Archive for March, 2017
By Jonathan Power
March 23rd, 2017
The Asian economies are picking up speed again. After the big hit from Wall Street when the bank, Lehman Brothers, collapsed in a heap in 2008, sending shock waves everywhere, a recovery is now in the works.
How many child deaths in the Third World did these bankers cause?
Another question is will future growth be like the past- fast but severely inequitable? The same growth before 2008 that reduced absolute poverty created a widening gulf between the haves and have-nots.
But isn’t that sufficient for the day, many ask? Absolute poverty must be the key mark of progress- raising incomes, giving people more money to seek education for their children or medical care or filling the coffers for the state so that it can fund bore holes in the countryside and sewers in the urban slums.
After all in the period of rapid growth from 1990 to 2008 the number of people living in extreme poverty was almost halved, from more than 1.5 billion to 850 million.
China’s poverty fell dramatically from when 85% of the population lived on less than $1.25 a day to when only 13% lived in poverty. India has also reduced poverty rapidly, particularly under the last Congress government of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, but the voters still fell for the opportunistic populism of the BJP and voted Congress out.
Of course there are good arguments why the progress made has not been seen as enough, not just because of rising inequality but because India and China between them have two-thirds of the world’s poor.
Escaping poverty is not enough. Read the rest of this entry »
By Richard Falk
Six months ago, the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) asked Virginia Tilley and me to write a study examining the applicability of the international criminal law concept of apartheid to Israel’s policies and practices toward the Palestinian people. We were glad to accept the assignment, and conceived of our role as engaging in an academic undertaking. ESCWA, one of several UN regional commissions, requested the study as a result of an uncontested motion adopted by its 18 Arab member governments.
Almost within hours of its release on March 15, our report [bearing the title “Israel’s Practices Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid”] was greeted by what can only be described as hysteria and derision.
And a few words about Western mainstream media unwillingness to deal with NATO criticism
By Jan Oberg
It’s as amazing as it is frightening how the West – a group of countries allegedly fighting for truth against propaganda and fake news by others – leads exactly that game itself.
And so is the degree to which Western allegedly free media – meaning free also of political powers that be – continue to ask no questions and do no research. We are obviously living in the post-intellectual age, knowledge having been replaced by marketed and more or less invented, elite self-serving narratives. For instance…
Take a close look at what Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. European Command, says when testifying before the US House Armed Service Committee. He is also SACEUR – Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the man whose views and actions will decide the fate of 500+ Europeans should there be a major war in this region of the world.
What is says is plain irresponsible. It’s beyond the rational. While it may not be fake news, it’s an example of ignored, omitted news.
He blows up beyond recognition the so-called Russian threat. There is no single evidence of it in his statement – why it would happen, how, where, with what motives the Moscow would have and – in particular – how likely it is to become reality. He merely asserts it – based upon a wildly exaggerated estimate of his own authority: Read the rest of this entry »
Originally published in The New Statesman, London, 15 March 2017
28 March 2017
Three former UN insiders on the future of the world’s most ambitious organisation.
By Hans von Sponeck, Richard Falk – both TFF Associates – and Denis Halliday.
US President Donald Trump is ardently embracing a toxic form of messianic nationalism, while demeaning those who oppose him as corrupt, and dishonest enemies. His “America First” chant is creating severe international tension, promoting extremism – within and outside the US – and undermining the homeland security that he has so insistently pledged to enhance.
Trump seems determined to implement policies and practices that could signal the weakening of democracy, and possibly even herald the onset of fascism. His programme to deport undocumented immigrants and to exclude all visitors from six designated Muslim majority countries is illustrative of a regressive and Islamophobic outlook.
The groundswell of popular dissent is vibrant and worldwide, from Romania to South Korea, Gambia to Brazil, from the UK to the Ukraine.
Trump is dangerously exploiting the frustration of citizens with the political establishment, which is unprecedented in its depth and breadth. The umbilical cord that connects those governing with those governed is becoming dangerously stressed. The digital revolution is endowing governments with horrifying capabilities for oppression and control but it is also enhancing the ability of the citizenry to mount resistance and mobilize opposition forces.
UN charter law and power politics
As UN veterans, we recall and affirm the preamble to the UN Charter that reads “we the peoples” – not we the governments! The trust of people in their governments to work for social and economic progress and to prevent war has dramatically weakened, if not disappeared.
The prediction made by the Mexican delegate at the founding of the UN in 1945 that “we have created an institution which controls the mice but the tigers will roam around freely” seems truer today than at the moment of its utterance. The UN Security Council’s permanent members – China, France, Russia, the UK and the US – indeed “roam around freely” lacking respect for international law or the authority of the UN, once more pursuing their respective nationalist agendas without any pretence of accountability. These countries are also the major consumers and exporters of military hardware, facilitating both militarism and “merchants of death”.
The international war supposedly being waged against political extremism and terrorism has predictably deteriorated into a series of horrific wildfires and slaughter. Wars that should never have happened, neither the overt ones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria nor the partially covert ones in Yemen, Somalia, and a range of other countries in Africa and Asia have brought peace or stability, but a series of unspeakable ordeals of human suffering. Old struggles have been magnified while new ones have been created.
The US tiger, aged as it is, displays the most serious signs of political amnesia. Unilateralism and exceptionalism have just been reaffirmed as cornerstones Read the rest of this entry »
By Richard Falk
March 4, 2017
Donald Trump has articulated clearly, if somewhat vaguely and incoherently, his anti-globalist, anti-UN approach on foreign policy.
For instance, in late February he told a right-wing audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference that “there is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, or a global flag. This is the United States that I am representing. I am not representing the globe.”
A similar sentiment was expressed to Congress a few days later in a tone of voice and choice of words praised by media wonks as ‘presidential.’ On this occasion Trump said, “[m]y job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.”
Such rhetoric coming from a normal American leader would probably be interpreted as an expression of geopolitical humility, implicitly rejecting the standard insistence on American exceptionalism, exemplified in recent times by the project to create and maintain the first global state in human history.
This potentially self-limiting language might even be understood as renouncing earlier claims to assert American global leadership as the keystone of world order.
George W. Bush in 2002 gave this bold leadership claim a sharp edge when he insisted that only the US model of market-based constitutionalism was a legitimate form of governance for sovereign states in the 21st century.
Or even more grandiosely, in the spirit of Michael Mandelbaum and Thomas Friedman, that the United States as a consequence of its martial strength, technological prowess, democratic values and institutions, and skills of leadership provides the world with the benevolent reality of virtual ‘world government.’
Let’s face it, Donald Trump is not a normal political leader, nor is he someone disposed to embrace humility in any form, so we should take his pledge to represent American interests while leaving the world to fend for itself with many grains of salt, especially if we consider the specifics of the Trump worldview.
What Trump seems to be offering is maximum disengagement from international and global arrangements designed to Read the rest of this entry »
By John Scales Avery
The duty of individuals living under an unjust government.
There are many governments today that can be described unjust, and some that even deserve to be called fascist.
What is the duty of the individual citizen, living under such a government?
What was the duty of a German, living under Hitler?
The thoughts of Thoreau, Tolstoy, Gandhi and Martin Luther King can help us to answer this question. The Nuremberg Principles can also help us to answer it.
Henry David Thoreau and Civil Disobedience
We usually think of Thoreau (1817-1862) as a pioneer of ecology and harmony with nature, but he was also a pioneer of non-violent civil disobedience.
Thoreau refused to pay his poll tax because of his opposition to the Mexican War and to the institution of slavery. Because of his refusal to pay the tax (which was in fact a very small amount) he spent a night in prison.
To Thoreau’s irritation, his family paid the poll tax for him and he was released. He then wrote down his ideas on the subject in an essay entitled “The Duty of Civil Disobedience”, where he maintains that each person has a duty to follow his own individual conscience even when it conflicts with the orders of his government.
“Under a government that which imprisons any unjustly”, Thoreau wrote, “the true place for a just man is in prison.”
Thoreau’s “The Duty of Civil Disobedience” influenced Martin Luther King, and it anticipated the Nuremberg Principles.
Tolstoy: The Kingdom of God is Within You
As an old man, Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) had achieved all of the goals that humans normally set for themselves.
By Jan Oberg
Lund, Sweden – March 24, 2017
Can the almost total destruction of Eastern Aleppo be used constructively?
Only if we are willing to ask and dialogue about this:
Why does the world go on investing US$ 2000 billion annually in warfare and US$ 30 in all the UN does – only to create destruction of people, places, past and future?
How absurd, how meaningless – indeed how far must it go to destroy the West itself – before we learn to conflict intelligently?
The Meaninglessness Of War by Jan Oberg on Exposure
I’ve see much destruction during my work in conflict zones the last 25 years. But nothing compares with Aleppo and the destruction of Syria and its people.
Nothing – absolutely nothing – can justify this barbarian process, not even an alleged dictatorship and ruthless regime policies.
We must learn from Aleppo and all the other places:
- to hate violence and war, not each other; - to stop siding with some presumed good violence that shall combat evil violence because there is no (good) violence that is better than dialogue;
- to criminalize arms trade to conflict zones and never let a private arms trader or goverment at large when they profit and make peace impossible;
- to learn the tools of conflict-resolution and do what we have all promised to do: struggle first for peace by peaceful means as stated in the UN Charter.
My photo series “The Meaninglessness of War: Aleppo” aim to encourage you to think deeply – much deeper than siding with one or the other side.
We need a tectonic shift in the theories and practises of international politics and conflict management. ASAP.
Otherwise the rest will one day be just that: Silence.
A global Aleppo.
Side instead with peace, decency, truth and humanity. And learn your Gandhi and other wise thinkers. Get out of the box! The group think!
And the future of the world will be so much more promising. Even bright.
By Johan Galtung
The Cold War ended by an agreement that the USSR leaves Eastern Europe and the USA does not enter the area. What the USA did is treason, like Sykes-Picot. NATO expanded from 16 to 28: Bill Clinton added Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary; George W. Bush the Baltic Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria; Obama attached Croatia and Albania. In 1999, 2004 and 2009, respectively. However, did those countries want it? They could have made their own pacts with neither USSR nor USA. The Soviet empire, and the Soviet Union itself, had collapsed.
With NATO at the border, Russia took back its 1954 Crimea gift to Ukraine within the Soviet Union. Kiev with US help fought in Eastern Ukraine to make ethnic Russians escape to Russia. Maybe 60% did.
Enters world history: The Pope and the Patriarch declare their Christianities one and the same (Havana Airport, VIP Lounge, 14 Feb 2016). EU will no longer fight US wars (Bratislava, 6 Nov 2016). Protestant-Evangelical Christianity is marginalized. So is the USA.
Denmark and Norway were with Anglo-America fighting US wars in Libya; and with prime ministers as NATO’s secretary general. “Cold War jitters…
By Jonathan Power
March 21st. 2017
Once again the media is presenting us with the images of the mother of all famines – stretching from the Yemen to Somalia, to Sudan and South Sudan, to the Central African Republic, to northern Nigeria.
It’s a bad famine but there have been bad famines in the not so distant past – the great Ethiopian one in 1985 which triggered the rock star, Bob Geldorf, to organise a massive world-wide popular response. (I remember running with tens of thousands of other campaigners in London’s Hyde Park.)
Before that, in 1974 at the World Food Conference, there was a real feeling that the world was running out of food and dramatic new policies must be put in place by the richer countries.
They were and much progress was made. Between 1990 and 2015 the proportion of children under five who were malnourished fell from 25% to 14% of the world’s children. People who are still underfed are less severely so. Their average shortfall in calories fell from 170 a day in 1990 to 88 a day last year.
Increased food production is happening all over the place.
In Rwanda peasant farmers produced in 2015 792,000 tons of grain which was more than three times as much as in 2000. In Ethiopia cereal production tripled between 2000 and 2014. Cameroon, Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria and Kenya have all over the past decade increased their harvest by 50%.
If one deducts from the African statistics the famine in parts of the east and northern Nigeria then African progress looks especially good.
West Africa in particular has shown Read the rest of this entry »