Latest Developments, May 11

In the latest news & analysis…

Clash of Civilizations 101
Wired reports that a US military course, which has since been cancelled, taught officers that “total war” against the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims would be necessary to protect America from terrorists.
“In the same presentation, [Army Lt. Col. Matthew A.] Dooley lays out a possible four-phase war plan to carry out a forced transformation of the Islam religion. Phase three includes possible outcomes like ‘Islam reduced to a cult status’ and ‘Saudi Arabia threatened with starvation.’

International laws protecting civilians in wartime are ‘no longer relevant,’ Dooley continues. And that opens the possibility of applying ‘the historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki’ to Islam’s holiest cities, and bringing about ‘Mecca and Medina[‘s] destruction.’ ”

A more serious debate
Writing about the African edition of the World Economic Forum currently underway in Addis Ababa, Global Pacific & Partners’ Duncan Clarke decries the simplistic “leitmotif” of corrupt African politicians that dominates discussions of the continent’s economy.
“We need within Africa therefore to discern the deeper histories and underlying structures that moulded our economic worlds, plus the myriad forces that shape it today, let alone the unknown that will determine our lot tomorrow. There is more complexity in contemporary underdevelopment than flawed leadership allied to predation and visible political deficiencies. A more serious debate is needed.
Today there is an overabundant discourse on leadership, especially in the theatre of the talk shop, which somehow passes for sage insight or even sound economic analysis, providing a weak diagnostic framework for complex economic historiographies and contemporary realities.”

African growth
The Guardian reports that the Africa Progress Panel, led by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, has concluded that Africa’s rapid economic growth is creating greater inequality.
“Although seven out of 10 people in the region live in countries that have averaged growth of more than 4% a year for the past decade, Annan’s study found that almost half of Africans were still living on incomes below the internationally accepted poverty benchmark of $1.25 a day.

‘It cannot be said often enough, that overall progress remains too slow and too uneven; that too many Africans remain caught in downward spirals of poverty, insecurity and marginalisation; that too few people benefit from the continent’s growth trend and rising geo-strategic importance; that too much of Africa’s enormous resource wealth remains in the hands of narrow elites and, increasingly, foreign investors without being turned into tangible benefits for its people,’ [wrote Annan in his foreword to the report.]”

Fear & loathing
A Center for Economic and Policy Research blog post examines the yawning gulf between foreign aid workers and those they are ostensibly in Haiti to help.
“And [this dynamic of fear and distrust] tragically emerged as a major reason for wasted opportunities and lives lost in the initial days and weeks after the 2010 earthquake, heightened by exaggerated media reports of ‘looting’ and potential chaos. The U.S. government, which secured a leading role for itself in the emergency relief effort, prioritized a military response over a non-military one, and generally treated the Haitian population as objects of fear to whom aid should be delivered, rather than active participants who could perhaps best act in the rescue and relief operations in their own communities.
This dynamic of fear and distrust, which estranges aid workers from the local population, may also help to explain the incredible disconnect that some in the NGO community seem to exhibit in their behavior, as documented by Michele Mitchell in her film “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” Mitchell records NGO staff dining at a posh restaurant where steak costs $34 and wine sells for $72 a bottle, across the street from an IDP camp where the very people these aid workers are supposed to serve struggle for daily survival.”

A dangerous policy
Former CIA officer Robert Grenier argues the US is repeating in Yemen mistakes it made in Pakistan.
“I do not claim deep knowledge of developments in Shabwa Province, but when I hear significant numbers of tribal militants being referred to as al-Qaeda operatives, and [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula], a small organisation dominated by non-Yemenis, being alleged to have political control of significant parts of Yemen, I react with some scepticism, and some suspicion.
One wonders how many Yemenis may be moved in future to violent extremism in reaction to carelessly targeted missile strikes, and how many Yemeni militants with strictly local agendas will become dedicated enemies of the West in response to US military actions against them.”

Drone journalism
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism calls on Western media to provide more balanced reporting on the US drone war as it enters “a new phase” in which host-government cooperation has been withdrawn.
“Part of the justification for the US carrying out drone strikes without consent is their reported success. And naming those militants killed is key to that process. Al Qaeda bomber Fahd al-Quso’s death was widely celebrated.
Yet how many newspapers also registered the death of Mohamed Saleh Al-Suna, a civilian caught up and killed in a US strike in Yemen on March 30?
By showing only one side of the coin, we risk presenting a distorted picture of this new form of warfare. There is an obligation to identify all of those killed – not just the bad guys.”

Corporate warfare
Global voices reports on “unrest” in Guatemala involving community opposition to the construction of a hydroelectric dam by a Spain’s Hidralia Energia.
“In late April 2012, allegations of land mines placed around the hydroelectric company to protect it from any disruptive actions triggered a series of protests where citizens expressed their concern and demanded that the company be expelled from the community. Protesters denounced the mined field at the offices of the police, and later demanded protection and action from the army.”

Advertisements

Latest Developments, May 1

In the latest news and analysis…

Drone admission
The Washington Post reports the Obama administration has, for the first time, “formally acknowledged” its use of drones to conduct targeted killings abroad.
“[White House counterterrorism adviser John] Brennan’s speech was also noteworthy, however, for what he withheld. He did not disclose how many people have been killed, list all the locations where armed drones are being flown or mention the administration’s increasing reliance on ‘signature’ strikes, which allow the CIA to fire missiles even when it doesn’t know the identities of those who could be killed.

Brennan cited respect for the ‘sovereignty’ of other countries, even though a CIA drone strike in Pakistan on Sunday came just weeks after that country’s Parliament voted unanimously to demand that such operations end.
In a question-and-answer session, Brennan declined to discuss the use of signature strikes, which are based on intelligence showing suspicious behavior rather than confirmation of the location of someone on the CIA or military target list.”

May Day test
Reuters says that protests planned for May 1 will provide a “crucial test” of ongoing support for the Occupy movement in the United States.
“Dozens of actions are planned across the country, though there is some skepticism over how many people will turn out and whether it will spell Occupy’s resurgence. The event was first billed as a ‘General Strike,’ but organized labor declined to sign on to that call.

‘If you look closely at movements, they don’t follow a sort of straight trajectory upwards. They stumble, fall, have reverses – sometimes, they’re crushed,’ [former journalist Chris Hedges] said. But Hedges cautioned that writing off Occupy based on the success of May Day would be ‘short-sighted.’ ”

Swiss arrest
The Wall Street Journal reports on the latest legal troubles for Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, as a former executive has been arrested in Switzerland over his dealings in North Africa where he helped his ex-employers “win billions of dollars in projects” from Libya’s deposed Gadhafi regime.
“SNC is under investigation by Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which executed a search warrant against the company on April 13, raiding its Montreal headquarters. The World Bank temporarily debarred a unit of the company as it investigates alleged corruption in a project it funded in Bangladesh. S&P lowered its outlook on the firm earlier this month, citing, among other things, the scandals engulfing the company.”

International justice
The Guardian’s George Monbiot argues that by punishing only “crimes committed by vassal states,” international law fails ordinary people everywhere.
“The bid for power, oil and spheres of influence that Bush and Blair launched in Mesopotamia, using the traditional camouflage of the civilising mission; the colonial war still being fought in Afghanistan, 199 years after the Great Game began; the global policing functions the great powers have arrogated to themselves; the one-sided justice dispensed by international law. All these suggest that imperialism never ended, but merely mutated into new forms. The virtual empire knows no boundaries. Until we begin to recognise and confront it, all of us, black and white, will remain its subjects.”

Media death
Arizona State University’s G. Pascal Zachary points to a recent photo of a dead African boy on the front page of the New York Times as the latest evidence of a double standard in the way American news media display death.
“The disturbing photo might seem appropriate — unless one considers that the children killed by, for instance, American drone attacks in Yemen or Pakistan, never receive similar photographic display. So even on the narrow grounds of newsworthiness, the contradictions are evident and ample: for mysterious ‘reasons,’ dead Africans can be displayed in lavish fashion — this photo of this dead boy was in color! — while death inflicted by Americans cannot be displayed. Neither are the deaths experienced by Americans in combat suitable for front page photographic treatment (or inside the paper either).

This sort of Western bias against Africans remains unconscious, embedded in a set of corrosive meta-narratives that deserve critical engagement with a goal of, someday, replacing them with tropes that do not demean and diminish Africans under the guise of promoting sympathy for them.”

Beyond 0.7%
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie contends that the ongoing dispute over the Falklands/Malvinas is “a much bigger test of the UK’s commitment to development” than is its willingness to allot 0.7% of GDP to aid.
“The reason the Malvinas issue is felt so keenly across Latin America is that it is a reminder of Britain’s history of economic imperialism in the region. The role Britain played in extracting resources and wealth from Latin America over the past two centuries, with little benefit to the local population, is well known, even if it is the Spanish who are most associated with colonialism. As [Argentinian foreign minister Hector] Timerman puts it: ‘We have 21st-century challenges, and Argentina is still fighting against a 19th-century power.’ Of course, British people have next to no knowledge of this, just as they know little of their imperial history in general.”

Eating plants
The University of the Basque Country’s Michael Marder argues that new evidence suggesting plants communicate with each other and form memories raises questions that lead us to the “final frontiers of dietary ethics.”
“The ‘renewable’ aspects of perennial plants may be accepted by humans as a gift of vegetal being and integrated into their diets.
But it would be harder to justify the cultivation of peas and other annual plants, the entire being of which humans devote to externally imposed ends. In other words, ethically inspired decisions cannot postulate the abstract conceptual unity of all plants; they must, rather, take into account the singularity of each species.”

Export processing zones
The Guardian’s John Vidal writes that foreign corporations operating in Bangladesh’s Chittagong export development zone are treated “royally” while providing questionable social and economic returns.
“Bangladesh has a deep energy crisis, with demand massively outsripping supply, yet companies in the zone get cheap, reliable power, as well as generous 10-year tax holidays, freedom from red tape, duty-free imports, immunity from national laws, cheap labour and low rents. In Chittagong, companies pay just $2.20 monthly to rent a square metre of space, and I was told that the annual rent paid to the Bangladesh government by all the factories on the giant site was just $4m a year.

Their critics say [EDZs] favour the export market rather than the domestic market, exploit poor countries, and allow relaxed environmental and safety standards.”