Peacekeeping: Fiction vs. Reality

(Image: Protest in Haiti against UN sexual crimes against women. Source)

The word peacekeeping is like the word terrorism: it is meaningless on its own and able to be molded to serve the interests of a political clique. Like Alex P. Schmidt’s description of terrorism in The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research, peacekeeping “is usually an instrument for the attempted realization of a political…project that perpetrators lacking mass support are seeking”[1].

Peacekeepers have never kept the peace in any conflict. On the contrary, peacekeepers themselves have been linked to an increase in violence and human rights abuses, particularly of a sexual nature. In Bosnia, Somalia, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, peacekeepers have been “associated with criminal misconduct, including sexual violence. Crimes against women and children have followed UN peacekeeping operations in several locations, and the UN reported that the entrance of peacekeeping troops into a conflict situation has been associated with a rapid rise in child prostitution”[2]. Allegations of sexual violence against peacekeepers dates back to the 1990s. During the 1995-2002 UN mission in Bosnia, Kathryn Bolkovac, a human rights investigator, found that young “girls from Romania, Ukraine, Moldova and other Eastern European countries [were] being brought in to service the UN and military bases as sex-slaves. The cases involved the officers from many foreign countries, including the USA, Pakistan, Germany, Romania, Ukraine, government contractors, and local organized criminals”[3]. Bolkovac was subsequently fired for her investigation. As of 2015 more than 200 women and girls have been sexually exploited by UN peacekeepers in Haiti in exchange for food, clothing, medicine, and other basic necessities [4]. In the Central African Republic, French peacekeepers have forced young girls to have sex with dogs [5], starving and homeless boys as young as nine have been sodomized by peacekeepers [6], and an entire UN contingent was expelled from the country due to sex crimes [7].

Extrajudicial murder, torture, and mass murder – all war crimes under international law – have also been committed by peacekeepers. A 14-year-old Somali boy was beaten, tortured, and murdered by Canadian peacekeepers in Somalia; the peacekeepers having posed in photos with the boy’s bloody corpse. Not to be outdone, Belgian peacekeepers were photographed roasting a Somali over a fire. (more…)


U.S. Paid P.R. firm $540 million to make Fake al-Qaida Videos

An explosive new report reveals how the U.S. government paid a British public relations company linked to right-wing politics and repressive regimes more than $500 million from American taxpayers to spearhead a top-secret propaganda campaign in Iraq.

Bell Pottinger, a London-based P.R. firm, created fake videos that appeared to be the work of al-Qaida, the Islamist extremist group formerly headed by Osama bin Laden. It also created news stories that looked as though they were produced by Arab media outlets, and distributed them through Middle Eastern news networks.

The company worked in Camp Victory, the U.S. military base in Baghdad, side-by-side with high-ranking U.S. military officers.

The propaganda videos were personally approved by Gen. David Petraeus — then the commander of U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq, who would go on to become the director of the CIA. On some occasions, even the White House signed off on the propaganda materials. (more…)


The Politics of Fear

The same message is clear everywhere you look: be afraid, be very, very afraid. Whether it is about terrorism, jobs, or who to vote for, fear is a powerful weapon, economically and politically, in the hands of the ruling class. Fear is divisive, it is incapacitating, and ultimately immobilizes the working class and everyone struggling for social change.

The power of fear is that it shuts down. It shuts down debate, it shuts down dialogue, it shuts down meaningful action. Whether or not the fear is rational is largely irrelevant. Many people fear many things with very little, if any, rational explanation for the fear. According to a public survey, Iran was ranked as the biggest threat to world peace in the U.S. and Canada. Why? Iran hasn’t attacked another country since 1798. On the flip side, Iran has been attacked on many occasions by the U.S.-NATO alliance. The U.S. and Britain overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government in 1953 on behalf of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, BP’s predecessor, ushering in a reign of terror by a brutal monarch. The U.S. supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons to attack the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War, the very same weapons the U.S. illegally occupied and destroyed Iraq for allegedly possessing. In 1988, the U.S. Navy shot down a civilian airliner, Iran Air flight 655, killing all 290 people on board, while the plane was over Iranian territory, in Iranian airspace, traveling the plane’s standard flight path. There is no basis to any claim that Iran is a threat to world peace, but there is overwhelming evidence the U.S. and its allies are. (more…)


Facebook Is Collaborating With the Israeli Government to Determine What Should Be Censored

Last week a major censorship controversy erupted when Facebook began deleting all posts containing the iconic photograph of the Vietnamese “Napalm Girl” on the ground that it violated the company’s ban on “child nudity.” Facebook even deleted a post from the prime minister of Norway, who posted the photograph in protest of the censorship. As outrage spread, Facebook ultimately reversed itself — acknowledging “the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time” — but this episode illustrated many of the dangers I’ve previously highlighted in having private tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google become the arbiters of what we can and cannot see.

Having just resolved that censorship effort, Facebook seems to be vigorously courting another. The Associated Press reports today from Jerusalem that “the Israeli government and Facebook have agreed to work together to determine how to tackle incitement on the social media network.” These meetings are taking place “as the government pushes ahead with legislative steps meant to force social networks to rein in content that Israel says incites violence.” In other words, Israel is about to legislatively force Facebook to censor content deemed by Israeli officials to be improper, and Facebook appears eager to appease those threats by working directly with the Israeli government to determine what content should be censored. (more…)


The Permanent War Economy and Deindustrialization

(Image: Detroit, Michigan, the former centre of America’s auto industry. Source)

Politicians of all political stripes like to dress inflated military budgets, and the wicked arms deals that frequently accompany them, in terms of “job creation.” Former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, arguing against any reduction in military funding, claimed that any decrease “would result in job cuts that would add potentially 1 (percentage point) to the national unemployment rate.”[1] Here in Canada, both Stephen Harper and his Liberal counterpart Justin Trudeau have justified the $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the largest such deal in Canadian history, as a means of creating jobs. “The fact is that there are jobs in London relying on this” deal, Trudeau said [2].

A closer examination will reveal something different. By not producing a life-serving product, i.e., an article used for either consumption or for further production, military spending is not only the worst of available choices for job creation, it contributes to industrial and infrastructure decay. (more…)


War is Peace: The Foreign Policy of Justin Trudeau

Since July of this year, rumours have been circulating of a major Canadian Forces deployment in Africa. Those rumours have now been confirmed. As of late August, the Trudeau Liberals have pledged up to 600 troops in support of United Nations missions on the continent. This comes on the heels of an earlier commitment, made in late-June, to deploy 450 troops to Latvia in support of NATO missions in eastern Europe, as well as the addition in February of over 100 special forces to Canada’s mission in Iraq. In total, the Liberals have pledged to deploy more than 1000 soldiers across the globe in the short span of just seven months. This is a far cry from what was supposed to be a departure from the Harper era. In many ways, it is far worse.

In no other department have the Liberals veered farther from their expectations than in foreign policy. Trudeau went to great lengths to distance himself from his predecessor during the campaign. Among other things, he promised he would end the combat mission in Iraq. Upon being elected, he said he would restore Canada’s “compassionate and constructive voice in the world.” Many were led to believe that Harper’s divisive foreign policy had come to an end. But it is unlikely that this was ever Trudeau’s intention.



Standing Strong Against Big Oil

For months, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota has been protesting the construction of a $3.8 billion oil pipeline that would cut through four US states. By early September, the protests reached unprecedented size, as hundreds of environmental activists joined the local community of about 8,000. This is the largest gathering of Native Americans in over a century, with over 90 tribes represented at Cannon Ball, North Dakota, just south of Bismarck, the state capital.

The Native tribes and environmentalists say the pipeline would disrupt a sacred burial ground, as well as threaten water quality in the area. They say that the Army Corps of Engineers should never have granted permits for its construction.

The pipeline would carry crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale formation to Illinois. Its supporters claim it will be spill-proof, and that its construction will generate thousands of jobs. Critics respond that any leak would poison the Missouri River, which borders the entire western edge of the Standing Rock reservation.

The protests led to the arrest of the Standing Rock Sioux tribal chair Dave Archambault, among others. Work was eventually halted, pending a Sept. 9 ruling by a judge who has heard arguments against the construction. (more…)


Death and Destruction in Iraq

On May 1, 2003, George W Bush stood in a dinky little flying suit on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and in a super stage-managed appearance told the lie of the century: “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.”

The illegal occupation and decimation of Iraq continued until December 2011. In June 2014 they returned to bomb again in the guise of combating ISIS. As the 13th anniversary of Bush’s appearance with a vast “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him, Iraq is largely in ruins, Iraqis have fled the murderous “liberation” and it’s aftermath in millions and there are over three million internally displaced.

The nation is pinned between a tyrannical, corrupt US puppet government, a homicidal, head chopping, raping, organ eating, history erasing, US-spawned ISIS – and a renewed, relentless US bombardment. So much for the 2008 US-Iraq State of Forces agreement, which stated that by December 31, 2011: “all United States forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory.”

On the USS Abraham Lincoln Bush stated: “In this battle, we have fought for the cause of liberty, and for the peace of the world … Because of you, our nation is more secure. Because of you, the tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free.”

In what has transpired to be monumental irony, he continued: “The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We have removed an ally of Al-Qaida, and cut off a source of terrorist funding.” There was of course, no Al-Qaida in Iraq, no funding of fundamentalist terrorism under Saddam Hussein, it is the invasion’s conception, birth, now reached maturity from Baghdad to Brussels, Mosul to the Maghreb, Latakia to London.

In Iraq, US terrorism from the air is back in all its genocidal force.

Incredibly on April 23, the Independent newspaper reported another staggering piece of either disinformation or childish naivety, in a predictably familiar script : “A spokesperson for the US military said all possible precautions were taken to avoid ‘collateral damage’, but in approaching 7,000 air strikes the number of confirmed civilian deaths had risen on Planet Pentagon to just … 41.

In another past its sell-by-date mantra: “Colonel Patrick Ryder, a spokesperson for Central Command, said the casualties were ‘deeply regretted’ but maintained that the campaign was the ‘most precise air campaign in the history of warfare’.”

And here’s another familiar one: “In this type of armed conflict, particularly with an enemy who hides among the civilian population, there are going to be, unfortunately, civilian casualties at times.” The Geneva Convention, amongst other Treaties, Principles and Conventions, is specific on the protections of populations in conflict.

So another onslaught in a quarter of a century of bombing Iraq is underway – another mass murder with an obscure name: “Operation Inherent Resolve.”

Here is reality from Dr Souad Al-Azzawi, Award winning environmental scientist who gained her PhD from the Colorado School of Mines.

She states of just the onslaught on Mosul, her home, the ancient university city of 1.5 million, that the stated figures from US spokespersons are: Either misinformed about the real situation on the ground, since they are using drones and guided missiles, or air strikes blindly, intentionally not saying the truth.

“I would like to list some of what the American’s air strikes have been targeting and killing in Mosul:

  • Destroyed are all state services buildings, including Municipalities in right and left sides of Mosul. When they bomb at night, all security personnel get killed or injured, also residents of close by areas, and adjacent properties are destroyed.
  • Bombed and destroyed all communication centres.
  • Destruction of Dairy Production Factories in both left and right sides of Mosul. Casualties of these two are 100 deaths and 200 injuries among civilians who gathered to receive milk and dairy products from the factories. Dr Al-Azzawi reminds that this is reminiscent of the bombing of the baby milk factor outside Baghdad in 1991 with the claim it was a chemical weapons factory. This writer visited the factory ruins just months later; there were still charred containers of milk power – the machinery was provided and maintained by a company in Birmingham, England which specialised in infant food prodiction.
  • Bombing of Mosul Pharmaceutical Industries.
  • Mosul University was bombed with 92 deaths and 135 injuries. Earlier estimates were higher, but many were pulled from the rubble alive. “They were students, faculty members, staff members, families of faculties, and restaurants workers.”
  • Al Hadbaa and Al Khadraa Residential Apartments compounds. Fifty people killed (families) and 100 injured.
  • Hay al Dhubat residential area in the right side of Mosul, two days ago, five women and four children killed and the whole house [destroyed]. The father is a respected pharmacist who has nothing to do with ISIL.
  • Destruction of houses in front of the Medical College, killed 22 civilians – 11 in one family.
  • Bombing Sunni Waqif Building, 20 deaths and 70 injuries which included those in nearby commercial and residential buildings.
  • Car maintenance industrial areas in both left and right sides of Mosul destroyed with civilian’s casualties.
  • Bombing of flour factories in both sides of Mosul.
  • Rafidain and Rasheed banks and all their branches in both sides of Mosul. Destruction of all commercial and residential areas in the vicinity of these places, with as yet unknown civilian casualties.
  • Central Bank of Mosul in Ghazi Street, with nearby residential and commercial properties.
  • Pepsi factory, currently producing ice cubes only. Three deaths and 12 injuries among the workers.
  • The Governor’s house and close by guest house.
  • Mosul’s old industrial compound destroyed, with parking area for fuel tankers and cars. Three days ago, huge explosion of fuel tankers, 150 deaths and injuries.
  • Urban Planning Directory in Hay al Maliyah bombed.
  • Engineering Planning Directory in Hay al Maliyah bombed.
  • Food Storages in left side of Mosul bombed.
  • Drinking water treatment plants bombed.
  • All electrical generation and transformer stations in the left side of Mosul bombed.
  • Domez land communications centre in left side of Mosul destroyed.
  • Al Hurairah Bridge – and many more.

There is a sickening familiarity to some of the targets – food, pharmaceuticals, water treatment plants, electricity generation, communications and educational facilities, bridges (the country, towns and cities are divided by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers) have been favoured targets since 1991. Every time painstakingly and imaginatively restored they have been re-bombed for a quarter of a century.

During the 1990’s a Canadian film crew captured footage of US planes dropping flares on harvested wheat and barley, incinerating entire harvests in a country, which due to the strangulating embargo there were near famine conditions in parts of society.

“When Iraqi civilians looked into the faces of our servicemen and women, they saw strength, and kindness, and good will”, said George W Bush in his “Mission Accomplished” speech. No, they saw invaders destroying their lives, their families, their history, raping, pillaging. They saw Falluja’s destruction, Abu Ghraib’s horrors and the 11 other secret prisons and nightmares ever ongoing.

On April 25, Dr Al-Azzawi added: “More war crimes have been committed by American Coalition, yesterday April 24, 2016. The coalition planes bombed Rashidiya water treatment plant left side of Mosul city and Yermouk electricity generation station in the right side of Mosul. Through targeting these populations’ life sustaining necessities, the coalition is committing genocidal action towards Mosul residents in the pretext of fighting ISIS.”

Also on April 25, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore, on returning from a week in Iraq wrote starkly of the government: “Iraqis are crying out for fairness, recognition, justice, appreciation and meaningful participation in shaping their future – a process that goes forward and not backwards … We all have responsibilities towards the people of Iraq. While there is an international military coalition in place, a comparably resourced international coalition of practical compassion is also needed to help with the building blocks towards a sustained peace in Iraq.”

In the US military lexicon it seems “compassion” has been replaced by their missiles of choice.

Ms Gilmore also stated that Iraq was being run by a failed government and warned foreign powers not to be “complicit” in its neglect of the plight of normal Iraqis.

Further: “The international community must not allow itself to be made complicit with the failed leadership of Iraq … There is political paralysis in Iraq. There is no government in Iraq”, she stated blisteringly of America and Britain’s illegal, abortive, parliamentary project.

“Our commitment to Liberty is America’s tradition … We stand for human liberty,” concluded Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln. Were mistruths ever bleaker? And when will George W Bush, Charles Anthony Lynton Blair and their cohorts answer for their crimes in a Court of Law?



Remember the Golan Heights

During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Syrian forces had surprised Israel and were fast approaching the edge of the steep Golan Heights, captured by Israel during the 1967 war. It seemed as if Syrian armour and infantry would retake Golan, then pour down into Israeli Galilee.

Soviet recon satellites observed Israel moving its nuclear-armed, 500 kilometre-range Jericho missiles out of protective caves and onto their launch pads. At the same time, Israel was seen loading nuclear bombs on their US-supplied F-4 fighter-bombers at Tel Nof airbase.

Believing Israel was about to use nuclear weapons against Syria and Egypt, Moscow put huge pressure on both to rein in their advancing forces. Damascus, already in range of Israeli artillery on Golan, ordered its armoured forces on Golan to halt, allowing Israel to mount powerful counter-attacks and retake the strategic heights.

In 1981, Israel formally annexed the 580 square mile portion of Golan that it occupied. This illegal annexation was condemned by the United Nations, the United States and Europe’ powers. But Israel held on to Golan and implanted 50,000 there in some 41 subsidised settlements.

The world has pretty much forgotten how close it came to nuclear war in 1973 over Golan. The heights became a primary nuclear trigger point along with Kashmir, Germany’s Fulda Gap, and the DMZ, Korea’s inner border.

Golan recently resurfaced in the news when Israel’s rightwing prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, that his nation would never return Golan to Syria. In a speech soon after, Netanyahu vowed Israel would hold on to Golan for “all eternity.” He also admitted for the first time that Israel had made “dozens” of cross-border attacks on Syria.

The long basalt plateau is indeed a valuable prize. It extends from snow-capped, 2,814 metre Mount Hermon in the north to the Sea of Galilee and Yarmouk River in the south. Golan supplies 15 percent of Israel’s scarce water and may contain gas or petroleum deposits.

Israeli artillery on Golan can hit Syria’s capitol Damascus; Israeli electronic sensors blanket Damascus and cover all Syrian military movement below. Having walked much of the Golan on both Syrian and Israeli-held sides, I can attest to its remarkable military importance and thick defences.

After the 1967 war, Israel ethnically cleansed Golan, levelling the capital, Kuneitra, with bulldozers and expelled almost all Golan’s 130,000 Druze and Arab inhabitants. Jewish settlers were brought in to replace them. The US shielded Israel from UN action and world-wide protests.

Before 2011, Israel hinted that it would return Golan to Syria as part of a comprehensive peace agreement – provided Damascus ceased supporting Palestinian claims to their lost lands. But once the Syrian civil war conveniently began, there was no more talk of Golan.

In fact, it’s pretty much clear that Israel has been quietly fuelling the Syrian conflict by discreet arms and logistics support to so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels and lobbying for the war in Washington and with the US media. Netanyahu has even said – with a straight face – that Israel cannot return Golan or even negotiate, until calm returns to Syria and Iraq.

Netanyahu is clearly following the grand strategy of the founder of his rightwing Likud Party, Zeev Jabotinsky, a militant Russian Zionist. Jabotinsky asserted that the Arab states were an artificial, fragile mosaic of inimical Arab tribes.

Hit them hard enough, claimed Jabotinsky, and they will shatter into small pieces, leaving Israel master of the Levant (central Arab world). The destruction of Iraq and Syria have confirmed Jabotinsky’s theory.

Accordingly, Israel is delighted to see Syria, a primary foe, lying in ruins as a result of a US, British, French, Turkish and Saudi-instigated civil war. Damascus is in no shape to demand the return of Golan, and the rest of the world does not care.

The destruction of Syria as a unitary state offers the expansionist Likud government many opportunities to extend influence into Syria – as was the case in Lebanon during its bloody 1975-1990 civil war. Or even carve off more Syrian territory “to protect Israel’s security”.

The words of Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, still resonate: the state of Israel is a work in progress and its borders should not be fixed or even defined. Notably the borders with Syria and Jordan.


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