Murder of Daunte Wright Ruined Derek Chauvin Show Trial

The fix was in. The U.S. state was determined to demonstrate to the world that its system was able to render “justice” to its captive African/Black population.

So, unlike in the handful of cases where charges were brought against police officers for killing a Black or Brown person, the prosecutors this time did not pretend to follow the demands of the ill-informed public to bring charges of first degree or second-degree murder that would set a bar for conviction so high, it could not be met. That is a favorite strategy of prosecutors when conviction is not what they are looking for.

The prosecutors in the Derek Chauvin case did the opposite. They stacked the charges in a way that would make it impossible to escape a conviction. And everyone fell in line because the stakes were so high. Could the Shining City on the Hill, whose leadership was now associated with the “decent” Democrats, render justice for the killer of George Floyd? The answer to that question was going to be an emphatic yes. The press committed to gavel-to-gavel coverage and everything was ready for one the greatest show trials of U.S. history.

But the intractable, racist nature of the relationship between Black people and the U.S. settler-colonial state reared its ugly head again and everything went off script right in the middle of the international production. That is because another young Black male was gunned down, ironically in the same metropolitan area where Floyd’s life was snatched from him.

Everything was now confused again. What would justice mean for Floyd and any other Black individual murdered or assaulted by agents of the state even if Chauvin is convicted? Would the call for “justice” now just mean a demand for a trial since it is clear cases of Black murder will continue, as they have since the inception of this nation? Is that not what made the U.S. “exceptional” as the first republic ever established on the basis of race in human history?

The ruling class response to Covid-19 demonstrated how cheap life is in the United States, but the lives of Black people are even lower on the scale of human value. Yet, the charade continues. U.S. authorities gun down Black people in the United States, while its armies kill Black and other colonized peoples and nations around the world in the name of advancing democracy.

Everyone knows, really, that the murder of George Floyd was no more an aberration in U.S. society than the election of Donald Trump in 2016 was. Extreme, systematic, murderous violence has always been at the heart of the white supremacist settler project. The Chauvin show trial was just supposed to help us to forget that for a moment.

It did not matter that no one was held accountable for the murder of Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, or the now countless murders where local prosecutors failed to bring charges and the government under the Obama and Trump administrations made political decisions not to launch federal investigations.

This case was different. It could not be ignored or explained away. The world had seen the gruesome snuff film of George Floyd that evoked global revulsion. An inflection point had been reached in which the U.S. brand was potentially damaged beyond repair—so a sacrifice was required.

With the killing of Daunte Wright, a mistrial may not be the result and Chauvin will probably be convicted. That conviction, however, will not have the effect that the plan had originally imagined. Out of the confusion around what is to be demanded when the killings continue, is the slow awakening to the unavoidable reality that unless African/Black people are able to self-govern and exercise authentic collective self-determination, the degradation and dehumanization that is built into the white supremacist DNA of settler-colonialism will continue to produce Breonna Taylors, Eric Garners, mass incarceration, and crimes against our collective humanity.

And how do we shift that power? Malcolm X gave us a direction from the radical Black human rights tradition. He said you must be ready to pay the price required to experience full dignity as a person and as members of a self-determinant people.

And what is that price?

The price to make others respect your human rights is death. You have to be ready to die… it’s time for you and me now to let the world know how peaceful we are, how well-meaning we are, how law-abiding we wish to be. But at the same time, we have to let the same world know we’ll blow their world sky-high if we’re not respected and recognized and treated the same as other human beings are treated.

That outcome cannot be scripted by Hollywood or the state propagandists.

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Public Funds For Charter Schools Is Socially Irresponsible

Public money comes from the new value workers produce. It does not come from somewhere else. This value is presently controlled not by those who produce it but by the financial oligarchy and its state. When socially-produced wealth is not controlled by those who actually produce it, endless problems arise. There is no way for the economy to benefit all individuals and serve the general interests of society when it is dominated by a handful of billionaires.

Socially-produced wealth belongs to the public and must be used for social programs and public services that benefit the socialized economy and the general interests of society. This includes education, healthcare, municipal services, and more. This can be achieved when major economic decisions are made by a public authority worthy of the name. A government beholden to the rich and their political representatives leads only to more retrogressive developments.

Since public money does not come from, or belong to, narrow private interests, it must not be used for privatized education arrangements such as charter schools. That is socially irresponsible.

Privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools are contract schools run by unelected individuals. They are not state agencies like public schools. They differ significantly from public schools, legally, organizationally, ideologically, and otherwise. Besides being governed by unelected individuals, charter schools cannot levy taxes, frequently hire uncertified teachers, and do not operate according to the same laws, rules, and regulations as public schools. Many courts have ruled that charter schools are not public entities.  In addition, charter schools support fewer high-needs students than public schools and lack the transparency of public schools.  Charter schools intensify segregation and are often plagued by instability and corruption as well. Further, more than 150 charter schools close every year, usually for financial malfeasance, mismanagement, or academic failure. Between 1999 and 2017, more than one-quarter of charter schools closed after operating for only five years.  Such instability has left hundreds of thousands of minority students out in the cold. Many other problems could be listed.

Although they are not public agencies, privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools siphon tens of billions of public dollars every year from the public purse, which leaves public schools worse off. In cities like Rochester and Buffalo, New York, charter schools collectively siphon over $225 million a year from under-funded public schools. And it does not help that the “results” delivered by privately-operated charter schools, especially cyber charter schools, are often unimpressive, if not abysmal.

All of this is inevitable when schools are run on the basis of “free market” ideology. Social responsibility and the “free market” simply do not go together. “Good business sense” and social responsibility negate each other. They are oxymorons, and attempts to blur the distinction between them should be opposed. Corporations pursuing maximum profits as fast as possible—unlimited greed—has nothing to do with serving the general interests of society. Social responsibilities like education must not be subjected to the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market.” The modern idea that humans are born to society and have rights by virtue of their being is alien to “free market” ideology.

Contrary to what neoliberals and privatizers claim, privatization does not serve the common good or improve “outcomes” for everyone. It just funnels public wealth produced by workers into the hands of narrow private interests, leaving fewer funds for the public and the economy.

The public, not narrow private interests, must have the first and last say over the use of public funds. Wealth produced collectively by workers must not escape their control. Socially-produced wealth must remain in public hands and not find its way to private entities. Publicly funded private entities and so-called public-private “partnerships” distort the socialized economy, increase inequality, diminish the voice of workers, and exacerbate a range of other problems. Around the globe, privatization in its many forms is intensifying problems in many sectors and spheres.

A modern economy and society cannot develop in a healthy, balanced, and self-reliant way when decisions are made mainly by competing owners of capital seeking to maximize profit as fast as possible. Education and all the affairs of society must be determined by working people, not by those who strive to use the new value produced by workers to enrich themselves.

Fight for public funds for public schools. Stand for social responsibility and oppose the flow of all public funds to charter schools. The powerful private companies that run charter schools must not receive any public funds or assets. Society needs a government that takes up its social responsibility to meet the broad educational needs of a modern society based on mass industrial production.

Charter schools are legal in 45 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Currently, about 3.3 million youth attend roughly 7,400 charter schools across the nation. This is a small fraction of all students and all schools in the United States.

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Cultural Relativism as “Counter Enlightenment”

It was the intellectual historian Isaiah Berlin who coined the term “Counter-Enlightenment.”  He was referring to a widespread ideological-reactionary movement in the early 19th century — against the universalizing human rights doctrines which had originated in the 18th century Enlightenment and the French Revolution.  Berlin viewed this as primarily a German reaction, powerfully mobilized by the resistance to Napoleon’s wars of “liberation.”  Most prominently, pre-anthropological theorist Gottfried Herder had strongly insisted, not only on the multiplicity of viable cultural traditions, but also on a value-free “cultural relativism” (thereby condoning, by implication, feudalism, indentured servitude, female subjugation, and so forth).

Nonetheless, the doctrine itself, seemingly egalitarian and tolerant, was to set the groundwork for American cultural anthropology, founded around 1900 by the German scholar Franz Boas.  After all, colonialist massacres and expropriations of indigenous peoples had been previously justified by crude and racist notions of inferior “savages.”  But regrettably, not only did the anthropologists soon transform this vague doctrine into a virtually sacrosanct dogma, they intransigently proselytized an even more questionable (if not absurd) doctrine: cultural determinism.  In this prevailing assumption, individuals are born as merely raw, unfinished human specimens, to be entirely molded by the language and inclusive “world-view” of their Kultur.  This became a classic (and disastrous) example of mistaking a partial truth for the whole truth (if, ironically enough, such anthropologists even accepted such relative notions as “truth”!).

Those drawn to cultural anthropology in the 20th century were attracted by these twin dogmas, in which the individual human being was viewed as little more than a passive recipient and bearer of an all-embracing tradition.  (Whether the child’s initiation into normative culture was really so conflict-free was ignored.)  In part, the notion of a communal solidarity, in which actual persons were seamlessly embedded in, and wholly identified with, their supportive cultures, seemed on the surface egalitarian and “progressive” (in sharp contrast to the loneliness and personal alienation often suffered by those in industrial societies).  Yet there were a few anthropological dissenters who questioned this overly romantic construct: they pointed out that the real individuals they encountered “in the field” were sometimes sufficiently detached from their communities to offer acute insights about the limitations of such traditional life-ways.

Nonetheless, the vision of non-Western communitarian equality has proven highly seductive, and thus enduring, among cultural anthropologists (few of whom, by the late 20th century, had much regard for any rational evaluations of cultural practices).  Justifiably appalled by the global crimes of modern industrial States — the agents of techno-scientific war and conquest — such influential anthropologists even went so far as to dismiss the value of scientific reason itself (evidence, hypothesis-testing, etc.).

What explanations for causality were traditionally inculcated throughout most of the world?  Seeking an explanation for a sudden death; for instance, one culture might emphasize the “evil eye,” another poisoning by a sorcerer.  (As to physical cataclysms, one need only recall that angry Yahweh was originally a punitive “volcano god.”)  In their misguided allegiance to relativism, anthropologists came to insist that such (unprovable) “explanations” constituted culturally coherent “ethno-science.”  After all, to conclude that these explanations were invalid might be misconstrued as claiming some intrinsic inferiority of such “primitive” believers.  Exceedingly few anthropologists, the vast majority of whom have always been stalwart opponents of racist pseudo-science, were willing to concede that science is fundamentally different from such non-provable notions in that it only advances based on verifiability and evaluation of contrasting hypotheses.

Early Romans believed that the ritual slaying of war captives would satisfy their esteemed warrior-ancestors’ craving for blood — so they adopted the Etruscan practice of gladiatorial contests “to the death.”  The religious fanatics of Salem believed that elderly women were causing harm by secretly consorting with “the Devil” and practicing “witchcraft” — so they executed these harmless women.  The Pawnee believed that the ritual sacrifice of a young virgin every spring would propitiate the Great Spirit and thereby guarantee bountiful buffalo and crops.  Such belief-systems necessitated innocent victims and thus, from the Enlightenment standard of universal individual rights, must be identified as objectively incorrect and harmful to human well-being.

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The End of the Rules-based International Order Rapidly Approaching

One of the most tiresome phrases uttered by officials of the United States and its loyal acolytes such as Australia is its claim that its foreign policy and adheres to what it repeatedly refers to is the “rules based international order.”  What the Americans (and the secretary of state Anthony Blinken uses the phrase repeatedly) really mean is a system of rules dictated by successive US governments and repeated ad nauseam as though the phrase carried magical properties intended to quell any criticism of their actions.

Blinken use the phrase recently when he tweeted about the NATO meeting in Brussels that he attended. He tweeted “our alliances were created to defend shared values. Retaining our commitment requires reaffirming those values and the foundation of international relations we vow to protect: a free and open rules-based order”

The phrase “the rules-based order” is an open code, telling the rest of the world that the rules are set by America and the rest of the world’s duty is to obey them unquestionably. The origins of the phrase have a history going back to the end of the Second World War. The purpose was twofold. On the one hand it was intended to differentiate the United States from its two major Communist adversaries, Russia and China. Secondly, it was a way of spelling out that in the new world order that followed World War II, the United States was the dominant party that set the rules.

The role of the United States in this new order has always been clear to the Americans, as president Joe Biden recently spelled-out. In a recent speech, Biden advocated “a stable and open international system.” Biden argued that the restoration of this international order “rests on a core strategic proposition. The United States must renew its enduring advantages so that they can meet today’s challenges from a position of strength.”

The Americans are anxious to maintain this order because for many years it has been dominated by them. The collapse of the Cold War with the demise of the Soviet Union in 1990 did not diminish the appetite for continued control. There are two fundamental problems with this worldview however.

The first is that it purports to uphold a system that is dominated by one country; the United States. That is not a position that finds favour with the bulk of the world’s nations. The second problem is that of the concept itself. By the “rules based international order” the United States and its allies actually mean “their rules” and “their system.”

The United States has ruthlessly pursued its notion of international law regardless of the actual legal definition that does not recognise the rights of one nation to impose its will upon the rest and to ignore the rights of other nations with whose policies it finds itself in disagreement.

It is very difficult to locate a respect for the law in the multiple invasions mounted by the United States in the post-World War II period when it has been almost continually at war somewhere in the world. It has violently overthrown governments of all persuasions that failed to pay sufficient regard for the United States’ view of things.

It is impossible to reconcile a belief in International Law with the attempted overthrow of the Cuban government since 1959. Astonishingly the Americans maintain a military prison base at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, actually defying the wishes of the Cuban government that they depart.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile a true belief in a rules based international order with the wholly unjustified invasions and occupations of both Iraq and Syria. In the case of the former a patently manufactured excuse of Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction” was the ostensible reason for the invasion. With the death of Hussein and the failure to discover the existence of any such weapons it should have been the basis for massive apologies, compensation and withdrawal. Instead, nearly 20 years later the United States is still there and showing no hurry to respect the wishes of the Iraqi parliament by leaving.

The invasion of Afghanistan was solely based on a lie with the events of 11 September 2001 providing a fig leaf of justification for a decision actually made months earlier. Again, the original reasons for invading have long since disappeared. Trump’s plan to withdraw during 2021 is currently under review, with American sources suggesting a withdrawal by September of this year. The CIA does not want to have to have the bother of developing a fresh source for the heroin crop that makes such a substantial contribution to its “off the books” funding.

Ironically, it was Trump that also had the least respect for the international rules-based order referring a more blatant, and honest, “America first” approach to imposing his views. The Biden administration is working hard to renew the primacy of its view of international law. In my view that is an impossible task. That ship has long sailed and the bulk of the world’s nations, led by China, are making it very clear that the resumption of United States hegemony is simply unacceptable.

It is an open question as to whether or not the Americans accept that the world has changed and they are unable to re-capture the dominance they enjoyed in the 1990s and earlier this century. Judging by the reported comments of both Biden and Blinken that reality has some way to go before it is accepted. The world does not accept a division between good and evil, with the western democracies personifying the “good” and the rest of the world the “evil”.

Part of that change is reflected in the refusal by an increasing number of countries to conduct their international trade in United States dollars. The previously dominant role of the dollar, apart from propping up the ailing United States economic system with its multi trillion-dollar deficits, also gave the Americans unparalleled influence over the economic structure of multiple countries. Those days are rapidly diminishing, and for an increasing number of countries the end of the dollars hegemony cannot come soon enough.

The United States’ reaction to this diminished role will be interesting to watch. It was an historically unique position for them to be in for the past 75 years. They will undoubtably strive to maintain the hegemony. Therein lies the greatest danger. Unless the United States recognises that the world has changed, we are in for some very rough times.

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Denis Halliday: A Voice of Reason in an Insane World

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Denis Halliday is an exceptional figure in the world of diplomacy. In 1998, after a 34-year career with the United Nations—including as an Assistant Secretary-General and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq—he resigned when the UN Security Council refused to lift sanctions against Iraq.

Halliday saw at first hand the devastating impact of this policy that had led to the deaths of over 500,000 children under the age of five and hundreds of thousands more older children and adults, and he called the sanctions a genocide against the people of Iraq.

Since 1998, Denis has been a powerful voice for peace and for human rights around the world. He sailed in the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza in 2010, when 10 of his companions on a Turkish ship were shot and killed in an attack by the Israeli armed forces.

I interviewed Denis Halliday from his home in Ireland.

Nicolas Davies:   So, Denis, twenty years after you resigned from the UN over the sanctions on Iraq, the United States is now imposing similar “maximum pressure” sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, denying their people access to food and medicines in the midst of a pandemic. What would you like to say to Americans about the real-world impact of these policies?

Denis Halliday:   I’d like to begin with explaining that the sanctions imposed by the Security Council against Iraq, led very much by the United States and Britain, were unique in the sense that they were comprehensive. They were open-ended, meaning that they required a Security Council decision to end them, which, of course, never actually happened – and they followed immediately upon the Gulf War.

The Gulf War, led primarily by the United States but supported by Britain and some others, undertook the bombing of Iraq and targeted civilian infrastructure, which is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, and they took out all electric power networks in the country.

This completely undermined the water treatment and distribution system of Iraq, which depended upon electricity to drive it, and drove people to use contaminated water from the Tigris and the Euphrates. That was the beginning of the death-knell for young children, because mothers were not breast-feeding, they were feeding their children with child formula, but mixing it with foul water from the Tigris and the Euphrates.

That bombing of infrastructure, including communications systems and electric power, wiped out the production of food, horticulture, and all of the other basic necessities of life. They also closed down exports and imports, and they made sure that Iraq was unable to export its oil, which was the main source of its revenue at the time.

In addition to that, they introduced a new weapon called depleted uranium, which was used by the U.S. forces driving the Iraqi Army out of Kuwait. That was used again in southern Iraq in the Basra area, and led to a massive accumulation of nuclear debris which led to leukemia in children, and that took three, four or five years to become evident.

So when I got to Iraq in 1998, the hospitals in Baghdad, and also, of course, in Basra and other cities, were full of children suffering from leukemia. Meantime adults had gotten their own cancer, mainly not a blood cancer diagnosis. Those children, we reckon perhaps 200,000 children, died of leukemia. At the same time, Washington and London withheld some of the treatment components that leukemia requires, again, it seemed, in a genocidal manner, denying Iraqi children the right to remain alive.

And as you quoted 500,000, that was a statement made by Madeleine Albright, the then American Ambassador to the United Nations who, live on CBS, was asked the question about the loss of 500,000 children, and she said that the loss of 500,000 children was “worth it,” in terms of bringing down Saddam Hussein, which did not happen until the military invasion of 2003.

So the point is that the Iraqi sanctions were uniquely punitive and cruel and prolonged and comprehensive. They remained in place no
matter how people like myself or others, and not just me alone, but UNICEF and the agencies of the UN system – many states including France, China and Russia – complained bitterly about the consequences on human life and the lives of Iraqi children and adults.

My desire in resigning was to go public, which I did. Within one month, I was in Washington doing my first Congressional briefing on the consequences of these sanctions, driven by Washington and London.

So I think the United States and its populus, who vote these governments in, need to understand that the children and the people of Iraq are just like the children of the United States and England and their people. They have the same dreams, same ambitions of education and employment and housing and vacations and all the things that good people care about. We’re all the same people and we cannot sit back and think somehow, “We don’t know who they are, they’re Afghans, they’re Iranians, they’re Iraqis. So what? They’re dying. Well, we don’t know, it’s not our problem, this happens in war.” I mean, all that sort of rationale as to why this is unimportant.

And I think that aspect of life in the sanctions world continues, whether it’s Venezuela, whether it’s Cuba, which has been ongoing now for 60 years. People are not aware or don’t think in terms of the lives of other human beings identical to ourselves here in Europe or in the United States.

It’s a frightening problem, and I don’t know how it can be resolved. We now have sanctions on Iran and North Korea. So the difficulty is to bring alive that we kill people with sanctions. They’re not a substitute for war – they are a form of warfare.

ND: Thank you, Denis. I think that brings us to another question, because whereas the sanctions on Iraq were approved by the UN Security Council, what we’re looking at today in the world is, for the most part, the U.S. using the power of its financial system to impose unilateral sieges on these countries, even as the U.S. is also still waging war in at least half a dozen countries, mostly in the Greater Middle East. Medea Benjamin and I recently documented that the U.S. and its allies have dropped 326,000 bombs and missiles on other countries in all these wars, just since 2001 – that’s not counting the First Gulf War.

You worked for the UN and UNDP for 34 years, and the UN was conceived of as a forum and an institution for peace and to confront violations of peace by any countries around the world. But how can the UN address the problem of a powerful, aggressive country like the United States that systematically violates international law and then abuses its veto and diplomatic power to avoid accountability?

DH:  Yes, when I talk to students, I try to explain that there are two United Nations: there’s a United Nations of the Secretariat, led by the Secretary-General and staffed by people like myself and 20,000 or 30,000 more worldwide, through UNDP and the agencies. We operate in every country, and most of it is developmental or humanitarian. It’s good work, it has real impact, whether it’s feeding Palestinians or it’s UNICEF work in Ethiopia. This continues.

Where the UN collapses is in the Security Council, in my view, and that is because, in Yalta in 1945, Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill, having noted the failure of the League of Nations, decided to set up a United Nations that would have a controlling entity, which they then called the Security Council. And to make sure that worked, in their interests I would say, they established this five-power veto group, and they added France and they added China. And that five is still in place.

That’s 1945 and this is 2021, and they’re still in power and they’re still manipulating the United Nations. And as long as they stay there and they manipulate, I think the UN is doomed. The tragedy is that the five veto powers are the very member states that violate the Charter, violate human rights conventions, and will not allow the application of the ICC to their war crimes and other abuses.

On top of that, they are the countries that manufacture and sell weapons, and we know that weapons of war are possibly the most profitable product you can produce. So their vested interest is control, is the military capacity, is interference. It’s a neocolonial endeavor, an empire in reality, to control the world as the way they want to see it. Until that is changed and those five member states agree to dilute their power and play an honest role, I think we’re doomed. The UN has no capacity to stop the difficulties we’re faced with around the world.

ND:   That’s a pretty damning prognosis. In this century, we’re facing such incredible problems, between climate change and the threat of nuclear war still hanging over all of us, possibly more dangerous than ever before, because of the lack of treaties and the lack of cooperation between the nuclear powers, notably the U.S. and Russia. This is really an existential crisis for humanity.

Now there is also, of course, the UN General Assembly, and they did step up on nuclear weapons with the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which has now officially entered into force. And every year when it meets, the General Assembly regularly and almost unanimously condemns the U.S. sanctions regime against Cuba.

When I wrote my book about the war in Iraq, my final recommendations were that the senior American and British war criminals responsible for the war should be held criminally accountable, and that the U.S. and the U.K. should pay reparations to Iraq for the war. Could the General Assembly possibly be a venue to build support for Iraq to claim reparations from the U.S. and the U.K., or is there another venue where that would be more appropriate?

DH:   I think you’re right on target. The tragedy is that the decisions of the Security Council are binding decisions. Every member state has got to apply and respect those decisions. So, if you violate a sanctions regime imposed by the Council as a member state, you’re in trouble. The General Assembly resolutions are not binding.

You’ve just referred to a very important decision, which is the decision about nuclear weapons. We’ve had a lot of decisions on banning various types of weapons over the years. Here in Ireland we were involved in anti-personnel mines and other things of that sort, and it was by a large number of member states, but not the guilty parties, not the Americans, not the Russians, not the Chinese, not the British. The ones who control the veto power game are the ones who do not comply. Just like Clinton was one of the proposers, I think, of the ICC [International Criminal Court], but when it came to the end of the day, the United States doesn’t accept it has a role vis-a-vis themselves and their war crimes The same is true of other large states that are the guilty parties in those cases.

So I would go back to your suggestion about the General Assembly. It could be enhanced, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be changed, but it requires tremendous courage on the part of member states. It also requires acceptance by the five veto powers that their day has come to an end, because, in reality, the UN carries very little cachet nowadays to send a UN mission into a country like Myanmar or Afghanistan.

I think we have no power left, we have no influence left, because they know who runs the organization, they know who makes the decisions. It’s not the Secretary-General. It’s not people like me. We are dictated to by the Security Council. I resigned, effectively, from the Security Council. They were my bosses during that particular period of my career.

I have a lecture I do on reforming the Security Council, making it a North-South representative body, which would find Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa in situ, and you’d get very different decisions. You’d get the sort of decisions we get in the General Assembly: much more balanced, much more aware of the world and its North and South and all those other variations. But, of course, again, we can’t reform the Council until the five veto powers agree to that. That is the huge problem.

ND:   Yes, in fact, when that structure was announced in 1945 with the Security Council, the five Permanent Members and the veto, Albert Camus, who was the editor of the French Resistance newspaper Combat, wrote a front-page editorial saying this was the end of any idea of international democracy.

So, as with so many other issues, we live in these nominally democratic countries, but the people of a country like the United States are only really told what our leaders want us to know about how the world works. So reform of the Security Council is clearly needed, but it’s a massive process of education and democratic reform in countries around the world to actually build enough of a popular movement to demand that kind of change. In the meantime, the problems we’re facing are enormous.

Another thing that is very under-reported in the U.S. is that, out of desperation after twenty years of war in Afghanistan, Secretary Blinken has finally asked the UN to lead a peace process for a ceasefire between the U.S.-backed government and the Taliban and a political transition. That could move the conflict into the political realm and end the civil war that resulted from the U.S. invasion and occupation and endless bombing campaign.

So what do you think of that initiative? There is supposed to be a meeting in a couple of weeks in Istanbul, led by an experienced UN negotiator, Jean Arnault, who helped to bring peace to Guatemala at the end of its civil war, and then between Colombia and the FARC. The U.S. specifically asked China, Russia and Iran to be part of this process as well. Both sides in Afghanistan have agreed to come to Istanbul and at least see what they can agree on. So is that a constructive role that the UN can play? Does that offer a chance of peace for the people of Afghanistan?

DH:   If I were a member of the Taliban and I was asked to negotiate with a government that is only in power because it’s supported by the United States, I would question whether it’s an even keel. Are we equally powerful, can we talk to each other one-to-one? The answer, I think, is no.

The UN chap, whoever he is, poor man, is going to have the same difficulty. He is representing the United Nations, a Security Council dominated by the United States and others, as the Afghans are perfectly well aware. The Taliban have been fighting for a helluva long time, and making no progress because of the interference of the U.S. troops, which are still on the ground. I just don’t think it’s an even playing-field.

So I’d be very surprised if that works. I absolutely hope it might. I would think, in my view, if you want a lasting relationship within a country, it’s got to be negotiated within the country, without military or other interference or fear of further bombing or attacks or all the rest of it. I don’t think we have any credibility, as a UN, under those circumstances. It’ll be a very tough slog.

ND:  Right. The irony is that the United States set aside the UN Charter when it attacked Yugoslavia in 1999 to carve out what is now the semi-recognized country of Kosovo, and then to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. The UN Charter, right at the beginning, at its heart, prohibits the threat or use of force by one country against another. But that is what the U.S. set aside.

DH:   And then, you have to remember, the U.S. is attacking a fellow member state of the United Nations, without hesitation, with no respect for the Charter. Perhaps people forget that Eleanor Roosevelt drove, and succeeded in establishing, the Declaration of Human Rights, an extraordinary achievement, which is still valid. It’s a biblical instrument for many of us who work in the UN.

So the neglect of the Charter and the spirit of the Charter and the wording of the Charter, by the five veto members, perhaps in Afghanistan it was Russia, now it’s the United States, the Afghanis have had foreign intervention up to their necks and beyond, and the British have been involved there since the 18th century almost. So they have my deepest sympathy, but I hope this thing can work, let’s hope it can.

ND:  I brought that up because the U.S., with its dominant military power after the end of the Cold War, made a very conscious choice that instead of living according to the UN Charter, it would live by the sword, by the law of the jungle: “might makes right.”

It took those actions because it could, because no other military force was there to stand up against it. At the time of the First Gulf War, a Pentagon consultant told the New York Times that, with the end of the Cold War, the U.S. could finally conduct military operations in the Middle East without worrying about starting World War III. So they took the demise of the Soviet Union as a green light for these systematic, widespread actions that violate the UN Charter.

But now, what is happening in Afghanistan is that the Taliban once again control half the country. We’re approaching the spring and the summer when the fighting traditionally gets worse, and so the U.S. is calling in the UN out of desperation because, frankly, without a ceasefire, their government in Kabul is just going to lose more territory. So the U.S. has chosen to live by the sword, and in this situation it’s now confronting dying by the sword.

DH:   What’s tragic, Nicolas, is that, in our lifetime, the Afghanis ran their own country. They had a monarchy, they had a parliament – I met and interviewed women ministers from Afghanistan in New York – and they managed it. It was when the Russians interfered, and then the Americans interfered, and then Bin Laden set up his camp there, and that was justification for destroying what was left of Afghanistan.

And then Bush, Cheney and a few of the boys decided, although there was no justification whatsoever, to bomb and destroy Iraq, because they wanted to think that Saddam Hussein was involved with Al Qaeda, which, of course, was nonsense. They wanted to think he had weapons of mass destruction, which also was nonsense. The UN inspectors said that again and again, but nobody would believe them.

It’s deliberate neglect of the one last hope. The League of Nations failed, and the UN was the next best hope and we have deliberately turned our backs upon it, neglected it and distrusted it. When we get a good Secretary General like Hammarskjold, we murder him. He was definitely killed, because he was interfering in the dreams of the British in particular, and perhaps the Belgians, in Katanga. It’s a very sad story, and I don’t know where we go from here.

ND:   Right, well, where we seem to be going from here is to a loss of American power around the world, because the U.S. has so badly abused its power. In the U.S., we keep hearing that this is a Cold War between the U.S. and China, or maybe the U.S., China and Russia, but I think we all hopefully can work for a more multipolar world.

As you say, the UN Security Council needs reform, and hopefully the American people are understanding that we cannot unilaterally rule the world, that the ambition for a U.S. global empire is an incredibly dangerous pipe-dream that has really led us to an impasse.

DH:   Perhaps the only good thing coming out of Covid-19 is the slow realization that, if everybody doesn’t get a vaccine, we fail, because we, the rich and the powerful with the money and the vaccines, will not be safe until we make sure the rest of the world is safe, from Covid and the next one that’s coming along the track undoubtedly.

And this implies that if we don’t do trade with China or other countries we have reservations about, because we don’t like their government, we don’t like communism, we don’t like socialism, whatever it is, we just have to live with that, because without each other we can’t survive. With the climate crisis and all the other issues related to that, we need each other more than ever perhaps, and we need collaboration. It’s just basic common sense that we work and live together.

The U.S. has something like 800 military bases around the world, of various sizes. China is certainly surrounded and this is a very dangerous situation, totally unnecessary. And now the rearming with fancy new nuclear weapons when we already have nuclear weapons that are twenty times bigger than the one that destroyed Hiroshima. Why on Earth? It’s just irrational nonsense to continue these programs, and it just doesn’t work for humanity.

I would hope the U.S. would start perhaps retreating and sorting out its own domestic problems, which are quite substantial. I’m reminded every day when I look at CNN here in my home about the difficulties of race and all the other things that you’re well aware of that need to be addressed. Being policeman to the world was a bad decision.

ND:   Absolutely. So the political, economic and military system we live under is not only genocidal at this point, but also suicidal. Thank you, Denis, for being a voice of reason in this insane world.

The post Denis Halliday: A Voice of Reason in an Insane World first appeared on Dissident Voice.

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