while the price of land rose to insane levels, rising fivefold before the major crash of 1991 (at which point point the aggregate value of Tokyo real estate exceeded that of the US as a whole). Meanwhile there was a drop in the growth capacity of the real economy due to the now more realistic exchange rate and the end of the fixed-investment boom. The excess capacity of the export economy was faced with fierce competition now in foreign markets, and the bureaucratic élite, together with the ruling LDP political party, now sought through these new policies described above to “featherbed” their corporate constituencies: but this wasn’t just easy-money, there was also a thoroughgoing rigging of the domestic markets and outright protectionism. Construction deals, new credit, and corruption spread among these constituencies, leading to overbuilding and white elephant projects.

So in the two decades after 1990, Japan’s government expenditures rose by 45%, while its general revenues fell by 15-20% opening up a massive fiscal deficit that fueled the parabolic rise of debt as we saw above, leading to credit saturation which itself has led to low or negative growth ever since. Furthermore, bad economic advice from abroad led the Ivy League-educated Japanese élites to dismantle the government tax base in order to try and generate supply-side effects, with even worse results – leading to a drop in government nominal revenues over two decades, in amounts unparalleled in history.

The lethal combination of easy money and lax fiscal policy has now also been at the core of
Shinzō Abe’s “Abenomics”, encouraged by ex-US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke who pushed the myth that Japan was experiencing “deflation” (rather than structural overcapacity) and who recommend on this basis that the central bank run its printing presses continuously and blindly until inflation rise back to 2%—– supposedly thus reflating nominal GDP, aggregate demand, and the wheels of production and jobs growth in the real economy.

Thus Japan adopted “ZIRP” (Zero-interest-rate-policy) in 1999 and piled post-Keynesian central banking on top of an already hemorrhaging fiscal situation, leading to the explosion in the Bank of Japan’s balance sheet from about 10% of GDP to nearly 50% today. This resulted in massive financial repression, which not to put too fine a point on it, has been to no avail. During the approximate 15 years since it originally adopted ZIRP, Japan’s real GDP has limped along at 0.9% per year, not significantly different than the 0.7% rate it experienced in the previous post-1991 decade.

The obvious effect of ZIRP is the collapse of Japan’s previously vaunted household savings rate (which had funded its post-war capital expansion), now to below even US levels, something which will prove a trial for the large expected retirements looming up ahead, where even in the short-term Japan looks like it will quickly devour its savings. The country is on the road as David Stockman explains to “… becoming an international pauper”. The other unpleasant effect of ZIRP is that it seems to promise that government debts can continue to be financed at close to zero nominal carry cost for the indefinite future. Clearly any kind of “rate normalisation” is an impossibility, with the close to zero financing costs on Japan’s long-term bonds, since the sheer size of the debt has meant that the interest carry cost has still been consuming nearly one-third of its current revenues.

The attempt to exit this financial trap through the insane policies of “Abenomics”, trying to achieve a dare-devil “escape velocity” for the real economy have now shown to have totally failed. The spectre of inflation has indeed been created, but the real economy has collapsed even further. Despite the newly cheapened currency, and the consequent rise in imports, exports have hardly risen due to the policy of offshoring production to China, which in our “financialisation” environment has been  an integral part of the Japanese élite pandering to its corporate (keiretsu)constituencies, rather than seeking any kind of structural and social reform. There is no sense of national policy at all, a problem furthermore that we see across all “Western” economies anyway, where as Keynes said (see post below) “… enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation… “ but clearly reflected in a much more serious situation in Japan, than in the rest of the “Western” economic system, thus representing the leading end of decline into the abyss. See:



Listen to a new report from Adam Morrow on the progress of Egypt under the Junta

Hear this by opening link


Scott Horton jokes about Egypt’s “…. march back to democracy..” under the military junta where the junta “…overthrew the elected government of that country in order to restore it…” and Adam Morrow explains that actually a lot of people have been so brainwashed by the media in Egypt about the Muslim Brotherhood that, strangely enough, this is what they think. Also Scott asks Adam whether the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) tried to “… Talibanise the government… clamping down on people’s personal and professional behaviour…” and Adam replies that on the contrary this is “… a huge misconception…” and that they went out of their way “… bending over backwards… to reassure everybody that they were not going to do anything that would affect personal freedoms…”

A lot more here about the distortions in social and political processes caused  by the media (both Egyptian and Western)

Keynes on the unfolding financial crash

Current predictions of the doom of financial assets are too numerous to quote, and numerous enough for anyone to find at least ten on a cursory surfing of the internet.

The history of financial cycles is as long as history itself, but we are coming up against the conditions for – in capitalist historical terms – a major one with a terminal end. Cycles/crashes have been part of complex webs of economic movement since the end of the Napoleonic wars, but since the end of WWII we have an entirely new dynamic arising out of the ashes of a cataclysmic experience of “slash and burn”.

We are coming up against the conditions thus for a terminal end – one therefore which will demand major social change – because only if the US can turn the government budget situation round dramatically can it build up the fire power it needs to keep the system going in the face of its lack of “fiscal autonomy” caused by accumulated deficits and large foreign holdings by foreigners. A “crash” has in fact already taken place in stages between 1998 and 2008, and it is principally the Fed that has come to the rescue to prop up the system by offering the refinancing for what Minsky calls the “Ponzi units” in the financial system, not allowing these units to go bankrupt in what would otherwise be a natural course of events. To understand why “big government” is ironically essential for the survival of financial “markets”, and why “expert” monetary and financial management inevitably involves the kicking of the can down the road in the form the refinancing of “Ponzi units” read: H. Minsky, The financial instability hypothesis: a clarification, in The Risk of Economic Crisis, (ed.) Martin Feldstein, Chicago; University of Chicago Press (1991), pp. 158-166

Furthermore, the insistence on propping the system up is causing massive skewing in the real economy, which we will be paying for in any number of ways over the next fifty years, from the propulsion forward of loss-makers like Amazon that destroy healthy small businesses everywhere, to encouraging irrational energy extraction like fracking, with its continuous and growing deficits, both par excellence examples of “Ponzi units”.  Thus ultimately the success of “big government” in floating the system against all odds, itself begins to undermine its crucial “fiscal autonomy”. As Keynes said in the General Theory:

“… Americans are apt to be unduly interested in discovering what average opinion believes average opinion to be; and this national weakness finds its nemesis in the stock market. It is rare one is told, for an American to invest, as many Englishmen still do, “for income”; and he will not readily purchase an investment except in the hope of capital appreciation. This is another way of saying that, when he purchases an investment, the American is attaching his hopes, not so much to its prospective yield, as to a favourable change in the conventional basis of valuation, i.e. that he is, in the above sense, a speculator. Speculators do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise. But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation“.

See John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Macmillan & Co (1936), p. 159 [emphasis added]

Japan has, par excellence, represented the economy which – coming most spectacularly out of the “slash and burn” of WWII – has, since the 1980s, ceased to function, with a government which has buried its head in the sand by trying to prop up an untenable system. It is at the leading edge of the “terminal end” of our current system, with the last hurrah of the sheer insanity and desperation of what has come to be called the Abenomics of Japan’s Prime Minister since 2012, Shinzō Abe. Look out for a future post on this subject.


The Guardian newpaper’s liberal imperialism

See John Hilley [While Israel kill Gaza's children, media shield the truth about Hamas] on the Guardian‘s continued vilification of Hamas by carrying an advert by Israel-supporting figures depicting Hamas as biblical equivalent of sacrificial child-killers, reinforcing the view of Hamas as a “terrorist organisation” rather than a democratically elected government (following a the insistence by Israel and the US from democratic elections in Gaza [25 January 2006] that would undermine Fatah’s position, who at the time had lost their favour). Thus liberal space in the newspapers is being used essentially to condone Israel continued murder of Gaza civilians including children just for being voters of Hamas. Open link


This compares with the Sunday Times changed tone over the Gaza conflict, being more open to justifying Hamas’ actions [10th August 2014].  Open link


In fact, the Sunday Times, seems here to have broken the normal false narrative by the British press of the Middle-east conflict which is, in John Pilger’s words, “… that there are two equal sides, and the on one side of this equal relationship in the ‘conflict’, as they say, the Palestinians ['unworthy victims'] are attacking the Israelis…” [see John Pilger's interview with Afshin Rattansi on the British media's historical manipulation and distortion of facts in regard to foreign conflicts on link: http://rt.com/shows/going-underground/177516-western-media-victims-uk/, in which Pilger reminisces about the extraordinary 'objectivity' of the reporting from the Soviet Union in 1918 by Morgan Philips Price, the reporter in Moscow (ironically) for the Manchester Guardian, as the Guardian was then called].

But in the same breakthrough issue [10th August] of the Sunday Times‘, we also find frank coverage of Sayyeda Warsi’s actions during her resignation, and her loud condemnation of the Conservative Party over their stance on Gaza, as well as reporting on the associated subject matter of the Conservative Party’s frankly bleak prospects at the next election


Developments which show that the conservative press in the UK is more balanced than the liberal press in its foreign reporting, in the sense of being more open to views from outside the “metropole”, is noticeable in the Daily Telegraph‘s reporting on middle-eastern news, with as an example,  its critical coverage of the David Cameron decision to “lead a review into” the Muslim Brotherhood [in the context of the war against terror]


This early [2nd July 2014] article predates the eventual outcome of this “review”, which showed that there was no cause for concern, or even that there could have been any original basis for the review. In fact the Financial Times on 18th August in its article “Whitehall report into Muslim brotherhood delayed by wrangling“, talks about the fact that we should be more concerned about the UK government’s links with the Emiratis and the Saudis who insisted on the “review” of the Muslim Brotherhood in the first place, and who have overseen the funding of, if not at times directly funded, what has become ISIS, those nihilist takfiris who are terrorising the Middle-East at the moment.

But its not only on the subject of the Middle-East and Israel where the Guardian seems to plug the perspective of the “metropole” and its élites, it has also been traditionally unbalanced in its coverage of Hugo Chavez and Venezuela, displaying a perhaps surprise antagonistic streak towards “Bolivarian Socialism”. Open link to see a letter of complaint to the editor from 2012





Asem al-Fouli on the misconceptions of the Egyptian secularists (Part 4)

Asem al-Fouli on the misconceptions of the Egyptian secularists (Part 4)
We have (gradually) been translating Asem al-Fouli’s important four part article on rationality in Islam for readers of this site. This series first appeared in Arabic in el-Shaab Newspaper on http://www.elshaab.org/thread.php?ID=103303

For translations of the earlier parts (here) follow:
For part 1, follow this link: http://different-traditions.com/?p=1331
For part 2, follow this link: http://different-traditions.com/?p=1480
For part 3, follow this link: http://different-traditions.com/?p=1547


These articles have much to commend them, however, their treatment of logic and rationality stops short of a complete synthetic picture on the matter (which if executed actually produces a different understanding of ibn Taymiyya than does an isolated picture): this will be addressed in due course (ETA: August 30).


Main points in part 4:


**Scholar-jurists and philosophers: Ibn Taymiyya begins his campaign against Aristotle before Renaissance thinkers do
**Ibn Taymiyya: None of the “definitions” of the logicians are a help to our perceptions nor their analogies a path to certainty… logic is not fit for the study of nature, only induction can be the method of science
**Francis Bacon: After two thousand years of mapping out logic and chopping it with the machine invented by Aristotle… philosophy fell and lost its self- respect
**Roger Bacon: if you gave me the freedom to do so I would burn all the books of Aristotle… their study of leads to disorientation and ignorance



Ibn Taymiyya didn’t study philosophy in search of the truth, as did Ghazālī, but he studied it in order to be able to disprove what in it was opposed to religion; in Sheikh Abu Zahra’s words “he believed in what the Prophet said first, then he sought to deny the malice in philosophy” .
Ibn Taymiyya only followed the Book, the Sunna and the ways of the companions and the successors in their understanding, with the help of his clear mind. He was appalled by the claim of the philosophers that Qur’anic proofs were said to be presumptive and that they were not seen as representing absolute certainty, as by contrast was the logic of Aristotle in the way it established proofs which led to certain propositions.


He writes: “if the theoreticians thought they were warranted in their representations in regard to the Qur’an and their views and propositions opposing it, there was in fact no correct instruction to guide or provide them with knowledge. Those who have taken this road, have all recounted their individual tales of what necessarily would become confusion and doubt… and they confirmed by their own testimony and reports about themselves, that whoever presented the Book in order to criticise it, did not gain any certainty of which he was assured, nor any knowledge of which he could be convinced. And those who claimed in regard to some matters that they had clear reasoning which contradicted the Book, they were faced with other rationalists who said: “these attributions are known to be void from clear reason, so whoever used them to contradict the Book, did not possess the wherewithal to assert a clear truth, either in virtue of the claims of the advocates themselves, or from their immediately apparent contradiction, or from counter-claims of others who followed the same reasoning”. So if you consider that the masters of philosophy themselves did not arrive at a clear truth which contradicts the Book, but only to confusion and uncertainty, or to conflicts between the parties, would others be able to?”

The idea which ibn Taymiyya emphasises is that the differences between the philosophers and their opposition to each other confirms that the tools on which they depend are not productive of certainties as they claim, otherwise all those who knew how to use would arrive at the truth, while truth is unique and cannot be different between different people. These differences between the philosophers confirms that the philosophical approach leads only to presumptive results in which the possibility of error remains, and reliance is not possible on such an approach, in opposition to the Qur’an. This goes back to the idea he explains in his ‘Staving off the conflict between reason and text or the agreement between clear reason and true reports’ where he says “divine science cannot be inferred from analogical inductive reasoning (al-qiyās al-tamthīlī) where the original and new cases are considered to be equivalent or by demonstrative reasoning (al-qiyās al-shumūlī) where particulars are considered to be equivalent. There is nothing that compares with God, so he can’t be compared with other things, and He cannot be included with other things in universals that treat all particulars on a parity. Because of this, when sects from among the philosophers and the theologians, used such forms of reasoning in addressing divine questions, they did not reach the truth, rather there proofs were contradictory”.

We shall limit our presentation to what Ibn Taymiyya was driving at, seeking to minimise the value of Aristotelian logic as a tool intended to ensure correct thinking and the validity of conclusions resulting from it, and to clarify his attitude to the philosophers, without trying to explain the different approach which he established and on which he relied in his thinking; that is another story.

Aristotelian logic

The logicians (al-munāṭaqa) would have it that knowledge either pursues a concept (taṣawwur) or a judgement (taṣdīq). Conceptualising is about finding out about what exists, and judging is about ruling on a particular matter.

Conceptualising for the philosophers has no other role than to make analytical definitions, which they call “ḥadd” and which they explain as “the expression that points to the essence of a thing”. When it comes to a mere description, the term “rasm” is used, and this is delimited (without a complete definition) through the accidents (aʿrāḍ, sing: ʿaraḍ) or properties (khawāṣṣ, sing: khāṣṣa) of the thing being defined. The “rasm” cannot help in providing the true essence of a thing, since it only describes appearances. “Taṣdīq” has no other tools in respect of the philosophers than the categorical syllogism (al-qiyās al-manṭiqī) which consists of a major premise (muqaddima kubrā) in the form of a necessary universal proposition, a minor premise (muqaddima sughrā) in the form of a proposition about particulars, and a conclusion. For example: opposites do not attract (major premise), silence opposes motion (minor premise), and the conclusion would be that any moving body cannot be silent.

In contrast with this, analogical inductive reasoning (al-qiyās al-tamthīlī) [used by the scholar-jurists] works by adding a rule on a known case to an unknown case to form from both a rationale (‘illa) for a new rule. This “induction” (istiqrā’) thus results from perusing certain particulars in order to deduce a joint universal rule, which omits all other similar particulars which are not inspected.

For Aristotle analogy and induction do not represent a form of correct reasoning, and cannot provide certainties or proofs in matters of logic. And the logicians insist that their way is the only way that leads to certain knowledge, and that any other way is useless, while ibn Taymiyya insists that both these claims are false. Neither does their way lead always and inevitably to certain knowledge, nor do all other ways fail to provide such knowledge.

Definitions do not help us to conceive of the truth

In regard to conceptualisation ibn Taymiyya replies: “Concepts arise purely in virtue of definition, and this state of affairs is unhelpful for there is a need for proof rather than just assertion. How is this obtained? If this is an assertion without knowledge, then it is so from the very start according to the rule-based system they claim protects the mind from erring in thought. For a definition is merely the assertion of the definer and his claims. If for instance he claimed that the human being was an animal that spoke and laughed, this would be a matter of experience, and a claim without any justification. Either the one listening to the claim knows of its truth without the need for the assertion or he doesn’t. If he knew, he is no better off for the definition, and if he didn’t know, how can he be sure that he correct in the claim simply in virtue of the claimant making the claim, without any proof that can add to knowledge. So in both cases it can’t be the definition which allows us to know the definiendum.

In fact, ibn Taymiyya’s analysis is difficult to refute. If you don’t actually know the essence of a thing, you cannot accept a definition which a philosopher might claim defines the essence of that thing, because the processes of logic do not cover the validation of any definition. How can it be insisted upon that concepts are unattainable without definitions. And in his Refutation of the Logicians ibn Taymiyya lists ten aspects to the baselessness of the claim of the logicians that definitions are the only way to enable conceptualising the essence of a thing.

Have a look at one of these aspects to appreciate the rationality of ibn Taymiyya’s approach:
“God gave man internal and external senses to know objects in the external world, so he knows by hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching externally, and more importantly he knows also what he experiences within himself, in “his heart”. Language does not produce concepts based on individual objects, but through analogy and combinations of words. But none of this helps to conceive of the truth; the idea being that truth conceived either internally or externally eschews assertions of definitions, thus preventing the use of such definitions. When it comes to the sense of taste, for instance, in the case of honey, no-one benefits from concepts. Whoever doesn’t taste it, just as someone who reports on sugar without tasting it, cannot grasp the truth of the matter from a definition.

He gives examples to approximate it, saying that the taste resembles such and such. Such analogy and representation is not the definition that the logicians claim. This applies also to the internal senses, such as anger, joy, sadness, gloom, knowledge and so on. Whoever experiences it conceives it, whoever doesn’t experience it cannot conceive of it with a definition, just as the blind (those afflicted with colour blindness) cannot conceive of colours through definitions, and the sexually impotent, sexual intercourse through them. So whoever says that definitions are useful in order to conceive the truth, is speaking nonsense”.

The Categorical Syllogism does not lead to certainty

Ibn Taymiyya also rejects the claims of the logicians in respect of judgements: “they don’t understand anything of judgements except through reasoning – that is the demonstrative reasoning (al-qiyās al-shumūlī) of the philosophers, not the analogical inductive reasoning (al-qiyās al-tamthīlī) of the scholar-jurists. He says: “This is not axiomatic but rather a negative stance which denies [the validity of other ways], and is not backed by evidence, and which they thus advocate without proof. How can they say that no human being can arrive at judgements which are not axiomatic, except in virtue of demonstrative reasoning? The philosophers say that certain knowledge is not possible except through proof – which for them means demonstrative reasoning – where for them there must be a proposition which is a positive universal, such that knowledge be in the form of a universal. So if what is known is axiomatic, possibly each of its particulars is axiomatic in the first place, i.e. not requiring proof, and if it were known conceptually, in other words known through theoretical reason, it would still require axiomatic knowledge [acting as the premise for the demonstration or syllogism]. So it unravels passively as part of a sequence, and is rationally void [since propositions are either axiomatic in of themselves or demanding proof as to their truth using axiomatic propositions].

Whichever of these cases becomes the universal case used as the premise for the demonstrative proof, the conclusion can be known without the use of such a proof. Ibn Taymiyya presents several instances of this: “Everybody knows that nothing moves and stay still at the same time, and knowledge of the universal proposition is not necessary (i.e. that contradictories do not combine) and so on in everything where two contradictories are known. If two meaning are known to contradict one another, they are known not to combine [and this is necessary to the mind from the necessity of non-contradiction]. And doesn’t see the contradiction cannot have any idea of the universal proposition (that contradictories do not combine). Knowing that those two meanings being contradictory do not combine, can be attained without that major premise (that contradictories do not combine). There is no lack of knowledge except in the case of that reasoning which is called demonstration”.

In summary ibn Taymiyya sees demonstrative reasoning as establishing what is in fact established already, as in the case of all human beings “are” animals, Aḥmad is a human being, thus Aḥmad is an animal, where you actually knew from the start that the human being Aḥmad was an animal, when it was you accepted that all human beings were animals, etc…

The seeds of scientific method

None of this meant that Ibn Taymiyya rejected the syllogism outright, but he felt “that it reminded him of the form of demonstrative reasoning and its terms, which involved the use of enormous energy, without effective outcome, in the sense that everything that could be done with this type of reasoning could also be done without it.

Whereas we have the parts of the body, each of which are given a name in natural science, [ibn Taymiyya] confronted the shortcoming (in demonstrative reasoning), in the correspondence between those mental conclusions resulting, as the [philosophers] claim, from the definitions [followed by] reasoning, and what we [actually] find in the external world (i.e. the parts of the body in the real world), not being certain [or exact]. This is because on the one hand you have universal mental judgements, and on the other, external objects defined in virtue of their subject matter. Perhaps mental judgements can, in virtue of these subjects, indeed be applied to external objects, but only on the basis of evidence from the senses. If the evidence of the senses does not come through their demonstration, where is that certainty that the philosophers ascribed to it?

In this last paragraph we referred to ibn Taymiyya’s fundamental idea, which while being explained, was not set out in detail, around which idea was subsequently built the modern methodology of experimental science. This required that external objects in nature be analysed, with experiments being conducted to ascertain their characteristics, and that it is not appropriate in natural science to use logical demonstration or mental reflection. And if this now becomes obvious to you, then Aristotle would have disagreed with you absolutely.

So ibn Taymiyya doesn’t disagree with Aristotelian logic from the point of view of reasoning as such, only in respect of the philosophers’ claims, firstly that this is the only way to certain knowledge, for indeed there is another way, and secondly that it is a foolproof procedure. On his view, the procedure doesn’t guarantee a certain outcome, and can cause problems and errors: ultimately, “it is a lengthy procedure, which pushes away evidence, making what is close at hand in our knowledge further away [than it needs to be], and turning what is easy into something difficult”. There is also Ibn Taymiyya’s important contribution in pointing out the usefulness of logic in the scientific research which itself should depend on observation and experiment. Note that in all his objections, he without any doubt pursues a direct logical method.

Logic and modern science

I consider that I have proved Dr. Fouad Zakaria and his followers wrong in their belief that Muslim scholar-jurists rejected logic because they felt that logical reasoning would discourage Muslims from [an attachment to] their faith. In fact, quite to the contrary: some of the most important of the ancient scholars glorified logic – not just Ḥujjat al-Islam Abu Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī, and they used it to show that it was the philosophers who erred in its use. And those who attacked logic (ibn Taymiyya for instance) did not attack systematic reasoning, rather they wished to encourage thought by freeing it from the constrictions of the formalities of Aristotelian logic and allowing the potentialities of straightforward systematic thinking in all its different ways. And these were the first tremors on releasing the mind on its way to building the modern experimental scientific method of research. Modern science doesn’t emerge until after liberation from Aristotelian logic, to take the road to induction on which ibn Taymiyya became one of the first to tread, leaving behind Aristotelian demonstration… and on this, let us from some witnesses.ِِ

Aristotle believed that the syllogism, which starts from universal propositions, is the only way to get to certain knowledge. But induction doesn’t accept this unless all relevant particulars have been reviewed.Reviewing just some of them to arrive at a judgement which is then use to apply to other individual cases is not considered as productive of certain knowledge. Modern science has been built entirely on the examination of sample cases which are tested in experiments, on the basis that that the results should describe the characteristics of all similar individual cases, not only those only of the samples being examined. This describes exactly the induction followed by ibn Taymiyya, the value of which he defended in the field of experimental research; against the views of the peripatetic logicians.

Will Durant writes in his book “The Story of Philosophy”: “We are bothered, at the outset, with [Aristotle’s] insistence on logic. He thinks the syllogism a description of man’s way of reasoning, whereas it merely describes man’s way of dressing up his reasoning for the persuasion of another mind; he supposes that the thought begins with premises and seeks their conclusions, when actually thought begins with hypothetical conclusions and seeks their justifying premises” [p. 116].

At the beginning of the experimental method in Europe, it was Francis Bacon – ranked by some historians of philosophy as the greatest mind of modern times – who originated the inductive method – 400 years after ibn Taymiyya. In his work on the evidences of modern inquiry Bacon wrote that the error of the Greek philosophers was to spend much time on theory and little time on observation and practical research, where thought is supposed to aid observation rather than supplant it. He said, furthermore, that after a thousand years of having mapped out logic and dissecting it with the tools proposed by Aristotle’s, philosophy has come to the point of having lost the respect of everybody, and we must throw out all the theories from the Middle Ages, the dialectics, the debates, and the theories which require convoluted proofs and forget them. And Bacon’s work on the progress of education abounds with attacks on Aristotle and on his followers in the Middle Ages, and on demonstrative reasoning. In the “Great Instauration” he says “demonstrative reasoning doesn’t apply to the first principles of knowledge but applies in vain on intermediate axioms, and in this it does not parallel nature accurately but leads rather to a presentation as a matter of form, which misses the point of the exercise. Roger Bacon makes even stronger statements when he says “if you left it up to me I would burn all of Aristotle’s books, because their study cannot lead other than to waste, error and increased ignorance”.

The reader must have noticed that such statements don’t differ in essence much from what ibn al-Salah said, by which we saw that Fouad Zakaria measures Muslim thought, namely that “whoever uses logic is a heretic!”. So we don’t accept much of Aristotle’s logic as a tool of thought or as a path to knowledge, but on the other hand it is a good method of presenting thoughts and managing arguments. When two discussants begin to weigh up the major premise, they agree on its import and have thus passed the half-way point to a complete understanding. If they then address the minor premise and agreed on its import, agreement arises naturally in regard to the conclusion. If, on the other hand, they disagreed on anything in the premises, they would have revealed the source of disagreement, which in turn can then be calmly addressed. But the agreement of the discussants doesn’t necessarily mean that would have reached certain knowledge and an agreement on the truth; their agreement on the premises doesn’t guarantee their validity.

Ibn Taymiyya’s severity – he was generally unbending in his discussions – was one of the characteristics of clashes in the heat of those arguments. Subsequent to these battles, with the softening of attitudes and the settling of the dust, Sheikh Abi Zahra clarifies for us the ultimate position of the Muslim scholar-jurists when he says: “logic weighs up the deductive process but does not establish the proof itself; it sets out the substance of the proof but does not produce this substance, and this is the way with all the methodological sciences. Prosody doesn’t add to the content of poetry, nor does it provide the orator with any expressions. Explanatory criticism weighs up the forms of speech and the structure of rhetoric, but does not inform the orator about the substance of rhetoric and illustrative imagery. We don’t need logic or philosophy in order to believe, but learning them is warranted in order to defend Islam, to protect it, and argue its corner in the best possible way. Perhaps they are guided, such as persist in their striving and wrangling, having been refined and strengthened through the methods they have learnt… such is the benefit of logic. So with definitions, forms of demonstrative reasoning, and the use of examples, they can bring out the flaws in arguments. It is enough that they bring out flaws by using demonstrative reasoning, know definitions in all their particulars, and the specific from the general in the major premises, to show up the vicious from the virtuous. But logic cannot be the sole method of reasoning, for mental resources are not limited by logic. It may be a disciplinary criterion, but nevertheless it isn’t by itself the way to mental discipline, for good instincts and clear thinking speak louder”.

Al-Jazeera on the media demonisation of protesters at Raba’a and Nahda

In the HRW report All According to Plan (see previous post) Sarah Lea Whitson makes no bones about the fact that “… the highest levels of government in Egypt planned this dispersal, there was a very high level meeting called of the most senior government officials… including then Defence Minister, now President Sisi … to plan this dispersal and anticipate that they would have a very high death toll”.

A part of the plan that the HRW doesn’t cover is a media blitz in Egypt to demonise the protesters prior to the attack on the camp. To this end, the new Egyptian junta banned all opposition TV and radio on the day of the coup on July 3rd 2013, and it only kept those stations open that had talk show hosts tied either to the country’s General Intelligence Services (GIS) or its State Security Investigation unit (SSI). Magdi Hussein, editor of el-Shaab (The People) Newspaper, famously outed all these figures in an article last May, in his newspaper.

Al-Jazeera produced a 30min film on this very subject in Arabic (see last post), and while I have tried at several junctures to convince the channel to produce an English version ever since, I have failed. This film is important enough to relate in English, so here goes.

This is the film:

This is an English summary:

There is 1min introduction in black and white which sets the scene, where the narrator says that the Egyptian media accused the protesters of torturing and killing tens of people, and hiding them under main podium in Rab’a al-Adawiyya square. This was to be the justification for a brutal attack on the camp.

The film cuts (in colour now) to someone’s living room and a TV has been photoshopped onto a desk, onto which TV screen footage of the Rab’a dispersal from various channels is to be displayed. First, State TV shows Mohamed Ibrahim (Minister of Interior) saying that he has information that at the Nahda camp 6 dead bodies have been found and 3 torture victims have been taken to hospital. Meanwhile at Rab’a apparently there have been 3 tortured to death and 7 torture victims still alive. Then ONTV is shown interviewing a victim of protester wrath almost entirely encased in plaster on a hospital stretcher, relating his experiences in a broken voice (one though that resembles the meanderings of a drunk). Then footage from the CBC channel shows a talk show hostess taking a call from a woman, who described someone being beaten up by protesters, whom she said she later saw in a mortuary in a “terrible state”. WATAN TV then shows a man with two black eyes who charges that members of the Muslim Brotherhood beat him up and wanted to cut his hand off with an electric carving knife on suspicion of stealing, although an old man intervened who made the alleged attackers only take a finger, on the basis that it was only “suspicion”. Dream TV then has its talk show host say bluntly that the Muslim Brotherhood had killed 80 innocent people at Rab’a and dumped them in the gutter [N.B.: The new Egyptian régime’s term for all protesters is “Muslim Brothers” (=terrorists) and this is used throughout all TV discussions].

We now cut from the living room to Rab’a square (@ 5min 13sec) with the sound of police shouting through loud hailers to clear the square, and the picture of a row of shrouded and bloodied bodies. We cut back again to the living room with the very same bodies being discussed in sequence by all the channels concerned, the TV hosts telling us in no uncertain terms that these are the bodies of the innocents that have been killed by the protesters over the past few days – and that finally this is the evidence for the Minister of Interior’s earlier allegations. The commentators get heated up, shouting about how these “criminal protesters” were spilling the blood of Egyptian patriots, calling these deaths “mass crimes”. One commentator on the CBC channel refers to the resignation of Mohamed el-Baradei (acting Prime Minister at the time). Baradei had resigned over his disagreement with the use of force at Rab’a. The commentator shouts (almost insanely loudly), and addresses Baradei for the purpose of effect (Baradei clearly isn’t there – he had left for Vienna): are you happy now? You can now come and pray over these bodies and apologise!

A discussion is then ensues between two commentators (a man and a woman) recorded from al-Hayat TV. The female voice says of the bodies that “it is obvious” that they belong to people killed in the protest camps in the past few days. The male voice retorts that he didn’t want to judge without evidence and maybe they had come out of the field hospital (i.e. they had died that day). The film then cuts to the events at Rab’a with a man in the square shouting: “I’ll tell you where these people came from: they came from the field hospital, they had to be moved because the bodies were piling up and we had nowhere to put any more bodies, we put them under the podium because it was shady under there (in the August heat)”.

The film (@8min 8sec) narrator then asks: was the claim true that the Muslim Brotherhood killed those people before the 14th August and hid them under the podium? This question is broken down into two further questions based on the Egyptian media’s allegations: (1) Why were these bodies put in the street and not in the hospital? Answer from the protesters (to be defended): because the hospital was full (2) The allegation was that the bodies were rotting and this is evidence that they were killed before the 14th August. Answer from the protesters: the bodies were not rotting (to be defended).

Answering question 1. We cut back to the living room looking in sequence at the various channels’ coverage of distance shots now of people moving bodies around. The various TV hosts are unanimous that the bodies being moved are being dragged to and fro in a chaotic manner without the “dignity due to dead people”. The conclusion reached is that this is behaviour indicative of the fact that these are “Muslim Brothers” carrying bodies of people who are “not one of them”. If the dead people had been Muslim Brothers they would have been treated with more dignity, so the dead people are pro-régime people who have been tortured and killed by Muslim Brothers (Q.E.D.).

We cut to scenes in the main hospital (@11min 36sec). We see scenes of chaos, with numberless dead and dying on the ground and in corridors, and the narrator tells us that this is why bodies had to be moved to new locations, and some of the tents outside in the square are then converted into additional emergency field hospitals. But then the most harrowing part of the film (@13min 14sec) occurs where these tents themselves now cease to be safe havens as army bulldozers begin to raise them to the ground amid oft-repeated cries of Oh God! and God save us! We hear women shrieking, and see men throwing stones at the bulldozers. Over the mayhem a police loud hailer tells people to move away for their own safety. The people meanwhile are desperately trying to move the bodies away as some begin to be consumed by fire thrown from the bulldozers, and tents begin to collapse on top of them.

We finally get a shot of the row of shrouded and bloodied bodies discussed earlier which had been the subject of media speculation, and which the media held was the evidence for the Minister of Interior’s claims. They had successfully been moved out in front of the podium, unlike the many who were destroyed under the caterpillar tracks of the bulldozers and burned. The narrator then states that he has finally shown us how the row of bodies actually got there, and the fact that they had originally come from the field hospital via the temporary tents. But then he adds that that doesn’t prove that they were killed on 14th August by the army, in an operation that began at 6:30 a.m. that day.

Answering question 2 (@20min 20sec). The narrator explains that all the dead were shrouded and had their names and addresses written either on the shrouds or on their clothes. Even the wounded would be asked their name and address for the record in case they were lost in the chaos. The narrator then asks if it would possible to identify specifically one of the bodies from the row of the shrouded and bloodied bodies that had been on everybody’s TV screens that day, and to find out when that person had died. From the ONTV screen shot, the name on one of the bodies was deciphered as that Abu Obeida Kamal-eddin Nour-eddin (@23min). Pictures are then shown of Abu Obeida alive amongst protesters, then his body is shown in the field hospital, then his subsequent funeral is shown, attended by a crowd of of the same protesters carrying banners with the now famous four-fingered yellow sign of Rab’a, as well as large blow-ups of his photo. It is therefore clear that he was alive at the outset on the 14th of August and that he was no antagonist of the protesters.

What is more, video footage that he took of himself is found on his phone. He made a last will and testament, saying his name, telling us he was an engineering student, and that he really wanted to learn in order to contribute to society, but that events had turned for the worse in Egypt and something had to be done. Where there had been freedom and freedom of religion before, this was no longer the case, and he had had to make a stand. He said that he hoped that if he died, that he died well: a martyr. The footage is dated the afternoon of 13th August 2013 and Abu Obeida is smiling in the sunshine, little aware of what was about to happen, and even less aware of the importance of this testimony of his.

The film concludes with a number of points, two of which stand out. The man on WATAN TV with two black eyes retracted his evidence about his finger being cut off (it was still there) in a later court case, which was featured in a newspaper article. On 18th September 2013 a public coroner (Hisham Abd el-Hamid) appears on al-Balad TV confirming that all the bodies that had come out of Rab’a on 14th August had died within a few hours of each other. If Abu Obeida had died on 14th August, then everyone else who was killed had died at roughly the same time.
The narrator apologises for the fact that this last piece of evidence comes at the end of the film. Showing it at the beginning would have lessened the effect. The purpose of the film makers was to show how Egyptian media had turned peaceful protesters into torturers, and victims into vicious killers for the benefit of the watching Egyptian public, on that dreadful day.

Perhaps with the benefit of the efforts of such as al-Jazeera, HRW, and ITN, the London lawyers who are pursuing Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and his cohorts at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC), as well in various local jurisdictions (open link http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/11/19/egypt-as-a-space-of-resistance/), things won’t “go to plan” after all for this bloody régime. In a period when Gaza has been mercilessly attacked by a criminal Israeli régime, we can only put the actions of the inbreds that make up the Egyptian junta in context by reminding ourselves that for a comparison to be possible, the Israeli régime would have had to turn around and massacre their own people.

ٍSeven demonstrators on this anniversary of the Raba’a and Nahda have been killed by the army and police.



All According to Plan: The Raba’a Massacre and Mass Killings of Protesters in Egypt

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issues its report on the mass killings of protesters in Egypt today (12th August 2014) two days before the anniversary of the hideous events. The main points of this HRW report on clearing the protest camp in Raba’a al-‘Adawiyya: ** it is recognised the largest one-day mass killing of peaceful protesters in recent history ** the persons responsible are identified as Mohamed Ibrahim (Min. Interior) , Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi (Min. Defence, now President of Egypt and recipient yesterday of the Saudi Medal of Honour), Midhat el-Menshawi (Special forces leader) ** evidence shows that security forces opened fire on protesters from the outset ** security forces went about their business on that gruesome day without fear of armed resistance as was claimed (open for details: http://www.hrw.org/embargo/node/127933?signature=2ae57efa3cd206b49c7d54634fae13c6&suid=6).Philip Roth writes: “This wasn’t merely a case of excessive force or poor training. It was a violent crackdown planned at the highest levels of the Egyptian government. Many of the same officials are still in power in Egypt, and have a lot to answer for.”

See video:

HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth and Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson were due to make the presentation of the report in Cairo, but they were denied entry into the country by the junta. The HRW report has highlighted, among other things, the pernicious nature of the plethora of home-grown human rights organisations in Egypt, run behind the scenes by the intelligence services, which try to counter accusations such as those of HRW with their own distracting fabrications. HRW documented 817 killings at Raba’a el-‘Adawiyya, the main protest camp, and 87 killings at el-Nahda, the smaller protest camp where our intrepid team was based, whose story we followed on this site (see links to the Story of the Egyptian Coup and the Protest Camps starting with : http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/12/why-are-we-in-the-streets/).

This HRW report is an extremely important and objective document: one difficult for the US and EU to ignore (in the context of their astonishing support for the Egyptian junta). However, the documented killings by HRW are documented killings, and are in fact much smaller numbers than the number of those actually killed in the final analysis as per the count of friends and relatives of those missing, especially when there was no possibility of clearing of the dead and wounded prior to the implementation of a brutal sanitisation of the areas concerned by the junta’s forces. On this see the al-Jazeera documentary:

ِA further documentary was compiled by al-Jazeera partially from mobile phone footage which, during part of the film, gives a much closer view of the harrowing events of the 14th August. This documentary focuses on the Egyptian media’s spin defending the junta’s violent clearances (led by Naguib Sawiris’ ONTV), detailed in the first 10 mins in the form of distance shots being piped through TV into people’s living rooms. Their claims were that the protesters at the camps were not peaceful and that they were killing and torturing pro-junta “protesters” in hidden places beneath the podia erected at the camps (used by speakers to address the crowds). The film offers a clever point-by-point deconstruction of this spin, exposing it for the pack of lies that it actually was. However, it also, and more importantly, shows close-up the clearing process which used bulldozers with flame throwers in train (see 14.28 mins into the film), a process which would ultimately make it impossible to determine the actual number of deaths (which presumably from the point of view of the junta was the main point of the exercise):

Tayab Ali from ITN solicitors in London, who heads the Muslim Brotherhood’s legal team says: “the HRW report provides independent support for our case that members of the Egyptian post-coup government are responsible for the very serious international crimes that were committed against unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators in Egypt. We have already provided significant evidence to the police and investigative authorities in a number of countries including the United Kingdom. We will add to that the powerful evidence contained in this report. There is clear evidence that the post-coup military led regime planned and used extreme violence to support the coup. As the evidence grows it will become harder for those responsible for these crimes to evade justice. Those responsible for planning and executing these crimes against the people of Egypt will be prosecuted. It is just a matter of time”. See our analysis of the legal cases being prosecuted by ITN on link: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/11/19/egypt-as-a-space-of-resistance/


Navi Pillay rebukes the US Congress over its untenable stance over Gaza from any Human Rights perspective

106 members of Congress attacked the U.N. Human Rights Council for launching an inquiry into whether Israel committed war crimes during the conflict in Gaza.

U.N. Human Rights chief Navanethem (Navi) Pillay responded with a letter which provides an extraordinarily direct rebuke of the U.S. Congress from the international body as follows:

UNHRC has appointed Canadian international lawyer William Schabas to lead the enquiry into Israeli atrocities, with the predicable negative responses by the Israeli government against anything the UNHRC has to say