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Thousands block NATO convoy route to protest US drone strikes in Pakistan

RT | November 23, 2013

Thousands of demonstrators protesting US drone strikes in Pakistan blocked a main road Saturday in the Peshawar province used to transport NATO supplies to and from Afghanistan.

The protests was led by the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which is led by Imran Khan, a former international cricketer now turned politician.

They were supported by their allies in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government and they were also joined by the Jamaat -i-Islami (JI) and the Awami Jamhoori Ittehad (AJIP) political parties.

“We will put pressure on America, and our protest will continue if drone attacks are not stopped,” Khan told reporters.

“We are here to give a clear message that now Pakistanis cannot remain silent over drone attacks,” said Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a senior member of the PTI, addressing the protesters.

Imran Khan has been a fierce critic of US drone attacks, arguing that they violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. Khan said that the Pakistani government is doing nothing to stop drone attacks except for issuing statements of condemnation and that the protest would continue indefinitely.

Khan stressed that NATO supplies would not be allowed to pass through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly called North-West Frontier Province, and added that the province’s PTI-led government had the mandate to block NATO trucks from passing through its territory.

Earlier Imran Khan had warned that NATO supply routes will be blocked if continuing US drone strikes in Pakistan threaten the country’s peace talks with the Taliban.

An attack on November 1 killed the former leader of the Pakistan Taliban, a day before the Pakistani government said it was going to invite him to peace talks. Officials said they were enraged by the attacks, although the Pakistani government is known to have supported some of the drone attacks in the past.

Party workers from the PTI and the JI travelled to Peshawar from across Pakistan and an estimated 10,000 people participated in Saturday’s protests. The protesters shouted anti US slogans such as “Stop drone attacks” and “Down with America”.

“I am participating in today’s sit-in to convey a message to America that we hate them since they are killing our people in drone attacks. America must stop drone attacks for peace in our country,” Hussain Shah, a 21 year old university student, told Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper.

American drones are performing regular extrajudicial killings of Islamist leaders, accompanied by the collateral damage of many civilian casualties.

Strict security measures were in place Saturday, with 500 police personnel on duty. Trucks were directed to use an alternative route, although Tahir Khan, a government official, said there was normally little NATO traffic Saturday as most of the trucks arrive by Friday night to clear the border crossing.

However, protesters said that they would begin to stop trucks carrying NATO supplies through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Sunday night, which could spark conflict with the federal government in Pakistan.

The US embassy in Islamabad declined to comment.

November 23, 2013 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vanishing the Palestinians

By Ghada Karmi | July, 2004

When the Zionists decided in 1897 to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, the Jews of Vienna dispatched a delegation to examine the country for its suitability. The delegation reported back as follows: “the bride is beautiful but she is married to another man”. They had found that Palestine to their dismay was already inhabited by another people. And this has been Zionism’s central problem ever since. How to “vanish the Palestinians” and get an empty land? The latest manifestation of this imperative is the barrier wall, which Israel is currently building to separate and enclose Palestinian towns and villages in the lands it occupied after 1967. There are those who rightly point to the wall’s illegality and infringement of human rights. And the International Court of Justice has just affirmed this view resoundingly in its ruling, passed on 9.7.04 by 14 of the 15 judges, that the wall was an illegal structure when in the occupied Palestinian territories and that Israel would have to tear it down and make restitution for the damage it has caused to thousands of Palestinians. This position is entirely valid, but critics, in my view, have missed one crucial aspect of the wall’s purpose, which is, to “vanish” the Palestinians, to make them so invisible that Israelis can go on pretending that there is no “other man”.

Observers of Palestinian history have long been familiar with Israel’s position on this issue. But few realise how successful, subtle and far reaching this Israeli policy has been. Arriving in Haifa recently I could see how hard Israel had tried to make that wish to send the Palestinians into oblivion come true. Haifa prides itself on being the best example of a ‘mixed’ Arab-Jewish city in Israel, practising a much-vaunted mutual tolerance and cooperation. In fact, it is overwhelmingly Jewish, the Arabs forming less than ten per cent of the population. Haifa is a picturesque city; its famous Carmel Mountain, where the city’s Arab notables used to live before 1948, overlooks a beautiful harbour.

Today, Jews inhabit those houses and the Arab minority that remained after the 1948 expulsions lives in a rundown district by the port below, segregated in all but name. The old Haifa street names have been replaced by Jewish ones. To me, an “original” Palestinian exiled in England since 1948, the place was ineffably depressing. Beneath the phoney friendliness in public there was no disguising the unequal relationship between the two sides: the menial jobs in which Arabs are concentrated, the discrimination in housing, jobs and education, implicit rather then legislative, and the aversion to meaningful social contact. One woman described her struggle to buy into the exclusive Carmel district. People had said Arabs in the neighbourhood would depress property prices, rather as blacks are said to do in some Western countries.

Israeli Jews look down on Arabs. Even recently arrived Ethiopian “Jews”, themselves fighting discrimination, affect to despise Arabs. Walking along Haifa’s streets, a disturbing hybrid of modern European and old Arab, I had a sense of a city gutted and soulless, its true past barely discernible beneath the new constructions. People showed me where my uncle’s house had once stood; it is now a municipal car park, demolished by the authorities in 1983. The vanishing process I could see was well advanced here. It had started with the Zionist slogan of Palestine as ‘a land without a people’, to which end the Israelis expended much effort. In 1948, a majority of Palestine’s population was expelled (my family amongst them) and was never allowed to return. A campaign to eradicate the Palestinian presence swiftly followed. Over 500 Palestinian villages were demolished and replaced with Israeli settlements; Hebrew place names were substituted for the previous Arabs ones; the country’s history was re-written to claim that Palestine had been a wasteland, home to a few wandering Bedouin tribes. Israeli schoolchildren were reared for decades on this mythology. Palestinian customs were appropriated as “Israeli”, and the minority of Palestinians that remained became invisible.

This was the narrative I grew up with in Britain. It was so effective that no one here doubted its truth for decades and Israelis themselves were astonished to “discover” the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza after 1967. However, in occupying them, Israel was back to the old problem of how to keep the new land without the people. Since physical expulsion was no longer an option, the alternative has been to make the Palestinians disappear as a nation by destroying their society. The history of the last 37 years of Israeli occupation can perhaps be best understood in this context. The Israeli colonisation of land and resources has strangled the Palestinian economy and made statehood unviable. At the same time, the destruction of Palestinian history proceeds unabated. One of the least noted aspects of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon was the removal to Israel of truckloads of crucial Palestinian archives and documents from the PLO Research Centre in Beirut. The Israelis did the same in 2002 when they invaded Ramallah. Vital statistics, computer hard drives, population statistics and land registers were taken out with the aim of destroying the Palestinian collective memory, history and national existence.

Israel had meanwhile denigrated the PLO, which threatened to give the Palestinian cause international stratus, as terrorists. In 1969, Golda Meir, Israel’s prime minister, made the now notorious statement that “there was no such thing as a Palestinian people”. The world was supposed to understand that, even if there were Palestinians, they did not amount to a separate people with national rights. Our route from Haifa to Jerusalem took us past the barrier wall, which is the subject of the ICJ’s preoccupation and snakes its way down to Jerusalem; it is obscenely high in some places ­ up to eight metres ­ clearly on the principle that what you don’t see does not exist. When we reached East Jerusalem and saw the shrivelled Palestinian community there that tries to survive in this truncated part of the original homeland, I saw another kind of vanishment. So-called Arab Jerusalem now consists effectively of three main streets and is surrounded by Jewish settlements. Israel considers the city “Jewish forever” and the previous Arab population preponderance has been deliberately overturned from 72 to 28 per cent by vigorous Israeli colonisation.

I was born in Jerusalem and yet I hate to see it now, The Old City, with its magnificent Islamic architecture, once the glory of Jerusalem and beyond into the Arab and Islamic worlds, is now a place of aggressive competition for ownership. Extremist religious settlers harass the Arabs, aiming to evict them, and threaten openly to build the Jewish Temple in place of the Aqsa mosque. Sad shopkeepers tell a story of poor business, encroaching Jewish settlement, unfair competition from Israeli traders and tourist guides who warn visitors against buying from “cheating Arabs”, and high taxes imposed by a state of which they are not citizens. It is an unnatural place, but not yet a ghost town like Haifa, though with Israeli strictures against Jerusalemites, I wondered for how long? Friends who worked in Jerusalem were now barred from entry there (or anywhere else). Visiting them in Ramallah one night, I left later than I should, forgetting that the checkpoints close at arbitrary times in the evening. I just made it to the no-man’s land beyond the second checkpoint and stood waiting for a taxi to take me on. None came, and in the eerie stillness with the shapes of heavily armed Israeli soldiers just discernible in the night gloom, I felt I was in a war-zone. But what war and with whom? With a poor people whose only crime is that they are not Jewish?

The wall, the stifling restrictions on movement, the impoverishment, and the daily killings are all designed to encourage flight. Unconfirmed reports say that 200,000 West Bank people have already left. The deliberate targeting of Palestinian leaders, (Sheikh Yassin, the head of Hamas and his replacement were both killed within weeks of each other earlier this year and Arafat is threatened with a similar fate), aims to create a chaotic people incapable of articulating their case. The constant reiteration that “there is no one to talk to” on the Palestinian side, when such interlocutors have been effectively eliminated, is another tactic towards the same end. These extreme antics bespeak an Israeli desperation to preserve the Jewish state “pure”, perhaps understandable in those who perceive, however wrongly, that without it their very survival is at stake. But what continues to baffle and frustrate is America’s unwavering support for Israel and thereby its collusion with this campaign to render the Palestinians invisible ­ President Bush backed Ariel Sharon’s unilateral plan for the Palestinians in April of this year and would be expected to veto any Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s wall. The US of course is only following on British precedent when, in 1917, the Balfour Declaration decided the Palestinians’ fate over their heads and cancelled their identity by re-defining them as “non-Jewish communities”.

The world, meanwhile, looks on ineffectually, as if there were a tacit consensus to see the Palestinians vanish. Of course the rhetoric is beguiling; it speaks of a Palestinian state that even Bush supports. The ICJ’s condemnation of Israel’s barrier wall has encouraged Palestinians to feel hopeful. But the facts speak otherwise. Compare the treatment of the Kosovans in 1999. Then every effort was made to safeguard their integrity as a people; NATO, the EU and the US strove to return them to their homes. Compare also the case of the Iraqi Kurds, protected since 1991 by US and British no-fly zones, and now given special status by the Coalition in Iraq. So why are the Palestinians denied the same treatment? Why are their national identity, aspirations and right of return to their homeland under such vicious, concerted attack? They have retaliated by largely standing their ground, refusing to repeat the tragic exodus of 1948 and 1967, though for how long they can withstand this multi-pronged attack on their society is anyone’s guess. As for Israel, racing against time to hold back the Arab “demographic” tide, it is also anyone’s guess how long it can put off its inevitable absorption into the Arab world by such antics.

Ghada Karmi is a Palestinian writer and academic living in London. Her latest book is ‘Married to a man: Israel’s dilemma and the one-state solution’.

November 23, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Unminced Words By Climate Scientist Hans von Storch

“Scientists Too Quick To Claim Last Word”

No Trick Zone | November 18, 2013

The Resonator, the research podcast of the German Helmholtz Research Group conducted a long interview (1 hr 40 min!) with climate scientist Hans von Storch director of the GKSS Research Center. In the interview von Storch was asked about his views on a wide variety of climate science related issues.

Overall the interview saw a Hans von Storch who spoke frankly and openly. Some of the remarks he made raised my eye brows. In general von Storch, best described as a non-alarmist warmist, views the climate debate as being dominated by the more extreme positions from both sides, with voices in the middle getting drowned out. He levels a fair amount of criticism at the climate science community, but does so without naming any persons in particular.

Due to the sheer length of the interview, I will only look at the points that I found interesting and relevant as skeptic.

Scientists too quick to accept dramatic scenarios

At the 15-minute mark von Storch describes a science that is so politicized with both sides are trying to make it black and white, and a debate that has been overly shrill. Some scientists, he says, have tended to accept dramatic scenarios and consequences even when there’s little evidence behind them. He also talks of a group of scientists who fancy themselves as the ultimate authority and who have the last word. All the exaggerations and projections of doom, gloom and disaster have led to an overall discrediting of the field.

“Science and Nature are pretty bad journals”

At the 29-minute mark von Storch says he sees himself as someone who needs a lot of time before he is convinced of anything. I was surprised to hear him call both Science and Nature “pretty bad journals” when it comes to the quality of their articles. Hans von Storch cites an article published by Science claiming that the climate was going to tip in the year 2047, calling the report “a real doozy“. He says that science journals must remain sufficiently critical and not let themselves get caught up with the zeitgeist. Von Storch admits that he has not always been popular among the community.

Overall von Storch doesn’t blame the media much for the hysteria, implying that the hysteria stems more from scientists communicating poorly. The media are only interpreting what the scientists are spewing. Projections of snowless winters, for example, were hardly helpful in lending credibility to climate science.

Scientists dramatizing for attention and prestige

At the 37-minute mark von Storch believes some scientists succumbed to drama in order to get attention and prestige, and says that the such are only damaging the credibility of climate science.

Models too CO2-centric

At the 40-minute mark von Storch discusses possible reasons why the warming has stalled and thinks other explanations need to be examined, such as solar activity and aerosols. He finds climate models too CO2-centric in general. Here he appeals for more patience to let the science unfold.

At the 45 minute mark he fires harsh criticism at scientists who promote a society governed by an elite technocracy, calling the idea “stupidity”. He calls the proposals made by a group of scientists in favor of appointing future councils to represent the interests of future generations “peculiar”.

At the 59-minute mark, on whether storms are becoming more frequent and severe, von Storch says he doesn’t think this is the case and that the disasters are more about the over-development of coastal areas.

Hockey stick was “something dumb” – an attempt to steer politics

On the hockey stick chart, at the 63 minute mark, von Storch has some blunt words on how it was possible to for it to become the icon that it became. He recalls having examined the chart himself and found it deficient.

“I believe it was something dumb by scientists who wanted to steer politics.”

He thinks the climate science community were too quick to call it the last word. Hans von Storch sees critique of the hockey stick and confirmed and that’s why it no longer appears in the IPCC reports. Scientists, von Storch reminds us, should not be so quick to claim absolute truth.

Also, von Storch believes that the oceans could be warming up, but that there is very little data out there to confirm it.

November 23, 2013 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , | Leave a comment

West arrogance blocks P5+1 progress with Iran

By Finian Cunningham | Press TV | November 23, 2013

Potential failure to reach an interim agreement at the P5+1 negotiations in Geneva this week can be attributed to various factors: The lingering damage to confidence caused by the French spoiler lobbed into the previous round earlier this month; the subsequent lack of commitment by the US to pursue the undoubted progress that had been achieved towards closing a deal; and the intrusive lobbying by Israel and its formidable American supporters in Congress creating unhelpful background tensions.

But another major factor is this: Western arrogance. The United States, Britain and France are still behaving as hegemonic powers whose arrogance blinds them to their own outrageous double standards and hypocrisy, and prevents them from treating Iran with mutual respect.

Without this basic ingredient of mutual respect, any negotiations will continue to be frustrated.

French arrogance was perhaps most salient at this particular time. Three days before the opening of the third round of P5+1 talks in Geneva, French President Francois Hollande travelled to Israel in a display of pathetic kowtowing.

On the eve of sensitive talks in Geneva, Hollande’s theatrical rhetoric about “taking a tough stance in support of Israel against a nuclear-armed Iran” was a reckless confidence-sinking salvo.

But more than this, the French leader betrayed the kind of counterproductive arrogance that characterizes the Western attitude generally towards Iran. This hegemonic mentality is at the root of ongoing political deadlock and the continued imposition of unethical economic sanctions on the Iranian population.

Why should France be allowed to have some 60 nuclear power stations operating on its territory supplying 80 per cent of that country’s total energy needs? Why should France be allowed full control of all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment to unrestricted concentrations? Why should France possess up to 500 nuclear weapons? Yet when Iran asserts its legally entitled right to develop peaceful atomic technology, France and the other Western powers impede with unreasonable objections.

Such thinking – displayed by the French, but pervading the other Western powers too – is surely the apex of arrogant doublethink. And it is this mindset that must be addressed if the P5+1 talks are to progress.

This astounding Western arrogance was again revealed in the preposterous claim by the French leader before the Israeli parliament that his country stands against proliferation of nuclear weapons. How can a Western leader spout such arrant nonsense without being ridiculed and held to account? It is a well-known historical fact that it was France that played a crucial role in illegally proliferating nuclear weapons in the Middle East by arming Israel during the 1950s and 60s.

Washington and London also share due blame for creating this dangerous and criminal double standard of nuclear weaponry in the Middle East.

Countless investigations by the International Atomic Energy Agency verify Iran’s claims of pursuing legitimate civilian nuclear energy. Iranian assurances have been issued numerous times, most recently this week, by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

Nevertheless, the Western powers continue to thwart progress towards a mutual settlement by a) not acknowledging Iran’s fundamental legal right to enrich uranium as bestowed to all signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty; and b) by continuing to cast aspersions on Iran’s avowed nuclear plans.

This attitude of the Western powers is arrogant and insulting to the integrity of Iran and its revered leader; it is hegemonic and presents an unreasonable, unlawful block on resolving the dispute.

The Western hegemons’ opinions and prejudices are simply being allowed to warp what is a legal process enshrining inalienable rights.

Hollande’s words and actions this week are ample proof of that. But here is another illustration of the Western arrogance from a quarter that shows how deep and problematic that mindset runs. In a debate televised earlier this week on Press TV between Iranian Professor Mohammad Marandi and American commentator Lawrence Korb, it was notable just how regressive Western thinking is. The more troubling aspect perhaps is that Mr Korb is considered to be a voice of reason among the Washington establishment, who is in favor of diplomatic rapprochement and a deal at the P5+1 talks.

Korb sought to make an equivalence between the US and Iran, saying that “mistakes have been made on all sides.” He cited in particular the siege of the American embassy in Tehran some 34 years ago as an example of alleged Iranian transgressions.

As Prof Marandi cogently pointed out, there is no comparison between Iran and US “mistakes.” The crimes committed by the US against the people of Iran are incomparable and inordinate, including the installation of the vicious CIA-backed police state of the Shah until 1979, the downing of an Iranian civilian airliner with the loss of hundreds of lives, the US-backed Iraqi war on Iran between 1980-88, including the American-assisted use of chemical weapons against Iranian civilians. Plus the ongoing raft of economic sanctions that target sick children and terminally ill cancer patients.

In all these crimes committed against the Iranian nation, the US has been supported directly by Britain and France.

Americans, including many supposedly progressive voices, are oblivious to the scale of horror that their country has inflicted on Iran (and many other nations besides). This obliviousness is the blind outlook of arrogance that infects the brain of Washington, London and Paris, and a good many of their citizens.

Americans need to listen more and talk less; they need to do some serious soul-searching instead of pontificating all the time.

Until that arrogance is eradicated, negotiations with these powers will always prove to be frustrating and may be even futile.

November 23, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear Rights and the P5+1 Talks with Iran

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett | Going to Tehran | November 22, 2013

Yesterday, while taping a discussion of the latest round of P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran on Russia Today’s CrossTalk that was broadcast today (see here or, on You Tube, here), Flynt said, “I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not particularly optimistic about a deal being reached this week.  I don’t think that there’s been a lot of progress on the issues that kept agreement from being reached the last time the parties convened in Geneva:

There’s the issue of Iran’s nuclear rights, and how they get acknowledged or not acknowledged in an interim agreement.

There is disagreement about how to handle, during an interim deal, this heavy water reactor facility at Arak which the Iranians are building.

There are still disagreements about the disposition of Iran’s stockpile of near-20 percent enriched uranium.

I don’t really see much sign that either the United States or the French are backing down from some of the positions they took on those issues ten days ago—and if there’s not some give on that, I don’t know how the Iranians will be in a position to accept the P5+1 proposal.

On the positions that the United States and France took on these issues in the November 7-9 Geneva talks, Flynt recounts,

“Going into the last round at Geneva, I think the Iranians anticipated getting a draft from the P5+1 where they had clearly worked out understandings about how some of these contentious issues—about Arak, about the 20 percent stockpile, about some acknowledgement of Iran’s nuclear rights; the Iranians had expectations from their previous discussions about the kind of proposal they were going to see.  And, basically, the United States and France reneged on those understandings.  And so the draft proposal that went in front of Iran was different from what Foreign Minister Zarif and his team were expecting to see, and they weren’t in a position to accept that.

Unless the P5+1—in particular, the United States and France—are willing to stick to understandings that the Iranians thought they had reached, at least verbally, on some of these issues, I don’t think that the Iranians are going to feel, either in terms of substance or in terms of the atmosphere of trust, they’re not going to feel comfortable with going ahead with an agreement.”

Currently, the most fundamental sticking point in Geneva is—as we have long anticipated—the Obama administration’s refusal to recognize Iran’s clear legal right to enrich uranium under safeguards and to acknowledge that the Islamic Republic will have to be treated like any other NPT party.  As we’ve written before, see here, Iran and all other states have a sovereign right to pursue indigenous fuel cycle capabilities—a right recognized in Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as an “inalienable right,” which non-nuclear-weapon states pledge to exercise in line with Article II (where non-weapons states commit not to build or obtain nuclear weapons) and Article III (where states commit to conducting their nuclear activities under safeguards to be negotiated with the International Atomic Energy Agency).

As Flynt explains, the Obama administration—like the George W. Bush administration before it—resists recognizing this legal reality:

“There are basically four countries in the world that try to deny that the NPT recognizes the right of a non-nuclear weapon state like Iran to enrich uranium under safeguards.  Those four countries are the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and Israel, which isn’t even a signatory to the NPT.  Those are the only four countries that take this position.  The rest of the world—the BRICS, the Non-Aligned Movement, key U.S. allies like Germany and Japan—have held consistently that the Treaty recognizes a right to enrich.  And what is so perverse is that…when the U.S. and the Soviet Union first opened the NPT for signature in 1968, senior U.S. officials testified to Congress that the NPT recognized a right to safeguarded enrichment.  That was the position of the United States until the end of the Cold War—and then we decided to try to unilaterally rewrite the Treaty because we didn’t want non-Western countries getting fuel cycle capabilities.”

We’ll see if the Obama administration can do any better this weekend.

November 23, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On common causes and ethical compromises

Interventions Watch |  November 23, 2013 

Pulse Media have recently released an open letter, apparently authored and circulated by people associated with the Syrian opposition, addressing why they feel the inclusion of Mother Agnes Mariam at the upcoming Stop the War Conference should be ‘a “red line” for opponents of conflict’ (emphasis mine).

The letter is signed by 55 activists, journalists, politicians and academics, and I just want to review how ‘opposed’ to ‘conflict’ some of them actually are.

There’s no point in beating around the bush, so let’s get straight into it:

    1. Prof. Gilbert Achcar, SOAS

In March 2011, as the NATO bombing campaign against Libya was in full swing, Achcar wrote an article for Znet expressing how he thought ‘it was just morally and politically wrong for anyone on the left to oppose the no-fly zone’ – that is, the NATO bombing of Libya, given enforcing a ‘no-fly zone’ always entails bombing, because that is basic military doctrine for this kind of operation. Achcar continues to strenuously deny supporting the ‘no-fly zone’, but I’ll leave it for others to decide whether there is a great deal of difference between him supporting it, and calling on others not to oppose it/try and stop it. He wasn’t, in any case, an ‘opponent’ of that aspect of the ‘conflict’ in Libya.

Achcar also supports sending arms to the Syrian rebels, writing that ‘it is the duty of all those who claim to support the right of peoples to self-determination to help the Syrian people get the means of defending themselves’ (aid agencies, meanwhile, have argued that the further provision of arms will deepen the humanitarian disaster).

    2. Assaad al-Achi, Local Coordination Committees in Syria

The Local Coordination Committees have in the recent past issued press releases basically welcoming Western military intervention – as long as it’s not too limited, warning that ‘A limited strike to merely warn Assad will lead to nothing but increase in his violence’, and then arguing that ‘Any strike to the regime must aim to paralyze, with attention and precision, its Air Forces, artillery, and missiles arsenal’. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of their position, it is not one that is ‘opposed’ to ‘conflict’, but rather supports the escalation and further internationalization of the conflict.

    3. Rime Allaf, Syrian writer

Allaf recently wrote an article for The Guardian calling for ‘real friends of Syria’ to ‘break Assad’s siege’ and ‘neutralise his air power’. Which they could only do via a military strike, obviously, so her words are a non-too-subtle call for military intervention.

    4. Omar al-Assil, Syrian Non-Violence Movement

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    5. Hussam Ayloush, Chairman, Syrian American Council

In September 2013, Ayloush re-posted an article calling for military intervention in Syria on his blog, writing that ‘I agree with the message and decided to share it too’.

    6. Noor Barotchi, Bradford Syria Solidarity

When Israel bombed Syria in May 2013, Barotchi wrote that ‘I shall not condemn it’, and that she was ‘bothered by . . . people condemning the act’.

7. Mark Boothroyd, International Socialist Network

8. Kat Burdon-Manley, International Socialist Network

9. Clara Connolly, Human Rights lawyer

I could find nothing to indicate the three people above are pro-military intervention.

    10. Paul Conroy, photojournalist

Conroy has been calling for ‘no-fly zones and safe havens’ within Syria which, the Orwellian language aside, are both forms of military intervention.

    11. Donnacha DeLong, National Union of Journalists

In November 2011, DeLong wrote in Ceasefire magazine of the NATO bombing of Libya: ‘what was the alternative? . . . It was NATO or nothing and I’m glad it wasn’t the latter’, while decrying ‘The knee-jerk condemnation of NATO intervention’.

    12.Hannah Elsisi, Egyptian Revolutionary Socialist

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    13. Raed Fares, Head of Kafranabel Media Centre

As reported by The New York Times, in September, when U.S. airstrikes against Syria were being seriously discussed, Fares sent a video to U.S. members of Congress to let them know ‘what the Syrian people inside Syria feel and think about the strike’. The article goes on to say that the video ‘aims directly at American skepticism about another war and recent protests that featured antiwar slogans’. From the context, it’s clear that the video was designed to drum up support among U.S. lawmakers for a U.S. military strike on Syria.

    14. Naomi Foyle, writer and co-ordinator of British Writers in Support of Palestine

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    15. Razan Ghazzawi, Syrian blogger and activist

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    16. Christine Gilmore, Leeds Friends of Syria

Here’s Christine Gilmore speaking in favour of military intervention in Syria on the BBC in August.

    17. Golan Haji, poet and translator

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    18. Marcus Halaby, staff writer, Workers Power

In August, Halaby – while renouncing overt military intervention – wrote that ‘we should be demanding aid without strings to the Syrian people’, including ‘the sort of heavy weaponry the fighters need’.

    19. Sam Charles Hamad, activist

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    20. Nebal Istanbouly, Office Manager of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SOC) in the UK

When asked by The Egypt Independent whether the NCSROF supported military strikes against Syria, the head of the organisation, Ahmad Jarba, replied ‘Yes, but on the condition to preserve the lives of civilians whether supporters or opponents. This strike will be certain and directed against military sites under the control of the regime. We bless this strike as it will destroy the vehicles which kill the Syrian people mercilessly’.

    21. Tehmina Kazi, human rights activist

I could find nothing to indicate the two people above are pro-military intervention.

    22. Ghalia Kabbani, Syrian journalist and writer

I could find nothing to indicate the two people above are pro-military intervention.

    23. Khaled Khalifa, Syrian writer

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    24. Malik Little, blogger

When the threat of U.S. lead military action against Syria began to subside in October, Little wrote a blog post lamenting what he called the ‘victory’ of the anti-war movement, describing the U.S. military as ‘the only force capable of ending the bloody stalemate’, and ending with ‘The movement to stop U.S. military action failed in 2003 and succeeded in 2013. In both cases, the result was needless bloodshed and brutality borne by people far from our shores’.

    25. Amer Scott Masri, Scotland4Syria

On 5th September, at the height of the debate over whether the U.S. et al should bomb Syria, the Scotland4Syria Facebook page published a post arguing that ‘War is an evil thing, BUT it becomes necessary when a fascist and criminal dictator like Assad of Syria commits genocide on innocent men, women and children’.

    26. Margaret McAdam, Unite Casa Branch NW567 (pc)

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    27. Yassir Munif, sociologist and activist

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    28. Tom Mycock, Unite shop steward (pc)

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    29. Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    30. Tim Nelson, Unison Shop Steward (pc)

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    31. Louis Proyect, Counterpunch contributor

Wrote in June 2013 that he was ‘buoyed by the knowledge that most Arabs and Muslims are sickened by Bashar al-Assad and would like to see him overthrown by any means necessary, even with weapons procured from Satan’s grandmother’. Which implies that he wouldn’t be too bothered to see the U.S. et all supplying weapons to the opposition. Polls published at roughly the same time, incidentally, showed majority opposition in the middle east to ‘the West’ supplying arms.

    32. Martin Ralph, VP Liverpool TUC (pc)

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    33. Ruth Riegler, co-founder of Radio Free Syria, Syrian International Media Alliance

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention, but she has been extremely critical of the anti-war movement since long before this Agnes controversy.

    34. Mary Rizzo, activist, translator and blogger

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention. [Aletho News – Mary Rizzo maintains a blog dedicated to western military interventions. The blog was initiated during the campaign for bombing Libya. Mary writes original content promoting R2P as well as aggregating and disseminating the work of others.]

    35. Christopher Roche and Dima Albadra, Bath Solidarity

Around about the time that the British parliament voted not to military intervene in Syria, Roche re-tweeted a number of things which strongly suggested he was in favour of the intervention.

    36. Walid Saffour, Representative of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SOC) in the UK

When asked by The Egypt Independent whether the NCSROF supported military strikes against Syria, the head of the organisation, Ahmad Jarba, replied ‘Yes, but on the condition to preserve the lives of civilians whether supporters or opponents. This strike will be certain and directed against military sites under the control of the regime. We bless this strike as it will destroy the vehicles which kill the Syrian people mercilessly’.

    37. Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    38. David St Vincent, contributing writer and editor, National Geographic Books

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    39. Reem Salahi, civil rights lawyer

Has written that while she is ‘ambivalent about U.S. intervention’ in Syria given the U.S. track record, she thinks ‘There is something to be said when Syrians in Syria are calling for the U.S. to intervene’.

    40. Salim Salamah, Palestinian blogger

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    41. Yassin al-Haj Saleh, Syrian writer

Wrote in a New York Times editorial in September, when the debate over whether to directly militarily intervene in Syria or not was raging, that ‘A half-hearted intervention will not be enough. The United States and those who join it must not simply “discipline” the regime for its use of chemical weapons alone, without making a decisive impact on events in Syria. To do so would be a waste of effort and send the wrong message’.

    42. Richard Seymour, author

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    43. Bina Shah, author and contributor to the International New York Times

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    44. Leila Shrooms, founding member of Tahrir-ICN

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    45. Luke Staunton, International Socialist Network

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    46. KD Tait, National Secretary, Workers Power

Has written that her organisation is calling ‘for weapons for the revolutionaries’ (see 6th comment down).

    47. Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

Tatchell has been calling for a ‘no-fly zone’ over Syria for months, including at anti-war demos. He denies that he is pro-war in regards to Syria, but the imposition of a ‘no-fly zone’ is an inescapably pro-war demand.

    48. Paris Thompson, International Socialist Network

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    49. Hassan Walid, Anas el-Khani and Abdulwahab Sayyed Omar, British Solidarity for Syria

When the U.K. Parliament voted against taking military action against Syria, Sayed Omar, spokesman for BBS, described it as ‘a celebration of brutal dictatorship’. He attacked the ‘excuses’ that some MPs used to justify voting against the the the intervention, and described calls for a diplomatic solution as ‘naive’. He goes on to lament that ‘when Syrians ask you for arms in order to fight him you refuse’. He finishes by saying that ‘Your vote last night means that this nation cannot call itself “Great” any longer’. Which is all strongly indicative that he was in favour of military intervention (see post dated August 31st).

    50. Robin Yassin-Kassab, author and co-editor of Critical Muslim

Yassin-Kassab was an outspoken supporter of the NATO intervention in Libya. He has also written in regards to Syria that ‘At some point . . . key sections of the military and the Alawi community will realize they have no hope of victory, and will either flee or switch sides. I would prefer this moment to come in a year’s time or sooner, not in another decade. Arming Syria’s guerrillas is the only way to bring about that result’.

    51. Qusai Zakariya, activist from Moadamiyeh, Syria

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    52. Nisreen al-Zaraee and Wisam al-Hamoui, Freedom Days

I could find nothing to indicate the above are pro-military intervention.

    53. Tasneem al-Zeer, activist

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

    54. Razan Zeitouneh, human rights lawyer

Has lamented the fact that the West is refusing ‘to do what it should do under the pretext of not turning Syria into a second Iraq’, and their refusal to ‘to deliver effective weapons or to create a no-fly zone and safe areas for civilians’.

    55. Ziauddin Sardar, writer, journalist and editor of the Critical Muslim

I could find nothing to indicate the above is pro-military intervention.

So of the 55 signatories, I’d say around 20 of them either openly favour direct or indirect military intervention in Syria; have made comments strongly suggesting they do; or are on the fence somewhat.

My intention here absolutely isn’t to ‘name and shame’.

I’m sure many of the people on the list above who are in favour of military intervention in Syria – direct or indirect, overt or covert, arms or airstrikes – are so because they sincerely believe that it is the best way to ease the suffering in the country, and bring about a freer and more just political order. Especially those who are Syrian themselves.

I disagree with them that this is the best way, of course, given the track records of those who would likely be doing the ‘intervening’ (it’s 99.99% certain that it’d be U.S. lead) – they’ve tended to leave a trail of corpses and carnage behind them wherever they’ve bombed, invaded or subverted, rather than flourishing, peaceful democracies. Perhaps because encouraging peace and democracy isn’t their aim. I also don’t believe there is any such thing as a ‘humanitarian’ bomb or bullet, and am of the opinion that the attempt to re-brand predatory war as a humanitarian endeavor is one of the Big Lies of the age.

But I do think there’s a double standard in play when supporters of military intervention in Syria are accusing others of ‘greasing the skids of the regime’s war machine’, while they grease the skids of the U.S. et al war machine, and implicitly present themselves as ‘opponents of conflict’. Clearly, many of them aren’t.

And are not the supporters of military intervention in Syria in effect playing a role in minimising the dangers posed by the U.S./et al, by arguing like the aforementioned’s predatory, self-interested militarism and ultra violence – which has historically killed far more people than the Assad regime’s – is somehow more acceptable, more morally and politically tolerable, than Assad’s is, even if they recognise the dangers?

I also think there’s somewhat of a double standard in play when opponents of any military intervention can come together with supporters of such an intervention to, despite their differences, denounce the fact that Mother Agnes was invited to speak at the Stop the War conference.

Are we to believe that it’s fine for opponents and supporters of military intervention to put their differences to one side to pursue a common goal (in this case, trying to get Mother Agnes removed from the Stop the War platform), but not fine for opponents of the Assad regime to put aside their differences with an with alleged supporter of the Assad regime to pursue theirs (in this case, preventing a U.S. lead military strike on Syria, a far worse scenario than Mother Agnes being allowed to speak)?

Because that appears to be the message.

Ultimately, if the question is ‘Should Agnes have been invited to address the Stop the War conference?’, then I can see that there is a principled argument against it.

But if the question is ‘Should people be withdrawing just because she was?’, then not in my book. Not unless they’re going to be consistent in applying those principles, by refusing to participate in any campaign or on any platform that might be patronised by any person whose views they otherwise don’t like or approve of.

And for a start, that certainly hasn’t been the case in regards to the literary platform that Pulses’ letter provides.

November 23, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Online surveillance threatens democracy: web creator

336218_Tim-Berners-Lee

Inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee
Press TV – November 23, 2013

Internet surveillance by British and US spying agencies has posed a threat to online freedom and the future of democracy, British inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee has warned.

Berners-Lee said some governments are jeopardized by how the Internet and social media help exposing wrongdoings across the planet, adding that the “growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy”.

He also said that whistleblowers who have leaked secret surveillance by US National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s eavesdropping agency the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) deserve praise and need to be protected.

Berners-Lee’s comments come after classified documents, leaked by US whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in June, showed the NSA and its British counterpart the GCHQ had been eavesdropping on millions of American and European phone records and the Internet data.

“Countries owe a lot to whistleblowers – there’s a series of whistleblowers who have been involved. Snowden is the latest. Because there was no way we could have had that conversation without them,” he said at the launch of a new index showing web freedoms around the world.

“At the end of the end day when systems for checks and balances break down we have to rely on the whistleblowers – I think we must protect them and respect them,” he added.

In his interview with The Guardian earlier this month, Berners-Lee described the spying activities by the US and UK spying agencies as “dysfunctional and unaccountable.”

The inventor of the World Wide Web slammed the US and British governments for weakening online security and said their spying activities have contradicted all efforts to stop cybercrime and cyber warfare.

November 23, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment