jeudi 17 février 2011

Is the world becoming unsafe for criminal ex-Presidents?

There used to be a day when ex-heads of State could retire from public life and devote their time to rewriting the history of their time in office. Charles de Gaulle wrote a few timeless classics. Winston Churchill, despite his blatant moral double-standards (in particular concerning India...), could handle a pen. George W. Bush, on the other hand, might have to cut back on the out-of-country dates of his latest speaking tour if he hopes to remain out of jail. 

W. had to cancel a speech "at a dinner in Geneva organised by the United Israel Appeal, a US-based organisation that helps Jews move to Israel" because of some of his admissions in his autobiography Decision Points that he had authorized the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture at Guantanamo Bay. Human Rights groups called for demonstrations and the threat of an arrest warrant against W. convinced him to call off the talk. Amnesty International claims "there was sufficient information to open a criminal investigation". More information leading to a possible indictment is contained in the "2,500 page case [over the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo] against Bush in Geneva" submitted by various Human Rights Groups. Amnesty added that "Anywhere in the world that he [Bush] travels, he could face investigation and potential prosecution for his responsibility for torture and other crimes in international law, particularly in any of ther 147 countries that are party to the UN convention against torture". 

Gavin Sullivan, a lawyer for the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, backs the claim in partnership with the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights: "Bush enjoys no immunity from prosecution. As head of state he authorised and condoned acts of torture, and the law is clear - where a person has been responsible for torture, all states have an obligation under international law to open an investigation and prosecute [...] Bush will be pursued wherever he goes as a war criminal and torturer". 

Other key members of the Bush administrations are also under heat following their long involvement in crimes against humanity. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were booed at a GOP Conference by some Ron Paul supporters as they were about to receive the Defenders of the Constitution award. The hecklers yelled "Murderous scum" and "Where's bin Laden?", questions obviously ignored by Cheney, the brain behind the entire Bush presidencies. W.'s foremost partner in crime, ex-PM Tony Blair, is still travelling North American and Europe raving and chanting the merits of the Iraq war, in an apparent attempt to divert the world from the atrocities he actively participating in engaging and escalating. But his time is running out as well. In a statement sent to the Iraq Inquiry, Blair "revealed he disregarded some of the legal advice given to him by his top adviser in the run-up to the Iraq war", ignoring the intelligence memos informing him that Saddam didn't possess any WMDs and that he had no close ties to Al Qaeda (thus sharing no direct responsibility to the 9/11 attacks). English barrister Michael Mansfield told QC told Channel 4 News that "if the advice had been made public, the UK may not have gone to war in Iraq [...] It represents a flagrant disregard for the rule of law which is what the United Kingdom is supposed to adhere over the centuries". Mansfield also emphasizes that the "type of weapons deployed - particularly if they're indiscriminate, if they're not focused and they incur large numbers, as this did, of civilian casualties" could only lead to massive war crimes. He concludes: "There should be a criminal prosecution in the International Criminal Court [...] because this was a criminal event and thousands (so far more than 1 million Iraqi civilians have been killedof people have died". 

We should rejoice to hear that these men are finally getting caught up by time and that there are courageous individuals marching out and calling these criminals out.

A White House report from August predicted Middle-East Unrest

On the 17th of March, 2011, The New York Times' Mark Landler informed his readers that President Barack Obama "ordered his advisers last August to produce a secret report on unrest in the Arab world, which concluded that without sweeping political changes, countries from Bahrain to Yemen were ripe for popular revolt, administration officials said Wednesday". Yet the President chose to do nothing and even strengthened the US' support of Mubarak, until the inevitable happened. The aspirations of the Egyptian people weren't on his mind, as the little priority made of them throughout the article blatantly shows, and instead the central question for Obama is: "how the administration could push for political change in countries with autocratic rulers who are also valuable allies of the US". 

In other words: how can the US maintain the institutional and legal frameworks that benefit its interests without it being too obvious to the masses? True democracy is not an option for Obama because it is not certain that if given the full-spectrum of choice the Egyptian people would vote in power a pro-US coalition/candidate. It is even less sure that they would vote in anyone who would be disposed to satisfy the greed of the imperialist yankees as Mubarak had been. Perhaps Obama wants democracy and the rule of law in Egypt, but he and his owners (financial institutions and transnational conglomerates, not forgetting the military-industrial complex) have too much to gain from endless wars and federal bailouts/subsidies. Republicans and Democrats are the two faces of the same coin; factions of the single party that rules over the US and indeed the world: the Business Party. The little game works as long as the mainstream media(dis)misinforms the electorate [at least one-half of American citizens, those who vote in federal elections that is. For Congressional elections the turnout is much lower] believes in the two-party democracy rhetoric. But, as American officials themselves say in the report, things are now "ripe" for political unrest because oppressed people eventually get fed up and demand freedom. Maybe we in the "North" aren't "ripe" yet because we still have so many rights left to get taken away...

In any case, the types of calculations made by Obama and his cronies are totally illegitimate and morally reprehensible. But men of power are not to be judged on the content of their character alone (in a liberal democracy your private life stays private) but on the predictable consequences of their actions. Obama knew that Mubarak was weak, yet his administration's "first assessment" after the start of the demonstrations was that the regime was "stable and looking to meet the legitimate needs of the Egyptian people", as said on live television by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (and as already reported below). The official discourse changed less than a day later, yet material and scientific assistance/expertise was not offered to the protesters, who are the weakest and most vulnerable of all the parties at play (unlike the army, Mubarak, Israel and the US Government).

A country has to possess full sovereignty over its affairs to be democratic. Interference by other countries is justified in certain instances (the most important being that the population asks for it) but when a massive popular uprising overthrows a dictator who the US supported for 30 years, the US (or other Western countries) should not get any say in who governs things how next! At the very least, the US has a moral responsibility to help reconstruct Egypt. They must recognize the legitimacy of the protesters' demands and later that of elected officials. Funding must be redirected from outrageous military and intelligence spending to projects "of the people, by the people, for the people" (of the $1.5 billion given to Egypt every year, at least 75% of it could be used for social programs and getting people jobs).That is why transparent elections without foreign intervention must be organized on national Egyptian soil. The results of said elections must be accepted insofar as they do not threaten basic moral and legal principles.

In the US, citizens must realize that their rights are being stripped bit by bit by their government as well and that their national wealth is being transfered massively to the top 2% and more generally to the top 10% of wage earners, ie billionaires and millionaires who have the means to help out the rest of us through higher taxation rates. They are "ripe" for a revolt (or revolution?), because they are the lab rats being tested for the "global lifestyle" (one globalized culture working for the rich)  that is being imposed by the ruling elite. The conditions of their rule will be all the more comfortable when the vast majority of the world's inhabitants will be uneducated, unemployed, apathetic towards politics, denied of their basic rights and dignity, unhealthy, obese and living in poverty despite having one or two jobs.

It goes without saying that unions, the most effective way of achieving progressive victories, do not fit into this scenario. Defending workers' rights to social protection through employment is not socialism. It's a demand to recognize that "modernity" should not mean working more for less pay. With the technological and material resources humanity now possesses, we should be working less for more pay. The labour movement from within America must organize and affirm its existence, being the advocate of nationwide causes (like healthcare, welfare, protection from foreclosures) and helping people aggregate their demands into one list of prioritized grievances to be addressed by politicians. I can think of a few off the top of my head: ending risky financial speculation, a return to pre-1980s progressive tax rates, shortening working hours to boost up unemployment, health regulations in fast-food industry, drastic cuts in the trillion-dollar defense budget, adopting a national single-payer healthcare system, ending the counterproductive drug war...

As of today the situation for labour unions in the US is dire; the US is one of the rare developed nations that does not have a labour-based party in their electoral system. Organising a grassroots based, but nationally structured union with "electable" candidates (not corporate funded but within the political framework through a third party, or as Independent) is possible in the US, but both 'parties' in power agree on one thing: maintaining the bureaucratic, pyramidal power structures of the post 9/11 surveillance industry. During most of the XXth century unions were associated with the general communist scare and were infiltrated, exposed and repressed. From 1956-1971, the CIA and other special agents were ordered to harass any left-wing, feminist or civil rights group. They were placed on the same scale and treated worse than actual terrorist and hate groups (the KKK was a pretty and organised institution for a long time, and indirectly tolerated because it supported candidates in elections...). Operations went from simple tapping of phone or breaking up of marriages to assassinations. These criminal activities started coming to light in the late 60s, but the media attention around the Watergate scandal (peanuts compared to what successive administrations had done in COINTELPRO) conveniently placed this page of history in the dustbin. So the reason why there aren't any stronger unions today is because As the Select Committee To Study Governmental Operations concluded in their Final Report on April 26th, 1976:

"The Committee's fundamental conclusion is that intelligence activities have undermined the constitutional rights of citizens and that they have done so primarily because checks and balances designed by the framers of the Constitution to assure accountability have not been applied" [...]

The crescendo of improper intelligence activity in the latter part of the 1960s and the early 1970s shows what we must watch out for: In time of crisis, the Government will exercise its power to conduct domestic intelligence activities to the fullest extent. The distinction between legal dissent and criminal conduct is easily forgotten. Our job is to recommend means to help ensure that the distinction will always be observed.

And last week, the House Republicans passed a bill that will "reauthorize three expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.[...] The three expiring provisions give the government the ability to use roving wiretaps to monitor the communications of suspects; obtain special court orders forcing businesses to turn over records; and conduct surveillance on a so-called "lone wolf", or somebody who is not knowingly associated with terrorists". 

The US can try and monitor its population as tightly and maliciously as it wants. But, as Obama himself confessed, "trying to suppress your own people is something that is not sustainable [...] When you resort to violence, that does not work". The man who escalated George W. Bush's criminal wars and the War on Terror (now rebranded of course) certainly knows what he's talking about. But he has gone down the same path as his predecessor and caused much more damage to the world's population than Mubarak could ever have dreamed of.

For anyone still hesitating on the question of terrorism, the solution is simple: stop participating in terrorism. The US government's aggressive global class warfare (waged with many other "partner countries"), which inevitably spirals down into real war, is the root of [almost] all our grievances. Their involvement in the Middle-East which consists of propping up puppet dictators who suppress the people in order to enrich the US elite is the root of Islamic terrorism.  It is also the root of future revolutionary movements that are about to erupt worldwide. Why? Because virtually all of our Western governments and media are complicit and they already have been exposed for what they are: corporate watchdogs.

vendredi 11 février 2011

Mubarak's Out!

Big news out of Egypt today. In roughly thirty seconds Vice-President Omar Suleiman announced on State television that President-Dictator Hosni Mubarak has finally "chosen" to step down from power. He also informed the world that the Egyptian army will be temporarily "taking charge" of the nation's affairs while the "democratic transition" is being prepared. 

No-one knows exactly where the situation will lead from here, but what has been achieved is already historic in content. The Arab world is starting to free itself from Western imperialism as people around the world watch in awe. This is possibly the last region on Earth we expected a revolution of this proportion to erupt. Now that it has achieved its initial goal (remove Mubarak), the revolution will continue as long as freedom remains the ideal. Even better, Egyptians are not alone in their fight; pro-democracy associations are mobilizing across the Middle-East to spark the same outrage that toppled Ben Ali and Mubarak. Important precedents have been set, and perhaps for once history will have the courtesy to repeat itself.

To take one example, Algerian "civil associations, independent trade unionists and small political parties" have called for a "national day of protest" on Saturday despite an official ban being imposed on demonstrations. The call is to "Change the system" and demand the exit of "12 years of authoritarian rule" of Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his military associates. Scared to death, Bouteflika has tried to buy out the potential protesters by promising cosmetic changes that would not alter the basic mechanisms of his institutionalized dictatorship. Of course nobody is being fooled by the promises of a tyrant, but conditions of protest in Algeria may turn out to be less favorable than in Egypt, according to Mansouria Mokhefi (Maghreb analyst at the French Institute of International Relations), because "the army is much stronger [...] all-powerful, holding the reins of power, both political and economic. The army has a long experience of repression and they didn't hold back during the protests in January". (The Guardian,  11/2/2011). The enemy is powerful, but the will of the people can bring any form of oppression to its knees. Let's wait and see.

vendredi 4 février 2011

Western reaction to Egypt: We Will Help You If You Let Us Decide

Western governments will not support democracy if this means actually handing over political and economic sovereignty to the Egyptians. (We are still far from this point but) Imagine the new Egyptian government decides to nationalize petroleum and other energy industries so that the money generated from their activities will be spent on social projects (housing and community development, schooling, health care for all, promoting healthy and nutritious ways of life, etc etc). How do you think the Western world, and most particularly the USA would react? Precedents have already been set by the US government on the question of: to whom belongs a Middle-Eastern country rich in oil resources? In 1953,  Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh was removed from power by the CIA after he tried to re-negociate profit distribution with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (became BP after the coup in 1954). In 1963 Saddam Hussein was also put into power thanks to grandaddy Sam. The ruling family of Saudi Arabia has such a relationship with Washington that its leaders can hold hands with state officials in the US, and on national television, when their own citizens do not have the basic liberty to hold hands with their lover in public. The US, and indeed almost all of Europe, supported Mubarak, Ben Ali, even Khadaffi most recently. Without mentioning the ridiculous amount of brutal African dictatorships that have been fed generously by our benevolent self-appointed betters, in exchange for full pillage rights. 

These same "public servants" are now trying to appear in the media as independent and impartial third-parties who have no responsibilities or past debts to repay,  when it is now well known and confirmed that they have been supporting Mubarak and virtually all of the other dictators (except Ahmadenidjad notably) in the region for decades (side note: if the US is so concerned about Islamic theocracies replacing their criminal associates, then why does it shut a blind eye to what happens in Saudi Arabia, one of its "BFF"'s?). The game is up. What we are experiencing in the Middle-East right now is the principle of universality at its best. 

Egyptians from all sectors of society are uniting to fight for one common cause, putting aside their particularities to demand the most basic and elementary of human rights: freedom, democracy, the application of the rule of law and other easy ones we can think of naturally. By holding peaceful manifestations while bearing the huge risk of government repression (the most important aspect of the cost-benefit calculation before engaging in civil disobedience) and effectively being subject to organised assaults from "pro"-Mubarak "supporters" (who, in an attempt to convince their compatriots of the legitimacy of their presence, had no other option but to yell hesitantly: "We weren't paid to be here" (as reported on Al-Jazira's live broadcast, 4/2/2011)), the Egyptian people find themselves in grosso modo the same scenario as the French in 1789 (although it should be noted that the Egypt's revolution is more grass-roots), when they demanded for their grievances on the absolute authority of the king (in this scenario, Hosni Mubarak) and a handful of aristocrats to be heard. What did the king of France Louis XVI do when confronted by his own people? He promised change, even accepted to be a constitutional monarch. But how long did the game last before the king was "exposed"  and the revolution really started getting ugly? Less than three years, then it was gone with his head. If history should serve as a guide today as we watch the end of the Day of Departure gathering in Cairo's Tahir Square, it is that a tyrant is never as popular as when he leaves office. And that is the moment when change can start to take place. How can a brutal tyrant be held responsible, less alone trusted, for the democratic transition of a country he has worked so hard to suppress, brutalize and destroy?

The Egyptians are rising as one people, carrying a simple message that all human beings can relate to: we want freedom and auto-determination. Forget about the clash of civilizations and all the nonsense we hear about coming from the major news organizations, what the Egyptian protesters are proving to the world is that it is possible to overthrow the powerful and sophisticated institutionalized crime machine, and in a peaceful manner at that. This type of event is what the "Western powers" are built on: a (more or less in some cases) grass-roots uprising that targets the entire governing class (economic and political) in an effort to overthrow it and replace it with a juster system of governance.

All this to say that the Egyptians are on the verge of a small victory in what is the beginning of a new era not only for Egypt, but for the entire Middle-East and hopefully the world. For those of you still skeptic as to what the outcome of this revolution will be (theocracy or other authoritarian regime), here's a tweet i ran into from The Guardian Live Egypt Blog: 

"5.52pm: Egyptian blogger @suzeeinthecity has tweeted what she says are the seven demands of the protesters:

     1. Resignation of the president

     2. End of the Emergency State

     3. Dissolution of The People's Assembly and Shora Council

     4. Formation of a national transitional government

     5. An elected Parliament that will ammend the Constitution to allow for presidential elections

     6. Immediate prosecution for those responsible of the deaths of the revolution's martyrs

     7. Immediate prosecution of the corrupters and those who robbed the country of its wealth".

Pretty moderate "demands" wouldn't you say? For those who say "What about the average Joe who's fed up and wants things to get back to normal, to put food on the table?" (as actually heard on the Al-Jazira live feed today by one of the presenters), ask yourself this (besides the obvious one: why do you think millions of people are revolting against conditions you eagerly call "normal" under Mubarak?...): had you been in India during the beginning of Ghandi's triumphant and peaceful march, would you have stood up on a podium and told the crowd to stop its efforts on the basis that the average Indian man's feet were sore and that he wanted to go back to "the way things were", c'est-à-dire being outright colonized by the U.K.? Today, under Egyptian martial law, three adults cannot meet without being under the threat of being arrested. Enough is enough, and it is time to blow this corrupt and criminal government to pieces and let Egyptians decide of their own future. Let's stand behind them.

jeudi 3 février 2011

Mubarak worsens his case

It was another hectic day today in various parts of Egypt, but something of note occurred yesterday that is at best worrying and at worst criminal. 

As the Aiken Standard reports, "Supporters of President Hosni Mubarak charged into Cairo's central square on horseback and camels brandishing whips while others rained firebombs from rooftops in what appeared to be an orchestrated assault against anti-government protesters trying to topple Egypt's leader of 30 years. At least three people died and 600 were injured in the uncontrolled violence". (2/2/2011, by Hadeed Al-Shalchi). This alone is a criminal act of serious proportions. The degree of coordination and precision that these "protesters" demonstrated in crowd-control ability was too blatant not to be noticed. The vast majority of these thugs are on the Mubarak payroll; some as public servants (policemen, army), some as contracted goons asked to clear the way. These individuals are also involved in other criminal activities such as looting, as the Washington Post reported that "Human Rights Watch confirmed several cases of undercover police loyal to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's regime committing acts of violence and looting in an attempt to stoke fear of instability as demonstrations grew stronger against the autocratic leader" (1/2/2011, by Leila Fadel). 

So keeping in mind the fact that Mubarak authorized the creation of large-scale goon squads with the objective of dispersing and intimidating the peaceful protesters, it was quite strange to hear the man himself tell ABC's Christian Amanpour: "If I leave, there will be chaos" (3/2/2011, ABC interview), in an attempt to justify the fact that he wants to "work very hard to carry out all the necessary measures to transfer power", and more precisely not running again for president in September on the basis that he has "spent enough time serving Egypt" (2/2/2011, by Paul Ohia). Hmm, didn't get the clue when millions of people started protesting all over the country Hosni? How about when you heard them chant "Leave now! Mubarak step down now!" over and over again for days? 

It should come as no surprise that a man who has confiscated all political and economic power from his own people for 30 years is trying to hold on as long as he can. He is the principal military ally of the U.S [after Britain and Israel] and applies a classic capitalist recette to the economy, but it comes with a sour à la yankee aftertaste. Should he step down, public records will come out that will confirm the accusations of intent and complicity in numerous crimes and abuses put forth by Egyptian and international human rights groups. Everyone should support the anti-Mubarak supporters in their march against tyranny and arbitrary power. Those responsible for supporting and rewarding Mubarak's actions should be brought before an independent tribunal and judged for their actions. Mubarak himself shall of course be present. Families of victims will come testify before the world, as such an event should be televised worldwide, and hopefully we may utter that schizophrenic phrase one last time, "never again...".

ABC News (3/2/2011), Christiane Amanpour interviews Hosni Mubarak.

mardi 1 février 2011

Revolts in Egypt

I am trying to follow very closely the massive popular revolts taking place in Egypt, a country whose President, Hosni Mubarak, has tortured (physically and mentally) and killed many of his own people for the past 30 years with full US/Western support. Looking at his political/economic/human rights record, it should go without saying that his removal from power should have been organised long ago. It was thus surprising to hear the content of Hillary Clinton's initial "assessment" of the situation, which [was] "that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people"(AFP). She did not judge necessary to offer supplementary insight on what may have led these hundreds of thousands of protestors to march in the streets to demand the immediate removal of Mubarak, knowingly exposing themselves to the brutal government repression (more than 150 killed already, the vast majority of which are Mubarak's direct responsability).

But being a key military ally of both the USA and Israel, Mubarak's long relationship with Washington was seen by Clinton as superior to the social needs and aspirations of the Egyptian people. How much of the $1.5 billion that the US gives as "aid" to Egypt annually actually gets spent on public interest projects, such as public schooling, healthcare, housing and sanitation, sustainable agriculture and material consumption,...? The CIA's own "World factbook" reports that "Egypt's economy was highly centralized during the rule of former President Gamal Abder NASSER but has opened up considerably under former President Anwar EL-SADAT and current Mohamed Hosni MUBARAK. Cairo from 2004 to 2008 aggressively pursued economic reforms to attract foreign investment and facilitate GDP growth", but despite all his benevolent and self-sacrificing efforts, under Mubarak's economic planning "over the past few years, living conditions for the average Egyptian remain poor"(CIA FACTBOOK).

Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief opposition leader and ex-Director General of the IAEA (who publicly exposed the Bush administration's lies on the presence of WMD's in Irak, but did not succeed in stopping the start of the Irak war,), told CBS's Face the Nation that Mubarak's response to the massive revolts don't "even begin to address peopless concerns. Peoples' concerns right now is Mubarak has to go, immediately", going on to say later in the interview that the uprisings had been "many, many years in the making". His last comment says it all: "You can't run a country on repression, detention, torture, lack of economic opportunity for 30 years", said the 2005 Nobel peace prize laureate (GLOBALPOST).

The CIA's own "official" assessment is that the unemployment rate in Egypt is 10% (the reality is closer to 25-30%...), GDP per capita stands at $6,200 (107th in the world), 20% of the population lives below the poverty line (2005 estimate), the 10% richest Egyptians pocket close to 30% of  "household income and consumption" while the bottom 10% take in 4%. Egypt places 90th in the world in terms of family income distribution (CIA Factbook ibid.). And this without mentioning the harsh martial law imposed during 30 years. Many renowned international organisations, such as Amnesty International, Freedom House and the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, have written thorough and highly pertinent reports on the human rights situation. Their conclusion is that Egypt is not a free country, in fact it was, until the recent events, a very smoothly-run police State.

It thus time to man-up and accept the bare reality of the situation: the United States government has been actively supporting one of the most brutal dictatorships in the region for three decades while repeating the same democracy-human rights talking points that have long been exposed as political rhetoric. All must be done to support the Egyptian people in their transition to a true democratic regime in which the people, not corporations or foreign governments, formulate and debate economic/social/political/social policies to be implemented.

'US Sees Egypt's Gov. as Stable Despite Protests', AFP (01/25/2011),

"Egypt" entry on CIA Factbook,

'Mohamed ElBaradeu in Tahir Square urges US to take action against Mubarak', The Global Post,