Friday, May 31, 2013

Superland' and the normalization of segregation in Israel

An Israeli amusement park found itself in hot water after being caught segregating Jewish and Arab school groups. But instead of being an aberration, the incident is reflective of the dominant culture of segregation and discrimination that permeates Israeli society from the bottom up.

“Superland” – the Israeli amusement park exposed for segregating Arab and Jewish citizens this week – is the most fittingly tragic and ironic title for how I see the current Israeli zeitgeist. No screenwriter or playwright could have come up with a better concept for a tragic comedy about this place.

It captures the two most dominant concepts of politics and life here: that land is the most precious, contested and painful commodity around which the conflict revolves, and that there is nothing “amusing” about the situation we find ourselves in. It’s not all that “super,” despite the most earnest attempts to sell it as such by Israeli government and PR professionals.

While the Israeli government continues to try and “super-size” the land of Greater Israel beyond the pre-1967 borders, the story of segregation at Superland is a perfect indicator that no matter what your politics are, no matter your position on settlements, your notion of security, how you judge Palestinian resistance or any other issue, the political reality remains undeniably the same. Everyone living on this tiny piece of land — Arabs and Jews, Palestinians and Israelis — is in a perennial situation of state-sponsored division, segregation and separation that trickles down — not just in Hebron’s Shuhada Street, or in East Jerusalem, but everywhere.

After the Jaffa school teacher was unable to make a reservation for a class trip to Superland because they are Arab, management explained that many schools – both Arab and Jewish – request to visit the park on days when only other schools of the same ethnic group will be there. According to a statement by the park’s management, this makes sense for them considering they are interested in ensuring the safety of This is an amusement park and there is special importance to preserving order and preventing violent incidents in the park. As a result, Superland’s management took the requests it received into consideration, and during June 2013, set aside a few separate days for schools from different sectors.

This is the same argument that was made in pre-civil rights America about the utility of separating blacks and whites. It is the same argument that Ivy League university deans in the U.S. used to try and justify the quotas that up until the 1960s, limited the number of Jews accepted to a school; they explained that it is better for the Jews if there aren’t too many of them in any given department, since then they would surely experience greater incidents of anti-Semitism.

Instead of combatting anti-Semitism and racism at its core, this kind of backwards logic gives in to the unjust system, trying simply to manage a racist and discriminatory status quo. This is exactly the case of Superland.

It is a weird coincidence that on the same day this story broke, American author and BDS activist Alice Walker wrote an open letter to singer Alicia Keys, urging her to cancel her July concert in Israel because of the country’s segregation policies. In the letter, she specifically refers to the struggle she waged to bring an end to “apartheid America,” which she calls “less lethal than Israel’s against the Palestinian people.”

You can argue all you want that there are differences between America and Israel as far as racism goes, just as there are differences between Israel and South Africa when it comes to Apartheid. But the reality remains the same in all places: Palestinians living on the same land as Jewish Israelis are denied the dignity and equal rights they deserve because of the dominant ethnic group. More


Thursday, May 30, 2013

We will die. We will not leave without being heard


Amazon Watch

Português | Español | Deutsch | More

"We will die. We will not leave without being heard."

URGENT: 'We will die. We will not leave without being heard.'

Only three days after the reoccupation of the Belo Monte Dam began, the fate of 170 indigenous people is at stake. On Tuesday, the Federal Court in Altamira ordered them to leave by 4 pm yesterday or they would be removed by Federal Police. They responded by tearing up the order and refused to leave by the deadline. Instead, they are standing strong and are demanding that President Dilma’s Chief of Staff, Gilberto Carvalho, come meet with them. Their letter to the Brazilian government is here.

Read, Share and Take Urgent Action Right Now! »


We need your support!

For over fifteen years, Amazon Watch has been an effective force in supporting indigenous environmental movements on the front lines of halting destructive development.


Mass graves of Palestinians killed in 1948 Nakba discovered in Jaffa

Six mass grave sites dating back to the 1936 Palestinian uprising and the 1948 Nakba were discovered around the Jaffa cemetery, the al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage reported Wednesday, revealing hundreds of bodies of Palestinians killed by Zionist forces.

“During [the foundation’s] repair and maintenance work on the [Kazkhana] cemetery, we discovered nozzles to dig into the ground where we found the mass graves...including hundreds of skeletons and human remains of rebels, martyrs and civilians who perished during the Nakba,” head of the Islamic Movement in Jaffa, Sheikh Mohammed Najem, said in the report.

The foundation has proved the remains date back to the victims killed in the 1948 war, whether from bombings and shelling of residential neighborhoods or snipers located around the city, the report said.

“The Kazkhana cemetery has exposed the historical facts that Israel has tried to hide and erase for over 65 years relating to the massacres committed by Zionist gangs during the 1948 Palestinian Nakba,” it read.

“These mass graves have banished all doubts of the certainty of oral histories collected by historians of people who lived through the Nakba of 1948 and parts of the war documenting massacres in Jaffa and its suburbs,” the report added.

Some of the recorded histories document eyewitnesses witnessing piles of bodies scattered around in all of Jaffa’s neighborhoods, which were buried in mass graves due to the violent circumstances at the time.

The report shares an eyewitness account explaining how the residents of Jaffa were forced to move bodies to the cemetery and bury them in mass graves as the town was being heavily bombarded by Zionist forces.

“The foundation will continue to conduct research and scientifically test the send media messages to the whole world that Israel is built on the skulls of the Palestinian people,” Abed al-Majid Ighbariya, the head of the files on holy sites of the foundation, said.

The Nakba, or “Catastrophe,” refers to the expropriation and mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland by Zionists. More


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bitumen facility blamed for Peace Country, Alberta, health woes

A family is blaming emissions from a nearby heavy oil production site for chasing them from their Peace Country home of seven years in northwestern Alberta.

Thera Breau

Thera Breau says the decision to move came down to the health of her young kids who started experiencing unexplained health problems.

They had urinary incontinence with a strong smell of ammonia," said Breau, who also noticed speech problems and skin rashes developed by her toddler.

Breau made the decision to move on the morning of Mar. 18 when she took her five-year-old son to catch the bus in front of her house.

"His eye was twitching so bad that he had a temper tantrum." Breau said.

"The air stank so I called the ERCB (Energy Resources Conservation Board), and decided I didn't want to live here anymore until I could be told that it was safe."

The Breaus left their rural bungalow, moving to a small rented home in the nearby community of McLennan. "His eye was twitching so bad that he had a temper tantrum." Breau said.

"The air stank so I called the ERCB (Energy Resources Conservation Board), and decided I didn't want to live here anymore until I could be told that it was safe."

The Breaus left their rural bungalow, moving to a small rented home in the nearby community of McLennan.

Not the first to leave

Breau's family is not the first to pack up and leave the area. At least six other families have done the same.

Mike Labrecque, 60, moved from his home southeast of Peace River last year as his health was deteriorating.

He dropped 40 pounds and was experiencing allergic-type reactions such as hives and difficulty beathing. He now lives in a cabin along a lake without power or water and has seen a noticable improvement in his health.

When he does venture back to his property, he needs an industrial-strength gas mask in order to breathe comfortably.

"It's very depressing, I know I will never be able to live here again," said Labrecque through a gas mask while standing in what was the kitchen of the house under construction on his abandoned property.

"My body has suffered way too much damage... my body is totally allergic to the air here."

As for the possible cause of the fleeing residents' difficulties, all point to a relatively new process of extracting bitumen from underground in the region called Cold Heavy Oil Production with Sand, or CHOPS, where heavy oil is pumped from the ground and stored in heated tanks which produce emissions that form an aerosol-type plume. More


U.N. Rights Chief Says Governments Fail to Protect Victims of Syria Conflict

GENEVA — The international community is failing to meet its obligations to victims of Syria’s conflict, the United Nations’ top human rights official said Monday, invoking the responsibility of governments to protect civilians of another country from war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Syrian Refugees Struggle At Zataari Camp

“Appalling violations of the most basic human rights are occurring in Syria, and I fear that we in the international community are failing to meet our fundamental obligations to the victims,” Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, said in an address opening a session of the Human Rights Council.

“We have agreed that we have a duty to protect our fellow human beings — even if they are born in other countries; and even when they are being crushed by governments that have a claim to sovereignty over their territory,” Ms. Pillay said, urging states “to make every effort to forge an end to this humanitarian disaster.”

Ms. Pillay stopped short of calling for direct intervention in Syria, instead repeating an appeal she has consistently made for the Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to prosecute war crimes suspects.

Her statement preceded a special Human Rights Council session on Syria called by Qatar, Turkey and the United States, expected in the next few days. A new report by a commission of inquiry into human right abuses in Syria is expected early next month. Since it was set up in August 2011, the commission has compiled lists of names of units, individuals and government agencies identified as responsible for human rights abuses to assist future prosecution by a national or international tribunal, but only the Security Council or the concerned country can refer the issues to The Hague court.

Ms. Pillay said all parties to Syria’s conflict had shown “flagrant disregard of international law and human life,” citing the government’s indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force and targeting of civilian locations such as schools and hospitals as well as “gruesome crimes” by antigovernment forces, including torture and executions.

Ms. Pillay called for safe passage for civilians trying to escape the embattled town of Qusayr and voiced concern at reports that hundreds of civilians had been killed or injured by indiscriminate shelling and that thousands remained trapped by the fighting in the area.

Ms. Pillay also took the United States to task for its failure to close its detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, citing it as “an example of the struggle against terrorism failing to uphold human rights.”

More than half the 166 detainees still held there have been cleared to return to their home countries or third countries and their continued detention amounted to arbitrary detention in breach of international law, she said. “The injustice embodied in this detention center has become an ideal recruitment tool for terrorists,” she added.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Why the game is up for the Kim dynasty

It never takes long for the vultures to congregate. As soon as North Korea’s government falls, its people – canny and resourceful as they are – will have little to shield them from conmen, Ponzi schemes and cult leaders.

South Korea’s notoriously abusive corporate bosses will rush in to secure cheap labour. Other visitors from the South will arrive with deeds to family lands. Some claims will be genuine; some will be bogus.

There is also the matter of North Korea’s 1.2m-strong army. Robbed of their privileges, the security services will quickly sense opportunities to branch deeper into organised crime, trafficking arms, narcotics and people.

We have seen this mess before, when communism fell in eastern Europe. Andrei Lankov’s The Real North Korea makes an eloquent plea for international policy makers to learn from the 1990s and start smoothing the path now for a less traumatic transition in Pyongyang.

His lucid introduction to North Korea makes clear that, whether it takes one year or 20, this transition is inevitable. His book is an important curative to the unhelpful gaggle of pundits who describe nuclear-armed North Korea as “irrational” or an impenetrable “black box”. In fact, we know the game is up for a rational but manipulative leadership. One of the main strengths of the book is a description of how a ruinous capitalist genie has escaped in North Korea that the state will never be able to squeeze back into the bottle.

Lankov is a Russian scholar based in Seoul who has conducted fascinating research into North Koreans’ growing dependence on sotoji , or private allotments. The state had to allow these because people feared famine. But the market gardens have now blossomed into sophisticated trading networks that Pyongyang cannot control. While everyone is theoretically a state employee, many private traders peddle everything from gold to cigarettes. In 2009 Pyongyang tried to quell the power of this new class by seizing their money in a bungled currency reform. The reform backfired, sparked protests and failed to extinguish the new cadre of capitalists.

Compounding this nascent capitalism, North Koreans are also gaining a better understanding of the outside world from mobile phones, contraband DVDs and short-wave radios. The state propagandists can no longer lie as they once did. Indeed, Lankov’s most direct policy recommendation to accelerate the fall of Kim Jong-eun is to put more effort into increasing the flow of information to North Koreans who will ultimately change the state from the inside. The book does not pretend that this ultimate endgame will be anything other than convulsive; it could well be bloody.

Most of Lankov’s proposals are less confrontational than the information campaign. He readily admits that there is little we can practically do about Pyongyang for now. Foreign governments, such as those in Washington and Seoul, have been unproductively flitting between waving the carrot and the stick at the Kims. Neither works. It is also futile to expect China to deliver a coup de grâce.

Instead, Lankov argues, the international community should consider broader, longer-term plans to ease the pain of unification.

The main challenge is that interaction between ordinary North Koreans and South Koreans – the key to forging a successful state – has, so far, not been auspicious. North Korean refugees in Seoul complain that they are treated as second-class citizens. Lankov fears any precipitous unification would stoke up even more animosity. It would be wise, he argues, to pursue a more gradual process, where the two nations exist in a sort of confederacy for an interim period of 10 to 15 years. Seoul should keep the sharks out; for example, paying compensation to land claimants rather than letting them seize their old estates. South Koreans should also co-operate more now with North Korean refugees to try to build some early semblance of a shared civil society. More refugees should be incorporated into Seoul’s educational and commercial life. More


The Beaver Lake Cree Judgment: The Most Important Tar Sands Case You’ve Never Heard Of

Sure they’re bad for the environment, for human health, and for wildlife, but we rarely stop to wonder if the Alberta tar sands are in fact unconstitutional.

But the constitutional standing of the tar sands – one of the world’s largest and most carbon-intensive energy projects – is just what’s at stake in a treaty rights claim the Beaver Lake Cree Nation (BLCN) is bringing against the Governments of Alberta and Canada in a case that promises to be one of the most significant legal and constitutional challenges to the megaproject seen in Canada to date.

Signaling the high-stakes of the whole dispute, it has taken five years of beleaguered fighting just to have the case go to trial. Canada and Alberta – the defendants – fought tooth and nail during those five years to have the claim dismissed outright, saying the case put forward by the BCLN was “frivolous, improper and an abuse of process.”

The BCLN is challenging these governments on the grounds of the cumulative impacts of the tar sands and has indicated some 19,000 ‘individual authorizations’ and 300 individual industrial projects in their claim. The governments of Alberta and Canada tried to have the case dismissed under Rule 3.68, a measure meant to protect defendants from cases that are…well…“frivolous, improper, and an abuse of process.”

But this case isn’t one of those.

Canada claimed the claim was “unmanageable” and “overwhelming,” suggesting the 19,000 authorizations were likely to have fallen within the relevant regulatory framework at the time of their approval and needn't be bothered with. But, as one judge stated, a claim cannot be dismissed based merely on its scope. The courts agreed, telling Canada that no further “delaying tactics” should be permitted in this litigation lest the entire claim be “stonewalled at an early stage through excessive particularization.”

What is more, the court said Canada’s complaint “flies in the face of the Supreme Court of Canada” and its previous decisions, indicating Canada’s counsel was unsuccessful in its attempts to squeeze out of a tight legal position. Canada even sought to have its portion of the claim whittled down to “limit its exposure” in the case, a position the court said Canada’s “counsel candidly admitted to advancing…for strategic reasons.”

On April 30th, 2013, the courts told Canada and Alberta they’d had enough of the bickering. “The parties will be well-served by returning to their case management judge for the implication plan to advance this litigation through trial,” they wrote.

In other words: get your act together, you’re going to court.

The Rights

The Alberta Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the claim against the crown, grants the BLCN the opportunity to argue the cumulative negative impacts of tar sands expansion may constitute a legal breach of the band’s historic Treaty 6 with the Canadian government, signed back in 1876.

And the significance of this judgment cannot be overstated. The BLCN’s claim now stands as the first opportunity for legal consideration of the cumulative impacts of the tar sands on First Nation’s traditional territory and the implications of those impacts on the ability to uphold Treaty Rights.

And First Nation’s Rights – enshrined as Aboriginal Rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 – are arguably some of the most important emerging rights on the Canadian legal landscape and certainly the most powerful environmental rights in the country.

This, in part, has to do with the fact that what section 35 rights actually legally entail, is still being developed through case law. Dozens of important cases - like the precedent-setting R v. Gladstone andMikisew v. Canada- have been decided by courts over the last 30 years, since the patriation of the Constitution, finding Canada in serious violation of the Constitution when it comes to treaty rights.

Despite the emerging nature of these rights, one thing is clear – First Nations have the inalienable right to hunt, trap and fish in their preferred manner, throughout their traditional territories and the province.

And there’s the rub. If you’ve got a megaproject that is destroying what you might otherwise be hunting, trapping or fishing, you've got a serious constitutional gaffe on your hands. The Constitution is the highest law in the land, and cannot simply be ignored.

The Cumulative Impacts

This puts Canada and Alberta in a tough spot. Over the last decade, as they’ve been welcoming a veritable cascade of new projects in the tar sands area, scientists and conservation groups have been raising the alarm as the consequent research began to show devastating effects on caribou populationsand fish species especially hard done by the escalating development.

The BCLN’s traditional territories blanket an area about the size of Switzerland. Thirty per cent of tar sands production, or about 560,000 barrels of oil, are produced on BLCN every day. The oil industry has plans to grow this number to 1.6 million barrels a day.

The once-pristine forest and hunting grounds are now covered with 35,000 oil and gas sites, 21,700 kilometres of seismic lines, 4,028 kilometres of pipeline and 948 kilometres of road.

Perhaps it has taken Canada and Alberta by surprise that the cumulative impacts might be considered at a constitutional level. After all, neither the province nor the federal government have been particularly proactive in studying the cumulative effects of development in the area.

True, scientists have been fretting about loss of caribou herds and habitat for decades, even citing theSpecies At Risk Act as a potential legal cause to slow the pace and scale of tar sands development. But Canada ignored those pleas for caution as long at it could – until another legal action forced them to release the recent Federal Caribou Recovery Act last fall.

And it was only a few months ago that Environment Canada scientists announced tar sands pollution was present in bodies of water up to 100 kilometres from the centre of development. The accumulating toxins, they discovered, disrupt fish embryos at the developmental stage. The federal government worked overtime to downplay the significance of the research last fall, even preventing lead researchers from discussing their findings with the media.

Overall, the federal government has been just as culpable as provincial leaders in keeping these growing environmental effects under-reported, or under wraps. The BLCN’s upcoming litigation may be the change in tide that brings the cumulative impact discussion to centre-stage.

The Cause for Hope

5 years ago Crystal Lameman’s uncle Chief Al Lameman filed the original claim on behalf of the Nation.

“In 2008 I don't think my uncle knew the attention this litigation would gain,” Crystal said. “His intent and purpose was to protect what little we have left but it has created this movement, this mobilization of a people and it's a great feeling seeing people mobilize beyond the confines of race, color, and creed. This recent win means our judicial system is clearly standing strong in the law of Canada and it gives me hope.”

And Crystal has much cause for hope, according to Jack Woodward, renowned Native Law expert and lawyer on the case.

“The Beaver Lake case will define the point where industrial development must be curtailed to preserve treaty rights,” he said.

“At issue is the cumulative impact of industry, not each individual project. The court will be asked to say if the level of industrial activity in the hunting grounds has now crossed the line to make it impossible to reasonably exercise the harvesting rights. If the Beaver Lake are successful there will be constitutional controls on development to allow the land to recover and to prevent any further encroachments that might disturb wildlife populations.”

A precedent-setting ruling of that sort would have significance for any other First Nation making similar claims regarding the overall impacts of industrial development. This could have serious ramifications for other First Nation groups living near the tar sands or newly-industrialized zones like British Columbia’s northeast. More


The Beaver Lake Cree nation's once-pristine forest and hunting grounds are now covered with 35,000 oil and gas sites, 21,700 kilometres of seismic lines, 4,028 kilometres of pipeline and 948 kilometres of road.


Decadence and death inside Damascus city walls

Damascus is a schizophrenic place, writes Ruth Sherlock. It is a city hunkered down in war, blighted by shellfire, blitzed by warplanes - and a thriving capital where business continues and the parties go on.

The waiters passed between tables, carrying silver platters piled with meat, fruits and elaborate desserts. Beneath glittering chandeliers the guests guzzled wine and clapped rhythmically to the music of the singer on the stage.

The party at the Damas Rose hotel in Damascus was in full swing. The ladies had coiffed their hair, applied blusher to their cheeks, and wore corsets and tight, silky, dresses with stiletto heels. At the edges of the grand parlour, groups of friends sat in booths upholstered with red velvet. Lovers wandered out to the poolside and rested on loungers below the starlit sky.

A few streets away Red Crescent volunteers washed the blood from a stretcher and hosed down an ambulance. A sniper's bullet had smashed the taillight. They had just returned to base after delivering the lifeless body of a young man, shrapnel in his brain, back to his parents.

"We have transported a lot corpses of late," one volunteer named Hamza, 23, said: "It is a job no one else will do but it is important. Often the bodies are just left on the front line. This is a city with 6,000 years of heritage and now it is being destroyed by the hands of its own sons".

The Sunday Telegraph's visit to Damascus last week, on a rarely issued government visa, provided a glimpse at schizophrenic place. It is a city hunkered down in war, blighted by shellfire, blitzed by warplanes and regularly shredded by car bombs. It is also a thriving capital, where parties go on, singers still sing, restaurants are lavish and civilians still put on work suits in the mornings and carry their briefcases into the office.

The sounds of heavy fighting that were once so terrifying - and many thought, the beginning of the end for President Bashar al-Assad's reign - have become a backdrop to everyday life. The national army's tanks have been firing relentlessly for months.

Rockets and missiles detonated from the military stronghold of Qasioun Mountain have long flown over the heads of residents in central Damascus before crashing into rebel held districts, sending up plumes of smoke. Planes continue overhead, carrying out bombing runs day and night.

But as the war has come closer, it has not led to a collapse in Mr Assad's support base, as many expected. In fact, it has strengthened the laager around his rule, drawing his constituents in Damascus's elite and new rich classes together in fear at what would come next.

Cafes are abuzz with the chatter of clients swapping stories of the latest rebel atrocity, some real, some invented. Most express fear at the Islamist hue of the opposition and of the jihadist groups, including the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra that has claimed responsibility for many of the car bombs that detonate in the capital almost daily.

Many Damascenes told the Sunday Telegraph that at the beginning of the uprising in 2011 they had been against Syrian government. Tired of its authoritarian rule, some had even joined popular protests. But the war now has gone beyond the narrative of a popular uprising against a dictator; a rebel takeover would lead to less, not more freedom, they said.

"Those people want to take us back centuries," said one mother of two children. "My daughter won't be able to go to school. I will have to cover my head in a black veil. I don't like this government, but does the West really think that this opposition would be any better?"

In the old Damascene Christian quarter of Bab Touma last Sunday residents made their way to church under the rattle of gunfire from a front line less than one mile away in Jobar district. A slightly quickened pace as they passed the local police station, now surrounded by a fortress of sandbags and a clear target for a car bomb, was their only sign of discomfort.

Mortars fired by rebel groups regularly fall on these narrow cobbled alleyways. But market stalls and shops selling everything from handbags to jewels remain stubbornly open. Two female art students, both in their early twenties, walked casually down the street chatting and carrying wooden easels that displayed their half finished paintings.

"We walk to university now because it is faster than trying to drive through the checkpoints," said one of the girls, who preferred not to give her name. "Apart from that life is OK. At night-time we drink in bars with friends. The shelling wakes us up sometimes when it is particularly loud, but we are mostly used to it now".

Disappearances, kidnappings and assassinations are a new reality in the city, and locals fear that anyone known to support President Assad, or with relatives in the government is a potential target. The owner of one Damascus radio station showed The Sunday Telegraph the burned out remains of his car that is still parked outside his office. More

The international community stand by and does nothing helpful for Syria. How long is this goind to be allowed to continue? Over seventy thousand people have been killed and nothing substantial is done. As Gareth Evans said in his book The Responsability to Protect - Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once And For All, "Never again!" the world has vowed time and again since the Holocaust. Yet genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other mass atrocity crimes continue to shock our consciences - from the killing fields of Cambodia to the machetes of Rwanda to the agony of Darfur. He goes on to say 'The Responsibility to Protect captures a simple and powerful idea. The primary responsibility for protecting its own people from mass atrocity crimes lies with the state itself. State sovereignty implies responsibility, not a license to kill. But when a state is unwilling or unable to halt or avert such crimes, the wider international community then has a collective responsibility to take whatever action is necessary. R2P emphasizes preventive action above all. That includes assistance for states struggling to contain potential crises and for effective rebuilding after a crisis or conflict to tackle its underlying causes. R2P's primary tools are persuasion and support, not military or other coercion. But sometimes it is right to fight: faced with another Rwanda, the world cannot just stand by'.

In Libya the total number of people killed includes protesters, armed belligerents, and civilians ranges between 2000 and 25000 between February 15 and October 02 2011. On 17 March, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution which authorized member states "to take all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamhariya, including Benghazi, while excluding an occupation force".[3] This began a new phase in the conflict.

Therefore, within one month of the start of the conflict the United Nations Security Council has passed resolution 1973 authorizing intervention.

The Syrian conflict could be deemed to have started on June 15 2011 when the United Nations urged investigation of Syrian abuses. This conflict has been ongoing for two years and no resolution has been passed by the United Nations and the killing continues. Seventy thousand have now died and the international community has obviously forgotten The Responsability to Protect.

What is the difference? Are regional and other states using the conflict for their own objectives? But what of the Syrian people? Are they worth less than the Libyians? And what of The Responsability to Protect? Editor


Friday, May 24, 2013

The Biggest Criminal Enterprise in History

Terracide and the Terrarists - Destroying the Planet for Record Profits

We have a word for the conscious slaughter of a racial or ethnic group: genocide. And one for the conscious destruction of aspects of the environment: ecocide. But we don’t have a word for the conscious act of destroying the planet we live on, the world as humanity had known it until, historically speaking, late last night. A possibility might be “terracide” from the Latin word for earth. It has the right ring, given its similarity to the commonplace danger word of our era: terrorist.

The truth is, whatever we call them, it’s time to talk bluntly about the terrarists of our world. Yes, I know, 9/11 was horrific. Almost 3,000 dead, massive towers down, apocalyptic scenes. And yes, when it comes to terror attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings weren’t pretty either. But in both cases, those who committed the acts paid for or will pay for their crimes.

In the case of the terrarists -- and here I’m referring in particular to the men who run what may be the most profitable corporations on the planet, giant energy companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell -- you’re the one who’s going to pay, especially your children and grandchildren. You can take one thing for granted: not a single terrarist will ever go to jail, and yet they certainly knew what they were doing.

It wasn’t that complicated. In recent years, the companies they run have been extracting fossil fuels from the Earth in ever more frenetic and ingenious ways. The burning of those fossil fuels, in turn, has put record amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Only this month, the CO2 level reached 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. A consensus of scientists has long concluded that the process was warming the world and that, if the average planetary temperature rose more than two degrees Celsius, all sorts of dangers could ensue, including seas rising high enough to inundate coastal cities, increasingly intense heat waves, droughts, floods, ever more extreme storm systems, and so on.

How to Make Staggering Amounts of Money and Do In the Planet

None of this was exactly a mystery. It’s in the scientific literature. NASA scientist James Hansen first publicized the reality of global warming to Congress in 1988. It took a while -- thanks in part to the terrarists -- but the news of what was happening increasingly made it into the mainstream. Anybody could learn about it.

Those who run the giant energy corporations knew perfectly well what was going on and could, of course, have read about it in the papers like the rest of us. And what did they do? They put their money into funding think tanks, politicians, foundations, and activists intent on emphasizing “doubts” about the science (since it couldn’t actually be refuted); they and their allies energetically promoted what came to be known as climate denialism. Then they sent their agents and lobbyists and money into the political system to ensure that their plundering ways would not be interfered with. And in the meantime, they redoubled their efforts to get ever tougher and sometimes “dirtier” energy out of the ground in ever tougher and dirtier ways.

The peak oil people hadn’t been wrong when they suggested years ago that we would soon hit a limit in oil production from which decline would follow. The problem was that they were focused on traditional or “conventional” liquid oil reserves obtained from large reservoirs in easy-to-reach locations on land or near to shore. Since then, the big energy companies have invested a remarkable amount of time, money, and (if I can use that word) energy in the development of techniques that would allow them to recover previously unrecoverable reserves (sometimes by processes that themselves burn striking amounts of fossil fuels): fracking, deep-water drilling, and tar-sands production, among others.

They also began to go after huge deposits of what energy expert Michael Klare calls “extreme” or “tough” energy -- oil and natural gas that can only be acquired through the application of extreme force or that requires extensive chemical treatment to be usable as a fuel. In many cases, moreover, the supplies being acquired like heavy oil and tar sands are more carbon-rich than other fuels and emit more greenhouse gases when consumed. These companies have even begun using climate change itself -- in the form of a melting Arctic -- to exploit enormous and previously unreachable energy supplies. With the imprimatur of the Obama administration, Royal Dutch Shell, for example, has been preparing to test out possible drilling techniques in the treacherous waters off Alaska.

Call it irony, if you will, or call it a nightmare, but Big Oil evidently has no qualms about making its next set of profits directly off melting the planet. Its top executives continue to plan their futures (and so ours), knowing that their extremely profitable acts are destroying the very habitat, the very temperature range that for so long made life comfortable for humanity.

Their prior knowledge of the damage they are doing is what should make this a criminal activity. And there are corporate precedents for this, even if on a smaller scale. The lead industry, the asbestos industry, and the tobacco companies all knew the dangers of their products, made efforts to suppress the information or instill doubt about it even as they promoted the glories of what they made, and went right on producing and selling while others suffered and died.

And here’s another similarity: with all three industries, the negative results conveniently arrived years, sometimes decades, after exposure and so were hard to connect to it. Each of these industries knew that the relationship existed. Each used that time-disconnect as protection. One difference: if you were a tobacco, lead, or asbestos exec, you might be able to ensure that your children and grandchildren weren’t exposed to your product. In the long run, that’s not a choice when it comes to fossil fuels and CO2, as we all live on the same planet (though it's also true that the well-off in the temperate zones are unlikely to be the first to suffer).

If Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 plane hijackings or the Tsarnaev brothers’ homemade bombs constitute terror attacks, why shouldn’t what the energy companies are doing fall into a similar category (even if on a scale that leaves those events in the dust)? And if so, then where is the national security state when we really need it? Shouldn’t its job be to safeguard us from terrarists and terracide as well as terrorists and their destructive plots?

The Alternatives That Weren’t

It didn’t have to be this way.

On July 15, 1979, at a time when gas lines, sometimes blocks long, were a disturbing fixture of American life, President Jimmy Carter spoke directly to the American people on television for 32 minutes, calling for a concerted effort to end the country’s oil dependence on the Middle East. “To give us energy security,” he announced,

“I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel -- from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the sun... Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II, so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war. Moreover, I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20% of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.”

It’s true that, at a time when the science of climate change was in its infancy, Carter wouldn’t have known about the possibility of an overheating world, and his vision of “alternative energy” wasn’t exactly a fossil-fuel-free one. Even then, shades of today or possibly tomorrow, he was talking about having “more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias.” Still, it was a remarkably forward-looking speech. More

Eradicating Ecocide


Is a 'surgical strike' in Afghanistan any more palatable than a surgical hacking in Woolwich?

A man, a soldier, is brutally murdered on a Woolwich street. Politicians rush to emergency meetings. Reporters survey the scene, run 'terror warning' front pages and ask how such an atrocity 'could ever happen here'.

Yet, beyond the standard political condemnation and media 'examination', what more humanitarianthoughts and questions might be invoked over this horrific death?

The first compassionate thought should always be with the immediate victim, the person or persons killed, the life taken. That means all persons killed, all life taken, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq or on 'our' streets.

The next thought, equally human, but of more compassionate purpose, should be to ask ourselves why these kind of violent attacks are happening.

Is it enough, or even useful, just to feel appalled by such violence? Is it remotely helpful just to condemn? Or is it more productive and humanitarian to ask what compels or encourages it?

An ITN report on the killing noted: "A British soldier killed not in war, but at home" - war, presumably for such journalists, being something that can be visited upon others, in their countries, but not here in 'ours'.

Yet, are we really to believe that lands can be illegally invaded, their resources stolen, their people slaughtered, and that others, 'homegrown' or otherwise, will not react, often violently, to those appalling situations?

Ex-soldier turned anti-war campaigner Joe Glenton is in no doubt:

"So at the very outset, and before the rising tide of prejudice and pseudo-patriotism fully encloses us, let us be clear: while nothing can justify the savage killing in Woolwich yesterday of a man since confirmed to have been a serving British soldier, it should not be hard to explain why the murder happened. [...] It should by now be self-evident that by attacking Muslims overseas, you will occasionally spawn twisted and, as we saw yesterday, even murderous hatred at home. We need to recognise that, given the continued role our government has chosen to play in the US imperial project in the Middle East, we are lucky that these attacks are so few and far between."

As we advance that line of enquiry, further humanitarian questions occur: why was this killing announced, particularly, as a "terrorist" attack? What makes an attack on a soldier or a civilian here different from a soldier attacking and killing either a combatant or a civilian in Afghanistan?

As Glenn Greenwald asks:

How can one create a definition of "terrorism" that includes Wednesday's London attack on this British soldier without including many acts of violence undertaken by the US, the UK and its allies and partners? Can that be done? [...]The reason it's so crucial to ask this question is that there are few terms - if there are any - that pack the political, cultural and emotional punch that "terrorism" provides. When it comes to the actions of western governments, it is a conversation-stopper, justifying virtually anything those governments want to do. It's a term that is used to start wars, engage in sustained military action, send people to prison for decades or life, to target suspects for due-process-free execution, shield government actions behind a wall of secrecy, and instantly shape public perceptions around the world.

In essence, is state killing not terrorism? Are people not terrorised, terrified, by helicopter gunships? Is the killing of a person in this way any more or less gruesome than the obliteration of an Afghan child with an M16 missile? Is a 'surgical strike' any more palatable than a surgical hacking? Would the bloody outcomes of Nato strikes ever appear so graphically on front pages the way they have for the Woolwich killing?

Having dutifully repeated what official sources had briefed as a 'terrorist' attack, the BBC's Nick Robinson later tweeted: "To those offended by my describing the attacker as of "Muslim appearance" - I was directly quoting a Whitehall source quoting the police."

Robinson later apologised for the remark. Yet, alongside the insistence on a 'terrorist' crime, here, unwittingly revealed, was a consensually-loaded interpretation from police, government and the BBC.

What, does a Muslim supposedly 'look like'? Is it conceivable that any of these institutions would ever speak of an alleged attacker as being of 'Christian appearance' or 'Jewish appearance'?

Besides the 'incriminating look', various suggestions have been made about the questionable sanity of those who carried out this attack. Yet, why is this question confined to such assailants?

As Arundhati Roy notes, while Obama goes about his family life, he is ordering drone strikes that terminate other families' very existence.

Noting the public appearance of leaders like Blair and Obama, Roy describes their acts of war and violence as "psychopathic", observations that invite us to think about what separates 'respectable' appearance from true and disturbing intent.

Watching the fawning media treatment still enjoyed by Blair, the issue is not just whether his actions may be psychopathic. It's that the very suggestion of such a question is not even up for reasonable discussion, even in the liberal media.

While the precise psychiatry of people like Obama and Blair may be open to conjecture, what's certainly evident is their willingness to execute decisions that would in any other set of circumstances, like Woolwich, be deemed criminally psychotic in their ruthless disregard for other human beings.

The killers at Woolwich had visible blood on their hands. But Blair, Obama, Cameron and others have much, much more of it on theirs, even if it's unseen.

And so, a deeper question arises: watching Obama with his wife and kids, seeing him at the ball game, visiting victims of gun crime or natural disasters, how can we find it in ourselves to castigate such 'just like us' people?

Why do we so readily condemn one act of terrible killing, but not those who perpetrate horrific multiple others? Is it simply because the latter don't actually pull the trigger, fire the missile or release the bomb?

Besides the actual absence of balanced news and information exposing our governments' crimes, the psychology of mass propaganda plays upon a very basic emotionalism, encouraging a deep human reluctance to see those 'close' to us as murderous or clinically suspect.

Even now, ten years on from the decision that led to mass slaughter in Iraq, how readily might we really imagine, or wish to see, Blair jailed for high war crimes? Why is that possibility still beyond much of the public's comprehension? And why, with all their mass criminality, are leaders like Cameron still permitted to claim such 'moral authority', from calling for 'more benign intervention' in Syria to denouncing the Woolwich killers?

And remember too that those Western leaders of 'benign appearance' are the very same ones ready to support and fund those of 'Muslim appearance' and jihadi intent in Syria, just as they once expediently backed the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan.

The public may readily rationalise all this by saying 'well, politicians have a job to do, often an unenviable one'. But the basic question remains: why are those like the Woolwich killers denounced as evil and insane, terrorist and extremist, fanatical and deranged, while powerful mass killers are treated with blanket deference and respect?

As that most salient book title asks: Why Are We the Good Guys?

It's of considerable significance why power and a service media will always pose the easiest questions, while evading the most difficult.

The easiest question to answer here is why those men at Woolwich and others have committed such crimes. However mistaken in their response, and however personally responsible, it's because they see violence as way of expressing political grievances and just retribution against oppressor forces.

The harder and more useful question to pose, yet the one consistently avoided, is why those like Obama and Cameron continue to kill so criminally and mercilessly around the globe.

One may assume that such figures see killing as part of their 'office duty', caught up as they are in a world of profit-driven economies, neoliberal demands and insatiable militarism. That, by any decent moral compass, all seems pathological. Yet none of their violence or the forces behind all that are up for serious political or media discussion.