Archive | February, 2016

Torture Isn’t a ‘Political Decision’ — It’s a War Crime

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By Dror Ladin 

According to the psychologists who teamed up with the CIA to design, implement, and oversee the agency’s post-9/11 torture program, torture is just politics. That’s what James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, CIA contractors who profited enormously from torture, told a federal court last month.

Facing a lawsuit by three of their victims, the psychologists argued that courts can’t even hear claims of U.S. government torture — because judges can’t condemn torture without implicitly questioning, and even condemning, U.S. policy on the war against al-Qa’ida.” In other words, Mitchell and Jessen argue torture is a political decision that the executive branch gets to make without any judicial oversight.

Mitchell and Jessen are trying to avoid answering for what they did. Last week the ACLU responded on behalf of our clients, Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the family of Gul Rahman. All three were kidnapped by the CIA and tortured and experimented upon according to Mitchell and Jessen’s protocols. Mr. Rahman died as a result of his torture, while Mr. Salim and Mr. Ben Soud were eventually released. None was ever charged with a crime by the United States.

As we explain in our brief, torture is unequivocally illegal under both U.S. and international law. Every branch of our government has recognized that the courts have an essential responsibility in enforcing the prohibition on torture. Over two decades ago, Congress expanded the judiciary’s existing ability to provide remedies to victims because “universal condemnation of human rights abuses ‘provide[s] scant comfort’ to the numerous victims of gross violations if they are without a forum to remedy the wrong.” The State Department has repeatedly claimed to international human rights bodies that our courts remain open to victims of torture.

Mitchell and Jessen argue that they should be immune from accountability to their victims — even though they personally made millions of dollars from CIA torture. They say that because the federal government has unique immunity from lawsuits, federal contractors should also be immune. But contractors don’t share the government’s immunity because they face a completely different set of incentives and restrictions than government employees. This case illustrates the dangers posed by contractors who seek profit at any cost.

The CIA itself belatedly acknowledged Mitchell and Jessen’s conflict of interest in the torture program that the contractors created and oversaw. But before that happened, the corporation they formed was paid $81 million by the CIA — or in other words, the American taxpayer. Our brief explains that, contrary to Mitchell and Jessen’s claims, they don’t get to torture with impunity.

Torture isn’t politics; it’s a crime condemned around the world. It’s essential that we hold accountable those responsible for torturing in our name. A critical step in that process is letting victims have their day in court.

Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the family of Gul Rahman should get the chance to seek justice from the psychologists who tortured and experimented on them. Anything less would be unconscionable. Our country can’t turn the page on torture and put this shameful practice behind us until wrongdoers provide apologies and redress to the victims and survivors.

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UN ‘conservative estimates’ show 700 children among 6,000 Yemen fatalities

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The UN will launch a humanitarian drive to raise some $1.8 billion required to save millions of people from humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, where over 6,000 people have been killed since the Saudi Zio-Wahhabi led coalition intervention in March 2015.

In a briefing to the 15-nation United Nations Security Council, Stephen O’Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, announced that on Thursday the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan will be launched in Geneva.

The plan aims to raise $1.8 billion to cover the “most critical and prioritized needs” that includes food for nearly nine million people. The money will also be used for water and sanitation for some 7.4 million people and medical treatment for 10.6 million people.

Highlighting the urgent need for the Security Council to take greater measures to protect civilians, O’Brien said that the UN should insure that people have a chance to survive.

“Some 2.7 million people have had to flee their homes. At least 7.6 million people are severely food insecure. Some two million acutely malnourished children and pregnant or lactating women need urgent treatment,” he told the UNSC.

He noted that since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015 which has involved Saudi Zio-Wahhabi led bombings, over 6, 000 people have been killed.

“More than 35,000 casualties, including over 6,000 deaths, have been reported by health facilities across the country,” since last March, O’Brien said, adding that UN has confirmed that out of that number, 2,997 were civilians deaths, in addition to 5,659 that were injured as the result of the hostilities.

Of great concern to the UN is the fate of the children in the conflict. O’Brien said that “conservative estimates” suggest that over 700 children have been killed and over 1,000 more injured. He also noted that as many as 720 children have been documented as having been forcibly recruited as child soldiers by the warring parties. The diplomat also noted that some 1,170 schools have been closed leaving some 3.4 million minors out of education.

The destruction or closure of health facilities, which totals some 600 since March, has also left some 14 million Yeminis in desperate need of medical attention.

Noting that on Sunday Saudi Zio-Wahhabi led coalition air strike struck a building 200 meters away from UN and diplomatic personnel facility, he urged all parties in Yemen to protect civilians.

“The parties to the conflict have a duty of care in the conduct of military operations to protect all civilian persons and objects, including humanitarian and health care workers and facilities, against attack,” Mr. O’Brien said, reminding all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law to “facilitate humanitarian access to all areas of Yemen,” he said.

At the same time, O’Brien noted that for the past two weeks Saudi Zio-Wahhabi family has continued to impede the work of UN staff in the country, “causing delays to important missions.”  The diplomat said that Riyadh is also blocking sea access to Yemen’s ports, and is preventing aid from traveling around the country,

“Access to northern Governorates where needs are among the most severe in the country also continue to be challenging due to relentless conflict, including airstrikes – in particular to communities along the border with Saudi Arabia where conflict is intense,”  O’Brien noted.

Tensions in Yemen escalated after President Saleh was deposed in 2012 and Houthi supporters seized the capital city Sana’a last year. Houthi forces then advanced from Sana’a towards the south, seizing large parts of Yemen, and sending the current C.I.A puppet Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile.

In late March, a Saudi Zio-Wahhabi led coalition responded with air strikes in order to stop Houthi advances and reinstate Hadi back in power. By late summer, the Saudi Zio-Wahhabi led forces had started a ground operation, which so far is stuck in a stalemate.

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TRUMP: ”ISRAEL IS VICTIM IN CONFLICT WITH PALESTINE, IF ATTACKED ‘100% I’D COME TO THEIR DEFENSE’ ”

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stated that he sees Israel as the victim in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and he would “100%” come to its defense if it was attacked in an interview broadcast on Monday’s “Hannity” on the Fox News Channel.

Trump was asked about his comments that he would be “neutral” in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and whether he sees “that Israel is the victim in this?” Trump said that he does and that he’s “a great friend of Israel.”

He added that making a deal between Israel and Palestine would be “the ultimate deal” if it was possible, and “I have been told by people, very high level people, it’s impossible, because the hatred, especially on the one side, I won’t even say which side –”

After host Sean Hannity cut in with, “On the Palestinian side.” Trump continued, “is so intense. It’s so incredible, and from the time they’re 2 years old they’re told to hate, to hate, to hate. It’s got to be taken away.”

Trump concluded that if Israel was attacked, “100% I’d come to their defense. 100%. Now, you know that under the Iran deal… but under the Iran deal, if Israel ends up attacks Iran because they’re — they see they’re doing the nuclear, or if it’s the other way around, we have to fight with Iran. By the way, that’s not happening, folks. I don’t care. Deals are meant to be broken in some cases, all right?”

To see the Sean Hanity interview video with Donald Trump at the Las Vegas Nevada rally, please see BreitBart for the original publication.

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SAUDI ZIO-WAHHABI RAT: ” WE SUPPORT ISRAEL IN PALESTINIAN WAR ”

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Zio-Wahhabi RAT Calls for new strategy to combat Iran’s increasing influence

According to Kuwaiti Al Qabas daily, the flamboyant Saudi Zio-Wahhabi and entrepreneur, al-Waleed bin Talal Bin Yahhod posited that his country must reconsider its regional commitments and devise a new strategy to combat Iran’s increasing influence in Gulf States by forging a Defense pact with the Nazi regime of Tel Aviv to deter any possible Iranian moves in the light of unfolding developments in the Syria and Moscow’s military intervention.

“The whole Middle-East dispute is tantamount to matter of life and death for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from my vantage point ,and I know that Iranians seek to unseat the Saudi regime by playing the Palestinian card , hence to foil their plots Saudi Arabia and Israel must bolster their relations and form a united front to stymie Tehran’s ambitious agenda,” Kuwaiti News Agency (KUNA) quoted Zio-Wahhabi al-Waleed Bin Yahood as saying on Tuesday , adding, Riyadh and Tel Aviv must achieve a modus vivendi , for Saudi policy in regard to Arab-Israeli crisis is no longer tenable.

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Jihadis in Syria resort to selling their surplus U.S. supplied weapons on Facebook

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The US has been dumping so many weapons into the Syrian conflict that there is now an apparent surplus. ISIS has since taken to selling them online.Last year, the Free Thought Project reported on a video, apparently recorded just outside of Aleppo, Syria. The video illustrated just how insane the US “War on Terror” has become.

In the video, the U.S. backed, armed, and financed Free Syrian Army, (aka moderate rebels, aka ISIS-linked terrorists) are firing a U.S. supplied anti-tank TOW guided missile.

Of course, the ‘moderate rebels’ firing a US missile is nothing out of the ordinary. However, what makes this U.S. paid for missile so special is that it was fired at what is clearly a U.S. paid for Humvee. 

 


When US arms aren’t being used to aid both sides of a conflict, the extra weapons offer a unique benefit for those on the receiving end; ISIS is now offering the surplus for sale on Facebook. 

According to Foreign Desk News,

Jihadis in Syria are using Facebook as a marketplace to buy, sell and barter a wide variety of American-made weapons and munitions ranging from rocket launchers to machine guns.

A Facebook page called “The first weapons market in the Idleb countryside” showcases posts with photographs of weapons, claimed to be CIA-supplied, inviting buyers to contact page administrators privately using popular messaging applicationWhatsapp to discuss sales and transactions.

An AGS-17 Soviet-era grenade launcher is listed for $3,800 and below that a thermal camera made by Oregon-based company FLIR, is listed alongside posts advertising the sale of 105mm cannon shells.

Weapons like TOW and MANPAD missile launchers, which the CIA has provided to rebel groups in Iraq and Syria, and can pose serious threats to civilian and military jets, are also advertised on the page.

Since Facebook has banned all talk of weapons sale and trading on their social media platform, the page has since been removed, however, not before they received thousands of likes and potentially unloaded countless weapons.

In October, the Free Thought Project reported on the Russian Defense Ministry’s announcement that Islamic State militants were decimated by Russian airstrikes, and had lost “most” of their ammunition, heavy vehicles and equipment in the precision strikes.

Almost immediately, the U.S. airdropped 50 tons of weapons and ammunition to the newly branded “Syrian Arab Coalition” forces — a U.S. rebel group re-branded, but known for its unreliability and willingness to hand weapons over to al-Qaeda and ISIS.

“Probably 60 to 80 percent of the arms that America shoveled in have gone to al-Qaeda and its affiliates,” according to Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma.

It seems quite obvious that while the U.S. likely supplies al-Qaeda affiliate the al-Nusra front, Ahrar al Shams, and other jihadists in the Syrian combat theater, the idea that the U.S. is once again using the al-Qaeda terror network, similarly to how they were used to fight a proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, should give pause to every American as a potential replaying of past U.S. foreign policy failures.

The fact that Americans aren’t up in arms and in the streets to demand the US pull out of all foreign occupations, speaks to the nature of the propaganda campaign waged against them.

When will Americans wake up to the fact that their government wages illegal wars of aggression at the expense of their children and grandchildren?

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The CIA tried to kill Castro with a TB infected scuba suit

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© National Security Archive
Fidel Castro scuba diving at the Bay of Pigs on a trip with American James Donovan in 1963.

The CIA reportedly came up with some outlandish plots to kill former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, but this could just be the craziest yet. The US National Security Archive published information that Washington tried to give Castro a diving suit contaminated with tuberculosis.

The National Security Archive alleges that the US government contacted lawyer James Donovan to conduct secret negotiations with Castro. Given Donavan’s connections to the Cuban leader, the CIA believed they could use this to their advantage to try and assassinate Castro.

“At some point during Donovan’s negotiations with Castro” several officials in the covert operations division devised a plan to have Donovan be the unwitting purveyor of a diving suit and breathing apparatus, respectively contaminated with Madura foot fungus and tuberculosis bacteria, as a gift for Castro,” a passage from the National Security Archive reveals

However, the plan was ultimately shelved after Donovan’s handler Milan Miskovsky, a CIA lawyer, told him to make sure that the diving suit he had managed to obtain for Castro was not tampered with by the CIA.

© National Security Archive
Fidel Castro and James Donovan at the Bay of Pigs. Castro is wearing the scuba-diving watch given to him by Donovan.
Donovan met with Castro in 1963 and during one of those meetings, handed over a diving suit and a watch as a gift. The diving suit was chosen because both Donovan and Castro enjoyed diving. However, the suit was not contaminated following Miskovsky’s tipoff.Donovan is the central figure in the Oscar-nominated movie, “Bridge of Spies,” with his role in the film played by actor Tom Hanks. During the film he tries to negotiate the exchange of captured American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers for Soviet intelligence agent Rudolf Abel.

While one of the most famous plots to try and kill Castro involved an exploding cigar, which was meant to blow up in his face, declassified information mentioned how the CIA also plotted to try and use the Cuban leader’s love of strawberry milkshakes to try and kill him.

© National Security Archive
Robert F. Kennedy and Donovan.
There was also another plot, which was to play on Castro’s fascination with scuba diving, the CIA reportedly invested in a number of scuba-related items. The idea was to find a shell big enough to catch his attention and to fit enough explosives to serve as a booby trap.The last attempt surfaced in 2000 when Miami exiles planned to blow up an auditorium in Panama where Castro was scheduled to give a speech.

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Remembering the Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa

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By almariam

South Africa, 1960

Remembering the Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa

On March 21, 1960, exactly 56 years ago today, a crowd estimated at five thousand (according to apartheid police 20 thousand, inflated to justify their extreme response) gathered in front of a police station in the South African township of Sharpeville in Transvaal (presently Gauteng, one of the nine provinces of South Africa). Many of the protesters had gone to the station in response to calls by organizers to defy the pass book (internal “passport” for black South Africans intended to limit their movement) laws and submit to voluntary arrest. Less than two dozen police officers were present at the station when the first group of protesters arrived.  The crowd swelled in a short time. Reinforcements with armored cars and machine guns were brought in from surrounding areas. As more protesters arrived, fighter jets were called in to fly low and buzz the crowd in an attempt to scatter it.

Protesters began throwing rocks and tried to break the police barricades. None of the protesters was armed as a judicial inquiry later confirmed.  The police responded with tear gas and batons. Apartheid police tried to arrest the leaders of the protest and scuffles broke out. A few protesters charged the gates to the station and rushed a police commander. Police opened fire on the crowd with submachine guns and assault rifles.According to official figures, police fired 705 bullets killing 69 protesters, including 8 women and 10 children. The number of wounded and otherwise injured exceeded 180, including 31 women and 19 children. The vast majority of the victims were shot in the back as they fled the scene, according to the senior district surgeon of Johannesburg who testified before a judicial inquiry.

The eyewitness accounts of the massacre cast significant doubt on the police version of events. One eyewitness reported, “There was no warning volley. When the shooting started it did not stop until there was no living thing in the huge compound in front of the police station. The police have claimed they were in desperate danger because the crowd was stoning them. Yet only three policemen were reported to have been hit by stones – and more than 200 Africans were shot down. The police also have said that the crowd was armed with ‘ferocious weapons’, which littered the compound after they fled. I saw no weapons… I saw only shoes, hats and a few bicycles left among the bodies.”

Lt. Col.  Pienaar, the commanding officer of the police reinforcements at Sharpeville, did not mince words when he spoke to The Guardian. “It all started when hordes of natives surrounded the police station. My car was struck with a stone. If they do these things they must learn their lesson the hard way.” He added, “The native mentality does not allow them to gather for a peaceful demonstration. For them to gather means violence.”  He denied giving any order to fire on the crowd.

A judicial inquiry failed to determine responsibility for the massacre. Within weeks, the supposed organizers of the protest were tried and sentenced up to 3 years.  The apartheid government declared a state of emergency. By May 1960, 18,011 alleged participants and supporters of the protest were held in detention.The Sharpeville Massacre became a milestone in South African history.The slow unraveling and dismantling of the apartheid regime began in Sharpeville. The massacre galvanized international public opinion. Opposition to apartheid regime spread throughout the world driven by coalitions of civil society and grassroots organizations.  Sharpeville stirred the imagination of black South African youth. The U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 134 which led to increasing international isolation of the apartheid regime. Coalitions of civil society and grassroots organizations mounted mass mobilizations efforts resulting in South Africa’s exclusion from the British Commonwealth in 1961. The apartheid regime responded by becoming even more repressive and consolidated its support among whites. Anti-apartheid organizations within South Africa also consolidated their roles.  The African National Congress began taking a leading role in the anti-apartheid movement and established its military wing. The long march to freedom in South Africa was underway.

International efforts to isolate and sanction the apartheid regime also took a new urgency. Foreign investors became jittery about investing in South Africa under white minority rule.  Following the Sharpeville Massacre, foreign investors took their money out of South Africa and ran. The South African economy teetered on the verge of collapse. In the coming years, increasing economic sanctions were imposed on South Africa.

The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 was enacted by the United States Congress. President Ronald Reagan vetoed the law  calling it “economic warfare”, but his veto was overridden by an overwhelming  majority of both houses of Congress. The white minority regime understood its days were numbered and majority rule inevitable.In 1996, South African President Nelson Mandela chose Sharpeville as the site for the signing of the new constitution.

Ethiopia’s “Sharpeville” 2005

On May 16, 2005, one day after the parliamentary election, the late Meles Zenawi declared a “state of emergency”  after it became clear that opposition parties had routed his “Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front” (which had cloaked its true identity in a shell organization known as the “Ethiopian Peoples Democratic Revolutionary Front”) out of office. Meles took personal command of the armed and security forces and sidelined the capital’s police with “federal police” and SWAT-type special units. Meles outlawed all public gatherings and authorized his troops to use deadly force against any and all protesters.

Despite the “state of emergency”, spontaneous demonstrations against the TPLF erupted throughout the country. Protesters were outraged by the daylight theft of that election and sought to register their dissatisfaction in non-violent protests. TPLF military, police and security forces indiscriminately fired at protesters using assault rifles in a number of locations throughout the country killing scores of unarmed demonstrators.

In 2006, under intense international pressure, Meles established an <span Inquiry Commission to investigate post-election “disturbances”. The cunning Meles was careful not to have all of the post-election “disturbances” investigated. He limited the Inquiry Commission’s investigation to incidents that occurred on June 8, 2005 in Addis Ababa and in other locations between November 1 to 10, 2005 and November 14 to 16, 2005. (See art. 2, Proclamation 478/2005.)In its investigation, the Inquiry Commission examined 16,990 documents, and received testimony form 1,300 witnesses. Commission members visited prisons and hospitals, and interviewed members of the TPLF regime over several months.

The findings of the Inquiry Commission were stunning. The Commission determined

  • Police shot and killed 193 persons and wounded 763 others on the specific dates and in the specific places identified in the Proclamation.
  • On November 3, 2005, during an alleged disturbance in Kality prison that lasted 15 minutes, prison guards fired more than 1500 bullets into inmate housing units leaving 17 dead, and 53 severely wounded. Commission Chairman Judge Frehiwot commented: “Many people were killed arbitrarily. Old men were killed while in their homes, and children were also victims of the attack while playing in the garden.”
  • Over 30,000 civilians were arrested without warrant and held in detention.

By an 8-2 vote, the Commission made specific factual findings and conclusions about the “disturbances”:

  • There was not a single protester who was armed with a gun or a hand grenade (as reported by the government-controlled media that some of the protesters were armed with guns and bombs).
  • No property was destroyed by the protesters.
  • The shots fired by government forces into crowds of protesters were not intended to disperse but to kill by targeting the head and chest of the protesters.
  •  Security forces which are alleged to be killed by demonstrators were not taken to autopsy, even there is no evidence of either photograph or death certificate showing the reason of death and couldn’t be produced for police as opposed to that of civilians.

There are two astonishing facts about the massacres of June and November, 2005. The first is that the policemen sent out to contain the “disturbances” literally had a police riot shooting up anything that moved in the streets. The second is the manifest undercount of the actual fatalities and casualties of the massacres. In public presentations, Inquiry Commission Chairman Judge Frehiwot Samuel indicated that the Commission’s charge prevented it from including evidence of casualties and fatalities that occurred in close proximity to the dates and places set forth in the Proclamation. There is little doubt that a full and comprehensive investigation of the post-election “disturbances” in 2005 would reveal casualty and fatality figures that are many times the number reported in the Commission’s report.

A study commissioned by the Meles regime later revealed that there is certified list of 237 killers in the Meles Massacres of 2005.

Unlike the Sharpeville Massacre, following the Meles Massacre of 2005, the international community took no action to bring Meles Zenawi to justice. None of the killers of the 193 unarmed protesters (over twice as many people killed in the Sharpeville massacre) and their bosses who authorized the massacres were ever brought the bars of justice. Neither Meles nor his regime was sanctioned by the donors and loaners. In its March 2006 Human Rights Report, the U.S. barely mentioned the Meles Massacres. “After the May elections, serious human rights abuses occurred…  result[ing] in widespread riots and excessive use of force by the police and military.”  There were no U.N. resolutions condemning the massacres.  The U.N. Security Council did not invoke its power under Article 16 of the Rome Statute to direct the International Criminal Court Prosecutor to indict Meles Zenawi and his accomplices on charges of crimes against humanity.  (The Security Council authorized the indictment of Sudanese president Omal al-Bashir in 2008.)

In the U.S. Congress, Representative Chris Smith introduced H.R. 5680  to “encourage and facilitate the consolidation of security, human rights, democracy, and economic freedom in Ethiopia.” Human Rights Watch was one of the very few international organizations that stood up and documented the crimes against humanity committed in the Meles Massacres.

In the months following the 2005 elections, Zenawi went on a rampage of arrests and detentions. He jailed nearly all of the leading opposition leaders, civic society organizers, human rights advocates and journalists in the country on trumped up treason charges. He passed “laws” clamping down on independent journalists and newspapers and criminalized civil society institutions.

By 2010, Meles was ready for electoral revenge. He held an election in May of that year and declared his party had won 99.6 percent of the parliamentary seats. He made a laughing stock of himself and his regime by making such a silly claim. Meles’ grandiose fantasies continued. He claimed with a straight face that the Ethiopian economy had been growing by 11.7 percent over the past decade. His minions, loaners and donors  continued chimed in and continued to parrot the canard of double-digit growth. I proved beyond a shadow of doubt that the claim of double digit growth over the past decade by Meles, his regime, the World Bank, the so-called “Development Assitance Group” (whom I affectionately call the “international poverty pimps”, USAID and others has been a boldfaced lie, a damned lie and a statislie (statistical lie.)

The real tragedy of the Meles Massacres was the fact that Meles was rewarded with billions in aid by Western countries.  The U.S. increased its aid to his regime from nearly $1.8 billion in 2005 to nearly $3.5 billion in 2008.   In 2011, “Britain chose Ethiopia to be its biggest recipient of development aid during the next four years.”

“Sharpevilles”, Africa 

Every year there are hundreds of “Sharpevilles” taking place in Africa. Human Rights Watch has documented large scale extrajudicial killings in the vast majority of sub-Saharan African countries. One need only pick up the latest Human Rights Watch report to see the recurrence of “Sharpevilles” in Africa. In Darfur, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere in Africa. Extrajudicial killings by regime security, military and police officers in Africa are so commonplace, the world has turned its face away to avoid having its mind and heart scarred forever.

In August 2012, black South African police officers fired on protesting miners in Marakina in north west South Africa killing 44 dead and leaving at least 78 injured.  (Watch actual footage of the incredible heart wrenching massacre as unarmed protesters are cut down by machinegun fire.)   President Jacob Zuma said, “We are shocked and dismayed at this senseless violence. We believe there is enough space in our democratic order for any dispute to be resolved through dialogue without any breaches of the law or violence.” I wonder if Zuma would have said the same about the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre.

In May 2014, the police and security officials of the ruling Thugtatorship of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (T-TPLF) massacred 47 unarmed university and high school students in the town of  Ambo 80 miles west of Ethiopia’s capital (Ambo Massacres). There has been little international outrage over the massacres and no one has called for an investigation. The killers roam the streets free just as the killers of the Meles Massacres of 2005 walk the streets free.

Evil without borders

I do not believe the Sharpeville Massacre, the Meles Massacres,  the Marakina Massacre, the Ambo Massacres and other massacres in Africa are random events. I believe all massacres are well calculated crimes. The apartheid regime in the Sharpeville Massacre and Meles in the 2005 massacres used extreme violence as a tactic to prove to the population that they will kill and destroy anything in their path to cling to power.  The Sharpeville massacre was the white minority government’s way of “teaching the kaffirs a lesson they will never forget”.  Meles’ and his T-TPLF’s  aim was not much different. They wanted to teach their opposition a lesson they will not forget by indiscriminately massacring men, women and children in the streets and in their homes. Meles and his T-TPLF massacred with deliberation and calculation and sought to break the backbone of the opposition and make sure that no opposition will ever rise again. They wanted to teach the university and high school students in the Ambo Massacres that they will commit crimes against humanity to cling to power. Had Meles and his accomplices been held accountable for the 2005 massacres, there would have been no Ambo Massacres!

The legacy of evil left by apartheid still menaces South Africa. There are some who believe South Africa is so deeply divided that it is “a ticking time bomb”. According to one longitudinal survey (survey conducted every  year since 2003), nearly two decades after the end of white minority rule, 43.5% of South Africans rarely or never speak to someone of another race. Little more than a quarter (27.4%) interact with a person of another race always or often on ordinary weekdays, while 25.9% do so sometimes. Less than one in five (17.8%) South Africans always or often socialize with people of other races in their homes or in the homes of friends. A further 21.6% do so sometimes, and more than half (56.6%) rarely or never socialize across race lines.

The legacy of evil left by Meles Zenawi silently grows like cancer in the “Kililistans (Ethiopia’s equivalent of South Africa’s “Bantustans”) he created.  In the rest of Africa, ethnic, religious, linguistic and regional and other divisions are ticking time bombs that continue to explode with increasing frequency. The latest example of ethnic powder keg is South Sudan where campaigns by government and rebel forces have resulted in the destruction of scores of villages, indiscriminate killings of tens of thousands of civilians, rapes of untold numbers of women and girls and the commission of other crimes against humanity. The legacy of Meles and the T-TPLF is ethnic federalism, a fire they have lit which one day will consume them.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing and to…”

Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I would add that evil also triumphs when each individual makes a conscious decision to hear no evil, see no evil and say no evil.

It seems to me that in the course of human events, most people face their own “defining moments” when they least expect it. Often that “moment” arrives when we are forced to make a choice between doing good, doing evil or remaining indifferent to good and evil because we just do not care. Not making a choice or indifference is the easiest choice to make. It requires no thinking at all. The choice between good and evil is paralyzing not because there is actual moral ambiguity or uncertainty in choosing but because evil is so much more attractive, alluring and appears to offer greater rewards. Choosing evil is the second easiest choice. It requires no moral thinking. Evil is good. Greed is good. Corruption is good. They are the easiest pathways to riches.

To stand for the truth, what is good and right is the hardest choice of all because they require moral clarity and courageous acts of conscience. One must have fundamental convictions and moral principles to speak the truth and to do good and the right thing and in so doing define the moment instead of being defined by the moment. In the face of evil, the question in our consciences is always a clear one. We can choose to be silent. We can choose to be apologists and accomplices of evil. We can choose to blindfold ourselves in the face of evil or get in the faces of evil doers. We have a choice to damn evil, condone it or openly accept it.

I chose to damn the Meles Massacres. The Meles Massacres of June and November 2005 were defining moments for me as an individual. I had to make a moral choice in the face of the evil perpetrated by Meles and his cohorts and take a stand. I explained why I decided not to keep quiet in the face of evil in my remembrance of the victims of the Meles Massacres in my 2010 Huffington Post commentary, Remember the Slaughter of November 2005.
After I learned about the Meles Massacres, my initial reaction was total disbelief. It can’t be true! My disbelief slowly gave way  to dismissiveness. These things always happen in Africa. C’est la vie! Depression and dejection followed dismissiveness. Who is this monster Meles?  Until the massacres, I had known virtually nothing about Meles or his so-called TPLF. My interest in Ethiopian politics until 2005 was marginal. I vaguely remember writing a piece on Meles and his cabal in Ethiopian Review Magazine in the 1990s. I don’t remember the details but I believe the crux of my argument was that Meles and his regime should be given the benefit of the doubt as they sought to implement their promised democratic reforms and so on.

I tried to forget about the victims of the Meles Massacres. I could not. A strange surreal feeling took hold of me. It was almost like the victims were communicating with me to speak up for them. After I saw the photographs of the bullet-ridden photographs of the massacred victims, I cried my eyes out. A little voice in my conscience which whispered to me. “How can you keep silent when your people are massacred? How can you be so indifferent? So selfish?”

Disgust propelled me into decision making. But what can I do? What can I say? Then a flash of inspiration: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.” There is one tiny, little thing I can do to fight EVIL. Use my pen (more accurately, my computer keyboard.)

On March 31, 2007, almost 8 years ago to the week, I wrote my “manifesto” and explained why I have decided to fight evil in a commentary entitled,The Hummingbird and the Forest Fire: A Diaspora Morality Tale”. The message I tried to communicate was a simple one. “You just need to be a flea against injustice. Enough committed fleas biting strategically can make even the biggest dog uncomfortable and transform even the biggest nation.”

I write to keep fresh in the minds of my readers the crimes that were committed in the Meles Massacres and the Ambo Massacre of university and high school students. I also write to keep alive the memories of the  Sharpeville Massacres, the Marakina Massacres, the Darfur Massacres, the Kenya Massacres of 2007 and all of the other massacres that are being committed in Africa today. I write to remind all who have not completely lost faith in humanity and have fallen into despair that it is possible for hummingbirds and fleas to make a difference.

Am I naïve enough to believe that my lone voice in the wilderness will make any difference whatsoever to stop massacres in Africa or rehabilitate African thugtators?  Do I really believe I can end the culture of impunity in Africa? Of course not.

But I believe in sending “ripples of hope” on the Ethiopian lake and African sea of despair as Robert Kennedy eloquently expressed it: “Thousands of unknown men and women in Europe resisted the occupation of the Nazis and many died, but all added to the ultimate strength and freedom of their countries. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage such as these that the belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man [woman] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”  The fact of the matter is that I am not writing to persuade or convince African thugtators to do or not do anything. I am writing for future generations of Ethiopians and Africans to believe, as I do passionately, in the rule of law, respect for fundamental human rights and democratic governance. Lest you not judge me, I have never denied that I am a quixotic Ethiopian or a utopian Ethiopian.  I wear both badges proudly.All that is necessary for EVIL to be defeated in Africa is for enough young African men and women  to do something good to end the culture of criminality and impunity.

It is characteristic of dictatorships to massacre their opposition as a demonstration of strength. History, however, shows that massacres are often manifestations of weakness, vulnerability and fear of popular uprising by oppressive regimes. South Africans were not intimidated by the Sharpeville massacre; they came out in full force to challenge the pass laws in every major city despite the fact that the masters of apartheid unleashed unspeakable violence against them. Sharpeville energized and inspired all freedom-loving South Africans to fight against apartheid with determination. There would have not been a Steve Biko but for the Shrapeville Massacre.I believe in interconnectedness of events. When the Rwandan Genocide occurred in 1994, much of the world kept quiet. President Bill Clinton said two decades after that genocide, “If we’d gone in sooner, I believe we could have saved at least a third of the lives that were lost…it had an enduring impact on me.” That would have been 300 thousand Rwandans saved. The African Union said, “We see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”Because of silence and inaction to prevent the Rwandan Genocide, there was the Darfur Genocide in the Sudan in 2003. The regime of Omar al-Bashir carried out mass ethnic cleansing against Darfur’s non-Arabs causing the deaths of at least one-half million people from combat, starvation, displacement and other acts of war. Crimes against humanity continue to this day in Darfur.When Meles Zenawi ordered the massacre of hundreds of people following the 2005 election, he knew he could do so with impunity. He learned from the Rwandan and Darfur Genocides that no African “leader” has ben held accountable for committing massacres. Meles’ disciples committed the Ambo Massacres in 2014 because they learned the art of massacre from their late boss.Uhuru Kenyatta and his accomplices used criminal organizations to commit crimes against humanity after the 2007 elections because they saw Meles Zenawi and al-Bashir get away with mass murder just a few years earlier.

In 2010, Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire refused to give up power after he was decisively defeated in the polls. For five months, he directed his supporters to commit massive human rights violations against his opponents. French troops arrested him and he is now awaiting trial in the International Criminal Court. Gbagbo gambled on impunity and lost. He will be facing trial in the International Criminal Court.

In 2012, the Marakina Massacres occurred because the leadership of the African National Congress knew it could not be held accountable for its actions or omissions. How on God’s green earth is it possible, is it conceivable for a black police force in South Africa to mow down a crowd of protesters with machineguns? HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE!?! When I think of that question and watch that video, I fall in total despair for the continent. If the Marakina Massacres can happen in South Africa in 2012, the land where the Sharpeville Massacres took place over one-half century ago, why should it be any wonder if similar massacres happen in Ethiopia in May 2015 or at any other time in the rest of Africa?

The fact of the matter is that “Sharpevilles” occur in Africa every day. No one wants to talk about them or take decisive action to prevent them because the criminals are black, not white. African thugtators have the gall to come out and say in public, “Sitting African leaders should be exempt from accountability for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.” That was the argument the marionette prime minister of Ethiopia and his malaria-researcher-cum-foreign minister made in October 2013.  Giving so-called African leaders a “get out of jail card” is a double standard many Africans and non-Africans in high offices are comfortable with. Otherwise, there would have been universal condemnation of the Zuma Government in South Africa for the Marakina Massacres as there was during the Sharpeville Massacres. The same for the T-TPLF regime for the Ambo Massacres of 2014.

Crimes against humanity and genocide continue to occur today in the Central African Republic as well as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and of course, in Ethiopia.  Africa used to be called the “Dark Continent” because much was not known about the continent to outsiders. Africa remains today the “Dark Continent” because is enveloped by the darkness of crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and thugtatorships.It could happen again: Fighting “Afrimenesia”  and “Ethiomensia” and the duty to remember

As I remember the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960, I also remember the Marakina Massacre of 2013 and the Meles Massacres of 2005, the Ambo Massacres of 2014 and all the rest. It is easy to lull oneself into self-deception and say it’s all a fluke, isolated occurrences.  People who face constant suffering would rather forget than remember the past. It is too painful to remember. It is easier to forget or even doubt the occurrences of massacres. Younger generations may also find it incredible that such crimes could have possibly occurred.

It has been said that “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I harbor great fear that “Afrimenesia” and “Ethiomenisia” (two new words I have coined to describe what I observe to be collective amnesia about crimes against humanity) will overwhelm the younger and coming generations of Africans. The crimes of the past must be scrutinized with rigorous historical analysis so that the younger and coming generations could learn from it.  That is why it is important for young Africans to remember the Sharpeville Massacre, the Marakina Massacre and Meles Massacres and the others. Understanding the root causes of those atrocities and keeping the memories of the victims alive is the most powerful way of helping future generations prevent massacres. The historical lessons to be learned are identifying and recognizing those beliefs and patterns of actions and omissions that lead to the commission of grievous crimes against humanity and preventing them.

I hope to teach a few young Africans, particularly Ethiopians, through my weekly “sermons” (as some affectionately refer to my commentaries) that there are times when it is right to stand up for one’s beliefs, to trust in one’s own judgment and point an index finger at criminals against humanity and shout as loudly as possible, “J’accuse!” It is right to stand up for right and to right government wrongs. It is wrong to stand silent as the rights of the defenseless are wronged.

It takes a whole lot of people to be engaged to bring about change. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.” Change must come  from informed and civilized debates and discussions. Change that is born from ignorance is stillborn change. Change that is born from enlightenment is durable, lasting and humane. That is why Africa’s young people (“Cheetahs”) should take the words of Africa’s newest snake oil salesmen (“Old Hippos”) with a grain of salt. They should embark on their own journey to build their own brave new Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa…

Albert Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” It could be equally said that Africa has been made a dangerous place to live — with rampant crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes — not because of the evil dictators alone, but more importantly because not enough good African people, particularly young ones, (and friends of Africa) are willing to stand up, speak out and do something about gross human rights violations on the continent.

There is an entrenched and pervasive culture of impunity in Africa’s officialdom.  Those in power feel that they can commit any act or crime and get away with it. Africa’s  “leaders” believe they are above the law, indeed they are the law. This mentality and culture of impunity must end, and a new civic culture based on strict observance of the rule of law, civility and good governance must be instituted.As I remember the Sharpeville Massacre, my essential message to young South Africans, Ethiopians and other young people in the continent is the same one Steve Biko (the late South African student leader who founded the Black Consciousness Movement to empower and mobilize the urban black population) gave to my generation: “The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

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Remembering the Armenian Genocide

NOVANEWS

By almariam

Author’s Note:

The Armenian Genocide which began one hundred years ago this week inside present-day Turkey will be remembered worldwide on April 24. That Genocide began with a roundup of Armenian intellectuals, clergy,  educators, writers, community leaders and other notable members of the Armenian community in Constantinople, (renamed Istanbul in 1923), the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

I write this commentary in remembrance of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 not because a small Armenian community has made its home in Ethiopia for well over a century.  Neither am I writing because I had Ethiopian-Armenian school friends in my youth. I am also not writing because I have today friends, colleagues, students and acquaintances who are Armenian, Ethio-Armenian or of Armenian heritage.

I remember the Armenian Genocide today compelled by a simple conviction: If there had been world outrage, accountability and decisive preventive and preemptive action against the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide, the first genocide of the 20th Century, which began on April 24, 1915 and resulted in the deaths of some 1.5 million Armenians, I believe the Rwandan Genocide which began on April 7, 1994, 79 years later to the month, and resulted in the deaths of some one million people would not have happened. Indeed, if there had been world outrage, accountability and decisive preventive and preemptive action against the perpetrators of the genocide of the Herero people of Namibia [South-West Africa, the German imperial protectorate until the end of WWI] in which tens of thousands, possibly as many as 100,000, of Africans were exterminated, the Armenian Genocide may have been averted.  When German Supreme Commander Lothan van Trotha issued his infamous October 1904 extermination order against the Herero people, he declared: “The  Herero are no longer German subjects. [They] must leave the country.  Within the German borders, every Herero with or without guns, with or without cattle will be shot.” Trotha vowed to drive Herero women and children to their deaths in the parched Omaheke Desert. In 1914, the Ottoman-German Alliance was established. In 1915, the Ottoman Empire adopted the German extermination plan of the Herero people including deportation (Armenians are no longer citizens of the Ottoman State) and marching tens of thousands of Armenian men, women and children to their deaths in the Syro-Arabian Desert.

If there had been world outrage, accountability and decisive preventive and preemptive action against the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide during WW I, I believe the Holocaust of WW II would have been unlikely. Hitler took his cue for the extermination of millions of Jews in Poland and other parts of eastern Europe from the Armenian Genocide. On November 24, 1945, The Times of London, reported a chilling quote from Hitler just before he invaded Poland in August 1939. Hitler declared, “Our strength is in our quickness and our brutality…What the weak European civilization thinks about me does not matter…. I have given the order, and will have everyone shot who utters one word of criticism… Thus for the time being I have sent to the East only my Death’s Head units, with the order to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of the Polish race or language. Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?” (Emphasis added.)

The answer to Hitler’s question is simple: All decent people around the world who are outraged by man’s inhumanity to man still talk to day of the extermination of the Armenians during the period 1915-1923. So do all people who reject the ignoble maxim, “Homo homini lupus” (Man is wolf to man). 

Historical ties between Ethiopia and Armenia 

Relations between Ethiopia and Armenia go back to the First Century AD when the Axumite Empire flourished in Ethiopia. Since the late Nineteenth Century, Ethiopia has been a haven for small groups of Armenians fleeing Ottoman persecution. Some historians suggest the Armenian community in Ethiopia increased following the Ottoman massacres in 1895. Ethiopian Emperor Johannes IV is also said to have invited Armenians fleeing Ottoman persecution to come and live in Ethiopia. During the reign of Emperor Menelik II,  50 Armenians lived in Addis Ababa. It is said that the Armenians were accomplished goldsmiths, traders and architects. Following the 1905 Armenian-Tatar (Azerbajan) massacres, more Armenians reportedly found their way to Ethiopia.

In 1923, H.I.M. Haile Selassie visited Jerusalem. As he walked through Jerusalem’s Armenian quarter, he noticed a musical band of 40 young Armenian men playing. He learned they were orphans of the Armenian Genocide. He also learned of their financial difficulties and offered to adopt them. He got permission from the Armenian Patriarch and brought them back to Ethiopia. These young men were later known as “arba lijoch” (forty children). In time, they formed the imperial brass band.  Kevork Nalbandian, their band leader, is credited with composing the Ethiopian Imperial National Anthem “Teferi Marsh, Ethiopia Hoy  (‘Ethiopia, be happy’)” which was performed by the young Armenians during H.I.M. Haile Selassie’s coronation on November 2, 1930.  That national anthem was played at official ceremonies until the military takeover in 1974. (To listen to the instrumental version of that anthem CLICK HERE.) The original group of Armenians and their children proved to be productive, successful and loyal citizens engaged in  a  variety of economic, social and cultural activities in Ethiopia.

Historically, Ethiopian and Armenian Christians have been part of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the second largest Christian church in the world. There is also scholarship suggesting exchange of knowledge between Armenians and Ethiopians dating back hundreds of years. In a seminal study on “Ethiopic’s influence on the development of the Armenian alphabet” in the International Journal of Ethiopia Studies (Vol. I, No. 1), Ayele Bekerie argues, “Examination of the writing systems of the two countries reveal remarkable intellectual and cultural studies.”

Many Ethio-Armenians were forced to leave when the Derg military junta seized power in 1974 and confiscated their properties. Many moved to the U.S. and Canada.

The “controversy” over and the incontrovertible facts about the Armenian Genocide

Was genocide committed by the Ottoman Government against Armenians during 1915-1923?

What happened to Armenians in Ottoman Turkey between 1915-1923?

When the Ottoman Empire began breaking up in 1915 during WW I, Turkish leaders calculated the minority Christian Armenian population in their eastern provinces would join  Russia and fight against them. The Turkish authorities preemptively ordered mass deportations of Armenians and implemented a campaign of systematic persecutions including large-scale massacres. It is estimated that as many as “1.5 million ethnic Armenians died from a combination of forced marches into the desert, starvation and killings by Ottoman Turk soldiers and the police.”  Another one-half million became refugees in Russia, the United States and elsewhere creating the “Armenian Diaspora”. There is no substantial historical evidence that supported the official belief  in 1915 that the Armenian population in Turkey would rise up in rebellion against the Ottoman state or side with Russia and war against Turkey and its ally Germany. (To view a 60 Minute segment on the Armenian Genocide,CLICK HERE. For a brief historical overview of the Armenian Genocide, CLICK HERE.)

The Turkish Government for a century has denied Armenians in Turkey were ever the victims of genocide or  a campaign of extermination. According to the Turkish Government narrative, a million and half Armenians just died fighting on the side of the Russians, in local skirmishes or as tragic casualties of WW I. The Turkish Government admits some “atrocities” were committed, just as in any other war; but vehemently denies  any Armenians died as part of a genocide campaign.

The Turkish Government’s denial is based on “factual and legal” grounds. According to the Turkish Ambassador to the U.S., Nabi Sensoy, evidence of mass graves and discovery of large concentrations of buried human skeletal remains in historically Armenian areas simply provide proof of the “tragedies of war”. Sensoy described large-scale Armenian deaths beginning in 1915 as deaths that occurred “during the deportations” and “things that happened on the road [to deportation]”. He argued, “There was no death march of Armenians”  but “tragic things happened”,  including the fact that “many people perished under the deprivation of the first world war”.

Sensoy’s legal argument on the non-occurrence of genocide borders on the absurd. For Sensoy, the fact of large-scale massacres or deaths of Armenians in and of itself does not prove genocide; it merely proves the occurrence of large numbers of deaths. He argued, “The most important thing is the intent. The killings is something else. It happened on both sides. But whether it constitutes genocide, is another matter. It is a legal word and it should not be lightly used. There was no intention of annihilating  in whole or in part the Armenian population.”  Implicit in Sensoy’s argument is that there was no crime of genocide under international law in 1915, and as a matter of law Turkey could not have committed genocide.

Raphael Lemkin coined the word “genocide” to describe systematic mass killings of Jews and others by the Nazis. For a century, the Turkish Government has been fighting tooth and nail to prevent the use of the word “genocide” to describe the crimes against humanity committed against the Armenians in Turkey during the 1915-1923 period. They would accept any word but “genocide” to describe what happened during that period.The term “genocide” was incorporated into the 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide.

Under contemporary international legal standards, liability for genocide extends to those who “planned, instigated, ordered, committed or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution” of acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, etc.  Of course, Sensoy is wrong in his legal analysis.  The “intent” he is talking about is generally referred to in the law as “malice” (a party’s intention to do injury to another). Such intent (malice) could be expressed [deliberate and calculated intention to commit annihilation of a group for ethnic, racial or other reasons], or implied [when inferences and imputations can be made from the acts and circumstances of the crime committed]. For instance, shooting randomly into a crowd or an occupied dwelling without the intention, deliberation or plan to kill any specific person and causing deaths does not mean murder was not committed. The fact that official written orders were not issued under seal to massacre nine thousand Armenians and throw them into the river does not negate the fact that the mass killings were the result of a calculated official conspiracy to cleanse Armenians from Turkish soil. Indeed, there is no need for speculation because there is substantial documentary and preserved testimonial evidence to prove the Ottoman Government’s expressed and implied intent to ethnically  and religiously cleanse its minority Christian Armenian population by any means necessary.

What are the uncontested facts of the Armenian Genocide?

One must refer to the documented and independently gathered and verified  historical facts of the period  to determine what actually happened to Armenians in Turkey between 1915-1923. The record evidence of genocidal acts is overwhelming. On August 4, 1915, the New York Times reported, “Nine Thousand Armenians Massacred and Thrown into Tigris”; they were shot and thrown in the river. On August 18, 1915, the New York Times reported, “Armenians are sent to perish in the desert; Turks Accused of Plan to Exterminate Whole Population.” (Emphasis added.)  On August 20, 1915, the New York Times reported, “In one village, 1000 men, women and children are reported to have been locked in a wooden building and burned to death.”  On August 27, 1915, the New York Times reported “Turks Depopualte Towns of Armenia.”  On September 24, 1915, the New York Times reported,

The records of the [U.S.] State Department are replete with detailed reports from American Consular officers in Asia Minor, which give harrowing tales of the treatment of the Armenian Christians by the Turks and the Kurds. These reports have not been made public. They indicate that the Turk has undertaken a war of extermination on Armenians, especially those of the GREGORIAN Church, to which about 90 percent of the Armenians belong. The Turkish Government originally ordered the deportation of all Armenians , but some time ago, after representations had been made by [U.S. Secretary of State Henry] Morgenthau, the Ottoman Government gave assurances that the order would be modified so as not to embrace Catholic and Protestant Armenians.” (Emphasis added.)

Over 194 documented articles on the Armenian Genocide appeared in the New York Times alone in 1915!

The United States Government was fully aware of the Armenian Genocide but turned a blind eye. U.S Secretary of State Henry Morgenthau wrote:

I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared with the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915…. When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact.” (Emphasis added.)

Denying the undeniable fact of the Armenian Genocide

Though the fact of the Armenian Genocide is vigorously disputed by Turkey, its occurrence is recognized as fact by many countries including Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and the Holy See. Dozens of other regional governments (regional parliaments in particular countries) have also recognized what the Armenians call the Medz Yeghern (Great Calamity) as genocide. (Interestingly and cynically, the Turkish media has sought to capitalize on this characterization to suggest that Armenians themselves regard the events of 195-1923 as a “great calamity” and not genocide.) In the United States, 43 of the 50 states have issued individual proclamations recognizing the Armenian Genocide. In 2010, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs recognized the massacres of 1915 as “genocide”.

On January 19, 2008 U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama in a statement said,

As a U.S. Senator, I have stood with the Armenian American community in calling for Turkey’s acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide…. As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.” (Emphasis added.)

(Another one of the innumerable broken human rights promises of Barack Obama!)

For the past decade, the Turkish Government has been engaged in a relentless public relations and propaganda campaign to convince the world the Armenian Genocide did not occur.  It seems to have succeeded domestically with its own population.  A recent poll conducted by the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, an Istanbul research organization, found that only 9 percent of Turks thought the government should label the atrocities a genocide and apologize for them.

The Turkish Government’s international public relations efforts to deny the Armenian Genocide has been  fierce but largely unsuccessful. They have tried all the tricks in the book. According to reports, in 2007, Turkey paid “DLA Piper $1.2 million for the year and an additional $750,000 to the Livingston Group” to lobby and defeat measures to acknowledge the Armenia Genocide. (Many Ethiopians recall the role DLA Piper played in lobbying to defeat an Ethiopia human rights bill in the U.S. Congress. To read my 2007 16-page letter challenging DLA Piper, CLICK HERE.)The Director of the Armenian National Committee of America, Aram Hamparian , was “especially troubled by the provision in the contract that [sought] to export Turkey’s Criminal Code Article 301 to the United States by requiring DLA Piper to prevent even ‘debate’ on issues Turkey considers harmful to its image. This requirement, which falls far outside the American democratic tradition, is, sadly, entirely consistent with Turkish government’s efforts to suppress freedom of expression by criminalizing speech that ‘insults Turkishness.’”

The Turkish Government has spared no effort to slander, malign and demonize anyone who dares to tell the truth about the Armenia Genocide. Last week, Pope Francis called the 1915 massacres of Armenians “the first genocide of the 20th century.” He said, “Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.” The pope exhorted the world not to forget the “senseless slaughter” of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks.

Pope Francis’ statement drove the Turkish Government totally ape _ _ _t. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu lambasted and demonized Pope Francis. “An evil front is being formed before us… Now the pope has joined it and these plots… We won’t allow our nation to be insulted through history, we won’t allow Turkey to be blackmailed through historic disputes.”  He recalled his ambassador to the Vatican.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkish foreign minister, was casually dismissive. “It is not possible to accept the pope’s statement, which is far from any legal or historical reality… Religious authorities are not the places to incite resentment and hatred with baseless allegations.”

Turkey’s minister for European affairs, Volkan Bozkir, stooped low and came unhinged. “Pope Francis is an Argentine… Argentina was a country that welcomed the leading executors of the Jewish Holocaust, Nazi torturers, with open arms… In Argentina the Armenian diaspora controls the media and business.”” How ironic! Bozkir is quick to recognize and demonize those he claims are indifferent to the Jewish Holocaust but harshly criticizes those who recognize the Armenian Genocide. Bozkir probably has not heard the old saying that “when you point a finger at someone, three fingers are pointing at yourself.”

Turkish President Recep T. Erdogan was playing blame the victim game and making light of the Armenian Genocide. He basically said he does not give a damn what the world thinks about the Armenian Genocide. It will go in one ear and out the other. “The Armenian diaspora is trying to instill hatred against Turkey through a worldwide campaign on genocide claims ahead of the centennial anniversary of 1915… If we examine what our nation had to go through over the past 100 to 150 years, we would find far more suffering than what the Armenians went through.” He also said, “There are 100,000 Armenians who are either Turkish citizens or not citizens in my country. Have they been submitted to any different treatment?… They benefit from all kinds of opportunities. We could deport them, but we don’t. They are guests in our country… Whatever decision they take it will go in one ear and go out the other… It is not possible for the Turkish Republic to accept such a sin, such a crime.”

Erdogan’s incredible feat of logical absurdity must not be overlooked. Erdogan wants to prove no genocide of Armenians occurred in 1915 by proving that no genocide or deportation against them occurred in 2015! Of course, he does not explain how it is that the Armenian population in Turkey which was at least 2 million, and possibly more,  in 1915 has been reduced to a “guest” population of a mere 100,000 in 2015.

Alternatively, it appears the Turkish Government wants to prove no genocide occurred against the Armenians by demonizing and vilifying  those who assert the occurrence of genocide!  But Pope Francis is the second pontiff to call a spade, a spade. In 2001, Pope John Paul II was equally blunt without using the “G-word”. He said, Roman Catholics were “appalled by the terrible violence done to the Armenian people who were brought to the brink of annihilation.” In his prayer he implored, “Listen, O Lord ‘to the lament that rises from this place, to the call of the dead from the depths of the metz yeghern, the cry of innocent blood that pleads like the blood of Abel, like Rachel weeping for her children because they are no more.”

The fact of the Armenian Genocide is recognized not only by world religious leaders and politicians but also  prominent international scholars, researchers and historians. In 1997 the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) passed a resolution unanimously recognizing the Ottoman massacres of Armenians as genocide. IAGS affirmed that the “mass murder of over a million Armenians in Turkey in 1915 is a case of genocide which conforms to the statutes of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.”

Turkey doth protest too much, methinks on the issue of the Armenian Genocide 

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” wrote Shakespeare in Hamlet.  Turkey’s ceaseless and vehement protests about the non-occurrence of genocide against Armenians and its irrational defensiveness on the genocide issue has had the opposite effect of convincing the world that genocide did in fact occur.  Shakespeare also wrote, “O! be some other name:/ What’s in a name? that which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet;/” But genocide by any other name stinks to the high heavens!

Truth be told, it is not only Turkey that has denied the occurrence of genocide.  The U.S. bears deep moral stain for its denial of the Rwandan Genocide. In 1994, the Clinton Administration was willfully ignorant of the genocidal massacres in Rwanda. Susan Rice, President Obama’s current National Security Advisor, was reluctant to recognize and argued against taking action to stop the Rwandan Genocide because she feared there could be adverse political consequences to her party in the congressional elections. Rice, with sheer moral depravity and callous indifference stated, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing [in Rwanda], what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?” (See my fully documented commentary on the denial of the Rwanda Genocide by the Clinton Administration by CLICKING HERE.)

The killings in Rwanda began on April 7 and continued well into July 1994. As early as April 23, a New York Times editorial stated, “What looks very much like genocide has been taking place in Rwanda. People are pulled from cars and buses, ordered to show their identity papers and then killed on the spot if they belong to the wrong ethnic group. Thousands of bodies have already piled up, and the killing continues despite the presence of 1,700 United Nations peacekeepers.”  President Clinton later lamented, “If we’d gone in sooner, I believe we could have saved at least a third of the lives that were lost… it had an enduring impact on me.” We could have saved at least 300,000 Rwandans from genocide!

Truth and Reconciliation: Learning from the Armenian Genocide and ending the international culture of impunity and genocide denial

The Armenian Genocide has been an open psychic wound for many Armenians. The painful memory of that the genocide continues to pass from one generation to another. It is time to end the one hundred years of denial and silence on that tragic genocide.

The greatest lesson Nelson Mandela taught the world was the vital importance of truth and reconciliation. There could not be any meaningful reconciliation between Armenians and Turks without official Turkish acceptance of the truth of the Armenian Genocide. Only the truth can heal the psychic wound that has been festering in the souls of generations of Armenians. Mandela preached forgiveness in order to heal the wounds created by the hate and racism of the apartheid system. He believed the process of forgiveness required acknowledgement on the part of the perpetrators that they have committed an offence.

When Mandela received the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, he said, “Today we reap some of the harvest of what we sowed at the end of a South African famine. And in the celebration and disappointment that attends such harvest, we know that we shall have to sow again, and harvest again, over and over, to sustain our livelihood; to flourish as a community; and for our generation to know that when we finally go to rest forever, our progeny will be secure in the knowledge that two simple words will reign: Never Again!”

The alternative to truth and reconciliation is to become prisoners of history and to let more genocides take place within an international culture of impunity and denial. Genocide denial is an invitation to genocide. If Turkey is allowed to deny the Armenian Genocide, then any other country can do the same. In fact, that has already happened. In 2007, Omar al-Bashir, learning his lesson from the Turks,  denied his government has been complicit in any ethnic cleansing or genocide in Darfour. Bashir said there is no such thing as the Darfour Genocide and it is all a “fabrication of [U.S. Secretary of State] Colin Powell.” Bashir said the U.S. has dual objectives in its use of the word “genocide” against the Sudan: 1) to capture  Darfur’s oil and gas riches and “put it under their custody” and 2) “separate the region of Darfur from Sudan.”

The culture of impunity and denial must end. The Turks and the world must recognize the occurrence of the Armenian Genocide. The truth of the Armenian Genocide shall make the Turks free and help heal the Armenians. 

It is important “for our generation to know that when we finally go to rest forever, our progeny will be secure in the knowledge that two simple words will reign: Never Again!” – Nelson Mandela

Posted in TurkeyComments Off on Remembering the Armenian Genocide

Protesting war crimes: Kurdish women march against Erdogan in France

NOVANEWS

Kurdish women continue to protest Ankara’s ongoing atrocities against Kurds in the mainly-Kurdish town of Cizre in Turkey’s southeast and elsewhere in the region.

Kurdish women will continue to hold protest rallies in Strasbourg against Ankara’s ongoing atrocities against Kurds living in the mainly Kurdish town of Cizre in southeastern Turkey’s Sirnak province, according to Nursel Kilic, a representative of the Kurdish Women’s Movement in Europe.

In an interview with Sputnik, Nursel Kilic, who represents the Kurdish Women’s Movement in Europe, said that the protests are being held in front of the buildings of the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights.

She recalled that in addition to Cizre, the violence shows no sign of abating in other towns throughout southeastern Turkey, where Turkish irregular troops have stepped up their activity.

Kurdish people carry flags as they march during a protest in the city of al-Derbasiyah, on the Syrian-Turkish border, against what the protesters said were the operations launched in Turkey by government security forces against the Kurds, February 9, 2016

Cizre has been under curfew for the past 76 days, which has resulted in civilians being cut off from receiving medical supplies, water and electricity, she said, adding that a total 200 Kurds were recently killed in Turkish air and artillery strikes on predominantly Kurdish towns in Turkey’s southeastern regions.

“In Cizre, the death toll included students, rights activists, journalists as well as even month-year-old babies who became a target for Turkish strikes,” Kilic said.

She also claimed that the Turkish army’s military operation against Kurds in Cizre continues despite the Erdogan administration’s words to the contrary. This, she said, has been confirmed by photos obtained by the Kurdish Women’s Movement in Europe.

“The operation is still under way despite the Turkish Interior Minister announcing the end of the operation two weeks ago. Every day we get photos from [Cizre], including those showing burned bodies of Kurds, which confirm that the operation is in full swing,” Kilic said.

She lamented the fact that Turkish authorities have prevented the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe from visiting Cizre for “security reasons.”

It seems that hurdles are being made in order to ensure that the truth will never come out at the international community level,” she added.

On February 11, Turkey’s Interior Minister Efkan Ala said that the anti-terrorist operation in Cizre had wrapped up, but that the curfew will remain in place for some time.

In December 2015, the Turkish authorities declared a curfew in a number of southeastern regions where armed clashes between Ankara’s forces and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)’s fighters continue. The Turkish General Staff has said that about 850 PKK militants have been killed since mid-December. Kurdish activists, in turn, argue that most of the dead were civilian victims.

Posted in IraqComments Off on Protesting war crimes: Kurdish women march against Erdogan in France

U.S.A: Intentionally starving poor people on food stamps

NOVANEWS
Hamilton Nolan

At the end of March, 22 states will begin imposing work requirements on people who want food stamps. Hundreds of thousands of people will likely lose their food aid.

The Wall Street Journal reports that starting on April 1, all of those states plan to reinstate a rule that had been set aside after the financial crisis led to mass unemployment: that adults with no dependents or disabilities are limited to “three months of food stamps in any three-year period—unless they work at least 80 hours a month, or meet education and training or volunteer benchmarks.”

Food stamps, by the way, are a government program that works extremely well

If people are unable to find a job, it is cruel to force them to starve, and it is foolish to make a poor, unemployed, hungry person sit through classes that will not directly lead to a job, or spend their time volunteering, for no income, simply so they can have food to eat, but no money or free time to obtain it. The likely outcome of reinstating these rules:

“The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 500,000 to one million people will lose access to food stamps this year, citing the experience in states where work requirements already returned.”

This is the human cost of all of those years of right-wing rhetoric about fairy tale “welfare queens” ripping off the system. That rhetoric was used only for momentary political gain. But it engendered a deep belief in certain parts of the public that even food is too gracious of a gift for our poorest citizens. So now, hundreds of thousands of people will go hungry, so that some other, smaller number of better-off people can believe that they are not being ripped off by people they do not know and will never see.

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