“… It is a sensible and sophisticated presentation that drives US neocons crazy. They can hardly control their grief at no longer having Mr Ahmadinejad around. He was so much easier to hate …” (Gary Sick)
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“… It is a sensible and sophisticated presentation that drives US neocons crazy. They can hardly control their grief at no longer having Mr Ahmadinejad around. He was so much easier to hate …” (Gary Sick)
STATE Official: “We have to face whether we are going after ISIL or Assad or both, but for the present we just want to postpone the decision.”
‘…. Externally, the picture is not much better. While the commanding general of the anti-ISIL operations in Iraq and Syria is reporting optimistically about progress, the two major open questions – the deployment of US ground forces and the long-standing dilemma over Syria – remain unresolved. On the latter, the US finds itself being drawn deeper into Syrian politics in the form of a meeting with the Kurdish PYD party. Its armed wing the YPG is providing the main body of opposition on the ground to ISIL in Syria, but its links to the PKK in Turkey, which the US regards as a terrorist organization, is complicating relations with Ankara. A State Department official put it this way in a comment to us: “We know we have to grapple with the question of whether we are going after ISIL or Assad or both, but for the present we just want to postpone the decision.” The ground troop question is becoming ever more urgent in the light of ISIL’s consolidation in Anbar province from where it can threaten Baghdad airport. As a Democratic strategist commented to us: “The logic of war is forcing the President in a direction to which he is profoundly resistant.” On other subjects, following last week’s high level talks with Iran, a top State Department official is due to clarify the US position in a major speech on October 23rd. Our sense is that US officials feel that an agreement is within grasp – albeit far from assured. As US officials like to repeat: “even if the deal is 98% done, the final 2% could see it fall apart.”..”
“… Because of the consistency of such behaviour, the source added, many in the international community have started meeting opposition figures “only out of courtesy”. According to official sources, Saudi Arabia and other key backers in the region have been left dissatisfied by infighting within the opposition…”
Renewables & the Future of India: IT Center Bangalore goes Solar to avoid Brownouts, High Electricity Bills
“The city [of Bangalore] is struggling with frequent power cuts. Those who were smart enough to invest in solar energy are the only ones coping with it. We take you through a few places in Bengaluru [Bangalore] that entirely uses solar power. Thanks to solar energy, for these smart cookies, it’s no hassle of electricity bills or the annoying load shedding!”
By Tom Giesen
“To be quite candid the idea of a 2°C target is largely out of the window.”
Sir Robert Watson, former IPCC Chair. 2012
Since the late 1990s, the stated goal of world governments has been to hold average global warming to no more than 3.6 degrees F. (2 degrees centigrade). However, many doubt that the goal can be met – it has taken us too long to begin reducing emissions.
The fundamentals are that there is clear scientific evidence that long-wave energy emitted from our sun-warmed earth heats greenhouse gases (CO2, methane, etc.) in the atmosphere and thus causes warming over the entire planet. That process (the greenhouse effect) has been relatively stable; without that process the earth would be much cooler.
However, by burning huge amounts of fossil fuels, we have greatly added to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Concentrations of CO2 alone have grown from 280 parts per million in about 1850 to about 400 or so today – a 42% increase. More greenhouse gases mean more rapid and more total warming.
Scientists have long warned us that rising greenhouse gas concentrations have exposed us to substantial harms – planetary warming, extreme weather, forest fires, crop failures, floods, sea level rise – the list goes on and on.
Next year, the nations of the world will gather again to try to create an emissions-reduction treaty. So far, they have failed abysmally at that task. The long-standing goal is to hold average global warming to 3.6 degrees F. above pre-industrial levels. 3.6 degrees F. is the limit because it was thought to be the maximum average temperature rise before we encounter “dangerous climate change”.
By “dangerous” they mean that the earth’s climate system could be altered so that we have, e.g., megastorms that are hard for human populations to survive or a massive die-off of marine species (many humans depend on fish and other marine life for their protein). Worse, scientists tell us that risks to the planetary ecosystem have greatly increased since the 2 degree C / 3.6 degree F. limit was formulated, and that rates of emissions have increased as our energy use has risen – so now we face extra-dangerous change. In the US, emissions were up 2.6 percent last year alone. That is, the rate of greenhouse gas emissions is still increasing today. The likelihood that we can meet the 3.6 degrees F. limit is very low – many scientists say it is now impossible.
Fossil fuels are finite. We will stop using them eventually – the only issue is timing. We could cushion our withdrawal from fossil fuels with a massive switch to renewables, but there is no sign that is happening, save in a few EU nations. Renewables in 2013 were a piddling 4.5% of US energy.
A lot of fossil fuels will eventually be left in the earth, because at some point, it will take more energy to extract a barrel of oil from the earth than can be gained from it – the shorthand is EROEI – energy return on energy invested.
But humanity’s choice, so far, is to continue burning fossil fuels without restraint – a self-destructive decision. Global meetings to reduce emissions are held, hopeful words are spoken – but the emissions continue to rise. We are trashing our planet to facilitate fossil fuel energy uses which end in unimaginable losses of resources.
If our history of fossil fuel use is a guide, we will try to burn all of the remaining accessible fossil fuels – in spite of the global warming that burning those fuels will cause. We are choosing to have our GDP decline later and larger, and in much more difficult circumstances.
The discovery of fossil fuels has furnished us with a short-term, 200-year bonanza; an occasion for an energy orgy; a final fling before the morning-after, when we take a sober look around at the planetary chaos we have caused.
It is likely that we’ll see a hot, depleted, polluted, flooded, overpopulated and essentially alien planet.
Related video added by Juan Cole:
DUBAI (IRIN) – The international outcry to the openly advertised atrocities committed in Iraq by the jihadist group calling itself Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS or ISIL) has led to calls for investigations and punishment, with US President Barak Obama saying “justice will be done” after the killing of journalist James Foley.
This has provoked a direct reaction in terms of air strikes by the US, and the assembling of an international coalition to fight the group. But beyond this rough military “justice”, what mechanisms exist to turn investigations into court cases that formally bring IS leaders to account? What exact crimes are IS fighters committing, and perhaps more crucially, what chance is there that the group’s fighters will be held to account?
Who is carrying out investigations?
Several teams of investigators are reportedly looking into evidence of atrocities, including the International Commission of Inquiry for Syria, a UK government-supported investigation team (covering Syria), and proposals are being considered in Washington and London for an Erbil-based IS investigation team.
Separately, on 1 September, the UN Human Rights Council agreed to send an 11-member investigations team to Iraq, a decision that came just days after it published a report (27 August 2014) linking ISIS members to mass atrocities and acts “amounting to crimes against humanity” in Syria in the first half of the year.
Other efforts to investigate recent atrocities in Syria and Iraq include the Syrian Commission for Justice and Accountability (SCJA), the Syrian Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC), and the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, headed by Canadian investigator William Wiley.
What crimes are we talking about?
IS critics accuse the group of a long list of crimes including public executions, beheadings, kidnappings, torture, forced conversions, sexual abuse, killing captured soldiers and putting communities under siege.
Many of these atrocities – openly advertised by the group on the Internet – would be against the Iraqi legal code, which continues to be served by functional criminal courts (in government-controlled areas). Though IS may claim otherwise, most would accept that the alleged crimes are taking place on Iraqi territory normally under the jurisdiction of Iraqi law.
However, with IS controlling around a third of the country, national investigations or prosecutions are not realistic for the moment. And, with Iraq currently in a state of armed conflict, certain violent acts that are forbidden during peacetime become permitted under international law, so IS lawyers could claim that peacetime rules no longer apply.
What about war crimes?
It has become increasingly commonplace to accuse IS of war crimes: global crimes which are technically defined as serious violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) – sometimes known as the law of armed conflict. As an example, on 2 September, Amnesty International published a briefing paper entitled Ethnic Cleansing on a Historic Scale, accusing the group of war crimes as well as other atrocities.
The rules of war are set out in instruments such as the four Geneva Conventions (1949) and the two Additional Protocols (1977), and in customary practice.
For IHL to apply, the violence needs to be legally considered as either an international or non-international armed conflict, technical categories that assessments by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) go a long way to establish.
According to ICRC, there is a current non-international armed conflict in Syria (in laymen’s terms, a civil war), which means a range of violent acts in the country, even away from the frontlines, may be counted as war crimes.
The laws apply to the conduct of IS forces, and provide for protection to civilians under their care, whether IS accept the rules or not. Without this legal recognition of the armed conflict (as opposed to other types of violence), war crimes prosecutions would not be possible.
In neighbouring Syria where IS also operates, ICRC made public for the first time in July 2012 that it judged the situation an internal armed conflict, meaning IHL applied to regime forces and IS activities there.
Such judgments are based on two criteria – the intensity of the fighting and also whether the parties to the conflict are organized groups.
The last 12 months have seen IS evolving from a loosely organized military group, to a would-be state-builder. This has lifted IS above the sort of lower level terrorist activity elsewhere in the world.
Of course, if the armed conflict was legally categorized as an international armed conflict, a greater range of war rules would apply (although in recent years differences between the two categories have lessened), including formal protection for prisoners of war. International armed conflicts require two different states to be involved. IS see themselves as a state (in their terms “Caliphate”). However, the lack of any international recognition undermines their claims for the moment.
There is an undoubted (and growing) international element to the fighting. IS territory straddles significant parts of both Iraq and Syria, where it is fighting against both governments, as well as more recently, an international US-led coalition involving more than 50 countries. However, at least in ICRC terms, despite being internationalized, the conflict would not be considered international until it involved recognized states on both sides.
Beyond war crimes, the group’s fighters would also have a good chance of facing accusations of crimes against humanity, such as ethnic/religious cleansing, and even genocide, given the apparent attempts to wipe out communities like the Yazidis. The 1998 Rome Statute defines crimes against humanity as “odious offenses in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings” which “are part of a widespread or systematic practice”.
But will the crimes be prosecuted?
The investigation work going on is obviously not meant to be an end in itself. The work of bodies like the Syria Commission of Inquiry, the UN Human Rights Council, Western-government supported teams and human rights group like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch could all provide the material needed to establish atrocities in court, and importantly the links between reprehensible acts and those at the top of IS’s command structure, most notably the self-appointed Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The challenge of a prosecution team would be to establish a connection of culpability between leading commanders and the atrocities committed by their subordinates. Past experience has been that although the conflict period is crucial for collecting evidence, the slow process of prosecutions generally needs to wait until after the conflict has finished.
The investigations will provide not just the case material for trials, but the impetus for them as well: Under the principle of universal jurisdiction state signatories have a duty to prosecute grave breaches of IHL even if they did not take place on their territory or involve their citizens.
For some countries though, prosecutions will very much involve their own citizens, given the international make-up of IS forces, with estimates of up to 11,000 foreign fighters from at least 74 countries.
In the UK, London mayor Boris Johnson proposed jihadi fighters (not necessarily with IS) be presumed guilty until proved innocent, and the government is concerned that British jihadists returning from Syria/Iraq will carry out terrorist attacks.
Prosecutions would be under anti-terrorism offences (e.g. travelling abroad to plan or commit terrorist acts) rather than related to specific atrocities under IHL. The majority of Western fighters with IS are thought to be focused on menial tasks because of their lack of military and religious education, although a British citizen does seem to have played a prominent role in the beheading videos of Foley and other foreigners.
How about the International Criminal Court?
The International Criminal Court (ICC) would be the most obvious place for prosecutions. Not yet two decades old and still finding its feet, it has a mandate to prosecute war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression.
But neither Iraq nor Syria has signed up, meaning an investigation would require a referral from the UN Security Council. In 1998, when the Rome Statute setting up the ICC was adopted, Iraq was one of only seven countries (including USA) to vote against. Neighbouring Syria signed the statute on 29 November 2000, but has yet to ratify it.
Nevertheless, in Iraq the ICC prosecutor did initially open preliminary investigations – allowed where crimes potentially involved citizens of states that have accepted the jurisdiction of the court. These investigations were closed on 9 February 2006 because a lack of sufficient evidence, but then reopened on 14 May 2014, although reopened investigations seem to concern allegations against British officials rather than IS.
Former UN prosecutor Carla del Ponte has called for the situation in Syria to be referred to the ICC, but this was vetoed by China and Russia in May 2014. The court has yet to launch full investigations into any situation outside Africa.
In some ways, a case against IS would echo one of the ICC’s earliest cases: that against the leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda, which committed (and continues to commit) horrific acts of terror against civilians in the region. Leader Joseph Kony is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, though is still at large. Investigators may also follow up on allegations of atrocities committed by non-IS forces, including state forces in both Iraq and Syria.
Given that neither Iraq nor Syria have formally signed up to the ICC, ad hoc courts might be another solution. Iraq notably set-up its own Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal to try a similar series of crimes (committed by Iraqis between 1968 and 2003). National courts are generally less remote, bringing a greater visibility and proximity to trials.
Other recent precedents, this time established by the UN (either alone or with states), include the International Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for Khmer Rouge crimes and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
Would it be worth it?
Although hugely expensive and long, prosecutions could help to expose and delegitimize IS and perhaps even act as a deterrent to others. Prosecutions seem a long way off, and perhaps unrealistic, but this is a young and developing field and cases frequently look unrealistic when first tabled.
Related video added by Juan Cole
By late October 1914, it was increasingly clear that the Ottoman Empire was going to join the Great War on the side of the Central Powers, Germany and Austria. Since the closing of the Straits to the Triple Entente Powers on September 26, the Ottoman Government was already in violation of treaties, but throughout October the Allies tread lightly in hopes that Turkey might not come in formally.
I will be dealing in coming days with the war plans and key strategic interests and objectives of each side. But I want to begin with a particularly quirky situation: the highly anomalous legal position of Egypt.
De facto, Egypt had been a British protectorate in all but name since 1882; British troops controlled the country, and defended the Suez Canal, while a British official with the innocuous title of “Consul-General” ran the country with the powers of a virtual viceroy.
|Said Halim Pasha|
De jure, Egypt was still a province of the Ottoman Empire, was run by a hereditary Khedive who paid annual tribute to Constantinople and who, as war was breaking out, was physically present there; what’s more, the then Ottoman Grand Vizier, Said Halim Pasha, was a collateral kinsman of the Khedive and from the Egyptian Royal Family. Egypt still flew the Ottoman red flag.
And now the British and Turks were about to go to war. But they weren’t at war yet.
|The Last Khedive: ‘Abbas Hilmi II|
Adding to the legal complications was the fact that the current Khedive, ‘Abbas Hilmi II, was anti-British. Though he had gotten along moderately well with the liberal-minded Consul-General Sir Eldon Gorst, but relations soured when Lord Kitchener replaced Gorst. He had supported the nascent Egyptian nationalist movement, and the British considered him pro-German and a supporter of the emerging Turkish-German alliance; it appears to have been a fairly accurate assessment, and when Kitchener went on summer leave in Britain he was already determined to depose the Khedive, though the outbreak of war and Kitchener’s move to the War Office would intrude.
‘Abbas Hilmi was visiting Constantinople when, on June 25, 1914 (just days before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo), he was meeting with the Grand Vizier (his cousin) when an Egyptian student fired five shots at ‘Abbas Hilmi and severely wounded him in the hands. The Khedive is said to have suspected the Turkish government was involved, but remained in Constantinople during his convalescence. He would be deposed before he could return to Egypt; he was the last Egyptian ruler to bear the title Khedive.
|PM Hussein Rushdi Pasha|
With the Khedive abroad and Kitchener back in Britain, the British authorities in Egypt were dealing with the much more pliant Prime Minister, Hussein Rushdi Pasha. When Britain went to war with Germany in August 1914, Rushdi issued a decree that appears to encapsulate perfectly the anomalous and apparently illogical legal status of Egypt: Britain announced it did not propose to chnge Egypt’s status as long as Turkey stayed neutral, but Rushdi declared that since Britain’s war with Germany left Egypt open to attack by Britain’s enemies, Egyptian companies could not conclude deals with or issue loans to nationals of countries at war with Britain; Egyptian vessels must avoid visiting ports of Britain’s enemies, and British forces could exercise full wartime belligerent rights in Egyptian territory.
Like Egypt’s entire “veiled protectorate” status since 1882, this made little sense in international law. It asserts neutrality but goes far beyond “armed neutrality,” and the late Peter Mansfield noted that “Egypt was de facto, if not de jure, a belligerent.” Neutral belligerency may be no more anomalous than a British colonial administration in an Ottoman province, but it also confounds logic.
This Gordian Knot would soon be cut. Once Turkey and Britain went to war in early November, Britain moved quickly; by December the Khedive would be deposed and his uncle, Hussein Kamel, made ruler with the new title of Sultan, and Britain would declare a formal Protectorate over Egypt. But until that time, Egypt remained in its anomalous status, a sort of limbo of sovereignty or at least suzerainty.
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Waste collectors like Sayyid Ahmed, known as zabaleen, work in an informal economy, but they provide a remarkably efficient recycling service and become experts on their neighborhoods. Credit Photograph by Rena Effendi / Institute
The New Yorker has an excellent piece by Peter Hessler on Cairo as seen by the Zabaleen, the traditional garbage collectors.
By Karen J. Greenberg via Tomdispatch.com
These days, two “wars” are in the headlines: one against the marauding Islamic State and its new caliphate of terror carved out of parts of Iraq and Syria, the other against a marauding disease and potential pandemic, Ebola, spreading across West Africa, with the first cases already reaching the United States and Europe. Both wars seemed to come out of the blue; both were unpredicted by our vast national security apparatus; both have induced fears bordering on hysteria and, in both cases, those fears have been quickly stirredinto the political stew of an American election year.
The pundits and experts are already pontificating about the threat of 9/11-likeattacks on the homeland, fretting about how they might be countered, and in the case of Ebola, raising analogies to the anthrax attacks of 2001. As the medical authorities weigh in, the precedent of 9/11 seems not far from their minds. Meanwhile, Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has tried to calm the country down while openly welcoming “new ideas” in the struggle against the disease. Given the almost instinctive way references and comparisons to terrorism are arising, it’s hard not to worry that any new ideas will turn out to be eerily similar to those that, in the post-9/11 period, defined the war on terror.
The differences between the two “wars” may seem too obvious to belabor, since Ebola is a disease with a medical etiology and scientific remedies, while ISIS is a sentient enemy. Nevertheless, Ebola does seem to mimic some of the characteristics experts long ago assigned to al-Qaeda and its various wannabe and successor outfits. It lurks in the shadows until it strikes. It threatens the safety of civilians across the United States. Its root causes lie in the poverty and squalor of distant countries. Its spread must be stopped at its region of origin — in this case, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa — just as both the Bush and Obama administrations were convinced that the fight against al-Qaeda had to be taken militarily to the backlands of the planet from Pakistan’s tribal borderlands to Yemen’s rural areas.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised then that, while President Obama was sending at least 1,600 military personnel (and the drones and bombers) to fight ISIS, his first response to the Ebola crisis was also to send 3,000 troops into Liberia in what the media has been calling an “Ebola surge” (a reflexive nod to the American troop “surge” in Iraq in 2007). The Obama administration’s second act: to beef up border protections for the screening of people entering the United States (a move whose efficacy has been questioned by some medical experts), just as the authorities moved swiftly in the wake of 9/11 to turn airports and borders into massive security zones. The third act was to begin to trace points of contact for those with Ebola, which, while logical and necessary, eerily mimics the way the national security state began to build a picture of terror networks, establish watch lists, and the like.
The next step under consideration for those who might have been exposed to Ebola, quarantine (that is, detention), is controversial among medical experts, but should similarly remind us of where the war on terror went after 9/11: to Guantanamo. As if the playbook for the post-9/11 response to terrorism were indeed the playbook for Ebola, Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy, questioning Dr. Frieden, noted that, without putting policies of surveillance, containment, and quarantine in place, “we still have a risk.”
While any of these steps individually may prove sensible, the ease with which non-medical authorities seem to be falling into a familiar war on terror-style response to the disease should be examined — and quickly. If it becomes the default template for Ebola and the country ends up marching down the road to “war” against a disease, matters could be made so much worse.
So perhaps it’s time to refresh our memories about that war on terror template and offer four cautionary lessons about a road that should never be taken again, not in developing a policy against the latest non-state actors, nor in pursuit of the containment of a disease.
Lesson One: Don’t turn the “war” on Ebola into another set of programs that reflect the national security establishment’s well-developed reliance on intelligence, surveillance, and the military. Looking, for instance, for people complaining about Ebola-like symptoms in private or searching the metadata of citizens for calls to doctors would be a fool’s errand, the equivalent of finding needles in a field full of haystacks.
And keep in mind that, as far as we can tell, from 9/11 on, despite the overblown claims of its adherents, the surveillance system they constructed has regularly failed to work as promised. It did not, for instance, stop the Shoe Bomber, the Times Square bomber, or the Boston Marathon bombers. Nor did the intelligence authorities, despite all the money invested since 9/11, prevent the Benghazi attack or the killing of seven CIA agents by a suicide bomber believed to be an American double agent in Khost, Afghanistan, in December 2009, or predict the rise of ISIS for that matter. Similarly, it is hard to imagine how the usual military might, from drones and special ops teams to those much-discussed boots on the ground, will help solve the problem of Ebola.
In the post-9/11 era, military solutions have often prevailed, no matter the problem at hand. Yet, at the end of the day, from the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq to the air operation in Libya to the CIA’s drone campaigns across tribal backlands, just about no militarized solution has led to anything approximating victory — and the new war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is already following the same dismal pattern. Against a virus, the U.S. military is likely to be even less successful at anything more than aiding health workers and officials in disease-ridden areas.
The tools that the national security state has relied on in its war on terror not only didn’t work then (and are highly unlikely to work when it comes to the present Middle Eastern conflict either), but applied to Ebola would undoubtedly prove catastrophic. And yet — count on it — they will also prove irresistible in the face of fear of that disease. They are what the government knows how to do even if, in the war on terror itself, they created a vulnerability so much greater than the sum of its parts, helped foster the growth of jihadist movements globally, and eroded the sense of trust that existed between the government and the American people.
Lesson Two: Keep public health professionals in charge of what needs to be done. All too often in the war on terror, professionals with areas of expertise were cast aside by the security establishment. The judicial system, for instance, was left in the lurch when it came to dealing with accused al-Qaeda operatives, while the expertise of those who found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002-2003 was ignored.
Only by trusting our medical professionals will we avoid turning the campaign against Ebola over to the influence of the security state. And only by refusing to militarize the potential crisis, as so many others were in the post-9/11 era, will we avoid the usual set of ensuing disasters. The key thing here is to keep the Ebola struggle a primarily civilian one. The more it is left in the hands of doctors and public health experts who know the disease and understand what it means practically to commit the government to keeping people as safe as possible from the spread of the virus, the better.
Lesson Three: Don’t cloak the response to Ebola in secrecy. The architects of the war on terror invoked secrecy as one of the prime pillars of their new state of being. From the beginning, the Bush administration cavalierly hid its policies under a shroud of secrecy, claiming that national security demanded that information about what the government was doing should be kept from the American people for their own “safety.” Although Barack Obama entered the Oval Office proclaiming a “sunshine” presidency, his administration has acted ever more fiercely to keep the actions of both the White House and the national security state under wraps, including, to mention just two examples, its justifications for policies surrounding its drone assassination campaignsand the extent of its warrantless surveillance programs.
As it happened, that wall of secrecy proved endlessly breachable, as leakscame flooding out of that world. Nonetheless, the urge to recreate such a state of secrecy elsewhere may be all too tempting. Don’t be surprised if the war on Ebola heads into the shadows, too — and that’s the last thing the country needs or deserves when it comes to a public health crisis. To date, with medical professionals still at the forefront of those dealing publicly with Ebola, this impulse has yet to truly rise to the surface. Under their aegis, information about the first Ebola cases to reach this country and the problems involved hasn’t disappeared behind a cloak of secrecy, but don’t count on transparency lasting if things get worse. Yet keeping important facts about a potential pandemic under wraps is guaranteed to lead to panic and a rapid deterioration of trust between Americans and their government, a relationship already sorely tested in the war on terror years.
Realistically, secrecy and allied tools of the trade would represent a particularly inauspicious starting point for launching a counter-Ebola strategy at a time when it would be crucial for Americans to know about failures as well as successes. Outbreaks of panic enveloped in hysteria wrapped in ignorance are no way to stop a disease from spreading.
Lesson Four: Don’t apply the “black site” approach to Ebola. The war on terror was marked by the creation of special prisons or “black sites” beyond the reach of the U.S. justice system for the detention (in the case of Ebola think: isolation and quarantine) of terrorist suspects, places where anything went. There can, of course, be no question that Ebola patients, once diagnosed with the disease, need to be isolated. Protective gear and isolation units are already being used in treating cases here.
The larger issue of quarantine, however, looms as potentially the first major public policy debate of the Ebola era. Keep an eye on this. After all, quarantine-style thinking is already imprinted in the government’s way of life, thanks to the war on terror, so moving toward quarantines will seem natural to its officials.
Quarantine is a phenomenon feared by civil libertarians and others as an overreaction that will prove ineffective when it comes to the spread of the disease. It stands to punish individuals for their associations, however inadvertent, rather than dealing with them when they actually display signs of the disease. To many, though, it will seem like a quick-fix solution, the Ebola counterpart to Guantanamo, a facility for those who were deemed potential carriers of the disease of terrorism.
The fears a threat of massive quarantines can raise will only make things harder for health officials. So, too, will increasing calls for travel bans for those coming from West African countries, a suggestion reminiscent of sweeping police profiling policies that target groups rather than individuals. Avoiding such bans is not just a matter of preserving civil liberties, but a safety issue as well. Fears of broad quarantines and blanket travel bans could potentially lead affected individuals to become far more secretive about sharing information on the disease and far more deceptive in their travel planning. It could, that is, spread, not halt the dissemination of Ebola. As Thomas Frieden of the CDC argues, “Right now we know who’s coming in. If we try to eliminate travel, the possibility that some will travel over land, will come from other places, and we don’t know that they’re coming in will mean that we won’t be able to do multiple things. We won’t be able to check them for fever when they leave. We won’t be able to check them for fever when they arrive. We won’t be able, as we do currently, to take a detailed history to see if they were exposed when they arrive.” In other words, an overly aggressive reaction could actually make medical deterrence exponentially more difficult.
The United States is about to be tested by a disease in ways that could dovetail remarkably well with the war on terror. In this context, think of Ebola as the universe’s unfair challenge to everything that war bred in our governmental system. As it happens, those things that the U.S. did, often ineffectively and counterproductively, to thwart its enemies, potential enemies, and even its own citizenry will not be an antidote to this “enemy” either. It, too, may be transnational, originate in fragile states, and affect those who come in contact with it, but it cannot be stopped by the methods of the national security state.
Countering Ebola will require a whole new set of protections and priorities, which should emerge from the medical and public health communities. The now sadly underfunded National Institutes of Health and other such organizations have been looking at possible pandemic situations for years. It is imperative that our officials heed the lessons of their research as they have failed to do many times over with their counterparts in public policy in the war on terror years. To once again invoke the powers of the state to address fantasies and fears rather than the realities of a spreading disease would be to recklessly taunt the fates.
Karen J. Greenberg is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law, the author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First One Hundred Days, a TomDispatch regular, and the editor-in-chief of the Morning Brief, a daily round-up of national security news. CNS Legal Fellow Kevin Garnett helped research this article.
Copyright 2014 Karen J. Greenberg
Mirrored from Tomdispatch.com
By Farhang Jahanpour
Once again, the British Parliament has led the way with an epoch-making decision. On Monday 13 October 2014, British lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favour of recognizing Palestine as a state. With 274 to 12 votes they passed a motion stating: “This House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”
The Conservative Party’s whips advised the party’s MPs to stay away from the vote. As a result, nearly 90 per cent of the ruling Conservative Party members were absent from the vote. (1)
The Israeli government lobbied actively against the motion. The Zionist Federation of Great Britain, the oldest Zionist federation in the world, launched a campaign calling on British Jews to write letters to their MPs, urging them to oppose the motion. The more mainstream Jewish organizations also joined the campaign.
On the other hand, a number of Jewish MPs spoke eloquently in favour of the motion. The veteran Labour Party MP Gerald Kaufman, supporting the motion, accused Israel of “harming the image of Judaism” and contributing to anti-Semitism. In fact, the motion would not have made it to the floor of the House without the support of the Jewish leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband.
Most of those who spoke in favour of the motion were emphatic about Israel’s right to exist, but they felt that it was time to give the Palestinians the same rights that the Israelis enjoy.
Nearly a hundred years ago, on 2 November 1917, the British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour issued a short statement that has come to be known as the Balfour Declaration, which set in motion the events that led to the establishment of the state of Israel.
It read: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
This declaration was of course contrary to the promises that the British Government had made to various Arab leaders that if they joined the war against the Ottoman Empire, the Arabs would be able to establish an Islamic caliphate on all the Arab lands ruled by the Ottomans. The declaration was issued long before the Holocaust and the horrendous persecution of the Jews.
Balfour’s motivation was mainly political. He thought that by so doing he would appeal to President Woodrow Wilson and his two closest advisors, Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, who were avid Zionists. His other motive was that supporting the Zionists would appeal to Jews in Germany and America and help the war effort.
Lloyd George who was the prime minister at the time of the Declaration testified before the Palestine Royal Commission, saying: “The Zionist leaders gave us a definite promise that, if the Allies committed themselves to giving facilities for the establishment of a national home for the Jews in Palestine, they would do their best to rally Jewish sentiment and support throughout the world to the Allied cause. They kept their word” (2)
In his Memoirs, Lloyd George further elucidated his position: “The Balfour Declaration represented the convinced policy of all parties in our country and also in America, but the launching of it in 1917 was due, as I have said, to propagandist reasons… The Zionist Movement was exceptionally strong in Russia and America… It was believed, also, that such a declaration would have a potent influence upon world Jewry outside Russia, and secure for the Entente the aid of Jewish financial interests. In America, their aid in this respect would have a special value when the Allies had almost exhausted the gold and marketable securities available for American purchases. Such were the chief considerations which, in 1917, impelled the British Government towards making a contract with Jewry.” (3)
Of course, at the time, the Jews constituted a small minority of the inhabitants of Palestine. A British census of 1918 estimated that there were 700,000 Arabs and only 56,000 Jews in Palestine. The Jewish population had in fact grown since the beginning of the 20th century, as in the 19th century the Jews constituted only about 4% of the population.
After World War I, the United Kingdom was given a Mandate by the League of Nations over Palestine. On 29 November 1947, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending the adoption and implementation of Resolution 181, proposing the partition of Palestine between Arabs and Jews. The land allocated to the Arab State included about 43% of Mandatory Palestine, while 56% was given to the Jews, despite the fact that at the time of the partition the Jews constituted only 33% of the population. According to a Survey of Palestine prepared in December 1945 there were 1,076,780 Muslims (58% of the total population), 608,230 Jews (33%), and 145,060 Christians (9%). (4)
In other words, a third of the population was given 56% of the best parts of the land on the Mediterranean coast, while the other two-thirds who constituted the original inhabitants of the land had to be content with 43% of their own land. One per cent of the land was set aside as a special zone for the international city of Jerusalem.
It is clear that the Palestinians, who held the overwhelming majority in Palestine and who had not been consulted over the allocation of their land to some newcomers, opposed the resolution.
It is important to point out that the resolution passed with a relatively small majority of 33 votes in favor, 13 against and 10 abstentions. The resolution was never taken to the Security Council. It is also noteworthy that Britain, that held the Mandate over Palestine, abstained in the partition vote at the United Nations.
A large number of American Jewish organizations were strongly against the establishment of a Zionist state, as they believed that their interests would be better served in democratic countries in the West, rather than being confined to a new Zionist state.
The American diplomatic establishment was also largely opposed to the resolution. General George C. Marshall, who had acted as chief of staff of the American armed forces during World War II, and who had returned to the government as secretary of state to help the inexperienced former vice president Harry Truman who had become president after the sudden death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 12, 1945, just a month before the Allied victory in Europe and four months before the victory over Japan, and the man who was responsible for the Marshall Plan, was adamantly opposed to the resolution.
Marshall and a majority of diplomats at the UN saw a direct UN trusteeship, succeeding the British mandate, as the only solution to halt the bloodshed. After clashes broke out in Palestine over the planned partition, Marshall urged Truman to reconsider and the State Department urged Truman not to grant diplomatic recognition to the Jewish state. Later on, Marshall resigned over American recognition of Israel.
At midnight on May 14, 1948, the British relinquished control of Palestine, and one minute later the Jewish Agency, under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, proclaimed the new state. President Truman was the first head of state to recognize Israel. Again, his motive for recognition of Israel was mainly political, rather than being based on his love for the Jewish people.
In a 10 November 1945 meeting with American diplomats who had been brought in from their posts in the Middle East to urge Truman not to heed Zionist urgings, Truman bluntly explained his motivation:
“I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism: I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.” (5)
Despite all the political motivations for the establishment of a Jewish homeland, it was only right that after centuries of persecution and especially after the Holocaust the Jews should have a homeland of their own, be free to practice their religion and to live as they wished. However, the other part of that promise, namely the establishment of a Palestinian state on a smaller portion of the Palestinian land, has remained unfulfilled.
On the contrary, after the establishment of the state, Israel has deliberately tried to expand its territory and push the Palestinians out of their lands. Although the Jews had been given a disproportionately large part of Palestine, after the 1948 War with the neighboring Arab countries, Israel’s territorial gains reduced the Palestinian share of the land to only 22%.
In fact, taking over the whole of Palestine had been a Zionist plan from the start.
The Zionist leadership did formally accept the partition plan, but when many Zionist leaders objected, they were persuaded by Ben-Gurion to agree to the official acceptance. However, in several secret meetings Ben-Gurion made it clear that the partition borders were unacceptable and must be rectified at the first opportunity.
The minutes of these meetings reveal the real intentions of Ben-Gurion and the hardline Zionists. (6) In July 1948, Ben-Gurion gave orders for the operations in Lydda and Ramleh: “Expel them!” (7) Some 70% of the Palestinians were expelled from Israel.
Since then, Israeli governments have turned more and more rightwing and the suffering and dispossession of the Palestinians have intensified. There is no need to catalogue all the atrocities committed by both sides during all these years. After the 1967 war, Israel proceeded to occupy the remnant of the Palestinian lands and expanded illegal settlements in the occupied territories.
Various U.N. resolutions have declared those settlements illegal and have called on Israel to return to pre-1967 borders, but most have been vetoed by the United States and ignored by Israel.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice by a 14-1 majority declared illegal the wall built by Israel deep in occupied Palestine, but again the construction of the illegal wall incorporating more Palestinian lands has continued.
Meanwhile, keeping 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza under siege since 2007 is regarded as collective punishment. Furthermore, Israel has attacked Gaza three times in the last six years alone (2008-09, 2012, 2014). In the latest attack, Israel killed more than 2,100 people, the majority of whom were civilians.
The Oslo Accords in 1993 provided a glimmer of hope that the two sides could resolve their differences peacefully and a Palestinian State would be established in the West Bank and Gaza in what constitutes only about 20% of Mandate Palestine, but the so-called “Peace Process” has continued without producing any tangible results for the Palestinians.
In the 2002 Arab League Summit the Arabs offered a new peace plan announcing that all of them would recognize the State of Israel if Israel returned to its pre-1967 borders and if a Palestinian state was established in the occupied territories with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The resolution was later adopted by all the 57 members of the Islamic Cooperation Organization, including Iran, but there has been total silence on the Israeli side regarding that offer.
There seems to be no other peaceful path left for the Palestinians but to go through the international organizations and seek recognition from various countries. On 29 November 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to recognize the Palestinian Authority as an observer state. The degree of US and Israeli isolation in the international community was best demonstrated by the overwhelming support given to the resolution, with 138 votes for, nine votes against and 41 abstentions.
With the exception of the United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, Panama and Israel, only the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Micronesia, and Palau voted against that resolution. That resolution passed with a much larger majority of members than the resolution on the Partition Plan that led to the establishment of Israel.
Already 135 countries have recognized Palestine as a state. The list includes Poland before joining the EU. After Sweden recognized Palestine, Ireland has been considering doing so. (8) The recent behavior of Israeli leaders and the moribund peace process have led more and more people to believe that at long last the Palestinians should also be given their rights.
Of course, there are many obstacles on the path of Palestinian statehood, but inaction is not an option.
As Israel has already gobbled up so much Palestinian territory, the two-state solution may already be nonviable and Palestinians may opt to live in a single democratic state made up of Jews and Arabs. Whatever they decide to do, the international community should show support for the end of the longest conflict in recent history.
In the same way that the horrors of the Holocaust pricked the conscience of mankind and led to the Jews being given a state of their own, nearly 70 years of dispossession, statelessness, discrimination, humiliation, killings and apartheid policies must persuade the world to put an end to this dreadful situation.
The continuation of the present situation is not only unfair to the Palestinians, it is also against the long-term interests of Israelis and Jews as a whole. In the words of Sir Alan Duncan, a senior Conservative politician who served as the coalition’s international development minister, in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute following the vote in the House of Commons, “Occupation, annexation, illegality, negligence, complicity: this is a wicked cocktail which brings shame to the government of Israel. It would appear that on the West Bank of the Jordan the rule of international law has been shelved.”
He went on to say: “This illegal construction and habitation is theft, it is annexation, it is a land grab – it is any expression that accurately describes the encroachment which takes from someone else something that is not rightfully owned by the taker. As such it should be called what it is, and not by some euphemistic soft alternative. Settlements are illegal colonies built in someone else’s country. They are an act of theft, and what is more something which is both initiated and supported by the state of Israel.” (9)
The momentum for an end to the conflict is unstoppable. The least that the vote in the British Parliament and the recognition of Palestine by more and more states can do is to embarrass the US Administration, if not Congress, not to veto a Security Council resolution that would establish a viable Palestinian State living side by side with Israel, or one democratic society, giving the Palestinians equal rights and allowing millions of Palestinian refugees to return to their country.
It is time for the entire international community to support this momentum.
1. See Anshel Pfeffer, “U.K. vote: A symbolic gesture to the Palestinians – a red warning light to Israel” Haaretz, 14 October 2014
2. See Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest: A Modern History of Palestine, (Olice Branch Press, 1991) p. 14
3. David Lloyd George, Memoirs of the Peace Conference, Volume II, (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1939), chapter XXIII, pp. 724-734
4. See A Survey of Palestine: Prepared in December 1945 and January 1946 for the Information of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, Institute for Palestine Studies, pp. 12-13. ISBN 0-88728-211-3
5. See Evan M. Wilson, A Calculated Risk: The U.S. Decision to Recognize Israel(Clerisy Press, 2008), p. 126
6. See Uri Avnery, “Sacred Mantras”, CounterPunch, June 28, 2011.
7. See Dominique Vidal, “The Expulsion of the Palestinians Re-examined”, Le Monde Diplomatique, December 1997
8. See Juan Cole, “Will Ireland Recognize Palestine”, October 17, 2014.
9. See: “Alan Duncan Slams Israel’s West Bank ‘Apartheid’ In Fierce Attack” Huffington Post, 14/10/2014.
Related video added by Juan Cole: