Weiner

Weiner

by

Howard Adelman

Calling someone a name, slandering him, is worse than stealing from him. For goods can be restored. A person’s unblemished good name cannot be. One never removes the stench of slander no matter how hard one tries to scrub it clean through remorse, expressions of regret and apologies, or even evidence of innocence. Once released, like an arrow, a slander cannot be intercepted, even if it falls wide of the mark, even if it ends up sticking out of a shield. Note that slandering someone does not mean you are lying. What you say may be very true. I was struck by that observation when I watched the documentary biopic on the political campaign of Anthony Weiner when he was running for mayor of New York City in 2013.

In Weiner, the filmmakers Josh Kriegman (a former Weiner staff member when Weiner was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives) and Elyse Steinberg documented the attempted political comeback in 2013 of Anthony Weiner from a sexting scandal. He had been re-elected seven times as the U.S. Representative (D-NY) in the 9th Congressional District in Queens. Weiner resigned his seat in 2011 when a photo of his erection under his underwear had been distributed on the internet.

Although he initially claimed that his twitter account had been hacked, he himself had evidently sent the photo to his 45,000 twitter followers in error. Whether it was a Freudian error is a separate question. Further, he tried to come clean at a news conference on 6 June when he informed the public that he had e-sex with six women whom he had never met. The film is about the mayoral campaign that took place two years later when Weiner attempted a political comeback. And the comeback seemed to be succeeding. He was leading in the polls when a new scandal broke in mid-campaign; a woman from Indiana released the photos and texts she had received from Weiner after he resigned in 2011.

The story then becomes fascinating as Weiner tries to keep his campaign on track as the media insist on dealing with a) the new and more explicit sex scandal and b) how he handled the fact that he in effect misled the American public in insisting he had been “born again” and had learned from the terrible mistake of his bad judgement. The documentary is fascinating on a number of levels. First, there is the detailed exposure of what goes into campaigning, from using contacts and obsequious rhetoric to wheedle money from potential supporters, to both receiving advice and keeping the paid staff on target in the face of a tidal wave of a second scandal threatening (and succeeding) in washing the whole campaign down the sewer.

The politics take place on a number of levels. On the one hand, the Clinton scandal of Bill Clinton’s presidential years shadows the whole film, not only because Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, worked closely as a political aide and confidante of Hillary Clinton running for President of the United States, but the ghost of the question of how Hillary could stand by her man haunts the whole biopic. Further, Huma Abedin was herself intimately involved in the rumbling scandal of Hillary using a personal email address while she was Secretary of State and more and more emails from her personal account were revealed as Hillary’s campaign unfolded.

In 1996, Huma Mahmood Abedin began working for Hillary as an intern three years after her father died when she was still a nineteen-year-old undergraduate at George Washington University. She rose to become Deputy Chief of Staff to the U.S. Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. It was in this period that Huma and Anthony culminated a courtship that had begun in 2007, though they had known each other since 2001. Huma married Anthony Weiner on 10 July 2010 when he was still a U.S. Congressman. Bill Clinton officiated at their marriage. She was pregnant when the scandal broke. Jordan Zain Weiner is four-years-old now. He is shown in his first political appearances being wheeled in his stroller by the candidate during his mayoral election run. He is also seen lying by his side in bed in the latest sexting scandal, but more on that later.

Today, Huma Abedin continues to serve as vice chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for President. At the same time, there is the echo of the Donald Trump campaign in the biopic, for Weiner comes across as a populist as well, one perhaps with a genuine feel for the plight of the middle class, but a populist nevertheless. In his case, a series of sexual electronic indiscretions, along with a failure of full revelation when the issue first arose (it was insufficient for him to say that worse could be forthcoming), was his undoing. When that omission combined with the fact that he repeated the offences at an even dirtier level even after he was initially exposed, confessed his indiscretion and supposedly vowed not to repeat the bad judgement, guaranteed that his campaign would tank. And it did.

The film is excruciating to watch. It is one thing for Anthony Weiner to allow the documentary to continue as his campaign unravels and as his failures torment him, but he vows to continue marching forward. Is the action courageous or foolhardy? Or did he really have no choice? After all, he is the cause of his own unmaking. But to watch Huma Abedin go through her private suffering in public and then, after first standing by and for her man, forced to withdraw, induced in me extreme pain and embarrassment for her. Withdrawing from the campaign after the second revelation for personal and political self-protection may have been a realistic appraisal that the campaign was going down the tubes, as well as a clear recognition that she was in a no-win situation. She could not now appear to stand beside her husband without looking like a ninny or a psychologically abused wife in a case in which political loyalty had morphed into political suicide.

In a situation where the activities of her husband were now endangering the larger political campaign of Hillary Clinton, to whom she owed as deep a loyalty, the dimensions of the tragedy are enormously inflated. The efforts at spin as the tornado whips down on the campaign are physically embarrassing. So it is fully understandable why she had to announce she was leaving the marriage on Monday when Anthony Weiner once again embarrassed her with his sexual compulsions.

However, Huma Abedin is not an innocent abroad. She had her own supposed scandals to worry about, some issues directly tied to her employment for Hillary Clinton and others to her being a devout Muslim. Re the latter, in the film Weiner loses his cool as he campaigns in a Jewish bakery presumably in Brooklyn. A man with a kippa is hectoring him for Anthony’s shameless behavior and repeatedly asking him how he can stand for election when he is supposed to be a model for others. Weiner leaves the bakery but soon returns to engage in a shouting match with the elector asking repeatedly who he is to judge him. As it turns out, we only learn afterwards that what likely instigated his losing his cool in such a self-destructive way was a remark he heard the man make. “And you married a Muslim.”

As it turns out, in the 2016 election, being a Muslim had become an issue as anti-Muslim bigotry became part of Donald Trump’s campaign. The issue arose just before Weiner initiated his attempted comeback mayoral campaign. Five Republicans (Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Trent Franks of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Thomas Rooney of Florida and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia) wrote a letter dated 13 June 2012 to the State Department Inspector General alleging that the Abedin family members were associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The allegations questioning security clearance for Huma began with her father. Syed Zainul Abedin was an Indian Muslim intellectual who, when Huma was two-years-old, took his wife and children to Jidda, Saudi Arabia, where he was offered the position by Dr. Abdullah bin Omar Nasseef, a chemist and biologist, who was then president of King Abdulaziz University. The post was director of the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (IMMA), which was Syed’s specialty. He also began editing the Institute of Minority Affairs, Journal which in 1996 became The Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs.

The two thick issues in 1992, the year before his untimely death in 1993, provide no hint of any connection between Syed Zaimal Abedin and radical Islam. The first issue of 1992 has as its lead article one by the former Princeton University professor and famous Arabist, Bernard Lewis, entitled, “Legal and Historical Reflections on the Position of Muslim Populations under Non-Muslim Rule.” Bernard Lewis would never knowingly publish an article in a quasi-radical Islamist journal, and he would hardly likely to be “unknowing”.

An article by Fadwa N. Kirrish on “Druze Ethnicity in the Golan Heights: The Interface of Religion and Politics,” argued that Druze ethnicity infused with its unique religious orientation arose out of the circumstantial forces of the eleventh century and continues to be reinforced currently by different extraneous forces. These articles and others, as well as the special issue on Islamic banking, give no hint of a radical political program. Yet one of the right-wing sites, The Conservative Atheist, insists that the journal is managed by the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, “a virulently anti-Semitic and sharia-supremacist organization.” However, Noah Feldman, director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Program in Jewish and Israeli Law at Harvard University insists that, “I’ve never seen anything in any way radical” in the journal.

Syed’s wife, Saleha Mahmood Abedin, a Pakistani intellectual, took over the running of the journal as well as the directorship of the Institute after her husband’s death. Huma became assistant editor from 1996, when she first interned with Hillary Clinton. She retained that position until 2008, long after she started working full time for Hillary. (Her brother, Hassan, is the book review editor and her sister, Heba, is an assistant editor at the journal.) For criticisms of the allegations of Huma’s ties to radical Islam see The Washington Post, “Claims of Huma Abedin’s extremist ties are laughable,” in the 28 August 2016 issue, and a more thorough article by William D. Cohan, “Is Huma Abedin Hillary Clinton’s Secret Weapon of Her Next Big Problem?” in the February 2016 issue of Vanity Fair.

There is also a book length scholarly study by Marie Juul Petersen, For Humanity or for the Umma?: Aid and Islam in Transnational Muslim NGOs. Though I have not read the latter, my colleague Michael Barnett, currently University Professor of International Affairs and Political Science, George Washington University, and author of Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism, described this 2016 work as “a path-breaking study of Muslim NGOs. Avoiding the hype and following the theory and the evidence, Peterson produces a richly textured and nuanced appreciation of how these religious NGOs navigate the worlds in which they are embedded. At once careful and creative, hers is a study that not only shines a light on the complexity of Muslim NGOs, but also points a way toward understanding religious NGOs in an age of emergency and the relief-development nexus.”

Saleha was active in the International Islamic Council for Da’wa and Relief (IICDR), an umbrella organization based in Cairo for over 100 Islamic NGOs and GOs responsible for spreading the message of Islam (“develop Islamic action to match the divine mission of the Islamic civilization and assure the unity of the human family”), improving intra-Islamic accord and offering charity – to needy orphans and widows of course. That organization was then headed by Nasseef, the alleged link to radical Islam and the university president. Nasseef was an activist as well as scientist, a very prominent member of the worldwide scouting movement, chair of the Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies (Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi is one of the members of the Board of Trustees), chair of the World Muslim Congress, founding chair of the Sahm Al-Nour Trust and, until Syed died in 1993, Secretary General of the Muslim World League.

Andrew McCarthy is the former Assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who prosecuted Omar Abdel-Rahman, “The Blind Sheikh,” currently serving a life sentence in South Carolina for “seditious conspiracy” for his leadership of “The Islamic Group,” Egyptian terrorists responsible for the 1997 Luxor attack that killed 58 tourists and 4 Egyptians. McCarthy, based on his investigations, alleged that the Muslim World League was a supremacist Muslim organization.

What about IICDR? In the flowery language often associated with classical Islamic learning, it is described by its supporters as having a “mission of congeniality among different factions…cradling serenity and harmony.” They insist that until 9/11 nations were living in “a cooperative spirit,” and that a “state of tranquility and security prevailed, generating senses of cordiality and confidence, as well as of mutuality and interdependence.” The reality was that Islamicist extremism long pre-dated 9/11. Al-Qaeda was founded in 1988. Were the Muslim World League and IICDR, under the cover of congenial cooperation with all faiths and nations, promoting Islamic supremacism of which Islamicist terrorism was the hidden militant part? Were Muslim charities serving as conduits to launder money for terrorism?

Critics (The Global Muslim Brotherhood Watch, Shoebat, the Christian rescue organization, The Atheist Conservative, The Counter Jihad Report) of IICDR and other organizations connected to the Abedin family, claim that IMMA (the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs) had ties to Muslim extremists and is the principal tool for propagating the Muslim Brotherhood faith. The charge is not simply that the organization taught the superiority of the Muslim faith but the supremacy of that faith under the guise of interfaith dialogue. For example, the site Shoebat.com claims that IMMA itself has as its prime objective transforming “non-Muslim lands into Muslim lands until all lands have Muslim majorities.” I could find no evidence to support the charge.

Israel banned the International Islamic Council for Da’wa and Relief, in which Saleha was intimately involved, and which Nasseem chairs and which al-Qaradawi runs. In July 2008, Ehud Barak, then Israeli Defence Minister, signed the order banning it and 35 other Islamic funds around the world, all members of the “Union of Good” banned back in 2002 when it was charged with being an organization that funnels monies to Hamas. For a full frontal attack on Huma Abedin, see Lee Stranahan, “The Truth About Huma Abedin that Media Matters Doesn’t Want America to See,” published by Breitbart News then run by Stephen Bannon who now runs Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. (http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/01/18/the-truth-about-huma-abedin-that-media-matters-doesnt-want-america-to-see/)

In addition to the overcharged Islamic Issue, Hillary’s emails and the issue of the Benghazi Libya attack on the American embassy in which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed (Huma testified for eight hours on the issue before the Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi), there were suspicions of financial malfeasance. Investigations were initiated by Charles Ernest “Chuck” Grassley, the long-serving Republican senator from Iowa. The U.S. State Department subpoenaed documents on the Clinton Foundations charity for which Huma worked in 2012 while also simultaneously working part time for the State Department, Hillary Clinton personally as well as a private consulting firm. Was there a conflict of interest? Was she overpaid when she took maternity leave? With many exceptions, such as Senator John McCain and Senator Marco Rubio, Republicans in Congress were engaged in a multifaceted attack of innuendo on Huma that paid little attention to evidence-based research.

For example, when Huma was working for the State Department, she earned $155,000. That was the period in 2011 when Anthony resigned and gave up his salary of $174,000. Yet, in the film, they seem to be living in a luxurious apartment building during Anthony’s attempt at a comeback. In 2011, both were forced to sell their respective condos, hers in Washington and his in Forest Hills for which they received $629,000 and $430,000 respectively. Jack Rosen, a New York developer, rented them the luxury Park Avenue apartment presumably at a market value of over $3 million and a monthly market rent of $12,000, an amount greater than it seemed that they could afford. In 2012, unlike Donald Trump, they publicly reported a combined income of almost a half a million dollars from Anthony’s new consulting work, but the majority came from her four parallel jobs. However, no evidence has been produced of any wrongdoing.

Claims of overcharging the State Department for Huma’s part time work, of exceeding the allowance allowed for part time employees, of using her consulting work to promote patronage appointments, and charges of conflicts of interest, plagued her, but were evidently expected and de rigeur for anyone who worked for Hillary in the American system of checks and imbalances. So although Huma in the biopic lurks painfully in the background, while often enough in the foreground, in a sense the biopic is emotionally more about her than Anthony.

In watching Weiner, I was less interested in the obvious commentary about American politics as demanding spectacle and being a circus, with the clear recognition that such a process has to attract a certain type of personality which requires the hide of a hippopotamus with some sense of genuine compassion for the other. So the tragedy proceeds on a personal, interpersonal, social and political level touching the pinnacle of power in the world. Nothing could be more Greek than a picture of a penis undermining the centre of power in the world.

Often it is said that the job of documentary filmmakers and photo-journalists is to catch people in public office in the unguarded moments between their private and their public lives when their masks are taken off. But Anthony Weiner seemed to readily parade around in his underwear, or what appeared to be his underwear shorts, so that self-revelation in the unguarded moment was clearly a product of his own making just as Donald Trump’s campaign is unravelling as a result of who he is and how he conducts himself. However, the internet, the ubiquitous presence of cameras masquerading as cell phones, and the rise of the politician who literally lays it all out, seem to have given the photo-journalists and documentary filmmakers even more work.

All this is an aside to the issue of a tale and scandal-mongering. The woman eager for attention and delighted in her own quest for a moment of fame is a teller of tales. She is the instigator of the second scandal, even though everything she apparently reported was true. She claimed that she was driven to reveal all by the hypocrisy of Weiner’s candidacy and his half-hearted and misleading apologetics. But her performance seems to indicate a much greater concern with being in the sunlight herself. Further, CNN reported that the latest disclosure of Anthony Weiner’s not-so-hidden erection is a Trump supporter. So although Jeremiah 9:3 reads, “They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land,” the reality is that slander progresses and builds like a tidal wave as much in the so-called quest for truth as in the Trump business of propagating lies.

When the proverb says “a gossip betrays a confidence but a trustworthy person keeps a secret,” (11:13) we know for sure those homilies are partially dated at a time when it is almost impossible to keep anything secret. At the same time, it may perhaps be a more urgent time for promoting the principle that engaging in gossip and scandal mongering, whether in the pursuit of political advancement through hyperbole, exaggeration and outright defamation, or in the pursuit of truth, should be condemned. However, in analyzing scandal mongering, am I not myself engaged in precisely the exercise I seem to be criticizing?

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President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria

President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria

by

Howard Adelman

Goodluck Jonathan visited Maiduguri , the capital of Borno State in northeastern Nigeria and the centre of the Boko Haram insurgency, twice in January. It was part of his current effort to be re-elected. He vowed that the thousands of IDPs in the city would soon be able to return to their homes and that the territories captured by the militants would soon be recovered. Since Goodluck Jonathan emerged as president of Nigeria in parallel with the rise of Boko Haram as an extremely lethal force and during President Obama’s presidency, it is helpful if his political life is summarized. On first impression, his meteoric rise seems due, not so much to his own virtues, but to the vices and illnesses of those he served and that Goodluck is not only his name. However, a closer examination suggests he may be more astute – as well as possibly more corrupt. His competence emerges as the key question.

Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan

  • Born 20 November 1957
  • Jonathan, an Ijaw, is a Christian from the Niger Delta region in the south
  • He comes from a family of artisans, more specifically, canoe makers
  • Jonathan was among the first in his family to attend university
  • Earns a B.Sc. in zoology (1981), then an M.Sc. in hydrology and fisheries (1985), followed by a Ph.D. in zoology (1995), all from the University of Port Harcourt
  • Becomes a teacher, an education inspector, lecturer and environmental-protection officer
  • 1998 enters politics at age 41 as a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)
  • Elected and becomes a low-key deputy from the south
  • May 1999 elected as deputy governor for his oil-rich home state of Bayelsa
  • 1999 Olusegun Obasanjo elected president of Nigeria on an anti-corruption platform
  • Olusegun Obasanjo sets up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)
  • Jonathan distinguished as Deputy Governor for his loyalty and ostensible integrity though non-descript performance
  • 2005 Governor Diepreye Alameiyeseigha of Bayelsa travels to Germany for stomach reduction surgery
  • Jonathan serves as Acting Governor
  • En route back to Nigeria, the Governor is arrested in September at London’s Heathrow airport and is found to be in possession of over a million pounds in cash with an additional over a million pounds in personal bank accounts
  • Charged in Britain with money laundering
  • November 2005, Governor impeached for corruption by the Bayelsa house assembly
  • December 2005, when on bail in Britain, the Governor, dressed as a woman, returns to Nigeria
  • Governor charged in a Lagos court on 40 counts of corruption and money-laundering
  • Jonathan confirmed as Governor and serves 2005-2007
  • 11 September 2006, Mr. Osita Nwajah, spokesperson for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) public declared that $13.5 million Dollars (US) was seized from Mrs. Patience Jonathan, the wife of then Governor of Bayelsa State
  • No charges ever laid and Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, once a presidential candidate, who ran the EFCC at the time, issued the following statement: “Our attention has been drawn to a statement in the media today in which the spokesman for the Muhammadu Buhari Campaign organization regrettably sought to cast aspersions on President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, over a matter that was laid to rest last year.”
  • In the election of 2007, Jonathan chosen to run for Vice-President on the Umaru Yar’Adua ticket
  • Jonathan declares assets of US$1,845,652, but that does not seem to raise eyebrows
  • As Vice-President, Jonathan is given credit for negotiating an agreement with major militant groups in the Niger Delta; they agree to lay down their weapons as part of a government amnesty
  • November 2009, President Umaru Yar’Adua was taken to hospital in Saudi Arabia
  • February 2010, when Governor Yar’Adua returns, he is deemed incapable
  • Jonathan confirmed as Acting President
  • 5 May 2010, President Umaru Yar’Adua dies
  • 6 May, Jonathan sworn in as President
  • September, Jonathan announces his intention to run for president in the 2011 elections
  • Jonathan runs on an anti-corruption, but primarily electricity power reform platform through privatization of the state-owned electrical system
  • Goodluck Jonathan returned to office, but the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) weakened; still controls the national legislatures of two-thirds of the 36 states
  • 1 October 2010 Independence Day bomb attack takes place; Jonathan blames opponents
  • May 2012, in a South African court, Henry Okah, former head of the rebel group MEND in the Niger Delta, with whom Jonathan negotiated the amnesty accord, testified that Jonathan had orchestrated the bomb explosion in Abuja in 2010
  • 13 January 2011, Jonathan elected by two-thirds of the states and 59% of the vote; he defied the ruling People’s Democratic Party’s tradition of alternating presidential power between north and south after two terms of office by winning the party’s primaries.
  • 18 April 2011 declared president despite opposition claims of fraud and vote-rigging
  • 26 August 2011, UN building in Abuja bombed by Boko Haram
  • By January 2013, 400 children had died of lead poisoning and Jonathan promises lead clean-up campaign
  • In May 2013, state of emergency declared in three northeastern Nigerian states after kidnapping of 276 school girls
  • After international pressure, Jonathan reneges on deal to trade Boko Haram prisoners for the schoolgirls
  • 11 September 2013, President Jonathan sacks the creator and coordinator of the Transformation Agenda, Shamsudeen Usman, the Minister of National Planning and eight other cabinet ministers in a rift in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)
  • January 2014, Jonathan signs the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act prohibiting gay relationships or marriages, membership and any involvement in gay societies with penalties up to 14 years in prison for gay marriages.
  • July 2014, based on evidence given in a New York court by a Russian lawyer who claimed $66 million in unpaid commissions on a transfer payment by Shell Oil and the Eni oil and gas company, of $1.1 billion to Malabu Oil and Gas set up in 1998 by Etete, a convicted felon; the U.K. police open a probe into the transfer but Eti has the highest ranking by Transparency International
  • July 2014, Jonathan drops wife from huge Nigerian delegation visiting Washington for African Leaders Summit because of the controversy caused when she initially pronounced the kidnapping of the 276 girls a big lie that was seen as responsible for the delay in the rescue effort
  • President Obama turns down Jonathan’s request for one-on-one meeting
  • 9 October 2014, the richestlifestyle.com website ranked Jonathan sixth on its list, claiming his net worth was about $100m (getnetworth.com/goodluck-jonathan-net-worth)
  • January 2015, former Governor Diepreye Alameiyeseigha of Bayelsa and convicted felon, whom Jonathan once pardoned, claims that President Goodluck did not finish his PhD, but this is denied by the university, which issued the following statement that declared that Jonathan had, “crowned his academic pursuit in the University with the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Zoology in 1995”
  • 8 January, Goodluck Jonathan claims that Henry Okah, the estranged leader of MEND, was paid to assassinate him when the 2010 bombing took place near Eagles Square in Abuja during Nigeria’s 50th anniversary celebrations
  • In today’s paper, Dr Sam Saba, Chair of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), stated. “As far as we are concerned, Mr President has declared his assets, though not publicly (my italics). There is no law that says that you should declare your assets publicly; it simply states that you should declare your assets.”

What happened to Jonathan’s promise to tackle the long-standing corruption and political sclerosis? This is an even more acute issue when, in 2014, oil revenues declined precipitously and revenues from oil and gas accounts for more than two-thirds of treasury income and 95 per cent of export earnings. At the same time, as you will see over the next two days, the lethality and capture of territory by Boko Haram grew exponentially during Jonathan’s rule. Pointing these issues out, allows us to get a glimpse and a possible partial answer as to why the Obama administration may have been so reluctant to supply sophisticated arms to Nigeria and keeps insisting that the forthcoming 14 February election must not be riddled with corruption.

It is interesting to see that in opinion surveys in Nigeria the question is who is perceived to be less corrupt, Goodluck Jonathan (President of the Federal Republic) or Bola Tinubu (Leader of ACN/APC). Interesting enough, Tinubu loses hands down. The Nigerian state and its institutions may be corrupt, but Jonathan emerges relatively unscathed – the exceptions were the aborted investigation into his first wife and the assets he is alleged to own. However, the CIA is bound to have much more information on this issue. Nevertheless, on Thursday 1 January during a New Year service at the Dunamis International Gospel Centre in Abuja, Jonathan renewed his pledge to eliminate corruption, a task he is highly unlikely to be able to do even if, by chance, he is not deeply corrupt himself. Though Jonathan claimed that his government was winning the war against corruption, and that the perception people has about corruption in Nigeria is exaggerated, Transparency International still ranked Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Further, as Transparency International concluded, there is a strong link between corruption and insecurity. ”When a country’s institutions are weak, its security forces are not trusted and its borders are not strong, as is the case in Nigeria, giving terrorist organisations room to flourish.” Musa Idris’ 25 January 2013 study, “Corruption and Insecurity in Nigeria” (Public Administration 2:1) revealed that there exists, “a perfect correlation between corruption and insecurity in Nigeria and that greed by insurgent groups and corruption by public officials caused deprivation, alienation, conflict and insecurity in Nigeria.” Confidence in Jonathan’s integrity and determination to wipe out corruption was certainly undermined when in 2013 he pardoned Diepreye Alameiyeseigha, the Governor he previously served in Bayelsa and succeeded when the governor was impeached and subsequently sent to jail.

Wikileaks revelations in December certainly pointed out the beliefs of the U.S. embassy in the corruption of the opposition politicians, Maj. General Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. However, American documentation points to Jonathan’s favouring his own ethnic group, but no definitive evidence of corruption. In addition to questions about his ethnic partisanship and integrity, the major question is over his competence. In answer to a journalist’s query, Jonathan once replied, “I was not chosen to be Vice President because I had good political experience… “I did not. There were a lot more qualified people around to be Vice President, but that does not mean I am not my own man.” Jonathan further declared that he was “not a politician” and had “very limited experience as an administrator.”

The most important issue is not integrity or sectarianism but Jonathan’s ability to destroy Boko Haram.

Tomorrow: The Threat of Boko Haram

Turkey – Domestic Changes

Turkey – Domestic Changes

by

Howard Adelman

I begin with domestic matters because they help understand the direction of the Turkish leadership. Tomorrow I will take up foreign policy.

Sixty-year old Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the founder of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Turkey’s current president and former prime minister for the last eleven years, and mayor of Istanbul before that, has transformed Turkey domestically and certainly redirected Turkey’s foreign policy. Erdoğan is to Turkey what Putin is to Russia. After founding his new party in 2001, that party in the Turkish elections of 2002 took two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. A year later, after his banishment from politics was overturned and his then ally, Abdullah Gűl, served as interim Prime Minister for a year, Erdoğan became Prime Minster. Only this year did he assume the role of President after converting the Turkish political system from a parliamentary to a quasi-presidential democracy by shifting the largely ceremonial role of president to the most powerful figure in the country. However, in contrast to his earlier victories, he only won the presidency with less than 52% of the vote. However, he has set up a shadow government of directorates to monitor Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his Cabinet who all come from his own party.

Control of the Media

Unlike Russia, where corruption and control of the media have allowed Putin to undermine the nascent democracy of Russia, Erdoğan has not achieved the position yet. Events, however, are changing the situation rapidly. Though Erdoğan seven years ago began arresting critics in the media whom he accused of being the propaganda arm of a coup effort, only in the last two years has he revealed himself to be determined to assert absolute control over the media. Yesterday afternoon I received news that Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of Zaman, Turkey’s top-selling newspaper, and Hidayet Karaca, the director of STV, a news channel, had been rounded up two days previously by Turkish police. The mysterious twitter account, Fuat Avni, had three days before that predicted these arrests and that of 150 or so other journalists. Some of these have gone into hiding. The charges: affiliation with the Fethullah Gulen movement, Erdoğan’s once erstwhile ally in overcoming the stranglehold the military held over the state, and an alleged conspiracy to undermine and/or attack a small rival Islamist group, the “Tahsiyeciler”, a group whose leaders Erdoğan had arrested only four years earlier who follow the teachings of the Islamic scholar, Said Nursi. Is it a wonder that Turkey ranks 154th on the world press freedom index, according to Reporters Without Borders?

The attacks on the domestic press were matched by a vicious campaign castigating the foreign – particularly Western – press of distortions, disinformation, ignorance, lying and even spying. Ceylan Yeginsu, a journalist working for the New York Times, that in its editorials had once lauded Erdoğan for his leadership role in the emerging Turkish vibrant democracy, had to flee the country for his life after being attacked in the AKP-controlled press and receiving multiple death threats. When Erdoğan himself was not deriding the Western press for being propagandists and undermining the new Turkey, that role was taken up by Ibrahim Karagul, editor-in-chief of the pro-Erdoğan newspaper, Yeni Safak, and the new English newspaper in Turkey, Daily Sabah, initially owned by Erdoğan’s son-in-law. And this is just the surface in this information war that permeates the electronic media as well.

Turkey’s Deteriorating Democracy

So much for the hopes for democracy in Turkey once the military had been removed from power in the name of rule by and for the people. That populism has been enhanced by the distribution of free coal to the needy. However, the crushing of the Gezi Park protests in the summer of 2013 was just more public action in a coordinated effort to destroy any opposition in Turkey. The cronyism and corruption that is endemic and very widespread in Turkish society has permeated the AKP (one in five Turks and about 50% of businesses pay bribes to access public services). The effort to protect ill-gotten gains once that corruption had been revealed by the Fethullah Gulen movement have led the government to place a publication ban on the parliamentary committee looking into corruption. At the same time, Turkey has followed the lead of the Canadian parliament under Harper’s Conservatives of passing legislation through complex omnibus bills with relatively little time for debate. The bills in Ankara include provisions which infringe human rights protections.

The corruption scandal possibly accelerated the leadership’s plans to enhance its control of the media. Turkey has slipped from 53rd to 74th on Transparency International’s corruption index. Further, that corruption as well as increasing disparity between the rich and the poor are now being legalized as a new presidential provision permits young Turkish men to buy out their compulsory military service for $US8,700. Turkish writer and 2006 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Orhan Pamuk, has also denounced Turkey’s increasing climate of fear.

Educational Revisionism and Social Policy

In addition to its educational reforms that provided free textbooks for needy students, Erdoğan and his allies have pushed for making Ottoman Turkish compulsory in schools, introducing more and more elements of Ottoman culture into the curriculum, introducing segregation of schools by gender, and introducing Islamic religious instruction for students in fourth grade and higher, and planning to introduce such education at even lower grades in the face of EU demands that compulsory religious education requirements be scrapped. In the meanwhile, the educational authorities have eliminated human rights and democracy classes previously taken in fourth grade. These changes have taken place in parallel with the long term trend of religious cleansing of non-Muslims in Turkey as property disputes affecting the Armenians, Syriac church and the Yazidis drag out through the bureaucratic and legal process.

Unfortunately, at the same time, Erdoğan has pushed for technological modernization. Language, cultural and religious revisionism are difficult to blend with modernization that becomes self-propelling and innovative instead of simply copying from the West. Thus, Turkey ranks last among 44 countries on the English proficiency list, even though English is compulsory in Turkish schools. Raising a generation of devout Muslims may be at odds with encouraging technological innovation. Turkish pupils, along with other pupils from predominantly Muslim countries, are in a race for the bottom. Turkey now ranks 44 out of 65 countries in the measurement of 15-year-old educational achievements in mathematics, science, literacy and problem-solving.

The social indicators have been very bad. Child poverty has risen by 63.5%. With 301 minors killed in the disaster at Soma this year, Turkey had by far the worst record of workers’ deaths compared to any European state. On the gender front, the news is even worse. Although Erdoğan in 2004 passed a new penal code protecting women’s sexual and body rights, and although Erdoğan has promoted changes in the treatment of women in the army by increasing the number of female officers and NCOs to facilitate dealing with terrorism and to enhance the professionalism of the military, on 24 November he claimed that gender equality contradicted the laws of nature even though 22% of AKP seats were held by women.

Erdoğan, however, is a champion of motherhood rather than sisterhood. In spite of an enormous increase of almost 40% in GDP per capita under his rule, there was still only a 30% female participation rate in the workforce. His policies threatened to exacerbate the health, education and income disparities between men and women already deeply rooted in Turkish culture. Not to speak of honour killings! While not as bad as the situation in Pakistan, those murders still take the lives of 200 Turkish girls each year in spite of the 2004 law designed to combat such crimes. Between 2002 and 2009, the murder rate of women in Turkey went up 1400% and since Erdoğan came to power, 7,000 Turkish women have been murdered. On the UNDP’s Gender Equality Index, Turkey’s standing has slipped from 69th to 77th out of 187 countries.

When my brother, a renowned Canadian cardiologist, was invited to Turkey in 1996, and where they first diagnosed him with a blastoma after he had fainted on a golf course where he had gone to play with other Turkish doctors, Al had been very impressed with the advanced state of medicine in Turkey in the hospital he had visited. Now Turkey seems to be moving backwards in time to revive traditional medical practices including:
• acupuncture (the stimulation of specific points along the skin with thin needles)
• apitherapy (the use of honeybee products for treatment)
• phytotherapy (treatments based on traditional herbalism)
• hypnosis
• the use of leeches
• homeopathy
• chiropractic treatments
• wet cupping
• larval therapy (the introduction of live, disinfected maggots into the skin)
• mesotherapy (the injection of special medications into the skin)
• prolotherapy (the injection of irritating solutions into an injured spot to provoke regenerative tissue response)
• osteopathy (nonsurgical treatments of the muscle and skeleton system)
• ozone therapy (the introduction of ozone and oxygen gas mixtures into the body)
• reflexology (massage-like treatment of pressure on reflex areas).

The issue is not the legalization of these treatments, but making them part of the education in medical schools. Some, like the use of leeches, are already part of modern medical practice. Others, however, have not been validated by science. So in addition to taking time away from enhancing modern medical practice, practices which have not yet been validated by science will be introduced into the medical curriculum. Further, the system of independence in educational decisions by qualified professionals is being undermined by state dictates in favour of validating traditional culture.

There are those who posit that this is merely a method of bringing traditional medical practices under state supervision. Then why are the costs of those treatments not covered by public health insurance? Some argue the expansion has been introduced to enhance medical tourism. Further, Turkey is far from unique in allowing and regulating such practices.

Standing in opposition to these rationales, one of the indicators to the undermining of scientific medicine has been the lethargic response to a rise in measles which has been blamed on the large number of Syrian refugees who have found a haven in Turkey, rising from very low numbers – 7 cases in 2010 – to over 7,000 cases last year. No provision in the Turkish 2015 budget targets contagious diseases like measles. Further, excluding Syrian refugee births, infant mortality and maternal deaths increased in 2013 for the first time since 1945.

Crime has also increased, much as a by-product of the Syrian civil war. Almost 500 high quality 4x4s have been stolen from Turkish car rental companies for transfer to Syria.

Kurdish Separatism

Erdoğan has to be praised for beginning the process of recognizing the Armenian genocide, enhanced by Pope Francis’ recent visit to Turkey, but with little sign of real progress. Erdoğan is perhaps best known for pushing reconciliation with Kurds who had been forcefully resettled in the thirties and banned from using their language. He has even entered into discussions with the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers Party) itself. However, while now allowing school children to be taught in Kurdish, would Kurds also have to learn classical Ottoman Turkish? Further, was Erdoğan strongly motivated to make peace with the PKK early in his national political career because he respected the group rights of the Kurds or because he wanted to undermine the rationale of the military for maintaining a relatively large army while, at the same time, solidifying his support with the Turkish public?

One very much suspects the latter given his subsequent career in national politics in Turkey and seemingly confirmed by the recent decision on December 10th in the face of the adjacent threat of Islamic State to enable middle and upper class military recruits to buy their way out of national service, a decision made without any consultation with the military general staff as required by the Turkish constitution. However, Erdoğan has never seemed to care about the constitution when it is to his populist advantage (currently an average Turkish citizen contributes about US$200 for each member of the family for defence) and when it undermines support for his critics on the left who were bound to vigorously oppose the move’s inegalitarian character. Further, if, as projected, 700,000 young men pay the state $8,700 each (men older than 30 pay US$13,300), US$5.7 billion will be added to state coffers from the men under 30 years of age alone, especially since parliamentary elections are to be held in June 2015. This is in addition to the monies saved on defence. The loans men are taking out to pay for the exemption in response to a spate of bank ads and the sales of unproductive capital (property, gold rings) has already acted within days to stimulate the economy. The greatly increased revenues to the state may be bad for the economy in the long run, but, in the short run it is much more than enough to pay for Erdoğan’s vain, enormous, lavish and enormously expensive presidential palace.

Is Erdoğan’s populist and Islamic program complemented by his foreign policy?