(MEMO Op-ed) — Shortly after the missile attack on Syria, US Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump bragged in his usual pompous way that it was “mission accomplished”. In Britain, there was no such display of hubris. Prime Minister Theresa May was, instead, forced to explain to parliament why she ordered the attack without consulting MPs.
Two explanations were given during the parliamentary debate: that it was in Britain’s national interests to bomb Syria; and that it was done out of humanitarian concern for the suffering of the Syrian people.
This begs us to stop and ask where we go from here. Will the interventionists stop at Syria, or turn their attention to other areas where there is appalling human suffering?
Will they spare a thought for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who have been subjected to Israel’s brutal military occupation for the past fifty years? In the case of the Gaza Strip, the vast majority of its two million inhabitants live in poverty as a direct result of the Israeli-led blockade now in its twelfth year.
There is no moral indignation amongst interventionists about the fact that more than fifty per cent of the Palestinians in the enclave live below the official poverty line of $2 per day. Nor is there any call for meaningful action in the face of the killing and wounding of peaceful protesters by Israeli snipers or the avoidable deaths caused by the lack of electricity, medicine and frequent closure of hospitals. In fact, there has not even been a whiff of concern about UN reports which forewarn that the territory will become “unliveable” by 2020. Already, ninety-seven per cent of the available water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption.
Similarly, in Yemen, Western-backed governments have waged a cold-blooded war against the Middle East’s poorest state. Yemen’s education and health sectors have been virtually wiped out. “The situation in Yemen — today, right now, to the population of the country — looks like the apocalypse,” said Mark Lowcock, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), recently.
After three years of indiscriminate killing and rampant destruction, the Saudi-led coalition has also left deadly epidemics in its wake. “The cholera outbreak,” explained Lowcock, “is probably the worst the world has ever seen with a million suspected cases up to the end of 2017.”
Clearly unmoved by this man-made catastrophe, the US, France and Britain continue to sell state of the art military hardware to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) so that they can wage their senseless war. Instead of downgrading the military capabilities of their Gulf allies, the West is enhancing them. Why? It’s all down to “national interests”.
As for direct intervention, that is simply not an option due to the aforesaid interests, even though there are provisions for it in humanitarian law. Lassa Oppenheim reminds us in his treatise on international law that, “if a State which is a party to the Hague Regulations concerning Land Warfare were to violate one of these Regulations, all the other signatory Powers would have a right to intervene.”
Intervention, although prohibited as a rule, is permissible when exercised for the purpose of humanity to stop persecution or extreme acts of cruelty. Hence, as early as 1827, Britain, France and Russia intervened in the conflict between Greece and Turkey to end the atrocities being committed.
Notwithstanding the extent of human suffering, the Western intervention in Syria is also about maintaining the balance of power, so that Russia and Iran do not threaten Western interests or, tellingly, those of the West’s ally, Israel.
Israel, of course, is the direct cause of the humanitarian catastrophe in occupied Palestine and the Palestinian refugee camps in neighbouring countries. However, despite the immense human suffering therein, the most that the West is prepared to do is to “mediate” between the “parties”. In their distorted view, the issue is not about ending Israel’s military occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land, it is about containing a local “dispute” over the land.
Having been themselves subjected to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany between 1939 and 1945, most Europeans are fully aware of what the implications are when the term is used, notably that there is a right, and duty, to resist the occupiers. Sadly, if the repeated calls by the pro-Western Palestinian Authority for “international protection” continue to be ignored, there is absolutely no chance of what international jurists call “dictatorial interference” to end the Israeli occupation. And Palestinians who exercise their right — duty — to resist will continue to be branded as “terrorists”.
When viewed in its widest context, human suffering plays a secondary role in determining Western policies in the Middle East. Politicians will, of course, only use the humanitarian case if it is to their advantage. At election time, they will remind voters that they supported intervention in Syria to prevent the use of poisonous gas against civilians; blowing them up with indiscriminate barrel bombs is acceptable, it seems, but chemical weapons are a red line.
Surely, if the principle of a common humanity is to have any real meaning in that part if the world, it must be applied across the board. After all, the blood that is shed in Syria, Palestine and the Yemen is all the same colour. Until and unless “national interests” play second fiddle to humanitarian concerns, the hypocrisy of Western intervention will continue to be exposed, and tyrannical governments across the Middle East — including Israel’s — will continue to get away with murder and much, much more.
The winning image in the World Press Photo of the Year 2018 contest and first prize for spot news singles, taken by Ronaldo Schemidt, shows Jose Victor Salazar Balza in flames during a violent protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, on May 3, 2017.
In the spot news stories category, a winning image taken by David Becker shows police after a gunman opened fire on concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, killing 58 people, in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017.
The winning image for general news singles, taken by Patrick Brown, shows the bodies of drowned Rohingya refugees. Their boat capsized off Inani Beach, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on Sept. 27, 2017.
Second-place winner in the spot news stories category, this image by Toby Melville shows a passerby comforting U.S. tourist Melissa Cochran, injured in an attack on pedestrians at Westminster Bridge in London on March 22, 2017. Cochran survived, but her husband, Kurt, was killed in the attack.
Third place in the spot news stories category was this image taken by Juan Barreto showing a fiery explosion during a street protest in Caracas, Venezuela, on May 3, 2017.
A second-place image for spot news singles, taken by Ryan M. Kelly, shows a car striking protesters who demonstrated in opposition to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, 2017.
Canadian photographer Kevin Frayer’s second-place image in the general news stories category shows Rohingya refugees carrying their belongings as they walk on the Bangladesh side of the Naf River, on Oct. 2, 2017, after fleeing Myanmar.
A group of Rohingya at the Leda makeshift settlement in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, watch as houses burn across the border in Myanmar, on Sept. 9, 2017. The image by Md Masfiqur Akhtar Sohan took third place in the general news singles category.
Goran Tomasevic captured this image showing an Iraqi special forces soldier moments after he shot dead a suspected suicide bomber, during the offensive to retake Mosul, Iraq, on March 3, 2017. His photo earned third place in the spot news singles category.
January 12, 2011 marks the grim one-year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake. In the past year, as Haitians have tried to rebuild from that disaster, they have suffered a cholera epidemic and flooding from Hurricane Tomas. Thousands remain homeless, buildings in ruins, and violence widespread. The political process offers little hope for relief. Haiti’s recent, much-watched Presidential elections, like so many in its past, have been marred with accusations of fraud and corruption. Haiti is now arguably the most desperate nation in the Western hemisphere and among the most desperate places anywhere in the world. This month, historian Leslie Alexander puts Haiti’s recent crises in a longer perspective and reminds us that historically the United States has often hindered, rather than helped, Haiti deal with its many challenges.
Readers iinterested in the history of Haiti leading up to the 1990s, should explore the Origins piece, The More Things Change: Patterns of Power in Haiti.
One year ago, on January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake struck the island nation of Haiti. The following day, as tens of thousands of the dead and dying lay beneath the rubble and remains of their homes and communities, American televangelist Pat Robertson stated that the earthquake occurred because Haiti and its people are cursed. The curse, he claimed, was the result of a “pact” that the Haitian people made with the Devil centuries ago to gain their freedom from the French.
At the same time, other news outlets were reporting on the extreme poverty in Haiti. The mantra that “Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere” was repeated incessantly, by nearly every media source, until it started to sound both like a chant and an accusation, rather than a statement of fact.
And then, just two weeks after the earthquake, a blog posting appeared, in which the author proudly declared that he had not (and would not) donate a single penny to Haitian relief because, as he put it, why should he give money to people “who got themselves in such a predicament in the first place?”
He further argued that the lack of economic resources and infrastructure—and the failure of the Haitian government to adequately respond—were an indication of the fact that Haitian people could not be trusted to take good care of themselves. So why, he wondered, should he give such people any of his money?
The blog took the internet by storm; it was splashed across the news, and the blogger, Paul Shirley, a former NBA basketball player and ESPN commentator, was later fired by ESPN for his comments.
However inaccurate or inhumane, each of these comments—Pat Robertson’s veiled reference to the Haitian revolution, the mantra about Haiti’s poverty, and the blogger’s frustration with Haiti’s internal problems—represent the most powerful and widespread beliefs about Haiti.
News reports unquestioningly accept and perpetuate the notion that Haiti is a country composed of poverty-stricken, uneducated people, under the control of incompetent leaders. And others, including the New York Times, promote the image of Haiti and its people as somehow pathologically corrupt, doomed, and “cursed” due, at least in part, to their cultural and religious practices, especially the religion of Vodun (often mistakenly referred to as “voodoo”).
New York Times columnist David Brooks argued that Haiti’s poverty can largely be explained by voodoo’s influence, which he described as a “progress-resistant cultural influence.” Likewise, Wall Street Journal contributor Lawrence Harrison issued an even more devastating critique of voodoo, in which he maintained that Vodun is a religion “without ethical content” that has undermined Haiti’s social, cultural and economic viability.
The problem with global news reporting on Haiti, however, is that none of these problems and challenges has been put into any real or accurate historical perspective. Our understanding of how and why Haiti is in such dire straits remains extremely limited and marred by profound misunderstandings.
As New York Times op-ed contributor Mark Danner explained, “there is nothing mystical in Haiti’s pain, no inescapable curse that haunts the land. From independence and before, Haiti’s harms have been caused by men, not demons.”
One can point to a long list of human harm to Haiti. But to understand Haiti’s so-often tragic political and economic journey it is particularly crucial to highlight two historical processes: the crippling diplomatic and economic legacy of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) and also the importance of Haiti’s relationship with the United States, which swung from overt opposition for much of the nineteenth century to imperialist intervention through much of the twentieth.
From Colony to Republic: The Haitian Revolution
Arguably the most important issue in Haiti’s past and present is the epic tale of how it came to be an independent republic.
Haiti (formerly Saint Domingue) was a French colony that played a crucial role in trade between Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas during the eighteenth century. Although Saint Domingue was relatively small (approximately the size of Maryland), it was the wealthiest colony in the Caribbean.
By 1789, the colony had attained a height of prosperity not surpassed in the history of European colonies. It contained 8,000 plantations and provided France with 40% of its profit from trade on an annual basis. More importantly, it produced a staggering amount of cash crops: more than one-half of the sugar and coffee consumed in Europe and the Americas, as well as significant amounts of cotton and indigo, were exported from Saint Domingue in the 18th century.
Race relations were unusually complex in Saint Domingue. The enslaved population was the largest in the Caribbean, about 500,000, which was nearly twice that of Jamaica, the Caribbean colony with the second largest number of slaves.
Since the European settlers only numbered about 40,000, the French colonists established a three-tiered racial hierarchy, in which a small class of free people of color, known as gens de couleur, occupied a middle position between the enslaved Africans and the European planter class.
The goal, of course, was to create a social and political “buffer” between the slaves and the settlers. Until the 1780s, this strategy was quite successful. There was little, if any, violent resistance in Saint Domingue, and the French reaped unimaginable profits from their Caribbean colony.
Given these circumstances, it is natural to wonder how the Revolution in Haiti began. Political conflict emerged when the gens de couleur, the free Black population, began to pressure the colonial government for equal rights.
In the midst of this political power struggle, a revolt erupted in August of 1791 under the leadership of a slave named Boukman, a reputedly influential man who used the religion of Vodun to inspire followers.
Vodun is essentially a blending of African spiritual beliefs with Catholicism. Significantly, it was this use of African spirituality that prompted Pat Robertson to describe the Haitian Revolution as “a pact with the Devil,” since the Haitian Revolution began immediately after one of Boukman’s spiritual ceremonies.
Enslaved Africans, armed with machetes, began beating drums, chanting, and marching from plantation to plantation, killing, looting, and burning the cane fields. Beginning with 12,000 followers, Boukman’s revolt quickly blossomed into the largest, bloodiest slave uprising in history. By the end of September, over a thousand plantations had been burned, and hundreds of Whites had been killed. The gens de couleur soon joined the rebels, and violence continued to spread.
After months of fighting and bloodshed, it became clear that the revolt had become impossible to control. In December of 1791, fresh troops sent from France clashed with insurgents, then led by François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture who had successfully created an organized army of over 20,000. In 1793, Louverture gained control of the government and declared an end to slavery.
But the country was not yet free. Over the next several years, both the French and Spanish attempted to re-impose European control and ensure the system of slavery would continue.
In one of these conflicts, in 1802, the French captured Louverture who died in 1803 while in French custody. Naturally, the French hoped that by capturing Toussaint, they would “chop the head off the rebellion,” but that did not happen.
Members of the gens de couleur (who interestingly enough, had fought on the side of the American rebels in the Revolutionary War) rose to power to replace Louverture. By 1803, the Black rebels successfully defeated the French, and their new leader, Jean Jacques Dessalines, either killed off or drove out all the remaining Europeans colonists.
In 1804, Haiti declared its independence and announced the formation of the first independent Black republic in the Western Hemisphere. After significant political turmoil in the wake of the revolution, Jean Pierre Boyer became the president of Haiti from 1818 to 1843 and Haiti settled into a brief period of political stability.
The Legacy of Revolution
The Haitian Revolution has been referred to as the “Vietnam of its day”—the story of an underfunded, militarily inexperienced group of insurgents who managed to defeat one of the world’s strongest powers. In essence, a band of former slaves defeated Napoleon’s army—the army that had inspired fear across Europe—and drove them out of Haiti.
The legacy of the Haitian Revolution has played a significant role in determining Haiti’s destiny ever since. Although the Haitian Revolution was celebrated in some quarters, the saga of a successful slave rebellion and the subsequent establishment of an independent Black republic caused outrage around the world and ultimately caused Haiti to become one of the most hated and persecuted countries in history.
Immediately after Haiti’s declaration of independence in 1804, the newly formed Black republic served as a beacon of hope to people of African descent around the world. From their perspective, Haiti represented the ultimate victory over slavery and the culmination of Black political autonomy.
During the revolution, enslaved people had thrown off their shackles and declared their right to self-determination. Once Haiti became a sovereign nation, it appeared to be a living manifestation of what Black people throughout the African Diaspora had hoped to achieve and was celebrated widely in abolitionist circles.
Clearly, however, this vision of Haiti was not universally—or even broadly —embraced. Although the Haitian revolution was inspiring to the opponents of slavery, it was not well-received by the major slaveholding nations—the United States, England, and (obviously) France—and sent shock waves around the world.
In slaveholding countries, the idea of an independent Black republic composed of former slaves was not only repugnant but threatening. After all, such a reality shook the very foundations that the fragile system of slavery was based upon.
If Haiti could have a successful slave rebellion, couldn’t the same thing happen elsewhere? Perhaps in their very midst? And, ultimately, it was the system of slavery that provided the political and economic foundation of their societies.
Even worse, as some leaders admitted, the reality of Haiti challenged the other central component of slavery—White supremacy. Political leaders around the world announced their feelings about this matter openly. As Napoleon explained in the midst of the war in Haiti, “My decision to destroy the authority of the Blacks in Saint Domingue (Haiti) is not so much based on considerations of commerce and money…as on the need to block forever the forward march of Blacks in the world.”
Other nations agreed, and imposed diplomatic and economic sanctions on the newly formed Republic. These embargoes froze Haiti out of the global economic market, and denied the burgeoning nation diplomatic participation in the international political scene.
The Birth of U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Haiti
The U.S. relationship with Haiti was antagonistic from the beginning.
In 1791, shortly after the outbreak of the Haitian revolution, George Washington’s administration contributed significant funds to assist French planters in their fight against the Black rebels, and from that time an unwillingness to accept the reality of a free Black nation marred the U.S. government’s policy toward Haiti.
There was a brief period, in which John Adams’s administration offered some support to Toussaint Louverture in hopes that Louverture would contain French military operations in the rest of the Atlantic World. However, once Haiti gained full independence, the U.S. government’s policy towards Haiti cooled significantly.
Thomas Jefferson, for example, believed that Haiti should be under French control, and openly encouraged Napoleon to re-conquer the island. After Haiti declared its independence in 1804, Jefferson was deeply troubled and suspended all diplomatic and commercial relations with the former colony.
Although the United States eventually re-opened trade relations and benefited from their commercial relationship, the government still refused to open diplomatic ties or formally acknowledge Haiti’s independence. The United States did not agree to recognize Haiti diplomatically until 1862—nearly 60 years after Haiti gained its independence.
Undoubtedly, Southern politicians’ and slaveholders’ desires drove U.S. policy toward Haiti. In the wake of various slave revolts in the United States, Southerners worried that recognizing Haiti would be a tacit endorsement of slave rebellion and therefore ferociously opposed the idea of establishing formal diplomatic relations with the Black republic.
“Based on our data, we estimate that millions of Americans have a level of emotional functioning that leads to lower quality of life and life expectancy,” says Weissman. “Our study may also help explain why the U.S. suicide rate is up to 43,000 people each year.”
8.3 million Americans — more than the population of 37 states — live with severe mental health issues
Millions of Americans — enough to fill up the entirety of New York City and outnumber most states’ populations — are struggling with a bottomless sense of despair, worthlessness, and exhaustion, according to a new study published on Monday in Psychiatric Services. But their ability to get needed mental health care has only gotten worse over the last ten years, even with the passing of the Affordable Care Act.
Researchers pored through data from the National Health Interview Survey, a nationally representative, extensive canvass of Americans’ lifestyle habits, looking at the years 2006 to 2014. They estimated that, as of 2014, 8.3 million Americans, or 3.4% of the total U.S. population, were suffering from serious psychological distress, the catch-all term for mental health ills that are serious enough to affect someone’s physical well-being. In 2006, that same figure hovered around 3 percent.
Moreover, they found that 9.5 percent of these Americans lacked the health insurance needed to afford therapy or psychiatric care in 2014, a slight uptick from the 9 percent recorded in 2006. And a similar trend was seen with people who said they faced delays in getting treatment because of their lackluster mental health coverage.
OMG, OMG, OMG!
Nov 30, 2016
After battling the disease for eight years and undergoing 21 combined hospital and rehabilitation stints, Mark Langedijk came to his family with some shocking news – he wanted to end his time on Earth, saying “this is no life,” as he sipped vodka to combat the symptoms of withdrawal.
It was a decision which his brother Marcel said was taken “with a grain of salt” by the family, noting that “euthanasia was for people with cancer… people for whom death was already imminent. Euthanasia was certainly not [for] alcoholics.”
But Mark pressed on with his plan, and his request was eventually approved by a doctor from the Support and Consultation on Euthanasia.
Once approved, Langedijk was visited by a doctor who suggested dates for the euthanasia to take place.
“Go ahead [with] July 14,” he said, adding that it was a “nice day to die,” his brother Marcel wrote in an account published in the magazine Linda.
Marcel went on to describe the atmosphere of his brother’s final day, noting that he “laughed, drank, smoked, ate ham-and-cheese sandwiches and soup with meatballs” until the doctor arrived at this parents’ house.
Once the doctor arrived, she explained the procedure before telling Mark to get into bed and stay calm – and that’s when the tears began.
“We cried, told each other that we loved each other, that it would be all right, that we would care for each other, that we would see each other again. We held each other,” he said. “If it was not so terrible, it would have been nice.”
Describing the final moments of his brother’s life, Marcel wrote: “Mark’s eyes turned away, he sighed deeply. His last. Dr. Marijke injected the third syringe. His face changed, lost color. My little brother was dead.”
More than 5,500 people ended their lives under the Netherlands’ euthanasia law last year. The law was passed 16 years ago, making the country the first in the world to legalize the practice.
Although the Netherlands’ euthanasia law initially only applied to those undergoing “unbearable suffering” with no prospect for improvement, it has since allowed for multiple deaths to take place under the label of “psychiatric suffering,” according to a study published in April.
In October, health and justice ministers argued that healthy older people who believe their life is complete should also “be allowed to finish that life in a manner dignified for them.” They hope to draft a law on the matter by the end of 2017.
This is in response to the blog post, “Over 4000 Migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean this Year”
It is a harsh response and I’m not apologizing for it because this point needs to be made.
Of course my heart goes out to these refugees, and I feel my own frustration, and anger. But deep down, as a student of history I’m reminded of those incredibly brave Russians who stuck it out in Stalingrad against the German onslaught and heroically held on against all odds, suffering unimaginable horrors throughout an unusually harsh winter. They didn’t run. So many didn’t run, they stood up to their would be conquerors and fought back by every means the human mind can conjure up. How many people remember these people were offered a chance to escape, to withdraw deep into the wilds of Siberia. They chose to stand and fight, men, women and children… mostly women and children!
It happened in Greece, in Italy, basically throughout Europe as it had happened in Spain during the Spanish civil war which the Fascists and Nazis won only because of overwhelming force garnered from arms and support received (as in the case of IS and other terror groups now in the Middle East) from the American military industrial complex.
My own parents in the French Resistance during WWII didn’t attempt to flee to England though they lived on the coast with a very narrow channel between them and freedom, and they were fisher folk with access to boats: they held their ground and fought back. That’s how people were “made” in those pre-boomer, entitlement years.
Isn’t that what you would do if groups of nut jobs invaded your country and began to systematically spread terror among your own people, perhaps even taking your daughters, lovers, wives as sex slaves, burning your homes, forcing your sons into their madness as suicide bombers, torturing and killing your neighbours? Tell me that you wouldn’t fight back, even if it meant using broken shards of glass, throwing rocks or ripping their faces off with your bare hands! I certainly know I would, tooth and nail, as there always comes that time when a certain kind of vile violence can only be countered with same because THERE IS NO LONGER A CHOICE. Either you oppose them, or you become like them. Is the word, “freedom” just another politically correct term now?
What’s wrong with these people that they can’t stand and fight for themselves but can only think of running to hopefully save their own skins? I don’t get this. Has the human race so quickly become dis-empowered, turned into cattle, as were the Jews in Nazi Germany, meekly and silently walking to their slavery and death in concentration camps without making any attempt to help themselves? When you know you are going to die regardless, why whimper into it? That’s just not normal, nor natural! What’s wrong with these people that they can only rely on power groups for their survival? Don’t they have a life, that innate rage to live free?
But it isn’t just Syrians. Look how few people are standing boldly against the DAPL predators and their government armed supporters when the entire nation of free individuals should be standing with them, either at Standing Rock or in front of every capitol, every corporate HQ’s and every bank that funds the “Damn All Pipe Lines” monstrosity.
There is a connection throughout these current events clearly showing that people in general have become mindless cowards, thralls on their way to abysmal slavery to State and Banksterism. There is no more stand and fight, only run for your life. Is that THE sign that humanity knows it’s doomed already and has no heart left, sees no point in fighting back against oppression and oppressors everywhere?
Perhaps T.S. Eliot said it best in his poem, The Hollow Men, “This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper.”