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For 67 years the US has pursued its own interests at the expense of global justice – no wonder people are sceptical now

Obama‘s rogue state tramples over every law it demands others uphold

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US fire white phosphorous at Taliban

US troops fire a white phosphorous mortar towards a Taliban position on 3 April 2009 in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Photograph: John Moore/Getty

You could almost pity these people. For 67 years successive US governments have resisted calls to reform the UN security council. They’ve defended a system which grants five nations a veto over world affairs, reducing all others to impotent spectators. They have abused the powers and trust with which they have been vested. They have collaborated with the other four permanent members (the UK, Russia, China and France) in a colonial carve-up, through which these nations can pursue their own corrupt interests at the expense of peace and global justice.

Eighty-three times the US has exercised its veto. On 42 of these occasions it has done so to prevent Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians being censured. On the last occasion, 130 nations supported the resolution but Barack Obama spiked it. Though veto powers have been used less often since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the US has exercised them 14 times in the interim (in 13 cases to shield Israel), while Russia has used them nine times. Increasingly the permanent members have used the threat of a veto to prevent a resolution being discussed. They have bullied the rest of the world into silence.

Through this tyrannical dispensation – created at a time when other nations were either broken or voiceless – the great warmongers of the past 60 years remain responsible for global peace. The biggest weapons traders are tasked with global disarmament. Those who trample international law control the administration of justice.

But now, as the veto powers of two permanent members (Russia and China) obstruct its attempt to pour petrol on another Middle Eastern fire, the US suddenly decides that the system is illegitimate. Obama says: “If we end up using the UN security council not as a means of enforcing international norms and international law, but rather as a barrier … then I think people rightly are going to be pretty skeptical about the system.” Well, yes.

Never have Obama or his predecessors attempted a serious reform of this system. Never have they sought to replace a corrupt global oligarchy with a democratic body. Never do they lament this injustice – until they object to the outcome. The same goes for every aspect of global governance.

Obama warned last week that Syria’s use of poisoned gas “threatens to unravel the international norm against chemical weapons embraced by 189 nations“. Unravelling the international norm is the US president’s job.

In 1997 the US agreed to decommission the 31,000 tonnes of sarinVX,mustard gas and other agents it possessed within 10 years. In 2007 it requested the maximum extension of the deadline permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention – five years. Again it failed to keep its promise, and in 2012 it claimed they would be gone by 2021. Russia yesterday urged Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control. Perhaps it should press the US to do the same.

In 1998 the Clinton administration pushed a law through Congress which forbade international weapons inspectors from taking samples of chemicals in the US and allowed the president to refuse unannounced inspections. In 2002 the Bush government forced the sacking of José Maurício Bustani, the director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. He had committed two unforgiveable crimes: seeking a rigorous inspection of US facilities; and pressing Saddam Hussein to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, to help prevent the war George Bush was itching to wage.

The US used millions of gallons of chemical weapons in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It also used them during its destruction of Falluja in 2004,then lied about it. The Reagan government helped Saddam Hussein to wage war with Iran in the 1980s while aware that he was using nerve and mustard gas. (The Bush administration then cited this deployment as an excuse to attack Iraq, 15 years later).

Smallpox has been eliminated from the human population, but two nations – the US and Russia – insist on keeping the pathogen in cold storage. They claim their purpose is to develop defences against possible biological weapons attack, but most experts in the field consider this to be nonsense. While raising concerns about each other’s possession of the disease, they have worked together to bludgeon the other members of the World Health Organisation, which have pressed them to destroy their stocks.

In 2001 the New York Times reported that, without either Congressional oversight or a declaration to the Biological Weapons Convention, “the Pentagon has built a germ factory that could make enough lethal microbes to wipe out entire cities“. The Pentagon claimed the purpose was defensive but, developed in contravention of international law, it didn’t look good. The Bush government also sought to destroy the Biological Weapons Convention as an effective instrument by scuttling negotiations over the verification protocol required to make it work.

Looming over all this is the great unmentionable: the cover the US provides for Israel’s weapons of mass destruction. It’s not just that Israel – which refuses to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention – has used white phosphorus as a weapon in Gaza (when deployed against people, phosphorus meets the convention’s definition of “any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm”).

 

It’s also that, as the Washington Post points out: “Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile results from a never-acknowledged gentleman’s agreement in the Middle East that as long as Israel had nuclear weapons, Syria’s pursuit of chemical weapons would not attract much public acknowledgement or criticism.” Israel has developed its nuclear arsenal in defiance of the non-proliferation treaty, and the US supports it in defiance of its own law, which forbids the disbursement of aid to a country with unauthorised weapons of mass destruction.

As for the norms of international law, let’s remind ourselves where the US stands. It remains outside the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, after declaring its citizens immune from prosecution. The crime of aggression it committed in Iraq – defined by the Nuremberg tribunal as “the supreme international crime” – goes not just unpunished but also unmentioned by anyone in government. The same applies to most of the subsidiary war crimes US troops committed during the invasion and occupation. Guantánamo Bay raises a finger to any notions of justice between nations.

None of this is to exonerate Bashar al-Assad’s government – or its opponents – of a long series of hideous crimes, including the use of chemical weapons. Nor is it to suggest that there is an easy answer to the horrors in Syria.

But Obama’s failure to be honest about his nation’s record of destroying international norms and undermining international law, his myth-making about the role of the US in world affairs, and his one-sided interventions in the Middle East, all render the crisis in Syria even harder to resolve. Until there is some candour about past crimes and current injustices, until there is an effort to address the inequalities over which the US presides, everything it attempts – even if it doesn’t involve guns and bombs – will stoke the cynicism and anger the president says he wants to quench.

During his first inauguration speech Barack Obama promised to “set aside childish things”. We all knew what he meant. He hasn’t done it.

 

 

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Obama: Al-Qaida Head bin Laden Dead

Obama: Al-Qaida Head bin Laden Dead

In this April 1998 file photo, Osama bin Laden is shown in AfghanistanMore photos »


Barack ObamaAP – President Barack Obama reads his statement to photographers after making a televised statement on the …
By JULIE PACE and MATT APUZZO, Associated Press – 27 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Osama bin Laden, the glowering mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that murdered thousands of Americans, was killed in an operation led by the United States, President Barack Obama said Sunday.

“Justice has been done,” said the president in a dramatic late-night announcement at the White House.

A small team of Americans killed bin Laden in a firefight Sunday at a compound in Pakistan, the president said, and took custody of his remains. Americaj officials said they were being handled in accordance with Islamic tradition.

A jubilant crowd gathered outside the White House as word spread of bin Laden’s death after a global manhunt that lasted nearly a decade.

Former President George W. Bush, who was in office on the day of the attacks, issued a written statement hailing bin Laden’s death as a momentous achievement. “The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done,” he said.

Obama said he ordered the operation after receiving undisclosed intelligence information. Senior administration officials said the terrorist mastermind was found inside a custom-built compound with two security gates. They said it appeared to have been constructed to harbor one high-value target and that for undisclosed reasons, officials became clear the hideout was bin Laden’s.

Officials also said they believe the death puts al-Qaida on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse, but there was no word on the whereabouts of bin Laden’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri.

The stunning end to the world’s most widely-watched manhunt came just months before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Centers and Pentagon, orchestrated by bin Laden’s al-Qaida organization, that killed more than 3,000 people.

The attacks a decade ago seemed to come out of nowhere, even though al-Qaida had previously damaged American targets overseas.

The terrorists hijacked planes, flew one of them into one of Manhattan’s Twin Towers — and, moments later, into the other one. Both buildings collapsed, trapping thousands inside and claiming the lives of firefighters and others who had rushed to help them.

A third plane slammed into the Pentagon, defacing the symbol of America’s military night. A fourth crashed in rural Pennsylvania after passengers overpowered the hijackers and forced the craft from the air — before it could hit its intended target in Washington.

The attacks set off a chain of events that led the United States into wars in Afghanistan, and then Iraq, and America’s entire intelligence apparatus was overhauled to counter the threat of more terror attacks at home.

A senior administration official says Obama gave the final order for U.S. officials to go after bin Laden on Friday. The official added that a small team found their quarry hiding in a large home in an affluent suburb of Islamabad. The raid occurred in the early morning hours Sunday.

Administration officials offered some details of the operation.

Based on statements given by U.S. detainees, intelligence officials have known for years that bin Laden trusted one al-Qaida courier in particular and they believed he might be living with him in hiding. In November, intelligence officials found out where he was living, a huge fortified compound in an affluent suburb of Islamabad. It was surrounded by walls as high as 18 feet high, topped with barbed wire. There were two security gates and no phone or Internet running into the house.

Intelligence officials believed the $1 million home was custom-built to harbor a major terrorist. CIA experts analyzed whether it could be anyone else, but time and again, they decided it was almost certainly bin Laden.

Three adult males were also killed in Sunday’s raid, including one of bin Laden’s sons, whom officials did not name. One of bin Laden’s sons, Hamza, is a senior member of al-Qaida.

Obama spoke with Bush and former President Bill Clinton Sunday night to inform them of the developments.

Obama struck a less than boastful tone in his brief announcement, although he said the death of bin Laden was “the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaida.

“His death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al-Qaida will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant,” he added.

Moments after he spoke, American officials cautioned that the events could lead to heightened threats against the United States.

Officials said the U.S. would ensure that bin Laden’s body was handled in accordance with Islamic tradition.

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“There will be no charge for anything. We are happy to help.” Huh?

Every once and a while someone does something really kind to restore my… OK I can’t say the words. I have very little faith in “humanity” with the garbage going on in Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, you get the picture.

Every great now and again someone does something truly compassionate and professional and it deserves mention. Not just by way of thanks, but due to the aforementioned countries and the miserable self serving nature of so many of our species. We owe it to each other to be mindful of the compassion that does exist and give that some press as well.

This Thanksgiving we had the kids over for a fine pig-out; ate till we hurt and then had desert – the usual. Next morning we were in our little enviro-Prius headed up to the wine country. I always bring my very new and very expensive camera with me when we go to the wine country. It was raining though, so I decided to pop that in the hotel safe and just shoot with my iPhone to keep my “Ferrari” dry.

Days pass, wine flows, spa treatments and gastronomic delights are had, and finally the hotel bill is paid. On the way out of Sonoma we stop for a breakfast of Jazz and eggs only to find that Guy Fierri had beaten us to the punch. Triple D indeed is everywhere in the Sonoma area.

Blissfully deserted roads lead us past the resplendently sunlit SF Marina all the way to our little Woodside turnoff. The car is parked, I run (bags in hand) to the door with a comfort stop in mind. The wifes bag goes on the bed, my bag goes on the chest in the office next to – oh shite – the empty camera case. Remember the part where I said I put the camera in the hotel safe?

Comfort stop quickly forgotten I yell out the window for the number of the Lodge we stayed at, half in terror that I’m going to get a “what camera?” response. I fear that I’ve travelled too often and become somewhat jaded. There is some solace in the fact that the staff had seemed genuinely nice in general, particularly the girls in the spa; not the snooty “Bitchy Barbie’s” one can often encounter in such places.

Instead the response I get from the desk of the Renaissance Lodge in Sonoma http://www.thelodgeatsonoma.com/ was “we’ll send someone right up to check on that for you.” In the interim the call is immediately connected to the Concierge, Cindy Riggs, who listens to the situation and agrees to contact FedEx to arrange the return of my abandoned baby. Cindy then offers to call me back with details when available and takes my number.

Still slightly trembling, half expecting the “what camera?” I wait. Thanksgiving in Sonoma is the busiest weekend of the year. Thoughts are running rampant with visions of crowds still checking out demanding her time, housekeeping staff grinning sleazily as they slip my “baby” in with the soiled sheets for a quick trip to the laundry room where, yes, the parked pick-up truck is then loaded with a mysteriously wadded bed sheet… oh the agony of the human mind. Then, barely a half hour later…

the phone rings, it is Cindy. “Mr. Ulrich we have located your camera and given it to housekeeping…” AHAA just as I feared – the swine “and they will be making the arrangements to have it shipped to your home.” Oh. This feels better. “I’ll call you with the details.”

Within another half hour she calls with the details. I ask for her address to send her a little “thank you” and she declines.

I ask her what the shipping charges will be and am pleasantly shocked to find that there will be none. Same question regarding having the thing boxed up, insured, etc. “Mr. Ulrich, there will be no charge for anything, we are happy to help.” When is the last time you have heard that? There are no words that could make a 30 year road warrior (me) and a 25 year corporate travel manager (my wife) any happier.

The FedEx tracking number, address confirmation, and shipping details arrive minutes later via email. Along with them arrives an official statement from The Renaissance Lodge at Sonoma thanking us for our visit, and for allowing them to be of service.

In this era of hidden costs and baggage charges it’s nice to see that the art of actually caring for people and showing honest compassion to a weary traveler is not dead. It lives in Sonoma.

Thank you Cindy.

 

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