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Bum Rap for the Rapa Nui

By Thomas Riggins | Dissident Voice | February 5, 2014

A new report in Science News Magazine (1-25-2014) by Bruce Bower details a reevaluation of the view that the Rapa Nuians, the native inhabitants of Easter Island (Rapa Nui), were responsible for the collapse of their population and society due to over exploitation of natural resources and the destruction of the rain forest on their island, a view recently popularized by Jared Diamond in his book Collapse (2005).

As Bower reports, the anthropologist Maria Mulrooney has published the results of her studies of the Rapa Nui culture (Journal of Archeological Science, December 2013) based on new radiocarbon dates from archeological sites on the island. She has concluded that after the clear cutting of the forest in the 1500s, to make room for agricultural production, the population of Rapa Nui remained sufficiently vibrant to carry on food production and continue their cultural development.

Exactly when the Rapa Nui arrived on Easter Island is unknown but it was on or before 1200 A.D. or so. Mulrooney maintains they had a thriving culture which was still going strong even after their “discovery” by the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen on Easter Sunday 1722. This would indicate that they had not suffered “collapse” as a result of forest clearance.

Roggeveen reported that the island had about 2000 to 3000 inhabitants.  He was the first to report on the moai– the giant statues (erected as religious symbols as part of an ancestor cult) for which the island is famous. They were all in place and standing when he was visiting the island (for less than two weeks). In his short time there he managed to kill a dozen or so natives and so his estimate of the population may be incorrect as many people fled and hid out until after he left.

The Spanish showed up in 1770, claimed the island for King Carlos III, then sailed away. The moai were all standing and the people were still engaged in agriculture. Captain Cook showed up in 1774 and noticed some of the moai had fallen but there was no sign of cultural “collapse.”

Bower quotes Mulrooney as saying, “Deforestation did not equal societal failure on Rapi Nui. We should celebrate the remarkable achievements of this island civilization”

Yet the culture did end up almost completely destroyed. After Capitan Cook’s visit Europeans visited more regularly in the 19th Century. It has been suggested that Rapa Nui’s decline may have been caused by the introduction of European diseases. By the early 1800s most of the moai had been toppled and the society had broken up into warring factions.

Peruvian slavers invaded in the 1860s and carried away 1500 of the 2000 or so Rapa Nuians into bondage in the mines of Peru.  By 1878 only 111 natives were still living on the island. 97 per cent of the cultural memory of the people had been lost after contact with the Europeans. The greatest loss may have been that of rongorongo, the native writing system of Rapa Nui, and the only writing system created by any Polynesian group. All of those who knew the writing system died in the mines of Peru or from European introduced TB which ravaged the survivors.

Chile annexed the island in 1888. The Rapa Nui were given citizenship in 1966 but they no longer rule on their island. Of the 6000 or so people living on the island today about 3600 are Rapa Nui. The archeologist Carl Lipo is quoted as saying, “The idea of societal collapse on Rapa Nui has long been assumed but there is no scientific basis for it.” He is referring to a self induced collapse. Their traditional culture was destroyed, and the people today are trying to reinvigorate it, but it is a bum rap to blame them for the loss of their civilization.

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , | 1 Comment

Okinawa: Two Elections

By C. Douglas Lummis | CounterPunch | February 5, 2014

Naha, Okinawa – The 2010 Governor’s election in Okinawa was a game changer.  Up to then the pattern of elections here had been, a progressive candidate clearly opposed to the US military bases on the island, vs. a conservative candidate who was not positively in favor of them, but took the attitude, if we can’t get rid of them we might as well make a little money off them.

In 2010 the issue on the table was not all the bases, but what to do with the US Marine Air Station at Futenma, in the middle of densely populated Ginowan City.  In 1996 the US and Japanese Governments had announced that they would close it down, but only on the condition that the 1st Marine Air Wing, which it houses, be moved to a new base to be built offshore from the fishing village of Henoko, in the less populated northern part of Okinawa.  This construction has been fiercely opposed by Okinawans.  Pacifists argue that the base should be abolished altogether; ecologists and fisher-people point out that construction would be devastating to the coral-rich Oura Bay, habitat to the endangered sea-mammal the dugong; Okinawans generally feel that the Government’s insistence that the base stay on their island amounts to discriminatory treatment.  Okinawa comprises 0.6% of Japanese territory, but just under 75% of all US bases in Japan are located here.  More and more people are using the word “colonialism” to describe this.  Thus after the 1996 announcement the Okinawans, by means of rallies, demonstrations, lawsuits, petitions, sit-ins, and direct action civil disobedience, have so far prevented construction from beginning.

In 2010 the incumbent conservative Governor Nakaima Hirokazu [family name first, following East Asian practice], who had been elected on the What the Hell can you do about it? ticket, was advised that the electorate had changed, and that he could not be reelected unless he changed his position.  This he did, saying that now he favored moving the Futenma base to mainland Japan.  This enabled him to pick up the support of people who were not ready to oppose all the US bases, but who resented the unequal treatment.

The result was an election in which both the progressive and the conservative candidates opposed moving the Futenma base to a different location within Okinawa.  There was a third candidate, from the crackpot Happiness Realization Party, who supported the US-Japan plan to move the base to Henoko.  The progressive and conservative candidates between them got 97% of the votes; the only party that supported the US-Japan plan got a little over 2%.  It’s not often that you see that kind of agreement in a free election. In that election the US-Japan plan was supported only by the crazies. Governor Nakaima, campaigning on the slogan Move the Base to the Mainland, was re-elected.

For three years after that, Governor Nakaima put on a pretty convincing performance.  Again and again Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers, Defense Ministers came to his office trying to persuade him to accept the Henoko base plan, and again and again he sent them packing, sometimes after only a few minutes. (One of them, I think it was a Foreign Minister – these fellows have been changing like a game of musical chairs in recent years so it’s hard to remember – was caught on TV looking at his watch to see how much time he had got, as the Governor walked out of the room.) During that period not only the governor, but many Okinawan Liberal Democratic Party politicians, defying their Party headquarters in Tokyo, came out against the base plan. People began to talk about an All Okinawa Anti-Base Movement.  Increasingly anti-base activists, instead of appealing for sympathy, were calling the plan “impossible”.

Last year the Tokyo Government, after completing a survey of Oura Bay, wrote up an environmental impact report and handed it to the Governor for his approval, without which they cannot legally begin reclamation work in the Bay.  He set up a committee, and they fiddled with it for the better part of a year.  Many people believed, I among them, that Nakaima would reject it in the end: why would anyone want to put their name on a document that claims that dumping several millions of tons (or whatever the amount is) of dirt and junk into a coral bay will have no detrimental effect on the environment?  But at the end of December last year, he approved it, which opened the way for construction to begin. Most people were stunned, though there was also a minor chorus of I Told You So.  In exchange the Governor claimed to have gotten some major gifts and concessions from Tokyo, a mess of pottage that turned out to be mostly promises that won’t be kept and aid money that Okinawa Prefecture was entitled to anyway.  It continues to amaze me that a person presented with the opportunity to become a hero whose name would be passed on in Okinawan culture for generations, would instead choose to be remembered as a liar and a turncoat. There is a strong movement calling for his resignation or, failing that, his recall.

It seemed that Okinawa was in danger of falling into despondency and resignation.  But there was one more test coming up.  Just a couple of weeks after Nakaima’s collapse, on January 19, there was the election for Mayor of Nago City, of which Henoko is an administrative part.  The incumbent Mayor, Inamine Susumu, had been elected on the public promise that he would oppose new base construction in the city. Two candidates declared against him, both supporting base construction.  For the Abe Shinzo Government, this was a must-win election.  First they sent down a gang of top Party and Government officials to persuade one of the pro-base candidates to stand down – a very unusual case of interference in local politics (of course, they were successful).  Then when campaigning began they sent down Party and Government superstars to join in the electioneering.  A lot of dubious money is said to have been passed around.  Nago is the home of several of the construction companies which would likely get the reclaiming contracts, and which also have political clout in the city.  Presumably a lot of pressure was put by those and other companies on their employees.  In the last days of the campaign the Liberal Democraic Party’s Secretary General Ishiba suddenly announced that if the pro-base candidate won Nago would be rewarded with 50 billion yen (about $500 million) in extra aid.  It was the town of Nago, population 62000, vs. the state of Japan, and to the last moment no one knew which side would win.

Inamine won, by a healthy margin.  Okinawa’s temptation to despondency ended after just a few weeks.  This has got to be remembered as one of the great election victories in the history of democracy.  Nago would not be bought; the voters took the aid offer as an insult.  Immediately after the election, Inamine announced that he would use his powers as Mayor, not to appeal to Tokyo to reconsider their plan, but positively to prevent it from going forward.  Concretely, he said he would prohibit any construction-related use of roads, harbors or rivers that are under the City’s administration, and that he would not participate in any negotiations that presuppose base construction. Inamine, incidentally, is not a professional politician or an ex-movement activist.  Before he ran for Mayor he was an official in the City’s Board of Education. To this day he goes out every morning to work as a traffic safety volunteer at a corner where kids cross the street on the way to school.  There is a good lesson in politics here:  You don’t need charisma; all you need is to say “no”. It’s also a lesson in popular sovereignty.  The Tokyo Government says, We will decide.  The people of Nago reply, No, we have decided.  Like they say, it takes a village.

The Abe Shinzo Government has painted itself into a corner.  They continue to tell the US Government, and the world, that they will build the new base at Henoko anyway.  They say they will “persuade” Inamine, but it looks like that can’t be done.  Will they rewrite the law, to take away the Mayor’s powers?  Will they send in the Riot Police, or maybe the Self-Defence Forces?  Will they revive the method used by the US military to get land for bases right after the Battle of Okinawa, the method known here as “bulldozers and rifles”?  Of course all these are possible, but they will be made less possible the more the Nago situation comes to the attention of people around the world.  That’s why it’s a good thing that some overseas supporters of the Okinawa anti-base movement, beginning with Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick who visited Okinawa last year, after the election drafted a letter of solidarity that has been signed by over 100 writers, scholars, movie makers and others.  This has evolved into a general petition campaign on the internet.  I have no illusion that submitting this petition to President Obama and Prime Minister Abe will have any effect on their consciences.  What it will do is send a message to the people of Nago that they are not isolated.  And by making clear to both heads of state that the whole world is watching it will make it difficult for them to use dirty tricks or violence to get their way in Nago.

The petition can be accessed at http://chn.ge/1ecQPUJ

Douglas Lummis is a political scientist living in Okinawa and the author of Radical Democracy. Lummis can be reached at ideaspeddler@gmail.com

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Human Rights Watch’ on Syria: relentless war propaganda

By Tim Anderson and Mazen al-Akhras | Pravda | February 2, 2014

The Washington-based group ‘Human Rights Watch’- controlled by the US foreign policy elite – has released another volley in its campaign to back the ‘humanitarian war’ being waged against the independent nation of Syria.

 This is not the first or second fabrication against Syria run by Human Rights Watch. The group was amongst the first to falsely blame the Syrian government for the East Ghouta chemical weapons incident of August 2013. The ‘moral panic’ from that accusation almost sparked a major escalation of the war.

Several reports have since proven that the accusation was a fraud. A group led by Catholic nun Mother Agnes Mariam produced a report showing the video evidence of the incident had been manipulated and staged; US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh showed that US intelligence implicating the Syrian Government had been fabricated; and the New York Times retracted its support for speculative telemetry evidence, which they had claimed implicated the Syrian Army. On the other side, Syrian witnesses, a Jordanian reporter and a Turkish human rights group (‘Peace Association and Lawyers for Justice in Turkey’) implicated Saudi-backed terrorists. Further, the last UN report on the incident says that, in most instances, chemical weapons were used ‘against soldiers’; that is, against the government. HRW has neither retracted nor apologised for its role in this scam.

The latest HRW story (‘Razed to the Ground’, 30 Jan) is that the Syrian Government over 2012-13 demolished residential buildings in seven areas of Hama and Damascus as ‘punishment’ for certain neighbourhoods supporting ‘the rebels’. Thousands of families lost their homes in this way, yet there have been ‘no similar demolitions in areas that support the government’.

HRW said it ‘has not documented that anybody was injured or killed in the process.’ Nevertheless, the use of home demolition as punishment was ‘a violation … of the laws of war’ and amounts to a war crime. HRW ‘calls on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court’.

Of course, this claim will go nowhere, as previous more serious provocations have failed at the UNSC. Yet the HRW report adds to a poisoned climate of vilification and intervention, appearing to add moral logic to arming the sectarian groups. Yet propaganda for war is a war crime, in itself.

Syrian NDF soldier and political analyst Mazen al-Akhras points out that videos associated with the HRW report show the presence of anti-government ‘militants’ as witnesses (just as in East Ghouta), tainting the story at the outset. The HRW report does not observe that areas like Tadamon had been crowded with illegal constructions and, when they were damaged during the conflict, the government decided it more efficient to demolish and rebuild.

HRW does not mention that the government took the decision, many months ago, to compensate ‘all citizens whose houses were damaged or totally destroyed by the conflict’. Al-Akhras says HRW ignores the compensation already paid, and then pretends to ‘demand’ compensation. His full commentary is below.

The BBC, which has played a key role in relaying and amplifying propaganda for war on Syria, promoted this ‘Razed to the Ground’ story. An earlier notable contribution by the BBC was to help cover up the terrorist murder of Syria’s most senior Muslim cleric, Sheikh Mohamad al Bouti. He and fifty others were murdered inside the al Iman mosque on 21 March 2013 by a suicide bomber from the al Qaeda-linked and Saudi-backed Jabhat al Nusra.

Because Sheikh Bouti had always opposed salafist sectarians, the armed sectarian gangs (‘takfiris’) said he was ‘not a real Sunni’ and called for his death. After they murdered him they celebrated and then, in typical fashion, blamed the Government.

Jim Muir of the BBC picked up the al Nusra scam, based on the fact that the Sheikh did not die instantly, to run claims that he had been killed by some other means. Nevertheless, in December 2013, five members of al Nusra confessed on Syrian television to the murders. Al Nusra cleric, Samir al-Ordoni, had given them religious permission to enter the mosque and kill other Muslims.

The BBC also gave full prominence to a more recent stunt put on by the oil monarchy of Qatar, a major funder of sectarian Islamist fighters. On the eve of the Geneva 2 peace talks, they promoted a report by three British lawyers, hired by Qatar, which pronounced the Syrian Government guilty of ‘torture and 11,000 executions’. The lawyers had gone to Qatar to interview one man, who said he had not witnessed any torture or murder, but gave them thousands of photos of dead bodies. They examined some of these photos and made some extravagant statements. Yet with such tainted evidence, who knows where the bodies came from or who killed them?

Human Rights Watch has been a key player in the manufacture of propaganda for war and foreign intervention. It gets most of its funds from a variety of US foundations, in turn funded by many of the biggest US corporations.  HRW Middle East reports often rely on and acknowledge grants from pro-Israel foundations.  The group is tightly linked to the US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a virtual ‘Who’s Who’ of the US foreign policy elite.

HRW has ‘soft-pedalled’ on US-compliant regimes such as Colombia, the worst human rights abuser in Latin America as shown by the murder of trade unionists, journalists and other social activists. By contrast, HRW repeatedly attacked the government of the late Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

The group has always had a political agenda. According to José Miguel Vivanco, director of the group’s Americas division, its December 2008 report on Venezuela (‘A Decade under Chavez’), was written ‘because we wanted to demonstrate to the world that Venezuela is not a model for anyone’.  That report was roundly criticized by more than a hundred academics for not meeting ‘even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy or credibility’.  Rather than a careful report on human rights, it was an attempt to discredit a government, mainly on the basis of allegations of ‘political discrimination’ in employment and the judiciary.  The evidence was poor and the approach anything but systematic.  HRW disregarded this criticism.

—————–

Mazen al-Akhras from Damascus comments on ‘Razed to the Ground’

‘Before we were evacuated due to the military conflict in November 2012 I was a resident of Harasta, one of the eastern suburbs of Damascus, and the closest to Duma, which in turn, is the stronghold of the anti-government forces in the outer suburbs of Damascus.

‘Harasta is adjacent to the freeway connection Damascus to the north (Damascus-Aleppo freeway), and can be seen by eye while travelling, and it can be also monitored by Satellite images. And like many other towns around Damascus, Harasta had its share of demonstrations and battles. And although it was considered the second stronghold for the anti-government forces in the eastern Ghouta, Harasta has not witnessed anything similar to the accusations in HRW’s report.

‘There are several other examples of the same situation around Damascus like Al-Tal, Zabadani and Qudsaia, and if one goes a bit further to the north, such alleged demolitions mentioned in HRW’s report did not take place in Nabk, or in Qara (Kara).

Even in Qussair, demolitions were limited to the results of the battles that happened there, and once the fighting stopped, there was no act of demolition or destruction. Quite the opposite, the government rushed to restore electricity and water and other public services to the city, while putting reconstruction works into action where they were possible.

‘One might need to be reminded that Qussair was not just a city that opposed the government, it was also the strongest stronghold for the militias opposing the Army in mid-west Syria.

‘All these examples and many others are actual real-life proof that the government is not “punishing” areas for supporting the insurgency like HRW’s report claims.

Now, to the videos, they show no sign or indication of the places they were filmed, and one can argue many details about the ID of the militants showing in the second part of the video.

‘While HRW’s report maliciously wonders why other areas of illegally-constructed residences have not been demolished, and assuming (with the same malicious ill-will) that it’s because the areas are Pro-Assad, they fail to mention that these areas already provide shelter and refuge for thousands of families who have evacuated their areas because of still ongoing battles, including those areas that are being demolished. So, in other words, they are simply wondering why the Syrian government doesn’t kick those refugees (again) from the safe areas, along with thousands more of families who were originally in these areas. Of course such wondering is acceptable for them because doubling the numbers of homeless families inside Damascus (or any other city in Syria) poses no discomfort on their dead consciences.

‘Any resident of Damascus knows that Tadamon (among many other areas) is a crowded area of illegally constructed residences, and that the Syrian government has been trying for years to organize it, and now with all the battles-caused destruction, it is very difficult and expensive to just renovate the area, making it easier and cheaper for the government to bring down the rest of the area and then reconstruct it in an organized way, eventually guaranteeing the residents to go back to a healthier and better shaped area.

‘That itself is something else HRW’s report failed to mention, and this time it’s not by mistake, they deliberately chose to ignore the simple fact that the Syrian government had already decided and announced they would be compensating all citizens whose houses were damaged or totally destroyed in the conflict, and that was many months before HRW made their report and “demanded” what the Syrian government had already granted.

‘Mashaa Al-Arbaeen in Hama (as anyone can inquire and verify) is nearly the same as Tadamon, only with worse official documentation of property.

‘So, to sum it all up: many areas, towns and cities are a living proof that the government is not “punishing” anybody. Yet, HRW issues a report about a governmental plan of reorganizing some areas of illegally-constructed residences that are already damaged because of the battles, then HRW twists that plan into an alleged “punishment”, because the plan does not – yet – include other areas (although those areas were not in the conflict and were not damaged, and demolishing them now will double the numbers of homeless families in Damascus, which will also include the families that were evacuated the first time), and to add insult to the injury, HRW ignores the compensations granted and promised by the government to the Syrian citizens and chooses to “demand” those compensations.’

———————————————————

  

References

Tim Anderson (2010) ‘How Credible Is Human Rights Watch on Cuba?’, MRZine, Feb, online:http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/anderson160210.html

Peace Association and Lawyers for Justice in Turkey (2013) War Crimes Committed Against the People of Syria, December, online: http://www.barisdernegi.org/en/war-crimes-committed-against-people-syria-report-peace-association-turkey-and-lawyers-justice

Rodolfo Acuña et al (2008) ‘More Than 100 Experts Question Human Rights Watch’s Venezuela Report’, online: https://nacla.org/news/more-100-experts-question-human-rights-watchs-venezuela-report

Human Rights Watch (2013) ‘Attacks on Ghouta: Analysis of Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria’, 10 September, online: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/09/10/attacks-ghouta-0

Human Rights Watch (2014) ‘Razed to the Ground’, 30 Jan, online:http://www.hrw.org/reports/2014/01/30/razed-ground

Robert Parry (2013) ‘NYT Backs Off Its Syria-Sarin Analysis’, Global Research, 30 December, online:http://www.globalresearch.ca/nyt-backs-off-its-syria-sarin-analysis/5363023

ISTEAMS (2013) ‘Independent Investigation of Syria Chemical Attack Videos and Child Abductions’, 15 September, online:http://www.globalresearch.ca/STUDY_THE_VIDEOS_THAT_SPEAKS_ABOUT_CHEMICALS_BETA_VERSION.pdf

Seymour M. Hersh (2013) ‘Whose Sarin?’, London Review of Books, Vol. 35 No. 24, 19 December, 9-12, online: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n24/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin

BBC (2014) ‘Syria accused of torture and 11,000 executions’, 21 January, online:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-25822571

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hypocrisy of Human Rights Watch

By Keane Bhatt | NACLA | February 5, 2014

Over more than a decade, the rise of the left in Latin American governance has led to remarkable advances in poverty alleviation, regional integration, and a reassertion of sovereignty and independence. The United States has been antagonistic toward the new left governments, and has concurrently pursued a bellicose foreign policy, in many cases blithely dismissive of international law.

So why has Human Rights Watch (HRW)—despite proclaiming itself “one of the world’s leading independent organizations” on human rights—so consistently paralleled U.S. positions and policies? This affinity for the U.S. government agenda is not limited to Latin America. In the summer of 2013, for example, when the prospect of a unilateral U.S. missile strike on Syria—a clear violation of the UN Charter—loomed large, HRW’s executive director Kenneth Roth speculated as to whether a simply “symbolic” bombing would be sufficient. “If Obama decides to strike Syria, will he settle for symbolism or do something that will help protect civilians?” he asked on Twitter. Executive director of MIT’s Center for International Studies John Tirman swiftly denounced the tweet as “possibly the most ignorant and irresponsible statement ever by a major human-rights advocate.”1

HRW’s accommodation to U.S. policy has also extended to renditions—the illegal practice of kidnapping and transporting suspects around the planet to be interrogated and often tortured in allied countries. In early 2009, when it was reported that the newly elected Obama administration was leaving this program intact, HRW’s then Washington advocacy director Tom Malinowski argued that “under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place” for renditions, and encouraged patience: “they want to design a system that doesn’t result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured,” he said, “but designing that system is going to take some time.”2

Similar consideration was not extended to de-facto U.S. enemy Venezuela, when, in 2012, HRW’s Americas director José Miguel Vivanco and global advocacy director Peggy Hicks wrote a letter to President Hugo Chávez arguing that his country was unfit to serve on the UN’s Human Rights Council. Councilmembers must uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, they maintained, but unfortunately, “Venezuela currently falls far short of acceptable standards.”3 Given HRW’s silence regarding U.S. membership in the same council, one wonders precisely what HRW’s acceptable standards are.

One underlying factor for HRW’s general conformity with U.S. policy was clarified on July 8, 2013, when Roth took to Twitter to congratulate his colleague Malinowski on his nomination to be Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL). Malinowski was poised to further human rights as a senior-level foreign-policy official for an administration that convenes weekly “Terror Tuesday” meetings. In these meetings, Obama and his staffers deliberate the meting out of extrajudicial drone assassinations around the planet, reportedly working from a secret “kill list” that has included several U.S. citizens and a 17-year-old girl.4

Malinowski’s entry into government was actually a re-entry. Prior to HRW, he had served as a speechwriter for Secretary of State Madeline Albright and for the White House’s National Security Council. He was also once a special assistant to President Bill Clinton—all of which he proudly listed in his HRW biography. During his Senate confirmation hearing on September 24, Malinowski promised to “deepen the bipartisan consensus for America’s defense of liberty around the world,” and assured the Foreign Relations Committee that no matter where the U.S. debate on Syria led, “the mere fact that we are having it marks our nation as exceptional.”5

That very day, Obama stood before the UN General Assembly and declared, “some may disagree, but I believe that America is exceptional.” Assuming that by “exceptional” Obama meant exceptionally benevolent, one of those who disagreed was Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, who had opened the proceedings at the same podium by excoriating Obama’s “global network of electronic espionage,” which she considered a “disrespect to national sovereignty” and a “grave violation of human rights and of civil liberties.” Rousseff contrasted Washington’s rogue behavior with her characterization of Brazil as a country that has “lived in peace with our neighbors for more than 140 years.” Brazil and its neighbors, she argued, were “democratic, pacific and respectful of international law.”6 Rousseff’s speech crystallized Latin America’s broad opposition to U.S. exceptionalism, and therefore shed light on the left’s mutually antagonistic relationship with HRW.

*

Malinowski’s background is but one example of a larger scenario. HRW’s institutional culture is shaped by its leadership’s intimate links to various arms of the U.S. government. In her HRW biography, the vice chair of HRW’s board of directors, Susan Manilow, describes herself as “a longtime friend to Bill Clinton,” and helped manage his campaign finances. (HRW once signed a letter to Clinton advocating the prosecution of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes; HRW made no case for holding Clinton accountable for NATO’s civilian-killing bombings despite concluding that they constituted “violations of international humanitarian law.”)7 Bruce Rabb, also on Human Rights Watch’s Board of Directors, advertises in his biography that he “served as staff assistant to President Richard Nixon” from 1969-70—the period in which that administration secretly and illegally carpet bombed Cambodia and Laos.8

The advisory committee for HRW’s Americas Division has even boasted the presence of a former Central Intelligence Agency official, Miguel Díaz. According to his State Department biography, Díaz served as a CIA analyst and also provided “oversight of U.S. intelligence activities in Latin America” for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.9 As of 2012, Díaz focused, as he once did for the CIA, on Central America for the State Department’s DRL—the same bureau now to be supervised by Malinowski.

Other HRW associates have similarly questionable backgrounds: Myles Frechette, currently an advisory committee member for the Americas Division, served as Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean from 1990-93, and then became U.S. Ambassador to Colombia from 1994-97. Frechette subsequently worked as the executive director of a “nonprofit” group called the North American-Peruvian Business Council, and championed the interests of his funders in front of Congress. His organization received financing from companies such as Newmont Mining, Barrick Gold, Caterpillar, Continental Airlines, J.P. Morgan, ExxonMobil, Patton Boggs, and Texaco.10

Michael Shifter, who also currently serves on HRW’s Americas advisory committee, directed the Latin America and Caribbean program for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a quasi-governmental entity whose former acting president Allen Weinstein told The Washington Post in 1991 that “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”11 Shifter, as current president of a policy center called the Inter-American Dialogue, oversees $4 million a year in programming, financed in part through donations from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the embassies of Canada, Germany, Guatemala, Mexico and Spain, and corporations such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, J.P. Morgan, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Boeing, and Western Union.

To be sure, not all of the organization’s leadership has been so involved in dubious political activities. Many HRW board members are simply investment bankers, like board co-chairs Joel Motley of Public Capital Advisors, LLC, and Hassan Elmasry, of Independent Franchise Partners, LLP. HRW Vice Chair John Studzinski is a senior managing director at The Blackstone Group, a private equity firm founded by Peter G. Peterson, the billionaire who has passionately sought to eviscerate Social Security and Medicare. And although Julien J. Studley, the Vice Chair of the Americas advisory committee, once served in the U.S. Army’s psychological warfare unit, he is now just another wealthy real-estate tycoon in New York.

That HRW’s advocacy reflects its institutional makeup is unremarkable. Indeed, an examination of its positions on Latin America demonstrates the group’s predictable, general conformity with U.S. interests. Consider, for example, HRW’s reaction to the death of Hugo Chávez. Within hours of his passing on March 5, 2013, HRW published an overview—“Venezuela: Chávez’s Authoritarian Legacy”—to enormous online response. In accordance with its headline’s misleading terminology, HRW never once mentioned Chávez’s democratic bona fides: Since 1998, he had triumphed in 14 of 15 elections or referenda, all of which were deemed free and fair by international monitors. Chávez’s most recent reelection boasted an 81% participation rate; former president Jimmy Carter described the voting process as “the best in the world.”12 The article neglected to cite a single positive aspect of Chávez’s tenure, under which poverty was slashed by half and infant mortality by a third.

In contrast, HRW’s August 21, 2012 statement regarding the death of Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi was decidedly more muted: “Ethiopia: Transition Should Support Human Rights Reform,” read the headline. Leslie Lefkow, HRW’s deputy Africa director, urged the country’s new leadership to “reassure Ethiopians by building on Meles’s positive legacy while reversing his government’s most pernicious policies.” Regarding a leader whose two-decade rule had none of Chávez’s democratic legitimacy (HRW itself documented Ethiopia’s repressive and unfair elections in both 2005 and 2010), the organization argued only that “Meles leaves a mixed legacy on human rights.”13 Whereas HRW omitted all mention of Chávez-era social improvements, it wrote, “Under [Meles’s] leadership the country has experienced significant, albeit uneven, economic development and progress.”

The explanation for this discrepancy is obvious: as a New York Times obituary reported, Meles was “one of the United States government’s closest African allies.” Although “widely considered one of Africa’s most repressive governments,” wrote the Times, Ethiopia “continues to receive more than $800 million in American aid each year. American officials have said that the Ethiopian military and security services are among the Central Intelligence Agency’s favorite partners.”14

*

HRW has taken its double standard to cartoonish heights throughout Latin America. At a 2009 NED Democracy Award Roundtable, José Miguel Vivanco described Cuba, not the United States, as “one of our countries in the hemisphere that is perhaps the one that has today the worst human-rights record in the region.” As evidence, he listed Cuba’s “long- and short-term detentions with no due process, physical abuse [and] surveillance”—as though these were not commonplace U.S. practices, even (ironically) at Guantánamo Bay.15 Vivanco was also quoted in late 2013, claiming at an Inter-American Dialogue event that the “gravest setbacks to freedom of association and expression in Latin America have taken place in Ecuador”—not in Colombia, the world’s most dangerous country for trade union leaders, or in Honduras, the region’s deadliest country for journalists (both, incidentally, U.S. allies).16

Latin America scholars are sounding the alarm: New York University history professor Greg Grandin recently described HRW as “Washington’s adjunct” in The Nation magazine.17 And when Vivanco publicly stated that “we did [our 2008] report because we wanted to show the world that Venezuela is not a model for anyone,” over 100 academics wrote to the HRW’s directors, lamenting the “great loss to civil society when we can no longer trust a source such as Human Rights Watch to conduct an impartial investigation and draw conclusions based on verifiable facts.”18

HRW’s deep ties to U.S. corporate and state sectors should disqualify the institution from any public pretense of independence. Such a claim is indeed untenable given the U.S.-headquartered organization’s status as a revolving door for high-level governmental bureaucrats. Stripping itself of the “independent” label would allow HRW’s findings and advocacy to be more accurately evaluated, and its biases more clearly recognized.

In Latin America, there is a widespread awareness of Washington’s ability to deflect any outside attempts to constrain its prerogative to use violence and violate international law. The past three decades alone have seen U.S. military invasions of Grenada and Panama, a campaign of international terrorism against Nicaragua, and support for coup governments in countries such as Venezuela, Haiti, Honduras, and Guatemala. If HRW is to retain credibility in the region, it must begin to extricate itself from elite spheres of U.S. decision-making and abandon its institutional internalization of U.S. exceptionalism. Implementing a clear prohibition to retaining staff and advisers who have crafted or executed U.S. foreign policy would be an important first step. At the very least, HRW can institute lengthy “cooling-off” periods—say, five years in duration—before and after its associates move between the organization and the government.

After all, HRW’s Malinowski will be directly subordinate to Secretary of State John Kerry, who conveyed the U.S. attitude toward Latin America in a way that only an administrator of a superpower could. In an April 17, 2013 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, a member of Congress asked Kerry whether the United States should prioritize “the entire region as opposed to just focusing on one country, since they seem to be trying to work together closer than ever before.” Kerry reassured him of the administration’s global vision. “Look,” he said. “The Western Hemisphere is our backyard. It is critical to us.”19


1. Kenneth Roth, followed by John Tirman’s response, Twitter, August 25, 3013, http://twitter.com/KenRoth/status/371797912210407424.

2. Greg Miller, “Obama preserves renditions as counter-terrorism tool,” Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2009.

3. José Miguel Vivanco and Peggy Hicks, “Letter to President Chavez on Venezuela’s Candidacy to the UN Human Rights Council,” Human Rights Watch, November 9, 2012.

4. Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” The New York Times, May 29, 2012.

5. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Statement for the Record by Tom Malinowski,” September 24, 2013.

6. “Text of Obama’s Speech at the U.N.,” The New York Times, September 24, 2013. Statement by H.E. Dilma Rousseff, United Nations, September 24, 2013.

7. Human Rights Watch, “Major Rights Groups Oppose Immunity for Milosevic,” October 6, 2000. HRW, “New Figures on Civilian Deaths in Kosovo War,” Februrary 8, 2000.

8. Human Rights Watch, “Board of Directors,” www.hrw.org, accessed November 16, 2013.

9. U.S. Department of State, “Franklin Fellows Alumni,” September 8, 2011, http://careers.state.gov/ff/meet-the-fellows/franklin-fellows/miguel-diaz, accessed November 16, 2013.

10. Ways and Means Committee, “Statement of Myles Frechette, the North American Peruvian Business Council,” U.S. House of Representatives, May 8, 2001.

11. David Ignatius, “Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups,” The Washington Post, September 22, 1991.

12. Keane Bhatt, “A Hall of Shame for Venezuelan Elections Coverage,” Manufacturing Contempt (blog), nacla.org, October 8, 2012.

13. Human Rights Watch, “Ethiopia: Government Repression Undermines Poll,” May 24, 2010.

14. Jeffrey Gettleman, “Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Dies at 57,” The New York Times, August 22, 2012.

15. National Endowment for Democracy, “José Miguel Vivanco: 2009 NED Democracy Award Roundtable,” Youtube.com, Jun 29, 2009.

16. Eva Saiz, “Indígenas de Ecuador denuncian en EEUU la norma de libre asociación de Correa,” El Pais, October 28, 2013.

17. Greg Grandin, “The Winner of Venezuela’s Election to Succeed Hugo Chávez Is Hugo Chávez,” The Nation, April 16, 2013.

18. Venezuelanalysis.com, “More Than 100 Latin America Experts Question Human Rights Watch’s Venezuela Report,” December 17, 2008.

19. Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, “Hearing: Securing U.S. Interests Abroad: The FY 2014 Foreign Affairs Budget,” April 17, 2013.

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

UK admits role in India Golden Temple massacre

Press TV – February 5, 2014

The British government has admitted complicity in a deadly attack on Sikhism’s holiest shrine in India, the Golden Temple, almost three decades age.

Appearing in the House of Commons on Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague disclosed the findings of a government investigation into the level of British involvement in the June 1984 massacre of Sikhs in India’s northwestern city of Amritsar.

Hague acknowledged that a British officer from the Special Air Service (SAS) travelled to India in February that year and advised Indian authorities on planning one of the most notorious atrocities in Britain’s imperial history in the South Asian country.

The UK’s top diplomat, however, sought to play down the SAS role in the assault, as he insisted that the advice to the Indian Intelligence Services on their Operation Blue Star raid on the temple had “little impact” on the outcome.

“The nature of the UK’s assistance was purely advisory, limited and provided to the Indian government at an early stage,” he said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron launched the probe in January after newly-released documents showed that the government of former British premier Margaret Thatcher was involved in the Amritsar raid.

Cameron said in a video message that he hopes the report would give “reassurance to the Sikh community here in Britain and elsewhere.”

But Sikh groups criticized the scope of the Whitehall review, saying it failed to cover the British complicity during the time of the massacre.

In a letter to Cameron, Bhai Amrik Singh, the chairman of the Sikh Federation, said he was “hugely disappointed” with the probe’s “narrow terms.”

“It appears the review has looked at a narrow period and not covered the period in the latter half of 1984 and may not have addressed some of the concerns raised by UK politicians in the last three weeks,” Singh wrote.

The death toll from the temple raid still remains disputed, with Indian authorities putting it in the hundreds and Sikh groups in the thousands.

In February last year, Cameron visited the scene of the massacre in the state of Punjab at the end of his three-day trade trip to India but he stopped short of making a formal apology.

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

As Congress Drags its Feet, States Step Up to Legislate Against NSA Spying

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | February 5, 2014

Dissatisfied with President Barack Obama’s reforms for the National Security Agency (NSA) and Congress’ lack of progress on the same front, state lawmakers across the country are introducing legislation to limit the spy agency’s snooping on Americans.

To date, a dozen states ranging from Alaska to Mississippi are considering bills to limit their state’s involvement with NSA surveillance programs.

The effort began in Arizona, where State Senator Kelli Ward, a tea party Republican, became the first legislator in the U.S. to offer up ways to curb NSA activity at the state level.

Her bill, SB 1156 (pdf), would prohibit local and state law enforcement from cooperating with the NSA. It also would bar state or local prosecutors from using NSA intelligence that had not been obtained with a warrant, and cut funding to state universities supporting the NSA with research or recruitment.

Ward’s actions inspired legislators in other states, who introduced their own anti-NSA plans.

“If the feds aren’t going to address the issue, then it’s up to the states to do it,” David Taylor, a Republican in the Washington state House of Representatives whose Yakima Valley district hosts an NSA listening post, told Mother Jones.

His measure, which enjoys Democratic support, would cut off “material support, participation or assistance” from the state and its contractors to any federal agency that collects data or metadata on people without a warrant.

Last month in California, state lawmakers introduced the Fourth Amendment Protection Act (pdf), which would ban state officials from assisting the federal government in warrantless collection of metadata on Americans. The same has been done in Alaska, with one bill proposed in the House, and another in the Senate.

It remains to be seen whether these measures, if they become law, will stand up to a likely court challenge by the federal government.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Irvine’s School of Law and a constitutional scholar, says the Arizona plan would likely be struck down because the state is trying to regulate the federal government.

“The question here is going to be to what extent is the state interfering with the achievement of the federal objective? To what extent is the state regulating the federal government’s activities?” he told the Los Angeles Times. “However well-intentioned it is, most would be preempted by federal law…. The law is clear that states can’t regulate the federal government.”

States have a right to regulate activity within its borders, counters Michael Boldin, executive director of the Tenth Amendment Center, which provides states legislatures with model language for such bills. “If enough people in enough states say they are not going to participate in this, it will stop them from doing what they are doing,” he told the Times regarding the NSA. “It’s going to box them in a corner and be more difficult for them to pull things off.”

To Learn More:

Arizona Legislator Pushes Bill to Combat NSA Surveillance (by Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times)

Legislators in 6 States Want to Pull the Plug on NSA Spying—Some Literally (by Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones)

California, Other States, Weighing Anti-NSA Bills (by Jacob Gershman, Wall Street Journal)

Alaska Legislation Takes Aim at Warrantless Spying by NSA, Other Federal Agencies (OffNow)

Haphazard Police Spying Across U.S. Puts Americans’ Civil Liberties in Jeopardy (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Senate Committee Approves Continued Bulk Spying on Americans (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Did Campaign Contributions Influence Representatives who Voted in Favor of NSA Phone Spying? (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Saudi journalist sentenced to 12 years in jail for ‘disobeying the ruler’

RT | February 5, 2014

A journalist was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in prison by a Saudi criminal court for “disobeying the ruler” and claiming in televised remarks that the Saudi kingdom incites terrorism, state media reported.

Local media identified the convicted as Wajdi Al-Ghazzawi, who was also accused of contacting an unnamed “enemy of Saudi Arabia at the time (2009) and receiving a suspicious sum of money from it,” according to SPA news agency.

Reports suggested that Ghazzawi was accused of taking money from former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2009, a time of tension between Tripoli and Riyadh.

Ghazzawi, the court in Riyadh said, was guilty of “disobeying the ruler on a television programme, inciting sedition… discrediting the kingdom and claiming that terrorism and Al-Qaeda were created by Saudi Arabia.”

He was also charged with spreading excerpts of the televised remarks on the internet and of accusing the Saudis “of insulting residents and denying them their rights,” SPA reported.

The court also instituted a 20-year travel ban on Ghazzawi, in addition to barring him from appearing in any media.

Gaddafi, a long-time foe of Saudi Arabia during his four-decade rule in Libya, was killed by rebels in 2011 following the NATO-led ouster of his regime. In 2004, US and Saudi news outlets accused Gaddafi of allegedly plotting to assassinate Saudi King Abdullah, who was crown prince at the time, AFP pointed out.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia passed a broad law that deems those that “disturb the public order” as terrorists.

It defines terrorism as “any act carried out by an offender… intended to disturb the public order… to shake the security of society…stability of the state… expose its national unity to danger… suspend the basic law of governance or some of its articles,” according to its text, as cited by Human Rights Watch.

Terrorists can also be considered those individuals who “insult the reputation of the state or its position… inflict damage upon one of its public utilities or its natural resources,” or those who attempt to force “governmental authority to carry out or prevent it from carrying out an action, or to threaten to carry out acts that lead to the named purposes or incite [these acts].”

The legislation, made up of 40 clauses, allows security forces to arrest and detain suspects for up to six months with the possibility to extend the confinement for another six months. Suspects are allowed to be held incommunicado for 90 days without the presence of their lawyer during the initial questioning.

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment