Archive for the ‘United Nations’ Category

The Euthanasia of the Elderly in Stephen Baxter’s ‘Titan’

July 18, 2017

A few days ago I put up a post about the nightmare, alternative future described by the British SF novelist Stephen Baxter in his novel, Titan. Baxter’s a writer of hard SF, a subgenre in which the fiction is nevertheless grounded in solid, known science fact, though often with an element of artistic license. Titan was written in 1995, and is partly set in the decaying America of the first decades of the 21st century. A militantly anti-science president, Maclachlan, has been elected with the support of the Ku Klux Klan and Christian fundamentalists. Maclachlan shuts down NASA for good after a shuttle disaster. The launch complexes are closed down. Those that aren’t demolished become simply tourist attractions, as do the agency’s headquarters and mission control. One of these, a museum to the Apollo moon landings, is altered so that it promotes instead the spiritual experiences many of the astronauts did have during their missions. Maclachlan also introduces legislation demanding that only the Aristotelian cosmology of Thomas Aquinas, with its crystal spheres, is taught in schools. What is left of the agency is given over to the USAF under the paranoid and nationalistic General Hartle, who is very much like the rogue American General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s classic nuclear black comedy, Doctor Strangelove.

Against this, the agency attempts to launch one last, great space mission, a crewed voyage to Titan, where the Cassini probe has found evidence of active biological chemistry.

I commented in my post on the remarkable similarity between the policies of the fictional Maclachlan and Donald Trump. Maclachlan is fiercely nationalistic, and withdraws American peacekeepers from their stations around the globe, as well as pulling America out of NAFTA and the various other free trade agreements. America also pulls out of the World Bank and the IMF, and the UN is kicked out of New York. Like the real anti-Semites of the America Far Right, Maclachlan believes that the US is under ‘Israeli occupation’. Maclachlan also dismantles the country’s welfare programmes, especially those benefiting Blacks and other minorities, and starts building a wall with Mexico.

He also devises a policy to deal with America’s increasingly aging society: euthanasia chambers for the unwanted or neglected elderly. These are euphemistically called ‘Happy Booths’. There’s a very touching scene in which the last, fictitious surviving Apollo spaceman, Marcus White, is gassed to death in one of these chambers by a couple of nurses, who are every bit as malign as Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. By this time, however, White is so confused with dementia, that he is lost in the delusion that he is back as a middle-aged man at NASA in his prime, suiting up and breathing the pure oxygen in preparation for another flight to the Moon.

This is interesting, as it completely turns on its head one of the truly despicable pieces of propaganda the Republicans were running ten years ago to make sure the American public didn’t get single-payer healthcare. Instead, we had Sarah Palin and the rest of the maniacs screaming that the introduction of single-payer healthcare, where all Americans would have free medical treatment financed by the state, would lead to ‘death panels’. Palin herself made a speech about how she didn’t want her children facing them. The idea was under a socialist system, medical care would be rationed. Those individuals deemed to be a waste of state money and resources, such as the elderly, would thus be humanely killed.

It was a disgusting piece of propaganda, based partly on the murder of the disabled in Nazi Germany. The Nazis were also pro-euthanasia, producing propaganda forms with titles such as I Don’t Want to Be Born. It was also based partly on the vile views of some of the founders of the Fabian Society, particularly H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, who were very much in favour of eugenics and the sterilization of the biologically unfit.

Unfortunately, many Americans were taken in by this bilge. There was a BBC report on the truly horrific state of American healthcare, in which a clinic offering free treatment in California immediately attracted 50,000 + prospective patients. These are the 20 per cent of Americans, who couldn’t afford their private healthcare before the introduction of Obamacare. The Beeb’s reported also attracted the attention of Republican supporters, who’d believed all the rubbish they’d been fed by Palin and her stormtroopers. One of these was an elderly man, who rushed up to the Beeb’s crew and shouted ‘Your healthcare system stinks!’ When they politely asked him how so, he looked confused, and began to mutter about ‘death panels’.

There are no death panels in Britain, or anywhere else with a socialized, or state-funded medical system. As for Germany, state financing of medical treatment for the workers was introduced by Bismarck in the 1870s, nearly fifty years before the Nazis seized power. There is a problem, where dying individuals may be refused treatment of expensive and/or experimental drugs or other procedures on the NHS because the costs far exceed any chance of success. This is very much a controversial issue, as we’ve seen the past week with the parents fighting to send their dying son over to America for treatment. However, there are no death panels.

The ‘Happy Booths’ described in the book are a piece of artistic invention by Baxter. Conventional Christian morality rejects euthanasia for the same reasons it has traditionally ruled out abortion, except in certain very restricted circumstances. This is because both judge that there are certain forms of human beings, such as the unborn and the disabled, who are held not to have the same rights to life. If it is permitted to kill the disabled and the unborn, it is argued, there is a danger that the same attitude will spread to other groups also considered inferior, like the Jews and other ‘untermenschen’ in Nazi Germany. And Baxter is aware of this, as elsewhere in the book he describes how the British relative of one of the astronauts, stricken by CJD or ‘Mad Cow Disease’, is going to a euthanasia clinic even though their parents consider it unchristian.

A president dependent on the support of right-wing Christian fundamentalists would alienate a sizable part of his constituency if he did. What happens instead is that, through its hostility to state medicine and the welfare state, Republican politicians of Maclachlan’s type make it impossible for the poor, severely ill to support themselves. Hence Bernie Sanders’ chilling statistic that 50,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford private medical treatment.

This is basically the same attitude of Tory party under David Cameron and Theresa May. They have extended the sanctions system and the Work Capability Tests to make it as difficult as possible for the unemployed and the disabled to quality for state support. The result of that has been that researchers at Oxford University found that in 2015 alone, 30,000 people died through the Tories’ austerity policies. And Mike over at Vox Political reported yesterday that, according to the Skwawkbox, there’s a nasty clause in Universal Credit, which means that the claimant has to find a job in two years, or they lose their benefit.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/17/uc-gives-disabled-people-just-two-years-to-find-a-job-or-lose-everything/

This is a right-wing ‘genocide of the disabled’, as Mike, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Tom Pride and the Angry Yorkshireman have said on their blogs, and Jeffrey, one of the great commenters here, has said on this. But it’s carefully hidden. The victims aren’t actually killed, they’re simply left to die. And the few politicos, who dare to call it what it is, are denied their ability to sit in parliament.

On Friday Mike commented on a piece in the Disability News Service about Mr. Jared O’Mara, a disabled Lib Dem MP, who has called the Tories’ policies towards the disabled ‘eugenics’, and stated that they want disabled people to ‘suffer and die’. Mr. O’Mara is to be commended for the way he tried to tackle Iain Duncan Smith, the former head of the DWP and therefore the government’s chief minister responsible for implementing this policy. However, Mr. O’Mara finds it impossible to find anywhere in the House of Commons to sit during debates. There is insufficient seating for all 650 MPs, and there is no form available for disabled MPs to fill in stating that they have particular seating needs. As Mike says, this is all very suspicious.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/07/disabled-mp-accuses-tories-of-eugenics-is-that-why-they-wont-let-him-take-a-seat/

As a religious person, I can’t say I’m happy about the anti-religious stance of Titan. I went to a Christian college for my undergraduate degree, and some of the students were Creationists. I am not saying that their literalist reading of the creation story in Genesis is correct, but I have to say that they were, by and large, decent people. Those I met weren’t racists or political extremists, and I know that one or two were actually left-wing. I also can’t say that they were anti-science, outside of the very specific field of evolution. Moreover, since the election of Donald Trump there has been the emergence of a religious Left in America, something which couldn’t have been predicted when Baxter wrote the book back in the 1990s. One of the authors of the collection of articles attacking the Neo-Cons, Confronting the New Conservatism, pointed out that the Neo-Cons were not necessarily going to be politically dominant for ever. Kansas, and many of the other mid-western Republican states, had in the 1920s been centres of the Social Gospel movement, which combined Christianity and Socialism. It’s possible that as more Americans recognize how truly disgusting Trump and his party are, Christians over the other side of the Pond may return to it.

However, Trump and his administration are anti-science. The Republican party is strongly opposed to climate change, and so there has been a concerted attack on environmentalism since Trump took office. Legislation protecting America’s glorious natural heritage has been repealed, and federal scientists responsible for monitoring the environment have been effectively gagged. They may not publish any scientific papers supporting climate change, and the federal agency itself has been effectively gutted.

Titan also portrays a future suffering from global warming and catastrophic climate change, as do very many of the SF novels written during the same decade, such as Bruce Sterling’s Heavy Weather. So far Trump hasn’t wound up NASA, though I don’t doubt that the agency is still under considerable pressure to keep expenses under control. But the real harm is being done by Trump’s deliberate rejection of climate change to appease powerful donors from industry, particularly the Kochs in big oil. This denial of climate change, and that of the other world leaders, will lead to the deaths of millions worldwide. If it hasn’t already.

Tories’ IRA Smear on Corbyn Shows Even Greater Desperation

May 22, 2017

The Tories must be getting very desperate indeed with this one. After Labour jumped in the polls last week to close the gap between themselves and the Tories down to 9 points, their lapdogs in the media decided that it was time once again to raise the spectre of Jeremy Corbyn’s support for fairer conditions for the Roman Catholic people of Northern Ireland and negotiations with the IRA.

Yesterday, Sophie Ridge of Sky News asked Corbyn about his membership of the editorial board of a magazine, which published an article praising the IRA bombing of the Tory conference in a Brighton hotel in 1984.

If she was hoping to catch him out, she was severely disappointed. Corbyn replied quietly and clearly that he didn’t write the article, and wasn’t on the editorial board. He admitted reading the magazine, and contributing articles. When she tried pressing him on how he could possibly write for such a magazine, he states that he didn’t agree with that article or many others, but there were others, which he did. He then expressed his wholehearted support for the 1994 peace agreement. He also made the point that there were many things on Sky, which he didn’t agree with, and which Ridge herself probably didn’t either. But that doesn’t mean not engaging with these issues. He stated that it’s sometimes good to read articles with which you don’t agree. ‘Sometimes’ he said, ‘you might learn something.’

To watch the video, see Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/21/latest-bid-to-smear-jeremy-corbyn-fails-dismally/

Now today both the Torygraph and the Daily Heil lead with the same accusation that Corbyn supports on the IRA on their front page. That they should do so is not even remotely surprising. Both newspapers have the creeping horrors of the Labour leader. The Torygraph was one of the newspapers that tried to make the most out of the smear that he was a Trotskyite, while the Daily Mail can always be relied on for bug-eyed anti-Labour propaganda, especially if you can squeeze in a mention of the IRA.

Mike in his article also points out the immense hypocrisy in these very feeble smears. He states, quite correctly

For the record, Mr Corbyn had well-publicised talks with members of the IRA over several decades – while successive UK governments were doing the same, but in secret, while publicly claiming they never negotiated with terrorists. Who was more honest?

Maggie Thatcher initiated talks with the IRA soon after the bombing of Canary Wharf, I believe. And Mike’s quite right – the talks were extremely secret. All the while she and her government were talking to the IRA and Sinn Fein, the Leaderene was screaming at the top of her lungs that she wouldn’t negotiate with them.

Which proves the old age: ‘the Conservative party is an organised hypocrisy.’

In fact, Ted Heath had also tried negotiating with the terrorist groups in Northern Ireland back in the early 1970s when the bloodshed was just beginning. These collapsed through the intransigence of the Unionists. Heath was an awful prime minister, who tried to break the unions, and there have been allegations of paedophilia made against him since his death. But it’s a pity here that he didn’t succeed, as this would have prevented nearly three decades of murder and mutilation.

Counterpunch this morning published an article by Jamie Davidson about the allegations, and what they show about the Tory desperation to rubbish Corbyn. Davidson does not agree with Corbyn’s stance towards the IRA in the 1980s. He recognises the terrible injustices which the Roman Catholic population of the Six Counties suffered, and the way the Unionist domination of the province was secured through massive gerrymandering. But he believes Corbyn conceded too much to the IRA through supporting their goal of a united Ireland and his association with Sinn Fein. He also states that Corbyn supported the Provisional IRA’s campaign of violence. I don’t know if the latter’s true.

But he states that these allegations surfaced yesterday when MI5 leaked a report to the Sunday Torygraph showing that they had kept a file on him because of his pro-IRA sympathies. Davidson states that this hardly singles Corbyn out as anything special, as vast numbers of people on the rest were under surveillance and harassment by the secret state and its allies. He makes the point that what has moved the Torygraph and the rest of the right-wing media to start making these accusations is the massive support large number of voters, even Tory voters, have for Labour’s polices, even if they don’t like the party’s leader. He writes

It’s also in this context that I found myself convinced to wholeheartedly back Corbyn as well as Labour today. It’s simply no longer practical to try to stay above the fray. What pushed me over the edge was yesterday’s report in the Daily Telegraph, leaked to them by an MI5 source, that the intelligence agency kept a file on Corbyn in the 1980s due to his IRA links. These links are, as mentioned, a matter of public record. There is no new information, besides the fact that Corbyn was under surveillance, which anybody who knows anything about British left-wing organisations and the scandalous level of harrassment they received from the state in the 1980s would have expected anyway. What is interesting and important here is the fact that an MI5 source felt the need to say this to the press at all. The Labour Party has trailed the Conservatives by double digits in every serious poll conducted since Corbyn became leader. The entire weight of the British media, both conservative and “liberal”, has been thrown behind the campaign to discredit not just Corbyn but the policies he supports, with great success. Though Labour has seen a bounce in the polls since the Prime Minister called a snap general election, as Corbyn has come into his own, campaigning amongst the public, while Theresa May has revealed herself to be by turns awkward, inept, vicious and deceitful, it is still inconceivable that the Conservatives won’t win and increase their majority on election day. So it is worth asking why anyone would consider it necessary to warn the public, again, about Corbyn’s past. The answer, I think, lies in that bounce in the polls.

He also talks about another piece of massive hypocrisy about which you’ll rarely hear the Tories reproached. Also in the 1980s, Maggie Thatcher supported the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, to the point of sending the SAS in to aid them.

That this kind of state power is never directed against conservative politicians probably scarcely needs to be said, but let’s explore it anyway. When Corbyn became an MP in 1983, at which point he already supported the IRA’s political aims, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. Around this time, Thatcher was sending SAS squads to camps on the Thailand-Cambodia border, where they trained the exiled Khmer Rouge forces in laying mines and booby-traps in civilian areas. She insisted that the Khmer Rouge keep its seat at the UN as the official, internationally recognised government of Cambodia. By this point, the extent of the Khmer Rouge’s actions when they controlled Cambodia was widely known. Around a million people are thought to have been executed by the regime and another million killed by famine. I expect that I could stop 100 British people on the streets of London and tell them about the time that a Conservative Prime Minister supported a supposedly communist regime, thought to have killed two million people, and if I could count the number of people who knew about it on more than one hand I would be astonished. It simply isn’t part of the wider national discourse. Nor is her support for Saddam Hussein. Nor is the fact that the current Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, has admitted that “the vast majority of these opposition groups [which Britain supports in Syria] are Islamist”.4

The very real anti-imperialist credentials of the Vietnamese communists constituted a potential disaster for western hegemony. Why Thatcher favoured the Khmer Rouge over the Vietnamese liberators of Cambodia should be obvious to anybody; given a choice between the two, a capitalist will always side with the worse of two “socialists”, in the hope of spreading news of the system’s inherent horrors as widely as possible. Readers must ask themselves why right-wing figures are permitted to take this stance without damage to their reputation, even after the true horrors committed by their chosen ally are known, while left-wing figures who gave the same ally the benefit of the doubt before the truth was known are condemned to eternal criticism. The truth is that the left is never permitted the defence of pragmatism when it comes to working with unsavoury characters towards a particular political end. The right always is. This disparity is accepted more or less wholesale in Britain, for reasons that aren’t necessarily to do gullibility. I think that the British people implicitly recognise that the hypocrisy at the centre of our political life is absurd, it’s simply that they quite reasonably expect better from Labour. The next step is convincing them to expect nothing from the Conservatives. (My emphasis).

See http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/22/red-terror-anti-corbynism-and-double-standards/

So the Telegraph and Heil are quite outraged at the thought that Corbyn might have supported negotiations with the Republican paramilitaries in Ulster, while quite unconcerned about Maggie’s real, material support of brutal organisation that murdered two million people.

This not only shows their hypocrisy, it also shows their willingness to support regimes responsible for death and suffering on an almost unimaginable scale, if this support is organised by a Tory heroine of free markets and destroying the welfare state.

Uri Avnery on Trump and Israel’s Anti-Semitic Zionists

May 9, 2017

The accusation that Ken Livingstone is a anti-Semite is partly based on his historically accurate statement that there was initially an agreement between the Zionists, or at least, some of them, and the Nazi party, to take Jews out of Nazi Germany and smuggle them into Palestine, then under the British Mandate. This was when sections of the Nazis didn’t care where Jews went, so long as they weren’t in Germany. It’s the Haavara agreement, and is recorded fact. There is an entry for it on the website of the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Israel. The agreement didn’t last very long. Nevertheless, it existed. And at the end of last year, Uri Avnery, an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom, wrote a piece in Counterpunch describing other collaborations between Zionists and anti-Semites.

His article was a response to Netanyahu’s reaction to a UN motion condemning Israel for its expansionism and maltreatment of the Palestinians. The UN had attempted to have similar motions passed many times before, but had been blocked by the US, using its veto. This time Barack Obama had not blocked it, and the motion had passed.

Netanyahu was furious. He withdrew Israeli ambassadors from Senegal and New Zealand, nations that have always been friend to Israel, called in foreign ambassadors to upbraid them, and generally ranted and raved.

Avnery states that while it was monumentally stupid on a diplomatic level, it was a very astute move domestically. It allowed Netanyahu to present himself as the virtuous defender of his nation, another David pitted against the Goliath of the UN. He makes the point that Jews and Israelis have taken a perverse satisfaction from the rest of the world’s opposition to them. In his view

For some reason, Jews derive satisfaction from a world-wide condemnation. It affirms what we have known all the time: that all the nations of the world hate us. It shows how special and superior we are. It has nothing to do with our own behavior, God forbid. It is just pure anti-Semitism.

As an example of this bizarre mentality, back in the days of Golda Meir one of the Israeli army’s dance band used to play a tune with the lyrics ‘The whole world is against us/ But we don’t give a damn…’

He goes on to say that the establishment of the state of Israel was supposed to put an end to this, by making Israel a normal country. But it hasn’t. He goes on to observe how Donald Trump has sent a rabidly right-wing Jewish American to Israel as his representative, a man so right-wing he makes Netanyahu seem liberal, while also appointing as one of his closest aides an anti-Semitic White racist. He states that Trump can support both anti-Semites and Zionists simultaneously as both have the same goal of taking Jews out of their historic homelands and relocating them in Israel.

He states that Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, tried the same tactic with the anti-Semites of Tsarist Russia. Herzl offered to persuade the Jews to emigrate, if the Russians helped them. This was during the horrific pogroms of the late 19th century. it didn’t quite work as Herzl wanted, as the Jewish emigrants largely went to America, not Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

He also gives as an example of such anti-Semitic Zionism the British and American evangelicals, who preached that the Jews should return to Israel. This was before the foundation of the Zionist movement proper, though he suggests it may have served as one of the inspirations for it. These evangelicals did so in the belief that the return of the Jews to their ancestral homeland would result in the Second Coming of Christ. This would be followed by the conversion of a minority of Jews to Christianity. Those, who did not convert, would be destroyed.

Later other members of the Zionist movement cooperated with anti-Semites in Poland and Nazi-occupied Europe. 1939 the extreme Zionist leader, Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky approached the anti-Semitic commanders of the Polish army with a similar deal to the Haavara Agreement. If they took on and trained Jews, the Zionists would send them to Palestine to liberate the country from the British, and the Jews would then leave Poland to emigrate there. This plan collapsed after the Nazi invasion.

During the War, but before the Holocaust, Abraham Stern, the founder of the Irgun, approached Adolf Hitler through an intermediary in neutral Turkey, offering to aid the Nazis against the British. Hitler didn’t reply.

Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer in charge of the deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz also attempted to make a number of deals with the Zionists. Eichmann approached Israel Kastner and his group in Budapest. If the allies gave the Nazis a thousand trucks, he would halt the deportations. As a good will gesture, he allowed a few hundred Jews to escape to Switzerland. Kastner sent Yoel Brand as his messenger to the Zionist leadership in Jerusalem. However, he caught by the British and so the deportation and extermination of Hungarian Jews continued.

Netanyahu’s right-wing minister of defence, Avigdor Lieberman, also went berserk at the French plan to convene a meeting to secure a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in Paris. Avnery notes that the French plan was almost identical with one he and his friend published in 1957. Lieberman, however, went off ranting that it was the notorious Dreyfus Affair all over again, referring to the case in which a Jewish officer in the French army was court-martialed and sent to Devil’s Island on trumped up charges motivated by his accuser’s anti-Semitism.

Despite the French offer of a peaceful settlement, the Israelis still want Trump, with the Zionists and anti-Semites in his administration, to support them.

See http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/30/trump-and-israels-anti-semitic-zionists/

Richard Falk: Another Pro-Palestinian Scholar Smeared as an Anti-Semite

May 9, 2017

Another week, another decent person smeared by the ultra-Zionists as an anti-Semite.

Another decent, self-respecting Jew smeared as ‘self-hating’.

This time, the victim of the smears was Richard Falk, the Albert G. Milbank emeritus professor of international law at Princeton, and Visiting Distinguished Professor in global and international studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Professor Falk describes his experience of Ultra-Zionist abuse and harassment in an article in Monday’s Counterpunch. He had just had his book, Palestine’s Horizon: Towards a Just Peace, published by Pluto Press a few weeks ago, and was on a speaking tour about his book of universities in England and Scotland. The book was published at the same time the UN issued a report concluding that Israel was indeed an apartheid state. This led to such a campaign by the special snowflakes of Zionism against Professor Falk, that the universities of East London and Middlesex cancelled his visits for reasons of health and security. He states that one factor in their decision may have been the highly disruptive behaviour adopted by the Ultra-Zionists when he gave an earlier talk at the LSE.

He states that he had never previously had universities cancel his visits, even though considerable pressure had been exerted on them to do so. And in addition, he suffered personal attacks on him as ‘anti-Semitic’ and ‘self-hating’.

Back in the US, the Zionists attempted to prevent his book selling by writing negative reviews about it on Amazon. He went on Facebook to encourage his friends to write positive reviews of the book. The Ultra-Zionists then resorted simply to writing one or two sentence attacks on the book, which just attacked it without even engaging with the content of the book itself.

This again, was a new tactic to him. He describes it as

‘an innovative version of digital book burning, and while not as vivid visually as a bonfire, its vindictive intentions are the same.’

He states that beyond the attacks on him and his book there is a wider campaign by Israel against its critics, including the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement, defying UN NGOs, banning foreign tourists from visiting Gaza or the West Bank, and smearing the country’s critics as ant-Semites. As part of this campaign, the entire body of US senators sent a letter to Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, demanding a new, friendlier approach to Israel, an attitude Professor Falk describes as ‘arrogant’ and ‘blue-washing’.

He states that Israel has now embarked on a war of cultural aggression, aided by groups such as UN Watch, GO Monitor and AIPAC, aided by ‘flame-throwing militants’ at street level who resort to symbolic forms of violence. This sets a very dangerous precedent and is profoundly anti-democratic as it is leading government to close down debate on policies affecting the lives of a long oppressed people.

Professor Falk concludes

There are two further dimensions of these developments worth pondering: (1) In recent years Israel has been losing the Legitimacy War being waged by the Palestinians, what Israeli think tanks call ‘the delegitimation project,’ and these UN bashing and personal smears are the desperate moves of a defeated adversary in relation to the moral and legal dimensions of the Palestinian struggle for rights. In effect, the Israeli government and its support groups have given up almost all efforts to respond substantively, and concentrate their remaining ammunition on wounding messengers who bear witness and doing their best to weaken the authority and capabilities of the UN so as to discredit substantive initiatives; (2) while this pathetic spectacle sucks the oxygen from responses of righteous indignation, attention is diverted from the prolonged ordeal of suffering that has long been imposed on the Palestinian people as a result of Israel’s unlawful practices and policies, as well as its crimes against humanity, in the form of apartheid, collective punishment, ethnic cleansing, and many others. The real institutional scandal is not that the UN is obsessed with Israel but rather that it is blocked from taking action that might exert sufficient pressure on Israel to induce the dismantling of apartheid structures relied upon to subjugate, displace, and dispossess the Palestinian people over the course of more than 70 years with no end in sight.

See http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/08/israels-new-cultural-war-of-aggression/

This is precisely right. And it hasn’t just happened to Professor Falk, as we’ve seen. The Israel lobby’s determination to stop any criticism of their country’s oppression and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians, and their support for the Blairites in the Labour party, were behind the spate of anti-Semitism accusations against Labour members and activists last year, including Ken Livingstone. Mike’s defence of those unfairly accused has seen him also vilified and suspended from the Labour party on the utterly spurious and contemptible accusation that he is an ‘anti-Semite’.

He isn’t. Neither are the people he defended. Many of them were convinced anti-racists, and included Jews, who had suffered real assault and intimidation because of their ethnicity, and gentiles, who had suffered the same for their solidarity with their Jewish friends and comrades.

As Professor Falk makes clear, this is all part of a campaign to prevent proper debate and scrutiny of Israel, and give the Palestinians the peace and justice they deserve.

In the meantime, I find it shameful that British universities have caved in to this foul bullying. Just as it is repulsive and abhorrent that decent people are being slandered as anti-Semites.

I cannot say that I’m entirely surprised by Prof. Falk’s statement that in their cultural war against his book, the Ultra-Zionists had to resort to writing one or two lines, which didn’t engage with the book at all. My impression of the Zionists waging this war is that they’re not just moral pygmies, but also stunted intellectually. They can’t refute what their critics are writing, and so their only recourse is abuse and misrepresentation.

Mike has asked the police to investigate those, who have libelled him, including the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Zionist front group responsible for the smear. There is also a petition by Tony Greenstein urging the Charity Commissioner to strip them of their charitable status on Change.org. Mr Greenstein states that the CAA provides no public benefit and only smears critics of Israel, while having little or nothing to say about the real Fascists and anti-Semites running amok. Mike has a link to the petition on his blog post discussing the libel and deselection: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/06/no-council-seat-for-vox-political-writer-because-of-politically-motivated-interference/

Vox Political: Stripped of Soundbites, May Has Nothing to Say

May 2, 2017

Theresa May receiving her programming at Tory Central Office.

Mike also put up a piece on Sunday after May’s appearance on the Andrew Marr show, pointing out how abysmal she was. Far from being an articulate, cogent speaker, May can only talk in specially prepared soundbites. Without them, she has absolutely nothing to say.

Before he began the interview, Marr asked her not speak in soundbites. She couldn’t. The first thing she said when she opened her mouth was the prepared line that this was the most important election the country had faced in her lifetime. Which is a line that has been repeated ad nauseam. She then went on to repeat the line about being ‘strong and stable’.

After more of this nonsense, Marr commented that people can listen to these statements ‘and think they’re a bit robotic’.

May’s response to that: a pause, then back to strong and stable leadership. Mike remarked to me later over the phone that she was so robotic, people were suggesting that she should line up for the Turing test. You know, the one which tests AIs to see if they can pass for human. By this evidence, May would probably fail.

Without her make-up backstage at the BBC

Mike also reblogs some of the comments about her performance, such as Martin Odoni’s remark that she couldn’t even handle Marr’s gentle guidance not to speak in soundbites. Within 30 seconds, she was on autopilot.

Indeed.

More seriously, May repeated the lie about people not going to food banks because they’re starving. Marr made the simple statement that it must be wrong for nurses to have to go to food banks.

May replied that there are many complex reasons why people go to food banks.

No, there’s only one: they don’t have any food because they are too poor to buy it.

But the Tories have been denying this obvious fact ever since food banks became an independent indicator outside their control of the amount of real, grinding poverty in Britain. And outside them, the UN estimates 8 million Brits live in ‘food insecure’ households. That means that they literally don’t know when their next meal is.

Another commenter, Dylan’s World, said it all:

“Couldn’t answer the question about food banks. A party of the rich, for the rich. Disgusting.”

Kenneth Surin on Media Bias, and the Tories Feasting while Millions Starve

April 21, 2017

Kenneth Surin, one of the contributors to Counterpunch, has written a piece giving his analysis of the obstacles facing Jeremy Corbyn in his battle with the right-wing media, the Blairites, and the Tories. He points out that the tabloids, with the exception of the Mirror, are solidly right-wing, or owned by the very rich, who will naturally be biased towards the Tories. The Groaniad is centre, or centre-left, but its hacks are largely Blairites, who will attack Corbyn. He suggests that some of this vilification comes from the fact that Corbyn is not a ‘media-age’ politicians, but speaks as ordinary people do, rather than in soundbites. He makes the point that the Tories have copied Blair in trying to promote a Thatcherism without Thatcher’s scowls and sneers, and so Labour has no chance electorally if it decides to promote the capitalist status quo. He notes that Labour lost Scotland to the SNP, partly because the SNP placed itself as rather more Social Democratic than Labour. As for Labour ‘rust-belt’ heartlands in the Midlands and North of England, he thinks their dejected electorates now find UKIP and its White nationalism more palatable. He also states that the less educated working class, abandoned by Labour’s careerist politicians, also find UKIP more acceptable.

He suggests that if Labour wants to win, it should have the courage to abandon Thatcherism, and also attack the millionaires that invaded the party during Blair’s and Miliband’s periods as leader. These, like the Cameron’s Chipping Norton set, are obscenely rich when 8 million people in this country live in ‘food-insecure households’. And he goes into detail describing just what luxurious they’re eating and drinking too, far beyond anyone else’s ability to afford. Artisanal gin, anyone?

He also recommends that Labour should embrace Brexit, as this would allow the country to get rid of the massive hold a corrupt financial sector has on the country.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/20/the-uk-general-election-corbyns-vilification-and-labours-possible-fight/

I agree with many of his points, but profoundly disagree on others. Promoting Brexit won’t break the dead hand of the financial sector over this country. Quite the opposite. It’s being promoted by the financial sector because it will allow them to consolidate their stranglehold on the British economy by making the country an offshore tax haven for plutocratic crims.

I also think he overestimates the electoral strength of UKIP. Since Brexit, they’ve been on their way down and out. Many of the people, who’ve voted Leave have since been aghast that they won. They only wanted to give the establishment a nasty shock. They did not really want to leave Europe. Also, UKIP at heart was a single-issue party. Alan Sked founded them to oppose European federalism. Now that the Leave campaign succeeded – sort of – they’re struggling to get votes, and have been going through leaders as though it was going out of fashion. They have tried to pick up votes through some very unpleasant racist and Islamophobic policies and statements by their leading members. This has contributed to a disgusting rise in racist incidents. However, UKIP’s electoral base tend to be those aged 50 and over. The younger generations are much less racist and prejudiced against gays. Please note: I realise that this is a generalisation, and that you can find racist youngsters, and anti-racist senior citizens. Indeed, it was the older generation that did much to change attitudes to race and sexuality in this country. So the demographics are against UKIP. Racism and White nationalism also won’t save them from defeat, at least, I hope. The blatantly racist parties – the BNP, NF, British Movement and the rest of the scum – failed to attract anything like the number of votes or members to be anything other than fringe parties, often with trivial numbers of members. One of the contributors to Lobster, who did his doctorate on the British Far Right after the 1979 election, suggested that the NF only had about 2000 members, of whom only 200 were permanent. Most of the people, who joined them were only interested in cracking down on immigration, not in the intricacies of Fascist ideology. Also, many right-wingers, who would otherwise have supported them, were put off by their violence and thuggery. One of the Tories, who briefly flirted with them in the early ’70s quickly returned to the Tory party, appalled at their violence. Since then, the numbers of people in the extreme right have continued to decline. As for UKIP, even in their heyday, their strength was greatly – and probably deliberately – exaggerated. Mike and others have shown that at the time the Beeb and the rest of the media were falling over themselves to go on about how wonderful UKIP were, they were actually polling less than the Greens.

But I agree with Surin totally when it comes to throwing out once and for all Thatcherism and its vile legacy of poverty and humiliation. He’s right about the bias of the media, and the massive self-indulgence of the Chipping Norton set.

Surin writes

The context for analyzing this election must first acknowledge that the UK’s media is overwhelmingly rightwing.

Only one tabloid, The Daily Mirror, avoids hewing to rightwingery.

Of the others, The Sun is owned by the foreigner Rupert Murdoch, known in the UK for good reasons as the “Dirty Digger”.

The Nazi-supporting and tax-dodging Rothermere family have long owned The Daily Mail.

Richard “Dirty Des” Desmond (the former head of a soft porn empire) owns The Daily Express.

A Russian oligarch owns The Evening Standard.

Of the so-called “quality” newspapers, only The Guardian is remotely centrist or centre-left.

All the other “quality” papers are owned by the right-wingers or those on the centre-right.

Murdoch owns The Times, basically gifted to him by Thatcher, who bypassed the usual regulatory process regarding media monopolies to bestow this gift. The Times, which used to be known in bygone days as “The Old Thunderer”, is now just a slightly upmarket tabloid.

The tax-dodging Barclay brothers own The Daily Telegraph.

Another Russian oligarch owns The Independent.

The BBC, terrified by the not so subtle Tory threats to sell it off to Murdoch, and undermined editorially by these threats, is now basically a mouthpiece of the Tories.

This situation has, in the main, existed for a long time.

The last left-wing leader of the Labour party, Michael Foot, was ruthlessly pilloried by the right-wing media in the early 1980s for all sorts of reasons (including the somewhat less formal, but very presentable, jacket he wore at the Cenotaph ceremony on Remembrance Sunday).

Every Labour leader since then, with exception of Tony Blair, has been undermined by the UK’s media. Blair’s predecessor, Neil Kinnock, was derided endlessly by the media (“the Welsh windbag”, etc), even though he took Labour towards the right and effectively prepared the ground for Blair and Brown’s neoliberal “New Labour”.

***
Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, has been vilified ever since he was elected as party leader by a percentage higher than that achieved by Blair when he was elected leader (59.5% versus Blair’s 57% in 1994).

The disparagement and backbiting of Corbyn has, alas, come from the Blairite remnant in his party as much as it has come from the Conservatives and their megaphones in the media.

But while this is to be expected, a powerful source of anti-Corbyn vituperation has been The Guardian, supposedly the most liberal UK newspaper. Its journalists– most notably Polly Toynbee, Jonathan Freedland, Suzanne Moore, Anne Perkins, and Owen Jones– have done as much as Murdoch to undermine Corbyn.

To some extent this viciousness on the part of the Blairite faction, and its media acolytes, is understandable. Corbyn, who voted against the war in Iraq, believes Blair should be in the dock of the international court at The Hague for war crimes. The Conservatives, always a war-loving party, want no such thing for Blair, even though he defeated them in 3 general elections. Blair however is a closet Conservative.
***
Labour needs to go on the attack, on two fronts especially.

The first is Thatcher’s baleful legacy, entrenched by her successors, which has been minimal economic growth, widespread wage stagnation, widening inequality as income has been transferred upwards from lower-tiered earners, mounting household debt, and the extensive deindustrialization of formerly prosperous areas.

At the same time, the wealthy have prospered mightily. Contrast the above-mentioned aspect of Thatcher’s legacy with the world of Dodgy Dave Cameron’s “Chipping Norton” social set, as described by Michael Ashcroft (a former Cameron adviser who fell out with Dodgy Dave) in his hatchet-job biography of Cameron. The following is quoted in Ian Jack’s review of Call Me Dave: “Theirs is a world of helicopters, domestic staff, summers in St Tropez and fine food from Daylesford, the organic farm shop owned by Lady Carole Bamford”.

The Tories and their supporters are partying away as a class war is being waged, and Labour has been too timid in bringing this contrast to the attention of the electorate: the Chipping Norton set feasts on Lady Carole’s organic smoked venison and artisanal gin (available to the online shopper at https://daylesford.com/), while UN data (in 2014) indicates that more than 8 million British people live in food-insecure households.

“New” Labour did have a credibility problem when it came to doing this– Ed Miliband had at least 7 millionaires in his shadow cabinet, and another 13 in his group of advisers. So, a fair number of Labour supporters are likely to be connoisseurs of Lady Carole’s luxury food items in addition to the usual bunch of Tory toffs.

The austere Corbyn (he is a vegetarian and prefers his bicycle and public transport to limousines) is less enamoured of the high life, in which case the credibility problem might not be such a big issue.

Organic, artisanal food, holidays in St. Tropez, helicopters, smoked venison – all this consumed at the same time as Dave and his chums were claiming that ‘we’re all in it together’. We weren’t. We never were.

And remember – many members of the media, including people like Jeremy Clarkson, were part of the Chipping Norton set. And some of the BBC presenters are paid very well indeed. Like John Humphries, who tweeted about how he was afraid Labour was ‘going to punish the rich.’

As he is benefitting from a massive shift in the tax burden from the rich to the poor, it’s fair to say that he, and the wealthy class of which he is a part, are literally feasting at the poor’s expense. Furthermore, the affluent middle and upper classes actually use more of the state’s resources than the poor. So Labour would not be ‘punishing the rich’ if they increased their share of the tax burden. They’d only be requiring them to pay their whack.

Jimmy Dore Show: Putin Refutes Western Media Lies about Syrian Gas Attack

April 19, 2017

This is another video from the Jimmy Dore Show, in which the comedian tackles and refutes the lie promoted by the American government and its lackeys in the mainstream media, that Assad was responsible for the terrible sarin poison gas attack on Khan Shaykhun last week. He begins by showing how long ago the Americans and the West were manoeuvring for regime change in Syria with a clip from an interview between Susan Amanpour and President Bashar on CNN from 2005. Amanpour states that the Americans are trying to isolate him, are organising meetings with his enemies and opposition groups, and she states baldly that they are aiming at ‘regime change’, before asking him how he feels about that. This was after Iraq, and Dore makes the point that it was almost like General Wesley Clarke said when he stated that the Americans wanted to take out seven countries, including Iraq, Iran, Somalia, and Syria. Dore goes on to make the point that this is not about fighting terrorism, but about putting an oil pipeline through Assad’s country, which Assad does not want.

He then shows a clip of Putin answering the media’s questions about whether Assad was responsible for the attack. Putin responds clearly, correctly stating that Assad had the rebels surrounded and is on the verge of victory. Why would he throw this away by enraging the international community with a chemical weapons attack, especially when a UN observer was in the country. He states that it looks like it was staged to draw other countries into the war. As for the claim by our American friends – his words – that they have evidence Assad was responsible, let them show this to the UN. If they do, then they’ll have proved it. If they don’t, then there is no evidence at all.

Dore goes on to make the point that the pretext for western military intervention in Syria is rubbish. The West doesn’t care about murdered babies. We have killed a million innocents in Iraq and bombed hospitals. But you won’t see this reported on MSNBC or CNN, or the New York Times, as they are all pro-War. As it Rachel Maddow and other supposedly leftwing broadcasters shilling for the regime. This is what the military-industrial complex wants, and it doesn’t matter who’s in power. Trump campaigned on getting American troops out of Afghanistan. Now he’s in power, that’s all vanished. Just like people’s hopes of ending the wars with the election of Barack Obama. You vote for a Black man with a Muslim name, you get more war. You vote for a billionaire orange racist rightwinger, you get more war. It doesn’t matter, who the American people vote for, they get the same militaristic policies – policies that are promoted by the lies of the mainstream media.

Dore’s absolutely right, as is Putin. The Russian leader is a thug and an autocrat. His regime is credibly linked to the murder of opposition politicians, including the defector Litvinenko here in Britain. Those journalists, who dare to write or broadcast something Putin doesn’t like, are beaten and intimidated. But that does not mean that Putin here is not speaking the truth. He is. This has nothing to do with humanitarianism, and everything to do with the geopolitics of oil.

Today Is International Women’s Day

March 8, 2017

It’s International Women’s Day today. According to Wikipedia, it was first started by the Socialist Party of America, who held the first Women’s Day in New York on February 28th, 1909. Following a suggestion by Luise Zietz at an International Women’s Conference in August 1910, it was then celebrated the next year in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. It then spread to the Russian Empire, and became a formal day of celebration under Lenin and Alexandra Kollontai after the Bolshevik coup. It was then celebrated mostly by the Communist countries until 1975, when the UN inaugurated International Women’s Day.

The Wikipedia article gives its history as follows

The earliest organized Women’s Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York. It was organized by the Socialist Party of America in remembrance of the 1908 strike of the International Ladies Garment Worker’s Union.[3] There was no strike on March 8, despite later claims.[5]

In August 1910, an International Women’s Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark.[6] Inspired in part by the American socialists, German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual International Woman’s Day (singular) and was seconded by fellow socialist and later communist leader Clara Zetkin, although no date was specified at that conference.[7][8] Delegates (100 women from 17 countries) agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights including suffrage for women.[9] The following year on March 19, 1911 IWD was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.[3] In the Austro-Hungarian Empire alone, there were 300 demonstrations.[7] In Vienna, women paraded on the Ringstrasse and carried banners honouring the martyrs of the Paris Commune.[7] Women demanded that they be given the right to vote and to hold public office. They also protested against employment sex discrimination.[2] Americans continued to celebrate National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February.[7]

Although there were some women-led strikes, marches, and other protests in the years leading up to 1914, none of them happened on March 8.[5] In 1914 International Women’s Day was held on March 8, possibly because that day was a Sunday, and now it is always held on March 8 in all countries.[5] The 1914 observance of the Day in Germany was dedicated to women’s right to vote, which German women did not win until 1918.[5][10]

In London there was a march from Bow to Trafalgar Square in support of women’s suffrage on March 8, 1914. Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square.[11]

In 1917 demonstrations marking International Women’s Day in Petrograd, Russia, on the last Thursday in February (which fell on March 8 on the Gregorian calendar) initiated the February Revolution.[2] Women in Saint Petersburg went on strike that day for “Bread and Peace” – demanding the end of World War I, an end to Russian food shortages, and the end of czarism.[5] Leon Trotsky wrote, “23 February (8th March) was International Woman’s Day and meetings and actions were foreseen. But we did not imagine that this ‘Women’s Day’ would inaugurate the revolution. Revolutionary actions were foreseen but without date. But in morning, despite the orders to the contrary, textile workers left their work in several factories and sent delegates to ask for support of the strike… which led to mass strike… all went out into the streets.”[5]

Following the October Revolution, the Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai and Vladimir Lenin made it an official holiday in the Soviet Union, but it was a working day until 1965. On May 8, 1965 by the decree of the USSR Presidium of the Supreme Soviet International Women’s Day was declared a non-working day in the USSR “in commemoration of the outstanding merits of Soviet women in communistic construction, in the defense of their Fatherland during the Great Patriotic War, in their heroism and selflessness at the front and in the rear, and also marking the great contribution of women to strengthening friendship between peoples, and the struggle for peace. But still, women’s day must be celebrated as are other holidays.”

From its official adoption in Soviet Russia following the Revolution in 1917 the holiday was predominantly celebrated in communist countries and by the communist movement worldwide. It was celebrated by the communists in China from 1922, and by Spanish communists in 1936.[7] After the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949 the state council proclaimed on December 23 that March 8 would be made an official holiday with women in China given a half-day off.[12]

The United Nations began celebrating in International Women’s Day in the International Women’s Year, 1975. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.[13]

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day ‘Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030’. The article then explains

In a message in support of International Women’s Day, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres commented on how women’s rights were being “reduced, restricted and reversed”. With men still in leadership positions and a widening economic gender gap, he called for change “by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world”.

A few weeks ago The Young Turks released the news that the organisers of the Women’s Marches in America were planning a Women’s General Strike against Trump. I don’t know if this is actually taking place, but there are a number of articles about it in today’s I newspaper. Including a report that the veteran feminist, Gloria Steinem, has called Trump a ‘walking violation of women’s rights’. Which is true, unfortunately.

So I’d like to give my best wishes to all the females readers of this blog on this special day.

William Blum on the Abortive Prosecution of NATO Leaders for War Crimes in Yugoslavia

February 27, 2017

Many people would like to see Tony Blair indicted for war crimes for his part in the illegal invasion and carnage inflicted on Iraq and its people. This isn’t the first time there has been serious consideration of putting the former British premier in the dock for crimes against humanity. In one section of his book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, William Blum describes the attempt by Canadian human rights activists, along with their fellows from the UK, Greece and the American Association of Jurists in March 1999 to have 68 leaders , including Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, William Cohen, the Canadian PM, Jean Chretien, and the NATO officials Javier Solana, Wesley Clark and Jamie Shea, brought before the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes against the Serbs during the war in the former Yugoslavia. This collapsed, as the court’s prosecutor, Louise Arbour, was frankly biased towards NATO, and the efforts by her successor, Carla Del Ponte were successfully stymied by NATO leaders. Blum writes:

Yugoslavia – another war-crimes trial that will never be

Beginning about two weeks after the US-inspired and led NATO bombing of Yugoslavia began in March, 1999, international-law professionals from Canada, the United Kingdom, Greece, and the American Association of Jurists began to file complaints with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands, charging leaders of NATO countries and officials of NATO itself with crimes similar to those for which the Tribunal had issued indictments shortly before against Serbian leaders. Amongst the charges filed by the law professionals were: “grave violations of international humanitarian law”, including “wilful killing, wilfully causing great suffering and serious injury to body and health, employment of poisonous weapons and other weapons to cause unnecessary suffering, wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, unlawful attacks on civilian objects, devastation not necessitated by military objectives, attacks on undefended buildings and dwellings, destruction and wilful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion, charity and education, the arts and sciences.”

The Canadian suit named 68 leaders, including William Clinton, Madeleine Albright, William Cohen, Tony Blair, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, and NATO officials Javier Solana, Wesley Clark, and Jamie Shea. The complaint also alleged “open violation” of the United Nations Charter, the NATO treaty itself, the Geneva Conventions, and the Principles of International Law Recognized by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.

The complaint was submitted along with a considerable amount of evidence to support the charges. The evidence makes the key point that it was NATO’s bombing campaign which had given rise to the bulk of the deaths in Yugoslavia, provoked most of the Serbian atrocities, created an environmental disaster, and left a dangerous legacy of unexploded depleted uranium and cluster bombs.

In June, some of the complainants met in The Hague with the court’s chief prosecutor, Louise Arbour of Canada. Although she cordially received their brief in person, along with three thick volumes of evidence documenting the alleged war crimes, nothing of substance came of the meeting, despite repeated follow-up submissions and letters by the plaintiffs. In November, Arbour’s successor, Carla Del Ponte of Switzerland, also met with some of the complainants and received extensive evidence.

The complainants’ brief in November pointed out that the prosecution of those named by them was “not only a requirement of law, it is a requirement of justice to the victims and of deterrence to powerful countries such as those in NATO who, in their military might and in their control over the media, are lacking in any other natural restraint such as might deter less powerful countries.” Charging the war’s victors, not only its losers, it was argued, would be a watershed in international criminal law.

In one of the letters to Arbour, Michael Mandel, a professor of law in Toronto and the initiator of the Canadian suit, stated:

Unfortunately, as you know, many doubts have already been raised about the impartiality of your Tribunal. In the early days of the conflict, after a formal and, in our view, justified complaint against NATO leaders had been laid before it by members of the Faculty of Law of Belgrade University, you appeared at a press conference with one of the accused, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who made a great show of handing you a dossier of Serbian war crimes. In early May, you appeared at another press conference with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, by that time herself the subject of two formal complaints of war crimes over the targeting of civilians in Yugoslavia. Albright publicly announced at that time that the US was the major provider of funds for the Tribunal and that it had pledged even more money to it. 14

Arbour herself made little attempt to hide the pro-NATO bias she wore beneath her robe. She trusted NATO to be its own police, judge, jury, and prison guard. In a year in which General Pinochet was still under arrest, which was giving an inspiring lift to the cause of international law and justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, under Arbour’s leadership, ruled that for the Great Powers it would be business as usual, particularly the Great Power that was most vulnerable to prosecution, and which, coincidentally, paid most of her salary. Here are her own words:

I am obviously not commenting on any allegations of violations of international humanitarian law supposedly perpetrated by nationals of NATO countries. I accept the assurances given by NATO leaders that they intend to conduct their operations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in full compliance with international humanitarian law. I have reminded many of them, when the occasion presented itself, of their obligation to conduct fair and open-minded investigations of any possible deviance from that policy, and of the obligation of commanders to prevent and punish, if required. 15

NATO Press Briefing, May 16, 1999:

Question: Does NATO recognize Judge Arbour’s jurisdiction over their activities?

Jamie Shea: I think we have to distinguish between the theoretical and the practical. I believe that when Justice Arbour starts her investigation [of the Serbs], she will because we will allow her to. … NATO countries are those that have provided the finance to set up the Tribunal, we are amongst the majority financiers.

The Tribunal – created in 1993, with the US as the father, the Security Council as the mother, and Madeleine Albright as the midwife – also relies on the military assets of the NATO powers to track down and arrest the suspects it tries for war crimes.

There appeared to be no more happening with the complaint under Del Ponte than under Arbour, but in late December, in an interview with The Observer of London, Del Ponte was asked if she was prepared to press charges against NATO personnel. She replied: “If I am not willing to do that, I am not in the right place. I must give up my mission.”

The Tribunal then announced that it had completed a study of possible NATO crimes, which Del Ponte was examining, and that the study was an appropriate response to public concerns about NATO’s tactics. “It is very important for this tribunal to assert its authority over any and all authorities to the armed conflict within the former Yugoslavia.”

Was this a sign from heaven that the new millennium was going to be one of more equal justice? Could this really be?

No, it couldn’t. From official quarters, military and civilian, of the United States and Canada, came disbelief, shock, anger, denials … “appalling” … “unjustified”. Del Ponte got the message. Her office quickly issued a statement: “NATO is not under investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. There is no formal inquiry into the actions of NATO during the conflict in Kosovo.” 16 And there wouldn’t be, it was unnecessary to add.

But the claim against NATO – heretofore largely ignored by the American media – was now out in the open. It was suddenly receiving a fair amount of publicity, and supporters of the bombing were put on the defensive. The most common argument made in NATO’s defense, and against war-crime charges, was that the death and devastation inflicted upon the civilian sector was “accidental”. This claim, however, must be questioned in light of certain reports. For example, the commander of NATO’s air war, Lt. Gen. Michael Short, declared at one point during the bombing:

If you wake up in the morning and you have no power to your house and no gas to your stove and the bridge you take to work is down and will be lying in the Danube for the next 20 years, I think you begin to ask, “Hey, Slobo [Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic], what’s this all about? How much more of this do we have to withstand?” 17

General Short, said the New York Times, “hopes that the distress of the Yugoslav public will undermine support for the authorities in Belgrade.” 18

At another point, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea declared: “If President Milosevic really wants all of his population to have water and electricity all he has to do is accept NATO’s five conditions and we will stop this campaign.” 19

After the April NATO bombing of a Belgrade office building – which housed political parties, TV and radio stations, 100 private companies, and more – the Washington Post reported:

Over the past few days, U.S. officials have been quoted as expressing the hope that members of Serbia’s economic elite will begin to turn against Milosevic once they understand how much they are likely to lose by continuing to resist NATO demands. 20

Before missiles were fired into this building, NATO planners spelled out the risks: “Casualty Estimate 50-100 Government/Party employees. Unintended Civ Casualty Est: 250 – Apts in expected blast radius.” 21 The planners were saying that about 250 civilians living in nearby apartment buildings might be killed in the bombing, in addition to the government and political party employees.

What do we have here? We have grown men telling each other: We’ll do A, and we think that B may well be the result. But even if B does in fact result, we’re saying beforehand – as we’ll insist afterward – that it was unintended.

This passage comes from a longer piece, ‘War Criminals – Ours and Theirs’, attacking American double standards in supporting politicians, governments and military commanders guilty of horrific crimes against humanity when it serves their interest. This can be read at:

https://williamblum.org/chapters/rogue-state/war-criminals-theirs-and-ours

I realise that this may be hugely controversial. Slobodan Milosevic and his government were responsible for terrible atrocities in the former Yugoslavia, including the organised genocide of Bosnian Muslims. Mike spent a week in Bosnia staying with a Muslim family, as part of an international project to document the terrible aftermath and consequences of the war. However, the Muslims and Croats were also guilty of committing atrocities themselves, though I was told by a former diplomat that in general, most of the massacres were committed by the Serbs.

Blum argues that the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia had little to do with the raging civil war and human rights abuses, except as a pretext. He argues in his books that Milosevic’s regime was really targeted because they resisted the mass privatisations that international capitalism was attempting to foist on them. I don’t know if this is quite the case. Private Eye reviewed Geoffrey Hurd’s book on diplomacy over a decade ago, and commented on how much Hurd left out or attempted to smooth over of his own grotty career. Like how he was the head of the commission by one of the British banks to privatise the Serbian telecommunications industry under Milosevic.

I’ve also read other books, which have made similar allegations. In one book I read on the 7/7 bombings, the author argued that the reports of some of the atrocities supposedly committed by the Serbs were fabricated in order to whip up public support for military intervention. The goal, however, wasn’t to safeguard the innocents being butchered, but to establish firm NATO military control of the oil pipelines running through the country. This control has not been relinquished since.

Again, I have no idea if this is true or not. Ordinarily, I’d suspect claims that reports of war crimes by despotic regimes have been falsified as another form of holocaust denial. You can find any amount of material arguing that the Serbs were innocent of these atrocities on the various ‘Counterjihad’ anti-Islam sites. The book’s author had a very Muslim name, and its central argument was that the 7/7 bombings were deliberately orchestrated by the secret state to create further public outrage against Muslims, and thus more support for the wars in the Middle East. This seems wrong. Incompetence is far more likely. But it’s well argued and footnoted, with the original documents its author obtained under FOIA reproduced. This is complete with blank pages or passages where they were redacted, just like the Watergate report in America.

Regardless of the ultimate responsibility for the atrocities during the war, it seems that there were very strong geo-political reasons for NATO’s entry into the conflict against the Serbs, which are not at all altruistic. And however controversial this episode and its treatment by Blum are, he has a point: if the NATO leaders were guilty of war crimes, then Clinton, Albright, Blair, Chretien et al should be in the dock. If international justice is to live up to its ideal, then it must also be equally binding on the victor. Unfortunately, you’re not going to see it under the present squalid international order.

Trump Opens Black History Month, But Doesn’t Know Who Frederick Douglass Was

February 4, 2017

I think this month over in the US is Black History Month, which is when teachers, historians and educationalists try to bring to mainstream attention the numerous Black figures, who have contributed to the shaping of modern America. Trump went on TV to announce it this week, and paid tribute to great figures of the Abolitionist and Civil Rights movement Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. However, he didn’t seem to know quite who Douglass was. He described him as someone, who has done great work, and is increasingly being recognised. Which makes it sound as though Drumpf thought he was an historian of the Black contribution to America. Douglass wasn’t. He was one of the major figures of the 19th century Abolitionist movement. His autobiography is one of the classics of Abolitionist and Black American literature. One of his most controversial and inspiring speeches was ‘What To The Slave Is the Fourth of July?’, in which he pointed out how hollow and meaningless the rhetoric surrounding Independence Day, with its talk of resisting tyrants and slavery, for America’s Black people, who were still held in servitude.

In this clip from The Young Turks, John Iadarola and Ana Kasparian discuss Trump’s apparent ignorance. They give him due credit for recognising the contribution of the above Black leaders, and the millions of other Black people in business and politics, which Trump also mentions. They make the point that his apparent ignorance shows the need for Black History Month, as Douglass was an obscure figure until Black scholars rediscovered him. They take issue with the opposition some people have to the Month. Some object to it on the grounds that a separate period for Black history shouldn’t be necessary, and historically marginalised figures like Tubman, Parks, Douglass, MLK et al should be incorporated in general history. They don’t dispute this. They do attack the claim that there simply shouldn’t be Black history month, or there should also be a White History Month, on the grounds that White history is taught every year, throughout the year, from January to December. And they point out too that teaching Black history is necessary, as some schools in very right-wing states have deliberately removed Black leaders and figures like MLK from the curriculum, in order to teach right-wing political figures like Phyllis Schlafly. In an earlier video, The Young Turks reported, if I recall correctly, how the schoolboard in Arizona had stopped teaching the pupils there about slavery, and replaced that part of the school curriculum with Reagan’s speeches. Which very much bears out their point. As for Phyllis Schlafly, she was a Conservative activist, who was anti-feminist and very much anti-UN.

Trump in his speech also takes the time to correct the rumour that he does not treasure the bust of Martin Luther King and had it removed from his office. This, he says, is wrong. He states that it is his most treasured object. This is interesting, as it shows how MLK has been ‘whitewashed’ so that even a Conservative like Trump can approve of him. Those, who’ve studied MLK and his work have pointed out that the man was much more radical than is commonly recognised. He’s seen now simply as standing up for Black equality and racial reconciliation between White and Black. Which is true. But he also bitterly hated capitalism for its exploitation of the poor, whether Black or White, denounced the US’ attacks on Cuba and was very firmly opposed to the Vietnam War, for exactly the same reasons Mohammed Ali did. I dare say Trump would have been shocked to know any of that. It definitely wouldn’t have made MLK one of his favourite Black leaders, as the great man would have despised everything that Drumpf, and indeed recent American presidents, including Obama, stand for regarding the bombing and wars in the Middle East.

Trump also pays due to tribute to his Black staff members and co-workers, especially for taking him into areas, he didn’t know anything about and had not visited before. Iadarola and Kasparian give Trump credit for not going on about the problems of Black inner city ghettoes, which is the prism through which Drumpf usually views the Black community. They also note at one point, Trump characteristically turns it around so that he is, once again, talking about himself and his campaigning, rather than the issue at hand.

If you’re interested in following up Frederick Douglass’ life and work, his autobiography most certainly has been republished. I think it’s in print both individually, as a part of anthologies of American slave writings. There are very many history of slavery and the slave trade. One that’s particularly useful for American history is Harry Harmer’s, The Longman Companion to Slavery, Emancipation and Civil Rights (Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd 2002). This has separate chapters on slavery in different regions and periods, such as in South America, North America and so on. It also presents the most important points as bulleted facts, and as its title says, continues the story into the Civil Rights period.