Juan Cole on Trump’s bizarre, stupid and dangerous UN speech

September 20, 2017 at 9:01 am (Asshole, Iran, jerk, nationalism, North Korea, perversity, plutocrats, populism, posted by JD, Saudi Arabia, Trump, UN, United States, war)

Trump blasts Iran for backing Syria, ignores Russia, praises Saudis

By (at Informed Comment) Sep. 20, 2017

Trump more or less threatened to wipe out the 25 million people of North Korea in his speech at the UN.

Then he turned to the Middle East, where he again pledged to undermine the Iranian nuclear deal.

In other words, he put forward a plan to turn Iran into North Korea as a geopolitical problem.

The speech was a weird amalgam of white nationalism and Neoconservatism. It abandoned the isolationism of the former and eschewed the idealism of the latter.

Concerning Iran, Trump said:

“The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. The longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are, in fact, its own people.”

I swear, I thought Trump was talking about his own administration there for a second. He’s the one, not Iran, who called Nazis very fine people and blamed Heather Heyer for being run over by one of Trump’s supporters. I have been critical of the Iranian regime’s human rights record, as well, but Trump doesn’t have a leg to stand on here.

“Rather than use its resources to improve Iranian lives, its oil profits go to fund Hezbollah and other terrorists that kill innocent Muslims and attack their peaceful Arab and Israeli neighbors. This wealth, which rightly belongs to Iran’s people, also goes to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship, fuel Yemen’s civil war, and undermine peace throughout the entire Middle East.”

Hizbullah was formed to get Israel back out of Lebanon. Israel committed a naked act of aggression against little Lebanon in 1982, invading and shelling Beirut indiscriminately. The Israeli army then occupied 10% of Lebanese territory, in the south of the country. The far right Likud party has sticky fingers, and it had no intention of ever leaving. Hizbullah fought a low intensity guerrilla war to get the Israelis to withdraw, which they finally did in 1999. Israel still occupies the Shebaa Farms area that belongs to Lebanon.

The Yemen civil war wasn’t fueled by Iran but by a Saudi air campaign against the government of the north of the country. The Houthis were unwise to make their coup in early 2015 against the interim government, but it was the Saudis who bombed targets from 30,000 feet and with little local knowledge. Iran may have facilitate some training for a handful of Zaydi fighters, but it doesn’t give them very much money. The conflict is indigenous and has its origin in Yemen resentment of Saudi attempts to spread money around and convert people out of Zaydism and into the ultra-rigid Wahhabi form of Islam.

As for Hizbullah backing Bashar al-Assad in Syria, so does Trump’s buddy Vladimir Putin, to whom Trump said Syria should be turned over. In other words, Hizbullah’s position on Syria isn’t much different from that of Trump.

It is very odd that you would blame the survival of the al-Assad regime on Iran alone and not bring up Russia. Russia has spent way more in Syria than Iran and has used its Aerospace Forces for intensive bombing over 2 years, a much bigger military impact than Iran’s. And Trump himself keeps saying Arabs need strongmen to rule them.

“We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program. (Applause.) The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me.”

Let’s see. In the Joint Plan of Collective Action, Iran gave up:

1. –its planned heavy water reactor at Arak, concreting it in and abandoning it. Heavy water reactors can be used to gather enough fissile material over time so that you might be able to make a nuclear bomb. That pathway is gone.

2. –all but 6000 of its centrifuges, which aren’t enough to enrich enough uranium on a short timetable to make a bomb

3. –its stockpile of uranium enriched to 19.5%. It needs to be enriched to 95% for a proper bomb, but that is easier if you start part of the way there. That stockpile has been recast in a form such that it cannot be used to make a bomb.

4 — its objections to being intensively monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. It is now under the most stringent inspection regime in history. (Israel refused inspections and then made several hundred nuclear warheads and so did India and Pakistan and Russia and the US. Trump doesn’t condemn the actual proliferators, only Iran, which does not have a nuke).

Iran basically gave up the deterrent effect of being able to construct a nuclear weapon in time to stop an invasion. The United States has invaded 3 neighbors of Iran, so it isn’t an idle fear.

What did Iran get in return? The GOP Congress tightened sanctions, and has scared off a lot of European investors.

Iran got bupkes.

This deal is not between the US and Iran but between Iran and the UN Security Council plus Germany (representing the EU). The deal has deeply disadvantaged Iran and has not affected the US at all. In fact the US has already reneged on the spirit of it.

If what Trump is saying is that Iran was left with some elements of what is called ‘nuclear latency’– the knowledge of how to make a bomb, then that is correct. But the only way to wipe out Iranian nuclear latency would be to invade it and occupy it and put in a puppet government.

And that is what Israel’s Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia’s Muhammad Bin Salman want Trump to do. We have to see if he is so foolish.

Iran is 2.5 times as populous as Iran and 3 times bigger geographically, and the Iraq War did not go well for the US.

“The Iranian regime’s support for terror is in stark contrast to the recent commitments of many of its neighbors to fight terrorism and halt its financing.

In Saudi Arabia early last year, I was greatly honored to address the leaders of more than 50 Arab and Muslim nations. We agreed that all responsible nations must work together to confront terrorists and the Islamist extremism that inspires them. ”

As or Saudi Arabia being the good guy, give me a break. They were backing anti-minority fanatics like Jaysh al-isalm who wanted to ethnically cleanse all Syrian non-Salafis (i.e. almost everyone). They had recognized the Taliban in the 1990s. They spread around an intolerant form of Islam that forbids Muslims to so much as have a friendly meal with Christians and Jews.

Trump’s remarks were apocalyptically stupid.

——–

Related video:

France 24: “Donald Trump at the UN: The Iran Deal is “an embarrassment to the United States”

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Morning Star promotes claims of Israeli “apartheid” – from slave-state Qatar!

March 19, 2017 at 6:37 pm (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, hell, Human rights, israel, Jim D, Middle East, stalinism, UN)

Foreign construction workers queue for buses back to their accommodation camp in Doha.
Foreign construction workers queue for buses back to their accommodation camp in Doha, Qatar

I’m sometimes asked why I bother commenting on the reportage of the Morning Star, a small-circulation daily controlled by the Communist Party of Britain.

The reason is because the M Star exerts an influence on the mainstream British left – and especially the trade union movement – that is out of all proportion to its circulation, or to the membership of the CPB.

The M Star’s domestic ‘line’ is fairly mainstream pro-Corbyn banality; its foreign policy is characterised by uncritical support for Assad in Syria and absolute hostility to Israel, inherited from Stalinist anti-semitism. So, Fridays’s M Star front-page was not that much of a surprise:

Israel is guilty of apartheid, says UN report


Mar
2017
Friday 17th
posted by Steve Sweeney in Britain

Campaigners hail findings as ‘breakthrough’ in the struggle for Palestinians


ISRAEL is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime of racial discrimination on the Palestinian population, according to a “historic” United Nations (UN) report.

The report, published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on Wednesday, urged member states to work together to bring such apartheid regimes to an end.

It concluded that it was “beyond reasonable doubt” that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid as defined by international law.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) hailed the publication of the report, which condemned the “systematic regime of racial domination” over the Palestinian people and their exclusion from all levels of society.

PSC director Ben Jamal said: “This is a hugely significant moment … The case for the international community to hold Israel to account via the imposition of meaningful sanctions is overwhelming.”

And the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement said it was a “historic breakthrough.”

Its co-founder Omar Barghouti said: “Our South Africa moment is nearing. This new UN report is a stark indicator that Israel’s apartheid is destined to end, as South Africa’s did.

“BDS is not only growing impressively on campuses, in churches, trade unions, cultural organisations and social movements, it is today adopted by a UN Commission.

“This may well be the very first beam of light that ushers the dawn of sanctions against Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.”

Although considered a breakthrough by pro-Palestinian organisations, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that the report did not reflect the views of the secretary-general.

He added that the ESCWA — a UN agency made up of Arab states — did not consult with the UN secretariat before publishing their findings.

The report — titled “Israeli Practices towards Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid” — called on UN member states to remember their collective duty not to recognise an apartheid regime, not to assist a state in maintaining such a regime and to work to bring apartheid states to an end.

It accused Israel of “demographic engineering” to maintain a Jewish state, and it detailed how control over matters including immigration, land use and public development planning by the World Zionist Organisation and Jewish Agency reinforces discrimination against Palestinians.

The system of martial law operated over 6.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip sees Israel “systematically and routinely” practice every inhuman act other than genocide as defined under the 1973 Apartheid Convention, it added.

Around 1.7 million Palestinians who are living as citizens of Israel suffer oppression on the basis of not being Jewish, according to the report, and they suffer discrimination through inferior services, restrictions on jobs and are legally prohibited from challenging legislation that maintains the “racial regime.”

While Palestinians are entitled to Israeli citizenship only Jews are entitled to Israeli nationality.

In East Jerusalem, the report found widespread discrimination in access to jobs and services with Palestinians suffering expulsions and home demolitions.

Their classification as “permanent residents” in the city means they have no legal standing to challenge Israeli law and, if they openly identify with Palestinians in the occupied territories, they risk automatic expulsion to the West Bank and a ban from visiting Jerusalem.

… except that, for anyone who bothered to read the M Star‘s front page article all the way through, it soon became apparent that

“Although considered a breakthrough by pro-Palestinian organisations, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that the report did not reflect the views of the secretary-general.

“He added that the ESCWA — a UN agency made up of Arab states — did not consult with the UN secretariat before publishing their findings.”

In other words, the M Star‘s lead story and headline was thoroughly misleading.

And who are the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) ? Well, it is made up exclusively of Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Libya. There are no democracies – by any definition of the word – in its ranks.

And, most outrageously, the ESCWA includes the state of Qatar, presently enslaving 1.8 migrant workers from India, Nepal and other South Asian countries. And the Morning Star repeats Qatar’s claim that Israel operates “apartheid”!

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Yezidi woman tells UN about Daesh/ISIS mass rape and genocide

December 26, 2015 at 6:05 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, child abuse, fascism, genocide, Human rights, iraq, islamism, Middle East, misogyny, posted by JD, Slavery, Syria, terror, UN)

Watch this before your next theoretical discussion about whether or not Daesh are fascists, whether or not any form of military action should be taken against them … and whether or not we’re doing enough for refugees fleeing them:

(UN  Security Council, December 16 20015)

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Genocide in Rwanda – 20 years on

April 6, 2014 at 7:40 am (africa, genocide, history, Jim D, reactionay "anti-imperialism", tragedy, UN)

Above: Jean-Paul Samputu, who lost his family, sings and talks about the genocide

The tragic events surrounding the Rwandan genocide of 1994 must never be forgotten. They are a major reason why some of us despise the isolationists of the right and the so-called “anti-imperialist” “left.” It occurs to me that a new generation of socialists has grown up largely unaware of these events, and miseducated by the isolationism -in-principle of people like the ‘Stop the War Coalition.’

The following is a modified and edited version of the account written by Janice Anderson, Anne Williams and Vivian Head in their book War Crimes and Atrocities (Futura, 2007):

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In a period of 13 weeks from 6 April 1994, about half a million people perished in a mass slaughter of the minority Tutsi population of Rwanda, a tiny country in Central Africa. Thousands of the majority Hutus were also slain for opposing the killings

Background

Rwanda’s population is divided into two ethnic groups, the Hutus and the Tutsis. The Hutus are the more numerous and are by tradition crop growers and farmers. Over the centuries, Hutus have encouraged Tutsis from northern Africa to come and work in Rwanda and, for over 600 years, the two groups shared the same language, culture and nationality.

Rwanda was first colonised by the Germans, but during World War I it was taken over by the Belgians, who caused a rift between the two groups by granting preferential status to the Tutsis. Then European missionaries added a further twist, by encouraging the Hutus to fight back, resulting in the loss of over 100,00 lives in a rebellion in 1956. Three years later the Hutus had seized power and over 200,000 Tutsis retreated to neighbouring countries where they formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), an army dedicated to taking on the Hutus.

When Rwanda became independent in 1962, the Hutus took power, but were constantly fearful of Tutsi retaliation, which eventually came in 1990, when the RPF attacked, forcing the then-president to sign a power-sharing agreement that was never properly implemented due to Hutu opposition. The situation was made even worse when a plane carrying the Burundi president (a Hutu) was shot down.

Aware that the fragile ceasefire was about to crumble, the UN sent a peacekeeping force of about 2,500 multinational soldiers, but by this time the majority of Hutus, including much of their political and religious leadership, had decided that the Tutsis had assassinated their president and that the only solution was to annihilate the entire Tutsi population.

In April 1994, amid ever-increasing threats of violence, the Rwandan president, Habyarimana and the new Burundi president, Cyprien Ntaryamira, held peace talks with the Tutsi rebels. But disaster struck on 6 April, when the small plane carrying the two presidents was shot down by ground-fired missiles as it approached Kigali airport. Their deaths plunged Rwanda into a frenzied state of political violence, leading to genocide.

The Genocide

Just 24 hours after the plane was shot down, road-blocks started to appear  on the roads around Kigali, manned by the Interahamwe militia. The Interahamwe (meaning ‘Those Who Stand/Fight Together’) was the most effective of the Hutu militias. They identified Tutsis and hacked them to death with machetes. Tutsis who could afford to pay were given the option of dying by a bullet. Specially organised death squads, working from prepared lists, went from neighbourhood to neighbourhood in Kigali. Not only did they round up all the Tutsis, but they picked on moderate Hutus as well, including prime minister  Agathe Uwilingiyimana: he was guarded by Belgian UN guards, who the attackers arrested, tortured and then killed, causing Belgium to withdraw the remainder of its UN troops.

The violence spread like wildfire from Kigali. Via the radio, the government urged Tutsis to congregate at churches, schools and stadiums, promising that they would make these safe places of refuge. Little did the Tutsis know that by gathering in large groups they in fact made themselves easy targets. Some of the victims managed to ward off attacks by using sticks and stones — until the joint forces of  the Rwandan army and presidential guard were brought in to wipe them out with machine guns and grenades. In just two weeks, by 21 April, it is generally estimated that about 250,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered, making this one of the most concentrated acts of genocide ever.

What made the genocide even more atrocious is the fact that it was encouraged by government and church officials, who even bribed the killers to do their dirty work. Local officials and leaders of Anglican and Catholic churches conspired with the killers and in many cases took an active part in the slaughter. Men, women, children and babies were killed in their thousands in schools and churches where, tragically, they had gathered in the hope of finding sanctuary. The victims had to bear the knowledge that they were being killed by people they knew — neighbours, fellow workers, sometimes even relatives by marriage.

The Interahamwe weren’t driven by drink, drugs or even mindless bloodlust, but a fanatical devotion to their cause. They were cold-blooded killers who were urged on by the media and by the government. Participants were often given incentives, such as money or food, and were even told they could keep the land of the Tutsis they killed.

The radio was important in spreading the killing. Even the poorest households would possess a radio and people would listen intently to government broadcasts. When Hutus heard the voices coming through the radio calling on them to “kill, kill. kill the Tutsi minority”, they responded accordingly.

The genocide was initially aimed mainly at young male Tutsis who could have been members of the RPF guerrilla force. However, as the days went by women and children also became victims. Survivors later told stories of being aped by individuals or gangs, sometimes using sharpened sticks or gun barrels. Sometimes they were sexually mutilated or forced into “marriages” that made them a sex slaves.

The Aftermath

The killing didn’t stop until July when the RPF finally managed to capture Kigali, causing the collapse of the government. A ceasefire was declared as soon as the Hutus realised that the RPF was victorious, and an estimated two million Hutus fled to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). It wasn’t until the killing stopped that UN troops and aid workers arrived in significant numbers — while it was going on there had been just a token and entirely impotent UN presence.

Why was it that while the genocide was happening the international community deserted Rwanda? Erratic media coverage conveyed the false notion of two ‘tribes’ of African ‘savages’ mindlessly killing each other as they had done for many years. As a result there was little public pressure in the West for governments to intervene. Controversy has raged ever since over the role (or lack of it) of foreign governments and the UN in allowing the genocide to proceed. It wasn’t until 7 April 2000, the sixth anniversary of the massacre, that Belgium’s prime minister apologised for the international community’s failure to intervene. He told an audience at the site of a memorial that, “A dramatic combination of negligence, incompetence and hesitation created the conditions for the tragedy.”

Linda Melvin, in the Guardian, points out that General Roméo Dallaire, the UN force commander in Rwanda in 1994 had wanted just 5,500 reinforcements to stand guard at places where desperate people were sheltering; this would have sent a clear signal to the machete-wielding Interahamwe that the world would not stand for their brutality.

Melvin concludes her important piece as follows:

The 20th commemoration of the genocide sees fine words spoken by all and it seems timely to reflect on why Rwanda was so quickly abandoned to its fate in 1994. There has never been a satisfactory explanation for the indifference over Rwanda. Western governments – the US, UK, Belgium, France – continue to withhold a wealth of information about events. Neither the US nor the UK, two permanent members of the UN security council, has ever answered accusations of a failure to abide by obligations under the 1948 genocide convention, nor revealed the information on which their decisions were based. The failure to critically examine the role of ministers and officials has further encouraged the sort of secretive and unaccountable decision-making that will no doubt shroud the decision-makers today and those who sit and read the cables.

With no official inquiry by either the US or the UK, blame for inaction over the genocide has simply slipped away from the officials and politicians responsible. This might be a suitable time to find out why the UK government was so determined in the security council that Dallaire’s UN peacekeepers be withdrawn from Rwanda, leaving behind a “token force” in order to “appease public opinion” – not to protect civilians but to try to negotiate a ceasefire in the civil war.

Since 1994 there has been an almost continuous series of debates, studies and resolutions on the failure over Rwanda. These have shown how little true humanitarianism there is at the heart of states that both possess abundant resources and profess a commitment to human rights. Nothing has changed.

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UN denounces Vatican over child abuse

February 5, 2014 at 11:08 pm (Catholicism, child abuse, Christianity, posted by JD, religion, UN)

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From the Stop Abuse Campaign:
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Above: “slavery-like conditions” at Magdalene laundries

Vatican ‘must immediately remove’ child abusers – UN

The UN has demanded that the Vatican “immediately remove” all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers.

The UN watchdog for children’s rights denounced the Holy See for adopting policies allowing priests to sexually abuse thousands of children.

In a report, it criticised Vatican attitudes towards homosexuality, contraception and abortion.

The Vatican responded by saying it would examine the report – but also accused its authors of interference.

“The Holy See takes note of the concluding observations on its reports… [but] does, however, regret to see… an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of the human person… [and] reiterates its commitment to defending and protecting the rights of the child,” it said in a statement.

And a Vatican official, speaking to Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity, said the statements on homosexuality, contraception and abortion were outside the committee’s remit and “heavily agenda-driven and smacking of acute political correctness”.

The Vatican has set up a commission to fight child abuse in the Church.

The UN committee’s recommendations are non-binding and there is no enforcement mechanism.

‘Offenders’ mobility’

In its report, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) said the Holy See should open its files on members of the clergy who had “concealed their crimes” so that they could be held accountable.

The committee said it was gravely concerned that the Holy See had not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed.

In the report, the committee expressed its “deepest concern about child sexual abuse committed by members of the Catholic churches who operate under the authority of the Holy See, with clerics having been involved in the sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children worldwide”.

It also lambasted the “practice of offenders’ mobility”, referring to the transfer of child abusers from parish to parish within countries, and sometimes abroad.

The committee said this practice placed “children in many countries at high risk of sexual abuse, as dozens of child sexual offenders are reported to be still in contact with children”.

The UN report called on a commission created by Pope Francis in December to investigate all cases of child sexual abuse “as well as the conduct of the Catholic hierarchy in dealing with them”.

Magdalene laundries

Ireland’s Magdalene laundries scandal was singled out by the report as an example of how the Vatican had failed to provide justice despite “slavery-like” conditions, including degrading treatment, violence and sexual abuse.

The laundries were Catholic-run workhouses where some 10,000 women and girls were required to do unpaid manual labour between 1922 and 1996.

The report’s findings come after Vatican officials were questioned in public last month over why they would not release data and what they were doing to prevent future abuse.

The Vatican has denied any official cover-up. However, in December, it refused a UN request for data on abuse on the grounds that it only released such information if requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings.

In January, the Vatican confirmed that almost 400 priests had been defrocked in a two-year periode by the former Pope Benedict XVI over claims of child abuse.

The BBC’s David Willey in Rome says the Vatican has set up new guidelines to protect children from predatory priests.

But, he adds, bishops in many parts of the world have tended to concentrate on protecting and defending the reputation of priests rather than listening to the complaints of victims of paedophile priests.

 Read more at BBC News Europe

Click to sign our petition demanding Pope Francis stop recycling pedophile priests.

Many campaigners feel the Vatican should open its files on priests known to be child abusers

Many campaigners feel the Vatican should open its files on priests known to be child abusers

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Thunderclap for the children of Syria

January 12, 2014 at 10:34 am (children, Education, hell, Human rights, internationalism, Middle East, posted by JD, solidarity, Syria, UN)

I’ve received this, and would urge you all to respond:

Dear Jim,

Since you’re the type of person who believes no child should be left without an education, we’re writing to you with an important update on the crisis of Syrian refugee children. Back in September, A World at School delivered a petition at the United Nations calling on world leaders to provide education for nearly 400,000 Syrian children exiled in Lebanon.

Since then, leaders have developed a plan to deliver education in the worst refugee crisis since World War II. The plan is now ready to go and on Wednesday, major international donors will be asked to pledge their support for humanitarian relief to help victims of the Syrian conflict.

Now we need you to send a message to the international donor community to make the plan reality and get these children back to school.

Join our Thunderclap this Tuesday to call for swift action.

It can be done. Public support has put the issue on the table and pressure is growing for immediate action. We need you to remind the world’s leaders why they have to do something NOW.

We cannot let up. More than 5,000 young people are fleeing the conflict each week into Lebanon alone. Without education they face becoming a lost generation.

Click here and help make A World at School a reality for Syrian children.

PS: Join the Youth Education Crisis Committee Google Hangout this January 15 to learn more about how to create @aworldatschool for #childrenofsyria: http://bit.ly/KFCYeN

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Lampedusa tragedy: the EU must act

October 4, 2013 at 8:12 pm (Europe, Human rights, immigration, Italy, posted by JD, poverty, Racism, tragedy, UN)

From France 24:

Body bags containing African migrants, who drowned trying to reach Italian shores, lie in the harbour of Lampedusa

Above: some of the bodies at the dockside

Italy calls for EU help after Lampedusa boat tragedy

Italy has asked for help from the European Union to deal with refugee arrivals in the wake of the sinking of a boat carrying migrants off the coast of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa on Thursday, in which it is feared 300 or more people could have died.

Around 500 people, believed to be mostly Eritreans and Somalis, were aboard the 20-metre boat when it capsized and sank on Thursday morning when the vessel was around half of a mile from the island.

By Friday afternoon, 111 bodies, including at least three children and two pregnant women, had been recovered.

But with only 155 survivors plucked from the water almost 24 hours after the disaster, there were fears that the final toll could rise significantly higher in what is one of the worst migrant tragedies to strike the Mediterranean in recent years.

“Two motorboats remained in the area overnight and this morning divers resumed work but we expect to recover more than a hundred [more] bodies from the ship,” coast guard official Floriana Segreto told Reuters.

Meanwhile, a ferry arrived early on Friday with a truck carrying about 100 coffins and four hearses for the dead, who are now lined up along the floor of a hangar at the airport.

“Seeing the bodies of the children was a tragedy,” Pietro Bartolo, a local doctor, told the AFP news agency. “In many years of work here, I have never seen anything like this,” he said.

‘A European tragedy’

Italy is one of the most common destinations for refugees trying to reach Europe from northern Africa and the Middle East.

According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, 8,400 migrants landed in Italy and Malta in the first six months of this year, almost double the 4,500 who arrived during the first half of 2012.

Migrants frequently head for Lampedusa, just 113 km (70 miles) from the coast of Tunisia, and are often found in dangerously overcrowded boats before being taken ashore by the Italian coastguard.

There have mean numerous accidents involving migrant boats attempting to reach Italy and last year almost 500 people were reported dead or missing on the route between Sicily and Tunisia, according to UN figures.

Italy has pressed the EU for more help to fight the crisis, which it says concerns the entire 28-nation bloc.

“This is not an Italian tragedy, this is a European tragedy,” said Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano on Thursday.

“Lampedusa has to be considered the frontier of Europe, not the frontier of Italy.”

The EU’s Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroemn called on EU countries to do more to take in refugees, which she said would help reduce the number of perilous Mediterranean crossings.

A redoubling of efforts is needed to “fight smugglers exploiting human despair”, she said in a tweet.

‘These deaths did not need to happen’

Meanwhile, repressive policy towards illegal immigrants by Italy and other European countries could have also contributed to the tragedy, a UN official said Thursday.

François Crepeau, the UN’s special rapporteur on migrants’ rights, said that by closing their borders to refugees, European countries are only giving more power to human traffickers.

“Treating irregular migrants only by repressive measures would create these tragedies,” he told reporters. “These deaths did not need to happen.”

In Italy, migrants can work legally only if they have a work permit and a contract before they arrive – a policy pushed through by Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League party.
Migrants who arrive in Lampedusa are processed in centres, screened for asylum and often sent back home.

Crepeau was speaking at the start of a two-day debate at the UN General Assembly on international migration.

At the start of the debate, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered his “deep condolences” and said he hoped the Lampedusa tragedy would be a “spur to action.”

The UN chief said protecting migrants’ rights, fighting against exploitation and improving the public perception of migrants were all crucial.

Pope Francis, who visited the island in July on his first papal trip outside Rome, also expressed his sadness over the incident.

“The word that comes to mind is ‘shame’,” Francis said in unscripted remarks after a speech in the Vatican. “Let us unite our strengths so that such tragedies never happen again.”

On Friday, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta called for a national day of mourning and a minute of silence to be held in all schools to mark the tragedy.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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Syria: no-win for us or the ruling class … or the Syrian people

August 27, 2013 at 5:46 pm (conspiracy theories, hell, Human rights, Jim D, Middle East, murder, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Syria, terror, UN, United States, USSR, war)

Ben Jennings 27.08.2013

Cartoon from the Guardian

The international ruling classes are clearly in a quandary over Syria. But so is the serious left (the word “serious” meaning discounting Assad-supporters and hypocritical fake-Westphalians who’ve been looking forward to western intervention for the past two years and more, just so’s they can have something to protest about).

Shiraz Socialist does not oppose foreign intervention in principle, especially when a country is descending into sectarian mass-murder. Also, the use of chemical weapons should be recognised as a “red line” and, if possible, the perpetrators punished.

The problem with regard to Syria is not any “principled” objection to “outside” intervention, but the fact that the opposition seems to be a bunch of sectarian Islamists who are already attacking Kurds, Allowites, Christians, Shias and others.

The best result  now would be a cease-fire arrived at by a conference brokered and enforced on the ground by the UN, Arab League or, indeed, NATO. Frankly, that’s not very likely.

It looks like Labour are going to opposes unilateral military action http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/08/douglas-alexander-warns-cameron-vote-must-be-held-syria-and-labour-could-oppose-gov

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The left in general, perhapd due to the bank holiday, has yet to react. There are a few voices though – Owen jones opposes military action but, against all the evidence, appears to doubt that  the Assad regieme launched the chemical attack. He calls on the international court to bring charges and for UN peace talks: “There’s no question that those who use chemical weapons must be  arraigned in an international court. But a UN-brokered peace process  involving all the local and regional players remains the only solution.” http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/for-the-syrians-sakes-and-for-our-own-we-must-not-intervene-8784220.html

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The wretched Lindsey German and ‘Stop the War’ are entirely predictable. They call it a proxy war but conveniently only mention the Western and Saudi arming of the rebels, not Russia or Iran who have been sending arms and troops to aid Assad.  They call for peace talks, but really they’re in support of Assad: http://www.stopwar.org.uk/news/attack-in-syria-no-pretext-for-intervention

Others (eg: Galloway) are spreading conspiracy theories about who did the gassing: Mossad, Al Quida, the FSA, Turkish intelligence, Saudi Intelligence-  take your pick.
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Assad supporter John Wight at the Socialist Unity blog thinks it’s all of them conspiring to take out Assad because he is part of the “Axis of Resistance”:
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http://socialistunity.com/allegations-of-chemical-weapons-use-by-syrian-government-forces-dont-stack-up/
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A few voices of sanity, solidarity and common decency:
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* Coatsey
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* Louis Proyect
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* The AWL

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Today, we celebrate with Malala

July 12, 2013 at 5:09 pm (anti-fascism, children, Civil liberties, Education, good people, Human rights, Jim D, Sheer joy, solidarity, truth, UN, women, youth)

From A World At School

Sign Malala's birthday card

16 years old today…

…and here’s her inspirational speech to the UN today:

Shame, shame, shame on those people on the so-called “left” who’ve ever expressed any degree of sympathy, support  for, or ‘contextualisation’ of the actions of, the child-killers and gynophobic barbarians of the Taliban: yes, I mean you fucking shower, the SWP, Workers Power, the ISG and degenerate ‘Labour’ MP Jeremy Corbyn.

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Sign Malala’s petition

June 21, 2013 at 7:21 pm (anti-fascism, children, civil rights, Education, good people, Human rights, Jim D, misogyny, Pakistan, rights, UN, youth)

Here’s something I’d hope we can all agree on:

From A World at School/ Stand with Malala

Last October, people across the globe united to send thoughts of hope and love to a brave young girl fighting for her life in Pakistan.

The Pakistani Taliban tried to assassinate Malala Yousafzai because of her strong voice in the fight for women’s rights and youth education. Their gunmen boarded her school bus and shot her in front of her peers – but Malala survived and she hasn’t stopped fighting.

Last weekend we were reminded of the need to continue to stand behind Malala and her cause once again. 14 young female students were massacred as a bus taking them home from university in Quetta, in western Pakistan, was blown up by extremist militants.

On July 12 – less than a year after she was attacked – Malala will mark her 16th birthday by speaking at the UN. She’ll be delivering to the highest leadership of the UN a set of education demands written for youth, by youth.

Join in uniting for Malala – and for girls’ education – once again.

Sign the letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledging your support to her cause.

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