jump to navigation

When will there be a film on Winston Churchill, the barbaric monster with the blood of millions on his hands? March 10, 2018

Posted by rogerhollander in Genocide, History, Human Rights, Imperialism, India, Kenya, Race, Racism, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: before I knew about Churchill’s genocidal acts in India and Kenya, I was aware that he had ordered the fire bombing of Dresden, a city of great cultural but no military value, in the final days of World War II.  I think I must have read been reading Kurt Vonnegut’s classic, Slaughterhouse Five, which is set in that holocaust.  As with India and Kenya, Churchill’s motivation for burning alive thousands of German civilians was pure vindictiveness.  It has always galled me to no end, therefore, to see this racist monster lionized as Patriot and a Great Man (Shame on Gary Oldman).  I therefore gasped when I read the headline in yesterday’s Toronto Star, and after I read the article I have to ask myself how this one got by the Star’s head honchos.  But somehow it did, and it is a credit to bravery of the author of the article to have written it for publication in a main stream publication.  And from one of the Empire’s most noteworthy colonies as well!

Imperialistic pop culture has enshrined Churchill only as a military great, a fun drunk, a loyal monarchist with a penchant for fine speech and a flair for loquacious prose. But the British PM lacerated the world with tragedies, profiting from plunders and mass murders, writes Shree Paradkar.

darkest_hour_still.jpg.size-custom-crop.1086x0Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. In his Oscar acceptance speech for playing the role, Oldman said, “I would just like to salute Sir Winston Churchill.” He might as well have danced on 3 million dead bodies, writes Shree Paradkar.   (JACK ENGLISH / FOCUS FEATURES)

 

By the time I came across the ledger at the Bangalore Club with Winston Churchill’s name on it in the late 1990s, British rule in India had been sanitized; airbrushed to present a picture of overall benevolence with a few violent splotches.

The entry in the ledger is dated June 1, 1899 and names one Lt W.L.S. Churchill as one of 17 bill defaulters. He owes the club 13 rupees from a time when a whisky cost less than half a rupee.

Had we then heard that Churchill once described our beloved city as a “third rate watering place … without society or good sport,” we would have probably laughed it off as the irascibility ever only indulged in the great. Jolly good, old chap.

Colonialism of the mind lingers long after the land is free.

And if we had heard that he once said, “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion,” meh. He was dead. We were thriving.

There are flawed heroes. Lincoln, MLK and Gandhi to name a few — men who inflicted injustices on individuals.

Then there are monsters.

Powerful men who lacerate the world with tragedies. Adolf Hitler, certainly, but his nemesis Churchill, too.

It was only in 2014 that I first got a glimpse of genocidal mania in the man so lionized for leading his nation through its finest hour.

It was a piece titled Remembering India’s forgotten holocaust, in Tehelka magazine that detailed the ghastly origins of the Bengal famine of 1943 that killed an estimated 3 million people in one year.

Historians have easily traced it back to Churchill who had diverted the bountiful harvest from Bengal to Britain and other parts of Europe. When the locals began starving, he steadfastly refused to send them food. He said no to rerouting food that was being shipped from Australia to the Middle East via India. No to the 10,000 tons of rice Canada offered to send to India, no to the 100,000 tons of rice America offered. The famine was the Indians’ fault, he told a war-cabinet meeting, “for breeding like rabbits.”

In his Revisionist History podcast, Malcolm Gladwell delves into how the historian Madhusree Mukerjee, author of Churchill’s Secret War, dug into Britain’s shipping archives to uncover evidence that Britain had so much food at the time that the U.S. had become suspicious they were stockpiling it to sell it after the war.

In India, she wrote, “parents dumped their starving children into rivers and wells. Many took their lives by throwing themselves in front of trains.” Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Indian soldiers were fighting alongside the Allied forces.

Yet, what did the actor Gary Oldman who portrayed Churchill in Darkest Hour say last Sunday when he received an Oscar for Best Actor? “I would just like to salute Sir Winston Churchill who has been marvellous company on what can be described as an incredible journey.”

Salute. Sir. Marvellous. Incredible.

Oldman might as well have danced on 3 million dead bodies, many of whom were too weak to cremate or bury their loved ones.

Such tributes for a heinous white supremacist who once declared that “Aryan tribes were bound to triumph.”

Words as hollow as the tunnel-visioned ideals on which people fashion this man, but they can’t stem the drip, drip of blood from his hands.

They can’t hide tens of thousands of Kenyans who were rounded up in concentration camps called “Britain’s Gulags” under his orders, where thousands were tortured and killed for rebelling against British rule.

They can’t hide the bodies of the Greek civilians who were celebrating German withdrawal in 1944, but were killed by the British army because Churchill thought the communist influence on the Nazi resisters — who had allied with Britain — was too strong. And we haven’t even got into his treatment of Iraqis or the wiping out of entire Indigenous populations of Tasmania.

Churchill was not the first Western leader to profit from plunders and mass murders. Remember John A. Macdonald? But imperialistic popular culture continues to enshrine him, despite the Gallipoli disaster, only as a military great, a fun drunk, a loyal monarch with a penchant for fine speech and a flair for loquacious prose.

Churchill tried to manipulate history with the six volumes of his memoirs. Indeed he succeeded so well that even today the Bangalore Club thumps its chest about his membership there. “Many a past great … including Sir Winston Churchill” have been members, says its website.

This compounds the tragedy. Erasing his crimes pronounces his victims worthless, deems their lives undeserving of acknowledgement, and leaves their deaths but a footnote in history.

On Twitter @shreeparadkar

Advertisements

‘Worst of All Worlds’ as Neoliberal BJP Wins India Elections in Landslide May 17, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in India, Religion, Right Wing.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

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

– Jon Queally, staff writer

The BJP’s Narendra Modi will be India’s next Prime Minister which critics say puts India on a perilous path of neoliberal economics and nationalist politics. (Photo: Hindustan Times)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.

____________________________________

Raid Frees 14 Enslaved Indian Children Forced To Make Christmas Decorations December 9, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Human Rights, India, Labor.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: The logic of capitalism is that if it is profitable, it is legitimate.  Hundreds of years of labor activism have pushed governments to restrict some of its abuses of living human beings, but as this article demonstrates, it is like putting a finger in the dike.  Capitalism, be it the capitalism of a so-called democracy or the cruelly misnamed socialism or communism of a Soviet Union or Chinese state capitalism, is inherently undemocratic and despotic.  The reason that governments, even in so-called democracies, cannot control these abuses is that the massive concentrations of corporate capital control the flow of information and the very electoral process.  Genuine socialism, which can be defined as “freely associated labor,” and which is the only road to genuine democracy, certainly would not generate the kind of abuses to children or other living human beings that we read about here.

ClickHandler.ashx

 

The Huffington Post |                                                 By

Posted: 12/07/2012  3:31 pm EST  |  Updated: 12/07/2012  3:31 pm EST

 

A raid on an Indian sweatshop freed 14 children — some as young as 8 years old — who had been kept in slave-like conditions making Christmas decorations allegedly bound for the West, Yahoo! reports.

The children were kept in tiny rooms, working 19 hours a day to create the festive trinkets, according to the outlet.

Last week’s raid was led by human rights group Global March for Children, which according to its website is a long-time partner of the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), as well as UNICEF.

Global March received support from former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who now serves as the United Nations’ special envoy for global education. Brown released a video of the conditions in the sweatshop, which he hopes will put pressure on India and the international community to put a stop to child labor, Yahoo! notes.

In a column written for the Huffington Post, Gordon went into further detail about the raid. He wrote:

The suffering of these young children, cruelly trafficked into slave labour, is the real Christmas story of 2012. Their plight must become a wake-up call for all concerned about the treatment of vulnerable children around the world. It demands we move immediately to ban all child labor.

 

“There is no parent in the world who would ever want their child to be subjected to conditions that you see in these films of children in dingy basements,” Gordon said, according to Yahoo!, “without air, without food, without proper care, being forced into child labor for all these hours of the day. I think every parent who sees these films will want this practice brought to an end as quickly as possible.”

The United Nations estimated that 55 million children aged 5 to 14 were currently employed in India, the Telegraph reported in 2007. That number has gone down, according to the Washington Post, which reported that a 2009 survey by the Statistics Ministry put the number at about 5 million. However, the newspaper also notes that UNICEF puts the number at about 28 million children.

This December, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) and Global March Against Child Labour (GMACL) organized a month-long campaign against child labor and trafficking in Assam, a northeastern state of India, The Sentinel reports. The campaign will kick off with a “March against Child Labour and Trafficking.” Starting on Saturday, the marchers will walk 300 kilometers (nearly 190 miles), ending up three days later in Dhubri.

Several child labor activists and organizations, including GMACL and Gordon Brown, are pushing the Indian Parliament to vote for an amendment to existing laws that would abolish all forms of child labor for those up to 14 years of age, according to GMACL

Until now, the country had stopped short of banning all child labor, due to a worry that it would hurt poor families that depend on their children’s wages to make ends meet, according to the Post.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Indian government is also under pressure to meet the 2016 International Labour Organization’s deadline for the abolition of the worst forms of child labor.

th

Barack Obama and Langston Hughes on “Grumblers” and “Merry Christmas” December 27, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Asia, Barack Obama, Cuba, Economic Crisis, Haiti, History, Iraq and Afghanistan, Race, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
2 comments
Posted Wed, 12/23/2009 – 17:24 by Bruce A. Dixon

When US presidents offer us their holiday greeting messages, do we know what are they really saying?  How hard can it be to figure that out?  Langston Hughes died in 1967, but he knew what every US president, including Barack Obama is really saying, underneath and behind the mask.  

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

In a recent interview with one of the few black reporters privileged to be part of the White House press corps, President Obama wasasked

April D. Ryan: Speaking of the African American community, this seems to be a shift in black leadership, as it relates to supporting you. You have the CBC that’s upset with you about targeting on the jobs front — African Americans, 15.6 percent unemployment rate, expected to go to 20 percent; mainstream America 10 percent. Then you have black actors who supported you — Danny Glover, who’s saying that you’ve not changed, your administration is the same as George W. Bush. What are your thoughts about the fact that black leadership is grumbling, and the fact that people are concerned with you being the first African American President, and they thought that there would be a little bit more compassion for black issues?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, April, I think you just engaged in a big generalization in terms of how you asked that question. If you want me to line up all the black actors, for example, who support me, and put them on one side of the room, and a couple who are grumbling on the other, I’m happy to have that.

I think if you look at the polling, in terms of the attitudes of the African American community, there’s overwhelming support for what we’ve tried to do. And, so, is there grumbling? Of course there’s grumbling,

Obama was referring to the relatively mild and tentative criticisms of the Congressional Black Caucus, along with other expressions of disappointment on the part of such activists as actor Danny Glover. The president can ignore, dismiss or disparage the divide between his policies and the opinions of the African American community which supported him. But it’s deep, it’s real, and it’s growing. It’s even historic.

Presidents have been issuing holiday greeting messages from their homes or cozy offices for a long time now, and Obama’s will be on line any minute now. Those interested can probably find it at JackandJillPolitics.com, at whitehouse.gov, and any number of other places. But the ironic 1930 Christmas message of Langston Hughes, the poet laureate of Black America sounds, with the most minor edits, like it could have come from the lips any US president of the past hundred years, including Barack Obama.

Sixty-nine years ago Langston Hughes began his holiday poem Merry Christmas with these lines

Merry Christmas China

From the gun-boats in the river

Ten inch shells for Christmas gifts

And peace on earth forever

At the moment, the U.S. was hip-deep in the Chinese civil war, bankrolling and advising a string of opium-soaked warlord armies against communists and agitators, and conducting naval operations in Chinese rivers and off its coasts. Today our first black president’s Pentagon, headed by the same team that ran George Bush’s Pentagon, sits atop some 800 overseas military bases in a hundred countries with more than 2 million uniformed personnel. Our president will spend more on this military machine than the all the rest of the planet combined, fighting and preparing to fight what the National Security Doctrine calls “multiple overlapping wars” to control resources in distant lands in the interest “free trade and free markets.”

Langston’s Christmas poem draws our attention to a part of the world much in today’s headlines.

Merry Christmas, India

To Gandhi in his cell

From righteous Christian England

Ring out bright Christmas bell

Under our first black president, Afghanistan and Pakistan are part of a vast law-free zone in which daily shellings and air raids go unreported and unremarked except by the families of victims. Assassinations and kidnappings to fill America’s world-wide network of secret prisons have replaced the open incarceration of real and suspected political foes. At least we knew Gandhi’s name, what he was charged with, where he was locked up, what his sentence was, whether he got a day in court and whether his keepers mistreated him. We can’t say that about hundreds or thousands of Obama’s prisoners.

Merry Christmas Africa

From Cairo to he Cape

Sing hallelujah, praise the Lord

For murder and for rape

Some things have changed very little indeed. The four part series “The Ravaging of Africa” to which a link appears in our left column, is a comprehensive indictment of US policy in Africa, which has caused the death of some 26 million Africans since the 1960s, including nearly ten million in Congo alone. America’s role as conscienceless predator was reaffirmed last week in Copenhagen, when the US categorically rejected the notion that it owed the rest of the world a debt for being the single major contributor to climate change over the last century and a half. Africans can drown or starve due to US -initiated climate change, but there will be no technology sharing, no reparations, nothing in the way of human solidarity between Africa and the West if the son of Africa in the White House has anything to say about it.

Langston Hughes draws our attention to the Caribbean, where the US has enforced its will at gunpoint for much of two centuries.

Ring Merry Christmas Haiti

And drown the voodoo drums

We’ll rob you to the Christmas hymns

Until the next Christ comes

Ring Merry Christmas Cuba

(Where Yankee domination

Keeps a nice fat president’s

in a little half-starved nation.)

In Cuba at least, Yankee domination is over. President Obama seems to resent this fact just as much as the last nine presidents, and continues to enforce a warlike economic blockade on Cuba.

And in Haiti, after more than a dozen US invasions and occupations, the US engineered the kidnapping of that country’s elected president, whom Obama will not even allow back in the Western hemisphere. In the name of international cooperation, the US pays for a multinational occupation force from Brazil and other countries to hunt down and kill members of Haiti’s Lavalas party, freeing US Marines for duty elsewhere.

Under the rules, Haiti is to be kept starving and terrorized, prevented by law from feeding or funding itself, owning its own infrastructure or employing its own people. Some things don’t change much.

The Christmas message of Langston Hughes doesn’t forget about domestic affairs either.

And to you down and outers

(“Due to economic laws”)

Oh, eat, drink, be merry

With a breadline Santa Claus–

Jobless levels are the highest they’ve been anywhere since the Great Depression, when Hughes penned his Christmas greeting. But now, just as in 1930, we have a president with an unshakable belief that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” a saying popularized by John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. In this time of economic crisis, President Obama has transferred more wealth to Wall Street from the real economy than all his predecessors combined.

But hard-pressed homeowners and those with heavy debts due to unpayable medical bills remain underwater. Their bailout isn’t coming. The only ones, apart from Wall Street who’ll get anything under an Obama administration will be the military.

President Obama began this December with a belligerent address that used the cadets at West Point as human stage props. At mid-month he went to Copenhagen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and offer another bald-faced set of excuses for wars, kidnappings, secret prisons and the whole panoply of empire. He or his vice president may end it treating us to a Christmas or New Year’s message posing with the troops in occupied Iraq or Afghanistan. The more some things change, the more they stay the same.

We don’t know exactly what Obama will say in his holiday message. But Langston Hughes knew seventy years ago what he will mean.

While all the world hails Christmas

While all the church bells sway

While better still the Christian guns

Proclaim this joyous day

While holy steel that makes us strong

Spits forth a mighty yuletide song

SHOOT Merry Christmas everywhere

Let Merry Christmas GAS the air.

Presidents can always find sycophants, yes-men or yes-women eager to agree to whatever they say, often before they can even say it. All that comes with the job, along with Air Force One and that song they play every time he enters a crowded room. But the the truth is always true, no matter how hotly or how many the deniers, and most of Black America is not in denial on war, peace, mass incarceration or poverty.  The heroes, and the just plain honest will always be those who speak the truth to power.

Langston has been gone from us a long time now. We’ll never know what he might say to a son of Africa in the White House, married to a girl from the south side of Chicago. But nobody on either side of the grave speaks more directly to what our first black president has become than Langston Hughes did seven decades ago. Barack Obama is in power. He can ignore, disparage or dismiss the truth. But it’s still true.  And most of us know it.

We wish the president and first family, along with all our readers and friends around the world a joyous and fulfilling holiday.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and based in Atlanta. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport. Langston Hughes is the poet laureate of Black America and can be reached at public libraries, and at independent and other bookstores everywhere.

Up, Up and Away: The West’s Hysterical Reaction to North Korea April 18, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Foreign Policy, North/South Korea.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Posted on Apr 17, 2009, www.truthdig.com








AP photo / Ahn Young-joon

South Koreans watch a TV news program on the launch of a North Korean missile.


By Scott Ritter


Six minutes before 1 o’clock in the afternoon, on Jan. 23, a 173-foot-tall, two-stage rocket lifted off from Northeast Asia. Capable of carrying a giant 33,000-pound payload, the rocket’s liquid-fuel engine, supplemented by two solid-fuel strap-on booster rockets, generated nearly half a million pounds of thrust before giving way to the second stage, likewise powered by a liquid-fuel engine. After reaching a height of nearly 430 miles, the rocket released into orbit a 3,850-pound satellite, along with seven smaller probes. Other than the small community of scientists interested in the data expected to be collected from the “Ibuki” Greenhouse Gases Observatory Satellite (GOSAT), the rocket’s main payload, very few people around the world took notice of the launch. The United Nations Security Council did not meet in an emergency session to denounce the launch, nor did it craft a package of punitive economic sanctions in response. 


The reason? The rocket in question, the H-2A, was launched by Japan, at its Tanegashima Space Launch Facility. Deemed an exclusively civilian program, the H-2A has been launched 15 times since its inaugural mission on Aug. 29, 2001. Four of these launches have been in support of exclusively military missions, delivering spy satellites into orbit over North Korea. Although capable of delivering a modern nuclear warhead to intercontinental ranges, the H-2A is seen as a “non-threatening” system since its liquid-fueled engines require a lengthy fueling process prior to launching, precluding any quick-launch capability deemed essential for a military application.







In contrast, on April 5, at 11:30 in the morning, North Korea launched a three-stage rocket called “Unha,” or “Milky Way,” which it claimed was carrying a single small communications satellite weighing a few hundred pounds. Like the H-2A, the “Unha,” better known in the West as the Taepodong-2, is liquid-fueled, requiring weeks of preliminary preparation before launch. Although North Korea declared the vehicle to be intended for launching a satellite, the launch was condemned even before it occurred as “dangerous” and “provocative,” unlike Japan’s similar efforts.


The Taepodong-2 launch was the second attempt by the North Koreans to get this particular design airborne. In 2006, the first effort ended in failure when the rocket exploded some 40 seconds after liftoff. The second launch, by all accounts (except North Korea’s, which announced that its satellite was successfully orbiting the Earth, broadcasting patriotic music), was likewise a failure. The first stage, based on a Chinese design derived from the CSS-2 missile, seemed to function as intended, given the fact that it splashed down in the Sea of Japan in the area expected. However, the second stage, together with the smaller solid-fuel third stage designed to boost the satellite into orbit, fell several hundred miles short of its anticipated impact area, indicating a failure of the second stage to perform properly and, ultimately, launch the satellite. Western hysteria, which labeled the North Korean rocket a direct threat to the western United States, prompting calls for the missile to be shot down, proved unfounded.


In October 2006, in response to North Korea’s announcement that it had conducted an underground test of a nuclear weapon, the Security Council of the United Nations passed Resolution 1718. This resolution, passed under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, condemned the North Korean nuclear weapon test and called for the imposition of economic sanctions until North Korea’s nuclear weapons program was dismantled and its nuclear program as a whole reintegrated into the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. It also singled out North Korea’s ballistic missile programs, demanding that Pyongyang “not conduct any further … launch of a ballistic missile” and “suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launching” and “abandon all other existing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programme in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.” 


The April 5 launch was widely condemned by the United States and others (including Japan, which assumed a leading role in framing the North Korean test as “destabilizing” and “dangerous”). President Barack Obama characterized the North Korean launch as a violation of Security Council resolutions and pushed for the council to punish Pyongyang. However, not everyone shared the sentiments of the United States and Japan. Both Russia and China questioned whether the launch was in fact a violation of Resolution 1718, noting that North Korea had every right to launch satellites. The best the United States and Japan could get from the U.N. Security Council was a statement issued by the council president condemning the launch as a “contravention” of Security Council Resolution 1718 and demanding that North Korea “comply fully” with its obligations under the resolution. The statement also demanded that North Korea not shoot off any more rockets or missiles.


Thus it appears that the United Nations Security Council, and not North Korea, is acting in a manner inconsistent with international law. On March 5, 2009, North Korea notified Russia that it was joining the 1966 Outer Space Treaty. Russia is one of three depository states for that treaty (the other two being the United States and the United Kingdom), and North Korea’s announcement made the commitment binding. At the same time, North Korea informed the U.N. secretary-general that it was joining the 1974 Convention on Registration of Objects Launched Into Outer Space. The Outer Space Treaty proclaims “the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind,” and that “outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States.” North Korea’s joining the 1974 convention, while not mandatory, put it in compliance with the established practices of other nations having space launch programs, including Iran, which signed the treaty back in 1967, and which on Feb. 2, 2008, successfully launched a satellite on board its two-stage Safir-2 (“Ambassador”) vehicle. While the United States and others strongly criticized the Iranian action, Russia noted that Iran had not violated international law. The same holds true of the North Korean launch.


A major problem confronting President Obama and others who fear that North Korean and Iranian launches are merely a cover for the development of technologies useful for military ballistic missile programs is that, unlike in the nuclear field, where the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT) seeks to control nuclear weapon technologies and activities within a framework of binding international law, there is no corresponding treaty vehicle concerning ballistic missiles. In 1991, the U.N. Security Council did impose restrictions on ballistic missile technology for Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf War, but this was a case-specific action which, in defining its mandate, had to turn not to an existing body of binding international law-based definitions, but rather to a voluntary arrangement known as the Missile Technology Control Regime [MTCR], brought into being in 1987. Today the MTCR consists of 34 members, all of which have agreed to abide by a regime that controls the availability of missile-related technology to nonmember states. But the MTCR does not carry with it the force of law, and has become politicized over the years through the inconsistent application of its mandate to the point that it is viewed by many nonsignatory nations as sustaining the military advantage of the member nations.


While both North Korea and Iran have come under strong international criticism and sanctions for their respective nuclear and missile activities, it should be noted that neither nation has acted in a manner which violates international law. North Korea withdrew from the NPT prior to testing its nuclear weapon, and Iran’s nuclear enrichment program operates with full transparency and in keeping with its obligations under the NPT. As signatories to the 1966 Outer Space Treaty, both nations are legally permitted to pursue space launch activity, and the MTCR does not ban ballistic missile development, but rather merely prevents signatory nations from providing such technology to nonsignatory nations. But the lack of international outrage and demands for sanctions against nations such as Israel, Pakistan and India (all of which possess nuclear weapons programs operating outside the NPT, as well as military ballistic missile programs designed to deliver these nuclear weapons) undermines the legitimacy of the current attention on North Korea and Iran. 


On the day North Korea launched its “Unha” vehicle, President Obama delivered a speech in Prague, the Czech Republic, which was hastily redrafted to take the North Korean action into account. “North Korea broke the rules,” Obama said. “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” These bold statements were made at the same time the president was calling for a global abolition of nuclear weapons and a strengthened NPT as “a basis for cooperation,” one which would require “more resources and authority to strengthen international inspections” and deliver “real and immediate consequences for countries caught breaking the rules or trying to leave the treaty without cause.” The president outlined a valid (if vague) course of action concerning nuclear weapons, but having linked nuclear weapons with ballistic missile delivery vehicles, he remained conspicuously mute on how he envisioned containing and controlling that threat. 


Expansion of the MTCR is not a viable option, although in its most recent plenary session the MTCR underscored the importance of the regime working closely with the United Nations to follow through on measures put in place under Security Council Resolution 1540, passed in 2004 under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. Those measures require all states to “establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of such weapons and means of delivery, in particular for terrorist purposes, including by establishing appropriate controls over related materials, and adopt legislative measures in that respect.” The resolution specifically said that none of its obligations should be interpreted “so as to conflict with or alter the rights and obligations of State parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention or alter the responsibilities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).” This reflects the reality that there is established, binding international agreement on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. There is no such agreement on ballistic missiles.


This is the missing link in Obama’s call for a nuclear-free world. It will be difficult enough to convince entrenched domestic special interests, both economic and political, that we would be safer without nuclear weapons. It will be impossible to sell such a program internationally unless it is coupled with a similar undertaking involving the very missiles and related technology the MTCR seeks to restrict. Such a restriction cannot be limited to those nations which do not currently possess such technology, but rather must be binding on all nations. While the world was focused on the launch of the North Korean missile, almost unmentioned was the testing of an SS-25 intercontinental missile by Russia on April 10. This missile, designed and equipped to deliver a single 500-kiloton nuclear warhead, flew 6,000 miles before hitting its designated target area (the warhead used was a dummy). And what about February’s test launch of a U.S. Navy D-5 ballistic missile from a Trident submarine? This missile flew some 4,000 miles and was equipped with multiple warheads. There was hardly any mention of the test of a U.S. Minuteman III missile in July 2006, made six days after the U.S. orchestrated Security Council condemnation of North Korea’s failed launch of a Taepodong-2 space launch vehicle. India, Pakistan and Israel have all conducted recent tests of their respective nuclear-capable ballistic missile arsenals. If the world is going to be serious about getting rid of nuclear weapons, then it must also address the issue of eliminating those delivery vehicles which provide the most viable vector for nuclear attack—ballistic missiles.


Combining the goals and intent of the MTCR with the 1966 Outer Space Treaty would be a good place to start. Banning ballistic missiles yet maintaining space launch capability are not mutually exclusive objectives. The technologies might be similar, but the employment methodologies are not. Military ballistic missiles are deployed in secrecy and rapidly prepared for launch. Space launch vehicles are operated in full transparency, on declared schedules with announced objectives. If the list of technologies currently controlled by the MTCR was expanded to include all technologies associated with missile launch activity, and access to such technologies made conditional on their use in declared, carefully monitored space launchings controlled by a binding international treaty, it would be possible to rid the world of the scourge of global nuclear attack by not only removing the nuclear weapons but also the most effective means of their delivery. Obama and others who criticize North Korea and Iran would do well to reflect on such a possibility the next time they embark on the ineffective and hypocritical path of assailing those who simply seek to acquire what we already have—whether it be nuclear weapons, nuclear technology, ballistic missiles or space launch capability.







Scott Ritter was a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998 and a U.S. Marine intelligence officer. He is author of “Target Iran” (Nation Books, 2006) and the forthcoming “On Dangerous Ground: Following the Path of America’s Failed Arms Control Policy,” also published by Nation Books. 

Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi on Threats to Iranian Rights, from Within and Abroad February 4, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

www.democracynow.org, February 4, 2009

Guest: Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace laureate and Iranian human rights lawyer.

shirin-ebadi

AMY GOODMAN: Iran says they’ve successfully launched their first domestically made satellite, raising renewed concerns about Iran’s ambitions among American, European and Israeli officials. Iran says the satellite is meant for research and communications.

 

The launch happened amidst ten-day celebrations marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Iranian revolution that deposed the pro-American Shah from power and redefined Iran as an Islamic Republic.

 

We’ll have more on the missile launch and American policy toward Iran in our next segment, but right now we’re going to turn to the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Iranian human rights advocate Shirin Ebadi. She is on a short visit to the United States, speaking out against both American and Israeli military threats to Iran, as well as the growing domestic repression of activists within Iran.

 

In recent weeks, Ebadi, herself, has been the target of right-wing attacks in her country. Last December, security forces raided and shut down an organization she helped found, the Center for the Defense of Human Rights, and confiscated documents about her clients, who include some of Iran’s most important political figures of the last thirty years. Since then, her former secretary was arrested, and right-wing crowds have gathered outside her home, accusing her of supporting the United States and Israel.

 

I spoke with Shirin Ebadi yesterday about how she’s dealing with the climate of repression in her country, her visit to the US, and why she continues to fight for human rights in Iran. I began by asking her to describe what happened to her office in December.

    SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] Yes, it was the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we were going to celebrate that. An hour-and-a-half prior to the celebration, the police came to the Center and informed us that “According to and pursuant to an oral order of the prosecutor, we have to close down the Center and seal it.”

    AMY GOODMAN: And so, then what happened? I understand your secretary was also arrested.

    SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] Yes. And a few days later, they raided my private law office, and on the basis of an excuse of nonpayment of taxes, they took the computers and several of my files away, although this was illegal and they had no right to do that. A few days even later past that, they raided—they came to my house, and they vandalized my house with spray paint and demonstrated against me. They took down my sign, the sign of my law office, and although I had called the police, the police came, but they only watched the demonstrators do the vandalism and the breaking of my sign.

    And unfortunately, a few days even later, a young secretary, a female secretary, at the Center for the Defense of Human Rights was arrested. They went to her house at 6:00 a.m. and arrested her. And she has not been able to meet with any of her attorneys. We have appointed an attorney for her, but the attorney has not been able to meet with her or to talk to her, and she has not been able to meet with any members of her family. She is in solitary confinement at the present time.

    AMY GOODMAN: The significance of the government taking the documents from your law offices? You represent some of the leading political dissidents. Do they now have access to your clients’ information?

    SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] Yes, they do have access to important information now. As you know, they have—there is attorney-client privilege, and they should not have taken any of the files. What they did was illegal. I brought a criminal complaint against them for what they have done in taking the files, and to no avail up to now.

    AMY GOODMAN: Shirin Ebadi, you had protesters outside your offices during the Israeli attack on Gaza saying you supported the United States and you supported Israel. Here in this country, there were Iranian Jews who were saying that you weren’t supporting Israel enough. Can you tell us your position on what’s happening right now in Israel and Gaza?

    SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] I first have to inform you that the Center for the Defense of Human Rights, that I am the director of, had issued a declaration supporting the people of Gaza prior to the demonstrations in front of my house. However, when you ask me about the differences between Israel and Palestine, I think that they have to negotiate, and they have to accept a two-state solution. The two of them should be able—the two states should be able to live in peace when both countries accept the two-state solution.

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the statement of the Israeli prime minister frontrunner, Benjamin Netanyahu. He said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons ranks far above the global economy among the challenges facing leaders in the twenty-first century. I wanted to get your response.

    SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] I don’t think that the Middle East needs nuclear weapons. I also don’t think that Pakistan, India or Israel need nuclear weapons. I think that they all should take measures in abolishing their nuclear weapons.

    AMY GOODMAN: What message do you bring to the United States, as you’ve come here for two days—for several days to speak.

    SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] I first want to congratulate the people of the United States for having elected a president who believes in human rights and on his first day of office ordered the closing down of the Guantanamo prison.

    In the second instance, I want to say that America is a superpower, and the political behavior of America can be a role model for the rest of the world. What I want to suggest is that the United States join the ICC and, in this way, not let the dictators sleep a good night.

    AMY GOODMAN: What exactly do you feel that Barack Obama should do right now? He has talked about direct dialogue with Iran. At what levels do you think the dialogue has to happen?

    SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] I think that the dialogue should take place at three levels: at the level of the presidents of both countries, at the level of the parliaments of both countries, and at the level of the civil society of both countries. And I think that the negotiations should bear in mind the interests of the people of both countries, not only the interests of a few companies. In the past, in 1953, the presidents of both countries, or the heads of both countries, spoke, but there the dialogue resulted in a few big oil companies coming to Iran.

    AMY GOODMAN: Shirin Ebadi, there are going to be presidential elections in a few months in Iran. The man considered a reformist, Khatami, may run. Ahmadinejad said he could run. Have you considered running for president of Iran?

    SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] I have never had the intention to joining a power. I have to remain among the people and be the representative of people. That’s why I reiterate that I’m not going to join power.

    AMY GOODMAN: Your offices have been raided. Your home has been raided. Your secretary has been arrested. You have the leading women’s rights campaigner in Iran—you can pronounce her name for me—who is now going to jail. Why are you returning to Iran? Do you feel safe there?

    SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] I don’t have enough safety in Iran, nor does any other person who works on human rights have enough safety in Iran. But I am going back to Iran. I have to do my work in Iran. And I will remain in Iran. That’s why I’m going back to Iran.

    AMY GOODMAN: This is the thirtieth anniversary of the Iranian revolution. You were a judge, before the revolution, under the Shah; you are no longer. Talk about the state of your country and of women’s rights, in particular.

    SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] Over 65 percent of the university students in Iran are female. Women exist in all levels of government. They work in all levels of government. And they are present in the society. However, unfortunately, after the revolution, discriminatory laws have been passed against women. And I want to give you a few examples of these discriminatory laws. The life of a woman is worth half of that of a man; and therefore, if there is an automobile accident and a man and a woman are involved and their injuries are the same, the compensation paid to the woman is half of that paid to the man. Men can marry four wives. They can divorce their wives without an excuse. [Testimony] of two women in court equals [testimony] of one man. So these are the discriminatory laws I’m talking about.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you think would change—bring change in Iran? And do you hold out any hope for these elections? Are you supporting anyone? Where do you think the real change will happen?

    SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] I believe in freedom of elections. Unfortunately, in Iran, the competency of the candidates has to be approved by the Guardian Council. In other words, they have to be qualified by the Guardian Council. This law is against the constitution of the country of Iran. And I [do] think that until and unless this law is outlawed, that we could have free elections in Iran. This is a principle that I believe in.

    AMY GOODMAN: What gives you any hope? What gives you courage when you return to Iran, especially when you look at, for example, the crackdown now, just over the last few months?

    SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] I am going back to Iran. What gives me courage is the duty that I have towards my country. And also, I believe in God, and that helps me.

    AMY GOODMAN: If the United States were to attack Iran, and when you look at the repression that you and others have suffered, would that help the democratic movement in Iran?

    SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] A military attack on Iran or even a threat of a military attack on Iran will deteriorate the situation of human rights and women’s rights, because it gives an excuse to the government to repress them more and more often.

    AMY GOODMAN: Any other thing you would like to add, Shirin Ebadi?

    SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] Although the office for the Center for the Defense of Human Rights has been closed down, but we are continuing our work. And this way, we want to tell the government of Iran and the people of Iran that we are going to fight the human rights abuses and the illegality that goes on in this regard in Iran.

Obama Continues Bush Policy of Deadly Air Strikes in Pakistan January 30, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Pakistan, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

www.democracynow.org, January 30, 2009

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Pakistan, where outrage continues to mount over the US military’s first act of war approved by President Obama. Last Friday, unmanned US Predator drones fired missiles at houses in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, killing as many as twenty-two people, including at least three children.

 

The United States has carried out thirty such drone attacks on alleged al-Qaeda targets inside Pakistani territory since last summer, killing some 250 people, according to a tally by Reuters.

 

The Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday that US drone attacks were “counterproductive” and ended up uniting local communities with militants. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates indicated Tuesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that such strikes will continue and that Pakistani officials are aware of US policy on this matter.

    ROBERT GATES: Both President Bush and President Obama have made clear that we will go after al-Qaeda wherever al-Qaeda is, and we will continue to pursue them.

    SEN. CARL LEVIN: Has that decision been transmitted to the Pakistan government?

    ROBERT GATES: Yes, sir.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Pakistani officials, however, deny there’s any agreement with the United States to secretly allow drone attacks inside Pakistan. Defense Secretary Gates’s comments on the missile attacks were the first to publicly acknowledge the strikes since last Friday. This is an excerpt of last Friday’s White House press briefing with, well, the new press secretary, Robert Gibbs.

    REPORTER: And other US officials have confirmed these Predator drone air strikes, Pakistan. What is it about cannot confirming whether the President was consulted—

     

    ROBERT GIBBS: I’m not going to get into these matters.

     

    REPORTER: How does that compromise operational security?

     

    ROBERT GIBBS: I’m not going to get into these matters.

     

    REPORTER: Don’t you think it’s justifiable curiosity, Robert, about the President’s first military action—

     

    ROBERT GIBBS: I think there are many things that you should be justifiably curious about, but I’m not going to get into talking about—

     

    REPORTER: If other members of the US government are confirming this, why is it that you can’t comment?

     

    ROBERT GIBBS: I’m not going to get into these matters.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Vice President Joseph Biden also refused to comment Sunday as to whether the United States would notify Pakistan before sending forces into their territory. He was on CBS’s Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer.

    BOB SCHIEFFER: Last week, an American drone apparently attacked an al-Qaeda force, or what they thought was an al-Qaeda force, in the territorial part of Pakistan, a cross-border operation. It’s my understanding that the President, the previous president, gave our US forces and the CIA permission to go across that border, to go after al-Qaeda if it became necessary on the ground. Does President Obama—will he continue that policy?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: Bob, as you know, I can’t speak to any particular attack. I can’t speak to any particular action. It’s not appropriate for me to do that.

     

    But I can say that the President of the United States said during his campaign and in the debates that if there is an actionable target of a high-level al-Qaeda personnel, that he would not hesitate to use action to deal with that.

     

    But here’s the good news. The good news is that in my last trip—and I’ve been to Pakistan many times and that region many times—there is a great deal more cooperation going on now between the Pakistan military in an area called the FATA, the Federally Administered Territory—Waziristan, North Waziristan—all that area we hear about, that is really sort of ungovernable—not sort of, it’s been ungovernable for the Pakistani government. That’s where the bad guys are hiding. That’s where the al-Qaeda folks are, and some other malcontents.

     

    And so, what we’re doing is we’re in the process of working with the Pakistanis to help train up their counterinsurgency capability of their military, and we’re getting new agreements with them about how to deal with cross-border movements of these folks. So we’re making progress.

     

    BOB SCHIEFFER: Would you have notified them before any of these cross-border movements, because, as you well know, there is a fear that there would be leaks on something like that, and there might be a temptation not to? Exactly what is our policy on that?

     

    VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: I always try to be completely candid with you, but I can’t respond to that question. I’m not going to respond to that question.

    BOB SCHIEFFER: You’re not going to respond to that question.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Vice President Biden, being interviewed by Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. When we come back from break, we’ll speak with a Pakistani activist and scholar about the first military attack in the Obama administration, the unmanned drone attack in Pakistan. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: As US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, prepares to head to the region next week, I’m joined now here in the firehouse studio by Pakistani political scientist Sahar Shafqat.
Welcome to Democracy Now!

SAHAR SHAFQAT: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you with us. What about this unmanned drone attack? Where did it happen? What about the denials, on both sides, of US-Pakistani cooperation?

SAHAR SHAFQAT: The attacks happened in FATA, which is the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. It’s this no man’s land, literally, between Afghanistan and Pakistan, colonial-era sort of administrative region.

The denials, I think, are part of this drama that is sort of in mutually agreed-upon play that both the US and Pakistan are engaged in, which is the US is going to engage—carry out these drone attacks; the Pakistani government will deny that they had any knowledge and will express outrage for domestic consumption.

But they’re very deeply unpopular, and I should add that they have caused a humanitarian crisis within Pakistan. In Bajaur, for example, it’s estimated that about 300,000 people have fled the region, which is about half the population there. And it’s—

AMY GOODMAN: Explain where that region is.

SAHAR SHAFQAT: That is in part of FATA, which is the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Bajaur is one of the agencies within that.

AMY GOODMAN: Right next to Afghanistan.

SAHAR SHAFQAT: Right next to Afghanistan, yes. It’s a series of about ten or eleven different agencies within this—what Vice President Biden called the no man’s land, this ungovernable land. It’s supposed to have autonomy. And this has been, as I said, a colonial-era legacy, which successive Pakistani governments have more or less respected. This, of course, changed dramatically after 9/11, when the Pakistani government was forced to intervene, because Taliban and al-Qaeda had fled there from Afghanistan, so—which was a radical change in policy.

AMY GOODMAN: So, right now, this latest attack, what do you know about it? We have learned so far that something like twenty-two people were killed, three of them children.

SAHAR SHAFQAT: I don’t know much more than that, much more than what you know. But I will also add that it’s disappointing, from my perspective, and I think from Pakistanis’ perspective, that the new administration, which clearly has recognized that there were terrible mistakes made in the Bush era that have to be now sort of corrected with policy changes, has refused to acknowledge that there were serious mistakes that have been made in the US policy towards Pakistan and has in fact made clearly a decision to continue US policy towards Pakistan.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your assessment of Richard Holbrooke, who’s headed to the region now?

SAHAR SHAFQAT: Richard Holbrooke, I think—I mean, there are many sort of reasons to object to his involvement, which, you know, sort of pertain to his past, but I do want to point out one additional thing, which is that he has been named the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Originally, he was supposed to be named envoy to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The Indian government lobbied very fiercely to have that designation removed, because they did not want to be lumped in with Afghanistan and Pakistan. And that, from my view, is unfortunate, because, you know, throughout, for example, Obama’s campaign, he noted that the solution to the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan must involve some kind of solution between India and Pakistan, as well, that India is part of this equation. And I agree with that. And so, it’s disappointing that the sort of official designation for Richard Holbrooke is not going to include India at all in this equation.

AMY GOODMAN: The level of support for President Obama before he became president and now?

SAHAR SHAFQAT: In Pakistan? He was definitely more popular before the attacks on Friday, a week ago. And, in fact, the prime minister of Pakistan had more or less guaranteed to the Pakistani public that when President Obama comes into office, these drone attacks are going to stop. So he has, of course, been extremely embarrassed by this action, and there have already been mass protests against US bombing. And I think a lot of disillusionment has set in, because there were hopes that there would be some kind of policy correction, policy change, and that appears to not be the case at all.

AMY GOODMAN: Sahar Shafqat, what about the attacks on Mumbai and the links to Pakistan?

SAHAR SHAFQAT: Well, you know, again, none of that investigation has been made public, so I can only speculate on who exactly was involved. But to the best of our knowledge, we—I think it’s safe to say that, somehow or the other, the Pakistani security establishment was involved, either indirectly or directly or even through sort of—in a way of having knowledge of it and letting it happen. And again, this—

AMY GOODMAN: What makes you say that?

SAHAR SHAFQAT: You know, the groups that have been alleged to be involved are creations of ISI, the Lashkar-e-Taiba and its affiliated social group, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. And just as an example of how the security establishment tends to patronize and help out these groups, when the Jamaat-ud-Dawa was declared by the United Nations as a terrorist organization, the government took a few days to sort of act, and when they eventually seized the assets of this group, they discovered, lo and behold, that all the money had been taken out of the accounts. I don’t think this was an accident. I think this was an opportunity given to this group to sort of, you know, clear out its money and regroup eventually. Unfortunately, the ISI and other security, you know, agencies in Pakistan have always worked against the interests of the people of Pakistan, and I think this is another instance in which they, again, either directly or indirectly have done that.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, the lawyers’ movement in Pakistan, where it is now under Zardari, the husband of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto?

SAHAR SHAFQAT: The lawyers’ movement is the most hopeful development in Pakistan in the last, I would say, probably couple of decades. Unfortunately, the movement has been weakened since the civilian government took office almost a year ago. And I should note that the United States has remained sort of steadfastly against the restoration of the judiciary and especially of the chief justice. My hope is that now that we have a former constitutional expert as the new US president, that he will see the importance of maintaining the rule of law and of restoring the judiciary.

The latest announcement by the lawyers’ movement leadership is that there will be a long march on March 9th and that there will be a sit-in until the judiciary is restored, until the chief justice is restored. And most recently, one of the major opposition party leaders, Nawaz Sharif, announced that he is going to participate and support this long march fully.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Sahar Shafqat, Pakistani activist and scholar. She specializes in comparative politics, an associate professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

War on Two Fronts: A Somber Assessment January 13, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
(Roger’s note: if you are tired of reading about how badly Bush botched his presidency (an illegitimate one at that), skip to the middle of the article where it begins: “And yet 1948 provides one interpretive key to the whole mess.”  I think you will find this quite an insightful analysis of the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.)
Why did Bush not do more for peace during his failed presidency? Because someone is always lobbing a rocket or detonating a bomb, and this invalidates any and every gesture toward peace, in his simple view.

The lackluster and mildly bizarre performance of President Bush in this, the last of his 47 presidential press conferences, puts the muted period to a failed presidency that began with constitutional fireworks and cultural exclamation-points. It was a strange show. His attempts to be gracious with the press fell flat, his professions of commitment to the ideals of liberty and free speech were scarcely plausible, his self-deprecating attempts at humor elicited not so much as a smile.

It was his simplistic assessment of the current situation in Gaza that was most striking, however, and worrisome. The situation is simple for Bush; it always has been. Israel’s battle is America’s battle, and vice versa. It is framed as a battle of Israeli democracy against the anti-democratic forces surrounding her, and it is thus another front in the War on Terror that has always had a theological echo in this president’s biblicist mind.

There can be no peace so long as Hamas is lobbing rockets into Israel, the President concluded. That is very true (though not absolutely so). The statement needs a supplement. There can be no peace so long as many things continue to be permitted—like the flow of illegal weapons into Gaza, like the building of illegal settlements in the West Bank, like a de facto Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip, etcetera. There are no heroes in this conflict, and that is what this president’s simplistic and one-sided reasoning always failed to comprehend. Why did he not do more? Because someone is always lobbing a rocket or detonating a bomb, and this invalidates any and every gesture toward peace, in his simple view.

Barack Obama famously noted that a president rarely has the luxury of dealing with one crisis at a time. The standard litany of current crises is well known: the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression; two wars with staggering expense accounts; ongoing security concerns, etcetera. And well before being sworn in, the troubles of the President-elect have multiplied: Bill Richardson’s withdrawal of his nomination to a Cabinet post; controversy over seating certain Senators; debates about the economic stimulus package he proposes; debates about the appropriateness of inviting Rick Warren to the presidential podium.

Now two new battles are brewing, and we did not directly anticipate either one. But we need to find a way to think them together. Pakistani troops are massing on the Indian border, and Israel has mounted a punishing ground assault on Gaza. In fact, the Israelis have just brought up their reserves, indicating that they intend to be at this for some time.

There is something almost surreal, and supremely depressing, in hearing poignant phrases uttered for the hundredth time. The faces of the politicians change; the well-meaning professions of care do not. So we are told that they will apply themselves with new urgency to the Mid-east peace process. And yet the US president, when asked today why his attempts to move that process along never made any headway, noted rather lamely that “they’ve been fighting there for a long time.” It was clear from his subsequent remarks that he was thinking at least as much about biblical history as about the post-1948 era.

And yet 1948 provides one interpretive key to the whole mess.

Israel, India and Pakistan are all three creatures of the post-colonial break-up of the British Empire at the end of World War 2. And India provides a cautionary tale for Israel today. The terrifying moral they provide is that “two-state solutions” do not work, if we imagine working as the creation of stable borders and relatively peaceable neighbors.

When it was clear in 1946-7 that the British would leave the Indian subcontinent, then the great post-colonial question emerged: how many countries should be created out of what were previously vast colonial holdings? Gandhi, it may be recalled, was state solution (and he was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist, not an Islamist). Gandhi envisioned a thriving multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy, one that laid claim to its proud history of productive Hindu-Muslim coexistence. His Islamic counterpart, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, disagreed, insisting that the Muslim minority on the subcontinent needed a country of its own. Hence the emergence of the two-state India-Pakistan solution.

Yet Pakistan was an almost surreal construction from the beginning. It was a bizarre non-contiguous territory: East and West Pakistan, separated by over one thousand miles of India. Unsurprisingly, the two halves of Pakistan fell to bickering, then fell apart, their quarrels supported by an Indian regime that was interested in maintaining a weak neighbor to its north, and the predictable civil war that began in 1971 resulted in the creation of an independent Bagladesh. Since then, India and (West) Pakistan have fought two major wars of territorial dispute (primarily over the status of Kashmir), one minor war, and have skirmished almost constantly.

The moral of this strange tale is two-fold. First, the arbitrary construction of a country composed of two non-contiguous parts is doomed from the start. The second lesson is even more troubling: “Two-state solutions” do not work. Built into the model at its inception is the premise that these potentially hostile groups cannot co-exist peacefully. What is taken off the table at the start is the possibility of peaceful coexistence and the creation of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, genuinely cosmopolitan society. If you assume at the start that you need two separate countries because the relative populations cannot coexist, then you should not be surprised if these two countries fight periodic wars from then on. Conflict, after all, was the very premise that named the problem for which two states allegedly provided a solution.

We have the makings of this same situation in Israel today. The nominal Palestinian “state” is an even more bizarre non-contiguous territory constituted by the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since Hamas’s victory in the most recent elections (they won a plurality rather than a strict majority, but that is beside the current crisis), we have been moving toward an Israeli-sponsored civil war between the two parts of this quasi-Palestinian state (the two Palestinian parties involved, Fatah versus Hamas, have come to symbolize the conflict, and the stakes). Israel has invested heavily in assuring that this quasi-state cannot succeed. Traffic between the two halves of the quasi-country is well-nigh impossible, exacerbated now by the construction of the West Bank wall. New Israeli settlements in the not-so-sovereign West Bank are deliberate and constant provocations that further de-legitimate this quasi-state. The de facto blockade of Gaza makes the economic viability of the state suspect as well. And to be sure, the neighboring Arab countries have not done much to help either the situation or their Palestinian comrades. The parties on all sides of this conflict that do not want peace have found it very easy to play the current system to maintain a constant state of low-level violence that periodically breaks out into hotter moments, like the one we saw in south Lebanon, and the one we see now in Gaza.

Thus a proposed two-state solution results, in the best case, in the creation of three states, not two, as well as a state of constant conflict and continual alert. And the dirty little secret is that the truces, so often declared and so often violated, are never ironclad and never honored to the letter. The strange reality is that a truce almost always tolerates a certain low level of violence, violence that is voluntarily overlooked by both sides in the interest of accomplishing greater goals. Some peripheral attacks are overlooked. A stray rocket is not blamed on the government. Illegal new settlements are not blamed on the government, either, but assof foreign agitators (most of them from Brooklyn).

And on it goes, as casualties rise and anger festers. Why has there been no progress on the peace front? My increasingly desperate worry is that the initial conditions were set in such a way as virtually to guarantee continual conflict, a constant state of alert, mutual mistrust and antipathy, periodic escalations and explosions of almost theatrical violence.

There is nothing worse than commentary on the Middle East that goes this far, and then either throws up its hands in world-weary despair, or lays the blame squarely on one side, or else suggests a surprising new approach that everyone else has overlooked. I recognize that this commentary runs the very real risk of sounding the same. This is not what I wish to communicate, though my despair is real, and heartfelt.

I recognize that there is no turning back the clock, no possibility of revisiting the question of whether a two-state proposal really was a good solution. It is literally too late to go back to the beginning and to start over, in the Indian subcontinent or in the Middle East. But one change in strategy might accomplish symbolic things, most importantly a sense that the US intends to be not merely an honest broker but actually realistic about finding a way out of the current impasse.

Every peace proposal I have ever heard agrees that the question of the status of Jerusalem must be postponed. It will be the thorniest problem to solve, and every attempt to resolve other disputes will founder on the shoals of the Jerusalem Siren-song.

What if we have this precisely backwards? If no current peace proposal can imagine a peaceable solution in Jerusalem, then of what use are they? They all simply kick the can up the road, knowing full well than any potential breakthrough will be undone as soon as we turn to the long-postponed Big Question. Why, then, not try to do the hardest thing first? Indeed, were the various competing parties ever able to agree, however unhappily, to a political solution concerning the status of Jerusalem, it would almost invariably be a solution that did not permit Jerusalem to belong to any one group, and thus it would model the alternative possibility that two-state solutions normally erase: that of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, cosmopolitan alternative.

I see no real possibility that such an adjudication is possible, certainly not now. But in the long run, this seems a more realistic goal, ironically enough, than the endless hand-wringing that comes from people of good will who wonder aimlessly “why they hate each other so.”

 

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr. is William M. Suttles Chair of Religious Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. The author of six books, his two most recent are: God Gardened East: A Gardener’s Meditation on the Dynamics of Genesis (Wipf and Stock, 2008) and This Tragic Gospel: How John Corrupted the Heart of Christianity (Jossey-Bass, 2008).

Independent Appeal: Modern Face of Slavery December 29, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Human Rights, Labor.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 23 December 2008, www.truthout.org

by: Andrew Buncombe, The Independent UK

india-domestic-workers(photo, savethechildren.org.uk)

   They are lured by the promise of money and training, but end up as domestic workers who endure abuse and beatings at the hands of their masters.

    She came to Delhi dreaming of a new start, of escape from a life of poverty and hardship. Yet when she arrived, Sushma Kumari quickly realised she had been tricked.

    Far from being trained in the skills of acupuncture, for two years she was forced to work as an unpaid domestic help in the home of the “doctor” supposed to be teaching her. She toiled from 5am to midnight, seven days a week. She was abused and mistreated. Almost certainly she was brought to Delhi by a professional trafficker; what is beyond doubt is that once she got here she lived the life of a slave.

    For a woman who has the right to burn with anger, Sushma talks in little more than a whisper. “I really wanted to go home but I was not allowed to talk to my father,” she says. “I felt desperate, cheated.”

    The story of Sushma is a journey to the dark side of the New India, away from the tales of soaring economic growth and gleaming fashion malls, of Western-style coffee shops filled with a newly wealthy class. The two are surely connected; chief among the reasons for the growing demand for young, poor women from places like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and other desperately poor states to come to toil in India’s growing metropolitan centres, is that a new generation of professional women entering the workforce no longer have the time or inclination for household chores. Human traffickers fill the gap.

    And in a way, Sushma had been drawn by the promises of the New India. After she was forced to leave school early because the family were so poor, her father learnt, through an acquaintance, of an acupuncturist in Delhi looking for a trainee. A middle-man arranged that Sushma could be that person.

    “When we left the village, we were taken to another village for a month and then brought to Delhi. In the first weeks there was some informal training but it became obvious we were there to work as domestic servants,” she recalls. “After that, we just had to work. When my father called I was told to say everything was fine and that I was doing well.”

    The reality was quite different. Beaten and abused, accused of stealing and worked to the bone, Sushma wanted to escape but did not know how. She suffered for two years before learning, through another domestic worker, of an organisation that could help. Then she ran away.

    The treatment of India’s domestic workers is a topic the establishment rarely addresses. Relied upon to cook, clean, shop, wash and iron clothes and even nanny children, they become indispensable for many families. Yet while some employers treat them well, many are remarkably cruel. Stories of abuse abound. Last month, a badly beaten 13-year-old girl was rescued from the home of a professional couple in Gurgaon, Delhi’s hi-tech satellite city. The couple told police they beat the child to get rid of their stress.

    The charity Sushma ran to for help is called Nirmana. Established 12 years ago, the group uses trained overseas volunteers from a partner organisation, Voluntary Services Overseas, one of the charities being supported in this year’s Independent Christmas Appeal. One of the volunteers working with Nirmana is 25-year-old Serena O’Sullivan.

    Serena worked for a FTSE 100 company for a year after leaving university but decided she wanted to do something more fulfilling. After working for several charities, she became convinced that governments in poor countries needed to be pressed to include the poorest people in their programmes. “It led me to accept a VSO placement in India with Nirmana. I am able to share my skills in communications and advocacy, but also spend time with rescued workers and help to get their voices heard at a national and international level.

    “It is very hard to reconcile your own life and those of the people here. You hear the worst stories you can imagine. You wonder how one person can treat another person like that,” she says. “It is as if some people here think that others are not deserving of the same rights.”

    The scale of the problem Nirmana is trying to deal with is vast. A full 40 per cent of the people involved in domestic work are below the age of 14. And the number of people being trafficked is growing. The agencies which place them are unregulated and unsupervised.

    But slowly the country is being forced for the first time to consider the problem. The work of Nirmana and VSO is one factor. Another has been the publication of Aravind Adiga’s novel White Tiger, which won this year’s Booker Prize with its account of the abuse and mistreatment of servants. Some abused servants are summoning the courage to speak out.

    One such is 17-year-old Meena Tirki. Meena says she is 17 but she could be younger. Though Meena tries to smile as she tells her story, her face is impossibly sad. And with good reason. The eldest of four girls from a village near Siliguri in West Bengal, Meena’s family could never afford to send her to school. Earlier this year, an agent came to her village looking for girls who wanted to work in Delhi.

    Under pressure from her step-mother, Meena agreed. Placed with a family in East Delhi, Meena found herself sleeping on the roof during the blistering summer, rising at 5am to begin a day of exhausting labour. The family said they would not pay her and the abuse began almost immediately. “The husband would hit me. He would accuse me of not working,” she says. But Meena heard about Nirmana and she also ran.

    With the help of Nirmana, Meena and Sushma have since been placed with other families in Delhi where they are working as domestic help. It would be a lie to say their stories have a saccharine-sweet ending. While they are now being paid, they receive only a pittance – less than £30 a month – and they still work gruelling hours.

    But there is the vaguest flicker of hope. Sushma has been attending an open school in Delhi and hopes to complete her exams in April. She says: “Then I will decide whether to go home or not.” She has begun to take control of her life.

Pakistan Problem: No, We Can’t! December 15, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

pakistanScene of a US missile attack in Damadola, Pakistan, earlier this year. (Photo: Mohammad Sajjad / Associated Press)

by: Steve Weissman, t r u t h o u t | Perspective, www.truthout.org

»Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France.

  Whether ordained by God, the crusade against communism or the Global War on Terror, many Americans believe we have a mandate to police the world, hold dominion over its supply of oil and natural gas and lead the way in whatever way we happen to be leading at the time. John F. Kennedy and his New Frontiersmen believed all this as they escalated their terrible war of choice in Southeast Asia. George W. Bush and his neoincompetents still believe they pursued America’s destiny in Iraq. And, from their writing and speeches, Barack Obama and his national security team believe no less strongly in America’s calling to put the world right.

    Yes, we can, they think, wherever in the world they look. But, no, we can’t in the one place it could count the most: the nuclear-armed Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Here, Team Obama should recognize the limits of their power and work to keep from making the situation worse, especially in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Mumbai.

    The limits are obvious. In the hours after the terror attacks of 9/11, in 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage worked to bring Pakistan on-side in what would become the Global War on Terror. The head of Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was visiting the United States and Armitage, a former Navy SEAL, threatened him with what would happen if the military dictatorship of Gen. Pervez Musharraf refused American demands. As Musharraf told CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Armitage warned, “Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age.”

    Armitage denied using those words, but there should be no doubt that he and Powell both pressured Pakistani officials. The question for Team Obama: How well did the pressure work?

    Musharraf himself did most of what the Bush administration asked – all in exchange for their backing his military dictatorship against those fighting for a return to civilian rule. But elements of the Pakistani military and ISI continued to work with the Taliban, which they had helped create to strengthen their influence against India in Afghanistan. As late as this past June, the ISI was implicated in the terror bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul.

    Apparently, ISI veterans also maintained direct contact with al-Qaeda, which had helped train fighters for the on and off war against India in disputed Kashmir. The training included Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, the Army of the Pure, which the lone surviving terrorist in the Mumbai attack reportedly identified as its sponsor. According to press accounts, he also told of being trained at six or more Lashkar camps in Pakistani Kashmir by retired Pakistani military officers.

    Even more limiting for Obama, Pakistan’s new civilian government appears to exercise zero control over either the military or the ISI. Only last month, the government announced that ISI would report on its domestic spying and covert political activities to the civilian Interior Ministry. Within a day, the military and ISI forced the government to rescind its order. So, with which Pakistanis does an Obama administration deal?

    As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden threw his support to the newly-elected civilian government, introducing a foreign aid bill for Pakistan that aimed at building schools, roads, clinics, and other development projects. Obama backed Biden in the new emphasis, which makes the aid contingent on Pakistan maintaining human rights, an independent judiciary and civilian control of the levers of power, including the military and intelligence agencies.

    On the Pakistani side, President Asif Ali Zadari, widower of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto, wrote that “the Mumbai attacks were directed not only at India but also at Pakistan’s new democratic government.” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani similarly showed enormous courage in raiding training camps of the already-outlawed Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and closing down its political wing, Jamaat-ud Dawa, which many Pakistanis see as a charity that did commendable work after the last earthquake in Kashmir.

    The government also detained, but apparently did not jail, Lashkar’s founder Hafiz Saeed and one of its top leaders, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, whom the Indians suspect of having masterminded the Mumbai massacres..

    How can the Obama administration best support these efforts? By talking softly and playing its role quietly behind the scenes. Too many Pakistanis already believe that their government is acting against Muslim good guys and freedom fighters as a result of pressure from either the Americans or our Indian allies.

    Team Obama could also help dissuade the Indians from making military threats, encourage both India and Pakistan to share intelligence information and work to help resolve the Kashmir dispute.

    But, sadly, the biggest threat to Pakistan’s civilian government could come from Obama himself. He and his team have already made a priority of escalating the war in Afghanistan and chasing down al-Qaeda in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan. Most of this will require high-level contacts between our brass and Pakistan’s military leaders, which will strengthen their hand as a force independent of the new civilian government.

    Worse, what will Team Obama do when that government asks them, as it repeatedly asked Bush, to stop cross-border raids by American Special Forces or rocket attacks from unmanned drones? To refuse their requests, as Bush did, would make the civilian government look ineffective and could help promote another military coup or even a civil war in the one Islamic country that already has a nuclear arsenal. I doubt that this is what Obama wants to do.

 


A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts,