Weekend Edition

May 24th, 2019

Making sense of Sri Lanka’s Easter massacre

May 24th, 2019

FEATURING RAHUL MAHAJAN – Nearly 300 people were killed in a series of coordinated suicide attacks on the South Asian island nation of Sri Lanka. The attacks, which also injured at least 500 people, were aimed at Catholic churches and several hotels catering to tourists. Authorities have so far pointed to a little known organization called National Thowheed Jamath as being responsible. However there is speculation that there may have been international coordination for a set of attacks of this scale.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made these remarks about the attacks on Monday. 

The Easter massacre ended a decade of peace in Sri Lanka, whose civil war ended in 2009. Sri Lanka is a majority Buddhist nation with significant minorities of Hindus, Muslims, and Christians.

Rising up with Sonali for more

A woman’s work: The inside story

May 24th, 2019

by CAROLITA JOHNSON

ARTWORK/Carolita Johnson.

Carolita Johnson examines some of the inner workings of a woman’s body from puberty to menopause.

The subject of my pre-doctoral studies was medieval nuns and their relationship to their menstrual cycles. Long story short: my theory was that this relationship was determined by the very real divide between the early Christians who favored either the Old Testament or the New Testament on the inherent “sinfulness” or absence thereof of the human body. The traditional, Old Testament attitude that menstruation made women “unclean” somehow prevailed. Fancy that. Call me crazy, but I had to believe that the way the Church, the Patriarchy, and all of society saw women’s bodily functions had an effect on women’s relationships with their bodies.

Stories of menstruating women ruining mirrors they looked into, or causing soufflés to fall, causing farm animals to miscarry, mayonnaise to “not take,” etc., and menstrual blood used as an ingredient in cures for leprosy or magic potions, were common. But even if they were all but forgotten by modern times, they merge easily into my being taught, in the 1980s, to call my period “The Curse.”

I’d noticed, in many hagiographies, that one of the first signs a woman might be a saint, besides experiencing ecstatic “visions,” was that she’d barely, if at all, need to eat or drink anymore, and her various bodily secretions would cease. I wondered if nuns might be using herbs, self-starvation, and/or physical exertion to put an end to their secretions, amongst which, their periods.

Compare this to how, in modern times, many women, including myself, would use The Pill without the classic 7-day pause in dosage to skip an inconveniently timed period. This pause was designed to give women on the Pill a “period” that was more symbolic than functional, almost more of a superstition, and totally unnecessary, medically speaking. Recent years have even seen the introduction of contraceptive pills actually designed to limit a woman to 0-4 periods a year — hormonally inducing amenorrhea, or absence of menstruation. There are times when women want to avoid having their periods, for example, during vacations, sports events (with the notable exception of Kiran Ganhi), honeymoons; in other words, times when we want to be at our best and free of physical impairments or, let’s be frank: free from the anxiety of being discovered menstruating. Some of us opt to be free from that anxiety year-round now. I think medieval nuns would have loved to have that option.

The possession of a female reproductive system therefore involves a certain amount of effort and planning, in both practical and social/emotional terms; in other words, work. I’d always wished I could find the story of one woman’s life and at least one key bodily function in one place, maybe one for each century. No such luck for my medieval research. I had to glean a bit here, a bit there, in letters, anecdotes, superstitions, confession manuals.

This is why I decided, here, to describe the life of one woman, me, in the context of one reproductive system, mine, from about 1970 to 2018. Writing about my body and its maintenance during my two odd quarters of the 20th and 21st centuries in the “free world” directly connects me to women who lived over a thousand years ago; women who lived and died before me, and sometimes, indirectly, for me.

Longreads for more

Arundhati Roy on the Indian election and Narendra Modi’s “far-right, Hindu nationalist” agenda

May 23rd, 2019

DEMOCRACY NOW

The freedom to practice one’s faith for minorities is increasingly under attack in Yogi Adityanath’s rule. The Christians living in Uttar Pradesh are the worst affected. While the Hindutva activists are free to convert/reconvert people, practitioners of Christianity and Islam are being constantly attacked for practising their faith and talking about it in public. PHOTO/TEXT/News Click

In India, the sixth phase of voting has concluded in a highly anticipated parliamentary election that is widely seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking a second term in office. India is the world’s largest democracy with 900 million eligible voters. The final phase of voting will take place on May 19 and vote counting will begin on May 23. Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP won a landslide victory in 2014. His government has been criticized for a crackdown on civil society, targeting political opponents, journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and writers. Human rights groups have also raised the alarm on attacks against vulnerable populations, especially Dalits and Muslims. We speak with world-renowned, award-winning Indian writer Arundhati Roy. She is the author of The God of Small Things and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Her new book My Seditious Heart, a collection of her nonfiction writing, will be out next month.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And I’m Nermeen Shaikh. Welcome to our listeners and viewers around the country and around the world. In India, the sixth phase of voting has concluded in a highly anticipated parliamentary election that is widely seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking a second term in office.

More than 100 million people were eligible to vote in this penultimate phase. India’s election commission reported voter turnout was just over 63%. The turnout in the first five phases averaged 67%, roughly the same as in the 2014 elections that brought Modi to power. India is the world’s largest democracy with 900 million eligible voters. The final phase of voting will take place on May 19th and vote-counting will begin on the 23rd.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP won a landslide victory in 2014. Modi’s main opponent in this election is Rahul Gandhi’s Congress party. Gandhi’s father, grandmother and great grandfather have all served as prime minister of India.

AMY GOODMAN: Modi’s government has been criticized for a crackdown on civil society, targeting political opponents, journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and writers. Human rights groups have also raised the alarm on attacks against vulnerable populations, especially Dalits and Muslims.

To talk more about the elections as well as other issues from Kashmir to capitalism to climate change, we are joined by world-renowned, award-winning Indian writer Arundhati Roy. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her first novel The God of Small Things. Her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness was long-listed for the Booker Prize in 2017. A collection of her nonfiction writing titled My Seditious Heart will be out in June.

Arundhati Roy is in New York for the PEN World Voices Festival. She delivered the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture on Sunday night at Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater. Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Arundhati. It’s great to have you here.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: So yesterday as you were giving your speech, you were lamenting that you couldn’t be in India, because your city, New Delhi, was voting. Can you explain the six-week-long Indian elections and how you see them as a referendum on the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

Democracy Now for more

Welcome to the new Algerian revolution: An interview with Hamza Hamouchene

May 23rd, 2019

In 2011, a wave of revolutionary struggle swept the Middle East and North Africa, often bringing down dictatorships that had governed for decades. Millions protested on the streets, occupied public spaces and demanded “bread, freedom and social justice”. Having broken through the fear produced by years of repression, the Arab Spring became an inspiration for activists across the world.

Predictably, the existing elites – the military, big business and the institutional Islamist groups – refused to accept the democratic aspirations of the people. Rather than subject their states to democratic reform, they used all their tricks, including cooptation and brutal repression, to defeat the revolutionary movements.

Yet the conditions that sparked the Arab Spring, notably the combination of extreme economy inequality and political authoritarianism, remained unchanged. While the first wave of the revolutions ended in defeat, it was sure to be back. In Sudan and now Algeria, enormous and persistent protest movements re-emerged late last year with all the same courage and dynamism. They have toppled their own military dictatorships, although in both cases the military remains in power despite the removal of the hated figurehead.

Omar Hassan speaks to Algerian scholar and activist Hamza Hamouchene, coordinator of Environmental Justice North Africa and co-founder of the Algeria Solidarity Campaign, about the mass movement sweeping the country.
Redflag.

What have the protests in Algeria been about?

The mass protest movement started just a few days after Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s announcement of his intention to run for a fifth term as president. At first, the mobilisations were small and localised, but they became massive. Every Friday from 22 February, millions of Algerians (some estimates are as high as 17 and 22 million in a country of 42 millions) – young and old, men and women from different social classes – have taken to the streets in a momentous uprising, re-appropriating long confiscated public spaces. These historic Friday marches have been followed by protests by workers in education, health, the justice system, the petrochemical industry, and student and trade union mobilisations, making the contestation a daily matter.

What started as a rejection of the candidacy of a physically unfit octogenarian president has transformed in face of the obstinacy and deceptive ploys of the ruling elites into a united rejection of the ruling system, with demands for radical democratic change, freedom and justice. This revolt is an expression of the convergence of popular discontent from below with a deep internal crisis within the ruling classes. Basically, those from above can no longer rule in the old ways and those from below can no longer take it.

It is also the expression of decades of profound pain and anger and a rejection of the repressive authoritarianism, suppression of freedoms, economic and social exclusion, endemic corruption and nepotism, parasitic accumulation and impoverishment, growing social inequalities and uneven economic development in the country. There is a lack of horizons, especially for the unemployed youth risking their lives to reach the northern shores of the Mediterranean to escape the despair and the humiliation of being marginalised and relegated to being Hittiste – the unemployed who ceased to be stakeholders in post-colonial Algeria. And all of this taking place in a rich country like ours!

The Algerian uprising is a revolt against dispossession and plunder. The Algerian slogan, “The people want them all to go!” (or, more accurately, “The people want them to be all extirpated!”) is another version of “The people want to overthrow the system!” – the slogan of the Arab uprisings in 2010-11. In this respect, what is happening in Sudan and Algeria is the continuation of a revolutionary process in North Africa and West Asia, a process with ups and downs, gains and setbacks, which materialised in a neoliberal democratic transition in Tunisia and bloody counter-revolutions and imperialist interventions in the remaining countries.

The hope is that people in Algeria and Sudan will learn from the experiences of their brothers and sisters in other countries and push their revolutions even further to achieve their fundamental demands of dignity, justice, popular sovereignty and freedom, and end decades of political and economic oppression.

There have been several videos released online that demonstrate the creativity and solidarity of the revolutionary movement in Algeria and elsewhere. Are there any stories that have highlighted this for you?

The revolutionary movement in Algeria released the boundless creativity of the “popular genius”. When chanting, “We woke up and you will pay!”, the people are expressing their newly-discovered political will. The liberatory process is at the same time a transformative one. We can witness this in the euphoria, energy, confidence, wit, humour and joy this movement has inspired after decades of social and political suppression. Humour and satire can be very subversive. Algerians demonstrate this in their slogans, chants and placards reviving and emphasising popular culture. I have seen and heard so many online and in the streets in several towns in Algeria. Here are a few I captured with my phone camera:

“Algeria, country of heroes that is ruled by zeros”

“System change … 99 percent loading”

“We need Detol to kill 99.99 percent of the gang” [referring to members of the regime]

And this one from a medical student: “We are vaccinated and we have developed anti-system IgGs (antibodies) … and we keep getting boosters every Friday”

“The problem is the persistence of idolatry and not the replacement of the idol”

CADTM for more

Identity rules: A report from reddening Chicago

May 23rd, 2019

by PAUL STREET

Chicago’s first black woman and first openly gay mayor Lori Lightfoot

Fake-Progressive Identity Cloaking

Beyond the identity-politicized excitement of Chicago electing its first Black female chief executive and becoming the largest U.S. city to have a Black female mayor (and to have a gay mayor), there wasn’t all that much for a leftist to choose from between victor Lori Lightfoot and her opponent Toni Preckwinkle. Mayor-Elect Lightfoot is a longtime corporate lawyer, a partner in the venerable multinational Mayer- Brown firm, and a former federal prosecutor. She covered for the legendarily racist Chicago police (currently operating under a federal civil rights consent decree) in her role as the head of outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Police Accountability Task Force. She did the same on the Chicago Police Board under Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Chicago Tribune investigation of Lightfoot’s Mayer-Brown years found that “she has represented corporate clients accused of racial discrimination, as well as police and prosecutors accused of the kind of misconduct she has criticized as a candidate. Lightfoot also has made millions of dollars working at a firm whose attorneys have represented tobacco companies and other corporate clients accused of egregious wrongdoing.”

None of this stopped Lightfoot from branding herself as an outsider “progressive” seeking to clean up the city’s corrupt practices and deliver its forgotten people and neighborhoods from oppression and neglect.

“It’s hard,” Chicago native Matt Reichel wrote me, “not to be skeptical of a former federal prosecutor who spent most of her career siding with the cops in police misconduct cases until she recently decided to opportunistically rebrand herself a ‘reformer.’”

There’s a reason that white police officers voted for Lightfoot. “If someone had told me in the era of Richard J. Daley (when I moved to Chicago) that cop neighborhoods such as Mount Greenwood would vote overwhelmingly for an African American woman,” longtime Chicago activist Kingsley Clark writes, “I would have said: ‘What are you smoking, man!’ The word ‘progressive’ lost meaning with the Clintons and was buried deep in this mayoral election. Those Chicagoans who cling to that illusory concept are going to be mightily disappointed.”

Like with the silver-tongued neoliberal “from Chicago” (really from Honolulu and Harvard Law) Barack Obama? Obama must have used the word “progressive” at least a thousand times to describe himself on his path to the presidency between 2004 and 2009. We saw how that worked out.

The 44th president called to congratulate Lightfoot, one rich fake-progressive identity-cloaked corporatist talking to another.

A Neoliberal Machine Mayor-in-Waiting

Lightfoot’s victory is arguably another in a long line of nails in the coffin of the old Chicago machine.  Preckwinkle is a longstanding machine politician, the president of the Cook County Board and the head of the Cook County Democratic Party. She has been caught up in the campaign finance shenanigans of the legendarily corrupt 14th Ward alderman Ed Burke.  The Black female Preckwinkle was bidding to become the first politician to hold both the Chicago mayoralty and the top Cook County Democratic position since the original Chicago Mayor Daley – the last big city patronage boss Richard J. Daley (whose reign ran from 1955 through 1976).

But the old machine, based on the trade of city jobs for votes, died long ago.  The new machine under Mayors Richard M. Daley (1989-2011) and Rahm “Mayor 1%” Emanuel (2011-2019) has been based on neoliberal “pinstripe patronage” – the trading of city contracts, corporate privatization deals, tax-breaks, and taxpayer-funded development deals greased by regressive Tax Increment Financing (TIF) arrangements (rampant throughout the city). The “business community” got behind Lightfoot in the reasonable expectation that she will keep urban neoliberalism machine set on profit.

According to veteran Chicago left activist and author Joe Allen, “The fact that the leader of the Democratic Party and such an entrenched politician as Preckwinkle went down to historic defeat shows once again that the political establishment is under siege in Chicago and across the United States…But when it comes to all the key issues around police reform, gentrification, the schools,” Allen ads, Lightfoot “is our class enemy.”

What’s Officially “Historic” and What’s Not

Beyond the ideologically narrow contest between Lightfoot and Preckwinkle, the most interesting and genuinely progressive development in Chicago’s runoff election last Tuesday was that three self-described socialists – Byron Sigcho Lopez (25th Ward), Rossanna Rodriguez-Sanchez (30th Ward), and Andre Vasquez (40th Ward) – defeated establishment aldermanic candidates. Lopez, Rodriguez-Sanchez, and Vasquez will join two other socialists – Dan La Spata (1st Ward) and Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward) – in the Chicago City Council.

On election night last Tuesday, Chicago corporate media television news was agog over the “historic” mayoral victory of a gay Black female. It had nothing to say about Lightfoot’s conservative, corporate, and power-serving record or about the arguably more historic victories of self-declared socialists in the city council.

The Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday gave its full front page to a picture of Lightfoot with her fist raised above the giant-type headline “LORI-OUS: Lightfoot Trounces Preckwinkle in Historic Mayor’s Race, Winning All 50 Wards.”

“Lori Lightfoot,” the Sun-Times exulted in its lead story, “will become Chicago’s first openly gay mayor – and the first African-American woman ever to serve as chief executive – after cruising to a landslide victory that transcended the city’s tribal politics.” (“Landslide” was a bit of an overstatement given the near-historic low voter turnout – around 30 percent – for the Lightfoot-Preckwinkle contest, a reflection of the absence of significant ideological as well as racial and gender difference between the candidates.) Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell waxed eloquent on how “there’s no stopping the march of history…Tuesday’s election,” Mitchell elaborated:

“made Lightfoot not only the first Black woman to go to City Hall, but the first openly gay to have that honor. Chicago is now the largest city to elect an African-American woman mayor…Maybe it was all the tears black mothers shed on the streets of Chicago after a son or daughter was killed…Maybe it was their anguished cries against the brutality of a male-dominated Chicago Police Department that opened the door for this political revolt…Lightfoot….joins an elite club of seven other African American female mayors currently leading a major American city.”

Was Mitchell ignorant of Lightfoot’s record of siding (under white-mayoral appointment) with the city’s legendarily racist (as well as male-dominated) cops and against Black city residents?

Paul Street for more

From a great writer to a great a leader: How Manto came to terms with Jinnah’s passing

May 22nd, 2019

by RAZA NAEEM

Manto perhaps wrote the piece to show not only his love for Pakistan but also his affection for the founder of Pakistan.

On the 142nd birth anniversary of Muhammad Ali Jinnah today, a little-known piece by the great Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto is being presented for the time in its original English translation.

This piece is part of Manto’s published but uncollected writings that are only recently seeing the light of day. Though there is little or no evidence that the great writer ever met the great leader, this piece – originally published in the Daily ‘Imroz’ just three days after Jinnah’s death in September 1948 – crystallises the raw emotions of a writer in the aftermath of a national tragedy in a uniquely restrained manner. Manto perhaps wrote the piece to show not only his love for Pakistan – a state he reluctantly adopted despite his personal opposition to the Partition – but also his affection for the founder of Pakistan.

The sentiment of the people evoked in the piece just a few hours after Jinnah’s death is perhaps the best translation of how Jinnah would have himself liked his nation to soldier on after and without him: not only his oft-repeated motto of ‘Unity, Faith and Discipline’, but also ‘Work, work and work’! In fact, the piece is remarkable also because towards the end of the piece, the writer reminds the reader of the real meaning of Islam, social justice, something Jinnah never tired of reminding us in his various speeches and public pronouncements.

The piece will also be of interest to readers as a unique, unvarnished documentation of social history of Pakistan from the perspective of its people immediately after the founder of the nation passed away. As such, it is a timely reminder that great leaders are only great so far as their people make them so, and even after them, the hard work of glorifying the flag must go on unabated!

“This is no time to vanquish flags, but to glorify them.” These are the plain words which I heard from the mouth of a passerby and I began to think.

Not a long time had passed now since the news of the passing away of Quaid-e-Azam spread in the city. The screams of newspaper hawkers were still resounding in the sad space of the afflicted streets. Sorrow and grief was spread on the face of every person. People were walking about as if walking behind an invisible funerary procession; they were whispering slowly. The unexpected demise of Quaid-e-Azam was being mentioned silently. Every person had become this question-incarnate, “Who do we have now?”

I too thought, “Who do we have now?” But these words of that passerby resounded in my ears, “This is no time to vanquish flags, but to glorify them” – I straightened my neck bent with excessive sorrow and began an attempt to see the other side beyond this mist which had overcome my heart and mind, but like the complete strike by the shops, the thoughts in the mind too were on complete strike.

Men were crying. Women were sobbing. Every eye was wet. Who do we have now – who do we have now?

The Express Tribune for more

March of the right

May 22nd, 2019

by JOHN CHERIAN

A Likud election campaign billboard depicting U.S. President Donald Trump shaking hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem on February 4. PHOTO/Ammar Awad/Reuters

Benjamin Netanyahu’s win for a fourth consecutive term in office could accelerate the process of turning Israel into a full-fledged Jewish state in which Palestinians may have no rights at all.

The victory of the extreme right-wing coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party in the Israeli general election held in the second week of April is bad news not only for Palestinians but for the entire region. Netanyahu has won an unprecedented fourth consecutive term in office. In all, he has held the Prime Minister’s post for a record five times and is set to emerge as the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history. Netanyahu’s election could accelerate the process of turning Israel into a full-fledged Jewish state in which its Palestinians citizens are legally deprived of their rights. More and more countries are now of the view that Israel’s policies in the West Bank bear comparison to apartheid, which was practised in South Africa.

In fact, the African National Congress-run South African government has downgraded relations with Israel because of its racist policies towards Palestinians. The South African ambassador was recalled after the Israeli army fired on peaceful protesters along the Gaza-Israel border in 2018. The South African government has indicated that it will ask the Israeli ambassador in Pretoria to leave. “When South Africa says ‘No’ to Israel, it is doing so in the name of Nelson Mandela, who supported the Palestinians in their struggle and felt a moral obligation to assist them,” the perceptive Israeli commentator Gideon Levy wrote in a recent article. “There is no doubt that Mandela too would have supported the severing of relations.”

In his column in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz written after the election results, Levy said that Israel was the last colonial regime left in the world. “The next government will be a continuation of the previous one, but stronger, more ultranationalist and racist, less legitimate and democratic,” Levy said. Gerard Araud, the outgoing French ambassador to the United States, in an interview with The Atlantic magazine, categorically stated that Israel had become an “apartheid state”.

Netanyahu had pledged to build more settlements on Palestinian land. Under his watch, Gaza will continue to remain an overcrowded open-air prison with no end in sight for the suffering of the people. According to a United Nations estimate, 183 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces last year. Many of them were children who were protesting along with their parents for an end to the occupation. The military invasions by Israel have totally devastated the infrastructure of Gaza. More than 97 per cent of Gaza’s water supply is severely polluted. It has adversely affected the health and lives of the residents of Gaza, especially children.

One of Netanyahu’s coalition partners this time was the racist “Jewish Power” party, which wants to annex all of the West Bank and encourage all non-Jewish citizens to leave the state of Israel. The ultimate goal of the right wing in Israel is to expand its borders to achieve the goal of “Eretz Israel” (Greater Israel) extending from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The U.S.-led peace process, a perennial non-starter, has now been completely sabotaged by the Trump administration. President Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are threatening to unveil the so-called “deal of the century” to end the Israel-Palestine dispute, but only Netanyahu is looking forward to it.

The victory of the corruption-tainted Netanyahu did not come as much of a surprise to the observers of the region. His campaign was similar in style to that of his friend and ideological soulmate, Narendra Modi. The majority of the populace lapped up his xenophobic and jingoist speeches on the campaign trail scapegoating his enemies and Palestinians. As the results of the last few elections have revealed, the Jewish majority has sharply veered to the right. Like Modi, Netanyahu ran on a platform extolling patriotism and vilifying the minorities. Netanyahu presented himself as the only candidate who could protect Israel from its enemies.

Saeeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said that the election results showed that the Israeli voter had said “no” to peace and “yes” to occupation. Only a handful of Israeli legislators elected in the April election support the “two-state” solution. The Labour Party, which once monopolised power in Israel, has been routed in the election. It now has only six members in the Knesset. The overwhelming majority of Israel is quite happy with the creeping colonisation of the West Bank.

Frontline for more

United Nations: US sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela violate human rights

May 22nd, 2019

by KANAGA RAJA

Expressing deep concern over the recent imposition by the United States of unilateral coercive measures against Cuba, Venezuela and Iran, a UN rights expert has said that the use of economic sanctions for political purposes violates human rights and the norms of international behaviour.

In a statement issued on 6 May, Mr Idriss Jazairy, the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, cautioned that such action may precipitate man-made humanitarian catastrophes of unprecedented proportions.

“Regime change through economic measures, likely to lead to the denial of basic human rights and indeed possibly to starvation, has never been an accepted practice of international relations,” said the rights expert.

“Real concerns and serious political differences between governments must never be resolved by precipitating economic and humanitarian disasters, making ordinary people pawns and hostages thereof,” he added.

According to the statement by the rights expert, the recent implementation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act (by the Trump administration), which allows US citizens to file lawsuits against Cuban entities and foreign companies over property seized and used following Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, ignored protests by the European Union and Canada.

It was a direct attack on European and Canadian companies in Cuba, where they are the top foreign investors.

“The resort by a major power of its dominant position in the international financial arena against its own allies to cause economic hardship to the economy of sovereign States is contrary to international law, and inevitably undermines the human rights of their citizens,” said Mr Jazairy.

The statement noted that on 17 April, the United States banned the Central Bank of Venezuela from conducting transactions in US dollars after 17 May 2019, and will cut off access to US personal remittances and credit cards by March 20 20.

“It is hard to figure out how measures which have the effect of destroying Venezuela’s economy, and preventing Venezuelans from sending home money, can be aimed at “helping the Venezuelan people”, as claimed by the US Treasury,” said the independent expert.

The statement cited a recent report published by the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) that claimed that 40,000 people may have died in Venezuela since 2017 due to the US sanctions.

[The CEPR report on “Economic sanctions as collective punishment: The case of Venezuela” was authored by Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director at CEPR, and Jeffrey Sachs, Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

[In examining some of the most important impacts of the economic sanctions imposed by the US government on Venezuela since August 2017, the authors found that most of the impact of these sanctions has not been on the government but on the civilian population.

[According to the CEPR report, the sanctions reduced the public’s caloric intake, increased disease and mortality (for both adults and infants), and displaced millions of Venezuelans who fled the country as a result of the worsening economic depression and hyperinflation.

[The sanctions also exacerbated Venezuela’s economic crisis and made it nearly impossible to stabilize the economy, contributing further to excess deaths.

[The impact of all of these disproportionately harmed the poorest and most vulnerable Venezuelans.

[According to the authors of the report, even more severe and destructive than the broad economic sanctions of August 2017 were the sanctions imposed by executive order on 28 January 2019 and subsequent executive orders this year.

[They also said the recognition of a parallel government created a whole new set of financial and trade sanctions that are even more constricting than the executive orders themselves.

[The authors found that the sanctions have inflicted, and increasingly inflict, very serious harm to human life and health, including an estimated more than 40, 000 deaths from 2017-2018.

[They argued that these sanctions would fit the definition of collective punishment of the civilian population as described in both the Geneva and Hague international conventions, to which the US is a signatory.

[They are also illegal under international law and treaties which the US ha s signed, and would appear to violate US law as well, the authors of the CEPR report said.]

Turning to Iran, Mr Jazairy also expressed concern that the US would not renew waivers for international buyers of Iranian oil, despite protests from NATO ally Turkey, among others.

Washington has demanded that all remaining States which benefited from waivers stop purchases on 1 May, or face sanctions.

“The extraterritorial application of unilateral sanctions is clearly contrary to international law,” the rights expert underlined.

“I am deeply concerned that one State can use its dominant position in international finance to harm not only the Iranian people, who have followed their obligations under the UN-approved nuclear deal to this day, but also everyone in the world who trades with them.”

“The international community must come together to challenge what amounts to blockades ignoring a country’s sovereignty, the human rights of its people, and the rights of third countries trading with sanctioned States, all while constituting a threat to world peace and security,” said Mr Jazairy.

The rights expert called on the international community to engage in constructive dialogue with Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and the United States to find a peaceful resolution in compliance with the spirit and letter of the Charter of the United Nations before the arbitrary use of economic starvation becomes the new “normal”.

Third World Network for more

When Nixon told us invading Cambodia would save civilization

May 21st, 2019

by ANDREW J. BACEVICH

Nixon makes the case for a U.S. invasion of Cambodia, April 29, 1970. PHOTO/USAF

Inflammatory and hysterical language was used then, as it is now, to camouflage reality.

Forty-nine years ago, on the evening of April 30, 1970, President Richard Nixon appeared on television to address the nation. Although his administration was in the process of withdrawing U.S. forces from Vietnam, the purpose of Nixon’s presentation was to announce an expansion of the ongoing conflict. As he spoke, American and South Vietnamese (ARVN) combat units were crossing into Cambodia, a nominally neutral country that had long served as a de facto sanctuary and logistics base for the North Vietnamese Army (NVA).

Nixon framed his decision to invade Cambodia as an essential response to an existential threat. “My fellow Americans,” he announced, “we live in an age of anarchy, both abroad and at home.” The situation was dire, not simply (or even especially) in Southeast Asia, but domestically and globally. “We see mindless attacks,” he continued, “on all the great institutions which have been created by free civilizations in the last 500 years.” Within the United States itself, “great universities are being systematically destroyed” even as “small nations all over the world find themselves under attack from within and from without.”

Then came Nixon’s nut graf, in which the president scaled the Mount Everest of hyperbole: “If, when the chips are down, the world’s most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.” Take Nixon’s words at face value and the real mission of the troops entering Cambodia was to avert the collapse of civilization itself.

Most of this was nonsense, of course. By putting a big enough hurt on the NVA, the invasion of Cambodia might buy a bit more time for ARVN to prepare itself to fight without the assistance of U.S. ground troops. That was about the most that could be hoped for. Sadly, however, the operation failed to accomplish even that. After a few weeks, U.S. and ARVN forces withdrew back into South Vietnam. The NVA repaired the damage it had sustained. Overall, the Cambodia campaign proved irrelevant to the war’s ultimate outcome.

At home, meanwhile, Nixon’s decision touched off a wave of protests on campuses across the nation, culminating in the shooting of unarmed student protestors at Kent State University and Jackson State College. Offended at not having been consulted in advance about Nixon’s intentions, the Congress retaliated by rescinding the 1964 Tonkin Gulf Resolution that had first given the previous administration a green light to initiate combat operations in Vietnam. This was an empty gesture, however, which had no practical effect on the events unfolding on the ground.

Except perhaps among those former G.Is who participated, the Cambodian invasion has long since disappeared down the American memory hole. Yet even today in the so-called Age of Trump, I believe that it retains at least modest significance. If nothing else, it offers an instructive example of how wildly inflammatory language serves to camouflage reality and to incite and divide rather than to inform and unify.

The nation is today awash with inflammatory language that might make Nixon himself blush. Some of that language comes from President Trump and his supporters. As much or more emanates from the anti-Trump camp. On both sides, reason has seemingly taken flight. The hysterical tone of public discourse might suggest that totalitarianism, anarchy, and the collapse of Western civilization are lurking right around the corner.

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