Category Archives: Kenya

Africa and Palestine: A Noble Legacy That Must Never Be Betrayed

Europe’s “Scramble for Africa” began in earnest in 1881, but never ended. The attempt at dominating the continent using old and new strategies continues to define western relationship with this rich continent.

This reality was further validated when I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya on June 23. Although my objective was to address various Kenyan audiences at universities, public forums and the media, I also came here to learn. Kenya, like the rest of Africa, is a source of inspiration for all anti-colonial, liberation movements around the world. We, Palestinians, can learn a great deal from the Kenyan struggle.

Although African countries have fought valiant battles for their freedom against their western colonizers, neocolonialism now defines the relationship between many independent African countries and their former occupiers. Political meddling, economic control and, at times, military interventions, as in the recent cases of Libya and Mali, point to the unfortunate reality that Africa remains, in myriad ways, hostage to western priorities, interests and dictates.

In the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884, western colonial regimes attempted to mediate among the various powers that were competing over Africa’s largesse. It assigned each with a share of the African continent, as if Africa was the property of the west and its white colonists. Millions of Africans died in that protracted, bloody episode unleashed by the west which, shamelessly, promoted its genocidal oppression as a civilizational project.

Like most colonized countries in the Southern hemisphere, Africans fought disproportionate battles to gain their precious freedom. Here in Kenya, which became an official British colony in the 1920s, Kenya’s freedom fighters rose in rebellion against the brutality of their oppressors. Most notable among the various resistance campaigns, the “Mau Mau” rebellion of the 1950s remains a stark example of the courage of Kenyans and the cruelty of colonial Britain. Thousands of people were killed, wounded, disappeared or were imprisoned under the harshest of conditions.

Palestine fell under Brtish occupation, the so-called British Mandate, around the period that Kenya also became a British colony. Palestinians, too, fought and fell in their thousands as they employed various methods of collective resistance, including the legendary strike and rebellion of 1936.

The same British killing machine that operated in Palestine and Kenya around that time, also operated, with the same degree of senseless violence, against numerous other nations around the world.

While Palestine was handed over to the Zionist Movement to establish the State of Israel in May 1948, Kenya achieved its indepedence in December 1963.

At one of my recent talks in Nairobi, I was asked by a young participant about “Palestinian terrorism”. I told her that Palestinian fighters of today are Kenya’s “Mau Mau” rebels of yesteryear. That, if we allow western and Israeli propaganda to define the discourse of national liberation on Palestine, then we condemn all national liberation movements throughout the Southern hemisphere, including Kenya’s own freedom fighters.

We, Palestinians, however, must shoulder part of the blame of why our narrative as an oppressed, colonized and resisting nation is now misunderstood in parts of Africa

When the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) committed its historical blunder by signing off Palestinian rights in Oslo in 1993, it abandoned a decades-long Palestinian discourse of resistance and liberation. Instead, it subscribed to a whole new discourse, riddled with carefully-worded language sanctioned by Washington and its European allies. Whenever Palestinians dared to deviate from their assigned role, they were decreed by the west to return to the negotiating table,” as the latter became a metaphor of obedience and submission.

Throughout these years, Palestinians mostly abandoned their far more meaningful alliances in Africa. Instead, they endlessly appealed to the goodwill of the west, hoping that the very colonial powers that have primarily created, sustained and armed Israel, would miraculously become more balanced and humane.

However, Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, etc., remained committed to Israel and, despite occasional polite criticism of the Israeli government, continued to channel their weapons, warplanes and submarines to every Israeli government that has ruled over Palestinians for the last seven decades.

Alas, while Palestinians were learning their painful lesson, betrayed repeatedly by those who avowed to respect democracy and human rights, many African nations began seeing in Israel a possible ally. Kenya is, sadly, one of those countries.

Understanding the significance of Africa in terms of its economic and political potential (support for Israel at the UN General Assembly), right wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has launched his own “Scramble for Africa”. Netanyahu’s diplomatic conquests on the continent have been celebrated by Israeli media as “historic”, while the Palestinian leadership remained oblivious to the rapidly changing political landscape.

Kenya is one of Israel’s success stories. In November 2017, Netanyahu attended the inauguration of Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, who supposedly received an astonishing 98% of votes in the last elections. While Kenyans rose in rebellion against their corrupt ruling classes, Netanyahu was seen embracing Kenyatta as a dear friend and ally.

Netanyahu’s strategy in Kenya – and the rest of Africa – has been based on the same logic, where Israel would use its security technology to support corrupt and undemocratic regimes, in exchange for their political support.

Tel Aviv had hoped that the first-ever Israel-Africa summit in Togo would usher in a complete paradigm shift in Israeli-African relations. However, the October 2017 conference never actualized, due to pressure by various African countries, including South Africa. There is still enough support for Palestine on the continent to defeat Israeli stratagem. But that could change soon in favor of Israel, if Palestinians and their allies do not wake up to the alarming reality.

The Palestinian leadership, intellectuals, artists and civil society ambassadors must shift their attention back to the Southern hemisphere – Africa, in particular – rediscovering the untapped wealth of true, unconditional human solidarity that is provided by the peoples of this ever-generous continent.

The legendary Tanzanian freedom fighter, Mwalimu Nyerere – who is also celebrated in Kenya – knew too well where his solidarity lay. “We have never hesitated in our support for the right of the people of Palestine to have their own land,” he once said, a sentiment that was repeated by the iconic late South African leader, Nelson Mandela, and many other African liberation leaders.

This generation of African leaders should not deviate from that noble legacy. If they betray it, they betray themselves, along with the righteous struggles of their own peoples.

Palestine and Kenya: Our Historic Fight against Injustice Is One and the Same

Note: Palestinian author and journalist, Dr. Ramzy Baroud arrived to Kenya for a 10-day speaking and media tour starting June 23. Exploring the subject of intersectionality, solidarity and popular resistance, Baroud is set to speak at various universities and appear on Kenyan television and radio stations.

*****

In 1948, my grandfather, along with thousands of Badrasawis, was expelled by Israeli military forces from our ancestral village of Beit Daras in Palestine.

Like hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from over 500 other villages, my grandfather assumed he would be back home in a few weeks. “Why bother to haul the good blankets on the back of a donkey, exposing them to the dust of the journey, when we know that we will return to Beit Daras in a week or so?” he asked my bewildered grandmother, Zeinab.

Beit Daras was located 32 kilometers north-east of the Gaza Strip, perched between a large hill and a small river that seemed never to run dry. A massacre took place as people fled the village. Houses were blown up, and wells and granaries sabotaged.

A peaceful village, that had existed for millennia, was completely destroyed with the intention of erasing it from existence. In its place now stands the Israeli towns of Giv’ati, Azrikam, and Emunim. The life of those Israeli towns is based on the death of our village.

Seventy years later, we have still not returned. Not just the Badrasawis, but millions of Palestinians, who are scattered in refugee camps all across the Middle East and a growing diaspora globally. Our good blankets have been lost forever, replaced with endless exile and dispossession.

The occupation of Palestine is not a “conflict” – as the Israelis like to present it. Israel is a colonial power that is ethnically cleansing an entire indigenous population in order to legitimize and grow its colony.

And like all people, we Palestinians have the right to resist colonial domination and occupation. This is an inalienable right enshrined in international law.

It is this right that justified Africa’s anti-colonial struggles and wars of liberation in the 1950s and 1960s, the American Revolution and the Cuban Revolution. This right also legitimates Palestinian resistance – whether that resistance is through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, prosecution of Israeli war criminals at the International Criminal Court, or through armed struggle.

Dedan Kimathi is celebrated as a hero to Kenyans because of his resistance to – not because of his subservience to – colonialism and occupation. The Mau Mau rebellion is a source of inspiration – not just for Kenyans – but for all of humanity.

Israel will claim its occupation of Palestine is self-defense; that its demolition of Palestinian homes, detention without trial policies, construction of illegal settlements, theft of Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement, are necessary for ‘security’. Israeli security and peace cannot be built on injustice and occupation – at the expense of Palestinian security, justice, dignity and peace. The life of one group should not be based on the death of the other.

Israeli military strikes on Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip are always portrayed as a “response” to Palestinian fire. But Palestinian fire is never contextualized. It is never “in return” for the cruel, years-long Israeli siege that has systematically destroyed Gaza’s economy and subjected an entire generation of Palestinian children to malnutrition-related deficiencies.

It is never “in return” for decades of devastating military occupation of Palestinian land and life. Fire from Gaza is never “in return” for the continued dispossession of historic Palestine which made most of the population in Gaza refugees in the first place.

The Palestinian liberation struggle is simply dismissed as “terrorism”. The word “terrorism” is readily applied to Palestinian individuals or groups who use homemade bombs, but never to a nuclear-armed Israeli state that has used white phosphorous, DIME bombs, and other internationally-prohibited weapons against Palestinian civilians.

What is happening in occupied Palestine is incremental genocide – not self-defense. Israel is asking the Palestinian people to let their freedom die so that the Israeli people can live.

Submit or fight. These were the two choices facing Kenyans during your anti-colonial struggle. Like you, we Palestinians have also chosen to fight for our dignity – for ourselves and our children. We will not let our dream of freedom die.

For me, Beit Daras is not just a piece of earth but a perpetual fight for justice that shall never cease, because the Badrasawis belong to Beit Daras and nowhere else.

Israel can no longer rationalize its oppression of Palestinians by blaming Palestinians who exercise their natural and internationally recognized right to resist occupation and colonialism.

We will continue to resist Israeli colonialism, armed with our rights and international law.

• A version of this article first appeared in The Star

BRI Forum in Shanghai and how Western “Reports” are Smearing China

The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation is about to open in Beijing. It will take place from 25th to 27th April, 2019. The Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to deliver the keynote address.

It is expected to be an event of tremendous proportions and importance: leaders from 37 countries will participate, including Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and President Duterte of the Philippines. Beijing will host 5,000 guests from 150 countries, as well as 90 international organizations.

Africa – BRI: New China built highway

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has already been reshaping the world, fundamentally. Previously at the mercy of the Western imperialist powers, their armies, propaganda apparatuses and brutal financial institutions; Africa, the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia have suddenly discovered that they have alternatives and choices. For various parts of the world, decades and centuries of stagnation and humiliation under colonialist and post-colonialist regimes have begun to come to an end. Entire nations have been freeing themselves, realizing their great hidden potential.

All this because of BRI; because of China as well as its close ally, Russia.

Entire huge railroad projects in East Africa as well as in the once devastated Laos (devastated by the insanely brutal Western carpet-bombing campaigns, which are still called a “Secret War”) are now connecting continents. Along the railway lines, schools are growing, and so are medical facilities, community learning centers and cultural institutions.

BRI Project:  China building high speed train

The BRI is not only about the economy, not only about infrastructure and development, it is also about the well-being of the people, about the culture, health and knowledge. It is aiming at connecting people of different races, life philosophies, and beliefs.

And the rulers in the West are horrified. Nothing outrages them more than the prospect of losing absolute control over the world. For them, it is not (and never was) about improving the lives of hundreds of millions of impoverished people. They had centuries of absolute power over the planet, and all they did was to enrich themselves, murdering and robbing in all corners of the globe. For them, it is about ‘winning or losing’, about maintaining its colonies and ‘client’ states; by all means, even by the most brutal ones.

For China, (through BRI), it is all about spreading wealth everywhere. The firm belief in Beijing was and is: If the world is doing well, China will prosper, too.

*****

And so, in Washington and London, and in so many other centers of Western might, thousands of ‘professionals’ are now employed and busy smearing China and its most ambitious international (and internationalist) projects. Smearing and spreading nihilism is an extremely well-paid job, and for as long as China is rising and the West declining, it appears to be a permanent one. There will be no deficit when it comes to funding all those anti-Chinese ‘academic reports’, fake analyses and articles. The more of them, the better; the more ridiculous they get, the better remunerated they are.

Take this one, for instance: “Grading China’s Belt and Road”.

With all those footnotes and ‘references’, it looks professional and academic. It can impress millions of China-phobes and China-bashers in Europe and North America. Suffering from complexes of superiority and “Yellow-Peril mentality”, they are searching for, and then welcoming all vicious attacks against Beijing and its initiatives.

Look closer, and it is ‘reports’ like this that are clearly nothing more than thinly disguised propaganda work ordered by those who are aiming at discrediting China and its internationalist efforts.

In its Executive Summary, the report states:

Since its launch in 2013, what China calls “One Belt, One Road” has emerged as the corner- stone of Beijing’s economic statecraft. Under the umbrella of the Belt and Road, Beijing seeks to promote a more connected world brought together by a web of Chinese-funded physical and digital infrastructure. The infrastructure needs in Asia and beyond are significant, but the Belt and Road is more than just an economic initiative; it is a central tool for advancing China’s geo-political ambitions. Through the economic activities bundled under the Belt and Road, Beijing is pursuing a vision of the 21st century defined by great power spheres of influence, state-directed economic interactions, and creeping authoritarianism.1

As Beijing prepares to host the second Belt and Road Forum in late April 2019, countries that once welcomed Chinese investment have become increasingly vocal about the downsides. This report is intended to serve as a resource for governments, corporations, journalists, and civil society groups now re-evaluating the costs and benefits of Belt and Road projects…

In brief, it is propaganda; anti-Chinese propaganda, anti-Communist (or call it ‘anti-central-planning- propaganda).

It is also a tool for all those who are ready to criticize China, defining its marvelous efforts as a ‘debt trap’, among various other derogatory terms.

A leading academic at the University of the Philippines (U.P.), Roland G. Simbulan, agreed to analyze the origin of the CNAS report for this essay:

The April 2019 Report “Grading China’s Belt and Road” by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) seems to be one of the latest findings and studies of American conservative think tanks which are in fact aimed at discrediting China’s economic thrusts through China-financed infrastructure, land and sea transport, investments, etc. These are China’s answer to the U.S.’ global military build-up and encirclement of its fast rising rival superpower. China is trying to avoid the mistakes of the Western powers including the U.S. and the former USSR by not engaging in a tit for tat arms race. Instead, it is answering back with its Belt Road Initiative as well as other economic and market initiatives aimed at reinforcing China’s strengths while avoiding a direct attack on where the U.S. is strongest and has more advantage: the U.S. global military forces.

It is obvious from the backgrounds of the CNAS fellows who are authors of the report that they are all connected with the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. National Security Council. The American Enterprise Institute is a quasi-U.S. federal government think tank composed of recycled officials of the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State. It is also obvious that they have consolidated the economic and political reports of all the U.S. intelligence community which are coordinated by the U.S. National Security Adviser.

And obviously, CNAS is not hiding where it stands, ideologically. It quotes such right-wing warriors as the French President, Emmanuel Macron, the International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, the Minister of Energy in the defunct and discredited Ecuadorian government, Carlos Perez, and other unsavory figures.

Roland G. Simbulan continues:

While the CNAS Report may indeed have identified some of China’s vulnerabilities in the management of its China-funded projects which can easily merit criticism, i.e., sovereignty eroding, non-transparent, unsustainable financial burdens, locally disengaged, geopolitically risky, environmentally unsustainable, and corruption-prone), let us remember that China’s BRI was only launched in 2013. The U.S. and its Western Allies, including the multilateral institutions that they have created to assure U.S. neoliberal control of national economies since 1945 have engaged in practicing these “challenges” and dangers that it accuses China of initiating through BRI projects “for China’s geopolitical ambitions.

These may be valid as in the case of the 10 case studies identified by the CNAS Report. But it is too soon to make conclusions in such a short time from 2013-2018. For these are also practices that have long been inflicted by the U.S. Empire and its allies since the end of World War 2 to assure economic, political and military hegemony. Unintentionally, the seven (7) challenges or dangers of China’s BRI identified by the CNAS are really challenges that are continually being inflicted by the U.S. Empire and its Western allies on weaker and smaller countries. Precisely, many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are turning towards alternative international institutions such as ALBA in Latin America and BRI BECAUSE of the onslaught that they have long experienced with the PAX AMERICANA i.e. the U.S. and its allies.

Can the CNAS show that their sponsors and patrons are doing better, or can do better? The best way for the U.S. to counter the Belt Road Initiative (BRI) is to show AND prove that they can offer a better deal with developing countries in need of assistance for their infrastructure and development projects.”

*****

Mr. Sidqy LP Suyitno, an Indonesian high government official and former State Finance and Monetary Analysis Director of the Ministry of National Development Planning, is also puzzled by some of the wording in the report. When asked about the BRI project to build the bullet train from the Indonesian capital Jakarta to its city of Bandung, he contradicted the report:

Geopolitically Risky? It seems NOT to be. It seems more like making bilateral relations with Japan uncomfortable. The Japanese have been enjoying the benefits when it comes to relations with Indonesia, ever since Suharto’s dictatorship: the automotive industry is more like an oligopoly for Japanese cars in Indonesia. And what do we get back? We still don’t have our own car industry, our national car or our own national motorcycles production. Even though we have a very large “captive market”; in 2018, 1.1 million cars & 6.5 million motorcycles were sold in Indonesia.

Apparently, what he is referring to, is that while the Japanese car industry flooded Indonesia with its cars and badly polluting scooters, there were no benefits to the state or to the people of Indonesia. I can go much further and point out that according to my investigation, the Japanese car industry corrupted the government officials in most of the Southeast Asian countries, “convincing them” not to build public transportation, instead choking both cities and the countryside with outdated models of private motor vehicles, consequently bankrupting citizens in the process.

In brief: Japan has managed to ruin Southeast Asian cities, preventing them from developing public transportation. And now should it be trusted in such places like Indonesia to develop a high-speed rail system? Indonesia, Laos and Thailand do not think they should trust Japan too much. They trust China much more. And the same goes for the Philippines. Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, when re-elected last year, stopped several high-profile projects with China, but now, it seems, has been discovering an appetite for cooperation with Beijing.

But the report speaks (using unacademic language, suddenly) about how China poached the high speed train project from the Japanese.

Kenya – BRI: New modern train terminal in Nairobi

Professor Mira Lubis, from Tanjungpura University in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, stated for this essay, her hope that BRI could improve life and environment on her devastated island:

From what I know about BRI, I believe that its efforts would be mutually beneficial for both Indonesia and PRC. In Southeast Asia, the focus of BRI will be what could be described as the Maritime Silk Road. Indonesia is an archipelago with over 17,000 islands. Since 2014, our government is aiming at transforming Indonesia into what it calls the ‘Global Maritime Axis’. It means, developing ports and shipping lanes among other vital projects. This would be in synergy with BRI; BRI could strengthen Indonesia as a maritime power.

My island, Borneo, is ecologically damaged. I hope that it could directly benefit from the cooperation with China and its BRI. China is at the forefront of the struggle for ecological civilization, and I believe in its wisdom. I’m optimistic that BRI might help to bring sustainable development to Borneo.

*****

The CNAS report is ‘all over the place’, selectively attacking BRI and China for its involvement in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South Pacific (Oceania).

In his essay “China’s road to a win-win ahead of BRI forum” published by the Asia Times, renowned Brazilian analyst Pepe Escobar wrote:

Relentless reports that the New Silk Roads, or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), are a perfidious neo-imperial debt trap set up by Yellow Peril 2.0 are vastly exaggerated.

Beijing clinched a proverbial showering of BRI deals with 17 Arab nations, including Egypt, Lebanon and Oman. Not by accident, the forum this year was called Build the Belt and Road, Share Development and Prosperity. Up to 2018, 21 Arab nations had signed BRI memoranda of understanding

These nations are not only BRI partners, but 12 of them also went for strategic partnerships with China…

Little wonder why!

Say China or BRI in Africa, just pronounce those names, and most of the people will show great enthusiasm. Every — even the Western surveys — clearly indicate that all over the continent, people harbor extremely positive feelings forwards China.

In Kenya (where I used to live), I repeatedly heard those who were working on countless Chinese projects, repeat:

This is the first time we are treated by the foreigners like human beings.

Kenya – BRI new government building in Nairobi

People in Europe and North America love to adopt ‘politically correct speech’, but words somehow do not translate into deeds. Chinese workers may sometimes be rough, but they treat Africans like brothers and sisters. They also try to compensate them as if they would be their own.

But the CNAS report only criticizes China’s involvement in Africa, while African voices are rarely allowed to penetrate the uniform and dogmatic Western mainstream media.

An influential Ugandan analyst and opposition figure, Arthur Tewungwa, wrote for this essay:

The basic assumption of Africans is that they are stupid and ignorant of history, politics, and the global financial arrangement of the world. The scaremongering of Chinese global domination does not really wash on a continent that is still under a sustained attack from the very forces that led us into slavery, colonialism and its manifestation, neo-colonialism. Using the Ugandan opposition’s criticisms of the government’s (a staunch ally of the US and its regional sheriff) misuse and theft of Chinese aid while ignoring the fact that the same has been going on for the last 30 years with IMF and World Bank funds which the opposition has been criticizing, confirms that assumption.

Ugandans don’t view China as a dangerous hegemon; they are still too busy trying to extract themselves from the current relationship with hegemon that has had its boot on the country’s neck for the last 300 years. The opposition criticism was aimed at the conduct of America’s principal, not the misrepresented intentions of China. The IMF and World Bank have not covered themselves in glory in Africa and ignoring that fact just plays more into China’s hands.

*****

In the South Pacific (Oceania) where I also spent several years of my life (writing a book about the plight of Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia), CNAS dishonestly criticizes the BRI project in Vanuatu.

Let me be brutally frank here: The West has almost ruined the entire Oceania by its unbridled consumption, by neo-colonialist policies; from the Solomon Islands to the Marshall Islands. Global warming has caused the near disappearance of such wonderful countries like Kiribati, Marshall Island and Tuvalu.

What has the West done to save them? Nothing! Just dumping junk food on Samoa and Tonga, on the Federated States of Micronesia, or on the Marshall Islands (RMI).

China has patiently and full-heartedly been trying to help: by planting mangroves, building anti-tsunami walls, elevating government offices, schools and medical posts up on stilts. It has built stadiums in order to improve the health of the desperately obese local population (on some islands, around 90% of the population are suffering from diabetes).

And what has the West done, after observing the great success of China? It went to Taiwan, and as the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the RMI, Tony de Brum explained to me, began ‘encouraging Taipei’ to bribe local governments, so they would recognize Taiwan as an independent country; something that even the West has not done. As a result, predictably, Beijing was forced to break diplomatic relations and to withdrow its help. The result: Taiwan has done nothing for Oceania. Only the ordinary people in South Pacific have become the victims.

Laos – BRI. Bridge over Mekong River for high-speed train

Those South Pacific countries that ‘stayed with China’ are doing incomparably better. Why don’t we hear about all this from the West-sponsored reports? Why do we only read dirt, as well as nihilist speculation? Why not facts? Why not the truth, that it is the West that is destroying the world, and has been for decades and centuries?

*****

BRI is not perfect, yet, but on the global scale, it is the best that humanity has right now. And it has been improving, month after month.

Ugandans had 300 years of horrors of ‘Western democracy’ and ‘freedom’. Latin Americans have been beaten into submission for over 500 years.

In Washington, London and Paris, they love to say: “we are all the same”. Such ‘logic’ washes out their crimes. It means: “everyone is as greedy and brutal as we are”. But, no, we are not the same! Cultures are different, on all corners of the globe. Some countries are expansionist, aggressive and obsessed with self-righteousness as well as complexes of superiority. Some are not. China is not. It never was. It never will be. If attacked or antagonized, it defends itself; and if threatened in the future, it will defend itself again. But it does not build its wealth on plunder, and on the corpses of the others, as the West has been doing for long centuries.

BRI is the exact contrast to the Western colonialism and imperialism. I say it not because I am defending some theory on these pages, but because I have seen the Chinese ‘New Silk Road’ in action, in places where I have lived and worked: Asia, the Middle East, Oceania, Latin America and Africa. In places where almost no one dares or cares to go: except for those few tough and ‘insane’ individuals like myself, and for the Chinese internationalists! I know such places intimately. Places where local people are almost never given an opportunity to speak; they never appear on the pages of the Western mass media, or on television screens, or in reports such as the one published by CNAS.

Until recently, their voices and lives mattered nothing. Now they do. They matter a lot.

These people exist; these people are alive; they want to breath, to live and to dream. I swear they do. And for them, especially for them, now exists the BRI!

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

The True Stories That Fake News Tells: The Forced Sterilization of Women

I am constantly amazed in this day and age where Americans have a President who touts anything he doesn’t agree with as “fake news” that is the moment that people grow cynical of the term.   Despite Donald Trump’s ability to shun astute critique of his politics, the term does carry currency in terms of how true or false news stories are.  But it is not just American media that is stuck within this paradigm of readers never knowing what is or is not true, the British who have a nationally subsidized media whereby residents in the UK must pay a TV license are subjected to another sort of “fake news,” namely, the endless stream of trivia regarding the Royal Family.

What is “news” today can range from the entirely vapid stories of an impending Royal Wedding to the recent story of a pedophile found in his cell with his penis chopped off.  The former is entirely not newsworthy and stokes the fire of many British who resist paying television taxes because of this sort of abuse of public funds to cover “fluff” and the latter is largely untrue. Yet, both stories are widespread because who doesn’t want to read about a pedophile who has come to his just-deserved end or the happy royal marriage between a Hollywood actor and a prince?

And this is why fake news has become so prevalent: the market forces of advertisement rewards social media shares. Conterminous to this reality of capitalism and social media there is a recent study published in Science last week, untrue stories are shared at far higher rates than factual new items:

About 126,000 rumors were spread by ∼3 million people. False news reached more people than the truth; the top 1% of false news cascades diffused to between 1000 and 100,000 people, whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1000 people. Falsehood also diffused faster than the truth. The degree of novelty and the emotional reactions of recipients may be responsible for the differences observed.

And this paradigm of news “out there” ranging from the entirely fantastical to the well-researched and objectively true means that readers are either constantly suspicious about what they read or just more gullible about the intake of news given the paucity of time to research every media byte.

For instance, last fall when the cryptocurrency market began to rise ever so speedily, many people wrote me to ask me about bitcoin and if the stories were true about its reputed rise.  The quality of fake news is so wide-ranging today in subject matter and analysis that it is hard for people to recognize the difference between actual true news, fake news, and as I found out yesterday when posting a satirical piece about a man who abandoned his family to live out his dream of living life as a squirrel. Indeed, at times it is difficult to recognize fake news from real news simply because reality is also troublingly “unreal” and indistinguishable from fable.

So yesterday, I came upon a story which I shared on Facebook where my stream there is largely a bookmarking of stories I hope to read in the not-too-distant future.  The story I posted is entitled “Big Pharma Co. Has License Suspended As Vaccine Sterilizes 500,000 Girls” and immediately upon posting the thread was flooded with skeptical comments asking if this is true, one wondering why the British media hadn’t reported this, and even one posting to a fact-checking website which rates news stories on the conspiracy range from “none” to “tin foil hat.”

This article received a “mixed” review.  And on Snopes, this related to a story from 2014 which was labelled as “false” despite the origins of the story being factually correct:  a press statement released on 7 October, 2015 by the Catholic Health Commission of Kenya – Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) who state their concerns that the Tetanus Toxoid vaccine (TT) might be laced with Beta human chorionic gonadotropin (b-HCG). This press release expressed concern for the role played by sponsoring development partners since such programs had “previously been used by the same partners in Philippines, Nicaragua and Mexico to vaccinate women against future pregnancy.”  A component of experimental birth control vaccines, b-HCG caused alarm to these bishops as it is common knowledge that development aid has historically and negatively affected the bodies of women—especially those of women of color.

Anyone who has lived in countries outside the west becomes acutely aware as to how “humanitarian aid” is peddled, offered up as the panacea to all social and medical ills, when, in fact, such aid usually debilitates local economies, medical practices, and educational institutions.  And view the video of the man at the center of this debate, former Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga (1992-2013), who has spoken at length on his concerns. Watching this video, it is clear that Odinga is no biologist and that his statement does not account for presence of b-HCG. Similarly, the Washington Post report on this subject makes clear that the results are inconclusive either way due to how the sample of this vaccine was analyzed.  Still many remain cautious about dismissing the accusations, such as Keith Donovan of Georgetown’s Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics, stating:

[T]here are aspects of this that need to be raising red flags because of history and because of the way it was all being done. But raising red flags doesn’t mean that there’s something that actually has occurred.

What Donovan is getting at here is the importance of understanding how women’s bodies have been historically controlled by colonizing forces, especially with regards to their reproductive capacity.  The accusations which target this long-running vaccination program sponsored by the WHO and UNICEF, inoculates women of reproductive age against tetanus in a country where tetanus is a deadly health problem.  Yet the phrase “women of reproductive age” mentioned in the same sentence as any UN organization or NGO will set off alarms for many who have seen the horrors of mass sterilization programs which, oddly enough, British media has rarely covered.

One of the most infamous mass sterilization projects in recent history was that carried out by the Peace Corps in Bolivia in the 1960s and early 1970s. This resulted in the Peace Corps being thrown out of the country in 1971, in large part because of the production of one of Bolivia’s most important films on the topic, Blood of the Condor (Yawar Mallku), by Jorge Sanjínes (1969), which informed the people as to what this US agency was doing to women.  This project involved Peace Corps volunteers distributing contraception, even inserting IUDs into indigenous Quechua women, without their informed consent.  This set off a series of accusations which in turn fueled rumors about widespread US-funded sterilization programs.  Through the 1980s there was a distrust of all US programs, food products, and birth control products.  Meanwhile in this same period, between 1965 and 1971, an estimated 1 million women in Brazil had been sterilized. And in Mexico in 1974 there was a massive sterilization program which gave an anti-fertility vaccine to 1,204 females under the guise of “family planning.”

In Colombia, between 1963 and 1965 more than 400,000 women were sterilized in a program funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. And in the Philippines, where similar concerns of the tetanus vaccine was blamed for sterilizing women just last year, USAID has sponsored family planning programs there to the tune of $40m, with poor women being offered money to go through the sterilization procedure in rural villages.  The Philippines has a long history of sterilization projects dating back to the 1970s which has resulted in a healthy skepticism about any “vaccines” that Filipina women will logically view with great suspicion.

In recent years, there have been numerous reports from the Gauteng province of South Africa of women who are HIV+ people told that sterilization is the “best form of contraception” and others who have been sterilized without any consent whatsoever. Similar reports have been emerging from Uganda, Namibia, and Slovakia as well. In Israel, the government has been sterilizing Ethiopian immigrants to the country with a notable decline in their birthrate in the country. And both Kenya and Chile have various important court cases which specifically address the illegality of forced sterilization in well-documented cases. It is no surprise that the former Prime Minister of Kenya is suspicious of a vaccine that has been called into question by the Catholic Health Commission of Kenya.

Still, let us not forget where such eugenicist notions of sterilization originated.  From the early twentieth century, the eugenics movement in the UK was born which led to the formation of the Eugenics Education Society in 1907. This organization campaigned for the forced sterilization of mentally disabled women, a program supported by mostly Labour MPs such that by 1931 there was a draft bill proposed in Parliament to this end. On the other side of the Atlantic, sterilization laws were enacted in 32 of the US states between 1907 and 1937 only to be repealed from the 1970s onward. Although the sterilization was to affect the bodies of both males and females in the United States, the focus of sterilization would come to bear its weight on the bodies of women.

For instance, in California, even when the state’s eugenic sterilization law was repealed in 1979, other legislation paved the way for operations in state prisons to sterilize female inmates. Between 2006 and 2010, there were 146 female inmates in two of California’s women’s prisons who received tubal ligations with at least three dozen of these procedures directly violating the state’s own informed consent process. Not surprisingly, the majority of those who were sterilized were not only first-time offenders, but largely African-American and Latina. The logic as explained by the physician responsible for these surgeries, Dr. James Heinrich: that the state would save money “compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children—as they procreated more.” In 2013, a journalist at the Center for Investigative Reporting published on this story which eventually led to the passage of a bill banning sterilization in California state prisons.

And sterilization campaigns have been more than common outside of prisons in the United States and its territories such as the case of Puerto Rico where from the 1930s to late 1960s mass sterilization was underway such that by 1965, a survey revealed that one-third of Puerto Rican women were sterile.  Similar to the surgeries undertaken in prisons was the rationale rooted in the desire to save the government’s money from women who were perceived as reproducing at high rates, especially when Puerto Rican immigrants were coming to the US in the 1970s. Also, there was the fear that Latinos might edge out “white America” which is why so many Latina women in Puerto Rico, New York City, and California were specifically targeted by the government for sterilization throughout the 20th century.

African American women have also been the targets of population control throughout the country’s history and have been disproportionately affected by sterilization abuse. In North Carolina, the state which has one of the worse records for sterilization abuse, 65 percent of its sterilization procedures were performed on black women despite the population of black women in that state hovering at 25 percent.  The case Madrigal v. Quilligan (1978) was ground-breaking in that, even if the judge ruled in favor of the doctors who abusively coerced Latina women into sterilization, this case set the precedent of informed consent, underscoring the obligation to provide forms in multiple languages for non-native English speakers.

So while some are outraged by the claims of UNICEF and the WHO being accused of sterilizing women in countries like Kenya and the Philippines, others view the historical veracity of what similar agencies have done historically and more recently (eg. USAID’s support of Peru’s sterilization of indigenous women from 1997 through 2002 where “USAID provided $18 million to CARE for training doctors to perform sterilization and supplying sterilization equipment used in the coercive campaigns.”1

What is important to take away from these reports is that the suspicion exercised over the control of women’s bodies by foreign agencies and/or by these agencies exercising their monetary power through local politics needs to be regarded with great scrutiny.  Has the Kenya Accreditation Service (Kenas) truly suspended Agriq-Quest Ltd’s license as a testing laboratory? I called their corporate number this morning and received no answer and went onto their Facebook page only to find it removed.  I went onto the Kenas’ website to see that Agriq-Quest Ltd is delisted.

The whole story has not been told and we have only a few blips of information here and there that can easily seem like fake news, or a story that western media doesn’t really care to tell. The larger question is why more western media isn’t concerned about the medicalization of the bodies of teenage girls and young women to the extent that the WHO and the UN are given carte blanche to create policy and to avoid answering any and all questions put to them about these policies.

What consoles me about seeing Odinga’s statement to the press is not that the reports about sterilization are necessarily inaccurate, but they reveal a healthy dose of cynicism towards foreign agencies that have never had these peoples’ best interest at heart.  We need to applaud the reports that may be inaccurate since they at least stick their neck out for the lives and rights of women to have a say in their corporeal autonomy, reproductive health, and lives.

  1. Peru’s Ministry of Health, “Final Report Concerning Voluntary Surgical Contraception Activities,” July, 2002.

Canada: A Settler State Not a Colony

Colony or settler state?

Recently foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland dismissed concerns that Canada was seeking “regime change” in Venezuela’s by saying “Canada has never been an imperialist power. It’s even almost funny to say that phrase: we’ve been the colony.”

As I detailed in an initial response, Ottawa has passively or actively supported numerous US-backed military coups against progressive elected governments. But, the conclusion to Freeland’s statement above is equally absurd, even if it is a common refrain among liberals and leftists.

Despite its popularity, the idea that Canada was or is a “colony” obscures Canada’s place near the top of a hierarchical world economy and polity. In probably its most famous iteration, prominent historian Harold Innis remarked that Canada had gone “from colony to nation to colony.”

Between 1867 and 1931 Canadian foreign policy was officially determined by London. But, describing this as a “colonial” relationship ignores the Canadian elite’s access to British capital, universities, armaments, etc., as well as Canada’s role in extending British power westward and, to a lesser extent, in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

While technically accurate, employing the term “colony” to describe both Canada and Kenya makes little sense. British, French and other settlers in Canada were not dispossessed of their land, but rather dispossessed First Nations. Additionally, they faced no repression comparable to that experienced by the Maasai or Kikuyu. Calling Canada a “colony” is akin to describing the European settlers in Kenya as “colonized”. While tensions existed between the whites in Kenya and the Colonial Office in London, the settlers also had privileged access to British arms, technology and capital.

At first Canada was an arm of the British Empire, conquering the northern part of the Western hemisphere by dispossessing First Nations. After 1867 Ottawa regularly argued it “was looking after British imperial interests in North America and that the country’s material growth reinforced the British Empire,” writes Norman Penlington in Canada and Imperialism: 1896-1899. “The construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway was especially justified as a British military route to the East.”

A number of Canadian military institutions were established in large part to expand the British Empire’s military capacity. Opened in Kingston, Ontario, in 1876, the Royal Military College (RMC) was largely designed to train soldiers to fight on behalf of British colonialism. Usually trained at the RMC, Canadians helped conquer Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. Four hundred Canadians traveled halfway across the world to beat back anti-colonial resistance in the Sudan in 1885 while a decade and a half later thousands more fought to advance British imperial interests in the southern part of the continent.

While Freeland wasn’t clear about whether she was referring to British or US influence over Canada, the second part of the “colony to nation to colony” parable is also misleading. Has Canada been colonized by Washington in a similar way to Haiti? Among innumerable examples of its domination, on December 17, 1914, US Marines marched to the country’s treasury and took the nation’s entire gold reserve — valued at US $12 million — and between 1915 and 1934 Washington formally occupied Haiti (they retained control of the country’s finances until 1947).

Facilitated by racial, linguistic and cultural affinity, Canada has long had privileged access to the US business and political elite. Longtime speaker of the House of Representatives and Democratic Party nominee for President in 1912, Champ Clark, highlighted Canada’s prized place within US ruling circles. “They are people of our blood”, Champ expounded. “They speak our language. Their institutions are much like ours. They are trained in the difficult art of self-government.”

During the 1898-1902 occupation of Cuba the Royal Bank was the preferred banker of US officials. (National US banks were forbidden from establishing foreign branches until 1914.) Canadian capitalists worked with their US counterparts in Central America as well. In the early 1900s Canadian Pacific Railway President Sir William Van Horne helped the Boston-based United Fruit Company, infamous for its later role in overthrowing elected Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz, build the railway required to export bananas from the country. In the political realm there were also extensive ties. For instance, Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, worked for the Rockefeller family while the mother of long-time US Secretary of State Dean Acheson was from a wealthy Canadian family.

Today, the ties are closer than ever. In a post US election exposé titled “A look inside Palm Beach, where wealthy Canadians are one degree of separation from Donald Trump” the Globe and Mail detailed a slew of prominent Canadians (Brian Mulroney, Charles Bronfman, George Cohon, Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman, Paul Desmarais’s family, etc.) with winter homes near the US president’s exclusive property. A number of these individuals, the Globe reported, could get “Trump’s ear” if he turned on Canada.

While there is a power imbalance between the two countries and differing interests at times, the Canadian elite sees the world and profits from it in a similar way to their US counterparts.

Rather than looking at Canadian foreign policy through the lens of a “colony”, a more apt framework to understand this country’s place in the world is the Canadian elite has had a privileged position with the two great powers of the past two centuries. Or, Canada progressed from an appendage of the Imperial Centre to appendage of the Imperial Centre.

The term “settler state” is a better description than “colony” of what Canada was and is. It acknowledges the primary colonizer (us) and does not obscure the power relations in the imperial order — our ruling elite is closely tied into the world ruling elite.

Canada’s opposition to Venezuela’s elected government reflects this status

Trump and secessionism, by Thierry Meyssan

While the neo-conservatives were hoping to create a « world revolution » by exporting their form of « democracy » by means of war, President Trump is basing his foreign policy on the respect for State sovereignty. Consequently, he has put a stop to all US support for separatism. Thierry Meyssan reminds us here of the ambiguities in the US position on secession, then demonstrates the common features of the events in Kenya, Iraq and Spain.

Trump and secessionism, by Thierry Meyssan

While the neo-conservatives were hoping to create a « world revolution » by exporting their form of « democracy » by means of war, President Trump is basing his foreign policy on the respect for State sovereignty. Consequently, he has put a stop to all US support for separatism. Thierry Meyssan reminds us here of the ambiguities in the US position on secession, then demonstrates the common features of the events in Kenya, Iraq and Spain.

Rename the Lester B. Pearson Airport

Many monuments, memorials and names of institutions across Canada celebrate our colonial and racist past. Calls for renaming buildings or pulling down statues are symbolic ways of reinterpreting that history, acknowledging mistakes and small steps towards reconciling with the victims of this country’s policies.

At its heart this process is about searching for the truth, a guiding principle that should be shared by both journalists and historians.

In an article headlined “Everything is offensive: Here are Canada’s other politically incorrect place names” Tristin Hopper concludes that “Lester Pearson’s record still holds up pretty well” unlike a dozen other historical figures he cites who have streets, institutions and statues named in their honour. Notwithstanding the National Post reporter’s portrayal, there are compelling historical arguments for renaming the airport, school board, road, college, peace-park, civic centre, housing project, schools and foreign affairs headquarters celebrating the long-time diplomat.

As I outline in Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: the truth may hurt, the former Nobel Peace Prize winner was an aggressive militarist and imperialist. There is even a case to be made that the former external minister and prime minister could be posthumously tried for war crimes.

In the foreword to my book Noam Chomsky argues that Pearson abetted war crimes by having Canadian International Control Commission (ICC) officials deliver US bombing threats to the North Vietnamese leadership in 1964. As prime minister, Pearson also had ICC officials spy on North Vietnam for Washington, approved chemical weapon (Agent Orange, Purple and Blue) testing in Canada, ramped up weapons sales to the US and provided various other forms of support to Washington’s violence in Indochina.

A decade and a half earlier Pearson aggressively promoted Canadian participation in another conflict that left millions dead. He threatened to quit as external minister if Canada failed to deploy ground troops to Korea. Ultimately, 27,000 Canadian troops fought in the 1950–53 UN “police action” that left up to four million dead. At one point the US-led forces only stopped bombing the north of the country when they determined no building over one story was still standing.

Pearson had a hand in many other unjust policies. During the 1947 UN negotiations over the British Mandate of Palestine Pearson disregarded the interests of the indigenous Palestinian population. He also played an important role in the creation of NATO, describing its 1949 formation as the “most important thing I participated in.” In the 1950s he backed CIA coups in Iran and Guatemala as well as the violent suppression of independence struggles in Algeria, Kenya and elsewhere. As Prime Minister in the mid 1960s, Pearson brought nuclear tipped Bomarc missiles to Canada, supported the US invasion of the Dominican Republic and military coup against Ghana’s president Kwame Nkrumah.

Expect liberals (of both the big and small l variety) to react emotionally to any effort to remove Pearson’s name from public entities. As part of the promotion for my Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy I put together a press release titled The Top 10 Things You Don’t Know About Canadian Foreign Policy. Number 1 was “Many commentators, including the world’s leading intellectual, Noam Chomsky, consider Lester Pearson a war criminal.” I sent the list and offered a review copy to a reporter at Embassy, Canada’s leading foreign policy newsletter at the time. He responded with outrage: “Frankly, I’m not that interested in Chomsky’s opinions, especially when they smear great Canadians like Mike Pearson. I know you’re a radical, but have some pride in Canada!”

Chomsky describes a similar experience with former CBC radio host Peter Gzowski. Happy to have him criticize US foreign policy, the long-time Morningside host became furious when Chomsky said, “I landed at war criminal airport”. Gzowski questioned: “What do you mean?” to which Chomsky responded, “the Lester B. Pearson Airport”, detailing Pearson’s contribution to the US war in Vietnam. In response, writes Chomsky, Gzowski “went into a tantrum, haranguing me for a number of minutes”, which prompted an outpouring of listener complaints.

The reality is many people are emotionally tied to the self-serving myths created to justify the actions of important historical figures. But the job of historians and journalists is to seek the truth, not to simply repeat propaganda.