Roger’s note: would that the terms “barbaric” and “savage” in the title were hyperbole. Unfortunately they are not. Civilian casualties mean very little to the American political class or the mainstream media, unless, of course, those civilians are American, or to a slightly lesser extent, European. Make no mistake, Trump is a killer (of course, so was Obama, the Bushes, Clinton, etc.), and maybe the only difference is that he boasts about it rather than apologizing for it. On the domestic front his health care policy would have resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans, but this was not acknowledged; and, besides, these for the most part would be working class (who, ironically, voted for Trump) and minorities, neither of which really matter to Trump and his ilk.
FROM THE START of his presidency, Donald Trump’s “war on terror” has entailed the seemingly indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people in the name of killing terrorists. In other words, Trump has escalated the 16-year-old core premise of America’s foreign policy — that it has the right to bomb any country in the world where people it regards as terrorists are found — and in doing so, has fulfilled the warped campaign pledges he repeatedly expressed.
In sum: Although precise numbers are difficult to obtain, there seems little question that the number of civilians being killed by the U.S. in Iraq and Syria — already quite high under Obama — has increased precipitously during the first two months of the Trump administration. Data compiled by the site Airwars tells the story: The number of civilians killed in Syria and Iraq began increasing in October under Obama but has now skyrocketed in March under Trump.
What’s particularly notable is that the number of airstrikes actually decreased in March (with a week left), even as civilian deaths rose — strongly suggesting that the U.S. military has become even more reckless about civilian deaths under Trump than it was under Obama:
But what is becoming clear is that Trump is attempting to liberate the U.S. military from the minimal constraints it observed in order to avoid massive civilian casualties. And this should surprise nobody: Trump explicitly and repeatedly vowed to do exactly this during the campaign.
He constantly criticized Obama — who bombed seven predominantly Muslim countries — for being “weak” in battling ISIS and al Qaeda. Trump regularly boasted that he would free the U.S. military from rules of engagement that he regarded as unduly hobbling them. He vowed to bring back torture and even to murder the family members of suspected terrorists — prompting patriotic commentators to naïvely insist that the U.S. military would refuse to follow his orders. Trump’s war frenzy reached its rhetorical peak of derangement in December 2015, when he roared at a campaign rally that he would “bomb the shit out of ISIS” and then let its oil fields be taken by Exxon, whose CEO is now his secretary of state.
Trump can be criticized for many things, but lack of clarity about his intended war on terror approach is not one of them. All along, Trump’s “solution” to terrorism was as clear as it was simple; as I described it in September 2016:
THE CLARITY OF Trump’s intentions regarding the war on terror was often obfuscated by anti-Trump pundits due to a combination of confusion about and distortions of foreign policy doctrine. Trump explicitly ran as a “non-interventionist” — denouncing, for instance, U.S. regime change wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria (even though he at some points expressed support for the first two). Many commentators confused “non-interventionism” with “pacifism,” leading many of them — to this very day — to ignorantly claim that Trump’s escalated war on terror bombing is in conflict with his advocacy of non-interventionism. It is not.
Despite being vehement non-interventionists, neither Lindbergh nor Buchanan were pacifists. Quite the contrary: Both believed that when the U.S. was genuinely threatened with attack or attacked, it should use full and unrestrained force against its enemies. What they opposed was not military force in general but rather interventions geared toward a goal other than self-defense, such as changing other countries’ governments, protecting foreigners from tyranny or violence, or “humanitarian” wars.
What the Lindbergh/Buchanan non-interventionism opposes is not war per se, but a specific type of war: namely, those fought for reasons other than self-defense or direct U.S. interests (as was true of regime change efforts in Iraq, Libya, and Syria). Lindbergh opposed U.S. involvement in World War II on the ground that it was designed to help only the British and the Jews, while Buchanan, on the eve of the Iraq invasion, attacked neocons who “seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interests” and who “have alienated friends and allies all over the Islamic and Western world through their arrogance, hubris, and bellicosity.”
The anti-Semitism and white nationalistic tradition of Lindbergh, the ideological precursor to Buchanan and then Trump, does not oppose war. It opposes military interventions in the affairs of other countries for reasons other than self-defense — i.e., the risking of American lives and resources for the benefits of “others.”
Each time Trump drops another bomb, various pundits and other assorted Trump opponents smugly posit that his doing so is inconsistent with his touted non-interventionism. This is just ignorance of what these terms mean. By escalating violence against civilians, Trump is, in fact, doing exactly what he promised to do, and exactly what those who described his foreign policy as non-interventionist predicted he would do: namely, limitlessly unleash the U.S. military when the claimed objective was the destruction of “terrorists,” while refusing to use the military for other ends such as regime change or humanitarianism. If one were to reduce this mentality to a motto, it could be: Fight fewer wars and for narrower reasons, but be more barbaric and criminal in prosecuting the ones that are fought.
Trump’s campaign pledges regarding Syria, and now his actions there, illustrate this point very clearly. Trump never advocated a cessation of military force in Syria. As the above video demonstrates, he advocated the opposite: an escalation of military force in Syria and Iraq in the name of fighting ISIS and al Qaeda. Indeed, Trump’s desire to cooperate with Russia in Syria was based on a desire to maximize the potency of bombing there (just as was true of Obama’s attempt to forge a bombing partnership with Putin in Syria).
What Trump opposed was the CIA’s yearslong policy of spending billions of dollars to arm anti-Assad rebels (a policy Hillary Clinton and her key advisers wanted to escalate), on the ground that the U.S. has no interest in removing Assad. That is the fundamental difference between non-interventionism and pacifism that many pundits are either unaware of or are deliberately conflating in order to prove their own vindication about Trump’s foreign policy. Nothing Trump has thus far done is remotely inconsistent with the non-interventionism he embraced during the campaign, unless one confuses “non-interventionism” with “opposition to the use of military force.”
Trump’s reckless killing of civilians in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen is many things: barbaric, amoral, and criminal. It is also, ironically, likely to strengthen support for the very groups — ISIS and al Qaeda — that he claims he wants to defeat, given that nothing drives support for those groups like U.S. slaughter of civilians (perhaps the only competitor in helping these groups is another Trump specialty: driving a wedge between Muslims and the West).
But what Trump’s actions are not is a departure from what he said he would do, nor are they inconsistent with the predictions of those who described his foreign policy approach as non-interventionist. To the contrary, the dark savagery guiding U.S. military conduct in that region is precisely what Trump expressly promised his supporters he would usher in.
Roger’s note: those of us who love irony will appreciate the fact that the Russian regime that is accused of influencing the 2016 U.S. election is the direct heir of the Yeltsin government which in turn came to power largely as a result of Clinton administration interference. What goes around …
Hillary Clinton’s hawkishness on Russia, backed by much of her party, the Republicans and the lap dog corporate media, was cause for great concern to some of during the election campaign and created the illusion that a Trump presidency might in fact be less likely to bring on World War III. This remains to be seen. It is of no comfort that the Democrats and the media continue to demonize Russia (which is not to say that Putin is any thing less than an oligarch who rules with an iron fist in his homeland).
Ever since the fall of the former Soviet Union, I have been fascinated by process of the transition of the so-called socialist Russia (it was functionally not socialist, rather state capitalist) to free market capitalism. The monumental change in the world’s second largest country did not happen “automatically” or in a single moment. Since all major production was owned by the State, ending this monopoly meant that all billions upon billions of capital had to go somewhere.
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
The U.S. is the unchallenged champion of hijacking, fixing and subverting elections around the world. On every inhabitable continent – from Italy to Iran to Accra to Tegucigalpa — Washington has stolen people’s rights to elected leaders of their choice. Only two decades ago, Bill Clinton and his operatives were busy stealing Russia’s first post-Soviet elections. But, U.S. corporate media seem to have forgotten such inconvenient facts.
“All of the news is fake when corporate media connive with the powerful to produce their desired ends.”
There is still no evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election. What substitutes for proof is nothing but an endless loop of corporate media repetition. The Democratic Party has plenty of reason to whip up hysteria in an effort to divert attention from its endless electoral debacles.
What no one mentions is that the United States government has a very long history of interfering in elections around the world. Since World War II American presidents have used electoral dirty tricks, fraud and violence to upend the will of people in Italy, Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam and Honduras to name but a few nations. If possible brute force and murder are used to depose elected leaders as in Haiti and Chile.
Amid all the hoopla about Russia’s supposed influence in the election or with Donald Trump directly, there is little mention of a successful American effort to intervene in that country. In 1996 American political consultants and the Bill Clinton administration made certain that Boris Yeltsin remained in the Russian presidency.
There is no need for conjecture in this case. The story was discussed quite openly at the time and included a Time magazine cover story with the guilty parties going on record about their role in subverting democracy.
“In 1996 American political consultants and the Bill Clinton administration made certain that Boris Yeltsin remained in the Russian presidency.”
Polls showed that Yeltsin was in danger of losing to the Communist Party candidate Gennadi Zhuganov. The collapse of the Soviet Union had created an economic and political catastrophe for the Russian people. Oligarchs openly stole public funds while government workers went without pay. Russians lost the safety net they had enjoyed and the disaster resulted in a precipitous decline in life expectancy and birth rates.
The United States didn’t care about the suffering of ordinary Russians. Its only concern was making sure that the once socialist country never turned in that direction again. When Yeltsin looked like a loser the Clinton administration pressed the International Monetary Fund to send quick cash and bolster Yeltsin’s government with a $10 billion loan.
Clinton had an even more direct involvement. Led by a team connected to his adviser Dick Morris, a group of political consultants went to work in Moscow, but kept their existence a secret. One of the conspirators put the case succinctly. “Everyone realized that if the Communists knew about this before the election, they would attack Yeltsin as an American tool.” Of course Yeltsin was an American tool, and that was precisely the desired outcome.
The Time magazine article wasn’t the only corporate media expose of the American power grab. The story was also made into a film called “Spinning Boris.” One would think that this well known and documented account would be brought to attention now, but just the opposite has happened. The tale of Clinton administration conniving has instead been disappeared down the memory hole as if it never took place.
“When Yeltsin looked like a loser the Clinton administration pressed the International Monetary Fund to send quick cash and bolster Yeltsin’s government with a $10 billion loan.”
The supposedly free media in this country march in lock step with presidents. After Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton made Russia bashing a national pastime the media followed suit. The reason for the hostility is very simple. Russia is an enormous country spanning Europe and Asia and has huge amounts of energy resources which European countries depend on. Its gas and oil reserves make it a player and therefore a target for sanctions and war by other means.
The American impulse to control or crush the rest of the world is thwarted by an independent Russia. While Americans are fed an endless diet of xenophobia Russia and China continue their New Silk Road economic partnership. Of course this alliance is born of the necessity to protect against American threats but no one reading the New York Times or Washington Post knows anything about it. Nor do they know that Vladimir Putin’s mentor stayed in power because of Bill Clinton’s meddling.
All of the news is fake when corporate media connive with the powerful to produce their desired ends. If they want to make Yeltsin a hero, they make him a hero. If they want his successor to be cast as the villain then he becomes the villain. If the United States wants to play the victim it is turned into the hapless target of Russian espionage. If its history of thwarting the sovereignty of other countries becomes an inconvenient truth, then the truth is disappeared.
It is difficult to know what is true and what is not. But it usually a safe bet to assume that this government and its media hand maidens are covering up criminality of various kinds. The story of the 1996 manipulation of Russian voters is but one example.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as athttp://freedomrider.blogspot.com.Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
My money’s on Mona. The further away you are when looking at this, the more interesting it gets.
Sorry for the blurry image, but it is to remind us that almost every industrial nation has had universal health care, in some cases for half a century. The U.S. to its shame lags behind; and while the fight is on against Trump’s killer amendment to Obamacare, let’s not forget that Obama, by adopting the Romney Republican plan, set back for decades the goal for single payer universal coverage. What he did was to etch in stone the monopoly over health care to the voracious private health insurance industry. He didn’t even put universal health on the table when developing the legislation, which is nothing more than an enormous gift to the private insurers.
Here I am at my spiritual political home, the campus of U.C. Berkeley. I cut my radical teeth here, and I hope that they haven’t lost their bite. This picture was taken last year in front of Sather Gate. As an undergraduate on the Student Council, I established the Hyde Park Free Speech area, which served as an embryo for the Free Speech Movement two years hence.
Roger’s note: people round the world, including many Canadians, like to think that there is a substantial difference between Canada and the United States when it comes to things like the military and national security. Of course, the U.S. is the imperial giant and Canada a minor but important satellite. Nonetheless, Canada has just emerged from the ten year reign of Stephen Harper’s ultra-right government, one that could teach the likes of Paul Ryan and Donald Trump a thing or two. The current Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, presents a kinder gentler image, but behind the haircut and bedroom eyes lies a man who rules with limits set basically by the military, the security apparatus and the corporate world. U.S. lite, if you will. Trudeau is already playing footsie with Trump, inviting the entrepreneurial daughter to sit with him at a Broadway show, for instance. Don’t expect any substantial challenge to the U.S. imperial and economic adventures coming from the neighbour to the North.
Spy agency’s first public report in two years on the threat posed by terrorism in Canada has a slippery relationship with reality
Screen cap from CSIS video released with annual report recently. CSIS prefers to stick with the tired trope that all terrorism springs from internecine bloodletting in the Syrian and Iraqi deserts.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada’s spy agency, penned a marvellous multimedia love letter to itself with the release late last month of its first public report in two years.
But beyond its self-admiring gaze, fancy charts and awkward introductory video by spy chief Michel Coulombe (who announced his retirement this week), the agency’s report to Parliament is most notable for its alternative facts and timing. The report’s incendiary language invokes an “immediate threat” and “paths to radicalization,” and its release coincides with the agency’s lobbying for increased funding in 2017 as well as efforts to prevent abolition or amendments to the infamous Anti-terrorism Act (C-51).
Notably absent from the report is the spy agency’s take on the Quebec City mosque shootings or a nuanced analysis of the rise of white nationalist extremism in Canada. Instead, CSIS stresses the notion that Canadians are under “constant threat” from forces associated with Daesh, al Qaeda and their distant offshoots, even though the claim is not borne out by the supporting evidence offered.
Indeed, the report’s formidable-looking “terrorism timeline” graphic cheats on the numbers.
Of the nine attacks listed, six occurred overseas, where Canadians were not directly targeted but tragically died as a result of happenstance. Two attacks in 2014 were already addressed in the previous public report. With nothing to report for all of 2015, that left one remaining 2016 incident in which three soldiers suffered minor stab wounds at a North York military recruiting centre, a crime committed by a man found unfit for trial “due to the ongoing psychotic symptoms of a major mental illness.”
Remarkably, the most deadly terrorist attack to occur in Canada in the last decade – January’s Quebec City mosque massacre, carried out by a shooter with white nationalist leanings – goes unmentioned, even though Prime Minister Trudeau explicitly described it as “a terrorist attack against Muslims.” The 2014 murder of three New Brunswick RCMP officers by anti-government gun fanatic Justin Bourque is also nowhere to be found in CSIS’s report.
Despite the agency’s internal documents acknowledging the growing threat of right-wing extremism and the emergence of a homegrown anti-Islam movement, Canada’s spies prefer to surveil and demonize those who are more likely to be victims of terrorist attacks, conflating refugees with “threats to Canada and its interests.” The report claims “right-wing extremism has not been as significant a problem in Canada in recent years,” despite the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society’s widely reported finding that between 1990 and 2014, 59 per cent of lone wolf terror attacks in Canada were committed by white supremacists.
Indeed, the Network (whose research partners include CSIS and Public Safety Canada) published in September 2015 a rigorous academic study by Barbara Perry and Ryan Scrivens concluding that the right-wing extremist movement in Canada is “more extensive and more active than public rhetoric would suggest.”
Their report notes the existence of more than 100 such groups in Canada, some of which “were actively engaged in brutal acts of violence directed at an array of targets” that included Muslims, Jews, Indigenous people, LGBTQ community members and “people of colour such as Afro-Canadians, Asians and South Asians.”
Significantly, their research confirms that “a key factor enabling the emergence and sustainability of right-wing groups was a weak law enforcement response.
“Typically, activities of the far-right have not been monitored or taken seriously,” the report says, and “there was a tendency for officials to deny or trivialize the presence and threat.”
CSIS prefers to stick with the tired trope that all terrorism springs from internecine bloodletting in the Syrian and Iraqi deserts and Middle Eastern-based groups intent on undermining “Canadian values.”
The spectre of Muslim youth “radicalized” in Canada by online beheading videos remains CSIS’s top priority. The agency claims that “approximately 180 individuals with a nexus to Canada” have been suspected of engaging in terrorism-related activities, of whom 60 were “extremist travellers who had returned to Canada.”
But even here, the numbers present a distorted picture. By failing to differentiate between front-line fighters and those engaged in non-combat activities, from medical assistance to food preparation, CSIS creates the false impression that those who returned to Canada are all in sleeper cells waiting to be activated.
Public Safety concedes that some 20 per cent of “extremist travellers” are women (unlikely to be assigned combat duty), and that children have gone abroad with parents as well.
The spy agency has also remained mum on whether the numbers include non-Muslim Canadian fighters who very publicly fundraise and volunteer to fight for non-Daesh actors like the Kurdish Peshmerga, who have been accused by Amnesty International of committing war crimes in the razing of northern Iraq Arab villages.
The slippery relationship with reality that marks CSIS’s report is also reflected in Coulombe’s recognition of “the importance of openness and transparency with the Federal Court.” This noble sentiment fails to address numerous Federal Court decisions, including one as recent as October 2016 that criticized “a breach of the CSIS’s duty of candour” to the court. In that case, CSIS had failed to fully inform judges of a decade-long program illegally collecting and retaining information on Canadians who posed no threat.
There is no indication that anyone behind the walls of the secretive east-end Ottawa edifice that houses CSIS headquarters has been held accountable for illegally obtaining confidential taxpayer information, spying on Canadians held in foreign prisons or trading and receiving information that may lead to or has been gleaned from torture.
The lack of accountability structures for such misbehaviour enables and emboldens CSIS to continue operating with impunity.
But those looking to rein in Canada’s spies are not hopeful.
The Liberals’ Bill C-22, to create a Parliamentary committee to oversee national security, has been criticized by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), which last week raised concerns about the “broad powers granted to ministers to block investigations, limitations on committee members’ access to information, and the committee being responsible solely to the Prime Minister [leading the committee to become] a figurehead, unable to adequately carry out the oversight it is mandated to do.”
While the ICLMG adds that any such committee “must be complemented by an independent, expert review body [that] would encompass all of Canada’s national security activities,” CSIS head Coulombe is sanguine about maintaining the status quo, ending his report by stating: “Canadians can rest assured that we undertake this work with the utmost respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms that we seek to protect.”
Roger’s note: here are some images that document the upside-down world we live in.
I vote for a War on Chocolate. Sorry, it’s my addiction.
This child has just been inoculated against Fox News. Bravo for Mom.
The Europeans came, and they wiped out entire nations. Some call this Genocide. Others call it Manifest Destiny, a notion that is alive and well today, and with a global reach.
And, speaking of globalized Manifest Destiny, no nation has more blood on its hands than the United States of America. But, of course, it is Iran that we must fear.
The American Gulag: the highest prison population and incarceration rate (724 per 100,000) in the world. Costs over $70 Billion per year. More jails than colleges. Half the federal prisons filled with non-violent drug offenders. Private prisons, slave labor, solitary confinement, capital punishment. Shame.
Roger’s note: El Salvador has what may be the most repressive abortion laws in the Western world. There are cases of young women jailed for years because of a miscarriage. It is barbaric. And no one is more responsible for such barbarism than the Catholic Church. When I read that abortion is a sin, that there are campaigns to totally eradicate abortion in the struggle for good over evil, it takes me back to the Dark Ages. Such attitudes and laws reflect inhuman religious ideology in the service of patriarchy. It has been said jokingly, but I believe it literally, if men could have babies then abortion would be a sacrament.
The movement to decriminalize abortion in El Salvador described in the article below, if successful, would only eliminate the most Draconian elements of the anti-abortion legislation (abortion in the case of rape, for example); but there still would be a long way to go to reach the ideal of abortion being solely a matter between a woman and her physician.
“Is it the will of a compassionate God to mandate that young girls who have been raped carry to term resulting pregnancies?” asked theologian María Lopez Vigil at a talk organized by advocates.
In 1997, the legislature in El Salvador was considering a vote to criminalize abortion under all circumstances. Morena Herrera, a feminist activist, “was facing the legislature, alone, trying to defend and justify why they should not change the law,” recalled Mariana Moisa, communications director at the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto.
“They were transmitting live, and they shut off her microphone,” Moisa recalled.
The Salvadoran Legislative Assembly went on to ban abortion in all circumstances. In addition to making abortion illegal no matter what, this unjust law has been misapplied in cases of obstetric emergencies or miscarriages—leading to the imprisonment of dozens of women in the country because of pregnancy complications. Now, however, the legislature is considering a bill from Vice President of the Legislative Assembly Lorena Peña that would decriminalize abortion in cases of rape or human trafficking, fetal non-viability, or to preserve the pregnant person’s health or life. It would also legalize abortion when the pregnancy results from rape or statutory rape of a minor, with the consent of the minor’s parent or guardian. Although it would not necessarily shield women from prosecution when the law is misapplied, it effectively returns the law to its pre-1997 state.
On February 27, the legislature’s Committee on Legislation and Constitutional Points, where the bill is being heard, convened a first-ever public hearing on abortion in response to the unexpected number of requests they received to present testimony. Twelve out of the seventeen organizations and individuals who testified spoke in support of decriminalization, including nationally and internationally recognized professionals in public health and law, representatives from two progressive Protestant churches, and a variety of activists.
Marcela Zamora, a well-known Salvadoran filmmaker, shared her recently published essay, “I Aborted,” a rare public statement in El Salvador. She recounted how more than ten years earlier, while living in a country that allowed abortion, she experienced a pregnancy with complications that threatened her life. Although she was able to obtain an abortion, she questioned what would have happened to her if she had been in El Salvador at that time.
Moisa said she was struck by the contrast with the tenor of the hearing in 1997. “This time, in 2017, they invited us to the legislature, and our voices were heard. They made clear that the discussion would be based on scientific and legal information. Morena was there again, [this time] with a whole panorama of diverse voices who stood up alongside her to express their support for a possible reform,” she remembered.
This change didn’t come out of nowhere. Activists on the ground have been working for two decades to engage allies and elected officials on this issue—and in the last few months, that momentum has ramped up on a number of fronts.
Abortion as a Health Issue
Those speaking out in favor of the bill are, for the most part, concentrating on the exceptions to the ban it enshrines into law.
At a January forum organized by the Alliance for the Life and Health of Women—a coalition in which the Agrupación is a key player—members of the medical profession provided the medical and scientific justifications for the proposed change to the law.
Gynecologist Guillermo Ortiz, currently a senior adviser for Ipas and formerly chief of obstetrics at the Women’s Hospital in El Salvador, said that physicians who support the proposal for reform “are in favor of saving lives. But there are conditions that make [abortion] necessary, and we are talking about those situations so that exceptions can exist within the law.”
As part of that convening of medical experts, seven nationally and internationally recognized OB-GYNs signed off on a memo to the Committee on Legislation and Constitutional Points. The memo, viewed by Rewire, says the society must “generate legal instruments that guarantee protection for [patients’] lives,” in at least the four cases defined in the proposed reform.
The memo cited the Ethics Committee of the International Federation of Gynecologists and Obstetricians: “There exists a broad consensus … that abortion is ethically justifiable when it is carried out for medical reasons to protect the life and health” of the pregnant person.
“It is fundamental to remember that the global experience shows that the frequency of abortion does not depend on legislation and that the rates of abortion do not increase with more liberal legislation,” the memo continued. “To the contrary, they can diminish, if at the same time other measures are adopted,” such as information and free access to highly effective contraception.
In a February 21 symposium on health and bioethics organized by the ministry, El Salvador Minister of Health Dr. Violeta Menjivar responded, “As the Ministry of Health, we consider it appropriate that the legislature and society together participate in a reflection and deliberation on the harm the absolute prohibition on abortion causes to the health of Salvadoran women.”
She supported the move to reform the law, noting that the United Nations had made a request in January 2015 that El Salvador repeal its broad criminalization of abortion under all circumstances.
At the February 27 hearing, Sofia Villalta, a nationally recognized gynecologist with more than 40 years of professional experience, testified on the causes of unwanted pregnancies and emphasized the underlying role of the “subordination of women to masculine power.” She cited a study within the Salvadoran society of gynecologists which showed that 80 percent of them want to return to the prior legislation allowing abortion.
The Consequences of Criminalization
At the February 21 forum organized by the Ministry of Health, Dr. Virginia Rodriguez of the National Committee on Bioethics in El Salvador posed the question, “If a woman has rights from conception, at what point does she lose her rights? When do the rights of the fetus in development take priority over her rights to life?”
Rodriguez was referencing a February 15 decision from the El Salvador Supreme Court, when it ruled on a 2007 case involving conflicting laws over when life begins and when the State must protect that life.
Although the Court agreed that the the El Salvador Constitution declares life as beginning at “conception,” it said “it is necessary to weigh each case.” It also stated that the idea of fetal rights does not “claim a duty of absolute and unconditional protection of life in gestation.”
Alberto Romero of the Agrupación Ciudadana and the Movement for Secular Culture wrote in a booklet published by the Salvadoran Foundation for the Study of the Application of Law, FESPAD, that the Court’s decision “permits a resolution of the vacuum that exists in the current legislation, which does not establish legal mechanisms to resolve the collision of rights that takes place between the [fetus] and the woman who is pregnant.”
On the day of the hearing, the nine-member National Committee on Bioethics in El Salvador—which also includes Morena Herrera and Margarita Rivas of the Agrupación—published a paid ad in La Prensa Gráfica, noting the ways in which existing law infringes on the rights of pregnant people and women in general.
The law has also, the committee said, generated legal conflicts whereby physicians’ responsibilities to protect doctor-patient confidentiality conflict with their mandates under the anti-abortion laws. Overall, the ad said, the broad criminalization of abortion violates the rights of pregnant people by treating their constitutional rights as equal to or subordinate to those of the fetus.
“The Alliance knew it was important to address religious concerns in a society as deeply religious as El Salvador, where almost 99 percent of the population professes a belief in God and about 91 percent belong to a religion,” said Romero, who researches secularism and social issues in El Salvador.
“For many people, both legislators and citizens in general, it’s difficult to reconcile [many religions’] mandate against abortion with the rational arguments for permitting it. It’s important to present a variety of interpretations that do not condemn and criminalize abortion,” he said.
Advocates noted that different religions take varied stances on abortion. “The Anglican Church here in El Salvador talks about abortion not being a theological issue, but a pastoral one of accompaniment of women,” said Alejandra Burgos, a member of the Agrupación and a progressive feminist theologian.
Indeed, during the February 27 hearing, Martin Barahona of the Anglican Church in El Salvador explained that “in this case the Anglican bishops consider that the only people who have the right to decide are the women who are pregnant.”
“Even Pope Francis, who maintains that abortion is a sin, mandates priests to have compassion and accompany women,” Burgos pointed out.
“It’s necessary in this society to provide alternatives to people who are living with these contradictions; to show that a religious believer can also support the right [to] interrupt a pregnancy,” she concluded.
In one talk, María Lopez Vigil, a Cuban-Nicaraguan theologian, author, and editor of the progressive Nicaraguan magazine Envio, proposed looking at abortion in a broader perspective, considering the realities of the country.
“Consider the commandment ‘do not kill’ with situational ethics. There is nothing more abortive than poverty,” she said.
In arguing for a compassionate, merciful view of God, she asked the audience of more than 300—many of whom had not attended Alliance events in the past—if it was “the will of a compassionate God that women suffer and die for ‘not having enough faith’ when they experience obstetric emergencies? Is it the will of a compassionate God to mandate that young girls who have been raped carry to term resulting pregnancies?”
She challenged structural injustices and spoke of “abortive societies,” in which countries obligate pregnant girls and adolescents to give birth, but after the birth do nothing to help them support and raise their children. That, she said, is a “structural sin.”
Responses to the campaign for decriminalization are diverse.
After the various hearings and forums, Legislative Representative Juan Valiente of the right-wing ARENA party spoke on a TV talk show supporting debate on the reform, going against his party’s stance.
In addition, he tweeted, “I’m against abortion, but I recognize that there is a collision of rights and it’s important to investigate and debate. I’m not afraid.” And to another constituent opposed to decriminalization, he posted, “I prefer to lose your vote than my conscience.”
Even with these sea changes in some public opinions and attitudes, there is still strong religious opposition.
A group of Catholic churches initiated “40 days of prayer” leading up to Easter Sunday with the goal of “ending abortion in the world and in the country” in a war “between good and bad.” Regarding the Ministry of Health position, prayer campaign leader Karla de Lacayo told La Prensa Gráfica, “it’s a lie” that women’s lives are at risk.
“With [medical] advances now, there is no way the woman is going to die. And, if it’s true, if the child dies in the process, then that’s what God wanted,” de Lacayo said.
In the legislature itself, there remains the fact that supporters of the reform must form coalitions in order to get the majority vote necessary to first pass the measure out of committee, and then win a majority of votes in the full body. Neither the right-wing ARENA party nor the left-leaning FMLN has a numerical majority in the committee or the full legislature.
Supporters hope for a positive resolution in the next few weeks, before the next election cycle gets underway. At that point, they say, chances of any substantive vote on any matter disappear.
As Sara Garcia, coordinator for the Agrupación, told Rewire, “This is a historic moment. International organizations such as the UN are speaking out. More and more social movements are making pronouncements. Professional medical organizations and the universities declare their support.”
“The government can’t keep ignoring the realities of women in this country,” she said.
Roger’s note: here are some miscellaneous images taken from the Internet.
One would think that this trick is too obvious to fool anyone. However, it has been used more than once by governments to create an illusion of safety. I saw this when I was on the Council fighting against a new garbage burning incinerator. Instead of reducing emissions, simply change the safe level standard. Voila!
Don’t get me started on capitalism. OK. Get me started. In a capitalist economy, where capital rules with an iron fist over living labor, decisions about economic growth are made by PRIVATE enterprise, where profit is the only consideration. Contrast this with such decisions made socially for the benefit of society as a whole. Capitalism as cancer is the most apt analogy I can think of. That is why we are in danger of planetary death either by environmental catastrophe or nuclear holocaust. Given the choice, no society would consciously choose annihilation. That is why the very survival of the universe as we know it demands the defeat of world capitalism.
I remember the sermon given at my daughter’s wedding, where the minister said the secret to a successful marriage lies in three words: forgive, forgive, forgive.
The major opponents of the decriminalization of marijuana in the US are the Chambers of Commerce, Police Departments and private prisons. Bad for business.
Roger’s note: public education is not only the backbone of democracy but also to some degree a social equalizer, one of the few mitagators of social and economic inequality in our class society. To my mind the politicians of both parties who are selling out this legacy are doing no less than committing a kind of treason. This is happening at the national level and state by state as private school money continues to purchase one legislator after another. And this was happening long before Trump.
Since voters nearly always reject privatization initiatives on the ballot, Republicans and Democrats, both in the pay of charter school sugar daddies, are obliged to make it happen without them. In the maze of double dealing we call legislative processes, leading Democrats in most state legislatures have thrown their bipartisan weight behind school privatization bills. Georgia and its leading black Democrats are no exception.
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon
As voters wise up across the country, they have rejected almost every school privatization proposal put before them. Last November Georgia’s governor Nathan “let’s make a” Deal threw a constitutional amendment at voters that would have closed 120 mostly black public schools and given them to a statewide charter school district which in turn would be privatized in 2018. Deal’s rotten deal on education was thrown back, thanks in part to many Georgia Democrats who enthusiastically support handing public education over to private profiteers, just not Republican ones.
But if privatization is not the will of the people, it IS the will of the one percenters and their stooges in both parties. Both Obama Secretaries of Education were enthusiastic privatizers. A Democrat, the First Black President came into office vowing to close 5,000 public schools in his first term. He used $4 billion in one-time stimulus money to do just that, dispersing more qualified black teachers, disempowering more parents, and delivering more children into the profitable hands of charter school crooks – I mean entrepreneurs, than any president before him, and shattering the cohesion of thousands of neighborhoods where the public school had been a kind of anchor.
Donald Trump gave us Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, the sister of Blackwater founder Eric Prince and a militant Christian billionaire who has championed religious and charter schools in Michigan and resisted laws that would oversee or regulate them. DeVos is so ignorant she imagined that historically black colleges and universities were the result of black choices, rather than white philanthropy and black self-help in an era when institutions of higher learning would not admit black students. DeVos sponsored multiple voucher and charter school referenda, and they all failed.
But again, privatizing education is an elite bipartisan project, much too important to allow voters to get in the way. Since Georgia voters rejected the privatization amendment on the ballot, state legislators in their infinite wisdom have decided to put high heels and lipstick on the pig and grease it through that state’s brief legislative session this year. Georgia has a Republican governor and Republican majorities in both houses of its legislature, but many rural Republicans have begun to see that the privatizations will hit them next after black and brown communities.
So it fell to the state’s leading black legislator, House Democratic leader Stacey Abrams of Atlanta to go to the well of the state house, point to the pig’s pretty lipstick and heels, and endorse the privatization bill HB 338, and encourage those in her caucus to vote for it.
To be fair, there are Democrats in Georgia and elsewhere who say they oppose school privatization. But they’re members of a party that takes big money from the privatizers and because of careertacy or other considerations they will not, they cannot break with the privatizers.
There’s another party in Georgia, the only political party that doesn’t take money from the privatizers, and the only party that stands explicitly against school privatization as nothing more or less than a new kind of grand theft. It’s the Green party, and unless the state legislature finds a way to keep us off the ballot, the Georgia Green party will have its first seats in that body in 2018.
For Black Agenda Radio, and for the Georgia Green Party I’m Bruce Dixon.
Roger’s note: Here are some more images, which I hope are worth at least a thousand words. But I add a few anyway (here in Ecuador my fruit lady always throws in some extra, it’s called “Yapa.”)
You can always count on those who benefit, always unjustly, from the status quo, to come up with what are supposed to appear to be “self-evident” eternal truths. Of course these are nothing more than verbal slights of hand designed to take the wind out of the efforts of those who struggle for change (justice).
This cartoon was designed for a Clinton victory, but because she lost the civilians of mostly Muslim countries will have to continue to blasted to smithereens by a male president. Well, at least he is white and not a Black Kenyan.
How dare it be suggested that this traditional American value group be considered as terrorist.
Nike has somehow been able to withstand my my many years of personal boycott. When I could only find a baseball cap that fit me with the logo I wanted, for the first time in ages I purchased the slash. Please don’t tell anyone.