Water: source of life and conflict in the Land of Rivers

(by Joris Leverink, via ROARMag)

Iraq: Kurmashia Marsh: February 18, 2004: A Marsh Arab poles his canoe through Kirmashiya Marsh in southern Iraq.
Iraq: Kurmashia Marsh: February 18, 2004: A Marsh Arab poles his canoe through Kirmashiya Marsh in southern Iraq.

Where oil is widely considered to be one of the main causes for the region’s instability — mainly because it drew imperialist powers to the region that eagerly supported local dictators to ensure continued and unlimited access to the precious liquid — another potential source of conflict is often overlooked. Water, the first and foremost source of life in the barren desert regions of the Middle East, which allowed for the world’s first civilizations to develop on the fertile floodplains between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, is becoming ever more scarce, and the struggles to safeguard a fair share are growing fiercer by the day. […]

On several occasions over the past decades local development projects on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers have brought the three neighboring states Turkey, Syria and Iraq to the brink of war. When in 1990 Turkey blocked the flow of the Euphrates for nine days to fill the reservoir of the Atatürk dam, Iraq massed troops on its border and threatened to bomb the dam. Nowadays, tensions remain high as yet another Turkish mega-dam is about to be completed — the Ilisu dam on the Tigris river — which will severely reduce the water flow to Iraq and destroy thousands of years of cultural and historical heritage at home. […]

Topping the list of concerns of many local and international campaigns against the construction of the Ilisu dam is the fate of the town of Hasankeyf. The town and its surroundings are home to numerous archaeological sites — some of which remain unexplored — that date back more than 12,000 years. The ruins of an 11th century bridge mark the spot where the Silk Road once crossed the river Tigris and the thousands of human-made caves that dot the mountains bare witness to the unique culture of the region. All of this is set to disappear below the surface of the water once the inundation of the dam reservoir begins.

Immediately after the announcement of the project in 1997, a social movement emerged. Civil society groups, local professionals and international NGOs joined forces to oppose the project and raise awareness about the potential destruction of the natural environment, the cultural heritage and the displacement of up to 78,000 people from their homes in and around Hasankeyf.

A successful international campaign temporarily halted the project in 2009, when a number of European financiers withdrew their support after it was exposed that Turkey failed to meet the international standards of dam-building set by the World Bank to protect the environment, affected people, riparian states and cultural heritage. However, after Turkey turned to its national banks to provide the necessary funding, the project is now back on track and is set for completion this year. […]

The Ilisu dam is part of the giant Southeast Anatolia Regional Development Project (GAP, after its Turkish acronym) which was launched in 1977 and aims to built a total of 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric power plants by 2015, covering nine provinces in southeastern Turkey. The GAP project is presented by the government as bringing development to the traditionally impoverished and underdeveloped regions where poor living standards have caused the local Kurds to rise up against the central state for many decades.

For years, the Turkish central government, led by the former prime minister and current president Erdogan, has claimed that there is no such thing as a “Kurdish problem”, denying the fact that the country’s Kurdish population has been discriminated against on the basis of its ethnic background, and arguing that the Kurds’ hardships stem from the underdevelopment of their traditional homelands in southeastern Turkey. […]

The finished GAP project will reduce water flows to Syria by 40 percent, and to Iraq by a shocking 80 percent. This, in combination with the severe droughts that have hit the region over the past few years, the ongoing conflict between the Iraqi state and it allies and the militants of the so-called Islamic State, and the millions of (internally) displaced people in the region, has the potential to unleash an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe that could cause a serious food security problem, destabilizing the region for years to come. […]

From the Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq to the Kurds in Turkey, the struggle for equal access to the Earth’s resources is connected across ethnic, religious and national boundaries. As such, it provides a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the interdependence of the region’s communities, forging bonds that transcend the interests of central governments and international powers.

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Read the full article at ROARMag: http://roarmag.org/2015/08/water-conflict-turkey-middle-east/

 

Put Away The Flags (Howard Zinn)

(via The Progressive, 4th July 2006)

US soldier holding flag that says: "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people."On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Is not nationalism — that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder — one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

These ways of thinking — cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on — have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica and many more). But in a nation like ours — huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction — what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.

Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy.

That self-deception started early.

When the first English settlers moved into Indian land in Massachusetts Bay and were resisted, the violence escalated into war with the Pequot Indians. The killing of Indians was seen as approved by God, the taking of land as commanded by the Bible. The Puritans cited one of the Psalms, which says: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the Earth for thy possession.”

When the English set fire to a Pequot village and massacred men, women and children, the Puritan theologian Cotton Mather said: “It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day.”

On the eve of the Mexican War, an American journalist declared it our “Manifest Destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence.” After the invasion of Mexico began, The New York Herald announced: “We believe it is a part of our destiny to civilize that beautiful country.”

It was always supposedly for benign purposes that our country went to war.

We invaded Cuba in 1898 to liberate the Cubans, and went to war in the Philippines shortly after, as President McKinley put it, “to civilize and Christianize” the Filipino people.

As our armies were committing massacres in the Philippines (at least 600,000 Filipinos died in a few years of conflict), Elihu Root, our secretary of war, was saying: “The American soldier is different from all other soldiers of all other countries since the war began. He is the advance guard of liberty and justice, of law and order, and of peace and happiness.”

We see in Iraq that our soldiers are not different. They have, perhaps against their better nature, killed thousands of Iraq civilians. And some soldiers have shown themselves capable of brutality, of torture.

Yet they are victims, too, of our government’s lies.

How many times have we heard President Bush tell the troops that if they die, if they return without arms or legs, or blinded, it is for “liberty,” for “democracy”?

One of the effects of nationalist thinking is a loss of a sense of proportion. The killing of 2,300 people at Pearl Harbor becomes the justification for killing 240,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The killing of 3,000 people on Sept. 11 becomes the justification for killing tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And nationalism is given a special virulence when it is said to be blessed by Providence. Today we have a president, invading two countries in four years, who announced on the campaign trail in 2004 that God speaks through him.

We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.

We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation.

Father holds his dead child, murdered by South Vietnamese troops (March 19, 1964)

A father holds the body of his child as South Vietnamese Army Rangers look down from their armored vehicle on March 19, 1964. The child was killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border. (Horst Faas/AP)

A father holds the body of his child as South Vietnamese Army Rangers look down from their armored vehicle on March 19, 1964. The child was killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border. (Horst Faas/AP)

Samar Abu Elouf: Photos from Gaza ….

A fragment from an Israeli missile, extracted from 15 year old Palestinian girl …

Israeli missile fragment extracted from 15 year old girl (Photo: Samar Abu Elouf, July 2014)


… a premature baby, rescued from her dead mother’s womb after the latter was killed in an Israeli airstrike.

Premature baby who was saved from her mother's womb, after her mother was killed in an Israeli airstrike  (Photo: Samar Abu Elouf, July 2014)

Photo creditSamar Abu Elouf, July 2014 [source]

“American Sniper” spawns racist backlash and death threats against Arabs and Muslims

(by Rania Khalek via Electronic Intifada)

Violent anti-arab racist twitter posts in response to American Sniper movie

Following the release of the film American Sniper in theaters across the US, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has warned of a “significant rise in violent hate rhetoric targeting the Arab and Muslim-American communities.”

The ADC believes the threats “are directly linked to the negative media coverage and hateful propaganda launched against the Arab and Muslim communities following the attacks on the Charlie Hedbo offices in France” earlier this month. But the civil rights organization notes that racist threats have intensified in the wake of American Sniper, with moviegoers taking to social media to express their desire to murder Arabs and Muslims after leaving the theater.

Having both watched the movie and read the book on which it is based, I am not the least bit surprised by the incitement it has spawned. American Sniper is brilliant propaganda that valorizes American military aggression while delivering Hollywood’s most racist depiction of Arabs in recent memory, effectively legitimizing America’s ongoing bombing campaigns across the Middle East.

American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, is based on the autobiography of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, reputedly the deadliest sniper in American history.

Replete with hatred, bigotry and unrepentant bloodlust, Kyle’s book boasts of killing 160 Iraqi “savages” during his four deployments in Iraq following the illegal US invasion and occupation in 2003.

“Savage, despicable evil. That’s what we were fighting in Iraq,” Kyle writes in his book.

“I only wish I had killed more,” he writes, adding, “I loved what I did … It was fun. I had the time of my life.”

An excerpt from Chris Kyle's book where he talks about how much fun he had shooting people.
An excerpt from Chris Kyle’s book where he talks about how much fun he had shooting people.

“They hated us because we weren’t Muslim. They wanted to kill us, even though we just booted out their dictator, because we practiced a different religion than they did,” adds Kyle, who goes on to confess, “I don’t shoot people with Korans – I’d like to, but I don’t.” In Kyle’s mind, all Iraqis who resisted the invading US soldiers were irrationally violent religious fanatics.

In stark contrast, Hollywood sanitizes Kyle, humanizing him as a complex, likable and anguished hero.

Following the movie’s debut in select theaters on Christmas Day, author and journalist Max Blumenthal and I were deluged with death and rape threats for tweeting our disgust with Hollywood’s glorification of a mass killer and exposing the racism and lies espoused by Kyle. Although Kyle’s most ardent supporters claim to hate ISIS and al-Qaeda, they often call on these terrorist groups to behead critics of US military aggression.

The movie has since broken box office records, grossing $105 million during its nationwide opening and garnered accolades from across the political spectrum (Vice President Joe Biden said he wept at the Washington, DC premier). In addition, the movie scored six Academy Award nominations.

Frustrated by the glorification and whitewash of a racist mass killer, I posted passages from Kyle’s book on Twitter, highlighting his hateful and homicidal statements and drew attention to the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim threats the movie was inspiring, all of which I compiled into a Storify that went viral.

[…]

While the canonization of Kyle on the big screen is appalling, the movie’s whitewash of the US destruction of Iraq and its racist portrayal of Arabs has proven to be far more dangerous.

Racist twitter user says: "Just watched american sniper and I feel like killing every sand nigger on the fucking planet"The US destruction of Iraq left an estimated one million Iraqis dead, 4.5 million displaced, five million orphaned, some two million widowed and birth defects and cancer rates significantly worse than those seen in the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Japan at the end of the Second World War. The US war on Iraq also fueled the rise of ISIS. This immeasurable suffering is completely erased from the narrative presented in American Sniper.

In the opening scene of the film a conflicted Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) is perched on a rooftop with an Iraqi mother and child in the crosshairs of his sniper scope. He watches the mother give the child a grenade to throw at a US marine convoy. He reluctantly seeks permission to shoot.

Suddenly the screen cuts to Kyle as a child hunting with his father in Texas. Another scene shows him at church. Next he’s at the dinner table.

“There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs,” says Kyle’s father. “Now, some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world … those are the sheep. And then you got predators who use violence to prey on the weak. They’re the wolves. And then there are those who have been blessed with the gift of aggression, and the overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed that live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.”

For the rest of the movie Kyle is the sheepdog, the protector, the hero. And Iraqis are the evil wolves he must put down to protect the lives of his fellow “sheepdogs.”

Next we see Kyle as an adult. We watch him fall in love, get married and join the SEALs. Then the Twin Towers fall and he is deployed to Iraq, a narrative that leaves the poorly informed with the impression that Iraq was involved in the 11 September 2001 attacks, the very lie that the Iraq war was predicated on. This false narrative is reaffirmed when al-Qaeda appears in Iraq on Kyle’s first tour in 2003, a revisionist history that conflates indigenous armed resistance to a foreign occupier with a terrorist group that attacked the United States. In a country where 43 percent of Americans still believe that Iraq was connected to the 11 September 2001 attacks, perpetuating this falsehood, even if unintentional, is reckless.

Eventually, we return to the scene in the movie’s opening. Kyle shoots the child to save the Marine convoy. The mother runs towards the felled child, collects the grenade and prepares to launch it in the direction of the soldiers. Kyle shoots the woman dead at mid-launch. The grenade explodes before it reaches the soldiers.

“There was a kid who barely had any hair on his balls, his mother gives him a grenade and sends him out there to kill Marines,” says an agonized Kyle. “That was evil like I’d never seen before.”

This black and white, good versus evil theme continues throughout the movie’s entirety. US soldiers are humanized. They have names and families, fiancées and children. And they return home with deep physical and psychological wounds, whereas the local Arab population, including the women and children, are depicted as terrorists. The only time Arab women and children are innocent victims is when they are being brutalized by scary Arab men, but even they are nameless figures.

(Source: Rania Khalek, “‘American Sniper’ spawns death threats against Arabs and Muslims“. Electronic Intifada. 22 January 2015)

UK activists shut down Israeli arms factory

Via Mondoweiss.net:

“A group of activists from the London Palestine Action network have today [August 5, 2014] chained the doors shut of an Israeli weapons factory based near Birmingham in the UK and are now occupying the roof. As part of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) and in response to calls for action from Palestinian movements, we are demanding the permanent closure of the factory and an end to all forms of military trade and cooperation with Israel.[…]

Elbit Systems markets its drones as ‘field tested’ – by which it means that their drones have been proven to be effective at killing Palestinians. The UK government is importing technology that has been developed during the course of Israeli massacres.
Activists occupying rooftop of weapons factory, pink smoke and banners that say "UK Stop Arming Israel"

UK prime minister David Cameron and the UK government have Palestinian blood on their hands. In order to end their deep complicity with Israel’s system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid against Palestinians, they must take steps to impose a full military embargo on Israel and close the Elbit Systems factory immediately.

It is more important than ever that the solidarity we build with the Palestinian struggle is effective and impactful. Israel does not act alone but is supported by governments and corporations across the world that have names and addresses. It is time for the international solidarity movement to escalate its direct actions against those that support and profit from Israeli apartheid to take action that can lead to a genuine isolation of Israel.”

Read full article and see more photos here.