One of the many obstacles to peace in Israel/Palestine…

First thing: I want readers to know that even though I don’t spend much time blogging about Iraq, I don’t want readers to think that reflects what I think should be priorities. In fact I think Iraq is a major priority. I just think that two of my favourite blogs, Rahul’s and Zeynep’s , are staying on top of it quite effectively. If I think I can add anything, I will.

On Israel/Palestine. The offensive in Gaza continues. Israeli military shot and killed a 4 year old child there, according to IMEMC, and 12 others.

Read Ramzy Baroud in today’s Counterpunch for a thought experiment and a summary of what’s happened in this ‘Gaza raid’ so far.

And while this massacre goes on, the religious fundamentalists have invaded Israel and are trying to impose their agenda on that country.

Hamas, you ask? No, dear reader, I am talking about Pat Robertson. Today’s Haaretz quotes Pat, in Israel right now, said that if Bush were to “touch” Jerusalem, “Evangelicals would form a third party” (touch it, Bush! touch it please!)

Other constructive contributions from Pat include:

-Wanting to abolish the UN Relief and Works Agency (it perpetuates the refugee problem — which I suppose is true, since UNRWA is stopping all the refugees from starving to death, counter to Israel’s closure policies)

-Saying Arab nations “want a conflict” and “want the destruction of Israel” (so do the evangelicals, though I suppose they expect God will do it in His own time)

-“A Palestinian state with full sovereignty would be a launching ground for
various types of weapons, including weapons of mass destruction” (though how the WMD would get there from the US wasn’t explained)

-“I see the rise of Islam to destroy Israel and take the land from the Jews
and give East Jerusalem to [Palestinian Authority Chairman] Yasser Arafat.
I see that as Satan’s plan to prevent the return of Jesus Christ the

-“God says, ‘I’m going to judge those who carve up the West Bank and Gaza
Strip,'” Robertson said. “‘It’s my land and keep your hands off it.'”

I’m reminded of Latin American writer Eduardo Galeano’s quizzical remark before the US invaded Iraq last March: why is God giving Bush and the Pope such contradictory messages?

Sharon vows to keep on killing

And why shouldn’t he? When “Operation Defensive Shield” happened in March/April 2002, there was at least the idea that while Powell meandered his way around the world, by the time he got to Israel Sharon would have to slow the massacre down. MSNBC says 58 have been killed in Gaza so far, around the same number cited for the Jenin slaughter in 2002. But Sharon has vowed to continue doggedly, as if this is some kind of act of courage, and not a slaughter of a an already starving population of refugees.

And just in case 2 invasions weren’t enough…

So we know the US is hammering Samarra. We know Israel is hammering Gaza, missile strikes and all, 74 killed in the past 4 days, 330 injuries, at leats, and counting.

But, let us not forget the Americas, since it seems every repressive US ally wants to get in on the act.

Take Colombia, for example, whose troops invaded Ecuador in a group of 70, searching houses and firing weapons, according to the FARC’s site ANNCOL. The Colombian Army is back to its old tricks of assassinations on the Venezuelan border as well, after a brief peace was made between Colombian President Uribe and Venezuelan President Chavez in July.

And why shouldn’t the coup-installed Haitian police get in on the action? In the Port-Au-Prince slum of Bel Air, Haitian police are besieging the place, killing people, taking bodies away — reports the Haiti Information Project (I’ll attach the report below). The United Nations, the same HIP reports, is playing a constructive role, standing around while the police provoke and commit violence.

HIP reports below.


October 2, 2004

Haiti slum under siege

Haiti Information Project (HIP)

Port au Prince,Haiti (HIP)– A slum in the capital is under siege from the Haitian National Police (HNP) following three days of violence and unrest. Heavily armed units of the HNP attempted to enter the slum of Bel Air at 9:00 p.m. last night and were met with armed resistance. Shots could be heard throughout the area for several hours as residents fought a pitched battle with the police who were forced to withdraw under heavy fire.

Bel Air is a slum in the capital of Port au Prince that has served as a launching site for recent demonstrations commemorating the thirteenth anniversary of the 1991 military coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide. On September 30th the police opened fire on unarmed demonstrators provoking an attack against a unit of the Unite de Securite Presidentielle (U.S.P), a special security detail assigned to Interim President Boniface Alexandre. Members of the special police unit were seen firing on demonstrators and collecting bodies before masked gunmen returned fire killing three and wounding a fourth who later died in the hospital.

Residents of Bel Air claim that six persons were wounded and one killed during last night’s police raid. There are no reports of casualities from the police who have yet to acknowledge the nighttime raid. Partisans of Aristide’s Lavalas political party, who are calling for his return following his forced ouster on February 29th, stated they are preparing for further actions by the police and the possibility of UN troops being used against them in Bel Air.


October 1, 2004

Haiti Protests: UN/Brazilian Troops stand-by as Haitian police provoke

Haiti Information Project

Port au Prince, Haiti (HIP) – Last September 11th more than 10,000 Lavalas militants took to the streets to demand the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The marchers were accompanied by a large contingent of Haitian police who returned fire when unidentified gunmen shot at the demonstration as it passed the Office of National Insurance on Delmas 17. The crowd immediately took up the chant, “Down with the army. Long live the police!”

Another march was planned for September 30th marking the thirteenth anniversary of the military coup that overthrew Aristide in 1991. Although organizers for the march received permits from the Haitian National Police (PNH) it was clear from the beginning something was amiss. The first noticeable difference was the absence of police escorts that normally ride shotgun at the head and tail of these types of sanctioned demonstrations. These days the police are also aided by roving UN vehicles that monitor the negotiated route of the demonstration. They were conspicuously absent as well.

By 10:00 am it was evident this wasn’t going to be business as usual on the streets of Port au Prince. More than 10,000 singing and chanting Lavalas militants had already started pouring out of the slums of Bel Air and were marching towards the national palace. It was certain that if it the march continued it would swell to even greater numbers by midday despite reports that Lavalas militants from the Cite Soleil slum had just been ambushed by police and blocked from joining the march.

As the crowd approached the capital’s center known as “Champ Mars”, three armored personnel vehicles and an impressive line of Brazilian soldiers in full riot gear blocked their access to the street in front of the national palace. Despite the hurtling of a few insults by the crowd, intended for the UN troops Lavalas considers to be occupiers of Haiti, the march passed without incident and continued towards the old section of Port au Prince known as “La Ville.”

As the demonstration passed a street leading to the National Penitentiary, heavily armed units of the police SWAT team opened fire without warning on the crowd. People panicked and scattered in all directions knocking over goods of the local market place women in an effort to seek cover from the gunfire. The shooting continued sporadically for nearly twenty minutes as angry marchers began to break out car windows as they fled. On another side street a pickup truck with four policemen could be seen shooting and then stopping to collect the bodies of two of their victims. It was at this moment everything changed.

Up to this point, in what had been a peaceful demonstration, not a single weapon was brandished or seen among the marchers. Suddenly, according to witnesses, five men in masks appeared out of nowhere with small firearms. They surrounded the police in the small pickup truck and began to return fire. Despite the fact they were heavily outgunned by automatic weapons, they managed to catch the police in a deadly crossfire. Witness’s say that two of the police were killed almost immediately while a third died of his wounds in the hospital and the US-backed government is claiming a fourth was kidnapped by demonstrators. Justice Minister Bernard Gousse claims that there were no deaths reported among the marchers although several witnesses dispute this. This is understandable given that Lavalas marchers now collect bodies as they fall because they do not trust the current government to allow the families to give them a proper burial.

The official version being put out by the UN is that “a gunfight broke out between Aristide supporters and security guards at shops looted during the march” to cover the fact that the Haitian National Police provoked the incident by firing on unarmed demonstrators. Observers note this may also be to protect the Brazilian troops from embarrassment and explaining why they stood by as the Haitian police provoked the conflict. At the same time the UN is claiming that the violence occurred before the marchers reached the national palace, witnesses including many in the press, say this is not the case.

Outsource the NBA!

While I realize the brave and hard-working people of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement) are stretched thin in their struggles against the building of destructive dams along India’s rivers, I can’t help but wish that some of their strength, organizing skills and experience could be outsourced to Laos, where thousands of people there are about to be swept away in the name of development…

Construction of the $1.3 billion Nam Theun 2 dam in Laos – the biggest in the nation’s history – is fast underway. A development consortium of state-owned Electricite de France, the Lao government and two Thai companies are already clearing land on the Nakai Plateau in the Lao jungle. A pilot resettlement village is being developed so that the 6,000 plus people who will be displaced by the dam can learn to live there, crowded together, growing unsustainable crops. As for the over 200,000 people who use the Xe Bang Fai river to eat, drink water and bathe – well, noone talks about what will happen to them once the NT2 is built.

The Lao government has even set up a flashy Web site for foreign investors to browse through. The site, deftly named Powering Progress, is fully equipped with video clips featuring the voice over of a man with a heavy British accent telling viewers that Laos is “a window to the future” for development in Asia. A little over 35% of all the dams being built in Asia right now are in Laos – a country of 6 million that is about the size of the American state of Utah. Image that, given all the world knows about the destructive and unproductive effect large-scale dams have on a developing nation’s ecology and population – the beleagured people of this small landlocked nation are being inundated by them. Behold the power of progress.

The International Rivers Network has documented the effects of other dam projects in Laos and the government’s inadequate responses to resettling the internally displaced and staving off the epidemics of malaria and malnutrition that sweep through the regions where dams have been built.

The construction of the TN2 dam is particularly distressing because of the global implications it has: the World Bank sees this as its ticket back into the arena of financing these destructive projects. Following the 2000 World Commission on Dams report, which damningly proved the disastrous effects of big dams in the developing world, the bank and other international, debt-producing, lending institutions have been loath to finance large projects. Securing funds to the Lao government for TN2 would open up the flood gates, if you will, ushering in a new wave of money and interest into the dam-building industry.

This is just another project in economic development that is strikingly destructive to the people it is supposed to benefit. I can only ask in this instance the same questions I ask whenever foreign investors plunder a nation with the complicity of its government, which in turn touts the benefits of said plunder to its people (and to other foreign investors): Development for who? and for what?

Gaza (or is it Fallujah?): The massacre has begun

This morning wire services were reporting 200 tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and bulldozers were massed on the Gaza border. “Troops were setting up makeshift camps, apparently in preparation for an extended operation.”

Keep in mind this was after 28 Palestinians had already been killed, and 139 wounded, the day before. That was before the “major operation” that is already underway. 10 more have been killed since.

The first killings were in the refugee camp of Jabaliya, with aircraft firing into a crowd. Two Israeli soldiers were wounded in fighting.

Haaretz is making the obvious comparison to March/April 2002, when Israel slaughtered its way through Jenin and Nablus:

“Thursday’s deaths marked the highest one-day Palestinian toll since April 2002 when 35 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank, during Operation Defensive Shield.”

It can only be coincidence that as Israel is mounting major offensive operations in Gaza, that the US is mounting major offensive operations in Fallujah and Samarra in Iraq? That these occupying armies are smashing through civilian neighbourhoods and camps with ultra modern high-tech weaponry? That the media is rationalizing all these actions as ‘self-defence’?

As happens often when Israel and the US compete for atrocities, the US is winning hands down: it has killed over 100 already.

Intervention in Sudan?

I have appreciated David Peterson’s blogging about the ‘humanitarians’ and their ‘interventions’ about Sudan. So when I read his latest, referring to my own recent piece on the subject (a piece which made good use of his own previous blogging), I thought it a good time to blog on the topic myself.

I think David, like Ed Herman, is a very forceful and well-informed anti-interventionist. He takes the hard cases (Sudan, Kosovo) and relentlessly goes after even the more sympathetic liberal interventionists — folks like Samantha Power, Louise Arbour, Human Rights Watch — for their genuine inconsistencies that seem always to favour the powerful. My own instincts are also pretty much always in the anti-interventionist direction. There are various reasons. One is the old moral truism (where have I heard that phrase before?) that we should hold ourselves (or our own societies) to the same standards we claim to hold others. Another is that the US and the West are by far the most powerful, and that makes them the most dangerous, and the stakes very high, even for people outside.

But, if David’s recent post exposes the double-standards of the interventionists, in my own response I’d like to ask a more difficult question of ourselves. Why are those of us who are, for what I think are right reasons, anti-intervention — why are we so ineffective?

Why did we anti-interventionists fail so badly to convince even the whole ‘left’ about Kosovo? Or Afghanistan? And, upcoming, Sudan? We have to examine this carefully. Part of it is our lack of a megaphone and the power of propaganda, of course. Part of it might also be that if we can’t get ‘beyond hypocrisy’, meaning beyond accusing the hypocrites we both cite (Powell, Blair, etc.) of hypocrisy, we allow the interventionists to claim the high ground, in this sense: they can say “all you are saying about Palestine might be true and it might not, but I am the only one with a plan to address what is happening in Sudan — or Kosovo, etc. — right now. You can call me a hypocrite for not caring about Haitians, Palestinians, Iraqis, or whoever, but what about the Sudanese (Albanians), now?”

At which point, in fact, our own side — the anti-interventionist side — divides. Some of us become apologetic for the crimes that are going on, minimizing them or trying to put them in context (“What would the US do if a violent secessionist movement arose in Texas?”). Others repudiate the crimes, declare stridently things like “Milosevic is a thug” (You remember that line, right?) but that that doesn’t justify intervention. I think maybe our weakness in situations like these is that we don’t actually press our competitive advantage over the interventionists.

Our competitive advantage is that we *actually* care about the victims of crimes, because we are against crimes, while they are selectively indignant and only care about crimes of other people. In rebutting them, we usually feel the need to emphasize our own side’s crimes to the same degree that they emphasize the crimes of others, and de-emphasize others crimes to the same degree they de-emphasize US crimes. That might be a mistake, because it makes us a mirror image of their callousness: we care about all people, but we sound like we only care about some. They care about none, but because they have more outlets and scream louder, they sound like they care about all. This doesn’t mean we have to start our every discussion with ritual denunciation of the Sudanese regime (or Slobodan Milosovec, or the Taliban, or Saddam, or Zarqawi, or Bin Laden, etc. etc.). But maybe we have to do something differently.