Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights’
Obama at the UN: The arrogant voice of imperialism
By Bill Van Auken
24 September 2010
President Barack Obama used his speech at the United Nations General Assembly Thursday to defend US wars and state terror abroad and to proclaim that the economic crisis has been resolved thanks to his Wall Street bailout.
The US president received a noticeably tepid response from the assembled UN delegates. While in his first address to the body last year, he was able to pose as a fresh alternative to the crimes carried out by the Bush administration, by now it has become clear to most on the international stage that his administration’s policies are largely in continuity with those of its predecessor.
In its tone and its content, the Obama speech was the authentic and arrogant voice of US imperialism.
Parroting remarks delivered by George W. Bush from the same podium, Obama began by invoking September 11, 2001, once again exploiting the terrorist attacks of that day to justify the acts of military aggression committed by both US administrations in the intervening nine years.
In the same breath, he referred to Wall Street’s financial meltdown of September 2008, as an event that “devastated American families on Main Street,” while “crippling markets and deferring the dreams of millions on every continent.”
These two events were presented as the source of the core challenges confronting the US administration. Supposedly in response to the first, the Obama administration has continued and escalated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan-Pakistan, while reaffirming Washington’s “right” to carry out unilateral military aggression anywhere on the planet.
In response to the second, the administration continued the massive bailout begun under Bush, committing more than $12 trillion to propping up the US banks and financial institutions, while holding none of those involved responsible for the criminal forms of speculation practiced on Wall Street.
Obama claimed that the so-called Wall Street reform legislation passed by his administration would ensure “that a crisis like this never happens again.” It does nothing of the kind, placing no serious limits on the speculative activities and profitability of the big banks and leaving Wall Street to continue with “business as usual.”
“The global economy has been pulled back from the brink of a depression,” Obama told his UN audience. This statement flies in the face of the grim conditions confronting working people on every continent. This includes the US itself, where the official unemployment rate remains near 10 percent, the unemployed and underemployed account for 17 percent of the workforce, some 30 million people, and one out of every seven Americans is living below the poverty line.
While profits have returned to pre-crisis levels, the reality is that none of the underlying contradictions that have given rise to the deepest world economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s has been resolved. They have only grown in intensity. The response of the ruling classes throughout the world has been to redouble their attacks on the working class in an attempt to force it to pay for this crisis.
Obama followed his assertion about the economy being pulled back from “the brink” with an even more absurd claim that he would not “rest until these seeds of progress grow into a broader prosperity, not only for all Americans, but for peoples around the globe.”
In the US, throughout Europe and in much of the rest of the world, governments are pursuing unprecedented austerity policies that are ripping up basic social rights and dramatically lowering the living standards of working people. Meanwhile, Obama himself spoke before a global poverty summit the day before his speech, warning the world’s poorest that Washington was determined to break their cycle of “dependency.”
The US president’s lies about the economy were followed by the fraudulent claim that the military operations his administration is pursuing abroad are aimed at upholding “our common security.”
Obama said that he is “winding down the war in Iraq” and will pull out all of its occupation troops by the end of next year. At the same time, he declared Washington’s intention to forge “a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people,” by which he means maintaining a US protectorate over the oil-rich country in order to advance the geo-strategic interests of American capitalism.
He said that the drawing down US troops in Iraq had allowed the US military to be “refocused on defeating al Qaeda and denying its affiliates a safe haven” in Afghanistan. This is another lie. US military and intelligence officials acknowledge that there are no more than 100 al Qaeda members in all of Afghanistan. The nearly 100,000 US troops deployed in that country are not combating “terrorism,” but asserting US neo-colonial control in a bid to advance Washington’s quest for hegemony in Central Asia.
In one of the speech’s more chilling passages, Obama bragged that “from South Asia to the Horn of Africa, we are moving toward a more targeted approach” in the war on terror, that did not require “deploying large American armies.” In other words, while constrained in its ability to carry out another major military occupation, US imperialism is pursuing its policies by means of assassinations, drone missile attacks and the deployment of elite killing squads, and has arrogated to itself the right to target and kill its perceived opponents anywhere on the planet.
Obama used the speech to once again threaten Iran. Only days before his appearance at the UN, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech urging elements within the Iranian ruling elite to carry out regime change in the country. He reiterated the vow made in his speech last year that Iran “must be held accountable” for its alleged violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
At least a quarter of Obama’s address was dedicated to the US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian “peace talks” that appear to be on the brink of yet another breakdown in the face of Israeli intransigence and provocation.
For all the hackneyed rhetoric about the “Holy Land” and “our common humanity,” the Obama administration is pursuing these negotiations as a means of solidifying support among the Arab regimes for its escalating threats of aggression against Iran and to further its domination of the Middle East.
The content of the speech made clear the US administration’s unwavering complicity in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. Obama urged that a limited moratorium declared by the Israeli government be extended beyond September 26, when it is set to expire. He said Israel should do this because it “improved the atmosphere for talks,” not because the entire settlement activity in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is a violation of international law and multiple UN resolutions. In the same breath, the US president asserted that “talks should press on until completed,” presumably regardless of what Israel does.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has insisted that his government will not extend the moratorium, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had initially insisted that his delegation would be forced to walk out if it does not. An ever-pliant servant of Washington, Abbas has since indicated that he might back down on this threat.
The rest of Obama’s remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian question had an Orwellian flavor, in which Israel was presented as the victim. “The slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance—it’s injustice,” Obama declared. He made no mention of the slaughter of 1,400 Palestinians in the US-backed siege of Gaza in 2008-2009 or the criminal attack on the Gaza aid flotilla that killed nine Turkish civilians last May. The day the US president spoke, the UN issued a report charging that Israel’s actions were illegal and employed an “unacceptable level of brutality,” meriting war crimes prosecution.
The US president concluded his speech with an exaltation of “democracy” and “human rights,” which again echoed similar language employed by his predecessor, George W. Bush.
In Bush’s case, this phony democratic rhetoric was employed to justify US imperialism’s drive for dominance in the Middle East, where Washington demonstrated its commitment to “human rights” by carrying out mass killings, the detention of tens of thousands without charges or trial, and the infamous acts of torture at Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantánamo.
In Obama’s case, the posturing as the global champion of democratic rights is no less contemptible. The target, however, appears to have shifted.
The Council on Foreign Relations, the establishment thinktank that enjoys close ties to the administration and the State Department, spelled this out. Noting Obama’s “full-throated endorsement of democracy as the best form of government,” it commented: “Yet the appeal of such an idea faces challenges at bodies like the UN. This is not, for example, the future world that Chinese leaders envision.”
Indeed, Obama followed his celebration of democracy by calling attention to his upcoming trip to Asia, ticking off the countries he will visit—India, Indonesia, Korea, Japan—and praising each for having promoted “democratic principles in their own way.” The itinerary includes the four largest countries that US strategists envision as bulwarks against the expansion of Chinese influence.
On the same day that Obama delivered his speech, the New York Times published a front-page article on the increasingly tense US-China relationship that was clearly based on the perspective of the US administration. The Times reported that “rising frictions between China and its neighbors in recent weeks over security issues have handed the United States an opportunity to reassert itself—one the Obama administration has been keen to take advantage of.”
It noted that Washington has inserted itself into territorial disputes between China and Southeast Asian countries, organized provocative joint military exercises with South Korea near Chinese waters and has solidified its alliance with Japan, largely in opposition to China’s influence.
Under conditions of rising conflicts between Washington and Beijing over currency and trade relations, Obama’s praise for “democracy” at the UN represents a thinly veiled threat of new and far more catastrophic eruptions of American militarism.
What’s the spring-breathing jasmine and rose ?
What’s the summer with all its gay train
Or the splendour of autumn to those
Who’ve bartered their freedom for gain?
Let the love of our land’s sacred rights
To the love of our people succeed
Let friendship and honour unite
And flourish on both sides the Tweed.
No sweetness the senses can cheer
Which corruption and bribery bind
No brightness that gloom can e’er clear
For honour’s the sum of the mind
Let virtue distinguish the brave
Place riches in lowest degree
Think them poorest who can be a slave
Them richest who dare to be free
Trad & Dick Gaughan / Music : Dick Gaughan
Ken O’Keefe: ‘We, the defenders of the Mavi Marmara, are the modern example of Gandhi’s essence’ « P U L S E. …as opposed to Biden the All-American quisling…
3 June 2010
The Israeli military’s killing of nine civilians and wounding of scores more on a ship carrying humanitarian supplies in international waters was an act of cold-blooded murder and a war crime.
For millions of people around the world, this military assault on an aid convoy carrying wheelchairs, cement, water purification systems, children’s toys and notebook paper to Gaza—all items barred by Israel’s blockade of the occupied territory—epitomizes the role played by Israel, as well as that of its US sponsor, in global affairs.
As always in the aftermath of such atrocities, the Israeli government has blamed its victims. In a televised speech Wednesday, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu described the aid convoy as a “flotilla of terror supporters” and praised the slaughter on the high seas as an act of self-defense by besieged Israeli commandos.
Those who engaged in self-defense were the passengers on the ship, and they had every right to do so. The fact that nine of them were killed, while the Israel Defense Force (IDF) commandos suffered not a single fatality, is evidence as to who was the aggressor.
This is a regular pattern. The massacre in the Mediterranean comes just a year and a half after Operation Cast Lead, the far greater slaughter that the Israeli regime unleashed against the suffering people of Gaza. Claiming then as now to act in “self defense,” in December 2008 and January 2009 Israel rained bombs, missiles and tank and automatic weapons fire upon Gaza, killing over 1,400 Palestinians, the overwhelming majority of them unarmed men, women and children. This one-sided war by one of the world’s most powerful military machines against a relatively defenseless civilian population claimed just 13 Israeli lives, all but three of them soldiers.
The aid convoy was a response to the barbaric blockade that has subjected an entire population of 1.5 million people in Gaza to hunger, disease and misery.
Since the tightening of the blockade in 2007, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the number of Gazan refugees living in abject poverty has tripled.
The UN reported at the end of 2009 that “insufficient food and medicine is reaching Gazans, producing a further deterioration of the mental and physical health of the entire civilian population since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against the territory.” Among the starkest expressions of Israel’s deliberate starvation of an entire population was a finding by the Food and Agriculture Organization last year that 65 percent of babies between the ages of nine and 12 months suffer from anemia.
Israel is able to carry out this kind of medieval siege as well as piracy and murder not merely because of its own military might, but thanks to the unwavering patronage and funding of Washington. This latest mass killing has only underscored that—as with so much else—the advent of the Obama administration has effected no significant change in US policy.
While issuing a hypocritical expression of “deep regret at the loss of life,” the Obama administration is doing everything it can to assure that Israel bears neither blame nor consequences for these killings. It quashed any criticism of Israel’s action at the UN Security Council and has implicitly adopted the Zionist state’s justification for the massacre.
Israel’s criminality and Washington’s role as its unconditional enabler both have a long history. It is worth recalling another Israeli attack on a vessel in international waters that took place 43 years ago. In that attack, 34 sailors aboard the USS Liberty were killed by Israeli napalm, missiles and machine-gun fire, while another 171 while wounded—the worst casualties suffered by the US Navy in a hostile action since World War II.
An intelligence ship, the Liberty was attacked off the Sinai Peninsula on June 8, 1967 in the midst of the Six-Day War. While Israel called it a tragic “mistake,” ample evidence emerged that the Zionist state attacked the ship because it wanted to stop Washington from listening in to its communications. Intercepts flatly contradicted Tel Aviv’s claim that it was acting in self-defense and revealed that Israel wanted to conceal evidence of its aggressive intentions as it moved to seize Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, all of which remain under illegal occupation to this day.
Much of the criticism of this week’s attack on the aid convoy, including within Israel itself, has treated it as a “botched” operation, an excessive use of force and a public relations fiasco. But this is not a matter of a government losing its head. The Netanyahu regime’s policies are directed to a definite socio-political base, composed of religious extremists, right-wing settlers and the most politically reactionary layers within Israeli society. Its orientation is personified by the fascistic background and ideology of its foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.
Deeply reactionary and in deep political crisis, the Israeli government is driven more and more to act as a global pyromaniac, threatening renewed wars against Syria and Lebanon and, according to a report in the London Times this week, sending submarines armed with nuclear missiles to the waters off Iran.
The unconditional support and approximately $3 billion in annual aid to Israel bestowed by Washington—and continued under Obama—pose a mortal danger to people across the globe.
This is not a matter merely of a single outlaw regime, but of a general descent of world affairs into a state of criminality and the disintegration of any semblance of international law, with Israel’s main patron setting the pattern.
The Obama administration continues two wars of aggression initiated under Bush and has maintained intact a police state apparatus of unlawful detentions, rendition and torture. It has now earned the ignominious designation as the number one practitioner of “targeted killings”—assassinations—through CIA drone attacks that have killed “many hundreds of people” in Pakistan, according to a United Nations report released Wednesday. The report condemned Washington for claiming a “license to kill without accountability.”
The behavior of the US and other governments as if they were the state incarnation of Murder Inc., acts of state terrorism and piracy like that committed by Israel this week, and the constant threats of new aggression have created a global climate that bears ever closer resemblance to the conditions that prevailed on the eve the Second World War.
These developments are driven by the mortal crisis of world capitalism and will not be reversed by either protests or pacifism. Only by uniting the working class, including both Jewish and Arab workers in the Middle East, in a common struggle to put an end to the profit system can a new global conflagration be prevented.
By Stephen Lendman, May 29th, 2010 5:22 AM
Professor Jeremy Salt teaches political science at Ankara, Turkey’s Bilkent University. He’s also the author of “The Unmaking of the Middle East: A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands.” On January 9, 2009, during Israel’s war on Gaza, he wrote “A Message to the brave Israeli Airmen,” asking:
— “What’s it like, firing missiles at people you can’t see?
— Does that help, that you cannot see who you are killing?
— does it ease your conscience that you are not deliberately targeting civilians,” when, in fact, you are under Israel’s Dahiya Doctrine to use enough “disproportionate force (to inflict) damage and met(e) out punishment” against civilian infrastructure, “economic interests and the centers of civilian power,” willfully slaughtering noncombatant men, women and children;
— “How does this sit on your conscience?
— Do you sleep well at night or do you have nightmares of the women and children you killed in their homes, in their beds, in their kitchens and living rooms, in their schools and mosques?
Do you really believe they threaten your security – farmers in their fields, mothers with their children, teachers in classrooms, imams in mosques, children at play, the elderly, frail or disabled?
Do you ever question what you’ve done and why? Have you no shame, no sense of decency, no idea of the difference between right and wrong? Will you follow orders blindly and do it again and again, mindless about crimes of war and against humanity you, your superiors, and government officials are accountable for under fundamental international law?
“Brave” Israeli airmen, soldiers, sailors, and other security force personnel have acted lawlessly for decades, including committing appalling human rights crimes – a snapshot of some victims follows.
Persecuting Mazin Qumsiyeh
Qumsiyeh teaches and does research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities in the West Bank. Earlier he taught at Yale, Duke, and the University of Tennessee. Interested mainly in media activism and public education, he’s been a board, steering, and executive committee member of numerous activist organizations, and is President of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People and coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Apartheid Wall and Settlements in Beit Sahour. His most recent book is titled, “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment.”
On the morning of May 6, Qumsiyeh and three others were arrested, handcuffed, and taken to an unknown destination. He explained what happened.
In Al-Wallaja, his “ten hour ordeal” began at 8:30AM. The village is near the Green line. Israel’s Separation Wall route will encircle it. It’s already lost much of its land. Residents fear losing the rest, so to prevent it they resist.
Israeli bulldozers have demolished numerous homes. Heroic villagers inspired others, “including Internationals and Israelis to join them in their popular resistance….Today’s started as we came through the woods and sat in front of the bulldozer.”
“As the soldiers gathered their forces around us, you could feel (them) preparing themselves for attack. We remained calm and peaceful. They dragged us one by one forcefully from the bulldozed lands. They picked the four of us for arrest for no obvious reason” – Qumsiyeh, two Palestinian brothers, and a Canadian activist.
They beat, clubbed, rifle-butted, and pepper-sprayed the two brothers. All four were then taken to a military checkpoint, told to sit and wait, then ordered “to sign a paper claiming….we were not beaten or mistreated.”
They refused, then taken to “the investigation offices near Qubbit Raheel (Rachel’s tomb), (and) locked up in a metal container.” Hours later, they were interrogated individually, asked, but refused, to sign other papers. Painfully handcuffed, they were returned to the container.
Next on to Talpiot police station to be fingerprinted and photographed. “It was now nearly 5:30 and we were starving….Finally they br(ought) us some bread, each a slice of cheese and a small packet of jam.” Together they were “dragged in front of a new investigator who asked us to sign a release form that says we are told to stay away from the wall….for 15 days and if we don’t we will (each) have to pay” about $1,200. They signed, were released, but not given their ID cards. Later they got them. “Life goes on in the land of Apartheid. Stay tuned.”
As coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Apartheid Wall and Settlements in Beit Sahour, Qumsiyeh leads Palestinian grassroots resistance against “Israeli occupation and colonization” as well as “stopping and dismantling” what the International Court of Justice (ICJ) called illegal, ordering the Wall’s demolition and for Israel “to make reparation for all damage caused by the construction….including in and around East Jerusalem.”
As the “main national grassroots body mobilizing and organizing resistance against” the Wall, the Campaign “coordinates the work of 54 popular committees in communities” targeted for (or now being) destroyed by its construction.
Strategies against it include raising awareness internationally; national and community resistance; mobilizing solidarity among affected communities, the Arab world, civil society, and unions; calling for global boycott, divestment and sanctions; and enlisting international popular support for justice.
Attacking Disabled Palestinians in Gaza
Besides the occupation, siege, regular incursions, and overall reign of terror against 1.5 million people, Israel targets the disabled, explained by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in a December 2009 report titled, “Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Disabled Persons in the Gaza Strip,” from September 1, 2003 – November 30 2009.
It covers willful assaults against disabled civilians, and others incapacitated by attacks. Of most concern was Operation Cast Lead’s 23-day assault from December 27, 2008 – January 18, 2009, inflicting massive numbers of deaths and injuries, as well as widespread destruction, mostly against civilians, their homes, mosques, businesses, factories, farms, schools, and hospitals – clear non-military targets. The siege’s effect on health, education, and other vital services was also addressed.
During the reporting period, 31 disabled Palestinians were killed, including four women, and six children. Another 600 sustained permanent disabilities, mostly physical. In addition, because of inadequate or unavailable food, medicines, medical equipment, fuel, clean water, sanitation, and the ability to leave or enter freely, the negative impact has been enormous.
“At the same time, foreign medical and technical personnel have not been able to enter (Gaza) to help the disabled and provide them with necessary medical and rehabilitation services.” As for the overall effect of the siege, the longer it continues the more harm it inflicts on those least able to cope. Precisely Israel’s strategic aim – to strangle and smother all Gazans, the elderly, infirm and disabled the most vulnerable.
Amnesty International (AI) on Israeli War Crimes
In its 2010 annual report, AI accused Western nations of shielding Israel from accountability during the Gaza war and for nearly three years of siege, depriving the population of vital essentials to survive and endure. At the same time, it praised the Goldstone Commission for heroically telling the truth.
In documenting Israeli crimes of war and against humanity, AI said:
“Among other things, (Israel) carried out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against civilians, targeted and killed medical staff, used Palestinian civilians as ‘human shields,’ and indiscriminately (used) white phosphorous (and other illegal weapons) over densely populated residential areas.” As a result, the toll was devastating.
In response, the US State Department downplayed the accusations, saying it “supports the need for accountability for any violations that may have occurred in relation to the Gaza conflict by any party,” ignoring Israel’s premeditated aggression, willfully attacking civilians and committing horrendous war crimes.
AI also condemned America’s human rights abuses, saying:
“In the counter-terrorism context, accountability for past human rights violations by the USA remains largely absent, particularly in relation to the CIA programme (sic) of secret detention. In litigation, the US administration continues to block remedy for victims of such human rights violations. 181 detainees remain in Guantanamo despite President Obama’s commitment to close the detention facility by January 2010. A new Manual for Military Commissions released by the Pentagon in April confirmed that even if a detainee is (uncharged or) acquitted by a military commission, the US administration reserves the right to continue to hold them in indefinite detention.”
Obama Administration’s Brazen Lawlessness
The latest example comes from a just revealed September 2009 secret directive about expanded covert military activity in the Middle East, Central Asia, the Horn of Africa or anywhere in the world to counter alleged threats. In other words, the Obama administration reserves the right to send US forces anywhere clandestinely, with or without host nation approval, to “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” designated targets by state terrorism, war, or any other means on the pretext of defending national security – a justification only scoundrels would invoke.
Italian New Weapons Research Committee (NWRC) Accuses Israel of Contaminating Gaza Soil
In its May 11 press release, NWRC (a group of independent scientists and doctors) said Israel’s 2006 and 2009 bombings left a high concentration of toxic/carcinogenic metals residue in soil and human tissue, likely to cause tumors, fertility problems, and serious harm to newborns, including deformities and genetic mutations.
Of particular concern were “wounds provoked by weapons that did not leave fragments in the bodies of the victims, a peculiarity that was pointed out repeatedly by doctors in Gaza. This shows that experimental weapons, whose effects are still to be assessed, were used.”
Some elements found are carcinogenic, including mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel and uranium (from weapons with depleted uranium). Others are potentially carcinogenic, including cobalt and vanadium, and still more are fetotoxic (harmful to fetuses), including aluminum, copper, barium, lead, and manganese. All of them in high enough amounts produce genetic mutations as well as pathogenic effects on human respiratory organs, kidneys, skin, neurological development, and other bodily functions.
The combination of environmental contamination, direct wounds or inhilations, aggravated by dire living conditions, presents a serious risk to large numbers of people, worsened by repeated armed incursions. According to Paola Manduca, NWRC’s spokesperson:
“Our study indicates an anomalous presence of toxic elements in the soil (and human tissue). It is essential to intervene at once to limit the effects of the contamination on people, animals and cultivations.”
Thus far, Israeli-Western collaborators still prevent 1.5 million Gazans from getting the critical help they need, while Moshe Kantor, president the European Jewish Congress, equated NWRC’s research to “ancient blood libels against the Jewish people, when rumors were spread about Jews poisoning wells. Today we are seeing a recurrence of all the worst excesses of anti-Semitism and diatribes that we perhaps naively thought had remained in the Dark Ages.”
The pro-Israeli NGO Monitor’s Gerald Steinberg called the accusations “designed to stigmatize Israel and erase the context of mass terror, (similar to other) false or unverifiable claims.” These are typical responses from rogues and their defenders caught red-handed.
But clear evidence they deny can’t be hidden. Nor can the growing disenchantment of young American Jews, a phenomenon Steven Rosenthal discussed in his 2001 book “Irreconcilable Differences: The Waning of the American Jewish Love Affair with Israel,” citing policies that transformed the relationship from uncritical “Israelotry” to disapproval and distress. The 1982 Lebanon invasion, repressive occupation, Intifada, regular incursions, and greater concern about home-grown issues shattered American Jewish unanimity, diluting Israel’s next generation support.
On May 10, 2009, The Forward and Brandeis University Professor Jonathan D. Sarna asked why, noting “a critical difference between support for Israel in the past and today. For much of the 20th century, the Israel of American Jews – the Zion that they imagined in their minds, wrote about and worked to realize – was a mythical Zion, a utopian extension of the American dream.”
They imagined a “social commonwealth,” an “outpost of democracy, spreading America’s ideals eastward in a Jewish refuge where freedom, liberty and social justice would someday reign supreme.” Utopias, of course, are illusions, now dispelled to reveal “unlovliest warts.” Today, bloom is off the rose, unsurprising given convincing reasons to remove it.
A Final Comment
On May 26, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire paid “Tribute to the People of Gaza,” saying:
“I never cease to be amazed at the power of the human spirit to survive….In a triumph of hope over adversity and tremendous suffering, love still abides….Gaza’s people have suffered an Israeli occupation for over 40 years,” enduring wars and current medieval-type siege.
Lives have been shattered, crops destroyed, soil poisoned, and sustainability comprised, so “Where is the hope? Where is the love in the midst of such suffering and injustice?” In the will to survive; in growing worldwide solidarity; in the “Freedom Flotilla” defying the blockade to deliver aid, Maguire on it, “inspired by the people of Gaza whose courage, love and joy in welcoming us, even in the midst of such suffering gives us all hope. They represent the best of humanity,” no amount of Israeli repression can extinguish, nor their redoubtable “nonviolent struggle for human dignity, and freedom.”
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
18 January 2010
The Obama administration has announced that former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will head the fundraising for relief efforts in the wake of the Haiti earthquake. In his radio speech Saturday, Obama declared: “These two leaders send an unmistakable message to the people of Haiti and the world. In a moment of need, the United States stands united.”
The message of the Clinton-Bush appointment is indeed significant, but hardly what the White House and the American media have suggested. In selecting his two immediate predecessors, those who have set US policy in the Caribbean since 1993, Obama demonstrates that the devastating human tragedy in Haiti will not bring any alteration in the rapacious role of US imperialism in that impoverished semi-colonial country.
For eight years apiece, Clinton and Bush were directly and deeply involved in a series of political machinations and military interventions that have played a major role in perpetuating the poverty, backwardness and repression in Haiti that have vastly compounded by the disaster that struck that country last Tuesday. Both men have the blood of Haitian workers and peasants on their hands.
Clinton took office in the immediate aftermath of the military coup which ousted Haiti’s first democratically elected president, the populist cleric Jean-Bertrand Aristide. That coup was backed by the administration of Bush’s father, who saw Aristide as an unwanted and potentially dangerous radical.
The new Democratic Party administration undertook a tactical shift in policy. Clinton imposed economic sanctions on the Haitian junta, which destroyed Haiti’s fledgling export industries, then dispatched the Marines to Haiti—for the third time in the 20th century—to compel Gen. Raoul Cedras, the junta leader, to depart. The US restored Aristide to the presidency, after he had given assurances that he would do nothing to challenge the domination of either Washington or the native Haitian elite, and that he would leave office in 1996 without seeking reelection.
After Aristide obediently left office on schedule, he was succeeded by René Préval, who served the first of his two terms as president from 1996 to 2001, carrying out the dictates of an International Monetary Fund “structural adjustment” program that slashed employment, cut public services, and ruined domestic rice farmers.
When Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party won a clear victory in May 2000 legislative elections, the Clinton administration and the Republican-controlled Congress refused to accept the election and cut off US aid. Aristide himself returned to the presidency after winning a landslide election victory in November 2000, only to face an implacable enemy in the incoming Bush administration.
For three years, Haiti was systematically starved by the US aid cutoff and measures taken by the Bush administration to block international aid and isolate the Aristide government. Finally, in February 2004, amid protests fomented by the Haitian ruling elite with covert American backing, the US military again intervened in the country, seizing Aristide and shipping him out of the country to exile.
The Marines turned over effective control of the country to a United Nations peacekeeping force, with Brazil providing the biggest troop contingent, propping up a series of unelected Haitian prime ministers until elections in 2006, from which candidates of Fanmi Lavalas were largely excluded. René Préval was elected president for the second time, in a term scheduled to end late this year. Once a supporter and professed political “twin” of Aristide, Préval has long since made his peace with both Washington and the Haitian ruling elite, and his second term has been characterized by slavish subservience to the economic prescriptions of Wall Street and the International Monetary Fund.
Throughout the Clinton and Bush administrations, US demands for adherence to IMF austerity policies were combined with a vicious program of repression against Haitians fleeing the country of their birth to seek refuge and a better life in the United States. In his first campaign for the presidency, in 1992, Clinton criticized the persecution and forced repatriation of Haitian refugees, only to reverse himself and continue those policies unaltered. For the next 17 years—and continuing with no change from Obama—hundreds of refugees have died in small boats seeking to evade the US Coast Guard blockade.
Most recently, Clinton has been the official UN envoy for Haiti, backing the corrupt Préval regime and seeking to develop Haiti as a base for a profitable US-run garment industry founded on near-starvation wages. Food riots swept the country in April 2008, but that did not stop Préval from blocking legislation that would have raised the minimum wage of $1.72 a day for workers in the garment factories.
As for George W. Bush, his selection as co-leader of a supposed humanitarian campaign is an insult to the people of both Haiti and the United States. His appointment by Obama is in keeping with the Democratic president’s unflagging efforts since his election, the result of popular hatred of Bush and his party, to rehabilitate the Republicans.
An unapologetic war criminal who is responsible for the slaughter of a million Iraqis, Bush’s signature domestic “achievement” was the abject failure of the US government either to prevent the devastation of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in Hurricane Katrina, or to mount an effective relief and recovery effort afterwards.
This is the record of the two men whom Barack Obama has selected as the public face of the latest US initiative in Haiti. Bush and Clinton made a series of media appearances over the weekend, including interviews on all five Sunday television news programs, during which they emphasized the need to restore “stability” to Haiti, and the important role that the United States would have to play in that effort.
Bush and Clinton personify the pernicious and reactionary role that American imperialism has played in Haiti for the last century. It is no exaggeration to say that the policies of their administrations have caused as much death and devastation in that country as last Tuesday’s earthquake.