20 August 2006

Giving Genocide a Bad Name

Common Sense
John Maxwell

According to me, the most important piece of news last week was not about the Middle East conflict. Nor was it about the arrest of dozens of people in England on suspicion of plotting to blow up aeroplanes. Nor was it the arrest in the United States of brown-skinned people with dozens of cell phones in their cars.

My story affects the prospects of life and death for millions of people, so it is clearly of "transcendental significance" to old time news editors like me. But to my successors, the story has proved to be of no interest whatsoever.

What is of transcendental importance this week in the US is the fact that someone has been arrested for the 1996 murder of six year-old JonBenet Ramsay, a person obviously of immense geopolitical significance in the North American scheme of things.

My significant story was one that wasn't even new, in fact; it's been around for years. But when I saw that the subject was due to be discussed at an important international conference I thought, at last, its significance would be recognised and everybody, everywhere, would learn about it and would begin to do something about it.

I was wrong, of course. Who gives a damn if six million fewer Africans or Asians die of AIDS in the next few years? In 1995, some researchers in Australia (Donovan B, Bassett I, Bodsworth NJ) found no connection between circumcision and reduced rates of HIV or any other Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI).

The researchers did warn, however, that research in other cultures might give different results. Whatever the researchers thought, their findings were seized upon by a claque of medical fundamentalists who were out to prove that the male foreskin had invaluable prophylactic properties and was, anyway, more natural.

A frenzied counterattack was launched on the proponents of circumcision, declaring that they were backward, old wives tales' believers, caught up in the remains of a 19th century frenzy to keep little boys from masturbating. A few years ago, it was noticed that among Jews and Muslims the rate of cervical cancer in women was much lower, and this was traced to circumcision. Uncircumcised men were capable of carrying a virus harmless to them, but inducing cancer in their wives.

At the same time it began to be noticed that among the circumcised West Africans, HIV infection was much lower than among southern Africans in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa itself. Soon, studies confirmed that circumcision was a crucial factor in making unprotected sex less of a lethal lottery.

In Swaziland a century-and-a-half-ago, the king decreed an end to the coming-of-age rituals involving circumcision. He thought the ritual would interfere with his nation's preparedness to fight off the Dutch and British invaders. Today, circumcision is back in fashion in Swaziland.

According to the Washington Post (December 26, 2006): "Even now, with life-saving retroviral drugs increasingly available, the AIDS rate in Swaziland remains extremely high. The United Nations estimates that two of every five working-age adults are infected with HIV. An estimated 20,000 people here last year died of complications caused by AIDS, and in the past decade the disease has lowered life expectancy from 57 years to 33. There is worry that AIDS could severely depopulate Swaziland, a tiny nation of 1.2 million people on the border between South Africa and Mozambique."

Six years ago, at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa, Robert Bailey, a researcher from the University of Illinois, said "I believe the evidence is now compelling enough to consider adding circumcision to the limited armament we already have against HIV/AIDS". Millions have died since.

Several other researchers have produced studies showing the same thing - that circumcision will prevent more than half the probable infections among men and ever more important - prevent them passing it on to their partners.

Last week, Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, predicted that circumcision would increasingly be seen as a lifesaving procedure which all parents would want for their sons. And it would be discussed at this year's AIDS conference. Again.

To end the endless discussion and get action, I think we have to convince the new fundamentalists that the procedure is not evil. We may be more effective if we sell the procedure as an anti-masturbation tool since they are much more interested in our 'morals' than our lives.

As one who had no choice in the matter, I'm very happy my parents made the right decision. Having been around for a long time, I know that I've been - shall we say - luckier than many of my friends; but perhaps it was not luck but management.

Genocide in Haiti

Nobody knows how many thousands of Haitians were slaughtered by the forces of the Duvalier dictatorship and the forces of evil which followed them. In 1994, President Clinton was expressing horror at the number of people "having their faces chopped off" by the licensed murderers of the American-supported, elite-backed Cedras regime.

And on the two occasions on which those same professional assassins succeeded, with US government help, in driving President Aristide from office, the dirty work continued.

Even after the recent so-called elections, when even the Americans were embarrassed by the antics of their puppets in Haiti, the professional murderers are still at work.

On the 215th anniversary of the Bwa Kayiman summons to revolution by the Jamaican-born Bouckman inspired by the female spirit Ezili Danto, on August 14, Haiti's most famous folklorist, 'So Anne' Auguste, was freed after 826 days - 27 months of false and malicious imprisonment. The prosecutors conceded that there was no evidence against Ms Auguste (as they had to), and the judge accordingly set her free.

In 2004, 'So Anne' was taken from her home at midnight on Mother's Day by American marines who blasted her gate open with explosives, shot her dog and arrested and shackled her and her grandchildren - one only six years old - dragging them all off to jail. Meanwhile, people like Otto Reich, Roger Noriega and other Bush spokesmen were talking about Aristide's 'terrorists' and the threat they posed to civilisation. 'So Anne' is a Lavalas activist.

According to the Haitian Press Agency (AHP), President Preval has now threatened the armed bandits whose bloody rampages have continued to terrorise the Haitian people.

The president said that either the terrorists put down their weapons and join the DDR Programme (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration), or else they die. The unanswered question is whether the United States and the United Nations will allow the legally elected head of state to exercise his legal functions, or whether they will continue to sabotage the 'populist' government as in the past, by withholding emergency aid, by blocking the country from other foreign assistance, by sabotage, bribery and subversion of the institutions of the state.

Messrs Cheney and Bush still exercise an unspoken veto over Haitian democracy, insisting that President Aristide should not return to the country. Since Haitian law does not permit the exclusion of any Haitian from Haiti, it is clear that Bush and Cheney comprise the real constitution of Haiti.

Anyone they declare a terrorist is fair game, and it does not matter what your countrymen think... unless, of course, you happen to be in Lebanon.

Genocide, as defined by the United Nations in 1948, means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, including:
  1. killing members of the group;

  2. causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group

  3. deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

  4. imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and

  5. forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Genocide in Palestine

If the UN definition of genocide means what it seems to mean, it is clear that what is happening in Palestine constitutes genocide within the meaning of the Convention.

As I have related before, the Israeli Air Force on a regular schedule orders its supersonic fighter-bombers to break the sound barrier, creating sonic booms (in the dead of night) over Palestine and post-traumatic stress disorder in children and their parents. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has publicly fantasised about driving all the Palestinians mad by this sonic terrorism.

Here are examples of what seem to me to be other acts which appear to be genocidal. The reports are from the Israeli Human Rights group B'Tslem.
  1. killing members of the group
    At about 4:00 am on July 12, an Israeli air force plane bombed a three-storey building in the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in Gaza city.

    The bomb caused the building to collapse and killed Nabil and Salwah Abu Salmiya , who lived in the building that was bombed, and seven of their children: Nasrallah, age 4; Aya, age 7; Yihya, age 9; Ayman, age 12; Huda, age 14; Sumayah, age 16; and Basma, age 17. Another son, Awad, age 19, was moderately injured. In addition, another 40 people who lived in the adjacent buildings were injured.

    According the IDF spokesperson's statement, the house that was shelled "served as a hideout for senior activists in the Hamas military wing, including Muhammad Deif, who was in the building at the time of the attack. At the time, those present were planning the continued military activity of Hamas".

    According to media reports, the father of the family, Nabil Abu Salmiya, who was killed, was a lecturer at the Islamic University and a Hamas activist. As in similar cases in the past, the military has not provided evidence or additional details to explain or justify the killing of innocent civilians.

  2. causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
    "Rubber bullets come in packs of three encased in nylon. The Open-Fire Regulations state that, 'A pack of rubber cylinders is to be fired when encased with the original and intact covering'." An IDF soldier's testimony helps to explain the unusual injuries.

    The commanding officer "taught us about rubber bullets, he said that they are fired bound in threes, which is ineffective for the most part, because they are too heavy. But if we separate them, they can kill. He added, winking, I am not hinting at anything. The guys laughed and said to him: 'You're not hinting - you're telling us.' He did not correct them."

  3. deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part

    July 11, 2006, six [Israeli] human rights groups petitioned the Israeli High Court demanding that the crossings in Gaza be opened to allow for the steady and regular supply of fuel, food, medicine and equipment, including spare parts needed to operate generators.

    Since Gaza's power station was destroyed on June 28, there is an increased need for fuel to power the generators in Gaza and for spare parts to keep the generators running at such a high capacity.

    Without a steady supply of fuel and parts, hospitals cannot perform life-saving surgery and treatment plants cannot pump and treat sewage in Gaza. Gaza hospitals have reduced their activities to life-saving procedures. Since the bombing of the power plant, Gaza's water utility has been dumping 60,000 cubic meters of raw sewage into the sea each day. There is concern that untreated sewage will pollute the aquifer or spill into the streets.

    Because of the electricity shortages, stores in Gaza have stopped selling meat and dairy products. Trucks laden with food and medicine, including 230 containers from international aid organisations, have been stuck at Karni Crossing, which has been closed since July 6.

    Withholding fuel, food, and equipment from Gaza residents constitutes collective punishment, in violation of international law. The petition argues that Israel is not fulfilling its legal obligations to provide for the needs of the civilian population and to distinguish between military and civilian targets.

  4. imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group

  5. forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

    For almost six years, since the beginning of the second intifada, in September 2000, Israel has forbidden Palestinians of the Occupied Territories from living with their spouses who are foreign residents. Israel also prohibits the foreign family members from visiting the Occupied Territories, and refuses to process the more than 120,000 requests for family unification that have been submitted during this period.

    The freeze policy severely infringes the right to marry and found a family of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians: spouses are unable to live under the same roof; children are forced to grow up in single-parent families; people do not leave the Occupied Territories because Israel will not allow them to return; women who are foreign residents live in the Occupied Territories with no legal status and thus face the constant threat of deportation.
Survival these days is perfectly straightforward. If HIV/AIDS doesn't get you, some bureaucrat will.


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