Nazis rise, public shrugs
Authorities in Germany have so far failed to squelch neo-Nazism in some eastern parts of the nation, Spiegel Online reported on August 21. The existence and resilience of right-wing extremist cells in Germany isn’t a shock, but the news comes with a more alarming corollary: The German public remains largely indifferent.
German authorities have so far been unsuccessful in eradicating right-wing extremism, especially in the east’s depopulated rural regions, where neo-Nazis run local youth clubs and sports centers, man volunteer fire departments and even sit on city councils. “In eastern Germany, the neo-Nazis are winning,” Spiegel wrote.
Non-white minorities account for just 1 percent of the population in eastern Germany. Some analysts have said the neo-Nazis’ greatest victory is that, with the exception of Berlin, eastern Germany is essentially free of foreigners. Immigrants are afraid to settle or even travel through those regions. Germany’s center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung stated that the neo-Nazis’ biggest success “is not their presence in regional parliaments but this fact: Among immigrants, eastern Germany is seen as a no-go area. The state and the police haven’t managed to change the climate in two decades” (August 17).
But is the neo-Nazis’ racial homogenization of eastern Germany—accomplished by thuggery and intimidation—truly their “biggest success”?
In mid-August, Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel pointed out a subtler trend that represents a far greater victory for German neo-Nazis: the lack of outcry. “Ordinary citizens still often look away when someone gives the Hitler salute on the village green and calls for a ‘Nationally Liberated Zone.’ By remaining silent, they are relinquishing their own hard-fought freedom,” Der Tagesspiegel wrote.
“Society remains indifferent,” Spiegel reported. “[T]here’s no big push in German society to root out the problem. … [T]he threat of the far right has not become a major theme in the public debate. Society, politicians and the police are once again turning a blind eye towards everyday racist violence that has turned much of the east into a no-go area for people who aren’t white …” (op. cit.).
In many eastern German towns, it is now common to see neo-Nazi emblems on clothing and cars. And a new—yet eerily familiar—phenomenon is happening on city streets. Neo-Nazi groups are exploiting social media to orchestrate unsettling flash mobs that echo the fascist torch rallies of the 1930s. cnn video has also shown these neo-Nazi gatherings. “They appear in the middle of the night, unannounced and armed with torches, their faces hidden behind plain white masks,” cnn reported. “It is frightening scene that resembles the Nazi torch marches of the 1930s” (August 14).
Hajo Funke, a professor in Berlin, is alarmed by Die Unsterblichen, “The Immortals.” According to Funke, the increasingly popular group is trying to appeal in particular to young people. Its message is “mystical” and radical. According to German officials, the Immortals and the flash mobs they initiate (generally via text message and Twitter) are a serious and growing concern. The organization has already been banned in a few states.
Germany’s domestic intelligence agency made headlines in July after releasing a report saying that, while the overall membership of neo-Nazi groups in Germany dropped from 25,000 in 2010 to 22,400 last year, the number of far-right extremists ready to use violence increased by 300 to 9,800. Although the extremists’ numbers have declined, their radicalism is rising.
But again, the real newsworthy numbers are the millions of Germans who are remaining silent.
In another nation, tacit approval of neo-Nazis might be dismissed as irrelevant. But 75 years ago, this country quietly tolerated a Nazi movement that ignited into nationwide blitzkrieg fanaticism. Can the nation responsible for the Holocaust allow itself to show anything less than zero tolerance for skinhead youths performing the Hitler salute?
Why is the German public largely reticent? Many Germans sympathize with racist, anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi ideals. As Europe’s financial diseases worsen, and the German economy and government bear greater pressure, extremist groups will gain a shocking surge of support. Frustration with politics and the economy will drive the German people to seek a new leader, someone who is decisive and strong and places the Fatherland ahead of the world. Someone, perhaps, like Adolf Hitler.
Muslims jeer, Amiens burns
Around 150 youths shot at police and torched cars as they rioted in Amiens, France, on August 13. The riots happened in largely Muslim area of the city, suggesting that Muslim immigrants were behind the violence. The next day, the French minister of the interior visited the area and was confronted by some 100 youths who jeered and pushed his bodyguards. France suffered widespread violence in 2005, and many French fear that the unrest in Amiens could spread. The riots highlight Europe’s ongoing problems with its immigrants. When the economy was strong, problems were papered over, but as it worsens, grievances are tearing through the facade.
Another WW2 taboo falls
Germany’s highest court issued a ruling on August 18 allowing the military to be used against threats within the country. This ruling breaks a 67-year-old taboo against using the Bundeswehr within Germany’s borders.
Just before and during World War ii, Adolf Hitler used the SS paramilitary units against the German population to keep his hold on power. In an attempt to stop a repeat of such power abuse, the postwar German government restricted the role of the military to warding off foreign assaults. Troops were explicitly forbidden to be deployed within the country.
The rising threat of terrorism is seen to be what prompted the Federal Constitutional Court to reverse this ruling. Bundeswehr troops can now deploy inside Germany to counter “states of emergency of catastrophic proportions.” They are still prohibited from being used “in reaction to the threat posed by demonstrating crowds.”
While the breaking of this taboo does not exactly give the German government dictatorial powers as some are claiming, it does show that government officials are growing more comfort- able with the use of military power. As the euro crisis intensifies and domestic unrest increases across Europe, expect Germany to rise up as the dominant military power in Europe.
Sorry, you’re closed
The European Central Bank’s new watchdog could gain the power to order banks and lenders to close down, Reuters reported August 1. “Speaking on condition of anonymity, [officials and policymakers] said the latest plans envisage giving the eurozone’s central bank the remit to police far more than just the currency area’s 25 top banks, as originally expected,” Reuters said. The authority will also be able to overrule national lenders and intervene in smaller banks. Watch for the ecb to err on the side of more power, not less, over the euro- zone’s banks.
New constitution? ‘Seems inevitable’
The euro crisis is forcing Germany to consider radical changesto its own political system. SeniorGerman politicians from all majorparties have called for referenda over Germany’s relationship withEurope. Spiegel states that theeuro crisis will probably force thegovernment to write a new constitution and have the public voteon it. Many expect Germany’sFederal Constitutional Court toannounce soon that the nation hasalready gone as far toward the European superstate as the currentconstitution will allow. Spiegel says a referendum to endorse a new constitution “seems inevitable.” Rewriting Germany’s basic law would throw the door wide open for Europe’s most dominant nation to shrug off many of its post-World War ii restrictions and remake itself into an even more powerful force.
It has arrived: ‘the Quarto reich’
The Fourth Reich has taken over Europe, according to Il Giornale,a right-wing Italian newspaper. The bold front page of the paper’s August 3 edition showed German Chancellor Angela Merkel with her hand raised in a gesture vaguely reminiscentof the Hitler salute, under the headline “Quarto Reich.” Editor in chief Alessandro Sallusti wrote, “Since yesterday, Italy is no longer in Europe. It is in the Fourth Reich.” The bold comments came in the wake of talks between Italy, Spain and the European Central Bank (ecb). The two nations are seeking fiscal aid, but ecb President Mario Draghi has pressured both countries to formally apply before the bank provides any assistance. A formal application will allow for the central bank to buy Spanish and Italian bonds—but it will also impose strict conditions that will essentially put either nation at the mercy of the German- influenced ecb. If Germany and the ecb choose to bail out Spain and Italy, expect Berlin to exact increased economic and political control over those two countries. Although Germany’s economy is suffering along with the rest of Europe, Berlin knows how to take advantage of the crisis to consolidate controlover the Continent.
Don’t forget about attacking the Jews!
Iranian officials, ambassadors of Islamic countries and Palestinian representatives held a “Resistance, Islamic Awakening and Liberation of Palestine” conference in Tehran on August 13. The event came in the run-up to Iran’s Quds Day celebration, where anti-Semites around the world rally to support the conquestof Jerusalem. The purpose of the Iranian meeting was to discuss the “intifada” and to “focus on ways to attain the ultimate goal of liberating the Holy Quds, which embodies the dignity of the world Muslims,” the Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Even with the Middle East in turmoil and Syria, Egypt and other countries requiring Iran’s attention, Jerusalem and Israel remain its central focus.
One big get-together
Representatives from nearly 100 nations gathered in Iran on August 30 for the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement. Over 50 heads of state attended, a high turnout that represented a victory for Iran, a country that Western nations have tried and failed to isolate. Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi saidthe conference demonstrated the “thriv- ing power” of Iran. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi opened the conference with an appeal for solidarity against Western sanctions and lambasting Israel. The “tragedy of Palestine” is “the root cause of conflicts in the region,” Salehi said.
In spite of strong protests from Israel, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attended the summit, a further indication that Iran is not nearly as se- questered as the West had hoped.
Crisis nearing conclusion?
Signs of how the Syrian crisis will end mounted in recent weeks, as the Iranian-aligned government became further isolated and anti-government forces received much-needed help.
On July 29, the Syrian government leveled some rare public criticism against Sunni powers in the Middle East. Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem accused Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey of trying to destroy his nation. He said those countries were supporting an Israeli plot to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad. Moallem’s allegations came while he was on a visit to Iran.
As if to confirm Moallem’s accusation, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation responded on August 15 by suspending Syria, demonstrating its support for those who are trying to overthrow the Assad regime. The organization includes 57 member nations.
Meanwhile, Turkey is taking steps to secure its interests along its border with northern Syria. In late July, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised his concern that the conflict in Syria was al- lowing a Kurdish authority to be created in the northern part of the country. Such a situation would create a sanctuary for Turkey’s Kurdish separatists, who already use northern Iraq as a springboard for attacks against Turkey. Erdogan did not specify what actions his nation may take, but Turkey deployed a military convoy along its volatile border, indicating that it is ready to back up its interests with force if necessary. Turkey must now be cautious in its support for Syrian rebels so as not to give Kurds more reasons and more leverage to separate from Turkey.
The deterioration of Syria’s relationship with Iran was highlighted when, on August 4, Syrian rebels abducted 48 Iranians near Damascus. The rebels branded the Iranians as spies who were assisting President Assad’s crackdown against the uprising. Several other smaller groups of Iranians have also been snatched in recent months. The resulting tension, especially with Assad’s regime seemingly on the verge of collapse, increases the likelihood that Iran’s once staunch ally will soon break ties.
Also in early August, recently appointed Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab defected to opposition forces, making him one of the highest-profile deserters from President Assad’s government since fighting began a year and a half ago. While Syrian state-run media announced that he had been fired, Hijab stated on August 6, “I announce today my defection from the killing and terrorist regime and I announce that I have joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution. I announce that I am from today a soldier in this blessed revolution.” Hijab’s defection comes at a time when Turkey and Saudi Arabia are stepping up pressure to cave in the Assad regime.
Syria lacks the wealth of Libya or the population of Egypt, but it is an important factor in Middle Eastern geopolitics because of its location and its crucial relationship with Iran. Though it seemed virtually impossible just a year or two ago, the Bible prophesies that despite Iran’s continuing ascendancy, Syria will actually break ties with Tehran.
The great Russian helicopter sale
Over the last six months, China bought $1.3 billion worth of Russian Mi-171E helicopters and other military gear, Russia Today reported on August 23. The rotor- craft is a medium transport helicopter that can also be used in a gunship role. Russia’s state arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, sold the hardware to Beijing. Watch for billions more in arms deals between these two Asian giants.
A neighborhood tiff
More than 100 people gathered outsidea Japanese government office in Taiwan on August 15 to protest Tokyo’s plans to nationalize a set of islands controlled by Japan but also claimed by Taiwan and China. The islands, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, have been disputed for years. The protest came as a group of activists from Hong Kong stopped in waters off Taiwan to stock up on supplies before sailing to the disputed islands to assert China’s claim to them. The protests were staged on the 67th anniversary of the Japanese surrenderto Allied forces. China and Taiwan are moving closer to reunification, and this territorial dispute offers them common ground. Back in 1998, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote, “How could anyone fail to see that Taiwan is destined to become a part of mainland China?” Since then, evidence for an eventual re- unification has only increased.
Strength in numbers
Russia and India held their sixth joint anti-terrorism military drills from August 7 to 16 in southern Siberia. India is the largest purchaser of Russian armaments, with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute saying it purchased $12.7 billion in weaponry from 2007 to 2011, 80 percent of which was from Russia. Joint military drills between nations like Russia and India are laying the groundwork for future full-scale military cooperation between a great bloc of Asian nations.
What’s up with China’s military?
Japan published its annual Defense White Paper on July 31, arguing that China’s military and navy procedures should be more transparent. Tokyo says it’s worried because it sees heaps of money being pumped into China’s budget under the large and vague header of “military expenses.” “There are incidents that incite concerns over China’s military decision making and actions,” the paper said. Among Japan’s specific concerns is a sizable naval base fitted with subterranean routes for nuclear- powered submarines being built in the city of Sanya. This city is on the southern tip of Hainan Island, a strategically vital location granting Beijing access to the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Watch for China’s military expansion to spark a region-wide increase in weapons orders.
Now WTO partners
Russia became the 156th member ofthe World Trade Organization onAugust 22, ending an 18-year saga ofnegotiations. The following day, Chinasaid it is ready to boost cooperation withMoscow under the wto framework and wants to bring the Russians up to speed on wto interworking. U.S. trade unions have said they are worried that Russia joining the wto will be a repeat of China’s entry in 2001, which contributed to a flood of made-in-China merchandise into the American market. Some analysts say these fears are ill founded. But either way,
Russia and China will become more integrated economically and politically.
Boosting its airpower
The Russian military will acquire 1,000 helicopters and 600 planes by 2020, President Vladimir Putin said on August 12. Since his first election in 2000, Putin has labored to re- store pride in Russia’s military. The planned addition of 1,600 military aircraft, along with modernizing existing aircraft, is part of a $720 billion program to bolster an armed force still somewhat weakened after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The massive military spending increase represents a sharp increase in Russia’s annual defense budget. Expect the Kremlin’s desire for a Cold War-style military to be fulfilled in the years ahead.
Latin America, Africa
11 million sick chickens
Mexico is trying to contain an outbreak of bird flu. Eleven million chickens have been slaughtered, anda further 90 million vaccinated. The outbreak of the h7n3 strain was first detected on June 20. After Mexico declared an animal health emergency in July, prices of eggs and chickens increased sharply, and the nation’s poultry industry has already lost $50 million. The h7n3 virus rarely infects humans, and is not known to be easily transmittable between humans. However, viruses can mutate, and other strains like h5n1 and h1n1 have already been fatal to humans. Former World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Lee Jong-wook warned in 2005: “It is only a matter of time before an avian flu virus—most likely h5n1—acquires the ability to be transmitted from human to human, sparking the outbreak of human pandemic influenza.” He added: “We don’t know when this will happen. But we do know that it will happen.”
A strongman dies, Islam stirs
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died on August 20 after ruling the nation for over 20 years. His death threatensto throw the nation into turmoil. Meles became Ethiopia’s president in 1991 after helping to depose the country’s repressive Communist military junta. Meles then became something of a dictator himself, albeit one who improved the lives of his people and was a reliable American ally against Islamism. Hailemariam Desalegn, who became deputy prime minister and foreign minister in 2010, has become acting prime minister, but the succession process is shaky. The government has stated that new elections will not be held until 2015. Hailemariam’s opposition may not want to wait that long. Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry singled out Ethiopia in April 2011 and warned that it would soon fall to radical Islam. In spite of strong opinion to the contrary, widespread Muslim discontent is now a fact of life in the African nation. Continue to watch Ethiopia for an Islamist takeover.
Africa’s war zone
Almost two decades after the end of apartheid, the world is waking up to the fact that Africa’s last hope is a ticking time bomb.
On August 17, amine worker strike at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine turned into a battleground as police opened fire on spear-and-machete-wielding miners, leaving 34 dead and almost 100 injured. South African President Jacob Zuma ordered an official investigation into the police action. But it is hard to blame the police for shooting first and asking questions later. Just days earlier, mine workers had brutally hacked two police officers to death and burned two security guards alive.
Some people blame the unions. When the mine workers illegally went on strike, Lonmin tried to bring in other workers. Violence erupted. Eight miners from one union were killed by miners from a competing union. “We aren’t going back to work and they won’t be able to employ anyone,” one striking miner told the Associated Press. “If they employ other people, they won’t be able to work either. We’ll stay and kill them.”
The reality is that South Africa’s wealth is about to be div- vied up among the various power players. The union leaders, the populist politicians and the rich black elite are all jockeying over the post-apartheid jewels. The angry mine workers don’t know it, but they are just useful, but expendable, pawns.
Jacob Zuma in June made a big political point out of the fact that the country’s economy is still largely under the control of whites. South Africa’s various post-apartheid leaders have made it clear that South Africa’s wealth—whether that means farms, mining companies, banks, or other businesses—needs to be re- distributed. And since the government doesn’t have the money to do it through a willing buyer/willing seller policy, it is signaling that white-owned businesses will eventually be taken from whites and given to blacks—just as happened in Zimbabwe.
The violence at the mines is a result of South Africa’s redistribution policy. Unions are battling over who will be bequeathed ownership in South Africa’s richest properties to fulfill Jacob Zuma’s black-ownership policy. But it won’t be individual mine workers—of that you can be sure. For them, nothing will change. They will just get new bosses. So social tension will grow.
Signs that South Africa is a time bomb getting ready to explode are evident elsewhere, too. Frustration over the slow pace of land redistribution is making farmers the target of hate crimes. It seems there is a grisly farm attack every other day. Since the end of apartheid, over 3,000 white farmers have been murdered, according to Genocide Watch. This figure amounts to almost 7 percent of the total population of white farmers in South Africa—making South African farming the most dangerous profession in the world. Yet the South African government has passed laws banning farmers from arming themselves, and allowing the government to confiscate their weapons.
South Africa is a nation bubbling over with racial tension and swiftly proceeding down the road toward Zimbabwe-style melt- down. The reality, as Genocide Watch is warning South African farmers, is the country may soon face Rwanda-style genocide.
Gangland in Chicago
Police in Chicago arrested more than 300 members of violent gangs in mid-August in a three-day sting across 10 districts that are notorious for violent crime and illegal drugs. Chicago’s 59 active gangs have split into 600 sects, making gang wars, attacks on residents, fighting over drug markets, revenge murders and an overall high crime rate a fact of life in America’s third-largest city. Chicago is starting to choke from its deep-rooted criminal activity. This is a sign of things to come for many more American cities.
Salt water infiltrating Mississippi
A state of emergency was declared on August 22 for the New Orleans parish of Plaquemines after an upsurge of ocean water in the Mississippi River threatened to close water treatment facilities there. Normally, the high waters of the Mississippi are powerful enough to flush out salt water before it advances more than 16 miles inland. But America’s ongoing drought has allowed salt water to flow as far as 89 miles up the river. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun constructing an $8 million barrier to impede the saline flow and has had to close the river to shipping traffic twice. The drying Mississippi, one major historical factor in American prosperity, is hurting shipping and may prove to be another economic disaster for the United States.
West Nile outbreak
Dallas, Texas, declared a stateof emergency on August 15 due to an outbreak of West Nile virus. Thirteen people have been killed and more than 700 others in north Texas have fallen ill. The city has resorted to dispersing insecticide via aircraft in an attempt to kill the mosquitoes that spread the infection. If the trend continues, 2012will be the worst year for West Nile outbreaks since the virus came to the U.S. in 1999. The sprayings have been deemed environ- mentally safe, but debate continues between those who are more concerned about the virus and those more concerned about the effect of the mist on children, pets and useful insects such as honeybees.
Teens violent, out of control
An alarming trend in teenage crime is hitting headlines. In late July, a drunken group of girls stabbed a 63-year-old man on a subway in Manhattan, the New York Post reported. The eight girls, six of whom were ages 15 to 19, had beers in hand and were creating aloud, booze-party atmosphere on the 6:15 a.m. train. An older man asked the group to stop making noise; one witness said that his only words were, “Relax. Calm down.” One of the girls then stabbed him in the shoulder. The victim was taken to the hospital for treatment, and all but one of the girls were arrested and charged with gang assault, disorderly conduct, rioting, criminal possession of a weapon, menacing and felony assault.
The same week, the Chicago Tribune reported that an 87-year-old World War ii veteran was attacked, beaten and robbed by three young men—two of whom were teenagers— after walking home from a store. Before running off with the old soldier’s wallet, the attackers smashed his glasses, knocked out his hearing aid and broke his dentures. The attackers were charged with robbery of a senior citizen and reckless conduct.
Such incidents dramatically fulfill the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable.”
Katrina’s 7-year anniversary
After leaving a trail of death and destruction in Haiti and other Caribbean islands, Tropical Storm Isaac hit the Gulf coast as a Category 1 hurricane on Au- gust 29. The storm interrupted offshore U.S. oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and along the coastline from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. South Florida was inundated by heavy rain and strong winds. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency. Hurricane Isaac hit almost exactly seven years after Hurricane Katrina.
Catch and release
In a move designed to resuscitate peace talks in Afghanistan, Washington has sweetened a planned deal to release Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who is imprisoned in Pakistan by Taliban cronies. The U.S. appears to be prepared to release five of the most dangerous prisoners remaining at Guantanamo, including a former top commander, a former deputy intelligence official, a former interior official and a former deputy defense official believed to have massacred thousands of Shiites. The plan has come under fire from lawmakers who fear that the released Taliban operatives will kill and capture more Americans on the battlefield. Whatever the outcome, the process reveals that Washington is not negotiating in Afghanistan from a position ofstrength.