Friday, September 24, 2010

The Elephant in the Room: Unpunished War Crimes

Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, center, and Vice President Dick Cheney listen as President Bush speaks before signing the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

Rumsfeld, Bush and the Supreme War Crime
By Juan Cole / September 24, 2010

Joyce Battle at the National Security Archive has used the Freedom of Information Act to spring classified documents from 2001 about the Bush administration’s sneaky plans for getting up an aggressive war on Iraq.

Document 8 [pdf] contains notes of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld prepared for a meeting with CENTCOM commander Gen. Tommy Franks in Tampa, Fl., on November 27, 2001. It shows a plan to pull a lot of troops out of Afghanistan and put them into Iraq and to ‘decapitate’ the Iraqi leadership. (In other words, Rumsfeld planned to abandon some poor GIs fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban to their fates while putting the money and equipment elsewhere– which got GIs killed).

After all that, the memo sets out points under the heading ‘how start?’, which clearly detail various schemes to start a war under false pretenses, including baiting Saddam into an attack on the Kurds in the north, or breathlessly announcing from the White House that a firm connection had been found between Saddam and Usama Bin Laden. That several such possibilities were listed showed that Rumsfeld did not really care how the war was started, he just wanted that war. And it shows he was entirely willing to manufacture the pretense once it was decided on.

The memo clearly was developed in close consultation with deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz and his subordinate Douglas Feith, both of them part of the Israel Lobby in the Bush administration, whose obsession with Iraq derived from their right-Zionist commitments.

Rumsfeld’s memo certainly violates the charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal on war crimes:

(a) Crimes against peace:

(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;

(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

The Nuremberg Tribunal declared that “To initiate a war of aggression . . . is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

That the United States has failed to come to terms with its war crimes in Iraq only sets us up for a repeat performance. For a nation that lives by laws and the esteem of allies to act like an outlaw will ultimately undermine its own foundation. It is like playing golf in a bathroom– you’re going to end up with a lot of self-inflicted bruises.

Source / Informed Comment

Fluxed Up World

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Industrial Agriculture: Killing Us Not So Slowly

Cows in a dairy farm. Jutzi says an example of the power of the corporate lobby was the obstacles put in the way of proposals for a voluntary code of conduct for the livestock industry. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian.

Corporate lobbying is blocking food reforms, senior UN official warns
By Juliette Jowit / 22 September 2010

Farming summit told of delaying tactics by large agri-business and food producers on decisions that would improve human health and the environment

Lobbying by "powerful" big food companies is blocking reforms which would improve human health and the environment, a director of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned.

Dr Samuel Jutzi's public comments in London will be welcomed by campaigners who have long complained that big agri-business and food producers have too much power over political decisions about regulation of their industry, as awareness is growing that the sector is the world's biggest user of fresh water, a major source of climate pollution, one of the greatest threats to biodiversity, and an important cause of obesity and disease.

Speaking at the Compassion in World Farming annual lecture, Jutzi, director of the animal production and health division of the FAO, said powerful lobby groups were able to delay decisions, sometimes for many years, and "water down" proposed improvements. Their job was made easier because the FAO works by consensus, so persuading as few as two or three national governments to oppose an idea was enough to block it, he said.

"I have now been 20 years in a multilateral organisation which tries to develop guidance and codes for good agricultural practice, but the real, true issues are not being addressed by the political process because of the influence of lobbyists, of the true powerful entities," said Jutzi.

Jutzi then compared the impact of such powerful interventions with the failure of the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December. "Many of us tend to lose hope in this process as we go on, and as we make only very small steps towards the objectives," he added.

He said action to reform the way global agriculture works was essential in light of the projected doubling of food production by 2050 at the same time as increase water, land and energy scarcity.

Speaking afterwards to the Guardian, Jutzi said an example of the power of the corporate lobby was the obstacles put in the way of proposals two years ago for a voluntary code of conduct for the livestock industry. These would have rewarded countries which introduced better standards for health, and environmental regulations such as how many animals an area of land can support without long-term damage. Because some countries have insisted on more evidence and reports, the voluntary code was now likely to take as long as 10 years to implement, said Jutzi.

"We ran into very serious problems: that's where we noted that the economic interests of the lobbyists have [worked] in the background so certain governments would come up with strict opposition, really strict opposition," he said.

In another case, following the publication of a major report in 2006, Livestock's Long Shadow - which among other things calculated that the livestock industry was responsible for nearly one-third of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions - "you wouldn't believe how much we were attacked," Jutzi told the audience.

Jutzi declined to name individual companies or countries, but defended some parts of the industry, saying not all companies were involved in obstructing the FAO's work. "We know that some of the private sector companies are more progressive than some of the politicians from countries which [have] major livestock interests," he told the Guardian.

Joyce d'Silva, CIWF's director of public affairs, said: "Organisations like Compassion in World Farming engage in dialogue with the FAO - and other international agencies. However our funds are limited and cannot hope to match those of the major agribusiness companies or the budgets of governments which are hostile to, for example, further improvements to animal welfare guidance from these agencies."

She added that it was "horrifying" that, "the narrow interests of certain commercial sectors can have more influence than organisations which represent the values and aspirations of millions of citizens."

Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, London, said there have been concerns about corporate lobbying of UN organisations including the FAO and the World Health Organisation for decades, a problem made worse by the widespread acceptance of the power of private companies.

Another example of the success of lobbying was the watering down and low impact of another important report by the European commission, Eurodiet, in 2000, which aimed to give advice about healthy food and drink, said Lang.

"What we have had in the last 25 years is an economic paradigm where it's assumed that markets rule and that global powers are the future, and the global powers par excellence are not countries but companies," he said. "What Dr Jutzi was referring to was the ritualised way in which it has been applied in the meat and animal industry. It [would have been] astonishing if he hadn't said it, but it was nevertheless wonderful that he did."

Although Jutzi stressed that the impact of lobbying was via national governments, Lang said corporate interests had also become "embedded" inside UN organisations through close and regular contacts between the people involved. "They don't need to lobby increasingly, and mostly they are part of the architecture of power," he said.

Despite the problems, Jutzi said there was great scope for improvements. "The sector has significant opportunities to transit to a more sustainable and responsible development path if necessary policy guidance is enforced," he said.

Source / The Guardian

Fluxed Up World

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

What If the Tea Party Was Black ???

See also this video of an interview concerning the same topic from CNN.

Thanks to Jeffrey Segal / Fluxed Up World

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Religious Intolerance: Nothing New in Amerikkka

They used to Burn Catholic Churches, now they Burn Mosques
By Juan Cole / September 9, 2010

The hysteria about mosques in the United States is nothing new in our history. Even though the United States was founded by a ragtag series of religious heretics seeking freedom to worship as they would; even though its constitution enshrines freedom of religion– even so, periods of religious intolerance have reared their ugly heads repeatedly in American history.

The kind of opposition nowadays expressed toward the mosque and the Quran was directed in the 1840s against Olde St. Augustine Church in Philadelphia, its ‘dangerous’ Irish congregation, and their Catholic Bible.

Even though Pennsylvania was founded on the principle of religious toleration as set out in William Penn’s Charter of Liberties, even though its leaders in the 18th century made a place for Catholics and Jews and various Protestant groups, by the 1840s a bunch of bigotted yahoos called ‘Nativists’ were desecrating those noble American values.

In 1796 two Irish friars were sent by the Vatican to buy land for the church, and its cornerstone was laid. “Contributors to the church included President Washington, Commodore John “Father of the U.S. Navy” Barry …, and Constitution signer Thomas Fitzsimons.” Note that the Founding Generation supported the church even though it received Foreign Funding. And, in Britain (and British-ruled Ireland), Catholicism labored under severe disabilities, having been until the late 18th century more or less outlawed. Even in the beginning stages of Catholic emancipation, Catholics were required to assert that they rejected the idea of the Pope having temporal power in order to get basic rights.

As with today’s anti-Muslim bigots, who charge Muslims with wanting to rule the world and impose their religious law on everyone, so the mainstream Protestant rap against the Catholic church was also the charge that it sought political dominance.

The Liberty Bell had been cast in 1752 in England to celebrate Penn’s charter of liberties, but was cracked. Another was cast, the Sister Bell, which ultimately was put in the Olde St. Augustine church.

So Olde St. Augustine was hallowed ground in the history of American religious freedom.

(I might interject that one branch of my family, the Catholic Kohls/ Coles, arrived from Darmstadt in 1830 and settled in Chambersburg, Pa., and would have witnessed the rise of the Nativists in their new home.)

The Bible was still taught in American schools in the early 1840s, and Bishop Francis Kenrick successfully petitioned the school system to allow Catholic students to use a Catholic Bible. Furious Protestants accused him of being anti-Bible and of plotting to gradually push the Bible out of the school curriculum altogether.

The Nativists came out in numbers to mount demonstrations in Irish Catholic neighborhoods in north Philadelphia. One of them turned violent and four Protestants were killed. The Nativists asserted that one of their martyrs had been trying to raise an American flag as he was killed by the “Papists.”

After that mobs formed and burned St. Michael’s Catholic church. Then they attacked Olde St. Augustine and burned it down, library, Sister Bell, and all. William Penn and George Washington were spinning in their graves.

When they poured the library’s books into the street and set them afire, the Nativist mob ended up burning the Bible.

The Catholics rebuilt the Olde St. Augustine. A boys school founded by the friars evolved into Villanova University. In 1960, an Irish Catholic, John F. Kennedy, won the presidency.

People who would burn down a church to which George Washington had made a donation don’t care anything about American values.

And people who would burn a mosque might as well buy a copy of the constitution and light it up.

In the real United States it doesn’t matter what your religion is, and you can build your house of worship where you please, and you don’t have to be born here to be a citizen. Nativists believed the opposite of all these things. They formed a secret party in the nineteenth century that they called the “Know-Nothings.”

They are back.

Source / Informed Comment

Fluxed Up World

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