Archive for December, 2015
By Jonathan Power
We have much to be glum about as we come to the end of 2015 – the latest is the killings of cafe sojourners and music fans in Paris.
But we are brainwashed with bad news. “If it bleeds it leads”. One plane crash is worth more airtime than news that we are winning the fight against early death.
The World Health Organization has some telling facts. Over the last two decades infant deaths have fallen by a half. Measle deaths by three-quarters and both tuberculosis and maternal deaths by a half. AIDs-related illnesses have been cut by over a quarter. In 1960 one in five children died before the age of 5. Today it is one in 20, and falling.
Developing countries have caught up far more quickly in health than in wealth. For instance, Vietnam has the same health as the US had in 1980 but at present the same income per head as the US had in 1920.
Despite the Great Recession of the last seven years poverty has plummeted. Although most of that drop has happened in China and India it has also happened in most Third World countries.
Population growth is slowing. The amount of children in the world today is the most there is likely to be. Read the rest of this entry »
By Johan Galtung
Thanks dear Oxford students for the Xmas gift, challenging the cult of Cecil Rhodes–colonialist, classist, racist. He was also an Aryan supremacist, like Hitler but for the Anglo-Saxon variety, against the German (and often criticized in this column).
The commemorative plaque has been removed. The statue may follow.
Maybe also the “Rhodes Scholarship”, as ‘certificate of excellence?’
Much will join Cecil Rhodes and another racist, Woodrow Wilson, down the drain. Like Western economic supremacy. In 1980 the G7 (USA-Canada-UK-Germany-France-Italy-Japan) had 62% of Gross World Product, BRICS had 15%. In 2015, only 35 years later, G7 is halved and BRICS doubled; at 31% in 2020, a comfortable lead for BRICS is predicted; 34% against 29% (International Spectator). West “Out-competed”.
But what happens is deeper than share of GWP. Or USA losing wars. Or decreasing US political clout. With only US cultural power left. Read the rest of this entry »
By Richard Falk
Here in the United States, I react against the avoidance of the word ‘Christmas’ during this holiday season. I would undoubtedly feel differently if I were living in Turkey or India. The legions of ‘the politically correct’ determined to avoid offending those, especially Jews, who are not Christians, will carefully express their good wishes with such phrases as ‘happy holidays!’
This is okay except it obliterates the vibrant symbolism of Christmas as a seminal occasion that has over the centuries transcended for most of us its specific religious roots and meanings. It has an ecumenical resonance that calls for bright lights, ornamented trees, celebration, and wishes for peace on earth and good will toward all, bringing together those of diverse faith or no faith at all.
When I was growing up in New York City Christmas was ‘Christmas’ regardless of whether one was Christian or not, and implied no religious dedication whatsoever. Read the rest of this entry »
By Richard Falk
There are many disturbing signs that the West is creating conditions in the Middle East and Asia that could produce a wider war, most likely a new Cold War, containing, as well, menacing risks of World War III. The reckless confrontation with Russia along its borders, reinforced by provocative weapons deployments in several NATO countries and the promotion of governing regimes hostile to Russia in such countries as Ukraine and Georgia seems to exhibit Cold War nostalgia, and is certainly not the way to preserve peace.
Add to this the increasingly belligerent approach recently taken by the United States naval officers and defense officials to China with respect to island disputes and navigational rights in the South China Seas. Such posturing has all the ingredients needed for intensifying international conflict, giving a militarist signature to Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia.’
These developments are happening during the supposedly conflict averse Obama presidency. Looking ahead to new leadership, even the most optimistic scenario that brings Hillary Clinton to the White House is sure to make these pre-war drum beats even louder.
From a more detached perspective it is fair to observe that Obama seems rather peace-oriented only because American political leaders and the Beltway/media mainstream have become so accustomed to relying on military solutions whether successful or not, whether dangerous and wasteful or not, that is, only by comparison with more hawkish alternatives.
The current paranoid political atmosphere in the United States is a further relevant concern, calling for police state governmental authority at home, increased weapons budgets, and the continuing militarization of policing and law enforcement.
Such moves encourage an even more militaristic approach to foreign challenges that seem aimed at American and Israeli interests by ISIS, Iran, and China. Read the rest of this entry »
By Johan Galtung
From very high up three major countries-states stand out clearly: China, the most populous; Russia, the largest; USA, the most military. With three leaders, Xi, Putin, Obama, with much power on their hands.
And here is the key hypothesis, presumably more right than wrong: China-Xi: positive peace; Russia-Putin: negative peace; USA-Obama: war.
We have in mind China – also a region – building relations for reasonably mutual and equal benefit with China all over the world, spinning Asia-Europe-Africa together in a road-rail-ship-air Silk network available to all (with major mistakes in the South China Sea).
We have in mind Russia – itself also a region – calling to Russia leaders in violent conflict from all over the world, seeking cease-fires and accommodation (making itself a major mistake in Syria).
And we have in mind USA – more than a state, less than a region – since WWII ended killing more than 20 million people in 37 countries:
Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, East Timor, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Korea North-South, Laos, Nepal, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Sudan, Vietnam, Yugoslavia Not included: daily USA mass shootings.
And weaving the world together with the incredible internet (making a major mistake, using it for spying, betraying us all). Read the rest of this entry »
By Jonathan Power
What drives people to extremes? Why do the people behind Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State (IS) get so charged up and angry?
Perhaps to understand we should go back to the 16th century in Europe and the furious debate about the “divine right of kings”. For decades the royal houses of Europe had been becoming less accessible to their subjects. William of Orange, ruler of the powerful Netherlands, said he had “received his power from God and God alone.”
Philip II of Spain was also a principle protagonist of this theme. Indeed, when Spain conquered Holland, Philip tried to squash the new Protestant “heresy”, using the brutal practices of the Spanish Inquisition.
It is no wonder that the Dutch were ready for a bloody revolt. They would no longer accept the prerogatives of rulers who claimed a “divine right”.
In 1581 the Dutch withdrew their allegiance from Philip II. Accountability of a ruler to his subjects not to his God was the new dispensation.
Meanwhile, England, under the rule of Elizabeth 1 and James 1, continued to believe in the divine right of the monarch. Only when James’s son came to the throne, Charles 1, was the belief overturned. Parliament raised an army. Seven years of war was followed by the king’s trial, conviction and execution in 1649.
The poet John Milton wrote at the time, “All men naturally were born free”. John Locke wrote 40 years later that “The very objective of government is setting up a known authority to which everyone of that society may appeal upon any injury received…The legislative power should be placed in collective bodies of men, call them senate, parliament, or what you please”.
From then on, over the course of two centuries, very much influenced by Locke and other Enlightenment thinkers, a constitutional form of government was slowly built across much of Europe. However, it was the United States that first became a full democracy, with separation of church and state.
But, despite the great advance from the days of “divine rule”, parliaments and governments regularly failed the people. Parliaments were often dominated, or at least greatly influenced, by those with inherited titles, people with money, the army and even criminal gangs.
Much of the struggle against the divine right of kings and the corrupt policies of the Pope in Rome had led Martin Luther in 1517 to nail his handbill to the doors of a church in Wittenberg in Germany. Faith in God, not in pope or king, was the only way to gain heavenly salvation, he preached. No wonder that Philip II savagely repressed the profession and declarations of Protestant faith in Holland.
It was in Holland that some Protestants became extremists. In the late 1560s Protestant iconoclasts went into the catholic churches and destroyed the statues of Mary and the saints. They also destroyed any manifestation of the wealth and riches that the church had been extorting for so long.
Their anger was such that we would call them today “violent, religious extremists”.
Sarah Chayes points out in her excellent new book “Thieves of State”, “We can see parallels between the 16th century struggles in Europe against the kings and Catholic Church and the religious militancy of Al Qaeda and IS. The resemblance between the language used to explain their violence and that of the earlier Protestant insurrectionists castigating the acute corruption of the Catholic Church and its royalist allies (with their belief in the divine right of kings) is unmistakable.”
By Jonathan Power
Russia stands at a major cross roads as it works out how exactly to deal with the 14.5 million ethnic Muslims that live inside its borders. If added to this are the migrant workers from Central Asia and Azerbaijan the total is around 20 million. Compare this with Germany which has 5 million and France which has 6 million Muslims.
This is quite a cupful to swallow. The Kremlin has struggled for decades to deal with Muslim ways and demands. When communism collapsed it was relatively easy to restore the Orthodox Church to its traditional preeminence. But dealing with the Muslims is much less straightforward. Besides being a religion they are a political force.
The relationship between the power of the Kremlin and the developing power of Islam was seriously put to the test in the 1990s by the wars for independence in the southern Muslim states of Chechnya and Dagestan. Today stability is threatened by the growing appeal of the Islamic State, ISIS, among disaffected Islamic youth.
If Chechyna (now pacified) was the catalyst for the initial spread of militant Islamism, IS is now the threat that can spear the soft underbelly of southern Russia. Read the rest of this entry »
By Johan Galtung
Within the global eco-system humanity has – since industrialization – upset balances and now suffers the consequences, trying to tackle them. COP21, the UN 195 States conference in Paris, reached the unanimous agreement demanded of them after two weeks of hard work. However, as the U.S. points out, an agreement is not a treaty with legally binding targets.
Droughts-storms-floods and surface warming: land-oceans-glaciers. As glaciers melt oceans and rivers will over-flood major settled land. With the current 1 degree C warming bad and 2 degrees intolerable, they settled for the 1.5C goal “if possible”; a compromise. Better .5 only.
The dominant theory sees greenhouse gases CO2-CH4 from using fossil fuels for energy, trapping heat in the atmosphere as the cause. Removing this cause, a sluggish process, calls for alternative energy sources, like wind and solar (the author got solar panels in 1975).
Human settlements and forests darkening the planet, attracting more heat from the sun, may be another source. Remedy: care with both. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jonathan Power
December 8th 2015
On Sunday the German vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, publicly accused Saudi Arabia of financing Islamic extremism in the West and warned that it must stop.
He said that the Saudi regime is funding extremist mosques and communities that pose a danger to public security. “We have to make clear to the Saudis that the time of looking away is over,” Gabriel told the newspaper, Bild am Sonntag in an interview.
At last some Western leaders are grasping the Saudi Arabian nettle. For too long the country has been given a clean pass. Saudi Arabia’s oil and massive arms purchases have made Western politicians mute for decade upon decade. But now, with clear evidence that Saudi Arabia has allowed rich Saudis to fund first Al Qaeda and more recently Islamic State (ISIS), Western leaders are waking up to what their expediency has tolerated and allowed.
Thanks to Wikileaks we know that Hillary Clinton when Secretary of State wrote in a cable in December 2009 that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for Al-Qaida, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan.” Lately, running for president, she has been explicit in her warnings.
Why has it taken so long for eyes to begin to open?
In his autobiography Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service (home of James Bond), wrote that some time before 9/11 Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington, told him that “The time is not far off in the Middle East when it will be literally ‘God Help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”
Dearlove, speaking last week, said he has no doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with their governments turning a blind eye, have played a central role in the IS surge. “Such things simply do not happen spontaneously”, he said.
Saudi Arabia over the next few years may well come to regret Read the rest of this entry »
By Johan Galtung
The process has now gone full circle, from Sykes-Picot Agreement negotiated from 1915 to 16 May 1916, about control of the Ottoman Empire, when beaten, to England now joining France in bombing Syria. “Violence In and By Paris” two weeks ago was wrong about England wanting to stay out: the House of Commons on 02 Dec 2015 voted 397 to 223 for bombing; 56 Labor MPs for, only 7 Conservative MPs against.
Russia played a minor role in Sykes-Picot as now also in bombing maybe mainly the opposition to Assad.
As Robert Savio points out, “They all fight to the last Syrian.”
The likelihood of an atrocious Paris 13 November type violence in London went up many points. And Russia had a civilian plane bombed.
The USA is as addicted to bombing as a hammer to a nail, not only to use allies and train locals. James A. Lucas, “The United States has killed more than 20 million people in 37 nations since WWII”, in 1945 (firstname.lastname@example.org) seems not to be enough; they just go on and on. More than a million Muslims killed in West Asia mainly by the USA since 1991. In San Bernardino, somebody may have killed 14 in revenge.
The new name for what they fight, after jihadism, is the Islamic State, calling it sometimes IS, ISIS, ISIL. What is it, this Daesh?
There seem to be heavy elements of Saddam’s army, the Baath secular party (also Assad’s), and the Tikrit clan from the recent past–now adding maybe ten fighters for each killed by the West. Daesh seems to Read the rest of this entry »