Archive for August, 2012

Guatemala’s murderous past and this month’s belated justice

By Jonathan Power

Guatemala’s claim to fame, apart from the ruins of the highly sophisticated Mayan civilization which present generations had nothing to do with, is that it is the country with the worst human rights record in the twentieth century among all the countries in the western hemisphere.

I recall once going to interview the then secretary-general of Amnesty International, Thomas Hammarberg, and asking him the country I should visit that had the worst human rights record in the world. He said “Guatemala”. I then asked how many political prisoners did it have. (Amnesty has a well tried and successful system of adopting political prisoners and then showering the authorities with demands they be released.) He replied “There are no political prisoners only political killings”. Read the rest of this entry »

Conspiracies: Theories and hypotheses

By Johan Galtung

Conspiracies exist. They are a part of social reality, have always been, and will always be; as confirmed conspiracy theories, as unconfirmed conspiracy hypotheses, as suspicions, as allegations.

As usually conceived of, conspiracies involve several persons or actors; the plan of action is kept secret or at least not made public, except afterwards if it is successful. Conspiracies are about power[i] – economic-cultural-political-military — and are usually negative for somebody.

Let us start by criticizing this definition. Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Years of AKP Leadership in Turkey

By Richard Falk

Nothing better epitomizes the great political changes in Turkey over the course of the last decade than a seemingly minor media item reporting that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan attended a private iftar dinner (the ritual meal breaking the Ramadan fast each evening) by the invitation of the current Turkish Chief of Staff, General Necdet Özel, at his official residence. It was only a few years earlier that the military leadership came hair trigger close to pulling off a coup to get rid of the AKP leadership. Of course, such a military intrusion on Turkish political life would have been nothing new. Turkey experienced a series of coups during its republican life that started in 1923.

The most recent example of interference by the military with the elected leadership in Turkey took place in 1997 when Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan sheepishly left office under pressure amounting to an ultimatum, outlawed his political party, and accepted a withdrawal from political activity for a period of five years in what amounted to a bloodless coup prompted by his alleged Islamic agenda. Unlike the prior coups of 1960, 1971, and 1980 when the military seized power for a period of time, the 1997 bloodless coup was followed by allowing politicians to form a new civilian government. Really, looking back on the period shortly after the AKP came to power in 2002 the big surprise is that a coup did not occur. Read the rest of this entry »

Get a life! Terrorists are no big threat!

By Jonathan Power

Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered the continuation during the Paralympics that begin next week of the deployment of anti-aircraft guns surrounding the Olympic Park. In a move that caused much outrage in Britain Cameron argued that the country must always be vigilant in case of a terrorist attack. Yet there was not one bit of evidence that international terrorists and certainly not Al-Qaeda were gearing up for what would have to be a sophisticated and highly complex assault on the Olympics.

Since 9/11 Western governments have indulged in terrorism paranoia. Read the rest of this entry »

The Palestinian hunger strikes: Why still invisible?

By Richard Falk

– Month after month professor Richard Falk who is also the UN Secretary-General’s Rapporteur for the Occupied Territories, urges you to be aware of this rampant but invisible human rights violation by Israeli authorities. Please speak up, share with your friends and alert your media and politicians wherever you are.
Zionist lobbies throw around accusations of ‘anti-semitism’ which could be seen as a psycho-political projection of what might be appropriately be termed ‘anti-Palestinianism’, says blog editor Jan Oberg

When it is realized that Mahatma Gandhi shook the British Empire with a series of hunger strikes, none lasting more than 21 days, it is shameful that Palestinian hunger strikers ever since last December continue to exhibit their extreme courage by refusing food for periods ranging between 40 and over 90 days, and yet these exploits are unreported by the media and generally ignored by relevant international institutions.

The latest Palestinians who have aroused emergency concerns among Palestinians, because their hunger strikes have brought them to death’s door, are Hassan Safadi and Samer Al-Barq. Both had ended long earlier strikes because they were promised releases under an Egyptian brokered deal that was announced on May 14, 2012, and not consistently implemented by Israel.

Three respected human rights organizations that have a long and honorable record of investigating Israeli prison conditions have issued a statement in the last several days expressing their ‘grave concern’ about the medical condition of these two men and their ‘utmost outrage’ at the treatment that they have been receiving from the Israeli Prison Service.

For instance, Hassan Safadi, now on the 59th day of a second hunger strike, having previously ended a 71 day fast after the release agreement was signed, is reported by Addameer and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, to be suffering from kidney problems, extreme weakness, severe weight loss, headaches, dizziness, and has difficulty standing. It is well established in medical circles that there exists a serious and risk of cardio-vascular failure for a hunger strike that lasts beyond 45 days. Read the rest of this entry »

Toward a new geopolitics?

By Richard Falk

During the Cold War the main geopolitical optic relied upon by policymakers and diplomats was associated with a bipolar structure of hard power. There were supposedly two superpowers with overwhelming military capabilities compared to all other sovereign states, and each controlled an alliance of subordinate states that staked their survival on global crisis management and territorial containment skills of either the United States or the Soviet Union.

This framework was an extreme version of the balance of power system that had sustained global order in the West with mixed results during prior centuries. The Cold War nuclear version of the balance of power was frighteningly vulnerable to accident or miscalculation creating a lingering illusion that the current possession of nuclear weaponry on the part of nine sovereign states is a tolerable and stable situation in global affairs. Read the rest of this entry »

Hunting down the war criminals

By Jonathan Power

There can be no question that if President Bashar al-Assad of Syria falls the International Criminal Court will want to put him on trial for war crimes. The long arm of international law will reach him wherever he flees to. The ICC has an unblemished record in bringing to The Hague, the Court’s headquarters, the people they want. As the great heavyweight boxer, Joe Louis, once said, “You can run but you can’t hide”.

This week a new term begins for the justices. Read the rest of this entry »

Understanding the global threat against sacred spaces

Chaiwat Satha-Anand, TFF Associate
Chairperson, Strategic Nonviolence Commisssion, Thailand Research Fund
Senior Research Fellow, TODA Institute of Global Peace and Policy Research

On August 6, 2012, the neo-Nazi Wade Michael Page walked into the gurudwara (Sikh temple) of Wisconsin in Oak Creek and murdered 6 people including the temple president. He was killed by the police in the incident.

While the Sikhs in the US had suffered from discrimination since they started coming to the United States in the early 20th century: they were driven out of Bellingham, Washington, in 1907; and out of St. John, Oregon in 1910, this most recent Oak Creek killing sparked global outcries from Washington DC to New Delhi. In India, members of Sikh communities staged protest demonstrations in several cities including New Delhi and Jammu, Kashmir.
There are many ways to understand this abominable incident. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hexagon map of the multipolar world

By Johan Galtung

How do we come to grips, intellectually, with today’s world?

Some time ago the geopolitical map was based on the direct East-West conflict, the two superpowers USA/USSR with alliances, and the neutral-nonaligned treated as a residual category. The world was Bipolar. The implosion of the USSR made it Unipolar, “the only surviving superpower”, 2-1 = 1. Or so we were told.

Today we have four huge states: the three largest in population, China-India-USA, and the largest in area, Russia. And the EU, a region with five middle-range states: UK-France-Germany-Italy-Spain.

But there is one more pole on the geopolitical map: Islam. Read the rest of this entry »

Fighting with non-violence

By Scilla Elworthy
From April 2012

I’m very pleased to have TFF Associate Scilla Elworthy speak to you here. She’s been a dear friend and colleague since 1987 and doesn’t need any introduction except perhaps: Here comes wise, soft-spoken Scilla in a formidably powerful way: Attack the problem to be solved, never attack the people. Scilla’s way of doing it is in the true spirit of Gandhi’s advise: Be the change you want to see!
The power of non-violence is concrete, visible, it is there to be employed.
And so, there is hope!

– Jan Oberg


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