Tags: addington, alberto gonzalex, bybee, CIA torture, condoleeza rice, constitutiion, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George Bush, human rights, International law, john yoo, jon queally, nuremberg, obama torture, roger hollander, rumsfeld, senate intelligence, torture, waterboarding
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Roger’s note: The United States government and military violate international law on a daily basis; the Bush/Cheney torture regime, which Obama has outsourced to Bagram and god knows where else, is one of its most blatant manifestations. Obama’s “we need to look forward not backward” excuse for violating his oath to defend the constitution does credit to Lewis Carroll and Franz Kafka. The next time you are before a judge accused of a crime, please remind her that it is time to look forward and not backward. Your charges are sure to be dropped.
According to sources who spoke with McClatchy, five-year inquiry into agency’s torture regime ignores key role played by Bush administration officials who authorized the abuse
According to new reporting by McClatchy, the five-year investigation led by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee into the torture program conducted by the CIA in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 will largely ignore the role played by high-level Bush administration officials, including those on the White House legal team who penned memos that ultimately paved the way for the torture’s authorization.
Though President Obama has repeatedly been criticized for not conducting or allowing a full review of the torture that occured during his predecessor’s tenure, the Senate report—which has been completed, but not released—has repeatedly been cited by lawmakers and the White House as the definitive examination of those policies and practices. According to those with knowledge of the report who spoke with McClatchy, however, the review has quite definite limitations.
The report, one person who was not authorized to discuss it told McClatchy, “does not look at the Bush administration’s lawyers to see if they were trying to literally do an end run around justice and the law.” Instead, the focus is on the actions and inations of the CIA and whether or not they fully informed Congress about those activities. “It’s not about the president,” the person said. “It’s not about criminal liability.”
Responding to comment on the reporting, legal experts and critics of the Bush torture program expressed disappointment that high-level officials in the administration were not part of the review. In addition to the president himself, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, others considered part of what it sometimes referred to as the “Torture Team,” include: Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, former vice-president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon’s general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who wrote many of the specific legal memos authorizing specific forms of abuse.
“If it’s the case that the report doesn’t really delve into the White House role, then that’s a pretty serious indictment of the report,” Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program at the New York University Law School, said to McClatchy. “Ideally it should come to some sort of conclusions on whether there were legal violations and if so, who was responsible.”
And Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, indicated that limiting the report to just the actions of the CIA doesn’t make much sense from a legal or investigative standpoint. “It doesn’t take much creativity to include senior Bush officials in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s jurisdiction. It’s not hard to link an investigation into the CIA’s torture to the senior officials who authorized it. That’s not a stretch at all.”
As Mclatchy‘s Jonathan S. Landay, Ali Watkins and Marisa Taylor report:
The narrow parameters of the inquiry apparently were structured to secure the support of the committee’s minority Republicans. But the Republicans withdrew only months into the inquiry, and several experts said that the parameters were sufficiently flexible to have allowed an examination of the roles Bush, Cheney and other top administration officials played in a top-secret program that could only have been ordered by the president.
“It doesn’t take much creativity to include senior Bush officials in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s jurisdiction,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “It’s not hard to link an investigation into the CIA’s torture to the senior officials who authorized it. That’s not a stretch at all.”
It’s not as if there wasn’t evidence that Bush and his top national security lieutenants were directly involved in the program’s creation and operation.
The Senate Armed Services Committee concluded in a 2008 report on detainee mistreatment by the Defense Department that Bush opened the way in February 2002 by denying al Qaida and Taliban detainees the protection of an international ban against torture.
White House officials also participated in discussions and reviewed specific CIA interrogation techniques in 2002 and 2003, the public version of the Senate Armed Services Committee report concluded.
Several unofficial accounts published as far back as 2008 offered greater detail.
Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld relentlessly pressured interrogators to subject detainees to harsh interrogation methods in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, McClatchy reported in April 2009. Such evidence, which was non-existent, would have substantiated one of Bush’s main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003.
Other accounts described how Cheney, Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Secretary of State Colin Powell approved specific harsh interrogation techniques. George Tenet, then the CIA director, also reportedly updated them on the results.
“Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly,” Ashcroft said after one of dozens of meetings on the program, ABC News reported in April 2008 in a story about the White House’s direct oversight of interrogations.
News reports also chronicled the involvement of top White House and Justice Department officials in fashioning a legal rationale giving Bush the authority to override U.S. and international laws prohibiting torture. They also helped craft opinions that effectively legalized the CIA’s use of waterboarding, wall-slamming and sleep deprivation.
Though President Obama casually admitted earlier this, “We tortured some folks.” — what most critics and human rights experts have requested is an open and unbiased review of the full spectrum of the U.S. torture program under President Bush. And though increasingly unlikely, calls remain for those responsible for authorizing and conducting the abuse to be held accountable with indictments, trials, and if guilty, jail sentences. In addition, as a letter earlier this year signed by ten victims of the extrajudicial rendition under the Bush administration stated, the concept of full disclosure and accountability is key to restoring the credibility of the nation when it comes to human rights abuses:
Publishing the truth is not just important for the US’s standing in the world. It is a necessary part of correcting America’s own history. Today in America, the architects of the torture program declare on television they did the right thing. High-profile politicians tell assembled Americans that ‘waterboarding’ is a ‘baptism’ that American forces should still engage in.
These statements only breed hatred and intolerance. This is a moment when America can move away from all that, but only if her people are not sheltered from the truth.
As McClatchy notes, a redacted version of the report’s summary—the only part of it expected to be released to the public—continues to be under review. Its release date remains unclear.
Obama Charged with ‘Imperial Hubris’ Unmatched Even by Bush September 13, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Constitution, George W. Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: aumf, bomb iraq, bomb syria, congress, George Bush, International law, isil, isis, islamic state, jon queally, roger hollander, war, War Crimes
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Roger’s note: Obama’s latest act of warmongering tells us at least two things. One is that the positions on issues taken by a candidate are a completely unreliable indicator of what said candidate might do once elected. Secondly, the fact that Obama’s decision to declare war unilaterally against Isis/Isil, without either congressional or international authority, has gained widespread bipartisan approval (which is rare these days) shows us how the military industrial complex are the de facto rulers of the allegedly democratic nation.
Following his announcement to bomb Syria without congressional approval, president slammed for total disregard for constitutional safeguards regarding war-making
A day after President Obama told the American public he was preparing to bomb targets inside the sovereign state of Syria and that he did not need congressional approval to do so, critics are lashing out against what Bruce Ackerman, a professor of law and political science at Yale University, described as “imperial hubris” on Friday.
In his scathing op-ed in the New York Times, Ackerman writes:
President Obama’s declaration of war against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria marks a decisive break in the American constitutional tradition. Nothing attempted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, remotely compares in imperial hubris.
Mr. Bush gained explicit congressional consent for his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. In contrast, the Obama administration has not even published a legal opinion attempting to justify the president’s assertion of unilateral war-making authority. This is because no serious opinion can be written.
This became clear when White House officials briefed reporters before Mr. Obama’s speech to the nation on Wednesday evening. They said a war against ISIS was justified by Congress’s authorization of force against Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that no new approval was needed.
But the 2001 authorization for the use of military force does not apply here. That resolution — scaled back from what Mr. Bush initially wanted — extended only to nations and organizations that “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks.
And Ackerman’s not alone.
Robert Chesney, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, told theDaily Beast this week that Obama’s claim of authority to bomb ISIS targets in Syria was “on its face” an “implausible argument.”
“The 2001 AUMF requires a nexus to al Qaeda or associated forces of al Qaeda fighting the United States,” explained Chesney, but “since ISIS broke up with al Qaeda it’s hard to make” the case that authority granted by the AUMF still applies.
And as The Nation magazine’s Zoë Carpenter reports:
The White House’s dismissal of the need for congressional approval is also in conflict with positions Obama himself expressed as a presidential candidate. “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,” Obama declared to The Boston Globe in 2008.
The situation in Iraq and Syria does not appear to meet that standard. Obama acknowledged on Wednesday that “[w]e have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland.” Meanwhile, intelligence sources say that the threat from ISIS has been grossly exaggerated. “It’s hard to imagine a better indication of the ability of elected officials and TV talking heads to spin the public into a panic, with claims that the nation is honeycombed with sleeper cells, that operatives are streaming across the border into Texas or that the group will soon be spraying Ebola virus on mass transit systems—all on the basis of no corroborated information,” former State Department counterterrorism adviser Daniel Benjamin told The New York Times.
According to Ackerman, the president has put himself in a perilous position.
“The president seems grimly determined to practice what Mr. Bush’s lawyers only preached,” the Yale professor concludes in his op-ed. “He is acting on the proposition that the president, in his capacity as commander in chief, has unilateral authority to declare war. In taking this step, Mr. Obama is not only betraying the electoral majorities who twice voted him into office on his promise to end Bush-era abuses of executive authority. He is also betraying the Constitution he swore to uphold.”
And Carpenter says that in addition to defying Congress and his constitutional obligations, Obama should also be worried about the implications for his new strategy under international law. She writes:
It’s worth noting that the legality of an extended cross-border campaign isn’t only a question of the separation of powers. As Eli Lakenoted at The Daily Beast, the White House has not explained the basis for the strikes under international law.
While the administration’s current attempt to circumnavigate Congress is hypocritical as well as potentially illegal, it’s also consistent with the way Obama has exercised US military power before. As Spencer Ackerman notes, he’s extended drone strikes across the Middle East and North Africa; initiated a seven-month air campaign in Libya without congressional approval; prolonged the war in Afghanistan; and, in recent months, ordered more than 1,000 troops back into Iraq. Promises of no boots on the ground notwithstanding, Obama’s war footprint is large, and expanding.
Nearly 500 Hundred Arrested as Fast-Food Workers Rise Up September 5, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Labor, Poverty.
Tags: burger king, civil disobedience, fast food workers, jon queally, kfc, labor, labor unions, labour, low-wage workers, mcdonalds, minimum wage, poverty, roger hollander, seiu, taco bell, union rights, worker rights
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Roger’s note: Only in this world of cancerous capitalist economic relations would a working person have to risk inevitable arrest to advocate for a living wage from from the employers for whom her labor helps to build billions of dollars in profits. Socialism is not, as often mistakenly thought, the state ownership of everything. Genuine socialism is worker democracy where the working people whose labor creates the value of the product or service share equally in the revenue generated. Given the enormous productive capacity of worldwide human labor, in such a world everyone would have a living wage. No private owners, all productive enterprises owned collectively by those who work them. This is neither an unattainable or Utopian dream, rather it is what must inevitably replace capitalism’s inherently unequal and undemocratic way of distributing wealth; otherwise the planet is doomed by the war, pestilence and environmental destruction that are a direct product of capitalist economic relations.
Hundreds of fast-food workers and their supporters were arrested in cities across the country on Thursday as they stood up (and in some cases sat down) as they demanded a $15/hour minimum wage, the right to unionize, and better working conditions across the industry.
In what was the largest coordinated action yet by the low-wage workers movement that has been establishing itself over the last several years, nearly 500 people participated in civil disobedience that led to their arrest outside major fast-food chain restaurants, that included McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, and others.
The New York Times reports:
Organizers said nearly 500 protesters were arrested in three dozen cities — including Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York and Little Rock, Ark. All told, the sit-ins took place in about 150 cities nationwide, the organizers said.
In Milwaukee, United States Representative Gwen Moore, Democrat of Wisconsin, was arrested along with several fast-food workers.
“I’m doing this for better pay,” said Crystal Harris, a McDonald’s worker from St. Louis, minutes before she sat down in the middle of 42nd Street in Manhattan outside a McDonald’s restaurant about 7:30 a.m. on Thursday. “I struggle to make ends meet on $7.50 an hour.”
The protesters carried signs saying, “Low Pay Is Not O.K.,” “On Strike to Lift My Family Up,” and “Whatever It Takes: $15 and Union Rights.” They also want McDonald’s and other fast-food chains to agree not to fight a unionization drive.
The Guardian reports:
Many fast-food jobs pay little more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Thursday’s day of action called for a minimum wage of at least $15.
By the afternoon organisers reported police had arrested 436 people nationwide with more than 43 arrests in Detroit, 19 in New York City, 23 in Chicago, 10 in Little Rock, Arkansas, and 10 in Las Vegas. Protestors were arrested in New York after blocking traffic in front of a McDonald’s in Times Square. In Los Angeles police warned fast food workers sitting in the street they were part of an “illegal assembly” before arresting them.
“We’re definitely on the upward move because we feel justice is on our side … we can’t wait,” said Douglas Hunter, a McDonald’s worker in Chicago who said he has difficulty supporting his 16-year-old daughter on his hourly wage. “We think this is ridiculous in a country as rich as America.”
Also in the Guardian, economy columnist Heidi Moore suggests that not only is the fast-food workers movement growing—it’s working. She writes:
From the first $15-an-hour protest in Seattle in May 2013 to a convention in July, 60 cities on 29 August 29, and Thursday’s first widespread act of intentional civil obedience in the movement, the development of the fast-food protests has shown evidence of a labor movement ready to re-make itself.
“The unions themselves are recognizing that the old system is broken and they need to retool and try new strategies and new things, and that’s what the fast food strikes represent,” says Professor Ruth Milkman of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (Cuny), who has co-authored a new report on the progress of the labor movement in New York and the rest of the US.
Today’s strikes are different from previous ones in a number of ways, demonstrating the willingness to innovate, said Milkman. The widespread civil disobedience – courting potential arrest by walking out on the job – is one aspect that has been widely mentioned. Other innovations: the addition of home healthcare workers, a separate industry that major unions like the SEIU have worked hard to unionize, but which has not received as much attention as fast food. Tying the two industries together is, for the unions, a way to widen their reach.
And the Huffington Post adds:
The high-profile strikes — which tend to draw national news coverage when they happen — have helped progressive legislators push through minimum wage hikes on the state and local level in recent months, including a $15 wage floor that will slowly go into effect in Seattle. Even President Barack Obama has held up the protests as evidence that Congress needs to hike the federal minimum wage, which hasn’t been raised since 2009. The current level of $7.25 is less than half of what the Fight for $15 campaign is calling for.
“You know what? If I were looking for a job that lets me build some security for my family, I’d join a union,” Obama said Monday in a Labor Day speech. “If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, I’d join a union.”
While the fast-food companies themselves have generally remained quiet, critics of the campaign who sympathize with the industry have tried to dismiss the protests as stunts orchestrated by the Service Employees International Union. The union has devoted millions of dollars to the campaign in an effort to bring unionism to what’s generally a union-free industry.
With some exceptions, the fast-food strikes generally haven’t been large enough to shut down restaurants. In fact, it isn’t always clear how many of the people participating in a protest are striking workers. In Charleston on Thursday, several workers said they had the day off and wanted to take part in the protest; others told HuffPost they were missing a scheduled shift and were formally notifying their bosses they were taking part in a protected one-day strike.
Jonathan Bennett said he was supposed to be working at Arby’s on Thursday.
“If we don’t do this, I don’t know who will,” Bennett said. “$15 could change everything.”
Tags: cia interrogation, CIA rendition, CIA torture, isis, islamic state, james foley, jon queally, rendition, roger hollander, torture, water boarding, waterboarding
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Sources quoted by the Washinton Post say ISIS “knew exactly how it was done” as it employed brutal techniques also approved by Bush administration
The Washington Post reports on Thursday that at least four individuals taken captive by the Islamic State were tortured and that the group—also known as ISIS—appeared to be modeling the CIA’s use of torture as it employed waterboarding as one of the painful techniques they used.
Worldwide condemnation followed revelations that in the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration approved the CIA to torture suspected terrorists during interoggations conducted at secret ‘Black Sites’ – or clandestine holding facilities.
Among those subjected to the brutal treatment by ISIS, according to sources quoted in thePost‘s reporting, was American journalist James Foley who was subsequently executed by the group.
From the Post:
“They knew exactly how it was done,” said a person with direct knowledge of what happened to the hostages. The person, who would only discuss the hostages’ experience on condition of anonymity, said the captives, including Foley, were held in Raqqah, a city in the north-central region of Syria.
James Foley was beheaded by the Islamic State last week in apparent retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq where the militant group has seized large swaths of territory. The group, which also controls parts of Syria, has threatened to kill another American, journalist Steven J. Sotloff. He was seen at the end of a video showing Foley’s killing that was released by the militant group. Two other Americans are also held by Islamic State.
A second person familiar with Foley’s time in captivity confirmed Foley was tortured, including by waterboarding.
“Yes, that is part of the information that bubbled up and Jim was subject to it,” the person said. “I believe he suffered a lot of physical abuse.”
Foley’s mother, Diane, said in a brief phone interview Thursday that she didn’t know her son had been waterboarded.
The FBI, which is investigating Foley’s death and the abduction of Americans in Syria, declined to comment. The CIA had no official comment.
As the Huffington Post‘s Jack Mirkinson points out:
Waterboarding became perhaps the most notorious method of torture practiced by American interrogators in the years after September 11th.
Interestingly, while the Post has, like most mainstream outlets, typically been reluctant to call methods such as waterboarding “torture” when it was practiced by Americans, the paper had no apparent problem calling what ISIS did to Foley “torture.”
“A second person familiar with Foley’s time in captivity confirmed Foley was tortured, including by waterboarding,” the Post wrote.
Still, the paper has not followed the New York Times in vowing to use the word “torture” more firmly in its articles.
One unnamed “U.S. official” quoted by the Post scoffed at the idea that there could be any comparison between the torture conducted by ISIS and the torture conducted by U.S. military or intelligence agents.
“ISIL is a group that routinely crucifies and beheads people,” the unnamed official said. “To suggest that there is any correlation between ISIL’s brutality and past U.S. actions is ridiculous and feeds into their twisted propaganda.”
But early reactions on Twitter were not niave to the implications of the news relative to the consistent and continued defense of torture by U.S. officials—and members of the U.S. media—when it was conducted by the CIA against their perceived enemies:
Rendition Victims Urge Obama to Declassify Senate Torture Report
‘You must now take responsibility for telling the world — and more importantly the American people — the whole truth about rendition and American torture.’
As officials continue to delay the release of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on post-9/11 CIA interrogation techniques, 10 victims of CIA rendition and torture have signed an open letter (pdf) to President Obama asking him to declassify the heavily redacted report.
The 500-page summary of the report, which includes details about secret overseas prisons, waterboarding of suspected enemy combatants, and rendition — the practice of sending a terrorist suspect covertly to be interrogated in a foreign country — was so extensively redacted as to render it “impossible to understand,” as one critic put it. The report was expected to be released in August, but has been delayed and is currently thought to be sitting on President Obama’s desk while negotiations over declassification continue.
The signatories to the letter want these blackouts removed, in order to force a public reckoning with and official acknowledgement of their experiences.
“Despite living thousands of miles apart and leading different lives today, a shared experience unites us: the CIA abducted each of us in the past and flew us to secret prisons for torture,” reads the letter, which was coordinated by the international human rights group Reprieve. “Some of us were kidnapped with our pregnant wives or children. All of us were later released without charge, redress or apology from the US. We now want the American public to read that story, in full, and without redactions… You must now take responsibility for telling the world — and more importantly the American people — the whole truth about rendition and American torture.”
The letter, which details prolonged confinement in small boxes and dark spaces, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and “bombardment with noise and weapons,” continues:
Torture, we thought, was something only dictators did. Colonel Gaddafi’s thugs were infamous for maiming and killing political opponents in Libya. In Egypt activists often disappeared. Moroccan interrogation techniques include “bottle torture,” where bottles are used to violate prisoners. We understood the Syrian regime’s brutality well before it murdered thousands of its citizens.
Before our abductions, though, none of us imagined the torturers standing over us one day would come from the United States.
Publishing the truth is not just important for the US’s standing in the world. It is a necessary part of correcting America’s own history. Today in America, the architects of the torture program declare on television they did the right thing. High-profile politicians tell assembled Americans that ‘waterboarding’ is a ‘baptism’ that American forces should still engage in.
These statements only breed hatred and intolerance. This is a moment when America can move away from all that, but only if her people are not sheltered from the truth.
In advance of an August 29 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filing deadline, Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has reportedly asked for an additional one-month delay due to “ongoing negotiations” between the Committee, the Obama administration, and the CIA regarding declassification.
Earlier this week, the ACLU filed a FOIA lawsuit demanding the CIA release all three reports about “its post-9/11 program of rendition, secret detention, and torture of detainees” — the 6,000-page Senate Select Committee Intelligence Committee report; the CIA’s report in response, defending the agency’s actions; and a report commissioned by former CIA Director Leon Panetta, which is reportedly consistent with the Committee’s investigative report findings, but contradicts the CIA’s response to the SSCI.
The Guardian reports:
While Feinstein and the CIA have reached the nadir of their relationship — the CIA intends to attack her report’s credibility — there are concerns that the CIA has weighed the scale in favor of secrecy. Obama allowed it to lead the declassification review, despite its interest in keeping the report secret. McClatchy reported this week that the main declassification interlocutor with Feinstein, top intelligence lawyer Robert Litt, represented CIA clients in private practice in undisclosed lawsuits.
“We believe the public should know the full story of what took place in the CIA’s secret prisons and that all of these documents – the Senate report, the CIA response, and the Panetta review should be released to the public,” said Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the ACLU, which filed the freedom-of-information case.
“It’s disappointing that the government is seeking further delay, but, given Senator Feinstein’s assurances, we’re hopeful that all of the documents will be released with very limited redactions in September.”
‘America Is Coming To Help’ Iraq … With Airstrikes August 8, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: humanitarian aid, Iraq, Iraq war, isis, islamic state, jon queally, medea benjamin, phillis bennis, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: In an effort to assure us that going to war is not really going to war, Obama’s speech writer has him saying idiotically that the strikes against ISIS will be “targeted.” Well now, isn’t that nice to now that Obama’s bombs will have targets and that he is not tossing them just any old where? Also note that the ISIS army, as with any force that the U.S. opposes, is referred to as “terrorist” (this coming from the president who destroys wedding parties with his drone missiles and funds Israel’s massacre of Gaza children). If this were thirty years ago they would be referred to as “communist.” Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.
“Whatever else we may have learned from the president’s ‘dumb war,’ it should be eminently clear that we cannot bomb Islamist extremists into submission or disappearance. Every bomb recruits more supporters.”—Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies
The president said the bombings may be necessary to stop the advance of a Sunni militant group, called the Islamic State (previously the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS), if they approach the recently increased U.S. forces stationed at a fortified consulate and a military base in the northern city of Erbil.
“To stop the advance on Erbil,” Obama stated, “I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city. We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad.”
ISIS has been warring with the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in recent months, seizing large sections of the country, taking control of key infrastructure, and helping to fuel a humanitarian crisis for hundreds of thousands who have fled their homes to escape fighting.
Coupled with airdrops of food and water to stranded Iraqis, Obama justified the use of possible airstrikes as part of a “humanitarian” campaign even as he repeated his mantra that “there is no military solution” to the crisis in Iraq.
“When we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye,” Obama said. It was unclear how many observers would note that the president’s administration was repeatedly accused of “turning a blind eye” in recent weeks as it offered its diplomatic, military, and financial support to the Israeli military as it bombed the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
Obama notably came to office in 2008 as the candidate who most strongly voiced his opposition to the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. He is frequently quoted as having called the Iraq War a “dumb war.” However, Obama has also defended the war in Iraq. Despite trying to extend the U.S. military presence, once that effort failed, Obama ultimately oversaw the withdrawal of active combat troops there in 2011.
Opponents of new airstrikes were quick to criticize the president for his decision to re-engage militarily.
“This is a slippery slope if I ever saw one,” Phyllis Bennis, a scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, told the New York Times in response to Obama’s announcement. “Whatever else we may have learned from the president’s ‘dumb war,’ it should be eminently clear that we cannot bomb Islamist extremists into submission or disappearance. Every bomb recruits more supporters.”
Paul Kawika Martin, political director for the national anti-war group Peace Action,tweeted: “Drop Humanitarian Aid NOT Bombs!”
Bennis was among those who predicted earlier this year—as the ISIS threat emerged in Iraq and Obama responded by sending new troops and “advisers” to the country—that increased U.S. military involvement could feed off itself and lead to further escalations.
Obama’s decision to add military forces in Iraq must be challenged, Bennis wrote in June, “before the first Special Forces guy gets captured and suddenly there are boots on the ground to find him. Before the first surveillance plane gets shot down and suddenly there are helicopter crews and more boots on the ground to rescue the pilot. Before the first missile hits a wedding party that some faulty intel guy thought looked like a truckload of terrorists—we seem to be good at that. And before we’re fully back at war.”
Writing at Common Dreams, peace activist Medea Benjamin said that just because people oppose more wars and military intervention does mean the U.S. must be ” complete isolationists” in Iraq. She wrote:
What is does mean is we should stop spending hundreds of billions of taxdollars on wars that don’t work, harming and killing innocent civilians. If we truly want to help people around the world, there are myriad better ways to do so. The U.S. should put its energy and influence toward a comprehensive ban on the transfer of weapons from outside powers. Rather than attempting additional unilateral moves, the U.S. should be collaborating with regional and international actors to address the root cause of the violence in Iraq. And we should more to help the millions of displaced Iraqis. The US is one of the least refugee-friendly countriesin the industrialized world. Given we live in a time with the highest level of refugees since World War II, assisting refugees—often forced out of their homes because of wars we have engaged in or dictators we have supported—could be just one easy way to help others.
Instead of sending more troops, or selling the Iraqis more weapons, or actively bombing targets—Bennis urged the Obama administration and the U.S. lawmakers to instead pursue these five actions that would help alleviate the conflict in Iraq, rather than enflame it:
First, do no harm. There is no military solution in Iraq—so end the threats of airstrikes, bring home the evac troops and Special Forces, and turn the aircraft carrier around.
Second, call for and support an immediate arms embargo on all sides. That means pressuring U.S. regional allies to stop providing weapons and money to various militias.
Third, engage immediately with Iran to bring pressure to bear on the Iraqi government to end its sectarian discrimination, its violence against civilians, and its violations of human rights.
Fourth, engage with Russia and other powers to get the United Nations to take the lead in organizing international negotiations for a political solution to the crisis now enveloping Iraq as well as Syria. Those talks must include all sides, including non-violent Syrian and Iraqi activists, civil society organizations, women, and representatives of refugees and displaced people forced from their homes. All relevant outside parties, including Iran, must be included. Building on the success of the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, Washington should continue to broaden its engagement with Tehran with the goal of helping to bring the Syrian and Iraqi wars to an immediate end.
Fifth, get help to the people who need it. The Iraq war is creating an enormous new refugee and humanitarian crisis, escalating the crisis of the Syrian war, and spreading across the entire region. The United States has pledged one of the largest grants of humanitarian aid for refugees from Syria, but it is still too small, and much of it has not been paid out. Simultaneously with the announcement of an immediate arms embargo, Washington should announce a major increase in humanitarian assistance for all refugees in the region to be made immediately available to UN agencies, and call on other countries to do the same.
Steps like these, not new rounds of airstrikes, is “how wars get stopped,” Bennis concluded.
Why Israel Lies August 4, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: big lie, chris hedges, Edward Bernays, edward snowden, gaza, hamas, hannah arendt, intercept, israel, israeli massacre, jon queally, kafka, netanyahu, nsa, orwellian, palestinian, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: Two more articles outlining the dynamics behind the Israeli government’s barbaric assault against the ghetto it has created in Gaza. The notion that Israel’s actions are justified as self-defence is exposed as at best Orwellian.
All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, including Israel and Hamas. But Israel engages in the kinds of jaw-dropping lies that characterize despotic and totalitarian regimes. It does not deform the truth; it inverts it. It routinely paints a picture for the outside world that is diametrically opposed to reality. And all of us reporters who have covered the occupied territories have run into Israel’s Alice-in-Wonderland narratives, which we dutifully insert into our stories—required under the rules of American journalism—although we know they are untrue.
I saw small boys baited and killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis. The soldiers swore at the boys in Arabic over the loudspeakers of their armored jeep. The boys, about 10 years old, then threw stones at an Israeli vehicle and the soldiers opened fire, killing some, wounding others. I was present more than once as Israeli troops drew out and shot Palestinian children in this way. Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire. I was in Gaza when F-16 attack jets dropped 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs on overcrowded hovels in Gaza City. I saw the corpses of the victims, including children. This became a surgical strike on a bomb-making factory. I have watched Israel demolish homes and entire apartment blocks to create wide buffer zones between the Palestinians and the Israeli troops that ring Gaza. I have interviewed the destitute and homeless families, some camped out in crude shelters erected in the rubble. The destruction becomes the demolition of the homes of terrorists. I have stood in the remains of schools—Israel struck two United Nations schools in the last six days, causing at least 10 fatalities at one in Rafah on Sunday and at least 19 at one in the Jebaliya refugee camp Wednesday—as well as medical clinics and mosques. I have heard Israel claim that errant rockets or mortar fire from the Palestinians caused these and other deaths, or that the attacked spots were being used as arms depots or launching sites. I, along with every other reporter I know who has worked in Gaza, have never seen any evidence that Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.”
There is a perverted logic to Israel’s repeated use of the Big Lie—Große Lüge—the lie favored by tyrants from Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin to Saddam Hussein. The Big Lie feeds the two reactions Israel seeks to elicit—racism among its supporters and terror among its victims.
By painting a picture of an army that never attacks civilians, that indeed goes out of its way to protect them, the Big Lie says Israelis are civilized and humane, and their Palestinian opponents are inhuman monsters. The Big Lie serves the idea that the slaughter in Gaza is a clash of civilizations, a war between democracy, decency and honor on one side and Islamic barbarism on the other. And in the uncommon cases when news of atrocities penetrates to the wider public, Israel blames the destruction and casualties on Hamas.
George Orwell in his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” called this form of propaganda doublethink. Doublethink uses “logic against logic” and “repudiate[s] morality while laying claim to it.” The Big Lie does not allow for the nuances and contradictions that can plague conscience. It is a state-orchestrated response to the dilemma of cognitive dissonance. The Big Lie permits no gray zones. The world is black and white, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous. The Big Lie allows believers to take comfort—a comfort they are desperately seeking—in their own moral superiority at the very moment they have abrogated all morality.
The Big Lie, as the father of American public relations, Edward Bernays, wrote, is limited only by the propagandist’s capacity to fathom and harness the undercurrents of individual and mass psychology. And since most supporters of Israel do not have a desire to know the truth, a truth that would force them to examine their own racism and self-delusions about Zionist and Western moral superiority, like packs of famished dogs they lap up the lies fed to them by the Israeli government. The Big Lie always finds fertile soil in what Bernays called the “logic-proof compartment of dogmatic adherence.” All effective propaganda, Bernays wrote, targets and builds upon these irrational “psychological habits.”
This is the world Franz Kafka envisioned, a world where the irrational becomes rational. It is one where, as Gustave Le Bon noted in “The Crowd: A Study of the Public Mind,” those who supply the masses with the illusions they crave become their master, and “whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.” This irrationality explains why the reaction of Israeli supporters to those who have the courage to speak the truth—Uri Avnery, Max Blumenthal, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Cook, Norman Finkelstein, Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Ilan Pappé, Henry Siegman and Philip Weiss—is so rabid. That so many of these voices are Jewish, and therefore have more credibility than non-Jews who are among Israel’s cheerleaders, only ratchets up the level of hate.
But the Big Lie is also consciously designed to send a chilling message to Gaza’s Palestinians, who have lost large numbers of their dwellings, clinics, mosques, and power, water and sewage facilities, along with schools and hospitals, who have suffered some 1,650 deaths since this assault began—most of the victims women and children—and who have seen 400,000 people displaced from their homes. The Big Lie makes it clear to the Palestinians that Israel will continue to wage a campaign of state terror and will never admit its atrocities or its intentions. The vast disparity between what Israel says and what Israel does tells the Palestinians that there is no hope. Israel will do and say whatever it wants. International law, like the truth, will always be irrelevant. There will never, the Palestinians understand from the Big Lie, be an acknowledgement of reality by the Israeli leadership.
The Israel Defense Forces website is replete with this black propaganda. “Hamas exploits the IDF’s sensitivity towards protecting civilian structures, particularly holy sites, by hiding command centers, weapons caches and tunnel entrances in mosques,” the IDF site reads. “In Hamas’ world, hospitals are command centers, ambulances are transport vehicles, and medics are human shields,” the site insists.
“… [Israeli] officers are tasked with an enormous responsibility: to protect Palestinian civilians on the ground, no matter how difficult that may be,” the site assures its viewers. And the IDF site provides this quote from a drone operator identified as Lt. Or. “I have personally seen rockets fired at Israel from hospitals and schools, but we couldn’t strike back because of civilians nearby. In one instance, we acquired a target but we saw that there were children in the area. We waited around, and when they didn’t leave we were forced to abort a strike on an important target.”
Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, in a Big Lie of his own, said last month at a conference of Christians United for Israel that the Israeli army should be given the “Nobel Peace Prize … a Nobel Peace Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint.”
The Big Lie destroys any possibility of history and therefore any hope for a dialogue between antagonistic parties that can be grounded in truth and reality. While, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, the ancient and modern sophists sought to win an argument at the expense of the truth, those who wield the Big Lie “want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality.” The old sophists, she said, “destroyed the dignity of human thought.” Those who resort to the Big Lie “destroy the dignity of human action.” The result, Arendt warned, is that “history itself is destroyed, and its comprehensibility.” And when facts no longer matter, when there is no shared history grounded in the truth, when people foolishly believe their own lies, there can be no useful exchange of information. The Big Lie, used like a bludgeon by Israel, as perhaps it is designed to be, ultimately reduces all problems in the world to the brutish language of violence. And when oppressed people are addressed only through violence they will answer only through violence.
Tags: gaza, gaza civilians, gaza massacre, gaza strip, gaza tunnels, glen greenwald, israeli terrorism, jon queally, joseph goebbels, netanyahu, nurbemberg principles, palestinian children, palestinian deaths, Palestinians, telegenically dead
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Roger’s note: the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, perfected the infamous Big Lie stratagem. Tell it brazenly and often and it becomes accepted fact. In the second article posted here, that of Glen Greenwald, we see an eerie example of this in relation to a recent remark by Israeli warmonger Netanyahu. The Israeli/American/German/etc. narrative on the current Gaza massacre is that it has been provoked by Hamas, who, unprovoked, builds tunnels and sends missiles aimed at Israeli residents; leaving Israel no alternative but to “defend” itself.
THAT IS A BIG LIE.
The reality is that the Netanyahu Israeli government has used whatever pretext it can find to punish Palestinians for the recent unification of the Gaza Hamas and West Bank governments. The Israeli sanctions against Gaza made already nearly unsupportable life even more impossible, thus provoking the missile launch. This, of course, against a background of the Israeli “seige” of Gaza, the ongoing repression, the illegal settlements, etc., turning it into a veritable concentration camp with no escape possible.
More than 500 Palestinians now dead as sealed-off territory becomes open battlefield; Calls for immediate cease fire go out, but violence continues
Intense shelling and aerial assaults that claimed hundreds of lives over the weekend continued in the Gaza Strip on Monday, pushing the number of Palestinians killed by Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ beyond 500 people, with many thousands wounded, since it began on July 8.
“While official claims that the objective of the ground offensive is to destroy tunnels into Israel, what we see on the ground is that bombing is indiscriminate and that those who die are civilians.” —Nicolas Palarus, Doctors Without Borders
In the Gaza City suburb of Shuja’iyya on Sunday,more than 120 Palestinians—at least 40 of whom where women and children—were killed during intense and reportedly “indiscriminate” bombing by Israeli forces. The Ma’an News Agency reports that overall, 150 Palestinians were killed across the territory on Sunday.
“It was a night of horror,” one 50 year-old Palestinian from the city of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza toldReuters.
According to the New York Times on Monday, “Israel has lost 18 soldiers so far, as well as two citizens killed by rocket and mortar fire.”
Late on Sunday, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting over the crisis in Gaza anddemanded all parties agree to an immediate cease fire. The council, however, did not pick up an official resolution offered by Jordan which put forth stronger language condemning the violence against civilians in Gaza and called for a lifting of the siege that prevents people from leaving the enclave that has now become an open battlefield.
In a statement, the France-based medical relief agency Doctors Without Borders/MSF called on Israel to immediately stop bombing the civilian population trapped in the sealed-off Gaza strip and to respect the safety of medical workers and health facilities working there.
“Shelling and air strikes are not only intense but are also unpredictable, which makes it very difficult for MSF and other medical workers to move and provide much needed emergency care,” said Nicolas Palarus, MSF field coordinator in Gaza.
“While official claims that the objective of the ground offensive is to destroy tunnels into Israel,” Palarus continued, “what we see on the ground is that bombing is indiscriminate and that those who die are civilians.”
UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon, speaking in Doha on Sunday, made his strongest comments yet on Israel’s military assault, calling for an end to the campaign that has now killed hundreds of civilians and wounded thousands, including a huge numbers of children.
“I condemn this atrocious action,” Ban said. “Israel must exercise maximum restraint and do far more to protect civilians.”
Both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama have also backed the latest calls for a cease fire and expressed “concern” for the increasing numbers of civilian casualties, but continued to stop short of condemning Israeli’s aggressive tactics.
In a call with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, according to the White House, Obama raised “serious concern” about the growing number of casualties on both sides, including increasing Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza and the loss of Israeli soldiers, but reaffirmed the U.S. position that Israel has a “right to defend itself.”
Kerry was on his way to Cairo on Monday to engage with regional leaders gathered there to work on the possibility of a negotiated settlement. Kerry made headlines on Sunday for what were described as “unguarded” comments made to a senior aide in which he was shown expressing frustration over the increasing numbers of civilians deaths caused by Israel’s attack. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said, seeming to challenge the repeated claims made by Israeli officials.
Netanyahu’s “Telegenically Dead” Comment Is Grotesque But Not Original
They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.
The Jews gradually are having to depend more and more on themselves, and have recently found a new trick. They knew the good-natured German Michael in us, always ready to shed sentimental tears for the injustice done to them.One suddenly has the impression that the Berlin Jewish population consists only of little babies whose childish helplessness might move us, or else fragile old ladies. The Jews send out the pitiable. They may confuse some harmless souls for a while, but not us. We know exactly what the situation is.
Rather than lard up the point with numerous defensive caveats about what is and is not being said here (which, in any event, never impede wilful media distorters in their tactics), I’ll simply note three brief points:
(1) To compare aspects of A and B is not to posit that A and B are identical (e.g., to observe that Bermuda and Bosnia are both countries beginning with the letter “B” is not to depict them as the same, just as observing that both the U.S. in 2003 and Germany in 1938 launched aggressive wars in direct violation of what were to become the Nuremberg Principles is not to equate the two countries).
(2) In general, the universality of war rhetoric is a vital fact, necessary to evaluate the merit of contemporary claims used to justify militarism (claims that a war amounts to mere “humanitarian intervention”, for instance, have been invoked over and over to justify even the most blatant aggression). Similarly, the notion that one is barred from ever citing certain historical examples in order to draw lessons for contemporary conflicts is as dangerous as it is anti-intellectual.
(3) Anglo-American law has long recognized that gross recklessness is a form of intent(“Fraudulent intent is shown if a representation is made with reckless indifference to its truth or falsity”). That’s why reckless behavior even if unaccompanied by a desire to kill people – e.g., randomly shooting a gun into a crowd of people – has long been viewed as sufficient to establish criminal intent.
One can say many things about a military operation that results in more than 75% of the dead being civilians, many of them children, aimed at a population trapped in a tiny area with no escape. The claim that there is no intent to kill civilians but rather an intent to protect them is most assuredly not among them. Even stalwart-Israel-supporter Thomas Friedman has previously acknowledged that Israeli assaults on Lebanon, and possibly in Gaza, areintended ”to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties” because “the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians” (which, to the extent it exists, is the classic definition of “terrorism”). The most generous claim one can make about what Israel is now doing in Gaza is that it is driven by complete recklessness toward the civilian population it is massacring, a form of intent under centuries of well-settled western law.
* * * * *
American journalism is frequently criticized with great justification, but there are a number of American journalists in Gaza, along with non-western ones, in order to tell the world about what is happening there. That reporting is incredibly brave and difficult, and those who are doing it merit the highest respect. Their work, along with the prevalence of social media and internet technology that allows Gazans themselves to document what is happening, has changed the way Israeli aggression is seen and understood this time around.
Tags: children casualties, collective punishment, drone missiles, gaza, gaza attack, gaza strip, human rights, International law, israel, israeli attack, jon queally, Palestine, roger hollander
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Roger note: unfortunately this is really nothing new. The fratricidal war between Jews and Arabs has been going on for decades and no end is in sight. The seeds for this conflict were planted with the imposition of the Israeli state on Palestinian soil and will continue to sprout violence and death until some unforeseen day when a single secular state replaces the existing unsustainable divide. Of course, this can only happen if the ultra right racist Israeli government does not succeed in its attempt to conquer and annihilate the Palestinian peoples. In the mean time a hundred Palestinians die for every Israeli in a David and Goliath struggle.
‘The death and injury to children caused by Israel’s military offensive on Gaza demonstrates serious and extensive disregard of fundamental principles of international law.’
At least eight children are among those who have been killed in the Gaza Strip over the last twenty-four hours, according to various reports, as the Israeli military continued to bombard the Palestinian enclave using naval ships, fighter jets, and aerial drones.
According to a report from the Defense of Children International (DCI-Palestine), six children were killed when a building was leveled by a missile that may have been fired from an Israeli drone on Tuesday afternoon in the city of Khan Younis.
According to the group:
The five families that reside in the building evacuated immediately after an Israeli aerial drone fired a warning missile. A number of neighbors, however, gathered on the roof in an effort to prevent the bombing. Shortly after 3 p.m., an Israeli airstrike leveled the building, and killed seven people, including five children, on the spot and injured 28 others.
Hussein Yousef Hussein Karawe, 13, Basem Salem Hussein Karawe, 10, Mohammad Ali Faraj Karawe, 12, Abdullah Hamed Karawe, 6, and Kasem Jaber Adwan Karawe, 12, died immediately, according to evidence collected by Defense for Children International-Palestine. Seraj Abed al-Aal, 8, succumbed to his injuries later that evening.
“The death and injury to children caused by Israel’s military offensive on Gaza demonstrates serious and extensive disregard of fundamental principles of international law,” said Rifat Kassis, executive director of DCI-Palestine. “Israeli forces must not carry out indiscriminate airstrikes in densely populated areas that fail to distinguish between military targets, civilians and civilian objects.”
RT.com posted dramatic and graphic footage that followed the bombing in Khan Younis:
“In Gaza, it is not a war or a military operation though it may look so. It is collective punishment and it is a brutal attack against all Palestinian people, and mainly civilians are paying the price.” —Dr. Mona El-Farra, from Gaza
In a post published by Common Dreams on Tuesday, Dr. Mona El-Farra, a Palestinian physician and human rights activist currently on the ground in Gaza, said the people there “do not have bomb shelters to escape to and hide” and rejected the idea that Israel’s assault could possibly be justified.
“These air raids fall on the majority of the population living in very crowded areas, so while they hit their targets, civilians pay a big price – we have many causalities and the numbers are rising every hour,” El-Farra said. “In Gaza, it is not a war or a military operation though it may look so. It is collective punishment and it is a brutal attack against all Palestinian people, and mainly civilians are paying the price.”
As Maureen Clare Murphy, managing editor of the Electronic Intifada website, notes:
The ongoing bombing campaign is the most severe violence inflicted by Israel on Gaza since its eight-day assault in November 2012, during which more than 150 Palestinians were killed, 33 of them children.
More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, including 350 children, during Israel’s three consecutive weeks of attacks from air, land and sea during winter 2008-09.
Twenty-five lives have been claimed by Israel in Gaza since Monday, including at least eight children, as warplanes bombed areas across Gaza, whose 1.7 million Palestinian residents live under a tightly-enforced siege and are unable to flee and have nowhere to seek shelter.
According to DCI-Palestine:
International humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and requires that all parties to an armed conflict distinguish between military targets, civilians and civilian objects. Israel as the occupying power in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the Gaza Strip, is required to protect the Palestinian civilian population from violence.
While Israel relies on the principle of self defense to justify military offensives on Gaza, Israeli forces are bound to customary international law rules of proportionality and necessity.
Hamas’ military wing claimed responsibility for firing around 120 rockets from Gaza into southern and central Israel, with some reaching Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, according to Haaretz. Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-missile system has reportedly intercepted at least 23 rockets. While minimal property damage has been reported, there have been no serious casualties.
The Israeli military has mobilized thousands of reserve soldiers in preparation for any further escalation, according to news reports.
This tweeted image appears to show the child victims killed in the Khan Younis bombing:
According to Ma’an news agency, the a total of twelve Palestinians have been killed on Wednesday in Gaza, bringing the overall death toll since Monday to 35 people and more than 300 injuries.
Tags: anti-muslim, Bharatiya Janata, bjp, hindu nationalism, India, india election, jon queally, narendra modi, neoliberal, privatization, racism, right wing, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: I had no sooner posted an article about neo-Nazism in Europe, where I commented that the phenomenon is world wide, than I came across this analysis of the results of the Indian election. Apart from virulent and racist Hinduism represented by the BJP, there is the lesson of what elections really stand for in capitalist democracy. Indian voters had the choice between the endemically corrupt Nehru/Ghandi Congress Party dynasty versus the racist BJP, both parties sold out to the corporate elite. Makes one think about Democrats and Republicans, doesn’t it?
Critics say victory of Hindu nationalist party and asendancy of Narendra Modi put nation on perilous course
In national elections in India, the rightwing Hindu nationalist party, called the Bharatiya Janata Party (or BJP), has won a landslide victory for the country’s parliament and their leader, businessman Narendra Modi from Gujurat, is now set to become the nation’s next Prime Minister.
According to Reuters:
With more than six times the seats of its closest rival, Modi’s is the most decisive mandate for any leader since the 1984 assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi propelled her son to office. Since 1989, India has been governed by coalitions.
The BJP was winning in 278 seats of the 543-seat parliament, counting trends showed. An alliance led by the party was ahead in 337 seats, TV channel NDTV said.
Though many are framing the BJP’s victory as the result of widespread disgust with the current government, led by the Congress Party, and a win for those calling for an end to systematic corruption in the world’s most populous democratic state—critics of the neoliberal BJP say its ascendency puts India on a perilous path.
For progressive-minded Indians, says Vijay Prashad, a historian and professor at American University of Beirut, the BJP victory “is the worst of all worlds.”
In statements ahead of the elections, activist and author Arundhati Roy said that India’s election were not about serving the interests of the nation’s poor and disenfranchised, but about “which corporation would come to power.”
Referring directly to the now victorious Modi, Roy stated, “This time, [the elections were] corporate war and he is a corporate candidate.” She indicated that all the major parties continue to ignore the pervasive poverty, including mass malnutrition which plague vast sections of the country. Despite India having the third-fastest growing economy in the world, Roy said, its democracy is being steadily destroyed by “unequally distributed wealth” and a political elite that pays only lip service to the nation’s farmers, marginalized youth, and underclass.
To de-mystify Modi’s victory and put his party in context, Prashad explains:
“BJP never ran against the roots of inequality or deprivation, but only what it deemed to be its symptom – corruption. This was a clever strategy. It both rode the anti-Congress wave, which had been produced by anger at the inequalities in the country, and it mollified the corporate community, which would not have been interested in any criticism of the policies of neoliberalism.”The BJP’s record in governance is not any different from that of the Congress – with inequality and corruption being the order of the day in its bastion of Gujarat, for instance. To take one indicator as illustrative, in Gujarat the mal-nutrition rate is so low that it is worse than the average level of malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa (where the rates of mal-nutrition remain very disturbing). Gujarat’s ‘development model’ also favored the privileged businessmen of the ruling party, the BJP, and its chief minister, Narendra Modi. Family firms such as the Adani group earned substantial gifts from the BJP government, which enhanced their profits, and helped Gujarat increase its own profile as “open for business.”
Modi was able to dodge questions of the “Gujarat Model.” He was quickly anointed by the BJP as its Prime Ministerial candidate and hastily favored by the media with far more coverage than any other politician. Modi ran as the development candidate with a carefully calibrated argument – he suggested that it was not neo-liberalism that created inequality, but its symptom, namely corruption, which the BJP tied to the mast of the Congress. In other words, the BJP never ran against the roots of inequality or deprivation, but only what it deemed to be its symptom – corruption. This was a clever strategy. It both rode the anti-Congress wave, which had been produced by anger at the inequalities in the country, and it mollified the corporate community, which would not have been interested in any criticism of the policies of neoliberalism.
Writing in the Guardian on Friday, Indian author and writer Pankaj Mishra argues that with Modi at the helm, India is facing “its most sinister period since independence.” Providing context for both Modi’s rise within the BJP and the rightwing fanaticism of the party now set to control India, Mishra writes:
Modi is a lifelong member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary Hindu nationalist organisation inspired by the fascist movements of Europe, whose founder’s belief that Nazi Germany had manifested “race pride at its highest” by purging the Jews is by no means unexceptional among the votaries of Hindutva, or “Hinduness”. In 1948, a former member of the RSS murdered Gandhi for being too soft on Muslims. The outfit, traditionally dominated by upper-caste Hindus, has led many vicious assaults on minorities. A notorious executioner of dozens of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 crowed that he had slashed open with his sword the womb of a heavily pregnant woman and extracted her foetus. Modi himself described the relief camps housing tens of thousands of displaced Muslims as “child-breeding centres”.
“Modi is never less convincing than when he presents himself as a humble tea-vendor, the son-of-the-soil challenger to the Congress’s haughty dynasts. His record as chief minister is predominantly distinguished by the transfer – through privatisation or outright gifts – of national resources to the country’s biggest corporations. His closest allies – India’s biggest businessmen – have accordingly enlisted their mainstream media outlets into the cult of Modi as decisive administrator; dissenting journalists have been removed or silenced.”.
Such rhetoric has helped Modi sweep one election after another in Gujarat. A senior American diplomat described him, in cables disclosed by WikiLeaks, as an “insular, distrustful person” who “reigns by fear and intimidation”; his neo-Hindu devotees on Facebook and Twitter continue to render the air mephitic with hate and malice, populating the paranoid world of both have-nots and haves with fresh enemies – “terrorists”, “jihadis”, “Pakistani agents”, “pseudo-secularists”, “sickulars”, “socialists” and “commies”. Modi’s own electoral strategy as prime ministerial candidate, however, has been more polished, despite his appeals, both dog-whistled and overt, to Hindu solidarity against menacing aliens and outsiders, such as the Italian-born leader of the Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, Bangladeshi “infiltrators” and those who eat the holy cow.
Modi exhorts his largely young supporters – more than two-thirds of India’s population is under the age of 35 – to join a revolution that will destroy the corrupt old political order and uproot its moral and ideological foundations while buttressing the essential framework, the market economy, of a glorious New India. In an apparently ungovernable country, where many revere the author of Mein Kampf for his tremendous will to power and organisation, he has shrewdly deployed the idioms of management, national security and civilisational glory.
Boasting of his 56-inch chest, Modi has replaced Mahatma Gandhi, the icon of non-violence, with Vivekananda, the 19th-century Hindu revivalist who was obsessed with making Indians a “manly” nation. Vivekananda’s garlanded statue or portrait is as ubiquitous in Modi’s public appearances as his dandyish pastel waistcoats. But Modi is never less convincing than when he presents himself as a humble tea-vendor, the son-of-the-soil challenger to the Congress’s haughty dynasts. His record as chief minister is predominantly distinguished by the transfer – through privatisation or outright gifts – of national resources to the country’s biggest corporations. His closest allies – India’s biggest businessmen – have accordingly enlisted their mainstream media outlets into the cult of Modi as decisive administrator; dissenting journalists have been removed or silenced.