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Tunisia Crisis – The Crux of the Matter; How to Emerge from the Depths? A live interview with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Thursday, August 5, 2021. 8:30 pm Mountain States Time.

August 2, 2021
Entrance to the Tunis Medina – November, 2011

Tunisia Crisis – The Crux of the Matter; How to Emerge from the Depths? A live interview with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Thursday, August 5, 2021. 8:30 pm Mountain States Time.

The current all round crisis in Tunisia has been in the making for as long as 40 years: the country’s failure to address the continually deepening socio-economic crisis which has fueled its other problems: constitutional gridlock, debt repayment, massive and unrestrained corruption, collapse of the country’s social net. Washington, Paris and the institutions they dominate (World Bank, IMF) are not neutral observers in these events but have done much to aggrevate Tunisia’s crisis. How to emerge from the depths?

YouTube Live: https://streamyard.com/view_on_platform/youtube?link=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9bGwDBLSqI

Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/live/producer/schedule/839755716899817

Guest Blogger: Ron Forthofer – Israel Melts Down Over Ice Cream.

August 1, 2021
Ben and Jerry’s “radical” high quality ice cream – time for an anti-boycott!

Israel melts down over ice cream

by Ron Forthofer

Ben & Jerry’s recently made an announcement that created a firestorm in Israel. The full statement is worth reading:

We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners. 

We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year.

Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we’re ready.

Israeli government leaders have had a meltdown, calling Ben & Jerry’s move: 1) a shameful surrender to anti-Semitism; and 2) a new kind of terrorism. Israeli Prime Minister Bennett said that Ben and Jerry’s has branded itself as an anti-Israel ice cream. Israeli Foreign Minister Lapid also called on US states to use their problematic/questionable laws against the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to target Ben and Jerry’s. Ironically, other Zionist supporters in the US have called for a boycott of Ben & Jerry’s as well as for groceries to stop selling Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

It appears that these over-the-top reactions are designed to shift the attention from criminal and brutal Israeli behaviors. In reality, all the Israeli settlements in the Israeli occupied Palestinian West Bank are illegal according to international law. Ben & Jerry’s courageously decided that it would no longer abet this major Israeli crime, although it still will sell ice cream in Israel.

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It appears that these over-the-top reactions are designed to shift the attention from criminal and brutal Israeli behaviors. In reality, all the Israeli settlements in the Israeli occupied Palestinian West Bank are illegal according to international law. Ben & Jerry’s courageously decided that it would no longer abet this major Israeli crime, although it still will sell ice cream in Israel.

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Even though Ben & Jerry’s is standing up for international law and human rights, this is not the major focus of media coverage. Imagine a brave and independent US media that would stress the illegality of Israeli settlements, including in East Jerusalem, as well as point out the cowardice and greed of companies that continue to abet this criminal Israeli behavior.

Israeli leaders have long known that its theft and settlement of Palestinian lands were illegal. For example, a few months after Israel’s aggressive 1967 war in which it seized the Palestinian West Bank and other territories, it knew that establishing civilian settlements there was illegal. Theodor Meron, then legal advisor to Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs, told the Israeli government that settlements in the newly occupied territory were prohibited by Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention on occupied territories. Note that this Convention was established after the horrors of WWII in an effort to prevent future criminal behavior by nations against people living under their occupation. Despite this knowledge, Israeli leaders have continued these crimes for well over 50 years, abetted by the US government and its complicit corporate media.

Israel is afraid that this step by Ben & Jerry’s could encourage other corporations to join them in standing up for international law and human rights. However, if Israel is successful in keeping the media focus on false charges of anti-Semitism, it will be unimpeded in continuing its theft of Palestinian lands and other appalling crimes against Palestinians.

(Ron Forthofer, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Global Peace Collective, long time expert on Middle East Affairs, former Green Party Candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives and Governor of Colorado. This article first appeared at “Peace Train” – a regular column of the Colorado Daily on Friday, July 30, 2021. This version is slightly different from the one printed in the Daily )

Tunisia: A Presidential Coup in the Making? – 1.

July 28, 2021
Tunisian filmmaker Ferid Boughedir at home in La Marsa, Tunisia, a friend since 1964

Tunisia faces a multi-layered crisis. Given the depth of Tunisia’s socio-economic crisis, the increasingly unmanageable foreign debt, well known unprecedented levels of corruption the gridlock in the Tunisian Parliament where the Ennahdha Party held a decisive position and now a fast moving version of the Covid-19 Delta Variant – it is no surprise that the overall crisis came to a head. In fact, I am surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

Over the weekend, Tunisian President Kais Saied declared what is essentially a state of emergency. In short order he fired the country’s prime minister, Hichem Mechichi, dismissed his Minister of Defense,Minister Ibrahim Bartaji and Hasna Ben Slimane, the acting Justice Minister accused of disloyalty. He closed down the Tunisian parliament for a month and imposed a one-month curfew from 7 pm to 6 am. The military forcibly closed down the Tunis offices of Qatar-based Al Jazeeri. A number of regional governors have also been given the boot. Employees of the effected ministries – including the prime miniuster – are prohibited to leave the country for a year, many of whom face corruption charges. A day later President Saied announced that the Tunisian military will run the country for a period up to five years and will be charged, among other things, with reworking the Tunisian constituion.

Saudi Arabia has already announced it supports to coup., no surprise as it has a history of opposing Moslem Brotherhood formations like Tunisia’s Ennahda Party. The U.S. has not come out to condemn President Saied’s power grab and seems to support it; the U.S. media which has touted Tunisia as a model for MENA democracy has responded with unusual restrait to the developments as well, at least to date.

What follows here is a ten minute segment of KGNU Hemisphere’s Middle East Dialogues done last night (July 27, 2021). An hour program which dealt mostly with the failures of U.S. Middle East policy in Afghanistan, Iran, we took a little time at the outset to discuss the Tunisian events. A longer, more in depth analysis will follow in the next week or ten days as we (Kazerooni and Prince) have followed and commented upon the Tunisian situation repeatedly since the onset of the Arab Spring in 2011, which started in Tunisia, sparked by the immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid, a town in the Tunisian interior.

Here is the snippet of that discussion. The full interview will follow in a few days.

The author in front of “Linstitut Bourguiba des Langues Vivantes in Tunis where he taught many, many years ago. Photo from 2011.

Review of Susan Rice’s Memoir “Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For”

July 25, 2021

Review of Susan Rice’s Memoir “Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For. Simon Schuster Paperbacks. 2019. ISBN 978-1-6011-8998-2 (pbk).

I read Susan Rice’s memoir “Tough Love: My Story of Things Worth Fighting For” cover to cover to get a measure in her own words and a better sense as to why through most of her political career, she has been joined at the hip with Ethiopia’s Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – close to an international mafia than a political party or organization – that was ejected from power in Ethiopia in 2018 and replaced by the current Abiy Ahmed government. Minus a few shallow comments, there was virtually nothing that shed light on Rice’s Ethiopian connection. This is despite the fact, even today, Susan Rice continues her behind the scenes machinations meddling in Ethiopian politics with the goal to bring the discredited TPLF back to power

Like many memoirs of this ilk, the book has “a lot of fluff”; much family melodrama mixed with a bit of politics. Although we learn more than we need about Susan Rice’s family background in a political memoir from a foreign policy expert, it contains few valuable insights into the vision and mechanics of the U.S. foreign policy she helped shape and direct. The book does have a catchy title, although after reading it cover to cover my main sense of what Susan Rice thought was “worth fighting for” was a position in the new Biden Administration. Like other memoirs being published shortly prior to a major presidential election, the 2020 U.S. presidential contest, this one is a largely self-serving account meant to counter Rice’s image as an authoritarian loose cannon. The memoir is essentially little more than a political sales pitch: “Look at all the wonderful things I have done, Joe Biden!” It’s hard to conclude anything other than Rice was putting herself forward either for Secretary of State or National Security Administration administrator, neither of which she was able to land.

Given her rich experience at the heart of U.S. foreign policy teams in the Clinton and Obama Administrations, this could have been an enlightening read. Although she currently holds the title of Director of the United States Domestic Policy Council, most of her political experience has been in the realm of foreign policy. She has served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (2009-2013) in the first Obama Administration and then as U.S. National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2017. No doubt Rice, who emerged from the Brookings Institute in the 1990s into the Clinton Administration’s foreign policy team, is a highly qualified, well educated, intellectually sharp person whose background includes degrees at Stanford and Oxford. She is also, as my mother would put it, “a tough cookie”, with the backbone needed to make tough – and often quick – decisions in dealing with international crises.

Too bad, from my perspective, that all that talent is wasted due to the political framework within which her mind works and she operates. I would call her a Cold War liberal “of a new neo-liberal type”: progressive on the social issues of the day. She flashes her opposition to racism in the USA, supports gay rights, women’s rights, and boasts about supporting Black Lives Matter and the U.S. orchestrated NATO invasion of Libya that overthrew Khaddaffi at the same time.

Read more…

Center for Freedom and Justice – Colorado July 18, 2021 Interview with Raghad al Afifi, Palestinian educator who lived through the May, 2021 Israeli air bombing of Gaza

July 22, 2021
Gaza resident Yahia Sinwar sitting among the bombed out ruins of his home in Gaza, the result of the Israeli May, 2021 bombardment of Gaza

Here is the YouTube link to the interview. It is worth listening to and has already gotten more than 500 hits in a few days

Shortly afterwards, Ms. al Afifi posted this commentary on social media, Below are some of her remarks having been able to leave Gaza for the first time in fourteen years:

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“What must be talked about here too is that this is my first time traveling outside of Palestine in 14 straight years and that is of course because the blockade forced on Gaza. My family and I initially signed up our names to travel when the border finally opened during the past 11 days war back in May as an escape. Our names came out to be allowed passage through the border 2 weeks after the war ended and we decided to go anyway as a means to vent out the stress and heal the psychological damage that was caused by the war. Traveling out of Gaza and back was never the fun journey. Frankly, the trip back to Gaza was one of the worst experiences I had to live in my life. All Palestinians heading to the border were set to take a different road than usual -a longer, more torturous way-. Everyone had to wait 3 days in their vehicles in the hot summer mornings and cold nights till their turn to be fully checked by the Egyptian army. Much of the time was waisted in vain as random personnels in the army decided to just keep us waiting. Normally the trip takes 5 hours to get from Cairo to Gaza, but we had to wait for Godot, and not at any point we were sure that we’re actually going to make it back. When I’m talking about travelers here, I’m talking about people from different ages and life conditions who many of them were traveling for medical assistance and God knows how they made the trip and many others were international students going back to see their families whom they hadn’t seen in long.My hope for all Palestinians to find near salvation and safety. Free, free Palestine”

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Guest Blogger: Messay Kebede: The Enigma of the Western Crusade against Ethiopia and the Insidious Face of Racism

July 18, 2021

by Messay Kebede

(Publisher’s Note: One of the better articles to my mind on the growing antagonism of the United States towards Ethopia. Besides explaining well how human rights accusations against the Abiy government have been weaponized, it gives – what to my mind – is the best explanation for U.S. hositily. Of course, geo-political considerations exist, but the more one studies the geo-political themes, the less satisfying they seem to explain the current situation. Messay Kebede suggests another reason: failure of a regional “subordinate” to agree to Washington’s diktats, and to “obey” the orders from the likes of Susan Rise and Andrew Blinken relayed by Chris Coons and Jeffrey Feltman to the Abiy government. Ethiopia’s current “crime” is to pursue an independent political vison not approved by Washington. Washington’s anger is based on an old colonial, racist mentality dressed in modern clothing. Excellent piece – RJP)

Ethiopians and Eritreans of all stripes celebrating the choice of Abiy Ahmed as Ethoipian’s Prime Minister and the end of 27 years of oppressive Tigray Poplular Liberation Front (TPLF) rule. Aurara High School football field. July 22, 2018. Aurora Colorado

One thing that has been most incomprehensible for many Ethiopian observers, activists, and politicians is the barrage of one-sided criticisms coming from Western capitals since the eruption in November of an armed conflict between the federal government and the TPLF’s controlled northern region of Tigray. Directed exclusively against the federal government, the criticisms were soon followed by the implementations of various sanctions that elevated the surprise to the level of utter consternation. The deep differences over the direction of the country under the reformist leadership of Prime Minister Abiy constitute the underlying causes of the conflict. The immediate cause of the war, however, was the surprise attack of TPLF militia forces on the national defense forces stationed in Tigray. The Ethiopian government launched an all-out counter-offensive that it baptized “law enforcement operation,” which resulted in the quick and complete disbanding of TPLF forces. Unsurprisingly, severe humanitarian crises ranging from food shortages and killings of civilians to massive displacements into a neighboring country soon followed the military confrontation.

From Disbelief to Consternation

In light of the sudden and unprovoked attack on the Ethiopian national forces, the expectation of the Ethiopian government and most Ethiopians was that Western governments and opinions would see the Ethiopian counter-offensive as a legitimate move of self-defense and law enforcement. The expectation never came to fruition. Instead, the Ethiopian troops were accused of a host of violations that included the killings of innocent civilians, the rapes of women, the deliberate destruction of properties and, last but not least, the engagement in genocidal acts. To make matters worse, the involvement in the counter-offensive of Eritrean troops and Amhara militia forces, both reputed to be quite hostile to Tigrean leaders and elites, made the accusations of massive human rights violations even more credible. The end result of all this is that everything was turned upside down: the attacker was seen as the victim.

The Ethiopian surprise is all the harder to contain as Western governments did not show the same eagerness to express their condemnations during the 27 years of the TPLF’s horrific rule of Ethiopia. Even when repression became so intensified that it compelled the legislative branch of the US government to break the silence, not one single punitive measure was taken. To crown it all, President Obama described the TPLF’s government as a “democratically elected government” during his August 2015 visit to Ethiopia, even as all the 547 seats in the parliament were taken by its members and supporters and numerous activists and political leaders were languishing in jail where they were routinely tortured. Worse still, not one Western government expressed any outrage over the well documented recent massacre in Mai-Kadra of scores of Amhara residents by the TPLF forces in the wake of their retreat from advancing governmental troops and Amhara militia forces. The silence extended to major Western media outlets, which otherwise gave extensive coverage to alleged atrocities committed by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces. After the pause of dismay, the only conclusion left for Ethiopians was to say that the TPLF remains the favorite ally of Western governments and that their open hostility toward the present government is an attempt to come to its rescue.

Read more…

Raghad Alafifi, Palestinian woman from Gaza Will Speak on her experience living through the recent Israeli bombing. Sunday, July 18, 2021 @ 8 am MST

July 17, 2021

Center for Freedom and Justice – Colorado:

Raghad Alafifi will speak with CFJ-Colorado about her experience living in Gaza during the recent war. Raghad is a young Palesintian social entrepreneur who’s originally from Western Batani village in Palestine and is currently living in Gaza. She’s a 4-war survivor and an active contributor to positive change in her community. Her life is dedicated toward seeking and creating meaning, and she translates it through her nonprofit Fill The Gap work. Using a futuristic model of education, mentorship, and career counseling, Fill The Gap redesigns university experiences for ambitious Palestinian students who strive to lead meaningful, impactful lives.

Live on Facebook (go to Center for Freedom and Justice – Colorado Facebook Page) and

YouTube @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Pa-PTqq0VQ

Dearborn, Michigan. Protest Demonstration in support of the people of Palestine. May 17, 2021

Guest Blogger, Graham Peebles: “Stop Interfering – Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election”

July 13, 2021
Ethiopians and Eritreans Celebrating the appointment of Abiy Ahmed to the post of Ethiopia’s prime minister. They are also celebrating the end of 28 years of repressive and corrupt rule by the country’s Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)

(Note: One of the better pieces on the situation in Ethiopia. Takes a different (better, more accurate) take on the situation than the mainstream media both in USA and UK. RJP)

Counterpunch

Stop Interfering – Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election

Graham Peebles – July 9, 2021

Despite ongoing violence in the northern region of Tigray, persistent attempts to de-rail the process and cries of catastrophe by western powers (most notably the US) and mainstream media, on the 21 June Ethiopia conducted its first ever democratic elections.

The mechanics of the election were not perfect, but crucially there were no reports of violence and the (independent) National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) claims that turnout was good. Although some opposition parties complained about the voting process (which the NEBE is investigating), African Union observers found that, the elections were “conducted in an orderly, peaceful and credible manner”.

Due to conflict or logistical issues around 20% of the country (100 of 547 constituencies) did not take part, with the exception of Tigray these areas will vote in September. The election is a major milestone in the recent history of the country and the movement towards a more democratic form of governance.

To the surprise of nobody the government (The Prosperity Party), under the leadership of PM Abiy Ahmed, won an overwhelming victory. The full results are yet to be released, but signs suggest the incumbent may have taken all 547 parliamentary seats; however, in a positive move, PM Abiy has said he will invite members of opposition parties to participate in forming a new government. While total dominance is regrettable and unhealthy, it does place responsibility and opportunity firmly with the government, as well as unavoidable accountability.

Meddling Allies

The country is beset with a range of serious problems, the task before the government is daunting, the priorities clear. Firstly and essentially, establishing peace – nothing can be achieved unless the ongoing conflict in Tigray between TPLF forces and the military, and ethnic violence in other areas is brought to an end. The humanitarian fall-out of the Tigray war must be urgently addressed: over 131,000 (according to IOM UN Migration) have been displaced in the region, taking the total number of internally displaced persons to over two million, and millions require food aid.

Overall numbers and intensity of need are disputed; the UN estimates that up to five million people in Tigray are facing starvation, but the Ethiopian government has dismissed such numbers as “alarmist”. Contrary to reports in western media, that federal forces have sabotaged aid convoys, deliveries of food aid made by the World Food Programme (WFO) have been disrupted by TPLF forces inside the region. The deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs, Demeke Mekonen, has said that in the first round of humanitarian response “effort was made to reach out to 4.5 million people in the Tigray region through the delivery of food and non-food items. In the second and third rounds, the relief efforts were able to reach out to 5.2 million people.”

Establishing verifiable, reliable information in a war zone, where access is restricted, is difficult, nigh impossible; it is a mystery how western media and assertive commentators routinely make statements (that circulate and are repeated from one outlet to another until taken as fact) about the situation inside Tigray and other parts of the country without having been there, or in many cases, spoken to people inside the country. A point that is not lost on many Ethiopians.

The African Union (AU) has launched a commission of inquiry into the conflict, and a joint investigation by Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) is also underway. Currently an agreed ceasefire is in place in Tigray and TPLF forces are in control of the regional capital Mekelle. If the people of Tigray want to be governed by the TPLF, as it appears they do, then as PM Abiy has suggested, they will soon see if that is a wise decision.

The welcome lull in fighting may create potential for discussions between the two sides, however distasteful this may be to both government and populace. To the fury of Ethiopians, home and abroad, in addition to sanctions and withholding aid (the US and EU), ‘talks’ are something western powers, most notably the US, have been calling for over past months: In March 2021 Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the House Foreign Relations Committee that “we need to get an independent investigation into what took place there, and we need some kind of…. reconciliation process.” “Reconciliation” with the TPLF, who terrorized the country for 27 years and are rightly despised throughout Ethiopia?

In response to US sanctions and lectures the Ethiopian government said, “if such a resolve to meddle in our internal affairs and undermining the century-old bilateral ties continues unabated, the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia will be forced to reassess its relations with the U.S., which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship.” The level of condescension and interference displayed by the US and others has angered many Ethiopians.

The TPLF, regarded by the Ethiopian government and much of the populace as terrorists, were, and apparently remain the favored force of western powers. They ruled Ethiopia from 1992 to 2018 under the guise of a coalition , before collapsing under the weight of sustained protests in 2018. A totalitarian, unforgiving regime the TPLF ruled through fear and ethnic division. Corrupt to the core they syphoned off federal funds, divided communities along ethnic lines, committed state terrorism and Crimes against Humanity in a number of regions to a variety of ethnic groups.

Western powers supported the TPLF throughout their violent reign, notably the USA and the UK (with money and political legitimacy), and seem intent on levering them back into office and curtailing Ethiopia’s rise as a regional independent power. ‘Stop interfering in a sovereign state’ is the message loud and clear from Ethiopians of all regions, except Tigrayans; a message delivered at protests in Washington DC and at the recent G7 gathering in Britain that went unreported by mainstream media, who focused their coverage solely on the ‘humanitarian situation’ in Tigray (of which they appear to know little), ignoring the passionate cries against interference.

Mainstream media (including the BBC, CNN, The Guardian – which recently published a widely inaccurate piece about Tigray – Al Jazeera, VOA etc) is rightly regarded as a propaganda tool of western governments. The coverage of the election was broadly negative, slanted to echo the western/US agenda of delay. A key voice in this subversive effort is well known to Ethiopians; Susan Rice was US ambassador to the UN (2009-2013) and Obama’s national security adviser from 2013-2017. She has been ‘advising’, i.e., lobbying the Biden administration on behalf of the TPLF mafia, who she, and Obama, supported. The US (the worlds biggest arms dealer) appears to now be arming the ‘rebels’, via the military dictatorship of Egypt – the primary western voice-piece in the region.

Ethiopia’s potential

Ethiopia is going through a difficult, but potentially exciting time of transition, from serial dictatorship to some form of democracy. A system that observes human rights and allows universal freedoms including freedom of speech, unlike under the TPLF. However, there are a range of disruptive, subversive elements intent on derailing any democratic development, some of which sit firmly within the government and need to be purged. There are also malicious external forces that would see Ethiopia split, and ethnic division run wild: Egypt and Sudan are anxious and, one suspects, shocked by and envious of the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam (the largest in Africa), and of Ethiopia’s potential strength and influence within the region and continent. And, angered by the country’s historic independence – it was never colonized, ejecting the Italians twice, 1896 and 1941 – jealous of its rich, ancient culture (dating to at least 3000BC), and nervous about China’s involvement in the country (and continent), the old European colonial powers and the decaying force of the US, apparently do not want Ethiopia to flourish, and would be happy to keep the country enslaved to western aid, as it was under the TPLF.

As the country attempts to move forward it needs friends, not nominal allies whose actions are corrupted by self-interest, arrogance and resentment; nations (USA, UK and EU chiefly) that stood by for decades watching the TPLF murder, torture and steal, and declared corrupt elections legitimate. Such voices have little credibility in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian people are desperate for change, for peace and stability; they have given The Prosperity Party under the leadership of Abiy Ahmed a huge mandate to govern: as their term in office begins they will be closely watched, by Ethiopians at home and abroad. To unite a country that has been systematically divided over decades will take time, skill and patience. Mistakes will inevitably be made, but if the intent is sound and honesty is demonstrated, trust can be built and divisions will gradually begin to collapse.

Graham Peebles is a British freelance writer and charity worker. He set up The Create Trust in 2005 and has run education projects in Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and India. E: grahampeebles@icloud.com W: http://www.grahampeebles.org

Two U.S. Middle East Debacles: Afghanistan and Yemen, A Live Exchange with Ibrahimm Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Wednes, July 14, 8:30 pm MST (on Facebook and YouTube)

July 12, 2021
Entrance to Bagram Air Base, Kabul, Afghanistan just after it was deserted by U.S. forces

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, perhaps the most ignominous moment in U.S. foreign policy history since the U.S. defeat in Vietnam. Analysis and prospects by Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Along with yet another failure – that of Yemen, key to the rising tensions of two key U.S. Gulf allies – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

On YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8B_YOutBwI

On Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RobPrince1106/

Vaccination and Healthcare for Africa NOW! Prevent Scourge of Covid-19 and Save Lives

June 22, 2021

(At a time when COVID-19 numbers – both those infected and those dying – are plummeting in the United States, the numbers are taking off in Africa. with the UK, India and S. African variants gaining traction on the continent. RJP)

Below, a guest columnist. Never met him, but we were on a panel together not long ago and I was impressed with his knowledge of the situation (Ethiopia).

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June 12, 2021

Lawrence Freeman

This brief study, “Lessons for Africa from India’s Deadly COVID Surge,” by the African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), is extremely relevant for Africans today.

The Daily Telegraph reports: “Coronavirus cases across Africa have surged by 25 per cent over the last week, sparking fears that the continent of 1.3 billion people is unprepared to deal with a ‘third wave’. The rise in cases stands in stark contrast to all other regions where infection rates are falling, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) statistics.”

According to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, (Africa CDC) the death rate from covid-19 has increased 2% in the past week.

Clearly Africa is in danger of an upsurge of cases of the coronavirus with the potential of a third wave spreading across the African continent.  African nations have only vaccinated between 1-2% of their populations.

United States President, Joe Biden, has pledged 200 million doses to be given to poorer nations desperately in need of the vaccine, like Africa, by the end of this year, and 300 million more by next June. However, to date, the U.S. has not delivered a single dose of the vaccine to underdeveloped nations. British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has pledged 100 million doses of the vaccine, and the G-7 nations–U.S., Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, and England, are expected to announce that 1 billion doses will be donated, with no delivery date. President Biden has already pledge $4 billion to COVAX, a worldwide vaccine distribution center based in Europe.

While these belated announcements of vaccine pledges by G-7 nations is good; it is not good enough. It has been six months since the U.S. began vaccinating Americans and has made progress towards vaccinating almost 290 million of its inhabitants 12 years and older. With Africa’s population nearing 1.5 billion, it will require 3 billion of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to inoculate its people from the coronavirus. Predictions are that only 50-60% of Africa’s population will be vaccinated by the end of 2022! Vaccinating half of the people living on the African continent, a year, and a half from now, will not do. It is unacceptable if we are really serious about defeating this deadly pandemic.

What Has To Be Done, Now!

Let me summarize from my earlier articleBiden Must Lead All-Out Effort to Vaccinate Africa From COVID-19

  • In order to fully vaccinate the expanding African population, African nations must be assisted in producing the vaccines locally. We have to develop vaccine manufacturing plants in Africa. This will also require waiving patent rights on the major vaccines.
  • There must be a massive upgrading of the deficient health infrastructure in African nations. More doctors, more hospitals, more hospital beds, more ICU rooms equipped with advanced medical equipment are necessary to prevent Africans from dying, who contract this deadly virus.
  • We should use the current emergency, the urgency of defeating this virus and saving lives, to do what we should have done 60 years ago; build infrastructure in Africa. Hospitals and manufacturing centers cannot run without electricity. High speed rail transportation for passengers and freight is a necessity. Distribution capacity of the vaccine to reach the population will require an expansion of existing infrastructure.  Every nation must have medical schools to train nurses and doctors. Infectious disease and virology medical centers are also required. Increase food production is essential to build strong immune systems. Massive economic development especially in hard and soft infrastructure is required if we are going to prevent potentially millions of lives from needlessly perishing. To accomplish this mission, Africa needs a minimum of 1,000 gigawatts of electricity, and 100,000 kilometers of high speed rail.

Excerpts below from: “Lessons for Africa from India’s Deadly COVID Surge,”

“The surge in COVID-19 cases in India, spurred by a more transmissible variant and complacency, provides a stark warning to African populations to remain vigilant to contain the pandemic.”

“India’s COVID-19 surge is a warning for Africa. Like India, Africa mostly avoided the worst of the pandemic last year. Many Sub-Saharan African countries share similar sociodemographic features as India: a youthful population, large rural populations that spend a significant portion of the day outdoors, large extended family structures, few old age homes, densely populated urban areas, and weak tertiary care health systems. As in India, many African countries have been loosening social distancing and other preventative measures. A recent survey by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) reveals that 56 percent of African states were “actively loosening controls and removing the mandatory wearing of face-masks.” Moreover, parts of Africa have direct, longstanding ties to India, providing clear pathways for the new Indian variant to spread between the continents.”

“Ramping Up of Vaccine Campaigns. According to the Africa CDC, the continent has administered just 24.2 million doses to a population of 1.3 billion. Representing less than 2 percent of the population, this is the lowest vaccination rate of any region in the world. With the Indian and other variants coursing through Africa, the potential for the emergence of additional variants rises, posing shifting threats to the continent’s citizens. Containing the virus in Africa, in turn, is integral to the global campaign to end the pandemic. Recognizing the global security implications if the virus continues to spread unchecked in parts of Africa, the United Nations Security Council has expressed concern over the low number of vaccines going to Africa.”

Excerpts below from The GuardianThird-wave-sweeps-across-Africa-as-Covid-vaccine-imports-dry-up

“The threat of a third wave in Africa is real and rising. Our priority is clear – it’s crucial that we swiftly get vaccines into the arms of Africans at high risk of falling seriously ill and dying of Covid-19,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa.”

“The WHO said the pandemic was now trending upwards in 14 countries and in the past week alone, eight countries had witnessed an abrupt rise of over 30% in cases. However, vaccine shipments to African nations have ground to a near halt.”

Read: “Lessons for Africa from India’s Deadly COVID Surge,

Read my previous posts below:

Biden Must Lead All-Out Effort to Vaccinate Africa From COVID-19

Rising Covid19 Death Rate Threatens Africa. Vaccinations and Healthcare Must Be Provided

International Cooperation and Collaboration Needed to Save Lives in Africa From COVID-19

New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton

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Let Facts, Not Propaganda Guide Ethiopia Policy

June 21, 2021
Colorado Ethiopians and Eritreans celebrate Abiy Ahmed becoming Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Late July, 2018, Aurora High School (photo credit: R. Prince)

Column: Let Facts Not Propaganda Guid Ethiopia Policy

This column appeared today in the Denver Gazette. Denver Gazette is sister publication of Coloradopolitics.com and the Colorado Springs Gazette, owned by Phil Anschutz and well funded. 

As there is a paywall, I am submitting my draft, slightly different from the printed edition

FACTS NOT PROPAGANDA MUST GUIDE U.S. POLICY TOWARDS ETHIOPIA

Hoping that the upcoming June 21 national elections will strengthen national unity, Colorado’s own Ethiopian Community is riveted to the news and anxious to see the outcome. The election comes at a moment when both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are considering bills that, if passed, would result in sanctions against Ethiopia, a rather startling punishment for a country that has been a longtime ally of the United States .

Although not generally known, somewhere between 30,000-35,000 strong, Ethiopians make up one of the fastest growing immigrant communities in Colorado, second in size only to Latin American immigrants in the state. This community has added so much to the vibrancy of urban life.

In August 2018, 7,000 – 8,000 Ethiopians in Colorado met at the Aurora High School football field to celebrate the end of decades of repressive rule at the hands of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Those in attendance hoped their celebration would be the beginning of a new era, one that would unify the nearly 100 ethnic groups and 80 major languages spoken there.

 “For one shining moment” – they were all simply “Ethiopian”.  A spirited and sizable Eritrean delegation was also present. The event was a breathtaking event full of hope for Ethiopia’s future.

Shortly thereafter, in October (2018(, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for having ended a twenty-year war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in which “tens of thousands” died on both sides.

Unfortunately, this honeymoon period did not last long. Although Ethiopia today is a country with exciting economic and social potential, festering antagonisms came boiling to the surface threatening the country’s 2000-year political integrity. Preserving Ethiopia’s national integrity – and with it – the prospects for regional stability in the Horn of Africa as a whole – is the challenge at hand.

On November 4, 2020, as Joe Biden and Donald Trump squared off in the much-watched 2020 presidential election here in the United States, in northern Ethiopia, Tigray Province, armed elements of the TPLF stormed a national military barracks killing hundreds – many in their sleep – and confiscating a large store of arms. A TPLF rampage in the city of Mai Kadra followed. These events received virtually no play in the U.S. media. Curious.

The TPFL’s strategy was that their insurrection – akin to Confederate bombing of Ft. Sumner in 1861 – would trigger national uprisings elsewhere in Ethiopia, leading to the collapse of the current government and driving its leader, Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed from power. Instead, the national army of Ethiopia put down the Tigray rebellion in a few weeks.

Noted Dutch Scholar Jon Abbink reflects the views of many who have studied the conflict writing: Abuses were indeed committed on several sides, but incomparably more so on the side of the TPLF forces than on that of federal army or Eritrean forces. Claims of genocide by whomever made must be taken seriously – yet the claims of the TPLF do not withstand even the most cursory of investigations.

My concern is that the Biden Administration, with the best of intentions, is following a path that is not in the best interests of the United States and will in fact lead to more conflict and more destruction.  As Ethiopia prepares to vote on June 21 the proper role for the United States is not to fall into a propaganda trap started by the TPLF but to stand up for American values and be honest brokers for a full and lasting peace.

Senators Bennet & Hickenlooper and Congressman Crow, representing one of America’s  largest Ethiopian Communities owe it to these constituents to understand the conflict and stand up for a true peace. They should not and must not fall for the TPLF’s version of the truth which tries to masquerade a history of corruption and war.  Your constituents particularly those of Ethiopian descent deserve more than that as you were elected to be public servants not to be rubber stamps for the TPLF.

Sanctioning Ethiopia would be a major step in the wrong direction.

Rob Prince is a retired Lecturer of International Studies at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies where he taught Global Political Economy for 23 years., retiring in 2015.

Ethiopia – Straightening Out The Record – an Interview on the Breakfast Club.

June 20, 2021
Taste of Ethiopia, Aurora, Colorado. August 3, 2019

Note how these Ethiopian friends (link below) had to fight to get a hearing in the media.

It is this kind of grassroots pressure from the mainstream Ethiopian Community along with their American friends – not those within it who claim to be its voice – that will make a difference in the long road ahead.

Once again the media is being weaponized against a movement – in this case a whole country, Ethiopia – trying to free itself from foreign – and imperialist – domination. Ethiopia seeks its own independent development path, one that threatens both regional and global hegemons. Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister is being vilified – as a pretext for regime change – as was Eva Morales, Hugo Chavez, Yaser Arafat, and many others have been over the years. At the very least, what is happening amounts to targeted character assassination meant to put pressure on Ethiopia for regime change of one sort or another.

A more honest, balanced explanation of what is happening in Ethiopia is needed.

Keep in mind two points

1. There are currently two bills – one in the Senate, the other in the House – that have set the stage for the State Department to slap sanctions against Ethiopia – they are based on misinformation

2. The term “Tigray People’s Liberation Front”, “TPLF” is misleading. It sounds like a progressive, anti-Imperialist “national liberation front” – instead it is Ethiopia’s version of the Nicaraguan Contras, no more, no less.

In the interview below done on “The Breakfast Club” three Ethiopians clear up misconceptions about what is happening in Ethiopia. Good interview – addresses much misinformation circulating in the media echo chamber.

Dawit Asghedom, Simon Tesfamariam & Lidet Muleta On Dangers Of Media Covering The Tigray Conflict

Commentary on the Iranian Presidential Elections: Regardless of the new President’s name, Iran’s elections confirm the values of the revolution

June 19, 2021
Who’s threatening whom?

Although I do make a few initial points the commentary below is not mine but that of E. J. Magnier, a secular Lebanese journalist and political commentator of some repute who defends the Iranian presidential elections, not just the one taking place at this moment, but the whole history of these elections since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

I decided to post this after reading the NY Times headline this morning “Iran’s ultraconservative judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, is set to become president after an election that many voters saw as rigged in his favor.” The article goes on to slam the election process in Iran in no uncertain terms – “poor voter turnout”, “rigged” etc. Just a part of the ideological warfare against Iran that has been going on for the past 42 years. Nothing less. Many more pieces of this ilk will appear in the echo chamber otherwise known as the Western media.

My own take on these elections briefly – Kazerooni and I will discuss them in detail on our KGNU program on June 29 – can be summed up as the following:

a. It was more democratic than presidential elections here in the United States and by a long shot.

b. Even with the low voter turnout there, that turnout is higher than in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. It is not the important point that the NY Times claims.

c. This election is essentially a response to the U.S. refusal via the JCPOA to remove sanctions against Iran as agreed to in the 2015 completion of that agreement. The Iran Nuclear Deal is essentially – and very unfortunately – dead in the water.

d Since Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran Nuclear Deal), essentially destroying in one fell swoop any possibility of the United States from normalizing relations with Iran, it has been predicted on many quarters – left, right and center – that Iran’s flirtation with Washington represented by Rouhani and Zarif is over and that the country would move more definitely into strengthening its ties with Russia and China. If the Iranian populace is moving towards a more hard line position towards Washington, the primary responsibility for the failure of this reconciliation lies with Washington.

e. The NY Times piece is the opening salvo for a yet even more frenzied U.S. attitude towards Iran. It corresponds to American hypocrisy on foreign elections – be they in Bolivia, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Palestine (Hamas in Gaza), and the like. Washington pontificates about how “democracy’ is about electoral politics – unless Washington doesn’t agree with the results and then it charges – without evidence – that the elctions are fixed, rigged etc. Usual imperial approach – ie, “you” (other countries) can and should have elections as long as Washington approves of the results.

Anyway, E. J. Magnier’s piece below gives a much more honest picture of Iranian elections. It was written a few days prior to the election itself

Read more…

Modern Ethiopian Timeline..

June 9, 2021

1820s – Egypt’s ruler Mohammad Ali Pasha had imperial designs on Ethiopia and tried to privatize and monopolize the Nile and capture the Ethiopian port city of Massawa. He was defeated.

1868 -the British sent an expeditionary army consisting of “13,000 soldiers, 40,000 animals, including 44 elephants trained to pull the big artillery guns” against Emperor Teodros. They attacked his fortress only to discover that he had taken his own life than become a prisoner of the British colonial army

The British colonial force quickly retreated but not until they had kidnapped Teodros’ seven-year-old son Prince Alemayehu, and stolen the royal cap and great seal and looted many other Ethiopian treasures. The British colonial thieves even stole a lock of Emperor Teodros hair which was returned to Ethiopia in 2019.

As Britain colonized nearly a third of Africa, it never conquered or occupied Ethiopia. (Al Mariam Commentaries)

1869 – Suez Canal Completed. Egypt was prized for the Nile Delta by the colonialist, a region unsurpassed in agricultural productivity. After the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, Egypt also offered access to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. For the British, control of Egypt meant more profitable trade with India, one of its richest colonies. For the French, the Canal offered quicker access to Indochina, its very lucrative colony.

1875-6 – In 1875-76, Egypt repeated its blunder of the 1820s by trying to militarily subjugating Ethiopia and control the Blue Nile once and for all. Egypt deployed a large well-equipped and trained army led by European and American officers. The Battle of Gundet and Gura in present-day Eritrea where Ethiopians delivered a humiliating defeat to the Egyptian army. Egypt fails to dominate the Nile River Basin,

In the Battle of Gundet (1875) and Battle of Gura (1876), Ethiopian forces “completely annihilated” the Egyptian forces. According to one historian:

The Battle of Gura abolished any practical opportunity for Egypt to gain control over Ethiopia. The heavy Egyptian losses (almost 14,000 men died in three months), the economic damage to the Egyptian economy and, above all, the Egyptian depiction of the Ethiopian warriors as having a demonic character, prevented any future Egyptian invasion of Ethiopia.

1890 – The border between Ethiopia and Eritrea was formed by the extent of Italian penetration from the coast and officially founded.

1892 – July 23 – Tafari Makonnen, later known as Haili Selassi, emperor of Ethiopia was born near Harer, Ethiopia.

1894 – March 9 – Emperor signed a decree granting Alfred Ilg, the Emperor’s advisor and a Swiss engineer, and Léon Chefneux, a French engineer, to work on a railway between the port of Djibouti and the capital of Ethiopia. The railway was intended to open up the Ethiopian Empire, which is landlocked, to further trade on the Red Sea

1896 – March 1 – Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia defeated the Italian colonial power at Adwa on March 1, 1896, and initiated a major railway line project during the first Italian War. The Ethiopian forces defeated the Italian invading force on Sunday 1 March 1896, near the town of Adwa. The decisive victory thwarted the campaign of the Kingdom of Italy to expand its colonial empire in the Horn of Africa.

Read more…

The Cut in I-70 at Morrison: The geology of Colorado’s Dakota Hogback

May 31, 2021

I don’t know how many times we’ve passed it entering the mountains on I-70 heading into Colorado’s high country over the past 52 years. 1000 times? Probably more. I did stop about thirty years ago, when the geological markers had not yet been trashed with graffitti by whomever trying to deny the reality of evolution – human or otherwise. Now the paths are in a state of disrepair, those information signs helping a visitor navigate through some 80 million years of geological history have either been removed or seriously and systematically written over by graffiti, the remaining signs themselves bludgeoned with either hammers or axes, as if violence could erase the earth’s 4.5 billion year history.

But still, that cut in the road remains – a breathtaking manifestation of Mesozoic sedimentology and Cenozoic tectonic plate activity, evidence by its very existence that the age of the earth is a gazillion times older than the 5200 years right-wing religious wackos of all faiths would have their followers and the rest of us believe. If the geology of the area is intensiviely studied it is in part because of its dramatic geological history but also because it is believed that some 10,000 feet below the surface are petroleum bearing strata containing potentially huge volumes of oil and gas.

Thinking that it was, once again, time to take a stroll down geological memory lane, I headed back up to the 400 high, half-mile long road cut by the Morrison exist of I-70 to poke around that slice of some 40 million years of geological formations that are visible today as clearly delineated strata ranging in hue from bright yellow and orange to red, green, brown, tan, gray and black. The oldest strata on the western side of the cut date from around 145 million years ago, the youngest at the eastern end some 95 million years old when Colorado was “a broad flat plain populated by dinosaurs.”

“The cut” revealed to as the Dakota Hogback, a steeply sloped ridge that extends for southern Wyoming across the Front Range of Colorado at the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains into Northern New Mexico. It includes such geological wonders as Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Colorado, the Red Rocks Amphitheater, the Flat Irons of Boulder and Colorado Sprongs’ Garden of the Gods.. The Dakota Hogback is a remnant from a period of mountain-building that occurred approximately 70 million years ago, when the modern Rocky Mountains were uplifted in a process that tilted and exposed older, underlying rock strata — some fossil-bearing.

During the 1971 construction of I-70, an estimated 25 million tons of rock were removed from the road cut, revealing some 40 million years of geological formations that are visible today as clearly delineated strata ranging in hue from bright yellow and orange to red, green, brown, tan, gray and black.

As Pueblo Chieftain reporter Lynda La Rocca noted in a 2017 article:

Walkways along both sides of the road cut are lined with interpretive signs (many, however, have unfortunately been defaced and vandalized) explaining the origins of this sedimentary sandstone, mudstone, limestone, siltstone and shale, and illustrating how different strata represent different paleoenvironments, including freshwater marshes, beaches, tidal flats, tidal plains and sea bottoms.

Indeed, at a certain point one could smell the odors of past organic materials, still seeping their way to the surface.

A Wikipedia article notes that prior to the emergence of the Rocky Mountains, some 67 million years ago, the region was a shallow sea. As sediments fell to the bottom of the water, they were compressed into soft sedimentary rock. Thus, oyster and clam shells, sand, and mud built slowly into layers of sandstone, shale, limestone, and “mudstone.” As the Rocky Mountains rose over the last 67 million years, up to nearly 30,000 feet above sea level, the soft sedimentary rocks were quickly weathered and washed away from the high mountains. That soft matter, deposited in the layers visible in the cut was kept from eroding by a top layer of hard sandstone, the Dakota Sandstone, from which the ridge gets its name. This sandstone “cap” protects the softer shales and limestones beneath it from weathering and erosion.

“I hardly ever see anyone here.” These were the words of Roy Johnston, a local artist I mt there, exploring the formations on the north side of I-70 where I was also probing. We stopped and talked, shared a few observations about evolution – human and more general, both enjoying the wonder of it all. It was obvious from his red MAGA cap and my KGNU hat that had the circumstances of our meeting taken place in a different milieu that we might not have had such a friendly connection, but there we were before the enormity of geological history where those more mundane political differences didn’t amount to much, if anything. Had me thinking about how context “is everything.”