Human Rights

Stop The War: Parroting The Arguments Of A Thuggish Putin

The premier antiwar movement in Britain, the Stop the War Coalition, are in a bit of a bind.

They owe their existence to campaigning against the invasion of Iraq. They actively campaign on the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Yet for years they were silent on Assad’s slaughter of Syrian civilians. For the first years of the Assad dictatorship campaign of mass murder not a word of criticism was heard from Britain’s Stop the War Coalition.

They were always very quick to criticise British and US governments, but could barely mumble a single scornful word against Assad.

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Nevertheless, this time around they have learnt their lesson.

So instead of shuffling their feet and talking about anything else they have issued a statement on the crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s military involvement in the Crimea.

It is a pitiful piece, that could have been written by one of Putin’s trusted advisers. It is basically soft propaganda for the Russian regime, full of disjointed arguments and non sequiturs

The Economist has thankfully fisked it:

8) The historical divisions within Ukraine are complex and difficult to overcome. But it is clear that many Russian speakers, there and in the Crimea, do not oppose Russia. These countries have the right to independence, but the nature of that independence is clearly highly contested. There is also the reality of potential civil war between east and west Ukraine. The very deep divisions will only be exacerbated by war.

This comment is perhaps the easiest to rebut: Ms German is mistaking the Ukrainian protest movement for the aggressors in the current crisis. The new government in no way threatens Russian-speakers in the Crimea. Moscow, not Kiev, is the preeminent belligerent thus far.

9) Those who demand anti-war activity here in Britain against Russia are ignoring the history and the present reality in Ukraine and Crimea. The B52 liberals only oppose wars when their own rulers do so, and support the ones carried out by our governments. The job of any anti-war movement is to oppose its own government’s role in these wars, and to explain what that government and its allies are up to.

Ms German does not enlighten us on how, precisely, the British government is guilty of “war” against Ukraine or Russia. She also fails to explain why the “job” of an “anti-war” movement is to attack its own passive government while parroting the arguments of a thuggish, illiberal power threatening its neighbour with invasion.

10) The crisis in Ukraine has much to do with the situation in Syria, where major powers are intervening in the civil war. The defeat for intervention last year has infuriated the neocons. They are determined to start new wars. After the US failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, the neocons are looking for a defeat of Russia over Ukraine, and by extension, China too. The situation is developing into a new cold war. The rivalry between the west and Russia threatens to explode into a much larger war than has been seen for many years.

Again, Ms German conveniently ignores interventions in Syria by those “major powers” that she finds more palatable than the US or Britain—Iran and Russia. That, and her comment about China, suggests a preference for illiberal non-Western powers over liberal Western ones. It is an oddly one-sided comparison: she delights in listing Western flaws (real and imagined) while unquestioningly accepting anti-Western dogma. For one who leads an organisation committed to “stopping the war”, it is a fatal error.”

Update 1:I have commented on Russia’s role in Syria before.

Refugees From Assad’s Campaign of Murder

The level of ambivalence found in the West towards the mass death of Syrian civilians is truly grotesque.

In March 2014 it will be the three year anniversary of the conflict, which started with peaceful protests and continues with the Syrian government dropping barrel bombs.

Nearly three whole years of slaughter. A point to ponder.

This map shows only one aspect of the conflict, mass refugees.

HIU_syria1

We need to be under no illusion that the cause of suffering in Syria is placed squarely at the feet of the Assad government and their allies, Russia, China and Iran. The latter countries have fuelled the conflict from the outset and propped up Syria’s murderous dictatorship.

What I find most galling in the West is the denial of basic facts about the Assad regime. Westerners seem to have an infinite amount of concern about the Middle East until it affects real people.

Hussein Ibish, one of the most intelligent Middle East commentators, re-enforces that point by asking “Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk are being starved to death by the Syrian regime. Does anyone care?”

Please do read it:

“There isn’t much the Palestinian people haven’t suffered. But the use of enforced starvation against them by the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad at the Yarmouk refugee camp breaks new ground in cruelty. Hundreds are said to be facing imminent death by starvation, lack of water and medical care, and the loss, for almost a year now, of all heat and electricity.

The crucial thing is not simply that Assad and his allies – Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia – must be held fully and completely responsible for this outrage. It must also be noted that the international community and the Arab world are not doing enough to respond to it, practically or politically. They have done virtually nothing as Yarmouk’s pre-war population of 250,000 has shrunk in the past three years to 18,000 famished, cowering, and shivering souls.

Those who still worship at the altar of the false idol of “resistance” and see Assad, Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies as the embodiment of the Arab cause are not simply disingenuous or delusional propagandists. Their thinking – not even, but especially, if it is sincere – is profoundly sick.”

I have covered Syria elsewhere.

World Socialist Web Site: Doing PR for Assad

Cherry picking is not just confined to fruit.
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It is incredibly popular amongst politicos. Such an approach can be seen from the World Socialist Web Site’s defence of the Assad government on the Houla massacre.

A copy is left below as a public record, as the original was recently removed!


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung confirms: Houla massacre committed by Syrian “rebels”

By
Clara Weiss

16 June 2012

On June 13, journalist Rainer Hermann confirmed his earlier report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung refuting the official version of the Houla massacre in Syria.

The media have almost unanimously described the May 25 events in Houla as an atrocity committed by the Syrian government, relying almost exclusively on reports from the so-called “rebels.” Western powers have used the massacre as a pretext to whip up pro-war sentiment and intensify their pressure on the Assad regime. The US and UK reacted to the massacre by withdrawing diplomats from Syria.

In his June 7 report, Hermann asserted that the victims of the massacre in Taldou, a village in the Houla region, were members of the Alawite und Shi’ite minorities and that the killers were not troops loyal to the Assad regime, but forces aligned with the Sunni-based sectarian Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Although the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is one of the most prominent German-language newspapers and Hermann a well-known journalist, the report has largely been ignored by the German and international media and criticized in a few reports.

In his new article June 13, Hermann defends his reporting and adds further details about the massacre. This report has also been met largely with silence.

The Houla plains region, Hermann writes, “is burdened by a long history of sectarian tensions. … Of the names of the civilians killed, 84 are known. These are the fathers, mothers and 49 children of the Al Sayyid family and two branches of the Abdarrazzaq family. … Additionally killed in Taldou were relatives of the … member of parliament Abdalmuti Mashlab.”

Hermann goes on to describe what happened: “The family members were targeted and killed with only one exception. No neighbour was injured. One had to have knowledge of the place to carry out these well-planned executions”.

Hermann then quotes 11-year-old Ali, the only member of the Al Sayyid family to survive the bloodbath: “Those responsible had shaved heads and long beards”. In Hermann’s opinion, this points to “fanatical jihadists” and not the Shabiha militia.

The version of the event advanced in the global media, in particularly lurid fashion by Britain’s Observer and Der Spiegel, the German news magazine, blames the Shabiha militias, regarded as assault detachments of the Assad regime. These articles rely on the testimony of a Major Jihad Raslan, said to have first served in Assad’s army, who then deserted because he was so appalled by the “events in Houla”. Hermann’s article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung exposes these reports as a bunch of lies.

Hermann reconstructs the sequence of events as follows: “After the Friday prayers on May 25, more than 700 armed people led by Abdurrazzaq Tlass and Yahya Yusuf, forming three groups from Rastan, Kafr Laha and Akraba, attacked three army checkpoints around Taldou. The numerically superior rebels and the (mostly also Sunni) soldiers fought bloody battles in which two dozen soldiers, mostly conscripts, were killed. During and after the fighting the rebels, supported by residents of Taldou, wiped out the Al Sayyid and Abdarrazzaq families. They had refused to join the opposition”.

In his article, Hermann refers to earlier reports by other journalists and nuns from the Jacob Monastery in Qara. Nuns had described to Dutch journalist Martin Jannsen how the “rebels” piled the bodies of dead soldiers and civilians in front of the mosque and told UN observers their version of the alleged massacre in front of cameras from “rebel”-friendly television channels.

The nun Agnès-Maryam had already described the escalation of sectarian violence around Homs in an open letter toward the end of April. She warned of a step-by-step liquidation of all minorities by the Sunni “rebels” and described the displacement of Christians and Alawites from their homes and the rape of young girls who had been given to the “rebels” as spoils of war.

Herman also refers to Russian journalist Marat Musin, who works for the Anna news agency and was in Houla on May 25 and 26, thus becoming an eyewitness to the events as well as a reporter. So far, Musin seems to have given the most detailed description of what took place. His version coincides with Hermann’s and that of the nuns on all decisive points.

These reports and the latest article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung confirm that Syria is being ravaged by a civil war deliberately promoted by Western powers to destabilize the country and prepare it for regime-change. The rebels do not speak for the majority of the population. They are made up of former members of the regime, soldiers, mercenaries, terrorists and secret agents pursuing a reactionary political agenda, many of them using the support by the West to settle old scores and carry out sectarian conflicts.

International news media are supporting the war preparations of US imperialism and its allies in an unprecedented campaign of agitation and propaganda. That is why Hermann’s article and the well-documented reports of other journalists and eyewitnesses are mostly being hushed up.

Human Rights Watch on Syria:

“On May 25, at least 108 residents of Houla near Homs were also killed, most shot at close range. According to survivors and local activists, it was pro-government armed men who were responsible for the executions. In late August, residents from the Damascus suburbs of Daraya and Moadamiya also described finding hundreds of bodies following ground operations there. Some of the victims appeared to have been executed by government forces.”

I have covered Syria many times before.

On Syria

Syria and the West are intimate friends. For years Western leaders courted Bashar Assad, arguing he was a moderate and a vehicle of change. Vogue even produced a propaganda edition on the Assad family. Elsewhere, Russia and China continued to support and supplied buckets of armaments to the Syrian dictatorship or shuffle their feet at the UN.

queenAssad1a With a few notable exceptions, many Western activists simply coughed and looked the other way when the various Assads committed atrocities, as Galloway argued in June 2011:

“The BBC, Galloway complained, is denouncing Syria for using Apache helicopters to attack its own people. “I’ve never understood,” said Galloway, “why it is worse to kill your own people than other people’s people.” The BBC had cheered a week or 10 days earlier for Apache helicopters used by Britain to kill Libyans. The problem with Syria, Galloway said, is not that it’s run by the latest Adolf Hitler of the month, but that it harbors Palestinian leadership, supports Lebanese national resistance, and refused to participate in the attack on Iraq.” [My emphasis.]

That was good enough for them, deliberately forgetting Assad’s unsavoury allies.

Yet there is a foul stench that pervades any discussion on Syria, the inability to stop a dictator from openly murdering civilians for 2½ years. The West in terms of political leaders and supposed “activists” have given this smiling dictator an easy time. Complacency has rules from March 2011 onwards, with Westerners largely hoping that the slaughter in Syria would go away, all by itself.  MIDAEST SYRIA UK

Syria is not far from Europe. A mere 300 miles from Cyprus. A relatively quick trip from Italy, under three hours in a plane. Just over 4½ hours from London but it could as well be a world away, whilst the Assad regime carried on torture and murder, under Russia and China’s protection and it slipped down the media priorities.

Leaving aside the question of intervention for the moment, the inability of Westerners to inform themselves on the nature of the Assad dictatorship is exceedingly troubling. From 1963 coup d’etat to the later one in 1970 when Hafez Assad took power, civil rights were never on the agenda. However, Western Human Rights organisations have covered abuses over the years and those with access to the Internet have no excuse.

Human Rights Watch reports on Syria: 1997, 2000,2002,2010,2013.

Amnesty International reports on Syria: 1995, 2000, 2007, 2011, 2012.

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IDS: Iain Duncan Smith And His Wikipedia Entry

Whilst having a laugh at Iain Duncan Smith’s wiki entry (notice his profession), please sign the change.org petition to make him live on £53 per week.

Snap 2013-04-01 at 23.21.42

BBC, Lies And The Tory View Of The World

When next you hear a Tory, or one of his University chums at the BBC, explain that the “welfare changes” are really to help the poor and disabled, then do remind them of these relatively unreported examples:

“…[Henry Sherlock] had been “bullied and harassed” by Atos Healthcare, the French firm slammed for carrying out the humiliating eligibility tests for the Department for Work and Pensions.

Henry worked for the DWP for 18 years until he was forced to retire on medical grounds eight years ago. He lost his sight after suffering meningitis and also has chronic heart disease, diabetes and depression. He said: “I found it such a shock being on the other side of the fence.

“Being a claimant, you are treated with total disrespect.

More begging is what the Tories want:

“When I worked for the DWP it was the case that the client came first and they were given the best support possible but now all they are interested in is cutting costs.

MSPs were told how a blind former health worker, Henry Sherlock, was reduced to begging after being interviewed and reassessed by the Department of Work and Pensions and Atos Healthcare, the private firm paid to carry out fit-to-work medical assessments, claiming both of them had “harassed and bullied” him.

He told how he had been threatened with having his benefits stopped after refusing to provide personal information after receiving an unannounced call from Atos one Saturday evening.”

Read what he said.

Brain-damaged amputee fit for work, says Atos:

“An amputee who cannot walk, struggles to talk and is brain damaged has been passed “fit for work” and had his benefits cut under government reforms.

Mark Evans, from Daubhill in Bolton, said his incapacity benefits were cut by £440 a month and has been left with just £220 to pay his monthly rent, bills and food.

The 50-year-old had received incapacity benefits, now known as employment and support allowances, since 1993 when he had a brain tumour. He also had his left leg amputated below the knee in 2004 after contracting deep vein thrombosis. “

Anxiety over Atos fit-for-work test brings on father’s heart attack:

“The controversial assessments by the French IT firm are part of a benefits shake-up by the Con-Dem Government, who are looking to cut billions from the welfare bill.

Former welder Jim, who had worked all his adult life until he suffered a heart attack 18 months ago, said: “It was very clear that I wasn’t 100 per cent.

I was sweating profusely, my breath was very laboured and I had been confused during the interview.

“I wasn’t able to concentrate on a lot of what they were saying.

“They gave me a glass of water but that was it.

“They were more concerned with asking me questions such as, ‘Can you walk 200m and can you raise your arm up in the air?’”

Jim, of Cambuslang, near Glasgow, added: “I was telling them I was stressed and that I was anxious, and that I didn’t feel like I could go out and work at that moment.”

The very next day, he had a heart attack as he was walking down a street in Glasgow’s west end. “

Cecilia Burns:

“Ms Burns, a mother of two boys, was diagnosed in 2011. After surgery, she underwent months of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and was on the drug Herceptin until her death.

In March 2012, her employment support allowance was reduced by £30 and she was told she was fit to work, even though she was still undergoing treatment. “

Rosa Park, Listening To It

rosaparks1

BBC World Service has a marvellous programme on Rosa Parks:

“The programme also features a never before broadcast interview with Rosa Parks in which she tells biographer James Haskins what it was really like during the years of segregation in the Deep South. In this recording she describes her upbringing and the events that led her to become a civil rights activist. She dispels many of the myths that have grown up around her 1955 ‘act of disobedience’, by revealing that she had already been active in fighting against racial injustice for over a decade; and that she believed even as a child that she was the equal of any white person.”

It is available on Iplayer.

A podcast, Docs: Rosa Parks – Quiet Revolutionary 23 Feb 2013, can be downloaded too.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott site is superb.

Lest we forget, Huff Post has photos of the period.

Orwell, Atos and The Tories

Like many, I have read most of Orwell’s work, discussed and debated what he was trying to get at and even questioned some of his later decisions. Not unsurprisingly there is a lot to get to grips with. He was a multifaceted character living in turbulent times and profoundly affected by it.

David Aaronovitch does an excellent job in presenting the views of various scholars, friends and associates of Orwell. Nicely balanced. Over at the BBC Iplayer, The Road to Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Readers will remember how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) outsourced to Atos, eligibility assessments of the disabled. Atos, in return, have been roundly criticised for declaring people to be “fit for work” only to have them die a few weeks later. Charities and other organisations connected with disabilities have pointed out the flaws in Atos’s methodology.

But now, in a bizarre twist, Atos are outsourcing many of those assessments to the NHS.

So the Public sector outsources to the private sector, a nasty task, who in turn outsource it back to parts of, the once, Public sector.

Atos is using this to deflect criticism on how many of those declared fit either die or end up destitute, whilst Atos rakes in millions.

From Lebanon, Hezbollah has been attacking Syrians with rockets.

Mapping child poverty, not something the Tories or their LibDem allies will welcome.

In other news, a UN official wonders about food banks in Britain. I am just waiting for some idiot Tory to trumpet them, saying “…at least we are world leaders in food banks!”

The privatisation of education continues a pace as Gove brings in help to sack people.

Polly Toynbee on the bedroom tax and housing.

Not above shelf stacking.

Finally, NHS privatisation: Compilation of financial and vested interests, well worth a read. I can’t even imagine how scathing George Orwell would have been, of a society which attacks the poorest and weakest whilst selling off the family silver, and for once a Tory was right about something.

Chagossians, An innumerate Iain Duncan Smith And More

I had hoped to start 2013 on a better footing, with longer, more thoughtful post but time and life are not so generous. I think the plight of the Chagossians deserves a wider audience:

“For the uninitiated, in the 1960s, the US wanted Diego Garcia (one of the Chagos Islands) as a major air base. It spoke nicely to the UK, its owners, who consequently evicted and banned all the inhabitants from it and the neighbouring islands. The constitutional arrangements were apparently decorous. A new UK colony was established (the British Indian Ocean Territory or BIOT) with a Commissioner to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Territory. “

Iain Duncan Smith is a loathsome politician, but he’s also innumerate as Channel 4′s Factcheck shows:

The claim

“Tax credit payments rose by some 58 per cent ahead of the 2005 general election, and in the two years prior to the 2010 election, spending increased by about 20 per cent.”

The verdict

We asked the Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which administers work and child tax credits, how much has been paid out since the current system started under Labour in 2003 (before that it was the Working Families Tax Credit).

It said that in 2003-04, £16.4bn was paid, and the following year – the one that included the general election to which Mr Duncan Smith refers – £17.7bn.

That’s an increase of 8 per cent, not 58. “

The German army still has a problem with neo-Nazis as Zeit On-line points out, original in German or the Google translation.

In the US, White Supremacists are planning an anti-immigration rally according to the ADL.

The Guardian looks at the companies set to benefit from the privatisation of the NHS.

The Automatic Cat’s commentary is to the point:

“That doesn’t matter, anyway. The purpose of his statement was to demonise a section of the public in order to justify cuts which themselves are aimed at proving to ‘The Markets’ how fiscally astute and fearless we are. ‘The Markets’ being, in large part, the global banking system which brought us to the edge of catastrophe in the first place.

We’ve seen this kind of demonisation before, with the unemployed and the long-term ill. The suggestion that they’re really putting it on somehow, or shirking, or somehow otherwise undeserving of any help at all. It goes hand in hand with the policy that the safety net has made us all soft and needy and that taking it away will get us off our lazy behinds and make us take all those jobs which are out there.

It really won’t do. Personally I’m rather insulted that the government thinks so little of us that it believes we’ll swallow this nonsense. It shows a rather interesting lack of sophistication and, indeed, compassion. A government which believes we can be so easily manipulated is really not a government worth having. “

Reuters reminds us of the ever increasing death toll in Syria: 60,000 at the last estimate.

Will 2013 be better than 2012? Not looking good thus far.

Laurie Penny, Chagos Islanders And Mormon women

Jake Wallis Simons is better than the average Tory, certainly the Daily Telegraph could do with better writers and a wider intellectual pool of ideas.

Nevertheless I was somewhat shocked and pleased to read his In defence of Laurie Penny:

“Call me contrarian, but I quite like being friends with people who come at life from markedly different perspectives. Not only does it broaden one’s own point of view, but it prevents one from plumping for one’s political preconceptions, and instead consider each issue on its own merits. If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I feel an Adorno quote coming on: “Thought that does not capitulate before wretched existence comes to nought before its criteria, truth becomes untruth, philosophy becomes folly”. Indeed. Facebook is nothing if not a stream of “wretched existence”, and sometimes it is wise to allow thought to capitulate before it – or at least allow for that possibility.

Here’s the thing. In recent weeks and months, it has been impossible to read Laurie’s status updates without being shocked at the sheer volume and viciousness of the hatred she is subjected to online. If you have the stomach for it, google something like “Laurie Penny hate”. The results are appalling. People have threatened and insulted her in the very worst terms, and have even gone so far as to post cartoons of her being abused and beaten up.

Now, Laurie Penny is a provocative and controversial figure, and a lot of people find her intensely irritating. It is only to be expected that she will attract a fair amount of friction. Even David Starkey took leave of his manners and tried to intimidate her in the most atrocious way. But look: call me old-fashioned, but didn’t there use to be such a thing as a civilised disagreement? “

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Boycotting Israel, Banning Women And The Crazed Right Wing

There is an up-and-coming election in Israel, and my bet is that many Western “anti-Zionists” would pick Benjamin Netanyahu, if they had a vote.

They must positively love Israel’s politically clumsy and callous Prime Minister.

Ever opportunistic those actively behind the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) see a marvellous opportunity, after the recent bloodshed in Gaza and the proposed building of settlements in the E1 area of Jerusalem.

Pro-boycotters are planning to make another move to foment more hostility towards Israelis.

It has to be said, the evidence suggests that pro-boycotters are not terribly concerned with human rights in the wider Middle East, as can be seen by Western attitudes to 20+ months of slaughter in Syria.

The conflict in Syria has resulted in some 40,000 dead Syrians, millions displaced and hundreds of thousands injured, yet not one Western organisation has ever demonstrated outside any Syrian embassy. Not one. Let alone proposed a boycott of Assad’s murderous government.

A similar complacency has been shown towards the imprisonment and torture of human rights activists in Bahrain. Not a single demonstration by Westerners or a proposed boycott of the awful Bahraini regime. And so on.

Across the Middle East in the last few years there have been numerous, hundreds of instances of human rights abuses by the various monarchies, potentates and dictatorships but you would not find an instance of a proposed boycott against them. Not a single demonstration by Westerners outside their embassies.

However, that is not true when Israelis pop into the picture.

Once that happens Westerners become extremely indignant, passionate and will organise demonstrations outside Israeli embassies at the drop of a hat. There is a sense that Western activists are concerned with the Middle East, but only a small part of it.

Still, we should not object to Westerners when they point out human rights abuses, even if it is obviously rather selective and particular. Highlighting abuses of human rights is good, even if certain obsessive Westerners mostly tend to focus on one country in the region.

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Elsewhere, the Church of England has a serious problem with women, or at least putting them in positions of power. Therefore, we should not be too surprised when these poor misogynist attitudes are reflected in the activities of their co-religionists.

As Huff Post reports:

“A university’s Christian society has banned women from speaking at events and teaching at meetings, unless they are accompanied by their husband, it has been revealed.

The Bristol University Christian Union (BUCU) had originally decided women would be allowed to teach at meetings after their international secretary resigned in protest, the group changed its policy. “

- – -

Right Wing Watch has a good page on the crazy antics over at WorldNetDaily:

“5. Obama is a Gay, Secret Muslim, Foreign-Born Imposter

The group’s most well-known “reporter,” Jerome Corsi, believes that President Obama wears a Muslim ring (confusing loops with Arabic), was married to his male Muslim roommate, orchestrated the murder of his gay ex-lovers, was born somewhere outside the United States and his father may be Frank Marshall Davis.

6. Gays Behind the Holocaust and Preparing to Lead the Next One

WND columnist Scott Lively, who is best known for his work in shaping Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, is the author of the book, The Pink Swastika, about how gays were behind Nazism and the Holocaust in order to have “vengeance against the people whose moral laws had relegated pagan homo-occultism to obscurity and ignominy.” WND Super Store sells his bizarre book and WND editor Joseph Farah eagerly endorsed Lively’s claim while warning that the gay rights movement may bring Nazism to America. Another WND columnist, Erik Rush, even maintained that gays are planning a Holocaust against Christians, and WND commentator Judith Reisman argued that gay-straight alliances are modeled after the Hitler Youth. WND’s Molotov Mitchell has also praised Uganda for making homosexuality a capital offense because the founders would’ve agreed.

7. Obama is Orchestrating the Next Holocaust

If gay people don’t do it first, then President Obama must be the one behind the next holocaust. Farah claimed that he discovered proof that Obama wants a new Holocaust in a speech he delivered at Buchenwald where he used the line, “We are here today because we know this work is not yet finished.” Farah admitted that he is taking the line, which was about the need to combat Holocaust denialism, out of context. But since Obama has a tendency of “speaking in code” to Muslim audiences, Farah explained, then he must be sending a secret message to Muslims to kill Jews: “So, I ask you, am I really taking Obama’s words at Buchenwald out of context? Or am I the only one seeing them in context?

8. Secession Now

WND is extremely sympathetic to the secessionist movement, they only differ on the reasons. Farah believes that America may be forced to “literally…break-up” the nation if states continue to legalize same-sex marriage and WND columnist Vox Day called for a white supremacist secession movement to repel the “African, Asian and Aztec cultures” and “immigrants from various non-European nations.” Mitchell even released a video criticizing Abraham Lincoln for his stance against secession. “

There is a peculiar commonality between these attitudes, one that thinks engendering hostility towards Israelis is going to help peace in the Middle East? How treating women as second-class citizens is the way to run an organisation in a modern society? Or that bigoted stupidity aimed at President Obama is convincing?

In all these instances there is a detachment from reality, a falling back on hostile, essentially reactionary attitudes and we should think on, how terribly misplaced they are in the 21st century.

Not that I expect any these points to reach home or resonate with their proponents.

From experience, I have found that those who have, er, issues with Israelis, women or President Obama are generally not amenable to reason or intelligent discussion, on these topics. Pity though.

Peter Tatchell, Routledge And Western “Anti-Imperialists”

Peter Tatchell has, justifiably, extracted an apology from Routledge, the publishers:

“The UK publisher Routledge has issued a public apology to Peter Tatchell for 20 “misrepresentations and distortions” and “inaccurate allegations” made by the former Human Rights Watch programme director, Scott Long.

The full and unreserved apology to Peter Tatchell and the LGBT human rights group OutRage! has been made by Roger Horton, the CEO of Routledge’s parent company, Taylor and Francis.

Routledge acknowledges that “substantial inaccuracies” appeared in Mr Long’s essay on Iran which it published in its journal Contemporary Politics. “

There seems to be some question as to whether or not this is a one-off,  an exception or how Peter has been treated by many Western anti-imperialists.

Personally, I think the case is fairly clear, based on the evidence.

Having followed Peter Tatchell’s activities, off and on, for over three decades I have been astonished at the bile aimed at him. But no one needs to take my word on that they can simply search Google and feast upon the links.

Employing theese Google keywords: Peter Tatchell, Islamophobia

Will reveal any number of defamatory comments against Peter, below is a small, and by no means, definitive selection.

[I apologise to Peter for dragging up this nonsense, but I think the extent of the abuse that he has  suffered needs documenting.]

Peter Tatchell not only encourages Islamophobia – he defends the right of homophobes to incite hatred against the LGBT community. from Islamophobia Watch dating from June 16, 2011.

There are numerous entries dating back to 2004, which can be viewed via this search string.

Rational Wiki explains the background.

The SWP affiliated Lenin Tomb’s has been active over the years, from November 23, 2005: Tatchell and pink-veiled Islamophobia and October,24 2009: OutRage!ous Censorship of “Gay Imperialism”.

Even Indymedia UK ran this piece in 2007, Peter Tatchell the anti Muslim campaigner.

These criticisms might be dismissed as coming from the fringes, politically speaking. Yet even Labour Party membership or holding high political office is not a guarantee against hyperbole or venom towards Peter.

We shouldn’t forget Ken Livingstone’s poor contribution, as Peter commented in 2008:

“Despite my record of support for Ken, he singled me out for particular denunciation over Qaradawi. The mayor condemned me as anti-Muslim, and even suggested I was a pawn of the Israeli secret service and US neocons.

The mayor’s far left supporters waged a vicious, year-long hate campaign of lies and disinformation which, even to this day, has resulted me being branded as a “racist” and “Islamophobe” by sections of the left. Consequently, I am no longer invited to speak at some anti-fascist, anti-war and trade union events.

The mayor and his allies were wrong to smear me as Islamophobic. Everyone knows that I have done a huge amount of work campaigning for the rights of Muslim prisoners, asylum applicants and those falsely accused of terrorism. I have reserved my fire for Muslim fundamentalists, not Muslims in general. Moreover, I have long supported the human rights of the people of Iran, Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq, Darfur and the Western Sahara – who are mostly Muslim.”

Elsewhere, the Socialist Unity blog, run by a Labour Party member, decried Scott Long’s apology in June, 30, 2010: Did Peter Tatchell Uses Libel Laws To Delegitimise Criticism? and The Intersections Between Homophobia And Islamophobia from 5 November, 2009.

Those would just a small selection, not the worst, and rather distressing to Peter, given his excellent work over the years highlighting human rights abuses from Russia to Zimbabwe and in Britain. He’s had to suffer this abuse for  years, at least 8 by my quick tally, but it’s probably longer.

However, there is a wider point here.

By falsely attacking Peter Tatchell as Islamophobic his critics have misused the word, demeaned its meaning. They have diminished its impact. They played with its meaning for political purposes and detracted from the very visible racism that hides under real Islamophobia in Britain.

Peter deserves apologies all round, and to be congratulated for his sterling work for gay rights, human rights and antiracism over the years.

In short, these Google searches reveal that Peter Tatchell has been unjustifiably maligned and attacked for  years. Inexcusably, he has been labelled as ‘Islamophobic’ by various Western “anti-imperialists”, some on the periphery, others not so.

Ken Livingston’s attacks on Peter show how it was not just the fringes. By employing this false criticism Peter’s critics have diminished the meaning of “Islamophobic”. It is they who have devalued the word and the very necessary struggle against this form of racism. It is they that should apologise.

Anyone genuinely interested in combating racism towards Muslims should follow Tell MAMA and in the event of any racist incident contact them: Phone MAMA on 0800 456 1226. Text MAMA on 01157070007. Mmail MAMA at info@tellmamauk.org and Tweet MAMA @tellmamauk.

“Fit For Work” After Double Heart Bypass?

I wonder how the Tories will justify this:

“A HEART patient last night claimed he was told he was fit for work by a healthcare firm working on behalf of the Government – just a day after he endured a double heart bypass operation and was recovering in intensive care.

Former welder Danny Shurmer, 60, of Gaerwen on Anglesey, who had been in Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital in May last year, said: “I was in intensive care when my daughter came in with the letter. I was shocked. Even the consultant could not believe it.”

He spoke as it was revealed more than 2,000 people on sickness and disability benefits in North Wales have been ordered back to work after their cases were re-assessed under controversial Government fitness-to-work tests.

Mr Shurmer’s employment and support allowance (ESA) – a benefit which has replaced incapacity benefit – was later stopped. It was only restarted after he went to a tribunal.

He was given the “fit for work” bombshell weeks after a medical examination by a doctors from healthcare firm Atos.

Mr Shurmer, who didn’t win his tribunal until nine months after the withdrawal of benefit, had three more bypasses in July this year at the same hospital.

But there is still hope for him because last week he had another examination by an Atos doctor and is awaiting their decision.

Asked whether he is optimistic or not, he replied: “God knows.”

The Government ordered fresh assessments on thousands of people claiming incapacity benefits back in 2010. Since then nearly 6,000 people have been reassessed in North Wales by healthcare firm Atos to determine whether claimants are “fit to work”. “

US Presidential Election 2012 Part Round Up

This is a partial round up of the US Presidential Election 2012, it is highly subjective as it is still going on and the final votes are not in yet.

If Romney wins as a picture!

The BBC’s America votes: scenes from the US election.

MIT or MITT? Florida Polling Place Denies Entry to Woman with an MIT T-Shirt.

Daily Kos Elections 2012 coverage.

Wow, Family of anti-gay Republican candidate for US Senate take out newspaper ad – against him.

Politics Home US elections – live.

Estimated declaration time in the US.

HOPE, not hate:

Mapping America’s Election Night and Tea Party vandals launch racist attack on Obama posters.

The Guardian live coverage is good.

This 2008 article by Mitt Romney might have lost him the election, Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.

Some intelligent comments at the Atlantic.

That Letter to President Obama

Elections are often dirty affairs and politics rarely brings out the best in us, but this letter is delightful:

“Dear Barack Obama,

It’s Sophia Bailey Klugh. Your friend who invited you to dinner. You don’t remember okay that’s fine. But I just wanted to tell you that I am so glad you agree that two men can love each other because I have two dads and they love each other. But at school kids think that it’s gross and weird but it really hurts my heart and feelings. So I come to you because you are my hero. If you were me and you had two dads that loved each other, and kids at school teased you about it, what would you do?

Please respond!

I just wanted to say you really inspire me, and I hope you win on being the president. You would totally make the world a better place.

Your friend Sophia

P.S. Please tell your daughters Hi for me!”

Update 1: Huff Post has some background on this story.

The Rich, The Poor And The Oppressed

Inequalities of wealth exist not only in the West.

Granted, the tame news media will often highlight the income of politicians and how they benefit from public life, as was seen in the British expenses scandal, but there is more to it than that. Not unsurprisingly political leaders around the world try to enrich themselves and what we see in the West is comparatively small beans.

The Guardian describes how the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao’s family has accumulated billions:

“China has lashed out at a US newspaper report that premier Wen Jiabao’s family has amassed vast wealth worth at least $2.7bn (£1.68bn), censoring the New York Times website and questioning the paper’s motivations.

The story said Wen, widely seen as the humane face of China’s top leadership, was not directly linked to the holdings. But the association with such a fortune was in stark contrast to the man-of-the-people image he has cultivated.

The detailed account, based on company and regulatory filings, said several of Wen’s relatives had become extremely wealthy since his ascent to the top leadership, controlling assets whose total worth is more than the GDP of Burundi. In many cases their holdings were obscured by layers of partnerships and investment vehicles involving friends, colleagues or business partners. “

Wen Jiabao is not an exception, as the case of Xi Jinping shows:

“As Xi climbed the Communist Party ranks, his extended family expanded their business interests to include minerals, real estate and mobile-phone equipment, according to public documents compiled by Bloomberg.

Those interests include investments in companies with total assets of $376 million; an 18 percent indirect stake in a rare- earths company with $1.73 billion in assets; and a $20.2 million holding in a publicly traded technology company. The figures don’t account for liabilities and thus don’t reflect the family’s net worth. “

This is original article in the NTY, Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader.
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Women’s Rights And The New Statesman

Over at the New Statesman, Mehdi Hasan has exasperated many women by his new post, Being pro-life doesn’t make me any less of a lefty.

I am not really that interested in his points, rather the marvellous response from feminists and the quality of their arguments.

Stavvers at Another Angry Woman says:

“A few more points on your piece. I’m very disappointed in you, seeing you repeating the anti-choice porky pie that France and Germany have a 12-week limit, so the UK should too. What these countries actually have is a law which allows abortion on demand up to 12 weeks, i.e. you go up to a doctor, say “I’d like an abortion”, then you have your abortion. After the 12 weeks, the legal situation resembles that of the UK: you have to jump through hoops, provide reasons, see more than one doctor.

The rest of your argument, I’m afraid to say, is a hot mess of appeals to authority. You’ve just listed the few people who agree with you who aren’t thoroughly objectionable, many of whom died centuries ago. I’m also rather baffled by the fact that you’re not ashamed to agree with Jeremy Hunt, a man who has what I like to call the Copro-Midas Touch. Literally everything that man touches turns to shit. Are you genuinely comfortable with agreeing with a man who hides in trees to avoid being seen by journalists?

You’re also repeating the tiresome “it’s a baby” myth. Again, I’m going to refer you to one of my sisters, because pretty much everyone’s already said what I want to say, but please read this heartbreaking post from Fearlessknits about life at 25 weeks gestation. “

Kelly Hills takes another tack:

“These rights are undermined when women are denied the freedom to decide whether and when to have children, and how many of them to have. Reproductive freedom is an essential part of women’s right to liberty. It is vital to both liberty and responsible moral agency that we be free to protect our health, to plan and shape our lives. So vital is this social good that wherever safe, legal and affordable abortion is unavailable, many women risk death, permanent physical injury, social disgrace and legal prosecution to end unwanted pregnancies.

Hasan argues, at the end of his article, that the biggest problem with the abortion debate is that it is asymmetrical, “the two sides are talking at cross-purposes”. But the biggest problem with the abortion debate is not that it is asymmetric – it is that one group, the anti-choice group, is attempting to force their views on everyone else. As a pro-choice woman, I am not interested in whether or not another woman is carrying a pregnancy to term or aborting, save in the case where the woman asks for my opinion or involvement. My pro-choice position is not pushing her to abort – not even if, in my opinion, it would be the best thing for her life. As I do not believe in forced pregnancy, I do not believe in forced abortion.

I believe in choice.”

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The GOP Convention And More Racism Round Up.

[Trigger warning, Assange related material.]

When the GOP Convention comes around there is almost the feeling that America has stepped back in time, not by the technology employed or the showmanship, but the underlying ideas.

Issues that many might think are uncontroversial provoke alarm and worry amongst the GOP, the Pew Research Quiz is just one indicator.

But a deeper whiff of bigotry and reaction clings to GOP events, as TPM reported:

“An attendee at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Tuesday allegedly threw nuts at a black camerawoman working for CNN and said “This is how we feed animals” before being removed from the convention, a network official confirmed to TPM. “

And more, Nativism 101:

“There were energetic shouts of “Aye!” and “Nay!” as a Puerto Rican party functionary—Zoraida Fonalledas, the chairwoman of the Committee on Permanent Organization—took her turn at the main-stage lectern. As she began speaking in her accented English, some in the crowd started shouting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

The chanting carried on for nearly a minute while most of the other delegates and the media stood by in stunned silence. The Puerto Rican correspondent turned to me and asked, “Is this happening?” I said I honestly didn’t know what was happening—it was astonishing to see all the brittle work of narrative construction that is a modern political convention suddenly crack before our eyes. None of us could quite believe what we were seeing: A sea of twentysomething bowties and cowboy hats morphing into frat bros apparently shrieking over (or at) a Latina. RNC chairman Reince Priebus quickly stepped up and asked for order and respect for the speaker, suggesting that, yeah, what we had just seen might well have been an ugly outburst of nativism.”

Meanwhile, for would-be GOPers, Ayn Rand and a discussion of her “philosophy”, which seems to have all of the depth and consistency of L.Ron. Hubbard’s Scientology, albeit without the UFOs.
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Why Occupation Is Wrong

“Corruption is authority plus monopoly minus transparency.” Anon

Corruption and abuse of power are fairly commonplace in the world. Some examples we hear of, whilst others are conveniently brushed under the carpet.

From the Vatican to Burma and brown paper envelopes corruption goes much further, even the work of Transparency International only scratches the surface.

We can see this particularly when armies and occupation is involved.

Within living memory who can forget the slaughter at Tiananmen Square? Or how the US army acted in Vietnam? In Northern Ireland human rights abuses by the British Army and the RUC are well documented, but they only tell part of the story.

We have yet to hear testimonies from those soldiers involved in the slaughter of civilians in Sri Lanka or the abuses conducted by Syrian forces during the occupation of Lebanon, which ended around 2005.

So it is beneficial to hear the testimonies of Israeli soldiers, however, distressing they are.

They demonstrate, if that point needed reiterating, how destructive an occupation is, to the societies who conduct them and those that suffer under subjugation.

Many sources have noted how corrosive the occupation of the West Bank has been on Israeli society. Israelis themselves debate these issues on a daily basis, something that you don’t see much of in other societies. British brutality, castration and torture during its rule of Kenya is kept tidily within law courts.

Israeli society is divided, but the fact that so many Israelis are involved in pointing out abuses by the IDF and the Israeli government is a healthy one. This type of activity came very late to British society and only then when pressurised by the citizens of Northern Ireland.

It is worthwhile reading these accounts and remembering the longer lasting effects:

“For the past eight years, Breaking the Silence has been taking testimonies from former soldiers who witnessed or participated in human rights abuses in the occupied territories. Most of these accounts deal with “rough justice” administered to minors by soldiers on the ground, often without specific authorisation and without recourse to the military courts. Reading them, however, it’s hard not to recall the Sedley report’s shocked reference to the “belief, which was advanced to us by a military prosecutor, that every Palestinian child is a ‘potential terrorist’”.

The soldier puts it differently: “We were sort of indifferent. It becomes a kind of habit. Patrols with beatings happened on a daily basis. We were really going at it. It was enough for you to give us a look that we didn’t like, straight in the eye, and you’d be hit on the spot. We got to such a state and were so sick of being there.”

Some time ago, after he had testified to Breaking the Silence, we had interviewed this soldier. As he sat nervously one morning in a quiet Israeli beauty spot, an incongruous location he had chosen to ensure no one knew he was talking, he went through his recollections about the incident – and several others – once again. His account does not match the Palestinian’s in every detail. (Hafez remembers a gun being pressed to his temple, for example, while the soldier recalls that the commander “actually stuck the gun barrel in the kid’s mouth. Literally”.)

Breaking the silence: soldiers’ testimonies

First Sergeant, Kfir Brigade

Salfit 2009

“We took over a school and had to arrest anyone in the village who was between the ages of 17 and 50. When these detainees asked to go to the bathroom, and the soldiers took them there, they beat them to a pulp and cursed them for no reason, and there was nothing that would legitimise hitting them. An Arab was taken to the bathroom to piss, and a soldier slapped him, took him down to the ground while he was shackled and blindfolded. The guy wasn’t rude and did nothing to provoke any hatred or nerves. Just like that, because he is an Arab. He was about 15, hadn’t done a thing.

“In general people at the school were sitting for hours in the sun. They could get water once in a while, but let’s say someone asked for water five times, a soldier could come to him and slap him just like that. I saw many soldiers using their knees to hit them, just out of boredom. Because you’re standing around for 10 hours doing nothing, you’re bored, so you hit them. I know that at the bathroom, there was this ‘demons’ dance’ as it was called. Anyone who brought a Palestinian there – it was catastrophic. Not bleeding beatings – they stayed dry – but still beatings.”
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BBC Understatement, Racism and Rounding Up

I was about to put out a number of individual posts, but it is probably more worthwhile to include them in a round up:

Surprise, surprise, neofascist killer, Breivik took drugs before going on his murder spree.

I wonder if the chess playing Israeli boycotters will avoid the games of Boris Gelfand?

The singing neo-Nazi, Gary Marsden I’Anson, is on his uppers.

Whilst I had appreciated the level of uranium enrichment completed by the Iranian regime, the actual volume and size of the material, some 6 tons of UF6 enriched to 3.5 percent, was a shock to me. That is a lot of enriched uranium.

Searchlight on Journalist falls for EDL’s absurd claims.

Norm on How much more murder (in Syria)?
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