Archive | May 9th, 2019

RussiaGate 2.0 and The Plan to Impeach President Trump

NOVANEWS

In the wake of RussiaGate 1.0, will there be a shift in US foreign policy involving a decisive change in US-Russia relations?

Is the Witch-hunt over? 

Or is RussiaGate 2.0 in the making? 

*

On March 3, Trump and Putin held a telephone conversation. They spoke for an hour and a half.

The discussions were described by Trump as “positive”.

Trump “unofficially” discussed “The Russian Hoax” with Vladimir Putin. “Very Productive Talk”.

“Getting along with Russia and China, getting along with all of them is a very good thing, not a bad thing, it a good thing, it’s a positive thing,” (to reporters on May 3)

Trump confirmed that he was open to negotiations on reducing the stock of nuclear weapons with both Moscow and Beijing in the context of a trilateral deal (US-Russia-China). Indelibly, such an agreement could potentially destabilize Trump’s 1.2 trillion dollar nuclear weapons program. It could also have an impact on the movement of Aerospace and Defense (A & D) stocks, which experienced a market bonanza in 2018.

The lifting of sanctions on North Korea, Ukraine and the crisis in Venezuela were also discussed.

The Trump-Putin telephone initiative was taken without prior consultation with John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, who have systematically blocked the restoration of normal dialogue and diplomatic exchange with Moscow.

Is this part of an unfolding internal battle between Trump and his national security advisers, not to mention Vice President Mike Pence? (image right).

President Trump’s overture to the Kremlin visibly contradicts both Bolton and Pompeo who are threatening president Maduro,  pressuring him to leave Venezuela and hand over the presidency to Guaido.  According to Trump:

“He [Putin] is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela,”

It is worth noting that two days prior to the Trump-Putin telephone conversation, Pompeo told Lavrov (also in a telephone conversation) that

“the intervention by Russia and Cuba is destabilizing for Venezuela and for the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship.”

In a bitter irony, this (telephone) statement by Pompeo was made one day after the failed “military coup” in Caracas.

Will Trump’s dialogue with Putin have a bearing on the Bolton-Pompeo threats directed against the Maduro government? Was Trump’s call to Putin (May 3) meant to override Pompeo’s overt threats (May 1st) to intervene militarily in Venezuela?

Lavrov and Pompeo are set to meet early this week in Finland. Will Pompeo, a former army officer, Christian evangelical and for a short while a former-CIA director change his tone and approach following Trump’s telephone conversation with Putin? Unlikely. Mike Pompeo has been the architect of numerous foreign policy blunders since his appointment by Trump first as CIA director in January 2017 and then as Secretary of State.

The presumption of the mainstream media(Time) (which borders on ridicule) is that Donald Trump as president of the United States should have sought the green-light from Bolton-Pompeo. The fact of the matter is that these two individuals are deliberately involved in sabotaging US relations with a large number countries:

The conversation, which Trump went on to describe as “very positive,” appeared to be yet another example of Trump taking Putin’s claims at face value despite contrary evidence from his own governmentThe White House national security adviser, John Bolton, and U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo both said earlier this week that the Kremlin talked Maduro out of leaving Venezuela after U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido attempted to end his regime on Tuesday by calling for a military uprising. (emphasis added)

RussiaGate 2.0

How is this internal confrontation going to evolve? Who is calling the shots at the White House?

Pompeo and Bolton are an obstacle to normalizing diplomatic relations with Russia. They are dangerous individuals, psychopathic in their understanding of global geopolitics, influential with regard to sanctions and  military intervention. They are also misinformed with regard to the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, which they consider as peace-making bombs.

Both Bolton and Pompeo were instrumental in the sabotage of the latest US-North Korea summit in Hanoi.

Impeachment

Despite the release of the Mueller report, the impeachment campaign prevails. Immediately following the Putin-Trump telephone conversation, the campaign to impeach Trump has gone into high gear.

The Atlantic, March 2019

Will The Kremlin Intervene in the 2020 elections? 

Another absurd proposition: The US media is now intimating that Trump’s conversation with Putin is setting the stage for Kremlin intervention in the 2020 elections:

“Mr. President, did you tell him not to meddle in the next election?” a reporter asked.

“Excuse me, I’m talking, I’m answering this question. You are very rude. So we had a good conversation about several different things,” Trump told the reporter.

When asked again about Russian interference in future U.S. elections, Trump said: “We didn’t discuss that.”

According to the Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro

“President Donald Trump wants Russia to interfere on his behalf again in 2020”.

“All of a sudden, he’s willing to take the word of a leader like Vladimir Putin who, time and again, has shown himself to be adversarial to the United States and to be dishonest,” .

In turn, former Vice President Joe Biden, who is now candidate for the 2020 presidential elections has stated:

 “that Congress would have “no alternative” but to impeach President Trump if his administration seeks to block its investigations of issues raised in the special counsel’s report on Russian election interference.” (WaPo, April 30, 2019)

See Trump’s press conference 


ANNEX.

The Russian embassy in the US on the Trump-Putin Telephone Exchange

Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of the United States of America Donald Trump, at the initiative of the American side.

The current state and prospects of bilateral relations were discussed with a focus on economic cooperation. The two presidents spoke in favour of developing mutually beneficial trade and investment relations. They affirmed their shared commitment to step up dialogue in various areas, including on issues of strategic stability.

Vladimir Putin informed Donald Trump of the key results of his April 25 meeting in Vladivostok with Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK Kim Jong-un, stressing that Pyongyang’s good-faith fulfilment of its commitments should be accompanied by reciprocal steps to ease the sanctions pressure on North Korea. Both parties noted the importance of consistent progress towards denuclearisation and achieving long-term normalisation on the Korean Peninsula.

The situation in Ukraine was touched on in the context of the recent presidential election. Vladimir Putin emphasised that the new leadership in Kiev should take real steps to implement the Minsk Agreements, which are critical to resolving the internal Ukrainian conflict.

While exchanging views on the situation around Venezuela, the President of Russia underscored that only the Venezuelans themselves have the right to determine the future of their country, whereas outside interference in the country’s internal affairs and attempts to change the government in Caracas by force undermine prospects for a political settlement of the crisis.

It was agreed to maintain contacts at various levels.

The two heads of state expressed satisfaction with the business-like and constructive nature of the conversation.
——————

“The conversation between Trump and Putin lasted for almost 1.5 hours,” Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
More:
http://tass.com/world/1056870

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A Matter of Independence: Equinor and Drilling the Great Australian Bight

NOVANEWS

Such companies advertise themselves as slick and professional, the best in the business, all things to men, women and everyone in between. They insist that we can all have that vast cake of wealth and eat it too.  Equinor, a Norwegian multinational beast of an energy company with its headquarters in Stavanger, has been doing much in the way of making cakes and eating them.  It seeks“to be the world’s most carbon-efficient oil and gas producer” but at the same a sound investor in renewables.  The earth may well be heating up, but there is no point in not having a bet each way as the frog boils.  Whatever its formula, the company is boastful. “We energize the lives of 170 million people.  Every day.”

Interest has now shifted to the Great Australian Bight, an area deemed by the Great Australian Bight Alliance “one of the most pristine ocean environments left on Earth, supporting vibrant coastal communities, jobs and recreational activities.”  The Norwegian company is determined to drill for oil at a location some 476km west of Port Lincoln, a site which is intended to become the Stromlo-1 well with an intended depth of 2,240m.  A period of 60 days is anticipated, with commencement taking place for late 2020.  A submitted proposal to do so is currently being assessed by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

The company has every reason to be confident that hiccups will be few and far between.  As Coalition campaign spokesman Simon Birmingham told reporters in Adelaide last week,

“There are a large proportion of constituents who want to see jobs and opportunities created, as long as there is no environmental harm.”

Outside the good offices of NOPSEMA, disputes over the science feature.  For Equinor, all is manageable and realisable.  For James Cook University marine biologist Jodie Rummer, a utopia reconciling drilling and sustainability is questionable: environmental frameworks need to be far more sensitive.  Her own research showed that “even small boats and the noise that motors make are disturbing fish and the way they develop.”  Rummer’s descriptions are of marine communities at risk and trauma; even a few drops of oil, she asserts, would cause “massive effects on behaviour and even physiological performance.”  The terror for concerned citizens such as the Wilderness Society’s South Australian director Peter Owen is clear: “It’s very remote where they’re proposing to drill, so if it all goes wrong out there, there’s nothing they can do.”

A typical formula in Australian environmental regulation is its sense of devolution, a polite way of deferring problems best resolved at the highest levels.  Federal bodies prefer their state counterparts to masticate over the issue, thereby passing any potential scandal down to a more local level; state politicians, in turn, refer the issue to the relevant state regulator, bound to be praised for its sound assessments.

“The bottom line,”  says South Australia’s treasurer Rob Lucas, “is it cannot proceed and won’t proceed unless the most stringent safety environmental standards are met.”

Opposition groups numbering some 20 councils and a range of environmental concerns have not been assured by either the Liberal or Labor parties.  Ever spooked about the prospect that denying such a company access to the Australian environment might prevent a jobs opportunity, voices of concern tend to fall silent.  Such silence is assisted by the power of cash and wooing: Equinor and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, a self-touted “voice” for the industry, have been busy spruiking their case to members of the South Australian parliament.

In March this year, both groups were given access to parliamentarians and interested parties at two fora in Adelaide.  APPEA South Australia director Matthew Doman extolled the industry’s aspirations to sustainable operations and engagement with “coastal communities” and those using the marine environment.  To push the claim for drilling, Doman dreamily spoke about an “independent” report from 2018 commissioned, naturally, by his own outfit along with the assistance of ACIL Allen Consulting.

Dollar signs flashed with seductive calling: oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight could see “more than 2,000 jobs in South Australia” while generating some $7 billion in average annual tax revenue for state and federal governments.  As is often the case in such soothsaying, a future indirect effect is also praised: between 2020 and 2060 (time is never an issue for those in this business), additional activity and “associated tax revenue” would see the creation of 5,000 jobs.

For those claiming the unimpeachable nature of any independence in the process, ACIL Allen Consulting prides itself on having experience in the resources business covering “all aspects of the minerals and energy sector, from iron ore and coal industries to onshore and offshore petroleum.”  Now that’s independence for you.

Even more troubling to environmental activists was the presence of NOPSEMA’s own head, Stuart Smith, at the Adelaide events.  There was little in the way of objective distance: Smith was there to be impressed and chew the fat with industry participants.  Greenpeace Australia Pacific chief executive David Ritter was not taking chances, pointing out in a letter to the regulator that such proximity was inappropriate.  “Australian and international integrity bodies have long raised concerns that close relationships between regulators and the industries they are regulating can lead to ‘regulatory’ capture’.”  It was “not appropriate for the chief executive officer of an independent regulator to actively participate in events that are set up to endorse the ‘opportunity’ related to activities that is the authority’s role to independently regulate.”

It has fallen to Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young to provide reassurance that the issue will make its way to the federal parliament.  “The campaign is growing and growing, but we have to stop this project in Canberra and in the parliament.”  With the regulator watered and dined, that, assisted by ferocious public protest, may well be the only route open to concerned parties.

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The abuse of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia

Saudi racists abuse African

By Graham Peebles

With few opportunities at home, millions of poor, desperate men and women from southeast Asia and the Horn of Africa migrate annually to Saudi Arabia, where many are enslaved and badly abused, or even killed.

Slavery is woven into the psyche of the kingdom. According to Saudi scholar Ali al-Ahmed, a “culture of slavery pervades the country”, and although banned in 1964, when it is thought there were 30,000 slaves in the country, the barbaric practice of owning a fellow human being still exists in the form of the internationally condemned kafala sponsorship system. By tying the residency status of migrant workers to their employers, the system grants the latter total control, amounting to ownership.

Under the scheme employers confiscate the passports, money and mobile phones of new arrivals; workers who want to change jobs or leave the country must seek their employer’s, consent who typically refuse to give it. A “sub-contracting” scheme is also in operation, with employers selling workers on. This Dickensian system, which facilitates the abuse suffered by migrant workers, particularly domestic staff, needs to be banned as a matter of urgency; labour laws protecting migrant workers must be introduced and enforced, and full access to consulate support made available.

Oil rich and abusive

Migrant workers make up a third (8 million) of the population and over half the workforce in Saudi Arabia. They are mainly unskilled labourers and domestic workers (jobs the Saudis don’t want to do), are inadequately protected by labour laws and are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by their employers, including excessive working hours, wages withheld for months or years on end, forced confinement, food deprivation, and severe psychological, physical and sexual abuse. Women domestic workers “are also at particular risk of sexual violence and other abuses.”

A study by the Philippines-based Committee on Workers Overseas Welfare says “70 per cent of [Filipino] workers employed as caregivers or without a specific work qualification suffers continuous physical and psychological harassment” in the oil rich gulf state.

Lorraine, a 27-year-old Filipina, arrived in Saudi Arabia in 2010. “When my boss came to pick me up.” she says, “he tried to touch me at once to see if I was available. In the first weeks I constantly suffered his advances, which became more insistent every time I refused.” In nine months of employment Lorraine was raped five times. She was beaten and insulted by the man’s wife and fed on bread and leftovers.

Large numbers of migrant workers relate similar stories, horrific experiences causing many to fall into ill health and large numbers to commit suicide. One such was an Ethiopian woman, who remains anonymous, working as a maid in the northern province of Tabarja: she hanged herself in her employer’s home.

Racism is rife throughout the kingdom, from the royal top to the rural bottom; it forms part of a nefarious cocktail of rigid sectarianism, classism, clannism, and state-sponsored xenophobia that underpins extreme exploitation. All migrant workers are tarnished as “black” – considered an insult relating to marginalized groups – with Ethiopians sitting at the bottom of a hierarchy of prejudice that places migrants from the Philippines, Malaysia and Sri Lanka ahead of their African cousins. Ethiopians suffer the double injustice of being mistreated by their employers and agents, and neglected by their own notoriously duplicitous government – the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) – which offers its nationals little or no consular support.

Many African workers are Christians, but absolutely no churches are officially allowed. As recently as this April, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, the most senior and most influential Sunni Muslim religious and legal authority in the country, declared that all churches in the Arabian Peninsula must be destroyed”. In February this year the Islamic religious police, or mutaween, raided an Ethiopian Christian prayer meeting and made mass arrests. Six months earlier 35 Ethiopians were arrested and deported for engaging in Christian worship.

Judicial indifference capital punishment

In addition to suffering extreme discrimination and violent mistreatment, migrant workers who manage to escape abusive employers are often victims of spurious criminal accusations. According to Human Rights Watch, the “Saudi justice system is characterized by arbitrary arrests, unfair trials and harsh punishments… [the] criminal justice system violates the most basic international human rights standards and detainees routinely face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights”.

Migrants, who often don’t speak Arabic, are denied access to translators and lawyers, and frequently are not allowed to contact their embassies. In 2011 a 54-year old Indonesian worker, Ruyati Binti Satubi Saruna, was tried, sentenced and decapitated without being able to consult her government. More than 45 Indonesian foreign maids are said to be on death row. Saudi families are known to ask for up to 2 million US dollars in blood money in exchange for the release of incarcerated women awaiting execution.

In 2012, the Guardian newspaper reported, Saudi Arabia executed at least 69 people. The previous year it executed at least 79, including five women, The death toll included one woman beheaded for witchcraft and sorcery. The Saudi authorities are not forthcoming with the total numbers imprisoned and living under the shadow of the death penalty; however, Amnesty International said it knew of more than 120 people – mostly foreign nationals – on death row.

Violent expulsions

Over a million Bangladeshis, Indians, Filipinos, Nepalis, Pakistanis and Yemenis have been repatriated since the “correction campaign” – arrest and expulsion – was enforced on 4 November 2013 against migrants without the required legal documentation. The expulsions are largely supported by Saudi society; many feel the number of migrants has grown out of control since the oil boom of the late 1970s and that the huge numbers of migrants in the kingdom has impacted negatively on community life. With 12 per cent unemployment, it is hoped the process of “clearing” will allow Saudi’s to find more work.

During the crackdown migrants of different nationalities report being mistreated by security personnel and civilian vigilante groups; workers from the Philippines (numbering around 660,000) reported being abused and “treated like animals”. Ethiopians (of whom 100,000 have been repatriated, with and without visas) have been specifically targeted; men and women have been dragged through the streets, beaten, raped and, according to Ethiopian Satellite TV Esat, dozens have been killed, including women. Witnesses report seeing two Ethiopian women killed by Saudi military vehicles, and another beaten to death with an iron by soldiers.

Confined to repatriation centres that are little more than prison camps, migrants relayed accounts of extreme mistreatment, poor sanitation, lack of food and health care. According to reports reaching Esat, thousands are hastily being taken from the camps to the Yemen border and left without any provisions. Many returnees to Ethiopia tell of violent treatment, and carry with them scars and fresh wounds from beatings by Saudi employers, police and or civilian mobs.

Fanning prejudice and hatred

Leading up to the routing of migrants, the Saudi media and authorities have spent months branding foreign workers as criminals and stirring up anti-migrant sentiment to justify the crackdown. Antagonism between Ethiopians and Saudis has been fanned by local press reports blaming Ethiopian female domestic workers for brutal attacks against Saudi employers. In July, Saudi officials claimed that over 200 Ethiopian women had been detained in two months for “psychological problems”, prompting the authorities to temporarily ban the recruitment of Ethiopian workers to the country.

Over 190,000 Yemeni migrant workers have been sent home, causing severe deterioration in living conditions in Yemen. From the glass and steel mountains of Jeddah and Riyadh, they were sending up to 200 dollars a month each to their families, money desperately needed for daily living. The International Organization (IOM) for Migration says “we are looking at approximately  5 million dollars lost in remittances [to Yemen] for the months of October and November alone”. Most Yemenis “are returning to areas with high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. The massive loss of income will inevitably exacerbate this situation.”

In June Filipino migrants sent over 2 billion dollars home, which was “an all-time record. It was better than all foreign investments (direct and indirect) combined,” Arab News reports.

In 2011 migrant workers residing in Saudi Arabia sent 35.7 billion dollars (double what it was just two decades ago) to their families. The huge amount flowing out of the country makes Saudi Arabia the second highest source of overseas payments in the world – the first being the USA. The single biggest recipient, with 30 per cent of the total is India, followed by Egypt, Pakistan and the Philippines with almost 9 billion dollars each.

The IOM has been providing assistance to Yemeni returnees, including health care, water, food and immediate necessities such as clothing and footwear, and offers much needed support to Ethiopian returnees: overnight accommodation, food, water, shoes and money for transport to their places of origin. This is essential short-term aid which will be gratefully received; however, the immediate and ongoing hardships they and their families face, the struggle of living without work, opportunities or hope have gone nowhere. It is these underlying issues that make the disadvantaged vulnerable, and causes people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and southeast Asia to leave their homes and seek work elsewhere.

Unless the root causes – poverty, poor education and lack of opportunities, together with extreme social and economic inequality – are dealt with, the danger is that many of those being repatriated will endeavour to migrate elsewhere, perhaps illegally with the aid of criminal gangs, placing themselves at risk of further exploitation, abuse and even death.

The migrant crackdown in Saudi Arabia has unearthed a plethora of poisonous practises, racism, hate and abusive methods in the country. The violence meted out by security personnel and civilian gangs on the city streets has revealed publicly the level of extreme mistreatment suffered by thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of domestic workers hidden from view, trapped and enslaved.

It is a society operating in defiance of all manner of human rights that has been clearly seen and exposed.

As the thousands of Ethiopians protesting outside Saudi embassies across the world have chanted, “shame on you, shame on you, shame on you”.

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Ethiopian migrants victimized in Saudi Arabia

Ethiopian migrants in Saudi Arabia

By Graham Peebles

In recent days the persecution of Ethiopian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia has escalated. Men and women are forced from their homes by mobs of civilians and dragged through the streets of Riyadh and Jeddah. Distressing videos of Ethiopian men being mercilessly beaten, kicked and punched have circulated on the internet and triggered worldwide protests by members of the Ethiopian diaspora as well as outraged civilians in Ethiopia. Women report being raped, many repeatedly, by vigilantes and Saudi police. Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) has received reports of 50 deaths and says thousands living with or without visas have been detained awaiting repatriation.

Racism and hate running through the streets

Earlier this year the Saudi authorities announced plans to purge the kingdom of illegal migrants. In July, King Abdullah extended the deadline for them to “regularize their residency and employment status”, from 3July] to 4 November. On 6 November, Inter Press Service (IPS) reports, Saudi police, “rounded up more than 4,000 illegal foreign workers at the start of a nationwide crackdown“, undertaken in an attempt, the authorities say, to reduce the 12 per cent unemployment rate and create more jobs for locals.

Ahead of the crackdown many visa-less migrants left the country: nearly a million Bangladeshis, Indians, Filipinos, Nepalis, Pakistanis and Yemenis are estimated to have left the country in the past three months. More than 30,000 Yemenis have reportedly crossed to their home country in the past two weeks, and around 23,000 Ethiopian men and women have “surrendered” to the Saudi authorities.

The police and civilian vigilante gangs are victimizing Ethiopian migrants, residing with and without visas; the crackdown has provided the police and certain sectors of the civilian population with an excuse to attack EthiopiansPress TV reports that “Saudi police killed three Ethiopian migrant workers in the impoverished neighbourhood of Manfuhah in the capital, Riyadh, where thousands of African workers, mostly Ethiopians, were waiting for buses to take them to deportation centres”. Hundreds have been arrested and report being tortured. “We are kept in a concentration camp, we do not get enough food and drink, when we defend our sisters from being raped, they beat and kill us,” a migrant named Kedir, told ESAT TV. Women seeking refuge within the Ethiopian consulate tell of being abducted from the building by Saudi men and raped. ESAT reports that several thousand migrants have been transported by trucks to unknown destinations outside the cities.

While the repatriation of illegal migrants is lawful, the Saudi authorities do not have the right to act violently, beating, torturing and raping vulnerable, frightened people who wish simply to work in order to support their families. The abuse that has overflowed from the homes where domestic workers are employed onto the streets of the capital reflects the wide-ranging abuse suffered by migrant workers of all nationalities in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Gulf States.

Trail of abuse

This explosion of state-sponsored violence against Ethiopians highlights the plight of thousands of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. They tell of physical, sexual and psychological abuse at the hands of employers, agents and family members. The draconian kafala sponsorship system, which grants ownership of migrants to their sponsor, together with poor or non-existent labour laws, endemic racism and gender prejudice, creates an environment in which extreme mistreatment has become commonplace in the oil-rich kingdom.

There are over nine million migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, that is 30 per cent of the population. They come from poor backgrounds in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Indonesia and Ethiopia, and make up more than half the work force. The country would grind to an embarrassing standstill without their daily toil. “Many suffer multiple abuses and labour exploitation [including withholding of wages, excessive working hours and confinement], sometimes amounting to slavery-like conditions”, Human Rights Watch states.

The level of abuse of domestic workers is hard to judge: their isolation, combined with total control exerted by employers and government indifference, means the vast majority of cases go unreported. Until August this year there was no law covering domestic abuse. Legislation has been passed but the authorities, Human Rights Watch reports, “are yet to make clear which agencies will police the new law [and] without effective mechanisms to punish domestic abuse, this law is merely ink on paper”. All pressure needs to be exerted on the rulers of Saudi Arabia to ensure the law is implemented so  that victims of domestic violence feel it is safe to come forward.

Ethiopian government’s negligence

While thousands of its nationals are detained, beaten, killed and raped, the Ethiopian government hangs its negligent head in silence in Addis Ababa, does not act to protect or swiftly repatriate its nationals and criminalizes those protesting in Addis Ababa against the Saudi actions.

Although freedom to protest is enshrined in the Ethiopian constitution, dissent and public demonstrations, if not publicly outlawed, are actively discouraged by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime.

In response to the brutal treatment meted out by the Saudi police and gangs of vigilantes in Riyadh and Jeddah, outraged civilians in Addis Ababa staged a protest outside the Saudi embassy, only to be confronted by their own police, wielding batons and beating demonstrators. Al-Jazeera reports that the Ethiopian police “arrested dozens of people outside the Saudi embassy [in Addis Ababa] in a crackdown on demonstrators protesting against targeted attacks on Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia”. A senior member of the Semayawi (Blue) Party, Getaneh Balcha, was one of over 100 people arrested for peacefully protesting.

The government’s justification, rolled out to defend yet another repressive response to a democratic display, was to assert that the protest “was an illegal demonstration”, occurring “without a permit from the appropriate office” – petty bureaucratic nonsense, hiding the undemocratic truth that the government does not want public protests of any kind on the streets of its cities. The protestors, an official said, “were fomenting anti-Arab sentiments here among Ethiopians”. Given the brutal treatment of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia, anger and anti-Saudi (not anti-Arab) sentiment is, one would imagine ,understandable and should be shared by the Ethiopian government.

The people of Ethiopia are living under a duplicitous and highly repressive regime. The EPRDF consistently demonstrates its total indifference to the needs and human rights of the people. Freedom of expression, political dissent and public assembly are denied by a regime that is committing a plethora of violations of human rights in various parts of the country, atrocities constituting in certain regions crimes against humanity. In fact, according to Genocide Watch, the Ethiopian government is committing genocide in the Somali region, as well as against the Anuak, Oromo and Omo ethnic groups ,or tribes.

The recent appalling events in Saudi Arabia have brought thousands of impassioned Ethiopians living inside the country and overseas onto the streets. This powerful worldwide action presents a tremendous opportunity for the people to unite, to demand their rights through peaceful demonstrations and to call with one voice for change within their beloved country.

The time to act is now. As a wise man has rightly said, “nothing happens by itself, man must act and implement his will”.

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Seeds of change in Ethiopia

Ethiopian protest

By Graham Peebles 

The people of Ethiopia have been suppressed and controlled for generations. Under the current Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government, freedom of expression has been curtailed and an atmosphere of fear and intimidation fostered. Peaceful assembly has not been allowed, even though it is guaranteed under the constitution, and all political dissent is suppressed.

In 2005, after parliamentary elections that many, including the European observers, deemed to be unfair, students took to the streets in the capital, Addis Ababa, to demonstrate against what they saw as electoral fraud. The regime responded by deploying armed security personnel who, according to Human Rights Watch, killed “dozens of protesters and arbitrarily detained thousands of people across the country”. Some estimate that up to 200 people were killed by government forces.

“We call for respect of the constitution”

Unsurprisingly, since then the streets of Addis Ababa and other major towns and cities have been quiet, and people have felt unable to protest – until 2 June 2013, when the relatively new Smayawi (Blue) Party organized demonstrations at various sites across the capital. Reuters news agency report that around 10,000 people participated, although local people put the figure much higher. Throngs of mainly young people marched through the city, demanding the release of political leaders and journalists, and serious measures to address corruption and economic problems. Protesters carried banners reading “Justice! Justice! Justice!” Some held pictures of imprisoned opposition figures, while others chanted: “We call for respect of the constitution.”

Members of opposition parties and journalists critical of the government are among those who have been arrested and charged under the universally condemned Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. Human Rights Watch reports that 30 journalists and opposition members were convicted in 2012 under the “vague” law introduced in 2009, granting the Ethiopian authorities what Amnesty International described as “unnecessarily far-reaching powers”. They went on to make clear that the legislation “restrict[s] freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and the right to fair trial”. It contains an easily distorted, ambiguous definition of terrorism, covering legitimate political dissent and “damage to property and disruption to any public service, for which an individual could be sentenced to 15 years in prison or even the death penalty”.

According to Human Rights Watch, this draconian law is being used “to target perceived opponents, stifle dissent and silence journalists”, and to restrict freedom of expression, assembly and association”. In addition, human rights workers have been forced to flee the country, and rights groups have been closed down or forced to “scaled-down” their operations to exclude the human rights aspect from their work. Independent media have also been effected: “more journalists have fled Ethiopia than any other country in the world due to threats and intimidation in the last decade – at least 79, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists”.

The time for change is now

The year 2011 saw the rise of pragmatic, peaceful expression of people power, as mainly young people across North Africa rose up against injustice and to demand freedom. It was the year in which Time magazine named “The Protestor” as its person of the year. People, it said, “dissented; they demanded… they embodied the idea that individual action can bring collective, colossal change”. Since what became known as the “Arab Spring”, Greece, Spain, Russia, Syria, Turkey and Iran have all seen popular uprisings against injustice, corruption and suppression. Unified actions, consistently spearheaded by young people, the Occupy movement in America, Britain and elsewhere, called for economic justice, sharing and social equality.

The old structures, built on divisive foundations, are worn out and inadequate, and they do not serve the needs of the vast majority of people. Governments such as Ethiopia’s which reinforce injustice, violate human rights and deny their citizens freedoms are out of step with the times and must be swept aside.

With over 65 per cent of the population of Ethiopia under 25 years of age, and a median age of just 17, the young are the great hope for the country. They know well that sharing and justice are the keys to peace and freedom, commonsense truths that the men of the past, acting from narrow ideological positions that distort and corrupt, do not understand. They cling to power and privilege, fearful of the changes that the people demand.

Unity is the key

The need for unity is a worldwide need. In Ethiopia, where over 70 different ethnic tribal groups speaking dozens of dialects make up the country’s population of 85 million, unity is essential if there is to be fundamental social change.

A single demonstration as seen in Addis Ababa on 2 June will have little effect unless it serves as the beginning of a coordinated, strategic movement. Dictatorships such as the one enthroned in Addis Ababa do not suddenly renounce brutality and embrace democratic ideals of freedom and participation. Relentless, orchestrated peaceful calls for liberty, justice and the observance of human rights need to be made by the people of Ethiopia, establishing an unstoppable movement, a people’s tsunami that will wash away all opposition to change.

Let Meskel Square in Addis Ababa become the Ethiopian Tahrir Square of Egypt’s protests. A unified, inspired response to the impulse for change is needed, led by the young people of Ethiopia, organized and determined, uniting under the banner of justice, freedom and peace for all.

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From chaos to a new world order

A call for justice, equality and participation

By Graham Peebles

Living at this time is to bear witness to a world in acute turmoil. Noam Chomsky describes the current climate, saying: “We are living in an era of irrationality, deception, confusion, anger and unfocused fear an ominous combination, with few precedents.” Existing political and economic structures that have failed to serve the people are in decay. A new world order based on the universally recognized principles of justice, equality, unity and freedom is the call of many around the world.

“Human beings are members of a whole, in creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, other members uneasy will remain.” These startling words were spoken not by a Greek philosopher or renowned Indian spiritual master, but by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, during his final address to the UN General Assembly on 26 September.

Free from the usual confrontational rhetoric and overflowing with uncharacteristically inspiring language, the message, while open to criticism and shouts of hypocrisy, is beyond political clichés and is consonant with an army of reasonable voices calling for change throughout the world. The content is remarkable; indeed, one wonders from whence such a stream of righteousness arose – out of the blue, it seems. Love was repeatedly spoken of – the ”L” word being mentioned no less than 13 times; justice was repeated 15 times; and peace 12 times in his half hour an hour at the podium.

Is this a poetical rant from an unpredictable and, among many at home and abroad, unpopular politician, to be dismissed, or is the address something more significant and in tune with the demands of the times: a new world order based on unity and cooperation, participation and justice?

New order to create unity and save our planet

The current world order is, as Ahmadinejad states, “founded on materialism … and has been shaped by selfishness [and] deception… [I]t is discriminatory and based on injustice.” It promotes separation and conflict, and breeds psychological and physiological fear. “No one feels secure or safe, even those who have stockpiled thousands of atomic bombs and other arms in their arsenals,” he said. The perpetuation of anxiety provides a pretext for the production of armaments, fuels paranoia and helps to maintain the constantly growing profits of the pharmaceutical companies, which are running at full capacity to placate a worldwide epidemic of depression and stress.

While politicians flounder in the past and attempt to save crumbling and outdated institutions, people throughout the world suffer through political incompetence and the hardships of economic injustice and collapse. After posing a question that many of us have asked – “Does anybody believe that the continuation of the current order is capable of bringing happiness to human society – Ahmadinejad called for a new world order that will allow human beings to live peacefully and facilitate coordinated action to save our planet

However, for this world order to come about, the broadest level of participation is necessary. Participation underlies the very foundation of democracy, though it is rarely expressed in practice. As Noam Chomsky says, “current Anglo-American institutions of representative democracy would be criticized first of all because there is a monopoly of power centralized in the state, and secondly and critically because the representative democracy is limited to the political sphere and in no serious way encroaches on the economic sphere”. Such concentrations of power and privilege, injustice and unaccountability are neither representative nor democratic and apply to national and international institutions, including the UN, where disproportionate power rests with the unrepresentative Security Council.

Isolationist policies based on self-interest promote distrust, creating division, conflict and tensions that repeatedly ignite into violence and war – the eradication of which is the number one priority for humanity. “Today everyone is discontent and disappointed with the current international order,” Ahmadinejad says. That is an assessment which vast numbers throughout the world would agree with. As Chomsky notes with reference to the US, “there’s a sense of hopelessness, sometimes despair”.

All nations and groups of nations, aligned and nonaligned (the marginalized majority), should be encouraged to participate fully in the creative construction of a new, saner way of living for everyone. Such a rational and inclusive approach to world management runs contrary to the current imbalance and echoes ideas of participation and unity proclaimed by the Occupy movement. This movement is trying to create cooperative communities that just might be the basis for the kinds of lasting organizations necessary to overcome the barriers ahead and the backlash that is already underway.

Participation and cooperation

The majority of people in the world have little or no say over how they are governed and feel they are the victims of government policies that they may not agree with and are powerless to change. People are desperate to have their voices heard and to participate – demonstrations from London to Moscow, Tehran, New York, Madrid and Cairo and all bear witness to this.

The politicians, who are entwined with bankers, economic marshals and corporate magnates in a marriage of exploitation and greed, are formally duty-bound to serve the people, encourage participation and maximize involvement in the decision making that shapes the lives of the majority. But the opposite pertains. As Chomsky says, “The most effective way to restrict democracy is to transfer decision-making from the public arena to unaccountable institutions: kings and princes, priestly castes, military juntas, party dictatorships, or modern corporations.” It is an image which many people living in “democratic” systems would recognize, one in which the leaders see themselves as the masters rather than the servants of their people.

What is needed now is a new political order rooted firmly in universal principles of freedom and justice, free from ideological “isms” and serving the needs of the people; an economic order based on fairness and justice, instead of unfair systems that serve a minority of nations and are dependent on consumerism and exploitation; and an international order founded on integrity, honesty, equality and justice.

What  are needed are not platitudes or clichés but action. Compassion, unless expressed, is a hollow sentiment. Peace means nothing when hidden by the shadow of conflict, and war and justice will remain a fantasy until all are treated equally: all are fed, every man woman and child has a home, access to decent health care, and when all the children of the world are educated, irrespective of where they were born, or the size of their family bank account.

We have moved so far from the expression of such humane ideals that to dare to enunciate them is to be classed naïve, a dreamer blind to the reality of the human condition that is competitive and violent. “It’s always been this way”, it’s the ”survival of the fittest – the law of the jungle”. Such cynicism strengthens materialism and division, poisons the human heart, denies the human spirit and extinguishes all hope; it is the worse kind of inhibiting conditioning. It has no place in any new world order and should be condemned to the past.

Universal guidance and pragmatism

People everywhere have lost faith in their leaders and the current economic system, which has failed the majority, poisoned the planet and cultivated greed and division. As if proof were needed, this is reflected in numerous surveys. For example, a survey in Britain by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in 2010, reported by the BBC, found only 26 per cent of people believed that politicians tell the truth and only a quarter believed their MPs were competent. A recent study by the Pew Research Centre found “that only about a quarter of respondents (27 per cent in 21 countries) were happy with the economic situation in their countries”, and only 20 per cent believed that the free market economy leads to increased general well-being. Whether there is in fact a free market economy at all is disputable – this is a topic for another day. The Pew study also revealed that “[i]n 16 out of the 21 countries the majority of respondents found that politicians were primarily to blame for the current economic malaise”.

New pragmatic methods are needed to build such a new, just world order –not simply words, which we are long on. Peace is the number one priority and will be achieved through removing the causes of conflict, not by violent imposition of any kind. The equitable distribution of the resources of the world to meet human needs would go a long way toward creating trust and justice, dissipating tensions and facilitating a natural flowering of peace.

Freedom, justice and peace are not the utopian ideals of a dreamer, but heartfelt desires that sit deep within people throughout the world. Far from fantastical, such qualities are urgent necessities to safeguard the human race and to save our planet.

Let us go beyond cynicism and dare to believe in the good and the just, dare to share and build the new. Let us dare to have hope.

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What does it take to move from pseudo-democracy to real participation?

Democratic illusion

By Graham Peebles

Imagine a country run along truly democratic lines. In such a mythical land, what would be the role of the politician, and the nature of his or her relationship with that amorphous group paraded under the banner of “the people”?

Will of “the people”?

We in pseudo-democratic countries hear a lot about politicians serving and honouring the “will of the people” – in Britain this nauseating slogan of appeasement has been repeated ad infinitum since the disastrous European referendum vote – but from where does the supposed conviction of the masses arise? Does it evolve from independent minds tussling with questions of justice and freedom, debating and discussing pertinent issues over tea and cake, or is it the politicians who construct this perceived will, manipulating the people they claim to serve into believing what they, the politicians, want them to believe. And while on occasions there may be some degree of uncertainty in the success of the project of persuasion – “the people” can sometimes be an annoyingly unpredictable bunch – every avenue of propaganda and control is employed to ensure that the ideological intentions of the political class are reflected in the will of the people as and when they place their sacred X on the ballot paper, and exercise their long-fought-for democratic right, which (particularly in first-past-the-post systems) carries little authority and even less autonomy.

Mass manipulation

The principle tool of inducement is of course the mainstream media: television and radio stations, newspapers and magazines are used to flood the minds of the populous with a certain view of life, particular ideas, values and carefully edited “facts”. Political and economic slogans are repeated like mantras over the airwaves, until they infect the populous and are repeated parrot-like by apathetic, ill-informed voters. Education systems are designed to support the message, enabling the most malleable minds to be conditioned into, for example, competition and conformity. Organised religion reinforces the pervasive values and imposes its own, often cripplingly repressive doctrine on the faithful. Creative independent thinking – the principle quality of enquiry, analysis and response – is for the most part lost within the fogs of dogma and stereotype that are wrapped around the minds of the unsuspecting virtually from birth. The world is presented as hostile, competitive, full of pain and difficulties. Material satisfaction and pleasure is sold as happiness, desire constantly fed – creating agitated noisy minds, discontent and anxiety, all of which deny or greatly inhibit the possibility of that most democratic quality, free thinking.

Political and economic slogans are repeated like mantras over the airwaves, until they infect the populous and are repeated parrot-like by apathetic, ill-informed voters.

Individuality has been perverted, championed and denied. Within a conformist society where the pressure to think, act, and be a certain way is all-pervasive. True individuality – the natural flowering of innate potential within an environment of cooperation, understanding and tolerance, free from fear – is restricted and only realised through strength and often brings exclusion. And so the “will” of individuals, their ability to think beyond the rhetoric, to see the false as the false and the true as the true, becomes constrained at best, easily manipulated and/or non-existent.

Popular awakening

Many are awake to this; young and old see the injustices, the pretence and invasion for what they are. They are angry, and long for an alternative way of living. Huge numbers have been marching in cities throughout the world, demanding change and to be listened to. The response of the ruling elite has been fierce resistance, often violent. Ever more repressive policies, austerity and the like have been imposed, wages effectively lowered, costs increased, life made even more difficult, physically exhausting and emotionally draining, insecurity intensified, hope denied. Despite this assault, there is a global movement of solidarity evolving, and with the energy of the time flowing with increasing strength, the citadel of resistance cannot be sustained indefinitely. True democracy, a social construct that we have idealised but not lived, will win the day, greatly changing the role of the politician and the type of people who become public representatives.

… without a well educated, engaged population, democracy remains a fantastical construct of the elite, its principles periodically displayed for public appeasement and sustained self-deceit.

Democracy is participation, as are social responsibility, freedom of expression and social justice, tolerance and mutual understanding. All these are inherent in the democratic ideal and constitute its primary colours. Where these are absent, so too is democracy. Likewise,without a well educated, engaged population, democracy remains a fantastical construct of the elite, its principles periodically displayed for public appeasement and sustained self-deceit. In the absence of democracy, politicians, living in a suited bubble of complacency and privilege – two interwoven vices of self-deception – become ideological enforcers and persuaders. Divorced from the public at large, aligned with corporate interests and consistently duplicitous, trust in governments and politicians is at an all-time low. These men, and women, of power are rightly seen as cynical and ambitious, prepared to say anything to achieve positions of power and to hold on to them.

The truly democratic politician

If complacency is the poison of the political class, then apathy and ignorance are the Achilles heel of the peopleSocial responsibility and participation sit at the very heart of the matter – participation by well-informed people who recognise that we are all individually responsible for society, for the well-being of our neighbours at home and abroad, and the integrity of the natural environment, participation in how the place in which we live and work functions, participation founded on a sense of responsibility leading to and demanding, by dint of commitment and creative participation, influence.

Within such an environment the role of the politician changes dramatically. It becomes one of listening, facilitating, informing and enacting, of representing – making known – the “will of the people” to the business community and parliament – which is of course what they should do now but on the whole, don’t. In this democratic paradigm, self-interest and corporate power begin to weaken and the will of the people to evolve. Democratic decisions about policies and methods, the clarifying of aims, the nature of systems and structures in such a world would be reached through overwhelming consensus – not the paltry 51 per cent of perhaps a mere 45 per cent of the population, as is the case now.

When the nature of… the will of the people is based on the recognition of humankind’s essential unity, together with the acknowledgment that we are responsible for the world and all life within it, then all becomes possible.

Under the existing democratic paradigm the talk is of power and control, duplicitous politicians and leaders and disenfranchised citizens. The rhetoric of political debate is combative and dishonest, ideologies and ideals clash, the economy dominates and business largely dictates government policy. Socio-economic systems have been designed and developed to deny the manifestation of real democracy and to facilitate the perpetuation of the status quo: a state of affairs in which piece by piece the natural environment is being destroyed, half the world’s population is living on less than $5 a day, economic inequality is at unprecedented levels and 65 million people are displaced. That is to name but the most pressing issues facing humanity.

True democracy is an expression of human solidarity. For this to develop and reflect the proclaimed ideal, systemic change and a fundamental shift in attitudes is required, both by politicians and the people who they are supposed to represent. This will not come from the political class – they are quite happy with things the way they are and will fight to the last. It will, and must, come from the people. The worldwide protest movement contains within it the evolutionary seeds of lasting change, but as the reactionary forces resist with increasing force, the need for sustained engagement and collective participation grows stronger. As Maitreya has made clear, “nothing happens by itself, man must act and implement his will”. When the nature of that will – the will of the people – is based on the recognition of humankind’s essential unity, together with the acknowledgment that we are responsible for the world and all life within it, then all becomes possible.

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The rise of popular democracy

Grassroots democracy

By Graham Peebles

In 1975 just 46 countries were considered to be electoral democracies. Forty years later, according to the Global State of Democracy report 2017, the number had risen to 132, accounting for 68 per cent of nations. The bulk of the increase occurred after 1989 following the collapse of the Soviet Union and what was to be the beginning of the global protest movement. While holding general elections every five years or so is an important step away from the autocratic alternative, unless democratic values are embraced and introduced true democracy remains little more than a slogan, social injustice and suppression in various forms continue and concentrations of power persist.

Although the number of electoral democracies continues to increase, throughout the world, democracy is in crisis; governments have become increasingly partisan, populism and extremism of all stripes have flourished, and people have lost confidence in democratic institutions asthe means of solving the various crises confronting us. Politicians are viewed with suspicion or outright contempt, regarded as ambitious, ideologically-compromised men and women with little concern for the majority, who make policy based on self-interest and party doctrine.

While holding general elections every five years or so is an important step away from the autocratic alternative, unless democratic values are embraced and introduced true democracy remains little more than a slogan, social injustice and suppression in various forms continue and concentrations of power persist.

Democracy has been hijacked by “the economy” – twinned with capitalism and the “free market”, and corrupted thereby. Democracy is, or should be, a living organism, an evolving form that sets the parameters within which society functions, based on principles that are rooted in, and cultivate expressions of, unity and love.

The democratic ideal seeks to guarantee basic freedoms, establish social justice and equality, and ensure government accountability. It recognises that human beings are equal, diverse but united, that their needs are universal and that meeting these needs is a right not a luxury. True democracy cannot exist where the ideology of commercialisation, consumerism and greed resides. The crisis in democracy is inextricably linked to the socio-economic crisis; changes in one will trigger a revolution in the other. And this process is well underway.

Collective action

Despite the decline in civil liberties and deep disillusionment with the functioning of governments throughout the world, various studies, including the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2018  has found that political participation is significantly increasing. Exasperation with politicians and institutions together with an intense desire for fundamental change has impelled huge numbers to unite and act. People, particularly the young, are engaging, joining political parties, taking part in demonstrations and online activism, signing petitions or joining local community groups.

This surge in democratic participation represents a major shift in attitudes, a new collective consciousness that tends towards unity and cooperation, and offers hope – not hope based on a distant belief that someone else, a government, institution or God will make all things new; such are the ways of apathy and self-deceit – but hope anchored in action, in committed consistent engagement.

Ignorance, complacency and fear are fertile ground for propaganda; they are the friends of the duplicitous politician and the enemy of the people and common sense – a much-underrated quality.

At the heart of many of the protest movements that have swept the world since the Berlin Wall came down is democracy: demanding democracy where none exists, as was the case with the Arab uprisings of 2011… and more recently in Algeria, Sudan and Ethiopia, or in countries broadly aligned with democratic principles; calling for a deepening of democracy and the opening up of structures and institutions; and for the voice of the people to be heard and concerns acted on.

As more people engage and the power of popular democracy grows, democratic platforms for engagement, such as Citizens’ Assemblies, will become increasingly relevant. In early 2018 the UK government commissioned a Citizens’ Assembly to discuss social care: 47 individuals chosen at random, and, with the support of experts spent two weekends discussing the subject. At the end of their deliberations a report was sent to the government and their views helped fashion government proposals.

In order for the collective voice to have increasing influence, people need to be educated about the issues of concern – this is an act of democratic responsibility. A well-informed populace free from ideological allegiance is required in order to reach views free from bias and prejudice, and contribute to discussions with decision makers. Ignorance, complacency and fear are fertile ground for propaganda; they are the friends of the duplicitous politician and the enemy of the people and common sense – a much-underrated quality.

Sharing, participation and responsibility

Within the evolving democratic environment the role of politicians as co-workers, as collaborators for the common good, becomes ever more important. They need to engage with activists, listen – not to the loudest flag-waving faction, not just to their own supporters, but to the broad consensus, and respond, and not, as has historically been the case, reluctantly and over decades, but swiftly and whole-heartedly. A positive example of this is the decision by the Scottish parliament to declare a climate emergency in response “to young protesters who went on strike from school to urge action”. The declaration of a climate emergency by governments has been a key demand of environmental campaigners, including Extinction Rebellion (which held huge, peaceful protests in London for two weeks recently), for some time.

Announcing the step on 29 April, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon said:

they [environmental activists] want governments around the world to declare a climate emergency. They say that’s what the science tells us, and they are right… I am declaring that there is a climate emergency and Scotland will live up to our responsibility to tackle it.

The UK parliament followed Scotland’s example on 1 May, making it the first national legislature to declare a climate emergency.

Democracy is not in decline, as some believe; like all existing systems – social, economic, political and religious – democracy in its current form is inadequate to the challenges and the nature of the present time, and is being fundamentally challenged. Democratic forms need to change, to be allowed to evolve – to be re-imagined. Crucially, democracy needs to be unshackled from economics and the socio-economic system re-examined in light of the growing demands for social justice, environmental action and freedom.

The principle of sharing is a core democratic ideal that, if incorporated into all areas of life, would allow democratic values to be made manifest: students sharing in the organisation of schools and the design of curricula; employees sharing in the management and standards of businesses; sharing animating the socio-economic systems under which we all live and colouring geopolitical decisions. Sharing, responsibility and participation are interrelated; they sit together and reinforce one another. An unstoppable movement of change is being created by the growing inculcation and expression of these democratic principles; a momentum that may just be strong enough to save the planet and usher in a new and just way of living.

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Why the U.S. Labeled Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a Terrorist Organization

NOVANEWS

It can be readily demonstrated that the proffered U.S. justifications for labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization are no more than hare-brained excuses designed to put further pressure on the Iranian people in pursuit of its long-standing policy of regime change from within. Indeed, it can reasonably be argued that, in light of the fact the U.S. has repeatedly terrorized many peoples and nations in various parts of the world, its designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization represents an ironic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Considering the fact that between 25 and 30 percent of the Iranian economy is owned and/or operated by the Revolutionary Guards, sanctioning of the organization’s economic activities,especially its foreign trade, is bound to further depress Iran’s economy and, hence, its people’s living conditions.

Combined with the economic mismanagement of President Rouhani’s administration, the U.S. economic war on Iran has provided fertile grounds for discontent and anger among the massesof the Iranian people who suffer from the crushing impact of U.S. sanctions, on the one hand, and the Rouhani government’s economic mismanagement, on the other.

In pursuit of its long-standing strategy to bring Iran back into the orbit of its client states in the region, the U.S. has consistently employed two destabilizing tactics. The first is to exert enough pressure on Iran to force its rulers to submit to its will and stop resisting its geopolitical designs in the region. This is called “behavior change without regime change.” The second tactic, applied in case of the failure of the first, is to wield enough economic pressure on the Iranian people to incite them to rebellion in pursuit of regime change from inside.

With varying degrees, this “regime-changing” scheme has been in the works ever since the 1979 revolution that ended the rule of the compliant U.S. ally Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi in Iran. So far, it has not succeeded. Whether it would succeed in the future or not, depends largely on the continued support of the Iranian people of their country’s ruling powers. That support, in turn, depends mainly on how soon and how effective an uplifting economic reform can be brought about in Iran—an economic overhaul that would improve the living conditions of the people and, thus, earn their support for the ruling circles.

It is crucially important that, in this context, the ruling powers in Iran draw an instructive lesson from the tragic demise of the Soviet Union: military power alone is not enough to withstand the unrelenting imperialist assault; equally (or more) important is an economically-satisfied and, therefore, supportive population.

Iran’s own experience of the 8-year war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq can also be instructive in this regard. Because of the extensive social safety-net, or welfare, programs of the time, and because of a strong sense among the Iranian people that the relatively uncorrupted revolutionary government of the time served their interest, they wholeheartedly threw their support behind the government, thereby preserving the unity and sovereignty of Iran against Saddam’s aggression and his powerful backers.

The ruling circles of Iran cannot and should not take that exemplary support for granted; they have to earn it. That strong support and the legendary sacrifices of the time in terms of blood and treasure have in recent years been dwindled; but it can be restored if the widespread waste, embezzlement and misuse of national resources is curtailed, the living conditions of citizens are improved, and people’s faith in the ruling powers is reinstated.

Contrary to U.S. claims that designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards would disrupt their activities and weaken their power, the designation is bound to further strengthen the power and influence of the Guards, as they would logically try to redouble their efforts to maximize their readiness capabilities in the face of U.S. threats. Such a defensive reaction to aggressive actions of U.S. imperialism is both logical and universal: it is not just Iran or its Revolutionary Guards but any other country or military force that is threatened by an aggressive foreign power is bound to reinforce its defensive capabilities. Indeed, this explains why U.S. wars of choice and militarism have led to globalization of militarism. Like Iran, many countries ill-afford to divert their precious financial resource from social to military spending. But they are often forced to do so in order to preserve their sovereignty in the face of persistent imperialistic aggressions.

Sadly, this vicious circle of persistent imperialist aggression, the defensive military spending of the targeted nations, and the consequent globalization of militarism, fits well with the nefarious interests of the U.S. military-industrial-security-intelligence complex—as well as with the interests of major banks and financial conglomerates that finance war and military spending. The wicked interests of this complex lie with the invention and/or creation of enemies and, therefore, with persistent wars and military adventures; as this would justify continued escalation of the Pentagon budget, on the one hand, and continued escalation of the sale of military hardware, on the other.

The heavy-handed policy of the United States toward Iran can be better understood in light of this overall imperialistic strategy. The essence of that strategy is control and “management” of social, economic and military affairs of peoples and/or nations of the world. Practical implication of this strategy is that the U.S. cannot countenance socio-economic structures that are at variance with its own model of capitalism. These “undesirable” structures would include not only non-capitalist or centrally-planned economies of the Soviet type but, indeed, any economic model that, like the Social-Democratic economies in Europe, encompass social safety-net (or welfare) programs in favor of the poor and working people.

This policy of safeguarding unbridled capitalist system on a global scale was succinctly described by the late U.S. president Harry Truman. Calling any socio-economic policy in favor of the people undue “regimentation,” President Truman declared (in a 1947 speech at Baylor University) that “regimented economies” were the enemy of free enterprise, and “unless we act, and act decisively,” those regimented economies would become “the pattern of the next century.” To fend off that danger, Truman urged that “the whole world should adopt the American system.” The system of free enterprise, he went on, “could survive in America only if it becomes a world system.”

This explains why, for example, the U.S. is determined to torpedo the socio-economic policies and structures of countries such as Cuba and Venezuela. The capitalist rulers of the United States view such humane, people-centered economic policies inimical to their profit-oriented neoliberal policies of austerity economics—the economics of the survival of the fittest.

It also explains why U.S. imperialism has since WW II overthrown many “undesirable” governments around the world. Some of these governments were ousted overtly by direct military means, such as the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953, the overthrow of the democratically elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz in 1954, the overthrow of the government of Brazilian President Joao Goulart in 1964, the overthrow of the democratically elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende in 1973, and many more. Others were toppled by covert operations or fake elections such as the color-coded revolutions of recent years (The Orange Revolution in Ukraine, The Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, The Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, and more).

It further explains the colossal rise of the U.S. military machine to an unprecedented extent—to the extent that currently it has close to nine hundred military bases around the globe. The gigantic expansion of the military apparatus has, in turn, led to an internally driven, self-expanding dynamics of its own—a process that is driven by the impulse of an ever expanding accumulation of military capital, the notorious military-industrial complex. This is why it can reasonably be argued that U.S. wars, hot or cold, and military adventures are often economic rewards for the beneficiaries of militarism: the military-industrial complex, as well as the big banks that lend money for wars and aggressions. It can also reasonably be argued that profitability imperatives often drive the beneficiaries of war dividends to invent or manufacture enemies and instigate wars and military adventures in order to maximize their nefarious profits.

As long as the Soviet Union existed, the “threat” of communism readily served the purpose of constantly escalating the military budget. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, however, beneficiaries of war dividends have had to discover new “threats to U.S. national interests,” or the interests of its allies, in order to reap the lion’s share of national resource, as well as to extract financial resources from countries that are threatened or coerced to buy U.S. armaments. It is not surprising, then, that the fall of the Soviet Union has given birth to all kinds of “boogeymen” that are invented as substitutes for the “communist threat” of the Soviet era. These perceived, instigated, or manufactured bogeys include global terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS, and more. Provocative actions and destabilizing policies of the United States against Iran, especially the brutal economic war against that country, can better be understood in light of this background.

All this is a clear vindication of the late President Dwight Eisenhower’s prescient warning that the “military-industrial-complex [may] cause military spending to be driven not by national security needs but by a network of weapons makers, lobbyists and elected officials.”

Military expenditures are ultimately deductions from non-military social spending. Again, as President Eisenhower put it:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Viewed in this light, battlefield victories or defeats of U.S. military adventures here and there are secondary to the overriding goal of inflating war dividends by maintaining permanent war, or threat of war. From the standpoint of beneficiaries of war dividends, the mere persistence or protraction of wars and international tensions are, in and of themselves, deemed victory—not necessarily the battlefield military victory in the traditional sense of war.

Thus, for example, U.S. military operations in Syria may not succeed in accomplishing their stated goal of overthrowing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Likewise, its operations in Afghanistan may not succeed in uprooting the Taliban. But to beneficiaries of war dividends such less-than successful military operations are not necessarily defeats or failures. The mere fact of continued war and geopolitical turbulence in those countries (and elsewhere) bring economic gain for these beneficiaries and is, therefore, tantamount to success from their point of view. Of course, this judgment does not apply to military professionals, especially the lower rank personnel who serve as cannon fodder for the heinous interests of the beneficiaries of war dividends. This explains why those who benefit from war and militarism prefer war to peace—hence the aptly sardonic title of the late Gore Vidal’s 2002 book, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace; or the similarly ironic term “war is peace,” coined by the late George Orwell in his 1948 dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty Four.

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The Western American Empire Plays the War Card

NOVANEWS
The 70 Years of NATO: From War to War
  

The Following text is Section 14 of 16

The 70 Years of NATO: From War to War,

by the Italian Committee No War No NATO

*

Documentation presented at the International Conference on the 70th Anniversary of NATO, Florence, April 7, 2019

In the course of the next two weeks, Global Research will publish the 16 sections of this important document, which will also be available as an E-book.

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Contents 

1. NATO is born from the Bomb
2. In the post-Cold War, NATO is renewed
3. NATO demolishes the Yugoslav state
4. NATO expands eastward to Russia
5. US and NATO attack Afghanistan and Iraq
6. NATO demolishes the Libyan state
7. The US/NATO war to demolish Syria
8. Israel and the Emirates in NATO
9. The US/NATO orchestration of the coup in Ukraine
10. US/NATO escalation in Europe
11.  Italy, the aircraft carrier on the war front
12. US and NATO reject the UN treaty and deploy new nuclear weapons in Europe
13. US and NATO sink the INF Treaty
14. The Western American Empire plays the war card
15. The US/NATO planetary war system
16. Exiting the war system of NATO

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1. A vast arc of growing tensions and conflicts extends from East Asia to Central Asia, from the Middle East to Europe, from Africa to Latin America. The “hot spots” along this intercontinental arc – the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Ukraine, Libya, Venezuela and others – have different histories and geopolitical characteristics, with specific internal socio-economic factors, but they are at the same time linked to a single factor: the strategy with which the United States of America seeks to maintain their position as the dominant superpower.

2. The United States is still the leading economic power in the world, above all thanks to the capital and the mechanisms with which it dominates the global financial market, to the multinationals with which they exploit human and material resources of every continent, to the high technologies and to the relative patents in their possession, to the pervasive role of their multimedia groups that influence the opinions and tastes of billions of users on a planetary scale.

3. Their supremacy is however jeopardized by the emergence of new state and social subjects. What is being questioned by Russia, China and other countries is not only the exorbitant power of the petrodollar (reserve currency from the sale of oil), but the hegemony of the dollar itself. Its value is determined not by real US economic capacity, but by the fact that it constitutes almost two-thirds of world currency reserves and the currency with which the price of oil, gold and other raw materials is established on global markets. in general of the goods.

4. This allows the Federal Reserve, the Central Bank (which is a private bank), to print thousands of billions of dollars with which the colossal US public debt is financed – about 23 trillion dollars – through the purchase of bonds and other securities issued by the Treasury. In this context, the decision taken by Venezuela in 2017 to release the price of oil from the dollar and tie it to that of the Chinese yuan causes a shock that causes the entire imperial palace founded on the dollar to shake. If the example of Venezuela spread, if the dollar ceased to be the dominant currency of international trade and foreign exchange reserves, an immense amount of dollars would be placed on the market bringing down the value of the US currency.

5. Washington looks with growing concern above all at the Russian-Chinese partnership: the interchange between the two countries is in strong growth; at the same time, Russian-Chinese cooperation agreements on energy, agriculture, aeronautics, space and infrastructure are on the rise. The supply of Russian gas to China through the new Sila Sibiri gas pipeline, starting in 2019, opens the way to Russian energy exports to the East while the US tries to block the way to the West towards Europe.

6. In the Middle East, in addition to the military intervention blocking the US / NATO plan to demolish the Syrian state, Russia uses economic instruments, stipulating in 2017 agreements with Iran for the construction of railway and energy infrastructure, including a pipeline between Iran and India strongly opposed by the USA. Washington responds with a move previously agreed with Israel: President Trump violently attacks Iran, accusing him of violating “the spirit” of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with Group 5 + 1 (US, Britain, France, Germany , China and Russia). Despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency itself guarantees that Iran is abiding by the agreement and is not attempting to manufacture nuclear weapons, the issue is artificially reopened by initiating a dangerous process with unpredictable results. The Washington attack is directed not only against Iran, but against Russia which is reaffirming its presence in the Middle East.

7. “Moscow – writes the New York Times in October 2017 – tries, through the giant state oil company Rosneft, to gain influence in places where the United States has stumbled. The biggest bet is Venezuela. In three years Russia and Rosneft have provided Caracas with financial assistance for 10 billion dollars, helping Venezuela avoid default. Russia increasingly uses oil as a tool, spreads its influence in the world and challenges the interests of the United States “.

8. A growing challenge to US interests comes simultaneously from China. The world’s leading exporter of goods, it rose, as a gross national income, to second place in the world after the United States and recorded economic growth rates higher than those in the United States. The most ambitious project, launched by China in 2013 and shared by Russia, is that of a new Silk Road: a road and rail network between China and Europe through Central and Western Asia and through Russia, roughly along the route of the ancient Silk Road. The project, already under construction, foresees, together with the terrestrial one, a sea route through the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. For road and railway infrastructures, which should cross and connect over 60 countries, investments of over 1,000 billion dollars are expected. The project, which does not include military components, is not simply economic. If it were realized according to the original idea, it would reshape the geopolitical architecture of the entire Eurasia, creating on the basis of mutual convenience a new network of economic and political relations between the states of the continent.

9. The drive to remodel the global economic order does not only come from large state actors, such as China and Russia, which want a world that is no longer unipolar but multipolar. It comes, in multiple forms and degrees of awareness, from immense social subjects, billions of human beings who, on every continent, suffer the consequences of the current global economic order. An economic globalization centered on the search for maximum profit which, while on the one hand cuts down borders so that capital and production can circulate freely, on the other it sets up other borders, invisible but no less concrete, which exclude the majority of the world population from the benefits of that economic growth built with human and material resources around the world. This system creates a growing polarization between wealth and poverty in the world. Over 85% of global wealth (in terms of money and property) is concentrated in the hands of 8% of the world’s adult population. The remaining 92% owns just 14% of global wealth. Over 3 and a half billion people, representing almost three quarters of the global adult population, have a total of less than 2.5% of global wealth.

10. Over 2 billion people in Africa, Asia and Latin America, especially in rural areas, live in poverty or at least in conditions of severe economic hardship. Among these, about one billion are in extreme poverty, that is, in a social condition characterized by chronic malnutrition, disastrous housing and hygiene situation, high incidence of infectious and parasitic diseases, high mortality above all in children, short average life span, illiteracy, lack of decision-making power, dependency, marginalization, vulnerability and constant insecurity. From the villages of sub-Saharan Africa to the Asian and Latin American slums, the poor experience the same drama caused by the same underlying causes.

11. This is the global economic order that the United States seeks by all means to preserve and control. The strategic aim pursued by Washington is clear: to remove any state or political / social movement that could damage the fundamental political, economic and military interests of the United States of America, endangering their supremacy. In this strategy they are supported by the European powers of NATO and others, such as Israel and Japan, which, despite having contrasts of interest with the US, are under US leadership when it comes to defending the economic and political order dominated by ‘West. Not having the economic strength to do so, the United States and its allies increasingly play the card of war.

12. In addition to the wars properly called, Washington increasingly leads “unconventional wars” through “covert operations”, that is to say secret. The Intelligence Community is formed by 17 federal organizations. In addition to the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) there is the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), but every sector of the Armed Forces – army, air force, navy, corps of marines – has its own secret service. The State Department and the Homeland Security Department have it. Among these services, in fierce competition with each other to grab political support and federal funds, the NSA, the National Security Agency, specializing in telephone and IT interceptions, through which they are not only spied upon, plays a primary role. the enemies but also the friends of the United States, as confirmed by the “datagate” aroused by the revelations of the former contractor Edward Snowden.

13. The field actions are carried out by the USSOCOM, the Special Forces Command, which has tens of thousands of commandos from the four sectors of the armed forces. As emerges from a Washington Post inquiry, special operations forces are deployed in 75 countries. The USSOCOM employs private military companies at the same time. In the area of the US Central Command, which also includes Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s contractors number over 150,000. Added to those assumed by other departments and allied armies, the number of which is unknown, but certainly high. All belong to the private shadow army, which joins the official one.

14. To this is added the “humanitarian army” formed by all those “non-governmental organizations” which, endowed with huge means, are used by the CIA and the State Department for internal destabilization actions in the name of “defense of rights of citizens ». In the same picture is the action of the Bilderberg group – which the magistrate Ferdinando Imposimato denounced as “one of the leaders of the strategy of tension and massacres” in Italy – and that of the Open Society of the “investor and philanthropist George Soros”, creator of the «Color revolutions».

15. The United States – which since 1945 has caused 20-30 million deaths with their wars and coups (more than hundreds of millions caused by the indirect effects of such actions) – are willing to do anything to preserve military superiority on which they base their empire, which is crumbling with the emergence of a multipolar world. Within the framework of this strategy, political decisions are taken first of all in the “deep state”, an underground center of real power held by economic, financial and military oligarchies.

Posted in USAComments Off on The Western American Empire Plays the War Card


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