Archive | November 11th, 2019

Nazi forces arrest 12 Palestinians and confiscate a vehicle in the West Bank

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

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Nazi occupied RAMALLAH: Nazi forces arrested 12 Palestinians during a raid on the West Bank on Tuesday, while confiscating a vehicle belonging to a Palestinian.

A spokesman for the Nazi army said that 12 Palestinians were arrested from different parts of the occupied West Bank, allegedly wanted under the pretext of participating in several activities.

Palestinian sources said that the Nazi forces re-arrested four prisoners released from Aida refugee camp north of Bethlehem, while the Palestinian Prisoners Club said that the Nazi forces arrested Omar Emad Radi, Marwan Fararja and confiscated his vehicle. The Kurd, along with Rami Nasser Assaf, raided and searched their homes in the same camp.

As a result, clashes erupted in Aida refugee camp between the youths and the Nazi occupation forces, who fired metal bullets, tear gas and sound canisters. No injuries were reported among the Palestinians.

Issa Ta’amara, the liberated prisoner Hassan Muqbel and Yassin Zaqiq, from Beit Ummar, north of Hebron, and Yusuf Al-Aneed, from Silwad village, east of Ramallah, were also raided. Editor Bakr Tawil in Qalqilya.

Palestinian sources pointed out that the Nazi occupation forces stormed the homes of students of the University “Birzeit” and handed about 30 students wrote summons to review the intelligence of the occupation.

In the town of ‘Eisawiya’ east of illegally Nazi occupied Jerusalem, three boys were arrested after they were beaten: Yomar Ahmed Mahmoud, Waseem Dari and Ismail Yousef Muheisen, in addition to Yasser Darwish, a member of the student’s parents’ council, after being summoned by the Nazi police.

The town witnessed night clashes after the arrest of the young occupation police, where dozens of citizens were injured, suffocation cases, after the occupation forces indiscriminately throwing tear gas canisters inside the neighborhoods and lanes of the town.

Zionist puppet Ab-a$$: No elections without Jerusalem or Gaza

Nazi occupation abuses eight prisoners inside Ashkelon prison

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Nazi forces arrest 12 Palestinians and confiscate a vehicle in the West Bank

America’s Streets and Squares Are Waiting: Massive Rallies Work!

by RALPH NADER

Around the world people are marching, rallying, and demonstrating in huge numbers. Some of these countries are ruled by dictators or plutocratic regimes, others are considered democracies. Despite the peril of protest, people are seeking justice, freedom, and decent livelihoods.

Many boast about the United States being the oldest democracy in the world. While there are some street protests in the US, they are sadly too few and far between. Rallies calling attention to climate disruption have received less public support and media attention than they deserve. Likewise, the Parkland rally in Washington, D.C. against gun violence could have received more follow up publicity. And we all remember the massive women’s march the day after Trump was inaugurated in Washington, D.C. The subsequent women’s marches have attracted smaller crowds and therefore less media coverage.

It is not as if our country doesn’t have a historic tradition of sustained demonstrations. Mass protests have carried the labor movement, the farmer movement, the civil rights movement, and the anti-war movement to breakthroughs. These mass protests alone were not the sole drivers of political action – books, articles, editorials, pamphlets, posters, and litigation were essential. But visible displays of aggregated people power had a profound effect on those politicians’ actions. When politicians put their fingers to the wind, the repeated rumble from the masses is what fills the sails of change.

It is not as if mass injustices are absent in the “land of the free, home of the brave.” Sadly, the informed populace is just not showing up in an organized, big crowd fashion – the way they did to challenge the nuclear arms race and nuclear power in the nineteen seventies and eighties. In the era of the iPhone and Internet, activists have greater access to organizing tools than ever – no postage stamps or costly long-distance telephone calls are needed.

Consider these candidates for mass demonstrations proximate to where the decision makers are located. Millions of young people are being gouged by student loan creditors and for-profit colleges. Whether it is the U.S. Department of Education’s high interest rates or the exploitation by for-profit universities, the abuses are outrageous, cruel, and in the latter case, often criminal.

Total outstanding student loans amount to over $1.5 trillion. These burdened young Americans know how to contact each other for free; they also can raise money instantly using new crowdfunding technology. They know how to use the visual arts and the verbal arts. Congress can reverse the predatory practices in higher education. Where is the advocacy from millions of student loan debtors? They could have a huge impact if they surrounded the Capitol or held smaller rallies around Congressional offices back home, especially in the coming election year.

Millions of workers are making, inflation adjusted, less than workers made in 1968. The federal minimum wage, frozen at $7.25, is the culprit. The House of Representatives finally bestirred itself to pass a $15 minimum wage stretched over a number of years. But when the Walmart-indentured members of the Senate look out their windows, it would be nice to see masses of workers surrounding their Senate offices, prior to some insistent personal lobbying?

There are no labor mass rallies in front of Trump’s anti-labor White House either, even though, the headquarters of the AFL-CIO are just yards away on 16th Street NW. The face-off of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka v. Donald Trump is overdue.

Millions of minorities are suffering voter suppression. Civil rights leaders are angry. They anticipate Republicans at the state and federal level to again erect all kinds of insidious roadblocks that disproportionately affect people of color the most. Abuses in the Florida and Georgia races were rampant in 2018. Presidential races in swing states are also plagued by voter suppression tactics. All signs point to a more intrusive stripping of eligible voters in the 2020 election.

Where are the marches before the offices of the state secretary of state and culpable legislators and Governors headquarters?

A quarter of our country’s families are poor. A Poor People’s Campaign, led by the Reverend William Barber and local pastors, has been protesting in the streets in North Carolina and other states. Their protests deserve far greater attendance. The media has given them too little coverage. But if there were massive demonstrations in major cities and before state legislatures and the Congress, with coordinated demands and large photographs of key politicians fronting for the rich and powerful, will get mass media coverage.

Tens of millions of Americans have no health insurance or are severely underinsured. Thousands of lives are lost annually as a result. This is a problem in America but not other developed nations that have systems in place that prioritize their citizens’ health. Getting sick or injured without medical care is far too frequent in the U.S. Those who suffer from this deprivation can be motivated to take to the streets. The health care industry’s soaring profits and their mega-rich bosses should move additional Americans to rally for Medicare-for-All!

These rallies can be led by physicians and nurses, tired of the paperwork, the bureaucracy, and the health insurance companies denying access to health care for their patients and arbitrarily rejecting doctor-recommended treatments.

In the nineteen forties, President Harry Truman proposed to Congress universal health insurance. Americans still do not have Medicare-for-All and are paying the highest prices, premiums, and out of pocket bills in the world – not to mention the human suffering caused by an inadequate healthcare system.

What a great street story for television, radio, and print newspapers! Think of the tragic human interest stories, straight from the heart by mothers and fathers with children having limited or no access to health care.

Other marches can come from the homeless and the desperate tenants spending over half their income on rent in the many communities where there is a shortage of affordable housing.

All these mass turnouts can pass contribution buckets or tout websites and raise money from the crowds for the next round of even larger protests. At each event, a list of demands can be presented to decision-makers. At each event, protestors can go to the offices where the decision-makers are or insist that these lawmakers speak to the assembled protestors.

There are many innovations to make these action rallies more impactful, more motivating, and more mass-media-centric. There also have to be some enlightened billionaires, worried about their country and their descendants, who want to provide the modest amount of money necessary for event organizers and focused political action. Show up America!

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30 Years Ago, American Nun Dianna Ortiz Was Kidnapped and Tortured in Guatemala, She’s Still Waiting for Truth & Justice

by BRETT WILKINS

Dianna Ortiz wanted to be a nun since she was 6 years old. To some people, that seemed a rather peculiar calling for a girl growing up during the seismic cultural shifts of the 1960s and ’70s, a time when many women were leaving religious orders. But Ortiz, the daughter of a homemaker and a uranium miner growing up in Grants, New Mexico, remained steadfastly committed to her goal through middle and high school and in her late teens she traveled across America to Maple Mount, Kentucky to join the Ursuline Sisters of Mount St. Joseph, part of a 400-year-old Roman Catholic order dedicated to the education of girls and the care of the sick and needy.

Dangerous Calling 

In keeping with the Ursuline mission, Ortiz taught kindergarten for a decade. She then felt called to follow Jesus’ path and work helping the poor. In September 1987 at the age of 28 she moved to Guatemala to join several other nuns serving indigenous residents of San Miguel Acatan and other small villages in Huehuetenango in the western highlands. Years later Ortiz explained that she wanted “to teach young indigenous children to read and write in Spanish and in their native language and to understand the Bible in their culture.”

It was dangerous work at a dangerous time. The country was ravaged by decades of civil war resulting from a 1954 CIA coup that deposed Jacobo Arbenz, the popular, democratically-elected progressive president, and replaced him with a series of right-wing military dictatorships, some of which perpetrated genocidal violence against indigenous peoples. The 36-year civil war left over 200,000 Guatemalans dead, more than 600 villages destroyed and countless people, mostly Mayan peasants, displaced.

“Every family in San Miguel had people who had been tortured, disappeared or killed,” Mary Elizabeth Ballard, an Ursuline sister who had arrived in Guatemala a year before Ortiz, told the literary magazine Agni in a 1998 interview. “No family was untouched.” Through it all, successive US administrations backed the perpetrators with arms, training, funding and diplomatic support.

Around a year after Ortiz’s arrival in San Miguel, the local bishop received an anonymous letter accusing her and the other nuns of planning a meeting with “subversives.” By early 1989, Ortiz was receiving threatening letters imploring her to leave the country. That summer she traveled to the capital, Guatemala City, to study Spanish. While she was there she was accosted by an unknown man on the street who told her, “we know who you are, you’re working in Huehuetenango,” before telling her to leave Guatemala.

She did leave, returning to the Ursuline motherhouse in Kentucky, where some of the sisters implored her to stay. But those who knew her best knew that wasn’t an option. “She had a great love for the Guatemalans,” Luisa Bickett, an Ursuline sister who also worked in San Miguel, told Agni. Ortiz returned to Guatemala to continue her work in September 1989. While staying in Guatemala City on October 13, Ortiz received the following death threat in the form of a letter pasted together from words cut from magazines and newspapers:

ELIMINATE DIANA. RAPED. DISAPPEARED. ASSASSINATED. DECAPITATED. LEAVE THE COUNTRY.

‘Hello, My Love’

Ortiz returned to San Miguel and on October 17 received yet another menacing letter telling her to leave the country. She decided to seek refuge at Posada de Belén, a convent and religious retreat 170 miles (270 km) away in Antigua. On November 2 Ortiz was reading in the convent’s garden when her life was forever changed. In an interview with Kerry Kennedy of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization, she recalled that:

“I heard a man’s deep voice behind me: ‘Hello, my love,’ he said in Spanish. ‘We have some things to discuss.’ I turned to see the morning sunlight glinting off a gun held by a man who had threatened me once before on the street. He and his partner forced me onto a bus, then into a police car where they blindfolded me. We came to a building and they led me down some stairs. They left me in a dark cell, where I listened to the cries of a man and woman being tortured. When the men returned, they accused me of being a guerrilla and began interrogating me. For every answer I gave them, they burned my back or my chest with cigarettes. Afterwards, they gang-raped me repeatedly.”

They raped her until she passed out. This was just the beginning of her nightmare. Ortiz was then moved to another room with another woman prisoner. “We exchanged names, cried, and held onto each other,” Ortiz said. “‘Dianna,’ she said in Spanish, ‘they will try to break you. Be strong.’” Some men returned with a video camera and a machete, which Ortiz thought would be used to torture her. Instead, she says she was forced to kill the other woman.

“What I remember is blood gushing, spurting like a water fountain… and my cries lost in the cries of the woman,” she recalled. Her captors then threatened to release video of her attacking the woman if she refused to cooperate. She was raped again. Then, the unimaginable:

“I was lowered into a pit full of bodies — bodies of children, men and women, some decapitated, all caked with blood. A few were still alive. I could hear them moaning… A stench of decay rose from the pits. Rats swarmed over the bodies… I passed out and when I came to I was lying on the ground beside the pit, rats all over me.”

More brutal interrogation followed. At one point, her captors held her down and began assaulting her again. One of them said, “Alejandro, come and have some fun.” Alejandro, who was tall and had fair skin, cursed in English and told the men that Ortiz was an American nun whose disappearance had already made news headlines. She says he then ordered them out of the room before helping her get dressed and leave the building in a sport utility vehicle parked outside.

“He kept telling me he was sorry, [that] the torturers had made a mistake,” Ortiz told Kennedy. “He said he was… working to liberate [Guatemala] from communism.” As they drove into Guatemala City, Alejandro blamed Ortiz for her ordeal, saying she should have heeded the death threats that preceded her kidnapping. He threatened her again and, fearing for her life, Ortiz jumped out of the SUV at a red light and ran.

State of Shock 

Darleen Chmielewski, a Franciscan nun who was one of the first people to see Ortiz after her escape, described her friend as in “a state of shock.”

“She was a shell of a woman; her eyes were blank and I presumed she had been tortured,” Chmielewski told Agni. The two women went the home of the Papal Nuncio, the Vatican representative in Guatemala City, who had offered Ortiz refuge. “Diana wanted to take a bath,” Chmielewski recalled. “I helped her wash and saw all the cigarette burns… she just cried and took baths.”

Two days later, Ortiz was back in the United States. “After escaping from my torturers, I returned home to New Mexico so traumatized that I recognized no one, not even my parents,” she told Kennedy. “I had virtually no memory of my life before my abduction; the only piece of my identity that remained was that I was a woman who was raped and forced to torture and murder another human being.”

She also felt forced to do something unimaginable for many nuns. “I got pregnant as a result of the multiple gang rapes,” she explained to Kennedy. “Unable to carry within me… what I could only view as a monster, I turned to someone for assistance and I destroyed that life.”

“Am I proud of that decision? No. But if I had to make [it] again, I believe I would decide as I did then,” Ortiz added. “I felt I had no choice. If I had had to grow within me what the torturers left me I would have died.”

Several months after her return stateside, Ortiz traveled to Chicago, where she lived for a time at the Su Casa Catholic Worker House for torture survivors. Sister JoAnn Persch said Ortiz arrived with “incredible fear” in her eyes and seemed “so fragile and traumatized.” She sat up all night with music and lights on so she wouldn’t succumb to the nightmares that came with sleep. “When she did fall asleep, she’d awaken with fists bruised from pounding the walls,” Persch told Agni.

Justice Denied 

Ortiz’s torment continued as she sought — and was denied — justice. Thomas Stroock, the US ambassador under President George H.W. Bush, accused her of staging her abduction in a bid to thwart US military aid to Guatemala. Cigarette burns — 111 of them, according to a US doctor who examined her — told a different story. In a bizarre twist, Guatemalan officials claimed Ortiz faked her kidnapping to cover up a violent lesbian affair, a rumor subsequently spread by US officials. Previously, the Reagan administration had undertaken a similar effort to discredit another Ursuline nun, Dorothy Kazel of Cleveland, Ohio, who along with three other American churchwomen was kidnapped, raped and executed in El Salvador by US-backed troops.

The prospect of Ortiz testifying about her ordeal terrified Stroock, a Wyoming oilman appointed by Bush, a Yale classmate who had no prior diplomatic experience. In a letter urging the State Department to not meet with her, he warned that “pressure… will build… to act on the information she provides.” Stroock worried that “we’re going to get cooked on this one.”

But it was Ortiz who continued to suffer. She received menacing phone calls and anonymous packages, one of them containing a dead mouse wrapped in a Guatemalan flag. Ortiz, however, remained undaunted. She made three trips to Guatemala to testify against the government, and tasted victory, albeit of a largely symbolic nature, when a federal judge in Boston ordered Gen. Héctor Gramajo, the Guatemalan defense minister who had tried to discredit Ortiz — in part by claiming her cigarette burns were the result of sadomasochistic sex — to pay her and eight Guatemalan victims a combined $47.5 million. “Forty-seven million dollars?” Gramajo scoffed. “I don’t have 47 million centavos!” He told the New York Times that he did nothing wrong; he was simply defending his country.

Demanding Truth 

In 1996 Ortiz held a five-week fasting vigil in front of the White House, where she broke down in tears while demanding that the US government declassify all documents about human rights abuses in Guatemala since the 1954 coup. Hillary Clinton, then first lady, invited Ortiz to her office. “I knew I needed to try to get Mrs. Clinton not only to understand my plight but also that of the Guatemalan people,” she told the Chicago Tribune at the time. During the half-hour meeting, Clinton told Ortiz it was possible that Alejandro was “a past or present employee of a US agency.”

Still, the hard truth was that many people, including government officials, doubted Ortiz’s story. She started to think that her torturers, who warned her that no one would believe her if she ever talked about her ordeal, might have been right. It was the same sadly familiar scenario faced by so many women who muster the courage to step forward to report sexual violence only to be called liars, or worse.

Ortiz’s relentless pursuit of justice eventually compelled the United States to declassify long-secret documents revealing details of US cooperation with Guatemalan security forces before, during and after the time of her abduction, including an admission by Stroock that the US embassy was in contact with members of a death squad. The documents also show that Gen. Gramajo had been trained in counterinsurgency tactics at the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), where military and police officials from Latin American allies — many of them dictatorships — were instructed in counterinsurgency and democracy suppression using course manuals that advocated the torture and execution of civilians.

“The US government funded, trained and equipped the Guatemalan army’s death squads — my torturers themselves,” Ortiz later wrote. “The United States was the Guatemalan army’s partner in a covert war against a small opposition force, a war the United Nations would later declare genocidal.”

In 1997 the Organization of American States (OAS) finished a four-year investigation that concluded Ortiz was kidnaped, tortured and very likely raped by Guatemalan security forces. The investigatory commission called on the Guatemalan government to hold the perpetrators accountable and to compensate Ortiz for the gross violation of her human rights. However, the case languished in the Guatemalan court system and no suspects were ever identified.

Healing Mind, Body and Soul 

Ortiz’s suffering has left her with an acute awareness of human rights issues and a desire to work in service of those rights. In 1998 she founded Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC), and in 2002 published The Blindfold’s Eyes: My Journey from Torture to Truth. Understandably, she is reluctant to discuss the horrific events of November 1989. “Those of us who have survived torture must relive all our torture every time we speak of it, and that’s one of the reasons why few of us do speak publicly,” she explained in a 2005 Democracy Now! interview. “I want to be free of these memories,” she told Kennedy. “I want to be as trusting, confident, adventurous, and carefree as I was in 1987.”

As for her recovery, Ortiz confessed in The Blindfold’s Eye that “no one ever fully recovers” from torture. “Not the one who is tortured, and not the one who tortures.” Her faith, which also suffered after her ordeal, has recovered —  and evolved. “Today, my spirituality is an attempt to live a Gospel-centered life that is formed, inspired and transformed and guides me in my ministry,” she told Global Sisters Report in 2016. “Prayer centers my heart and ministry on what is most important.”

Through it all, Sister Dianna Ortiz has not stopped searching for the whole truth of what happened to her 30 years ago. “I stand with the Guatemalan people,” she told Kennedy:

I demand the right to a future built on truth and justice. My torturers were never brought to justice. It is possible that, individually, they will never be identified or apprehended. But I cannot resign myself to this fact and move on. I have a responsibility to the people of Guatemala and to the people of the world to insist on accountability where it is possible.

“I know what it is to wait in the dark for torture, and what it is to wait in the dark for the truth,” said Ortiz. “I am still waiting.”

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A New Disease Big Meat Doesn’t Want You to Know About

by MARTHA ROSENBERG

Have you ever heard of African swine fever (ASF) caused by the African swine fever virus (ASFV)? A fourth of the world’s pigs have died from it just this year –– half of all of China’s pigs –– but like previous food animal pandemics, Big Meat has managed to keep it out of the news.

The only mainstream stories most people have read that touch on ASF deal with China’s pork reserves (like the US’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve says a New York Times piece that manages to dodge the disease itself) and trade implications of the pig disease. Questions about the pandemic disease potentials of intensive animal agriculture are skirted.

ASF originated in East Africa and reached Eastern Europe in 2007 where it is has remained. Since ASF’s outbreak in China last year in which half of the country’s pigs have died and another 1 million were culled, ASF has spread to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, North Korea, the Philippines, more of eastern Europe and even Belgium.

“It’s not a question of whether ASF reaches American shores, but when,” wrote Thomas Parsons, professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine, and Scott Michael Moore, China Program Director at the University of Pennsylvania, in the Hill this month. “Should the virus enter the U.S., your future as a pork producer would radically change,” warns Pork Business.

The ASF virus causes death in 1 to 8 days in acute cases and, in other animals, subclinical cases in which there are no symptoms. This allows the spread of the disease as animals and their meat are sold either deliberately or not.

This is not the first time that Big Meat has kept the facts of major animal pandemics away from consumers who likely would be turned off to their products. It also suppressed the facts about porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) and avian flu.

By 2014, PEDv had killed 10 percent of the nation’s pigs, but Big Meat managed to prevent the public from seeing dumpsters full of dead pigs. If they saw photos, people might ask what is happening on industrial farms, why are so many animals sick and what drugs are they being given? (The drugs pigs are given to prevent diseases is stomach turning.) The PEDv scourge was so devastating, a Kentucky farm fed dead pigs to other pigs in an attempt to induce “immunity” in survivors.

To combat PEDv the government gave $11.1 million of our tax dollars to private farmers who were “producers of infected herds.” Here’s a cheaper idea: how about giving them fresh air, room and no drugs?

Then there was U.S. bird flu. From 2014 through mid-2015, 48 million chickens and turkeys were killed in the U.S. to prevent the disease’s spread and protect farmer profits. Despite the carnage, the disease resurfaced in 2017. Again Big Meat managed to keep images out of the public view.

It is easy to see why. To prevent the spread of bird flu, healthy, floor-reared turkeys and broiler chickens are herded into an enclosed area where they were administered propylene glycol foam to suffocate them. “Ventilation shutdown” is also used –– raising the barn temperature to at least 104F for a minimum of three hours to kill the entire flock. “Round the clock incinerators and crews in hazmat suits,” were required for bird depopulation in 2015 reported Fortune.

When farm animal disease pandemics hit, it is not about the “price of bacon,” trade wars or farmer profits as mainstream media and Big Meat would have you believe. It is about a style of farming which egregiously harms animals, workers and the environment for a product that is about as good for you as cigarettes. The African swine fever is just the latest example.

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David Cameron and the Decline of British Leadership

by PATRICK COCKBURN

Photograph Source: Tom Evans – OGL

Critics lament the disintegration of the British political establishment under the impact of repeated shocks from the Brexit earthquake. Competent politicians and experienced civil servants head for the exit or are evicted to make way for more ideologically acceptable successors. Whatever one thought of the members of Theresa May’s final cabinet they were better than the clutch of opportunists and fanatics appointed by Boris Johnson.

The Brexit crisis has become an all-encompassing explanation of all that is wrong with Britain, with many idealising the sunlit uplands where we dwelt before the 2016 referendum. Retired civil service mandarins and politicians recall how everything used to run smoothly and sweetly before the Brexit barbarians stormed the gates and they lost their jobs.

It should be easy enough to check such rosy recollections because many of the retired politicians – if not the mandarins – use their retirement to write memoirs of great length and detail that need to appear swiftly if carefully hoarded nuggets of secret information are to appeal to the reader.

Publishers publicise such books by talking up those revelatory chunks where the author is rude about his successor or exposes the treachery and incompetence of old friends and allies. Editors and reviewers scan the index to see what old scores are being settled. Often ignored in all this, and dismissed as yesterday’s news, is fascinating information about what some powerful figure actually thought and did when he or she was in charge.

David Cameron’s autobiography For The Record is one such recently published volume that is deeply illuminating about how the author, as prime minister, responded to issues of war and peace. As one would expect from his public persona, he is fluent and plausible in describing his role in the wars in Libya and Syria sparked by the Arab Spring, but he is shallow and ill-informed about the forces at play. What comes across is that, like many more openly bellicose political leaders, the mild-mannered Cameron liked playing general and did so with enthusiastic but wrongheaded amateurism.

Cameron recalls with pride his role in the bombing of Libya in 2011, justifying it on the grounds that Muammar Gaddafi’s tanks and troops were advancing on Benghazi where they would massacre the population. He says that “on 20 March, American, British and French aircraft destroyed Gaddafi’s tanks, armoured carriers and rocket launchers, and his forces began to retreat. Benghazi was saved, and a Srebrenica-style slaughter averted. I’ve never known relief like it.”

There are a few things wrong with this as a description of what happened: a report by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee later revealed that the belief that Gaddafi would “massacre the civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence”. It pointed out that Gaddafi had retaken other towns from the rebels and not attacked the civilian population.

Nor was Benghazi saved: drone footage of the city taken recently show that the centre of the city has been destroyed, not by Gaddafi’s soldiers but in the fighting over many years between the militias that overthrew him. Had Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and Hillary Clinton not intervened militarily in the Libyan civil war then Benghazi might really have been saved, along with those who were killed and wounded in the long years of fighting that followed foreign intervention.

I was particularly interested in Cameron’s take on the Libyan conflict because, soon after the bombing started, I visited the frontline south of Benghazi where more journalists were visible than rebels. There was the occasional puff of smoke on the horizon when a shell exploded, but otherwise not much fighting going on.

This phoney war did not last long and Cameron explains why: “By May 2011 the war had sunk into stalemate, and needed a renewed focus. I agreed deals with France to commit Apache helicopters to help the rebels. I was on the phone to the leaders of the Gulf states to encourage their continued involvement which turned out to be crucial.”

In other words, Gaddafi was overthrown primarily by foreign powers and not by an indigenous rebellion. It requires considerable naivete on Cameron’s part to imagine that the Gulf states, the last absolute monarchies on earth, planned to replace Gaddafi with a secular democracy.

A dangerous blindness similarly pervades Cameron’s chapter on his frustrated attempts to take military action in Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. He is disappointed that Barack Obama is not as gung-ho as himself and sometime feels that he picks up more information from the members of the Syrian diaspora he runs into than he does from his own diplomats.

He is angered by the action of the House of Commons and Obama in refusing to sanction air strikes in Syria after the use of chemical weapons against civilians in Damascus in August 2013. It becomes clear, however, that he never decided if this was to be a prolonged air campaign in support of the rebels until they were victorious or a slap on the wrist for Assad with a one-off cruise missile attack,which he would certainly have shrugged off, as he was to do when the US did launch such an attack in 2018.

It is worth studying what Cameron did, or thought he was doing in the Libyan and Syrian conflicts, because war reveals a political leader’s level of judgement as does nothing else. There has been much criticism of Cameron’s decision to first hold, and then lose, the referendum on membership of the European Union, but his second-rate attributes as a leader were already evident in his decisions about these two wars.

These failings are not confined to Cameron, but to what used to be called the British ruling class as a whole: its members have a a certain provinciality and sense of superiority that makes it difficult for them to play a weak hand well when negotiating with the EU. Such assumptions blend with inner self-doubt which sees Cameron continually trotting off to see Obama or Vladimir Putin, though this never seems to get him very far.

It is worth reading Cameron’s book to understand his failings since most of the party leaders in the upcoming general election are even worse.

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Neoliberalism’s Children Rise Up to Demand Justice in Chile and the World

by MEDEA BENJAMIN – NICOLAS J. S. DAVIES

Photograph Source: Hugo Morales – CC BY-SA 4.0

Uprisings against the corrupt, generation-long dominance of neoliberal “center-right” and “center-left” governments that benefit the wealthy and multinational corporations at the expense of working people are sweeping country after country all over the world. In this Autumn of Discontent, people from Chile, Haiti and Honduras to Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon are rising up against neoliberalism, which has in many cases been imposed on them by U.S. invasions, coups and other brutal uses of force.

The repression against activists has been savage, with more than 250 protesters killed in Iraq in October alone, but the protests have continued and grown. Some movements, such as in Algeria and Sudan, have already forced the downfall of long-entrenched, corrupt governments. 

 A country that is emblematic of the uprisings against neoliberalism is Chile. On October 25, 2019, a million Chileans–out of a population of about 18 million–took to the streets across the country, unbowed by government repression that has killed at least 20 of them and injured hundreds more. Two days later, Chile’s billionaire president Sebastian Piñera fired his entire cabinet and declared, “We are in a new reality. Chile is different from what it was a week ago.” The people of Chile appear to have validated Erica Chenoweth’s research on non-violent protest movements, in which she found that once over 3.5% of a population rise up to non-violently demand political and economic change, no government can resist their demands.

It remains to be seen whether Piñera’s response will be enough to save his own job, or whether he will be the next casualty of the 3.5% rule. It is entirely fitting that Chile should be in the vanguard of the protests sweeping the world in this Autumn of Discontent, since Chile served as the laboratory for the neoliberal transformation of economics and politics that has swept the world since the 1970s.  When Chile’s socialist leader Salvador Allende was elected in 1970, after a 6-year-long covert CIA operation to prevent his election, President Nixon ordered U.S. sanctions to “make the economy scream.”  In his first year in office, Allende’s progressive economic policies led to a 22% increase in real wages, as work began on 120,000 new housing units and he started to nationalize copper mines and other major industries. But growth slowed in 1972 and 1973 under the pressure of brutal U.S. sanctions, as in Venezuela and Iran today. U.S. sabotage of the new government intensified, and on September 11th, 1973, Allende was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. The new leader, General Augusto Pinochet, executed or disappeared at least 3,200 people, held 80,000 political prisoners in his jails and ruled Chile as a brutal dictator until 1990, with the full support of the U.S. and other Western governments.  Under Pinochet, Chile’s economy was submitted to radical “free market” restructuring by the “Chicago Boys,” a team of Chilean economics students trained at the University of Chicago under the supervision of Milton Friedman for the express purpose of conducting this brutal experiment on their country. U.S. sanctions were lifted and Pinochet sold off Chile’s public assets to U.S. corporations and wealthy investors. Their program of tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, together with privatization and cuts in pensions, healthcare, education and other public services, has since been duplicated across the world.  The Chicago Boys pointed to rising economic growth rates in Chile as evidence of the success of their neoliberal program, but by 1988, 48% of Chileans were living below the poverty line. Chile was and still is the wealthiest country in Latin America, but it is also the country with the largest gulf between rich and poor. The governments elected after Pinochet stepped down in 1990 have followed the neoliberal model of alternating pro-corporate “center-right” and “center-left” governments, as in the U.S. and other developed countries. Neither respond to the needs of the poor or working class, who pay higher taxes than their tax-evading bosses, on top of ever-rising living costs, stagnant wages and limited access to voucherized education and a stratified public-private healthcare system. Indigenous communities are at the very bottom of this corrupt social and economic order. Voter turnout has predictably declined from 95% in 1989 to 47% in the most recent presidential election in 2017. If Chenoweth is right and the million Chileans in the street have breached the tipping point for successful non-violent popular democracy, Chile may be leading the way to a global political and economic revolution.

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Trump’s Opposition to ‘Endless Wars’ Appeals to Those Who Fought Them

Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. Polls show that a growing number of veterans have become disenchanted with the post-9/11 wars that continue in the Middle East.
Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. Polls show that a growing number of veterans have become disenchanted with the post-9/11 wars that continue in the Middle East.Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

By Jennifer Steinhauer

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WASHINGTON — Tyler Wade was awarded the Purple Heart while serving in Afghanistan, and says he is “proud of everything” he did during his service. He also believes the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were a mistake, as do a growing number of veterans — from retired generals to those who served across the enlisted ranks, from supporters of President Trump to “resistance” Democrats.

“All in all, it is a lot of wasted lives and money and time and effort spent to accomplish a goal we never accomplished,” said Mr. Wade, 31, who was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during his five years in the Marines and is now a nursing student in Las Vegas.

Nearly two decades after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, polls show that a majority of all veterans have grown disenchanted with the continuing wars, even if the national security elite in both parties continue to press for an American military presence in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The view is in stark contrast to widespread support for the wars across the military and veterans community — and the general population — when President George W. Bush first sent American troops to Afghanistan and then Iraq.

The shifting attitudes of so many who served in the wars help explain why Mr. Trump has support among veterans as he brings troops home and has resisted military action against other nations. There is a slow but steadily increasing alliance of those on the left and the right on Capitol Hill to curb what Mr. Trump calls “endless wars.”

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Among veterans, 64 percent say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, slightly higher than the 62 percent of civilians who feel the same way. Disagreement with the conflict in Afghanistan is lower — 58 percent of veterans and 59 percent of the general public believe that was not a worthy war. While some veterans support continued military engagement in Syria, more than half — 55 percent — oppose it.

Veterans have supported Mr. Trump more than the general population. About 56 percent of veterans said they approved of the job he was doing as president, compared with 42 percent of the population overall, according to a poll by The Associated Press last year, consistent with other poll findings. Veterans like Mr. Trump’s vow to support their care and bolster military spending, and in some cases they agree with his “America First” foreign policy calling for a smaller footprint for United States forces abroad.

For some veterans, especially those who identify themselves as liberal, the killing last weekend of the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi underscored, rather than weakened, their views.

“I kind of developed a cathartic bitterness,” said Daniel Schick, who served in Iraq. “It was a waste of blood and treasure.”
“I kind of developed a cathartic bitterness,” said Daniel Schick, who served in Iraq. “It was a waste of blood and treasure.”Credit…Amanda Lucier for The New York Times

Peter Lucier is a law student in St. Louis who recalled cheering for the killing of Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, when he was a 22-year-old Marine about to be deployed. Now, he says, “I am trying to get out of the killing business.”

“Also, the country is different,” he continued. “It’s been almost 10 years since we killed Bin Laden and we are still in these places. We are not moving the ball forward.”

In the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, Mr. Trump performed especially well in counties that had a higher than average number of service members killed in action, even when adjusted for other factors in the 2016 election.

“For conservative-leaning veterans, we signed up to defend our country,” said Dan Caldwell, a veteran and the senior adviser at Concerned Veterans for America, a conservative group with substantial backing from the billionaire Charles G. Koch that focuses heavily on withdrawing forces from around the world. “We didn’t sign up to build girls schools in the Al Anbar Province. We had friends killed or wounded in action; it wasn’t clear for what.”

Yet, as with many policy areas, the president’s words are not always consistent with his administration’s actions. About 200,000 American troops remain deployed worldwide, about the same as when Mr. Trump took office. After originally announcing a full troop withdrawal from Syria — and abandoning Kurdish allies, for which he was widely criticized in public by many national security experts and in private even by some in the military — he opted to leave some troops in Syria.

“You get the argument that we have invested so much in treasure and blood, why would you abandon the project after we have had so many men and women wounded?” said Paul D. Eaton, a retired two-star Army officer who oversaw the training of Iraqi troops and who was an early critic of the policies of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. “What are you going to say to their families? Throwing good resources after bad is no way to run a country.”

The regret over the wars among these veterans is distinct from the feelings of veterans of the Vietnam era. Many served in that war only because they were drafted, and it prompted widespread public protests.

Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division in Paktia Province, Afghanistan, in 2013. Fifty-eight percent of veterans say the Afghanistan war is not a worthy one.
Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division in Paktia Province, Afghanistan, in 2013. Fifty-eight percent of veterans say the Afghanistan war is not a worthy one.Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Veterans of all ages have soured on the latest conflicts, which unlike Vietnam have been fought with an all-volunteer force that seems proud of its decision to choose public service and feels embraced by American civilians regardless of whether they supported the wars in the Middle East.

While the vast majority of veterans have returned stateside to productive and happy lives, many who served are concerned that the suicide rate among veterans outpaces that of the civilian population and is rising faster among younger veterans. Thousands who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are struggling with life-altering injuries that would have killed veterans of previous wars. And homelessness is a stubborn problem — only 7 percent of Americans are veterans, but they make up about 11 percent of the homeless population.

But, just as important, many veterans say their views of the conflicts have been shaped by the lack of a satisfying outcome.

“I wanted out of Podunk; I wanted upward mobility,” said Daniel Schick, 34, explaining why he joined the Army before going to Iraq, where he lost seven members of his unit in one deployment. He now lives in Portland, Ore., and has a temporary position with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

“I kind of developed a cathartic bitterness,” he said, reflecting on his service. “It was a waste of blood and treasure and destroyed what little infrastructure that the Iraqi people had.”

Such sentiments are not limited to enlisted personnel and lower-level officers.

In recent years, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired Marine general who helped write the military’s counterinsurgency manual, and Stanley A. McChrystal, the former commander of Joint Special Operations Command who then led coalition troops in Afghanistan, have called the Iraq invasion a mistake, as have other former officers.

“I think there is a frustration that Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t turn out more like Germany,” said Dana J. H. Pittard, a retired Army major general who led combat troops in Iraq, referring to the successful victory and aftermath of World War II. “Afghanistan is still a mess. On the Iraq side, we are frustrated now about why we went there in the first place. What people see is a state that is not as stable as it should be. Afghanistan doesn’t look like it was worth it because of way it turned out.”

“We have learned at this point there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan,” said Amber Smith, who served abroad.
“We have learned at this point there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan,” said Amber Smith, who served abroad.Credit…Eric Thayer for The New York Times

While early opposition to the war in Iraq focused on the faulty intelligence cited to begin the invasion, opinion across a broader spectrum has been soured by the failure of the military — and the government — to secure a reliable peace and the failure of politicians in both Kabul and Baghdad to build stable governments that can contain deadly domestic violence after years of American support.

Support for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was already declining a decade after the terrorist attacks on the United States, with Pew finding in 2011 that about one-third of veterans of the post-9/11 cohort believed those conflicts were a bad idea. Disagreement with the policy was found to have almost doubled in the more recent Pew poll among this cohort. The latest Pew study found that neither rank nor combat experience differentiated veterans’ views of the wars, though partisan differences were clear. The poll found that 45 percent of Republican veterans versus 15 percent of Democratic veterans say the war in Iraq was worth fighting, mirroring party gaps in the civilian population.

For every veteran in Congress like Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, who has consistently advocated “military solutions,” there are now those like Representative Jason Crow, Democrat of Colorado, who view the war in Iraq as an error and Afghanistan with ambivalence.

Mr. Crow recently returned to Afghanistan as a congressman and said that “it brought up a lot of memories for me, thinking about the time we spent there and the missed opportunities and wondering about things we could have done a different way.”

This year, VoteVets, a left-leaning organization started in 2006 to elect Democrats to Congress who would end the “endless wars,” and Concerned Veterans for America, which has long been VoteVets’ nemesis, joined forces to lobby lawmakers to end the post-Sept. 11 conflicts.

“Donald Trump is a big reason” for the two groups to now work together, said Jon Soltz, an Army veteran who served two tours in Iraq before helping found VoteVets, which struggled to build support for its antiwar agenda in its early years, even among Democrats. “He stood up and beat Jeb Bush by saying the Iraq war was a total joke. I don’t like him. He blocked us on Twitter, and we are going to work to beat him in 2020. But you can’t deny that Donald Trump trashing these wars was a game-changer for us all.”

Many veterans find this dynamic frustrating.

Amber Smith, 37, was a fourth-generation service member who served in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2005 to 2008. Like many other veterans, Ms. Smith saw a greater purpose in the war in Afghanistan than the one in Iraq, given the Taliban’s role harboring Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. But as with many veterans, that purpose ended in her mind long ago.

“We gave it nearly two decades, thousands of U.S. lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, and we have learned at this point there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan,” said Ms. Smith, who served for one year in the Trump administration in the Defense Department. “There are a few veterans in Congress who are very pro-military-involvement in the Middle East. Well, they already fought that fight. They are not going back. As we have seen, when Trump talks about reducing troops, everyone in D.C. becomes unhinged. Unfortunately, the U.S. service members pay the consequences for that.”

Those who have served — voluntarily — in the military since Sept. 11, 2001, “served primarily out of patriotism,” said David W. Barno, a retired Army lieutenant general and former top commander in Afghanistan whose children have also served in the military. “Every one of them knew they were volunteering for war. But there is a gnawing issue that we are still losing people.”Correction: Nov. 2, 2019

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of stars that Paul D. Eaton, an Army officer who oversaw the training of Iraqi troops, retired with. It is two stars, not three.

Posted in USA, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, SyriaComments Off on Trump’s Opposition to ‘Endless Wars’ Appeals to Those Who Fought Them

Most Iraq and Afghanistan Vets now Regret the Mission

by FRED GARDNER

“Trump’s Opposition to ‘Endless Wars’ Appeals to Those Who Fought Them” read the headline above a front-page story by Jennifer Steinhauer in the New York Times November 1. The percentage of vets deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan who disapprove of US intervention there has almost doubled since 2011! Key excerpts follow.

Among veterans, 64 percent say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, slightly higher than the 62 percent of civilians who feel the same way. Disagreement with the conflict in Afghanistan is lower — 58 percent of veterans and 59 percent of the general public believe that was not a worthy war. While some veterans support continued military engagement in Syria, more than half — 55 percent — oppose it…

Many who served are concerned that the suicide rate among veterans outpaces that of the civilian population and is rising faster among younger veterans. Thousands who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are struggling with life-altering injuries that would have killed veterans of previous wars. And homelessness is a stubborn problem — only 7 percent of Americans are veterans, but they make up about 11 percent of the homeless population…

Support for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was already declining a decade after the terrorist attacks on the United States, with Pew finding in 2011 that about one-third of veterans of the post-9/11 cohort believed those conflicts were a bad idea. Disagreement with the policy was found to have almost doubled in the more recent Pew poll among this cohort. The latest Pew study found that neither rank nor combat experience differentiated veterans’ views of the wars…

Steinhauer contrasts the anti-war views now coming from Iraq/Afghanistan vets and those expressed by Vietnam vets.

The regret over the wars among these veterans is distinct from the feelings of veterans of the Vietnam era. Many served in that war only because they were drafted, and it prompted widespread public protests. Veterans of all ages have soured on the latest conflicts, which unlike Vietnam have been fought with an all-volunteer force that seems proud of its decision to choose public service and feels embraced by American civilians regardless of whether they supported the wars in the Middle East.

In Vietnam, draftees’ resentment contributed to some anti-war sentiment; but it was mainly what they saw in country that led them and the Regular Army GIs serving three-year hitches to conclude that they should not have been sent there —just as the volunteer-Army vets who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are now doing. Veterans of all three wars came to feel that US intervention was wrong after they were deployed and saw how the locals felt about the situation and the level of destruction being wrought.

Most so-called volunteers are driven to enlist by socioeconomic pressure. Steinhauer quotes an Iraq vet named Daniel Schick, who joined the military because “I wanted out of Podunk; I wanted upward mobility.”  Schick lost seven members of his unit in one deployment. “I kind of developed a cathartic bitterness,” he said, reflecting on his service. “It was a waste of blood and treasure and destroyed what little infrastructure that the Iraqi people had.”

“Cathartic bitterness” is a brilliant description of the attitude that enabled Daniel Schick to deal with the trauma he lived through in Iraq. He now lives in Oregon and is working for the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The news that a majority of vets not  disparage the US role in Iraq and Afghanistan did not require an upcoming-election angle, but as the headline showed, the editors of the Times (and the think-tank fellows at PEW) are preoccupied with Donald Trump and 2020. Steinhauer duly analyzes  the impact antiwar vets might have on the re-election of a President who claims to want to put an end to “Endless Wars.” She notes that Trump has hardly reduced the number of US troops1 stationed overseas (about 200,000), and that his announced withdrawal of troops from Syria turns out to be only a partial withdrawal. The Pew Research Center study that the Times story is based on was published July 10.

Implications for Medical MJ Proponents

Many military vets have found that marijuana provides relief from PTSD2, and proponents have implored the federal government to let VA doctors approve its use by patients. The VA has stonewalled for years citing a lack of any clinical trials confirming the widespread claim of benefit3.

Arizona psychiatrist Sue Sisley, MD, finally got federal approval to conduct such a trial after many years of trying. Her protocol stated that the study would “explore whether smoked marijuana can help reduce PTSD symptoms in 76 U.S. veterans with chronic, treatment-resistant posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Participants must be U.S. veterans, men or women, aged 18 or older with a diagnosis of PTSD that has not improved after trying either medication or psychotherapy.”

With a grant of $2,156,000 from the state of Colorado and the help of veterans’ groups, Sisley enrolled 76 qualified patients. (The original criteria for participants included combat experience but that was waived when recruitment proved difficult.) The trial was completed in February of this year.  The data was then prepared for publication in a peer-reviewed journal by co-investigator Paula Riggs, MD, and Marcel Bonn-Miller, PhD, whose title was “Coordinating Principal Investigator.” Neither of them interviewed any vets; that was Sisley’s role. The results have yet to be published and revealing them in advance would get their paper spiked. (Why a medical journal requires a scoop doesn’t make sense to your correspondent.)

Sisley was appalled by the quality of the herb provided by NIDA’s only supplier, Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly of the University of Mississippi. This is how she described the stuff to Randy Robinson of Merry Jane:

It comes in these generic batches of either high-THC, high-CBD, or placebo cannabis. You have a very limited menu there, and they come in these ziplock bags. When you open it, it’s a greenish powder filled with extraneous plant material. So, there’s some flower; there’s some mixed stems and leaves, just ground-up fragments of the plant. It’s not just the tops of the plant — the flower — which is what we’d like to study…

There’s no transparency. Normally, when you do clinical trials — and for years I did trials for Big Pharma — you get a complete drug master file that would give you all the details about the drug: its properties, how it was manufactured, et cetera. There’s none of that available.

Even though the DEA takes millions of dollars of taxpayer money, they provide zero transparency. You’re not allowed access to the drug master file, which would be normal operation procedure in any other FDA trial.

The only other federal agency who has access to the file is the FDA, and they refuse to share that with the public, which is already an abomination in my opinion. It should be challenged.

I shared Jennifer Steinhauer’s Times story with Dr. Sisley and was disappointed to learn that the vets in her study had not been asked about their attitude towards the mission itself. If you feel the mission was truly to protect America people, then the impact of horrific personal memories might be tempered somewhat by a sense of having done some good. But if you feel the intervention was greed-driven and of no use to your people, there is no buffer when the nightmare images of death and destruction flood your brain. “Moral injury” is an apt term for the loss of that buffer. Cannabis might help veterans cope, and so might cathartic bitterness.

Notes.

1. Such numbers are misleadingly low as a measure of the empire’s military might because armed contractors are not “US troops.”

2. A most insightful commentary by Tod Mikuriya, MD on how cannabis helps people cope with PTSD ran in O’Shaughnessy’s, Summer 2006

3. Here is a transcript of Arizona vets providing strong anecdotal evidence on the subject in a piece recounting the runaround Dr. Sisley was getting from the federal government.

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My Friend Was Murdered for Trying to Save the Amazon

by SARAH SHENKER

Paulo Paulino Guajajara, known as Kwahu, who was killed by illegal loggers.

“They’re watching us,” the Guardians whispered, as we walked in the dark. “But we’re watching them, and this is our forest. We know it inside out. We’ll catch them.” We were heading deeper into the forest, towards an illegal logging hotspot.

I was on an operation with the Guardians of the Amazon, indigenous people from the Guajajara tribe with one clear objective: to protect their land. They do this not only for their own families, but also to protect their uncontacted neighbors, people from the Awá tribe, who share this territory. I was invited to join them as part of my work for Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples, who support the Guardians’ work and help amplify their voices on the global stage.

The anger and the urgency among the Guardians was palpable. We couldn’t even wait until morning; the loggers were in the forest now. So we headed out into the night, eyes adjusted to the darkness, with only the low, dim, on-and-off light of a few torches covered in cloth and pointed down at our feet. Any more light risked being seen, and the loggers are armed, aggressive, and ruthless.

At the time of this visit last April, the loggers had already assassinated three Guardians. Just a few days ago, I received news that my friend Paulino Paulo Guajajara had been fatally shot, and another friend, Tainaky Tenetehar, had been seriously wounded; he only just escaped from loggers, who had ambushed them while they were out hunting.

Paulino on a mission with the Guardians, wearing Sarah’s hat.

The hat Paulino is wearing in this picture used to be mine. We cut two eye holes in it and, when we passed through particularly dangerous areas, he’d pull it down over his face so as not to be recognized by loggers. He said that this hat could save his life, as he could be targeted any minute, and that it was well worth the sweat. When the coast was clear, he’d pull it back up with his trademark grin.

Paulino paid with his life for trying save his tribe’s forest, the Arariboia Indigenous Territory, in the north-east Amazon. It is being destroyed at a terrifying rate: President Bolsonaro’s racist words and genocidal proposals to steal indigenous land are encouraging illegal loggers to operate with renewed zeal, confident that they can make quick cash and get away with it. The number of invasions of indigenous territories, and attacks on communities, has sky-rocketed since Bolsonaro took office.

“The President has made it clear that he won’t protect even one more millimeter of indigenous land. They want to kill us all and take our land,” Tainaky himself told me. We saw countless patches of newly chopped-down forest, where dozens of trees felled by the invaders lay like corpses on the side of the paths, ready to be transported and sold on the black market.

Paulino was with us too that day, and he was upset by what we saw. “It makes me so mad to see this! These people think they can come here, into our home, and help themselves to our forest? No. We won’t allow it. We don’t break into their houses and rob them, do we? My blood is boiling, I’m so angry,” he told me.

Paulino was wearing the hat I gave him the day he was killed, but this time it didn’t protect him. Paulino and Tainaky didn’t think they were under threat when were ambushed because they weren’t looking for loggers at the time.

The Guardians respect and protect their forest as an integral part of their daily life because it gives them their food, shelter, medicine — it’s their everything. “We indigenous people know our forest better than anyone else. We’ll fight as long as we live,” Tainaky said. “There’s no other option.”

Satellite image of the Guajajara’s territory, Araribóia, showing their land as an island of green in a sea of deforestation.

If you look at Araribóia in satellite imagery, you are struck by the contrast in color at its borders. It’s an island of green amid a sea of destruction. It’s no surprise; indigenous peoples look after their land better than anyone else. They have done so for generations and, unlike many other societies, their forest stewardship does not require detailed planning, million-dollar projects, debates in international fora or the Paris climate agreement.

We set up camp at a junction where two logging paths converged. There were snapped twigs on the forest floor — breaks which the Guardians could identify as being just hours old. The loggers were nearby. We slept around a fire — just enough flames to cook the one slab of remaining meat, but not enough to be seen. At dawn we continued, going ever deeper into the forest. I knew we were getting closer: there were constant signs of intruders.

One result of Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency is that there are more eyes on the forest: of those wanting to steal it, but also of those wanting to protect it. It’s buzzing with all the attention, and the fatal fires now ravaging vast areas are now drawing many more. All these eyes on the Amazon are provoking fights, grabbing headlines and building resistance. All of us can be allies in this resistance, but we will never truly know what people like the Guardians of the Amazon face on a daily basis. I will never truly know what Paulino went through.

Hours passed on our mission, and eventually we found the loggers’ camp. We approached cautiously, in a line, as silent as we could be. But nobody was there. The loggers had fled in a rush, leaving behind some clothes, cooking utensils, a pumpkin, and half a dozen eggs. The Guardians were quick to set the loggers’ camp alight, and burnt it to the ground.

The invaders had almost definitely been tipped off by one of their spies. They would rather flee and abandon “their” logs than cross paths with the forest’s defenders. They know the Guardians’ operations are succeeding in gradually pushing the loggers out.

Around the world, people are uniting with Brazil’s indigenous peoples to #StopBrazilsGenocide. During Bolsonaro’s first month in office, thousands took part in the biggest ever international protest for indigenous rights. The resistance is stopping Bolsonaro in his tracks.

For the future of Arariboia and other indigenous lands — the most biodiverse places on Earth, and lifelines for us all — let’s keep our eyes on the forest, and support the indigenous eyes IN the forest. We honour the life of Paulino and others like him; they will never know how grateful we all are, and we will never understand how much we really owe them. They’re the ones on the front line, day and night, of this fight for indigenous peoples, for nature, and for all humanity.

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The Secret of Cuba’s Success: International Solidarity

by NINO PAGLICCIA

Once again the international community represented at the United Nations General Assembly on November 7 has spoken and voted to reject overwhelmingly the financial and economic blockade (embargo) imposed by the United States against Cuba through unilateral sanctions. The US blockade has been imposed in an escalating progression over the last 57 years with the most damaging rapid increase in the last few months under the Trump administration. Yet, Cuba thrives socially and internationally, if not economically. Despite the undeniable negative impact of the blockade on the population, by and large the majority of Cubans are confidently committed to resisting and enduring. But what motivates that courageous resilience and the international support for Cuba?

The UN vote was on a resolution presented by Cuba based on its report titled “Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”. The vote resulted in 187 in favor of ending the US blockade of Cuba, 3 (US, “Israel” and Brazil) against, and 2 (Colombia and Ukraine ) abstained.

This is not the first time that such a vote has taken place and therefore it should not catch us by surprise. A similar vote has been called for the last 28 years where Cuba has received majority support. In 2018 only two nations voted against, the United States and “Israel”.

The reason for Cuba’s persistent international denunciation of the US-driven blockade is that it is illegal, unfair and harmful to all Cubans. In just one year from April 2018 to March 2019 it has brought losses to Cuba for US$4.3 billion.

The Obama administration had eased restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba, which led the way to reopening embassies in Washington and Havana in 2014 and to Obama’s visit to Havana in 2016. With the exception of the embassies that remain open, the Trump administration has reversed those policies and added more. In 2018, former US National Security Advisor John Bolton included Cuba in what he called the “Troika of tyranny” together with Venezuela and Nicaragua. But more threatening has been the activation for the first time since 1996 of the section Title III of the Helms-Burton Act that allows Cuban-Americans and US citizens to sue Cuban companies and potentially foreign companies in US courts for “trafficking” in properties legally nationalised by the Cuban government. Most nations have accepted compensation, the US has refused.

Unfortunately, there are no consequences for any of the US actions, or following such an overwhelming international condemnation, which speaks to the ineffectiveness of a dysfunctional United Nations as a balancing force for the maintenance of fairness and justice for those nations that are unable to defend themselves from aggressive and threatening nations. The UN cannot even defend effectively its own Charter that is trampled daily.

It would be tempting to focus our criticism on the institutional inadequacy of the UN in enforcing accountability for the members’ actions even in clear cut cases as the illegal US sanctions on Cuba, or on the dozens of other cases around the world for that matter. However, we choose to focus on the positive outcome of the vote because this is a success story that is not happening by accident and it is important to understand the secret of Cuba’s success.

I have asked myself many times, how has this small nation survived actions of terrorism, invasions, ostracism from sister nations, sanctions and other interferences since 1959 and more severe ones since the early 1990s, and still managed to politically defeat the most powerful country in the world for almost 60 years? Besides the many political arguments that can be brought to bear, for me there is one factor that stands out. One factor that has a stronger human element and a lesser political one: international solidarity.

Solidarity is a notion that is frequently used by people on the left of the political spectrum. In fact, in some case it may have a rebellion connotation, which may explain why rightwing politics seldom use the word. Cuba has made solidarity a central piece of its foreign policy as stated on its website, that is grounded in respect, genuine cooperation, and shared aspirations; it embraces causes rather than self-interests, and is capable of producing long-lasting connections that are stronger and more meaningful than diplomatic ties. It is a relation where people, rather than ideology, are at the centre of policies.

Examples of Cuba’s people-oriented international relations are shown by its readiness to be part of regional institutions that promote cooperation over competition like ALBA and CELAC, but perhaps its single most valuable international solidarity contribution is provided by the medical missions of around 50,000 doctors to about 67 countries in the most remote areas of the world. The first Cuban medical brigade was sent to Argelia in 1963. But the most outstanding medical collaboration as an expression of solidarity and internationalism happened in 1998 after hurricane Mitch hit Central America, especially Honduras and Guatemala. To be clear, in some cases for Cuba it is also a source of revenue for the services it provides. For instance, in the case of Venezuela, Cuba is remunerated with much needed oil in a fair cooperative exchange.

The World Health Organization has praised the Cuban primary health care system as fundamental to providing good healthcare, and criticism of the Cuban medical cooperation has been defended.

The Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodriguez, has harshly denounced at the UN the upsurge of US hostile aggression and made a special mention of the lies about the medical international cooperation used to sabotage and “attack a program based on genuine conceptions of South-South cooperation.”

Ultimately nations are on their own fighting back political aggression, however, there is such thing as international solidarity that can be used as an effective counteroffensive. To the extent that solidarity is a unifying concept that provides cohesive strength as in the case of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia among other nations, the US has only one tool to break people’s unity, and that is the use of lies through its controlled corporate media. We have seen numerous examples of that.

However, as the UN vote has just shown, lies don’t always work. 187 nations (out of 193 UN member States) have supported Cuba (and by implication condemned the US). Many of those nations have likely received Cuba’s solidarity through its medical missions and understand the meaning of cooperation.

Posted in CUBAComments Off on The Secret of Cuba’s Success: International Solidarity


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