Other days of September (post-9/11 stories)

I’ve posted about ‘September 11’ before, here and here. This post includes other links and stories.

Perhaps what I remember most about that day in September 2001 was the sheer ordinariness of it all.

I had gone to bed that night where I was in the southern hemisphere, and awoke the next day, 12 September, feeling that nothing particularly of interest would affect me that day. Boy, was I wrong. 

The events of 11 September 2001 may not have changed the world; rather, as many commentators have argued, it re-defined the relationship of the pre-eminent world power, the United States, to the rest of the world.

Sadly, the US has been asserting its power and influence to the detriment of peoples in other states long before that. In the southern hemisphere, Latin America has suffered the worst of it for quite some time. One occurred on 11 September, 1973.

Other days: Chile, 1973

Remembrance at the 40th anniversary of the right-wing military coup on 11 September that overthrew Salvador Allende turned ugly as some protestors clashed with police. The basic message of human decency and rights should not be forgotten, however. The CIA-backed coup and regime resulted in horrific human rights abuses, including enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings.

As Americans remember Sept. 11, 2001 with video montages, scattered candlelight vigils, and an avalanche of #neverforget Facebook and Twitter posts, Chileans are remembering a different 9/11—Sept. 11, 1973, the day a CIA-backed military coup ousted a democratically elected president with a right-wing strongman.

Tensions in the South American country have been rising for weeks in anticipation of the 40th anniversary of the morning in 1973 that Chile’s military, with the secret support of the United States, flew fighter jets over Santiago and bombed its own presidential palace. Within hours, Chilean President Salvador Allende—Latin America’s first popularly elected socialist president—was dead. He was replaced by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, whose regime killed, tortured, and exiled tens of thousands of Chileans. For the next 17 years, Chileans lived under an economically prosperous dictatorship that showed little regard for human rights.

The regime of Augusto Pinochet lasted nearly 20 years. In a country still split by that legacy, the sister of one of the regime’s victims

Reyes Manriquez noted that it is not usually the families of the victims that cause trouble for the police; often, it is young people who have no direct memory of the dictatorship.

“The families have lived through enough violence,” she said

There are other things that the younger generations and victim-families can do — strive towards making sure that such things can never happen again, in their own country as well as others.

Other links

On the Syrian crisis and the humanitarian-interventionist concept known as the ‘Responsibility to Protect’, openDemocracy has published a series of articles:

“This week we are launching a series of articles that address the usefulness and relevance of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine in the current debate over Syria. R2P was first proposed in 2001, in the wake of NATO’s controversial intervention in Kosovo.  As eventually endorsed by UN Member States in 2005, R2P provides that the international community, acting through the UN Security Council, should act decisively – including as a last resort through the use of force – to halt mass atrocities. But the divided Council’s manifest failure to do so in Syria – even in the face of mass atrocity, 100,000 killed, and millions forced to flee – calls into question the relevance of the doctrine, even as it reignites support for a more robust R2P to support non-UN authorized military action.

Justice in Conflict, on Syria, where not all deaths are treated equally:

Even if you have not watched the videos of the alleged chemical weapons attack, it is not difficult to understand the intense desire to do something about what is happening to civilians in the Syrian conflict. Tens of thousands of Syrians are now dead, and it is increasingly difficult for many to continue to look away from that conflict. But the fact that the United Nations estimates that more than 100,000 people have died begs the question: why the current intense need to punish Syrian actors for these particular deaths? Violating Syria’s sovereignty in response to deaths from the chemical weapons attack without a UN mandate is an illegal act just as is a military intervention launched outside the UN in response to these other deaths. So, despite the international law violations committed by Syrian actors against civilians throughout the conflict, why is the United States contemplating violating another set of international laws in this instance but not the others? Why act in the name of nearly 2000 deaths from chemical weapons and not for the tens of thousands killed by other means?

In The New York Review of Books, Peter Beinart writes about the cocoon that many American Jews unknowingly find themselves in:

I used to try, clumsily, to answer the assertions about Palestinians that so often consume the American Jewish conversation about Israel. But increasingly I give a terser reply: “Ask them.” That usually ends the conversation because in mainstream American Jewish circles, asking Palestinians to respond to the endless assertions that American Jews make about them is extremely rare. For the most part, Palestinians do not speak in American synagogues or write in the Jewish press. The organization Birthright, which since 1999 has taken almost 350,000 young Diaspora Jews—mostly Americans—to visit Israel, does not venture to Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank. Of the more than two hundred advertised speakers at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) 2013 Policy Conference, two were Palestinians. By American Jewish standards, that’s high. The American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum earlier this year, which advertised sixty-four speakers, did not include a single Palestinian.

His earlier article, ‘The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment’, is worth a read too.


“Your victories lift us up”: Belated International Women’s Day 2013 edition

In Kigali she wakes up
She makes a choice
In Hanoi, Natal, Ramallah.

In Tangier she takes a breath,
Lifts up her voice
In Lahore, La Paz, Kampala. 

Though she’s half a world away
Something in me wants to say 

We are one woman, you cry and I hear you
We are one woman, you hurt and I hurt too 
We are one woman, your hopes are mine

And we shall shine

– from One Woman, a song presented by UNWomen, 2013

It’s been over a week since the commeration of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March.

It was first celebrated in the early 1900s, and depending on your viewpoint or sense of history, it was either first officially celebrated in 1911 in western and central Europe or 1917 in Czarist Russia. In between these two years, in 1913 it was decided that IWD would be celebrated on 8 March according to the Gregorian calendar, which our modern, mainstream calendar is based on. The impetus for this was brought on by women representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs, and parliamentarians.

Perhaps it was no coincidence that 8 March was the date in Russia (or 23 February in the Julian calendar then used in that country) in 1917 when women began a strike in response to the death of over two million Russian soldiers killed during the course of the First World War, which was at the time still raging. Their strike helped to bring down the Czar’s rule, leading to a new government that eventually withdrew Russia from the conflict.

Although Russia became the nucleus of the Soviet empire, it did not stop its leaders from instituting – at the urging of the Communist revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai – the day as an official holiday within the Soviet Union.

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“So, what might King offer as an international thinker, and as a representative of a radical Christian tradition: a focus on the fundamental place of racism, class, and imperialism in international politics, as well as the moral need to confront these common problems. And where Wight and Niebuhr share King’s condemnation of violence, the radical Christian move is not to pacifism or the prudential use of violence, but to direct opposition and resistance through nonviolence.”

The Disorder Of Things

Monday 17 January marked the official US holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. While watching Monday’s Democracy Now! program, featuring substantive excerpts from King’s speeches,  the clarity with which he connected the domestic fight for equality to international politics, in particular poverty and war, struck me. The international aspects of King’s thinking, I believe, are important for two reasons.

King’s Radicalism

First, it challenges the interpretation of King as an insufficiently radical leader offered by some critics, and the co-option of King’s legacy not only by “moderate” liberals but also by conservative political figures in the US. King has become a symbol in the public consciousness of a safe reformism and a favorite icon for the type of liberal who abhors radicalism above any other political sin. As Michael Eric Dyson says, “Thus King becomes a convenient icon shaped in our own distorted political images. He is fashioned to deflect…

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Will Opines

Today in the United States we have a federal holiday not due to the Presidential Inauguration, but to honor Martin Luther King, who was struck down by gunfire outside of his hotel on 4 April 1968 in Memphis, TN.  He was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers strike organized by the man who introduced him to non-violent civil disobedience, Reverend James Lawson.  We will celebrate the MLK who is best summarized in his speech on the March on Washington (I Have a Dream) as well as the one he gave the night before he was slain (I have been to the Mountaintop).  What we will not discuss or remember is the FBI’s remarkable campaign to demonize and discredit him.  And that is fuktup.  So I write this, in Quixotian fashion, for those unfamiliar with the basic facts who prefer to know. May you not forget.

This history is hardly…

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Singapore: Civil Society Statement for Human Rights Day, December 2012 (Updated 11 Dec)

This post is a Statement (interpret that as you will).
The Statement below was delivered by members and friends of the Singapore Unity Project, organisers of the event to commemorate the International Day for Human Rights at Speakers’ Corner, Hong Lim Park in Singapore yesterday, 9 December 2012. Words in bold and blue are my personal emphases that I believe are important to highlight. This is the version that was read out yesterday at Hong Lim Park. There will be an updated and revised statement in the very near future.
Human Rights Day is celebrated every year on this day, 10 December. See the United Nations Human Rights Day 2012 site here.
The commemoration of this day is especially timely in light of the SMRT bus drivers’ “strike” of 26-27 November. Please read this for a good summary analysis.
Thank you!
9 December 2012
Speakers’ Corner, Singapore
Civil Society Human Rights Day Statement: Making Our Voices Count
This Human Rights Day, the theme is inclusion and the right to participate in public life. This includes the right to associate freely among equals to pursue collective ideals and goals, to assert influence on public opinion and public policy, and to harness the synergistic potential of different groups and individuals. This right is important as materialism predisposes human beings to selfish pursuits, and some goals can only be achieved collectively. The right of association and public assembly is crucial for marginalized and minority groups to remind complacent and powerful groups that their interests matter too. When people come together voluntarily, the results of their efforts often are greater than the sum of their individual parts.

Indeed, we can take inspiration from United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon who, in his visit to Singapore in March this year said, “these are times of promise…more people are getting involved and changing the world”. We can take heart that in order to build a safer and more secure world, we must stand strong on fundamental principles, particularly of democracy and human rights. But we cannot do this alone, and we cannot expect to achieve these goals by relying on institutions that have caused disappointment and failures of leadership in advocating, protecting, and ensuring the rights of people in Singapore, both citizens and non-citizens. Therefore in addition to national governments, civil society must increasingly be involved to the fullest extent of their abilities. This is crucial as we need to include the participation of groups such as women, young people, ethnic and social minorities, persons with disabilities, and groups and individuals with alternative views.

Therefore, in this spirit, we recall and acknowledge some of the contributions of our fellow human beings in the collective struggle for the realization of our human rights in 2012.

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Human rghts in Singapore: Always derogated (part 2)

See part 1 here. Alex Au has a post that has more details here (more on this below).

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

To recap: On 24 October 2012, the Handa Centre for Global Governance and Human Rights was scheduled to be opened with a launch at the Singapore Management University (SMU). SMU’s School of Law was to be host of the Centre, and a job for a part-time executive was even advertised before the launch was so unceremoniously cancelled.

On political pressure and wiggle room
The conflict at first blush focused on the naming of the Centre, particularly the words “Human Rights” in it, according to citizens’ journalism website The Online Citizen (TOC), and a “compromise name involving ‘Global Justice’ would have been acceptable” (more comments on this farther below).

This post is the second of a two-parter. It aims to dissect the issue and understand the context for the closure of the Centre – before it was even properly opened. The reasons and motivations for the various actors and stakeholders involved are not so essential here, but they will be taken into account. As such, this piece will cover quite a bit of ground, but may not be sufficient to satisfy everyone’s curiosity or queries.

To begin this exploration, take this part from the TODAY article:

Dr Handa, who is the founder and chairman of Tokyo-based non-profit organisation Worldwide Support for Development (WSD), has also provided funding for Curtin University’s Centre for Human Rights Education.

Dr Handa could not be reached for comment yesterday. But he was quoted by website Singapolitics as saying that, after consulting SMU, the WSD leadership “has decided not to proceed with the organisation of a new centre”. He added that WSD “remains supportive of SMU and will continue to consider future projects in Singapore”.

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London’s militarised Olympics and security lockdown

From the City journal website:

The imminent Olympics takesplace in an Olympic city still recovering from riots, which the Guardian–LSE (2011) ‘Reading the Riots’ project showed were partly fuelled by resentment at their lavish cost. On 9 March 2012, the UK spending watchdog warned that the overall costs of the Games were set to be at least £11 billion—£2 billion over even recently inflated budgets (Syal and Gibson, 2012). When major infrastructure projects such as Crossrail, speeded up for the Games, are factored in, Sky News, in an admittedly rather cursory investigation, put that figure as high as £24 billion (2012). The estimated cost put forward only seven years ago when the Games were won was £2.37 billion.



The security boom is unaffected, or perhaps even fuelled, by the global crash, as wealthy and powerful elites across the world seek ever-more fortified lifestyles. Essentially, it is about defence and security corporations building huge new income streams by systematically exploiting three linked trends: the lucrative possibilities created by post-9/11 fears; widening privatisation and out-sourcing in the context of deep austerity programmes; and the desire of big city and national governments to brand themselves as secure destinations for major ‘global’ events.