Fifty thousand refugees have arrived recently in Europe and many more are on the way. They include Palestinians reliving their original catastrophe — the Nakba of 1948 — as they search for shelter. Hundreds, even thousands, have lost their lives in the process.
Until 2011, nearly half a million Palestinian refugees lived in Syria. It was generally understood that they were living the most stable lives compared to their compatriots. Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian refugee camp outside of Palestine, was described as “the capital of the Palestinian Diaspora”, and it basically became a residential extension of Damascus before it was turned into a scene of ruin, death and hunger by the Syrian conflict.
The tragedy that hit Syria has dispelled all illusions, though, with the realisation that the Palestinian refugee communities are actually extremely fragile and very quickly pay the price for any turbulence and crises in the host countries. This has happened before in Lebanon, Kuwait and Iraq.
Compared to the masses of refugees now flocking to Europe, the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees fleeing from Syria has its own characteristics. This lies in the fact that they are forced to endure a new “exodus” and suffering as they seek a place of safety, even though their homeland is little more than an hour’s drive from their refugee camps. The Palestinian families must make the long, perilous journey across borders, coasts and mountains, meeting the outrageous demands of the greedy, criminal gangs of human traffickers in order to reach Europe.
However, Europe is so preoccupied by the refugee crisis that it does not care about the essence of the problem that created it. As far as the Palestinians coming from Syria are concerned, the issue is fairly clear, so why doesn’t the European Union work towards the most logical and practical solutions, such as returning them to their own land, at least temporarily? Why is such a discussion missing from Europe’s meetings held to figure out ways to contain the crises on its borders?
Over a third of a million Palestinians, many of whom are refugees driven from their homes and camps, live in Europe. We are witnessing new chapters in their suffering; these human beings whom the Israelis have forbidden from returning to their land from which they were expelled in 1948 and 1967. They are not even allowed to visit their country, in a clear violation of international laws and conventions.
Logic dictates that we empower the Palestinian refugees with their legitimate right to return to their land and homes, which are nearby. If not, they will continue to be forced to look for safe havens across continents after disaster-ridden journeys. There is no doubt that a huge part of the responsibility for this lies with Europe, which created the historical conditions that resulted in the tragedy of the Palestinian people in the first place.
EU officials talk about the importance of linking aid to Eastern European countries with their willingness to accept their share of refugees, and there are even those who call for linking negotiations about joining the European Union to the countries’ treatment of refugees. Isn’t such discourse also required with the “Israeli partner” which benefits from many European economic, educational and military privileges and treaties?
Why is Europe unable to even think about using its influence to put pressure on the Israeli government to activate the Palestinian right of return, which was endorsed by UN General Assembly Resolution 194? The Palestinians, many of whom still have the keys to their homes in occupied Palestine, have the right to live in their homeland. The routes to their cities, towns and villages are well-known to those who want to ask about them, and maps are readily available.
If the European Union and the international community do not address the core of this issue by reviving and implementing the legitimate Palestinian right of return, then thousands will continue to head for Europe and many will die along the way. Which of these two possibilities does the EU and the rest of the world prefer?
It is an astonishing fact that, despite near universal recognition now that the war in Iraq was a disaster, no major British social institution is headed by a single one of the majority of the population wo were opposed to the war.
Every Cabinet Minister actively supported the war. Of the fifteen Tory MPs who rebelled and voted against the war, not one is a minister. Civil servants officially have no politics but privately their opinions are known. There is not one single Permanent Under Secretary of a UK government department who was known to be against the war and most were enthusiasts. Simon Fraser, PUS at the FCO, was an active Blairite enthusiast for the war. Though no Blairite, the Head of MI6 Alex Younger was also an enthusiast.
The BBC was of course gutted following its revealing of the truth about Iraqi WMD, and the subsequent murder of David Kelly. Following the ousting of Greg Dyke, both Governors and Directors-Generals have been known supporters of the war. Of the 107 bureaucrats in the BBC who earn over 100,000 pounds pa, insiders estimate that only five were opponents of the war. Craig Oliver – who has now left the BBC for Cameron’s media operation – and James Purnell are absolutely typical of the BBC Iraqocracy.
Every current editor of a UK national newspaper supported the Iraq war. At the time of the war there was one editor opposed – Piers Morgan – who subsequently became a derided and marginalised figure. Not only are the editors firmly from the neo-con alliance, but the high profile commentators who cheered on the war – David Aaronovich, Nick Cohen, Melanie Phillips, John Rentoul, Rod Liddle etc. – have all seen their careers flourish. None has suffered from their appalling lack of judgement. There is no similar raft of commentators who were against the war who enjoy such constant media promotion and massive salaries. Many, like Peter Oborne, have suffered unexpected career glitches. There is no head of a major TV channel in the UK who was against the war in Iraq.
The theme runs through all the public professions. Of the hundreds of academics who took firm positions against the Iraq War, I cannot find a single example who went on to become a University Vice-Chancellor or Principal. By contrast actual war criminals Richard Dearlove and Valerie Amos were parachuted into academic leadership posts. The Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces were all true believers, compared to the massive scepticism that existed among senior officers.
The Iraq test even extends into the heads of institutions apparently quite unrelated, such as City of London banks and insurance companies. There are a tiny number of heads of FTSE 100 companies who were against the war.
It is not that there is an Iraq test. It is that Iraq is the touchstone for adherence to the neo-liberal consensus. All these professionally successful people share a number of attitudes, of which support for the Iraq War is a good indicator. There is a very strong correlation between support for the Iraq War and fierce Zionism. But there is also a strong correlation between support for the Iraq War and support for austerity economics. The strongest correlation of all lies in support for the Iraq War and for “business-friendly” tolerance of corporatism, TTIP, multinational tax avoidance, low taxation and marketization of public services including in education and health.
To return to where I started, the quite extraordinary thing is that there is a near-universal recognition in wider society that the Iraq War was both completely unjustified and a dreadful strategic blunder. Yet its support is a major pre-condition for membership of the governing elite.
The answer of course lies in its value as an indicator for a broad range of neo-liberal consensus attitudes. That is why both the SNP and Jeremy Corbyn provide such a threat to the Establishment, through denying those attitudes. The fascinating thing is that the SNP and the Labour Party could be the only public institutions in the UK of any note with an anti-Iraq War leadership. The significance is that, in slightly different ways, both the prominence of the SNP and of Jeremy Corbyn are the result of a public revolt which the Establishment has been trying, absolutely desperately, to cut off.
Ed Miliband did not actually vote against the Iraq War, contrary to popular myth. Having both the Labour and SNP parties led by people who reject the raft of values symbolised by the Iraq test, who have broken through the depleted uranium ceiling, is a massive, massive threat to the meritlessocracy. Institutional control appeared to be complete and impermeable. Suddenly they face the danger of the opinions of ordinary people carrying weight. Expect the media control mechanisms to whir into still greater overdrive.
Reprieve – September 1, 2015
A Yemeni family whose relatives were killed in a US drone strike have appealed to a German court to ensure that a US base in the country is not used for further attacks, which might endanger their lives.
In May 2014, a court in Cologne heard evidence from Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an environmental engineer from Sana’a, following revelations that Ramstein air base is used by the US to facilitate American drone strikes in Yemen. Mr Jaber is bringing the case against Germany – represented by international human rights organization Reprieve and its local partner the European Center for Human Rights (ECCHR) – for failing to stop the bases on its territory from being used for the attacks that have killed civilians.
Although the court ruled against Mr bin Ali Jaber in the May hearing, it gave him immediate permission to appeal the decision, while the judges agreed with his assertion that it is ‘plausible’ Ramstein air base is crucial in facilitating drone strikes in Yemen. Today’s appeal, filed at the Higher Administrative Court in Münster, asks the German government to end the country’s complicity in the extrajudicial killings.
Mr Jaber lost his brother-in-law Salim, a preacher, and his nephew Waleed, a local police officer, when a US strike hit the village of Khashamir on 29 August 2012. Salim often spoke out against extremism, and had used a sermon just days before he was killed to urge those present to reject Al Qaeda.
Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve said: “It is now clear that US bases on German territory, such as Ramstein, provide a crucial hub for the launching of drone strikes in countries like Yemen – leading to scores of civilians being killed. Faisal bin Ali Jaber and the countless other victims like him are right to call for an end to European countries’ complicity in these terrible attacks. The German courts have already signalled their serious concerns – now the government must be held accountable for allowing the use of German soil to carry out these killings.”
Andreas Schüller of the ECCHR said: “Drone strikes carried out outside of conflict zones are nothing but extrajudicial targeted killings – the implementation of death sentences without any trial. German authorities are under an obligation to protect individuals – including people living in Yemen – from suffering harm caused by breaches of international law involving Germany, but the exchange of diplomatic notes between the German and US government has to date proven to be wholly unsuitable. There needs to be a public debate on whether Germany is really doing enough to prevent violations of international law and the murder of innocent people.”
A US MQ-9 Reaper assassination drone
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who is seeking Democratic nomination for the 2016 US presidential election, says he will continue the Pentagon’s assassination drone program.
In an interview with ABC News on Sunday, Sanders said that he would limit the use of US terror drones, but said that he would not end the targeted killing campaign.
“I think we have to use drones very, very selectively and effectively. That has not always been the case,” Sanders said.
“What you can argue is that there are times and places where drone attacks have been effective,” he added.
“There are times and places where they have been absolutely counter-effective and have caused more problems than they have solved. When you kill innocent people, what the end result is that people in the region become anti-American who otherwise would not have been,” said the junior senator from Vermont.
Since 2001, the United States has been carrying out drone attacks in several countries, including Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia.
The aerial attacks were initiated by former US President George W. Bush but have been escalated under President Barack Obama.
Former US drone operator Brandon Bryant, who was involved in the killing of more than 1,600 people, revealed earlier this year that aerial strikes are conducted with complete uncertainty.
Bryant, who worked for almost five years in America’s secret drone program bombing targets in Afghanistan and other countries, such as Pakistan and Iraq, said operators lacked visibility and were not sure about the identity of the people they were shooting at.
“We see silhouette, shadows of people, and we kill those shadows,” he said.
Defied UN Resolutions 1970 and 1973
Since the start of the Canadian election campaign a series of posts have detailed the Harper Conservatives repeated abuse of power. The Tyee published “Harper, Serial Abuser of Power”, which listed “70 Harper government assaults on democracy and the law.” But the widely disseminated list omitted what may be the Conservatives’ most flagrant – and far-reaching –lawbreaking. In 2011 Ottawa defied UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1970 and 1973, which were passed amidst the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade rule in Libya.
In direct contravention of these legally binding resolutions, Canadian troops were on the ground in the North African country. On September 13, three weeks after Tripoli fell to the anti-Gaddafi National Transition Council, Canada’s state broadcaster reported: “CBC News has learned there are members of the Canadian Forces on the ground in Libya.”
A number of other media outlets reported that highly secretive Canadian special forces were fighting in Libya. On February 28, CTV.ca reported “that Canadian special forces are also on the ground in Libya” while Esprit du Corp editor Scott Taylor noted Canadian Special Operations Regiment’s flag colours in the Conservatives’ post-war celebration. But, any Canadian ‘boots on the ground’ in Libya violated UNSCR 1973, which explicitly excluded “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.”
The Conservative government also directly armed the rebels in contravention of international law. Waterloo-based Aeryon Scout Micro supplied the rebels with a three-pound, backpack-sized Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The director of field support for the company, Charles Barlow, traveled 18 hours on a rebel operated boat from Malta to the rebels training facility in Misrata. There, Barlow taught the rebels how to operate this Canadian-developed drone, which was used to gather intelligence on the front lines. In an interview after Gaddafi’s death, Barlow said: “I hope we did a little tiny part to help get rid of that man.”
According to various reports the drone was paid for out of Libyan government assets frozen in Canada. Aeryon CEO Dave Kroetsch said the company was “approached by the Canadian government.” But, in April 2011 Foreign Affairs officials advised then foreign minister Lawrence Cannon that providing military assistance to the Libyan rebels contravened UNSCR 1970. Based on documents uncovered through the Access to Information Act, Project Ploughshares reported: “A ‘Memorandum for Action’ signed by the Minister on April 11, noted that under the UN Security Council resolution that established the arms embargo against Libya, ‘Canada generally cannot permit the export of arms to Libya without the prior approval of the UN 1970 Sanctions Committee.’ The memo also stated that the arms embargo ‘encompasses any type of weapon … as well as technical assistance such as the provision of instruction, training or intelligence.’ It confirms that the UN arms embargo on Libya precluded the transfer of the Canadian surveillance drone to Libyan opposition forces.
However, the memo also provided an interpretive feint for Canada by which it could allow the drone to be exported. It noted that Security Council Resolution 1973 contains language that key partners the US, the UK and France interpreted as permitting provision of arms to Libyan opposition forces as part of ‘all necessary measures … to protect civilians.’ The memo was clear that this interpretation was not shared by many other states, including NATO allies Italy and Norway.”
The government failed to inform all departments about its interpretive feint. In early 2012 a Canadian Forces website plainly stated that UNSCR 1970 “called for an international arms embargo on Libya” and “[UNSCR] 1973 of 17 March, which strengthened the arms embargo.”
Montréal-based security firm Garda World also contravened international law. Sometime in the “summer of 2011”, according to its website, Garda began operating in the country. After the National Transition Council captured Tripoli (six weeks before Muammar Gaddafi was killed in Sirte on October 20, 2011) the rebels requested Garda’s assistance in bringing their forces “besieging the pro-Qaddafi stronghold of Sirte to hospitals in Misrata”, reported Bloomberg. [iv] UNSCR 1970 specifically mandated all UN member states “to prevent the provision of armed mercenary personnel” into Libya.
Resolution 1973 reinforced the arms embargo, mentioning “armed mercenary personnel” in three different contexts. In an article titled “Mercenaries in Libya: Ramifications of the Treatment of ‘Armed Mercenary Personnel’ under the Arms Embargo for Private Military Company Contractors”, Hin-Yan Liu points out that the Security Council’s “explicit use of the broader term ‘armed mercenary personnel’ is likely to include a significant category of contractors working for Private Military Companies (PMCs).”1
Canadian officials probably introduced the rebels to Garda, the world’s largest privately held security firm. In fact, Ottawa may have paid Garda to help the rebels. As mentioned, the federal government used some of the $2.2 billion it froze in Libyan assets in Canada to pay Aeryon Scout to equip and train the rebels with a UAV.
After Gaddafi was killed the Conservatives spent $850,000 on a nationally televised war celebration for the troops that fought in Libya. Harper called it “a day of honour… Soldier for soldier, sailor for sailor, airman for airman, the Canadian Armed Forces are the best in the world.”
But don’t expect the Prime Minister to discuss Libya during the election. “Since Colonel Gaddafi’s death in Sirte in October 2011,” the BBC reported recently, “Libya has descended into chaos, with various militias fighting for power.” ISIS has taken control of parts of the country while a government in Tripoli and another in Benghazi claim national authority
The Conservatives’ violation of international law delivered a terrible blow to Libya. If international affairs weren’t largely defined by the ‘might makes right’ principle, Harper would find himself in the dock.
- Hin-Yan Liu, Mercenaries in Libya: Ramifications of the Treatment of ‘Armed Mercenary Personnel’ under the Arms Embargo for Private Military Company Contractors, Journal of Conﬂict & Security Law, Vol 16, No 2, 2011
Yves Engler is the author of The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s foreign policy. His Canada in Africa — 300 years of Aid and Exploitation will be published in September and he will be speaking across the country in the lead up to the election.
In the latest atrocity in Yemen, Saudi warplanes bombed a residential area, killing at least 65 people. Most of the victims are reported to be civilians from the Salah district of Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city.
The apparent war crime committed has tragically become an almost daily occurrence during five months of relentless aerial bombardment of Yemen by a Western-backed coalition of foreign powers.
In recent days, there were similar air strikes on civilian centers in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida and the northern province of Saada. In the Hodeida strike, which killed several dock workers, the British charity Save the Children said it believed the attack was a deliberate bid by the Saudis to sabotage aid supplies to the civilian population.
Surely, this should be front page news, with CNN, the BBC and France 24, among other big Western media outlets, splashing it as their top story. The onus is on them because their governments are implicated in grave crimes. However, there has been no news coverage of the tragic events. Aside from some brief, vague reports of a generalized humanitarian crisis, there has been a wall of silence as to how the Western-backed Saudi-led coalition is pulverizing Yemeni civilians and creating the crisis. That suggests a deliberate blackout by Western media.
To date, the death toll in the country has reached near 4,500, according to the World Health Organization. This week, the United Nations put the total number of children who have been killed at 400. Yemeni sources say the civilian casualties are much higher, but can’t verify because of the widespread mayhem.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Food Program say the country is on the brink of cataclysmic famine, with over 50 percent of the 24 million population at immediate risk.
Yemen was already the Arab region’s poorest country even before the US-backed and Saudi-led military coalition began bombing on March 26. In just five months, the country is crumbling into a “Syria-level crisis,” according to the ICRC.
What’s happening in Yemen cannot be described as anything less than “foreign aggression” on a sovereign country, where civilians are being slaughtered by American-supplied “precision bombs” and F-16 fighter jets. The systematic starvation of people by denying them food, water and medical aid as a result of an air and sea blockade on the country adds to the barbarity. This is genocide by any legal definition of the word.
Despite the horror and complicity of Western governments in that horror, the Western news media avoid providing informative reports on the carnage in Yemen. When the media do give occasional brief reports, they routinely distort the nature of the violence as if it is being perpetrated by two warring sides: on the one hand, “Saudi coalition forces”; and on the other, “Iranian-backed Houthi rebels”.
Let’s quickly dispense with that self-serving distortion. The Houthi rebels are not Iranian-backed. How could they be when Yemen is blockaded by Saudi and American forces? The Houthis are in alliance with the Yemeni national army and other rebel groups, called Popular Committees. Earlier this year, the revolutionary front kicked out the US and Saudi-backed puppet-president Abded Rabbo Mansour Hadi, taking over much of the country’s territory, including the capital Sana’a.
That is why the Saudis and their Persian Gulf Arab dictator cronies, plus the Egyptian dictatorship of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, joined forces to bomb Yemen. They claim to be defending the “legitimate government of Yemen” represented by Hadi and his corrupt clique who are exiled in the Saudi capital Riyadh. No doubt the region’s dictatorships fear the spread of revolutionary contagion, as do the Western patrons of these despotic regimes.
Washington, along with Britain and France, is supporting the Saudi-led bombing coalition, not just politically and diplomatically, but with the supply of warplanes, missiles and logistics. The US has set up a fusion center in Saudi Arabia for the purpose of coordinating the Arab-piloted F-16s.
Germany is also implicated as, according to Der Spiegel, it is the fourth biggest arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, after France, Britain and Italy.
On the ground in Yemen, there are remnant supporters of the deposed Hadi regime. Clashes between these loyalists and the revolutionary forces have indeed contributed to the civilian death toll. But, again, Western media attempts at portraying the conflict as some kind of civil war are grossly misleading.
Among the pro-Hadi forces are troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Several Saudi and Emirati soldiers have been confirmed killed in recent battles in the southern areas around the port city of Aden, as well as in fire fights across Yemen’s northern border with Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition has expanded its involvement in the ground war over the past month with the arrival of artillery and armored vehicles and up to 3,000 Saudi and UAE troops, according to the Financial Times.
Also among the pro-Hadi forces are Jihadist mercenaries from across the region that have been trafficked into Yemen by the Saudis, according to Yemeni civilian and military sources. This is the same strategy that the Saudis and the Persian Gulf Arab regimes have been using in Syria over the past four years to overthrow the Assad government, along with covert support from Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Western governments.
Western media have, of course, given copious coverage of the Syrian war, with false narratives about “moderate rebels” fighting against a “despotic regime”. Syria gets covered because Washington, London and Paris want to implement regime change there for strategic reasons to do with undermining Assad’s allies in Russia and Iran. Whereas in Yemen “regime re-installation” of a corrupt exiled clique doesn’t quite have the same story appeal. Therefore, the Western media just ignore Yemen.
The jihadists fighting in Yemen are linked to the Sunni extremists of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State network, specializing in suicide bomb attacks on mosques frequented by the Shia Houthis.
Washington and its Western allies are thus heavily involved in an illegal war of aggression against Yemen, prosecuted by Saudi Arabia and other Arab dictatorships working in collusion with Islamist terror networks. Adding “efficacy” to this state-sponsored terrorism is the humanitarian siege imposed on the population.
What is happening in Yemen is truly a heinous crime against humanity committed by Western governments. It is an unspeakable crime. And that is why the Western media will not dare talk about it. The Western media are obliged to ignore, obfuscate and distort the shocking truth of what their governments are committing in Yemen.
This makes the Western media just as complicit in the appalling criminality.
ISRAEL’S OPERATION Protective Edge has killed almost 2,000 people in Gaza, the vast majority of them civilians, and laid waste to schools, hospitals, mosques and factories.
The savagery of the slaughter was met by growing international opposition to Israel and solidarity with Palestine. Even in the U.S., recent opinion polls showed a growing minority of Americans, including Jews, rejecting Israel’s war on Gaza. That minority includes a strong majority of people aged 18 to 29.
This global shift in opinion has been underway for some years. People are being swayed to support Palestine by Israel’s apartheid-like behavior: building an illegal separation wall in the West Bank, turning Gaza into an open-air concentration camp and conducting regular military assaults on the occupied territories.
Thanks to the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign–called for by Palestinians and mobilized by solidarity activists around the world–more and more people understand the reality that Israel is an apartheid state, and the cause of Palestinian liberation is simple justice.
But one political institution in the U.S. has stood completely unswayed by this evolving consciousness of the oppression of the Palestinians by Israel, with the support of its main international sponsor, the U.S. government.
That institution is the Democratic Party–including its liberal wing. Like their counterparts in the two-party U.S. political system, the Republicans, the Democrats never hesitated during the massacres in Gaza to reaffirm their unwavering support for Israel’s colonial project…
…The behavior of liberal Democrats during Operation Protective Edge has proved the rule. The darlings of progressive activists, from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (a nominal independent who campaigns for Democrats and caucuses with them in the Senate), have made their commitment to Zionism clear. In the Senate vote on the pro-Israel resolution, none of the liberal stalwarts like Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken, Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders, made a peep in opposition. The same was true in the House.
Warren’s position shocked her progressive supporters, who either had ignored or didn’t know about her support of Israel. Despite her Native American roots, she sides not with Palestine’s indigenous population, but with Israeli colonization. On her Senate campaign website, for example, she said:
As a United States Senator, I will work to ensure Israel’s security and success. I believe Israel must maintain a qualitative military edge and defensible borders. The United States must continue to ensure that Israel can defend itself from terrorist organizations and hostile states, including Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others.
The Democrats’ other new liberal lion, Bill de Blasio, outdoes Warren in Zionist proclamations. During his election campaign, De Blasio promised, “City Hall will always be open to AIPAC.” In a radio interview, he boasted that he opposed the “very, very wrongheaded movement to boycott, and disinvest from Israel. I’ve led the charge against that, whether you’re talking about the Park Slope Food Co-op or at Brooklyn College, I’ve stood against that divestment movement.” During the current war on Gaza, he announced, “I consider it my responsibility to stand up for Israel.”
Just as disappointing has been the traditionally progressive Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report reported on how CBC members in the House and Senate betrayed Palestine in AIPAC-backed resolutions. As Dixon wrote:
Not a single member of the CBC, despite their much heralded brand of standing for civil rights and against apartheid here and around the world, bothered to publicly question the racist ethnocracy that is the Israeli state. After signing the blank check with the rest of their colleagues, CBC members Conyers (MI), Lee (CA), Johnson (GA) and Ellison (MN) tried to cover their shame with a letter to Secretary of State Kerry urging a cease-fire, something which Kerry claims to have been doing anyway.
The self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders has done little better. As left-wing Vermont writer Ron Jacobs noted, Senator Sanders has voted for “grants and loans to Israel, even after Israel bombed Gaza, attacked the Mavi Marmara and supported illegal settlements in the West Bank.” When asked by reporters for his view of the current war on Gaza, Sanders evaded the question, stating, “That’s not where my mind is right now.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –http://socialistworker.org/2014/08/13/liberal-champions-of-apartheid
Despite his own claims, Sanders has not been an antiwar leader. Ever since he won election to the House, he has taken either equivocal positions on U.S. wars or outright supported them. His hawkish positions — especially his decision to support Bill Clinton’s 1999 Kosovo War — drove one of his key advisers, Jeremy Brecher, to resign from his staff. Brecher wrote in his resignation letter, “Is there a moral limit to the military violence you are willing to participate in or support?”
So outraged were peace activists over Sanders’ support of the Kosovo War that they occupied his office in 1999. Sanders had them arrested. Under the Bush regime, Sanders’ militarism has only grown worse. While he called for alternative approaches to the war on Afghanistan, he failed to join the sole Democrat, Barbara Lee, to vote against Congress’ resolution that gave George Bush a blank check to launch war on any country he deemed connected to the September 11 attacks.
Ever since, he has voted for appropriations bills to fund the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, despite their horrific toll on the occupied peoples as well as U.S. soldiers.
Sanders has been critical of the war on Iraq, but he has supported pro-war measures — such as a March 21, 2003, resolution stating, “Congress expresses the unequivocal support and appreciation of the nation to the President as Commander-in-Chief for his firm leadership and decisive action in the conduct of military operations in Iraq as part of the ongoing Global War on Terrorism.” … Full article
It is often said that if it can be imagined, it will inevitably be done. And such a sentiment could not be any truer in terms of applying genetic engineering and synthetic biology to the genomes of our planet’s organisms including humans themselves.
While the process of synthesizing and arranging genetic code has many processes, perhaps none has been as promising as the CRISPR-Cas system. From laboratory experiments to emerging software used to create code genetically almost as easily as code for a computer, gene editing has never been easier, opening the door to never-before-possible applications.
Perhaps no technology yet has been poised to change the world so profoundly. All life on Earth, every living organism, now stands the possibility of potentially being “edited” on the most basic genetic level, enhancing or degrading it, but forever changing it.
Gene editing or “gene therapy” performed on children or adults changes the genetic makeup of targeted cells after which and upon dividing, impart this new genetic material on each subsequent new cell. This is why treatments for diseases using gene therapy often are successful with only a single shot. The “treatment” self-replicates perpetually within the patient’s body. Everything from leukemia to congenial genetic defects have been overcome in clinical trials using this method.
As far as science knows, these changes cannot be passed onto the offspring of patients. However, changing the genetic makeup of a human at their earliest stages of development can be passed on, spreading genetic changes made in labs onto the greater population.
The Biggest Threats: The Jab and Slow Kill
Talk of gene editing usually revolves around its use to treat diseases and produce super-crops and livestock to “save the world.” But as history has shown us, any technology is but a double edged sword. Whatever good it is capable of, it is proportionally capable of just as much bad.
The first and foremost danger of human gene editing in particular is its use in weaponized vaccines. Such fears are founded upon what was revealed by the United Nations during the apartheid government in South Africa where a government program named “Project Coast” actually endeavored to produce vaccines that were race-specific in hopes of sterilizing or killing off its black population.
The United Nations in a report titled Project Coast: Apartheid’s Chemical and Biological Warfare Programme would admit:
One example of this interaction involved anti-fertility work. According to documents from RRL [Roodeplaat Research Laboratories], the facility had a number of registered projects aimed at developing an anti-fertility vaccine. This was a personal project of the first managing director of RRL, Dr Daniel Goosen. Goosen, who had done research into embryo transplants, told the TRC that he and Basson had discussed the possibility of developing an anti-fertility vaccine which could be selectively administered—without the knowledge of the recipient. The intention, he said, was to administer it to black South African women without their knowledge.
At the time, the technology to accomplish such a feat never materialized. Now it has.
Another danger is “slow kill.” This would be the process of using gene editing to affect individuals directly or through a genetically modified food supply subtly, infecting or killing off targeted demographic groups over a longer period of time. The advantage of this method would be the ambiguity surrounding what was causing upticks in “cancer” and other maladies brought on by degraded immune systems and overall health.
And while some might be tempted to claim the dangers of this technology being used against populations remains solely in the realm of “Nazi eugenicists” and racist South African regimes, the truth of the matter is even Washington has penned policy papers advocating weapons deployed amid the “world of microbes.”
Mentioned in the US Neo-Conservative Project for a New American Century’s (PNAC) 2000 report titled Rebuilding America’s Defenses it stated:
The proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles and long-range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will make it much easier to project military power around the globe. Munitions themselves will become increasingly accurate, while new methods of attack – electronic, “non-lethal,” biological – will be more widely available. (p.71 of .pdf)
Although it may take several decade for the process of transformation to unfold, in time, the art of warfare on air, land, and sea will be vastly different than it is today, and “combat” likely will take place in new dimensions: in space, “cyber-space,” and perhaps the world of microbes. (p.72 of .pdf)
And advanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool. (p.72 of .pdf)
Biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes is precisely what is now possible in the advent of improved gene editing. While many may suspect profit alone drives large pharmaceutical corporations to push vaccines on the global population, in reality, what it may also represent is an attempt by these very conspirators to create a well established globalized medium through which to administer their targeted bioweapons, yet another reason why the matter of human healthcare and biotechnology (and specifically vaccines) is a matter of not just business, but of national security as well.
Overwriting the Planet’s Genetic Heritage
Recently, Chinese scientists have crossed what many Western commentators, scientists and others have claimed is an “ethical line” by applying gene editing to human embryos. Critics have condemned the move specifically because any human “edited” while at their embryonic stage would likely transfer those genetic changes to any offspring they had upon becoming an adult.
Yet many of these critics have been vocal advocates for precisely the same use of biotech, though not for humans, but rather for our food supply. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), particularly modified crops transfer their artificially altered genetic code to its next generation. Cross pollination has repeatedly contaminated the fields of farmers not using GMOs, creating an expanding controversy and multiple lawsuits and legal reviews.
In reality, all genetic editing, especially when it alters the genetic material of subsequent generations, represents a potential threat to the genetic heritage of the entire planet with potential consequences we may still not fully understand. In a world where the “science is final” regarding humanity’s impact on the planet’s climate, demanding “urgent action” to stop or reverse it, the absence of a similar impetus behind stopping the contamination of our planet’s genetic heritage seems suspiciously hypocritical if not utterly reckless and even intentional.
Of course, gene editing will be done, with or without the approval of governments and the people they govern. However, measures should be developed and put in place to preserve the natural genetic heritage of the planet, and such measures should be decentralized as much as possible.
The James Bond-esque “Svalbard Global Seed Vault” in the frigid climate of Norway represents a sort of “backup” for many of the planet’s horticultural species, but is controlled by the very interests intentionally destroying the planet’s genomes. It represents essentially a criminal gang preparing to sink the ship, but only after securing for themselves the only lifeboat available.
More lifeboats must be made available and it will require the understanding of policymakers of this emerging technology and the threats it presents, along with national and local policies to hedge against these threats.
The West Trapped in its Own Hypocrisy
Ironically, the West’s own hypocrisy has tied its hands in condemning China’s moves to recklessly alter the human genomes of embryos. Not only is the West’s attitude toward GMOs in general now hurting their case against China, the prevailing attitude in the West that embryos are not even “human” is also critically hypocritical, regardless of how irrational, unscientific and unqualified (however very politically convenient) such an attitude is.
To the West, unborn children are virtually “garbage” to be thrown away on a whim. So the Chinese might be forgiven for thinking it is perfectly ok to experiment recklessly upon them. In reality a human being’s unique genetic code and the metabolic cellular activity that constitutes the beginning of its life… both of which perpetuate themselves uninterrupted until birth and continues on until death, natural or otherwise … begins at conception. As such, experimenting on a human embryo may not superficially “feel” or “look” like human experimentation, but scientifically it is.
The West is quite right about condemning China for its experimentation on human embryos, however its confused self-serving hypocrisy has made this condemnation incoherent and unfortunately irrelevant.
Regardless, those nations still adhering to a sense of both objective science and humanity can and must set a precedent based on the above described realities. They must recognize the threats and abuses this technology poses equally with its benefits. They must educate their populations to understand the difference between the two, and the importance of developing a national biotechnology initiative as a matter of both national security and progress. But above all, they must understand that biotechnology represents the next big revolution, after information technology, and begin building the necessary infrastructure to support it.
Without doing so, nations will find themselves ill-prepared to either capitalize on its benefits or defend against its many and incredibly dangerous abuses.
Weaponization, accidents and even the prospect of globalized corporations finding, then making inaccessible the cures to diseases and conditions affecting millions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease are all threats we now face, whether we would like to admit it or not. One point the West correctly made upon its hand wringing over China’s most recent and reckless leap forward, was that the matter of biotechnology’s profound impact on the human genome and the genetic heritage of the entire planet is no longer the subject of a “future” scenario. It is a matter of present concern.
Kiev has been deploying anti-personnel mines in Donbass in breach of Ukraine’s own laws as well as international treaties, claims a former high-ranking Ukrainian officer and chief of the engineering service, who refused to obey the “illegal” and “inhumane” order.
In February 2014 Vadim Yatsulyak served as chief of the engineering service of the Interior Ministry of Ukraine, before being appointed as a commander of the Army Corps of Engineers of the National Guard. According to him, one of the first orders he was given in his new role was to receive a supply of anti-personnel mines from military warehouses, that would be later deployed throughout the territory of the so-called “anti-terrorist operation” to reinforce Ukrainian army positions.
“I was given, to put it mildly, inhumane or in legal terms unlawful orders by my superiors,” Yatsulyak told Russian tabloid Komsomolskya Pravda (KP) daily. “The deployment of anti-personnel mines in particular.”
Yatsulyak explained he was basically told by phone to accept the delivery of OZM-72 and MON-50 munitions and sign for it, while superiors would “stay aside assuming no responsibility.”
Refusing to implement the order, he notified his superiors, going as far as sending letters to the Minister of Defence, Ukraine’s parliament, and even the president, but “never received a single reply” to more than 85 complaints which he had sent to various ministries and officials. Eventually Yatsulyak was sacked as “unfit” for the position, and later left the country.
Even though he was never ordered to actually install anti-personnel mines, Yatsulyak speculates that Kiev eventually circumvented the law to deploy them, given the number of reports of deadly mine explosions in Donbass.
An order for the transition of “engineering munitions” such as mines between the Ministry of Defense and the National Guard would be coming “very high level,” and if properly documented would leave a trail of paperwork, Yatsulyak says. But he does not rule out that the papers could have been destroyed to cover the tracks of the perpetrators.
OZM-72 are Soviet manufactured bounding mine type anti-personnel mines, that according to now retired colonel, “jumps to a height of one meter and strikes manpower within a radius of 25-30 meters.” These mines can be activated by a number of fuses, but they are most commonly fitted with a booby trap switch which is activated by a tripwire.
The MON-50 is a directional type of anti-personnel mine that is deployed to wound or kill by explosive fragmentation. It is mounted above ground level on the surface or in trees to give the greatest dispersion of fragments and impact radius.
Both mines are illegal under the international Ottawa Treaty, as they can be indiscriminately activated potentially by non-combatants.
Ukraine signed the so-called Mine Ban Treaty in 1999 and ratified it in 2005. Kiev’s deadline to destroy anti-personnel mines stockpiles passed on 1 June 2010, but as of 2015 over 5 million anti-personnel mines remained in its warehouses.
In its technical briefing note released in April this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW), reviewed the types of landmines documented in the Ukraine conflict since early 2014, specifically focusing on antipersonnel mines.
“While it is clear that antipersonnel mines were used on a limited and localized scale, it is not possible at this time to concretely determine the responsibility of any party for using antipersonnel mines,” HRW concluded.
But as reports of their use in Donbass region keep surfacing, experts interviewed by RT seem to agree that anti-personnel mines could have easily been deployed by Kiev’s forces.
Yatsulyak’s allegations are “plausible” professor of politics at the University of Rhode Island, Nikolai Petro, told RT. “There have been prior suggestions by international organizations that watch over the placement of such mines, that they are being used in this conflict, so it is certainly possible.”
Although the Ottawa Treaty does offer “an exception” for the use of these weapons in the “state of war” and “specific combat situations,” Petro pointed out this is not the case, because “this is essentially a civil war, internal battle.”
Even Kiev itself keeps referring to its military operations in the east of the country as an “anti-terrorist operation,” which according to the country’s own laws must performed by anti-terrorist units of the Interior Ministry without the participation of the army.
Implementing illegal munitions, Petro says, would suggest that Kiev is not planning to “exert control over that area” and expects it to fall into “enemy hands.” Such a plan to “give up” on the region would certainly raise a debate in Ukraine, but Petro does not expect the official reaction to go beyond assurances that “the matter is under investigation.”
Indeed, the Ukraine National Guard press service told RT that “as of yet [they] can neither confirm, nor deny this information,” adding that they first “need to check the documents issued at that time.”
Sir John Chilcot fears a legal onslaught from those who are sharply criticized in his Iraq War Inquiry report and is refusing to be pressured into setting a concrete deadline for its release, a source familiar with the inquiry says.
Chilcot has refused to issue a precise timetable for publishing the report until all those whose actions are examined in its pages are given an opportunity to respond.
In the face of increasing pressure from Downing Street, reports surfaced on Thursday that the ex-civil servant and his panel considered resigning following what they perceive as unjust criticism.
However, a spokesperson for the panel later insisted resignations are not on the table.
Chilcot’s report, which is believed to total more than a million words, was initiated in 2009 and last took evidence in 2011.
The Privy Councilor, who headed the inquiry into Britain’s role in the Iraq War, had previously hinted delays were due to the ‘Maxwellization’ process, which offers those criticized an opportunity to respond to allegations levelled against them. He has been sharply criticized for failing to follow the example of other inquiry chiefs by issuing firm deadlines.
Senior legal figures say Chilcot could potentially sanction parties who are delaying the report’s release by threatening to reveal their identities in the final draft. But the inquiry chief stated in July he did not believe anyone had “taken an unreasonable length of time to respond.”
The head of Britain’s armed forces is expected to be among those criticized in Chilcot’s report over his conduct during the Iraq War.
General Sir Nicholas Houghton, who serves as Prime Minister David Cameron’s top military adviser, is among a slew of senior commanders to face criticism in the report.
Labour leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn says he will publicly apologize for the Iraq War on behalf of the party if he becomes leader in September.
Corbyn confirmed to the Guardian on Friday that he would apologize to Britons for Labour’s “deception” in the run-up to the 2003 invasion. He also pledged to apologize to Iraqis for the suffering they in incurred in the 8-year war that followed.
Observers say such an apology would be a watershed moment for Labour, and would mark a significant departure from its foreign policy trajectory in recent years.
Chilcot was publicly criticized by retired High Court judge Baroness Butler-Sloss on Tuesday over the extensive delay to the publication of his report.
Butler-Sloss said she was frustrated the report had not been published while bereaved families await answers as to why Britain went to war.
Her intervention came a day after Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper said Britain must not pursue further military action against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) until Chilcot’s report is published.
Families of British troops killed during the Iraq war have launched a legal battle to force Chilcot to publish the findings. The relatives of deceased servicemen say the delay is “morally reprehensible.”
Draft reports of the inquiry’s findings rattled the British establishment in December, with senior Whitehall officials battling to sanitize its conclusions. Excerpts from the report, some of which are hundreds of pages long, were sent to those whose conduct during the conflict is under scrutiny.
One well-informed source told the Times the report’s findings are far more scathing than expected, and had sparked a legal firestorm.
Analysts also warned in 2014 that the omission of potentially crucial correspondence between former Prime Minister Tony Blair and ex-US President George W. Bush raised questions over the Chilcot inquiry’s legitimacy. They expressed specific concern over a culture of secrecy in Britain’s defense and security service establishment.
Senior figures central to the Chilcot inquiry, including Blair, are expected have their legal fees paid by British taxpayers. Expert analysis suggests the cost of the inquiry could surpass £11 million (US$17.25 million).
While four out of five Yemenis require humanitarian assistance amid the airstrikes and ground fighting in the country, UN agencies have still not received the funding from Saudi Arabia of $274 million pledged in April, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien told the Security Council Wednesday.
O’Brien noted the humanitarian assistance alone cannot meet all the needs of an entire country with a population of 26 million people, and that the response plan will only be funded at 33 percent even once the funds from Saudi Arabia are received.
“The civilian population is bearing the brunt of the conflict. A shocking four of out five Yemenis require humanitarian assistance and nearly 1.5 million people are internally displaced… To date only 18 percent, some 282 million US dollars, of the $1.6 billion requested through the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan has been received. UN agencies have still not received the funding from Saudi Arabia of $274 million pledged in April,” O’Brien said in an open briefing.
Yemen has been engulfed in the military conflict between Houthis, the country’s main opposition faction, and government forces loyal to its president in exile.
A coalition of Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, has been launching airstrikes on Yemeni areas under control of the Houthi militants since March under the request of the country’s president-in-exile.
The ongoing hostilities in Yemen have claimed the lives of at least 1,900 civilians and more than 4,000 have suffered injuries, according to the United Nations.
Some 21 million are in urgent need of humanitarian aid.
One of the more extraordinary aspects of the Ukraine war has been the brutal war crimes committed against civilians, by and large exclusively by one side: Kiev.
No less extraordinary has been the refusal of the western media to cover this story, thereby leaving most people in the West simply unaware of the extent of the horrors being perpetrated in their name, funded and cheered on by their leaders. Most of the politicians are as misled as the general populace because they also get their facts from the media.
This situation has always struck us here at RI as a political time bomb waiting to go off, because the story is just too big, too ugly, too heart-breaking, and too widespread to be swept under the rug, and there are too many outlets happy to cover it – Russian state media for starters, but also the enormous alternative media. It was just waiting for the right voice and the right tragic personal story to relate, the Rosa Parks of Donbas.
That voice might well be a young Australian amateur filmmaker named Chris Nolan who has been posting excellent short films to Youtube for over a year now, describing the Kiev revolution (Maidan), and the ensuing war.
Nolan is a musician in a rock band in Brisbane who makes the films in his free time using footage he finds on the internet.
Anna Tuv: lost her husband, daughter and arm to Ukraine shell
In his latest film, he tells the story of Anna Tuv who has become a hero in the global anti-Kiev community and in Russia. Tuv lost her husband, two children, and her arm when her house was shelled. She is just one of thousands who suffered similar horrors. Her personal story has become a symbol of the insane criminality being pushed by Kiev, and indirectly by Obama, Merkel and Cameron.
Watch the trailer, it is very well done.