Saturday, October 11, 2014

Birthing Monsters: From Cambodia's Killing Fields to the Islamic State

From Pol Pot to ISIS: “Anything that flies on everything that moves”

by John Pilger

As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery - including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields - I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again.

In transmitting President Richard Nixon's orders for a "massive" bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, "Anything that flies on everything that moves." 

As Barack Obama ignites his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger's murderous honesty.

 A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today's Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.

According to Pol Pot, his movement had consisted of "fewer than 5,000 poorly armed guerrillas uncertain about their strategy, tactics, loyalty and leaders". Once Nixon's and Kissinger's B52 bombers had gone to work as part of "Operation Menu", the west's ultimate demon could not believe his luck.

The Americans dropped the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on rural Cambodia during 1969-73. They levelled village after village, returning to bomb the rubble and corpses. The craters left monstrous necklaces of carnage, still visible from the air. The terror was unimaginable. A former Khmer Rouge official described how the survivors "froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told... That was what made it so easy for the Khmer Rouge to win the people over."

A Finnish Government Commission of Enquiry estimated that 600,000 Cambodians died in the ensuing civil war and described the bombing as the "first stage in a decade of genocide". What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot, their beneficiary, completed. Under their bombs, the Khmer Rouge grew to a formidable army of 200,000.

ISIS has a similar past and present. By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair's invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of some 700,000 people - in a country that had no history of jihadism. The Kurds had done territorial and political deals; Sunni and Shia had class and sectarian differences, but they were at peace; intermarriage was common. Three years before the invasion, I drove the length of Iraq without fear. On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence.

Bush and Blair blew all this to bits. Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda - like Pol Pot's "jihadists" - seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of Shock and Awe and the civil war that followed. "Rebel" Syria offered even greater rewards, with CIA and Gulf state ratlines of weapons, logistics and money running through Turkey. The arrival of foreign recruits was inevitable. A former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote recently, "The [Cameron] government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy - and in particular our Middle East wars - had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism here."

ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington and London who, in destroying Iraq as both a state and a society, conspired to commit an epic crime against humanity. Like Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, ISIS are the mutations of a western state terror dispensed by a venal imperial elite undeterred by the consequences of actions taken at great remove in distance and culture. Their culpability is unmentionable in "our" societies.

It is 23 years since this holocaust enveloped Iraq, immediately after the first Gulf War, when the US and Britain hijacked the United Nations Security Council and imposed punitive "sanctions" on the Iraqi population - ironically, reinforcing the domestic authority of Saddam Hussein. It was like a medieval siege. Almost everything that sustained a modern state was, in the jargon, "blocked" - from chlorine for making the water supply safe to school pencils, parts for X-ray machines, common painkillers and drugs to combat previously unknown cancers carried in the dust from the southern battlefields contaminated with Depleted Uranium.

Just before Christmas 1999, the Department of Trade and Industry in London restricted the export of vaccines meant to protect Iraqi children against diphtheria and yellow fever. Kim Howells, parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Blair government, explained why. "The children's vaccines", he said, "were capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction". The British Government could get away with such an outrage because media reporting of Iraq - much of it manipulated by the Foreign Office - blamed Saddam Hussein for everything.

Under a bogus "humanitarian" Oil for Food Programme, $100 was allotted for each Iraqi to live on for a year. This figure had to pay for the entire society's infrastructure and essential services, such as power and water. "Imagine," the UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans Von Sponeck, told me, "setting that pittance against the lack of clean water, and the fact that the majority of sick people cannot afford treatment, and the sheer trauma of getting from day to day, and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable."

Disgusted, Von Sponeck resigned as UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq. His predecessor, Denis Halliday, an equally distinguished senior UN official, had also resigned. "I was instructed," Halliday said, "to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults."

A study by the United Nations Children's Fund, Unicef, found that between 1991 and 1998, the height of the blockade, there were 500,000 "excess" deaths of Iraqi infants under the age of five. An American TV reporter put this to Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the United Nations, asking her, "Is the price worth it?" Albright replied, "We think the price is worth it."

In 2007, the senior British official responsible for the sanctions, Carne Ross, known as "Mr. Iraq", told a parliamentary selection committee, "[The US and UK governments] effectively denied the entire population a means to live." When I interviewed Carne Ross three years later, he was consumed by regret and contrition. "I feel ashamed," he said. He is today a rare truth-teller of how governments deceive and how a compliant media plays a critical role in disseminating and maintaining the deception. "We would feed [journalists] factoids of sanitised intelligence," he said, "or we'd freeze them out."

On 25 September, a headline in the Guardian read: "Faced with the horror of Isis we must act." The "we must act" is a ghost risen, a warning of the suppression of informed memory, facts, lessons learned and regrets or shame. The author of the article was Peter Hain, the former Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq under Blair. In 1998, when Denis Halliday revealed the extent of the suffering in Iraq for which the Blair Government shared primary responsibility, Hain abused him on the BBC's Newsnight as an "apologist for Saddam". In 2003, Hain backed Blair's invasion of stricken Iraq on the basis of transparent lies. At a subsequent Labour Party conference, he dismissed the invasion as a "fringe issue".

Now Hain is demanding "air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support" for those "facing genocide" in Iraq and Syria. This will further "the imperative of a political solution". Obama has the same in mind as he lifts what he calls the "restrictions" on US bombing and drone attacks. This means that missiles and 500-pound bombs can smash the homes of peasant people, as they are doing without restriction in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia - as they did in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. On 23 September, a Tomahawk cruise missile hit a village in Idlib Province in Syria, killing as many as a dozen civilians, including women and children. None waved a black flag.

The day Hain's article appeared, Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck happened to be in London and came to visit me. They were not shocked by the lethal hypocrisy of a politician, but lamented the enduring, almost inexplicable absence of intelligent diplomacy in negotiating a semblance of truce. Across the world, from Northern Ireland to Nepal, those regarding each other as terrorists and heretics have faced each other across a table. Why not now in Iraq and Syria.

Like Ebola from West Africa, a bacteria called "perpetual war" has crossed the Atlantic. Lord Richards, until recently head of the British military, wants "boots on the ground" now. There is a vapid, almost sociopathic verboseness from Cameron, Obama and their "coalition of the willing" - notably Australia's aggressively weird Tony Abbott - as they prescribe more violence delivered from 30,000 feet on places where the blood of previous adventures never dried. They have never seen bombing and they apparently love it so much they want it to overthrow their one potentially valuable ally, Syria. This is nothing new, as the following leaked UK-US intelligence file illustrates:

"In order to facilitate the action of liberative [sic] forces... a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals [and] to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria. CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main [sic] incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals... a necessary degree of fear... frontier and [staged] border clashes [will] provide a pretext for intervention... the CIA and SIS should use... capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension."

That was written in 1957, though it could have been written yesterday. In the imperial world, nothing essentially changes. Last year, the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas revealed that "two years before the Arab spring", he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. 
"I am going to tell you something," he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, "I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria... Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate... This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned."

The only effective opponents of ISIS are accredited demons of the west - Syria, Iran, Hezbollah. The obstacle is Turkey, an "ally" and a member of Nato, which has conspired with the CIA, MI6 and the Gulf medievalists to channel support to the Syrian "rebels", including those now calling themselves ISIS. Supporting Turkey in its long-held ambition for regional dominance by overthrowing the Assad government beckons a major conventional war and the horrific dismemberment of the most ethnically diverse state in the Middle East.

A truce - however difficult to achieve - is the only way out of this imperial maze; otherwise, the beheadings will continue. That genuine negotiations with Syria should be seen as "morally questionable" (the Guardian) suggests that the assumptions of moral superiority among those who supported the war criminal Blair remain not only absurd, but dangerous.

Together with a truce, there should be an immediate cessation of all shipments of war materials to Israel and recognition of the State of Palestine. The issue of Palestine is the region's most festering open wound, and the oft-stated justification for the rise of Islamic extremism. Osama bin Laden made that clear. Palestine also offers hope. Give justice to the Palestinians and you begin to change the world around them.

More than 40 years ago, the Nixon-Kissinger bombing of Cambodia unleashed a torrent of suffering from which that country has never recovered. The same is true of the Blair-Bush crime in Iraq. With impeccable timing, Henry Kissinger's latest self-serving tome has just been released with its satirical title, "World Order". In one fawning review, Kissinger is described as a "key shaper of a world order that remained stable for a quarter of a century". Tell that to the people of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Chile, East Timor and all the other victims of his "statecraft". Only when "we" recognise the war criminals in our midst will the blood begin to dry.

Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger

UVic Divest Taking to the Air

Divestment Gets A Lift: Students use helium to send UVic a memo on climate change

by Divest UVic

10 Oct 2014  - This week students from Divest UVic used a lot of paint, fabric and helium balloons to tell UVic to ditch its dirty investments.

Role Model: Canada's Part in Israel's Crime

Canada and Israel - Partners in racial and humanitarian crimes

by Jim Miles - Foreign Policy Journal

As most of the world has duly noted, Canada under the neo-Conservative Harper regime has been a front-runner in supporting Israel in its racial apartheid policies in Israel. Also, recently a discussion comparing South Africa’s apartheid system with that of Israel has occurred with South African testimony indicating that, while they are not the same, they are very similar, and in some circumstances, Israel’s apartheid is worse. What is not seen is Canada’s role in modeling apartheid for South Africa under the Afrikaner-dominated National Party. Canada’s role in developing these systems of apartheid has been seldom noted academically, and is given very little attention either domestically or internationally.

It is generally recognized that North America was a series of colonies from Great Britain, France, Spain, and Russia, with a few Dutch thrown into the mix. The first ‘discoverers’ of America, the Norse Vikings, died out through their lack of ability to adapt to the climatic changes that overtook them. The later colonial settlers survived in part because they did accept the graciousness of the indigenous peoples in assisting them, from which Canada and the U.S. derive their respective national holiday, Thanksgiving.

However, right from the start, these colonial-settler immigrants created myths that allowed them to overrun the native populations without too many qualms about the abuses they perpetrated. Religion, race, and government policies all had a great deal to do with this. The two main myths directed at the Indians of North America can be located elsewhere in the world where colonial-settler populations have invaded. The first myth is that North America was a vast empty land filled with riches to be exploited by the newcomers. Somewhat in contradiction to that is the myth that the Indians were primitives, needing to be civilized, a notion that included religion, land ownership, and the rule of white man’s law.

The reality of history is much more disconcerting for those concerned about human rights and the nature of our societies, as they were, and as they exist today. I will not deal with the history of the native population in the U.S., although it is interrelated with that of Canada. It is generally recognized that after the era of glorious movie westerns celebrating the settlement of the empty plains and mountains, the reality is that of a steady policy of genocide, racism, and warfare against the native people while capitalist ownership of land subjugated the landscape.

Canada’s native history

Canada’s story is a bit different, especially as perceived in comparison to that of the U.S. It is true we do not have the same degree of violent history over the native population, but it is a history that nonetheless is still violent, genocidal, and racist. Current events reflect that it is still violent, if of a different form, and still very much racist, although covered over with all sorts of ignorant platitudes. Unfortunately as well, the vestiges of apartheid still hang on within Canadian governance, never described as such, with the blame for its human rights abuses being blamed mainly on the recipients of that abuse—racism at its most civilized.

These thoughts all coalesced this summer while I was travelling across Canada. Somewhere along the line (literally—I went by train), I bought a powerful, damning critique of Canadian government policy during the era of Canada’s colonial settlement years across Canada’s vast resource rich prairie region. Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life, (University of Regina Press, 2013), written by James Daschuk, is a study of the Canadian settlement in relation to the early fur trade up to the time when the railroads opened up the plains for the large settler populations from Europe, most from eastern Europe. The title is very indicative of the content, and as I read it I was also reminded of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (Norton & Company, 1999).

It is Diamond’s middle term, germs, that plays a significant role in Canada’s history, although guns and steel had their fair share, and all were tied into political policies of the day.

By the time the fur traders arrived in the Prairie region of Canada, epidemics of European origin had already swept through many of the tribes, decimating a population that had not previously been exposed to them. While this is an attribute of all peoples not previously exposed to particular microbes, the problem in Canada was significantly increased by both a lack of interest in native health—other than for labor for harvesting the beaver pelts – and later a government official policy of ‘near starvation.’ Without their historical access to food as the buffalo herds were decimated as a foodstock for the early traders and settlers, and without reliable water resources as the beaver population was decimated for the leisure class in Europe, the natives were highly susceptible to foreign microbes as malnutrition compromised their immune systems. As the fur trade progressed in its many facets, then died out to be replaced by the railroads and settlements, the vectors for transmission of disease increased. As the vectors increased, so did the government policies of starvation and apartheid.

Our current neo-Conservative government loves to promote the achievements of Sir John A. Macdonald, considered the ‘father of confederation.’ It is perhaps not surprising then that their current attitudes towards the native population are reminiscent of their political heritage. It was Sir John A. MacDonald who said, “We cannot allow them to die for want of food….[We] are doing all we can, by refusing food until the Indians are on the verge of starvation, to reduce the expense.”

The Liberals were not significantly different as opposition to the government. They were “an important factor in constraining the government expenditures on the Indian population….the prime minister pre-empted criticism by promising to keep the hungry from dying, but assuring the House that his government would be “rigid, even stingy” in the distribution of food.”

This pretense of financial responsibility was of course part and parcel of the countries policy of settlement of the prairies. Along with this simple policy of starvation were several other factors (such as the lack of immunities mentioned above) that were part of Canada’s racial apartheid policy.


Today, much of Canada has no recognizable Indian territories other than the small parcels of land allocated to the various remaining band populations under the Indian Act (1876). This Act purportedly provided the Queen’s protection for the natives including the enforcement of the various treaties that ceded huge swaths of territory to the Canadian government. These reservations have a history of being revoked, resettled, cut-off, redrawn, leaving mostly small remnants of generally poorer geographical areas for native use.

The treaties themselves were and are generally treated as inconveniences for the government and were not much more than lip service for their underlying articles for rights and assistance. The Indian Act placed the native population under the care of the ‘crown’—the government—and has been used as a device to control and limit native power rather than to uphold treaty obligations: “To Canadian officials, the widespread occupation of reserves had another benefit: it greatly facilitated their control of the population.” This was managed in several ways along with the official policy of starvation.

Agricultural practices were one factor. Although encouraged to settle and take up farming, the government controlled agricultural practices, “An order in council was passed to forbid the inhabitants of reserves from “selling, bartering, exchanging or giving any person or persons whatsoever, any grain, or root crops, or any other produce grown on any Indian Reserve in the Northwest territories [as the prairie regions was then called].” The move was intended to preserve locally grown food for the communities that produced it, but it also had the effect of barring reserve farmers from participating in the commercial economy of the northwest.”

As usual the excuse for the action and the intended effect are contradictory. The ultimate idea “was not that the Indian should become self-supporting. He was only to be kept quiet till the country filled up when his ill will could be ignored.”


With the arrival of the railways, sections of land were given to immigrants in order to establish an agricultural economy. This was done through providing the railways themselves with enormous tracts of land, and relocating the natives.

“The most significant relocation was the forced removal of communities from their chosen reserves in the Cypress Hills after the decision to build the Canadian Pacific Railway along the southern prairies….In doing so, the Canadian government accomplished the ethnic cleansing of southwestern Saskatchewan of its indigenous population.”

Starvation was a tool within this policy as “Rations were deliberately withheld until the chief capitulated.”

Another factor of control was the institution of a pass system. With a pass, the natives were given certain rights subject to the Indian Act and ultimate control by the government. It was “perhaps the most onerous regulation placed on the Indians after the rebellion,” implemented to limit the mobility of treaty Indians, keeping them on their reserves and away from European communities.”


Once the land was removed—and the land is essential to any indigenous people’s culture—the cultural attributes of the indigenous people were attacked. Foremost among these efforts were the Residential schools controlled mainly by the Catholic and Anglican religions (paid for by the government) that followed the white man into the prairies. Native languages and religious rituals were forbidden, visitations were limited, the program of minimal nourishment and lack of health care continued, the latter contributing to many unrecorded deaths among the native children. Along with these limitations and prohibitions, the religious orders created a situation ripe for sexual abuse and assault. These institutions existed until as late as 1996 when the last one was closed down.

Beyond the residential schools, band based religious practices were forbidden. Indigenous rights to access courts were forbidden. The right to vote did not arrive fully until 1960; before then if a native were to vote, their treaty rights—such as they were—were revoked, another means to control the reserve populations.

Disease continues

Racism was easily inculcated into the settlers across the prairies as by the time they arrived in the late Nineteenth Century, they were witness to the nadir of native health and culture. What they saw was a population decimated by disease, incapable of supporting themselves, unkempt and “uncivilized”. They did not know or care to know the conditions that had reduced the once self-sufficient and culturally whole tribes to a state of haggard dependency on an uncaring government.

The Indian Act still controls the reserve system and is still used and abused by the government to control the native population. While outright starvation is not a serious problem, modern diseases—AIDS, diabetes, alcoholism, suicide—are significantly higher in native populations than in the rest of Canada.

Education is still used as a tool to manipulate both the native people and the opinions of the non-native population. The latter is managed by the latent racism that is not far below the surface of many Canadians of all political stripes, very clearly seen in response to protests or demonstrations, especially with the “Silent no more” actions.

Economic activity is another tool used to manipulate the current native populations. Individual economic agreements with bands are attempts to both divide the populations in the bands as well as get around Treaty requirements and other Federal or Provincial regulations in many aspects of the economy from agriculture to mining and forestry. Money is still used as a manipulator, with promises and conditions being put forward that overall are attempts by the government to destroy the resurgence in native culture, to destroy its ability to use constitutional law against the government.

The Canadian apartheid system is still alive. It is not as demonstrative or obvious as that of Israel or formerly of South Africa, but it still exists as a construct within Canadian governance. As concluded by Daschuk, “While Canadians see themselves as world leaders in social welfare, health care, and economic development, most reserves in Canada are economic backwaters with little prospect of material advancement and more in common with the third world than the rest of Canada.”

Apartheid in South Africa

As I indicated above, I will not discuss the relationships, differences, and commonalities between South Africa and Canada and Israel. There are two recent works that discuss Israeli apartheid in comparison to South African apartheid that I have read: The Battle for Justice in Palestine, (Haymarket Press, 2014) and The Anatomy of Zionist Apartheid (Porcupine Press, SA, 2013). Both provide the obvious evidence for the state of apartheid in Israel, with valid comparisons to South Africa.

There is however a Canadian link. Officially Canada opposed South Africa’s apartheid system, but underneath trade and economic business carried on as usual. Canada only went against it when popular opinion became too strong to resist as a political platform. The real tie to South African apartheid is not at this level, but comes from South Africa modelling the Canadian reserve system and its instruments in order to implement apartheid in South Africa.

“Notwithstanding this self-congratulatory revisionism, Canada mostly supported apartheid in South Africa. First, by providing it with a model. South Africa patterned its policy towards Blacks after Canadian policy towards First Nations. Ambiguous Champion [University of Toronto Press, 1997] explains, ‘South African officials regularly came to Canada to examine reserves set aside for First Nations, following colleagues who had studied residential schools in earlier parts of the century.’”

More recently Thomas Mulcair, as opposition leader to the current neo-Cons, commenting after the passing of Nelson Mandela, “makes a fairly direct comparison between South Africa’s apartheid regime and Canada’s treatment of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. He’s not wrong, either — in fact, the apartheid system was based on Canada’s Indian Act. Our residential schools, Indian Reserve and many other deeply racist systems inspired South Africa’s oppressive regime. I’m glad that at least one of our federal leaders has (somewhat) acknowledged this in their remarks on Mandela’s death.”

Thus for all of Canada’s rhetoric about apartheid in South Africa and its rhetoric in support of Israeli and therefore its apartheid, there is a strong linkage demonstrating the positive role Canada has had in creating and maintaining the apartheid systems.

Israel’s apartheid

Apartheid in Israel is obvious to anyone reading about how the overall cultural-geopolitical landscape is managed. Accompanying apartheid, ethnic cleansing has also occurred, on a scale probably larger and more violent than occurred in Canada; genocide has not been a significant factor in Israel yet (other than used as an ongoing excuse for being the global victim of ethnic hatred), but was a considerable factor in Canada.

Certainly there are similarities and differences. Israel, like Canada, is a colonial-settler country, with the original Zionist philosophers clearly recognizing the problem of an already existing population in Palestine. Theodore Herzl recognized it clearly, advocating the ethnic cleansing of the region, “Spirit the penniless population across the frontier by denying it employment… Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.” (Theodore Herzl, founder of the World Zionist Organization, speaking of the Arabs of Palestine, Complete Diaries, June 12, 1895 entry.)

Ben Gurion also warned in 1948 after the independence war and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their villages and towns, “We must do everything to ensure they (the Palestinians) never do return.” Assuring his fellow Zionists that Palestinians will never come back to their homes, “The old will die and the young will forget.

The lie of denial of an existing population, reminiscent of North America’s ‘unoccupied’ lands is frequently quoted from Golda Meir, “How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to.” (Golda Meir, March 8, 1969.) “There was no such thing as Palestinians, they never existed.” (Golda Meir Israeli Prime Minister June 15, 1969.)

Cultural apartheid

Apartheid is a construct that includes both cultural and geographical elements. The idea of ethnic cleansing and the denial of existence as above is one such factor. There are many others.

Strangely enough, the idea of starvation as a manipulator of populations has been one of the more recent manifestations of Israeli policy, most particularly as directed against Gaza. Dov Weisglass,advisor to Ehud Olmert stated, “The idea,” he said, “is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” Sounds strangely familiar to Canada’s policy of the Nineteenth century.

Canada somehow calculated what it thought were minimal survival rations for its indigenous populations, and it appears that Israel carried that forward with even more mathematical precision, “While the health ministry determined that Gazans needed a daily average of 2,279 calories each to avoid malnutrition – requiring 170 lorries a day – military officials then found a host of pretexts to whittle the number down to a fraction of the original figure. The reality was that, in this period, an average of only 67 lorries – much less than half of the minimum requirement – entered Gaza daily. This compared to more than 400 lorries before the blockade began.”

Other cultural factors

Racism, ethnic cleansing, starvation are manifestations of cultural policies that support apartheid and its purposes. The purpose in Israel, unlike Canada, is the great demographic fear of the burgeoning Arab population within Israel and cantonized Palestine.

There are many other cultural factors that come into play, similar in several respects to Canada’s apartheid system.

Education is controlled centrally, and the knowledge base allowed for Palestinian education ignores completely the ‘nakba’ and its ethnic cleansing and instances of mass murder. Islam is obviously an ongoing religious base for the Palestinians, but it is increasingly demonized as an ideology of evil, resulting in the ever present rhetoric of an existential threat. Many laws are discriminatory, with rulings on land ownership, residency, marriage, mobility, and other facets of civilian life being restricted by Israeli courts.

Most Palestinians live under military rule where civilian law simply does not exist. Movement of any kind and daily life can all be controlled at the whim of regional military personnel and/or Shin Bet.

Geographical apartheid

The reality of apartheid however is the physical setting. Racism and ethnic hatred can spread throughout cultural systems and can support apartheid, but they are not apartheid itself. Israel is clearly an apartheid state from its actions on the ground. These have been well explained in many, many books and articles over the past several decades.

The physical landscape of apartheid is clearly visible in Israel. The euphemistic ‘wall’ is one of the larger barriers, supposedly to keep out ‘terrorists’ but in reality enclosing prime settlements, agricultural lands, and water sources. The settlements are designed to capture and hold prime landscapes for demographic control as well as resource control, physically grabbing land and effectively denying the validity of a two state solution with a contiguous Palestinian state. Roads are built that bypass Palestinian settlements, providing both a barrier to Palestinian movement and a continuous web of encroachment and encirclement of Palestinian villages and farmlands. The indiscriminate destruction of Palestinian housing on various trumped up civilian rules and on military authorizations to evict resistance fighters slowly clears land to be later incorporated into Israeli settlements using various laws concerning land usage and residency.


Looking at a map of areas ‘controlled’ by Palestine reveals a largely diminished and fragmented series of bantustan style areas remaining. The West Bank is ostensibly under the rule of Abbas, but its apartheid nature is still clear from the descriptions given above. Gaza is the largest indicator of Israeli apartheid, and an indicator of the viciousness of Israeli apartheid.

Starvation as a policy is directly applied—and acknowledged—as a control mechanism for Gaza. Gaza is technically not occupied but all of its land, sea, and air space is controlled by Israeli military force. It is in essence a large concentration camp, completely controlled in all its physical aspects by Israel.

The ultimate purpose of Israeli apartheid is similar to that of Canada, the Palestinians are “to be kept quiet till the country filled up when his ill will could be ignored.” That purpose cannot be realized without much violence: Canada’s indigenous population is very small in comparison the overall population; Gaza in particular and the Palestinians in general are about on par with the Israeli population, but with a higher birth rate that, as always, gives the big demographic threat to the idea of a unitary theological state called Israel.

Partners in apartheid

Apartheid in Israel is a process used to try and eliminate as many Palestinians through emigration as possible, and perhaps the same conditions as in Canada: starvation leading to malnutrition, compromised immune systems, especially among the young, and an eventual and inevitable outbreak of some epidemic.

Fortunately for the Palestinians, the world is watching. Drastic actions, including the past three invasions of Gaza by Israel, are openly observed by the world. The result of all these actions has been an increase in support for Palestinians and a much more critical view of Israel and its national intentions. The boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement has strengthened and Israel is increasingly recognized globally as a threat to Middle East peace.

Canada remains in the forefront of countries supporting Israel. This devolves from Canada’s history of Christian Zionism, its support of Britain’s colonial systems, and its current neo-Conservative government with its fundamentalist evangelical mythology. On the surface the Harper neo-Conservatives argue in terms of human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and the evil of terror perpetrated by “Islamicism” (Harper’s coined term to try and create a pejorative view of Islam). Underneath lies the religious fundamentalism combined with strong support for non-democratic corporate control of governance. Canada has distinct problems with human rights, the ongoing problems with the Indian communities and reserves being the largest, its ongoing support of Israel and its apartheid policies being another.

Final word to Canada’s indigenous population

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, attending the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP), an historic two-day meeting, that began on Sept. 22 at the UN General Assembly in New York, summarized Canada’s position, “For years, the Harper government has refused to consult indigenous rights-holders on crucial issues, especially when it involves international forums. This repeated failure to consult violates Canada’s duty under Canadian constitutional and international law.”

In his opening remarks, Ban declared to indigenous peoples from all regions of the world, “You will always have a home at the United Nations.” Yet in our own home in Canada, the federal government refuses to respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles' work is ilso presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications. 
More articles by this author

Friday, October 10, 2014

Oil as a Weapon of Convenience: Washington's Petro-War Tactic

Obama’s New Oil Wars: Washington Takes on ISIS, Iran, and Russia

by Michael T. Klare  - TomDispatch 

It was heinous. It was underhanded. It was beyond the bounds of international morality. It was an attack on the American way of life. It was what you might expect from unscrupulous Arabs. 
It was “the oil weapon” -- and back in 1973, it was directed at the United States. Skip ahead four decades and it’s smart, it’s effective, and it’s the American way. 
The Obama administration has appropriated it as a major tool of foreign policy, a new way to go to war with nations it considers hostile without relying on planes, missiles, and troops. It is, of course, that very same oil weapon.

Tomgram: Michael Klare, Washington Wields the Oil Weapon 
It was the oiliest of administrations. The president was a (failed) West Texas oilman. The vice-president had been the CEO of the giant oil field services company, Halliburton, and before taking office, when speaking at the Petroleum Institute and elsewhere, was known to say things like, “The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.” The national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, long on the board of Chevron, had a double-hulled oil tanker named for her. They were a crew with the global flow of oil and how to control it on the brain. Just in case you forgot, and I know you haven’t, the new vice president had barely taken office and set up an “energy task force” to develop future policy that he himself would chair when a parade of top oil executives began arriving at the White House to meet secretly with it.

And then, after 9/11, came the assault on the oil heartlands of the planet. I’m sure you remember how, amid the chaos of a burning Baghdad, American troops were ordered to guard only the buildings of Iraq’s Oil and Interior Ministries, and… well, I don’t really have to review all of that for you, do I? Then, of course, Americans put into office the guy who swore he was going to end oil wars and attend to our global warming future instead -- a fellow named Barack Obama who, everyone knew, would step into office without an oil slick in his head.

That was then and this is now. The Barack Obama of 2014 is essentially running a drill-baby-drill White House in a country where oil consumption is actually rising. His administration has been opening up ever more coastal areas to exploration and drilling from the East to the Arctic waters of Alaska, while encouraging the creation of a “Saudi America” in the American frack lands. The result: a torrent of crude oil and natural gas and something else as well, as Michael Klare, TomDispatch’s indispensable energy expert, points out today. Buoyed by the country’s new energy wealth, our president has been putting oil to work abroad. He has been using energy as the spear of his already highly militarized foreign policy. The result has been a sophisticated weaponization of oil that puts the energy mavens of the Bush administration to shame. But let Klare tell you the whole grim tale. Tom


Obama’s New Oil Wars: 

Washington Takes on ISIS, Iran, and Russia

by Michael T. Klare 

Until recently, the use of the term “the oil weapon” has largely been identified with the efforts of Arab producers to dissuade the United States from supporting Israel by cutting off the flow of petroleum. The most memorable example of its use was the embargo imposed by Arab members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on oil exports to the United States during the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, causing scarcity in the U.S., long lines at American filling stations, and a global economic recession.

After suffering enormously from that embargo, Washington took a number of steps to disarm the oil weapon and prevent its reuse. These included an increased emphasis on domestic oil production and the establishment of a mutual aid arrangement overseen by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that obliged participating nations to share their oil with any member state subjected to an embargo.

So consider it a surprising reversal that, having tested out the oil weapon against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with devastating effect back in the 1990s, Washington is now the key country brandishing that same weapon, using trade sanctions and other means to curb the exports of energy-producing states it categorizes as hostile. The Obama administration has taken this aggressive path even at the risk of curtailing global energy supplies.

When first employed, the oil weapon was intended to exploit the industrial world’s heavy dependence on petroleum imports from the Middle East. Over time, however, those producing countries became ever more dependent on oil revenues to finance their governments and enrich their citizens. Washington now seeks to exploit this by selectively denying access to world oil markets, whether through sanctions or the use of force, and so depriving hostile producing powers of operating revenues.

The most dramatic instance of this came on September 23rd, when American aircraft bombed refineries and other oil installations in areas of Syria controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as ISIL or IS). An extremist insurgent movement that has declared a new “caliphate,” ISIS is not, of course, a major oil producer, but it has taken control of oil fields and refineries that once were operated by the regime of Bashar al-Assad in eastern Syria. The revenue generated by these fields, reportedly $1 to $2 million daily, is being used by ISIS to generate a significant share of its operating expenses. This has given that movement the wherewithal to finance the further recruitment and support of thousands of foreign fighters, even as it sustains a high tempo of combat operations.

Black-market dealers in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey have evidently been assisting ISIS in this effort, purchasing the crude at a discount and selling at global market rates, now hovering at about $90 per barrel. Ironically, this clandestine export network was initially established in the 1990s by Saddam Hussein’s regime to evade U.S. sanctions on Iraq.

The Islamic State has proven adept indeed at exploiting the fields under its control, even selling the oil to agents of opposing forces, including the Assad regime. To stop this flow, Washington launched what is planned to be a long-term air campaign against those fields and their associated infrastructure. By bombing them, President Obama evidently hopes to curtail the movement’s export earnings and thereby diminish its combat capabilities. These strikes, he declared in announcing the bombing campaign, are intended to “take out terrorist targets” and “cut off ISIL’s financing.”

It is too early to assess the impact of the air strikes on ISIS’s capacity to pump and sell oil. However, since the movement has been producing only about 80,000 barrels per day (roughly 1/1,000th of worldwide oil consumption), the attacks, if successful, are not expected to have any significant impact on a global market already increasingly glutted, in part because of an explosion of drilling in that “new Saudi Arabia,” the United States.

As it happens, though, the Obama administration is also wielding the oil weapon against two of the world’s leading producers, Iran and Russia. These efforts, which include embargoes and trade sanctions, are likely to have a far greater impact on world output, reflecting White House confidence that, in the pursuit of U.S. strategic interests, anything goes.

Fighting the Iranians

In the case of Iran, Washington has moved aggressively to curtail Tehran’s ability to finance its extensive nuclear program both by blocking its access to Western oil-drilling technology and by curbing its export sales. Under the Iran Sanctions Act, foreign firms that invest in the Iranian oil industry are barred from access to U.S. financial markets and subject to other penalties. In addition, the Obama administration has put immense pressure on major oil-importing countries, including China, India, South Korea, and the European powers, to reduce or eliminate their purchases from Iran.

These measures, which involve tough restrictions on financial transactions related to Iranian oil exports, have had a significant impact on that country’s oil output. By some estimates, those exports have fallen by one million barrels per day, which also represents a significant contraction in global supplies. As a result, Iran’s income from oil exports is estimated to have fallen from $118 billion in 2011-2012 to $56 billion in 2013-2014, while pinching ordinary Iranians in a multitude of ways.

In earlier times, when global oil supplies were tight, a daily loss of one million barrels would have meant widespread scarcity and a possible global recession. The Obama administration, however, assumes that only Iran is likely to suffer in the present situation. Credit this mainly to the recent upsurge in North American energy production (largely achieved through the use of hydro-fracking to extract oil and natural gas from buried shale deposits) and the increased availability of crude from other non-OPEC sources. According to the most recent data from the Department of Energy (DoE), U.S. crude output rose from 5.7 million barrels per day in 2011 to 8.4 million barrels in the second quarter of 2014, a remarkable 47% gain. And this is to be no flash in the pan. The DoE predicts that domestic output will rise to some 9.6 million barrels per day in 2020, putting the U.S. back in the top league of global producers.

For the Obama administration, the results of this are clear. Not only will American reliance on imported oil be significantly reduced, but with the U.S. absorbing ever less of the non-domestic supply, import-dependent countries like India, Japan, China, and South Korea should be able to satisfy their needs even if Iranian energy production keeps falling. As a result, Washington has been able to secure greater cooperation from such countries in observing the Iranian sanctions -- something they would no doubt have been reluctant to do if global supplies were less abundant.

There is another factor, no less crucial, in the aggressive use of the oil weapon as an essential element of foreign policy. The increase in domestic crude output has imbued American leaders with a new sense of energy omnipotence, allowing them to contemplate the decline in Iranian exports without trepidation. In an April 2013 speech at Columbia University, Tom Donilon, then Obama’s national security adviser, publicly expressed this outlook with particular force. “America’s new energy posture allows us to engage from a position of greater strength,” he avowed. “Increasing U.S. energy supplies act as a cushion that helps reduce our vulnerability to global supply disruptions and price shocks. It also affords us a stronger hand in pursuing and implementing our international security goals.”

This “stronger hand,” he made clear, was reflected in U.S. dealings with Iran. To put pressure on Tehran, he noted, “The United States engaged in tireless diplomacy to persuade consuming nations to end or significantly reduce their consumption of Iranian oil.” At the same time, “the substantial increase in oil production in the United States and elsewhere meant that international sanctions and U.S. and allied efforts could remove over 1 million barrels per day of Iranian oil while minimizing the burdens on the rest of the world.” It was this happy circumstance, he suggested, that had forced Iran to the negotiating table.

Fighting Vladimir Putin

The same outlook apparently governs U.S. policy toward Russia.

Prior to Russia’s seizure of Crimea and its covert intervention in eastern Ukraine, major Western oil companies, including BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Total of France, were pursuing elaborate plans to begin production in Russian-controlled sectors of the Black Sea and the Arctic Ocean, mainly in collaboration with state-owned or state-controlled firms like Gazprom and Rosneft. There were, for instance, a number of expansive joint ventures between Exxon and Rosneft to drill in those energy-rich waters.

“These agreements,” Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon, said proudly in 2012 on inking the deal, “are important milestones in this strategic relationship... Our focus now will move to technical planning and execution of safe and environmentally responsible exploration activities with the goal of developing significant new energy supplies to meet growing global demand.” Seen as a boon for American energy corporations and the oil-dependent global economy, these and similar endeavors were largely welcomed by U.S. officials.

Such collaborations between U.S. companies and Russian state enterprises were then viewed as conferring significant benefits on both sides. Exxon and other Western companies were being given access to vast new reserves -- a powerful lure at a time when many of their existing fields in other parts of the world were in decline. For the Russians, who were also facing significant declines in their existing fields, access to advanced Western drilling technology offered the promise of exploiting otherwise difficult-to-reach areas in the Arctic and “tough” drilling environments elsewhere.

Not surprisingly, key figures on both sides have sought to insulate these arrangements from the new sanctions being imposed on Russia in response to its incursions in Ukraine. Tillerson, in particular, has sought to persuade U.S. leaders to exempt its deals with Rosneft from any such measures. “Our views are being heard at the highest levels,” he indicated in June.

As a result of such pressures, Russian energy companies were not covered in the first round of U.S. sanctions imposed on various firms and individuals. After Russia intervened in eastern Ukraine, however, the White House moved on to tougher sanctions, including measures aimed at the energy sector. On September 12th, the Treasury Department announced that it was imposing strict constraints on the transfer of U.S. technology to Rosneft, Gazprom, and other Russian firms for the purpose of drilling in the Arctic. These measures, the department noted, “will impede Russia’s ability to develop so-called frontier or unconventional oil resources, areas in which Russian firms are heavily dependent on U.S. and western technology.”

The impact of these new measures cannot yet be assessed. Russian officials scoffed at them, insisting that their companies will proceed in the Arctic anyway. Nevertheless, Obama’s decision to target their drilling efforts represents a dramatic turn in U.S. policy, risking a future contraction in global oil supplies if Russian companies prove unable to offset declines at their existing fields.

The New Weapon of Choice

As these recent developments indicate, the Obama administration has come to view the oil weapon as a valuable tool of power and influence. It appears, in fact, that Washington may be in the process of replacing the threat of invasion or, as with the Soviet Union in the Cold War era, nuclear attack, as its favored response to what it views as overseas provocation. (Not surprisingly, the Russians look on the Ukrainian crisis, which is taking place on their border, in quite a different light.) Whereas full-scale U.S. military action -- that is, anything beyond air strikes, drone attacks, and the sending in of special ops forces -- seems unlikely in the current political environment, top officials in the Obama administration clearly believe that oil combat is an effective and acceptable means of coercion -- so long, of course, as it remains in American hands.

That Washington is prepared to move in this direction reflects not only the recent surge in U.S. crude oil output, but also a sense that energy, in this time of globalization, constitutes a strategic asset of unparalleled importance. To control oil flows across the planet and deny market access to recalcitrant producers is increasingly a major objective of American foreign policy.

Yet, given Washington’s lack of success when using direct military force in these last years, it remains an open question whether the oil weapon will, in the end, prove any more satisfactory in offering strategic advantage to the United States. The Iranians, for instance, have indeed come to the negotiating table, but a favorable outcome on the nuclear talks there appears increasingly remote; with or without oil, ISIS continues to score battlefield victories; and Moscow displays no inclination to end its involvement in Ukraine. Nonetheless, in the absence of other credible options, President Obama and his key officials seem determined to wield the oil weapon.

As with any application of force, however, use of the oil weapon entails substantial risk. For one thing, despite the rise in domestic crude production, the U.S. will remain dependent on oil imports for the foreseeable future and so could still suffer if other countries were to deny it exports. More significant is the possibility that this new version of the oil wars Washington has been fighting since the 1990s could someday result in a genuine contraction in global supplies, driving prices skyward and so threatening the health of the U.S. economy. And who’s to say that, seeing Washington’s growing reliance on aggressive oil tactics to impose its sway, other countries won’t find their own innovative ways to wield the oil weapon to their advantage and to Washington’s ultimate detriment?

As with the introduction of drones, the United States now enjoys a temporary advantage in energy warfare. By unleashing such weapons on the world, however, it only ensures that others will seek to match our advantage and turn it against us.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me.

Copyright 2014 Michael T. Klare

Can America's Political Twain Meet on War Resistance?

Urgent: Right-Left Alliance Needed to Stop This War!

by David Swanson - Ron Paul Institute

Last year, public pressure played a big role in stopping US missile strikes on Syria. The biggest difference between then and now was that televisions weren't telling people that ISIS might be coming to their neighborhood to behead them. There were other, smaller differences as well: Britain's opposition, Russia's opposition, and the difficulty of explaining to Americans that it now made sense to join a war on the same side as al Qaeda.

But there's another big difference between last year and this year. Last year was not a Congressional election year. With elections coming this November, Congress declared an early vacation in September and fled town in order to avoid voting a new war up or down. It did this while fully aware that the President would proceed with the war illegally. Most Congress members, including House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Leader Harry Reid, believe that by allowing a war to happen without explicitly voting for or against it they can best win our votes for re-election without offending their funders.

Congress members have good reason to think that way. Numerous organizations and individuals are dumping endless energy and resources into trying to elect either Democrats or Republicans, regardless of their policies. Big groups on the left have told me that they will not have any time for opposing war until the elections are over, at which point they'll be happy to "hold accountable" any of the Democrats they've just reelected. There are organizations who do the same thing for Republicans.

When war was made the top election issue in exit polls in 2006, Democrats took power and their leader in the House, Rahm Emanuel, openly told the Washington Post that they would keep the war in Iraq going in order to campaign against it again in 2008. And so they did.

Republicans elected opposing war in 2010 have been more rhetorical than substantive in their "opposition."

The current war, and the endless war it is part of, must be opposed by people across the political spectrum who put peace ahead of party. ISIS has a one-hour video asking for this war. Giving it to them, and boosting their recruitment, is insanity. Ending insane policies is not a left or right position. This is a war that involves bombing the opposite side in Syria from the side we were told we had to bomb a year ago, and simultaneously arming the same side that the U.S. government is bombing. This is madness. To allow this to continue while mumbling the obvious truth that "there is no military solution" is too great an evil to fit into any lesser-evil electoral calculation.

This war is killing civilians in such large numbers that the White House has announced that restrictions on killing civilians will not be followed. This war is being used to strip away our rights at home. It's draining our economy. It's impoverishing us -- primarily by justifying the routine annual spending of roughly $1 trillion on war preparations. It's endangering us by generating further hatred. And all of this destruction, with no up-side to be found, is driven by irrational fear that has people telling pollsters they believe this war will endanger them and they're in favor of it.

According to the Congressional Research Service 79% of weapons shipments to Middle Eastern countries are from the United States, not counting arms given to allies of ISIS or used by the US military. 

Rather than arming this region to the teeth and joining in wars with US weapons on both sides, the United States could arrange for and lead an arms embargo. It could also provide restitution for what it has done in recent years, including the destruction of Iraq that allowed the creation of ISIS.

Making restitution in the form of actual aid (as opposed to "military aid") would cost a lot less than lobbing $2 million missiles at people who view them as recruitment posters and tickets to martyrdom. That shift would also begin to make the United States liked rather than hated.

We won't get there unless people whose souls are un-owned by political parties take over town hall meetings and let Congress members know that they must work to end this war if they want to earn our votes.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for

Defended to the End by World's Greatest Democracy, Dictator Duvalier Dies Free

From Cradle to Grave, the U.S. Protected Jean-Claude Duvalier

by Fran Quigley

In February of 2013, I stood in a sweaty, overcrowded Port-au-Prince courtroom and watched as Jean-Claude Duvalier answered questions about hundreds of his political opponents being arrested, imprisoned, and killed during his tenure as Haiti’s “President for Life.”

Many of Duvalier’s rivals were held in the notorious three prisons known collectively as the “Triangle of Death”—Casernes Dessalines, Fort Dimanche, and the National Penitentiary. One political prisoner held in the Casernes Dessalines recalls being placed in a cell underneath the grounds of the National Palace, where Duvalier lived. The prisoner was led to an area so dark he could not see, but a guard’s torchlight revealed the man was locked in a room amid the skeletons of former prisoners.

At the court hearing I attended, Duvalier ducked responsibility, saying that the killing and oppression was done without his knowledge.

Then he walked out of that courtroom a free man, which is how he died earlier this month, at age 63. Court rulings were still pending at his death, but the process was moving at a glacial pace and several of the interim decisions had been in Duvalier’s favor. Meanwhile, Duvalier met with Haitian and international political leaders, was acknowledged on the dais at public events, and was often spotted dining at expensive restaurants.

In researching a book on the struggle for human rights in Haiti, I spoke with Human Rights Watch’s Reed Brody about the Duvalier situation.

“Can you imagine any other country where a former dictator accused of political murders and leaving people to rot and die in prison is allowed to just walk back into his country and remain free?” Brody asked. 

But he also said that the Haitian government did not bear sole responsibility for seeing that justice is done.

“Part of this is the fault of the international community. Where is the outrage we would have if the brutal leaders of Iraq or Serbia were walking around free? We would not allow this anywhere else.”

But it was allowed to happen in Haiti, largely because of the studied indifference of the U.S. government. Shortly after Duvalier’s surprising 2011 return to Haiti from exile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staff made it clear that any prosecution was a matter solely for the Haitian government to handle.

The U.S. taking a hands-off approach to another country’s human rights issues would be more defensible if our hands were not so bloodied by the tragedy in question. For decades, the U.S. provided money, weapons, and troops to sustain the Duvalier regime in Haiti, even after human rights abuses were well known. Jean-Claude Duvalier’s father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, even used USAID trucks to carry supporters to his political rallies.

More recently, Secretary Clinton successfully pushed the candidacy of current Haitian president Michel Martelly, who opposed the prosecution of Jean-Claude Duvalier and welcomed Duvalier’s son into his administration.

The determined Duvalier victims and tireless human rights advocates won a key victory in the prosecution last February, when the Haitian Court of Appeals ruled that Duvalier could be tried for his human rights crimes. But there was still a long road ahead when Duvalier died, a road that could have been traveled years ago if the U.S. had stepped up.

The U.S. could have provided diplomatic cables and other evidence from the Duvalier era that would have helped make the prosecution’s case. The U.S. could have assisted in ensuring the safety of Duvalier victims fearful of testifying against him. And the U.S. could have used its bully pulpit and status as Haiti’s chief source of aid to push for prosecution. Instead, the Obama administration, likely wary of a trial destined to expose embarrassing evidence of U.S. complicity in Duvalier’s crimes, did nothing.

As a result, the Haitian people lost out. On a previous visit to Haiti, I interviewed Raymond Davius, who still carries the physical and psychological scars from being imprisoned and tortured for daring to join a political party that opposed Duvalier. “The problem is not as much about Duvalier himself as it is what he represents,” Davius said. “If Haiti does not judge Duvalier, we have lost the opportunity to send a message to Haitian leaders who think they can kill whoever they want and steal whatever they want, and not be judged.”

Instead, the message after Duvalier’s death continues to be one of impunity in Haiti, if you are rich enough and powerful enough. From his cradle in the National Palace run by his despotic father to his grave, where the latest U.S.-backed Haitian president called for a salute to an “authentic son of Haiti,” Jean-Claude Duvalier enjoyed U.S. protection.

I ended my column on the February, 2013 court hearing with this sentence:

“The U.S. has enormous influence here, and most observers feel Duvalier will be held accountable for his crimes only if the U.S. speaks up.”

We didn’t, and he wasn’t.

Fran Quigley is a clinical professor at Indiana University McKinney School of Law and the author of How Human Rights Can Build Haiti (Vanderbilt University Press, 2014.)

Egypt's Olivers: Child Labour in Sinai

Sinai Hit Hard by Egypt's Child Labour Problem

by Mohammad Omer - Middle East Eye

  SINAI, Egypt - The worn-out plastic sandals on his feet looked like they have travelled a great distance - to school, to his work and to his home, and everywhere in-between.

At 3am, he is stood shivering in the cold Sinai Desert night air, as he tries to sell his wares to truck drivers in a rest area. “Tissues for two pounds,” said 11-year-old tissue-seller Karim Mustapha.

“This is what I do right now to support my sick father and mother,” said Karim, who is just one of 2.7 million Egyptian children involved in such labour in Egypt.

This a meagre source of income for the Mustapha family - they are not on the agenda of any organisation in Egypt, so do not receive any donations from charities or welfare groups - and are among one of the poorest groups in the population who have no other option but to send their young children to work.

His tissues - for two Egyptian pounds (approximately $0.28 cents) - gives him a profit of just $0.7 cents. In one night, if he is lucky, he could make a profit of $1, for his family. But he knows that he has to compete with other children selling tissues too.

“I have to be very visible to all the drivers wherever I see them,” said Karim. His tactics involve standing on the tip of his sandals, waving to passing cars, and occasionally knocking on car windows.

The designated truck-stop, for vehicles heading to the Suez Canal, is close to where Karim lives. In the hope of finding new customers, he takes the ferry, together with the passing cars, to the other side of the canal.

“I have been waiting for this Eid holiday to come, so I can celebrate with my family,” he said.
“My dad has a lot of debts to pay off, and I must work with him to help repay them.”

Karim comes from a tribal community, in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, where it is difficult for women, like his mother, to work. Her traditional role is still to stay at home and raise the family, which can be very difficult especially as there are no child welfare groups to help families such as Karim’s.

For the people on the ferry, child labour is not seen as a problem - it is often the only way to survive. But most people have acknowledged that the situation in Sinai has grown worse because of the deteriorating security situation and tensions rising between Egyptian military and Bedouin clans known locally as the “Arabs”.

The tensions mean that most international relief and aid is not reaching many of Sinai’s 1.4 million people and especially those in the north and east where the security situation is the worst. Many families are therefore forced to send their children out to work just to make ends meet.

When the ferry docks, Karim departed with whatever he has managed to earn that shift and any boxes of tissues he has left. He plans to meet up with his younger brother, eight-year-old Mohammed Mustapha, who has been sat in the middle of the road, selling salted watermelon seeds.

Both boys return home, they have made little profit today. When school is open, they attend. But, for the rest of the time this is the only education they have. Their knowledge mostly consists of where trucks drive, where and when the ferry stops, and how to persuade customers to buy their meagre wares.

8-year-old Mohammed sells nuts on the side of the road (MEE / Mohammed Omer) 8-year-old Mohammed sells nuts on the side of the road (MEE / Mohammed Omer)

Hazardous circumstances

In Egypt, many children are known to be engaged in the worst forms of child labour, often in extremely hazardous circumstances, from working with machines in factories, to carrying heavy loads in agricultural fields.

These children are forced to work because of their family’s poor economic situation, but the situation is compounded by employers, many of whom exploit these dire social circumstances. It is common for children to be forced to work long hours - in the heat of the day, or the cold of the night - for extortionately low pay, when, legally, these children should not be working, at all.

Human rights groups and the United Nations have documented many cases where children are either verbally threatened or physically abused by their employers, and in agricultural work are often forced to spray dangerous pesticides on farm crops. In factories children are exposed to industrial dust, chemicals, and toxins. Most of these cases involve production and construction.

Mohammed is aware that many of his classmates must survive by street peddling, shoe-shining, collecting garbage, or begging. Though sex-trafficking/tourism rarely happens in a conservative society such as Sinai; poverty has forced some families to sell their female children into temporary marriages.

In Egypt, 2.7 million out of around 11 million children are involved in the labour market. The International Labour Organization (ILO) and Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) announced that 13 per cent of Egypt’s school-age population have dropped out of school to engage in labour - girls in rural areas such as Sinai are suffering the most because they have limited access to education.

Rayan Abdelhadi, a 25-year-old government employee, acknowledges that this is an all too familiar situation in Egypt “Wherever there is corruption, there is child labour and poverty,” he said.

He explained that poverty forces families to send their small children to work – “we work day and night, just to survive”.

For example, Abdelhadi earns 400 Egyptian pounds (approximately $55 a month). He uses his electricity modestly, but still his latest bill was the equivalent of $20.

“What are you expected to keep for water, gas and daily expenses after that?” he said.

Egyptian law permits children older than 14 to participate in the workforce on the condition they do not perform hazardous or arduous tasks. But there is a high preference among employers to employ children who cause no trouble, keep quiet, accept low payment and expect no insurance.

Two weeks ago both the European Union and the World Food Programme contributed $75m to fight child labour by providing food to Egyptian children in 16 different locations.

“The EU is delighted to join hands with WFP to work on combating child labour, with a particular emphasis on girls’ access to education,” said Ambassador James Moran, Head of the EU delegation in Egypt.

But this can only hope to scratch the surface of Egypt’s child labour problem.

Karim said that if it were not for his family’s poverty, he would not be standing on dark and dangerous roads at night, selling tissues. Sadly, unless security improves in Sinai, it looks like Karim will be peddling tissues for many more nights to come.

Exorcising Israel's Mohammeds: Slow Means of a Small G Genocide

Israel and the g-word: We need a better word than ‘occupation’

by Jonathan Cook

Israeli officials were caught in a revealing lie late last month as the country celebrated the Jewish New Year. Shortly after declaring the most popular boy’s name in Israel to be “Yosef”, the interior ministry was forced to concede that the top slot was actually filled by “Mohammed”.

That small deceit coincided with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’ speech at the United Nations. He outraged Israelis by referring to Israel’s slaughter of more than 2,100 Palestinians – most of them civilians – in Gaza over the summer as “genocide”.

Both incidents served as a reminder of the tremendous power of a single word.

Most Israelis are barely able to contemplate the possibility that their Jewish state could be producing more Mohammeds than Moshes. At the same time, and paradoxically, Israel can point to the sheer number of “Mohammeds” to demonstrate that at worst it is eradicating the visibility of a Muslim name, certainly not its bearers.

As distressing as it is, hundreds of dead in Gaza is far from the industrial-scale murder of the Nazi Holocaust.

But the idea that Israel is committing genocide may not be quite as hyperbolic as is assumed. Last month a “jury” featuring international law experts at a people’s court, known as the Russell Tribunal, into Israel’s recent attack on Gaza concluded that Israel was guilty of “incitement to genocide”.

The panel argued that Israel’s long-term collective punishment of Palestinians seemed to be designed to “inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the incremental destruction of the Palestinians as a group”.

The tribunal’s language intentionally echoed that of Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew and lawyer who after fleeing Nazi Europe succeeded in introducing the term “genocide” into international law.

Lemkin and the UN convention’s drafters understood that genocide did not require death camps; it could also be achieved gradually through intentional and systematic abuse and neglect. Their definition raises troubling questions about Israel’s treatment of Gaza, aside from military attacks. Does, for example, forcing the enclave’s two million inhabitants to depend on aquifers polluted with sea water constitute genocide?

The real problem with Abbas’ use of the term – given that it conflicts with popular notions of genocide – is that it made him an easy target for critics. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accused the Palestinian leader of “incitement”. The Israeli left, meanwhile, decried his wild and unhelpful exaggeration.

But the critics themselves have contributed more heat than light.

Not only do experts like Richard Falk and John Dugard view Israel’s actions in genocide-like terms, but notable Israeli scholars have done so too. The late Baruch Kimmerling invented a word, “politicide”, to convey more safely the idea of an Israeli genocide against Palestinians.

Israel has nonetheless successfully ring-fenced itself from the critical lexicon applied to comparable situations around the globe. In Israel’s case, however, respectable historians still equivocate over the events of 1948, even though more than 80 per cent of Palestinians were forced out by Israel as it established a Jewish state on their homeland.

In conflicts where a mass expulsion of an ethnic or national group occurs, it is rightly identified as ethnic cleansing. 

Similarly with “apartheid”. For decades anyone who used the word about Israel was dismissed as an extremist or anti-Semite. Only in the last few years – and chiefly because of former US president Jimmy Carter – has the word gained a tentative foothold.

Even then, its main use is as a warning rather than a description of Israel’s behaviour: die-hard adherents of two states aver that Israel is in danger of becoming an apartheid state at some indefinable moment if it does not separate from the Palestinians.

Instead, we are told to suffice with the label “occupation”. But that implies a temporary state of affairs, a transition before normality is restored – precisely the opposite of what is happening in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, where the occupation is entrenching, morphing and metastasizing.

Those guarding the critical lexicon strip us of a terminology to convey the appalling reality faced by Palestinians, not just as individuals but as a national group. In truth, Israel’s strategy incorporates variants of ethnic cleansing, apartheid and genocide.

Observers, including the European Union, concede that Israel continues with incremental ethnic cleansing – though they prefer the more obscure “forcible transfer” – of Palestinians from so-called Area C, nearly two-thirds of the West Bank, the bulk of any future Palestinian state.

Israel has mastered too a sophisticated apartheid – partly veiled by its avoidance of the more visual aspects of segregation associated with South Africa – that grabs resources, just like its famous cousin, for one ethnic-national group, Jews, at the expense of another, Palestinians.

But unlike South African apartheid, whose fixed legal and institutional systems of separation gradually became torpid and unwieldy, Israel’s remains dynamic and responsive. Few observers know, for example, that almost all residential land in Israel is off-limits to Palestinian citizens, enforced through vetting committees recently given sanction by the Israeli courts.

And what to make of a plan just disclosed by the Israeli media indicating that Netanyahu and his allies have been secretly plotting to force many Palestinians into Sinai, with the US arm-twisting the Egyptians into agreement? If true, the bombing campaigns of the past six years may be better understood as softening-up operations before a mass expulsion from Gaza.

Such a policy would certainly satisfy Lemkin’s definition of genocide.

One day doubtless, a historian will coin a word to describe Israel’s unique strategy of incrementally destroying the Palestinian people. Sadly, by then it may be too late to help the Palestinians.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Operation 'Butchery from Above'

Operation Odysseus' Butcher Shop

by David Swanson - War is a Crime

The phrase "war myths" these days is generally taken to mean such nonsense as that war will make us safe, or civilians won't be killed, or surgical strikes will kill more enemies than they produce, or prosperity and freedom will follow war-making, etc. But I wonder whether "war myths" shouldn't be taken more literally, whether we don't in fact have a bunch of warmakers believing that they are Odysseus.

Remember Odysseus, the great Greek hero who went on lots of thrilling adventures on his way home from Troy and kicked a bunch of interloping suitors of his lonely wife out of his house in Ithaca when he got home?

Well, Odysseus didn't actually kick them out, did he? Do you remember what actually happened? Odysseus could have ordered them out upon his return. He could have announced his approach and had them gone before he arrived. Instead, he disguised himself and entered his house unannounced. He secretly hid all the weapons except those for himself and his son and loyal servants. He secretly blocked every door. The suitors were unarmed and trapped when Odysseus revealed who he was and started murdering them.

The suitors offered to more than repay him for what they had stolen from his house, to apologize, to try to make things right. Odysseus, who had a goddess making sure he succeeded in every detail, declined all offers and murdered every man but those his son said were loyal. He beheaded. He tortured. He dismembered. He cut off faces and cut out organs and fed bits of people to dogs. And then, seeing as how he was on such a glorious killing spree, he asked his wife's head servant whether any of the servant women had been disrespectful or misbehaved in any way. Those who had were quickly identified, and Odysseus murdered them immediately.

And there was a cute reunion scene with his wife, and everyone lived happily ever after, right?

Well, actually, there's a bit of the story we tend to overlook. Odysseus realized that the giant pile of corpses in his house had friends and relatives who would seek revenge exactly as barbarically as he had. So his goddess friend cast a spell of forgiveness on all of them, and by that means there was peace.

Now, in the world of the myth one might well wonder why Athena didn't just cast that spell on Odysseus the day before, let the suitors repay him, and skip the blood bath. But in the world of reality, one must ask whether our masters of war believe Athena is going to help them too.

They revenge themselves with righteous brutality on various dictators who have lapsed in their loyalty or death squads that have lost their utility, and the blowback is predictable, predicted, and tragic. No goddess ever shows up to cast a spell of forgiveness on victims' friends and family.

War supporters know there's no goddess in their fight, but often they begin to imagine that the other side will find forgiveness by seeing the justness of the war against them -- although I don't believe there are any examples of this actually happening.

War propaganda maintains that the other side only speaks the language of violence, so violence will communicate to that other side our grievances, our suffering, our justifiable outrage, and our desire for peace. But of course, violence is not a language, not even when dressed up in Homer's art. A language is a substance that can be thought in. Violence cannot embody thought, only fantasy.

The happy little war that turned Libya into hell three years ago was called Operation Odyssey Dawn.

There have been many admirable suggestions put forward to name Obama's latest war:

  • Operation Enduring Confusion
  • Operation Rolling Blunder
  • Operation Iraqi Liberation
  • Operation We're Indispensable - Guess What That Makes You
  • Operation Unchanging Hopelessness

But I think the appropriate tag for a mission based on the idea of special holy goodness and power, the idea that mass killing of civilians is justified by outrage at killing of civilians, and the notion that everyone will forgive it afterwards so it won't just make matters worse, is Operation Odysseus' Butcher Shop.

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Andrea Morison, Greg Palast, Janine Bandcroft Oct 8, 2014

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

Stephen Harper's New Government announced it will render a decision on the fate of the Peace River Valley on October 22. The crux of the matter involves the long-proposed and ever contentious scheme to dam again the Peace.

Site-C would be the third hydro dam on the river, and if placed where planned would reduce already dwindling wildlife habitat, submerging First Nations hopes of maintaining traditional livelihood opportunities in the region, while flooding too some of the province's best farmland.

Naturally, there's more than a few local detractors, and many more from down south are opposed; so, just who supports Site C?

Listen. Hear.

Andrea Morison is spokesperson for the PVEA, Peace Valley Environmental Association. She holds a Masters of Natural Resource Management degree and has worked in that field in both Ontario and BC for more than 25 years; the last three years of which has been devoted to the PVEA's involvement with the environmental assessment process for Site C. Her prior experience is in forestry, and the oil and gas sectors.

Andrea Morison in the first half.

And; way down south, Argentina way, President Cristina Kirchner's government has done the unthinkable and defied foreign "adventure" capitalists' attempts to cash in on Argentine debt they bought for centavos on the peso when the country was on its financial knees. A US court has upheld the so-called vulture's claims, but Kirchner has so far refused to budge. It's meant massive pressure being brought to bear on the country, still digging itself out of a financial hole largely dug by the fascist regimes of the 1980's.

Reporting investigator, Greg Palast trained at Chicago's infamous School of Economics under Milton Friedman, Godfather of Trickle Down Economics and inspiration to the Gordon Gekko mantra of the era, "Greed is Good." He transitioned into journalism because the reporters he was feeding stories of malfeasance in high places routinely screwed them up, or allowed their editors bleed them white. But, as a trailblazing DIY investigator, he soon discovered; having a great story to tell doesn't mean the media will tell it. Palast ventured across the Atlantic, finding a home with London's Guardian newspaper, and later presenting his investigations on the BBC flagship television news program, Newsnight.

Greg Palast is the author of several books, including New York Times bestsellers, 'Billionaires & Ballot Bandits,' 'Armed Madhouse,' and 'The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.' His latest is 'Vultures' Picnic,' named by the BBC's Newsnight Review as "Book of the Year for 2012." In addition to Britain's Guardian, (who regards him as "the most important investigative journalist of our time...") and the BBC, Greg's reports are featured Stateside by The Nation Magazine, Rolling Stone, Harper's Magazine, and online at Greg Palast film exposés include: 'Billionaires and Ballot Bandits - The Movie,' 'Vultures and Vote Rustlers.' 'Why We Occupy - Palast Live!,' 'Big Easy to Big Empty,' 'Bush Family Fortunes, ' 'The Assassination of Hugo Chavez,' 'Palast Investigates,' 'The Election File,' and with Jeremy Scahill 'Big Noise: From Black Water to White Powder.'

Greg Palast and Argentina's circling vultures in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will join us at the bottom of the hour to bring us news from our city's streets and beyond there too. But first, Andrea Morison and seperating Site C promises from reality.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: And now heard at Simon Fraser University's . He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.