Archive for May, 2015

TFF PressInfo # 322 – Burundi: Plan genuine humanitarian intervention now!

By Jan Oberg

When I put things together in the early morning of May 15 – mainstream media reports, Twitter, Facebook and info from Burundi and my 13 years of experience there – Chapter One of the Burundi crisis is over. Another very bleak chapter is opening. Everything is worse now in Burundi.

The coup d’etat of May 13 has failed, its masters being arrested. President Nkurunziza who was in Tanzania when ousted will return as soon as he feels he can trust enough loyalists; there may well be increased repression of the people everywhere and violence between loyalists and opposition. Toward civil war? Toward genocide?

PressInfo 319 was an early warning. PressInfo 320 dealt with some hopes and possible outcomes – in which a coup d’etat was predicted. However, neither hopes nor denials make a policy and certainly don’t save lives.

The international so-called community’s response so far has, no exception, been woefully inefficient.

The African Union which ought to have action capacity and serve as mediator came out with the usual diplomatic appeals to all sides about showing restraint (echoing an equally lame UN Secretary-General). Incredibly, it condemned only the coup makers but not the massive brutality with which Burundi’s political and military leadership have attacked every citizen-democratic protest the last weeks – protest against the President’s arrogant violation of both the Arusha agreements and the Burundian constitution.

The UN Security Council at least “condemned both those who facilitate violence of any kind against civilians and those who seek to seize power by unlawful means.” In essence, neither the AU nor the UN understands a democratic citizens’ perspective. Read the rest of this entry »

How to end the war in Ukraine

By Jonathan Power

According to BBC World in a broadcast yesterday morning its considered opinion is that the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels battle US-backed Ukrainian forces, is working. There are still too many skirmishes, too many guns and mortars being fired but the big guns are largely silent. President Vladimir Putin said the other day that both sides have been guilty of transgressing the cease-fire.

Both the Russians on one side and the US and Nato on the other have been playing with fire with their support of the two sides. And who suffers?- the ordinary inhabitants of the eastern provinces. However pro-Russian they were before all the fighting began they are now largely convinced the rebels killing in their name no longer represent them. The businesses they work for or own are working at half power or less. Unemployment has soared. Homes have been decimated. Pensions are unpaid. Hospitals find it increasingly hard, struggling to deal with extra patients and a curtailed drug supply.

In Moscow, among thinking people, it has become clear that Russia should have no interest in taking over large swathes of Ukrainian territory Read the rest of this entry »

The year 2015: First third report

By Johan Galtung

In my columns, “The Year 2015-What Are We in For?”, I identified four unfolding, dramatic processes: the West will continue fighting unsuccessfully and violently to keep their world grip; Eurasia will expand and consolidate successfully and nonviolently; Islam will expand and consolidate partly violently; Latin America and Africa will expand and consolidate, spearheaded by Brazil, South Africa, BRICS.

A third of the year 2015 has now passed; let us take stock.

Headlines in the International New York Times tell the story:

18-19 April 2015: “U.S. is said to risk losing economic leadership”; “–a divided nation shedding hard-won clout”, “We’re withdrawing from the central place we had on the world stage”.

And for the UK: 29 April: “Britain’s drift from the world stage looms over the vote”.

These are statements about leadership, about being the center as a model to emulate; controlling world stage politics; not about economic growth. Losing leadership and drifting away may actually increase growth: control is a costly, non-productive endeavor for most businesses. Sensing that may accelerate the decline as world power. Read the rest of this entry »

The Semantics of struggle

Richard Falk

By Richard Falk

Words Against the Grain

While reporting to the UN on Israel’s violation of basic Palestinian rights I became keenly aware of how official language is used to hide inconvenient truths. Language is a tool used by the powerful to keep unpleasant realities confined to shadow lands of incomprehension.

Determined to use the rather modest flashlight at my disposal to illuminate the realities of the Palestinian ordeal as best I could, meant replacing words that obscure ugly realities with words that expose as awkward truths often as possible. My best opportunity to do this was in my annual reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the General Assembly in New York.

My courageous predecessor as Special Rapporteur, John Dugard, deserves credit for setting the stage, effectively challenging UN complacency with language that looked at the realities lurking below the oily euphemisms that diplomat seem so fond of.

Of course, I paid a price for such a posture as did Dugard for me. Your name is added to various black lists, and doors once open are quietly closed. If the words used touched enough raw nerves, you become a target of invective and epithets. In my case, this visibility meant being called ‘an anti-Semite,’ even ‘a notorious anti-Semite,’ and on occasion ‘a self-hating Jew.’

Strong Zionist pressures have now been brought to induce legislative bodies in the United States to brand advocacy of BDS or harsh criticism of Israel as prohibited form of ‘hate speech.’ In April of this year pressures broad to bear by the British Jewish Board of Deputies led the University of Southampton to cancel a major academic conference on the Israel/Palestine conflict.

In relation to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, the clarifying/offending words are ‘apartheid,’ ‘ethnic cleansing,’ ‘settler colonialism,’ and ‘annexation.’ The UN evades such invasions Read the rest of this entry »

Why Iran must remain a US enemy

Gareth Porter

By Gareth Porter

The most important factor in shaping US policy towards Iran is domestic politics – not Obama’s own geopolitical vision.

Since the start of the US nuclear negotiations with Iran, both Israeli and Saudi officials have indulged in highly publicised handwringing over their belief that such a nuclear deal would represent a fundamental strategic shift in US policy towards the region at the expense of its traditional alliances with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

But the Obama administration is no more likely to lurch into a new relationship with Iran than were previous US administrations. The reason is very simple: The US national security state, which has the power to block any such initiative, has fundamental long-term interests in the continuation of the policy of treating Iran as an enemy. Continued here!

Apartheid and the Palestinian National Struggle

Richard Falk

By Richard Falk

Editor’s note
This is a grand essay on the dimensions, history, structures of the Middle East/Palestine-Israeli-Western conflict over about 100 years. It is extraordinarily rich – but doesn’t cause the reader to drown in too many details. I highly recommend it to any student – young or old, journalist and politician – whose understanding of the issues may be based on the woefully biased, general account in Western mainstream media.
- Jan Oberg

Preliminary Observations

In this period when the centenary of the genocidal victimization of the Armenian people in 1915 is being so widely observed and discussed, it seems especially appropriate to call attention to the comparable victimization of the Palestinian people. This second story of prolonged collective victimization also received its jump start almost a century ago with the issuance by the British Foreign Office of the Balfour Declaration supporting the Zionist movement project of establishing a Jewish national home in historic Palestine.

The most striking difference between these two experiences of severe historical wrongs is that the Armenian people are seeking acknowledgement and apology for what was done to their ancestors a century ago, and possibly seeking reparations, while the Palestinian people may sometime in the future have the opportunity to seek similar redress for the past but now their urgent focus is upon liberation from present daily structures of acute oppression.

This Palestinian situation is tragic, in part, because there is no clear path to liberation, and the devastation of oppressive circumstances have gone on decade after decade with no end in view.

The political puzzle of the Israel/Palestine conflict continues to frustrate American policymakers despite their lengthy diplomatic engagement in the search for a peaceful future that satisfies both peoples. There are significant changes, of course, that have occurred as time unwinds.

Perhaps, the most crucial change has involved the gradual extension of Israeli control over virtually the whole of historic Palestine with American acquiescence. This coincides with a growing and more vivid awareness around the world of how much suffering and humiliation the Palestinian people have endured over the course of the last century, and the degree to which this frozen situation can be blamed on the unlimited willingness of the United States to deploy its geopolitical muscle on Israel’s behalf.

My approach to the Palestinian struggle reflects four points of departure: Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo 321 – Today’s V-Day as a lost opportunity for peace-making

Jan Oberg

By Jan Oberg

Today, May 9, the citizens and government of Russia commemorate V-Day – that it is 70 years ago they won over Nazi Germany. The price they paid were 20-26 million human beings of which 9 million soldiers. – in other European countries the victory has been celebrated this past week. The total casualties of the Second World War was at least 60 million, depending on how you count.

People and governments care about our own history and sacrifices. The implicit message of course is: Pay respect to those who sacrificed their lives and may it never ever happen again. And the world knows everything about the Holocaust/Shoah that cost the lives of 6 million Jews.

However, the world knows much less about the huge concentration camp in Jasenovac, Croatia, where at least 100.000 Serbs, Jews and Romas was exterminated. Serb suffering didn’t fit the Western narrative during the Yugoslav dissolution wars in which Crotia was only a historically innocent victim and Serbs the cause of it all.

The almost incomprehensible suffering of the Russian and other peoples in the Soviet Union also doesn’t fit the present Western narrative about Ukraine and the new Cold War-like period we are in Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 320 – Burundi: Denying or hoping won’t do

Jan Oberg

By Jan Oberg

Virtually everyone with an expertise in humanitarian crisis has warned about the unfolding catastrophe these very days in Burundi – the head of UNHCR, former UN Humanitarian chief Jan Egeland, the UN Secretary-General and his envoy, the International Crisis Group, specialists on Burundi, human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch, civil society organisations inside Burundi, etc. TFF did it in PressInfo 319 of April 29, 2015.

Everyone who cares will see all the red lamps and hear the alarm bells. We have a history of genocide in this country and neighbouring Rwanda just a few years ago. There is something to build our early warnings on. But who is listening? Who is taking action, serious political action?

There have been meetings in the capital Bujumbura, regional leaders, the UN Envoy and a US Ambassador have met with the president and put pressure, urged, expressed concern or appealed. Unfortunately, it seems to be a display of powerlessness and lack of real political will.

This tired diplomacy might even convince the Burundian president that he can safey continue his stubborn policies because – and that’s his advantage – the country called Burundi is of so little real interest to anyone that those who could do something turn their heads and pretend they just don’t see.

We may of course sit and wait. Hoping it will all miraculously be good again tomorrow. Here are some more or less realistic hopes: Read the rest of this entry »

The execution debate

By Jonathan Power

The first recorded parliamentary debate on the use of the death penalty was held in 427 BC when Diodotus, arguing that the penalty was not a deterrent, persuaded the Athenian assembly not to execute the Mitylene rebels.

The debate goes on- in America in particular, a big time user of the penalty where opinion, belatedly, is turning towards using it more sparingly and recently, in Australia, when Indonesia decided to go ahead with the execution last week of convicted Australian drug traffickers. This event got major news coverage all over the world. These two developments suggest that in many countries there is a new think going on about the efficacy and morality of capital punishment.

The modern abolitionist movement is usually traced back to the Italian, Cesare Beccaria’s pioneering work, “On Crimes and Punishment”, published in 1764. But it was an American state, Michigan, that in 1846 that became the first jurisdiction in the world to abolish permanently the death penalty. In 1863 Venezuela became the first country.

Amnesty International recently reported that the number of countries still executing people fell from 41 in 1995 to 22 last year, while the number of states which have abolished the death penalty climbed from 59 to 98.

Abolishing-minded governments are often ahead of their own public opinion. Even in Europe, the word’s pioneer in abolition, if there has been a particularly gruesome and heinous murder polls often show an upswing in support for its re-introduction.

In Hungary last week the prime minister proposed re-instating the death penalty following the stabbing of a young tobacco store clerk. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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