Wallonia is not going to be pressured into agreeing the EU-Canada trade deal according to the leader of the French-speaking Belgian region Paul Magnette. The EU has given Belgium an ultimatum to end its objection to the agreement by Monday.
“Every time you try to put an ultimatum it makes a calm debate and a democratic debate impossible,” Magnette said at a meeting in Brussels.
“We don’t need an ultimatum,” he told reporters. “We will not decide anything under an ultimatum or under pressure.”
On Sunday the leader of the Wallonia region told the Belga news agency the ultimatum from the EU “is not compatible with the exercise of democratic rights.”
“We are not against a treaty with Canada,” Magnette said. “But we won’t have one that jeopardizes social and environmental standards and the protection of public services and we want absolutely no private arbitration mechanisms.”
Magnette was referring to an introduction of a secret corporate court system, empowering big business to sue states for policies that threaten their profits.
Belgium has been given until Monday to resolve an internal disagreement holding back the CETA trade deal with Canada. The pact needs the backing of all 28 EU countries to be passed. Belgium cannot sign without Walloon support.
The EU has warned that unless Belgium makes its position clear, it will cancel this week’s EU-Canada summit. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel is expected to make a speech on Monday, an EU source told Reuters.
Wallonia is a region of 3.6 million people, and has become an obstacle in the controversial free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada. The region has refused to approve the deal, fearing an influx of Canadian pork and beef products would undermine local farmers.
CETA promises to eliminate tariffs on 98 percent of goods traded between the EU and Canada. The agreement encompasses regulatory cooperation, shipping, sustainable development and access to government tenders.
Supporters of CETA say the deal will be worth $13 billion a year to the EU and $9 billion to Canada.
Opponents say the trade deal will violate workers’ rights and benefit the interests of the wealthy elite and corporations.
The EU has warned a failure to complete the agreement after seven years of negotiations will jeopardize the bloc’s trade policy.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has made good on a promise he made in August to steer relations with China toward mutual benefit and bilateral cooperation.
During his visit to Beijing on Thursday Duterte said that he was still committed to discussing the South China Sea territorial dispute in a bilateral fashion with his Chinese counterparts.
Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed the Philippine initiative and warmly shook hands with Duterte saying that both countries had emerged from a relationship of “winds and rains”.
As the first country to visit outside ASEAN since he took office in June the Philippine president is committed to continuously engaging China in a diplomatic dialogue rather than anger officials there.
Relations between the two countries recently took a downturn after the International Court of arbitration in The Hague ruled that China’s historic claims to most of the South China Sea were invalid.
China called the ruling a farce and at the time Xi said he would not accept any proposition or action based on the ruling issued unilaterally, and initiated by the former Philippine government.
Xi described the new turn in their ties as the springtime of our relationship.
In addition to discussing the South China Sea issue the two countries signed 13 agreements and deals worth more than $13 billion.
China also pledged financial support for infrastructure projects in the Philippines and said it would lift travel advisories for Chinese tourists visiting the islands.
Chinese media hailed the visit as a turning point and a welcome U-turn in the two countries’ ties.
For a country relatively remote from the world’s trouble spots, Australia throughout its short history since European settlement in the late Eighteenth Century has shown a remarkable capacity to involve itself in other people’s wars. With the possible exception of Japan in World War II none of these wars have posed a threat to Australia’s national security.
In the 1850s, Australia provided troops on behalf of the British in the Crimean War at a time when few Australians would have been able to locate Crimea on a map. Ironically, Tony Abbott as Prime Minister this decade was willing to commit troops to Ukraine, again over Crimea.
But Australian knowledge of historical and geopolitical realities in Crimea appeared no greater in 2014 than in the 1850s. The major difference was the infinitely greater threat to Australia’s national security if such a foolhardy plan had occurred in 2014 and Australian troops had found themselves confronting Russian forces.
Australian troops were also committed to the Boer War in South Africa, World Wars I and II, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, to name just the major conflicts. All of these involvements had two major characteristics in common: at no point (with the possible exception of Japan 1942-45) were Australia’s borders or national security threatened; and each involvement was at the behest of a foreign imperial power, often on entirely spurious grounds. The last four named conflicts above – Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria – had the added dimension of being contrary to international law.
A common justification advanced in support of these foreign adventures is that they constitute a form of insurance policy, with the deaths of tens of thousands of Australian servicemen and women being the premium that has to be paid. If we do not pay these premiums, the argument runs, the “policy” expires and our “great and powerful friends” – the United Kingdom and more recently the United States – will not come to our aid if and when we are, in turn, attacked.
It has never been clear just who these aggressors might be, despite endless manufactured potential foes, nor why Australia feels the need to base its foreign policy thus when scores of countries do not feel similarly threatened nor feel the need to pay such a price for their “security.”
The capacity to have an intelligent debate about whether or not there are other, and better, options, is severely hampered by a number of factors. One of the major factors is the concentration of ownership of the mainstream print media. The Murdoch empire controls 70 percent of the nation’s newspapers and is run by someone who is now an American citizen and no longer resides in Australia. The bulk of the balance is controlled by the Fairfax family who at least reside in Australia.
This concentration of ownership results in a degree of uniformity of opinion that Stalin would have recognized and appreciated. There is a greater diversity of media ownership and opinion in modern Russia than there is in Australia, yet the relentless message in the Australian media is that Russia is an authoritarian state where dissent from an all powerful Vladimir Putin is discouraged or worse. Such a view would be laughable if it were not so dangerous.
The Pervasive ‘Group Think’
Academia is little better. The universities and the so-called “think tanks” rely heavily on subsidies from their American equivalents, or from Australian government departments committed to the government’s policies. There is an obvious reluctance to criticize, for example, American foreign policy when such criticism endangers funding sources, promotions, and comfortable sabbaticals in the U.S.
A recent example of the intellectual drivel that this can lead to was found in the recent publication of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute entitled “Why Russia is a Threat to the International Order,” authored by Paul Dibb, a former spymaster. It was an ill-informed discussion all too typical of what passes for foreign policy analysis. Not only did it demonstrate a complete misunderstanding of Russian strategic policy, it wholly accepted and American-centered view of the world.
In Dibb’s world, the Americans only act from the best of intentions and for the benefit of the people unfortunate enough to to be the object of their attentions. Any analysis of the way U.S. foreign policy is actually practiced is air brushed from the reader’s attention. The treatment of Ukraine is instructive in this regard.
Dibb completely ignores the February 2014 American-organized and financed coup that removed the legitimate Yanukovich government from power. Dibb ignores the military agreement that provided for the stationing of Russian troops in Crimea; that Crimea had for centuries been part of Russia until Khrushchev “gifted” Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 (without consulting the Crimeans); the overwhelming support in two referenda to secede from Ukraine and apply to rejoin the Russian Federation; the discriminatory treatment of the largely Russian-speaking population of the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine; and the Kiev regime’s systematic violation of the Minsk Accords designed to find a peaceable solution to the Ukrainian conflict.
Instead, he writes that Russia’s “invasion” and “annexation” of Crimea and its attempt through military means to detach the Donbass region in the eastern part of Ukraine have to be seen as a fundamental challenge to the post-war sanctity of Europe’s borders. Such historical revisionism and detachment from reality is unfortunately not confined to Dibb. It is all too common in the Australian media in all its forms.
A selective view of the world, of which Dibb is but one example, extends to a sanitizing of the U.S.’s role in post-war history. The U.S. has bombed, invaded, undermined, overthrown the governments of, and destroyed more countries and killed more people in the process over the past 70 years than all other countries in the world combined. Its disregard for international law, all the while proclaiming the importance of a “rules based system,” is well documented.
A particularly egregious but far from unique example is the war in Syria in which Australia is also involved, even to the comical extent of admitting culpability in the “mistaken” bombing of Syrian government troops at Door Ez Zair.
That the bombing was not a mistake but rather, as several commentators have pointed out (although never in the Australian media), was much more likely to have been a deliberate sabotaging by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s Pentagon element of the American war machine of the Kerry-Lavrov negotiated partial ceasefire.
Syrian intelligence has reported intercepts of communications between the U.S. military and the jihadist terrorists immediately before the bombing in which their respective actions were coordinated. The bombing was followed by immediate terrorist attacks on Syrian army positions in the area and is highly unlikely to have been a coincidence.
Cozy with Terrorists
This is, of course, consistent with American policy in Syria from the outset. The U.S. government has sought to maintain a ludicrous distinction between “moderate” terrorists and the rest.
Before the Russian intervention at the end of September 2015, the U.S. managed to avoid actually stopping the Islamic State advance through large swathes of Syrian territory, and together with Washington’s Saudi and Qatari allies have trained, financed and armed the terrorists from the outset. All of which is part of a pattern of U.S. support for terrorists, as long as they support U.S. strategic goals.
No such analysis appears in the Australian mainstream media which maintains an unswerving allegiance to only one form of analysis. This dangerous group think and intolerance of dissent is exemplified in a recent article by Peter Hartcher, the senior political correspondent of the Fairfax media.
Hartcher described what he called “rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows” by which he meant opponents in Australia of a war with China. The “rats” were politicians “compromised by China’s embrace”; the “flies” are the “unwitting mouthpieces for the interests of the Chinese regime”; the mosquitoes were Australian business people “so captivated by their financial interests that they demand Australia assume a kowtow position”; the “sparrows” were Chinese students and Australia-Chinese associations that exist “specifically to spread China’s influence.”
In Hartcher’s view all four groups were “pests” that needed to be eradicated. To call this reversion to the worst elements of 1950s McCarthyism is probably to do the late junior Senator from Wisconsin a disservice.
Were it simply a case of ignorance it might be simply consigned to the scrap heap where it richly belongs. But it is representative of the same mindset that has led Australia into so many disastrous foreign policy misadventures that it cannot be ignored. Another reason it cannot be ignored is that it represents and affects a widely held view among Australian politicians.
The demonization of Russia in general and Vladimir Putin in particular is clearly evident in the reporting of the situation in Ukraine and Syria. The ignoring of history and the inversion of reality is the default position. Everything that Russia does is a manifestation of its “aggression.” Putin is commonly described as a “dictator” and the appalling Hillary Clinton even compared him with Hitler.
That there is not a shred of evidence to support the many wild allegations against President Putin does not prevent their regular repetition in the Western media.
Ignoring International Law
Similar blindness is evident with regard to the reporting on Syria. Australia is manifestly in breach of the United Nations Charter in its participation in the attacks upon the Syrian government and its forces. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s laughable defense of the presence of the Australian military in Syria, the central plank of which was specifically denied by the Iraqi government, was nonetheless accepted without question by the Australian mainstream media.
There is more preposterous posturing over the South China Sea. The much vaunted “freedom of navigation” demanded for shipping in the South China Sea (although no one can point to a single instance of civilian maritime traffic being hindered in any way) is a concept selectively applied. Just ask a Cuban, Palestinian or Yemeni if freedom of navigation is their recent or current experience of American policy.
Australia partakes annually in a U.S.-led naval exercise, Operation Talisman Sabre that rehearses the blockading of the Malacca Straits, a vital seaway for China that along with dozens of military bases (including in Australia), missile systems surrounding China, free trade agreements that pointedly exclude the world’s largest trading nation, and many other aspects designed to “contain” China, are not the activities of a peacefully oriented nation.
Australia not only participates in clearly provocative actions, but the 2015 Defense White Paper is clearly predicated on planning a war with China. Public statements by senior defense personnel, both civilian and military, reflect a militaristic mindset vis-a-vis China that can only be described as magical thinking given the military capacity of the Peoples Republic of China to obliterate Australia within 30 minutes of hostilities actually breaking out is only part of the problem.
That such thinking takes place in a context where China, the perceived enemy, is also the country’s largest trading partner by a significant margin and the source of much of Australia’s prosperity over the past 40 years reveals a strategic conundrum that the politicians have singularly failed to come to grips with. Worse, it is not even considered a matter worthy of sustained serious discussion.
By its conduct both in Syria and the South China Sea, Australia runs the risk of becoming involved in a full-scale shooting war with both Russia and China. Viewed objectively, there is little doubt that in any such conflagration Russia and China enjoy significant military advantages. Even that superiority is not to be entertained. Instead, Australia pursues the purchase of hugely expensive submarines and F-35 fighter planes the strategic and military value of which is at best dubious and more probably, useless.
What then is the benefit to Australia of constantly putting itself in a position where the best it could hope for would be collateral damage? No rational human being would advance on a course of action where the detriments so significantly outweigh the benefits, so why should a nation be any different?
With its crumbling infrastructure, endless wars that it regularly loses, a corrupt money-dominated political culture, technologically inferior weaponry and enormous burgeoning debt, the U.S. is hardly a model protector. To believe otherwise is simply delusional.
As the U.S.-based Russian blogger Dimitry Orlov has recently pointed out, Russia’s international conduct is governed by three basic principles: using military force as a reactive security measure; scrupulous adherence to international law; and seeing military action as being in the service of diplomacy. That clearly does not accord with the relentless misinformation Australians are constantly fed but to confuse propaganda with reality is a dangerous basis upon which to formulate foreign policy.
China is also choosing a radically different path in its international relations. The One Belt, One Road, or New Silk Road initiatives, associated as they are with a range of other developments, the significance of which most Australians barely grasp, has the capacity to transform the world’s financial, economic and geopolitical structures in a remarkably short time.
The choice for Australia is stark. Does it persist in aligning itself with what the late Malcolm Fraser accurately called a “dangerous ally”? Or does it recognize that the world upon which its comfortable and dangerous illusions are based is rapidly changing and adjust its alliances accordingly.
At the moment Australia has the luxury of choice, but it is an opportunity that will vanish very quickly. Unfortunately, the lesson of history is that Australia will again make the wrong choice.
James O’Neill is a former academic and has practiced as a barrister since 1984. He writes on geopolitical issues, with a special emphasis on international law and human rights. He may be contacted at email@example.com.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Beijing on Tuesday on a 4-day visit that Beijing calls ‘historic’. We are about to witness probably one of the most dramatic turnarounds in the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific since the Vietnam War ended. Philippines is the US’ oldest ally in Asia and Duterte is just inches away from dumping an accord that gives the US access to five military bases in the Philippines. The US’ rebalance strategy may never be the same again as long as Duterte, who took over on June 30, remains in power. (New York Times )
That Duterte chose China for his first visit outside the ASEAN region itself carries much symbolism. At least 200 members of the Philippine business elite are traveling with him, signalling the strong desire in Manila to form a new commercial alliance with China. Interestingly, one of the ideas mentioned is a deal with China to jointly explore energy sources in the South China Sea – to begin with in the uncontested areas closer to the Philippines known internationally as Reed Bank.
Manila sees this as an important confidence-building measure, with neither country making demands on the other on issues of sovereignty but placing accent on developing a more comfortable working relationship in ‘win-win’ spirit so that they can tiptoe toward discussing the more sensitive areas of the South China Sea in future in more agreeable setting. An equivalent, from the Indian perspective, might be to seek Chinese collaboration to develop our northeastern states lying adjacent to Arunachal Pradesh.
Ahead of Duterte’s arrival in Beijing, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said that the state visit would be a ‘success’. Wang said China ‘highly values’ the visit. China has refused to accept the ruling by the arbitration tribunal at The Hague in July on the South China Sea and Duterte, on his part, has downplayed it. The western analysts who predicted doomsday scenario have been proven wrong.
Beijing disclosed at a media briefing on Tuesday that it will expand trade links with the Philippines, encourage businesses to invest there, and strengthen bilateral infrastructure construction and human resources training. A Commerce Ministry spokesman said in Beijing that preparations are actively under way for announcements on bilateral economic and trade cooperation during the visit.
In an interesting remark, a scholar with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Dr Zhong Feiteng told The Beijing News that as a big country with a long history, China is increasingly viewing its neighboring areas as a whole. “Beijing should take a long view when dealing with Manila,” he said. “(It should) see the Philippines as an important node in its 21st-century Maritime Silk Road initiative, and build a new maritime order that connects the East and South China Seas.”
In overall terms, we may expect that China’s approach during this visit would be to defuse tensions with the Philippines by promising economic support. A litmus test of the extent to which China is prepared to show goodwill would probably lie in Beijing giving conditional access to Philippine fishermen to waters around the disputed Scarborough Shoal. Analysts do not rule [out] such a possibility happening during Duterte’s visit.
Nonetheless, China too may choose to progress slowly on the track of dialogue and cooperation with the Philippines. The fact of the matter is that the US still enjoys a far better image amongst the people in the Philippines. A recent survey showed that only 22 percent of the people reposed ‘trust’ in China, while the corresponding figure for the US stood at 76 percent. Then, there are the entrenched interest groups among the elites who are not impressed by Duterte’s apparent foreign-policy ‘tilt’ against the US.
What goes against the US at the present juncture is also that with only a few months left in office, the Obama administration is hardly in a position to invoke its powerful lobbies in the Manila elites (civilian and military) to launch a vigorous rearguard action to shore up the alliance with the Philippines from Duterte’s relentless onslaught. Indeed, that respite leaves with Duterte a free hand to keep pecking at the alliance with the US at random without caring about a backlash at least until the next presidency settles down in Washington. And, of course, he does have a way of saying things that many would consider as unsayable. (Guardian )
Having said that, the bottom line is Duterte happens to be the democratically-elected president of his country and his people adore him. His approval rating currently stands at an incredible level — 90 percent. Read a report on Duterte’s interview with Xinhua news agency, here.
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.
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.
Putin: Moscow to keep counter sanctions, Clinton chose aggressive stance on Russia to distract from domestic problems
Russian President Vladimir Putin attending BRICS summit in Goa, India © Mihail Metzel / Sputnik
While meeting the media in Goa, southwest India, the Russian president was asked to comment on hot issues such as the US elections, the situation in Ukraine and Syria, and his refusal to visit France, rather than Moscow’s relations with its BRICS partners.
Deteriorating Russia-US relations: ‘It all started from Yugoslavia’
Relations between Moscow and Washington did not deteriorate because of or during the Syrian conflict, Putin said in a remark to a journalist, adding: “Just remember what was going on about Yugoslavia, it all started from there.” The Russian leader said that it’s not about any third side in particular, but relations worsen because “one country” wants to impose its policy and decisions upon the rest of the world.
“We are not against this country, but we oppose that decisions are made on a unilateral basis and are not thought through considering historic, cultural and religious peculiarities of one country or another,” even if there is a conflict within the affected nation, Putin said.
‘Sanctions aim to suppress Russia’s strength’
The US does not accept compromises, which is necessary to solve issues in world politics. Rather, it chooses a “counterproductive” policy of sanctions, Putin said. “Apparently, they don’t want to compromise, they only want to dictate. Such a style has formed over the past 15-20 years in the US, and they still can’t deviate from it,” Putin said, adding that restrictive measures never achieve the aims that those who impose them hope for.
“Regarding sanctions against Russia, whatever they are said to be linked to, be it events in Ukraine or Syria, I assure you, the aims of those who formulate such a policy [of restrictions] do not solve any concrete problem,” Putin told the media. Saying that “sanctions are aimed not at solving anything, but at suppressing Russia’s strengthening” as a robust participant in international affairs, the president said that such intentions against Russia would never be fulfilled.
Moscow, in turn, does not plan to ease its retaliatory measures, caused by western policies, the Russian leader told the journalists in Goa. “No way, they can get lost,” he said.
‘US officials snoop and eavesdrop on everyone’
Russia’s president was not surprised with US Vice President Joe Biden’s recent threats towards Moscow, and said that it’s not the first time Russian-American relations have been “sacrificed” for the sake of a US presidential campaign. “One can expect anything from our American friends. What has he revealed that is new? Don’t we already know that US officials snoop and eavesdrop on everyone,” Putin said, adding that Washington “spends billions of dollars” on its secret services “spying not only on its potential opponents, but on its closest allies as well.”
Russia portrayed as US enemy to divert voters’ attention from domestic problems
Meanwhile, Russia is not going to meddle in the American presidential elections in any way, the president told reporters, adding that Moscow has no idea what could happen after a new US leader is elected. So far Hillary Clinton has chosen “an aggressive stance on Russia,” and Donald Trump has called for cooperation, “at least in fighting terrorism,” but “no one knows what it will be like after the elections,” according to Putin, who said that both candidates might change their rhetoric.
Creating an enemy out of Russia is a means by which to distract attention from domestic problems during election campaign season, according to Putin. “There are many problems [in the US], and in these circumstances, many choose to resort to the tried and tested system of diverting voters’ attention from their own problems. That’s what we are currently witnessing, I think.”
“Portraying Iran and the Iranian nuclear threat as an enemy didn’t work. [Portraying] Russia [as an enemy] seems more interesting. In my opinion, this particular card is now being actively played,” Putin said.
It will be hard to settle the conflict in southeastern Ukraine with President Poroshenko’s propensity to avoid political commitments adhering to the Minsk peace deal, Putin once again warned. Recently, the Ukrainian leader has said that Kiev would not proceed with a political process in the region, as the issue of security has not been solved in the troubled part of the country.
“I think it’s only a pretext to not do anything in the political sphere,” the Russian president said, recalling Kiev’s obligations to amend Ukraine’s constitution, as mentioned in the peace deal. “If it’s not done, it means that the current government are not ready to solve the problem once and for all,” Putin said.
Commenting on future meetings with European partners to discuss the situation in Ukraine, the Russian president said that he had agreed with his French and German counterparts that it would be “viable” to meet only if the leaders’ aides manage to make progress in preparing some preliminary agreements.
On canceled Paris visit: ‘French side refused to take part in joint events’
Moscow is “always ready to talk with anyone,” but attending meetings on issues that have been originally out of the agenda is “senseless,” Putin said, answering a journalist’s question as of why he canceled his Paris visit recently.
“The main reason for my planned visit to France was the opening of our religious and cultural center, and visiting an exhibition of Russian artists. So the main aim of the visit was joint participation [with the French president] in these events. But because of the known Syrian issues the French side decided not to join the events,” Putin said, adding that “if the main reason for the visit dropped out,” there was no reason to go.
The American election campaign never ceases to amaze in terms of twists.
So far (let’s face it) there is nothing new. But the problem for Clinton, the banks and Barney Frank is the refrain «Tarp Funds»; basically the 2008 financial crisis. The Bush administration, with a $700 billion maxi-loan (made up by citizens’ taxes), granted instant cash and saved the big banks from bankruptcy.
The infamous measure will be called TARP:
The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) is a United States government program to purchase toxic assets from financial institutions, and actions to strengthen the financial sector. It was signed by US President George W. Bush on October 3, 2008.
A small detail to keep in mind: the loan was funded with taxes paid by US citizens.
However, the banks were saved, speculation continued, and two years later, a decree that negatively changed the American financial system was passed, the infamous Dodd-Frank.
The words of the Wall Street Journal thoroughly explain how the financial giants and the big banking conglomerates have profited from this other law-saving bank:
«Dodd-Frank was allegedly written thinking of Wall Street, but has hit Main Street. The financial community institutions, which make up most of loans to small businesses, are overwhelmed by the complexity of the new law. Government figures indicate that the country is losing an average of a community bank or credit union each day.
Before Dodd-Frank, 75% of banks were offering a free account. Two years later, only 39% of bank still offer that free-of-charge savings account.
Due to the Dodd-Frank, the financial markets will have less ability to cope with shocks and are more likely to panic [and panic = speculation = profits for banks and financial institutions]. Many economists believe this could be the source of the next financial crisis».
Two further details if you have not already guessed the extent of these revelations. The Frank in question is Barney Frank, the guy mentioned several times in the the donations. Guess who Frank received the money from. Banks, of course! The same banks for whom Frank significantly increased their revenue thanks to the law with his name. What better way for JP Morgan, Goldman, Bank of America and company to show appreciation for their future gains than by raising tens of thousands of dollars for Frank and his party?
The revelations are likely to be a disaster for Clinton and the Democrats. The large banking corporations have funded them using money from the TARP fund. They have given the Democratic Party money collected from taxes and granted for a completely different purpose (namely, to deal with the failure of the financial giants).
These hidden financial mechanisms reveal the backstory behind the US electoral system. An elite made up of financiers, bankers and lobbies are the real stakeholders and decisive contributors in presidential elections. They fund all central and vital aspects of democratic and republican campaigns, becoming an indispensable support for any candidate. In return, politicians allow direct procurement and assign huge projects to large industries, or turn a blind eye in case of financial fraud. The consequences are clearly visible in America’s deterioration, increasingly grappling with corruption cases, postponed projects, a lagging behind, and a general feeling of backwardness in vital infrastructure.
In the military field, for example, large lobby groups of weapons manufacturers have created a procurement system that threatens to squander forever the tactical and strategic advantage obtained by the United States over the last 70 years. Programs such as the F-35 were delayed and costs surged stratospherically due to likely corruption and a lack of competition in the procurement process. Similarly, a perpetual race to produce more and more weapons systems that are in the end unnecessary and redundant, instead of exploring new pathways, has enriched US policymakers and made the military-industrial complex much wealthier, but in the process has served to reduce the gap between the US and her peer competitors.
This whole process is a vicious cycle that can easily be summarized in the following manner. Politicians often derive their strategies and tactics from the reasoning and the conversations that take place in US think-tanks, which are funded and supported by companies involved in such industries as pharmaceuticals, insurance, the military, and the cyber and space spheres. In the case of war involving weapons systems, for example, it is easy to understand why policymakers are being influenced by their contributors, who often suggest courses of action and strategies based on the need to spend huge amounts of money to acquire their new products, thereby enriching said lobbies and manufacturers in the process. This triangular system – lobby-thinktank-policy – is one of the founding pillars of current American war doctrine that is failing miserably.
In the same manner, the banking and financial system of Wall Street also contributes and enjoys the same privileges. The banks were bound to return the favor, in the form of millions of dollars of donations, to the political class that was responsible for saving them from the 2008 financial crisis stemming from wild speculation and accounting deceptions. Within a few months, billions of dollars were transferred for free into the accounts of the banking giants thanks to the TARP decree, effectively preventing a major bankruptcy. The consequences were so devastating that today we are experiencing a systemic and endemic crisis of the financial sector that is likely to completely overwhelm Western economies the next time a too-big-to-fail scenario arises.
Politicians continue to enact laws in favor of the banking giants, pocketing large sums of money for their election campaigns in the process. The attention is constantly drawn towards effectively increasing the gap between the top 0.1% and the remaining 99.9%, and the politicians are the key factor in this strategy. Laws adopted in recent years have created an environment where banks have become untouchable and beyond reach. It is a situation that is exactly the opposite of what should have happened after the 2008 crisis, with increased oversight and transparency in financial transactions.
The extent of the degeneration of this system has been revealed in recent days with the information released by Guccifer 2.0. Even though nothing should any longer be surprising given what has transpired over the last few years, one is still taken aback by revelations that the banking giants are financing the Clinton campaign directly with American taxpayers’ money. If we add to this the funds that were freely handed over by the government to save those same banking institutions from bankruptcy in 2008, we take another step further into the theater of the absurd.
Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy is part of a coalition with all of the companies and organizations that are signatories to this letter.
August 23, 2016
Mr. Daniel H. Schulman
President and CEO
2211 North First Street
San Jose, CA 95131
Dear Mr. Schulman,
We are writing to urge you to extend PayPal’s services to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza thereby removing a major limitation on the Palestinian technology sector, one of the only bright spots in the overall economy. More importantly, extending PayPal services would resolve the current discriminatory situation whereby PayPal’s payment portal can be accessed freely by Israeli settlers living illegally (per international humanitarian law) in the West Bank while it remains unavailable to the occupied Palestinian population.
PayPal’s absence is a major obstacle to the growth of Palestine’s tech sector and the overall economy. While other payment portals are available, there is no replacement for the trust and familiarity that PayPal inspires among potential users, particularly those that are unfamiliar with Palestine-based companies. Without access to PayPal, Palestinian entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and others face routine difficulties in receiving payments for business and charitable purposes. Moreover, PayPal’s absence is problematic for the overall Palestinian economy as tech is one of the only sectors with the potential to grow under status quo conditions of the Israeli occupation which severely restricts the internal and cross-border movement of goods and people. Indeed, by entering the Palestinian market, PayPal has the opportunity to make a significant contribution toward alleviating the destabilizing unemployment rates of over 25% in the West Bank and 40% in Gaza.
We have been told that PayPal is concerned about the compliance investments required to enter the Palestinian market. We believe such costs have been greatly overestimated. The U.S. Treasury Department has spent a great deal of time working with the Palestine Monetary Authority to strengthen safeguards against abuse. PayPal currently operates in over 203 countries including places with major problems of corruption and terrorism like Somalia and Yemen. We are confident that Palestine will prove a much easier place to profitably do business than these and other markets that PayPal has already entered.
In addition to business reasons, there are also ethical reasons for PayPal to enter the Palestinian market. PayPal’s decision to launch its service in Israel for Israeli bank customers means that it inadvertently made its services freely available to Jewish settlers living illegally in the occupied West Bank. Palestinians living in close proximity to those settlers do not, however, have access as PayPal doesn’t work with Palestinian banks and Palestinians are unable to establish Israeli bank accounts. We believe a company like PayPal, whose actions in North Carolina reaffirmed its commitment to equal rights, would agree that people living in the same neighborhood ought to have equal rights and access to its services regardless of religion or ethnicity.
We understand that entering a new market can be complex and would be more than happy to work with you, the Palestinian Monetary Authority, and any other necessary officials to pave the way for PayPal’s entry to the Palestinian market.
We very much look forward to hearing from you and working with you to ensure that Palestinian entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and others are free to participate in global commerce. Our point of contact in this matter is Ehsaneh Sadr, 408-306-2559, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gaza Sky Geeks
Partners for Sustainable Development
Applied Information Management (AIM)
National Beverage Company
Palestine Tourism and Investment Company
Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy
Bethlehem Business Incubator
Advanced Technologies for Business
Al Nasher Technical Services
Baskalet game studio
Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC)
Siniora Food Industries Company (Siniora)
Unipal General Trading Company (Unipal)
Medical Supplies and Services Company (MSS)
National Aluminum and Profiles Company (NAPCO)
Arab Palestinian Shopping Centers (BRAVO)
Palestine Automobile Company (PAC)
Sky Advertising, Public Relations, and Events Management Company (Sky)
Arab Leasing Company (ALC)
Arab Palestinian Storage and Cooling Company (APSC)
Content Tech Inc.
Fresh skepticism springs up about the fate of a deal which Boeing has signed to provide Iran Air with over 80 jetliners after the US aircraft maker says none will be delivered this year.
Since Boeing announced a tentative deal to sell jetliners to Iran in June, US lawmakers have been trying to block it. Under the agreement, Boeing must supply Iran some 80 passenger jets worth $25 billion at price lists.
On Tuesday, Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said while the two sides were making progress on the deal, no deliveries would take place this year.
“We won’t deliver any aircraft under that deal this year – these are deliveries that are a year, two, three downstream,” Muilenburg told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Chicago on future technologies.
Boeing’s deal is similar to another provisional agreement which Iran Air has signed with Airbus to get 118 jetliners from the European aircraft maker.
However, no formal contracts have been signed yet, meaning all of these deals could fail, given the volatile dynamics of the West’s relations with Iran.
Presidential election factor
The tentative deals have already hit a speed bump because major global banks are refusing to handle transactions with Iran for fear of running afoul of US sanctions on the country.
One major roadblock was lifted last month when the US government granted Airbus and Boeing permission to sell aircraft to the Islamic Republic.
Some Iranians, however, believe the US is most likely to put up new hurdles even if it does not scrap the deal entirely.
They are disheartened by what the next presidential elections in the United States might have in store for the patchy relations between Tehran and Washington. Both current US presidential candidates are expected to adopt a much stricter line than President Barack Obama toward Iran.
Another detracting factor which could scupper the deals is opposition from the US Congress.
The US House of Representatives has already passed a motion to block the Boeing deal, with further measures proposed in Congress to bar certain transactions by US financial institutions connected to the export of aircraft.
If the proposed bills to restrict the deal become law, they would also affect other companies’ sales to Iran, including those by Airbus.
Looking for new options
Last month, Iran indicated that it was cutting the Airbus deal by six aircraft and clipping the contract with Boeing by one jet.
Reports also have it that Iran Air has been cooling towards the purchase of 12 A380 superjumbos that were part of the provisional deal.
Iranian airlines, meanwhile, are looking for other options. They have approached smaller aircraft manufacturers which they believe are easier to deal with.
Tentative deals have been signed with France’s ATR and Brazil’s Embraer, while Japan’s Mitsubishi and China’s Comac have held talks with Iranian aviation companies.
Such developments have taken the shine off the deals with Airbus and Boeing – the biggest for Western aviation companies in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
However, neither of the two airline behemoths wants to lose one of the last untapped aviation markets in the world.
On Tuesday, Muilenberg described Iran “significant opportunity for us.”
“And I’m pleased to see that we’re making steady progress,” he said, adding Boeing was “in the final stages of working through the deal structure with our customers in Iran” while also working through the US government licensing process.