February 18, 2015
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Dear Prime Minister:
Many Americans love Canada and the specific benefits that have come to our country from our northern neighbor’s many achievements (see Canada Firsts by Nader, Conacher and Milleron). Unfortunately, your latest proposed legislation—the new anti-terrorism act—is being described by leading Canadian civil liberties scholars as hazardous to Canadian democracy.
A central criticism was ably summarized in a February 2015 Globe and Mail editorial titled “Parliament Must Reject Harper’s Secret Policeman Bill,” to wit:
“Prime Minister Stephen Harper never tires of telling Canadians that we are at war with the Islamic State. Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force.
Canadians should not be willing to accept such an obvious threat to their basic liberties. Our existing laws and our society are strong enough to stand up to the threat of terrorism without compromising our values.”
Particularly noticeable in your announcement were your exaggerated expressions that exceed the paranoia of Washington’s chief attack dog, former vice-president Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney periodically surfaces to update his pathological war mongering oblivious to facts—past and present—including his criminal war of aggression which devastated Iraq—a country that never threatened the U.S.
You are quoted as saying that “jihadi terrorism is one of the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced” as a predicate for your gross over-reaction that “violent jihadism seeks to destroy” Canadian “rights.” Really? Pray tell, which rights rooted in Canadian law are “jihadis” fighting in the Middle East to obliterate? You talk like George W. Bush.
How does “jihadism” match up with the lives of tens of millions of innocent civilians, destroyed since 1900 by state terrorism—west and east, north and south—or the continuing efforts seeking to seize or occupy territory?
Reading your apoplectic oratory reminds one of the prior history of your country as one of the world’s peacekeepers from the inspiration of Lester Pearson to the United Nations. That noble pursuit has been replaced by deploying Canadian soldiers in the belligerent service of the American Empire and its boomeranging wars, invasions and attacks that violate our Constitution, statutes and international treaties to which both our countries are signatories.
What has all this post-9/11 loss of American life plus injuries and sickness, in addition to trillions of American tax dollars, accomplished? Has it led to the stability of those nations invaded or attacked by the U.S. and its reluctant western “allies?” Just the opposite, the colossal blowback evidenced by the metastasis of al-Qaeda’s offshoots and similar new groups like the self-styled Islamic state are now proliferating in and threatening over a dozen countries.
Have you digested what is happening in Iraq and why Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said no to Washington? Or now chaotic Libya, which like Iraq never had any presence of Al-Qaeda before the U.S.’s destabilizing military attacks? (See the New York Times’ editorial on February 15, 2015 titled “What Libya’s Unraveling Means”.)
Perhaps you will find a former veteran CIA station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, Robert L. Grenier more credible. Writing in his just released book: 88 Days to Kandahar: A CIA Diary (Simon & Schuster), he sums up U.S. government policy this way: “Our current abandonment of Afghanistan is the product of a…colossal overreach, from 2005 onwards.” He writes, “in the process we overwhelmed a primitive country, with a largely illiterate population, a tiny agrarian economy, a tribal social structure and nascent national institutions. We triggered massive corruption through our profligacy; convinced a substantial number of Afghans that we were, in fact, occupiers and facilitated the resurgence of the Taliban” (Alissa J. Rubin, Robert L. Grenier’s ‘88 Days to Kandahar,’ New York Times, February 15, 2015).
You may recall George W. Bush’s White House counterterrorism czar, Richard Clarke, who wrote in his 2004 book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror—What Really Happened, “It was as if Osama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, were engaging in long-range mind control of George Bush, chanting, ‘Invade Iraq, you must invade Iraq.’”
Mr. Bush committed sociocide against that country’s twenty-seven million people. Over 1 million innocent Iraqi civilians lost their lives, in addition to millions sick and injured. Refugees have reached five million and growing. He destroyed critical public services and sparked sectarian massacres—massive war crimes, which in turn produce ever-expanding blowbacks.
Canadians might be most concerned about your increased dictatorial policies and practices, as well as this bill’s provision for secret law and courts in the name of fighting terrorism—too vaguely defined. Study what comparable practices have done to the United States – a course that you seem to be mimicking, including the militarization of police forces (see The Walrus, December 2014).
If passed, this act, piled on already stringent legal authority, will expand your national security bureaucracies and their jurisdictional disputes, further encourage dragnet snooping and roundups, fuel fear and suspicion among law-abiding Canadians, stifle free speech and civic action and drain billions of dollars from being used for the necessities of Canadian society. This is not hypothetical. Along with an already frayed social safety net, once the envy of the world, you almost got away with a $30 billion dollar purchase of unneeded costly F-35s (including maintenance) to bail out the failing budget-busting F-35 project in Washington.
You may think that Canadians will fall prey to a politics of fear before an election. But you may be misreading the extent to which Canadians will allow the attachment of their Maple Leaf to the aggressive talons of a hijacked American Eagle.
Canada could be a model for independence against the backdrop of bankrupt American military adventures steeped in big business profits… a model that might help both nations restore their better angels.
Canada has added Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft, and the CEO of Rostec, to a sanctions blacklist along with 37 Ukrainians and 17 Russian and Ukrainian organizations. They are all covered by economic sanctions and travel bans.
It’s a coordinated move with the European Union and the United States, who have already imposed a number of sanctions on Russia, according to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“In coordination with our EU and US partners, Canada is once again intensifying its response to the situation by announcing further sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian individuals and entities,” Harper said in a statement on his official website on Tuesday.
Canada has been trying for months to resist the pressure on taking any further restrictive measures against Russia, despite the fact it had already sanctioned 80 Russian and Ukrainian officials last year.Last May, the country decided not to impose sanctions against Rosneft and Rostec because it didn’t want politics to hurt Canada’s biggest business projects.
Russia’s oil giant Rosneft owns about 30 percent of an ExxonMobil oil field in the Canadian province of Alberta. Rosneft purchased a stake in the Cardium basin deposit in 2012; the deal became Russia’s first Canadian presence and was expected to benefit Canada’s economy by accelerating resource development.
Russian state-owned industrial and defense firm Rostec, and Canadian plane and train maker Bombardier signed a $3.4 billion deal two years ago. The companies had decided to establish joint venture to produce Q400 aircraft, which Canada recognized as a “landmark opportunity for the Q400 NextGen aircraft program.” The venture intended to build 24 aircraft a year, with some 250 constructed by 2030. The deal was postponed last year due to the anti-Russian sanctions imposed then by the Canadian government.
Iranian musician and Kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor along with Indian sitar maestro Shujaat Husain Khan is slated to perform in New York, Boston and Irvine
The duo is planning to present their program accompanied by Ghazal Ensemble in the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University on March 22, 2015.
Ghazal (with Shujaat Hussein Khan and Sandeep Das) March 2015 events are:
13 Mar: Kay Meek Theater, Vancouver, Canada
15 Mar: Skirball Center, Los Anegeles, CA
17 Mar: Irvine Barclay Theater, Irvine, CA
19 Mar: Freer Gallery, Washington, DC
21 Mar: Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA
22 Mar: Schimmel Center at Pace University, NY
25-28 Mar: Agha Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada
29 Mar: Asia Society Texas Center, Houston, TX
Other Kayhan Kalhor early 2015 events (Europe, US): www.facebook.com/kalhor.kayhan
Ghazal Ensemble, formed in 1997 by Kalhor and Husain Khan, has been touring the world and it is acclaimed for performing Indo-Persian music.
Described by the Los Angeles Times as “utterly captivating… an irresistible expression of creative musical passion,” Ghazal’s performances and recordings have garnered critical acclaim as well as a 2004 Grammy nomination for Best Traditional World Music Album for their 2003 live album The Rain. Amazon named Ghazal’s first CD, Lost Songs of the Silk Road, to its list of the best 100 world music albums ever recorded.
Kalhor is known for his brilliant performances on the traditional instrument Kamancheh and creating a unique mixture of classical Persian music with folk tunes of the Kurdistan region.
He held many concerts along with the world-renowned musicians and ensembles such as the string quartet, Brooklyn Rider ensemble, in Minneapolis, United States, in 2012.
Kalhor also presented joint programs with the veteran Turkish Baglama player Erdal Erzincan in New York’s GlobalFest held at the Marlin Room on January 13, 2013.
He also performed introspective performances with a number of world-class Asian musicians at BT River of Music in London.
Shujaat Husain Khan is one of today’s greatest North Indian artists, who represent the seventh generation of illustrious musicians, which includes his father, the great sitarist Ustad Vilayat Khan.
BIOGRAPHY – KAYHAN KALHOR
Kayhan Kalhor is an internationally acclaimed virtuoso on the kamancheh (Persian spiked fiddle). His performances of Persian music and his many collaborations have attracted audiences around the globe.
Born in Tehran, Iran, he began his musical studies at the age of seven. At thirteen, he was invited to work with the National Orchestra of Radio and Television of Iran, where he performed for five years. When he was seventeen he began working with the Shayda Ensemble of the Chavosh Cultural Center, the most prestigious arts organization in Iran at the time. At a musical conservatory in Tehran around age 20 Kalhor worked under the directorship of Mohammad-Reza Lotfi who is from Northern Khorasan. He has traveled extensively throughout Iran, studying the music of its many regions, in particular those of Khorason and Kordestan. … http://theotheriran.com/2015/02/03/keyhan-kalhor-iranian-music-maestro-and-former-grammy-awards-nominee-to-perform-in-the-us-and-canada/
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has introduced new anti-terror laws, which significantly expands the powers of the country’s spy agencies.
The proposed legislation announced on Friday would allow anyone suspected of being involved in a terror plot to be taken into custody for up to a week without any charges.
The law would make it a felony for any person to call for a terrorist attack, even without making any specific threat.
In addition, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), would receive additional powers to track and arrest suspects, including preventing Canadian citizens from traveling abroad for terror purposes by cancelling their plane or other travel reservations.
Furthermore, authorities will have the right to remove terror-related material posted on any Canadian website.
Harper said the new law is required as militants have declared war on Canada and it would be wrong to ignore their threats.
The proposed law still has to be approved by the country’s parliament. However, the legislation is likely to be adopted as Harper’s Conservative administration holds the majority of seats in the assembly.
The legislation has drawn criticism from a number of figures including, opposition leader Tom Mulcair, who expressed concern about oversight and abuses.
Kent Roach, a law professor at the University of Toronto, also voiced concern over the proposed law, saying it has a “potential” of suppressing expression.
Harper’s proposal comes in the wake two so-called terrorism-related attacks in the capital of Ottawa and in the city of Quebec last October.
On October 22, 2014, an armed assailant, identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, killed a soldier at the country’s national war memorial in the capital and then stormed the parliament before being shot dead by police.
In another incident just two days earlier, a radicalized Quebec man, identified as Martin Couture-Rouleau, was shot dead by police after he ran down two soldiers, killing one of them, with his vehicle near a military compound.
Canada monitors all internet downloads January 28, 2015
Canada police allowed to search phones December 12, 2014
January 24, 2015
Dear University of Toronto and University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation:
This is in response to the recent assault on student activism and student spaces at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus:
On Thursday November 6, a 34 year-old man with no affiliation to the University of Toronto furiously entered the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union office after hours. He stole a poster that read WARNING: THIS UNIVERSITY PROFITS OFF ISRAELI APARTHEID AND OCCUPATION. All attempts to calm him down failed. After stealing the poster he drove off, recording the incident with his phone. Campus police filed a report and said to notify them if the man returns. After a couple of weeks we put up another sign. The man came back. He forced his way into the student union. We tried to calm him down and initiate dialogue. The man replied with, “I’ll rip your fucking throat out” and “I have twelve guys on standby ready”—implying that he or other people will be back. He shouted that he use to be a part of the “israeli” military and regularly killed “terrorists”. Campus police came to the scene and issued the man a Notice of Trespass for the UTSC campus.
In fury, we wondered how a man with no affiliation to the University of Toronto invaded student spaces, threatened students, stole private property, and walked away with just a Notice of Trespass. Why hasn’t the University been held accountable for investing in companies such as Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, both of which supply F-16 bomber jets and Hellfire missiles to “israel”? Why do our tuition dollars continue to fund “israel’s” colonization and ethnic cleansing of Palestine? The University—rather than addressing their complicity—responded with increased policing of student union spaces and activism. We are not looking for increased policing of activist activities, we want to cut ties with international law violations without facing death threats. If the University of Toronto did not invest in these companies we would not be threatened repeatedly on University grounds.
We demand that the University of Toronto, University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation:
- Immediately divest from companies complicit in international law violations, including all companies profiting off “israel’s” colonization and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian land.
– Apologize and take accountability for the violence and death threats we’ve incurred as a result of raising awareness of UTAM’s investments.
– Ensure safer spaces for student organizers not through increased policing and surveillance but rather by validating our voices and addressing our concerns.
U of T Divest – Scarborough
Brandon Martinez interviews Hafsa Kara-Mustapha on a January 18, 2015 episode of the Non-Aligned Media Podcast.
Hafsa Kara-Mustapha is a London-based journalist and political commentator who has written extensively about the Middle East for publications such as Middle East Magazine, Jane’s Foreign Report and El Watan newspaper. She also appears frequently on Press TV and Russia Today.
Brandon Martinez is an independent writer and journalist from Canada who specializes in foreign policy issues, international affairs and 20th and 21st century history. For years he has written on Zionism, Israel-Palestine, American and Canadian foreign policy, war, terrorism and deception in media and politics. Listeners can contact him at martinezperspective[at]hotmail.com or visit his blog.
Joshua Blakeney was interviewed on January 5, 2014, by Bob Tuskin for his radio show. They discussed a number of issues including:
– The Ottawa shooting of October 22, 2014
– Zionist hegemony in Canada
– “Hate Speech” legislation and other thought-crime laws
– Election fraud in the 2011 Canadian Federal Election
– Blakeney’s research at the National Diet Library in Tokyo
– The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, Pan-Asianism, Shūmei Ōkawa and Western imperialism in Asia
– The inorganic nature of Communism in Asia
– Press TV, Russia Today and the importance of counter-hegemonic discourses
– Fukushima and the energy crisis in Japan
A study published by a top US literary organization on Monday, found that an increasing number of writers in democratic countries are censoring themselves due to fears about government surveillance.
The study entitled “Global chilling: The impact of Mass Surveillance on International Writers” surveyed 772 writers in 50 countries and concluded that writers and journalists are self-censoring for fear of reprisal.
A similar report published in November 2013 found that writers were “worried about mass surveillance, and were engaged in multiple forms of self-censorship as a result.”
A full report from writers around the world will be issued in the spring of 2015. As writers are considered to be the “canaries in the coalmine” therefore they are likely to give an accurate picture of the impact of surveillance on privacy and freedom of expression.
Writers living in democratic countries were found to be nearly as concerned as those living in non-democratic states with long histories of mass surveillance.
It found that while 61 percent of writers living in the countries labeled as ‘Not Free’ by Freedom House avoided writing or speaking about a certain topic because of government surveillance this was now true of 34 percent of writers in ‘Free’ countries.
“Writers are concerned that expressing certain views even privately or researching certain topics may lead to negative consequences,” the study concluded.
It also found that writers outside the US shared many of the same fears and uncertainties, particularly in the countries in the Five Eyes alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and US.
One respondent said he “hesitated – and thought to answer very honestly – these questions.”
There was also a sharp decline in how writers viewed the US as a haven for free expression, with 36 percent of writers surveyed in so-called ‘Free’ countries believing that their own country offers better protection for freedom of expression than the US.
The Pen document ends with recommendations that the US government stops dragnet monitoring and the collection of US citizen’s communications. It also advises that collection of digital metadata be suspended and advises greater judicial, legislative and executive oversight of US intelligence agency programs.
It also pointed out that the US has to respect the privacy and rights to free expression of foreign citizens either in or out of the US.
“As the United Nations has repeatedly stated, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the US is a party, requires it to respect the human rights to privacy and free expression of all individuals affected by its surveillance programs,” the report says.
By Robert Fantina | Aletho News | December 31, 2014
The United States once again disgraced itself on the world stage at the United Nations on December 30, when it voted against full recognition of Palestine. It proved to the world, if any further proof was required, that it has no interest in fostering the human rights and self-determination of any people that doesn’t benefit it in some way, either through making available to the U.S. coveted natural resources, allowing military bases to be built in the country, or funneling huge amounts of money into the campaign coffers of elected officials.
The vote was close: eight in favor, two opposed and five abstentions. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a weak and spineless leader if ever there was one, had vowed to join all the U.N. organizations it became eligible for when Palestine was voted ‘non-member observer state status’ by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, and the International Criminal Court, if the resolution failed to pass. It will be interesting to see if he finally puts the needs of the Palestinians first, and follows through with this promise.
Although the vote failed, and even if it had passed, the U.S. would have vetoed it, it was, nonetheless, a significant milestone. Increasingly, and especially since Israel’s latest genocidal assault on the Gaza Strip, the world is recognizing what a few governments still deny: Israel is an apartheid regime, determined to destroy Palestine, its people and culture. Thanks in large part to the international Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement, and the ready access that so many people have to social media, Israel is becoming increasingly isolated as a global pariah, with only the U.S. and a few other countries, including Canada (to its everlasting shame), still defending it.
After Tuesday’s vote, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said, incredibly, that ‘no other country in the world has invested more than the United States in pursuing peace between Israel and the Palestinians.’ It might be useful to look at what the U.S. has, in fact, done in this regard.
- Vetoed resolutions condemning continued illegal settlement building in the West Bank. It is in violation of international law for an occupying nation (Israel) to move its citizens permanently into the occupied territory (Palestine). Israel has relocated over 500,000 Israelis into the West Bank, property that the international community says belongs to Palestine. And Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu says that not one of those settlers will ever be displaced. In early 2011, when the U.S. vetoed a resolution condemning settlement building, then U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said that the U.S. recognizes the illegality of settlement building, but didn’t feel the U.N. was the place to address it. Where, one might reasonably ask, should violations of international law be addressed if not at the United Nations?
- Gives $3 billion to Israel annually, and nothing to Palestine. This enables Israel to have one of the most powerful military machines in the world, while Palestine has no army, navy or air force.
- Supports the carpet-bombing of Palestine. Periodically, sometimes in response to ineffective rocket fire from Gaza, rockets that Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and an active proponent of Palestinian rights, calls ‘enhanced fire works’, and sometimes just on a whim, Israel begins bombing homes, schools, mosques, U.N. refugee centers and press offices, all in violation of international law. The U.S. proclaims that Israel has a right to defend itself, despite the illogic of an occupying nation defending itself from the nation it occupies. Also, international law that the U.S. recognizes states that an occupied nation has the right to defend itself. Even when Israeli soldiers target children, and bomb U.N. refugee centers, and the U.S. issues some mild criticism, it continues to send advanced weaponry to Israel.
- Ignores the horrific suffering of the Palestinian people. In the Gaza Strip, thanks to Israel’s illegal blockade and periodic bombing, the economy is decimated. Unemployment is among the highest in the world, and thousands of people are homeless due to U.S.-supplied bombs. As much as 90% of the water is not fit to drink. Yet not only does the U.S. send no aid, it allows Israel to block aid from other countries.
- Sponsors the farce of ongoing negotiations. It is a basic fact that negotiations can only occur between two parties, each of which has something the other wants that it can only obtain by surrendering something it has. Israel is able to take with impunity anything it wants from Palestine. It bulldozes entire villages to build illegal settlements, and uses Palestinian natural resources for manufacturing its own products. This is all in violation of international law, law that the U.S. recognizes.
A look at the United States relations with an earlier apartheid regime, South Africa, may help clarify U.S. support for Israel. Through the 1970s and 1980s, most U.S. administrations condemned the apartheid government, but opposed any economic sanctions to discourage it. As late as the administration of President Ronald Reagan, the U.S. had very friendly ties with South Africa. Mr. Reagan accused opponents of the apartheid government, most notably the African National Congress, of being pro-communist. In 1984, Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu characterized the Reagan policy as ‘immoral, evil and totally un-Christian’. The U.S. finally imposed economic sanctions, only after Congress overrode a presidential veto.
Today, the U.S. demonizes Hamas, the democratically-elected government in Gaza, which earlier this year reunified with Fatah, the puppet government in the West Bank, a reunification that enraged Mr. Netanyahu and was the probable cause of his murderous assault on Gaza. The U.S. condemns illegal settlement construction, but finances it through its very generous foreign aid to Israel.
Like the situation in South Africa a generation ago, it will not be the U.S. that leads the way to freedom and self-determination for the Palestinian people. No, that will occur in spite of, and not because of, U.S. actions. As indicated by the vote in the General Assembly in 2012 to grant Palestine Non-Member Observer State Status, yesterday’s close albeit unsuccessful vote to recognize Palestine in the Security Council, the growing BDS movement, the resolutions of many countries calling on their governments to recognize Palestine, Sweden’s recent recognition of Palestine, and worldwide outrage at Israel’s savage treatment of Palestinians, the U.S. will not be able to prevent the end of the occupation forever. It could be a force for freedom and human rights, but chooses instead to be an imperial nation, supporting the colonization of countries that can’t provide it with profits, ignoring and even financing horrific human rights abuses, and practicing savage racism within its own borders. U.S. citizens may still believe their nation’s public relations campaigns that proclaim it as a beacon of peace and freedom throughout the world, but that myth is not accepted beyond its borders. Rather than a major diplomatic player on the world stage, the U.S. is a farce, feared for its military power, but gaining no respect anywhere.
There is no principle in international law more fundamental than the right of all peoples to self-determination. This is universally accepted by the entire world, yet nearly 70 years after the signing of the UN Charter, the United States continues to fight tooth and nail against this most basic human right.
On December 18, the U.S. was one of only seven countries to vote against a UN General Assembly resolution that passed with 180 votes affirming the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
Earlier this year, the U.S. also found themselves on the wrong side of the international consensus when the UN Special Committee on Decolonization approved a statement to “reaffirm the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination.”
Self-determination “denotes the legal right of people to decide their own destiny in the international order,” according to the Legal Information Institute.
This right was enshrined in international law with its inclusion in the UN Charter in 1945. Article 1 of the Charter states that one of the purposes of the United Nations is: “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”
In the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, this was made even more explicit: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”
For people deprived of equal rights and political participation, self-determination could take many forms: independence, assimilation, sovereign association, or another form they choose for themselves. But no one has a right to self-determination at the expense of someone else.
“It is well known that any attempt to deny a human group its self-determination only intensifies its demand for sovereignty and enhances its collective identity,” writes Shlomo Sand in The Invention of the Jewish People. “This does not, of course, give a particular group that sees itself as a people the right to dispossess another group of its land in order to achieve its self-determination. But that is precisely what happened in Mandatory Palestine in the first half of the twentieth century.”
Some people justify Israel’s right to exist by claiming that Jewish people deserve self-determination just like all other peoples. But European Zionists seeking self-determination did not have a right to conquer the indigenous population of an already-populated land to establish a state which did not include Palestinians. In 1947, Jews represented no more than 33% of the population and owned no more than 10% of the land in Mandatory Palestine. There is no justification for ethnically cleansing people, stealing their land, and preventing the return of refugees for seven decades in order to manipulate the demographics of the state and engineer an artificial ruling majority.
The United States has never respected self-determination as a concept or a right. As independence movements from Asia to Africa to the Middle East fought wars of liberation following World War II, the United States fought on the side of colonial domination and subjugation.
Self-determination is not just a utopian ideal. It is a legal right. The contents of the UN Charter and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – as well as all treaties ratified by the U.S. government – are the “supreme law of the land,” per Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, prevention of self-determination is a legally enforceable human rights violation.
The “traditional American conception” of self-determination, writes Noam Chomsky in The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, is that “we will determine, since we are plainly the authentic representatives of the Palestinians – as of the Filipinos, the Nicaraguans, the Greeks, the Vietnamese, the Chileans, the Salvadorans, and many others who have been privileged to enjoy our beneficient attentions.”
When France decided to abandon a failed war to maintain colonial rule over Vietnam, the United States stepped in and escalated the war, carrying out wholesale slaughter of people seeking their liberation. U.S. military forces killed between 2.5 and 5 million Vietnamese, most of them civilians, in an attempt to prevent them from choosing their socioeconomic system on their own.
When the Portuguese dictatorship fell in 1974, clearing the way for independence for former colonies like Angola, the United States encouraged South Africa to invade that country the next year to install a puppet government friendly to the apartheid regime. The racist South Africans would have succeeded if it weren’t for a massive military intervention by Cuba on behalf of the populist Angolan government that crushed the invading forces and sent them back to Pretoria with their tail between their legs.
In 1898, American ships landed at Guánica. One hundred sixteen years later, Puerto Rico is still a colonial possession of the United States. In 1946, Puerto Rico was placed on the United Nations List of Non-Self Governing-Territories. The United States was forced to report regularly on the island’s political status with the goal of decolonization. Not willing to give up ownership of their tropical cash cow, the U.S. backed a new Puerto Rican Constitution that disguised the colonial status of the island. It was given the euphemistic status of a “Commonwealth,” in which the U.S. maintained sovereignty over Puerto Rico. Only the U.S. Congress – which Puerto Ricans cannot elect representatives to or participate in – is empowered to relinquish sovereignty over the island.
The United States has partnered with Israel in keeping Palestinians stateless since the creation of the Israeli state in 1948. In Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel has occupied since 1967, Palestinians do not have citizenship in any state and do not enjoy sovereignty over the territory the entire world has recognized as their own.
Israel has for decades demonstrated that it intends to maintain the nearly half-century occupation indefinitely and prevent any Palestinian state. Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party charter states: “The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel,” and “The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem.” As the majority party in the Knesset, they have been carrying this out in practice.
There is an name for ruling over people while preventing them from being part of the political process that governs their lives. It’s called colonialism, In international law, it is a crime against humanity.
Israel’s plan is to simply continue the status quo under the guise of a “peace process.” While Israel, with the help of the United States, uses the farcical cover of negotiations, they continue to steal Palestinian land and water while transferring in hundreds of thousands of Jewish Israelis onto stolen land and evicting residents of East Jerusalem to clear the way for more Jews.
It is what historian Illan Pappe and others have called “slow-motion genocide.” They create the conditions intended to drive as many Palestinians as possible from their land – to Jordan, Syria, or anywhere outside Greater Israel. They hope that as more 1948 refugees grow older and die their ancestors will lose their claim to the land they were systematically driven away from before the formation of the state of Israel. In this way, the Jewish state hopes to establish its permanence from the Jordan river to the Sea.
All this is only possible because the Israeli state denies Palestinians sovereignty to govern themselves or participate in a binational arrangement to share governance in Greater Israel. People who can’t vote and have no voice in these policies obviously cannot change them. Which is why it is so important to Israel to continue to deny Palestinians self-determination. Preserving their colonial domination over territory and people they have conquered is much more important to Israel than having a legitimate claim to being a democratic state that values human rights.
The rest of the world showed in voting for the UN resolution affirming the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination how isolated the U.S. and Israel are as they cling to a morally and legally indefensible position. Only Canada and four American client states (all tiny Pacific Island nations) joined them in voting against the measure.
The vote is a “strong affirmation of the international support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, led by their right to self-determination and liberation,” said Riyad Mansour, Permanent Palestinian Observer at the UN.
When the Palestinians finally are able to achieve their basic human right of self-determination, it will be in spite of decades of U.S. interference and complicity in Israeli repression. As they were in Vietnam and Southern Africa, and as they continue to be in Puerto Rico, the United States will shamefully be on the wrong side of history.
Whipping with cables. Prolonged solitary confinement. Other unspeakable acts, committed against citizens with official blessing. Use of “information” gathered by torture considered legitimate.
No, no, I don’t mean the Torture Report. I’m talking about Canada.
Let the other sordid drama play itself out in America. We’ve now learned more about “rectal feeding” (read: medically unjustified anal rape) than we ever wanted to know, and that’s just for starters. Did the authorities raid every prison for the criminally insane to swell CIA ranks? Far worse, we’re watching a desperate attempt to frame this whole series of vile acts as a period in (recent) history now thankfully ended. Don’t you go believing that fairytale, now.
Torture and other state-sanctioned violence against civilians continues. Gitmo persists, despite Obama’s promises. His drones are still killing and maiming civilians in far-off lands. American citizens can now be extra-judicially executed by Presidential decree. Due process, Obama’s Attorney General explains, doesn’t necessarily mean judicial process — just a convo in the Oval Office will satisfy Constitutional requirements. Recall also that Obama gave immunity to the creatures who enabled and committed state torture under his predecessor. They aren’t hurting any. The monstrous John Yoo, for one, who advocated for the legality of crushing the testicles of children, is now a well-paid professor in California. Dick Cheney is still making a fortune on the speaking circuit.
Well, as I said, let the U.S. be the U.S., that godawful prison-house, continuing on its downward spiral. But no one should imagine for one moment that it is alone in using torture as a routine implement of policy.
While the current Canadian government — particularly its former Paraguayan wing — is known for its open support of torture as a supposed information-gathering tool, the rot really set in under the previous Liberal administrations of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin. Just ask a victim of “extraordinary rendition” like Maher Arar. Talk to others tortured and imprisoned thanks to the collegial complicity of CSIS with the secret police in Syria, Egypt and Sudan — Canadian citizens Muayyed Nureddin, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou El-Maati, and Abousfian Abdelrazik.
Or ask (if any remain alive) the Afghan detainees turned over by Canadian Forces to Afghan government torturers. Stephen Harper was willing to risk all the marbles there, and he successfully maintained his cover-up after all was said and done. CSIS was up to its neck in that one, too. Most of the documents will likely never be made public, despite an historic ruling by the then-Speaker of the House of Commons, Peter Milliken.
Then there is child soldier Omar Khadr, tortured (once again with CSIS complicity, this time after the fact) in Guantanamo. His only way out of that hellhole was to cop a plea. He’s sitting in a Canadian jail at the moment, while the Harper government continues to make his life miserable.
Is this torture thing just about national security? Not at all. Take the use of solitary confinement within Canada’s prison system. Prolonged solitary confinement is well-recognized as a form of torture. But Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney has now confirmed that it will continue to be imposed on mentally ill inmates, rejecting out of hand the key recommendation from the coroner’s inquest into the death of Ashley Smith.
Let us not be too smug, then, about the horrific revelations south of the border. Because, to put it bluntly, we torture too — and under Stephen Harper, torture has been officially and publicly sanctioned. Compliments of the season, everyone.