Saturday, April 28, 2018

Do the Rohingyas qualify as victims of genocide?

The Genocide Convention was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948 and entered into force in 1951. It declares that genocide is a crime under international law.

Article II of the Genocide Convention defines genocide as: any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

- Killing members of the group;

- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Genocide is a serious crime that cannot be used lightly. It is the ultimate denial of the right to existence of an entire group of human beings. As such, it is the quintessential human rights crime because it denies its victims’ very humanity.

In the last eight months, since August 2017, some 700,000 natives of Arakan (or the Rakhine state) – the Rohingya Muslims and Hindus – have been forced to leave their ancestral homes to settle in Bangladesh as refugees. They left behind everything that was once important to them and even family members – as their properties were looted before being burned down with living family members inside. The International Rescue Committee estimated that there were 75,000 victims of gender-based violence (meaning rape), and that 45% of the Rohingya women attending safe spaces in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh had reported such attacks.  Thousands of men and women were killed as part of a very sinister national campaign that was planned and executed by the Myanmar (formerly Burma) government and its partners-in-crime amongst the Buddhist people, esp. within the Rakhine (formerly Arakan) state.  

Do the Rohingyas qualify as victims of genocide?

Genocide experts tell us that genocide is a process that usually goes through several stages. The first four of the five stages are the early warnings:

1.      Classification and Symbolization

2.     Dehumanization and Discrimination

3.     Organization and Polarization

4.     Preparation

5.     Execution 

1.      Classification is a primary method of dividing a society or polity into heterogeneous groups and symbolization is often used to cement divisive identities between groups, which is then used to justify crimes against the targeted group.
                                          i.     Rakhine Buddhists vs. Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state of Myanmar is a clear case where the Muslim minority is distinguished based on its ethnicity, race and religion. They are derogatorily called the Kala or Kalar people (synonymous to the English word ‘nigger’).

                                        ii.     In spite of their long history of existence in Arakan, the Rohingyas of Myanmar are accused of being “Bengalis” or “Chittagonians” (even ‘terrorists’ who had intruded illegally into Myanmar who want to “Islamize” the “Buddhist” Myanmar.

                                      iii.     As a high-profile refugee case highlighted the plight of the Rohingya, Ye Myint Aung, the Burmese Consulate-General in Hong Kong, wrote to foreign missions in Hong Kong in Feb. 2009 insisting that the Rohingyas should not be described as being from Burma, the South China Morning Post reported. He said that the Rohingyas are of ‘dark brown’ complexion and ‘ugly as ogres’ compared to ‘fair and soft skin’ people of Burma.

2.     The dominant group uses either political power or muscle, laws and regulations to deny rights of the targeted group to further discriminate and persecute it.  Then it robs the victim’s humanity by comparing it with animals, parasites, insects, diseases or ‘virus’. When a group of people is thought of as “less than human” it is easier for the dominant group to murder them. At this stage, hate propaganda in print and on hate radios is used to make the victims seem like villains. Dehumanization of the targeted group is used as the sufficient rationale to justify discriminatory laws and practices.

                                          i.     Rohingyas were declared non-citizens via the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law, effectively making them stateless. The legal experts contend that the Burmese Citizenship Law violates several fundamental principles of international customary law standards, offends the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and leaves Rohingyas exposed to no legal protection of their rights

                                        ii.     Rohingyas are denied all and everyone of the 30 basic human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). They are denied access to public schools, colleges and universities, hospitals and medical centers, government jobs, etc.; even their movement inside the country and the Rakhine state is restricted.  

                                      iii.     Rakhine extremists and intellectuals (like Dr. Aye Chan) depicted the Rohingya people as ‘influx viruses’ – the ‘illegal Muslims of Arakan’ that needed to be eliminated.  [Influx Viruses: The Illegal Muslims in Arakan By U Shw zan and Dr. Aye Chan]

                                       iv.     Another Buddhist extremist, Khin Maung Saw depicts Rohingyas as the camel in a Burmese fable that dislodged its owner from his tent, waring fellow Arakanese Buddhists against the Rohingyas whom he calls as “Chittagonian Bengalis” - “the guest who want to kick out the Host from his own house”.


3.     Genocide is a group crime. Thus, it always needs organized efforts, usually by the state and sometimes by the non-state actors. Special army units or militias are often trained and armed. Plans are made for ‘final solution’ or genocidal killings. Extremist hate groups drive the groups apart; they are tolerated and encouraged to polarize and terrorize the targeted victims. Laws are formulated to forbid social and economic interactions with the targeted victims. Public demonstrations are held against the targeted group.

                                          i.     The Rohingyas have been depicted as a demographic “bomb” for Myanmar. 

                                        ii.     The elimination of the Rohingya and other Muslims has been a national project, since at least General Ne Win’s time (1962-88).

                                      iii.     Genocidal crimes against the Rohingya people have been planned and executed by the Burmese governments since Ne Win’s time, enjoying extensive support and active participation from the Buddhist community – politicians, academics, monks and the public alike, let alone the members of the state apparatus at both central (Myanmar) and local (Rakhine state) levels, esp. the police and security forces. At least 18 military operations (excluding the NaSaKa operations between 1992-2012) were carried out against the Rohingya people since Burma had won its independence from the Great Britain in 1948 in which more than a million Rohingyas were forced to become refugees in many parts of the world, esp. Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Gulf States.

                                       iv.     Scores of government-sponsored public demonstrations (including those organized by Buddhist monks) were held since the transfer of power from military regimes to Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian/military regime and the current Suu Kyi’s government demanding strong actions – including deportation and/or elimination of the Rohingya and other Muslims in Myanmar.


4.    Preparation is made to eliminate or exterminate the targeted group. It often uses euphemisms to cloak their sinister intentions, such as referring to their goals as “isolation,” ‘surgical operations,’ “ethnic cleansing,” “purification,” or “counter-terrorism.” They indoctrinate the populace with fear of the victim group. Leaders often claim, “If we don’t kill them, they will kill us.” Attacks are often staged and blamed on targeted groups. Victims’ properties are destroyed or confiscated. They are forced to leave their homes and/or encamped in concentration camps.

                                          i.     The genocidal pogroms of 2012, depicted as ‘race riots’ by the regime, were prompted by the false rumor – planted by the security forces - that two ‘Rohingya’ youths had killed a Rakhine woman – Thida Htwe - after raping her.

                                        ii.     In the so-called race riots of 2012, some 140,000 Rohingyas were displaced from their homes, which were burned down by joint operations of the security-cum-Buddhist mon-cum-Rakhine mobs in the Rakhine state. Internally displaced Rohingyas were forced to live in ‘concentration-like’ camps with little or no medical assistance.

                                      iii.     Thousands of Rohingyas are feared dead trying to flee Myanmar since 2012.

                                       iv.     More than two-thirds of the Rohingya (i.e., estimated at 2 million) were pushed out of Myanmar before the latest genocidal crimes of 2017.

                                         v.     Muslim owned homes, businesses and offices (including madrasa and mosques) were destroyed.

                                       vi.     The rape of Rohingya females, a crime that was to continue until now, was used as a weapon of war to terrorize the community.


5.     Execution of the plan begins, and quickly becomes the mass killing or elimination of the targeted group, which is legally called "genocide." It is "extermination" to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human (see dehumanization). When it is sponsored by the government, the armed forces often work with private armies or militia to do the killing. It is always followed by denial of the crimes by the perpetrators – both during and after genocide. International press and investigative teams are barred from visiting the affected area and talk to the victims. Eye-witnesses or whistle-blowers are killed or ‘disappear’. Evidences of genocide are destroyed.

                                          i.     Despite credible mounting evidences, which were termed either as ‘ethnic cleansing’ or ‘genocidal’, Suu Kyi’s government denied such accusations.  “I don’t think there is ethnic cleaning going on,” Suu Kyi told the BBC, April 2017.

                                        ii.     “It’s Muslims killing Muslims as well, if they think that they are collaborating with authorities … It’s a matter of people on different sides of a divide.” – Suu Kyi said, ibid.

                                      iii.     “No one can fully understand the situation of our country the way we do”. – Suu Kyi said

                                       iv.     Suu Kyi said the army was “not free to rape, pillage and torture”.

                                        v.     Myanmar's army released a report that found "no deaths of innocent people” (11/2017)

As the short analysis above shows, there is no doubt that Rohingyas are victims of state-sponsored genocide. The findings from dozens of respectable institutions around our globe also concur. Human rights activists and genocide experts have been calling the Rohingyas the victims of Genocide. For instance, Dr. Maung Zarni and Alice Cowley in their seminal work “The slow-burning genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya”, noted that both the State in Myanmar and the local community have committed four out of five acts of genocide as spelled out by the 1948 Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide. Dr. Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the departing chief of the UNHRC, said that genocide against Rohingya Muslims by state forces in Myanmar cannot be ruled out.

What is worse, the Rohingyas are victims of Myanmarism, a toxic cocktail of ultra-nationalism (Bama supremacy) and religious (Theravada Buddhism) fanaticism that draws its inspiration from Laukathara – a popular literary work of the early 14th century. In this ugly ideology in which religion and race mingle to define how Buddhists in Myanmar should behave and conduct their affairs, there is no place for non-Buddhists to live. Nurtured by the military generals, who saw themselves as reincarnation of the 11th century warrior-king, it’s simply the worst of all forms of extremism that the world has ever seen since at least the rise and fall of German/Italian Nazism/fascism. And yet, sadly, it is the least known evil.  It needs to be defeated before the Rohingyas become an extinct race.  

I often question what is the basis for a nation’s claim to independence or self-determination? Must a people wander in the wilderness for two millennia and suffer repeated persecution, humiliation and genocide to qualify? Until now, history’s answer to the question has been pragmatic and brutal – a nation is a people tough enough to grab the land it wants and hangs onto it. Period!

How about the rights of a minority community to survive with its culture and traditions intact? Do the victims need to be ‘children’ of a ‘higher’ God or follow Judeo-Christian morality to qualify? What makes the children of a ‘lesser’ God to be forgotten and denied the same treatment and privilege that was granted hitherto to the people of East Timor and South Sudan? Could not a U.N.-sponsored plebiscite determine the fate of the Rohingyas of our time to decide for themselves what is best for them – whether they need a protected homeland of theirs in the northern Arakan or they want to remain as full citizens of Myanmar with all their alienable rights granted and protected under the UDHR?

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres rightly noted last December (2017), “Genocide does not happen by accident; it is deliberate, with warning signs and precursors.” “Often it is the culmination of years of exclusion, denial of human rights and other wrongs.”

Surely, the genocide of the Rohingyas of Myanmar is not happening by accident; it’s a deliberate act – albeit slowly but steadily - by successive murderous regimes providing enough warning signs for the world community to stop this monumental crime. The 1982 Citizenship Law provided the very justification for the Myanmar regime towards the elimination of the minority races like the Rohingya. It was no accident that Myanmar had witnessed, since 2012, a series of genocidal pogroms, mostly directed against the minority Rohingya and other Muslims. The terrorist monk Wirathu, who heads the fascist organization Ma Ba Tha, became the Buddhist face of terrorism, xenophobia, intolerance, and hatred. In the name of protecting Buddhism nearly a million Muslims have been violently displaced or uprooted from their homes all over Myanmar; thousands were killed. The eliminationist policy of genocide – endorsed from the top and preached and justified by Buddhist monks – became THE national project inside Myanmar, enjoying moral and material support at every level of the Buddhist society.

I often ponder: how will our generation be judged by our posterity for letting the genocide of the Rohingya to continue for this long? Shame on us if we fail to stop Rohingya genocide!


Friday, April 27, 2018

When Caste Discrimination Comes To The United States

By Sonali Paul
At over three thousand years old, caste hierarchy is one of the oldest forms of social stratification in the world: the community you're born into in places like India, Pakistan and Nepal has designated where you can work, who you can marry, and what your reputation is in life. Even today in South Asia, caste conflict and discrimination remain a potent force in everyday life. In the United States, though, caste tends to be a relatively muted topic.
But a new survey, "Caste in the United States," finds that caste discrimination is playing out in the United States as well — a finding that raises questions around how South Asian Americans understand themselves and their history.
The survey, which is the first of its kind, was commissioned by Equality Labs, a South Asian American human rights startup, and includes the experiences of about 1200 people who volunteered their answers.
The report on the survey's results said that two-thirds of members of the lowest caste, called Dalits, said they have faced workplace discrimination due to their caste. Forty-one percent have experienced discrimination in education because of it. And a quarter of Dalits say they've faced physical assault — all in the United States.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan is the executive director of Equality Labs and co-authored the report. She said increased immigration from South Asia — including more and more people from lower castes — fuel this discrimination.
The South Asian American population was the fastest-growing major ethnic group in the US between 2000 and 2010. Today, India alone routinely attracts the majority of skilled worker visas the US allots to foreign nationals, accounts for the highest number of undocumented Asians, and is one of the top countries where new immigrants hail from.
This survey provides data for what many in the community already know: any time there's a dominant population of South Asians — whether they're living in Silicon Valley or New Jersey, or working at an office or a restaurant — caste biases emerge. It could be anything from refusing to date or marry someone from a lower caste, to being on the receiving end of a casteist slur, to being made to sit separately because of your perceived "untouchability."
"We have people who responded who were in the assembly lines for a Campbell soup factory in Central Valley, as well as people who work for Google, Facebook and the other big tech companies," Soundararajan said, naming workplaces that employ large numbers of South Asians.
But because most Americans don't understand caste dynamics, it's hard for people to speak up about it, or bring discrimination cases to court. That includes many people living of South Asian ancestry as well.
Anupama Rao is a historian and anthropologist at Barnard College who studies caste. She said for years, many of the so-called "model minority" of South Asians, who have earned the status of being "good immigrants" in the U.S., came from upper-caste families.
"Many of them, once they are upwardly mobile in the United States, tend to be extremely cagey sometimes, but most often I think embarrassed, to think of themselves as the beneficiaries of caste privilege," she said.
And when being from a privileged caste obscures what this discrimination looks like — because it isn't a part of you or your family's experience — caste itself can become invisible. This is especially true in a new country like the U.S., where immigrant groups of all kinds must navigate their place in an American racial and class hierarchy.
What makes caste discrimination even harder to combat in this new context is that some lower caste people hide their identity as well — 52 percent of Dalits surveyed worry about being "outted" as lower caste.
And the issue is polarizing.
Suhag Shukla is the executive director of the advocacy group the Hindu American Foundation. She said it's important to get rid of caste prejudice, but that this new survey unfairly essentializes and villainizes Hinduism. It's one of the most complex arguments surrounding caste; as the survey notes, caste first appeared in Hindu scriptures. It now pervades all religions of South Asia.
"The single most problematic issue with this survey is that it traffics in the most dangerous and false tropes about Hinduism," she said.
"So instead of demanding an honest conversation about caste and privilege, or its contested relevance among South Asian kids of the third and fourth generation who are now coming of age that are all brown regardless of caste, this report kind of alienates Hindus by scapegoating them," Shukla said. Caste discrimination isn't on the radar for many South Asian kids of later generations, she added. What they're worried about is the discrimination they face for being brown in America. Hate crimes against Muslims and South Asians are at their highest levels since the year after 9/11.
Yet others — both Hindu and non-Hindu — see this defense as helping to preserve the caste system itself. It may not be exactly the same as it functions in South Asia, but a denial of accountability, they say, maintains a hierarchy of privilege.

Last month, over a hundred people packed into the auditorium of the First Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to talk about what the survey found. It was a special kind of Black Lives Matter event: an evening with Dalits.
Dr. Cornel West was part of the panel introducing the topic to the crowd, which included both South Asians and non-South Asians. He emphasized the parallels between the struggles of Black Americans and those of South Asians on the lowest rungs of the caste system.
"We will not be crushed! And we will struggle for love and justice, not hatred and revenge! Love and justice," West roared to the crowd.
There has been a long history of Dalit and Black leaders finding common ground in their struggles. The Black Panthers in Oakland, for example, inspired the formation of another resistance group, the Dalit Panthers, in Mumbai. And Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, often recognized as the most renowned Dalit leader of the 20th century, and an architect of India's constitution, exchanged letters with W.E.B. Du Bois in the 1940s, after seeing the similarities between the plight of India's Dalits and African Americans in the US. This history was front and center at the event that evening in Cambridge.
"Let us never forget Ambedkar!" West insisted, as applause rung through the room. "And the spirit of W.E.B. Du Bois is here as well!"
Thenmozhi Soundararajan pointed out the shared experiences of those in the room.
"Places like this, where oppressed people are starting to build their connections, this is freedom," she said.

Why Are Palestinians Protesting in Gaza?

By Mike Merryman-Lotze
Once again, the Israeli military has turned its guns on Gaza — this time on unarmed protestors, in a series of shootings over the last few weeks. Gaza’s already under-resourced hospitals are straining to care for the 1,600 protesters who have been injured, on top of 40 killed.
According to a group of United Nations experts, “there is no available evidence to suggest that the lives of heavily armed security forces were threatened” by the unarmed demonstrators they fired on.
The violence is getting some coverage in the news. But the conditions in Gaza that have pushed so many to protest remain largely invisible. So do their actual demands.
The Great Return March was organized by grassroots groups in Gaza as a peaceful action with three key demands: respect for refugees’ right to return to their homes, an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Seventy years ago, Palestinians were expelled from their homes en masse when their land was seized for the state of Israel. Many became refugees, with millions of people grouped into shrinking areas like Gaza. Fifty years ago, the rest of historic Palestine came under Israeli military occupation.
While these refugees’ right of return has been recognized by the international community, no action has been taken to uphold that right. Meanwhile, the occupation has become further and further entrenched.
For over a decade, the people of Gaza have lived under a military-imposed blockade that severely limits travel, trade, and everyday life for its 2 million residents. The blockade effectively bans nearly all exports, limits imports, and severely restricts passage in and out.
In over 20 visits to Gaza over the last 10 years, I’ve watched infrastructure degrade under both the blockade and a series of Israeli bombings.
Beautiful beaches are marred by raw sewage, which flows into the sea in amounts equivalent to 43 Olympic swimming pools every day. Access to water and electricity continually decreases, hospitals close, school hours are limited, and people are left thirsty and in the dark.
These problems can only be fixed by ending the blockade.
As Americans, we bear direct responsibility for the horrific reality in Gaza. Using our tax money, the U.S. continues to fund the Israeli military through $3.8 billion in aid annually.
A group of U.S.-based faith organizations has called out U.S. silence in a statement supporting protesters and condemning the killings: “The United States stood by and allowed Israel to carry out these attacks without any public criticism or challenge,” they said. “Such U.S. complicity is a continuation of the historical policy of active support for Israel’s occupation and U.S. disregard for Palestinian rights.”
The signatories include the American Friends Service Committee, where I work, an organization that started providing humanitarian aid to refugees in Gaza as far back as 1948.
While the U.S. does give money to the United Nations and international aid groups working in Gaza, it’s barely a drop in the bucket compared to our support of the military laying siege to the territory.
As my colleagues in Gaza have made clear, what they need isn’t more aid. That humanitarian aid is needed because of the blockade. What they need is freedom from the conditions that make life unlivable — like the blockade itself — and a long-term political solution.
Ignoring the reasons Gaza is in crisis only hurts our chances to address this manmade humanitarian horror.
Mike Merryman-Lotze has worked with the American Friends Service Committee as the Palestine-Israel Program Director since 2010.

Is the U.S. Government Evil? You Decide

“The greatest evil is not now done … in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Is the U.S. government evil?
You tell me.
This is a government that treats its citizens like faceless statistics and economic units to be bought, sold, bartered, traded, tracked, tortured, and eventually eliminated once they’ve outgrown their usefulness.
This is a government that treats human beings like lab rats to be caged, branded, experimented upon, and then discarded and left to suffer from the after-effects.
This is a government that repeatedly lies, cheats, steals, spies, kills, maims, enslaves, breaks the laws, overreaches its authority, and abuses its power at almost every turn.
This is a government that wages wars for profit, jails its own people for profit, and then turns a blind eye and a deaf ear while its henchmen rape and kill and pillage.
No, this is not a government that can be trusted to do what is right or moral or humane or honorable but instead seems to gravitate towards corruption, malevolence, misconduct, greed, cruelty, brutality and injustice.
This is not a government you should trust with your life, your loved ones, your livelihood or your freedoms.
This is the face of evil, disguised as a democracy, sold to the people as an institution that has their best interests at heart.
Don’t fall for the lie.
The government has never had our best interests at heart.
Endless wars. The government didn’t have our best interests at heart when it propelled us into endless oil-fueled wars and military occupations in the Middle East that wreaked havoc on our economy, stretched thin our military resources and subjected us to horrific blowback.
A police state. There is no way the government had our best interests at heart when it passed laws subjecting us to all manner of invasive searches and surveillance, censoring our speech and stifling our expression, rendering us anti-government extremists for daring to disagree with its dictates, locking us up for criticizing government policies on social media, encouraging Americans to spy and snitch on their fellow citizens, and allowing government agents to grope, strip, search, taser, shoot and kill us.
Battlefield America. Certainly the government did not have our best interests at heart when it turned America into a battlefield, transforming law enforcement agencies into extensions of the military, conducting military drills on domestic soil, distributing “free” military equipment and weaponry to local police, and desensitizing Americans to the menace of the police state with active shooter drills, color-coded terror alerts, and randomly conducted security checkpoints at “soft” targets such as shopping malls and sports arenas.
School-to-prison pipeline. It would be a reach to suggest that the government had our best interests at heart when it locked down the schools, installing metal detectors and surveillance cameras, adopting zero tolerance policies that punish childish behavior as harshly as criminal actions, and teaching our young people that they have no rights, that being force-fed facts is education rather than indoctrination, that they are not to question governmental authority, that they must meekly accept a life of censorship, round-the-clock surveillance, roadside blood draws, SWAT team raids and other indignities.
Secret human experimentation. One would also be hard-pressed to suggest that the American government had our best interests at heart when it conducted secret experiments on an unsuspecting populace—citizens and noncitizens alike—making healthy people sick by spraying them with chemicals, injecting them with infectious diseases and exposing them to airborne toxins. The government reasoned that it was legitimate (and cheaper) to experiment on people who did not have full rights in society such as prisoners, mental patients, and poor blacks.
As the Associated Press reports, “The late 1940s and 1950s saw huge growth in the U.S. pharmaceutical and health care industries, accompanied by a boom in prisoner experiments funded by both the government and corporations. By the 1960s, at least half the states allowed prisoners to be used as medical guinea pigs … because they were cheaper than chimpanzees.”
In Alabama, for example, 600 black men with syphilis were allowed to suffer without proper medical treatment so that the government could study the natural progression of untreated syphilis. In California, older prisoners were implanted with testicles from livestock and executed convicts so the government could test their virility.
In Connecticut, mental patients were injected with hepatitis so the government could study the disease. In Maryland, sleeping prisoners had a pandemic flu virus sprayed up their noses so the government could monitor their symptoms. In Georgia, two dozen “volunteering” prison inmates had gonorrhea bacteria pumped directly into their urinary tracts through the penis so the government could work on a cure.
In Michigan, male patients at an insane asylum were exposed to the flu so the government could experiment with a flu vaccine. In Minnesota, 11 public service employee “volunteers” were injected with malaria, then starved for five days, so the government could study the impact.
In New York, prisoners at a reformatory prison were split into two groups to determine how a deadly stomach virus was spread: the first group was made to swallow an unfiltered stool suspension, while the second group merely breathed in germs sprayed into the air. In Staten Island, children with mental retardation were given hepatitis orally and by injection to see if they could then be cured.
Unfortunately, these incidents are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the atrocities the government has inflicted on an unsuspecting populace in the name of secret experimentation.
For instance, there was the U.S. military’s secret race-based testing of mustard gas on more than 60,000 enlisted men (African-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Hispanics, etc.). As NPR reports, “All of the World War II experiments with mustard gas were done in secret and weren’t recorded on the subjects’ official military records. Most do not have proof of what they went through. They received no follow-up health care or monitoring of any kind. And they were sworn to secrecy about the tests under threat of dishonorable discharge and military prison time, leaving some unable to receive adequate medical treatment for their injuries, because they couldn’t tell doctors what happened to them.”
And then there was the CIA’s Cold War-era program, MKULTRA, in which the government began secretly experimenting on hundreds of unsuspecting American civilians and military personnel by dosing them with LSD, some having the hallucinogenic drug secretly slipped into their drinks, so that the government could explore its uses in brainwashing and controlling targets. The CIA spent nearly $20 million on its MKULTRA program, reportedly as a means of programming people to carry out assassinations and, to a lesser degree, inducing anxieties and erasing memories, before it was supposedly shut down.
Similarly, the top-secret Montauk Project, the inspiration for the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, allegedly was working to develop mind-control techniques that would then be tested out on locals in a nearby village, triggering crime waves or causing teenagers to congregate.
Sounds like the stuff of conspiracy theorists, I know, but the government’s track record of treating Americans like lab rats has been well-documented, including its attempts to expose whole communities to various toxins as part of its efforts to develop lethal biological weapons and study their impact and delivery methods on unsuspecting populations.
In 1949, for instance, the government sprayed bacteria into the Pentagon’s air handling system, then the world’s largest office building. In 1950, special ops forces sprayed bacteria from Navy ships off the coast of Norfolk and San Francisco, in the latter case exposing all of the city’s 800,000 residents.
In 1953, government operatives staged “mock” anthrax attacks on St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Winnipeg using generators placed on top of cars. Local governments were reportedly told that “‘invisible smokescreen[s]’ were being deployed to mask the city on enemy radar.” Later experiments covered territory as wide-ranging as Ohio to Texas and Michigan to Kansas.
In 1965, the government’s experiments in bioterror took aim at Washington’s National Airport, followed by a 1966 experiment in which army scientists exposed a million subway NYC passengers to airborne bacteria that causes food poisoning.
Now one might argue that this is all ancient history and that the government today is different from the government of yesteryear, but has the U.S. government really changed?
Ask yourself: Has the government become any more humane, any more respectful of the rights of the citizenry? Has it become any more transparent or willing to abide by the rule of law? Has it become any more truthful about its activities? Has it become any more cognizant of its appointed role as a guardian of our rights?
Or, having mastered the Orwellian art of Doublespeak and followed the Huxleyan blueprint for distraction and diversion, has the government simply gotten craftier and more conniving, better able to hide its nefarious acts and dastardly experiments under layers of secrecy, legalism and obfuscations?
Consider this: after revelations about the government’s experiments spanning the 20th century spawned outrage, the government began looking for human guinea pigs in other countries, where “clinical trials could be done more cheaply and with fewer rules.”
In Guatemala, prisoners and patients at a mental hospital were infected with syphilis, “apparently to test whether penicillin could prevent some sexually transmitted disease.” More recently, U.S.-funded doctors “failed to give the AIDS drug AZT to all the HIV-infected pregnant women in a study in Uganda even though it would have protected their newborns.” Meanwhile, in Nigeria, children with meningitis were used to test an antibiotic named Trovan. Eleven children died and many others were left disabled.
What kind of government perpetrates such horrific acts on human beings, whether or not they are American citizens?
Is there any difference between a government mindset that justifies experimenting on prisoners because they’re “cheaper than chimpanzees” and a government that sanctions jailhouse strip searches of individuals charged with minor infractions simply because it’s easier on a jail warden’s workload?
John Lennon was right: “We’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends.”
Unfortunately, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Just recently, for example, a Fusion Center in Washington State (a Dept. of Homeland Security-linked data collection clearinghouse that shares information between state, local and federal agencies) inadvertently released records on remote mind control tactics (the use of “psycho-electronic” weapons to control people from a distance or subject them to varying degrees of pain).
Mind you, there is no clear evidence to suggest that these particular documents were created by a government agency. Then again, the government—no stranger to diabolical deeds or shady experiments carried out an unsuspecting populace—has done it before.
After all, this is a government that has become almost indistinguishable from the evil it claims to be fighting, whether that evil takes the form of terrorism, torture, drug traffickingsex trafficking, murder, violence, theft, pornography, scientific experimentations or some other diabolical means of inflicting pain, suffering and servitude on humanity.
For too long now, the American people have been persuaded to barter their freedoms for phantom promises of security and, in the process, have rationalized turning a blind eye to all manner of government wrongdoing—asset forfeiture schemes, corruption, surveillance, endless wars, SWAT team raids, militarized police, profit-driven private prisons, and so on—because they were the so-called lesser of two evils.
No matter how you rationalize it, the lesser of two evils is still evil.
There’s a scene in The Third Man, Carol Reed’s influential 1949 film starring Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles in which a rogue war profiteer (Harry Lime) views human carnage with a callous indifference, unconcerned that the diluted penicillin he’s been trafficking underground has resulted in the tortured deaths of young children.
Challenged by his old friend Holly Martins to consider the consequences of his actions, Lime responds, “In these days, old man, nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don’t, so why should we?”
“Have you ever seen any of your victims?” asks Martins.
“Victims?” responds Lime, as he looks down from the top of a Ferris wheel onto a populace reduced to mere dots on the ground. “Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare?”
Lime’s callous indifference is no different from the U.S. government’s calculating cost-benefit analyses.
In the eyes of the government, “we the people” are chump change.
So why do Americans keep believing the government has their best interests at heart?
Why do Americans keep trusting the government?
Why do Americans pretend not to know what is so obvious to anyone with eyes and ears and a conscience?
As Carl Sagan recognized, “If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
We should never have trusted the government in the first place.
That’s why the Founders came up with a Bill of Rights. They recognized that without binding legal protections affirming the rights of the people, the newly instituted American government would be no better than the old British despot.
It was Thomas Jefferson who warned, “In questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”
Unfortunately, we didn’t heed the warning.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American Peoplethe government has ripped the Constitution to shreds and left us powerless in the face of its power grabs, greed and brutality.
So how do you fight back?
How do you fight injustice? How do you push back against tyranny? How do you vanquish evil?
You don’t fight it by hiding your head in the sand.
Stop being apathetic. Stop being neutral. Stop being accomplices.
Start recognizing evil and injustice and tyranny for what they are. Demand government transparency. Vote with your feet (i.e., engage in activism, not just politics). Refuse to play politics with your principles. Don’t settle for the lesser of two evils.
As British statesman Edmund Burke warned, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.”
It’s time for good men and women to do something. And soon.

Killing of second Palestinian journalist covering Gaza protests draws international condemnation

A second Palestinian journalist has died after being shot by Israeli forces while covering the Gaza protests. Ahmad abu Hussein, 24, succumbed yesterday in an Israeli hospital, 12 days after he was shot in the stomach while wearing a Press flak jacket on April 13. By one report, Abu Hussein was shot by an expanding bullet, from hundreds of meters away.
He was shot a week after journalist Yaser Murtaja was also shot in the torso by an Israeli sniper. Murtaja died early on the morning of April 7.
Click here to read more.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Asaram Bapu: Hindu spiritual guru found guilty of raping

An Indian spiritual guru who claims to have millions of followers has been found guilty of raping a 16-year-old devotee in 2013.
Asaram Bapu faces a maximum sentence of life in prison in the latest in a series of high-profile rape cases in India, which have fuelled public protests and raised questions bout how police handle the cases and treat the victims.
The verdict against the 77-year-old self-styled “godman” was read out inside a prison in the city of Jodhpur, in Rajasthan state, because of fears his followers may resort to violence.
In August last year, another flamboyant and controversial Indian spiritual guru, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of raping two followers.
His supporters went on a deadly rampage in response, killing at least 38 and injuring more than 200 during protests in Haryana state.
Judge Madhusudhan Sharma will announce the prison term for Bapu later after hearing arguments from the prosecution and his lawyers.
Bapu has denied the rape and can appeal against his conviction in a higher court.
In her complaint to the police in 2013, the girl accused Bapu of raping her when she visited his Jodhpur retreat with her mother.
The girl’s family said they had been followers of Bapu for more than a decade.
The guru has been in prison since his arrest in the case in 2013.
On Wednesday, security was tight around the prison complex and in states where Bapu has a considerable following.
He is also on trial along with his son, Narayan Sai, in a separate rape case where two sisters have accused the two men of sexual assault.

Armenia soldiers join anti-government protests in Yerevan

Protesters have demanded Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia's prime minister, to step down [Vahram Baghdasaryan/Reuters]
Protesters have demanded Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia's prime minister, to step down [Vahram Baghdasaryan/Reuters]
Hundreds of soldiers have joined anti-government protests in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Monday, accusing the country's prime minister of corruption and authoritarian rule.
In a response to the ongoing protests, the Armenian defence ministry said it would take harsh measures against any member of the military taking part in the demonstrations.
Al Jazeera's Robin Forestier-Walker, reporting from Yerevan, said Monday's events are a surprising development.
"There are pictures and videos of the soldiers walking down main Yerevan streets. We understand that they are on active duty and that they are part of a peacekeeping force for missions abroad," Walker said.
"We have also seen members of the clergy coming out into the streets to take part in the protests," he added.

Gun battle in Jammu and Kashmir kills 7

By Zahid Rafiq

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir
Seven people were killed in a day-long gun battle in Tral, south of Jammu and Kashmir, on Tuesday, the Indian army said.

"The operation started very early. One of our soldiers and a policeman were killed. Till the last reports four militants were killed.
The gun battle has ended but our soldiers are conducting an extensive search of the area,” Defence spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia told Anadolu Agency.

The gun battle occurred in Laam area, in the forests of Tral, where Indian intelligence agencies received a tip off about the presence of militants.

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

The two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- since they were partitioned in 1947, two of which were fought over Kashmir.

Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

Video: Israeli soldiers cheer after shooting Palestinian protester in the West Bank

To see the video link, click here.

'I too was once a liberal Zionist' - writes Robert Cohen to actress Natalie Portman

A letter from Robert Cohen:
“Israel was created exactly 70 years ago as a haven for refugees from the Holocaust. But the mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power.”
Dear Natalie
I too was a liberal Zionist.
I too thought the problem was the leaders of Israel and their policies.
I too thought a change of leadership and a change of policies could fix things.
I don’t think that anymore.
Like you, I care about “Jewish values” but I long ago gave up on the idea that Israel, and the Zionism that created and sustains the Jewish State, would protect those values.
We should both be clear about what those Jewish values are.  They’re to be found in the Hebrew bible and are the ideas that have stood the test of time and been passed on to the world through Christianity and Islam: The innate equality of all humanity; a bias towards the poor, the downtrodden and the marginalised; and a committment to speak out against the wrong-doing of authority. In your statement on Friday you list what happens when these values are lost: “violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power”.
But to protect those Jewish values you have to push yourself beyond Zionism, especially of the liberal variety that sees today’s violence and inequality as merely a derailment from Zionism’s true course.
Let me explain why.

Genesis Prize

Natalie, without doubt I welcome your decision to snub the Genesis Prize. As an A-list Jewish Israeli-American Hollywood movie star, your stand is a big deal. People take notice. It has influence. Minds are changed when people like you do things like this. So I congratulate you. You’re are already taking serious flak for this and it will take a toll on you personally and professionally.
You talked about “recent events” in Israel making you feel it was inappropriate to go there to receive the prize money. I think everyone knows what you had in mind. When Israeli snipers pick off 32 Palestinian protesters (so far) on the Gaza border, including a 15 year old boy, and wound or maim well over a thousand men, women and children I would also call that “extremely distressing”.
So I understand exactly where you’re coming from. I used to be there too.
I believed there was a ‘good Zionism’ that could take back control from the ‘bad Zionism’ that had somehow captured the soul of the Jewish State.

Good Zionism v. Bad Zionism

In my late teens and early 20s the bad Zionists for me were Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Itzhak Shamir, both former Jewish terrorists during the British Mandate. I refused to accept their Likud Party take on Zionism was the real thing.
I admired the cultural Zionism of Ahad Ha’am from the early 20th century. I believed in the Socialist Zionism that had built the Kibbutz movement. I loved the bi-national Zionism of the 30s and 40s promoted by Judah Magnus, Martin Buber and Henrietta Szold. This was the Zionist thinking I could feel at home with.
But then I looked deeper. I studied. I read. I asked. Most importantly, I listened to Palestinian voices for the first time.
What I discovered is that it’s not the politicians or the policies that are the problem in Israel. It’s the ideology they follow.
The cultural Zionism of Ahad Ha’am was beautiful. But he was admired rather than taken up.
Socialist Zionism was never a socialism for everyone. It was socialism for Jews only. There was never a Muslim or Christian Arab that was allowed to become a member of a kibbutz until one kibbutz allowed one Palestinian Muslim woman to join in 2008. The proclaimed universalism of Jewish labor lost out to the particularism of Jewish nationalism.
And the Brit Shalom movement of Martin Buber never had more than a hundred members.
I imagine, Natalie, that you’re opposed to the Occupation and to the Settlements. For liberal Zionists that’s usually a given. It was for me. The 1967 ‘Six Day War’ turned out to be ‘bad Zionism’ because we hung on to the territory we captured. But the 1948 ‘War of Independence’ was fundamentally ‘good Zionism’ because we (re)created our Jewish homeland and achieved sovereignty and security.
But you’re wrong if you think fixing 1967 will end the affront to your Jewish values.
You need to go back further.
You need to understand that Zionism has, and remains, both a project of Jewish liberation and a project of Jewish colonisation and Jewish apartheid. Our liberation was going to mean another people’s enslavement. Which is why Liberalism and Zionism turn out to be such awkward partners with offspring that look nothing like the Jewish values you say matter to you.

Collision course

By the 1940s the dominant strain of Zionist thinking, and the only strain that would matter, was State building and the creation of a Jewish majority in the land. For most Zionists this had always been the desired outcome of their efforts. That put Zionism on a collision course with the indigenous majority Arab population of Palestine. For this kind of Zionism to succeed another people would need to be displaced – one way or another.
I think we can both agree that it’s wrong to think that every Zionist pioneer or Jewish refugee that arrived in Palestine before 1948, or after, was hell bent on land theft and ethnic cleaning. That would be a foolishly simple reading of history. But liberal Zionists still refuse to acknowledge Israel’s primary culpability in creating the world’s longest standing refugee community. Without confronting the Nakba there is no road to peace nor justice.
But there are other consequences of Zionism that I feel you should think about in relation to Jewish values and they too are far from being “recent events”.

The democratic deficit

Liberal Zionists have a habit of talking up Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East. After all, every citizen of Israel has the vote. The Israeli Declaration of Independence, which has no constitutional standing in Israeli law, is championed as the enshrinement of Jewish, democratic and Zionist values. But no matter how much liberal Zionists want to celebrate equality in the State of Israel it doesn’t look or feel that way for the 20 percent of its citizens who are Palestinian.
For the first 18 years of Israel’s existence the Palestinians who had been allowed to remain were ruled by martial law and treated as the ‘enemy within’. Many were classified as ‘present absentees’ and their homes and land were confiscated. Their hundreds of villages were destroyed. Parks and forests now grow over many of the ruins.
But the discrimination and inequality are still very much with us. There is dramatically lower investment in Palestinian neighbourhoods and schools, despite the fact that they pay the same taxes as everyone else. They cannot buy State-owned land because State land in Israel is held in trust for the Jewish people exclusively. They cannot marry someone from the West Bank or Gaza and live together in Israel as citizens. They cannot teach their own history because teaching the Nakba is against the law.
Yes, they have the vote and yes, there are Palestinian Israelis elected to the Knesset. But don’t expect them ever to be invited to join an Israeli government coalition. They can have the vote as long as it makes no difference.
This is not equality. This is not real democracy. It’s certainly not liberalism. It is a large minority seen primarily as a demographic threat to the Jewish State.
All over the world Jews thrive in liberal democracies where all citizens have equal rights. We judge countries by how they treat their minorities, particularly their Jewish minorities. But in Israel the rules change. In the one Jewish State minorities are  a bad thing and can be treated badly.
What I’m trying to point out, Natalie, is that it’s not Netanyahu who’s spoiling your Jewish values. It’s Zionism that keeps 1.8 million Palestinians locked in the Gaza Strip. It’s Zionism that wants the land and the resources of the West Bank. It’s Zionism that keeps the Israeli Palestinians as third-class citizens in their own land.

The damage done by liberal Zionism

I used to be thankful that liberal Zionists like you were around to provide a critical, if moderate, objection to what goes on in Israel. Obviously, your voice was preferable to the right wing zealots of Israeli religious and secular nationalism.
But now I’m not so sure.
Now I fear you do more damage to Jewish values than anyone else. Why? Because the framing and language of liberal Zionism obscures the truth. We are not seeing a conflict between two foes. We are not looking at a tragic clash of right against right. We are not even watching a battle over sharing the land between two people. Long, long ago it became something else. It became colonisation and theft. It became oppression. It became an issue of human rights. Who has them and who are denied them.
If you continue to see Zionism as essentially liberal and progressive you will never understand why it creates in your own words: “violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power”. The current Israeli government is not an aberration. When Netanyahu falls, Zionism with all of its violence, corruption and inequality will stay put.
So yes, please snub the Genesis Prize and refuse to go to the ceremony in Israel. But don’t do it in the name of liberal Zionism and don’t defend a fictional Israel that deep down embodies your Jewish values. It doesn’t and it never did. You have to push past it if you want to protect the Jewish values that matter to you.
Robert Cohen