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Obama Apologizes to Argentina: Now It’s Time to Apologize to Cuba

March 31st, 2016 - by admin

Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War – 2016-03-31 00:42:30

Special to Environmentalist Against War

Obama Apologizes to Argentina
Now It’s Time to Apologize to Cuba

Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War

BERKELEY, Calif. (March 30, 2016) — In an unprecedented act of geopolitical contrition, Barack Obama has become the first US president to apologize to another world leader for America’s role in overthrowing an elected democracy and installing a brutal military regime that murdered and “disappeared” more than 30,000 civilians.

The apology was tendered on March 24, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Well, actually, what Obama apologized for was the US being “slow to speak out for human rights.” Washington’s military role in supporting the coup, the dictatorship and the “dirty war” were only inferred. As Amanda Taub observed on Vox World: “Obama was, unsurprisingly, pretty vague on what role the US played in that conflict.”

Obama reportedly was compelled to offer the mea culpa at the insistence of Argentine President Mauricio Macri who made it a precondition of Obama’s state visit — on the 40th anniversary of the US-backed military coup.

Obama’s historic statement included the following remarks:

“Democracies have to have the courage to acknowledge when we don’t live up to the ideals that we stand for. And we’ve been slow to speak out for human rights and that was the case here . . . .

“There has been controversy about the policies of the United States early in those dark days. . . . Confronting crimes committed by your own leaders, by your own people — that can be divisive and frustrating, but it is essential to moving forward.” [You can read the complete speech at the end of this article.]

Obama concluded his remarks by pledging to take action. He vowed to stand up to the military-intelligence complex anddeclassify new military and intelligence records that would document the human rights violations that wracked the region from 1976 to 1983.

The Buenos Aires-based Center for Human Rights Advocates was not won over by the president’s statement, however. The CHRA declared: “We will not allow the power that orchestrated dictatorships in Latin America and oppresses people across the world to cleanse itself and use the memory of our 30,000 murdered compatriots to strengthen its imperialist agenda.”

Still, it’s a good precedent for the president. And it raises the bar for accountability in the eyes of the world. If Obama is planning any other foreign trips in his remaining months in office, he might expect to receive similar “precondition letters” — official demands seeking public apologies directed to the people of Nicaragua, Chile, Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and . . . well, the list goes on.

And Then There Is Cuba
When Barack Obama flew to Cuba (marking the first visit of a US president in 88 years), his mission was not to cop to a half-century of US crimes directed at its Caribbean neighbor. Instead, Obama’s comments at his joint press conference with Cuban President Raul Castro involved invocations of vague optimism mixed with incantations of Cold War admonitions about a lack of “democracy” and “human rights.”

There was much in the March 21 press conference at Havana’s Grand Theater that didn’t make on onto the CBS Evening News. To its credit, USA Today posted a transcript of the complete press conference online. The following report reveals some of the exchanges that were either not mentioned by the mainstream press or were mischaracterized.

President Obama began his remarks by going off-topic to mention a Marine who had just been killed in northern Iraq. Obama used the soldier’s death — and the Havana press event — as an opportunity to praise “US armed service members who are sacrificing each and every day on behalf of our freedom and our safety.”

That mission accomplished, he began by praising Cuba: “The United States recognizes progress that Cuba has made as a nation, its achievements in education and in healthcare.” And Obama promised that “Cuba’s destiny will not be decided by the United States or any other nation . . . . [T]he future of Cuba will be decided by Cubans, not by anybody else.”

That said, the President warned that, “as we do wherever we go around the world . . . , the United States will continue to . . . . speak out on behalf of universal human rights, including freedom of speech, and assembly, and religion.”

At one point, Obama wound up ceding more ground to President Raul Castro than was necessary. Apparently fearing the Cuban leader was going to hammer America for its rampant hunger, poverty, and racial oppression, he remarked: “President Castro has also addressed what he views as shortcomings in the United States around basic needs for people, and poverty and inequality and race relations.”

In fact, Castro had only scolded the US for its record on health, education, pensions, pay and the rights of children. In Castro’s words:

“Actually, we find it inconceivable that a government [i.e., the USA] does not defend and insure the right to health care, education, Social Security with provision and development, equal pay and the rights of children. We oppose political manipulation and double standards in the approach to human rights . . . .

“We hold different concepts on many subjects such as political systems, democracy, the exercise of human rights, social justice, international relations and world peace and stability.

“We defend human rights. In our view, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are invisible, interdependent and universal. We oppose political manipulation and double standards in the approach to human rights. Cuba has much to say and show on this issue.”

Obama Talks of Trade and Dollars
Obama spoke enthusiastically of the economic reforms Washington could now expect from Havana, including: “Allowing the US dollar to be used more widely with Cuba, giving Cubans more access to the dollar in international transactions, and allowing Cubans in the US to earn salaries.” (Come again?)

Obama offered further insights into US plans to reform of the Cuban economy when he mentioned “cooperation on agriculture to support our farmers and our ranchers . . . some of the new commercial deals being announced by major US companies . . . steps we urge Cuba to show that it’s ready to do more business, which includes allowing more joint ventures and allowing foreign companies to hire Cubans directly.” Obama also said he was looking forward to seeing “more English-language training for Cuban teachers — both in Cuba and online.”

As the world press looked on, Obama continued to turn history into a fairy tale.

Ignoring an infamous and once-secret 1961 State Department memo — that explained the explicit purpose of the 54-year-old US embargo was “denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government” — Obama now proposed that “the embargo was implemented to encourage, rather than discourage, reforms that the Cuban government itself is willing to engage in and to facilitate greater trade and commerce.”

Do we have a disconnect here? The punishing five-decade-long economic and trade embargo was intended to “facilitate greater trade and commerce”?

After both leaders finished their introductory remarks Jim Acosta, a Cuban-American reporter, asked Obama whether he would invite Raul Castro to the White House and inquired why the president did not meet with Fidel Castro. Obama ignored both questions.

Instead, he returned to the issue of “human rights” and described “disagreements around human rights and democracy” as “impediments to strengthening . . . ties.” And then Obama added: “I’ve met with people who have been subject to arbitrary detention.” (He could have been referring to jailed dissidents and whistleblowers in the US but the reference was clearly directed at Cuba.)

Acosta directed two questions at Castro. One (an embarrassment to his profession) invited the Cuban leader to indicate whether he would vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. The second raised the issue of “political prisoners.”

President Castro’s response was vigorous: “Give me the list of political prisoners and I will release them immediately,” he said. “Just mention a list. What political prisoners? Give me a name or names. After this meeting is over, you can give me a list of political prisoners. And if we have those political prisoners, they will be released before tonight ends.”

(Whether Acosta ever presented a list of political prisoners is unknown.)

It had been agreed that the US President would take two questions while the Cuban leader would respond to one query from the press.

At this point, Obama called on NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell, describing her as “one of our most esteemed journalists.” It was clear that Mitchell wanted to pursue the issue of “human rights” and Obama, turning to Castro, declared: “I’m sure she’d appreciate just a short, brief, answer.”

Castro was not about to be bulldozed. Referring to the pre-arranged time limit for the press conference, he replied: “There is a program here to be fulfilled. I know that if I stay here, you will ask 500 questions. I said that I was going to answer one. Well, I answer 1 ½.”

Mitchell pressed Castro about the recent arrests of the Ladies in White (a group of the women who have nonviolently protested against the Cuban government every week for the past 13 years). Castro offered the following response:

“I’m going to make the question to you now. There are 61 international instruments recognized. How many countries in the world are complying with all the human rights and civil rights that have been included in these 61 instruments? What country complies with them all? Do you know how many? I do. None. None whatsoever.

“Some countries comply some rights; others comply others. And we are among these countries. Out of the 61 instruments, Cuba has complied with 47 of these human rights instruments . . .

“Do you think there’s anything more sacred than the right to health, so that billions of children don’t die just for the lack of a vaccine or a drug or a medicine? Do you agree with the right to free education for all those born anywhere in the world or in any country? I think many countries don’t think this is a human right….

“Do you think that for equal work, men get paid better than women just for the fact of being women? Well, in Cuba, women get the same pay for the same work. I can give you many, many examples. I don’t think we can use the argument of human rights for political confrontation. That is not fair. It is not correct . . . Let us work so that we can comply with all human rights.”

And Now, a Word from Fidel
At one point in the proceedings Obama declared: “We can’t force change on any particular country.” This statement, which seemed to be totally at odds with Washington’s 50-year history of sanctions and plots directed at overthrowing the Cuban revolution, roused former Cuban President Fidel Castro to pen a 1,500-word rebuttal addressed to “My Brother Obama.”

The full text did not appear in the US media. Instead, US news services generally reduced its message to Fidel’s statement that Cuba “has no need of gifts” from the US. (A poor translation, at best.)

Here (gathered from the website of the Cuban government’s official newspaper, Granma) is some of what Fidel had to say to Barack:

“In 1961, just one year and three months after the triumph of the Revolution, a mercenary force with armored artillery and infantry, backed by aircraft, trained and accompanied by US warships and aircraft carriers, attacked our country by surprise. Nothing can justify that perfidious attack, which cost our country hundreds of losses, including deaths and injuries.”

Fidel made no mention of the 632 attempts to kill him. These included numerous CIA assassination plots involving everything from poisoned drinks and infected handkerchiefs to exploding cigars and seashells filled with high explosives.

A 2006 seven-part documentary traced Washington’s 50-year campaign to murder the Cuban leader. Washington’s covert assassination attempts spanned nine administrations. The record reads as follows: Eisenhower (38 assassination attempts), Kennedy (42), Johnson (72), Nixon (172), Carter (74), Reagan (197), GHW Bush (16), Clinton (21), GW Bush (6).

Fidel wrote that hearing Obama’s call to “forget the past, leave the past behind, let us look to the future together, a future of hope” nearly gave him a heart attack.

“After a ruthless blockade that lasted almost 60 years, and what about those who have died in the mercenary attacks on Cuban ships and ports, an airliner full of passengers blown up in midair, mercenary invasions, multiple acts of violence and coercion?

“Nobody should be under the illusion that the people of this dignified and selfless country will renounce the glory, the rights, or the spiritual wealth they have gained with the development of education, science and culture.

“I also warn that we are capable of producing the food and material riches we need with the efforts and intelligence of our people. We do not need the empire to give us anything. Our efforts will be legal and peaceful, as this is our commitment to peace and fraternity among all human beings who live on this planet.”

On the Question of Human Rights
In February of this year, Amnesty International released its Annual State of the World Report. AI’s interim executive director Margaret Huang offered the following summary: “Worldwide we have seen human rights and freedom take a backseat to misguided fear and xenophobia masquerading as patriotism. The United States has been no exception.”

Among the charges laid against the US were the following:

* indefinite detention without trial at the Guantanamo prison

* lack of accountability for criminal wrongdoing related to the US torture program

* excessive use of lethal force by police in the US

* failure to act to curb gun violence which claims, on average, 88 American lives each day

* failing to criticize allies like Saudi Arabia for jailing prisoners of conscience “such as human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair and writer Raif Badawi.”

While the Human Rights Watch World Report for 2015 faulted Cuba for its treatment of the Ladies in White — i.e., being “routinely harassed, roughed up, and detained before or after they attend Sunday mass” — HRW also criticized the US for “routinely violat[ing] rights . . . in the areas of criminal justice, immigration, and national security, US laws and practices” and noted that “racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, children, the poor, and prisoners — are the people most likely to suffer abuses.”

HRW also noted other US human rights failures, including:

* US national security policies, including mass surveillance programs, are eroding freedoms of the press, expression, and association. Discriminatory and unfair investigations and prosecutions of American Muslims are alienating the communities the US claims it wants as partners in combating terrorism.

* Although African Americans are only 13 percent of the US population, they represent 42 percent of federal prisoners serving time for drug offenses.

* Many poor defendants languish in pretrial detention because they cannot afford rising bail costs.

* US courts allow children under the age of 18 to be prosecuted as adults and sentenced to adult prison terms.

* Hundreds of thousands of children work on US farms, often laboring often 10 or more hours a day and risk pesticide exposure, heat exhaustion, and injuries. Underage tobacco workers also suffer from acute nicotine poisoning.

* US military veterans face systemic barriers in accessing health care and suffer from chronic homelessness.

* The Pentagon continues to force-feed Guantanamo detainees on hunger strikes using methods that violate medical ethics and amount to mistreatment under international law.

* The US employs “abusive counterterrorism investigations” against vulnerable American Muslims and individuals with intellectual and mental disabilities who are easily snared in FBI sting operations. In addition, overly broad “material support” charges may violate fair trial rights.

* The US continues to conduct targeted killing operations using assassination drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

Human Rights Wronged in the US
Two recent articles by Harvey Wasserman ( America’s Astounding Human Rights Hypocrisy in Cuba) and Marjorie Cohn ( Stop Lecturing Cuba and Lift the Blockade) reveal a significant gap when one compares human rights in the US and Cuba.

Among Wasserman’s findings:

* The US has the world’s largest prison population, with 2.2 million citizens jailed for offenses that include smoking pot and failure to pay debts.

* There are more citizens in US prisons than there are in China, a country with a population is 4 to 5 times larger than the US.

* Rape, torture, extended solitary confinement, and other human rights offenses are common in US prisons.

* Unlike Cuba, the US still has the death penalty, which has been repeatedly used to execute people who were later proven innocent. (George W. Bush, as governor of Texas, personally ordered the execution of 152 men and women.)

* In the US, acccess to due process is significantly restricted by race and class.

* Numerous political prisoners are being held in the US prison system charge with “offenses” as flimsy as those laid against prisoners in Cuba. Among them is Leonard Peltier, a Native American wrongly convicted of murder four decades ago.

* Since the start of the Drug War in 1971, the US has spent $1 trillion arresting and jailing more than 41 million American citizens, mostly poor and people of color.

* Prisoners are now viewed as “cash flow” under America’s for-profit prison system, which profits from keeping people incarcerated as long as possible.

* In the US, police are allowed to confiscate cash and other property from innocent citizens without due process. The funds are often used for the personal benefit of the police departments and officers involved.

* A nationwide program of electronic spying has shredded the Fourth Amendment rights of private citizens.

Wasserman’s essay ends with the expressed hope that “President Obama will admit to some or all of the above amidst his cringe-worthy lectures to the Cubans on the sacred nature of human rights.”

Comparing Human Rights in the US and Cuba
Marjorie Cohn, a law school professor and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, notes that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains “two different categories of human rights: civil and political rights on the one hand; and economic, social and cultural rights on the other.

“Civil and political rights include the rights to life, free expression, freedom of religion, fair trial, self-determination; and to be free from torture, cruel treatment, and arbitrary detention.

“Economic, social, and cultural rights comprise the rights to education, healthcare, social security, unemployment insurance, paid maternity leave, equal pay for equal work, reduction of infant mortality; to prevention, treatment, and control of diseases; and to form and join unions and strike.”

Since the Reagan administration, Cohn writes, “it has been US policy to define human rights only as civil and political rights. Economic, social and cultural rights are dismissed as akin to social welfare, or socialism.”

Cohn has compiled the following comparisons:

Healthcare
Unlike the US, healthcare is considered a right in Cuba. Universal healthcare is free to all. Cuba has one of the world’s highest doctor-to-patient ratios (6.7 per 1,000 people). Cuba’s 2014 infant mortality rate was 4.2 per 1,000 live births — one of the lowest in the world. In 2014, the Lancet medical journal ovserved, “If the accomplishments of Cuba could be reproduced across a broad range of poor and middle-income countries, the health of the world’s population would be transformed.”

Education
Free education is a universal right up to and including higher education. Cuba spends a larger proportion of its GDP on education than almost any other country in the world.” It is free to train to be a doctor in Cuba. There are 22 medical schools in Cuba.

Elections
Elections to Cuba’s National Assembly occur every five years and elections to regional Municipal Assemblies every 2.5 years. National Assembly delegates elect a Council of State that, in turn, appoints the Council of Ministers from which the President is elected.

In the next general election in 2018, all senior elected positions, including the President, will be limited of no more than two five-year terms. Anyone can be nominated. It is not required that one be a member of the Cuban Communist Party.

No money can be spent promoting candidates and no political parties are permitted to campaign during elections. Instead of security personnel on patrol at polling stations, the ballot boxes are guarded by school children.

Labor Rights
Cuban law guarantees the right to voluntarily form and join independent and autonomous trade unions. Union contacts include 30 days’ paid annual leave in the state sector. Unions have the right to participate in company management, to share management records, office space, and materials.

Union agreement is required prior to any layoffs, changes in working hours, and overtime. Cuba’s unions have a constitutional right to be consulted about employment law and the right to propose new laws to the National Assembly.

Women
The majority of Cuban judges, attorneys, lawyers, scientists, technical workers, public health workers and professionals are women. With women constituting more than 48% of Parliament, Cuba has the third highest percentage of female parliamentarians in the world. Women receive 18 weeks of full salary during maternity leave, followed by 40 weeks at 60% of full salary.

Death Penalty
No one is facing a death sentence in Cuba. Cuba’s last remaining death row inmate (a Cuban-American convicted of a murder carried out during a 1994 terrorist invasion) had his sentence commuted on December 28, 2010. By contrast, as of January 1, 2016, 2,943 US prisoners were on death row in state prisons and, as of March 16, 2016, 62 were on federal death row.

Sustainable Development
In 2006, the World Wildlife Fund has hailed Cuba as the only country to achieve the United Nations’ goal of “sustainable development” — “thanks to its high literacy level and a very high life expectancy, while the ecological footprint is not large since it is a country with low energy consumption.”

The US is well aware of the contradictions that appear when it’s human rights record is compared to Cuba’s. In 2015, Cohn reports, a Cuban delegation lead by Pedro Luis Pedroso met with their US counterparts to discuss the issue of human rights.

“We expressed our concerns regarding discrimination and racism patterns in US society,” Pedroso recalled, “the worsening of police brutality, torture acts and extrajudicial executions in the fight on terror and the legal limbo of prisoners at the US prison camp in Guantanamo.”

Cohn’s conclusion is one our president should heed:

“The hypocrisy of the US government in lecturing Cuba about its human rights while denying many basic human rights to the American people is glaring. The United States should lift the blockade. Obama should close Guantanamo and return it to Cuba.”

And the United States should apologize to Cuba.


President Barack Obama’s Apology to Argentina
Full Text

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (March 24, 2016) — Good morning. It’s humbling to join President Macri at this poignant and beautiful memorial in honor of the victims of the Argentinian military dictatorship, and the suffering their families have endured.

This park is a tribute to their memory. But it’s also a tribute to the bravery and tenacity of the parents, the spouses, siblings, and the children who love and remember them, and who refuse to give up until they get the truth and the justice they deserve.

To those families — your relentlessness, your determination has made a difference. You’ve driven Argentina’s remarkable efforts to hold responsible those who perpetrated these crimes. You are the ones who will ensure that the past is remembered, and the promise of “Nunca Mas” is finally fulfilled.

It takes courage for a society to address uncomfortable truths about the darker parts of its past. Confronting crimes committed by our own leaders, by our own people — that can be divisive and frustrating. But it’s essential to moving forward; to building a peaceful and prosperous future in a country that respects the rights of all of its citizens.

Today, we also commemorate those who fought side-by-side with Argentinians for human rights. The scientists who answered the call from the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo to help identify victims in Argentina and around the world. The journalists, like Bob Cox, who bravely reported on human rights abuses despite threats to them and their families.

The diplomats, like Tex Harris, who worked in the US Embassy here to document human rights abuses and identify the disappeared. And like Patt Derian, the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights for President Jimmy Carter — a President who understood that human rights is a fundamental element of foreign policy. That understanding is something that has influenced the way we strive to conduct ourselves in the world ever since.

There’s been controversy about the policies of the United States early in those dark days, and the United States, when it reflects on what happened here, has to examine its own policies as well, and its own past. Democracies have to have the courage to acknowledge when we don’t live up to the ideals that we stand for; when we’ve been slow to speak out for human rights. And that was the case here.

But because of the principles of Americans who served our government, our diplomats documented and described many instances of human rights violations. In 2002, as part of a two-year effort, the US declassified and released thousands of those records, many of which were used as evidence to hold the perpetrators accountable.

Today, in response to a request from President Macri, and to continue helping the families of the victims find some of the truth and justice they deserve, I can announce that the United States government will declassify even more documents from that period, including, for the first time, military and intelligence records — because I believe we have a responsibility to confront the past with honesty and transparency.

A memorial like this speaks to the responsibilities that all of us have. We’ll cannot forget the past. But when we find the courage to confront it, when we find the courage to change that past, that’s when we build a better future.

That’s what the families of the victims have done. And the United States of America wants to continue to be a partner in your efforts. Because what happened here in Argentina is not unique to Argentina, and it’s not confined to the past.

Each of us have a responsibility each and every day to make sure that wherever we see injustice, wherever we see rule of law flouted, honest witnesses, that we’re speaking out and that we’re examining our own hearts and taking responsibility to make this a better place for our children and our grandchildren.

March 31st, 2016 - by admin

– 2016-03-31 00:36:51

Obama Apologizes to Argentina
Now It’s Time to Apologize to Cuba

Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War

BERKELEY, Calif. (March 30, 2016) — In an unprecedented act of geopolitical contrition, Barack Obama has become the first US president to apologize to another world leader for America’s role in overthrowing an elected democracy and installing a brutal military regime that murdered and “disappeared” more than 30,000 civilians.

The apology was tendered on March 24, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Well, actually, what Obama apologized for was the US being “slow to speak out for human rights.” Washington’s military role in supporting the coup, the dictatorship and the “dirty war” were only inferred. As Amanda Taub observed on Vox World: “Obama was, unsurprisingly, pretty vague on what role the US played in that conflict.”

Obama reportedly was compelled to offer the mea culpa at the insistence of Argentine President Mauricio Macri who made it a precondition of Obama’s state visit — on the 40th anniversary of the US-backed military coup.

Obama’s historic statement included the following remarks:

“Democracies have to have the courage to acknowledge when we don’t live up to the ideals that we stand for. And we’ve been slow to speak out for human rights and that was the case here . . . .

“There has been controversy about the policies of the United States early in those dark days. . . . Confronting crimes committed by your own leaders, by your own people — that can be divisive and frustrating, but it is essential to moving forward.” [You can read the complete speech at the end of this article.]

Obama concluded his remarks by pledging to take action. He vowed to stand up to the military-intelligence complex anddeclassify new military and intelligence records that would document the human rights violations that wracked the region from 1976 to 1983.

The Buenos Aires-based Center for Human Rights Advocates was not won over by the president’s statement, however. The CHRA declared: “We will not allow the power that orchestrated dictatorships in Latin America and oppresses people across the world to cleanse itself and use the memory of our 30,000 murdered compatriots to strengthen its imperialist agenda.”

Still, it’s a good precedent for the president. And it raises the bar for accountability in the eyes of the world. If Obama is planning any other foreign trips in his remaining months in office, he might expect to receive similar “precondition letters” — official demands seeking public apologies directed to the people of Nicaragua, Chile, Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and . . . well, the list goes on.

And Then There Is Cuba
When Barack Obama flew to Cuba (marking the first visit of a US president in 88 years), his mission was not to cop to a half-century of US crimes directed at its Caribbean neighbor. Instead, Obama’s comments at his joint press conference with Cuban President Raul Castro involved invocations of vague optimism mixed with incantations of Cold War admonitions about a lack of “democracy” and “human rights.”

There was much in the March 21 press conference at Havana’s Grand Theater that didn’t make on onto the CBS Evening News. To its credit, USA Today posted a transcript of the complete press conference online. The following report reveals some of the exchanges that were either not mentioned by the mainstream press or were mischaracterized.

President Obama began his remarks by going off-topic to mention a Marine who had just been killed in northern Iraq. Obama used the soldier’s death — and the Havana press event — as an opportunity to praise “US armed service members who are sacrificing each and every day on behalf of our freedom and our safety.”

That mission accomplished, he began by praising Cuba: “The United States recognizes progress that Cuba has made as a nation, its achievements in education and in healthcare.” And Obama promised that “Cuba’s destiny will not be decided by the United States or any other nation . . . . [T]he future of Cuba will be decided by Cubans, not by anybody else.”

That said, the President warned that, “as we do wherever we go around the world . . . , the United States will continue to . . . . speak out on behalf of universal human rights, including freedom of speech, and assembly, and religion.”

At one point, Obama wound up ceding more ground to President Raul Castro than was necessary. Apparently fearing the Cuban leader was going to hammer America for its rampant hunger, poverty, and racial oppression, he remarked: “President Castro has also addressed what he views as shortcomings in the United States around basic needs for people, and poverty and inequality and race relations.”

In fact, Castro had only scolded the US for its record on health, education, pensions, pay and the rights of children. In Castro’s words:

“Actually, we find it inconceivable that a government [i.e., the USA] does not defend and insure the right to health care, education, Social Security with provision and development, equal pay and the rights of children. We oppose political manipulation and double standards in the approach to human rights . . . .

“We hold different concepts on many subjects such as political systems, democracy, the exercise of human rights, social justice, international relations and world peace and stability.

“We defend human rights. In our view, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are invisible, interdependent and universal. We oppose political manipulation and double standards in the approach to human rights. Cuba has much to say and show on this issue.”

Obama Talks of Trade and Dollars
Obama spoke enthusiastically of the economic reforms Washington could now expect from Havana, including: “Allowing the US dollar to be used more widely with Cuba, giving Cubans more access to the dollar in international transactions, and allowing Cubans in the US to earn salaries.” (Come again?)

Obama offered further insights into US plans to reform of the Cuban economy when he mentioned “cooperation on agriculture to support our farmers and our ranchers . . . some of the new commercial deals being announced by major US companies . . . steps we urge Cuba to show that it’s ready to do more business, which includes allowing more joint ventures and allowing foreign companies to hire Cubans directly.” Obama also said he was looking forward to seeing “more English-language training for Cuban teachers — both in Cuba and online.”

As the world press looked on, Obama continued to turn history into a fairy tale.

Ignoring an infamous and once-secret 1961 State Department memo — that explained the explicit purpose of the 54-year-old US embargo was “denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government” — Obama now proposed that “the embargo was implemented to encourage, rather than discourage, reforms that the Cuban government itself is willing to engage in and to facilitate greater trade and commerce.”

Do we have a disconnect here? The punishing five-decade-long economic and trade embargo was intended to “facilitate greater trade and commerce”?

After both leaders finished their introductory remarks Jim Acosta, a Cuban-American reporter, asked Obama whether he would invite Raul Castro to the White House and inquired why the president did not meet with Fidel Castro. Obama ignored both questions.

Instead, he returned to the issue of “human rights” and described “disagreements around human rights and democracy” as “impediments to strengthening . . . ties.” And then Obama added: “I’ve met with people who have been subject to arbitrary detention.” (He could have been referring to jailed dissidents and whistleblowers in the US but the reference was clearly directed at Cuba.)

Acosta directed two questions at Castro. One (an embarrassment to his profession) invited the Cuban leader to indicate whether he would vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. The second raised the issue of “political prisoners.”

President Castro’s response was vigorous: “Give me the list of political prisoners and I will release them immediately,” he said. “Just mention a list. What political prisoners? Give me a name or names. After this meeting is over, you can give me a list of political prisoners. And if we have those political prisoners, they will be released before tonight ends.”

(Whether Acosta ever presented a list of political prisoners is unknown.)

It had been agreed that the US President would take two questions while the Cuban leader would respond to one query from the press.

At this point, Obama called on NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell, describing her as “one of our most esteemed journalists.” It was clear that Mitchell wanted to pursue the issue of “human rights” and Obama, turning to Castro, declared: “I’m sure she’d appreciate just a short, brief, answer.”

Castro was not about to be bulldozed. Referring to the pre-arranged time limit for the press conference, he replied: “There is a program here to be fulfilled. I know that if I stay here, you will ask 500 questions. I said that I was going to answer one. Well, I answer 1 ½.”

Mitchell pressed Castro about the recent arrests of the Ladies in White (a group of the women who have nonviolently protested against the Cuban government every week for the past 13 years). Castro offered the following response:

“I’m going to make the question to you now. There are 61 international instruments recognized. How many countries in the world are complying with all the human rights and civil rights that have been included in these 61 instruments? What country complies with them all? Do you know how many? I do. None. None whatsoever.

“Some countries comply some rights; others comply others. And we are among these countries. Out of the 61 instruments, Cuba has complied with 47 of these human rights instruments . . .

“Do you think there’s anything more sacred than the right to health, so that billions of children don’t die just for the lack of a vaccine or a drug or a medicine? Do you agree with the right to free education for all those born anywhere in the world or in any country? I think many countries don’t think this is a human right….

“Do you think that for equal work, men get paid better than women just for the fact of being women? Well, in Cuba, women get the same pay for the same work. I can give you many, many examples. I don’t think we can use the argument of human rights for political confrontation. That is not fair. It is not correct . . . Let us work so that we can comply with all human rights.”

And Now, a Word from Fidel
At one point in the proceedings Obama declared: “We can’t force change on any particular country.” This statement, which seemed to be totally at odds with Washington’s 50-year history of sanctions and plots directed at overthrowing the Cuban revolution, roused former Cuban President Fidel Castro to pen a 1,500-word rebuttal addressed to “My Brother Obama.”

The full text did not appear in the US media. Instead, US news services generally reduced its message to Fidel’s statement that Cuba “has no need of gifts” from the US. (A poor translation, at best.)

Here (gathered from the website of the Cuban government’s official newspaper, Granma) is some of what Fidel had to say to Barack:

“In 1961, just one year and three months after the triumph of the Revolution, a mercenary force with armored artillery and infantry, backed by aircraft, trained and accompanied by US warships and aircraft carriers, attacked our country by surprise. Nothing can justify that perfidious attack, which cost our country hundreds of losses, including deaths and injuries.”

Fidel made no mention of the 632 attempts to kill him. These included numerous CIA assassination plots involving everything from poisoned drinks and infected handkerchiefs to exploding cigars and seashells filled with high explosives.

A 2006 seven-part documentary traced Washington’s 50-year campaign to murder the Cuban leader. Washington’s covert assassination attempts spanned nine administrations. The record reads as follows: Eisenhower (38 assassination attempts), Kennedy (42), Johnson (72), Nixon (172), Carter (74), Reagan (197), GHW Bush (16), Clinton (21), GW Bush (6).

Fidel wrote that hearing Obama’s call to “forget the past, leave the past behind, let us look to the future together, a future of hope” nearly gave him a heart attack.

“After a ruthless blockade that lasted almost 60 years, and what about those who have died in the mercenary attacks on Cuban ships and ports, an airliner full of passengers blown up in midair, mercenary invasions, multiple acts of violence and coercion?

“Nobody should be under the illusion that the people of this dignified and selfless country will renounce the glory, the rights, or the spiritual wealth they have gained with the development of education, science and culture.

“I also warn that we are capable of producing the food and material riches we need with the efforts and intelligence of our people. We do not need the empire to give us anything. Our efforts will be legal and peaceful, as this is our commitment to peace and fraternity among all human beings who live on this planet.”

On the Question of Human Rights
In February of this year, Amnesty International released its Annual State of the World Report. AI’s interim executive director Margaret Huang offered the following summary: “Worldwide we have seen human rights and freedom take a backseat to misguided fear and xenophobia masquerading as patriotism. The United States has been no exception.”

Among the charges laid against the US were the following:

* indefinite detention without trial at the Guantanamo prison

* lack of accountability for criminal wrongdoing related to the US torture program

* excessive use of lethal force by police in the US

* failure to act to curb gun violence which claims, on average, 88 American lives each day

* failing to criticize allies like Saudi Arabia for jailing prisoners of conscience “such as human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair and writer Raif Badawi.”

While the Human Rights Watch World Report for 2015 faulted Cuba for its treatment of the Ladies in White — i.e., being “routinely harassed, roughed up, and detained before or after they attend Sunday mass” — HRW also criticized the US for “routinely violat[ing] rights . . . in the areas of criminal justice, immigration, and national security, US laws and practices” and noted that “racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, children, the poor, and prisoners — are the people most likely to suffer abuses.”

HRW also noted other US human rights failures, including:

* US national security policies, including mass surveillance programs, are eroding freedoms of the press, expression, and association. Discriminatory and unfair investigations and prosecutions of American Muslims are alienating the communities the US claims it wants as partners in combating terrorism.

* Although African Americans are only 13 percent of the US population, they represent 42 percent of federal prisoners serving time for drug offenses.

* Many poor defendants languish in pretrial detention because they cannot afford rising bail costs.

* US courts allow children under the age of 18 to be prosecuted as adults and sentenced to adult prison terms.

* Hundreds of thousands of children work on US farms, often laboring often 10 or more hours a day and risk pesticide exposure, heat exhaustion, and injuries. Underage tobacco workers also suffer from acute nicotine poisoning.

* US military veterans face systemic barriers in accessing health care and suffer from chronic homelessness.

* The Pentagon continues to force-feed Guantanamo detainees on hunger strikes using methods that violate medical ethics and amount to mistreatment under international law.

* The US employs “abusive counterterrorism investigations” against vulnerable American Muslims and individuals with intellectual and mental disabilities who are easily snared in FBI sting operations. In addition, overly broad “material support” charges may violate fair trial rights.

* The US continues to conduct targeted killing operations using assassination drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

Human Rights Wronged in the US
Two recent articles by Harvey Wasserman ( America’s Astounding Human Rights Hypocrisy in Cuba) and Marjorie Cohn ( Stop Lecturing Cuba and Lift the Blockade) reveal a significant gap when one compares human rights in the US and Cuba.

Among Wasserman’s findings:

* The US has the world’s largest prison population, with 2.2 million citizens jailed for offenses that include smoking pot and failure to pay debts.

* There are more citizens in US prisons than there are in China, a country with a population is 4 to 5 times larger than the US.

* Rape, torture, extended solitary confinement, and other human rights offenses are common in US prisons.

* Unlike Cuba, the US still has the death penalty, which has been repeatedly used to execute people who were later proven innocent. (George W. Bush, as governor of Texas, personally ordered the execution of 152 men and women.)

* In the US, acccess to due process is significantly restricted by race and class.

* Numerous political prisoners are being held in the US prison system charge with “offenses” as flimsy as those laid against prisoners in Cuba. Among them is Leonard Peltier, a Native American wrongly convicted of murder four decades ago.

* Since the start of the Drug War in 1971, the US has spent $1 trillion arresting and jailing more than 41 million American citizens, mostly poor and people of color.

* Prisoners are now viewed as “cash flow” under America’s for-profit prison system, which profits from keeping people incarcerated as long as possible.

* In the US, police are allowed to confiscate cash and other property from innocent citizens without due process. The funds are often used for the personal benefit of the police departments and officers involved.

* A nationwide program of electronic spying has shredded the Fourth Amendment rights of private citizens.

Wasserman’s essay ends with the expressed hope that “President Obama will admit to some or all of the above amidst his cringe-worthy lectures to the Cubans on the sacred nature of human rights.”

Comparing Human Rights in the US and Cuba
Marjorie Cohn, a law school professor and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, notes that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains “two different categories of human rights: civil and political rights on the one hand; and economic, social and cultural rights on the other.

“Civil and political rights include the rights to life, free expression, freedom of religion, fair trial, self-determination; and to be free from torture, cruel treatment, and arbitrary detention.

“Economic, social, and cultural rights comprise the rights to education, healthcare, social security, unemployment insurance, paid maternity leave, equal pay for equal work, reduction of infant mortality; to prevention, treatment, and control of diseases; and to form and join unions and strike.”

Since the Reagan administration, Cohn writes, “it has been US policy to define human rights only as civil and political rights. Economic, social and cultural rights are dismissed as akin to social welfare, or socialism.”

Cohn has compiled the following comparisons:

Healthcare
Unlike the US, healthcare is considered a right in Cuba. Universal healthcare is free to all. Cuba has one of the world’s highest doctor-to-patient ratios (6.7 per 1,000 people). Cuba’s 2014 infant mortality rate was 4.2 per 1,000 live births — one of the lowest in the world. In 2014, the Lancet medical journal ovserved, “If the accomplishments of Cuba could be reproduced across a broad range of poor and middle-income countries, the health of the world’s population would be transformed.”

Education
Free education is a universal right up to and including higher education. Cuba spends a larger proportion of its GDP on education than almost any other country in the world.” It is free to train to be a doctor in Cuba. There are 22 medical schools in Cuba.

Elections
Elections to Cuba’s National Assembly occur every five years and elections to regional Municipal Assemblies every 2.5 years. National Assembly delegates elect a Council of State that, in turn, appoints the Council of Ministers from which the President is elected.

In the next general election in 2018, all senior elected positions, including the President, will be limited of no more than two five-year terms. Anyone can be nominated. It is not required that one be a member of the Cuban Communist Party.

No money can be spent promoting candidates and no political parties are permitted to campaign during elections. Instead of security personnel on patrol at polling stations, the ballot boxes are guarded by school children.

Labor Rights
Cuban law guarantees the right to voluntarily form and join independent and autonomous trade unions. Union contacts include 30 days’ paid annual leave in the state sector. Unions have the right to participate in company management, to share management records, office space, and materials.

Union agreement is required prior to any layoffs, changes in working hours, and overtime. Cuba’s unions have a constitutional right to be consulted about employment law and the right to propose new laws to the National Assembly.

Women
The majority of Cuban judges, attorneys, lawyers, scientists, technical workers, public health workers and professionals are women. With women constituting more than 48% of Parliament, Cuba has the third highest percentage of female parliamentarians in the world. Women receive 18 weeks of full salary during maternity leave, followed by 40 weeks at 60% of full salary.

Death Penalty
No one is facing a death sentence in Cuba. Cuba’s last remaining death row inmate (a Cuban-American convicted of a murder carried out during a 1994 terrorist invasion) had his sentence commuted on December 28, 2010. By contrast, as of January 1, 2016, 2,943 US prisoners were on death row in state prisons and, as of March 16, 2016, 62 were on federal death row.

Sustainable Development
In 2006, the World Wildlife Fund has hailed Cuba as the only country to achieve the United Nations’ goal of “sustainable development” — “thanks to its high literacy level and a very high life expectancy, while the ecological footprint is not large since it is a country with low energy consumption.”

The US is well aware of the contradictions that appear when it’s human rights record is compared to Cuba’s. In 2015, Cohn reports, a Cuban delegation lead by Pedro Luis Pedroso met with their US counterparts to discuss the issue of human rights.

“We expressed our concerns regarding discrimination and racism patterns in US society,” Pedroso recalled, “the worsening of police brutality, torture acts and extrajudicial executions in the fight on terror and the legal limbo of prisoners at the US prison camp in Guantanamo.”

Cohn’s conclusion is one our president should heed:

“The hypocrisy of the US government in lecturing Cuba about its human rights while denying many basic human rights to the American people is glaring. The United States should lift the blockade. Obama should close Guantanamo and return it to Cuba.”

And the United States should apologize to Cuba.


President Barack Obama’s Apology to Argentina
Full Text

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (March 24, 2016) — Good morning. It’s humbling to join President Macri at this poignant and beautiful memorial in honor of the victims of the Argentinian military dictatorship, and the suffering their families have endured.

This park is a tribute to their memory. But it’s also a tribute to the bravery and tenacity of the parents, the spouses, siblings, and the children who love and remember them, and who refuse to give up until they get the truth and the justice they deserve.

To those families — your relentlessness, your determination has made a difference. You’ve driven Argentina’s remarkable efforts to hold responsible those who perpetrated these crimes. You are the ones who will ensure that the past is remembered, and the promise of “Nunca Mas” is finally fulfilled.

It takes courage for a society to address uncomfortable truths about the darker parts of its past. Confronting crimes committed by our own leaders, by our own people — that can be divisive and frustrating. But it’s essential to moving forward; to building a peaceful and prosperous future in a country that respects the rights of all of its citizens.

Today, we also commemorate those who fought side-by-side with Argentinians for human rights. The scientists who answered the call from the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo to help identify victims in Argentina and around the world. The journalists, like Bob Cox, who bravely reported on human rights abuses despite threats to them and their families.

The diplomats, like Tex Harris, who worked in the US Embassy here to document human rights abuses and identify the disappeared. And like Patt Derian, the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights for President Jimmy Carter — a President who understood that human rights is a fundamental element of foreign policy. That understanding is something that has influenced the way we strive to conduct ourselves in the world ever since.

There’s been controversy about the policies of the United States early in those dark days, and the United States, when it reflects on what happened here, has to examine its own policies as well, and its own past. Democracies have to have the courage to acknowledge when we don’t live up to the ideals that we stand for; when we’ve been slow to speak out for human rights. And that was the case here.

But because of the principles of Americans who served our government, our diplomats documented and described many instances of human rights violations. In 2002, as part of a two-year effort, the US declassified and released thousands of those records, many of which were used as evidence to hold the perpetrators accountable.

Today, in response to a request from President Macri, and to continue helping the families of the victims find some of the truth and justice they deserve, I can announce that the United States government will declassify even more documents from that period, including, for the first time, military and intelligence records — because I believe we have a responsibility to confront the past with honesty and transparency.

A memorial like this speaks to the responsibilities that all of us have. We’ll cannot forget the past. But when we find the courage to confront it, when we find the courage to change that past, that’s when we build a better future.

That’s what the families of the victims have done. And the United States of America wants to continue to be a partner in your efforts. Because what happened here in Argentina is not unique to Argentina, and it’s not confined to the past.

Each of us have a responsibility each and every day to make sure that wherever we see injustice, wherever we see rule of law flouted, honest witnesses, that we’re speaking out and that we’re examining our own hearts and taking responsibility to make this a better place for our children and our grandchildren.

ACTION ALERT: Stop Sales of US F-15E Fighter Jets to Qatar

March 30th, 2016 - by admin

Robert Naiman / Just Foreign Policy & MoveOn.org & Dan De Luce / Foreign Policy – 2016-03-30 23:41:18

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stop-73-f-15e-fighter

PETITION: Stop F-15E Fighter Jet Sale to Qatar
To be delivered to The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack Obama

Sale of F-15E fighter jets to Qatar should not go forward until Qatar cracks down on financing of Al Qaeda in Syria.

ACTION ALERT: Stop F-15E Fighter Jet Sale to Qatar
Robert Naiman / Just Foreign Policy & MoveOn.org

(March 30, 2016) — The Obama administration is weighing whether to sell dozens of advanced US fighter jets to Qatar, a country that has been publicly rebuked by the US Treasury Department for failing to take decisive action against Qataris who are providing funds to anti-American terrorist groups, including the al Qaeda-backed al-Nusra Front in Syria.

Delaware Democratic Senator Chris Coons says the deal should not go forward until Qatar shows concrete evidence of a change in behavior. “The Qataris have shown a tolerance for extremism among the groups they have supported within Syria that has caused some real friction with our other regional allies and with the United States,” Sen. Coons said.

Urge President Obama and Congress to hold up the deal until Qatar makes concrete progress on cutting off money from Qatar for Al Qaeda in Syria by signing our petition at MoveOn.

Thanks for all you do to help make US foreign policy more just.


Qatar Wants to Buy Dozens of US Warplanes. Why Won’t Washington Sell Them?
Dan De Luce / Foreign Policy

MARCH 29, 2016) — The Obama administration is paralyzed over whether to sell dozens of advanced US fighter jets to the tiny kingdom of Qatar, a Persian Gulf ally that houses a strategic American air base but has alarmed Washington by maintaining ties to an array of Islamist militant groups.

The potential deal for up to 73 F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets, worth billions of dollars, has been on the table for more than two years. The White House has come under fire for the unusual delay from some US lawmakers, who accuse the administration of dithering and breaking its promise to speed up arms sales to Gulf allies anxious about the threat posed by their regional rival Iran — especially as Tehran emerges from economic sanctions and inks arms deals with countries like Russia

Israel has privately expressed reservations about the deal because of Qatar’s relationships with Islamist groups like the Taliban and Hamas and because of concerns that Israel’s military superiority in the region could be undercut by the sale, congressional aides and former US officials said.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other Gulf nations have voiced similar concerns about Qatar’s ties to terrorist groups and its increasingly warm relationship with Tehran.

Qatar, for its part, says that it wants the jets to assert itself as a military power in a region plagued by conflict and instability. Its current air force is tiny, with just a dozen aging French Mirage jets, so the proposed deal would represent a six-fold increase in its military strength.

The Qatari government hopes to leverage the help it has provided Washington — from hosting the air base the United States uses to stage strikes against the Islamic State to negotiating the release of captive American soldier Bowe Bergdahl — to secure the aircraft deal.

Faced with a politically fraught dilemma that could either antagonize Qatar or Israel and other Persian Gulf allies, the White House has been unable to make a decision. Senate aides and industry experts said both the Defense and State departments have no objections to the sales, and lawmakers from both parties have pressed the White House to approve the sale. The administration, however, has given no indication if, or when, it plans to do so.

Several US lawmakers, including those with staunch pro-Israel views, have been puzzled by the delay on the Qatar sale — as well as a pending deal with Kuwait — and urged the administration to move forward on both deals.

“These sales have been stuck in the political decision-making process at the White House for a long time now,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Foreign Policy in an email. “Many of us would like to see the White House make a decision soon to move this process along.”

But other lawmakers have said they have reservations about the United States selling weapons to Qatar, given its track record of openly supporting Hamas and turning a blind eye to deep-pocket donors delivering funds to extremists in Syria.

In 2014, the US Treasury Department took the unusual step of publicly rebuking Qatar for failing to take decisive action against nationals who are providing funds to militant groups, including the al Qaeda-backed al-Nusra Front in Syria. Last year, meanwhile, the department imposed sanctions on two Qatar-based financiers for allegedly raising money for al Qaeda operatives in Syria, Pakistan, and Sudan.

“The Qataris have shown a tolerance for extremism among the groups they have supported within Syria that has caused some real friction with our other regional allies and with the United States,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told FP. He added that Qatar needed to show concrete evidence of a change in behavior before the deal should be approved.

Qatar has said it has not funded terrorists but has defended its relations with Hamas (which the United States lists as a terrorist organization) and other Islamist movements as groups that have popular political support. The Qatari Embassy in Washington did not respond to queries from FP.

Qatar’s monarchy has displayed a canny ability to play both sides of the Middle East’s divide, welcoming leaders of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood along with US Air Force generals and American college professors. And its channels to various Islamist groups — while causing alarm — often have turned the kingdom into a crucial US partner for back-channel diplomacy and securing the release of hostages.

When the United States signaled it was ready to swap Taliban commanders held at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a US soldier captured in Afghanistan and held hostage by insurgents, it turned to Qatar as a go-between to broker a deal with the Taliban insurgents.

Qatar has also played a key role in securing the release of a number of Western hostages held by al-Nusra Front or other Syrian rebels, including American journalist Peter Theo Curtis two years ago. And when Secretary of State John Kerry was trying to negotiate an end to fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in 2014, he sought out Qatar to help broker a cease-fire.

The Defense Department’s ties to Qatar run even deeper. In 2013, the Pentagon renewed a defense cooperation agreement that extended the US lease on the al-Udeid Air Base for another 10 years.

The deal allows the United States to continue to run its combat air operations center out of the desert base west of Doha, where officers from 30 countries oversee the US-led air war in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State. In 2014, the United States announced an arms sale with Qatar worth $11 billion for Patriot missile batteries, Apache attack helicopters and other weapons.

Qatar’s aircraft have provided logistical support and flown surveillance missions for the campaign against the Islamic State, and its planes took part in the NATO-led air campaign in Libya in 2011 that toppled dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi.

The long delay of the Qatar deal has opened the White House to criticism that it is backtracking on its 2015 promise to increase security assistance to Persian Gulf nations battling the Islamic State and looking to deter Iran. In May 2015, at a meeting of leaders from the Gulf Cooperation Council at Camp David, Washington pledged to take steps like “fast-tracking arms transfers.”

The meeting was supposed to reassure traditional Gulf Arab allies, who fear Washington is withdrawing from the region and who distrust the nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran.

But with no green light for the fighter jet sales to Qatar and Kuwait, US credibility in the region has been damaged, according to Sen. John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“In the Gulf, the president is failing to live up to the promises made at the Camp David Summit in May 2015,” McCain said at a hearing this month.

A spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, David McKeeby, told FP it is typical and appropriate for major arms deals to undergo extensive “consideration and consultation.”

He added: “The United States remains committed to the security and stability of the Gulf region.”

As it has weighed the arms sales to the Gulf, the Obama administration also has been negotiating an elaborate memorandum of understanding with Israel that will outline a 10-year US military assistance package for the Jewish state.

The memorandum has taken on added importance in light of Israeli opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement, which has enabled the lifting of economic sanctions on Tehran. Israel fears that Iran will be able to invest in new weapons — including ballistic missiles — that could target its cities and military bases.

The memorandum reportedly could offer up to $50 billion worth of US military aid to Israel over a decade, but the sale of dozens of fighter jets to Qatar could give the Israelis a rationale to press for bolstering the assistance further, experts and congressional aides said.

US President Barack Obama is due to travel to Riyadh next month to attend a gathering of the GCC, and the meeting could provide an opportunity for the administration to announce a decision on the Qatar sale.

Although US lawmakers are invoking geopolitics in backing the arms sales, many have their eye on domestic politics, as thousands of American jobs could be on the line if the deal is rejected or continues to linger.

The aerospace giant Boeing manufactures the aircraft that would be sold to Qatar or Kuwait under the pending deals. Boeing executives and Pentagon officials argue that the production lines in Missouri for both the F-15 and the F/A-18, older planes slated to be phased out in favor of more advanced jets, might have to close within a few years if the arms sales do not go through. And that would mean layoffs for the thousands of workers who build those planes.

The defense industry, by spreading weapons manufacturing jobs at plants across numerous states, exerts a major influence on Congress. Donors and political action committees from the industry contributed more than $27 million to political candidates in the 2012 election campaign cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Over the past year, Boeing ranked third among defense political contributors, donating $1.61 million to various candidates and groups.

Winning approval for the Qatar deal, however, has already been a tough sell for the kingdom and its allies on Capitol Hill because Qatar’s ruling family has come under consistent criticism from US government officials who say it has tolerated fundraising by its citizens for violent extremists.

After publicly slamming Qatar in 2014, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the time, David Cohen, who is now the CIA’s deputy director, described Qatar as “a permissive terrorist financing environment.”

In September 2014, Treasury officials said an Islamic State commander, known as the “emir of suicide bombers,” received $2 million in cash from a Qatari businessman. Treasury sanctioned the two Qatari financiers less than a year later.

Despite the US sanctions introduced against some Qatari nationals and the criticism, Western firms and banks have not shied away from doing business in the country. Investments by US and other oil firms enabled the kingdom to exploit its vast natural gas reserves for lucrative exports, with GDP growing from $35 billion to $185 billion between 2000 and 2012.

In June 2013, Qatar’s emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, abdicated in favor of his son Tamim bin Hamad. The new leader has raised hopes among Western officials that the country will strike a more moderate course when it comes to its relationships with Islamist groups. But the Treasury Department has issued no public statements suggesting Qatar has changed its stripes.

Matthew Spence, formerly the top Pentagon official for the Middle East in the Obama administration, said US weapons sales offer a way of exerting some constructive influence over a country like Qatar.

“Qatar really is an evolving country, and we should look for ways to shape which way they’re evolving,” he told FP. “If the United States doesn’t help shape their direction, Qatar will turn somewhere else.”

The kingdom has already begun to do so. Qatar had previously bought French warplanes for its small air force fleet. Amid uncertainty over the US deal, Qatar announced last year it would buy 24 Rafale fighters from France for $7 billion.

Dan De Luce is Foreign Policy’s chief national security correspondent.

Comment
jgarbuz

According to the QME, the Qualitative Military Edge, memorandum of understanding the US has had with Israel for nearly 35 years now, for every three planes the US sells to Israel’s Arab enemies, it must GIVE one better plane, manufactured to Israeli mil specs. So if the US SELLS 75 F-15s to Qatar it is obligated to GIVE Israel 25 F-15Is in compensation. But with the drop in oil prices, who knows if Qatar would be able to actually pay for them.

Qualitative Military Edge
The Foundation for Defense of Democracy

For decades American presidents have emphasized the need to maintain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME). The US legal definition of QME is, “the ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition of states or non-state actors.”

QME is intended to provide Israel with the necessary means to successfully deter and defend itself, by itself, against any likely combination of threats. So, while a coalition of Arab states and terror groups could easily outnumber the tiny Jewish state, QME provides a backstop of sorts. However, in recent years, particularly in the wake of the Arab Spring and the political upheaval that it has spawned, the potential for previously unlikely coalitions has grown.

The calculus for understanding QME has become increasingly complex. This website is a good faith effort to help policy makers gain a better understanding of the challenges of the new QME environment.
See more at: http://www.defenddemocracy.org/project/qualitative-military-edge#sthash.twcU9jCo.dpuf

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Militant Interest in Attacking Nuclear Sites Stirs Concern in Europe

March 30th, 2016 - by admin

Geert De Clercq and Christoph Steitz / Reuters – 2016-03-30 23:33:40

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-belgium-blast-nuclear-idUSKCN0WW1VO

PARIS/FRANKFURT (March 30, 2016) — Meter-thick concrete walls and 1950s-style analog control rooms help protect nuclear plants from bomb attacks and computer hackers, but Islamist militants are turning their attention to the atomic industry’s weak spots, security experts say.

Concerns about nuclear terrorism rose after Belgian media reported that suicide bombers who killed 32 people in Brussels on March 22 originally looked into attacking a nuclear installation before police raids that netted a number of suspected associates forced them to switch targets.

Security experts say that blowing up a nuclear reactor is beyond the skills of militant groups, but that the nuclear industry has some vulnerabilities that could be exploited.

“The insider threat is one of the most difficult to deal with, as this hinges on the ability to screen employees and figure out the nature of their intentions,” said Page Stoutland at the US-based Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), citing recent reported incidents in Belgium.

His assessment reflects growing anxiety among Western governments and regulators, including the U.N. nuclear watchdog (IAEA), about the risk of radicalised individuals gaining access to sensitive energy infrastructure, including nuclear sites.

In 2014, an investigation into a deliberate act of sabotage at Belgium’s Doel 4 nuclear reactor found that a former employee of the plant had died earlier in the year while fighting with Islamist militants in Syria.

In December, Belgian police found a video tracking the movements of a senior nuclear industry official during a search of a flat as part of investigations into the Islamic State attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 that killed 130 people. Security around Belgian nuclear power stations was ramped up as a result.

Industry experts say that deliberately triggering a disastrous meltdown of a nuclear reactor would be difficult as nobody is ever alone in its control room, which typically has four to six operators there at all times.

This, according to Bertrand Barre, a former executive at Areva, the state-owned nuclear reactor manufacturer, would reduce the risk of a suicide mission like the Germanwings disaster last year in which a pilot locked himself in the cockpit and crashed his plane into a mountain.

Deliberate acts of sabotage cannot be ruled out, though. In 2014, the Doel 4 reactor was halted four months after someone purposely damaged its turbine by draining 65,000 liters of oil. The perpetrator was never found.

The risk of cyber attacks is also increasing. Most nuclear plants were built before the Internet or even the computer age, and their control rooms run on 20th-century analog technology. But the NTI says that nuclear plants are now digitalizing quickly, increasing the risk that hackers could commandeer them.

PLUTONIUM SHIPMENTS
The biggest risk arises from the nuclear fuel cycle, which involves the enrichment of uranium, fuel production and recycling, transport and storage of radioactive material. Specialists say the pools in which spent nuclear fuel is left to cool are more vulnerable than the reactors themselves.

“A scenario which leads to water loss by damage to the pools could lead to a release of radioactivity of the same or higher order than a core meltdown,” said Yves Marignac, director of energy consultant WISE-Paris.

Installations like La Hague in France or Sellafield in Britain — where spent fuel from dozens of reactors is stored in pools before it is reprocessed or put in casks for dry storage — pose a particular worry.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, French authorities deployed ground-to-air missiles in La Hague, though these were removed a few months later after the threat level was deemed to have receded.

Every week, plutonium — one of the two key ingredients in nuclear bombs, along with highly enriched uranium — is transported overland from La Hague to Marcoule in southern France for recycling into mixed-oxide fuel.

“We cannot have a number of identified high-level terrorists on the loose and put emergency legislation in place while at the same time shipping plutonium over public roads on a regular basis,” World Nuclear Industry Status Report lead author Mycle Schneider told Reuters.

France has been under a state of emergency since the Islamic State bombing and shooting rampage in Paris, with increased powers of search and arrest for police.

Areva defends the plutonium shipments, saying they are coordinated with state authorities, have armed escorts and are housed in containers that are “real fortresses” secured by 100 kg (220 pounds) of steel for every kg of plutonium.

DIRTY BOMB
Experts also worry about militants pilfering radioactive material from medical or industrial installations. Radioactive isotopes are used in dozens of applications, from cancer treatment to pipeline-welding inspections, and thousands of packages with small amounts of radioactive material are shipped across Europe every year.

Stolen radioactive material from these shipments could be combined with traditional explosives to create a “dirty bomb”.

While the radioactivity spread by such a device is unlikely to be lethal, it would create huge panic and pollute a vast area that would be very expensive to decontaminate. In 1995, Chechen rebels placed a cylinder of radioactive caesium in a Moscow park, but did not detonate it and alerted Russian authorities, who deactivated the device.

Since the mid-1990s, member states of the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency have reported about 2,800 instances of radioactive material going missing.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said last month only a handful of these incidents involved material that could be used to make a nuclear explosive device, but some of the missing material could go towards devising a dirty bomb.

“The fact there has never been a major terrorist attack involving radioactive material does not mean it could not happen,” Amano said.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

The US Military Has a Lot More People In Iraq than It Has Been Saying

March 30th, 2016 - by admin

Missy Ryan / The Washington Post – 2016-03-30 02:02:12

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/03/21/the-u-s-military-has-a-lot-more-people-in-iraq-than-it-has-been-saying/

The US Military Has a Lot More People
In Iraq than It Has Been Saying

Missy Ryan / The Washington Post

(March 21, 2016) — The US military has around 5,000 service members in Iraq, officials said on Monday, far more than previously reported, as the Obama administration quietly expands ground operations against the Islamic State.

The number of American forces in Iraq has come under increased scrutiny following the death over the weekend of a Marine staff sergeant, the second combat casualty in renewed US operations in Iraq.

He was killed when militants launched rockets at a small US base around the city of Makhmour. The existence of the Marine detachment had not been known prior to Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin’s death.

Officials at the Pentagon have declined to specify how Marines are serving at the outpost in northern Iraq, which they described as a satellite base positioned to protect American trainers at a nearby, larger base. Their presence in Iraq highlights the use of forces from Navy ships already in the Middle East.

The Defense Department has also reversed an earlier position and are now declining to confirm how many forces are presently in Iraq, saying only that the number of officially assigned forces is below the current cap of 3,870.

“People come through on a temporary basis and go above and below the force cap all the time, but we remain under our force cap,” Col. Steve Warren, a US military spokesman in Baghdad, told reporters on Monday.

But officials privately acknowledge that the total troop number, while it varies from day to day, now stands around 5,000. The more than 1,000 personnel above the official cap include the Marines in northern Iraq along with military officials handling foreign military sales and other defense cooperation matters.

Having the ability to add additional personnel, whose deployments are seen as more temporary than the force of 3,870, “gives the theater commander the ability to move forces around,” a US military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel issues. The 3,870 troops include American trainers and advisers arrayed around the country.

If the Obama administration were to classify the Marines and other additional personnel as permanent, it would be required to increase that official force level reported in its monthly “boots on the ground” notification to Congress.

The White House, mindful of Obama’s pledge to end the ground wars initiated by his predecessor, has sought to minimize the combat role of American forces in Iraq. But officials have recognized the need for enhanced support to Iraqi forces, which are only slowly making progress is dislodging militants from major urban areas.

The United States has already taken steps in recent months to augment its campaign, including establishing a new Special Operations task force. Senior officials are expected to consider additional steps when the Iraqi government launches an offensive to reclaim the city of Mosul.

The number of US troops is a sensitive topic for Iraqis following the 2003-2011 war that saw over 150,000 US troops on Iraqi soil at its peak. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, already grappling with a fiscal crisis, is facing intensifying pressure over widespread corruption.

Missy Ryan writes about the Pentagon, military issues, and national security for The Washington Post.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Pro-Trump Would-be Terror Bomber Gets Probation: Man Plots To Massacre Muslims, Judge Sets Him Free

March 30th, 2016 - by admin

Justin Salhani / ThinkProgress & Justin Salhani / ThinkProgress & Judd Legum / ThinkProgress – 2016-03-30 01:51:37

Trump Supporter Given 90 Days and Probation
For Building Bomb to Kill Muslim Citizens

Justin Salhani / ThinkProgress

(March 26, 2016) — William Celli, a 55-year-old man from California, will spend 90 days in jail after being caught in possession of an explosive device and threatening to kill Muslims. Celli took a plea deal that places him on probation for a further three years and bans him from operating an active Facebook profile.

Celli was arrested on December 20, 2015 after yelling, “I’m going to kill you all” outside the Islamic Society of West Contra Costa County in Richmond, California. Police later found and detonated an explosive device at Celli’s residence after receiving tips that he was constructing homemade explosives.

Celli had taken to social media in the past to express his admiration of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump. “Donald trumps on again I’m happy leaders okay but this guys a great point man I’ll follow this MAN to the end of the world,” Celli wrote on Facebook in October.

Despite political rhetoric demonizing Muslims worldwide, radical rightwing activists are a greater threat to Americans than jihadists, according to recent studies.

Some people took to social media to decry the sentence as too lenient. Nonetheless, American-Muslim groups welcomed the development.

“We welcome the jail time handed out in this case and are appreciative of the cooperation and support from law enforcement and the district attorney’s office shown to the local Muslim community,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo said in a statement. “At a time when attacks on mosques and Muslim individuals are at an all-time high, this will send a message that such actions will have consequences.”

Celli’s sentence is lenient, though, in comparison with that of the Duka brothers. Three brothers from this family of Albanian Muslim immigrants are currently serving life sentences (two of the brothers were sentenced to life sentences plus 30 years) for allegedly planning an attack on Fort Dix.

The brothers were sentenced despite being caught on tape multiple times denying any intent to undertake such an attack. They were arrested while illegally buying firearms.

Celli isn’t the first American to get a relatively lenient sentence for threatening Muslims, either. Robert Rankin Doggart, a former candidate for Congress, said he was “plotting the annihilation” of a Muslim community in New York but was let go on a guilty plea. [See story below. — EAW.]


Right-Wing Terrorists Are Killing More Americans
Than Jihadists — and Now The DOJ Will Act

Justin Salhani / ThinkProgress

(October16, 2015) — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has created a new post to fight domestic terrorism. The new position will coordinate investigations into a phenomena that has killed more Americans than foreign terrorism since 9/11.

The DOJ did not say who would take the new role but said that the position’s responsibilities include assisting federal prosecutors working on domestic terrorism cases.

In recent years, the US government’s counterterrorism policy has largely focused on Islamist radicals. This is largely a reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Meanwhile, attacks from right-wing radicals have largely been overlooked by officials.

This is despite the fact that attacks from rightwing radicals have led to more deaths than “homegrown jihadists” since 9/11, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

In fact, since the twin towers were hit, self-proclaimed jihadists have killed 26 people in the US whereas rightwing radicals have killed 48, so says statistics provided by the New America Foundation.

“We’ve seen lone actor attacks about every 33 days, mostly white supremacist or anti-government extremists,” Heidi Beirich of SPLC told NBC News. “Homegrown violent extremists can be motivated by any viewpoint on the full spectrum of hate — anti-government views, racism, bigotry, anarchy and other despicable beliefs. When it comes to hate and intolerance, no single ideology governs.”

The most notable attack by a white supremacist this year was in Charleston, South Carolina in June. A young man entered the Emanuel A.M.E. church, sat for an hour with worshippers, then shot and killed nine black Americans. He had regularly posed with flags that represented his white supremacist views.

“We recognize that, over the past few years, more people have died in this country in attacks by domestic extremists than in attacks associated with international terrorist groups,” Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said during a speech at George Washington University this past week.

During the talk, Carlin said he has spoken to many local law enforcement officials and that they’ve identified the largest domestic threat: people who call themselves sovereign citizens. A sovereign citizen believes that they are no beholden to any laws, courts, or law enforcement officials.

“Looking back over the past few years, it is clear that domestic terrorists and homegrown violent extremists remain a real and present danger to the United States,” Carlin said.


Man Admits Plotting To Massacre Muslims,
Judge Sets Him Free Anyway

Judd Legum / ThinkProgress

(July 5, 2015) — Robert Rankin Doggart, a former candidate for Congress, admitted in federal court to “plotting the annihilation” of a village in New York that is home to many Muslims. Doggart’s plans included “burning down a school, a mosque and a cafeteria,” according to the criminal complaint.

“We’re gonna be carrying an M4 with 500 rounds of ammunition, light armor piercing. A pistol with three extra magazines, and a machete. And if it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds,” Doggart allegedly said according to the transcript of a wiretap cited in the complaint. He also allegedly tried to recruit other individuals to participate in his plot through a Facebook group.

As part of a plea agreement, Doggart pled guilty to “interstate communication of threats” and faces up to five years in prison. He was in jail awaiting final sentencing.

But a federal judge, Curtis Collier, may not accept the guilty plea. He’s ordered the prosecution and defense to produce briefs proving that Doggart was a “true threat.” Meanwhile, a different federal judge, Magistrate Susan K. Lee, released Doggart from jail “into the custody of two family members.”

Lee had previously found that Doggart was a “danger to the community.” The government appealed the decision to release Doggart to Judge Collier, who affirmed Lee’s decision.

Doggart’s release has drawn criticism from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy group. “It is deeply troubling that an individual who has admitted to planning a religiously-motivated terror attack on American Muslims is now free, while the intended targets of his plot remain unprotected,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement.

CAIR had previously criticized the prosecutor’s decision not to treat Doggart’s conduct “as an act of terrorism and to charge the alleged organizer of the attack as a terrorist.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center — and academics studying the issue — the United States has focused on combating Islamic extremism but given short shrift to other threats like domestic attacks by right-wing radicals. Since 9/11, “more people have been killed in America by non-Islamic domestic terrorists than jihadists.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

What Do Terrorists Want?

March 30th, 2016 - by admin

Sheldon Richman / AntiWar.com & Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com – 2016-03-30 01:27:53

What Do Terrorists Want?

(March 29, 2016) — After the terrorist violence in Brussels many people, including Barack Obama, said we should not change our way of life and live in fear because that is what terrorists want.

Maybe, but is that all they want? It seems that something important is left out of the story. In the classical model of terrorism, instilling fear (along with causing death and injury) is not an end in itself. It’s a means to an end.

Terrorists don’t necessarily get a kick out creating carnage and fear (though it is possible). Primarily they want the survivors’ fear converted into action aimed at changing their government’s policy.

Thus terrorism, if it to have any meaning, is a political, not a sadistic, act. In the paradigm case a weak non-state group, unable to resist a state’s military or to change its policy directly, terrorizes the civilian population of that state in the hope it will demand a change in foreign or domestic policy.

(Let’s leave aside for this discussion that terrorism has been strategically (re)defined by the United States and its allies such that it can apply only to their adversaries, even when they attack military targets instead of civilians.)

It’s not hard to fathom why the full story of terrorism is not acknowledged by officials and pundits: it would draw attention to what the US government and allied states have long been doing to people in the Muslim world.

Nearly all Americans seem to think it’s a sheer coincidence that terrorism is most likely to be committed by people who profess some form of Islam and that the US military has for decades been bombing, droning, occupying, torturing, etc. in multiple Islamic countries.

Or perhaps they think US-inflicted violence is just a defensive response to earlier terrorism. (I might be giving people too much credit by assuming they even know the US government is doing any of this.) When the US military isn’t wreaking havoc directly, the US government is underwriting and arming tyrants like those in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere.

And just to complete the picture, the US government fully backs the Israeli state, which has oppressed Palestinians and occupied their land for many decades.

All this is what Islamist terrorists say they seek revenge for (more here), and the US government acknowledges this. (That does not excuse violence against noncombatants, of course.)

But telling the full story about the terrorists’ objectives might inadvertently prompt a fresh look — maybe even a reevaluation — of America’s atrocious foreign policy. The ruling elite and the military-industrial complex would not want that.

Since questioning and changing US foreign policy are out of the question, the pundits and “terrorism experts” look for other ways to prevent terrorism. Unsurprisingly, everything they come up with entails violations of our civil liberties. Discussions about “profiling” are featured on cable news channels almost regularly.

Should we or should we not profile? Those few who say no are accused of “political correctness,” the handy put-down for anyone who is leery about violating privacy or gratuitously insulting whole classes of people.

But let’s think about profiling for a moment. As acknowledged, when one hears about public, indiscriminate suicidal violence, such as occurred in Brussels, it is reasonable to wonder if the perpetrators professed some “extreme” variant of Islam. (That doesn’t mean another group, say, neo-Nazis and white nationalists, couldn’t be the perps, as in the case of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.)

But since Islamists come to mind first, that might give us a clue to how to profile. As part of the profiling, why not look for links to countries the US government and its allies bomb, occupy, or otherwise abuse?

The media inform us that many of the terrorists in Europe first went to Syria to try to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad (whom the US government wants overthrown), but then came home angry after NATO countries started bombing the Islamic State there and in Iraq, with the inevitable civilian casualties. In some cases Syrian nationals sneaked into Europe through Turkey.

So the perpetrators of the next terrorist act are likely to be Islamists with links to or sympathy for people terrorized by the United States and its allies — namely, in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. But if that kind of profiling makes sense, wouldn’t it make even more sense simply to stop inflicting violence on the Muslim world?

I guess that’s too simple for our experts.

Sheldon Richman, author of the forthcoming book The Constitution Revisited: A Libertarian Look at America’s Counter-Revolution, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

The US Wants the Islamic State Group to Win in Syria

March 30th, 2016 - by admin

Fuerzas Armadas & David Swanson / TeleSUR – 2016-03-30 01:16:44

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/The-US-Wants-the-Islamic-State-Group-to-Win-in-Syria–20160328-0027.html


‪Drone Footage of the Ruins in Palmyra‪
Fuerzas Armadas

(March 26, 2016) — Syrian forces close to the ancient town of Palmyra: Drone footage of the ruins.


‪The US Wants the Islamic State Group to Win in Syria‪
David Swanson / TeleSUR

(March 28, 2016) — So many enemies, so little logic.
The US State Department does not want the government of Syria to defeat or weaken the Islamic State group, at least not if doing so means any sort of gain for the Syrian government.

Watching a recent video of a State Department spokesperson speaking on that subject might confuse some US war supporters. I doubt many residents of Palmyra, Virginia, or Palmyra, Pennsylvania, or Palmyra, New York could give a coherent account of the US government’s position on which enemy should control the ancient Palmyra in Syria.

The US government has been arming al-Qaida in Syria. I doubt many people in the United States, of whatever political persuasion, could explain why. In my experience, having just begun a tour of speaking events, very few in the United States can even name the seven nations that President Barack Obama has bragged about bombing, much less explain which parties he is or is not bombing in those countries.

No nation in the history of the world has had so many enemies to keep track of as the United States has now, and bothered so little about doing so.

The particular problem with Syria is that the US government has prioritized one enemy, whom it has utterly failed to scare the US public with, while the US government has made a distant second priority of attacking another enemy that most people in the United States are so terrified of they can hardly think straight.

Consider what changed between 2013 and 2014. In 2013, President Obama was prepared to heavily bomb the Syrian government. But he did not claim that the Syrian government wanted to attack the United States, or even to attack a handful of white people from the United States. Instead he argued, unconvincingly, that he knew who was responsible for killing Syrians with chemical weapons.

This was in the midst of a war in which thousands were dying on all sides from all kinds of weapons. The outrage over a particular type of weapon, the dubious claims, and the eagerness to overthrow a government, were all too close to US memories of the 2003 attack on Iraq.

Congress members in 2013 found themselves at public events confronted with the question of why the US would overthrow a government in a war on the same side as al-Qaida. Were they going to start another Iraq War?

US and British public pressure reversed Obama’s decision. But US opinion was even more against arming proxies, and a new CIA report said that doing so had never worked, yet that was the approach Obama went with.

The overthrow, which Hillary Clinton still says should have happened, would have quickly created the chaos and terror that Obama set about developing slowly.

In 2014, Obama was able to step up direct US military action in Syria and Iraq with virtually no resistance from the public. What had changed? People had heard about videos of the Islamic State group killing white people with knives. It didn’t seem to matter that jumping into the war against the Islamic State group was the opposite side from what Obama had said in 2013 the US needed to join.

It didn’t even seem to matter that the US clearly intended to join in both sides. Nothing related to logic or sense mattered in the least. The Islamic State group had done a little bit of what US allies in Saudi Arabia and Iraq and elsewhere did routinely, and had done it to Americans.

And a fictional group, even scarier, the Khorasan Group, was coming to get us, the Islamic State group was slipping across the border from Mexico and Canada, if we didn’t do something really big and brutal we were all going to die.

That being why the US public finally said yes to open-ended war again — after really not falling for the lies about a humanitarian rescue in Libya, or not caring — the US public naturally assumes that the US government has prioritized destroying the evil dark force of so-called Islamic Terror. It hasn’t. The US government says to itself, in its little-noticed reports, that the Islamic State group is no threat to the United States.

It knows perfectly well, and its top commanders blurt it out upon retirement, that attacking terrorists only strengthens their forces. The US priority remains overthrowing the Syrian government, ruining that country, and creating chaos.

Here’s part of that project: US-backed troops in Syria fighting other US backed troops in Syria. That’s not incompetence if the goal is to destroy a nation, as it seems to be in Hillary Clinton’s emails:

“The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad . . . Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s civil war may seem unconnected, but they are.

For Israeli leaders, the real threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is not the prospect of an insane Iranian leader launching an unprovoked Iranian nuclear attack on Israel that would lead to the annihilation of both countries.

What Israeli military leaders really worry about — but cannot talk about — is losing their nuclear monopoly . . . It is the strategic relationship between Iran and the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria that makes it possible for Iran to undermine Israel’s security.”

The Islamic State group, al-Qaida, and terrorism are far better tools for marketing wars than communism ever was, because they can be imagined using knives rather than nukes, and because terrorism can never collapse and vanish.

If (counterproductively) attacking groups like al-Qaida were what motivated the wars, the United States would not be aiding Saudi Arabia in slaughtering the people of Yemen and increasing the power of al-Qaida there.

If peace were the goal, the US would not be sending troops back into Iraq to use the same actions that destroyed that country to supposedly fix it. If winning particular sides of wars were the main objective, the United States would not have served as the primary funding for both sides in Afghanistan for all these years, with decades more planned.

Why did Senator Harry Truman say the United States should help either the Germans or the Russians, whichever side was losing? Why did President Ronald Reagan back Iraq against Iran and also Iran against Iraq?

Why could fighters on both sides in Libya exchange parts for their weapons? Because two goals that outweigh all others for the US government often align in the cause of sheer destruction and death.

One is US domination of the globe, and all other peoples be damned. The second is arms sales. No matter who’s winning and who’s dying, the weapons makers and arms dealers profit, and the majority of weapons in the Middle East have been shipped there from the United States. Peace would cut into those profits horribly.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He is a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.



The Syrian Arab Army liberating the Palmyra City
Fuerzas Armadas

(March 25, 2016) — Over the last 48 hours, the Syrian Armed Forces and Hezbollah have made several important gains in the Palmyra (Tadmur) countryside, reaching the ancient city’s gates for the first time in 10 months.

Making matters worse for the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), the Syrian Armed Forces and their allies have made several advances in Palmyra’s northern countryside; this has allowed them to cutoff ISIS from their key supply route along the Ithriya-Palmyra Road.


‬The Battle for Palmyra 18‪

(March 19, 2016) — The Syrian army has recently received orders to launch an offensive against the “pearl” of the Syrian desert — ancient city of Palmyra, which is about a year ago captured militants of the terrorist gang Daishev.

The military believe that the victory in the Battle of Palmyra will be a turning point in the war: the Syrian army will open the way to Raqqa — the so-called militants capital, cut off the terrorists’ supply path and be able to break through to the besieged city of Deir ez-Zor

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

America’s Astounding Human Rights Hypocrisy. What We Could Learn from Cuba

March 29th, 2016 - by admin

Harvey Wasserman / Reader Supported News & Marjorie Cohn / Marjorie Cohn.com – 2016-03-29 00:50:00

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/35913-focus-americas-astounding-human-rights-hypocrisy-in-cuba

America’s Astounding Human Rights Hypocrisy in Cuba
Harvey Wasserman / Reader Supported News

(March 23, 2016) — Our American president’s long-overdue visit to Cuba has been a great thing for many reasons. But maybe our elected officials should cease their hypocritical yapping about the human rights situation in Cuba until they come clean about what’s happening here in the United States.

To be sure, there is much to say about how this authoritarian regime has handled dissent. The details abound in the corporate media. But the idea of the United States lecturing Cuba or any other country on this planet about human rights comes down somewhere between embarrassing and nauseating.

Consider:
* The US right now has the world’s largest prison population by far. There are 2.2 million citizens in prison here for offenses that include smoking pot and failing to pay off certain debts. At its peak, there were 2.5 million in Stalin’s Soviet Gulag.

* The US prison population is hugely over-filled with African-Americans and Hispanics.

* The racial bias of the prison population is directly related to a deliberate Jim Crow strategy of disenfranchisement aimed at keeping people of color from voting.

* There are more citizens in US prisons than there are prisoners in China, another authoritarian country. China’s population is 4 to 5 times as large as that of the US. They do not have an alleged Bill of Rights.

* The American prison population currently represents almost a quarter of the entire population of Cuba.

* Rape, torture, extended solitary confinement, and other human rights offenses are common in US prisons. In many cases, decent medical care is notably lacking, resulting in avoidable illness and death.

* More than 500,000 Americans are in prison for victimless crimes relating to substances they have chosen to put in their own bodies rather than harm done anyone else.

* On the actual island of Cuba, the US holds a reserve at Guantanamo that the Cuban people want returned to them. In the interim, prisoners are held there in denial of all human rights, often without trial, in some cases being subjected to what can only be termed torture. Some have been held for years after their release has been authorized. Guantanamo is maintained on Cuban soil precisely so those held there can be denied their human rights.

* The United States still has the death penalty, which has been repeatedly used to execute human beings who later prove innocent. One former president of the United States, George W. Bush, personally authorized 152 executions while governor of Texas.

* Access to due process in the United States is significantly restricted by race and class.

* There are numerous political prisoners being held without human rights guarantees throughout the US prison system whose “offenses” are every bit as illusory as many of the prisoners held in violation of human rights in Cuba.

* Among them is Leonard Peltier, a native American wrongly convicted of murder four decades ago. Peltier has repeatedly petitioned for a new trial and been turned down by presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and now Obama, even though the evidence overwhelmingly indicates he is innocent of the two murders for which he was convicted in the mid 1970s. Peltier is now suffering from advanced diabetes.

He’s being held under extremely harsh conditions in clear violation of a wide range of laws allegedly protecting the basic human rights guaranteed all prisoners by the US criminal justice code and by international law. Peltier has grandchildren and great grandchildren he has never seen. If he were being held under the same circumstances in Cuba, the US would be screaming for his release.

* In 2001, as he was leaving office, Bill Clinton chose to pardon multi-millionaire Marc Rich, with immense direct and indirect benefits later coming to the Clintons and their various interests. Though Clinton was thoroughly and repeatedly briefed about Leonard Peltier, he chose to leave Peltier in prison, to not grant him a new trial, and to do nothing to mitigate the illegal conditions under which he’s being held.

* Since Richard Nixon’s declaration of the Drug War in 1971, various branches of the US police system have arrested more than 41 million American citizens, almost four times as many people as now live in Cuba. The arrests have been heavily weighted against people of color and low income. With the $1 trillion or more spent on this mass incarceration, all those arrested could have been sent to college.

* In recent years the incentive to incarcerate American citizens (guilty or otherwise) has been vastly accelerated by the establishment of private prisons, whose profits are based on the number of people they can lock up.

Americans charged with crimes are now viewed as “cash flow” by this for-profit prison system, which has every incentive to keep them incarcerated as long as possible, no matter how their alleged crime or violated human rights might stack up.

* Though they recently crashed the entire US economy with a stunning array of criminal activities, no banker or financier who helped devastate the livelihoods of millions of families worldwide has gone to prison.

* American police forces routinely maim and kill innocent citizens based largely on race and class, with little or no legal recourse.

* In the name of fighting terrorism and the Drug War, US police forces now regularly confiscate cash and other property from innocent citizens without due process or reasonable legal recourse. The funds are often used for the personal benefit of the officers involved.

* A nationwide program of electronic spying on private citizens has been in place in the US for many years, leaving the Fourth Amendment right to privacy in shambles.

There is, of course, much more. But at very least we hope that President Obama will admit to some or all of the above amidst his cringe-worthy lectures to the Cubans on the sacred nature of human rights.

Harvey Wasserman’s America at the Brink of Rebirth: The Organic Spiral of Us History can be had via www.solartopia.org. The Strip & Flip Selection of 2016: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft, co-written with Bob Fitrakis, is at www.freepress.org.


Stop Lecturing Cuba and Lift the Blockade
Marjorie Cohn / Marjorie Cohn.com

(March 18, 2016) — Surrounding President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba on March 20, there is speculation about whether he can pressure Cuba to improve its human rights. But a comparison of Cuba’s human rights record with that of the United States shows that the US should be taking lessons from Cuba.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains two different categories of human rights: civil and political rights on the one hand; and economic, social and cultural rights on the other.

Civil and political rights include the rights to life, free expression, freedom of religion, fair trial, self-determination; and to be free from torture, cruel treatment, and arbitrary detention.

Economic, social, and cultural rights comprise the rights to education, healthcare, social security, unemployment insurance, paid maternity leave, equal pay for equal work, reduction of infant mortality; to prevention, treatment, and control of diseases; and to form and join unions and strike.

These human rights are enshrined in two treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The United States has ratified the ICCPR. But the US refuses to ratify the ICESCR. Since the Reagan administration, it has been US policy to define human rights only as civil and political rights. Economic, social and cultural rights are dismissed as akin to social welfare, or socialism.

The US government criticizes civil and political rights in Cuba while disregarding the Cubans’ superior access to universal housing, healthcare, education, and Cuba’s guarantee of paid maternity leave and equal pay rates.

Meanwhile, the US government has committed serious human rights violations on Cuban soil, including torture, cruel treatment, and arbitrary detention at Guantanamo. And since 1960, the United States has expressly interfered with Cuba’s economic rights and its right to self-determination through the economic embargo.

The US embargo of Cuba, now a blockade, was initiated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower during the Cold War in response to a 1960 memo written by a senior State Department official. The memo proposed “a line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”

That goal has failed, but the punishing blockade has made life difficult in Cuba. In spite of that inhumane effort, however, Cuba guarantees its people a remarkable panoply of human rights.

Healthcare
Unlike in the United States, healthcare is considered a right in Cuba. Universal healthcare is free to all. Cuba has one of the highest ratios of doctors to patients in the world at 6.7 per 1,000 people. The 2014 infant mortality rate was 4.2 per 1,000 live births — one of the lowest in the world.

Healthcare in Cuba emphasizes prevention, rather than relying only on medicine, partly due to the limited access to medicines occasioned by the US blockade. In 2014, the Lancet journal said, “If the accomplishments of Cuba could be reproduced across a broad range of poor and middle-income countries, the health of the world’s population would be transformed.”

Cuba has developed pioneering medicines to treat and prevent lung cancer and prevent diabetic amputations. Because of the blockade, however, we in the United States cannot take advantage of them.

Education
Free education is a universal right up to and including higher education. Cuba spends a larger proportion of its GDP on education than almost any other country in the world. “Mobile teachers” are deployed to homes if children are unable to attend school.

Many schools provide free morning and after-school care for working parents who have no extended family. It is free to train to be a doctor in Cuba. There are 22 medical schools in Cuba, up from only 3 in 1959 before the Cuban Revolution.

Elections
Elections to Cuba’s national parliament (the National Assembly) take place every five years and elections to regional Municipal Assemblies every 2.5 years. Delegates to the National Assembly then elect the Council of State, which in turn appoints the Council of Ministers from which the President is elected.

As of 2018 (the date of the next general election in Cuba), there will be a limit of no more than two five-year terms for all senior elected positions, including the President. Anyone can be nominated to be a candidate. It is not required that one be a member of the Communist Party (CP).

No money can be spent promoting candidates and no political parties (including the CP) are permitted to campaign during elections. Military personnel are not on duty at polling stations; school children guard the ballot boxes.

Labor Rights
Cuban law guarantees the right to voluntarily form and join trade unions. Unions are legally independent and financially autonomous, independent of the CP and the state, funded by members’ subscriptions. Workers’ rights protected by unions include a written contract, a 40-44-hour week, and 30 days’ paid annual leave in the state sector.

Unions have the right to stop work they consider dangerous. They have the right to participate in company management, to receive management information, to office space and materials, and to facility time for representatives.

Union agreement is required for layoffs, changes in patterns of working hours, overtime, and the annual safety report. Unions also have a political role in Cuba and have a constitutional right to be consulted about employment law. They also have the right to propose new laws to the National Assembly.

Women
Women make up the majority of Cuban judges, attorneys, lawyers, scientists, technical workers, public health workers and professionals. Cuba is ranked first in Save the Children’s “Less Developed Countries” Mothers Index.

With over 48% women MPs, Cuba has the third highest percentage of female parliamentarians in the world. Women receive 18 weeks of full salary during paid maternity leave,followed by 40 weeks at 60% of full salary. The government subsidizes abortion and family planning, places a high value on pre-natal care, and offers “maternity housing” to women before giving birth.

Life Expectancy
In 2013, the World Health Organization listed life expectancy for women in Cuba at 80; the figure was 77 for men. The probability of dying between ages 15 and 60 years per 1,000 people in the population was 115 for men and 73 for women in Cuba.

During the same period, life expectancy for women in the United Stateswas 81 for women and 76 for men. The probability of dying between 15 and 60 per 1,000 people was 128 for men and 76 for women in the United States.

Death Penalty
A study by Cornell Law School found no one under sentence of death in Cuba and no one on death row in October 2015: “On December 28, 2010, Cuba’s Supreme Court commuted the death sentence of Cuba’s last remaining death row inmate, a Cuban-American convicted of a murder carried out during a 1994 terrorist invasion of the island. No new death sentences are known to have been imposed” since that time.

By contrast, as of January 1, 2016, 2,943 people were on death row in state facilities in the United States. And 62 were on federal death row as of March 16, 2016, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Sustainable Development
In 2006, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a leading global environmental organization, found that Cuba was the only country in the world to have achieved sustainable development.

Jonathan Loh, one of the authors of the WWF report, said, “Cuba has reached a good level of development according to United Nations’ criteria, thanks to its high literacy level and a very high life expectancy, while the ecological footprint is not large since it is a country with low energy consumption.”

Stop Lecturing Cuba and Lift the Blockade
When Cuba and the US held talks about human rights a year ago, Pedro Luis Pedroso, head of the Cuban delegation, said, “We expressed our concerns regarding discrimination and racism patterns in US society, the worsening of police brutality, torture acts and extrajudicial executions in the fight on terror and the legal limbo of prisoners at the US prison camp in Guantanamo.”

The hypocrisy of the US government in lecturing Cuba about its human rights while denying many basic human rights to the American people is glaring. The United States should lift the blockade. Obama should close Guantanamo and return it to Cuba.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Follow her on Twitter @marjoriecohn.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 General Assembly resolution 217 A as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected.

Preamble
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

US Bombings Have Increased ISIS Attacks in Europe; In US, Trump Supporter Plans to Terror-bomb Muslims, Gets Probation

March 28th, 2016 - by admin

Steve Weissman / Reader Supported News & Justin Salhani /Think/Progress – 2016-03-28 23:07:49

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/36005-focus-who-are-the-terrorists-and-why-are-they-winning

Who Are the Terrorists and Why Are They Winning?
Steve Weissman / Reader Supported News

PARIS (March 128, 2016) — “Je suis sick of this shit,” read the twitter hashtag following last week’s bombings in Brussels, the capital of an increasingly dysfunctional European Union. Sick of terrorist attacks not just in Europe and the United States, but also from Pakistan, India, and Indonesia to Turkey, the Middle East, and Africa.

And not just by Muslim jihadis, but also by America’s Christian nationalist and white supremacist groups who are now supporting the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Who are the terrorists and why do they continue to spread their terror? For Trump and Cruz, as for many American evangelicals, the answer is too many Muslims, and the refusal of authorities to police them aggressively. Or, in Trump’s view, to use more waterboarding and even harsher forms of torture against them.

Know-nothing Muslim-bashing, this “plays right into the hands of terrorists who want to turn us against one another; who need a reason to recruit more people to their hateful cause,” warned President Obama in his weekly address after the bombings that killed 35 people at the airport and on a metro in Brussels.

Obama knows, as does New York City police commissioner William Bratton, that they need Muslim cops and communities to provide the intelligence to stop terrorist plots.

In his address, Obama wanted us to believe that he was playing a winning hand. “We’ve been taking out ISIL leadership, and this week, we removed one of their top leaders from the battlefield — permanently,” he boasted. “A relentless air campaign — and support for forces in Iraq and Syria who are fighting ISIL on the ground — has allowed us to take approximately forty percent of the populated territory that ISIL once held in Iraq.”

But just as Washington’s open and covert interventions destabilized Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and triggered the worst refugee crisis in Europe since the end of World War II, Obama’s latest “success” has created collateral damage that could prove even more devastating.

On the same day he made his boast, The Guardian connected the dots, based on interviews with two ISIL activists. Other observers have confirmed the article’s general thrust.

Nine days before the November 13 terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris, ISIL leaders risked allied airstrikes to bring their senior officials together in the Syrian town of Tabqah, west of Raqqa. There the leadership laid out a decisive shift in strategy.

Instead of putting all their efforts into holding the Iraqi and Syrian land in their self-proclaimed caliphate, a task they saw as militarily hopeless, the leadership had already sent hundreds of their European fighters back home to wreak havoc in Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, and the UK.

ISIL’s leaders “believe that European societies are easily weakened through savagery,” wrote The Guardian. “One of the group’s members said its senior officials had a deep understanding of the European political architecture and of the fears of its people.”

“At the meeting, they talked about which societies would crumble first and what that would mean,” said the ISIL activist. “They thought big attacks would lead to pressure on the European Union and even NATO.”

ISIL’s new threat depends on its European jihadis, making it vital to understand what motivates them in their suicidal, homicidal, and ultimately nihilistic Götterdämmerung.

At the time of the Paris attacks, the best available information came from French scholar Olivier Roy, as I reported in late November. He had systematically studied the publically available information on thousands of Muslim radicals, including Abdelhamid Abaaoud — celebrated by ISIL as Abu Omar the Belgian — one of the main organizers of the Paris attacks.

“The main motivation of young men for joining jihad seems to be the fascination for a narrative: the small brotherhood of super-heroes who avenge the Muslim Ummah,” Dr. Roy concluded. This remains “global and abstract,” unconnected to real people either in Europe or the Middle East. They build their narrative “using schemes taken from the contemporary youth culture: video-games (Call of Duty, Assassins).” And they stage their super-hero fantasies using modern techniques and “very contemporary aesthetics, with a special role for aesthetics of violence.”

These young rebels had “a loose or no connection” to the mosques, or to extremist imams. “Many have a past of petty delinquency and drug dealing,” he wrote. “Before turning born-again or converts, they shared a ‘youth culture’, which had nothing to do with Islam.”

The terrorists who attacked Paris and Brussels largely fit the pattern Roy observed. Most grew up in the heavily Muslim Molenbeek suburb of Brussels. They got involved in drugs and petty crime. They became radicalized in a small network of friends and relatives, often brothers, or they found radical Islam in jail. And they went on jihad to Syria, where they joined ISIL or affiliates of al-Qaeda and learned how to use arms and explosives. But, contrary to Roy’s expectation, Abu Omar and many others were very much involved with a very extremist imam.

Belgium officials estimate that some 500 of their citizens have gone to wage jihad in Syria and Iraq, and the biggest recruiter was a Moroccan-born preacher called Khalid Zerkani, who was jailed last year. “Mr. Zerkani has perverted a whole generation, particularly the youth of Molenbeek,” said Belgian prosecutor Bernard Michel at an appeals hearing in February.

Preaching at underground mosques in Molenbeek, Zerkani “ran a network of petty criminals and used the proceeds to send jihadists to Syria,” recalled France 24. “His long beard and habit of allowing thieves to keep part of the spoils earned him the nickname ‘Father Christmas.'”

Zerkani’s network included Abu Omar, Najim Laachraoui, the bombmaker who blew himself up at the Brussels airport, and Reda Kriket, whom French authorities arrested Thursday and accused of planning yet another terrorist attack. The Zerkani network also appears to have been involved in several other recent terrorist attacks.

Scholars like Roy or the University of Michigan’s Juan Cole may argue that Zerkani’s preaching, or that of ISIL, do not truly represent Islam. But, the evidence from Belgium and France suggests that the jidhadis make it a key part of their narrative. ISIL “is a monstrous child of our world and of our epoch,” argues French anthropologist Alain Bertho.

But, in the absence of a political alternative like Marxism that attracted earlier generations, “it offers a mission to rage, a meaning to death, a divine legitimacy to good and evil.”

How far will this motivation go?

In February, the aptly named Belgian daily Derniere Heure [“Final Hour”] reported that the jihadis had been spying on the country’s director of nuclear research and development. The authorities denied that any real threat existed.

The paper then reported on Saturday, March 26, the killing of nuclear security agent Didier Prospero and his dog. Authorities insist that the killing had a very different motive. But, given their mission, why would the jihadis not attack a nuclear facility if they could?

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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