KHARTOUM – The United States on Friday announced that it is suspending $350 million allocated to Malawi through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) citing deteriorating human rights in the country.
“The MCC Board expressed very serious concerns about the economic and political situation in Malawi, and emphasized the need for the Government of Malawi to respect the rights of its citizens and civil society organizations to assemble and speak freely,” said today’s MCC statement published on its website.
The $350.7 million MCC Compact was meant to revitalise the country’s faltering energy sector
Several major donors cut their aid last year to the poor southern African nation over concerns about the infringement of democratic freedoms, economic management and governance.
Last week, a loose alliance of opposition and civil society groups backed by influential religious leaders gave Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika a two-month deadline to step down or face large protests.
But Mutharika dismissed the call.
“If I wanted to, I would use the majority I have and amend the constitution to rule for another term, or forever,” he told supporters at a rally.
“I will not resign because that’s not what the law says. I will only be able to do that when my term expires in 2014,” Mutharika said.
“While the Government of Malawi had taken initial steps in the right direction after the violence of July 2011, more recent events — including the arrests of opposition and human rights leaders and inflammatory rhetoric by senior government officials — supported MCC’s finding of a pattern of actions inconsistent with good democratic governance” the US body said.
The aid agency board, chaired by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also said it was concerned with the lack of progress on economic policy to bring the country’s International Monetary Fund (IMF) program back on track, which it says has contributed to significant deterioration of the economic environment and put at risk the viability of MCC’s planned compact investments.
MCC also said that Malawi’s invitation to Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir was an added factor in the decision to freeze aid.
“Malawi’s decision to allow Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to attend a trade summit in Lilongwe, despite the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) outstanding warrant for his arrest, further deepened MCC’s concerns,” said the statement.
The Hague-based court issued two arrest warrants for Bashir on 10 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide and as a signatory to the ICC’s statute, Malawi was obligated to execute the warrants and arrest the Sudanese leader on its soil.
Malawian President had previously said that African leaders should not be dragged to the ICC for offences committed in Africa.
At the time US Congressman Frank Wolf called on President Barack Obama to cut aid to Malawi.
“We’re asking that the Millennium Challenge (Account) grant be pulled back and canceled, totally canceled, and all foreign aid be ceased. Here we’re going to give American taxpayer dollars in these tight economic times to a country that has welcomed Bashir and that’s inappropriate,” Wolf said.
Malawi’s budget has traditionally relied on aid for about 40% of its funding.
- Western Donor Nations Working To Topple the Malawi Government. (therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com)
The ‘option’ of a military attack on Iran by Israel, the UK and the US has been increasingly discussed in the UK media since 2011.
Government threats of military action have come in various forms, with Israel warning of potential air strikes against Iran in the next few months, and Obama and Cameron stating that ‘no options are off the table’.
This is combined with what could at best be described as ambiguous reporting on Iran’s nuclear programme, at times baselessly claiming that Iran has nuclear weapons, and, at others, relying on repetition of snippets like ‘the US and its allies believe Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons – a charge Iran denies.’
In the media, one fact is not (yet) up for debate (despite the attempts of the Telegraph’s Dan Hodges [below]): that any invasion of Iran would be a violation of international law – even if Iran was in the process of developing nuclear weapons. The United Nations Charter also outlaws the ‘threat of the use of force’, an act in which much of the media, in its uncritical stance towards government threats, has made itself complicit.
The solution to these awkward details, it seems, is to ignore them almost completely. Failure to reinforce the illegality of such an act of war has resulted in much coverage discussing the ‘inevitability’ of a war on Iran.
This study looks at the news, blogs and comment articles about Iran since October 2011 – around the time that aggressive official rhetoric towards Iran upped a notch – and seeks to answer a simple question:
How often do the British media inform us that a military attack on Iran would be illegal?
Four online news providers were studied – BBC News, The Guardian, The Independent, and The Telegraph*. In total, there were 4 mentions of the fact that an invasion would be illegal. The results, in summary, are as follows:
One mention of the illegality of an invasion of Iran is made on the BBC news website. In an analysis article, ‘How would Iran respond to an Israeli attack?’ (7 March 2012), Jonathan Marcus states:
For all the uncertainties as to whether Israel would attack Iran and indeed how Iran might respond, one thing is clear – in terms of international law, such a strike would be illegal.
This article was a balance to a previous analysis article that Marcus wrote, entitled ‘How Israel might strike at Iran’ (27 February 2012). Preoccupied with presenting the reader with dotted bomber flight path lines from Israel to Iran and military hardware specification sheets, this report failed to raise the issue of legality.
In contrast, the BBC News website has run 9 articles which have relayed politician’s musings (Hague, Clegg, Hammond and US officials) which insinuated violation of international law on the part of Iran.
The ‘News’ section of The Guardian did not make any mention of the illegality of an attack on Iran. The ‘Comment is Free’ section ran three articles which correctly pointed out that an invasion would violate international law.
Abbas Edalat wrote on 1 December 2011:
But Iran itself has been targeted for many years by a series of western and UK policies that are gross violations of international law. Repeatedly threatening Iran with a military attack, thinly disguised under the phrase “all options are on the table” and publicly announcing that the west must use covert operations to sabotage Iran’s nuclear programme (as John Sawers, the head of MI6, demanded two years ago), are only two examples of the UK’s disrespect for the UN charter.
On 21 February 2012, Seumas Milne wrote, in an article entitled ‘An attack on Iran would be an act of criminal stupidity’:
If an attack is launched by Israel or the US, it would not just be an act of criminal aggression, but of wanton destructive stupidity. As Michael Clarke, director of the British defence establishment’s Royal United Services Institute, points out, such an attack would be entirely illegal: “There is no basis in international law for preventative, rather than pre-emptive, war.”
On 12 March 2012 in a Q&A piece, Saeed Kamali Denghan responds to a question about the threat from Iran as follows:
Well, bombing Iran is illegal under international law in the first place. Little has been said about the legality of the issue, so one might mistake it as to be justified, where as it is not.
In contrast, The Guardian website has run 14 articles which have insinuated violation of international law on the part of Iran.
No mention of the illegality of an attack on Iran was found in The Independent for this time period.
In contrast, The Independent website has run 6 articles which have insinuated violation of international law on the part of Iran.
No mention of the illegality of an attack on Iran was found in The Telegraph for this time period.
In contrast, The Telegraph website has run 2 articles which insinuated violation of international law on the part of Iran. In addition, Dan Hodges argues in his Telegraph Blog that under international law there ‘probably is a case for’ an attack on Iran:
There is then the question of pre-emptive action. Again, Prof Blix is a Juris Doctor in International Law, and I have two A-levels and a grade 2 CSE in French. But I would hazard a guess that under international law there probably is a case for taking some form of pre-emptive action against an aggressor who expresses a public desire to wipe you off the map. Sorry, there’s that unfortunate phrase again. It just keeps popping up, doesn’t it?
Apart from a few admirable exceptions, the media takes little interest in informing us that threats of war, and war itself, are illegal. This fact is only found once in a BBC analysis article, and three times in the Guardian’s Comment section. Government claims that Iran has either acted or is threatening to act outside of international law are, however, free to flourish and propagate their way through the mainstream.
Suggestions that attack on Iran would violate international law: 4
Suggestions that Iran has, could have, or might violate international law: 31
How the dataset was created:
BBC News – search results for the term ‘Iran’ from 1 Oct 2011 (534 articles)
The Guardian – articles in the ‘Iran’ category from 1 Oct 2011 (500 articles)
The Independent – search results for the term ‘Iran’ from 1 Oct 2011 (584 articles)
The Telegraph – search results for the term ‘Iran’ from 1 Oct 2011, as well as all articles from ‘Iran’ category page.
* The Telegraph website’s search engine did not pick up all articles containing the word, and the category page dated back to 9th Feb, resulting in a somewhat limited dataset (261 articles).
A review of The Wandering Who, by Gilad Atzmon
Caution! Do not enter this book unless you are prepared for serious self-examination, self-dialogue, and a dialectic with an astute listener, challenger, provocateur and wit. Leave notions, assumptions, biases—positive and negative—at the doors of your perception—which are about to be vigorously cleansed! Be prepared for topic sentences like this: “My grandfather was a charismatic, poetic, veteran Zionist terrorist.”
The author of such disarming prose, the grandson of that “veteran Zionist,” is internationally-acclaimed musician and composer, Gilad Atzmon. Born and raised in Israel–a Sabra—Atzmon, like his peers, “didn’t see the Palestinians” around him. “Supremacy,” he writes, “was brewed into our souls.”
And then a strange thing happened. “On a very late-night jazz programme, I heard Bird (Charlie Parker) with Strings. I was knocked down. The music was more organic, poetic, sentimental and wilder than anything I had ever heard. …” And the most extraordinary thing about Atzmon’s first encounter with the iconic American saxophonist? “I realized that Parker was actually a black man. … In my world, it was only Jews who were associated with anyting good. Bird was the beginning of a journey.”
Now in his 50s, with a luminous musical career of his own, Atzmon has published two novels, and numerous essays and articles at websites and periodicals worldwide. The Wandering Who is a collection of 22 essays that serve as a baedeker for those who want to accompany him on his extraordinary “journey” of self-discovery and self-actualization. The book’s sectional titles include, “Identity vs. Identifying”; “Unconsciousness Is the Discourse of the Goyim”; “Historicity & Factuality vs. Fantasy and Phantasm”; and “Connecting the Dots.” Accompany Atzmon and one finds oneself sharpening one’s own tools for self-interrogation and reflection, wandering with him to discover our own elusive “who.”
His broad range of subjects include: identity; history; myths; perceptions and misperceptions; and the way “pre-traumatic stress” has shaped the nation of Israel, and, indeed, shaped much of our world these past 60-odd years. That first encounter with “Bird” opened Atzmon to the world of possibilities beyond Israel’s self-imposed, exclusionary borders: “Through music… I learned to listen. Rather than looking at history or analysing its evolution in material terms, it is listening that stands at the core of deep comprehension. Ethical behaviour comes into play when the eyes are shut and the echoes of conscience can form a tune within one’s soul. To empathise is to accept the primacy of the ear.”
His journey takes him to London in his 20s, where he hones his abilities to “listen” and “empathize” and establishes himself as a jazz musician who has been uniquely influenced by Arab music! And his mind is as agile as his fingering on his sax or clarinet: “In London, in what I often define as my ‘self-imposed exile,’ I grasped that Israel and Zionism were just parts of the wider Jewish problem.” We’re 15 pages into the book and Atzmon is broaching subject matter that could break a career in the U.S. or land him in jail in some parts of Europe! He is acutely aware of the thin ice he’s treading on, but he’s a born investigator and thinker, and he won’t be deterred: “… hardly any commentator is courageous enough to wonder what the word ‘Jew’ stands for. This question… is still taboo within Western discourse.” Our cicerone wants his readers and “listeners” to know that the road ahead will be arduous and even perilous:
“I deal with Jewish Ideology, Jewish identity politics, and the Jewish political discourse. I ask what being a Jew entails. I am searching for the metaphysical, spiritual and socio-political connotations.”
- He divides “those who call themselves Jews” into three main categories:
- 1. Those who follow Judaism.
2. Those who regard themselves as human beings that happen to be of Jewish origin.
3. Those who put their Jewish-ness over and above all of their other traits.
Throughout this book, it is the third category that Atzmon considers “problematic,” and which he probes with magnifying glass and scalpel. It is a category that includes Zionists and anti-Zionists, religious and non-religious Jews. He quotes Chaim Weizmann: “There are no English, French, German or American Jews, but only Jews living in England, France, Germany or America.” But, again, what exactly is “Jewish-ness”?
We travel down labyrinths of history, myths, power politics, enfranchisement and disenfranchisement to ferret meanings. Judaism, we find, is an amalgamation of stories, legends, poems composed during “the Babylonian exile”—and a sense of exile and alienation are categorical indicators of “Jewish-ness.” Important clues come in the Bible’s Book of Esther.
(Parenthetically, I’ll note here that during his recent visit to the US, reportedly to discuss what must be done about Iran’s purported nuclear weapons program, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu handed the President of the world’s remaining super-power a copy of the Book of Esther. Whether or not the Prime Minister accompanied the gift with an order to “Read it!”—has not been reported!)
“In the Book of Esther,” Atzmon writes, “the Jews rescue themselves, and even get to mete out revenge.” To wit: Haman, the Persian King’s Prime Minister, “plots to have all the Jews in the Persian empire killed in revenge for a refusal by Esther’s cousin Mordechai to bow to him in respect.” Esther, “a brave and beautiful Jewish queen,” has never revealed her “Jewish” identity to her husband, the King! But, now she warns him of Haman’s murderous plot. The King has Haman and his 10 sons–innocent bystanders, really–hanged on gallows originally intended for Mordechai and allows the Jews to take up arms and slay their enemies.
“The moral,” writes Atzmon, is clear: “If Jews want to survive, they had better infiltrate the corridors of power.” And this imperative to bond with power is an essential characteristic of “Jewishness”—notable in Esther’s time and in our contemporary world of AIPAC, think-tanks, media mesmerism and “message” control.
If the roots of “Jewishness”—separateness and “exceptionalism,” non-assimilation, exilic indoctrination—are discernable in the old-time religion of the Book of Esther, they ramify into something remarkably different—yet genetically akin—in what Atzmon and others call “the Holocaust religion.” “Jewishness,” he writes, “is the materialisation of fear politics into a pragmatic agenda.” In the modern Holocaust religion, vengeful, omnipotent Yahweh has been replaced by the unchallengeable “truths” of the Holocaust—past suffering cited to justify Israel’s ethnic cleansing and expansionism, its formidable arsenal of nukes and other weapons, its threats and wars of aggression.
“It took me many years,” Atzmon writes, “to understand that the Holocaust, the core belief of the contemporary Jewish faith, was not at all an historical narrative, freely debated by historians, intellectuals and ordinary people. … historical narratives do not need the protection of the law and political lobbies. … The fate of my great-grandmother was not so different from hundreds of thousands of German civilians who died in deliberate, indiscriminate bombing, just because they were Germans. Similarly, the people in Hiroshima, who died just because they were Japanese. Three million Vietnamese died just because they were Vietnamese and 1.3 million Iraqis died because they were Iraqis.”
In many ways, Atzmon’s book is a cri de couer addressed to Jews, specifically, but to humanity, generally, to grow up! To reach beyond tribalism and the politics of fear and vengeance. His style is dialectical, positing thesis and antithesis, arguing with himself and anticipating his readers’ (or opponents’) arguments to arrive at a plausible synthesis.
The book is also a House of Mirrors—distorted and non-so—and Atzmon is our guide as he meditates on the various reflected aspects of himself and others while searching for the true notes and the high notes.
Gary Corseri can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Obama, Netanyahu & Esther (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Why Hate Gilad Atzmon Pt. 2: “He’s WRONG!” (Or Is He?) (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Cynthia McKinney Interviews Gilad Atzmon about Israel, Zionism, and Jewish Identity Politics (alethonews.wordpress.com)
A policeman strikes a photojournalist of AFP during the Portuguese general strike in Lisbon March 22, 2012.
Portuguese police have attacked demonstrators protesting nationwide against the government’s austerity measures.
Demonstrations were held on Thursday in 38 cities and towns across Portugal, including the capital city of Lisbon, Oporto – the second largest city after Lisbon — and Coimbra, AFP reported.
In Lisbon, police resorted to baton charge and arrests to disperse the protesters.
At least one demonstrator was arrested in Oporto as protesters expressed outrage at Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho during a visit to the northern city’s university.
The nationwide protests were part of a 24-hour strike against austerity measures adopted by the government in return for an international bailout. During the Thursday strike which was led by Portugal’s biggest union — the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (CGTP) – public services across the country ground to a halt.
The trains and subways in Lisbon and Oporto, and the majority of ports, including the port of Lisbon and Viana do Castelo in the north, were shut down.
The strike is aimed at opposing changes to labor laws that make it easier to fire workers, reduce holidays and cut layoff compensation. The government argues that these changes will revive the economy.
Some European economies have introduced strict austerity plans to tackle their debt crises. The spending cuts have caused deep discontent among people in those countries.
Angel Gurria, secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said in a Thursday interview that the eurozone needs a bailout fund of at least 1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) to prevent its debt crisis from expanding to other European states.