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Entries tagged "NATO"

The Search for Snowden and Obscene Assaults on Sovereignty

July 12, 2013 ·

This piece originally posted in Black Star News.

Bolivian President Evo MoralesApparently the phrase “blood is thicker than water” also compares to the Imperial ties that bind NATO, where the history of European colonial collusion runs thicker than internationalist ethics and treaties.

The recent brushing aside of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and US that endangered the life of Bolivian president Evo Morales, should be an epiphany or at least a reminder to the people of Africa, Asia and Latin America. It demonstrates that only a radical and transcontinental transformation can abolish the vestiges of European colonialism and white supremacy.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is the international treaty that forms the legal basis for diplomatic immunity.  But on July 2nd the fore mentioned NATO countries most likely led by the US breached the Convention by colluding to disallow a Bolivian presidential flight into their respective airspace.

This was allegedly based on unfounded suspicion that the flight was transporting US National Security Agency whistleblower, Edward Snowden. President Morales and accompanying Bolivian officials were returning to Bolivia after attending a Forum of Gas Exporting Countries in Russia. Low on fuel due to rerouting caused by denial of passage through the airspace of the European culprit countries, the Bolivian presidential flight had to make an emergency landing in Vienna, Austria.

This is another one of countless and arrogantly racist double standards that the US and its NATO allies have demonstrated since the dawn of colonialism and neo-colonialism. The Convention on Diplomatic Relations is supposed to be the framework governing relations between independent countries. It specifies the privileges of a diplomatic mission that enable diplomats to perform their functions without fear of coercion or harassment by hosts countries, including free and safe passage via land, sea or air.

Read the full article in Black Star News.

When Number Two Acts like Number One

December 13, 2011 ·

In late November, NATO forces whacked 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border. As of November 30, the Pentagon and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had not yet accepted blame; but they were “investigating” and “regretting.”

Washington thinks it's number one, but the world is starting to realize that's not true. Photo by KP Tripathi.However, the next day, Iranian demonstrators invaded and destroyed property at the British Embassy complex in Teheran and briefly grabbed some embassy staff. London and Washington expressed outrage.

Obama, however, expressed no sentiments over police behavior in New York and other cities and campuses where police officials (not low-level ones) beat and pepper sprayed unarmed and non-violent U.S. citizens exercising their rights to free speech and assembly. Nor did he or the British ever apologize for staging their joint 1953 coup in Iran, which ousted Iran’s elected ruler and replaced him with a pro-U.S. Shah. Coincidentally, this resulted in a boon for U.S. and British oil companies.

In those days the U.S. economy grew, and what was good for General Motors was good for the country. Bi-partisanship prevailed in Congress! U.S. steel mills belched smoke, and auto assembly lines poured out cars – pre rust belt days, before globalization.

After decades of change, however, neither U.S. rhetoric nor policy kept pace with material reality.

The U.S. military remains the strongest in the world, but it has not protected the country from serious economic and political dysfunction. Bi-partisanship has evaporated with the ozone layers. Recession – now four plus years old – has meant devastation for tens of millions without jobs, homes, health care or hope. But not for the military budget – well, not yet.

The President continues to expand the nation’s imperial commitments. We hear Obama warn about the lack of money to make needed repairs in the infrastructure while we see him simultaneously stride boldly forward to undertake new and costly international obligations. Weeks before the deadly mistake in Pakistan, Obama committed the country to station more troops in a base in Australia to counter the “Chinese threat.” The anti-missile defense pact to counter presumably Iranian (distant future) threats to Europe brought forth a Russian promise to station its missiles near Poland. The new U.S. Middle East Security arrangement involves the most undemocratic nation – Saudi Arabia.

Congress doesn’t notice this asymmetry between its largesse in military appropriations and its abstemious allocations for desperately needed national infrastructure. Congress agreed with the President that previous levels of government spending could no longer continue for schools, clinics, hospitals and social services. Many Members want to cut Social Security and Medicare. They find no funds to shore up levees and bridges; some cities even declared bankruptcy.

What’s wrong with the thinking of the Washington policy crowd? The Cold War is long dead, the world is reeling from recession, but U.S. “strategic” thinking ignores these elements. “We’re still number one,” remains the axiom of official rhetoric. The statistics, however, reveal the dramatic decline of U.S. predominance in education, health and social welfare and a dramatic increase in poverty, and an unequal distribution of wealth.

Similarly, the rise of the Indian and Chinese economies seems to have bypassed the strategic consciousness of U.S. policy makers and Members of Congress.

George W. Bush started – with Congressional approval – two wars based on the notion of overwhelming U.S. power. The cost in human life and money has yet to be estimated. But Obama couldn’t just walk away – “weakness,” his opponents would scream. And so the conflicts drag on, and naturally in war “shit happens” like  “friendly fire” killing 24 Pakis.

Hey, Pakistan was disobedient. It didn’t toe the line against the Taliban. Its intelligence service even cooperated with our enemy in Afghanistan. Shape up or else, ordered Joint Chiefs of Staff boss Admiral Mullen. Did no one notice that China has begun to assist Pakistan?

Do Washington analysts think the U.S. can continue killing Pakistanis, sending in lethal drones and invading its turf with Seals to execute our enemies (Osama bin Laden)? Tens of millions of Pakistanis, including high military officials, began to scream “enough.” A leading Pakistani army general, Ashfaq Nadeem, accused NATO of staging a "deliberate act of aggression."

On November 29, Pakistan withdrew in protest from a scheduled meeting in Germany to discus Afghanistan’s future. It closed the supply routes the U.S. and NATO uses for troops and operations in land-locked Afghanistan.

The meeting’s goal was to forge a joint effort to stabilize Afghanistan as NATO combat forces begin to leave in 2014. Indeed, Pakistan’s government raised questions about future cooperation with the U.S. and NATO on Afghanistan.

U.S. policy rests on false assumptions. Pakistan, Washington decided, has no choice but to obey its aid-giving ally. The Chinese, however, understand the possibilities that will open to them as Washington marches to the beat of imperial ignorance.

China has moved resources and advisers to Pakistan, including nuclear experts. Washington can’t seem to grasp a decline, that the rest of the world sees, in their once undisputed world power. It cannot keep its home in good repair, but it still acts as if it can make other nations bend to its will.The 24 dead Pakistani soldiers might become the symbol for the beginning of the end of U.S. empire.

My Memories of Libya

November 17, 2011 ·

In the early spring 1982, I accompanied former U.S. Senator Jim Abourezk to Libya. National Geographic had asked him to get Libyan permission to film several sites of Roman ruins.

The case of 53 pro-gaddafi fighters' execution was not enough to stop NATO from calling its incursion humanitarian.

He met with officials; I walked Tripoli’s streets. At a coffee shop near the hotel, a group of young men stopped playing with their worry beads, brought their jumping knees into upright positions and followed me. Like most of the young men I saw, my followers were well-dressed and looked healthy, maybe a bit overdosed on caffeine.

I tried to ignore them as I wandered into the Suq – the old market – in downtown Tripoli. It was mostly boarded up. President Qaddafi had built new five-story department stores.

Two nights later, Abourezk took me to a new store. I saw large bins, typical of the U.S. Dollar stores, but filled with expensive cuisinearts. On another floor, shoeless men in robes tried on designer suits (on racks). The Pierre Cardin suits came in loud pink, orange and purple. Strange for a city without pimps or visible prostitutes! I watched some of these shoeless try the garments on and actually buy them.

One day, I dropped a post card to my daughter in a street letterbox. My uninvited escorts roared. In English, I demanded: “Why are you laughing?”

“No one pick up letters from that box,” one replied amidst giggles.

“Why are you all following me?”

The same man young man explained. “We members of secret police.”

“Secret?”

“All Libyans are members of Secret Police,” he clarified.

The group invited me for coffee. They had no jobs, and like most Libyans lived on subsidies. Foreigners did most of the non-government work. At the hotel, Philippino men served as porters, Egyptians manned the front desk, Nubians waited on us in the coffee shop. After coffee and questions about America, they walked “our brother” back to the hotel.

In my neighborhood walks I noticed day care centers, schools, and hospitals. Qaddafi had indeed distributed oil wealth to the more than two million people who made up 1982 Libya. 

Not all Libyans agreed. A waiter in a coffee shop on the road to the Roman ruins at Sabratha hated Qaddafi, “a man from a traitorous tribe.” Together with a National Geographic photographer, I explored the remains of Roman streets and architecture. Awesome, but we met no tourists.

In the early 21st Century, Qaddafi shifted his political stance. He had abandoned the terrorist support path and dropped his nuclear weapons program. In response, Western leaders welcomed the Libyan ruler – Berlusconi kissed his hand. Then, in 2011, after the Arab Spring, the elected pinnacles of democracy in NATO capitals charged him with threatening the lives of his own people – as if that would bother colonial powers who had routinely slaughtered Africans and still back ruthless repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The NATO elite convinced a bare majority vote of the Arab League, and maneuvered a UN supporting mandate. Then, NATO launched an eight-month blitz on Libya – to protect its people.

With still uncounted thousands dead, NATO leaders beamed: their air power had finally worked – as it had not in Vietnam or Korea – to destroy a “rogue” government. They forgot that the previous years they had feted Qaddafi; and the Libyan strongman had helped them in the war against terror. For abandoning his nuclear option, Qaddafi learned (briefly): no good deed goes unpunished or remembered.

NATO flew 26,000 sorties, many with bombs and missiles, but only against “military targets” – not the Roman ruins. They issued no reports of Libyan deaths. But news footage showed dead bodies and destroyed homes. NATO’s spin: “Hurrah, the world is rid of the evil Qaddafi.”

Anyway, the dead were bad guys; otherwise, good NATO pilots wouldn’t have killed them because their mission was to protect innocent civilians.

In 2010, the NATO government encouraged their arms merchants to supply Qaddafi with “a seemingly limitless supply of weapons.” Indeed, “at an arms fair in Tripoli; only a few days before the NATO operations started, French and Italian companies were busily upgrading Libyan air-force and army equipment.” . 

NATO and its entourage located and destroyed many of the European-supplied weapons. When the new government cohered, would the same weapons dealers replace the stock NATO forces had destroyed?

NATO recognized the victorious democratic Libyan rebels. These NATO “democrats” had committed numerous human-rights abuses according to Human Rights Watch monitors. In Sirte, investigators discovered 53 corpses were found in an abandoned hotel – all pro-Qaddafi people. 

In Tawarghaby, victorious insurgents took brutal reprisals against pro-Gaddafi residents. Secretary of State Clinton chortled (“We came, we saw, he died”) while reporters noted some rebel units refused to disarm; others looted and abused their captives. 

Not important. NATO’s adventure was a successful humanitarian intervention. It saved lives and upheld democracy. NATO withdrew. Who’s next?

P.S. Every day I spent in Libya I saw Qaddafi. At 5 p.m. the TV screen showed desert, with a small black spot in the middle. A very slow zoom began. By 5:05 a back shape emerged, which, by 5:07 appeared to be a man praying. You guessed it. By 5:10 Qaddafi bent his head to the ground and brought it up again in prayer. I won’t miss him – even on TV. But the postcard I mailed at the supposedly dead letterbox arrived in Washington – nine months later.

Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP plays Dec 3 at 5:30 and 7:30 at the Tishman Auditorium, New School for Social Research, 66 Fifth Avenue.