Whatever you might think about North Koreans, they are nothing if not resilient.
Faced with the threat of American action against them, their response has been bullish, to say the least. Their Foreign Minister has declared that his country will launch a ‘preemptive nuclear strike against the USA’, if they detect any possibility of an attack against them from America.
Those are serious words indeed, even if they are unlikely to be backed up by the action mentioned in them. I am reminded of a professional poker game; bluffers taking on the bluffers. Both sides know that the other is bluffing, but who is actually prepared to take that chance, when push comes to shove?
This small country, with a population of 29 million, its people generally impoverished, and having one thing to show to the world, Pyongyang, has taken a firm stand indeed. On one hand, it could signal their total destruction. On the other, it could guarantee them a place on the world stage.
So. Who blinks first? Fascinating.
By now, you will have been aware of the mass shooting in a club in Florida, USA. Not for the first time on this blog, I find myself writing about the crazy gun laws in America. Despite being on a government watch list, the murderer was able to legally acquire handguns and assault rifles. And this in a country that is no stranger to mass killings with similar weapons.
Because of his ethnic background, there was initially some speculation that religion might have been a motive. However, his family are sure that it was simply that he was homophobic, and disturbed by open displays of affection by gay men. Everyone seems to be asking the wrong question. It is immaterial what his motives were, what matters is how he was able to obtain the weapons used to carry out the killing.
Americans hold dear to their right to bear arms. They quote their constitution, and in some states, accumulate hundreds of weapons in otherwise perfectly ordinary households. They teach tiny children to shoot, and often carry weapons openly; worn in their belts, or attached to racks in pick-up trucks. They have a gun culture, deep within the soul of their nation. And they pay the price for it. Not only numerous mass killings, but armed gangsters, an inordinate amount of police officers shot dead in the line of duty, as well as countless bystanders caught in the regular crossfire.
Many US citizens claim their right to own firearms as a ‘freedom’.
What about the freedom of all those killed? That doesn’t matter, it seems.
When Barack Obama made his recent visit to the UK, he did all the usual things. There was a cute photo opportunity with the Royal Family, he played some golf in Hertfordshire, and glad-handed David Cameron for the benefit of the cameras. There was also some talk of our ‘special relationship.’ This is something that has never really been clarified, since it was first mentioned by George Bush and Tony Blair, who was then keen to support the war in Iraq.
President Obama then decided to give an ‘exclusive’ TV interview to a reporter. What followed seemed much more like a scripted conversation, allowing the US President to say what was on his mind. And what was on his mind was the forthcoming EU referendum, and the scant chance that the British people might actually vote to leave this failed experiment. He set about telling us, in a forthright manner, that a vote to leave was not acceptable to the USA. We would find ourselves excluded from trade deals, he told us, and America would continue to trade with the EU whilst making sure to leave Britain out in the cold, as punishment for doing what he didn’t agree with.
Personally, I don’t think he could care less. I doubt that anyone in the US cares whether or not we leave the EU, from a farmer in Wisconsin, to the Commander in Chief. I would hazard a guess that many Americans don’t even know what the EU is. Even in the UK, where the issue is supposedly ‘crucial’, many people cannot name more than a few other member states, and understand little of its setup and organisation. And Obama is leaving the presidency anyway, handing over to Ms Clinton, so why should he give a fig? Maybe they have offered him a lucrative job, but I very much doubt that. Perhaps he fears for the ending of the much-vaunted ‘special relationship’? I doubt that too.
He was probably just doing Cameron a favour. Maybe repaying some similar service, or an old debt from the times we have supported his country’s antics around the world. Who knows? He gave the interview, frightened the pants off of many waverers, and said pretty much what Cameron hoped he would say. The truth is, Cameron doesn’t want to be the Prime Minister at the helm if Britain leaves the EU. Just in case…Add to that the fact that he is representing the European business interests of so many pals and cronies, and it was understandable that he felt nervous enough to ask Mr President to step in on his side.
But just what was Mr Obama thinking? Is it really acceptable to tell the citizens of another country how to vote, then throw in a few veiled threats about what will happen if they don’t do as he says? I can only imagine the reaction of voters in the US, if a European leader like Cameron popped over there, had his photo taken with Michelle and the girls, played some golf at Augusta, then told them just who they should vote for in November. He might even be brave enough to throw in some vague threats about what might happen if they didn’t do as he asked, but I doubt it.
The world had high hopes for the first black president of the US, back in 2008.
I just have three words for him, in 2016. Shame on you.
Over the past few days, there has been an ongoing incident in the USA that has not been widely reported in Europe. Following a long-running dispute over cattle grazing on Federal land, various white militia groups have congregated in a nature reserve, in a remote part of Oregon. They have occupied government buildings, and caused a large area to be closed to the public, at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. This action has supposedly been taken in support of the cattle ranchers involved in the dispute. These groups are heavily armed. Some have been pictured with assault rifles, and estimates of their numbers vary, though there are believed to be less than twenty occupying the property. Local demonstrations have seen as many as three hundred supporters marching on behalf of the aggrieved ranchers, who have been quick to distance themselves from the armed incident.
I won’t go into the history of this dispute, or debate the rights and wrongs of cattle grazing or Federal land ownership across rural America. I will add a link though, for anyone who wants to read the whole story. But I will make a few observations. No arrests have been made. No law enforcement officers have attended to confront or disarm these suspect ‘militias.’ Local police seek to keep the lid on the situation, and even the FBI are only ‘observing.’ So far, nobody has been hurt, and the site is a long way from anywhere, so passers-by are in no danger. That’s OK then, is it?
Just imagine if these ‘militiamen’ had not been white Christians. Suppose they had been disgruntled black men, with a grievance to support. What if they had been of Mexican origin, and occupied a similar area in the south-west? Or perhaps American Muslims, outraged by recent attacks on them in the media, had occupied a government compound somewhere, brandishing firearms, and stating that they were ‘determined to fight’? Would the outcome have been very different in those scenarios? You can bet your life it would.
But these idiots are white. So that’s alright then.
With this giving more publicity to the farcical gun control in the USA, President Obama appeared on TV, squeezing out a few crocodile tears, and promising stricter regulations. These involve not allowing convicted felons and people with a history of mental illness to own firearms. To my incredulous ears, this sounds as if people with criminal records and mental illness are currently allowed to do so. It also sounds as if a white Christian ‘militiaman’, with no criminal record, and no history of mental illness, will not be affected at all. Funny that.
Trump has jumped on the bandwagon. Speaking to baying fans, he promised to make sure that nobody will be stopped from being armed to the teeth. ‘They won’t get your guns.’ He yelled. The argument about the Second Amendment to the US Constitution has gone on long enough. here is what it says.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This was written in 1791, after the War of Independence, and at a time when it was reasonable to suppose that the new nation might be under threat from foreign powers. They also had to defend themselves against unhappy native Americans, whose land had been taken away from them. Does it really have any significance in 2016? It certainly does.
That’s how you end up with the current situation in Oregon.
I watched the news today, trying to contain a feeling somewhere between a wry grin, and outright rage. The military success of the Islamic fundamentalist organisation ISIS (now called ‘Islamic State’) in Iraq has caused the flight of many people from the city of Erbil, which is currently in danger of being overrun by this group. The Kurdish Peshmerga army can no longer stop the advance of the militants, and there is grave concern for non-Islamic religious groups in the area. On the TV, there was a lot of discussion about a possible genocide against these groups, and many civilians have fled into the hills, to avoid any contact with ISIS fighters. There are Americans in this city too. As well as consular staff, there are other civilians, ground troops and advisers. The general feeling seems to be that there is little chance of stopping ISIS eventually reaching Baghdad, and taking control of the country. This would result in a Taliban-style government, fiercely opposed to all non-Muslims, and foreigners of any kind. Some might argue that this would always be the eventual outcome of the war against Iraq, and the subsequent destabilisation of the region.
However, the current US administration is not about to give up that easily. Using the justification of ‘humanitarian aid’, because of the refugees from Erbil, (and the presence there of Americans) they have commenced air strikes against ISIS positions around the city. President Obama has been on television laying out his reasons for intervention, and the British Government has shown support for this action, and pledged to assist with logistical help, and humanitarian aid for the civilians in danger. The western powers do not want to sit by and watch innocent civilians put in danger, or lose their lives, because of the actions of an aggressive, well-equipped, religious fundamentalist army, intent on overwhelming all opposition.
So what about Gaza then? No help for the Palestinians? Are they not in the same situation? They are being overwhelmed by a superior force, intent on their destruction. This force is determined, very well-equipped, and has a religious agenda just as plainly stated. It also cares little for the loss of civilian lives, and is pursuing its campaign irregardless of opposition from many countries in the world, as well as the United Nations. So why are Obama’s jets not attacking Israeli tanks, to stop them killing innocent people in Gaza? And why is the British government not pledging humanitarian aid to the Palestinian civilians, who are equally in danger of losing their lives?
I think we all know the answers to those questions.
“We are literally backing the same people in Syria that we are fighting in Afghanistan and that have just killed our ambassador in Libya! We must finally abandon the interventionist impulse before it is too late.” – Congressman Ron Paul, September 16, 2012
I read the above quote on another blog. It was in an article by William Blum, link above, that I can recommend as an interesting read. I just felt that this one quote sums up the complete nonsense of American foreign policy, and by default, the foreign policy of all their allies too.
When the Soviet Union was fighting the Taliban in the 1980’s, the West embraced the same religious fanatics we are currently castigating (and bombing). Arms were supplied, advisors sent off to assist, and their leaders, including Osama Bin Laden, and Abu Hamza al-Masri, were hailed as heroic freedom fighters. Thirty years later, and those Western allies are dumping the body of one in the ocean, (supposedly) and extraditing the other to face trial in the USA. During the Iran/Iraq war, spread over eight years during the same 1980’s, we were in no doubt who the West wanted to win. Iraq was hailed as the sensible aggressor, and their army would save the region from the excesses of the Ayatollahs, and fundamentalist Muslim fanatics. It is fair to say, that whilst no side actually won, the West was pleased that the Iraqis were not defeated, and that Iran had lost the flower of its manhood, in an relatively pointless conflict.
By 1990, the same country that we had supported for so long, including the supply of most of the weapons we later accused them of concealing, had become a sworn enemy, and the First Gulf War was the outcome. By 2003, the Iraqis had still not learned their lesson, and a laughable implication of their supposed role in the 9/11 attacks, ended with the destruction of the regime, and much of the country along with it. Not long after, those same Western allies invaded Afghanistan, ostensibly to help the legitimate government get rid of the Taliban, and to introduce freedoms for women, and non-fundamentalist Muslims there. Strangely enough, this was almost exactly the same reason the Soviets had given for their intervention, twenty years earlier.
Saudi Arabia, long held to be a friend of the West, is now beginning to be criticised. They are suspected of harbouring terrorists, and not doing enough to bring peace to the region. Their laws are too strict for ‘our’ taste, and they are controlling a cartel of price-fixing OPEC countries, making us pay too much for our oil. Iran is close to achieving the manufacture of a nuclear weapon, we are told. They are not friends of the West, and do not allow the necessary freedoms in their country. They also charge too much for their oil, and also choose who to sell it to. This huge country, with a population of 80,000,000, is written off by the West, with no regard to its former power and influence, as the once mighty Persian Empire. It is treated like a naughty schoolboy in the classroom that is the world, simply because it refuses to play the game with the Western Powers. Crippled by sanctions, reviled, and misrepresented, is it any wonder that it has become isolationist, suspicious, and unfriendly?
Being a former friend of America, Britain, and France, has become decidedly dangerous. Those countries that have never sought, or been granted this boon, are succeeding where others have failed. Cuba, China, North Korea, to name but a few, have escaped invasion by foreign powers, (at least in modern times) and in many cases are courted as business opportunities, or at the very least, tolerated, even ridiculed; but not bombed. The outcome of being a friend, enlisting support, and often taking power as a result, is plain to see. Give it a few years, and America, and their allies, will be back to take it all away again. Countries like Syria, Libya, and Somalia, would be wise to look at these examples, and change direction accordingly.