Refugees

Show Details for the week of July 10th, 2017

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On The Monitor this week:

  • Mike Dieterich on Climate Change and the looming Southeast Asia refugee crisis
  • Ira Helfand on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

More about this week’s guests:

1f51030Mike Dieterich is a LEED Accredited Professional, environmental scientist, award winning producer, and bestselling author. He has worked in the sustainability industry with local-small businesses to state agencies, federal groups, international companies and nonprofit organizations. He is the author of Renew & Sustain: A cutting edge approach to being socially responsible, environmentally conscious, and incredibly profitable for businesses, schools, and government. He recently published The Future Muslim Climate Refugee where he writes: “in 20–30 years we are going to have 50 to 200 Million people moving out of Southeast Asia alone. A lack of food caused by warming oceans, acidification, and over fishing.

ira-helfand-pictureIra Helfand is past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility and is currently co-president of that group’s global federation, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. He is a frequent speaker on Climate Change, nuclear power, nuclear waste, radiation exposure, Iran nuclear crisis, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, nuclear war, terrorism and preparedness, nuclear Famine

Quote: “Two things were most notable in the overwhelming vote for this treaty. One was the urgency felt by the representatives of 122 countries who voted for it. The other was the rather crude and revealing statement put out by the ‘P3’ — the U.S., Britain and France. When this process began several years ago, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council [P5] — U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China — put out a statement against the treaty, arguing that it wasn’t the most useful approach and distracted from their alleged efforts to get rid of their nuclear weapons. The P3 statement on Friday made clear the real basis of their opposition to the treaty: ‘We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.’ It is not the timing or the specifics of the treaty that they object to. They intend to maintain their policy of mutually assured destruction forever, even though they are legally required to negotiate the elimination of their nuclear arsenals under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The apparent instability of the U.S. president highlights the danger of maintaining arsenals of nuclear weapons that constitute an existential threat to human survival and underlines the need for this treaty as the next step to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons as quickly as possible.”

Show Details for the week of September 5th, 2016

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On The Monitor this week:

  • Are we allergic to food or what’s been done to it? An interview with Robyn O’Brien
  • Turkey’s invasion of Syria. An interview with Michael Beer

More about this week’s guests:

robynspeaking-300x165Robyn O’Brien is a former financial and food industry analyst. She has been called “food’s Erin Brockovich” by Bloomberg and the New York Times. She is the author of The Unhealthy Truth published in May 2009 by Random House, which reveals the alarming relationship between the manipulation of our food and both the increase in dangerous allergies in our children as well as the increase in cancers in our families—and offers a road map to healthy living.

From a conservative Texas family, Robyn earned an MBA on a full scholarship, graduating as the top woman in her class before going to work as a financial analyst that covered the food industry. For ten years, she has led a food awakening among consumers, corporations and political leaders. Armed with data and analytics, food companies now responding to Robyn’s work include Bloomberg, Compass Food Group, Kraft, Coca Cola, Burger King, Chipotle, Nestle, Target and others. She sheds light on how the changing landscape of food and health are impacting the food industry and our economy. You can follow her on Twitter here: @foodawakenings

Michael BeerMichael Beer has been the Executive Director of Nonviolence International since 1998. Michael is a global activist for human rights, minority rights and against war and casino capitalism.  He has trained activists in many countries, including Burma, Kosovo, Tibet, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, India, USA and Zimbabwe.  He is a frequent public speaker on nonviolence and has been broadcast on CSPAN, CNN,  and other major media. Michael is the co-parent of two children along with his life partner, Latanja.s the director of Nonviolence International.

Quote: “Turkey has invaded Syria without the support of the Assad government nor the United Nations nor the Arab League. This is another damaging blow to international laws meant to prevent war. Given hundreds of years of Turkish/Ottoman dominion over Arabs, this Turkish invasion is unlikely to gain much support in Syria or the Arab world. The timing is remarkable just as the vice president of the U.S. arrived in Turkey. The U.S. cooperated, in part, because the U.S. already has troops in Syria in violation of international law and the U.S. constitution and has no credible platform to protest. International protest has been slow to emerge: No attempt to bring this to the UN; the media refusing to label this an invasion/violation of international law. European governments support it, and the Iranians refuse to release a public statement. We are seeing more and more countries follow the U.S. and Russia’s example of using military force outside of international law. This is a dangerous direction for the future security of planet earth.”

“Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” Abandoned for Forced Asylum – “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” Abandoned for Forced Asylum – by Maya Evans, writing from Calais

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“Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” Abandoned for Forced Asylum
by Maya Evans, a coordinator for Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK, writing from Calais
@MayaAnneEvans

This month, French authorities (supported and funded by the UK government to the current balance of £62 million) [1] have been demolishing the ‘Jungle,’ a toxic wasteland on the edge of Calais. Formerly a landfill site, 4 km² it is now populated by approximately 5,000 refugees who have been pushed there over the past year. A remarkable community of 15 nationalities adhering to various faiths comprises the Jungle. Residents have formed a network of shops and restaurants which, along with hamams and barber shops contribute to a micro-economy within the encampment.  Community infrastructure now includes schools, mosques, churches and clinics.

Afghans, numbering approximately 1,000, constitute the largest national group. Among this group are people from each of the main ethnicities in Afghanistan:  Pashtoons, Hazaras, Uzbeks and Tajiks. The Jungle is an impressive example of how people from different nationalities and ethnicities can live together in relative harmony, despite oppressive hardship and infringement of universal rights and civil liberties. Arguments and scuffles sometimes break out, but they’re normally catalysed by French authorities or traffickers.

Earlier this month Teresa May won a significant battle to restart flights deporting Afghans back to Kabul, on the grounds that it is now safe to return to the capital city. [2]

Just 3 months ago I sat in the Kabul office of ‘Stop Deportation to Afghanistan.’ [3] Sunlight poured through the window like golden syrup on a top floor apartment, the city of Kabul shrouded in dust splayed out like a postcard. The organisation is a support group run by Abdul Ghafoor, a Pakistan-born Afghan who spent 5 years in Norway, only to be deported to Afghanistan, a country he had previously never visited. Ghafoor told me about a meeting he had recently attended with Afghan government ministers and NGOs – he laughed as he described how the non-Afghan NGO workers arrived at the armed compound wearing bullet proof vests and helmets, and yet Kabul has been deemed a safe space for returning refugees.  The hypocrisy and double standards would be a joke if the upshot was not so unfair. On one hand you have foreign embassy staff being airlifted (for security reasons) [4] by helicopter within the city of Kabul, and on the other you have various European governments saying it’s safe for thousands of refugees to return to Kabul.

In 2015, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented 11,002 civilian casualties (3,545 deaths and, 7,457 injured) exceeding the previous record in 2014 [5].

Having visited Kabul 8 times in the last 5 years, I’ve been acutely aware that security within the city has drastically declined. As a foreigner I no longer take walks longer than 5 minutes, day trips to the beautiful Panjshir Valley or the Qarga lake are now considered too risky. Word on the Kabul streets is that the Taliban are strong enough to take the city but can’t be bothered with the hassle of running it; meanwhile independent ISIS cells have established a foothold [6]. I regularly hear that Afghan life today is less secure than it was under the Taliban, 14 years of US/NATO-backed war has been a disaster.

Back in the Jungle, north France, 21 miles from the British isles, around 1,000 Afghans dream of a safe life in Britain. Some have previously lived in Britain, others have family in the UK, many have worked with the British military or NGOs. Emotions are manipulated by traffickers who describe the streets of Britain as paved with gold.  Many refugees are discouraged by the treatment they’ve received in France where they’ve been subjected to police brutality and attacks by far-right thugs. For various reasons they feel the best chance of a peaceful life is in Britain. Deliberate exclusion from the UK just makes the prospect even more desirable. Certainly the fact that Britain has agreed to take only 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next 5 years [7], and overall the UK is taking 60 refugees per 1,000 of the local population who claimed asylum in 2015, compared to Germany which is taking 587 [8], has played into the dream that Britain is the land of exclusive opportunity.

I spoke with Afghan community leader Sohail, who said: “I love my country, I want to go back and live there, but it’s just not safe and we have no opportunity to live. Look at all the businesses in the Jungle, we have talents, we just need the opportunity to use them”. This conversation happened in the Kabul Café, one of the social hotspots in the Jungle, just one day before the area was set ablaze, the whole south high street of shops and restaurants razed to the ground.  After the fire, I spoke with the same Afghan community leader. We stood amid the demolished ruins where we had drunk tea in the Kabul café.   He feels deeply saddened by the destruction. “Why did the authorities put us here, let us build a life and then destroy it?”

Two weeks ago the south part of the Jungle was demolished: hundreds of shelters were burnt or bulldozed leaving some 3,500 refugees with nowhere to go [9]. The French authorise now want to move onto the north part of the camp with the aim of rehousing most refugees within white fishing crate containers, many of which are already set up in the Jungle, and currently accommodate 1,900 refugees. Each container houses 12 people, there’s little privacy, and sleeping times are determined by your ‘crate mates’ and their mobile phone habits.  More alarmingly, a refugee is required to register with French authorities. This includes having your finger prints digitally recorded; in effect, it’s the first step into forced French asylum.

The British government has consistently used the Dublin Regulations [10] as legal grounds for not taking its equal quota of refugees. These regulations prescribe that refugees should seek asylum in the first safe country they land in. However, that regulation is now simply impractical.  If it was properly enforced, Turkey, Italy and Greece would be left to accommodate the millions of refugees.

Many refugees are requesting for a UK asylum centre within the Jungle, giving them the ability to start the process for asylum in Britain. The reality of the situation is that refugee camps like the Jungle are not stopping people from actually entering the UK. In fact these blights on human rights are reinforcing illegal and harmful industries such as trafficking, prostitution and drug smuggling. European refugee camps are playing into the hands of human traffickers; one Afghan told me that , the current going rate to be smuggled into the UK is now around €10,000 [11], the price having doubled over the last few months. Setting up a UK asylum centre would also remove the violence which often occurs between truck drivers and refugees, as well as tragic and fatal accidents which come about during transit into the UK. It’s perfectly possible to have the same number of refugees entering the UK via legal means as there are by the ones which exist today.

Refugees look on

The south part of the camp now stands desolate, burnt to the ground other than for a few social amenities. An icy wind whips across the expanse of littered wasteland. Debris flaps in the breeze, a sad combination of rubbish and charred personal belongings. French riot police used tear gas, water canons and rubber bullets to aid the demolition. Currently there’s a stalemate situation wherein some NGOs and volunteers are reluctant to rebuild homes and constructions which might quickly be demolished by French authorities.

FiresMoving houseRiot police

The Jungle represents incredible human ingenuity and entrepreneurial energy exhibited by refugees and the volunteers who have poured their lives into making a community to be proud of; simultaneously it’s a shocking and shameful reflection of the decline in European human rights and infrastructure, where people who flee for their lives are forced to inhabit communal crate containers, a form of indefinite detention. Unofficial comments made by a representative of the French authorities indicates a possible future policy whereby refugees who choose to remain outside of the system, opting either to be homeless or not to register, could potentially face imprisonment for up to 2 years.

France and Britain are currently shaping their immigration policy. It is especially disastrous for France, with a constitution founded on “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite”, to base that policy on demolishing temporary homes, excluding and incarcerating refugees, and forcing refugees into unwanted asylum. By giving people the right to choose their country of asylum, assisting with basic needs such as accommodation and food, responding with humanity rather than suppression, the State will be enabling the best possible practical solution, as well as complying with international human rights, laws set down to protect the safety and rights of everyone in the world today.

—–References—-

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/david-cameron-uk-give-france-20-million-to-stop-calais-migrants-refugees-reaching-england-a6908991.html

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/refugee-crisis-afghanistan-ruled-safe-enough-to-deport-asylum-seekers-from-uk-a6910246.html

[3] https://kabulblogs.wordpress.com/

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/world/asia/life-pulls-back-in-afghan-capital-as-danger-rises-and-troops-recede.html?_r=1

[5] https://unama.unmissions.org/civilian-casualties-hit-new-high-2015

[6] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/07/taliban-young-recruits-isis-afghanistan-jihadis-islamic-state

[7] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/07/uk-will-accept-up-to-20000-syrian-refugees-david-cameron-confirms

[8] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34131911

[9] http://www.vox.com/2016/3/8/11180232/jungle-calais-refugee-camp

[10] http://www.ecre.org/topics/areas-of-work/protection-in-europe/10-dublin-regulation.html

[11] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-times/peoplesmuggler-gangs-exploit-new-route-to-britain-from-dunkirk/news-story1ff6e01f22b02044b67028bc01e3e5c0

Show Details for the week of March 14th, 2016

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On The Monitor this week

  • Assessing the gap between rhetoric and policy – just how “extreme” is Trump’s discourse? We discuss the topic with Arun Kundani
  • A journey from Zionism to peace activism with Miko Peled

More about this week’s guests:

5wmyicxArun Kundnani is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror (2015) and The End of Tolerance: Racism in 21st Century Britain (2007)He is a lecturer at New York University. His writings are available online at kundnani.org — including his articles “The Guantánamo in New York you’re not allowed to know about,” and “The belief system of the Islamophobes.” You can see him here on CNN in discussion with Trump supporters.
He recently wrote the draft paper: “Islamophobia: Lay Ideology of U.S.-Led Empire,” in which he analyzes Islamophobia as an ideology that “offers an everyday ‘common sense’ explanatory framework for making sense” of crisis such as terrorists attacks. He argues that it does so “in ways that disavow those events’ political meanings (rooted in empire, racism, and resistance) and instead explain them as products” of a “Muslimness.”
Arun states that this Islamophobia within U.S. and Western culture in effect pretends that there is a fixed “other” that must be opposed. He argues: “This maneuver is also an act of projection in the psychoanalytic sense: the racist and imperialist violence upon which U.S.-led capitalism depends cannot be acknowledged in liberal society so it is transferred onto the personality of the Muslim and seen as emanating from ‘outside’ the social order. Imperial violence is then only ever a proportionate response to the inherently aggressive and threatening nature of the fanatical Muslim enemy. In these ways, a Western self-image of innocence and beneficence can be maintained by screening out resistance to the U.S.-led system of global capitalism.”
 ———————————
220px-miko_peledMiko Peled was born in Jerusalem in 1961 into a well known Zionist family. His grandfather, Dr.  Avraham Katsnelson was a Zionist leader and signer on the Israeli Declaration of Independence. His father, Matti Peled was a young officer in the war of 1948 and a general in the war of 1967 when Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and the Sinai.Miko is the author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. His book has been newly revised and the new edition is expected to be out on April 19, 2016. You can read more about Miko online at mikopeled.com
About the book:
In 1997, tragedy struck when his beloved niece Smadar was killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. That killing propelled Peled onto a journey of discovery. It pushed him to re-examine many of the beliefs he had grown up with, as the son and grandson of leading figures in Israel’s political-military elite. This powerful memoir details Miko Peled’s transformation into a courageous and visionary activist in the struggle for equal rights and a hopeful, lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians and a new epilogue describes his extraordinary travels that have opened new paths of solidarity in the last few years.In her foreword, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Alice Walker writes, “There are few books on the Israel/Palestine issue that seem as hopeful to me as this one.”

A Swollen River of Refugees by David Smith-Ferri

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February 17, 2016

Last month, as US border patrol agents began rounding up Central American women and children denied asylum, a small group of international peace activists from Voices for Creative Nonviolence boarded a plane for Helsinki, Finland, to visit two longtime Iraqi friends who fled Baghdad last summer and somehow completed a perilous seven-week journey over land and sea to reach this northern seaport. Negotiating our way from the airport in Helsinki to Laajasalo, a small island and suburb where we were to stay with a Finnish journalist, we crossed a frozen and snow-covered Baltic Sea, as white flakes swirled in the streetlights and the temperature dropped to minus 25 degrees Celsius, a long, long way from Baghdad.

Our friends Mohammad and his teenage son, Omar, come from a small farming village where they grow okra. Last autumn, like hundreds of thousands of others, they were part of the swollen river of refugees whose headwaters sprang from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, where endless war has devastated society and local violence has left so many people at grave risk. The journey to Europe is not merely a long, exhausting trip. It is treacherous from the start.

To begin with, while leaving their country of origin, people risk their lives traveling through contested parts of their country or over roads controlled by militias or warlords known to capture and kill people of their ethnicity or religious sect. Risks, we can be sure, they wouldn’t undertake except out of desperation. All of this merely to enter Turkey. In Istanbul, where refugees must try to find a trustworthy smuggler, make a deal with one of his agents, and pay a hefty fee – held in a sort of escrow until a specific, agreed-upon part of the trip is completed – Turkish police patrol the streets and coffee houses looking for migrants. Iraqis are particularly at risk. If captured in Turkey and identified, they are imprisoned and eventually turned over to Iraqi authorities. And in the charged, sectarian atmosphere in Iraq, refugees shudder to think what might follow.

From Turkey, Mohammad and his son planned to travel by bus to a port town – “Well, it’s not really a town, just a place at the beach” – and launch a rubber dinghy onto the Aegean Sea at night. Their hope was to reach Farmakonisi, a tiny, largely uninhabited Greek island five and three quarter miles from the Turkish coast.

Leaving Istanbul is itself like crossing open seas. It involved a nine-hour bus trip. The first trick is getting on the bus without being captured by police, and then again eluding police while traveling out of the city. No small feat. This isn’t a tourist bus or a standard bus route where you gather with other passengers trying to blend in at a regular, authorized location. It’s an empty mini-bus into which twenty refugees cram themselves and their luggage all at once. Not an easy thing to hide. “The bus, ”Mohammad told us, “will wait 2 minutes. No more.” Of course, people are anxious and on edge. He described three failed attempts to successfully leave Istanbul. In one attempt, the smuggler’s agent assigned a meeting place, then changed it four times over the next couple of hours, until the group, which included women and young children, crouched in the dark on the edge of a wood, looking down a dirt path to a street corner where, at a specified time, the bus was supposed to appear.

According to the smuggler’s agent’s directions, a phone call would alert the refugees that the bus was approaching the appointed pickup spot. In the meantime, they should organize themselves into four sub-groups of twenty people, the first sub-group dashing out when the first bus appears. By this point, however, and despite the best efforts of Mohammad and other group leaders, such discipline was beyond them. Sleep-deprived, frightened, and hungry, too many people ran out, and the mini-bus fled without boarding anyone, forcing the smuggler’s agent to reschedule the attempt for another day and leaving the refugees with nothing to show for their effort but an unfulfilled promise.

On another attempt, the refugees successfully boarded only to be spotted by police as they left the city. Two of the four buses were apprehended. In the third bus, Mohammad and Omar watched as their driver swerved recklessly around the police and drove breakneck down the road. “He has to do this,” Mohammad explained. “For him it is life or death because it is a twenty-year prison sentence if you are caught.” In the end, this attempt also failed, when the group was rounded up by police after being delivered to the beach. Mohammad describes what happened:

After a long wait, some tourists came down the side of the hill and saw

women and children lying in the woods, and we were afraid they will tell

the police. We could see police boats on the water, and hear their sirens.

Eventually a Turkish man came and questioned us, we told him the truth, he

said ‘ok, don’t worry,’ and he brought water and some biscuits. Another

Turkish man came and said everyone should gather in one place. This

was suspicious. Then suddenly the police opened fire, we hear the sound

of bullets. Some young people run toward sea and start swimming, some

run away into the woods. The police say they will keep us until everyone is

here. The young people are captured, and we are taken back to Istanbul

and held in jail for questioning. They hold us for six days, but they accept

that the Iraqis in our group are Syrians and they let us go.

After this, Mohammad and his son spent two weeks in Istanbul, resting, thinking, planning, gathering their strength for another attempt. “Almost everyday in the coffee shops, we hear stories about people drowning [trying to cross the Aegean Sea], but we try to ignore this because we don’t want our motivation to weaken. This is why I waited two weeks to make the crossing, some people only wait a couple of days, but I am very careful, questioning the smuggler, asking his agent questions. Where is your crossing? Where do you land?…I saw that there were more women and children than men refugees, and this made me strong. They inspired me. If they can face death, I can too.”

Finally, on the fourth attempt, they succeeded. (“This time, we left during the day, and the police were right there. So we believe bribes were paid”). A nighttime sea crossing was set, and Mohammad, a mechanical engineer by training, agreed to pilot. The trip was harrowing, with the boat overloaded and passengers frantic, Turkish police on the waters, and navigation a literal shot in the dark. “I never drove a boat before…My son and I can’t swim. I believed we would die, but I thought, if I am going to face death, then I will face it carefully…Thank God we made it.”

On Thursday, January 21, at least forty-three refugees, including seventeen children, died when their boats capsized while trying to cross the Aegean Sea. One of the boats was headed to Farmakonisi.

It is two hundred twenty-five miles in a straight line across the sea from Farmakonisi to Athens. Before reaching the Greek capital, Mohammad and Omar had to travel to other small Greek Aegean islands, waiting on one for almost a week, with little food. “Everyday more refugees landed…the good thing is that I was able to beg some food for Omar, a bit of bread, a few dates…he was losing strength.”

Travel time by air from Athens to Helsinki is about six and a quarter hours, including a Munich layover. If you count the layover in Munich, the trip increases to six and a quarter hours. For Mohammad and Omar and those they met traveling overland, it took weeks, with the borders opening and closing like jaws before and behind them.

As a young man in Iraq, Mohammad had few chances to use his professional training. Following on the heels of a costly eight-year war with Iran (a conflict in which the US participated in a number of ways, including providing weapons to both sides), Iraq’s economy collapsed under the weight of international economic sanctions. In 1993, Mohammad began working for a French NGO working to provide medical relief to Baghdad’s malnourished children, a job that brought him a good deal of unwanted attention from Iraq’s intelligence services. It was work as a journalist for foreign media that brought the death threats that forced Mohammad and his family to flee their Baghdad home and go into hiding. Continued threats, the murder of his brother by a Shia militia, and the kidnapping and murder of his father forced him and Omar to flee their country. Omar’s mother and his six younger siblings remain in Iraq, waiting for the chance to reunite with Mohammad and Omar in Finland.

Visiting Waleed and Aose (5) (1)On an evening toward the end of our visit, Mohammad and I walked from the bus stop to our apartment. Snow danced lazily in the air. Without preamble, speaking thoughts that carried him from Baghdad to Finland, Mohammad said,

“I came here because of my children. If I stay in Iraq, they will kill me. And what will happen to them in such a society?”

In the silence that followed, his words rose into the air and joined the dance.

 

Photo credit:   Hakim, Afghan Peace Volunteers

Photo caption:  the author, Mohammad and Omar at a Finnish camp for asylum seekers, January 2016

David Smith-Ferri is a member of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org) and the author, most recently, of  Where Days Are Stones, Afghanistan and Gaza Poems, 2012-2013. He recently returned from a VCNV delegation to Helsinki, where he visited with Iraqi friends who fled their country and are seeking asylum in Finland. He can be reached at dsmithferri@gmail.com

Show Details for the week of December 14th, 2015

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On The Monitor this week:

  • Tim Shorrock on the South Korean Government Crackdown on Citizen Protests against Labor Repression, Destructive Rice Imports and Rewriting of History Books
  • 9/11 Whistleblower Coleen Rowley on Visas and Mideast War Root Causes

More about this week’s guests:

tim_shorrockTim Shorrock is Washington-based investigative journalist and author of SPIES FOR HIRE: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence. He is also a contributor to The Nation and longtime writer about Korean affairs and US-Korean political, military and economic ties. You can read his recent article “Raising a ruckus with the South Korean government” at the Nation website and his website.

Background:  South Korean President Park Geun-hye, the daughter of the country’s longtime dictator, has launched a massive crackdown on labor, farmer and citizens groups opposed to her government’s policies on unions, rice imports and education. President Park, one of President Obama’s closest allies in Asia, has also come under fire for recent comments she made likening protesters to the Islamic State (IS).  “Rallies where protesters wear face masks should be banned. Isn’t that how IS does it?  Hiding their faces…,” Park reportedly said at a recent Cabinet meeting to discuss new counterterrorism bills. The South Korean experience is far from unique.  With the deepening of corporate-led globalization processes, governments everywhere seek to weaken labor movements and worker protections and restrict options for public education and democratic debate.  As a consequence, the KCTU’s efforts to anchor a broad coalition of social forces around an alternative social vision deserves international attention and support.

coleen_rowleyColeen Rowley is a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures — was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002.

Quote: “Only a few crickets chirped after our 2014 Huffpost warning of gaps in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Our second post, however, came out at the same time the President and Congress had suddenly clicked into gear to tighten the program, obviously in reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.”
Rowley criticized the lack of politicians “lamenting his or her terrible mistakes in having okayed the various post 9-11 wars and bombing campaigns to re-make the Mideast — what some warned would be like ‘hitting a hornets’ nest’ and which have only succeeded in vastly increasing the number of terrorist incidents throughout the world, as well as more people everywhere who simply hate the U.S. …
“In its mad rush to push something out to look as if they were quickly remedying the problems, the House skipped normal debate that comes from holding committee meetings, passing its bizarre ‘Trump-lite’ blanket discriminatory provisions in H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015 [passed on Tuesday 407-19], that would bar citizens of participating countries with Syrian, Iraqi, Sudanese or Iranian ancestry from participating in the waiver program even if they have never set foot in any of these countries.
“A backlash naturally erupted from civil liberties and minority rights groups. For instance, according to the ACLU’s reading of the bill, a person who was born and raised in France but whose father is a Syrian citizen would be forced to get a visa before visiting the United States, even if that person has a French passport and has never been to Syria.
“In a press release Tuesday, NIAC [National Iranian American Council] Action, a group that lobbies on behalf of Iranian Americans, lashed out at the bill. …
“Even worse, in their hurry, is the congresspersons’ choice of the four specific countries to designate for ‘blanket’ exclusion: Iraq (which was supposed to be a democratic paradise by now), Syria, Sudan and (most bizarrely) Iran, whose nationals have not ever launched a terrorist attack inside the U.S. Yet, countries like SAUDI ARABIA (well known as the main country of origin for Al Qaeda, ISIS and other Wahhabi extremism), Pakistan, Yemen, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Nigeria, Chechnya and other nations and regions from where terrorist perpetrators have come from are not designated as ineligible for the program. This truly makes zero sense, making us wonder if congresspersons have any clue as to the nature of the threat from ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorism.”

Background: Rowley wrote to the FBI Director again in February 2003 with some hard questions about the reliability of the evidence being adduced to “justify” the impending invasion of Iraq. See “Coleen Rowley: Ten years after Iraq.”

Show Details for the week of November 16th, 2015

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On The Monitor this week we take an extended look at the background of the terror attacks in Paris. What are the historical connections are future implications? Our first interview is withJ. Michael Springman and our second is with Christian Parenti.

More about this week’s guests:

J. Michael Springmann was a career official with both the Commerce and State departments. He was economic/commercial officer in Stuttgart (1977–1980), a commercial attaché in New Delhi (1980–1982), a visa officer in Jeddah (1987–1989), a political/economic officer in Stuttgart (1989–1991), and, finally, an economic analyst at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (1991). He recently published the book Visas for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked The World.

Quote: “During the 1980s, the CIA recruited and trained Muslim operatives to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, the CIA would move those operatives from Afghanistan to the Balkans, and then to Iraq, Libya, and Syria, traveling on illegal US visas. These US-backed and trained fighters would morph into an organization that is synonymous with jihadist terrorism: al-Qaeda.”

From the book description:

“Thousands of American soldiers and civil servants have lost their lives in the War on Terror. Innocent citizens of many nations, including Americans killed on 9/11, have also paid the ultimate price. While the US government claims to stand against terror, this same government refuses to acknowledge its role in creating what has become a deadly international quagmire. Visas for al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked the World sets the record straight by laying the blame on high-ranking US government officials.

During the 1980s, the CIA recruited and trained Muslim operatives to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, the CIA would move those operatives from Afghanistan to the Balkans, and then to Iraq, Libya, and Syria, traveling on illegal US visas. These US-backed and trained fighters would morph into an organization that is synonymous with jihadist terrorism: al-Qaeda.

christianparenti_small2 Christian Parenti is author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. He is a professor in the Global Liberal Studies Program at New York University

Quote: “The growing crisis of war and state breakdown in the Middle East is partially driven by climate change. We have to deal with climate change — that is, drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions — or face escalating chaos. Parenti is professor in the global liberal studies program at New York University. He has reported from conflict zones in the Middle East and studies the history of political violence. He said U.S. policies “have repeatedly created failed states” in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. “Trying to overthrow [Syrian leader Bashar] Assad is a very bad idea. Assad is admittedly a dictator who inherited a state from his father but he is doing more than anyone to fight ISIS. Seeking his violent overthrow, as has been U.S. policy, is to court further disaster and a wider swath of misery.”

    In an interview published earlier this year, “Climate Change, Militarism, Neoliberalism and the State,” Parenti stated: “Syria is a prime example. There has been a terrible drought there, which coincided with austerity measures imposed by the Assad government cutting aid to Sunni farmers. Many of them were forced to leave the land, partly due to drought, partly due to the lack of support to properly deal with the drought. Then, they arrive in cities, and there’s more austerity taking place. This is experienced as oppression by the Alawite elite against an increasingly impoverished Sunni proletariat who’ve been thrown off their land.

“This situation then explodes as religious conflict, which is really the fusion of environmental crises with neoliberal economic policies. Of course, the violent spark to all of this is the fact that the entire region is flooded with weapons. Some of these weapons are from the Cold War, and some of those guns are from recent U.S. militarism in the region. There were a lot of vets of the anti-U.S. struggle in Iraq who are Syrian — Mujahideen veterans who went to Iraq and came back to Syria and started to fight. There were Syrians who were selling guns to Iraqi underground groups. These groups were buying their guns back, and re-importing them to Syria.”