Archive for category imperialism
Wrapped in some benign sounding words about prosperity, peace, and “shifting from a perpetual war footing,” the core of Barack Obama’s message to the United Nations yesterday made clear that if the U.N. doesn’t pass a resolution the U.S. wants against Syria, he still could execute a strike.
Here’s the take-home:
The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region. We will confront external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War.
We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.
Jeremy Scahill reacted somewhat as I did on hearing it yesterday:
You have this democratic president who won the Nobel Peace Prize who then goes and stands in front of the United Nations and basically stakes out a neo-con vision of American foreign policy and owns it and kind of wraps it in this cloak of democratic legitimacy. I think when we look back at Obama’s legacy, this is going to have been a very significant period in U.S. history where the ideals of very sort of radical right wing forces were solidified and continued under Mr. Constitutional Law Professor, Nobel Peace Prize Winner. It is really kind of devastating what is going on right now and I think if you take the long view of it or you step back and look at it and don’t just see the trees but look at the forest, President Obama has been a forceful, fierce defending of empire and I think that is going to be the enduring legacy of his presidency is that he was an empire president.
Scahill’s film Dirty Wars comes out on DVD October 15.
When I asked this week “When did it become appropriate to hold a vote about whether or not we should commit the “supreme international crime”? I received a comment that
The people who have received your message are probably already convinced of the illegality (or at least immorality) of a US attack on Syria, but efforts to persuade those not yet convinced would be aided by being able to refer to some internationally recognized legal document in which wars of aggression are so characterized and the characterization is explained (because all other war crimes flow from wars of aggression).
Not enough people know the disparity between internationally recognized legal principles and the term “international norms” made up by John Kerry to justify a military strike on a country which has not attacked the U.S. So, let’s break it down.
The phrase “supreme international crime” comes from a quote from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. Richard Falk, speaking 60 years later at the World Tribunal on Iraq, gave the history of what the United States had agreed to and enforced as the victor:
The criminal trial of German and Japanese leaders after World War II, the Nuremberg Judgment issued in 1945 was a milestone in this process. The Judgment declared: “To initiate a war of aggression… is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole,” and although Nuremberg was flawed by being an example of “victors’ justice,” the American prosecutor, Justice Robert Jackson, made what has been described as the Nuremberg Promise in his closing statement: “If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”
The internationally recognized document that defines war crimes is the Nuremberg Principles. Aggressive war is listed first in the crimes against peace:
“The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:
(a) Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i)
Richard Falk brings the sharp difference up to 2013, when he wrote on September 6 against a U.S. military strike on Syria:
There are four important independent reasons for Congress to withhold authorization in this instance:
–a use of force that can neither be justified as self-defense, nor is authorized by the UN, is contrary to the UN Charter, which is an obligatory treaty, as well as being the most serious type of violation of international law in a post-Nuremburg world; the Nuremberg precedent with regard to crimes against peace (as the ‘crime of crimes’) should be respected, especially by the United States, which continues to serve for better and worse, as the main normative architect of world order;
–the Kosovo precedent of ‘illegal, but legitimate’ is not applicable as a military attack is not likely to achieve either its political goals of ending the civil war and of causing the collapse of the Assad regime, nor its moral goals of stopping the slaughter and displacement of the Syrian people, and the devastation of their cities and country;
–even if the political and moral goals could be achieved, Congress, as well as the president, lacks the authority to authorized foreign policy uses of force that are incompatible with the UN Charter and international law;
–Congress should defer to domestic and world public opinion that clearly is opposed to a proposed military attack in the absence of an exceptional demonstration can be made as to the positive political and moral benefits of such an attack; for reasons mentioned, no such demonstration can be made in this instance; even the European Union has withheld support for a military attack on Syria at the September meeting of the G-20 in St. Petersburg; only France among America’s traditional allies supported Obama’s insistence on reliance on a punitive military strike, supposedly for the sake of enforcing international law, bizarre reasoning because the rationale reduces to the following proposition: in view of the political realities, it is necessary to violate international law so as to be able to enforce it.
As we know, what is “legal” is not necessarily moral, and vice versa. In this case, the U.S. has no international law to rely on, thus resorts, as Kerry does, to the relative term “international norms,” i.e. whatever those running the Untied States prefer at any particular moment to embrace.
Most importantly, in the face of illegitimate — and illegal — unjust, immoral plans by the U.S. government to attack Syria, it is up to us to create political conditions where they cannot. I agree with Mario Venegas, the human rights leader and survivor of the U.S./CIA sponsored coup against the government of Chile 40 years ago, who said Wednesday, that “we are the force that can stop this war.”
Last Friday, President Obama, apparently responding to pressure, made an unexpected statement about the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. He expressed understanding that Black people feel “a lot of pain around what happened here.” He promised no systemic remedies, saying that such decisions are left up to the states, and putting the responsibility of “each of us to do some soul-searching.”
Cornel West, on Democracy Now! Monday, went right after Obama’s statement:
“President Obama has very little moral authority at this point, because we know anybody who tries to rationalize the killing of innocent peoples, a criminal—George Zimmerman is a criminal—but President Obama is a global George Zimmerman, because he tries to rationalize the killing of innocent children, 221 so far, in the name of self-defense, so that there’s actually parallels here.”
It’s well worth watching, or reading the whole exchange. Immediately Dr. West caught all kinds of criticism, for criticizing the President — a situation I personally identify with. I heartily support and agree with Dr. West’s comments. I would like to hear what you think.
Food for Thought & Action:
Expanded U.S. Targeted Killing, Drone War & Secret Operations.
See the leaked Pakistani document detailing many more civilian deaths in US drone strikes in Pakistan, released Monday by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
“Drawn from field reports by local officials in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the document lists over 70 drone strikes between 2006 and late 2009, alongside a small number of other incidents such as alleged Nato attacks and strikes by unspecified forces.
“Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated by the leaked report to be civilian victims. Some 94 of these are said to be children.”
A Promise Two Months Ago to Release Prisoners & Close Guantanamo.
No prisoners released since the President said he would relax restrictions on cleared Yemeni prisoners. Federal court decisions in favor of the prisoners’ rights against the government practice of force-feeding and genital searches have brought no relief. Joe Nocera, noticeably anguished, wrote Tuesday morning in The New York Times:
“There is one person who could get them out tomorrow — if he chose. That same person could stop the military from force-feeding the detainees. I am referring, of course, to President Obama. Yet despite decrying the Guantánamo prison, the president has refused to do anything but stand by and watch the military inflict needless pain and suffering, much of it on men who simply shouldn’t be there. Indeed, in many of the legal briefs filed on behalf of Guantánamo prisoners, the defendant is Barack Obama.”
An Expanding System of Mass Incarceration in the U.S.
In the Democracy Now! interview, Dr. West said,
“we’re talking about legacy of the white supremacy. We’re talking about a criminal justice system that is criminal when it comes to mistreating poor people across the board, black and brown especially…I just never forget Brother Carl Dix and others…we protested [stop-and-frisk by NYPD] and went to jail and then went to court and was—had a guilty verdict, right? That week, the president came to New York and said, “Edward Koch was one of the great mayors in the last 50 years,” and then said, “Michael Bloomberg was a terrific mayor.” Now, this is the same person saying we’ve got to care for black boys, and black boys are being intimidated, harassed, humiliated, 1,800 a day. It’s just not a matter of pretty words, Mr. President. You’ve got to follow through in action. You see, you can’t use the words to hide and conceal your mendacity, hypocrisy and the support of criminality—or enactment of criminality when it comes to drones, you see.”
Prosecution and Persecution of Whistle-Blowers
“Will you press for the justice of Trayvon Martin in the same way you press for the prosecution of Brother Bradley Manning and Brother Edward Snowden?” So you begin to see the hypocrisy.”
Glenn Greenwald writes,
“The Obama White House yesterday told Russia that it must not persecute “individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption” – as Bradley Manning faces life in prison for alerting the world to the war abuses and other profound acts of wrongdoing he discovered and as the unprecedented Obama war on whistleblowers rolls on. That lecture to Russia came in the context of White House threats to cancel a long-planned meeting over the Russian government’s refusal to hand over NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to the US to face espionage charges.”
Vast Government Surveillance on Whole Populations
Remember when Obama said that he doesn’t want people to feel like “Big Brother” is watching us? “in the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential, you know — you know, program run amok. But when you actually look at the details, then I think we’ve struck the right balance.” And we find out, as this scandal unfolds, that all date is being vacuumed up and held, forever, in a global “Stand Your Ground” justiication, because “it keeps us safe.”
All of the above, and more, are why we drafted indictments against the US government for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Read and share with others.
If you read only a bit of this post, make it the following paragraph, and then buy your ticket here. Revolution newspaper asks and answers:
“Why go to this film premiere? Simply: It’s by far the most important thing people could be doing that day–it’s dealing with the most important thing there could be–because it’s about the real possibility of bringing into being a radically different world, where all this madness, all the oppression and injustice, all the abuse and degradation that is so much a part of life now, would be done away with. If anybody can think of anything more important than that–let’s hear it!”
My personal invite to you is based on what’s possible, and necessary, and what’s true.
Often, people ask me why I haven’t quit trying, in discouragement, to change the world, or even to just stop the crimes of the US government through a mass movement of people, as supporters of World Can’t Wait are working on. The challenges are obvious, and I am aware of how rare – much too rare — it is to refuse to give in.
Part of the answer to why I’ll never give up is that I’m continually outraged, and don’t accept this as the “best” of all possible ways the world could be. I came of age in the 60′s, amongst the struggles of Black people, women, people around the globe struggling for justice and liberation, which set the stage for being a rebel.
More significantly, I saw the possibility of a much better society because the largest country in the world then was socialist – The Peoples’ Republic of China. The most vibrant, scientific, inspiring propagators of revolution internationally were the revolutionary communists who came out of that worldwide movement. At the center of that ferment was Bob Avakian, BA, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Cornel West introduced BA in a recent interview as “one of the few coming out of the 60′s who never sold out, he never caved in, he never gave up, held on to his forging of a rigorous, scientific analysis of the objective realities that are driven by a revolutionary love – because he has such a deep love for poor people, oppressed people, all around the world.”
I heard him speak late last year. BA made an extremely deep-going call to get with the movement for revolution, calling out the crimes of the imperialist system, envisioning how society could be, outlining the strategy to work through the huge challenges in how to get there. He said something that has stuck with me, and I’m paraphrasing here, that if you see all those horrors, and you know it doesn’t have to be that way, why would you not want to be working and struggling to end this? He talked about the need to confront reality, looking at the horrors this system creates, continually, and then applying science to transform the contradictions to create a whole different world. That resonates with me. You can get more, right now, from BA by listening to an interview with Michael Slate on KPFK, where he went into these points.
Avakian and the RCP are leading a movement for real revolution, with a Constitution for the Socialist Republic in North America, (draft proposal), which aims to bring about a:
socialist state which would embody, institutionalize and promote radically different relations and values among people; a socialist state whose final and fundamental aim would be to achieve, together with the revolutionary struggle throughout the world, the emancipation of humanity as a whole and the opening of a whole new epoch in human history–communism–with the final abolition of all exploitative and oppressive relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.
Hearing BA in BA Speaks: REVOLUTION-NOTHING LESS! in a theater with hundreds of others on the road to discover what can be done to end this madness and bring about the emancipation of all humanity is something I invite you to join me in doing. What could be more important?
This trailer is playing at the Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem, where the film will premiere Saturday:
The film is simultaneously premiering in Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in addition to Harlem. Details and tickets here.
When Barack Obama announced in early 2010 that he had put Anwar al-Awlaki on his hit list, I heard from people for whom the announcement was a breaking point in their support for the president.
World Can’t Wait published a statement titled Crimes Are Crimes, No Matter Who Does Them. It said
In some respects, this is worse than Bush. First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of “terrorism,” merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly.
The ad got significant support in The New York Review of Books, and Rolling Stone. It was much more controversial when it went into The New York Times, on the anniversary of Bush’s bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, October 6, 2010. That paper, so far, has not published its opinion on the Obama administration’s killing of al-Awlaki and another American, on September 30, in an secret operation in Yemen, so we may assume it joins in supporting this crime by our government.
On October 2, they published an opinion by Jack Goldsmith, who you’ll remember as a lawyer for the Bush regime tainted by the torture scandal. Titled A Just Act of War, Goldsmith’s piece praises Obama’s aggression, because the Office of Legal Counsel came up with opinions justifying the killing by unmanned drone of al-Awlaki and another American citizen. For Goldsmith “what due process requires depends on context,” so it’s all good.
The assassination is hypocritical because America routinely criticizes (and justifiably so) such extrajudicial assassinations when they occur at the hands of another government.
The Bush-loving Washington Times, in a piece by Rowan Scarborough, whines that Al-Awlaki would have been difficult to try as a civilian. So just kill him.
“I think it’s pretty easy to understand why they didn’t take him alive. Would you want to deal with the hassle of trying to put him on trial, an American citizen that has gotten so much press for being the target of a CIA kill order? That would be a nightmare. The ACLU would be crawling all over the Justice Department for due process in an American court,” said a former military intelligence officer who worked with special operations troops to hunt down high-value terrorism targets.
Over at the more “liberal” Washington Post, John Bellinger III settles for the administrations’ self-enforcing opinion:
the Justice Department reportedly prepared an opinion concluding that his killing would comply with domestic and international law. This is likely to be considered sufficient due process under U.S. constitutional standards.
Leaving aside this monstrous immorality — no government should be allowed to kill with impunity, much less from a distance, in secret, off a battlefield — there may be a price the U.S. pays for such actions. Even Jack Goldsmith acknowledges
Such caution, however, does not guarantee legitimacy at home or abroad. There are relatively few complaints in American society about the drone program, but drones are becoming increasingly controversial outside the United States on the ground that they violate international law.
The best piece on what line has been crossed here is Glenn Greenwald’s Friday piece in Salon. See The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality. Today, he says
This was absolutely the heart and soul of the Bush War on Terror: the President can do whatever he wants to anyone he wants — with no oversight, due process, or checks — because we’re at War and these are Bad Terrorists (says the President, unilaterally and in secret).
Don’t want a world like this? Protest on October 6, 7, 8, and keep at it. Ten years is way too long for the richest country to be destroying one of the poorest on the planet, Afghanistan.
October2011.org at Freedom Plaza. I’ll be there. Join us!
My colleague on the Steering Committee of World Can’t Wait, Dr. Dennis Loo, has a new book on a huge topic, even for a sociologist, Globalization and the Demolition of Society. It’s really several books in one, and ambitious. You wouldn’t expect less, since his last book was Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush & Cheney.
Dr. Loo does more than recount the destruction of the global environment on the altar of capitalism-imperialism. He goes after the fundamental flaws in the ideology of the people who run this country. I can imagine students walking into his class with the typical mindset that, with all its flaws, “at least the United States has democracy and freedom.” And, bam, suddenly those assumptions get challenged. Think of this book as that course, without the quizzes and homework, but with the back-up material.
This brother is brave, and he has not lost his 60’s roots. From the introductory pages, he criticizes postmodernism and religious fundamentalism, both Christian and Muslim, and goes on to show their philosophical affinity…to which I say, hallelujah. Anyone with a university education in the last 20 years has to have been deeply influenced, and possibly paralyzed by postmodernism; even those who have no idea what the term means are infected with the idea that “reality is what you make it.” Loo compares this to a religious view:
“Reason and science present obstacles—instead of indispensable tools—to literal textualists’ preferred agendas for the planet. Reality, to religious fundamentalists and postmodernists, is what you make it. Reality is what you (or God/Allah) will it to be and want it to be. Postmodernists believe that the notion of truth ‘is a contrived illusion, misused by people and special interest groups to gain power over others.’ Facts ‘are too limiting to determine anything.’”
In contrast to that philosophical framework that denies it’s possible to determine what’s objectively true, Dr. Loo argues that it is necessary, and possible, to understand and confront what is objectively true, an important distinction if we want to act to change the world. That in itself is a huge contribution. And that’s only the first book within his book.
Dr. Loo tackles the underlying why and how of these outrages which I call systematic crimes. If enough people read this book, it could help change the course of history.
For the rest of September, a portion of proceeds from the book’s sale will go to World Can’t Wait. So please order, and ask your library to order one also.
The political terrain is changing hourly in the Middle East, with governments responding to the peoples’ uprising in different ways. But we’re seeing one constant: the U.S. at every point pushes its own interests, regardless of the status of the peoples’ rights.
World Can’t Wait exists to “stop the crimes of our government.” So we should be vigilant. We’ve pointed out Washington’s deep and long support for repressive regimes across the region, including Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia & Bahrain, and also the huge amount of military and political support given to Israel by successive U.S. administrations. In Bahrain, where the U.S. has a strategic base, Hillary Clinton weakly, and hypocritically, defended the protesters’ rights (only days after witnessing prominent anti-war veteran Ray McGovern brutalized during a speech of hers in the US). As if she and the government she has long represented was unaware of what these regimes do to their people!
In Egypt, protesters showed the lethal tear gas canisters used against them by the government – labeled “Made in the USA.” These were just a small fraction of the overall budget of military aid given to Egypt by the US.
In Libya hundreds of people are being slaughtered in the streets by mercenaries. Though Qaddafi’s government has appeared more oppositional to the U.S., the U.S. reestablished full diplomatic relations with Libya, under pressure from U.S. oil companies. Military aid followed. But in the wake of the absolutely righteous upsurge of the people against Qaddafi’s repression, will the U.S. take the opportunity to install a more compliant government to its own interests? U.S. military intervention will do no more good in Libya than it’s done elsewhere… which is to say: it will be a disaster for the people, but good for U.S. interests in holding onto strategic oil and territory.
In Pakistan, there’s news of the first drone strike in a month, this one killing civilians: US Drone Strikes Kill 15 in Pakistan.
The Washington Post reported yesterday on the last years of U.S. drone bombings:
Despite a major escalation in the number of unmanned Predator strikes being carried out under the Obama administration, data from government and independent sources indicate that the number of high-ranking militants being killed as a result has either slipped or barely increased. Even more generous counts – which indicate that the CIA killed as many as 13 “high-value targets” – suggest that the drone program is hitting senior operatives only a fraction of the time.
While the CIA contends they’ve killed just 2 civilians, the article goes on to say:
The New America Foundation estimates that at least 607 people were killed in 2010, which would mean that a single year has accounted for nearly half of the number of deaths since 2004, when the program began. Overall, the foundation estimates that 32 of those killed could be considered “militant leaders” of al-Qaeda or the Taliban, or about 2 percent.
Glenn Greenwald looks at the CIA’s role in Pakistan. In This week in winning hearts and minds, he describes Raymond Davis, the ex-Special Forces, current CIA operative held in Pakistan for personally killing 4 Pakistanis in an incident on the street, and:
The State Department first said he worked for the consulate, not the embassy, which would make him subject to weaker immunity rights than diplomats enjoy (State now says that its original claim was a “mistake” and that Davis worked for the embassy). President Obama then publicly demanded the release of what he absurdly called ”our diplomat in Pakistan”; when he was arrested, Davis ”was carrying a 9mm gun and 75 bullets, bolt cutters, a GPS unit, an infrared light, telescope, a digital camera, an air ticket, two mobile phones and a blank cheque.”
There’s a major diplomatic crisis over Davis between Pakistan, and competing forces within its government, and the U.S. government. Greenwald describes the complexity for the U.S.:
There’s the gross hypocrisy of the U.S. State Department invoking lofty “rule-of-law” and diplomacy principles under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations — the very same State Department that just got caught systematically violating that convention when WikiLeaks cables revealed that U.S. “diplomats” were ordered to spy on U.N. officials and officials in other countries. Then there’s the delusional notion — heard mostly from progressives with romanticized images of the State Department — that WikiLeaks’ release of diplomatic cables was terrible because it’s wrong to undermine “diplomacy” with leaks, since the State Department (unlike the Big, Bad Pentagon) is devoted to Good, Humane causes of facilitating peace. As this episode illustrates, there’s no separation among the various arms of the U.S. Government; they all are devoted to the same end and simply use different means to accomplish it (when the U.S. Government is devoted to war, “diplomatic” functions are used to bolster the war, as Colin Powell can tell you).
These crises can help sort out the interests of the governments from the interests of the people. In supporting the courageous people across the Middle East who are fighting repression, we are challenged to look at our own government. I come back to the Not in Our Name Pledge of Resistance:
…Not in our name
will you wage endless war
there can be no more deaths
no more transfusions
of blood for oil…