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Jul 22nd
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Brexit, the Crisis of Capitalism, and Immigration by Steve Jonas
June 30, 2016

Following the Brexit, the UK may well be on its way back to being England-plus, for Scotland is very likely now to declare its independence and apply for membership in the EU.  The industrial revolution formed the material basis for the establishment of manufacturing capitalism (as distinct from its predecessor, mercantile capitalism). The industrial revolution, followed closely by the development of manufacturing capitalism, began in the UK in the 18th century.  They jointly spread to the major countries of Europe and the United States in the 19th century.

Capitalism has two major goals: to produce profits for the capitalists (owners) from the trading and manufacturing processes as well as enabling them to accumulate additional amounts of capital.  To do this, the capitalists employ workers who by their work add value to the plant, equipment, and raw materials supplied by the capitalists.  The profits and additional capital come from the value added (known in Marxist terms as “surplus value”) by the workers which are not returned to them in the form of wages and benefits.   Throughout the history of capitalism, the owners and the workers have been in a constant struggle over the share of the surplus value produced by the workers that actually goes back to them.  In Marxist terms, that conflict forms part of what is known as “class struggle” (the other part being over the control of the governmental apparatus that Lenin defined as “the state”).

Beginning in the 19th century, in the industrialized countries, workers began organizing themselves  politically (political parties) and economically (trade unions) to gain a larger share, over time, of the surplus value that their labor produced, as well as some level  of control over the organs of state power.  It happens, when one looks back at the history of the 20th century (excluding the period of the two World Wars but including the period of the Cold War — otherwise known as the last 47 years of The 75 Years War Against the Soviet Union), that the periods of time in the several major capitalist countries of Western Europe and North America in which at least some workers got at least some reasonable share of the surplus value they produced corresponded with, varying from country to country, their political and economic strength.

But with certain exceptions here and there, capitalists have never been much on sharing.  And so, beginning, for example, in the United States with the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, and in Great Britain with the advent to power of Margaret Thatcher and her wing of the Conservative Party, capitalists generally have been on a campaign to destroy/undermine to the extent possible the power of their respective trade union movements and of their pro-labor political parties.  In most of the major capitalist countries, especially due to the corruption of labor, the pervasive disorientation of the population, and the capitalists’ overwhelming command of the media, the foremost machinery of ideological penetration, this campaign has been hugely successful.

At the structural level, a major strategy utilized by capital has been the export of capital and with it the export of jobs to low-wage countries.  (Of course this strategy has been used in the United States, within the country, as when in the early 20th century textile manufacturers, led in part by distant relatives of mine, moved their factories from New England to the U.S. South, in order to get away from the growing Northern trade union movement.)  In the late 20th century job-export process has of course been accelerated in the United States by the various trade deals developed and negotiated by both wings of the US political Duopoly.  It should be noted here that free trade does not necessarily mean the free export of capital and with it the export of jobs.  A nation like Germany can have relatively free trade without engaging in the uncontrolled export of capital.  These developments have been very noticeable in the education of working class employment opportunities with reasonable wages and benefits in the “developed” countries.  Not so noticeable have been the in-roads in employment made by computerization, automation, and robotization (CAB).  All of these developments have led to an increasing concentration of wealth.   For, for example, as capitalists are not much on sharing the benefits of CAB, they have only led to the further decline of “well-paying jobs.”  Which, as is well-known, has led to much unhappiness among the working classes of the leading capitalist countries (other than Germany [at least so far] which does things differently).

And so, this is where “immigration” and the rise of the Far Right in a number of capitalist countries come in.  As capitalism, national and international, turned more and more to the financial sector for the production of profits (as predicted by Lenin almost 100 years previously), it eventually produced the Great Crash of 2008.  For the most part, Europe has not yet recovered from it, relying on what the European ruling class, operating through the European Union, calls “austerity” (for the workers, not themselves, of course).  The U.S. has to some degree been able to recover, in large part due to the fiscal stimulus created by the Federal Reserve Bank.

Nevertheless, there are large numbers of unemployed or poorly employed white workers in the United States who are understandably very unhappy.  Since there has never been a labor party in the U.S. to explain the real causes of the workers’ difficulties to them (and certainly the Democratic Party sector of the Duopoly has not done so either), they are left easy prey to those who would convince them that it is “the others’” fault.  Donald Trump is of course the worst of these, but the Republicans have been following their anti-immigrant line on and off since their founding in the 1850s, which was helped along by the anti-immigrant (the Irish in those days) Know-Nothing (“American”) Party.  As is well-known, the same factors have led to the rise of the Far Right anti-immigrant parties in Europe, and the UK.

But now the chickens are coming home to roost for the international capitalist class.  And so, Brexit.  There are a variety of reasons why many English workers voted to leave, but primary among them, just as in the U.S., is the “immigrant threat.”  One of the leaders of that movement is Great Britain’s very own Donald Trump equivalent, the equally rightist and equally unqualified Boris Johnson, screaming about the dangers of immigrants.  The “immigrant threat” is very useful to the rulers of all the capitalist countries as a major distraction from the major reasons why bad things are happening economically.  Very useful, that is, until it isn’t.  The Brexit referendum came into being because in the most recent national election the Conservative British Prime Minister, David Cameron decided to throw a bone to both the “anti-Euros” in his own party and the growing rightist United Kingdom Independence Party, and promise that there would be one.  He apparently never contemplated the chance that the “stay” side might lose.

Brexit is going to have an enormous negative impact on the international capitalist ruling class, not just in the United Kingdom.  There are a variety of reasons why Brexit succeeded.  But at the center of them are the anti-immigrant prejudices, which provide, as noted, such a handy distraction from the real problems.  Yes indeed, they were (and are) such a handy distraction for the capitalists, until their use in real time, in the birthplace of modern industrial capitalism, may well just accelerate the further decline of an economic system that is already steadily going downhill.

Taunted and jeered, Bolton bolted by Michael Carmichael
14 June 2006

"John Bolton is the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon, if it should be my lot to be on hand for what is forecast to be the final battle between good and evil in this world."
Senator Jesse Helms (Republican, North Carolina, retired)

Facing an increasingly hostile group of law students in an Oxford seminar that had somehow gone dreadfully wrong, beads of sweat began to pop out on John Bolton’s furrowed brow. Amidst a rising chorus of taunts, jeers, hisses and outright denunciations, Bolton was swiftly surrounded by his entourage of three American security agents and whisked out the door of the seminar room at Oriel College on Friday, the 9th of June 2006.
Pursued by vocal recriminations from angry and frustrated American students who led the incisive questioning and the equally incisive jeering -- with taunts like, "“You should be doing a better job!"”  Bolton bolted.  He turned sharply on his heel and took flight out the door and then fled down the mediaeval passageway and into the relative safety and calm of his bullet-proof diplomatic limousine. Bolton swiftly headed out of Oxford, rudely foregoing the well-established tradition of lingering to talk with interested members of the audience.
Bolton’'s swift exit contrasted sharply with Oxford appearances by two other American politicians earlier this term.  Both John Podesta and Richard Perle enjoyed lingering for discussions with Oxford audiences after their talks.  John Bolton would have none of it, and the reason was obvious.  Throughout the questioning, the audience became increasingly hostile and combative towards his neoconservative agenda.
Numbering over one hundred and consisting of a large contingent of Americans intermingled with British and international students, the audience was eager to hold Bolton accountable for the neoconservative arguments he put forward in his talk.  The keen attitude of the audience infused Bolton with a noticeable reticence to remain and exchange viewpoints even though it is a time-honoured Oxford tradition.  Bolton’s performance was tantamount to arriving late for dinner, wolfing one’'s food and then leaving abruptly before the cigars and Amontillado.
Bolton had been invited to Oxford for a one-hour seminar organised by The Law Society.  His talk would be followed by the routine question and answer session.

Upon his arrival, Bolton announced that his talk would not be a free and open discussion but strictly limited to his few selected topics:  UN reform, scandal and the next Secretary General. Predictably, Bolton launched into his standard speech -- little more than a right-wing denigration of the UN as riddled with corruption in the form of the Oil for Food scandal.
Bolton began his broadside with an examination of the principle of ‘sovereign equality,’ whereby every nation has exactly the same voting rights as every other member of the General Assembly.  He adopted an unsophisticated book-keeper’s perspective, stating that the contributions made by the USA dwarfed those of many other nations.  He argued unconvincingly that even those forty-seven members who paid the bare minimum had the same voting power in the General Assembly as America.  This observation failed to impress the audience who were more than well aware of America'’s financial and economic superiority to the debt-ridden nations in the third world -– a superiority accumulated through trade negotiations designed to extract capital from the poorest nations and transfer it to the wealthiest.
Bolton'’s panacea for the bureaucratic inefficiency was simple – a tax cut for the wealthiest nations.  At its core, he implied that a group of sharp-eyed book-keepers backed by accountants, auditors and a hardened core of dues-collectors should run the United Nations along strict financial guidelines as if it were a private club with a dining room and golf course rather than the world’s premiere organization mandated to prevent armed conflict between sovereign nations, foster economic development, enhance social equality and cultivate international law. If Bolton is aware of the principles defining the mission of the United Nations, he made no mention of them whatsoever.  His sole focus was a totally transparent harangue on the disparity of dues, a transparent tissue of an argument that would not have convinced a fifteen year old –much less Oxford law students.
Turning to his case for corruption, Bolton launched into a literal diatribe about the Oil for Food programme that he described as a substantial scandal.  The background to this is important.  Led by Bolton, neoconservative critics of the UN attempted unsuccessfully to make a criminal case against Kofi Annan and members of his family through the Oil for Food investigation, but their efforts largely were wasted.  The investigation did discover some relatively minor official corruption involving a paltry $150,000 paid to one individual. The largest amount of corruption appears to have come in the form of kickbacks and bribes to the government of Iraq by oil companies seeking cheap oil.  Of the kickbacks paid to the government of Iraq, 52% came from the US in the form of bribes for cheap oil, a figure that is more than the rest of the planet of 190 nations combined.  While a partisan Republican Senator, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, made allegations against one high profile figure, George Galloway a British MP, they have been refuted utterly.  The investigation is ongoing, but of 54 internal audits only one has been made public. Bolton did not mention any of these details, nor did he provide any substantive evidence for his charge of serious levels of official corruption at the UN.
Neither did Bolton call attention to the fact that the Oil for Food case pales into insignificance when compared to the massive scandals engulfing American operations in Iraq involving tens and possibly hundreds of billions of dollars or the Abramoff millions and the Enron scandal soaring into billions of dollars.  Weak, prejudiced and hostile in its intent, Bolton'’s case against the UN failed to impress his keen academic audience of law students.  Bolton failed to get an indictment from this grand jury.
The final part of Bolton’s talk dealt with the next Secretary General of the UN who will take office later this year.  He criticized the obligatory rotation of the office, arguing for a review of the rules governing selection of the Secretary General.  Although making comments about the need for balance and fairness, Bolton observed that the next Secretary General should come not from Asia but from the ranks of Eastern Europe -– a favourite region for Bolton who champions the increasing integration of Eastern European nations and leaders into the American sphere of influence.  Bolton left the impression that he is deeply involved in the selection process for the next Secretary General.  From his remarks, it is clear that he is making every effort to influence this selection by anointing an Eastern European functionary loyal to the neoconservative agenda of George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
Perhaps most dramatically, Bolton presented a stark message to his Oxford audience:  the UN exists to institutionalize inequalities of power, wealth and national security.  In his view, the UN should be a club for powerful nations to manage their relations with poor nations by denying them any real power.  As an agent of corporate wealth and institutional power, in his Oxford remarks Bolton focused exclusively on justice for capital and repudiated the notion of a democratic basis for the UN.  Bolton demanded that the UN should remain a gated community devoid of power-sharing with its small clique of five Security Council members wielding veto power over the remaining 190 members of the General Assembly.
During the question period, Bolton recognized a law student who politely asked him to justify the application of a double standard in the Middle East that favors Israel over Syria or other Muslim nations.  Detecting the student’'s accent, Bolton pointedly asked, “"Where are you from?”"  The student was Syrian.  On that note, Bolton refused to answer the question, and instead he criticized Syria for what he deemed to be its unwarranted interference in the Middle East and Lebanon even though they withdrew their final 15,000 troops last year.  From a historical perspective, it is ironic that Bolton would have cited this case, for Syria was invited to provide security operations in Lebanon by the Maronite Christians with the tacit approval of the United Nations and the support of the Arab League.  The hypocrisy at the heart of his own case  - since he represents a hegemonic power with more than one hundred and thirty thousand uninvited troops on the ground in Iraq, thousands more uninvited troops in Afghanistan and which now threatens to launch a new war against Iran - was lost on Bolton.  But, Bolton'’s hypocrisy was not lost on his perceptive audience who now zeroed in on him with a barrage of pointed questions.
The next question to Bolton was why should the UN be based on dues paid and the wealth and power of its members i.e one nation, one vote -- instead of population, which would mean -- one man, one vote.  Detecting another foreign accent, Bolton asked, “"Where are you from?"”  The student was from India.  Bolton said that any alteration in the current articles of the UN charter to reform on a demographic basis would change the nature of the institution, and he indicated that principle, i.e. democracy and one man, one vote – remained totally unacceptable to the United States as a basis for the United Nations.  Quite.
In what was rapidly becoming his interrogation, a woman from America questioned Bolton about the need for a balanced approach where America would represent the best interests of the world at large rather than its own particular regional self-interest.  At that point, Bolton fumbled.  In a clumsy and misguided attempt to turn the tables on his adroit and incisive challengers, Bolton threw out a question of his own.  He called for a show of hands of those in the audience who were British.  Bolton then asked how many of them wanted the British Ambassador at the UN to represent the interests of Britain.  Only one or two hands were raised. Then he asked to see a show of hands of those British subjects who wanted the British Ambassador at the UN to represent not only the interests of Britain but also the collective interests of the other members as well.  At least a dozen hands went up into the air.  Stunned, Bolton was dumbfounded and said rather witlessly, “"I would have gotten a different result in America.”"
At that point, the crowd was warming to the battle unfolding before them and led so capably by the incensed Americans in the audience.  With their voices rising in taunts and jeers and more than a dozen hands demanding to be recognized to put more questions to him, Bolton’'s attention turned to his phalanx of security agents who surrounded him drawing the question and answer session to an abrupt close.  In retrospect, Bolton'’s was a disgraceful performance, one committed to an ancien regime of property, monetary wealth and military power in diametrical opposition to the democratic rights of humanity.  John Bolton showed himself to be a behemoth of corporate greed and corrupt political influence in world diplomacy.  My view is that his appointment to the Ambassadorship of the United Nations was tantamount to appointing Vito Corleone to head the FBI.
The primary purpose of Bolton’'s visit to Britain was not made public, but it was clear nevertheless from his public remarks.  With a history of trips to Europe to demand the sackings of officials for whom he has a personal dislike, Bolton'’s visit to Britain was obviously to demand the sacking of the Deputy Secretary of the UN, a British subject, Mark Malloch Brown.  Bolton appeared on the influential BBC4 Today radio programme, where he was interviewed by Jim Naughtie.  Deputy Secretary of the UN Brown was Bolton'’s first target.  Brown'’s speech critical of US policy vis a vis the UN had clearly irritated Bolton.  Brown criticized the US for using the UN to take care of many foreign policy problems while US officials hypocritically attacked it back home in red state America.  By pointing this out, Brown touched a sensitive nerve in Bolton'’s neoconservative brain.  For starters, Bolton falsely accused Brown of criticizing the American people -– a sheer fabrication.  Then, Bolton lashed out at Brown for making remarks that would injure the UN.  Coming from Bolton, this appraisal sounded more like a threat than serious criticism.  In explaining the US position on the UN, he stated, “"I think that the administration has told the truth about the UN – the good, the bad and the ugly." -” a strange choice of metaphors for a man with as controversial a reputation as Bolton.
Naughtie turned to the Iran crisis, and Bolton reiterated the official White House line:  the situation remains under negotiation but volatile.  Either Iran will acquiesce to the demands placed upon her, or she will face dire consequences including military intervention.  Leaving no doubt that Bush and Bolton propose unilateral action, Bolton confirmed that Iran would be a test case to determine whether the UN Security Council could be effective in the war against terrorism.
When interviewed on the same day by the Financial Times, Bolton quashed the concept that the Bush administration was holding out the possibility of a “grand bargain” with Iran.  In Bolton'’s mind, the terms of the negotiations are focused exclusively on the Iranian nuclear programme and do not encompass diplomatic recognition or the normalization of relations.  Far from detente, Bolton'’s definition of the process is simple:  the US is threatening Iran with war unless they submit to terms which Iran finds unattractive –- the cessation of what they state is peaceful research into nuclear energy.
Given his very public actions as exemplified by his statements in the UK and the US, Bolton should now be considered to be functioning as the US Secretary of State.  It would not be surprising to see him elevated to that post in the event of Condoleezza Rice leaving the State Department or upon the election of a new Republican administration in 2008.
John Bolton has a fascinating back-story.  A blue collar Lutheran from Baltimore, Bolton studied law at Yale.  The extreme right-wing presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater politicized him, and in the late 1970s, he emerged as a top legal advisor to the extreme racist Republican, Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina.  A  description of Bolton’'s political extremism records the fact that he is “a veteran of Southern electoral campaigns.  Bolton has long appealed to racist voters.” (John Bolton, Right Web) During the 2000 Florida vote fiasco, Bolton played a high profile partisan role.  Working under Jim Baker, Bolton led the so-called “'white collar riot'” that brought a halt to the counting of ballots in Florida. 
Throughout the 1980s, Bolton was a leader of Republican Party efforts to undermine voting rights for minorities.  Forming an alliance with James Baker, Bolton served in both the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations.  During the Clinton years, Bolton served as an assistant to Baker when he worked as Kofi Annan'’s envoy in the Western Sahara.  It is somewhat ironic that Bolton is now the principal critic of Annan.  Additionally, Bolton spent time at the usual right-wing and neoconservative institutions including:  the American Enterprise Institute; Project for the New American Century; Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf.  Before his appointment as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Bolton served as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control.
In the mid-1990s, Bolton was involved in a political money-laundering scandal that opened a channel for funds from Taiwan to Republican candidates.  (ibid.)  Prior to his appointment as UN Ambassador, Bolton was deeply involved in the Bush administration'’s overt campaign to undermine international law.  Bolton masterminded the systematic abrogation of several key international treaties including: 
  1. The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention;
  2. The Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty;
  3. The Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court and
  4. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. 
During his work for the Reagan administration, Bolton supported the Nicaraguan contras and sought to deny federal investigators access to key evidence in the Iran Contra scandal.  (John Bolton, Officialssay)
Personal scandals have also tarnished John Bolton.  A woman accused him of hostile intimidation that led to a case of sexual discrimination.  Larry Flynt published evidence that Bolton'’s first marriage collapsed after he forced his wife to have group sex at Plato'’s Retreat during the Reagan administration. (Rawstory)
When Bush nominated him for the UN Ambassadorship, Bolton suffered intense scrutiny.  He failed to get the endorsement of the Foreign Relations committee, and a ranking Republican, George Voinovich of Ohio, openly opposed him.  When the nomination came to the floor of the Senate, the Democrats launched a filibuster.  When a small group of Republicans attempted to invoke cloture to stop the debate, the motion failed for lack of support.  During a congressional recess, Bush was forced to appoint Bolton in what is called a “recess appointment.”  This fiasco weakened Bolton’'s stature, and the law demands that his appointment must be renewed early next year by the Senate in spite of the embarrassment it will cause him.
An embarrassing incident occurred last month that confirms the suspicions of Bolton’'s polite Syrian questioner at Oxford.  In remarks to B'’nai B'rith International, the Israeli ambassador to the UN identified Bolton as “a secret member of Israel's own team at the United Nations,” underlining his confidence in Bolton by stating, “"Today the secret is out. We really are not just five diplomats. We are at least six including John Bolton."  (Haaretz)
During his Oxford harangue, Bolton said that America is a democracy where people vote for change and the policies they believe to be right.  His own role in the racist politics of the South, the forced cessation of vote counting in 2000 and the obstruction of the Iran Contra investigation transforms every word he ever says claiming America as a model of democracy into the ne plus ultra of political hypocrisy.  George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Condoleezza Rice and John Bolton are a comfortable clutch of hypocritical politicians, and their approval ratings now demonstrate that they are not the agents of democracy.  Quite the opposite, the democratic disconnection -– the increasing disparity between popular opinion and government policy - in Bush's and Bolton'’s America is a scandal of global proportions that could well be driving the United States over the precipice and into the abyss of failed and failing states.

Bolton rejects ‘grand bargain’ with Iran
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http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/718679.htmlIsrael's UN ambassador slams Qatar, praises U.S. envoy Bolton
Larry Flynt: Bush UN nominee won't answer questions about troubled marriage
John R. Bolton
Who Is John Bolton?
John Bolton – Profile – rightweb
Rice's Iran Gambit
John Bolton - officialssay

The Truth About Democratic Republic Of The Congo by Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
April 26, 2012
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What is the real motive of some of the so-called human rights and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that consistently propagate a negative image about Africa and African people?  Do they really care about Africa?  Or are there other more profound sinister motives by these groups that only highlight and disseminate inaccurate and harmful information about the emerging economies in Africa today, especially in key nations such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)?

I am in the DRC once again on a mission of initiating a local “Sustainable Job Creation Program” related to the mining sector of the DRC’s economy.  The World Bank just announced that economy in the DRC today is growing in “an unprecedented rate of 7%” annually from 2011 to 2012.  It was a special pleasure over the past several days to be on the ground in the Katanga Province of the DRC that is the leading mining province in the largest land mass African nation.   The size of the Katanga Province alone is larger than the nation of France.

 All Americans should know more about the truth of the current positive economic and human development progress in Africa today after centuries of colonialism, imperialism, neocolonialism, and unjust exploitation of the people of Africa.  I know some of us do not like to use these terms today because of the false notion that the world community has progressed sufficiently to the point that we should stop talking about the wrongs of the past and focus more about the opportunities of the future.  Believe me, I understand that perspective; but what I am saying is that precisely we must learn from the past while not permitting a repeat of past injustices to occur in Africa, in America or anywhere else in the world.

So much of what is “wrong” today is the deliberate misrepresentation in the established media about the factual progress that is being made in DRC and in other African nations.  This is the sole reason why I choose to speak out now.  I will not be silent or complicit to the misdeeds of well-intentioned or ill-intentioned people who do not live in Africa, do not know Africa, and who do not care about Africa, but yet who are so bold to raise money internationally for the specific purpose of undermining purpose and attacking the legitimate aspirations and self-determination of African people across the continent of Africa.

Please understand, I am not challenging anyone’s right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  I am exercising those inalienable rights, but I am also confronting the increasing tendency of some journalists and African-issue fundraisers who consistently get their facts wrong about the DRC in particular and about Africa in general.

For example, the BBC recently erroneously reported that Glencore Mining was using child labor in the DRC and contributing to environmental dangers.  The problem is the Panorama film group featured in the BBC story had all of their facts wrong, and the story was not true, but the BBC had already broadcast the negative story about the DRC and Glencore throughout the world.  I personally had a meeting with Glencore Mining officials here in the DRC, and they confirmed that no one from Panorama met with the Glencore officials at the site in question to fact-check their allegations.

But this was just one example of what I am pulling the sheets off to demand more accuracy and fairness when it comes to doing feature news stories about Africa that only serve to further destabilize Africa, rather than help Africans to empower themselves.   I am glad that CNN did run a positive story about the development of the Georges Malaika Foundation (GMF) in the DRC in Lubumbashi in the Katanga Province that focused on the excellent work of Noella Musunka and the GMF in building and maintaining a school for girls in Lubumbashi and an adjacent community development center.  I saw how they were making their own bricks and building schools and giving back to the community in ways that will have a long term sustainable impact on the future progress of the people who live and work in that community.

Africa still has a long way to go in terms of future development.  Like other emerging economies, the DRC should be encouraged not falsely criticized.  I met with the young Governor of the Katanga Province, H.E. Moise Katumbi Chapwe, on several occasions during my visit to Lubumbashi.  The governor’s brilliance and commitment to serve the economic and social interests of the people of the Congo reminded me of the style, intelligence, integrity and substance of young President Barack Obama in the United States.

I was very pleased to witness the growing economy of the Katanga Province and the overall improvement in the quality of life in that part of Africa.  Let’s work harder to support sustainable development in the DRC and in all of Africa, as well as in our own communities in the United States.  Solidarity necessitates unity in action, word and deed.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr is President of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN), National Director of Occupy the Dream (OTD), and serves as Senior Strategic Advisor of the Diamond Empowerment Fund (DEF).
Netanyahu, Obama, Iran and Palestine by Steve Jonas
March 16, 2012
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The sage Israeli commentator and activist Uri Avnery recently published an excellent analysis of the Israel/Iran situation on The Planetary Movement (1).  Mr. Avnery presents the full list of strategic reasons why it is highly unlikely that Netanyahu will launch such an attack.  It would result in: the immediate closing of the Strait of Hormuz and thus cut off the flow of about 40% of the world’s oil; an immediate all-out Iranian missile assault on the Israeli cities with some missiles getting through and wreaking much destruction no matter how good the Israel/US “missile shield” is; unknown to most US citizens (including an unknown number of their political leaders, especially on the Right) anyway, Iran is very large country, “larger than Germany, France, Spain and Italy combined,” Mr. Avnery tells us; it would be a long war, something on the scale of the Vietnam War.  Further, very importantly (and the Israelis know this), given the very powerful Israeli nuclear force, what difference would it really make in world politics if Iran does get The Bomb (think India/Pakistan). 

This is an excellent list, known to many of the Israeli and US political and military staffs and leaders who are dealing with the situation.  Further, one could add to it, the cost of the inevitable massive civilian casualties, both to the people of Iran of course, but also to Israel, plus the further lowering of its already dismal reputation around the world and the inevitable further rise in international anti-Semitism. Of course, none of the elements of the list appears to be either known or understood by the Israeli Far FAR Right/AIPAC/GOP true political trumpeters of war in both the US and Israel, who really mean what they say, like for example in the U.S., Sens. Santorum and McCain: “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”

However, there are political reasons why Netanyahu has no intention of attacking Iran.  I think that for him they are the more important considerations for not doing so.  Domestically, a recent poll showed that 60% of Israelis disapprove of any pre-emptive strike on Iran.  Although he might not give a hoot about what would happen to oil prices from the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, he does know what would happen to Israel as the result of a counter-attack from Iran using their conventional missile weapons.  He also knows, counter to the Israeli published bravado on this one, that any attack in attempt to destroy Iran’s “nuclear weapons” facilities, given the size of the country and the depth of the burial of Iran’s nuclear facilities, whether for peaceful or military purposes, would be technically very difficult to carry out, with no guarantee of success.  Of course there surely would be no “knock-out” of an Iranian nuclear weapons program if, as many intelligence analysts sources, including US ones, state, there is none (2).

Rather, it appears that Netanyahu’s primary goal in trumpeting the “Iran/bomb-let’s-bomb” option is to use it to try to secure a GOP victory in the US in November.  Thus the painting of Obama as a wimp and blaggard (a scoundrel; an unprincipled, contemptible person; an untrustworthy person) on the matter, despite the fact that his postion in reality varies little from the published Isreali one: “we [the U.S.] will not let Iran get the bomb” (whether they want it or not).  Certainly, the AIPAC/GOP axis treats Obama that way. And why would Netanyahu want to do that, other than (apparently) really not liking Obama personally?  Because his goals of aggression have nothing to do with Iran and everything to do with the Palestinians and the Occupied Territories, known to the Israeli Right, their US far right-wing/Orthodox settler base in them, and their US Right-wing Christian supporters.  They all make policy based on Biblical text, which does, from several millennia ago, describe “The Land of Israel.”  What Netanyahu and his even-further-to-the-right allies really want to do is annex the West Bank and drive out the Palestinians.  And then they would ethnically cleanse Israel of its Arab citizens at the same time. If Obama wins re-election, it is highly unlikely that any of this would be possible, and in one way or another Netanyahu would be forced into real negotiations. This is something he absolutely does not want to do (3).  And so, the solution?  Get a Republican government elected, by feeding strongly into the standard GOP myth that Obama (?Muslim, ?Kenyan, definitely “black” [even though he is half white]) is “weak.”  Iran would not be bombed anyway.  Israel would certainly not have to negotiate with the Palestinians and might very well be allowed to proceed with its desired conquest, which certainly Israeli government officials have openly advocated (4).

North Carolina Youths Needed for Leadership Program in Iraq

February 2, 2012

Raleigh, North Carolina – This summer, from July 25 - August 19, 100 Iraqi
teens and adult participants will visit the United States under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The International Affairs Council (IAC) is host and administrator of the program in North Carolina and is working in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and World Learning on program planning and recruitment.

Two - four teenagers from the Triangle area have the opportunity to participate with Iraqi youth in the youth leadership program and join them throughout many city stops in the U.S. All expenses will be paid under the conditions of the grant.

In order to participate, Triangle area youth must be American citizens with
leadership skills and an interest in international affairs. Youth candidates must be between the ages of 16 and 18 years and will be selected based on interest in community service and ability to relate to people of other cultures.

An information flyer with application instructions is available on the IAC web site at www.iacnc.org and the IAC Facebook page: International Affairs Council. For more information and to ask questions, please call 919.838.9191.

The application deadline for the Iraqi Youth Leadership Exchange Program is
February 29, 2012.

About the International Affairs Council

The International Affairs Council (IAC) connects people, ideas and culture for the good of North Carolina communities and communities abroad. The council annually hosts a number of professional and youth exchange programs, culture events, speaker events, and educational programs. For more information, please visit www.iacnc.org
Planetary Update - Friday 18th November 2011

Planetary Update
Breaking News
Friday 18 November 2011

The Guardian
Aung San Suu Kyi party to register for Burmese elections
The US president, Barack Obama, said he saw "flickers of progress" in Burma and would dispatch Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, to explore new ties.  He said the recent release of political prisoners, the relaxing of media restrictions and signs of legislative change were "the most important steps toward reform in Burma that we've seen in years".  Obama, in Indonesia for the Association of South-East Asian Nations summit, said he had spoken to Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time and she had told him she supported more US engagement with Burma.

Huffington Post
Hillary Clinton To Visit Myanmar 
First Secretary Of State To Travel To Long-Shunned Nation In Over 50 Years

Jerusalem Post
Condoleezza Rice: Time for regime change in Tehran

Jerusalem Post
Leon Panetta: Strike on Iran could hurt world economy

U.S. Defense Secretary: Iran strike will hurt world economy
Panetta speaks on eve of talks with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Canada; says world should focus on diplomatic pressure, sanctions over Iran nuclear program.

Huffington Post
America's New Cold War With China by Tom Hayden

Jews won’t mind Romney’s Mormonism – but Christians might. 
'Baptism of the dead' controversy that plagued Jewish-Mormon relations was finally put to rest a year ago, just in time for Republican Mitt Romney to reap the rewards among Jewish voters.

Kissinger in Nixon-era document: Jews are self serving 'bastards'  
(Planetary observes:  Kissinger's colleagues back Romney as does K himself.)

Huffington Post
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Former Philippine President, Charged With Electoral Fraud

Jewish Telegraph Agency
Man with ‘Israel’ tattoo charged with attempting to assassinate Obama

The Guardian
Brazil census shows African-Brazilians in the majority for the first time
Preliminary results show 50.7% of Brazilians now define themselves as black or mixed race compared with 47.7% whites
Remarks by the President to the United Nations General Assembly
September 23, 2010
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THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, my fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen.  It is a great honor to address this Assembly for the second time, nearly two years after my election as President of the United States.

We know this is no ordinary time for our people.  Each of us comes here with our own problems and priorities.  But there are also challenges that we share in common as leaders and as nations.

We meet within an institution built from the rubble of war, designed to unite the world in pursuit of peace.  And we meet within a city that for centuries has welcomed people from across the globe, demonstrating that individuals of every color, faith and station can come together to pursue opportunity, build a community, and live with the blessing of human liberty.

Outside the doors of this hall, the blocks and neighborhoods of this great city tell the story of a difficult decade.  Nine years ago, the destruction of the World Trade Center signaled a threat that respected no boundary of dignity or decency.  Two years ago this month, a financial crisis on Wall Street devastated American families on Main Street.  These separate challenges have affected people around the globe.  Men and women and children have been murdered by extremists from Casablanca to London; from Jalalabad to Jakarta.  The global economy suffered an enormous blow during the financial crisis, crippling markets and deferring the dreams of millions on every continent.  Underneath these challenges to our security and prosperity lie deeper fears:  that ancient hatreds and religious divides are once again ascendant; that a world which has grown more interconnected has somehow slipped beyond our control.

These are some of the challenges that my administration has confronted since we came into office.  And today, I’d like to talk to you about what we’ve done over the last 20 months to meet these challenges; what our responsibility is to pursue peace in the Middle East; and what kind of world we are trying to build in this 21st century.

Let me begin with what we have done.  I have had no greater focus as President than rescuing our economy from potential catastrophe.  And in an age when prosperity is shared, we could not do this alone.  So America has joined with nations around the world to spur growth, and the renewed demand that could restart job creation.

We are reforming our system of global finance, beginning with Wall Street reform here at home, so that a crisis like this never happens again.  And we made the G20 the focal point for international coordination, because in a world where prosperity is more diffuse, we must broaden our circle of cooperation to include emerging economies -- economies from every corner of the globe.

There is much to show for our efforts, even as there is much work to be done.  The global economy has been pulled back from the brink of a depression, and is growing once more.  We have resisted protectionism, and are exploring ways to expand trade and commerce among nations.  But we cannot -- and will not -- rest until these seeds of progress grow into a broader prosperity, not only for all Americans, but for peoples around the globe.

As for our common security, America is waging a more effective fight against al Qaeda, while winding down the war in Iraq.  Since I took office, the United States has removed nearly 100,000 troops from Iraq.  We have done so responsibly, as Iraqis have transitioned to lead responsibility for the security of their country.

We are now focused on building a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while keeping our commitment to remove the rest of our troops by the end of next year.

While drawing down in Iraq, we have refocused on defeating al Qaeda and denying its affiliates a safe haven.  In Afghanistan, the United States and our allies are pursuing a strategy to break the Taliban’s momentum and build the capacity of Afghanistan’s government and security forces, so that a transition to Afghan responsibility can begin next July.  And from South Asia to the Horn of Africa, we are moving toward a more targeted approach -- one that strengthens our partners and dismantles terrorist networks without deploying large American armies.

As we pursue the world’s most dangerous extremists, we’re also denying them the world’s most dangerous weapons, and pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.

Earlier this year, 47 nations embraced a work-plan to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years.  We have joined with Russia to sign the most comprehensive arms control treaty in decades.  We have reduced the role of nuclear weapons in our security strategy.  And here, at the United Nations, we came together to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

As part of our effort on non-proliferation, I offered the Islamic Republic of Iran an extended hand last year, and underscored that it has both rights and responsibilities as a member of the international community.  I also said -- in this hall -- that Iran must be held accountable if it failed to meet those responsibilities.  And that is what we have done.

Iran is the only party to the NPT that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, and those actions have consequences.  Through U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, we made it clear that international law is not an empty promise.

Now let me be clear once more:  The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it.  But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.

As we combat the spread of deadly weapons, we’re also confronting the specter of climate change.  After making historic investments in clean energy and efficiency at home, we helped forge an accord in Copenhagen that -- for the first time -- commits all major economies to reduce their emissions.  We are keenly aware this is just a first step.  And going forward, we will support a process in which all major economies meet our responsibilities to protect the planet while unleashing the power of clean energy to serve as an engine of growth and development.

America has also embraced unique responsibilities with come -- that come with our power.  Since the rains came and the floodwaters rose in Pakistan, we have pledged our assistance, and we should all support the Pakistani people as they recover and rebuild.  And when the earth shook and Haiti was devastated by loss, we joined a coalition of nations in response.  Today, we honor those from the U.N. family who lost their lives in the earthquake, and commit ourselves to stand with the people of Haiti until they can stand on their own two feet.

Amidst this upheaval, we have also been persistent in our pursuit of peace.  Last year, I pledged my best efforts to support the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, as part of a comprehensive peace between Israel and all of its neighbors.  We have travelled a winding road over the last 12 months, with few peaks and many valleys.  But this month, I am pleased that we have pursued direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in Washington, Sharm el Sheikh and Jerusalem.

Now I recognize many are pessimistic about this process.  The cynics say that Israelis and Palestinians are too distrustful of each other, and too divided internally, to forge lasting peace.  Rejectionists on both sides will try to disrupt the process, with bitter words and with bombs and with gunfire.  Some say that the gaps between the parties are too big; the potential for talks to break down is too great; and that after decades of failure, peace is simply not possible.

I hear those voices of skepticism.  But I ask you to consider the alternative.  If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state.  Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to coexistence.  The hard realities of demography will take hold.  More blood will be shed.  This Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity.

I refuse to accept that future.  And we all have a choice to make.  Each of us must choose the path of peace.  Of course, that responsibility begins with the parties themselves, who must answer the call of history.  Earlier this month at the White House, I was struck by the words of both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.  Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “I came here today to find a historic compromise that will enable both people to live in peace, security, and dignity.”  And President Abbas said, “We will spare no effort and we will work diligently and tirelessly to ensure these negotiations achieve their cause.”

These words must now be followed by action and I believe that both leaders have the courage to do so.  But the road that they have to travel is exceedingly difficult, which is why I call upon Israelis and Palestinians -- and the world -- to rally behind the goal that these leaders now share.  We know that there will be tests along the way and that one test is fast approaching.  Israel’s settlement moratorium has made a difference on the ground and improved the atmosphere for talks.

And our position on this issue is well known.  We believe that the moratorium should be extended.  We also believe that talks should press on until completed.  Now is the time for the parties to help each other overcome this obstacle.  Now is the time to build the trust -- and provide the time -- for substantial progress to be made.  Now is the time for this opportunity to be seized, so that it does not slip away.

Now, peace must be made by Israelis and Palestinians, but each of us has a responsibility to do our part as well.  Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine -- one that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity.  And those of us who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that the rights of the Palestinian people will be won only through peaceful means -- including genuine reconciliation with a secure Israel.

I know many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians.  But these pledges of friendship must now be supported by deeds.  Those who have signed on to the Arab Peace Initiative should seize this opportunity to make it real by taking tangible steps towards the normalization that it promises Israel.

And those who speak on behalf of Palestinian self-government should help the Palestinian Authority politically and financially, and in doing so help the Palestinians build the institutions of their state.

Those who long to see an independent Palestine must also stop trying to tear down Israel.  After thousands of years, Jews and Arabs are not strangers in a strange land.  After 60 years in the community of nations, Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate.

Israel is a sovereign state, and the historic homeland of the Jewish people.  It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.  And efforts to threaten or kill Israelis will do nothing to help the Palestinian people.  The slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance -- it’s injustice.  And make no mistake:  The courage of a man like President Abbas, who stands up for his people in front of the world under very difficult circumstances, is far greater than those who fire rockets at innocent women and children.

The conflict between Israelis and Arabs is as old as this institution.  And we can come back here next year, as we have for the last 60 years, and make long speeches about it.  We can read familiar lists of grievances.  We can table the same resolutions.  We can further empower the forces of rejectionism and hate.  And we can waste more time by carrying forward an argument that will not help a single Israeli or Palestinian child achieve a better life.  We can do that.

Or, we can say that this time will be different -- that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way.  This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire.

This time, we should draw upon the teachings of tolerance that lie at the heart of three great religions that see Jerusalem’s soil as sacred.  This time we should reach for what’s best within ourselves.  If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations -- an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.  (Applause.)

It is our destiny to bear the burdens of the challenges that I’ve addressed -- recession and war and conflict.  And there is always a sense of urgency -- even emergency -- that drives most of our foreign policies.  Indeed, after millennia marked by wars, this very institution reflects the desire of human beings to create a forum to deal with emergencies that will inevitably come.

But even as we confront immediate challenges, we must also summon the foresight to look beyond them, and consider what we are trying to build over the long term?  What is the world that awaits us when today’s battles are brought to an end?  And that is what I would like to talk about with the remainder of my time today.

One of the first actions of this General Assembly was to adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. That Declaration begins by stating that, “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”

The idea is a simple one -- that freedom, justice and peace for the world must begin with freedom, justice, and peace in the lives of individual human beings.  And for the United States, this is a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity.  As Robert Kennedy said, “the individual man, the child of God, is the touchstone of value, and all society, groups, the state, exist for his benefit.”  So we stand up for universal values because it’s the right thing to do.  But we also know from experience that those who defend these values for their people have been our closest friends and allies, while those who have denied those rights -- whether terrorist groups or tyrannical governments -- have chosen to be our adversaries.

Human rights have never gone unchallenged -- not in any of our nations, and not in our world.  Tyranny is still with us -- whether it manifests itself in the Taliban killing girls who try to go to school, a North Korean regime that enslaves its own people, or an armed group in Congo-Kinshasa that use rape as a weapon of war.

In times of economic unease, there can also be an anxiety about human rights.  Today, as in past times of economic downturn, some put human rights aside for the promise of short term stability or the false notion that economic growth can come at the expense of freedom.  We see leaders abolishing term limits.  We see crackdowns on civil society.  We see corruption smothering entrepreneurship and good governance.  We see democratic reforms deferred indefinitely.

As I said last year, each country will pursue a path rooted in the culture of its own people.  Yet experience shows us that history is on the side of liberty; that the strongest foundation for human progress lies in open economies, open societies, and open governments.  To put it simply, democracy, more than any other form of government, delivers for our citizens.  And I believe that truth will only grow stronger in a world where the borders between nations are blurred.

America is working to shape a world that fosters this openness, for the rot of a closed or corrupt economy must never eclipse the energy and innovation of human beings.  All of us want the right to educate our children, to make a decent wage, to care for the sick, and to be carried as far as our dreams and our deeds will take us.  But that depends upon economies that tap the power of our people, including the potential of women and girls.  That means letting entrepreneurs start a business without paying a bribe and governments that support opportunity instead of stealing from their people.  And that means rewarding hard work, instead of reckless risk-taking.

Yesterday, I put forward a new development policy that will pursue these goals, recognizing that dignity is a human right and global development is in our common interest.  America will partner with nations that offer their people a path out of poverty.  And together, we must unleash growth that powers by individuals and emerging markets in all parts of the globe.

There is no reason why Africa should not be an exporter of agriculture, which is why our food security initiative is empowering farmers.  There is no reason why entrepreneurs shouldn’t be able to build new markets in every society, which is why I hosted a summit on entrepreneurship earlier this spring, because the obligation of government is to empower individuals, not to impede them.

The same holds true for civil society.  The arc of human progress has been shaped by individuals with the freedom to assemble and by organizations outside of government that insisted upon democratic change and by free media that held the powerful accountable.  We have seen that from the South Africans who stood up to apartheid, to the Poles of Solidarity, to the mothers of the disappeared who spoke out against the Dirty War, to Americans who marched for the rights of all races, including my own.

Civil society is the conscience of our communities and America will always extend our engagement abroad with citizens beyond the halls of government.  And we will call out those who suppress ideas and serve as a voice for those who are voiceless.  We will promote new tools of communication so people are empowered to connect with one another and, in repressive societies, to do so with security.  We will support a free and open Internet, so individuals have the information to make up their own minds.  And it is time to embrace and effectively monitor norms that advance the rights of civil society and guarantee its expansion within and across borders.

Open society supports open government, but it cannot substitute for it.  There is no right more fundamental than the ability to choose your leaders and determine your destiny.  Now, make no mistake:  The ultimate success of democracy in the world won’t come because the United States dictates it; it will come because individual citizens demand a say in how they are governed.

There is no soil where this notion cannot take root, just as every democracy reflects the uniqueness of a nation.  Later this fall, I will travel to Asia.  And I will visit India, which peacefully threw off colonialism and established a thriving democracy of over a billion people.

I’ll continue to Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, which binds together thousands of islands through the glue of representative government and civil society.  I’ll join the G20 meeting on the Korean Peninsula, which provides the world’s clearest contrast between a society that is dynamic and open and free, and one that is imprisoned and closed.  And I will conclude my trip in Japan, an ancient culture that found peace and extraordinary development through democracy.

Each of these countries gives life to democratic principles in their own way.  And even as some governments roll back reform, we also celebrate the courage of a President in Colombia who willingly stepped aside, or the promise of a new constitution in Kenya.

The common thread of progress is the principle that government is accountable to its citizens.  And the diversity in this room makes clear -- no one country has all the answers, but all of us must answer to our own people.

In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable.  And now, we must build on that progress.  And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries, while living up to the ideals that can light the world.

This institution can still play an indispensable role in the advance of human rights.  It’s time to welcome the efforts of U.N. Women to protect the rights of women around the globe.  (Applause.)

It’s time for every member state to open its elections to international monitors and increase the U.N. Democracy Fund.  It’s time to reinvigorate U.N. peacekeeping, so that missions have the resources necessary to succeed, and so atrocities like sexual violence are prevented and justice is enforced -- because neither dignity nor democracy can thrive without basic security.

And it’s time to make this institution more accountable as well, because the challenges of a new century demand new ways of serving our common interests.

The world that America seeks is not one we can build on our own.  For human rights to reach those who suffer the boot of oppression, we need your voices to speak out.  In particular, I appeal to those nations who emerged from tyranny and inspired the world in the second half of the last century -- from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to South America.  Don’t stand idly by, don’t be silent, when dissidents elsewhere are imprisoned and protesters are beaten.  Recall your own history.  Because part of the price of our own freedom is standing up for the freedom of others.
September 23, 2010
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That belief will guide America’s leadership in this 21st century.  It is a belief that has seen us through more than two centuries of trial, and it will see us through the challenges we face today -- be it war or recession; conflict or division.

So even as we have come through a difficult decade, I stand here before you confident in the future -- a future where Iraq is governed by neither tyrant nor a foreign power, and Afghanistan is freed from the turmoil of war; a future where the children of Israel and Palestine can build the peace that was not possible for their parents; a world where the promise of development reaches into the prisons of poverty and disease; a future where the cloud of recession gives way to the light of renewal and the dream of opportunity is available to all.

This future will not be easy to reach.  It will not come without setbacks, nor will it be quickly claimed.  But the founding of the United Nations itself is a testament to human progress.  Remember, in times that were far more trying than our own, our predecessors chose the hope of unity over the ease of division and made a promise to future generations that the dignity and equality of human beings would be our common cause.
It falls to us to fulfill that promise.  And though we will be met by dark forces that will test our resolve, Americans have always had cause to believe that we can choose a better history; that we need only to look outside the walls around us.  For through the citizens of every conceivable ancestry who make this city their own, we see living proof that opportunity can be accessed by all, that what unites us as human beings is far greater than what divides us, and that people from every part of this world can live together in peace.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)


Obama at West Point Graduation
May 23, 2010

Delivering the commencement address to the graduating class at West Point, President Obama abandoned the Bush Era policy of unilateralism as part of a broader project to reshape US foreign policy and renew American diplomacy during a challenging period of global change.   The President underscored the US withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq this summer.  In a rebuke to bigoted anti-Muslim extremists who are eagerly pressing for broader wars against Muslims in the Middle East, the President pointed out that Muslims are integral to American culture including members of the graduating class at West Point.

obamawestpointThe President:  It is wonderful to be back at the United States Military Academy -- the oldest continuously occupied military post in America -- as we commission the newest officers in the United States Army.

Thank you, General Hagenbeck, for your introduction, on a day that holds special meaning for you and the Dean, General Finnegan. Both of you first came to West Point in the Class of 1971 and went on to inspire soldiers under your command. You've led this Academy to a well-deserved recognition: best college in America. (Applause.) And today, you're both looking forward to a well-deserved retirement from the Army. General Hagenbeck and Judy, General Finnegan and Joan, we thank you for 39 years of remarkable service to the Army and to America. (Applause.)

To the Commandant, General Rapp, the Academy staff and faculty, most of whom are veterans, thank you for your service and for inspiring these cadets to become the "leaders of character" they are today. (Applause.) Let me also acknowledge the presence of General Shinseki, Secretary McHugh, the members of Congress who are with us here today, including two former soldiers this Academy knows well, Senator Jack Reed and Congressman Patrick Murphy. (Applause.)

To all the families here -- especially all the moms and dads -- this day is a tribute to you as well. The decision to come to West Point was made by your sons and daughters, but it was you who instilled in them a spirit of service that has led them to this hallowed place in a time of war. So on behalf of the American people, thank you for your example and thank you for your patriotism. (Applause.)

To the United States Corps of Cadets, and most of all, the Class of 2010 -- it is a singular honor to serve as your Commander-in-Chief. As your Superintendent indicated, under our constitutional system my power as President is wisely limited. But there are some areas where my power is absolute. And so, as your Commander-in-Chief, I hereby absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses. (Applause.) I will leave the definition of "minor" -- (laughter) -- to those who know better. (Laughter.)

Class of 2010, today is your day -- a day to celebrate all that you've achieved, in the finest tradition of the soldier-scholar, and to look forward to the important service that lies ahead.

You have pushed yourself through the agony of Beast Barracks, the weeks of training in rain and mud, and, I'm told, more inspections and drills than perhaps any class before you. Along the way, I'm sure you faced a few moments when you asked yourself: "What am I doing here?" I have those moments sometimes. (Laughter.)

You've trained for the complexities of today's missions, knowing that success will be measured not merely by performance on the battlefield, but also by your understanding of the cultures and traditions and languages in the place where you serve.

You've reached out across borders, with more international experience than any class in Academy history. You've not only attended foreign academies to forge new friendships, you've welcomed into your ranks cadets from nearly a dozen countries.

You've challenged yourself intellectually in the sciences and the humanities, in history and technology. You've achieved a standard of academic excellence that is without question, tying the record for the most post-graduate scholarships of any class in West Point history. (Applause.)

obamawestpointThis includes your number one overall cadet and your valedictorian -- Liz Betterbed and Alex Rosenberg. And by the way, this is the first time in Academy history where your two top awards have been earned by female candidates. (Applause.)

This underscores a fact that I've seen in the faces of our troops from Baghdad to Bagram -- in the 21st century, our women in uniform play an indispensable role in our national defense. And time and again, they have proven themselves to be role models for our daughters and our sons -- as students and as soldiers and as leaders in the United States armed forces.

And the faces in this stadium show a simple truth: America's Army represents the full breadth of America's experience. You come from every corner of our country -- from privilege and from poverty, from cities and small towns. You worship all of the great religions that enrich the life of our people. You include the vast diversity of race and ethnicity that is fundamental to our nation's strength.

There is, however, one thing that sets you apart. Here in these quiet hills, you've come together to prepare for the most difficult test of our time. You signed up knowing your service would send you into harm's way, and you did so long after the first drums of war were sounded. In you we see the commitment of our country, and timeless virtues that have served our nation well.

We see your sense of duty -- including those who have earned their right shoulder patch -- their right shoulder combat patches, like the soldier who suffered a grenade wound in Iraq, yet still helped his fellow soldiers to evacuate -- your First Captain of the Corps of Cadets, Tyler Gordy. (Applause.)

We see your sense of honor -- in your respect for tradition, knowing that you join a Long Grey Line that stretches through the centuries; and in your reverence for each other, as when the Corps stands in silence every time a former cadet makes the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. Indeed, today we honor the 78 graduates of this Academy who have given their lives for our freedom and our security in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And we see your love of country -- a devotion to America captured in the motto you chose as a class, a motto which will guide your lives of service: "Loyal 'Til the End."

obamacadetsDuty. Honor. Love of country. Everything you have learned here, all that you've achieved here, has prepared you for today -- when you raise your right hand; when you take that oath; when your loved one or mentor pins those gold bars on your shoulders; when you become, at long last, commissioned officers in the United States Army.

This is the ninth consecutive commencement that has taken place at West Point with our nation at war. This time of war began in Afghanistan -- a place that may seem as far away from this peaceful bend in the Hudson River as anywhere on Earth. The war began only because our own cities and civilians were attacked by violent extremists who plotted from a distant place, and it continues only because that plotting persists to this day.

For many years, our focus was on Iraq. And year after year, our troops faced a set of challenges there that were as daunting as they were complex. A lesser Army might have seen its spirit broken. But the American military is more resilient than that. Our troops adapted, they persisted, they partnered with coalition and Iraqi counterparts, and through their competence and creativity and courage, we are poised to end our combat mission in Iraq this summer. (Applause.)

Even as we transition to an Iraqi lead and bring our troops home, our commitment to the Iraqi people endures. We will continue to advise and assist Iraqi security forces, who are already responsible for security in most of the country. And a strong American civilian presence will help Iraqis forge political and economic progress. This will not be a simple task, but this is what success looks like: an Iraq that provides no haven to terrorists; a democratic Iraq that is sovereign and stable and self-reliant.

And as we end the war in Iraq, though, we are pressing forward in Afghanistan. Six months ago, I came to West Point to announce a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. And I stand here humbled by the knowledge that many of you will soon be serving in harm's way. I assure you, you will go with the full support of a proud and grateful nation.

We face a tough fight in Afghanistan. Any insurgency that is confronted with a direct challenge will turn to new tactics. And from Marja to Kandahar, that is what the Taliban has done through assassination and indiscriminate killing and intimidation. Moreover, any country that has known decades of war will be tested in finding political solutions to its problems, and providing governance that can sustain progress and serve the needs of its people.

So this war has changed over the last nine years, but it's no less important than it was in those days after 9/11. We toppled the Taliban regime -- now we must break the momentum of a Taliban insurgency and train Afghan security forces. We have supported the election of a sovereign government -- now we must strengthen its capacities. We've brought hope to the Afghan people -- now we must see that their country does not fall prey to our common enemies. Cadets, there will be difficult days ahead. We will adapt, we will persist, and I have no doubt that together with our Afghan and international partners, we will succeed in Afghanistan. (Applause.)

Now even as we fight the wars in front of us, we also have to see the horizon beyond these wars -- because unlike a terrorist whose goal is to destroy, our future will be defined by what we build. We have to see that horizon, and to get there we must pursue a strategy of national renewal and global leadership. We have to build the sources of America's strength and influence, and shape a world that's more peaceful and more prosperous.

obamacadetsTime and again, Americans have risen to meet and to shape moments of change. This is one of those moments -- an era of economic transformation and individual empowerment; of ancient hatreds and new dangers; of emerging powers and new global challenges. And we're going to need all of you to help meet these challenges. You've answered the call. You, and all who wear America's uniform, remain the cornerstone of our national defense, the anchor of global security. And through a period when too many of our institutions have acted irresponsibly, the American military has set a standard of service and sacrifice that is as great as any in this nation's history. (Applause.)

Now the rest of us -- the rest of us must do our part. And to do so, we must first recognize that our strength and influence abroad begins with steps we take at home. We must educate our children to compete in an age where knowledge is capital, and the marketplace is global. We must develop clean energy that can power new industry and unbound us from foreign oil and preserve our planet. We have to pursue science and research that unlocks wonders as unforeseen to us today as the microchip and the surface of the moon were a century ago.

Simply put, American innovation must be the foundation of American power -- because at no time in human history has a nation of diminished economic vitality maintained its military and political primacy. And so that means that the civilians among us, as parents and community leaders, elected officials, business leaders, we have a role to play. We cannot leave it to those in uniform to defend this country -- we have to make sure that America is building on its strengths. (Applause.)

As we build these economic sources of our strength, the second thing we must do is build and integrate the capabilities that can advance our interests, and the common interests of human beings around the world. America's armed forces are adapting to changing times, but your efforts have to be complemented. We will need the renewed engagement of our diplomats, from grand capitals to dangerous outposts. We need development experts who can support Afghan agriculture and help Africans build the capacity to feed themselves. We need intelligence agencies that work seamlessly with their counterparts to unravel plots that run from the mountains of Pakistan to the streets of our cities. We need law enforcement that can strengthen judicial systems abroad, and protect us here at home. And we need first responders who can act swiftly in the event of earthquakes and storms and disease.

The burdens of this century cannot fall on our soldiers alone. It also cannot fall on American shoulders alone. Our adversaries would like to see America sap its strength by overextending our power. And in the past, we've always had the foresight to avoid acting alone. We were part of the most powerful wartime coalition in human history through World War II. We stitched together a community of free nations and institutions to endure and ultimately prevail during a Cold War.

Yes, we are clear-eyed about the shortfalls of our international system. But America has not succeeded by stepping out of the currents of cooperation -- we have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice, so nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities and face consequences when they don't.

So we have to shape an international order that can meet the challenges of our generation. We will be steadfast in strengthening those old alliances that have served us so well, including those who will serve by your side in Afghanistan and around the globe. As influence extends to more countries and capitals, we also have to build new partnerships, and shape stronger international standards and institutions.

obamacadetsThis engagement is not an end in itself. The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times -- countering violent extremism and insurgency; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials; combating a changing climate and sustaining global growth; helping countries feed themselves and care for their sick; preventing conflict and healing wounds. If we are successful in these tasks, that will lessen conflicts around the world. It will be supportive of our efforts by our military to secure our country.

More than anything else, though, our success will be claimed by who we are as a country. This is more important than ever, given the nature of the challenges that we face. Our campaign to disrupt, dismantle, and to defeat al Qaeda is part of an international effort that is necessary and just.

But this is a different kind of war. There will be no simple moment of surrender to mark the journey's end -- no armistice, no banner headline. Though we have had more success in eliminating al Qaeda leaders in recent months than in recent years, they will continue to recruit, and plot, and exploit our open society. We see that in bombs that go off in Kabul and Karachi. We see it in attempts to blow up an airliner over Detroit or an SUV in Times Square, even as these failed attacks show that pressure on networks like al Qaeda is forcing them to rely on terrorists with less time and space to train. We see the potential duration of this struggle in al Qaeda's gross distortions of Islam, their disrespect for human life, and their attempt to prey upon fear and hatred and prejudice.

So the threat will not go away soon, but let's be clear: Al Qaeda and its affiliates are small men on the wrong side of history. They lead no nation. They lead no religion. We need not give in to fear every time a terrorist tries to scare us. We should not discard our freedoms because extremists try to exploit them. We cannot succumb to division because others try to drive us apart. We are the United States of America. (Applause.) We are the United States of America, and we have repaired our union, and faced down fascism, and outlasted communism. We've gone through turmoil, we've gone through Civil War, and we have come out stronger -- and we will do so once more. (Applause.)

obamacadetsAnd I know this to be true because I see the strength and resilience of the American people. Terrorists want to scare us. New Yorkers just go about their lives unafraid. (Applause.) Extremists want a war between America and Islam, but Muslims are part of our national life, including those who serve in our United States Army. (Applause.) Adversaries want to divide us, but we are united by our support for you -- soldiers who send a clear message that this country is both the land of the free and the home of the brave. (Applause.)

You know, in an age of instant access to information, a lot of cynicism in the news, it's easy to lose perspective in a flood of pictures and the swirl of political debate. Power and influence can seem to ebb and flow. Wars and grand plans can be deemed won or lost day to day, even hour to hour. As we experience the immediacy of the image of a suffering child or the boasts of a prideful dictator, it's easy to give in to the belief sometimes that human progress has stalled -- that events are beyond our control, that change is not possible.

But this nation was founded upon a different notion. We believe, "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." (Applause.) And that truth has bound us together, a nation populated by people from around the globe, enduring hardship and achieving greatness as one people. And that belief is as true today as it was 200 years ago. It is a belief that has been claimed by people of every race and religion in every region of the world. Can anybody doubt that this belief will be any less true -- any less powerful -- two years, two decades, or even two centuries from now?

And so a fundamental part of our strategy for our security has to be America's support for those universal rights that formed the creed of our founding. And we will promote these values above all by living them -- through our fidelity to the rule of law and our Constitution, even when it's hard; even when we're being attacked; even when we're in the midst of war.

And we will commit ourselves to forever pursuing a more perfect union. Together with our friends and allies, America will always seek a world that extends these rights so that when an individual is being silenced, we aim to be her voice. Where ideas are suppressed, we provide space for open debate. Where democratic institutions take hold, we add a wind at their back. When humanitarian disaster strikes, we extend a hand. Where human dignity is denied, America opposes poverty and is a source of opportunity. That is who we are. That is what we do.

We do so with no illusions. We understand change doesn't come quick. We understand that neither America nor any nation can dictate every outcome beyond its borders. We know that a world of mortal men and women will never be rid of oppression or evil. What we can do, what we must do, is work and reach and fight for the world that we seek -- all of us, those in uniform and those who are not.

And in preparing for today, I turned to the world -- to the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes. And reflecting on his Civil War experience, he said, and I quote, "To fight out a war you must believe in something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching." Holmes went on, "More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhaps a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out."

America does not fight for the sake of fighting. We abhor war. As one who has never experienced the field of battle -- and I say that with humility, knowing, as General MacArthur said, "the soldier above all others prays for peace" -- we fight because we must. We fight to keep our families and communities safe. We fight for the security of our allies and partners, because America believes that we will be safer when our friends are safer; that we will be stronger when the world is more just.

So cadets, a long and hard road awaits you. You go abroad because your service is fundamental to our security back home. You go abroad as representatives of the values that this country was founded upon. And when you inevitably face setbacks -- when the fighting is fierce or a village elder is fearful; when the end that you are seeking seems uncertain -- think back to West Point.

Here, in this peaceful part of the world, you have drilled and you have studied and come of age in the footsteps of great men and women -- Americans who faced times of trial, and who even in victory could not have foreseen the America they helped to build, the world they helped to shape.

George Washington was able to free a band of patriots from the rule of an empire, but he could not have foreseen his country growing to include 50 states connecting two oceans.

Grant was able to save a union and see the slaves freed, but he could not have foreseen just how much his country would extend full rights and opportunities to citizens of every color.

Eisenhower was able to see Germany surrender and a former enemy grow into an ally, but he could not have foreseen the Berlin Wall coming down without a shot being fired.

Today it is your generation that has borne a heavy burden -- soldiers, graduates of this Academy like John Meyer and Greg Ambrosia who have braved enemy fire, protected their units, carried out their missions, earned the commendation of this Army, and of a grateful nation.

obamacadetsFrom the birth of our existence, America has had a faith in the future -- a belief that where we're going is better than where we've been, even when the path ahead is uncertain. To fulfill that promise, generations of Americans have built upon the foundation of our forefathers -- finding opportunity, fighting injustice, forging a more perfect union. Our achievement would not be possible without the Long Grey Line that has sacrificed for duty, for honor, for country. (Applause.)

And years from now when you return here, when for you the shadows have grown longer, I have no doubt that you will have added your name to the book of history. I have no doubt that we will have prevailed in the struggles of our times. I have no doubt that your legacy will be an America that has emerged stronger, and a world that is more just, because we are Americans, and our destiny is never written for us, it is written by us, and we are ready to lead once more.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

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