Friday, December 18, 2009

Obama's Disingenuous Nobel Acceptance Speech

Obama receives the Peace Prize. Photo: White House.

A Lesson on Nonviolence for the President
By Eric Stoner / December 17, 2009

In Oslo last week, President Barack Obama ironically used his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize to deliver a lengthy defense of the "just war" theory and dismiss the idea that nonviolence is capable of addressing the world's most pressing problems.

After quoting Martin Luther King Jr. and giving his respects to Gandhi — two figures that Obama has repeatedly called personal heroes — the new peace laureate argued that he "cannot be guided by their examples alone" in his role as a head of state.

"I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people," he continued. "For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason."

Unfortunately, this key part of Obama's speech, which the media widely quoted in its coverage of the award ceremony, contains several logical inconsistencies and historical inaccuracies that tragically reveal Obama's profound ignorance of nonviolent alternatives to the use of military force.

The Power of Nonviolence

Almost immediately after acknowledging that there is "nothing weak — nothing passive — nothing naïve — in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King," Obama equated nonviolence with doing nothing.

To live and act nonviolently, however, never involves standing "idle in the face of threats." Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, Dave Dellinger, Daniel and Philip Berrigan, and countless other genuine peacemakers have put their lives on the line in the struggle for a more just world. Advocates of nonviolence, like Gandhi, simply believe that means and ends are inseparable – that responding in kind to an aggressor will only continue the cycle of violence.

"Destructive means cannot bring constructive ends, because the means represent the ideal-in-the-making and the end-in-progress," Martin Luther King explains in his book Strength to Love. "Immoral means cannot bring moral ends, for the ends are pre-existent in the means."

Therefore, to put it bluntly, it's impossible to create a world that truly respects life with fists, guns, and bombs. As A.J. Muste, a longtime leader of the labor, civil rights, and antiwar movements, famously said: "There is no way to peace — peace is the way."

Using a broad array of tactics — including strikes, boycotts, sit-ins, and protests — nonviolent movements have not only gained important rights for millions of oppressed people around the world, they have confronted, and successfully brought down, some of the most ruthless regimes of the last 100 years.

The courageous, everyday citizens who spoke out and took to the streets to stop the murderous reigns of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, and Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia, to name only a few examples from recent decades, were anything but passive in the face of evil.

Moreover, these incredible victories for nonviolence were not flukes. After analyzing 323 resistance campaigns over the last century, one important study published last year in the journal International Security, found that "major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns."

Victories Against Hitler

Contrary to Obama's speech and the dominant narrative about World War II, nonviolent movements in several different European countries were also remarkably successful in thwarting the Nazis.

In 1943, for instance, when the order finally came to round up the nearly 8,000 Jews in Denmark, Danes spontaneously hid them in their homes, hospitals, and other public institutions over the span of one night. Then, at great personal risk to those involved, a secret network of fishing vessels successfully ferried almost their entire Jewish population to neutral Sweden. The Nazis captured only 481 Jews, and thanks to continued Danish pressure, nearly 90% of those deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp survived the war.

In Bulgaria, important leaders of the Orthodox Church, along with farmers in the northern stretches of the country, threatened to lie across railroad tracks to prevent Jews from being deported. This popular pressure emboldened the Bulgarian parliament to resist the Nazis, who eventually rescinded the deportation order, saving almost all of the country's 48,000 Jews.

Even in Norway, where Obama accepted the peace prize, there was significant nonviolent resistance during the Second World War. When the Nazi-appointed Prime Minister Vidkun Quisling ordered teachers to teach fascism, an estimated 10,000 of the country's 12,000 teachers refused. A campaign of intimidation — which included sending over 1,000 male teachers to jails, concentration camps, and forced labor camps north of the Arctic Circle — failed to break the will of the teachers and sparked growing resentment throughout the country. After eight months, Quisling backed down and the teachers came home victorious.

Alternatives to the War on Terror

Obama's rejection of negotiations as a possible solution to terrorism also doesn't square with the evidence. After analyzing hundreds of terrorist groups that have operated over the last 40 years, a RAND corporation study published last year concluded that military force is almost never successful at stopping terrorism. The vast majority of terrorist groups that ended during that period "were penetrated and eliminated by local police and intelligence agencies (40%), or they reached a peaceful political accommodation with their government (43%)." In other words, negotiation is clearly possible.

For his book, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, University of Chicago professor Robert Pape created a database on every suicide bombing from 1980 to 2004. Pape found that, rather than being driven by religion, the vast majority of suicide bombers — responsible for over 95% of all incidents on record — were primarily motivated by a desire to compel a democratic government to withdraw its military forces from land they saw as their homeland.

"Since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism," Pape said in an interview with The American Conservative, "the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim societies over there, if you would, is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at us."

Apart from pulling U.S. troops out of the Middle East, calling off the deadly campaign of drone attacks, and ending military, economic, and diplomatic support for repressive regimes in the region, how can the threat of terrorism be best minimized? A recent article in the Independent by Johann Hari may provide an answer.

Through interviews with 17 radical Islamic ex-jihadis over the course of a year, Hari discovered that they all told strikingly similar stories about what drew them to extremism, and what eventually got them out. They all felt alienated growing up in Britain, and connected their personal experiences to the persecution of Muslims around the world. In most cases, however, coming into contact with Westerners who took the values of democracy and human rights seriously, opposed the wars against Muslim countries, and engaged in ordinary acts of kindness first made them question whether they were on the right path.

As I silently carried a cardboard coffin from the UN headquarters in New York to the military recruiting center in Times Square during a protest on the day of Obama's speech, I couldn't help but cringe to think of the president justifying the deployment of 30,000 more troops to the "graveyard of empires." Every nonviolent alternative has not been exhausted. In reality, they have yet to be tried.

Source / Foreign Policy in Focus

Fluxed Up World

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Israeli War Crimes

At last, we are beginning to see war crimes charges levelled against Israeli politicians, in this case, preventing former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni from travelling to the UK.

And then there's this additional bit of truth and justice being served out.

UK issues new guidance on labelling of food from illegal West Bank settlements
By Ian Black, Middle East editor, and Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem / December 10, 2009

Stickers could read 'Israeli settlement produce' , but move is not a boycott, says Foreign Office

A Palestinian farmer examines olives in the West Bank. The British government recommends such food be labelled 'Palestinian produce', while that produced by Israeli settlers in the territory be labelled 'Israeli settlement produce'. Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images.

Britain has acted to increase pressure on Israel over its West Bank settlements by advising UK supermarkets on how to distinguish between foods from the settlements and Palestinian-manufactured goods.

The government's move falls short of a legal requirement but is bound to increase the prospects of a consumer boycott of products from those territories. Israeli officials and settler leaders were tonight highly critical of the decision.

Until now, food has been simply labelled "Produce of the West Bank", but the new, voluntary guidance issued by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), says labels could give more precise information, like "Israeli settlement produce" or "Palestinian produce".

Nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which were conquered in the 1967 war. The British government and the EU have repeatedly said Israel's settlement project is an "obstacle to peace" in the Middle East.

EU law already requires a distinction to be made between goods originating in Israel and those from the occupied territories, though pro-Palestinian campaigners say this is not always observed.

Separately, Defra said that traders would be committing an offence if they did declare produce from the occupied territories as "Produce of Israel".

Foods grown in Israeli settlements include herbs sold in supermarkets, such as Waitrose, which chop, package and label them as "West Bank" produce, making no distinction between Israelis and Palestinians. A total of 27 Israeli firms operating in settlements and exporting to the UK have been identified: their produce includes fruit, vegetables, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, plastic and metal items and textiles.

Other retailers selling their products include Tesco, Sainsbury's, Somerfield, John Lewis and B&Q.

Goods from inside Israel's 1967 borders are entitled to a preferential rate of import duty under an agreement with the EU. Palestinian goods from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem also enjoy duty-free or reduced-tariff treatment. Settlement products fall outside these two categories.

"This is emphatically not about calling for a boycott of Israel," a Foreign Office spokesman said. "We believe that would do nothing to advance the peace process. We oppose any such boycott of Israel. We believe consumers should be able to choose for themselves what produce they buy. We have been very clear both in public and in private that settlements are illegal and an obstacle to peace."

The TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, welcomed the public clarification that marking produce from illegal settlements on occupied territory as "produce of Israel" was illegal, but said the government should have gone further.

Barbara Stocking, Oxfam's chief executive, said: "We support the right of consumers to know the origin of the products they purchase. Trade with Israeli settlements – which are illegal under international law – contributes to their economic viability and serves to legitimise them. It is also clear from our development work in West Bank communities that settlements have led to the denial of rights and create poverty for many Palestinians."

Dani Dayan, the Argentinian-born leader of the Yesha Council, which represents Israeli settlers, said the decision was the "latest hostile step" from Britain. "Products from our communities in Judea and Samaria should be treated as any other Israeli product," he said, using an Israeli term for the West Bank.

Israeli officials said they feared this was a slide towards a broader boycott of Israeli goods. Yigal Palmor, Israel's foreign ministry spokesman, said his country's produce was being unfairly singled out.

"It looks like it is catering to the demands of those whose ultimate goal is the boycott of Israeli products," he said. "The message here will very likely be used by pro-boycott campaigners. It is a matter of concern."

He said the issue of different European customs tariffs should not extend to different labelling on supermarket shelves. "It is a totally different thing and not required by the EU."

Israel came under intense US pressure early this year to halt construction in settlements, but has only adopted a temporary, partial freeze. Palestinian leaders say they will not restart peace negotiations until there is a full settlement freeze in line with the US road map of 2003.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign said it welcomed the new guidance but urged Defra to go further: "The government must seek prosecutions of companies which smuggle settlement goods in under false labels.

"We have received many calls from people who were distressed when they bought goods labelled 'Produce of the West Bank' because they thought they were aiding the Palestinian economy, then realised they were economically aiding Israel's illegal occupation.

"Particularly following Israel's massacre in Gaza, consumers have been shocked at Israel's war crimes and want to take action. They do not want to feel complicit in Israel's occupation by buying stolen goods."

'Customers will now have honest information'

The most recent government figures suggest only about £800,000 of food products, about three-quarters of it olive oil (below right), was imported from occupied Palestinian territories in the three years between 2006 and 2008.

Sainsbury's, which sells dates and small amounts of basil and tarragon, welcomed "the greater clarity on how to label produce from occupied territories".

"This allows us to fulfil our commitment of providing customers with clear and honest information about the origins of their food," the supermarket chain said."We have full traceability back to settlement and/or grower."

Waitrose also said it would be following the guidance on the small number of West Bank lines it sold. "We source a small selection of herbs from the West Bank area, grown on two Israeli-managed farms, on which a Palestinian and Israeli workforce have worked side by side for many years," said a spokesman.

"We are not motivated by politics. Instead our policy is to ensure high standards of farming and worker welfare on the farms from which we source. Our buyers … have visited the two farms in the West Bank to ensure that worker welfare meets the high standards that we insist on. As part of our normal sourcing policy we will be carrying out an audit on these farms in the next six months."

This year the Co-op began selling Fairtrade olive oil from the West Bank – a move hailed by Gordon Brown, who said it meant British shoppers could help Palestinian farmers make a living.

Toby Quantrill, head of public policy for the Fairtrade Foundation, said farmers in Palestine faced barriers to trade which jeopardised opportunities to trade internationally on equal terms with people making similar products.

Source / The Guardian

Fluxed Up World

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Now Dig This

Box Animation from Jordan Clarke on Vimeo.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

No Greater Cynicism - US Violates Numerous International Treaties, with Impunity

WMD treaty violations and inspection refusal for biological, nuclear, chemical weapons. Iran? No, US
By Carl Herman / December 11, 2009

First, the length of a headline prevents me from including the damning introduction of treaty violation of torture, illegal war, use of depleted uranium, and refusal to make antipersonnel landmines illegal. Now, to substantiate the headline’s shocking and factual lead:

President Obama rejected inspection protocol for US biological weapons, in Orwellian contradiction to his statement to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). This comes after increased US investment in bio-weapons during the Bush Administration with multiple reports of secret and illegal programs.

The last biological attack, anthrax in the US in 2001, was weaponized and supplied by a US military facility. The official suspect was reported as “committing suicide.” Richard Spertzel, head of the biological-weapons section of Unscom found the FBI’s conclusion as impossible. Other analyses (here, here, here) explain concurrent news that attempted to blame Iraq as the source, and speculate this was a false flag attack for the US to invade Iraq. Ultimately, other false reasons justified that unlawful war.

Ironically and hypocritically, the US filed an official report under BWC stating the US “belief” that Iran is “probably” developing biological weapons in sanctimonious language of the importance of BWC compliance.

The US is also in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for nuclear weapons and energy use. In the history of the treaty, the US has refused to negotiate for complete disarmament and verification per treaty terms and actively plans to use nuclear weapons, including first-strike use against “enemies” who may only become threats in the future. The US is also in violation for refusing Iran their right for nuclear energy development in every act but their empty rhetoric. The US aggresses against Iran, with official policy for nuclear weapons first-strike use having language specifically targeting Iran. This, despite all 16 US intelligence agencies in agreement there is no evidence of Iran developing nuclear weapons, and IAEA’s agreement there is no documented evidence with them either.

Finally, the US is in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The deadline for complete elimination for these weapons passed in 2007; the US requested and received an extension until 2012. The US plans to not fulfill this treaty until 2023, and does not submit to full inspections. Only this last provision is defensible under treaty terms.

The US, under the “leadership” of a Peace Prize President, also has refused to ratify the international antipersonnel landmine treaty, a weapon that kills and maims thousands of civilians and children yearly.

The US uses depleted uranium (DU) in its weapons, a War Crime, according to Professor Doug Rokke, ex-director of the Pentagon's depleted uranium project who commanded the US Department of Defense’s first Gulf war depleted uranium desert clean-up. Colonel Rokke, also a former professor of environmental science at Jacksonville University concluded:

There is a moral point to be made here. This war was about Iraq possessing illegal weapons of mass destruction -- yet we are using weapons of mass destruction ourselves. Such double-standards are repellent.

Karen Parker, an attorney who presented her brief, “The illegality of DU weaponry” to the International Uranium Weapons Conference, Hamburg, Germany, October 16 - 19, 2003, concluded the medical evidence of DU as a WMD is clear, convincing, and documented from the medical evidence requested by the UN (summary here). Parker concludes the UN has failed to act upon this evidence from political pressure of the US and other developed nations’ militaries who desire DU despite its clear violation of law as WMD.

And the US tortures (and here); including their own citizens. The US has a history of refusing International Red Cross inspections to verify compliance of international torture law.

“I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.” – Martin Luther King in his speech: Beyond Vietnam: A time to break silence.

Analysis: The US has invaded and occupied the Middle Eastern countries of Iraq, Afghanistan, is bombing Pakistan, and aggresses toward war with Iran. These acts of war are all unlawful. The US employs Orwellian psychopathic rhetoric to threaten Iran from empty allegations of their “nuclear program” and needing to “fulfill their legal obligations” while hypocritically in murderous violation of their own from several treaties structured to protect humanity. You have to read these facts and analysis from non-corporate media sources, such as here, as corporate media will echo justification of current unlawful wars and propagandize for escalation and new wars.

I’ve thought about how to pierce this Orwellian political and media counter-reality. One way to do so is to imagine if the US were in Iran’s position and China acting as the US. The vicious propaganda the US employs could also be turned against us.

Policy response: Gandhi and Martin Luther King advocated public understanding of the facts and non-cooperation with evil. I’m among hundreds who advocate:

1. Understand the laws of war. These were legislated after WW2 and are crystal-clear that only self-defense, in a narrow legal meaning, can justify war. This investment of your time takes less than an hour and empowers you to legally stand for ending these Wars of Aggression.

2. Refuse and end all orders and acts associated with these unlawful wars. Those involved with US military, government, and law enforcement have an oath to protect and defend the US Constitution. Unlawful acts only move forward with sufficient cooperation and public tolerance. Stop cooperating with the most vicious crime a nation can commit: war. Stop tolerating it.

3. Prosecute the war leaders for obvious violation of the letter and spirit of US war laws. You can only understand how these wars are specifically unlawful by investing the time to do so. Because the crimes are so broad and deep, I recommend Truth and Reconciliation (T&R) to exchange full truth and return of stolen US assets for non-prosecution. This is the most expeditious way to understand and end all unlawful and harmful acts. Those who reject T&R either by volunteering their name and/or responding when named are subject to prosecution after the window of T&R closes.

Below is a one-minute excerpt from the History Channel’s coverage of the US anthrax attacks explaining that the attack was “an inside job.” Following is a 10-minute interview with Eric Nadler of Dead Silence to explain the case that the government's reporting on the anthrax attack is false.

Source / The Seattle Examiner

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Reasons to Be Concerned About Climate Change

Top Ten Questions about Climate Change on the Eve of Copenhagen
By Juan Cole / December 7, 2009

Is the earth's climate warming? Indisputably.

Has the pumping of vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by human beings since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution contributed to global climate change? Also, indisputably.

Would extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause warming? In the absence of some sort of offset, yes. In fact, this effect can be demonstrated in a bottle.

Who funds "science" questioning carbon-dioxide-driven climate change? Exxon-Mobil, among others.

Why don't most American senators and congressmen have the gumption of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who called climate change deniers "flat-earthers", and "anti-science"?

Would global warming just mean it is hotter? No. If mountain ice and glaciers melt, the people who depend on seasonal melting of such highland ice will be left without a water source and thrown into drought. Over a billion people in the Indian subcontinent are at risk. And, 60% of Bangladesh is at risk from rising sea levels.

Has global warming been flat since 1998? No, this assertion depends on a stupid little trick. 1998 was unusually warm because of an El Nino, so if you take it as the baseline, you get a false picture. Take 1997 or 1999 as your starting point (normal years), and then you see the clear continuing warming trend. It would be like starting with the 2005 tsunami and saying the ocean levels have fallen mysteriously and dramatically since then in Thailand and Sri Lanka.

Are the measures proposed at Copenhagen a good first step? Not even remotely. (See also Bill McKibben at

Would actually proving that some climate scientists have engaged in partisan activity change the above facts? No. Was that proved by the hacked emails? No.

Is is just an accident that the countries who are the biggest polluters have publics who are most skeptical of human-made climate change?

Source / Informed Comment

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