Donbass – Military-Political Aspects

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February 19, 2019

Donbass – Military-Political Aspects

By Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with 
https://www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-donbass-military-political-aspects/ 
source:
 http://alternatio.org/articles/articles/item/67719-donbass-voenno-politicheskie-aspekty

 

Donbass, like any frontline territory with a non-determined status, is periodically covered by waves of rumours – the most improbable and the most absurd rumours, which nevertheless are spread with the speed of a virus. Despite their regular repetitiveness and regular falsifiability, they, appearing again and again, invoke trust again and again. The number of people living in Donbass who have a “friend who personally heard from Putin” the latest “artful Russian plans” concerning the fates of the People’s Republics concedes only to the number of those who “heard personally from Pushilin” the same thing.

Recently, in connection with the Ukrainian elections, rumours (which have periodically appeared over five years) became more active again that right now there is the desire to return the DPR/LPR into the structure of Ukraine. This rumour is absurd, since right now (before elections) it’s not only politically unprofitable (Russia doesn’t support Poroshenko) to return Donbass to Ukraine, but it is also technically impossible (there isn’t enough time to implement the necessary procedures).

It is obvious that the activisation of this rumour is partially connected to the recent statement of Medvedchuk, who proposed to Kiev, for the sake of ending the war and preserving Donbass as a part of Ukraine, to change the Constitution for the purpose of creating wide autonomy in Donbass. However, since Medvedchuk plays up to Tymoshenko against Poroshenko, it is clear that Kiev could start the implementation of these ideas no earlier than the elections will conclude if Tymoshenko becomes the president.

At the same time, it is necessary to consider that Yuliya Tymoshenko angrily condemned Viktor Medvedchuk’s proposal, because now she acts from a more radical nationalist position than Poroshenko in order to win the favour and support of nationalist radicals, who will indeed decide the outcome of elections. Therefore, nobody will be able to integrate Donbass anywhere either before presidential elections or immediately after them. And after this parliamentary elections will start. Thus, if there were indeed such plans, then starting their implementation earlier than a year and a half later would be practically unrealistic. For this, as a minimum, the position of Kiev must cardinally exchange. And what will happen to Donbass, Ukraine, and the world in a year’s time only God knows, and even this is with a known amount of conditionality, because he granted every person the right to make a free choice between good and evil, and the fates of countries and civilisations consist of millions of these free choices.

However, the constant sense of danger accompanying the inhabitants of Donbass is based not only on such inadequate interpretations of the bright speeches of Kiev or Moscow politicians. The main irritating factor is the non-determined status. People can’t understand why Russia didn’t take them following the example of Crimea, why the Kiev authorities were recognised in 2014, and for what purpose were the Minsk Agreements reached? Hence the wavering when the rumour about handing over Donbass “already tomorrow” is replaced by the rumour that right now Russia will not recognise the 2019 elections, will capture Kiev, and Donbass will at last enter the structure of the Russian Federation.

Meanwhile, the military-political situation that predetermined the fate of Donbass for the nearest years developed in 2014 and hasn’t yet changed. In 2014 a window of opportunities was indeed opened and was far from being exhausted by the return of Crimea to the structure of Russia and the declaration of DPR/LPR.

Before the February coup of 2014 the possibility of the entry of all of Ukraine into the Customs Union was quite real. For this purpose Yanukovych needed to only disperse Maidan and jail all prominent politicians who supported the coup attempt. This decision completely depended on a subjective factor – the personal will of Yanukovych, the level of his intelligence, and his adequacy in his job.

After the coup, during February-April a campaign to Kiev of the uprising Southeast was possible, with the informal support of Russia. In such a variant, Western Ukraine, most likely, would’ve already been lost, Crimea would’ve left for Russia (as it already happened), and the other territories, with a new pro-Russian government, would’ve joined the process of Eurasian integration. A key role in the failure of this opportunity was played by both a subjective factor (the absolute lack of readiness of new, put forward by a popular uprising, leaders of the Southeast to think not in the scale of their region {Kharkov, Donetsk, Odessa}, but in the scale of the country), and an objective factor – the idealistic idea of the masses of a revolt based on the thought that it “will be like it was in Crimea” (we will stand two days, and then “polite tanks”will come and we will go home to go about our own business).

None of the representatives of the uprising mass of the Southeast and their new elites understood that the victory of any revolt is in Kiev (in the capital). Nationalists, by the way, understood well that until they take the capital, they are just rebels, but as soon as they capture government buildings – they are already the authorities, and the mutineers – their opponents. Every region of the Southeast hoped, having marked the revolt and having hid behind Russia, to solve the issue independently and let the neighbour decide for themselves.

Here, of course, a question arises that is often asked not only in Donbass, but also in all of Ukraine: and what, Russia couldn’t liberate Russian lands with Russian people from nominally Banderists, but in reality an American occupation? Evidently, it could. But Russia can “liberate” all of Europe up to the Atlantic (which, by the way, is also under American occupation).

Does this mean that Russia must urgently start “a liberating campaign” in Europe? The question seems to be absurd, but the topic of “a liberating campaign” in Ukraine, which according to its status differs little from Serbia, is constantly discussed by the Russian and the pro-Russia Ukrainian public. Yes, in Ukraine there was a coup. But international law doesn’t provide the possibility of an incursion into an independent state only because of a violent change of power. Yes, our western “partners” often carry out coups and/or interfere in independent states under the pretext of eliminating the consequences of the coup. Nevertheless, even now, when not only the spirit, but also the letter of international law is consciously ignored in most cases by the majority of countries, such invasions/interventions are outwardly given shape in accordance with international law. For example, some local oppositionist is found (or brought, like how the USSR brought Babrak Karmal from Czechoslovakia to Afghanistan), a real or fake resistance movement is formed around them, it then establishes control over some territories, provides the transition of some officials and military personnel to its side, and only after this do foreign troops appear in the country “for the purpose of stopping bloodshed”. The appearance of “polite people” in Crimea was given shape precisely like this. Civil standoff, the threat of mass bloodshed, the non-recognition of the Kiev coup by local parliament – only after this did Russia appear there officially. And everything that was unofficial was already in play.

The corresponding conditions didn’t develop anywhere else across the entire territory of Ukraine. Yes, there were rallies that gathered 1,000/2,000 people. Yes, the regional state administrations were taken by storm. Yes, “people’s governors” were proclaimed. But at the same time, except in Crimea, in no region did the official authorities refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the coup in Kiev. Thus, Russia found itself in front of the formally monolithic unity of a 45-million state, all the authorities of which, including regional ones in the Southeast, refused to recognise Yanukovych as legitimate. But counteraction was demonstrated by several tens of thousands of people over all the country. This counteraction was unorganised, they weren’t able to either reach an agreement among themselves or formulate their aims clearly.

So from the point of view of international law, in 2014 Russia had nobody to stand up for. Those abstract “we were waiting [for Russia to liberate us]” – who indeed were in the millions – couldn’t be considered, counted, and their non-publicly expressed will presented as a justification of a right to intervene by anyone.

Of course, there was an option to spit on the legal justification of actions and to act by the right of might. But for the sake of what? An overland corridor to Crimea? This issue was solved with the help of the Crimean Bridge. Meanwhile it was clear that it won’t be possible to capture all of Ukraine in 2014. In the West (and even in the center) most of the population would be against it. And an appeal to the US, EU, and NATO with a request for help will surely be expressed. And it will be heard.

I.e., the partition of Ukraine was possible, and it’s not a fact that it would be succeeded to take all of Novorossiya and to punch a corridor up to Transnistria. It is rather on the contrary – neither Kiev, nor western “partners” were obviously going to hand over Odessa, the strangling of Transnistria in a situation of military-political chaos was quite real, and it was possible to do it quickly, during a couple of days (so that Russia has no time to react). The most sad thing in this chapter is that a part of the gas pipelines + gas storages would all the same remain under the control of the Banderist government. Only it would speak rightfully about Russian aggression, and for our friends in the EU it would be almost impossible to defend the idea of “Nord Stream-2”.

Russia would thus receive a small territorial accretion with a population that is far from being ready to fit into the Russian political system (this is seen even in the example of the small and most Russian in Ukraine Crimea), but its economic partnership with the EU would be interrupted and political relations would reach a level close to a military confrontation. Those same US bases that so far have appeared in Europe in a very moderate quantity only because most Europeans are against the deployment of new American forces would appear there without problem.

It would be necessary to manyfold strengthen the Western grouping of troops, including in the attached territories. And besides this, for the creation of an effective system of management and control it would be necessary to send a large number of administrative staff from Russia to the attached territories, and also forces of the police and FSB (Ukrainian statehood was almost destroyed, the remaining officials in their majority are incompetent, and the system of management has been destroyed).

It would be a question of the need to resettle in Ukraine hundreds of thousands of people (1-2 million, if to count them with their families) for the long term. These people would be perceived there as “Varangians” who were sent to govern (but after all, we can do it ourselves) and who “prevents us from living” in the way that “we got used to”. Since this moment any problem would be a problem “caused by Russia”, which didn’t give, do, or provide something. After all, the governors are Russian. Soon the era of “European integration” would start being remembered with nostalgia, especially since sharply increasing the standard of living of 20 million people is almost impossible, but forcing everyone to pay taxes (only the lazy in Ukraine didn’t avoid paying them) is actually very easy. Besides this, the freezing in the Ukrainian (and in general in the Western) direction of a considerable (from a third to a half) of the entire military capacity of Russia would block the possibility of pursuing an active foreign policy (including in Syria). There wouldn’t be simply anything left that could offer support.

A hypothetical Ukrainian campaign didn’t correspond to the principle, according to Liddel Hart, requirement of a successful war: “Victory is such a post-war peace that is better than the pre-war one, at least for you”.

But maybe it was possible to integrate at least Donbass into Russia following the Crimean example? No, it wasn’t. As was already said, legitimate regional authorities didn’t support the revolt. Only about a third of the total area of two regions and a half of that territory on which an independence referendum was held appeared in the hands of the revolters. To recognise and integrate them into Russia (and they can’t survive independently) is possible only within the framework of the territory under its control today. Supporting an offensive of the DPR/LPR up to the borders of regions means to start a war that leads to the partition of Ukraine, but Russia will receive even less than the biggest part of Novorossiya – it will be just two regions. The other consequences, perhaps, are a little more soft, but in general they are the same. Besides this, it is necessary to understand that by making peace on the condition of the integration of Donbass, Russia would practically reconcile with the loss of the rest of Ukraine forever (or as far as it is possible to speak about “forever” in politics in principle). I.e., the losses are the same, and the profit is even less, if we avoid saying that there isn’t any in general.

In fact, this situation of a military-political stalemate that developed in the Ukrainian direction by the summer of 2014 forced Russia to opt to freeze the situation in this direction, having transferred the center of gravity of its efforts to more promising, from the point of view of the global standoff with the US, regions – in order to return to the Ukrainian question in general, and to Donbass in particular, in more favourable conditions.

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International law under threat

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John Bolton

By Lawrence Davidson

Several recent events suggest that global warming is not the only thing threatening our future. As if they are running on parallel tracks, some of the modern institutions that help make for stable societies – the ones that hold back the rise of barbarism – are being weakened even as the atmosphere is heating up and the oceans swell. In pursuit of short-term state or personal interests, some national leaders are violating or ignoring international law and, by doing so, putting us all at long-term risk.

Example 1: Subverting the International Criminal Court

One of the most hopeful developments to follow the catastrophe that was World War II—the war that brought the world the holocaust, the blitzkrieg, the carpet bombing of Europe, and the use of nuclear bombs against large cities – was the extension and strengthening of international law. In 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations, seeking to give such laws real force, called for the establishment of an international criminal court. That call triggered resistance because such a court would necessarily impinge on nation-state sovereignty. It took 54 years before the court was finally convened in order to enforce laws against the committing of war crimes and other evils, such as genocide.

Still, there are some nations that refuse to recognise the court’s jurisdiction. Often these are the states most addicted to the barbaric behaviour that came close to destroying a good part of the globe during the 20th century. These governments now threaten the very workability of the court. Thus, on 28 January 2019 it was reported that “a senior judge has resigned from one of the international courts in The Hague” due to interference and threats coming from both the US and Turkey. The judge’s name is Christoph Flügge.

In the case of the United States, the problem began when the International Criminal Court at the Hague decided to investigate allegations of war crimes, specifically the use of torture, committed by US forces in Afghanistan. At that point President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton (who reminds one of a modern Savonarola when it comes to ideological enforcement), publicly threatened the court’s judges. “If these judges ever interfere in the domestic concerns of the US or investigate an American citizen,” he said, “the American government would do all it could to ensure that these judges would no longer be allowed to travel to the United States  and that they would perhaps even be criminally prosecuted.”

It must be said that (a) torturing Afghanis is not a “domestic concern of the US”, and, all too obviously, (b) Bolton is a deplorable one-dimensional thinker. Bound tightly by a life-long right-wing perspective, he has never been able to get past the concept of nation-state supremacy. This means his perspective is untouched by those lessons of history which have shown the nation-state to be a threat to civilisation itself. Thus, when in 2005, President George W. Bush appointed John Bolton ambassador to the United Nations, it was with the prior knowledge that the man felt nothing but contempt for this international organisation and would disparage it at every turn. At present Bolton has turned out to be just the kind of fellow who fits into the reactionary White House run by Donald Trump.

The leaders of the United States are not the only ones who can purposely undermine international courts. Christoph Flügge tells of another incident wherein the government of Turkey arrested one of its own nationals, Aydın Sefa Akay, who was a judge on the international court at The Hague. At the time, Akay had diplomatic immunity by virtue of his position, a fact that the increasingly statist government in Istanbul ignored. Akay’s crime was to be judged insufficiently loyal to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Flügge and his fellow judges strongly protested against the Turkish actions, but they were not supported by the present UN secretary-general, António Guterres (who himself is a former prime minister of Portugal). And, without that support, Akay lost his position as judge and was, so to speak, thrown to the dogs of nation-state arrogance.

Upon resigning, Judge Flügge had some seminal words of warning about the fate of international law. “Every incident in which judicial independence is breached is one too many.” The cases of Turkish and US interference with the International Criminal Court set a fatal precedent “and everyone can invoke it in the future. Everyone can say: ‘But you let Turkey get its way.’ This is an original sin. It can’t be fixed.” Commenting on the threat levelled by John Bolton, Flügge said, “the American threats against international judges clearly show the new political climate… The judges on the court were stunned.” Yet, this behaviour was quite in accord with nation-state aggrandisement and American exceptionalism – national sovereignty stands above international law.

Example 2: Suborning of international police

It is not only the world’s international laws and international court that are being undermined, but also Interpol, the world’s international police force. Nation-state leaders, particularly the dictators who place their interests and preferences above even their own domestic law, now seek to suborn Interpol and use it as a weapon to silence their critics.

The latest example of this comes out of Bahrain. Bahrain is a wealthy monarchical dictatorship in the Persian Gulf. It is run by a Sunni elite minority which systematically represses the country’s Shi’i majority. By doing so, its major “achievement” to date has been to give the religion of Islam a bad name. It is also a staunch US ally, and the US Fifth Fleet is based in that country. If you want to know where much of the US naval forces supporting the Saudi destruction of Yemen come from, it is Bahrain.

So, how is the dictatorship in Bahrain corrupting the world’s international police force? One of the players on Bahrain’s national soccer team, Hakeem al-Araibi, vocally expressed his dissent over the way Bahrain is run. He was then framed for “vandalising a police station”, even though he was playing in a football match, broadcast on TV, at the time of the incident. He was arrested, beaten up in jail, yet still managed to escape to Australia, where he was granted asylum. At this point Bahrain managed to have Interpol issue a fraudulent arrest warrant. When Al-Araibi showed up in Thailand on his honeymoon, he was taken into custody and now awaits possible extradition back to Bahrain, where he may well face torture. By the way, it is a violation of international law to extradite someone to a country where he or she risks being tortured. So far Thailand has not taken advantage of this legal and moral reason to defy the Bahraini monarchy.

This is not an isolated problem. The watchdog organisation Fair Trials has documented multiple cases of the corruption and abuse of Interpol by governments which do not feel themselves bound by the rule of law.

Conclusion

There is little doubt that the 21st century has begun with an assault on both the climatic and legal atmosphere that underpins the world’s stability.

Before 1946 the world was a mess: one hot war after another, economic recessions and depressions, imperialism, colonialism, and racism galore. All of this was grounded in the nation state and its claim of sacred sovereignty. The world experienced a sort of climax to this horror show in the form of Nazi racism and the holocaust, the use of nuclear weapons, and Stalinist Russia’s purges, mass starvations and Gulag exiles.

After World War II, things got better in a slow sort of way. The trauma of the recent past spurred on the formation of international laws, international courts, a universal declaration of human rights, civil rights movements and the like. We also got the Cold War, which, for all its tensions, was a big improvement on hot wars.

Now things are falling apart again, and rest assured that US leaders and their less savoury allies abroad are doing their part in the devolution of peace and justice. Shall we name just a few US names? Well, there is President Trump and his minion John Bolton. They go gaga over thugs passing themselves off as presidents in such nation-states as Egypt, the Philippines and that pseudo-democracy, Israel. There is also Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has turned into the US version of Cardinal Richelieu when it comes to Washington’s South America foreign policy. He is the one pushing for the overthrow of the legitimate government in Venezuela while simultaneously calling for close relations with the new fascist president of Brazil.

And the list goes on. How do we do this to ourselves? Is it short memories of the wretched past or almost no historical memory at all? Is it some sort of perverse liking for group violence? This is an important question and a perennial one. But now, with global warming upon us and lifestyles soon to be under threat, things are going to get even more messy – and messy social and economic situations are usually good news for barbarians. More than ever, we are going to need uncorrupted international laws, courts and police.

What the Press Hides From You About Venezuela

A Case of News Suppression

Introduction

This news-report is being submitted to all U.S. and allied news-media, and is being published by all honest ones, in order to inform you of crucial facts that the others — the dishonest ones, who hide such crucial facts — are hiding about Venezuela. These are facts that have received coverage only in one single British newspaper: the Independent, which published a summary account of them on January 26th. That newspaper’s account will be excerpted here at the end, but first will be highlights from its topic, the official report to the U.N. General Assembly in August of last year, which has been covered-up ever since. This is why that report’s author has now gone to the Independent, desperate to get the story out, finally, to the public:

The Covered Up Document

On 3 August 2018, the U.N.’s General Assembly received the report from the U.N. Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, concerning his mission to Venezuela and Ecuador. His recent travel through both countries focused on “how best to enhance the enjoyment of all human rights by the populations of both countries.

” He “noted the eradication of illiteracy, free education from primary school to university, and programmes to reduce extreme poverty, provide housing to the homeless and vulnerable, phase out privilege and discrimination, and extend medical care to everyone.”

He noted

“that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Ecuador, both devote around 70 per cent of their national budgets to social services.”

However, (and here, key paragraphs from the report are now quoted):

22. Observers have identified errors committed by the Chávez and Maduro Governments, noting that there are too many ideologues and too few technocrats in public administration, resulting in government policies that lack coherence and professional management and discourage domestic investment, already crippled by inefficiency and corruption, which extend to government officials, transnational corporations and entrepreneurs. Critics warn about the undue influence of the military on government and on the running of enterprises like Petróleos de Venezuela. The lack of regular, publicly available data on nutrition, epidemiology and inflation are said to complicate efforts to provide humanitarian support.

23. Meanwhile, the Attorney General, Tarek Saab, has launched a vigorous anticorruption campaign, investigating the links between Venezuelan enterprises and tax havens, contracting scams, and deals by public officials with Odebrecht. It is estimated that corruption in the oil industry has cost the Government US$ 4.8 billion. The Attorney General’s Office informed the Independent Expert of pending investigations for embezzlement and extortion against 79 officials of Petróleos de Venezuela, including 22 senior managers. The Office also pointed to the arrest of two high-level oil executives, accused of money-laundering in Andorra. The Ministry of Justice estimates corruption losses at some US$ 15 billion. Other stakeholders, in contrast, assert that anti-corruption programmes are selective and have not sufficiently targeted State institutions, including the military.

29. Over the past sixty years, non-conventional economic wars have been waged against Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in order to make their economies fail, facilitate regime change and impose a neo-liberal socioeconomic model. In order to discredit selected governments, failures in the field of human rights are maximized so as to make violent overthrow more palatable. Human rights are being “weaponized” against rivals. Yet, human rights are the heritage of every human being and should never be instrumentalized as weapons of demonization.

30. The principles of non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States belong to customary international law and have been reaffirmed in General Assembly resolutions, notably [a list is supplied].

31. In its judgment of 27 June 1986 concerning Nicaragua v. United States, the International Court of Justice quoted from [U.N.] resolution 2625 (XXV): “no State shall organize, assist, foment, finance, incite or tolerate subversive, terrorist or armed activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another State, or interfere in civil strife in another State”.

36. The effects of sanctions imposed by Presidents Obama and Trump and unilateral measures by Canada and the European Union have directly and indirectly aggravated the shortages in medicines such as insulin and anti-retroviral drugs. To the extent that economic sanctions have caused delays in distribution and thus contributed to many deaths, sanctions contravene the human rights obligations of the countries imposing them. Moreover, sanctions can amount to crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. An investigation by that Court would be appropriate, but the geopolitical submissiveness of the Court may prevent this.

37. Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns with the intention of forcing them to surrender. Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees. A difference, perhaps, is that twenty-first century sanctions are accompanied by the manipulation of public opinion through “fake news”, aggressive public relations and a pseudo-human rights rhetoric so as to give the impression that a human rights “end” justifies the criminal means.

39. Economic asphyxiation policies are comparable to those already practised in Chile, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua and the Syrian Arab Republic. In January 2018, Middle East correspondent of The Financial Times and The Independent, Patrick Cockburn, wrote on the sanctions affecting Syria:

There is usually a pretence that foodstuffs and medical equipment are being allowed through freely and no mention is made of the financial and other regulatory obstacles making it impossible to deliver them. An example of this is the draconian sanctions imposed on Syria by the US and EU which were meant to target President Bashar al-Assad and help remove him from power. They have wholly failed to do this, but a UN internal report leaked in 2016 shows all too convincingly the effect of the embargo in stopping the delivery of aid by international aid agencies. They cannot import the aid despite waivers because banks and commercial companies dare not risk being penalised for having anything to do with Syria. The report quotes a European doctor working in Syria as saying that “the indirect effect of sanctions … makes the import of the medical instruments and other medical supplies immensely difficult, near impossible”.

In short: economic sanctions kill.

41. Bearing in mind that Venezuelan society is polarized, what is most needed is dialogue between the Government and the opposition, and it would be a noble task on the part of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to offer his good offices for such a dialogue. Yet, opposition leaders Antonio Ledezma and Julio Borges, during a trip through Europe to denounce the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called for further sanctions as well as a military “humanitarian intervention”.

44. Although the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has not yet reached the humanitarian crisis threshold, there is hunger, malnutrition, anxiety, anguish and emigration. What is crucial is to study the causes of the crisis, including neglected factors of sanctions, sabotage, hoarding, black market activities, induced inflation and contraband in food and medicines. 

45. The “crisis” in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is an economic crisis, which cannot be compared with the humanitarian crises in Gaza, Yemen, Libya, the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq, Haiti, Mali, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, or Myanmar, among others. It is significant that when, in 2017, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela requested medical aid from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the plea was rejected, because it ”is still a high-income country … and as such is not eligible”.

46. It is pertinent to recall the situation in the years prior to the election of Hugo Chávez. 118 Corruption was ubiquitous and in 1993, President Carlos Pérez was removed because of embezzlement. The Chávez election in 1998 reflected despair with the corruption and neo-liberal policies of the 1980s and 1990s, and rejection of the gulf between the super-rich and the abject poor.

47. Participatory democracy in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called “protagónica”, is anchored in the Constitution of 1999 and relies on frequent elections and referendums. During the mission, the Independent Expert exchanged views with the Electoral Commission and learned that in the 19 years since Chávez, 25 elections and referendums had been conducted, 4 of them observed by the Carter Center. The Independent Expert met with the representative of the Carter Center in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, who recalled Carter’s positive assessment of the electoral system. They also discussed the constitutional objections raised by the opposition to the referendum held on 30 July 2017, resulting in the creation of a Constitutional Assembly. Over 8 million Venezuelans voted in the referendum, which was accompanied by international observers, including from the Council of Electoral Specialists of Latin America. 

48. An atmosphere of intimidation accompanied the mission, attempting to pressure the Independent Expert into a predetermined matrix. He received letters from NGOs asking him not to proceed because he was not the “relevant” rapporteur, and almost dictating what should be in the report. Weeks before his arrival, some called the mission a “fake investigation”. Social media insults bordered on “hate speech” and “incitement”. Mobbing before, during and after the mission bore a resemblance to the experience of two American journalists who visited the country in July 2017. Utilizing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, critics questioned the Independent Expert’s integrity and accused him of bias, demonstrating a culture of intransigence and refusal to accept the duty of an independent expert to be neutral, objective, dispassionate and to apply his expertise free of external pressures.

67. The Independent Expert recommends that the General Assembly: (g) Invoke article 96 of the Charter of the United Nations and refer the following questions to the International Court of Justice: Can unilateral coercive measures be compatible with international law? Can unilateral coercive measures amount to crimes against humanity when a large number of persons perish because of scarcity of food and medicines? What reparations are due to the victims of sanctions? Do sanctions and currency manipulations constitute geopolitical crimes? (h) Adopt a resolution along the lines of the resolutions on the United States embargo against Cuba, declaring the sanctions against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela contrary to international law and human rights law.

70. The Independent Expert recommends that the International Criminal Court investigate the problem of unilateral coercive measures that cause death from malnutrition, lack of medicines and medical equipment.

72. The Independent Expert recommends that, until the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court address the lethal outcomes of economic wars and sanctions regimes, the Permanent Peoples Tribunal, the Russell Tribunal and the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission undertake the task so as to facilitate future judicial pronouncements.

On January 26th, Britain’s Independent headlined “Venezuela crisis: Former UN rapporteur says US sanctions are killing citizens“, and Michael Selby-Green reported that:

The first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela for 21 years has told The Independent the US sanctions on the country are illegal and could amount to “crimes against humanity” under international law.

Former special rapporteur Alfred de Zayas, who finished his term at the UN in March, has criticized the US for engaging in “economic warfare” against Venezuela which he said is hurting the economy and killing Venezuelans.

The comments come amid worsening tensions in the country after the US and UK have backed Juan Guaido, who appointed himself “interim president” of Venezuela as hundreds of thousands marched to support him.

The US Treasury has not responded to a request for comment on Mr de Zayas’s allegations of the effects of the sanctions programme.

US sanctions prohibit dealing in currencies issued by the Venezuelan government. They also target individuals, and stop US-based companies or people from buying and selling new debt issued by PDVSA or the government.

The US has previously defended its sanctions on Venezuela, with a senior US official saying in 2018: “The fact is that the greatest sanction on Venezuelan oil and oil production is called Nicolas Maduro, and PDVSA’s inefficiencies,” referring to the state-run oil body, Petroleos de Venezuela, SA.

Mr De Zayas’s findings are based on his late-2017 mission to the country and interviews with 12 Venezuelan government minsters, opposition politicians, 35 NGOs working in the country, academics, church officials, activists, chambers of commerce and regional UN agencies.

The US imposed new sanctions against Venezuela on 9 March 2015, when President Barack Obama issued executive order 13692, declaring the country a threat to national security.

The sanctions have since intensified under Donald Trump, who has also threatened military invasion and discussed a coup.

Despite being the first UN official to visit and report from Venezuela in 21 years, Mr de Zayas said his research into the causes of the country’s economic crisis has so far largely been ignored by the UN and the media, and caused little debate within the Human Rights Council.

He believes his report has been ignored because it goes against the popular narrative that Venezuela needs regime change.

The then UN high commissioner, Zeid Raad Al Hussein1, reportedly refused to meet Mr de Zayas after the visit, and the Venezuela desk of the UN Human Rights Council also declined to help with his work after his return despite being obliged to do so, Mr de Zayas claimed.

Ivan Briscoe, Latin America and Caribbean programme director for Crisis Group, an international NGO, told The Independent that Venezuela is a polarising subject. … Briscoe is critical of Mr de Zayas’s report because it highlights US economic warfare but in his view neglects to mention the impact of a difficult business environment in the country. … Briscoe acknowledged rising tensions and the likely presence of US personnel operating covertly in the country.

Eugenia Russian, president of FUNDALATIN, one of the oldest human rights NGOs in Venezuela, founded in 1978 before the Chavez and Maduro governments and with special consultative status at the UN, spoke to The Independent on the significance of the sanctions.

“In contact with the popular communities, we consider that one of the fundamental causes of the economic crisis in the country is the effect that the unilateral coercive sanctions that are applied in the economy, especially by the government of the United States,” Ms Russian said.

She said there may also be causes from internal errors, but said probably few countries in the world have suffered an “economic siege” like the one Venezuelans are living under.

In his report, Mr de Zayas expressed concern that those calling the situation a “humanitarian crisis” are trying to justify regime change and that human rights are being “weaponised” to discredit the government and make violent overthrow more “palatable”….

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world and an abundance of other natural resources including gold, bauxite and coltan. But under the Maduro government they’re not easily accessible to US and transnational corporations.

US oil companies had large investments in Venezuela in the early 20th century but were locked out after Venezuelans voted to nationalise the industry in 1973.

Other than readers of that single newspaper, where has the public been able to find these facts? If the public can have these facts hidden from them, then how much trust should the public reasonably have in the government, and in the news-media?

• Here is the garbage that a reader comes to, who is trying to find online Mr. de Zayas’s report on this matter:  As intended, the document remains effectively hidden to the present day. Perhaps the U.N. needs to be replaced and located in Venezuela, Iran, or some other country that’s targeted for take-over by the people who effectively own the United States Government and control the U.N.’s bureaucracy. The hiding of this document was done not only by the press but by the U.N. itself.

• On January 23rd, Germany’s Die Zeit headlined “Christoph Flügge: ‘I am deeply disturbed’: The U.N. International Criminal Court Judge Christoph Flügge Accuses Western Nations of Threatening the Independence of the Judges“. Flügge especially cited U.S. President Trump’s agent, John Bolton. That same day, the Democratic Party and Labour Party organ, Britain’s Guardian, bannered “International criminal court: UN court judge quits The Hague citing political interference“. This news-report said that, “A senior judge has resigned from one of the UN’s international courts in The Hague citing ‘shocking’ political interference from the White House and Turkey.” The judge especially criticised Bolton: “The American security adviser held his speech at a time when The Hague was planning preliminary investigations into American soldiers who had been accused of torturing people in Afghanistan. The American threats against international judges clearly show the new political climate. It is shocking. I had never heard such a threat.” Flügge said that the judges on the court had been “stunned” that “the US would roll out such heavy artillery”. Flügge told the Guardian: “It is consistent with the new American line: ‘We are No 1 and we stand above the law’.”

• On February 6th, a former UK Ambassador to Syria vented at an alt-news site, 21st Century Wire (since he couldn’t get any of the major-media sites to publish it), “A Guide to Decoding the Doublespeak on Syria“, and he brazenly exposed there the Doublespeak-Newspeak that the U.S. Government and press (what he called America’s “frothing neocons and their liberal interventionist fellow travellers”) apply in order to report the ‘news’ about Syria. So: how can the public, in a country such as the U.S., democratically control the Government, if the government and its press are lying to them, like that, all the time, and so routinely?

What the Press Hides From You About Venezuela — A Case of News-Suppression

February 07, 2019

by Eric Zuesse for The Saker Blog

What the Press Hides From You About Venezuela — A Case of News-Suppression

INTRODUCTION

This news-report is being submitted to all U.S. and allied news-media, and is being published by all honest ones, in order to inform you of crucial facts that the others — the dishonest ones, who hude such crucial facts — are hiding about Venezuela. These are facts that have received coverage only in one single British newspaper: the Independent, which published a summary account of them on January 26th. That newspaper’s account will be excerpted here at the end, but first will be highlights from its topic, the official report to the U.N. General Assembly in August of last year, which has been covered-up ever since. This is why that report’s author has now gone to the Independent, desperate to get the story out, finally, to the public:

THE COVERED-UP DOCUMENT

On 3 August 2018, the U.N.’s General Assembly received the report from the U.N.s Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, concerning his mission to Venezuela and Ecuador. His recent travel though both countries focused on “how best to enhance the enjoyment of all human rights by the populations of both countries.” He “noted the eradication of illiteracy, free education from primary school to university, and programmes to reduce extreme poverty, provide housing to the homeless and vulnerable, phase out privilege and discrimination, and extend medical care to everyone.” He noted “that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Ecuador, both devote around 70 per cent of their national budgets to social services.” However (and here, key paragraphs from the report are now quoted):

22. Observers have identified errors committed by the Chávez and Maduro Governments, noting that there are too many ideologues and too few technocrats in public administration, resulting in government policies that lack coherence and professional management and discourage domestic investment, already crippled by inefficiency and corruption, which extend to government officials, transnational corporations and entrepreneurs. Critics warn about the undue influence of the military on government and on the running of enterprises like Petróleos de Venezuela. The lack of regular, publicly available data on nutrition, epidemiology and inflation are said to complicate efforts to provide humanitarian support.

23. Meanwhile, the Attorney General, Tarek Saab, has launched a vigorous anticorruption campaign, investigating the links between Venezuelan enterprises and tax havens, contracting scams, and deals by public officials with Odebrecht. It is estimated that corruption in the oil industry has cost the Government US$ 4.8 billion. The Attorney General’s Office informed the Independent Expert of pending investigations for embezzlement and extortion against 79 officials of Petróleos de Venezuela, including 22 senior managers. The Office also pointed to the arrest of two high-level oil executives, accused of money-laundering in Andorra. The Ministry of Justice estimates corruption losses at some US$ 15 billion. Other stakeholders, in contrast, assert that anti-corruption programmes are selective and have not sufficiently targeted State institutions, including the military. …

29. … Over the past sixty years, non-conventional economic wars have been waged against Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in order to make their economies fail, facilitate regime change and impose a neo-liberal socioeconomic model. In order to discredit selected governments, failures in the field of human rights are maximized so as to make violent overthrow more palatable. Human rights are being “weaponized” against rivals. Yet, human rights are the heritage of every human being and should never be instrumentalized as weapons of demonization. …

30. The principles of non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States belong to customary international law and have been reaffirmed in General Assembly resolutions, notably [a list is supplied]. …

31. In its judgment of 27 June 1986 concerning Nicaragua v. United States, the International Court of Justice quoted from [U.N.] resolution 2625 (XXV): “no State shall organize, assist, foment, finance, incite or tolerate subversive, terrorist or armed activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another State, or interfere in civil strife in another State”. …

36. The effects of sanctions imposed by Presidents Obama and Trump and unilateral measures by Canada and the European Union have directly and indirectly aggravated the shortages in medicines such as insulin and anti-retroviral drugs. To the extent that economic sanctions have caused delays in distribution and thus contributed to many deaths, sanctions contravene the human rights obligations of the countries imposing them.Moreover, sanctions can amount to crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. An investigation by that Court would be appropriate, but the geopolitical submissiveness of the Court may prevent this.

37. Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns with the intention of forcing them to surrender. Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees. A difference, perhaps, is that twenty-first century sanctions are accompanied by the manipulation of public opinion through “fake news”, aggressive public relations and a pseudo-human rights rhetoric so as to give the impression that a human rights “end” justifies the criminal means. …

39. Economic asphyxiation policies are comparable to those already practised in Chile, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua and the Syrian Arab Republic. In January 2018, Middle East correspondent of The Financial Times and The Independent, Patrick Cockburn, wrote on the sanctions affecting Syria:

There is usually a pretence that foodstuffs and medical equipment are being allowed through freely and no mention is made of the financial and other regulatory obstacles making it impossible to deliver them. An example of this is the draconian sanctions imposed on Syria by the US and EU which were meant to target President Bashar al-Assad and help remove him from power. They have wholly failed to do this, but a UN internal report leaked in 2016 shows all too convincingly the effect of the embargo in stopping the delivery of aid by international aid agencies. They cannot import the aid despite waivers because banks and commercial companies dare not risk being penalised for having anything to do with Syria. The report quotes a European doctor working in Syria as saying that “the indirect effect of sanctions … makes the import of the medical instruments and other medical supplies immensely difficult, near impossible”. In short: economic sanctions kill. …

41. Bearing in mind that Venezuelan society is polarized, what is most needed is dialogue between the Government and the opposition, and it would be a noble task on the part of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to offer his good offices for such a dialogue. Yet, opposition leaders Antonio Ledezma and Julio Borges, during a trip through Europe to denounce the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called for further sanctions as well as a military “humanitarian intervention”. …

44. Although the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has not yet reached the humanitarian crisis threshold, there is hunger, malnutrition, anxiety, anguish and emigration. What is crucial is to study the causes of the crisis, including neglected factors of sanctions, sabotage, hoarding, black market activities, induced inflation and contraband in food and medicines.

45. The “crisis” in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is an economic crisis, which cannot be compared with the humanitarian crises in Gaza, Yemen, Libya, the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq, Haiti, Mali, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, or Myanmar, among others. It is significant that when, in 2017, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela requested medical aid from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the plea was rejected, because it ”is still a high-income country … and as such is not eligible”. …

46. It is pertinent to recall the situation in the years prior to the election of Hugo Chávez. 118 Corruption was ubiquitous and in 1993, President Carlos Pérez was removed because of embezzlement. The Chávez election in 1998 reflected despair with the corruption and neo-liberal policies of the 1980s and 1990s, and rejection of the gulf between the super-rich and the abject poor.

47. Participatory democracy in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called “protagónica”, is anchored in the Constitution of 1999 and relies on frequent elections and referendums. During the mission, the Independent Expert exchanged views with the Electoral Commission and learned that in the 19 years since Chávez, 25 elections and referendums had been conducted, 4 of them observed by the Carter Center. The Independent Expert met with the representative of the Carter Center in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, who recalled Carter’s positive assessment of the electoral system. They also discussed the constitutional objections raised by the opposition to the referendum held on 30 July 2017, resulting in the creation of a Constitutional Assembly. Over 8 million Venezuelans voted in the referendum, which was accompanied by international observers, including from the Council of Electoral Specialists of Latin America.

48. An atmosphere of intimidation accompanied the mission, attempting to pressure the Independent Expert into a predetermined matrix. He received letters from NGOs asking him not to proceed because he was not the “relevant” rapporteur, and almost dictating what should be in the report. Weeks before his arrival, some called the mission a “fake investigation”. Social media insults bordered on “hate speech” and “incitement”. Mobbing before, during and after the mission bore a resemblance to the experience of two American journalists who visited the country in July 2017. Utilizing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, critics questioned the Independent Expert’s integrity and accused him of bias, demonstrating a culture of intransigence and refusal to accept the duty of an independent expert to be neutral, objective, dispassionate and to apply his expertise free of external pressures. …

67. The Independent Expert recommends that the General Assembly: (g) Invoke article 96 of the Charter of the United Nations and refer the following questions to the International Court of Justice: Can unilateral coercive measures be compatible with international law? Can unilateral coercive measures amount to crimes against humanity when a large number of persons perish because of scarcity of food and medicines? What reparations are due to the victims of sanctions? Do sanctions and currency manipulations constitute geopolitical crimes? (h) Adopt a resolution along the lines of the resolutions on the United States embargo against Cuba, declaring the sanctions against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela contrary to international law and human rights law. …

70. The Independent Expert recommends that the International Criminal Court investigate the problem of unilateral coercive measures that cause death from malnutrition, lack of medicines and medical equipment. …

72. The Independent Expert recommends that, until the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court address the lethal outcomes of economic wars and sanctions regimes, the Permanent Peoples Tribunal, the Russell Tribunal and the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission undertake the task so as to facilitate future judicial pronouncements.

On January 26th, Britain’s Independent headlined “Venezuela crisis: Former UN rapporteur says US sanctions are killing citizens”, and Michael Selby-Green reported that:

The first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela for 21 years has told The Independent the US sanctions on the country are illegal and could amount to “crimes against humanity” under international law.

Former special rapporteur Alfred de Zayas, who finished his term at the UN in March, has criticized the US for engaging in “economic warfare” against Venezuela which he said is hurting the economy and killing Venezuelans.

The comments come amid worsening tensions in the country after the US and UK have backed Juan Guaido, who appointed himself “interim president” of Venezuela as hundreds of thousands marched to support him. …

The US Treasury has not responded to a request for comment on Mr de Zayas’s allegations of the effects of the sanctions programme.

US sanctions prohibit dealing in currencies issued by the Venezuelan government. They also target individuals, and stop US-based companies or people from buying and selling new debt issued by PDVSA or the government.

The US has previously defended its sanctions on Venezuela, with a senior US official saying in 2018: “The fact is that the greatest sanction on Venezuelan oil and oil production is called Nicolas Maduro, and PDVSA’s inefficiencies,” referring to the state-run oil body, Petroleos de Venezuela, SA.

Mr De Zayas’s findings are based on his late-2017 mission to the country and interviews with 12 Venezuelan government minsters, opposition politicians, 35 NGOs working in the country, academics, church officials, activists, chambers of commerce and regional UN agencies.

The US imposed new sanctions against Venezuela on 9 March 2015, when President Barack Obama issued executive order 13692, declaring the country a threat to national security.

The sanctions have since intensified under Donald Trump, who has also threatened military invasion and discussed a coup. …

Despite being the first UN official to visit and report from Venezuela in 21 years, Mr de Zayas said his research into the causes of the country’s economic crisis has so far largely been ignored by the UN and the media, and caused little debate within the Human Rights Council.

He believes his report has been ignored because it goes against the popular narrative that Venezuela needs regime change. …

The then UN high commissioner, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, reportedly refused to meet Mr de Zayas after the visit, and the Venezuela desk of the UN Human Rights Council also declined to help with his work after his return despite being obliged to do so, Mr de Zayas claimed. …

Ivan Briscoe, Latin America and Caribbean programme director for Crisis Group, an international NGO, told The Independent that Venezuela is a polarising subject. … Briscoe is critical of Mr de Zayas’s report because it highlights US economic warfare but in his view neglects to mention the impact of a difficult business environment in the country. … Briscoe acknowledged rising tensions and the likely presence of US personnel operating covertly in the country. …

Eugenia Russian, president of FUNDALATIN, one of the oldest human rights NGOs in Venezuela, founded in 1978 before the Chavez and Maduro governments and with special consultative status at the UN, spoke to The Independent on the significance of the sanctions.

In contact with the popular communities, we consider that one of the fundamental causes of the economic crisis in the country is the effect that the unilateral coercive sanctions that are applied in the economy, especially by the government of the United States,” Ms Russian said.

She said there may also be causes from internal errors, but said probably few countries in the world have suffered an “economic siege” like the one Venezuelans are living under. …

In his report, Mr de Zayas expressed concern that those calling the situation a “humanitarian crisis” are trying to justify regime change and that human rights are being “weaponised” to discredit the government and make violent overthrow more “palatable”….

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world and an abundance of other natural resources including gold, bauxite and coltan. But under the Maduro government they’re not easily accessible to US and transnational corporations.

US oil companies had large investments in Venezuela in the early 20th century but were locked out after Venezuelans voted to nationalise the industry in 1973.

Other than readers of that single newspaper, where has the public been able to find these facts? If the public can have these facts hidden from them, then how much trust should the public reasonably have in the government, and in the news-media?

(NOTE: Zeid Raad Al Hussein, who “reportedly refused to meet Mr de Zayas after the visit,” is Prince Zeid Raad Al Hussein, a Jordanian Prince. Jordan is a vassal-state in the U.S. empire. But Prince Hussein is a Jordanian diplomat who served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2014 to 2018 — hardly an unbiased or independent person in such a supposedly nonpartisan role.)

(NOTE: Here is the garbage that a reader comes to, who is trying to find online Mr. de Zayas’s report on this matter: https://documents-dds-ny.un.. As intended, the document remains effectively hidden to the present day. Perhaps the U.N. needs to be replaced and located in Venezuela, Iran, or some other country that’s targeted for take-over by the people who effectively own the United States Government and control the U.N.’s bureaucracy. The hiding of this document was done not only by the press but by the U.N. itself.)

(NOTE: On January 23rd, Germany’s Die Zeit headlined

“Christoph Flügge: ‘I am deeply disturbed’: The U.N. International Criminal Court Judge Christoph Flügge Accuses Western Nations of Threatening the Independence of the Judges”. Flügge especially cited U.S. President Trump’s agent, John Bolton. That same day, the Democratic Party and Labour Party organ, Britain’s Guardian, bannered “International criminal court: UN court judge quits The Hague citing political interference”. This news-report said that, “A senior judge has resigned from one of the UN’s international courts in The Hague citing ‘shocking’ political interference from the White House and Turkey.” The judge especially criticised Bolton: “The American security adviser held his speech at a time when The Hague was planning preliminary investigations into American soldiers who had been accused of torturing people in Afghanistan. The American threats against international judges clearly show the new political climate. It is shocking. I had never heard such a threat.” Flügge said that the judges on the court had been “stunned” that “the US would roll out such heavy artillery”. Flügge told the Guardian: “It is consistent with the new American line: ‘We are No 1 and we stand above the law’.”)

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

 

UK army permitted killing civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan: Report

Source

A man rides his bicycle past a British armored vehicle near the site of a roadside bombing in Basra, Iraq, on February 2007. (Photo by AFP)A man rides his bicycle past a British armored vehicle near the site of a roadside bombing in Basra, Iraq, on February 2007. (Photo by AFP)

A report has found that the British army allowed soldiers to shoot and kill unarmed civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan for activities defined as suspicious such as those holding a mobile telephone or a shovel.

An investigation by the Middle East Eye established that British soldiers killed a number of children and teenage boys suspected of keeping them under surveillance, the online news outlet reported Monday.

It quoted two former soldiers as saying that troops in southern Iraq were told “they had permission to shoot anyone seen holding a mobile telephone, carrying a shovel, or acting in any way suspiciously.”

The decision came in part due to concerns that unarmed people were acting as spotters, known to all of the former soldiers as “dickers,” for militants or were involved in planting roadside bombs, the report said.

PressTV-US admits killing over 1,100 civilians in Iraq, Syria

.The practice appears to have begun in the southeast of Iraq in June 2004.

A former Royal Marine who served in Afghanistan cited an incident where one of his officers admitted to his men that he had been responsible for the fatal shooting of an Afghan child “who was about eight.”

The MEE quoted another former soldier who said he had witnessed the fatal shooting of two teenage boys in Afghanistan.

A cover-up was mounted to hide the fact that the pair was unarmed, where Soviet-era weapons were removed from a store at the British soldiers’ base and put next to the bodies, he said.

The man noted that he saw similar weapons being stored at other bases.

“I’m fairly sure that they were being kept for that purpose. We were visited daily by troops from headquarters, and these weapons could easily have been catalogued and sent back.”

‘Just say your life was at risk’

A former soldier who served in Iraq’s Basra said the relaxing of the rules resulted in “a killing spree.”

He and his fellow soldiers were promised that they would be protected in the event of any probe by military police.

“Our commanders, they would tell us: ‘We will protect you if any investigation comes. Just say you genuinely thought your life was at risk – those words will protect you.’”

US threats against the International Criminal Court

International court judge resigns, citing ‘shocking’ interference from ‘above the law’ US

above the law’ US

RT | January 30, 2019

International court judge resigns, citing ‘shocking’ interference from ‘above the law’ US

A senior judge has resigned from the UN International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, after the United States threatened judges investigating alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan.

The judge, Christoph Flügge, has worked with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) since 2008. More recently, he got involved with preliminary investigations into claims that US military service members and CIA operatives tortured prisoners in Afghanistan.

Flügge told German newspaper Zeit that he handed in his resignation after open threats from US officials, including a speech by hawkish national security adviser John Bolton last September, where Bolton “wished death” on the Court.

“If these judges ever interfere in the domestic concerns of the US or investigate an American citizen, he said the American government would do all it could to ensure that these judges would no longer be allowed to travel to the United States – and that they would perhaps even be criminally prosecuted,” Flügge told Zeit, in an interview translated by The Guardian.

“The American security adviser held his speech at a time when The Hague was planning preliminary investigations into American soldiers who had been accused of torturing people in Afghanistan,” Flügge explained. “The American threats against international judges clearly show the new political climate. It is shocking. I had never heard such a threat.”

Bolton’s speech was delivered in September to the conservative Federalist Society in Washington, DC. It came a year after the ICC began investigating claims that at least 61 detained persons in Afghanistan had been tortured by American troops and another 27 by the CIA at secret prisons in Afghanistan and abroad, according to prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

Bolton called the investigation “utterly unfounded” and “unjustifiable,” and promised to “protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.”

The senior US official also vowed to defend Israeli citizens from the court. US “friend and ally” Israel was at the time accused of perpetrating war crimes against Palestinian civilians. He warned that the US would disregard arrest warrants, ban judges and prosecutors from entering the country, and even try them in American courts.

Flügge said his colleagues were “stunned” that “the US would roll out such heavy artillery,” but added “it is consistent with the new American line: ‘We are No 1 and we stand above the law’.”

American disregard for the ICC is not a new phenomenon. After much debate, President Bill Clinton signed the Rome Treaty that established the International Criminal Court, but the Congress never ratified it. Clinton’s successor George W. Bush symbolically ‘un-signed’ the treaty in 2002, when the war in Afghanistan was in full swing.

Later that year, the Congress passed the American Service Members’ Protection Act, which obliged the president to prevent any ICC prosecution of US armed forces “to the maximum extent possible,” and even authorized military force to free any US service members from ICC custody. Bolton, incidentally, was Bush’s under-secretary of state at the time.

The court has come under fire from more countries than just the US. Russia withdrew its signature from the Rome Treaty in 2016, after the court criticized the reunification of Crimea. China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are among the other nations that never signed the treaty.

YVES ENGLER & PAUL JAY ON TRRN: “TRUDEAU PUSHES TRUMP’S REGIME CHANGE IN VENEZUELA”

Yves Engler–in my opinion one of Canada’s best journalists/authors (if not THE best)–explains:

“The Lima Group was formed because the governments that were critical of the Maduro government in Venezuela, because they couldn’t get resolutions through the Organization of American States.
They didn’t have the majority of votes to pass resolutions at the OAS. So they basically set up another forum to bring together governments, mostly right-wing governments, in Latin America that were critical of the Maduro government.
And Canada has played–was right there at the founding. 
Canada hosted the third meeting of the Lima Group, and now is hosting a second meeting; I think the first country to host two different meetings of the Lima Group.
And this is just part, one part, of a multifaceted Canadian campaign to undermine the Maduro government in Venezuela.
That campaign includes all kinds of critical comments against the Venezuelan government; includes back in September bringing the Venezuelan government–first time ever that a member state has brought another member state to the International Criminal Court.
Canada and a couple of other governments brought Venezuela to the International Criminal Court. Canada has brought in three rounds of sanctions against Venezuela.
Canada has been funding opposition groups in Venezuela.
Canada has been pressuring Caribbean countries to join the Lima Group, to join the critical statements of the Maduro government.
And so–and then in recent–last few weeks, last couple of months, Canada has been right at the forefront in this campaign to recognize the head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the interim president, as the president of Venezuela, and completely reject the legitimacy of the Maduro government.
So the Liberal government in Canada is viewed by many as a sort of a progressive government.
But the Trudeau government in Canada has been right at the forefront of this campaign to try to undermine the Maduro government.
And you know, this is certainly what they’re looking for. My estimation is their preference would be a military coup. But there is some indication that Canada even would be fine with a foreign invasion.
In fact, when the head of the Organization of American States a few months ago sort of mused about a possible foreign invasion, the Lima Group, or 11 of the 14 members of the Lima group, criticized the head of the Organization of American States for talking about a foreign invasion.
Canada, Colombia, and Guyana were the three countries that refused to to condemn any talk of a foreign invasion.
So possibly even Canada is prepared to accept some form of military type intervention as part of this effort to get rid of the Maduro government.”
“The Canadian media is sort of on two hands.
On one hand they are just following the sort of Washington-Ottawa propaganda about how, you know, Maduro’s a total dictator that needs to be overthrown. On one hand they’re doing that, and that’s the sort of bulk of the discussion.
But simultaneously they have, as Paul pointed out, the Globe and Mail and the Canadian press both run incredibly–what should be viewed as incredibly damning stories about Canada’s role in building opposition support for Guaido.
They talk about how Canada’s facilitating meetings within Venezuela, facilitating meetings internationally to try to solidify support for this recognition of the head of the National Assembly.
But the thrust of the stories are that, you know, to just present this as a positive affair that Canada is pursuing, to the point where a few of the NDP, the social democratic party, MPs, or people in that party, a couple of them have expressed criticism of Canada’s policy on Twitter, and the media has sort of pushed back against the NDP’s, in my opinion, quite mild criticism of Canadian policy.
But I do want to echo, for sure, what Paul is saying.
There’s a quote in terms of Canada’s role historically in terms of serving empire, and the fact that sometimes it’s better to have a sort of Canadian face on an intervention than a more sort of, more easily demonized U.S. face.
In his biography, Jacques Chretien, a former prime minister, says quite explicitly that he told Bill Clinton that if we just go along with you in everything, we’re just going to be perceived as a 51st state. But if we, if it looks like we have a little bit of independence, we can do more for you than the CIA can do.
And it was almost like–that’s a paraphrase, almost word for word.
So there’s just this historic kind of putting a bit of a Canada, a positive Canada cover on policies that the U.S. is pursuing around the world.
And there’s a long history of that in the hemisphere beyond the example that Paul gave with regards to Afghanistan.
In Haiti in 2004, Canada played a very important role in the overthrow of the elected government of Jean Bertrand Aristide.
And again, there was Bill Graham, the former defense minister, said in a book about about the war in Afghanistan, he said that because Canada didn’t officially join the coalition of the willing that invaded Iraq in 2003, they felt like they needed to not only go heavily into Afghanistan, but also participate significantly in the coup in Haiti.
So part of this Canadian policy in Venezuela today is about Canada’s close ties to the U.S. empire.
And Canada, in my opinion, has been quite a beneficiary.
The Canadian corporate class have been very much beneficiaries of U.S. empire for half a century.
And the mining sector in Latin America is a big force, banking sector is a big force that partly explains Canadian policy there today.”
SEE ALSO Yves’ recent article on Venezuela, “Canada joins with imperial ‘Mafia’ to threaten Venezuela“, excerpts including:
“…Over the past two years Canadian officials have campaigned aggressively against President Nicolás Maduro. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has repeatedly criticized Caracas’ democratic legitimacy and human rights record. Recently she said, “the Maduro regime is now fully entrenched as a dictatorship” while in September Ottawa asked (with five South American nations) the International Criminal Court to investigate the Venezuelan government, which is the first time a government has been formally brought before the tribunal by another member.
In recent weeks Canadian diplomats have played an important role in uniting large swaths of the Venezuelan opposition behind a US-backed plan to ratchet up tensions by proclaiming the new head of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, Juan Guaido, president. The Canadian Press quoted a Canadian diplomat saying they helped Guaido “facilitate conversations with people that were out of the country and inside the country” while the Globe and Mail reported that “Freeland spoke with Juan Guaido to congratulate him on unifying opposition forces in Venezuela, two weeks before he declared himself interim president.” Alongside Washington and a number of right-leaning Latin American governments, Ottawa immediately recognized Guaido after he proclaimed himself president on Wednesday. Canadian officials are lobbying European leaders to recognize Guaido as president as well.
Ottawa has long provided various other forms of direct support to an often-violent opposition. In recent years Canada channelled millions of dollars to opposition groups in Venezuela and 18 months ago outgoing Canadian ambassador, Ben Rowswell, told the Ottawa Citizen that “we became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.”
Alongside its support for the opposition, Ottawa expelled Venezuela’s top diplomat in 2017 and has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Venezuelan officials. In March the United Nations Human Rights Council condemned the economic sanctions the US, Canada and EU have adopted against Venezuela while Caracas called Canada’s move a “blatant violation of the most fundamental rules of International Law.”
Since its August 2017 founding Canada has been one of the most active members of the “Lima Group” of governments opposed to Venezuela’s elected government. Canada is hosting the next meeting of the “Lima Group”. Freeland has repeatedly prodded Caribbean and Central American countries to join the Lima Group’s anti-Maduro efforts.
In September, 11 of the 14 member states of the “Lima Group” backed a statement distancing the anti-Venezuelan alliance from “any type of action or declaration that implies military intervention” after Organization of American States chief Luis Almagro stated: “As for military intervention to overthrow the Nicolas Maduro regime, I think we should not rule out any option … diplomacy remains the first option but we can’t exclude any action.” Canada, Guyana and Colombia refused to criticize the head of the OAS’ musings about an invasion of Venezuela.
Alongside the head of the OAS, US president Donald Trump has publically discussed invading Venezuela. To the best of my knowledge Ottawa has stayed mum on Trump’s threats, which violate international law.
…Thus, while the scope of the Trudeau government’s current campaign against Venezuela is noteworthy, it’s not the first time Ottawa has supported the overthrow of an elected, left leaning, government in the hemisphere. Canada passively supported military coups against Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 and Brazilian President João Goulart in 1964 as well as ‘parliamentary coups’ against Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo in 2012 and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in 2016. Ottawa played a slightly more active role in the removal of Dominican Republic president Juan Bosch in 1965 and Chilean president Salvador Allende in 1973. In a more substantial contribution to undermining electoral
democracy, Ottawa backed the Honduran military’s removal of Manuel Zelaya in 2009.
Canada played its most forceful role in the removal of a progressive, elected, president in the hemisphere’s most impoverished nation.
Thirteen months before Jean-Bertrand Aristide was, in his words, “kidnapped” by US Marines on February 29, 2004, Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government organized an international gathering to discuss overthrowing the Haitian president. JTF2 special forces secured the Port-au-Prince airport the night Aristide was ousted and 500 Canadian troops were part of the US-led invasion to consolidate the coup.
With regards to Venezuela it’s unclear just how far Ottawais prepared to go in its bid to oust Maduro. But, it is hard to imagine that the path Canada and the US have chosen can succeed without Venezuela being plunged into significant violence.”
Paul Jay, of the Real News Network:

“I know from personal experience that Canada has been trying
to destabilize and nurture and promote the opposition in Venezuela at least from 2004.
When Chavez was still in power, Chavez had been elected over and over again with internationally observed elections.
Everyone said the elections were clean during the Chavez period. Many people that tried to throw the elections into disrepute were invalidated.
The Carter Center legitimatized them.
I actually personally was on an election observer mission to go to polling stations in 2004, 2005, one of the elections leading up to the referendum on Chavez’s presidency.
And I went to 40 polling stations, and I interviewed opposition people in all 40 polling stations in Caracas. And I asked, have you seen any infractions? And if there were any infractions were they dealt with properly.
And I took video, and I recorded it all, and there wasn’t a single complaint from an opposition observer that there had been anything done incorrectly with those elections.
…Now, right around that time, when they were clean elections, and Chavez was getting elected over and over again, my first trip to Venezuela in 2004
My first trip to Venezuela in 2004, I was producing the big debate show on Canadian TV called Counterspin on CBC Newsworld.
I was a well-known documentary filmmaker. I had founded the Big Hot Docs! Documentary Film Festival.
So I was a known quantity in Canada. And so when I was in Venezuela, I said I’ll go say hello to the Canadian embassy. I was trying to figure out what was going on in Venezuela. I figured some Counselor would pat me on the head and say welcome to Venezuela.
No, I got the number two charged d’affaires that greeted me and brings me into a meeting room with seven members of the opposition who then for two hours beat me over the head with how corrupt the regime was, how awful it was, and so on…
What business does a Canadian embassy have with bringing a Canadian journalist into a room with opposition people, essentially trying to involve me in a conspiracy against the Venezuelan government.
So this Canadian government role in Venezuela has been very active in trying to destabilized the situation, promote and nurture the opposition.
And clearly for two reasons.
Number one, Canada is one of the biggest mining nations in the world, and Venezuela has tremendous untapped natural resources, particularly gold. And Canada has a very strong gold mining sector. And the gold was not–Canada wasn’t, Canadian companies weren’t easily getting at that gold.
…So the ability to nurture an opposition and get an in with an opposition that might come to power, and then favour Canadian mining companies, I think that’s one motivation.
And another motivation, I think, has to do with Canada’s role historically; how it plays with the United States and helps the U.S. and its foreign policy.
And I once interviewed a Canadian general in 2004, Lewis MacKenzie. And I asked him, why is Canada so into this Afghan war? You know, this Afghan, post-9/11.
It could have been dealt with as a police-type operation, in terms of going after al Qaeda. But a full-fledged invasion, full-fledged regime change. Why is Canada in this, and in it for the long haul? Because it’s 2004, after the invasion of Iraq.
And his answer was, I think, very instructive. He said, well, we didn’t go to Iraq. So to keep our ability to selling goods into the United States, we needed to pay with some blood.
We needed to send troops to Afghanistan and have some Canadian soldiers killed to show we’re willing to share the burden. He didn’t use the word empire, but that’s essentially what he was saying.
So the role of Canada assisting in very nefarious American policy, and giving it this Canadian, oh, we’re for the UN, we’re humanitarians, giving it that veneer, it’s an important role that Canada plays.
But it’s, I think, now the recognition of Guaido so exposes Canada because it’s such a clear violation of the UN Charter of non-interference in internal affairs.
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