Archive for August, 2017

Welcoming the Fascists to Charlottesville

By David Swanson

Here is the original: Welcoming the Fascists to Charlottesville

August 10, 2017

I have mixed emotions about the fact that I’ll be missing the latest big fascism rally here in Charlottesville, because I’ll be elsewhere participating in kayak trainings for an upcoming Flotilla to the Pentagon for Peace and the Environment.

I’m delighted to miss the fascism and the racism and the hatred and the gun-toting lunacy. I’m sorry to miss being here to speak against it.

I’m hopeful that there might be something resembling a disciplined nonviolent and nonhateful opposition presence, but strongly suspect that a small number of violent and hateful opponents of racism will ruin that.

I’m thrilled that taking down a racist war monument has gone mainstream. I’m depressed that, even though the legal delay in taking it down is based on its being a war monument, one side wants it down for being racist, the other side wants it up for being racist, and everybody is perfectly happy to pack the town with war monuments.

I dread the possibility of hearing that the racists again chanted “Russia is our friend!” meaning that they believe without evidence that Russia corrupted the U.S. election and they are grateful for it, but I’m hopeful that they have moved on to other bizarre chants — though my hope is minimal that anyone might chant “Russia is our friend” and mean by it that they’d like to build peace and friendship between Americans and Russians.

As I’ve written in the past, I think ignoring the racists and their rallies is wrong, and I think confronting them with a hostile shouting match is wrong. Speaking out in favor of love and sanity and understanding is right. We will again this week see some of each of those approaches. We’re also likely to see another abuse of power by a militarized police force. (Remember when Americans used to think of the police as the most prominent violent racists? When was that, about a month ago?)

The inclination to ignore the racists and hope they’ll fade away into history like trials by ordeal or dueling is strong. Judging by popular social norms and their dwindling membership, the KKK seems to be on the way out. Why give them or their suit-and-tie allies any attention that could help promote them?

Well, for one thing, violent racism is not on the way out if we’re judging by presidential elections, hate crimes, police crimes, the prison system, the choice of communities to run gas pipelines through, or many other factors. And the only way my comment on “social norms” in the previous paragraph makes any sense is if we write off the generally accepted bombing of seven dark-skinned Muslim nations as somehow non-racist.

A truly nonviolent approach toward people who believe they are taking a stand for justice as they perceive it is not a protest but an invitation. Not long ago, in Texas, a group planned an anti-Muslim protest at a mosque. A violent anti-anti-Muslim crowd showed up. The Muslims from the mosque placed themselves between the two groups, asking their would-be defenders to leave, and then inviting the anti-Muslim demonstrators to join them at a restaurant to talk things over. They did so.

I’d love to see skilled mediators and others of good will and good heart extend an invitation to the racists visiting Charlottesville to come unarmed to discuss in small groups, without cameras or audiences, what it is that divides us. Might some of them recognize the humanity of those they scapegoat if some of us recognized the injustices they’ve faced or the unfairness they perceive in affirmative action or in the acceptability of “whites” only as a topic for insults, not as a source of pride in the manner permitted all other racial and ethnic groupings?

We live in a country that has made its biggest social project war, a country that has concentrated its wealth beyond medieval levels, a country that consequently experiences incredible levels of unnecessary suffering exacerbated by awareness of its unnecessity and unfairness. Yet what we have of social supports for education, training, healthcare, childcare, transportation, and income is distributed in non-universal, divisive manners that encourage us to fight among ourselves. The KKK members who came to Charlottesville last month, and most of the racists who will show up this week, are not wealthy. They’re not living off the exploitation of workers or prisoners or pollution or war. They’ve just chosen a particularly harmful object for their blame, as compared with those who blame the Republicans or the Democrats or the media.

When they come to condemn us for seeking to remove a statue, we shouldn’t look down at them like grand generals astride monster-sized horses. We should welcome them to explain themselves.

Continue reading here…

Nuclear sabre rattling with North Korea

By Jonathan Power

Does President Donald Trump (aka “Fire and Fury”) know what a nuclear war would be like?

I ask the question because President Roland Reagan confessed he did not until he decided to look at some movies (once an actor, he was a cinema man), like “On the Beach” that depicted a nuclear war. The exercise changed his thinking and he became an anti-nuclear weapons militant. Together with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev they cut their nuclear stockpiles sharply.

They also came near an agreement to destroy all their nuclear weapons.

The blasts at the end of the Second World War in Hiroshima and Nagasaki can now be repeated hundreds of thousand times. The remains would not just be the broken arches of the Caesars, the abandoned viaducts and moss-covered temples of the Incas, the desolation of one of the pulsating hearts of Europe, Dresden, but millions of square miles of uninhabitable desolation and a suffering which would incorporate more agony than the sum of past history.

It would be a time when the living would envy the dead and it would be a world which might well have destroyed the legacy of law, order and love that successive generations have handed over the centuries to one another. Read the rest of this entry »

How CIA and Allies trapped Obama in the Syrian Arms Debacle

By Gareth Porter

July 27, 2017

Last week a Trump administration official decided to inform the news media that the CIA program to arm and train anti-Assad Syrian forces had been terminated. It was welcome news amid a deepening U.S. military commitment reflecting the intention to remain in the country for years to come. As my recent article in TAC documented, the net result of the program since late 2011 has been to provide arms to al Qaeda terrorists and their jihadist and other extremist allies, which had rapidly come to dominate the military effort against the Assad regime.

Continue reading here…

NATO-Russia ties most difficult

Comments by Jan Oberg to a statement by NATO’s S-G, Jens Stoltenberg on PressTV.

David Swanson – CV

David Swanson became a TFF Associate in August 2017.

Here is everything about him from his very rich homepage DavidSwanson.org.

David Swanson’s main focus is to abolish war and create a world based on non-violence – about which you can read a wealth of materials at WorldBeyondWar.org

If you want to receive his newsletters and articles directly from himself, click here.

End of Nuclearism or the End of the World: Utopian Dreams, Dystopian Nightmares

By Richard Falk

We are living amid contradictions whether we like it or not, driving expectations about the future toward opposite extremes.

Increasingly plausible are fears that the ‘sixth extinction’ will encompass the human species, or at least, throw human society back to a technology of sticks and stones, with a habitat limited to caves and forests.

This dark vision is countered by gene-editing designer promises of virtual immortality and super-wise beings programming super-intelligent machines, enabling a life of leisure, luxury, and security for all.

Whether the reality of such a scientistic future would be also dark is a matter of conjecture, but from a survival perspective, it offers an optimistic scenario.

On political levels, a similar set of polar scenarios are gaining ground in the moral imagination, producing national leaders who seem comfortable embracing an apocalyptic telos without a second thought.

The peoples of the world, entrapped in a predatory phase of global capitalism, are using their democratic prerogative to shut down dissent, rationality, and science. Read the rest of this entry »

Living in Dystopian Times

By Richard Falk

Prefatory Note
The text below is drawn from a talk given at the Spring Festival of the Arts in Beirut, Lebanon on 15 June 2017. Comments welcome.

How can we understand the present unfolding world order, with special reference to its relevance for developments in the Middle East? In my view a fundamental reversal of political expectations has taken place that calls for a new assessment of what is going on, and where the region and the world seem to be heading.

Twenty-five years ago there were three widely held beliefs about future trends on a global level: the assured preeminence of the United States; the continuing globalization of the world economy; and the expanding democratization of national governance arrangements.

It was also assumed that these trends were more or less descriptive of regional realities, including the Middle East.

Each of these trends that seemed so descriptive 25 years ago now seems to be completely out of touch with what is happening around us that is very disappointing when compared with earlier expectations, no where more so than in the Middle East.

These disillusioning changes of perception are contributing to a growing anxiety about what the future portends for all of us.

In addition to these changes of expectation as to international behavioral patterns, there exist a cluster of deeper tensions that concern the very nature of the human condition, extending to challenges directed at the sustainability and quality of life on the planet.

One unfortunate consequence of the preoccupation with these disturbing recent international political realities is that much needed attention is diverted away from these more fundamental issues of an ecological, technological, and cultural character.

As an American, I am especially conscious of the enormous and costly diversionary impact that the Trump presidency is having in weakening the understanding and planning needed if humanity is to have any realistic chance of coping with these emerging threats of great magnitude that have never been confronted in the past.

The most serious menace posed by Donald Trump, who is most accurately regarded as the first right-wing populist tweeting demagogue of the digital age, is his extraordinary talent to shift the conversation from the awkwardly significant to the banal trivial.

He is exerting a great influence on public discourse not only in America but in the world, especially by diluting our perceptions of crucial issues affecting the human species as a whole, including climate change as connected to the related decline of biodiversity, automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, and the destabilizing effects of these technologies of the digital age especially when applied to security arrangements and the broad spectrum of societal policies bearing on individual and collective human wellbeing.

Under the weight of these threats it is not surprising that a dystopian moment is beginning to dominate the cultural imagination.

It discloses itself through a fascination with post-apocalyptic films and an interest in older literary dystopias such as Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale. These books that imagined a future that is in some respects our present are being widely read and discussed as if guidebooks to a set on conditions that were not anticipated.

Within the American political space the fragility of American democracy was prefigured in Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here as well in scary premonitions of the imminence of digital age fascism put forward in the recent radical feminist post-apocalyptic novel, The Book of Joan (2017) by Lidia Yuknavitch.

Also indicative of the foreboding quality of the prevailing Zeitgeist is a bestselling booklet that is a collection of identifying markers of tyranny by the prominent historian, Timothy Snyder, with a deliberately provocative title and a pedagogical rationale, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017).

This ‘dystopian moment’ is reinforced by the absence of positive scenarios of the future, and the dismissal of the utopian imagination as worse than irrelevant because it allegedly created receptivity to promises that when translated into political reality produce totalitarian nightmares.

In effect, utopias, correctly understood, have themselves become in these dark times a disguised form of dystopia.

A recovery of societal confidence is a key precondition of envisioning a better future. Its loss is one dimension of the crisis confronting humanity at this time, and these days such failures of moral and political imagination are generally overlooked in the public sphere that is obsessively focused on the latest daily episode in the Trump political soap opera.

Naomi Klein reminds us in a recent interview, “Trump is not the crisis but the symptom of the crisis.” The point is that we must make the effort to grasp the social and political forces that gave rise to Trump and Trumpism. Klein also insisted that the negativity of progressive thinking in recent decades has had little political traction because it fails to present a positive alternative to the angry negativity of right-wing populism that targets the established order.

Klein’s new book has the title No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.

Her text impressively couples a necessary critique of Trump’s pernicious leadership with an affirmative vision of how to move the political process in emancipatory directions. Read the rest of this entry »

Is there a way of reducing ethnic disputes?

By Jonathan Power

August 8th. 2017

It’s not that many years ago that Warren Christopher, the US Secretary of State, commenting on the outbreak of separatist ethnic strife in the 1990s in countries such as Somalia, Zaire, Rwanda, East Timor and ex-Yugoslavia, asked. “Where will it end? Will it end with 5,000 countries?”

It was a serious misjudgement. Separatist wars have fallen sharply. Minorities are not fighting for their own patch of territory at the rate they were. Since 1993 the number of wars of self-determination has been halved.

The list of countries where the problems of ethnic conflict looked potentially ominous but which are now vastly improved is a long one.

Baltic nationalists have moderated their treatment of their Russian minorities. Hungarians in Slovakia and Romania are no longer under threat. After a long war Croatia is respecting minorities.

Conflicts between the central government and India’s Mizo people, the Gaguaz minority in Moldova and the Chakma tribal group in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hills have all diminished. One of Russia’s most important but least-noted achievements has been its peacefully-arrived-at power-sharing agreements with Tatarstan, Bashkiria and forty other regions.

A list almost as long can still be made for ethnic disputes unsolved.

But what we have learnt in the last few years is that the pool of ethnic conflicts is not infinite; that the ultra-pessimism of just a few years ago was misplaced; and that human beings can settle for less, as long as the dominant party recognizes the underdog’s integrity and gives it enough room for manoeuvre.

Nevertheless, there is no time for complacency as a new report by Britain’s Minority Rights Group makes clear. Read the rest of this entry »

Ukraine should become a buffer state

By Jonathan Power

August 1, 2017

Now a few recent words from Jack Matlock who was US ambassador to Moscow under presidents Reagan and Bush senior:

“The Ukraine crisis is a product, in large part, of the policy of indefinite expansion of Nato to the east. If there had been no possibility of Ukraine ever becoming part of Nato, and therefore Sevastopol (the ex-Soviet naval port in Crimea) becoming a Nato base Russia would not have invaded Crimea.”

He goes on to say: “Americans have lived for nearly two centuries with the Monroe Doctrine [which forbids non-Americans to seize land or intervene in Latin America]. Why don’t we understand that other countries are sensitive about military bases from potential rivals not only coming up to their borders, but taking land which historically they have considered theirs.

These are extremely emotional issues – issues that are made to order for any authoritarian leader that wants to strengthen his rule”. In a recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Lukin, vice-president of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, adds a point: “It was only a matter of time before Russia finally reacted to Western encirclement”.

Matlock’s final point is that, “You have almost a clique in Washington that just can’t look at any atrocity in the world without wanting the US to get involved militarily.” [Despite Iraq and Libya which are falling to pieces, perhaps to be followed by Afghanistan.]

Matlock was the top Soviet expert in the Reagan Administration before he became ambassador. His great predecessor in this role, George Kennan, went to his grave warning that an expansion of Nato would be totally counterproductive. Read the rest of this entry »

UN Under Siege: Geopolitics in the Time of Trump

By Richard Falk

Why the peoples of the world need the UN: multilateralism, international law, human rights, and ecological sustainability

A Point of Departure

When Donald Trump withdrew American participation from the Paris Climate Change Agreement in early June of this year a bright red line was crossed. Most obviously, there were a series of adverse substantive consequences associated with weakening an agreement that was promising to provide critical interim protection against severe harms to human wellbeing and its natural habitat threatened by further global warning. U.S. withdrawal from Paris was also a rather vicious symbolic slap at multilateralism under UN auspices.

We should recall that the agreement was rightly hailed at the time as the greatest success ever achieved by way of a multilateral approach to international problem solving.

The Paris Agreement was indeed a remarkable achievement, inducing 195 governments representing virtually every sovereign state on the planet to sign up for compliance with a common agreed plan to address many of the challenges of climate change in the years ahead. To reach such an outcome also reflected a high degree of sensitivity to the varied circumstances of countries, rich and poor, developed and developing, vulnerable and less vulnerable.

The Paris withdrawal also exhibited in an extreme form the new nationalistic posture adopted by the United States in relation to the UN System, and a major retreat from the leadership role at the UN that the U.S. had assumed (for better and worse) ever since the Organization was established in 1945.

Instead of fulfilling this traditional role as the generally respected cheerleader and predominantly influential leader of most multilateral lawmaking undertakings at the UN and elsewhere the U.S. Government has instead apparently decided under Trump to become obstructer-in chief.

This Trump/US assault on the UN approach to cooperation among sovereign states and global problem solving and lawmaking is particularly troubling. This manifestation of the new American approach in the policy domain of climate change is particularly disturbing. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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