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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 email@example.com
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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.
The European Parliament today overwhelmingly condemned the covert drone strikes that have killed thousands of civilians in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen.
In a vote this morning, a majority of 534 to 49 MEPs supported a resolution demanding that EU Member States “do not perpetrate unlawful targeted killings or facilitate such killings by other states”, and calling on them to “oppose and ban practices of extra judicial targeted killings.”
Today’s vote will put further pressure on countries such as the UK and Germany to disclose the full extent of their involvement in the covert US programme, both through intelligence-sharing and the provision of infrastructure at US airbases on their soil.
The resolution, sponsored by the Green group of MEPs with cross-party support, also notes that:
- “drone strikes by a State on the territory of another State without the consent of the latter constitute a violation of international law and of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of that country”
- “thousands of civilians have reportedly been killed or seriously injured by drone strikes [but] these figures are difficult to estimate, owing to lack of transparency and obstacles to effective investigation”
- “drone strike policies have been documented as causing considerable harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians in the countries concerned, including deep anxiety and psychological trauma, disruption of economic and social activities and reduced access to education among affected communities.”
Last week, legal charity Reprieve lodged a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) concerning the involvement of NATO member states in facilitating strikes in Pakistan. The complaint highlighted the case of Kareem Khan, whose civilian brother and son were killed in a 2009 strike in the Waziristan area of Pakistan. Mr Khan has in recent days met with Parliamentarians from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands to discuss the impact of drone strikes in the area.
Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said: “Today’s vote represents a triumph of conscience by MEPs, who have issued a clear call to national European governments to come clean on their complicity with the CIA’s illegal drones programme, and bring it to an immediate halt. This should be a wake-up call to countries like the UK and Germany; they need to clean up their act not only by ensuring that they stop cooperating with extrajudicial killings, but also by pressuring the US for greater transparency and accountability.”
Kareem Khan said: “As I prepare to return home, I will take with me this heartening news – that Europe is listening to those who have been harmed by America’s illegal drone war. Not just innocents like my brother and son, but all those who are terrorised daily by the drones circling overhead. Drone strikes are not the answer. Today, Europe has taken a first step to bringing a stop to these illegal, unaccountable killings; I hope that national governments will follow suit, so that one day I may finally get justice.”
Green MEP and chair of the Parliament's sub-committee on human rights Barbara Lochbihler said: "The European Parliament has today raised serious concerns with the use of military drones and the deaths of thousands of civilians resulting from drone strikes. MEPs have delivered a strong rebuke to the practice of targeted aerial killings outside a declared war zone, as well as the use of armed drones in war situations outside of the international legal framework. The EU needs to address the legal, ethical and security challenges posed by the increasing use of drones, including the urgent need to secure complete transparency and accountability. The resolution also stresses that EU member states should strictly refrain from participating in or facilitating extrajudicial targeted killings, for instance by sharing relevant information with countries such as the US."
MEPs will this week vote on a resolution condemning EU Member States’ complicity in the covert US drones programme.
A draft resolution sponsored by the Green group of MEPs and enjoying cross-party support will be debated today (Wednesday) and voted on tomorrow (Thursday) between 12 and 2pm. The resolution condemns the extrajudicial killings resulting from drones strikes, notes an increase in strikes in recent years in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and demands full transparency from those Member States that possess drones technology (such as the UK).
The strikes represent both a violation of the sovereignty of targeted countries and spread terror among the civilian population, says the resolution; they are therefore illegal under international law. The text further criticises the “opaque and unaccountable” nature of drone strikes, concluding that they pose a grave threat to global peace and security.
Today’s move comes amid growing calls for greater scrutiny of the covert US programme, including the use of US bases in countries such as Germany and the UK to support the strikes. Last week, legal charity Reprieve lodged a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) concerning NATO member states’ role in facilitating the drone programme in Pakistan. The complaint, which followed recent revelations that the UK and Germany support the drone strikes through intelligence-sharing, highlighted the case of Kareem Khan, whose civilian brother and son were killed in a 2009 strike in the Waziristan area of Pakistan.
Mr Khan has in recent days met with MEPs such as Sajjad Karim (Con) as well as UK, German and Dutch parliamentarians to discuss the impact of drone strikes on North Waziristan. The CIA campaign in the area is estimated to have killed thousands of people, many of them civilians including children.
Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said:
“Today’s debate is a welcome step towards greater accountability in the illegal drone war that is currently being waged by the US, with the full complicity of its European partners. The drone programme has killed thousands of civilians, and terrorised many more - in absolute secrecy and with a total lack of accountability, both at the international and domestic level. We hope that tomorrow, MEPs will recognise this wrong, and do what they can to right it.”
Kareem Khan said:
“The US’ secret drones programme has killed hundreds of innocent civilians in Pakistan alone – including my own son and brother – and continues to terrorise many more. Visiting Europe to tell MPs and MEPs about my experiences, I’ve been heartened by the understanding and sympathy of many. I urge MEPs voting tomorrow to think about the devastating impact of strikes in places like Waziristan, and recognise that Europe has real power to stop them.”
Drone victims are today lodging a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing NATO member states of war crimes over their role in facilitating the US’ covert drone programme in Pakistan.
It has been revealed in recent months that the UK, Germany, Australia, and other NATO partners support US drone strikes through intelligence-sharing. Because all these countries are signatories to the Rome Statute, they fall under The ICC’s jurisdiction and can therefore be investigated for war crimes. Kareem Khan - whose civilian brother and son were killed in a 2009 drone strike – is at The Hague with his lawyers from the human rights charity Reprieve and the Foundation for Fundamental Rights who have filed the complaint on his behalf.
The CIA has launched more than 300 missiles at North Waziristan since its covert drone programme began and it is estimated that between 2004 and 2013, thousands of people have been killed, many of them civilians including children.
The US has immunised itself from legal accountability over drone strikes and the UK has closed its domestic courts to foreign drone victims. In a recent decision, the Court of Appeal in London ruled that it would not opine on the legality of British agents' involvement in the US drone war in Pakistan, for fear of causing embarrassment to its closest ally.
Kat Craig, Reprieve’s legal director, said: “There can surely be no doubt that facilitating the deaths of thousands of civilians – as NATO allies are doing in a plethora of ways - constitutes war crimes. The International Criminal Court, established specifically to hold overwhelming state power to account, is in a unique position to offer some semblance of justice to individual drone victims with nowhere else to go. They must take this complaint seriously and investigate.”
A Pakistani man who lost his son and brother to a 2009 CIA drone strike is this week visiting Germany to hold meetings with MPs and Government officials about the impact of the US’ secret bombing campaign.
Kareem Khan will today meet with the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Committees, as well as members of Germany’s Green Party. Tomorrow he is set to meet officials from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
There had been fears for Mr Khan’s safety up until last Friday, following his abduction from his Rawalpindi home by men in police uniforms on February 5. Mr Khan had not been heard from until his release on February 14, after which he revealed that, during his captivity, he had been beaten and questioned about his activities.
Mr Khan is being accompanied on his visit by Noor Behram, a journalist from North Waziristan (the region which bears the brunt of CIA strikes); his lawyer Shahzad Akbar, a fellow of human rights charity Reprieve; and Jennifer Gibson, a staff attorney at Reprieve.
The group is visiting Germany, followed by the Netherlands and the UK, in order to discuss the impact of the CIA drone programme on civilians in Pakistan.
European states have been revealed to be involved in the CIA campaign through the sharing of intelligence used to target strikes, and the provision of crucial infrastructure – notably at US air bases such as Ramstein in Germany and RAF Croughton in the UK.
Kareem Khan said: “I hope my meetings with parliamentarians in Europe will help raise awareness about the real impact of US drone strikes. It is imperative that Germany take a stand on such drones. They are making no one safer, least of all America's allies.”
Jennifer Gibson said: “Given the involvement of European countries in the CIA’s illegal and counter-productive campaign of drone strikes, it is important that politicians and public alike are aware of how this affects innocent civilians on the ground. Mr Khan lost his son and his brother to these strikes, and when he started speaking out, ended up being kidnapped. People in Germany, the UK and the US deserve to know about the abuses that are being carried out in their name – it is high time the drone campaign was brought out of the shadows.”
Further information on Mr Khan’s abduction can be found here:
This is a repost of an article on Shannonwatch.org published 3 Feb 2014
As Margaretta D'Arcy continues to serve the sentence imposed on her by the Irish State for opposing the U.S. military use of Shannon Airport, the war machines continue to land at the airport. The State's heavy handed treatment of Margaretta was an attempt to silence opposition to the routine presence of these war machines; instead it has made Irish people more aware of their complicity in the human suffering that comes with war. Shannonwatch continues to demand explanations from the Irish government, not only for this ongoing involvement in illegal, unjustified and never-ending war, but also for the many years of cover-up of rendition flights through Shannon.
This is a repost of an article in www.news-beacon-ireland.info
Margaretta, in her peaceful act of civil disobedience, was seeking to highlight our own government’s failure to uphold both Irish and international law. We should applaud her courage, writes Joe Murray.
by Joe Murray
copyright © Journal Media Ltd. 2014
published on the journal 28 Jan 2014
republished here under the term of Fair Use
Signs of hope and causes for optimism are still to be found amid the bleak picture often presented on the daily news. Despite the realities of war, climate change and hunger, we can find hope and inspiration in those who continue to resist, to struggle, to challenge, and even to celebrate.
My mother, the anti-war activist and writer Margaretta D'Arcy, is serving a three-month sentence in Limerick prison for trying to stop the violation of Irish neutrality by US military planes, which stop over at Shannon airport on the way to and from the war in Afghanistan. She took peaceful direct action to stop crime being committed by lying down on the runway of the airport. Margaretta, the widow of playwright John Arden, is 79 and undergoing treatment for cancer. Imprisoning her for an act of conscience is inhumane. I call upon the Irish government to release her immediately and for the British government to use its influence to secure her release. To keep her spirits up while she remains in prison, I urge readers to send cards c/o Limerick Prison, Mulgrave Street, Limerick, Ireland.
Here is an excerpt from a statement by her colleagues:
(Orange Gate 1983-84)
We are outraged to learn that our dear sister and colleague Margaretta D’Arcy has been jailed – and for three months! – for protesting the use of the civilian airport at Shannon for US wars. And we are deeply worried about her health and well-being as a cancer patient. One of the many public services Ms D’Arcy has performed is to protest the Irish government’s many years of complicity in US war crimes and its destruction of Irish neutrality. She has been dedicated to highlighting that the most devastating impact of war is on women and our children, both directly from the bombs that rain down on us, and by paying with our poverty for the horrendous weapons of massive destruction that surround us all.
on behalf of Global Women’s Strike, Ireland
There is access to an online petition contact.ie/node/271
Comments can be registered at firstname.lastname@example.org
Updates are available from Clare Daly (Clare.Daly@Oireachtas.ie)
Thank you for sharing this story with any and all persons you can reach who are concerned with issues of free speech, social justice, and over all, peace.
The Court of Appeal in London has today ruled that the case brought against the UK Government by a Pakistani victim of a drone strike cannot proceed as it might result in the “condemnation of the US by a court of this country.”
Noor Khan (28) lost his father, a local elder, to a 2011 drone strike on a local council meeting in North Waziristan, which had gathered to resolve a chromite mining dispute. After evidence emerged that the British intelligence agency, GCHQ, was supporting the CIA’s drone strikes in Pakistan, Mr Khan brought a judicial review in the British courts against the UK Government.
However, the Court of Appeal today ruled that, despite Mr Khan’s arguments being “persuasive,” they accepted the British Government’s claims that the case should not proceed as “a finding by our court that the notional UK operator of a drone bomb which caused a death was guilty of murder would inevitably be understood…by the US as a condemnation of the US.”
The court also noted that it was “not clear that the defence of combat immunity would be available to a UK national” tried for “murder by drone strike.” The comment came in response to arguments put forward by Mr Khan’s lawyers that the programme of strikes in Pakistan is illegal and that UK involvement could lead to UK officials facing murder charges.
Kat Craig, legal director at human rights charity Reprieve, which is supporting Mr Khan, said: “It is shameful that the risk of embarrassing the US has trumped British justice in this case. It now appears that the UK Government can get away with murder, provided it is committed alongside an ally who may be sensitive to public criticism. It is a sad day when the rights of civilian victims of drone strikes take second place to the PR concerns of the US Government.”
Noor Khan said: “I used to think that Britain stood for justice, but now it seems as though the Government has put itself above the law. However, I am still determined to get answers from the UK Government about the part they have played in the death of my father. The CIA’s drone programme has not only killed hundreds of civilians, but is turning people in Pakistan against the US and its allies. This is why I was so upset to hear that Britain is helping the CIA to carry out these killings, and even more upset when the government refused to respond to my questions.”
Rosa Curling from Leigh Day, which is representing Mr Khan said: “The court’s decision not to determine the lawfulness of our government’s involvement in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, deadly strikes which have killed many civilians over recent years including my client’s father, simply to spare the US government embarrassment is not only disappointing but also deeply worrying. The courts must have jurisdiction over the legality of our government’s action irrespective of whether they act alongside a foreign state or not.”
Further information on Mr Khan’s case can be found here: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/
Italian Town Council condemns Pizzarotti over involvement in Israeli high-speed train crossing the occupied Palestinian territories
The Italian Coalition Stop That Train calls on the Italian government to following the example of other European countries and discourage Italian companies from operating in violation of international law
On December 27, the town council of Villar Focchiardo, in the province of Torino, voted unanimously to approve a resolution condemning Pizzarotti & Co SpA of Parma for its involvement in the Israeli high-speed railway crossing the occupied West Bank. The railway, which will connect Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, runs for 6.5 km through the occupied Palestinian territories in blatant violation of international law, resulting in the confiscation of Palestinian land and pillaging of property belonging to the occupied territory for the construction of a railway for the near exclusive use of Israeli citizens.
Villar Focchiardo is the sixth local government to approve a similar resolution. The measure holds special significance given that the municipality is located in the Val Susa, where for over 20 years local communities, together with supporters throughout Italy, have lead the No TAV popular struggle against a high-speed train through the valley. In October 2013, a delegation from the No TAV movement visited the occupied Palestinian territories where they were able to observe firsthand how the continuous loss of Palestinian land is instrumental to "breaking up the territory".
Last summer, the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq published a legal opinion on the question, finding that there are "substantial grounds" to hold Pizzarotti responsible for acts that "can amount to serious violations of international law such as the war crimes of pillage and of destruction and appropriation of property." It was for these reasons that Deutsche Bahn withdrew from the project in 2011.
In addition to political and moral condemnation of Pizzarotti, the resolution commits the mayor of Villar Focchiardo and his administration to evaluate the possibility of adding a clause providing for the "exclusion of companies and economic entities operating in violation of human rights and/or international law" in the town’s regulations regarding the participation in municipal tenders for public works.
The resolution of Villar Focchiardo comes at a time when European governments and companies are taking measures to avoid complicity with Israeli violations of international law. In recent months, three Dutch companies, on advice from the Dutch government, cut ties with Israeli settlements. In December 2013, the British government published guidelines warning of "clear risks related to economic and financial activities in the settlements," stating they neither encourage nor offer support for such activities. Romania banned its construction workers from working in the construction of Israeli settlements due to their illegality under international law.  And new European Union guidelines, in force since January 1, 2014, prohibit awarding EU grants to projects in the illegal settlements or issuing EU loans to any entity operating in the Israeli settlements. 
The Italian Coalition Stop That Train applauds the consistency shown by Villar Focchiardo and other local governments in working to ensure that Italian companies profiting from violations of international law have no access to public funds. Stop That Train invites municipal councils throughout Italy to adopt similar resolutions and calls on the Italian Government, in perfect line with European policy of not recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Palestinian territories, to actively discourage Italian companies from continuing or engaging in activities with Israeli companies or entities operating in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Italian Coalition Stop That Train comprises some 90 local, national and international organizations, including from Israel, and calls for the withdrawal of Pizzarotti S.p.A. from the Israeli A1 rail project. Stop That Train is part of BDS Italy, a movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, made up of associations and groups throughout Italy who have joined the 2005 BDS call by Palestinian civil society.
 Rho (Milano)
Vomero - Arenella (Naples) Corchiano (Viterbo) Villar Focchiardo (Torino)  From Italy to Israel/Palestine: Activists share insights on popular struggle  Tunnelling Activities and War Crimes: Why Pizzarotti Could Be Found Responsible for Grave Violations of International Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory  Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs Response to Written Question  Dutch firm withdraws from sewage plant for settlers in East Jerusalem Dutch water company terminates relationship with Mekerot following government advice PGGM – Statement regarding exclusion of Israeli banks  UK government warns businesses about illegal Israeli settlement enterprise http://www.bdsmovement.net/  Romania refuses to allow its workers to build illegal settlements in the West Bank  EU acknowledges obligation to not recognize Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory
Vomero - Arenella (Naples)
Villar Focchiardo (Torino)
 From Italy to Israel/Palestine: Activists share insights on popular struggle
 Tunnelling Activities and War Crimes: Why Pizzarotti Could Be Found Responsible for Grave Violations of International Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
 Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs Response to Written Question
 Dutch firm withdraws from sewage plant for settlers in East Jerusalem
Dutch water company terminates relationship with Mekerot following government advice
PGGM – Statement regarding exclusion of Israeli banks
 UK government warns businesses about illegal Israeli settlement enterprise http://www.bdsmovement.net/
 Romania refuses to allow its workers to build illegal settlements in the West Bank
 EU acknowledges obligation to not recognize Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory
by R. Teichmann
Tomas Magnusson, Former President IPB
Fredrik S. Heffermehl, Former Vice President IPB
Nominate them for the Nobel, the "Lay down your arms" prize, by Feb. 1
Few today have the specific ambitions of the “champions of peace” to whom Nobel dedicated a prize in his will of 1895. Even in the peace movement it is rare to advocate the total abolition of military force and forces. The hope of the two who sign this email is to identify the still remaining advocates of Nobel´s peace vision and to have them nominated for the 2014 Nobel - by Feb. 1.
The Norwegian awarders of the prize have a legally binding obligation to reward the specific people Nobel had in mind, not make a prize for “peace” entirely of their own design. Nobel described “the champions of peace” as the persons working for a global “abolition or reduction of standing armies (military forces),” and “creating the (disarmed) brotherhood of (all) nations” that the “peace congresses” of the period sought to realize.
See attached Memo on the peace movement and the Nobel prize.
Please nominate persons who in a major way pursue the Nobel aim of global disarmament. Nominations must be sent by Feb. 1, by email to: email@example.com, or by snailmail posted to: The Nobel Committee, Henrik Ibsens gt. 51, N-0255 Oslo, Norway. People all over the world may nominate, if they are parliamentarians, certain professors (law, history, political science, theology, etc.), former laureates etc. - see nobel.no. More on the struggle to “reclaim the Nobel” at nobelwill.org.
We have plans in progress to establish a file of qualified candidates and help those designated in the will to actually win. Please send us information on champions of peace and information on possible nominations by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. For contact/questions: email@example.com
Oslo/Gothenburg, Jan. 9, 2014
Fredrik S. Heffermehl, Tomas Magnusson
THE PEACE MOVEMENT AND THE NOBEL PRIZE
By his will in 1895 Nobel addressed a fundamental choice between two roads forward for humanity. His prize took a stand, he wished all nations to end their reliance on force and arms and unite in co-operation on global law, global institutions and abolition of their military forces. Only by doing this humanity would enjoy common prosperity and security. With his prize Nobel backed the broad and strong political call for universal disarmament that died when the cannons started to thunder in 1914.
In 2014 it is time for the whole peace movement to take a fresh look at the bold, innovative and pointed peace plan Nobel in his will called "creating a brotherhood of nations" and for which he established his prize for "the champions of peace." The people Nobel intended to support would have global disarmament as aim and their peace work would make a substantial contribution toward that aim.
In 2014 (hundred years after the passing of Bertha von Suttner) peace activists should take a fresh look at Nobel´s specific peace plan and the types of peace people Nobel described in his will. Their work is entitled by law to one million Euros every year. Can we accept that this money for decades has been spread in all possible directions, more and more often to winners directly opposed to the peace ideas Nobel wished to support? To embrace the Nobel vision of a world without military force and forces would mean to have a goal in common and confer synergy, credibility and strength to all parts of a very diverse movement.
We all have people and causes we would like to receive Nobel´s prestige and money. But if we permit ourselves to read whatever we like into Nobel´s will, what shall then stop the Norwegian committee from continuing to do the same? The Norwegian politicians in Parliament and on the Nobel committee have through six years proved staunchly unwilling to pay even the least attention to Nobel and his legally binding description of a prize for peace through global disarmament.
Shall we forever tolerate that the friends of the forces manage Nobel´s prize for the friends of peace?
From The Guardian:
<<Once, in Blackadder, the eponymous first-world-war British army captain learned that the Germans were stealing our battle plans. "You look surprised, Blackadder," said Stephen Fry's absurdly over-moustachioed, rubicund General Melchett.
"I certainly am, sir," retorted our hero. "I didn't realise we had any battle plans."
"Well, of course we have!" shouted Melchett. "How else do you think the battles are directed?"
"Our battles are directed, sir?"
"Well, of course they are, Blackadder, directed according to the Grand Plan."
"Would that be the plan to continue with total slaughter until everyone's dead except Field Marshal Haig, Lady Haig and their tortoise, Alan?"
"Great Scott!" exclaims Melchett. "Even you know it!">>
The Secretary of Education of the United Kingdom (The United Kingdom has education?!) is royally upset that anyone would make fun of World War I as that great and glorious event hits the 100-year mark. And he's not upset because British humor is so relentlessly unfunny. He's upset because people might laugh.
But of course if people had been permitted to make fun of World War I at the time, without being thrown in prison (Yes, that was also Woodrow -- the Obama delusion for liberals of his day -- Wilson's policy), well then, perhaps the stupid bloody idiocy could have been stopped or prevented.
The Secretary of Education, if he had a bit of -- what is that stuff? oh yeah -- education would know that the majority of observers have very good reasons for believing that World War I was, as he puts it, "a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite."
Well, what would you call it when a group of inbred cousins meet to squabble over petty matters of competing egos at all the best weddings and funerals and then return to ruling over their respective nations as divinely appointed monarchs and ministers eager to send their peoples off to murder each other for no particular reason, especially if these sociopaths and their sycophants each decide they must defensively attack the other first, not because war can begin so quickly but because it takes months to badger people into knocking off the wisecracks, abandoning all sense of human decency, and picking up a gun, and then to put those people on trains to send them on a trip to a big field in which imbeciles on horses with swords will try to conquer machine guns and poison gas, eventually realize how ridiculous they are being, and hide in tents far from the fighting while ordering millions of others who have no interest in the affair to kill each other year after year after year for no earthly reason and with nothing to show for it at the end -- an end pre-determined by mutual agreement, but with the fighting continuing until that appointed day and hour?
And that was the wise, deliberate, and admirable part of World War I. The stupidity really took hold, along with the influenza falsely called Spanish and the brilliant notion of banning alcohol, with the settlement of the war in a royal French palace where it was decided to punish the entire nation of Germany severely, begin preparations for World War II, carve up the so-called Middle-East in order to produce a century of chaos there, and to tell Ho Chi Minh to go to hell, laying some early groundwork for the never-to-be-ridiculed war on Vietnam, which the U.S. government is now funding a major campaign to beautify (don't laugh!).
All right, so maybe I find it all too horrific to laugh at, but if others can laugh at it -- even when the jokes are predictable and stupid -- I can think of nothing better for the world. In fact, I wholeheatedly encourage everyone to complete this line: How many Secretaries of Education does it take to change a lightbulb?
Take away the gun
From every mother's son
We're taught by God above
To forgive, forget, and love
The weary world is waiting for
So take away the gun
From every mother's son
And put an end to war
Audio and transcript BBC Radio 4 Today, Jan. 2, 2014
January 05, 2014 "Information Clearing House - When I travelled in Iraq in the 1990s, the two principal Moslem groups, the Shia and Sunni, had their differences but they lived side by side, even intermarried and regarded themselves with pride as Iraqis. There was no Al Qaida, there were no jihadists. We blew all that to bits in 2003 with 'shock and awe'. And today Sunni and Shia are fighting each other right across the Middle East.
A majority said that fewer than 10,000 had been killed. Scientific studies report that up to a million Iraqi men, women and children died in an inferno lit by the British government and its ally in Washington. That's the equivalent of the genocide in Rwanda. And the carnage goes on. Relentlessly.
What this reveals is how we in Britain have been misled by those whose job is to keep the record straight. The American writer and academic Edward Herman calls this 'normalising the unthinkable'. He describes two types of victims in the world of news: 'worthy victims' and 'unworthy victims'. 'Worthy victims' are those who suffer at the hands of our enemies: the likes of Assad, Qadaffi, Saddam Hussein. 'Worthy victims' qualify for what we call 'humanitarian intervention'.
'Unworthy victims' are those who get in the way of our punitive might and that of the 'good dictators' we employ. Saddam Hussein was once a 'good dictator' but he got uppity and disobedient and was relegated to 'bad dictator'.
In Indonesia, General Suharto was a 'good dictator', regardless of his slaughter of perhaps a million people, aided by the governments of Britain and America. He also wiped out a third of the population of East Timor with the help of British fighter aircraft and British machine guns. Suharto was even welcomed to London by the Queen and when he died peacefully in his bed, he was lauded as enlightened, a moderniser, one of us. Unlike Saddam Hussein, he never got uppity.
When I travelled in Iraq in the 1990s, the two principal Moslem groups, the Shia and Sunni, had their differences but they lived side by side, even intermarried and regarded themselves with pride as Iraqis. There was no Al Qaida, there were no jihadists. We blew all that to bits in 2003 with 'shock and awe'. And today Sunni and Shia are fighting each other right across the Middle East.
This mass murder is being funded by the regime in Saudi Arabia which beheads people and discriminates against women. Most of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. In 2010, Wikileaks released a cable sent to US embassies by the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. She wrote this: "Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support for Al Qaeda, the Taliban, al Nusra and other terrorist groups... worldwide". And yet the Saudis are our valued allies. They're good dictators. The British royals visit them often. We sell them all the weapons they want.
I use the first person 'we' and 'our' in line with newsreaders and commentators who often say 'we', preferring not to distinguish between the criminal power of our governments and us, the public. We are all assumed to be part of a consensus: Tory and Labour, Obama's White House too. When Nelson Mandela died, the BBC went straight to David Cameron, then to Obama. Cameron who went to South Africa during Mandela's 25th year of imprisonment on a trip that was tantamount to support for the apartheid regime, and Obama who recently shed a tear in Mandela's cell on Robben Island - he who presides over the cages of Guantanamo.
What were they really mourning about Mandela? Clearly not his extraordinary will to resist an oppressive system whose depravity the US and British governments backed year after year. Rather they were grateful for the crucial role Mandela had played in quelling an uprising in black South Africa against the injustice of white political and economic power. This was surely the only reason he was released. Today the same ruthless economic power is apartheid in another form, making South Africa the most unequal society on earth. Some call this "reconciliation".
We all live in an information age - or so we tell each other as we caress our smart phones like rosary beads, heads down, checking, monitoring, tweeting. We're wired; we're on message; and the dominant theme of the message is ourselves. Identity is the zeitgeist. A lifetime ago in 'Brave New World', Aldous Huxley predicted this as the ultimate means of social control because it was voluntary, addictive and shrouded in illusions of personal freedom. Perhaps the truth is that we live not in an information age but a media age. Like the memory of Mandela, the media's wondrous technology has been hijacked. From the BBC to CNN, the echo chamber is vast.
In his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, Harold Pinter spoke about a "manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good, a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis." But, said Pinter, "it never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest."
Pinter was referring to the systematic crimes of the United States and to an undeclared censorship by omission - that is, leaving out crucial information that might help us make sense of the world.
Today liberal democracy is being replaced by a system in which people are accountable to a corporate state - not the other way round as it should be. In Britain, the parliamentary parties are devoted to the same doctrine of care for the rich and struggle for the poor. This denial of real democracy is an historic shift. It's why the courage of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange is such a threat to the powerful and unaccountable. And it's an object lesson for those of us who are meant to keep the record straight. The great reporter Claud Cockburn put it well: "Never believe anything until it's officially denied".
Imagine if the lies of governments had been properly challenged and exposed as they secretly prepared to invade Iraq - perhaps a million people would be alive today.
This is a transcript of John Pilger's contribution to a special edition of BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme, on 2 January 2014, guest-edited by the artist and musician Polly Harvey.
Optimistic Thought for the New Year: The Looming Battle for Real Social Security Can Spawn a New Progressive Movement
By Dave Lindorff
I don’t care if you are 75 and retired, 61 and just about to reach the age when you become eligible for Social Security, 50 and looking out 15 or 20 years to the time when you’ll need to retire, or 25 with grandparents collecting retirement benefits and wondering what will be there when you get old. Whatever your age, don’t let anyone tell you Social Security is in trouble, or that it “won’t be around” when you need it.