Archive | October 12th, 2017

In Iran and North Korea, Trump Is Playing with Nuclear Fire

NOVANEWS

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which spearheaded a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The significance of this award cannot be underestimated.

Donald Trump‘s bombastic and frightening threats against North Korea and Iran may portend a catastrophic attack that could impact the entire world.

The US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing 210,000 people. During the week following the bombings, thousands of survivors experienced a unique combination of symptoms, Susan Southard wrote in the Los Angeles Times:

Their hair fell out in large clumps, their wounds secreted extreme amounts of pus, and their gums swelled and bled. Purple spots appeared on their bodies, signs of hemorrhaging beneath the skin. Infections ravaged their internal organs. Within a few days of the onset of symptoms, many people lost consciousness, mumbled deliriously and died in extreme pain; others languished for weeks before either dying or slowly recovering.

In the face of Trump’s nuclear threats, the danger the world faces is immeasurable.

Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

On July 7, more than 120 countries approved the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which requires ratifying countries “never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” The treaty also prohibits the transfer of, use of, or threat to use nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices.

Fifty-three countries officially signed the treaty, and three have already ratified it, which makes them parties to the accord. Ninety days after 50 countries ratify it, the treaty will enter into force.

However, the five original nuclear-armed countries — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — boycotted the treaty negotiations and the voting. North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and India, which also have nuclear weapons, refrained from participating in the final vote as well. In October 2016, during negotiations, North Korea had voted for the treaty.

The State Department issued a statement saying,

“The United States does not support and will not sign the [treaty].”

Trump Threatens to Blow Up the Iran Deal

Meanwhile, Trump is moving the world closer to nuclear war, threatening North Korea with destruction and attempting to blow up the nuclear deal with Iran. The day before the new treaty was concluded, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacked; that amounted to a threat to commit genocide.

Peace prize historian Oeivind Stenersen said the Nobel committee intended “to send a signal to North Korea and the US that they need to go into negotiations. The prize is also coded to support the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.”

The Iran deal is embodied in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It rescinded the punishing US and international sanctions on Iran, amounting to billions of dollars of relief. In return, Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear program.

Under the US Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the president must determine every 90 days whether Iran remains in compliance with the JCPOA and whether it still serves US interests. The next 90-day period ends on October 15. Trump will reportedly refuse to certify that Iran is compliant with the agreement on October 12, in spite of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency’s finding that Iran is in compliance.

If Trump refuses to certify that Iran is compliant with the JCPOA or determines the agreement is not in the national interest, Congress will then have 60 days to act. If Congress reimposes sanctions, it would likely cause the JCPOA to unravel. Iran would then proceed with a program to develop nuclear weapons.

The White House has signaled that Trump will urge Congress not to reimpose sanctions, but rather hopes Congress will pass new legislation beyond the scope of the original deal.

“If Congress complies, such unilateral action to change a multilateral agreement will effective kill it,” Wendy Sherman, former under secretary of state for political affairs and US lead negotiator for the JCPOA, wrote in The New York Times.

Moreover, if Trump’s actions scuttle the Iran deal, it will send a dangerous message to North Korea that the United States cannot be trusted to abide by its multilateral agreements.

Both Trump’s threats against North Korea and his undermining of the JCPOA could lead to nuclear war.

US Violates Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires nuclear states to eliminate their nuclear weapons and non-nuclear states to refrain from acquiring them. In 2005, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told the Institute for Public Accuracy,

“The US government is not adhering to Article VI of the NPT and we show no signs of planning to adhere to its requirements to move forward with the elimination — not reduction, but elimination — of nuclear weapons.”

In 1996, the International Court of Justice stated in an advisory opinion,

“There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”

But the nuclear powers have ignored that decision.

And in spite of UN Security Council Resolution 687, which established a weapons-of mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East, Israel maintains a formidable nuclear arsenal.

“The nuclear weapons states, governed by political realists, basically have no trust in law or morality when it comes to national security,” international law expert Richard Falkwrote, “but base their faith in the hyper-rationality of destructive military power, which in the nuclear age is expressed in the arcane idiom of deterrence, an idea more transparently known in the Cold War Era as Mutually Assured Destruction (or MAD!!).”

Indeed, Trump is planning a $1 trillion rebuilding of the US nuclear weapons program.

Only the US Has Used Nuclear Weapons

The United States is the only country ever to use nuclear weapons. On the day of the Hiroshima bombing, 19-year-old Shinji Mikamo was on the roof of his house helping his father prepare it for demolition when he saw a huge fireball coming at him. He heard a deafening explosion and felt a searing pain throughout his body. It felt as if boiling water had been poured over him. His chest and right arm were totally burned. Pieces of his flesh fell from his body like ragged clothing. The pain was unbearable. Shinji was three-quarters of a mile from the epicenter of the bomb. He survived, but most of his family perished.

Shinji’s daughter, Dr. Akiko Mikamo, author of Rising From the Ashes: A True Story of Survival and Forgiveness, told a Veterans for Peace Convention that 99 percent of those who were outdoors at the time of the blast died immediately or within 48 hours.

This should serve as a cautionary note to Trump — and Congress — that there is no trifling with nuclear weapons.

“The Calm Before the Storm”

Yet during a photo opportunity he staged with military leaders after meeting with them to discuss North Korea and Iran, Trump issued an ominous warning:

“You guys know what this represents? … Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

What storm?

“You’ll find out.”

Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, told The Hill that Trump’s decertification of the Iran deal “will trigger a process that very likely will lead to the collapse of the deal.”

Parsi said on Democracy Now!,

“The buzz here is that there’s going to be a very significant ramping up, an escalation, in the region against Iran, potentially including shooting down Iranian airplanes, sinking Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf, targeting Iranian troops or Iranian-allied troops in Iraq and in Syria.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are reportedly counseling Trump to certify that Iran is complying with the JCPOA.

But Trump has consistently criticized the Iran deal, probably because it was concluded on Barack Obama‘s watch and Israel is dead set against it.

In any event, Trump is playing with fire — nuclear fire — in both North Korea and Iran. We must pressure the White House and Congress members alike, and hope that cooler heads prevail. The stakes are unbearably high.

Posted in USA, Iran, North Korea0 Comments

US-North Korean War Could Trigger a Russian-American Nuclear Exchange

NOVANEWS

On Russian radars any US attempts to intercept a North Korean missile would look a lot like a strike aimed at Russia’s Far East

In the event that North Korea tests another Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) or potentially launches an attack on the United States, the Pentagon could try to intercept those missiles with the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. However, as many analysts have pointed out, the interceptors that miss their target could reenter the Earth’s atmosphere inside Russian airspace. Such an eventuality could prove to be a serious problem unless steps are taken to address the issue now.

“You should also be aware of the concern that those interceptors fired from Alaska that miss or don’t engage an incoming North Korean ICBM(s) will continue on and reenter the Earth’s atmosphere over Russia,” Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association told The National Interest.

“This carries a nontrivial risk of unintended escalation.”

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told The National Interest that the United States should open a dialogue with Russia on the issue immediately.

“Good god, yes,” Lewis said emphatically.

Olya Oliker, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies agreed.

“We have time now to consult with Moscow, talk about plans, discuss how notification would work,” Oliker told The National Interest.

“This isn’t the rocket science part of all this.”

Indeed, in a recent op-ed, Lewis argues that an American interceptor launch could accidentally trigger a nuclear exchange if the Russians mistook such a weapon for an incoming ICBM.

“We can’t assume that Russia would realize the launch from Alaska was a missile defense interceptor rather than an ICBM. From Russia, the trajectories might appear quite similar, especially if the radar operator was under a great deal of stress or pressure,” Lewis wrote for The Daily Beast.

“It doesn’t matter how Russia’s early warning system ought to work on paper, the reality of the Russian system in practice has been a lot less impressive.”

Joshua H. Pollack, editor of the The Nonproliferation Review and a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said that the danger is real.

“Whether they actually would enter Russian airspace is probably less important than whether they break the line of sight of Russia’s early-warning radars,” Pollack said.

“They do appear to plan in terms of launch-on-warning. That’s why I call this scenario ‘Russian Roulette.’”

But how exactly the United States might attempt to shoot down a North Korean missile is scenario dependent.

“In an attack on Hawaii, it seems to me that they might not do so, and ought to be clearly identifiable as being aimed well south of Russian territory if they are detected,” Pollack said.

“In an attack on North America, they almost certainly would be detected by Russian radars.”

While defending against an attack on Hawaii should not cause major issues, shooting down an ICBM that is targeted against the U.S. mainland would be problematic. Indeed, to defend against an attack on Washington D.C.—for example—the intercept might take place over Russia.

“In fact, depending on the target of the attack, the actual engagement could take place above Russia,” Pollack said.

“If interceptors in Alaska are going to try to catch the attack more or less head-on, they’ll have to fly out in the direction of Russia. Someone else might be able to model the geometry of the engagement, but just eyeballing it, I could easily envision it happening over Russia’s Far East. If the interceptors had to launch later and attempt a crossing shot, they could even end up flying out in the direction of European Russia.”

Pavel Podvig, an independent analyst based in Geneva who runs the Russian Nuclear Forces research project disagreed with Lewis and Pollack. Podvig noted that the Russian early warning system is in far better shape today than it was during the 1990s. While a GMD launch from Alaska might cause alarm, the Russian philosophy has been to essentially absorb the first initial blows before launching a retaliatory counterstrike.

“The Russian system is built to ‘absorb’ events like this,” Podvig told The National Interest.

“We don’t have hard data, of course, but my understanding is that even at the height of the Cold War the Soviet Union would have chosen to get a single hit—or maybe even a few—rather than launch its missiles in response, especially in a ‘bolt out of the blue’ situation. Having said that, things do happen and a real-world situation may introduce factors that nobody can predict or control. Coincidences of various kind are possible and the command and control system may react in unpredictable ways. So, the real answer is, we don’t know.”

The Russians, however, are not too worried by the prospect of discarded American interceptors landing on their soil. However, Moscow would likely want to be consulted because the interceptors might set off Russia’s ballistic missile early warning system (BMEWS).

“Basically, we would be happy to see them on our soil for study,” Vasily Kashin, a senior fellow at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, told The National Interest.

“Anyway, the chance of them hitting in a populated area in the Russian Far East is extremely small. But of course there is a BMEWS issue, so it is better to hold consultations and establish info exchange mechanism.”

What is surprising to the Russians is that the United States did not install a self-destruct system on the GMD interceptors to prevent the missiles from landing where they should not.

“The fact that it does not have self destruct is surprising,” Kashin said.

“And I am not sure anyone here knew about that.”

Indeed, Lewis flatly stated that the GMD interceptor does not have a self-destruct mechanism while Pollack explained that the weapon is a kinetic kill vehicle with no warhead.

“I’ve never heard of any self-destruct mechanism on GMD’s interceptors,” Pollack said.

“They’re lightweight, hit-to-kill systems that don’t involve any explosives.”

The question that remains, of course, is even if there was a consultative body set up between the United States and Russia, would there be enough time to use such a mechanism?

According to Lewis, the answer is probably not.

“The timeline for a missile defense intercept is so tight—just a few minutes—that the president probably won’t even know about an intercept until after it happens,” Lewis wrote.

Thus, at the end of the day, the United States should probably consult with Russia about the possibility of intercepting North Korean ICBMs over Moscow’s territory and set up an agreement ahead of time. But even then, during a real intercept attempt, the United States will likely have to count on Russia’s early warning system operating correctly and the Kremlin’s restraint to avoid an unintended nuclear war.

Posted in USA, North Korea0 Comments

Forget Catalonia, Flanders Is the Real Test Case of EU Separatism!

Catalonia’s separatist campaign has dominated European headlines for the past couple of weeks, but it’s really the northern Belgian region of Flanders which will serve as a barometer over whether large chunks of the EU will fall apart into a collection of identity-centric statelets prior to the bloc’s reconstitution into a “federation of regions”.

What’s going on in Catalonia is of paramount importance to the geopolitical future of Europe, since it could very well serve as the catalyst for fracturing the EU if copycat movements elsewhere are emboldened by the Spanish region’s possible separatist success. This was explained in detail in the author’s recent analysis about “The Catalan Chain Reaction”, which readers should familiarize themselves with if they’re not already acquainted with the thesis put forth in that work. To concisely summarize, there’s a very distinct possibility that the EU’s liberal-globalist elite have been planning to divide and rule the continent along identity-based lines in order to further their ultimate goal of creating a “federation of regions”.

Catalonia is the spark that could set off this entire process, but it could also just be a flash in the pan that might end up being contained no matter what its final result may be. Flanders, however, is much different because of the heightened symbolism that Belgium holds in terms of EU identity, and the dissolution of this somewhat artificially created state would be the clearest sign yet that the EU’s ruling elite intend to take the bloc down the direction of manufactured fragmentation. Bearing this in mind, the spread of the “Catalan Chain Reaction” to Belgium and the inspiration that this could give to Flanders to break off from the rest of the country should be seen as the true barometer over whether or not the EU’s “nation-states” will disintegrate into a constellation of “Balkanized” ones.

The Netherlands during the Dutch Revolt, 1580

“The First Bosnia”

In order to properly understand the state of affairs at play, it’s necessary to briefly review the history of what could in some sense be described as “The First Bosnia”, or in other words, Europe’s “first artificially created state”. Most of the territory of what is nowadays referred to as Belgium was unified with the modern-day Netherlands from 1482-1581 when the political entity was referred to as the Habsburg Netherlands. The southern part (Belgium) came under Spanish control from 1581-1714 when it was called the Spanish Netherlands. Afterwards, it passed under Austrian administration from 1714-1797 when it became the Austrian Netherlands prior to its brief incorporation into the First French Republic and later Empire from 1797-1815. It was during the Spanish and Austrian eras that Belgium began to consider Catholicism as an inseparable part of its national identity in opposition to the Netherland’s Protestantism. Finally, Belgium was part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1815-1839 until the Belgian Revolution made it an independent state for the first time in its history.

In essence, what ended up happening is that a majority-Catholic but ethno-linguistically divided population got caught up in the 19th century’s wave of nationalism and created a hybrid Franco-Dutch state that would eventually federalize in the late-20th century, in a structural sense serving as a precursor to the dysfunctional Balkan creation of Bosnia almost a century and a half later.

It’s important to mention that the territory of what would eventually become Belgium had regularly been a battleground between the competing European powers of the Netherlands, the pre-unification German states, France, the UK, and even Spain and Austria during their control of this region, and this new country’s creation was widely considered by some to be nothing more than a buffer state. The 1830 London Conference between the UK, France, Prussia, Austria, and Russia saw the Great Power of the time recognize the fledgling entity as an independent actor, with Paris even militarily intervening to protecting it during Amsterdam’s failed “Ten Day’s Campaign” to reclaim its lost southern province in summer 1831. For as artificial of a political construction as Belgium was, it fared comparatively well during the 19th century as it leveraged its copious coal supplies and geostrategic position to rapidly industrialize and eventually become a genocidal African colonizer in the Congo. Although it was devastated in both World Wars, Belgium was able to bounce back in a relatively short period of time, partly because it could rely on its Congolese prison state.

In The Belly Of The Beast

Flash forward to the present, and the only thing that modern-day Belgium has in common with its past self is its internal divisions. The post-colonial aftermath of “losing the Congo” and shortly beforehand agreeing to host the capital of the European Union opened up previously nationalistic Belgium to liberal-globalist influence, which contributed to what would eventually become its utter domestic dysfunction in recent years. It wasn’t by chance that Brussels was chosen as the EU’s headquarters either, since its inherent weakness was thought to make it an ideal “compromise country” for establishing the bloc’s headquarters, as it would never become as powerful as France, for example, in potentially monopolizing the international organization’s agenda. Again, Belgium’s history as a buffer state/region came into relevant play in positioning it “in the belly of the beast” that’s nowadays reviled by all sorts of individuals across the continent.

The administrative disconnect between its northern region of Flanders and the southern one of Wallonia, as well as what would eventually become its multi-tiered federal, regional, and community structure, was exploited by the EU’s ideologically extreme elite to make the country the centerpiece of their “multicultural experiment”. After decades of facilitating mass migration from civilizationally dissimilar societies of the “Global South”, 5.9% of the country is Muslim while at least an astonishing 20% of Brussels follows Islam. Almost all of the capital’s Muslims are immigrants, mostly from Morocco and Turkey, which isn’t surprising considering that 70% of Brussels’ inhabitants are foreign-born. Unfortunately for the native locals, the “multicultural experiment” has failed miserably, and Belgium is now Europe’s jihadist leader in terms of the per capita number of fighters who have travelled abroad to join Daesh. All things considered, the “utopia” that the Belgians were promised by joining the EU and hosting its headquarters has turned into a dystopia, and the country now finds itself in the belly of the liberal-globalist beast.

It’s little wonder than that some of Belgium’s population wants to escape from the organization which is responsible for their socio-cultural and security challenges, ergo the Flemish independence movement which aims to see the country’s northern region become an independent state because of the lopsided demographic-economic advantage that it has over Wallonia. Flanders contributes four times as much to Belgium’s national economy as Catalonia does to Spain’s, being responsible for a whopping 80% of the country’s GDP as estimated by the European Commission, and it also accounts for roughly two-thirds of Belgium’s total population unlike Catalonia’s one-sixth or so. This means that Flemish independence would be absolutely disastrous for the people living in the remaining 55% of the “Belgian” rump state, which would for all intents and purposes constitute a de-facto, though unwillingly, independent Wallonia. Therefore, it’s important to forecast what could happen if Belgium ultimately implodes with Flanders’ possible secession.

Flanders

Breaking The Buffer State

This section should appropriately be prefaced by emphasizing that there’s no guarantee that Flanders will actually secede from Belgium, or that it would be successful in holding an unconstitutional referendum such as the one that Catalonia did in attempting to “legitimize” its anti-state ambitions. Furthermore, the Belgian state or its EU superstate overseer might resort to force just as Madrid did in trying to prevent this region’s secession, so the reader shouldn’t take it for granted that Flanders will inevitably become an independent state. Having gotten the “disclaimer” out of the way, however, there’s a very real chance that the “Catalan Chain Reaction” will spread to the “belly of the beast” in catalyzing a similar separatist process in Flanders, hence why the author argued in the introduction that the outcome of such a reenergized post-Catalan movement in this region will be the best barometer in gauging whether the EU’s liberal-globalist elite do indeed plan to “Balkanize” the bloc into an array of regionally “federalized” identity-centric statelets.

Given the domestic and historical particularities of the Belgian case study, it appears likely that Flanders’ successful secession (however it ends up coming about) would lead to a narrow range of geopolitical outcomes for the Western European country. The first one is that Wallonia would be unable to function as a stand-alone “rump”/”independent” state given its measly 20% of unified Belgium’s GDP, its one-third of the previous population, and presumed dependency on Flanders’ port of Antwerp for most economic contact with the “outside world’ aside from France and Germany. For these reasons, it’s conceivable that the French-speaking region could be taken over by France just like how the famous French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord originally envisioned in his unfulfilled eponymous “Talleyrand partition plan” that was first unveiled during the 1830 London Conference. As for Flanders itself, it could either attempt to remain an “independent” state or possibly confederate with the Netherlands, if there was any desire from both parties for this latter option.

Where things get tricky, however, is when it comes to the German-speaking community in eastern Wallonia, which might not want to become part of France. Also, for reasons of sensitive political-historical optics, they probably wouldn’t be able to join Germany because it would carry uncomfortably strong shadows of Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland during the pre-World World II dissolution of Czechoslovakia. Therefore, it’s likely that this sub-region would remain within Wallonia, which itself would probably become part of France, albeit with possible autonomy guaranteed to the German speakers that Paris would be “inheriting”. That said, this isn’t the trickiest part of any Belgian breakup, as the status of Brussels would definitely occupy center stage in this scenario. The EU would be inclined to see to it that its capital becomes an “independent” city-state on par with similarly sized Liechtenstein, though with a much higher and more dangerous Salafist demographic to contend with, one which could make it the “rightful” capital of “Eurabia” if civilizational-geopolitical trends continue in that direction.

Concluding Thoughts

The future of Flanders will be more of a harbinger of the EU’s administrative-political future than Catalonia’s will be, though the latter is indeed the trigger for sparking what might become the former’s emboldened separatist push. If the host country of the EU’s headquarters falls victim to the secessionist trend that might be poised to sweep across the bloc due to the “Catalan Chain Reaction”, then it would confidently indicate that the EU’s ruling liberal-globalist elite are determined to initiate the “controlled Balkanization” of the continent into a constellation of identity-centric statelets so as to ultimately satisfy their long-held goal of implementing a “federation of regions. There is no place in Europe more symbolically significant than Belgium, and especially its jihadist dystopian capital of Brussels, so if the European power structures “allow” Flanders to separate from “the First Bosnia”, then it’s all but certain that the rest of the bloc will feel the geopolitical reverberations within their own borders sooner than later.

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Kenyan Opposition Leader Withdraws From Scheduled Rerun of Presidential elections

NOVANEWS

NASA coalition seeks to foster political instability after Supreme Court orders another election set for October 26

Featured image: Raila Odinga (Source: @RailaOdinga / Twitter)

Kenyan opposition leader of the National Super Alliance (NASA), Raila Odinga, 72, announced on October 10 that he would not participate in the Supreme Court ordered rerun of the national presidential elections initially held on August 8.

Raila Odingda cited the purported lack of reforms within the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as his reason for sitting out the upcoming poll slated for October 26.

The revote was mandated by a 4-2 Supreme Court decision based upon unsubstantiated claims made by NASA that the internationally-supervised elections held in August were marred by massive fraud leading to a ten point victory by incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta representing the Jubilee Party. Odinga, a perennial presidential candidate, in all likelihood realized that he had no real chance of scoring a victory in the revote.

Efforts by Odinga to sabotage the second term of President Kenyatta were revealed in the immediate wake of the election where the opposition figure lost by a margin of approximately 54-44 percent. At first Odinga said he would not seek an injunction to overturn the results as he had done in 2013.

However, he would soon change his mind and filed his objections with the Kenyan Supreme Court. In an unprecedented move never before witnessed in Africa, and only three other times around the world, a majority of justices granted the NASA request in September.

New elections were ordered by the court within two months. Both candidates set out once again on the campaign trail.

Opposition Leader Seeks to Generate Civil Unrest

Attempts to mobilize large demonstrations after the declaration of Kenyatta as the winner in the August 8 election–protests which would deliberately target the official Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IBEC)–failed amid charges by the NASA leader that the panel which oversees the voting process was corrupt and rigged in favor of the incumbent and his party. After Odinga said he would not stand again for office on October 26, the Kenyan parliament, dominated by the Jubilee Party of Kenyatta, passed a bill mandating that if the second leading candidate withdraws from an election, the first one would automatically be declared the winner.

Nonetheless, violent clashes did erupt just one day after the announcement of non-participation by Odinga. The NASA coalition called for renewed demonstrations beginning on October 11 and continuing throughout the remaining days of the week.

According to Al Jazeera:

“In Odinga’s western stronghold of Kisumu, thousands of protesters took to the street, blocking roads, setting heaps of tires alight and engaging in running battles with police. In Nairobi, police briefly used tear gas to disperse protesters who threw stones at passing cars. However, the crowd later dispersed peacefully after speeches from opposition leaders, helped along by the first heavy rainfall of the season.” (Oct. 11)

Although some staff changes were made within the IBEC structures, there was no attempt to unseat the Chairperson Wafula Chebukati who had been cited for removal by Odinga. The decision by Odinga has raised even more questions about the necessity of continuing with the second election.

Kenyan hit by armored vehicle on October 11, 2017 (Source: Abayomi Azikiwe)

Several other candidates garnered less than one percent of the total votes. However, the Supreme Court ruled on October 10 that Ekuru Aukot, who received 27,000 votes in the August 8 elections, should as well appear on the ballots for the October 26 vote. The IBEC has said that the names of eight candidates will appear on the ballot unless they file an official withdrawal Form 24A.

Odinga notified the IBEC of his withdrawal in writing on October 10. The electoral commission noted that the Form 24A had still not been submitted by the NASA coalition.

Political Uncertainty Impacts National Economy

The cost of organizing another election and the obvious weariness of the international community is partly to blame for the resulting decline in economic indicators. Subsequent to these developments there has been an atmosphere of social uncertainty for the future.

Various monitoring missions were deployed to Kenya for the August 8 election from the United Nations, European Union (EU), African Union (AU), the Carter Center in the U.S., the Common Market of Southern and Eastern Africa (COMESA), among others. The NASA rejection of the outcome and the majority Supreme Court ruling overturning the results, which had been endorsed by leading international delegations, has left these bodies in bewilderment.

Kenya being the largest economy in the East Africa region has been considered a secure destination for foreign investment. Despite the strain in relations with the United States since the ascendancy of President Kenyatta in 2013, the country maintained a growth level of five percent over the last several years (2016).

In an article published by the French Press Agency (AFP) on October 11, the plight of small business people was revealed. These operations have experienced a loss of revenue emanating from the ongoing political controversies involving the August 8 national elections.

George Ochienga and Onyango Owino run a blacksmith shop in the Kibera section of the capital city of Nairobi. Their interviews with the AFP indicated that:

“Election seasons stifle the economy in the country, but this year’s protracted crisis, with many weeks of court disputes and street protests, has been particularly bad for business. Mr. Onyango appears hard at work, hammering a glowing shaft of metal fresh from the forge, but his industry is an illusion. ‘There aren’t many orders so I’m repairing some of my tools,’ he said. In recent weeks Mr. Onyango has been forced to fire two of his five employees.”

This AFP report also points out that the annual growth rates do not completely reflect the reality of the majority of the Kenyan people, many of whom are involved in the manufacturing and service sectors. A negative outlook for the coming months dampens confidence and consequently hampers consumer spending.

The series of interviews and analysis then notes that:

“The thousands of minibus taxis, known as matatus, that ply Nairobi providing transport to the masses reported a 30 percent decline in turnover during September, said Simon Kimutai, president of the Matatu Owners Association. ’People move less, that is very representative,’ he said. Meanwhile, in the upmarket business district of Kilimani, Judy Njogu, an assistant manager at a car dealer, says she is selling fewer than five cars a week, compared with at least 10 in normal times. ‘We have a lot of corporate clients and they are a bit skeptical about spending money right now,’ she said.”

Additional internal and regional problems require the immediate attention of the government which is being plagued by ongoing allegations by opposition forces. There have been additional clashes with suspected members of the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab rebel organization.

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses crowd on Sept. 1, 2017 (Source: Abayomi Azikiwe)

Gunmen thought to be from neighboring Somalia opened fire on a vehicle carrying staff near the campus of the Technical University of Mombasa. The regional chief of police chief reported that the attack was launched in Ukunda, which is 31 kilometers (19 miles) southwest of Mombasa, the second largest city in the country and a coastal tourist attraction.

Two women staff members at the University died in the attack. Mwangi Kahiro, the acting county commissioner for Kwale County, reported on the ambush in an interview with the Associated Press on October 10. Students in response to the deaths protested against the apparent lack of security in the area.

Somalia is still being occupied by 22,000 troops from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). Kenya contributes several thousands of its military personnel to AMISOM which had made it susceptible to repeated armed attacks by the Islamist guerrilla group.

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Togo Opposition Set for Renewed Round of Anti-Government Demonstrations

NOVANEWS

Gnassingbe administration fails to assuage mass discontent amid calls for the president’s resignation and major constitutional reform

Featured image: President of Togo Faure Gnassignbe

Togolese officials have reportedly issued restrictions on planned demonstrations scheduled to begin October 18. These actions, which have spread broadly across the West African state in recent months, have been a source of concern by the current government.

Fourteen opposition parties and coalitions are united in an effort to force the removal of the regime of Faure Gnassignbe, the president whose father took complete control of the country as a result of a military coup engineered by France during 1967. Togo has a population of 7.8 million people with a tumultuous history of colonization by Germany, France and Britain.

Anti-government forces were mobilizing for marches the following week when the Minister of Territorial administration, Payadowa Boukpessi, announced at a press conference in the capital of Lome that street demonstrations would not be allowed between Monday and Friday. The spokesperson for the government emphasized that people would be allowed to gather at fixed spots instead of taking to the streets in marches.

Providing a rationale for the restrictions, Boukpessi, who stressed on behalf of the administration that:

“There have been calls for civil disobedience, calls for economic sabotage, even calls for murder issued by protesters targeting the authorities and members of their families as well as security services.” (AFP, Oct. 10)

Since the beginning of anti-government demonstrations in August, the country’s internet services have been periodically shutdown by the administration in Lome.

Despite the government claims of violent tendencies of the opposition groups, the Togolese authorities are responsible for several deaths, the wounding and injuring of scores of people along with the arrests, prosecution and imprisonment of leading political activists. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in the last two months calling attention to the machinations of the government aimed at extending its dominance of political power.

The opposition forces are determined to move forward on the actions slated for October 18 with the intended purpose of bringing large crowds into the streets. Brigitte Kafui Adjamagbo-Johnson, a political leader of one of the anti-regime coalitions, said of the announced restrictions by the government that:

“The fight continues. To this end, we are already announcing, for Wednesday October 18, a big march towards the offices of (the West African regional group) ECOWAS in Lome.”

Adjamagbo-Johnson is a longtime political activist who was the first woman to run for president of Togo in 2010. She has worked on various projects designed to enhance the status of women inside the country.

During the largest anti-government demonstrations on October 4-5, Adjamagbo-Johnson emphasized the willingness to negotiate on the part of the opposition saying:

“We can never say no to dialogue. The president himself has not called for any dialogue despite seeing what is going on in this country. We all know that he has heard our messages that we are sending.” (Africa News, Oct. 5)

Eric Dupuy, the spokesperson for the National Alliance for Change (ANC), reiterated that the demonstrations planned for October 18-19 will proceed as originally announced. Dupuy said that the proper legal requirements for notification were met and consequently there is no basis for the announcement by Boukpessi.

“If the government decides to break the law, the people will not respect it,” the ANC spokesperson said. “Wednesday’s march will end on the esplanade outside the National Assembly. The one on the 19th (Thursday), will finish outside the ECOWAS offices,” the West African regional organization.

In response to the demonstrations, the Togo parliament has quickly passed a draft bill calling for term limits on September 15. The legislation would ostensibly mandate a maximum of two terms of office for the presidency, not retroactively, instead moving forward. Opposition parties have criticized the parliamentary actions noting that it would still allow Gnassingbe to run for an additional two terms office extending his tenure potentially to 2025.

Togo opposition on the march for removal of neo-colonial regime in Lome (Source: Abayomi Azikiwe)

Members and supporters of the ruling Union of the Republic (UNIR) party held its own series of demonstrations in support of President Gnassingbe on September 20-21. UNIR has rejected the claims by the Pan-African National Party (PNP), National Alliance for Change (ANC) and the Group of Six, who are all demanding sweeping political reforms.

Nonetheless, opposition members of parliament refused to support the measures saying they did not go far enough in guaranteeing genuine democratic practice. They are calling for the restoration of the 1992 constitution which grew out of a nationwide process of negotiations, debates and discussions.

In the aftermath of the death of former President Eyadema Gnassingbe in 2005, his son Faure, was installed in contravention to wishes of opposition forces. The present leader is currently serving his third consecutive term in the presidency.

Regional and International Implications of the Togo Crisis

The government of Ghana has realized the potential for the conflict in neighboring Togo to spill over into its territory. Togolese refugees have fled across the border fearing an intensification of the political violence. Ghana has strengthened its security on the border with Togo since the eruption of demonstrations nearly two months ago.

In a joint statement on the situation in Togo, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), and the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) acknowledged that the political tensions in the country requires constant monitoring by regional and international groupings. The unrest in Togo is taking place alongside other developments in West Africa including the secessionist movements in South Cameroon and Southeast Nigeria, along with the killings of several United States Special Forces troops in Niger.

According to an ECOWAS, AU and UNOWAS press release dated October 4:

“The three organizations take note in particular of the passage of the draft constitutional bill to amend relevant articles of the Togolese constitution. They observe that it is an important step in bringing Togo in conformity with democratic norms reflecting best practices in West Africa. ECOWAS, AU and UNOWAS call on the Government to set a date for the organization of the referendum on the draft bill. They encourage the opposition to take this opportunity to further advance the constitutional reforms.”

This same media advisory goes on to say:

“ECOWAS, AU and UNOWAS appeals to all Togolese political stakeholders to pursue dialogue on this important matter in a peaceful manner, in line with the legitimate aspirations of the Togolese people. They call on all actors to show restraint in order to preserve peace and cohesion in the country because Togo is their common heritage.”

On October 10, the opposition refused offers to meet with a delegation from International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) which arrived in the country in an attempt to mediate the conflict between anti-Gnassingbe parties and the government. OIF is a relic of the Parisian imperialist system from the late 19th century consisting of representatives of 57 member-states who have French as their national language. The organization was relaunched in 1970 to promote joint projects between France and its current as well as former colonies.

The situation in Togo requires drastic moves on the part of the government. Until a more representative system is established unrest will continue.

Growth prospects for the country remain uncertain due to the agrarian nature of the economy where most people work within the agricultural sector. Cocoa and coffee production represents the major exports while phosphate deposits have played an increasing role since 1970s.

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US-backed Forces Negotiate with ISIS Over Raqqah City ‘Video’

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The US-led coalition and the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are negotiating a deal with ISIS terrorists in the city of Raqqah, according to multiple local and opposition sources. According to reports, ISIS units would be allowed to withdraw to Deir Ezzor province where they help their counterparts fighting Syrian government forces.

However, the sides allegedly have some differences over the number of vehicles and arms that ISIS members could take from Raqqah city. By Wednesday, the deal has not been finalized yet.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the US-led coalition released a statement saying that the SDF-linked Raqqah Civil Council and some “Arab tribal elders” work to protect and evacuate civilians from the ISIS-held area. It is not clear how this could be done in a big way without a contact with ISIS.

Some pro-government experts speculated that the evacuation of civilians will be a cover operation for the withdrawal of ISIS members.

On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry accused the US-led coalition of imitating efforts against ISIS in western Iraq. According to the ministry, a low number of the coalition’s airstrikes allow ISIS members to cross the border and join the battle against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) near the city of al-Mayadin in the province of Deir Ezzor.

The ministry added that 59 ISIS members, 4 battle tanks, 3 armored personnel carriers, 14 vehicles equipped with weapons and 2 rocket launchers were destroyed by Russian airstrikes near al-Mayadin.

Clashes for the city are ongoing.

The SAA and its allies have liberated an area of 8,000km2 and taken control over the entire Jordanian border with Rif Dimashq province, according to pro-government sources. Government forces reportedly cleared the entire area from terrorists.

If it is true, this will allow the army and its allies to free a significant force that can be used against ISIS across Syria. The ISIS-held city of Mayadin and the T-2 Pumping Station are obvious targets for this.

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Columbus Day Honors The History of Genocide

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Columbus Day was commemorated on Monday. The US federal holiday should have been abandoned long ago. It never should have been established in the first place.

The arrival of Columbus in what’s now the Bahamas and Hispaniola was followed by the mass slaughter of around 100 million native people – the most horrific genocide in human history, continuing for 500 years, before and after what’s now America became a nation.

Columbus sought gold, other riches and slaves for Spain. A second voyage followed the first. Native people were slaughtered throughout the Caribbean.

No gold was found, just hundreds of human beings taken captive, those surviving the journey to Spain sold like sheep or goats, treated like vermin.

Arawak people in the Caribbean deserved better. They were friendly and receptive to new arrivals, greeting them with gifts, food and water, making them feel welcome, much like Native Americans, leaving them vulnerable to the viciousness of conquerors – their first exposure to the scourge of Western civilization.

Swords and daggers later were guns, cannons and other weapons against their peaceful way of life, crude weapons used for hunting, not warfare.

Beginning over 500 years ago, horrors never stopped. A serial killer became an American hero.

In Chapter 1 of his People’s History of the United States, the late historian Howard Zinn explained Arawaks “were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing.”

Image result for Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn

They “swam out to greet” their arrival. Columbus took “some of them aboard ship as prisoners because he insisted that they guide him to the source of the gold.”

There was none. He hadn’t reached Asia, as he claimed, marveled at the generosity of native people, willing to share anything they had.

His bounty consisted of hundreds of slaves. Others “were hunted down with dogs and killed,” said Zinn.

“Trying to put together an army of resistance, the Arawaks faced Spaniards who had armor, muskets, swords (and) horses.”

“When the Spaniards took prisoners they hanged them or burned them to death. Among the Arawaks, mass suicides began, with cassava poison.”

“Infants were killed to save them from the Spaniards. In two years, through murder, mutilation, or suicide, half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti were dead.”

Slaves taken to Spain “were worked at a ferocious pace, and died by the thousands.” Columbus arrived in 1492. “By 1550, there were five hundred (left).”

“A report of the year 1650 shows none of the original Arawaks or their descendants” remained – all exterminated or enslaved, those surviving the rigorous voyage. Many perished.

“Total control led to total cruelty. The Spaniards ‘thought nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades.’ “ Zinn quoted Bartolome de las Las Casas, a priest participating in the conquest of Cuba.

By 1508, “over three million people had perished from war, slavery, and the mines,” he wrote. “Who in future generations will believe this? I myself writing it as a knowledgeable eyewitness can hardly believe it…”

Zinn said “(t)hus (was) the history, five hundred years ago, of the European invasion of the Indian settlements in the Americas.”

By some estimates, eight million human beings perished. “When we read the history books given to children in the United States, it all starts with heroic adventure-there is no bloodshed-and Columbus Day is a celebration.”

High school and higher education provide some hints of the horrors officials in America tried suppressing throughout the country’s history.

Columbus historians providing a glimpse into what happened glossed over the horrors, “bur(ied) them in a mass of other information” considered more important, Zinn explained – telling readers:

“(Y)es, mass murder took place, but it’s not that important. It should weigh very little in our final judgments; it should affect very little what we do in the world.”

This distortion of history tries justifying the unjustifiable. It’s too late to undo what happened. It’s easy to say unspeakable atrocities were a “necessary price to pay for progress,” said Zinn.

History is told “from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats (and) leaders.” No one speaks for victims.

“(W)e must not accept the memory of states as our own,” Zinn stressed.

Albert Camus once said thinking people should not be on the side of executioners.

Long ago, belligerents had swords, then rifles and cannons. Today nations have vast armies, supersonic warplanes, ICBMs and thermonuclear bombs able to annihilate millions with a single detonation over a large metropolitan area.

It took 500 years to slaughter 100 million native people in what’s now the Americas. Today it could be done in days with enough WMD detonations.

Humanity has come a long way in honing its killing skills, surviving them given scant attention.

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Why U.S. and Saudi Arabia Back Rohingya in Myanmar

NOVANEWS
 

Featured image: British colonial forces in Myanmar, known at the time as Burma.

Demonstrations, protests and online petitions have appeared worldwide to defend the struggle of the Rohingya people who have been driven from Myanmar into exile. What is of concern is that political forces with no history of or interest in defending the rights of these oppressed people, including the U.S. and Saudi regimes, have joined this effort.

While he was threatening People’s Korea, Iran and Venezuela in his United Nations speech, U.S. President Donald Trump also demanded that the U.N. Security Council take “strong and swift action” to end violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya population.

U.S. government officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki HaleySecretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence, have called for immediate action and delivery of humanitarian aid to the Rohingya.

Since Washington and Riyadh are inflicting a murderous war on millions of people in Yemen, not to mention in other parts of the world, working-class movements and anti-imperialist forces around the globe are asking what is behind their sudden concern for a small ethnic group in Southeast Asia. Could it have something to do with geopolitical maneuvering in Myanmar between China and the U.S.?

As a huge developing economy with central planning, significant state ownership and cash reserves, China is in a position to offer extensive infrastructure development. China’s One Belt One Road project and other economic plans are attracting great interest.

U.S. policy is increasingly geared toward disrupting these development plans with vastly expanded militarization and regional wars. This is the strategy behind the Pentagon’s “Pivot to Asia.” A Western network of nongovernmental organizations and Saudi-backed extremists are part of the disruption.

Myanmar and the Rohingya

Myanmar, earlier called Burma, is a formerly colonized, underdeveloped and extremely diverse nation of 51 million people. It has 135 distinct ethnic groups among its eight nationalities.

Myanmar is a resource-rich, strategically important country bordering China, Bangladesh, India, Thailand and Laos. It’s important to Wall Street banks and U.S. policy makers as a major exporter of natural gas, and there are plans to make it a conduit for oil.

Within Myanmar, the Rohingya people are an oppressed ethnic group of approximately 1 million people. A majority of Rohingya are Muslim, though they make up less than half of Myanmar’s Muslim population, which is scattered throughout the mostly Buddhist country.

The Rohingya are considered stateless. They live in the state of Rakhine, on the Bay of Bengal, and share a long border with Bangladesh.

In articles on Myanmar and the Rohingya, Reuters News (Dec. 16, 2016), Chicago Tribune (Aug. 31), Wall Street Journal (Sept. 13) and the think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (Sept. 7), all reported Saudi support for the Rohingya struggle.

The group carrying out armed resistance in Myanmar, known as Harakah al-Yaqin (HaY, Faith Movement in Arabic) and now called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, is headquartered in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Ataullah abu Ammar Junjuni, a Pakistani national who lived in Saudi Arabia, is the leader of ARSA. This group led a coordinated attack on 30 Myanmar military posts on Aug. 25.

The Myanmar military responded with a wave of repressive attacks on the Rohingya that drove tens of thousands of people over the border.

U.S./Saudi crimes in Yemen

Meanwhile, the Saudi kingdom is carrying out a genocidal war on Yemen, enforcing a blockade of food and aid against the poorest country in Southwest Asia. This war is only possible using U.S.-made jet aircraft and bombs. The Saudi military cannot fly its own jet aircraft or carry out bombing runs without direct U.S. assistance and in-air refueling. In addition, the Pentagon is now carrying out at least one covert strike every two days in Yemen.

Yemen is caught in “the world’s largest hunger crisis,” which is “man-made” and is starving “an entire generation.” (Washington Post, May 19)  According to U.N. figures, more than 7 million Yemenis are close to famine.

The World Health Organization has warned of “the worst cholera outbreak in the world” in Yemen. (CNN, Oct. 4) The U.N. counted 777,229 cholera cases as of Oct. 2, many of them in children.

Saudi bombing of sanitation and sewage infrastructure in this impoverished country is a major cause of the deadly epidemic. Yet this desperate crisis was not on the U.N.’s agenda, and is barely mentioned in the media as world leaders met in New York in September. The media focus was on Trump’s talk of aiding the Rohingya.

The U.S. State Department has pledged to provide “emergency shelter, food security, nutritional assistance, health assistance, psychosocial support, water, sanitation and hygiene, livelihoods, social inclusion, non-food items, disaster and crisis risk reduction, restoring family links, and protection to over 400,000 displaced persons in Burma and in Bangladesh.”

Remember that the U.S. military is engaged in bombing, drone attacks, targeted assassinations and starvation sanctions against at least eight Muslim countries on any given day: Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia provides no rights for any of the peoples living within its borders. Minority religious communities and millions of immigrant workers, even after living there for generations, are not counted as citizens. Its vast oil wealth is owned by one family: the House of Saud.

Saudi Arabia has played its reactionary role by funding extremist groups, often with the quiet support of the U.S., in Afghanistan, Syria and across the Middle East. Increasingly in South Asia, Saudi-influenced political and religious extremism is having an impact.

Saudi Arabia spends over $1 billion to fund 560 Wahhabi mosques and Islamic centers in Bangladesh, which borders  Myanmar. This means a new center of reaction in almost every village and town in Bangladesh. Similar funding has been long underway in India and Pakistan.

U.S. pivot to Asia

U.S. and Saudi support for the Muslim Rohingya is based on the U.S. declared “pivot to Asia.” For U.S. strategists, it is a way to block Chinese influence in a strategic region.

Eighty percent of China’s needed oil and much of its trade passes through the Malacca Straits — a narrow choke-point between Indonesia and Singapore — and into the increasingly tense South China Sea. U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups stationed there could easily blockade this movement of needed resources.

To counter U.S. aggressive moves, China’s development programs are aimed at diversifying and finding ways around a direct confrontation with U.S. military power.

China is building a deep-sea port, industrial park, and gas and oil pipelines at Kyauk Pyu in Myanmar on the Bay of Bengal. This would provide China with an alternative route for energy imports from the Middle East that avoids the Malacca Straits. The multibillion-dollar construction project is also enormously beneficial to Myanmar’s economy, aiding development of its gas fields. U.S. and Saudi intervention in the escalating Rahingya struggle threatens this development project.

There is no region in the developing world, whether in Asia, Africa or Latin America, where U.S. imperialism, in its present stage of decay, plans to assist desperately needed economic development. The U.S. economy is geared to super-profits through war, weapons sales and onerous debt. U.S. imperialism can only continue its domination by disrupting the development of any potential competitors or economic bloc of competitors.

Divide-and-rule tactics

By consciously supporting and inflaming both sides of a national struggle, the cynical Western imperialist powers are employing a longtime divide-and-rule tactic meant to dominate a whole region by becoming the outside arbiter.

U.S. imperialists have done this in many international crises. In Iraq, the U.S. built bases in the Kurdish region while claiming to support the unity of the Iraqi state. Playing on this division has strengthened the ruinous involvement of the Pentagon in the region.

In the Philippines a sudden insurgency of a minority Muslim population on the island of Mindanao has become the latest excuse for the U.S. to offer joint training and stationing of its troops there.

Myanmar refugee camps in Bangladesh may become recruitment areas for the Islamic State group (ISIS) and staging grounds for future interventions, said Forbes, a magazine about corporate finance, last July 11.

Pentagon plans for expanded intervention, coordinated with Saudi organization and funding, can be seen in this warning by the Center for Strategic and International Studies:

“There is legitimate concern that the violence will attract outside forces. Now that thousands of battle-hardened, ISIS-affiliated foreign fighters are seeking new missions beyond a shrinking Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, new opportunities to defend Muslims will inevitably appeal to them.” (Sept. 7)

All the countries of the region, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and China, have every interest in a peaceful reconciliation for the Rohingya people. The region needs coordinated development, not the enormous disruption of war.

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Catalan Premier Affirms Right to Independence From Spain, but Delays Formal Declaration

NOVANEWS

Featured image: Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont (Source: Government of Catalonia)

Speaking Tuesday evening before the Catalan parliament in Barcelona, regional premier Carles Puigdemont announced that Catalonia would secede from Spain, in line with the result of the October 1 Catalan independence referendum. However, he put off a formal declaration of independence for now and requested negotiations with the central government in Madrid. The Popular Party (PP) government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has declared the referendum illegal and treasonous and ruled out talks with Puigdemont.

The contradictory announcement, coming after Puigdemont reportedly took calls from politicians from across Europe, left the European political situation in a highly unstable and explosive state, with Spain teetering on the verge of military rule and civil war.

Puigdemont delivered his speech amid an unfolding Spanish military and police intervention into Catalonia and the looming threat of a crackdown even bloodier than that carried out on October 1, the day of the referendum. At that time, 16,000 Guardia Civil assaulted peaceful voters and smashed polling places in a failed attempt to halt the referendum, shocking the world as videos emerged of police beating civil servants and voters, including elderly women. Since then, however, the Spanish military-police presence has been considerably reinforced.

European Union officials and heads of government are continuing to make clear their support for Rajoy’s repression. French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday denounced the “economic egotism” of the Catalan independence movement, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman announced on Monday that she had contacted Rajoy to give her support.

Spanish army logistics units and at least 6,000 more national police have deployed to the region since October 1, taking over Catalonia’s ports and Barcelona’s El Prat Airport. Amid reports that the Spanish Interior Ministry is planning to arrest Puigdemont, several Special Forces units, including the Special Operations Group (GEO) of the police and the Guardia Civil ’s Rapid Action Group (GAR) and Special Intervention Unit (UEI), have made preparations to intervene.

On Monday, a spokesman for Rajoy’s PP government said that Puigdemont could end up like Lluís Companys, who was jailed in 1934 after proclaiming a Catalan state within Spain. In 1940, Companys was captured by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied Paris and handed over to the Spanish fascist regime of Francisco Franco, which executed him by firing squad.

On Tuesday, Catalan regional police, the Mossos dEsquadra, closed down the grounds surrounding the parliament before Puigdemont spoke. They are now carrying out round-the-clock protection of Catalan cabinet members, including Puigdemont. These Catalan government officials are traveling in unmarked cars, El Confidencial reported, to prevent Spanish police from grabbing and arresting them.

Puigdemont spoke at 7 pm, arguing that relations between Catalonia and the rest of Spain had irretrievably broken down. He thanked those who organized or voted in the October 1 referendum, recalled the police assault that day, which wounded over 800 people, and declared that the Catalan issue was no longer an internal Spanish matter, but a European issue. He then said that the Spanish political order that emerged from the 1978 Transition from the Francoite regime to parliamentary democracy had failed the Catalan population.

Citing Catalonia’s role as an “economic motor” of Spain, which, he claimed, helped consolidate democracy, he indicated that Catalans had believed the 1978 Constitution would provide them with a framework for progress. Laying out the Catalan government’s attempts to rewrite its autonomy statutes over the last decade, which were repeatedly vetoed by Spanish courts, he argued that Catalonia was now moving backward from 1978.

Puigdemont cited the October 1 referendum—which produced an 89 percent vote for independence, but on the basis of a voter turnout of just 42 percent—as a binding vote, requiring him to declare an independent Catalan republic. However, he said that he would suspend Catalan independence “several weeks” in response to international demands that he accept mediation with Madrid.

The Spanish government responded to Puigdemont on Tuesday through Vice-Premier Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, who flatly rejected all calls for mediation. She reiterated the PP’s insistence that the referendum and the Catalan law on which it was based were illegal, and that there could be no negotiations with the Catalan separatists.

“Neither Mr. Puigdemont nor anyone else can draw conclusions from a law that does not exist, a referendum that did not occur, and from a will of the Catalan people that, yet again, they are trying to seize and make their own,” she said. Adding that there could be no mediation, she announced, “Tomorrow, the leader of the government will bring together the council of ministers to discuss our next steps.”

Rajoy is due to make a statement on the Catalan crisis today after the council of ministers meeting, at 4 pm.

The only force that can provide a progressive resolution of this crisis is the working class. The brutal policy of the Spanish state and the national bourgeoisie of using violence and repression to forcibly hold Catalonia within Spain is reactionary and must be opposed by workers across the Iberian Peninsula, Spanish and Catalan alike, together with workers throughout Europe and internationally. The demand must be raised for the immediate withdrawal of all national police and military forces from Catalonia.

With the support of the Spanish Socialist Party, the PSOE, the right-wing Rajoy regime is seeking to whip up nationalist sentiment and encourage Francoite fascistic forces in order to prepare a military crackdown not only against the Catalan masses, but also the working class in the rest of the country. This is its solution to the desperate and worsening crisis of Spanish and European capitalism.

But the Catalan separatist bourgeoisie and its middle-class allies offer no democratic or progressive alternative. They seek a separate capitalist state in order to establish more lucrative relations with the imperialist powers on the basis of more intense austerity, using Catalan workers as cheap labor to attract foreign investment. They whip up Catalan nationalism the better to divide the working class and exploit their “own” workers.

Only the independent mobilization of the working class in Spain and across Europe, in struggle against capitalism and the danger of dictatorship, on a socialist and internationalist perspective, offers a way forward.

The basic problems facing the broad mass of the Catalan and Spanish populations are rooted not in national, but class oppression. The majority of the Catalan population that did not participate in the October 1 referendum includes large sections of the working class that oppose secession.

What is unfolding is not a crisis simply of the 1978 Spanish Constitution, but of European and world capitalism. The budget battles and fights over regional autonomy between the ruling elites in Madrid and Barcelona unfolded over a decade, as the EU reacted to the global financial collapse with massive bank bailouts financed by devastating austerity measures against the working class across Europe. The formation of a Catalan capitalist republic, led by politicians who have long supported austerity and imperialist war, will do nothing to resolve this international crisis.

There is every indication that Madrid, working with Washington and the major EU powers, is now preparing its political strategy to justify a new crackdown. There is extensive discussion in the Spanish media of applying either Article 155 or 116 of the Spanish Constitution to suspend Catalan regional self-government and basic democratic rights. This would pave the way for a rapid extension of military rule not only in Catalonia, but across all of Spain.

A major element of this crackdown would be the closing down of Internet and social media accounts to censor information and block protests. Yesterday, Madrid suspended the Twitter accounts used by two Catalan nationalist organizations, the Catalan National Assembly and Omnium, to communicate with their supporters.

Madrid is preparing a bitter clash with the Catalan nationalists and their supporters, many of whom sharply criticized Puigdemont for not immediately declaring independence. Puigdemont delayed his appearance yesterday for one hour as he negotiated with the petty-bourgeois nationalist Candidatures of Popular Unity (CUP), which has supported Puigdemont’s austerity budgets in the Catalan parliament. The CUP ultimately boycotted his speech, however.

CUP deputy Anna Gabriel took the floor later to criticize Puigdemont, declaring,

“We believe that today was the opportunity to solemnly proclaim the Catalan republic and that we perhaps missed an opportunity.”

Issuing a hollow pledge to continue with a Catalan separatist program until it produces “class and gender liberation,” she concluded:

“We came to make a republic.”

Spain’s Podemos party is again playing the central role in blocking an independent mobilization of the working class against the danger of a crackdown and military rule, instead adopting an impotent policy of issuing moral appeals to Rajoy and the PP to negotiate with Barcelona.

Podemos General Secretary Pablo Iglesias applauded Puigdemont’s decision to suspend independence. He asked Rajoy to negotiate based on the recognition that “Spain is pluri-national and the Catalan people deserve to be listened to.”

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On Hiding Truth in Canada

NOVANEWS
 

Freedom of expression includes not saying what you don’t want to. So these updates which may give some insight to ‘truth management’ in Canada start out with the journalist’s right to protect his/her sources. Refusing to reveal a source to the court in both the U.S. and Canada can place a journalist in jail. The extremes of countering an individual’s wishes not to reveal information have become the state’s domain due to current policies on torture. U.S. officials who have approved torture are allowed to enter Canada although torture is clearly against Canadian law. And the law is further compromised by government agencies accepting from other countries information which is obtained by torture.

1. The House of Commons has unanimously passed Bill S-231, allowing journalists to not reveal confidential sources unless required by a Superior Court judge. Superior Court judge approval will also be required for the police investigation of a journalist or search of his/her premises. While this seems to protect the journalist’s rights by taking such decisions out of the hands of lesser court judges, it still officially grants the state the right to criminalize a journalist for protecting his/her sources. Decency and professional standards stand in contradiction.

2. The Supreme Court has decided unanimously, that the records concerned with the abuse of native Americans at Canada’s residential schools, 38,000- accounts, will be destroyed. Individuals will have fifteen years to retrieve the records of their abuse. The destruction of records deprives the future of the truth. Without history the lessons may have to be learned all over again. Canada’s government wanted to archive the documents for historical record: analysis of church and government’s roles in the abuse of First Peoples remains incomplete.

3. In Ottawa a plaque at Canada’s new Holocaust Memorial Monument has been removed in response to protests that the text didn’t specifically deal with Jews. The text read:

“The National Holocaust Monument commemorates the millions of men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust and honours the survivors who persevered and were able to make their way to Canada after one of the darkest chapters in history. The monument recognizes the contribution these survivors have made to Canada and serves as a reminder that we must be vigilant in standing guard against hate, intolerance and discrimination.”

However the monument is shaped as a Star of David, during the Holocaust an emblem which applied only to the Jewish people. The monument also specifies the experience of Europe’s Jewish communities on the interior walls. Text of the replacement plaque has not been released. In addition to Jewish peoples and depending on the region of Europe, millions of people who weren’t Jews were rounded up and killed, Roma, Poles, Russians, Serbs, Non-Aryans, communists, nationalists, dissidents, homosexuals, handicapped, old people, sick people, prisoners, prisoners of war, resistance fighters died in labour camps, concentration camps, by injection, gas chanbers, on scaffolds, in the fields of resistance, at mass graves or through starvation and disease. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau inaugurated the monument on Sept. 27th, 2017, but was publicly chided for not specifying Jews in his speech, and for the lack of specific reference in this particular plaque.

Historical note: Edwin Black in his War against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s attempt to create a master race, (New York/London: Four walls Eight Windows, 2003), relies less on the concept of the Holocaust as a war against the Jews, than on the Nazi’s attempt to create a genetically ‘superior’ race. Since the early 1920’s German eugenics research and resulting programs were heavily funded by the U.S.’s Rockefeller Foundation. Nazi programs of “racial hygiene” paralleled the rising anti-Semitism of the laws. In 1933 Reich Statute Part I, No 86, the Law for the Prevention of Defective Progeny was a mass sterilization law for those considered feebleminded, schizophrenic, manic depressive, and those with chorea, epilepsy, physical deformities, deafness, inherited blindness (War against the Weak, p.299). While the Rockefeller Foundation didn’t officially approve of the Reich’s policies in eugenics it continued to fund German eugenics mightily. If one considers the Holocaust a war on the Jews rather than a war of racial hygiene for the purity of a Nordic master race, then one needn’t investigate the wealthy and powerful sources of the crime or reject the human sacrifices of eugenics.

4. As an alternative to re-writing history the perception managers have the option of not letting history occur – if it counters business interests. And Canadian courts have the option of placing publication bans or gag orders on what the public is allowed to know about what happens in legal proceedings. In Vancouver under the Conservative Harper government, environmental groups mobilizing to understand and counter the claims of large corporations to place pipelines across native lands were infiltrated by government/police agencies. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association is taking the government to court for allegedly spying on environmentalists of Lead Now, Stand Earth, the Dogwood Initiative and Sierra Club of B.C.; government spying criminalizes groups and people attempting to contribute to National Energy Board hearings on pipeline approval. Objections were initially raised before the Security Intelligence Review Committee (the watchdog committee for the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency) which rejected the case and forbid the environmentalists from publicly revealing evidence about the review. The environmentalists’ lawyer sees the gag order as a violation of freedom of expression. The Review Committee has used its authority as a tool of oppression. The gag order doesn’t benefit the people but CSIS protected corporate interests, and currently these are under some pressure. In what the Mayor of Montreal Denis Coderre finds a victory for the people, TransCanada has cancelled the 15.7 billion dollar Energy East pipeline. Its destruction of the environment will simply not occur. An estimated 236 million tons of carbon will not pollute the atmosphere. TransCanada also cancelled its Eastern Mainline pipeline. Reliant on freedom of expression and information sharing, grassroots mobilization across Canada has won an initial victory.

5. Information on the case of Alexandre Bissonnette remains tightly controlled and slightly…awry (At the suspect’s court appearance on February 21, 2017, the judge ordered a publication ban”). There’s restricted release of any police evidence or the results and extent of any investigations into Quebec City’s Mosque murder of six Muslim worshippers this past January 29th. On October 2nd another charge was laid against the single suspect, Alexandre Bissonnette, for an additional attempted murder so there are now six charges of “attempted murder with a restricted weapon” and the six charges of first-degree murder remain. To avoid time limits before the case is nullified, with the judge’s warning the CBC assures us the Crown is passing over holding a preliminary inquiry, to simply proceed with the indictment. The CBC reports that the Mosque’s Muslim community still wants to know why Alexandre Bissonnette hasn’t, logically, incurred terrorism charges. The Crown Prosecutor has replied that murder is the most serious crime in Canadian law. This doesn’t really address a public understanding that charges of terrorism increase the terms of prison time at sentencing. So Canadians are denied the privilege of understanding the prosecutor’s compassion for this only suspect in a rather complicated and thorough murder of six Muslims at worship. The case goes to trial in court, Dec. 11th.

6. The Huffington Post notes that Canada leads the United States in the number of corrupt companies blacklisted by the World Bank. We remember that this is the same World Bank which forced “austerity” on Greece in an attempt to sway the country to a more profitable fascism. The World Bank is not considered morally or ethically “fussy.” But #1 in the world Canada has 117 companies (mostly SNC-Lavalin related) which the World Bank considers too corrupt for even them to do business with, while 2nd in the world U.S. has only 46 companies which are actually named. A difficulty with economic corruption is that it translates into the infrastructures of entire populations. For instance, one of Canada’s SNC-Lavalin companies is Candu Energy, famous for designing nuclear reactors.

7. An article by Tony Seed reveals that Canada’s Defence Cooperation Agreement with the Ukraine, not only allows expanded arms sales to a fascist government of the Ukraine but allows increased sales to Saudi Arabia by Canadian companies, ie. Pratt & Whitney Canada, Esterline GMC Electronics. Saudi Arabia is currently bombing a poverty stricken Yemen where a million cases of cholera are expected before November. According to Democracy Now! (“Yemen: ICRC Warns of New Outbreaks as Cholera Cases Near 1 Million,” October 03, 2017): “The ongoing U.S.-backed, Saudi-led bombing campaign has destroyed Yemen’s health, water and sanitation systems…”. An ongoing but ignored genocide warning continues for the people of Yemen. See 20152016, 2017, 2017, 2017. Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and former International Minister of Trade, Chrystia Freeland, currently negotiating the NAFTA agreement for Canada, has found it difficult to resist Canada’s anti-Russian, pro-U.S. policy in the Ukraine which blends easily with her own beginnings as a journalist for a Canadian Ukrainian nationalist newspaper (See “The Tactical Use of the Ukraine”). Supplying Saudi Arabia with weapons at this point should be considered a crime against humanity of major proportions and not concern simply the Canadian weapons suppliers but their government facilitators. Which leads us to the purpose of lies, of perception management, of suppressing news, of hiding the truth from the people. If capable of perceiving the damages they cause, surely the people would object.

Sources

“Ottawa passes legislation to protect journalists’ anonymous sources from police,” Gloria Galloway, Oct. 4, 2017 The Globe and Mail;

“Indigenous residential school records can be destroyed, Supreme Court rules,” Kathleen Harris, Oct 06, 2017, CBC News;

“National Holocaust Monument plaque pulled after panel omits mention of Jews,” Bruce Campion-Smith, Oct. 5, 2017, The Toronto Star;

“Holocaust Memorial plaque that didn’t mention Jews to be replaced,” The Canadian Press, Oct. 6, 2017, CBC News;

” Trudeau government taken to court over alleged spying during Harper years,” Mike De Souza & Carl Meyer, October 4th 2017, National Observer;

“Crown charges Quebec City mosque shooter with attempted murder of attack witnesses,” Catou MacKinnon, Oct. 2, 2017, CBC News;

“Families of mosque shooting victims ‘sick and tired’ of waiting for trial of Alexandre Bissonnette,” Sept. 8, 2017, CBC News;

“Huge ‘People Over Pipeline’ Victory as TransCanada Forced to Kill Energy East,” Jake Johnson, Oct. 5, 2017, Common Dreams;

“TransCanada cancels $15.7B Energy East pipeline project,” The Canadian Press, Oct. 5, 2017, Calgary Herald;

“World Bank’s Corrupt Companies Blacklist Dominated By Canada,” Sept. 18, 2013, The Huffington Post;

“Background on Canada-Ukraine defence agreement: A ‘rich, mutually beneficial’ arms trade,” Tony Seed, June 11, 2017, Tony Seed’s Weblog.

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