Archive for February, 2015

I am not a Dane

By Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

NO to being included in the Denmark of the Government and Parliament

Written in the wake of the official Danish reactions to the tragic, horrific murders in Copenhagen of a Danish film director and a Jewish Danish guard outside the synagogue in Copenhagen on Saturday February 14 – a crime committed by a 22 years old Danish Muslim with a heavy criminal record and one foot in Denmark and one in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan.

I’m a Danish citizen. I’ve worked for the UN Charter norm of peace by peaceful means for 40 years. Have been a member of the Danish government’s Commission for Disarmament and Security all through the 1980s. I’ve worked in war and conflict zones in Somalia, all parts of Yugoslavia, Burundi, Iraq, Georgia, Iran.

I have friends and colleagues in many countries and cultures. I know things can be seen in more than one way – and how the West may also be perceived from the outside.

I will use my freedom of expression and wisdom of expression and our democracy to struggle against the warring Denmark which Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt insists that we Danes shall all be united around.

Denmark is not only a victim. It has also caused many victims.

It has violated international law and participated in mass murders on the Iraqi and other people, innocent people. On the initiative of then prime minister Fogh Rasmussen it has fought a cultural battle (kulturkamp) not with but against other cultures – related to the Muhamad caricatures. His government was also responsible for dragging Denmark into being an occupation power during four dark years in Iraq – and thus co-responsible for today’s situation there. Likewise in Afghanistan and Libya.

Over a couple of decades Denmark has developed a political xenophobia which I would never have thought even remotely possible a couple of decades ago because of basic values such as welfare for all, solidarity, equality, peoples’ colleges, philosopher poet Grundtvig, disarmament, the compassion for the Jews in October 1943, the fundamental belief in human dignity and tolerance.

The Danmark which the Prime Minister demagogically includes ”all we Danes” in and insists that we all be united around in her misplaced, all-motherly manner, is not the Denmark I want to be included in.

If so, I am not a Dane these days.

I want a Denmark for peace by peaceful means – and in that struggle we dissidents may meet, however few or many we seem to be.

But I draw my line at a national(istic) forced inclusion in the warring, xenophobic and segregated Denmark that has been created the last few years.

And this is not easy for me to write.

PressInfo # 309: Learn conflict and peace in 20 minutes

By Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

The world is full of unnecessary violence and human suffering. Do you know anyone who’d like it to continue like that?

If we educate ourselves and look outside the box, we can create a better world for all. Peace and security can be learnt, making conflict illiteracy and most of the violence a thing of the past.

Below is how – not in a column of 800 words but in a twice as long mini text book. It’ll enable you to think new thoughts and take the first steps into a hitherto closed but beautiful landscape.

Here we go:

Conflict happen. They are basically a good thing. There is no human community without conflict – and if there were it would be a dictatorship, or utterly boring. But how good are we – citizens, media and politicians – at dealing with conflict? Why do we often see violence where it could have been avoided and large violence where only a little, applied early, could have stopped large and long wars?

First a couple of ‘credos’ based on a few decades of experience:

• Conflicts are usually much more complex than presented by the parties and those who intervene in them; many have existential dimensions too.

• If we could learn to analyse and understand conflicts and reduce early, over-emotional side-taking – like we have medical expertise investigating diseases and treating patients instead of condemning them – we would have a more peaceful and just world with much less suffering.

• Conflicts is a problem standing between parties – their solution is not located only in individuals but in changing everybody’s goals, attitudes, behaviour and visions of the future.

• Conflicts can be solved/managed better if we address them sooner rather than later.

• The moment violence has been introduced we face a much bigger problem: the original issue plus the humiliation, anger and wish for revenge. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 308: Minsk – A fragile 2nd step

By Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

Let’s be cautiously optimistic; the meeting did not break down and a ceasefire document was signed. But that is a minimum in this extremely tense situation. One would have hoped for more than what seems to be a revision of the first Minsk agreement.

What are the next steps for this ceasefire agreement to lead to a peace plan, the two things being vitally different?

First, what no one talks about, it seems: A rather large UN peace-keeping and peace-making force with a unit of some 8.000-10.000 robust military from countries completely neutral to this conflict. The classical three legs: military, civil police and civil affairs, perhaps 20.000 in all.

Why the military component? Because the OSCE can monitor and report but it cannot enforce. And because the parties don’t trust each other. And why should this agreement be more durable than the first without it?

If on the 16th of February some shots are again fired by a madman on either side, hell will break lose and accusations fly. And if this agreement doesn’t hold either, we are close to a large-scale war and the U.S. will pour in its weapons (if not before).

What is needed is something like Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 307: This is no time to ship lethal arms to Ukraine

By Jonathan Power

February 10th, 2015

Please put your hand up if you support giving lethal arms to the Ukrainian army and also supported the US going to war with Iraq in 2003 and with Libya in 2011, the former which unbalanced much of the Middle East and the latter which has left a country almost destroyed, semi-ruled by malicious militias.

Also raise your hand if you supported in 1998 the West going to war against Serbia in order to wrest away its province of Kosovo and give it independence- a move which ironically Russia (and Spain, worried about its Basques) opposed, arguing that this would set a precedent for territorial separation by force of arms.

If you supported all these three interventions don’t take offence if I question your judgment on the issue of arms for Ukraine.

I am trying to work out where President Barack Obama stands on all this. His vice-president, Joe Biden, seems to be running with the foxes while he himself is running with the hares. Take the president’s interview on CNN the weekend before last. Until then the official White House line had been that the crisis was instigated by President Vladimir Putin to block Ukraine from creating a democratic government.

But in that broadcast, as my esteemed fellow columnist, William Pfaff, has observed, “Obama conceded to an American TV audience that the official US narrative concerning the war in Ukraine isn’t true”. Read the rest of this entry »

Viewing “American Sniper”

By Richard Falk

Richard Falk

American Sniper was released on Christmas Day, 2014. It is a movie version of Chris Kyle’s memoir, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, with 255 kills, 160 officially confirmed by the Department of Defense. The movie set in Iraq is directed by Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper plays the part of Chris Kyle, and Sienna Miller is brilliantly cast in the role of his wife, Taya.

American Sniper is a fictionalized movie version of the war stories associated with Chris Kyle’s experience as a Navy SEAL in the Iraq War as recounted in his best-selling memoir. The film can be viewed from a variety of angles, including even as one more indictment of war as hell.

A second line of interpretation focuses on the intense psychological tensions experienced by this single American soldier and his comrades caught up in the horrors of urban warfare in Iraq. A connected theme are the adverse impacts of Kyle’s war service on his family that is made to cope with the complex and contradictory traumas of his absence (confronting his potential death on a distant battlefield) and his alienated presence whenever he returns, a scarred individual who longs to go back to Iraq to resume his assigned role as ‘legendary sniper.’

Multiple scenes in the movie portray Kyle as haunted by his service. In his book, Kyle consistently treats his victims as “savage, despicable.” At one point Read the rest of this entry »

Pope Francis and religious cosmopolitarianism

By Richard Falk

Richard Falk

January 10, 2015

Points of Departure

Perhaps, the most hopeful recent development in human affairs is the emergence of Pope Francis as the voice of global conscience. Although Francis speaks with papal authority to the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, he also increasingly speaks with human authority to the rest of us. How significantly this voice will resonate might be viewed as the ultimate test as to whether ‘soft power’ is overcoming the geopolitical death dance that imperils the human species as never before.

When visiting occupied Palestine in May of 2014 Francis prayed at the notorious Israeli separation wall in Palestine that the World Court had ordered dismantled as unlawful back in 2004. The pontiff chose to pray near a scrawled graffiti that read ‘Pope, we need some 1 to speak about justice.’ While in the Holy Land Francis articulated what justice should mean in relation to the Palestinian reality: the pope called the existing situation ‘increasingly unacceptable,’ defied Israel by speaking of the ‘State of Palestine’ while touring the West Bank, and urged the establishment of a ‘sovereign homeland’ for the Palestinian people where there would be freedom of movement (so long denied).

By this visit and declaration, Pope Francis indirectly underscored the ethical insight of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu that after the collapse of apartheid in South Africa, the great symbolic moral challenge directed at the conscience of humanity is the empowerment and liberation of the Palestinian people. Such an affirmation also confirms Francis’ credentials as an independent world leader who will not defer to Washington’s craven submission to Israel’s continuous trampling upon Palestinian rights.

More broadly, Pope Francis has made it repeatedly clear that he is a critic of global inequality and of a capitalist world economic system that has produced ‘plunder of nature,’ a ‘frenetic rhythm of consumption,’ and worship of ‘the god of money.’ Above all, according to the German cardinal, Walter Kasper, this is a pope who “wants to lead faith and morality back to their original center” in authentic religious experience.

Such leadership is definitely taking a form that Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 306: Islam is not the problem. But keep your own house in order

By Jonathan Power

February 3rd 2015

The beheading of a Japanese journalist does not represent Islam. Saddam Hussein did not represent Islam. Bashar al-Assad does not represent Islam. Muammar Gaddafi of Libya did not represent Islam. The regular beheadings in Saudi Arabia for “crimes” such as adultery don’t represent Islam.

Likewise, the US dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn’t represent Christianity. Nor did the torture practiced in Northern Ireland. Nor did the Buddhist-led atrocities against the Tamils of Sri Lanka represent Buddhism.

Nevertheless, it is probably true that in the late twentieth century a high percentage of the world’s violent conflicts took place inside the Muslim world or against non-Muslims. But that does not mean they were supported by a majority of Muslims. Indeed, I would surmise that they were approved by less than 1% of Muslims. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 305: A theory of China

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

2 February 2015 at the Penang Institute, Penang

A theory serves comprehension, prediction and identification of conditions for change. Seven such historical-cultural pointers will be indicated for China; using the West in general, and the USA in particular, for comparisons. The presentation draws on countless dialogues in China over 40 years, since 1973.

* China: in time, as dynasties; West: in space as empires.

Look at a histomap combining world history and geography, time and space: China shows up through 4,000 years as relatively coherent dynasties with complex transitions – and the West as empires–birth-growth-peaking-decline-fall, like the Roman, UK and now US empires – duration vs bubbles that burst; as China-centric vs hegemonic. Read the rest of this entry »


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