Share of global emissions (% world total 2010)
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Von María José Esteso Poves *
Mehr als 47 Millionen Hektar bebaubarer Boden sind weltweit allein 2009 an internationale Konzerne verkauft worden, zwei Drittel davon in Afrika. Diese Zahlen teilte die Weltbank in einer 2010 veröffentlichten Studie mit, räumte jedoch zugleich ein, daß die realen Werte aufgrund der fehlenden Transparenz dieser Geschäfte noch höher sein könnten. Tatsächlich kommen unabhängige Organisationen wie das Global Land Project auf deutlich höhere Angaben. Dieser Vereinigung zufolge sind im gleichen Zeitraum allein in Afrika 63 Millionen Hektar Grund und Boden an ausländische Investoren verkauft oder verpachtet worden.
Während internationale Konzerne so bebaubares Land »hamstern«, hungern die Menschen. Mehr als zehn Millionen erleben derzeit am Horn von Afrika eine der härtesten Hungersnöte der Geschichte. Die UN-Organisation für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft (FAO) nannte als Ursache für die Katastrophe die schlimmste Dürre im Osten Afrikas seit 30 Jahren. Die für die Bevölkerung immer knapper werdenden Naturressourcen durch den Verkauf der Ländereien an ausländische Unternehmen erwähnte die Organisation hingegen nicht. Die von afrikanischen Regierungen willkommen geheißenen Investoren nutzen die Flächen vor allem für die Herstellung von Biokraftstoff für die Industrienationen, während immer weniger Boden für die Produktion von Lebensmitteln zur Verfügung steht.
In Afrika leben 80 Prozent der Bevölkerung auf bäuerlichen Familienbetrieben. Darüber hinaus ist in vielen Ländern des Kontinents Grund und Boden Kommunaleigentum. Doch welche Vereinbarungen die Behörden über deren Nutzung mit den transnationalen Konzernen getroffen haben, ist weitgehend unklar. Vor allem Unternehmen aus Saudi-Arabien und China gelten als die größten Aufkäufer von Grundstücken in Afrika, aber auch Kuwait, Katar, Bahrain und Unternehmen aus Schweden, Deutschland und Großbritannien haben sich per Abkommen in Angola, Kenia, Sambia, der Demokratischen Republik Kongo oder Moçambique Ländereien angeeignet. Führend beim Landraub in Afrika ist jedoch Indien. Nach Angaben der indischen Wirtschaftszeitung The Economist Times haben mehr als 80 indische Unternehmen in Plantagen in Kenia, Äthiopien, Madagaskar, Senegal und Moçambique investiert, die für den indischen Markt produzieren.
Der Experte Gustavo Duch bezeichnete diese Politik als »einen harten Angriff auf die Ernährungssouveränität der Völker«. Er wies auch das von offizieller Seite gern vorgebrachte Argument zurück, daß die fraglichen Ländereien ansonsten »verschwendet« seien. Tatsächlich böten die Wälder und Ackergebiete Anbaumöglichkeiten für die vielen kleinen Dörfer und Ansiedlungen.
Eine Vorreiterrolle beim Ausverkauf des eigenen Landes spielt Äthiopien. Allein in der Amtszeit des Präsidenten Meles Zenawi seit 1995 wurden in der Region Gambella mehr als 2500 Kilometer an fruchtbarem Grund und Boden an Unternehmen aus 36 Ländern verpachtet. In diesem Jahr sollen hier mehr als 15000 Menschen umgesiedelt werden, um ihnen »einen besseren Zugang zu Wasser, Schulen und Verkehr« zu ermöglichen. Die äthiopische Regierung versichert, daß alle diese Umsiedlungen »freiwillig« erfolgen, doch der eigentliche Grund ist der Ausverkauf des Landes, der den Familien die Lebensgrundlage entzieht.
Gegen diesen Landraub wächst der Widerstand. Mehr als 500 Bauern- und Umweltorganisationen sowie Gewerkschaften richteten während des Pariser G-20-Gipfeltreffens einen Appell an die führenden Industriestaaten. Zwischen dem 17. und 20. November wollen sie sich in Nyeleni in Mali treffen, um dort gemeinsame Strategien gegen den weiteren Verkauf von Grundstücken zu vereinbaren.
Der Beitrag erschien zuerst in der spanischen Wochenzeitung Diagonal. Übersetzung: Carmela Negrete
* Aus: junge Welt, 1. November 2011″
(Quelle: AG Friedensforschung.)
Eingestellt von R. Chatterjee
For four years Jamil Sayyed, former chief of Lebanon’s General Directorate of General Security, was detained as one of the main suspects in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Robert Chatterjee and Christoph Dinkelaker met Sayyed in Beirut this April. In this interview he lashes out against the German UN-Investigator Detlev Mehlis as well as against Germany’s foreign intelligence agency BND and the German news magazine Der Spiegel. A German translation of this interview was published in the German quarterly magazine zenith.
Alsharq: What would you do if you met Detlev Mehlis today?
Jamil Sayyed: The first feeling that would come to my mind is that I would have to vomit.
What led to your detention – and to your release?
It was a long battle that lasted for 4 years to get freed from my political and arbitrary detention. I was never exposed, neither by Detlev Mehlis nor his team , nor to any witness, proof or charges. On August 30 2005, British officer Ken Korlett from the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC), came to me with a letter, sent to me by the president of UNIIIC Mr. Mehlis, who had himself signed the paper. That Search Warrant read: »According to witnesses heard by the commission….Jamil Sayyed should be considered as suspect…«. From the day they presented the letter to me and multiple times later on, I asked them: Where are your witnesses? No answer!
Mehlis and his German team were counting on analyses, rumours and political accusations – nothing connected to the real crime to justify my detention. Everything related to a serious investigation was not done. They had a prefixed idea that Syria had committed the crime. They were part of a dirty political conspiracy. That´s why they presented more than 10 Lebanese, Syrian and other false witnesses that caused my detention for 4 years. I am sure, by proofs and facts, that Detlev Mehlis and Gerhard Lehmann were very consciously involved, in collaboration with some parts of the Lebanese authorities including security officers and judges, and in the fabrication of false witnesses – to the point that they invited me personally ,through promises, to become a false witness against Syria. Gerhard Lehmann came here to my house, three months before my arrest, and later, on the first day of my detention at the Commission in the presence of Mehlis, he made political proposals that had nothing to do with a true investigation, and his conclusion was: »Find a victim or it could be you«.
What were their motives?
There was a dirty game, an international one, played through the new pro-American Lebanese government, to attack the Syrian regime through the investigation by any means necessary, including false witnesses. That´s what the two German officials have done. Mehlis was the Head Commissioner and Lehmann the head investigator in this system. That´s why when I was lately invited upon my demand to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) in The Hague for two consecutive public hearings, I said: »The presence of one false witness could be an accident that can happen in any investigation. But when more than 10 false witnesses are presented, as was the case with Mehlis and his collaborators, then it is no more an accident – it is a conspiracy for political reasons.« Because if they had succeeded in their plan to bring me as the major false witness, as Gerhard Lehmann had invited me to do, the false witnessing against Syria, and Bashar al-Assad in person, would be similar in consequences to the false accusations about weapons of mass destructions against Saddam Hussein. I was asked to do the following: »Go to Syria, ask al-Assad to form a comity of judges that will choose a Syrian ›fat victim‹ to confess about committing the crime for personal reasons. That victim would be found later killed in a car accident or a suicide. Just after, the Syrians would invite the Commission to discuss the issue and we could then find a compromise with the Syrian regime similar to the one done by Gadhafi in the Lockerbie case« Those were the exact words pronounced by Gerhard Lehmann in presence of the Police Attaché in the German Embassy in Beirut, Stefan Erhart. I am ready to go to a polygraph in Germany, facing Mehlis, Lehmann and Erhard to prove – me and them – that they were part in a dirty political game under the umbrella of the International Justice in the conspiracy of false witnesses to involve wrongly Syria and Lebanese officers.
So you say that the Germans had an active role in that?
What disturbed me is that Germany followed the situation in Lebanon, their embassy read about scandals around Mehlis and Lehmann. But even after our release from the Tribunal, the German government did not open an investigation, although their people in the Commission were representing the German judiciary and the German police and by doing so they dishonoured the reputation of their country.
Why were the Germans acting like that?
In my role as the head of the General Security in Lebanon, I used to have excellent relations with your security services and the Ministry of Interior. I negotiated with the Germans an agreement about some ten thousand Lebanese illegal immigrants in Germany. And we agreed that any Lebanese who presented a threat to Germany’s security would be extradited within a certain timeframe to preserve security interests of Germany. So we had very good relations at the level of the Ministry of Interior. On another level, we had a close relationship with the German Intelligence Service, the BND through its representative in Lebanon. I was well known in Germany due to my efforts, e.g. concerning prisoner swaps. We are not people of crime and of blood and they know it. Despite all of this, the German government did not make any move to treat this situation, officials in your country unfortunally betrayed the confidence of the Lebanese people. The BND officer at this time was Mr. Sold who now holds a high rank in the BND administration.
Since your release you have sued several Lebanese media outlets. Would you go as far as bringing Mehlis and Lehmann before court?
Already during the time of my detention, I made several official complaints to the investigation against Mehlis and Lehmann for their participation in the fabrication of false witnesses to cause my arbitrary detention for political reasons. Even before my release, i presented to the Commission after Mehlis’ term of office , headed later by Serge Brammertz and later by Daniel Bellamare, official complaints to the investigation and to Lebanese judges. That is one part. Besides, since my detention was politically motivated, I was subject to many defamations. The case against the Future newspaper was one of 25 complaints at the Publication Court. Another legal action for defamation based on false witnesses was presented by me against Mehlis in France and the French investigation judge took a decision to convoke him for a hearing .This convocation was sent by an international summon to the German authorities to notify Mehlis with no answer until now, whereas the Philippine authorities answered that Mehlis who is currently working there could not be notified since he enjoys diplomatic immunity. The third type of legal action I took was in Syria because some of the false witnesses were Syrian citizens and the Syrian Law accordingly allowed me to present a case against Mehlis, Lehmann and all their contributors, including the Syrian false witnesses, as partners in this conspiracy. Despite all of this, I didn´t find one German official to come to Lebanon and ask me about what happened and I am really seeking any NGO in Germany to come and see me if they are interested in Human Rights violations and abuses committed by German officials abroad. The German authorities’ behaviour in this matter was worse than any exercise of local services in the Third World. I have had the occasion to see in the eyes of Gerhard Lehmann several times and i can assure you that it seemed to me while looking at him as if his eyes were made of glass and I could never forget the impression he gave to me that Hitler didn´t die. And although Mehlis was the leading judge in the commission, he was acting like a slave to Lehmann. I am ready to confront them in front of any German Court by facts and proofs if the German authorities decide to open an official or parliamentary investigation.
Is it something personal with you and Lehmann?
I did not know Lehman before. This case, this scandal destroyed the human and political image and respect of Germany to be a country of institutions. How can they allow officials to convey this image of their country abroad? I am ready to go to any parliamentary committee, or university or press conference in Germany to explain what happened in Lebanon in connection with Gerhard Lehmann and Detlev Mehlis.
Aside from Mehlis and Lehmann, do you hold the German government responsible for your detention?
They were responsible for my detention. And even if they just knew later, they should have done something! There should have been official steps. Surely, Lehmann and Mehlis were working under the umbrella of the United Nations in this Commission. However, Mehlis is an active judge in Germany, as prosecutor in Berlin after he left Lebanon, and Lehmann was a policeman, a member of the security services. If they were criminals in this, this immunity would not work. They committed crimes. And all the German team was expulsed from the Commission at the end of 2005. They were thrown out! The German government has not asked why those people have thrown dirt upon the German image.
So what went wrong with the investigation?
Surely, it was a huge crime and from the first impression, a political crime. However, like with any other crime, you start from the crime scene, you put all the hypotheses logically and you proceed by elimination. And when you try to confirm your hypotheses you have to do that with elements directly from the crime scene, by circumstantial evidence and by human ones coming from witnesses. Then these hypothesis will give a scenario: how it happened, the tools, the means, the reasons. Surely, every investigation is a combination of form and context. When you violate the form, then your context and scenario will not be acceptable in front of any tribunal. From 2005 until now in 2011 they have wasted 6 years because they put all their energy to confirm that one hypothesis implicating Syria without having any credible witnesses or proofs. Who established this violation from the first day? It was Gerhard Lehmann and Detlev Mehlis with a contribution from certain elements within Lebanese political authorities using security and judiciary tools and with the cover of the UN. All this happened at a time of international madness during the Bush administration. So they sacrificed the procedures for their goals. That was in itself a bigger crime even than the initial crime!
Will the truth behind the crime will ever be revealed?
If you don´t come up with a credible investigation within the first months after the crime, how can you expect to get one after 6 years? And it is Gerhard Lehmann and Detlev Mehlis who bear the responsibility for this delay.
So what will the STL present then?
Who knows? Everything related to the crime was destroyed by the Commission – even its credibility. So will you ever bring someone to believe to have found the truth? In 2005, just 5 days after Hariri´s assassination, the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Siyasah published a story implicating Syria and Lebanese in the crime. I said to Mehlis: »Go to Kuwait and ask the owner about his sources.« Now the same scenario is repeated by Der Spiegel who contributes in circulating rumors. And Lebanon is the country of rumors!
What about Hizbullah´s role implicated in an article by Der Spiegel?
I was released from my political detention on April 29 2009. Look at this surprising coincidence. Less than one month later, on May 24 2009, Der Spiegel published their article, transferring the accusation from Syria to Hizbullah!!!
How did Der Spiegel put you then into their picture?
Journalists and magazines are free to publish anything they want based on proofs. Der Spiegel insisted three times through my lawyer in Paris, from May to September 2009, to interview me. And I agreed to go to France and met there with the representative from Der Spiegel, Britta Sandberg, and even Erich Follath, the author of the article on Hizbullah´s implication. I gave them answers and they made commitments to me that they would publish it after my approval. Later on, they created so many excuses and they never behaved professionally and respectfully. Until now, 2 years after, they didn´t publish anything. They wrote to me that they have legal problems in publishing my interview. I don’t believe them, since Der Spiegel are not amateurs in this profession and they should have known previously about the law, especially that I confirmed with respect to the interview my full personal and legal responsibility of its content, while for example, the article published by Der Spiegel accusing openly Hizbullah, was based on unknown sources which could put shadow on its credibility and legality. All of this means to me that someone exerted in Germany pressure to forbid the publication of my interview to protect the abuses of Mehlis and Lehman in violating human rights through their role in the conspiracy of my political detention in Lebanon for 4 years from 2005 to 2009. A respected and responsible magazine should not have accepted such thing.”
(Quelle: Naher und Mittlerer Osten – الشرق)
By Nick Turse
If you follow the words, one Middle East comes into view; if you follow the weapons, quite another.
This week, the words will take center stage. On Thursday, according to administration officials, President Obama will “reset” American policy in the Middle East with a major address offering a comprehensive look at the Arab Spring, “a unified theory about the popular uprisings from Tunisia to Bahrain,” and possibly a new administration approach to the region.
In the meantime, all signs indicate that the Pentagon will quietly maintain antithetical policies, just as it has throughout the Obama years. Barring an unprecedented and almost inconceivable policy shift, it will continue to broker lucrative deals to send weapons systems and military equipment to Arab despots. Nothing indicates that it will be deterred from its course, whatever the president says, which means that Barack Obama’s reset rhetoric is unlikely to translate into meaningful policy change in the region.
For months now, the world has watched as protesters have taken to the streets across the Middle East to demand a greater say in their lives. In Tunisia and Egypt, they toppled decades-old dictatorships. In Bahrain and Yemen, they were shot down in the streets as they demanded democracy. In the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, they called for reforms, free speech, and basic rights, and ended up bloodied and often in jail cells. In Iraq, they protested a lack of food and jobs, and in response got bullets and beatings.
As the world watched, trained eyes couldn’t help noticing something startling about the tools of repression in those countries. The armored personnel carriers, tanks, and helicopters used to intimidate or even kill peaceful protesters were often American models.
For decades, the U.S. has provided military aid, facilitated the sale of weaponry, and transferred vast quantities of arms to a host of Middle Eastern despots. Arming Arab autocrats, however, isn’t only the work of presidents past. A TomDispatch analysis of Pentagon documents finds that the Obama administration has sought to send billions of dollars in weapons systems — from advanced helicopters to fighter jets — to the very regimes that have beaten, jailed, and killed pro-democracy demonstrators, journalists, and reform activists throughout the Arab Spring.
The administration’s abiding support for the militaries of repressive regimes calls into question the president’s rhetoric about change. The arms deals of recent years also shed light on the shadowy, mutually supportive relationships among the U.S. military, top arms dealers, and Arab states that are of increasing importance to the Pentagon.
Since the summer of 2009, President Obama, by way of the Pentagon and with State Department approval, has regularly notified Congress of his intent to sell advanced weaponry to governments across the Middle East, including Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Under U.S. law, Congress then has 30 days to review the sale before the Pentagon and associated military contractors enter into more formal contract talks with individual nations.
In July 2009, according to an analysis of Pentagon documents by TomDispatch, notifications were sent to Congress regarding the sale to Kuwait of Browning machine guns, advanced targeting systems for armored vehicles, KC-130 aircraft, and technical support for F/A-18 attack aircraft. Later that summer, the White House announced plans to outfit both Bahrain’s and Jordan’s militaries with advanced air-to-air missiles to the tune of $74 million and $131 million, respectively, to equip the United Arab Emirates with $526 million worth of Hellfire missiles and other materiel, to send more than $2 billion worth of advanced surveillance and navigation equipment to aid Saudi Arabia’s air force, and to see to it that Egypt’s military received a shipment of new Chinook troop transport helicopters and other high-tech equipment valued at $308 million.
In the fall of 2009, Pentagon documents show a $220 million bid by the administration to outfit the Jordanian military with advanced rocket systems and tactical vehicles, a proposed sale of advanced fighter aircraft, parts, weapons, and equipment to Egypt worth as much as $3.2 billion, and another to equip Kuwait’s military with $410 million in Patriot missile technology. Then, in November and December of that year, Congress was notified of plans to sell helicopters to Iraq, Javelin guided missiles to Jordan, Hellfire missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, jet engines, and other military materiel to Egypt, and helicopters and thousands of advanced bombs, among other high-tech equipment, to the UAE.
Last year, notifications also went out concerning the sale of F-16 fighters, armored personnel carriers, tank ammunition, and advanced computer systems to Iraq, C-17 military transport aircraft for Kuwait, mobile missile systems for Bahrain, and Apache attack helicopters and tactical missile systems for the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia, however, was the big winner by far with a blockbuster $60 billion agreement for helicopters, fighter jets, radar equipment, and advanced smart bombs that will represent, if all purchases are made, the largest foreign arms deal in American history.
Deficits, Ducats, and Dictators
The agreement to broker the sale of tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia sheds light on the Pentagon’s efforts to shield itself — and its favored arms dealers — from the shakiness of the American economy, as well as President Obama’s stated goal of trimming $400 billion from projected national security spending of $10 trillion over the next 12 years. Last October, the Pentagon started secretly lobbying financial analysts and large institutional investors on behalf of weapons makers and other military contractors. The idea was to bolster their long-term financial viability in the face of a possible future slowdown in Defense Department spending.
Since then, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn and other Pentagon powerbrokers have made regular trips to New York City to shore up Wall Street’s support for weapons manufacturers. “We are in this for the long term. We need industrial partners and financial backers who think and act likewise,” Lynn told investors at a recent defense and aerospace conference in that city.
Along with Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, and Brett Lambert, the deputy assistant secretary for industrial policy, Lynn is creating a comprehensive plan to sustain and enrich weapons makers and other military contractors in the coming years. “We’re going sector by sector, tier by tier, and our goal is to develop a long-term policy to protect that base as we slow defense spending,” Lynn said. America’s Middle Eastern allies are seen as a significant partner in this effort.
It’s often said that the Pentagon is a “monopsony” — that is, the only buyer in town for its many giant contractors. As has been amply demonstrated since Barack Obama took office, however, it’s not true. When it comes to the Middle East, the Pentagon acts not as a buyer, but as a broker and shill, clearing the way for its Middle Eastern partners to buy some of the world’s most advanced weaponry.
And Arab allies have distinctly done their part for the Pentagon. From 2006 to 2009, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service issued late last year, the United States accounted for 52.4% of all arms agreements inked with Middle Eastern nations — to the tune of $47.3 billion. (By comparison, the United Kingdom, in second place in arms sales in the region, accounted for only 15.7% and third-place Russia just 12.8%.)
The purchases of the chief buyer in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, have been climbing steadily. From 2002 to 2005, Saudi Arabia inked $15.3 billion in arms-transfer agreements with the United States. From 2006 to 2009, that figure jumped to $29.5 billion. The multi-year $60 billion deal in 2010 signaled far more of the same and will help ensure the continuing health and profitability of Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, and other mega-defense contractors even if Pentagon spending goes slack or begins to shrink in the years to come.
The Pentagon’s reliance on the deep pockets of Arab partners across the Middle East, however, has a price, which may help to explain the Obama administration’s willingness to support dictators like Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak until their ousters were givens, and to essentially look the other way as security forces in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and elsewhere, sometimes using American-supplied equipment, suppressed pro-democracy activists. After all, the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, along with regional partner Jordan — are set to spend $70 billion on American weaponry and equipment this year, and as much as $80 billion per year by 2015.
“The Middle East Military Air Market: Revenue Opportunities and Stakeholder Mapping,” a recent analysis of just one sector of defense spending in the region by U.S.-based defense consultants Frost and Sullivan, projects yet more growth in the future. “[The] regional military air market is… set to generate revenues of $62.9 billion between 2010 and 2020,” it reports. Frost and Sullivan analysts add that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are likely to be the biggest spenders and will continue to buy most of their arms through the United States for the sake of “political influence.”
For his part, Deputy Secretary of Defense Lynn wants to make it ever easier to put sophisticated military technology in the hands of such deep-pocketed allies. On his recent trip to New York, he spoke of streamlining the process by which tanks, jets, and other advanced weapons systems are sold around the world. “To keep our base healthy, it is in our interest for defense companies to compete globally,” he explained, while deriding the current system for selling arms abroad as “archaic” and in need of an overhaul. “The barriers that we place at this point in the export control system look something like a marriage of the complexity of the Internal Revenue Service with the efficiency of the Department of Motor Vehicles,” he said. “It’s something we have to change.”
Sending a Message
In February, in Baghdad, Fallujah, Mosul, and Tikrit, Iraqi protesters took to the streets, focused on ending corruption and chronic shortages of food, water, electricity, and jobs. In response, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has in recent years consolidated power with U.S. military backing, unleashed government security forces. They arrested, beat, and shot protesters, leaving hundreds dead or wounded. In the weeks since, the Obama administration has not only failed to forcefully rebuke the Maliki regime, but has announced its intent to bolster those same security forces with another $360 million in military materiel ranging from radios to radar systems.
In March, the United Arab Emirates sent security forces into neighboring Bahrain to help put down pro-democracy protests. Early the next month, UAE security forces disappeared leading human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor and, in the days thereafter, detained at least four other prominent democracy activists. Before the month was out, however, the Obama administration announced its intention to arm the UAE with advanced Sidewinder tactical missiles.
Saudi Arabia also sent troops into Bahrain and has been cracking down on nonviolent activists at home with increasing vigor. At the beginning of this month, for example, Human Rights Watch reported the arrest of “at least 20 peaceful protesters, including two bloggers.” Within days, the Obama administration notified Congress of its intent to see the Saudi security forces receive $330 million worth of advanced night vision and thermal-imaging equipment.
This year, U.S.-coordinated arms sales have resulted in the delivery of helicopter gunships to Yemen, navy patrol boats to Iraq, and the first of six cargo aircraft to the UAE. At the moment, used armored personnel carriers are being refurbished for shipment to Iraq later this year.
Whatever “reset” may be in the works for Obama administration policies in the Middle East, the president and the Pentagon are already on the record. Since 2009, they have sought to arm some of the most anti-democratic regimes on the planet, while repeatedly highlighting the need for democratic reform and now for a fresh start in the region. Even as the “reset” begins, the Pentagon is leaning ever more heavily on rich rulers in the Arab world to prop up the military-corporate complex at home. If the Pentagon and the weapons makers have their way, the provisional successes of the demonstrators in Egypt and Tunisia will turn out to be outliers as an Arab Spring turns distinctly wintry.
In June 2009, President Obama traveled to Cairo University to give a heavily hyped and much-lauded speech (“On a New Beginning”) to “the Muslim world.” In his remarks, the president spoke of an American Cold-War-era attitude “in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.” Then came his first call for a reset of sorts in the region. “I’ve come here to Cairo,” he said, “to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” Before that summer was out, however, Obama notified Congress of his intent to send Cold War-era autocrat Hosni Mubarak a shipment of new helicopters to beef up his security forces.
During that speech, Obama talked of his “unyielding belief” that all people yearned for free speech, a say in their governance, the rule of law, freedom from corruption, and other basic civil liberties. These weren’t, the president insisted, just American ideals, they were human rights. “And that is why we will support them everywhere,” he said to waves of applause.
In its actions, however, the Obama administration almost immediately left its reset rhetoric in the dust. Whether the president does any better in the Arab Summer of 2011 will depend mightily on whether he can stand up to the Pentagon and its weapons-makers.
Nick Turse is a historian, essayist, investigative journalist, the associate editor of TomDispatch.com, and currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. His latest book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books). You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook. This piece is part of Turse’s ongoing coverage on U.S. military impacts on the Arab Spring and the third in his TomDispatch series on the subject.
Copyright 2011 Nick Turse”
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the 25th anniversary of FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the media watch group in New York, which just celebrated the 25 years of the reports they’ve come out, documenting media bias and censorship, and scrutinized media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.
One of those who addressed the hundreds of people who gathered to celebrate FAIR was the world-renowned political dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky. This is some of what he had to say.
NOAM CHOMSKY: The U.S. and its allies will do anything they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. The reason is very simple. Across the region, an overwhelming majority of the population regards the United States as the main threat to their interests. In fact, opposition to U.S. policy is so high that a considerable majority think the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons. In Egypt, the most important country, that’s 80 percent. Similar figures elsewhere. There are some in the region who regard Iran as a threat—about 10 percent. Well, plainly, the U.S. and its allies are not going to want governments which are responsive to the will of the people. If that happens, not only will the U.S. not control the region, but it will be thrown out. So that’s obviously an intolerable result.
In the case of WikiLeaks, there was an interesting aside on this. The revelations from WikiLeaks that got the most publicity—headlines, euphoric commentary and so on—were that the Arabs support U.S. policy on Iran. They were quoting comments of Arab dictators. Yes, they claim to support U.S. policy on Iran. There was no mention of the Arab—of the Arab population, because it doesn’t matter. If the dictators support us, and the population is under control, then what’s the problem? This is like imperialism. What’s the problem if it works? As long as they can control their populations, fine. They can have campaigns of hatred; our friendly dictators will keep them under control. That’s the reaction not just of the diplomatic service in the State Department or of the media who reported this, but also of the general intellectual community. There is no comment on this. In fact, coverage of these polls is precisely zero in the United States, literally. There’s a few comments in England, but very little. It just doesn’t matter what the population thinks, as long as they’re under control.
Well, from these observations, you can conclude pretty quickly, pretty easily, what policies are going to be. You can almost spell them out. So in the case of an oil-rich country with a reliable, obedient dictator, they’re given free rein. Saudi Arabia is the most important. There were—it’s the most repressive, extremist, strongest center of Islamic fundamentalism, missionaries who spread ultra-radical Islamism from jihadis and so on. But they’re obedient, they’re reliable, so they can do what they like. There was a planned protest in Saudi Arabia. The police presence was so overwhelming and intimidating that literally nobody even was willing to show up in the streets of Riyadh. But that was fine. The same in Kuwait. There was a small demonstration, very quickly crushed, no comment.
Actually, the most interesting case in many respects is Bahrain. Bahrain is quite important for two reasons. One reason, which has been reported, is that it’s the home port of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, major military force in the region. Another more fundamental reason is that Bahrain is about 70 percent Shiite, and it’s right across the causeway from eastern Saudi Arabia, which also is majority Shiite and happens to be where most of Saudi oil is. Saudi Arabia, of course, is the main energy resource, has been since the ’40s. By curious accident of history and geography, the world’s major energy resources are located pretty much in Shiite regions. They’re a minority in the Middle East, but they happen to be where the oil is, right around the northern part of the Gulf. That’s eastern Saudi Arabia, southern Iraq and southwestern Iran. And there’s been a concern among planners for a long time that there might be a move towards some sort of tacit alliance in these Shiite regions moving towards independence and controlling the bulk of the world’s oil. That’s obviously intolerable.
So, going back to Bahrain, there was an uprising, tent city in the central square, like Tahrir Square. The Saudi-led military forces invaded Bahrain, giving the security forces there the opportunity to crush it violently, destroyed the tent city, even destroyed the Pearl, which is the symbol of Bahrain; invaded the major hospital complex, threw out the patients and the doctors; been regularly, every day, arresting human rights activists, torturing them, occasionally a sort of a pat on the wrist, but nothing much. That’s very much the Carothers principle. If actions correspond to our strategic and economic objectives, that’s OK. We can have elegant rhetoric, but what matters is facts.
Well, that’s the oil-rich obedient dictators. What about Egypt, most important country, but not a center of—major center of oil production? Well, in Egypt and Tunisia and other countries of that category, there is a game plan, which is employed routinely, so commonly it takes virtual genius not to perceive it. But when you have a favored dictator—for those of you who might think of going into the diplomatic service, you might as well learn it—when there’s a favored dictator and he’s getting into trouble, support him as long as possible, full support as long as possible. When it becomes impossible to support him—like, say, maybe the army turns against him, business class turns against him—then send him off somewhere, issue ringing declarations about your love of democracy, and then try to restore the old regime, maybe with new names. And that’s done over and over again. It doesn’t always work, but it’s always tried—Somoza, Nicaragua; Shah in Iran; Marcos in the Philippines; Duvalier in Haiti; Chun in South Korea; Mobutu in the Congo; Ceausescu is one of Western favorites in Romania; Suharto in Indonesia. It’s completely routine. And that’s exactly what’s going on in Egypt and Tunisia. OK, we support them right to the end—Mubarak in Egypt, right to the end, keep supporting him. Doesn’t work any longer, send him off to Sharm el-Sheikh, pull out the rhetoric, try to restore the old regime. That’s, in fact, what the conflict is about right now. As Amy said, we don’t know where it’s going to turn now, but that’s what’s going on.
Well, there’s another category. The other category is an oil-rich dictator who’s not reliable, who’s a loose cannon. That’s Libya. And there, there’s a different policy: try to get a more reliable dictator. And that’s exactly what’s happening. Of course, describe it as a humanitarian intervention. That’s another near historical universal. You check history, virtually every resort to force, by whoever it is, is accompanied by the most noble rhetoric. It’s all completely humanitarian. That includes Hitler taking over Czechoslovakia, the Japanese fascists rampaging in northeast China. In fact, it’s Mussolini in Ethiopia. There’s hardly any exceptions. So you produce that, and the media and commentators present—pretend they don’t notice that it has no—carries no information, because it’s reflexive.
And then—but in this case, they could also add something else, which has been repeated over and over again, namely, the U.S. and its allies were intervening in response to a request by the Arab League. And, of course, we have to recognize the importance of that. Incidentally, the response from the Arab League was tepid and was pretty soon rescinded, because they didn’t like what we were doing. But put that aside. At the very same time, the Arab League produced—issued another request. Here’s a headline from a newspaper: “Arab League Calls for Gaza No-Fly Zone.” Actually, I’m quoting from the London Financial Times. That wasn’t reported in the United States. Well, to be precise, it was reported in the Washington Times, but basically blocked in the U.S., like the polls, like the polls of Arab public opinion, not the right kind of news. So, “Arab League Calls for Gaza No-Fly Zone,” that’s inconsistent with U.S. policy, so that, we don’t have to honor and observe, and that disappeared.
Now, there are some polls that are reported. So here’s one from the New York Times a couple days ago. I’ll quote it. It said, “The poll found that a majority of Egyptians want to annul the 1979 peace treaty with Israel that has been a cornerstone of Egyptian foreign policy and the region’s stability.” Actually, that’s not quite accurate. It’s been a cornerstone of the region’s instability, and that’s exactly why the Egyptian population wants to abandon it. The agreement essentially eliminated Egypt from the Israel-Arab conflict. That means eliminated the only deterrent to Israeli military action. And it freed up Israel to expand its operations—illegal operations—in the Occupied Territories and to attack its northern neighbor, to attack Lebanon. Shortly after, Israel attacked Lebanon, killed 20,000 people, destroyed southern Lebanon, tried to impose a client regime, didn’t quite make it. And that was understood. So the immediate reaction to the peace treaty in Israel was that there are things about it we don’t like—we’re going to have to abandon our settlements in the Sinai, in the Egyptian Sinai. But it has a good side, too, because now the only deterrent is gone; we can use force and violence to achieve our other goals. And that’s exactly what happened. And that’s exactly why the Egyptian population is opposed to it. They understand that, as does everyone in the region.
On the other hand, the Times wasn’t lying when they said that it led to the region’s stability. And the reason is because of the meaning of the word “stability” as a technical meaning. Stability is—it’s kind of like democracy. Stability means conformity to our interests. So, for example, when Iran tries to expand its influence in Afghanistan and Iraq, neighboring countries, that’s called “destabilizing.” It’s part of the threat of Iran. It’s destabilizing the region. On the other hand, when the U.S. invades those countries, occupies them, half destroys them, that’s to achieve stability. And that is very common, even to the point where it’s possible to write—former editor of Foreign Affairs—that when the U.S. overthrew the democratic government in Chile and instituted a vicious dictatorship, that was because the U.S. had to destabilize Chile to achieve stability. That’s in one sentence, and nobody noticed it, because that’s correct, if you understand the meaning of the word “stability.” Yeah, you overthrow a parliamentary government, you install a dictatorship, you invade a country and kill 20,000 people, you invade Iraq and kill hundreds of thousands of people—that’s all bringing about stability. Instability is when anyone gets in the way.
AMY GOODMAN: World-renowned political dissident and linguist, Noam Chomsky, speaking at the 25th anniversary of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
(Quelle: Democracy Now!)
On 14 February 2011, the people of Bahrain took to the streets in peaceful and civilised protests in order to demand reforms that would guarantee their basic human rights and freedom. The government chose to suppress the people by force, using riot police and deploying the army.
Two months later, and the situation has escalated to a very dangerous and disturbing level. Currently, soldiers from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE) are being utilised to restrain protesters demands by any means necessary disregarding any civil laws, or even basic human rights.
At the present there are more than 600 detainees including human right activists, political figures, doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers and even students. Thirty people have died, from direct bullet wounds, or sustained injuries. Four activists have died in police detention as a result of torture.
The majority of the detainees were arrested in the middle of the night. Armed and masked military units break down doors and enter houses with no warrants, no warnings. In most of these cases the contents of raided houses were damaged severely.
The Salmaniya Medical Complex — the main operating hospital in Bahrain — has been taken over by military forces. The hospital is now besieged by soldiers intent on preventing people from getting treatment. Doctors and nurses have been interrogated, detained and many have been suspended.
This oppression has even reached Bahraini students studying abroad in Europe. Many of them had their scholarships withdrawn; including their monthly allowances and their tuition fees. This has placed the students in a very difficult situation; if they return to Bahrain the face a credible threat of being arrested, tortured or even worse.
On the ground the situation is even more extreme. There is a heavy military presence in many areas in Bahrain. There are check-points at many locations, where you run the high risk of being detained for no reason at all. At night it became very common to smell tear gas and to hear the sound of gun shots and helicopters.
The situation in Bahrain is critical, and the lives of many of its people are at high risk. We therefore urge the international community to take an immediate and effective action to try salvage the situation before more damage is caused.
Mohammed Al-Maskati is President of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights“
(Quelle: Index on Censorship.)