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The international criminal court's decision to investigate allegations of war crimes places the UK in the company of countries such as the Central African Republic, Colombia and Afghanistan.
Allegations that British troops were responsible for a series of war crimes following the invasion of Iraq are to be examined by the international criminal court (ICC) at the Hague, officials have announced.
The court is to conduct a preliminary examination of around 60 alleged cases of unlawful killing and claims that more than 170 Iraqis were mistreated while in British military custody.
British defence officials are confident that the ICC will not move to the next stage and announce a formal investigation, largely because the UK has the capacity to investigate the allegations itself.
However, the announcement is a blow to the prestige of the armed forces, as the UK is the only western state that has faced a preliminary investigation at the ICC. The court's decision places the UK in the company of countries such as the Central African Republic, Colombia and Afghanistan.
In a statement, the ICC said: "The new information received by the office alleges the responsibility of officials of the United Kingdom for war crimes involving systematic detainee abuse in Iraq from 2003 until 2008.
"The re-opened preliminary examination will analyse, in particular, alleged crimes attributed to the armed forces of the United Kingdom deployed in Iraq between 2003 and 2008.
Responding to the decision, the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, said the government rejected any allegation that there was systematic abuse carried out by the British armed forces in Iraq.
"British troops are some of the best in the world and we expect them to operate to the highest standards, in line with both domestic and international law," he said. "In my experience the vast majority of our armed forces meet those expectations."
Grieve added that although the allegations are already being "comprehensively investigated" in the UK "the UK government has been, and remains a strong supporter of the ICC and I will provide the office of the prosecutor with whatever is necessary to demonstrate that British justice is following its proper course".
The investigation also means that the British police team responsible for investigating the allegations, as well as the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA), which is responsible for bringing courts martial cases, and Grieve, who must make the final decision on war crimes prosecutions in the UK, can all expect to face a degree of scrutiny from The Hague.
Coming just days before a European election in which the UK Independence party (Ukip) is widely expected to perform well – in part because of its scepticism about European institutions such as the ICC – the court's decision is also likely to trigger considerable political turmoil.
The decision by the ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, was made after a complaint was lodged in January by Berlin-based human rights NGO the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, and Birmingham law firm Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), which represented the family of Baha Mousa, the Iraqi hotel receptionist tortured to death by British troops in 2003, and which has since represented scores of other men and women who were detained and allegedly mistreated.
The process of a preliminary examination can take several years.
The newly-appointed head of the SPA, Andrew Cayley QC – who has 20 years experience of prosecuting at war crimes tribunals in Cambodia and at The Hague – said he was confident that the ICC would eventually conclude that the UK should continue to investigate the allegations.
Cayley said the SPA "will not flinch" from bringing prosecutions, if the evidence justifies it. He added that he did not anticipate any civilians – officials or ministers – facing prosecution.
Any war crime committed by British servicemen or servicewomen is an offence under English law by virtue of the International Criminal Court Act 2001.
The ICC has already seen evidence suggesting that British troops did commit war crimes in Iraq, concluding after receiving a previous complaint in 2006: "There was a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court had been committed, namely wilful killing and inhuman treatment." At that point, the court concluded that it should take no action, as there were fewer than 20 allegations.
Many more cases have emerged in recent years. Currently, the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), the body set up by the Ministry of Defence to investigate complaints arising from the five-year British military occupation of the south-east of the country, is examining 52 complaints of unlawful killing involving 63 deaths and 93 allegations of mistreatment involving 179 people. The alleged unlawful killings include a number of deaths in custody and the complaints of mistreatment range from relatively minor abuse to torture.
PIL withdrew allegations of unlawful killings arising out of one incident, a firefight in May 2004 known as the battle of Danny Boy, although an inquiry continues to examine allegations that a number of insurgents taken prisoner at that time were mistreated.
The ICC will examine separate allegations, mostly from former detainees held in Iraq.
Following the death of Baha Mousa, one soldier, corporal Donald Payne, admitted being guilty of inhumane treatment of detainees and was jailed for one year. He became the first and only British soldier to admit a war crime.
Six other soldiers were acquitted. The judge found that Mousa and several other men had been subjected to a series of assaults over 36 hours, but a number of charges had been dropped because of "a more or less obvious closing of ranks".
The MoD admitted to the Guardian four years ago that at least seven further Iraqi civilians had died in UK military custody. Since then, nobody has been charged or prosecuted.
Source: The Guardian
"5. (C) Ukraine and Georgia's NATO aspirations not only touch a raw nerve in Russia, they engender serious concerns about the consequences for stability in the region. Not only does Russia perceive encirclement, and efforts to undermine Russia's influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests. Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face."
Right-wing sets fire at House of Labor, Odessa
UNAC, along with other groups and antiwar leaders has called for actions against US intervention in Ukraine. The call is below with an initial list of organizations and antiwar leaders who support the call.
Please add your group and your actions to the list by clicking on the links below.
Call for Emergency Antiwar Actions – May 9 to May 26
US/NATO war moves in Eastern Europe, the Black Sea, and the Baltic Sea – the borders of Russia – are a danger to the whole world. Positioning destroyers and missiles, scheduling war games, and imposing sanctions (an act of war) risk wider war.
We are deeply disturbed by the expansion of the U.S.-commanded NATO military alliance and U.S. recognition and speedy grant of billions in loans to a right-wing coup government in Ukraine, which overthrew the elected government. This illegal government has used fascist violence against all forms of peoples’ resistance in Ukraine.
By more than 2 to 1, the population in the U.S. is against another war and opposed to US military moves or aid to the coup government in Ukraine (4-28-14 Pew/USA Today poll).
We must make our voices heard.
The time to act is now!
We need jobs, health care and social services, not another war.
We urge nationally coordinated antiwar actions across the U.S. and internationally - protests, vigils, teach-ins, antiwar resolutions and visits to offices of elected officials.
From May 9 to May 26 let us act together, in unity, as a powerful voice against the threat of another war.
Ukraine National Actions May. 9-26 endorsements (list in formation):
National and International groups:
United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC)
International Action Center
U.S. Peace Council
Veterans For Peace
Alliance for Global Justice,
Black Agenda Report
International League for Peoples Struggles,
Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamel
May 1 Worker & Immigrant Rights Coalition,
Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
Colectivo Honduras USA Resistencia,
Pakistan USA Freedom Forum,
Fight Imperialism Stand Together - FIST,
People's Power Assembly
People's Organization for Progress
The Move Organization
International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamel
Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report
Suren Moodliar, Massachusetts Global Action & Green shadow Cabinet
Bishop Filipe Teixeira – OFSJC – CCA
Steve Gillis – Vice Pres. USW local 8751 Boston school Bus Union
Leila Zand, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace (Albany)
Chicago Anti-War Committee
MN Anti-War Committee,
Women Against Military Madness - WAMM,
Minnesota Peace Action Coalition,
Jersey City Peace Movement,
Philly Against War
Peace Action – Manhattan
Michigan Emergency Coalition Against War & Injustice (MECAWI)
Chelsea Coalition on Housing
Women’s fightback Network – Boston
Rochester Against War
US Friends of The Soviet People (Minnesota Chapter)
Veterans for Peace (Twin Cities chapter 27)
Massachusetts Global Action
Northhampton committee to Stop Wars
Recent revelations over German complicity in US drone strikes will tomorrow cast a shadow over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s talks with President Barack Obama in Washington.
Investigative journalists in Germany recently revealed Ramstein, a US base in the country, to be a major data centre for the secretive strikes, which have killed thousands of civilians in countries such as Yemen and Pakistan. Legal charity Reprieve this week revealed that a strike in Yemen over the Easter weekend killed four builders on their way to work, leaving at least 20 children fatherless.
The Ramstein findings contradict claims made by both leaders at their last meeting in June 2013, when Obama dismissed reports that US bases in Germany had been used for drone attacks. He told journalists: “We do not use Germany as a launching point for unmanned drones […] as part of our counterterrorism activities. […] I know that there have been some reports here in Germany that that might be the case. That is not.” During the same visit, Merkel spoke of Ramstein as filling “a very important function”, saying “our work is based […] on shared values.”
Recent questions in the German parliament have increased pressure on Merkel to reveal the true extent of Germany’s involvement in the strikes, but there is little evidence that the government plans to challenge the Obama administration over them.
Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve, said: “One year on from Chancellor Merkel’s assertions about shared US-German ‘values’, the extent of Washington’s use of German soil to perpetrate illegal killings is clear. Despite Obama’s promises to the German people last year, the number of civilian deaths from these secretive drone strikes is higher than ever, and the response of the German government has been to ignore the issue. It is high time that Merkel raised concerns with Obama about the launching of illegal drone strikes from Germany – concerns that are echoing loudly throughout her country. ”
Taking the low road to war: Washington and the Corporate Media are in Full Propaganda Mode on Ukraine
By Dave Lindorff
The lies, propaganda and rank hypocrisy emanating from Washington, and echoed by the US corporate media regarding events in Ukraine are stunning and would be laughable, but for the fact that they appear to be aimed at conditioning the US public for increasing confrontation with Russia – confrontation which could easily tip over the edge into direct military conflict, with consequences that are too dreadful to contemplate.
By David Morrison
The resolution passed by the Rada (the Ukranian Parliament) which is supposed to have impeached and removed President Yanukovych doesn’t even mention impeachment.
The Ukranian constitution allows the Rada to appoint the Prime Minister as an Acting President, in the event of the presidency becoming vacant. The Rada appointed Olexander Turchynov Acting President even though he wasn’t Prime Minister.
An Acting President has much less power than an elected president, but Turchynov has acted as if he has the powers of an elected president.
The British Government has seriously misled both Houses of Parliament about the removal of Ukraine’s elected President from power on 22 February 2014, giving the impression that it was carried out in accordance with the Ukranian constitution in response to popular pressure, when it wasn’t. But of the 1400 or so Parliamentarians, only one has queried the matter – and the answer he received contained an outright lie.
Portugal as a Model for a New Socialism?
by Leila Dregger
Preliminary note of the author:
In this text the words socialism and communism are used synonymously. I see their differentiation and the rift, which has been stretched between their representatives, as no longer appropriate today. This article is directed toward all those interested in justice, solidarity and freedom.
April 25th, 2014, national holiday, the "Liberation Day" recalling the 25th of April 1945 when some of the main Italian cities reached the freedom from the Nazi-Fascists thanks to the long battle of the Partisans and Allied Forces.
This Friday, the 25th of April, approx 27000 of Vicenza's residents will have to leave their homes within 08:30 a.m. for the defusing of the "Old Lady", a British bomb containing 4000 pounds of explosives.
One of the thousands of bombs dropped on Vicenza between the 17th and the 18th November 1944.
“Old Lady” is probably the heaviest and most powerful of those bombs.
In those days, the 18th in particular, when many civilians were also brought to patch the holes caused by the bombing of the day before, some hundred people lost their lives.
Many were injured and died during the following days.
Many children got killed and mutilated in the weeks after, playing in the fields where many cluster bombs were still active.
A good amount of bombs ended deep underground. Some were found years later during farming works.
A reasonable quantity, over 130, have been found in these last few months during the land reclamation of a portion of the former small airport now named "Parco della Pace" (Peace Park) adjacent to the new (and second) US military base in Vicenza.
It's a big field that for 70 years stored these bombs as seeds unable (fortunately) to sprout.
I really think that this fact, the big "Old Lady" and the other 130 and more bombs found so far, should offer the occasion to think about the long lasting damages of war.
After 70 years these bombs are still dangerous to the point that people must be evacuated in a radius of 2500 meters this coming Friday.
The military experts working on the bombs declared that the "Old Lady", with its 1500 kilos of "Minol II" equivalent to approx 1800 kilos of TNT, is one of the most dangerous ever found in Italy.
In case of explosion, after 70 years, more people would be added to the victim list of WW II!
How many other bombs and mines are sleeping under a few inches of soil around the World ?
How many people die every year or loose legs or arms because of bombs and mines even years after the official ending of a war ?
In almost every continent there are still wars and fights.
During these 70 years we didn't learn much.
Not here in Italy, as well not in many other parts of the World.
Having a foreign military base next to the "park of the bombs" is a clear proof.
These foreign soldiers are deployed "promoting democracy" supported by aircrafts and drones utilizing those "intelligent/smart" bombs we all have known for causing the death of many civilians in villages, markets, hospitals and schools.
It's a very sad aspect of this modern world.
Considering our “bomb day”, leaving home this Friday morning, I would like to imagine that probably the "Old Lady" and these other 130 and more “sleeping” bombs found are the real "intelligent" bombs.
I imagine that while falling down from the aircrafts, seeing the massive destruction below, a real hell on earth, these bombs in some way said “enough is enough” and chose to refuse to do their job.
They deserted and went to hide under soft ground instead of blowing up causing further destruction.
May be they are trying to teach us something ?
Until now this “Old Lady” has been really capable to learn from human errors and horrors.
Via Marosticana 299/Z, 36100 Vicenza, Italy
UNESCO Heritage City
The management of the Nobel Peace Prize has become a case for the Norwegian police, following a request for criminal investigation from 16 prominent Scandinavians, parliamentarians, lawyers, authors and peace activists, 10 Swedes and 6 Norwegians, to the authority on economic crime, the ØKOKRIM. The move is based on the research of Norwegian lawyer Fredrik S. Heffermehl who in his books has called for respect for Alfred Nobel and the peace plan he wished to support. -- In his last years Nobel joined the peace movement and wished to support financially its idea of co-operation on disarmament to replace military force and forces. The Norwegian Parliament appoints the five-member selection committee that must step down and be replaced by people who favor the idea of the prize,” says Heffermehl. He claims that his demands through 6 years, and even an order in March 2012 from the Swedish Foundations Authority have not led the awarders to show any interest in Nobel and what he really wanted. This is unlawful and criminal, and the requested police investigation comes as a last resort to secure justice for “the champions of peace” Nobel specified in his will.
The letter of accusation points in particular to Thorbjørn Jagland, the chair of the Nobel Committee and the incumbent Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and to Geir Lundestad, the powerful secretary of the committee. “The laws must be respected also by politicians, it is particularly worrisome that the Nobel awarders act as if they were above the law and seem to feel confident that society will not enforce the law against them,” says Sweden´s Tomas Magnusson, a former president of the International Peace Bureau. “Ignoring dissent and mowing down dissidents is a dangerous path to embark on. If we allow such norms to become political standard, how much democracy do we then have?”
The 16 persons signing the request for criminal investigations are:
Anna-Lisa Björneberg, Sweden, chair of Fredsam (Gothenburg),
Nils Christie, Norway, professor, University of Oslo
Erik Dammann, Norway, founder “Future in our hands,” Oslo
Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Norway, professor, University of Oslo
Ståle Eskeland, Norway, professor of criminal law, University of Oslo
Erni Friholt, Sweden, Peace movement of Orust
Ola Friholt, Sweden, Peace movement of Orust
Gunnar Garbo, Norway, ex MP, leader of Venstre, the Liberal Party
Fredrik S. Heffermehl, Norway, lawyer and author on the Nobel Peace Prize
Lars-Gunnar Liljestrand, Sweden, Chair of the Association of FiB lawyers
Tomas Magnusson, Sweden, ex President, International Peace Bureau
Birger Schlaug, Sweden, author, ex MP
Sören Sommelius, Sweden, author and culture journalist
Maj-Britt Theorin, Sweden, ex President, International Peace Bureau
Gunnar Westberg, Sweden, Professor, ex Co-President IPPNW (Nobel peace prize 1985)
Jan Öberg,TFF, Sweden, Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research.
On Friday, April 18, President Obama voiced his righteous indignation over anti-Semitic fliers pasted on synagogue walls in the pro-Russian eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. The fliers, calling on all Jews to register or face expulsion, had appeared the day before and were instantly denounced by Donetsk leaders as a gross provocation and a forgery.
The next day, however, Obama “expressed his disgust quite bluntly”. At least, that is what his hawkish national security advisor, Susan Rice, told the public. “I think we all found word of those pamphlets to be utterly sickening, and they have no place in the 21st century,” she declared.
Cross-Posted from Occupy.com
Sorry for the headline if it got you hoping for a quick 1-step guide on how to bomb a country without breaking a sweat. I didn't actually mean that I could teach a dummy to wage a war. I meant that only dummies want to wage wars.
Check out a recent Washington Post report.
Now there I go misleading you again. While it's true that the editors of the Washington Post are often dummies and often want wars to be waged, that's not what I mean right now. I think members of the U.S. government and its obedient media constitute an important but tiny exception to the rule this report points to.
The facts as reported on April 7th are these:
- 13% of us in the United States want our government to use force in Ukraine;
- 16% of us can accurately identify Ukraine's location on a map;
- the median error by Americans placing Ukraine on a map is 1,800 miles;
- some Americans, based on where they identified Ukraine on a map, believe that Ukraine is in the United States, some say it's in Canada, some Africa, some Australia, some Greenland, some Argentina, Brazil, China, or India;
- only a small number believe Ukraine is in an ocean.
And here's the interesting bit:
"[T]he further our respondents thought that Ukraine was from its actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene militarily. Even controlling for a series of demographic characteristics and participants' general foreign policy attitudes, we found that the less accurate our participants were, the more they wanted the U.S. to use force, the greater the threat they saw Russia as posing to U.S. interests, and the more they thought that using force would advance U.S. national security interests."
I take this to mean that some people believe that attacking Alaska or the continental United States (where they believe Ukraine to be located) will advance "U.S. national security interests." This suggests one of two things: either they believe the United States would be better off bombed (and perhaps suicidal tendencies account for some of the staggering stupidity reported by the Washington Post) or they believe the United States is located in Asia or Africa or somewhere other than where they've indicated that Ukraine is on the map.
I also take this report to mean the following: ignorant jackasses are the only statistically significant group that wants more wars. Virtually nobody in the United States wants a U.S. war in Iran or Syria or Ukraine. Nobody. Except for serious hardcore idiots. We're talking about people who can't place Ukraine in the correct landmass, but who believe the United States should go to war there.
People informed enough to find Ukraine on a map are also informed enough to oppose wars. People who can't find Ukraine on a map but possess an ounce of humility or a drop of decency also oppose war. You don't have to be smart to oppose wars. But you have to be an unfathomably ignorant jackass to favor them. Or -- back to that exception -- you could work for the government.
Why, I wonder, don't pollsters always poll and report sufficiently to tell us whether an opinion correlates with being informed on an issue? I recall a poll (by Rasmussen), tragic or humorous depending on your mood, that found 25% of Americans wanting their government to always spend at least three times as much on its military as any other nation spends, while 64% said their government spends the right amount on the military now or should spend more. This only gets tragic or humorous if you are aware that the United States already spends much more than three times what any other nation spends on its military. In other words, large numbers of people want military spending increased only because they don't know how high it is already.
But what I want to know is: Do the individuals who have the facts most wrong want the biggest spending increases?
And I wonder: do pollsters want us to know how much opinions follow facts? If opinions follow factual beliefs, after all, it might make sense to replace some of the bickering of pundits on our televisions with educational information, and to stop thinking of ourselves as divided by ideology or temperament when what we're divided by is largely the possession of facts and the lack thereof.
By Alfredo Lopez
"Connectivity," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a CNN interview last year, "is a human right."
By Alfredo Lopez
"Connectivity," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a CNN interview last year, "is a human right."
Rick Rozoff is the manager of Stop NATO at http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com He discusses the Ukrainian crisis and the state of NATO at age 65.
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So the United States wants to buy hemp from the Ukraine. I suppose we should be happy. Anytime the U.S. government gives a country money that is not earmarked for weapons, we probably shouldn't too closely examine the unelected neo-liberals and neo-Nazis handling the cash. Nobody pays attention to the Saudi government or the oil, wars, and terrorism it provides in exchange for U.S. largesse.
Of course if the hemp buy is part of a larger package deal that impoverishes the Ukraine for the benefit of Western plutocrats, gets NATO's nose under the door, threatens Russia, and encourages the NED to hire the companies that name paint colors in hopes of finding unique names for all the revolutions it's going to plan next, we may want to oppose the whole package.
But isn't the precedent of connecting U.S. foreign policy in any way to a substance that benefits, rather than destroys, the environment of potentially great value? While buying hemp abroad might be a move against permitting the production of hemp at home, won't it just further fuel the argument that it's insane to make U.S. companies import a raw material that they could much more cheaply grow (while creating jobs, restoring soil, slowing climate change, and garnering some 478 other benefits of hemp)?
Or is insanity just not that big a concern? Jon Walker has a book out called After Legalization. And there's a book called Hemp Bound by Doug Fine. These guys are convinced that marijuana and hemp are both about to be legalized in the United States. One of their arguments is that doing so has majority support -- and support, they stress, from across the political spectrum (Fine can't quote anybody without emphasizing that the person is NOT A HIPPIE). "Since when do 80% of Americans agree on anything, as they do that the drug war is a failure?" asks Fine.
Well, let me count the ways. I've been referring for years to this fine collection of polls: http://YesMagazine.org/purpleagenda In fact, 80% in the U.S. believe their government is broken, and I suspect they do so in part because so often their government ignores the will of 80% of the country, be it on ceasing to threaten Iran, investing more in green energy or education, or holding bankers to the rule of law. Eighty percent and more usually support restoring money to the minimum wage, as it continues to plummet. Ninety percent want higher fuel efficiency standards. Eighty percent would ban weapons in space, enforce laws against torture, strengthen the United Nations, reduce the power and influence of big corporations, restore voting rights for ex-felons, create a justice system that does rehabilitation, allow immigrants to apply for citizenship, etc., etc. Never mind the countless sane and important policies supported by 75% or 68% or 52% -- which damn well ought to be enough once in a while but almost never is.
Walker says the difference is that pot doesn't have any enemies. Fine writes as if he expects no enemies either. And yet, Fine refers repeatedly to the great damage hemp will do to oil companies and even to the war machine. Now, I don't know to what extent there's truth behind the supposition that major corporate interests favored the banning of marijuana and hemp, as they had favored the banning of alcohol (they certainly benefitted from its being banned and remaining banned), but we know the oil companies killed public transit and the electric car and the Gulf of Mexico. These are not lightweights when it comes to amoral short-term struggles. And you can add to them the petrochemical, plastics, timber, alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical drug companies, as well as the herbicide companies (hemp doesn't require any), the agribusinesses currently subsidized, and -- last but not least -- the urine testing, property seizure, police and prison industries -- including the prison guard unions. Oh and let's not neglect the State Department that wants to buy hemp from abroad as carrots for austerity schemes, and the foreign nations from whom the hemp is bought. Who in their right mind would put sanity up against that whole crowd? I'm not even counting people too ignorant to distinguish hemp from marijuana, or who think marijuana kills you, or whom Jesus told pot comes from the devil.
Of course, I hope we will legalize hemp immediately (I mean nationally, I'm aware of the steps many states are taking). It's just going to require a great deal of effort, I'm afraid.
Then there's another worry. Will marijuana and hemp be legalized but monopolized, corporatized, and Wal-Martized? Walker says pot won't be because nobody would buy it. Fine says the same of hemp, and that the U.S. should ban GMO hemp from the start, as Canada has done -- as if banning GMO anything in the U.S. were as easy as passing a billion-dollar subsidy for a space weapon that threatens Iran, weakens the U.N., makes us dumber, and damages the atmosphere. For hemp to sell, Fine writes, it has to keep a positive image that includes "a quest for world peace" -- which I take to mean more quoting Nobel laureates on packaging than funding the peace movement. But who's going to know it's GMO if labeling on such points is banned?
Legalization is entirely doable, and the pressures in its favor are indeed likely to grow, but it's going to require huge public pressure. Where books like Walker's and Fine's are most helpful is informing that little snippet of the public that reads books of the incredible benefits to be gained. Hemp is apparently the healthiest food on earth, both for feeding people and for feeding farm animals whom people eat or from which people eat the eggs or drink the milk. The same crop of hemp can, if all goes well, produce material stronger than steel or softer than cotton. And the same crop can, in theory, produce a third thing at the same time, from yet another part of the plant: fuel. You can build your tractor out of hemp, fuel it with hemp, and use it to harvest hemp -- hemp that is busy restoring your soil, preventing erosion, and surviving the drought and climate change. You can do this while eating and drinking hemp and wearing clothes made of hemp and washed with hemp in your house also made of hemp and lime -- a house that sucks carbon out of the atmosphere. (The list of products and benefits is endless. One that Fine cites is body armor, although how that fits into the quest for world peace is not clear.)
I'm not a fan of devoting acres needed for food production to fuel production, but a crop that produces both fuel and food (and building materials) -- if it really can do all that at once -- might alter the calculation. Biofuel aside, hemp has more than enough benefits to start investing in it right now, if sanity were on the table. Take the U.S. troops stationed in 175 countries and reduce that total by 5 countries per year. Instead, buy those countries' hemp AND invest billions in our own (hire the former troops to grow it). It's win-win-win, except for whichever profiteers have their interests in the wrong place. Watch out for them.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
In light of ongoing geopolitical tensions in Russia, Ukraine and hotly contested Crimea, three (yes, three!) U.S. Congressional Committees held hearings this week on the U.S. using its newfangled oil and gas bounty as a blunt tool to fend off Russian dominance of the global gas market.
U.S. Sen Mary Landrieu at the U.S. Sen. Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; Photo Credit: U.S. Sen. Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Though 14 combined witnesses testified in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Power and U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, not a single environmental voice received an invitation. Climate change and environmental concerns were only voiced by two witnesses.
Using the ongoing regional tumult as a rationale to discuss exports of U.S. oil and gas obtained mainly via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), the lack of discussion on climate change doesn't mean the issue isn't important to national security types.
Indeed, the Pentagon's recently published Quadrennial Defense Review coins climate change a "threat force multiplier" that could lead to resource scarcity and resource wars. Though directly related to rampant resource extraction and global oil and gas marketing, with fracking's accompanying climate change and ecological impacts, "threat force multiplication" impacts of climate change went undiscussed.
With another LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminal approved by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in Coos Bay, Ore., to non-Free Trade Agreement countries on March 24 (the seventh so far, with two dozen still pending), the heat is on to export U.S. fracked oil and gas to the global market.
So, why wasn't the LNG climate trump card discussed in a loud and clear way? Well, just consider the source: ten of the witnesses had ties in one way or another to the oil and gas industry.
By Lorraine Barlett
With a plotline reminiscent of a Russian novel, the revolving cast of rogues and rebels involved in the Ukraine crisis provides the hoi polloi with a fascinating tale of intrigue and treachery.
The trouble is, most of them are getting their information from the Cliff’s Notes version of this season’s War and Peace, as helpfully provided by the so-called “main stream media” (MSM). And very few MSM outlets are deviating from the party line, which casts Russian President Putin as the Vampire and Ukraine as the victim of his bloodlust. Indeed, I am a bit surprised at not having already encountered some reference to Putin as “Vlad the Impaler” (remember, you saw it here first), although I have heard him referred to as a “madman” (and when one reaches that status, comparisons to Hitler and Stalin can’t be far behind).
first published on Shannonwatch.org 17 March 2014
A US Hercules C-130 photographed at Shannon last week
Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, who lived from October 27, 1466, to July 12, 1536, faced censorship in his day, and has never been as popular among the rich and powerful as has his contemporary Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli. But at a distance of half a millennium, we ought to be able to judge work on its merit -- and we ought to have regular celebrations of Erasmus around the world. Some of his ideas are catching on. His name is familiar in Europe as that of the EU's student exchange program, named in his honor. We ought perhaps to wonder what oddball ideas these days might catch on in the 2500s -- if humanity is around then.
In 1517, Erasmus wrote The Complaint of Peace, in which Peace, speaking in the first-person, complains about how humanity treats her. She claims to offer "the source of all human blessings" and to be scorned by people who "go in quest of evils infinite in number."
The Complaint is not a contemporary twenty-first century piece of thinking; its outdatedness in any number of areas is immediately obvious. But that's to be expected in an essay written 500 years ago in Latin for a readership made up of what we would call creationists, astrologers, monarchists, and Eurocentric bigots.
What ought to amaze us is the extent to which the Complaint does address the same troubles we face today and the same bad arguments used today in defense of wars. The Complaint offers rebuttals to such arguments that have never been surpassed. Its text could serve as the basis for dozens of important sermons were some preacher inclined to favor peace on earth.
Peace, in her complaint to us, begins by imagining that humans must be insane to pursue war instead of her. She does not complain out of indignation, but weeps over people who actively bring so much harm on themselves and are incapable of even realizing it. The first step, Erasmus/Peace says, is recognizing that you have a problem. Or rather, "It is one great step to convalescence to know the extent and inveteracy of a disease."
War was deemed to be the supreme international crime at Nuremberg following World War II, because it includes all other evils within it. Erasmus defined war in that manner a good four-and-a-half centuries earlier, calling war an ocean "of all the united plagues and pestilences in nature."
Erasmus (in the voice of Peace) notes that many other types of animals do not wage war on their own species. And he notes the universal presence of love and cooperation among humans, animals born unarmed and obliged to find safety in numbers.
Erasmus proposes that we think of ourselves as humans, and thereby become unwilling to make war on any of our brother and sister humans anywhere. Admittedly, 500 years may be a little rushed for some people to catch on to that idea.
On a search for peacefulness, Peace hunts in vain among seemingly polite and amicable princes, among academics whom she finds as corrupted by war as we find ours today, among religious leaders whom she denounces as the hypocrites we've come to know so well, and even among secluded monks. Peace looks into family life and into the internal mental life of an individual and finds no devotion to peace.
Erasmus points Christian readers toward the words supporting peace in the New Testament. One might accuse him of hand-picking his quotes and avoiding those that don't support his goal, except that Erasmus quite openly says that that's what he's doing and advises others to do the same. The vengeful God of the Old Testament should be ignored in favor of the peaceful God of Jesus, Erasmus writes. And those who can't so ignore Him, writes Erasmus, should re-interpret him as peaceful. Let "God of vengeance" mean vengeance "on those sins which rob us of repose."
Solomon the peace-maker was more worthy than David the war-maker, Peace says, despite David's war-making being at the bidding of God. So, imagine, Peace argues, if David's divinely commanded wars rendered him unholy, "what will be the effect of wars of ambition, wars of revenge, and wars of furious anger" -- i.e. the wars of Erasmus' day and our own.
The cause of wars, Erasmus finds, is kings and their war-hungry chickenhawk advisors. The term in Latin is not exactly "chickenhawk" but the meaning comes through. Erasmus advises addressing the causes of war in greed and the pursuit of power, glory, and revenge. And he credits Jesus with having done the same, with having taught love and forgiveness as the basis for peace.
Kings, writes Erasmus, start wars to seize territory when they would be better off improving the territory they have now. Or they start wars out of a personal grudge. Or they start wars to disrupt popular opposition to themselves at home. Such kings, Erasmus writes, should be exiled for life to the remotest islands. And not just the kings but their privileged advisors. Ordinary people don't create wars, says Peace, those in power impose wars on them.
Powerful people calling themselves Christian have created such a climate, says Peace, that speaking up for Christian forgiveness is taken to be treasonous and evil, while promoting war is understood to be good and loyal and directed at a nation's happiness. Erasmus has little tolerance for Orwellian propaganda about "supporting the troops" and proposes that clergy refuse to bury in consecrated ground anyone slain in battle:
"The unfeeling mercenary soldier, hired by a few pieces of paltry coin, to do the work of man-butcher, carries before him the standard of the cross; and that very figure becomes the symbol of war, which alone ought to teach every one that looks at it, that war ought to be utterly abolished. What hast thou to do with the cross of Christ on thy banners, thou blood-stained soldier? With such a disposition as thine; with deeds like thine, of robbery and murder, thy proper standard would be a dragon, a tiger, or wolf!"
" . . . If you detest robbery and pillage, remember these are among the duties of war; and that, to learn how to commit them adroitly, is a part of military discipline. Do you shudder at the idea of murder? You cannot require to be told, that to commit it with dispatch, and by wholesale, constitutes the celebrated art of war."
Peace proposes in her complaint that kings submit their grievances to wise and impartial arbiters, and points out that even if the arbiters are unjust neither side will suffer to remotely the extent that they would from war. Perhaps peace must be purchased -- but compare the price to the cost of a war! For the price of destroying a town you could have built one, Peace says.
For arbitration to replace war, Peace says, we will need better kings and better courtiers. You can't get any more timely and relevant than that.
We discuss this article: "Ukraine: the Enemy of Your Enemy is Not Always Your Friend," with its author Zoltan Grossman. Dr. Zoltán Grossman is a political-cultural geographer who teaches at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin, focusing on topics of interethnic conflict and cooperation. He has taught courses on Central and Eastern Europe, and is a son of Hungarian immigrants. His faculty website is http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz and email is firstname.lastname@example.org
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By International Peace Bureau
March 11, 2014. The events of the last few days and weeks only serve to confirm what the IPB and others in the disarmament wing of the international peace movement have been asserting for years: that in times of political tension, military force solves nothing. It provokes only more military force from the other side, and risks pushing both parties up and around an infernal spiral of violence. This is an especially dangerous course when there are nuclear weapons in the background.
But even if there were no nuclear weapons, this would be a thoroughly alarming situation, given the violation of international law perpetuated by Russia on the Crimean peninsula.
The dramatic events in Ukraine are playing out against the background of a harvest of resentment within the Russian Federation as a result of repeated Western unilateralism and lack of restraint, including:
- the expansion of NATO up to Russia's borders; and
- the encouragement and funding of the 'colour revolutions', which has been perceived as interference in its neighbourhood. This makes Russia doubt whether the agreement they have had with Ukraine over the military bases in Crimea will be kept to in the future.
Let us be quite clear: to criticise the West for reckless and domineering behaviour is not to condone or defend Russia; conversely, to criticise Russia for its own reckless and domineering behaviour is not to let the West off the hook. Both sides bear responsibility for the deep-rooted tragedy that is unfolding and that promises to both ruin and split Ukraine and plunge Europe, and indeed the wider world, back into some new form of East-West conflict. The talk on the Western news channels is all of how fast to climb the ladder of anti-Russian economic sanctions, while Russian mass demonstrations of post-Sochi pride risk tempting Putin to overreach in his zeal to build a counterweight to the arrogant West via his Eurasian Union.
The task of a peace movement is not only to analyse causes and denounce oppression, imperialism and militarism wherever they manifest. It is also to propose ways forward, paths out of the mess. It should be obvious to all but the most hawkish politicians that the number one priority in the coming days and weeks must not be point-scoring and lecturing one's opponents but dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. While we recognise that the UNSC has recently passed resolutions calling for "an inclusive dialogue recognizing the diversity of the Ukrainian society", the best bet right now for a real resolution of this difficult conflict would seem to be the Swiss-led OSCE (of which Russia a member state). Indeed, it is clear that some discussion between the leaders of East and West is occurring, but it is obvious that their views of the whole situation are far apart. Yet there is no alternative; Russia and the West have to learn to live and talk with each other and indeed work together for mutual benefit, as well as resolving the fate of Ukraine.
Meanwhile there is much to be done at the citizen level. IPB supports the recent call made by Pax Christi International <http://www.paxchristi.net/> to religious leaders and all the faithful in Ukraine, as well as in the Russian Federation and in other countries involved in the political tensions, "to act as mediators and bridge-builders, bringing people together instead of dividing them, and to support nonviolent ways to find peaceful and just solutions to the crisis." Women should be given a much more prominent voice.
Among the top priorities for action in both short and long term must be to overcome the poverty in the country and the unequal distribution of wealth and opportunities. We recall reports showing that unequal societies produce much more violence than equal societies. Ukraine - like many other conflict-ridden countries - must be helped to provide education and jobs, and not least for the angry young men who let themselves be recruited into diverse forms of fundamentalism. A minimum of security is necessary in order to encourage investment and job creation; hence the importance of political interventions to bring the sides together and to demilitarize the region.
There are several additional steps that should be promoted:
* withdrawal of Russian troops to their bases in Crimea or to Russia, and of Ukrainian troops to their barracks;
* an investigation by UN / OSCE observers of complaints of human rights violations among all communities in Ukraine;
* no military intervention by any outside forces;
* convening of high level talks under the auspices of the OSCE and international peace organisations with participation from all parties, including Russia, US and EU as well as Ukrainians from all sides, men and women. The OSCE should be given an expanded mandate and responsibility, and its representatives allowed access to all sites. The Council of Europe can also be a useful forum for dialogue between the different sides.
 Summarised in the book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better by Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.
By John Grant
Making political sense out of the events in Ukraine and Crimea has become great sport. Does it mean a new Cold War? Is Vladimir Putin a better, more “potent” man than Barack Obama? Who has bigger balls?
The Complicity of the Irish Government: Almost 70,000 Armed Soldiers Through Shannon Airport in 2013
The Minister for Transport reported last week that 69,840 U.S. troops passed through Shannon in 2013. While this was down on the 101,108 that passed through in 2012, it is still equivalent to an army 7 times the size of the Irish defence forces. And it is still unacceptable, as the Irish people have not given their permission for any foreign troops to pass through Irish territory – or airspace.
It is absolutely appropriate to condem Russian militarism in the Crimea. I recently did so on Russian TV and was yelled at for my trouble. But it must be noted that:
1. The United States promised Russia years ago that NATO would not expand "an inch" eastward (see account by President Ronald Reagan's ambassador to the USSR in the New York Times of April 20, 1999);
2. NATO has rapidly expanded eastward (having already added the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, and Croatia);
3. The United States has invested $5 billion in shaping Ukrainian politics including overthrowing a democratically elected president in the Ukraine who refused to join NATO (U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland is on video talking about the investment and on audiotape planning to install Ukraine's next leader who's now in place);
4. The refusal to join NATO was a democratic action as the people of the Ukraine oppose joining NATO according to numerous opinion polls;
5. The United States is now negotiating to fund the new Ukrainian government in exchange for placing missiles in the Ukraine (as recounted by the Ukrainian ambassador to Belarus); not to mention that
6. The new Ukrainian government (as widely reported) includes neo-Nazis openly hostile to Russia among other things.
Columnists like Tom Friedman argue that we should avoid war but focus U.S. policy on frightening Russia. That's like trying to avoid a fire by playing with matches. The United States ought to apologize for Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, stop threatening Syria and Iran, halt the drone strikes on Pakistan and Yemen, and get its own claws out of the Ukraine. THEN denouncing Russian aggression will carry the weight it ought to carry.
The question of what is intended with the coup in Ukraine cannot be answered by solely looking at what is appearing on the surface as a highly dangerous powerplay between the US, the EU and Russia. There may be more to it than meets the eye.
Not funny, but it’s still hard not to laugh: How Can the US Accuse Russia of Violating International Law?
By Dave Lindorff
If you want to make moral or legal pronouncements, or to condemn bad behavior, you have to be a moral, law-abiding person yourself. It is laughable when we see someone like Rush Limbaugh criticizing drug addicts or a corrupt politician like former Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) voting for more prisons, more cops, and tougher rules against appeals of sentences.
The same thing goes for nations.