Archive for April, 2012

Opening the other eye: Charles Taylor and selective criminal accountability

By Richard Falk

From all that we know Charles Taylor deserves to be held criminally accountable for his role in the atrocities committed in Sierra Leone during the period 1998-2002. Taylor was then President of Liberia, and did his best to encourage violent uprisings against the governments in neighboring countries so as to finance his own bloody schemes and extend his regional influence.

It was in Sierra Leone that ‘blood diamonds,’ later more judiciously called ‘conflict diamonds’ were to be found in such abundance as to enter into the lucrative world trade, with many of these diamonds finding their way onto the shelves of such signature jewelry stores as Cartier, Bulgari, and Harry Winston, and thereby circumventing some rather weak international initiatives designed to prevent this outcome. Read the rest of this entry »

Climate warming lobby is lost in the cloud

By Jonathan Power

Forgive my cynicism about climate change. Thirty years ago I wrote a column for the Washington Post for which I had interviewed four of the world’s top climatologists. They all told me the problem was that the climate was cooling and that this would have devastating effects on agriculture and food supplies. When scientists a decade later turned around I wondered how it could be that for measuring things that changed only over ten thousands of years opinion could change so fast. Read the rest of this entry »

US-Pakistan-Afghanistan – A global perspective

By Johan Galtung

Washington, Carnegie Endowment, 18 April 2012

Ladies and gentlemen,

First, thanks to the American Muslim Association Foundation for organizing a forum on this controversial topic in the heart of Washington!

You have given me the global perspective on this panel, taking into account much space and time; kind of einsteinian. Seeing the world from above, five trends are talking as backdrop, context, for the theme: the fall of the US empire; the de-development of the West; the decline of the state system in favor of nationalisms from below and regionalisms from above; the rise of the Rest; and the rise of China.

And then, spiraling down toward the ground, Read the rest of this entry »

Iran & Israel: What the West should and can do

By Jan Oberg (951 words)

IPS COLUMNIST SERVICE, APRIL 2012 © IPS and the author
Editor’s note:

The overall picture has turned much worse over the last few months. In particular, the Western demands to Iran made public prior to the Istanbul consultations on April 14, bodes ill for the next round of talks in Baghdad. Everyone has stated views, used rhetoric and taken concrete steps that bring us all closer to the abyss called ‘War on Iran’. While it is easy and dangerous to escalate a conflict, it is difficult ­without losing face­ to de-escalate and make peace, writes Jan Oberg, director and co-founder of the Transnational Foundation (TFF) in Lund, Sweden.

Among these counterproductive steps are the Western halting of imports of oil from Iran on July 1, 2012 and the tightening of sanctions that already suffocate Iranian society. It is believed – ­falsely­ – that sanctions are somehow “soft weapons”. In Iraq, with one-third of the population of Iran, Western sanctions caused roughly one million Iraqi deaths.

What is indicative of a will to promote future peace among the parties? Well, the following are not: pre-negotiation demands, threats to destroy, an oil embargo, sanctions directed at citizens, condescending rhetoric to and about a nation with one of the oldest civilisations in the world, murdering its scientists, providing military training to its dissident terrorists abroad, telling it to abstain from what you have yourself done and requiring inspections there but not with the nuclear-armed “other side”. These are methods to make Tehran consider obtaining nukes although Iran’s highest leader has pronounced repeatedly that nuclear weapons are haram, i.e. strictly prohibited according to Islam (a fact never reported in Western media).

The world needs conflict-resolution capacity, knowledge and training. Those who run these matters steer their policies like unlicenced drivers. Under such conditions, accidents will happen and people will die. There is a huge spectrum of options between doing nothing and smashing up countries by military means.

This article offers plenty of constructive proposals. Read the rest of this entry »

Choosing a president for the World Bank: West centrism prevails over global democracy

By Richard Falk

This post is a revised version of a text that appeared a few days ago in Al Jazeera English, and seeks to use the selection of an American as the new President of the World Bank both to expose the fraudulent claim of a merit-based selection process and to insist indirectly that the future peace and justice of the world requires a more democratic and legitimate structure of global governance that reflects the post-colonial rise of the non-West, a rise that is not reflected in antiquated structures that persist despite changed conditions.


The unsurprising announcement that the Board of the World Bank had voted in favor of the American candidate, Jim Yong Kim, presents an opportune moment to reflect upon the soft power structures that shape global public policy in the early 21st Century inside the UN system and beyond.

It is necessary to draw a distinction between Mr. Kim’s substantive qualifications and the procedure by which he was selected. Substantively, although lacking in either financial or diplomatic experience, Dr. Kim is in certain respects an interesting choice because of his lifelong dedication to improving the health of the very poor in the global South, as well as his training in medicine and PhD in anthropology.

He has had extensive relevant experience on the ground, and in working with NGOs (he co-founded the widely admired Partners in Health) and in institutional settings (for some years he directed the HIV/AIDs program for the World Health Organization) and has been president of Dartmouth University for the past three years, although stirring controversy during his brief period of administrative tenure. It may be still wondered whether Dr. Kim understands sufficiently the economic dimensions of World Bank policy to enjoy the respect of the professional staff, and might have been more appropriately chosen to head an enhanced program of the Bank devoted to health and poverty.

Overall, still, the substantive case for the appointment is relatively strong, although the two opposing candidates, both former finance ministers of developing countries, certainly had equally impressive substantive résumés and ethical profiles, and were plausible choices for this position.

The procedural criticisms of the appointment process are far more serious… Read the rest of this entry »

Consequences of Annan’s questionable stalemate in Syria

By Jonathan Power

The Syrian cease-fire supports the status quo – the armed might of the government on one side and the armed opposition factions on the other. The government cannot eradicate the rebels although it can brutalise them. But neither can the armed opposition hope to topple the government which retains its popularity in the capital, Damascus, and in many other parts of the country where Shiite Islam and the Alawites are a majority.

Is this what the world wants? Are the members of the UN and its former secretary-general, Kofi Annan, who has negotiated this cease-fire, aware of the implications of this? Read the rest of this entry »

Continuities in U.S. history

By Johan Galtung
From Appomattox, VA – USA

The Civil War ended 147 years ago with General Robert E. Lee of the CSA, Confederate States of America, capitulating to General Ulysses S. Grant of the USA, United States of America. Ended? Not quite. Grant accepted the capitulation of the Army of Northern Virginia; the others capitulated one by one (like Army of Tennessee 26 April, Trans-Mississippi June 2 and finally, November 6, Confederate cruiser Shenandoah surrendered).

The Washington Post (Apr 1, 2012) celebrated the opening of the Appomattox branch of the Museum of the Confederacy the day before, quoting the museum curator: “it is one of the great turning points, if not the great turning point, in American history–when we kind of decided once and for all exactly what it means when we say, ‘liberty and justice for all.’”

Turning point? Not quite. Grant could not accept surrender of the CSA as that would recognize the Confederacy. One rebel at the time. Soldiers within 20 miles of Appomattox, no actor!, were generously given US Army rations as they were starving, and free passage on federal means of transportation on their way home.

We sense a theme: no recognition of collective actors with a cause. Read the rest of this entry »

What do you want, USA? Go up or down?

By Johan Galtung
Washington, DC

One wonders what the US political leaders want. The incumbent lives in this world, playing an ultra-realist game: extra-judicial executions in maybe 70 countries, drone attacks; minimizing US losses, maximizing direct hits at what he sees as the problem, concrete identified individuals, not concrete unidentified conflicts. He has neither the moral nor the intellectual courage to do that.

The challengers, with one exception, are focusing on one issue: down with the welfare state. Ron Paul, the libertarian, adds: down with the warfare state. He has registered Vietnam-Afghanistan-Iraq and the next in line, Iran-Syria, as unwinnable and unaffordable for a bankrupt economy. Young Republicans and others flock to him, but his discourse is too unusual. Warfare, not welfare makes sense. This has to do with the relation to conflict, a three-headed problem: attitude, behavior, contradiction. The USA wants an attitude of love for the USA, military response to evil people who do not and act on that, and contradiction, incompatibility are outside the thinkable. The deep culture of good vs evil and Armageddon for the latter take over.

Well, does it? The reader is invited to look at the scheme below. Read the rest of this entry »

One of the world’s leading peace advocates threatened to punch me in the face

By Stephen Zunes

Gareth Evans, a former attorney-general and foreign minister in Australia, threatened me because I raised the issue of his support for the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia.

I have rarely ever come face to face – only inches in fact – with such anger. Certainly not at an academic conference. And certainly not from such a prominent figure: chancellor of Australian National University, former attorney-general and foreign minister, former head of the International Crisis Group, and one of the world’s most prominent global thinkers.

Yet here I was with Gareth Evans, cursing at me, ripping my badge off, and threatening to punch me in the face. Read the rest of this entry »

Nuclear weapons are not instruments of peace!

By Richard Falk

A few days ago I was a participant in a well-attended academic panel on ‘the decline of violence and warfare’ at the International Studies Association’s Annual Meeting held this year in San Diego, California. The two-part panel featured appraisal of the common argument of two prominent recent publications: Steven Pinker’s best-selling The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined and Joshua Goldstein’s well-researched, informative, and provocative Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide.

Both books are disposed to rely upon quantitative data to back up their optimistic assessments of international and domestic political behavior, which if persuasive, offer humanity important reasons to be hopeful about the future. Much of their argument depends on an acceptance of their interpretation of battlefield deaths worldwide, which according to their assessments have declined dramatically in recent decades. But do battlefield deaths tell the whole story, or even the real story, about the role and dangers of political violence and war in our collective lives? Read the rest of this entry »


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