Archive for the ‘TFF PressInfo’ Category

How the United Nations should respond in the age of global dissent

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 »

TFF PressInfo # 411: Defending the UN against Trump’s erasing the UN

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 »

TFF PressInfo # 410: The meaninglessness of war: Aleppo Photo Series # 6

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.

The Meaninglessness Of War: Aleppo

All the photo series at Exposure.

TFF PressInfo # 409: America’s woes and Europe’s responsibility

By Farhang Jahanpour

Last year’s U.S. presidential election campaign was the most acrimonious in recent history. The debates were personal and bad-tempered. Some email leaks from the Democratic National Committee showed that the committee had been actively trying to undermine Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in favor of his rival Hillary Clinton, which deprived both of them of victory in the election.

On the Republican side, most candidates engaged in crude personal attacks against each other. Senator Marco Rubio hit an extreme low by referring to Donald Trump’s small hands, and Trump retorted that Rubio had “really large ears” and gave him the nickname of “Little Marco”.

Trump called Senator Ted Cruz “the single biggest liar” and threatened that “he would spill the beans” on his wife. Trump also constantly referred to his Democratic rival as “Crooked Hillary”, with the crowds chanting: “lock her up”.

The campaign manifested a level of vulgarity that has been unprecedented in American politics. Based on Trump’s comments about women, blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, etc. many American commentators have described him as racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and narcissistic.

However, alongside those controversial remarks, Trump also gave the impression that if he were elected his presidency would mark a major break with the past and would usher in a more peaceful world and a more constructive relationship with Russia.

Trump strongly criticized the invasion of Iraq, the trillions of dollars that were spent on it and the hundreds of thousands of lives lost. He hinted that his administration would not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and would concentrate on “making America great again”.

Donald Trump won the election on the basis of Electoral College votes, yet his victory was far from impressive. Some 40% of registered voters didn’t vote. Of the 60% who voted, Trump got a little more than 28% of the vote. His 62 million votes constituted 18% of America’s 340 million people, and Hillary Clinton received nearly three million more popular votes than Trump did.

So, although technically Trump won, he certainly has no decisive mandate. He is also the only president to have come to office with no previous elected post and no public or military service, even at a junior level, and not even having the support of leading Republicans.

An administration filled with generals and millionaires

President Trump formed a cabinet of generals and millionaires, basically to boost his own ego, because he feels strong in the company of generals and rich people. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 407: The U.S., Trump and the Deep State



By John Scales Avery

In his book, “The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government”, Mike Lofgren called attention to the fact that much of the real power in Washington is not controlled by the President and members of Congress, but is in the hands of multi-billion-dollar organizations that are not only huge, but also unelected and secret, for example the CIA, NSA and FBI.

The enormous power of the deep state is undemocratic by definition, since its organizations operate without public knowledge or control. Its power is not only undemocratic but also extremely threatening to the lives of Americans, and also to to the lives of people throughout the world.

This serious threat comes from the fact that the deep state seems to be under the control of the Military-Industrial Complex. It promotes aggressive policies that risk nuclear war.

Most people of good will in the United States and elsewhere oppose Donald Trump’s racism, bigotry, climate change denial and neo-fascism.

It is a mistake, however, to attack his wish for better relations with Russia. A nuclear war between Russia and the United States would be a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions, from which human civilization would hardly recover. In a situation of tension, such a war could occur through human error, technical failure, or escalation, although neither government planned for it or wished for it.

I’ve written about militarism’s hostages and the risk nuclear weapons and command structures pose to humanity’ survival here.

And here is an analysis of the flaws of the concept of nuclear deterrence. In addition, nuclear weapons are illegal and their use unethical.

The above-mentioned military-industrial complex (MIC) that Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the world against in his farewell speech in 1961 is dealt with in some detail here.

Recently the CIA forced the resignation of General Mike Flynn by making public some (illegal) telephone wiretaps of Flynn’s conversations with the Russian Ambassador. Here an insightful analysis in the Deep State perspective.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich commented:

“What’s at the core of this is an effort by some in the intelligence community to upend any positive relationship between the U.S. And Russia… There are some people trying to separate the U.S. And Russia so that the military industrial intel axis can cash in. There’s a game going on inside the intelligence community where there are those who want to separate the U.S. From Russia in a way that would reignite the Cold War.”

Here is the video in which he talks about these deeply serious aspects of American politics and tells the American people to wake up!

In order to avoid the threat of a catastrophic nuclear war with Russia, it is vitally important that the American people should regain democratic control of their government.

Editor’s notes
A few minor changes have been made here to Avery’s original and links inserted to help the reader navigate to the important sources.

We want you to be aware of the incredibly comprehensive and diverse production of analysis by John Scales Avery can be found here. Also, be aware of his huge three-part Collected Essays from Irene Publishing.

His lifelong work for global peace, nuclear abolition, harmony with our planet and global ethics would certainly qualify for a Nobel Peace Prize in the spirit of Alfred Nobel’s will.

Vittnesrapport från Aleppo, en annorlunda konfliktanalys och vägar till fred i Syrien

Videoinspelning av Jan Öbergs föredrag i Stockholm februari 2017

Inspelningen är uppdelad i två delar:

Del 1: Vittnesrapport från Aleppo
60 min.

Del 2: Debatt och vägar till fred i Syrien
45 min.

Bakgrund
10-14:e december 2016 vistades Jan Öberg i Aleppo. Med sin unika erfarenhet från staden ifrågasätter han den gängse massmediarapporteringen, argumenterar för ett nytt sätt att se på konflikter på och ger förslag till den nödvändiga fredsprocessen.

Moderator
Anders Björnsson, författare

Datum
Lördag 25 februari kl. 14-16, Bagarmossens Folkets Hus, Stockholm

Arrangörer
Föreningen Syriensolidaritet, Folket i Bild Kulturfront – Stockholmsavdelningen, FiB-juristerna m.fl.

Jan Öberg rapporterar
– Jag kunde fritt tala med vem jag ville, och fotografera som jag ville. Jag gick omkring utan säkerhet, polis eller annat skydd. Många tackade mig för att jag var i Aleppo vid befrielsen.

– Förstörelsen av Aleppo är värre än jag någonsin trott – efter att ha sett Sarajevo, Mostar och Vukovar. Den stora förstörelsen är från gatustriderna – en mindre del ifrån luften.

– Ingen av dem många jag pratade med hade sett de Vita Hjälmarna. Däremot träffade jag frivilliga från Syriens Röda Halvmåne som var mycket professionella.

– De jag pratade med uttryckte sin glädje över frihet efter fyra års belägring och uttryckte tacksamhet över regeringens och ryssarnas insatser.

Öbergs fotoberättelser
Se också Jan Öbergs fotoserier med bakgrunds- och förklarande text här.

TFF PressInfo och andra artiklar – av vilka många handlar om Syrien – finns på TFF:s blogg här.

TFF PressInfo # 406: Peace between China and Japan (and the three Chinese revolutions)

By Johan Galtung
February 27, 2017

Keynote: New Vision of Peace in East Asia – Sino-Japanese Peace Dialogue
Nanjing, 22-23 Feb 2017

As Buddhist philosophy teaches, peace, like violence and conflict, is a relation; not an attribute of China or Japan. As Daoist philosophy teaches, in a holon like East Asia there are forces and counterforces, yin/yang, with yin and yang in both.

Negative peace would relate the two without violence or threats; positive peace would relate them with good things flowing. Reality?

Past: The “Nanjing massacre”.

Present: Threats between China and USA-Japan “collective self-defense” also for Senkaku-Diaoyu, de facto US occupation of Japan. Future: no vision beyond balance of threats.

Hence, peace between China and Japan has to be created: visions of peaceful futures, solving present conflicts, conciling past trauma.

Peace does not flow from the past. But peace may flow from the future.

Geographically the two countries are close, yet very different.

Japan, ethnically homogeneous, had 125 Emperors since -659(?), succeeding by blood lineage. The Emperor was spiritual, praying for peace and welfare of people and country. But since Meiji 1868, Taisho and Showa up to the 1945 defeat Emperors, modeled on European Kings, were military commanders-in-chief in uniform. Then back to the old; the present Heisei era standing for creating peace within and without.

Japanese military used to be high up in terms of social status.

China, ethnically very diverse, has had a number of dynasties, some short, some long, with usually very bloody successions. The Chin dynasty from -221 unified. Han became a powerful source of identity, also in what after the last Ching dynasty 1644-1910 was called China.

Chinese military used to be low down, run by warlords known for cruel massive killing, sexual violence and looting.

Like in Japan, (Nara-Kyoto-Tokyo) the capital changed (–Xi’an-Nanjing-Beijing); unlike Japan, China as a state in the state system is only a century old, from 1911; more similar to Europe in history than to states in Europe.

Future: Can countries with conflict (incompatible goals) and trauma (wounds from past violence) live together?

Potentially yes, e.g. in a Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 405: Keep focus on Aleppo and global dimensions of Syria

By Jan Oberg

Three perspectives on the Syrian conflict formation

The Syrian conflict formation is hugely more complicated than we’ve been told by Western politicians (all mainstream in spite of democratic features) and mainstream/dependent media.

To some there are only internal aspects and it’s called a civil war only. That’s a necessary but not sufficient aspect.

The same goes for the only regional perspective focusing on e.g. the Israel-Palestine conflict, Iran’s, Saudi-Arabia’s, Turkey’s roles and policies.

To others, everything can be explained from the point of view of Western interventionism/imperialism. That’s also a necessary but not sufficient aspect.

To understand anything of the Syrian conflict formation – and there are very many layers, dimensions and participants over the last 100 years – we need all three basic approaches.

But given that Westerners are likely to have been informed by Western media and politicians they are likely to grossly underestimate the third, the Western-global dimension.

And that narrative is likely to be politically correct, to underestimate the nasty sides of the West the last good 100 years in the region and present the West as basically good guys interested in peace, democracy and freedom.

This bias has been reinforced by what is probably the most massive marketing/public relation effort in any modern war – in the style of the fake news story about Saddam’s soldiers throwing out babies from their incubators in Kuwait City. In order words, pure invention/lies/planted stories/rumours and PSYOPs – psychological operations selling unverifiable stories to influence our hearts and mind in a single policy-promoting direction.

The US/CIA involvement in Syria over the last 68 years is well-documented and easy to access – but never pointed out by the intellectually lazy who think it is enough to just point out that everything is the fault of the “dictator” and his “regime”.

The US worked on deliberately de-stabilising Syria years before 2011 (as documented by WikiLeaks and others) when the peaceful demonstrations took place. The Western military support to RIOTs (Rebels, Insurgents, Opposition and Terrorists – most of the latter) was stepped up and while many point out that the US under Obama didn’t “do anything”, it can be argued that NATO countries acted in a variety of ways, too many and wrong-headed ways – none of them serving a politically negotiated solution, peace or democracy in Syria.

The agenda was foreign interference, promoted military foreign presence (aggression) in international law terms and regime change. One more regimes change, that is, after the earlier completely failed ones in Iraq and Libya.

A series of Western NGOs – no longer Non but NEAR-Governmental Organisations – were part and parcel of the policy, increasingly involved and funded by the Western/NATO/Turkish-Saudi-Gulf-Israeli strategy of de-stabilization – such as US-based Avaaz and French foreign ministry manufactured media outfits such as the Syrian Media Incubator Aleppo Media Centre, the SMART News Agency, the media work of the White Helmets which did humanitarian work only among RIOT fighters and relatives (and stole the name of Syrian Civilian Defence from Syria’s own organisation with that name from 1953).

They came in on the civilian media narrative-creating side. And there are others. Since the days of Yugoslavia, think tanks, human rights and humanitarian organisations have been drawn in – and accepted – to serve specific political interventionist agendas in spite of calling themselves independent, not-for-profit etc. This co-optations spells, potentially, the end of civil society as well as of the open and critical debate about governments’ policies.

All of this continued and was stepped up also after it had become clear that the legitimate, peaceful, democratic, anti-govenment opposition in Syria had been completely sidelined and/or overtaken by Syrian militants and foreigners with guns in their hands.

The West did not get cold feet, it stepped up it regime-change policies in all kinds of ways, regrettably also by massive NGO-investments in proxi- and other pro-war campaigns.

No one thought of the consequences for the huge majority of the innocent Syrian people who had never touched a gun, or thought of doing so.

From the Jibrin Reception Center, note the footwear © Jan Oberg 2016

And two more perspectives: Don’t focus on the violence and the evil guy only – it’s war-promoting

No one seems to even have asked the question Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 404: Unique Aleppo photos seen by over 100.000 people but not in mainstream media

By Jan Oberg

It’s probably unusual that a research organisation’s photos go viral – and do so in spite of the mainstream media’s manifest lack of interest in their story.

But the photos I took in Aleppo in Syria December 10-14, 2016 have been seen here by well over 100.000 people around the world, exclusively by organic, non-paid online sharing.

In addition they’ve been linked to and presented by media in the alternative press and social media in about 20 countries, sites such as Telesur, Heise/Telepolis and Pressenza literally reaching millions.

I am proud of having helped bring out the story of these people unworthy, as it seems, of the attention of the West. Because they were the majority from Eastern Aleppo who were happy to be liberated and remained in what is now government-controlled areas.

Keep focus on Aleppo – #keepfocusonaleppo

Aleppo’s liberation was a local, national, regional and global event. Why?

Because of Aleppo’s history, beauty, architecture and industrial importance (50% of Syria’s industrial capacity within the huge Sheikh Najjar Industrial City).

Because, before the war, it had swelled from about 2 million to some 3 million people due to the environmental crisis that hit Syria.

Because its Eastern part was occupied in 2012 by what I call RIOTs – Rebels, Insurgents, Opposition, Terrorists – most of the latter – who over 4,5 years created a living hell for the innocent citizens in that part.

Because of the complete and systematic destruction of this cultural jewel, Aleppo, predominantly by street-to-street fighting (max 5-10% of it caused by bombardments from the air).

Because RIOTs were supported with money, weapons and ammunition by the US, France, Britain and Turkey in particular – i.e. most of NATO – plus Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States – and most media reports have come from that side of the war.

Because Aleppo’s liberation was a turning point in this six years’ long evil war that has created the largest humanitarian crisis anywhere in the world since 1945.

What happened didn’t fit the dominant, deceptive Western media narrative. The large majority of people in Eastern Aleppo went to the dictator’s (” “) government-controlled side while a minority – the RIOT fighters/occupiers and their families – went to Turkey, Idlib and other RIOT-controlled areas.

More about the importance of Aleppo in TFF PressInfo # 405.

But do see the pictures of the incomprehensible, surreal destruction and of the victims of Aleppo. The victims who were happy to have been liberated from 4,5 years of hell. About these victims you have heard almost nothing since mid-December last year.

The photos are unique since I was among the first twenty or so to get in there and talk with and photograph these people – freely. I was the only person from Scandinavia.

No leading Western mainstream media were present there and then. They sat in Beirut, Istanbul and Berlin telling you stories about the likely “new Srebrenica”, massacres and even ‘genocide’ that would follow when Syria’s dictator again controlled Aleppo.

It turned out to be just that. Fake news.

My photos were Real news. You won’t see them at CNN, BBC, New York Times, Reuters, AFP, AP and those who repeat them.

The destruction of Eastern Aleppo, Syria

Humans in liberated Aleppo

Aleppo’s evil humanitarians

Faces of Aleppo

School in an Aleppo factory

(Please respect the © provisions of these images)

And more photo stories to come from Syria.

TFF PressInfo # 402: Trump’s Pre-Fascism and Progressive Populist Opportunities

The Dismal Cartography of the Pre-Fascist State

January 25, 2017

Points of Departure

Listening to Donald Trump’s inaugural speech on January 20th led me to muse about what it might mean to live in a pre-fascist state. After reflecting on key passages and conversations with friends, I came to the view that all the elements were in place, although set before us with the imprecision of a demagogue.

Yet I do not doubt that there are many ideologues waiting in the wings, perhaps now comfortably situated in the West Wing, ready to cover the conceptual rough spots, and supply an ideological overlay, and add the semblance of coherence.

Considering the daily outrages emanating from the White House since the inaugural jolt, the coming years will be rough riding for all of us, with many cruelties being readied for those most vulnerable.

Of course, the Woman’s March on January 21st was temporarily redemptive, and if such energy can be sustained potentially transformative. It is odd to contemplate, but there just may be tacit and effective cooperation between the national security deep state and a progressive populism converging around their divergent reasons for being deeply opposed to the shock and awe of the Trump presidency. Trump may invent ‘alternative facts’ to restore his narcissistic self-esteem, but when it comes to program he has sadly so far been true to his word! This alone should encourage a unified, energetic, and determined opposition. If the Tea Party could do it, why can’t we?

The Pre-Fascist Moment

First, it is necessary to set forth the case for viewing Trump’s Inaugural Address as a pre-fascist plea:

1) Locating power and legitimacy in the people, but only those whose support was instrumental in the election of the new president; the popular majority that were opposed are presumed irrelevant, or worse;

2) Denigrating the political class of both political parties as corrupt and responsible for the decline of the country and the hardships inflicted on his followers;

3) Presuming mass and unconditional trust in the great leader who promises a rupture with the past, Read the rest of this entry »

 

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