Category Archives: Human rights law

Real Americans Question 9/11

Real Americans Question 9/11

These days it’s difficult to remember what values the American people share. That’s because the U.S. government does so many things that seem to contradict basic human values. Wars of aggression, torture, kidnapping and indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping, and so many other oppressions have become standard operational procedure for the U.S. government. Those who recognize and seek to correct this system of abuse soon realize that the key to doing so is to reveal the truth behind the primary driver for all of them—the crimes of 9/11.

It’s important to know what makes someone an American and what does not. Here are some examples of what does not make someone an American.

  • Loyalty to the flag
  • Respect for the national anthem
  • Serving in the military or honoring military veterans
  • Paying taxes

A person can do these things to any extent possible and it will not make them any more American than they were before they began. Popular culture and corporate media make every effort to present American patriotism as a sum of these kinds of activities but it is easy to see through that false front.

Only one thing makes someone an American and that is support and defense of the U.S. Constitution. The founding fathers of the United States defined Americans as those who are committed to the ideals of the Constitution. To this day, anyone claiming to represent the nation must swear an oath to uphold those ideals.

Each president, when taking office, affirms that he will “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” All congress members must swear or affirm that they will “support and defend the Constitution.”

All new citizens of the United States and every member of the U.S. military must swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;” and that they “will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

The U.S. Constitution is comprised of articles that spell out the government’s powers and the process of making amendments. It also includes the 27 amendments that exist today. The first ten amendments, ratified four years after the original text, are known as the Bill of Rights. These include the freedoms of speech, religion, and the press. Also, there are the rights to bear arms, to privacy, and to a speedy and public trial. The rejection of cruel and unusual punishment is another basic tenet of the U.S. Constitution.

Unfortunately, virtually every Article and Amendment of the Constitution has been under attack since September 11, 2001. Yet very few people have risen to support or defend it. In fact, many so-called Americans have encouraged assaults on the core American values.

That abuse began with the violation of Article 1 of the Constitution that rejects starting wars of aggression without having been “actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.” Instead of working to determine what actually happened on 9/11 and thereby defend the nation, the Bush Administration immediately invaded Afghanistan, a country that it had planned to invade long before the 9/11 attacks. Sixteen months later, the government invaded Iraq based on what everyone now knows was a pack of lies.

Americans who questioned that anti-American approach were silenced with claims that they were not “supporting the troops” if they did not consent to the growing greed-fueled militarism. The Afghanistan invasion was coupled with the passing of the Patriot Act—an attack on basic Constitutional rights and a failure to preserve those rights as described in Article 2.

In 2006, national polls showed that over one third of Americans believed that federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so that the United States could go to war in the Middle East. At the same time, Americans witnessed a growing list of abuses of their Constitutional rights. These abuses violated the Bill of Rights in nearly every way and were driven by unproven claims about what happened on September 11, 2001.

On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the Center for Constitutional Rights described how the Constitution had been shredded based on assumptions about the 9/11 attacks. By then, it had also become clear that the government was actually giving aid and comfort to the enemy (violating Article 3) through arming and training terrorists. One might think it obvious that stopping such actions would be the goal of all Americans but to do so one Congress member has had to spell it out in legislation.

Failing to protect Americans against domestic violence (a violation of Article 4), the FBI was found to actually be manufacturing terrorism. It was further learned that some FBI leaders had been facilitating or sponsoring terrorism since long before 9/11. This practice continues today and the manufactured plots have become so obvious that officials are finding it difficult to explain why Americans should take them seriously.

Attorney and author John W. Whitehead has detailed the continuing attacks on the Bill of Rights by writing that,

“What began with the passage of the USA Patriot Act in October 2001 has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse. Since then, we have been terrorized, traumatized, and tricked into a semi-permanent state of compliance. The bogeyman’s names and faces change over time—Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and now ISIS—but the end result remains the same: our unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security.”

The attacks on American values have been so extensive that people often no longer notice how bad it has become. For example, the government has named those captured and tortured in the name of 9/11 as “forever prisoners”—a term that exemplifies the hatred of freedom represented by the new phony Americanism. The fact that one of these men was a central character in building the official account of 9/11 and has since been exonerated for any involvement in those crimes makes no difference.

How can real Americans respond to this ongoing assault against the Constitution by flag-waving, militaristic, greed-driven fools? How can we “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” by “bearing true faith and allegiance to the same?”

To end the wave of anti-Americanism that began with the crimes of 9/11, Americans have two options. The first is to stand up publicly and fight the attacks on our Constitution by helping everyone understand that the crimes of 9/11 have not been solved. In fact, there are still so many unanswered questions about those crimes that everything done in “response” is almost certainly a crime in itself.

The second option is to end the tyranny through revolution. This was how America began, of course, and that great beginning is enshrined in the precursor to the Constitution—the Declaration of Independence. At the time, the founders stated that, “When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

As Americans it is our duty to throw off the tyrannical abuses of power that are threatening to end America. That duty starts with questioning 9/11—the driver behind all of it.

U.S. and EU Sanctions Are Punishing Ordinary Syrians and Crippling Aid Work, U.N. Report Reveals

U.S. and EU Sanctions Are Punishing Ordinary Syrians and Crippling Aid Work, U.N. Report Reveals

Dania Khalek,  The Intercept,  28 September 2016

Internal United Nations assessments obtained by The Intercept reveal that U.S. and European sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work during the largest humanitarian emergency since World War II.

The sanctions and war have destabilized every sector of Syria’s economy, transforming a once self-sufficient country into an aid-dependent nation. But aid is hard to come by, with sanctions blocking access to blood safety equipment, medicines, medical devices, food, fuel, water pumps, spare parts for power plants, and more.

In a 40-page internal assessment commissioned to analyze the humanitarian impact of the sanctions, the U.N. describes the U.S. and EU measures as “some of the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed.” Detailing a complex system of “unpredictable and time-consuming” financial restrictions and licensing requirements, the report finds that U.S. sanctions are exceptionally harsh “regarding provision of humanitarian aid.”

U.S. sanctions on Syrian banks have made the transfer of funds into the country nearly impossible. Even when a transaction is legal, banks are reluctant to process funds related to Syria for risk of incurring violation fees. This has given rise to an unofficial and unregulated network of money exchanges that lacks transparency, making it easier for extremist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda to divert funds undetected. The difficulty of transferring money is also preventing aid groups from paying local staff and suppliers, which has “delayed or prevented the delivery of development assistance in both government and besieged areas,” according to the report.

Trade restrictions on Syria are even more convoluted. Items that contain 10 percent or more of U.S. content, including medical devices, are banned from export to Syria. Aid groups wishing to bypass this rule have to apply for a special license, but the licensing bureaucracy is a nightmare to navigate, often requiring expensive lawyers that cost far more than the items being exported.

Syria was first subjected to sanctions in 1979, after the U.S. designated the Syrian government as a state sponsor of terrorism. More sanctions were added in subsequent years, though none more extreme than the restrictions imposed in 2011 in response to the Syrian government’s deadly crackdown on protesters.

In 2013 the sanctions were eased but only in opposition areas. Around the same time, the CIA began directly shipping weapons to armed insurgents at a colossal cost of nearly $1 billion a year, effectively adding fuel to the conflict while U.S. sanctions obstructed emergency assistance to civilians caught in the crossfire.

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY SAMMY KETZA banker stacks packed Syrian lira bills at the Central Bank in Damascus on August 25, 2011. US sanctions have forced Syria to stop all transactions in US dollars, with the country turning completely to euro deals, the governor of the Central Bank Adib Mayaleh told the AFP during an interview. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

A man stacks packed Syrian lira bills at the Central Bank in Damascus on Aug. 25, 2011.

Photo: Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

An internal U.N. email obtained by The Intercept also faults U.S. and EU sanctions for contributing to food shortages and deteriorations in health care. The August email from a key U.N. official warned that sanctions had contributed to a doubling in fuel prices in 18 months and a 40 percent drop in wheat production since 2010, causing the price of wheat flour to soar by 300 percent and rice by 650 percent. The email went on to cite sanctions as a “principal factor” in the erosion of Syria’s health care system. Medicine-producing factories that haven’t been completely destroyed by the fighting have been forced to close because of sanctions-related restrictions on raw materials and foreign currency, the email said.As one NGO worker in Damascus told The Intercept, there are cars, buses, water systems, and power stations that are in serious need of repair all across the country, but it takes months to procure spare parts and there’s no time to wait. So aid groups opt for cheap Chinese options or big suppliers that have the proper licensing, but the big suppliers can charge as much as they want. If the price is unaffordable, systems break down and more and more people die from dirty water, preventable diseases, and a reduced quality of life.

Such conditions would be devastating for any country. In war-torn Syria, where an estimated 13 million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance, the sanctions are compounding the chaos.

In an emailed statement to The Intercept, the State Department denied that the sanctions are hurting civilians.

“U.S. sanctions against [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad], his backers, and the regime deprive these actors of resources that could be used to further the bloody campaign Assad continues to wage against his own people,” said the statement, which recycled talking points that justified sanctions against Iraq in 1990s. The U.S. continued to rationalize the Iraq sanctions even after a report was released by UNICEF in 1999 that showed a doubling in mortality rates for children under the age of 5 after sanctions were imposed in the wake of the Gulf War, and the death of 500,000 children.

“The true responsibility for the dire humanitarian situation lies squarely with Assad, who has repeatedly denied access and attacked aid workers,” the U.S. statement on Syria continued. “He has the ability to relieve this suffering at any time, should he meet his commitment to provide full, sustained access for delivery of humanitarian assistance in areas that the U.N. has determined need it.”

Meanwhile, in cities controlled by ISIS, the U.S. has employed some of the same tactics it condemns. For example, U.S.-backed ground forces laid siege to Manbij, a city in northern Syria not far from Aleppo that is home to tens of thousands of civilians. U.S. airstrikes pounded the city over the summer, killing up to 125 civilians in a single attack. The U.S. also used airstrikes to drive ISIS out of KobaneRamadi, and Fallujah, leaving behind flattened neighborhoods. In Fallujah, residents resorted to eating soup made from grass and 140 people reportedly died from lack of food and medicine during the siege.

A Syrian man walks past an empty vegetable market in Aleppo on July 10, 2016, after the regime closed the only remaining supply route into the city.

A Syrian man walks past an empty vegetable market in Aleppo on July 10, 2016, after the regime closed the only remaining supply route into the city.

Photo: Karam Al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images

Humanitarian concerns aside, the sanctions are not achieving their objectives. Five years of devastating civil war and strict economic sanctions have plunged over 80 percent of Syrians into poverty, up from 28 percent in 2010. Ferdinand Arslanian, a scholar at the Center for Syrian Studies at the University of St. Andrews, says that reduction in living standards and aid dependency is empowering the regime.“Aid is now an essential part of the Syrian economy and sanctions give regime cronies in Syria the ability to monopolize access to goods. It makes everyone reliant on the government. This was the case in Iraq, with the food-for-oil system,” explained Arslanian.

“Sanctions have a terrible effect on the people more than the regime and Washington knows this from Iraq,” argues Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “But there’s pressure in Washington to do something and sanctions look like you’re doing something,” he added.

Despite the failure of sanctions, opposition advocates are agitating for even harsher measures that would extend sanctions to anyone who does business with the Syrian government. This, of course, would translate into sanctions against Russia.

“The opposition likes sanctions,” says Landis. “They were the people who advocated them in the beginning because they want to put any pressure they can on the regime. But it’s very clear that the regime is not going to fall, that the sanctions are not working. They’re only immiserating a population that’s already suffered terrible declines in their per capita GDP,” he added.

Read the report:

Hum Impact of Syria Related Res Eco Measures 26 May 2016, 40 pages

Top photo: A Syrian Red Crescent truck, part of a convoy carrying humanitarian aid, is seen in Kafr Batna on the outskirts of Damascus on Feb. 23, 2016, during an operation in cooperation with the U.N. to deliver aid to thousands of besieged Syrians.

Update: September 30, 2016

The wording of a paragraph about U.S. tactics in Syria and Iraq has been altered to clarify that the U.S. used a strategy of airstrikes against Kobane, Ramadi, and Fallujah when they were controlled by ISIS forces

The Public Role of Writers and Intellectuals

The Public Role of Writers and Intellectuals

Edward W. Said, 17 September 2001


In everyday usage in the languages and cultures with which I am familiar, a “writer” is a person who produces literature–that is, a novelist, poet, dramatist. I think it is generally true that in all cultures writers have a separate, perhaps even more honorific, place than do “intellectuals”; the aura of creativity and an almost sanctified capacity for originality (often vatic in scope and quality) accrues to writers as it doesn’t at all to intellectuals, who with regard to literature belong to the slightly debased and parasitic class of “critics.”

Yet at the dawn of the twenty-first century the writer has taken on more and more of the intellectual’s adversarial attributes in such activities as speaking the truth to power, being a witness to persecution and suffering, and supplying a dissenting voice in conflicts with authority.

Signs of the amalgamation of one to the other would have to include the Salman Rushdie case in all its ramifications; the formation of numerous writers’ parliaments and congresses devoted to such issues as intolerance, the dialogue of cultures, civil strife (as in Bosnia and Algeria), freedom of speech and censorship, truth and reconciliation (as in South Africa, Argentina, Ireland and elsewhere); and the special symbolic role of the writer as an intellectual testifying to a country’s or region’s experience, thereby giving that experience a public identity forever inscribed in the global discursive agenda.

The easiest way of demonstrating this is simply to list the names of some (but by no means all) recent Nobel Prize winners, then to allow each name to trigger in the mind an emblematized region, which in turn can be seen as a sort of platform or jumping-off point for that writer’s subsequent activity as an intervention, in debates taking place very far from the world of literature. Thus Nadine Gordimer, Kenzaburo Oe, Derek_Walcott Derek Walcott, Wole Soyinka , Gabriel García Márquez , Octavio_Paz , Elie Wiesel, Bertrand Russell, Günter Grass, Rigoberta Menchú, among several others.

Now it is also true, as Pascale Casanova has brilliantly shown in her synoptic book La République mondiale des lettres, that, fashioned over the past 150 years, there seems to be a global system of literature now in place, complete with its own order of literariness (littérarité), tempo, canon, internationalism and market values. The efficiency of the system is that it seems to have generated the types of writers that she discusses as belonging to such different categories as assimilated, dissident and translated figures–all of them both individualized and classified in what she shows is a highly efficient, globalized, quasi-market system. The drift of her argument is to show that this powerful and all-pervasive system can go even as far as stimulating a kind of independence from itself, as in cases like Joyce and Beckett, writers whose language and orthography do not submit to the laws either of state or of system.

Much as I admire it, however, the overall achievement of Casanova’s book is nevertheless contradictory. She seems to be saying that literature as globalized system has a kind of integral autonomy to it that places it in large measure just beyond the gross realities of political institutions and discourse, a notion that has a certain theoretical plausibility to it when she puts it in the form of un espace littéraire internationale, with its own laws of interpretation, its own dialectic of individual work and ensemble, its own problematics of nationalism and national languages. But she doesn’t go as far as Adorno in saying, as I would too, that one of the hallmarks of modernity is how, at a very deep level, the aesthetic and the social need to be kept in a state of irreconcilable tension. Nor does she spend enough time discussing the ways in which the literary, or the writer, is still implicated–indeed frequently mobilized for use–in the great post-cold war cultural contests of the world’s altered political configurations.

Looked at from that perspective, for example, the debate about Salman Rushdie was never really about the literary attributes of The Satanic Verses but rather about whether there could be a literary treatment of a religious topic that did not also touch on religious passions in a very, indeed in an exacerbated, public way. I don’t think that such a possibility existed, since from the very moment the fatwa was released to the world by Ayatollah Khomeini, the novel, its author and its readers were all deposited squarely inside an environment that allowed no room for anything but politicized intellectual debate about such socio religious issues as blasphemy, secular dissent and extraterritorial threats of assassination. Even to assert that Rushdie’s freedom of expression as a novelist could not be abridged–as many of us from the Islamic world did assert–was in fact to debate the issue of the literary freedom to write within a discourse that had already swallowed up and occupied (in the geographical sense) literature’s apartness entirely.

In that wider setting, then, the basic distinction between writers and intellectuals need not be made. Insofar as they both act in the new public sphere dominated by globalization (and assumed to exist even by adherents of the Khomeini fatwa), their public role as writers and intellectuals can be discussed and analyzed together. Another way of putting it is to say that we should concentrate on what writers and intellectuals have in common as they intervene in the public sphere.

First we need to take note of the technical characteristics of intellectual intervention today. To get a dramatically vivid grasp of the speed to which communication has accelerated in the past decade, I’d like to contrast Jonathan Swift’s awareness of effective public intervention in the early eighteenth century with ours. Swift was surely the most devastating pamphleteer of his time, and during his campaign against the Duke of Marlborough in 1711-12 was able to get 11,000 copies of his pamphlet The Conduct of the Allies onto the streets in two months. This brought the Duke down from his high eminence but nevertheless did not change Swift’s pessimistic impression (dating back to A Tale of a Tub, 1704) that his writing was basically temporary, good only for the short time that it circulated. He had in mind, of course, the running quarrel between ancients and moderns, in which venerable writers like Homer and Horace had the advantage over modern figures like Dryden by virtue of their age and the authenticity of their views of great longevity, even permanence.

In the age of electronic media such considerations are mostly irrelevant, since anyone with a computer and decent Internet access is capable of reaching numbers of people quantum times more than Swift did, and can also look forward to the preservation of what is written beyond any conceivable measure. Our ideas today of discourse and archives must be radically modified and can no longer be defined as Foucault painstakingly tried to describe them a mere two decades ago. Even if one writes for a newspaper or journal, the chances of digital reproduction and (notionally at least) an unlimited time of preservation have wreaked havoc on the idea of an actual, as opposed to a virtual, audience. These things have certainly limited the powers that regimes have to censor or ban writing that is considered dangerous, although there are fairly crude means for stopping or curtailing the libertarian function of online print. Until only very recently Saudi Arabia and Syria, for example, successfully banned the Internet and even satellite television. Both countries now tolerate limited access to the Internet, although both have also installed sophisticated and, in the long run, prohibitively expensive interdictory processes to maintain their control.

As things stand, an article I might write in New York for a British paper has a good chance of reappearing on individual websites or via e-mail on screens in the United States, Japan, Pakistan, the Middle East and South Africa as well as Australia. Authors and publishers have very little control over what is reprinted and recirculated. I am constantly surprised (and don’t know whether to be angry or flattered) when something that I wrote or said in one place turns up with scarcely a delay halfway around the world. For whom then does one write, if it is difficult to specify the audience with any sort of precision? Most people, I think, focus on the actual outlet that has commissioned the piece or on the putative readers we would like to address. The idea of an imagined community has suddenly acquired a very literal, if virtual, dimension. Certainly, as I experienced when I began ten years ago to write in an Arabic publication for an audience of Arabs, one attempts to create, shape, refer to a constituency. This is requisite now much more than during Swift’s time, when he could quite naturally assume that the persona he called a Church of England man was in fact his real, very stable and quite small audience.

All of us should therefore operate today with some notion of very probably reaching much larger audiences than any we could conceive of even a decade ago, although the chances of retaining that audience are by the same token quite chancy. This is not simply a matter of optimism of the will: It is in the very nature of writing today. This makes it very difficult for writers to take common assumptions between them and their audiences for granted, or to assume that references and allusions are going to be understood immediately. But writing in this expanded new space strangely does have a further and unusually risky consequence: being encouraged to say things that are either completely opaque or completely transparent (and if one has any sense of intellectual and political vocation, it should of course be the latter rather than the former).

On one side, a half-dozen enormous multinationals presided over by a handful of men control most of the world’s supply of images and news. On the other, there are the independent intellectuals who actually form an incipient community, physically separated from each other but connected variously to a great number of activist communities shunned by the main media but who have at their disposal other kinds of what Swift sarcastically called oratorical machines. Think of what an impressive range of opportunities is offered by the lecture platform, the pamphlet, radio, alternative journals, the interview form, the rally, church pulpit and the Internet, to name only a few. True, it is a considerable disadvantage to realize that one is unlikely to get asked onto the PBS NewsHour or ABC Nightline, or if one is in fact asked, that only an isolated fugitive minute will be offered. But then other occasions present themselves, not in the soundbite format but rather in more extended stretches of time.

So, rapidity is a double-edged weapon. There is the rapidity of the sloganeeringly reductive style that is the main feature of “expert” discourse–to-the-point, fast, formulaic, pragmatic in appearance–and there is the rapidity of response and expandable format that intellectuals and indeed most citizens can exploit in order to present fuller, more complete expressions of an alternative point of view. I am suggesting that by taking advantage of what is available in the form of numerous platforms (or stages-itinerant, another Swiftian term), an intellectual’s alert and creative willingness to exploit them (that is, platforms that either aren’t available to or are shunned by the television personality, expert or political candidate) creates the possibility of initiating wider discussion.

The emancipatory potential–and the threats to it–of this new situation mustn’t be underestimated. Let me give a very powerful example of what I mean. There are about 4 million Palestinian refugees scattered all over the world, a significant number of whom live in large refugee camps in Lebanon (where the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres took place), Jordan, Syria and in Gaza and the West Bank. In 1999 an enterprising group of young and educated refugees living in Dheisheh camp, near Bethlehem on the West Bank, established the Ibdaa Center, whose main feature was the Across Borders project; this was a revolutionary way, through computer terminals, of connecting refugees in most of the main camps, separated geographically and politically by impossibly difficult barriers, to one another.

For the first time since their parents were dispersed in 1948, second-generation Palestinian refugees in Beirut or Amman could communicate with their counterparts inside Palestine. Some of what the participants in the project did was quite remarkable. Thus when Israeli closures were relaxed somewhat the Dheisheh residents went on visits to their former villages in Palestine, and then described their emotions and what they saw for the benefit of other refugees who had heard of but could not have access to these places. In a matter of weeks a remarkable solidarity emerged at a time when, it turned out, the so-called final-status negotiations between the PLO and Israel were beginning to take up the question of refugees and return, which along with the question of Jerusalem made up the intransigent core of the stalemated peace process. For some Palestinian refugees, therefore, their presence and political will was actualized for the first time, giving them a new status qualitatively different from the passive objecthood that had been their fate for half a century.

On August 26, 2000, all the computers in Dheisheh were destroyed in an act of political vandalism that left no one in doubt that refugees were meant to remain refugees, which is to say that they were not meant to disturb the status quo that had assumed their silence for so long. It wouldn’t be hard to list the possible suspects, but it is hard to imagine that anyone will ever be named or apprehended. In any case, the Dheisheh camp-dwellers immediately set about trying to restore the IbdaaCenter, and seem to some degree to have succeeded. To answer the question “why” individuals and groups prefer writing and speaking to silence is equivalent to specifying what the intellectual and writer confront in the public sphere. The existence of individuals or groups seeking social justice and economic equality–and who understand, in Amartya Sen’s formulation, that freedom must include the right to a whole range of choices affording cultural, political, intellectual and economic development–ipso facto will lead to a desire for articulation rather than silence. It almost goes without saying that for the American intellectual the responsibility is greater, the openings numerous, the challenge very difficult. The United States, after all, is the only global power; it intervenes nearly everywhere, and its resources for domination are very great, although far from infinite.

The intellectual’s role generally is to uncover and elucidate the contest, to challenge and defeat both an imposed silence and the normalized quiet of unseen power, wherever and whenever possible. For there is a social and intellectual equivalence between this mass of overbearing collective interests and the discourse used to justify, disguise or mystify its workings while at the same time preventing objections or challenges to it. In this day, and almost universally, phrases such as “the free market,” “privatization,” “less government” and others like them have become the orthodoxy of globalization, its counterfeit universals. They are staples of the dominant discourse, designed to create consent and tacit approval. From that nexus emanate such ideological confections as “the West,” the “clash of civilizations,” “traditional values” and “identity” (perhaps the most overused phrases in the global lexicon today). All these are deployed not as they sometimes seem to be–as instigations for debate–but quite the opposite, to stifle, pre-empt and crush dissent whenever the false universals face resistance or questioning.

The main goal of this dominant discourse is to fashion the merciless logic of corporate profit-making and political power into a normal state of affairs. Behind the Punch and Judy show of energetic debate concerning the West and Islam, for example, all manner of antidemocratic, sanctimonious and alienating devices (the theory of the Great Satan or of the rogue state and terrorism) are in place as diversions from the social and economic disentitlements occurring in reality. In one place, Hashemi Rafsanjani exhorts the Iranian Parliament to greater degrees of Islamization as a defense against America; in the other, Bush, Blair and their feeble partners prepare their citizens for an indeterminate war against Islamic terrorism, rogue states and the rest. Realism and its close associate, pragmatism, are mobilized from their real philosophical context in the work of Peirce, Dewey and James, and put to forced labor in the boardroom where, as Gore Vidal has put it, the real decisions about government and presidential candidates are made. Much as one is for elections, it is also a bitter truth that elections do not automatically produce democracy or democratic results. Ask any Floridian.

The intellectual can offer instead a dispassionate account of how identity, tradition and the nation are constructed entities, most often in the insidious form of binary oppositions that are inevitably expressed as hostile attitudes to the Other. Pierre Bourdieu and his associates have very interestingly suggested that Clinton-Blair neoliberalism, which built on the conservative dismantling of the great social achievements (in health, education, labor, social security) of the welfare state during the Thatcher-Reagan period, has constructed a paradoxical doxa, a symbolic counterrevolution that includes the kind of national self-glorification I’ve just mentioned. This, Bourdieu says, is conservative but presents itself as progressive; it seeks the restoration of the past order in some of its most archaic aspects (especially as regards economic relations), yet it passes off regressions, reversals, surrenders, as forward-looking reforms or revolutions leading to a whole new age of abundance and liberty (as with the language of the so-called new economy and the celebratory discourse around network firms and the internet).

As a reminder of the damage this reversal has already done, Bourdieu and his colleagues produced a collective work titled La misère du monde (translated in 1999 as The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society), whose aim was to compel the politicians’ attention to what in French society the misleading optimism of the public rhetoric had hidden. This kind of book therefore plays a sort of negative intellectual role, whose aim is, to quote Bourdieu again, “to produce and disseminate instruments of defense against symbolic domination which increasingly relies on the authority of science”–or on expertise or appeals to national unity, pride, history and tradition–to bludgeon people into submission.

Obviously India and Brazil are different from Britain and the United States; but the often striking disparities in cultures and economies shouldn’t obscure the even more startling similarities that can be seen in some of the techniques, and very often the aim, of deprivation and repression that compel people to follow along meekly. I should also add that one needn’t always present an abstruse and detailed theory of justice to go to war intellectually against injustice, since there is now a well-stocked international storehouse of conventions, protocols, resolutions and charters for national authorities to comply with, if they are so inclined. And in the same context I would have thought it almost moronic to take an ultrapostmodern position (like Richard Rorty while shadowboxing with some vague thing he refers to contemptuously as “the academic Left”) and say–when confronting ethnic cleansing, or genocide as it is occurring today in Iraq, or any of the evils of torture, censorship, famine, ignorance (most of them constructed by humans, not by acts of God)–that human rights are “cultural things,” so that when they are violated they do not really have the status accorded them by such crude foundationalists as myself, for whom they are as real as anything else we can encounter.

All intellectuals carry around some working understanding or sketch of the global system (in large measure thanks to world and regional historians like Immanuel Wallerstein, Anouar Abdel-Malek, J.M. Blaut, Janet Abu-Lughod, Peter Gran, Ali Mazrui, William McNeill); but it is during the direct encounters with it in one or another specific geography or configuration that the contests are waged (as in Seattle and Genoa) and perhaps even winnable. There is an admirable chronicle of the kind of thing I mean in the various essays of Bruce Robbins’s Feeling Global: Internationalism in Distress (1999), Timothy Brennan’s At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now (1997) and Neil Lazarus’s Nationalism and Cultural Practice in the Postcolonial World (1999), books whose self-consciously territorial and highly interwoven textures are in fact an adumbration of the critical (and combative) intellectual’s sense of the world we live in today, taken as episodes or even fragments of a broader picture, which their work and that of others is in the process of compiling.

What they suggest is a map of experiences that would have been indiscernible, perhaps invisible, two decades ago, but that in the aftermath of the classical empires, the end of the cold war, the crumbling of the socialist and nonaligned blocs, the emergent dialectics between North and South in the era of globalization, cannot be excluded either from cultural study or from the somewhat ethereal precincts of the humanistic disciplines.

I’ve mentioned a few names not just to indicate how significant I think their contributions have been but also to use them in order to leapfrog directly into some concrete areas of collective concern, where, to quote Bourdieu for the last time, there is the possibility of “collective invention.” He observes that the whole edifice of critical thought is thus in need of reconstruction. This work of reconstruction cannot be done, as some thought in the past, by a single great intellectual, a master-thinker endowed only with the resources of his singular thought, or by the authorized spokesperson for a group or an institution presumed to speak in the name of those without voice, union, party, and so on. This is where the collective intellectual [Bourdieu’s name for individuals the sum of whose research and participation on common subjects constitutes a sort of ad hoc collective] can play its irreplaceable role, by helping to create the social conditions for the collective production of realist utopias.

My reading of this is to stress the absence of any master plan or blueprint or grand theory for what intellectuals can do, and the absence now of any utopian teleology toward which human history can be described as moving. Therefore, one invents–in the literal use of the Latin word inventio, employed by rhetoricians to stress finding again or reassembling from past performances, as opposed to the romantic use of invention as something you create from scratch–goals abductively, that is, hypothesizes a better situation from the known historical and social facts.

So in effect this enables intellectual performances on many fronts, in many places, many styles, that keep in play both the sense of opposition and the sense of engaged participation. Hence, film, photography and even music, along with all the arts of writing, can be aspects of this activity. Part of what we do as intellectuals is not only to define the situation but also to discern the possibilities for active intervention, whether we then perform them ourselves or acknowledge them in others who have either gone before or are already at work, the intellectual as lookout. Provincialism of the old kind–e.g., I am a literary specialist whose field is early-seventeenth-century England–rules itself out and, quite frankly, seems uninteresting and needlessly neutered. The assumption has to be that even though one can’t do or know everything, it must always be possible to discern the elements of a struggle or tension or problem near at hand that can be elucidated dialectically, and also to sense that other people have a similar stake and work in a common project.

I have found a brilliantly inspiring parallel for what I mean in Adam Phillips’s recent book Darwin’s Worms, in which Darwin’s lifelong attention to the lowly earthworm revealed its capacity for expressing nature’s variability and design without necessarily seeing the whole of either one or the other, thereby in his work on earthworms replacing “a creation myth with a secular maintenance myth.” Is there some nontrivial way of generalizing about where and in what form such struggles are taking place now? I shall limit myself to saying a little about only three, each of which is profoundly amenable to intellectual intervention and elaboration.

The first is to protect against and forestall the disappearance of the past, which in the rapidity of change, the reformulation of tradition and the construction of simplified bowdlerizations of history is at the very heart of the contest described by Benjamin Barber (though rather too sweepingly) as “Jihad versus McWorld.”

The intellectual’s role is first to present alternative narratives and other perspectives on history than those provided by the combatants on behalf of official memory and national identity–who tend to work in terms of falsified unities, the manipulation of demonized or distorted representations of undesirable and/or excluded populations, and the propagation of heroic anthems sung in order to sweep all before them. At least since Nietzsche, the writing of history and the accumulations of memory have been regarded in many ways as one of the essential foundations of power, guiding its strategies and charting its progress.

Look, for example, at the appalling exploitation of past suffering described in their accounts of the uses of the Holocaust by Tom Segev, Peter Novick and Norman Finkelstein or, just to stay within the area of historical restitution and reparation, the invidious disfiguring, dismembering and disremembering of significant historical experiences that do not have powerful enough lobbies in the present and therefore merit dismissal or belittlement. The need now is for deintoxicated, sober histories that make evident the multiplicity and complexity of history without allowing one to conclude that it moves forward impersonally according only to laws determined either by the divine or by the powerful.

Second is to construct fields of coexistence rather than fields of battle as the outcome of intellectual labor. There are great lessons to be learned from decolonization; first, that, noble as its liberatory aims were, it did not often enough prevent the emergence of repressive nationalist replacements for colonial regimes; second, that the process itself was almost immediately captured by the cold war, despite the nonaligned movement’s rhetorical efforts; and thirdly, that it has been miniaturized and even trivialized by a small academic industry that has simply turned it into an ambiguous contest among ambivalent opponents.

Third, in the various contests over justice and human rights that so many of us feel we have joined, there needs to be a component to our engagement that stresses the need for the redistribution of resources and that advocates the theoretical imperative against the huge accumulations of power and capital that so distort human life. Peace cannot exist without equality: This is an intellectual value desperately in need of reiteration, demonstration and reinforcement. The seduction of the word itself–peace–is that it is surrounded by, indeed drenched in, the blandishments of approval, uncontroversial eulogizing, sentimental endorsement.

The international media (as has been the case recently with the sanctioned wars in Iraq and Kosovo) uncritically amplify, ornament, unquestioningly transmit all this to vast audiences for whom peace and war are spectacles for delectation and immediate consumption. It takes a good deal more courage, work and knowledge to dissolve words like “war” and “peace” into their elements, recovering what has been left out of peace processes that have been determined by the powerful, and then placing that missing actuality back in the center of things, than it does to write prescriptive articles for “liberals,” à la Michael Ignatieff, that urge more destruction and death for distant civilians. The intellectual can be perhaps a kind of countermemory, putting forth its own counterdiscourse that will not allow conscience to look away or fall asleep. The best corrective is, as Dr. Johnson said, to imagine the person whom you are discussing–in this case the person on whom the bombs will fall–reading you in your presence.

Still, just as history is never over or complete, it is also the case that some dialectical oppositions are not reconcilable, not transcendable, not really capable of being folded into a sort of higher, undoubtedly more noble, synthesis. The example closest to home for me is the struggle over Palestine, which, I have always believed, cannot really be simply resolved by a technical and ultimately janitorial rearrangement of geography allowing dispossessed Palestinians the right (such as it is) to live in about 20 percent of their land, which would be encircled by and totally dependent on Israel.

Nor, on the other hand, would it be morally acceptable to demand that Israelis should retreat from the whole of former Palestine, now Israel, becoming refugees like Palestinians all over again. No matter how I have searched for a resolution to this impasse, I cannot find one, for this is not a facile case of right versus right. It cannot be right ever to deprive an entire people of their land and heritage or to stifle and slaughter them, as Israel has been doing for the thirty-four years of its occupation. But the Jews too are what I have called a community of suffering, and brought with them a heritage of great tragedy. Yet unlike Zeev Sternhell, I cannot agree that the conquest of Palestine was a necessary conquest–the notion offends the sense of real Palestinian pain, in its own way also tragic.

Overlapping yet irreconcilable experiences demand from the intellectual the courage to say what is before us, in almost exactly the way Adorno, throughout his work on music, insisted that modern music can never be reconciled with the society that produced it; but in its intensely and often despairingly crafted form and content, music can act as a silent witness to the inhumanity all around. Any assimilation of individual musical work to its social setting is, says Adorno, false. I conclude with the thought that the intellectual’s provisional home is the domain of an exigent, resistant, intransigent art into which, alas, one can neither retreat nor search for solutions. But only in that precarious exilic realm can one first truly grasp the difficulty of what cannot be grasped, and then go forth to try anyway.

Secret trial defendant pleads guilty to possessing terrorist document

Secret trial defendant pleads guilty to possessing terrorist document

The Guardian, October 9, 2014

http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/oct/09/secret-trial-defendant-pleads-guilty-possessing-terrorist-document

Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar was due to face charges in Old Bailey trial, much of which was to take place in secret

One of the defendants due to face charges in a partly secret trial has pleaded guilty to possessing a terrorist document.

Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar, 26, entered the plea at the Old Bailey on Tuesday, but it was only reported on Thursday after reporting restrictions were lifted.

Rarmoul-Bouhadjar was due to go on trial next week with co-defendant Erol Incedal, also 26, with much of the case being heard behind closed doors.

Mr Justice Nicol had originally ruled that the trial should take place entirely in private with the identity of both defendants withheld and a permanent prohibition on reporting the case.

After media organisations challenged his “unprecedented” decision, three appeal judges overruled the ban on naming the defendants, both from London, who were previously known only as AB and CD.

They ruled in favour of the core of the trial being held “in camera”.

At the Old Bailey hearing on Tuesday the court was told that Rarmoul-Bouhadjar admitted possessing a “document containing information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, namely a document entitled Bomb making”. A second charge of improperly obtaining an identity document was dropped.

Rarmoul-Bouhadjar was in court for Tuesday’s hearing, and Incedal appeared via videolink.

Incedal will now stand trial alone next week accused of an offence contrary to section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006 (preparation of terrorist acts) and an offence contrary to section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (collection of information).

Rarmoul-Bouhadjar will be sentenced after Incedal’s trial.

Police forces pay £25million to informants and nearly half is spent by London’s Met 


Police forces pay £25million to informants and nearly half is spent by London’s Met  


By Martin Robinson, Daily Mail, 18 June 2013

Informants have been paid more than £25million for snitching to police in the past five years.
Despite facing massive cuts and thousands of jobs being at threat, new figures show the overall spend by forces has only decreased by £1million a year since 2008.

There are also concerns about safety, after Met informant Kester David, 53, was found burned to death two years ago and another force was fined for losing a memory stick containing a list of their informants.

Scotland Yard has spent more than any other force in England and Wales, with its costs over five years topping £9million.

In total £25,268,798.40 has been spent by England and Wales’ 43 police forces, with more than £4million being spent on average each year.

Police informant Kester David, 53, was found burned to death under railway arches in north London two years ago

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has today defended the practice of paying informants, or Covert Human Intelligence Sources as they are officially known, saying it is ‘vital’ in bringing criminals to justice.
Commander Richard Martin, ACPO lead for covert human intelligence, said: ‘The use of informants to assist in police investigations is one of many covert methods used to gather intelligence to aid forces in defending and protecting the public.

‘Each force has a rigorous chain of command in place to ensure proper management of informants and decide appropriate levels of reward. We are looking to protect our neighbourhoods from harm and to ensure that when and where we use sources, we are tackling the serious crimes that damage our communities.’

In responses to Freedom of Information requests, the forces refused to reveal how much was paid to each individual informant as it may lead to their identification.They said where an informant is identified it can endanger them. 

Other than the Met, West Midlands Police was the only force who spent in excess of £1million over the five year period. In total 11 forces spent more than £500,000. 


Warwickshire Police paid just £63,679.06 over the five years, the least out of all the forces.

Metropolitan Police: £9,098,058.

West Midlands Police: £1,461,311

Greater Manchester Police: £991,681.28

South Yorkshire Police: £893,375

Northumbria Police: £809,416

Thames Valley Police: £764,509

West Yorkshire: £736,684.70

Lancashire Constabulary: £672,678

Nottinghamshire Police: £605,508

Devon and Cornwall Police: £564,352

Last year Greater Manchester Police were fined £120,000 by the Information Commissioner after the details of 1,075 informants on a memory stick was lost.


Police forces are audited on their use of informants and is inspected annually by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners to ensure they’re not breaking the law. 


The family of one informant who was found burned to death under a bridge in North London three years ago said that he was murdered, but the Met Police have stated his death was unexplained.

Kester David, 53, from Wood Green, North London, was killed by a criminal gang after acting as a police informant. 

A new investigation was ordered last year after it was ruled that there were errors in the original police investigation.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2343764/Police-forces-pay-25million-informants-nearly-half-spent-London-s-Met.html#ixzz3hB15ORwb
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What can we learn from court testimonies?

What can we learn from court testimonies?

by Elias Davidsson, 26 July 2015

In order to assess the fairness of a trial, it is essential to hear what the defendant has to say, and how it was said. Does the defendant deny the charges, express regret, sound aggressive, ask for pity, get entangled in contradictions?

An interesting case is that of Mohammed Junaid Babar who appeared on June 3, 2004 before the United States District Court at the Southern District of New York, charged inter alia by the United States of America with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organisation (see http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/case_docs/853.pdf).  As he made a plea agreement, the court asked him numerous questions, to which he answered either Yes or No. Thereafter, the learned judge said: “Mr. Babar, I would like you to tell me in your own words what you did in connection with the crimes which you’re entering a plea of guilty. Please state when the crimes occurred, where, what happened, and what your involvement in the crimes was. Please begin with the crimes set forth in count one of the information.”

Here is, according to the court transcript, what Babar said (emphasis added):

“Starting the summer of ’03, your Honor, summer of ’03, I — that’s when I first started providing, you know, funding, material support to Al Qaeda, you know, for the war in Afghanistan. And from summer ’03 to about March of ’04, I provided night vision goggles, sleeping bags, water proof socks, water proof ponchos, and money to a high ranking Al Qaeda official in South Waziristan. In summer of ’03, I handed off to someone else, you know, to send it to South Waziristan. Then in January and February ’04, I went myself, personally, to South Waziristan and handed over money to, and supplies to a high ranking Al Qaeda official.”

Thereupon the Court asked him a few questions, to which he answered with a short Yes. He then continued:

“The agreement that I with others was, A, was, you know, concerning people was, A, to provide funding that would — then I would then transport, you know, to, you know, to South Waziristan, Al Qaeda, and also to provide supplies, you know, you know, when I would give them a list of anything that I needed, and they would provide the supplies that I would need that I would then pass over in South Waziristan.”
[…]

“I just — I understood that the money and supplies that I had given to al Qaeda was supposed to be used in Afghanistan, you know, against U.S. or International, International Forces or against the Northern Alliance.”
[…]
“The activities are basically the same. It was the same. We got together with a couple of people to provide funding and to provide supplies for A1 Qaeda, and we knew what the supplies where, the supplies and weapons were going — what they were going to be used for, and we know who they were going to, and that’s what we did. We got together with people, tried to raise money and supplies and tried to give them to high ranking a1 Qaeda official to be used with the ongoing war inside of Afghanistan.”

[…]
“Count three, one of the things that we did was I set up a jihad training camp where those who wanted to go into Afghanistan where they could learn how to use weapons, and also, you know, any explosive devices that they wanted to test out over there. And I also provided lodging and transportation in Pakistan for them, and I transported them to and from the training camp. At the same time, I was aware that some of the people who attended the jihad training camp had ideas about, you know, plotting against some targets in the United Kingdom, and I provided some of the materials, like I mentioned, aluminum nitrate, ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder for them in the use of explosive devices that was then tested out at the training camp.”

[…]
“As far as the aluminum powder goes, I knew purchasing aluminum powder, what it was going to be used for, and they had told me, you know, what it would be used for, explosive device, and they wanted to, you know, plot or target some targets in the UK, and I knew purchase of aluminum powder, that’s what I was purchasing it for. And the ammonium nitrate was the same thing. Although I never purchased it, I tried to get it, but at that time I couldn’t get it. So I was able to get the aluminum powder, which I then passed along to them, which I knew where it was going to, what it was going to be used for, eventually.”

[…]
“Count four is the same as count three and I — it’s the same. You know, they wanted to set up a jihad training camp, and I provided — I, you know, provided the area and the weapons for them where they can get the training, and also provided some of the materials like aluminum powder and ammonium nitrate for the explosive devices that were used at the training camp. Also same thing, also I purchased aluminum powder, ammonium nitrate knowing it was going to be eventually be used — well, not the nitrate, the aluminum powder I purchased with the knowledge that it was going to be used for a plot somewhere in the UK, and the ammonium nitrate which I tried to purchase but wasn’t able to.”

[…]
“Count five is the same as count one and two. I tried to raise money with other people, money and gear which I mentioned before, like night vision goggles, sleeping bags, water proof socks, water proof ponchos and other military gear to then pass it onto a high ranking a1 Qaeda official in South Waziristan. And the timeframe is same with the spring, summer of ’03, up to ’04, March of ’04. And it was sometimes I passed it along to someone else. And in the beginning of ’04 I personally went to South Waziristan and I gave money and gear, the gear I just mentioned, to a high ranking a1 Qaeda official, which I knew was going to be used in the ongoing war in Afghanistan against U. S. and International forces and Northern Alliance in military operations.”
[…]
”I understood that it was involved in ongoing military operations within Afghanistan, and also that A1 Qaeda was involved in military organizations outside of Afghanistan, namely, bombings and highjackings and kidnappings outside of Afghanistan, so that’s what I understood that A1 Qaeda was involved in, those kinds of military operations.”

A casual reading of the above text reveals that Babar was not at all reporting real events or personal experience, but repeating terms he learned from the charge sheet and from those who prepared him for the trial.  Leaving aside the hesitations, duly transcribed above, a genuine account of personal experience normally includes specifics, such as locations, names, times, and other incidental information that put an action in context. The account here lacks all specifics. It is entirely abstract, smacks of a written report. Note also the repeated use of the word “provided”, a term not used colloquially, or his use of the expression “with the knowledge that”, that is only used in legal texts.

An experienced judge – and defense counsel – would hardly be oblivious to the manifestly bogus account. But perhaps they were not interested in the truth of his account, for Babar was actually working as an informant for the US government. The point here is though not the guilt or innocence of Babar, but the importance of studying testimonies. While in this case, the transcript alone reveals the scam, sometimes court attendance, where body language can be observed, is necessary to gauge whether a witness or defendant spoke the truth.  The bottom line is that in order to assess the fairness of criminal trials, particularly where political issues are involved, such as terrorism, it is incumbent to obtain access to verbatim court transcripts and if possible, to audio or video recordings of such proceedings.  Any attempts to restrict such access in this type of cases must be regarded as an attempt to corrupt the course of justice.

Government Responses to Human Rights Reports: Claims, Denials, and Counterclaims

Government Responses to Human Rights Reports: Claims, Denials, and Counterclaims
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:Human Rights Quarterly 18.3 (1996) 517-543

I. Introduction

A major part of human rights work is the production of written reports. The report is usually seen as a means to an end. Information is collected, checked, standardized, and disseminated as part of a wider strategy to prevent violations and implement universal standards. Reporting also may become an end in itself: The belief that even without results there is an absolute duty to convey the truth, to bear witness.

There are many types of human rights reports. The major international nongovernmental organizations (such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International) produce regular and detailed book-length reports. These are the equivalent of social science research projects, giving a comprehensive account of a particular country’s current human rights record. Then there are the simplest reports — legal or journalistic, rather than social scientific — giving information only on a single case or problem. Other variants include entries in annual world-wide atlases of human rights violations, press releases, regular documentation by regional and national organizations, results of fact-finding missions, publications of academic human rights centers, and official documents from intergovernmental organizations within the UN orbit.

These reports have generated an extraordinary volume of information over the last twenty-five years. This coverage is obviously neither completely comprehensive nor evenly distributed. There are clear reasons for this — both rational (human rights problems are objectively worse in some countries than in others) and contingent (some countries are closed to outside scrutiny, more obscure and less politically interesting to international, especially US-based, organizations). Some countries are more highly scrutinized than others, especially those with a combination of visible violations and open access to media and human rights observers.

Because of such contingencies in reporting, it would be impossible to claim that the human rights problem is “objectively” constructed, in the sense of there being an exact correspondence between the severity, duration, and extent of violations and the amount of attention any particular country receives. For this reason, some government responses to international criticism are justified, even if usually disingenuous or a distraction from the issue: Yes, human rights organizations do report more about Israel than Syria.

Despite this selectivity, though, the cumulative picture produced by all human rights scrutiny is impressive. It would be difficult to find a country or issue which has not been the object of substantial attention. Despite occasional legendary cases of misreporting (such as the dubious incubator babies in Kuwait) and other less dramatic mistakes, this reporting is generally fair and reliable.

What happens to these reports when they are “released?” The resources that organizations devote to compiling all this information are not matched by attention to how reports are disseminated or what impact they might have on target audiences. Much information hardly gets off the shelves. Or it flows only within a closed circuit of other human rights organizations, governments, or intergovernmental bodies. When it does reach the wider public — either directly (through appeals, publicity, campaigns) or through the mass media — its effects remain unknown and unmonitored. Recent refinements in techniques of information collecting, standardized recording, and data-retrieval do not address this issue at all.

I have just completed an enquiry into how human rights information is communicated. Focusing on international organizations, my research considered three target audiences: (1) the official circuit of perpetrator and observer governments; (2) the mass media; and (3) direct appeals to the general public. This article deals only with the first audience — reactions by perpetrator governments. These reactions arise in three settings: (1) within their own country in response to criticism from domestic organizations; (2) within their country in response to international organizations; and (3) in the international arena in response to international organizations. This article concentrates on this third arena.

Perpetrator governments, however, when framing their replies to allegations by human rights organizations have to address other audiences as well — domestic public opinion and media, international public opinion and media, allied or friendly governments, and international bodies. Official reactions, therefore, resonate far beyond the restricted channels of a government press release in response to a critical report. The vocabulary of official reactions draws from the acceptable pool of accounts available…

A Peaceful, Silent, Deadly Remedy: The Ethics of Economic Sanctions

A Peaceful, Silent, Deadly Remedy: The Ethics of Economic Sanctions

by Joy Gordon

in Ethics and International Affairs 04/2006

Joy Gordon is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Fairfield University. She received a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale and a J.D. from Boston University. Prior research interests include Latin American political thought. Her recent work is in Third World and leftist critiques of Western theories of human rights. Currently, she is writing a book on economic sanctions and their role within the larger context of international governance.

ABSTRACT

Economic sanctions are emerging as one of the major tools of international governance in the post-Cold War era. Sanctions have long been seen as a form of political intervention that does not cause serious human damage, and therefore does not raise pressing ethical questions. However, the nature of sanctions is that they effectively target the most vulnerable and least political sectors of society, and for this reason they must be subject to ethical scrutiny.This essay looks at sanctions in the context of three ethical frameworks: just war doctrine, deontological ethics, and utilitarianism. It argues that sanctions are inconsistent with the principle of discrimination from just war doctrine; that sanctions reduce individuals to nothing more than means to an end by using the suffering of innocents as a means of persuasion, thereby violating the Kantian principle that human beings are “ends in themselves”; and that sanctions are unacceptable from a utilitarian perspective because their economic effectiveness necessarily entails considerable human damage, while their likelihood of achieving political objectives is low
A Peaceful, Silent, Deadly Remedy: The Ethics of Economic Sanctions (PDF Download Available). Available from: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/229658377_A_Peaceful_Silent_Deadly_Remedy_The_Ethics_of_Economic_Sanctions [accessed Jul 23, 2015].

The Extraterritorial Application of Human Rights Treaties: Al-Skeini et al. v. United Kingdom (2011)

Joseph Sinchak, Pace University School of Law

Abstract

The decade proceeding the 9/11 tragedy has been very unkind to the human rights regime, as many western nations have committed human rights abuses in their mission to combat terrorism. Both the United States and the United Kingdom have been engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they perpetrated terrible crimes and violated important tenants of international law. These violations, ranging from allegations of torture to wrongful deaths, are prohibited by human rights law. In fact, human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) were enacted with the express purpose of eliminating the very atrocities that have been committed in the “war on terror. ” Unfortunately, the United States and the United Kingdom have maintained that human rights treaties do not apply beyond their territorial borders. The issue of the extraterritorial nature of the treaties is therefore crucially important because the crimes that have been committed by these two nations can only be remedied if the treaties can be interpreted to apply to the territory in question.

On July 7, 2011, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a landmark decision in Al-Skeini et al. v. The United Kingdom, overturning the United Kingdom’s House of Lords decision and issuing a strong precedent stating that human rights treaties should apply extraterritorially. Al- Skeini held that the ECHR applied to six Iraqi civilians who were killed while under the authority and control of the British military during their occupation in 2003. This case is the most recent of court opinions that have affirmed the notion that the object and purpose of a human rights instrument should be taken into heavy consideration when determining the extraterritorial nature of a treaty.

In determining whether human rights treaties apply extraterritorially, it is necessary to analyze important provisions and terms in a particular agreement. However, as illustrated in The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (the Vienna Convention), the analysis of a human rights instrument often hinges on semantics. Traditionally, the meaning of a provision was based on the definiteness of the language and the plain meaning of the terms. Recently, however, courts such as the ECtHR have been reluctant to settle with the “ordinary meaning analysis” of treaty interpretation (as suggested in Article 31 of the Vienna Convention) when there are “manifestly absurd” results from adherence to such an approach. Instead, many international courts have embraced the exceptions present in Article 32 of the Vienna Convention, allowing them to bring in subsequent state practice, context, purpose, and travaux preparatoires.

Consequently, a complete understanding of the definitions of each word or phrase is essential to a proper analysis. As Joanne Williams points out in her article, Al-Skeini: A Flawed Interpretation of Bankovic, jurisdiction and territory are not interchangeable. “Jurisdiction refers to a particular sphere of legal competence, while “territory” refers to a geographical area.” While all actions occurring within the state’s sovereign territory are within its jurisdiction, it does not follow that actions occurring extraterritorially are therefore outside of the state’s jurisdiction.

Most treaties are specific and clear to which geographical areas they apply. They contain provisions of territorial jurisdiction, limiting the treaties’ applicability to actions occurring within the boundaries of the state. The European Convention, however, does not contain any such provision, and is unclear as to its territorial scope. Moreover, while the ICCPR does have a territorial provision, it has not been applied in that fashion. This Note discusses the extraterritorial application of both treaties, and specifically seeks to determine whether their provisions apply to actions of state actors outside of their territories.

Clarifying the Extraterritorial Application of the European Convention on Human Rights

Clarifying the Extraterritorial Application of the European Convention on Human Rights

Al-Skeini and others v United Kingdom App No 55721/07 (ECtHR, 7 July 2011)

Cedric Ryngaert

in MERKOURIOS: Utrecht Journal of International and European Law, Vol. 28, Issue 74

Abstract
In Al-Skeini v the United Kingdom, the European Court on Human Rights clarified the scope ratione loci of the European
Convention on Human Rights. Without fully abandoning the territorial concept of jurisdiction, which it had affirmed in the
2001 Bankovic decision, the Court inched somewhat closer to the personal model of jurisdiction. After Al-Skeini, an ECHR
Contracting State’s exercise of public powers over a given territory, even in the absence of full effective control, may bring
persons present in that territory within the State’s jurisdiction. The Court did not, however, pronounce itself on the applicability of the ECHR in case (agents of ) a Contracting State exercise governmental authority over persons abroad without exercising public powers over the territory where these persons are located.

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Extraterritorial Application of Human Rights Treaties: An Overview

Extraterritorial Application of Human Rights Treaties: An Overview

Published on November 30, 2011        Author: 
http://www.ejiltalk.org/extraterritorial-application-of-human-rights-treaties-an-overview/

I am very grateful for the opportunity to discuss my book on EJIL: Talk! and Opinio Juris, as am I grateful to the commentators on both blogs for taking the time to read and discuss it. In this introductory post I’ll try to outline the book’s main arguments and themes and my approach generally in analysing a very complex topic.

The book is divided into five chapters. The first, introductory chapter sets out the scope and purpose of the whole study. It defines the notion of the extraterritorial application of human rights treaties, explains that the law of treaties sets no general rules on extraterritorial application, and outlines the basic normative framework of the human rights treaties which are the object of the study, looking in particular at the various types of state jurisdiction clauses that one finds in these treaties, and their relationship with other relevant provisions, such as the colonial clauses. Whether a human rights treaty protects a particular individual in an extraterritorial context is legally a matter of treaty interpretation, and this chapter sets the stage for this interpretative exercise. My main focus is on treaties protecting civil and political rights, for the sole reason that there is much more case law and other material to work with in respect of these treaties than with those protecting socio-economic rights. That said, the book proceeds from the assumption that there is something to be gained from focusing on problems common to all or most human rights treaties, and views these treaties as a whole. Hence, it is generally structured thematically, issue by issue, not chronologically or treaty by treaty.

Of all the treaties, I give most attention to the European Convention on Human Rights, for two reasons. First, the ECHR system is by far the strongest of all human rights regimes (if far from perfect) in its ability to effectively secure compliance and have a direct impact on state policy. The stakes are highest in Strasbourg, because it will be listened to. Second, it is precisely because the stakes are highest in Strasbourg that the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights on extraterritorial application is the richest and the most developed. At the same time, it is the most problematic, suffering from rampant casuistry and conceptual chaos. It is a jurisprudence of (at times quite unprincipled) compromise, caused mostly be the Court’s understandable desire to avoid the merits of legally and politically extremely difficult cases by relying on the preliminary issue of extraterritorial application. At the same time, the jurisprudence of the European Court has the most to teach us on questions of both law and policy that are relevant for all human rights treaties.

The second chapter tries to clear up some of the conceptual confusion in existing case law. It examines the notion of state jurisdiction in human rights treaties, and attempts to place it within the framework of international law. Is this notion the general concept of jurisdiction one finds in public international law, which sets out limits on the prescription and enforcement of domestic law, as contemplated by the European Court in Bankovic, or is it a distinct, autonomous concept, which is a part of a self-contained human rights regime? Is it a simple admissibility requirement for an application, or a test of attribution in the framework of state responsibility, as assumed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Tadic case, or is it in fact a threshold criterion determining whether a human rights obligation exists in the first place? These are some of the questions that this chapter hopes to answer.

The second chapter begins the inquiry into the semantic, ordinary meaning of the jurisdiction clauses in human rights treaties, and of their construction into workable legal concepts and rules. Their interpretation cannot be complete, however, without examining the object and purpose of these treaties, and the various policy considerations which influence courts in their decision-making. This is the object of the third chapter, which focuses on the tension between universality and effectiveness, which is, I argue, the prime cause of methodological and conceptual inconsistencies in the case law. The chapter looks at a number of normative considerations, such as the universality and indivisibility of human rights, territorial sovereignty, citizenship, cultural relativism and regionalism and attempts to establish which of these considerations do and which should matter. In doing so, I look not only at international jurisprudence but also at cases dealing with the extraterritorial application of domestic, often constitutional human rights protections, particularly in the US and Canada, as these cases are often based on the same policy considerations as the international ones and can hence be quite instructive.

The fourth chapter concludes the interpretative inquiry into the meaning of the jurisdiction clauses, and elaborates on the several possible models of extraterritorial application of human rights treaties. These include the spatial model of jurisdiction, which grounds the application of human rights treaties in state effective control over territory; the personal model of jurisdiction, based on various forms of state authority and control over individuals; and a mixed model which is based on the distinction between positive and negative obligations under the treaties. This last model is in fact the one that I prefer. The spatial model of jurisdiction suffers from a universality-driven tendency to collapse – in a number of situations it makes little sense to say that a state should not respect the rights of a specific individual merely because it does not control the territory in which the individual is located, when it is in fact perfectly capable of respecting his rights. The personal model of jurisdiction is similarly prone to collapse, as it cannot be limited by reference to any non-arbitrary criterion. In essence, if jurisdiction means authority and control over an individual, then any state act capable of violating the individual’s rights would appear to qualify as such authority and control. There is no reason, for example, why state custody over an individual should constitute jurisdiction, but its power to kill that individual by a drone-fired missile would not (cf. the recent Al-Skeini judgment of the European Court, which basically tries to limit the personal model of jurisdiction by mixing it with the spatial one). I thus argue that while the state’s overarching positive obligation to secure or ensure human rights even from violations by private actors should be conditioned by a spatial notion of jurisdiction as control of an area, since in the overwhelming majority of cases the state would need such control to effectively comply with its obligations, its negative obligations – e.g. not to kill an individual without sufficient justification – should be territorially unlimited, since the state can always refrain from a specific act.

The final chapter explores the relationship between international humanitarian law and international human rights law from a norm conflict perspective, as the interaction between these two bodies of law is frequently a concurrent issue with that of extraterritorial application, implicating the same policy considerations. In doing so, it looks at various forms of norm conflict avoidance and resolution, and examines – and rejects – the traditional lex specialis model for explaining the relationship between these bodies of law.

The book’s main focus is on case law, and most of the case-law that I examine is of fairly recent extraction. It appears that the problem of the extraterritorial application of human rights treaties has been growing progressively more acute in the past decade or so. It is indeed rather startling that such a fundamental issue regarding the scope of application of these treaties has not been definitively resolved much earlier during their life-span. One, almost trite response to this observation would be that in the age of globalization states are increasingly affecting the human rights of individuals outside their borders, and that this explains both the increase of litigated cases on extraterritorial application and the growing importance of the issue generally.

There is some truth in this remark, particularly with regard to socio-economic rights and transnational criminal law enforcement. There is also, however, something profoundly mistaken in suggesting that most of the situations which today involve the extraterritorial application of human rights treaties are truly novel. States, especially powerful states, have always acted outside their borders and have always affected the lives of foreigners. They have moreover continued to do so even in the period after the Second World War, in which the modern human rights instruments were created. It seems that the better explanation for the increasing urgency of this topic is that society at large has changed and is changing still. Our culture has been permeated with law generally and human rights specifically to such a level that even those state acts that have hereto been considered as the ultimate expressions of sovereign prerogative have become exposed to human rights scrutiny, in public discourse as well as in the courts. We live in an age of rights, and the rhetoric of rights is no longer solely the province of increasingly aggressive lawyers and human rights activists, but is employed by policy makers and actors of all stripes.

Hence, people complain to human rights bodies more frequently and they do so in situations undreamed of even fairly recently. If, for example, an international lawyer had predicted even just a decade or two ago that Saddam Hussein, of all people, would soon be lodging an application with the European Court of Human Rights, he would have been thought eccentric at best. Yet this is exactly what happened after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and that particular case turned on the territorial scope of application of the European Convention.

In another example straight out of the pages of a spy novel, the family of Alexander Litvinenko, a former high-ranking officer of the Russian security services who was mortally poisoned in London in November 2006 with polonium, a highly radioactive substance, is reported to have lodged an application against Russia with the European Court. On his death bed, Mr. Litvinenko accused the Kremlin of involvement in his death and his family now argues that Russia violated several articles of the European Convention. The case is still pending, and clearly the applicants’ prospects depend on whether Russia’s obligations under the European Convention can be interpreted to extend to a person killed in London.

There is no small of amount of irony in the fact that today even deposed dictators, former KGB officers or Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries cum notorious terrorists try to avail themselves of the protections granted by international human rights law. Indeed, one could also view this phenomenon as a corollary of the widespread ‘humanization’ that international law has been subjected to under the influence of human rights. That humanizing effect is furthermore not confined to international law and international courts, as similar issues have arisen before domestic courts as well. For example, US courts have grappled with the question of the extraterritorial application of the US Constitution to detainees in Guantanamo or in US bases in Afghanistan, while UK courts have dealt with the acts of UK armed forces in Iraq under the ECHR and the Human Rights Act 1998. In sum, human rights and their universalist premise have become internalized to such an extent that their extraterritorial application is no longer merely a theoretical issue.

At this point I must say that my book is a product of the same process. It is not just an attempt to solve a doctrinal puzzle, or to bring together the disparate strands of the case law. It necessarily has an ideological bent. Human rights treaties are themselves not value-neutral instruments, and the process of their interpretation cannot be completely value-neutral either. I start from the assumption that human rights grounded in universal human dignity are a good thing, but this is not an assumption that I am able or wish to defend here. What matters is that this assumption is not just my own personal view, but the normative premise of the entire body of law that I am analyzing. Thus, to the extent that value judgments prove to be necessary, this study is part of a project – an academic, and not an activist project, but a project nonetheless – with the general aim of furthering the humanization of both international law and the reality of international relations.

In sum, this is a study on human rights which is unconcerned with the actual substantive content of human rights treaties, but is concerned instead with the preliminary conditions for their application. However, although the interpretation of the jurisdiction clauses is conceptually distinct from the substantive application of a treaty to a specific issue, I try to show in the book that this is simply not the case in practice. Rather, the preliminary question of application is frequently used as a proxy for dealing with the merits, as nothing more than a judicial avoidance technique. My central argument is that the only way that the case law on the threshold issue of extraterritorial application can be sensible and coherent is if it is divorced from such an unstated assessment of the merits. This, however, will only be possible if due regard is given to considerations of effectiveness, so that the actual substantive application of a human rights treaty in an extraterritorial context does not appear to be hopelessly unrealistic or utopian.

Human Rights Abroad: When Do Human Rights Treaty Obligations Apply Extraterritorially?

Human Rights Abroad: When Do Human Rights Treaty Obligations Apply Extraterritorially?

by

Oona A. Hathaway, Philip Levitz, Elizabeth Nielsen, Aileen Nowlan, William
Perdue, Chelsea Purvis, Sara Solow, and Julia Spiege
[…] This Article proceeds in three parts. Part I summarizes the jurisprudence of foreign courts, specifically the Supreme Court and Fed eral Court of Appeal of Canada and the U. K. Supreme Court. Part II examines the approach taken by international courts, specifically the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter – American Court on Human Rights, and the International Court of Justice. Part III provides an overview of the positions of U. N. – linked human rights bodies, specifically the Committee Against Torture and the Human Rights Committee.

We conclude by noting that the U. S. executive branch’s consistent position against any extraterritoria l application of these human rights protections makes the United States an outlier in the international context. Nearly every other foreign and international body examined here concludes that countries that exert “effective control” over a territory, perso n, or situation must observe basic human rights obligations. It is our hope that by placing U. S. practice within an international context, we can open up a conversation about how the United States might — in this area as in so many others — once again be a lea der in the development and enforcement of human rights protections in the world. […]

 

Discovering secret dockets

Discovering secret dockets

http://www.rcfp.org/secret-justice-secret-dockets/discovering-secret-dockets

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Reporters check court dockets to find out what cases have been filed in courts across the country. The docket reveals the case number assigned by the court, the parties’ names, and a brief entry of each document filed or action taken in the case. Normally, all of this information is public record and can be obtained either from the court clerk’s office, the court’s public inquiry computer terminals, the court’s Web site, or through PACER, an electronic public access service where federal court docket information can be accessed for a fee. The information on the docket is evidence that a particular case exists and allows someone to track the case through the judicial system.

According to a survey by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for this guide, federal courts and many state courts allow for “super-secret” cases, which never appear on the public docket or are hidden using pseudonyms, such as “Sealed v. Sealed” or “John Doe v. Jane Doe.” Courts that maintain these secret dockets will neither confirm nor deny the existence of such cases. As a result, these cases proceed through the court system undetected.

Terrorism “outside the orbit”

The most recent examples of secret dockets involve cases against accused terrorists. On May 1, Iyman Faris pleaded guilty to providing material support to al Qaida, including researching ultralight airplanes, procuring lightweight sleeping bags, plane tickets and cell phones, and assisting in a plan to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge for the terrorist organization. But his arrest, indictment and, ultimately, his plea bargain with the Justice Department proceeded in absolute secrecy.

Faris’ case may have remained a secret were it not for two Newsweek reporters, Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, who discovered through intelligence documents that Faris was suspected of working for key al Qaida operative Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. In a June 18, 2003 article, the reporters speculated whether Faris was on the run, had disappeared or had been captured. For individuals such as Faris, there is “a new category that seems to be evolving outside the orbit of the criminal-justice system,” the Newsweek reporters wrote.

Only after Newsweek reported on Faris did Attorney General John Ashcroft reveal that Faris had pleaded guilty to terrorist charges more than a month earlier. The Justice Department denied that the Newsweek story had anything to do with Ashcoft’s June 19 press conference in which he first announced the capture of Faris and his plea agreement.

“Our need to keep it secret had dissipated,” said Mark Corallo, a spokesperson for the Justice Department.

The Justice Department will not divulge how many other individuals are being held in secret on terrorism charges. “We have been very consistent in not discussing exact numbers,” Corallo said. “Even though it seems like innocuous information, it is not.”

Corallo claimed that providing numbers of individuals arrested on terrorism charges would “give a road map to the terrorists.” Terrorist organizations could determine how many terrorists the Justice Department has captured and monitor the government’s progress, he explained.

But the government never has explained how a terrorist operative could be in U.S. control for months and why the terrorist organization with which he is allegedly involved could not determine that its operative was missing, said Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.

This debate raises the question: Is such secrecy really needed to protect national security or is it being used to protect the government from scrutiny?

It was only through a court clerk’s mistake that the Miami Daily Business Review discovered the case of Mohamed Kamel Bellahouel, who apparently filed suit in a federal court in Florida against Monica S. Wetzel, a former warden at the Federal Correctional Institution in South Miami-Dade County.

According to the Business Review, Bellahouel “was once mistakenly suspected of involvement with terrorists” and appears to have filed a petition seeking freedom from unlawful imprisonment.However, the public docket will not reveal that Bellahouel’s case even exists or why his case is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta (11th Cir.).

While no one knows how many cases such as Bellahouel’s exist, secret dockets are not limited to cases involving terrorism.

Secret crimes

Attorneys for alleged Columbian drug trafficker Fabio Ochoa-Vasquez discovered an entire system of “dual docketing” in U.S. District Court in Florida that deprived them of information for their client’s defense.

Ochoa alleges that a government informant bribed him and that for $30 million he would receive no more than a five-year sentence. Ochoa also alleges that another government informant told him that a U.S. program existed in which drug traffickers could pay their way to a reduced sentence and that two traffickers, Nicholas Bergonzoli and Julio Correa, had already participated in the program.

Even though Bergonzoli pleaded guilty to importing cocaine and an attorney acknowledged representing Correa in “a cooperation agreement with the government,” the Florida federal court docket does not reflect that these cases even exist, according to attorneys for Ochoa, who in May 2003 filed a brief requesting the elimination of the “dual docketing” system and disclosure of sealed proceedings to the Eleventh Circuit.

Not only does this type of secrecy deprive Ochoa of his due process rights, it is a violation of the First Amendment and common law rights of access to judicial proceedings, Ochoa’s attorneys argued.

The use of secret dockets by the federal Southern District of Florida conflicts with a decision issued by the Eleventh Circuit ten years earlier in United States v. Valenti. In that case, the government charged criminal defense attorney Charles Corces and state prosecutor John Valenti with conspiring to obtain favorable treatment for criminal defendants who paid Valenti. After the two were indicted, the state dismissed the case; however, a secret docket prevented the public from learning about closed pretrial bench conferences and the filing of in-camera pretrial motions. A reporter from the St. Petersburg Times learned about the secret docket when he observed a closed-bench conference and sought access to the transcripts.

On appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, the court held that the “maintenance of a public and a sealed docket is inconsistent with affording the various interests of the public and the press meaningful access to criminal proceedings.”

According to Ochoa’s attorneys, this holding “is consistent with every circuit that has decided a similar question.”

However, while the law disfavors secret dockets, they are still used by federal and state courts to hide sealed cases. When an entire case is sealed, rather than individual documents, federal courts either remove the case from the public docket or replace the parties’ names with anonymous pseudonyms such as “Sealed v. Sealed.” At least 46 U.S. district courts across the country allow for these types of secret docketing procedures. Such a system makes it virtually impossible for the public and press to know what types of cases are being sealed or to challenge the constitutionality of the sealing orders.

– See more at: http://www.rcfp.org/secret-justice-secret-dockets/discovering-secret-dockets#sthash.bqBpqkb9.dpuf

Greece: Truth Committee on Public Debt – Preliminary Report

Truth Committee on Public Debt
 
Preliminary report
 
 
The Truth Committee on Public Debt (Debt Truth Committee) was established on April 4, 2015, by a decision of the President of the Hellenic Parliament, Ms Zoe Konstantopoulou, who confided the Scientific Coordination of its work to Dr. Eric Toussaint and the cooperation of the Committee with the European Parliament and other Parliaments and international organizations to MEP Ms Sofia Sakorafa.
 
Members of the Committee have convened in public and closed sessions, to produce this preliminary report, under the supervision of the scientific coordinator and with the cooperation and input of other members of the Committee, as well as experts and contributors.
 
The preliminary report chapters were coordinated by:
 
Bantekas Ilias
Contargyris Thanos
Fattorelli Maria Lucia
Husson Michel
Laskaridis Christina
Marchetos Spyros
Onaran Ozlem
Tombazos Stavros
Vatikiotis Leonidas
Vivien Renaud
 
With contributions from:
Aktypis Héraclès
Albarracin Daniel
Bonfond Olivier
Borja Diego
Cutillas Sergi
Gonçalves Alves Raphaël
Goutziomitros Fotis
Kasimatis Giorgos
Kazakos Aris
Lumina Cephas
Mitralias Sonia
Saurin Patrick
Sklias Pantelis
Spanou Despoina
Stromblos Nikos
Tzitzikou Sofia
 
The authors are grateful for the advice and input received from other members of the Truth Committee on Public Debt as well as other experts, who contributed to the Committee’s work during the public sessions and hearings and the closed or informal consultations.
 
The authors are grateful for the valuable assistance of Arnaoutis Petros Konstantinos, Aronis Charalambos, Bama Claudia, Karageorgiou Louiza, Makrygianni Antigoni and Papaioannou Stavros.
 
 
Executive Summary
 
In June 2015 Greece stands at a crossroads of choosing between furthering the failed macroeconomic adjustment programmes imposed by the creditors or making a real change to break the chains of debt. Five years since the economic adjustment programme began, the country remains deeply cemented in an economic, social, democratic and ecological crisis. The black box of debt has remained closed, and until a few months ago no authority, Greek or international, had sought to bring to light the truth about how and why Greece was subjected to the Troika regime. The debt, in the name of which nothing has been spared, remains the rule through which neoliberal adjustment is imposed, and the deepest and longest recession experienced in Europe during peacetime.
 
There is an immediate democratic need and social responsibility to address a range of legal, social and economic issues that demand proper consideration. In response, the President of the Hellenic Parliament established the Truth Committee on Public Debt (Debt Truth Committee) in April 2015, mandating the investigation into the creation and the increase of public debt, the way and reasons for which debt was contracted, and the impact that the conditionalities attached to the loans have had on the economy and the population. The Truth Committee has a mandate to raise awareness of issues pertaining to the Greek debt, both domestically and internationally, and to formulate arguments and options concerning the cancellation of the debt.
 
The research of the Committee presented in this preliminary report sheds light on the fact that the entire adjustment programme, to which Greece has been subjugated, was and remains a politically orientated programme. The technical exercise surrounding macroeconomic variables and debt projections, figures directly relating to people’s lives and livelihoods, has enabled discussions around the debt to remain at a technical level mainly revolving around the argument that the policies imposed on Greece will improve its capacity to pay the debt back. The facts presented in this report challenge this argument.
 
All the evidence we present in this report shows that Greece not only does not have the ability to pay this debt, but also should not pay this debt first and foremost because the debt emerging from the Troika’s arrangements is a direct infringement on the fundamental human rights of the residents of Greece. Hence, we came to the conclusion that Greece should not pay this debt because it is illegal, illegitimate, and odious.
 
It has also come to the understanding of the Committee that the unsustainability of the Greek public debt was evident from the outset to the international creditors, the Greek authorities, and the corporate media. Yet, the Greek authorities, together with some other governments in the EU, conspired against the restructuring of public debt in 2010 in order to protect financial institutions. The corporate media hid the truth from the public by depicting a situation in which the bailout was argued to benefit Greece, whilst spinning a narrative intended to portray the population as deservers of their own wrongdoings.
 
Bailout funds provided in both programmes of 2010 and 2012 have been externally managed through complicated schemes, preventing any fiscal autonomy. The use of the bailout money is strictly dictated by the creditors, and so, it is revealing that less than 10% of these funds have been destined to the government’s current expenditure.
 
This preliminary report presents a primary mapping out of the key problems and issues associated with the public debt, and notes key legal violations associated with the contracting of the debt; it also traces out the legal foundations, on which unilateral suspension of the debt payments can be based. The findings are presented in nine chapters structured as follows:
 
Chapter 1, Debt before the Troika, analyses the growth of the Greek public debt since the 1980s. It concludes that the increase in debt was not due to excessive public spending, which in fact remained lower than the public spending of other Eurozone countries, but rather due to the payment of extremely high rates of interest to creditors, excessive and unjustified military spending, loss of tax revenues due to illicit capital outflows, state recapitalization of private banks, and the international imbalances created via the flaws in the design of the Monetary Union itself. Adopting the euro led to a drastic increase of private debt in Greece to which major European private banks as well as the Greek banks were exposed. A growing banking crisis contributed to the Greek sovereign debt crisis. George Papandreou’s government helped to present the elements of a banking crisis as a sovereign debt crisis in 2009 by emphasizing and boosting the public deficit and debt.
 
Chapter 2, Evolution of Greek public debt during 2010-2015, concludes that the first loan agreement of 2010, aimed primarily to rescue the Greek and other European private banks, and to allow the banks to reduce their exposure to Greek government bonds.
 
Chapter 3, Greek public debt by creditor in 2015, presents the contentious nature of Greece’s current debt, delineating the loans’ key characteristics, which are further analysed in Chapter 8.
 
Chapter 4, Debt System Mechanism in Greece reveals the mechanisms devised by the agreements that were implemented since May 2010. They created a substantial amount of new debt to bilateral creditors and the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), whilst generating abusive costs thus deepening the crisis further. The mechanisms disclose how the majority of borrowed funds were transferred directly to financial institutions. Rather than benefitting Greece, they have accelerated the privatization process, through the use of financial instruments.
 
Chapter 5, Conditionalities against sustainability, presents how the creditors imposed intrusive conditionalities attached to the loan agreements, which led directly to the economic unviability and unsustainability of debt. These conditionalities, on which the creditors still insist, have not only contributed to lower GDP as well as higher public borrowing, hence a higher public debt/GDP making Greece’s debt more unsustainable, but also engineered dramatic changes in the society, and caused a humanitarian crisis. The Greek public debt can be considered as totally unsustainable at present.
 
Chapter 6, Impact of the “bailout programmes” on human rights, concludes that the measures implemented under the “bailout programmes” have directly affected living conditions of the people and violated human rights, which Greece and its partners are obliged to respect, protect and promote under domestic, regional and international law. The drastic adjustments, imposed on the Greek economy and society as a whole, have brought about a rapid deterioration of living standards, and remain incompatible with social justice, social cohesion, democracy and human rights.
 
Chapter 7, Legal issues surrounding the MoU and Loan Agreements, argues there has been a breach of human rights obligations on the part of Greece itself and the lenders, that is the Euro Area (Lender) Member States, the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, who imposed these measures on Greece. All these actors failed to assess the human rights violations as an outcome of the policies they obliged Greece to pursue, and also directly violated the Greek constitution by effectively stripping Greece of most of its sovereign rights. The agreements contain abusive clauses, effectively coercing Greece to surrender significant aspects of its sovereignty. This is imprinted in the choice of the English law as governing law for those agreements, which facilitated the circumvention of the Greek Constitution and international human rights obligations. Conflicts with human rights and customary obligations, several indications of contracting parties acting in bad faith, which together with the unconscionable character of the agreements, render these agreements invalid.
 
Chapter 8, Assessment of the Debts as regards illegitimacy, odiousness, illegality, and unsustainability, provides an assessment of the Greek public debt according to the definitions regarding illegitimate, odious, illegal, and unsustainable debt adopted by the Committee.
 
Chapter 8 concludes that the Greek public debt as of June 2015 is unsustainable, since Greece is currently unable to service its debt without seriously impairing its capacity to fulfill its basic human rights obligations. Furthermore, for each creditor, the report provides evidence of indicative cases of illegal, illegitimate and odious debts.
 
Debt to the IMF should be considered illegal since its concession breached the IMF’s own statutes, and its conditions breached the Greek Constitution, international customary law, and treaties to which Greece is a party. It is also illegitimate, since conditions included policy prescriptions that infringed human rights obligations. Finally, it is odious since the IMF knew that the imposed measures were undemocratic, ineffective, and would lead to serious violations of socio-economic rights.
 
Debts to the ECB should be considered illegal since the ECB over-stepped its mandate by imposing the application of macroeconomic adjustment programmes (e.g. labour market deregulation) via its participation in the Troika. Debts to the ECB are also illegitimate and odious, since the principal raison d’etre of the Securities Market Programme (SMP) was to serve the  interests of the financial institutions, allowing the major European and Greek private banks to dispose of their Greek bonds.
 
The EFSF engages in cash-less loans which should be considered illegal because Article 122(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) was violated, and further they breach several socio-economic rights and civil liberties. Moreover, the EFSF Framework Agreement 2010 and the Master Financial Assistance Agreement of 2012 contain several abusive clauses revealing clear misconduct on the part of the lender. The EFSF also acts against democratic principles, rendering these particular debts illegitimate and odious.
 
The bilateral loans should be considered illegal since they violate the procedure provided by the Greek constitution. The loans involved clear misconduct by the lenders, and had conditions that contravened law or public policy. Both EU law and international law were breached in order to sideline human rights in the design of the macroeconomic programmes. The bilateral loans are furthermore illegitimate, since they were not used for the benefit of the population, but merely enabled the private creditors of Greece to be bailed out. Finally, the bilateral loans are odious since the lender states and the European Commission knew of potential violations, but in 2010 and 2012 avoided to assess the human rights impacts of the macroeconomic adjustment and fiscal consolidation that were the conditions for the loans.
 
The debt to private creditors should be considered illegal because private banks conducted themselves irresponsibly before the Troika came into being, failing to observe due diligence, while some private creditors such as hedge funds also acted in bad faith. Parts of the debts to private banks and hedge funds are illegitimate for the same reasons that they are illegal; furthermore, Greek banks were illegitimately recapitalized by tax-payers. Debts to private banks and hedge funds are odious, since major private creditors were aware that these debts were not incurred in the best interests of the population but rather for their own benefit. The report comes to a close with some practical considerations.
 
Chapter 9, Legal foundations for repudiation and suspension of the Greek sovereign debt, presents the options concerning the cancellation of debt, and especially the conditions under which a sovereign state can exercise the right to unilateral act of repudiation or suspension of the payment of debt under international law. Several legal arguments permit a State to unilaterally repudiate its illegal, odious, and illegitimate debt. In the Greek case, such a unilateral act may be based on the following arguments: the bad faith of the creditors that pushed Greece to violate national law and international obligations related to human rights; preeminence of human rights over agreements such as those signed by previous governments with creditors or the Troika; coercion; unfair terms flagrantly violating Greek sovereignty and violating the Constitution; and finally, the right recognized in international law for a State to take countermeasures against illegal acts by its creditors, which purposefully damage its fiscal sovereignty, oblige it to assume odious, illegal and illegitimate debt, violate economic self-determination and fundamental human rights. As far as unsustainable debt is concerned, every state is legally entitled to invoke necessity in exceptional situations in order to safeguard those essential interests threatened by a grave and imminent peril. In such a situation, the State may be dispensed from the fulfilment of those international obligations that augment the peril, as is the case with outstanding loan contracts. Finally, states have the right to declare themselvesunilaterally insolvent where the servicing of their debt is unsustainable, in which case they commit no wrongful act and hence bear no liability.
 
People’s dignity is worth more than illegal, illegitimate, odious and unsustainable debt.
 
Having concluded its preliminary investigation, the Committee considers that Greece has been and still is the victim of an attack premeditated and organized by the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission. This violent, illegal, and immoral mission aimed exclusively at shifting private debt onto the public sector.
 
Making this preliminary report available to the Greek authorities and the Greek people, the Committee considers to have fulfilled the first part of its mission as defined in the decision of the President of the Hellenic Parliament of 4 April 2015. The Committee hopes that the report will be a useful tool for those who want to exit the destructive logic of austerity and stand up for what is endangered today: human rights, democracy, peoples’ dignity, and the future of generations to come.
 
In response to those who impose unjust measures, the Greek people might invoke what Thucydides mentioned about the constitution of the Athenian people: “As for the name, it is called a democracy, for the administration is run with a view to the interests of the many, not of the few” (Pericles’ Funeral Oration, in the speech from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War).

Greek Truth Committee on Public Debt – Preliminary Report (Executive Summary)

Truth Committee on Public Debt

Preliminary report

The Truth Committee on Public Debt (Debt Truth Committee) was established on April 4, 2015, by a decision of the President of the Hellenic Parliament, Ms Zoe Konstantopoulou, who confided the Scientific Coordination of its work to Dr. Eric Toussaint and the cooperation of the Committee with the European Parliament and
other Parliaments and international organizations to MEP Ms Sofia Sakorafa.

Members of the Committee have convened in public and closed sessions, to produce this preliminary report, under the supervision of the scientific coordinator and with the cooperation and input of other members of the Committee, as well as experts and contributors.

The preliminary report chapters were coordinated by:

Bantekas Ilias
Contargyris Thanos
Fattorelli Maria Lucia
Husson Michel
Laskaridis Christina
Marchetos Spyros
Onaran Ozlem
Tombazos Stavros
Vatikiotis Leonidas
Vivien Renaud

With contributions from:
Aktypis Héraclès
Albarracin Daniel
Bonfond Olivier
Borja Diego
Cutillas Sergi
Gonçalves Alves Raphaël
Goutziomitros Fotis
Kasimatis Giorgos
Kazakos Aris
Lumina Cephas
Mitralias Sonia
Saurin Patrick
Sklias Pantelis
Spanou Despoina
Stromblos Nikos
Tzitzikou Sofia

The authors are grateful for the advice and input received from other members of the Truth Committee on Public Debt as well as other experts, who contributed to the Committee’s work during the public sessions and hearings and the closed or informal consultations.

The authors are grateful for the valuable assistance of Arnaoutis Petros Konstantinos, Aronis Charalambos, Bama Claudia, Karageorgiou Louiza, Makrygianni Antigoni and Papaioannou Stavros.

Executive Summary

In June 2015 Greece stands at a crossroads of choosing between furthering the failed macroeconomic adjustment programmes imposed by the creditors or making a real change to break the chains of debt. Five years since the economic adjustment programme began, the country remains deeply cemented in an economic, social, democratic and ecological crisis. The black box of debt has remained closed, and until a few months ago no authority, Greek or international, had sought to bring to light the truth about how and why Greece was subjected to the Troika regime. The debt, in the name of which nothing has been spared, remains the rule through which neoliberal adjustment is imposed, and the deepest and longest recession experienced in Europe during peacetime.

There is an immediate democratic need and social responsibility to address a range of legal, social and economic issues that demand proper consideration. In response, the President of the Hellenic Parliament established the Truth Committee on Public Debt (Debt Truth Committee) in April 2015, mandating the investigation into the creation and the increase of public debt, the way and reasons for which debt was contracted, and the impact that the conditionalities attached to the loans have had on the economy and the population. The Truth Committee has a mandate to raise awareness of issues pertaining to the Greek debt, both domestically and internationally, and to formulate arguments and options concerning the cancellation of the debt.

The research of the Committee presented in this preliminary report sheds light on the fact that the entire adjustment programme, to which Greece has been subjugated, was and remains a politically orientated programme. The technical exercise surrounding macroeconomic variables and debt projections, figures directly relating to people’s lives and livelihoods, has enabled discussions around the debt to remain at a technical level mainly revolving around the argument that the policies imposed on Greece will improve its capacity to pay the debt back. The facts presented in
this report challenge this argument.

All the evidence we present in this report shows that Greece not only does not have the ability to pay this debt, but also should not pay this debt first and foremost because the debt emerging from the Troika’s arrangements is a direct infringement on the fundamental human rights of the residents of Greece. Hence, we came to the conclusion that Greece should not pay this debt because it is illegal, illegitimate, and
odious.

It has also come to the understanding of the Committee that the unsustainability of the Greek public debt was evident from the outset to the international creditors, the Greek authorities, and the corporate media. Yet, the Greek authorities, together with some other governments in the EU, conspired against the restructuring of public debt in 2010 in order to protect financial institutions. The corporate media hid the truth from the public by depicting a situation in which the bailout was argued to benefit Greece, whilst spinning a narrative intended to portray the population as deservers of their own wrongdoings.

Bailout funds provided in both programmes of 2010 and 2012 have been externally managed through complicated schemes, preventing any fiscal autonomy. The use of the bailout money is strictly dictated by the creditors, and so, it is revealing that less than 10% of these funds have been destined to the government’s current expenditure.

This preliminary report presents a primary mapping out of the key problems and issues associated with the public debt, and notes key legal violations associated with the contracting of the debt; it also traces out the legal foundations, on which unilateral suspension of the debt payments can be based. The findings are presented in nine chapters structured as follows:

Chapter 1, Debt before the Troika, analyses the growth of the Greek public debt since the 1980s. It concludes that the increase in debt was not due to ex4 cessive public spending, which in fact remained lower than the public spending of other Eurozone countries, but rather due to the payment of extremely high rates of interest to creditors, excessive and unjustified military spending, loss of tax revenues due to illicit capital outflows, state recapitalization of private banks, and the international imbalances created via the flaws in the design of the Monetary Union itself. Adopting
the euro led to a drastic increase of private debt in Greece to which major European private banks as well as the Greek banks were exposed. A growing banking crisis contributed to the Greek sovereign debt crisis. George Papandreou’s government helped to present the elements of a banking crisis as a sovereign debt crisis in 2009 by emphasizing and boosting the public deficit and debt.

Chapter 2, Evolution of Greek public debt during 2010-2015, concludes that the first loan agreement of 2010, aimed primarily to rescue the Greek and other European private banks, and to allow the banks to reduce their exposure to Greek government bonds.

Chapter 3, Greek public debt by creditor in 2015, presents the contentious nature of Greece’s current debt, delineating the loans’ key characteristics, which are further analysed in Chapter 8.

Chapter 4, Debt System Mechanism in Greece reveals the mechanisms devised by the agreements that were implemented since May 2010. They created a substantial amount of new debt to bilateral creditors and the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), whilst generating abusive costs thus deepening the crisis further. The mechanisms disclose how the majority of borrowed funds were transferred directly to financial institutions. Rather than benefitting Greece, they have accelerated the privatization process, through the use of financial instruments.

Chapter 5, Conditionalities against sustainability, presents how the creditors imposed intrusive conditionalities attached to the loan agreements, which led directly to the economic unviability and unsustainability of debt. These conditionalities, on which the creditors still insist, have not only contributed to lower GDP as well as higher public borrowing, hence a higher public debt/GDP making Greece’s debt more
unsustainable, but also engineered dramatic changes in the society, and caused a humanitarian crisis. The Greek public debt can be considered as totally unsustainable at present.

Chapter 6, Impact of the “bailout programmes” on human rights, concludes that the measures implemented under the “bailout programmes” have directly affected living conditions of the people and violated human rights, which Greece and its partners are obliged to respect, protect and promote under domestic, regional and international law. The drastic adjustments, imposed on the Greek economy and society as a whole, have brought about a rapid deterioration of living standards, and remain incompatible with social justice, social cohesion, democracy and human rights.

Chapter 7, Legal issues surrounding the MoU and Loan Agreements, argues there has been a breach of human rights obligations on the part of Greece itself and the lenders, that is the Euro Area (Lender) Member States, the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, who imposed these measures on Greece. All these actors failed to assess the human rights violations as an outcome of the policies they obliged Greece to pursue, and also directly violated the Greek constitution by effectively stripping Greece of most of its sovereign rights. The agreements contain abusive clauses, effectively coercing Greece to surrender significant aspects of its sovereignty. This is imprinted in the choice of the English law as governing law for those agreements, which facilitated
the circumvention of the Greek Constitution and international human rights obligations. Conflicts with human rights and customary obligations, several indications of contracting parties acting in bad faith, which together with the unconscionable character of the agreements, render these agreements invalid.

Chapter 8, Assessment of the Debts as regards illegitimacy, odiousness, illegality, and unsustainability, provides an assessment of the Greek public debt according to the definitions regarding illegitimate, odious, illegal, and unsustainable debt adopted by the Committee.

Chapter 8 concludes that the Greek public debt as of June 2015 is unsustainable, since Greece is currently unable to service its debt without seriously impairing its capacity to fulfill its basic human rights obligations. Furthermore, for each creditor, the report provides evidence of indicative cases of illegal, illegitimate and odious debts.

Debt to the IMF should be considered illegal since its concession breached the IMF’s own statutes, and its conditions breached the Greek Constitution, international customary law, and treaties to which Greece is a party. It is also illegitimate, since conditions included policy prescriptions that infringed human rights obligations. Finally, it is odious since the IMF knew that the imposed measures were undemocratic, ineffective, and would lead to serious violations of socio-economic rights.

Debts to the ECB should be considered illegal since the ECB over-stepped its mandate by imposing the application of macroeconomic adjustment programmes (e.g. labour market deregulation) via its participation in the Troika. Debts to the ECB are also illegitimate and odious, since the principal raison d’etre of the Securities Market Programme (SMP) was to serve the interests of the financial institutions, allowing the major European and Greek private banks to dispose of their Greek bonds.

The EFSF engages in cash-less loans which should be considered illegal because Article 122(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) was violated, and further they breach several socio-economic rights and civil liberties. Moreover, the EFSF Framework Agreement 2010 and the Master Financial Assistance Agreement of 2012 contain several abusive clauses revealing clear misconduct on the part of the lender. The EFSF also acts against democratic principles, rendering these particular debts illegitimate and odious.

The bilateral loans should be considered illegal since they violate the procedure provided by the Greek constitution. The loans involved clear misconduct by the lenders, and had conditions that contravened law or public policy. Both EU law and international law were breached in order to sideline human rights in the design of the macroeconomic programmes. The bilateral loans are furthermore illegitimate, since they were not used for the benefit of the population, but merely enabled the private creditors of Greece to be bailed out. Finally, the bilateral loans are odious since the lender states and the European Commission knew of potential violations, but in 2010 and 2012 avoided to assess the human rights impacts of the macroeconomic adjustment and fiscal consolidation that were the conditions for the loans.

The debt to private creditors should be considered illegal because private banks conducted themselves irresponsibly before the Troika came into being, failing to observe due diligence, while some private creditors such as hedge funds also acted in bad faith. Parts of the debts to private banks and hedge funds are illegitimate for the same reasons that they are illegal; furthermore, Greek banks were illegitimately recapitalized by tax-payers. Debts to private banks and hedge funds are odious, since major private creditors were aware that these debts were not incurred in the best interests of the population but rather for their own benefit. The report comes to a close with some practical considerations.

Chapter 9, Legal foundations for repudiation and suspension of the Greek sovereign debt, presents the options concerning the cancellation of debt, and especially the conditions under which a sovereign state can exercise the right to unilateral act of repudiation or suspension of the payment of debt under international law. Several legal arguments permit a State to unilaterally repudiate its illegal, odious, and illegitimate debt. In the Greek case, such a unilateral act may be based on the following arguments: the bad faith of the creditors that pushed Greece to violate national law and international obligations related to human rights; preeminence of human rights over agreements such as those signed by previous governments with creditors or the Troika; coercion; unfair terms flagrantly violating Greek sovereignty and violating the Constitution; and finally, the right recognized in international law for a State to take countermeasures against illegal acts by its creditors, which purposefully damage its fiscal sovereignty, oblige it to assume odious, illegal and illegitimate debt, violate economic self-determination and fundamental human rights. As far as unsustainable debt is concerned, every state is legally entitled to invoke necessity in exceptional situations in order to safeguard those essential interests threatened by a grave and imminent peril. In such a situation, the State may be dispensed from the fulfilment of those international obligations that augment the peril, as is the case with outstanding loan contracts. Finally, states have the right to declare themselves unilaterally insolvent where the servicing of their debt is unsustainable, in which case they commit no wrongful act and hence bear no liability.

People’s dignity is worth more than illegal, illegitimate, odious and unsustainable debt.

Having concluded its preliminary investigation, the Committee considers that Greece has been and still is the victim of an attack premeditated and organized by the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission. This violent, illegal, and immoral mission aimed exclusively at shifting private debt onto the public sector.

Making this preliminary report available to the Greek authorities and the Greek people, the Committee considers to have fulfilled the first part of its mission as defined in the decision of the President of the Hellenic Parliament of 4 April 2015. The Committee hopes that the report will be a useful tool for those who want to exit the destructive logic of austerity and stand up for what is endangered today: human rights, democracy, peoples’ dignity, and the future of generations to come.

In response to those who impose unjust measures, the Greek people might invoke what Thucydides mentioned about the constitution of the Athenian people: “As for the name, it is called a democracy, for the administration is run with a view to the interests of the many, not of the few” (Pericles’ Funeral Oration, in the speech from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War).

The “New Turkey”: Fetishizing Growth with Fatal Results

http://monthlyreview.org/2015/06/01/the-new-turkey-fetishizing-growth-with-fatal-results/

The “New Turkey”: Fetishizing Growth with Fatal Results

by Zuhal Yeşilyurt Gündüz

Zuhal Yeşilyurt Gündüz is an associate professor in Political Science and International Relations at TED University in Ankara, Turkey.

“This is not something that suddenly happened. I can tell you that there are people here who are dying, people who are injured and it’s all because of money…. They send us here like lambs to slaughter. We are not safe doing this job.” —Özcan Cüce, Soma mine disaster survivor1

Turkey’s ruling party has turned the country, which it calls “the new Turkey,” into a capitalist nightmare: a triad of neoliberal economics, political despotism, and Islamist conservatism. This article provides an overview of neoliberalism in Turkey, then looks at the government’s extraction policies, highlighting the Soma mine massacre as one tragic example of the destructive policies of the governing party, the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP, Justice and Development Party). It also examines the extreme authoritarianism of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (formerly prime minister), and the growing cultural-relgious conservatism, which the AKP has interlaced with Islamist rhetoric. This hegemonic triad of neoliberalism, despotism, and conservatism is an especially dangerous one. However, it is being increasingly criticized, and resistance movements against neoliberal policies are growing. All of this gives some hope for Turkey’s future.

Neoliberalism in Turkey

Turkey used to be an agriculture powerhouse—one of only seven countries that could feed its people without agricultural imports. Turkey used to have state-led industrialization, import substitution, and protectionism, and still registered economic and industrial growth (although it also faced unemployment, high inflation, and debt problems). Turkey used to be all this and much more. After all, Turkey is a beautiful country, surrounded on three sides with seas. It has great lakes and rivers, huge forests, high mountains, and grand water falls.

However, much of this was crushed beginning January 24, 1980, the day neoliberalism entered Turkey and the government instituted a set of drastic economic restructuring measures. The ruling center-right Adalet Partisi (Justice Party) began a neoliberal program, which built upon capital accumulation and export support, opened the Turkish economy to foreign capital penetration, and turned the state into a mere servant of capital accumulation. Export subventions, privatization, deregulation, and finance and trade liberalization continuously increased.2 Eight months later, the military intervened and ran the country for three years, during which it did its best to demolish the left and strengthen the neoliberal regime. Nothing was as it used to be and the changes realized in Turkey fulfilled the wishes and dreams of the Western powers, whether dressed as the IMF, World Bank, United States, or European Union. The neoliberal system was further developed under Turgut Özal, who was first prime minister (1983–1989) and then president (1989–1993). The many economic crises (1994, 1999, 2001, and 2008–2009) did not bring a reversal of neoliberalism; instead, it was further fostered by the very crises it had created.3

Turkey’s neoliberalism culminated in the new millennium with the rise of the AKP, a party with an Islamist background. The party wedded Islamist populism to neoliberalism, which has been critically dubbed “neoliberalism with a Muslim face.”4 By winning over liberal intellectual and economic circles, the AKP has built a historic bloc with Islamic sentiments; İlhan Uzgel calls it “the new hegemonic bloc.”5 Thus, in order to alter Turkey, the AKP initially had to alter itself.6

Under the AKP, the state became a facilitator of a neoliberal market economy and the protector of private capital. It no longer had a role in production, and totally integrated the Turkish economy with global markets. The party also continued the IMF program in full accord with business circles.7 In order to attract the popular classes (and their votes), the AKP connected traditional religious values with liberal ones such as globalization. Though Islam was not constructed as the core reference point, its role is vital to the AKP’s cultural-religious conservatism, and thus the party embodies not only the intersection of Islam and democracy, but also Islam and neoliberalism.8

What the AKP claimed as an “economic miracle” was nothing of the sort. Austerity policies, finance-driven growth, a private capital growth imperative, privatization, commodification of public services, huge rent regions from privatized lands that were formerly commons, decreasing security and living standards, wage cuts, cheap and easy-to-hire-and-fire labor, finance capital inflows, and a high trade deficit—this is not an “economic miracle.” Real production is diminishing and Turkey depends more and more on importing intermediary and capital goods, energy of all kinds, and even agricultural products.9

The AKP’s economic model is built on two pillars. The first is crazed consumption via consumer credit. Turkey, with 74 million people, has 57 million credit cards with a total debt of $45 billion. Giving the public consumer credit en masse was the main factor in Turkey’s growth and “the magic trick that filled empty malls, and the opium that kept the majority of people quiet, happy and obedient.”10 The second pillar is immense rent gains via commercialization of the commons. Lands, rivers, mountains, farmland, historical buildings, forests, parks—nothing is safe from commodification.11

The result of the AKP’s policies was a continuous pauperization of the population and an increase in income injustice. In order to decrease social tensions and conflict, the AKP turned to “charity”—which it painted in Islamist colors. Thus, while weakening social policies and therefore public responsibility, the AKP promoted philanthropy to soften and ease the plight of the poor. By forgoing social welfare practices, the AKP maintained a “mercy economy,” for the very poor.12

Turkey may show signs of aggregate GDP growth. It may now be formally the sixteenth-largest economy, arrogantly pronouncing huge jumps towards “the new Turkey,” and striving towards the Top Ten. But in various global indexes, the country has fared much worse: in the UNDP’s Human Development Index 2013, Turkey was ninetieth; in Transparency International’s 2014 list, sixty-fourth; in the 2014 Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum, it was one-hundred twenty fifth; and in the Climate Change Performance Index 2014, Turkey was among those countries considered “very bad.”13

Growth Fetishism with Fatal Results

It is more than a tragic irony that the AKP dubbed 2014 the “year of the environment,” while it more honestly should have called it the year (or decade) of extreme exploitation of the environment!

The AKP’s neoliberalism comes with tragic outcomes. This “merciless growth,” which easily relinquishes humans, environment, and the commons for the “absolute fetish of economic growth,” is driven by the construction sector, whose dynasts have passionate relations with the government.14 People are not given a chance to participate in decision-making, even on issues that concern their lives deeply. Cities are opened up endlessly to the services of capital. It is no surprise, then, that Istanbul is now called “the city, which sold its soul to capital.” Cities resemble huge construction areas and some areas are so full of skyscrapers, apartment blocks, and other huge buildings that it just takes one’s breath away—in the most negative sense of the term. The AKP’s development endeavors—the skyscrapers and business towers—steal even the ability and right to see the sky above.15

The AKP managed to connect consumption and construction closely with each other. Whereas a decade ago there were a few shopping malls in Turkey, by May 2014 the number has reached 329, with Istanbul alone being home to ninety-seven malls. In comparison, London has forty-two, Berlin and Rome have forty-three, Barcelona has forty-five, and Paris “just” fifteen. In the first seventy-nine years of the Republic of Turkey, twenty-six airports were built, and during the twelve years of AKP rule, twenty-six new ones have been added—with more to come.16 Huge skyscrapers, shopping malls, the third bridge over the Bosporus, the third airport in Istanbul, nuclear plants aside hydroelectric and thermal power plants, and many more projects constitute Turkey’s “development.” More income for corporations means the opposite for all others, as people pay the price for this type of “growth.” Some lose their health and others their lives, in addition to environmental destruction such as the loss of forests, land, and clean drinking water. Claudia von Werlhof describes this bluntly: “While a tiny minority reaps enormous benefits from today’s economic liberalism, the vast majority of the earth’s human and non-human population, and the earth itself, suffer hardship to an extent that puts their very survival at risk.”17

The AKP’s program is built upon economic growth and ever-growing capital, and for this reason the government resists increasing workers’ safety regulations. According to the Workers Health and Safety Group, between 2002 and 2014 at least 14,455 workers have lost their lives at work. The report reveals a continuous increase: 811 workers died in 2003, 1,235 in 2013, and 1,600 in the first ten months alone of 2014.18 Turkey ranks first in Europe (eight-and-a-half times higher than the EU average) and third globally in workplace accidents. From 2002 to 2011, workplace accidents have risen by 40 percent—a daily average of 219 accidents, with four deaths and five left unable to work. The mine sector is the most dangerous, with over 10 percent of miners suffering accidents at work. These are the deadly outcomes of three decades of privatization, subcontracting, outsourcing, poor occupational safety and health regulations, and insufficient, pre-arranged, pro-corporate inspections by authorities.19 These factors make Turkey “cheap” and “competitive” globally—perfect to serve Western capitalism.

Extractivism

In order to grow and develop, or so the AKP-written story goes, Turkey needs energy. As the country depends on energy imports while simultaneously “sitting” upon various forms of natural resources, the AKP stimulates the buildup of a “less energy dependent Turkey.” The fairy tales about the “need” for “more energy,” more coal mines and coal extraction, more hydroelectric and thermal power plants—plus the “must” for nuclear energy plants—is repeated over and over again by President Erdoğan and the AKP, who dream of a fossil-fuel dependent energy policy. They ask, “How else could Turkey grow? How else could it get rich?”

Turkey’s energy dependency is indeed quite impressive: it imports 98.6 percent of gas, 93 percent of oil, and 92 percent of coal. In 2012, 75 percent of all energy consumption was imported, while the rest was supplied from lignite (brown coal) production.20 Therefore, the story goes, Turkey should use its “own” resources and extract more of these natural resources from domestic sources.

In “The New Extractivism,” Henry Veltmeyer and James Petras deal with this issue, defining extractivism as a decision by governments and corporations to extract more and more natural resources and to export these primary goods in order to “develop” economically and “cure” global recession, while disregarding the health, social, and environmental costs of this policy. Extractivism as a model of accumulation has a history going back five hundred years. When the capitalist system began to colonize huge parts of the globe, it structured itself around the raw materials found there. Since then, extractivist accumulation has been decided upon as a general policy (indeed a necessity of their existence by the natural-resource hungry centers of capitalism). Alberto Acosta reminds us of “the paradox of plenty” and “the resource curse”—and that it is always transnational corporations that are the “major beneficiaries of these activities.”21 Extractivism goes beyond resource extraction and implies a development model. Fossil energy is not only the basis for capitalist production, but also the major force of capitalism and capitalist growth.22 This indeed is “today’s imperialist plundering.”23

It is here that the AKP joined this neoliberal game, and 2012 was a turning point. Decreasing growth rates, lessening of foreign capital income, and the effect of the global economic crisis were all felt in Turkey. The AKP came up with the idea to decrease Turkey’s energy dependency and to turn to a domestic energy production, built upon domestic coal. The government would privatize land with coal areas, while giving incentives and guarantees to buy the produced goods. Capital meanwhile would build up thermal power plants, diminish workers’ safety and work guarantees, decrease costs of production, and sell their goods, as promised. And the remaining coal would be given away as charity coal bags for the AKP, especially before elections. Agricultural farming land would be part of emergency expropriation. Thus, the AKP loudly claimed it would turn the “crisis into an opportunity”—whereas in reality they created a neoliberal plunder economy.24

Between 2003 and 2011, 66 percent of Turkey’s growth was based on twelve sectors. Half of them were connected to construction and construction-related fossil-fuel sectors, which are all dependent on foreign imports or investments. Imported gas and coal accounts for 55.8 percent of the electricity produced in thermal power plants, and nearly all coal and steel is imported. Thus, Turkey’s growth in these sectors also means a growth in its trade deficit.25

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s November 6, 2014, announcement of Turkey’s tenth development plan for the years 2014–2018 highlights energy as a main priority. Davutoğlu stated that legislation would be finalized soon to boost local construction of hydropower turbines exceeding 50 megawatts, to stimulate coal-fired thermal power plants all over Turkey’s lignite areas by the end of 2015 through public-private cooperation, and to minimize the scrap dependence for raw materials by the iron-steel sector. This will bring an extractivism explosion to Turkey. However, as most of the coal-fired thermal power plants are driven with imported coal, it will by no means bring a lessening of dependency. Given the government’s drive to become a “global energy hub” and a vital geopolitical power “Turkey’s obsession with a fossil-fuel-driven developmentalism” is hardly surprising.26

The development plan highlights an energy production program that leans on local resources and a program to improve energy efficiency, and seeks to increase the amount of national resources in energy production from 27 to 35 percent. As there are no oil and gas reserves in Turkey, what is meant by “national or local resources” is lignite, which has the worst efficiency and highest waste among coal types. And what is meant by “improving efficiency” is to build thermal power stations on lignite areas all over the country. It is obvious that this plan does not take into consideration the well-being of humans or nature. Its main priority is capital maximization, plundering, and marauding—as much and as long as it can.27

However, reports reveal that the government’s projections of energy needs are at least 25 percent higher than they are in reality. Turkey has the potential to have 47 percent of energy consumption come from renewable energy by 2030, at economic costs that are no higher than the current energy policy, and at human and social costs that are much lower than the current ones.28 Turkey has one of the best renewable energy potentials in Europe, with 380 billion kilowatt-hours of energy that could come from solar photovoltaic energy and 48,000 megawatts wind capacity (Turkey’s current capacity is only 2,000 megawatts). Renewable energy resources are clean, safe, and create employment. The European Wind Energy Association stresses that building a 1 megawatt wind turbine creates fifteen new jobs.29 But instead of turning to clean energy, the AKP keeps on insisting on dirty energy policies by repeating the lie that “our country needs energy.”

Besides, what are considered “energy needs” does not include energy used by households. Data reveals that the increase in energy consumption from 2009 to 2010 was close to 15,150,000 megawatt hours. While 15 percent of the increase stemmed from households, the rest was from industry and trade. Similar results can be seen in the increase from 2010 to 2011.30 Thus, not only are the energy increase estimates overestimates, but the AKP refuses to mention the real reason for the increase: industrial production geared to capital accumulation.

Another predicament is the AKP’s “heroism literature” on nuclear energy. Number one on this list is, “If Turkey does not build nuclear plants, it will remain without electricity.” By repeating this lie over and over, the AKP tries to justify its dangerous decision to build nuclear plants. The story goes, “Turkey faces a quick increase in energy and electricity demand and we have to do something.” Experts stress that the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources’ projections do not reflect reality. Özgür Gürbüz points to a failure to confront the issue of inflated electricity demand, saynig the government is “shockingly slow off the mark” in taking measures to decrease losses in energy efficiency associated with the transmission and distribution of electrictity.31 Thus the aim is to build two nuclear power plants, one in Akkuyu on the Mediterranean coast (in an earthquake-prone region) and one in Sinop on the Black Sea; both are beautiful places that will be ruined. Regulations about critical issues like security and nuclear waste were not dealt with at all. The government’s disinformation and political repression leaves no hope for court cases against the nuclear plants.

Soma

The Soma district in the Aegean province of Manisa used to be beautiful farm land, rich with crops like tobacco, olives, wine grapes, and wheat.32 It was a prosperous agricultural region until the 1990s, when the state stopped giving agricultural subsidies. Farming became a difficult way to make a living, and many people left for the big cities. Soma was turned into a huge coal-mining district, resulting in deforestation, decreasing fertility of farming land, and the pollution of soil, air, and water. Many of those who stayed in Soma—which is home to nearly 40 percent of Turkey’s two billion ton lignite coal reserve, as well as a lignite-fired thermal power plant—found work in one of the (then state-owned) coal mines. Today, out of a population of 105,000, the mining industry employs 16,000. On the entrance wall of Soma’s state hospital you can read the fatalistic sentence, “For those who give a life for a handful of coal.”

Truly, Turkey has become a country that removes both natural resources and corpses from underneath the earth. Enslaved workers await death while laboring under inhumane conditions for their families’ sheer survival. The AKP’s neoliberal policies minimize agriculture and turn land workers into mine workers; instead of farming above the soil, they are forced to dig underneath the earth.

The tragic mine disaster in Soma on May 13, 2014, was only one of many deadly incidents. What was different was the sheer number of workers killed—301 mine workers in one so-called “accident.” Sendika.org calls it “one of the greatest workplace murders in Turkish history.”33 CEO of Soma Holding Alp Gürkan previously had proclaimed that they had succeeded in reducing production costs from $130 to $24 a ton after privatization in 2005. This “success” was, unsurprisingly, the result of cuts in production costs like wages and safety measures. Most mine workers are insufficiently trained, and are temporary or unregistered workers; some are even underage. Despite this, in July 2013 the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources applauded Soma Holding for creating “exemplary mining complexes that prioritize the safety of miners.” Wages are so dismal that, for shifts as long as twelve hours, the salary a mine worker receives is as low as 420 euros—just above the official hunger line (the amount of money necessary for buying enough food for a family—as opposed to the more common “poverty line,” which includes costs like rent, transportation, and education) for a four-person household of 402 euros. Soma Holding then invested the Soma profits in Istanbul’s high-profit construction sector. Yaşar Adanalı, a researcher of urban development, says:

The capital accumulated by the exploitative working conditions is highly visible in the city [Istanbul], as it fuels the erection of many speculative real estate projects, such as the Spine Tower of Soma Corporation. The Spine Tower in Maslak, the major business district in Istanbul, is the tallest skyscraper in town and one of the most expensive, with its $10,000 price tag per square metre…. After the Soma Massacre, people in Istanbul had organised various protests in front of the Spine Tower Project, stating that “the blood of the workers is dripping from the tower.”34

Remarkably, in October 2013, seven months before the massacre, Özgür Özel, a parliamentarian from the main opposition party Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (CHP, the Republican People’s Party), had proposed a parliamentary commission to investigate the very high number of workplace accidents and deplorable security measures of the Soma mines, and to improve safety regulations. This was rejected by the AKP on April 29, 2014, with an AKP parliamentarian declaring Turkish mines to be safer than those of most countries! And what else could he say? Soma Holding and the government had such close ties that the wife of the company’s general director was an AKP councilor.

Intimidation is one way the AKP fills large meeting areas all over Turkey. For example, Soma Holding workers were forced to participate in an AKP meeting before the local elections in March 2014. They were told that if they refused to go, they would not be paid that day.35 Some weeks after the disaster, a parliamentary inquiry commission for Soma was finally established with all parties’ consent. This, however, was too little, too late for the victims of the massacre.

Another aspect of the AKP’s conservative Islamist policies is impoverishing and victimizing the people, and then giving them Islamic alms instead of rights-based social welfare. Indeed, it was Soma’s bloodstained coal that was provided as charity coal bags for the earlier local elections—consolation prizes for workers whose benefits had been stolen and jobs destroyed by the same party.

Another Erdoğan method is to dismiss criticism by normalizing workplace accidents. In an “accident” that resulted in thirty dead coal miners in May 2010 in northern Turkey’s Karadon, he used Islamist fatalism to shrug off criticism by stating “death is in the nature of mining” and it is part of the “profession’s fate.” After Soma, Erdoğan referred to the many who died in European and U.S. mine disasters in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to minimize the tragedy. He and his bodyguards also attacked the mourning families directly. National trade union protests after the disaster were ferociously met by police with water cannons and tear gas, and military troops were sent to the region to repress protests by the grieving families.36

Iron despotism is widening all over Turkey. Aslı Iğsız says that the law is “deployed to concentrate power and to promote neoliberal institutionalization, whereas those who are unhappy with these policies are criminalized. This was exemplified in the Gezi protests.”37 During the summer 2013 Gezi resistance increased against privatization of the commons, the destruction of the environment, growing conservatism, and increasing despotic rule. Erdoğan violently suppressed the protests. Police used 130,000 tons of tear gas canisters and water cannons—some of which launched water mixed with chemicals—on the protestors. Well over 2.5 million people, in all but two Turkish cities, participated in the Gezi resistance. Eight young men (including a fourteen-year old) were killed, nearly 5,000 people were taken into custody, and over 4,000 were injured.38 The government’s answer to peaceful protests was as repressive as possible.

Fatalities

On October 28, 2014, just six months after the massacre in Soma, in an Ermenek/Karaman coal mine eighteen miners were trapped 300 meters underground by 11,000 tons of water pressing on a broken wall. The miners were on a lunch break, which they were forced to take underground since the mine owner would not allow them to eat above the earth, as this would take too long—lessening profits. Later it became public that mine workers had sent 124 complaint letters to the Labor Ministry about the mine’s inhuman and unsafe conditions.39

A month later, there was the olive tree murder in Yırca, very close to Soma. The murderer was Kolin Holding, one of the clientelist construction and energy corporations, helping to build Istanbul’s third airport, which will destroy the Kuzey Forests there. Kolin felled 6,000 olive trees overnight—most of them with their fresh olives on their twigs—to build a coal-fired thermal power plant. Public-private cooperation worked perfectly here, and the emergency expropriation of May 10, 2014, occurred without notifying the peasants, whose very survival depends on the olive trees and their lands. Whereas the law states that emergency expropriation can be applied under very exceptional circumstances (such as a war or state of emergency), the AKP prefers this method when seizing peasants’ land to give to comprador companies.40 The next morning the State Council’s decision was made public: Kolin was not given permission to build a thermal power plant at Yırca. Thus, the people of Yırca experienced the most depressing and exhilarating feelings within the span of a few hours. And at the moment of the announcement about the power plant, they picked up their tools and did what they are best at—planting new olive trees.

Soma, Ermenek, and Yırca—these are just a few examples of a much larger story. For many years the Bergama district, close to the city of Izmir, has fought against gold mining and the use of sulfuric acid for extracting gold. In the Çaldağı district of the city of Manisa, the fight against the poisoning of the soil with sulfuric acid to extract nickel has been going on for years, with CHP deputy Hasan Ören helping lead the fight. Two hundred thousand trees have been felled by the company that aims at extracting nickel. Activists protest the mine because it will poison the valuable area close to Gediz Valley, which is vital for agricultural farming. If they fail, two million trees may be felled at this beautiful mountain and Gediz Valley will no longer be home for agriculture.

In September 2014, ten workers were killed when an elevator rocketed to the ground from the thirty-second floor of an under-construction luxury skyscraper in Mecidiyeköy in the Şişli district of Istanbul as safety regulations were disdained. Disregarding a court rule to stop the construction of a mosque in the Validebağ Grove in Istanbul, construction vehicles came in and could not be stopped by those who resisted. Erdoğan declared the protestors as “enemies” of mosques. In Alakır Valley, a natural preservation site, five hydroelectric power plant projects are being built, with hundreds more to come. These are just some examples of what what is happening on a monthly basis in Turkey.

Every single little park, small sea, and tiny forest faces the same fate: someone will come and find a way to make money by destroying it. This growth-at-any-cost policy is obviously not sustainable. What strikes a human being most is the “normalization” of these accidents, injuries, and deaths. What happens in Turkey during a single day should be more than enough for a year, or two, or longer! This leaves us breathless, hopeless, and devastated. However, it is this neoliberal style of privatization, deregulation, and wage declines—so dangerous for humans—that makes Turkey lucrative and attractive for Western capital. This is the reason why the neoliberal Western countries are no less guilty than the AKP itself for keeping this system alive—and enriching themselves, too.

Conclusion

The “new Turkey” is built upon a triad of marauder capitalism, repressive government, and conservative Islamism.41 Any analysis of Turkey needs to understand this first. This also means that resistance is insufficient as long as it does not also include resistance against political repression and Islamist conservatism, as they all feed on each other.

The Gezi resistance against disaster capitalism’s urban and energy projects—which destroy the environment and the commons—and against growing state repression and conservatism was a turning point in Turkey. The Soma protests from May to June 2014 added to awareness of the unscrupulousness of the regime of capital. Michael Hardt says: “This is a turning point in the public recognition of the destruction of Erdoğan’s neo-liberal policies that create wealth for a few and undermine the well-being of the many including the working class.”42 He added, “It is certainly an opportunity but one that must confront numerous hurdles, including not only a powerful government repression and propaganda machine but also the relative lack of existing political and cultural ties among different sectors of the contemporary working class.”43

Currently resistance to the AKP’s policies are going on all over Turkey. One example of months of resistance is Fatsa, on the Black Sea, where people are fighting the use of cyanide in gold mining, which will destroy the forests and farmland. Their slogan is easy to grasp: “What is above the earth is worth much more than what is underneath!” In Turkish, this is play on words: Toprağın üstü altından değerlidir! also means “What is above the earth is worth much more than gold!” This slogan has become a common one in struggles against AKP energy policies. Studies of the Kaz and Çaldağı Mountains reveal that with a more sustainable agriculture and a focus on animal husbandry, a much higher income could be earned, the peasants could keep on producing food, the environment would be saved, and less energy would be needed. Instead the insistence on extracting resources will only destroy the environment and agricultural production, as well as the lives and health of the people. So it is best to keep under the earth what is underground. Indeed, mother earth knows best—otherwise she would have put those assets above ground herself!

The social philosophy that increasingly inspires South America—sumac kawsaym, buen vivir [good living]—is worth considering globally. It is a community-centric, ecologically balanced, and culturally sensitive way of living that is built upon harmony between humans and harmony between humans and nature. Eduardo Gudynas, a leading scholar, stresses the need to consume less, understand the beauty of the small and little, and change production processes.44 But this necessarily entails both resistance and ecological revolution. Ignacio Sabbatella states “even with good intentions, the transition towards an ecological society is no more than a utopia if the foundations of capitalist production and reproduction are not questioned and altered.”45 This then brings us to Joel Kovel’s eco-socialism, aiming at renovating the “integrity of our relationship to nature…. Eco-socialism is the ushering in, then, of a whole mode of production, one in which freely associated labor produces flourishing ecosystems rather than commodities.”46

In spring 2011, peasants from all over Turkey, together with their animals, walked for weeks to Ankara to protest against hydroelectric power plants that harmed the rivers and waterways on which their farms depended. For generations they had worked in flourishing ecosystems and did not harm the earth. Now they came to a point of no return as they lost more and more of their valuable lands and waters to dirty energy policies. After weeks of walking they were not even allowed to enter the Turkish parliament to express their predicament. Their slogan Anadolu’yu vermeyeceğiz (“We will not give away Anatolia”—Anatolia is the greater, Asian part of Turkey) was widely heard, although not by the AKP, but by others. Anadolu (Anatolia) spirit, just like the Gezi spirit, is still felt all over Turkey. It is vital to widen these protests and to make them all-encompassing. This is the only way for us all to survive—buen vivir!

Notes

1 Turkey Coalmine Collapse in Manisa Kills at least 205 and Traps Hundreds Underground,” updated May 14, 2014, http://abc.net.au.

2 Nilgün Onder, “The Turkish Political Economy: Globalization and Regionalism,” Perspectives on Global Development and Technology 6 (2007): 231–33.

3 Pınar Bedirhanoğlu, Restrukturierung des türkischen Staates im Kontext der neoliberalen Globalisierung (Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot, 2008), 111.

4 Simten Coşar and Aylin Özman, “Centre-right Politics in Turkey after the November 2002 General Elections: Neoliberalism with a Muslim Face,” Contemporary Politics 10, no. 1 (2004): 57–74. See also Simten Coşar and Gamze Yücesan-Özdemir, eds., Silent Violence: Neoliberalism, Islamist Politics and the AKP Years in Turkey (Ottawa: Red Quill, 2012).

5 İlhan Uzgel, “AKP: Neoliberal dönüşümün yeni aktörü,” in İlhan Uzgel and Bülent Duru, eds., AKP kitabı: Bir dönüşümün bilançosu (Ankara: Phoenix, 2009), 12, 25.

6 Ibid, 12, 27.

7 Onder, “The Turkish Political Economy,” 241.

8 Uzgel, “AKP,” 22–24.

9 T. Sabri Öncü, “The Standing Man of Turkey,” June 21–23, 2013, http://counterpunch.org.

10 Joris Leverink, “‘Today We Resist’: Celebrating Gezi One Year Later,” May 31, 2014, http://roarmag.org.

11 Öncü, “The Standing Man of Turkey.”

12 Metin Altıok, “Neo-liberal Yapısal Uyum Sürecinde Son Evre: AKP Hükümeti,” Toplum ve Demokrasi 1, no. 1 (September–December 2007): 70–71.

13 UNDP, “Turkey Ranks 90th in Human Development Index,” March 15, 2013, http://undp.org; Transparency International, “Corruption by Country,” accessed April 10, 2015, http://transparency.org; World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014 (Geneva: WEF, 2014), http://www3.weforum.org, 10, 11, 13, 26; Climate Change Performance Index 2014, various charts, https://germanwatch.org.

14 Halil Gurhanli, “Mass Murder in Soma Mine: Crony Capitalism and Fetish of Growth in Turkey,” June 9, 2014, http://politiikasta.fi.

15 AKP’nin neoliberal çılgınlıkları: Rant, yoksulluk, beton,” November 22, 2014, http://marksist.org.

16 AVM sayısı 329’a ulaştı, 24 il AVM’siz kaldı,” May 25, 2014, http://emlak.haber7.com; “Erdoğan: Hani Mustafa Kemal demir ağlara çok düşkündü,” Sol Gazete, June 19, 2014, http://haber.sol.org.tr.

17 Claudia von Werlhof, “The Globalization of Neoliberalism, Its Consequences, and Some of its Basic Alternatives,” Capitalism Nature Socialism 19, no. 3 (September 2008): 94.

18 AKP’li 12 yılda 14 binden fazla işçi yaşamını yitirdi,” Cumhuriyet, November 3, 2014, http://cumhuriyet.com.tr.

19 Kivanç Eliaçık and Burcu Türkay, “Equal Times: ‘Profits Over People=Murder in the Mines’,” May 18, 2014, http://ifwea.org.

20 Mehveş Evin, “Enerjide hesaplar yanlış, gidiş felaket,” Milliyet, November 24, 2014, http://milliyet.com.tr.

21 Alberto Acosta, “Extractivism and Neoextractivism: Two Sides of the Same Curse,” in Miriam Lang, Lyda Fernando, and Nick Buxton, eds., Beyond Development (Amsterdam: Transnational Institute, 2013), 61, 67, http://tni.org.

22 Ulrich Brand, “Energy Policy and Resource Extractivism: Resistances and Alternatives,” in Energy Policy and Resource Extractivism: Resistances and Alternatives; Reader of the Seminar in Tunis, 24–26 March 2013, compiled by Marlis Gensler (Brussels: Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, 2013), http://rosalux-europa.info, 3.

23 Cristóbal Kay, book blurb for Henry Veltmeyer and James Petras, The New Extractivism, http://zedbooks.co.uk.

24 Deniz Yıldırım, “Soma, Yatağan, Ermenek: Bütünlüklü saldırı,” Birgün, November 2, 2014, http://birgun.net.

25 Melis Alphan, “Büyüyoruz da, nasıl büyüyoruz ona bakalım,” Hürriyet, June 9, 2014, http://sosyal.hurriyet.com.tr.

26 Ethemcan Turhan, “Soma, Ermenek, Yirca: Can Anti-Coal Activists Defend Coal Miners and Olive Farmers?,” December 18, 2014, http://jadaliyya.com.

27 2015’i örgütlemeye…–Aktüel Gündem,” December 31, 2014, http://sendika.org.

28 Güncelleme Tarihi, “Kömüre Hücum’un Ekonomik Bir Alternatifi Var,” November 17, 2014, http://wwf.org.tr.

29 Özgür Gürbüz, “Which Is More Dangerous: Nuclear Lies or Radiation?,” http://tr.boell.org, 36.

30 “AKP’nin neoliberal çılgınlıkları.”

31 Gürbüz, “Which Is More Dangerous: Nuclear Lies or Radiation?,” 33.

32 Arife Karadag, “Changing Environment and Urban Identity Following Open-cast Mining and Thermic Power Plant in Turkey: Case of Soma,” Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 184, no. 3 (March 2012): 1617–32.

33 Turkey’s Neoliberal Death Toll: Hundreds of Miners Died in Great Soma Massacre,” May 14, 2014, http://sendika.org.

34 Gurhanli, “Mass Murder in Soma Mine.”

35 Soma’da AKP mitingi tarifesi,” Cumhuriyet, June 10, 2014, http://cumhuriyet.com.tr.

36 Eliaçık and Türkay, “Equal Times.”

37 Aslı Iğsız, “Brand Turkey and the Gezi Protests: Authoritarianism, Law, and Neoliberalism (Part One),” July 12, 2013, http://jadaliyya.com.

38 2.5 milyon insan 79 ilde sokağa indi,” Milliyet, http://milliyet.com.tr, June 23, 2014; Matze Kasper, “To Survive, the Movement Will Have to Compromise,” January 11, 2014, http://roarmag.org.

39 Burak Bekdil, “Turkey’s Rules for Safety,” November 8, 2014, http://meforum.org.

40 Soma Katliamının Failleri Yırca Zeytinliklerinde!,” October 28, 2014, http://todap.org.

41 Deniz Yıldırım, “Soma’dan Mecidiyeköy’e AKP Rejimi,” Birgün, September 14, 2014, http://birgun.net.

42 Leverink, “‘Today We Resist’.”

43 Michael Hardt, “Innovation and Obstacles in Istanbul One Year After Gezi,” June 4, 2014, http://euronomade.info.

44 Oliver Balch, “Buen Vivir: The Social Philosophy Inspiring Movements in South America,” Guardian, February 4, 2013, http://theguardian.com.

45 Carmelo Ruiz Marrero, “The New Latin American ‘Progresismo’ and the Extractivism of the 21st Century,” Americas Program, February 17, 2011, http://cipamericas.org.

46 Joel Kovel, “Why Ecosocialism Today?,” New Socialist, no. 61, Summer 2007, 11.

 

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s Segregationist Founder

http://forward.com/opinion/israel/308306/ben-gurion-israels-segregationist-founder/

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s Segregationist Founder
Seth J. FrantzmanMay 18, 2015

‘The danger we face is that the great majority of those children whose parents did not receive an education for generations will descend to the level of Arab children,” Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared at a July 1962 meeting. He was speaking with the head of a teachers federation on the question of whether to segregate “Mizrahi” children, whose parents came from Muslim countries, from “Ashkenazi” children in school.

In the document from the Labor Party archives, revealed recently in Haaretz, a shocking image is conjured up. Did Israel’s first leader really consider segregating Jewish children according to country of origin? Why did he use racially tinged terms of abuse, worrying that Israel would become “Levantine” and “descend” to be “like the Arabs”?

The document is emblematic of a tragic Israeli problem, the legacy of the disastrous policies put in place in the early years of the state that at the time seemed in line with prevailing European concepts but did irreparable harm.

Consider the case revealed on April 9 by author Orna Akad at the blog +972. She related how 23 years ago she went to a workshop at the community of Neve Shalom. “One of the participants in the workshop was also a member of the community’s admission committee… we came up to her full of hope and said proudly that we are a couple, a Jewish woman and an Arab man, and that we would like to register and appear before the community’s admission committee,” Akad said. The woman had bad news: “We are a community which encourages life together in coexistence, but we are opposed to mixed marriage.”

If you are perplexed, you should be. Israel’s small communities have an unusual way of organizing themselves. An “acceptance” or admissions committee regulates almost every single community outside a major town. You can’t just move to a place, you have to ask to be admitted. It is why a May 2012 headline screamed, “Sderot activists win right to move to Kibbutz Gevim.” They didn’t want to be kibbutz members, just to live in an expansion area of the kibbutz. But one committee member had blocked them, reportedly saying, “We are trying to introduce new blood into the community, but new blood needs to match what is already there.” The newcomers were not “attuned to community life.”

  How did some 1,000 communities in Israel become gated communities, so that people who are Arab, Ethiopian or other minorities can be denied the right to live where they want either directly or as result of euphemistic rulings like that they are “not attuned to community”? This is one of the main legacies of 1950s Israel.

Admissions committees created ethnically homogenous Jewish communities (Yemenites in one place, Hungarians in another). Worse, a segregated education system for Jews and Arabs cemented total separation so that 99% of pupils study in either Jewish or Arab schools through the end of high school. The education system was put in place in 1949, but it should have been obvious that “separate development” was a road to future disaster.

David Ben-Gurion is often portrayed as a mythical formative figure in the early years of the Jewish state. In Anita Shapira’s 2014 biography she lionizes him: “He knew how to create and exploit the circumstances that made its [Israel’s] birth possible.” Peter Beinart similarly paints a picture of early Israel endowed with liberal and socialist principles. “Labor Zionists insisted that the character of Jewish life in Palestine, and of the eventual Jewish state, was as important as the state itself.” The well-known author Ari Shavit wrote in his book, “My Promised Land,” that “the newborn state [of Israel] was one of the most egalitarian democracies in the world.” Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen romanticized Israel’s early years as “fighting intellectuals, rifle in one hand and a volume of Kierkegaard in the other.”

There is a massive nostalgia and a total misunderstanding of the nature of the state in those years. Israel was not egalitarian in the 1950s; it was a divided society, in which Arab citizens, having watched the vast majority of their community flee or be expelled from the country in 1948, were kept under military-imposed curfew. It was a society in which security concerns trumped civil rights, in which nationalistic military parades were common, and ethnic and religious divisions were cemented.

The founders of the state saw themselves as embarking on a massive social engineering experiment. As these new documents reveal, Ben-Gurion imagined that the Jews who had come from Arab countries would soon outnumber Jews of European origin — “In another 10-15 years they will be the nation, and we will become a Levantine nation, [unless] with a deliberate effort we raise them…” he said. The country had a responsibility to elevate this population from its many generations of living in, as he disparagingly put it “downtrodden, backward countries.” The disdain for Arab culture was extreme, despite the fact that Arabs in British Mandatory Palestine held high positions, were the intellectual elite of the country and had a sophisticated society.

The discrimination of the 1950s haunts Israel today. It persists in the media, as when Tel Aviv’s Ashkenazi elite is referred to as a “white tribe,” or when Russian immigrants are mocked as having “crime in their blood” and a successful Arab citizen like TV host Lucy Aharish is described in one article as not “dressing like an Arab.” The segregated schools and admissions committees created a balkanized society. Rather than romanticizing the leader who perpetuated these divisions, people should imagine an Israel in the future that reforms the failed legacy. Reduce segregation and encourage diverse communities. Interrogate the past, don’t whitewash it.

Seth J. Frantzman is the opinion editor of The Jerusalem Post.

Eight Problems with Amnesty’s Report on Aleppo Syria

http://dissidentvoice.org/2015/05/eight-problems-with-amnestys-report-on-aleppo-syria/

Eight Problems with Amnesty’s Report on Aleppo Syria

by Rick Sterling / May 14th, 2015

In 1990 Amnesty International made a horrendous mistake in the midst of the media campaign leading up to Gulf War 1.  While U.S. military action was being debated and the public was significantly opposed, it was reported that Iraqi troops were stealing incubators from a Kuwaiti hospital and leaving babies to die on the floor. In dramatic testimony before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, a Kuwaiti teenage girl claimed she was a hospital volunteer and eye-witness. Congress members were in tears, the event received huge publicity and had significant influence in changing public opinion. The event was a fabrication conceived by a Washington PR firm and the girl was the Kuwaiti Ambassador’s daughter. There might have been more scrutiny and investigation but the story was corroborated by Amnesty International.

More recently, in early 2011, Amnesty International and other human rights groups were influential in spreading false or exaggerated information about conditions in Libya. It paved the way for a “No Fly Zone” which NATO converted into a mandate for “regime change”. The consequence has been a catastrophic loss of security and living standards for the citizens of Libya and an eruption of violence and sectarianism within and beyond the borders.

Currently we see a major media campaign for a “no fly zone” billed as a “safe zone” in opposition controlled northern Syria. In this context, Amnesty has just issued a report: “Death Everywhere: War Crimes and Human Rights Abuses in Aleppo, Syria“.  The 62 page report alleges the Syrian government is deliberately targeting civilians in opposition controlled parts of Aleppo, using barrel bombs to kill 3124 civilians versus only 35 fighters in the past 15 months. Amnesty accuses the Syrian government of committing war crimes and possible “crimes against humanity”. They recommend an arms embargo against the Syrian government.

Following are significant problems with the report.

1. Amnesty ignores external interference in Syria.

Article 2 of the United Nations Charter says “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations”. It is public information that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, USA, France and Britain are funding, supplying, weaponizing and promoting armed insurgents in Syria. Is this not a “use of force” against Syria?  The insurgents, both Syrian and foreign, are being paid salaries by one or another of the countries seeking overthrow of the Damascus government. Turkey is providing facilities and military support. The USA is providing training, communications equipment and coordination. Saudi Arabia, France and Qatar are providing weapons. Britain is providing training and other supplies.  Are these not violations of the U.N. Charter to which all these countries are signators? The Erdogan government in Turkey has openly advocated taking over northern Syria, imposing a “No Fly Zone” and basically enforcing this as a zone controlled by the NATO/Gulf sponsored opposition. This is a clear threat on Syrian territorial integrity. Why does Amnesty ignore this?

2. Amnesty approves the violation of international customary law.

International customary law does not allow for supplying arms to “vetted” or “approved” insurgents.  Yet one of the Amnesty recommendations to the international community is that: “If considering supplying arms to non-state armed groups in Syria, first carry out a rigorous human rights risk assessment and establish a robust monitoring process …”.

This is an amazing statement, effectively sanctioning the supplying of arms to insurgents who agree to follow “humanitarian” rules of war. The implication is that it’s permissible to kill soldiers, police, government and security people in Syria if you avoid killing civilians. Would it be similarly permissible for Canada and Mexico to train and arm insurgents to come to the U.S. to kill soldiers, police and anyone else defending the security apparatus?

Somehow we can be sure that Amnesty would NOT accept or justify this invasion and violation of international law.  So why are they and others justifying this violation against Syria?

When the U.S. created the ‘Contras’ to sow mayhem and bloodshed in Nicaragua in the 1980s, the World Court at the Hague was clear. Their decision was that “by training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the ‘Contra’ forces or otherwise encouraging, supporting and aiding military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua” the United States was “in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to intervene in the affairs of another State.”

The situation today with Syria is very comparable. International customary law has not changed.  It is just being ignored. Amnesty should be challenging this violation, not approving it.

3. Amnesty relies on witnesses who are biased and possibly paid and coached.

The Amnesty report is based on interviews with “78 current or former residents of Aleppo and 29 professionals working in or on Aleppo “.  Amnesty established contact with witnesses through collaboration with the following groups:  Syrian Institute for Justice and Accountability, the Violations Documentation Center, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, and the Syria Research and Evaluation Organization.

Each of these collaborating groups is either based in, or receiving funds from, Turkey, USA or one of the other countries heavily involved in seeking overthrow of the Damascus government.

Two-thirds of the displaced persons in Syria live INSIDE Syria. To produce a more accurate and objective report, Amnesty could have obtained testimonies from people who fled Aleppo and are now living in Homs, Latakia, Damascus or in Aleppo under government control.  That would have entailed collaborating with other organizations that are not part of the foreign funded opposition supporting “human rights” groups, but would have given a more balanced picture.

The Amnesty report includes numerous references to testimony or interviews with members of the “Civil Defence”.  What they do not say is that “Syrian Civil Defence”, also known as “White Helmets”, are a creation of the US and UK. There may be some useful training but they are heavily used for propaganda purposes.

The recent exposure of the Richard Engel/NBC hoax confirms that the insurgents are keen to manipulate the media.  It is quite likely that witnesses provided to Amnesty were ‘vetted’ and/or coached in advance and some of them might have been paid. With no other testimonies, the result is a highly distorted picture of circumstances in Aleppo.

4. Amnesty relies on dubious data from a biased source.

The Amnesty analysis and conclusions rely substantially on data from the Violations Documentation Center (VDC).  This source is highly partisan. For example, they divide fatalities into two overall groups: “Martyrs” and “Regime Fatalities”.

“Martyrs” include ISIS fighters and foreign mercenaries killed by the Syrian Army/Militia or even by the U.S. airstrikes around Kobani. See the VDC screenshot photo 1 showing the ISIS “martyr” killed in Kobani. Photo 2 shows a young girl listed as “regime fatality”.

The data itself looks dubious. For example, we know there was much conflict and loss of life in the Idlib area during the past six weeks.  Both Idlib and Jisr al Shughour were captured by the armed opposition.  It is very probable that many Syrian soldiers and armed fighters were killed in the conflict. Many civilians fled the urban areas as the armed groups came in. However, the VDC site (photo 3) shows something startling and less than credible for Idlib Governate from March 1, 2015 through May 1, 2015:

“regime fatalities” (Syrian army, militia and supporting civilians)  = 12

“martyrs” (opposition fighters and supporting civilians) = 662.

There is little or no evidence provided regarding most of the alleged victims. Photographs and video evidence is provided for a small minority of the cases.

The spokesman and advocacy director for VDC is Bassam al Ahmad.  He is based in Istanbul and closely connected to the United States as shown in his recent participation in a “Leadership Conference” as shown in photograph #4 below.

In short, Amnesty’s report and conclusions are based on dubious data from a biased source closely aligned with foreign powers actively seeking “regime change” in Damascus.

5. Amnesty ignores important background information.

There is considerable evidence that armed groups which invaded Aleppo in summer 2012 quickly fell into disfavor and became unpopular. The unpopularity of the armed opposition was identified by American journalists James Foley and Stephen Sotloff in the Fall of 2012 and Winter 2012-2013.  Foley described how rebels invaded Aleppo in the summer of 2012. His article, written in October, was titled “Rebels losing support among civilians in Aleppo”.  A few months later Sotloff described civilian dislike of the rebels in an article titled “Bread lines and disenchantment with the FSA”.

According to the Syrian journalist known as Edward Dark, there was youthful enthusiasm for early protests  but it rapidly turned to regret as armed rebels invaded Aleppo, took over neighborhoods and engaged in widespread looting.  As Dark says in his article “How we lost the Syrian revolution“….

Never have I felt as sad as when, shortly after Aleppo was raided by the rebels, I received messages from some of those people I used to work with. One said, “How could we have been so stupid? We were betrayed!” and another said, “Tell your children someday that we once had a beautiful country, but we destroyed it because of our ignorance and hatred”.

Edward Dark may be naive regarding the extent of US and foreign involvement in the armed insurrection but his article seems to sincerely express the early dreams and subsequent regrets of idealistic protesters in Aleppo.  The Amnesty report completely ignores this important background and context.

6. Amnesty ignores important current information.

Readers of the Amnesty report on Aleppo may assume there have been large numbers of civilians living in the opposition controlled districts. In reality civilians began departing as soon as the armed insurgents invaded neighborhoods years ago.  Currently the most common description of an opposition controlled neighborhood is that it’s a “ghost town”.

Amnesty also fails to disclose the huge number of Syrian soldiers and militia killed by opposition snipers and bombs. Isn’t it relevant that, depending on the source, between 75 and 120 thousand Syrian soldiers and local militia defenders have been killed in Syria?

7. Amnesty echoes allegations which are unverified and probably false.

Opponents of the Syrian government allege that the Syrian Army uses chlorine gas weapons in violation of a recent U.N. Security Council resolution. The Amnesty report includes a graphic of a “barrel bomb” with a caption suggesting that chlorine was used in attacks on March 16, 2015. These claims are widespread but dubious. They ignore the following facts:

(a) Syrian military has no reason to use chlorine since it has more effective bomb explosives;

(b) Syrian military has strong motive to NOT use such a weapon since it has been explicitly sanctioned.

(c) The opposition has a strong motive to use such a weapon because they seek to draw foreign intervention; and,

(d) The opposition has the means and the opportunity to use chlorine gas weapons since they have ground projectiles and because the major chlorine gas producing factory in Syria was seized by Nusra rebels in 2012.

Instead of seriously examining chlorine allegations, the Amnesty report echoes the dubious charges.

8. Amnesty fails to recognize what keeps the conflict going.

As indicated above, the initial enthusiasm of idealistic protesters soon turned to despair as they came face to face with the reality of abusive and sectarian armed gangs. The general population was unhappy and largely departed with whatever they could take. This leaves the question: Why does the conflict continue?  The reason is because there is a continuing supply of money, weapons, foreign fighters and supplies coming through Turkey. Without that, the conflict would have ended long ago. Perhaps there could have been a reconciliation agreement as was done one year ago in Homs.  But because Aleppo is relatively close to the porous border with Turkey, and because wealthy external powers have not been willing to give up on plans for “regime change”, the conflict has continued. Generous salaries have continued to flow to foreign and domestic fighters; supplies and armaments have continued to flow. In recent months Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have coordinated more closely to escalate the conflict, including collaboration with Jabhat al Nusra (al Queda). Fighters and heavy artillery recently poured across the Turkish border to invade Idlib then Jisr al Shugour.  There are also reports of large quantities of ammonium nitrate fertilizer going across the border from Turkey destined for exploding and killing Syrians not fertilizing the soil.

Conclusion

Amnesty is appropriately concerned with civilian deaths. But what keeps the war going, to the detriment of soldiers and civilians, is external powers continuing to funnel money, supplies, weapons and mercenaries into Syria. It seems the outside powers are willing to destroy Syria rather than give up their plan for regime change in Damascus.

Tragically there is “death everywhere” in Syria. In significant measure, it is the consequence of powerful countries trampling on international law.  Amnesty should be exposing this, not ignoring or approving it.

Photos:

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“Martyr” (VDC)
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“Regime fatality” (VDC)
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Latest Martyr Idlib Fatalities (VDC)
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Latest Regime Idlib Fatalities (VDC)
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Bassam al Ahmad of VDC at U.S. Leadership Conference (VDC)
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Map Aleppo / Turkey
Rick Sterling is active with the Syria Solidarity Movement and Mt Diablo Peace and Justice Center. He can be emailed at: rsterling1@gmail.com. Read other articles by Rick.

This article was posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2015 at 3:48am and is filed under Mercenaries, NATO, Propaganda, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Kingdom.

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