Walkers of the World Unite!

By Jonathan Power

When first running for president Barack Obama was made to feel uncomfortable on national television when an inquisitor attempted to pin him down on the inconsistencies of his non-smoking pledge. Clearly Obama had some trouble in not, as he put it, ”falling off the wagon”.

But, maybe, he should get completely off the wagon. It was reported that in the inauguration parade gas-guzzling SUVs were not used. But why did he not go a little bit further and insist that everyone walk?

Here is a man who likes to go to the gym every day, but a 45 minutes walk would do the job just as well and set a car-crazed world the example it needs. We have had bicycling heads of state or government before – look at Queen Beatrix of Holland and today David Cameron, the prime minister of Britain, when he was leader of the opposition cycled to the House of Commons. So why not a walker? That is what Cameron has now become.Read More »

Losing control: A blogger’s nightmare

By Richard Falk

When I started this blog a couple of years ago, the thought never entered my mind that I would need to defend the terrain. Although I knew my views were controversial on some issues, I assumed that those who disagreed strongly would stay away, losing interest, or express their disagreements in a spirit of civility.

To a large extent this has been true, with the glaring exception of Israel/Palestine. Here my problems are two-fold: (1) very nasty personal attacks that challenge the integrity, balance, judgment, and overall demeanor of myself and those that agree with me; (2) very insistent and determined requests to engage my views from highly divergent standpoints, so divergent that I can find no useful meeting ground or value in such exchanges.

By and large, I have excluded defamatory comments from the first group to the extent I have taken the time to monitor the comments section of the blog. I neither feel any obligation to give space on the blog to those who wish me ill, nor do I wish to respond to such allegations unless it seems absolutely necessary to do so. My recent Open Letter to CRIF was an illustration of such a necessity. I have refrained from responding to the UN Watch campaign despite a strong temptation to explain their distortions and deny their falsehoods, which are clearly intended to bring me harm.Read More »

The case against Kerry

By Stephen Zunes

President Obama’s selection of John Kerry as the next secretary of state sends the wrong signal to America’s allies and adversaries alike. Kerry’s record in the United States Senate, where he currently chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, has included spurious attacks on the International Court of Justice, unqualified defense of Israeli occupation policies and human rights violations, and support for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, thereby raising serious questions about his commitment to international law and treaty obligations.

Furthermore, his false claims about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” and his repeated denials of well-documented human rights abuses by allied governments raise serious questions about his credibility.Read More »

Sover du gott efter detta, Bildt?

Av Sören Sommelius

De svenska stridsflygplan som sattes in i Libyen borde användas till att också angripa mål på marken i offensiv krigföring. Det tyckte Folkpartiets militante ledare Jan Björklund, när den svenska insatsen i Libyen diskuterades i mars 2011.

Så blev det dessbättre inte. Men Sverige deltog, med brett parlamentariskt stöd, i ett krig som efteråt alltför lite har ifrågasatts. Sverige svarade för en fjärdedel av flygspaningen för att lokalisera bombmål.

Kriget kallades ”humanitär intervention” och genomfördes av Nato med stöd av FN-resolution nummer 1 973.

Men i själva verket var det inget annat än ett traditionellt kolonialkrig, sammanfattar den norske fredsforskaren Ola Tunander i sin bok Libyenkrigets geopolitik, som är en svidande genomgång av krigets förutsättningar och konsekvenser. Det här är en bok som politiker som Björklund och Bildt borde läsa. Om de gör det tvivlar jag på att de kommer att sova gott efteråt.Read More »

To an Unknown Iraqi

2013 is the year that accountability and Justice for Iraq should be high on the agenda of the International Human Rights Community. Hans C. von Sponeck, member of the BRussells Tribunal, who resigned as Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq in 2000, wrote a moving apology letter to the Iraqi people in June 2003. We republish this letter again today.

By Hans von Sponeck

What we have done to you in the name of freedom and democracy has no parallel in history. We have trampled the truth concerning your suffering, we endeavoured to solicit allies through bribery and ruthlessly marginalized those who objected to our imperial intentions. Brute force became the substitute for the promise of 1945 “to save future generations from the scourge of war”. It was you who paid the price.

Will you ever forgive us?

The torture of dictatorship was terrible for you; we added the sword of sanctions. The curse of double punishment for something you had not done was the verdict against you. Two million of you died during those years, perhaps more. The figure does not really matter. None should have died because of us; everyone had the right to live, as we do, in peace. Let us not forget the many who are still alive may never live again, maimed and traumatized forever, reduced to empty human shells. We never really wanted to share with you the dream of freedom and democracy. All we were willing to pass on to you was naked hypocrisy.Read More »

Stopping Iran building a nuclear bomb

By Jonathan Power

There has never been a full-scale war between two nuclear-armed states. If Iran does cross the nuclear threshold the same deterrence will apply. No one rational would want to provoke their own incineration. Kenneth Waltz, the distinguished theorist on the conduct of war, has written in “Foreign Affairs” that with Israel possessing over 200 nuclear weapons Iran having a bomb would bring stability.

I don’t think I want to go as far as Waltz does with that last point. The launch of nuclear weapons can always be done by accident or by the action of rogue members of the launch team in a silo. It has nearly happened in the US a number of times.

My question is why doesn’t President Barack Obama put a lot more effort into pressuring Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. This, more than anything, would work to defuse the whole bad situation.

Or, going further, why doesn’t Obama, as Hans Blix, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, explains to me, push through a Middle East Nuclear-Free Zone? This is necessary not just because of Iran but because if Iran goes nuclear so perhaps will Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt. But the US torpedoed the latest attempt.Read More »

A New Year’s wish: Go beyond !

By Johan Galtung

Yes, go beyond, transcend! That is our message, New Year or not.

Take the US school shootings. The National Rifle Association’s vice president on TV: “the only person who can stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun”. That statement struck many cords.

There is the deep US culture of Dualism – two kinds of people – and Manicheism – one bad, one good. There is Armageddon in the class room, the teacher or resident police pulling out the gun–bigger, better, more accurate–for the final battle, for the final and only solution. The NRA is riding on this DMA (Dualism/Manicheism/Armageddon) ground swell from below, and so are millions of others. It is concrete, feasible, and could start January 2013.

There is confirmation from above: this is US foreign policy. The only way to stop a bad country with arms is a good country with arms; the only way to stop evil terrorism from below is good state terrorism from above. Balance of power, countless bases, search and destroy.

We agree about the critical focus: school shootings–the USA committing suicide! – must not happen. But what do we know empirically to be constructive, creative? The answer is wrapped in ambiguity.Read More »

An Open Letter of Response to CRIF

Richard Falk

An Open Letter of Response to CRIF (Counsèil Représentif des Institutions juives de France)

I am shocked and saddened that your organization would label me as an anti-Semite and self-hating Jew. It is utterly defamatory, and such allegations are entirely based on distortions of what I believe and what I have done. To confuse my criticisms of Israel with self-hatred of myself as a Jew or with hatred of Jews is a calumny. I have long been a critic of American foreign policy but that does not make me anti-American; it is freedom of conscience that is the core defining reality of a genuinely democratic society, and its exercise is crucial to the quality of political life in a particular country, especially here in the United States where its size and influence often has such a large impact on the lives and destiny of many peoples excluded from participating in its policy debates or elections.

It is always difficult to negate irresponsible accusations of this kind. What follows is an attempt to clarify my honestly held positions in relation to a litany of charges that have been given currency by a campaign conducted by UN Watch ever since I was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to be Special Rapporteur for the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in 2008. What follows are brief attempts at clarification in response to the main charges:Read More »