The War “Agents” – From Vietnam to This Day

agent orange
Nick Ut’s famous photo known as “Napalm Girl” is credited for raising the awarness of the Vietnam War. Nick Ut rushed Kim Phuc to a nearby hospital after the photo was taken. Nick Ut, Associated Press

In the middle of a global turmoil, whether it would be murders in the form of “wars” (against….what exactly?), global inequalities (e.g. gender, income, living conditions, human and civil rights), climate change effects and pharisaic politics (see EU vs Refugees, US vs Democracy etc), the combination of two pieces of information gave way to this article.
They both involve wars, American wars, unreasonable wars (as if there were reasonable) i.e. aggressive (as opposed to defensive) wars, which both destabilised or destroyed countries, caused casualties and distress and proved to be vain, even more than any war could prove.

The two said factors are:

I) Agent Orange

Agent Orange is a herbicide.
We read that: 
During the late 1940s and 1950s, the US and Britain collaborated on development of herbicides with potential applications in warfare.
Indeed, Americans used that herbicide during Vietnam war with the pretext of destroying Vietnam’s flora which was making their lives “difficult” (or terminated) inside country’s jungle.

We learn that:
Agent Orange was manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense primarily by Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemical,
an information which nowadays makes sense, to say the least, as it explains the GMOs “regime”.

In a more…trivial level we are informed that:
It was given its name from the color of the orange-striped barrels in which it was shipped, and was by far the most widely used of the so-called “Rainbow Herbicides“.

We understand that in contemporary terms it was a chemical weapon, like these used in Syria and attributed only to country’s regime, [and which are German made and in fact have targeted Syrian people in order to force them to abandon their country and thus weaken Assad and pass to Turkey and…..  –read more about Turkey’s role, Germany, ISIS and EU].
Back to chemical weapons of the past with some more “unpleasant” information:
The 2,4,5-T used to produce Agent Orange was contaminated with 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), an extremely toxic dioxin compound. In some areas, TCDD concentrations in soil and water were hundreds of times greater than the levels considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

We are also informed that:
Although in the Geneva Disarmament Convention of 1978, Article 2(4) Protocol III to the weaponry convention has “The Jungle Exception”, which prohibits states from attacking forests or jungles “except if such natural elements are used to cover, conceal or camouflage combatants or military objectives or are military objectives themselves” this voids any protection of any military or civilians from a napalm attack or something like agent Orange and is clear that it was designed to cater to situations like U.S. tactics in Vietnam. This clause has yet to be revised
– 
which in a free translation means that international laws have always been tailored to mainstream – USA – interests.

To make a tragic story short, it was not only expected but also desirable that Agent Orange would harm people and not only vegetation, and it has, indeed.
Many handicapped children have been born since, unable (invalides, according to Napoleon’s conception) to function within society without help, victims of perverse minds and of the renowned imperialist war machine.  
The sad but also promising factor of the story/ history is that in Vietnam, the American veteran George Mizo founded in 1992 The Vietnam Friendship Village (See Village’s site) where children are taken care and are tought crafts with which they can support their lives -hopefully.

It’s not possible to explore George Mizo’s soul and mind.
Nevertheless, what formed half of this article’s “substance” is an episode of the Greek show/ travel documentary series World Party in which we watched kids between 7 and 17 years old who are affected by Agent Orange and who are now educated and supported by Vietnam Friendship Village.

Person presented, Mr Tsack, confessed/ admitted during the documentary something that we all know with certainty:
War is the worst failure of mankind.
It’s the failure of what is good and decent about human beings and represents/ reflects the worst aspects of all of us.”


II) Gulf War Syndrome

This sad outcome/aftermath of another chapter of absurd American wars, 
… refers to the complex of symptoms that affects veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf War at significantly excess rates. It is characterized by multiple diverse symptoms not explained by established medical diagnoses or standard laboratory tests, symptoms that typically include a combination of memory and concentration problems, persistent headache, unexplained fatigue, and widespread pain, and can also include chronic digestive difficulties, respiratory symptoms, and skin rashes,
according to an article of Global Research.

gulf-war-syndrome2

Also, in Wikipedia we can find that:
According to a report by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan may also suffer from the syndrome.
Suggested causes have included depleted uranium, sarin gas, smoke from burning oil wells, vaccinations, combat stress and psychological factors.

while many other sources (e.g. Medical Dictionary, veterans’ site Military.com but also US Dept Of Veterans Affairs) outline a number of symptoms caused by psychological or physical factors.
Saying that “they are lucky to be alive” would only be an insensitive and tragic irony in fact.

Consequences to other nations are not yet allowed to reveal and history is still being written.
So, maybe several decades later, someone, somewhere, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya, in Syria, in Central Africa, in Eastern Europe, will acknowledge the harm caused to local people and the pointlessness, the irrationality, the absurdity and the cruelty of any and each war and maybe will create a friendship village or, better yet, a friendship Earth.

Or, people will keep in mind Mr Tsack’s comment:
“Most of us
took the easy way which was to submit and to do what we were told.
It’s much more difficult and much more courageous to say “no”, and I would try to convince my grandchildren to have the strength and the courage and the personal conviction to say “no”.
We
didn’t learn anything from Vietnam. That’s the real tragedy of Vietnam.
We could have learned lessons that would have made the world a very different place.”  

From my part, I won’t stop wondering how many kilometers of wall (other than China one), would be necessary if ALL millions of real victims had to be carved, mentioned and honored.

Relative reads:

Documentary The Look of Silence and Indonesian history

23 May 1965, Jakarta, Indonesia --- Members and sympathizers of the Indonesian Communist Party, the third largest in the world, gather in the Russian built sports stadium in Jakarta to celebrate the party's 45th anniversary. The party symbol of a soldier, a laborer and a farmer stands below a portrait of President Sukarno. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
23 May 1965, Jakarta, Indonesia — Members and sympathizers of the Indonesian Communist Party, the third largest in the world, gather in the Russian built sports stadium in Jakarta to celebrate the party’s 45th anniversary. The party symbol of a soldier, a laborer and a farmer stands below a portrait of President Sukarno. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

It was by chance that I watched an interesting (chilling would be fairer) documentary on TV, in which camera follows Adi Rukun a man who is “interviewing” some of his co-villagers, his parents and members of his family about the true story of the murder of his brother Ramli, one of the about one million victims (according to the bragging killers as well, 500000 according to other sources) in Indonesia’s 1965-66 massacre-extermination of members, supporters and sympathisers of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

I wondered how many people, if any, knew about that dark story and the large number of persons slaughtered with the most brutal methods under US and CIA directions and support, which took place during Cold War and the peak of American anti-communism, during the inland and outside US fear-inducing propaganda.

It is also worth wondering if and to what extent have things changed since then, when the US-led local army and police carried the prisoners and delivered them to their killers who stabbed, beheaded or buried them alive – in a few words using bestial practices upon Indonesian as well as  Chinese population.
At the time, the atrocities were presented as “impulsive” and were attributed to people’s fear of communists, who were said to be atheists, to exchange their wives and to commit crimes. Well known accusations which would be funny if they weren’t tragic.
The way interviewed murderers (butchers) present their brutal murders and the calmness of the “hero” before them is stunning.
One of the killers says that he collected their blood and drunk it while his young daughter who claims that she didn’t know anything about it asks Adi to forgive her and her father.

As Rukun points out to several of these beasts (many of whom remain in charge until today), they show no remorse and not one of them says that he acted wrongly or that what he did was his own fault.
Not surprisingly, this regime is US supported. Until now the school teachers continue to propagandise against communists, to distort facts and to induce fear by telling to 6-7 years creepy stories attributed to communists. We watch Adi trying to “repair the damage” by telling the true story to his son.

The country remains in turmoil as poverty and injustice induce uprisings – like in many places of the world.
The question is which and to what extent certain revolts and acts of “radicalism” (as reported by the Reuters in “Indonesia hopes village spending will counter radicalism“) are impulsive or directed provocations.
Careful interpretation in necessary. Especially under the lights of history like this.

With a little research we found that the documentary is The Look of Silence of Joshua Oppenheimer.
According to  The Conversation which presented the film in November 2014:

«The companion piece to his Oscar-nominated 2012 film The Act of Killing deals with a survivor’s quest for justice.[…]
It is this rupture – and not the cohesiveness of the “Indonesia as a whole” that explains why so many are invested in Oppenheimer’s project, why “Anonymous” crews support the production, and why it was possible to screen The Act of Killing more than 1,000 times throughout the country.
Despite the persisting cultural movement since Suharto’s downfall, the infrastructures that prevent Indonesians from contesting the official narrative of 1965-66 remain unchanged. We need structural changes within Indonesia to do this.»

In the article of January 2014 about the previous film, The Act of Killing, an equally if not more nerve challenging presentation of the criminals, The Conversation writes:
«Academy Award nominations rarely enter into the domain of politics, and certainly have not delved into Indonesian politics in the past. This year, however, is different.
US-British director Joshua Oppenheimer’s film The Act of Killing has already won numerous international awards and has now been nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.
The film has received rave reviews from film critics, as well as one off-beat (and frankly misleading and illogical) paean from Slovenian Marxist philosopher, Slavoj Zizek.
Confronting, controversial, The Act of Killing aims to explain the politics of the past in Indonesia. The documentary presents two connected aspects of Indonesia: the anti-communist killings of 1965-1969; and the role of gangsters in present-day politics.»

It is one of the stories which remain buried deeper than the victims (many of whom in this case were thrown in Snake River) and it is surely a story worth spreading.
One of the killers describes with great indifference that no one was eating river fishes after the slaughter because fishes were eating people.
A safe conclusion would also be that any dictatorship, any inhuman, violent, sadistic regime and any human rights violating or illegal government is good as long as US “approves” it!

The trailer of The Look of Silence:


In 2014, an article of the New York Times was titled: ‘The Act of Killing’ Film Fails to Stir Indonesia.
No wonder at all, as it is doubtful if anyone would dare to watch it under the fear of retaliation and danger for his life (the same danger which his mother and his wife point out to Adi Rukun ).
An interesting and encouraging outcome from this presentation of NYT is the following letter and mostly its senders.

«Mass Slaughter in Indonesia
MARCH 6, 2014
To the Editor:
(of NYT)

“ ‘Act of Killing’ Film Fails to Stir Indonesia” (news article, March 2) describes how Indonesia’s media has largely ignored Joshua Oppenheimer’s powerful, Oscar-nominated documentary about General Suharto’s murder of between a half million and a million alleged Communists in 1965 and 1966. It doesn’t even mention the United States’ contribution to what The Times described as “one of the most savage mass slaughters of modern political history.”

As we report in our “Untold History of the United States” documentary film series and book, the Central Intelligence Agency had targeted Sukarno, Suharto’s predecessor, for years, and in 1965 provided a “kill list” containing thousands of names. The State Department’s Indonesia expert stated, “No one cared, as long as they were Communists, that they were butchered.” Suharto’s dictatorship lasted 32 years.

Conditions have improved since his ouster, but the horrors of his rule and American complicity in his crimes must never be forgotten.

OLIVER STONE
PETER KUZNICK
Los Angeles, March 3, 2014

Mr. Stone is the film director, and Mr. Kuznick is a professor of history at American University.»

More about the story (history) and the massacre:

The history and evidence “on how the October 1 coup was triggered” are presented in the article
US orchestrated Suharto’s 1965-66 slaughter in Indonesia of World Socialist Web Site.

A US Department of State recent presentation of “US Relations With Indonesia” (for anyone interested, only part of the URL, state.gov, to avoid tracking).

Macrohistory and World Timeline also gives and analytical version of the facts in Indonesia and the Great Slaughter and Sukarno Loses Power

The relative book China, class collaboration, and the killing fields of Indonesia in 1965, of James Robb is presented here.

All in all, it is worth taking a look and learning the facts about a rarely said history.

 

ISDS: The Big Bad Wolf of the Trade and Investment Agreements

Hayden Morris ISDS Cartoon
Hayden Morris ISDS Cartoon

 

Also published in: Reader Supported News/Writing for Godot

Protests

Several separate and seemingly different forms of public protests and debates are “running” these days. One of them is an international call from Avaaz to sign a petition for a just rule of arbitration on the known in Spanish as Caso Philip Morris Contra Uruguay, which started about five years ago. In this case, the big tobacco company sues Uruguay for having legislated anti-smoking laws.
As it is the practice and after the July 2013 decision of the tribunal that it has jurisdiction to examine the case, the “complaint” of Philip Morris will be dealt and settled by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) a member of World Bank Group.
The company claims a compensation of $25 million for the anti-smoking campaign of Uruguay with photos on the cigarette packages. More that one million people have signed the petition until today.
In this case, the country has to defend its attempt to safeguard public health by passing anti-smoking laws and applying practices used all over the world.

Another wave of protests is taking place this week, 20-24 April with marches and events in Europe, Canada, USA and elsewhere. More than 20,000 participated in the recent marches and about 1.8 million have signed the internet declaration “STOP TTIP and CETA”.
Protests are against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between EU and USA, the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) a trade agreement currently being negotiated by 24 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), including the EU, three infamous pending agreements.
All of the agreements aim to “liberalise trade” either of goods or of services. The talks for TTIP have started (formally) in 2013 and remained secret even for the members of the European Parliament. Only after leaks of information which demonstrated the dangers for several sectors, MEPs and the public demanded transparency.
The same secrecy applies to EU-Canada negotiations. All of their terms are promoted as beneficial but Ulrike Hermann in “Free Trade Project of the Powerful” notes in the conclusion about TTIP: “The Canadian lawyer Howard Mann, who has dealt with investor protection agreements for more than 15 years”, assessed that, “this agreement [CETA] was the most ‘investor-friendly’ contract the Canadian government had ever negotiated”.
TTIP is a high target for USA and both the government and the lobbies have demonstrated their deep interest in many.
The dominance of the multinational companies, the privatization of public and social services and their fall to corporate giants are inevitable components of the agreement while the demonstrated benefits (for the people of both parts) are strongly challenged.

Anything but transparent negotiations and terms

Since 2013, a number of EU laws have changed, fragmentary though methodically, in an attempt to ensure “conformity” to the terms and conditions of TTIP which according to studies and publications threaten (in both sides): Democracy itself, Food Safety, Jobs, Environment, Public Services and Personal Privacy. TTIP also includes provision for Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which is the tribunal mechanism involved in the Uruguay Case.
USA has insisted on including the clause in the agreement but according to information of January, the EU won’t decide whether to include it in the TTIP until the “final phase of the negotiations” with the US.

A major contribution to the public alert both in EU and USA about the agreements have offered the releases by the Wikileaks of a series of classified documents revealing terms and chapters of the other (also disputed) agreement, the TPP.
This “regional regulatory and investment treaty” which is top priority for Barack Obama, involves USA and 11 more countries, all of which control the 40% of the world’s economy -i.e. Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
The talks started in 2005 and have long passed their initial time-limit of 2012, as a wave of movements, activists and professional groups have questioned the clauses -especially after the documents publications by Wilileaks-, but also because of the discrepancies of interests between the countries.

The involving parts (the US overarching) claim that the results would be in favour of their countries and for the middle classes in particular, as President Obama stressed facing the criticism even from democrats, about the fast-track procedures on TPP.
Elizabeth Warren, the democratic senator -who is encouraged and supported by Media to run for the nomination for president- has initiated the internet campaign “No vote (by the Congress) on fast-tracking trade until the TPP agreement is public”. She also denounces the secrecy which has kept people out of “locked doors” about the information for TPP.

It is obvious that secrecy is a common factor of all negotiations on the so-called “free trade” agreements and the debate procedures that European Commission opened, function more than a propaganda channel rather than a voice of people.
After keeping the public in ignorance and mediocrity, the long time negotiations from their part, serve the gradual strategy, both strategies of manipulating the population according to Noam Chomsky.

It is also a common knowledge that corporate rules in USA; USA seeks the final signs of TTIP and TPP;  the corporate seeks the agreements which means that their profits from them are evident.
Furthermore, corporate profits and interests are by definition and proven, against people’s benefits.

ISDS: Corporate Vs Countries

So, apart from terms concerning foods, environment or public services, which is the extra danger deriving from the ISDS term?

When a company invests and operates inside a country, it must comply with state laws. In case of changes of laws, citizens as well as companies have to conform. That is the norm but not under signed agreements which include ISDS term.
Under ISDS, if the investors, usually trans-national corporations, find that the new legislation affects their interests they have the right to demand compensations. “They are able to bring claims for damages against the host country even if they have no contract with its government”, as described by John Hilary, in “TTIP: Charter for Deregulation, an Attack on Jobs, an End to Democracy”.
Any dispute is resolved by the arbitration tribunals.

No matter what the beneficial act for the country and its people is, the supportive system of arbitration, almost by default decides in favour of the investor a practice that lead them to lose any credibility, according to an older (no longer available) Public Statement On The International Investment Regime, supported by academics with expertise on investment law, arbitration, and regulation.

A few examples out of 500 known cases against 95 countries follow:

  • The Swedish energy company Vattenfall is suing the German government for € 3.7 billion over the country’s decision to phase out nuclear power […] Vattenfall has already been successful in a previous challenge to the city of Hamburg’s environment regulations […]
  • …Under NAFTA rules, Canada was forced to revoke its ban on the fuel additive MMT under a challenge from US Company Ethyl. In a later case over water and timber rights, Canada had to pay out $122 million to the Canadian paper company AbitibiBowater. It is worth noticing here that some domestic companies “reinvent themselves as ‘foreign’ investors in order to take advantage of ISDS privileges and sue their government” according to Gus Van Harten’s, Investment Treaty Arbitration and Public Law, as cited by Hilary.
  • US tobacco giant Philip Morris, apart from Uruguay, is also suing the Australian government for billions of dollars over its public health policy that all cigarettes must now be sold in plain packaging.
  • Until 2011, 27 claims were pending against Argentina at the ICSID, accounting for more than 1/5th of that institution’s pending case-load. All but 1 of these 27 cases involve claims relating, at least in part, to Argentina’s response to its earlier financial crisis. In short, Argentina was sued to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for the measures it took against its financial crisis.
  • Another South American country, Ecuador, has been ordered to pay to Occidental Petroleum $ 1.77 billion in damages for terminating the contract when the company broke the law (ICSID’s the largest award in history). On the other hand, a separate tribunal dismissed the claim for $19 billion in damages by Ecuador against Chevron for the contamination of the Amazonian rainforest, although there is evidence of the pollution which cost lives.

It becomes clear that arbitration tribunals are a kind of defenders and guardians of the interests of investors.

Together with enforced legislation about GMOs and other food processes applied by big companies in USA, fossil fuels and energy, privatizations -especially of health services- or personal privacy attacks by the copyright, patents and trademarks clauses, all under the agreements, the arbitration provision has more than one level of risks.

The TPP targets to completely uniform legislations of trade and services in countries around the Pacific, many of which are near China while TTIP, CETA and TISA involve European countries, all of which are near Russia.

Within the EU, where the countries of the south suffer the consequences of economic destabilization caused largely by the very core of the Euro zone, it could be a matter of (short) time to become colonies of big corporations and multinationals.

Or, as Noam Chomsky put it: “Every Word in the Phrase ‘Free Trade Agreement’ Is False”.

Relative articles:
The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Death of the Republic – The Web of Debt Blog

Updated April 27 2015