Archive for the ‘US politics & security’ Category
February 1st 2017
In a press conference last week President Donald Trump said he believed in the worth of torture but then added most surprisingly that using it wasn’t going to be his decision. It would be decided by the Secretary of Defence, General James Mattis, who, as Trump said, is against torture.
Three years ago the US Senate Intelligence Committee published a summary of a thorough report on the recent American use of torture. Its chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, said the 6,000 page report is “one of the most significant oversight efforts in the history of the US.”
The report showed that the CIA did not provide accurate information on torture to Congress and also provided misleading information. The report also concluded that the CIA impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making. While the report was being prepared the CIA penetrated the Senate Committee’s computers, arousing the fury of its members.
Bush and and his vice-president Dick Cheney were deeply involved in initiating the torture program. The Administration claimed that the waterboarding 183 times (the dipping of the head in water so that the prisoner feels he is drowning) of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, led to the foiling of a terror plot against Los Angeles’s Library Tower. But the Senate report concludes that the information could have been learnt without using torture.
The report’s primary focus is on discerning whether the use of torture gained valuable intelligence. It concluded that it did not.
When President Barack Obama was elected he swiftly moved to ban waterboarding and other torture techniques. However, he refused to authorize a full, in depth, Justice Department investigation which, if it had taken place, would doubtless have pointed a finger at Bush and Cheney.
In the UK it is alleged that Prime Minister Tony Blair Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Comment by Jan Oberg on PressTV’s Top Five
This is nothing new, the US has used it all the time. But isn’t it tragic that almost 70 years after torture was prohibited in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we see 141 countries still using torture – according to Amnesty International.
By Jonathan Power
January 24th 2017.
The great flaw in ex-president Barack Obama’s record was his policy towards Russia. Going against everything he had said and written about before he became president, one action after another antagonised the Russians – his early proclamation that he wanted Georgia and Ukraine in NATO, his de facto coalition of convenience for a crucial couple of days with the anti-democratic, anti-Russian, neo-fascist, demonstrators in Ukraine, the further expansion of NATO, despite an earlier promise not to, made by President H.W. Bush, to the Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, and his inability to cooperate with the Russians and Iranians over Syria.
No wonder the Russians are reported to be delirious that Donald Trump is now president, a man who has said nice things about Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
If the two meet sometime soon maybe there will be an end to this unnecessary hostility. The Moscow-Washington relationship is the most important political issue in the world and this may well be the last chance to get it right.
Russia and the US have never fought each other in the 200 years of their relationship. Russia aided the North during the Civil War and sent warships to prevent England and France supporting the confederacy. During the World Wars the two were close allies.
However, they came near to catastrophic war during the Cold War when Russia armed Cuba with nuclear weapons. This will never happen again. It chilled the blood down to zero on both sides. But one can imagine limited armed clashes on the Estonian-Russian border, nuclear sabre rattling, a more intimate alliance between China and Russia, an urge to sabotage, as was done during the Cold War, any diplomacy or interventions made by the other and a continuation of both countries keeping their long-range nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert.
Under H.W. Bush post-Cold War relations got off to a good start. Nevertheless, the US treated Russia as a defeated nation that could be taken advantage of. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg and David Swanson
Commenting on Iran’s international PressTV on the inauguration of Donald Trump and the legacy of Barrack Obama
By Johan Galtung
Two closely related points, as a starter.
This column has argued Lifting the Bottom Up as economic approach in all weathers, bad, fair, good, to mitigate any suffering, and for them to enter the economy as producers and consumers, not as “cases”.
This column has also argued judging Trump not by his poisoning words, nor by commentators’ words, but by his deeds. White-male-workers-no college is not the US bottom, but they were heading down. Now lifted up the Trump way, by keeping/bringing back industry to the “Rust Belt”. Ford Motor Company just did that, GM may be next.
If outsourcing to Mexico – under the euphemism “trade” served poor Mexican workers, maybe–but it serves rich elites in both countries.
45 percent tariff on Chinese goods: a non-starter. US homes are filled with affordable “Made in China”. To de-industrialize was US stupidity; to re-industrialize will take time. Keep what is, bring back what was. Other countries may learn from Trump and not trade themselves away.
The general 2017 world economic outlook is bad. Key problem for the West: industry is now also in the hands of other countries to meet their demands and for exports (Chindia). How could that happen? Because:
Economists have a Theory I of diachronic stages, from primary via secondary to tertiary sectors, agriculture->industry->services. Time for services has come, domestically, and as export to import food and manufactures. TI promotes trade; but makes societies vulnerable if trade fails, and may cause huge primary-secondary sector unemployment.
Hence, alternative Theory II: synchronic co-existence of sectors, at state-provincial-local levels. Each sector is a way of life that appeals to different persons or to the same person at different stages. TII promotes self-reliance–not self-sufficiency, filling gaps with trade–high employment if automation is controlled and not seen as a law of nature, personal enrichment, and protection of nature. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jonathan Power
January 17th 2017
When President Barack Obama leaves office will the world be better or worse than eight years ago?
Taking the big picture, so often obscured by the wars and uprisings that dominate the front page, more often than not he has resisted the foreign-policy establishment, most importantly in Syria, which makes a fetish of “credibility”. Obama has argued that “dropping bombs on someone to prove that you are willing to drop bombs on someone is just about the worst reason to use force”.
In a long interview last April with Jeffrey Goldberg in Atlantic Magazine Obama made the point, “Where am I controversial? When it comes to the use of military power. There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow that comes out of the foreign policy establishment. The playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarised responses. In the midst of an international challenge like Syria, you get judged harshly if you don’t follow the playbook, even if there are good reasons why it does not apply”.
Nevertheless, despite his good principles, Obama leaves behind a Middle East in more of a mess than it was. The war in Afghanistan continues with the Taliban gaining the upper hand. The US has got partially sucked into an unnecessary and cruel war in Yemen with its support of the Saudi air force. The American invasion of Libya, along with France and the UK, liberated not a country but a hornets’ nest.
The relationship with China is better in some aspects but worse in others. Read the rest of this entry »
By Johan Galtung
The National Society of High School Scholars, Claes Nobel World Betterment Award
The Carter Center
3 Dec 2016
I am very grateful for the 2016 Claes Nobel World Betterment Award – Claes being the great grandnephew of Alfred – and to the NSHSS-National Society for High School Scholars, here at the Carter Center in Atlanta.
Let me start by praising you for your dedication to Education, focusing on the high school–in the middle, after K and grade school, before college and graduate school–on teachers and students, learning and doing research, treating them with respect, bestowing dignity.
Society has institutions, like Family, Work and Economy. Sports get too much attention, Education too little.
Politics is about leading and being led, Military is about killing not to be killed.
These two get you into trouble. I have heard this afternoon much about leading, leaders, led. Führer and Duce are German and Italian for leader, “duce” also from educare, educate. Hitler and Mussolini.
Be careful. This is vertical and hierarchical even without nazism and fascism. Today we want horizontal social landscapes, with people relating equitably and harmoniously, through shared memberships and networks, both horizontal and inclusive. For mutual inspiration.
As to killing: the USA killed more than 20 million in 37 countries only after 1945 WWII; and has intervened 248 times militarily in other countries since Thomas Jefferson started in Libya in 1801. 20 million killed means 200 million bereaved–family, friends, neighbors, colleagues. They do not take easily to this type of US leadership.
And less than a century earlier two groups of Americans practiced those very same skills and leadership on each other. The Civil War.
Such was history. How about solving the underlying conflicts?
Instead of the 1850 compromise of shame, “keep slavery but give up the confederacy”, how about “keep much autonomy, but give up slavery”; for a Community of American States, not U.S.A but C.A.S? And in 1924, how about dropping the Versailles Treaty, removing Hitler’s best card? Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg
These two top officials behind major US wars (Iran/Afghanistan and Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos) and regime change (against Allende, Chile) will speak at the first of a new event, The Nobel Peace Prize Forum Oslo, created by the Nobel Institute in Oslo. More here.
The leaders of the two institutions declare that they are proud to have succeeded in getting these two diplomats to Norway – and the media of course will be there. The event is sponsored by the California-based company InCircl – a marketing and mobile payment company.
These two experts on warfare and interventionism will – Orwellian style – speak about “The United States and World Peace After The Presidential Election”.
This is the country that, since 1980, has intervened violently in Iran, Libya, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Kosova/Serbia, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, i.e. 14 Muslim countries. It has some 630 base facilities in 130+ countries. It has its US Special Forces (SOF) in 133 countries.
It has used nuclear weapons without apology and owns the second largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.
The US stands for about 40% of the world’s military expenditures, is the world’s leading arms exporter and has killed more people than anybody else since 1945. It’s the master of (imprecise) drone strikes. It presently supports Saudi Arabia’s bestial war on Yemen and conducts a military build-up in Asia and the Pacific planning, as it seems, for what looks like a future confrontation with China. And not with terribly positive results in its Middle East policies since 1945.
So with all these credentials, please tell us about world peace!
The U.S. should be seen as quite Read the rest of this entry »