Looting in the Time of Corona

The Jamuna TV report was disturbing. The CNG drivers are desperate. Rikshaw driver Nazrul from Kurigram waits forlornly for a passenger. Another waves the 30 taka he has earned. Face taut, eyes glazed he stares from his perch. ‘Will this 30 taka feed me or feed my wife?’ he asks angrily. The roadside shopkeeper doesn’t have customers, but there is no respite from the rent, or the ‘chanda’ (protection money) he has to pay the local ruling party thugs. Roadside restaurants feed these workers. Yes, close contact is risky, and the far from ideal washing arrangements, signals a high risk of contagion. But they have little choice. Death by starvation is no better a choice than death by virus. ‘God will save us,’ one of them says, ‘what other hope do we have?’ The kids who work in the restaurants get ‘food for work’ in a very literal sense. They draw no wages. When there is work, they get fed. He’s a plucky kid. Putting up a brave face to the fact that today he’ll go hungry. No promises for tomorrow. Lockdown, hand wash, drinking lots of water, social distancing. I recognise the importance of these fancy terms. But what does that mean for the 67 million day-labourers of Bangladesh to whom water itself is a luxury?

Early in the morning a day labourer waits for work, near Dhaka University Campus. March 2020.

Continue reading “Looting in the Time of Corona”

Why the rise of fascism is again the issue

By John Pilger
johnpilger.com
26 February 2015

ukraine_obama_nobel.JPG

The recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was a reminder of the great crime of fascism, whose Nazi iconography is embedded in our consciousness. Fascism is preserved as history, as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal societies, whose war-making elites urge us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism is suppressed; for it is their fascism. Continue reading “Why the rise of fascism is again the issue”

Grand Shia cleric Sistani issues powerful statement to Shia Resistance defending Iraq

The original site: http://www.digital-resistance.com/insight/grand-shia-cleric-sistani-issues-powerful-statement-shia-resistance-defending-iraq/ appears to be down

Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani of Iraq
Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani of Iraq

Do not indulge in acts of extremism, do not disrespect dead corpses, do not resort to deceit, do not kill an elder, a child, a woman. Pay heed to the example of Imam Ali and follow his path. He said: “set your sights on the Family of the Prophet. Make them proud.”

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Do not condemn others to heresy. Do not accuse them of blasphemy which could then lead to their death. Do not imitate the Kharijites. Never inflict harm on non-Muslims, regardless of their religion and sect. The non-Muslims are under the protection of the Muslims. In fact the Muslim must protect his non-Muslim neighbours in the same manner and vigour as he would when he protects his own family.
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Do not steal the money of others. Those who steal from others will find themselves seated in the flames of the fires of hell. Do not disrespect the corpse of the dead, and if you defeat the men of your enemies do not violate the sanctity of their women and houses. Do not enter their [defeated enemies] homes.
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Don’t take anything from their houses. Take only what you find in their military encampments. Do not verbally abuse their women. Do not insult their honour, even if your enemies abuse your women and insult your honour. Do not deprive any people, who do not fight you, of their rights.
Know that most of those who fight you are victims who have been led astray by others. Let your righteous actions, your just conduct, and your sound admonition, serve as an example for them. Do not resort to oppression.
Everyone must let go of sentiments which carry hatred and bigotry. Follow the noble manners. Do not be overcome by narrow-minded views.

STRANGER THAN FICTION: America?s ramped up nuclear capability: Prelude to another Cold War?

by TAJ HASHMI*

While people across the world for the last three years have been watching the unbelievable resurgence in state- and non-state-actor-sponsored violence and terror across the Arab World – Libya, Egypt, Syria, Gaza, and of late, Iraq – the Obama Administration’s recent decision to ramp up its nuclear capability has almost remained unnoticed to most analysts, let alone the common people. Even if, very similar to what happened during the Cold War, America’s ramped up nuclear capability does not lead to a nuclear conflagration, this is going to signal further nuclear proliferation, arms race and a new cold war. Some American analysts find it unbelievable, that “a president who campaigned for ‘a nuclear-free-world’ and made disarmament a main goal of American defense policy”, has thumbed up a massive revitalization for new generation of nuclear warheads and weapon carriers. The price tag is estimated to be a trillion dollars over the next 30 years. The justifications for the “modernization of nuclear capabilities” – apparently not synonymous with increasing nuclear warheads – are baffling.

While Russia is alleged to be on the march; China is assumed to be pressing further its territorial claims to the detriment of its neighbors; and Pakistan is “expanding” its arsenal. Gary Samore, Obama’s nuclear adviser in his first term, has singled out Putin’s “invasion of Ukraine” as “the most fundamental game changer” in regard to America’s ramping up its nuclear capability. One assumes, thanks to the growing influence of the hawks in Washington, soon Iran’s purported nuclear capability will further rationalize America’s nuclear modernization program.

As a New York Times editorial (Sept 24, 2018) has pointed out, during the past six years Obama promised to make the world eventually nuclear arms free. And that his promises have substantially de-escalated  the arms race: 13 countries so far have completely eliminated their nuclear materials, and 15 have destroyed portions of their stockpiles. Nevertheless, there are about 2,000 nuclear weapons located in 14 countries, and 25 countries have the materials and technology to build their own bombs.

What is apparently baffling is Obama’s raising the nuclear modernization budget from $70 to $84 billion a year. Interestingly, having no qualms with spending a trillion dollars to build a dozen nuclear submarines, 100 new bombers and 400 land-based missiles, and spending billions on weapon upgrades, the Congress hardly debated the issue.

As we know, in accordance with the “Weinberger Doctrine” (Weinberger was Reagan’s Defense Secretary), America does not want to commit the Vietnam mistakes. Now, it favors using overwhelming force for a swift and decisive victory, as it achieved in Iraq in 1991 and 2003. In 2011, America spent $739.3 billion on defense, equivalent to more than 45% of what the rest of the world spent on defense that year. Obama’s latest volte-face indicates two things: a) either he has started believing in American hawks who love to see their country as an empire, which should be on the path to “permanent war”; or b) he is too vulnerable to the overpowering influence of the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) on the Congress.

We have reasons not to blame Obama for his “ambivalence” towards arms race and nuclear escalation. The Nobel Laureate in Peace is anything but the “most powerful man in the world”. He cannot overpower the hawks and the MIC, who, as one analyst believes, want at least one major war every ten years in some distant part of the world. The hawks are good at generating fear among the bulk of Americans about the unknown or least known enemies, such as the ISIS and the Khorasan Group in Iraq and Syria.

In view of Obama’s latest “backsliding on nuclear promises”, one may argue as to why his administration and the beneficiaries of the “permanent war” should spend another trillion dollars in the next three decades on nuclear modernization while America has slowly and steadily entered into the arena of another long war in the Middle East against the ISIS, who seems to have appeared from nowhere, and despite its meager resources and manpower, captured substantial territories in Syria and Iraq. As America’s latest war is being planned – albeit with tepid support from five Arab autocracies, one of them (Saudi Arabia) also regularly behead people in the name of Islam and Shariah like the ISIS extremists – should make the hawks and MIC  happy. So, why should the Obama Administration go for the nuclear modernization?

We believe the nuclear option is not for containing Russia, China or Iran. It is all about the “profits of war”. Another cold war or “cold peace” may lead to further arms race, even nuclear proliferation. Nevertheless, America and its Western allies would remain dominant militarily in the foreseeable future. It seems, America’s latest military adventure in the Arab World gives credence to what General Wesley Clark said about the Pentagon’s long-term plan to invade several countries in the region, including Iraq, Syria and Iran, without any specific reasons but – as one would guess – for the benefit of the MIC alone.

Similarly, one may argue that investing a trillion dollar on nuclear modernization would further benefit those who benefit from conventional wars as well. Conversely, one is not sure if the nuclear modernization in the long run might be more profitable (for the MIC) than waging unpopular wars against Syria and Iran! However, America’s ramping up the nuclear capability is likely to end the so-called unipolarity; and might usher in another cold war and “cold peace” hurting food supply, human rights, democracy and development across the world, especially in the Third World. Last but not least, nuclear modernization would eventually lead to nuclear proliferation. And there is no guarantee that terrorists and terrorist-states would not have access to nuclear technology.

ENDS

Related link: The Overblown ISIS Threat: Prelude To Another Long War?

* The writer teaches security studies at Austin Peay State University at Clarksville, Tennessee. Sage has recently published his Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.

Behind the Gaza ceasefire Israel and Hamas talk potential peace

By James m. Dorsey Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Synopsis

Israel and Hamas have significantly moderated their attitudes towards one another despite official denials. Indirect talks in Cairo designed to achieve a lasting ceasefire between the two war weary parties effectively constitute negotiations about the parameters of a potential future peace agreement. Continue reading “Behind the Gaza ceasefire Israel and Hamas talk potential peace”

UN independent expert calls for boycott of businesses profiting from Israeli settlements

From
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Collateral Damage

Raghu Rai/Magnum Photos

In 1971, the Pakistani Army had free rein to kill at least 300,000 Bengalis and force 10 million people to flee.

By

In the 40-odd years that America and the Soviet Union faced off in the cold war, the people who presumed to run the world started with the knowledge that it was too dangerous, and possibly even suicidal, to attack one another. But the struggle was fierce, and what that meant in practice was that the competition played out in impoverished places like Cuba and Angola, where the great statesmen vied, eyed and subverted one another, and sometimes loosed their local proxies, all in the name of maintaining the slippery but all-important concept known as the balance of power.

THE BLOOD TELEGRAM

Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide: The New York Times

By Gary J. Bass

The peace held, of course — that is, the larger peace. The United States and the Soviet Union never came to blows, and the nuclear-tipped missiles never left their silos. For the third world, where the competition unfolded, it was another matter entirely. The wreckage spread far and wide, in toppled governments, loathsome dictators, squalid little wars and, here and there, massacres so immense that entire populations were nearly destroyed.

In “The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide,” Gary J. Bass, a professor of politics at Princeton, has revived the terrible and little-known story of the birth of Bangladesh in 1971, and of the sordid and disgraceful White House diplomacy that attended it. This is a dark and amazing tale, an essential reminder of the devastation wrought by the hardhearted policy and outright bigotry that typified much of the diplomacy of the cold war. It is not a tale without heroes, though; a number of American diplomats — most especially a man named Archer Blood — risked and even sacrificed their careers by refusing to knuckle under to the White House and telling the truth about what was happening on the ground.

The story begins, as do so many in our modern world, with the end of the British Empire. In 1947, when the British quit India, they lopped off its majority Muslim flanks in the east and west. At the time, the partition unfolded in a frenzy of murder and expulsion, leaving a million people dead. Pakistan emerged as one of the largest countries in the world, but improbably divided into two parts by more than a thousand miles of Indian territory. When you look at a map from that time, you have to wonder what on earth the cartographers were thinking.

Pakistan carried on for 23 years like that, with the more numerous Bengalis in the east feeling increasingly neglected by their Punjabi brethren in the west, where the capital was. Things came to a head in December 1970, when Sheik Mujib-ur-­Rahman, a pipe-smoking Bengali leader, and his party, the Awami League, won the elections on the promise of autonomy for East Pakistan. (Whatever he wanted privately, he did not call for independence.) Rahman never got a chance to form a government. Gen. Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, egged on by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the second-place finisher, arrested Rahman and ordered the army to crush the Bengalis. Dominated by Punjabis, the army moved brutally, shooting and detaining Bengali leaders, intellectuals and anyone who opposed them.

Enter the United States. At the time of the elections, Pakistan, though ruled by a military dictator, was an American ally with an American-equipped military; India, the giant democracy, considered itself nonaligned — a neutral player in the Soviet-American standoff. Given what was happening on the ground — the Pakistani Army acting wantonly, ignoring the results of an election — you might expect the White House to restrain the Pakistani generals. So one arrives at the devastating heart of Bass’s book. (Note: I have interviewed Bass and met him socially a couple of times.)

At the time of the crackdown in East Pakistan, President Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, were trying to establish relations with the People’s Republic of China, which was only then emerging from the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. Nixon wanted desperately to extract the United States from Vietnam in something less than a catastrophic way and, as focused as ever on the Soviet Union, he and Kissinger believed that opening a channel to China could help them with the war while, at the same time, delivering a blow to the Soviets by exploiting their rivalry with the Chinese. Pakistan and, in particular, Yahya, its military leader, became Nixon’s secret liaison with the Chinese leader Zhou Enlai. Yahya helped lay the groundwork for the visits to China by Kissinger and then Nixon. It’s hard to overstate just how earth-changing Nixon and Kissinger regarded their trips to China — and how important they thought they were for bringing them about.

In practice, this meant that Yahya — a vain, shallow mediocrity — was suddenly considered indispensable, free to do whatever he wished in East Pakistan. With the White House averting its eyes, the largely Muslim Pakistani Army killed at least 300,000 Bengalis, most of them Hindus, and forced 10 million to flee to India. Bass lays out his indictment of the White House: Nixon and Kissinger spurned the cables, written by their own diplomats in Dacca (the capital of East Pakistan), that said West Pakistan was guilty of carrying out widespread massacres. Archer Blood, the counsel general in Dacca, sent an angry cable that detailed the atrocities and used the word “genocide.” The men in the White House, however, not only refused to condemn Yahya — in public or private — but they also declined to withhold American arms, ammunition and spare parts that kept Pakistan’s military machine humming. Indeed, Nixon regarded the dictator with genuine affection. “I understand the anguish you must have felt in making the difficult decisions you have faced,” he told Yahya.

The voices of Kissinger and Nixon are the book’s most shocking aspects. Bass has unearthed a series of conversations, most of them from the White House’s secret tapes, that reveal Nixon and Kissinger as breathtakingly vulgar and hateful, especially in their attitudes toward the Indians, whom they regarded as repulsive, shifty and, anyway, pro-Soviet — and especially in their opinion of Indira Gandhi. “The old bitch,” Nixon called her. “I don’t know why the hell anybody would reproduce in that damn country but they do,” he said.

These sorts of statements will probably not surprise the experts, but what is most telling is what they reveal about Nixon’s and Kissinger’s strategic intelligence. At every step of the crisis, the two men appear to have been driven as much by their loathing of India — West Pakistan’s rival — as by any cool calculations of power. By failing to restrain West Pakistan, they allowed a blood bath to unfold, and then a regional war, which began when Gandhi finally decided that the only way to stop the tide of refugees was to stop the killing across the border. That, in turn, prompted West Pakistan to attack India.

At this point, the recklessness of Nixon and Kissinger only got worse. They dispatched ships from the Seventh Fleet into the Bay of Bengal, and even encouraged China to move troops to the Indian border, possibly for an attack — a maneuver that could have provoked the Soviet Union. Fortunately, the leaders of the two Communist countries proved more sober than those in the White House. The war ended quickly, when India crushed the Pakistani Army and East Pakistan declared independence.

Nixon and Kissinger spent the decades after leaving office burnishing their images as great statesmen. This book goes a long way in showing just how undeserved those reputations are.

Dexter Filkins, a staff writer for The New Yorker, was formerly a correspondent in South Asia for The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.

Open letter to President Barack Obama

From one Nobel Peace Laureate to another

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel Alai, América Latina en movimiento

Hear the outcry of the peoples!

The situation in Syria is an object of serious preoccupation and once more the United States, assuming the role of the world’s policeman, proposes to invade Syria in the name of “Freedom” and “Human Rights”.

Continue reading “Open letter to President Barack Obama”

Syria: Stop another senseless war

They did it once and look where they got us. Do not let the hawks lead us into another meaningless slaughter. Their profit must not come at the cost of our peace.

Regarding the facts:

Talking Points from Phyllis Bennis, Director, New Internationalism Project Institute for Policy Studlies

Tom Hayden – A Call for Forceful Diplomacy http://www.pdamerica.org/component/k2/item/1809-tom-hayden-a-call-for-forceful-diplomacy

McClatchy News Service, “To some, US case for Syrian gas attack, strike has too many holes,”  http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/09/02/201027/to-some-us-case-for-syrian-gas.html#.Uid-LFcpg_g

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, “Which Syrian Chemical Attack Account Is More Credible?”  http://www.fair.org/blog/2013/09/01/which-syrian-chemical-attack-account-is-more-credible/

International Law:

Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro “On Syria, a U.N. Vote Isn’t Optional,”  New York Times Op Ed,http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/04/opinion/on-syria-a-un-vote-isnt-optional.html

“The Rush to Bomb Syria: Undermining International Law and Risking Wider War,” Western States Legal Foundation Briefing Paper, http://wslfweb.org/docs/wslfsyriabrief1.pdf

Faith Group Statements Opposing Military Action in Syria—Not Exhaustive:

Letter from Trappist Nuns in Syria: “Blood Fills our Streets, our eyes, our hearts”  (http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/2538/a_letter_from_trappist_nuns_in_syria_blood_fills_our_streets_our_eyes_our_heart.aspx#.UiOiqGSDR7P).

Pope Francis: violence begets violence http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/09/03/syria-pope-francis-war-begets-war-violence-begets-violence-calls-for-peace-for-syria/

Pax Christi International:  http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/08/29/statement-dialogue-is-the-only-way-towards-an-end-of-the-violence-in-syria/

Pax Christi USA:  http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/08/31/syria-war-is-still-a-defeat-for-humanity/ (links to US Bishops and Pope’s statements on web site)

US Conference of Catholic Bishops: http://www.usccb.org/news/2013/13-157.cfm

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas:  www.sistersofmercy.org

NETWORK: National Catholic Social Justice Lobby: www.networklobby.org

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns and action items from CMSM, incl.  Syrian bishop speaking out against U.S. Military Action: http://maryknollogc.org/alerts/urge-congress-dont-attack-syria

NCR Article:  What moral theologians say about getting involved in Syria http://ncronline.org/news/global/what-moral-theologians-say-about-getting-involved-syria

Sojourners:  http://sojo.net/blogs/2013/08/29/syria-we-must-use-moral-compass-guide-our-moral-outrage

Pax Christi USA:  http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/08/31/syria-war-is-still-a-defeat-for-humanity/ (links to US Bishops and Pope’s statements on web site)

Mennonite Church USA:  http://www.mennoniteusa.org/?s=syria&x=0&y=0 and http://washingtonmemo.org/category/issues/middle-east-issues/

United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ:  http://globalministries.org/news/mee/churches-address-president.html and http://www.ucc.org/news/syria-refugees-08022013.html

Presbyterians (PCUSA): http://www.pcusa.org/news/2013/8/30/stated-clerk-issues-statement-wake-escalating-viol/

Read more: http://www.shahidulnews.com/syria-stop-another-senseless-war#ixzz2g9oilmBx