– Annexing territories and cutting off heads – what, really, are Western values?
– International readings demands “liberty and recognition” for Edward Snowden
(AWTWNS 8 September 2014)

This AWTWNS news packet for the week of 8 September 2014 contains two articles. They may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as they are credited.

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– Annexing territories and cutting off heads – what, really, are Western values?
– International readings demands “liberty and recognition” for Edward Snowden

Annexing territories and cutting off heads – what, really, are Western values?

8 September 2014. A World to Win News Service. U.S. President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron have used the events in Ukraine and the beheading of two hostages by the Islamic State (Da’ash) to portray themselves not as predators fighting other predators but fighters for certain moral standards.

What values do the U.S., the UK and other Western powers really stand for? What distinguishes these two men, their governments and the countries they represent, from their enemies?

When is annexation wrong?

At the September Nato summit conference in Wales, Obama lambasted Russia’s “incursion” into Ukraine as “unacceptable”. Cameron denounced Russian “aggression”. UN Secretary General Anders Fog Rasmussen called on Russia to “end its illegal and self-declared annexation of Crimea.”

Why, then, is it “acceptable” for the U.S. and UK to have invaded Iraq and occupied Iraq? Or for these two powers plus Nato to have invaded Afghanistan, which they occupy to this day? Or to have sent their air forces and special forces to overthrow the regime in Libya? Weren’t these war crimes whose disastrous effects – from the point of view of the interests of humanity – are still building?

As for “annexation”, where would the U.S. and UK be without it? Britain annexed Ireland and still occupies northern Ireland. After an American “incursion” across its northern border, in an act of “self-declared annexation” Mexico was robbed of what is now most of the western United States. Later the U.S. invaded and took over the Philippines and Cuba, and eventually annexed Guam and Puerto Rico.

After having accomplished all this during their “nation-building” period, the U.S. and UK have gone along with other reactionary annexations when it suited their interests – for instance, the Indonesian annexation of Timor and the Moroccan annexation of the Western Sahara. These illegal take-overs were condemned by the UN, but there were no Nato threats or sanctions by “the international community” against the perpetrators, because these regimes were important for Western world domination. Why is Russia being held to a different standard, if not because it is a rival?

And of course, when it comes to annexations and incursions, what about Israel? The UN declared that Israel’s 1968 annexation of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights is illegal, and the U.S. government has agreed, but if it is true, as Obama warns Russia, that “actions have consequences”, where are the consequences for Israel?

Just after the recent ceasefire in Gaza (which Israel also annexed and occupied, and still treats like a conquered territory where it has the last word – how Putin-like!), the Israeli government announced the appropriation of 400 hectares in the West Bank, south of Bethlehem. Ten Palestinian families live on this land, covered with their olive tree orchards. The U.S. State Department said, “We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity” .

But what are the “consequences” – for instance, the sanctions? Obama has pledged no cutbacks in military aid to Israel and the Congress has already approved his request for 3.1 billion dollars in 2015.

When should an atrocity be called an atrocity?

“This is a despicable and barbaric murder”, Cameron blustered about the beheading of American freelance journalist James Foley. “No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day,” said Obama, meeting religious fundamentalism with a vow of vengeance stated in religious terms.

But it seems that how wrong it is to behead people depends on who does it.

During the time that Foley was being held hostage, from his capture in November 2012 to his murder in August, Saudi Arabia beheaded at least 113 people, including 17 people in the two weeks just before Foley’s death. (This was first pointed out by the UK website Private Eye using figures from Amnesty International.) Capital crimes in Saudi Arabia include armed robbery, adultery, apostasy, rape, witchcraft and sorcery and sedition.

Where are the “consequences”? When Obama met Saudi Arabian King Abdullah for the third time last March, they discussed Iran and Syria. Presumably, Obama didn’t tell the medieval monarch that his god is unjust.”Our strategic interests are much more aligned than different” was all that a U.S. official would tell The New York Times about the contents of that conversation. Obama’s government sold Abdullah the biggest arms shipment of all time in 2010 (60 billion dollars worth).

Saudi Arabia provided Islamist cover for the first U.S. invasion of Iraq, and Obama needs the support of these head-cutters (and those of the Free Syrian Army, the Western-favoured “moderate opposition” that also beheads prisoners) for his “coalition” against the Islamic State.

The U.S. doesn’t need to cut off heads with swords. Its has drones and other aircraft that can be sent to “decapitate” its perceived enemies, sometimes literally. Obama has spent his time in office burning people to death and blowing them to pieces through drone raids in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and now Iraq. According to the London City University-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a decade of American air strikes has left at least 2,500 Pakistanis dead, including many hundreds of people recognized as civilians. Drones routinely hit homes, cars, schools, markets and religious and social gatherings.

Obama brags about his drones, makes jokes about threatening people with them and has tried to make his signature, the sign of his difference with his predecessors when it comes to foreign policy – his own “surgical” sharp sword. As though the high moral ground was at cruise altitude.

Since you won’t find many videos of U.S. air strikes online, here’s a description of what they do: “Sahib Jin, a 25-year-old neighbour, was one of the first to reach the groom’s house after the bombardment. Bodies were lying all over the two courtyards and in the adjoining orchard, some of them in pieces. Human flesh hung in the trees. A woman’s torso was lodged in an almond sapling.” After a 2002 wedding in Uruzan province, Afghanistan ended with survivors “collecting body parts in buckets.” In 2009, under Obama, U.S. war planes killed 147 people in the village of Granai. (Carlotta Gall, The Wrong Enemy, 2014)

But not all U.S. killing is so hi-tech. The New York Times reporter Gall also brought to light the story of Dilawar, an Afghan taxi driver arrested for driving past an American military base, chained to a ceiling and beaten to death over five days. The autopsy revealed that Dilawar’s legs had been “pulpified”. The same team of “interrogators” was deployed at Abu Ghraib, one of the U.S. military prisons and torture centres from which the current head of the Islamic State and other leaders emerged.

Anyone who follows news from the U.S. knows that execution by lethal injection can be even more barbaric than cutting off heads. In the last few months two men were basically tortured to death, subject to “excruciating pain” over the course of 43 minutes for one and an hour and forty minutes for the other. Nor is it any less medieval to hold 2.3 million people in prison, often spending years and even decades “entombed”, as Amnesty International recently put it. What are lives, especially non-white lives, worth in the U.S.? Local police have killed many hundreds of people in the last decade, and yet Obama’s government says it can provide no statistics on the subject. Doesn’t that tell you what you need to know about “Western values”?

The Islamists beheaded the journalist Foley for political ends and to send a political message. The U.S., like the world’s imperialist and other reactionary governments, kills for the same reasons, abroad and at home. No violent act is beyond them – the only question is what, at a given moment, suits their exploitative interests and their oppressive political power.

Obama said, “One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century.” That is true. And it is also true that all the imperialist states, including his own and those of his rivals, and the whole world capitalist-imperialist system that has spawned religious fundamentalism, are no less outmoded, not champions of “humanitarian” values but world champions of crimes against humanity.
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International readings demands “liberty and recognition” for Edward Snowden

8 September 2014. A World to Win News Service. At the initiative of the International Literature Festival Berlin (ilb), readings in support of Edward Snowden were held at universities, libraries, bookstores, theatres, street corners and other venues around the world on 8 September.

Events were held in Austria, Colombia, France, Germany (47 events), Greece, Iceland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa (organized by South Africa PEN, the writers’ organization), the UK (Wales), the U.S. and other countries, many simultaneously (at 1700 UTC). Some were broadcast on radio or live Web streaming.

The call for this global speak-out hailed Snowden for his leaking of secret U.S. National Security files that revealed the extent of the American government’s spying on millions and perhaps billions of individuals. It demanded that the US. lift all legal charges against him and that the European Union member states immediately grant him asylum at least until that happens and as long as he may need it. It asked that Snowden be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The long list of writers, poets, playwrights and other intellectuals who signed the call includes prominent figures and others from every continent.

Some of the events featured readings by well-known authors, such as the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Elfriede Jelinek in Drosing, Austria, and the British novelist Marina Warner who read excerpts from Snowden’s texts at the Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris. The faculty at the University of Rostock (Germany) asked that Snowden be awarded an honorary doctorate. The University of Massachusetts Masters in Fine Arts and Honours programmes and another Boston university provided a platform for 33 writers, scholars and students. A reading in San Francisco was sponsored by the antiwar organizations Code Pink and World Can’t Wait. (literaturfestival.com)
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