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Trashing Clinton in the Times: Is Sanders’ End Game to Sell Out His ‘Political Revolution’ or to Take It to November?

By Dave Lindorff

 

            What is Bernie Sanders up to?

 

            I sure don’t know, and I’m sure that Hillary Clinton and her campaign managers are wondering too.

Have a Chilcot Fourth of July

This Fourth of July, U.S. war makers will be drinking fermented grain, grilling dead flesh, traumatizing veterans with colorful explosions, and thanking their lucky stars and campaign contributors that they don't live in rotten old England. And I don't mean because of King George III. I'm talking about the Chilcot Inquiry.

According to a British newspaper: "The long-awaited Chilcot report into the Iraq war is reportedly set to savage Tony Blair and other former government officials in an 'absolutely brutal' verdict on the failings of the occupation."

Let's be clear, the "brutal" "savaging" is metaphorical, not of the sort actually done to Iraq. By the most scientifically respected measures available, the war killed 1.4 million Iraqis, saw 4.2 million injured, and 4.5 million people become refugees. The 1.4 million dead was 5% of the population. The invasion included 29,200 air strikes, followed by 3,900 over the next eight years. The U.S. military targeted civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances. It used cluster bombs, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new kind of napalm in urban areas. Birth defects, cancer rates, and infant mortality have soared. Water supplies, sewage treatment plants, hospitals, bridges, and electricity supplies were devastated, and not repaired.

For years, the occupying forces encouraged ethnic and sectarian division and violence, resulting in a segregated country and the repression of rights that Iraqis had enjoyed even under Saddam Hussein's brutal police state. Terrorist groups, including one that took the name ISIS, arose and flourished.

This enormous crime was not a well-intended project that experienced a few "failings of the occupation." It was not something that could have been done properly, or legally, or morally. The only decent thing that could have been done with this war, as with any war, was not to start it.

There was no need for yet another investigation. The crime has been out in the open from the start. All the obvious lies about weapons and ties to terrorists could have been true and still wouldn't have justified or legalized the war. What's needed is accountability, which is why Tony Blair may now find himself impeached.

Holding UK accomplices to the crime accountable is not a step toward getting them to squeal on their U.S. bosses, because the secrets are all in the open. But perhaps it can set an example. Perhaps even a UK-free European Union will someday take steps to hold U.S. criminals to account.

It's too late, of course, to dissuade President Obama from expanding on Bush's abuses by holding Bush accountable. But there is the problem of the next president (with both major parties nominating people who supported the 2003 invasion), and the problem of a subservient Congress. There is also the screaming need, ever more urgent, for massive reparations to the people of Iraq. That step, required by justice and humanity, would of course cost less financially than continuing the never-ending wars in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. It would also make the United States safer.

These articles of impeachment were introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Dennis Kucinich on June 9, 2008, as H. Res. 1258

Article I
Creating a Secret Propaganda Campaign to Manufacture a False Case for War Against Iraq.

Article II
Falsely, Systematically, and with Criminal Intent Conflating the Attacks of September 11, 2001, With Misrepresentation of Iraq as a Security Threat as Part of Fraudulent Justification for a War of Aggression.

Article III
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction, to Manufacture a False Case for War.

Article IV
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Posed an Imminent Threat to the United States.

Article V
Illegally Misspending Funds to Secretly Begin a War of Aggression.

Article VI
Invading Iraq in Violation of the Requirements of HJRes114.

Article VII
Invading Iraq Absent a Declaration of War.

Article VIII
Invading Iraq, A Sovereign Nation, in Violation of the UN Charter.

Article IX
Failing to Provide Troops With Body Armor and Vehicle Armor.

Article X
Falsifying Accounts of US Troop Deaths and Injuries for Political Purposes.

Article XI
Establishment of Permanent U.S. Military Bases in Iraq.

Article XII
Initiating a War Against Iraq for Control of That Nation's Natural Resources.

Article XIIII
Creating a Secret Task Force to Develop Energy and Military Policies With Respect to Iraq and Other Countries.

Article XIV
Misprision of a Felony, Misuse and Exposure of Classified Information And Obstruction of Justice in the Matter of Valerie Plame Wilson, Clandestine Agent of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Article XV
Providing Immunity from Prosecution for Criminal Contractors in Iraq.

Article XVI
Reckless Misspending and Waste of U.S. Tax Dollars in Connection With Iraq and US Contractors.

Article XVII
Illegal Detention: Detaining Indefinitely And Without Charge Persons Both U.S. Citizens and Foreign Captives.

Article XVIII
Torture: Secretly Authorizing, and Encouraging the Use of Torture Against Captives in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Other Places, as a Matter of Official Policy.

Article XIX
Rendition: Kidnapping People and Taking Them Against Their Will to "Black Sites" Located in Other Nations, Including Nations Known to Practice Torture.

Article XX
Imprisoning Children.

Article XXI
Misleading Congress and the American People About Threats from Iran, and Supporting Terrorist Organizations Within Iran, With the Goal of Overthrowing the Iranian Government.

Article XXII
Creating Secret Laws.

Article XXIII
Violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.

Article XXIV
Spying on American Citizens, Without a Court-Ordered Warrant, in Violation of the Law and the Fourth Amendment.

Article XXV
Directing Telecommunications Companies to Create an Illegal and Unconstitutional Database of the Private Telephone Numbers and Emails of American Citizens.

Article XXVI
Announcing the Intent to Violate Laws with Signing Statements.

Article XXVII
Failing to Comply with Congressional Subpoenas and Instructing Former Employees Not to Comply.

Article XXVIII
Tampering with Free and Fair Elections, Corruption of the Administration of Justice.

Article XXIX
Conspiracy to Violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Article XXX
Misleading Congress and the American People in an Attempt to Destroy Medicare.

Article XXXI
Katrina: Failure to Plan for the Predicted Disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Failure to Respond to a Civil Emergency.

Article XXXII
Misleading Congress and the American People, Systematically Undermining Efforts to Address Global Climate Change.

Article XXXIII
Repeatedly Ignored and Failed to Respond to High Level Intelligence Warnings of Planned Terrorist Attacks in the US, Prior to 911.

Article XXXIV
Obstruction of the Investigation into the Attacks of September 11, 2001.

Article XXXV
Endangering the Health of 911 First Responders.

Focus: Brexit - June 25, 2016


Brexit: Worries about excessive migration to the U.K.overshadowed fears of the economic fallout of leaving the European bloc - Bloomberg


This is how immigration fueled the Brexit result - The National Interest Blog


Fear of immigration drove the Brexit victory – not immigration itself - The Guardian


POLL: Just ahead of the EU referendum, concern about immigration rose by 10 percentage points - Ipsos MORI


Brexit, explained in one chart: British voters push back against a huge surge in immigration that’s taken place over the past decade - Vox


Brexit: UK Immigration by the numbers - The Post Newspaper


Immigration pushes UK population to 65 million - The Times & The Sunday Times


EU referendum: How the results compare to the UK's educated, old and immigrant populations - telegraph.co.uk


Brexit: What next for immigration after the EU referendum? - newsweek.com


David Cameron, Britain's Prime Minister, to step down after Brexit vote - NBC News


Jeremy Corbyn faces calls to resign from Labour MPs over disastrous referendum campaign - The Independent


VIDEO: Jeremy Corbyn says he wont resign despite Brexit result - ibtimes.co.in


Brexit: New Labour should have listened to 'racist' immigration concerns years ago, As years passed and migration soared those who spoke up were dismissed - ibtimes.co.u

 

--------------------------------------------

Trump cites immigration anger as driving factor in 'Brexit' vote – and beyond - Fox News


VIDEO: Trump: Brits have voted to take their country back - Fox News


TRANSCRIPT: Donald Trump’s Brexit press conference - The Washington Post


Donald J. Trump Statement Regarding British Referendum on E.U. Membership - Donald J Trump for President


How Trump benefits from Brexit - Yahoo Finance


Hillary Clinton camp says Trump’s ‘Brexit’ remarks show he’s unfit for White House - WSJ


Hillary Clinton statement on Brexit vote - hillaryclinton.com


Bernie Sanders on Brexit: ‘The global economy is not working for everybody’ - huffingtonpost.com


VIDEO: Sanders on Brexit: The ‘global economy is not working for everybody' - YouTube


Joe Biden, in a speech in Ireland, warns against blaming immigrants for unrest - LA Times


Joint statement by Schulz, Tusk, Rutte and Juncker on UK referendum outcome - uroparl.europa.eu


From trade to migration - how Brexit may hit the EU economy - Reuters


Brexit to hit German economy hard: business groups - MarketWatch


Brexit sparks calls for more EU exits, world leaders react to EU referendum result - btimes.com


Voters in Sweden, Denmark and Greece demand their say on 'broken' Europe - Daily Mail Online


Swiss say Brexit vote complicates its EU immigration talks - Yahoo Finance UK


Putin on Brexit: UK citizens' choice resulted from the British authorities' 'arrogance and a shallow approach to solving pivotal issues’ - RT News


The British Brexit vote is awful news for China - Quartz


To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)

What about cops?: Ban Assault Weapons, But for Police Too, Not Just Civilians

By Dave Lindorff

 

A few years ago, I contacted my local police department asking them to send an officer over to put down a doe that had been hit by a car on the street in front of my house. She had suffered a left front and right rear leg break but had somehow flopped herself well into the yard and was on the ground suffering. When a cop arrived, and began to approach her with his pistol I warned him off, saying the deer would hurt herself more trying to get away.

Brexit Violence Deeply Rooted, With Lessons for U.S.

On Thursday, in a political move more typical of the United States than Europe, a member of the British Parliament was murdered. She was an opponent of Brexit (Britain exiting the European Union), and her murderer reportedly shouted "Britain First!"

There is a case to be made, on the one hand, that exiting the EU is actually the move away from violence. There are many areas, from banking to farming to militarism, that motivate Norway and Iceland to stay out, for all the right reasons, including resistance to war making -- as with Sweden's and Switzerland's staying out of NATO. I was rooting for Scotland's departure from the UK in the name of peace and disarmament, and looked forward to U.S. nukes and NATO being kicked out of that beautiful country.

The European Union has become the civilian arm of NATO, expanding ever nearer Russia at the insistence of the United States, which -- believe it or not -- is not actually a European nation at all. Were Norway to join the EU, that could mean trouble for Norway's fair and humane economy. But Britain? Britain is a drag on the EU, there at the insistence of the United States which needs puppet-veto power over any European moves toward independence, peace, environmental sustainability, or economic fairness. The EU's influence on Britain is largely to the benefit of the Brits.

There is perhaps a stronger case to be made that exiting the EU would be a move toward violence. This is the case for the EU as a model of peacemaking. For this argument I refer you to a new book by Vijay Mehta called Peace Beyond Borders: How the EU Brought Peace to Europe and How Exporting It Would End Conflicts Around the World. Let me make very clear that I think Mehta wildly exaggerates his case. Far more important to ending war in the world, I believe, are a number of other factors, the top two being: (1) Get the rich countries, led by the U.S. and Europe, to stop selling weapons to the world, and (2) Get the rich countries, led by the U.S. and Europe, to stop bombing, invading, and occupying poor countries.

The EU's supposed 70 years of peace leaves out massive warmaking abroad, as well as wars in Yugoslavia. The case for the EU's bringing of peace and prosperity has to explain Norwegian and Icelandic peace and prosperity as tangential effects of the EU's orbit. Bestowing a Nobel Prize on a leading warmaking region of the world, a prize meant to fund disarmament activists given to the EU which could fund itself by buying a bit less weaponry -- that was an insult to the world and to Alfred Nobel's will.

But, within its proper scope, there is nonetheless a major point to be made. Europe was for centuries the leading hotspot for war as well as its leading exporter. For an unprecedented 71 years Europe has been almost exclusively an exporter of war. The idea of a war within Europe is now almost unthinkable. Mehta argues that we ought to try thinking it, because a few slips could quickly bring it back again. Mehta credits the EU with having made peace normal through 10 mechanisms. I would add to these, of course, fear of nuclear holocaust, and cultural trends away from war acceptance. But here are the mechanisms:

A lesson here for Sanders?: 72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election

By Dave Lindorff

 

A 72-year-old college professor named Alexander van der Bellen, running for president as the candidate of the leftist Austrian Green Party, a fringe party that had never been considered a serious contender in post-war Austrian politics, just won a narrow victory over Norbert Hofer, a right-wing candidate of the neo-fascist Freedom Party who had been favored to win.

Talk Nation Radio: Meike Capps-Schubert on U.S. Military Resistance in Germany

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-meike-capps-schubert-on-us-military-resistance-in-germany

Meike Capps-Schubert is the co-founder and current manager of The Clearing Barrel GI-Coffeehouse in Kaiserslautern next to Ramstein Airbase, Germany, the only GI-coffeehouse outside the United States. A long-time peace and justice activist in Germany, Meike is a counselor with the Military Counseling Network e.V. -- the German branch of the GI-rights-hotline, which provides free, confidential, and accurate information on U.S. military regulations and practices to members of the U.S. military, veterans, and their families. She has also helped build critical support for U.S. war resisters in Germany since 2003. Learn more:
http://theclearingbarrel.blogspot.de
http://www.mc-network.de
https://www.betterplace.org/en/projects/5543-the-clearing-barrel-gi-cafe-germany
http://gicoffeehousetour.blogspot.de

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

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5 Refugee Camps in Mud on the Greek-Macedonia Border

By Ann Wright

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"If you don't like refugees coming to your country, stop voting for politicians who love to bomb the shit out of them."  Our delegation from CODEPINK: Women for Peace saw this written on a tent at the Idomeni refugee camp in on the Greek-Macedonian border:  As we well know, either the Greek nor Macedonian governments have bombed people, but they are having to deal with the huge numbers of refugees caused by the decisions of government far away.

The Obama administration which inherited the chaos from the 2003 Iraq war from the Bush administration but that has been bombing ISIS in urban areas in Iraq and Syria has resettled only 1,736 Syrian refugees over the last seven months—despite President Obama’s pledge to resettle at least 10,000 Syrians by September 2016. In contrast, Canada has resettled more than 26,000 Syrian refugees since late 2015, while Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have together taken in millions of Syrian refugees since the conflict began five years ago.

http://www.democracynow.org/2016/5/12/headlines/us_has_resettled_only_1_736_syrian_refugees_in_last_7_months

In early May, we had flown from Athens to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, and then had driven one hour north to the Greek border with Macedonia.  The name of the tiny hamlet of Idomeni has become synonymous with the largest refugee camp in Greece.

 As we arrived, a tremendous thunder, lightning and hailstorm hit the area ripping down tents, making mud pools and deluging tents and the clothing and bedding inside. We saw the worst conditions (except cold and snow) that the 13,000 refugees must endure in five camps within 4 miles of the Macedonian border. All five are “informal, unofficial” camps and refugees can come and go at will.  They have refused any attempt to put them into the formal “detention” camps that place them in isolated areas and restrict their movement within Greece. As a result, the services provided are not particularly well organized although all have limited porta-potties, showers and faucets for washing clothes.  All have basic food provided primarily by volunteers, non-governmental organizations and the Greek military (in only one camp).

The first camp one comes upon on Highway 75 heading north from Thessaloniki is at the gasoline station and rest stop called EKO.  Over 2,000 persons are camping in the large parking lot, grocery store and car wash.  Save the Children provides rice porridge and oranges daily for children under 11 years of age and estimates there are over 1,000 children.   We helped hand out the porridge by going tent by tent and asking how many children of that age group were in the household (tenthold).  Save the Children coordinators told us that they liked having the daily contact with people in their living space rather than having people stand in another long line.  We were greeted with a warm smile and a thank you by every mother to whom we delivered the porridge.  The Boat Refugee Foundation of the Netherlands has a number of volunteers that help with the porridge delivery-young women and men from the Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden and the UK.

Fanning fears during London’s mayoral election: Islamophobia on the Rise in England

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

During a casual conversation inside a store on a swanky shopping street located a short distance from London’s fabled Kensington Palace a twenty-something retail clerk said she feels a strange sense of discomfort that she’s never felt before in London, the city where this native of Algeria has lived most of her life.

The United States Just Bombed Germany

If the bombing occurs when the bombs that have been dropped from U.S. airplanes explode, then the United States just bombed Germany and has been bombing Germany every year for over 70 years.

There are still over 100,000 yet-to-explode U.S. and British bombs from World War II lying hidden in the ground in Germany. Notes the Smithsonian Magazine:

"Before any construction project begins in Germany, from the extension of a home to track-laying by the national railroad authority, the ground must be certified as cleared of unexploded ordnance. Still, last May, some 20,000 people were cleared from an area of Cologne while authorities removed a one-ton bomb that had been discovered during construction work. In November 2013, another 20,000 people in Dortmund were evacuated while experts defused a 4,000-pound 'Blockbuster' bomb that could destroy most of a city block. In 2011, 45,000 people—the largest evacuation in Germany since World War II—were forced to leave their homes when a drought revealed a similar device lying on the bed of the Rhine in the middle of Koblenz. Although the country has been at peace for three generations, German bomb-disposal squads are among the busiest in the world. Eleven bomb technicians have been killed in Germany since 2000, including three who died in a single explosion while trying to defuse a 1,000-pound bomb on the site of a popular flea market in Göttingen in 2010."

A new film called The Bomb Hunters focuses on the town of Oranienburg, where a huge concentration of bombs keeps up a constant menace. In particular the film focuses on one man whose house blew up in 2013. He lost everything. Oranienburg, now known as the city of bombs, was a center of nuclear research that the U.S. government did not want the advancing Soviets to acquire. At least that's one reason offered for the massive bombing of Oranienburg. Rather than possibly speed up the Soviet acquisition of nukes by a handful of years, Oranienburg had to be rained on with blankets of enormous bombs -- to explode for decades to come.

They weren't just bombs. They were delayed-fuse bombs, all of them. Delayed-fuse bombs were usually included along with non-delaying bombs in order to terrorize a population further and hinder humanitarian rescue operations after a bombing, similar to how cluster bombs have been used in recent U.S. wars to extend the terrorizing of a population by blowing up children for months to come, and similar to "double taps" in the business of drone murder -- the first missile or "tap" to kill, the second to kill any rescuer bringing aid. Delayed-fuse bombs go off some hours or days after landing, but only if they land the right way up. Otherwise they can go off some hours or days or weeks or months or years or decades or god-knows-when later. Presumably this was understood at the time and intended. So, that intention perhaps adds to the logic of my headline above. Perhaps the United States didn't just intend to bomb Germany, but it intended 70 years ago to bomb Germany this year.

A bomb or two goes off every year, but the greatest concentration is in Oranienburg where thousands and thousands of bombs were dropped. The town has been making a concerted effort to find and eliminate the bombs. Hundreds may remain. When bombs are found, neighborhoods are evacuated. The bomb is disabled, or it is detonated. Even during the search for bombs, the government must damage houses as it drills test holes into the ground at evenly spaced intervals. Sometimes the government even tears down a house in order to conduct the search for bombs beneath it.

A U.S. pilot involved in this madness way back when says in the film that he thought about those under the bombs, but believed the war to be for the salvation of humanity, thus justifying anything. Now, he says, he can see no justification for war.

Also in the film, a U.S. veteran writes to the Mayor of Oranienburg and sends $100 to apologize. But the Mayor says there's nothing to be sorry for, that the United States was only doing what it had to. Well, thanks for the codependency, Mr. Mayor. I'd love to get you on a talk show with Kurt Vonnegut's ghost. Seriously, Germany's guilt is immensely admirable and worthy of emulation in the guilt-free United States, which grotesquely imagines itself forever sinless. But these two extremes build on each other in a toxic relationship.

When imagining that you've justified a war involves imagining that you've thereby justified any and every atrocity in that war, the results are things like nuclear bombings and bombings so intense that a country remains covered with unexploded bombs at a time when almost nobody involved in the war is alive anymore. Germany should strengthen its peace-identity by shaking off its guilt-ridden subservience to the United States and putting an end to U.S. warmaking from bases on German soil. It should ask the U.S. military to get out and to take all of its bombs with it.

Visiting Refugee Camps in Athens and Facilities in Germany

By Ann Wright

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Our small three person delegation from CODEPINK: Women for Peace (Leslie Harris of Dallas, TX, Barbara Briggs-Letson of Sebastopol, CA and Ann Wright of Honolulu, HI)  travelled to Greece to volunteer in refugee camps.  We spent our first day in Athens at the refugee camp on the piers of Piraeus harbor known as E1 and E1.5 for the piers on which they are located-away from the busiest piers from which the ferry boats take travelers out to the Greek islands.  Camp E2 that held 500 people was closed over the weekend and the 500 person in that location moved to Camp E1.5.

The camp has been on the piers of Piraeus for several months when ferryboats began moving refugees from the islands off the coast of Turkey to Athens.  Many of the boats arrived at the piers at night and the travelers had no place to go so they just camped out on the piers.  Gradually, the Greek authorities designated piers E1 and E2 for refugee camps.  But, with the tourist season arriving, the authorities want the space for the increased tourist business.

Rumors are that both of the remaining camps of about 2500 will be closed over this weekend and everyone moved to a camp at Scaramonga being built about 15 minutes outside of Athens.

Some of the refugees left the Piraeus piers to check out other refugee facilities, but have returned to the piers as the concrete rather than dirt floors, fresh ocean breezes and easy access to the city of Athens by public transport are seen as better than being in a formal camp in an isolated location with more stringent entry and exit rules.

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We were at Piraeus yesterday all day helping in the clothing warehouse and talking to refugees as they wait in lines—for the toilets, showers, food, clothing—lines for anything and everything—and being invited to sit inside the family tents to chat.  We met Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, Iranians and Pakistanis.

The pier camps are informal, not official refugee camps operated by any one group.  But the Greek government is helping with some of the logistics such as toilets and food. There seems to be no camp administrator or central coordinator but everyone seems to know the daily drill of food, water, tiolets.  Refugee registration for their future is a process we have not figured out, but many we have spoken with have been in Athens for over 2 months and do not want to be moved to a formal facility where they will have less freedom and access to the local communities.

The toilets are a mess, long lines for showers with a 10 minute max for moms to shower the kids. Most live in small tents with large families connecting several tents to form a “sitting room” and bedrooms.  Kids race around the area with small toys.  The Norwegian NGO “A drop In the Ocean” has a space under a tent for providing a space for art, coloring and drawing for kids.   A Spanish NGO has hot tea and water available 24 hours a day.  The clothing warehouse is stacked with boxes of used clothes that must be sorted into logical piles for distribution.  As there are no clothes washing machines, some women attempt to wash out clothes in buckets and hang clothes on lines, while others have found that throwing away dirty clothes and getting “new” ones from the warehouse is the most efficient way to stay clean.  UNHCR provides blankets that are used as carpets in tents.

We met international volunteers from Spain, the Netherlands, the U.S., France and many Greek volunteers.  The volunteers who have been there the longest pass on the routine to the newcomers.  The previous system of a daily orientation for the new volunteers has not been reestablished since camp E2 was closed.

The tent living areas are remarkably clean considering how long people have been there.  The hospitality of the refugees toward those who have come to the camp in solidarity is heartwarming. We were invited into the three tent home of a family from Iraq.  They have five children, 4 girls and one boy.  They had just brought to their tents the lunch provided at 3pm, a lunch of hot stew, bread, cheese and an orange.  They had all the family seated for a formal meal no doubt to remind the children of home.

In the typical Middle Eastern courtesy to strangers, they asked us to come into the tent and offered to share their meal with us. We sat and talked as they ate.  The father who appeared to be about 40 years old is a pharmacist and the mother is a teacher of Arabic.  The father said he had to bring his family out of Iraq because if he were killed, as many of his friends have been, how would his wife take care of the family?

In a refugee facility we visited in Munich, Germany, we found the same hospitality. The facility is a building left vacant by the Siemens corporation.  800 persons live in the 5 story building.  21,000 refugees are in various facilities in Munich. A family from Syria with six children came into the hallway to offer us pieces of raw vegetables and another family from Armenia offered us pieces of candy.  The hospitality of the Middle East continues with the families as they travel under extraordinarily difficult conditions to other parts of the world.

In Berlin, we went to a refugee facility at Templehof Airport in which the hangers have been turned into accommodations for 4,000. The refugee facilities in Berlin and Munich are operated by private companies rather directly by the German government.  Each German region has been given quotas for the numbers of refugees they must accommodate and each region has made its own standards for assistance.

While the United States has closed its borders to person fleeing the chaos caused in great measure by its war on Iraq, the countries of Europe deal with the human crisis as best they can---not perfectly, but certainly with more humanity than the government of the United States.

About the Author:  Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and 16 years as a U.S. diplomat.  She resigned in 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.  She is the co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”

Irish VFP Member Edward Horgan to Appear in Ennis Court for Attempting to Inspect US Military Planes at Shannon

Shannonwatch and Veterans for Peace member Edward Horgan will appear in Ennis District Court tomorrow, Friday April 15th, to answer a charge that he entered a part of Shannon Airport to which persons were not permitted, contrary to airport byelaws. Dr Horgan was attempting to do what the authorities have repeatedly refused to do, which is to inspect US military aircraft in order to establish if they were in breach of international laws at Shannon.

On April 18th 2015, Dr Horgan was on his way to a peace conference in London when he saw four US Hercules C-130 jets lined up just beyond the Aer Lingus plane he was about to board. Knowing that the Gardaí were almost certainly not going to search them or to inform the public of the nature of these plane's reasons for being at Shannon, he felt compelled to search them.

In relation to the charges faced by Dr Horgan, John Lannon of Shannonwatch said: 
 

"There are many unanswered questions about the US military and CIA use of Shannon, and about the type of operations they are engaged in. We have provided the Gardaí with information indicating complicity in torture, weapons transportation and war crimes but they have done nothing. Placing the onus on civil society organisations and individuals to produce concrete evidence, and then arresting and charging them when they try to get it, is not how the law should be enforced. But that is what has happened in Edward Horgan's case."

Despite government claims that US military planes at Shannon are all completely unarmed, carrying no arms, ammunition or explosives and are not part of military exercises or operations, Shannonwatch have evidence to the contrary. In September 2013, for example, a similar plane to the ones Edward Horgan was attempting to inspect was photographed at Shannon with a 30mm cannon mounted on the side.

"On that basis alone Dr Horgan was perfectly justified in inspecting the 4 Hercules jets he saw parked on the tarmac at Shannon" said John Lannon.

For more information phone 087 8225087 or email shannonwatch@gmail.com.

Hysterical Cold-War Style US Reporting as 2 Unarmed Russian Jets Buzz US Destroyer Sailing Near Russian Port

By Dave Lindorff

 

US news reports on an incident Tuesday in which two Russian jet fighters buzzed very close to a US destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, in the Baltic Sea, make it sound like a serious threat in which the US might have been justified in defending itself against a simulated attack on the high seas.

Nowhere in the reports in the US was it mentioned that the Cook was itself engaging in provocative behavior.

"Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" Abandoned for Forced Asylum

By Maya Evans, writing from Calais
@MayaAnneEvans


 
Moving house

This month, French authorities (supported and funded by the UK government to the current balance of £62 million) [1] have been demolishing the 'Jungle,’ a toxic wasteland on the edge of Calais. Formerly a landfill site, 4 km² it is now populated by approximately 5,000 refugees who have been pushed there over the past year. A remarkable community of 15 nationalities adhering to various faiths comprises the Jungle. Residents have formed a network of shops and restaurants which, along with hamams and barber shops contribute to a micro-economy within the encampment.  Community infrastructure now includes schools, mosques, churches and clinics.

Afghans, numbering approximately 1,000, constitute the largest national group. Among this group are people from each of the main ethnicities in Afghanistan:  Pashtoons, Hazaras, Uzbeks and Tajiks. The Jungle is an impressive example of how people from different nationalities and ethnicities can live together in relative harmony, despite oppressive hardship and infringement of universal rights and civil liberties. Arguments and scuffles sometimes break out, but they're normally catalysed by French authorities or traffickers.

Earlier this month Teresa May won a significant battle to restart flights deporting Afghans back to Kabul, on the grounds that it is now safe to return to the capital city. [2]

Just 3 months ago I sat in the Kabul office of 'Stop Deportation to Afghanistan.’ [3] Sunlight poured through the window like golden syrup on a top floor apartment, the city of Kabul shrouded in dust splayed out like a postcard. The organisation is a support group run by Abdul Ghafoor, a Pakistan-born Afghan who spent 5 years in Norway, only to be deported to Afghanistan, a country he had previously never visited. Ghafoor told me about a meeting he had recently attended with Afghan government ministers and NGOs - he laughed as he described how the non-Afghan NGO workers arrived at the armed compound wearing bullet proof vests and helmets, and yet Kabul has been deemed a safe space for returning refugees.  The hypocrisy and double standards would be a joke if the upshot was not so unfair. On one hand you have foreign embassy staff being airlifted (for security reasons) [4] by helicopter within the city of Kabul, and on the other you have various European governments saying it’s safe for thousands of refugees to return to Kabul.

In 2015, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented 11,002 civilian casualties (3,545 deaths and, 7,457 injured) exceeding the previous record in 2014 [5].

Having visited Kabul 8 times in the last 5 years, I’ve been acutely aware that security within the city has drastically declined. As a foreigner I no longer take walks longer than 5 minutes, day trips to the beautiful Panjshir Valley or the Qarga lake are now considered too risky. Word on the Kabul streets is that the Taliban are strong enough to take the city but can't be bothered with the hassle of running it; meanwhile independent ISIS cells have established a foothold [6]. I regularly hear that Afghan life today is less secure than it was under the Taliban, 14 years of US/NATO-backed war has been a disaster.

Back in the Jungle, north France, 21 miles from the British isles, around 1,000 Afghans dream of a safe life in Britain. Some have previously lived in Britain, others have family in the UK, many have worked with the British military or NGOs. Emotions are manipulated by traffickers who describe the streets of Britain as paved with gold.  Many refugees are discouraged by the treatment they've received in France where they’ve been subjected to police brutality and attacks by far-right thugs. For various reasons they feel the best chance of a peaceful life is in Britain. Deliberate exclusion from the UK just makes the prospect even more desirable. Certainly the fact that Britain has agreed to take only 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next 5 years [7], and overall the UK is taking 60 refugees per 1,000 of the local population who claimed asylum in 2015, compared to Germany which is taking 587 [8], has played into the dream that Britain is the land of exclusive opportunity.

I spoke with Afghan community leader Sohail, who said: "I love my country, I want to go back and live there, but it's just not safe and we have no opportunity to live. Look at all the businesses in the Jungle, we have talents, we just need the opportunity to use them". This conversation happened in the Kabul Café, one of the social hotspots in the Jungle, just one day before the area was set ablaze, the whole south high street of shops and restaurants razed to the ground.  After the fire, I spoke with the same Afghan community leader. We stood amid the demolished ruins where we had drunk tea in the Kabul café.   He feels deeply saddened by the destruction. "Why did the authorities put us here, let us build a life and then destroy it?"

Two weeks ago the south part of the Jungle was demolished: hundreds of shelters were burnt or bulldozed leaving some 3,500 refugees with nowhere to go [9]. The French authorise now want to move onto the north part of the camp with the aim of rehousing most refugees within white fishing crate containers, many of which are already set up in the Jungle, and currently accommodate 1,900 refugees. Each container houses 12 people, there's little privacy, and sleeping times are determined by your 'crate mates' and their mobile phone habits.  More alarmingly, a refugee is required to register with French authorities. This includes having your finger prints digitally recorded; in effect, it's the first step into forced French asylum.

The British government has consistently used the Dublin Regulations [10] as legal grounds for not taking its equal quota of refugees. These regulations prescribe that refugees should seek asylum in the first safe country they land in. However, that regulation is now simply impractical.  If it was properly enforced, Turkey, Italy and Greece would be left to accommodate the millions of refugees.

Many refugees are requesting for a UK asylum centre within the Jungle, giving them the ability to start the process for asylum in Britain. The reality of the situation is that refugee camps like the Jungle are not stopping people from actually entering the UK. In fact these blights on human rights are reinforcing illegal and harmful industries such as trafficking, prostitution and drug smuggling. European refugee camps are playing into the hands of human traffickers; one Afghan told me that , the current going rate to be smuggled into the UK is now around €10,000  [11], the price having doubled over the last few months. Setting up a UK asylum centre would also remove the violence which often occurs between truck drivers and refugees, as well as tragic and fatal accidents which come about during transit into the UK. It's perfectly possible to have the same number of refugees entering the UK via legal means as there are by the ones which exist today.

The south part of the camp now stands desolate, burnt to the ground other than for a few social amenities. An icy wind whips across the expanse of littered wasteland. Debris flaps in the breeze, a sad combination of rubbish and charred personal belongings. French riot police used tear gas, water canons and rubber bullets to aid the demolition. Currently there's a stalemate situation wherein some NGOs and volunteers are reluctant to rebuild homes and constructions which might quickly be demolished by French authorities.

The Jungle represents incredible human ingenuity and entrepreneurial energy exhibited by refugees and the volunteers who have poured their lives into making a community to be proud of; simultaneously it's a shocking and shameful reflection of the decline in European human rights and infrastructure, where people who flee for their lives are forced to inhabit communal crate containers, a form of indefinite detention. Unofficial comments made by a representative of the French authorities indicates a possible future policy whereby refugees who choose to remain outside of the system, opting either to be homeless or not to register, could potentially face imprisonment for up to 2 years.

France and Britain are currently shaping their immigration policy. It is especially disastrous for France, with a constitution founded on "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite", to base that policy on demolishing temporary homes, excluding and incarcerating refugees, and forcing refugees into unwanted asylum. By giving people the right to choose their country of asylum, assisting with basic needs such as accommodation and food, responding with humanity rather than suppression, the State will be enabling the best possible practical solution, as well as complying with international human rights, laws set down to protect the safety and rights of everyone in the world today.


Maya Evans coordinates Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK, she has visited Kabul 8 times in the last 5 years where she works in solidarity with young Afghan peace makers.

A Call For Actions During the NATO Summit in Warsaw July 8-9 2016

No to War

No to NATO Bases │ No to the Defence Missile Shield │ No to Arms Race│
Disarmament - Welfare Not Warfare │ Refugees Welcome Here │ Solidarity with peace and anti-war movements

The next NATO summit is planned to take place in Warsaw on 8-9 July. This summit will be held during a period of wars, heightened global instability and conflict. The wars raged by the West in the Middle East and Afghanistan have left hundreds of thousands dead; destroyed these countries’ infrastructure and ruined the conditions for political stability and social peace. The terrorism that has spread around the world is a terrible legacy of these conflicts. Millions of refugees have been forced to flee their homes in search of a safe place for them and their families to live. And when they reach the shores of Europe and the USA, they often meet hostility and racism from those very countries that started the wars from which they are escaping.

The promise of peaceful Europe in a peaceful world that was developed after the end of the Cold War has failed. One of the reasons is the enlargement of the NATO to the east. We are presently in the middle of a new East-West arms race, seen clearly in the area of Central and Eastern Europe. The war in the east of Ukraine, in which thousands have lost their lives, is a terrible example of this rivalry. The proposals of NATO to expand further to the East further threaten to escalate this conflict. The proposals of the present Polish government to station permanent NATO bases in Poland and build a new Missile Defence Shield in the country would not guarantee the country’s safety but rather place it on the frontline of these new hostilities. NATO is urging all member states to rise its military spending to at least 2% of GDP. Not only will this intensify the arms race in the world, but it will mean that during a time of economic austerity more funds will move from welfare to war. When the governments and Generals meet in Warsaw in July an alternative voice must be heard. A coalition of the peace and anti-war movements in Poland and internationally plan to hold a number of events during the NATO summit in Warsaw:

-        On Friday 8 July we shall hold a conference bringing together the organisations and activists of the peace and anti-war movements. This will be an opportunity to discuss and debate alternatives to the policies of militarisation and war being proposed by NATO. In the evening we shall hold a large public meeting. We already have a number of prominent speakers (both international and from Poland) confirmed, including former Colonel Ann Wright, Maite Mola, and Tarja Cronberg.

-        On Saturday we will take our protest to the streets of Warsaw to express our opposition to the NATO summit.

-        On the Saturday evening a cultural/social event will be held.

-        On Sunday a meeting of peace activists and organisations will be held to give us a chance to discuss our further cooperation and activity in the pursuit of a peaceful world.

We invite you to participate and urge you to mobilise for this important event. If you wish more information or have any suggestions or questions please write to us: info@no-to-nato.org/ www.no-to-nato.org.

Our goal is a world without war and nuclear weapons. We are fighting to overcome NATO through the politics of common security and disarmament and solidarity with global peace, anti-war & anti-militaristic movements.

International Network No to War – No to NATO, Stop the War Initiative Poland, Social Justice Movement Poland, Warsaw Anarchist Federation,Workers Democracy Poland

 

 

Program of Alternative Summit (as of March 17)

Friday July 8th

12:00 opening of the alternative summit

-        NN Poland

-        Kristine Karch, No to War – No to NATO

12:15 – 14:00 Plenary: Why we are against NATO

-        NN Poland

-        Ludo de Brabander, vrede, Belgium

-        Kate Hudson, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, GB

-        Joseph Gerson, American Friends Service Committee, USA

-        Natalie Gauchet, Mouvement de la Paix, France

-        Claudia Haydt, Information Centre Militarization, Germany

-        Tatiana Zdanoka, MEP, Green Party, Latvia (tbc)

LUNCH

15:00 – 17:00 Working groups

-        Military spending

-        Nuclear weapons and weapons in space

-        How to overcome the war against terror?

-        Militarization and women rights

19:00 Public event: Peace politics in Europe – for a Europe of peace and social justice, for a common security

-        Barbara Lee, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, USA (video message)

-        Ann Wright, former Colonel of the US army, USA

-        Maite Mola, Vice President of the European Left, Spain

-        Reiner Braun, International Peace Bureau/ IALANA, Germany

-        NN Poland

-        NN Russia

-        Tarja Cronberg, former MEP, Green Party, Finland

Saturday July 9th

-        Demonstration

-        Peace gathering: exchange of information and lesson learnt from peace movements in Europe

-        Cultural evening event

Sunday July 10th

9:30 till 11:00 Special forum on refugees, migration and wars

Introduction: Lucas Wirl, No to War – No to NATO

11.30 till 13:30 How to come to peace in Europe? Ideas for strategy

With 10 minute introduction

13:30 END, Afterwards: common lunch

 

REGISTRATION and further information: info@no-to-nato.org

Ticking time bomb: Youth Violence Solution? Authorities Should Stop Ignoring Local Activists

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

London and Philadelphia -- Over three thousands miles and more than forty years in age separate anti-violence activists Bilal Qayyum and Noel Williams, yet each advocates a similar solution to ‘the problem’ they seek to solve in their respective cities located on separate sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Expat insights: The Color of Change in Berlin and Beyond

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

The consequential changes sweeping across Europe, from immigrants impacting demographics to an increasing embrace of right-wing ideologies, are not surprising to Professor Donald Muldrow Griffith, an American who has lived in Berlin, Germany for over three decades.

Wrongs still need to be righted: Britain's Supreme Court Reverses Legal Practice Notorious For Prejudicial Enforcment

By Linn Washington, Jr.

London, UK

Often lost amidst the damning evidence of injustice in the enforcement of Britain’s notorious legal doctrine of joint enterprise are real people like Susan Williams –- persons whose lives have been shredded by the JE doctrine that Britain’s Supreme Court just gutted in a dramatic ruling today. Williams' grandson is serving a life sentence under joint enterprise which permits convictions carrying long sentences even of persons who did not commit a crime or even know a crime would occur.

Williams said her grandson was trying to break up a fight in 2010 that ended in a fatal shooting by others, yet led to his conviction under JE. The nightmare for Williams following the joint enterprise arrest and conviction of her grandson, Trevelle Williams, got much darker last November when her youngest daughter, the mother of Trevelle, committed suicide. Williams’ daughter, Tara Le, was distraught over her inability to free her son Trevelle, nicknamed Bluey, from what the Williams family and others saw as a wrongful conviction.

Chomsky Wants You to Wake Up from the American Dream

If you've just seen Michael Moore's movie and are wondering how in the world the United States got diverted into the slow lane to hell, go watch Noam Chomsky's movie. If you've just seen Noam Chomsky's movie and are wondering whether the human species is really worth saving, go see Michael Moore's movie. If you haven't seen either of these movies, please tell me that you haven't been watching presidential debates. As either of these movies would be glad to point out to you, that's NOT HOW YOU CHANGE ANYTHING.

"Filmed over four years, these are his last long-form documentary interviews," Chomsky's film, Requiem for the American Dream, says of him at the start, rather offensively. Why? He seems perfectly able to give interviews and apparently gave those in this film for four years. And of course he acquired the insights he conveys over many more years than that. They are not new insights to activists, but they would be like revelations from another world to a typical U.S. resident.

Chomsky explains how concentrated wealth creates concentrated power, which legislates further concentration of wealth, which then concentrates more power in a vicious cycle. He lists and elaborates on ten principles of the concentration of wealth and power -- principles that the wealthy of the United States have acted intensely on for 40 years or more.

1. Reduce Democracy. Chomsky finds this acted on by the very "founding fathers" of the United States, in the creation of the U.S. Senate, and in James Madison's statement during debate over the U.S. Constitution that the new government would need to protect the wealthy from too much democracy. Chomsky finds the same theme in Aristotle but with Aristotle proposing to reduce inequality, while Madison proposed to reduce democracy. The burst of activism and democracy in the United States in the 1960s scared the protectors of wealth and privilege, and Chomsky admits that he did not anticipate the strength of the backlash through which we have been suffering since.

2. Shape Ideology. The Powell Memo from the corporate right, and the Trilateral Commission's first ever report, called "The Crisis of Democracy," are cited by Chomsky as roadmaps for the backlash. That report referred to an "excess of democracy," the over engagement of young people with civic life, and the view that young people were just not receiving proper "indoctrination." Well, there's a problem that's been fixed, huh?

3. Redesign the Economy. Since the 1970s the United States has been moved toward an ever larger role for financial institutions. By 2007 they "earned" 40% of corporate profits. Deregulation has produced wealth concentration and economic crashes, followed by anti-capitalist bailouts making for more wealth concentration. Offshore production has reduced workers' pay. Alan Greenspan testified to Congress about the benefits of promoting "job insecurity" -- something those Europeans in Michael Moore's film don't know about and might find it hard to appreciate.

4. Shift the Burden. The American Dream in the 1950s and 60s was partly real. Both the rich and the poor got richer. Since then, we've seen the steady advance of what Chomsky calls the plutonomy and the precariat, that is the wealthy few who run the show and get all the new wealth, and the precarious proletariat. Back then, taxes were quite high on corporations, dividends, and wealth. Not anymore.

5. Attack Solidarity. To go after Social Security and public education, Chomsky says, you have to drive the normal emotion of caring about others out of people's heads. The U.S. of the 1950s was able to make college essentially free with the G.I. Bill and other public funding. Now a much wealthier United States is full of "serious" experts who claim that such a thing is impossible (and who must strictly avoid watching Michael Moore).

6. Run the Regulators. The 1970s saw enormous growth in lobbying. It is now routine for the interests being regulated to control the regulators, which makes things much easier on the regulated.

7. Engineer Elections. Thus we've seen the creation of corporate personhood, the equation of money with speech, and the lifting of all limits under Citizens United.

8. Keep the Rabble in Line. Here Chomsky focuses on attacks on organized labor, including the Taft Hartley Act, but one could imagine further expansions on the theme.

9. Manufacture Consent. Obsessive consumers are not born, they're molded by advertising. The goal of directing people to superficial consumption as a means of keeping people in their place was explicit and has been reached. In a market economy, Chomsky says, informative advertisements would result in rational decisions. But actual advertisements provide no information and promote irrational choices. Here Chomsky is talking about, not just ads for automobiles and soap, but also election campaigns for candidates.

10. Marginalize the Population. This seems as much a result as a tactic, but it certainly has been achieved. What the public wants does not typically impact what the U.S. government does.

Unless the trends described above are reversed, Chomsky says, things are going to get very ugly.

Then the film shows us a clip of Chomsky saying the same thing decades earlier when he was still shown on U.S. television. He's been marginalized along with the rest of us.

I imagine every friendly critic of this film has a #11 to add, and that they are all different. In fact, I can think of lots of things to add, but I insist on mentioning one of them. It's the same one missing from Bernie Sanders' home movie starring Iowa and New Hampshire. Its the thing missing from all U.S. discourse but showing up in Michael Moore's movie as a great difference between the United States and Europe.

11. Dump Massive Funding into Militarism. Why should this be included? Well, militarism is the biggest public program in the United States. It's over half of federal discretionary spending. If you're going to claim that lobbyists are concentrating wealth through their influence on the government, why not notice the single budget item that eats up over half the budget? It does indeed concentrate wealth and also power. It's a vast pot of unaccountable funding for cronies. And it generates public interest in fighting foreign enemies rather than enemies hanging out on Wall Street. It does militarize the police for free, however, just in case Wall Street generates any disgruntled customers.

Chomsky does, of course, oppose militarism. As far as I know he's consistently opposed it for many years. We see B-roll of him in the movie with anti-war books in his office. And discussion of point #1 above mentions the peace movement of the 1960s. How the single biggest thing that the wealthy and powerful do in their effort to expand their power over the whole globe didn't make the top-10 list I don't know.

The film concludes with a call to build mass movements for change. The United States still has a very free society, Chomsky advises. A lot can be done, he tells us, if people will only choose to do it.

A Swollen River of Refugees Fleeing War

By David Smith-Ferri

Last month, as US border patrol agents began rounding up Central American women and children denied asylum, a small group of international peace activists from Voices for Creative Nonviolence boarded a plane for Helsinki, Finland, to visit two longtime Iraqi friends who fled Baghdad last summer and somehow completed a perilous seven-week journey over land and sea to reach this northern seaport. Negotiating our way from the airport in Helsinki to Laajasalo, a small island and suburb where we were to stay with a Finnish journalist, we crossed a frozen and snow-covered Baltic Sea, as white flakes swirled in the streetlights and the temperature dropped to minus 25 degrees Celsius, a long, long way from Baghdad.

Visiting Waleed and Aose (5) (1)

Our friends Mohammad and his teenage son, Omar, come from a small farming village where they grow okra. Last autumn, like hundreds of thousands of others, they were part of the swollen river of refugees whose headwaters sprang from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, where endless war has devastated society and local violence has left so many people at grave risk. The journey to Europe is not merely a long, exhausting trip. It is treacherous from the start.

To begin with, while leaving their country of origin, people risk their lives traveling through contested parts of their country or over roads controlled by militias or warlords known to capture and kill people of their ethnicity or religious sect. Risks, we can be sure, they wouldn’t undertake except out of desperation. All of this merely to enter Turkey. In Istanbul, where refugees must try to find a trustworthy smuggler, make a deal with one of his agents, and pay a hefty fee – held in a sort of escrow until a specific, agreed-upon part of the trip is completed – Turkish police patrol the streets and coffee houses looking for migrants. Iraqis are particularly at risk. If captured in Turkey and identified, they are imprisoned and eventually turned over to Iraqi authorities. And in the charged, sectarian atmosphere in Iraq, refugees shudder to think what might follow.

From Turkey, Mohammad and his son planned to travel by bus to a port town – “Well, it’s not really a town, just a place at the beach” – and launch a rubber dinghy onto the Aegean Sea at night. Their hope was to reach Farmakonisi, a tiny, largely uninhabited Greek island five and three quarter miles from the Turkish coast.

Leaving Istanbul is itself like crossing open seas. It involved a nine-hour bus trip. The first trick is getting on the bus without being captured by police, and then again eluding police while traveling out of the city. No small feat. This isn’t a tourist bus or a standard bus route where you gather with other passengers trying to blend in at a regular, authorized location. It’s an empty mini-bus into which twenty refugees cram themselves and their luggage all at once. Not an easy thing to hide. “The bus, ”Mohammad told us, “will wait 2 minutes. No more.” Of course, people are anxious and on edge. He described three failed attempts to successfully leave Istanbul. In one attempt, the smuggler’s agent assigned a meeting place, then changed it four times over the next couple of hours, until the group, which included women and young children, crouched in the dark on the edge of a wood, looking down a dirt path to a street corner where, at a specified time, the bus was supposed to appear.

According to the smuggler’s agent’s directions, a phone call would alert the refugees that the bus was approaching the appointed pickup spot. In the meantime, they should organize themselves into four sub-groups of twenty people, the first sub-group dashing out when the first bus appears. By this point, however, and despite the best efforts of Mohammad and other group leaders, such discipline was beyond them. Sleep-deprived, frightened, and hungry, too many people ran out, and the mini-bus fled without boarding anyone, forcing the smuggler’s agent to reschedule the attempt for another day and leaving the refugees with nothing to show for their effort but an unfulfilled promise.

On another attempt, the refugees successfully boarded only to be spotted by police as they left the city. Two of the four buses were apprehended. In the third bus, Mohammad and Omar watched as their driver swerved recklessly around the police and drove breakneck down the road. “He has to do this,” Mohammad explained. “For him it is life or death because it is a twenty-year prison sentence if you are caught.” In the end, this attempt also failed, when the group was rounded up by police after being delivered to the beach. Mohammad describes what happened:

After a long wait, some tourists came down the side of the hill and saw women and children lying in the woods, and we were afraid they will tell the police. We could see police boats on the water, and hear their sirens. Eventually a Turkish man came and questioned us, we told him the truth, he said ‘ok, don’t worry,’ and he brought water and some biscuits. Another Turkish man came and said everyone should gather in one place. This was suspicious. Then suddenly the police opened fire, we hear the sound of bullets. Some young people run toward sea and start swimming, some run away into the woods. The police say they will keep us until everyone is here. The young people are captured, and we are taken back to Istanbul and held in jail for questioning. They hold us for six days, but they accept that the Iraqis in our group are Syrians and they let us go.

After this, Mohammad and his son spent two weeks in Istanbul, resting, thinking, planning, gathering their strength for another attempt. “Almost everyday in the coffee shops, we hear stories about people drowning [trying to cross the Aegean Sea], but we try to ignore this because we don’t want our motivation to weaken. This is why I waited two weeks to make the crossing, some people only wait a couple of days, but I am very careful, questioning the smuggler, asking his agent questions. Where is your crossing? Where do you land?...I saw that there were more women and children than men refugees, and this made me strong. They inspired me. If they can face death, I can too.”

Finally, on the fourth attempt, they succeeded. (“This time, we left during the day, and the police were right there. So we believe bribes were paid”). A nighttime sea crossing was set, and Mohammad, a mechanical engineer by training, agreed to pilot. The trip was harrowing, with the boat overloaded and passengers frantic, Turkish police on the waters, and navigation a literal shot in the dark. “I never drove a boat before…My son and I can’t swim. I believed we would die, but I thought, if I am going to face death, then I will face it carefully…Thank God we made it.”

On Thursday, January 21, at least forty-three refugees, including seventeen children, died when their boats capsized while trying to cross the Aegean Sea. One of the boats was headed to Farmakonisi.

It is two hundred twenty-five miles in a straight line across the sea from Farmakonisi to Athens. Before reaching the Greek capital, Mohammad and Omar had to travel to other small Greek Aegean islands, waiting on one for almost a week, with little food. “Everyday more refugees landed…the good thing is that I was able to beg some food for Omar, a bit of bread, a few dates…he was losing strength.”

Travel time by air from Athens to Helsinki is about six and a quarter hours, including a Munich layover. If you count the layover in Munich, the trip increases to six and a quarter hours. For Mohammad and Omar and those they met traveling overland, it took weeks, with the borders opening and closing like jaws before and behind them.

As a young man in Iraq, Mohammad had few chances to use his professional training. Following on the heels of a costly eight-year war with Iran (a conflict in which the US participated in a number of ways, including providing weapons to both sides), Iraq’s economy collapsed under the weight of international economic sanctions. In 1993, Mohammad began working for a French NGO working to provide medical relief to Baghdad’s malnourished children, a job that brought him a good deal of unwanted attention from Iraq’s intelligence services. It was work as a journalist for foreign media that brought the death threats that forced Mohammad and his family to flee their Baghdad home and go into hiding. Continued threats, the murder of his brother by a Shia militia, and the kidnapping and murder of his father forced him and Omar to flee their country. Omar’s mother and his six younger siblings remain in Iraq, waiting for the chance to reunite with Mohammad and Omar in Finland.

On an evening toward the end of our visit, Mohammad and I walked from the bus stop to our apartment. Snow danced lazily in the air. Without preamble, speaking thoughts that carried him from Baghdad to Finland, Mohammad said,

“I came here because of my children. If I stay in Iraq, they will kill me. And what will happen to them in such a society?”

In the silence that followed, his words rose into the air and joined the dance.

Photo credit:   Hakim, Afghan Peace Volunteers

Photo caption:  the author, Mohammad and Omar at a Finnish camp for asylum seekers, January 2016

David Smith-Ferri is a member of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org) and the author, most recently, of  Where Days Are Stones, Afghanistan and Gaza Poems, 2012-2013. He recently returned from a VCNV delegation to Helsinki, where he visited with Iraqi friends who fled their country and are seeking asylum in Finland. He can be reached at dsmithferri@gmail.com

Seeing Flight as a Non-violent Option: One Way to Change the Discourse about the World’s 60 Million Refugees

By Erica Chenoweth and Hakim Young for Denver Dialogues
originally published by politicalviolenceataglance ( Political Violence@a Glance)

In Brussels, more than 1,200 people protest against Europe’s unwillingness to do more about the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, April 23rd, 2015. By Amnesty International.

Today, one in every 122 humans living on the planet is a refugee, an internally displaced person, or an asylum-seeker. In 2014, conflict and persecution forced a staggering 42,500 persons per day to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere, resulting in 59.5 million total refugees worldwide. According to the UN refugee agency’s 2014 Global Trends report (tellingly entitled World at War), developing countries hosted 86% of these refugees. Developed countries, such as the U.S. and those in Europe, host only 14% of the world’s total share of refugees.

Erica-we-are-not-dangerousYet public sentiment in the West has been tough on refugees lately. Resurgent populist and nationalist leaders routinely play to public anxieties about refugees as “lazy opportunists,” “burdens,” “criminals,” or “terrorists” in response to today’s refugee crisis. Mainstream parties aren’t immune to this rhetoric either, with politicians of all stripes calling for increased border controls, detention centers, and the temporary suspension of visa and asylum applications.

Importantly, none of these panicky characterizations of refugees is born out by systematic evidence.

Are Refugees Economic Opportunists?

The most reliable empirical studies of refugee movements suggest that the primary cause of flight is violence—not economic opportunity. Mainly, refugees are fleeing war in hopes of landing in a less violent situation. In conflicts where the government actively targets civilians in the context of genocide or politicide, most people choose to leave the country rather than seek out safe havens internally. Surveys bear out this reality in today’s crisis. In Syria, one of the world’s major producers of refugees in the last five years, survey results suggest that most civilians are fleeing because the country has simply become too dangerous or that government forces took over their towns, placing most of the blame on the horrific politicidal violence of Assad’s regime. (Only 13% say they fled because rebels took over their towns, suggesting that ISIS’s violence is not nearly as much a source of flight as some have suggested).

And refugees rarely choose their destinations based on economic opportunity; instead, 90% of refugees go to a country with a contiguous border (thus explaining the concentration of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq). Those that do not stay in a neighboring country tend to flee to countries where they have existing social ties. Given that they are typically fleeing for their lives, the data suggest that most refugees think about economic opportunity as an afterthought rather than as a motivation for flight. That said, when they arrive at their destinations, refugees tend to be exceedingly industrious, with cross-national studies suggesting that they are rarely burdensome for national economies.

In today’s crisis, “Many of the people arriving by sea in southern Europe, particularly in Greece, come from countries affected by violence and conflict, such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan; they are in need of international protection and they are often physically exhausted and psychologically traumatized, ” states World at War.

Who’s Afraid of the “Big Bad Refugee”?

In terms of security threats, refugees are far less likely to commit crimes than natural-born citizens. In fact, writing in the Wall Street Journal, Jason Riley evaluates data on the link between immigration and crime in the United States and calls the correlation a “myth.” Even in Germany, which has absorbed the highest number of refugees since 2011, crime rates by refugees have not increased. Violent attacks on refugees, on the other hand, have doubled. This suggests that refugees do not post a problem for security; instead, they require protection against violent threats themselves. Moreover, refugees (or those who claim to be refugees) are highly unlikely to plan terror attacks. And given that at least 51% of current refugees are children, like Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian refugee who famously drowned in the Mediterranean sea last summer, it is probably premature to preordain them as fanatics, troublemakers, or social rejects.

Moreover, refugee-vetting processes are exceedingly stringent in many countries—with the U.S. having among the most stringent refugee policies in the world—thereby precluding many of the adverse outcomes feared by critics of status quo refugee policies. Although such processes do not guarantee that all potential threats are excluded, they mitigate the risk considerably, as demonstrated by the paucity of violent crimes and terror attacks committed by refugees in the past thirty years.

A Broken System or A Broken Narrative?

Speaking about the current refugee crisis in Europe, Jan Egeland, the former UN Humanitarian Envoy who now heads the Norwegian Refugee Council, said, “The system is totally broken…We cannot continue this way.” But the system probably won’t mend as long as broken narratives dominate the discourse. What if we introduced a fresh discourse, which dispels the myths about refugees and equips the public to contest existing discourse with a more compassionate narrative about the way one becomes a refugee in the first place?

Consider the choice to flee instead of stay and fight or stay and die. Many of the 59.5 million refugees left in the crossfires between states and other armed actors—such as the Syrian government’s politicide and violence among a wide variety of rebel groups operating within Syria; Syria, Russia, Iraq, Iran, and NATO’s war against ISIS; Afghanistan and Pakistan’s wars against the Taliban; the on-going U.S. campaign against Al Qaeda; Turkey’s wars against Kurdish militias; and a multitude of other violent contexts around the world.

Given the choice between staying and fighting, staying and dying, or fleeing and surviving, today’s refugees fled—meaning that, by definition, they actively and purposefully chose a non-violent option in the context of mass violence raging all around them.

In other words, today’s global landscape of 59.5 million refugees is mainly a collection of people who have chosen the only available non-violent pathway out of their conflict environments. In many respects, today’s 60 million refugees have said no to violence, no to victimization, and no to helplessness at the same time. The decision to flee to strange and (often hostile) foreign lands as a refugee is not a light one. It involves taking significant risks, including the risk of death. For example, the UNHCR estimated that 3,735 refugees were dead or missing at sea while seeking refuge in Europe in 2015. Contrary to contemporary discourse, being a refugee ought to be synonymous with non-violence, courage, and agency.

Of course, an individual’s non-violent choice at one time does not necessarily predetermine that individual’s non-violent choice at a later juncture. And like many large mass assemblages, it is inevitable that a handful of people will cynically exploit the global movement of refugees to pursue their own criminal, political, social, or ideological aims on the fringes—either by concealing themselves in the masses to cross borders to commit violent acts abroad, by taking advantage of the political polarization of migration politics to promote their own agendas, or by extorting these people for their own criminal purposes. Among any population this size, there will be criminal activity here and there, refugee or not.

But in today’s crisis, it will be essential for people of good faith everywhere to resist the urge to ascribe nefarious motivations to the millions of people seeking haven in their countries, because of the violent or criminal actions of a few. The latter group does not represent the general statistics on refugees identified above, nor do they negate the fact that refugees are generally people who, in the context of truly dislocating violence, made a life-altering, non-violent choice to act for themselves in a way that cast them and their families into uncertain futures. Once they arrive, on average the threat of violence against the refugee is much greater than the threat of violence by the refugee. Shunning them, detaining them as if they were criminals, or deporting them to war-torn environments sends a message that non-violent choices are punished—and that submitting to victimization or turning to violence are the only choices left. This is a situation that calls for policies that embody compassion, respect, protection, and welcome—not fear, dehumanization, exclusion, or revulsion.

Seeing flight as a non-violent option will better equip the informed public to contest exclusionary rhetoric and policies, elevate a new discourse that empowers more moderate politicians, and widen the range of policy options available to respond to the current crisis.

Hakim Young (Dr. Teck Young, Wee) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 10 years, including being a mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war.

‘Injustice writ large’: Report Finds Racist Law Enforcement in England...Again

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

London, UK -- Police and prosecutors scheme to secure convictions of persons who did not participate in any crime. Racial minorities disproportionately bear the brunt of this improper practice.

Lunacy trumps logic: Brash Trump Bashed for Bigotry in UK’s Parliament

By Linn Washington, Jr.

  

London -- In a rational world where the rules of arithmetic apply it just doesn’t add up to declare that 40,000 is mathematically more significant than 500,000.

Fenya -- Christmas Truce

An invisible US hand leading to war?: Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet at the Turkish/Syrian Border was an Act of Madness

By Dave Lindorff


In considering the terrifying but also sadly predictable news of a Russian fighter jet being downed by two Turkish fighters, let’s start with one almost certain assumption -- an assumption that no doubt is also being made by the Russian government: Turkey’s action, using US-supplied F-16 planes, was taken with the full knowledge and advance support of the US. In fact, given Turkey’s vassal status as a member of US-dominated NATO, it could well be that Ankara was put up to this act of brinksmanship by the US.

Tomgram: Engelhardt, The National Security State's Incestuous Relationship with the Islamic State

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com.

 

Warmongers & Peacemongers: Learning How Not to Rule the World

By John Grant

 

[Al Qaeda’s] strategic objective has always been ... the overthrow of the House of Saud. In pursuing that regional goal, however, it has been drawn into a worldwide conflict with American power.

Non-French War Deaths Matter

We are all France. Apparently. Though we are never all Lebanon or Syria or Iraq for some reason. Or a long, long list of additional places.

We are led to believe that U.S. wars are not tolerated and cheered because of the color or culture of the people being bombed and occupied. But let a relatively tiny number of people be murdered in a white, Christian, Western-European land, with a pro-war government, and suddenly sympathy is the order of the day.

"This is not just an attack on the French people, it is an attack on human decency and all things that we hold dear," says U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham. I'm not sure I hold ALL the same things dear as the senator, but for the most part I think he's exactly right and that sympathy damn well ought to be the order of the day following a horrific mass killing in France.

I just think the same should apply to everywhere else on earth as well. The majority of deaths in all recent wars are civilian. The majority of civilians are not hard to sympathize with once superficial barriers are overcome. Yet, the U.S. media never seems to declare deaths in Yemen or Pakistan or Palestine to be attacks on our common humanity.

I included "pro-war government" as a qualification above, because I can recall a time, way back in 2003, when I was the one shouting "We are all France," and pro-war advocates in the United States were demonizing France for its refusal to support a looming and guaranteed to be catastrophic and counterproductive U.S. war. France sympathized with U.S. deaths on 911, but counseled sanity, decency, and honesty in response. The U.S. told France to go to hell and renamed french fries in Congressional office buildings.

Now, 14 years into a global war on terror that reliably produces more terror, France is an enthusiastic invader, plunderer, bomber, and propagator of hateful bigotry. France also sells billions of dollars of weaponry to lovely little bastions of equality and liberty like Saudi Arabia, carefully ignoring Saudis' funding of anti-Western terrorist groups.

When U.S. militarism failed to prevent 911, I actually thought that would mean reduced militarism. When a Russian plane was recently blown up, I think I imagined for a split second that Russia would learn its lesson and stop repeating U.S. mistakes. When people were just killed in France, I didn't have any time to fantasize about France coming to its senses, because a "socialist" president was already doing his Dubya-on-the-rubble imitation:

"To all those who have seen these awful things," said François Hollande, "I want to say we are going to lead a war which will be pitiless. Because when terrorists are capable of committing such atrocities they must be certain that they are facing a determined France, a united France, a France that is together and does not let itself be moved, even if today we express infinite sorrow."

The video doesn't look like Bush, and the French word combat does not necessarily mean war just because the Washington Post says it does. It can mean fight in some other sense. But what other sense exactly, I'm not sure. Prosecuting anyone responsible would of course make perfect sense, but a criminal justice system ought not to be pitiless. It's a war that ought to be pitiless. And it's a war that will guarantee more attacks. And it's a war that France has begun.

"It is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners," said Albert Camus.

Please go back to thinking, France.

We do love you and wish you well and are deeply sorry for U.S. influence against your better tendencies.

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