US Hypocritical Response to Ukraine Conflict

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Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 08:57 a.m. DST, 13 May 2014

IMG_5823  Photo by: Christiaan TriebertDONETSK, Ukraine -- On Sunday, 11 May, two Ukrainian provinces conducted supposed democratic referendums to determine their international identity. The motions were suspicious at best, as 90% of votes counted in Donetsk favored withdrawal from Ukrainian authority and turnout in Luhansk determined 96 of every 100 voters supported provincial autonomy.

Certainly the numbers appear exaggerated. These reports of airtight consensus must be questioned by the rational world. Dissent is pervasive throughout much of Ukraine. So when voting officials came forward on Monday with claims of unprecedented solidarity, the West responded as would the teacher of the struggling student who scores 105% on a self-graded assessment.

But the conflict in Ukraine covers more ground than the Western press are willing to turn over. A thoughtful discussion of modern Ukraine can not endorse the interim Kiev government wholesale, nor should it condemn all separatists as patent burglars. Both approaches are reductive towards the legacy of corruption and organized injustice in Ukraine.

In spite of Western backing, the previous Ukrainian establishment and the placeholder administration are fraught with human rights violations. And while Vladimir Putin exploited political rifting in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, perhaps the United States should also be concerned that Moscow has obviously made off with a whole chapter from the American playbook on how to seize foreign land.

The history of the United States is a clinic on nabbing territory illegally while simultaneously claiming martyrdom. In 1836, the Battle of the Alamo came to symbolize the American attempt to play martyr, while illegally holding Mexican land by whatever means necessary. In the same year, Texans fought the Mexican military in the Battle of San Jacinto and established Texan sovereignty. The slaughter lasted a matter of minutes and left over 600 dead, all but nine were fallen Mexican soldiers.

During the early 19th century, Americans began occupying Texas legally, but it did not take long for the Anglo residents to begin defying Mexican prohibition of slavery and other important legal codes. Americans continued to flood the region and soon outnumbered ethnic Tejanos 4 to 1. With some exception, the Texan army was American born and armed by the mother country, which in 1845 would welcome Texas into the union.

Unlike the takeover of Texas, Moscow did not inundate eastern Ukraine with Russian militants. They have been living in Ukraine for generations. Pro-Russian rebels represent the fragmentation of the Republic, not the forced entry exercised by American citizens and weaponry throughout its history.

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Published: 13 May 2014 (Page 2 of 2)

Perhaps more egregious than the theft of Texas is the coup d'état of the Kingdom of Hawaii, organized by Americans and flanked by US Marine encroachment on the islands.  Wanting to spare bloodshed, Queen Lili'uokalani surrendered her crown and was placed under arrest. The United States' intent to annex the Kingdom was explicit, and during the in-no-way democratic proceedings, a provisional government took charge until American lawmakers brought Hawaii into the fold.

The Crimean Peninsula at the heart of the Ukraine conflict has a joint identity as a Ukrainian and Russian region. During the Soviet era, Crimea was nominally transferred within Ukraine's demarcation. When the Soviet Union disbanded, Ukraine maintained jurisdiction of the region. The peninsula remains divided in terms of religion, ethnic makeup and political affiliation. If the United States is so concerned with the will of the people, there are several well-documented injustices ongoing within American boundaries that could be addressed immediately.

The United States practices selective attention--joining the United Nations General Assembly to condemn Russian involvement in the Ukrainian arm wrestle, while downplaying the United Nations when they become critical of America's parallel behavior. A recent report by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations shows both the longstanding injustice experienced by indigenous peoples in North America and the irony in the United States searching the globe to point out instances of criminality and misconduct.

The Black Hills of South Dakota are some of the oldest mountains in North America and are considered sacred ground to the Lakota-Sioux people. At first, white settlers were uninterested in the land, until surveyors began trespassing on the terrain in 1849. Through a series of treaties, the land was promised to the Sioux, and later expressly removed from Sioux possession when gold prospectors found valuable deposits in the Hills.

Since then, the Black Hills have been the subject of desecration, as the United States government thought it appropriate to carve out the faces of Anglo oppressors into the mountains that the Sioux people so revere. Mount Rushmore stands as a permanent reminder of white tyranny, and an obvious symbol of the ongoing violation of Sioux religious freedom.

In the ongoing international debate over the Ukraine conflict, the United States has very little legal or moral footing on which to base their criticism of Russia. Each day, the United States affirms the right for an empire to occupy land against international law. While the global community generally recognizes Putin's exploits as unjust, the White House has long modeled similar undertakings. The oligarchies in America and Russia imitate each other more than either would like to admit.

What makes the plight of one people more pressing than another?

Washington's unbalanced attention to the sister concerns does not appear very democratic. For the most part, America cannot change the course of action in Ukraine. But if politicians are so bothered by illegally seized land, there are plenty of instances to address within their own jurisdiction. Start with the Black Hills.

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India and Iran Thwart US Sanctions

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 10:04 AM EDT, 26 March 2012

Dr. Hamid Ansari, Vice President of India

NEW DELHI, India - Three years ago, on 13 April 2009, Shri M. Hamid Ansari, the current Vice President of India, released a book titled, "Challenges and Strategy: Rethinking India's Foreign Policy" authored by Ambassador Rajiv Sikri of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

In the book, Sikri seems to have anticipated the United States’ move to initiate economic sanctions against Iran and outlined a roadmap for India to respond to this eventuality.

At that time Ambassador Sikri was the “Secretary (Deputy Minister) in the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi, in charge of India’s relations with Central Asia, Caucasus, East Asia, ASEAN, the Pacific region, the Arab world, Israel and Iran.

He also served as Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan and as Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy in Paris.” (Source: Foundation for Non-Violent Alternatives)

In his book, Sikri postulated India’s position in the world would continue to ascend in terms of its economic prowess, scientific acumen, and human capital. China, in addition to its continued role as banker to a number of countries, most notably the United States; is another emerging economy that continues to realize growth through its strategic receptivity to business innovation.

In fact, according to The National Intelligence Council (NIC) of the United States, both China and India are expected to achieve parity with the U.S. within the next 10 years. Having prognosticated this over 3 years ago in his book, Sikri proposes that India’s role during this period of rapid growth should also include increased “stability in the littoral states.”

He opined that increasing freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, security of sea lanes, and the availability of an interdiction capacity to safeguard Indian shipping will go a long way toward India becoming a major player in the region. The effect of this level of engagement would be the development of more dynamic political relationships with all the states of the Persian Gulf.

Also, in 2009, Sikri correctly deduced that in the future India would find itself in conflict with American strategic policies. In a chapter titled ‘U.S. and Nuclear Issues,’ he emphasized the importance of India as a sovereign nation to determine its own foreign policy strategies. As such, its commitment to continue to trade with Iran despite America's imposed economic sanctions demonstrates their determination to enact policies in the best interest of the nation.

By following this protocol, the government ensures its continued growth and development that will ultimately result in an increased standard of living for India's estimated 1.2bn people. (Population Figure from World Bank)

According to Andrew Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired career officer in the United States Army, Iranians have every reason to view the U.S.government with suspicion and hostility. The history of tensions between the U.S. and Iran is nearly 60 years old.

In 1953, under President Dwight Eisenhower, the CIA and British MI-6 collaborated to overthrow the democratically elected Iranian government and installed a puppet leader, an action undertaken without any concern for the Iranian people, but in pursuit of near-term strategic interests.

In his book "The Limits of Power, The End of American Exceptionalism," Bacevich postulates that the current Iranian ‘nuclear’ crisis is a cover for more convoluted motives similar to the political machinations of the 1956 Suez Canal crisis. It started when Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein, led the Egyptian Revolution which resulted in him becoming president in 1956, a position he held until his death in 1970.

Under his leadership, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal Company, an act that was untenable to Britain which had colonized and ruled Egypt for decades. Consequently, Britain enlisted the support of the U.S., France and Israel to regain control of Egypt through military aggression, ostensibly on behalf of the international community. Because they did not succeed in toppling the government, Nasser and his rule came to embody anti-imperialist efforts in the Arab World and Africa, a nationalist and political movement now known as Pan-Arabism or Nasserism.

With regard to nuclear disarmament and preemptive strikes, the U.S. has a long history of taking military action against any country that possessed equal armament, military might and therefore constitutes a direct and imminent threat. By this yardstick, North Korea, qualifies, because its nuclear program is well-developed, they are an isolated and hostile government, and its government currently possesses long range nuclear weaponry that could potentially threaten the U.S. and its allies.

In fact, on Monday, 26 March 2012, the Nuclear Security Summit met in Seoul to discuss the issue of nuclear terrorism. In attendance were President Barak Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev, as well as leaders from 53 nations and organization who gathered to discuss methods to prevent terrorist groups from acquiring nuclear bombs or highly enriched uranium that could be used to build a nuclear bomb.

Though North Korea was not on the agenda, its planned long range missile launch scheduled for this week was hotly debated, and Summit leaders agreed that some preemptive action should occur if peaceful negotiations failed. By contrast, Iran possesses no such weaponry, and like the phantom ‘weapons of mass destruction’ which were the pretext by which George Bush justified the war in Iraq; the likelihood of discovery of any significant cache of weaponry in Iran is highly speculative.

It is true that there are a number of radical and virulently racist voices within the Iranian government, but unlike Kim Jong-il, and his successor Kim Jong-un, it appears that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad posturing obscures Iran’s inability to enforce any threats. In fact, Bacevic equates this current incitement by American strategists with regard to Iran, as the same mindset by which arm chair war mongers successfully manipulated previous American presidents into a nuclear war crisis with the Soviet Union until “cooler heads prevailed.”

These same voices instigated the open-ended 10-year war in which the U.S. has been mired in Afghanistan and more recently Iran with the intent to enrich military contractors without regard to the loss of thousands of lives by thousands of American soldiers and over 100,000 Iraqis. In fact, these two conflicts didn’t yield a single victory until President Obama directed a change in strategy to include targeted assignations like the one which killed Osama bin Laden.

India and Iran number among China, India, Russia, Europe, and maybe Brazil operate in a world in which the U.S. no longer the sun against which all other countries must resolve. According to Bacevic the new geopolitical landscape will be multipolar, and America must mature and accept its role in this new governance paradigm. President Obama in a recent speech stated that ‘American Exceptionalism’ must evolve in order to survive. This new reality does not negate other countries’ sovereign rights to pursue strategies which are in their best interests and compromise shall become the order of the day.

As Tehran and New Delhi plan to hit $25bn in annual bilateral trade over the next four years, it remains to be seen if India will back down in its support of and continued trade with Iran. In any event, the Indian government has taken a stand, flexed its muscles, and stands poised to assume its rightful place in a 21st century multipolar order.

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The Hell Holes of North Korean Gulags

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 LONDON, England - Today Amnesty International released a report claiming the North Korean camps for political prisoners are expanding in size.  A political prisoner in an interview recounted a horrific tale of histhree-year internment in the sprawling camp.

There is a global pandemic of human rights abuses from post conflict rape of women in Africa to collateral death of innocent people at the hands ofhomicide bombers of all persuasions. However, the systematic and organized machinery of suppression practiced in these North Korean internment camps recall the forced labor camp system of the former USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) known as The Gulag.

The Gulag camp system was officially created on "April 25, 1930 and claims have been made that it was dismantled on January 13, 1960.  Wherever there is political oppression, lack of freedom of speech, and dissidence is viewed as sedition the conditions exist for internment camps to operate with relative impunity.

More than 14 million people passed through the Gulag from 1929 to 1953, with a further 6 to 7 million being deported and exiled to remote areas of the USSR. According to a 1993 study of incomplete archival Soviet data, a total of 1,053,829 people died in the Gulag from 1934 to 1953.

More complete data puts the death toll for this same time period at 1,258,537, with an estimated 1.6 million casualties from 1929 to 1953.These estimates exclude those who died shortly after their release but whose death resulted from the harsh treatment in the camps;such deaths happened frequently.The total population of the camps varied from 510,307 (in 1934) to 1,727,970 (in 1953).

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Published: 4 May 2011 (Page 2 of 2)

Most Gulag inmates were not political prisoners, although the political prisoner population was always significant. People could be imprisoned in a Gulag camp for crimes such as petty theft, unexcused absences from work, and anti-government jokes.About half of the political prisoners were sent to Gulag prison camps without trial; official data suggest that there were more than 2.6 million imprisonment sentences in cases investigated by the secret police, 1921-1953."(Source: Wikipedia)

Amnesty International asserts that there are currently about 200,000 people in the North Korean prison camps.  Critics counter that thesatellite photos do not prove that the areas identified actually show four of the six prison camps believed to exist in North Korea’s South Pyongyang, South Hamkyung and North Hamkyung provinces.

However, the former prisoner, Kyoung-il Jeong, who spent three years in the notorious Yodok prison camp, told western media: "The main reason for the deaths [in the prisons] was malnutrition. With such poorly prepared food people couldn't stand the harsh labor and died."

Kyoung-il Jeong testified that prisoners were fed 200 grams of corn gruel per daily and were often tossed into a cube-shaped "torture cell" where it was impossible to either stand or lie down.  Those caught trying to escape were often executed.

"Seeing people die happened frequently – every day." Jeong said. "When an officer told me to, I gathered some people and buried the bodies. After receiving extra food for the job, we felt glad rather than feeling sad."

"North Korea can no longer deny the undeniable," Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific director, said in a statement. "Hundreds of thousands of people exist with virtually no rights, treated essentially as slaves, in some of the worst circumstances we’ve documented in the last 50 years.”

Like the Gulags before them North Korean prison camps have been operating since the 1950s and can be divided into two types:  "total control zones" where inmates are detained forever without any proper trials; and "revolutionary zones" where conditions are more lenient.

As America wages war in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan it seems to have minimal bandwidth to tackle the internal human rights abuses inside North Korea's borders.  It seems instead to have chosen to invests its efforts in aligning international pressure to force the North Korean government to dismantle its nuclear arms program.

It is for this reason that organizations like Amnesty International play such a vital role in keeping human rights abuses in the forefront of our awareness.  I hope that you will take the time to view this powerful video interview with Kyoung-il Jeong.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1y0yhV6IT7o&feature=player_embedded]

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