Archive for February, 2013

The Mali Blowback – More to come?

By Stephen Zunes

The French-led military offensive in its former colony of Mali has pushed back radical Islamists and allied militias from some of the country’s northern cities, freeing the local population from repressive Taliban-style totalitarian rule. The United States has backed the French military effort by transporting French troops and equipment and providing reconnaissance through its satellites and drones. However, despite these initial victories, it raises concerns as to what unforeseen consequences may lay down the road.

Indeed, it was such Western intervention—also ostensibly on humanitarian grounds—that was largely responsible for the Malian crisis in the first place.

The 2011 NATO military intervention in Libya effort went well beyond the UN Security Council mandate to protect civilian lives, as the French, British and U.S. air forces—along with ground support by the Saudi and Qatari dictatorships—essentially allied themselves with the rebel armies. The African Union—while highly critical of Qaddafi’s repression—condemned the intervention, fearing that the resulting chaos would result in the Libya’s vast storehouse of arms might fueling local and regional conflicts elsewhere in Africa and destabilize the region.

This is exactly what happened. Read the rest of this entry »

Hillary Clinton’s legacy as Secretary of State

By Stephen Zunes

Zunes challenges what he calls “the myth that Hillary Clinton is a figure who deserves support or admiration for her role of Secretary of State, or that she deserves another opportunity for influencing US foreign policy.”

Hillary Clinton leaves her position as Secretary of State with a legacy of supporting autocratic regimes and occupation armies, opposing enforcement of international humanitarian law, undermining arms control and defending military solutions to complex political problems. She was appointed to her position following eight years in the US Senate, during which she became an outspoken supporter of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, lied about Iraq’s military capabilities to frighten the public into supporting the illegal war, unleashed repeated attacks against the United Nations, opposed restrictions on land mines and cluster bombs, defended war crimes by allied right-wing governments and largely embraced Bush’s unilateralist agenda.

Despite this, Clinton is receiving largely unconditional praise from liberal pundits and others for her leadership, some even claiming that she is some kind of role model for young women! Continue

First published at truthout, February 7, 2013

Iran and the Cuban nuclear missile crisis

By Jonathan Power

It’s always better to talk than be super-tough. But Iran’s supreme leader, Ayotollah Ali Khamenei, last week firmly rejected the US attempt to resume negotiations over its suspected nuclear bomb making.

This is nothing short of disastrous. The Ayotallah must know that now Barack Obama has been re-elected not only has he got much more room to compromise but he has effectively seen off the attempt of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to persuade the US to attack Iran.

The Ayotallah probably thinks by going eyeball to eyeball with the US he is going to win more than even Obama is prepared to give. This is nonsense and the attitude of both sides reminds me of the negotiating tactics of President John Kennedy and Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, during the Cuban missile crisis in 1963 which nearly brought the superpowers to a nuclear war. Read the rest of this entry »

An indispensable book on Palestine/Israel

By Richard Falk

Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland
By Pamela Olson (Berkeley, CA: Seal Press)

I realize that without knowing it, I have long waited for this book, although I could not have imagined its lyric magic in advance of reading. It is a triumph of what I would call ‘intelligent innocence,’ the great benefits of a clear mind, an open and warm heart, and a trustworthy moral compass that draws sharp lines between good and evil while remaining ever sensitive to the contradictory vagaries of lives and geographic destinies.

Pamela Olson exhibits an endearing combination of humility and overall emotional composure that makes her engaged witnessing of the Palestinian ordeal so valuable for me as I believe and hope it will be for others.

Early on, she acknowledges her lack of background with refreshing honesty: “Green and wide-eyed, I wandered into the Holy Land, an empty vessel.” But don’t be fooled. Olson, who had recently graduated from Stanford, almost immediately dives deeply into the daily experience of Palestine and Palestinians, with luminous insight and a sensibility honed on an anvil of tenderness, truthfulness, and a readiness for adventure and romance. Read the rest of this entry »

Thinking Mali

By Johan Galtung

The first prognosis for the French invasion was a quick victory given their superior weaponry; and then the real war starts: guerilla. France is up against two very strong forces, Tuareg nationalism and Muslim islamism; cooperating and in conflict. They both easily mingle with others – they are parts of them – to better target the French.

No Western country likes coffins coming home; train and equip locals to do the job, deal with semi-legitimate regimes, stretch UN resolutions: AfPak, Libya. US AFRICOM wants 4000 soldiers deployed in 35 African countries this year for anti-terror training. Some pass on weapons, some shoot in the air, some fight, deepening fault-lines like race–once slavers-slaves!–in Mali. The West gets desperate; the patience at home is limited. Time has come for state terrorism from the air, killing “strongholds”; maybe predator drones from Djibouti?

Next in line: terrorism by both, hostages, “Special Operation Commands”, extrajudicial executions. Long-lasting; AfPak, Libya. Read the rest of this entry »

Forget ‘normal’ politics

By Richard Falk

Political life is filled with policy choices that are made mainly on the basis of calculations of advantage, as well as reflecting priorities and values of those with the power of decision. In a constitutional framework of governance the rule of law sets outer limits as to permissible outcomes. The legitimacy of the decision depends on adhering to these procedural guidelines, and the fact that if the societal effects turn out badly it can be corrected by altering the ‘law.’

Of course, all sorts of special interests behind the scene manipulate this process, and the public debate mirrors these pressures. The results of highly contested policy choices usually reflect the power structure (class, race, ideology) more than they do the outcome of rational detached assessments of the public good.

At present, the national public good in the United States is being held hostage to the lethal extremism of the gun lobby as led by the National Rifle Association (NRA), Read the rest of this entry »

Obama – Fulfill your promise of nuclear disarmament!

Richard Falk and David Krieger

This article was originally published by Truthout.

Any great and important goal requires boldness to be achieved. Leadership itself requires boldness and persistence. Shortly after assuming office in 2009, President Obama demonstrated this boldness in a widely acclaimed speech in Prague. To rousing applause, he said, “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Unfortunately, in the next breath, he reversed direction, offering a familiar reassurance to the military-industrial-governmental complex: “I’m not naïve,” he said. “This goal will not be reached quickly — perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence.” Before finishing this coded message to the security establishment back home, he reversed direction once again, declaring, “But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, ‘Yes, we can.’”

In a matter of seconds, less time than it would take to launch America’s civilization-destroying (or omnicidal) nuclear arsenal, the new President seemed to engage in a debate with himself. America has a commitment to zero nuclear weapons. However, it won’t happen quickly. But, on the other hand, the world can change and it can happen. It was perhaps an unintended glimpse of the incoherence that results from trying to blend Obama the visionary with Obama the realist. Read the rest of this entry »

The world’s freedom – up or down?

By Jonathan Power

The Cold War ended and the good times began – the big powers stopped using their veto in the UN Security Council, the number of wars fell dramatically, human rights improved all over the world including in Russia and the number of democracies increased substantially.

Where have all the flowers gone? The veto has returned. The number of civil wars has started to rise again. The number of democracies has begun to decrease. Perhaps better human rights practices are still holding their ground – in China they are improving slowly, including a more open press and more freedom for academics in the universities, but in Russia after some opening up under the presidency of Dimitri Medvedev freedoms are now retreating under Vladimir Putin. The Arab Spring continues its uncertain course with Egypt awash with uncertainty. Only in Tunisia does freedom seem secure.

Freedom House has a long history of measuring progress on some of the key human rights indicators- democracy, freedom of the press and the courts. It has produced some interesting results in its new report. Read the rest of this entry »

Slavery, colonialism and the church

By Johan Galtung

From Liverpool-UK, 31 Jan 2013

The uncontested center of the world slave trade, 40%, well documented in the International Slavery Museum in the port where slave ships docked.

The trade was triangular: from Liverpool (Bristol, London) with Manchester textiles, metals, beads, alcohol and guns for slave traders in the Bay of Guinea; with slaves from there to the Caribbean, the Middle Passage; and from there with sugar, coffee and cotton grown by slaves back to England.

To stealing people, 2/3 young men ages 15-25, and killing their societies, they added stealing raw materials in return for cheap manufactures. Hand in hand they went; from the beginning by the Portuguese in 1502 till the slave trade was forbidden in England in 1807–continued in other ways, also today.

We talk about millions of slaves landed in the arch from Rio to Washington with the point of gravity in the Caribbean, and some south of Rio, north of Washington and around the coast to the Pacific side of Latin America. An unspeakable crime against humanity.

Another unspeakable crime to remember, the shoa, has its Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January; but somebody else’s, Germany’s, enemy of England, comes easier. No Slavery Memorial Day, no Colonialism Memorial Day. Nor any memorial to the 10 million killed in King Leopold’s Congo, in Antwerp, the port for shipping guns to Africa in return for rubber. More easily understood than manufactured goods converted into slaves converted into commodities.
Read the rest of this entry »

Zero Dark Thirty – ZD30 – and American exceptionalism

By Richard Falk

ZD30 is the film narrative that tells the dramatic story of the special forces operation that on May 2, 2011 located and killed Osama Bin Laden in a compound on the outskirts of the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, which is not far from Islamabad.

It is directed by the prominent director, Kathryn Bigelow, who had won big Hollywood awards for her brilliant 2008 film, Hurt Locker, about the impact of combat experience in Iraq on the American soldiers taking part. She knows her craft, and ZD30 is captivates an audience due to its screenplay, virtuoso acting, taut plot, vividly contoured characters, insight into the mentality of CIA operatives and their bosses, and the evidently realistic portrayal of grisly torture scenes.

These filmic virtues have been displaced by a raging controversy as to whether ZD30 endorses torture as a valued and effective tool against extremist enemies of the United States and seems to imply that torture was instrumental in the successful hunt for Bin Laden.

Certainly President Obama claimed and received much credit in the United States for executing this mission, and it has received very little critical scrutiny. It is hard to calculate the impact of this strike that killed Bin Laden on the 2012 election, but it many believe it made a crucial difference, at least psychologically, and particularly in relation to the outcome in swing states and with respect to the last minute decisions reached by independent voters. Read the rest of this entry »


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