Monthly Archives: November 2014

War criminal awarded by established charity organization

What do we get if we mix the most bizarre, dystopic and satiric pieces from Kafka, Orwell, Swift and The Simpsons?

Perhaps traumas of the kind that followed from reading RT.com the other day: that Tony Blair had been honored with the Global Legacy Award by the UK branch of the global charity organization Save the Children.

The first reaction was to take a deep breath and try to cool the brain.

Save the Children‼
Rewarding a man directly responsible for the killing of children on a gigantic scale‼
A man who by any definition possible is a war criminal‼

A war criminal? The United Nations Charter states in Article 2:

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

The war on Iraq – which Blair bore a main responsibility for – glaringly violated the UN Charter’s ban on waging wars. But Blair’s guilt doesn’t end there. The legal basis upon which Nazi leaders were sentenced to be hanged in Nuremberg was laid out by the chief American prosecutor during the trials, Robert H. Jackson, with the words:

“To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

A verbatim interpretation of Jackson’s statement leads to the conclusion that Tony Blair is responsible also for the destruction – material and political, including the deaths through atrocities – which Iraq since has suffered as a direct consequence of the war of aggression spearheaded by US and UK.

Another significant aspect of this tragic story is the media coverage. While independent web media and the blogosphere are overflowing with mostly appalled comments, mainstream media seem to hide the embarrassing incident in silence. I could at least get no hits using Dagens Nyheter’s or New York Times’ search engines.

My family was a member of Save the Children in Sweden and we used to contribute a small, monthly amount. We are now forced to turn our backs to this compromised organization and find another, more trustworthy charity receiver.

Ukraine politics – western hypocrisy at its peak

Most things regarding the conflict in Ukraine are dealt with entirely propagandistic here in Sweden. On other issues our “Pravda” – Dagens Nyheter – usually lets through an occasional dissident voice, if only to get an alibi and at the same time by contrast enhance the proscribed view. Not so in this case. What happens now in Ukraine is confirmed to be a war of aggression, and the sole aggressor is Russia. Period.

There is no ambiguity about the Ukrainian government’s right to use force against its own citizens. Such questions are not discussed whatsoever. No one suggests that there would have been no war had the Ukrainian army not launched the attacks against their own citizens in Donbas. Despite that nobody suspected the independence forces in the Donbas area for any plans to conquer the rest of Ukraine.

Neither taken into account is the apparent divide between people in western Ukraine with links to Europe and those in the southeast with ties to Russia (of which tens of millions are related through intermarriages across the border). We (DN) obviously find it quite appropriate that one of these two parts rule over the other, even when there is no agreement on such a regime. And even when the suppressed part convincingly argues that the opponent has seized power trough an illegal street coup, spearheaded by Nazi elements, at that.

Very little is reported here about the way government forces conduct the battles; their indiscriminate firing of shells and rockets into cities, blowing innocent civilians to pieces and thus scaring away their own citizens, creating hundreds of thousands of refugees. Nor do we read very much about other results of this shelling: a destroyed infrastructure leaving the people who can’t flee destitute of elementary means of existence such as water, food and electricity.

But we had the guts to demonize and ridicule the Russians for sending a convoy of trucks with necessities to help those human beings in their neighboring country. There was much fuss about the first convoy; now at least five more have followed, obviously giving substantial relief for many people. It thus turned out that the Russians had benign intentions, a circumstance that immediately killed our media’s interest.

It’s fascinating and revealing to compare the identical events in Crimea and earlier in Kosovo. When a part of Serbia inhabited by a large group of Albanians wanted to secede from its motherland, USA and EU immediately engaged fully with the secessionists. To force Serbia to accept the creation of a sovereign Kosovo NATO bombed the Serbian capital for 78 days (thereby also killing some Chinese diplomats, creating additional problems). It’s notable that the ethnic cleansing performed by Serbia in Kosovo started as a reaction to the bombings, not the other way around.

When “we” intervened in Serbia it was under the auspices of R2P – responsibility to protect – a concept invented to justify the violent actions we for the moment are prone to engage in. Thus the very same kind of action, on identical pretexts, that we praised ourselves for as morally exemplary in Kosovo, we deemed Russia for as the most unlawful atrocity in Crimea. We can live with that since we have grown accustomed to our own hypocrisy, the worst kind of that one can think of. History will judge our politics as deprived of all moral.

Swedish “Pravda” avoiding important truths

The Swedish media flagship Dagens Nyheter gives us daily illustrations of some of the main thesis in Herman & Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent. DN’s selection of news to publish is thoroughly conscious and consistently carried through. The purpose is apparently to keep people focused on the “right” issues (in both senses).

A demonstration against the government by a few hundred people in Moscow makes a front page headline, as does riots in eastern China and other popular manifestations directed at the correct targets. For nearly two months now DN has almost daily covered the demonstrations for democracy in Hong Kong (quite well motivated in my opinion), but during that time “forgotten” about most other instances of unrest not fitting the proper political agenda.

It could be a hazardous tactic to consciously conceal important events in that manner. Today we have access to media of all kinds on the Internet, and it may be apparent for a growing number of people that our “free media” is just as biased as state monopoly media in a non-democratic country might be.

Some recent riots haven’t appeared at all on DN’s web edition as far as I have observed (some may have been awarded half a dozen lines in the paper edition, I don’t know). US readers may think that no newspaper can be more mainstream than New York Times, but that paper is an enlightened wonder compared to DN. So instead of paying a fortune to get a provincial and biased paper in the mailbox each morning, one has access to international papers on the Internet free or almost free.

Here are some important protests and manifestations that I had to go to rt.com to read about:

Kiev October 14
A mass nationalist protest near the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev has turned violent, with 15 policemen wounded and at least 50 rioters arrested. Radicals are demanding “war veteran” status for armed nationalist rebels who fought for the Nazis in WWII.

On Tuesday afternoon, an estimated 8,000 far-right activists gathered at the Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) as MPs considered a bill that would recognize members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) as war veterans. Frustrated by parliament’s decision, protesters then attacked police with rocks, firecrackers, and chains.

Violent clashes outside parliament forced Speaker Aleksandr Turchinov to cancel the Rada session halfway through. Because of the “provocative actions by young people,” parliamentarians failed to consider a number of bills.

Recognition of the UPA – which has been accused of war crimes including the killings of Jews and Poles in Ukraine – and its leaders, Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevich, remains a controversial issue in modern Ukraine. The country is divided between those who consider them national heroes and others who strongly oppose their cause – including WWII veterans. Tuesday marked the anniversary of the UPA, which also triggered rallies in several of Ukraine’s major cities – including Lvov, Kharkov, and Odessa.

France November 1
Riot police clashed with protesters rallying against police brutality in several French cities after the death of an ecology activist, apparently caused by a police stun grenade. At least 100 protesters were arrested and 9 people injured over the weekend.

Following the death of 21-year-old ecology protester Rémi Fraisse, rallies took place in Nantes, Toulouse, Lille, Bordeaux and Avignon on Saturday, as well as in Paris on Sunday.

In eastern Paris, 66 protesters were arrested as local media reported attacks on police and possession of unauthorized weapons. A crowd of protesters also staged a peaceful sit-in front of the Eiffel Tower.

The Nantes and Toulouse demos turned particularly violent, with masked and hooded protesters throwing projectiles and tearing down street signs. Security forces retaliated by firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowds.

At least nine people – including four police officers – were injured in the confrontations, and 34 arrested, according to the interior ministry. Demonstrators hurled acid-filled bottles and stones at security forces, wounding an officer, Henri-Michel Comet, the regional governor, told Reuters.

Brussels November 6
Violent clashes broke out in Belgium as more than 100,000 protesters marched in Brussels against the government’s austerity measures. Police deployed water cannon as dockworkers, metalworkers and students took to the streets.

The violence flared up at the end of an otherwise peaceful protest, with tear gas deployed as some radical demonstrators hurled objects at riot police and launched attacks with the barriers against the officials. Some set off colored smoke flares. At least 14 people were taken to hospital following the violence, according to national daily HLN.be.

The Belgian government which assumed power just a month ago has caused unrest with promises to raise the retirement age, cancel a wage rise in line with inflation and cut health and social security benefits – moves that undermine the country’s welfare state.

“The signal is clear. People are angry, livid. This government’s policies are totally unbalanced,” ACV union chief Marc Leemans told Reuters.

More protests are planned, including weekly regional strikes from November 24 and a national strike for December 15. The mass-action is also seeing a work slowdown which is having a detrimental effect on public institutions such as schools and post offices, as well as the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge.

Berlin November 9
Clashes and arrests marred the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, as several hundred left-wing activists met far-rights in the city center. The latter were rallying in commemoration of the 1938 Kristallnacht Nazi attacks against Jews.

On Sunday, left-wing activists held a non-sanctioned demonstration near the capital’s Alexanderplatz train station against the fall of the Berlin Wall, while most Berliners were commemorating the 25th anniversary of the event.

Meanwhile, nationalist activists gathered for a demonstration to commemorate the attacks of the Kristallnacht – or the “Night of Broken Glass” – when in 1938 the Nazi authorities launched a series of coordinated attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria. Police made several arrests in attempts to disperse the crowd. Following the clashes police switched to riot gear.

Mexico November 10
Protesters in the Mexican state of Guerrero have torched the ruling party’s regional headquarters as part of their demonstrations to achieve justice for the 43 missing students who disappeared in September.

The attack on the regional headquarters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) building in Chilpancingo is the latest violent protest to explode in Mexico over the incident. In a separate incident, protesters also blocked the airport in the city of Acapulco. The protests at the airport began on Monday with thousands of demonstrators blocking its entrance for three hours.

Tuesday’s protests come just three days after demonstrators attempted to storm the National Palace in Mexico City, setting the doors on fire after failing to get inside. They were eventually driven away by police, though there were a number of arrests and injuries.

Warsaw November 11
At least 276 people were arrested and just under 50 injured after clashes broke out in Warsaw. Polish nationalists took to the streets to mark the nation’s National Independence Day, throwing flares and stones at officers, who responded with water cannon.

Tens of thousands marched through the Polish capital Tuesday with many carrying the national flag, while flares and firecrackers were also let off. The march was attended by extremist nationalist groups, such as the Radical Camp and the All-Polish Youth.

For the fourth consecutive year the procession turned violent, with a group breaking away as they crossed a bridge over the Vistula river and reached the eastern bank, near the Polish national football stadium. According to Reuters, they tore up paving slabs and benches from a nearby bus station and started to throw them at police, who were dressed in riot gear.

Law enforcement officers responded by approaching the rioters and using a water cannon truck to push the marches back onto the bridge in the direction they had come. Some outlets report rubber bullets and tear gas was deployed. Up to 23 police officers and 24 protesters were wounded in the clashes, while at least 276 people were detained, according to TASS.

Italy November 14
Egg-throwing, red paint and police batons marked a fresh heating-up of countrywide protests over impending social reforms in Italy, as the striking political left was joined by other members of society in major cities.

Transportation chaos and injuries occurred in some of the country’s major commercial and cultural hubs – from Rome and Milan, through to Naples, Padua, Turin, Bergamo, Genoa, Pisa and Palermo.

The rallies are the latest in a series of protests over Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s reforms – most notably the Jobs Act, which gives employers much more freedom to hire and fire employees. They are infuriating an increasingly large number of people amid an atmosphere of joblessness. There is also spillover into other complaints, including those directed at immigrants.

The largest gatherings took place in Milan, where riot police were attacked with flares, before charging the crowds with batons.

The proposed government reforms have been drawing hundreds of thousands of Italians onto the streets since October. They are taking place amid a decline in large industrial firms and dwindling public services. The reforms are expected to pass parliament by the end of the year.

Athens November 17
About a dozen people have reportedly been injured in clashes with riot police outside the US embassy in Athens following mass protests marking the 1973 revolt against the US-backed military junta, in which 40,000 people took part.

Over 70 arrests from various parts of Athens were made after clashes broke out following the mass march, according to social media sources. Police fired tear gas at groups of youths who hurled stones and plastic bottles while burning US and EU flags.

The clashes came just after 40,000 students, workers, and pensioners marched from parliament to the US embassy. The protesters – who accuse the US of backing the 1967-74 military dictatorship – shouted “EU, IMF out!” while marching. The demonstration takes place every year, with activists marching to denounce the alleged role that US intelligence agents played in the military dictatorship’s rise to power.

London November 19
Thousands of students are marching on the UK parliament on Wednesday in the biggest student action in four years. The protest, called by the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts, is demanding an end to budget cuts and to restore free education.

Contingents of students have arrived in the capital from at least 40 UK towns and cities. Further nationwide days of action have been announced throughout December

Ebola, Cuba and embargo

Since half a century US upholds a policy against Cuba that lately has become an interesting exception from the ordinary habit of the political system, which is to serve the real decision makers – the economic power. The American Chamber of Commerce, the business community’s most important lobby group, wants the embargo on Cuba to be abolished, while the politicians on Capitol Hill persist with their wish to strangle Cuba economically. The Masters of mankind prefer this time business to the ostentatious and cruel politics since long obsolete.

Not surprisingly one finds conservative media on the side of the real power. Some days ago New York Times made a policy statement in an editorial urging that the embargo be brought to an end. That was followed by such a rarity as a positive news report from Cuba, telling about the country’s efforts to help Ebola victims in Africa. 500 medical personnel will be specially trained for the task and prepared to go to the affected African countries. The US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, had publicly given special credit to Cuba and East Timor (!) for their willingness to send health care workers to the dangerous places where they are most needed, something many rich countries obviously hesitated to do on a larger scale.

In an academic work by two American scholars the Cuban health care system is described more precisely. One astonishing fact is that Cuba has sent out 30,000 health care workers – of which 19,000 doctors – to more than 100 countries around the world. (Doctors Without Borders – awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – have apparently around 3,000 doctors in field service. They are also active in African countries, treating Ebola patients.)

The Swedish population is of the same magnitude as the Cuban (9 versus 11 million), but we are immensely richer. Still we could certainly not send 19,000 doctors to help poor people abroad. We have just above 30,000 physicians altogether and can barely cover our own needs. We have to import doctors from less rich countries in Europe and elsewhere. That’s what’s happened to the former social role model in which people’s important needs used to be prioritized. (Instead we can nowadays buy hecatombs of stuff: a new cell phone each year, clothes we wear a few times, lots of food that bring us to premature death, and thousands of other things, all for the purpose of a superficial “happiness” but more for enriching the rich with ever growing profits.)

For us there is a lot to learn from this. Our mainstream media have not realized that it’s time to change foot on the Cuban issue. There is still just demonizing of the poor island to expect from our enlightened journalists and reporters. But we use to follow suit on USA even if we mostly lag some years behind. Like all others (except USA, Israel and occasionally some Pacific Island) we vote each year in the UN General Assembly for cessation of the Cuban embargo. But that’s because the strangulation violates the UN charter and WTO rules, and that acceptance of it could be precedential and thus hit back on us (it’s by no means for moral reasons, anyway).

The most important wisdom to gain from the Cuban example is how much humanitarian work we could have done with a minimum of our resources allocated to it. We can just imagine what enormous results we could achieve, had the rich countries made an effort in proportion just a fraction of the Cuban one. The lesson learned is that the well-being of mankind to a very large extent is a question of distribution based on a humanitarian ground.

Here we go again – submarine hunting!

In the dark evening of October 27, 1981, a Soviet submarine sailed straight into the Karlskrona archipelago in Sweden. It went with roaring diesel engines in surface mode with eight knots, a speed suitable for open sea but not for narrow straits in the dark. The waters were even too shallow for a submarine of the size in question to hide by diving. Not surprisingly it ran up on a cliff and got stuck. Simple minds like our famous Carl Bildt and his compatriots had got their eagerly awaited Soviet “spying operation” caught in the act. For ordinary people it was more likely a navigation error, perhaps aggravated by a drunken crew celebrating the end of a naval maneuver in the Baltic Sea.

The years after 1981 Sweden was then struck by submarine craze. Enormous efforts were made in the Stockholm archipelago to hunt down (clearly Russian) submarines spotted by multitudes of people or detected by the Navy’s sonar equipment and other military surveillance facilities. A substantial part of the Swedish naval forces were engaged. Almost a hundred depth charges were fired and a number of permanent mines exploded during these operations in the 1980s.

Well, how many submarines were hit, or even detected? None, of course! At least three large investigations of the operations have been carried out during the years that followed. For each one of these the number of “verified observations” has diminished substantially. Today there is probably just a few left. Some of the sounds captured by Sonar turned out to come from a civil sail-training ship, others from swimming seals, etc. The few submarines that with any credibility can be said to have intruded Swedish waters are now widely assumed as coming from NATO countries.

After these spectacular delusions one would have expected some kind of immunity towards submarine extravagances, but the vaccination effect obviously expired after 33 years. So now we are at it again! The same manic journalism, with the same, almost verbatim headlines: “The worst thing to happen would be to find dead Russian [Soviet] soldiers”.

If for lack of money this time, or whatever, but the hunt was terminated quite quickly, the Supreme Commander admitting that it “naturally is impossible” to obtain concrete evidence of submarine activity in a large archipelago. It has cost the taxpayers many millions for the military leaders to learn that apparently self evident lesson. Nevertheless we are expected to accept that there is evidence for one intruding submarine this time. The “experts” then say that it “obviously” is a Russian one.

This submarine came in exceptionally handy. With the ground already prepared by media’s warmongering reaction to developments in Ukraine all the large parties in Parliament have declared that the military budget must be strengthened. The main purpose is thus served. At the same time all responsible pundits admit that Russia poses no military threat to Sweden. Nobody seems to ask the natural question what Russia then would have to gain from intruding Swedish waters in the present sensitive situation, and how those minuscule gains could outweigh the enormous loss of good will if a Russian submarine in fact had been caught. In most of our Russophobe assumptions we seem to presume that Russian leaders are pure idiots.

Looking back there naturally are some incidents when submarines, also Russian/Soviet, have probed Swedish waters, mostly for a short time and probably mainly to test our military vigilance. Almost all observations are from the east coast, meeting the expectations (and hopes) that the Russians are mostly to be blamed.

In the 1960s I served as a reserve officer in a Coast artillery battalion during a maneuver on the Swedish west coast. Placed in the command center I one day received a report from an outer island that a fully visible West German submarine had intruded into Swedish waters with a large margin. The report was sent on to the next level of command and in return came a strict order for absolute secrecy. Speaking with older officers I learned that these West German visits during our exercises were routine. None of the incidents ever appeared in media, and I wondered if the government ever was informed. But the east coast and the Soviets/Russians is a completely different matter.