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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.
No peace through military strength. A response to Catherine Ashton’s “To Secure Peace, Be Ready for Battle”
By Patrick T. Hiller
“The War to End all Wars” never achieved what H.G. Wells implied with this term. On the contrary, World War I not only resulted in the death of more than 16 million humans, it also resulted in a victor’s peace directly setting the stage for World War II where an estimated 60 to 100 million people died. I like to believe that no World War is on the horizon, but I was quite surprised to read the headline of a Wall Street Journal opinion piece “To Secure Peace, Be Ready for Battle." The surprise was not so much the title itself. This language -- promoting ‘peace’ by amassing more military -- has been all-too-familiar and all-too-common in the twenty-first century perpetual ineffective and counterproductive war on terror and other misguided relics like humanly insane nuclear deterrence or the offensive, war-waging North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
My surprise with this opinion piece came after the headline when I realized it was not one of our usual media “experts” whose insights supporting the military status quo are abundantly available in major corporate media. The article is authored by Catherine Ashton, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy and vice president of the European Commission. Wait, didn’t the European Union receive the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize? And was it not the will of Alfred Nobel to recognize “the person who shall have done most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”? The answer to both questions is yes. Previous Nobel Peace Laureates Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire co-authored a letter stating that the EU was “clearly not one of the ‘champions of peace’ Alfred Nobel had in mind,” adding that the EU condones “security based on military force and waging wars rather than insisting on the need for an alternative approach.” The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama also caused considerable controversy as he admitted himself. In his acceptance speech Obama noted: “So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace.” No Mr. President, and no Ms. Ashton. This is not what Alfred Nobel had in mind with when he wrote his will.
The entire article by Ashton is so misguided that it is hard to focus on one part. Should we talk about the immorality of Western global power projection, the ineffectiveness of military versus nonviolent alternatives, the myth of the “defense” sector as a job creator or corporate interests in building “defense” machinery? Apparently it would have been nice from Ashton’s European Union perspective to have more of their own air tankers refuel the fighter jets while bombing the country of Libya to get rid of a dictator. It is troubling that Ms. Ashton seriously is using the Libyan example as a success story. All alarm bells should be ringing by now.
Unfortunately Catherine Ashton, a diplomat at the highest level of the European Union, merges the need for international law enforcement and the prosecution of war criminals with the need for military power and domination. Unfortunately she proposes to treat the symptoms while at the same time projecting military power. Unfortunately she considers strengthened military capacities as vital to build a more peaceful world. Unfortunately she is telling us that the EU has not abandoned its identity as a peace project while promoting peace through military strength.
We need to eradicate this skewed defense and security paradigm built upon the belief that peace and security should be pursued through military force. Security of the European Union unfortunately is defined in relation to military power and its global projection -- does this sound familiar? This view is created and maintained by those who benefit from legitimizing direct or structural violence -- violence which kills or social structures which prevent people from fulfilling their basic needs.
Author and peace studies professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer helps us move toward a more authentic concept of security. He distinguishes between protection of interests and authentic security. The first one is supported by offensive militarism. Nelson-Pallmeyer writes: “Militarism is not defense. Defending interests isn’t the same thing as defending legitimate security needs.” The second one based on the idea that leaders “take steps to keep families, homes, neighborhoods, and nation safe and secure.” Which one would you chose?
Or let us look at human security as another concept which outweighs Ashton’s EU proposal. Jody Williams, who received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her work to ban landmines believes that peace is defined by human and not national security and that is must be achieved through sustainable development, environmental justice and meeting people’s basic needs (2011 Ted Talk). Mairead Maguire, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her action to help end the violence in Northern Ireland continues to speak out against the institutions of militarism and war. Both those extraordinary women know violent conflict and its consequences.
A Nobel Peace Prize is not necessarily a Nobel Peace Prize. Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Desmond Tutu and Adolfo Perez Esquivel have the moral and intellectual authority to inform us what about the necessary steps toward peace and security. They certainly do not involve instruments of war as President Obama suggests or preparing for battles as Catherine Ashton suggests.
Patrick. T. Hiller, Ph.D., Hood River, OR, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Conflict Transformation scholar, professor, on the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association, and Director of the War Prevention Initiative of the Jubitz Family Foundation.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
The conservative UK-based Centre for Policy Studies recently published a study on the climate change impacts of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for shale gas. The skinny: it's yet another case study of "frackademia," and the co-authors have a financial stake in the upstart Chinese fracking industry.
Titled "Why Every Serious Environmentalist Should Favour Fracking" and co-authored by Richard Muller and his daughter Elizabeth "Liz" Muller, it concludes that fracking's climate change impacts are benign, dismissing many scientific studies coming to contrary conclusions.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
In an interview with DeSmogBlog, Richard Muller — a self-proclaimed "converted skeptic" on climate change — said he and Liz had originally thought of putting together this study "about two years ago."
"We quickly realized that natural gas could be a very big player," he said. "The reasons had to do with China and the goal of the paper is to get the environmentalists to recognize that they need to support responsible fracking."
The ongoing debate over fracking in the UK served as the impetus behind the Centre for Policy Studies — a non-profit co-founded by former right-wing British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1974 — hosting this report on its website, according to Richard Muller.
"They asked for it because some environmentalists are currently opposing fracking in the UK, and they wanted us to share our perspective that fracking is not only essential for human health but its support can be justified for humanitarian purposes," he said.
This isn't the first time Liz Muller has unapologetically sung the praises of fracking and promoted bringing the practice to China. In April, she penned an op-ed in The New York Times titled, "China Must Exploit Its Shale Gas."
By Stephen Zunes
Carl Gibson and Steve Horn have done an important service in writing their article outlining Srdja Popovic’s inexcusable collaboration with the global intelligence company STRATFOR and his disclosure of the activities of movements and activists with whom he has worked. Unfortunately, as will be spelled out below, the article falls into a rather simplistic and reductionist analysis of Popovic’s motivations and, more critically, misrepresents the nature of the popular uprisings in Serbia and other countries. The article also contains a number of factual errors and misleading statements.
I have not had time to review all of the emails and other information regarding communication between STRATFOR and Popovic and the emails within STRATFOR regarding Popovic and his Belgrade-based organization, the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS.) There are some analyses which offer a more benign explanation for this collaboration than those of Gibson and Horn, but I do not find them convincing. I am assuming, therefore, Gibson and Horn’s depiction of the relationship between STRATFOR and Popovic is mostly accurate, which is very disturbing to say the least.
Even prior to the recent revelations, some of Popovic’s activities were being increasingly recognized as problematic within the network of educators, activists, trainers and other proponents of strategic nonviolent action, including many of us who had worked with him in the past. Many of us were becoming concerned that, despite some very valuable contributions he and his colleagues at CANVAS have made to the field, Popovic appeared to be increasingly into self-promotion and lacking much discernment regarding those with whom he was willing to work.
Unlike the vast majority of individuals and organizations which have engaged in workshops and trainings in strategic nonviolent action, Popovic and CANVAS had no trouble accepting money from U.S.-government funded agencies like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) which often targeted not just dictatorships, but sometimes democratically-elected leftist governments as well. Instead of simply providing generic information on the history and dynamics of nonviolent action, Popovic and CANVAS would often offer direct advice to opposition groups when asked, something most trainers and workshop leaders are careful to avoid. They also received criticism for a “one size fits all” approach based upon their experiences in the popular uprising against the Milosevic regime in Serbia, failing to fully appreciate the unique dynamics of the struggles within each country.
As a result of these and other concerns, a number of organizations that had collaborated with CANVAS in the past had distanced themselves from Popovic and his organization some years earlier. Since the revelations regarding Popovic’s collaboration with STRATFOR have been made public, additional individuals and organizations have severed their ties to Popovic and CANVAS as well. The disappointment at these revelations stems not only from his willingness to work with an organization which such close ties to military, intelligence and corporate entities, but his passing on the names of pro-democracy activists and information about their activities constitutes a grievous violation of trust. Indeed, the first rule for any of us who have ever worked with people struggling against repressive governments is to keep the names of participants and any information we learn from them confidential.
Popovic has also received criticism for grossly overstating the role he and CANVAS have played in supporting various popular struggles, which many in the Western media were eager to exaggerate as well. This, unfortunately, fell right into the hands of autocratic regimes and their apologists which have tried to deny that popular protests against them were based on legitimate grievances, but was instead the work of “outside agitators.” Meanwhile, in an apparent effort to distract attention from their support for various dictatorships and occupation armies, some Western governments would also exaggerate the significance of their limited support for some of CANVAS’s work and other opposition activities against autocratic regimes they didn’t like. Ironically, the Gibson and Horn article have naively bought into this very narrative of exaggerating the impact of Popovic and CANVAS.
As wrong as Popovic’s actions may have been, it is inaccurate and unfair to portray him as supporter of U.S. imperialism. He is a left-of-center Serbian nationalist who passionately opposed the NATO bombing of his country in 1999 and is outraged at U.S. support for Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. He has been vehement in his opposition to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has spoken at anti-war rallies in the United States and elsewhere. His workshops and trainings have worked with anti-government activists from more than forty countries, many of which have opposed the U.S. government or U.S.-backed governments. Popovic and others in CANVAS have worked with Palestinians and Western Saharans struggling against occupation by U.S.-backed governments and they have worked with pro-democracy activists opposing U.S.-backed regimes in Egypt, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, and elsewhere. In the United States, Popovic and other CANVAS staff have done trainings for anti-war, immigrant rights, economic justice, trade union, and other activists. The vast majority of their workshops have received no backing from any government or government-funded entities.
This in no way excuses Popovic’s collaboration with STRATFOR, his willingness to accept funding from the U.S. government and government-funded organizations, his trainings of right-wing oppositionists of democratically-elected governments, or any other legitimate criticisms. However, to imply he is simply a tool for U.S. hegemonic aspirations is unfair and inaccurate. Popovic believes more in himself than in any ideology and is more concerned with self-promotion than promoting U.S. imperialism.
If NED or IRI will pay him to lead a workshop for right-wing Venezuelans, he will do so, but he is and has always been willing to lead workshops for those on the left as well.
Otpor! and the Uprising Against Milosevic
A more serious problem with Gibson and Horn’s article, however, is in its misleading and inaccurate portrayal of Otpor—the student-led pro-democracy group in Serbia which emerged in the late 1990s to challenge the militaristic and semi-autocratic regime of Slobodan Milosevic—as some kind of Western conspiracy. The people of Serbia, particularly those on the left, had serious problems with Milosevic’s role in provoking and prosecuting the Balkan wars of that decade which resulted in the deaths of nearly a quarter million people, his dismantling of Tito’s socialist legacy for a corrupt crony capitalism, his alliance with far right ethnic chauvinists, and his suppression of legitimate dissent. In their description of the 2000 popular uprising against Milosevic and similar popular uprisings during that period, however, Gibson and Horn effectively deny the indigenous roots of these rebellions and grossly exaggerate the role of the United States. Not content to leave well enough alone in their important and valuable exposure of Popovic’s misdeeds, they unfortunately distract attention from these revelations and raise questions about their own credibility by effectively re-writing history with a series of questionable and demonstrably false claims
For example, Gibson and Horn describe Otpor simply as “the U.S.-funded Serbian activist group” and imply that Otpor’s existence was part of a U.S. conspiracy to bring down an anti-American regime. It was hardly that simple, however. As one Otpor veteran put it in describing their decision to accept money from foreign sources, “It was a tough choice, but important choices are never easy. These countries bombed us – talking to the representatives of their governments and heads of their foundations was not without discomfort. But the decision to look for support abroad was informed by the understanding that the only people who had money in Serbia at that time were war profiteers and war criminals. All money in the country was bloody. Confronted by that reality, foreign support seemed the lesser evil.”
Gibson and Horn’s analysis of the uprisings in Serbia and Ukraine essentially denies human agency, coming across as a left-wing equivalent of Ronald Reagan’s insistence that the Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala experienced leftist revolutions because they were on a “Soviet hit list” and not because of the oppression and injustice of U.S.-backed military dictatorships. In reality, receiving some funding from the NED or other U.S.-funded agencies doesn’t make a revolution a creation of Washington any more than receiving Soviet bloc arms made a revolution a creation of Moscow.
As Ivan Marovic, a left-wing activist in Otpor who has been critical of Popovic, has disparaged the tendency of some self-described anti-imperialists in the United States when they “see US involvement, however small, in a country experiencing unrest” to “totally disregard the local context and put it in the American context.” This tendency to place the United States at the center of everything, notes Marovic, actually indicates “an imperialist state of mind.”
Indeed, most of the Otpor leaders were veterans of the 1996-97 student protests which not only did not receive any Western support, but took place during the time when the Clinton administration was supporting Milosevic, considering him a “factor of stability” in the Balkans and a guarantor of the U.S.-brokered Dayton Accords which ended the war in Bosnia in late 1995. When these Serbian activists created Otpor a couple years later, they engaged in major organizing efforts for many months, often in the face of serious repression by the Milosevic regime, prior to receiving any outside assistance. As Marovic noted, “We didn’t have an office for the first year – and when we got one, it wasn’t Bill Clinton who offered us a small apartment, but an activist’s mother.” Their decision of whether and how to apply the tools of strategic nonviolent action to their struggle was theirs and theirs alone. While eventually willing to take Western money, they generally ignored any advice.
To defend their downplaying of the Serbian uprising’s indigenous roots, Gibson and Horn resort to quoting Australian-based Trotskyist Michael Barker’s assertion that the stridently anti-American Serbian political leader Vojislav Kostunica—who won the 2000 election against Milosevic that the incumbent unsuccessfully tried to steal—was actually Washington’s “favoured candidate” chosen to “promote a neoliberal vision for Serbia.” In reality, the U.S. had actually been cultivating other opposition leaders who were far more sympathetic to U.S. political and economic interests to replace Milosevic. Kostunica, by contrast, was an outspoken nationalist who opposed NATO, the United States, and the European Union. Furthermore, Milosevic was responsible for far more privatization during his time in office than was Kostunica during his presidency. Barker, who has never been to Serbia and has little background in the Balkans, is notorious for his conspiracy-mongering and has a long history of falsely accusing a number of prominent leftists (myself included) who don’t follow his line of having CIA ties. It is disappointing, therefore, that Gibson and Horn decided to cite him instead of people who are actually familiar with the region. (In addition, Barker’s article from which they quote was not in Z Magazine, as they claim, but on the ZNet bloggers’ space on which virtually anyone can write. Z editor Michael Albert has acknowledged the inaccuracy of a number of Barker’s rants on his blog, but emphasizes they are not edited or even monitored that closely and that neither he nor other Z editors are responsible for their content.)
STRATFOR Doesn’t Get It
The fact is that STRATFOR, like almost everyone else involved in U.S. military, intelligence, and diplomatic operations, have little understanding of popular struggles. Their view of power is top-down and state-centric, with little respect of the power of ordinary people to create change. Indeed, it’s rather odd that Gibson and Horn appropriately depict STRATFOR as being duplicitous, but then rely on statements by their officials as evidence to make their case against Popovic and CANVAS. Like most groups in the military/intelligence complex, the analysts at STRATFOR just don’t get how strategic nonviolent action or how it works. For example, the leaks reveal their simplistic understanding in their description of CANVAS: “They just go and set up shop in a country and try to bring the government down.” In reality, CANVAS never has had more than one office, which has always been based in Belgrade and employs less than a half dozen people. More importantly, it is the oppressed people of the country in question that are responsible for bringing down a dictatorship, not a handful of outsiders.
STRATFOR’s ignorance is further revealed in another quote Gibson and Horn cite, in which they claim that the CANVAS trainers “basically go around the world trying to topple dictators and autocratic governments (ones that U.S. does not like.)” First of all, outside trainers have never been responsible for toppling governments. Governments which fall to civil insurrections do so because of a combination of their lack of popular support and the much stronger support of opposition movements. Good strategic thinking is important in any struggle, and the CANVAS workshops may have been helpful in enabling some activists to think better along these lines, but it is not CANVAS that tries to topple governments; it is popular social movements. Secondly, as outlined above, neither Popovic nor CANVAS cares if a dictatorship is liked or not liked by the U.S. government. They have worked with activists opposing both pro- and anti-American regimes. Personally, I wish they had not worked with some of those in the latter category, but the evidence strongly suggests that their motivations were more opportunistic than hegemonic.
My studies of unarmed insurrections indicate that outsiders really don’t make much of a difference in the success or failure of a movement. For example, the dozen or so Egyptian activists who attended CANVAS workshops were not significant figures in the uprising against Mubarak and a number of the other activists I interviewed found their contributions unhelpful in terms of the situation in Egypt. Despite this, there are those who want to credit (or blame) Popovic and CANVAS for the January 25 revolution. (Similarly, I’ve come across two websites which, citing a seminar which I helped lead in Cairo back in 2007, have claimed that I was personally responsible for the Egyptian revolution! Like those who exaggerate the influence of Popovic and CANVAS in Egypt and other countries in the Global South, such claims appear to be based on a racist mentality that people of color are incapable of organizing or strategizing for their own liberation and it is only through the influence or white people—intellectuals like Gene Sharp, trainers like Popovic or hybrids like me—can they suddenly become agents of change.)
And, while I am certainly bothered by the fact that CANVAS has worked with some of the right-wing oppositionists in Venezuela, I’m not particularly worried about it. The kind of nonviolent uprisings that CANVAS advocates can only succeed if the movement has a sizable majority of people on their side. Whatever legitimate complaints some Venezuelans may have of Hugo Chavez and his successor, few want to return to the rule of the old oligarchs. Doing a weekend workshop for twenty or so young bourgeois Venezuelans is no threat to the Bolivarian Revolution. In any case, in Venezuela or anywhere else, information on strategic nonviolent action is plenty available online and they don’t need Popovic or CANVAS to learn about it.
Inaccurate and Misleading Statements
It is not just the analysis in the Gibson and Horn article that is disappointing and distracts from their important exposé of Popovic’s interactions with STRATFOR, it’s the demonstrably false and misleading assertions which appear in the latter part of the article.
For example, let’s look at their claim that “Otpor! was so successful that it was ushered into Ukraine to help manufacture regime change there in 2004, using the template applied originally in Serbia with $65 million in cash from the U.S. government.”
First of all, it was not Otpor—which had been dissolved by that time—that was invited to Ukraine, but a small and now defunct Serbian group called the Center for Nonviolent Resistance (CNR). Secondly, they were invited to Ukraine by some elements of the Ukrainian opposition; they were not ushered in by the U.S. government. Thirdly, the $65 million was the total given to all opposition activities in Ukraine, not what was provided to the Serbian trainers, which was no more than a few thousand dollars. More importantly, the December 2004 uprising in Ukraine was not a case of “regime change;” it was a successful demand to have a new election after evidence emerged that that the previous election had been stolen. Finally, it was not “manufactured;” it was a popular uprising in which millions of Ukrainians took to the streets and braved sub-zero temperatures to demand that their votes be fairly counted.
(As a leftist, I didn’t find the opposition coalition in Ukraine much better than the incumbent government it defeated in the second round of the elections. To their credit, the opposition which led the Orange Revolution rejected their predecessor’s call for the Ukraine to join NATO, withdrew Ukrainian forces from Iraq, allowed for greater civil liberties and lessened state repression, but it was essentially one group of elites versus another. The bottom line, however, is that neither Serbs nor Americans had much to do with what has transpired in that country of 45 million people.)
Other information Gibson and Horn cite is also conveniently misleading. For example, they note that “Popovic’s wife worked at one of the U.S.-funded radio and TV outlets as a journalist and anchor B92 from 2004-2009.” However, they fail to note that U.S. funding for B92 ended a number of years prior to her working at the radio station and her tenure at the station ended well prior to their getting married. (Interestingly, despite being informed of this, they failed to note that Popovic’s mother worked for the official state television under Milosevic and narrowly escaped death when the U.S. bombed it in 1999—one of the many reasons Popovic opposed the bombing of his country—presumably because his mother’s media affiliation didn’t fit into their narrative as well as his future wife’s media affiliation.)
Another example of Gibson and Horn’s misleading narrative is in their mention of Michael McFaul, who—despite being one of the more liberal members of Obama’s foreign policy team when he served in the National Security Council—is described as having met Popovic “while serving as a Senior Fellow at the right-wing Hoover Institution.” While Hoover has certainly been the home base of quite a few prominent conservatives over the years and its political center of the gravity has long leaned to the right, the institute is part of Stanford University and has included academics of a variety of political persuasions. McFaul’s primary affiliation was as a professor in Stanford’s political science department, not his post at Hoover.
In light of a spate of bizarre conspiracy theories regarding nonviolent action theorist Gene Sharp some years ago, a number of prominent anti-imperialist scholars and activists—including the late Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Paul Engler, Frida Berrigan, Elizabeth McAllister, Paul Ortiz, Greg Guma, Stephen Shalom, Sandino Gomez, George Lakey, Marc Pilisuk, Anne Wright, Mark Lance, Philippe Duhamel, and Stellan Vinthagen, among scores of others—signed a letter in his defense. The signatories called on progressives to “continue to struggle against U.S. imperialism in all of its manifestations,” but to reject false allegations against those promoting the use of strategic nonviolent action and to “support popular democratic movements engaging in nonviolent action in the cause of human rights and social justice in the United States and throughout the world.” As they noted,
“Those who attempt to dismiss recent popular nonviolent struggles against autocratic regimes as somehow being instigated and controlled by Western powers invalidate the ability of the millions of people who have placed their bodies on the line for freedom and justice to think for themselves or play a decisive role in determining their own nations’ future. The United States is no more responsible for the recent nonviolent liberal democratic revolutions in Eastern Europe than the Soviet Union was responsible for earlier armed leftist revolutions in Central America.
“Every successful popular nonviolent insurrection has been rooted in the belief by the majority of people that their rulers were illegitimate and the current political system was incapable of redressing injustice, thereby no longer deserving their obedience or cooperation. Unlike a military coup or other
U.S.-backed efforts at ‘regime change,’ it is virtually impossible for any nonviolent insurrection to succeed when the movement’s leadership and agenda does not have the backing of the majority of the population.
“The popular nonviolent uprisings which led to the overthrow of corrupt and undemocratic regimes in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine– like similar movements which ousted U.S.-backed dictatorships in the Philippines, Chile, Mali, Bolivia, and other countries in previous decades – were a result of independent actions by the people of those nations struggling for their rights. As a result, neither Gene Sharp nor any other foreign individual, organization or government deserves the credit or the blame for their victories.
“Nonviolent struggle has historically been the weapon of the poor and disenfranchised through which they can gain an advantage over powerful and wealthy elites whose capacity to use violence against them is usually far superior. It is therefore ironic that some of those who view themselves as champions of oppressed peoples mischaracterize these popular nonviolent movements simply as tools of U.S. imperialism and global capital.”
It is unfortunate, therefore, that the important revelations in Gibson and Horn’s article regarding Srdja Popovic’s dealings with STRATFOR were so compromised by their lack of understanding of this phenomenon.
Stephen Zunes is a professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco.
Germany had planned to buy a fleet of "Euro Hawk" killer drones -- perhaps in an effort to bring the European Union up to speed with certain other Nobel Peace laureates.
But something happened on the way to the celestial colosseum.
Of course, Captain Drone Man himself undoubtedly learned the news first, unless the NSA misplaced some of Frau Merkel's emails under a pile of exchanges among nonviolent activists planning the upcoming drone summit in DC.
What happened was public pressure within a nation dedicated to peace and -- at the moment -- more resistant than Japan to being turned back toward war. Germany has now said nein, nein, and hell nein to killer flying robots. And not just to the use of weaponized drones within what Americans might call Der Homeland, but to Germany's use of remote control murder planes against human beings anywhere on earth.
Earlier this month at the United Nations, several nations, including most prominently Brazil, denounced the criminality of murdering people around the globe with drones. Now Germany has taken a serious step in the direction of condemning armed drones to the status of land mines, poison gas, and nuclear weapons. If Germany can do it, we can all do it. And the scene in this video can go global:
How Europeans Are Opposing Drone and Robot Warfare: An Overview of the Anti-Drone Movement in Europe
So far only three countries are known to have used armed combat drones to carry out attacks: Israel, the US, and the UK. But this could soon change.
Analysts see demand for military UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones) quadrupling over the next decade. Global spending on drone technology is expected to jump from an estimated $6.6 billion this year to $11.4 billion in 2022. Israeli weapons manufacturers have long been actively marketing military drones to other countries, and in the fall of 2012, the US announced that as many as 66 countries would be eligible to buy US drones under new Defense Department guidelines. However, the US Congress and State Department have final approval of drone exports on a case-by- case basis and have denied the request of NATO-partner Turkey to purchase Predator drones because of ongoing tensions between Turkey and Israel. Soon, however, countries that cannot obtain US or Israeli drones may be able to purchase them from weapons manufacturers in other countries such as China and South Africa.
European weapons manufacturers also seek a share of the drone market, not only for European military use, but also for export to other countries. Though it will likely be many years before a European-made combat drone will be operable, defense departments of several European countries are seeking to acquire for their arsenals US or Israeli combat drones capable of carrying weapons for targeted killing.
Italy requested US permission to weaponize the Italian fleet of six US Reaper two years ago. In May 2012, the Obama administration announced that it would soon notify the US Congress of plans to sell Italy "weaponization" kits, a move that, according to the Wall Street Journal, "could open the door for sales of advanced hunter-killer drone technology to other allies." But so far there have been no reports that approval to Italy has yet been granted.
In May 2013, France announced the purchase two unarmed US Reaper drones for the intervention in Mali, and the drones could later be armed. Holland is already using drones extensively for domestic police surveillance and is reportedly considering purchase of US Reaper drones for military purposes. And the German Bundeswehr, which some years ago leased three Israeli Heron drones for surveillance in Afghanistan, is now negotiating with the US and Israel to acquire armed combat drones.
Read the rest at Truthout.
The British government is refusing to grant visas to three Pakistani drone strike victims, including Noor Khan, who is suing the UK over its role in intelligence-sharing with the CIA. All three men had been invited to speak at a Parliamentary meeting on drones that was scheduled to take place today. Last week, the Rehman family - whose grandmother was killed in a drone strike - travelled to the US to speak at a drone strike having been granted visas.
Noor Khan has launched legal action over the British Government’s refusal to come clean on its policy of providing intelligence to support the CIA’s covert drone war. Reports have stated that GCHQ shares intelligence with the US in support of their drone programme, which is considered to violate international law.
Noor Khan was to be accompanied by Kareem Khan, whose son and brother were killed in a strike on News Year’s Eve 2009. Kareem Khan is, along with his lawyers the Foundation for Fundamental Rights and Reprieve, suing Jonathan Banks, the former CIA Station Chief in Pakistan, and John Rizzo, former CIA General Counsel, for the murder of his son and brother. Noor Behram, a journalist who has been investigating and photographing drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan for almost six years, was also scheduled to attend.
Mr Khan, Mr Behram, and Mr Khan were due to speak at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on drones hosted by MP Tom Watson, who had written letters supporting their visa applications. They were to be joined on a panel by Robert Greenwald, a US documentary filmmaker whose new film, Unmanned, profiles the men’s stories.
Cori Crider, Reprieve’s Strategic Director, said: "It is an unfortunate coincidence that David Cameron is refusing to grant a visa to the very same man who is suing his government over its role in the drone strike that killed his father. Just last week the Rehman family were able to tell their story to the US yet the UK seems unwilling to extend a similar courtesy to these three victims of the drone programme. The British government must reconsider and grant the men visas."
MP Tom Watson, said: "It's very disppointing that visas have not been granted in time for the drone victims invited by the APPG on drones to speak today. Last week the Rehman family travelled to the US and testified to Congress about their grandmother who was killed by a CIA drone. The UK must allow Noor Khan and other survivors into the country so that we too can hear these lost voices."
By Dave Lindorff
A revealing page-one article in today’s New York Times (“Tap on Merkel Provides Peek a Vast Spy Net”) reports on how the NSA’s global spying program, dating back at least to early in the Bush/Cheney administration, was vacuuming up the phone conversations (and no doubt later the internet communications) of not just leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but opposition leader Merkel before her party took power in Germany.
Johan Galtung | Inter Press Service
A very clear message from the Southeastern part of the world to the Northwestern part: Stop It! All your rules of war add up to its legitimation: wars get ever worse as measured by the percentage of non-combatant, civilian casualties – from about 10 percent in World War I to 90 percent in the Vietnam war and other wars at the end of the 20th century. They dare refer to crimes as “unintended consequences” or “collateral damage”.
Take Norway, a “peace nation”, as an example, not the United States and Israel with their concept of being chosen, and their exceptionalism. See what Norway does against the spirit of U.N. Security Council resolution 1973 aimed at protecting civilians, promoting a cease-fire and mediating a political solution in Libya. And against U.N. Charter Article 2 outlawing the use of war.
According to testimony given by pilots to the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, 25 percent of the bombing was planned with targets selected in advance. The rest were chosen by the pilots who, 40,000 feet up, decided that buildings, roads and people they saw were targets: “We were told to fly into an enormous area the size of Southern Norway and search for targets ourselves. We were used to clearance from somebody on the ground, but did not get it.”
But they did get regime change. Norway obeyed orders, doing its part.
This is criminal activity, like mass murderers gone amok shooting wildly, killing whatever moves. Who ordered it? The Labour Party prime minister, foreign minister and defence minister in a “red-green” (meaning brown) coalition. Who did it? The pilots.
According to the Nuremberg Tribunal, the latter cannot claim they only followed orders; and according to the Tokyo Tribunal the former cannot claim that they were unaware of what happened. It is the duty of the pilots to assess the legality of what happens, and of the politicians to know what happens.
The case is now being made at the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, the International Criminal Court (where Norway does not enjoy U.S. protection), and the Norwegian Constitutional Court.
They will encounter incomprehension in Norway: We, the perfect ones? Crimes?
But we must globalise crimes against humanity – a crime committed somewhere is a crime committed everywhere, like in the case of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
A criminal can in the future be arrested in any state in the world, extradited or tried where he is arrested. The Mother of parliaments in London showed the way as it also did for the war in Syria; a solvable crisis.
This would limit their freedom of travel as it already does for some top U.S. and Israeli politicians. But beyond that there is another approach: excommunicating such states from the inter-state system and the U.N., breaking or downgrading bilateral diplomatic relations.
Trade is not the issue; state legitimacy, unless that state itself takes action indicting the “warlords”, is. The present system gives a U.S. president the right almost single-handedly to press the nuclear button.
Where does this madness come from? From the Westphalia 1648 “peace” giving states the right to declare war?
That does not explain the concentration of the “right” to engage in mass murder at the top of the state pyramid.
The Abrahamic god kills massively – more in the Torah and the Bible than in the Qur’an; to be a King Dei gratia, by the grace of god, bestows the same right on kings, transferred to their successors – the presidents and prime ministers.
Not strange that we find most belligerence in the West. Democracy or not, it does not matter. The “grace of god” was transferred to the people, in vox populi vox Dei, leading to the grotesque idea that democracies have more of a mandate to kill. As if democracy was about killing and not about the non-violent transfer of power and resolution of conflicts. The exact opposite of, and the remedies, to war and killing.
We are moving in this direction. As inter-state war become more rare, wars will stand out as exceptional, illegitimate, and illegal under the U.N. Charter.
The old laws of nations applied to inter-state wars, but that distinction loses its significance as the world evolves. R2P – “responsibility to protect” (which authorises military intervention as a last resort) – kills in the territory of other states, unlike self-defence by defensive military in one’s own.
Could ulterior motives be behind the dubious idea of killing people to save people? Have all other means really been used? Not diplomats trained in promoting the interests of their own nation, but massive non-violent invasion from the outside as a buffer, protecting some while impeding others?
Deep mediation applied to all parties to the conflict, not only two chosen to fit the Abrahamic search for God vs Satan, translated into People vs Hitler and his likes; readily issuing Hitler-certificates?
Not strange if patriarchy and patriotism are yielding to parity and globalism. The Fifth Commandment, Thou shalt not kill, was for in-group only. But today we are ever more one big in-group.
Using states to kill makes the killers outlaws. Criminals. Stop it.
10am (registrations from 9am) Emmanuel Centre, Westminster, London
The year 2013 will be remembered as the year when a British prime minister was defeated in his attempt to launch another war. The historic parliamentary vote in August which narrowly opposed air strikes on Syria forced David Cameron onto the back foot and has forced imminent overt military intervention there off the agenda.
What implications does this have for questions of war and peace? The declining superpower, the United States, is facing growing military and economic challenges, but will respond with more militarism and war.
Obama is sending more military resources to encircle China, and while the Middle East remains a key US preoccupation, the West is ramping up its military presence on the African continent.
Imperialism and war are the themes of this Stop the War conference. We have campaigners and speakers from across the globe who will be in London on 30th November. We will discuss NATO's wars, the history of British imperialism, the wars in Africa, what's happening in the Middle East and much more. This conference is a vital opportunity to analyse and debate the fast changing and dangerous situation and plan how best to step up opposition to the West's imperial wars.
Jeremy Scahill | Diane Abbott MP | Tariq Ali | Tony Benn | Jonathan Steele | Owen Jones | Manik Mukherjee | Lindsey German | Mitra Qayoom | Kate Hudson | Andrew Murray | Sami Ramadani
Tickets cost £15/£10
Why I won't wear a red poppy on Remembrance Day
By Lindsey German
It's that time of year again. The poppy appeal has been launched in the run up to Remembrance Day. But I won't be wearing one. Instead my poppy will be white, as a symbol of peace.
Remembrance Day is on November 11th, to mark the date on which the carnage of the First World War ended. The red poppy was adopted as the symbol of remembrance because of the large numbers of those flowers that flourished in some of the most deadly battlefields ever seen.
For much of the nearly 100 years since remembrance began, the symbol and associated ceremonies have been low key, without much wider political significance. All that has changed in recent years. It's hard not to see the present poppy appeals as highly politicised. The events are organised by the British legion. The slogan this year is 'Shoulder to Shoulder with all who serve.'
Stop the War is now selling white poppies for remembrance day through the Stop the War web site
- Buy online now or call 020 7561 4830
No Glory: The Real History of the First World War
Available now: a new 36-page pamphlet by historian Neil Faulkner looks at the real reasons for the outbreak of the First World War. This pamphlet is part of the No Glory campaign.
No Glory in War 1914-1918 is a national campaign of political, cultural, and educational activities that aim to tell the truth about the First World War, to oppose ‘nationalist’ interpretations of the conflict, and to use the occasion to remember the dead, learn the lessons, and promote international solidarity and peace. For more information, go to www.noglory.org
- The First World War today
- Their history and ours
- How it started
- Could it have been stopped?
- Were the generals to blame?
- Total war
- How it ended
- A peace to end all peace
- A century of war (and counting)
- Open letter
Cost: £4 (the monthly wage of a married World War One soldier, with three children - and the cost of a pint of beer today). Postage is £1.
For wholesale enquiries please call Stop the War on 020 7561 4830.
Written by Dong-Kyun Kang (guest post)
"I am Dong-Kyun Kang, the Mayor of a small village called Gangjeong in Jeju. I am so grateful for this opportunity to speak to you. It’s very meaningful. So far, I’ve heard many stories from around the world which make me very scared and worried for our descendants.
Given that fresh spring water is such a precious and scarce resource on Jeju island, the 450 year old village of Gangjeong situated in the southern part of the island was always the envy of other villages as its possession of an abundant spring water supply which always flowed freely ensured it was always ranked first among Jeju’s villages.
During the construction of the naval base, many international activists have visited Gangjeong and others in the process have been denied entry and deported. Other peace activists have been prevented from leaving the country. I’m keenly aware and saddened that many have suffered from many forms of repression and for their sacrifice I feel so grateful and promise to stand with you in solidarity.
You’ve now seen that in recent history there have been two major events in Korea – in 1948 and 1950. As you are aware there was the major upheaval of the 1950 Korean War which broke out in June 25 – a tumultuous national tragedy. One could be forgiven for thinking that this was a family feud that led to the country being divided but the reality was that the war was the result of an ideological battle between the major powers at the time and Korea was its victim. This continues until the present time.
The April 3, 1948 Jeju uprising led to the brutal suppression of the population by state security forces which resulted in the massacre of the islanders of Jeju and behind the slaughter was the US government, the self-proclaimed keeper of the peace! A conservative estimate puts the number who died from the mass killings at over 30,000 out of a population of 280,000 people at that time.
Fortunately, in 2005 President Roh apologized on behalf of the state to the people of Jeju and acknowledged for the very first time the states brutal suppression and massacre of the people of Jeju. He went on to declare Jeju as an ‘island of world peace’.
Peace can only be sustained through peaceful means. Peace obtained through force and violent means is not sustainable and in time will be forced to surrender to a larger force or power. However, I believe that dialogue and mutual understanding between people who work together in mutual respect to build a sustainable future is the key to a sustainable peace.
The location of Korea positioned in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and particularly the strategic location of Jeju Island is key to understanding its strategic importance to the world’s major powers. However, behind the construction of the naval base in Jeju is the US government. Will Jeju genuinely remain an island of peace or an island of military bases heightening tensions between the world’s major powers? This is a central question that needs addressing.
The naval base project is a national security project. I think one defines genuine national policy as seeking to put the interests of its citizens and their happiness and genuine well-being first and foremost. Likewise national security is not only about the state’s administration and its military but should seek to ensure genuine human security for all its citizens. Genuine national policy and national security should seek to secure the confidence and trust of all its citizens which in turn forms the true pillar and foundation for its policies. Working together hand in hand with the people should be the central tenet of its policies.
Aside from the naval base construction creating the strong possibility of a situation of crisis for Korea and Jeju into the future, the village community of Gangjeong is being destroyed with its people being evicted. With the construction of the naval base the navy claims that the national security of the state is its primary objective followed by the economic development of the region and its third objective – the navy and residents coexisting in mutual cooperation and to the benefit of all. However, the construction of the naval base rather than enhancing and bolstering national security will have the opposite effect of increasing already existing tensions between global powers in the region resulting in Jeju being caught in the crosshairs of conflict in the future. How therefore can the building of a naval base bolster regional economic development in such a tense and dangerous environment?
The state in implementing its policies should first consult the people who will likely be impacted the most and endeavour to seek the consent of its citizens through due process which is the most important consideration and an important building block of any democratic society. Even with the project underway listening courteously to and reflecting on the opinions of the other is surely important in trying to achieve real cooperation. The need for transparency in implementing state projects is paramount. However, the naval base has been enforced from the beginning without any consultation on the decision making process and devoid of any semblance of transparency leaving the Gangjeong villagers in the dark about what was going on. Those villagers opposed to the base are in the process of having their lands expropriated without any dialogue or due process of consultation. The villagers are completely perplexed and dismayed by the conflict that has arisen in their village with the naval base decision having separated families and divided parents with siblings becoming enemies and yesterday’s friends becoming today’s enemies resulting in the collapse of the community.
Fully aware of the stark implications of proceeding with plans to build the base the central government and navy planned and designed the base together with the backing of the US government. As a means of promoting the base and quashing any form of dissent, protestors have been treated with great hostility and denounced as leftists and North Korean sympathizers by the military. The brutal enforcement of the base with complete disrespect and arrogance has resulted in the military losing whatever respect it may once have had.
Together with the mobilization of the police and state power is the major issue of the lack of due legal process and the arrests of over 700 activists, charges having been filed against 400 activists with 25 cases of activists having been imprisoned to date. There has to be a fair way to resolve such conflicts but the legal system and court process has failed to provide this.
With the full power of the police state brought to bear on villagers and activists alike it is undeniable that people will get hurt as they are literally being dragged away like animals battered and bruised. However the courageous and brave efforts of so many over the course of a 7 year long struggle are not in vain but are the source of a precious groundwork that is the basis for a bright future for Gangjeong and Korea alike. These continuing efforts will continue to bear fruit long into the future.
The majestic natural environment of Jeju is commonly referred to as beauty inherited from the gods and is home to the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and three UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites. In 2012 The New Wonders Foundation voted Jeju Island as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. In September 2012 the World Conservation Congress opened in Jeju where it was hoped that it would promote the international consensus of Jeju as a ‘World Environmental Capital City’. However, this ideal is being undermined by the destruction of the environment caused by the building of the naval base which is a grave threat to genuine national security.
Some concluding remarks.
The 7 year long struggle has left many exhausted and bruised after enduring much pain and suffering along the way. There have been moments of despair but the determination to struggle and defend our village and home and pass it on to future generations has been the enduring legacy and mainstay of the struggle and has been a sacred calling. A new hope springs from the end of despair. This new hope comes from people seeking their true human fulfilment as beings living in harmony with nature, living together in peace.
Instead of Jeju being designated an island of military installations we will work to ensure that it will be known as an island of peace, an island of natural beauty and conservation. Also, together with all the villagers of Gangjeong and the people of Jeju we truly desire that global citizens and true lovers of nature and world peace will have the freedom to gather in this beautiful place without the impediment of a ghastly and ugly military base which aggravates existing tensions between global powers. Therefore, what I truly wish is for everyone around the world to sing the peace song of Gangjeong and to keep it in their hearts. Ladies and Gentlemen, Please join together in solidarity and help us.
Please help us!
No Naval Base!
Thanks so much for your attention."
How the Pentagon Is Using Your Tax Dollars to Turn Italy into a Launching Pad for the Wars of Today and Tomorrow
By David Vine
The Pentagon has spent the last two decades plowing hundreds of millions of tax dollars into military bases in Italy, turning the country into an increasingly important center for U.S. military power. Especially since the start of the Global War on Terror in 2001, the military has been shifting its European center of gravity south from Germany, where the overwhelming majority of U.S. forces in the region have been stationed since the end of World War II. In the process, the Pentagon has turned the Italian peninsula into a launching pad for future wars in Africa, the Middle East, and beyond.
At bases in Naples, Aviano, Sicily, Pisa, and Vicenza, among others, the military has spent more than $2 billion on construction alone since the end of the Cold War -- and that figure doesn’t include billions more on classified construction projects and everyday operating and personnel costs. While the number of troops in Germany has fallen from 250,000 when the Soviet Union collapsed to about 50,000 today, the roughly 13,000 U.S. troops (plus 16,000 family members) stationed in Italy match the numbers at the height of the Cold War. That, in turn, means that the percentage of U.S. forces in Europe based in Italy has tripled since 1991 from around 5% to more than 15%.
Last month, I had a chance to visit the newest U.S. base in Italy, a three-month-old garrison in Vicenza, near Venice. Home to a rapid reaction intervention force, the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), and the Army’s component of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the base extends for a mile, north to south, dwarfing everything else in the small city. In fact, at over 145 acres, the base is almost exactly the size of Washington’s National Mall or the equivalent of around 110 American football fields. The price tag for the base and related construction in a city that already hosted at least six installations: upwards of $600 million since fiscal year 2007.
There are still more bases, and so more U.S. military spending, in Germany than in any other foreign country (save, until recently, Afghanistan). Nonetheless, Italy has grown increasingly important as the Pentagon works to change the make-up of its global collection of 800 or more bases abroad, generally shifting its basing focus south and east from Europe’s center. Base expert Alexander Cooley explains: “U.S. defense officials acknowledge that Italy’s strategic positioning on the Mediterranean and near North Africa, the Italian military’s antiterrorism doctrine, as well as the country’s favorable political disposition toward U.S. forces are important factors in the Pentagon’s decision to retain” a large base and troop presence there. About the only people who have been paying attention to this build-up are the Italians in local opposition movements like those in Vicenza who are concerned that their city will become a platform for future U.S. wars.
Most tourists think of Italy as the land of Renaissance art, Roman antiquities, and of course great pizza, pasta, and wine. Few think of it as a land of U.S. bases. But Italy’s 59 Pentagon-identified “base sites” top that of any country except Germany (179), Japan (103), Afghanistan (100 and declining), and South Korea (89).
Publicly, U.S. officials say there are no U.S. military bases in Italy. They insist that our garrisons, with all their infrastructure, equipment, and weaponry, are simply guests on what officially remain “Italian” bases designated for NATO use. Of course, everyone knows that this is largely a legal nicety.
No one visiting the new base in Vicenza could doubt that it's a U.S. installation all the way. The garrison occupies a former Italian air force base called Dal Molin. (In late 2011, Italian officials rebranded it “Caserma Del Din,” evidently to try to shed memories of the massive opposition the base has generated.) From the outside, it might be mistaken for a giant hospital complex or a university campus. Thirty one box-like peach-and-cream-colored buildings with light red rooftops dominate the horizon with only the foothills of the Southern Alps as a backdrop. A chain link fence topped by razor wire surrounds the perimeter, with green mesh screens obscuring views into the base.
If you manage to get inside, however, you find two barracks for up to 600 soldiers each. (Off base, the Army is contracting to lease up to 240 newly built homes in surrounding communities.) Two six-floor parking garages that can hold 850 vehicles, and a series of large office complexes, some small training areas, including an indoor shooting range still under construction, as well as a gym with a heated swimming pool, a “Warrior Zone” entertainment center, a small PX, an Italian-style café, and a large dining facility. These amenities are actually rather modest for a large U.S. base. Most of the newly built or upgraded housing, schools, medical facilities, shopping, and other amenities for soldiers and their families are across town on Viale della Pace (Peace Boulevard) at the Caserma Ederle base and at the nearby Villaggio della Pace (Peace Village).
A Pentagon Spending Spree
Beyond Vicenza, the military has been spending mightily to upgrade its Italian bases. Until the early 1990s, the U.S. air base at Aviano, northeast of Vicenza, was a small site known as “Sleepy Hollow.” Beginning with the transfer of F-16s from Spain in 1992, the Air Force turned it into a major staging area for every significant wartime operation since the first Gulf War. In the process, it has spent at least $610 million on more than 300 construction projects (Washington convinced NATO to provide more than half these funds, and Italy ceded 210 acres of land for free.) Beyond these “Aviano 2000” projects, the Air Force has spent an additional $115 million on construction since fiscal year 2004.
Not to be outdone, the Navy laid out more than $300 million beginning in 1996 to construct a major new operations base at the Naples airport. Nearby, it has a 30-year lease on an estimated $400 million “support site” that looks like a big-box shopping mall surrounded by expansive, well-manicured lawns. (The base is located in the Neapolitan mafia’s heartland and was built by a company that has been linked to the Camorra.) In 2005, the Navy moved its European headquarters from London to Naples as it shifted its attention from the North Atlantic to Africa, the Middle East, and the Black Sea. With the creation of AFRICOM, whose main headquarters remain in Germany, Naples is now home to a combined U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa. Tellingly, its website prominently displays the time in Naples, Djibouti, Liberia, and Bulgaria.
Meanwhile, Sicily has become increasingly significant in the Global War on Terror era, as the Pentagon has been turning it into a major node of U.S. military operations for Africa, which is less than 100 miles away across the Mediterranean. Since fiscal year 2001, the Pentagon has spent more on construction at the Sigonella Naval Air Station -- almost $300 million -- than at any Italian base other than Vicenza. Now the second busiest naval air station in Europe, Sigonella was first used to launch Global Hawk surveillance drones in 2002. In 2008, U.S. and Italian officials signed a secret agreement formally permitting the basing of drones there. Since then, the Pentagon has put out at least $31 million to build a Global Hawk maintenance and operations complex. The drones provide the foundation for NATO’s $1.7 billion Alliance Ground Surveillance system, which gives NATO surveillance capabilities as far as 10,000 miles from Sigonella.
Beginning in 2003, “Joint Task Force Aztec Silence” has used P-3 surveillance planes based at Sigonella to monitor insurgent groups in North and West Africa. And since 2011, AFRICOM has deployed a task force of around 180 marines and two aircraft to the base to provide counterterrorism training to African military personnel in Botswana, Liberia, Djibouti, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Tunisia, and Senegal.
Sigonella also hosts one of three Global Broadcast Service satellite communications facilities and will soon be home to a NATO Joint Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance deployment base and a data analysis and training center. In June, a U.S. Senate subcommittee recommended moving special operations forces and CV-22 Ospreys from Britain to Sicily, since “Sigonella has become a key launch pad for missions related to Libya, and given the ongoing turmoil in that nation as well as the emergence of terrorist training activities in northern Africa.” In nearby Niscemi, the Navy hopes to build an ultra high frequency satellite communications installation, despite growing opposition from Sicilians and other Italians concerned about the effects of the station and its electromagnetic radiation on humans and a surrounding nature reserve.
Amid the build-up, the Pentagon has actually closed some bases in Italy as well, including those in Comiso, Brindisi, and La Maddalena. While the Army has cut some personnel at Camp Darby, a massive underground weapons and equipment storage installation along Tuscany’s coast, the base remains a critical logistics and pre-positioning center enabling the global deployment of troops, weapons, and supplies from Italy by sea. Since fiscal year 2005, it’s seen almost $60 million in new construction.
And what are all these bases doing in Italy? Here’s the way one U.S. military official in Italy (who asked not to be named) explained the matter to me: “I’m sorry, Italy, but this is not the Cold War. They’re not here to defend Vicenza from a [Soviet] attack. They’re here because we agreed they need to be here to do other things, whether that’s the Middle East or the Balkans or Africa.”
Location, Location, Location
Bases in Italy have played an increasingly important role in the Pentagon’s global garrisoning strategy in no small part because of the country’s place on the map. During the Cold War, West Germany was the heart of U.S. and NATO defenses in Europe because of its positioning along the most likely routes of any Soviet attack into Western Europe. Once the Cold War ended, Germany’s geographic significance declined markedly. In fact, U.S. bases and troops at Europe’s heart looked increasingly hemmed in by their geography, with U.S. ground forces there facing longer deployment times outside the continent and the Air Force needing to gain overflight rights from neighboring countries to get almost anywhere.
Troops based in Italy, by contrast, have direct access to the international waters and airspace of the Mediterranean. This allows them to deploy rapidly by sea or air. As Assistant Secretary of the Army Keith Eastin told Congress in 2006, positioning the 173rd Airborne Brigade at Dal Molin “strategically positions the unit south of the Alps with ready access to international airspace for rapid deployment and forced entry/early entry operations.”
And we’ve seen the Pentagon take advantage of Italy’s location since the 1990s, when Aviano Air Base played an important role in the first Gulf War and in U.S. and NATO interventions in the Balkans (a short hop across the Adriatic Sea from Italy). The Bush administration, in turn, made bases in Italy some of its “enduring” European outposts in its global garrisoning shift south and east from Germany. In the Obama years, a growing military involvement in Africa has made Italy an even more attractive basing option.
“Sufficient Operational Flexibility”
Beyond its location, U.S. officials love Italy because, as the same military official told me, it’s a “country that offers sufficient operational flexibility.” In other words, it provides the freedom to do what you want with minimal restrictions and hassle.
Especially in comparison to Germany, Italy offers this flexibility for reasons that reflect a broader move away from basing in two of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nations, Germany and Japan, toward basing in relatively poorer and less powerful ones. In addition to offering lower operating costs, such hosts are generally more susceptible to Washington’s political and economic pressure. They also tend to sign “status of forces agreements” -- which govern the presence of U.S. troops and bases abroad -- that are less restrictive for the U.S. military. Such agreements often offer more permissive settings when it comes to environmental and labor regulations or give the Pentagon more freedom to pursue unilateral military action with minimal host country consultation.
While hardly one of the world’s weaker nations, Italy is the second most heavily indebted country in Europe, and its economic and political power pales in comparison to Germany's. Not surprisingly, then, as that Pentagon official in Italy pointed out to me, the status of forces agreement with Germany is long and detailed, while the foundational agreement with Italy remains the short (and still classified) 1954 Bilateral Infrastructure Agreement. Germans also tend to be rather exacting when it comes to following rules, while the Italians, he said, “are more interpretive of guidance.”
War + Bases = $
The freedom with which the U.S. military used its Italian bases in the Iraq War is a case in point. As a start, the Italian government allowed U.S. forces to employ them even though their use for a war pursued outside the context of NATO may violate the terms of the 1954 basing agreement. A classified May 2003 cable sent by U.S. Ambassador to Italy Melvin Sembler and released by WikiLeaks shows that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government gave the Pentagon “virtually everything” it wanted. “We got what we asked for,” wrote Sembler, “on base access, transit, and overflights, ensuring that forces... could flow smoothly through Italy to get to the fight.”
For its part, Italy appears to have benefited directly from this cooperation. (Some say that shifting bases from Germany to Italy was also meant as a way to punish Germany for its lack of support for the Iraq War.) According to a 2010 report from Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment, “Italy’s role in the war in Iraq, providing 3,000 troops to the U.S.-led effort, opened up Iraqi reconstruction contracts to Italian firms, as well as cementing relations between the two allies.” Its role in the Afghan War surely offered similar benefits. Such opportunities came amid deepening economic troubles, and at a moment when the Italian government was turning to arms production as a major way to revive its economy. According to Jane’s, Italian weapons manufacturers like Finmeccanica have aggressively tried to enter the U.S. and other markets. In 2009, Italian arms exports were up more than 60%.
In October 2008, the two countries renewed a Reciprocal Defense Procurement Memorandum of Understanding (a “most favored nation” agreement for military sales). It has been suggested that the Italian government may have turned Dal Molin over to the U.S. military -- for free -- in part to ensure itself a prominent role in the production of “the most expensive weapon ever built,” the F-35 fighter jet, among other military deals. Another glowing 2009 cable, this time from the Rome embassy’s Chargé d'Affaires Elizabeth Dibble, called the countries’ military cooperation “an enduring partnership.” It noted pointedly how Finmeccanica (which is 30% state-owned) “sold USD 2.3 billion in defense equipment to the U.S. in 2008 [and] has a strong stake in the solidity of the U.S.-Italy relationship.”
Of course, there’s another relevant factor in the Pentagon’s Italian build-up. For the same reasons American tourists flock to the country, U.S. troops have long enjoyed la dolce vita there. In addition to the comfortable living on suburban-style bases, around 40,000 military visitors a year from across Europe and beyond come to Camp Darby’s military resort and “American beach” on the Italian Riviera, making the country even more attractive.
The Costs of the Pentagon’s Pivots
Italy is not about to take Germany’s place as the foundation of U.S. military power in Europe. Germany has long been deeply integrated into the U.S. military system, and military planners have designed it to stay that way. In fact, remember how the Pentagon convinced Congress to hand over $600 million for a new base and related construction in Vicenza? The Pentagon’s justification for the new base was the Army’s need to bring troops from Germany to Vicenza to consolidate the 173rd brigade in one place.
And then, last March, one week after getting access to the first completed building at Dal Molin and with construction nearly finished, the Army announced that it wouldn’t be consolidating the brigade after all. One-third of the brigade would remain in Germany. At a time when budget cuts, unemployment, and economic stagnation for all but the wealthiest have left vast unmet needs in communities around the United States, for our $600 million investment, a mere 1,000 troops will move to Vicenza.
Even with those troops staying in Germany, Italy is fast becoming one of several new pivot points for U.S. warmaking powers globally. While much attention has been focused on President Obama’s “Asia pivot,” the Pentagon is concentrating its forces at bases that represent a series of pivots in places like Djibouti on the horn of Africa and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, Bahrain and Qatar in the Persian Gulf, Bulgaria and Romania in Eastern Europe, Australia, Guam, and Hawai’i in the Pacific, and Honduras in Central America.
Our bases in Italy are making it easier to pursue new wars and military interventions in conflicts about which we know little, from Africa to the Middle East. Unless we question why we still have bases in Italy and dozens more countries like it worldwide -- as, encouragingly, growing numbers of politicians, journalists, and others are doing -- those bases will help lead us, in the name of American “security,” down a path of perpetual violence, perpetual war, and perpetual insecurity.
David Vine, a Tom Dispatch regular, is associate professor of anthropology at American University, in Washington, DC. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia. He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other places. He is currently completing a book about the effects of U.S. military bases located outside the United States. For more of his writing, visit www.davidvine.net.
Copyright 2013 David Vine