Democracy

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…)

Canada’s $15 Billion Saudi Arms Deal: What History Tells Us

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it is a “matter of principle” that Canada follows through with a $15 billion armaments deal with Saudi Arabia, a totalitarian state which funds international terrorism, stones women to death for the crime of being raped, and that leads the world in public beheadings. This decision has been sharply criticized by journalists, activists, and international organizations. In a public statement Amnesty International said that it has “good reason to fear that light armored vehicles supplied” to Saudi Arabia by Canada “are likely to be used in situations that would violate human rights” in both “neighboring countries” and for ‘suppressing demonstrations and unrest within Saudi Arabia.” Montreal students and a former Bloc Quebecois MP and law professor have filed a class action lawsuit to block the deal, citing that by selling weapons to countries with poor human rights records Canada is violating its own laws.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, in response to criticism about how these weapons will be used, replied that Canada has undertaken similar deals with Saudi Arabia, and that country “has not misused the equipment to violate human rights” according to the government’s “best, and regularly updated, information.” This is an outright lie.

In 2011 more than a hundred thousand protestors participated in an uprising against the undemocratic monarchy in Bahrain, calling for “political reforms, right of political participation, respect for human rights, stopping of systematic discrimination against Shias.” The regime responded by banning all demonstrations, caging villages in barbed wire, firing live ammunition at doctors that tried to help injured protestors in hospitals, torturing some protestors to death in police custody, and calling in the military of Saudi Arabia. 1, 000 Saudi troops crossed into Bahrain in armored vehicles not unlike those sold to Saudi Arabia by Canada throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. The Canadian government has neither confirmed nor denied that Canadian armored vehicles were used to suppress pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain.

In Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies have been at war with the country’s Houthi rebels, the U.N. has accused Saudi Arabia of war crimes. The Saudi-led coalition’s war against the poorest Arab country has caused the deaths of more than 8, 000, displaced millions, and destroyed nearly all of the country’s schools, hospitals, and historical heritage. Hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of starvation due to the violence and the Saudi-led coalition’s naval blockade in a bid to starve the country into submission. Based on photos of Saudi ground forces in Yemen, the armored vehicles being used by the Saudi military bore a striking resemblance to those manufactured in Canada, while a retired Canadian general, speaking anonymously to the Globe and Mail, identified the armored vehicles as having been manufactured by General Dynamics Land Systems, the same company manufacturing the armaments in the latest $15 billion deal.

An arms deal with Saudi Arabia raises serious questions about the role of Canada in the international community. Critics of the deal have said that if Canada follows through with selling arms to Saudi Arabia “we can kiss Canada’s human rights credibility goodbye.” But such criticism presupposes that Canada has a credible human rights record. “Canada,” writes BJ Siekierski, “hasn’t suddenly been transformed from Boy Scout to arms merchant.” The history of Canada, both domestically and internationally, isn’t a history of a country dedicated to the defense of democracy and human rights, it is a history of an imperialist state built on the theft of Aboriginal land that faithfully serves as a junior partner to U.S. imperialism’s war of exploitation and subjugation of the world.

Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald, was an ally of the most racist section of the elite of that time. In the House of Commons he was in favor of a system of legalized racism, claiming Europeans and Chinese were different species, introducing “biological racism as a defining characteristic of Canadianness.” While starving thousands of Aboriginal people to death by withholding food, MacDonald argued that the disenfranchisement of the Chinese people was imperative to protect the “the Aryan character of the future of British America.” Liberal Prime Minister Mackenzie King wrote in his diary that after meeting Adolf Hitler he believed Hitler “might come to be thought of as one of the saviors of the world.” Trudeau, like his father before him, is an avowed supporter of apartheid regimes. The late Pierre Trudeau, Justin Trudeau’s father, “sympathized with the [South African] apartheid regime not the black liberation movement or nascent Canadian solidarity groups,” while one of the first acts of the Justin Trudeau Liberals was to pass a Conservative motion to condemn all Canadians who exercise their democratic right to support the non-violent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement as a form of resistance to Israeli apartheid.

Let us not forget the ongoing genocide of Aboriginal people in Canada. For more than a century Aboriginal children were taken away, sometimes at gunpoint and in handcuffs, to be shipped off to residential schools, where they were to learn how to “assimilate” and become “civilized” through a system for forced labour and re-education. The “Residential Schools were predicated on the notion that Indigenous children were less human than other children, so they were worked like animals in the slave labour many schools mandated.” Thousands of children died from malnourishment, disease, physical and sexual abuse, with many buried in unmarked graves near the site of the schools. To this day Aboriginal people are more likely to be born into poverty, are less likely to graduate from high school, and have a shorter life expectancy than non-Aboriginal people.

Internationally Canadian foreign policy has been reflective of the country’s imperialist system of exploitation. Canada was among the 14 imperialist states that invaded the Soviet Union in 1918 in an effort to bolster the forces of the anti-Bolshevik White Army and stop the Russian working class from establishing socialist government. More recently the Canadian military has been involved in Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, Mali, Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. In Somalia, where Canadian troops were participating in the U.N. mission, Canadian ‘peacekeepers’ tortured and murdered a 16-year-old boy. In a sociopathic ritual that has repeatedly been documented wherever Western forces are active, these Canadian ‘peacekeepers’ photographed themselves with boy’s bloodied corpse like he was a trophy kill. In Libya, a country that prior to the NATO-led intervention had the highest standard of living in Africa, the Canadian military supported al-Qaeda-linked Islamist terrorists that ransacked the country’s wealth, brutally murdering the country’s former leader Muammar al-Gaddafi by sodomizing him with a bayonet.

Nine years before Canada’s invasion of the Soviet Union trains “loaded not only with supplies, rifles, and ammunition, but also with machine guns and light artillery pieces” were dispatched to Cape Breton in preparation for the military occupation of the island, where miners and steelworkers were striking for improved working conditions and higher wages. Such violence and disdain for the working class has been repeated throughout Canadian history. During the “Hungry Thirties,” striking miners in Estevan, Saskatchewan were murdered in cold blood by the RCMP, while the unemployed were rounded up and sent to labour in slave-like conditions in relief camps.

The deal to sell armaments to Saudi Arabia must be opposed on all moral and political grounds, but to be able to effectively oppose such a deal, the deal must be put into the historical context of Canada’s role as a junior partner of U.S.-led imperialism.

Democratic Party Nomination is Far from Democratic

In case the result of the popular vote displeases the Democratic Party elite, a unique trick kicks in to keep the establishment in control. It is called super delegates, and they are already weighing heavy and early in the primaries.

Like the general election itself, the winner is not ultimately decided by the popular vote. The nominee is selected by delegates to the Democratic National Convention in July.

Most voting attendees at the national convention are “pledged” delegates who were chosen through a primary vote or caucus, but there are also super delegates. Super delegates include all Democratic governors and congress members, who are granted a special vote at the convention that has nothing to do with a primary election.

This system was implemented after the 1972 primary was won in an upset by George McGovern, who ran on an anti-war platform. The Democratic Party sat on its hands in that general election, effectively handing the presidency to Richard Nixon.

Super delegates can cast their vote for whomever they wish. Thus, they can tip the election regardless of the delegates representing the primary election results.

About one in every five delegates to the Democratic National Convention is a super delegate. That means a candidate who wants to win the nomination without the support of the party leadership needs to get approximately 63 percent of the delegates assigned by the popular vote! This may have tremendous consequences in the current primary contest, which has evolved into a virtual dead heat between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Will Clinton steal the nomination?

Bernie Sanders has shaken the status quo within the Democratic Party. His tax-the-rich proposals have shocked the 1%, and inspired people on the other end of the income scale who are mobilizing by the millions for Sanders.

On Feb. 1 in the Iowa caucus, he came within two-tenths of a percentage point to Hillary Clinton.

On Feb. 9, he slammed Clinton with 60 percent of the vote to her 38 percent.

In a state thought to be a sure thing for Clinton, Sanders came within 3 percentage points of victory in the Feb. 20 Nevada Caucus.

And though Sanders’ New Hampshire popular vote won him 15 delegates to Clinton’s 9, she ended up tying Sanders 15-15.

How could that be? Simple, six of the eight super delegates in New Hampshire are supporting her, and the other two are undecided.

Even more astounding: Clinton has 436 super delegates committed to voting for her in the Democratic Party convention out of a total of 712 super delegates.

Sanders has 17 super delegates. He is one of those 17.

Super delegates include Democratic governors, senators, representatives, and all 447 members of the leadership Democratic National Committee.

There are 259 super delegates who have not committed their vote yet. Still, the overwhelming majority goes to Clinton, regardless of the primary votes.

If the Clinton political machine steals the nomination from Sanders at the convention, we urge his supporters to reject such a blatant insult to democracy. I am running along with Eugene Puryear as the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s candidate for president—join us in this campaign and in the struggle in the streets against the billionaire class!

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Image Source: Same as source

Canada among the most Sued Countries by Corporations

Canada is the most-sued country under the North American Free Trade Agreement and a majority of the disputes involve investors challenging environmental laws, according to a new study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Over 70 per cent of claims since 2005 have been brought against Canada, and the number of challenges under NAFTA’s settlement clause is rising sharply.

A Huffington Post story by Sunny Freeman on the CCPA report says that the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism contained in NAFTA’s chapter 11 grants investors the right to sue foreign governments without first pursuing court action. The provision included in the 1994 treaty on the argument that U.S. and Canadian investors needed protection against corruption in Mexican courts. But the mechanism limits governments from enacting policies on public concerns such as the environment and labour or human rights, and negotiations are often carried out in secret.

The CCPA believes the federal government’s commitment to Chapter 11 and its willingness to settle and compensate claimants is encouraging this trend. There were 12 cases brought against Canada from 1995 to 2005, and another 23 in the last decade. This compares to 22 against Mexico and 20 percent against the U.S. since 1995.

Canada has lost or settled six claims paying a total of $170 million in damages, while Mexico has lost five cases and paid out $204 million. The U.S. has won 11 cases and has never lost a NAFTA investor-state case.

“Thanks to NAFTA chapter 11, Canada has now been sued more times through investor-state dispute settlement than any other developed country in the world,” said Scott Sinclair, who authored the study. He estimates that Canada has spent $65 million defending such claims over the past two decades.

About 63 per cent of the claims against Canada involved challenges to environmental protection or resource management programs that allegedly interfere with the profits of foreign investors. The government has lost some of these challenges and has been forced to overturn legislation protecting the environment.

In 1997, the Ethyl Corporation, a U.S. chemical company, used chapter 11 to challenge a Canadian ban on the import of MMT, a gasoline additive that is a suspected neurotoxin and which automakers have said interferes with cars’ diagnostic systems. The company won damages of $15 million and the government was forced to remove the policy.

A year later, U.S.-based S.D. Myers challenged Canada’s temporary ban on the export of toxic PCP waste, which was applied equally to all companies. Canada argued it was obliged to dispose of the waste within its own borders under another international treaty. However, the tribunal ruled the ban was discriminatory and violated NAFTA’s standards for fair treatment.

There are currently eight cases brought by U.S. companies against the Canadian government asking for a total of $6 billion in damages. Many of the current challenges involve domestic environmental protections such as the promotion of renewable energies, a moratorium on offshore wind projects on Lake Ontario and Nova Scotia’s decision to block a mega-quarry.

In one case, Lone Pine Resources Inc., is suing the Canadian government for $250 million over Quebec’s moratorium on natural gas fracking, which applies equally to foreign and domestic companies. Lone Pine argues it was not consulted before the ban nor compensated for its wasted investment or loss of potential revenue.

Sinclair argues that the threat of challenges under chapter 11 has a chilling effect on public interest regulation, which will only worsen unless political and legal action is taken.

“Buoyed by their past successes, foreign investors and their legal advisors are now turning to NAFTA chapter 11 with increasing frequency and assertiveness,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, compared to other parts of the world, there is surprisingly little political debate about the corrosive influence of ISDS on public policy and democracy in Canada.”

Canada is embarking on a new generation of treaties such as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union, and the Trans Pacific Partnership, both of which contain investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) systems. While governments can be sued under ISDS, there is no similar recourse for states to hold foreign investors accountable for their actions.

Source: http://www.peoplesvoice.ca/Pv01fe16.html#ECANADA

Image Source: http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/10/23/naftas-isds-why-canada-one-most-sued-countries-world

Trudeau Government to Condemn the BDS Movement

The Canadian Parliament is on course to “condemn any and all attempts” by Canadian groups to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The motion to condemn BDS was put forward by the Conservatives, but on Thursday the Liberal majority government announced it would vote in favour. The NDP says the motion is an attack on freedom of expression and is opposing it.

BDS, which calls for an economic boycott of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians, has become a major issue on university campuses. Its proponents include the United Church of Canada and a Quebec labour union.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, who seconded the motion, described BDS as a movement that stifles academic freedom and opposes Israel’s right to exist.

“The BDS movement brings physical intimidation and a spirit of demonization into the Canadian discourse of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” she said.

“This is not Canadian, and thus I condemn it.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion accused the Conservatives of being divisive and reducing the debate to black-and-white terms.

But he revealed the Liberals will support the motion regardless, because they view the BDS movement as harmful and ineffective.

“The world will win nothing for boycotting Israel,” said Dion.

With both the Liberals and Conservatives onboard, the motion will easily pass when it goes to a vote either later today or next week.

The NDP lashed out at the other two parties for not supporting freedom of belief. They said the motion is designed to muzzle people who hold contrary opinions.

“What kind of world are we living in here in Canada where we’re starting to attack the fundamental right to disagree,” said NDP MP Hélène Laverdière.

Green Party MP Elizabeth May is also opposing the motion.

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/paulmcleod/the-canadian-parliament-is-going-to-condemn-the-bds-movement?bftwcanada&utm_term=.afjlz0xnx#.nw6ezv7N7

Image Source: http://canadatalksisraelpalestine.ca/2015/03/16/trudeau-joins-harper-blaney-in-condemning-bds/

 

Trudeau Official Compared Student Protesters with Nazis

Canada’s new top civil servant will bring a unique understanding of Godwin’s Law to the Privy Council.

Michael Wernick, appointed Clerk of the Privy Council by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week and tasked with leading the renewal of Canada’s public service, compared Carleton University students peacefully protesting a proposed tuition fee increase to “Brownshirts and Maoists” last year.

Wernick is a member of Carleton University’s Board of Governors.

According to a mass e-mail CC’d to 18 different people last April and subsequently published by Carleton’s Graduate Students Association, the Prime Minister’s #1 non-partisan advisor declared the protest had “no place in a lawful democratic society” and likened the students’ actions to “the tactics of Brownshirts and Maoists.”

Wernick called it “the antithesis of free speech and open debate” and requested “sanctions” be brought upon “the disruptors”.

Asked if he stands by his analogy, Wernick told The CharlatanCarleton’s student newspaper, “I have said everything I need to say in the email, which has been posted … My position’s quite clear.”

Eight students had interrupted a Board meeting last March in protest of proposed tuition fee increases. The Board would go on to approve tuition fee increases a month later.

Dr. Root Gorelick, a professor of Biology and elected Faculty representative on the Board, later bloggedthat the students had simply engaged in an act of “peaceful free speech and civil disobedience” and criticized Wernick’s over-the-top characterization of the students:

“The protesters certainly did not act like the paramilitary contingent of Hitler’s Nazi Party, as suggested by Michael Wernick’s brownshirt hyperbole. Michael Wernick and several of his supporters on the Board claim that they were concerned for their own physical safety, which is absurd. There were no threats of violence. As far as I can tell, there were no reports filed with Carleton’s safety office about threats to personal safety arising from the student protest.”

Last month, Gorelick (who says he blogs about Board of Governors proceedings as a way of communicating with professors and librarians who elected him to the board) faced demands he sign a confidentiality agreement, with the professor’s blog postings singled out as “problematic.”

Wernick publicly defended the Board’s move to silence dissent from the professor, telling the Ottawa Sun that “personal blogs that attack fellow Governors and university staff and dissent on matters the Board has decided are simply not consistent with the role of a Governor.”

The university’s “gag order” was condemned by faculty groups and the 68,000 member Canadian Association of University Teachers, who threatened to “censure” Carleton over its Board’s “lack of openness and transparency.”

“It’s the kind of confidential agreement that you’d expect a spy or the prime minister to sign,” said CAUT executive director David Robinson. “But for a board of a public body, it’s just absolutely absurd.”

The national voice for Canadian academic staff had already raised concerns a month earlier about the Board “holding meetings in secret.”

The Junction, a publication produced by Carleton journalism students, reports campus security has taken the unusual step of introducing “tightened screening for student journalists” at Board meetings, something that includes compiling photos of student journalists from their social media profiles.

Last June, Carleton’s Board of Governors tabled a motion seeking to remove student union representatives from the Board altogether, but later backed away from the move.

The Board’s Governance Committee, which is chaired by Wernick, argued student heads were in an irreconcilable “conflict of interest” as their duty to the Board was compromised by their duty to their constituents (students), according to Carleton’s Graduate Students Association.

Wernick did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

The Clerk of the Privy Council is responsible for providing professional, non-partisan advice to the Prime Minister on all policy and operational issues affecting the Government of Canada.

UPDATE: NDP leader Tom Mulcair asked Prime Minister Trudeau on Monday if he’ll “ask his new Clerk of the Privy Council to apologize for these totally unacceptable remarks?”

Trudeau responded, reiterating he’s “very pleased to have Michael Wernick as the new Clerk of the Privy Council” and added “we look forward to working with him to renew the professional and non-partisan public service.”

Source: http://www.pressprogress.ca/canada_new_head_of_the_public_service_compared_students_protesting_tuition_fees_to_nazis

Image Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/01/25/michael-wernick-privy-council-trudeau_n_9073094.html

Trade Minister Says Renegotiation of TPP Not Possible

A renegotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is not possible even though serious concerns may be raised during public consultations, Canada’s trade minister said Thursday.

“The negotiations are finished and for Canadians it’s important to understand that it’s a decision of yes or no,” Chrystia Freeland told reporters Thursday after receiving varied feedback at a meeting at the University of Montreal.

Freeland said the treaty negotiated by the Harper government during the election campaign is very complicated, involving 12 countries along the Pacific Rim that make up 40 per cent of the global economy.

All countries have two years to ratify it, but the treaty comes into force if the United States, Japan and four other countries give their approval.

“It’s important for us to understand that we don’t have a veto,” she said.

The NDP said it is unacceptable that the minister would accept the content of the deal even as U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and some congressional Republicans have voiced concerns.

Trade critic Tracey Ramsey believes there is a way to reopen the deal that preserves jobs and avoids higher drug prices.

“It will involve some work but we know that a better deal is possible for Canada,” she said in an interview.

The minister said she’s heard both opposition and support in consultations so far. A Council of Canadians representative on Thursday described TPP as a deal of “plutocrats” in reference to a book of the same name about income inequality that was written by Freeland before she entered politics.

University of Montreal political science professor George Ross wondered about the point of the government’s commitment to consult if changes are impossible because they would risk unravelling what had been achieved.

Still, Freeland said the government is committed to hearing from Canadians before a ratification vote is held in Parliament.

No date has been set for hearings or a final vote. The Liberal government also hasn’t announced whether it will attend the formal signing Feb. 4 in Auckland, N.Z.

Freeland said the key date is ratification, not the formal signing. But her parliamentary secretary, David Lametti, said in order to ratify, you have to sign the deal.

“So we’ll go through each step one at a time.”

Meanwhile, Freeland said the complexity of the TPP hasn’t slowed the government’s work on ratifying a trade deal with the European Union known as CETA, describing it as a priority for the government.

“I think CETA will be really the gold standard of trade agreements. I’m working hard on it and I’m confident we will get a deal soon,” she said, refusing to say if approval will come before TPP.

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Pyongyang

Understanding North Korea

What follows is an extensive interview with Yongho Thae, Minister of the Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in London, conducted by Carlos Martinez. The interview took place at the DPRK embassy in London in October 2013. Topics covered include the DPRK’s nuclear programme, the nature of the DPRK’s political system, the DPRK’s place in a changing global political landscape, tourism, Syria, and Latin America. Given that the DPRK is considered by the imperialist states as ‘enemy number one’, it is essential for anti-imperialists to make an effort to understand and defend it.

The western media narrative claims that DPR Korea’s nuclear programme is a major threat to world peace. Why does the DPRK have nuclear weapons?

When the western press comments on the nuclear programme of the DPRK, it never talks about the core reasons behind that programme; it is only interested in justifying US bullying; it wants people to be blind to the underlying logic of our position. Our policy is simple and easy to understand: we need a nuclear deterrent.

Before I go into this issue, I’d like to clarify that it is still the DPRK’s policy to denuclearise the Korean peninsula. It has always been our policy to get our country out of the threat of nuclear war. In order to reach that aim, there was no choice but to develop our own nuclear capacity.

After the Second World War, the US was the only country in the world that had nuclear weapons. In order to further their strategy of global domination, they decided to use an atomic bomb against Japan. The facts show that there was no need for the US to use such a weapon in that situation. In Europe, in May 1945, Hitler was defeated and the war ended. In the Pacific, the tide had turned totally against Japanese imperialism. It was obvious that the Soviet army would take part in the war against Japan, and Japan was losing the war with the US. It was just a matter of time before the Japanese war effort collapsed. Japan could not win against the combined forces of the Soviet Union, Europe, China and the US, so they were looking for a way out. There was absolutely no need for the US to use nuclear weapons. Inside the US establishment, there were fierce arguments as to whether these weapons should be used. The people of the world didn’t understand about the destructive power of nuclear weapons—only US leaders knew. They wanted the world to find out about how mighty these weapons were, so that the world would be forced to go along with US policy. In order to achieve this aim, they didn’t take into account how many lives would be lost. To them, the lives of ordinary Japanese people are like the lives of dogs, of animals. They would kill as many as possible in support of their geopolitical aims.

So the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Later on the USSR developed nuclear weapons too. As time went on, the Soviet nuclear arsenal played the role of counterbalancing the possibility of US nuclear weapon usage. That is the main reason that the US couldn’t use these weapons in the second half of the 20th century. Later on the nuclear weapons club was expanded to include China, Britain and France. In terms of world peace as a whole, the enlargement of the nuclear club would intuitively be seen as a bad thing, but the reality was that the possession of nuclear weapons by China and the Soviet Union was able to check the use of nuclear weapons by anyone for any purposes. I think this is a fact we should admit.

As far as Korea is concerned, you know that Korea is just next door to Japan. Many Japanese lived in Korea, because Korea was a colony of Japan. Our media system at the time was run by Japanese. So when Hiroshima and Nagasaki occurred, we heard about it and we understood very well the scale of this disaster. The Korean people understood very well how many people were killed in the space of just a minute. So the Korean people have a very direct experience of nuclear warfare from the beginning.

The Korean War started in 1950. The Americans thought they could easily win this war, because they had all the advanced conventional weapons and they mobilised 16 satellite countries. At this time China was only just liberated – the People’s Republic of China was just one year old. Meanwhile the Soviet Union was still recovering from the vast destruction of the Second World War. So, the US thought it could easily win the Korean War. However, they found out that their arrogance was misplaced. In fact, the Korean War was the first war that checked US ambitions.

The Korean People’s Army and the Chinese volunteers fought with incredible strength against the US. From the US point of view, this was a war against communism. But the communists had the full support of the people of these countries. Korea and China were rural countries, where the people were motivated by the idea of getting their own land. It is the Communist Party—the Workers’ Party of Korea—that distributed land equally to all farmers. So the WPK had the full support of the people, and the masses of the people took part in the Korean War. They knew the situation of their brothers and sisters in South Korea—dominated by landlords and US interests—and understood that if the DPRK lost the war, the rule of the landlords would be restored and the land reform reversed. So that is why the ordinary Korean people got involved. Everybody got involved and did not hesitate to make every sacrifice.

When he saw that the war was not going according to plan, Eisenhower asked his advisers: how can we win this war? The American generals suggested [1] using the nuclear threat. The US felt that if they warned the population that they were going to drop a nuclear bomb, the people would flee from the front. Having witnessed the effects of nuclear warfare just five years previously, millions of people fled North Korea and went to the south. The result of this is that there are still 10 million [2] separated families.

So you can see that the Korean people are the direct victims of nuclear bullying—us more so than anybody in the world. The nuclear issue is not an abstract one for us; it is something we have to take very seriously.

After the Korean War, the US never stopped its hostile policy towards Korea. Today they say that they cannot normalise relations with the DPRK because the DPRK has nuclear weapons. But in the 60s, 70s and 80s, we didn’t have nuclear weapons – did they normalise relations then? No. Rather, they continued trying to dominate the Korean peninsula with their own military force. It is the US that introduced nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula. In the 70s, in order to check the influence of the Soviet Union, they deployed nuclear weapons in Europe and also in South Korea. The US never stopped threatening the DPRK with these weapons, which were just next to us, the other side of the demilitarised zone. Korea is a very small country, with a high population density. It is quite clear that if the US used its nuclear weapons, the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe would be unimaginable.

The DPRK government had to find a strategy to prevent the US from using these weapons against us. In the 1970s, there were discussions among the big powers as to how they could prevent nuclear war. What the big five counties agreed is that they would stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Only five countries would be allowed to have nuclear weapons; the others would not. The Non-Proliferation Treaty [4] (NPT) was born in 1970. The NPT clearly states that nuclear power states cannot use nuclear weapons for the purpose of threatening or endangering non-nuclear states. So the DPRK thought that if we joined the NPT, we would be able to get rid of the nuclear threat from the US. Therefore we joined. However, the US never withdrew its right of pre-emptive nuclear strike. They always said that, once US interests are threatened, they always have the right to use their nuclear weapons for pre-emptive purposes. So it’s quite obvious that the NPT cannot ensure our safety. On this basis, we decided to withdraw and to formulate a different strategy to protect ourselves.
The world situation changed again after 11 September 2001. After this, Bush said that if the US wants to protect its safety, then it must remove the ‘axis of evil’ countries from the earth. The three countries he listed as members of this ‘axis of evil’ were Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Bush said that, in order to remove these evils from the earth, the US would not hesitate even to use nuclear weapons. Events since then have proved that this was not a simply rhetorical threat – they have carried out this threat [5] against Afghanistan and Iraq.

Now it comes to North Korea. There was DPRK Framework Agreement between the Clinton administration and the DPRK in 1994, but the Bush administration canceled this, saying that America should not negotiate with evil. The neo-cons said that ‘evil states’ should be removed by force. Having witnessed what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq, we came to realise that we couldn’t put a stop to the threat from the US with conventional weapons alone. So we realised that we needed our own nuclear weapons in order to defend the DPRK and its people.

In additional to the direct nuclear threat, I must point out that there is also the issue of the ‘nuclear umbrella’. The US extends its nuclear umbrella to its friends, such as Japan [6], South Korea [7] and the Nato countries. But Russia and China aren’t willing to open up a nuclear umbrella to other countries, because they are afraid of the response from the US. We realised that no country will protect us from US nuclear weapons, and therefore we came to understand that we must develop our own.

We can say now that the choice to develop our own nuclear deterrent force was a correct decision. What happened to Libya? When Gaddafi wanted to improve Libya’s relations with the US and UK, the imperialists said that in order to attract international investment he would have to give up his weapons programmes. Gaddafi even said that he would visit the DPRK to convince us to give up our nuclear programme. But once Libya dismantled all its nuclear programmes and this was confirmed by western intelligence, the west changed its tune. This led to a situation where Gaddafi could not protect Libya’s sovereignty; he could not even protect his own life. This is an important historical lesson.

The DPRK wants to protect its security. We ask the US to give up its hostile policy; to give up its military threat; to normalise relations with the DPRK; to replace the armistice treaty with a peace treaty. Only when the American military threat against the DPRK is removed; only when peace-guaranteeing mechanisms are established on the Korean peninsula; only then can we talk of giving up our nuclear weapons. In other words, the US should take the issue seriously; it should take a positive approach to solve this matter.

We are proud that, even though there is a huge US military presence in the Korean peninsula and in northeast Asia, so far we have been very successful in preventing another war on the Korean peninsula. The US war machine never stops. Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria … every day, hundreds of innocent people are dying because of imperialist policy led by the US. But after the Korean War finished in 1953, the DPRK has been able to maintain peace on the Korean peninsula, and we think this is a great achievement.

Were you hopeful that, with the election of Barack Obama, the US position on Korea would improve?

Well, Obama’s policy is different from that of Bush and the conservatives. Instead of solving these problems directly, he is moving to a position of ‘strategic neglect’. Obama wants to keep the issue as it is rather than taking real steps to improve the situation. The current administration says that there are too many pending issues for the US to solve.

There have been some interesting visits to the DPRK recently, for example by Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, and by Dennis Rodman, the basketball star. Do these perhaps—even in a very small way—indicate that there are some people within US ruling circles that are interested in improving relations with the DPRK?

It’s very difficult to say whether those visits will have a positive influence. What the DPRK wants to do is to deliver a message to the American people that the DPRK is always willing to address and solve problems; that the DPRK wants to improve its relations with the US; that the DPRK does not consider the US as its permanent enemy. We hope that these visits of prominent US citizens will help to convey this message.

Do any of the other imperialist powers – for example Britain, France, Australia – have a more constructive position in relation to the DPRK, or do they follow the US lead?

There is a bit of a different approach. For instance, the US government has never extended diplomatic recognition to the DPRK as a sovereign state, whereas US allies such as Britain and Australia do accept our existence; these countries support a policy of engagement with the DPRK.

Does the US still maintain nuclear weapons in South Korea?

That is really hard to say, because US nuclear weapons are more sophisticated and modernised compared with the 70s and 80s. They have more nuclear submarines. They have weapons that are smaller and more difficult to detect. So it is difficult to say if there are nuclear weapons permanently stationed in South Korea. But it is very obvious that US nuclear weapons visit South Korea on a regular basis. Just recently, the US engaged in joint military exercises with Japan and South Korea. For those exercises, the US aircraft carrier George Washington entered the South Korean harbour of Busan [8] for three days. What kind of planes are carried on the George Washington? Fighters and bombers that can easily drop nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.

In March this year, the US introduced B52 bombers on the Korean peninsula [9] for military exercises, simulating nuclear bombing raids on North Korea.

The US policy is to neither deny nor confirm whether they have nuclear weapons on South Korea. But the fact is that they can introduce these weapons and launch a strike at any time, so whether these weapons are actually there on the ground right now is not so relevant.

You’ve lived here in London for some time and presumably have some idea about how British people think about North Korea. The stereotype is that it’s an ‘undemocratic’ country where people don’t have the right to vote; where people don’t have any freedom of speech; they don’t have the right to criticise the government; they don’t have the right to participate in the running of the country. Is that a fair characterisation?

I think the general impression the British people have is shaped by the bourgeois media. What I can say is that those people who have done more serious investigation, especially those who have visited the DPRK and have seen our achievements with their own eyes, have a totally different impression of my country.

The number of British tourists has been increasing in recent years—this year alone it will be almost 500. There are nine British travel agencies who operate tours of the DPRK. Visas are never denied for tourists. I have met with some British tourists who had just returned from the DPRK, and they were so surprised to see how different it is from their impressions that they had picked up in the media. They didn’t know that the DPRK is a socialist country where there is free education, where there is free medical care, where people’s health is fully guaranteed, where there is free housing. They didn’t know all these good aspects of North Korea. Most of them, before they visit my country, imagine that our streets are full of malnourished people, that there is no decent transportation, that everyone looks sad, that there is no real cultural life, etc. But when they get to Korea they see that it is entirely different. For example, public transportation is almost free – you pay a little money but compared with what you pay in Britain or the US it is basically free. They couldn’t believe that Pyongyang city is full of big apartments and houses, built and given to the people free of charge. They were also surprised that there were so many schools, much better equipped than British state schools. They found out that North Korean children are generally at a much higher educational level than their British counterparts; that the vast majority of North Korean children enjoy free after-school activities, learning piano, violin and so on. They found out that there was no begging in the streets, no drug problems. They found out that they could leave their hotels at any time of night and go out in the streets without fearing for their safety, since there are no problems of robberies and gangs.

So they were shocked, and they asked me why the British media is so negative all the time about the DPRK and never mentions its positive aspects. My answer is that the media wants to depict the DPRK as an evil, as a type of hell, because they want to tell the British public that there is no alternative to capitalism, to imperialism. They want people to believe there is only one economic and political system; therefore it is against their interests to say anything positive about the socialist system.

So if people in this country want to visit North Korea, it’s easy to do so?

Yes. There are many well-known companies such as Regent Holidays, Voyagers, Koryo Tours and others that organise group tours. Because the media depicts the DPRK so badly, the number of people interested in visiting is actually getting bigger and bigger.

If you go on a tour, would you typically visit only Pyongyang?

Pyongyang school No, you can visit any place you like. There are more and more options emerging all the time. For example, many tourists want to visit for just one day, so they can do a one-day trip via the border with China. Another trip we have started is a train trip, with trains going from China to Korea. Also now there is an air trip, with outdated passenger aeroplanes (typically made in the USSR in the 50s or 60s), which are quite fashionable with many tourists. Now a New Zealand company is organising a motorcycle tour of the whole Korean peninsula. One can find such tours available on the internet.

These tours have increased a lot over the last 3-4 years, as we have much more of the supporting infrastructure now, so the tourist industry is more open and diverse. We feel that it helps us to establish stronger cultural relations with other countries.

Each socialist country has had its own way of organising popular democracy and participation, for example the Soviets in the USSR, and the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution in Cuba—structures that allow people to manage the affairs of their workplaces and localities, solving their basic problems and electing people to higher bodies at regional and national levels. Is there something along these lines in North Korea?

Of course. We operate democracy at every level of our party and government. As you know, the major party of government is the Workers’ Party of Korea. This party is a mass party with a membership of millions, and is organised along democratic centralist lines. If someone in a given party structure (a cell) is not working according to the party line that has been discussed and agreed upon, then there would be a criticism by other party members and that member is given a chance to correct his behaviour. At each level of the party we use this system of criticism, self-criticism and accountability in order to maintain efficient and correct work.

We have a Supreme People’s Assembly, which could be considered the equivalent of the British parliament. Under this Supreme People’s Assembly, there are assemblies at province, city and county levels. The members are all elected, and these bodies meet frequently. They are responsible for taking important decisions, in a normal democratic way. For example, given a limited budget, they might have to take a vote as to whether to spend money on building a new kindergarten, or improving a hospital, and so on. In this way, broad masses of people are involved in the process of managing society. If the bodies don’t function correctly, there are mechanisms for people to criticise them and to appeal against bad decisions and negative work. For example, if water sanitation in a particular village needs to be improved, then local people can go to the council to protest. If their protest is taken into account and the situation is improved, that is good. If not, people can appeal higher up—to the city or province level—to make sure that the council is representing them properly.

Is the WPK the only political party in North Korea?

There are many parties and mass organisations besides the WPK, such as the Catholic Party and the Social Democratic Party. We do not consider that we have ‘ruling’ and ‘opposition’ parties – the parties are all on friendly terms and cooperate in developing our society. These other parties all participate in the people’s assemblies—as long as they get enough votes. They are even represented in the Supreme People’s Assembly.

People have a prejudice against our country that decisions are only made at the top by only one person, but how is this even possible? Running a country is a complicated process that needs the energy and creativity of many people.

I’m interested to understand how has DPRK been able to survive the last two decades, in such a difficult global political context. The Soviet Union – the biggest socialist country – collapsed; the people’s democracies in Eastern Europe no longer exist. How is it that, in a hostile international environment, the DPRK has been able to keep going?

The past two decades have been the most difficult period for us. We suddenly lost our major trading partners, out of nowhere, with no warning. This had a major impact on our economy. And with the disappearance of the USSR, the US moved to a policy of intensification, believing that our days were numbered. The US intensified its economic blockade and its military threat. They stopped all financial transactions between the DPRK and the rest of the world. The US controls the flow of foreign currency: if they say that any bank will be the target of sanctions if it does business with the DPRK, then obviously that bank has to go along with them. The US issued such an ultimatum to all companies: if they do business with North Korea, they will be subject to sanctions by the US. This is still in place. The US government thought that if they cut economic relations between the DPRK and the rest of the world, we would have to submit to them. The only reason that we have been able to survive is the single-hearted unity of the people. The people united firmly around the leadership. We worked extremely hard to solve our problems by ourselves.
If the UK one day suddenly lost its markets in the US and Europe, would it survive? If all financial transactions are stopped, how can a country survive? And yet we did survive.

Is the global situation more favourable now for North Korea and for other countries that are pursuing an independent path?

Yes. The past two decades were very difficult: not only did we have to survive economically but we also had to frustrate US military intentions; therefore we had to put a lot of investment and focus on strengthening our army, building weapons and developing our nuclear capability. Now that we have nuclear weapons, we can reduce our military investment, because even a small nuclear arsenal can play a deterrent role. We are in a position where we can make the US hesitate to attack us. Therefore we can focus more on people’s welfare now.

Do you think that the relative economic decline of the US and Western Europe will help Korea?

We have to wait and see. It is true that US economic power is declining, but precisely because of this, the US is trying to consolidate its political and military power. At the moment, this is reflected in the ‘pivot to Asia’, which is really about China. The importance of the Korean peninsula is therefore increasing, due to its proximity to China and Russia. The Korean peninsula is sort of a pivot point from which the US thinks it can exercise control over the big powers.

The war in Syria has been a key issue in world politics over the last 2-3 years. The DRPK continues to be a supporter of, and friend to, Syria. What is the basis for this relationship?

In the past, our late president Kim Il Sung had very comradely relations [14] with President Hafez al-Assad. Both leaders shared the viewpoint that they should fight against imperialist policy. Syria was always a strong supporter of Palestinian self-determination, and was an important pillar against US and Israeli policy in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the DPRK was an important pillar against US policy in the Korean peninsula. So both countries share the same policy in relation to struggling against imperialist policy worldwide. This is the basis for the solidarity between the two countries.

Historically, Syria was not our only friend in the Middle East: we were very close with Nasser’s Egypt and with Yasser Arafat and the PLO—these leaders and countries shared the same philosophy of independence and development. This shared philosophy still exists between Syria and North Korea.

Under the pretext of introducing human rights and democracy in the Middle East, the US and its partners are creating chaos. Their so-called ‘Arab Spring’ policy has created a situation where hundreds of innocent people are killed every day. People are fighting each other in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, everywhere. This is a reflection of US divide and rule policy. Israel – the most important regional partner of the US—is a small country, whereas the Arab world is quite big; so the US and Israel are afraid of the unity of the Arab world. How can they break this unity? They try to create hatred among the different political organisations, among different religious groups, among different countries. Once this hatred is created, they encourage people to fight each other. This is the “freedom” they have brought: the freedom for people to kill each other. This is the strategy for guaranteeing the security of Israel.

It is essential that the Arab people understand the policy of divide and rule. This policy has been used for hundreds of years by the British Empire, the Americans and other imperialist empires. People have to unite in order to protect their children.

Over the past 10-15 years, there have been some important changes in South and Central America, the region historically considered as the US ‘backyard’. There are now progressive governments not only in Cuba, but also in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Do you think this is a promising development?

I think so, yes. The people of South America are more conscious than ever before. Previously, Latin America was dominated by US imperialism, with most governments—many of them brutal military dictatorships—directly supported by the US. But these states didn’t improve the lives of the ordinary people. So now people have come to understand that they must break the relationship of dependency with the US. They have decided to take up their own destinies. Just look at Venezuela: Venezuela has been an oil-rich country for a long time, but only once Chávez got into power was the oil wealth distributed so that ordinary people could benefit.

The DPRK has positive relations with Latin American countries. We have now opened our embassy in Brazil. We have good relations with Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela; Cuba of course. Chávez wanted to visit [15] North Korea, but in the end his health didn’t allow it. But he always promoted good relations [16] between Venezuela and North Korea. He is certainly very much missed.

Source: http://www.liberationnews.org/interview-understanding-defending-north-korea/

Image Source: Same as above

Beyond #ELXN42

Efforts to get people to vote, complete with ballot-box selfies, loomed large on social media, but when casting a ballot is treated as the noblest thing you can do in a democracy, it accommodates a status quo of incredibly narrow choices.

While federal election #elxn42 featured many firsts, and it felt good to see Stephen Harper’s Conservatives trounced, one new electioneering element stood out in the social media age – the fetishization of voting.

Efforts to get people to vote showed themselves on countless Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and even in a campaign promoted by CBC personality Rick Mercer, turning the placement of an ‘x’ on a piece of paper into a moment of important self-regard, complete with ballot box selfies.

This hyper-celebration of voting reflects an age in which cheap and easy commitments – changing our Facebook status to read Je Suis Charlie, as was done following the Charlie Hebdo shootings, or holding up selfies reading Bring Back Our Girls for the kidnapped Boko Haram girls – do more to make us feel good about ourselves than address the challenges we face. Meanwhile, those who don’t vote are treated like the party poopers who are told they cannot complain if they don’t like the results.

Voting is the absolute minimum task one can perform in a democracy. But voting does not equal or encourage participation in decisions affecting our daily lives, which is why it is so easy for mainstream institutions to promote it as the noblest of political actions.

By elevating it to the level of heroism, we paper over serious questions about what, exactly, is achieved after 10 long weeks, tens of millions of dollars spent, and untold volunteer hours going to three mainstream parties who are not terribly different in their fundamental outlook.

How many people went to the polls on Monday and held their noses in a desperate Anybody-But-Conservative moment? What does it mean to “have your say” when most voters would be embarrassed pink to spout the somnambulant sound bytes of the parties’ leaders (“ready for change,” “real change,” and “protecting the economy”)?

One is reminded of Martin Luther King Jr.’s gradual radicalization, when he came to the conclusion that winning the right for blacks to share lunch counters with whites meant nothing as long as those enjoying this new freedom could not afford to buy lunch.

How can Canadians enjoy a truly democratic choice when the richest 86 people in this country have the same wealth as the poorest 11.4 million Canadians?

On a broader level, how can anyone place their future hopes in political parties that refuse to recognize the seriousness of Canada’s single biggest contributor to planetary peril, the Alberta tar sands? And what does it mean to vote without pausing to remember the Truth and Reconciliation Commission conclusion that Canada is a nation built on what it deemed a “cultural genocide” waged against indigenous peoples?

When voting is treated as the most important thing you can do in a democracy, it accommodates a status quo of incredibly narrow choices with only minor tinkering.

Privileging voting ignores the very grassroots efforts that create and sustain those best elements of democratic countries, from the community organizing that leads to the creation of women’s shelters, co-op housing and credit unions, to the organization of demonstrations, strikes, and direct action.

Indeed, it was the very outbreak of participatory politics in the 1960s and 70s that led the planet’s leading powerbrokers (including members of Pierre Trudeau’s cabinet) to form the Trilateral Commission, whose report, The Crisis of Democracy, shivered with the conclusion that the social movements forcing real changes in those tumultuous times resulted from an “excess of democracy” that had to be reigned in through economic and political austerity and lowering of expectations. The viewpoint of the political elites was that “the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and non-involvement on the part of some individuals and groups.”

When the NDP uprooted the “socialist” bogey-word out of the party’s constitution in 2013 in an effort to make itself more “electable” (supplanting the old with a new focus on balanced budgets), it was one final blow severing its ties to the 1933 Regina Manifesto when the party’s predecessor, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, proudly declared: “We aim to replace the present capitalist system, with its inherent injustice and inhumanity, by a social order from which the domination and exploitation of one class by another will be eliminated.”

But what if the NDP returned to its roots as a party that refused to make such accommodations to a cruel economy, as when it fought for universal healthcare?

Look south of the border to the popularity of Bernie Sanders, and a Pew research poll that finds 49 per cent of Americans under age 30 have a positive view of socialism, and overseas to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Britain’s Labour Party. Take note as well of the anti-austerity victories posted by Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece, and one can see that condemning the current system as unfair is hardly an unpopular notion. Such positions reflect broad popular forces that have created a critical climate for systemic change.

That these parties have a long way to go is without question, but they have given strength to the notion that substantive change can be brought through an electoral politics that goes beyond passionless calls for balanced budgets, tax credits, and reduced ATM fees.

But does change have to wait another four years for a new party to come along, or can we get to the business of organizing ourselves into a social force that cannot be ignored? One answer, as African American poet June Jordan reminded us, is this: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

As the old bumper sticker goes, “If voting made a difference, it would be illegal.”

Source: Canadian Dimension

Hundreds of Canadians Receive Incorrect Voter Information Cards

CBC News has learned that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people may have difficulty casting a ballot in this election after receiving incorrect voter information cards.

Elections Canada says there’s a problem in various parts of the country.

Voters in Yukon, B.C., and Saskatchewan say mistakes were made about polling station locations by the body that runs elections in this country. Elections Canada says more than 300 people in Yukon will be receiving new cards.

Some of the cards advised people to travel hundreds of kilometres from their home to vote on election day or in advance polls.

Elections Canada says it’s investigating. Officials say they plan to reissue hundreds of voter information cards but they admit time is running out.

Diane Benson, a spokeswoman at Elections Canada, said reaching every elector is a complex process, and mistakes can happen. She said they rely on electors to reach out if they think there is a problem.

“If you get that voter info card, you’re registered, but you think that that address doesn’t seem right or the voting location doesn’t seem right, we certainly want to hear from you and we encourage you to contact the returning office,” she said.

Benson added that they are working to send out corrected voter information cards, which need to be mailed by Oct. 13 in order to get there by voting day.

Benson said voters can also check where their polling station is online.

Voter information cards are not required in order to cast a ballot, but contain information about the polling station’s location.

Source: CBC