Monday 29 June 2015

"The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down!"

Quote: "Joan Baez - The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Posted by Gerard on June 28, 2015, 11:21 am"....
"Re: Nah... Joan Baez - Babe I'm Gonna Leave You

Posted by johnlilburne [Email User] on June 28, 2015, 5:55 pm, in reply to "Nah... Joan Baez - Babe I'm Gonna Leave You "

"Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men
Some will rob you with a six-gun
And some with a fountain pen #

And as through your life you travel
Yes, as through your life you roam
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home"

# These days by tapping a few numbers on a computer screen."....

"I don't accept the reasons for performing this!

Posted by Neil on June 28, 2015, 6:11 pm, in reply to "Joan Baez - The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down "

over the years. Clearly Baez, Seeger, the Band themselves, as well as the likes of Jerry Garcia, are not singing this as a lament for a slavocracy that was driven down, but the dreadful loss and collapse that ensued during the war and its aftermath.

Having said that, and acknowledging that it is a great song, I think the people who are singing this have got it wrong.

If people would accept folk musicians calling out the merits of a folk song that was a plangent lament for the suffering of the German people in 1945 as Germany was driven down, I might accept the context although I would utterly abhor it.

And without wanting to take away from the poignant thoughts going through someone's mind as they perform or listen to this great piece of music, I think they have it wrong.

The references to Dixie are clear, and driving down what Dixie represented was right.

Songs could be written about the suffering of formers slaves, indentured servants and white working class whose lives were made even worse in the aftermath of the civil war.

But the reference to dixie is the problem.

A folk song reconciling the suffering against what the future may now hold that Dixie has been driven down might be acceptable. I don't think that is the message in the song.

This was also justified at the time of its release in 1971 as an Anti-war song that drew comparison with Dixie being driven down, an American loss, against the perceived loss of America in Vietnam at the time.

This is an erroneous comparison in every way. America wasn't actually defeated in Vietnam and indeed many of its key objectives were achieved.

Quite simply lamenting the loss of a slave state is unjustifiable in any situation.

I think people were and are beguiled by the song, which is indeed superb. I am wary of my own emotions being stirred in this way.


"Re: I don't accept the reasons for performing this!

Posted by gloriousrevolution [Email User] on June 28, 2015, 7:42 pm, in reply to "I don't accept the reasons for performing this!"

Levon Helm, singer and drummer in the Band asked Robbie Robertson to write a song, a lament, about his people, looking at how ordinary southerners saw their defeat in the War Between the States; for a change.

The song deals with the terrible retribution that rained down opon the South, the mass destruction and the crushing of a entire country and people. Arguably it was a war where warcrimes on a massive and brazen scale were carried out for the first time so systematically. The destruction of Atlanta and Sherman's March to the Sea come to mind, where the civilian infrastructure was deliberately targetted for total destruction across a vast swathe of the South. And the South didn't recover for decades or even a century.

The war wasn't about ending slavery, but about crushing the South and empowering the North. Slavery was minor part of the justificatio for war. But it became the great moral battle-cry for the North, while the real reasons were far mor prosaic; resources and markets, power; sound familiar?"....

"Re: I don't accept the reasons for performing this!

Posted by Neil on June 28, 2015, 8:43 pm, in reply to "Re: I don't accept the reasons for performing this!"

It is more than familiar. It is the standard outcome when the powerful overwhelm the less powerful.

However, as you outline this is a complex history that has many versions and views. Dixie is simply synonmous with slavery and oppression of black people and lamenting its destruction will find no tears from me.


This song references Dixie, not the south, its people, indigenous (long since slaughtered) or otherwise. Taking down the working people of the south, or undermining what we can build as a better future is not emphasised in the song or the song's title.

That is not in the song. I will not be beguiled by art no matter how good it is to my ears. I will not sniff wistfully about soldiers crushed and dying for dixie.

And yes I am aware of what the north represented. This was about one ruling class in the North decapitating and bringing to heel a southern ruling class. Dixie is the mystical place that the south represented. It was destroyed. I will not lament its passing regardless of the skill of the song writer.

I am sorry I disagree the lefties and folk singers who exonerate this song, and what it represents are wrong. That is my opinion and I stand by it.".....

"Absolutely GR.

Posted by MadeNotBorn [Email User] on June 28, 2015, 9:23 pm, in reply to "Re: I don't accept the reasons for performing this!"

I would reiterate to Neil - because I know you know this anyway! - beware the narrative and logic of the victor.

OK - look at Germany. How must we look at the deliberate mass firebombing of heavily built up areas? How should we see the deliberate bombing and strafing by low flying aircraft of civilians (this happened to my mother when she was about 8)? The answer is obvious of course.

The question then is: what leads to a call for justice or at least acknowledgment, be that artistic or more prosaic, being taken as a justification for massive crimes such as the Nazis', or the southern slavers'? I think ultimately, 'we', the monomaniac west, need to see ourselves as 'the good guys' - so spiritually impoverished are we, by and large, that we cling so tight to dreary, ridiculous truisms like this. In other words: it's the simple answer, the unpleasant one. I don't expect anyone to accept it. Cultures with more life, more joie de vivre, more gratitude I think are more able to reflect with greater equanimity on what seems like moral 'dissonance' without the bottom falling out of their world. Italians and Russians spring to mind. Whaddo I know? Or have I missed your point?"....

"agree, but beyond that song...

Posted by David Bracewell on June 28, 2015, 10:03 pm, in reply to "Re: I don't accept the reasons for performing this!"

... were the victims of victimised Southerners, Blacks who stayed victimised the day, years and decades after surrender - by those Southerners.

There is victimhood and there is victimhood. And if the drummer wants you to write about his forbears' pain, the question is, what about the much larger pain of Blacks inflicted by his forbears?

Reading a lot about Japan lately. Japanese civilians are victims, pure and simple, although they remained unforgivably obtuse about Japanese atrocities in the 1930s in Manchuria and most were utterly unquestioning about the rightness of their cause (bolstered by a sham anti-colonial doctrine).

But the military were horribly rapacious throughout Asia. When you read the sense of victimhood many of the officers felt in the way they were simply held prisoners by the Americans - often expressing feelings of not being honoured or respected, feelings of not being given their sense of status - and then you read about what those exact same officers ordered (bayonet practice on live Chinese victims, torture, cold blooded killings of women and children in Okinawa and of course elsewhere, the use of slave labour - Malaysians, Indonesians and so on), you are gobsmacked by their lack of self-awareness and their overweening sense of self-absorption.

"Japan at War: An Oral History"

I think victimhood Southerners are much the same. If I were that drummer, I would ask for a song filled with ambiguity and I would put black people at the heart of it.

"Just take what you need and leave the rest, but they should never have taken the very best" Stack those war years up against the hundreds of years of slavery and the point, absent even a little mention of the catastrophe of black's lives under slavery, looks trivial, solipsistic.

I love that song though, have since Joan Baez' version came out. Cognitive dissonance."...

"Re: I don't accept the reasons for performing this!

Posted by Gerard on June 28, 2015, 10:32 pm, in reply to "Re: I don't accept the reasons for performing this!"

Also remember how Lincoln was able to industrialise his war, the South simply did not have the resources to, in the end they got the sharp end of the blunt instrument in a way that was disproportional as Lincoln was able wield the big stick with impunity."....

""Nah baay!"

Posted by Gerard on June 28, 2015, 10:18 pm, in reply to "I don't accept the reasons for performing this!"

It's about the deep hypocrisy of The Yankee dollar, freedom to fight but still Buffalo Soldiers (and boy didn't they the Amerinds?), history is not always "black" and "white"!"....

"Re: "Nah baay!"

Posted by gloriousrevolution [Email User] on June 29, 2015, 9:32 am, in reply to ""Nah baay!""

Slavery, as a profitable economic system was doomed and coming to an end anyway, as new production methods and technology surpassed it. How long did it have left, two decades at the maximum. The Civil War was far more bloody and destructive than slavery. Slavery was abolished in other states in the Americas without the need to fight a terrible war over it, why? The War Between the States wasn't primarily a great moral crusade fought to abolish slavery, rather it was a conflict about power and wealth inside the ruling elite. Who was going to rule the United States, the old centre of wealth - the South, or the new industrial barons of the northern cities? Wars need a great ideological and symbolic set of values in order to justify the blood-letting and the sacrifices required, in order to mobilize the whole nation in the struggle against 'evil.' That war was an even greater evil than slavery, bloodier and more destructive isn't something one wants to get into."....

"Thank you friend..

Posted by Gerard on June 29, 2015, 9:38 am, in reply to "Re: "Nah baay!""

I salute your erudition!"....

"Re: Thank you friend..

Posted by gloriousrevolution [Email User] on June 29, 2015, 8:52 pm, in reply to "Thank you friend.."

Thank you. My ex-wife, a real southern belle, came from a family that 'got in the way' of General Sherman as he bascially raped a huge swathe of the South in a true scortched earth strategy. When they told me that Lincoln imprisoned his political opponents and shutdown newspapers that challenged his war policies, I was shocked, but that was years ago. I've become much more cynical about war since then, as so much innocent blood has flowed under the bridge since then.".....

"Re: Thank you friend..

Posted by Gerard on June 29, 2015, 10:21 pm, in reply to "Re: Thank you friend.."

I come from a family who (at least on my father's side), believe that The Union may be far from secure!".....

Quote: "The Confederate Flag, a Dastardly Distraction

Posted by Gerard on June 25, 2015, 12:51 am

Quote: "6.24.15: National – (Politics): A domestic terrorist who abhorred African-Africans walked into a South Carolina church last week populated by the aforementioned race and murdered them.

Mr. Dylann Roof, the 21 year-old White male gunman, is an evil and uneducated person who did an awful, racist act so shocking that it has consumed the news cycle for an entire week.

But instead of discussing the hard issues, like what enabled the shooting –cultures, attitudes, laws, frowned upon social norms and biased media outlets who distort reality beyond recognition – the country has been consumed in a dialogue about the Confederate flag, while also completely ignoring the fact that the American flag, a pride and joy for many, also evokes memories, for some, of slavery, oppression, mass incarceration and unmitigated police violence, but that’s neither here or there, I guess.

At issue in this article is the fact that a flag was not the cause for the terrorist act that killed nine people, including a pastor, who also served as a State Senator. The Confederate flag, in the context of the Charleston shooting, is as relevant, in my opinion, as the brand of condoms Santa Claus prefers when making love to a reindeer – it’s that insanely irrelevant and abstract.

What we should be talking about, but we’re too afraid to, is the fact that America, while not what it used to be, is still very much a racist country that every day without consequence enables or promotes discrimination, segregation and white privilege, which includes the presumption of innocence, regardless of the statistics which should require cynicism, at the very least.

A clear example of this can be found in a candid statement often repeated by the likely next Mayor of Philadelphia, Mr. Jim Kenney, a White man who served as an At-Large City Councilman for more than two decades.

“My son has never been stopped-and-frisked,” Mr. Kenney told me after the signing of a law which decriminalized marijuana, and again before he spoke to a crowd of roughly 50 people in a South Philadelphia church.

What’s remarkable is that Mr. Kenney’s son, who’s in his mid-20s, and those who look like him, are more likely to commit violence crimes and domestic terrorist attacks, but are less likely to be stopped repeatedly by police for looking suspicious or have their face appear on the evening news for the crime report.

But why is that? Multiple reasons exist for why Whites should equally, if not at a greater rate, be scrutinized for their criminality.

For example, according to a study by the New America Foundation, White Americans are the biggest terror threat in the United States.

A review of “terror” attacks on U.S soil since Sept. 11, 2001 found that most of them were carried out by radical anti-government groups or white supremacists, reports Raw Story, which noted that almost twice as many people have died in attacks by right-wing groups in America than have died in attacks by Muslim extremists.

Can we prevent more Charleston shootings? Maybe… but we’ll never know unless we, as a country, actually try, and we could start by leveraging police departments to pursue real criminals and terrorists in an effort to prevent real tragedies, and not allowing them to harass poor people in an effort to prevent jaywalking, cigarettes from being sold without the government getting its slice and swimming in a perceived white-only pool." Go to: ".....

"UK's Dylann Roof found guilty

Posted by TonyH on June 25, 2015, 5:06 pm, in reply to "The Confederate Flag, a Dastardly Distraction"

Zack Davies that is, guilty of racist attack on Asian man in supermarket for being Asian. As he told police
"It was irrelevant what religion he was. It was his appearance just the way he looked. It did not matter to me what religion he was, it was his racial appearance."

Hope not Hate rep noted
"Evidence we have seen suggests he was very childish and keen to impress others who filled his head up with rubbish. Why aren't they in court, too?"
Yes, why aren't The Sun and The Mail in court too?

Which flag are we going to take down now?" All posts to MediaLens Message Board reproduced with thanks to MediaLens and it's message board members (all posts checked for spelling but no other edits).

Also see: "American "Justice" re: #Ferguson."Go to:

Quote: "What the Confederate flag debate says about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Some 150 years after the U.S. Civil War ended, northerners and southerners are still fighting for their interpretation of history. It doesn't bode well for our local battle of narratives. 

For my last spring break at Princeton, I drove down to Charleston with two other international friends from my graduate program. Realizing that more than 90 percent of my American classmates at the Woodrow Wilson School held deeply liberal views and that the remaining minority (often military officers) never seemed comfortable expressing their views fully in class, we ventured out of New Jersey to the firework depots of the Carolinas, Georgia’s gun shops and the honky-tonks of Tennessee. 

We were shocked: It felt as if we were in a different country suddenly, in some “Back to the Future” movie where someone went back and changed history, yet things look eerily similar. To most Southern Americans we met, the Civil War had not been fought over slavery, but over states’ rights. To buy a gun you had to be a citizen of South Carolina, not an American national. The Confederate flag represented a long, independent heritage, and not violence or hate.

I later approached my northern classmates with the countervailing narratives I picked up, and you can imagine how that went. “The Confederate flag is like the swastika,” one close friend barked at me. “You shouldn’t believe the lies they told you down there, the South is still incredibly racist.”

No denying we saw some terrible racism. Like one poster on the town-hall door of Wartrace, Tennessee, that declared “entry to this premises cannot be denied based on color.” Or when a real estate agent in Atlanta explained how her neighborhood used to be full of “decent folk” before the “white flight” began. To be fair, I had heard racial slurs like that in rural New Jersey and around Princeton before. But what was unique in the South was that it all somehow tied back to the Civil War, as if it were still in the living memory. “There’s racism in the North too, you know,” one barber told me Savannah. “Slavery would have been abolished peacefully sooner or later, as it was in Brazil, Mexico and Canada. But instead we lost more Americans to a Civil War than in both of the World Wars combined.”
The uncomfortable reactions I got from classmates when discussing the Civil War reminded me of another class discussion I’d had long before, as an undergraduate at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. There, a lecture about the history of the 1948 war broke into shouts after one gutsy Arab-Israeli student dismissed the professor’s narrative. He objected to the professor’s premise that Jews had “returned” to Israel, and that 1948 was their “independence war.” For the student, Jews in Israel were trespassers, and 1948 was a disastrous year in which Jews fought to expel Palestinians from their ancestral land.

To question Jewish right over Israel, or Palestinian peoplehood, is a surefire way to detonate any Israeli-Arab debate. Likewise, I’ve found that questioning the North’s right to declare war (invoking states’ rights), or refuting Southern heritage (via the flag), are hardly seen as legitimate arguments by Americans of the opposite persuasion. In all these cases, historical disputes are about much more than just facts. They are cornerstones to a deeper sense of identity and validation that neither side is willing to give up.

As an Israeli, I will never underestimate the power and persistence of historical narratives. People will live and die for their reading of history and for their sense of identity and self. But waiting for generational change to wash out the narrative divide doesn’t seem to be working in America. A century and a half has already passed, and while time marches on, polarization remains in many parts of America, including Washington.

As an outsider, it’s hard to grasp why Americans across the Mason-Dixon line can’t just “get along.” I see how painful the issue of race remains in America. I understand that America’s biggest ideological divides still correlate with Civil War allegiances. I learned about the 1877 compromise, the shameful Jim Crow laws that lasted until 1965, and how those perpetuated what was already a resounding national trauma. And yet, from the outside, there is something perplexing about both sides’ refusal to let go.
Perhaps this explains part of why the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems so obvious to many outsiders. Maybe the solution is that obvious, if a way could be found for Israelis and Palestinians to reach across the narrative divide. But if Americans, who have been living in peace and prosperity for a century, can’t do that, what does that bode for us and the Palestinians? Some people believe that “economic peace” would lead the way to reconciliation. But as the American experience demonstrates, prosperity alone won’t solve the long war over narratives.
Uri Sadot completed an MPA at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs in 2013. He is currently a Research Fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. " Go to:



Sunday 28 June 2015

"Burning Flag" The Rage of The Caliphate

The actions of Islamic State ("I.S"), are not  those of the true iconoclast for they are too closely associated with the regime that bore them,  I.S are not so much a "caliphate" as a cypher. "Terrorism as cliche" is enormously effective; "death on the beach" was nascent urban legend until I.S came along, the nightmare of attack on the vulnerable tourist industry having been lurking in our psyches since 9/11 I.S had the power to make it real! Terrorism was never more precisely demonstrated, a realisation that should lead us to the conclusion that somehow an accommodation must eventually be reached with The Caliphate (we cannot win this war if we try "we" -the people-, will inevitably lose), our repressive states won't reach one but that's pretty much the point they don't really want one! I.S's appropriation of style and technology is pure Hollywood and owes much to "The United Technocracy" this Frankenstein's Monster wishes to destroy (and infact Osama Bin Laden although he is known to have opposed The Caliphate), and it is such closeness in terms of psychology that has made us so vulnerable, I.S know where it hurts, the "Black/Grey* Flagging" "Illuminati" are now depending on this to strike-fear and-loathing into all our hearts.

*Whereby one does not act to prevent an act of terror the reaction to which will serve to justify, popularise (or simply "make palatable"), and perpetuate a policy of increased surveillance,oppression and military "intervention".

Friday 26 June 2015

"U.K Becomes First Country to Face a U.N Inquiry into Disability Rights Violations"

Quote: "We ought to be very concerned about the government’s declaration that they intend to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, (ECHR)  and to repeal our own Human Rights Act, (HRA). One has to wonder what Cameron’s discomfort with the HRA is. The Act, after all, goes towards protecting the vulnerable from neglect of duty and abuse of power. The rights protected by the HRA are drawn from the 1950 European convention on human rights, which was a way of ensuring that we never again witness the full horrors of the second world war, and overwhelmingly, one of the greatest stains on the conscience of humanity – the Holocaust.
Human Rights establish a simple set of minimum standards of decency for humankind to hold onto for the future. The European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms was drafted as a lasting legacy of the struggle against fascism and totalitarianism.
What kind of government would want those basic protections for citizens overturned?
One that doesn’t value or wish to uphold the universal protection of its citizens. From the State.
Last month, a new report, Dignity and Opportunity for All: Securing the Rights of Disabled People in the Austerity Era –  Jane Young is the lead author – exposed the Coalition’s failure to meet its international human rights obligations under both the UN convention on the rights of people with disabilities (UNCRPD) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
The report – also published by the Just Fair Coalition, a consortium of 80 national charities including Amnesty International, Save the Children, and Oxfam, says the UK is in clear breach of its legal obligations. Support structures for many disabled people have disappeared or are under threat as local authorities cut social care budgets, whilst cuts to benefits will leave many disabled people without crucial help for daily living.
Jane Campbell, a cross-bench peer who is disabled said: “It is both extremely worrying and deeply sad that the UK – for so long regarded as an international leader in protecting and promoting disabled people’s rights – now risks sleepwalking towards the status of a systematic violator of these same rights.”
The UK Government seems to be the first to face such a high-level international inquiry, initiated by the United Nations Committee because of “grave or systemic violations” of the rights of disabled people. That ought to be a source of shame for the Coalition, especially considering that this country was once considered a beacon of human rights, we are (supposedly) a first-world liberal democracy, and a very wealthy nation, yet our government behave like tyrants towards the most vulnerable citizens of the UK.  As disability specialist, campaigner and first class human rights activist Samuel Miller says: “Britain is [now] a retrograde society and a flagrant violator of human rights—especially the rights of the sick and disabled”. 
It’s because of the sterling work of people such as Mr Miller that the UN are aware of our dire situation, here in the UK.
This is a government who refuse to undertake a cumulative impact assessment of their “reforms” and also continue to dismiss any evidence provided that challenges their own glib and deceitful account as “anecdotal”. There’s more than one issue here, though it’s plain that the government have no intention of addressing any of the terrible consequences of their draconian policies, and use denial and stigmatising others to deflect attention from their intents. I am reminded of Techniques of Neutralisation – a well known collection of tactics used to justify prejudiced views and discriminatory actions.
Another related and important issue is that people’s qualitative experiences should matter to any decent government, but the Coalition is far more concerned with its persistent attempts at INVALIDATING those experiences, (such attempts to invalidate and exclude the narrative of experiences of previously and presently marginalised people is a hallmark of the oppressive, supremacist condescension of historically powerful and privileged groups) –  denying their victims a voice and remedy. We know that this is not a democratic government that serves its citizens and reflects their needs.
Thanks to the sterling work of Dr Simon J Duffy, from the Centre for Welfare Reform, amongst others, we know that the austerity measures in the UK have disproportionately affected those people with disabilities and their carers. Dr Duffy’s work on the impact of the austerity cuts shows us that:
  • People in poverty are targeted 5 times more than most citizens
  • Disabled people are targeted 9 times more than most citizens
  • People needing social care are targeted 19 times more than most citizens
Yet, this government claims a cumulative impact assessment is “too difficult and costly”, I suggest that they use their considerable publicly donated, tax-collected wealth to fund the work of the Centre for Welfare Reform, who managed to undertake this work without hitting the obstacles the government claims it has. This said, perhaps the findings are the real obstacle that the government are concerned about. Because those findings are damning, and tell us that the welfare “reforms” are NOT “fair” as claimed, and are causing harm, distress, hardships and sometimes, death. The grossly punitive, draconian “reforms” need to be repealed.
The UN Committee has the power to launch an inquiry if it receives “reliable information” that violations have been committed, and as the Labour Government signed up to the protocol in 2009 – the UNCRPD and the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights – it is legally binding. Austerity measures and welfare “reforms” such as the bedroom tax (which is in itself established by the UN as being a contravention of human rights law) mean the rights of disabled people to independent living, work, and adequate social security have been seriously undermined, causing significant hardship.
Such investigations are necessarily conducted “confidentially”, so the UNCRPD  has formally refused to confirm or deny that the UK is being investigated. However, a recording has emerged (one hour and twenty five minutes long) of a former CRPD member seemingly revealing that the inquiry has been launched.
Professor Gabor Gombos, who is the co-founder of Voice of Soul, Hungary’s first organisation for ex-users and survivors of Mental Health Institutions, and co-chair of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, can be heard informing the audience that CRPD has “started its first inquiry procedure against the United Kingdom”.
He informs the Sixth International Disability Law Summer School at the National University of Ireland in Galway, June, that inquiries are only used where there are suspicions of “grave” violations of human rights. He says: “Where the issue has been raised and the government did not really make effective actions to fix the situation – it is a very high threshold thing – the violations should really be grave and very systemic.”
Earlier this year, the level of UK benefits paid in pensions, jobseeker’s allowance and incapacity benefits was deemed “manifestly inadequate” because it falls below 40% of the median income of European states, by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
The finding in an annual review of the UK’s adherence to the council’s European social charter is likely to provoke a fresh dispute between the government and European legal structures. Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, dismissed it as “lunacy”. Not an open, accountable Minister, or government, then.
The Council of Europe, which has 47 member states, said the conclusions were legally binding in the same way that judgements relating to the European Convention on Human Rights had to be applied by member states.
Aoife Nolan, professor of International Human Rights Law at the University of Nottingham and a trustee of Just Fair said government policies were compromising disabled people’s human rights.
“Not only do these policies cause significant hardship and anxiety, but they also amount to impermissible backward steps in relation to disabled people’s human rights, contrary to the UN human rights framework.”
The report was submitted to the United Nations, which, as I’ve previously outlined in earlier articles here, is in the process of reviewing UK compliance with its obligations to the rights of disabled people.
Last year, Amnesty International condemned the erosion of human rights of disabled people in UK, and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights conducted an inquiry into the UK Government’s implementation of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – the right to live independently and to be included in the community. The inquiry, which began in 2011, has received evidence from over 300 witnesses.
The inquiry highlighted just how little awareness, understanding and employment of the Convention there is by the Tory-led Government. Very few of the witnesses made specific reference to the Convention in their presented evidence, despite the inquiry being conducted by the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, with the terms of reference clearly framing the inquiry as being about Article 19 of the UNCRPD.
“This finding is of international importance”, said Oliver Lewis, MDAC Executive Director, “Our experience is that some Governments are of the view that the CRPD is nothing more than a policy nicety, rather than a treaty which sets out legal obligations which governments must fulfil.”
The report is particularly critical of the Minister for Disabled People (Maria Miller, at the time) who told the Committee that the CRPD was “soft law”. The Committee criticised this as “indicative of an approach to the treaty which regards the rights it protects as being of less normative force than those contained in other human rights instruments.” (See the full report.) The Committee’s view is that the CRPD is hard law, not soft law. 
Dr Hywel Francis MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “We are concerned to learn that the right of disabled people to independent living may be at risk through the cumulative impact of current reforms. Even though the UK ratified the UNCPRD in 2009 with cross-party support, the Government is unable to demonstrate that sufficient regard has been paid to the Convention in the development of policy with direct relevance to the lives of disabled people. The right to independent living in UK law may need to be strengthened further, and we call on the Government and other interested organisations to consider the need for a free-standing right to independent living in UK law.”
“The Government is meant to include disabled people in making sure people have their human rights upheld. We are concerned that a part of the Law on treating people equally and fairly (Equality Act section 149) does not say any more that disabled people should be involved. This is a step backwards.”
In other words, the Tory-led Coalition has quietly removed this part of the Equality Act.
The budget of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which was established by the Labour Party when they were drafting this flagship policy, is being reduced by over 60%, its staffing cut by 72%, and its powers restricted by the Coalition. Provisions that are being repealed by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (ERR) Bill include the duty on public authorities to have due regard to the need to reduce socio-economic inequalities.
Savage Legal aid cuts from April 2013 have also contributed significantly to creating further barriers to ensuring Equal Rights law protect us, and the Tory-driven Legal Aid Bill also contravenes our right to a fair trial under Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
This is not a coincidental multiple policy timeline, but rather a very coordinated political attack on potential legal challenges at a time when Tory-led severe and devastating multiple welfare and provision cuts have affected disabled people so disproportionately. The changes, which came into effect in April, will hit “the same group of disabled people over and over again”. 
Our political freedoms and human rights must not be subservient to Tory notions of economic success. Democracy is not about the private accumulation of wealth. It is about the wise use of the collective wealth for the common good of the public – that must extend to include ALL of our citizens. And a decent, civilised, democratic society supports its vulnerable members and upholds universal human rights.
We need to ask why our Government refuses to instigate or agree an inquiry into the substantial rise in deaths amongst sick and disabled people, as these deaths are so clearly a correlated consequence of this Government’s policies.
What kind of Government uses the media to scape-goat and stigmatise sick and disabled people, by lying and inventing statistics to “justify” the persecution of our most vulnerable citizens, and the withdrawal of their crucial lifelines and support?

One that does not value those lives, or regard them as having an equal worth with others.
I’m adding this comment from Samuel Miller, as it highlights his ongoing, excellent, valuable and much appreciated work with the United Nations on our behalf:

“A superlative piece, which I will bring to the attention of senior UN officials. Ahead of the September meeting of the Human Rights Council (see third paragraph of, I will shortly submit an inquiry request to the CRPD and Human Rights Council, petitioning them to open an investigation into Britain’s benefit-sanctioning regime. (At the request of Jorge Araya, UNCRPD Secretary, I am completing a bibliography of media articles on this subject, with particular focus on inappropriate sanctions.)
You already know my views on this matter:
My bibliographic assignment for the UNCRPD Secretary might be an indication that the UN has already opened an investigation into Britain’s benefit-sanctioning regime, but for the sake of certainty I’ll make that request myself.”
And further:  See my letter to High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, below. I included your superb article in my letter, Sue.
Subject: There is an urgent need for a UN investigation into the United Kingdom’s benefit-sanctioning regime
Samuel Miller 
Attachments3:58 PM 
High Commissioner Navi Pillay
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais Wilson
52 rue des Pâquis
CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland.
Dear Ms. Pillay,
I am a 57-year-old Disability Studies specialist and disability activist from Montreal, Canada who has been communicating frequently and voluntarily, since January 2012, to senior United Nations officials, on the welfare crisis for the United Kingdom’s sick and disabled.
(See attached, and the following:,, )

It is my understanding that a 22-page letter, pointing out that cuts to social security benefits introduced by Iain Duncan Smith and enforced by his Department for Work and Pensions on behalf of the Coalition government may constitute a breach of the UK’s international treaty obligations to the poor, will also be discussed at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in New York, in September. It is signed by Raquel Rolnik, the former UN special rapporteur on adequate housing; Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, the former UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty; and Olivier De Schutter, the former UN special rapporteur on the right to food.
Could you please add, as an addendum to that letter, my partial bibliography on Britain’s benefit-sanctioning regime, which is attached below in PDF format. My views can be found on page two; I am extremely concerned about the British government’s soaring use of benefit sanctions, and the evidence from MPs and the Work & Pensions Committee, which provides oversight of the Department for Work and Pensions, is especially compelling and strongly suggests that the government is stitching-up benefit claimants and is involved in a cover-up of that fact. The refusal of the government to agree to the Work & Pensions Committee’s request for an independent inquiry into this matter only compounds suspicion.
In closing, I would be most appreciative if the Human Rights Council and the OHCHR would open an investigation into this matter. This article ( is very worthy of your—and their—attention, as well.
I wish to congratulate you on your tenure as High Commissioner, and wish you every success in your future endeavors.
Warm regards
Samuel Miller " Go to:

Also see; "Lowest Common Denominator; Austerity's "Mugging" of The Mentally and Physically Disabled" (and the 10,600!) Go to:

Quote: "Publish the statistics showing how many people have died after their benefits were stopped

Posted by Gerard on June 27, 2015, 8:43 pm

Quote: "Ian Duncan Smith is attempting to block the publication of "death statistics" that will reveal how many people have died within six weeks of their benefits being stopped.

After a freedom of information request, The Information Commissioner’s Office has said that there is no reason not to publish these figures but Ian Duncan Smith's department - the Department of Work and Pensions - has launched an appeal to prevent the figures being made public.

I've started this petition to call on the Courts and Tribunal Service to dismiss this appeal and so prevent any further delay by the DWP in publishing these figures. Please support me.

For years there have been reports of people committing suicide or dying from ill-health soon after their benefits are stopped. As a partner of someone with a disability I have been through two benefit appeals and have also been a benefit tribunal representation - so I know from personal experience how stressful the system can be and the impact they have on families.

I believe the public needs to know the full impact of benefit changes.

In 2012 the Department of Work and Pensions published statistics which showed 10,600 people who had been receiving benefits died between January and November 2011. These figures caused an outcry, although many disabled campaigners disagreed over what the figures actually showed. Ministers then blocked publication of any updated figures.

Now, thanks to freelance journalist and carer, Mike Sivier, The Information Commissioner’s Office has admitted there is no reason not to publish them. This appeal is the last hurdle to overcome to get these figures out in the public.

Please support this petition to dismiss the appeal and publish the "death stats"." Go to: " Post to MediaLens Message Board.

Thursday 25 June 2015

Parliamentary Report Calls for Action on WiFi: Canada

Quote: "A committee of parliamentarians from all the major political parties have released a report describing safety risks from cellphones and Wi-Fi as "a serious public health issue" that warrants firm government action to help the public use "wireless devices in a manner that protects their health and the health of their families."
The report from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health issued 12 recommendations to the Government of Canada was released June 18. After hearing conflicting testimony from federal officials and numerous other witnesses over three days of hearings, the committee did not recommend Health Canada change the safety limits on radio frequency exposure. 
However, the 10-member committee suggests that an independent scientific body recognized by Health Canada examine "whether measures taken and guidelines provided in other countries, such as France and Israel, to limit the exposure of vulnerable populations, including infants, and young children in the school environment, to radiofrequencies should be adopted in Canada."
And, in a move that echoes concerns raised in recent committee hearing about the scientific rigour of Health Canada's guidelines, the committee also recommends Health Canada "conduct a comprehensive review of all existing literature relating to radiofrequency fields and carcinogenicity based on international best practices."
Health Canada should ensure the "openness and transparency of its processes" of this safety review, including "evidence considered or excluded," the report emphasises. 
Ensuring "outside experts are provided full information when doing independent reviews, and that the scientific rationale for any change is clearly communicated," should become a focus, the committee recommends.
The committee also suggests the Canadian Institutes of Health Research "consider funding research into the link between radiofrequency fields and potential health effects such as cancer, genetic damage, infertility, impairment to development and behaviour, harmful effects to eyes and on the brain, cardiovascular, biological and biochemical effects."
In addition, the federal government should "develop an awareness campaign relating to the safe use of wireless technologies, such as cell phones and Wi-Fi, in key environments such as the school and home" while considering "policy measures regarding the marketing of radiation emitting devices to children under the age of 14, in order to ensure they are aware of the health risks and how they can be avoided."
Dr. Anthony Miller, a University of Toronto professor emeritus who served as scientific secretary on a scientific review completed in May 2011 by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which concluded that cellphones and other wireless devices such as cordless phones and Wi-Fi transmitters are possibly — although not probably — carcinogenic said he was "very pleased with the outcome," of the committee review. 
"It will be interesting to see if Health Canada does anything," added Miller, who argued while testifying before the committee that new research overlooked by Health Canada "reinforces the evidence that radio frequency fields are not just a possible human carcinogen, but a probable human carcinogen."
Health Canada spokesman André Gagnon said "the Department thanks the committee members for their work and is currently reviewing the report. The Government of Canada will respond to the Committee's report in due course."" Go to:

Friday 19 June 2015

"Re: Did The British State Collude with Northern Irish Terrorists"

Quote: "Did the British state collude with Northern Irish terrorists?

Posted by Will on June 18, 2015, 1:26 pm

Washington Post picked up on that documentary I posted below.

A new documentary asks: Did the British state collude with Northern Irish terrorists?

This week British Prime Minister David Cameron will meet his Irish counterpart, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, in London to discuss matters such as the current political deadlock in Ireland and the potential British exit from the European Union. Yet the talk may not only deal with the future or the present: "Legacy issues" are also due to be discussed by the pair.

According to the Irish Times, this is currently understood to refer to British government documents about the 1974 bombings in Dublin and Monaghan that left 34 dead. The Ulster Volunteer Force, a loyalist paramilitary group from Northern Ireland, claimed responsibility for that attack in the 1990s, but there have long been suspicions that British security forces had also colluded in the plot.

There are many that hope, however, that the discussion of alleged British state collusion with loyalist paramilitaries during the Troubles that raged in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s to the late 1990s will go much further than that. And a damning new documentary, aired on Monday evening by semi-state broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTE), has only added further to that.

RTE's "Collusion," which you can watch in full here, contains a remarkable number of allegations, including that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (the police force in Northern Ireland until it was dissolved in 2001), had a unit that worked with various loyalist paramilitary groups to attack Nationalist and Republican leaders, and that sections of the British Army were passing on weapons, expertise, and intelligence on to groups who then used it for attacks.

"If ordinary Catholics were shot, nobody was too worried about it," John Weir, a former RUC sergeant, says at the start of the documentary. Weir later says that "security services, army intelligence, special branch" were linked to the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and that many were fearful (or perhaps hopeful) of an all-out civil war breaking out.

Remarkably, the accusations of collusion included in the documentary go right up to the 1990s. "Collusion" even reveals how official concerns about the links between the British state and paramilitary groups were raised with British Prime Minister Edward Heath and his successor Margaret Thatcher, but they were dismissed. However, declassified documents "now show the British government was well-aware of collusion," the documentary says.

As shocking "Collusion" is, these allegations aren't totally new. Some of Weir's allegations were included in a 2003 report by former Irish Supreme Court judge Henry Barron. That report investigated the Dublin-Monaghan bombing and concluded that "there are grounds for suspecting that the bombers may have had assistance from members of the security forces."

A 2013 book by Anna Cadwallader, "Lethal Allies," took a detailed look at the links the RUC and the British army had with loyalist paramilitary forces. "It can be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that there was systemic collusion in these cases," Cadwallader said in an interview with the Guardian.

And just earlier this year, the BBC's Panorama published its own investigation into alleged collusion. "They were running informants and their argument was that they were saving lives, but hundreds and hundreds of people died because these people were not brought to justice," Baroness Nuala O'Loan, Northern Ireland's first police ombudsman, told Panorama, adding that this practice allowed impunity for "killers" and even "serial killers."

Even so, RTE's documentary caused a huge stir on Twitter, with many surprised it had taken this long for the documentary to be made. Now the Pat Finucane Center, named after a human rights lawyer killed by a loyalist group acting with the help of British security forces, and others have publicly called for an independent inquiry into British collusion.

"We must ensure that there is adequate accountability for the past so that these dirty tactics are never utilised again," Yasmine Ahmed, director of Rights Watch UK, said in a statement.

Whether this will happen is anyone's guess – Ireland and Britain may well want to focus on the economic matters of the present and the future rather than the more troubling past. And given the huge cost and slow progress of Britain's Chillcot Inquiry, which looked into the British role in the Iraq war and still has not had its findings released, Cameron may hesitate to look even deeper into the murkier moments of Britain's history.

Re: Did the British state collude with Northern Irish terrorists?

Posted by Gerard on June 19, 2015, 8:41 am, in reply to "Did the British state collude with Northern Irish terrorists?"

Yes, yes, yes of-course it "goes further"..Have you read Stalker or Stephen Dorril*? The involvement of the former S.O.E administration (like Airey Neave)? The direct response of American Republicanism to Democrat investment in the nationalist cause provided a neat "back-door" into the British establishment (through the loyalist paramilitaries and "lodges"), for The "Illumi-nutty" (re: "American Dad", do see that episode it does indeed involve Mr.J.Carter). "The Mull" was just the tightening-of-the screw, we".. (the British).. "are not "equal partners" in the relationship, both "old" and "new" money in America has always longed for nothing more than the subservience of our Monarchy because? Because it fulfills America's Manifest Exceptional Social-Darwinian Utilitarian Destiny! They have never wished for anything more than to be able to say to Elizabeth; "Maam with these Ferrero Roche you are spoiling us!" as she serves them in her "pinny"!

* He's worth a read.. " All posts to MediaLens message board.

Also see; "Wicked Leeks!" Go to:

Saturday 13 June 2015

"Weekend World"

"World in Action"

Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran and The Bomb.

Quote: "
Saudi Arabia’s Yemen Offensive, Iran’s ‘Proxy’ Strategy, and the Middle East’s New ‘Cold War’

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

Riyadh’s war in Yemen marks a dramatic escalation in its efforts to roll back Iran’s rising influence in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia portrays its Yemen campaign simply as a battle of “good” Arabs and Sunnis supporting Yemen’s legitimate government against “evil” Iranians trying to overthrow it via local Shi’a “proxies”—reiterating a generalized Saudi (and Israeli) narrative about Iran’s use of proxy allies to consolidate regional “hegemony.” More considered analysis shows that Iran’s “proxy” ties are part of an effective strategy to expand political participation in contested regional venues. While Saudi Arabia (like Israel) considers this a mortal threat, it is essential to effective conflict resolution. Riyadh’s intensely sectarian response—including its Yemen war—now fuels what some call a new Saudi-Iranian/Sunni’- Shi’a “Cold War” in the Middle East.

Riyadh’s increasingly destructive war in Yemen has sparked overripe discussion in Western capitals about Iran’s use of “proxies” to subvert otherwise “legitimate” Middle Eastern governments. Driving such discussion is a self-serving narrative, promoted by Israel as well as by Saudi Arabia, about Tehran’s purported quest to “destabilize” and, ultimately, “take over” the region.

Assessments of this sort have, of course, been invoked to justify—and elicit Western support for—Saudi intervention in Yemen. More broadly, the Israeli-Saudi narrative about Iranian ambitions is framed to prevent the United States from concluding a nuclear deal with Tehran—or, failing that, to keep Washington from using a deal as a springboard for comprehensively realigning U.S.-Iranian relations.

Determination to forestall Iran’s international normalization by hyping its “hegemonic” regional agenda was on lurid display in Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s much-watched March 3, 2015 address to the U.S. Congress. As Netanyahu warned his audience,

“Backed by Iran, Shiite militias are rampaging through Iraq. Backed by Iran, Houthis are seizing Yemen, threatening the strategic straits at the mouth of the Red Sea…Iran is busy gobbling up the Middle East.”

Two days after Netanyahu spoke in Washington, then-Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisaloffered Riyadh’s version of this narrative, stressing Iran’s “interference in affairs of Arab countries.” With U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry beside him, Saud recapitulated a reading of Tehran’s regional strategy regularly expounded by Saudi elites:

“We are, of course, worried about atomic energy and atomic bombs. But we’re equally concerned about nature of action and hegemonistic tendencies that Iran has in the region. These elements are the elements of instability in the region. We see Iran involved in Syria and Lebanon and Yemen and Iraq…Iran is taking over [Iraq]… It promotes terrorism and occupies lands. These are not the features of countries which want peace and seek to improve relations with neighboring countries.”

Given all that is at stake in the Middle East, it is important to look soberly at claims by Israel, Saudi Arabia, and their surrogates about Iran “gobbling up” the region. Sober evaluation starts by thinking through, in a fact-based way, how Iranian strategy—including its “proxy” component—actually works. It also entails dispassionate examination of what really concerns Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states about Iran’s regional role.

Playing Defense

Since the 1979 revolution that ended monarchical rule in Iran and created the Islamic Republic, Iranian strategy has been fundamentally defensive. Unlike other Middle Eastern powers—or the United States, for that matter—the Islamic Republic has never attacked another state or even threatened to do so.

The revolutionaries who ousted the last shah promised to restore Iran’s real sovereignty after a century and a half of rule by puppet regimes beholden to external powers. From the Islamic Republic’s founding, its leaders have viewed the United States—the world’s superpower, whose ambitions to consolidate a highly militarized, pro-American political and security order in the Middle East condition it to oppose independent power centers there—as the biggest threat to fulfilling this revolutionary commitment. After the United States, Iranian policymakers have seen Israel—a U.S. ally with aspirations to military dominance in its neighborhood—as a serious threat to the Islamic Republic’s security and strategic position. Tehran has also been deeply concerned about Saudi Arabia leveraging its ties to Washington to advance its intensely anti-Iranian agenda—including the arming and funding of violently anti-Shi’a groups like al-Qa’ida and the Taliban.

The Islamic Republic’s leaders have designed its foreign policy and national security strategy to preserve Iran’s territorial and political integrity in the face of these threats. The aim is not to establish Iran’s regional hegemony; it is to prevent any other regional or extra-regional power from attaining hegemony over Iran’s strategic environment. Even the U.S. Defense Department acknowledges the defensive character of Iranian strategy; as a recent Pentagon report puts it, “Iran’s military doctrine is defensive. It is designed to deter an attack, survive an initial strike, retaliate against an aggressor, and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities while avoiding any concessions that challenge its core interests.”

Leaving aside intentions, there is the more objective matter of the Islamic Republic’s capabilities to perpetrate aggression in its regional neighborhood. Simply put, Iran today has effectively no capacity to project significant conventional military power beyond its borders.

To be sure, the revolutionaries who took power in 1979 inherited the last shah’s U.S.-built military. But Washington cut off logistical and technical support shortly after the revolution—a debilitating measure exacerbated by an embargo on military transfers from most other countries as the fledgling Islamic Republic fought off, from 1980 to 1988, a (U.S.-and Saudi-backed) war of aggression by Saddam Husayn’s Iraq. After the war, Iran shifted resources from the military into reconstruction and development, reducing its conventional military capabilities to marginal levels. Today, the United States spends almost seventy times more on its military than Iran does. Saudi Arabia, with one-quarter Iran’s population, spends over five times as much; the GCC collectively spends eight times as much.

Cultivating “Proxies”

Given these realities, assertions that the Islamic Republic poses an offensive threat to its neighbors are baseless; to borrow a phrase from the U.S. Army, Iran won’t be parking its tanks in anybody’s front yard anytime soon. To protect Iran’s territorial and political integrity, the Islamic Republic has developed increasingly robust capabilities for asymmetric defense and deterrence that it can credibly threaten to use in response to aggression against it. Among these capabilities are ballistic missiles armed with conventional explosives and a range of interrelated systems—anti-ship missiles, submarines, mine-laying systems, and large numbers of small “fast attack” boats—to disrupt Persian Gulf shipping, including both U.S. warships and vessels transporting oil.

Even with such capabilities, threats to the Islamic Republic’s security and independence are magnified by what military planners call “lack of strategic depth.” Iran today has land, maritime, and littoral borders with fifteen states. None is a natural ally; most have been hostile to the idea of an Islamic republic in Iran. Many of the Islamic Republic’s neighbors and other states in its regional environment are also susceptible to co-optation as anti-Iranian platforms by America, Israel, and/or Saudi Arabia. To compensate, Tehran has cultivated ties to sympathetic constituencies in other states open to cooperation with the Islamic Republic.

The Islamic Republic has made a point of aligning with constituencies systematically marginalized by their countries’ existing power structures: Shi’a majorities in Iraq and Bahrain; Lebanon’s Shi’a plurality; Shi’a and anti-Taliban Sunnis in Afghanistan; Zaidis in Yemen; Iraqi Kurds; occupied Palestinians. By helping such communities organize to press their grievances more effectively, Tehran creates options for influencing on-the-ground developments in contested venues across the Islamic Republic’s strategic environment.

For more than three decades, Tehran’s proxy partnerships have helped it push back against hostile initiatives—e.g., U.S. military intervention in Lebanon, Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon, Saudi-backed expansion of Taliban control in Afghanistan, Saddam’s antagonism toward the Islamic Republic, U.S. occupation of Iraq—that threatened Iran’s strategic position. They have also enabled Tehran to reduce the chances that nearby states—Lebanon, Afghanistan, post-Saddam Iraq, Bahrain (where America’s Fifth Fleet is based)—will again be used as platforms to attack the Islamic Republic or otherwise undermine its security and independence.

Over time, these payoffs from the proxy component of the Islamic Republic’s regional strategy are amplified by Iranian allies’ political gains. Given the chance, Iran’s partners have repeatedly shown themselves capable of winning elections in their local settings, and winning them for the right reasons: because they represent unavoidable constituencies with legitimate grievances. Tehran doesn’t manufacture its partners by paying people as mercenaries. It didn’t create Iraq’s Shi’a majority, or Bahrain’s; it didn’t create Lebanon’s Shi’a plurality, occupied Palestinians, or the Zaidis in Yemen. But Iranian support for these communities means that any expansion in political participation in their countries empowers Tehran’s allies.

Stoking a New Middle Eastern “Cold War”

It is this aspect of Iranian strategy that most alarms Saudi Arabia, some other GCC states, and Israel. Today, neither Saudi Arabia nor Israel truly represents most of those it governs. Neither can endorse more participatory politics in the region; neither can endorse proliferation of regional states genuinely committed to foreign policy independence. This also means that neither can exercise positive political influence to facilitate conflict resolution in contested regional arenas; on their own, Israel and Saudi Arabia can only make things worse.

This is why, when U.S. forces invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam in 2003, Saudi Arabia played a critical role in funding and organizing Sunni insurgents there, in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to forestall a more representative political order which Iraq’s Shi’a majority would inevitably dominate. This is also why Riyadh viewed the outbreak of the Arab Awakening in late 2010—which Tehran welcomed—as a mortal threat. The Saudi response has been:

–to undermine Sunni movements, like the Muslim Brotherhood, prepared to compete for power in elections;

–to build up violent jihadi groups, including groups that have aligned with al-Qa’ida and coalesced into the Islamic State, as alternatives to the Brotherhood; and

–to co-opt popular demands for reform by coercively intervening—including through jihadi proxies—in Libya, Syria, and now Yemen, with disastrous humanitarian and political consequences.

As it has done these things, Riyadh has reframed political struggles around the region in starkly sectarian, anti-Iranian/anti-Shi’a terms. This is especially striking vis-à-vis the Syrian conflict. Saudi intervention in Syria ensured that jihadis — many non-Syrian—dominate opposition ranks, killing any potential Brotherhood role in leading anti-Assad forces. It also turned what began as indigenous protests over particular grievances into a heavily militarized (and illegal) campaign against a UN member state’s recognized government—but with a popular base too small either to bring down that government or to negotiate a settlement with it.

In the process, Saudi Arabia has exploited Tehran’s support for Syria’s government to swing the balance of opinion in Sunni publics—which had increasingly seen the Islamic Republic as championing more participatory politics and resistance to U.S. and Israeli hegemony—against Iran. The turn in Sunni attitudes gives Riyadh political cover to double down on supporting violent jihadis—as with Saudi backing for a new “Conflict Army,” organized around the al-Qa’ida-affiliated Jabhat an-Nusra, that recently captured a major Syrian city.

Deconstructing the Yemen War

These dynamics are fueling a new Saudi-Iranian/Sunni-Shi’a “Cold War” in the Middle East; Saudi military action has made Yemen an important battleground in this wider contest. In Yemen, Tehran has followed its established strategic template of helping an unavoidable constituency with legitimate grievances—the Houthis and Ansar Allah, based in the country’s non-Sunni Zaidi community—organize to press for a meaningful share of power. And the roots of Riyadh’s current campaign against the Houthis go back to the Arab Awakening’s early days.

Following the ouster of Tunisian’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, peaceful mass protests calling for the removal of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh broke out in Sana’a and other Yemeni cities. Ansar Allah—which had been prosecuting a relatively successful revolt in north Yemen against Saleh’s rule before agreeing to a ceasefire in 2010—endorsed the demonstrations; it also joined other anti-Saleh groups in a so-called National Dialogue, set up to lay the foundations for a more representative and regionally federalized political order.

As pressure for change mounted, Saudi Arabia—determined to perpetuate the Zaidis’ marginalization—set out to thwart Yemenis’ manifest desire to replace Saleh’s autocracy with more representative and participatory political structures. In particular, Riyadh worked to block implementation of the National Dialogue agenda by engineering Saleh’s replacement by his then-vice president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. To this end, the Saudis upped financial support to intensely sectarian Sunni salafi groups while undercutting the more moderate, Muslim Brotherhood-related Islah party—including by designating Islah as a terrorist group. These steps ensured that no Sunni party was empowered to work with Ansar Allah and the Houthis to stand up a new, more representative political order; in the end, Hadi was the only candidate on the ballot for Yemen’s February 2012 presidential election. Riyadh also worked to exclude Iran from the group of regional states ostensibly set up to help Yemen chart its political future.

Faced with these provocations, Ansar Allah and the Houthis renewed their military campaign against the central government in late 2011; their military gains accelerated over the next two and a half years. Hadi’s provisional term expired in 2014, two years after his February 2012 election. By that point, support for Hadi had crumbled—in no small part because of popular perceptions that he was a U.S. puppet collaborating with America’s ongoing “counter-terrorism” campaign in Yemen, including high-profile drone strikes killing large numbers of civilians. In early 2015, Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia. Left with no political options for imposing its preferences on Yemen, Riyadh launched military operations in March 2015, appealing not only to its Western backers for support but also to Sunni publics to back its leadership of a millennial holy war against infidel Shi’a.

Defusing Crises

Ansar Allah says it wants to realize the vision of the National Dialogue, but lacks sufficient support across Yemen to do this on its own. Tehran, for its part, has long recognized that there ultimately has to be a political solution in Yemen, based on a negotiated settlement among the country’s disparate regional, tribal, and sectarian elements. Since the start of the Saudi military campaign, the Islamic Republic has stressed the need for a negotiated resolution to the conflict—just as it has consistently held that a political settlement is the only way to end the conflict in Syria. It is Riyadh that rejects negotiation—regarding Yemen or Syria—unless it can, in effect, dictate outcomes in advance. In Yemen, as in Syria, Saudi actions are now enabling al-Qa’ida to make territorial gains.

Looking ahead, creating a genuinely more stable Middle East will require wider recognition of how dangerous the Saudi-stoked “Cold War”* really is, and how much more damage it could do to an already severely stressed region. It will also require deeper appreciation of Iran’s regional importance, and of the indispensability of its influence to putting the Middle East on a more positive long-term trajectory.

# # # #

Click here to learn about “Going to Tehran,” co-authored by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett. This article originally appeared at the “Going to Tehran” website and is reprinted with permission." Go to:

*This doesn't look so "Cold" to me (whether conventional or nuclear); italics mine....

Quote: ""Why Saudi Arabia can’t get a nuclear weapon" The Washington Post

Of the many unnerving aspects of the future of the Middle East, a nuclear arms race would top the list. And to feed that unease, Saudi Arabia has been periodically dropping hints that, should Iran’s nuclear ambitions go unchecked, it might just have to get nuclear weapons itself. This week, the Saudi ambassador to London made yet another explicit threat, warning that “all options will be on the table.”

Oh, please! Saudi Arabia isn’t going to build a nuclear weapon. Saudi Arabia can’t build a nuclear weapon. Saudi Arabia hasn’t even built a car. (By 2017, after much effort, the country is expected to manufacture its first automobile.)
Fareed Zakaria writes a foreign affairs column for The Post. He is also the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and a contributing editor for The Atlantic.
Saudi Arabia can dig holes in the ground and pump out oil but little else. Oil revenue is about 45 percent of its gross domestic product, a staggeringly high figure, much larger than petro-states such as Nigeria and Venezuela. It makes up almost 90 percent of the Saudi government’s revenue. Despite decades of massive government investment, lavish subsidies and cheap energy, manufacturing is less than 10 percent of Saudi GDP.

Where would Saudi Arabia train the scientists to work on its secret program? The country’s education system is backward and dysfunctional, having been largely handed over to its puritanical and reactionary religious establishment. The country ranks 73rd in the quality of its math and science education, according to the World Economic Forum — abysmally low for a rich country. Iran, despite 36 years of sanctions and a much lower per capita GDP, fares far better at 44.

And who would work in Saudi Arabia’s imagined nuclear industry? In a penetrating book, Karen Elliott House, formerly of the Wall Street Journal, describes the Saudi labor market: “One of every three people in Saudi Arabia is a foreigner. Two out of every three people with a job of any sort are foreign. And in Saudi Arabia’s anemic private sector, fully nine out of ten people holding jobs are non-Saudi. . . . Saudi Arabia, in short, is a society in which all too many men do not want to work at jobs for which they are qualified; in which women by and large aren’t allowed to work; and in which, as a result, most of the work is done by foreigners.”

None of this is to suggest that the kingdom is in danger of collapse. Far from it. The regime’s finances are strong, though public spending keeps rising and oil revenue has been declining. The royal family has deftly used patronage, politics, religion and repression to keep the country stable and quiescent. But that has produced a system of stagnation for most, with a gilded elite surfing on top with almost unimaginable sums of money.

Saudi Arabia’s increased assertiveness has been portrayed as strategic. In fact, it is a panicked and emotional response to Iran, fueled in no small measure by long-standing anti-Shiite bigotry. It is pique masquerading as strategy. In October 2013, after having spent years and millions of dollars campaigning for a seat on the U.N. Security Council, it abruptly declined the post at the last minute, signaling that it was annoyed at U.S. policy in its region.

Its most recent international activism, the air campaign in Yemen, has badly backfired. Bruce Riedel, a former top White House aide, says that damage to civilians and physical infrastructure “has created considerable bad blood between Yemenis and their rich Gulf neighbors that will poison relations for years. Yemenis always resented their rich brothers, and now many will want revenge.” He notes that the air campaign is being directed by the new defense minister, the king’s 29-year-old son, who has no experience in military affairs or much else.

But couldn’t Saudi Arabia simply buy a nuclear bomb? That’s highly unlikely. Any such effort would have to take place secretly, under the threat of sanctions, Western retaliation and interception. Saudi Arabia depends heavily on foreigners and their firms to help with its energy industry, build its infrastructure, buy its oil and sell it goods and services. Were it isolated like Iran or North Korea, its economic system would collapse.

It is often claimed that Pakistan would sell nukes to the Saudis. And it’s true that the Saudis have bailed out Pakistan many times. But the government in Islamabad is well aware that such a deal could make it a pariah and result in sanctions. It is unlikely to risk that, even to please its sugar daddy in Riyadh. In April, Pakistan refused repeated Saudi pleas to join the air campaign in Yemen.

So let me make a prediction: Whatever happens with Iran’s nuclear program, 10 years from now Saudi Arabia won’t have nuclear weapons. Because it can’t." Go to:
Why would one choose to be disingenuous?