Archive | October 14th, 2016

Time for Africa to get a decision-making seat at UN

UNU

Most issues discussed at the UN are matters of life and death to residents of the global south, especially Africa. Yet beyond the long ceremonial speeches by African leaders at the General Assembly, African voices are marginalized at the UN’s top decision-making organ, the Security Council. There is a need for spirited advocacy for better representation of Africa and the global south.

The 71st Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly opened on 13 September 2016 in New York. [1]The four main themes that have been addressed by the gathered heads of state and government this year ranged from the refugee and migrant crisis, assessment of Sustainable Development Goals, climate change, global health, to the concerns over the UN Secretary General’s peace building fund. [2] While these issues have been seen as the immediate threats to global peace and security, their impact is mostly in sync and felt by countries within the global south, specifically in Africa.

Refugee crisis

To begin with, the refuge and migrant crisis has been the highlight of this year’s UN General Assembly. It’s ironical that the refugee crisis has been chosen as the main theme for this year’s UN General Assembly in the wake of an influx of refugees and asylum seekers into Europe, yet for decades past developing countries, comprising mostly of African countries, have suffered the predicaments associated with the refugee problems. According to the UNHCR developing countries continue to bear the brunt of the refugee crisis as almost 80% of the world’s refugees are found in poor countries. [3]

The number seems to be increasing following violent conflicts, famine and political instability in the region. Just in the past few weeks the UNHCR reported that South Sudanese refugees had surpassed the one million mark, further compounding the refugee crisis across the sub-region. [4] According to Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the socio-economic and human cost of hosting these huge populations of refugees is borne by poor countries that are hardly able to afford the burden of hosting them. [5] This is despite the fact that richer countries, especially in Europe and the US, have continued to turn their backs on refugees in total disregard of international humanitarian law, refugee law and human rights law.

Climate change

In 2015, China and the US respectively contributed 28.03% and 15.9% of the global carbon dioxide emissions, while none of the African countries surfaced among the top ten emitters. [6] This shows that while developed countries, with some having permanent seats at the UN Security Council, greatly contribute towards global warming, it’s the developing countries that suffer most from the consequences, ranging from famine to rising sea levels. [7]Nevertheless, despite the grave risks that global warming continues to pose to the socio-economic, political and environmental well-being of developing countries in the global south, majority of huge carbon dioxide emitters, most being veto wielding powers, have shown less commitment in the signing and ratification of global environment regimes, such as the Paris Agreement on climate change, aimed at managing global warming. [8] This fact is reiterated by the UN record that shows that only 128 countries have so far signed the Paris Agreement on climate change, with China being the only big emitter amongst 28 countries that have ratified the treaty that requires ratification of 55 states so as to come into force. [9] The US, being the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, and despite being vocal in campaigns for the reduction of global carbon emissions, has neither signed nor ratified the treaty.

Peace building fund

The UN Secretary-General’s peace building fund, set up in 2006, has also been up for deliberations during this year’s General Assembly. The fund  is a noble idea, especially due to its triple ripple effects that promote and support sustainable peace in fragile countries through local, national and international initiatives. However, the fund has continued to suffer from insufficient funding as a result of low levels of commitment by member states. This is evidenced by the fact out of the targeted $300 million for the 2017/2019 operations, only $137.6 million has so far been pledged. [10] This is likely to be a major blow to the African continent where 9 out of the current 16 active UN peacekeeping operations are ongoing. [11]

However, of major concern is the continued disregard of Africa’s views, especially by the UN Security Council, on the best approaches of tackling peace and security challenges on the continent. The negative implications of this disconnect is perhaps best illustrated by the current cynicism on the situation in Libya. In the wake of the Arab Spring that spread to Libya, the African Union persistently called for a peaceful political solution in resolving the Libyan crisis.[12] However, the UN Security Council in total disregard of the African Union unilaterally adopted Resolution 1973 in March 2011.[13] This rushed UN Security Council decision, under the aegis of responsibility to protect, sanctioned NATO air strikes on Libya without a clear understanding of political, religious, and ethnic undercurrents that defined Libya’s and by extension the region’s power balance. The consequence is destruction of Libya, in addition to creation of a protracted regional socio-economic and political crisis across the Sahel region and beyond.

Sustainable Development Goals

This year the UN General Assembly marks the first anniversary of the adoption of 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. The Assembly’s main focus during this year’s forum was reviewing the successes and challenges in implementation of the SDGs that are projected to be attained by the year 2030. [14] The goals, however, are mainly of concern to developing countries in the global south. [15] In order for these radical and transformative measures to be effective, Africa needs to be well represented at the top echelons of UN decision-making organs and agencies. The African Union for instance needs to advocate for the integration of its Agenda 2063 with the UN’s blueprint on Sustainable Development Goals to spur economic, social and political growth across the continent, while taking into account the conservation of Africa’s biodiversity.

Global health challenges

The other key agenda at the UN General Assembly involves discussion surrounding global health, with a specific focus on antimicrobial resistance. The increasing urgency to tackle global health challenges is typified by the fact that the 71st UN General Assembly is only the fourth Assembly in the UN’s history to discuss global health challenges. [16] The devastating impact of antimicrobial resistance on Africa and other developing countries was recently reiterated by Dr.Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organizations specialist on antimicrobials, who projected that by 2050 the current rate of everyday infections is likely, due to antimicrobial resistance, to claim more lives than the current cases related to cancer. [17] This is likely to be a major blow to mostly developing countries, in particular Africa, which has inadequate health infrastructures and resources to combat widespread epidemics. This in effect requires closer collaboration and involvement of the continent’s leadership in key UN organs and agencies with African countries.

Way forward for permanent representation of Africa at the UN

The paradox with regard to the annual discussions at the UN is that while majority of issues discussed are more pressing to residents of the global south, especially across the African continent, African voices, other than the long and open speeches by African leaders in the General Assembly, are rarely heard behind the scenes at the UN’s top decision-making organ. It’s within this context that there is need for spirited advocacy for better representation of Africa and other regions of the global south in the UN Security Council.

However, the impetus for UN reforms, aimed at having an Africa permanent representative(s) at the Security Council, needs to be intrinsic. The African Union, especially as the representative of the continent, should be at the forefront advocating for Africa’s interest at the UN.  The AU should adopt a common foreign policy framework, with the backing of its member states, to ensure the continent is involved in the ultimate resolutions taken by the UN Security Council, which often have an impact on the continent. The ongoing campaign for the leadership of the World Health Organization, where Africa has rallied behind the candidature of Dr.Tedros Adhanon as their preferred candidate for Director General, is already a step in the right direction for the continent.

The UN on its part, especially the Security Council, should be more open and welcoming to reforms in a clear reflection of the shifting international balance of power. This is likely help the UN avoid repeating the mistakes that led to the collapse of its predecessor, the League of Nations. The contemporary leaders of the victorious countries in the post-war era, who were vanguard states at the time that the UN was formed, must understand that the world is steadily transitioning to a multipolar systemic balance of power, at least in the economic and cultural realm, and the UN Security Council, needs to reflect this changing world in order to be a truer representative of the emerging faces and voices of a contemporary “United Nations”.

 

[1] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54912#.V-DpPlt97Mw

[2] https://www.opencanada.org/features/five-things-know-about-2016-un-gener…

[3] http://www.unhcr-centraleurope.org/en/news/2015/unhcr-report-shows-world…

[4] http://www.unhcr.org/news/latest/2016/9/57dbe2d94/refugees-fleeing-south…

[5] http://www.unhcr-centraleurope.org/en/news/2015/unhcr-report-shows-world…

[6] http://www.statista.com/statistics/271748/the-largest-emitters-of-co2-in…

[7] http://unfccc.int/files/press/backgrounders/application/pdf/factsheet_af…

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/18/obama-year-end-press…

[9] https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XXVII…

[10] https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XXVII…

[11] http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/operations/current.shtml

[12] http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php/crises/crisis-in-libya

[13] http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1973(2011)

[14] http://sd.iisd.org/events/71st-general-debate-of-un-general-assembly/

[15] http://www.uneca.org/sites/default/files/uploaded-documents/SDG/africa_r…

[16] http://www.npr.org/2016/09/18/494487297/u-n-to-take-on-antibiotic-resist…

[17] http://www.npr.org/2016/09/18/494487297/u-n-to-take-on-antibiotic-resistance-at-general-assembly

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America’s weapons of mass destruction aimed at Africa

BLU

Despite local resistance, America has set up a sophisticated military telecoms system covering more than three-quarters of the globe in the Mediterranean island of Sicily. The facility enables control of remotely piloted drones, missiles and nuclear weapons, making it the mother of all weapons of mass destruction. It affords the Pentagon eyes and ears all over Africa and the Middle East.

In Africa, as in the Middle East, the US is creating a vicious circle of war and destabilization. Libya like Iraq became a failed state after US-led regime change in 2011. Trouble and a deepening refugee crisis followed regime change. This contributed to the destabilization of North African countries and effected sub-Saharan countries. Fallout from the 2011 intervention led inexorably to the worsening situation in Libya today.

Now the vicious circle of killing and instability will run at a furious pace as the US Department of Defense (DOD) shifts the speed of war in the Middle East and Africa. A strategically important navy base located opposite Libya on the Mediterranean houses the global military telecommunications system known as MUOS.

Credit: Giuseppe Firrincieli

The MUOS (Mobile User Objective System) phases in the seamless exchange of data at higher bit rates than ever before. Sending and receiving information and encrypted messages will reach breakneck speeds for troops on the ground, in the air or at sea. The network consists of five satellites connected to four ground stations covering more than three-quarters of the globe—even reaching the Arctic. What this really means is global control of remotely piloted drones, missiles and nuclear weapons, making MUOS the mother of all weapons of mass destruction.

Credit: Giuseppe Firrincieli

The kingpin of the MUOS system is a naval base on the Italian island of Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean and closest European neighbor to Tunisia and Libya. While the three other MUOS ground stations are in Hawaii, Virginia and Australia, Sicily’s position in the Mediterranean affords the Pentagon eyes and ears all over Africa and the Middle East. This, writes Sicilian journalist Antonio Mazzeo, is “the perfect weapon for the conflicts of the twenty-first century.”

Credits: BLU. http://blublu.org

Yet Sicily is not the perfect location. A grassroots campaign organized by the local population shines a full beam on the corruption and illegality surrounding construction of the base. Sicilian residents unintimidated by US power have put up powerful resistance against the presence of MUOS in their home country.

To get a glimpse of the MUOS you must travel to the heart of south central Sicily, where olive groves make chequerboards over sun-baked hillsides, Vespas buzz past the morning tractor brigade and village streets wave a palm tree salute as the bougainvillea climbs over walls to greet you in every shade of red. In these idyllic surroundings the DOD has built its most strategically important military base for Africa and the Middle East.

The base is built on a protected nature reserve 3km from the centre of Niscemi, a town of 28,000. Upon entering theRiserva Naturale Sughereta di Niscemi, the first thing you see is a towering antenna. It’s one of 41 that make up the pre-existing Naval Radio Transmitter Facility (NRTF) military base built on this reserve in 1991.

Down a red dirt road you pass a military checkpoint, complete with camouflage painted jeeps and armed soldiers. The Italian army guards the base, a centerpiece of three 20-meter satellite dishes. The park’s cicadas chatter a staccato rhythm around the dishes. A majestic cork oak forest once stood here until the navy bulldozed the trees to clear a space for the MUOS.

All at once the cicadas break their reverie. Two soldiers approach to ask questions and check identification. This is business as usual in Niscemi. Police routinely stop and search cars, often handing out heavy fines for noncriminal offences such as CD copying or seatbelt violation.

The name Niscemi derives from Arabic. Today, the town has substantial North African communities from Tunisia and Morocco. In fact, the whole of Sicily is a mixture of different cultures—a melting pot pouring through Sicilian veins. The soil itself is a mixture. In this part of the world the distinctive terra rossa carries traces of ancient mineral dust from Africa’s Sahara and Sahel.

One thing that will not mix is the MUOS. You cannot deploy a weapon of mass destruction from inside of a melting pot. It will not work.

The people of Niscemi have opposed MUOS since construction of the base became known to them in 2009. They are vehemently against the militarization of Sicily. Over 100 US military bases exist on Italian soil—more than any other country after Japan, Germany and South Korea. Sicily is increasingly becoming a launching pad for the Pentagon’s wars across the Mediterranean. In February, Italy confirmed the US flies armed drones to Libya from Sigonella naval air station in Sicily.

While Sigonella is at once a US base as well as NATO’s biggest Mediterranean base, Niscemi is exclusively a US base. Therefore, Italian Parliament should be asked for approval of construction of the base. Parliament was not consulted.

Furthermore, MUOS builders hired by the navy lacked the crucial anti-mafia certificate required by law before building can begin. An Italian court confirmed the MUOS was constructed illegally. Unraveling the layers of corruption is unduly complicated. Certainly the DOD took full advantage of this complexity to push construction of the base past the normal legal procedures.

Amid the legal ping-pong, The DOD is depending on the Italian government to do everything in its power to make the base operational despite local opposition demanding the immediate closure of the base. There is pressure on activists too. 129 protestors received summonses for entering the base during a demonstration three years ago. Then on 5 September, the Committee No MUOS was shocked to discover personnel from the Niscemi mayor’s office illegally entered and ransacked the No MUOS headquarters.

The guerra di carta or paper war continues. The “supreme administrative court” in Sicily said the Italian government legally authorized the MUOS construction. Activists await the final word on an appeal of this de-requisition from the Supreme Court of Appeals. The court may decide to impose conditions included in the 1947 Paris peace treaties which forbid the construction of any US military installations in Italy.

Niscemi isn’t like other bases. Pre-MUOS bases use the legacy satellite system. Ramstein Air Base in Germany is a satellite relay station that supports communication between drone operators in the US and US drones in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan. Britain’s Menwith Hill Royal Air Force base uses spy satellites for US drone strikes in the Middle East and Africa. The Intercept reports Djibouti and Niger are currently the most important countries for US drone bases and military operations in North and West Africa.

The Obama administration carries out targeted killings, many of them on innocent civilians. US drones have killed hundreds of civilians under Obama and injured thousands. The US claims its recent bombing of Syrian troops was accidental. Meanwhile, between 1 August and 9 September, the US carried out over 140 airstrikes against the Islamic State (Daesh) in Libya’s town of Sirte.

MUOS technology employs a whole new satellite system built to enhance the speed and automation of war by connecting all elements of the military onto a single network. This doesn’t guarantee a safer system. The high-speed weapon of mass destruction in the Mediterranean that’s poised to attack Africa and the Middle East is not an end to mistakes. It can create a higher number of inaccuracies, with more frequency and with more acute errors.

Protestors will converge on Niscemi on 2 October for a national demonstration. The event coincides with the Keep Space for Peace global week of action against militarization. Actions will also take place in the UK, North America, Australia, Venezuela, Norway, India, South Korea, Mauritius and Canada.

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Haiti message to Donald Trump team

Getty Images

If Trump can stop a third Obama term; if Trump pledges to Haitian-Americans that when he becomes President he will stop funding the rapist UN troops in Haiti, Haitians who are undecided would vote for him. Trump will get some more Haitian-American votes if he publicly calls to end the UN presence in Haiti and supports free and fair elections.

Free Haiti’s interest converges with that of Donald Trump. We both do not want a third Obama term with the Clintons back in the White House. We are the independent thinking Haitians who want to put a wrench in the workings of imperialism in Haiti. This year, that wrench is called Donald Trump.

The Clintons and Obama brought Haiti the former crackhead and gross sexist, Michel Martelly, who ceded over 30% of Haiti lands and offshore islands to foreigners. Under Barack Obama with Hillary Clinton at the State Department and Bill Clinton as UN Special Envoy to Haiti, 30,000 Haitians were deported back to an earthquake, cholera-ravaged Haiti, overrun by white people, riding out the world economic recession at Paul Farmer’s charitable industrial complex, living behind high gates and new luxurious compounds paid for from earthquake funds and other so-called “aid to Haiti.”

If the decrees of illegally elected president, Michel Martelly, starting from when the Clintons took over Haiti, and through his presidency from 2011 to 2016, are not reversed by the next Parliament, then Haitians have lost more lands under the Obama Administration than under any other previous US president in history. More than 30% of Haiti territory has been cordoned off and placed in the hands of foreigners, most of whom are big Clinton Foundation donors. This was done when Haitians were at their most vulnerable after the apocalyptic earthquake. The Clintons and their extraction company buddies, like Frank Guistra, VCS and Newmont Mining, might yet give Haiti another terrible earthquake. At least 15% of the lands taken from Haiti are in the Northern mining belt on an earthquake fault line.

If Trump can stop a third Obama term; if Trump pledges to Haitian-Americans that when he becomes President, he will stop funding the rapist UN troops in Haiti, Haitians who are undecided would vote for this. Trump will get some more Haitian-American votes if he publicly calls to end the UN presence in Haiti and supports free and fair elections without the sort of Obama/Hillary Clinton/Cheryl Mills/Susan Rice strong-arm bullying tactics that disrespected the Haitian vote in 2010/2011 and have continued to do so in 2015 to the present.

Trump should pledge his administration would veto and stop funding the UN presence in Haiti because they’ve been there for 12 years and have brought rape, the cholera disease and devastation, not democracy. He could use that wasted imperial US millions that is funding occupation and oppression in Haiti to help suffering Black people in US cities like Baltimore, Flint Michigan, Chicago, NY, Washington D.C., to name just a few.

If Donald Trump uses his platform to say there is no reason for the UN to be in Haiti; that Haiti has one of the least violence rates in the Western Hemisphere; that the Dominican Republic is more violent than Haiti; the Bahamas is more violent than Haiti; Brazil, Mexico, Jamaica have more homicides and violence than Haiti; if Donald Trump told these truths, and stopped the warmongering Clinton-Obama trajectory in Haiti, (in AFRICOM also), than he’ll be doing Haiti and the world of suffering and exploited humans, a good turn.

If Donald Trump pledges that when he is president, he will use US power to convince the UN to pay restitution to the Haiti cholera victims and to pay to detoxify Haiti’s water, not using the same people who fouled it up and then covered up their wrongdoings, but Haitian companies, chosen by Haitians not related to the UN, the Clinton Foundation or USAID’s regular subcontracting thieves, we would ask Haitians to vote for him.

If Donald Trump would help Free Haiti reverse the damage of Obama-Clinton and void all the Martelly decrees, especially the decree that allows for open-pit mining on an earthquake fault line in the North of Haiti, he would be helping to save Haiti lives and lands and we would ask Haitians to vote for him. Free Haiti has been battling to get these issues heard for over a decade. We want the world to know Haiti doesn’t need false charity. Haiti has massive riches, rare and priceless iridium (asteroid remains), more than $8 billion in copper, the most gold in the Western Hemisphere (more than $33 billion), massive, massive oil on its lands, waters and offshore islands.

If Donald Trump is the non-establishment politician who will hear us, work with Haitians, in an environmentally safe manner, using the resources of our lands to make the ten million people in Haiti live well and comfortable in Haiti, from the assets of their own nation, not fake charity, then we are here to talk to him and tell him how we think he can beat Hillary Clinton and her promiscuous, politicians-for-sale, Clintonite team.

If Haiti resources were used for Haitians, then no Haitians would leave Haiti to immigrate to the US to look for a better life and Donald Trump would need no wall. The same is true for the entire global South.

Haitians want a stop to the US meddling in Haiti elections and illegal taking of Haiti resources. Haitians want the US occupation forces, fronted by the UN, immediately removed. The US millions are best used in the United States to help US citizens in great need, not to exploit and oppress defenseless Haitians. Haitians, like all human beings, want free and fair elections, for their votes to count and for the US oligarchs, the EU and OAS to stop manipulating Haiti elections, forcing corruption in Haiti with internationally rigged elections as was done in 2010 and 2015.

Haitian cholera victims are entitled to reparations and compensation from the UN, which admits to bringing in cholera through their troops. But the indecent Obama Administration, the Clintons and their agents have worked, to both, cover up that wrongdoing, project the blame onto Haiti pre-existing conditions that required their better care, while the Obama’s justice department insisted, in court, that the UN has blanket immunity for a civil tort, like dumping its raw feces in Haiti’s drinking water.

Haitian-Americans would more likely vote for Trump if he insisted on the UN paying due compensation to the people it harmed in Haiti and paid for the installation of locally controlled water treatment and purification systems. Haiti also battles to revoke the Free Trade Zone quota swapping the major elites do and call it “giving jobs” to Haitians. Haiti wants a stop to the unfair and plundering trade agreements and land deals, the ending of fracking and a living minimum wage for Haitians from foreign corporations in Haiti. These are small matters to the Trump campaign in the larger scheme but central, we believe, to a Trump victory in the battleground state of Florida.

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Clinton or Trump: Who is better for Africa?

Democracy Now

Clinton is part of the Establishment. It is part of her inheritance to provoke wars and control the world in league with global corporations. Nobody knows what lies behind Trump’s mask. May be he wants to “knock the shit” out of the Establishment. May be he is a “narcissist character” seeking reward in the short run. But no one who seriously cares about Africa’s liberation from Empire would support  Clinton.

Sometimes it helps to start an essay with a quote that sums up one’s position. Here is one from the English philosopher Bertrand Russell that defines my position: “A man without a bias cannot write interesting history – if indeed such a man exists.”[i] Indeed, no such person exists in the field of human sciences. So let me declare my bias upfront. I have no love for either Clinton or Trump, but as a “biased” African I’d rather have Trump than Clinton.

The Establishment

The American historian Carroll Quigley wrote a little known but brilliant book in 1949 titled The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden.[ii] Quigley explains how men of the Empire like Cecil Rhodes, Alfred Milner,Lionel CurtisRobert Brand and Adam Marris strategised to control the world; how they deliberately provoked wars – such as the Jameson Raid and the Boer War in South Africa leading to the British colonisation of South Africa. He also documented how they created the British Commonwealth of Nations, the Institute of Pacific Relations, and the US Council on Foreign Relations.

This is the “Establishment”.  Rhodes died in 1902, but the Anglo-American Establishment lives on and has mutated over time. Now it is represented by the global corporations that effectively control the world’s major resources (gold, diamonds, oil, etc.), banks including financial services, and the institutions of global governance (such as the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation).

Clinton is part of the Establishment. It is part of her inheritance to provoke wars and control the system in league with global corporations. To date Clinton has raised a total of $446.4 million, and Trump of $137.3 million, of which Clinton has spent $349,6m and Trump $96.7m. Clinton’s money comes almost entirely from the Establishment whereas Trump’s largely from his own resources.[iii] Clinton is still refusing to release the transcripts of three paid speeches she gave in 2013 at a Goldman Sachs event. The speeches collectively netted her $675,000.[iv]

Clinton and Henry Kissinger

The Clintons are very close to Kissinger both in personal life and ideologically. They often spend vacations together.[v] But more than that Hillary regards Kissinger as her mentor, her Guru.

The person who defines Kissinger’s realpolitik ideology best is Bernard Lewis, the well-known “expert” on Middle Eastern and Islamic studies. His advice to the West, stripped of scholarly veneer, and in contemporary terms, is quite simple: fight proxy wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, and the global South – employ agents instead of our own soldiers; manipulate the media to provide “truths” to the masses; use money to buy people, buy governments, buy entire nations; and keep the wolf (read Putin) out of the door. [vi]

Kissinger walked the talk of Lewis during the “Cold War” (by the way, always put the Cold War in inverted commas; it was “cold” for them; for Africa – Algeria, South Africa, Mozambique – it was hot). In 1975 during a conversation with the US ambassador to Turkey and two Turkish and Cypriot diplomats, Kissinger admitted of illegally supporting the military junta in Spain, Greece, and Brazil. He told his hosts that he “worked around” an official arms embargo then in effect. Also, the US exempted the military government in Brazil from crimes of torture to allow it to receive US aid.These post-facto revelations are now documented and released by whistleblowers Assange, Manning, and Snowden (check the internet). See the video Hillary Clinton does not want you to see.[vii]

It is not surprising therefore that in the US Democratic presidential debates Kissinger’s ghost sprung up like, in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, lurking behind Hillary Clinton (“Prince” Hamlet).  During a debate on foreign policy, Bernie Sanders, the candidate contesting Clinton, referred to Clinton’s close relations with Kissinger. “I happen to believe”, he said, “that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.” He cited “the secret bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War as a Kissinger-orchestrated move that eventually led to genocide in that country.” [viii]

Clinton, following Kissinger, is an imperial jingoist. Under Clinton as Secretary of State the US and NATO went well beyond their UN Security Council mandate in the Libyan war. The end of the war was the gruesome death of Gaddafi cornered in a hell-hole. Clinton on viewing this remarked with characteristic cynicism: “We came, we saw, he died”. Here is another YouTube video Hillary would not want you to see.[ix] I was shocked when I saw this display of total cynicism and psychic lack of compassion. She is the “war candidate” of the Establishment, and has made her intentions amply clear in relation to Iran, Gaza/Palestine, Syria … and if she has her way, Russia and China.

Trump, the Ogre with a big mouth

In Trump, the Americans have a Presidential candidate who has gone out of his way to be distasteful. He is regularly depicted with a dog’s face in the American Establishment media. And for sure, he has said nasty things about the Muslims, immigrants, Mexicans, Africans – in fact, anybody who comes in his way. “I knocked the shit out of her on Twitter and she never said a thing about me after that”, he said of one of his detractors. “I really like Nelson Mandela”, he said on another occasion, “but South Africa is a crime ridden mess that is just waiting to explode – not a good situation for the people!” [x] On the Black Lives Matter Movement he said:

“There’s no such thing as racism anymore. We’ve had a black president so it’s not a question anymore. Are they saying black lives should matter more than white lives or Asian lives? If black lives matter, then go back to Africa. We’ll see how much they matter there.”[xi]

Trump is criticised for being neurotic. The American journal, The Atlantic (June, 2016) did an article on him by Dan McAdams titled “The Mind of Donald Trump“. Among other things, McAdams says that Trump is an extrovert, “exuberant, outgoing and socially dominant” narcissist character. The cardinal feature of extroversion is “reward-seeking in the short run”. [xii]

But, nobody can deny that he defeated 16 other Republican contenders. In the end he got nominated as the Republican Party candidate. The Party is now distancing itself from him and trying, instead, to focus on winning seats in the Congress rather than backing Trump. But Trump marches on regardless, with his controversial off-the-cuff and “politically incorrect” innuendos against the Establishment, galvanising the youth who are sick and tired of the yawning divide between the rich and the poor in America.

The British paper the Guardian explains the “great paradox” of American politics that holds the secret of Trump’s success:

Trump is an “emotions candidate”. More than any other presidential candidate in decades, Trump focuses on eliciting and praising emotional responses from his fans rather than on detailed policy prescriptions. His speeches – evoking dominance, bravado, clarity, national pride, and personal uplift – inspire an emotional transformation. Then he points to that transformation. Not only does Trump evoke emotion, he makes an object of it, presenting it back to his fans as a sign of collective success…. His supporters have been in mourning for a lost way of life. Many have become discouraged, others depressed. They yearn to feel pride but instead have felt shame. Their land no longer feels like their own. Joined together with others like themselves, they feel greatly elated at Trump’s promise to deliver them unto a state in which they are no longer strangers in their own land.”[xiii]

I’m waiting to buy “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right” (to be published in October, 2016) in which the author, Arlie Hochschild, goes on a reflective expedition from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country – a stronghold of the conservative right – exposing America’s ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, the right and left. [xiv]

This is what probably explains why Trump is trouncing the Establishment.

Conclusion

The truth is that nobody knows what lies behind Trump’s mask. May be he wants to “knock the shit” out of the Establishment. May be he is a “narcissist character” seeking reward in the short run. Whatever he is, he has put the Establishment – both Republican as well as Democrats – in a quandary.

Trump has raised questions the people of America should have asked a long time ago. Why is the youth in America angry with the Establishment? Why is the American foreign policy such a disaster?

Trump might make peace with Russia and China. For Africa, this is good.  The continent does not wish to be dragged into another proxy war like during the “Cold War”.

Trump shocked the Establishment when he said that if he were president, the US might not come to the defence of an attacked NATO ally that hadn’t fulfilled its “obligation to make payments.”[xv] Africa should urge him to go further – NATO should be dismantled like Russia did with the Warsaw Pact. NATO is a danger to world peace.

Trump has come out openly against trade and investment agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). On TPP he said, “The deal is insanity … That deal should not be supported and it should not be allowed to happen.”[xvi] Africa has, ALSO, come out against these mega-trade agreements, driven by American mega corporations.

Trump might scrape AGOA (African Growth and Opportunities Act) which is all about serving America’s, not Africa’s, interests. Trump could also scrape Obama’s “Power Africa” initiative. It is a $7 billion plan to facilitate American corporate investments in Africa. Africa needs to be liberated from these tools of the American empire.

Trump has criticised the notion of “exporting democracy” to the countries of the South saying it is not the business of America to tell Africa how to run their countries.  Exactly.

Trump and Jeremy Corbyn – the Labour Party leader in the UK – though poles apart politically, have one very significant thing in common. They are both harangued by the mainstream media and the established order in their respective countries. Like Trump, Corbyn is under attack not only by the Conservatives but also by the Establishment in the Labour Party spearheaded by the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Africa has for centuries (during slave trade and later through colonisation) been victim of the Establishment. Both Corbyn and Trump have an impressive backing from the youth of their countries. Why? Because they too, like the masses in Africa, are bitter against the dominant global order. We may not connect with Trump, but he could open space for us to establish solidarity links with the people in America, especially the youth, who too are suffering from the oppression of the Establishment warlords.

Conventional wisdom holds that a known devil is better than an unknown angel. Of course, Trump is no angel. But in this instance, and from an African (and possibly third world) perspective, Trump as an unknown devil is far better than Hillary Clinton, the known devil.

* Yash Tandon is from Uganda and has worked at many different levels as an academic, teacher, political thinker, a rural development worker, a civil society activist, and an institution builder. His latest book isTrade is War.

END NOTES
[i] http://www.azquotes.com/quote/524658
[ii] Carroll Quigley (1981). The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden. New York: Books in Focus
[iii] http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/graphics/2016-presidential-campaign-fu…
[iv] http://africasacountry.com/2016/03/hillary-clinton-goldman-sachs-and-afr…
[v] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/02/hillary-clinton-kissinger-vacation-dominican-republic-de-la-renta
[vi] President Obama, who carries the Clinton flag, condemned Trump for admiring Putin and appearing on RT, the Russian television. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/obama-trump-putin_us_57d84156e4b0fbd…
[vii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vczoazK1mxU
[viii] http://www.salon.com/2016/02/12/sanders_proudly_declaring_kissinger_is_n…
[ix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5484y_Jythk
[x] https://www.google.co.uk/#q=Trump+on+Mandela
[xi] http://www.celebtricity.com/donald-trump-if-black-lives-dont-matter-then…
[xii] http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/the-mind-of-donald-trump/480771/
[xiii] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/07/how-great-paradox-americ…
[xiv] https://www.amazon.co.uk/Strangers-Their-Own-Land-Mourning/dp/1620972255
[xv] http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/07/nato-trump-russ…
[xvi] http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/11/09/exclusive-donald-trum…

Posted in USA, AfricaComments Off on Clinton or Trump: Who is better for Africa?

Decency demands we smoke out the real perpetrators of war crimes against Aleppo and Gaza

Israel's destruction of Gaza

By Stuart Littlewood

As Western outrage erupts over the relentless destruction of Aleppo and its people, why is there no similar clamour for a halt to the more prolonged pulverising of Gaza and the continuing slaughter of civilians there?

The UK’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said the other day:

Russia’s actions in recent weeks have exposed just how hollow Russia’s commitment to the political process is. Today we have seen that commitment for what it really is – a sham…

I echo the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury who described the destruction of Aleppo as the absolute contempt for the human spirit, for the dignity of the human being… There can be no military justification for aerial attacks that indiscriminately hit civilians, and their homes and their hospitals.

Aleppo or Gaza: what’s the difference?

A few days later we were treated to the spectacle of our recently-appointed foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, calling for anti-war protesters to demonstrate outside the Russian embassy in London. Russia, he said, risks becoming a pariah nation and should be investigated for war crimes in Aleppo. He predicted those responsible for war crimes in Syria would eventually face charges before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Johnson was speaking in a House of Commons debate in which he apparently rejected the idea of a no-fly zone, warning that we might have to confront and perhaps shoot down Russian and Syrian planes or helicopters that violate the zone. In other words: go to war. “We need to think very carefully about the consequences.” Too right Boris. All the same, he’s looking at “kinetic” options such military action as well as intensifying sanctions against the Assad regime and Russia. Perhaps he has forgotten how the last proposal for air strikes in Syria, in 2013, was thrown out by the Westminster Parliament.

One is immediately prompted to ask why Boris Johnson busies himself accusing Russia of war crimes and drumming up demonstrations outside its embassy while remaining stoically silent about the diabolical crimes of top pariah state Israel. Shouldn’t he be at least evenhanded in his criticism of regimes that repeatedly violate all decent norms of human behaviour?

Why won’t Boris go “kinetic” over Gaza?

Israel and its terrorist founders have been slaughtering and robbing the Palestinian people for nearly 70 years. The Tel Aviv regime continues to illegally occupy Palestinian territory and keep its defenceless citizens bottled up in the shredded left-overs of their homeland, and even commits murder and piracy on the high seas to prevent visitors reaching them. Yet we’ve seen no NATO ships or warplanes off the Gaza coast, no no-fly zones imposed over the still-occupied Holy Land, no boots on the ground, and no arms or military advisers for the Palestinian resistance. In fact, nothing that could be described by Boris as “kinetic”.

Israel, whose “absolute contempt for the human spirit” is extremely profitable, simply doesn’t attract the same high-level indignation. So, the evil regime’s demolition of thousands of Palestinian homes for so-called administrative and planning reasons, its wholesale destruction of businesses and infrastructure, its excessive violence against non-combatants, its abductions, imprisonments and assassinations, and especially its programme of blitzkriegs on Gaza, slaughtering thousands including many hundreds of children, and reducing the place to rubble – they all go unpunished.

None of these crimes can be justified on grounds of defence or security. And in the Palestinians’ case they have nowhere to run. They cannot escape. To the best of my knowledge Boris Johnson has never called for those responsible to be brought before the ICC. He hasn’t even threatened sanctions.

Nor is he likely to. For he’s a “very outspoken friend of Israel”, according to former ambassador to London Daniel Taub. Yessir, “he is a very enthusiastic supporter, and his relationship with Israel goes back a long way”. Taub also says Johnson’s enthusiasm is such that “he jumped on our idea of an Israeli cultural festival in London, and thanks to his backing it will be happening next year”. We all know how eagerly Britain’s Foreign Office supports the European Union-Israel Association Agreement despite Israel’s blatant violation of its key conditions from the very start.

On his visit to Israel last November some Palestinian groups refused to meet Boris after he dismissed British supporters of BDS (that’s the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement) as “lefty academics who have no real standing in the matter and I think are unlikely to be influential… ”

BDS is civil society’s non-violent response not just to the international community’s inaction but the major powers’ perverse habit of rewarding Israel for its crimes. Boris said he couldn’t think of “anything more foolish” than to boycott Israel, which he described as “the only democracy in the region, the only place that has in my view a pluralist open society”.

So amusing. But if the boycotts are foolish and ineffectual, as Boris claims, why so many frantic efforts around the world to have BDS outlawed?

Let’s face it, Boris Johnson is a very senior member of the Conservative Party (CFI) in which 80 per cent of MPs, it is said, are signed-up Friends of Israel. As Prime Ministr Theresa May recently proclaimed, “the Conservative Party would not be the Conservative Party without CFI”. They wax lyrical about the odious foreign power whose flag they wave in Parliament, as do their fellow stooges in Washington. The insane focus on regime-change in Syria is primarily for the benefit of Israeli expansionism, and the army of highly-placed useful idiots have their orders.

By being part of this grotesque admiration society, and one of Israel’s keenest rewarders, Boris has become the buffoon he always pretended to be. And nudging us towards a second cold war with Russia just to tick another box for Israel’s grisly ambition confirms him as dangerous as well as daft.

Posted in Gaza, SyriaComments Off on Decency demands we smoke out the real perpetrators of war crimes against Aleppo and Gaza

Women’s Boat to Gaza: 13 Activists Detained by Israel, Weeks After US Approves $38 Billion in Military Aid

NOVANEWS

Image result for Women's Boat to Gaza CARTOON

A flotilla bound for Gaza carrying food, medicine and other humanitarian aid was intercepted and seized last week by the Israeli Navy. The Women’s Boat to Gaza had set sail from the Spanish port city of Barcelona in mid-September in efforts to break the ongoing Israeli blockade. Organizers say the Israeli military seized the boat and detained the 13 human rights activists aboard in international waters about 40 miles away from Gaza’s shore. The Israeli military towed the boat to the Israeli port of Ashdod and detained the women for up to four days before deporting them. We speak to passenger Ann Wright, retired Army colonel and former U.S. diplomat. Her recent article is titled “Women’s Boat to Gaza Participants See the Israeli Imposed Perpetual Darkness on Gaza.” Wright spent 29 years in the military and later served as a high-ranking diplomat in the State Department.

TRANSCRIPT

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A flotilla bound for Gaza carrying food, medicine and other humanitarian aid was intercepted and seized last week by the Israeli Navy. The Women’s Boat to Gaza had set sail from the Spanish port city of Barcelona in mid-September in an effort to break the ongoing Israeli blockade. Organizers say the Israeli military seized the boat and detained the 13 human rights activists aboard it in international waters about 40 miles away from Gaza’s shore. The Israeli military towed the boat to the port of Ashdod and detained the women for up to four days before deporting them.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by one of the participants on the Women’s Boat to Gaza, Ann Wright. She is a retired Army colonel, former U.S. diplomat. Her recent article is headlined “Women’s Boat to Gaza Participants See the Israeli Imposed Perpetual Darkness on Gaza.” Colonel Wright spent 29 years in the military, later served as a high-ranking diplomat in the State Department. In 2001, she helped oversee the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, where she served as deputy chief of mission. In 2003, she resigned her State Department post to protest the war in Iraq.

Ann Wright, welcome back to Democracy Now!

ANN WRIGHT: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Describe this ship of women that set sail and why you did it and what happened.

ANN WRIGHT: Well, the mission of the Women’s Boat to Gaza, of course, was to bring international attention to the continuing Israeli blockade, naval and land blockade, of Gaza, this 25-mile-long tiny strip, five miles wide, with 1.9 million people living in it, a brutal blockade which controls all the electricity, the food, the — everything to come into Gaza has to come through Israeli hands now. It used to — Egypt was a part of it, but they’ve really blocked their southern border. So, our flotilla was to bring international attention to this continuing blockade.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what happened, if you could give us a sense of when the Israeli military confronted the boat?

ANN WRIGHT: Well, it was actually a confrontation 34 miles off the coast of Gaza. The Israelis have kind of learned a different lesson from having — after they’ve murdered nine people, and subsequently a 10th person died from the 2010 flotilla with the Mavi Marmara, and 50 other people wounded. They knew that this was a boat of women, of unarmed civilian women, trained in nonviolent action, led by a Nobel Peace laureate and two members of Parliament, one from Algeria, one from New Zealand. And over the course of the three legs of this trip, which was 1,715 miles — it was a long trip, let me tell you — almost three weeks of educational activities, though, in Barcelona, in Ajaccio, Corsica, France, and then down in Messina, Sicily, Italy. So, we were doing an educational thing as we were heading toward Gaza.

The Israelis boarded the boat. It was very interesting. There were 30 people on the Zodiac boat that came up next to us. And when they came up, it was — the front part of it, the bow of it, had women sailors on it. Women sailors were the first ones to board our boat.

AMY GOODMAN: These are the Israeli sailors.

ANN WRIGHT: The Israeli sailors, yes. They were not in combat gear. They had baseball caps. They had long-sleeved jerseys on, GoPros. So, the Israeli military has kind of learned a lesson. I wish they would learn the same in their treatment of Palestinians, though, because the treatment of us internationals was very different from what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to talk about the Nobel Peace Prize laureate you mentioned, Mairead Maguire, one of the 13 women on the Gaza flotilla. She released this prerecorded video message in anticipation of being detained at sea.

MAIREAD MAGUIRE: My name is Mairead Maguire. I am the Nobel Peace laureate from Northern Ireland. If you’re listening to this, then you will know that myself and all of the women who sailed on the Women’s Boat to Gaza have been arrested and are in detention in Israel. We were arrested, kidnapped illegally in international waters, and taken against our wish into Israel. This has happened to me before. We will be deported and, tragically, not allowed back to see our friends in Palestine and in Israel. This is totally illegal. As men and — as women from many countries, we uphold our freedom of movement in any part of our world.

So, for those who can help to call for the release of all those on the Women’s Boat to Gaza, please do so. But even more importantly, because it’s not about us, work for the freedom and human rights, the lifting of the blockade against the people of Gaza and for the freedom for the Palestinian people and peace in the Middle East. We can all do this together. It is not a dream. And we are here in person because we care for human rights, for human dignity for the Palestinian people.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire, one of the 13 women on the Gaza flotilla that was boarded by the Israeli Navy, women soldiers. And you were taken to Ashdod and then to a prison and then released, is that right?

ANN WRIGHT: Yes, that’s correct.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, tell us, though, about the situation in Gaza, why you would risk doing this. One of the ships didn’t even make it.

ANN WRIGHT: Well, that’s correct. One of the ships had engine problems leaving Barcelona. And we had women from all over the world that had come in, and they were great people who continue to speak about the tragedy of Gaza. As we approached the coastline of Gaza, it was unbelievable. To the left, you could see all of the lights of Israel. To the right, a very distinct line, was darkness, all the way to the south, and that’s Gaza.

And that exemplifies what’s going on there, that the lack of electricity, usually less than four hours a day, the lack of medical supplies. Dr. Fauziah Hasan, who was our medical doctor from Malaysia, she said her organization, MyCARE Malaysia, is trying to reduce the time for operations, which — in Gaza, which now go on to 2025, there are people lined up. And they’re trying to reduce the time that people who need life-saving operations have it. The issue of food, of water, of sewage — all of these things make for the United Nations now saying, by the year 2020, Gaza will be uninhabitable.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And yet the Obama administration, while continuing to increase its criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, does nothing about the situation.

ANN WRIGHT: No, in fact, they give them $38 billion in military and other type of aid, which will be used to hammer the Palestinians both in Gaza and in the West Bank.

AMY GOODMAN: This $38 billion, the largest military funding package the U.S. has given any nation.

ANN WRIGHT: Any nation. And it will be used in the training fields of the Israeli military, which are in Gaza. Gaza is the place where military experiments are done, using U.S. military weaponry and done by the — by the IDF.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re former U.S. military.

ANN WRIGHT: Yes, I’m a colonel, 29 years in the U.S. military. And I say the U.S. military and our government are complicit in the crimes against the people of Gaza and the West Bank by the use of our military hardware and by the training that the Israelis give us and we give them.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened to the aid on the boat?

ANN WRIGHT: Well, actually, it was — the aid was really minor. I mean, it was us coming as representatives of the international community. We only had a little 50-foot boat. We really weren’t carrying substantial amounts of anything other than goodwill from the international community.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you deported?

ANN WRIGHT: Oh, yeah. Now I have a 20-year deportation, 10 years from 2010.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to leave it there. Colonel Ann Wright, retired Army Colonel Ann Wright, former U.S. diplomat, was one of the 13 women on the Zaytouna-Oliva, the Women’s Boat to Gaza, attempting to break Israel’s nine-year naval blockade on Gaza.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Gaza, Human RightsComments Off on Women’s Boat to Gaza: 13 Activists Detained by Israel, Weeks After US Approves $38 Billion in Military Aid

Long Greek Crisis Is Causing Severe Jet-lag to the Eurogroup

NOVANEWS
Adelina Marini

In just a single month a great change happened in the assessment of European institutions of the implementation of the Greek programme. This change does have a price and it is a mismatch in perceptions. Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem (The Netherlands, Socialists an Democrats) admitted Monday evening that everyone is feeling jet-lagged after their return from the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, but got contradicted by Pierre Moscovici, commissioner for economic and financial affairs (France, Socialists and Democrats), who stated that the European Commission never has jet-lag, while the boss of the euro area’s permanent bailout fund – the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) – Klaus Regling (Germany) stated that he had already recovered from it. Physical feelings do quite realistically mirror the moods towards the Greek programme, which is entering its next phase – the second review of the implementation of the third bailout programme amounting to 86 billion euro.

In the beginning of September, when euro area finance ministers gathered for an informal meeting in Bratislava after the summer vacation, feelings were of the familiar aggravation with Greek sluggishness in implementing the agreed measures. At the time, both the Eurogroup boss and Commissioner Moscovici shared the opinion that Greece is taking too long. “There’s no doubt that we’ve lost time. We didn’t go into the specifics of why and where time was lost on these different milestones. As a Eurogroup we took a more general message that summer is over”said Mr Dijsselbloem on September 9th, when he once more placed the word “trust” on the table. “It has very much to do with trust. Trust, of course, between us, trust in the IMF who have reconfirmed that they will go to the board before the end of the year, but also trust from the outside world in Greece and the Greek economy”, said the Dutch finance minister.

“To be absolutely frank, in an ideal world we would have liked to have seen more progress at this stage. So, I fully agree with what the president of the Eurogroup has said”, were the words of Mr Moscovici. As usual, he was way softer than Jeroen Dijsselbloem in adding that in the last days (preceding the September Eurogroup) there was noticeable speed-up of Greek authorities’ efforts. However, Pierre Moscovici warned: “We have to tell them clearly that they need to stick to their commitments. We must be really demanding but at the same time let’s not dramatise. We’re still in capacity to reach this agreement. There is a political will, there is capacity”, assured the French commissioner back then.

A month later, the press conference following the Eurogroup meeting sounded completely different. Everyone agreed that Greece has fulfilled the 15 milestones it had and there was, please note, political approval granted for the release of half the 2.8 billion euro sub-tranche – 1.1 billion euro. The remaining 1.7 billion euro will be approved probably at the ESM board of directors meeting in two weeks. Everyone, including Greece’s Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos tried to assure that this is an entirely technical issue, not a punishment for delayed implementation. The first part of the sub-tranche – 1.1 bn euros – is allocated for debt servicing. The second part – 1.7 bn euros – is dedicated for clearing of arrears.

In Klaus Regling’s words, the reason for the delay of releasing the second part of the amount is the lack of data about the clearing of arrears in September. In July and August the Greek state had paid off all its liabilities, depleting the sum of 1.8 billion euro, poured into the special account, created for that purpose in July. Jeroen Dijsselbloem explained that no one is to blame for the delay, for data collection is not the obligation of the Greek finance ministry, but it is rather gathered by a multitude of governmental institutions. “There is a delay between the data for September and the moment all of this data are collected. It’s inevitable”, said Dijsselbloem and assured there is nothing to worry about. He was convinced everything will be fine with the data. “The money will come, don’t worry!” was his reply to a journalist’s question.

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos was brief, stating that the reasons for the delay are purely technical and “completely beyond the control – we have not got the figures for September”, he said. In his words, there is nothing to worry about, for Greece is currently in no need for money for urgent repayment of matured debt, meaning there is no maturity coming any time soon. “We don’t need any more money than 1.1 billion, for there’s no big payment to our creditors before that, so this is a secondary issue”, he said in a brief statement for media after the Eurogroup meeting.

According to The Financial Times, however, the good tone after the meeting covers up several problems, one of which is the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who did not speak officially in front of journalists. The newspaper reports that the German minister is far from convinced in the fact that Greece had fulfilled all of its obligations and did raise the question during the meeting. Berlin’s main concern is that Greece is far from energetic in the creation of a privatisation agency, which was one of the key requirements for the setup of the third bailout programme – a demand that was particularly requested by Germany. The other issue, which is covered up by the Eurogroup’s optimistic tone, is the participation of the IMF in the third bailout programme.

Despite sending out hope in May that it will participate in the programme with money, the Fund is not backing down one inch from its claim that the current programme and Greece’s economic future beyond it are completely inadequate. At a press conference during the meetings of the IMF and the WB in Washington last week, the Director of the Fund’s European Department Poul Thomsen assured that the institution is fully committed to the programme, but the Fund’s concerns remain, as do the risks. One of these concerns is the pension reform. “There are deficits in the pension system of more than 10 percent, 11 percent a year”, said Mr Thomsen. The agreed reforms will bring 1% of GDP per annum, but there are still too many households in Greece (about 60%) falling under taxation exemptions. In Europe, for example, this group is not more than 6-7-8%, he added.

The Fund’s biggest concern remains Greece’s capability of modernising its public sector. In other words the IMF believes that Greece might succeed in achieving the set goal of a budget surplus of 1.5% of GDP by the end of the programme, utilising the proposed measures, but in the long run “there are some things that you have not made plans for yet, like the unemployment compensation, like a good welfare system. That can only be done if you really tackle your problems in the pension system”, further added Mr Thomsen.

Which are the 15 milestones, which Greece has (perhaps) accomplished?

As they are listed in the first review of the programme’s implementation in June, Greece was expected to finish the harmonisation of social security contributions by eliminating the lower base for the owners of tourist enterprises; finish the review of banks, with which it has special relationship framework agreements. This was one of the key requirements. Another key requirement was the reform of the energy market, which includes the liberalisation of the gas and electricity markets. The energy sector takes up a very large portion of the 15 tasks and also includes privatisation. Among the measures is the letting out on concession of the “Ignatia” motorway and several other road sections.

It is not very clear how have these requirements been fulfilled and to what degree. Maltese Finance Minister Edward Scicluna stated before the start of the meeting that some measures have been fully implemented, others – not so much, and this is normal. Pierre Moscovici, however, announced the start of the second review of the bailout programme, which may last until March of next year. “There is good news – the 15 [milestones] have been done. The institutions have been clear on that. So, that political deal is done. The other part is only a technical issue”, assured Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

The European Parliament was in a completely opposite mood to the institutions. During a debate last week with the participation of Pierre Moscovici, MEPs laid heavy criticism on the bailout programme. Some statements were heavily populist, often veering away from facts and rarely to the point, but others were quite concrete. Optimistic statements were few and far apart, like the one of Roberto Gualtieri (Socialists and Democrats, Italy), who chairs the European Parliament’s economic committee. In his opinion, there is already light seen in the end of the tunnel for Greece. He expressed hope that the IMF will not feed fuel to the fire (by refusing participation in the bailout programme). Maria Spyraki (EPP, Greece) warned that the programme’s implementation is threatened by excessive taxation.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (ALDE, Germany) concluded that Greece used fake statistics to join the euro area and now the European Commission is using fake statistics to keep it in the euro area. Moscovici admitted that too much time has been wasted in Greece, but he adamantly refuted the suggestions that nothing has been accomplished. He added that he wants by the end of the year to see a deal on Greece’s debt, but the efforts all sides are needed for that to happen.

Klaus Regling, the bailout fund’s boss, automatically added at the press conference on Monday evening that since 2011 Greece has been paid through the Fund and its predecessor (EFSF) 171 billion euro. Out of the current programme Greece has been paid 28 bn euros out of a total of 86. The programme’s implementation might be going slow, but the EU is more and more willing to turn a blind eye, as it does with a number of other countries, which are not following strictly all the rules. The largest issue remains IMF’s participation, for if they do not chip in, Germany will refuse to participate and that right at the moment when it looks like Greece has finally understood that it needs to work in order to deserve its place in the euro area.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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Similarities between Trump and Erdogan

NOVANEWS

Image result for Trump and Erdogan CARTOON

By Sajjad Shaukat

Despite some dissimilarities, the Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan share several similarities. Having lack of political wisdom, both the leaders are wavering between fact and skepticism. Hence, in one way or the other, even their dissimilarities show similarities.

Renowned historians opine that William II and Adolf Hitler were impulsive rulers, guided by ungoverned temper. Particularly, Hitler’s character and adverse circumstances in Germany helped him to come to power. Hitler was a great orator and his techniques of propaganda helped him to influence millions of people. The more Hitler manipulated the injustices of the Treaty of Versailles, the more he became popular with the public.

Imitating William II and Hitler in the modern era, Donald Trump promised to make America great again. In order to win the presidential race of the Republican Party, Trump had started exaggerating the threat of Islamophobia by manipulating each terror attack in Europe and the US, including shooting at the night club of Orlando, (Florida) and left no stone unturned in fueling anti-Muslim racialism in America and to get the sympathies of a majority of the ordinary Americans.

While addressing a rally, Trump had called for a ban on Muslims, entering the United States. Trump’s opposition to Muslim refugees, especially from Syria is very well known. During his appearance with the National Border Patrol Council’s Green Line radio show on May 15, 2016, Trump has predicted that refugees with ISIS-funded cell phones will conduct another 9/11-like terrorist attack in the US.

In this regard, Khaled A. Beydoun pointed out on the Aljazeera multimedia network on March 13, 2016, “The world brand Trump is becoming synonymous with expansion of racism and incitement of Islamophobia…I think Islam hate us, said Donald Trump, 24 hours before the Republican presidential debate in Miami…is a call to his voting base, to further galvanize them around a disdain for Islam that not only heightens hateful fervour at his rallies, but incites violence on American blocks and pushes bigots to the ballot box…the statement is rooted in the very ignorance and hate which made him the darling of bigots and surged him up the polls…Islamophobia—the suspicion and fear of Islam and its 1.7 billion adherent-is political ideology for Trump.”

Regarding shooting at the night club in Orlando, on June 28, 2016, The New York Times wrote, “The mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12 included a curious phrase:

false flag…the victims in the shooting? They were “crisis actors” hired to promote the story as a pretext to impose tighter gun restrictions, the theory goes…the term false flag relates to naval warfare when a ship would fly a flag that would conceal its true identity as a way to lure an enemy closer. Today, it is commonly a shorthand for an act of deception…conspiracy theorists have applied the label to high-profile attacks, including the shootings by a husband and wife last year in San Bernardino, Calif, that killed 14…the phrase has even been used to doubt the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.”

The Washington Post wrote on June 13, 2016, “Trump’s standards, his comments about the Orlando shooting have been reckless and self-serving. They are also dangerous for the country…the strongest remaining force that propels the Islamic State is the Islamophobia of Trump and his European counterparts, argue senior intelligence strategists for the U.S.-led coalition. Inflammatory, xenophobic statements about Muslims reinforce the jihadists’ claims that they are Muslim knights fighting against an intolerant West. Trump unwittingly gives them precisely the role they dream about.”

Like Hitler, Trump succeeded in mobilizing the electorates and despite the resistance from his own party, he won over his fellow candidates in the nomination race.

On the other side, as a harbinger of ideological revolution in Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan who rose to power by the virtue of Justice and Development Party’s Muslim backgrounds, assumed the office as the prime minister of Turkey on March 1, 2003. Like Hitler and Trump, though in some other way, the more he spoke against the Westernization and secular status of his country, the more popularity he gained among the general masses.

He became very popular in the Muslims countries due to various decisions and measures such as veto of a proposal to allow the US to use Turkish territory to open a second front against Iraq in order to topple Saddam Hussein, defiance of the US by receiving Khalid Meshaal, the head of the political bureau of Hamas, rejection of an invitation from former prime minister Ariel Sharon to visit Israel, refusal to meet Ehud Olmert, the then Israeli minister of labour and trade’s visit to Turkey, strong stand for the Palestinians during the war on Gaza in 2008 and accusing Israel of committing war crimes.

In January 2009, while addressing Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Tayyip Erdogan told the Israeli president, “President Peres, you are old, and your voice is loud out of a guilty conscience. When it comes to killing, you know very well how to kill. I know well how you hit and kill children on beaches.”

When Israel started the blockade of Gaza in 2007 by preventing humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, in May 2010, Israeli navy stormed the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara—the flagship of a flotilla of vessels, which was carrying humanitarian aid and thus, killed nine Turkish citizens.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan told the Turkish parliament, “Turkey’s friendship is strong; and all should know that our hostility is strong too…the international community has to say to Israel enough is enough.”

The Arab world defended the Turkish prime minister who withdrew his ambassador from Israel. Besides, Erdogan was considered by the Western countries as a devoted Muslim whose wife Emine wears a headscarf.

However, Tayyip Erdogan who emerged as leader of the Islamic World surprised the Muslims when his own dual approach and secret strategy was exposed when on September 30, 2015, the Russian-led coalition of Iran, Iraq, the Syrian army-the National Defense Forces (NDF) and Lebanon-based Hezbollah started attacking the US-CIA- Mossad-supported terrorists of the Islamic State group (Also known as Daesh, ISIS or ISL) Al-Qaeda’s Al- Nusra Front and the rebel groups who have been fighting to oust the Syrian President Assad’s regime and against the current Iraqi regime as part of America’s double game to secure the Israeli illegitimate interests in the Middle East. Turkish President Erdogan’s real face was exposed. Covertly, he acted upon the policies of the US, Israel and Western Europe, and distorted the image of Turkey in the eyes of the Islamic World, because he was assisting the rebel groups and the ISIS militants.

In the recent past, by setting aside the Palestinian issue and showing silence over the two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and the Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, Turkish president Erdogan has reconciled country’s relations with Tel Aviv.

Notably, Trump who is staunch supporter of Israeli policies, in an interview with the Daily Mail on May 2, 2016, stated that Israel should continue construction of illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank. In an interview with the Fox news on September 20, this year, while talking after the recent bombings in New York and New Jersey and a multiple stabbing at a Minnesota mall, shortly before New York police arrested Ahmad Khan Rahami, a naturalized US citizen born in Afghanistan in connection with the bomb attack that injured 29 people in Manhattan on September 17 for which ISIS claimed responsibility, the Republican nominee Donald Trump praised the Israeli authorities for their “unbelievable” anti-terror policing, and “profiling.” He elaborated, “Our local police, they know who a lot of these people are. They are afraid to do anything about it because they don’t want to be accused of racial profiling” of the terror suspects…the Muslim refugees…they stay together. They’re plotting.”

Nevertheless, overtly and covertly, both Trump and Erdogan are favoring Israel and double game of the US in relation to ISIS and Syrian war.

In October 2014, US Vice President Joe Biden told a Harvard gathering that Erdogan’s regime was backing ISIS with “hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons.

On April 26, 2016, RT (Russian TV Channel) documentary with exclusive eye witness reports and documents, abandoned by retreating jihadists and found by RT documentary crew members in a region liberated by Syrian Kurds, pointed to commercial scale oil smuggling operations and cozy relations between ISIS and Turkey. A teenage oil refinery worker told RT, “Of course, they wouldn’t get any weapons from Turkey if they didn’t ship them oil…they…go with the oil and come back with the guns.”

Besides RT, Sputnik, some other analysts and especially the Veterans Today have also shown solid proof by pointing out, “While we patiently dig to find who the on and offshore commodity trading middleman are, who cart away ISIS oil to European and other international markets in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars, one name keeps popping up as the primary culprit of regional demand for the Islamic State’s terrorist oil-that of Turkish president Recep Erdogan’s son Bilal Erdogan…who owns several maritime companies has signed contracts with European operating companies to carry Iraqi stolen oil to different countries…ISIS is being fed and kept alive by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish intelligence service, including MIT, the Turkish CIA. ISIS militants were trained by US, Israeli and now it emerges by Turkish Special Forces at secret bases in Konya Province inside the Turkish border to Syria.”

The billionaire businessman Donald Trump is also like Tayyip Erdogan. As regards Trump, while mentioning Trump’s Mar-a- Lago Club, golf courses in New York and his chain of hotels, violation of the US tax laws, tax-evasion and payment of penalty-taxes, The Washington Post wrote on September 20, 2016, “Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses.

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.”

In this respect, on May 31, 2016, nearly 400 pages of a US court documents disclosed, “Trump University instructed employees on how to play on peoples’ emotions to get them to buy more expensive seminars for succeeding in real estate…it is our job to rekindle peoples’

motivation…to make them once again see the potential of achieving their dream…the documents unsealed in San Diego were part of a lawsuit by customers who say they were defrauded…a judge who has earned Trump’s scorn agreed with attorneys that the public had a right to know what was previously confidential.”

Speaking to The New York Times on July 20, 2016, Donald Trump stated that under his leadership, America would not necessarily come to the aid of a NATO ally under attack, saying he would first consider how much they have contributed to the alliance. Trump also warned that if elected, he would not pressure Turkey or other authoritarian allies to end crackdowns on political opponents or the suppression of civil liberties, following the failed coup.

Trump continued move against Muslims. In this regard, toughening immigration checks for the French and Germans in the US and hinting at an exit from the World Trade Organization, Donald Trump said on July 24, this year, “We have problems in Germany and we have problems in France…they have totally been compromised by deadly Islamist attacks in Nice and last year in Paris…you know why? It’s their own fault…because they allowed people to come into their countries.”

On June 24, 2016 when Britain voted to leave the EU, Donald Trump stated, British voters just shattered political convention in a stunning repudiation of the ruling establishment in a referendum…in November, the American people will have the chance to re-declare their independence. Americans will have a chance to vote for trade, immigration and foreign policies that put our citizens first…people want to see borders. They don’t necessarily want people pouring into their country that they don’t know who they are and where they come from.”

On the other side, taking note of Turkey’s pro-Israeli policies and against the Syrian refugees, Muslim analysts and a number of human rights groups, particularly Amnesty International in its press release on April 1, 2016 criticized, the controversial Turkish-EU refugee deal by indicating, “Large-scale forced returns of refugees from Turkey to war-ravaged Syria expose the fatal flaws in a refugee deal signed between Turkey and the European Union…all forced returns to Syria are illegal under Turkish, EU and international law.”

Confused owing to his own double game and that of the US-led West, on May 8, 2016, Turkish President Erdogan has kept up his rebuke of European nations, accusing them of dictatorship and cruelty for keeping their frontiers closed to migrants and refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict. He clarified that “Turkey would not meet a EU demand for his country to reform its anti terrorism

legislation.” As Erdogan has become target of his dual strategy, hence, a rift has been created between the West and Turkey, the close ally of NATO. On February 10, 2016, President Erdogan lashed out at the US over its support for Syria’s main Kurdish group, saying, “The failure to recognize the Democratic Union Party (PYD) as a terrorist group is creating a “sea of blood”. He explained, “The PYD, on which the US relies to battle so-called Islamic State in Syria, is an offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party.”

Following ambivalent policy, in the pretext of fighting ISIL and Kurds, the Turkish military has continued shelling and interference in Syria.

As regards the propaganda techniques, one can easily witness resemblance between Trump and Erdogan who follow Hitler’s tactics. They misguide the general peoples of their countries, who did not have much time to go into depth-analysis to know the double game and have been impressed by emotional speeches, stereotype-statements and false hopes of Donald Trump and Tayyip Erdogan who keep on exploiting the threat of Islamic militants, ISIS and Syrian refugees.

During their emotional speeches, the body language and way of speaking of Trump and Erdogan are not less than those of Hitler. Like Erdogan, Trump managed to consolidate popular support among Republican voters, despite the resistance from his own party. He won over his fellow candidates in the nomination race.

One can note many self-contradictions in the statements of Trump and Erdogan. And Turkish President Erdogan has also been implementing contradictory policies and ambivalent strategy.

When on June 28, 2016, more than 42 persons were killed in the simultaneous terror attacks at the Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul, by neglecting American pressure; President Erdogan improved relations with Russia, and stated that the attack at the Istanbul airport should serve as a turning point in the global battle against terrorism.

Report suggests that Moscow had already informed Erdogan about the failed coup of July 15, 2016. Turkey’s President Erdogan and top officials of his government held the US and CIA responsible for the failed coup to topple his regime by replacing Erdogan with the CIA’s “designated figurehead”, cleric Fethullah Gülen, currently living in Pennsylvania in the US. Criticizing non-cooperation of NATO and Western allies with Turkey in connection with the failed coup, Ankara is also considering a military agreement with Moscow and Russian-Turkish joint operation against ISIS in Syria. Russian President Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on August 9, 2016 in St. Petersburg to bolster their governments’ ties.

Turkish media reported that the Erdogan told journalists on September 7, this year, that he had agreed with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in China—Ankara to work together to push Daesh terrorists out of their de facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria.

President Erdogan explained that Turkey would join any future operation proposed by the US to liberate the Syrian city of Raqqa.

Nonetheless, Erdogan decided to join Russia to fight ISIS militants, while he also ensured Washington to eliminate ISIS terrorists jointly. It clearly displays political follies of the President Tayyip Erdogan.

We can also note self-contradictions in the statements of Donald Trump. In an interview with the Fox News, Republican presidential nominee Trump signaled a reversal on one of his key policy issues on August 23, 2016 by suggesting that he would be open to a “softening” of his positions on illegal immigration. He said, “I had a great meeting with great people, great Hispanic leaders, and there could certainly be a softening because we’re not looking to hurt people. We want people—we have some great people in this country. We’re going to follow the laws of this country and what people don’t realize.”

Earlier, Trump stated tough immigration stance which includes deporting all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US and building a wall along the US-Mexico border, while calling the Mexican immigrants “criminals” and “rapists”. Trump is fueling racism between the Muslims and Christians—the black people and the white people. And like Erdogan, if he becomes American president, he is likely to move America towards autocracy, while American public is already protesting against the curtailment of liberty.

When President Obama hosted the fourth Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on March 31, 2016 to check the spread of nuclear weapons, showing concerns about the ambitions of terrorist groups such as the ISIS in acquiring a nuclear weapon or radioactive material, Donald Trump had taken a different stand in his interview with the CNN by saying, “More nuclear weapons could make the world safer…US can no longer afford to bankroll the defense of its allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East…Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia may need arsenals to confront threats in their region on their own.”

At the same time, by pursuing the US double standards, Trump also intends to favour India, while opposing the nuclear weapons of Pakistan. He has brushed aside the ground realities that Indian Prime Minister Narindra Modi led by the ruling fundamentalist party BJP has been implementing anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan agenda, while encouraging Hindutva (Hindu nationalism). He is also silence over the fact that Indian rulers have created a war-like situation against Pakistan in the aftermath of the Uri base terror attack in the Indian Occupied Kashmir, which was, in fact, arranged by the Indian secret agencies to deflect the attention of the recent uprising in the Indian held Kashmir. Therefore, if elected, as the US president, Trump’s flawed strategy could result into atomic war between India and Pakistan in wake of the unresolved dispute of Kashmir.

There are several other statements which display Trump’s cognitive dissonance. For instance, on September 14, 1987, he stated, “I have no intention of running for president,” while on June 16, 2015, he said, “I am officially running for president.’

In the recent months, political character of Donald Trump has become more controversial and dangerous for America, especially, after Trump’s statement against Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim soldier-US Army Capt. Humayun Khan who was killed in 2004 by a car bomb in Iraq, President Obama stated on August 3, 2016, “Republican nominee Donald Trump is unfit to be president, and questioned why his party still supports the New York billionaire’s candidacy… he is woefully unprepared to do this job.”

Noting Donald Trump’s discriminatory speeches and statements, several prominent Republicans and Democrats, including some congressman have decided that they will not vote for Trump by arguing that “he is unfit to serve as president of the United States.”

Taking cognizance of Trump’s political follies—terror-hysteria, religious bigotry and racialism which are well-penetrated in his personality, some writers and researches, including American politicians call him a “crazy person” and some call him, a “mad man.”

So, if succeeded in the forthcoming presidential election, the fundamentalist and impulsive politician Trump will not bother for dangerous implications of the US flawed strategy—America and its Western allies have already been entangled in a prolonged war in Afghanistan and other Muslim countries as part of the phony global war on terror. While, double game of American military and CIA has badly failed in Syria, and Russia is in best position, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has proved his leadership qualities in relation to domestic policies and international strategy, especially by thwarting the sinister designs of the US-led entities in Syria.

In case, Trump is elected as American president, his impulsive and racist approach could cause a civil war in the US.

On May 21, 2016, Kevin Barret, while giving a wake-up call to the Americans, wrote on the Veterans Today, “Donald Trump’s terror hysteria, combined with the ever-growing terrorist attacks around the world means that a dark future awaits America in case the presumptive GOP nominee becomes president.”

Likewise, in the recent years, if we note several acts of terrorism in Turkey, being committed by the militants of ISIS, PYD and the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party-PKK, we can see that Turkish President has become target of the US-Israeli double game and his own duplicity.

In this connection, The World Beast Com wrote, “If we take cognizance of the perennial wave of terror attacks in Turkey and failure of country’s security agencies in thwarting these subversive acts…Turkey will surrender to the terrorists.”

Both Donald Trump and the President Tayyip Erdogan lack leadership qualities such as decision- making power in accordance with the situation, cool-mindedness, tolerance etc., as they are guided by emotionalism, ungoverned temper, irrationalism, rashness, self-egoism and unrealistic idealism. Having religious prejudice, they are staunch conservatives, who lack pragmatism, as they have ignored ground realities.

They are creating obnoxious chauvinism in their peoples like the Indian Prime Minister Modi. They are power-hunger and wants fame by keeping them in the limelight through media.

Famous thinker of international relations, Hans Morgenthau points out that external policy of a country should be moulded in accordance “with the exigencies and circumstances of time and place” otherwise, there will be “failure of the foreign policy.” It is quite true in case of Erdogan who has already destabilized Turkey owing to his failed external policy, while Trump will further thwart the American foreign policy goals, because, he does not have political wisdom.

Political characters of Donald Trump and Tayyip Erdogan are amalgamation of the traits of Rasputin, Russian spiritualist, Germany’s rulers William II (Kaiser) and Adolf Hitler who brought about unrest in their own countries and also devastated Europe through World War I and World War II.

We can conclude that Trump and Erdogan who shares a number of negative similarities may bring about a nuclear war between Russia and America in wake of the unresolved issue of Syria.

Both can further divide the world on religious lines, culminating into major war between the Western Christians and the Muslims, involving other religious communities. They will take the world to the ‘state of nature’ when there was a war of “all against all” in the sense of Thomas Hobbes.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations.
Courtesy Veterans Today

Posted in USA, TurkeyComments Off on Similarities between Trump and Erdogan

US Power at the Crossroads: A Snapshot of a Multipolar World in Action

NOVANEWS

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In the strangest election year in recent American history — one in which the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson couldn’t even conjure up the name of a foreign leader he “admired” while Donald Trump remained intent on building his “fat, beautiful wall” and “taking” Iraq oil — the world may be out of focus for many Americans right now.  So a little introduction to the planet we actually inhabit is in order.  Welcome to a multipolar world.  One fact stands out: Earth is no longer the property of the globe’s “sole superpower.”

If you want proof, you can start by checking out Moscow’s recent role in reshaping the civil war in Syria and frustrating Washington’s agenda to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.  And that’s just one of a number of developments that highlight America’s diminishing power globally in both the military and the diplomatic arenas.  On a peaceable note, consider the way China has successfully launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a rival to the World Bank, not to speak of its implementation of a plan to link numerous countries in Asia and Europe to China in a vast multinational transportation and pipeline network it grandly calls the One Belt and One Road system, or the New Silk Road project.  In such developments, one can see ways in which the previously overwhelming economic power of the U.S. is gradually being challenged and curtailed internationally.

Moscow Calling the Shots in Syria

The Moscow-Washington agreement of September 10th on Syria, reached after 10 months of hard bargaining and now in shambles after another broken truce, had one crucial if little noted aspect. For the first time since the Soviet Union imploded, Russia managed to put itself on the same diplomatic footing as the U.S. As Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented, “This is not the end of the road… just the beginning of our new relations” with Washington. Even though those relations are now in a state of suspension and exacerbation, it’s indisputable that the Kremlin’s limited military intervention in Syria was tailored to achieve a multiplier effect, yielding returns both in that war-ravaged, devastated land and in international diplomacy.

In August 2015, by all accounts, President Assad was on the ropes and the morale of his dwindling army at rock bottom. Even the backing of Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah had proven insufficient to reverse his faltering hold on power.

To save his regime from collapse, the Kremlin’s military planners decided to fill the gaping hole left by Syria’s collapsing air force, shore up its air defenses, and boost its depleted arsenal of tanks and armored vehicles. For this, they turned one of Russia’s last footholds abroad, an airbase near the Mediterranean port of Latakia, into a forward operating base, and shipped to it warplanes, attack helicopters, tanks, artillery, and armored personnel carriers. Russia also deployed its most advanced S-400 surface-to-air missiles there.

The number of Russian military personnel dispatched was estimated at 4,000 to 5,000.  Although none of them were ground troops, this was an unprecedented step in recent Russian history.  The last time the Kremlin had deployed significant forces outside its territory — in December 1979 in Afghanistan — proved an ill-judged venture, ending a decade later in their withdrawal, followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

“An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire, and it won’t work,” said President Barack Obama at a White House press conference soon after the Russian military intervention. He should have been an expert on the subject since a U.S.-led coalition had been bombing targets in Syrian territory controlled by the terrorist Islamic State (ISIS) since September 2014.  Nonetheless, the Pentagon soon signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kremlin over safety procedures for their aircraft, now sharing Syrian air space, and established a ground communications link for any problems that should arise.

During the next six months in a sustained air campaign, Russian warplanes carried out 9,000 sorties, claiming to have destroyed 209 oil production and transfer facilities (supposedly controlled by ISIS), and enabled the Syrian army to retake 400 settlements spread over 3,860 square miles. In the process, the Russians lost justfive men. As the prospect of Russia playing an ongoing critical role in Syria grew, the mood in the White House started to change. In mid-March 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin. The implication, even if through gritted teeth, was that the U.S. recognized the legitimacy of the Russian position in Syria, and that closer coordination between the two leading players was needed to crush ISIS.

A year after the Russian campaign was launched, most major Syrian cities were back in government hands (even if often in rubble), and rebel-held eastern Aleppo was under attack.  The morale of the Assad regime had improved, even if the overall size of its army had diminished. It was no longer in danger of being overthrown and its hand was strengthened at any future negotiating table.

No less important to the Russians, just reemerging on the Middle Eastern stage, all the anti-Assad foreign players in Syria had come to recognize the pivotal position that the Kremlin had acquired in that war-torn land where a five-and-a-half-year civil conflict had resulted in an upper estimate of nearly 500,000 deaths, and the bombing of hospitals had become commonplace. On the first anniversary of the Russian campaign, Putin dispatched more planes to Syria, which made getting into a quagmire a possibility. But there can be no question that, in the interim, Putin’s strategy had served Russia’s geopolitical goals well.

Putin Sought Out by the Anti-Assad Arabs 

Between October 2015 and August 2016, top officials from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Turkey all held talks with Putin at different venues. The first to do so, that October, was the Saudi defense minister, Prince Muhammad, a son of Saudi King Salman.  They met at the Russian president’s dacha in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Saudi Arabia had already funded the purchase of CIA-procured TOW anti-tank missiles, which had largely powered a rebel offensive against Assad in the summer of 2015. Now, the two agreed that they shared the common goal of preventing “a terrorist caliphate [ISIS] from getting the upper hand.” When Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir mentioned his concern about the rebel groups the Russians were targeting, Putin expressed readiness to share intelligence, which meant future cooperation between their militaries and security services.

Later that day, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the deputy supreme commander of the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates, called on Putin. “I can say that Russia plays a very serious role in Middle Eastern affairs,” he statedafterwards, adding, “There is no doubt that we have a privileged relationship.”

The ruler of Qatar, Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, went a step further after meeting Putin at the Kremlin in January 2016.  “Russia,” he declared, “plays a main role when it comes to stability in the world.” Along with Jordan, Qatar had been providing the CIA with bases for training and arming anti-Assad insurgents.  A month later, the next Gulf chief to call on Putin in Sochi would be King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain, which has hosted the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet since 1971. He presented a “victory sword” of Damascene steel to the Russian leader. After their talks, Foreign Minister Lavrov reported that the two countries had agreed to boost economic and military ties.

In August, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to St. Petersburg to meet “my dear friend” Putin. Their relations had fallen to a low point when the Turks shot down a Russian warplane over northern Syria.  Unlike Western leaders, however, Putin had personally called Erdogan to congratulate him on aborting an attempted military coup in July. “We are always categorically opposed to any attempts at anti-constitutional activity,” he explained. After three hours of talks, they agreed to mend their strained economic relations and, in a striking reversal, Erdogan suddenly stopped calling on Assad to step down.

In sum, thanks to his limited military intervention in Syria, Putin had acquired enhanced leverage in decisions affecting the future of the Middle East, which helped divert international attention from Crimea and the crisis in Ukraine.  To Putin’s satisfaction, he had succeeded in offering an on-the-ground rebuttal to Obama’s claim, made after Moscow’s seizure of Crimea, that “Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength but out of weakness.”

As an added bonus, Putin had helped solidify his own popularity at home, which had spiked to a record 89% approval rating in the wake of events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine at a time when U.S. and European sanctions, combined with low oil prices, had led to a recession that would shrink the Russian economy by 3.7% in 2015.  It was a striking demonstration that, in domestic politics, popular perception about a strong leader trumps — if you’ll excuse the word — economic realities. This year the Russian economy is expected to shrink by perhaps another 1% and yet in recent parliamentary elections, the Putin-backed United Russia party won 54% of the vote, and 343 of 450 seats.

Chinese and Russian Geopolitical Interests Converge

As a result, in part, of Western sanctions, Russia has also been tightening its economic ties with China. In June 2016, Putin made his fourth trip to Beijing since March 2013 when Xi Jinping became the Chinese president. The two leaders stressed their shared outlook mirroring their countries’ converging trade, investment, and geopolitical interests.

“President Putin and I equally agree,” Xi said, “that when faced with international circumstances that are increasingly complex and changing, we must persist even harder in maintaining the spirit of the 2001 Sino-Russian strategic partnership and cooperation.” Summing up relations between the two neighbors, Putin offered this assessment: “Russia and China stick to points of view which are very close to each other or are almost the same in the international arena.” As co-founders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 1996, the two countries regard themselves as Eurasian powers.

During his visit to Beijing last June, Putin cited 58 deals worth $50 billion that were then being discussed by the two governments. Russia was also preparing to issue yuan-denominated sovereign bonds to raise $1 billion and discussing plans to link China’s national electronic payment network to its own credit card system.  The two neighbors were already partners in a $400 billion deal in which the Russian energy company Gazprom is expected to supply China with natural gas for the next 30 years.

As an example of the Sino-Russian geopolitical convergence in action, Rear Admiral Guan Youfei, head of China’s Office for International Military Cooperation, recently visited the Syrian capital, Damascus. He met with Syrian Defense Minister Fahd Jassem al-Freij and held talks with the Russian general coordinating military assistance to that country. Guan and al-Freij agreed to expand Chinese training and humanitarian aid in order to counter religious extremism.

During Putin’s June visit, Xi called for closer cooperation between their news agencies so that both countries could “together increase the influence” of their media on world public opinion.  Each has actually already made significant forays into the global information stream. In China, the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television started its “going out” project in 2001 through China Central Television. By 2009, its foreign language section was broadcasting programs globally via satellite and cable in Arabic, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

In 2006, Putin set up RT as a brand of TV-Novosti, an autonomous non-profit organization financed by the Russian news agency, RIA Novosti, with a budget of $30 million, and gave it a mandate to present the Russian point of view on international events. Since then, RT International has been offering round-the-clock news bulletins, documentaries, talk shows, debates, sports news, and cultural programs in 12 languages, including English, Arabic, Spanish, Hindi, and Turkish. RT America and RT UK have been airing locally based content since 2010 and 2014 respectively.

With an annual budget of $300 million in 2013-2014, RT still lagged behind the BBC World Service Group, with its $367 million budget and news in 36 languages. During a visit to RT’s state-of-the-art studios in Moscow in 2013, Putin urged its employees to “break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on global information streams.”

China’s Global Power Projection

In 2010, President Obama launched his “pivot to Asia” strategy to contain China’s rising power. In reply, within six months of becoming president, Xi Jinping unveiled a blueprint for his country’s ambitious One Belt and One Road project. It was aimed at nothing less than reordering the geostrategic configuration of international politics, while promoting the economic reconstruction of Eurasia. Domestically, it was meant to balance China’s over-reliance on its coastal areas by developing its western hinterlands. It was also to link China, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Central Asia to Europe by a web of railways and energy pipelines. In February 2015, the first cargo train successfully completed a 16,156-mile round trip from the eastern Chinese city of Yiwu to Madrid, Spain, and back — a striking sign of changing times.

In 2014, to implement its New Silk Road project, Beijing established the Silk Road Fund and capitalized it at $40 billion. Its aim was to foster increased investment in countries along the project’s various routes. Given China’s foreign reserves of $3.3 trillion in 2015 — up from $1.9 trillion in 2008 — the amount involved was modest and yet it looks to prove crucial to China’s futuristic planning.

In January 2015, the Chinese government also established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing. Two months later, ignoring Washington’s urgings, Great Britain became the first major Western nation to sign on as a founding member. France, Germany, and Italy immediately followed its lead. None of them could afford to ignore China’s robust economic expansion, which, among other things, has turned that country into the globe’s largest trading nation. With $3.87 trillion worth of imports and exports in 2012, it overtook the U.S. ($3.82 trillion), displacing it from a position it had held for 60 years.

China is now the number one trading partner for 29 countries, including some members of the 10-strong Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  This may explain why ASEAN failed to agree to unanimously back the Philippines, a member, when the Arbitral Tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in July in its favor and against China’s claims to rights in the South China Sea. Soon after, China announced the holding of a 10-day-long joint Sino-Russian naval exercise in those waters.

Reflecting its expanding gross domestic product (GDP), China’s military expenditures have also been on the rise. According to the Pentagon’s annual report on the Chinese armed forces, Beijing’s defense budget has risen 9.8% annually since 2006, reaching $180 billion in 2015, or 1.7% of its GDP. By contrast, the Pentagon’s 2015 budget, $585 billion, was 3.2% of U.S. GDP.

Of the four branches of its military, the Chinese government is, for obvious reasons, especially focused on expanding and improving its naval capacity.

A study of its naval doctrine shows that it is following the classic pattern set by the United States, Germany, and Japan in the late nineteenth century in their quest to become global powers. First comes a focus on coastal defense of the homeland; second, establishing the security of its territorial waters and shipping; and third, the protection of key sea-lanes it uses for its commercial interests. For Beijing, safeguarding the sea-lanes used to bring Persian Gulf oil to the ports of southern China is crucial.

The ultimate aim and fourth stage of this process for an aspiring world power, of course, is power projection to distant lands. At present, having reached the third stage in this process, China is laying the foundation for its final goal with a Maritime Silk Road project, which involves building up ports in Burma, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.

The medium-term aim of China’s navy is to curtail the monopoly that the U.S. has enjoyed in the Pacific. It is rapidly building up its fleet of submarines for this purpose. Meanwhile, as a sign of things to come, China acquired a 10-year lease on a 90-acre site in Djbouti in the Horn of Africa to build its first foreign military outpost. In stark contrast, according to the Pentagon’s latest Base Structure Report, the U.S. has bases in 74 countries. The respective figures for France and Britain are 10 and seven. Obviously, China has a long way to go to catch up.

The Realistic Aims of China and Russia

At the moment, Chinese leaders do not seem to imagine their country openly challenging the United States for world leadership for, minimally, decades to come.  Ten years ago, the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the country’s most prestigious think tank, came up with the concept of “comprehensive national power” as a single, carefully calculated number on a scale of 100. In 2015, the respective figures for America, China and Russia were 91.68, 33.92, and 30.48.

At 35.12, Japan was number two on the list. At 12.97, India was number 10, although that has not deterred its prime minister, Narendra Modi, from declaring that his country has entered “the age of aspiration,” and insisting that the latter part of the twenty-first century will belong to India. To any realist, Modi’s claim lies in the realm of fantasy, but it is a reminder of just how multipolar the coming decades could turn out to be. (When it comes to distant power projection, India has done no better than to start building a radar network in Mauritius, the Seychelles, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean to keep tabs on Chinese merchant shipping and warships.)

The global scenario that the down-to-earth presidents of China and Russia seem to have in mind resembles the sort of balance of power that existed in Europe for a century after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815. In the wake of that fateful year, the monarchs of Britain, Austria, Russia, and Prussia resolved that no single European country should ever become as powerful as France had been under Napoleon.  The resulting Concert of Europe then held from 1815 until the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

China and Russia are now trying to ensure that Washington no longer exercises unrestrained power globally, as it did between 1992 and summer of 2008. In early August 2008, overwhelmed by the mounting challenges of its war in Afghanistan, and its military occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration limited itself to verbal condemnations of Russia’s military action to reverse gains made by the pro-western president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, in an unprovoked attack on the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Think of that episode as a little-noticed marker of the end of a unipolar planet in which American power went mostly unchecked. If that is so, then welcome to the ninth year of a multipolar world.

Posted in USA, China, RussiaComments Off on US Power at the Crossroads: A Snapshot of a Multipolar World in Action

Haiti’s Never-Ending Nightmare Grows Longer

NOVANEWS

By Edna Bonhomme

Destruction left by Hurricane Matthew in Jeremie, a small city in western Haiti, Oct. 6, 2016. (Photo: Logan Abassi / MINUSTAH via The New York Times)

Destruction left by Hurricane Matthew in Jeremie, a small city in western Haiti, October 6, 2016. (Photo: Logan Abassi / MINUSTAH via The New York Times)

Haiti is enduring another not-so-natural disaster in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

With winds reaching 145 miles an hour, the storm wrecked homes, communities and lives, particularly along Haiti’s southwestern coast. Estimates of the death toll have reached as high as 900, but most news sources acknowledge that this number is sure to rise.

The storm caused havoc along the Florida and Carolina coast in the U.S., making landfall this Saturday. But the death toll will be nowhere near as high as in Haiti, where the violence of the storm was intensified by man-made factors that are many decades old.

The world’s most powerful governments, especially the U.S., have inflicted suffering on Haitians throughout several centuries and up to the present day — when the Obama administration announced, as the Matthew was battering the Caribbean, that it would increase the number of Haitian refugees deported from the U.S. during the rest of the year.

***

Thousands of homes have been destroyed and food shortages are already being reported along Tiburon Peninsula in the country’s southwest.

Cholera is all but certain to make another appearance in Haiti. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), “Due to massive flooding and its impact on water and sanitation infrastructure, cholera cases are expected to surge after Hurricane Matthew and through the normal rainy season until the start of 2017.”

But Matthew is only partly to blame for cholera in Haiti. The disease has made a reappearance only since the devastating 2010 earthquake, after almost a century of being effectively eradicated. As Jesse Hagopian wrote on the fifth anniversary of the earthquake:

Prior to October 2010, there had not been a reported incident of cholera in Haiti in nearly a century, according to the UN World Health Organization. An expert panel of epidemiologists and microbiologists appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon concluded UN peacekeeping troops from Nepal imported cholera to Haiti and contaminated the river tributary next to their base through a faulty sanitation system …

Since then, cholera has killed 8,500 people and sickened some 800,000 … Yet the UN has refused to apologize for its negligent actions that led to spread of cholera in Haiti.

And now, a new round of cholera threatens — and health clinics are reported to be unable to accommodate those who are injured as a result of Hurricane Matthews, much less treat new victims of cholera. So one disaster has led to another.

Over the past 10 years, Haiti has been struck by a series of hurricanes. In 2008, Hurricane Gustave killed 77 people. Two years later, the floods and mudslides from Hurricane Tomas took over 20 lives.

Southwestern Haiti is the home to several important Haitian cities, including Chantal, Jérémie, Les Cayes, and Roche-a-Bateau. It is also where the rebellion of former African slaves rebelled against the French slave owners began in the 18th century.

Among these municipalities, Jérémie was one of the hardest hit in the current disaster. Junot Clerveau, a resident of Jérémie, told Aljazeera: “We already didn’t have enough food. Now, we have lost our crops. We have lost trees that have given us mangoes and coconuts. I don’t know how we’re going to deal with this.”

***

In its reporting on conditions like Jérémie is experiencing today, the U.S. media often describe Haiti as a country of “chronic poverty and underdevelopment.” But that fails to acknowledge how Haiti’s economic and political crisis was a drawn-out process, caused by colonial dispossession, exploitation and imperial occupation.

The country that is now Haiti was originally home to the Arawak, a communal society where Indigenous people lived through fishing and farming. The arrival of European settler colonialism brought genocide to this group.

On the western third of the island of Hispaniola, ceded to France by the original Spanish conquerors, French colonists set up a barbaric slave system, importing Africans to serve as labor. The slaves rose up at the end of the 18th century and overthrew their masters in the only successful slave rebellion in history.

But France was successful in demanding reparations — worth $22 billion in today’s terms — for its loss of “property” before it would provide any loans to the newly independent nation. “As a result,” wrote Ashley Smith, writing for Socialist Worker, “Haiti’s economic development was subject to debt manipulation that kept it in desperate poverty for the next two centuries. Its ruling class and their imperial overseers hoarded what money the economy produced.”

This was not the last foreign intervention into “independent” Haiti. Starting at the end of the 19th century, the rising U.S. empire became Haiti’s main international oppressor. U.S. troops occupied Haiti outright several times in the years to follow — including during the Clinton administration in the 1990s.

The occupation that Haiti suffers under today — the one whose military forces introduced cholera back to Haiti — is being carried out under the banner of the United Nations, with countries other than the U.S. contributing military forces.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is in its 12th year, having been established after the U.S.-backed coup that overthrew the democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The supposed mission of the MINUSTAH occupation is to provide peace and security, but its troops are guilty of further repressing grassroots political movements.

***

International military intervention has been tied together with the neoliberal agenda promoted by the U.S. empire — and ordinary Haitians have paid a terrible price.

The U.S. government used its influence with the Duvalier family, Haiti’s dictators for most of the second half of the 20th century, to get shape the Haitian economy to be more beneficial to U.S. corporate interests.

This came in the forms of trade agreements that wrecked Haitian agriculture, structural adjustment programs that allowed U.S. multinationals to prey on Haitian workers, and “coercive legislation and policing tactics (anti-picketing rules, for example) to disperse or repress collective forms of opposition to corporate power,” as Marxist economist David Harvey wrote in A Brief History of Neoliberalism.

For example, Haiti’s elites, backed by the U.S., have gone out of their way to ensure that Haiti’s minimum wage remains abysmally low — with Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential candidate leading the way.

State Department documents made available by WikiLeaks revealed that subcontractors for clothing giants like Fruit of the Loom and Levi’s “worked in close concert with the U.S. Embassy when they aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest-paid in the hemisphere,” the Haitian Times reported.

How much was too much for the Haitian sweatshop operators and their friends in the U.S. government? The proposal that Corporate America opposed in Haiti would have raised the minimum wage to 62 cents an hour, or $5 a day.

Clinton bears more responsibility for Haiti’s suffering than just her actions during the Obama administration.

The Clinton Foundation, set up after Bill Clinton’s presidency, has been a leading promoter of neoliberal schemes in Haiti, such as the creation of “export processing zones” and luxury tourist hotel developments to take advantage of the low wages that Secretary of State Clinton helped keep in check.

And Bill Clinton’s administration carried out a host of policies to make Haitians’ suffering worse, whether in Haiti itself or in the U.S., among those who fled the economic and social devastation.

For example, Clinton’s 1996 immigration law stepped up the deportation of Haitians, Central Americans and others from Latin America who fled to the U.S. to escape U.S.-backed dictators.

As Daniel Denvir wrote at Salon: “U.S. immigration policy toward Haiti, long shaped by political fears over flotillas of boat people arriving in Florida, has in the past been criticized as harsh and even racist compared with the welcome mat rolled out for Cubans.”

This dark chapter of deportations and detentions has continued under Barack Obama’s administration. On September 22, the Department of Homeland Secretary released a statement indicating that it would continue “to remove Haitian nationals on a more regular basis, consistent with the practice for nationals from other nations”

***

This is the background to the crisis that follows the latest natural disaster to befall Haiti — and given the evidence that man-made climate change is causing hurricanes to be more frequent and more intense, even that “natural” aspect of this catastrophe has to be questioned.

The need is already desperate. But the record of both governmental and non-governmental bodies in contributing humanitarian aid to Haiti is appalling. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, large sums poured into charities like the Red Cross as ordinary people around the world gave what they could to help.

But the money didn’t get where it was needed. In fact, investigators for Propublica exposed the Red Cross’ claims to have built 130,000 homes in Haiti after the earthquake — and revealed that the real number was just six.

Now Haiti faces another nightmare, having not recovered from the last one — thanks to the intertwined roles of U.S. imperialism, Haiti’s ruling elites and international capitalism.

Posted in HaitiComments Off on Haiti’s Never-Ending Nightmare Grows Longer

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