Dissident Voice

Dissident Voice
Sat, 18 May 2024 04:19:10 +0000

1. Promising the Impossible: Blinken’s Out of Tune Performance in Kyiv

Things are looking dire for the Ukrainian war effort.  Promises of victory are becoming even hollower than they were last summer, when US President Joe Biden could state with breathtaking obliviousness that Russia had "already lost the war".   The worst offender in this regard remains the United States, which has been the most vocal proponent of fanciful victory over Russia, a message which reads increasingly as one of fighting to the last Ukrainian.

Such a victory is nigh fantasy, almost impossible to envisage.  For one thing, domestic considerations about continued support for Kyiv have played a stalling part.  In the US Congress, a large military aid package was stalled for six months.  Among some Republicans, in particular, Ukraine was not a freedom loving despoiled figure needing props and crutches.  "From our perspective," opines Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, "Ukraine should not and cannot be our problem to solve.  It is not our place to defend them in a struggle with their longtime adversary, Russia."  The assessment, in this regard, was a matter of some clarity for Paul.  "There is no national security interest for the United States."

Despite this, the Washington foreign policy and military elite continue to make siren calls of seduction in Kyiv's direction.  On April 23, the Senate finally approved a $US95.3 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, with the lion's share – some US$61 billion – intended for Ukraine's war effort.

On April 24, a press release from US Secretary State Antony Blinken announced a further US$1 billion package packed with "urgently needed capabilities including air defense missiles, munitions for HIMARS, artillery rounds, armored vehicles, precision aerial munitions, anti-armor weapons, and small arms, equipment, and spare parts to help Ukraine defend its territory and protect its people."

On May 14, in his address to the Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, Blinken described what could only be reasoned as a vast mirage.  "Today, I'm here in Kyiv to speak about Ukraine's strategic success.  And to set out how, with our support, the Ukrainian people can and will achieve their vision for the near future: a free, prosperous, secure democracy – fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community – and fully in control of its own destiny."  This astonishingly irresponsible statement makes Washington's security agenda clear and Kyiv's fate bleak: Ukraine is to become a pro-US, anti-Russian bastion, with an open cheque book at the ready.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has made the prevention of that vision an article of faith.  While Russian forces, in men and material, have suffered horrendous losses, the attritive nature of the conflict is starting to tell. While Blinken was gulling his audience, the military realities show significant Russian advances, including a threatening push towards Kharkiv, reversing Ukrainian gains made in 2022.

There are also wounding advances being made in other areas of the conflict.  US and NATO artillery and drones supplied to Ukraine's military forces have been countered by Russian electronic warfare methods.  GPS receivers, for instance, have been sufficiently deceived to misdirect missiles shot from HIMARS launchers.  In a number of cases, the Russian forces have also identified and destroyed the launchers.

Russian air power has been brought to bear on critical infrastructure.  Radar defying glide bombs have been used with considerable effect.  On the production and deployment front, Colonel Ivan Pavlenko, chief of EW and cyber warfare at Ukraine's general staff, lamented in February that Russia's use of drones was also "becoming a huge threat".  Depleted stocks of weaponry are being replenished, and more soldiers are being called to the front.

Despite concerns, one need not scour far to find pundits who insist that such advances and gains can be neutralised.  Michael Kofman of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace admits to current Russian "material advantage" and holding "the strategic initiative," though goes on to speculate that this "may not prove decisive".

The gong of deceit and delusion must, however, go to Blinken.  Americans, he claimed, understood "that our support for Ukraine strengthens the security of the United States and our allies."  Were Putin to win – and here, that old nag of appeasement makes an undesirable appearance – "he won't stop with Ukraine; he'll keep going.  For when in history has an autocrat been satisfied with carving off just part, or even all, of a single country?"

Towards that end, "we do have a plan," he coyly insisted.  This entailed ensuring Ukraine had "the military that it needs to succeed on the battlefield".  Biden was encouraged by Ukrainian mobilisation efforts, skipping around the logistical delays that had marred it.  Washington's "joint task" was to "secure Ukraine's sustained and permanent strategic advantage", enabling it to win the current battles and "defend against future attacks.  As President Biden said, we want Ukraine to win – and we're committed to helping you do it."

Even by the standards of US Secretaries of States, Blinken's conduct in Kyiv proved brazen and shameless.  A perfect illustration of this came with his musical effort alongside local band, 19.99, involving a rendition of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World."

Local indignation was quick to follow.  "Six months of waiting for the decision of the American Congress" had, fumed Bohdan Yaremenko, legislator and former diplomat with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's party, "taken the lives of very, very many defenders of the free world".  What the US was performing "for the free world is not rock 'n' roll, but some other music similar to Russian chanson."

As for the performance itself, the crowd at Barman Dictat witnessed yet another misreading – naturally by a US politician – of an anthem intended to excoriate American failings, from homelessness to "a kinder, gentler machine gun hand".  Appropriately, the guitar, much like the performer, was out of tune.

The post Promising the Impossible: Blinken's Out of Tune Performance in Kyiv first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
Sat, 18 May 2024 03:50:18 +0000

2. Permafrost Showdown

"Deep below the glistening surface of a frozen Arctic lake, something is bubbling—something that could cause global warming to accelerate beyond all previous projections… Now the freezer door is opening, releasing the carbon into Arctic lake bottoms. Microbes digest it, convert it to methane, and the lakes essentially burp out methane.' Scientists estimate that permafrost holds up to 950 billion tons of carbon. As it thaws, 50 billion tons of methane could enter the atmosphere from Siberian lakes alone. That's ten times more methane than the atmosphere holds right now," (Katey Walter Anthony, biogeochemist, National Geographic Explorer Since 2011)

Rapid warming of Arctic permafrost has brought a significant threat to all life forms. Consequently, The Royal Society (est. 1660) felt compelled to support publication of a new video that exposes this threat: What Happens When the Permafrost Thaws? BBC in partnership with The Royal Society by Daniel Nils Roberts, British-Norwegian director, April 15, 2024.

"Thermokarst lakes (formed when permafrost melts) are projected to release approximately 40% of ancient permafrost soil carbon emissions this century." (Source: K.M. Walter Anthony, et al, "Decadal-scale Hotspot Methane Ebullition Withing Lakes Following Abrupt Permafrost Thaw", Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 16, No. 3, 2021).

"The Tibetan Plateau is the largest alpine permafrost region in the world, accounting for approximately 75% of the total alpine permafrost area in the Northern Hemisphere. Similar to high-latitude permafrost regions, this region has experienced fast climate warming and extensive permafrost thaw, which has triggered the widespread expansion of thermokarst lakes and other types of abrupt permafrost thaw. The number of thermokarst lakes in this permafrost region is estimated to be 161,300." (Source: Guibiao Yang, et al, "Characteristics of Methane Emissions from Alpine Thermokarst Lakes on the Tibetan Plateau", Nature Communications 14, Article No. 3121, 2023).

Ecosystems throughout the planet are rapidly transforming because of human-generated global warming. After all, what does the formation of 161,300 thermokarst lakes in only the Alpine permafrost region alone say about the impact of global warming?

Scientists are expressing renewed concerns about monster climate events lurking beneath the frozen ground of permafrost, which is 15% of the exposed land surface of the Northern Hemisphere (MIT Climate Portal). And monsters lurk above solid grounding in Antarctic glacial formations, starting to fracture as fissures widen like ogres of the deep.

From the Arctic to Antarctica the planet is sagging, dripping, slouching, changing the face of 10,000 years of nature coexisting with humanity side-by-side until only recently as it transforms into an adversarial relationship. Permafrost ranks alongside the Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland, The Great Barrier Reef, and the world's three largest rainforests as the most important determinates of this changing future. Within permafrost's confines exist thousands of years of latent ingredients that have the potential to set the world on fire. Its impact could be transcendent.

"Most of Earth's near-surface permafrost could be gone by 2100, an international team of scientists has concluded after comparing current climate trends to the planet's climate 3 million years ago… The team found that the amount of near-surface permafrost could drop by 93% compared to the preindustrial period of 1850 to 1900. That's under the most extreme warming scenario in the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change." (Source: Study: "Near Surface Permafrost Will Be Nearly Gone by 2100″, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, September 15, 2023).

What Happens When the Permafrost Thaws (the film): "Permafrost is of huge importance to the entire planet… including one-half of Canada and two-thirds of Russia… and the Tibetan Plateau… permafrost is rock, sediment or ice that remains at or below zero degrees Celsius for two or more consecutive years… depending upon where it is found, permafrost can be millions of years old."

Interviews in the What Happens film, living in permafrost regions, like Svalbard, Norway, when discussing noticeable climate change: "This kind of weather, it's not supposed to be like this in October, it's supposed to be minus 15°, clear, dry climate, and it's not. It's a rainstorm."

As a result of abnormal climate behavior, especially where permafrost hangs out, the "active layer" of permafrost is getting deeper and deeper throughout the world. This is bad news. This creates more and more exposure to thousands of years of accumulation of "who knows what?"  It's happening at a fast enough rate now that it could expose 10,000,000 woolly mammoths (a very rough estimate by somebody?) as well as ancient viruses, and who knows what else?

Moreover, aside from 10,000,000 woolly mammoth skeletons with some of them kinda well-preserved skin, fur, etc., a unique study claims up to 20,000 toxic contamination sites could be exposed: "Here we identify about 4500 industrial sites where potentially hazardous substances are actively handled or stored in the permafrost-dominated regions of the Arctic. Furthermore, we estimate that between 13,000 and 20,000 contaminated sites are related to these industrial sites."  (Source: Moritz Langer, et al, "Thawing Permafrost Poses Environmental Threat to Thousands of Sites with Legacy Industrial Contamination", Nature Communications, March 28, 2023).

"But there's something else that concerns scientists much more. The scariest thing that is happening with permafrost is what it is doing to the climate itself… permafrost acts as a storage… it locks up the carbon from dead vegetation quite effectively, and it's accumulated over many thousands of years." (What Happens).

Now, the freezer door is open. Nobody knows for sure what'll come through. But the biggest concern is permafrost competing with human-driven carbon emissions like CO2. This could drive global warming to unspeakable levels.

"There's estimated to be four times the amount of carbon in permafrost than all the human-generated CO2 emissions in modern history. The release into the atmosphere of even a fraction of this as carbon dioxide and methane will have a profound impact on the climate." (What Happens)

"What can be done" is an open question that's semi-addressed in the film What Happens: We can make more informed decisions and build communities that are resilient to changes, highlighted by the ways that humans are entangled with nature. In other words, adaptation is the most realistic solution, other than stopping fossil fuels, which is not happening.

Meanwhile, the backup position to frustration over ongoing CO2 emissions that are continuing to ratchet up, now at all-time highs, scientists are increasingly calling for "adaptation to climate change" instead of pounding the table for a halt to emissions. For example, a recent report by the prestigious Columbia Climate School makes the case: "Experts are warning that policymakers should consider adaptation to sea-level rise a primary concern." But, how to adapt to permafrost thaw is an altogether different matter… the most challenging of all.

In truth, climate change is far ahead of schedule, as scientific models of yesteryear look like distant history. It's likely that history will designate the 21st century "The Age of Adaptation" by default as countries react, after the fact, to collapsing ecosystems, which guarantees a future full of surprises beyond wildest imagination.

There are scientists who believe permafrost thawing will accelerate global warming beyond the comfort zone of life in several regions of the planet; in fact, it's already very close to a large scale event in Pakistan, India's Indus River Valley, eastern China, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Still, regardless of circumstances, finding a way forward to the future is in the lifeblood of humanity. In that regard, there is some good news (kinda good): According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) renewables will meet 35% of "global power generation" by 2025, thus a significant rise in CO2 emissions from global power activity is unlikely over the next few years. However, global power generation is not the full enchilada of world energy: Along those lines, coal consumption is expected to drop 13.5% by 2030 but natural gas and oil will both rise as renewables, alongside fossil fuels, experience strong growth to meet increasing levels of demand. According to the IEA, fossil fuels will still account for 70% of world energy, down from today's 82%, by 2030. This is progress but is it too slow, not enough soon enough? Moreover, and as endorsed by several oil CEOs, the IEA expects oil supply to remain robust into 2050. Hmm -global warming is all about excessive levels of fossil fuel CO2 emissions. Those emissions are not going away anytime soon, which will please the permafrost thawing gods.

As for US influence to lessen the impact of permafrost thawing, although not expressly stated as such in the legislative bill, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provides $370 billion in clean energy investments. But can Biden's IRA survive political wars? Is IRA bulletproof? More importantly, is it enough soon enough?

According to Barron's d/d April 1, 2024: "Trump Is Taking Aim at Biden's Climate Law": He calls it a waste of money, and instead, has promised oil and gas CEOs favorable treatment, including scrapping Biden's IRA, if elected, assuming they pony-up $1 billion for his campaign. Is this a bribe? It's MAGA's BMGW "Buy More Global Warming" to subsidize thawing of permafrost.

The post Permafrost Showdown first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
Fri, 17 May 2024 08:52:46 +0000

3. Is the U.S. blackmailing India over assassination allegations to be more hostile toward China and Russia?

The United States and its Western allies have stepped up a media campaign to accuse India of running an assassination policy targeting expatriate dissidents.

The government of Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, has furiously denied the allegations, saying there is no such policy.

Nevertheless, the American Biden administration as well as Canada, Britain and Australia continue to demand accountability over claims that  New Delhi is engaging in "transnational repression" of spying, harassing and killing Indian opponents living in Western states.

The accusations have severely stained political relations. The most fractious example is Canada. After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly accused Indian state agents of involvement in the murder of an Indian-born Canadian citizen last year, New Delhi expelled dozens of Canadian diplomats.

Relations became further strained this month when The Washington Post published a long article purporting to substantiate claims that Indian security services were organizing assassinations of U.S. and Canadian citizens. The Post named high-level Indian intelligence chiefs in the inner circle of Prime Minister Modi. The implication is a policy of political killings is sanctioned at the very top of the Indian government.

The targets of the alleged murder program are members of the Sikh diaspora. There are large expatriate populations of Sikhs in the U.S., Canada and Britain. In recent years, there has been a renewed campaign among Sikhs for the secession of their homeland of Punjab from India. The New Delhi government views the separatist calls for a new state called Khalistan as a threat to Indian territorial integrity. The Modi government has labeled Sikh separatists as terrorists.

The Indian authorities have carried out repression of Sikhs for decades including political assassination in the Punjab territory of northern India. Many Sikhs fled to the United States and other Western states for safety and to continue their agitation for a separate nation. The Modi government has accused Western states of coddling "Sikh terrorists" and undermining Indian sovereignty.

Last June, a prominent Sikh leader was gunned down in a suburb of Vancouver in what appeared to be a professional hit-style execution. Hardeep Singh Nijjar was murdered by three assailants outside a religious temple. Indian state media described him as a terrorist, but Nijjar's family denied he had any involvement in terrorism. They claim that he was targeted simply because he promoted Punjabi separatism.

At the same time, according to The Post report, the U.S. authorities thwarted a murder plot against a well-known American-Sikh citizen who was a colleague of the Canadian victim. Both men were coordinating efforts to hold an unofficial referendum among the Sikh diaspora in North America calling for the establishment of a new independent state of Khalistan in the Punjab region of northern India.

The Post article names Vikram Yadav, an officer in India's state spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), as orchestrating the murder plots against the Sikh leaders. The Post claims that interviews with US and former Indian intelligence officials attest that the killings could not have been carried out without the sanction of Modi's inner circle.

A seemingly curious coincidence is that within days of the murder of the Canadian Sikh leader and the attempted killing of the American colleague, President Biden was hosting Narendra Modi at the White House in a lavish state reception.

Since the summer of last year, the Biden administration has repeatedly pressured the Modi government to investigate the allegations. President Biden has personally contacted Modi about the alleged assassination policy as have his senior officials, including White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and CIA director William Burns. Despite New Delhi's denial of such a policy, the Modi government has acceded to American requests to hold an internal investigation, suggesting a tacit admission of its agents having some involvement.

But here is where an anomaly indicates an ulterior agenda. Even U.S. media have remarked on how lenient the Biden administration has been towards India over what are grave allegations. It is inconceivable that Washington would tolerate the presence of Russian or Chinese agents and diplomats on its territory if Moscow and Beijing were implicated in killing dissidents on American soil.

As The Washington Post report noted: "Last July, White House officials began holding high-level meetings to discuss ways to respond without risking a wider rupture with India, officials said. CIA Director William J. Burns and others have been deployed to confront officials in the Modi government and demand accountability. But the United States has so far imposed no expulsions, sanctions or other penalties."

What appears to be going on is a calculated form of coercion by the United States and its Western allies. The allegations of contract killings and "transnational repression" against Sikhs in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia and Germany are aimed at intimidating the Indian government with further embarrassing media disclosures and Western sanctions. The U.S. State Department and the Congress have both recently highlighted claims of human rights violations by the Modi government and calls for political sanctions.

The objective, it can averred, is for Washington and its Western allies to pressure India into toeing a geopolitical line of hostility towards China and Russia.

During the Biden administration, the United States has assiduously courted India as a partner in the Asia-Pacific to confront China. India has been welcomed as a member of the U.S.-led Quad of powers, including Japan and Australia. The Quad overlaps with the U.S. security interests of the AUKUS military partnership with Britain and Australia.

Another major geopolitical prize for Washington and its allies is to drive a wedge between India and Russia.

Since the NATO proxy war blew up in Ukraine in February 2022, the United States has been continually cajoling India to condemn Russia and to abide by Western sanctions against Moscow. Despite the relentless pressure, the Modi government has spurned Western attempts to isolate Russia. Indeed, India has increased its purchase of Russian crude oil and is importing record more quantities than ever before the Ukraine conflict.

Furthermore, India is a key member of the BRICS forum and a proponent of an emerging multipolar world order that undermines U.S.-led Western hegemony.

From the viewpoint of the United States and its Western allies, India represents a tantalizing strategic prospect. With a foot in both geopolitical camps, New Delhi is sought by the West to weaken the China-Russia-BRICS axis.

This is the geopolitical context for understanding the interest of Western powers in making an issue out of allegations of political assassination by the Modi government. Washington and its Western allies want to use the allegations as a form of leverage – or blackmail – on India to comply with geopolitical objectives to confront China and Russia.

It can be anticipated that the Western powers will amplify the media campaign against India in line with exerting more hostility toward China and Russia.

• First published in Strategic Culture Foundation

The post Is the U.S. blackmailing India over assassination allegations to be more hostile toward China and Russia? first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
Fri, 17 May 2024 08:06:11 +0000

4. Gaza Genocide 2.0

The most widely reported figure currently used for Palestinian casualties in Gaza since October 7, 2023, is more than 35,000 killed and 78,000 wounded. These are only the civilian casualties, reported by the Ministry of Health. More than two-thirds are women and children. Combatant casualties are not included. The Ministry of Health maintains a list of the casualties, by name, gender and age classification (e.g. "infant"). This usually means that a medical professional has tended to the individual, usually at a hospital. The list is conservative in the extreme: it reports only the casualties that it can identify and confirm.

The inevitable consequence of this sort of tally is that while it provides hard data, it vastly undercounts the actual total, since most of the hospitals have been destroyed, and many of the medical personnel either killed or taken captive. The uncounted casualties are therefore necessarily at least 200 or 300% greater than those reported, as Ralph Nader has pointed out, and as I discussed in "Not all of the genocide is being live-streamed" more than three months ago.

How many have died without ever being reported to the Ministry of Health? How many on the list of wounded die later for lack of treatment, but are never reported as dead from weapons of war? How many are nameless and unidentified bodies? How many are corpses that have not even been found? How many are newborn infants that died without ever having a registered name?

But there is another category, potentially even greater, that is becoming the new focus of Israel's genocide: deaths by starvation, disease, exposure, and dehydration. These are not currently included in the Ministry of Health statistics, and they are largely anonymous deaths.

Israel loves anonymous deaths. It interprets condemnation of its genocide project as mainly an image problem, generating pressure to stop the elimination of the population in Gaza. Israel therefore loves deaths that do not appear on Al-Jazeera or even in social media. The media are only interested in death from the skies, demolition of neighborhoods, massacres of civilians, masses of refugees fleeing on foot with their few remaining possessions. Deaths due to "natural causes" are not this dramatic.

This is why Israel has modified its plans for the invasion of Rafah: fewer bombs, more starvation and deprivation. The first step was to capture and occupy the Rafah border crossing, in violation of Israel's treaty with Egypt. This has enabled Israel to entirely stop relief supplies to the people of Gaza, whose limited farms and food production had already been destroyed along with their homes. Then they destroyed the hospitals and the sanitation and health services. In addition, they forced the population – many of them already living in makeshift tents – to flee once again, this time to more desolate locations with even fewer (zero) amenities, such as the barren al-Mawasi sand dunes, and thus more conducive to death by "natural causes".

This quieter form of genocide suits Israel's US accomplices in the Biden administration, as well. President Biden and Secretary Blinken have been under public pressure and criticism that they and their allies in the Israel lobby have been unable to quell by control of the news media, censorship of social media, or repression of freedom of speech and assembly, notably in the student movement. They are reluctant to withhold the tools of genocide from Israel, but welcome any change that might reduce the public outrage (and improve their chances in the November presidential elections).

Israel seems to think that removing and preventing the means to sustain life in Gaza, as an alternative to bullets, bombs and explosives, may achieve that objective. They seem to be taking a page from the Armenian genocide, which herded large numbers of the unwanted population into the Syrian desert and abandoned them there, or the native American genocide, where the food supply was destroyed.

If the list of casualties grows more slowly while a vastly larger number of Palestinians die uncounted, this will further the goal of killing and/or expelling the population of Gaza, and advances the day when an empty Gaza can be annexed to Israel, for developers to build beach condos for Zionist settlers, with subsidies and low-cost loans from the US and Germany.

POST SCRIPT: As this article heads for publication, the completion of the US floating pier on the shore of central Gaza was announced. Its ostensible purpose is to provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians. We are permitted to be skeptical. Why create such a cumbersome procedure to deliver aid, when mountains of supplies are waiting at the Egyptian border?

Why indeed? Some possibilities:

  • To put the US and Israel in total control of Gaza and shut out the UN
  • To export the Palestinians from Gaza
  • To create a "Guantanamo East" US naval base
  • To garner votes of the faithful for Biden before the election and then let Israel toss the Palestinians into the sea

I don't have answers or even good speculations at this point, but stay tuned for Gaza Genocide 3.0

The post Gaza Genocide 2.0 first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
Thu, 16 May 2024 13:57:39 +0000

5. My Heart Makes My Head Swim

Malak Mattar (Palestine), Hind's Hall, 2024.

The title of this newsletter, 'My heart makes my head swim', comes from Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks (1952). In a chapter called 'The Fact of Blackness', Fanon writes about the despair that racism produces, the immense anxiety about living in a world that has decided that certain people are simply not human or not sufficiently human. The lives of these people, children of a lesser god, are assigned less worth than the lives of the powerful and the propertied. An international division of humanity tears the world into pieces, throwing masses of people into the fires of anguish and oblivion.

What is happening in Rafah, Gaza's southernmost city, is ghastly. Since October 2023, Israel has ordered 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza to move southwards as the Israeli armed forces have steadily moved their gunsights across the Wadi Gaza wetlands down to the edge of Rafah. Kilometre by kilometre, as the Israeli military advances, the so-called safe zone moves further and further south. In December, the Israeli government claimed, with great cruelty, that the tent city of al-Mawasi (west of Rafah, along the Mediterranean Sea) was the new designated safe area. A mere 6.5 square kilometres (half the size of London's Heathrow airport), the supposed safe zone within al-Mawasi is nowhere near large enough to house the more than one million Palestinians who are in Rafah. Not only was it absurd for Israel to say that al-Mawasi would be a refuge, but – according to the laws of war – a safe zone must be agreed upon by all parties.

Ismail Shammout (Palestine), Odyssey of a People, 1980.

'How can a zone be safe in a war zone if it is only unilaterally decided by one part of the conflict?', asked Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA); 'It can only promote the false feeling that it will be safe'. Furthermore, on several occasions, Israel has bombed al-Mawasi, the area it says is safe. On 20 February, Israel attacked a shelter operated by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, killing two family members of the organisation's staff. This week, on 13 May, an international UN staff member was killed after the Israeli army opened fire on a UN vehicle, one of the nearly 200 UN workers killed in Gaza in addition to the targeted assassination of aid workers.

Aref El-Rayyes (Lebanon), Untitled, 1963.

Not only has Israel begun to bomb Rafah, but it hastily sent in tanks to seize the only border crossing through which aid dribbled in on the few trucks a day that were allowed to enter. After Israel seized the Rafah border, it prevented the entry of aid into Gaza altogether. Starving Palestinians has long been Israeli policy, which is of course a war crime. Preventing aid from entering Gaza is part of the international division of humanity that has defined not only this genocide, but the occupation of Palestinian land in East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank since 1967 and the system of apartheid within the borders defined by Israel following the 1948 Nakba ('Catastrophe').

Three words in this sentence are fundamentally contested by Israel: apartheid, occupation, and genocide. Israel and its Global North allies want to claim that the use of these words to describe Israeli policies, Zionism, or the oppression of Palestinians is tantamount to anti-Semitism. But, as the United Nations and numerous respected human rights groups note, these are legal descriptions of the reality on the ground and not moral judgments that are made either in haste or out of anti-Semitism. A short primer on the accuracy of these three concepts is necessary to counter this denial.

Nelson Makamo (South Africa), Decoration of the Youth, 2019.

Apartheid. The Israeli government treats the Palestinian minority population within the borders defined in 1948 (21%) as second-class citizens. There are at least sixty-five Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel. One of them, passed in 2018, declares the country a 'nation state of the Jewish people'. As the Israeli philosopher Omri Boehm wrote, through this new law, the Israeli government 'formally endorses' the use of 'apartheid methods within Israel's recognised borders'. The United Nations and Human Rights Watch have both said that Israel's treatment of Palestinians falls under the definition of apartheid. The use of this term is entirely factual.

Laila Shawa (Palestine), The Hands of Fatima, 2013.

Occupation. In 1967, Israel occupied the three Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank. From 1967 to 1999, these three areas were referred to as part of the Occupied Arab Territories (which at different times also included Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, Syria's Golan region, and southern Lebanon). Since 1999, they have been termed the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). In UN documents and at the International Court of Justice, Israel is referred to as the 'occupying power', which is a term of art that requires certain obligations from Israel toward those whom it occupies. Although the 1993 Oslo Accords set up the Palestinian Authority, Israel remains the occupying power of the OPT, a designation that has not been revised. An occupation is identical to colonial rule: it is when a foreign power dominates a people in their homeland and denies them sovereignty and rights. Despite Israel's military withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 (which included the dismantling of twenty-one illegal settlements), Israel continues to occupy Gaza by building a perimeter fence around the Gaza Strip and by policing the Mediterranean waters of Gaza. Annexation of parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank as well as the punctual bombing of Gaza are violations of Israel's obligation as the occupying power.

An occupation imposes a structural condition of violence upon the occupied. That is why international law recognises that those who are occupied have the right to resist. In 1965, in the midst of Guinea Bissau's struggle against Portuguese colonialism, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 2105 ('Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples'). Paragraph 10 of this resolution is worth reading carefully: 'The General Assembly… [r]ecognises the legitimacy of the struggle by the peoples under colonial rule to exercise their right to self-determination and independence and invites all States to provide material and moral assistance to the national liberation movements in colonial Territories'. There is no ambiguity here. Those who are occupied have the right to resist, and, in fact, all member states of the United Nations are bound by this treaty to assist them. Rather than sell arms to the occupying power, who is the aggressor in the ongoing genocide, the members states of the United Nations – particularly from the Global North – should aid the Palestinians.

Abdulqader al-Rais (United Arab Emirates), Waiting, c. 1970.

Genocide. In its order published on 26 January, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that there was 'plausible' evidence of Israel committing genocide against Palestinians. In March, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Francesca Albanese, published a monumental report called Anatomy of a Genocide. In this report, Albanese wrote that 'there are reasonable grounds to believe that the threshold indicating Israel's commission of genocide is met'. 'More broadly', she wrote, 'they also indicate that Israel's actions have been driven by a genocidal logic integral to its settler-colonial project in Palestine, signalling a tragedy foretold'.

Intent to commit genocide is easily proved in the context of Israel's bombardment. In October 2023, Israel's President Isaac Herzog said that 'an entire nation out there is responsible' for the attacks on 7 October, and it was not true that 'civilians [were] not… aware, not involved'. The ICJ pointed to this statement, among others, since it expresses Israel's intent and use of 'collective punishment', a genocidal war crime. The following month, Israel's Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu said that dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza was 'an option' since 'there are no non-combatants in Gaza'. Before the ICJ ruling was published, Moshe Saada, a member of the Israeli parliament from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, said that 'all Gazans must be destroyed'. These sentiments, by any international standard, demonstrate an intent to commit genocide. As with 'apartheid' and 'occupation', the use of the term 'genocide' is entirely accurate.

Vijay Prashad presents Frantz Fanon's daughter, Mireille Fanon Mendès-France, with a poster of the cover of the new isiZulu edition of her father's classic, The Wretched of the Earth, in Paris, France, 2024.

Earlier this year, Inkani Books, a Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research project based in South Africa, published the isiZulu translation of Fanon's Wretched of the Earth, Izimpabanga Zomhlaba, translated by Makhosazana Xaba. We are so proud of this accomplishment, bringing the work of Fanon into another African language (it has already been translated into Arabic and Swahili).

When I was last in Palestine, I spoke with young children about their aspirations. What they told me reminded me of a section from The Wretched of the Earth: 'At twelve or thirteen years of age the village children know the names of the old men who were in the last rising, and the dreams they dream in the douars [camps] or in the villages are not those of money or of getting through their exams like the children of the towns, but dreams of identification with some rebel or another, the story of whose heroic death still today moves them to tears'.

Children in Gaza will remember this genocide with at least the same intensity as their ancestors remembered 1948 and as their parents remembered the occupation that has loomed over this narrow piece of land since their own childhood. Children in South Africa will read these lines from Fanon in isiZulu and remember those who fell to inaugurate a new South Africa thirty years ago.

The post My Heart Makes My Head Swim first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
Thu, 16 May 2024 06:39:30 +0000

6. A Brutal Punishment: The Sentencing of David McBride

Sometimes, it's best not to leave the issue of justice to the judges.  They do what they must: consult the statutes, test the rivers of power, and hope that their ruling will not be subject to appeal.  David McBride, the man who revealed that Australia's special forces in Afghanistan had dimmed and muddied before exhaustion, committed atrocities and faced a compromised chain of command, was condemned on May 14 to a prison term of five years and eight months.

Without McBride's feats, there would have been no Afghan Files published by the ABC.  The Brereton Inquiry, established to investigate alleged war crimes, would most likely have never been launched.  (That notable document subsequently identified 39 instances of alleged unlawful killings of Afghan civilians by members of the special forces.)

In an affidavit, McBride explained how he wished Australians to realise that "Afghan civilians were being murdered and that Australian military leaders were at the very least turning the other way and at worst tacitly approving this behaviour".  Furthermore "soldiers were being improperly prosecuted as a smokescreen to cover [the leadership's] inaction and failure to hold reprehensible conduct to account."

For taking and disclosing 235 documents from defence offices mainly located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), the former military lawyer was charged with five national security offences.  He also found Australia's whistleblowing laws feeble and fundamentally useless.  The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (Cth) provided no immunity from prosecution, a fact aided by grave warnings from the Australian government that vital evidence would be excluded from court deliberation on national security grounds.

Through the process, the Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, could have intervened under Section 71 of the Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth), vesting the top legal officer in the country with powers to drop prosecutions against individuals charged with "an indictable offence against the laws of the Commonwealth".  Dreyfus refused, arguing that such powers were only exercised in "very unusual and exceptional circumstances".

At trial, chief counsel Trish McDonald SC, representing the government, made the astonishing claim that McBride had an absolute duty to obey orders flowing from the oath sworn to the sovereign. No public interest test could modify such a duty, a claim that would have surprised anyone familiar with the Nuremberg War Crimes trials held in the aftermath of the Second World War. "A soldier does not serve the sovereign by promising to do whatever the soldier thinks is in the public interest, even if contrary to the laws made by parliament." To justify such a specious argument, authorities from the 19th century were consulted: "There is nothing so dangerous to the civil establishment of the state as an undisciplined or reactionary army."

ACT Justice David Mossop tended to agree, declaring that, "There is no aspect of duty that allows the accused to act in the public interest contrary to a lawful order". A valiant effort was subsequently made by McBride's counsel, Steven Odgers SC, to test the matter in the ACT Court of Appeal.  Chief Justice Lucy McCallum heard the following submission from Odgers: "His only real argument is that what he did was the right thing. There was an order: don't disclose this stuff, but he bled, and did the right thing, to use his language, and the question is does the fact that he's in breach of orders mean that he's in breach of his duty, so that he's got no defence?"  The answer from the Chief Justice was curt: Mossop's ruling was "not obviously wrong."

With few options, a guilty plea was entered to three charges.  Left at the mercy of Justice Mossop, the punitive sentence shocked many of McBride's supporters.  The judge thought McBride of "good character" but possessed by a mania "with the correctness of his own opinions".  He suffered from a "misguided self-belief" and "was unable to operate within the legal framework that his duty required him to do".

The judge was cognisant of the Commonwealth's concerns that disclosing such documents would damage Australia's standing with "foreign partners", making them less inclined to share information.  He also rebuked McBride for copying the documents and storing them insecurely, leaving them vulnerable to access from foreign powers.  For all that, none of the identifiable risks had eventuated, and the Australian Defence Force had "taken no steps" to investigate the matter.

This brutal flaying of McBride largely centres on clouding his personal reasons.  In a long tradition of mistreating whistleblowers, questions are asked as to why he decided to reveal the documents to the press.  Motivation has been muddled with effect and affect. The better question, asks Peter Greste, executive director of the Alliance for Journalists' Freedom, is not examining the reasons for exposing such material but the revelations they disclose.  That, he argues, is where the public interest lies.  Unfortunately, in Australia, tests of public interest all too often morph into a weapon fashioned to fanatically defend government secrecy.

All that is left now is for McBride's defence team to appeal on the crucial subject of duty, something so curiously rigid in Australian legal doctrine.  "We think it's an issue of national importance, indeed international importance, that a western nation has such as a narrow definition of duty," argued his defence lawyer, Mark Davis.

John Kiriakou, formerly of the Central Intelligence Agency, was the only figure to be convicted, not of torture inflicted by his colleagues during the clownishly named War on Terror, but of exposing its practice. McBride is the only one to be convicted in the context of alleged Australian war crimes in Afghanistan, not for their commission, but for furnishing documentation exposing them, including the connivance of a sullied leadership.  The world of whistleblowing abounds with its sick ironies.

The post A Brutal Punishment: The Sentencing of David McBride first appeared on Dissident Voice.
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