The vote last week in the Ukrainian parliament was a seriously disturbing move- it has made reconciliation with Russia near impossible. The parliament voted to work for Ukraine’s membership of Nato, a red rag to a bear.
The truth is this whole Russian-Ukrainian-Western confrontation could be largely solved if the Ukrainian and Western sides wrote on paper that they don’t want to see Ukraine in Nato. This is the key issue for Russia. But it must be written down.
Moscow no longer trusts verbal understandings that can be broken, as when the Reagan Administration gave President Mikhail Gorbachev the distinct impression that Read More »
Considering the year that is about to end is a time to pause long enough to take stock of what went wrong. In the United States not much went right aside from Barack Obama’s surprising initiative to normalize relations with Cuba after more than 60 years of hostile and punitive interaction. Although the sleazy logic of domestic politics kept this remnant of the worst features of Cold War diplomacy in being for a couple of extra decades, it is still worth celebrating Obama’s move, which when compared to the rest of his record, seems bold and courageous.
As well, Obama exhibited a strong commitment to doing more than previously on climate change, using his executive authority to circumvent Congressional unwillingness to act responsibly. Obama’s immigration reform proposals also seem on balance to be positive, although whether they will be implemented remains an open question.
Drifting Toward Cold War II: Remembering World War I
There are several signs of a worsening global setting that seemed to gain an ominous momentum during 2014. Perhaps, worst of all, is a steady drumbeat of anti-Russian rhetoric backed up by Western sanctions, that seems almost designed to produce Cold War II. Read More »
The immediate reaction to Obama’s Executive Order of 17 December 2014 – re-establishing diplomatic relations, easing travel, swapping prisoners – was a sense of relief: finally correcting a more than 50-year old stupidity. But why now? Later. First, back to June 1960.
We drove from New York to Key West, then a ferry – the captain was Norwegian – to La Habana; we wanted to drive all over, talk with everybody to understand. And the social picture was very clear: black, woman, low class overwhelmingly in favor of the revolution; white, man, middle-upper class ended up in Miami. Why gender? US imperialism was obvious but in addition Cuba was one big brothel for “puritan” US men. And one of the first acts of the revolution was to stop that, liberate the dirt poor girls, organize vocational training – give them dignity.Read More »
The negotiations over Iran’s supposed nuclear bomb-building abilities seem to be stuck in a rut. Given the detailed undertakings by Iran incorporated in the interim agreement made last year it should have only been a hop, skip and a jump to forge a final agreement.
In reality it hasn’t been so easy. Over many years the US with European connivance most – not always – of the time manufactured and manipulated the whole crisis. To overcome the suspicions aroused by that, now past, tactic is not easy. That is not just my opinion after following this subject for 30 years. It is that of the former vice-chair of the US National Intelligence Council, Graham Fuller.
Now a new book,“Manufactured Crisis” by the astute investigative journalist, Gareth Porter, has taken the lid off the attempt by the US, often in collusion with Israel, to paint Iran into a corner, whilst shunning any effort by Iran to resolve the dispute.
But before we get into that I want to make one point about the Islamic sense of morality. Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei, the successive top clerics and paramount leaders of the country, have made it clear on a number of occasions that for their country to build a nuclear bomb would go against Islamic belief and jurisprudence.
I don’t find this difficult to believe – during the bitter and savage war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1980 when Iran lost 2 million people Iran refused to deploy chemical weapons even though Iraq did. They too were regarded as un-Islamic. Iran has been consistent in its morality. Iran’s religious practice today is about as far away from the Islamic State or Pakistan’s Taliban as you can get.Read More »
It is John McCain, a former Vietnam warrior and the Republican candidate for president when Barack Obama first won the presidency, who has conducted a long campaign against the US using torture. Last week when the US Senate’s study of the torture used during the Administration of George W. Bush was published he has been one of the very few voices of the right to welcome it.
When the allies won the Second World War the torture of the Nazi regime’s top military commanders was not allowed, even though the detained had plenty of information on who did what. Few argued that torture was necessary to elicit the information required in order to prosecute the Nazi leadership at the Nuremberg war crimes trial (although Churchill had argued earlier that they didn’t deserve a trial and they should be put against a wall and summarily shot).
It was conventional interrogation that produced the information needed.
In the Senate report – which runs to 6,000 pages there are any number of sadistic acts of torture recorded. And, says the report, no information elicited outclassed the same information squeezed from the same subjects by conventional interrogation. Indeed, FBI officials were long critical of the CIA’s brutal approach to interrogation.
America’s image abroad will never be the same. A country that has long trumpeted Read More »
There are reports that the Palestinian Authority will seek a vote in the Security Council on a resolution mandating Israel’s military withdrawal from Occupied Palestine no later than November 2016. Such a resolution has been condemned by the Israeli Prime Minister as bringing ‘terrorism’ to the outskirts of Tel Aviv, and this will never be allowed to happen.
The United States is, as usual, maneuvering in such a way as to avoid seeming an outlier by vetoing such a resolution, even if it has less stringent language, and asks the PA to postpone the vote until after the Israeli elections scheduled for 2015.
Embedded in this initiative are various diversionary moves to put the dying Oslo Approach (direct negotiations between Israel and the PA, with the U.S. as the intermediary) on track.
The French want a resolution that includes a revival of these currently defunct resolutions, with a mandated goal of achieving a permanent peace within a period of two years based on the establishment of a Palestinian state, immediate full membership of Palestine in the UN, and language objecting to settlement activity as an obstruction to peace.
Overall, European governments are exerting pressure to resume direct negotiations, exhibiting their concern about a deteriorating situation on the ground along with a growing hostility to Israeli behavior that has reached new heights since the merciless 51-day onslaught mounted by Israel against Gaza last summer.Read More »
“They can choose to focus on the worst in others, criticizing, building on paranoia and worst case analysis, “security”. Or choose to focus on the best, with cooperation as dominant mode, conflict as recessive. They can cooperate for mutual and equal benefit like in good trade, exploring each others’ comparative political-cultural advantages. They can do it.”
“If all the world were like Sweden there would be no news to report. The last time that Sweden hit the front page was when its foreign minister, Anna Lindh, was knifed to death by a madman nine years ago on the eve of a referendum on Swedish entry into the Euro zone. The time before that was in the distant past.” – from a column I wrote just a couple of years ago.
But now, to everyone’s surprise – both inside and outside Sweden – this quietness of the news has been unexpectedly overturned. A newly elected Socialist government, thanks to the vote of the Swedish Democrats, an anti-immigrant and anti-European party, couldn’t pass its budget and so the prime minister has called for new elections in March. Voters are wondering aloud what has happened to the famed Swedish stability and consensus-making.
Sweden is probably the most successful country in the world – that is if you factor in Read More »
Coming from Malaysia, the two neighbors are incredibly different. Indonesia, richer in ancient cultures, larger in territory, an archipelago of thousands of islands, has GDP/capita 3,500 and Malaysia 11,500; three times+ more. Products of brutal Western colonialism, Dutch for Indonesia, English for Malaya, which became Malaysia. Exploited, robbed, impoverished. Both hoped that World War II, fought for democracy-human rights, would end that in 1945, but got wars to keep colonialism instead–till 1949 and 1957, respectively.
Both had been occupied for 3 1/2 years by Japan going south to beat the US-imposed boycott, heading for oil resources in Indonesia (Malaysian oil not yet discovered). There was a difference: Indonesia’s future leader, Soekarno and his no. 2 Mohammad Hatta had lived in Japan, made friends and met the Dutch returning to “their” colony fighting as a free country – no such freedom in Malaya.
So, why the difference? It is almost like a social experiment.
The key is the local Chinese minority, in Malaysia used by the English against the Malay majority, as exploited workers in the tin mines, and as capitalists with their gangs in Penang and Singapore; in Indonesia also in the army and in the PKI, Indonesian Communist Party, the largest outside the Soviet bloc. Hard working, well organized, clever with money, they attracted much of the same hatred and violence as Jews in Germany and Armenians in Turkey – both ending with genocides.
So also in Indonesia, the massacre of 1965-66; planned by US think tanks and the CIA with the Indonesian government. Standard CIA tactic: rumors of imminent coup from the left, perhaps organizing some–the coup against Gorbachev 1991–and then a massive, well prepared, coup from the right. Half a million or so killed, General Suharto in power for three decades, giving USA the free access to the economy they wanted. Pillaging started and lasted; like under Yeltsin in Russia.
Riots came in 1969 to Malaysia, but the reaction was totally different: the New Economic Policy. Forty percent of Muslim Malays lived in misery, 35 percent of the economy was in English, and 20 percent in local Chinese hands. Majority Chinese from Singapore had left in 1965 and now Malaysia has a GDP/cap 55,200 by far no. 1 in ASEAN – some are still in the 1,000s.
The Malaysian government did not turn on the Chinese but lifted the bottom Malays up by positive discrimination – like across race and gender faultlines elsewhere. Read More »