Saturday, October 04, 2014

Canada Escalates

Canada to dramatically escalate its role in Mideast war

by Keith Jones - WSWS

4 October 2014

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced a major escalation of Canada’s role in the new US-led war in the Middle East.

Speaking in Parliament Friday, Harper said that six CF-18 fighter planes will be deployed to mount bombing raids in Iraq and possibly Syria as part of a six-month Canadian Armed Forces’ “counter-terrorism” mission.

According to Harper, the aim of this mission is to significantly “degrade the capabilities” of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which also goes under the name the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Harper is being disingenuous at best. He, his Conservative government, and the Canadian military know full well that the shoring up of the pro-US regime in Baghdad and its allies in the Kurdish Regional Government against ISIS is only an initial, partial aim of the “coalition of the willing” assembled by the US and for which they signed up Canada virtually from the get-go.

The true target of the war coalition—which now includes Britain and France, respectively Iraq and Syria’s former colonial overlords, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Gulf State absolutist Sheikdoms—is the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The US is determined to oust Assad, who is a close ally of Iran and Russia, as part of its longstanding military-strategic drive to secure untrammeled domination of the Middle East, the world’s principal oil exporting region.

For the past three-and-a-half years all the member-states of the coalition, and especially the US, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, have been sponsoring a “regime change” war in Syria, financing and arming Islamacist forces—including ISIS—as their proxy army against Assad.

While Canada’s government and those of other western powers are highlighting the coalition’s anti-ISIS mandate, making convenient use of its sectarian atrocities to overcome popular opposition to another western military intervention in the Middle East; in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the region the coalition’s member governments are making no secret of the fact that the war’s real objective is Assad’s overthrow.

Already the US is carrying out bombing missions in Syria. At present these are targeting ISIS and allied groups. But Washington has repeatedly said that were the Syrian government to try to assert its national sovereignty under international law and interdict the US warplanes, it would treat this as an act of war—i.e. an excuse for an all-out attack on Syria.

In his Friday speech, Harper announced that Canada will also be contributing to the war coalition an air-to-air refueling aircraft and two Aurora surveillance planes. While the government did not provide figures, it is estimated that 350 Canadian Forces (CF) personnel will have to be deployed to the Middle East to fly and maintain the planes.

The government has also said that the deployment of special forces to northern Iraq will be extended for a further six months. Earlier this week, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said 26 Special Forces’ troops were in northern Iraq to advise and train Kurdish Peshmerga militia. This deployment, which was slated for 30 days when it was first announced at the end of August, could ultimately involve as many as 69 CF elite troops.

The government has insisted that this “advise and training” role in no way contradicts its pledge that the CF mission will not involve any “troops on the ground” or in combat.

In announcing Canada’s greatly expanded role in the new Mideast war, Harper resorted to standard Manichean “war on terror” rhetoric. He trumpeted ISIS’s crimes against civilians and portrayed Canada’s intervention as motivated entirely by humanitarian concerns and reputed ISIS threats to attack Canadians.

Needless to say, Harper avoided any mention of how ISIS is itself a direct product of the monstrous crimes carried out by US imperialism—crimes that have been aided and abetted by Canada. These include:

  • the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq, which blew up Iraqi society; 

  • the US’s subsequent manipulation and fanning of communal sectarian divisions in Iraq as part of a “divide and rule” strategy; 

  • and the use of Islamacist forces as the spearhead of the “successful” NATO 2011 “regime change” war in Libya and the proxy war the US and its allies have fomented in Syria.

Even Postmedia, one of Canada’s major newspaper chains, noted in an article published this week that were Canada to deploy CF-18s to Iraq they would very likely end up bombing Islamacist fighters for whom CF pilots had provided air cover during the NATO campaign to topple the Libyan regime of Muammar Gaddafi. With CIA encouragement, thousands of Islamacist fighters flocked from Libya to Syria after Gaddafi’s overthrow, many if not most of them ultimately joining ISIS.

In his parliamentary address Harper made clear that his government views Canada’s participation in the Iraq-Syria war as vital to ensure the Canadian ruling elite has a say and a share in the spoils of the imperialist reordering and redivision of the Middle East. “Being a free rider,” declared Harper, “means you are not taken seriously.”

Just two months ago, in a speech on the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, Harper celebrated that orgy of destruction as marking Canada’s emergence as a “great power.” “When the great nations of the world gathered,” said Harper, “we must never forget that our place at the table … was bought and paid for on the gas-choked field of Ypres … at Vimy Ridge, … in the long muddy slaughter along the River Somme; in the drenched and cratered wasteland of Passchendaele.” (See: “Canada’s Harper marks World War I with bellicose address”)

Harper’s dismissal of “free-riders” was in part directed at the opposition parties. The NDP, Liberals and Greens have all made clear that they share Harper’s and Washington’s principal war aims, including the overthrow of the Assad regime. However, well aware that there is no enthusiasm within the Canadian population for the CF playing a leading role in another imperialist war, they have thus far withheld their support for Canada participating in the Iraq bombing campaign.

Repeatedly during the past weeks the Liberals said they would be open to supporting the deployment of Canadian fighter jets. But after Harper’s Friday speech, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said his party believes Canada “can make a more helpful contribution to the international effort” against ISIS by helping to build up Iraqi institutions, including its repressive state apparatus, and providing “humanitarian assistance.”

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said the Official Opposition could not give its support to the government’s planned deployment because “the prime minster hasn’t outlined a broad strategic blueprint for the mission.” Mulcair expressed concern that the intervention could end in a quagmire, while the party’s foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said the NDP feared that Canadian bombing missions against ISIS in Syria could bolster Assad’s regime.

Both Mulcair and Trudeau made reference to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. They did so, however, from the standpoint that it had ill-served western interests—not that it was part of an ongoing, Canadian-supported US imperialist drive to strengthen Washington’s military-strategic dominance of the Middle East. And that the new Mideast war is the continuation and escalation of that drive.

The opposition parties have supported Canada’s whole-hearted participation in one US-led war of aggression after another, from the 1999 NATO war on Yugoslavia, through the Afghan War and the 2011 regime change war in Libya. They have also stood shoulder to shoulder with the Harper government in its provocative promotion of the US-German drive to detach Ukraine from Russia’s sphere of influence.

The Liberal-NDP opposition to “Harper’s Mideast war” is a cynical maneuver motivated by the approach of the 2015 federal election and concern that Canada’s prolonged involvement in a bloody imperialist war in the Middle East could give rise to social opposition outside establishment channels.

A parliamentary vote on the new six-month war deployment will be held next week, but as the Conservatives have a majority its outcome is a foregone conclusion.

DC District Judge Rules Guantánamo Force-Feeding Videos be Made Public

In Ground-Breaking Ruling, US Judge Gladys Kessler Orders Guantánamo Force-Feeding Videos to be Made Public

by Andy Worthington

Congratulations to Judge Gladys Kessler of the District Court in Washington D.C., who, yesterday, followed up on a powerful order prohibiting the government from holding a secret hearing in the case of Guantánamo hunger striker Abu Wa’el Dhiab, which I wrote about here, with an even more powerful order calling on the government to prepare for public release eleven hours of videotapes showing Mr. Dhiab being dragged from his cell and force-fed.
Sami-al-Haj force-feeding as depicted
by British artist, Lewis Peake 2008

This ruling is the latest in a string of powerful rulings by Judge Kessler, who, in May, briefly ordered the government to stop force-feeding Mr. Dhiab. This order was swiftly rescinded, as Judge Kessler feared for his life, but she also ordered videotapes of his “forcible cell extractions” (FCEs) and his force-feeding to be made available to his lawyers, who had to travel to the Pentagon’s secure facility outside Washington D.C. to see them. After viewing them, Cori Crider, his lawyer at Reprieve, said, “While I’m not allowed to discuss the contents of these videos, I can say that I had trouble sleeping after viewing them,” and added, “I have no doubt that if President Obama forced himself to watch them, he would release my client tomorrow.”

In a press release, Reprieve explained that the eleven hours of video footage — consisting of 28 tapes in total — “is to be redacted for ‘all identifiers of individuals’ other than Mr. Dhiab,” and further explained how Judge Kessler’s ruling came in response to a motion submitted in June by 16 major US media organizations, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, McClatchy, the Guardian, the Associated Press and others, seeking to have the videotapes unsealed.

In a statement quoted in Judge Kessler’s ruling, Mr. Dhiab endorsed the request for the videotapes to be unsealed, stating, “I want Americans to see what is going on at the prison today, so they will understand why we are hunger-striking, and why the prison should be closed. If the American people stand for freedom, they should watch these tapes. If they truly believe in human rights, they need to see these tapes.”

In her ruling, Judge Kessler specifically made reference to the need for First Amendment rights to be protected with reference to Guantánamo, stating, “In short, it is our responsibility, as judges, as part of our obligation under the Constitution, to ensure that any efforts to limit our First Amendment protections are scrutinized with the greatest of care. That responsibility can not be ignored or abdicated.”

She also described the government’s justifications for seeking to keep the whole of the evidence on the videotapes sealed as a demand that is “unacceptably vague, speculative, lack[ing specificity, or … just plain implausible,” and added, “It strains credulity to conclude that release of these videos has a substantial probability of causing the harm the Government predicts.”

The Guardian noted that Judge Kessler countered another argument — that, if the tapes were made public, the prisoners “would learn how to develop ‘countermeasures’ to defeat force-feeding,” despite the fact that, in some cases, they have been force-fed for seven years — by noting that it “strains credulity.”

She also dismissed the government’s claim that releasing the videos would violate the Geneva Conventions because it would violate Mr. Dhiab’s right not to be held up to “public curiosity” by stating, “The Government’s claim, if accepted, would turn the Third Geneva Convention on its head. Rather than a source of rights to humane treatment, Article 13 would become a means to shield from public view treatment that Mr. Dhiab (and undoubtedly other detainees) believe to be inhumane.”

This is not the first time the authorities have invoked the Geneva Conventions, and the right not to be held up to “public curiosity,” to prevent knowledge about Guantánamo being made public. Media visitors to Guantánamo are permanently prohibited from showing the faces of prisoners when they take photos during prison tours, which has the effect of hindering the public’s ability to empathize with them.

Moreover, the ban on photos identifying the men held has been disturbingly thorough throughout Guantánamo’s long and ignoble history. A handful of photos have been released publicly after they were taken by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and were subsequently released by the men’s families, but for the most part what we know to this day of what the prisoners look like, or looked like, has come from the Detainee Assessment Briefs, the classified military files that were released by WikiLeaks in 2011. However, none of the photos that have been released show the horrors of force-feeding, of prisoners weighing 100 pounds or less, which, if made publicly available, would invite comparisons with the Nazis’ concentration camps, and would, I believe, lead to action to bring about the prison’s closure.

It may be that the videotapes of Mr. Dhiab will perform this important function, and I certainly hope so.

The process of obscuring from the videotapes what Judge Kessler referred to as “all faces other than Mr Dhiab’s, voices, names, etc.” is “likely to take some days,” as Reprieve explained, adding that, while the redactions are made, Judge Kessler ordered the tapes to remain under seal. In the meantime, the hearing that I wrote about yesterday will begin on Monday (October 6), at 10am in Washington D.C. — unless it is delayed by an anticipated government appeal.

In response to the ruling, Cori Crider said, “It is high time the bright light of the truth was shone on Guantánamo’s force-feeding practices. It has always been the height of hypocrisy for the Guantánamo authorities to take media groups on ‘show tours’, while forbidding them from talking to prisoners or seeing evidence like this, which shows the grim reality of life at the prison. I look forward to the day when this evidence is made public, and I believe the outcry that results will hasten the close of Guantánamo Bay.”

Jon Eisenberg, who represents Mr. Dhiab in the US, said, “We firmly believe that once the veil of secrecy is lifted from the abusive treatment of hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, the abuse will end. This decision by Judge Kessler is a big step toward lifting that veil of secrecy.”

Alka Pradhan, of Reprieve US, added, “This may well be the most significant court decision on Guantánamo Bay in years. No longer does the American public have to rely on propaganda and misinformation, but can finally watch the videotapes and judge for themselves whether this terrible prison should continue to be the image America projects to the world, or whether we should reclaim our values and shut it down for good.”

Note: Please see here for the website of Lewis Peake, the artist who drew the illustration at the top of this article in 2008, as part of a series of five illustrations based on drawings by Guantánamo prisoner Sami al-Haj, which the Pentagon censors had refused to allow the public to see. Reprieve commissioned Lewis Peake to reproduce the drawings based on descriptions of what Sami had drawn, and I reproduced them in my article, “Sami al-Haj: the banned torture pictures of a journalist in Guantánamo.”

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here – or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

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Brutal RCMP In-Custody Assault on Hand-Cuffed Man Results in Permanent Brain Injury - Victim Alleges "Roid Rage"

UBCIC and BCCLA react to video of Robert Wright’s brutal take-down while in Terrace RCMP cells

by BC Civil Liberties Association

VANCOUVERCoast Salish Territory – Nearly two years after the BCCLA and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs called for the public release of the cellblock videotape of an assault on Robert Wright in the cells of the Terrace RCMP detachment, the footage has been released to the public for the first time.


Robert Wright in hospital after incident in Terrace RCMP cells 

 On April 21, 2012, Robert Wright, a 47-year-old construction worker at the time, was taken into custody by Terrace RCMP after his wife, Heather Prisk, called for police assistance.

While in custody, Wright received a disabling brain injury at the hands of police.

In one of the two incidents in which force was used on him, Wright was handcuffed and kneeling in a cell, facing the wall and being searched by three police officers when he was forcefully “taken to the ground” by one of the officers.

Wright sustained a head injury requiring twelve stitches and causing a traumatic brain injury. He had to be taken by air ambulance for emergency life-saving surgery in the lower mainland of BC, where he lay in a coma for 10 days. He remains seriously brain injured and suffers significant memory issues making independent living impossible.

Earlier this year, Mr. Wright filed a lawsuit against the RCMP constable who allegedly assaulted him. Recently, that lawsuit was amended to allege that the constable in question was on illegal steroids at the time.

Robert Wright on the cell floor after being “taken to the ground” 
by Terrace RCMP (Photo: screen cap from video provided by H. Prisk)

Josh Paterson, executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, reacted to the video:

“This is shocking. It appears on the video that this brutal takedown was an excessive use of force. Mr. Wright was kneeling on a bench, cuffed, and posing no apparent threat at the time that a constable smashed him to the floor, breaking his head open and leaving a pool of blood. Rob’s trip to the cells was life sentence to a permanent and debilitating brain injury. We hope that the family’s lawsuit will get to the bottom of why this happened, and that it will bring some measure of justice to the Wright-Prisk family.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, added:

“Two years ago I said I couldn’t imagine a scenario that would justify the cruel use of force against Robert Wright, who was kneeling, cuffed, and surrounded by police. In video, it appears that there was no justification. He was viciously and inhumanely assaulted. When will the violence against Indigenous people stop in this province? This video shows how little value was placed on Robert Wright’s humanity. He can never go back. He will never be the same. The police have got to be held accountable and we fully support them in this fight.”

The New Westminster Police Department investigated the case and recommended charges against at least one police officer; however, the regional Crown in New Westminster declined to approve those charges and proceed to trial. In declining to approve charges, the Criminal Justice Branch relied on a use of force expert report, surveillance video and audio, none of which have been publicly disclosed.

In November 2012, the BC Civil Liberties Association and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs called for the province to appoint a special prosecutor to review whether criminal charges should be laid. The BC government did not act on this request.

Grand Chief Phillip and Mr. Paterson visited Mr. Wright in Terrace in March 2013. Robert Wright continues to live with disabling brain injuries in Terrace in the full-time care of his wife, Heather Prisk-Wright.

Ding Dang Dong: Duvalier the Dictator's Dead

Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier Dead at 63

by Toronto Star

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - Jean-Claude Duvalier, the self-proclaimed “president for life” of Haiti whose corrupt and brutal regime sparked a popular uprising that sent him into a 25-year exile, died Saturday of a heart attack, his attorney said.
Reynold George said the 63-year-old ex-leader died at his home.

Biden Admits US "Allies" Fund and Arm Al Qaeda/Al Nusra

Biden: Turks, Saudis, UAE Funded and Armed Al Nusra and Al Qaeda

by Sharmine Narwani - Mideast Shuffle

When Joe Biden gets candid, he really lets rip. The US vice president, speaking at the John F. Kennedy Jr Forum at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, on Thursday told his audience – point blank – that America’s Sunni allies are responsible for funding and arming Al Qaeda-type extremists in Syria.

And he named names: Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, specifically. Others – like Qatar – are undoubtedly complicit too, but Biden’s comments were made off-the-cuff during the question and answer period following his prepared statement.

Of course, much of what Biden said has been suspected for years by Syria watchers, but to acknowledge this outright during the early days of President Barack Obama’s much-vaunted ISIL-busting Coalition – featuring these very same Sunni Arab partners – is a jaw-dropping concession.

But that’s not all. Biden also managed to fundamentally undermine his administration’s efforts to train and arm “moderate” Syrian rebels today, by claiming there is no “moderate middle (in Syria) because the moderate middle are made up of shopkeepers, not soldiers.”

Keep in mind now that just two weeks ago Congress approved – at the request of this White House – $500 million dollars to train and arm “moderate” Syrian rebels. Obama’s second-in-command is saying there are none of those, so who exactly are US forces teaching to fight with heavy weapons in Saudi training camps today?

Let’s go directly to the Q&A session following Biden’s speech. Here is an unedited version taken from the audio recording released on The White House’s YouTube channel:

Question: In retrospect do u believe the United States should have acted earlier in Syria, and if not why is now the right moment?

Biden: The answer is ‘no’ for 2 reasons. One, the idea of identifying a moderate middle has been a chase America has been engaged in for a long time. We Americans think in every country in transition there is a Thomas Jefferson hiding beside some rock – or a James Madison beyond one sand dune. The fact of the matter is the ability to identify a moderate middle in Syria was – there was no moderate middle because the moderate middle are made up of shopkeepers, not soldiers – they are made up of people who in fact have ordinary elements of the middle class of that country. And what happened was – and history will record this because I’m finding that former administration officials, as soon as they leave write books which I think is inappropriate, but anyway, (laughs) no I’m serious – I do think it’s inappropriate at least , you know, give the guy a chance to get out of office. And what my constant cry was that our biggest problem is our allies – our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks were great friends – and I have the greatest relationship with Erdogan, which I just spent a lot of time with – the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world. Now you think I’m exaggerating – take a look. Where did all of this go? So now what’s happening? All of a sudden everybody’s awakened because this outfit called ISIL which was Al Qaeda in Iraq, which when they were essentially thrown out of Iraq, found open space in territory in eastern Syria, work with Al Nusra who we declared a terrorist group early on and we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them. So what happened? Now all of a sudden – I don’t want to be too facetious – but they had seen the Lord. Now we have – the President’s been able to put together a coalition of our Sunni neighbors, because America can’t once again go into a Muslim nation and be seen as the aggressor – it has to be led by Sunnis to go and attack a Sunni organization. So what do we have for the first time?

The audio clip ends there. While you are taking a moment to readjust your worldview and re-categorize the ‘good guys’ and bad guys,’ do also note the veiled swipe Biden takes at former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton whose recent book criticizes Obama’s Syria decisions while he is still a sitting president.

Before you allow Biden to transfer all blame for the radicalism in Syria onto the convenient Muslims-du-jour, consider for a moment the US’s role in all of this.

We have press reports that the CIA was a major conduit for the transfer of weapons from Libya to Syria – a role, no doubt, facilitated by US Ambassador Christopher Stevens who was killed in Benghazi by unknown extremists.

We are also told that the US assisted in the logistics of delivering a Saudi-bankrolled transfer of Croatian weapons in 2012 to Syrian ‘rebels.’ According to the BBC: “The CIA is also reported to have been instrumental in setting up the alleged secret airlift of weapons from Croatia. And here is The Telegraph‘s take on things:

“The shipments were allegedly paid for by Saudi Arabia at the bidding of the United States, with assistance on supplying the weapons organised through Turkey and Jordan, Syria’s neighbors.”

These weapons were later caught on video in the hands of Ahrar al-Sham, which today is a target of US airstrikes inside Syria. The New York Times goes further:

“With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.”

“From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive, according to American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.”

Exactly how does that exonerate Americans from delivering weapons to “Al Nusra and Al Qaeda?”

Biden’s comments on Thursday were a bombshell that will be heard across the globe. They will fundamentally undermine Obama’s attempts to arm “moderate rebels” and assemble a coalition that includes the very same Sunni Arab states that have helped create ISIL.

So what did the mainstream US media say about it? Nothing. Zip. Nada.

No – wait. There were headlines about Biden’s speech – let me be fair. But this is what CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox News pulled out of their collective hats:

CNN: “Joe Biden gets colorful on being a VP – and it rhymes with glitch.” This, a reference to Biden’s use of the word “bitch” in jokingly describing the job of a vice president.

CNN (again): “Joe Biden explains how Ebola is like ISIS.”

ABC: “This might be the best thing Joe Biden’s ever said.” Another reference to the ‘bitch’ comment.

NBC: “Vice President Joe Biden’s Foul-Mouthed Quip on Job Draws Laughs.” Bitch, again.

CBS: “Joe Biden’s salty description of being VP.” Yawn.

Fox: “Biden on being Vice President: It’s a b-itch.” Kill me now.

Enough said. Washington’s partners in fighting extremism – and trampling all over international laws to do it – are the same ones who have fueled it. The Vice President of the United States just said so. And Americans are snickering over the B-word. Leaders of the free world indeed.

Walid Itayim provided research assistance on this blogpost. Follow the author on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, October 03, 2014

I Am Not the Walrus Apocalypse: Treehugger Misses Mark on Mammal Meme

Bullshit WWF Story of Walrus Haulout Evidence of Immediate Sea Ice Crisis Caused by Anthro. Climate Change is Being Product Placed in All Venues

by Michael Major

The walrus story is yet another corporate PR led climate anxiety product placement but few are examining the story adequate to deconstruct the bullshit. We need to create a counter PR firm and worry about funding later!

Had treehugger reported on the phenomenon of large scale walrus haul-outs without trying to breathlessly adduce it as the latest scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change, ['This is what it looks like when 35,000 walrus can’t find enough sea ice'] your readers would be better served.

Instead, you have taken a fascinating natural occurrence operating since time immemorial and converted it from a window on a complex ecology into an untruthful propaganda poster-child intended to cause uninformed climate reaction instead of ecological awareness and informed deliberation.

Wake-up! When you accept a PR initiative for publication no matter how well accompanied with beautiful photos, please consider that it may be positioned to undermine the values and ecological mindfulness with which treehugger has long sought identification.

Asleep at the gate, you have positioned treehugger with the types of corporate psyops reflecting for instance that climate changed ice-less polar bears are at terminal dead-ends therefore no longer a charismatic mega-fauna policy frustration for allocating pan arctic petroleum privileges.

Or a another example, the bandwagon on which ENGO activists were paid to jump, in which climate change rather than insane de/reforestation practices involving British Columbia's valley to valley clearcutting and dense monoculture in even aged replacement plantations caused mountain pine beetles to shift from endemic to epidemic mode and destroy $20 billion worth of plantations. As a result, as directed by corporate PR, Canadian society blamed endemic beetles and climate change rather than greed, perfidy and professional corruption. The guilty non beetles got away scot-free.

Treehugger is a valuable voice for environmental awareness and it needs to defend that voice from exploitative corporate hijacking.
The walrus haul-outs phenomena is astounding but it is not in terms of frequency or level or diversity of walrus participation evidence of climate change. There are numerous existential environmental threats to walrus survival originating from resource exploitation, pollution and accelerating industrial expansion. For walruses, climate change is not yet as immediate as the phalanx of other arctic ecosystem function terminating industrial threats.

Also, please note that the mitigation of atmospheric CO2 mediated climate change to occur at some future date is not intended to prevent the industrial extirpation of arctic or temperate mega fauna, human, walrus or otherwise.

The huge PR initiatives emphasizing climate change are not intended to cause a widespread political reaction to the rapid industrial expansion of threats to the environment or to the industrial modification of the inertial homeostasis and bounded variability of the late Holocene climate.

The PR initiatives are ultimately intended to generate public and political support for current and increasing levels of geo-engineering sufficient for creating and maintaining some bubble refugia and human sanctuary from noxious industrial byproducts such that sufficient critical public consensus will remain accessible for continuing the expansion of industrial resource and environmental exploitation despite terminal consequences for very many ecosystems.

In short, rather than reversing industrial exploitation in the interests of ecosystem and biodiversity survival, we are going to defend a subset of humanity from the consequences of industrial expansion while more fully reallocating the balance of the planet to rapidly increasing industrial expansion and the expansion of concomitant consequences.

The treehugger meme would reflect braking economic growth in order to reverse environmental threats and resource exploitation to a level such that long run ecosystem function, biodiversity and resilience is assured.

Now, how is that strategic goal going to be communicated alongside the PR feed that we should panic because only the sky is falling on the walrus?

Syria’s Zenobians

Road to Victory: Syria’s Zenobians Stand to Win International Rugby Tournament

by Eva Bartlett - In Gaza

While I don’t follow organized sports, when I got the opportunity to meet the only rugby team in Syria and see them practise, I jumped on it. I found the fact that these men still meet, train and compete–in spite of the many obstacles which should prevent them from doing so–fascinating. What follows are observations and conversations from a morning with Syria’s Zenobians:

Already by 10 am on a blistering June Friday, heat rises in shimmers across the small multi-purpose pitch at Faihaa stadium. At one end, members of the Zenobians run drills and do punishment push-ups and crunches whenever they drop the ball. At the other end, a group of children practise their football (“soccer”) shots. With a row of evergreens surrounding the field and Damascus’ Mt Qasioun as a backdrop, the practice field–even though shared—is a near-idyllic recreation venue.

Winners of the “Damascus Sevens” from 2006-8, second place in Egypt’s “Alexandria Tens” in 2009, and first place in the 2011 “Dubai Sevens”(The “Sevens” matches comprise seven players vs the standard fifteen), the Zenobians have overcome a number of obstacles to achieve their successes. A burnt-out mortar hole at the far end of the field evidences the lethal reality of mortar fire. The lack of equipment and of sponsorship are other hurdles they face.

Zenobians’ PR Officer, Mohamed Jarkou, 37, a mechanical engineer, is also the first Syrian rugby player, joining in 2004 what was largely an expat scene of casual rugby. “They started playing rugby, for fun, so I joined them,” Jarkou says, after a June Friday practice.

By the end of 2004, other Syrians had taken notice and joined the Zenobians. Player numbers increased, with around 65 Syrians until 2009, according to Jerkou. “At present there are 25 registered.”

A poor student of history, I ask the meaning of the team name which, as it turns out holds greater meaning than most North American sports teams. “Zenobia was a Syrian queen in the 3rd century, and had a great army with many victories,” Jarkou explains. “Rugby is like a war; each place that you win a ruck and move forward, its like you’ve won a battle.”

At its height, Syrian rugby had grown to include three teams, offering more opportunities for matches, for practical experience. With just one team now, the weekly practice is the only means of perfecting form. Otherwise, “our only chance to play is outside Syria, is in nearby regional countries,” says Jarkou.

As many of the team are professionals who are busy throughout the week, others students, the Zenobians practise just once a week, Friday, a day off for most in Syria

Nour Mardini, a cheerful guy in his late-twenties holds a Masters in Business Management, has been playing since just 2010. Already, he has travelled with the team to various regional tournaments.

“At first, I thought rugby was an aggressive sport for tough guys, so I joined,” he says with a grin. “Yet, when I started playing, I realized it’s more than a tough sport, there’s a lot of running and you need good tactics and strategies to be successful.”

Hani al-Hafez, 29, a French Literature and Italian languages graduate, has been playing almost as long as Jarkou, joining in 2005. “Rugby has a place for everyone, new and old. I had only been on the team long enough to join two practices before we had a ‘Fifteens‘ match against Jordan, which I got to play in. I was amazed by the support my teammates showed me. I fell in love with the game, it’s become a way of life for me.”

For others, rugby is not only a passion, it’s an outlet to rid stress, a reprieve through which to relax, however briefly. Ows Jamal Saleh, 30, a surgeon, scarcely has the time for anything beyond work.

“I’m in the final year of specialization in general surgery. I work in various hospitals, to make ends meet, and live in a hospital. I come here to do some sport, relax, and then go on to my next shift. The timing works perfectly for me, Friday mornings are the only time I could really fit in anything.”

Describing himself as having always been active, a former gymnast, then a high school freestyle wrestler, he’s taken to rugby and has been playing for a year. “A friend of mine mentioned the team and invited me to play. I used to download clips from Youtube, to understand the rules and technique, but didn’t know there was any rugby in Syria.”

Sam al-Akhras, an English Literature graduate, joined recently, in March, to “get rid of all the stress of the war on Syria, by playing an aggressive sport.” Just two months after joining, Akhras took a forced break for a month after being injured by one of 27 mortars fired on his neighbourhood on May 6 (In total, 54 mortars were fired on Damascus that day alone). Mortar shrapnel hit him from behind, puncturing his body from head to foot. A month later Akhras is back running, visibly still suffering from the remaining shrapnel which pushes against his lung, but determined to play.

Formerly a body-builder, marketing manager Hussein al-Hakim joined the team in 2011, enlisted by friends on the team. “Many times, we can’t travel in the city because there are too many problems, so we can’t get here to practise,” he says. One of the problems in question is the incessant mortar and missile fire by armed insurgents outside the city. A plume of smoke rises not far from Faihaa as we leave the field some hours later.

Nawar Laham, an architect, played with the Syrian Eagles in 2008, and joined the Zenobians in 2012 after many Eagles members left Syria, “because of the situation,” he says. “Look at this field, we don’t have a proper pitch to play on,” says Laham.

This is a point Mohamed Jarkou emphasizes. “In 2011, we beat seven teams, all of whom have actual leagues, proper fields, funding, equipment, and coaches. We have none of this, but we still won.”

Following the 2011 win, the Syrian Sports Federation deemed rugby as an official sport in Syria and formed the Syrian High Rugby Committee, says Jarkou.

In the months since that June morning, when the only “equipment” the team had were their rugby balls and uniforms, they’ve now acquired tackling bags with which to practise. To do so they—low on funds—pooled their money, looked up the standard specifications and measurements online, and had tackling bags made locally.

At the moment, the team is in the process of preparing itself for this December’s “Dubai International Sevens,” the tournament they’ve participated in since 2005 (and won in 2011). But Hani al-Hafez worries they won’t make it to Dubai this year, which he says would have future consequences.

“It’s an important tournament, with more than 125 teams are competing, including from Canada, Britain, France, New Zealand…There are many teams on the waiting list, so if one team skips a year, it can be difficult for them to participate the next year.”

Still hoping to attend the Dubai tournament, the Zenobians plan to get in more practice by playing in local Beirut games, if they can afford to get even there. “It all depends on how much that is going to cost,” says Hafez. “We are looking for a sponsor, especially for the 2014 Dubai tournaments. We’re short US$7,500.”

The money, Hafez says, will cover the expenses of the equipment they lack, tournament fees, travel, accommodation, and visa costs. “The visa fees have doubled since last year, from 750 AED to 1500 AED (roughly $410). The cost of plane tickets have gone up by US$75 per ticket, and likewise hotel prices have increased.”

The Zenobians recently updated their Facebook page with a call-out for sponsorship: “If you have a company and you are interested to become the next Sponsor of the Zenobians or if you know any company or Sponsor who are interested of funding us, please do not hesitate to contact us. Best regards from Damascus.”

Hani al-Hafez can be reached regarding sponsorship or other questions at the Zenobians’ Facebook page: Zenobians Syrian rugby club

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Happy Birthday Gore Vidal: Empire America Proves Sceptic Right, Again

Gore Vidal on Bush's Inaugural Address: "The Most Un-American Speech I've Ever Heard."

by Democracy Now!

January 25, 2005

We take a look at President Bush’s inaugural address with Gore Vidal, one of America’s most respected writers and thinkers and the author of more than 20 novels and 5 plays. Vidal says, "If the United States does go abroad to slay dragons in the name of freedom, liberty and so on, she could become dictatress of the world, but in the process she would lose her soul." [includes rush transcript]

As we continue our discussion of President Bush’s inaugural address. Let’s hear a portion of that speech.
President Bush, inaugural address January 20, 2005.

We are joined now by Gore Vidal. He is one of America’s most respected writers and thinkers. He is the author of more than 20 novels and 5 plays. He is author, most recently, of the national bestsellers "Dreaming War" and "Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace." His latest book is called "Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia."

AMY GOODMAN: As we continue our discussion of President Bush’s inaugural address, let’s hear a section of that speech.

PRESIDENT BUSH: America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal, instead, is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way. The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America’s influence is not unlimited; but fortunately for the oppressed, America’s influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom’s cause.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush, his second inaugural address. Today we’re joined by Gore Vidal, one of America’s most respected writers and thinkers. Author of more than twenty novels, five plays. Author most recently of, Dreaming War and Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace. His latest book is, Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia. Yesterday we caught up with Gore Vidal and I asked him his reaction to the inaugural address.

Show Full Transcript

By the Numbers: World's Biggest Energy Hogs

The World’s 10 Biggest Energy Gluttons

by Andrew Topf -

Next time you get into your car and drive to the supermarket, think about how much energy you consume on an annual basis. It is widely assumed that Westerners are some of the world’s worst energy pigs. While Americans make up just 5 percent of the global population, they use 20 percent of its energy, eat 15 percent of its meat, and produce 40 percent of the earth’s garbage.

Europeans and people in the Middle East, it turns out, aren't winning any awards for energy conservation, either. set out to discover which countries use the most energy and why.

Related: Why Energy Efficiency Is The Most Important Fuel We Didn’t Know We Had

While some of the guilty parties are obvious, others may surprise you. A note about the figures: we used kilograms of oil equivalent (koe) per capita, which refers to the amount of energy that can be extracted from one kilogram of crude oil. “Koe per capita” can be used to compare energy from different sources, including fossil fuels and renewables, and does here. The numbers represent the most recent data available from the World Bank.
(Image Source:

1. Iceland - 18,774 kg. Yes, that’s right, Iceland. Of all the countries in the world, including the richest and largest oil producers, Iceland consumes the most energy per person. How can that be? The reason is basically overabundance. With most of Iceland’s energy coming from hydroelectric and geothermal power, Icelanders are some of the planet’s least energy-conscious. Click here for a fascinating video of why the Nordic nation uses so much energy.

2. Qatar – 17,418 kg. Qataris are addicted to oil. According to National Geographic, the population is provided with free electricity and water, which has been described as “liquid electricity” because it is often produced through desalination, a very energy-intensive process. Qatar's per capita emissions are the highest in the world, and three times that of the United States.

3. Trinidad and Tobago – 15,691 kg. Trinidad and Tobago is one of the richest countries in the Caribbean, and the region's leading producer of oil and gas; it houses one of the largest natural gas processing facilities in the Western Hemisphere. T&T is the largest LNG exporter to the United States. Its electricity sector is entirely fueled by natural gas.

4. Kuwait – 10,408 kg. Despite holding the sixth-largest oil reserves in the world, and an estimated 63 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, the demand for electricity in Kuwait often outstrips supply. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Kuwait is perpetually in electricity supply shortage and experiences frequent blackouts each summer. The country has become a net importer of natural gas to address the imbalance.

5. Brunei – 9,427 kg. The tiny sultanate on the island of Borneo, apart from being a substantial producer and exporter of oil and natural gas to Asia, is also a habitual power hog. The nation of roughly half a million has the region's highest number of cars per capita. Brunei also subsidizes both vehicle fuel and electricity, which is sold to the public at below-market prices.

6. Luxembourg – 7,684 kg. Landlocked Luxembourg is almost totally dependent on energy imports, mostly oil and gas. Energy consumption has increased 32 percent since 1990, with transportation responsible for 60 percent of the intake, according to an EU fact sheet.

7. United Arab Emirates – 7,407 kg. Nothing says conspicuous energy consumption like Ski Dubai. The indoor resort featuring an 85-meter-high mountain of man-made snow burns the equivalent of 3,500 barrels of oil a day. The World Resource Institute estimates the UAE uses 481 tonnes of oil equivalent to produce $1 million of GDP, compared to Norway's 172 tonnes.

Related: Africa and Belgium Generate the Same Amount of Electricity – But That’s Changing

8. Canada – 7,333 kg. Oh, Canada. Kind, peace-loving Canadians certainly love their cars, along with space heaters, hot tubs and other energy-sucking toys. But while many equate Canada's energy sector with the oil sands, it is, in fact, other forms of energy that account for the lion's share of consumption. EcoSpark published a pie chart showing over half (57.6 percent) of Canada's electricity comes from hydro, with coal the second most popular choice at 18 percent. Nuclear is third (14.6 percent), with oil and gas comprising just 6.3 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.

9. United States – 6,793 kg. As the world's largest economy and richest nation, the U.S. should obviously be included as a top 10 energy glutton. However, one puzzling fact is that despite annual economic growth, per-capita U.S. energy consumption has remained around the same level since the 1970s. According to the EIA, one explanation is that the U.S. has simply shifted the energy required to satisfy greater consumption to manufacturing centers offshore.

10. Finland – 6,183 kg. With over a third of its territory above the Arctic Circle, a cold climate, sparse population and a highly industrialized economy, it is no wonder that Finland is among the highest per-capita energy users in Europe. However, according to the International Energy Agency, Finland plans to diversify its economy away from carbon-based fuels, through a shift to renewables, including biomass, and has approved construction of two new nuclear plants.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

11 Reported Killed in Attack: Kiev Coup Regime Breaks Ceasefire with School Shelling

At least 11 killed, 40 injured in shelling in Donetsk, E. Ukraine, school hit

by RT

At least 11 people have been killed and 40 others have been injured in Donetsk, where a school and a bus stop came under fire – reportedly from Ukrainian Army positions.

Two people are reported to have died at the school, and nine at the bus stop, according to Donetsk People Republic’s Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Purgin.

No children were killed in the shelling of school №57, the Donetsk People’s Republic ‘s Interior Ministry said, as cited by TASS. The ministry’s press service added that parents and teachers became victims of the shelling.

The city council stated that all 70 children studying at the school were in the building at the moment of the strike. They were hastily evacuated. The school building was damaged in the attack.

The Russian Foreign Ministry describes the attack as a cynical and blatant breach of international law.

“The particular cynicism of this shelling is the very fact that today was the children’s first day at school. And on this day, artillery directly targets them. These are blatant, intolerable things,” the ministry’s human rights ombudsman Konstantin Dolgov said.

No Ukrainian sources have confirmed the information yet.

“Heavy artillery fire is being heard in Donetsk. The Kievsky district has been under fire – many residential areas and other buildings have been damaged, civilians have been killed and wounded,” the city council said in a statement.

Public transport has been changing routes due to the shelling.

One hundred and forty-six schools in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic had commenced classes out of 150, Minister of Education of Donetsk People’s Republic Igor Kostenok said.

A ceasefire between the Ukrainian government and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics’ authorities was signed in Minsk, Belarus, on September 5.

Feds Promise Decision on Site C Dam Proposal October 22nd

Site C Decision this month! Speak out NOW!


The countdown for a decision on Site C is on! Federal Environment Minster Leona Aglukkaq stated that her ministry will make a decision on October 22nd. If the federal government rejects this project, it is a no go!

Let’s make sure that both levels of government are truly accountable to the citizens of British Columbia, particularly those who will lose their multi-generational homes, farms and cultural lands, before a final decision is made on Site C.

Last week, The Treaty 8 chiefs as well as Union of BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stuart Philip, travelled all the way to Ottawa in hopes of discussing the unmitigable impacts Site C would cause to their people. Yet none of the federal environment ministry staff would meet with them! Minster Aglukkaq told the media, “It would not be appropriate for me to discuss any matter relating to the project with an interested party to ensure fairness to all parties.”

Further, the Peace Valley Environment Association (PVEA) was promised in 2006 that the government would tour the valley and meet with affected landowners before any final decision was made on Site C. PVEA has recently followed up on this promise with key provincial government ministers but none of those contacted have even provided the courtesy of a response to date!

The citizens of British Columbia should not be ignored!

An essential component of decision-making includes contemplating the issues weighing on one’s conscience. If decision-makers refuse to face those whose lives will be gravely impacted, if they refuse to see, hear and feel the impact on real people and the land, then how are they sufficiently assessing and bearing the weight of their decision?

We ask that you send letters to both Premier Clark and Federal Minister of the Environment, Leona Aglukkaq, insisting that they fully and sufficiently assess this potentially catastrophic project by meeting in the valley, face-to-face with those whose lives will be so gravely impacted. Both First Nations and other citizens deserve this opportunity.

 This is not a ‘paper’ exercise; this is destruction of Canadian citizens’ livelihoods and way of life!

Send your letters to:

Honorable Leona Aglukkaq
458 Confederation Building
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6


Premier Christy Clark
PO BOX 9041
V8W 9E1


Please send your letters NOW, before BC makes this huge mistake!

Thank you so much for you consistent support during this critical time in our campaign to protect the Peace River Valley, farm families and the treaty guaranteed rights of First Nations.

For the Peace,

Andrea Morison, Ana Simeon
Peace Valley Environment Association Sierra Club BC

Stop Site C

Mass Graves Uncovered in Eastern Ukraine, Western Media Remains Silent

Strong Proof Right Sector, National Guard linked to mass graves near Donetsk – Moscow

by RT

There is irrefutable evidence that the National Guard and ultra-nationalist Right Sector fighters are responsible for the murder of people recently discovered in mass burial sites near Donetsk, eastern Ukraine said Russia’s Investigative Committee.

“For those who have doubts regarding who’s responsible for these murders, the Investigative Committee has irrefutable evidence - witness accounts and appropriate examinations – that directly indicates that this crime was committed by fighters from the National Guard and Right Sector,” the committee’s head Vladimir Markin in a statement on Wednesday.

The mass graves discovered in September near the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine “are further eloquent testimony to the atrocities of the Ukrainian nationalists,” Markin said, adding that “all of the victims were tortured before their murder."

The murders were described in detail in the testimony of a soldier from the ‘Dnepr’ battalion, Sergey Litvinov, detained in a Russian hospital as a civilian after he fled Ukraine, Markin said. Currently Litvinov is under arrest and is to be transferred to Moscow for further questioning, he added.

Litvinov “personally killed civilians not involved in the military conflict, including women and children residents of the villages Melovoye, Shiroky, Makarovo and Kamushnoye, guided by anonymous denunciations,” Markin said, quoting the soldier’s testimony.

“What is more interesting that this fighter received a money reward for the killings from his leadership sponsored by Igor Kolomoysky,” Markin said, referring the Kiev-appointed Dnepropetrovsk governor and prominent oligarch.
“We know the names of many of the commanders of military units, the militants of the Right Sector and the National Guard, who carry out criminal orders of the military and political leadership of Ukraine,” Markin said, adding that all of them will sooner or later have to answer “not only before the law, but also to their own conscience.”

READ MORE:‘Taped hands, gun wounds’: RT witnesses exhumation of mass graves in E. Ukraine

In the Wednesday statement the spokesman of the Investigative Committee stressed that all information and evidence of the crimes is provided by direct witnesses, primarily refugees who fled the region of military operations.

There are over 300,000 refugees who fled to Russia, according to Markin. Over 60,000 were questioned and 12,000 of them were confirmed to be victims, he added.

“In addition to eyewitness accounts, many victims have provided evidence to the Russian Investigative Committee and evidence in the form of soil samples, genetic material. These samples were thoroughly examined, confirming the testimony of witnesses and victims themselves.”

Markin slammed Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s Office for failing to carry out its own investigation.

“What prevented and is preventing them now from conducting their own investigation into the massacres of the civilian population and to try to protect the innocent population of Donbass instead of making hysterical statements about the alleged ‘interference’ in the affairs of a sovereign republic?” he questioned.

The discovery of the graves was made on September 23 by self-defense forces, who were responding to information given to them by locals, who said that they had been dug by Ukrainian government forces. The OSCE confirmed the finding on September 25 and reported its concerns to the European Union.

Re-Membering the Commons

The Wisdom of the Commons

by Ray Grigg - Shades of Green

Heather Menzies explains in the Preface to her remarkable book, Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good: A Memoir & Manifesto, how her creative life as an academic and promotional speaker was brought to a halt by a painful awareness of the local and global ecological disasters unfolding around her. “I'd identified the impasse of an overheated and dysfunctional global economy on a collision course with an increasingly distressed planet,” she writes, “yet had no alternative to offer.”

That alternative slowly became apparent to her, initially at Idle No More rallies where First Nations chiefs were speaking of “our sacred covenant with Creation” and “our sacred responsibility” to the land. It was their powerful sense of belonging that called Menzies to explore her ancestral roots in Scotland and to search for the meaning of the single word “Tullicro”, the only clue she had to her history.

This word led Menzies to discover and explore her family's origin in the Tullicro Commons of the Tay River Valley in the Highlands of Scotland, a place that nourished many generations of her forebears until the 19th century. These traditional commons, she soon realized, could be a model for how we might reconnect to our environment in a sustainable way, and how we might find the necessary awareness and caring we would need for living harmoniously with our natural surroundings.

“Common”, Menzies explains, “originally meant a way of living on the land.” But it also meant “together-as-one”, “shared-alike” and “bound-together-by-obligation,” and that “this togetherness was not only with each other, but with the land itself.” Essential to the idea of the commons, then, is the notion that the land and the people who occupy it are linked together in a sacred bond only to be broken by death — if the land suffers, they suffer; if the land dies, they die. Deeply imbedded in the root meaning of common is the belief that the people belong to the land, not that the land belongs to them.

One of Menzies' first tasks in her book was to correct an erroneous impression of the commons. Over the course of a century, from about 1750 to 1850, public use of the common lands in Scotland and England were systematically eliminated by the British House of Commons — ironically named after the same democratic and egalitarian commons that they legislated out of existence. Justification was based on the misconception that the competitive character of people would cause the land to be abused and exploited to the point of exhaustion. This fallacy, popularized in an 1832 pamphlet by the Oxford mathematician, William Forster Lloyd, was abetted by the new thinking about the economic merits of private ownership, capital investment, industrial agriculture and market competitiveness that were forming the basis of modern capitalism. In reality, if anyone had bothered to check, they would have found that the commons in Scotland and England were operating sustainably, cooperatively and democratically, just as they had been doing for centuries.

Our present system of managing the public domain — the common resources we identify as soils, water, air, forests, fish, wildlife, minerals and the like — reveals a system that is dysfunctional because the focus is on the production of wealth rather than the maintenance of the commons. Our trust is placed on the competitive relationship between people and nature rather than the sharing, cooperation and symbiosis that keep all the components alive and healthy. Governments routinely entrust the development and supervision of the resources of the commons to individuals and corporations based on the mistaken assumption that the affluence of individuals and corporations is synonymous with the wellbeing of the public. The result is the production of wealth that is fatally disconnected from nature, from sustainability and, ultimately, from the collective public good.

The political trend of late has been to distance public scrutiny and management even further from the use of the commons, thereby increasing the disconnection between people and the environment on which they depend. The success of the traditional commons, Menzies explains, was that people lived “in direct relations with the land” within a set of agreed limits — only so many sheep or cows could be grazed, only so many fish caught, only so many trees felled. In the commons-based economy, the limit was set by an intimate knowledge of the ecology, not by the amount of wealth to be derived from it. The only projects allowed were those that were compatible with the capabilities of the commons.

Modern civilization has been doing the opposite. Governments have been granting progressively more authority to private and corporate interests to devise their own profit-making strategies, while expecting the commons to adapt to the consequences. While the profits soar, the commons are degraded. This abandonment of limits, care and supervision results in devastated forests, depleted fisheries, exploding rail tankers, collapsing tailing ponds, leaking pipelines, fracking hazards, acidifying ocean, ubiquitous pollution, uncontrolled carbon emissions and a litany of other environmental affronts. The abuse is now beginning to threaten the stability of the global commons.

As Heather Menzies makes clear, the commons is us — not just the smaller “us” but the larger “us” also. It's the fish and flowers, the birds and trees, the soil and animals, the clean water, gentle winds and nourishing rains all linked “together-as-one”, all “shared-alike” and all “bound-together-by-obligation”. Our task as people is to remember this sharing and togetherness, to know our local landscapes and ecologies, to imagine the consequences of neglect and failure, and then to engage in the obligatory stewardship. As the old Scottish commoners knew, our very lives depend on it.

What IS Is: If It Didn't Exist...

What if the so-called Islamic State (IS) didn’t exist?

by Ramzy Baroud - Middle East Eye 


In order to answer this question, one has to liberate the argument from its geopolitical and ideological confines.


Flexible language 


Many in the media (Western, Arab, etc) use the reference “Islamist” to brand any movement at all whether it be political, militant or even charity-focused. If it is dominated by men with beards or women with headscarves that make references to the Holy Koran and Islam as the motivator behind their ideas, violent tactics or even good deeds, then the word “Islamist” is the language of choice.

According to this overbearing logic, a Malaysia-based charity can be as ‘Islamist’ as the militant group Boko Haram in Nigeria. When the term “Islamist” was first introduced to the debate on Islam and politics, it carried mostly intellectual connotations. Even some “Islamists” used it in reference to their political thought. Now, it can be moulded to mean many things.

This is not the only convenient term that is being tossed around so deliberately in the discourse pertaining to Islam and politics. Many are already familiar with how the term “terrorism” manifested itself in the myriad of ways that fit any country’s national or foreign policy agenda - from the US’ George W. Bush to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. In fact, some of these leaders accused one another of practising, encouraging or engendering terrorism while positioning themselves as the crusaders against terror. The American version of the “war on terror” gained much attention and bad repute because it was highly destructive. But many other governments launched their own wars to various degrees of violent outcomes.

The flexibility of the usage of language very much stands at the heart of this story, including that of IS. We are told the group is mostly made of foreign jihadists. This could have much truth to it, but this notion cannot be accepted without much contention.

Foreign menace

Why does the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad insist on the “foreign jihadists” claim and did so even when the civil war plaguing his country was still at the stage of infancy, teetering between a popular uprising and an armed insurgency? It is for the same reason that Israel insists on infusing the Iranian threat, and its supposedly “genocidal” intents towards Israel in every discussion about the Hamas-led resistance in Palestine, and Hezbollah’s in Lebanon. Of course, there is a Hamas-Iran connection, although it has been weakened in recent years by regional circumstances. But for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran has to be at the heart of the discourse.

There are ample examples of governments of the Middle East ingraining the “foreign menace” factor when dealing with solely international phenomena, violence or otherwise. The logic behind it is simple: if the Syrian civil war is fuelled by foreign fanatics, then al-Assad can exact his violence against rebelling Syrians in the name of fighting the foreigners/jihadists/terrorists. According to this logic, Bashar becomes a national hero, as opposed to a despotic dictator.

Netanyahu remains the master of political diversion. He vacillates between peace talks and Iran-backed Palestinian “terror” groups in whatever way he finds suitable. The desired outcome is placing Israel as a victim of and a crusader against foreign-inspired terrorism. Just days after Israel carried out what was described by many as a genocide in Gaza - killing over 2,200 and wounded over 11,000 - he once more tried to shift global attention by claiming that the so-called Islamic State was at the Israeli border.

The “foreign hordes on the border” notion is being utilised, although so far ineffectively, by Egypt’s Abdul-Fatah al-Sisi also. Desperate to gain access to this convenient discourse, he has made numerous claims of foreigners being at the border of Libya, Sudan and Sinai. Few have paid attention aside from the unintelligible Egyptian state-controlled media. However, one must not neglect the events that took place in Egypt when he himself overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood’s democratically-elected government of Mohamed Morsi last year.

When US President Barack Obama decided to launch his war on IS, Sisi lined up to enlist his country in a fight against the “Islamists” as he sees them as part and parcel of the war against the supporters of the deposed Muslim Brotherhood. After all, they are both “Islamists.”

US-western motives

For the US and their western allies, the logic behind the war is hardly removed from the war discourse engendered by previous US administrations, most notably that of W. Bush and his father. It is another chapter of the unfinished wars that the US had unleashed in Iraq over the last 25 years. In some way, IS, with its brutal tactics, is the worst possible manifestation of American interventionism.

In the first Iraq war (1990-91), the US-led coalition seemed determined to achieve the clear goal of driving the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, and to use that as a starting point to achieve complete US dominance over the Middle East. Back then, George Bush had feared that pushing beyond that goal could lead to the kind of consequences that would alter the entire region and empower Iran at the expense of America’s Arab allies. Instead of carrying out regime change in Iraq itself, the US opted to subject Iraq to a decade of economic torment - a suffocating blockade that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. That was the golden age of America’s “containment” policy in the region.

However, US policy in the Middle East, under Bush’s son, W. Bush, was reinvigorated by new elements that somewhat altered the political landscape leading to the second Iraq war in 2003. Firstly, the attacks of September 11, 2001 were dubiously used to mislead the public into another war by linking Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda; and secondly, there was the rise of the neoconservative political ideology that dominated Washington at the time. The neo-cons strongly believed in the regime-change doctrine that has since then proven to be a complete failure.

It was not just a failure, but rather, a calamity. Today’s rise of IS is in fact a mere bullet point in a tragic Iraq timeline which started the moment W. Bush began his “shock and awe campaign.” This was followed by the fall of Baghdad, the dismantling of the country’s institutions (the de-Baathification of Iraq) and the “missions accomplished” speech. Since then, it has been one adversity after another. The US strategy in Iraq was predicated on destroying Iraqi nationalism and replacing it with a dangerous form of sectarianism that used the proverbial “divide and conquer” stratagem. But neither the Shia remained united, nor did the Sunni accept their new lower status, or did the Kurds stay committed to being part of an untied Iraq.

al-Qaeda connection

The US has indeed succeeded in dividing Iraq, maybe not territorially, but certainly in every other way. Moreover, the war brought al-Qaeda to Iraq. The group used the atrocities inflicted by the US war and invasion to recruit fighters from Iraq and throughout the Middle East. And like a bull in a china shop, the US wrecked more havoc on Iraq, playing around with sectarian and tribal cards to lower the intensity of the resistance and to busy Iraqis with fighting each other.

When the US combat troops allegedly departed Iraq, they left behind a country in ruins, millions of refugees on the run, deep sectarian divides, a brutal government, and an army made mostly of loosely united Shia-militias with a blood-soaked past.

Al-Qaeda was supposedly weakened in Iraq by then. In actuality, while al-Qaeda didn’t exist in Iraq prior to the US invasion, at the eve of the US withdrawal, al-Qaeda had branched off into other militant manifestations. They were able to move with greater agility in the region, and when the Syrian uprising was intentionally-armed by regional and international powers, al-Qaeda resurfaced with incredible power, fighting with prowess and unparalleled influence. Despite the misinformation about the roots of IS, IS and al-Qaeda in Iraq are the same. They share the same ideology and had only branched off into various groupings in Syria. Their differences are an internal matter, but their objectives are ultimately identical.

The reason the above point is often ignored, is that such an assertion would be a clear indictment that the Iraq war created IS, and that the irresponsible handling of the Syria conflict empowered the group to actually form a sectarian state that extends from the north-east of Syria to the heart of Iraq.

IS must exist

US-Western and Arab motives in the war against IS might differ, but both sides have keen interest in partaking in the war and an even keener interest in refusing to accept that such violence is not created in a vacuum. The US and its western allies refuse to see the obvious link between IS, al-Qaeda and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Arab leaders insist that their countries are also victims of some “Islamist” terror, produced, not of their own anti-democratic and oppressive policies, but by Chechenia and other foreign fighters who are bringing dark-age violence to otherwise perfectly peaceable and stable political landscapes.

The lie is further cemented by most media when they highlight the horror of IS but refuse to speak of other horrors that preceded and accompanied the existence of the group. They insist on speaking of IS as if a fully independent phenomenon devoid of any contexts, meanings and representations.

For the US-led coalition, IS must exist, although every member of the coalition has their own self-serving reasoning to explain their involvement. And since IS mostly made of “foreign jihadists” from faraway lands, speaking languages that few Arabs and westerners understand, then, somehow, no one is guilty, and the current upheaval in the Middle East is someone else’s fault. Thus, there is no need to speak of Syrian massacres, or Egyptian massacres, or of Iraq wars and its massacres, for the problem is obviously foreign.

If the so-called Islamic State didn’t exist, many in the region would be keen on creating one.

Ramzy Baroud is a PhD scholar in People's History at the University of Exeter. He is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Reply to Fear, Lies, and Hypocrisy

Generating Fear through Lies and Hypocrisy: a Reply to Dershowitz’ Pathological Tirade

by William A. Cook

"ISIS is an extremist Islamist organization that doesn't play by the rules, is prepared to behead Americans, smuggle Americans and Europeans into America with evil intentions on their mind…. "The only difference is ISIS is much further away from the United States than Hamas is from Israel, but they use the same tactics"
(Dershowitz, Interview on Newsmax, 9/5/2014).

Dershowitz hypocritically creates a “strawman” in the elected government of Gaza, Hamas, to justify Israel’s crimes against humanity waged against the Gazan people for more than fifty days, a primitive savagery of military might against a defenseless people surrounded by the invading forces resulting in “2,104 Palestinians (were) killed in Gaza, including 1,462 civilians, among them 495 children and 253 women. Those U.N. numbers would mean that 69 percent of the total killed were civilians” (the Washington Post, August 29, 2014).

In order to justify Israel’s inordinate deployment of the most advanced ordinance available today against a population that had no defense except home-made rockets and rocks, totally contained within walls of chain link electrified fencing and gunships off the Gaza coast, he makes Hamas an uncivilized controlling power that has made every man, woman and child in Gaza a terrorist intent on killing every citizen in Israel. By yoking Hamas to ISIS, Dershowitz grabs the most terrifying action that group has employed to frighten its enemies, the video beheading of two journalists. He then injects his pathological fear into the receptive American by using that beheading as a “smuggled” act into the United States and Europe “with evil intentions on their minds.”

What he does not suggest is a reason for such an act being played out to the western world except those “evil intentions on their minds.” What if what America and Israel have done since 1948 looks very much like a primitive, barbaric and totally ruthless enemy intent on division and destruction of the Arab world?

I described in an article yesterday, “Let Us See through Our Victims’ Eyes,” how absolutely horrific 50 days of incessant bombing, day and night, is on the spirit and the psyche to say nothing of the destruction to the body. What the eyes on the ground see as they flee from their homes to shelters in UN schools or mosques or a neighbor’s building not yet demolished is nothing human but rather the crunching sounds of screeching bombs as they burst around them, flying debris slamming into walls and cars and people running beside them.

What they hear are thunderous roars and whining screams of missiles and humans crying in fear caused by unknown humans not visible to them, indeed, not close to them in any way as they are dropping their ordinance from 30000 feet above or from warships at sea or from tanks on the borders in Israel beyond the steel barricades that keep the people locked inside their prison, invisible indeed to those stumbling to see what to avoid and how to get to shelter and checking always where the children are and the elderly.

What they know inside is immediate fear of death, of torn limbs, of a mother or a father or a child caught in the maelstrom of destruction through which they must run if any hope for survival exists beyond the despair of the moment.

How different this scene from that of the ISIS hangman, hooded in his isolation, his indifference, his inhumanity that lets him assassinate another human that he does not know or care about. That act illuminates a capability of a man to take the life of another, a stranger because he has been told that is his job.

We see that act and we are repulsed, incensed at the barbarity of it. But the scene of the Gazans running in fear from unseen gunman, unseen hangmen, unseen knives that can strike against the throat, we do not see; no visible human stands beside the crippled mother or the dying child, no person even in the computerized bulldozer; our modernized, oh so very civilized society deplores the gruesome scenes ISIS exhibits, prefers not to expose its own to such terrible sights except for entertainment purposes as they sit comfortably as spectators at the pillars of rising smoke that cut the head off of another unseen human in Gaza, after all there are many ways to behead a person, some with a knife, some with a guillotine, some with steel prongs let loose from their mother bomb, the fleshette, raining down on the unprotected civilian running from the unseen hangmen that hurl these clean instruments of war from the heavens.

Yet these unseen hangmen do live, do act on orders to kill, do train to become marksmen and operators of instruments of death as skillfully as the hooded hangman that killed our journalists. Our civilized cultures have delivered the knife into trained automatons who act upon demand, who slaughter as determined by their governors, who see no evil because they have been told by the likes of Alan Dershowitz that what they do is right even though it is a lie as was the slaughter of one and a half million Iraqis who died because George W. Bush and his asp Dick Cheney lied; but if we cannot see the assassin, if we cannot see the orange jump suit and the black hooded figure of death, then it’s alright, it is the civilized way to destroy people and the civilized way to ensure obedience to those who control our world.

And Dershowitz would have the world blind to the truth, blind to the father uncontrollably weeping over the son whose mangled head stares back at him caused not by a knife wielding hangman but by an invisible, cultured, society trained soldier acting on behalf of a power that can devastate a hapless people using our state of the art weaponry that has no man’s fingerprints on it and that exonerates all from responsibility. That I put it to you is barbaric insanity and thrusts our contemporary world into the pits of human degradation.

As you read this, see through the eyes of our victims as you look once more at that unnamed father whose very existence has been blown away as the head of his child has been blown away. Ask yourself who did this, who shall we blame, who must be held responsible, and then read what Dershowitz scribbles as truth manipulating lies and wanton hypocrisy to achieve his end. Defense of this behavior is the definition of insanity.

What if Alan mentioned that Israel created Hamas to deflect the PLO so it could continue to avoid meaningful negotiations to creation of a Palestinian state:

According to Robert Dreyfuss, author of "Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam":

"And beginning in 1967 through the late 1980s, Israel helped the Muslim Brotherhood establish itself in the occupied territories. It assisted Ahmed Yassin, the leader of the Brotherhood, in creating Hamas, betting that its Islamist character would weaken the PLO."
According to Charles Freeman, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, "Israel started Hamas. It was a project of Shin Bet [Isreali domestic intelligence agency], which had a feeling that they could use it to hem in the PLO."
(David Livingston, 9/6/2011).

Is that not an “evil intent”? Perhaps Alan understands that Hamas has come back to haunt Israel in much the same way that ISIS, a creature of the US, now haunts its God or is it rather a modern Golem designed to aid the creator to destroy Syria and in its released anger turns against its maker.

Consider the argument that Dershowitz proposes here: Israel is justified in its destruction of Gaza because of Hamas, a creature they brought into existence, metamorphosed into a legit political party that won a supervised election according to “democratic rules,” abandoned its original charter statement to destroy Israel (see McGreal, The Guardian UK, 1/12/ 2006), and now returns to its master to bargain for a two state solution, the very thing it was created to prevent.

Beyond the lies created by omission of truth, Dershowitz argues that Israel’s IDF acted morally as did its government in invading Gaza. It “played by the rules’ while Hamas did not; it did not intend to kill civilians, Hamas did as did the Gazan people; it used precision weaponry to kill only militants, Hamas used rockets aimed randomly and therefore used indiscriminate military power against civilians; Israel had to act knowing that Hamas used civilians as shields, and therefore accidentally killed some civilians; Israel had no choice but to invade and destroy Gaza.

What is the truth? Nothing in International Law would allow Israel to invade an occupied territory, and indeed, Gaza is an occupied territory: Israel controls the very personal lives of each and every Gazan by identity, by travel, by home location, by egress and ingress, by acquisition of goods from building needs to food, by choosing what infrastructure it will allow to exist or destroy, by controlling all access to water, by choice of hospitals to destroy and UN schools to target, and mosques, and neighborhoods, and fish that can be caught for food. Without the means of free movement, Gazans cannot fly out of Gaza, they cannot take boats beyond the limit imposed by Israel, they cannot exit through a Israeli controlled gate nor through the Rafah gate controlled by Egypt. They have no citizenship yet that is a stipulated right of every living human on the planet according to the United Nations. Yet Dershowitz would argue that Israel has no responsibilities under UN rules.

What indeed is the truth? Which side used humans as shields? Let’s consider how Israel acted before this latest invasion.

Here is a report from 2002 by Haaretz:

B’Tselem: IDF using 'neighbor procedure' despite court order

In a report published Thursday, human rights group B'Tselem said that the Israel Defense Forces is still using Palestinian citizens as 'human shields' during dangerous operations.

According to the report, the IDF has, on a number of occasions, violated the High Court of Justice ruling against the use of the 'neighbor procedure,' whereby neighbors of wanted Palestinians are forced to go into the wanted man's house ahead of troops, in case it is booby-trapped.

The human rights organization says that international humanitarian law obliges the army to remove citizens from areas of conflict and to protect them from danger during army operations. "Even if there was no apparent danger to the Palestinian who was used as a 'human shield,' the method is completely illegal," the group says.

And here are reports from the recent invasion:

Israel was condemned by the United Nations as recently as last year for its "continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants." More recently, Palestinian civilians have accused Israeli forces of using them as human shields in the Khuzaa neighborhood in Gaza, which has been the site of heavy shelling.
Israel also places its military command centers among civilian populations, most notoriously HaKirya, the Israeli army headquarters, which is located in the heart of densely populated Tel Aviv, surrounded by malls, museums, hospitals, schools and so on.
(Monday, 04 August 2014 11:05 By Rania Khalek, Electronic Intifada | News Analysis)

Reuters - A United Nations human rights body accused Israeli forces on Thursday of mistreating Palestinian children, including by torturing those in custody and using others as human shields.
Palestinian children in the Gaza and the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, are routinely denied registration of their birth and access to health care, decent schools and clean water, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said.

"Palestinian children arrested by (Israeli) military and police are systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture, are interrogated in Hebrew, a language they did not understand, and sign confessions in Hebrew in order to be released," it said in a report. (Stephanie Nebehay, 6/20/2013).

The sad truth is that Alan Dershowitz, like the black garbed hangman working for ISIS, like the unseen trained sniper hiding on the roof top in a Gazan village protected by the captured family to use as security insurance against a Hamas militant, like the pilot of the F-16 releasing his missiles, like any and all who justify criminal acts for their own selfless ends or through forced indoctrination serve those in power and become in fact figures made of mud like the Golem of old Prague, but a servant of their master, lacking a soul and made indifferent to their fellow humans.

For Dershowitz that very loss of his humanity is perhaps his greatest gift.