Tayyip Erdogan, John Kerry and Barack Obama; Wales, 2014. Photo: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
The Turkish mission to weed out every possible element of dissent continues, with the government of Turkey reportedly dismissing close to 1,700 military personnel and shutting down 131 media outlets throughout the country.
Of the servicemen recently fired in Turkey, 149 were generals and admirals, meaning approximately 40 percent of all of generals and admirals in Turkey’s military are now without jobs. Continue reading →
“Denial of genocide is the final stage of genocide because it strives to kill the memory of the event; denial seeks to demonize the victims and rehabilitate the perpetrators; denial creates what the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton has called “a morally counterfeit universe for the survivors and their legacy.”
Written by Carol Benedict.
“THOSE WHO FELL BY THE WAYSIDE. Scenes like this were common all over the Armenian provinces, in the spring and summer months of 1915. Death in its several forms—massacre, starvation, exhaustion—destroyed the larger part of the refugees. The Turkish policy was that of extermination under the guise of deportation.” Picture showing Armenians killed during the Armenian Genocide. Image taken from Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, written by Henry Morgenthau, Sr. and published in 1918. Image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
President Barack Obama declined Friday to call the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, breaking a key campaign promise as his presidency nears an end, reports now say.
“Armenian-American leaders have urged Obama each year to make good on a pledge he made as a candidate in 2008, when he said the U.S. government had a responsibility to recognize the attacks as genocide and vowed to do so if elected. Obama’s failure to fulfill that pledge in his final annual statement on the massacre infuriated advocates and lawmakers who accused the president of outsourcing America’s moral voice to Turkey, which staunchly opposes the genocide label.
“It’s a Turkish government veto over U.S. policy on the Armenian genocide,” Aram Hamparian, head of the Armenian National Committee of America, said in an interview. “It’s like Erdogan imposing a gag rule very publicly and an American president enforcing that gag rule.” He was referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”
In 2015, during remarks observing the 100th anniversary of the event, Pope Francis describes it as “the first genocide of the 20th century.” Turkey responded by recalling their ambassador to the Vatican.
Turkey recalled their ambassador to Austria after the Austrian parliament passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide, also in 2015.
One hundred and one years ago this month, the Ottoman Empire began carrying out a systematic plan to exterminate its minority Armenian population. Approximately 1.5 million people were killed or died of starvation. On April 24, 850 intellectuals, doctors and writers of the Armenian community were rounded up in what was then Constantinople and later executed. That was just the beginning.
The spring and summer of 1915 became the bloodiest in Armenian history. Men and older boys were separated from the rest of the population and killed without question. Women, children the elderly and the disabled were forced into long death marches into the Syrian dessert with no food or water given them, and those that survived the march were placed in annihilation camps.
For a documentary that is worth watching, please view the following. We can not write a summary that can do better justice to the Armenian Genocide controversy than this. The images and descriptions of the methods used to carry out the extermination of the Armenian peoples by the ruling Turkish government presented in this film are the blueprint for the subsequent genocides of the past one hundred years. Warning:Not for the weak of stomach or those who seek “quick videos” to explain things. Running time: 93 minutes.
The man who invented the word “genocide”— Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish-Jewish origin — was moved to investigate the attempt to eliminate an entire people by accounts of the massacres of Armenians. He did not, however, coin the word until 1943, applying it to Nazi Germany and the Jews in a book published a year later, “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe.”
Long before humanity knew about the horrors of Auschwitz, the Turkish government demonstrated the depravity of government force over vulnerable populations. Long before we knew of the term, genocide became a practice so routine that the Turkish government remains in denial of it to this day.
An article by the New York Times dated 15 December 1915 states that one million Armenians had been either deported or executed by the Ottoman government. Image via Wikipedia.
Even the Jewish community has taken pause. In a recent commentary regarding the Armenian genocide, Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin writes, “Why should Jews be talking about this? Because when we look at the Armenians, it is as if we are looking in the mirror.”
Standing on arguments of the numbers of deaths and whether it was intended to eliminate the entire Armenian group, the Turkish government refuses to accept the term “genocide” in reference to the Armenian slaughter. It is not part of their official recognized history; existing laws in Turkey basically prohibit and criminalize mentioning or talking about the Genocide. According to Turkey, “our memory does not support the Armenian narrative on the events of 1915, [but] it is only Turks and Armenians who can effectively address their issues together and work jointly to find ways forward. Turkey is ready to do its part”. They argue there is no “evidence”, no one is demanding the recognition, and that the death count could not possibly be as high as claimed.
The University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies has compiled figures by province and district that show there were 2,133,190 Armenians in the empire in 1914 and only about 387,800 by 1922. Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.
Entrenched so deeply in denialism, in 2007 the Turkish government threatened the United States with closing bases in their borders if the US were to officially recognize this as a genocide. We also know, “The United States isn’t the only target of this censorship effort. At their government’s prompting, Turkish diasporan organizations in 2009 mounted a campaign to stop the Toronto school board from including the Armenian genocide in a human rights curriculum. In 2010, Ankara succeeded in pressuring the Rwandan government to scrap a presentation on the Armenian genocide at a panel on genocide at the United Nations. In 2012, the Turkish government was successful in demanding that the British government order the Tate Gallery to remove the word “genocide” from the wall text of an Arshile Gorky exhibit.”
This year, the Wall Street Journal published a full page advertisement denying the event as a genocide.
Despite these efforts, currently there are 20 countries that officially recognize the Armenian Genocide.
In the United States, more than 40 states, including California, have passed proclamations recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Additionally, the House of Representatives has passed legislation also recognizing the Genocide, lastly in 1996.
Map of massacre locations and deportation and extermination centers. Image via Wikipedia.
In 1915, the New York Times alone ran 145 articles reporting the Armenian crisis. The world was aware. No one did anything.
Turkey is now doing this to the Kurds in SE Turkey. The main stream media remains silent. Will you?
Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. Entrance gate to cemetery; the location of the Hotchkiss gun used during Wounded Knee Massacre and later a mass grave for the victims. Photo: Napa (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
In December 2014, we visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in what is now South Dakota. We chose to begin our project at the archetypal site of struggle for land, sovereignty and autonomy among natives in the United States. It was the Lakota people, including warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, who put up some of the most historic fights against the US military forces in the nation’s expansion westward.
In the 1876-1877 Black Hills War, the US intervened militarily on behalf of settlers searching for gold in the Lakota’s most sacred site, now known as the Wind Cave National Park. It was in this context that the Battle of Little Bighorn took place, when the Lakota famously defeated George Armstrong Custer’s Battalion of the 7th Cavalry. Pine Ridge was later the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre, in which that same 7th Cavalry killed hundreds of Lakota in its struggle to disarm and forcibly relocate them to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Continue reading →
Today, March 8, 2016, is International Women’s Day. The theme for this year is “Pledge for Parity” and will be recognized around the world as women gather in discussion, workshops, rallies and through outreach programs to not only celebrate the achievements of women in the past, but to also encourage future endeavors and accomplishments.
Pledge For Parity. We thought throughout the last year about who, while aligning with the mission and values we hold to, best represented the struggle of fighting for equality, be it gender, nationality, economic or ethnic in orientation. The goal with this year’s theme is to raise global awareness and bring women center-front in roles of governance, leadership, employment and opportunities in education. Efforts are also being made to eliminate gender-specific issues such as child brides, female genital mutilation, honor killings and other forms of female oppression and dehumanization to exert control.
Women have led the way in activism as well. If it were not for Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Hurley Medical Center in Flint. Michigan, the world might still not know of the lead-poisioned water crisis still unfolding there. Without Jane Kleib and her efforts with Bold Nebraska, there would most likely be a really ugly pipeline being installed in Nebraska. If it were not for the life of Rozerin Chukar, we might not have a full understanding of the tragedy unfolding in Turkey’s SE region. All these women are considered worthy of the honor of our International Woman of the Year award.
Unfortunately, something occurred last Thursday that simplified our task, leading to our first and hopefully last posthumous nomination for International Woman of the Year.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Our 2016 International Woman of the Year award goes to Berta Cáceres, the co-founder of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). An internationally known indigenous and environmental activist and organizer, Berta was assassinated in her home last Thursday. Democracy Now! ran an excellent piece on her the morning after she was assassinated; we’ve taken the liberty of republishing it here:
Honduran indigenous and environmental organizer Berta Cáceres has been assassinated in her home. She was one of the leading organizers for indigenous land rights in Honduras.
In 1993 she co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). For years the group faced a series of threats and repression.
According to Global Witness, Honduras has become the deadliest country in the world for environmentalists. Between 2010 and 2014, 101 environmental campaigners were killed in the country.
In 2015 Berta Cáceres won the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s leading environmental award. In awarding the prize, the Goldman Prize committee said, “In a country with growing socioeconomic inequality and human rights violations, Berta Cáceres rallied the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.”
HONDURAS–At approximately 11:45pm last night, the General Coordinator of COPINH, Berta Caceres was assassinated in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca. At least two individuals broke down the door of the house where Berta was staying for the evening in the Residencial La Líbano, shot and killed her. COPINH is urgently responding to this tragic situation.
Berta Cáceres is one of the leading indigenous activists in Honduras. She spent her life fighting in defense of indigenous rights, particularly to land and natural resources.
Cáceres, a Lenca woman, grew up during the violence that swept through Central America in the 1980s. Her mother, a midwife and social activist, took in and cared for refugees from El Salvador, teaching her young children the value of standing up for disenfranchised people.
Cáceres grew up to become a student activist and in 1993, she cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, fight for their territorial rights and improve their livelihoods.
Berta Cáceres and COPINH have been accompanying various land struggles throughout western Honduras. In the last few weeks, violence and repression towards Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the communities they support, had escalated. In Rio Blanco on February 20, 2016, Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the community of Rio Blanco faced threats and repression as they carried out a peaceful action to protect the River Gualcarque against the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the internationally-financed Honduran company DESA. As a result of COPINH’s work supporting the Rio Blanco struggle, Berta Cáceres had received countless threats against her life and was granted precautionary measures by the InterAmerican Commission for Human Rights. On February 25, 2016, another Lenca community supported by COPINH in Guise, Intibuca was violently evicted and destroyed.
Since the 2009 military coup, that was carried out by graduates of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, Honduras has witnessed an explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30 percent of the country’s land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting communities. Repression of social movements and targeted assassinations are rampant. Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate. Honduran human rights organizations report there have been over 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces and impunity is the norm–most murders go unpunished. The Associated Press has repeatedly exposed ties between the Honduran police and death squads, while U.S. military training and aid for the Honduran security forces continues.
It was like spring in autumn. The weather had been turning warm, day after day, in this early November 2015 in Paris. One month later the town will host the UN Climate Conference COP21… Such unseasonable weather, the hottest November ever, must for sure have something to do with climate change.
It was an evening of football, with France vs. Germany at the Stade de France, in Saint Denis, north of Paris. Meanwhile the café’s terraces on the 11th arrondissement, the “swinging quarter” of the City, were packed with people enjoying the equable temperature. Nearby, 1500 people were gathering at the Bataclan, a well-known and popular music-hall, to attend the hard rock concert of the group Eagles of Death Metal. Continue reading →
As anger and suspicion towards the Turkish government mounts in the wake of a deadly bomb attack over the weekend, the country’s largest labor union and the left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP) launched a nationwide strike on Monday to “protest the fascist massacre and to commemorate the death of our friends.”
From the University Medical Hospital in Istanbul to the main square in Adana, located in the country’s south—workers, students, and pro-Kurdish campaigners staged mass protests and pickets across the country, in the first of a two-day general strike. Employees of the municipality of Maltepe walked joined in the work stoppage, holding signs that read, “We are in mourning, we are in protest, we are on strike.” Continue reading →
Protesters blocking I-70 in St, Louis, 8-10-15. Photo via Facebook
At least 50 people were arrested outside the Thomas F. Eagleton Federal Courthouse in Ferguson, Missouri on Monday, where they were demanding the dissolution of the Ferguson Police Department.
Meanwhile, despite mostly peaceful protests marred by an officer-involved shooting overnight that left a teenager in critical condition, the St. Louis County declared a state of emergency for Ferguson on Monday. Demonstrators are marking the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown, who was killed by white police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014. Continue reading →
One year following the flashpoint unleashed in Ferguson after the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson, Ferguson may look somewhat different, but their reality has been dismal compared to the promises made in order to bring about an end to the protests that gripped the community.
Mother of Michael Brown, Lesley McSpadden. Image via flickr.
As a nation, we watched the news. The majority of whites (80%) still do not see why these protests happen. They do not understand that, in contrast, nearly 78% of the national black community sees police forces in their communities in much the same light as those in Ferguson did one year ago. We have seen the growth of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the backlash for that advocacy. We have listened to a national conversation that has ended in the deafening roar of silence rather than the changes the people recognized were needed.
We now watch as police forces reluctantly pass new rules and policies, slow to introduce new tactics and unwilling to open real conversation with those they are charged with “protecting and serving.” A prime example comes from Ferguson itself, where the city council has reviewed the proposal from the Department of Justice following their investigation that found evidence of a profit-driven court system and widespread racial bias by police. A recent report stated, “Ferguson Councilman Wesley Bell described the Justice Department’s plan as a typical bargaining tactic. “The DOJ didn’t expect us to accept their first proposal. This is just part of the negotiations,” said Bell, elected to the council in April. “That’s all. You want $200. You ask for $400.” With this attitude being prevalent among the predominately white city council, how are the people of Ferguson expected to believe change is coming?
According to The Counted, 695 people have been killed by police or law enforcement agencies since the beginning of 2015 alone (as of August 7, 2015). On average, that is more than 3 people per day. If any other organization or group ran around killing 3 American civilians per day without accountability and with a seemingly all-but spotless record of no wrong doing, we would demand action. (The Counted is a project working to count the number of people killed by police and other law enforcement agencies in the United States throughout 2015, to monitor their demographics and to tell the stories of how they died.)
Sandra Bland. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Most recently, the death of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail cell defies explanation. It has led to attention of black women being abused and violated by police on a regular basis, yet going unreported. As a result, a demand to force those responsible to “Say Her Name” when there are victims has given rise to the movement #SayHerName.
Ferguson continues to weep. Deserving of every tear, these people have endured what most communities will never experience. Any mother, any parent, that can not take pause at the grief and sorrow of Michael’s mother is as heartless as his killer. Ferguson’s new police Lieutenant proudly says things are better, because she sees officers talking to each other and smiling more. Does she see that on the streets of the community they serve? Has anyone from the department looked?
Most Americans are unaware that the community that sees more abuse and violence from police and law enforcement agencies throughout America is the Native American community. Vastly under-reported and swept under the rugs in our halls of “justice”, these people have no where to turn for help. “It is a tribal issue,” they are told, if they are able to complain at all. As such, we are finally beginning to see the rise of #NativeLivesMatter.
When the international community looks at America and sees the treatment of our most marginalized citizens as human rights abuses and calls us on the carpet for it, shouldn’t we look more carefully within our own shores before starting up our war machines to invade countries we charge with human rights abuses?
We have a long way to go, America. You can not close the book on the chapter of Ferguson and assume Michael Brown’s story has ended, unless you also close the book on all the other lives that will be lost if we do not confront these issues as a population, and stop waiting for our government to do what it has failed miserably at doing up to this point.
May Michael Brown be able to Rest in Peace – some day.
Seventy years ago today, the world as we knew it changed forever. On that day, the United States became the only country to ever use nuclear weapons against another country.
At the time this photo was made, smoke billowed 20,000 feet above Hiroshima while smoke from the burst of the first atomic bomb had spread over 10,000 feet on the target at the base of the rising column. Photo public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Somewhere between 45,000 and 80,000 people died that day, and between 19,500 and 40,000 people died in Nagasaki three days later. The same number would die as a direct result of the two bombs over the next four months.
The genie had been let out of the bottle. What had been accomplished could be duplicated. The Soviets, who already had a nuclear program underway, made the acquisition of a nuclear weapon a top priority. The arms race had come to “peacetime,” and the military-industrial complex grew in power by leaps and bounds.
Of course, you need delivery systems for these weapons. Besides strategic bombers, the United States and the Soviet Union both had missile development programs. Where did that knowledge come from? Scientists who worked for the Nazis at places such as the Peenemünde Army Research Center. Here in the US, the recruitment was known as Operation Paperclip.
Since Truman’s order authorizing Operation Paperclip expressly excluded anyone found “to have been a member of the Nazi Party, and more than a nominal participant in its activities, or an active supporter of Nazi militarism,” the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) created false employment and political biographies for the scientists, while also erasing from public record the scientists’ Nazi Party memberships and régime affiliations. Once that was done, the scientists were granted security clearances by the U.S. government to work in the United States.
So, not only did we (the United States), kill thousands of people in a horrific manner never used before or since, we also brought in war criminals to make the weapons even more deadly. But wait! There’s more…
We hear from various media outlets about the dangers of relaxing sanctions against Iran, and how this will lead to Iran getting nuclear weapons. Where did Iran get its nuclear technology to begin with? If you guessed the United States, you guessed right. Under the “Atoms for Peace” program proposed by President Eisenhower in the early 1950s, American Machine and Foundry (AMF) built nuclear reactors in Iran, Pakistan and Israel. Notice that the only country of those three that hasn’t built a nuclear weapon is Iran…
The memorial at Ground Zero, Nagasaki. Photo by Dean S. Pemberton (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s been seventy years, and the horror is still present. There’s still close to 200,000 people alive today that are classified by the Japanese government as hibakusha; a Japanese word that literally translates as “explosion-affected people,” and refers to people who were exposed to radiation from the bombings.
We in the United States claim to be the only judge of who can or can’t have nuclear weapons, while at the same time we’re responsible for the spreading of nuclear technology to the very countries who we worry about, and we’re the only country to ever use one. Our hypocrisy can be staggering at times.
A sea of graves spreads across the Fort Snelling National Cemetery landscape. (Photo author’s own work.)
Across this country, today will see services at cemeteries as we observe Memorial Day. Most people will drive by a cemetery on their way to their recreation spot for the weekend, and that is about as much thought as they will give to the real reason the unofficial beginning of summer arrives with this day every year.
It all started in 1865 when black residents of Charleston, SC, decorated the unmarked graves of 257 buried soldiers, improved the landscape around the graves and brought honor to those who had been forgotten. Within a few years, nearly every state had their own observations during the same time of year, and by 1967 it became a federal holiday with the current name.
But there are some who remember. Some who actually memorialize the day by going to a cemetery. Some take their children, and begin teaching that this is important. To remember and honor brings respect to a family and to the next generation. Continue reading →