Greece’s ruling left-wing Syriza Party has called on the government to recognize the state of Palestine. Back in December, the parliament approved a non-binding resolution, urging the government to formally recognize the Palestinian statehood. If implemented, Greece would become the first European country to follow Sweden’s lead which officially recognized Palestine in 2014.
Talking to Press TV, Joe Catron, an activist with International Solidarity Movement, has described the announcement as “a tremendous victory” for Palestinians and solidarity activists who have made Palestine a popular issue in Greece.
But at the same time, he drew attention to the fact that this is only “a symbolic move” which comes on the heels of other steps taken by Syriza to boost its ties with Israel.
“Since Syriza took power, we have seen it sign [an] agreement with Israel which is comparable only to Israel’s existing agreement with the United States,” he said. “We have seen it move to increase its energy cooperation with Israel and [have] even seen Syriza prime minister refer in writing, during a visit to the occupied Palestinian Jerusalem al-Quds, to it [the city] as Israel’s historic capital.”
He further noted that Syriza is playing a double game over Palestine by trying to cement its ties with Tel Aviv on the one hand; while taking limited pro-Palestine steps on the other.
“I do not think that Israel is happy to see any steps taken internationally in solidarity with Palestine and the Palestinians, including this one. [But] I think they probably prefer it to any alternative that might include its isolation, for example Greece ending its energy ties. That is something that, I think, they would take more seriously,” Catron added.
According to the activist, it is up to Palestinians to decide whether such symbolic steps are worth celebrating or they are simply distractions from more concrete measures that might produce results.
This Sunday’s New York Times (NYT) article by Amy Chozicko, headlined “Issues in Hillary Clinton’s Past Leave Her Muted in Furor Over Donald Trump” (“Clinton Treads Lightly Amid Furor Over Trump” in the print edition) provides a fine example of how the mainstream press covers up Hillary Clinton’s problems, even when they claim to be reporting on them.
The article introduces itself as explaining Hillary’s “virtual silence” regarding the issues of Donald Trump’s piggish treatment of women—issues that she herself raised in this campaign. The article mentions, in the most non-specific way possible, that she’s an “imperfect messenger” for these issues because of her “missteps” in dealing with her own “husband’s history” of piggish behavior. It alludes to her “role in countering the women who accused him of sexual misconduct” as part of a “painful past” that “haunted Mrs. Clinton last Sunday” when Trump brought some of her husband’s accusers to the debate.
The article goes on at length to quote from Michelle Obama’s speech, to elucidate how Hillary slyly changes the subject to cat videos when asked, and to talk about how she struggles to overcome the electorate’s lingering resistance to a woman president. It mentions how, “without mentioning the accusations against Mr. Trump,” she says things like: “This election is incredibly painful. I take absolutely no satisfaction in what is happening on the other side with my opponent.”
What the article does not do is mention a single specific “misstep” or “imperfection” in the way she “countered” her husband’s “accusers” and verified mistresses. In an article of some 1300 words, there is not one that clearly describes any of the things that Hillary Clinton did and said in that regard—the precise things that cause Hillary to “tread lightly” about Donald Trump’s abusiveness, and cause her the discomfort the article purports to explain.
Despite what Ms. Chozicko does take many words to mention, what puts Hillary in a “complicated place” now is not that she “stayed as a devoted wife to her husband through infidelities and humiliation.” As Melinda Henneberger and Dahlia Lithwick remarked back in 2008: “Sure, her husband’s behavior has humiliated her. But she has also helped him humiliate the women he’s been involved with.”
It was Hillary Clinton who called Gennifer Flowers “trailer trash” and a ”failed cabaret singer who doesn’t even have much of a résumé,” and who got on national television with her husband to ridicule Flowers, who was telling the truth. It was Hillary who called Monica Lewinsky, who was telling the truth, a “narcissistic loony toon.” It was Hillary who described Bill’s mistresses as “bimbos.” Carl Bernstein also told how Hillary not only “thr[e]w herself into efforts to discredit Flowers,” she tried to “persuade horrified campaign aides to bring out rumors that Poppy Bush had not always been faithful to Barbara.”
Hillary could have stood by her man, and said nothing about the women Bill was screwing. Instead, she chose to publicly and aggressively slut-shame and ridicule those women in order to actively support her husband’s lies about them. Hillary Clinton did to those women what Clarence Thomas and Alan Simpson did to Anita Hill. To quote Henneberger and Lithwick again: “If her biggest fans knew who she really blamed—other women—they might not still be fans.”
That’s what’s causing Hillary to “tread lightly” now, and that’s what you’d never know from reading this NYT article, even though it’s exactly what the article purports to explain. Furthermore, the NYT and the author know these facts and have deliberately chosen to hide them within vague terms like “imperfections” and, you know, “It’s complicated.” For the Times, what occurred between Hillary and these women has all been so “painful” and “haunting”—for Hillary. That’s a kind of rhetorical protection that the NYT would never offer one of its/the Democratic establishment’s political opponents.
In other words, the NYT article is not a good-faith attempt to inform us about, and analyze, Hillary’s problem. It’s an effort to hide it. Rather than explain Hillary’s avoidance, Ms. Chozicko mimics it.
This whole rigmarole reflects a fundamental problem: Does anybody really contend, in a principled and consistent way, that a candidate’s (man or woman) personal nasty sexual behavior in itself disqualifies that person for the presidency? Or doesn’t everyone actually use that issue only opportunistically—to attack the candidate they don’t like for other political reasons?
Lyndon Johnson used to wave around his dick—which he called Jumbo—and once forced himself on a White House secretary, showing up at her bed and ordering her to ”Move over. This is your president.” Is any Democratic Party liberal going to say we should denounce his presidency solely on that behavior (straight-up rape!), or will they insist on prioritizing things like the Civil Rights Act and Medicare? (For that matter, will his opponents not prioritize things like the Vietnam War?) Will any of them judge Richard Nixon to be a better president or political persona because he was more “correct” in his sexual behavior?
This is not just about how things went in the past, either: If Corey Booker runs against Marco Rubio eight years from now, and someone unearths incidents about Corey like those now being unearthed about Trump, will Chris Hayes, or Rachel, or Michelle say that Booker is then disqualified? Or will they say—as many of the same people attacking Trump today said about Bill Clinton yesterday—that’s “just about sex” and shouldn’t disqualify him to be president? And besides, it’s the most important election ever!
Sure, it’s harder to get away with now, as it should be, but, when making a political judgement, a person’s loutish sexual behavior is always going to be relativized and judged as less decisive than their policy positions—by his or her supporters, at least. Like it or not, people’s sexual and political personae are frequently in contradiction, and there’s no cure. Even those for whom women’s issues are of paramount importance will find it hard not to prefer a personally sexist candidate who supports abortion rights, contraceptive availability, maternity leave, etc., over a personally impeccable candidate who doesn’t. Many did exactly that with Bill Clinton, and will do so again.
Those who did not, do not, and would not reject Johnson or Kennedy or Bill Clinton or the next Democratic iteration thereof, despite his piggish sexism, because other politics outweigh that fault, can’t really look down on supporters of other candidates who make exactly the same kind of calculation. Whether you vote for a piggish genital-grabber because s/he won’t criminalize abortion, or because s/he won’t start WWIII, you’re prioritizing policy over personal behavior. What’s annoying are those who sanctimoniously insist that everyone must reject a candidate because of his/her personal sexual behavior, when it’s obvious that they really don’t believe that at all.
In the present case, there are a thousand reasons to reject Donald Trump, and his piggishness makes for a nice part of the mix. Still, one might think it’s important to get seriously into those other political issues, to compare positions on things like the economy, war, etc. We’re not so much on that terrain anymore, are we?
The United States just launched a military attack on the poorest country in the Arab world? Obama is considering starting WWIII in defense of al-Qaeda? Hey, let’s interview this woman who sat next to Donald Trump on an airplane thirty years ago. Diversion, anyone?
Barring a deus ex machina, Trump is now effectively toast, having been burned to a crisp over the last two weeks by the issue of his sexual aggressiveness, which was pursued relentlessly by the Clintonites and the press as a disqualifier.
Nothing to regret about that result, but it is to be remarked how, once that issue is stoked, it becomes an unstoppable train that flattens everything else, starting with the candidate it was aimed at. It wasn’t his vicious, racist remarks about Muslims, or about the Central Park Five, that quickly and definitively steamrolled The Donald; it was grabbing pussy. We should be wary of those who are so gleeful about having this train barreling down the track at Trump, and who have, and would again, object to that same dynamic if it were threatening to crush their favored politician.
We should remark, too, how Hillary played and fared in this game. It was she who started this fire, when, at the very end of the first debate, she brought up Trump’s derogatory remarks about women, and his fat-shaming of Alicia Machado. Then there appeared, fortuitously, the Access Hollywood tape, ensuring that the issue would be pursued. As the NYT article says, Hillary then retreated into her cone of “virtual silence” on the subject, leaving the heavy-hitting to Michelle and crew. Hillary can continue to “tread lightly,” insisting that she takes “absolutely no satisfaction” in what is happening to Trump. Absolutely.
Donald provided an easier target than Poppy.
And when Trump, at the next debate, brought in some of the women whom Hillary slut-shamed, the network commentators were aghast at how he was using these confused and troubled women for his political advantage, and dragging the Presidential campaign into the gutter.
The net result is that Hillary did not just go “virtually silent” about Trump, she virtually stopped campaigning at all. She decided to spend most of her time squirreled away in “debate prep,” far from unmanaged questions—letting the media and his own big mouth finish off Trump, confident that her enormous ad buys in the last couple of weeks will seal the deal.
So, Hillary gets to raise the issue, and then hide from it. And the NYT helps her, with an article that pretends to explain why she’s hiding from the issue, but is itself actually hiding the real reasons from its readers. She throws a stink bomb into the campaign, and then runs off to be showered and perfumed by the press, which casts her aggressive slut-shaming as “imperfection.” Catch me if you can.
Certainly well played, and Hillary supporters may delight in the result. But no one should be surprised at how many people—from right to left—see through this hide-and-seek, know right where Hillary and the establishment press stand, and, when not enraged at, are increasingly bored with, how this game is always played.
Wow, the world gets crazier every moment! Stephen Lewis, former socialist NDP leader from Canada’s province of Ontario was asked about PM Justin Trudeau’s letter to the UN asking for a special General Assembly meeting, as reported by the CBC yesterday:
The Canadian Mission to the United Nations has submitted a rare request asking the president of the General Assembly for a meeting of all 193 member states to “explore concerted action to apply pressure on the parties of the violence [in Syria],” now in its sixth year.
ON CBC this morning (Friday, October 14, 2016) Lewis was briefly interviewed by the CBC and clearly and distinctly chose the U.S. /NATO / western imperialist /mainstream media (MSM) position on Syria. He called Canada’s moves “artful and important.” His reasons were shallow and demonstrated clearly that his socialist ideals – at least as an international socialist – are not very near and dear to his heart.
He commented that “war crimes are being committed by Russia” but hopefully that “Russia may at some point be forced to reconsider,” its position. When questioned further on this he said he did not think that Russia – more specifically Putin, our now necessary evil ‘other’ personified as one man – would change its actions. Why? Because “Putin doesn’t care”, he wants to show that “Russia is back” and that is a “terrifying proposal.”
Double standards abound
Apparently the letter was co-sponsored by 68 other countries. All of them for sure sycophantic allies of the U.S. empire…. but perhaps underneath something unintended may occur.
Lewis said the meeting of the UN would “allow the world to express its outrage” at Russia’s war crimes, at the “destruction of children…the murder of children.” Most interesting here is that while Russia is being singled out with this narrative, the history of the U.S. empire over the past several decades appears to be getting a clear pass.
Does anyone remember the war in Iraq, an illegal war (all initiators of wars are war criminals) that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (many children obviously, as most populations consist of about fifty per cent children)? And before that, an estimated 500 thousand children died as a result of U.S. sanctions against the Hussein regime. When questioned about this, then U.S. Secretary of State said the deaths were worth it for U.S. interests. War crimes? Absolutely.
And what about Libya and the war crimes committed there, with the destruction of civilian infrastructure and attacks against the government that went well beyond the UN sanctioned no-fly zone. More war crimes, more severe unintended consequences – although it did play into U.S. plans to eliminate Syria.
Back to Afghanistan where the U.S. “war on terror” simmers on. War crimes and crimes against humanity were committed there by U.S. forces and its “coalition” forces, including Canada. Afghanistan as you should well know, is now a mess of factional fighting with the Taliban controlling about a third of the country.
Before all those, Serbia was bombed illegally by NATO (which the U.S. leads and in which Canada played a major role), attacking civilian structures such as bridges, industrial plants, public buildings, businesses, and as an aside, the Chinese embassy. This was supposedly a “right to protect” operation, proved to be a preconceived excuse in order to weaken the Serb Republic and further contain a soon to be resurgent Russia. An estimated 500 civilians were killed – sorry, no child count there. But definitely a war crime.
And I probably shouldn’t mention Israel as I will instantly be labelled anti-Semitic, but the war crimes against civilians there – both in the West Bank and Gaza – have been ongoing for decades. The notable case here at least as seen from the MSM perspective, have been the Israeli attacks against the open air prison of Gaza (population now at 2 million). Hundreds of children have been slaughtered there using many “made in the U.S.A.” weapons, including chemical warfare (modified tear gas, phosphorous bombs), serving as well as a testing/proving ground for Israeli manufactured materials in support of their militarized economy. More U.S. supported war crimes.
The U.S. has committed war crimes of an overt or covert nature in 50 countries since WW II, disposing of non-compliant governments with violence against citizens of those sovereign states.
Careful what you wish for
Perhaps, just perhaps, the unintended consequences of the UN meeting might be the bringing to light the war crimes of the U.S., against children, against civilians, against sovereign governments. I don’t expect that as the U.S. controls the MSM for the western world. But to focus a call on Russian war crimes is the height of arrogance and hubris from a nation (Canada) that has supported U.S. war crimes and committed some of its own.
Yes, indeed, let’s have a special General Assembly meeting on war crimes, but let’s do it for the whole world and not just the sycophantic interests of an increasingly belligerent member of the U.S. imperial coalition.
The world does need to express its outrage – at war crimes committed by the U.S., about U.S. support for Saudi war crimes in Yemen, about U.S. support for Saudi support of the various salafist jihadi groups around the world.
Russia is back
Well, yes and no. Russia endured three major invasions from Western Europe (Napoleon, Wilhelm, Hitler), more invasions after WW I from western nations, and suffered under the “shock doctrine” of U.S. neoliberalism. The latter came about as the result of U.S. influence on the drunkard Yeltsin and created a country in decline ruled by oligarchs who stole much of the wealth of the country (Khodorkovsky, Magnitsky among them). Currently, the U.S. has a first strike nuclear policy with missile bases in Poland and Romania within minutes of the Russian heartland.
Not exactly a great history of western accommodation. And now NATO has expanded towards Russia’s borders, yet accuse Russia of aggression (??) – logic not being a strength of the MSM or the politicians of the west. The U.S. initiated the coup in Ukraine, just ask Victoria “F**k the EU” Nuland, partner of Robert Kagan, known neocon warmonger.
The MSM across the west, in collusion with the political elites, are doing their best to create an evil Putin leading an evil Russia trying to regain its empire. That they have succeeded in this image is a testament to the power of the MSM, the ignorance of the people of the west (most particularly in Canada and the U.S.), and the arrogance, hubris, and wilful ignorance of the elite class.
Russia is back (and Canada postures)
– and is scaring the bejesus out of the U.S. and its allies. It has obviously revived its military power, and in many cases is considered to be well ahead of the U.S. It’s economy, in spite of the best intentions of U.S. sanctions, is doing reasonably well as its home grown industries are being forced to develop more, and its agricultural sector has benefited from counter sanctions against EU products. Western action against China have created a Sino-Russian alliance stronger than it ever was during the Sino-Soviet era.
The latter has serious implications for the U.S. desire to be the global hegemon with full spectrum dominance over – everyone and everything. And for that, it is good that Russia is back.
For Canada and Trudeau to attempt to corral the western MSM message into the UN is simply political posturing. Whether it comes from wilful ignorance and arrogance, simple ignorance, simple stupidity, or a pretty boy posturing as the good guy Canadian mediator is difficult to discern. But it is definitely posturing – it is the U.S. that has created the mess in the Middle east, it is the U.S./NATO that has created the belligerence towards Russia, it is the U.S. military /industrial /political /financial complex that has created a world of fear and terror in order to attempt its global hegemony. Finally someone is capable of standing up to that – which unfortunately, given the U.S. propensity for nuclear sword threats, may result in the U.S. having created the perfect storm to induce world war last.
Copyright © Jim Miles, Global Research, 2016
Note how differently The New York Times prepares the American public for civilian casualties from the new U.S.-backed Iraqi government assault on the city of Mosul to free it from the Islamic State, compared to the unrelenting condemnation of the Russian-backed Syrian government assault on neighborhoods of east Aleppo held by Al Qaeda.
In the case of Mosul, the million-plus residents are not portrayed as likely victims of American airstrikes and Iraqi government ground assaults, though surely many will die during the offensive. Instead, the civilians are said to be eagerly awaiting liberation from the Islamic State terrorists and their head-chopping brutality.
“Mosul’s residents are hoarding food and furtively scrawling resistance slogans on walls,” writes Times’ veteran war correspondent Rod Nordland about this week’s launch of the U.S.-backed government offensive. “Those forces will fight to enter a city where for weeks the harsh authoritarian rule of the Islamic State … has sought to crack down on a population eager to either escape or rebel, according to interviews with roughly three dozen people from Mosul. …
“Just getting out of Mosul had become difficult and dangerous: Those who were caught faced million-dinar fines, unless they were former members of the Iraqi Army or police, in which case the punishment was beheading. … Graffiti and other displays of dissidence against the Islamic State were more common in recent weeks, as were executions when the vandals were caught.”
The Times article continues: “Mosul residents chafed under social codes banning smoking and calling for splashing acid on body tattoos, summary executions of perceived opponents, whippings of those who missed prayers or trimmed their beards, and destroying ‘un-Islamic’ historical monuments.”
So, the message is clear: if the inevitable happens and the U.S.-backed offensive kills a number of Mosul’s civilians, including children, The New York Times’ readers have been hardened to accept this “collateral damage” as necessary to free the city from blood-thirsty extremists. The fight to crush these crazies is worth it, even if there are significant numbers of civilians killed in the “cross-fire.”
And we’ve seen similar mainstream media treatment of other U.S.-organized assaults on urban areas, such as the devastation of the Iraqi city, Fallujah, in 2004 when U.S. Marines routed Iraqi insurgents from the city while leveling or severely damaging most of the city’s buildings and killing hundreds of civilians. But those victims were portrayed in the Western press as “human shields,” shifting the blame for their deaths onto the Iraqi insurgents.
Despite the fact that U.S. forces invaded Iraq in defiance of international law – and thus all the thousands of civilian deaths across Iraq from the “shock and awe” U.S. firepower should be considered war crimes – there was virtually no such analysis allowed into the pages of The New York Times or the other mainstream U.S. media. Such talk was forced to the political fringes, as it continues to be today. War-crimes tribunals are only for the other guys.
Lust to Kill Children
By contrast, the Times routinely portrays the battle for east Aleppo as simply a case of barbaric Russian and Syrian leaders bombing innocent neighborhoods with no regard for the human cost, operating out of an apparent lust to kill children.
Rather than focusing on Al Qaeda’s harsh rule of east Aleppo, the Times told its readers in late September how to perceive the Russian-Syrian offensive to drive out Al Qaeda and its allies. A Sept. 25 article by Anne Barnard and Somini Sengupta, entitled “Syria and Russia Appear Ready to Scorch Aleppo,” began:
“Make life intolerable and death likely. Open an escape route, or offer a deal to those who leave or surrender. Let people trickle out. Kill whoever stays. Repeat until a deserted cityscape is yours. It is a strategy that both the Syrian government and its Russian allies have long embraced to subdue Syrian rebels, largely by crushing the civilian populations that support them.
“But in the past few days, as hopes for a revived cease-fire have disintegrated at the United Nations, the Syrians and Russians seem to be mobilizing to apply this kill-all-who-resist strategy to the most ambitious target yet: the rebel-held sections of the divided metropolis of Aleppo.”
Again, note how the “rebels” are portrayed as local heroes, rather than a collection of jihadists from both inside and outside Syria fighting under the operational command of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which recently underwent a name change to the Syria Conquest Front. But the name change and the pretense about “moderate” rebels are just more deceptions.
As journalist/historian Gareth Porter has written:
“Information from a wide range of sources, including some of those the United States has been explicitly supporting, makes it clear that every armed anti-Assad organization unit in those provinces [of Idlib and Aleppo] is engaged in a military structure controlled by Nusra militants. All of these rebel groups fight alongside the Nusra Front and coordinate their military activities with it. …
“At least since 2014 the Obama administration has armed a number of Syrian rebel groups even though it knew the groups were coordinating closely with the Nusra Front, which was simultaneously getting arms from Turkey and Qatar. The strategy called for supplying TOW anti-tank missiles to the ‘Syrian Revolutionaries Front’ (SRF) as the core of a client Syrian army that would be independent of the Nusra Front.
“However, when a combined force of Nusra and non-jihadist brigades including the SRF captured the Syrian army base at Wadi al-Deif in December 2014, the truth began to emerge. The SRF and other groups to which the United States had supplied TOW missiles had fought under Nusra’s command to capture the base.”
Arming Al Qaeda
This reality – the fact that the U.S. government is indirectly supplying sophisticated weaponry to Al Qaeda – is rarely mentioned in the mainstream U.S. news media, though one might think it would make for a newsworthy story. But it would undercut the desired propaganda narrative of “good guy” rebels fighting “bad guy” government backed by “ultra-bad guy” Russians.
What if Americans understood that their tax money and U.S. weaponry were going to aid the terrorist group that perpetrated the 9/11 attacks? What if they understood the larger historical context that Washington helped midwife the modern jihadist movement – and Al Qaeda – through the U.S./Saudi support for the Afghan mujahedeen in the 1980s?
And what if Americans understood that Washington’s supposed regional “allies,” including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel, have sided with Al Qaeda in Syria because of their intense hatred of Shiite-ruled Iran, an ally of Syria’s secular government?
These Al Qaeda sympathies have been known for several years but never get reported in the mainstream U.S. press. In September 2013, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, then a close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored Syria’s Sunni extremists over President Bashar al-Assad.
“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with Al Qaeda.
And, in June 2014, speaking as a former ambassador at an Aspen Institute conference, Oren expanded on his position, saying Israel would even prefer a victory by the brutal Islamic State over continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria. “From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said.
But such cynical – and dangerous – realpolitik is kept from the American people. Instead, the Syrian conflict is presented as all about the children.
There is also little said about how Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and its allied jihadists keep the civilian population in east Aleppo essentially as “human shields.” When “humanitarian corridors” have been opened to allow civilians to escape, they had been fired on by the jihadists determined to keep as many people under their control as possible.
By forcing the civilians to stay, Al Qaeda and its allies can exploit the injuries and deaths of civilians, especially the children, for propaganda advantages.
Going along with Al Qaeda’s propaganda strategy, the Times and other mainstream U.S. news outlets have kept the focus on the children. A Times dispatch on Sept. 27 begins:
“They cannot play, sleep or attend school. Increasingly, they cannot eat. Injury or illness could be fatal. Many just huddle with their parents in windowless underground shelters — which offer no protection from the powerful bombs that have turned east Aleppo into a kill zone.
“Among the roughly 250,000 people trapped in the insurgent redoubt of the divided northern Syrian city are 100,000 children, the most vulnerable victims of intensified bombings by Syrian forces and their Russian allies. Though the world is jolted periodically by the suffering of children in the Syria conflict — the photographs of Alan Kurdi’s drowned body and Omran Daqneesh’s bloodied face are prime examples — dead and traumatized children are increasingly common.”
This propagandistic narrative has bled into the U.S. presidential campaign with Martha Raddatz, a moderator of the second presidential debate, incorporating much of the evil-Russians theme into a question that went so far as to liken the human suffering in Aleppo to the Holocaust, the Nazi extermination campaign against Jews and other minorities.
That prompted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to repeat her call for an expanded U.S. military intervention in Syria, including a “no-fly zone,” which U.S. military commanders say would require a massive operation that would kill many Syrians, both soldiers and civilians, to eliminate Syria’s sophisticated air-defense systems and its air force.
Based on the recent Wikileaks publication of Clinton’s speeches to investment bankers and other special interests, we also know that she recognizes the high human cost from this strategy. In one June 2013 speech, she said, “To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk — you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians. So all of a sudden this intervention that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take a lot of civilians.”
Yet, during the campaign, Clinton has spoken glibly about her own proposal to impose a “no-fly zone” over Syria, which has become even more dangerous since 2015 when the Russians agreed to directly assist the Syrian government in fighting Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Also, left unsaid about such a U.S. intervention is that it could open the way for Al Qaeda and/or its spinoff Islamic State to defeat the Syrian army and gain control of Damascus, creating the potential for even a worse bloodbath against Christians, Shiites, Alawites, secular Sunnis and other “heretics.” Not to mention the fact that a U.S.-imposed “no-fly zone” would be a clear violation of international law.
Over the next few weeks, we are sure hear much about the Islamic State using the people of Mosul as “human shields” and thus excusing U.S. bombs when they strike civilians targets and kill children. It will all be the terrorists’ fault, except that an opposite set of “journalistic” rules will apply to Aleppo.
Senegalese agro-pastoralists are striking wins against Senhuile SA, a foreign-owned agribusiness company established in Ndiaël, Saint-Louis Region of Senegal. In 2012, Senhuile obtained a 50 year lease on 20,000 hectares for a sweet potato plantation in a forest and wetland reserve, which was partially declassified to establish agribusiness activities.1 The deal threatened 9,000 pastoralists, who depend on these lands for their livelihoods. In addition to grazing their 100,000 animals (cows, sheep, goats, and horses), these lands also provide them with firewood, fruits, medicinal plants, and saps and resins.
For over four years, 37 villages impacted by Senhuile’s activities have shown fierce resistance. In the latest action, over 350 local opponents to the project gathered on July 29, 2016, to claim their right to farm the reserve lands. Previously, communities had been denied the authorization to cultivate small plots on the grounds that Ndiaël was classified among the Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance. Now that large tracts of the reserve have been declassified and cleared by Senhuile, residents of Ndiaël are determined to start their own agricultural activities in the area.
Prior to 2012, Senhuile had planned to settle in Fanaye, some 30 kilometers away, but was forced to relocate after violent local opposition led to the deaths of two protestors and injuries to many others in 2011. Upon arriving in Ndiaël, Senhuile did not seek the consent of the local communities or provide compensation for the loss of grazing lands. Instead, it carried out aggressive land clearing—religious spaces, cemeteries, schools were destroyed in the process—while protecting its concession with barbed wires and security guards.
Senhuile: Lack of Transparency & Scandals
Senhuile’s project has been opaque since its inception. Although located in a semi-arid area with plans for large-scale irrigation using water from the adjacent Lake Guiers—a crucial reservoir already affected by low water levels, algae proliferation, and pollution—Senhuile conducted its first environmental impact assessment only months after starting to clear the land. The company initially announced its intention to grow sweet potatoes for bioethanol production, but its strategy shifted several times, from sunflower plantations to finally opting in 2016 for rice, maize, and peanut production.
In addition, Senhuile has been involved in scandals repetitively. Held by a murky international conglomerate composed of Italy’s Tampieri Financial Group, Senegalese investors, and a shell company registered in New York, Senhuile has changed directors three times since 2012. Benjamin Dummai, its first CEO, was arrested in 2014 on charges of misappropriating CFA 200 million (over $300,000). Dummai’s successor, Massimo Castelluci, fired a large number of employees. Dismissal-related disputes are now opposing Senhuile in the regional Saint-Louis Court. In July 2016, Senhuile’s latest director, Massimo Vittorio Campadese, barely avoided prison after the company was accused of committing customs fraud and negotiated a CFA 1.1 billion ($1.85 million) fine to settle the matter.
Senhuile’s disastrous track record belies the company’s intentions and initial claims around its contribution to the local economy – Senhuile promised to create 2,500 jobs by 2013 but today employs less than 100 people. Unsurprisingly, initial resistance from the 37 villages impacted by the project has garnered strength as former Senhuile workers and neighboring rice growers, who were recently expropriated from lands previously granted to them by the company, have joined the opposition.
Senegalese authorities, consequently, have been forced to recognize the legitimacy of the local resistance. A few months ago, they announced—and recently confirmed—their intention to reduce Senhuile’s concession by half from 20,000 to 10,000 hectares. The recent mobilization was organized by local communities to build on this successful development. They are claiming their right to over 14,000 hectares of lands in the reserve, including all of Senhuile’s former lands and some other declassified areas. This action has served as a successful catalyst to kick-start a negotiation process in August 2016 between the Senegalese administration, the company, and protestors to demarcate and divide the declassified lands for redistribution.
The residents of Ndiaël hope to soon start using the land for cultivating cash crops including watermelons, sweet potatoes, and cassava. Cattle herding, the area’s traditional occupation, will accompany agricultural activities. Small-scale agricultural plots, contrary to large-scale farms, leave space for cattle routes and preserve animals’ access to water points. In addition, after harvesting, farmers will let the cattle graze leftover fodder from the fields and use the manure to fertilize the soil. These methods of small-scale agriculture will respect the zone’s ecology, feed entire families, and invigorate the local economy.2
While the expectations are high, the struggle isn’t over for the community members. They are still waiting for proper land demarcation and fear unexpected developments, including allocations of concessions to firms participating in the World Bank-funded Inclusive and Sustainable Agribusiness Development Project (PDIDAS). However, their tenacious resistance has voiced an honest appeal to the government to prioritize the future and food security of Senegalese families over the interests of foreign investors. If villagers win, the Ndiaël case may set a precedent for other populations affected by land grabbing in the country. If not, they are ready to scale up the resistance. As local opponent Ardo Sow explains, “this is a fight for survival. We cannot remain bystanders and watch the state run roughshod over the population. […] We will not cede for anything in the world.”
-  The declassification of 20,000 hectares of reserve land for a large-scale agriculture project was surprising considering that, in March 2012, the same month former President Wade issued the decree granting land to Senhuile, the Senegalese government submitted an official financing request to the World Bank for a project to restore the Lac de Guiers area and adjacent wetland ecosystems, particularly the Ndiaël reserve, considered an endangered Ramsar site.
-  Surveys conducted in the area have found that small farms obtain excellent profits from their commercial activities (notably potato and rice cultures) and employ a great number of workers.
The US military has dramatically increased the number of its airstrikes in Libya in less than a month, new data shows, further cementing President Barack Obama’s record of taking more military action than any other American president.
American fighter jets and drones stationed aboard the amphibious assault vessel USS Wasp off the Libyan coast, have so far carried out 324 airstrikes in the country, according to data by the Pentagon’s Africa Command, which leads the operation.
This is more than two times the 161 air raids that the US had carried out in Libya until September 21.
According to a report by Reuters, American aircraft had conducted more than 30 strikes across Libya between Saturday and Monday.
Washington began the air campaign on August 1, under the pretext of taking out the Daesh (ISIL) Takfiri terrorists, who rose to power in the oil-rich country after the NATO-backed ousting and death of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Initially, the White House had claimed that the bombing campaign would be focused on the Libyan coastal city of Sirte, which fell to Daesh last year, and would end in a few “weeks.”
However, Obama silently extended the prolonged campaign for another month in late September.
The military intervention is likely to continue over the next months, as indicated by a US military official in a Fox News interview on Monday.
“We continue to work with GNA (the Government of National Accord) aligned forces as they clear through Sirte and we now have better intelligence,” the official told Fox on the condition of anonymity.
In addition to the bombing campaign, US troops have also been “in and out” of Libya, according to Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Gordon Trowbridge.
The Obama administration has set a new record in terms of military intervention abroad, carrying out airstrikes and ground operations in at least seven countries, namely Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Libya.
Earlier this year, Obama regretted meddling in Libya as his “worst mistake,” because it led to a power vacuum that gave rise to terrorist groups in the country.
It was a tough week for Romeo Dallaire, Louise Arbour, Gerald Caplan and other liberal Canadian cheerleaders of Africa’s most bloodstained dictator.
Last Tuesday’s Globe and Mail described two secret reports documenting Paul Kagame’s “direct involvement in the 1994 missile attack that killed former president Juvénal Habyarimana, leading to the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people died.” In other words, the paper is accusing the Rwandan leader widely celebrated for ending the genocidal killings of having unleashed them.
Another front-page story the following day quoted Marie-Rose Habyarimana, who was studying here when her father was assassinated and is now a Canadian citizen, highlighting the absurdity of the official story. “They have been hypocritical”, she told the Globe and Mail. “Two Hutu presidents and a Hutu army chief were killed in a plane attack, and we were supposed to believe that Hutus were behind this, as though they would naturally sabotage themselves. Those who really wanted to see the truth, who could have looked deeply, could have seen through these attempts to lie and deform history.”
(According to the official story, Hutu extremists waited until much of the Hutu-led Rwandan military command was physically eliminated and the Hutu were at their weakest point in three decades, before they began a long planned systematic extermination of Tutsi.)
On a personal level it was gratifying to see Canada’s ‘paper of record’ finally report something I’ve been criticized for writing. A few days before the Globe report, I received an email from a York University professor telling me: “I tried earlier this year to arrange a launch for your book Canada in Africa, but it was met with some serious opposition. You’ve been branded, rightly or wrongly, a Rwandan genocide-denier. I am sorry, but I don’t think speaking at York is going to work out.”
My sin for that university’s “Africanists” was to challenge the Paul Kagame/Romeo Dallaire/Gerald Caplan version of the Rwandan tragedy. Contrary to popular perception, the genocide was not a long planned attempt to exterminate all Tutsi, which even the victors’ justice dispensed by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) effectively concluded. Instead, it was the outgrowth of a serious breakdown in social order that saw hundreds of thousands of Tutsi slaughtered by relatively disorganized local command. But, Kagame’s RPF also killed tens of thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of Hutu.
Both directly and indirectly, the RPF was implicated in a significant proportion of the bloodshed during the spring of 1994. Christian Davenport and Allan Stam, US academics initially sponsored by the ICTR, found a strong correlation between RFP “surges” — advances in April 1994 — and local bloodbaths. In 2009 Davenport and Stam reported: “The killings in the zone controlled by the FAR [Armed Forces of Rwanda] seemed to escalate as the RPF moved into the country and acquired more territory. When the RPF advanced, large-scale killings escalated. When the RPF stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased.”
Somewhere between several hundred thousand and a million Rwandans were killed over 100 days in mid-1994. The US academics concluded that the “majority of victims were likely Hutu and not Tutsi.”
The official story of the Rwandan genocide usually begins April 6, 1994, but any serious investigation must at least go back to the events of October 1, 1990. On that day, thousands of troops from Uganda’s army, mainly exiled Tutsi elite, invaded Rwanda. The Ugandan government accounted for these events with the explanation that 4,000 of its troops “deserted” to invade. These troops included Uganda’s former deputy defence minister, former head of intelligence and other important military officials. This unbelievable explanation has been accepted largely because Washington and London backed Uganda’s aggression, which according to the Nuremberg Principles is the “supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
The rise of ethnic enmity and breakdown of social order was caused by many factors. The 1990 Uganda/RPF invasion displaced about one million Rwandans, nearly 15% of the population. Six months before the spring 1994 bloodletting, Burundi’s Tutsi-dominated army assassinated its first elected Hutu president. The political killings sparked significant violence and the flight of hundreds of thousands of mostly Hutu Burundians into Rwanda. This further destabilized the small country and elevated animosity towards Tutsis, who were accused of refusing to accept majority rule.
Rwanda’s 1959-61 Hutu revolution saw the majority group gain political control while the Tutsi minority maintained control of Burundi after independence. Historically, the Tutsi, who speak the same language and practice the same religion as the Hutu, were distinguished based upon their proximity to the monarchy. In other words, the Tutsi/Hutu was a class/caste divide, which Belgian colonialism racialized.
The breakdown of social order was also tied to economic hardship brought on by the low price of coffee and foreign-imposed economic adjustments. No longer worried about the prospect of poor coffee producers turning towards the Soviet Union, the US withdrew its support for the International Coffee Agreement in 1989, an accord Ottawa was never enamoured with. The price of coffee tumbled, devastating Rwanda’s main cash crop. Largely because of the reduction in the price of coffee the government’s budget dropped by 40 percent. When Rwanda went in search of international support, the IMF used the country’s weakness to push economic reforms at the same time as donors demanded political reforms. The Path of a Genocide: The Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire notes, “political adjustments were pushed on Rwanda at the same time that Canada required Rwanda to adopt a structural adjustment approach to its economy.” As in so many other places, structural adjustment brought social instability.
In the years leading to the mass killings, Canada began tying its aid to a “democratization” process, despite the country being under assault from a foreign-supported guerrilla group, the RPF. Ostensibly, because of human rights violations, Ottawa cut millions in aid to Rwanda.
The RPF benefited from the role Canada played in weakening the Habyarimana government. Ottawa also played a more direct part in Kagame’s rise to power. Taking direction from Washington, Canadian General (later Senator) Romeo Dallaire was the military commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, which was dispatched to oversee the Arusha Accords peace agreement. As I detail in this article, which the York professor presented as evidence of my “genocide denial”, Dallaire backed the RPF.
A widely celebrated Canadian also played an important part in covering up who downed the plane carrying both Rwandan Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, as well as the chief of staff of the Rwandan Defence Forces, another official responsible for the “maison militaire” of the Rwandan president as well as the chief of the military cabinet of the Rwandan president and two Burundian ministers. Canadian Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour, who left the bench to head the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, wasn’t interested in evidence suggesting the RPF was responsible for Habyarimana’s assassination. According to French government investigators and the National Post, she refused to investigate evidence implicating the RPF in shooting down Habyarimana’s airplane. In 1996 former ICTR investigator Michael Hourigan compiled evidence based on the testimony of three RPF informants who claimed “direct involvement in the 1994 fatal rocket attack upon the President’s aircraft” and “specifically implicated the direct involvement of [Kagame]” and other RPF members. But, when Hourigan delivered the evidence to her in early 1997, Arbour was “aggressive” and “hostile,” according to Hourigan. Despite initially supporting the investigation surrounding who shot down the plane, the ICTR’s chief prosecutor now advised Hourigan that the “investigation was at an end because in her view it was not in our [the ICTR’s] mandate.”
When the ICTR prosecutor who took over from Arbour, Carla del Ponte, began to investigate the RPF’s role in shooting down Habyarimana’s plane the British and Americans had her removed from her position. Del Ponte details her ordeal and the repression of the investigation in The Hunt: Me and the War Criminals.
A French magistrate, Jean-Louis Bruguière, who spent eight years investigating the death of the three French nationals operating the presidential jet, issued nine arrest warrants for high-ranking RPF officials (French law prohibits issuing an arrest warrant for a head of state, excluding Kagame from the investigation.) Bruguière concluded that Kagame rejected the August 1993 Arusha Accords and that he needed Habyarimana’s “physical elimination” for the RPF to take power. Bruguière’s detailed investigation on behalf of the French family members of the jet’s crew showed that “due to the numerical inferiority of the Tutsi electorate, the political balance of power did not allow [Kagame] to win elections on the basis of the political process set forth by the Arusha Agreements without the support of the opposition parties. … In Paul Kagame’s mind, the physical elimination of President Habyarimana became imperative as early as October 1993 as the sole way of achieving his political aims.”
A number of high-profile liberal Canadians have legitimated Kagame’ s dictatorship and repeated invasions of the Congo. It’s long past time Dallaire, Arbour and Caplan answer for their actions and apologetics.