“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” W.H. Auden

Barlow

“ON JULY 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted an historic resolution recognizing the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as “essential for the full enjoyment of the right to life.” For those of us in the balcony of the General Assembly that day, the air was tense. A number of powerful countries had lined up to oppose it, so it had to be put to a vote. The Bolivian ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solón, introduced the resolution by reminding the assembly that humans are composed of about two-thirds water and that our blood flows like a network of rivers to transport nutrients and energy through our bodies. “Water is life,” he said.

Then he laid out the story of the number of people around the world who were dying from lack of access to clean water and quoted a new World Health Organization study on diarrhea showing that, every three and a half seconds in the developing world, a child dies of waterborne disease. Ambassador Solón then quietly snapped his fingers three times and held his small finger up for a half-second. The General Assembly of the United Nations fell silent. Moments later, it voted overwhelmingly to recognize the human rights to water and sanitation. The floor erupted in cheers.

The recognition by the General Assembly of these rights represented a breakthrough in the struggle for water justice in the world. It followed years of hard work and was a key platform of our global water justice movement for at least two decades. For me personally, it was the culmination of many years of work, and I was proud and grateful to all who had helped make it happen.

But our work is far from over. Recognizing a right is simply the first step in making it a reality for the millions who are living in the shadow of the greatest crisis of our era. With our insatiable demand for water, we are creating the perfect storm for an unprecedented world water crisis: a rising population and an unrelenting demand for water by industry, agriculture, and the developed world; over-extraction of water from the world’s finite water stock; climate change, spreading drought; and income disparity between and within countries, with the greatest burden of the race for water falling on the poor.

Barlow 3
“Suddenly it is so clear: the world is running out of fresh water.” These were the opening words of my 2002 book, Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World’s Water (co-written with Tony Clarke), which warned of a mighty contest brewing over the world’s dwindling freshwater supplies. As water became the oil of the twenty-first century, we predicted, a water cartel would emerge to lay claim to the planet’s freshwater resources. This has come true. But so has our prediction that a global water justice movement would emerge to challenge the “lords of water.”

Barlow 2In my 2007 book, Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water, I described the growing water cartel and its relentless drive to find ways to take control of the world’s water supplies. I also reported on the amazing work of the environmentalists, human rights activists, indigenous and women’s groups, small farmers, peasants, and thousands of grassroots communities that make up the global water justice movement fighting for the right to water and to keep water under public and democratic control. In the six years since Blue Covenant was published, much has been accomplished. Reports on the crisis are commonplace in mainstream media and the classroom. Books, films, and music move millions to action. The United Nations, other global institutions, and many universities are also sounding the alarm. A movement has coalesced to provide water and sanitation to the urban and rural poor, with mixed, but hopeful, results.

Yet in those same years the water crisis dramatically deepened. It is now accepted that, with the unexpected growth in both population and new consumer classes in almost every country, global demand for water in 2030 will outstrip supply by 40 percent. A report from the U.S. global intelligence agencies warns that one-third of the world’s people will live in basins where the deficit is more than 50 percent. Five hundred scientists from around the world met in Bonn in May 2013 at the invitation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and sent out a warning that our abuse of water has caused the planet to enter a “new geologic age.” They likened this “planetary transformation” to the retreat of the glaciers more than 11,000 years ago. Within the space of two generations, the majority of people on the planet will face serious water shortages and the world’s water systems will reach a tipping point that could trigger irreversible change, with potentially catastrophic consequences. Already, the world-renowned scientists said, a majority of the world’s people live within 50 kilometres of an impaired water source — one that is running dry or polluted.

The stage is being set for drought on an unprecedented scale, for mass starvation and the migration of millions of water refugees leaving parched lands to look for water. All the justice and awareness in the world cannot stave off this future if the water is not there.

Open any textbook on water and you will see the numbers: how many children die every day; where the water tables have dried up; how aquifers are being depleted. Yet we continue to extract from our precious rivers and lakes and pump our groundwater, using the last of a finite supply of water that will be needed if future generations and other species are to survive.

Amazingly, most of our political leaders ignore the water crisis and create policy. decisions as if there were no end to water supplies. They continue to be captives of an economic framework that promotes unlimited growth, unregulated trade, and bigger and more powerful (and increasingly self-governing) transnational corporations, all of which hasten the destruction of our supplies of fresh water. Somewhere between the hard truths about the world’s water crisis and this perplexing denial on the part of political and corporate leaders, millions — soon to be billions — struggle to deal with disappearing watersheds.

The story does not need to end in tragedy. There are solutions to our water crisis and a path to a just and water-secure world. To get to this place, however, we must establish principles to guide us and help us create policies, laws, and international agreements to protect water and water justice, now and forever. This book puts forward four principles for a water-secure future. Principle one, “Water Is a Human Right,” addresses the current reality of water inequality and lays out a road map to fixing the problem. Principle two, “Water Is a Common Heritage,” argues that water is not like running shoes or cars and must not be allowed to become a commodity to be bought and sold on the open market. Principle three, “Water Has Rights Too,” makes the case for protection of source water and watershed governance and the need to make our human laws compatible with those of nature if we are to survive. The fourth principle, “Water Can Teach Us How to Live Together,” is a cry from the heart to come together around a common threat — the end of clean water — and find a way to live more lightly on this planet.

The grab for the planet’s dwindling resources is the defining issue of our time. Water is not a resource put here solely for our convenience, pleasure, and profit; it is the source of all life. It is urgent that we clarify the values and principles needed to protect the planet’s fresh water. I offer this book as a guide.”

MAUDE BARLOW, Blue Planet. Introduction.
DOWNLOAD E-BOOK: http://bit.ly/1wPQJc

Maude_Barlow-2013-Photo-by-Wolfgang-Schmidt


15 ESSENTIAL DOCUMENTARIES THAT REVEAL THE TRUE FACE OF GLOBAL CAPITALISM, MARKET FUNDAMENTALISM, CLIMATE DISRUPTION & FACTORY FARMS

corporation_ver3_xlgTHE CORPORATION (2003) 
by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott

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shock_doctrine_xlg

THE SHOCK DOCTRINE (2009)
by Michael Winterbottom // Book by Naomi Klein

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age_of_stupid_ver2_xlgTHE AGE OF STUPID (2009)
by Franny Armstrong [FilmsForAction]

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capitalism_a_love_story_ver2CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY (2009)
by Michael Moore

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disruption-movie-featuredDISRUPTION (2014)

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ZEITGEIST: MOVING FORWARD (2001)
by Peter Joseph

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KOCH BROTHERS EXPOSED (2014)

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WALMART: THE HIGH COST OF LOW PRICE

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IRAQ POR SALE: THE WAR PROFITEERS

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A RIVER OF WASTE: HAZARDOUS TRUTH ABOUT FACTORY FARMS (2009)

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THE END OF POVERTY (2009)

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arundhati-roys-quotes-5
WE – ARUNDHATI ROY (2006)

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FOOD INC. [FilmsForAction]

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GASLAND by Josh Fox

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monsanto
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO MONSANTO

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“People in the west live squeezed together, frenzied as wasps in the nest” – An indigenous Yanomami leader and shaman from Brazil shares his views on wealth, the environment and politics

Davi

“Their thoughts are constantly attached to their merchandise. They relentlessly and always desire new goods. I fear their euphoria of merchandise will have no end and they will entangle themselves to the point of chaos. They do not seem concerned that they are making us all perish with the epidemic of fumes that escape from all these things. They do not think that they are spoiling the earth and the sky, and that they will never be able to recreate new ones. (…) The white people’s thought is full of ignorance. They constantly devastate the land they live on and transform the waters they drink into quagmires! There is only one sky and we must take care of it, for if it becomes sick, everything will come to an end.” – Davi Kopenawa Yanomami

Read it all at The Guardian (December 30th, 2014)

You might also like:

Davi

“The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman”
by Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert
Published by Harvard University Press

“The Falling Sky is a remarkable first-person account of the life story and cosmo-ecological thought of Davi Kopenawa, shaman and spokesman for the Yanomami of the Brazilian Amazon. Representing a people whose very existence is in jeopardy, Davi Kopenawa paints an unforgettable picture of Yanomami culture, past and present, in the heart of the rainforest—a world where ancient indigenous knowledge and shamanic traditions cope with the global geopolitics of an insatiable natural resources extraction industry.

In richly evocative language, Kopenawa recounts his initiation and experience as a shaman, as well as his first encounters with outsiders: government officials, missionaries, road workers, cattle ranchers, and gold prospectors. He vividly describes the ensuing cultural repression, environmental devastation, and deaths resulting from epidemics and violence. To counter these threats, Davi Kopenawa became a global ambassador for his endangered people. The Falling Sky follows him from his native village in the Northern Amazon to Brazilian cities and finally on transatlantic flights bound for European and American capitals. These travels constitute a shamanic critique of Western industrial society, whose endless material greed, mass violence, and ecological blindness contrast sharply with Yanomami cultural values.

Bruce Albert, a close friend since the 1970s, superbly captures Kopenawa’s intense, poetic voice. This collaborative work provides a unique reading experience that is at the same time a coming-of-age story, a historical account, and a shamanic philosophy, but most of all an impassioned plea to respect native rights and preserve the Amazon rainforest.” – Harvard Univeristy Press

 

The Secret of the Seven Sisters – The Shameful Story of Oil [A 4-part series that reveals how a secret pact formed a cartel that controls the world’s oil]

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The Secret of the Seven Sisters

 A four-part series that reveals how a secret pact formed a cartel that controls the world’s oil.

BY ALJAZEERA

On August 28, 1928, in the Scottish highlands, began the secret story of oil.

Three men had an appointment at Achnacarry Castle – a Dutchman, an American and an Englishman.

The Dutchman was Henry Deterding, a man nicknamed the Napoleon of Oil, having exploited a find in Sumatra. He joined forces with a rich ship owner and painted Shell salesman and together the two men founded Royal Dutch Shell.

The American was Walter C. Teagle and he represents the Standard Oil Company, founded by John D. Rockefeller at the age of 31 – the future Exxon. Oil wells, transport, refining and distribution of oil – everything is controlled by Standard Oil.

The Englishman, Sir John Cadman, was the director of the Anglo-Persian oil Company, soon to become BP. On the initiative of a young Winston Churchill, the British government had taken a stake in BP and the Royal Navy switched its fuel from coal to oil. With fuel-hungry ships, planes and tanks, oil became “the blood of every battle”.

The new automobile industry was developing fast, and the Ford T was selling by the million. The world was thirsty for oil, and companies were waging a merciless contest but the competition was making the market unstable.

That August night, the three men decided to stop fighting and to start sharing out the world’s oil. Their vision was that production zones, transport costs, sales prices – everything would be agreed and shared. And so began a great cartel, whose purpose was to dominate the world, by controlling its oil.

Four others soon joined them, and they came to be known as the Seven Sisters – the biggest oil companies in the world.

7 (1)

EPISODE 1 – Desert Storms

In the first episode, we travel across the Middle East, through both time and space.

Since that notorious meeting at Achnacarry Castle on August 28, 1928, they have never ceased to plot, to plan and to scheme.Throughout the region’s modern history, since the discovery of oil, the Seven Sisters have sought to control the balance of power.

They have supported monarchies in Iran and Saudi Arabia, opposed the creation of OPEC, profiting from the Iran-Iraq war, leading to the ultimate destruction of Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

The Seven Sisters were always present, and almost always came out on top.

We waged the Iran-Iraq war and I say we waged it, because one country had to be used to destroy the other. As they already benefit from the oil bonanza, and they’re building up financal reserves, from time to time they have to be bled.”

– Xavier Houzel, an oil trader

EPISODE 2 – The Black El Dorado

At the end of the 1960s, the Seven Sisters, the major oil companies, controlled 85 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Today, they control just 10 percent.

New hunting grounds are therefore required, and the Sisters have turned their gaze towards Africa. With peak oil, wars in the Middle East, and the rise in crude prices, Africa is the oil companies’ new battleground.

“Everybody thought there could be oil in Sudan but nobody knew anything. It was revealed through exploration by the American company Chevron, towards the end of the 70s. And that was the beginning of the second civil war, which went on until 2002. It lasted for 19 years and cost a million and a half lives and the oil business was at the heart of it.

– Gerard Prunier, a historian

In their bid to dominate Africa, the Sisters installed a king in Libya, a dictator in Gabon, fought the nationalisation of oil resources in Algeria, and through corruption, war and assassinations, brought Nigeria to its knees.But the real story, the secret story of oil, begins far from Africa.

Oil may be flowing into the holds of huge tankers, but in Lagos, petrol shortages are chronic.

The country’s four refineries are obsolete and the continent’s main oil exporter is forced to import refined petrol – a paradox that reaps fortunes for a handful of oil companies.

Encouraged by the companies, corruption has become a system of government – some $50bn are estimated to have ‘disappeared’ out of the $350bn received since independence.

But new players have now joined the great oil game.

China, with its growing appetite for energy, has found new friends in Sudan, and the Chinese builders have moved in. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir is proud of his co-operation with China – a dam on the Nile, roads, and stadiums.

In order to export 500,000 barrels of oil a day from the oil fields in the South – China financed and built the Heglig pipeline connected to Port Sudan – now South Sudan’s precious oil is shipped through North Sudan to Chinese ports.

In a bid to secure oil supplies out of Libya, the US, the UK and the Seven Sisters made peace with the once shunned Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, until he was killed during the Libyan uprising of 2011, but the flow of Libyan oil remains uninterrupted.

In need of funds for rebuilding, Libya is now back to pumping more than a million barrels of oil per day. And the Sisters are happy to oblige.

EPISODE 3 – The Dancing Bear

In the Caucasus, the US and Russia are vying for control of the region. The great oil game is in full swing. Whoever controls the Caucasus and its roads, controls the transport of oil from the Caspian Sea.

Tbilisi, Erevan and Baku – the three capitals of the Caucasus. The oil from Baku in Azerbaijan is a strategic priority
for all the major companies.

From the fortunes of the Nobel family to the Russian revolution, to World War II, oil from the Caucasus and the Caspian has played a central role. Lenin fixated on conquering the Azeri capital Baku for its oil, as did Stalin and Hitler.

On his birthday in 1941, Adolf Hitler received a chocolate and cream birthday cake, representing a map. He chose the slice with Baku on it.

On June 22nd 1941, the armies of the Third Reich invaded Russia. The crucial battle of Stalingrad was the key to the road to the Caucasus and Baku’s oil, and would decide the outcome of the war.

Stalin told his troops: “Fighting for one’s oil is fighting for one’s freedom.”

After World War II, President Nikita Krushchev would build the Soviet empire and its Red Army with revenues from the USSR’s new-found oil reserves.

Decades later, oil would bring that empire to its knees, when Saudi Arabia and the US would conspire to open up the oil taps, flood the markets, and bring the price of oil down to $13 per barrel. Russian oligarchs would take up the oil mantle, only to be put in their place by their president, Vladimir Putin, who knows that oil is power.

The US and Putin‘s Russia would prop up despots, and exploit regional conflicts to maintain a grip on the oil fields of the Caucusus and the Caspian.

But they would not have counted on the rise of a new, strong and hungry China, with an almost limitless appetite for oil and energy. Today, the US, Russia and China contest the control of the former USSR’s fossil fuel reserves, and the supply routes. A three-handed match, with the world as spectators, between three ferocious beasts – The American eagle, the Russian bear, and the Chinese dragon.

EPISODE 4 – A Time for Lies

Peak oil – the point in time at which the highest rate of oil extraction has been reached, and after which world production will start decline. Many geologists and the International Energy Agency say the world’s crude oil output reached its peak in 2006.

But while there may be less oil coming out of the ground, the demand for it is definitely on the rise.

The final episode of this series explores what happens when oil becomes more and more inaccessible, while at the same time, new powers like China and India try to fulfill their growing energy needs.

And countries like Iran, while suffering international sanctions, have welcomed these new oil buyers, who put business ahead of lectures on human rights and nuclear ambitions.

At the same time, oil-producing countries have had enough with the Seven Sisters controlling their oil assets. Nationalisation of oil reserves around the world has ushered in a new generation of oil companies all vying for a slice of the oil pie.

These are the new Seven Sisters.

Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Aramco, the largest and most sophisticated oil company in the world; Russia’s Gazprom, a company that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin wrested away from the oligarchs; The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which, along with its subsidiary, Petrochina, is the world’s secnd largest company in terms of market value; The National Iranian Oil Company, which has a monopoly on exploration, extraction, transportation and exportation of crude oil in Iran – OPEC’s second largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia; Venezuela’s PDVSA, a company the late president Hugo Chavez dismantled and rebuilt into his country’s economic engine and part of his diplomatic arsenal; Brazil’s Petrobras, a leader in deep water oil production, that pumps out 2 million barrels of crude oil a day; and Malaysia’s Petronas – Asia’s most profitable company in 2012.

Mainly state-owned, the new Seven Sisters control a third of the world’s oil and gas production, and more than a third of the world’s reserves. The old Seven Sisters, by comparison, produce a tenth of the world’s oil, and control only three percent of the reserves.

The balance has shifted.

Abbie Hoffman: “Why Democracy Needs Dissenters”

9_1abbie_steal_this_book
“You measure democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, 
not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists.”

ABBIE HOFFMAN (1936-1989)

Steal this Book DOWNLOAD “STEAL THIS BOOK” (PDF)

25th Anniversary Facsimile Edition

Right

HOW MONEY WORK$ – By Raj Patel in his book “The Value of Nothing”

raj-patelThe late Oxford philosopher Jerry Cohen conceived a though experiment that helps us to understand how money works: imagine that we live in a world where we have little tickets distributed at random. On these tickets are rights – the right to go visit your sick mother, the right to cross a particular road, the right to live somewhere, the right to eat a steak, the right to treatment of disease and so on. (…) If you try to do something for which you have no ticket, the law intervenes. The tickets map out the degree to which you are free (or not free) to do something – they are a complete accounting of your liberties. The more tickets you have, the freer you are.

So here’s the twist: Money is just like these tickets. What, after all, does money offer in a market society if not the ability to buy liberty, to afford health care, decent food, housing, the security of not working in retirement, insurance against accident or unemployment? Those without money are as unfree as those whithout tickets. Without cash in a market society, you’re free to do nothing, to have very little and to die young. In other words, under capitalism, MONEY IS THE RIGHT TO HAVE RIGHTS.

The gap between what people earn and the cost of their freedoms means that, for more and more Americans, freedom is just another word for nothing they can afford. (…) In developing countries, of course, the situation has long been dire, and the global recession is pushing millions more into poverty, but in both cases, this poverty has deepened under a system that offered progress, prosperity and development for the poorest, and has delivered its opposite – a yawning inequality gap, less happiness and a dogged persistence of diseases and afflictions to which we have long known the cures.

In the land of the free, the market delivers few choices to those who cannot afford them. In the U.S. health care system, for example, the value of life is famously defined by the market. Michael Moore’s film Sicko shows the U.S. health care industry’s profit-driven approach at its nadir, with stories of patients asked by their insurance company to choose which of their fingers they’d like to save…”

PATEL, R. The Value of Nothing.
1st Canadian Edition.
Toronto: Harper Collins, 2009. Pgs. 112-113.

WATCHERS OF THE SKY (Directed by Edet Belzberg – 2014 – 120 minutes) #HotDocs

Watchers of the Sky

“Love despite difference, 
Or rather because of difference.”

Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959)

ABOUT THE FILM

WATCHERS OF THE SKY interweaves four stories of remarkable courage, compassion, and determination, while setting out to uncover the forgotten life of Raphael Lemkin – the man who created the word “genocide,” and believed the law could protect the world from mass atrocities. Inspired by Samantha Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem From Hell, WATCHERS OF THE SKY takes you on a provocative journey from Nuremberg to The Hague, from Bosnia to Darfur, from criminality to justice, and from apathy to action.

http://www.watchersofthesky.com/about-the-film

MOVIE INFO

With his provocative question, “why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the killing of an individual?” Raphael Lemkin changed the course of history. An extraordinary testament to one man’s perseverance, the Sundance award-winning film Watchers of the Sky examines the life and legacy of the Polish-Jewish lawyer and linguist who coined the term genocide. Before Lemkin, the notion of accountability for war crimes was virtually non-existent. After experiencing the barbarity of theHolocaust firsthand, he devoted his life to convincing the international community that there must be legal retribution for mass atrocities targeted at minorities. An impassioned visionary, Lemkin confronted world apathy in a tireless battle for justice, setting the stage for the Nuremberg trails and the creation of the International Criminal Court. Inspired by Samantha Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Problem From Hell, this multi-faceted documentary interweaves Raphael Lemkin’s struggle with the courageous efforts of four individuals keeping his legacy alive: Luis Moreno Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor of the ICC; Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Ben Ferencz, a former Nuremberg prosecutor still tenaciously lobbying the UN for peace, and Rwandan Emmanuel Uwurukundo, UN Refugee Agency Field Director in Chad. Alternating live interviews with rare archival footage and striking animation, Watchers of the Sky illuminates the compassion and bravery of these humanitarians and powerfully demonstrates the ability of global activism to give a voice to the silent victims of genocide.(C) Music Box

REVIEW BY TORONTO’S NOW MAGAZINE

Rating: N N N N N (5 stars)

“A bracing and heart-wrenching look at genocide over the past century, Edet Belzberg’s documentary could become a vital instrument of change.

Bouncing back and forth between the story of Raphael Lemkin, who in the 1940s tirelessly tried to get the UN to amend its definition of war crimes, to first-hand witnesses to ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, Rwanda, Argentina, Germany and Darfur, Belzberg paints a comprehensive picture of history depressingly repeating itself due to a lack of proper legal deterrents to these atrocities.

Belzberg’s thesis is solidly backed up and needs no dramatic embellishment. It stands alongside The Act Of Killing as one of the best films made on such a delicate subject.”

NOW Magazine (Toronto, Canada)

OTHER REVIEWS

Rotten TomatoesRoger Ebert

TRAILER

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The Act of Killing - DOWNLOAD TORRENT.

The Act of KillingDOWNLOAD FILM (TORRENT). The Act of Killing is an award-winning documentary that examines a country where death squad leaders are celebrated as heroes. The filmmakers challenge the killers to reenact their real-life mass murders in the style of the American movies they love.  Director: Joshua Oppenheimer. Executive Producers: Werner Herzog and Errol Morris.

RECOMMENDED BOOKS TO KNOW MORE

A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide

SAMANTHA POWER – A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. Download FREE EBOOK at libgen.org in MOBI or EPUB format [3 mb each].

“As I surveyed the major genocides of the twentieth century, a few stood out. In addition to the Bosnian Serbs’ eradication of non-Serbs, I examined the Ottoman slaughter of the Armenians, the Nazi Holocaust, Pol Pot’s terror in Cambodia, Saddam Hussein’s destruction of Kurds in northern Iraq, and the Rwandan Hutus’ systematic extermination of the Tutsi minority. Although the cases varied in scope and not all involved the intent to exterminate every last member of a group, each met the terms of the 1948 genocide convention and presented the United States with options for meaningful diplomatic, economic, legal, or military intervention. The crimes occurred in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The victims covered a spectrum of races and religions – they were Asian, African, Caucasian, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim.

The perpetrators operated at different stages of American might: The Armenian genocide (1915-1916) was committed during World War I, before the United States had become a world leader. The Holocaust (1939-1945) took place just as the United States was moving into that role.The Cambodian (1975-1979) and Iraqi (1987-1988) genocides were perpetrated after the Holocaust but during the Cold War and after Vietnam. Bosnia (1992-1995) and Rwanda (1994) happened after the Cold War and while American supremacy and awareness of the “lessons” of the Holocaust were at their height. U.S. decisionmakers also brought a wide variety of backgrounds and foreign policy ideologies to the table. Every American president in office in the last three decades of the twentieth century – Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton – made decisions related to the prevention and suppression of genocide. Yet notwithstanding all the variety among cases and within U.S. administrations, the U.S. policy responses to genocide were astonishingly similar across time, geography, ideology, and geopolitical balance…

A grant from the Open Society Institute enabled me to travel to Bosnia, Cambodia, Kosovo, and Rwanda, where I spoke with victims, perpetrators, and bystanders. I also visited the international war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague in the Netherlands, as well the UN court for Rwanda, located in Arusha, Tanzania.

People have explained U.S. failures to respond to specific genocides by claiming that the United States didn’t know what was happening, that it knew but didn’t care, or that regardless of what it knew, there was nothing useful to be done. I have found that in fact U.S. policymakers knew a great deal about the crimes being perpetrated. Some Americans cared and fought for action, making considerable personal and professional sacrifices. And the United States did have countless opportunities to mitigate and prevent slaughter. But time and again, decent men and women chose to look away. We have all been bystanders to genocide. The crucial question is why.

In exploring a century of U.S. reactions to genocide, I asked: Were there early warnings that mass killing was set to commence? How seriously were the warnings taken? By whom?

In 1915 Henry Morgenthau Sr., the U.S. ambassador in Constantinople, responded to Turkey’s deportation and slaughter of its Armenian minority by urging Washington to condemn Turkey and pressure its wartime ally  Germany. Morgenthau also defied diplomatic convention by personally protesting the atrocities, denouncing the regime, and raising money for humanitarian relief. He was joined by former president Theodore Roosevelt, who went a step further, calling on the administration of Woodrow Wilson to enter World War I and forcibly stop the slaughter. But the United States clung to its neutrality and insisted that Turkey’s internal affairs were not its business. An estimated 1 million Armenians were murdered or died of disease and starvation during the genocide.

Watchers of the Sky 3

Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew and international lawyer, warned about Hitler’s designs in the 1930s but was scoffed at. After finding refuge in the United States in 1941, he failed to win support for any measure to protect imperiled Jews. The Allies resisted denouncing Hitler’s atrocities, granting refuge to Europe’s Jewry, and bombing the railroad tracks to the Nazi concentration camps. Undaunted, Lemkin invented the word “genocide” and secured the passage of the first-ever United Nations human rights treaty, which was devoted to banning the new crime. Sadly, he lived to see the genocide convention rebuffed by the U.S. Senate. William Proxmire, the quixotic U.S. senator from Wisconsin, picked up where Lemkin left off and delivered 3,211 speeches on the Senate floor urging ratification of the UN treaty. After nineteen years of daily soliloquies, Proxmire did manage to get the Senate to accept the genocide convention, but the U.S. ratification was so laden with caveats that it carried next to no force.

A handful of U.S. diplomats and journalists in Cambodia warned of the depravity of a sinister band of Communist rebels known as the Khmer Rouge. They were derided by the American left for falling for antiCommunist propaganda, and they failed to influence a U.S. policy that could not contemplate engagement of any kind in Southeast Asia after Vietnam. Pol Pot’s four-year reign left some 2 million Cambodians dead, but the massacres elicited barely a whimper from Washington, which maintained diplomatic recognition of the genocidal regime even after it had been overthrown.

Peter Galbraith, a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, drafted punishing legislation for his boss, Senator Claiborne Pell, that would have cut off U.S. agricultural and manufacturing credits to Saddam Hussein in retaliation for his 1987-1988 attempt to wipe out Iraq’s rural Kurds. The sanctions package was defeated by a determined White House, State Department, and U.S. farm lobby, which were eager to maintain friendly ties and sell rice and wheat to Iraq. And so Hussein’s regime received generous American financial support while it gassed and executed some 100,000 Kurds.

Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian major general who commanded UN peacekeeping forces in Rwanda in 1994, appealed for permission to disarm militias and to prevent the extermination of Rwanda’s Tutsi three months before the genocide began. Denied this by his political masters at the United Nations, he watched corpses pile up around him as Washington led a successful effort to remove most of the peacekeepers under his command and then aggressively worked to block authorization of UN reinforcements.The United States refused to use its technology to jam radio broadcasts that were a crucial instrument in the coordination and perpetuation of the genocide. And even as, on average, 8,000 Rwandans were being butchered each day, the issue never became a priority for senior U.S. officials. Some 800,000 Rwandans were killed in 100 days.

No U.S. president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and no U.S. president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on…”

SAMANTHA POWER A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.

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