Archive for March, 2013

Pope Francis I – A Jesuit

By Johan Galtung

The black smoke turned white, a captivating dramaturgy since 1870. And there he was on the balcony, addressing the huge crowd the way St Francis of Assisi did, fratelli, sorelle, brothers, sisters – we are all God’s children. He took to the roles as Bishop of Rome and Holy Father like a fish to water, with a mild voice, becoming a mild face, the first Latin American pope, a part of the world moving South. With dark shadows from Argentinean fascism for reflection, learning.

Fratello lupo, St Francis said, Brother Wolf, the ferocious wolf of Gubbio, eating villagers, taken in by St Francis, persuaded to eat leftovers from meals instead, ends up joining the villagers.

Sorella morte, St Francis said, Sister Death, when time had come, embracing the inevitable as a part of his immense spirituality. But the Gubbio violence was not inevitable; the wolf was starving, nothing to eat, the solution was food. Like wolf, like poor people, people in misery, anywhere, at any time. The Franciscan message.

Cardinal Bergoglio has taken on a heavy inheritance in his choice of name; the forgettable Cardinal Ratzinger was much more modest. He has committed himself not only to the poor, but to peace, the unspoken word in the oceans of commentary, to horizontal peace between killers with teeth and arms, wolves and villagers, and to the vertical violence of starvation and misery, due to the greed of humans. Read the rest of this entry »

Thailand – Asian tiger prowling

By Jonathan Power

Dateline: Bangkok

“Thai politics is a cross between Venezuela and Italy”, observed my Thai journalist friend. “Chavez and Berlusconi rolled into one is what we have.”

Deposed prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in exile in Dubai, still manages to pull many of the strings of Thai politics- as does Berlusconi when not actually in office. His sister, Yingluck, is now prime minister and she provides the Chavez-style charisma for the family. Young, energetic and attractive she has wooed the voters to her side in a less divisive way than her brother.

Thailand is the only country in south-east Asia to have never experienced colonial rule. Buddhism, the monarchy and the military have been the principal shapers of its evolution from peasant society to a modern industrial power house that has seen its economy almost in continuous boom (with a a big collapse in 1997 and short pause 3 years ago) for two generations. Between 1985 and 1996 it was the world’s fastest growing economy, averaging a phenomenal 12% a year. It is expected to be 7.5% this year, the same as China.

Democracy is relatively new to Thailand. Read the rest of this entry »

Hugo Chavez: A maker of history

By Johan Galtung

That his life and his deeds had black dots is part of the story; but that should not block seeing the greatness of a maker of history.

First, in his own society, Venezuela, he lifted the bottom people up from misery, into economic wellness, political participation, cultural pride (of their often African, or Indian, blood), social dignity; much beyond Gini coefficients to measure increasing equality. Even the rich human rights language is too bland to reflect all that.

Second, he did the same for Latin America; he helped lift the bottom countries up, also under the name of the iconic Simón Bolívar: Cuba and Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia, Brazil to mention some.

Of course the two policies are related. Colombia with its immense record of violence 1948-2013, is a pariah country and can only be lifted up by lifting its bottom up, attacking flagrant inequality. Chávez and his fellow leaders Castro and Ortega, Correa and Moráles, Lula, are on line. The leadership of the continent, with Kirchner from Argentina, and the Salvador Allende icon from Chile! A formidable team; well beyond the European leaders trying to manage their crises. Read the rest of this entry »

Iraq and the betrayal of a people – Impunity forever?

By Hans von Sponeck

Iraq’s recent history includes two far reaching events, on the 2 August 1990 Iraq’s invasion into Kuwait and on 19 March 2003 the US/UK invasion into Iraq. Whether political leaders will draw lessons from these events will be, at best, questionable. Iraqis continue to be wronged. Danger to life and turmoil remain a cruel part of Iraq’s reality in early 2013. The collective suffering of a nation is visibly all pervasive. It can not be hidden.

The Iraqi puzzle of life confirms an endless number of tragedies
Ethnic tension and sectarianism have become a major element in Iraqi politics since the US/UK invasion of 2003, a polarization of inter-group relations  Iraqis had not known before. This explains much of the existing hideous crime including murder, kidnapping, property destruction and, most noteworthy, the deteriorating relationships between Baghdad and the three northern Kurdish governorates.

Since the years of war, sanctions and occupation, Iraq’s once state-of-the-art medical system has all but collapsed. Malnutrition and diseases, almost forgotten in Iraq, such as respiratory infections; measles; typhoid fever and tuberculosis have re-emerged on a large scale. The planned destruction of water and sanitation facilities, especially in the 1991 war, and recurrent drug shortages, throughout the period of sanctions and after the 2003 invasion, promoted significantly ill-being, morbidity and mortality in the country (WHO). Read the rest of this entry »

Crying wolf over Iran’s nuclear program

By Farhang Jahanpour

Crying wolf – the evidence

After producing his comic diagram during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly last September, drawing a red line in order to stop Iran’s alleged imminent nuclear bomb, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for immediate action against Iran before it was too late.

However, as the result of President Barack Obama’s insistence that he wanted to resolve the dispute by peaceful means, the war fever subsided to some extent. However, on the eve of the meeting between Iran and the P5+1 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and the forthcoming visit of President Obama to Israel, Netanyahu has once again started to press the panic button about Iran’s nuclear intentions.

Referring to Iran’s announcement that she was installing new centrifuges for enriching uranium, and undaunted by his earlier false predictions, Netanyahu once again claimed that the new centrifuges could cut by a third the time needed to create a bomb.1)

However, when Israel’s intense campaign to start a war with Iran stalled, Israeli officials said that their original assessment about the deadline for dealing with Iran had been false. As Jacques E. C. Hymans points out in his recent article in Foreign Affairs, Israeli intelligence officials have now downgraded their assessment of Iran’s ability to build a nuclear bomb.2) Now, they say: “Iran won’t be able to build a nuclear weapon before 2015 or 2016, pushing back by several years previous assessments of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”3) Read the rest of this entry »

Cambodia leaves the darkness behind

By Jonathan Power

Dateline: Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 5th 2013

Cambodia has lain for too long under the black umbrella of its past. But Cambodia is waking up, has looked the evil one in its eye and, re-born, found its strength.

Cambodia has been to hell and back – 2 million of its people killed out of population of 8 million, with 500,000 of them executed, the consequence of a fanatical communist movement, the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot and a group of henchmen now being tried in the UN War Crimes Court. (Pol Pot himself is dead.)

The Khmer Rouge violently took power in 1975 and fell in 1979. They wanted a classless society. They abolished money, property and religious practices. Family relationships were criticised and people were forbidden from even showing the slightest affection. The work day in the fields was 12 hours long without pause. Torture and the bullet were the instant punishment for deviance. Anybody educated was singled out for death. Read the rest of this entry »

The deep crisis of democracy

By Johan Galtung


There is a crisis in the Western or more particularly the Indo-European political system – for reasons to be made clear. The system is referred to as “democracy”, meaning rule with the consent of the ruled; of, by and for the people. In practice this is interpreted as multi-party national elections for a national assembly, and majority rule in its two major forms, presidential and parliamentary democracy. The minority is given the role as “loyal opposition”.

The sovereign, people, are given choices not between positions on issues, but “platforms”, issue-bundles; and not between candidates, but candidate-bundles, “lists”, designed not by the parties, but by executive committees, officers, even by one officer, the boss. And this choice the sovereign can make only once every four years when a power window opens one or two days, 8-10 hours, called elections.

The system is better referred to as partyocracy than democracy, a reason that we often talk about “political class”, “political elites”, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s The Problem With Iran?

TFF PressInfo 1-2013

On Tuesday February 26, in Kazakhstan, a new round of negotiations are due between Iran and the Five Permanent UN Security Council members + Germany. We’d like to bring the following expert statement to your attention.

Contacts for interviews as well as analytical sources below the statement.


The problem is not nuclear weapons, essentially. It’s strategic interests such as control of oil and gas and that requires a change of Iran’s ‘obstinate’ and ‘defiant’ regime.

The present US/NATO/EU policy is based on escalating threats without an exit strategy. This increases the risk of war, whether intended or not. If that is not the deliberate purpose, an entirely new Western policy vis-a-vis Iran must be developed.

The Transnational Foundation in Sweden – an independent think tank with 27 years of experience – provides you with the diagnosis, the prognosis and the proposals for improved relations built on trust.
 (See below.) Read the rest of this entry »

The West needs a new Iran policy (2)

By Farhang Jahanpour

In the second part, Dr Jahanpour lists 20 steps that can be taken if the West switches to a conflict-resolution and trust-building perspective instead of war-mongering. Please share this as widely as you can, thanks.

Iran (2) Build Trust – 21 proposals from TFF on Vimeo.


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