There are signs that all is not lost. Humanity continues to be vigilant, listening to our better angels.
Listening to Our Better Angels
By Polly Mann WAMM Newsletter
December 2017/January 2018 (Volume 35 Number 7)
As the old year passes and the new one begins, it’s easy to become discouraged over the the fact that the $700 billion U.S. military spending bill allocates more money than ever before, enabling war and weapons to proliferate. But there are signs that all is not lost. Humanity continues to be vigilant, listening to our better angels. Polly Mann cites some examples here:
No Non-human Combatants
Is there a group of human beings so evil that they don’t deserve human rights? The International Red Cross [ICRC] does not think so. In an October 27 New York Times article, ICRC Deputy Director for Middle East Patrick Hamilton is quoted as saying that even ISIS members (known also as ISIL, IS, and Daesh) are entitled to human rights: “There are emotive, difficult issues but the law does provide a sober mechanism for dealing with all this.”
If you look at the International Red Cross blog, you will see that the organization is highly concerned about “rhetoric that ‘dehumanizes’ and ‘demonizes’ the enemy or suggests that a particular adversary is ‘outside the bounds of humanity’ and can be treated ‘as if humanitarian law doesn’t apply.’” On the issue of foreign fighters and their families leaving Iraq and Syria, the ICRC director said: “Such language, which could appear to justify war crimes or illegal treatment of detainees, has become more common on all sides of the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.” He went on to state that this situation “had gotten so common that the Red Cross felt it necessary to remind all combatants that international humanitarian law requires due process and humane treatment of detainees without exception.” The ICRC addressed the United Nations General Assembly with the message.
To see that all are treated fairly and humanely, the Red Cross visited 44,000 detainees in Iraq in 2017. And, what of the hapless persons accused of guilt by association with suspects? The Red Cross is currently providing humanitarian assistance to 1,300 women and children from around 20 nationalities detained in Mosul as suspected relatives of ISIL fighters. The Red Cross is also setting up an office in northeastern Syria to work on such issues.
People from Nuclear Nations Protest Bombs
Beginning last March 26th, nuclear disarmament activists protested for 20 weeks against the presence of the 20 U.S. thermonuclear gravity bombs at the Luftwaffe’s Büchel Air Base in Germany. In July, U.S. peace activists from seven states and Washington, D.C., joined an international coalition which included citizens from Russia, China, Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Germany, as well as Mexico (Mexico being the only one in this list not to host nuclear weapons). The U.S. is pursuing production of a new bomb core, the B61-12, to replace the 20 B61 that already exist. The new weapons are far more powerful than those unleashed on Japan in World War II. The Pentagon calls the planned program “modernization” in order to skirt the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty’s prohibitions against new nuclear weapons.
But antinuclear activists will not give up and are planning another protest at Büchel in 2018.
ACTION: Join the WAMM Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons! You can help by asking your friends, relatives, neighbors, book club, religious or community organization to sign a petition and then return it to the WAMM office so that we can deliver them to Minnesota congressional representatives. Petitions available from the WAMM office. Call 612-827-5364 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org, or (by U.S. mail): 4200 Cedar Avenue S., Suite 3, Minneapolis, MN 55407 to have one or more copies mailed to you.
Polly Mann is a co-founder of WAMM and frequent contributor to the WAMM Newsletter.
Father Time Flies, Leaving Challenges for the New Year
By WAMM Newsletter Staff WAMM Newsletter December 2017/January 2018 (Volume 35 Number 7)
ISIS in Southeast Asia: The Sequel It would appear that terrorism has spread into Southeast Asia with no signs of warning. However, the sudden uptick in violence comes at a time when America’s so-called ‘pivot to Asia’ has ground to a complete halt, providing the United States with an all-too-convenient pretext to reengage and establish itself across the region in a much more insidious manner…Most recently Washington found its relationship with Manila unraveling irrevocably in favor of Manila’s increasing ties with Beijing. This was until the fortuitous arrival of militants from the so-called ‘Islamic State’ on the nation’s shores…—“U.S. to Fight U.S.-Saudi Sponsored Terrorism in Asia,” New Eastern Outlook, Tony Cartalucci, September 8, 2017
It Was Only a Technical Issue? U.S. Special Forces are helping the Philippine Military retake the southern city of Marawi from IS-linked militants, the Philippine army says. The forces are providing technical help and are not fighting. BBC News, June 10, 2017
The Rohingya: There Had to Be More: Eighty percent of China’s needed oil and much of its trade passes through the Malacca Straits–a narrow choke-point between Indonesia and Singapore–and into the increasingly tense South China Sea. U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups stationed there could easily blockade this movement of needed resources… China’s development programs are aimed at diversifying and finding ways around a direct confrontation with U.S. military power. China is building a deep-sea port, industrial park, and gas and oil pipelines at Kyauk Pyu in Myanmar on the Bay of Bengal. This would provide China with an alternative route for energy imports from the Middle East that avoids the Malacca Straits…. All countries of the region, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, and China have every interest in a peaceful reconciliation for the Rohingya people. The region needs coordinated development, not the enormous disruption of war. — “Why U.S. and Saudi Arabia back Rohingya in Myanmar.” Sara Flounder, Workers World. October 30, 2017
Hands Off These Lands Following President Trump’s unlawful attempt to repeal Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments, the federal public lands and significant cultural, paleontological, and wilderness resources in those monuments will be left exposed to oil, gas, and coal leasing and development, as well as the location and development of new hard rock mining claims (e.g., uranium). — Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, suwa.org, December 4, 2017
Will It Be Rapprochement? A constructive relationship with Russia is very much needed to address many international problems, including but not limited to terrorism, securing nuclear materials, and resolving long-running conflicts. We have seen hints of what that cooperation can achieve in recent years with the Iran nuclear deal and the new arms reduction treaty with Russia, both of which required sustained diplomatic engagement. In order to repair ties with Russia, our government will need to make a similar effort over the long term, with Washington refraining from taking further provocative actions…A good place for the Trump administration to start would be to reject the plan to send arms to Ukraine. Such a policy would be unwise in itself—and disastrous for any chance at improving America’s relationship with Russia. — “Is Rapprochement Still Possible?” —Daniel Larison, The American Conservative, December 7, 2017
Or Russiaphobia? The bill passed by Congress contains several provisions specifically targeting Russia. It restricts military cooperation with Russia, prohibits the United States from recognizing Russia’s legal right to the disputed Crimea peninsula, and requires the military to “develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to counter threats by the Russian Federation.” “Imperfecto: Trump objects to Russia provisions as he signs $700 billion defense bill,” —Gregory Korte, USA Today, December 12, 2017
Stop Vultures Preying on Puerto Rico Long before the hurricane, Puerto Rico was in crisis. For more than a decade, the island has been under enormous economic pressure. Puerto Rico has been at the mercy of so-called “vulture funds” — Wall Street hedge funds that wait until a borrower is in trouble to buy up their debt at a steep discount… We’re using every tool in the toolbox to push the Trump Administration and Congress to step up. And we’re working with Puerto Rican leaders to do everything we can to hold back the creditors and make sure the federal relief aid goes to the people — not the hedge funds. — Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has been calling for discharge of Puerto Rico’s debt from 2015 through 2017.
ACTION: Join the weekly Vigil to End the Occupation of Palestine. Every Friday, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the corner of Summit and Snelling, St. Paul.
ACTION: See Philippines, Amnesty International amnesty.org