Without Mercy: Sanctions and Militarism in the Time of Pandemic

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s call for a global ceasefire:

The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war. It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown….. Put aside mistrust and animosity. Silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes. End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.

Afghanistan: Unimaginable Suffering and Kindness 

By Kathy Kelly  WAMM Newsletter  Summer 2020  Vol. 38  Num. 3

In late May, as Afghans ended the Ramadan month of fasting, a three-day truce was declared between fighting forces. Earlier that month, a particularly savage assault in Kabul had shaken people. On May 12th, three militants stormed a maternity center in Kabul. 24 people were killed, among them eighteen mothers, several nurses and two newborns. By the end of that day, across Afghanistan, an estimated 100 people had lost their lives. “What is crushing Afghans,” Mujib Mashal wrote for The New York Times, “is not just the sheer brutality of the attacks with newborn babies soaked in blood and deprived of mothers before they have even gotten a name, but the failure of anything to bring a reprieve.”

Marzia, a young woman who helps coordinate the Afghan Peace Volunteers, studies midwifery at Kabul University. In early May, she had just recovered from a bad bout with COVID-19 and looked forward to returning to the maternity wards. Marzia’s raw anguish, following the May 12th attack, came in the form of prayer as she wrote that only God could understand her.

“What kind of human would do this?” asked an outraged person on twitter, following the attack on the hospital. I shuddered, remembering my own experience standing outside a maternity center in Baghdad, in 1998, after a U.S. attack had shattered almost all of the hospital’s windows, terrifying mothers who were in labor. And I thought of a more recent U.S. drone attack on unarmed laborers who rested after a full day of work harvesting pine nuts in the Nangarhar province. The attack killed 32 people and wounded more than forty.

Our young friends in Kabul never seek protection from U.S. forces, nor do they turn to their government for security or to help meet basic needs. After the COVID-19 virus led to a shutdown in Kabul, they scrambled to assemble rations of cooking oil, rice, and beans for distribution to 100 needy families whom they’ve gotten to know through their Street Kids School. They wholeheartedly agree with

Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence is an international peace activist who has visited Afghanistan many times and has worked alongside the Afghan Youth Volunteers in Kabul.

Various Contributors as noted.
WAMM Newsletter
 Summer 2020  Vol. 38  Num. 3

Syria: New Sanctions, Lies, and Looting   

As of June 17, the U.S. has placed additional draconian sanctions on Syria through the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, a piece of legislation named after a military defector who claimed that 55,000 photos of deceased Syrians were victims of detention and torture by the Syrian government. Antiwar proponents and journalists believe otherwise, and there is research to prove that though the photos are real, they actually depict casualties of war.

Independent journalist Eva Bartlett, with years of reporting on the ground in Syria and the Middle East, laments the Caesar Act: “an implementation of yet further brutal sanctions against the people of Syria, it will cause immense suffering, all under the premise of targeting Syria’s leadership and helping Syria’s people. The flawed and hypocritical logic is one which the U.S. has applied to tens of nations who have refused to cower to its hegemony.”

Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Bashar Al-Jaafari, challenged the hypocrisy:

When the United States publicly steals 200,000 barrels of oil from the Syrian oil fields on a daily basis, and 40,000 tons of cotton, and burns thousands of hectares of wheat fields, steals five million livestock, and prides itself on ‘dividing Syria’ and weakening the value of the Syrian pound intentionally, when coercive economic measures are imposed aimed at strangling the Syrian people, occupying parts of the Syrian lands, and protecting their Turkish partner who occupies other lands, and when the United States representative, despite all of this, talks about her administration’s concern about the deteriorating living conditions of the Syrian citizen, and attributes this deterioration to what you call ‘the system,’ the legitimate question here becomes, are these not symptoms of political schizophrenia? Does this not indicate an acute illness?

Interview with journalist Basma Quaddour. Voices from Syria. June 21, 2020. tinyurl.com/y9ams7h3

Iraq and Iran: The U.S. Doubles Down Again

How has the pandemic affected Iraq? From October 2019 through February 2020, amazing actions had taken place across Iraq as a new generation of young men and women conducted peaceful demonstrations and sit-ins protesting against the corruption of the Iraq government and its failure to provide adequate government services including utilities.  Unfortunately, this went almost unnoticed in mainstream Western media. Protests stopped with the pandemic. In Iraq, we watch the news each day with dismay. How can this country [the U.S.], this president [Trump] stoop so very low as to blame China for the virus, rather than cooperate during a worldwide pandemic? Instead, Trump continues to villainize other nations. U.S policy toward Iran is another example: the U.S. administration issues threatens and refuses to loosen the sanctions In fact, it has issued a new round amidst Iran’s high incidents of the virus. Secretary of State Pompeo claimed that humanitarian items have been allowed in, but that isn’t true. The sanctions prevent international financial transactions and shipping – and that prevents medicine and medical equipment from entering Iran.

The U.S. administration deliberately and premeditatedly distorts Islamic-Arab culture throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to justify waging war against the populations, occupy the countries, and steal the natural resources, such as oil. At the same time, Muslim visitors continue to be banned from entering the U.S.

In general, violence in Iraq is a consequence of the American occupation which began in 2003. From time to time, some local militia forces have launched rockets into American bases and the American embassy in Baghdad to get American forces to leave Iraq, which has not resulted in the U.S. leaving but has resulted in the deaths of some soldiers and innocent people on both sides.

There is no doubt that the proposal for a global cease-fire called for by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and endorsed by Pope Francis would have an immediate positive impact and end the state of wars and violence in the Middle East.

Email correspondence from Sami Rasouli in Iraq. He is the founder and director of the Muslim Peacemaker Team in Najaf.

Venezuela: Friends and Foes

Few people have died from the coronavirus because the aggressive and immediate handling of the pandemic by the government has worked in slowing the spread. In the spirit of cooperation, Venezuela also accepted help from outside the country. China shipped medical supplies and tests.  Thirty thousand Cuban doctors and medical personnel went door to door with their Venezuelan colleagues to identify people with the virus. Iran sent five tankers with gasoline to Venezuela.  (The oil-rich South American country is in need, as its own production facilities were hampered by U.S.-imposed sanctions.)

Instead of cutting back on human needs, the government of Maduro has continued to build affordable housing, increase the minimum wage, and distribute food monthly to the majority of Venezuelan families.

As the attention of the U.S. public is diverted and focused on fighting the COVID pandemic, the Trump administration had been using this time to escalate military aggression against Venezuela.  His administration placed a $15 million bounty on the head of President Maduro and several members of Maduro’s administration.  Days later Trump sent warships into the Caribbean on bogus charges that the Venezuelan government is involved in drug trafficking. Heavily armed mercenaries –  in what has come to be called “the Bay of Piglets” –  failed on three different missions to invade the country and advance to Miraflores, the presidential palace, to capture President Maduro and overthrow the government.  The evidence is clear and growing that U.S. fingerprints are all over these fiascos.

Make no mistake, the vast majority of the Venezuelan people support their president and the Bolivarian Revolution and are committed to remaining a free and sovereign nation. [The Bolivian Revolution is the social/political movement with which Venezuela has been governed from the time of Hugo Chavez through the present with President Enrico Maduro. It was inspired by anti-colonialist leader Simón Bolivar, “El Libertador,” who led Latin American independence from the Spanish empire.]

#No War  #NO Coups  #End Sanctions  #Hands off Venezuela

Sarah Martin, a peace activist and member of the WAMM Board, has traveled to Venezuela multiple times in the last few years, listening to locals and government officials about conditions.

Chile in the Time of Pandemic

The politics of disaster: While most U.S media attention focuses on the effects of COVID-19 in the U.S. and to a lesser degree Europe and Asia, the virus has been devastating Latin America (see New York Times, May 13, 2020, pp. A1 and A5). Chile has not escaped this devastation. With 3,615 deaths and more than 200,000 cases as of June 17 according to the Chile Health Ministry (see teleSUR, June 17, 2020), Chile has one of the highest per capita rates of infection in Latin America. Chile has entered winter, and the death rate per day is starting to spike.

The Chilean government declared a 90-day state of catastrophe in mid-March of this year, turning over control to the military (as they did last year during the political protests) * and banned large gatherings of people. More than 45 percent of the population went into lockdown or quarantine. [An extension of the lockdown was announced in mid-June. Reuters, June 15, 2020.] The national referendum on a new constitution set for April 26 was cancelled and has not been rescheduled. The conservative government of President Sebastian Piñera has used the public health disaster to curb political protest and prevent a new constitution from being written. Chileans are still protesting with pots and pans and other forms of civil disobedience, but mass protests and organizing have been crushed for the time being.

Michael Livingston, professor of psychology, St. John’s University/St. Benedict’s College in Minnesota and an antiwar activist. He has lived and taught in Viña del Mar/Valparaiso, and observed the 2019 social uprisings in Chile.

* See Michael Livingston, “Revolution Against Neoliberalism in Chile,” WAMM Newsletter Vol. 38 No. 2 p. 6-9, https://www.womenagainstmilitarymadness.org/news-letters
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  1. […] via Without Mercy: Sanctions and Militarism in the Time of Pandemic — Rise Up Times […]

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