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).

In Israel, we walk amongst killers and torturers

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.662364
Ha’aretz: Jun. 22, 2015 |

In Israel, we walk amongst killers and torturers

By Amira Hass

The harassment of the Al-Midan Theater stems from envy of our subjects’ ability to overcome oppression, to think and create, in defiance of our image of them as inferior.

In our homes, our streets and our places of work and entertainment, there are thousands of people who killed and tortured thousands of other people or supervised their killing and torture. I write “thousands” as a substitute for the vaguer “countless” – an expression for something that cannot be measured.

The vast majority of those who kill and torture (now as well) are proud of their deeds, and their society and families are proud of their deeds – although usually it’s impossible to find a direct link between the names of the dead and the tortured and the names of those who kill and torture, and even when it is possible, it’s forbidden. It’s also forbidden to say “murderers.” And it’s forbidden to write “lowlifes” or “cruel people.”

Me, cruel? After all, our hands aren’t covered with blood when we push the button that drops a bomb on a building housing 30 members of a single family. Lowlife? How can we use that word to describe a 19-year-old soldier who kills a 14-year-old boy who went outside to pick an edible plant?

The Jewish killers and torturers and their direct commanders act as they do with official permission. The Palestinian dead and tortured that they have left behind over the past 67 years also have grieving nieces and families for whom bereavement is a constant presence. In university hallways, shopping malls, buses, gas stations and government ministries, Palestinians don’t know which of the people they encounter have killed, or which and how many members of their families and their people they have killed.

But what’s certain is that their killers and torturers are walking around free. As heroes.

In this morbid contest with the Palestinians over bereavement and pain, we, the Israeli Jews, cannot win. With our air force and our armored corps and our Givati Brigade and our famed elite commando units, we are the underdogs in this contest. But because we are the unquestioned rulers, we fake the results of the contest and appropriate bereavement to ourselves.

We’re not satisfied with the land, the homes and the direct connection to the place that we stole from them and appropriated and destroyed, and that we continue to destroy and appropriate and steal. No. We also deny all the reasons, all the historical and social context of expulsion, dispossession and discrimination, that have led a very small handful of those Palestinians who are citizens of Israel to try to imitate us by taking up arms. They deluded themselves into thinking that weapons were the proper means of resistance, or reached a peak of fury and helplessness and decided to take lives.

Whether or not they regret it, their delusion doesn’t cancel out the fact that they had and have every reason to resist the oppression and discrimination and wickedness that are part and parcel of Israel’s rule over them. Convicting them as murderers doesn’t turn us into the collective victim in this equation. Instead of reducing the reasons for resistance, we are only intensifying and improving the means of oppression. And one means of oppression is insatiable vengefulness.

The attack on the Al-Midan Theater and the play “A Parallel Time” is part of this vengefulness. And it involves a lot of envy as well. Envy of the ability of those we oppress to overcome the oppression and the pain, to think, create and act in defiance of our image of them as inferior. They don’t dance to our tunes like miserable weaklings.

And as in an anti-Semitic caricature, for us everything focuses on the funding, on money. We don’t shut people up, we brag. We’re enlightened, we only cut off their funding. We turned them into a minority in our land when we expelled them and didn’t allow them to return, and now the 20 percent who remain here should say thank you and pay with their tax money for plays that extol the state and its policy. That’s democracy.

This isn’t a culture war, or a war about culture. It’s yet another battle – probably a lost cause, like the previous battles – over a sane future for this country. Palestinian citizens of Israel were a kind of insurance policy for the possibility of a sane future: Call them a bridge, bilingual, pragmatic, even if against their will. But we have to make changes, and we have to know how to listen to them, in order for this insurance policy to be valid. Yet we, the unquestioned rulers, aren’t planning to listen and don’t know the meaning of change.

One final note: Reports about the murder of Lod resident, Danny Gonen, at the Ein Bubin spring near the village of Dir Ibzi’a were accompanied by links to recent previous attacks: the people wounded in a vehicular terror attack near Alon Shvut settlement, the border policeman who was stabbed near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. And what was not mentioned? Of course, two young Palestinians killed recently by IDF soldiers: Izz al-Din Gharra, 21, who was shot to death on June 10 in the Jenin refugee camp, and Abdullah Ghneimat, 22, who was run over on June 14 in Kafr Malik by an IDF jeep.

Every night, on average, the IDF conducts 12 routine raids. For the Palestinians, every nighttime raid, which often entails the use of stun grenades and gas and shooting, is a mini terror attack.

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.

 

Antony J. Blinken: Remarks at the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum 2015

Remarks at the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum 2015

Remarks
Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
Washington Hilton
Washington, DC
June 8, 2015

Well, thank you all very, very much. It is wonderful to be with you today. Stan, thank you for those incredibly kind and generous words, and thank you also for your reference to Vice President Biden and his family in this incredibly difficult time. Beau Biden was one of the finest people I’ve had the privilege to know, and his loss, first and foremost for his family, but also for the country is a great one. So I deeply appreciate your recognition.

I’d also like to recognize David Harris, an exemplary leader, a global citizen, a good friend who is celebrating 25 years at the helm of the AJC. (Applause.) David, congratulations, Mazel Tov – (laughter) – we look forward to 25 more years.

And shalom as well to our Israeli audience at the Herzliya Conference and our distinguished guests here in Washington, including Daniel Mitov, the foreign minister of Bulgaria. It’s great to be with you today as well. (Applause.) It’s a real pleasure to join all of you and to see so many familiar faces, even if mine isn’t the one you were hoping for. (Laughter.)

Secretary Kerry very much wanted to be here today. As I think many of you know, he has great admiration for the work that you do to advocate for the security of Israel, the wellbeing of the Jewish people, and the human dignity of all.

He may be off his feet for a short while, but he is very much in the lead of all our efforts across the board. In fact, I have to tell you probably the smartest thing we did at the State Department was to sign up for the AT&T family plan – (laughter) – because the Secretary has been burning up the phone lines night and day. No time zone is safe. (Laughter.) But we’re all looking forward to having him back in the office very, very soon.

We are also very fortunate to have an extraordinary team at the State Department directing our efforts every day to combat anti-Semitism, promote international religious freedom, and advance peace and security in the Middle East. Ira Forman and David Saperstein, who are both here this morning, as well as Frank Lowenstein, Larry Silverman, and Wendy Sherman – (applause) – they are exemplars of public servants of the highest caliber.

But their work, our work, would not be possible without yours, scholars and students, community members, global leaders who are building relationships across religious, ethnic, and national lines from Sofia to Tokyo, Sao Paulo to New Delhi.

You’ve been called the State Department of the Jewish people, a title so apt I may start giving out some assignments today. (Laughter.) Yours is a community whose beliefs, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described it, have, quote, “boldly been expressed and resolutely supported by deeds and action.” For over a century, AJC has raised its voice in defense of those who cannot, fighting oppression with unflinching advocacy and intolerance with unwavering commitment.

You were present in San Francisco at the birth of the United Nations, where you advocated for the inclusion of strong human rights safeguards in the UN Charter and championed the creation of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. You dedicated years of diplomacy, research, and dialogue to help shape Nostra Aetate, a historic declaration passed by the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago that heralded a new era in Catholic-Jewish relations and stood up against hatred and persecution “at any time by anyone.”

And you have been an indispensable partner to President Obama and to his predecessors in America’s ironclad commitment to Israel’s future as secure, democratic, prosperous, Jewish state. I quote, “It would be a moral failing on the part of the U.S Government and the American people, it would be a moral failing on my part if we did not stand up firmly, steadfastly, not just on behalf of Israel’s right to exist, but its right to thrive and to prosper.” That was President Obama last month at Adas Israel Congregation here in Washington.

For more than 65 years – (applause) – since Israel’s founding during periods of war and peace, calm and crisis, U.S. administrations of all stripes have backed this staunch, unshakable commitment with concrete support. But no administration and no President has done as much for Israel’s security as President Obama. (Applause.) Don’t just take my word for it. Listen to another voice who called this Administration’s support for Israel’s security, and I quote, “unprecedented.” And that is the voice of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

This is true in terms of our strategic and operational coordination. Simply put, it has never been stronger. Our nation’s armed forces have conducted more joint military exercises with Israel than ever before, including the largest exercises in our history. This work has strengthened our military capabilities and the security of both our countries. At every level of our relationship, we are engaging in more comprehensive and meaningful consultations than ever before – from our political leaders to our intelligence officers to our defense officials.

That unprecedence it is true in terms of our vigilance to protect Israel’s legitimacy on the world stage and fight for its full and equal participation in UN institutions.

We helped secure Israel’s permanent membership in the Western European and Others Group, as well as its membership in the like-minded human rights caucus from which it had long been excluded in New York.

Last year, the U.S. opposed 18 resolutions in the UN General Assembly that were biased against Israel. On five occasions last year, the U.S. cast the only “no” vote against unfair anti-Israel measures in the UN’s Human Rights Council. (Applause.) We will continue to stand with Israel and against one-sided, biased resolutions – even if we are the only country on earth to do so. (Applause.)

And finally, our unprecedented support for Israel’s security can be seen in our direct assistance to Israel’s defense. Last year, as you know, despite difficult budgetary times, the United States provided Israel with more security assistance than ever before – $3.1 billion. Since 2011, the United States has provided over $1.3 billion for Iron Dome, a missile defense system that has saved lives, protected homes, schools, hospitals from a rainfall of rockets, like those that fell again just this past weekend from Gaza. (Applause.)

To guard against more distant but equally dangerous threats, we have worked with Israel on the Arrow weapons system to intercept medium-range ballistic missiles – and David’s Sling, for shorter-range missiles. We collaborated on a powerful radar system linked to U.S. early warning satellites that could buy Israel valuable time in the event of a missile attack. And we will soon start deliveries to Israel of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, making Israel the only country in the Middle East with the most advanced fighter in the world. (Applause.)

This Administration has also stood firmly with Israel in its quest for peace with its neighbors, a prerequisite for long-term regional stability and the preservation of true and secure democracy in the Jewish homeland. As President Obama has repeatedly emphasized, the United States will never stop working to realize the goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security because this is the best way to guarantee Israel’s future as a democratic, Jewish state. (Applause.)

Taken together, these examples are reflective of a President and an Administration with deep, personal, and abiding concern for Israel’s security and its future. And I can attest to this to you from direct personal experience. Last summer, late on a Thursday during the Gaza crisis, when I was still in my position at the White House, I got a call from Israeli’s ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer. And Ron said to me, “I’d like to come over to see you urgently, anytime you can see me.” And I said, “Come on over now.” And he arrived at the White House a little later that evening, around 8:30 at night. And he told me that Israel needed an emergency resupply of more interceptors for the Iron Dome system. And the ambassador and Israel’s defense attache ran through the substance of what they needed and why they needed it immediately.

The very next day, Friday morning, I went to the Oval Office and briefed President Obama. He responded with three words: “Get it done.” And by Tuesday – (applause) – just a few short days later, we had an additional 225 million in short-fuse funding from the U.S. Congress to do just that. (Applause.)

The United States and Israel may not always see eye to eye. We may have our differences. But our bedrock security relationship is sacrosanct, and I’m here to tell you it is stronger than ever. (Applause.)

And I can tell you another thing this morning: It’s at the very top of our minds as we sit at the negotiating table with Iran. The United States and Israel share an absolute conviction that Iran must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. (Applause.) When it comes to that core strategic goal, there is not an inch of daylight between the United States and Israel.

Now, we continue to believe that the very best way to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon is through a verified, negotiated agreement that resolves the international community’s legitimate concerns and, as a practical matter, makes it impossible for Iran to develop the fissile material for a weapon without giving us the means and the time to see it and to stop it.

The June 30th deadline is fast approaching. And we do not yet have a comprehensive agreement, and there remains a chance that we won’t get one. If we don’t get where – what we need on a few key issues, we won’t get there.

But, as Secretary Kerry announced in Lausanne in April, the deal we are working toward will close each of Iran’s four pathways to obtaining enough fissile material for a weapon – the uranium pathways at Natanz and Fordow, the plutonium pathway through Iran’s heavy water reactor at Arak, and a potential covert pathway.

To cut off these pathways, any comprehensive arrangement must include exceptional constraints on Iran’s nuclear program and extraordinary monitoring and intrusive transparency measures that maximize the international community’s ability to detect any attempt by Iran to break out, overtly or covertly.

Let me take this opportunity here today to address some of the concerns that are floating around about the deal that we’re working toward. And I have to tell you that many of these concerns are simply misplaced and are more myth than fact.

First, the deal that we are working to achieve will not expire. There will not be a so-called “sunset.” Different requirements of the deal would have different durations, but some – including Iran’s commitment to all of the obligations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, including the obligation not to build a nuclear weapon, as well as the tough access and monitoring provisions of the Additional Protocol – those would continue in perpetuity.

By contrast, in the absence of an agreement, Iran’s obligations under the interim arrangement that we reached – the so-called Joint Plan of Action – those would sunset immediately. Then, Iran likely would speed to an industrial-scale program with tens of thousands of centrifuges.

Second, this deal would provide such extensive levels of transparency that if Iran fails to comply with the international community’s obligations, we’ll know about it – and we will know it virtually right away, giving us plenty of time to respond diplomatically, or, if necessary, by other means. Most of the sanctions would be suspended – not ended – for a long period of time, with provisions to snap back automatically if Iran reneges on its commitments.

Third, we would not agree to a deal unless the IAEA is granted access to whatever Iranian sites are required to verify that Iran’s program is exclusively peaceful – period. (Applause.)

Fourth, there is simply no better option to prevent Iran from obtaining the material for a nuclear weapon than a comprehensive agreement that meets the parameters that we set and announced in Lausanne.

I have to tell you that, unfortunately, it is a fantasy to believe that Iran will simply capitulate to every demand if we ratchet up the pressure even more through sanctions. After all, Iran suffered even more through the great depravations of the war with Iraq. And despite intensifying pressure over the last decade, Iran went from just 150 centrifuges in 2002 to 19,000 before we reached the interim agreement.

Nor is it likely that our international partners – without whom our sanctions are not effective – would go along with such a plan. They signed on to sanctions in order to get Iran to the negotiating table and to conclude an agreement that meets our core security interests, not to force Iran to abandon a peaceful nuclear program.

Up until now, we’ve kept other countries on board – despite the economic loss that it presents for some of them – in large part because they’re convinced we are serious about diplomacy and about reaching a diplomatic solution. If they lose that belief, it’s the United States, not Iran, that risks being isolated, and the sanctions regime we’ve worked so hard to build will crumble away.

And to those who would prefer that we simply take military action now against Iran without going the last diplomatic mile, you need to consider that such a response would first destroy the international sanctions coalition, and second, only set Iran’s nuclear program back by a few years at best, at which point Iran likely would bury a new program deep underground and speed toward an actual nuclear weapon. With the comprehensive agreement that we’re working to conclude, we have a chance to achieve much, much more than that.

All of that said, the United States continues to believe – as we have from day one – that no deal is preferable to a bad deal. We’ve had plenty of opportunities throughout this negotiating process to take a bad deal; we did not, and we will not. (Applause.)

And we know that just like the interim agreement we reached, any comprehensive agreement will be subject to the legitimate scrutiny of our citizens, our Congress, and our closest partners. We welcome that scrutiny, and will not agree to any deal that cannot withstand it. At the same time, I would say to any opponents of the agreement, if we reach it: You’ll have an obligation, too. Here in the United States, you’ll have an obligation to tell the American people exactly what you would do differently, and exactly how you would get it done. (Applause.)

Many of you will recall how, after we signed the interim Joint Plan of Action that enabled us to begin these comprehensive negotiations, there were those who told us we’d made a tragic mistake. That Iran wouldn’t comply and the sanctions regime that we’d painstakingly built over so many years would crumble. That we had jeopardized the safety and security of our nation and our partners.

But President Obama and Secretary Kerry maintained that the United States, our partners – including Israel – and the entire world would become safer the day after the Joint Plan of Action was implemented. That is exactly what happened. A year and a half ago, Iran’s nuclear program was rushing full speed ahead toward larger stockpiles, greater uranium enrichment capacity, and the production of weapons-grade plutonium and even shorter breakout timelines.

Today, Iran has lived up to its commitments under that Joint Plan of Action. It’s halted progress on its nuclear program; it’s rolled it back in some key respects for the first time in a decade. How do we know that? Because today, as a result of the interim agreement, the international inspectors, the IAEA, have daily access to Iran’s enrichment facilities, and a far deeper understanding of Iran’s nuclear program. They’ve been able to learn new things about Iran’s centrifuge production, uranium mines, and other facilities. And they’ve been able to verify that Iran is indeed honoring its commitments.

If we do reach a comprehensive deal, it will not end nor will it alter our commitment to supporting those in Iran demanding greater respect for universal rights and the rule of law. And we continue to insist that Iran release Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, Jason Rezaian, and help us find Robert Levinson. (Applause.)

And reaching a comprehensive deal will not alter our commitment to fighting Iran’s efforts to spread instability and support terrorism. This will not change – with or without a deal. (Applause.)

But Iran with a nuclear weapon – without a nuclear weapon, excuse me – will be far less emboldened to take destabilizing actions in the region. It will reduce the pressure for a regional nuclear arms race and strengthen the international nonproliferation regime. In short, it is a critical step to greater global security – for the United States, for Israel, and for all of our partners in the region.

Finally, I’d like to address this morning another grave concern, and that is the deeply disturbing rise in anti-Semitism in parts of our world that have already seen how this tragic story ends. In the last few years, as all of you know so well, there have been horrific attacks on Jews from Brussels to Paris, Toulouse to Copenhagen. In some countries, we’re seeing a rise in government officials and media personalities spinning abhorrent, dangerous anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jewish individuals, about Israel, about the United States. And in a few places, we see the rise of extreme right-wing parties – from Jobbik in Hungary to Golden Dawn in Greece – openly embracing Nazi-like hatred of Jews. This is happening today – just 70 years after the Holocaust. Just 70 years after we pledged Never Again. While survivors of the Shoah are still with us to bear witness.

With organizations like AJC at the forefront, communities are mobilizing in response. In France, Germany, the United Kingdom, leaders have strongly condemned these acts of vile hatred, reinforced security in Jewish communities and around key sites, and expressed their unshakable solidarity with their Jewish citizens. Citizens of many faiths have formed human rings of protection around synagogues in Denmark, in Sweden, in Norway. But more – much more – must be done to make this fight a global priority.

Last month, the AJC released a very thought-provoking “Call to Action” on anti-Semitism that raises important recommendations that all of us can benefit from. These include developing new curricula for civic education, undertaking thorough studies of the security of Jewish communities, and blocking social media sites that incite hatred and violence.

But all of you know so very well that anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish issue. It’s not a Jewish issue, period. It cannot be addressed by Jewish organizations alone. Anti-Semitism – like all forms of prejudice – is a fundamental threat to democracies and open societies in every corner of the globe. (Applause.)

It’s simple: We cannot and we will not tolerate it. That’s why the United States is devoting more and more resources to this fight. Our embassies, our consulates are increasingly involved in supporting Jewish communities under pressure and under threat. At the UN and other international institutions, our diplomats are undertaking efforts to push back against anti-Semitism – unfortunately, on virtually a daily basis. Earlier this year, the U.S. worked with Israel and the European Union to organize the first UN General Assembly session on anti-Semitism in UN history, where people of all faiths took to the podium to denounce anti-Semitism and pledge to halt its alarming rise.

And over the last two years, our Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Ira Forman, who’s with us today, has traveled to 25 countries and 37 communities to discuss the deteriorating situation and find new ways to combat anti-Semitism wherever it exists. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, for over 100 years, AJC has led the campaign against intolerance, against injustice, against a false choice between security and peace for the state of Israel. For what AJC has always known and what the world must now understand is that these issues don’t just affect someone else – someone else’s freedom, someone else’s dignity, someone else’s safety – they affect all of us, each of us. They undermine our security. They defy our humanity. And they call into question our most basic values. And they’re personal, and I have to tell you they’re personal to me as well.

Last summer, at the height of the conflict in Gaza, I exchanged emails with a cousin who’s been living in Tel Aviv for nearly 30 years. She wrote to me and the rest of our family about living with the constant worry for her children, especially her eldest son, who is training for the engineering unit that would be deployed to uncover tunnels and dismantle bombs. She wrote about living with the fear that terrorists were tunneling underground and could kidnap or kill her fellow citizens. She wrote about transforming their storage room back into a bomb shelter; about cycling to work with one earbud out of her ear so that she could hear the air raid sirens; about living on a 90-second timer, because that’s how much time you have to get to a bomb shelter when the sirens go off. As I read her emails, I thought of the mothers and fathers in Israel who send their children off to school or military service and endure each day in the desperate hope that their sons and daughters will be okay. I thought of the mothers and fathers in Gaza who faced their worst nightmare when their children were caught in the crossfire. And I thought of how these parents share more experiences in pain than they do in joy, and how it must be – how it can be – the reverse.

This is not naive optimism or false hope, but rather the conviction that the steps we take today together can make all of us more free and more secure; the conviction that a two-state solution is the best and only way to preserve Israel’s future as a secure, democratic Jewish state, as well as fulfill the rightful aspirations of Palestinians to a state; that a verified, negotiated, comprehensive agreement is the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon; and that our united stand against anti-Semitism is the only way to uphold the democratic values on which our societies are built.

As they have for over a century, the voices of AJC remain essential in shaping this future, in setting us on a better course. It is daunting. It is uncertain. But we pursue this better future with courage and commitment and the confidence that comes from being with you in the very best of company. May your voices, your bold expressions and resolute actions – may they always carry far and wide, so that together we may usher in a world that is just a little bit more just, more free, and more secure for everyone. Thank you very, very much. (Applause.)

Saudi Shame on the Islamic World: “The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation with United States Imperialism “

Saudi Shame on the Islamic World: “The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation with United States Imperialism “

By Finian Cunningham
Global Research, August 17, 2012These jihadists, who have gravitated to Syria from Britain, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, among other countries, are directed by Washington, London and Paris in time-honoured fashion of these powers’ criminal involvement with Islamic fundamentalists under the catch-all nom de guerre of Al Qaeda. They are weaponised by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel; they are trained and based by Turkey and Jordan. And their brains are weaponised by Saudi Wahhabism, with all its intolerant pathological hatred to anyone who opposes its tyranny and Western objectives.

Far from promoting solidarity and peace, the OIC has shown itself to be a political instrument serving the geopolitical interests of Washington and its allies in the destruction of Syria and their designs for entrenching hegemonic control over the Middle East. That control is all about exploiting the resources of the region to enrich Western corporations and banks, paying off elite rulers and impoverishing the mass of people.”
As the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) concludes its emergency summit in Mecca this week with the suspension of Syria, its member states should now consider amending the body’s name – to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation with United States Imperialism (OICUSI).
For the OIC stands as a violation of every principle it is supposed to represent. In calling for this conference with its flagrantly politicised agenda, Saudi Arabia emerges as the shame of the Islamic world.
Admittedly, the acronym OICUSI is a bit clunky, but it would be far more truthful than the present OIC. The 57-member organisation, founded in 1969, represents some two billion Muslims worldwide and is charged with “promoting solidarity among members and upholding peace and security”.
Far from promoting solidarity and peace, the OIC has shown itself to be a political instrument serving the geopolitical interests of Washington and its allies in the destruction of Syria and their designs for entrenching hegemonic control over the Middle East. That control is all about exploiting the resources of the region to enrich Western corporations and banks, paying off elite rulers and impoverishing the mass of people.
Of course the Syrian people want reform and more democracy. But they won’t achieve that so long as Saudi Arabia and the other Western proxies remain on their thrones of deception colluding with the foreign enemies of the people.
Just at the hour when the people of Syria are desperately in need of international solidarity and peace, the OIC delivers a kick in the teeth.
In this way, the OIC is following in the disgraceful footsteps of the 21-member Saudi-dominated Arab League, which suspended Syria last November.
These sanctions against Damascus are based on the entirely bogus claim fomented by Washington and the former colonial powers London and Paris that the conflict in Syria stems solely from repression and violence perpetrated by the government of President Bashar Al Assad against his people. This propaganda narrative turns reality completely on its head. The violence in Syria over the past 17 months has largely stemmed from armed groups that are supplied, directed and infiltrated by the Western powers in collusion with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel.
The US-led axis is attempting to tear Syria apart by fuelling sectarian bloodshed between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and between Muslims, Christians, Druze and Kurds. The desecration of Islam is particularly vile. Mosques have been turned into sniper posts to fire on civilians, and whole villages have been massacred – the throats of children slit – by so-called Holy Warriors.
These jihadists, who have gravitated to Syria from Britain, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, among other countries, are directed by Washington, London and Paris in time-honoured fashion of these powers’ criminal involvement with Islamic fundamentalists under the catch-all nom de guerre of Al Qaeda. They are weaponised by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel; they are trained and based by Turkey and Jordan. And their brains are weaponised by Saudi Wahhabism, with all its intolerant pathological hatred to anyone who opposes its tyranny and Western objectives.
In the context of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, this conspiracy of terror and mass murder should be matter of diabolical shame for member states Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Jordan. These supposedly Islamic countries are colluding with the Western powers and their criminal Zionist proxy in the murder of Muslims and other Syrians in the service of imperialist domination of the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia in particular is seen as abusing its historic role as custodian of the holy Islamic centre of Mecca to further a despicable political agenda. By calling the extraordinary meeting of the OIC in Mecca – supposedly to discuss the violence in Syria – Saudi Arabia is covering its blood-soaked hands with a mantle of religious sanctity.
By contrast, Iran’s delegation to the OIC conference, headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, stood out as upholding the principles of the organisation. Iran rightly pointed out the basic injustice that the Syrian government was not even invited to the Mecca conference to hear the charges being levelled against it, and to have the opportunity to defend itself against such charges. One shouldn’t be surprised by the absence of jurisprudence for Syria at the Saudi-orchestrated event. After all, thousands of ordinary Bahrainis are being dragged through military courts in Saudi-backed Bahrain solely on the basis of trumped up prosecutions with no right to defend themselves either.
Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi noted at the beginning of the three-day conference: “Every country, especially OIC countries, must join hands to resolve this issue in such a way that will help the peace, security and stability in the region.”
He warned: “By suspending [Syria’s] membership, this does not mean you are moving towards resolving an issue. By this, you are erasing the issue.”
Unfortunately, Salehi’s sound advice was ignored. With typical Wahhabist attitude of no discussion, no explanation, the Saudi-hosted conference ended with the formal suspension of Syria from the OIC. The heavy-handed conclusion achieves what it was meant to: to not give Syria a fair hearing, to further isolate the country in the eyes of the world, to conceal the violent involvement of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Jordan in the destruction of Syria, and to give political cover for their imperialist masters in the dismemberment of Syria.
The Mecca summit has all the signs of a tawdry show trial, shamefully under the banner of Islam, conducted, of all places, in the holy city. Current OIC chief is Turkish national Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. He said the decision to suspend Syria sent “a strong message” to Damascus.
A statement issued at the end of the summit said participants had agreed on “the need to end immediately the acts of violence in Syria and to suspend that country from the OIC”.
The suspension was “also a message to the international community stating that the Muslim world backs a peaceful solution [in Syria], wants an end to the bloodshed and refuses to let the problem degenerate into a religious conflict and spill over into the wider region,” the OIC chief Ihsanoglu added.
Absolutely not true. First, if the OIC was serious about “ending immediately the acts of violence in Syria” then it would have suspended the memberships foremost of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Turkey – the instigators of so-much bloodshed, terrorism and crimes against humanity in Syria that are inflaming the region.
Second, on the claim that “the Muslim world backs a peaceful solution in Syria”, it should be noted that the Geneva accord agreed by the UN Security Council at the end of June, which calls for an inclusive political dialogue in Syria, has been continually violated by the Western, Arab, Turk, Israeli backers of the Jihadist terror army assailing that country.
Indeed, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov says these parties have sabotaged the Geneva accord.About the author:
Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Many of his recent articles appear on the renowned Canadian-based news website Globalresearch.ca. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He specialises in Middle East and East Africa issues and has also given several American radio interviews as well as TV interviews on Press TV and Russia Today. Previously, he was based in Bahrain and witnessed the political upheavals in the Persian Gulf kingdom during 2011 as well as the subsequent Saudi-led brutal crackdown against pro-democracy protests.
 

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:

http://dissidentvoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/unnamed1.jpg
“Martyr” (VDC)
http://dissidentvoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/unnamed2-230×300.jpg
“Regime fatality” (VDC)
http://dissidentvoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/unnamed4-1024×522.jpg
Latest Martyr Idlib Fatalities (VDC)
http://dissidentvoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/unnamed5-1024×484.jpg
Latest Regime Idlib Fatalities (VDC)
http://dissidentvoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/unnamed6-300×247.jpg
Bassam al Ahmad of VDC at U.S. Leadership Conference (VDC)
http://dissidentvoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/unnamed3-300×156.jpg
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.

The nuts and bolts of racial discrimination, Zionist style

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2015/May-11/297484-israels-west-bank-housing-policy-by-numbers.ashx

Israel’s West Bank housing policy by numbers

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Since seizing the West Bank in 1967, Israel has held full control over all planning matters for both Palestinians and Jewish settlers in an area covering over 60 percent of the territory.

Although settlers can secure building permits with ease, the opposite applies for Palestinians who are forced to build illegally, with Israel bulldozing hundreds of such structures every year, rights groups say.

Villages vs. settlements Over 60 percent – around 360,000 hectares – of the West Bank is classified as Area C, which Israel aims to retain under any final settlement. This is where Israel has full control over security and also civilian affairs which are managed by the Civil Administration.

U.N. figures show there are an estimated 298,000 Palestinians living in Area C, in 532 residential areas. There are also 341,000 Israelis living in 135 settlements and 100 or so unauthorized outposts.

Less than 1 percent of Area C is designated for Palestinian development, compared to 70 percent which falls within the domain of local settlements, the U.N. says. Palestinian construction in the rest of Area C is subject to severe restrictions and almost impossible to carry out.

Demolition orders vs. permitsSince the 1993 Oslo autonomy accords were signed, Israel has issued more than 14,600 demolition orders, according to Israeli planning rights watchdog Bimkom.

So far, about 2,925 structures have actually been demolished.

Bimkom architect Alon Cohen Lifschitz estimates there are an average of two structures per order, meaning that over the past two decades, Israel has issued demolition notices to nearly 30,000 Palestinian-owned structures.

Last year, Israel issued 911 demolition orders on grounds of a lack of building permits. There are currently more than 9,100 outstanding demolition orders which can be implemented, Bimkom says.

Structures can include anything from a house to an animal shed, a road or fence, foundations, infrastructure, cisterns, cemeteries and solar panels. Since 1996, Israel has granted only a few hundred building permits for Palestinian structures.

According to Amnesty International, there were 76 building permits issued to Palestinians between 1996 and 1999. And from 2000-2014, only 206 building permits were issued, Bimkom says. In 2014, Israel granted a single permit.

Two-tier planning system

In Area C, a two-tier planning system operates based on ethnic-national background: a civil and representative system for Jewish settlers, and a military system without representation for Palestinians, Israeli NGO Rabbis for Human Rights says.

In planning for Palestinian villages, the objectives are to limit land use and encourage dense construction, whereas in the settlements, the trend is often the opposite – to include as much area as possible, producing low density, it says.

Honor the Vietnamese, Not Those Who Killed Them

  • http://monthlyreview.org/2015/05/01/honor-the-vietnamese-not-those-who-killed-them/

    Michael D. Yates is Associate Editor of Monthly Review and Editorial Director of Monthly Review Press. He thanks John Bellamy Foster, John Marciano, Henry Giroux, and Elly Leary for helpful comments.

    Honor the Vietnamese, Not Those Who Killed Them

    by Michael D. Yates, May 2015

    In a letter to Vietnam War veteran Charles McDuff, Major General Franklin Davis, Jr. said, “The United States Army has never condoned wanton killing or disregard for human life.” McDuff had written a letter to President Richard Nixon in January 1971, telling him that he had witnessed U.S. soldiers abusing and killing Vietnamese civilians and informing him that many My Lais had taken place during the war.[1] He pleaded with Nixon to bring the killing to an end. The White House sent the letter to the general, and this was his reply.

    McDuff’s letter and Davis’s response are quoted in Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, the most recent book to demonstrate beyond doubt that the general’s words were a lie.[2] Not only did the United States ravage Vietnam with unprecedented and murderous ferocity, committing war crimes in nearly every village, but this criminal conduct was official government policy. The United States prosecuted the war with a Frederick Taylor-like efficiency and an engineer’s impersonal input-output calculation, with maximum Vietnamese deaths as standard operating procedure.[3]

    In what follows, I use Turse’s work, along with several other books, articles, and films, as scaffolds from which to construct an analysis of how the war was conducted, what its consequences have been for the Vietnamese, how the nature of the war generated ferocious opposition to it (not least by a brave core of U.S. soldiers), how the war’s history has been whitewashed, and why it is important to both know what happened in Vietnam and why we should not forget it.

    McNamara’s Business Model of War

    Robert McNamara, President Lyndon Johnson’s secretary of defense, was the chief architect of the U.S. war strategy.[4] A logistics expert who streamlined Allied bombing runs during the Second World War, and later president of Ford Motor Company, McNamara believed that winning a war was simply a matter of setting a goal that would result in victory and then using the managerial techniques he had mastered to get the job done. The goal was to get the “kill ratio,” the proportion between enemy and U.S. dead, as high as possible, so that a “crossover point” was reached—that is, more enemy soldiers killed than could be replaced. Then, inevitably, the Vietnamese would no longer be able to resist the U.S. war machine, surrender, and sue for peace.

    A way to envision what McNamara did is to imagine the war in Vietnam in terms of a capitalist production process. Instead of the accumulation of money capital as the motor force of the system, substitute the accumulation of dead enemy bodies. The U.S. government, through its military, sought to maximize these. However, as McNamara and his superiors and generals knew, their enemy employed guerilla warfare, refusing to fight set battles, attacking and then disappearing into the rural landscape. U.S. troops could not easily distinguish soldiers from civilians. Every Vietnamese might be a soldier, even women and children. While no one would admit it, continuously increasing the kill ratio necessarily meant killing as many civilians as possible. And even if it were assumed that any given group of Vietnamese were civilians, the more of them murdered, the more enemy troops would be exposed, and the fewer replacements for those killed would be available.

    As former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld put it in the context of the current “War on Terror,” the best way that the United States could combat the terrorists was “to drain the swamp they live in.”[5] Kill the noncombatants, and only the enemy soldiers will be left. They would no longer have a swamp in which to hide. From the beginning of the war, therefore, killing civilians was a U.S. policy that flowed directly from the goal of maximizing the kill ratio. Killing civilians violates the rules of engagement and is a war crime, so great pains were taken to disguise these as lives taken in battle, and Turse offers numerous examples of this. One common practice was to stage a dead civilian as a soldier by placing an enemy weapon nearby. However, this often was not necessary as commanding officers were almost always willing to simply take the word of a lieutenant or captain at the scene.

    Enemy dead minus U.S. dead (the kill ratio defined as a difference) is not the same as revenue minus cost (profits); it has to be monetized to keep the accumulation juggernaut rolling along. Monetization occurred through the auspices of the U.S. government, which we can think of as a gigantic firm with huge cash reserves and an unlimited line of credit, not just at home but around the world. Taxes could be increased, bonds could be sold, money could be printed, and—given the world’s use of the dollar as the primary reserve currency—payments deficits could be run indefinitely with just about any nation. Money would be provided until the war ended in victory.

    As any employer knows, the essence of management is control. Given the aim of a maximum kill ratio, every aspect of the production process had to be coordinated as finely as possible. Several kinds of control were important. First, there had to be enough workers (soldiers and support personnel). A virtually unlimited supply of soldiers was guaranteed through the draft. Young men whose families were well-situated and politically influential could avoid the draft through various means, so they would not likely be vocal opponents of the war, an assumption that later proved incorrect. Poor whites, blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians were considered economically expendable and sending them off to war was a way to contain any discontent and agitation they might have exhibited at home.

    Once drafted, soldiers had to be taught to kill. It is not normal for one person to murder another, and there are powerful social taboos against doing so. Researchers had discovered that in nineteenth and twentieth-century wars, soldiers regularly failed to fire their rifles, or intentionally aimed to miss their targets. Military leaders responded to this by dramatically altering the methods used to train troops.[6] They sought to forge extreme group solidarity in two ways. First, drill instructors subjected new recruits to constant torment bordering on torture. If you deprive trainees of food and sleep, force them to make long marches under adverse conditions, punish them severely for any failure to obey orders no matter how ridiculous and demeaning, you break down their defenses and make them willing to do whatever you say, in other words forging them into a homogeneous mass, a unit that will act as one.[7] Not adhering to what any rational person would consider an insane regimen becomes unthinkable. Failure to do so marks you as a “sissy,” “fag,” “cunt,” or “girl,” and subjects you to physical and emotional torment from both superiors and comrades. Second, instructors then tied their charges’ misery to the evil intentions of subhuman foreigners, in the case of Vietnam, to the “gooks,” “slopes,” “slant eyes,” “yellow bastards,” and “the Cong.” Exhausted, angry, afraid, they gradually embrace the chants of “kill the gooks, kill the gooks.” By the time they got to the war zones, they were ready to kill, not for a noble cause but for their buddies and because those they were going to murder were no different than the animals they might have hunted back home. Is it any wonder that more than a few U.S. troops were willing to kill civilians? In a hostile country, hot, dirty, diseased from constant marches and firefights in jungle terrain, seeing their buddies blown to pieces, beginning to wonder why they were there, constantly pressured to keep their kills high and rewarded for doing so, they were not always averse to shooting people, torturing them, raping women, and generating as much violent mayhem as possible.[8]

    And lest we think that the rank-and-file soldiers were primarily to blame for the slaughter, their officers were too often bloodthirsty racist killers, seeing the war as the ticket to career advancement—Colin Powell, who helped cover up My Lai, is a case in point—and no doubt frequently believing that what they taught the grunts about the Vietnamese was true. As chief commanding officer William Westmoreland infamously said, “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner…. We value life and human dignity. They don’t care about life and human dignity.”[9] It was the officers who directed the soldiers; it was they who covered up the war crimes; it was they who devised the methods of torture employed in the field; and it was they who devised the evermore sadistic tactics that resulted in the orders to “kill anything that moves.”

    In addition to its own soldiers, the United States also employed troops (mercenaries, in effect) from South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries, as well as civilian and quasi-military support personnel. It also paid for much of the military of South Vietnam, which while ostensibly independent, was in reality subject to U.S. control. All of these were onboard with the McNamara program, and some of them added their own unique talents to the killing. Psyops (psychological operations), the establishment of “strategic hamlets” to house those forced from their homes and farms, assassination campaigns, and torture techniques were employed by these personnel throughout the war.[10]

    A production process requires nonhuman inputs, what Marx calls constant capital. In Vietnam this mainly comprised weapons of mass destruction, from Claymore mines, tanks, helicopter gunships, battleships, and B-52 bombers to napalm, Agent Orange, white phosphorus, and other ingredients from the enormous U.S chemical arsenal. The United States had a virtually unlimited supply of these means of death, and it had a limitless willingness to employ them. Soldiers of all ranks were trained to utilize mass destruction machinery in every situation, even those where “collateral damage” to civilians was inevitable.

    So now, we have money capital (from the enormous funds of the U.S. government) transformed into capital in the form of labor power and constant capital. These were then combined on the battlefields as efficiently as possible, with a labor process controlled through the rigorous training of the soldiers and support personnel, who would do what they were told or would act automatically to make certain that the kill ratio was high and rising.

    Finally, the kill ratio had to be “sold” so that the accumulation of dead bodies could be expanded. This was not done, of course, in the traditional way of selling. Rather, it was sold through diligent and relentless propaganda, fed to the press, the general public, and the politicians who ultimately had to agree on continual funding. There was always “light at the end of the tunnel.” The United States was slowly but surely winning the “hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese. The puppet governments the United States put in power in South Vietnam were committed to democracy and the people were flocking to their banners.

    To make these absurd claims plausible, all manner of lies had to be repeated to keep ugly truths from the light of day. The military and the state were adept at this. Few enlisted soldiers and almost no officers were prosecuted for the thousands of war crimes they committed. Those that were received minimal sentences. And no matter how dramatic the horrors that did get investigated and published, such as the mass murder at My Lai, the government was able to contain the damage by waiting for the certain waning of public interest and outrage, while trotting out the argument that such horrendous events were rare and the work of “a few bad apples.”

    Thus, the capital expended in the production of corpses was repeatedly monetized and the accumulation of capital proceeded apace.

    Judged by the carnage, McNamara’s war by “scientific management” was a great success. Turse sums up what U.S. forces did: “Murder, torture, rape, abuse, forced displacement, home burnings, specious arrests, imprisonment without due process—such occurrences were virtually a daily fact of life throughout the years of the American presence in Vietnam.”[11] He gives hundreds of examples, enough to convince us that these barbarous acts were official policy. Turse also made tours of the Vietnamese countryside and found that in every village, no matter how small and isolated, peasants had constructed memorials with the names of dead villagers, many victims of unreported, routine atrocities.

    Turse also gives several accounts of colonels and generals who monomaniacally pursued high kill ratios by whatever means possible. In February 1968, General Julian Ewell gained command of the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam, a densely populated area of more than 5 million people. Ewell and his subordinate, Colonel Ira Hunt, proceeded to go “berserk,” directing the killing of so many civilians that he won the nickname “Butcher of the Delta.” The 9th Infantry Division he commanded had been averaging a kill ratio of about nine, that is, nine dead enemy for every U.S. soldier killed. Spurred on by the government’s Operation Speedy Express—set in motion because President Johnson and his war planners wanted the Delta under the control of the South Vietnamese government pending upcoming peace talks with North Vietnam—as well as his own psychosis, Ewell initiated a reign of terror. Fourteen months later, the kill ratio was an astonishing 134. Given the way the Vietnamese liberation forces fought, refusing to engage in large-scale battles, nearly all of the dead had to be civilians.

    The Toll of the War on the Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians

    While it is important to provide verifiable evidence of the war crimes the United States committed in Vietnam, it is also useful to supply data on the overall tolls of death, injury, and social and ecological ruin heaped upon the Vietnamese and their country. The following summary data, which include damage done to Cambodia and Laos, countries to which the war spread as a result of secret U.S. bombing campaigns, still have the power to shock:[12]

  • As many as 1.7 million revolutionary forces were killed.
  • About a quarter-million South Vietnamese soldiers were killed.
  • More than 65,000 North Vietnamese civilians died, mainly victims of U.S. bombing raids, which targeted factories, hospitals, schools, and dikes, more or less indiscriminately killing people.
  • At least 4 million Vietnamese died as a direct result of the war, which means that at least 2 million civilians perished at the hands of U.S. forces and their mercenary brethren. When the war commenced in earnest in the 1960s, Vietnam’s population was 19 million. An incredible 21 percent of this population therefore perished. In 1960 the U.S. population was about 180 million. Imagine a war that killed nearly 38 million Americans.
  • Turse’s sources estimate the extent of civilian wounded as follows: “A brief accounting shows 8,000 to 16,000 South Vietnamese paraplegics; 30,000 to 60,000 South Vietnamese left blind; and some 83,000 to 166,000 South Vietnamese amputees.” Total civilian wounded were at least 5.3 million.[13]
  • More bombs were dropped on Vietnam than by all sides in all previous wars throughout history, and three times more than by all sides in the Second World War.
  • 19 million gallons of herbicide poisoned the land.
  • 9,000 of 15,000 hamlets were destroyed in South Vietnam.
  • In the North, all six industrial cities were devastated; twenty-eight of thirty provincial towns, and 96 of 116 district towns, were leveled by bombing.
  • The United States threatened to use nuclear weapons thirteen times. Nixon chided his national security advisor and soon-to-be secretary of state Henry Kissinger for being too squeamish about this and the massive bombing of the North Nixon ordered in 1972. Nixon said he, himself, just did not give a damn.[14]
  • After the war, unexploded bombs and mines permeated the landscape and took an additional 42,000 lives. Millions of acres have still not been cleared of live ordnance.
  • Agent Orange and other defoliants have caused severe health problems for millions of Vietnamese.
  • Nearly all of Vietnam’s triple canopy forests were destroyed.
  • 3 million tons of ordnance struck 100,000 sites during the “secret” war in Cambodia, causing widespread social dislocation, destruction of crops, and starvation. The U.S. bombing campaign in Cambodia was directly responsible for the rise of the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot and the genocide that took place afterward (The United States actually sided with Pol Pot when Vietnamese troops finally ended his reign of terror).
  • 2,756,941 tons of ordnance were dropped in Laos on 113,716 sites. Much of the Laotian landscape was blown to bits.
  • The Fatal Flaws in McNamara’s Business of War Model

    Yet, despite the carnage, the revolutionaries continued their fight for freedom, year after year, ultimately defeating the United States as they had done the French in the years following the Second World War. What went wrong with McNamara’s invincible plan? The most important flaw in it was the failure to conceptualize his grand production scheme in terms of social relationships, not just in the “workplace” but in the larger societies of Vietnam and the United States. The Vietnamese had a thousand-year history of resisting oppression by other nations and empires; they took a long view of life and were willing to sacrifice themselves in larger numbers than the United States imagined possible to secure their independence. As Francis Fitzgerald noted in Fire in the Lake, those who prosecuted the war knew precious little about Vietnamese history, culture, and language.[15]

    No folly could have been greater than believing that kill ratios were all that mattered. The war occurred during a period of a worldwide anti-imperialist struggle, providing the revolutionaries with needed moral support, even from millions of protesters in most of the rich capitalist countries. In the United States, a majority supported the war until the late 1960s, but a vibrant antiwar movement developed, often spearheaded by the middle-class youth who had avoided the draft. The Soviet Union and some other countries gave material aid to the Vietnamese revolutionaries. The United States could not risk the possible consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, given that its Cold War foe was well-armed with them.

    Inside the war “workplace,” contradictions abounded. Just as workers bear grievances against their bosses, grievances that sometimes led to collective action, rank-and-file soldiers came into conflict with their commanding officers. Black conscripts, influenced by the civil rights movement at home, including the rise of the anti-imperialist Black Panther Party—which specifically tied the imperialism underlying the war to the racism perpetrated by white America—began to question why they were fighting against non-white men and women waging a war of national liberation when they needed to free themselves from racist repression.[16] Some soldiers recoiled at the wanton violence they saw perpetrated by a military claiming to be fighting so that the Vietnamese were free to establish democracy.[17] GIs were not unaware of the protests at home or the hypocrisy of U.S. politicians and the corruption of the South Vietnamese military and government. The culture of the 1960s found fertile ground as well, and drug use became commonplace, if for no other reason than to escape the boredom and horror that was daily life in the field.

    As the war dragged on, morale plunged, and few wanted to risk their lives for nothing, especially as they got close to the end of their one-year tour of duty. Soldiers began to refuse orders to fight, and it was not altogether uncommon for soldiers to murder (“frag”) their officers. The astounding 1971 report of Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr. is instructive. He said:

    The morale, discipline and battle worthiness of the U.S. Armed Forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at any time in this century and possibly in the history of the United States.

    By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and noncommissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near mutinous.[18]

    And he goes on to provide a remarkably large number of examples: fragging (in one division such incidents were occurring at a rate of one per week in 1971), bounties for the killing of officers, mass refusals to obey orders or even report for combat, refusal to wear uniforms, open agitation on military bases against the war, lawsuits against officers, widespread addiction to heroin, and desertion (sometimes involving joining the enemy forces). The absolute control necessary for McNamara’s strategy had become a shambles. Wars can only be won by troops on the ground fighting; if the troops will not fight, a war is lost.

    The Soldiers’ Revolt

    Unlike workers fired in a strike and barred from the employer’s property, dissident soldiers eventually were discharged and came back to the United States as citizens with the same formal rights as everyone else. While most veterans simply wanted to forget the war and return to normal lives, a sizeable number had become so disenchanted with it and traumatized by what they had seen and done that they felt the need to make amends. They began to seek each other out, and from there, sometimes in alliance with the burgeoning antiwar movement but mostly on their own, formed organizations aimed at making the public aware of the horrors of the war. These dealt with specific issues like the treatment of veterans in Veterans Affairs hospitals, something later made famous by the movie Born on the Fourth of July, as well as the larger matter of ending the war. The organizations established by veterans also served cathartic purposes; by talking with one another, former combatants could begin to come to grips with their often ghastly experiences. The most well-known and enduring group was the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Founded in 1967, it was over the next decade, “a vanguard group for Maoists; a campaign headquarters for Democrats; a vehicle for activists to plan large-scale demonstrations; a meeting place for rap groups; an information center for war crimes hearings; a gathering spot for poets; a rehabilitation home for drug addicts.”[19]

    VVAW consistently agitated to increase opposition to the war, and it employed a wide array of tactics to do so: participation in antiwar demonstrations; publicly throwing away Purple Hearts and other medals of valor; circulating petitions; conducting long marches, complete with guerilla theater that mimicked war atrocities; protests at national political conventions; occupations of public buildings and monuments, including the Statue of Liberty; publishing newsletters; and the famous Winter Soldier Investigation held in Detroit in 1971 in which veterans bore witness to the war crimes and atrocities committed by U.S. troops and the U.S. government in Vietnam. Membership peaked at about 25,000, but the VVAW’s influence was much greater. It reinvigorated the antiwar movement; won adherents to the antiwar banner simply because veterans had instant credibility with much of the public, and could not be accused of elitism as most of them were solidly working class; and brought home to normally complacent Americans, including some of the veterans’ parents, exactly what their sons had done in the war. It was the first time in U.S. history that large numbers of soldiers spoke openly, honestly, and publicly about the folly of war and the costs to human beings and societies of allowing young men (and today young women) to engage in senseless murder.

    Andrew E. Hunt ends The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War by stating that the VVAW “contributed significantly to ending the war in Vietnam.”[20] Much the same can be said about all of the activities of the antiwar veterans. They participated in teach-ins, taught classes, produced vibrant art and literature, organized antiwar coffee houses near military bases, published an abundance of newspapers, pamphlets, and posters, helped on-duty soldiers form unions and fight legal battles, aided those seeking asylum in Canada and other countries, and much more. They were in the forefront of those who visited Vietnam after the war to make common cause with the Vietnamese and do what they could to aid in the rebuilding of the nation. They have been tireless reminders of what was done in the name of the United States.[21]

    Michael Uhl, a longtime veteran activist and author of Vietnam Awakening, rightly criticizes Nick Turse for both ignoring and downplaying the significance of what thousands of antiwar veterans did. First, Turse’s discoveries were not new. Much of what he tells us was made public by veterans more than forty years ago. In a recent essay, Uhl wrote:

    In his [Turse’s] account antiwar veterans appear, not as a movement making history, but as a handful of individual “whistle-blowers within the ranks or recently out of the army…” whose denunciations were “marginalized and ignored.” For the rest, Turse buries our unprecedented story in a thicket of footnotes, devoid of their original contexts, and where only a disciplined scholar might be able to reassemble them into anything approximating what actually occurred. A reader may judge for herself, if the public testimonies[22] on U.S. war crimes policies in Vietnam delivered by antiwar veterans during the final years of the conflict were, as Turse suggests, “marginalized and ignored.” She might discover that the veterans were being heard at the time, if not listened to, much more than Turse is today…. He characterizes as pitiful Movement efforts to reveal the true nature of the war through “pamphlets, small press books and underground newspapers,” that, if even glancingly noticed by empowered insiders, were dismissed as “leftist kookery.”[23]
    Uhl also chastises Turse for focusing more attention on atrocities committed by individual soldiers and not enough on the more deadly consequences of decisions made by those with power. Again, there is truth in this. While most soldiers must have observed or known about atrocities, only a small minority committed them. The major war criminals were presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, their advisors like McNamara and Kissinger, and the top military commanders, almost none of whom showed remorse—much less fought to end the war, as many veterans did. These men should all have been marched off to prison. People were executed for less during the Nuremburg trials after the Second World War. In any event, the principled response of the antiwar veterans did as much as anything to end the war, surely as much as what the rest of the movement accomplished. It is no accident that, as Hunt points out, Nixon and his warmongering staff were obsessed with the VVAW. One of the reasons why the Watergate burglary took place was to connect Nixon’s presidential election opponent George McGovern to the antiwar veterans.[24] Those “empowered insiders” Turse references might have seen the veterans and the complete breakdown of military command as proof positive that the war was a lost cause.

    Whitewashing the War from Jimmy Carter to Obama’s Vietnam War Commemoration

    In his article, Uhl asks whether we will ever come to grips with Vietnam. He informs us that today a majority of young Americans, age eighteen to twenty-nine, think that sending troops to Vietnam was not a mistake. This is sad, though my long experience as a teacher, who lectured often about the war, tells me that it is not a surprise. Our political rulers, much of the mainstream media, along with some scholars, filmmakers, right-wing think tanks, and the military establishment, have continued ever since 1975, when the North Vietnamese Army and the National Liberation Front achieved final victory and liberated their country, to both extinguish the truth of the war from public memory and construct a false history in its place. First, President Jimmy Carter declared, without an ounce of shame, that the United States had nothing for which to apologize because the destruction had been “mutual.”[25] Then, President Ronald Reagan called the war “a noble cause.”

    Now President Barack Obama has proclaimed a “Vietnam War Commemoration.”[26] The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act empowered the Secretary of Defense to organize events to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the War in Vietnam. The act envisions a thirteen-year commemoration, from Memorial Day 2012 until November 11, 2025. Obama issued a proclamation on the first day of this celebration, containing these remarkable words:

    As we observe the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, we reflect with solemn reverence upon the valor of a generation that served with honor. We pay tribute to the more than 3 million servicemen and women who left their families to serve bravely, a world away from everything they knew and everyone they loved. From Ia Drang to Khe Sanh, from Hue to Saigon and countless villages in between, they pushed through jungles and rice paddies, heat and monsoon, fighting heroically to protect the ideals we hold dear as Americans. Through more than a decade of combat, over air, land, and sea, these proud Americans upheld the highest traditions of our Armed Forces.[27]

    This is a lie from beginning to end. We would never know from this that, in addition to the carnage enumerated above,

  • The CIA in its Phoenix Program assassinated tens of thousands of Vietnamese suspected of being insurgents or sympathizers. U.S. social scientists, engineers, and scientists participated in this.[28]
  • More than 5 million Vietnamese were forcibly removed from their villages and compelled to live in squalid “Strategic Hamlets.”
  • Thousands of Vietnamese political prisoners were jailed and tortured in “tiger cages,” left either to die or to suffer debilitating physical and mental illnesses.

    What kind of valorous efforts were these? What kind of grand ideals did these embody?

    The Commemoration website tells us that the secretary of defense is to organize all of the Commemoration’s programs to satisfy these objectives:

  • To thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war (POW), or listed as missing in action (MIA), for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans.
  • To highlight the service of the Armed Forces during the Vietnam War and the contributions of Federal agencies and governmental and non-governmental organizations that served with, or in support of, the Armed Forces.
  • To pay tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the Vietnam War.
  • To highlight the advances in technology, science, and medicine related to military research conducted during the Vietnam War.
    To recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the allies of the United States during the Vietnam War.
  • These are all awful, but the fourth one would make the Nazis proud. Someday, no doubt, there will be a commemoration of the War on Terror (if it ever ends), and we will learn how this war gave us the marvel of drones.

    Protests against this celebration of the war have been mounted, especially as we approach the beginning of events on Memorial Day this year (2015) when, according to Lieutenant General Claude M. Kicklighter, “we will begin to recruit the nation to get behind this effort in a very big way.”[29] Famed antiwar protester Tom Hayden has spearheaded a petition drive to compel the government to give an accurate account of what happened during the war and to provide room in the remembrance for those who opposed it and to correct the egregious errors and omissions on the website’s timeline of the war. The My Lai massacre was initially called an “incident”; as a result of protest, this has been changed but the word “massacre” was not added. Historians have been critical as well, especially of the turmoil the war caused in the United States. Some antiwar veterans have called for an “alternative commemoration.”

    Other than the plans for separate oppositional events, these protests seem tepid, especially in light of the efforts to end the war noted in this essay. Hayden, for example, is not opposed to honoring the valor of U.S. soldiers, and he worries mainly that the military that got the country into the war is now in charge of memorializing it. But why should the valor of veterans be honored? Only the courage of those who opposed it, including the soldiers who did so at great risk, should be respected. And it is not true that the military got the United States into the war. Our political, economic, and intellectual elites did that. The qualms of the academics mirror those of Hayden; they seem nitpicky. The timeline, indeed the entire celebration, are exercises in imperial propaganda. What did anyone expect? Do not forget that President Carter quipped that “the destruction was mutual.” Why worry overmuch that these materials are, as the web site suggests, suitable for schools? Our kids are fed daily doses of falsehoods by their teachers, including those who teach in colleges. I will be heartened when as school districts accept materials prepared by those in charge of the commemoration, teachers and their unions refuse, en masse, to use them. I may have a long wait.

    It would be wonderful if the war were critically studied and its glorification subjected to massive public opposition combined with teach-ins, multimedia presentations, marches, and demonstrations. These could be directly tied to the interminable and deadly war on terror and the ongoing conversion of the United States into a police state.[30] They would serve as an estimable example of critical education, a counter to the hegemony, the pervasive influence of our political economy on all aspects of our lives. As Henry Giroux reminds us, one of the major functions of critical education is to keep historical memory alive, to give witness to the truth of the past so that the politics of today is vibrantly democratic. We must always be suspicious of what the powerful tell us and supportive of all that is egalitarian and liberating. Historical memory in this instance functions as a form of public pedagogy that challenges not only the dominant narratives of “America’s disimagination machine” and its glorification of war but also attempts to change the way in which the American public thinks about the horrors committed in Vietnam and the scourge of state violence and militarism.[31] However, as we take Giroux’s arguments to heart, we should stress foremost what the United States did to the Vietnamese and how these valiant people resisted and defeated the most powerful military on earth. Great damage was done to U.S. soldiers, and those who survived still suffer the agony of that long ago war. However, these pale by comparison to the brutality suffered by the Vietnamese, a violence still very much alive in the daily lives of the people in that much tried nation. It is they we should honor, commemorate, remember. They fought more valiantly and suffered more for their liberation from foreign rule than we ever did for our own. What they suffered and what they did should inspire us to redouble our efforts to combat U.S. war-making and imperialism and to educate, agitate, and build new organizations aimed at the construction of an egalitarian society worthy of human beings.

    Notes

    ↩On March 16, 1968, U.S. Army soldiers slaughtered perhaps as many as 500 unarmed civilians in two Vietnamese hamlets, one of which the Army had on its maps as My Lai. Hence the name “My Lai massacre.”
    ↩Nick Turse, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2013).
    ↩Turse’s book took shape by accident. While researching post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among Vietnam veterans, Turse was asked by an archivist at the National Archives if PTSD could be triggered by witnessing war crimes. He led Turse to a trove of old files describing investigations into such transgressions by a secret Pentagon task force, charged with investigating them so that the military would be prepared for the next My Lai massacre. With this as the foundation for what would become his book, the author began a search for war crimes in Vietnam. This led him to other public archives, private archives and letters, scores of interviews with public officials, more than one hundred interviews with U.S. war veterans, trips to Vietnam where he interviewed Vietnamese who suffered grave personal mistreatment and family losses and where he visited many village war memorials, and all of the relevant secondary literature. The result is a searing indictment of the U.S. government and its top military officers, and descriptions of torture, murder, and the ruination of the Vietnamese landscape that are difficult to read.
    ↩McNamara was also President Kennedy’s secretary of defense. While there are those who believe that Kennedy would never have sent in the troops that Johnson did, Kennedy was a committed Cold Warrior. The fact that McNamara did what he did under Johnson suggests that Kennedy, by choosing him, was hardly a dove on Vietnam.
    ↩Kathleen T. Rhem, “Rumsfeld on Terrorists: Drain the Swamp They Live In,” September 18, 2001, http://defense.gov.
    ↩See Vicki Haddock, “The Science of Creating Killers,” August 13, 2006, http://sfgate.com.
    ↩The training of soldiers has much in common with the training of torturers, that is, the conversion of ordinary human beings into people willing to commit horrendous acts of violence. See Janice T. Gibson and Mika Haritos-Fatouros, “The Education of a Torturer,” Psychology Today 20, no. 6 (November 1986): 246–51.
    ↩According to Turse, incentives for producing dead bodies “ranged from ‘R& R’ (rest and recreation) passes, which might allow a soldier several days of fun in the sun at a beach resort, to medals, badges, extra food, extra beer, permission to wear nonregulation gear, and light duty at base camp.” Turse, Kill Anything That Moves, Kindle Edition, 44.
    ↩Westmoreland made this statement in the film Hearts and Minds (1974).
    ↩As Graham Greene’s novel, The Quiet American, makes clear, “support personnel” had been in Vietnam for many years before the major troop buildup in the mid-1960s. Graham Greene, The Quiet American (London: Penguin Classics, 2004), originally published in 1955.
    ↩Turse, Kill Anything That Moves, Kindle Edition, 6.
    ↩Ibid, 11–13; Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States (New York: Gallery Books, 2012), chapter 10.
    ↩Turse, Kill Anything That Moves, Kindle Edition, 13.
    ↩Stone and Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, Kindle Edition, Location 8714-8729.
    ↩Frances Fitzgerald, Fire in the Lake: The Americans and Vietnamese in Vietnam (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1972).
    ↩Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin, Black Against Empire: the History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013). As Muhammad Ali said in explaining his refusal to be inducted into the army in 1967: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” “Muhammad Ali Explains His Refusal to Fight in Vietnam (1967),” http://alphahistory.com.
    ↩A few brave soldiers reported atrocities to superiors. This was dangerous to do; the person who did it risked retribution from superiors and fellow soldiers, including violence, even death. The film Casualties of War (1989), based on actual events, gives a frightening depiction of this.
    ↩Col. Robert D. Heinl, Jr., “The Collapse of the Armed Forces,” Armed Forces Journal, June 7, 1971, https://msuweb.montclair.edu.
    ↩Andrew E. Hunt, The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (New York: NYU Press, 1999), Kindle Locations 4005-4007.
    ↩Ibid, Kindle Locations 4160-4161.
    ↩Good accounts of the work of the antiwar veterans can be found in the films, Sir! No Sir! (2005) and Winter Soldier Investigation (1972), as well as the Hunt book cited above, and James Simon Kunen, Standard Operating Procedure: Notes of a Draft-age American (New York: Avon, 1971). The two films were generously sent to me by David Sladky. The documentary film Same, Same but Different tells the moving story of veterans who have returned to Vietnam to aid in the rebuilding of the country.
    ↩Uhl provides a link here to Michael Uhl, “A Clipping File of Veteran War Crimes Testimony Circa 1969–1971,” April 5, 2013, http://inthemindfield.com.
    ↩Michael Uhl, “An Enfant Terrible Stumbles Upon the Vietnam War,” April 9, 2013, http://counterpunch.org. See also Michael Uhl, Vietnam Awakening: My Journey from Combat to the Citizens’ Commission of Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam (Jefferson, NC: McFarland Publishing, 2007).
    ↩Hunt, The Turning, Kindle Location 4136-4144.
    ↩Jimmy Carter, “The President’s News Conference,” March 24, 1977, The American Presidency Project, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu.
    ↩The information in the next three paragraphs, unless otherwise noted, is taken from the Commemoration’s web site: http://vietnamwar50th.com/. I first reported on this in 2013; see Michael D. Yates, “Oliver Stone, Obama, and the War in Vietnam,” January 11, 2013, http://cheapmotelsandahotplate.org.
    ↩President of the United States of America, “Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War,” May 25, 2012,
    ↩http://vietnamwar50th.com. This is the opening paragraph. It gets worse: “As a grateful Nation, we honor more than 58,000 patriots–their names etched in black granite–who sacrificed all they had and all they would ever know. We draw inspiration from the heroes who suffered unspeakably as prisoners of war, yet who returned home with their heads held high. We pledge to keep faith with those who were wounded and still carry the scars of war, seen and unseen. With more than 1,600 of our service members still among the missing, we pledge as a Nation to do everything in our power to bring these patriots home. In the reflection of The Wall, we see the military family members and veterans who carry a pain that may never fade. May they find peace in knowing their loved ones endure, not only in medals and memories, but in the hearts of all Americans, who are forever grateful for their service, valor, and sacrifice.”
    ↩Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program (Bloomington, IN: iUnivererse: 2000).
    ↩Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Paying Respects, Pentagon Revives Vietnam, and War Over Truth,” New York Times, October 9, 2014, http://nytimes.com.
    ↩The film The Kill Team shows that the same kind of training and the same killing of civilians as in Vietnam is still standard operating procedure in Iraq and Afghanistan. For more on the war on terror and the incipient U.S. police state, see Henry A. Giroux, Zombie Politics in the Age of Casino Capitalism, 2nd edition (New York: Peter Lang, 2014).
    ↩Current government expenditures, excluding interest on government debt, are less than tax revenues. There can be a primary surplus but an overall deficit if total government spending, including interest payments, is more than tax revenues.
    References

    In preparing this essay, I was aided by the following works:

    Books

    Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin, Black Against Empire: the History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013).
    Philip Caputo, A Rumor of War (New York: Macmillan, 1977).
    Frances Fitzgerald, Fire in the Lake: The Americans and Vietnamese in Vietnam (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1972).
    Võ Nguyên Giáp, The Military Art of People’s War (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970).
    Graham Greene, The Quiet American (London: Penguin Classics, 2004 Reprint Edition; originally published in 1955).
    David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest (New York: Random House, 1972).
    Michael Herr, Dispatches (New York: Knopf, 1977).
    Andrew E. Hunt, The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (New York: NYU Press, 1999).
    James Simon Kunen, Standard Operating Procedure: Notes of a Draft-age American (New York: Avon, 1971).
    Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990).
    Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States (New York: Gallery Books, 2012)
    Nick Turse, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2013).
    Michael Uhl, Vietnam Awakening: My Journey from Combat to the Citizens’ Commission of Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam (Jefferson, NC: McFarland Publishing, 2007).
    Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program (Bloomington, IN: iUnivererse: 2000).
    Articles

    Leo Cawley, “An Ex-Marine Sees Platoon,” Monthly Review 39, no. 2 (June 1987): 6–18.
    Col. Robert D. Heinl, Jr., “The Collapse of the Armed Forces,” Armed Forces Journal, June 7, 1971, https://msuweb.montclair.edu.
    Neil Sheehan, “Should We Have War Crimes Trials?,” New York Times Book Review, March 28, 1971, https://msuweb.montclair.edu.
    Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Paying Respects, Pentagon Revives Vietnam, and War Over Truth,” New York Times, October 9, 2014, http://nytimes.com.
    Films

    Anderson Platoon, The (1967)
    Apocalypse Now (1979)
    Berkeley in the Sixties (1990)
    Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
    Casualties of War (1989)
    Deer Hunter, The (1978)
    Fog of War, The (2003)
    Full Metal Jacket (1987)
    Hearts and Minds (1974)
    Kill Team, The (2013)
    Most Dangerous Man in America, The (2009)
    Platoon (1986)
    Quiet American, The (1958 and 2002)
    Same, Same But Different (2012)
    Sir! No Sir! (2005)
    Untold History of the United States, The, Showtime Television series (2012)
    Vietnam: American Holocaust (2008)
    Winter Soldier Investigation (1972)

Truth – Justice – Peace