smhwpf: (Sandman)
I am really struggling with what I think about violence and non-violence. For a long time I called myself a Pacifist. I'm not sure I would these days. What this clergyman who was at Charlottesville, and who also considers himself a Pacifist, said, resonates a lot.

"And so I come to this – white liberal Christian friends, I’m talking to you. I’ve seen a lot of condemnation of “violent response,” lots of selective quoting Dr. King, lots of disparagement of antifa and the so-called “alt-left,” a moral equivalency from the depths of Hell if I ever saw one. You want to be nonviolent? That is good and noble. I think…I think I do, too. But I want you to understand what you’re asking of the people who take this necessary stance against white supremacy, the people who go to look evil in the face. You’re asking them to be beaten with brass knuckles, with bats, with fists. To be pounded into the ground, stomped on, and smashed. You’re asking them to bleed on the pavement and the grass. Some of them are going to die. And you’re asking them to do that without defending themselves.

Are you willing to do that? Are you going to to go out when the Nazis come here, to the Bay Area, next week? Are you going to offer your body to them? No? Are you willing to take a bat to the head? To be surrounded by angry young men who want nothing more than to beat you unconscious, like they did Deandre Harris? Are you going to rely upon a different type of violence – that imposed by the state – to protect you – even knowing it is a danger to your neighbors? To outsource the violence your safety requires to someone else? Or are you just not going to show up, at the rally or afterward? To choose passivity over pacifism – because let’s be clear, nonviolence is still about showing up.

If you are unwilling to risk your bodily integrity to stand against literal Nazis, but you are willing to criticize the people out there who are taking this grave threat seriously but not in a way of which you approve….I just don’t know what to say to you. Truly. Your moral authority is bankrupt and you’re not helping. You’re a hypocrite."

In the end, in this situation, yes, I would rather defned myself, or others, or have others defend me, than be beaten into a pulp by Nazis. I cannot say that pure non-violence is the right answer all the time.

Here's where I still believe in non-violence though:

There is far, far, too much fucking violence in the world. Too many people, even those with good ultimate intentions, are too quick to resort to violence, or to support violence by others, as the solution to problems.

And there is far, far, too little non-violence. By which I mean, active non-violence. There is far too little thinking and praxis about opposing evil without using violence. Lots of people are willing to say "Fight hate with love", but very, very few actually have any clue or willingness about how to put that into practice beyong sharing memes on Facebook. There are people who do this, and who think about it and develop creative ideas, but there are far too few. I think there are a lot of situations where active, creative, large-scale non-violent methods could achieve an enormous amount, ultimately at less cost in lives and pain than violent methods.

You do not have to be a pacifist to engage in active non-violence. A non-violent approach says "I am going to confront you, but I am going to do so, as far as I possibly can, in a way that does not inflict harm and that does not succumb to hate". But one can do this and still say "But if this does not work I am not going to let you beat me or my neighbour to death if I can stop you by whatever means at my disposal".

It is not just about avoiding harm to the other side. It is not just about the state of your soul. It is about what comes next after you have beaten the immediate threat or got rid of the immediate tyranny. If the revolution is achieved by force of arms, then the people in charge after the revolution will not be the ones with the most popular support or the best ideas, but the ones with most firepower. And if the first against the wall are the old regime and their elite cronies, then the second against the wall will be the revolutionaries who are seen as a threat to the ones who gain power.

(The best case, though, is where one never actually faces this dilemma, 'cos you outnumber the fash 1000 to 1 like we did in Boston last weekend, and the fash have to be surrounded by a giant police cordon before being escorted away in a police van with their tails between their legs. Yes, I like that scenario.)

smhwpf: (Misbehave)
I was in New York last weekend, for the New York launch of the movie Shadow World, by Johann Grimonperez, based on the book, The Shadow World: inside the global arms trade, by Andrew Feinstein, who also worked extensively on the film. Andrew, as I've mentioned, is one of the people in the group I've been in, working with World Peace Foundation on their global arms project that I'm now running.

It was a very powerful film, extremely well put together. (It won Best Documentary at the Edinburgh Film Festival earlier this year). It is partly on the international arms trade, with some entertaining/revealing/horrifying interviews with a very candid arms broker (who apparently is now in prison in Portugal), but also, moreso than the book, on US wars and militarism more generally; but it manages to fuse these two elements together pretty well, with some apparopriate readings of his work by Eduardo Galeano interspersed. Not a whole lot that I wasn't aware of, though some things, but as I say well put together and effective in its impact.

Full disclosure: I am actually in it for about 15 seconds as a talking head. So now I am wondering if I have a Bacon Number. (I might already as I was in an episode of Mark Thomas Comedy Product). And if so if I have a Bacon-Erdos number, as I have co-authored one maths paper.

It is also a salient reminder that, for all that Obama has done that is praiseworthy, there is plenty on the foreign policy front that is pretty dismal, perhaps the drone wars in particular, and that he really only looks at all good when grading on a curve. And that Hillary promises to be worse. (Yes, still unimaginably better than the alternative).

There was a Q&A afterwards with Andrew and with Anna Macdonald of Control Arms, which went on way longer than scheduled, a lot of people with questions. And I was invited to give a brief spiel about the work we're doing at WPF and hand out fliers, to justify my train fare.

Anyway, the film is definitely recommended. It has apparently already had a 3-week run in London, don't know if it will be on anywhere else in the UK. We are still trying to organize a showing in Boston.
smhwpf: (Warwick)
Our new Director, Dan Smith, has written an excellent blog piece, arguing for negotiated peace between Assad and his (non-ISIS) opponents - and, maybe even some time in the future, negotiations with elements of ISIS or other groups that are currently to extreme and absolute in their demands to have meaningful negotiations with.

He gives a long list of examples of nations and groups that have been in conflct, and that have ended up negotiating with each other (successfully or otherwise), despite one side or other having said for a long time that they would absolutely never negotiate with the other side. So, basically, get off your high horse about how you could never possibly negotiate with Assad or whoever because they are so evil, and grasp the nettle.

Which I completely agree with. But a rather pessimistic thought strikes me - while it very often is possible eventualy to find peace between apparently irreconcilable sides, can it be done when the fundamental point of contention is the ruler him or herself?

When the 'incompatibility' is, for example, regional or sub-national independence movements, or ethnic grievances, or visions of society (e.g. communist vs. capitalist), it may be possible to find compromises, half-way measures, ways in which different groups can live together, etc. But when it's about "Does this dictator (monarchical or presidential) get to stay in power?", where is the possibility for common ground? Maybe they stay in power with reforms, or power-sharing, or whatever, but the problem is always that the ruler, if they get to stay in power, has every incentive to renege once the rebels have demobilized. (And if they haven't demobilized, then renewed war is probably just round the corner).

So I'm trying to think of examples of conflicts - civil wars, revolutions, armed uprisings - with a goal of overthrowing a dictatorial ruler, where there has been a negotiated settlement that leaves that ruler in power. None of the cases on the list in Dan's essay fit the bill. The only example I could think of is Magna Carta, but that in fact is not an example - the Runnymede agreement broke down almost immediately, leading to the 1st Barons War; John himself died in the middle of it.

In the first phase of the Wars of the Roses, after the victory of the supporters of Richard of York, who claimed the throne against Knig Henry VI, a peace deal was achieved whereby Henry remained king, but Richard was named his heir. That broke down within 5 years.

The Russian Revolution of 1905 is another not-quite example - various reforms enacted in response to the demands of some of the rebels, but alongside the crushing of the more radical rebels. Not a negotiated settlement, and this didn't exactly stick.

Can anyone come up with any examples then? My criteria are as follows:

a) An uprising against a dictatorial ruler (including absolute or powerful monarchs), with a primary goal of unseating that dictator
b) A negotiated peace
c) That does not involve the swift departure of the ruler (which would in essence be a negotiated rebel victory)

Or does such an uprising inevitably end either in the crushing of the rebels or the departure of the ruler?

The western opponents of Assad effectively say that, while there could be negotiations, the result would have to involve Assad leaving, if not immediately then fairly soon. Which of course is not something that Assad or his supporters are willing to contemplate, and are not likely to unless his violent overthrow appears otherwise inevitable.

The only other possibility could be that Russia and Iran can be convinced that their interests can be safeguarded in a post-Assad Syria,and  that this is a better option than continuing war, and are thus persuaded to threaten to withdraw their support for the Syrian government unless Assad agrees to his negotiated departure.

Or, if there is some way round the fundamental problem with a peace deal that leaves a ruler in place, namely the incentive to renege?
smhwpf: (No power)
And one to catch up a little...

Probably the place where I've been finding recently the most discussion of practical non-violence, and how people are doing it in various situations, is Sojourners, a progressive Evangelical community in the US. (I get the monthly print mag, and the weekly emails). They had a whole issue on the Arab Spring recently, for example, delving deeply into how the Egyptian non-violent movement had been built up for a long time before things actually broke out.

In the February issue, they had an article on Colombia, Standing up to death squads. (Free registration required). One thing the article does is to comprehensively demolish any notion that the right-wing paramilitaries are a thing of the past, all nicely disarmed and demobilized. Not so much. The other is to describe numerous creative non-violent ways in which groups that are victims of paramilitary violence (and that of the FARC) are fighting back.

Perhaps the most extraordinary story is that of the Nasa indigenous people, who have established a 5,000-strong non-violent army of men and women (armed only with ribbon-decorated ceremonial staffs), who intervene en masse where people or groups are at risk from paramilitaries, rebels, or the Colombian military. And they actually get results - in part because, brutal as the paramilitaries are, too many bodies all in one go would draw too much unwanted attention.

Ooh, here's another story about the Nasa Indigenous Guard, this one from 2006.

Shadow play

Mar. 3rd, 2012 02:12 am
smhwpf: (Buffy Restless)
I'm trying to give up predicting whether or not Israel and/or the US will attack Iran. Nonetheless, the level of rhetoric is getting seriously worrying, especially just now in the run-up to Netanyahu's meeting with Obama on Monday.

What's impossible to call is exactly what all the rhetoric means. The Guardian is spinning Obama's statement today as warning Iran, highlighting 'I do not bluuf' when he says that there is a military option to stopping Iran getting nuclear weapons. On the other hand, the BBC spins it as Obama warning Israel not to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iran.

Meanwhile, Foreign Policy magazine has had a flurry of articles on the subject, one suggesting it is rather likely that Obama will be forced to attack Iran, another arguing that Israel (and the US) probably won't.

In fact, while there are serious unanswered questions about Iran's uranium enrichment programme, there is zero evidence that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, and indeed US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently stated that, according to US intelligence, Iran has not yet decided whether to build a nuclear weapons. And even if they did, which would certainly be a bad thing for the region and the world (anyone having nuclear weapons is a bad thing), the notion that Iran would embrace the certain annihilation of their nation and civilization by launching a nuclear attack on Israel, who have several hundred nuclear weapons, lies in therealm of propaganda fantasy. But warmongers never allow evidence or logic to get in their way.

The thing that worries me is that, were Israel to attack Iran in the run up to the Presidential election, say in September or October, then while such a unilateral Israeli attack might not achieve very much, Obama would likely feel he had no choice but to get involved in the event of Iranian retaliation. He could not afford to be seen to be 'abandoning Israel'. So he may be tempted to forestall this by giving Netanyahu the promise he wants, that he will attack Iran after the election if Netanyahu refrains from doing so before.

On the other hand, Daniel Lavy (second FP article above) points out that Netanyahu is not a great risk-taker, that an attack on Iran would be incredibly risky, and that right now Netanyahu is looking very good for re-election in Israel.

Then again, the fact that the language coming from Washington, even as they try to dissuade Israel from attacking, is very much that a war shouldn't happen yet is not ancouraging. When the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, recently told Israel that Iran was a 'rational actor' and that a 'premature' attack on Iran would be a bad idea, he was roundly attacked by both Israel and Republican politicians. He has subsequently backtracked, saying the disagreement is just about a matter of 'timing'. Obama seemed to be saying the same thing today.

On the other other hand, it may be that the Administration is trying to give the impression that they might well attack Iran later (a) to put pressure on Iran and (b) to stave off Congressional criticism (from Republicans and many Democrats) of not being tough enough, and in fact Obama, once the election is over, has no intention of actually attacking Iran.

However, I wouldn't bank on any of these more optimistic hypotheticals. Massive public opposition is one thing that could help tip the scales of US (and therefore Israeli) calculations. Problem is, it's hard to build up momentum against a war that officially isn't on the agenda yet. During Obama's talk (according to the BBC), one heckler shouted "Use your leadership - no war in Iran", and he patronisingly replied, "Nobody has announced a war young lady. You're jumping the gun a little bit there."

Which kind of sums up the problem. And if a war does happen, it won't be announced in advance. They'll just do it, and there'll be no opportunity for public opinion to get a look in.
smhwpf: (Sandman)
The other problem I have with the Just war approach is that it is so limited in imagination and ambition and, well, Christian hope. It's about negative peace. Placing limitations - very sensible and reasonable ones - around war, but not really exploring the positive possibilities of building peace. I mean, there's a few odd clauses hinting at that, but it's not explored. That's not to say that the theory is necessarily wrong, just limited.

I mean, as Christians we believe that Christ transformed the world by allowing Himself to be nailed to a cross, dying and rising. By meeting violence and hate with forgiveness and love and turning it upside down. It is the supreme example of non-violent resistance.

Now, that is not to say that Christians should be seeking to get themselves nailed to stuff all the time. That's the old martyrdom fallacy. There are many millions of Christians facing persecution worldwide - not always because they are Christians, still less for specifically theological reasons - very often it overlaps with ethnic or national questions. But anyhow, a great deal of the time the sensible response is not to bravely face martyrdom for the faith, which would usually achieve nothing, but simply to run like buggery. There's a large community of Iraqi Christians in nearby Södertälje, including some who go to my church, who are testimony to this.

But surely, in the light of the Gospel message, the Church should be at the forefront of looking for creative and unexpected non-violent ways of resisting evil. The key point is the second clause of the Just War criteria, namely all other means of putting an end to [the damage caused by the aggressor] must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective. What are these "all other means"? Diplomacy. Blah. Economic sanctions. Blah.

There are of course many powerful examples of creative and effective non-violent resistance, and they are not limited to the old favourites of Gandhi and MLK. But, as far as Christian practice of non-violence is concerned, it has mostly been only from the margins of the church that such things have come.

What if churches were to actually put effort into thinking, developing, and organizing (across faith boundaries naturally) for non-violent forms of mediation, intervention, resistance? (Actually, on the traditional mediation front, the institutional church has sometimes stepped up. Pope Benedict XV tried to mediate peace during WWI, with both sides rejecting his efforts as biased to the other, and it was Vatican mediation that pulled Argentina and Chile back from the brink of war in 1978.)

Or never mind churches, what if governments or the so-called international community were to devote a fraction of the resources devoted to the military to active non-violent peacemaking?

Perhaps this is not possible. Perhaps, by its nature, non-violent conflict transformation has to come from the margins. I don't know. Perhaps the Roman Catholic Church is just far, far too set in the ways of institutional power for it to be reasonable to entertain any such hopes for it. (Now he realizes this, cries the crowd).

But back to my main point: the Just War theory does not really go beyond a traditional military, state-based view of what constitutes security and how it is achieved. It places limits on the exercise of military force, but does not really question the notion that military force is what gives a nation ultimate security.

I believe, or at least hope, that there are better ways. That is not to say that there might still not be cases where none of these creative non-violent alternatives can work, when armed force might really be the only way of preventing a far greater evil (like, if the French or UN forces that were stationed in Rwanda had intervened in 1994); but we - nations, communities, faith groups, could be doing far more not just to think about but to actively prepare for the non-violent alternatives, so as to minimize the occasions where none but the violent remain.
smhwpf: (Sandman)
We were privileged to welcome Dr. Izzeldein Abuelaish to SIPRI today to give a presentation. (and a few of us got to talk to him over lunch beforehand).

Dr. Abuelaish is a Palestinian doctor, a gynaecologist. Growing up in Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, he was both bright and fortunate enough to get a good education, succeed in all he did, become a doctor, go to Harvard, and become the first Palestinian doctor to work in an Israeli hospital.

Then in September 2008 his wife died of Leukemia, and then, exactly four months later, on January 16th 2009, shells from an Israeli army tank hit his house during Israel's winter assault on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, killing three of his daughters and a niece, and injuring other members of his family. He himself had left the room moments before the shells hit.

His story was not unusual from this brutal assault that claimed the lives of 1,400 Gazans. What was unusual is that he could tell it on Israeli television. Thanks to his Israeli connections, he had been contacted several times by an Israeli news channel to give an on-the-ground view, and to try to communicate a Palestinian perspective to an Israeli audience - part of a long-lasting goal of seeking to build bridges between the two peoples. So when tragedy struck, he called up his friend the newscaster and, between his tears, told the story live to an Israeli public, for one brief moment brought face to face with the human consequences of the war.

Since then Dr. Abuelaish has dedicated his life to both peace and medicine. He started a foundation, Daughters for Life, which provides scholarships for young women from the Middle East to study in the region or in the west. (He is a particuarly strong believer in promoting the education of women, and in the importance of involving women in building peace). He wrote a book published in 2010 called "I shall not hate", and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He now lives and teaches in Toronto. (I am now the owner of a signed copy).

One thing I was left pondering, not for the first time, is the relationship between seeking peace through political action, negotiations, campaigning, diplomatic pressure etc., and the more individual-led approach that says that peace starts in people's hearts, the refusal to hate, trying to get people from opposing communities to talk to each other and understand each other, etc. Sometimes I get rather cynical about the latter, especially if it's the sole focus. I've heard it said that there's any number of initiatives that seek to bring Palestinians and Israelis together and get them to talk and hug, but it doesn't change the politics of the situation, and most of the people who do those sorts of schemes are the ones who already believe in peace anyway.

It seems to me that working at both ends of the equation are necessary, and they are probably mutually re-inforcing, but I'm not quite sure how.

Like, Northern Ireland was clearly a case of both. There was a political deal between people who really, really did not love or trust each other, but there'd been a heck of a lot of groundwork at community level, with enough people who really believed in peace and enough more whose attitudes had been changed sufficiently to be willing to give it a try. Then you've got Bosnia, where peace came with the two sides still thoroughly hating each other, but where external powers did a bit of bonbing and then banged heads together till an agreement was reached. Except, the two halves of Bosnia are still barely keeping together and seem to have very little in common. (Though there's no sign of a resumption of actual armed conflict any time soon).

So I throw that out there as an unanswered question. But, when I hear a story like Dr. Abuelaish's face to face and see someone who has passed through such an unthinkable horror and come out with such obviously genuine faith, compassion and humanity, my cynicism kind of melts guiltily away.

Syria

Feb. 24th, 2012 02:02 am
smhwpf: (Handala)
Sometimes there just aren't any good answers. Sometimes there aren't even any clear lesser evils.

Last year I broke with my usual principles and supported external military intervention in Libya. Looking at the results, was this the right approach? I'm not sure.

The outcome, at present, is far from good. The Gaddhafi regime and its brutal tyranny is gone. Definitely of the good. But in its place we have: discrimination and outright persecution of the black African minority in Libya, all under suspicion because of Gaddhafi's use of mercenaries from other African countries, such as Mali and Chad. Widespread torture of suspected Gaddhafi fighters (especially, again, black Africans), held without charge by various former rebel militias. Said militias not giving up their arms to integrate into a new Libyan army, but remaining in control of their areas (perhaps understandably suspicious of the ruling NTC), and in some cases breaking out in armed clashes with each other. Former Gaddhafi mercenaries starting off a new rebellion amongst the Tuareg people in their homeland of Mali.

Libya probably does not face collapse at this point, and they may ytt be able to achieve some sort of agreement between the various factions and a transition to some sort of democracy. But things are not good.

On the other hand, had the intervention not happened, Gaddhafi's forces would have triumphed, wreaking who knows what bloody revenge on the cities that defied them, and ending for a generation any possibility of removing his tyranny. "At least it would have been over quickly" one might say. But it wouldn't. The fighting might have been, but the ongoing retribution against those who had resisted? Not so much. It just wouldn't have been televised. Which scenario would have resulted in the higher death toll is impossible to say. But at least now there is some sort of hope. And part of me still feels that the people of Misrata, who fought like lions in defence of their city in the face of such an appalling onslaught by the regime, deserved support, and unfortunately the only support at that time that could mean anything was military. If the Republican government had won the Spanish civil war, would things have been perfect? No. Would there have been persecution of the losers, factionalism, possible continued conflict between the winners? Yes. Did the Spanish people nonetheless deserve support, even armed support, against fascism? Yes.

So that was Libya. Now in Syria we have another increasingly brutal crackdown against an initially peaceful uprising (indeed one that remained peaceful far longer than in Libya) that developed into an armed rebellion. Again we have opposition cities, like Homs, desperately defending themselves against a regime onslaught that looks set upon their utter destruction.

Nir Rosen, writing at Al Jazeera, is extremely pessimistic, seeing the most likely continuation as a long-running civil war that neither side can win, with the country essentially crumbling into chaos. Mark Levine - while warning of the dangers of intervention - suggests that those opposed to intervention spend half an hour watching the videos of Ramy Syed, who posted 855 videos of the fighting in Homs, before himself being killed in the onslaught. So far only watched a few, but they do not make for comforting viewing.

But there are numerous highly pertinent reasons for not supporting military intervention in this case, and why it would turn out even worse than in Libya.

- No US Security Council Resolution. So it would be illegal under international law.
- Prospect of success - unlike in Libya, the rebels do not control clear chunks of territory. There there was a kind of front line, as virtually everything was along the coast. Not so in Syria. So it is not clear that bombing from the air could halt Syrian government forces in their assault on Homs and other cities.
- The extent of sectarian division in Syria. Assad still has strong support both from the Allawite minority to which he belongs (a Shia sect, in a majority Sunni country), and from the Christian minority. Both groups are extremely wary of the prospect of a rebel victory. If the new Libyan order is persecuting the African minority, the prospect of a bloody vengeance against Assad's Allawite commmunity could be a very real one.
- A severely divided opposition - the NTC in Libya, while far from fully united, at least had and has some sort of coherence.
- The motives of the intervening countries. Never pure of course, not in Libya or elsewhere, but there is a more direct ulterior motive in Syria, namely to weaken Iran. Moreover, Syria is Israel's enemy. Israel occupies and has illegally annexed the Syrian Golan heights. No Syrian government is going to say "Gee, Israel, sure you can have them, no problem". The USA is Israel's absolute and unconditional ally. Therefore, whatever the US says about wanting democracy for the Syrian people, not only do they not actually care about the Syrian people (a given), they are fundamentally hostile to Syria's interests - under Assad or anyone else.

Overall, it seems to me that there would be a very real danger of external military intervention leading to even greater bloodshed, hard as that is to conceive at the moment. And part-measures like creating 'safe havens' for civilians on the border with Turkey would not really be viable - they would lead to conflict with Syrian government forces, and very likely ultimately an escalation into all-out war.

One suggestion I have seen, from Juan Cole, is for drones to be used to drop food, water and medical supplies into beseieged cities. He is not sure if that is technically feasible, and neither am I, but that could be a good idea, though clearly not one that produces a solution.

The west can try sanctions of course. But even aside from the fact that sanctions would be undermined by lack of support both from major powers Russia and China, and neighbours Iraq and Lebanon, the regime in Syria is fighting for its very existence and would be unlikely to be swayed by such.

So I really can't see any good options for those outside, whether individuals or governments, to do anything about this.

The only possibility that comes to mind is to try to promote dialogue between the regime and the rebels. Such an effort could be led by Turkey and the Arab states, rather than the west, and could try to bring on board Russia. It may well be futile, but it might be the only chance. At the moment, both the west (for their own power reasons) and the rebels (for their own very understandable reasons) are taking the moralist position that Assad is too evil to talk to, has gone too far in bloodshed, and must simply step aside. Very reasonable in theory, except that can only lead to more death and destruction and no prospect of success. Why would the rebels talk? Because they are facing catastrophe, and because the outside countries could perhaps convince them that there is not going to be a western white knight riding in to save them. Why would Assad talk? So as not to have an ongoing civil war in his country, with substantial portions beyond his control, and not to be subjected to sanctions.

The outcome of such talks would clearly not be just or anything to celebrate, and would probably leave Assad with some role in the country. But it might be the only way of stopping the killing. It may well also be that neither side would be ready to talk yet, each still believing that they can win outright. But maybe at some point they might be so ready.

Or there might not. There really are no good options here.
smhwpf: (Sandman)
Some more observations on Libya. Mostly because they're floating around in my head and I haven't posted anything in ages, so might as well scribble them down.

The war in Libya seems to have reached a stalemate. There seems to be a general consensus on this.

What I don't get is why everyone thinks this is such a terrible thing and proves that everything has gone horribly wrong.

Well, lots has gone horribly wrong. There is a war. Thousands have been killed and maimed. (Mostly by Ghadaffi's forces).

But stalemate is actually a vast improvement on what has been happening. The eastern opposition-held cities of Benghazi and Abdajiya are no longer under threat, not even from Grad rockets. In Misurata, which has suffered appalingly for months under the onslaught from Ghaddafi's forces, pounded by rockets and with snipers shooting at anyone moving, the people have shown incredible resilience in not only holding out but (with the help of NATO strikes) pushing back their beseigers to the point where there are no more snipers on the roofs, there are no longer Grads raining down and the port is open.

There are still places where civilians are under threat from Ghaddafi's forces, as in the Western Mountains - and of course they are under threat from NATO air strikes, although the casualty rates from these seem to have been relatively low. But it's reached the point where Al Jazeera have for the most part stopped having a Libya live blog, or when they do it gets updated every 4-12 hours, instead of every 10 minutes. In much of the opposition-held areas, times have become blessedly less interesting, if still far from good.

What I do find concerning is the 'mission creep' aspect of things. The US and UK have quite blatantly stated that they are going beyond UNSC Resolution 1973, calling for the protection of civilians, and instead vow no let up until Ghaddafi is forced out.

Now, Ghaddafi being driven out is certainly a desirable goal. (I had my hair cut by a Libyan barber the other day who was in no doubt on this point, hoping that the rebels would soon be marching all the way to the gates of Tripoli). The question is whether war is the right means to go about it, and on this point I am going to revert to form and argue quite clearly that it isn't.

First, because it isn't in the UN Mandate. I think that matters. Secondly, because getting rid of Ghaddafi should be the business of the Libyan people.

But mostly because, even if it is possible to finish this militarily, it will only be achieved through a great deal more bloodshed. The idea of a street-for-street battle for Tripoli is unspeakable. Maybe Ghaddafi's regime would crumble, his commanders turn against him, before that, but maybe not. And after how long, and how many more dead?

The alternative, it seems to me, is to seek a genuine ceasefire, and turn back to politics as the means of achieving Ghaddafi's departure. It would have to be a full, three-way ceasefire. In return for an end to NATO attacks, Ghaddafi's forces would have to stop their attacks on rebel-held areas (in particular in the Western mountains, but also fully lifting the siege of Misurata), and pull back from threatening positions.

A ceasefire does not equal a peace agreement. It does not mean agreeing to Ghaddafi staying, and it need not require Ghaddafi agreeing to leave. It means stopping the killing and turning to political means.

Following a ceasefire, other countries could continue the process of extending recognition to the opposition forces, helping them organize politically, providing funding etc. It would allow space for leaders from the AU, the Arab World and Turkey to try to talk Ghaddafi down. And maybe if the fighting were to stop for a while it might create space for renewed anti-regime protests in Tripoli. Which might also pose questions for the loyalty of Ghaddafi's remaining forces. Are they really willing to fire on the people on behalf of a leader who would have, with a ceasefire, effectively accepted that he cannot regain control of his country?

This might well take a lot of time, and there are no guaranteed good outcomes here. But meanwhile it would mean that people were not being killed and maimed, and there would be more chance to get humanitarian aid through to all who need it. Then again, maybe a real ceasefire can't be achieved, maybe Ghaddafi will say yes and then immediately break it, and it'll be as you were.

But it seems to me to be worth a try, and better than the alternative of war till the bitter end.
smhwpf: (Giles party weasel)
As those who follow me on FB or Twitter may have seen, we at SIPRI just released our military spending data for 2010.

The world total for 2010, according to our estimates, was $1,630 billion. This is certainly a conservative estimate. The figure is an increase of 1.3% in real terms over 2009, and 50% higher than in 2001, just before the surge in world - and especially US - military spending started following 9/11.

I could say a lot more but I need to go home and sleep following website updatyness and suchlike.

For now I will content myself with saying that it is A Lot. I will even go out on a limb and say that it is Too Much.
smhwpf: (Buffy fight)
The unfolding events in Libya raise all sorts of questions about the nature of revolutions, and the place of violence and non-violence in them.

In Tunisia and Egypt, like so many other places over recent decades - Eastern Europe, the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia etc. - apparently all-powerful tyrants were overthrown by mass unarmed uprisings. Not always purely non-violent, but where all the bullets were fired by the government forces, where the motive force behind revolution was the sheer massed power of ordinary people with only their own bodies as weapons (and the occasional stone or molotov cocktail).

In Libya, while, God willing, it looks like Ghaddafi's days are fairly seriously numbered, it has gone way beyond that. What started as another mass opular uprising is now quite clearly a civil war. The opposition controls large parts of the country, where the military have gone over to the side of the people, but Ghadaffi remains pretty clearly in control in Tripoli, and is still wreaking terror and carnage amongst any who still dare to protest. Maybe he will realise the game is up (unlikely), or maybe his remaining loyal forces will finally, even at the eleventh hour, abandon him, or maybe he will just run out of money to pay them; but it may well be that the only thing that will shift him is by the opposition forces marching on Tripoli, which they are already arming and preparing to do; and as already they have been having to fight off his forces to make and maintain the gains they have made thus far.

Of course, non-violent uprisings have frequently failed, far more absolutely, before. China in 1989, Myanmar, Iran just in 2009.

The key thing is how the security forces, the people with the guns, respond to the situation, to the call of the people to side with them and not with the regime. They do not, in general, need to actually start shooting at their leaders; it is enough for them to refuse to fire on the people. When they do so refuse, the regime is doomed. When, as in Tiananmen Square in 1989, Myanmar in 1990 and again in 2007, Iran in 2009, they obey orders, what usually happens is that the rebellion is crushed, and a sullen population retreats to their everyday lives, save for a few brave, lonely souls who try, at enormous cost, to keep a pilot light burning until another generation arises.

But then you have a case like Libya, where some of the armed forces turn, but some stay 'loyal'. What then? Can one maintain, in such a situation, a committment to non-violence? Insist that, even when some of the regime's forces are still shooting your people down, that those who have joined the revolution put down their guns and let it happen? It's a moot point, because it's not going to happen that way. People will fight back when they can. Of course they will.

Does that invalidate non-violence as a strategy, or make it a second-best choice for those with no viable armed option? I don't believe so. Non-violence - or at any rate a mass, unarmed, popular uprising, offers the possibility of peaceful change. It extends a hand of peace to those who have, up till now, acted as the agents of the regime, the forces of repression.

People die in unarmed revolutions. People who stand up without weapons in front of armed police and soldiers take an enormous risk. But usually, far, far more die in armed uprisings, in civil wars. Most of them not 'nobly' on the battlefield or the front line of the demonstration, but bombed and raped and torn to piece in their homes and villages by the ugly reprisals of the regime - or even the excesses of the rebels.

Moreover, armed rebellions often fail even in success - if the original goal is a more just and peaceful society. Revolutions won primarily by armed force generally end with armed men in power, with their assumptions and agenda driving the destiny of the nation, with the people following meekly behind their liberating heroes. Algeria following liberation from the French being an obvious example, but there are plenty. In contrast, mass popular uprisings, not dependant on an elire force of fighting heroes, offers at least the possibility of real revolutionary change, of people organizing themselves and taking charge. The comparison between the 1st Palestinian Intifada, which was essentially an unarmed rising, and the disastrous, militarized second, presents perhaps the starkest contrast.

So I would argue that non-violence should not be seen as merely the 'poor (wo)man's option', when armed opposition is not feasible, but as the weapon of choice.

But when that is not enough? When you have a Libyan scenario? I really can't see an alternative [1] to people doing what they have to to defend themselves and rescue themselves and their compatriots from a deluded sociopath like Ghadaffi - and those who, in spite of everything, continue to fight for him. So I think that, for example, for European nations to impose a no-fly zone against Ghaddafi's forces - not, by any stretch of the imagination, send in troops on the ground, and please for fuck's sake keep the Americans away from the scene; but the no-fly zone is something the opposition is clearly asking for, and who knows maybe it just might be a final straw that would convince Ghadaffi - or his remaining commanders - that the game is up. Even if not, it would reduce the amount of harm Ghadaffi could do before he goes.

None of these arguments have any direct bearing on how 'we' in the west relate to and employ armed force, or the notion that the only way for us to have security is to build up larger and more powerful war machines than 'them', whoever the current them might be. Such militarist logic remains one of the principle sources of the world's ills, IMHO. But I'll have to leave that for another day.


[1] Well, of course there are two other alternatives. Accepting that you've failed this time and going home, or continuing to try with th unarmed approach and getting shot. I just don't think they're better alternatives.

Palestine

Jul. 25th, 2010 10:13 pm
smhwpf: (Misbehave)
I will be travelling, insh'allah, to Israel and Palestine on Thursday, for just over three weeks. I will be meeting up with a friend there, and we will be doing stuff with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). I was with them on both my previous trips there, in 2004 and 2005. My travelling companion, L., I met out there last time and also know from Bristol.

What ISM does )

On the situation in the West Bank )

That sort of thing is the reason I am going. Whether I - whether ISM, can make any difference, only God knows. At the moment, to be honest, I think the situation for the Paletsinians in the medium term is bleak in the extreme, with little prospect of improvement. Fundamentally, a major change in policy by the west, especially the US but also Europe, is required. I think public opinion is slowly shifting though, and if those of us who go there and tell what we see can contribute to that, that is something. The other side of the coin is that I think mass non-violent resistance[1] is the best shot the Palestinians have at making a difference at their end; I don't say it has a very good chance of success, but more than anything else IMO. That movement is still far smaller than it needs to be to have a major impact, but is growing, and needs and deserves all the support it can get. Mustapha Barghouti, leader of the Palestine National Initiative, PLA legislator, former Presidential candidate and Nobel Peace Prize nominee for 2010, is very impressive in seeking to build this.

Anyway, I am due to arrive the early hours of Friday morning, though ISM have shifted the training to Wednesday-Thursday, so I'll just be in Jerusalem till then, though hoepfully I can find worthwhile things to do. I will be posting reguarly to LJ of course. I've even bought a new camera for the purposes, my old one having broken, although cameras hate me. I will probably be tweeting too. (@smhwpf).

All this is assuming I get in of course, which is far from a given.

[1]Violent and non-violent resistance, and privilege )
smhwpf: (Sandman)
In the early hours of Monday morning 31st May, Israeli forces launched an unprovoked attack on civilian vessels of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, in international waters, carrying 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

I'm sure you've all seen or heard the reports by now. Things are a little hazy still, as Israel is releasing no details of the dead or injured. Most reports seem to be saying 9-10 activists were killed now, though some say the toll may climb. At any rate, it is an appalling, tragic, brutal event.

Countering Hasbara lies )

Israels actions today, attacking a civilian boat in international waters and causing thus the deaths of at least 9 civilian passengers, is a crime against international law, an act of piracy and state terrorism.

Israel must not be allowed to get away with this. They have gone too far, and must be made - for once - to face severe consequences for their illegal and brutal actions. For once, there are signs that there might actually be some sort of consequences, however inadequate. The EU has at least been slightly less pusillanimous in their reaction than usual, although the US's capacity for forgiveness for Israel appears for the moment to be undented. What is clear though is that Israel has completely lost Turkey as an ally, probably for good. Attacking your ally's ships and killing their citizens is not a clever strategy for maintaining relations.

It seems to me that Israel, with its extreme right-wing government, has lost its,an grip on reality, and no longer seems to have a clue as to how its actions are seen by the rest of the world - or if they do have a clue, they don't give a shit. They have gone from calculated brutality to sheer insanity. This does not bode well for Israel's future, but neither does it for anyone else's, least of all the Palestinians.

Demo today in Stockholm was well-attended - 7,000 according to police, which is pretty extraordinary for something organized at less than 12 hours notice. Marched to the Israeli Embassy, but things managed to remain remarkably calm.

I doubt many people there were feeling calm. I certainly was not, and am not feeling calm. I am angry at Israel, and angry at our pathetic western governments, angry at the Zionist-dominated US Congress, angry at Nobel-fucking-Prize-winning Barack fucking Obama, who have indulged and molly-coddled Israel for so long, let them get away with their daily oppression of the Palestinians, get away with worse and worse acts of cruelty and violence, until the point has been reached where Israel has come to believe that they can get away with anything, and become a nation apparently completely in the grip of its own pathological fear and aggression.

For the sake of both Israel itself, the Palestinians and the security of pretty much the whole world, they must not be allowed to get away with it this time.
smhwpf: (Buffy Restless)
(Commenting rather late on this, because I'm a useless procrastinator, but hey, better late than never.)

In other news over the past week, President Obama redoubled his efforts on Monday to not deserve his Nobel Peace Prize with the publication of his Fiscal Year 2011[1] Budget request to Congress.

To be fair, there seem to be some good things in the budget, job-creating measures and so forth, and apparently education got a reasonable deal. But one striking feature is that, at a time of a soaring budget deficit, and when Obama is trying to put a freeze on all other 'Discretionary' spending[2], the "Defense" budget is going up yet again. The base Defense budget is going up about 3.4% to $549 billion, and in addition there is a $159 billion request for funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The President also requested an additional $33 billion of spending for FY2010 for the war in Afghanistan, the result of his decision to escalate the US troop presence there.

When you factor in various other bits of military spending in other parts of the budget (e.g. some spending in the Department of Energy on the US nuclear weapons program), you get a total of $739 billion of military spending ("National Defense") requested for FY11 (up from $722b in 2010).

If you look at the actual Outlays - the money that's actually spent in a given year as a result of the budgets[3] - the picture is even starker. In FY2009, the last year for which Bush was (mostly) responsible, the US spent $661 billion of military expenditure. In FY2010, the estimate is for $719 billion, and in FY2010, if the Obama request is passed, the total will reach, to the nearest b, $750 billion.[4] Three quarters of a trillion dollars.

This is, quite simply, obscene. It shows that Obama, while his rhetoric may be softer, represents absolutely no change from the fundamental Bush philosophy. The US is to seek ever greater military power, not to tackle some new threat, not indeed to tackle any likely threat that can be tackled with military force, but to maintain and extent absolute, unchallengeable military dominance in ever corner of the globe and in every dimension of military power conceivable.

It is an imperialist, warmongering budget.

It comes at a time of dire economic conditions, when the US can ill-afford such waste. The national debt is soaring, and pretty soon the only thing that's going to be bigger than the Defense budget is interest on the national debt. Military spending represents a clear majority of Discretionary spending - so how Obama intends to get the deficit down while leaving untouched, nay increasing, the overwhelmingly largest cuttable item is a mystery. Moreover, in terms of the necessity for economic stimulus, military spending is about the most inefficient way of creating jobs. A study by Foreign Policy in Focus last year found that, while $1 billion spent on the military creates an average of 11,600 jobs, $1 billion spent on clean energy creates 17,100 jobs, on health 19,600, and on education, 29,100. Even $1 billion worth of tax cuts for personal consumption would creat more than military spending, at 14,600.

In other words, continuing to prioritize the military when the US faces the dire twin problems of unemployment and soaring deficits is economic lunacy.

And the final thing that makes this budget utterly criminally irresponsible is that the world is facing a very real, critical and calamitous security threat, one that can't be tackled by military force and that requires hundreds of billions of dollars to tackle, namely climate change. Making a real contribution to stopping it and helping the world adapt would not require the US to go pacifist, it would be enough to spend only, say, 4 times as much as the next biggest country (China) instead of six.

This budget is wasting money on tackling imaginary threats while the world burns.



[1] In the US, the Fiscal Year begins on 1st October of the year before the named year, so FY11 begins October 1st 2010.
[2] Federal government expenditure is either "Mandatory" or "Discretionary". Mandatory spending is that which is required by existing legislation, such as Medicare and Social Security. It therefore does not need Congress to pass a budget to make it happen - in fact Congress would have to repeal the existing laws mandating these expenditures to stop them happening. Discretionary spending is everything else, including Defense (apart from about $4 billion of Mandatory Defense spending), which must be requested annually by the President in the Budget, and then passed by Congress.
[3] When the Congress passes a budget, following the President's request, it authorizes spending departments, such as the Department of Defense, to spend a certain amount of money on specified purposes. This is "Budget Authority". However, not all this money has to get spent in the same fiscal year - some can be spent in subsequent years. The amounts actually spent in a given fiscal year are called "Outlays".
[4] All these figures (and many more for previous years) can be found in the Historical Tables at the Office For Management and Budget site linked to above.
smhwpf: (Winter is coming)
Are you a US citizen living abroad? Did you know that your President can order your execution? Without any trial or legal process, but solely on the basis of a suspicion that you are 'involved in terrorism', based on undisclosed 'intelligence'.

OK, let me rephrase that. Are you a human being living outside the USA? Did you know that the US President can order your execution, etc. etc. Well of course, if you're from some Arab or Asian or African country that kind of goes without saying. Obviously the US can do what it likes to foreigners, especially if they're other than white. Who's going to stop them? But you might have thought, if you are a US citizen, that this afforded you some kind of protection, you know, that Constitution thing that Americans keep going on about.

Not according to Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, who acknowledged that this policy exists at a Congressional hearing on Wednesday (3rd Feb.). With Executive approval, the US may assassinate its citizens abroad. Some more discussion of the matter here. (I was sent the latter link by Prof. Boyle, quoted therein, on one of my many lists).

As the ACLU says on the link above, there's no information about just what the basis would be for such a decision to be taken, what type of intelligence would be used, how much proof, how much immediate level of danger a person would have to pose. The definition of who may constitute an "enemy combatant" is sufficiently vague that it does not require a person to be anywhere near a battlefield, or be engaged at the time in any hostilities. Like many of the "terrorists" and "enemy combatants" rotting in Guantanamo and Bagram, who may have been picked up nowhere near Afghanistan, on the basis of who knows what 'intelligence'. In principle it would seem that the President can decide on your life or death on whatever basis he so chooses.

Beyond the specific question of US citizens, the far more common practice of the US practice of assassination via drone attacks in Pakistan (and elsewhere) seems so easily to have been accepted as the norm (except by a few raving leftists, nit-picking civil livertarians and the great majority of the Pakistani people, but who cares what any of them think?) Who are targetted in these attacks? Certainly, sometimes Taliban leaders get killed (and if anyone deserves to be blown into smithereens, some of those guys are near the top of the list). Certainly, sometimes civilians. Some studies have suggested mostly civilians, some that they are mostly "militants". But what does that term mean? A member of a local tribe who has a gun? Whose leaders may or may not be more or less closely or loosely allied to some insurgent group? Who may or may not have any involvement in hostilities with US forces? On what basis are human beings identified as fair game for summary execution?

This all springs of course from the blurring of the definition of war that came from the declaration of the "War on Terror" by George W. Bush. A 'war' without any boundaries, any defined enemy force, without ending. The fateful choice, supported at the time by Republicans and Democrats alike, to define terrorism not as crime, but as act of war. The phrase is no longer in use by the Obama Administration, but the concept and the policy are alive and well.

But don't worry, it's Barack Obama making these decisions now, not George Bush. We can trust him. He won't order your execution unless you really, really deserve it.

Reassured?
smhwpf: (Handala)
As I have already discussed in f-locked posts, I will be joining the Gaza Freedom March organized by a coalition of peace, human rights, faith and other groups that together form the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza, which seeks to do what it says on the label.

Attendees meet in Cairo for a briefing on the 27th December. We will then travel to Gaza on the 29th through the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt[1]. We will stay in Gaza, meeting with various people and groups, witnessing the situation from 1st hand, and delivering humanitarian aid. On the 1st January there will be a mile-long march to the border with Israel, co-ordinated with a parallel march by Israeli peace activists from the Israeli side. We return to Cairo on the 2nd, and I will return home on the 5th (possibly via a pyramid if I can arrange it).

The bloackade and its effects )

Israel's allies in the US, Europe and elsewhere have, while occasionally making critical noises, remained effectively silent in the face of this inhuman siege, taking no concrete measures to bring about an end to it.

Ending the siege of Gaza is not something that is going to happen quickly or easily, and one event is unlikely to have any dramatic immediate effect. But I consider that events such as the Gaza Freedom March are essential in seeking to keep Gaza in the international eye, challenging the shameful policies of Israel and the west, and showing the isolated people of Gaza that they are not alone.

I aim to do some fundraising to support the work of the Coalition in Gaza and elsewhere. One of my concerns about going was the question of whether, given that I have the money for the air fare, I might not do more good simply donating it to them directly. I don't know the answer to that. But my goal will therefore be, if possible, to raise the equivalent of my air fare to donate. I think I will split money raised between the coalition (which will spend it on things to do with the march itself in Gaza and overseas, lobbying activities in Washington and humanitarian aid to Gaza) and a Palestinian NGO, perhaps the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights.

I shall post further about this later, and will probably set up some sort of Paypal thing and maybe a Facebook Cause thing or something like that. In the meantime, if you want to donate to the work of the Coalition (through Code Pink), you can do that here. If you do so in response to this, please let me know (email in my user profile).


[1] )
smhwpf: (Giles party weasel)
Squee! The launch of the SIPRI Yearbook 2009 is currently the second item on the BBC News front page. And I'm quoted! They've also directly quoted large chunks of our press release sections on military expenditure and on arms production, the parts of the yearbook I was involved in.

Launch press conference was this morning. Some very good presentations by members of our staff and governing board - including new board member Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi; my talk also seemed to go down well. I will probably be appearing on Swedish TV channel 4 this evening, as I had an interview with them afterwards.
smhwpf: (Buffy fire)
Well, I have to say I was rather impressed by President Obama's 'reaching out to Muslims' speech in Cairo today.

It is, of course, only a speech, and we already know he's good at those. There's also lots of things one could justifiably criticize about the speech from a progressive perspective, things he said, more particularly things he didn't say - for example:

The less good )

The mood music )

Israel/Palestine )

There was also some nice practical stuff about education exchanges, economic co-operation, microfinance and so forth.

And the ending, well it was pretty magnificent, again all easy stuff to say, but rather good that the President of the US does say that sort of thing, rather than the lanaguage of Bush. And the way he says it does bring out the goose bumps.

Obama's speech did not present much by way of new policies, not on the big issues. It was just a speech. In the end it may yet turn out to be no more than warm words. It remains to be seen whether he actually means it. Or rather, whether there will be enough of a tide of opinion to make him follow through.

Critically on Israel/Palestine, the question is whether he will actually use the levers at his disposal (such as ending the automatic veto on Israel's behalf in the UN Security Council or cutting military aid) to pressure Israel to follow what he's advocating.

But one thing's for sure, if he doesn't follow through, if it does all just turn out to be warm words, he's going to look bloody stupid a few years down the line. That in itself - that he should put his credibility on the line to such an extent - is an encouraging sign.
smhwpf: (Winter is coming)
Apparently now the Sri Lankan government intends to put the doctors on trial who continued working within the war zone where Tamil civilians were trapped with the remaining Tamil Tigers (LTTE) in the last phase of the government's assault, attempting to provide treatment under the most desperate conditions imagineable. The UN called these doctors "heroic", but according to the Sri Lankan government, their actions give rise to "reasonable suspicion of collaboration with the LTTE".

Why is there not more outrage about this?

Of course, the doctors' real crime is that in a situation where journalists, aid workers, UN officials and everyone else were denied access to the trapped Tamils, the doctors were the only people able to bear credible witness to the deaths of civilians at the hands of the government bombardment.

The best, though, is saved for last, when the Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary is quoted talking about the 250,000 Tamils held in internment camps. (In my last post I linked to a report saying they'd be held for two years - I've seen subsequent reports where the government says nost of them will be 'resettled' within 6 months - but who knows?)

So back to the Foreign Secretary:
He said everyone there had to be carefully screened, adding that it was "quite likely" that even many elderly people were "with the LTTE, at least mentally".

(Emphasis mine).

There are no words.
smhwpf: (Dr Who shell shock)
This is truly unspeakable.

There has been a great deal that is utterly horrific about the conclusion of the Sri Lankan government's war with the (LTTE) Tamil Tigers - at least 7,000 dead according to the UN, I've seen estimates of 15,000 from health officials inside the war zone.

But according to this latest story, the Sri Lankan government has declared its intention to hold a quarter of a million Tamil civilians in internment camps for 2 years to "weed out Tamil Tigers".

INTERNMENT CAMPS, FFS!

They say it may take that long to decide whether people are LTTE members who have put down their guns and taken off their uniforms. Well, that's OK then.

Meanwhile there are widespread reports of malnutrition and generally appalling conditions within the camps. The Red Cross has been forced to suspend aid deliveries because the authorities will not let them in.

Sri Lanka has obviously learned their lesson well from the "Global War on Terror" ideology - perhaps even taken it a little further than its progenitors intended: if you say that you are after "terrorists", then there is nothing that you cannot do, no measure that you cannot take against the civilian population from which they come that cannot be justified.

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