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Economic, Geopolitical, Military and Diplomatic Trends in 2016. What Prospects for 2017

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Brexit R-U

2016 marked by important of diplomatic, political and military developments around the world.

Britain voted to leave the European Union by 52% to 48% in a national referendum. The outcome of the Brexit referendum has caused strong reaction at home and worldwide. Brexit was supported by the popular majority of Britain and a significant portion of the UK national elite. Even the use of lobbying clout by Cameron’s cabinet did not allow EU supporters to attain victory.

Indeed, leaving the EU would allow the UK to control immigration more efficiently, save billions of pounds in membership fees and advocate its own trade deals while leaving all trade conditions between the UK and the EU relatively unchanged – all while getting rid of restrictive EU regulations, bloated Brussels bureaucracy and run down Eastern and South European economies. In fact, the UK has simply jilted continental Europe. After all, it was Britain that was an active supporter of many decisions that have had a negative impact on the current situation of refugees in the EU and the economic issues of the Member States.

As to the trade cooperation and conditions, the EU could hardly proceed without British industry, technologies and investments. At the same time Britain acquires the first chance to jump in the US-backed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership freely without intra-European debates.

However, EU lobbyists now have moved beyond just the information campaign and diplomatic pressure. They have started to use bureaucratic technologies and well-known “color revolutions” technologies, previously field-tested in Eastern Europe and the Arab countries, to attempt to rip the referendum results to shreds. As a result, the process of the UK exit from the EU was de-facto frozen, ignoring the people’s choice. However, the BREXIT became an important step in the ongoing confrontation between EU citizens and the European bureaucracy.

Following the Brexit, Donald J. Trump won the US presidential elections. While on the campaign trail, President-Elect Donald J. Trump made a range of statements suggesting a shift away from a policy of interventionism, combined with a focus on safeguarding US borders and jobs at the expense of the dominant ideology of globalism. Can and will he deliver on these promises? There are many reasons to believe he will genuinely push US foreign policy in this direction, but at the same time he will face obstacles on his path.

One of the factors clearly helping him is the increasingly indisputable fact that globalism as an ideology has been discredited, except, ironically, among the liberal “creative classes” and among the financial elites. The rest of the society and of the elite is increasingly skeptical of such policies if not downright opposed to them, which means they are willing to experiment with economic nationalism and even isolationism.

At a minimum, the “global elites” will attempt to find as much compromising information concerning Trump, his family, and close associates as possible, in order to make him an “offer he can’t refuse” backed up by a sizable financial “consolation prize”.

If Trump refuses to succumb to direct and indirect pressure and attempts to pursue even part of what he promised during the campaign, Trump’s opponents will embark on more drastic measures, including a Maidan-like permanent demonstration aimed at tarnishing Trump’s reputation or even an assassination attempt. While the former is highly likely, the latter is somewhat less plausible because it would result in elevate Trump to martyrdom and also set a precedent for future assassinations, which is something the US elite fears greatly.  However, Trump will have to deal with tremendous and constant psychological pressure that will be exerted on him through his close associates, family, and of course the media, in order to disorient him and throw him off course.

Moreover, Trump’s political foes will pursue an international approach, using NATO and EU as means of exerting pressure on the new administration, through military provocations if need be. US, being a relatively sparsely, resource-rich country not unlike Russia, can pursue a “Fortress America” strategy. The EU would find it much more difficult to do so without embracing authoritarian governance, as it requires a “Lebensraum”-like sphere of influence that will provide natural resources which the continent lacks. But this Europe has no Grande Armee or Wehrmacht– it has to rely on US military power and subversion. Hence the  hysterical European reaction to the US election, for the adoption of a “Fortress America” strategy by the US renders EU’s own strategy of expansion obsolete.

Deciding what to do about the US relationship to Europe that has become a major net drain on US resources will therefore be a major challenge for the Trump Administration. If it is pulled down the same path as its predecessor, it will ultimately be because of its inability to redefine its relations with an increasingly burdensome and costly set of allies on the other side of the Atlantic, and for this reason the outcome of the upcoming elections in Germany and France is of critical importance.

The development of conflicts in the Middle East was the alternate side of the changes in the EU and the US. While backers of Syrian terrorists were trying to hold the power at their home, the Russian-Syrian-Iranian alliance made significant steps aimed on combating terrorism in Syria.

The provinces of Latakia, Homs, Hama, Aleppo and the Damascus countryside wre the main areas of operations against terrorists. The joint anti-terrorism forces achieved a series of significant victories in these areas, liberating waste areas near the Syrian capital, the important town of Qaryatayn and the key Syrian city of Aleppo. They also temporarily liberated the ancient city of Palmyra from ISIS, but lost it as result of a large-scale ISIS attack in December.

On October 1, 2015, SouthFront predicted that the Russian military operation in Syria will likely lead to the establishment of a permanent Russian air and naval base in eastern Mediterranean. By October 2016, Moscow expanded its military facilities in Syria, launching a program of transforming the Khmeimim Air Base into a full-fledged military base with a permanent contingent of the Russian Aerospace Forces and announced plans to turn its naval facility in Tartus into a fully-fledged permanent naval base.

Summing up the gains of pro-government forces across the country within the past year and the growing military presence of Russia in Syria, it’s easy to conclude that the course of the Syrian war was dramatically changed and the Syrian-Iranian-Russian forces delivered a devastating blow to terrorists and saving the Assad government from the military defeat. Now, the strategic initiative of the war is in the hands of Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance.

Another key player in the conflict was Turkey that had entered northern Syria to combat ISIS and Kurdish YPG forces in August. Turkey’s aim was to build a buffer zone with pro-Turkey militant groups and to prevent Kurdish forces from creation a semi-autonomous state in Syria. Turkey’s decision to intervene in Syria was made amid the rapprochement with Russia and Iran. This allowed many experts to suggest that Turkey, Iran, Russia and Syria had some unpublicized agreements over the ongoing crisis. The Turkish-Russian-Iranian negotiations that excluded the US-led block of the so-called “friends of Syria” and took place in Moscow in December contributed to this version. The military coup attempt that took place in Turkey in July and was allegedly supported by some part of the US elite became the main reason of Ankara’s decision to increase cooperation with Moscow and Tehran.

The Russian anti-terrorist operation also pushed the US to take more active steps in combating ISIS in Iraq and Syria that led to the start of advance on Raqqah, Fallujah and Mosul. While Fallujah was liberated, Mosul remained a major ISIS stronghold in Iraq despite the US-led attempts to retake the city from terrorists.

It appears that the pre-election project of the Democratic Party of the USA, under the title “Quick Capture of Mosul” has, seemingly, failed together with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Now, the tactics of the USA administration have changed. This may mean that Donald Trump gets dragged into a quagmire of a war. That being stated, high-ranking Pentagon officials no longer believe that the Iraqi military is capable of taking Mosul, and have been preparing a plan with greater participation of the US Armed Forces.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) also launched an advance on the ISIS self-proclaimed capital in Syria, Raqqah. However, until now, they have not even reached the city.

Conflicts in Yemen and Libya continued to flare in the Middle East with almost no chances to be solved with diplomatic measures, contributing to instability in the region. The Saudi-led intervention turned Yemen into a zone of instability and set conditions for the growth of local al-Qaeda branch. Even despite this, Saudi-led forces failed to achieve their military goals in the area and to inflict a defeat to the Houthi-Saleh alliance backed by Iran.

The rapidly developing relations between Russia and Egypt have been overshadowed by the more prominent relationships between Russia and Syria, as well as Russia and Iran. Nevertheless, the Russia-Egypt relationship deserves closer scrutiny because, unlike the country’s relations with the other two Middle Eastern powers, it concerns a country that until recently appeared to be firmly in Western orbit. The abrupt shift of its geopolitical vector toward Eurasia therefore represents a far bigger change for the region than Russia’s successful support of the legitimate Syrian government, or the close relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran, both of which have been on the Western “enemies list” for decades. The reasons for this shift are twofold, and have to do with the way Western powers interact with Middle Eastern powers in the context of a systemic economic crisis, as well as with Russia’s demonstrated attractiveness as an ally.

From the Russian perspective, Egypt represents yet another bulwark of security against Western encroachment, a symmetric response to NATO expansion, “Eastern Partnership”, and color revolutions. Combined with the military presence in Syria, Cyprus’ general pro-Russian orientation, and the neutralization of Turkey which was also facilitated by an abortive West-promoted coup attempt, the Egyptian-Russian cooperation would impact the balance of power in the Mediterranean.

In 2016, the whole Middle East was affected by the major crisis with Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Turkey in its core. Turkey faced a military coup attempt, economic decay and Kurdish insurgency that almost turned into a full-scale civil war.

2016 witnessed a sharp escalation in the militarization of the South China Sea. The cause of the escalation is multifaceted and comes from both regional and international quarters. The militarization has been initiated and exacerbated by both China and the United States, both bearing responsibility for the current level of tension in the region. As land reclamation and building efforts on the part of the Chinese continue at Fiery Cross Reef and Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands with no signs of slowing down in the immediate future, the US increases the size and tempo of future patrols in the area and expands its cooperation with regional powers to counter the Chinese claims.

The Central Asia also remained the point of instability that attracted attention of the key regional players: Russia, the US and China. While Afghanistan remained the main source of instability, neighboring central Asian countries also faced various terror and security threats, strengthened by an instable internal political situation.

Security threats are growing in Europe. The ongoing migration crisis and acute situation with a terrorism threat didn’t force the EU elite to change their failed foreign and internal policy and the union was plunged into shock by the continued series of terror attacks.

If this situation is not to get worse, it would require the adoption of a revised approach, namely a unified, well-funded and comprehensive EU-level migration policy, consisting of combating organized crime among ethnic groups, screening new arrivals, guaranteeing access to social services and labor markets, etc.  Otherwise the EU is risking a massive social explosion provoked by growing inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflict, and the constant perception of a growing terrorist threat. Unless addressed rapidly, these problems could be sufficient to destroy the already fragile EU common security framework.

The general security situation in Europe was further worsened with the smoldering conflict in eastern Ukraine, where the recent escalation took place in December. The situation is worsening due to the economic collapse in Ukraine and the Kiev’s government inability to negotiate and unwillingness to follow the Minsk agreements. Ukraine remained the point that can be used by some powers to instigate destabilization in the whole Europe.

In general, 2016 was a very complicated year in military and diplomatic terms. The reactive processes were observed the international relations at all levels. The number of local conflicts didn’t reduce and even grew involving more and more regional and world powers. The diplomatic, military and security trends formed in the end of 2016 year will shape 2017. It will be the year of continued geopolitical standoff of global powers amid the reducing US influence around the world.

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NEW YEAR 2017

 NOVANEWS
Image result for images of peace and harmony
Teresinka Pereira

We wish that in 2017

all will be consequences

of LOVE!

We wish that each one

of the 366 days will be

filled with flames

of happiness,

flights of inspiration

and the diamond

of personal PEACE.

Happy 2017 are our

wishes from my house

to your house!

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Kazakhstan, Euro-Asian Integration and “The New Silk Route”

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Kazakhstan – Euroasian Heart of Gold
Kazakhstan-map

Until recently Kazakhstan was commonly identified as an impervious, legendary and fascinating place, one of passionate, bloody dusks whose natural beauty, combined with the landscape diversity, made it the most seductive country in Central Asia. Today, though these features still distinguish it, it is placed in the new global scenario with a fully renewed guise which makes it the jewel in the area’s crown.

Over 20 years it actually managed to endow itself with its own structure and identity, doubtlessly more incisively and further reachingly than other ex USSR countries. This data may be even more appreciated if one considers its population, made up of only 17 million inhabitants, is subdivided into as many as 130 different religious confessions, which the state authorities were wisely able to harmonize, fleeing any attempt to ethnically-religiously characterize the Country. State modernization was also the fruit of smart economic choices, whose strategy did not stop on exclusively exploiting the huge energy resources available, but focussed on encouraging ambitious development projects based on the public – private partnership and attracting foreign investors tempted by the the privileged geographical position placing it near the greatest markets in Russia, China and India.

This geographical peculiarity makes Kazakhstan a transcontinental State and also a potential logistic platform for exchange between Europe and Asia and, in particular, in this moment which is recording an epochal change in geo-political, geo-economic scenarios which the greatest powers involved are also responding to via creating and planning great infrastructural works.

In fact there is no doubt that in the emerging context, continental infrastructures form an essential moment for upturn, as they can influence both the technological modernization processes and foreign policy stability. As well as broadening works in the Suez Canals and Panama, which have surely stressed the role played by maritime links, one must in no way ignore the importance of the land ones, which see the Asian continent as one of the main characters.

Indeed, Asia – “pivot of the century”, which prof. Bajrektarevic describes as the place where “demographic-migratory pressures are huge, regional demands are high, and expectations are brewing” is the continent most interested in and involved by projects to create roads, tunnels and rail, infrastructures that should cross it from one strip to another.

For example, China, which is playing a major role in this process, has for some years now got down to business, creating several strategic infrastructural projects that are useful in accompanying, protecting and raising the Country’s expansive capacities.

This surely includes the great land and sea “New Silk Route” project, devised by Beijing with the principal aim of moving China closer to the rest of the Euro-Asian continental mass, as well as developing the inland zones remaining behind the coastal strip. There can be no doubt that the full completion of this project will have weighty geo-political repercussions, if one just considers it focuses on linking Europe and Asia under an infrastructural, economic profile, and at the same time going against US replacing on the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.

In this new picture, Kazakhstan, already identifying itself as as “bridge” and joining land between the economies of Europe and Asia, finds itself back in the heart of a new East-West efficiency logistic axis represented by the current surge of motorway, Railroad and pipeline constructions. This looks to new, ambitious business opportunities, some of them already grasped by Italian firms (like Salini Impregilo and Todini), already busy creating one of these international transit corridors, while others could be profiled following the passing of the new Nurly Zhol state development programme, “The Walk Toward the Future”.

This programme, which aims to modernize the infrastructure and internal transport apparatus, also in view of the Expo to be held in the very modern Astana in 2017, intends to encurage foreign investments in transport / logistic and industrial / energy sectors so as to make the Country more efficient and in step with the interconnection processes developing both on a global level and in the “Euro-Asian” strip. The Expo event is bound to contribute to giving gloss to the capital representing the perfect synthesis of modernizing processes launched in the last two decades as well as the last in the utopian cities chronologically.

Astana, bearing the signature of Japanese architect Kisko Kurokava with collaboration from artists and intellectuals, was devised to represent, despite its distinctive Winter temperatures, the perfect city of the future model and celebrate the growing power of Kazakhstan. A revolutionary city that expresses the vision of its its planner, man dominating nature, and also embodies environmental sustainability principles, breaking with traditional city structures. Astana was indeed planned and created in sectors, putting the zones in a row starting from the industrial one, located around the station so as to exploit transport possibilities, following with residential areas, with parks and gardens, with the government’s administrative ones and the diplomats’ zone. As well as Astana, Kazakhstan also dares on the maritime transport megastructures, suggesting a “Euro-Asian channel” so that its ships, starting from the Caspian Sea, can reach the Black Sea and from there, via the Bosphorus, the Mediterranean.

Should this proposal become reality, it could turn the Country, thanks mainly to its geographical position and its constructive big neghbours, into the great “Euro-Asia” logistic platform, a great centre to shift products and services and attract investments located in the golden “heart of the world”.

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John Kerry: Syrian rebels/terrorists threaten civilians and “humanitarian assistance”

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You just can’t trust New World Order agents when they start talking about serious matters. If they say that it is raining outside, you need to stick your head out and check to see if it is true.

"You know, I'm not making sense at all. How can the US support the Syrian rebels when they are terrorizing civilians?"

“You know, I’m not making sense at all. How can I support the Syrian rebels when they are terrorizing civilians?”

 

John Kerry didn’t help the New World Order agenda when he has recently conceded that third element of the opposition [Syrian rebels/terrorists] threatened people who were going to leave and have in some cases prevented humanitarian assistance from being delivered. That is a very serious offense also.”

This isn’t really new at all. But it is interesting to see that Kerry and others continue to blame Russia and Assad for the crisis in Syria when in fact Kerry and other NWO agents know very well that they are the main reason why civilians are being slaughtered and displaced in the region.

This is also why Asian leaders watching this debacle are appalled at how NWO agents have managed to get away with essentially diabolical plans in the Middle East.

As we have seen in the past, this is one reason why Rodrigo Duterte is basically saying goodbye to the New World Order. Duterte, according to Roland Simbulan of the University of the Philippines in Manila,

“is strongly critical of the Western imperialism in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and of course in his country… He is outraged by how the West is treating refugees from the countries it destabilized in the Middle East. He is offering to accept them, to welcome them in the Philippines.”[1]

Simbulan supports Duterte because Duterte seems to have some political backbone. “I evaluate Duterte positively. Duterte’s anti-imperialist policy goes beyond rhetoric; it is real and persistent. Even as mayor of Davao, he banned all US–Philippine military exercises there. The US tried to negotiate; they offered plenty of money. They wanted to build a huge drone base in Mindanao, but Duterte refused, resolutely. His track record shows: if there are irreconcilable differences, he’ll always side with the left.” [2]

As soon as Duterte began to take drastic measures to stop the New World Order ideology in the Philippines, NWO agents, of course, vowed to kill him. “After Mayor Duterte announced in 2003 that no US military exercises would be allowed in his city, Davao was bombed twice: one bomb exploded at the airport, another at the pier.” [3]

Duterte is now putting the fear of God in the hearts of the criminal underground in the Philippines, and Filipinos like him. Eduardo Tadem, an academic, declared that “The crime rate used to be horrible: killings, kidnapping, petty crime. People are fed-up with the crime. They’d support any action to stop it.” [4]

New World Order agents blame Duterte for thousands upon thousands of killings over the past six months, but the evidence suggests that the crime rate has plummeted in the Philippines largely because the criminal minds cannot do whatever they want anymore. Moreover, some of the killings weren’t done by the Duterte government at all. Luzviminda Ilagan, a former member of Congress and country’s leading feminist, declared that

“If we talk about extra-judicial killings, then we have to prove that the authorities are really ordering them. Duterte came with the names: among them some top military and police generals! Now many are being killed.

“But the international HRs organizations are totally misinterpreting Duterte’s role in all this. Another thing is: the number of people killed in this country is actually decreasing.

“Before, under Aquino, those murdered were mainly poor farmers, indigenous people, and urban poor; people fighting for their basic human rights. Under Gloria Arroyo, the foreign mining companies were even given permission to kill protesters. All this is over now.” [5]

You just can’t trust New World Order agents when they start talking about serious matters. If they say that it is raining outside, you need to stick your head out and check to see if it is true. They lied about Iraq; they lied about Afghanistan; they lied about Libya; they lied about Syria; and now they think they can continue to lie about Duterte.

Obviously NWO agents  aren’t making any sense at all, and leaders in countries like Russia are laughing at them.


[1] Andre Vltchek, “Tough-talking Philippine President Duterte – fighting for his life & his country,” Russia Today, December 7, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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UN Votes To Outlaw Nuclear Weapons In 2017

united-nations-1184119_960_720

The United Nations adopted a landmark resolution to launch negotiations in 2017  on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. This historic decision heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts.

At a meeting of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security matters, 123 nations voted in favour of the resolution, with 38 against and 16 abstaining.

The resolution will set up a UN conference beginning in March next year, open to all member states, to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The negotiations will continue in June and July.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a civil society coalition active in 100 countries, hailed the adoption of the resolution as a major step forward, marking a fundamental shift in the way that the world tackles this paramount threat.

“For seven decades, the UN has warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and people globally have campaigned for their abolition. Today the majority of states finally resolved to outlaw these weapons,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN.

Despite arm-twisting by a number of nuclear-armed states, the resolution was adopted in a landslide. A total of 57 nations were co-sponsors, with Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa taking the lead in drafting the resolution.

The UN vote came just hours after the European Parliament adopted its own resolution on this subject – 415 in favour and 124 against, with 74 abstentions – inviting European Union member states to “participate constructively” in next year’s negotiations.

Nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner, despite their well-documented catastrophic humanitarian and environmental impacts.

“A treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would strengthen the global norm against the use and possession of these weapons, closing major loopholes in the existing international legal regime and spurring long-overdue action on disarmament,” said Fihn.

“Today’s vote demonstrates very clearly that a majority of the world’s nations consider the prohibition of nuclear weapons to be necessary, feasible and urgent. They view it as the most viable option for achieving real progress on disarmament,” she said.

Biological weapons, chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions are all explicitly prohibited under international law. But only partial prohibitions currently exist for nuclear weapons.

Nuclear disarmament has been high on the UN agenda since the organization’s formation in 1945. Efforts to advance this goal have stalled in recent years, with nuclear-armed nations investing heavily in the modernization of their nuclear forces.

Twenty years have passed since a multilateral nuclear disarmament instrument was last negotiated: the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which has yet to enter into legal force due to the opposition of a handful of nations.

Today’s resolution, known as L.41, acts upon the key recommendation of a UN working group on nuclear disarmament that met in Geneva this year to assess the merits of various proposals for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.

It also follows three major intergovernmental conferences examining the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, held in Norway, Mexico and Austria in 2013 and 2014. These gatherings helped reframe the nuclear weapons debate to focus on the harm that such weapons inflict on people.

The conferences also enabled non-nuclear-armed nations to play a more assertive role in the disarmament arena. By the third and final conference, which took place in Vienna in December 2014, most governments had signalled their desire to outlaw nuclear weapons.

Following the Vienna conference, ICAN was instrumental in garnering support for a 127-nation diplomatic pledge, known as the humanitarian pledge, committing governments to cooperate in efforts “to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons”.

Throughout this process, victims and survivors of nuclear weapon detonations, including nuclear testing, have contributed actively. Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing and an ICAN supporter, has been a leading proponent of a ban.

“This is a truly historic moment for the entire world,” she said following today’s vote. “For those of us who survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is a very joyous occasion. We have been waiting so long for this day to come.”

“Nuclear weapons are absolutely abhorrent. All nations should participate in the negotiations next year to outlaw them. I hope to be there myself to remind delegates of the unspeakable suffering that nuclear weapons cause. It is all of our responsibility to make sure that such suffering never happens again.”

There are still more than 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, mostly in the arsenals of just two nations: the United States and Russia. Seven other nations possess nuclear weapons: Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Most of the nine nuclear-armed nations voted against the UN resolution. Many of their allies, including those in Europe that host nuclear weapons on their territory as part of a NATO arrangement, also failed to support the resolution.

But the nations of Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific voted overwhelmingly in favour of the resolution, and are likely to be key players at the negotiating conference in New York next year.

On Monday, 15 Nobel Peace Prize winners urged nations to support the negotiations and to bring them “to a timely and successful conclusion so that we can proceed rapidly toward the final elimination of this existential threat to humanity”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has also appealed to governments to support this process, stating on 12 October that the international community has a “unique opportunity” to achieve a ban on the “most destructive weapon ever invented”.

“This treaty won’t eliminate nuclear weapons overnight,” concluded Fihn. “But it will establish a powerful new international legal standard, stigmatizing nuclear weapons and compelling nations to take urgent action on disarmament.”

In particular, the treaty will place great pressure on nations that claim protection from an ally’s nuclear weapons to end this practice, which in turn will create pressure for disarmament action by the nuclear-armed nations.

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Australia, Tagging Along into Other Nations’ Wars

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Image result for world war ii cartoons
By James O’Neill | Consortium News 

For a country relatively remote from the world’s trouble spots, Australia throughout its short history since European settlement in the late Eighteenth Century has shown a remarkable capacity to involve itself in other people’s wars. With the possible exception of Japan in World War II none of these wars have posed a threat to Australia’s national security.

In the 1850s, Australia provided troops on behalf of the British in the Crimean War at a time when few Australians would have been able to locate Crimea on a map. Ironically, Tony Abbott as Prime Minister this decade was willing to commit troops to Ukraine, again over Crimea.

But Australian knowledge of historical and geopolitical realities in Crimea appeared no greater in 2014 than in the 1850s. The major difference was the infinitely greater threat to Australia’s national security if such a foolhardy plan had occurred in 2014 and Australian troops had found themselves confronting Russian forces.

Australian troops were also committed to the Boer War in South Africa, World Wars I and II, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, to name just the major conflicts. All of these involvements had two major characteristics in common: at no point (with the possible exception of Japan 1942-45) were Australia’s borders or national security threatened; and each involvement was at the behest of a foreign imperial power, often on entirely spurious grounds. The last four named conflicts above – Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria – had the added dimension of being contrary to international law.

A common justification advanced in support of these foreign adventures is that they constitute a form of insurance policy, with the deaths of tens of thousands of Australian servicemen and women being the premium that has to be paid. If we do not pay these premiums, the argument runs, the “policy” expires and our “great and powerful friends” – the United Kingdom and more recently the United States – will not come to our aid if and when we are, in turn, attacked.

It has never been clear just who these aggressors might be, despite endless manufactured potential foes, nor why Australia feels the need to base its foreign policy thus when scores of countries do not feel similarly threatened nor feel the need to pay such a price for their “security.”

The capacity to have an intelligent debate about whether or not there are other, and better, options, is severely hampered by a number of factors. One of the major factors is the concentration of ownership of the mainstream print media. The Murdoch empire controls 70 percent of the nation’s newspapers and is run by someone who is now an American citizen and no longer resides in Australia. The bulk of the balance is controlled by the Fairfax family who at least reside in Australia.

This concentration of ownership results in a degree of uniformity of opinion that Stalin would have recognized and appreciated. There is a greater diversity of media ownership and opinion in modern Russia than there is in Australia, yet the relentless message in the Australian media is that Russia is an authoritarian state where dissent from an all powerful Vladimir Putin is discouraged or worse. Such a view would be laughable if it were not so dangerous.

The Pervasive ‘Group Think’

Academia is little better. The universities and the so-called “think tanks” rely heavily on subsidies from their American equivalents, or from Australian government departments committed to the government’s policies. There is an obvious reluctance to criticize, for example, American foreign policy when such criticism endangers funding sources, promotions, and comfortable sabbaticals in the U.S.

A recent example of the intellectual drivel that this can lead to was found in the recent publication of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute entitled “Why Russia is a Threat to the International Order,” authored by Paul Dibb, a former spymaster. It was an ill-informed discussion all too typical of what passes for foreign policy analysis. Not only did it demonstrate a complete misunderstanding of Russian strategic policy, it wholly accepted and American-centered view of the world.

In Dibb’s world, the Americans only act from the best of intentions and for the benefit of the people unfortunate enough to to be the object of their attentions. Any analysis of the way U.S. foreign policy is actually practiced is air brushed from the reader’s attention. The treatment of Ukraine is instructive in this regard.

Dibb completely ignores the February 2014 American-organized and financed coup that removed the legitimate Yanukovich government from power. Dibb ignores the military agreement that provided for the stationing of Russian troops in Crimea; that Crimea had for centuries been part of Russia until Khrushchev “gifted” Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 (without consulting the Crimeans); the overwhelming support in two referenda to secede from Ukraine and apply to rejoin the Russian Federation; the discriminatory treatment of the largely Russian-speaking population of the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine; and the Kiev regime’s systematic violation of the Minsk Accords designed to find a peaceable solution to the Ukrainian conflict.

Instead, he writes that Russia’s “invasion” and “annexation” of Crimea and its attempt through military means to detach the Donbass region in the eastern part of Ukraine have to be seen as a fundamental challenge to the post-war sanctity of Europe’s borders. Such historical revisionism and detachment from reality is unfortunately not confined to Dibb. It is all too common in the Australian media in all its forms.

A selective view of the world, of which Dibb is but one example, extends to a sanitizing of the U.S.’s role in post-war history. The U.S. has bombed, invaded, undermined, overthrown the governments of, and destroyed more countries and killed more people in the process over the past 70 years than all other countries in the world combined. Its disregard for international law, all the while proclaiming the importance of a “rules based system,” is well documented.

A particularly egregious but far from unique example is the war in Syria in which Australia is also involved, even to the comical extent of admitting culpability in the “mistaken” bombing of Syrian government troops at Door Ez Zair.

That the bombing was not a mistake but rather, as several commentators have pointed out (although never in the Australian media), was much more likely to have been a deliberate sabotaging by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s Pentagon element of the American war machine of the Kerry-Lavrov negotiated partial ceasefire.

Syrian intelligence has reported intercepts of communications between the U.S. military and the jihadist terrorists immediately before the bombing in which their respective actions were coordinated. The bombing was followed by immediate terrorist attacks on Syrian army positions in the area and is highly unlikely to have been a coincidence.

Cozy with Terrorists

This is, of course, consistent with American policy in Syria from the outset. The U.S. government has sought to maintain a ludicrous distinction between “moderate” terrorists and the rest.

Before the Russian intervention at the end of September 2015, the U.S. managed to avoid actually stopping the Islamic State advance through large swathes of Syrian territory, and together with Washington’s Saudi and Qatari allies have trained, financed and armed the terrorists from the outset. All of which is part of a pattern of U.S. support for terrorists, as long as they support U.S. strategic goals.

No such analysis appears in the Australian mainstream media which maintains an unswerving allegiance to only one form of analysis. This dangerous group think and intolerance of dissent is exemplified in a recent article by Peter Hartcher, the senior political correspondent of the Fairfax media.

Hartcher described what he called “rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows” by which he meant opponents in Australia of a war with China. The “rats” were politicians “compromised by China’s embrace”; the “flies” are the “unwitting mouthpieces for the interests of the Chinese regime”; the mosquitoes were Australian business people “so captivated by their financial interests that they demand Australia assume a kowtow position”; the “sparrows” were Chinese students and Australia-Chinese associations that exist “specifically to spread China’s influence.”

In Hartcher’s view all four groups were “pests” that needed to be eradicated. To call this reversion to the worst elements of 1950s McCarthyism is probably to do the late junior Senator from Wisconsin a disservice.

Were it simply a case of ignorance it might be simply consigned to the scrap heap where it richly belongs. But it is representative of the same mindset that has led Australia into so many disastrous foreign policy misadventures that it cannot be ignored. Another reason it cannot be ignored is that it represents and affects a widely held view among Australian politicians.

The demonization of Russia in general and Vladimir Putin in particular is clearly evident in the reporting of the situation in Ukraine and Syria. The ignoring of history and the inversion of reality is the default position. Everything that Russia does is a manifestation of its “aggression.” Putin is commonly described as a “dictator” and the appalling Hillary Clinton even compared him with Hitler.

That there is not a shred of evidence to support the many wild allegations against President Putin does not prevent their regular repetition in the Western media.

Ignoring International Law

Similar blindness is evident with regard to the reporting on Syria. Australia is manifestly in breach of the United Nations Charter in its participation in the attacks upon the Syrian government and its forces. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s laughable defense of the presence of the Australian military in Syria, the central plank of which was specifically denied by the Iraqi government, was nonetheless accepted without question by the Australian mainstream media.

There is more preposterous posturing over the South China Sea. The much vaunted “freedom of navigation” demanded for shipping in the South China Sea (although no one can point to a single instance of civilian maritime traffic being hindered in any way) is a concept selectively applied. Just ask a Cuban, Palestinian or Yemeni if freedom of navigation is their recent or current experience of American policy.

Australia partakes annually in a U.S.-led naval exercise, Operation Talisman Sabre that rehearses the blockading of the Malacca Straits, a vital seaway for China that along with dozens of military bases (including in Australia), missile systems surrounding China, free trade agreements that pointedly exclude the world’s largest trading nation, and many other aspects designed to “contain” China, are not the activities of a peacefully oriented nation.

Australia not only participates in clearly provocative actions, but the 2015 Defense White Paper is clearly predicated on planning a war with China. Public statements by senior defense personnel, both civilian and military, reflect a militaristic mindset vis-a-vis China that can only be described as magical thinking given the military capacity of the Peoples Republic of China to obliterate Australia within 30 minutes of hostilities actually breaking out is only part of the problem.

That such thinking takes place in a context where China, the perceived enemy, is also the country’s largest trading partner by a significant margin and the source of much of Australia’s prosperity over the past 40 years reveals a strategic conundrum that the politicians have singularly failed to come to grips with. Worse, it is not even considered a matter worthy of sustained serious discussion.

By its conduct both in Syria and the South China Sea, Australia runs the risk of becoming involved in a full-scale shooting war with both Russia and China. Viewed objectively, there is little doubt that in any such conflagration Russia and China enjoy significant military advantages. Even that superiority is not to be entertained. Instead, Australia pursues the purchase of hugely expensive submarines and F-35 fighter planes the strategic and military value of which is at best dubious and more probably, useless.

What then is the benefit to Australia of constantly putting itself in a position where the best it could hope for would be collateral damage? No rational human being would advance on a course of action where the detriments so significantly outweigh the benefits, so why should a nation be any different?

With its crumbling infrastructure, endless wars that it regularly loses, a corrupt money-dominated political culture, technologically inferior weaponry and enormous burgeoning debt, the U.S. is hardly a model protector. To believe otherwise is simply delusional.

As the U.S.-based Russian blogger Dimitry Orlov  has recently pointed out, Russia’s international conduct is governed by three basic principles: using military force as a reactive security measure; scrupulous adherence to international law; and seeing military action as being in the service of diplomacy. That clearly does not accord with the relentless misinformation Australians are constantly fed but to confuse propaganda with reality is a dangerous basis upon which to formulate foreign policy.

China is also choosing a radically different path in its international relations. The One Belt, One Road, or New Silk Road initiatives, associated as they are with a range of other developments, the significance of which most Australians barely grasp, has the capacity to transform the world’s financial, economic and geopolitical structures in a remarkably short time.

The choice for Australia is stark.  Does it persist in aligning itself with what the late Malcolm Fraser accurately called a “dangerous ally”?  Or does it recognize that the world upon which its comfortable and dangerous illusions are based is rapidly changing and adjust its alliances accordingly.

At the moment Australia has the luxury of choice, but it is an opportunity that will vanish very quickly. Unfortunately, the lesson of history is that Australia will again make the wrong choice.

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The Simple Act of “Pushing a Button”. Miscalculation, Mistake or Malice?

NOVANEWS
The Unspoken Aftermath of a Nuclear War
Nuclear-War-Weapons

“Since the appearance of visible life on Earth, 380 million years had to elapse in order for a butterfly to learn how to fly, 180 million years to create a rose with no other commitment than to be beautiful, and four geological eras in order for us human beings to be able to sing better than birds, and to be able to die from love.

It is not honorable for the human talent, in the golden age of science, to have conceived the way for such an ancient and colossal process to return to the nothingness from which it came through the simple act of pushing a button.”

I recently came across this quotation by the great Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and recipient of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature. The quotation is from a 1986 speech by Garcia Marquez entitled “The Cataclysm of Damocles.”

In the short quotation, he captures what needs to be said about nuclear weapons succinctly, poetically and beautifully. With a few deft literary brushstrokes, he shows that the journey of life from nothingness to now could be ended with no more than “the simple act of pushing a button.”

The button is a metaphor for setting in motion a nuclear war, which could happen by miscalculation, mistake or malice. Of course, it matters whose finger is on the button, but it matters even more that anyone’s finger is on the button.

There are not good fingers and bad fingers resting on the button. No one is stable enough, rational enough, sane enough, or wise enough to trust with deciding to push the nuclear button. It is madness to leave the door open to the possibility of “a return to nothingness.”

On one side of the ledger is everything natural and extraordinary about life with its long evolution bringing us to the present and poised to carry its processes forward into the future. On the other side of the ledger is “the button,” capable of bringing most life on the planet to a screeching halt. Also on this side of the ledger are those people who remain ignorant or apathetic to the nuclear dangers confronting humanity.

We all need to recognize what is at stake and choose a side.

Put simply, do you stand with life and the processes of nature that have brought such beauty and diversity to our world, or do you stand with the destructive products of science that have brought us to the precipice of annihilation? We must each make a choice.

I fear too many of us are not awakened to the seriousness and risks of the unfolding situation. We are taken in by the techno-talk that amplifies the messages of national security linked to the button.

Nuclear deterrence is no more than a hypothesis about human psychology and behavior. It does not protect people from a nuclear attack. It is unproven and unprovable.

Nuclear deterrence may or may not work, but we know that it cannot provide physical protection against a nuclear attack. Those who believe in it, do so at their own peril and at our common peril.

The possibility of “a return to nothingness” is too great a risk to take. We must put down the nuclear-armed gun. We must dismantle the button and the potential annihilation it represents. We must listen to our hearts and end the nuclear insanity by ending the nuclear weapons era.

If we fail to act with engaged hearts, we will continue to stand at the precipice of annihilation – the precipice of a world without butterflies or beautiful roses, without birds or humans.

The golden age of science will come to an end as a triumph of cataclysmic devastation, which will be humanity’s most enduring failure.

Reading, discussing and understanding the meaning of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short quotation should be required of every schoolchild, every citizen, and every leader of every country.

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A world war has begun. Break the silence

NOVANEWS

Image result for A world war CARTOON

I have been filming in the Marshall Islands, which lie north of Australia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, “Where is that?” If I offer a clue by referring to “Bikini”, they say, “You mean the swimsuit.”

Few seem aware that the bikini swimsuit was named to celebrate the nuclear explosions that destroyed Bikini island. Sixty-six nuclear devices were exploded by the United States in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 — the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.

Bikini is silent today, mutated and contaminated.  Palm trees grow in a strange grid formation. Nothing moves. There are no birds. The headstones in the old cemetery are alive with radiation. My shoes registered “unsafe” on a Geiger counter.

Standing on the beach, I watched the emerald green of the Pacific fall away into a vast black hole. This was the crater left by the hydrogen bomb they called “Bravo”. The explosion poisoned people and their environment for hundreds of miles, perhaps forever.

On my return journey, I stopped at Honolulu airport and noticed an American magazine called Women’s Health. On the cover was a smiling woman in a bikini swimsuit, and the headline: “You, too, can have a bikini body.”  A few days earlier, in the Marshall Islands, I had interviewed women who had very different “bikini bodies”; each had suffered thyroid cancer and other life-threatening cancers.

Unlike the smiling woman in the magazine, all of them were impoverished: the victims and guinea pigs of a rapacious  superpower that is today more dangerous than ever.

I relate this experience as a warning and to interrupt a distraction that has consumed so many of us.  The founder of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays, described this phenomenon as “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the habits and opinions” of democratic societies. He called it an “invisible government”.

How many people are aware that a world war has begun? At present, it is a war of propaganda, of lies and distraction, but this can change instantaneously with the first mistaken order, the first missile.

In 2009, President Obama stood before an adoring crowd in the centre of Prague, in the heart of Europe. He pledged himself to make “the world free from nuclear weapons”. People cheered and some cried. A torrent of platitudes flowed from the media. Obama was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

It was all fake. He was lying.

The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, more nuclear factories.  Nuclear warhead spending alone rose higher under Obama than under any American president. The cost over thirty years is more than $1 trillion.

A mini nuclear bomb is planned. It is known as the B61 Model 12. There has never been anything like it. General James Cartwright, a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said, “Going smaller [makes using this nuclear] weapon more thinkable.”

In the last eighteen months, the greatest build-up of military forces since World War Two — led by the United States — is taking place along Russia’s western frontier.  Not since Hitler invaded the Soviet Union have foreign troops presented such a demonstrable threat to Russia.

Ukraine – once part of the Soviet Union –  has become a CIA theme park. Having orchestrated a coup in Kiev, Washington effectively controls a regime that is next door and hostile to Russia: a regime rotten with Nazis, literally. Prominent parliamentary figures in Ukraine are the political descendants of the notorious OUN and UPA fascists. They openly praise Hitler and call for the persecution and expulsion of the Russian speaking minority.

This is seldom news in the West, or it is inverted to suppress the truth.

In Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — next door to Russia – the US military is deploying combat troops, tanks, heavy weapons. This extreme provocation of the world’s second nuclear power is met with silence in the West.

What makes the prospect of nuclear war even more dangerous is a parallel campaign against China.

Seldom a day passes when China is not elevated to the status of a “threat”.  According to Admiral Harry Harris, the US Pacific commander, China is “building a great wall of sand in the South China Sea”.

What he is referring to is China building airstrips in the Spratly Islands, which are the subject of a dispute with the Philippines – a dispute without priority until Washington pressured and bribed the government in Manila and the Pentagon launched a propaganda campaign called “freedom of navigation”.

What does this really mean?  It means freedom for American warships to patrol and dominate the coastal waters of China.  Try to imagine the American reaction if Chinese warships did the same off the coast of California.

I made a film called The War You Don’t See, in which I interviewed distinguished journalists in America and Britain: reporters such as Dan Rather of CBS, Rageh Omar of the BBC, David Rose of the Observer.

All of them said that had journalists and broadcasters done their job and questioned the propaganda that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction; had the lies of George W. Bush and Tony Blair not been amplified and echoed by journalists, the 2003 invasion of Iraq might not have happened, and  hundreds of thousands of men, women and children would be alive today.

The propaganda laying the ground for a war against Russia and/or  China is no different in principle. To my knowledge, no journalist in the Western “mainstream” — a Dan Rather equivalent, say –asks why China is building airstrips in the South China Sea.

The answer ought to be glaringly obvious. The United States is encircling China with a network of bases, with ballistic missiles, battle groups, nuclear -armed bombers.

This lethal arc extends from Australia to the islands of the Pacific, the Marianas and the Marshalls and Guam, to the Philippines, Thailand, Okinawa, Korea and  across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. America has hung a noose around the neck of China. This is not news. Silence by media; war by media.

In 2015, in high secrecy, the US and Australia staged the biggest single air-sea military exercise in recent history, known as Talisman Sabre. Its aim was to rehearse an Air-Sea Battle Plan, blocking sea lanes, such as the Straits of Malacca and the Lombok Straits, that cut off China’s access to oil, gas and other vital raw materials from the Middle East and Africa.

In the circus known as the American presidential campaign, Donald Trump is being presented as a lunatic, a fascist.  He is certainly odious; but he is also a media hate figure.  That alone should arouse our scepticism.

Trump’s views on migration are grotesque, but no more grotesque than those of David Cameron. It is not Trump who is the Great Deporter from the United States, but the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barack Obama.

According to one prodigious liberal commentator, Trump is “unleashing the dark forces of violence” in the United States. Unleashing them?

This is the country where toddlers shoot their mothers and the police wage a murderous war against black Americans. This is the country that has attacked and sought to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed from Asia to the Middle East, causing the deaths and dispossession of millions of people.

No country can equal this systemic record of violence. Most of America’s wars (almost all of them against defenceless countries) have been launched not by Republican presidents but by liberal Democrats: Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.

In 1947, a series of National Security Council directives described the paramount aim of American foreign policy as “a world substantially made over in [America’s] own image”.  The ideology was messianic Americanism. We were all Americans. Or else. Heretics would be converted, subverted, bribed, smeared or crushed.

Donald Trump is a symptom of this, but he is also a maverick. He says the invasion of Iraq was a crime; he doesn’t want to go to war with Russia and China. The danger to the rest of us is not Trump, but Hillary Clinton. She is no maverick. She embodies the resilience and violence of a system whose vaunted “exceptionalism” is totalitarian with an occasional liberal face.

As presidential  election day draws near, Clinton will be hailed as the first female president, regardless of her crimes and lies – just as Barack Obama was lauded as the first black president and liberals swallowed his nonsense about “hope”. And the drool goes on.

Described by the Guardian columnist Owen Jones as “funny, charming, with a coolness that eludes practically every other politician”, Obama the other day sent drones to slaughter 150 people in Somalia.  He kills people usually on Tuesdays, according to the New York Times, when he is handed a list of candidates for death by drone. So cool.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran with nuclear weapons.  As Secretary of State under Obama, she participated in the overthrow of the democratic government of Honduras. Her contribution to the destruction of Libya in 2011 was almost gleeful. When the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, was publicly sodomised with a knife – a murder made possible by American logistics – Clinton gloated over his death: “We came, we saw, he died.”

One of Clinton’s closest allies is Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of State, who has attacked young women for not supporting “Hillary”. This is the same Madeleine Albright  who infamously celebrated on TV the death of half a million Iraqi children as “worth it”.

Among Clinton’s biggest backers are the Israel lobby and the arms companies that fuel the violence in the Middle East.  She and her husband have received a fortune from Wall Street. And yet, she is about to be ordained the women’s candidate, to see off the evil Trump, the official demon. Her supporters include distinguished feminists: the likes of Gloria Steinem in the US and Anne Summers in Australia.

A generation ago, a post-modern cult now known as “identity politics” stopped many intelligent, liberal-minded people examining the causes and individuals they supported — such as the fakery of Obama and Clinton;  such as bogus progressive movements like Syriza in Greece, which betrayed the people of that country and allied with their enemies.

Self absorption, a kind of “me-ism”, became the new zeitgeist in privileged western societies and signaled the demise of great collective movements against war, social injustice, inequality,  racism and sexism.

Today, the long sleep may be over. The young are stirring again. Gradually. The thousands in Britain who supported Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader are part of this awakening – as are those who rallied to support Senator Bernie Sanders.

In Britain last week, Jeremy Corbyn’s closest ally, his shadow treasurer John McDonnell, committed a Labour government to pay off the debts of piratical banks and, in effect, to continue so-called austerity.

In the US, Bernie Sanders has promised to support Clinton if or when she’s nominated. He, too, has voted for America’s use of violence against countries when he thinks it’s “right”. He says Obama has done “a great job”.

In Australia, there is a kind of mortuary politics, in which tedious parliamentary games are played out in the media while refugees and Indigenous people are persecuted and inequality grows, along with the danger of war. The government of Malcolm Turnbull has just announced a so-called defence budget of $195 billion that is a drive to war.  There was no debate. Silence.

What has happened to the great tradition of popular direct action, unfettered to parties? Where is the courage, imagination and commitment required to begin the long journey to a better, just and peaceful world? Where are the dissidents in art, film, the theatre, literature?

Where are those who will shatter the silence? Or do we wait until the first nuclear missile is fired?

Posted in USA, Europe, World0 Comments

UN Summit Won’t Resolve Refugee Resettlement Impasse

NOVANEWS

By Phoebe Braithwaite

Refugees walk along railroad tracks towards the border with Hungary outside Horgos, Serbia, Sept. 10, 2015. (Photo: Sergey Ponomarev / The New York Times)

Refugees walk along railroad tracks towards the border with Hungary outside Horgos, Serbia, September 10, 2015. (Photo: Sergey Ponomarev / The New York Times)

United Nations —  This week’s landmark UN summit on refugees and migrants was supposed to help resettle one in ten refugees, instead UN member states have settled for vague gestures, including a campaign to end xenophobia.

Human rights organisations and humanitarian actors alike have expressed disappointment with an outcome document agreed upon by member states in advance of the summit, which falls short of creating a binding, comprehensive framework to protect migrants and refugees.

“If global leaders adopt a resolution with some nice language — but so lacking in concrete commitments it fails to make any real difference to the lives of those fleeing war and conflict — they are merely fiddling while Rome burns,” Richard Bennett, Head of Amnesty’s Office at the United Nations, told IPS.

They say that the UN’s richer member states are missing a crucial opportunity to tackle xenophobia and racism by actually resettling refugees within their own borders.

“When you actually speak to refugees, the men with Kalashnikovs are pushing them away, but the men in suits are running away,” Arvinn Gadgil Director of Partnerships and Policy at the Norwegian Refugee Council told IPS.

“There seemed to be an appetite from member states to actually find a mechanism for responsibility sharing. Now — perhaps naively — we thought that was true, and we are of course disappointed. That was the one key output from the summit that we now seem not to be able to get,” said Gadgil.

Gadgil described the talks as a “race to the bottom,” entailing “systematic risk-aversion” and overwhelming concern for national self-interest. “There is very little reason to be optimistic,” he said, deploring states’ negotiations, which, he says, were governed by the “lowest common denominator of shame.”

Revealing a process in which member states stripped back meaningful promises to vague re-affirmations of shared responsibility, Bennett said, “there’s this enormous crisis, and these diplomats sit in New York discussing words which may or may not even be implemented… there’s a huge gap between their rhetoric and the reality.”

Numbers of displaced people remain at unprecedented levels globally, higher than ever before in the UN’s history. With around 65 million people forced from their homes, one in every 113 people is now either a refugee, asylum seeker or internally displaced person. 21.3 million of these people are refugees; 51 percent of refugees are children.

Yet even a clause on the detention of children was considered too controversial by some member states.

Karen AbuZayd, Special Adviser on the summit, explained that the implementation of children’s right never to be detainedhad been extremely contentious for some states and amended to the principle “for children seldom, if ever, to be detained.”

In an effort to address the broad issues created by human mobility, the summit will focus on both refugees and migrants, though discussing them side-by-side has proven controversial since migration is a less settled area of international law. Internally displaced persons will not be discussed, though there are approximately 45 million people currently displaced within national borders.

Around 86 percent of refugees reside in low and middle-income countries, such as Lebanon, Jordan, Chad, Turkey, and Nauru, where Australia holds refugees, including children, in offshore detention.

Criticising those states “who are continuing to put up borders and walls,” Bennett said, “there is no trigger mechanism; there are no concrete, objective criteria for deciding how a country meets its fair share… It’s a kind of ad-hoc approach, based on largesse, of whether a country offers resettlement places or money or not.”

The outcome document says that “in many parts of the world we are witnessing, with great concern, increasingly xenophobic and racist responses to refugees and migrants” — as well as the increasing acceptability of such attitudes. Yet states themselves perpetuate these attitudes by refusing to welcome people from different countries, even when fleeing violence and persecution.

On Monday Amnesty criticised the G20 declaration calling for greater “burden-sharing” with regards to refugees, calling this “callous hypocrisy” given that many G20 countries actively blocked efforts to resettle refugees. Moreover, the term itself ‘burden-sharing’ explicitly views refugees negatively.

States, said Bennett, are “reluctant to set targets when it comes to taking and supporting refugees because there is a toxic narrative about migration and refugees which affects national politics. Another concern we have about the outcome document of the summit is that it moves in the direction of securitisation — of seeing the movement of people as a security issue, and not that refugees will make societies more diverse and actually stronger.”

Last week Angela Merkel’s party, which has consistently acted as a moral force by resettling refugees, and refusing to bow to the xenophobic electoral strategies of parties in many European countries, lost a local election to far-right populist party Alternative for Germany.

Without wishing to read too much into a single local election, said Gadgil, “this could potentially be a watershed moment in European politics, where we end up with the definitive rise of parties that are primarily motivated by xenophobic views of the world, and primarily motivated by the artificial portrayal of immigrants as essentially and only bad.”

Talks “Abstract, Academic Exercise”

September 2 2016 marked the one-year anniversary of the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose picture moved publics to sympathy last summer, helping to individualise suffering on an enormous scale.

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was recently reported saying, “nobody is ever just a refugee,” emphasising the centrality of migration in human history at the UN’s World Humanitarian Day.

At the preliminary talks, however, Bennett said: “I didn’t really hear any countries give examples of actual refugee or migrant stories… for the states this seemed like an abstract, academic exercise.”

Narratives and public statements are doubtless indispensible tools in communicating every person’s humanity, but a more sustained level of attention is needed among policy-makers, who play a critical role in shaping public opinion, to bring about real change and uphold the rights and the dignity of refugees and migrants.

Speaking on Tuesday night in New York Médecins Sans Frontières’s Executive Director Jason Cone looked to the summit, saying, “ultimately it’s political leaders that have to step up and make these decisions… These are problems that are eminently solvable with the right resources directed towards them.”

The UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants will take place at UN headquarters in New York on September 19.

Hopes now turn to the Leaders Summit on Refugees, convened the following day by Barack Obama, where he will invite heads of state and government to make national, rather than collective, resettlement pledges.

Visit IPS news for fresh perspectives on development and globalization.

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The Climate Catastrophe Cannot Be Reversed Within the Capitalist Culture

NOVANEWS

By Ashley Dawson

(Photo:  Adrian Maidment)

Two elephants graze for food in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania. Twenty-five thousand African elephants were slaughtered for their ivory in 2011 alone. (Photo: Adrian Maidment)

Did you know that the Earth loses about one hundred species every day? InExtinction: A Radical History, Ashley Dawson ties together history, science and political theory to explain the impact of humans and capitalism on the world’s ecosystems. Get your copy of this book by making a tax-deductible donation to Truthout!

The following is the introduction to Extinction: A Radical History.

His face was hacked off. Left prostrate in the red dust, to be preyed on by vultures, his body remained intact except for the obscene hole where his magnificent six foot long tusks used to be. Satao was a so-called tusker, an African elephant with a rare genetic strain that produced tusks so long that they dangled to the ground, making him a prime attraction in Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park.

These beautiful tusks also made him particularly valuable to ivory poachers, who felled him with poison arrows, carved off his face to get at his tusks, and left his carcass for the flies. The grisly death of Satao, one of Africa’s largest elephants, is part of a violent wave of poaching that is sweeping the continent today. In 2011, twenty-five thousand African elephants were slaughtered for their ivory. An additional forty-five thousand have been killed since that time. If the present rate of slaughter continues, one of the two species of African elephants, the forest elephant, whose numbers have declined by 60 percent since 2002, is likely to be gone from Africa within a decade.

The image of Satao lying faceless in the dust is a haunting one. While the elephant as a species will probably not go extinct (since some individuals are likely to be kept alive in game reserves and zoos), the decimation of their numbers in the wild reminds us of a broader tide of extinction, the sixth mass extinction Earth has witnessed. Only tens of thousands of years ago, during the Pleistocene epoch, Earth was home to an immense variety of spectacular, large animals. From wooly mammoths to saber-toothed cats to lesser-known but equally exotic animals like giant ground sloths and car-sized glyptodonts, megafauna roamed the world freely. Today, almost all of these large animals are extinct: killed, most of the evidence suggests, by human beings. As they spread across the planet, Homo sapiens decimated populations of megafauna everywhere they went. Humanity essentially ate its way down the food chain when wiping out biodiversity. Africa, our ancestral home, is virtually alone in harboring some remnants of the Pleistocene biodiversity. In the grisly death of Satao and his fellow elephants, we are witnessing the final destruction of the world’s remaining megafauna, the endgame of an epoch of epic defaunation or animal slaughter.

But it is not just charismatic megafauna like elephants, rhinos, tigers, and pandas that are being pushed to the brink of extinction. Humanity lives amid, and is the cause of, a massive decimation of global biodiversity. From humble invertebrates like beetles and butterflies to various terrestrial vertebrate populations like bats and birds, species are going extinct in record numbers. For example, since 1500, 322 species of land-based vertebrates have disappeared, and the remaining populations show an average 25 percent decline in abundance around the world. Invertebrate populations are similarly threatened. Researchers generally agree that the current extinction rate is nothing short of catastrophic, clocking in between one thousand and ten thousand times the rate before human beings began to exert a significant pressure on the environment. The Earth is losing about a hundred species a day. In addition to this tidal wave of extinction, which conservation biologists predict will eliminate up to 50 percent of currently existing animal and plant species, the abundance of species in local areas is declining precipitously, threatening the functioning of entire ecosystems. This mass extinction is thus an under acknowledged form — and cause — of the contemporary environmental crisis.

Although this wave of mass extinction is global, the vast majority of species destruction is concentrated in a small number of geographical hotspots. This is because biodiversity is unevenly distributed. On land, tropical rainforests are the primary nursery of biodiversity. Although they cover only 6 percent of the Earth’s surface, their terrestrial and aquatic habitats harbor more than half the known species on the planet. As E.O. Wilson puts it, the tropics are the leading abattoir of extinction, their great verdant expanses chopped up into quickly dwindling fragments, their plant and animal species struggling to adapt to habitat destruction, invasive species, over harvesting, and, increasingly, anthropogenic climate change. From the great Amazon basin, to the rainforests of West and Central Africa, to the jungles of Indonesia, Malaysia, and other parts of Southeast Asia, human beings are eliminating the homes of millions of species. In doing so, we are not only condemning vast numbers of species (the great majority of them still unidentified) to extinction, but we are also imperiling our own tenure on this planet.

(Image: OR Books)

(Image: OR Books)With the publication of accessible works of science journalism such as Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, the word has begun to get out about the dire plight of the planet’s flora and fauna. Kolbert’s book takes readers on a terrifying tour, interviewing botanists who follow the tree line as it vaults up the side of mountains in the Andes and marine botanists who track the acidification of the oceans. The current wave of extinction, she explains, follows five previous mass extinction events that have devastated the planet over the last half billion years. This wave is predicted to be the worst catastrophe for life on Earth since the asteroid impact that destroyed the dinosaurs. Reflecting on this melancholy reality, humanities scholars have begun to write about “cultures of extinction.” In response to such increasing concern, the Obama administration recently set up an interagency task force on wildlife trafficking, and has begun to discuss the trade networks linking the slaughter of elephants and rhinos to guerrilla groups and crime syndicates such as the Janjaweed and al-Shabab, which are using the high profits from the illicit wildlife market to fund their operations.

All too often, however, initiatives such as Obama’s result in a “war on poachers” that ignores the underlying structural causes that are driving habitat destruction and overharvesting of animals. The planet’s biodiversity hotspots, after all, are located in what Christian Parenti calls the “tropics of chaos.” In the planet’s tropical latitudes, Parenti identifies a catastrophic convergence, a supremely destructive alignment of three factors: 1.) militarization and ethnic fragmentation related to the legacy of the Cold War in postcolonial nations; 2.) state failure and civil discord linked to the structural adjustment policies imposed on the global South by institutions like the World Bank in the name of debt repayment since the 1980s; and 3.) climate change-fueled environmental stresses such as desertification. Parenti writes at length on the impact of this catastrophic convergence on postcolonial people and states, but the picture he provides of the stresses affecting the global South is incomplete without a consideration of the relations between humanity and the natural world in its fullest sense. We cannot understand the catastrophic convergence, that is, without discussing the decimation of biodiversity currently unfolding in the global South. Nor, conversely, can we understand extinction without an analysis of the exploitation and violence to which postcolonial nations have been subjected.

Extinction is the product of a global attack on the commons: the great trove of air, water, plants, and collectively created cultural forms such as language that have been traditionally regarded as the inheritance of humanity as a whole. Nature, the wonderfully abundant and diverse wild life of the world, is essentially a free pool of goods and labor that capital can draw on. As critics such as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have argued, aggressive policies of trade liberalization in recent decades have been predicated on privatizing the commons — transforming ideas, information, species of plants and animals, and even DNA into private property. Suddenly, things like seeds, once freely traded by peasant farmers the world over, have become scarce commodities, and are even being bred by agribusiness corporations to be sterile after one generation, a product farmers in the global South have aptly nicknamed “suicide seeds.” The destruction of global biodiversity needs to be framed, in other words, as a great, and perhaps ultimate, attack on the planet’s common wealth. Indeed, extinction needs to be seen, along with climate change, as the leading edge of contemporary capitalism’s contradictions.

Capital must expand at an ever-increasing rate or go into crisis, generating declining asset values for the owners of stocks and property, as well as factory closures, mass unemployment, and political unrest. As capitalism expands, however, it commodifies more and more of the planet, stripping the world of its diversity and fecundity — think about those suicide seeds. If capital’s inherent tendency to create what Vandana Shiva calls “monocultures of the mind” once generated many local environmental crises, this insatiable maw is now consuming entire ecosystems, thereby threatening the planetary environment as a whole. There are at present no effective institutions to deal with the “cancerous degradation” of the global environment that David Harvey argues is brought about by capital’s need for continuous exponential growth. And yet capital of course depends on continuous commodification of this environment to sustain its growth. The catastrophic rate of extinction today and the broader decline of biodiversity thus represent a direct threat to the reproduction of capital. Indeed, there is no clearer example of the tendency of capital accumulation to destroy its own conditions of reproduction than the sixth extinction. As the rate of speciation — the evolution of new species — drops further and further behind the rate of extinction, the specter of capital’s depletion and even annihilation of the biological foundation on which it depends becomes increasingly apparent.

Extinction: A Radical History is intended as a primer on extinction for activists, scientists, and cultural studies scholars alike, as well as for members of the general public looking to understand one of the great but all too often overlooked events of our time. Extinction is both a material reality and a cultural discourse that shapes popular perceptions of the world, one that often legitimates an inegalitarian social order. In order to respond adequately to this planetary crisis, we need to transgress the boundaries that tend to keep science, environmentalism, and radical politics separate. Indeed, extinction cannot be understood in isolation from a critique of capitalism and imperialism. Extinction: A Radical History begins with a discussion of the notion of the Anthropocene, using this term not simply to ask fundamental questions about when the sixth wave of mass extinctions began, but also about whom exactly is responsible for extinction. The second section outlines the different facets of extinction that are products of capitalism, from early modern forms of defaunation such as fur hunting to the episodes of mass slaughter such as whaling that arose in tandem with the industrial revolution. This section also discusses forms of collateral ecocide such as coral bleaching and extinction related to invasive species, as well as forms of ecological warfare such as the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam and the polluting of the Niger Delta. The third section of Extinction: A Radical History looks at disaster biocapitalism : the variety of political, economic, and environmental responses by capital to the extinction crisis.

This section highlights not just the glaring failure of efforts to address extinction within a capitalist framework, but also the increasing trend to open a new round of accumulation using synthetic biology to address the crisis. Finally, the section on radical conservation explores various anti-capitalist solutions to the extinction crisis, approaches grounded in social and environmental justice.

The specter of extinction haunts the popular imagination today. Contemporary culture is filled with depictions of zombies, plagues, and other spectacular representations of ecological catastrophe. For those who inhabit the wealthy nations of the global North, such representations are portents of a terrifying world to come. But for the billions of people around the world whom Ranajit Guha and Juan Martinez-Alier call “ecosystem people,” whose fate is intimately intertwined with the planet’s flora and fauna, the question of extinction relates directly to their own present and future survival.  The butchering of an elephant such as Satao may enrich a few poachers, but it dramatically impoverishes the ecosystem he inhabited. We are only just beginning to understand the impact of the liquidation of large wildlife like elephants on the habitats they inhabit, but it is becoming clear that such holes punctured in the web of life have a dramatic cascading effect. As millions of species are snuffed out, the biodiversity that supports the planetary ecosystem as we and our ancestors have known it is imperiled. This catastrophe cannot be stemmed — let alone reversed — within the present capitalist culture. We face a clear choice: radical political transformation or deepening mass extinction.

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