Ecuador Offers USA Human Rights Training

Correa: We Won’t Tolerate Blackmail

Jason Ditz

Faced with several days of overt threats from the Obama Administration and top senators threatening to revoke a key US-Ecuador trade pact if they dare to grant asylum to Edward Snowden, the Ecuadoran government has told the US what they can do with their frozen broccoli and fresh cut flowers, and has cancelled the pact themselves.

President Rafael Correa said that his nation would not tolerate US blackmail and that the trade pact wasn’t worth the harm it would do to Ecuadoran sovereignty. With most of its neighbors getting free trade with the US, the loss of the pact may put Ecuador at an economic disadvantage.

But only really on the broccoli and the flowers. Though those are big exports to the US, they are dwarfed by Ecuador’s largest export, oil. And if Ecuador’s oil is no longer welcome in the US, that’s one commodity they can easily sell elsewhere.

And just in case there were any doubts of what Ecuador was telling the Obama Administration, the nation’s Communications Secretary, Fernando Alvarado, announced $23 million in Ecuadoran aid to the United States to provide “human rights training” to combat torture, illegal executions and “attacks on peoples’ privacy.”

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Paraguay: One Year After the Parliamentary Coup Overthrew President Lugo

Javier Rodriguez Roque

June 22 — Paraguay today reached the first anniversary of the destitution of its constitutional president by a Congress dominated by the same traditional parties which, once again, have negotiated a distribution of powers.
By organizing the hasty political trial of President Fernando Lugo in Parliament in order to dismiss him from the office to which he was elected, the Liberal and Colorado parties changed Paraguay’s recent history.
The rupture of the democratic process – which began with the defeat of the lengthy, U.S. backed Alfredo Stroessner dictatorship (1954-1989) – implied for Paraguay a kind of leap into a vacuum, isolating the country internationally.
The pretext for ousting Lugo was the bloody eviction of campesinos in Curuguaty, Canindeyú department, undertaken at the request of large estate owners, which led to the death of 11 farm workers and six law enforcement agents, in circumstances which have not been fully clarified.
The political trial ignored the backdrop of the tragic incident: the unjust ownership of land in Paraguay, where close to 90% of arable land is in the hands of less than 2% of owners, many of them proprietors of huge estates.
This statistical impact is accompanied by 300,000 landless campesinos in miserable living conditions in roadside areas, poverty stricken settlements or subsistence in rustic tents and precarious houses.
Lugo’s removal from office had as witnesses 11 South American foreign ministers who urgently flew to Asunción in an unsuccessful attempt to avert through dialogue what has gone down in history as a parliamentary coup.
International sanctions were not long in coming and Paraguay was suspended from the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), in conjunction with the condemnation of many other Latin American countries. A number of embassies in the region remained without their diplomatic heads, withdrawn to express lack of recognition of the coup government of President Federico Franco, and maintained the posture until a government emerged from elections.
In the wake of national elections, MERCOSUR and UNASUR leaders reached out to the elected government, headed by Horacio Cartes who, during his campaign, confirmed his interest in Paraguay’s immediate return to these regional bodies.
However, the urgent mobilization of right-wing sectors closely involved in the coup against Lugo, and exposed pressure from large national and foreign economic interests would once more seem to have placed Paraguay at a dead end.
The most conservative groups are talking of distancing the country from its natural environment to seek its fortune in Asian markets on its own account, plus an unlimited opening to the known voracity of transnationals based in the United States and other centers of power.
Warnings from left sectors recall the positive regional environment which always welcomed the Paraguayan economy and the limitations imposed on its commercial interests by its landlocked nature.
In the internal context, the new Colorado and Liberal pact has been denounced as the preamble to damaging measures for Paraguay’s poor, standing at close to 50% of the population, and anticipated attacks on progressive sectors.
This is the current panorama one year after the episode of June 22, 2012, which represented a setback for democracy in Paraguay.

Hidden Truths About Syria

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Syria, The View From The Other Side

Stephen Gowans

His security forces used live ammunition to mow down peaceful pro-democracy protesters, forcing them to take up arms to try to topple his brutal dictatorship. He has killed tens of thousands of his own people, using tanks, heavy artillery and even chemical weapons. He’s a blood-thirsty tyrant whose rule has lost its legitimacy and must step down to make way for a peaceful democratic transition.

That’s the view of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, cultivated by Western politicians and their media stenographers.

If there’s another side to the story, you’re unlikely to hear it. Western mass media are not keen on presenting the world from the point of view of governments that find themselves the target of Western regime change operations. On the contrary, their concern is to present the point of view of the big business interests that own them and the Western imperialism that defends and promotes big business interests. They accept as beyond dispute all pronouncements by Western leaders on matters of foreign affairs, and accept without qualification that the official enemies of US imperialism are as nasty as the US president and secretary of state say they are.

What follows is the largely hidden story from the other side, based on two interviews with Assad, the first conducted by Clarin newspaper and Telam news agency on May 19, 2013, and the second carried out on June 17, 2013 by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Both were translated into English by the Syrian Arab News Agency.

Peaceful protests?

Ba’athist Syria is no stranger to civil unrest, having experienced wave after wave of uprisings by Sunni religious fanatics embittered by their country being ruled by a secular state whose highest offices are occupied by Alawite ‘heretics’. [1] The latest round of uprisings, the opening salvos in another chapter of what Glen E. Robinson calls “Syria’s Long Civil War,” began in March, 2011. The first press reports were of a few small protests, dwarfed by the far more numerous and substantial protests that erupt every day in the United States, Britain and France. A March 16, 2011 New York Times report noted that “In Syria, demonstrations are few and brief.” These early demonstrations—a few quixotic young men declaring that “the revolution has started!”, relatives of prisoners protesting outside the Interior Ministry—seem disconnected from the radical Islamist rebellion that would soon develop.

Within days, larger demonstrations were underway in Dara, where citizens were said to have been “outraged by the arrest of more than a dozen schoolchildren.” Contrary to a myth that has since taken hold, these demonstrations were hardly peaceful. Protesters set fire to the local Ba’ath Party headquarters, as well as to the town’s main courthouse and a branch of SyriaTel. Some protesters shot at the police, who returned fire. [2] One can imagine the reaction of the New York City Police to protesters in Manhattan setting fire to the federal court building, firebombing the Verizon building and opening fire on police. A foreign broadcaster with an agenda to depict the United States in the worst possible light might describe the protest as peaceful, and the police response as brutal, but it’s doubtful anyone in the United States would see it that way.

From “the first weeks of the protests we had policemen killed, so how could such protests have been peaceful?” asks Assad. “How could those who claim that the protests were peaceful explain the death of these policemen in the first week?” Assad doesn’t deny that most protesters demonstrated peacefully, but notes that “there were armed militants infiltrating protesters and shooting at the police.”

 Was the reaction of Syrian security forces to the unrest heavy-handed? Syria has a long history of Islamist uprisings against its secular state. With anti-government revolts erupting in surrounding countries, there was an acute danger that Syria’s Muslim Brothers—long at war with the Syrian state—would be inspired to return to jihad. What’s more, Syria is technically at war with Israel. As other countries in similar circumstances, Syria had an emergency law in place, restricting certain civil liberties in the interest of defending national security. Among the restrictions was a ban on unauthorized public assembly. The demonstrations were a flagrant challenge to the law, at a time of growing instability and danger to the survival of the Syrian secular project. Moreover, to expect Syrian authorities to react with restraint to gunfire from protesters is to hold Syria to a higher standard than any other country.

Meanwhile, as protesters in Syria were shooting at police and setting fire to buildings, Bahrain’s royal dictatorship was crushing a popular uprising with the assistance of Saudi tanks and US equipment. New York Times’ columnist Nicholas D. Kristof lamented that “America’s ally, Bahrain” was using “American tanks, guns and tear gas as well as foreign mercenaries to crush a pro-democracy movement” as Washington remained “mostly silent.” [3] Kristof said he had “seen corpses of protesters who were shot at close range, seen a teenage girl writhing in pain after being clubbed, seen ambulance workers beaten for trying to rescue protesters.” He didn’t explain why the United States would have a dictator as an ally, much less one who crushed a pro-democracy movement. All he could offer was the weak excuse that the United States was “in a vice—caught between its allies and its values,” as if Washington didn’t chose its allies, and that they were a force of nature, like an earthquake or a hurricane, that you had to live with and endure. The United States was indeed in a vice—though not of the sort Kristof described. It was caught between Washington’s empty rhetoric on democracy and the profit-making interests of the country’s weighty citizens, the true engine of US foreign policy. The dilemma was readily resolved. Profits prevailed, as they always do.

Bahrain’s accommodating attitude to US imperialism—it is home to the US Fifth Fleet—and its emphasis on indulging owners and investors at the expense of wage- and salary-earners, are unimpeachably friendly to US corporate and financial interests. Practically the entire stable of US allies in the Middle East is comprised of royal dictators whose attitude to democracy is unremittingly hostile, but whose attitude to helping US oil companies and titans of finance rake in fabulous profits is tremendously accommodating. And so the United States is on good terms with them, despite their violent allergic reaction to democracy. Aware of whose interests really matter in US foreign policy, Kristof wrote of Bahrain, “We’re not going to pull out our naval base.” Democracy is one thing, but a military base half way around the world (i.e., imperialism) is quite another.

That Bahrain’s version of the Arab Spring failed to grow into a civil war has much to do with US tanks, guns and tear gas, foreign mercenaries, and the silence of the US government. The Bahraini authorities used the repressive apparatus of the state more vigorously than Syrian authorities did, and yet virtually escaped the negative attention of responsibility-to-protect advocates, the US State Department, “serious” political commentators, and anarchists and many (though not all) Trots who, in line with their savaging of Gadhafi, preferred to vent their spleen on another official enemy of Western imperialism, rather than waste their bile execrating a US ally. What’s more, the ‘international community’ did much to fan the flames of the Syrian rebellion, linking up once again with their old friends Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brothers to destabilize yet another left nationalist secular regime, whose devotion to sovereignty and self-management was an affront to Wall Street. [4] Without naming him specifically, Assad says Khalifa is among the leaders who stand in relation to the United States, France and Britain as “puppets and dummies [who] do their bidding and serve their interests without question.”

Anti-imperialism

If Khalifa is the model of the Arab dictator Washington embraces, Assad fits the matrix of the Arab leader whose insistence on independence rubs the US State Department the wrong way. “The primary aim of the West,” Assad says, “is to ensure that they have ‘loyal’ governments at their disposal…which facilitate the exploitation and consumption of a country’s national resources.” Khalifa comes to mind.

In contrast, Assad insists that a “country like Syria is not by any means a satellite state to the West.” It hasn’t turned over its territory to US military bases, nor made over its economy to accommodate Western investors, banks and corporations. “Syria,” he says, “is an independent state working for the interests of its people, rather than making the Syrian people work for the interests of the West.”

 It’s not his attitude to multi-party democracy or the actions of Syria’s security forces that have aroused Western enmity, asserts Assad, but his insistence on steering an independent course for Syria. “It is only normal that they would not want us to play a role (in managing our own affairs), preferring instead a puppet government serving their interests and creating projects that would benefit their peoples and economies.” Normal or not, the Syrian president says, “We have consistently rejected this. We will always be independent and free,” adding that the United States and its satellites are using the conflict in Syria “to get rid of Syria—this insubordinate state, and replace the president with a ‘yes’ man.”

Foreign agenda

Assad challenges the characterization of the conflict as a civil war. The rebel side, he points out, is overwhelmingly dominated by foreign jihadists and foreign-based opposition elements (heavily dominated by the Muslim Brothers) backed by hostile imperialist powers. Some of Assad’s opponents, he observes, “are far from autonomous independent decision makers,” receiving money, weapons, logistical support and intelligence from foreign powers. “Their decisions,” he says, “are not self-governing.”

The conflict is more aptly characterized as a predatory war on Syrian sovereignty carried out by Western powers and their reactionary Arab satellite states using radical Islamists to topple Assad’s government (but who will not be allowed to take power) “to impose a puppet government loyal to them which (will) ardently implement their policies.” These policies would almost certainly involve Damascus endorsing the Zionist conquest of Palestine as legitimate (i.e., recognizing Israel), as well as opening the country to the US military and turning over Syrian markets, labor and resources to exploitation by Western investors, banks and corporations on terms favourable to Western capital and unfavourable to Syrians.

Russia and Iran

Criticism of the intervention of a number of reactionary Arab states in the conflict, and the participation of Western imperialist powers, is often countered by pointing to Russia’s and Iran’s role in furnishing Syria with weapons. Assad argues that intervention of the side of the jihadists (‘terrorists’ in his vocabulary) is unlawful and illegitimate. By furnishing rebels with arms, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the United States “meddle in Syria’s internal affairs” Assad says, “which is a flagrant violation of international law and our national sovereignty.” On the other hand, Russia and Iran, which have supplied Syria with arms, have engaged in lawful trade with Syria, and have not infringed its independence.

Hezbollah

According to Assad, Hezbollah has been active in towns on the border with Lebanon, but its involvement in the Syrian conflict has, otherwise, been limited. “There are no brigades (of Hezbollah fighters in Syria.) They have sent fighters who have aided the Syrian army in cleaning areas on the Lebanese borders that were infiltrated with terrorists.”

Assad points out that if Hezbollah’s assistance was needed, he would have asked for deployment of the resistance organization’s fighters to Damascus and Aleppo which are “more important than al-Quseir,” the border town that was cleared of rebel fighters with Hezbollah’s help.

Stories about Hezbollah fighters pouring over the border to prop up the Syrian government are a “frenzy…to reflect an image of Hezbollah as the main fighting force” in order “to provoke Western and international public opinion,” Assad says. The aim, he continues, is to create “this notion that Hezbollah and Iran are also fighting in Syria as a counterweight” to the “presence of foreign jihadists” in Syria.

 Democracy?

 The Assad government has implemented a number of reforms in response to the uprising.

First, it cancelled the long-standing abridgment of civil liberties that had been authorized by the emergency law. This law, invoked because Syria is in a technical state of war with Israel, gave Damascus powers it needed to safeguard the security of the state in wartime. Many Syrians, however, chaffed at the law, and regarded it as unduly restrictive. Bowing to popular pressure, the security measures were suspended.

Second, the government proposed a new constitution to accommodate protesters’ demands to strip the Ba’ath Party of its lead role in Syrian society. The constitution was put to a referendum and ratified. Additionally, the presidency would be open to anyone meeting basic residency, age and citizenship requirements. Presidential elections would be held by secret vote every seven years under a system of universal suffrage, with the next election scheduled for 2014. “I don’t know if (US secretary of state) Kerry or others like him have a mandate from the Syrian people to speak on their behalf as to who stays and who leaves,” Assad observes, noting that Syrians themselves can decide whether he stays or leaves when they go to the polls next year.

Despite Assad’s lifting the emergency law and amending the constitution to accommodate demands for a multi-party electoral democracy, the conflict continues. Instead of accepting these changes, the rebels summarily rejected them. Washington, London and Paris also dismissed Assad’s concessions, denigrating them as “meaningless,” without explanation. [5] Given the immediate and total rejection of the reforms, Assad can hardly be blamed for concluding that “democracy was not the driving force of the revolt.”

Elaborating, he notes:

It was seemingly apparent at the beginning that demands were for reforms. It was utilized to appear as if the crisis was a matter of political reform. Indeed, we pursued a policy of wide scale reforms from changing the constitution to many of the legislations and laws, including lifting the state of emergency law, and embarking on a national dialogue with all political opposition groups. It was striking that with every step we took in the reform process, the level of terrorism escalated.

The reality that the armed rebellion is dominated by Islamists [6] also militates against the conclusion that thirst for democracy lies at its core. Many radical Islamists reject democracy because they see it as a system for creating man-made laws and, as a corollary, for rejecting God’s law. Reportedly hundreds of jihadists [7]—members of a sort of Islamist International—have travelled from abroad to fight for a Levantine society in which God’s law, and not that of men and women, rules. Assad asks, “What interest does an internationally listed terrorist from Chechnya or Afghanistan have with the internal political reform process in Syria?” Or in democracy?

Good terrorists and bad terrorists

Syria’s jihadists have resorted to terrorist tactics, and appear to have little fear that they will ever be held to account for these or other war crimes. They are not mistaken. Their summary executions of prisoners, indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, terrorist car bombings, rapes, torture, hostage taking and pillage—documented by the UN human rights commission [8]—will very likely be swept into a dark, murky corner, to be forgotten and never acted upon, while imperialist powers use their sway over international courts to shine a bright line upon war crimes committed by Syrian forces. While their ranks include the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra front, the jihadists have been depicted as heroes by Western governments and their media stenographers, a “good Al-Qaeda,” says Assad. Cat’s paws of the West, radical Islamists are good terrorists when they fight to bring down independent governments, like the leftist pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan, and the anti-imperialist governments in Libya and Syria, but are bad terrorists when they attack the US homeland and threaten to take power in Mali.

Chemical weapons

Ben Rhodes, the US deputy national security advisor, announced that Syrian forces have “used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year” killing “100 to 150 people.” [9]

Assad says the White House’s claim doesn’t add up. The point of using nerve gas, a weapon of mass destruction, is to kill “thousands of people at one given time.” The 150 people Washington says Syrian forces took 365 days to kill with chemical weapons could have been easily killed in one day using conventional weapons.

Why, then, wonders Assad, would the Syrian army use a weapon of mass destruction sub-optimally to kill a limited number of rebels when in a year it could kill hundreds of times more with rifles, tanks and artillery? “It is counterintuitive,” says the Syrian president, “to use chemical weapons to create a death toll that you could potentially reach by using conventional weapons.”

There is some evidence pointing to the use of chemical weapons by the rebels. Carla Del Ponte, a member of the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria—a body created by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate alleged violations of human rights law in Syria—says that the commission has “concrete suspicions” of the use of sarin gas by the rebels” but no evidence government forces have used them. [10]

Assad says he asked the United Nations to launch a formal investigation into suspected use of chemical weapons by rebel forces in Aleppo, but that the UN demanded unconditional access to the country. If Assad acceded to the demand, the inspection regime could be used as a cover to gather military intelligence for use against Syrian forces. “We are a sovereign state; we have an army and all matters considered classified will never be accessible neither to the UN, nor Britain, nor France,” says Assad. If he rejected the demand, it could be said—as it indeed it was by the White House [11]—that the ‘international community’ had been prevented by Damascus from undertaking a comprehensive investigation, thereby releasing the UN from any obligation to investigate the use of chemical weapons by the jihadists. At the same time, by rejecting the UN’s demand, the Syrian government would create the impression it had something to hide. This could be countered by Damascus explaining its reasons for turning down the UN conditions, but the Western media give little time to the Syrian perspective, preferring saturation coverage of the pronouncements of Western officials. In terms of Western public opinion, whatever US officials say about Syria is decisive. Whatever Syrian officials say is drowned out, if presented at all.

It should be noted that no permanent member of the UN Security Council, including the United States and Britain—indeed, no country of any standing—would willingly grant an outside organization or country unrestricted access to its military and government facilities. The reasons for denying UN inspectors untrammelled access to Syria are all the stronger in Syria’s case, given that major players on the Security Council are overtly backing the rebels, and could be expected to try to use UN inspectors—as indeed the US did in Iraq—to gather military intelligence to be used against the host country.

It would also do well to remember that the United States evinced no interest in investigating the use of chemical weapons by the rebels, immediately dismissing the allegations as unfounded. Following up on the allegations wasn’t an option.

Finally, Assad points out that the chemical weapons charges call to mind the ‘sexed up’ WMD evidence used by the United States and Britain as a pretext to invade and conquer Iraq: “It is common knowledge” he says, “that Western administrations lie continuously and manufacture stories as a pretext for war.”

Conclusion

The purpose of the foregoing is to offer a glimpse into the conflict in Syria from the other side, a side which the Western media are institutionally incapable of presenting, except in passing, and only if overwhelmed by the competing imperialist narrative.

Assad’s analysis and values are very much in the anti-imperialist vein. He speaks of Western powers seeking “dummies” and “yes men” who will pursue policies that are favourable to the West. The United States does indeed maintain a collection of “yes men” in the Middle East. Khalifa, the royal dictator of Bahrain, who used US tanks, guns, tear gas and Saudi mercenaries to crush a popular rebellion, is a model Arab “yes man” and a dictator, as many of Washington’s “yes men” are, and have always been.

Assad, in contrast, has none of Khalifa’s readiness to kowtow to an imperialist master. Instead, his government’s insistence on working for the interests of Syrians, rather than making Syrians work for the interests of the West, has provoked the hostility of the United States, France and Britain, and their determination to overthrow his government. That Assad’s commitment to local interests goes beyond rhetoric is clear in the character of Syria’s economic policy. It features the state-owned enterprises, tariffs, subsidies to domestic firms, and restrictions on foreign investment that Wall Street and its State Department handmaiden vehemently oppose for restricting the profit-making opportunities of wealthy US investors, bankers and corporations [12]. On foreign policy, Syria has steered a course sensitive to local interests, refusing to abandon the Arab national project, whose success would threaten US domination of the Middle East, while allying with Iran and Hezbollah in a resistance (to US imperialism) front.

For his refusal to become their “puppet,” the United States and its imperialist allies intend to topple Assad through accustomed means: an opportunistic alliance with radical Islamists who hate Assad as much as Washington does, though for reasons of religion rather than economics and imperialism.

Notes

1. Syria’s post-colonial history is punctuated by Islamist uprisings. The Muslim Brotherhood organized riots against the government in 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1969. It called for a Jihad against then president Hafiz al-Assad, the current president’s father, denigrating him as “the enemy of Allah.” By 1977, the Mujahedeen were engaged in a guerrilla struggle against the Syrian army and its Soviet advisers, culminating in the 1982 occupation of the city of Hama. The Syrian army quelled the occupation, killing 20,000 to 30,000. Islamists have since remained a perennial source of instability in Syria and the government has been on continual guard against “a resurgence of Sunni Islamic fundamentalists,” according to the US Library of Congress Country Study of Syria. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/sytoc.html
2. “Officers fire on crowd as Syria protests grow,” The New York Times, March 20, 2011.
3. Nicholas D. Kristof, “Bahrain pulls a Qaddafi”, The New York Times, March 16, 2011.
4. For the West’s opportunistic alliances with political Islam see Mark Curtis, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, Serpent’s Tail, 2011.
5. David M. Herszenhorn, “For Syria, Reliant on Russia for weapons and food, old bonds run deep”, The New York Times, February 18, 2012.
6. Adam Entous, “White House readies new aid for Syrian rebels”, The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2013; Anne Barnard, “Syria campaigns to persuade U.S. to change sides”, The New York Times, April 24, 2013; 3. Gerald F. Seib, “The risks holding back Obama on Syria”, The Wall Street journal, May 6, 2013.
7. According to Russian president Vladimir Putin “at least 600 Russians and Europeans are fighting alongside the opposition.” “Putin: President al-Assad confronts foreign gunmen, not Syrian people,” Syrian Arab News Agency, June 22, 2013.
8. Damien Mcelroy, “Syrian rebels face war crime accusation”, The Ottawa Citizen, August 11, 2012; Sam Dagher and Nour Malas, “Lebanon militia kidnaps Syrians”, The Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2012; Hwaida Saad and Nick Cumming-Bruce, “Civilian attacks rise in Syria, U.N. says”, The New York Times, September 17, 2012; Stacy Meichtry, “Sarin detected in samples from Syria, France says”, The Wall Street Journal, June 4, 2013; Sam Dagher, “Violence spirals as Assad gains”, The Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2013.
9. Statement by Ben Rhodes, the US deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, on chemical weapons. The Guardian (UK), June 13, 2013.
10. “UN: ‘Strong suspicions’ that Syrian rebels have used sarin nerve gas,” Euronews, May 6, 2013; “UN’s Del Ponte says evidence Syria rebels ‘used sarin’”, BBC News, May 6, 2013.
11. Rhodes.
12. For Syria’s economic policies and the US ruling class reaction to them see the Syria sections of the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom http://www.heritage.org/index/country/syria and the CIA Factbook https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sy.html .

Irish MP Clare Daly Calls Obama a War Criminal for Supporting Syrian Terrorists

Unquestionable adoration of Obama is ludicrous

Clare Daly

WHAT was really so “outrageous” about the points I made regarding the visit of President Obama and the G8 summit on Tuesday morning?

Of course the Obamas, like anyone else, have a right to visit our country and enjoy the benefits we have to offer. However, we cannot afford to let a sideshow develop whereby the situation becomes completely depoliticised.

I criticised the sycophantic behaviour of members of the Irish Government during the visit because quite frankly, I like many others, felt that it was an embarrassing display. It was almost reminiscent of the old days of subservient tugging of the forelock as your feudal overlord pays you a visit. Of course none of the other G8 leaders are any better, but then the media did not feel the need to parade stories of what these people ate for lunch on every front page across the country.

The suggestion that the fanfare was good for tourism and that certain truths about the president’s policies must be overlooked is ludicrous. In fact, this approach is an insult to millions of Americans and others around the globe who have been bitterly disappointed with Obama’s failure to deliver for ordinary working people at home and abroad.

Given our Government’s complicity nature aiding these policies through the use of Shannon, I contend there was nothing outrageous about raising these points on Tuesday.

The fact that the US establishment played a role in the Northern Ireland peace process does not give them licence to make war everywhere else. The recent decision by Obama to supply arms to the Syrian opposition will fuel the destabilisation of the region and will result in the loss of life of thousands of people.

It is somewhat ironic that the UN report on refugees was published on the same day. The report revealed a 20-year high in the number of refugees globally. Every four seconds a person is displaced. This takes place in the main hotspots where US imperialism has intervened either directly or in directly.

The role of American imperialism in the Middle East has been devastating. There has been a 200% increase in the use of drones under the Obama administration, which have killed thousands of people including hundreds of children. And yet we are expected to stand, and applaud, when he makes a speech in Ireland about peace.

Obama’s record on Guantanamo again reflects his hypocrisy of making speeches about peace. Ten years on, Guantanamo still operates a policy of internment without trial or recourse to detainees’ legal or human rights. Is this not what we saw once upon a time in Northern Ireland? Perhaps if the media had bothered to place Obama’s speech within the context of his drone and Guantanamo policies, my statements would not seem so outrageous.

The Taoiseach and sections of the media may want to continue to pull the wool over people’s eyes when it comes to the Obamas, but in reality, Obama is no friend of peace or the Irish people. When Ireland, in talks with the troika in 2010, attempted to repudiate some of the illegitimate banking debt, it was Obama who instructed Timothy Geithner to derail any deal to burn the bondholders and insisted they should be repaid in full. That intervention, by the United States, meant that the entire cost of the bank bailout was loaded on to the Irish people. Thank you Mr President.

And finally, this paper’s suggestion that my comments were an affront to the American people is utterly ludicrous. They too are suffering attacks on their wages and working conditions, and being threatened with anti-labour laws like workers in Europe. The Government lackeys are not doing any favours for American people by offering Obama unquestionable adoration. We would serve them better by highlighting the tax havens which Ireland has kindly provided for big US corporations so that they can avoid paying tax in the US. This is of course tax which could be providing American working people with a decent health service. And so could the moneys being spent on arming conflicts around the world. If we want to pay a proper tribute to the ideals of America, maybe we should open our doors to Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.

*Clare Daly is an Independent TD

Snowden, NSA, and the Rise of a New Fascism

we-are-free

Understanding the latest leaks is understanding the rise of a new fascism

John Pilger

In his book, ‘Propaganda’, published in 1928, Edward Bernays wrote: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

The American nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays invented the term “public relations” as a euphemism for state propaganda. He warned that an enduring threat to the invisible government was the truth-teller and an enlightened public.

In 1971, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg leaked US government files known as The Pentagon Papers, revealing that the invasion of Vietnam was based on systematic lying. Four years later, Frank Church conducted sensational hearings in the US Senate: one of the last flickers of American democracy. These laid bare the full extent of the invisible government: the domestic spying and subversion and warmongering by intelligence and “security” agencies and the backing they received from big business and the media, both conservative and liberal.

Speaking about the National Security Agency (NSA), Senator Church said: “I know that the capacity that there is to make tyranny in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law… so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

On 11 June 2013, following the revelations in the Guardian by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg wrote that the US had now fallen into “that abyss”.

Snowden’s revelation that Washington has used Google, Facebook, Apple and other giants of consumer technology to spy on almost everyone, is further evidence of modern form of fascism –  that is the “abyss”. Having nurtured old-fashioned fascists around the world – from Latin America to Africa and Indonesia – the genie has risen at home. Understanding this is as important as understanding the criminal abuse of technology.

Fred Branfman, who exposed the “secret” destruction of tiny Laos by the US Air Force in the 1960s and 70s, provides an answer to those who still wonder how a liberal African-American president, a professor of constitutional law, can command such lawlessness. “Under Mr. Obama,” he wrote, “no president has done more to create the infrastructure for a possible future police state.” Why? Because Obama, like George W Bush, understands that his role is not to indulge those who voted for him but to expand “the most powerful institution in the history of the world, one that has killed, wounded or made homeless well over 20 million human beings, mostly civilians, since 1962.”

In the new American cyber-power, only the revolving doors have changed. The director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, was adviser to Condaleeza Rice, the former secretary of state in the Bush administration who lied that Saddam Hussein could attack the US with nuclear weapons. Cohen and Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt – they met in the ruins of Iraq – have co-authored a book, The New Digital Age, endorsed as visionary by the former CIA director Michael Hayden and the war criminals Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair. The authors make no mention of the Prism spying programme, revealed by Edward Snowden, that provides the NSA access to all of us who use Google.

Control and dominance are the two words that make sense of this. These are exercised by political, economic and military designs, of which mass surveillance is an essential part, but also by insinuating propaganda in the public consciousness. This was Edward Bernays’s point. His two most successful PR campaigns were convincing Americans they should go to war in 1917 and persuading women to smoke in public; cigarettes were “torches of freedom” that would hasten women’s liberation.

It is in popular culture that the fraudulent “ideal” of America as morally superior, a “leader of the free world”, has been most effective. Yet, even during Hollywood’s most jingoistic periods there were exceptional films, like those of the exile Stanley Kubrick, and adventurous European films would have US distributors. These days, there is no Kubrick, no Strangelove, and the US market is almost closed to foreign films.

When I showed my own film, ‘The War on Democracy’, to a major, liberally-minded US distributor, I was handed a laundry list of changes required, to “ensure the movie is acceptable”. His memorable sop to me was: “OK, maybe we could drop in Sean Penn as narrator. Would that satisfy you?” Lately, Katherine Bigelow’s torture-apologising ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and Alex Gibney’s ‘We Steal Secrets’, a cinematic hatchet job on Julian Assange, were made with generous backing by Universal Studios, whose parent company until recently was General Electric. GE manufactures weapons, components for fighter aircraft and advance surveillance technology. The company also has lucrative interests in “liberated” Iraq.

prism

The power of truth-tellers like Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden is that they dispel a whole mythology carefully constructed by the corporate cinema, the corporate academy and the corporate media. WikiLeaks is especially dangerous because it provides truth-tellers with a means to get the truth out. This was achieved by ‘Collatoral Murder’, the cockpit video of an US Apache helicopter allegedly leaked by Bradley Manning. The impact of this one video marked Manning and Assange for state vengeance. Here were US airmen murdering journalists and maiming children in a Baghdad street, clearly enjoying it, and describing their atrocity as “nice”. Yet, in one vital sense, they did not get away with it; we are witnesses now, and the rest is up to us.

An Avalanche of Protests Awaits Obama in South Africa

Kwame Biko

Barack Hussein Obama, America’s first Black President will from 26 June to 3 July undertake his so-called Africa Tour. This is not just an ordinary tour because Africa is the continent of Obama’s late father – Barack Hussein Obama Sr. So Obama comes as a “great friend of Africa”, whether he merits that title or not.

To me, this is Obama’s first visit to Africa since he became the President of United States. I don’t agree that his brief stop-over in Ghana in 2009, on his way back to America, after his speech to the Muslim World in Egypt, was the first Obama’s visit to Africa as American President. Clearly, that event in Ghana was a mere acknowledgement of Africa’s support for Obama in 2008.

This time around, he will be visiting three African countries: Tanzania, Senegal and South Africa. He won’t visit Kenya – his father’s country – as according to Obama, the country does not deserve to receive him.

However, the fact that Obama won’t be visiting Kenya will not pose any problem. After-all, countries in Africa usually compete for this kind of visit. Moreover, wherever he goes during his tour, he won’t be treated just as an American President, but also as a son of the soil. In every country, he will be received with some exaggerated fanfare and celebration, that is, under a heavy security protection.

Therefore, when Obama arrives in South Africa, there will be a Zulu dance group to perform for him. And more significantly, there will be some “Rainbow Nation Band” on hand to choreographically show him and his “respected” entourage how “unique” South Africa is. Also, some “ordinary” people will be chosen to come out with their Vuvuzelas and celebrate the arrival of President Barack Obama.

But above the din of the foregoing practiced performances will be the roar of millions of conscious world citizens in South Africa, who are aware of America’s role in many of the problems that ravage our world. These people will be out in the streets and in their numbers to denounce those countries, like America, that cause confusion and cheat others in the comity of nations. Thus, an avalanche of protests awaits Obama in South Africa.

While many groups are involved in planned anti-Obama protests in Cape Town area, it has emerged that another group in Johannesburg area made up of other progressive bodies is also planning to protest against the visit.

The group, which includes the South African Communist Party (SACP), Young Communist League of South Africa (YCL), South African Students Congress (SASCO), Muslim Students Association(MSA), National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union(NEHAWU), Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Friend of Cuba Society (FOCUS), Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel in South Africa (BDS South African), and the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), in a press release today completely rejected Obama’s planned visit to South Africa: “Progressive forces in South Africa have consistently been raising these issues and many others regarding the role of the USA in the global community. We categorically make it known, that the visit of the USA President to South Africa is an unwelcome visit that will be protested, picketed and resisted by all justice and peace-loving peoples of this country. Friendship with South Africa must be based on values of justice, freedom and equality and these the USA has offended, undermined and ridiculed through its actions in the global front,” they said in their statement.

They base their rejection of Obama and America on “USA’s arrogant, selfish and oppressive foreign policies, [bad] treatment of workers and [America’s] international trade relations that are rooted in war mongering, neo-liberal super-exploitation, colonial racism and the disregard and destruction of the environment.”

In their litany of America’s crimes against humanity, the group accused the US of being “deeply implicated in oppression of the people of Western Sahara.” They are angered by what they call “a continuing baseless embargo” against Cuba and, in the same vein, pointed at America’s refusal to release the five Cuban nationals who are unjustly being held in America despite an international campaign that includes Nobel Laureates like Wole Soyinka , Desmond Tutu, Nadine Gordimer, Rigoberta Menchú, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, José Saramago, and Günter Grass.

They further stated that the “criminal occupation of Palestine” by Israel would not have been possible if not for “USA’s financial and political support for” for Israel. While slamming America for standing against progress, the group recalled how the U.S. used “its veto power to defend Apartheid South Africa.”

They equally accuse the United States of being “one of the largest contributors to global warming.”

The group will march from the Union Building to the United States of America Embassy in Pretoria on Friday, 28 June, 2013. Time: 10h00.

There is also a demonstration against the decision of the University of Johannesburg to award President Barack Obama an honorary doctorate degree. This revolutionary action will happen on Saturday, 22 June, 2013. Time: 11am; Venue: Kingsway Road.

Surely, with these and other up-coming plans, an avalanche of protests awaits Obama in South Africa.

For more information on the protests, contact:

Lucian Segami (NEHAWU): 079 522 0098 

Mbuyiseni (BDS-SA): 073 133 3012 

Richard Mamabolo (YCLSA): 079 670 0274

60 Years Since Murders of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

Gloria La Riva

Today, June 19, marks the 60th anniversary of the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, two courageous communists murdered by the U.S. government in the midst of the ferocious anti-communist witch-hunt of the 1950s.

They were electrocuted on June 19, 1953, in Sing Sing prison in New York, despite worldwide protests, after a three-year persecution on trumped-up charges of espionage conspiracy, supposedly for providing elements of atomic-bomb production to the Soviet Union.

The Rosenbergs’ real crime, however, was that they stood for socialism at a dangerous time for progressive activists in the United States, when the U.S. government was waging an ideological war at home and abroad in the name of “fighting communism.”

After World War II ended in 1945, the U.S. government launched a military, political and economic offensive against the Soviet Union and socialist camp, commonly referred to as the “Cold War.”

The U.S. had emerged singularly unscathed from the war. It was the only country in the world to possess nuclear weapons, and showed its willingness to use them by annihilating Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The leaders in Washington were determined to achieve global domination and viewed the socialist camp led by the Soviet Union, and the revolutionary movements allied with it, as the main obstacle in their path.

At home, the offensive was aimed at crushing working-class struggles as well as revolutionary socialist and communist organizations. Throughout the late 1940s into the 1950s, U.S. labor unions were purged of socialists and communists, who had helped lead successful workers’ struggles in major industries. By 1949, dozens of communists were imprisoned under the draconian Smith Act (Alien Registration Act of 1940).

U.S. imperialism began its massive bombing war against Korea on June 25, 1950, at the same time the FBI moved against the Rosenbergs, with the arrest of Julius on July 17 and Ethel on August 11, 1950.

After their conviction on treason charges in a rigged trial, Judge Irving Kaufman, sentenced the Rosenbergs to death on April 5, 1951. Kaufman declared them responsible for the deaths of thousands of U.S. soldiers in Korea and, reflecting the wild hysteria of the time, added, “millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason.”

Central figures in the Rosenbergs’ arrest and trial were FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon, then a leading red-baiter in Congress.

Hoover, Nixon and the infamous Sen. Joseph McCarthy were hit men for U.S. imperialism on the home front.

To quell political dissent as the U.S. advanced its objectives, key political trials were given major prominence in the newspapers and new medium of television. The message was: “Communists are endangering the American way of life.”

Hoover and Nixon had just concluded—in January 1950—an outrageous frame-up of Alger Hiss, a former State Department official who was accused of being a spy for the Soviet Union, by an alleged “former communist” named Whitaker Chambers.

The prosecution of Hiss and many other liberal government officials was part of the drive by right-wing elements to gain dominance.

False testimony by Chambers and his absurd claim of burying espionage film given to him by Hiss in a pumpkin (“the pumpkin papers”) conjured up images of ubiquitous Soviet spies in the most unexpected places.

Congressional hearings were conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee, with Nixon leading the charge. Hiss was convicted of perjury and served five years in prison. He was exonerated decades later.

The next victims of the Cold War

The next targets were the Rosenbergs, who were implicated by individuals who gave false testimony to avoid their own prosecution.

The ruling class manufactured a hysteria to crush dissent and the Rosenbergs paid the ultimate price for refusing to comply with repression. To the last minute, the government offered to spare them if they would admit guilt and “name names” of others who could then face the same persecution.

When they refused, they were killed, a clear case of state murder designed to terrorize others on the left.

The Rosenbergs had two young sons, Michael, age 10 at the time of their execution, and Robert, then 6 years old. They suffered greatly, being placed in shelters and orphanages, because relatives were too frightened to take them in. Finally Anne and Abel Meeropol won a court battle for their custody and adopted them.

In 1990, Robert Meeropol established the Rosenberg Fund for Children, to help children whose families are politically targeted. Both Michael and Robert became activists in many social causes in their youth.

For the 60th anniversary of their relatives’ executions, Robert Meeropol and his daughter Jenn, wrote:

“The US government used the Rosenberg case to attempt to prove to the public that the international communist conspiracy threatened the American way of life, and claimed fighting communism required that human rights and civil liberties take a back seat to national security.

“Today, the US government asserts that danger from the international terrorist conspiracy and their weapons of mass destruction justifies massive surveillance, indefinite detention and even torture. Authorities say we must guard national secrets even more securely to avoid destruction. Today, the issues raised by the Rosenberg case resonate from the Oval Office of the White House to Bradley Manning, who is being tried under the Espionage Act of 1917, as were Ethel and Julius.”

Long live the courage and memory of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

The Rosenberg children, whose parents were murdered by the U.S. government.