28 April 2014

Monsanto and the Other Chemical Weapon


When the US was initially up in arms over the use of chemical weapons in Syria, various commentators pointed out the hypocrisy of the stance given Washington’s track record vis-à-vis such weaponry. 

That record includes, among other things, the unleashing of depleted uranium and white phosphorus on Iraq, permitting Israel to use white phosphorus on Gaza, and—a bit earlier on the timeline—dousing Vietnam with the lethal defoliant Agent Orange.
According to a 2011 Al Jazeera documentary, this last substance was responsible for “killing hundreds of thousands and causing dreadful diseases and birth defects in subsequent generations.” Last year, the BBC reported that “[t]here are claims that thousands of [Vietnamese] children continue to be born with horrific facial deformities due to the 20 million gallons of Agent Orange chemical sprayed by the United States.”
The legacy of the American military’s Operation Ranch Hand—the cutely-named herbicide warfare program—is thanks in part to the US biotech corporation Monsanto, formerly Agent Orange’s manufacturer. READ MORE AT WARSCAPES.

24 April 2014

Targeting Hezbollah's ‘Achilles’ heel’

Middle East Eye

In a recent op-ed for the Washington Examiner, US Representative Mark Meadows outlined his reasons for introducing the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act in Congress, which would target a financial network he refers to as “Hezbollah’s Achilles’ heel”.
A Republican representative of the state of North Carolina and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Meadows introduced the legislation in collaboration with three colleagues, among them Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.).
Before delving into the content of the proposed bill in his article, Meadows provides a bit of counterfactual history:
“Hezbollah is responsible for the largest number of American deaths overseas by a terrorist organization second only to al-Qaeda. Its deadly global reach has included bombing US targets in Lebanon during the 1980s, Israeli and Jewish targets in Argentina in the 1990s, and recent attacks in Europe and Southeast Asia.”
This piece of pseudo-trivia about American deaths in Lebanon is one that is regularly invoked by fearmongering politicians and pundits with no regard for context. For starters, the October 1983 attack on the US Marine barracks in Beirut - which killed 241 servicemen and was claimed by the Islamic Jihad Organisation, a precursor to Hezbollah - occurred in response to Washington’s decision to insert itself into the Lebanese civil war as a combatant. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

22 April 2014


Al Jazeera America

We are becoming a nation of write-ins. So found a report released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau. When filling out census forms in 2010 (the year of the last national population tally), more people than ever before did not choose one of the race options provided; they chose “some other race.”
The report, part of a years-long project to re-examine the census’ racial and ethnic categories, underscores the extent to which demographic changes in the U.S. have outpaced our methods of documenting them.
The bureau’s concerns about the unrepresentative nature of its census categories appear to be well-founded. Approximately one-third of the 47.4 million respondents who self-identified as ethnically Hispanic also self-identified as “some other race.” A full 96.8 percent of all people claiming to be “some other race” were Hispanic. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA. 

Spain's rightward plunge

Al Jazeera

Following the 2009 coup d'etat in Honduras against President Manuel Zelaya, whose ever-so-slightly left-leaning inclinations were deemed unacceptable by the powers that be, months of overwhelmingly peaceful anti-coup protests took place. These were diligently repressed by Honduran police with tear-gas, water cannons and other harmful items.

The Honduran coupmongers and their backers in the right-wing media engaged in frequent bouts of hysteria over the fact that some of the protesters insisted on covering their faces with bandannas. This, it was argued, was proof of their inherent delinquency. In reality, of course, bandannas were a logical palliative accessory given the indiscriminate firing of tear-gas.

Five years later in a country across the Atlantic - Spain - headgear donned during protests has again become a hot topic. In this case, protesters are not agitating against a coup d'etat but rather another coup of sorts: The austerity measures rammed down Spanish throats at the behest of the European Union in the aftermath of the financial crisis. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

14 April 2014

The al-Qaedification of Lebanon?

Middle East Eye

A Lebanese friend who recently accompanied me to Tripoli in northern Lebanon decided that no city tour was complete without a late-night drive down Syria Street — in the wrong direction. Syria Street is the frontline of ongoing fighting between the predominantly Sunni neighbourhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the mainly Alawite Jabal Mohsen, which killed 27 people in just 12 days in March.
When our drive coincided with the sudden explosion of nearby fireworks, I showcased my battle readiness by cowering on the floor of the car. As for the battle readiness of more resilient entities, the proliferation of al-Qaeda flags in Bab al-Tabbaneh perhaps underlined the contribution Syria's war is making towards the professionalism of some participants in Lebanon's domestic strife — providing as it does a training ground for militants. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

13 April 2014

Uganda: Doing Israel's dirty work

Al Jazeera

While contemplating potential locations for a Jewish homeland over a century ago, Theodor Herzl - the father of modern political Zionism - proposed Uganda as a temporary refuge for persecuted Jews.
Ironically, Uganda is now on the receiving end of other persecuted peoples, this time African refugees who have sought asylum in Israel only to be imprisoned in detention facilities and then returned to the African continent.

As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in a February 2014 article titled "Israel secretly flying asylum seekers to Uganda", harsh conditions in the detention centres plus nominal financial compensation have facilitated the deportation of many migrants under the guise of "voluntary departure".

The article quotes the Israeli director of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants on this non-solution to refugee plight: "[I]t is known that Uganda deports asylum seekers to their countries of origin." READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

10 April 2014


Al Jazeera America

It is perhaps fitting that I was in Barcelona — a city intimately associated withGeorge Orwell’s participation in the Spanish Civil War — when I first learned of Spain’s forthcoming Citizens’ Security Law. A decidedly Orwellian item, it proposes fines of up to 30,000 euros ($41,000) for “offensive” slogans against the country and up to 600,000 euros ($824,000) for unauthorized street protests.
I arrived in Barcelona on March 29. Thousands of people — students, trade unionists, pensioners — were marching against this law and other oppressive measures that the Spanish government is currently pursuing. These include a reinstatement of archaic abortion regulations and the continuation of the austerity program, conceived after the 2008 financial crisis to meet the European Union’s demands, that has ever since been the subject of protests nationwide. (The crisis has intensified calls for secession from Spain in the region of Catalonia and its capital Barcelona — an effort that could presumably also be considered “offensive” to the country.) READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA.

03 April 2014

Linking the Fort Hood shooting to terrorism

Al Jazeera

On April 2, US Army Specialist and Iraq war veteran Ivan Lopez opened fire at Fort Hood military base in Texas, killing four people - including himself - and injuring 16.

According to Fort Hood commander General Mark A Milley, Lopez had "behavioural and mental health issues". He was under evaluation for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The New York Times reported that, "[i]n Washington, intelligence officials said they were investigating potential terrorist connections to the shooting, but so far had no evidence to suggest any". The Washington Post concurred: "[S]enior US law enforcement officials said the incident did not appear to be linked to any foreign terrorist organisations."

The trotting out of the possibility of terrorist connivance in the incident is, of course, unsurprising. In fact, the terrorist menace has become so institutionalised in US discourse and analysis that one half-expects to open the newspaper in the morning to find reports to the effect of: "A collision on such-and-such highway killed four people last night. Terrorism did not appear to be the motive."

In this case and in other cases of intra-military violence, official reminders of the ever-present terrorist threat serve to justify the deployment of US soldiers abroad to combat said threat. But it's hardly difficult to see that "war on terror" venues like Iraq and Afghanistan can exacerbate or even trigger "behavioural and mental health issues". READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.