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14
Febrero

On January 26, the New York Times claimed that “a CIA drone strike in Yemen. . . . killed three suspected Qaeda fighters on Monday.” How did they know the identity of the dead? As usual, it was in part because “American officials said.” There was not a whiff of skepticism about this claim despite the fact that “a senior American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, declined to confirm the names of the victims” and “a C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment.”

That NYT article did cite what it called “a member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” (AQAP), who provided the names of the three victims, one of whom was “Mohammed Toiman al-Jahmi, a Yemeni teenager whose father and brother were previously killed in American drone strikes.” The article added that “the Qaeda member did not know Mr. Jahmi’s age but said he was a member of the terrorist group.”

In fact, as the Guardian reported today, “Mr. Jahmi’s age” was 13 on the day the American drone ended his life. Just months earlier, the Yemeni teenager told that paper that “he lived in constant fear of the ‘death machines’ in the sky that had already killed his father and brother.” It was 2011 when “an unmanned combat drone killed his father and teenage brother as they were out herding the family’s camels.” In the strike two weeks ago, Mohammed was killed along with his brother-in-law and a third man.

Mohammed’s older brother Maqded said he “saw all the bodies completely burned, like charcoal” – undoubtedly quite similar to the way the Jordanian combat pilot looked after he was burned alive last month by ISIS. That’s not an accident: the weapons the U.S. military uses are deliberately designed to incinerate people to death. The missiles shot by their drones are named “Hellfire.” Of his younger, now-deceased 13-year-old brother, Maqded told the Guardian: “He wasn’t a member of al-Qaida. He was a kid.”

 

There are a few observations worth making about this repugnant episode:

 

(1) The U.S. media just got done deluging the American public with mournful stories about the Jordanian soldier, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, making him a household name. As is often the case for victims of America’s adversaries, the victim is intensely humanized. The public learns all sorts of details about their lives, hears from their grieving family members, wallows in the tragedy of their death.

By stark contrast, I’d be willing to bet that the name “Mohammed Tuaiman al-Jahmi” is never uttered on mainstream American television. Most Americans, by design, will have no idea that their government just burned a 13-year-old boy to death and then claimed he was a Terrorist. If they do know, the boy will be kept hidden, dehumanized, nameless, without the aspirations or dreams or grieving parents on display for victims of America’s adversaries (just as Americans were swamped with stories about an Iranian-American journalist detained in Iran for two months, Roxana Saberi, while having no idea that their own government imprisoned an Al Jazeera photojournalist, Sami al-Haj, in Guantanamo for seven years without charges).

When I was in Canada last October during two violent attacks – one in southern Quebec and the other in Parliament in Ottawa – both of the soldiers killed were (understandably) the subject of endless, intense media coverage featuring their lives, their dreams and their grieving parents. But I’d bet that the Canadian public was incapable of naming even a single foreign individual killed by their own government over the last decade.

It’s worth considering the extreme propaganda impact that disparity has, the way in which the U.S. media is so eagerly complicit in sustaining ongoing American militarism and violence by disappearing victims of U.S. violence while endlessly heralding the victims of its adversaries.

 

(2) I have no idea whether this 13-year-old boy was “a member of al-Qaeda,” whatever that might mean for a boy that young. But neither does the New York Times, which is why it’s incredibly irresponsible for media outlets reflexively to claim that those killed by U.S. drone strikes are terrorists.

That’s especially true since the NYT itself previously reported that the Obama administration has re-defined “militant” to mean “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.” In this case, Mohammed did not even qualify for that Orwellian re-definition, yet still got called a terrorist (by both the Obama administration as well as a “member of AQAP,” both of whom are, for different reasons, motivated to make that claim). Whatever else is true, extreme skepticism is required before claiming that the victims of the latest American drone strike are terrorists, but that skepticism is virtually never included.

 

(3) The next time there’s a violent attack on the west by a Muslim, and journalists immediately declare that Islam is the culprit and set out to demonize those who suggest it might be “blowback,” perhaps this incident can be remembered. Does one really need to blame a radical version of religious dogma to understand why people get really angry when they hear – yet again – that the children of their nation have been extinguished – incinerated – by another American drone?

If it were American teenagers rather than Yemeni ones regularly being burned to death – on American soil rather than Yemeni soil – does it take any effort to understand why there’d be widespread calls for violence against the perpetrators in response? Consider how much American rage and violence was unleashed by a single-day attack on American soil 13 years ago.

In fact, if it were the case that this 13-year-old boy were a “member of AQAP,” is it hard to understand why? Do we need to resort to claims that some primitive, inscrutable religion is to blame, or does this, from the Guardian article, make more sense:

When the Guardian interviewed Mohammed last September, he spoke of his anger towards the US government for killing his father. “They tell us that these drones come from bases in Saudi Arabia and also from bases in the Yemeni seas and America sends them to kill terrorists, but they always kill innocent people. But we don’t know why they are killing us.

“In their eyes, we don’t deserve to live like people in the rest of the world and we don’t have feelings or emotions or cry or feel pain like all the other humans around the world.”

In 2009, the U.S. got caught using cluster bombs in Yemen in an attack that slaughtered 35 women and children. Obama then successfully demanded that the Yemeni journalist who proved that the attack was from the U.S., Abdulelah Haider Shaye, be imprisoned for years. In December, 2013, a U.S. drone strike killed 12 people as they traveled to a wedding.

What’s confounding and irrational and inscrutable isn’t that people react by turning to “radicalism” and violence. It’s that many journalists and officials in western nations seem to think that they can go around for decades invading, occupying, imprisoning without charges and dropping bombs on multiple other countries around the world, regularly killing innocents, including children, and then act shocked and surprised when people in those countries, or who identify with them, want to bring violence back in return. That is a sentiment grounded in deep irrationality, blind nationalism, and primitive tribalism.

 

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13
Diciembre

The Venezuelan government official highlighted police brutality in the US as an example of that nation’s human rights violations.

Venezuela’s Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Diaz, accused Barack Obama’s administration Friday of applying double standards in its human rights policies.

Ortega Diaz said in a radio interview that the United States (U.S.) Department of State criticicism of Venezuela is like “the pot calling the kettle black.”

The Venezuelan official noted how on December 3 a U.S. court decided not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo after he choked to death Eric Garner.

"What a paradox! The U.S. criminal justice system acquits police officers that kill people on the basis of the color of their skin. On top of that, they have prisons, like the one in Guantanamo, which is the worst kind of human rights violation, where the CIA has admitted its use of torture with methods such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation upwards of 180 hours in the nude with their faces covered.”

Ortega Diaz emphasized how those cases have been censored by the U.S. government and the mass media. “The United States hasn’t even ratified Rome’s Statute of the International Criminal Court and, yet, dares to point at others and call them human rights violators,” she said. 

The Public Prosecutor contrasted that with the Venezuelan government which has signed many treaties and international human rights conventions “Because we are committed to them,” adding that the measures in its national constitution are one example of Venezuela "respecting human rights.”

 

The Short Long List of US Hypocrisy

 

Here are 13 of the biggest, most recent U.S. hypocritical statements and measures.

 

1. U.S. commits widespread torture, then sanctions Venezuela for “violence.” According to the report on CIA torture released this week, the U.S. tortured untrialed prisoners abroad with a range of gruesome methods. The next day, its congress passed sanctions on Venezuela for “violating the rights” of opposition supporters whose violence led to the death of at least 43 people.

2. U.S. imprisons, deports, and shoots the migrants it causes. US “free trade” agreements that disadvantage Mexican and Central American farmers in favor of U.S. profits, supporting coups such as the one in 2009 in Honduras, and decades of U.S. imperialism, have contributed to the conditions that lead migrants to flee to the U.S.

3. U.S. calls other countries “undemocratic,” while disenfranchising its own black, Latino, and poor citizens: Incredible inequality, unaffordable higher education and health care, a country run by transnational corporations, corrupt politicians, elections held while people are working, corporate funding for candidates, and many more issues challenge the U.S's claim to democracy. yet the government has the nerve to label countries like Venezuela and Cuba as undemocratic.

4. U.S. offers to help Mexican government find murderers of citizens, while U.S. police murder their own: Obama said on December 9, 2014, that the United States has “offered assistance” to Mexico “in tracking down exactly what happened, our forensic capabilities, our capacity to get to the bottom of exactly what happened." However nothing is being done about the multitude of police officers who have killed, some on film, U.S. citizens.

5. U.S. says nations should not develop nuclear weapons, has the world's largest active nuclear arsenal: The United States was one of the original signers of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which entered into force in 1970 to achieve nuclear disarmament, and holds other nations to this standard, while it has the largest active stockpile in the world and its ally Israel does not have to sign the treaty.

6. U.S. claims nationalization of banks is socialism, gives billions to private banks: The U.S. government pumped in over US$250 billion into banks during the country’s economic crisis, but received nothing for it, with all of the money going back into the private hands that caused the crisis in the first place.

7. Militarized state for black protestors in Ferguson, military was MIA protestors in Ferguson, military was MIA when help was needed for black victims of Hurricane Katrina: While police and the National Guard response to the protests was swift and heavy handed, the response to Hurricane Katrina was chaotic and disorganized.

8. Invasion on false pretext is so “phony,” unless the U.S. does it: In 2014, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry lashed out at Russia's supposed involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine by stating, “You just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests … this is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. As a U.S. senator in 2002, Kerry voted in support of the invasion of Iraq, stating, “Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating agents and is capable of quickly producing weaponizing of a variety of such agents, including anthrax.” That turned out to be false.

9. U.S. funds Saudi Arabia government, but attempts to destabilize Venezuela: For the U.S. it’s good if Saudi Arabia beheads those guilty of non violent offenses, but bad if Venezuela tries in court those who plot to kill the president.

10. U.S rails against Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons despite using white phosphorus on Falluja: Obama threatened to launch a war against Bachar Al-Assad if the use of chemical weapons was proven, while U.S. troops admitted to using phosphorus during the assault on Fallujah in 2004. 

11. The U.S declares a “war on terror” after funding and supporting terrorism in Nicaragua in the 1980s: On September 20, 2001, nine days after the 9/11 terror attacks, former U.S. President George W. Bush declared a “War on Terror.” However, in the early 1980s while his father served as vice president under former President Ronald Reagan, the CIA trained the Contras in Nicaragua in the "use of implicit and explicit terror" and in the "selective use of violence for propaganda effects" in an orchestrated terror campaign to undermine the country's Sandinista government. The International Court of Justice ruled in 1986 that the U.S violated international law and ordered Washington to pay reparations to the Central American nation.

12. US claims to be a "post-racial” society while targeting people according to their race: From New York City's "Stop-and-Frisk" practices to the recent surge in the deaths of Black people by police officers, racism still runs rampant across the country.

13. Obama calls former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi a “tyrant” and Syria's President Bashar Assad a “dictator” and his government a “repressive regime” despite previously supporting those regimes: Never mind the fact that the United States under President George W. Bush renditioned terror suspects to these two countries, outsourcing torture to Gadaffi's and Assad's governments, as the recent U.S. Senate torture report reveals. They weren't such bad guys then.

29
Noviembre

They were accused of terrorism, attempted murder, organized crime and riots.

Saturday was the deadline for Mexican authorities to define the legal status of the 11 people arrested during last Tuesday’s march for Ayotzinapa, #20NovMx. When the deadline was not met Saturday morning, a judge of the city of Xalapa, Veracruz, withdrew the charges against the 11 arbitrarily arrested.

The judge informed the detainee’s attorneys that there was not enough proof to indict them, and ordered their immediate release. They are expected to be released sometime Saturday.

Witnesses of the detentions, mostly people who also participated in the peaceful protest, confirm that their comrades were arbitrarily arrested by the riot police. The detentions took place when, after the peaceful demonstration arrived at Zocalo Square, a group of few people in balaclavas started throwing molotov cocktails at the riot police, who in response started beating indiscriminately the people who attended the march and arresting some of them.

The only evidence to incriminate the arrested protestors were the declarations of the five policemen who arrested them. One of the main arguments presented by the policemen was that the demonstrators used the word “compa” (mate or partner) to call each other, meaning they belonged to a “subversive group."

The 11 arrested, were accused of terrorism, attempted murder, organized crime and riots, and they were taken to federal prisons outside the capital, some of them were denied legal assistance by attorneys of their own choice.

Several of those in custody denounced that while being detained they were beaten, tortured and threatened by the police. Their lawyers confirmed that they have bruises and scars mostly around the eyes and in the arms.

Erika Guevara, Director for the Americas at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International, said that, “Instead of filing charges against the protesters, the Republic General Attorney should focus on [determining] where are the 43 missing studies and arrest the perpetrators."

25
Noviembre

There is a general consensus between critical political scientists and sociologists in North America regarding the increasing irrelevance of the electoral process in the United States, taking into account the demonstrated ineffectiveness of either the Congress or the White House  in making decisions that harm even the slightest -- or attempt to affect -- the interests and preferences of the ruling class. For this reason, the terminology that some of the most distinguished U.S. scholars have coined to describe the reality is not always adequately captured by the conventional analysis of U.S. political life. Such is the case of Robert Dole Scott, who makes reference to “the  American Deep State,” or “inverted totalitarianism,” a term coined by professor emeritus of Princeton Sheldon Wolin to precisely describe the regressive state of democracy taking place in the north American country. The formerly mainstream economist Jeffrey Sachs should also be added to the long list of scholars who have subscribed to this consensus. In respect to the recent midterm elections, he wrote in his Huffington Post column that the past elections  were “the billionaires' election, billionaires of both parties” and that “the richest of the rich pay for the political system -- putting in billions of dollars in campaign and lobbying funds -- and garner trillions of dollars of benefits in return.”  This deplorable reality is nothing new; the sad reality is not just a grim prognosis for the future but has come to fruition today. Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his “Farewell Discourse” on January 17, 1961 warned of the impending dangers of a future entanglement of U.S. democracy with the “military-industrial complex.”   

Taking this in stock, we will proceed to outline some interpretations stemming from the analysis of the elections last Tuesday. The first interpretation is related to the paradox implicit in the election results. Why? Because conventional wisdom and everyday political practice in any country emphasizes the decisive importance of economic life over the moods and preferences of the electorate. Nobody expressed it more bluntly than presidential candidate Bill Clinton, when he told his opponent during his 1992 campaign, George H.W. Bush (senior) “It’s the economy, stupid!”

If that were the case, though, how can the sweeping defeat of the Democrats in these last elections be explained, when the present economy is actually showing signs of recovery? In the third trimester of 2014, for example, the GDP of the United States grew by 3.5 percent, figures which would have unleashed cries of joy in most European governments. Of course, it goes without saying that macroeconomic growth is not reflected in the median income of wage earners which, according to the U.S. government’s Office of Labor Statistics hasn’t changed (in constant salary levels) for the past two decades, the real wage actually having fallen 0.2 percent in September. The structural inability to distribute with some modicom of equitablity the fruits of eocnomimc growth is one of the permanent trademarks of North American capitalism, and of course replete with political consequences. This is evidenced by the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and the slow reappearance of anti-capitalist sentiment that for almost a century had disappeared from the public stage. Returning to the leitfaden of our argument, in previous occasions, positive developments  such as the all-important decrease of gas prices (which went from US$3.94 a gallon last year to US$3 this year); or the fact that unemployment has decreased to 5.9 percent, the lowest rate since the last six years; or the reduction of the fiscal deficit and the lower inflation rates, maintained at less than 2 percent annually, added to the oil and gas boom resulting from the non-conventional exploitation of gas and oil reserves, in past elections, have normally tilted popular sentiment in favor of the government. However, this time, the outcome was different.  The strange reaction this time around can be explained by Obama’s previous confusing statements, especially statements he made after the protest votes rolled into the ballot boxes.  

This situation puts into question the mechanical relationship between economics and politics, and requires a second track of inquiry to find out: what is the ideological role that private finance capital plays in the political campaigns? The unique -- and highly undemocratic -- decision the U.S. Supreme Court made in January 2010 legalized the unlimited financing of electoral campaigns by corporations and individual donors by way of the Political Action Committees, bodies which cannot make direct contributions to political parties or candidates, but can allocate any amount of unrestricted funds they choose, to finance the promotion of desired issues in campaigns; radio, television and press announcements; social media; email campaigns; or mass text messaging in support of against a candidate, depending on the donors’ interests and preferences in relation to their main area of interest. These issues range from environmental regulation, arms control, financial deregulation, tax cuts, public expenditures, abortion, etc. Although adequately quantifiable data is not yet available to measure these contributions, there is no doubt that these midterm elections were the most expensive in the history of the United States, totaling to a cost of 3.6 billion dollars but that, some observers like Jeffrey Sachs estimate that the real price of the elections is probably higher. In his Huffington Post article, Sachs writes that the Koch brothers, the owners of Koch Industries -- the second largest private company in the United States, with an annual revenue of U$115 billion in 2013 in its oil and gas sector -- contributed at least US$100 billion to the candidates who support their controversial practice of fracking. It has also been revealed that several companies associated with the “vulture funds” supported some Republican candidates with large donations in certain key districts. As some analysts have noted, the corrupting and distorting force of money in politics has left its deep imprint on these elections, creating, with the help of hegemonic media in the country, a fictitious hypercritical “political climate”  and a general discontentment  that has little to do with reality, and this is, in our opinion,  one of the paradoxical surprises of this election, manifesting the power of money more than ever.  There are few precedents of a current administration and its president having received such a beating in the polls in an economic situation as described above as has occurred in these most recent elections. It is important to note this phenomenon because similar processes of “deforming” public opinion are likewise occurring in other countries in the Americas.  

Third: the Republic victory was overwhelming, without a doubt, making headway in traditional Democratic bastions such as Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois. But when interpreting the congressional votes, it is apparent that in the Senate, Republicans took the slim majority of the seat (52 out of 100), which could only take a maximum of 54 seats if the results favored the Republicans in the ballot polls that will take place at the end of the present year and the beginning of 2015 in two states  (Alaska and Louisiana). WIthout question this has been the worst defeat suffered by a Democratic president since Harry S. Truman, who, in his first presidential term, lost the midterms in 1946.  At that time, a conservative wave had also hit the scene, when the Republicans seized control of both congressional chambers for the first time in 1928. If this serves as any consolation to today’s Democrats, two years later, and despite all forecasts -- which predicted with near certainty that Republican candidate Thomas Dewey would win -- Truman was in fact reelected as president in 1930. In any case, it is worth mentioning that control of both parts of Congress is not necessarily such a big deal as long as the White House continue to be empowered to veto any laws not endorsed by the President. It is certain that this prerogative can be neutralized in an instant by the Congress, if the move gets at least two-thirds of the votes between both the House and the Senate, which will not come about with the present representation of both parties solidified in the last election. For instance, there was a lot of buzz recently when several Republican representatives and senators threatened to repeal the health care reform known as “Obamacare” -- as moderate as it is, but approved by the White House. The president responded by saying he would never sign on to any law that restricts or limits the reform’s achievements. In any case, and in general, Obama has certainly received a heavy defeat that will force him to make curcuail decisions when confronting his mandate in order to avoid being what political scientists refer to as the “lame duck.” He will have to weigh options of continuing with his vague vacillations concerning immigration, especially, or will he have to relaunch his original agenda with a firm hand to win back the loyalty of his Democratic electorate?

Fourth: the Republicans’ success has another aspect that must be scrutinized. Unlike in the recent past, the party’s candidates benefitted from the loss of the Tea Party faction and could, for this reason, attenuate some of its most extreme postures, projecting a more moderate image which previously had been tossed aside, much to the party’s detriment.In any case, the Republicans were able to capitalize on the fact that the political class in the United States has been largely discredited, contrary to the popular conviction that Congressional approval is inferior to presidential approval: 12.7 percent versus 42.2 percent of the White House. Obviously, there is a striking dissonance in these attitudes, which is exacerbated when one takes into account that 66 percent of those surveyed believe that the country is “marching down the wrong path” -- despite the current macroeconomic data -- and let their disenchantment with the White House administration be known by voting for their traditional opponents. The odd thing about this case is that the Republicans did not elaborate at all on which path they will take if a Republican is elected into presidential office, whether there are reasons to assume -- as Sachs did -- that their project will push through tax cuts for corporations and the rich, further deregulation of the labor market and the financial system, as well as weaken environmental standards. In other words, widening the gap between the one percent of the world’s wealthiest and the rest of the U.S. population.   

In conclusion, a few remarks about the implications the U.S. midterm election results will have on the hemisphere. As indicated by Angel Guerra, Obama could make use of his “immense executive powers in matters that he is not obligated to recieve congressional approval.” Obama’s inaction on the issue of immigration, for one, has become very costly in terms of his Latino constituents -- who are resentful of his attitude and indifference concerning the deportation of some 2 million undocumented immigrants during his years in the White House, which equals the total deported in twenty years prior to his term in office. Another issue is normalizing relations with Cuba, which has been raised by numerous sectors of U.S. society and in several New York Times editorials recently. A crucial aspect of this agenda would be the exchange of the Cuban antiterrorists, who remain unjustly imprisoned in U.S. jails, for the “contractor” Alan Gross, detained in Cuba for carrying out seditious activists on the island. The New York daily reminds that despite Washington’s rhetoric of not dealing with terrorists, the U.S. exchanged five Taliban members held in custody in the country for a U.S. soldier captured in Afghanistan,  posing the question of why, then do we not the same with Havanna?  Another aspect of reevaluating the White house’s Cuba policy would be more flexibility in the economic sanctions, even though only Congress could actually lift the blockade. Nevertheless, Obama does have the power to block sanctions of unprecedented severity on commercial and banking institutions of third party countries that manage imports and exports in Cuba.  Another issue is the abandonment of the U.S. policy of “exporting subversion” implemented against leftist governments in the Americas, not just Cuba, but also Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, and to discontinue destabilization campaigns channeled by agencies like USAID, NED and, of course, White House-sponsored “media terrorism.” Time will tell whether Obama has the guts to redirect hemispheric relations toward a path that is consistent with international law. Meanwhile, Latin America and the Caribbean should continue to strengthen its supranational integration process because there is no reason to believe that relations between the empire and the rest of the Americas will take the course of respect and mutual cooperation any time soon. Remember that not only is capitalism incorrigible but imperialism too.