Child walking down road alone Oct 31 2017

The photo of this little guy has shown up on hundreds of websites, sometimes as a homeless child, sometimes as a child worker. It’s a bereft, wrenching image because no child should be as lonely & impoverished as he is. Keep him in mind in those moments when the world is too much with you.

(From the FB wall of Shivam Kumar)

The duplicitous politics of the US toward Burma & the Rohingya genocide

Ro kids at Cox's Bazar (Abir Abdullah:EPA) Oct 31 2017

No one should get too excited about the US announcing it will withdraw military assistance from Burma because of the Rohingya genocide. It’s a cynical stunt like the European Union pulled a few weeks ago when it announced it would sever military ties with the Burmese junta. The EU already had sanctions in place against such ties & still several countries were courting Burmese military officials. Drawing a false distinction between the Burmese junta & Aung San Suu Kyi’s quasi-civilian government (fully complicit in the genocide), the US says it will withdraw military assistance from Burmese officers involved in the Rohingya genocide & withdraw invitations to Burmese military officials to visit the US. The question is raised: since the US already is supposed to have some restrictions on military sales to Burma, exactly what kind of military assistance will it be withdrawing? Why censure just the generals leading operations in Arakan state? Why not censure the entire junta & Suu Kyi regime holding demonstrations & rallies to whip the population into genocide fever? Why were the generals coming to the US? To visit the Grand Canyon? Or strategize with the Pentagon?

The Burma sanctions program began in 1997 when then president Clinton signed an executive order imposing sanctions because of Burma’s military junta. Since the US has a long history of bankrolling repressive regimes it’s not clear why Burma provoked US sanctions. (That’s an issue which should be studied.) The sanctions were expanded in successive executive orders by Clinton & Bush & in laws passed by the US Congress. The most important from Congress is the Burmese Freedom & Democracy Act of 2003. The disputed issues laid out in the sanctions program were the Burmese junta’s use of forced labor & child soldiers, involvement in meth & heroin trafficking & in human trafficking, money laundering, religious persecution. At no place in these documents does the US call out the Rohingya genocide as a factor in its sanctions determinations. Of course the US was fully apprised through CIA operatives & surveillance systems of the persecution & eventual Rohingya genocide–long before the rest of the world became aware in 2012. US initiatives to end sanctions began in 2011 & went public with Hillary Clinton’s 2011 trip to Burma & Obama’s subsequent trips in 2012 & 2014. Obama’s 2012 trip took place only a month after the genocidal offensive ended with 90,000 Rohingya fleeing for their lives to Bangladesh.

Included in the labyrinth of sanctions were travel bans, restrictions on financial dealings with Burmese banks, a ban on Burmese imported goods (while US exports to Burma continued), a ban on investments in Burma, the end of direct military aid & the end of training military officers in the US. Also included in the sanctions were massive loopholes through which the US could move money to the junta under guises like human rights training or HIV programs. That would not be hard to do since the military regime controlled not only the government but the entire economy. As the Burmese freedom act of 2003 said, the junta “integrated the Burmese military & its surrogates into all facets of the economy, effectively destroying any free enterprise system.”

In October 2016, Obama signed an executive order terminating economic sanctions against the junta–though the US had begun ending them piecemeal as far back as 2011 in order to enter the bonanza opened up by neoliberal economics in Burma. Maybe not coincidentally, another genocidal onslaught against the Rohingya people began just two days after the termination of economic sanctions. Obama signed that order after nearly 120,000 Rohingya had already fled Burma in 2012 & in 2015 when thousands of fleeing Rohingya were left to drown in the Andaman Sea. The whole world knew a genocide was going on & the US ignored it. Between October 2016 & January 2017, another 95,000 fled a military offensive. Yet in June 2017 the US removed most military sanctions claiming Burma had stopped using child soldiers despite documentation to the contrary from the UN & Human Rights Watch & despite genocide.

US policy toward Burma is a labyrinth of lies. Despite wimpy protestations about the Rohingya genocide, the US has done nothing to end it. It would continue to play stupid except the educational work of Rohingya activists on social media & the current genocidal offensive have made the Rohingya people the center of politics to human rights supporters on social media. Our mission is to keep educating & extending support because the forces of reaction are mobilized to vilify & misrepresent the Rohingya people as terrorists to undermine solidarity. Our mission is to politically pressure these regimes to act to stop the slaughter so that the Rohingya people can win full human, democratic, civil, & refugee rights.

(Photo of Rohingya kids at Cox’s Bazar by Abir Abdullah/EPA)

Another thing I learned from watching hours of cable news when I was sick: nothing that happens outside the US Congress, White House, or Democratic & Republican parties is of any consequence. Except the US refusal to provide aid to Puerto Rico, which Democrats can make points from, & the US soldier deaths in Niger, reported with no inquiry into why those troops are there. There are no wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, & God knows where else; there is no Rohingya genocide; there is no occupation in Palestine or Kashmir; nor are there persecutions, torrential flooding, wildfires, outside the US. Americans are inculcated with provincialism & supremacy. But despite that, hundreds of thousands have mobilized against Trump, against his Muslim ban, for women’s rights, for Black rights. The possibilities for social transformation in the US are endless.

“Unprotected: Detention of Palestinian Teenagers in East Jerusalem”

HaMoked & B’Tselem, two Israeli human rights groups, have issued an excoriating report titled “Unprotected: Detention of Palestinian Teenagers in East Jerusalem” which details the treatment of children & youth by Israeli occupying soldiers. As of August 2017, 339 Palestinian minors were in Israeli prisons. It’s important to know that many Israelis cavalierly support the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians; it’s just as important to know that many Israelis actively oppose it & work tirelessly in collaboration with Palestinians to end it.

This is the report HaMoked & B’Tselem issued which is very worth reading:

Some may think that as an ex-nun I take liberties in criticizing Pope Francis or have an axe to grind with the Vatican. My early years as a Catholic were entirely positive & I have no regrets at being raised in that tradition. I loved the ritual & ceremony. But I left the convent & eventually the Catholic Church because of Vatican politics about women & over the Vietnam War.

Because of its structure & geographical scope, the Vatican has been able to play an important role in politics around the world & most often finds itself on the side of the most brutal & reactionary forces. The progressive forces in the church are most often priests, nuns, & laity not working under the auspices of the Vatican. On matters of Catholic doctrine I would never question the pope but when he plays a reactionary role in politics he must be challenged precisely because of his influence & authority. Even against the pope we are obligated to stand with the oppressed come hell or high water.

The reactionary Zionism of Pope Francis

Pope with Zionists (WJC) Oct 30 2017

This post from October 30th, 2017 about Pope Francis’ relations with Israel may be worth reposting. When the pope speaks on matters of Catholic doctrine, that is an issue of religious freedom. But when he offers opinions on political issues (including women’s rights), he enters the political arena where his views can be accepted or criticized on their relation to justice. He has offered Palestinians a few symbolic empty gestures (like saying some Hail Marys at the apartheid wall during a visit) but those were overshadowed by his later venerations at the tomb of Theodore Herzl, the theoretical founder of Zionism, a rightwing supremacist & nationalist doctrine.

Pope Francis is not being naive when he says: “To attack Jews is anti-Semitism, but an outright attack on the State of Israel is also anti-Semitism. There may be political disagreements between governments & on political issues, but the State of Israel has every right to exist in safety & prosperity.” That makes him a committed defender of Israeli colonialism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, occupation. Just as he offers sympathy to Syrian & Rohingya refugees whilst Catholic prelates collaborate with the fascist regimes in Syria & Burma. His politics are no more progressive than those of Pope Benedict who was removed because of his fumbled attempts to make the stench of pedophilia at the Vatican go away. Note that Pope Francis has done just that without ever seriously addressing the issue of sexual assault on children but by playing the people’s pope.

When Pope Francis speaks on Catholic faith & morals, no one would utter a peep of criticism. His comments would be respected as part of religious freedom, even with all the monarchical trappings of the Vatican. But when he enters the political arena, he is no longer speaking ex-cathedra as the Catholic pope & he has to face the music of his politics just like everyone else–especially since his views on several political questions are less than infallible.
October 28th was the 50th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate,” or “In Our Time,” a 1965 declaration on the relation of Catholicism with non-Christian religions. The document was intended to change the rancid intolerance of the Vatican toward Jews, Muslims, Hindus, & Buddhists–an intolerance that led the Vatican to shameful collusion with Nazis during WWII under Pope Pius XII.

Pope Francis dedicated his general audience on Wednesday to touting “In Our Time” & invited representatives from non-Christian religions as honored guests. A large contingent was present from the World Jewish Congress (WJC) who had called their annual conference in Rome to coincide with the anniversary of the declaration. The WJC, headed by Ronald Lauder, is one of the most powerful Zionist groups in the world.

The Vatican’s hateful relations with other religions needed to be changed so commemorating a shift from blaming Jews for the death of Jesus–which for centuries fed hatred & persecution of Jews–to ecumenism is entirely laudatory. But Pope Francis didn’t leave it at that. His homily not only condemned anti-Semitism but he claimed attacks on Israel’s right to exist are a form of it: “To attack Jews is anti-Semitism, but an outright attack on the State of Israel is also anti-Semitism. There may be political disagreements between governments & on political issues, but the State of Israel has every right to exist in safety & prosperity.”

What he didn’t address in his homily was the right of Palestinians to exist in safety & prosperity. And he didn’t utter a peep opposing Israel’s current pogrom against them. He did however lament the rise of terrorism & fundamentalism. Now whose terrorism do you think he might be talking about? Israel’s against unarmed Palestinians? Or was he referring in veiled language to the “stabbing Intifada” alleged by apologists for Israel’s pogrom?

WJC president Ronald Lauder praised the pope for his comments about anti-Semitism. Of course he did! It was a propaganda coup to have the pope equate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. He said Francis “inspires people with his warmth & his compassion. His clear & unequivocal support for the Jewish people is critical to us.” Of course it is–although not everyone is inspired by his lack of compassion for Palestinians. That’s why the pope said it–to align the Vatican with apartheid Israel against the Palestinians. Unfortunately just like Pius XII did with fascism against Jews.

The pope can sing that humble pie stuff till the cows come home but if he turns his back on Palestinian justice in a Bernie Sanders-style political maneuver, we have every right to excoriate him.

Photo is WJC president Lauder (on left) with Pope Francis & other WJC officials at Vatican on Oct 28th, 2015.

(Photo from WJC)

It’s no surprise Kevin Spacey is gay nor shocking he’s a pedophile. Since he traveled openly in pedophiliac circles, it was only a matter of time before his secret crimes were exposed. But to show what a dirt-ball he is, he chose the moment when he was accused of pedophilia to come out as gay–only adding to the prejudice that homosexuality is linked to pedophilia.

An irony is that as a result of the pedophilia charges he was fired playing the president in the House of Cards. Trump & Bill Clinton traveled in those same pedophiliac circles. Shouldn’t Trump be booted too?

The US Congress did not refund the CHIPS program which provides medical insurance to the working poor, particularly kids & pregnant women. A doctor from the Rio Grande Valley said Texas has CHIPS funds until February & then thousands will be left without health care. Not enough money for kids but always enough money for bombs.