Archive for the ‘UN matters’ Category
By Jan Oberg
“The Debate” on April 16, 2017 with Richard Millett and Jan Oberg illustrates quite well two distinctly different perspectives on conflicts in general and Syria in particular.
Its focus is on the difference in media coverage of the terrible events in Khan Seykhoun and al-Rashideen but there is much more to it.
I’ll keep on struggling for the conflict and peace perspective against the violence perspective that sees black-and-white only and continues the seemingly eternal blame game – and thus legitimates more, rather than less, warfare.
Happy if you care to share and continue the – meta – debate!
April 12, 2017
The secretaries of state, Tillerson and Lavrov meet today. We seem to enter a stage of what must appropriately be perceived as a frosty new Cold War.
In the worst of cases this can lead to a new Cuban Missile Crisis. God forbid!
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 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 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 »
Videoinspelning av Jan Öbergs föredrag i Stockholm februari 2017
Inspelningen är uppdelad i två delar:
Del 1: Vittnesrapport från Aleppo
Del 2: Debatt och vägar till fred i Syrien
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.
Anders Björnsson, författare
Lördag 25 februari kl. 14-16, Bagarmossens Folkets Hus, Stockholm
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.
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.
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.
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 »
By Jonathan Power
February 21st 2017
Eleven hundred years ago Europe was a backwater. There were no grand cities, apart from Cordoba in Spain which was Muslim. The Middle East was much further ahead, still absorbing the intellectual delights and challenges of Greek science, medicine and architecture which Europeans were largely ignorant of. In southern China agriculture advanced and trade in tea, porcelain and silk flourished.
By 1914 it was a totally different world. The Europeans ruled 84% of the globe and they had colonies everywhere. How was it that Europe and its offspring, the United States, became the dominant dynamic force in the world, and still are today in most things?
If I walk round my university town and stop the first ten students I meet and ask them why this was so they would probably say because of the Industrial Revolution. But in 1800 when the Industrial Revolution was only just beginning Europeans already ruled 35% of the world and had armed ships on every ocean and colonies on every continent.
If they didn’t say that, they might say it was the way the Europeans spread their fatal diseases, smallpox and measles, to which they had gained a good deal of immunity, and this enabled them to lay low native peoples. But in fact all the major Middle Eastern and Asian civilizations had this same advantage. In Africa it was local diseases that attacked the Europeans more than vice versa.
Maybe one of the ten students would say it was because the Europeans were ahead in the development of gunpowder technology. After all the military revolution preceded the Industrial Revolution. But I doubt that, even though on the right track, this one student could explain why. Read the rest of this entry »