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U.N. Panel Releases Draft of Treaty to Ban Nuclear Arms

In Environment, Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Peace, Politics on May 23, 2017 at 9:47 pm

by Rick Gladstone, New York Times, May 22, 2017

A United Nations disarmament panel presented the first draft on Monday of a proposed global treaty to ban nuclear weapons, which advocates called an important step that could hasten completion of a final text by early July.

Nuclear powers including the United States have boycotted the negotiations for such a treaty, calling its goals naïve and unattainable — especially at a time when North Korea has threatened to launch nuclear-armed missiles at its enemies.

But those nations’ longstanding argument for deterrence — that the best way to keep nuclear arms from being used is to hold the ability to retaliate in kind — has failed to halt the momentum in the negotiations. The first round was held in March, and the effort is supported by more than 120 countries.

Treaty supporters have argued that if enough countries ratified an international agreement outlawing nuclear weapons, the political and moral coercive pressure would eventually persuade holdouts to reconsider.

Similar strategies were pursued in negotiations that led to global treaties banning other indiscriminate weapons, including chemical arms, cluster bombs and land mines. As more countries have joined those treaties, the shaming effect has grown on those that decline.
The nuclear draft text would commit treaty signers to “never use nuclear weapons” and never “develop, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

Signers would also promise to never “carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.”

Less clear from the draft text is precisely how nuclear-armed countries that renounce those weapons could join the treaty, and under what conditions.

But language in the draft specifies that the treaty is intended to strengthen — and not replace — the existing treaties meant to stop the spread and testing of nuclear weapons.

The draft’s preamble specifies that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the landmark agreement that entered into force in 1970, would remain “an essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament.”

The draft is now subject to revision at a three-week round of negotiations at the United Nations scheduled for mid-June.

Supporters of the negotiations said the draft’s existence by itself was significant.

“The draft language is strong and categorically prohibits nuclear weapons,” Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said in a statement.

The disarmament group called the draft “an essential milestone in the yearslong effort to ban these indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction and an important step toward their eventual elimination.”

Elayne G. Whyte Gómez, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva and chairwoman of the conference that is overseeing the negotiations, said in a telephone interview that she expected revisions to the draft.

Ms. Gómez, who was responsible for writing the draft, said she had sought to “synthesize the many areas where the views of states converged.”

There was no comment from the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, who led a group of envoys from member states who had publicly rejected the negotiations when they began two months ago.

Aides to Ms. Haley said that she was traveling but that the American position had not changed.

Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a disarmament research and advocacy group in Washington, said he regarded the minimum number of ratifications to put the treaty into effect — 40 — to be relatively low, possibly limiting its coercive impact. Mr. Kimball also noted that the text of the treaty draft did not explicitly prohibit the financing of nuclear weapons or the issuing of nuclear threats. Nonetheless, he said he supported the negotiations and objective.

“The vast majority of world states say nuclear weapons are not essential for security, and that we want to reduce their salience by banning them,” he said. “That is a contribution to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Besides the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia — four countries are known to possess nuclear weapons: India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel. None support the negotiations.

United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on May 23, 2017 at 7:12 am

 

New York, 27-31 March 2017 and 15 June-7 July 2017

22 May 2017 Original: English

Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Submitted by the President of the Conference

The States Parties to this Convention,

Deeply concerned about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons and the consequent need to make every effort to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances,

Cognizant that the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons transcend national borders, pose grave implications for human survival, the environment, socioeconomic development, the global economy, food security and for the health of future generations, and of the disproportionate impact of ionizing radiation on maternal health and on girls,

Mindful of the suffering of the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (Hibakusha) as well as of those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons,

Basing themselves on the principles and rules of international humanitarian law, in particular the principle that the right of parties to an armed conflict to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited and the rule that care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment against widespread, long term and severe damage, including a prohibition of the use of methods or means of warfare which are intended or may be expected to cause such damage to the natural environment and thereby to prejudice the health or survival of the population,

Declaring that any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law,

Reaffirming that in cases not covered by this convention, civilians and combatants remain under the protection and authority of the principles of international law derived from established custom, from the principles of humanity and from the dictates of public conscience,

Determined to contribute to the realization of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

A/CONF.229/2017/CRP.1

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Bearing in mind that the prohibition of nuclear weapons would be an important contribution towards comprehensive nuclear disarmament,

Stressing the urgent need to achieve further effective measures of nuclear disarmament in order to facilitate the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery,

Determined to act towards that end,
Determined also to act with a view to achieving effective progress towards general

and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control,

Affirming that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control,

Reaffirming the crucial importance of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as the cornerstone of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and an essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, the vital importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty as a core element of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime, and the contribution of the treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones toward strengthening the nuclear non- proliferation regime and to realizing the objective of nuclear disarmament,

Stressing the role of public conscience in the furthering of the principles of humanity as evidenced by the call for the total elimination of nuclear weapons and recognizing the efforts to that end undertaken by the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, numerous non-governmental organizations and the Hibakusha,

Have agreed as follows: Article 1

General obligations

1. Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:

(a) Develop, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;

(b) Transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly;

(c) Receive the transfer or control over nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices directly, or indirectly;

(d) Use nuclear weapons;
(e) Carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion;

(f) Assist, encourage, or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention;

(g) Seek or receive any assistance, in any way, from anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.

2. Each State Party undertakes to prohibit and prevent in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control:

(a) Any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;

(b) Any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.

Article 2 Declarations

1. Each State Party shall submit to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, not later than 30 days after this Convention enters into force for it a declaration in which it shall declare whether it has manufactured, possessed or otherwise acquired nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices after 5 December 2001.

2. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall transmit all such declarations received to the States Parties.

Article 3 Safeguards

Each State Party undertakes to accept safeguards, with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, as provided in the Annex to this Convention.

Article 4
Measures for States that have eliminated their nuclear weapons

1. Each State Party that has manufactured, possessed or otherwise acquired nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices after 5 December 2001, and eliminated all such weapons or explosive devices prior to the entry into force of the Convention for it, undertakes to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency for the purpose of verification of the completeness of its inventory of nuclear material and nuclear installations.

2. Unless otherwise agreed by the States Parties, arrangements necessary for the verification required by this Article shall be concluded in an agreement between the State Party and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Negotiation of such an agreement shall commence within 180 days of the submission of the declaration provided for in Article 2. Such agreements shall enter into force not later than eighteen months after the date of the initiation of negotiations.

3. For the purpose of performing the verification required by this Article, the International Atomic Energy Agency shall be provided with full access to any location or facility associated with a nuclear weapon programme and shall have the right to request access on a case-by-case basis to other locations or facilities that the Agency may wish to visit.

A/CONF.229/2017/CRP.1

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A/CONF.229/2017/CRP.1

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Article 5
Measures for situations not covered by Article 4

Proposals for further effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament, including provisions for the verified and irreversible elimination of any remaining nuclear weapon programmes under strict and effective international control, which may take the form of additional protocols to this Convention, may be considered at the Meetings of States Parties or Review Conferences. All States represented at the meeting or review conference may participate fully in such consideration. The meeting or review conference may agree upon additional protocols which shall be adopted and annexed to the Convention in accordance with its provisions.

Article 6 Assistance

1. Each State Party in a position to do so shall with respect to individuals affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons in areas under its jurisdiction or control, in accordance with applicable international humanitarian and human rights law, adequately provide age- and gender-sensitive assistance, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support, as well as provide for their social and economic inclusion.

2. Each State Party with respect to areas under its jurisdiction or control contaminated as a result of activities related to the testing or use of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, shall have the right to request and to receive assistance toward the environmental remediation of areas so contaminated.

3. Such assistance may be provided, inter alia, through the United Nations system, international, regional or national organizations or institutions, non-governmental organizations or institutions, or on a bilateral basis.

Article 7
National implementation

1. Each State Party shall, in accordance with its constitutional processes, adopt the necessary measures to implement its obligations under this Convention.

2. Each State Party shall take all appropriate legal, administrative and other measures, including the imposition of penal sanctions, to prevent and suppress any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention undertaken by persons or on territory under its jurisdiction or control.

Article 8
International cooperation

1. Each State Party shall cooperate with other States Parties to facilitate the implementation of the obligations of this Convention.

2. In fulfilling its obligations under this Convention each State Party has the right to seek and receive assistance.

Article 9
Meeting of States Parties

1. The States Parties shall meet regularly in order to consider and, where necessary, take decisions in respect of any matter with regard to the application or implementation of this Convention and on the further elaboration of effective measures for nuclear disarmament, including:

(a) The operation and status of this Convention;

(b) Reports by States Parties on the implementation of their obligations under this Convention;

(c) Matters arising from the declarations submitted under Article 2 of this Convention;

(d) Proposals for effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament, including provisions for the verified and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapon programmes, including additional protocols to this Convention.

2. The first Meeting of States Parties shall be convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations within one year of the entry into force of this Convention. Further Meetings of States Parties shall be convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on a biennial basis, unless otherwise agreed by the States Parties.

3. After a period of five years following the entry into force of this Convention, the Meetings of States Parties may decide to convene a conference to review the operation of this Convention with a view to assuring that the purposes of the preamble and the provisions of the Convention, including the provisions concerning negotiations on effective measures for nuclear disarmament, are being realized.

4. States not party to this Convention, as well as the United Nations, other relevant international organizations or institutions, regional organizations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and relevant non-governmental organizations may be invited to attend the Meetings of States Parties and the Review Conferences as observers.

Article 10 Costs

1. The costs of the Meetings of the States Parties and the Review Conferences shall be borne by the States Parties and States not parties to this Convention participating therein, in accordance with the United Nations scale of assessment adjusted appropriately.

2. The costs incurred by the Secretary-General of the United Nations under Article 2 of this Convention shall be borne by the States Parties in accordance with the United Nations scale of assessment adjusted appropriately.Article 11 Amendments

1. At the Meetings of States Parties or Review Conferences consideration may be given to any proposal for amendments of this Convention. The meeting or review conference may agree upon amendments which shall be adopted by a majority of two- thirds of the States Parties present and voting at the meeting or review conference.

2. The amendment shall enter into force for each State Party that deposits its instrument of ratification of the amendment upon the deposit of such instruments of ratification by a majority of the States Parties. Thereafter, it shall enter into force for any other State Party upon the deposit of its instrument of ratification of the amendment.

Article 12
Settlement of disputes

1. When a dispute arises between two or more States Parties relating to the interpretation or application of this Convention, the parties concerned shall consult together with a view to the expeditious settlement of the dispute by negotiation or by other peaceful means of the parties’ choice, including recourse to the Meetings of States Parties and, by mutual consent, referral to the International Court of Justice in conformity with the Statute of the Court.

2. The Meeting of States Parties may contribute to the settlement of the dispute by whatever means it deems appropriate, including offering its good offices, calling upon the States Parties concerned to start the settlement procedure of their choice and recommending a time limit for any agreed procedure.

Article 13 Universality

Each State Party shall encourage States not party to this Convention to ratify, accept, approve or accede to this Convention, with the goal of attracting the adherence of all States to this Convention.

Article 14 Signature

This Convention shall be open for signature to all States before its entry into force.

Article 15 Ratification

This Convention shall be subject to ratification by signatory States.

Article 16 Entry into force

1. This Convention shall enter into force 90 days after the fortieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession has been deposited.

2. For any State that deposits its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession after the date of the deposit of the fortieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, this Convention shall enter into force 90 days after the date on which that State has deposited its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

Article 17 Reservations

The Articles of this Convention shall not be subject to reservations.

Article 18 Duration

1. This Convention shall be of unlimited duration.

2. Each State Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Convention if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Convention, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Convention and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.

3. Such withdrawal shall only take effect three months after the receipt of the instrument of withdrawal by the Depositary. If, however, on the expiry of that three- month period, the withdrawing State Party is engaged in the situations referred to in Article 2 common to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 for the Protection of War Victims, including any situation described in paragraph 4 of Article 1 of Additional Protocol I to these Conventions, the Party shall continue to be bound by the obligations of this Convention and of any annexed Protocols until the end of the armed conflict or occupation.

Article 19
Relations with other agreements

This Convention does not affect the rights and obligations of the States Parties under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Article 20 Depositary

The Secretary-General of the United Nations is hereby designated as the Depositary of this Convention.

Article 21 Authentic texts

The Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish texts of this Convention shall be equally authentic.

World Beyond War

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Politics, War on May 11, 2017 at 9:43 am

Please read the very informative article at http://worldbeyondwar.org/f-35-incinerating-ski-slope/  As my friend Bob Kinsey says, “Not the usual Greenwash stuff but real facts in context.”

Thanks, LeRoy

Laugh, don’t fight

In Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Politics, War on May 5, 2017 at 11:36 pm

By Dave Anderson, Boulder Weekly, May 4, 2017
On April 15, a distinctly disturbing event took place in Berkeley,
California. Several hundred proto-fascists gathered in a downtown
park. They were armed and itching for a fight. Most of them were from
out of town and many from all over the country. This was a pro-Trump
Patriots’ Day rally for “free speech” organized online by a far right
alliance of white supremacist/nationalist, alt-right, anti-feminist,
neo-Nazi and militia groups.

They wore motorcycle helmets, ski goggles, gloves and carried weapons.

Many wore masks. Quite a few performed the Nazi salute. Mother Jones
reporter Shane Bauer said it seemed like many had only known each
other on social media and were meeting in person for the first time.

He overheard discussion and debate of obscure far right positions. A
man carried a sign saying “Da Goyim Know” which refers to a popular
alt-right internet meme about how powerful Jews control everything and
silence the critics who expose them.

They wanted revenge for an earlier event on the University of
California campus. In February, a small group of rock-throwing masked
Black Bloc leftists had forced the cancellation of a speech by
Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

On April 15, the far rightists and the Black Bloc fought each other
for hours in the streets. At the end, 11 people were injured and six
hospitalized. Police arrested 21 people on a number of charges.

The organizers of the rally, the Proud Boys, said they had won an
“enormous victory.” On their Facebook page, the Proud Boys said they
are “founded on a system of beliefs and values of minimal government,
maximum freedom, anti-political correctness, anti-racial guilt,
pro-gun rights, anti-Drug War, closed borders, anti-masturbation,
venerating entrepreneurs, venerating housewives, and reinstating a
spirit of Western chauvinism during an age of globalism and
multiculturalism.”

The group’s founder, Gavin McInnes, claims that Proud Boy meetings
mainly consist of drinking, fighting and reading from Pat Buchanan’s
book, Death of the West.

McInnes was a Fox News commentator who left the network because it
wasn’t conservative enough. He’s also a contributor for the racist
website VDARE, where he belittled Muslims and called Asian Americans
“slopes” and “riceballs.” He once received an award for “hipster
racism.” Being a “hipster racist” involves engaging in behavior
commonly regarded as racist and defending your antics by claiming you
are just being ironic or satirical.

The Proud Boys have a frat boy three-degree initiation. You publicly
declare yourself a Proud Boy. Then you get beaten up until you cry out
the names of five breakfast cereals. Finally you get a tattoo. You
have to maintain a “#NoWanks masturbation regimen” at all times. That
is, you can only masturbate once a month. However, Proud Boys can
always masturbate within a yard of a woman if she consents.

Recently the Proud Boys added a fourth degree: fighting the
anti-fascists. They have also formed a “fight club” military arm
called the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights.

Most likely, the battle in Berkeley is only the beginning. The left
will make a mistake if we get into a war with the far right, argues
David Neiwert, an investigative journalist who has been reporting on
neo-Nazis and fascist types in the Pacific Northwest for over 30
years. From his observations and from his reading of history, he says
that fascists provoke violence by their enemies in order to portray
themselves as victims.

Consider what happened in the last days of Germany’s democratically
elected Weimar Republic in the 1930s. The country was in the middle of
a political and economic crisis that left the society on the brink of
civil war. Street violence by paramilitary organizations on the left
and the right increased discernibly. Shortly before the July 1932
parliamentary elections, Prussian authorities reported 300 acts of
politically motivated violence that left 24 people dead and almost 300
injured.

In Berlin, Nazi Party leader Joseph Goebbels deliberately provoked
Communist and Social Democratic actions by marching their storm
troopers into working-class neighborhoods where those parties had
strongholds. Nazi fighters who were injured or killed became martyrs
romanticized by Nazi newspapers, photographs, films and paintings.

“The Horst Wessel Song” became the Nazi anthem. It lionized a
23-year-old storm trooper who was killed in 1930.

Neiwert says, “Fascists… are the ultimate psychic vampires: They feed
off hate. They want to stoke it as much as possible. They want things
to become as violent as possible. They love it when you become violent
and give them martyrs.”

Neiwart says the most successful anti-fascist demonstration he ever
observed occurred in 2005 in Olympia, Washington. A neo-Nazi group
held a rally calling for a “race war.” The townspeople mocked them
with a loud and mostly good-natured musical celebration of diversity.

Their noise drowned out the fascists on the loudspeakers. There was a
troupe of clowns mimicking Nazis goose stepping around.

Don’t punch Nazis. Laugh at them.

Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on May 4, 2017 at 9:59 pm

 

This article was originally published by LA Progressive.

In recent weeks, the people of the world have been treated to yet another display of the kind of nuclear insanity that has broken out periodically ever since 1945 and the dawn of the nuclear era.

On April 11, Donald Trump, irked by North Korea’s continued tests of nuclear weapons and missiles, tweeted that “North Korea is looking for trouble.” If China does not “help,” then “we will solve the problem without them.” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un responded by announcing that, in the event of a U.S. military attack, his country would not scruple at launching a nuclear strike at U.S. forces. In turn, Trump declared: “We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. We have the best military people on earth.”

During the following days, the governments of both nuclear-armed nations escalated their threats. Dispatched to South Korea, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence declared that “the era of strategic patience is over,” and warned: “All options are on the table.” Not to be outdone, North Korea’s deputy representative to the United Nations told a press conference that “thermonuclear war may break out at any moment.” Any missile or nuclear strike by the United States would be responded to “in kind.” Several days later, the North Korean government warned of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” that would reduce U.S. military forces in South Korea and on the U.S. mainland “to ashes.” The United States and its allies, said the official statement, “should not mess with us.”

Curiously, this North Korean statement echoed the Trump promise during his presidential campaign that he would build a U.S. military machine “so big, powerful, and strong that no one will mess with us.” The fact that both Trump and Kim are being “messed with” despite their possession of very powerful armed forces, including nuclear weapons, seems to have eluded both men, who continue their deadly game of nuclear threat and bluster.

And what is the response of the public to these two erratic government leaders behaving in this reckless fashion and threatening war, including nuclear war? It is remarkably subdued. People read about the situation in newspapers or watch it on the television news, while comedians joke about the madness of it all. Oh, yes, peace and disarmament organizations condemn the escalating military confrontation and outline reasonable diplomatic alternatives. But such organizations are unable to mobilize the vast numbers of people around the world necessary to shake some sense into these overwrought government officials.

The situation was very different in the 1980s, when organizations like the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign (in the United States), the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (in Britain), and similar groups around the world were able to engage millions of people in protest against the nuclear recklessness of the U.S. and Soviet governments―protest that played a key role in curbing the nuclear arms race and preventing nuclear war.

So why is there so little public protest today?

One factor is certainly the public’s preoccupation with other important issues, among them climate change, immigration, terrorism, criminal justice, civil liberties, and economic inequality.

Another appears to be a sense of fatalism. Many people believe that Kim and Trump are too irrational to respond to reason and too autocratic to give way to public pressure.

Yet another factor is the belief of Americans and Europeans that their countries are safe from a North Korean attack. Yes, many people will die in a new Korean War, especially one fought with nuclear weapons, but they will be “only” Koreans.

In addition, many people credit the absence of nuclear war since 1945 to nuclear deterrence. Thus, they assume that nuclear-armed nations will not fight a nuclear war among themselves.

Finally―and perhaps most significantly―people are reluctant to think about nuclear war. After all, it means death and destruction at an unbearable level of horror. Therefore, it’s much easier to simply forget about it.

Of course, even if these factors explain the public’s passivity in the face of a looming nuclear catastrophe, they do not justify it. After all, people can concern themselves with more than one issue at a time, public officials are often more malleable than assumed, accepting the mass slaughter of Koreans is unconscionable, and if nuclear deterrence really worked, the U.S. government would be far less worried about other nations (including North Korea) developing nuclear weapons. Also, problems―including the problem posed by nuclear weapons―do not simply disappear when people ignore them.

It would be a terrible thing if it takes a disastrous nuclear war between the United States and North Korea to convince people that nuclear war is simply unacceptable. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should already have convinced us of that.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://www.lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. He is the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).

 

Instead of threatening North Korea, Trump should try this instead

In Democracy, Human rights, Peace, Politics, War on April 24, 2017 at 9:50 pm

By John Delur, Washington Post, April 23, 2017
John Delury is an associate professor of Chinese studies at the Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies in Seoul.

President Trump’s missile strike on Syria won plaudits from commentators on the left and right, with some of the enthusiasm spilling over into the debate about a “military solution” when it comes to North Korea. The comparison, like much of the administration’s rhetoric about Korea, is dangerously misleading. There is no way to hit North Korea without being hit back harder. There is no military means to “preempt” its capabilities — nuclear and otherwise — with a “surgical” strike. Any use of force to degrade its weapons program would start a war, the costs of which would be staggering.

Maybe in the era of America First, we don’t care about death and destruction being visited on the 10 million people who live in Seoul, within North Korean artillery and short-range missile range. Do we care about some 140,000 U.S. citizens residing in South Korea — including soldiers and military families at bases here, plus more in nearby Japan? Or South Korea’s globally integrated $1.4 trillion economy, including the United States’ $145 billion two-way trade with the country? Do we care about North Korean missiles raining down on Incheon International Airport, one of Asia’s busiest airports, or Busan, the sixth-largest container port in the world? What happens to the global economy when a conflagration erupts on China’s doorstep and engulfs Japan?

Surely the American public and Congress, regardless of party, can agree that these costs are unbearable and unthinkable. Given the presence of many sober-minded strategists and policymakers in the administration, it seems reasonable to conclude the military taunts are a bluff. If so, they are a distraction from the real, pressing question: How much longer should they wait on economic pressure generated by Chinese sanctions, rather than pursue diplomatic options opened up by direct dialogue and engagement?
The Obama administration said it was open to dialogue, but put its money on sanctions and pressure as North Korea made the power transition from Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un. North Korea, unfortunately, is not vulnerable to the pinch of the purse like normal trading nations such as Iran. North Koreans are already so cut off from the global economy and disconnected from international society that deepening isolation does little to change their calculus.

The one promising thing about Kim Jong Un is that he harbors ambitions to improve North Korea’s economy, and his domestic policies have already generated modest growth. But his first priority is regime survival and national security, and for that, he considers the nuclear deterrent is to be essential (a rational proposition, sadly). Eight years of sanctions and pressure — but for one spasm of diplomacy just prior to Kim Jong Il’s death — did little to disabuse Pyongyang of the sense that it needs nuclear weapons, or to prevent North Korea from improving its capabilities and expanding its arsenal.

The Trump administration proclaims that the Obama approach of “strategic patience” has ended. But if it really wants to start a new era, the way to do so is not by distracting the public with reckless threats of war, while waiting in vain for Chinese President Xi Jinping to bring Kim to his knees. Instead, the prudent move would be to open direct talks with Pyongyang that start by negotiating a freeze on the fissile-material production cycle, return of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, and moratorium on testing nuclear devices and long-range ballistic missiles (including satellite launches). In return, the United States should at least entertain Pyongyang’s standing request for suspension of joint military exercises with South Korea. Kim may be willing to accept something less, such as an adjustment in scale. Or he may be open to a different kind of trade — initiating talks to convert the 1953 Armistice Agreement into a proper peace treaty to end the Korean War, for example. The only way to probe these options is to get to the table. With two months of large-scale exercises coming to a close, now is a good time to do so.

A freeze is just the initial move in what needs to be a long-term strategy that changes underlying dynamics and addresses what each side sees as the core of the problem. We cannot really know what Kim wants, and what he might give up to get it, until we initiate dialogue. But since he took power, there have been strong signals that his ambitions go beyond a nuclear deterrent, that his real goal is economic development. Rather than threaten war or deepen sanctions, a more productive path is to nudge Kim down the same road that the major countries in East Asia have all taken: a shift from power to wealth. If Kim wants to be North Korea’s developmental dictator, the United States’ best long-term strategy is to help him do so. We cannot rationally expect him to surrender his nuclear deterrent at the beginning of that process, but it is the only realistic path for getting him to do so eventually.

Now is the time to jump-start a diplomatic initiative that reopens channels, lowers tensions and caps North Korea’s capabilities where they are. Then, working closely with the new government in Seoul and others, the United States should support a long-term strategy that integrates North Korea into regional stability and prosperity. Because the nuclear program is the last budget item that Kim will cut, sanctions only deepen the misery of the North Korean population, and pressure fails to improve human rights abuses on the ground. The best way to alleviate the suffering of the North Korean people is to give them a chance to succeed economically and help open up their country step by step.

By simply inflicting economic pain, threatening military strikes and keeping tensions high, the United States is playing into the worst tendencies of the North Korean system. Kim’s nuclear intentions will harden and North Korea’s capabilities will only grow. It’s time to reverse course.

Climate Change as Genocide: Inaction Equals Annihilation

In Climate change, Cost, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Politics, Public Health on April 23, 2017 at 12:17 am

By Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch

Not since World War II have more human beings been at risk from disease and starvation than at this very moment. On March 10th, Stephen O’Brien, under secretary-general of the United Nations for humanitarian affairs, informed the Security Council that 20 million people in three African countries — Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan — as well as in Yemen were likely to die if not provided with emergency food and medical aid. “We are at a critical point in history,” he declared. “Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the U.N.” Without coordinated international action, he added, “people will simply starve to death [or] suffer and die from disease.”

Major famines have, of course, occurred before, but never in memory on such a scale in four places simultaneously. According to O’Brien, 7.3 million people are at risk in Yemen, 5.1 million in the Lake Chad area of northeastern Nigeria, 5 million in South Sudan, and 2.9 million in Somalia. In each of these countries, some lethal combination of war, persistent drought, and political instability is causing drastic cuts in essential food and water supplies. Of those 20 million people at risk of death, an estimated 1.4 million are young children.

Despite the potential severity of the crisis, U.N. officials remain confident that many of those at risk can be saved if sufficient food and medical assistance is provided in time and the warring parties allow humanitarian aid workers to reach those in the greatest need. “We have strategic, coordinated, and prioritized plans in every country,” O’Brien said. “With sufficient and timely financial support, humanitarians can still help to prevent the worst-case scenario.”

All in all, the cost of such an intervention is not great: an estimated $4.4 billion to implement that U.N. action plan and save most of those 20 million lives.

The international response? Essentially, a giant shrug of indifference.

To have time to deliver sufficient supplies, U.N. officials indicated that the money would need to be in pocket by the end of March. It’s now April and international donors have given only a paltry $423 million — less than a tenth of what’s needed. While, for instance, President Donald Trump sought Congressional approval for a $54 billion increase in U.S. military spending (bringing total defense expenditures in the coming year to $603 billion) and launched $89 million worth of Tomahawk missiles against a single Syrian air base, the U.S. has offered precious little to allay the coming disaster in three countries in which it has taken military actions in recent years. As if to add insult to injury, on February 15th Trump told Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that he was inclined to sell his country 12 Super-Tucano light-strike aircraft, potentially depleting Nigeria of $600 million it desperately needs for famine relief.

Moreover, just as those U.N. officials were pleading fruitlessly for increased humanitarian funding and an end to the fierce and complex set of conflicts in South Sudan and Yemen (so that they could facilitate the safe delivery of emergency food supplies to those countries), the Trump administration was announcing plans to reduce American contributions to the United Nations by 40%. It was also preparing to send additional weaponry to Saudi Arabia, the country most responsible for devastating air strikes on Yemen’s food and water infrastructure. This goes beyond indifference. This is complicity in mass extermination.

Like many people around the world, President Trump was horrified by images of young children suffocating from the nerve gas used by Syrian government forces in an April 4th raid on the rebel-held village of Khan Sheikhoun. “That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me — big impact,” he told reporters. “That was a horrible, horrible thing. And I’ve been watching it and seeing it, and it doesn’t get any worse than that.” In reaction to those images, he ordered a barrage of cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base the following day. But Trump does not seem to have seen — or has ignored — equally heart-rending images of young children dying from the spreading famines in Africa and Yemen. Those children evidently don’t merit White House sympathy.

Who knows why not just Donald Trump but the world is proving so indifferent to the famines of 2017? It could simply be donor fatigue or a media focused on the daily psychodrama that is now Washington, or growing fears about the unprecedented global refugee crisis and, of course, terrorism. It’s a question worth a piece in itself, but I want to explore another one entirely.

Here’s the question I think we all should be asking: Is this what a world battered by climate change will be like — one in which tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of people perish from disease, starvation, and heat prostration while the rest of us, living in less exposed areas, essentially do nothing to prevent their annihilation?

Famine, Drought, and Climate Change

First, though, let’s consider whether the famines of 2017 are even a valid indicator of what a climate-changed planet might look like. After all, severe famines accompanied by widespread starvation have occurred throughout human history. In addition, the brutal armed conflicts now underway in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen are at least in part responsible for the spreading famines. In all four countries, there are forces — Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabaab in Somalia, assorted militias and the government in South Sudan, and Saudi-backed forces in Yemen — interfering with the delivery of aid supplies. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that pervasive water scarcity and prolonged drought (expected consequences of global warming) are contributing significantly to the disastrous conditions in most of them. The likelihood that droughts this severe would be occurring simultaneously in the absence of climate change is vanishingly small.

In fact, scientists generally agree that global warming will ensure diminished rainfall and ever more frequent droughts over much of Africa and the Middle East. This, in turn, will heighten conflicts of every sort and endanger basic survival in a myriad of ways. In their most recent 2014 assessment of global trends, the scientists of the prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that “agriculture in Africa will face significant challenges in adapting to climate changes projected to occur by mid-century, as negative effects of high temperatures become increasingly prominent.” Even in 2014, as that report suggested, climate change was already contributing to water scarcity and persistent drought conditions in large parts of Africa and the Middle East. Scientific studies had, for instance, revealed an “overall expansion of desert and contraction of vegetated areas” on that continent. With arable land in retreat and water supplies falling, crop yields were already in decline in many areas, while malnutrition rates were rising — precisely the conditions witnessed in more extreme forms in the famine-affected areas today.

It’s seldom possible to attribute any specific weather-induced event, including droughts or storms, to global warming with absolute certainty. Such things happen with or without climate change. Nonetheless, scientists are becoming even more confident that severe storms and droughts (especially when occurring in tandem or in several parts of the world at once) are best explained as climate-change related. If, for instance, a type of storm that might normally occur only once every hundred years occurs twice in one decade and four times in the next, you can be reasonably confident that you’re in a new climate era.

It will undoubtedly take more time for scientists to determine to what extent the current famines in Africa and Yemen are mainly climate-change-induced and to what extent they are the product of political and military mayhem and disarray. But doesn’t this already offer us a sense of just what kind of world we are now entering?

History and social science research indicate that, as environmental conditions deteriorate, people will naturally compete over access to vital materials and the opportunists in any society — warlords, militia leaders, demagogues, government officials, and the like — will exploit such clashes for their personal advantage. “The data suggests a definite link between food insecurity and conflict,” points out Ertharin Cousin, head of the U.N.’s World Food Program. “Climate is an added stress factor.” In this sense, the current famines in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen provide us with a perfect template for our future, one in which resource wars and climate mayhem team up as temperatures continue their steady rise.

The Selective Impact of Climate Change

In some popular accounts of the future depredations of climate change, there is a tendency to suggest that its effects will be felt more or less democratically around the globe — that we will all suffer to some degree, if not equally, from the bad things that happen as temperatures rise. And it’s certainly true that everyone on this planet will feel the effects of global warming in some fashion, but don’t for a second imagine that the harshest effects will be distributed anything but deeply inequitably. It won’t even be a complicated equation. As with so much else, those at the bottom rungs of society — the poor, the marginalized, and those in countries already at or near the edge — will suffer so much more (and so much earlier) than those at the top and in the most developed, wealthiest countries.

As a start, the geophysical dynamics of climate change dictate that, when it comes to soaring temperatures and reduced rainfall, the most severe effects are likely to be felt first and worst in the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Latin America — home to hundreds of millions of people who depend on rain-fed agriculture to sustain themselves and their families. Research conducted by scientists in New Zealand, Switzerland, and Great Britain found that the rise in the number of extremely hot days is already more intense in tropical latitudes and disproportionately affects poor farmers.

Living at subsistence levels, such farmers and their communities are especially vulnerable to drought and desertification. In a future in which climate-change disasters are commonplace, they will undoubtedly be forced to choose ever more frequently between the unpalatable alternatives of starvation or flight. In other words, if you thought the global refugee crisis was bad today, just wait a few decades.

Climate change is also intensifying the dangers faced by the poor and marginalized in another way. As interior croplands turn to dust, ever more farmers are migrating to cities, especially coastal ones. If you want a historical analogy, think of the great Dust Bowl migration of the “Okies” from the interior of the U.S. to the California coast in the 1930s. In today’s climate-change era, the only available housing such migrants are likely to find will be in vast and expanding shantytowns (or “informal settlements,” as they’re euphemistically called), often located in floodplains and low-lying coastal areas exposed to storm surges and sea-level rise. As global warming advances, the victims of water scarcity and desertification will be afflicted anew. Those storm surges will destroy the most exposed parts of the coastal mega-cities in which they will be clustered. In other words, for the uprooted and desperate, there will be no escaping climate change. As the latest IPCC report noted, “Poor people living in urban informal settlements, of which there are [already] about one billion worldwide, are particularly vulnerable to weather and climate effects.”

The scientific literature on climate change indicates that the lives of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed will be the first to be turned upside down by the effects of global warming. “The socially and economically disadvantaged and the marginalized are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change and extreme events,” the IPCC indicated in 2014. “Vulnerability is often high among indigenous peoples, women, children, the elderly, and disabled people who experience multiple deprivations that inhibit them from managing daily risks and shocks.” It should go without saying that these are also the people least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming in the first place (something no less true of the countries most of them live in).

Inaction Equals Annihilation

In this context, consider the moral consequences of inaction on climate change. Once it seemed that the process of global warming would occur slowly enough to allow societies to adapt to higher temperatures without excessive disruption, and that the entire human family would somehow make this transition more or less simultaneously. That now looks more and more like a fairy tale. Climate change is occurring far too swiftly for all human societies to adapt to it successfully. Only the richest are likely to succeed in even the most tenuous way. Unless colossal efforts are undertaken now to halt the emission of greenhouse gases, those living in less affluent societies can expect to suffer from extremes of flooding, drought, starvation, disease, and death in potentially staggering numbers.

And you don’t need a Ph.D. in climatology to arrive at this conclusion either. The overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists agree that any increase in average world temperatures that exceeds 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial era — some opt for a rise of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius — will alter the global climate system drastically. In such a situation, a number of societies will simply disintegrate in the fashion of South Sudan today, producing staggering chaos and misery. So far, the world has heated up by at least one of those two degrees, and unless we stop burning fossil fuels in quantity soon, the 1.5 degree level will probably be reached in the not-too-distant future.

Worse yet, on our present trajectory, it seems highly unlikely that the warming process will stop at 2 or even 3 degrees Celsius, meaning that later in this century many of the worst-case climate-change scenarios — the inundation of coastal cities, the desertification of vast interior regions, and the collapse of rain-fed agriculture in many areas — will become everyday reality.

In other words, think of the developments in those three African lands and Yemen as previews of what far larger parts of our world could look like in another quarter-century or so: a world in which hundreds of millions of people are at risk of annihilation from disease or starvation, or are on the march or at sea, crossing borders, heading for the shantytowns of major cities, looking for refugee camps or other places where survival appears even minimally possible. If the world’s response to the current famine catastrophe and the escalating fears of refugees in wealthy countries are any indication, people will die in vast numbers without hope of help.

In other words, failing to halt the advance of climate change — to the extent that halting it, at this point, remains within our power — means complicity with mass human annihilation. We know, or at this point should know, that such scenarios are already on the horizon. We still retain the power, if not to stop them, then to radically ameliorate what they will look like, so our failure to do all we can means that we become complicit in what — not to mince words — is clearly going to be a process of climate genocide. How can those of us in countries responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions escape such a verdict?

And if such a conclusion is indeed inescapable, then each of us must do whatever we can to reduce our individual, community, and institutional contributions to global warming. Even if we are already doing a lot — as many of us are — more is needed. Unfortunately, we Americans are living not only in a time of climate crisis, but in the era of President Trump, which means the federal government and its partners in the fossil fuel industry will be wielding their immense powers to obstruct all imaginable progress on limiting global warming. They will be the true perpetrators of climate genocide. As a result, the rest of us bear a moral responsibility not just to do what we can at the local level to slow the pace of climate change, but also to engage in political struggle to counteract or neutralize the acts of Trump and company. Only dramatic and concerted action on multiple fronts can prevent the human disasters now unfolding in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen from becoming the global norm.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @mklare1.

Risk of ‘catastrophic’ nuclear accident as world relations worsen, UN warns

In Environment, Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on April 21, 2017 at 9:31 pm

By Will Worley, Independent. April 21,  2017

There will be “catastrophic” consequences when “luck runs out” on nuclear deterrence, the United Nations (UN) has warned in a major report which highlights the massive risk of an accidental or deliberate use of the world’s most deadly weapons.

The “poor relations” between nuclear powers has contributed to an atmosphere that “lends itself to the onset of crisis,” said the report by the UN Institute for Disarmament Research.

The rise in cyber warfare and hacking has left the technical vulnerabilities of nuclear weapons systems exposed to risk from states and terrorist groups, it added.

“Nuclear deterrence works—up until the time it will prove not to work,” it said. “The risk is inherent and, when luck runs out, the results will be catastrophic.
“The more arms produced, particularly in countries with unstable societies, the more potential exists for terrorist acquisition and use of nuclear weapons.”

It comes as Donald Trump of the US and Vladmir Putin of Russia have both indicated support for expanding their country’s nuclear weapon arsenals.

Deterrence is at the “greatest risk of breaking down” in North Korea and between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir, it said .
North Korea has continued with its nuclear weapons development programme, despite heavy sanctions being imposed against it by various countries and international bodies.

While the secretive Communist state has conducted several tests with nuclear bombs, in order to launch a nuclear attack on its neighbours, it needs to be able to make a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on to a missile.

There is no consensus on exactly where North Korea is in terms of miniaturising a nuclear device so that it can be delivered via a missile.

President Trump has said he will “deal with” the country and has not ruled out military action against it.

The report also cited a string of recent attacks and threats between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Pakistan raised the stakes in January, when it fired its first submarine-launched nuclear capable cruise missile.

In addition, the report expressed concern over tensions between the West and Russia, which have grown since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. President Putin has maintained Russia would use nuclear weapons if it felt sufficiently threatened.
Denuclearisation would require “visionary leadership”, the report said, but added this was “sadly rare” as many powerful states “increasingly turn inward”.

It added that new technology and spending on nuclear weapons had “enhanced” the risk of a detonation. However, it acknowledged the secrecy surrounding the programmes made it difficult to accurately assess their true scope.

Increased reliance technology has also introduced new problems, the report said. In the past, accidental nuclear detonations have been averted by a human decision. Replacing military officers with computers could therefore rule out a potential safety check on the weapons, and open the possibility of hacking a nuclear weapon.

The report also referenced the January 2017 decision of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science to move the publication’s Doomsday Clock two and a half minutes to midnight over nuclear fears – the most risky it had been since 1953.

The UN maintained risk was inherent to nuclear weapons and the only way to truly eliminate it was to get rid of the bombs.

US strike sends message to Syria: what it didn’t say

In Human rights, Justice, Peace, Politics, War on April 12, 2017 at 8:20 am

Christian Science Monitor, APRIL 7, 2017 BEIRUT AND ISTANBUL

By Nicholas Blanford and Scott Peterson

The US has launched its first punitive military strikes against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria since the civil war there began six years ago, a powerful message that Washington will no longer tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population.

President Trump’s administration indicated that the strikes, which saw 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired at Syria’s Shayrat airbase near Homs, were linked only to the chemical weapons attack Tuesday that killed at least 86 people, including 27 children, in Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib Province.

And while they may have chastened Mr. Assad, analysts say, they do not appear to signal a broader change of US policy on Syria that would pose a longer-term threat to his hold on power.

“This [missile attack] clearly indicates the president is willing to take decisive action when called for,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters late Thursday. “I would not in any way attempt to extrapolate that to a change in our policy or posture relative to our military activities in Syria today. There has been no change in that status.”

Those comments might offer some reassurance to Assad that the air strikes were more a slap on the wrist than the beginning of a knockout blow. And with the war in Syria slowly turning in his favor – and with his two key allies, Russia and Iran, continuing to stand by him – Assad looks likely to stay in power, a reality that Syria’s neighbors and the international community reluctantly have had to accept.

“We should not invest the limited American military attack with any strategic connotations so far,” says Fawaz Gerges, a Middle East expert at the London School of Economics (LSE). “It’s an attack divorced from any strategic political vision. It remains to be seen whether the Trump administration has any concrete ideas to find a political solution. I’m very skeptical.”

Mr. Gerges warns, however, that military action on its own, absent a strategy, is inherently hard to contain, and could lead to an unintended deepening of US military involvement if Russia and Iran redouble their support for Assad even as Syrian rebels try to use the US strikes as leverage.

“This administration is enamored with hard power,” says Gerges, author of the book, “ISIS: A History.” But “without soft power – without diplomacy, and a political strategy – military actions might be counter-productive.”

Julien Barnes-Dacey, a Middle East analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, warns that the strikes’ ability to trigger an escalation derives from the region’s very different perceptions of US military power, including fears in Syria and Iran that the ultimate objective could become regime change.

“Obviously, Trump has framed this through a narrow proliferation lens, and the attacks were very limited. But I don’t think anyone else on the ground or internationally is going to see them through that same narrow lens,” says Mr. Barnes-Dacey, speaking from Brussels.

“For [Syria’s] opposition and its backers, there’s long been a sense that once you get US skin in the game, an escalatory cycle will quickly take over.”

Cost of Assad’s rule

Whether or not the retaliatory strikes have any impact on Assad’s hold on power, his survival after six years of war has come at an increasing cost. Assad took office in 2000 on the death of his father, Hafez, and hopes were initially invested in him as a reformer who would modernize the ossified police state he inherited.

Seventeen years later, Assad has achieved an international pariah status unseen since the days of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. His country has been devastated, the economy ruined, an estimated more than 400,000 people are dead, and the conflict has created the largest refugee crisis Europe has witnessed since World War II.

His regime controls only about 35 percent of Syria, with the rest carved up between various Arab and Kurdish militias and the extremist Islamic State group (ISIS). He stands accused of employing chemical nerve agents against his own population and executing tens of thousands of people in regime prisons. Even if the war subsides and thoughts turn to rebuilding, it is difficult to see which countries or what global institutions would be willing to bankroll a multi-billion dollar reconstruction process with Assad still enthroned in the presidential palace.

“Maybe Bashar will stay for some time now, but eventually, sooner or later [he will go], nothing stays the same in this region,” Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said recently, speaking to a group of foreign reporters. Mr. Hariri’s father, Rafik, was assassinated in 2005, with Assad’s Syria widely believed to have been involved.

“It would be foolish to think that this regime is still in control in Syria,” Hariri adds. “The people who are in control in Syria are the Russians and the Iranians.”

Russia holds its fire

Moscow, meanwhile, has reacted angrily to the air strikes, calling them an “aggression against a sovereign nation” and announcing an end to the de-confliction mechanism set up between Washington and Moscow to prevent accidental clashes between US and Russian aircraft over Syria, where both nations fly ostensibly on “anti-terror” missions against ISIS.

The Pentagon alerted Russia before it launched the cruise missile attack, as well as NATO allies Turkey and Britain, and the Russian forces do not appear to have activated their S-300 and S-400 air defense systems, which could have intercepted some of the cruise missiles.

“There was an effort to minimize risk to third party nationals at the airport – I think you can read Russians from that. We took great pains to try to avoid that,” Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, told reporters.

The Pentagon’s target, meanwhile, an operational air base, is seen as having a negligible impact on Assad’s ability to continue waging war. Initial accounts of the attack suggest that aircraft and hangars were destroyed and the runway rendered inoperable.

Assad’s real military weakness, however, is not a lack of aircraft but insufficient ground forces to battle rebel groups, which is why his regime has had to rely on allies such as Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Shiite paramilitary forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia’s contribution to the Assad war effort has been mainly air support, and Moscow could deploy more aircraft to Syria if needed to plug any shortfall caused by US bombing.

On Thursday, Assad was quoted as repeating his determination to claw back the entire country, telling a Croatian newspaper that there was no “option except victory.”

“If we do not win this war, it means that Syria will be deleted from the map,” he told Vecernji List newspaper. “We have no choice in facing this war, and that’s why we are confident, we are persistent, and we are determined.”

Why chemical weapons?

Assad’s critical manpower shortage may be a reason the regime allegedly opted for chemical weapons in Idlib, analysts say.

“Assad doesn’t have anywhere close to the men to retake his territory, that’s why he’s using chemical weapons,” says Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “This [US strike] is a clear message he will not be able to gas his way over the two-thirds of Syrian territory outside his control.”

Some analysts suspect that despite the posturing from the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin believed Assad deserved some kind of punishment for the gratuitous use of chemical weapons against civilians – as well as his lack of cooperation in a Russian-led effort to negotiate a peace deal between the regime and the opposition.

“I suspect that the Russians are furious with their ne’er-do-well client,” says Frederic Hof, director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and a former State Department point man on Syria under President Barack Obama. “Why in the world would you use chemicals when everything is going your way?”
It remains to be seen whether the missile strike against the air base is a one-off response to the use of nerve agents or whether the Trump administration will repeat such operations anytime Syrian government forces inflict mass civilian casualties, whether with chemical weapons or conventional means.

Military action “would not likely reverse the tide of the conflict against Assad,” says Mr. Hof. “But it could be significant enough to teach Assad that mass civilian casualty events will no longer be cost-free. This would be important, because as long as civilians are on the bullseye, there can be no meaningful or productive peace negotiations.”

Democratic Socialists of America Condemns the U.S. Bombing of Syria

In Human rights, Justice, Peace, Politics, Race, War on April 9, 2017 at 9:49 pm

Posted by Dsa 🌹 on 04.08.17
A Statement of the National Political Committee of Democratic
Socialists of America

April 8, 2017

Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has consistently opposed U.S.
military intervention in the civil war in Syria and condemns the
Tomahawk cruise missile attack by the Trump administration. DSA has
also supported from spring 2011 onwards the massive and democratic
Syrian uprising against the brutal Assad regime, a regime that has
shown no hesitation to use massive force, including chemical weapons,
to suppress its people.

The Trump administration has committed an act of war that both
violates domestic law (having not been authorized by Congress) and
international law (having not been authorized by the United Nations).
Foreign power intervention, however, whether by Russia, the United
States, Iran or the Gulf States, has only served to militarize the
conflict and severely weaken the democratic forces within Syria. As
illustrated by the futile U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, United
States imperialist and unilateral military power cannot liberate the
Syrian people. U.S. air power cannot surgically take out those
individuals who develop and deploy chemical weapons; what it has done
and will do is kill scores of innocent civilians.

Therefore, we urge our members and friends to protest the Trump
administration’s military action and to lobby Congress to halt any
further U.S. military intervention. We urge our members and friends to
protest all bombings of Syrians and the war waged by the Assad regime
through foreign forces against the people of Syria. The U.S. coalition
and Russia have been actively bombing Syria for years, as documented
by https://t.co/tBPcySVVn4, in effect both siding with the regime,
allegedly to fight ISIS (while the context of massive pro-regime
violence is the fertile soil on which ISIS has grown). The Trump
Tomahawk cruise missile strike continues a long-standing U.S. policy
of bombing Syria, which is why Secretary of State Tillerson can state
that these attacks are in accord with ongoing U.S. policy.

In opposing all foreign military intervention in Syria we act to end
the mass slaughter of civilians and to honor the memory of those
civilians who fought for freedom, a fight that might have been won if
not for the militarization of the conflict by the Assad regime and by
U.S. and other foreign powers. As abhorrent as the use of chemical
weapons may be, DSA opposes all forms of mass violence against
civilians, including the U.S. bombing of mosques.

The United States should join the international community in
condemning the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons and press for a
return of United Nations inspectors to monitor the regime’s chemical
weapons capacity. The United States must also immediately reverse its
policy opposing the intake of Syrian refugees and grant refugee status
to at least one hundred thousand Syrian asylum seekers (of all faiths)
and challenge the European Union nations to take in proportionate
numbers. It is the ultimate hypocrisy to bomb a country while refusing
to give shelter to refugees from a carnage to which many foreign
powers, including the United States, have contributed.

Furthermore, the United States should join the international community
in providing massive humanitarian aid to the millions of Syrian
refugees in Jordan, Turkey and elsewhere. The United States and all
other countries should engage in the necessary diplomacy to press
Russia, Iran and Hezbollah to cease their military aid to the Assad
dictatorship, as well as end United States and Gulf State funding of
internal Syrian combatants. The Syrian people alone can liberate
themselves; the task cannot be accomplished by external powers.