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Hometown: Saskatchewan
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Dear Reuters: Keep up the great work on Venezuela

By Joe Emersberger

November 12, 2015

RE Venezuela leader condemns ‘imperialist’ attacks after drug arrests

Dear Reuters:

I am so relieved you guys included a few statements like this in your report

“Maduro and other senior officials have long said accusations of drug trafficking were part of an international campaign to discredit socialism in the South American nation.”

The article would have been terribly one-sided without them. Readers might have been left thinking that Maduro’s reaction to the arrests was to say “Damn. Those were two of my favorite drug traffickers.”

I am sure barely anyone else in the world – aside from Venezuela government officials – claims that US prosecutors seek to support the bipartisan foreign policy goals of the federal government that go back decades.

Brian Concannon – a US based lawyer who has prosecuted landmark human rights trials in Haiti – pointed out that “The U.S. Attorneys for each judicial district are appointed by the President, and can be removed by the President for almost any non-discriminatory reason.” He could also explain how US prosecutors were used to support a US-perpetrated coup against Haiti’s democratically elected government in 2004.

Glad you folks at Reuters didn’t waste time seeking out sources like that. It would needlessly confuse everyone. In the build up to the Iraq war, the media make sure to balance US government allegations that Saddam Hussein’s government was hiding WMD with denials from Hussein’s government. That worked out great – probably the best illustration of the “free press” in action. Why change?


Joe Emersberger

Short article, no more at link. https://zcomm.org/zblogs/dear-reuters-keep-up-the-great-work-on-venezuela/

Does anybody but Nicolas Maduro question the motives of US prosecutors?

By Joe Emersberger

November 14, 2015


The End of Universal Jurisdiction

By Justin Podur
Source: teleSUR English
November 15, 2015

The doctrine in question was called “universal jurisdiction.” The idea was that a crime like genocide and crimes against humanity were not crimes that stopped at national borders. As a result, any country could charge and try those accused of such crimes, even if they were from another country. Universal jurisdiction is a liberal doctrine, analogous to the selectively applied Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Universal jursidiction is not as prone to abuse as R2P mainly because it is not as asymmetric as R2P: any country with a judiciary can hold a trial and issue arrest warrants, but only two or three countries in the world have the military might to send military forces to other countries, whether on the pretense of protecting people or some other. For non-superpowers, for smaller countries, there was only the threat of the law.

Spain was just such a small country whose judges took up the law against human rights abusers in other countries. Under the universal jurisdiction doctrine it attempted to try Chile’s dictator Augusto Pinochet, Guatemalan military officers, and Argentinian military officers. But the Spanish judges didn’t just chase fallen dictators from smaller countries. They also pursued former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, US soldiers for crimes in Iraq, Chinese politicians for crimes in Tibet, and Israeli generals for massacres of Palestinians.

By going after the big fish and people currently in power, the Spanish judges set alarm bells ringing. Israel, which famously used the doctrine of universal jurisdiction in its trial of Eichmann in 1961, got the investigation against its officers stopped. Kissinger argued that the doctrine would degenerate into show trials against political opponents.

Last year, Spain’s legislature reduced the applicability of universal jurisdiction. A New York Times article (Feb 10/14, “Spain Seeks to Curb Law Allowing Judges to Pursue Cases Globally”) suggests that China was the last straw. But the doctrine was targeted earlier. And the last straw was not China, but the arrest in June of one of Rwandan ruler Kagame’s intelligence officers, Karenzi Karake, in London, on a European arrest warrant filed based on Merelles’s 2008 indictments. Karake was released in August through the strenuous efforts of the Blair family (Tony Blair is a friend and advisor to Kagame, and Cherie Blair was Karake’s lawyer). Less than two months later, Merelles’s indictments were dismissed in the Spanish Supreme Court.

Kagame and his men could breathe a little easier. As for Kagame himself, lest any other countries get any universal jurisdiction ideas, the Rwandan parliament voted to allow Kagame to extend his tenure beyond the end of his term limits in 2017. Maybe he’ll stay on until 2034. The parliament didn’t change the law for everyone: just for Kagame.

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/the-end-of-universal-jurisdiction/

After Paris Attacks, a Call for Justice—Not Vengeance

By Phyllis Bennis
Source: The Nation
November 15, 2015

France is in mourning and in shock. We still don’t know how many people were killed and injured. In fact, there’s a lot we still don’t know—including who was responsible. The ISIS claim of responsibility tells us virtually nothing about who really planned or carried out the attacks; opportunist claims are an old story. But the lack of information hasn’t prevented lots of assumptions about who is “obviously” responsible and what should be done to them. Already the call is rising across France—“this time it’s all-out war.”

But we do know what happens when cries of war and vengeance drown out all other voices; we’ve heard them before.

A few days after the 9/11 attacks, we at IPS and some of our allies organized a public statement whose lead signatories included Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Gloria Steinem, Rosa Parks and many more. The statement reflected the deeply-rooted fear we all shared, that however horrific the attacks of September 11, it was George W. Bush’s statement in response to those attacks that threatened the world. That was the moment he announced that the response to this enormous crime against humanity would be a war—that he would lead the world to war “against terror.”

Wars of vengeance won’t work for France anymore than they worked for the US.

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/after-paris-attacks-a-call-for-justice-not-vengeance/

Close Guantanamo and Return It to Cuba

By Marjorie Cohn
Source: teleSUR English
November 15, 2015

Col. Morris Davis, former Chief Prosecutor for the Terrorism Trials at Guantanamo, personally charged Osama bin Laden’s driver Salim Hamdan, Australian David Hicks, and Canadian teen Omar Khadr. All three were convicted and have been released from Guantanamo. “There is something fundamentally wrong with a system where not being charged with a war crime keeps you locked away indefinitely and a war crime conviction is your ticket home,” Davis wrote to Obama.

Of the 780 men held at Guantanamo since 2002, only eight were tried and convicted of war crimes. Of those, just three remain at Guantanamo.

Many of the detainees reported being assaulted, prolonged shackling, sexual abuse, and threats with dogs. Australian lawyer Richard Bourke, who has represented several Guantanamo detainees, charged they have been subjected to “good old-fashioned torture.” Detainees who engage in hunger strikes are subjected to force-feeding, a practice the UN Human Rights Council has called torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. At least seven men have died at the prison camp.

The United States has illegally occupied Guantánamo since 1903, after Cuba’s war of independence against Spain. Cuba was forced to include the Platt Amendment in the Cuban constitution. The amendment granted the United States the right to intervene in Cuba as a prerequisite for the withdrawal of US troops from the rest of Cuba. That provision provided the basis for the 1903 Agreement on Coaling and Naval Stations, which gave the United States the right to use Guantánamo Bay “exclusively as coaling or naval stations, and for no other purpose.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a new treaty with Cuba in 1934 that allows the United States to remain in Guantánamo Bay until the US abandons it or until both Cuba and the United States agree to modify their arrangement. According to that treaty, “the stipulations of agreement with regard to the naval station of Guantánamo shall continue in effect.” That means Guantánamo Bay can be used for nothing but coaling or naval stations. Article III of the 1934 treaty also says that Cuba leases Guantánamo Bay to the United States “for coaling and naval stations.” Nowhere in either treaty did Cuba give the US the right to utilize Guantánamo Bay as a prison camp.

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/close-guantanamo-and-return-it-to-cuba/

General Strike in Greece Reignites Anti-Austerity Battle

by The Real News Network (TRNN) / November 14th, 2015

Greek port worker and union leader Giorgos Gogos says most of the demonstrations across the country were peaceful and unified against austerity measures imposed by the lenders and accepted by SYRIZA.

The Real News Network is a television news and documentary network focused on providing independent and uncompromising journalism. Read other articles by The Real News Network, or visit The Real News Network's website.

Baghdad Burning

. I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend...

Riverbend Girl Blog

A young Iraqi woman who blogged from the beginning of it all and eventually was forced to flee as a refugee. I don't know where she is now but hope she's safe. Her writing of the tragedy of seeing so many friends and family destroyed and changed, as well as her country, is very powerful and touching.

There is much to read, but every word is worth it. I know many of us followed her but some here may have not.


Thursday, August 28, 2003

The Promise and the Threat

The Myth: Iraqis, prior to occupation, lived in little beige tents set up on the sides of little dirt roads all over Baghdad. The men and boys would ride to school on their camels, donkeys and goats. These schools were larger versions of the home units and for every 100 students, there was one turban-wearing teacher who taught the boys rudimentary math (to count the flock) and reading. Girls and women sat at home, in black burkas, making bread and taking care of 10-12 children.

The Truth: Iraqis lived in houses with running water and electricity. Thousands of them own computers. Millions own VCRs and VCDs. Iraq has sophisticated bridges, recreational centers, clubs, restaurants, shops, universities, schools, etc. Iraqis love fast cars (especially German cars) and the Tigris is full of little motor boats that are used for everything from fishing to water-skiing.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that most people choose to ignore the little prefix ‘re’ in the words ‘rebuild’ and ‘reconstruct’. For your information, ‘re’ is of Latin origin and generally means ‘again’ or ‘anew’.

In other words- there was something there in the first place. We have hundreds of bridges. We have one of the most sophisticated network of highways in the region: you can get from Busrah, in the south, to Mosul, in the north, without once having to travel upon those little, dusty, dirt roads they show you on Fox News. We had a communications system so advanced, it took the Coalition of the Willing 3 rounds of bombing, on 3 separate nights, to damage the Ma’moun Communications Tower and silence our telephones.

Will Work for Food...

Over 65% of the Iraqi population is unemployed. The reason for this is because Bremer made some horrible decisions. The first major decision he made was to dissolve the Iraqi army. That may make sense in Washington, but here, we were left speechless. Now there are over 400,000 trained, armed men with families that need to be fed. Where are they supposed to go? What are they supposed to do for a living? I don’t know. They certainly don’t know.

They roam the streets looking for work, looking for an answer. You can see perplexity and anger in their stance, their walk, their whole demeanor. Their eyes shift from face to face, looking for a clue. Who is to answer for this mess? Who do you think?

What I’m trying to say is that no matter *what* anyone heard, females in Iraq were a lot better off than females in other parts of the Arab world (and some parts of the Western world- we had equal salaries!). We made up over 50% of the working force. We were doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, professors, deans, architects, programmers, and more. We came and went as we pleased. We wore what we wanted (within the boundaries of the social restrictions of a conservative society).

Females can no longer leave their homes alone. Each time I go out, E. and either a father, uncle or cousin has to accompany me. It feels like we’ve gone back 50 years ever since the beginning of the occupation. A woman, or girl, out alone, risks anything from insults to abduction. An outing has to be arranged at least an hour beforehand. I state that I need to buy something or have to visit someone. Two males have to be procured (preferably large) and 'safety arrangements' must be made in this total state of lawlessness. And always the question: "But do you have to go out and buy it? Can't I get it for you?" No you can't, because the kilo of eggplant I absolutely have to select with my own hands is just an excuse to see the light of day and walk down a street. The situation is incredibly frustrating to females who work or go to college.

Before the war, around 50% of the college students were females, and over 50% of the working force was composed of women. Not so anymore. We are seeing an increase of fundamentalism in Iraq which is terrifying.

She made it out:


Ultimate Irony: These Women Make $70 Feminist T-Shirts For Less Than $1 An Hour

November 11, 2015 by Amanda Froelich

“We don't feel like feminists. We don't feel equal. We feel trapped.”

The picture above depicts the opposite of what feminism looks like. Why? Because the women in the photo – some of the thousands that work in a sweatshop in Mauritius – are paid less than an hour per day to produce shirts which are sold for £45 ($70).

According to investigative journalist Ben Ellery, who shared his findings with The Daily Mail, women in the Indian Ocean sweatshop] sleep in dormitories that house 16 women at a time and work long hours away from their family. They’re also paid roughly a dollar an hour to print shirts that read “This is what a feminist looks like.” Ironic, much?

The t-shirts may carry a defiant slogan, but the women who create them feel anything but empowered. One month of this labor earns them only 5,000 rupees – the equivalent of £120 ($182).

“We do not see ourselves as feminists. We see ourselves as trapped,” said one of the thousand machinists. “How can this T-shirt be a symbol of feminism when we do not see ourselves as feminists?”

Perhaps the most painful part? The shirts are sold in conjunction with the charity Fawcett Society (whose slogan is “Working for women’s rights since 1886”).

Said Fayzal Ally Beegun, president of the International Textile, Garment, and Leather Workers Union:

“It would take a woman working in the factory nearly two weeks just to buy one shirt. What is feminist about that? These women have nothing in this world. They are paid a pittance and any money they do receive they send back home.

They work very long hours and have no lives other than their work. They are on four-year contracts that mean they don’t get to see their families in that time. What kind of existence is it when you are sharing your bedroom with 15 other women?”

Full article: http://www.trueactivist.com/ultimate-irony-these-women-make-70-feminist-t-shirts-for-less-than-1-an-hour/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TrueActivist+%28True+Activist%29

In Flanders Fields

By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

- A doctor and teacher, who served in both the South African War and the First World War.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915
during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium

On May 2, 1915, John McCrae’s close friend and former student Alexis Helmer was killed by a German shell. That evening, in the absence of a Chaplain, John McCrae recited from memory a few passages from the Church of England’s “Order of the Burial of the Dead”. For security reasons Helmer’s burial in Essex Farm Cemetery was performed in complete darkness.

The next day, May 3, 1915, Sergeant-Major Cyril Allinson was delivering mail. McCrae was sitting at the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the YserCanal, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, Belgium.

As John McCrae was writing his In Flanders Fields poem, Allinson silently watched and later recalled, “His face was very tired but calm as he wrote. He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer's grave."

Within moments, John McCrae had completed the “In Flanders Fields” poem and when he was done, without a word, McCrae took his mail and handed the poem to Allinson.

Allinson was deeply moved:

“The (Flanders Fields) poem was an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene."

On August 4, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. Canada, as a member of the British Empire, was automatically at war, and its citizens from all across the land responded quickly. Within three weeks, 45,000 Canadians had rushed to join up. John McCrae was among them. He was appointed brigade-surgeon to the First Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery with the rank of Major and second-in-command.

Just before his departure, he wrote to a friend:

It is a terrible state of affairs, and I am going because I think every bachelor, especially if he has experience of war, ought to go. I am really rather afraid, but more afraid to stay at home with my conscience.

He took with him a horse named Bonfire, a gift from a friend. Later, John McCrae sent his young nieces and nephews letters supposedly written by Bonfire and signed with a hoof print.

In April 1915, John McCrae was in the trenches near Ypres, Belgium, in the area traditionally called Flanders. Some of the heaviest fighting of the First World War took place there during that was known as the Second Battle of Ypres.

On April 22, the Germans used deadly chlorine gas against Allied troops in a desperate attempt to break the stalemate. Despite the debilitating effects of the gas, Canadian soldiers fought relentlessly and held the line for another 16 days.

In the trenches, John McCrae tended hundreds of wounded soldiers every day. He was surrounded by the dead and the dying. In a letter to his mother, he wrote of the Battle of Ypres.

The general impression in my mind is of a nightmare. We have been in the most bitter of fights. For seventeen days and seventeen nights none of us have had our clothes off, nor our boots even, except occasionally. In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for sixty seconds ..... And behind it all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the wounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the line should give way.

The day before he wrote his famous poem, one of McCrae's closest friends was killed in the fighting and buried in a makeshift grave with a simple wooden cross. Wild poppies were already beginning to bloom between the crosses marking the many graves. Unable to help his friend or any of the others who had died, John McCrae gave them a voice through his poem. It was the second last poem he was to write.

Soon after it was written, he was transferred to No. 3 (McGill) Canadian General Hospital in France where he was Chief of Medical Services. The hospital was housed in huge tents at Dannes-Cammiers until cold wet weather forced a move to the site of the ruins of the Jesuit College at Boulogne.

When the hospital opened its doors in February 1916, it was a 1,560-bed facility covering 26 acres. Here the wounded were brought from the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the third Battle of Ypres and from Arras and Passchendaele.

The Cost of War

John McCrae was deeply affected by the fighting and losses in France. He became bitter and disillusioned.

He felt he should have made greater sacrifices, and insisted on living in a tent through the year, like his comrades at the front, rather than in the officers' huts. When this affected his health in mid-winter he had to be ordered into warmer surroundings. To many he gave the impression that he felt he should still be with his old artillery brigade. After the battle of Ypres he was never again the optimistic man with the infectious smile. (Prescott. In Flanders Fields: The Story of John McCrae, p. 110)

John McCrae and Bonneau in France

For respite, he took long rides on Bonfire through the French countryside. Another animal companion was a casualty of the war, the dog Bonneau, who adopted John McCrae as his special friend.

Writing letters and poetry also allowed John McCrae to escape temporarily from the pressures of his administrative duties at the hospital. His last poem, "The Anxious Dead", echoed the theme of "In Flanders Fields" but was never as popular as the earlier poem.

During the summer of 1917, John McCrae was troubled by severe asthma attacks and occasional bouts of bronchitis. He became very ill in January 1918 and diagnosed his condition as pneumonia. He was moved to Number 14 British General Hospital for Officers where he continued to grow weak.

On January 28, after an illness of five days, he died of pneumonia and meningitis. The day he fell ill, he learned he had been appointed consulting physician to the First British Army, the first Canadian so honoured.

John McCrae was buried with full military honours in Wimereux Cemetery, just north of Boulogne, not far from the fields of Flanders. Bonfire led the procession, McCrae's riding boots reversed in the stirrups. His death was met with great grief among his friends and contemporaries. A friend wrote of the funeral:

The day of the funeral was a beautiful spring day; none of us wore overcoats. You know the haze that comes over the hills at Wimereux. I felt so thankful that the poet of 'In Flanders Fields' was lying out there in the bright sunshine in the open space he loved so well....

The Flower of Remembrance

Before he died, John McCrae had the satisfaction of knowing that his poem had been a success. Soon after its publication, it became the most popular poem on the First World War. It was translated into many languages and used on billboards advertising the sale of the first Victory Loan Bonds in Canada in 1917. Designed to raise $150,000,000, the campaign raised $400,000,000.

In part because of the poem's popularity, the poppy was adopted as the Flower of Remembrance for the war dead of Britain, France, the United States, Canada and other Commonwealth countries.

Today, people continue to pay tribute to the poet of In Flanders Fields by visiting McCrae House, the limestone cottage in Guelph, Ontario where he was born. The house has been preserved as a museum. Beside it are a memorial cenotaph and a garden of remembrance.

The symbolic poppy and John McCrae's poems are still linked and the voices of those who have died in war continue to be heard each Remembrance Day.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

© Minister of Supply and Services Canada 1988 Catalogue No. V32-23/1988 ISBN 0-662-56211-9


The Global Importance of the Canadian Election Results

By Immanuel Wallerstein
Source: Toward Freedom
November 10, 2015

Trudeau has made some clear promises. He says he is going to support deficit spending for at least three years, increase taxation on the wealthy, and maintain and expand welfare state provisions. In short, he promises an anti-austerity program of a Keynesian variety. This promise placed the Liberals to the left of the NDP, which had moved to the center in order to attract Liberal and independent voters. In addition, he has promised increased activity in combating climate change, something that the Harper government had strongly opposed. And, on social issues, he would move further by legalizing marijuana.

On domestic issues, the centrist Trudeau has thus promised to act as a classical social-democrat of the kind now gone out of fashion among most social-democratic parties. Does he mean it? That depends on whether Canada will weather the worldwide economic storm relatively well in the next year or two. If not, Trudeau may well swing back to a somewhat more “austere” program.

The real difference will be in the geopolitical arena. Harper’s views were very similar to those of the Tea Party in the United States. He did not believe in the reality of climate change. He was against the Iran nuclear deal. He was against immigration of Syrian refugees and anything else that might make Canada more “multicultural.” He strongly favored building the Keystone pipeline of oil and gas from Canada to the United States. He was a war hawk and therefore had agreed to send Canadian jets to join the U.S.-led “coalition” in Syria, but wished to make the ouster of Bashar al-Assad a priority.

Trudeau’s program was virtually the opposite on every question. This aligned his position with that of President Obama on most questions, with one major exception. Trudeau was against further involvement in the civil wars in the Middle East. In particular, he promised to withdraw all Canadian airplanes from the coalition. True to his word, right after the election results were in, Trudeau telephoned Obama to inform him that the Canadian planes were withdrawn. It was only a matter of six planes, but the symbolism was important. Canada was not going to follow the U.S. lead in the global arena.

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/the-global-importance-of-the-canadian-election-results/

The Empire of Chaos

By Noam Chomsky and C. J. Polychroniou
Source: Truthout
November 10, 2015

US foreign policy in the 21st century has little to offer other than massive military power. Indeed, gone are the days when military might was used in order to “recreate the world in America’s image.” In the post-Cold War era, US military interventions take place in the absence of an overall strategic vision and with ideological justifications lacking force and conviction even among the United States’ traditional allies. Little wonder then that military interventions, always illegal and unjustifiable, end up accomplishing nothing more than the creation of black holes, while giving rise in turn to new and ever increasing violent terrorist organizations bent on spreading their own vision of social and political order.

In this exclusive interview for Truthout, Noam Chomsky reflects on the dynamics of US foreign policy in the 21st century and the implications of the policy of raining down destruction for world order. Chomsky also assesses the role of Russia’s involvement in Syria, the rise of the Islamic State and the apparent attraction it holds for many young Muslims from Europe, and offers a grim view about the future of US foreign policy.

CJ Polychroniou: US military interventions in the 21st century (e.g., Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria) have proven totally disastrous, yet the terms of the intervention debate have yet to be redrawn among Washington’s warmakers. What’s the explanation for this?

Noam Chomsky: In part the old cliché: When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The comparative advantage of the US is in military force. When one form of intervention fails, doctrine and practice can be revised with new technologies, devices, etc. There is a good review of the process from World War II to the present in a recent book by Andrew Cockburn, Kill Chain. There are possible alternatives, such as supporting democratization (in reality, not rhetoric). But these have likely consequences that the US would not favor. That is why when the US supports “democracy”; it is “top-down” forms of democracy in which traditional elites linked to the US remain in power, to quote the leading scholar of “democracy promotion,” Thomas Carothers, a former Reagan official who is a strong advocate of the process but who recognizes the reality, unhappily.

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/the-empire-of-chaos/
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