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CAN THE FRENCH LE FT DREAM UP A BETTER EUROPE? – Pages 12-13
JUNE 2011 No 1106
Taking liberties with egality by SERGE HALIMI
Any criticism of the privileges enjoyed by the oligarchy, of the venality of the ruling classes, of generous handouts to the banks, the joys of free trade or savage wage-cuts in the name of international competition, is now construed as “populism” and “playing into the hands of the extreme right”.
When New York’s courts refused to grant special treatment to the IMF’s managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, accused of raping a chambermaid in a Manhattan hotel, a commentator – joining the chorus of French political and media pundits – purported to be shocked by this “violence of egalitarian justice”. He added, almost automatically: “The only comment one can make with any certainty is that the anti-elite feelings aroused by the scandal will increase the chances of the farright Front National of Marine Le Pen in the [French] presidential elections” (1).
So protecting the elite, and their policies, against an angry mob of down-and-outs is a democratic exercise? Fear of Islamic fundamentalism exonerated Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s predatory regime in Tunisia, fear of “Marxism” justified Silvio Berlusconi’s victories in Italy. And a (legitimate) fear of the Front National (FN) and another 21 April (2) could mean that any policy the FN is against would become sacrosanct in France. Ordinary people don’t like political parlour games? They can be told protesters are all fascists at heart, whether they know it or not.
To accept this intellectual straitjacket is an act of political folly. The far right in France is well aware that the erosion of social inequalities and decline of public services have undermined its Thatcherite ideology, its hatred of civil servants and its Poujadist resistance to taxes, and it is now quite ready to support causes historically associated with the left. Jean-Marie Le Pen paid tribute 25 years ago to the Vichy government and the rebel generals in French Algeria, and elbowed his way into a group photograph with Ronald Reagan. His daughter, Marine, now quotes General de Gaulle, talks about the Resistance and advocates the renationalisation of energy and telecommunications (3). Xenophobia is still part of the far right mix, but it is well established in society and endorsed by government, so the far right propaganda machine can afford to concentrate on other issues.
Socialist parties, converted to middle-class values and globalisation, should not be solely blamed for this ideological theft. The more radical left, with its strategic weakness and its inability to achieve unity, has a responsibility too. In any case, combating the far right does not mean opposing the progressive causes that the far right now ostensibly supports (and distorts), it means offering a political alternative to a justifiably angry electorate. Isn’t this what the Spanish demonstrators in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol called for?
Translated by Barbara Wilson (1) Dominique Moïsi, “The Strauss-Kahn earthquake”, International Herald Tribune, Paris, 18 May 2011. (2) On 21 April 2002, the Socialist candidate in the French presidential elections, Lionel Jospin, was overtaken by JeanMarie Le Pen and was consequently not in the second round. Jacques Chirac was re-elected, with an 82% majority. (3) See “La défense des services publics, nouveau cheval de bataille du parti lepéniste”, Le Monde, 21 May 2011.
PAKISTAN AFTER THE DEATH OF BIN LADEN
Now that he’s gone y Jean-Luc Racine
The assassination of Osama bin Laden in his compound in a city in Pakistan changed the placement of all the pieces on the board and focused attention on how Pakistan’s military will react. The great game goes on, and several players have a keen eye on the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan
The US raid in Pakistan on the night of 1-2 May only partly revealed the shadow war which the Americans and Pakistanis are engaged in; some of its secrets remain hidden.
Under the Bush administration, Pakistan in 2004 joined the privileged category of major non-Nato allies (MNNA), a club with fewer than 15 members, including Australia, Israel and Japan. Now, after the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, near Pakistan’s most important military academy, there is a question mark over the real state of US-Pakistan relations. A week earlier in Abbottabad, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s chief of army staff, told a passing out parade that they had “broken the terrorists’ back” (1).
After Bin Laden’s assassination, Leon Panetta, head of the CIA, made it clear that Washington did not tell the Pakistani authorities about the raid in advance because “it was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardise the mission. They might alert the targets” (2). The US decided to conduct a military operation in a sovereign country without its permission.
For months dialogue between the countries has been fitful. The US military has been dissatisfied with their Pakistani counterparts’ apparent inability to intervene in the tribal area of North Waziristan (3), the region from which the Haqqani network, the descendants of the Afghan mujahideen, carry out missions against Nato troops in eastern Afghanistan.
Panetta’s statement, in conjunction with the increased tension since 2 May between the Pakistani military and the CIA, contradicts the theory that there was a covert joint operation in which the Pakistani army played their Bin Laden card – under pressure or voluntarily – realising it would become worthless if secret contacts were established between the US and the Afghan Taliban.
Official statements from Pakistan suggest that the presence of Bin Laden, however long he had been there, was the result of a failure in the intelligence services of all the countries that had tracked him, not just of the directorate of Pakistan’s army-controlled Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The head of the ISI, General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, expressed regret before parliament over the failure of Pakistan’s entire security network, and also blamed the provincial government and the local police (4). It is almost impossible to believe that an organisation as powerful as the ISI could have been unaware of the occupants of the incongruous compound building in a garrison town.
That does not necessarily mean that the CIA failed to cross-check its information with the ISI before the trail led to Abbottabad, especially to confirm that Abu Ahmed alKuwaiti, a Pakistani born in Kuwait who had been identified by a source in Guantanamo, was Bin Laden’s intermediary. On 3 May Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, reminded readers of The Washington Post that terrorism has claimed tens of thousands of victims in Pakistan and said that “we in Pakistan take some satisfaction that our early assistance in identifying an al-Qaida courier ultimately led to this day” (5).
Since then, the language has changed. Some brave journalists have risked asking about the army’s version of events (6) or saying aloud what many think silently: “If we didn’t know, we are a failed state. And if we did, we are a rogue state” (7). A few figures called for a rethink of Pakistan’s whole strategy, but public rhetoric, expressed by the authorities as well as political leaders and the media, quickly focused on the issue of national sovereignty and denunciations of US interference. The question of possible complicity by the army and the special services was replaced by reactions to the security failures that allowed an airborne commando unit to operate deep within Pakistan and, having accomplished its mission, to leave without losses.
Continued on page 2
Jean-Luc Racine is a director of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and teaches at the Centre d’Etudes de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud in the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHES); he is co-editor of Pakistan: the Contours of State and Society (Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2002)
inside this issue Without God on our side: secular Bangladesh suppresses dissent Page 4 Hamas-Fatah accord: what does this mean for Palestinian prospects? Page 5 United they stand: Yemenis agree that President Saleh must go, now Page 6 Egypt’s brothers in alms: Muslims’ and Christians’ shared heritage Page 8
Austerity has awakened the UK’s dormant culture of protest Page 10 DSK: French media have long colluded in covering up the elite’s affairs Page 11 Sudan’s sanction-busting export that the US can’t live without Page 14 Facing the cuts: the growing attraction of cosmetic surgery Page 16
Mohamad Said Balabki – ‘The limits of the city’ (2009) Raf