Far from the expected development, forestry plantations and other carbon market initiatives in Uganda have severely compromised ecologies and livelihoods of the local people.
By Kristen Lyons and Peter Westoby · The Conversation · September 19, 2015
In recent years there has been significant movement toward land acquisition in developing countries to establish forestry plantations for offsetting carbon pollution elsewhere in the world. This is often referred to as land grabbing.
These carbon trading initiatives work on the basis that forestry plantations absorb carbon dioxide and other polluting greenhouse gases. This helps to undo the environmental damage associated with modern western lifestyles.
Carbon markets are championed as offering solutions to climate change while delivering positive development outcomes to local communities. Heavy polluters, among them the airline and energy sectors, buy carbon credits and thereby pay local communities, companies and governments to protect forests and establish plantations.
But are carbon markets – and the feel good stories that have sprung up around them – all just a bit too good to be true?
There is mounting evidence that forestry plantations and other carbon market initiatives severely compromise livelihoods and ecologies at a local level. The corporate land grabs they rely on also tend to affect the world’s most vulnerable people – those living in rural areas.
But such adverse impacts are often written out of the carbon market ledger. Sometimes they are simply justified as ‘externalities’ that must be accepted as part of ensuring we avoid climate apocalypse.
Green Resources is one of a number of large-scale plantation forestry and carbon offset corporations operating on the continent. Its activities are having a profound impact on the livelihoods of a growing number of people. Norwegian-registered, the company produces saw log timber and charcoal in Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda. It receives carbon revenue from its plantation forestry operations.
In Uganda, the focus of our research, Green Resources holds two licenses over 11,864 hectares of government-owned, ‘degraded’ Central Forest Reserve. Historically, villagers could access this land to grow food, graze animals and engage in cultural practices.
Under the licensed land agreement between Uganda’s government and Green Resources, more than 8,000 people face profound disruptions to their livelihoods. Many are experiencing forced evictions as a direct result of the company’s take over of the land.
Carbon violence on local villagers
Villagers across Green Resources’ two acquisitions in Uganda report being denied access to land vital for growing food and grazing livestock. These are at Bukaleba and Kachung Central Forest Reserves. They also cannot collect forest resources. Many say they are denied access to sites of cultural significance and to resources vital to their livelihoods.
There are also many stories about land and waterways that have been polluted by agrichemicals the company uses in its forestry plantations. This has caused crop losses and livestock deaths.
Many of those evicted, as well as those seeking to use land licensed to Green Resources, have also experienced physical violence at the hands of police and private security forces tied to the arrival of the company. Some villagers have been imprisoned or criminalised for trespass.
These diverse forms violence are directly tied to the company’s participation in the carbon economy. Thus Green Resources’ plantation forestry and carbon market activities are inflicting ‘carbon violence’ on local villagers.
Green Resources appears to be continuing to tighten the perimeter of its plantation operations as part of ensuring compliance with regulations and certifications required for entry into carbon markets. This further entrenches these diverse forms of violence. In short, subsistence farmers and poor communities are carrying heavy costs associated with the expansion of forestry plantations and global carbon markets.
Green Resources does engage in some community development activities, but these are largely disconnected from local villagers’ needs and aspirations. Interviews with 152 affected villagers across the two sites highlight that access to land to produce food is the most pressing issue. This is an issue that Green Resources has done little to address.
The loss of access to land and sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable populations is unjust and unacceptable, particularly when rural people in Uganda contribute little to carbon pollution.
In 2014 the Oakland Institute, an independent policy think tank based in California, US, published its report on Green Resources. The company has responded, most notably in a strong letter from the CEO. While he sought to discredit the researchers and the report, he failed to engage with substantial issues of concern arising from the research.
At least one company board member has publicly acknowledged problems in company relations with affected communities, especially at the Bukaleba site. These are issues raised by a number of other researchers over a number of years.
The company has not publicly articulated what it is doing to address the social and environmental problems associated with its corporate practices. Green Resources must demonstrate how it is seeking to deal with the substantial adverse impacts associated with its activities.
It’s not just about money
More broadly, there are increasing calls for reform of global plantation forestry and carbon markets to alleviate the burden subsistence farmers carry alongside their expansion. Similarly, there are calls for reform to corporate practices, including community development initiatives and employment practices.
We would suggest that such reforms should be directed towards reducing the gap between the winners and losers in global carbon markets. There must be recognition of common property rights and access and use rights of local people in license areas. This must be done alongside valuing indigenous and local people’s knowledge of forests and ecosystem management.
There are also stronger calls from climate movements for the transformation of global energy futures. Those include the support for renewable energy to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and the subsequent reliance on offset initiatives.
Movements for climate justice in Africa and elsewhere demonstrate the growing resistance to market based and techno fixes as the means to avert climate change. These calls for justice challenge change agents to move beyond simply tweaking at the edges of carbon markets.
They need to imagine a future where social and environmental justice – not money and markets – are at the centre of thinking and planning.
2015 Proves to Be Record-Breaking Year for the Military’s Secret Military
You can find them in dusty, sunbaked badlands, moist tropical forests, and the salty spray of third-world littorals. Standing in judgement, buffeted by the rotor wash of a helicopter or sweltering beneath the relentless desert sun, they instruct, yell, and cajole as skinnier men playact under their watchful eyes. In many places, more than their particular brand of camouflage, better boots, and designer gear sets them apart. Their days are scented by stale sweat and gunpowder; their nights are spent in rustic locales or third-world bars.
These men — and they are mostly men — belong to an exclusive military fraternity that traces its heritage back to the birth of the nation. Typically, they’ve spent the better part of a decade as more conventional soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen before making the cut. They’ve probably been deployed overseas four to 10 times. The officers are generally approaching their mid-thirties; the enlisted men, their late twenties. They’ve had more schooling than most in the military. They’re likely to be married with a couple of kids. And day after day, they carry out shadowy missions over much of the planet: sometimes covert raids, more often hush-hush training exercises from Chad to Uganda, Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, Albania to Romania, Bangladesh to Sri Lanka, Belize to Uruguay. They belong to the Special Operations forces (SOF), America’s most elite troops — Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs, among others — and odds are, if you throw a dart at a world map or stop a spinning globe with your index finger and don’t hit water, they’ve been there sometime in 2015.
The Wide World of Special Ops
This year, U.S. Special Operations forces have already deployed to 135 nations, according to Ken McGraw, a spokesman for Special Operations Command (SOCOM). That’s roughly 70% of the countries on the planet. Every day, in fact, America’s most elite troops are carrying out missions in 80 to 90 nations, practicing night raids or sometimes conducting them for real, engaging in sniper training or sometimes actually gunning down enemies from afar. As part of a global engagement strategy of endless hush-hush operations conducted on every continent but Antarctica, they have now eclipsed the number and range of special ops missions undertaken at the height of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the waning days of the Bush administration, Special Operations forces (SOF) were reportedly deployed in only about 60 nations around the world. By 2010, according to the Washington Post, that number had swelled to 75. Three years later, it had jumped to 134 nations, “slipping” to 133 last year, before reaching a new record of 135 this summer. This 80% increase over the last five years is indicative of SOCOM’s exponential expansion which first shifted into high gear following the 9/11 attacks.
Special Operations Command’s funding, for example, has more than tripled from about $3 billion in 2001 to nearly $10 billion in 2014 “constant dollars,” according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). And this doesn’t include funding from the various service branches, which SOCOM estimates at around another $8 billion annually, or other undisclosed sums that the GAO was unable to track. The average number of Special Operations forces deployed overseas has nearly tripled during these same years, while SOCOM more than doubled its personnel from about 33,000 in 2001 to nearly 70,000 now.
Each day, according to SOCOM commander General Joseph Votel, approximately 11,000 special operators are deployed or stationed outside the United States with many more on standby, ready to respond in the event of an overseas crisis. “I think a lot of our resources are focused in Iraq and in the Middle East, in Syria for right now. That’s really where our head has been,” Votel told the Aspen Security Forum in July. Still, he insisted his troops were not “doing anything on the ground in Syria” — even if they had carried out a night raid there a couple of months before and it was later revealed that they are involved in a covert campaign of drone strikes in that country.
“I think we are increasing our focus on Eastern Europe at this time,” he added. “At the same time we continue to provide some level of support on South America for Colombia and the other interests that we have down there. And then of course we’re engaged out in the Pacific with a lot of our partners, reassuring them and working those relationships and maintaining our presence out there.”
In reality, the average percentage of Special Operations forces deployed to the Greater Middle East has decreased in recent years. Back in 2006, 85% of special operators were deployed in support of Central Command or CENTCOM, the geographic combatant command (GCC) that oversees operations in the region. By last year, that number had dropped to 69%, according to GAO figures. Over that same span, Northern Command — devoted to homeland defense — held steady at 1%, European Command (EUCOM) doubled its percentage, from 3% to 6%, Pacific Command (PACOM) increased from 7% to 10%, and Southern Command, which overseas Central and South America as well as the Caribbean, inched up from 3% to 4%. The largest increase, however, was in a region conspicuously absent from Votel’s rundown of special ops deployments. In 2006, just 1% of the special operators deployed abroad were sent to Africa Command’s area of operations. Last year, it was 10%.
Globetrotting is SOCOM’s stock in trade and, not coincidentally, it’s divided into a collection of planet-girding “sub-unified commands”: the self-explanatory SOCAFRICA; SOCEUR, the European contingent; SOCCENT, the sub-unified command of CENTCOM; SOCKOR, which is devoted strictly to Korea; SOCPAC, which covers the rest of the Asia-Pacific region; SOCSOUTH, which conducts missions in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean; SOCNORTH, which is devoted to “homeland defense”; and the ever-itinerant Joint Special Operations Command or JSOC, a clandestine sub-command (formerly headed by Votel) made up of personnel from each service branch, including SEALs, Air Force special tactics airmen, and the Army’s Delta Force that specializes in tracking and killing suspected terrorists.
The elite of the elite in the special ops community, JSOC takes on covert, clandestine, and low-visibility operations in the hottest of hot spots. Some covert ops that have come to light in recent years include a host of Delta Force missions: among them, an operation in May in which members of the elite force killed an Islamic State commander known as Abu Sayyaf during a night raid in Syria; the 2014 release of long-time Taliban prisoner Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl; the capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspect in 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya; and the 2013 abduction of Anas al-Libi, an al-Qaeda militant, off a street in that same country. Similarly, Navy SEALs have, among other operations, carried out successful hostage rescue missions in Afghanistan and Somalia in 2012; a disastrous one in Yemen in 2014; a 2013 kidnap raid in Somalia that went awry; and — that same year — a failed evacuation mission in South Sudan in which three SEALs were wounded when their aircraft was hit by small arms fire.
SOCOM’s SOF Alphabet Soup
Most deployments have, however, been training missions designed to tutor proxies and forge stronger ties with allies. “Special Operations forces provide individual-level training, unit-level training, and formal classroom training,” explains SOCOM’s Ken McGraw. “Individual training can be in subjects like basic rifle marksmanship, land navigation, airborne operations, and first aid. They provide unit-level training in subjects like small unit tactics, counterterrorism operations and maritime operations. SOF can also provide formal classroom training in subjects like the military decision-making process or staff planning.”
From 2012 to 2014, for instance, Special Operations forces carried out 500 Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) missions in as many as 67 countries each year. JCETs are officially devoted to training U.S. forces, but they nonetheless serve as a key facet of SOCOM’s global engagement strategy. The missions “foster key military partnerships with foreign militaries, enhance partner-nations’ capability to provide for their own defense, and build interoperability between U.S. SOF and partner-nation forces,” according to SOCOM’s McGraw.
And JCETs are just a fraction of the story. SOCOM carries out many other multinational overseas training operations. According to data from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), for example, Special Operations forces conducted 75 training exercises in 30 countries in 2014. The numbers were projected to jump to 98 exercises in 34 countries by the end of this year.
“SOCOM places a premium on international partnerships and building their capacity. Today, SOCOM has persistent partnerships with about 60 countries through our Special Operations Forces Liaison Elements and Joint Planning and Advisory Teams,” said SOCOM’s Votel at a conference earlier this year, drawing attention to two of the many types of shadowy Special Ops entities that operate overseas. These SOFLEs and JPATs belong to a mind-bending alphabet soup of special ops entities operating around the globe, a jumble of opaque acronyms and stilted abbreviations masking a secret world of clandestine efforts often conducted in the shadows in impoverished lands ruled by problematic regimes. The proliferation of this bewildering SOCOM shorthand — SOJTFs and CJSOTFs, SOCCEs and SOLEs — mirrors the relentless expansion of the command, with its signature brand of military speak or milspeak proving as indecipherable to most Americans as its missions are secret from them.
Around the world, you can find Special Operations Joint Task Forces (SOJTFs), Combined Joint Special Operations Task Forces (CJSOTFs), and Joint Special Operations Task Forces (JSOTFs), Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOCs), as well as Special Operations Command and Control Elements (SOCCEs) and Special Operations Liaison Elements (SOLEs). And that list doesn’t even include Special Operations Command Forward (SOC FWD) elements — small teams which, according to the military, “shape and coordinate special operations forces security cooperation and engagement in support of theater special operations command, geographic combatant command, and country team goals and objectives.”
Special Operations Command will not divulge the locations or even a simple count of its SOC FWDs for “security reasons.” When asked how releasing only the number could imperil security, SOCOM’s Ken McGraw was typically opaque. “The information is classified,” he responded. “I am not the classification authority for that information so I do not know the specifics of why the information is classified.” Open source data suggests, however, that they are clustered in favored black ops stomping grounds, including SOC FWD Pakistan, SOC FWD Yemen, and SOC FWD Lebanon, as well as SOC FWD East Africa, SOC FWD Central Africa, and SOC FWD West Africa.
What’s clear is that SOCOM prefers to operate in the shadows while its personnel and missions expand globally to little notice or attention. “The key thing that SOCOM brings to the table is that we are — we think of ourselves — as a global force. We support the geographic combatant commanders, but we are not bound by the artificial boundaries that normally define the regional areas in which they operate. So what we try to do is we try to operate across those boundaries,” SOCOM’s Votel told the Aspen Security Forum.
In one particular blurring of boundaries, Special Operations liaison officers (SOLOs) are embedded in at least 14 key U.S. embassies to assist in advising the special forces of various allied nations. Already operating in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, France, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Poland, Peru, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, the SOLO program is poised, according to Votel, to expand to 40 countries by 2019. The command, and especially JSOC, has also forged close ties with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Security Agency, among other outfits, through the use of liaison officers and Special Operations Support Teams (SOSTs).
“In today’s environment, our effectiveness is directly tied to our ability to operate with domestic and international partners. We, as a joint force, must continue to institutionalize interoperability, integration, and interdependence between conventional forces and special operations forces through doctrine, training, and operational deployments,” Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee this spring. “From working with indigenous forces and local governments to improve local security, to high-risk counterterrorism operations — SOF are in vital roles performing essential tasks.”
SOCOM will not name the 135 countries in which America’s most elite forces were deployed this year, let alone disclose the nature of those operations. Most were, undoubtedly, training efforts. Documents obtained from the Pentagon via the Freedom of Information Act outlining Joint Combined Exchange Training in 2013 offer an indication of what Special Operations forces do on a daily basis and also what skills are deemed necessary for their real-world missions: combat marksmanship, patrolling, weapons training, small unit tactics, special operations in urban terrain, close quarters combat, advanced marksmanship, sniper employment, long-range shooting, deliberate attack, and heavy weapons employment, in addition to combat casualty care, human rights awareness, land navigation, and mission planning, among others.
From Joint Special Operations Task Force-Juniper Shield, which operates in Africa’s Trans-Sahara region, and Special Operations Command and Control Element-Horn of Africa, to Army Special Operations Forces Liaison Element-Korea and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula, the global growth of SOF missions has been breathtaking. SEALs or Green Berets, Delta Force operators or Air Commandos, they are constantly taking on what Votel likes to call the “nation’s most complex, demanding, and high-risk challenges.”
These forces carry out operations almost entirely unknown to the American taxpayers who fund them, operations conducted far from the scrutiny of the media or meaningful outside oversight of any kind. Everyday, in around 80 or more countries that Special Operations Command will not name, they undertake missions the command refuses to talk about. They exist in a secret world of obtuse acronyms and shadowy efforts, of mystery missions kept secret from the American public, not to mention most of the citizens of the 135 nations where they’ve been deployed this year.
This summer, when Votel commented that more special ops troops are deployed to more locations and are conducting more operations than at the height of the Afghan and Iraq wars, he drew attention to two conflicts in which those forces played major roles that have not turned out well for the United States. Consider that symbolic of what the bulking up of his command has meant in these years.
“Ultimately, the best indicator of our success will be the success of the [geographic combatant commands],” says the special ops chief, but with U.S. setbacks in Africa Command’s area of operations from Mali and Nigeria to Burkina Faso and Cameroon; in Central Command’s bailiwick from Iraq and Afghanistan to Yemen and Syria; in the PACOM region vis-à-vis China; and perhaps even in the EUCOM area of operations due to Russia, it’s far from clear what successes can be attributed to the ever-expanding secret operations of America’s secret military. The special ops commander seems resigned to the very real limitations of what his secretive but much-ballyhooed, highly-trained, well-funded, heavily-armed operators can do.
“We can buy space, we can buy time,” says Votel, stressing that SOCOM can “play a very, very key role” in countering “violent extremism,” but only up to a point — and that point seems to fall strikingly short of anything resembling victory or even significant foreign policy success. “Ultimately, you know, problems like we see in Iraq and Syria,” he says, “aren’t going to be resolved by us.”
Nick Turse is the author of Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa.
Western Sahara, formerly a Spanish colony, has been occupied by Morocco since 1975. Although the decolonization of Western Sahara has been on the U.N.’s agenda for 40 years, Morocco (together with its allies) has managed to freeze this process, while further entrenching its hold of the occupied territory.
One of the reasons behind Morocco’s aggression and annexation was Western Sahara’s abundance of natural resources, and ever since the occupation began, Morocco has plundered these resources for economic profit. Western Sahara has one of the largest phosphate reserves in the world and is famous for its rich fishing waters, perhaps the richest along the African coast. Furthermore, the prospects for locating oil and gas deposits has attracted exploration in the territory.
In a recent development, which is all too familiar, an Irish oil company San Leon Energy began drilling south of Morocco’s border, on the north-western coast of occupied Western Sahara. For the oil drilling – and other resource extraction – to have legal validity, however, it ought to be carried out with the consent and in the interest of the occupied population. But not only has the local population of Western Sahara not been consulted, the Sahrawi people have explicitly stated their opposition to San Leon’s activities.
In a letter to the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) Mohamed Abdelaziz stated, “We urgently request that the Secretary-General condemn these activities, which are in clear violation of international law, and call on Morocco and complicit foreign companies to stop the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara.”
The SADR’s position echoes that of the U.N. and the international community. In 2002, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Hans Corell wrote, that if the exploitation of natural resources “were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the international law principles applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories.”
Contradicting countless U.N. resolutions and the clearly stated position of the SADR, San Leon claims that its “operations are in keeping with our obligations under international law and work for the betterment of all persons in the Southern Provinces of Morocco.” “Southern Provinces” is the term that the Moroccan government uses for Western Sahara.
San Leon is far from the only foreign actor engaged in legally dubious economic activity in occupied Western Sahara. The most profitable economic activity for Morocco in the occupied territory is the phosphate industry. A recent study by the watchdog organization Western Sahara Resource Watch identified nine companies that imported phosphate originating in Western Sahara in 2014 alone. The major importers were companies based in Canada and Lithuania.
Perhaps the most controversial act of the EU with regard to Western Sahara was the re-signing of a fisheries agreement with Morocco in 2013. In 2011, the European Parliament had suspended the agreement. In his speech before the parliament, professor of international law Pål Wrange stated, that were the fisheries agreement extended “it will make the EU and its member states further liable for a violation of international law, namely as a recognition of and assistance to serious breaches of international law by Morocco.”
Under the renewed fisheries agreement Morocco, in return for an annual payment of US$62 million (€40 million), European fishing vessels are granted licenses to fish in its waters, including in Western Sahara. This is legally questionable – as noted by Wrange – because it indirectly accepts Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. In 2014, the representatives of the Sahrawi people demanded an annulment of the fisheries agreement and took their case to the European Court of Justice.
A somewhat similar dynamic is at play with regard to Israel’s settlement enterprise in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. While taking the position that Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank is “illegal under international law, constitutes an obstacle to peace and threatens to make a two-state solution impossible”, the EU’s continued trade in settlement produce supports the sustenance of the settlements. Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq even maintains that, “Without the economic support generated by trade with international stakeholders, the very existence of settlements, in particular in the Jordan Valley area, would be seriously threatened.”
It seems that the EU continues to prioritize its economic and strategic interests over international law in its bilateral relations with Morocco. The EU’s and Morocco’s annual trade amounts to nearly US$46 billion (€30 billion), accounting for more than 50 percent of Moroccan trade altogether. In fact, the EU is the biggest trading partner of both Morocco and Israel. In both cases, the EU’s economic leverage is exceptional, and its ability to exert pressure on the occupying parties, if it so wanted, is considerable.
Cuba has long supported SADR, including sponsoring education initiatives for refugees
A SADR-administered refugee camp in Western Sahara | Photo: Ryan Mallett-Outtrim/ THKW
Cuba’s acting education minister Cira Pineiro Alonso met with Sahrawi ambassador Malainin Etgana Wednesday, and vowed to deepen education ties with the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
The meeting in Havana, Cuba focused on Cuban investment in education in SADR, including the Simon Bolivar high school. Supported by both Cuba and Venezuela, the institution was the first high school to be constructed in SADR-administered Western Sahara.
According to SADR media, Piniero said Cuba remains willing to continue investing in the school, along with other joint projects in Western Sahara.
A sparsely inhabited territory in North Africa, most of Western Sahara has been occupied by the Moroccan military since 1975. A thin strip of the territory’s east is administered by the indigenous government, SADR. Most of SADR-administered Western Sahara is uninhabited desert, with the population almost entirely living in refugee camps huddled near the Algerian border. The Simon Bolivar school is located in one such camp.
Cuba has long supported Western Saharan independence from Morocco, and backed SADR as the legitimate government of the indigenous Sahrawi people.
Outside countries like Cuba, the drawn out political crisis in Western Sahara rarely hits international headlines, largely due to a media blackout in the disputed territory by Morocco’s occupation forces, which control around 80 percent of the territory.
Russia will lead a new round of mediation between Khartoum and Juba to ensure the implementation of the recent agreement struck on bilateral relations between the two sides, an official Sudanese source revealed yesterday.
Sudan News Agency (SUNA) reported that the foreign ministers of Sudan, Moscow and the state of South Sudan will meet in Russia on Thursday to discuss triparty relations between Moscow, Khartoum and Juba as well as the South Sudan-Sudan relations.
SUNA quoted the Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour as saying: “The Sudan’s relations with South Sudan is supposed to be better, theoretically, but there are some pending issues between the two states, most importantly, the implementation of the nine cooperation agreements signed by the two presidents, Field Marshal Omar Al-Bashir, the President of the Republic [of the Sudan] and Major General Salva Kiir, president of South Sudan, on the 9th of September in 2012.”
He added that his visit to Russia on Wednesday marks the third anniversary of the Addis Ababa agreement, although only one of the nine agreements was implemented – the agreement on the transfer of South Sudan’s oil through Port Sudan.
Ghandour also noted that his visit, which will take place between 9-11 September, came in response to an invitation from the Russian foreign minister. According to Ghandour, the two ministers will discuss bilateral relation between Russia and the Sudan in all fields; in addition to the coordination of regional and international issues.
The Sudanese foreign minister added that relations between the two countries are developing at both the economic and political levels.
The refugee chaos that is now pushing deep into Europe – dramatized by gut-wrenching photos of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey – started with the cavalier ambitions of American neocons and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks who planned to remake the Middle East and other parts of the world through “regime change.”
Instead of the promised wonders of “democracy promotion” and “human rights,” what these “anti-realists” have accomplished is to spread death, destruction and destabilization across the Middle East and parts of Africa and now into Ukraine and the heart of Europe. Yet, since these neocon forces still control the Official Narrative, their explanations get top billing – such as that there hasn’t been enough “regime change.”
For instance, The Washington Post’s neocon editorial page editor Fred Hiatt on Monday blamed “realists” for the cascading catastrophes. Hiatt castigated them and President Barack Obama for not intervening more aggressively in Syria to depose President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime neocon target for “regime change.” But the truth is that this accelerating spread of human suffering can be traced back directly to the unchecked influence of the neocons and their liberal fellow-travelers who have resisted political compromise and, in the case of Syria, blocked any realistic efforts to work out a power-sharing agreement between Assad and his political opponents, those who are not terrorists.
In early 2014, the neocons and liberal hawks sabotaged Syrian peace talks in Geneva by blocking Iran’s participation and turning the peace conference into a one-sided shouting match where U.S.-funded opposition leaders yelled at Assad’s representatives who then went home. All the while, the Post’s editors and their friends kept egging Obama to start bombing Assad’s forces.
The madness of this neocon approach grew more obvious in the summer of 2014 when the Islamic State, an Al Qaeda spin-off which had been slaughtering suspected pro-government people in Syria, expanded its bloody campaign of beheadings back into Iraq where this hyper-brutal movement first emerged as “Al Qaeda in Iraq” in response to the 2003 U.S. invasion.
It should have been clear by mid-2014 that if the neocons had gotten their way and Obama had conducted a massive U.S. bombing campaign to devastate Assad’s military, the black flag of Sunni terrorism might well be flying above the Syrian capital of Damascus while its streets would run red with blood.
But now a year later, the likes of Hiatt still have not absorbed that lesson — and the spreading chaos from neocon strategies is destabilizing Europe. As shocking and disturbing as that is, none of it should have come as much of a surprise, since the neocons have always brought chaos and dislocations in their wake.
When I first encountered the neocons in the 1980s, they had been given Central America to play with. President Ronald Reagan had credentialed many of them, bringing into the U.S. government neocon luminaries such as Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan. But Reagan mostly kept them out of the big-power realms: the Mideast and Europe.
Those strategic areas went to the “adults,” people like James Baker, George Shultz, Philip Habib and Brent Scowcroft. The poor Central Americans, as they tried to shed generations of repression and backwardness imposed by brutal right-wing oligarchies, faced U.S. neocon ideologues who unleashed death squads and even genocide against peasants, students and workers.
The result – not surprisingly – was a flood of refugees, especially from El Salvador and Guatemala, northward to the United States. The neocon “success” in the 1980s, crushing progressive social movements and reinforcing the oligarchic controls, left most countries of Central America in the grip of corrupt regimes and crime syndicates, periodically driving more waves of what Reagan called “feet people” through Mexico to the southern U.S. border.
Messing Up the Mideast
But the neocons weren’t satisfied sitting at the kids’ table. Even during the Reagan administration, they tried to squeeze themselves among the “adults” at the grown-ups’ table. For instance, neocons, such as Robert McFarlane and Paul Wolfowitz, pushed Israel-friendly policies toward Iran, which the Israelis then saw as a counterweight to Iraq. That strategy led eventually to the Iran-Contra Affair, the worst scandal of the Reagan administration. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “When Israel /Neocons Favored Iran.”]
However, the right-wing and mainstream U.S. media never liked the complex Iran-Contra story and thus exposure of the many levels of the scandal’s criminality was avoided. Democrats also preferred compromise to confrontation. So, most of the key neocons survived the Iran-Contra fallout, leaving their ranks still firmly in place for the next phase of their rise to power.
In the 1990s, the neocons built up a well-funded infrastructure of think tanks and media outlets, benefiting from both the largesse of military contractors donating to think tanks and government-funded operations like the National Endowment for Democracy, headed by neocon Carl Gershman.
The neocons gained more political momentum from the U.S. military might displayed during the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. Many Americans began to see war as fun, almost like a video game in which “enemy” forces get obliterated from afar. On TV news shows, tough-talking pundits were all the rage. If you wanted to be taken seriously, you couldn’t go wrong taking the most macho position, what I sometimes call the “er-er-er” growling effect.
Combined with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the notion that U.S. military supremacy was unmatched and unchallengeable gave rise to neocon theories about turning “diplomacy” into nothing more than the delivery of U.S. ultimatums. In the Middle East, that was a view shared by Israeli hardliners, who had grown tired of negotiating with the Palestinians and other Arabs.
Instead of talk, there would be “regime change” for any government that would not fall into line. This strategy was articulated in 1996 when a group of American neocons, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, went to work for Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign in Israel and compiled a strategy paper, called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.”
Iraq was first on the neocon hit list, but next came Syria and Iran. The overriding idea was that once the regimes assisting the Palestinians and Hezbollah were removed or neutralized, then Israel could dictate peace terms to the Palestinians who would have no choice but to accept what was on the table.
In 1998, the neocon Project for the New American Century, founded by neocons Robert Kagan and William Kristol, called for a U.S. invasion of Iraq, but President Bill Clinton balked at something that extreme. The situation changed, however, when President George W. Bush took office and the 9/11 attacks terrified and infuriated the American public.
Suddenly, the neocons had a Commander-in-Chief who agreed with the need to eliminate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein – and Americans were easily persuaded although Iraq and Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]
The Death of ‘Realism’
The 2003 Iraq invasion sounded the death knell for foreign policy “realism” in Official Washington. Aging or dead, the old adult voices were silent or ignored. From Congress and the Executive Branch to the think tanks and the mainstream news media, almost all the “opinion leaders” were neocons and many liberals fell into line behind Bush’s case for war.
And, even though the Iraq War “group think” was almost entirely wrong, both on the WMD justifications for war and the “cakewalk” expectations for remaking Iraq, almost no one who promoted the fiasco suffered punishment for either the illegality of the invasion or the absence of sanity in promoting such a harebrained scheme.
Instead of negative repercussions, the Iraq War backers – the neocons and their liberal-hawk accomplices – essentially solidified their control over U.S. foreign policy and the major news media. From The New York Times and The Washington Post to the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, the “regime change” agenda continued to hold sway.
It didn’t even matter when the sectarian warfare unleashed in Iraq left hundreds of thousands dead, displaced millions and gave rise to Al Qaeda’s ruthless Iraq affiliate. Not even the 2008 election of Barack Obama, an Iraq War opponent, changed this overall dynamic.
Rather than standing up to this new foreign policy establishment, Obama bowed to it, retaining key players from President Bush’s national security team, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates and General David Petraeus, and by hiring hawkish Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, who became Secretary of State, and Samantha Power at the National Security Council.
Thus, the cult of “regime change” did not just survive the Iraq disaster; it thrived. Whenever a difficult foreign problem emerged, the go-to solution was still “regime change,” accompanied by the usual demonizing of a targeted leader, support for the “democratic opposition” and calls for military intervention. President Obama, arguably a “closet realist,” found himself as the foot-dragger-in-chief as he reluctantly was pulled along on one “regime change” crusade after another.
In 2011, for instance, Secretary of State Clinton and National Security Council aide Power persuaded Obama to join with some hot-for-war European leaders to achieve “regime change” in Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi had gone on the offensive against groups in eastern Libya that he identified as Islamic terrorists.
But Clinton and Power saw the case as a test for their theories of “humanitarian warfare” – or “regime change” to remove a “bad guy” like Gaddafi from power. Obama soon signed on and, with the U.S. military providing crucial technological support, a devastating bombing campaign destroyed Gaddafi’s army, drove him from Tripoli, and ultimately led to his torture-murder.
‘We Came, We Saw, He Died’
Secretary Clinton scurried to secure credit for this “regime change.” According to one email chain in August 2011, her longtime friend and personal adviser Sidney Blumenthal praised the bombing campaign to destroy Gaddafi’s army and hailed the dictator’s impending ouster.
“First, brava! This is a historic moment and you will be credited for realizing it,” Blumenthal wrote on Aug. 22, 2011. “When Qaddafi himself is finally removed, you should of course make a public statement before the cameras wherever you are, even in the driveway of your vacation home. … You must go on camera. You must establish yourself in the historical record at this moment. … The most important phrase is: ‘successful strategy.’”
Clinton forwarded Blumenthal’s advice to Jake Sullivan, a close State Department aide. “Pls read below,” she wrote. “Sid makes a good case for what I should say, but it’s premised on being said after Q[addafi] goes, which will make it more dramatic. That’s my hesitancy, since I’m not sure how many chances I’ll get.”
Sullivan responded, saying “it might make sense for you to do an op-ed to run right after he falls, making this point. … You can reinforce the op-ed in all your appearances, but it makes sense to lay down something definitive, almost like the Clinton Doctrine.”
However, when Gaddafi abandoned Tripoli that day, President Obama seized the moment to make a triumphant announcement. Clinton’s opportunity to highlight her joy at the Libyan “regime change” had to wait until Oct. 20, 2011, when Gaddafi was captured, tortured and murdered.
In a TV interview, Clinton celebrated the news when it appeared on her cell phone and paraphrased Julius Caesar’s famous line after Roman forces achieved a resounding victory in 46 B.C. and he declared, “veni, vidi, vici” – “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Clinton’s reprise of Caesar’s boast went: “We came; we saw; he died.” She then laughed and clapped her hands.
Presumably, the “Clinton Doctrine” would have been a policy of “liberal interventionism” to achieve “regime change” in countries where there is some crisis in which the leader seeks to put down an internal security threat and where the United States objects to the action.
But the problem with Clinton’s boasting about the “Clinton Doctrine” was that the Libyan adventure quickly turned sour with the Islamic terrorists, whom Gaddafi had warned about, seizing wide swaths of territory and turning it into another Iraq-like badlands.
On Sept. 11, 2012, this reality hit home when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was overrun and U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American diplomatic personnel were killed. It turned out that Gaddafi wasn’t entirely wrong about the nature of his opposition.
Eventually, the extremist violence in Libya grew so out of control that the United States and European countries abandoned their embassies in Tripoli. Since then, Islamic State terrorists have begun decapitating Coptic Christians on Libyan beaches and slaughtering other “heretics.” Amid the anarchy, Libya has become a route for desperate migrants seeking passage across the Mediterranean to Europe.
A War on Assad
Parallel to the “regime change” in Libya was a similar enterprise in Syria in which the neocons and liberal interventionists pressed for the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, whose government in 2011 cracked down on what had quickly become a violent rebellion led by extremist elements, though the Western propaganda portrayed the opposition as “moderate” and “peaceful.”
For the first years of the Syrian civil war, the pretense remained that these “moderate” rebels were facing unjustified repression and the only answer was “regime change” in Damascus. Assad’s claim that the opposition included many Islamic extremists was largely dismissed as were Gaddafi’s alarms in Libya.
On Aug. 21, 2013, a sarin gas attack outside Damascus killed hundreds of civilians and the U.S. State Department and the mainstream news media immediately blamed Assad’s forces amid demands for military retaliation against the Syrian army.
Despite doubts within the U.S. intelligence community about Assad’s responsibility for the sarin attack, which some analysts saw instead as a provocation by anti-Assad terrorists, the clamor from Official Washington’s neocons and liberal interventionists for war was intense and any doubts were brushed aside.
But President Obama, aware of the uncertainty within the U.S. intelligence community, held back from a military strike and eventually worked out a deal, brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which Assad agreed to surrender his entire chemical-weapons arsenal while still denying any role in the sarin attack.
Though the case pinning the sarin attack on the Syrian government eventually fell apart – with evidence pointing to a “false flag” operation by Sunni radicals to trick the United States into intervening on their side – Official Washington’s “group think” refused to reconsider the initial rush to judgment. In Monday’s column, Hiatt still references Assad’s “savagery of chemical weapons.”
Any suggestion that the only realistic option in Syria is a power-sharing compromise that would include Assad – who is viewed as the protector of Syria’s Christian, Shiite and Alawite minorities – is rejected out of hand with the slogan, “Assad must go!”
The neocons have created a conventional wisdom which holds that the Syrian crisis would have been prevented if only Obama had followed the neocons’ 2011 prescription of another U.S. intervention to force another “regime change.” Yet, the far more likely outcome would have been either another indefinite and bloody U.S. military occupation of Syria or the black flag of Islamic terrorism flying over Damascus.
Another villain who emerged from the 2013 failure to bomb Syria was Russian President Putin, who infuriated the neocons by his work with Obama on Syria’s surrender of its chemical weapons and who further annoyed the neocons by helping to get the Iranians to negotiate seriously on constraining their nuclear program. Despite the “regime change” disasters in Iraq and Libya, the neocons wanted to wave the “regime change” wand again over Syria and Iran.
Putin got his comeuppance when U.S. neocons, including NED President Carl Gershman and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland (Robert Kagan’s wife), helped orchestrate a “regime change” in Ukraine on Feb. 22, 2014, overthrowing elected President Viktor Yanukovych and putting in a fiercely anti-Russian regime on Russia’s border.
As thrilled as the neocons were with their “victory” in Kiev and their success in demonizing Putin in the mainstream U.S. news media, Ukraine followed the now-predictable post-regime-change descent into a vicious civil war. Western Ukrainians waged a brutal “anti-terrorist operation” against ethnic Russians in the east who resisted the U.S.-backed coup.
Thousands of Ukrainians died and millions were displaced as Ukraine’s national economy teetered toward collapse. Yet, the neocons and their liberal-hawk friends again showed their propaganda skills by pinning the blame for everything on “Russian aggression” and Putin.
Though Obama was apparently caught off-guard by the Ukrainian “regime change,” he soon joined in denouncing Putin and Russia. The European Union also got behind U.S.-demanded sanctions against Russia despite the harm those sanctions also inflicted on Europe’s already shaky economy. Europe’s stability is now under additional strain because of the flows of refugees from the war zones of the Middle East.
A Dozen Years of Chaos
So, we can now look at the consequences and costs of the past dozen years under the spell of neocon/liberal-hawk “regime change” strategies. According to many estimates, the death toll in Iraq, Syria and Libya has exceeded one million with several million more refugees flooding into – and stretching the resources – of fragile Mideast countries.
Hundreds of thousands of other refugees and migrants have fled to Europe, putting major strains on the Continent’s social structures already stressed by the severe recession that followed the 2008 Wall Street crash. Even without the refugee crisis, Greece and other southern European countries would be struggling to meet their citizens’ needs.
Stepping back for a moment and assessing the full impact of neoconservative policies, you might be amazed at how widely they have spread chaos across a large swath of the globe. Who would have thought that the neocons would have succeeded in destabilizing not only the Mideast but Europe as well.
And, as Europe struggles, the export markets of China are squeezed, spreading economic instability to that crucial economy and, with its market shocks, the reverberations rumbling back to the United States, too.
We now see the human tragedies of neocon/liberal-hawk ideologies captured in the suffering of the Syrians and other refugees flooding Europe and the death of children drowning as their desperate families flee the chaos created by “regime change.” But will the neocon/liberal-hawk grip on Official Washington finally be broken? Will a debate even be allowed about the dangers of “regime change” prescriptions in the future?
Not if the likes of The Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt have anything to say about it. The truth is that Hiatt and other neocons retain their dominance of the mainstream U.S. news media, so all that one can expect from the various MSM outlets is more neocon propaganda, blaming the chaos not on their policy of “regime change” but on the failure to undertake even more “regime change.”
The one hope is that many Americans will not be fooled this time and that a belated “realism” will finally return to U.S. geopolitical strategies that will look for obtainable compromises to restore some political order to places such as Syria, Libya and Ukraine. Rather than more and more tough-guy/gal confrontations, maybe there will finally be some serious efforts at reconciliation.
But the other reality is that the interventionist forces have rooted themselves deeply in Official Washington, inside NATO, within the mainstream news media and even in European institutions. It will not be easy to rid the world of the grave dangers created by neocon policies.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
The United Nations has voiced alarm over the “destructive impact” of the deadly wars on children’s education in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), saying violence has forced at least 13 million kids out of schools there.
In a report released on Thursday on threats to the education system in six violence-torn countries and territories across the region, the United Nation’s children fund UNICEF warned that “the hopes of a generation” would be dashed should kids fail to return to classrooms in conflict zones of both regions.
Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Palestinian territories in the Middle East as well as Sudan and Libya in North Africa were the main countries the report focused on.
Over 8,850 schools are no longer usable due to the ongoing political instability and violence, said the report.
Peter Salama, the regional director for UNICEF in the MENA region, told AFP that “the destructive impact of conflict is being felt by children right across the region.”
“It’s not just the physical damage being done to schools, but the despair felt by a generation of schoolchildren who see their hopes and futures shattered,” he added.
According to the UN, one in four schools was closed this school year due to violence.
“Even those Syrian teachers who have ended up as refugees in other countries have faced obstacles which prevent them from working,” said the report, adding more than 52,000 teachers have left their posts.
UNICEF said that violence in Iraq has taken a heavy toll on the schooling of at least 950,000 children.
Iraq and Syria have been grappling with a spike in violence fueled by Takfiri terror groups, particularly Daesh, which controls swathes of land in both Arab states.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, the Saudi military has been pounding neighboring Yemen with fatal air raids over the past five months. Civilians as well as the country’s infrastructure have been the main target of Riyadh’s strikes.
The Saudi military campaign has led to the closure of hundreds of schools and colleges in Yemen since late March, according to the report.
UNICEF also said over 280 schools had been damaged and eight “completely destroyed” in the Tel Aviv regime’s 2014 war on the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip that left over 2,200 people dead.
In Libya, which is suffering from rising violence after the 2011 overthrow of former dictator Moamar Qaddafi, more than half of those displaced say their children cannot attend classes, while the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur and South Kordofan has also had a severe impact on the country’s creaking school infrastructure, the report said.
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.
From Regional War, “Regime Change” to Global Warfare
2015 has become a year of living dangerously.
Wars are spreading across the globe.
Wars are escalating as new countries are bombed and the old are ravaged with ever greater intensity.
Countries, where relatively peaceful changes had taken place through recent elections, are now on the verge of civil wars.
These are wars without victors, but plenty of losers; wars that don’t end; wars where imperial occupations are faced with prolonged resistance.
There are never-ending torrents of war refugees flooding across borders. Desperate people are detained, degraded and criminalized for being the survivors and victims of imperial invasions.
Now major nuclear powers face off in Europe and Asia: NATO versus Russia, US-Japan versus China. Will these streams of blood and wars converge into one radiated wilderness drained of its precious life blood?
Living Dangerously: The Rising Tide of Violent Conflicts
There is no question that wars and military threats have replaced diplomacy, negotiations and democratic elections as the principal means of resolving political conflicts. Throughout the present year (2015) wars have spread across borders and escalated in intensity.
The NATO allies, US, Turkey and the EU have openly attacked Syria with air strikes and ground troops. There are plans to occupy the northern sector of that ravaged country, creating what the Erdogan regime dubs a ‘buffer zone’ cleansed of its people and villages.
Under the pretext of ‘fighting ISIS’, the Turkish government is bombing Kurds (civilians and resistance fighters) and their Syrian allies. On Syria’s southern border, US Special Forces have accelerated and expanded operations from their bases in Jordan on behalf of the mercenary terrorists – funded by the monarchist Gulf States.
Over 4 million Syrians have fled their homes as refugees and over 200,000 have been killed since the US-EU-Turkey-Saudi-sponsored war against the secular Syrian government was launched four years ago.
Dozens of terrorist, mercenary and sectarian groups have carved up Syria into rival fiefdoms, pillaged its economic and cultural resources and reduced the economy by over ninety percent.
The US-EU-Turkish military intervention extends the war into Iraq, Lebanon and…. Turkey – attacking secular governments, ethnic minority groups and secular civil society.
The feudal, monarchist Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have invaded Yemen with tanks, launching air strikes against a country without any air defenses. Major cities and towns are devastated. Saudi ground troops and armored carriers are killing and wounding thousands – mostly civilians. The brutal Saudi air and sea blockade of Yemen’s ports have led to a humanitarian crisis, as ten million Yemenis face starvation deliberately imposed by a grotesque and obscenely rich monarchy.
The Yemeni resistance fighters, driven out of the major cities, are preparing for prolonged guerrilla warfare against the Saudi monsters and their puppets. Their resistance has already spread across the frontiers of the absolutist Saudi dictatorship.
The brutal Israeli occupation troops, in collaboration with armed ‘settler’ colonists, have accelerated their violent seizure of Palestinian lands. They have stepped up the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, Bedouins, Druze and Christian inhabitants replacing their communities with racist ‘Jews-only’ colonial settlements.
Daily assaults against the huge ‘concentration camps’ of Gaza accompany an armed blockade of land, air and water, preventing the reconstruction of the tens of thousands of homes, schools, hospital, factories and infrastructure, destroyed by last year’s Israeli blitzkrieg.
Israel’s continued annexation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian territory precludes any diplomatic process; colonial wars have been and continue to be Israel’s policy of choice in dealing with its Arab neighbors and captive populations.
Africa’s wars, resulting from earlier US-EU interventions, continue to ravage-the Continent. Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Libya are riven by bloody conflicts between US-EU backed regimes and armed Islamic and nationalist resistance movements.
Throughout North and Sub-Sahara Africa, US-EU backed regimes have provoked armed upheavals in Libya, Nigeria (Boko Harem), Egypt (ISIS, Moslem Brotherhood et al), Chad, Niger, South Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere.
Imperial client Egyptian and Ethiopian dictators rule with iron fists – financed and armed by their EU and US sponsors.
Imperial wars rage throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Hundreds of experienced Baathist Iraqi military officers, who had been expelled or jailed and tortured by the US Occupation army, have now made common cause with Islamist fighters to form ISIS and effectively occupy a third of Iraq and a strategic swath of Syria.
There are daily bombings in Baghdad undermining its US client. Strategic advances by ISIS are forcing the US to resume and escalate its direct combat role
The US-Baghdad retreat and the defeat of the US-trained Iraqi military in the face of the Baathist-Islamist offensive is the opening salvo of a long-term, large-scale war in Iraq and Syria. The Turkish air-war against the Kurds in Iraq will escalate the war in Northern Iraq and extend it into southeast Turkey.
Closer to ‘home’, the EU-US-backed coup (‘regime change’) in Kiev and the attempt to impose dictatorial-pro-West oligarchic rule in Ukraine have detonated a prolonged civil-national war devastating the country and pitting NATO’s proxies against Russian-backed allies in the Donbas.
US, England, Poland and other NATO powers are deeply committed to pushing war right up to Russia’s borders.
There is a new Cold War, with the imposition of wide-ranging US-EU economic sanctions against Russia and the organizing of major NATO military exercises on Russia’s doorsteps. It is no surprise that these provocations are met with a major counter-response – the Russian military build-up. The NATO power grab in Ukraine, which first led to a local ethnic war, now escalates to a global confrontation and may move toward a nuclear confrontation as Russia absorbs hundreds of thousands of refugees from the slaughter in Ukraine.
The US puppet regime in Afghanistan has faced a major advance of the Taliban in all regions, including the capital, Kabul.
The Afghan war is intensifying and the US-backed Kabul regime is in retreat. US troops can scarcely advance beyond their bunkers.
As the Taliban military advances, its leaders demand total surrender of the Kabul puppets and the withdrawal of US troops. The US response will be a prolonged escalation of war.
Pakistan, bristling with US arms, faces a major conflict along its borders with India and permanent war in its semi-autonomous Northwest frontier states with Islamist and ethnic Pashtu guerrilla movements backed by mass regional political parties. These parties exercise de facto control over the Northwest region providing sanctuary and arms for Taliban militants operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Armed ethno-religious conflicts persist in western China, Myanmar and northern India. There are large-scale popular resistance movements in the militant northeast Thailand opposed to the current military-monarchist dictatorship in Bangkok.
In the 21st century, in South and Southeast Asia, as in the rest of the world, war and armed conflicts have become central in resolving ethnic, social, tribal and regional differences with central states: diplomacy and democratic elections have been rendered obsolete and inefficient.
Latin America – On the Verge
Burgeoning violent extra-parliamentary right-wing movements, intent on overthrowing or ‘impeaching’ elected center-left Latin American governments face major confrontations with the state and its mass supporters.
In Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil, US-backed opposition groups are engaged in violent demonstrations, directed toward ousting the elected regimes. In the case of Ecuador, ‘popular sectors’, including some indigenous leaders and sectors of the trade union movement, have called for an ‘uprising’ to oust President Correa. They seem oblivious of the fact that the hard-right oligarchs who now control key offices in the three principal cities (Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca) will be the real beneficiaries of their ‘uprisings’.
The resurgent Right envisions violent ‘regime change’ as the first step toward ‘wiping the slate clean’ of a decade of social reforms, independent regional organizations and independent foreign policies.
‘Civil war’ may be too strong a word for the situation in Latin America at this time – but this is the direction which the US-backed opposition is heading. Faced with the mess and difficulty of dislodging incumbent regimes via elections, the US and its local proxies have opted for the choreography of street violence, sabotage, martial law and coups – to be followed by sanitized elections – with US-vetted candidates.
War and violence run rampant through Mexico and most of Central America. A US-backed military coup ousted the popularly elected, independent President Zelaya in Honduras. The ensuing US-proxy regime has murdered and jailed hundreds of pro-democracy dissidents and driven thousands to flee the violence.
The 1990’s US-brokered ‘Peace Accords’ in El Salvador and Guatemala effectively blocked any agrarian reform and income redistribution that might have led to the rebuilding of their civil societies. This has led to over two decades of mass disaffection, the rise of armed ‘gangs’ numbering over 100,000 members and an average of six to ten thousand homicides a year with El Salvador becoming the ‘murder capital of the hemisphere’ on a per capita basis. The annual murder toll under the US-brokered ‘Peace Accords’ now exceeds those killed each year during the civil war.
The real ‘carnage capital’ of the hemisphere is Mexico. Over 100,000 people have been murdered during the decade-long, US-backed ‘war on drugs’ – a war which has become a state-sponsored war on the Mexican people.
The internal war has allowed the Mexican government to privatize and sell the crown jewels of the national economy – the petroleum industry. While thousands of Mexicans are terrorized and slaughtered, the US and EU oil companies are curiously shielded from the drug lords. The same Mexican government, its police, officials and military, who collaborate with the drug lords in dividing up the billions of drug dollars, protect foreign oil companies and their executives. After all, narco-dollars are laundered by banks in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and London to help fuel the speculation!
From Regional to Nuclear Wars
Regional and local wars spread under the shadow of a looming world war. The US moves its arms, planes, bases and operations to the Russian and Chinese borders.
Never have so many US troops and war planes been placed in so many strategic locations, often less than an hour drive from major Russian cities.
Not even during the height of the Cold War, did the US impose so many economic sanctions against Russian enterprises.
In Asia, Washington is organizing major trade, military and diplomatic treaties designed to exclude and undermine China’s growth as a trade competitor. It is engaged in provocative activities comparable to the boycott and blockade of Japan which led to the Second World War in Asia.
Open ‘warfare by proxy’ in Ukraine is perhaps the first salvo of the Third World War in Europe. The US-EU-sponsored coup in Kiev has led to the annexation of Western Ukraine. In response to the threat of violence toward the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea and the loss of its strategic naval base on the Black Sea, Russia annexed Crimea.
In the lead-up to the Second World War, Germany annexed Austria. In a similar manner the US-EU installed a puppet regime in Kiev by violent putsch as its own initial steps toward major power grabs in Central Asia. The military build-up includes the placement of major, forward offensive military bases in Poland.
Warsaw’s newly elected hard-right regime of President Andrzej Duda has demanded that Poland become NATO’s central military base of operation and the front line in a war against Russia.
Wars and More Wars and the Never-ending Torrents of Refugees
The US and EU imperial wars have devastated the lives and livelihoods of scores of millions of people in South Asia, North and Sub-Sahara Africa, Central America, Mexico, the Balkans and now Ukraine.
Four million Syrian refugees have joined millions of Afghan, Pakistani, Iraqi, Yemeni, Somali, Libyan, Palestinian and Sudanese refugees fleeing US-EU bombs, drones and proxy mercenaries ravaging their countries.
Millions of war refugees escape toward safety in Western Europe, joining the millions of economic refugees who have fled free market destitution in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, the Balkans and other EU satellites.
Panic among the civilian population of Western Europe sets in as hundreds of thousands cross the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Balkans.
Droves of refugees perish each day. Tens of thousands crowd detention centers. Local labor markets are saturated. Social services are overwhelmed.
The US builds walls and detention camps for the millions trying to escape the harsh consequences of imperial-centered free markets in Mexico, narco-terror and the fraudulent ‘peace accord’-induced violence in Central America.
As Western wars advance, the desperate refugees multiply. The poor and destitute clamber at the gates of the imperial heartland crying: ‘Your bombs and your destruction of our homelands have driven us here, now you must deal with us in your homeland’.
Fomenting class war between the refugees and ‘natives’ of the imperial West – may not be on the agenda . . . for now, but the future for ‘civil’ society in Europe and the US is bleak.
Meanwhile, more and even bigger wars are on the horizon and additional millions of civilians will be uprooted and face the choice of starving, fleeing with their families or fighting the empire. The ranks of seasoned and infuriated resistance fighters are swelling in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere.
The US and EU are becoming armed fortresses. US police deal with the marginalized citizenry as an occupying army, assaulting African-Americans, immigrants and dissidents – while looting poor communities . . . and protecting the rich…
War is everywhere and expanding: No continent or region, big or small, is free from the contagion of war.
Imperial wars have spawn local wars . . . igniting mass flights in a never-ending cycle. There are no real diplomatic success stories! There are no enduring, viable peace accords!
Some pundits may protest this analysis: They point to the recent US – Cuba rapprochement as a ‘success’. They conveniently forget that the US is still subverting Cuba’s biggest trading partner, Venezuela; that Washington’s major regional proxies are demanding regime change among Cuba’s allies in Ecuador, Brazil and Bolivia and that Washington is increasingly threatening Cuba’s alternative markets in Russia and China. The vision of the US flag flapping in the breeze outside its embassy in Havana does little to cover Washington’s iron fist threatening Cuba’s allies.
Others cite the US – Iran peace accord as a major ‘success’. They ignore that the US is backing the bloody Saudi invasion of neighboring Yemen and the massacre of Shiite communities; that the US has provided Israel with a road map detailing Iran’s entire defense system and that the US [Israel] and EU are bombing Iran’s Syrian ally without mercy.
As for the US – Cuba and Iranian agreements– are they enduring and strategic or just tactical imperial moves preparing for even greater assaults?
The war epidemic is not receding.
War refugees are still fleeing; they have no homes or communities left.
Disorder and destruction are increasing, not decreasing; there is no rebuilding the shattered societies, not in Gaza, not in Fallujah, not in the Donbas, not in Guerrero, not in Aleppo.
Europe feels the tremors of a major conflagration.
Americans still believe that the two oceans will protect them. They are told that placing NATO missiles on Russia’s borders and stationing warships off China’s shores and building electrified walls and laying barbed wire along the Rio Grande will protect them. Such is their faith in their political leaders and propagandists.
What a packet of lies! Inter-continental missiles can ‘rain down’ on New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
It is time to wake up!
It is time to stop the US – EU headlong race to World War III!
Where to start? Libya has been irrevocably destroyed; it is too late there! Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are aflame. We are being plunged deeper into war while being told we are withdrawing! Ukraine sucks in more guns and more troops!
Can we really have peace with Iran if we cannot control our own government as it dances to the Israelis tune? And Israel insists on war – our waging war for them! As the Israeli war criminal General and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once told some worried American Zionists: “Trouble with the US? We lead them by the nose…!”
Just look at the terrified families fleeing carnage in the Middle East or Mexico.
What is to be done?
When will we cut our losses and shake off the bonds of these war makers – foreign and domestic?
An online video of Indian MP Shashi Tharoor arguing that Britain should pay India reparations for its colonial legacy has gone viral. It prompted much enthusiasm in the Indian press and parliament, as well as responses in the British press arguing both for and against Tharoor’s proposal. Interestingly, it also prompted a short article in the Guardian newspaper, ‘How much did you really learn about the British empire in school?”
The article did not really answer the title’s question, even though the answer is ‘bugger all’.
It is quite extraordinary that British school children learn essentially nothing about an empire upon which ‘the sun never set’, which invaded every country on the planet bar 22 countries, spawned the world’s superpower, the United States, and that drew up the borders to so many countries with long-lasting negative results – Pakistan/India (Kashmir conflict), Sykes-Picot (divided up the Middle East), Nigeria, South Africa, and so on.
I had a British education in the 1980s and 1990s. In history lessons we touched on ancient Egypt, the Romans, the Vikings, then flash forwarded to Agincourt, Tudor England, the Industrial Revolution, the two World Wars, and some Cold War history. Colonialism was barely mentioned, or de-colonisation. Students had no idea about the true scale and the long history of the British empire. Then at university, where I studied international history and international politics, I encountered next to nothing about British colonialism; one course was on de-colonisation in Africa, but that was a class only history students took. In fact, I learned more about the British empire from the Flashman novels than I did at school or university – through George McDonald Fraser’s witty novels I read for the first time about the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-42), the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-6), the Indian War of Independence (or Mutiny as the Brits call it in 1857), the British and French invasion of China (the Second Opium War, 1856-1860), the invasion of Abyssinia (1868), and the White Rajah of Sarawak.
While Fraser had no real truck with imperialism, his extensive footnotes allowed you to read between the lines, and importantly learn something about what perfidious Albion was up to in the nineteenth century.
The Flashman novels aside, there are few other popular novels about the British empire (although J.G. Farrell’s excellent Empire Trilogy comes to mind), or films for that matter, certainly with a critical perspective produced over the past few decades. It is as if there is a collective amnesia about Britain’s imperial past. The one place you do encounter it is at the Imperial War Museum in London, but that is very much a hagiographic experience, not touching on the dark side of colonialism.
This amnesia extends to political studies too. Despite studying international relations at university, British foreign policy – old and contemporary – was not taught. An internet search showed that only one British university covers British foreign policy, as if Britain was not at all an actor on the world stage, not a part of the G8 or the UN Security Council, and was practising isolationism, when we know that is far from being the case. This is also extraordinary. There were – and still are – plenty of research papers and essays written about US foreign policy – invariably bashing it – but the same does not apply to British foreign policy; Europe yes, but not about what is coming out of Westminster and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). Indeed, the FCO’s title says it all really, which should mean students, academics and journalists should be devoting as much, if not more, attention to its activities than Washington’s.
In conversation with Mark Curtis shortly after he published “Unpeople: Britain’s Secret Human Rights Abuses”, in which he states Britain bears “significant responsibility” since 1945 for the direct or indirect deaths of 8.6 million to 13.5 million people throughout the world, I asked him how many people were going through declassified British documents. He answered just one other research he knew of, Caroline Elkins, for her book “Britain’s Gulag: the Brutal End of Empire in Kenya”.
No academics or investigative journalists? He answered in the negative. That may, one hopes, have changed since 2005. But the title to George Monbiot’s article in 2012 discussing Elkins’ book still holds true, ‘Deny the British empire’s crimes? No, we ignore them’.
To have discovered about Britain’s past – varnished and unvarnished – has been a long term endeavour, from one’s own volition. Travel has also helped to discover the true extent of Britain’s empire and its legacy. The fact that all plug sockets in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries are British speaks volumes. Unless I had been there and read about the Gulf, I would never have known that the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain all got their independence from Britain in 1971, and Kuwait in 1961. Or known that Cyprus got independence in 1960 – despite the ongoing presence of British Sovereign Base Areas – Uganda in 1962 and Tanzania in 1963. Hong Kong in 1997.
None of these ‘handbacks’ are very old, at all, yet few Brits below a certain age would know, and I would bet the vast majority of schoolchildren as well as university students today wouldn’t know either. Students wouldn’t be able to point on the map the countries that were British colonies. India perhaps. But would they know about the rest of Asia, Africa, South America, the Caribbean? Perhaps from the Commonwealth Games the public would have an idea, but the history of how Britain ‘acquired’ its colonies would be missing.
Tharoor’s suggestion that Britain should pay India reparations, even a token £1 ($1.54) a year as a form of apology for 200 years of occupation, should be strongly considered. Teaching children about the British empire should also be a major component of the curriculum. It is, quite simply, ridiculous that such a broad sway of history is not touched upon, especially a history that has had such a profound effect on the modern world.
Paul Cochrane is a freelance journalist and commentator based in Beirut, Lebanon for the past eight years. He covers the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
The debate that has opened up regarding the International Criminal Court as a consequence of South Africa’s decision not to arrest Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir while he was attending the recent African Union summit in Johannesburg and Palestine’s successful application to join the court is long overdue.
The pursuit of justice, in the wake of wrong-doing and especially in the face of crimes against humanity and war crimes, is one of mankind’s most noble instincts. The International Criminal Court was embraced with understandable enthusiasm by a wide range of people, non-governmental organisations and governments when it came into being on 1 July 2002. Less than eight years later, however, the ICC-friendly Economist found itself obliged to publish an article about the court entitled “International justice: Courting disaster?” The court had already shown the behaviour that would come to irretrievably undermine it. Entering the fourteenth year of its existence, the International Criminal Court still finds itself unable to credibly respond to allegations of selectivity, racism, incompetence and impotence.
With hindsight, it can be seen that the Court clearly contained the seeds of its own destruction from the start. Good law evolves over decades. It is said that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. The ICC is a court designed by non-governmental organisations. The Rome statute was driven and largely drafted by non-governmental organisations within a month on a take it or leave it basis. The chief counsel of the Israeli delegation in Rome at the time noted of the NGOs that were present that “They were in on nearly every meeting. They were in on everything.” The end result was a founding statute that that even avid fans of the ICC acknowledged was seriously flawed. The resultant ICC is a judicial Frankenstein’s monster.
Many of those who initially welcomed the establishment of the court were African. They joined an institution they were assured would be independent and which would proceed without fear or favour. The body before them today, however, bears little resemblance to what was claimed of it in 2002. Despite having received almost 9,000 formal complaints about alleged war crimes in at least 139 countries, the ICC has focused exclusively on Africa, choosing to indict 36 black Africans in eight African countries. African heads of state have perhaps understandably spoken of “race hunting” by a court largely funded by Africa’s former colonial powers. Unsurprisingly, the African Union has publicly called upon its 54 members not to co-operate with the court.
The credibility of any court is its independence. The truth is that the ICC is as independent as the United Nations Security Council, and its European funders, lets it be. Far from being an independent, impartial, international court, the ICC is inextricably tied to the UN Security Council. Articles 13(b) and 16 of the ICC’s own statute grant special “prosecutorial” rights, to refer or defer an ICC investigation or prosecution, to the Security Council, or more specifically to the five Permanent members of the Security Council. Political interference was thus made part of the Court’s founding terms of reference. There is the deeply questionable situation whereby three of the five Permanent members – the United States, China and the Russian Federation – who are not members of the Court, claim to be able to refer other non-signatories to the Rome Statute to the Court when it is politically expedient for them so to do, something they have done on two occasions. The former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has admitted that “questions of credibility will persist so long” as three of the five permanent members of the Security Council are not parties to the Statute.
The court is also inextricably tied to the European Union which provides over 60 percent of its funding. The ICC has come to be seen within Africa very much as a European-funded and directed instrument of European foreign policy. The United States has forcefully pointed out that the ICC is a kangaroo court, a travesty of justice open to political influence, and has said that no American citizen will ever come before it.
Politics aside, the sheer incompetence of the Court at a basic level has been breathtaking. The court’s proceedings thus far have often been questionable where not simply farcical. Those who brought the ICC into being appear to be more concerned with gender balance rather than competence on the bench. Its judges – some of whom have never been lawyers, let alone judges – are the result of grubbily corrupt vote-trading amongst member states. Far from securing the best legal minds in the world this produces mediocrity. There is more than a passing resemblance to FIFA in as much as at least one elected “judge” had neither law degree nor legal experience but her country had contributed handsomely to the ICC budget. The Court has produced witnesses who recanted their testimony the moment they got into the witness box, admitting that they were coached by non-governmental organisations as to what false statements to make. Dozens of other “witnesses” have similarly disavowed their “evidence”. Most recently the ICC prosecutor had to admit that one of its own star witnesses in its case against Kenyan Vice-President Ruto was “a thoroughly unreliable and incredible” witness. Much the same can be said about the ICC as a whole.
There have been numerous examples of prosecutorial misconduct, not least of which the ICC Chief Prosecutor hiding hundreds of items of exculpatory evidence, which should have ended any trial because they would have compromised the integrity of any legal process. The same Chief Prosecutor was not only seemingly unaware of the basic legal concept of presumption of innocence but also threatened to criminalise third-parties who might argue a presumption of innocence on the part of those indicted – and as yet unconvicted – by the court.
But most disturbingly of all, while claiming that preventing and ending conflict is its most important raison d’etre the ICC’s pseudo-legal blundering has derailed delicate peace processes across the continent – thereby prolonging war. One can expect more of the same from any involvement it may come to have in the Middle East.
The reality is that the International Criminal Court is a billion Euro white elephant that is simply unfit for purpose. It has been a disaster for the concept of international justice. If the answer is the International Criminal Court, it must have been a stupid question.
The writer is the author of Justice Denied: The Reality of the International Criminal Court, a 610-page study of the International Criminal Court published by the Africa Research Centre. The book is available to read or download at www.africaresearchcentre.org The author can be contacted by email firstname.lastname@example.org.