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The Human Consciousness Now...Our World in the Midst of Becoming...to What? Observe, contemplate Now.

By Andrew Firmin
Credit: Kabir Dhanji/AFPvia Getty Images

LONDON, Jul 23 2024 (IPS) - Kenya’s President William Ruto has withdrawn the tax-increasing Finance Bill that sparked mass protests. He has sacked his cabinet and the head of the police has resigned. But the anger many feel hasn’t gone away, and protests continue.

The protests have brought Kenya’s Gen Z onto the political stage, with young people – over 65 per cent of the population – at the forefront. Since the protests began, they’ve made full use of social media to share views, explain the impact of proposed changes, organise protests and raise funds to help those injured or arrested.

These protests have been different to those in the past, much more organic than previous opposition-organised demonstrations. The movement has brought people together across the ethnic lines politicians have so often exploited in the past.

People have protested even in the knowledge that security force violence is guaranteed. At least 50 people have died so far. As protests have continued, people have increasingly demanded accountability for the killings and the many other acts of state violence.

Out-of-touch elite

The Finance Bill would have imposed a levy on a range of everyday essentials such as bread, and taxes on internet use, mobile phones and money transfer services. Women would have been further hit by an increase in tax on menstrual products. For many, this was simply too much to bear in a context of high youth unemployment and rising costs.

The tax increases were among conditions demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in return for a US$3.9 billion package, along with the IMF’s usual prescription of spending cuts and privatisation that generally hit the poorest people hardest.

Ruto has continued to blame his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta, for lavish spending on grand projects. But Ruto was Kenyatta’s vice president, and only broke with his long-time ally after he wasn’t chosen as his party’s next presidential candidate.

To protesters, Ruto is as out of touch as the presidents before him. Opponents accuse him of trying to boost his presence on the world stage, including by offering to have Kenya lead an international policing mission to violence-torn Haiti, rather than addressing domestic problems. They see him as too willing to meet the demands of US-dominated financial institutions such as the IMF rather than stand up for Kenyans.

Problems such as corruption and patronage have run through multiple governments. Politicians are accused of enjoying lavish lifestyles insulated from people’s everyday problems. Kenya’s members of parliament are proportionally the second-highest paid in the world, earning 76 times average per capita GDP. Even so, corruption allegations are rife.

Ruto’s administration attempted to create another layer of government jobs a court ruled the move unconstitutional. He created new staffed offices for the first lady, deputy first lady and prime ministerial spouse, a decision dropped due to the protests. The proposed budget was filled with such examples of the government planning to spend more on itself.

Broken promises and state violence

For many, the sense of betrayal is heightened because when Ruto won an unexpected and narrow election victory in 2022, it was on a platform of being the champion of struggling people, promising to tackle the high cost of living. But costs kept increasing, and Ruto quickly reneged on promises to stop electricity price rises. He axed subsidies on energy, fuel and maize flour. The government’s 2023 Finance Act included a raft of new taxes and levies.

These measures sparked opposition-organised protests, and the reaction was state violence that left six people dead. The pattern is consistent. Kenyan security forces seem to know no response to protest other than violence.

On 25 June, the worst day of violence in the 2024 protests, security forces fired live ammunition at protesters, killing several, including some reportedly targeted by police snipers perched atop buildings. They’ve also used rubber bullets, teargas and water cannon, including against media and medical personnel. Protest leaders and social media influencers have been targeted for abduction and arrest.

🇰🇪We call for the immediate release of peaceful #protesters violently repressed and unlawfully detained for opposing a controversial #FinanceBill. The Kenyan authorities must uphold citizens’ right to peaceful assembly guaranteed by the national constitution. #Kenyaprotests pic.twitter.com/pPW1m7P1Xc

— CIVICUS (@CIVICUSalliance) June 21, 2024

On 25 June, some protesters briefly attempted to storm parliament and started fires, but there have been accusations that politicians have paid people to infiltrate the protest movement and instigate acts of violence to try to justify security force brutality. Media providing live coverage of protests have reported receiving threats from the authorities telling them to shut down and internet access has been disrupted. Influencers have had their accounts suspended.

Although Ruto eventually pledged to take action where there is video evidence of police violence, he’s also been criticised for saying little about protest deaths and previously praised police actions. He accused ‘organised criminals’ of hijacking the protests and called the attempt to storm parliament ‘treasonous’.

Politicians have repeatedly smeared civil society organisations, claiming they’re being used by foreign powers to fund protests. Ruto, without any evidence, has accused the US-based Ford Foundation of helping finance unrest.

Demands for change

Over a month on, protests demanding Ruto’s resignation continue. It’s not just about the economy, and it’s not just about Ruto. It’s about the rejection of a whole political class and its way of governing. Trust in the institutions of government is very low.

Dialogue has been promised, but many feel it will be superficial. The government’s response to the protests should be to listen and consult deeply – and then change. People have shown they have power. They’ve shown that a system where they elect a political elite every few years to make decisions for them isn’t enough. They’ve shown they want something better.

Andrew Firmin is CIVICUS Editor-in-Chief, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.

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The Stream
Earth Rise
By Daryl G. Kimball
Protestors air their views on non-proliferation opposite UN Headquarters in New York. Credit: ICAN/Seth Shelden
Amid geopolitical divides, arms competition, increasingly dangerous new technologies and an elevated nuclear risk, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted his concern that the UN Conference on Disarmament is consistently failing to deliver. February 2024

WASHINGTON DC, Jul 23 2024 (IPS) - Today, we are facing a growing and unprecedented array of nuclear weapons dangers. At the same time, this year’s presidential election is also unprecedented, unpredictable, and extremely consequential.

History shows that U.S. presidential leadership is one of the most important factors determining whether the nuclear danger will rise or fall. Perhaps the most fundamental responsibility of a U.S. president, who has the sole authority to order the use of nuclear weapons, is to avoid events that could lead to a nuclear war.

Unfortunately, mainstream campaign news coverage has paid scant attention to how the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, and the Democratic Party nominee plan to address one of, if not the, most serious threats to U.S. and international security. That needs to change.

Given what is at stake, the candidates’ approaches to the nuclear weapons threat deserve more scrutiny.

The Arms Control Association (ACA) and Arms Control Today will, in our capacity as a nonpartisan public education organization, be working hard to highlight the nuclear weapons challenges that U.S. presidential and congressional candidates must responsibly address.

American voters are increasingly aware and, according to recent polling, deeply concerned about nuclear weapons dangers. A 2024 national opinion survey found that a majority of Americans believe that nuclear weapons make the world more dangerous. Overall, just 13 percent think nuclear weapons are making the world a safer place, while 63 percent think the opposite, and 14 percent say neither.

Another challenge: unless the next U.S. president can productively engage Russia and China on nuclear risk reduction and arms control measures, we could see all three states engaging in an unconstrained and very dangerous nuclear arms race.

Ominously, some congressional leaders and members of the nuclear weapons establishment are already proposing a major buildup of deployed U.S. nuclear forces for the first time in more than three decades.

The Heritage Foundation, in its now infamous Project 2025 report, calls for ramping up the U.S. nuclear modernization program by adding more nuclear warheads to missiles, fielding more nuclear-capable bombers, and deploying nuclear-armed cruise missiles at sea.

As I wrote in the lead article of the July/August issue of Arms Control Today, such an expansion would be unnecessary, counterproductive, and prohibitively expensive. More nuclear weapons will not enhance deterrence capabilities or improve U.S. security. Nuclear arms control offers the most effective, durable, and responsible path to reduce the number, role, and risks of nuclear weapons.

Another public opinion survey conducted by the polling company IPSOS in the fall of 2023 shows that the next president would have strong U.S. popular support for nuclear arms control efforts with Russia and China. The poll indicated that 86% of respondents support nuclear arms control with Russia, with only 14% opposed; it also showed 88% support arms control with China, with only 12% opposed.

Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association, Washington DC

Source: Arms Control Today

By Alice Slater
Russia vetoed a draft resolution in March 2024 to renew the mandate of the Security Council's 1718 Committee panel of experts monitoring sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

NEW YORK, Jul 22 2024 (IPS) - On the heels of a new alliance announced this summer by Russia and North Korea for a pact pledging mutual defense, with the support of China, it is now shockingly being suggested in South Korea that it review its security policy with the US and end its reliance on the US guarantee, to employ on South Koreas’ behalf, US nuclear weapons as part of its “nuclear umbrella”.

The “umbrella” is offered to all NATO states as well as the Pacific states of Japan, Australia, and South Korea. Such questioning is evidence of the growing havoc faced in the world by the failure of the United States to make good on its legal obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for good faith efforts for nuclear disarmament.

The nuclear umbrella, to the extent that it includes the stationing of nuclear weapons in five NATO states (Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey) is in itself an illegal violation of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty in which five nuclear weapons states, the US, Russia, UK, France, and China, promised to make “good faith efforts” for nuclear disarmament while all the other countries of the world agreed not to get nuclear weapons.

Everyone, including South Korea signed the NPT except for Israel, Pakistan and India who developed their own nuclear arsenals. The NPT had a Faustian bargain that if a country promised not to get nuclear weapons, they would have an “inalienable right” to so-called “peaceful” nuclear power.

Since every “peaceful” nuclear power plant produced the material needed to make nuclear weapons the NPT gives those nations the keys to the bomb factory, North Korea walked out of the NPT and used its nuclear power to produce a nuclear arsenal. Iran has been enriching its nuclear materials but has not yet made a bomb.

The fact that Russia is allying with North Korea and China at this time is a result of the failure of US diplomacy and the drive by the US military-industrial-congressional-media-academic-think tank complex (MICIMATT) to expand the US empire beyond its 800 US military bases in 87 nations.

The US is now surrounding China with new bases recently established in the Pacific and forming AUKUS, a new military alliance with Australia, the UK and the US. The US has been breaking its agreement made with China in 1972 as we now are arming Taiwan despite promises made by Nixon and Kissinger to recognize China and remain neutral on the question of the future of Taiwan, to where the anti-communist forces retreated after the Chinese Revolution.

The US, after the end of the Cold War in 1989 with Russia walked out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 1992 and put missile bases in Poland and Romania, walked out of the 1987 Intermediate Missile Forces Treaty negotiated by Reagan and Gorbachev in 1972, expanded NATO up to Russia’s border despite promises to Gorbachev that we wouldn’t expand NATO “one inch” eastward beyond a unified Germany.

Indeed, horrified by the NATO expansion, Putin at one point asked Clinton if Russia could be invited to join NATO which was refused, and announced often and pointedly in the years leading up to the Ukrainian War, that taking Ukraine into NATO was a “red line” for Russia!

The Empire was indifferent and kept expanding until we reached this sorry and perilous moment we are experiencing now. In retaliation, Putin just put Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus—a first incidence of Russian nuclear sharing!

Ironically, the underlying rationale for Nixon and Kissinger making peace with China was to prevent a more powerful alliance between Russia and China.

The US will be reaping the whirlwind if it doesn’t comply with its nuclear disarmament obligations and take the path to peace. More nuclear armed countries such as South Korea may proliferate. Saudi Arabia is currently seeking “peaceful” nuclear power without safeguards on its use.

With either nuclear annihilation or cataclysmic climate collapse facing our beleaguered planet, it’s time to cooperate with other countries—make peace not war!!

Alice Slater serves on the boards of World BEYOND War and the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, and is a UN NGO Representative for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

IPS UN Bureau

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By Thalif Deen
A family cooks a meal in a temporary accommodation in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital. Credit: UN World Food Programme (WFP)

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 22 2024 (IPS) - The Palestinians in Gaza have been victims of a double tragedy: killings by Israel’s mostly American-made weapons and deaths by starvation.

And now comes a revelation of a new weapon of war: how Israel has been systematically weaponizing water against Palestinians in Gaza, according to a new report from the global human rights organization, Oxfam.

The report, “Water War Crimes”, finds that Israel’s cutting of external water supply, systematic destruction of water facilities and deliberate aid obstruction have reduced the amount of water available in Gaza by 94% to 4.74 litres a day per person – just under a third of the recommended minimum in emergencies and less than a single toilet flush.

Oxfam analysis also found:

– Israeli military attacks have damaged or destroyed five water and sanitation infrastructure sites every three days since the start of the war (last October)

– The destruction of water and electricity infrastructure and restrictions on entry of spare parts and fuel (on average a fifth of the required amount is allowed in) saw water production drop by 84% in Gaza. External supply from Israel’s national water company Mekorot fell by 78%.

– Israel has destroyed 70% of all sewage pumps and 100% of all wastewater treatment plants, as well as the main water quality testing laboratories in Gaza, and restricted the entry of Oxfam water testing equipment.

James E. Jennings, PhD, President of Conscience International and Executive Director, US Academics for Peace, told IPS aid and development organizations know what they call WATSAN, or Water and Sanitation, are more basic for human health and survival than even food and shelter.

Conscience International realized in the early days of Israel’s genocidal campaign of destruction in Gaza that the absence of safe water supplies for Gaza would eventually kill far more people than even the bombs, he pointed out.

“The only thing we got wrong was estimating how long it would take to reach the deadly point where we are now. It is a tribute to the resilience and talent of Gaza’s citizens that clean water somehow continues to flow in small amounts, despite Israel’s destruction of an estimated 94% of Gaza’s purification facilities.”

Gaza’s deliberately imposed dearth of drinking water cannot continue through the stifling heat of July, August, September, and October without condemning multitudes of civilians to death. Children and the aged—who had no part in the conflict—are the most vulnerable, said Dr Jennings.

“Even if all aid access restrictions were lifted immediately—which Israel continues to refuse to do—many innocent people will still die, because logistical and technical challenges make it nearly impossible to meet the need for drinkable water”.

This humanitarian crisis was predictable and inevitable. The international community has so far failed to intervene to stop the ongoing genocide. Now it is too late, he declared.

The Oxfam report also highlighted the dire impact of this extreme lack of clean water and sanitation on Palestinians’ health, with more than a quarter (26%) of Gaza’s population falling severely ill from easily preventable diseases.

In January, the International Court of Justice demanded that Israel immediately improve humanitarian access upon finding that South Africa had brought plausible claims under the Genocide Convention. Since then, Oxfam has witnessed firsthand Israel’s obstruction of a meaningful humanitarian response, which is killing Palestinian civilians, according to the report.

Scott Paul, Oxfam America’s Associate Director of Peace and Security, said, “Oxfam’s new analysis leaves little doubt that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government has systemically obliterated Gaza’s clean water supply and infrastructure.

“Today, Palestinians in Gaza have almost no water to drink, let alone to bathe, cook, or clean. Prime Minister Netanyahu must restore sufficient water, food, electricity, and other vital assistance for all people in Gaza. Instead of granting him the platform to double down on his deadly offensive to Congress, US leaders must cut off the supply of bombs that are being used to kill civilians and destroy Gaza and with it, any hope for peace.”

Oxfam Water and Sanitation Specialist Lama Abdul Samad said it was clear that Israel had created a devastating humanitarian emergency resulting in Palestinian civilian deaths:

“The deliberate restriction of access to water is not a new tactic. The Israeli Government has been depriving Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza of safe and sufficient water for many years,” she said.

“The widespread destruction and significant restrictions on aid delivery in Gaza impacting access to water and other essentials for survival, underscores the urgent need for the international community to take decisive action to prevent further suffering by upholding justice and human rights, including those enshrined in the Geneva and Genocide Conventions.”

Monther Shoblak, General Manager of the Gaza Strip’s water utility CMWU, said: “My colleagues and I have been living through a nightmare these past nine months, but we still feel it’s our responsibility and duty to ensure everybody in Gaza is getting their minimum right of clean drinking water. It’s been very difficult, but we are determined to keep trying – even when we witness our colleagues being targeted and killed by Israel while undertaking their work.”

Oxfam is calling for urgent action including an immediate and permanent ceasefire; for Israel to allow a full and unfettered humanitarian response; and for Israel to foot the reconstruction bill for water and sanitation infrastructure.

Dr Jennings also recounted that as long ago as 2017 Amnesty International signaled to the world the potentially dire consequences of Israel’s control over the water resources for the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza, calling it “systematic,” “devastating,” and “discriminatory.”

Years before that report appeared, Gaza’s sewage crisis was also the concern of multiple local administrative agencies.

Oxfam now claims that Israel’s “Water War Crimes” have reduced the available clean water in Gaza to 6% of what it was when the war started. One water drilling company in Africa uses the slogan, “Water is Life,” and it truly is.

What’s more, experts have recently detected the Polio Virus in mud puddles and wastewater pools in the tent cities of Gaza where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have taken refuge to escape Israel’s deadly nine-month bombing campaign, he noted.

Meanwhile, a staggering 186,000 killings in Gaza –- compared with the official figure of over 37,000—has resurrected accusations of genocide and war crimes in the devastating nine-month-old war between Israel and Hamas, with no signs of a cease-fire.

The new estimates have come from The Lancet, one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed British medical journals.

In recent conflicts, says the article, titled “Counting the Deaths in Gaza: Difficult but Essential”, indirect deaths range from three to 15 times the number of direct deaths.

“Applying a conservative estimate of four indirect deaths per one direct death to the 37, 396 deaths reported, it is not implausible to estimate that up to 186, 000 or even more deaths could be attributable to the current conflict in Gaza,” according to The Lancet.

The disproportionate killings in Gaza are in retaliation to the 1,200 killed by Hamas inside Israel on October 7.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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By IPS Correspondent
Supporters and opponents of the Bangladesh quota system for government jobs face off in Dhaka, July 16, 2024. [Source: Md. Hasan/BenarNews]
Supporters and opponents of the Bangladesh quota system for government jobs face off in Dhaka, July 16, 2024. [Source: Md. Hasan/BenarNews]

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2024 (IPS) - Student protests over the Bangladesh government’s recruitment system have escalated into violent retaliation from the police from the authorities.

Today (Friday, July 19), violent clashes continued to rock Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, and the northern city of Rangpuras, where university students continued their protest over the government’s civil service recruitment system. AFP reports reports the death toll reached 105.

The quota system, as it is known, now reserves 56 percent of positions in the civil service to certain groups: 10 percent to women, 10 percent to those from underdeveloped districts, 5 percent to indigenous peoples, 1 percent to people with disabilities, and 30 percent to those who fought in the 1971 war of independence, along with their descendants.

In June, Bangladesh’s High Court ruled to reinstate the measure to reserve jobs for the fighters, which had been previously abolished by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2018.

Students and young workers raised concerns that this system did not reward merit but rather favored those affiliated with the Awami League, the ruling party.

Since then, students have been demanding a reform to the quota system. This comes at a time when the unemployment rate is at 40 percent for youth who are neither working nor in university.

On July 14, Hasina implied that the protestors were “razakars,” a contentious term in Bangladesh as it refers to the people who supported Pakistan during the 1971 war, traitors in the eyes of the Bangladeshi people. The comments from Hasina caused outrage among students and they decried them during the protests.

The escalation into violence began on July 15, when protestors were attacked by members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student wing of the Awami League. Reports emerged of heavily armed BCL members attacking indiscriminately against unarmed protestors, including women and younger students.

The government consequently called for all university campuses to shut down amid the tensions. The police force was sent in to suppress the movement, where they have used rubber bullets and tear gas against students.

Protests and the resulting violent clashes have broken out all over the country, including Chittagong, Rangpur, and Dhaka.

On Thursday, the government deployed the military, namely the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). Since then, at least 105 deaths have been reported and over 25,000 people have been injured during the protests. This number could be much higher.

Since July 18, internet and phone communications have been shut down, first in select areas and now across the country.

The internet shutdown has also meant that the websites of some major news outlets, such as the Daily Star and Bangladesh have gone offline. Just prior to the shutdown, the BCL’s official website was hacked with a message that reads “Hacked by THE R3SISTANC3.”

There are also reports that the official websites of the police and the prime minister’s office were also hacked with messages reading, “Stop killing students” and “It’s not a protest anymore, it’s a war now.”

Amid the protests, the government announced on Thursday announced that it would be willing to sit down with protestors to discuss their demands for reform to the quota system.

Law minister Anisul Haq said that discussions would be held whenever the student protestors agreed. Student protestors have so far denied this call to action, with one student telling the BBC on Thursday, “The government has killed so many people in a day that we cannot join any discussions in the current circumstances.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk expressed concern for the violation of human rights and has called for impartial investigations into the attacks.

“The government should take the necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of the students participating in peaceful protests, and to guarantee the right to freedom of assembly and expression without fear of attacks against their lives and physical integrity, or other forms of repression,” he said. “Bangladesh’s political leaders must work with the country’s young population to find solutions to the ongoing challenges and focus on the country’s growth and development. Dialogue is the best and only way forward.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern about the violence and called for “restraint on all sides.”

In a statement issued on Thursday, he called for authorities to “investigate all acts of violence, hold perpetrators to account, and ensure a conducive environment for dialogue.”

IPS UN Bureau Report

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By James E. Jennings
Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, addresses the General Assembly’s 75th session in September 2020. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

ATLANTA, Georgia, Jul 19 2024 (IPS) - Republican Vice-Presidential nominee JD Vance and other speakers at the GOP Convention gleefully referenced the party’s latest icon: a wounded Donald Trump with blood on his face raising his fist in defiance beneath Old Glory’s stars and stripes.

The MAGA party realizes that they have a powerful symbol that will likely return Trump to the White House, because symbols are supremely powerful for both politics and religion. Associated Press photographer Evan Vucci captured the image, one of the most iconic ever recorded in American history. It fits perfectly into the Republican Campaign theme—“Trump is a hero and only he can save us.” The only other comparable photograph is the unforgettable one showing embattled Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima during WW II.

Vucci’s photograph framed a bloody former President, wounded in the assassination attempt, heroically pumping his fist in defiance beneath a red, white, and blue flag against a clear blue sky. It was the perfect photo, taken at a moment of extreme peril for American democracy, and sure to win a Pulitzer Prize.

It could be the key visual message that motivates people to side with Trump as a hero and propel him back to the White House. Photojournalist Doug Mills of the New York Times snapped a remarkable photo of the bullet in mid-air just beyond Trump, but Vucci’s stirring image of the wounded former president conveys a much more impactful message of heroism and patriotism.

Americans clearly prefer a tough, vigorous, even pugnacious and younger male leader (even if the image is false) to an old, decrepit President, especially one stammering to express himself and now sidelined with Coronavirus.

MAGA Republicans insist that people should vote for their hero Trump instead of Biden, pictured as a weak old man, or heaven forbid, by a scrappy female like Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, or even Republican Nikki Haley.

Aging leaders have been required to prove their virility from time to time throughout history—in ancient Egypt by running around a course, and in Communist China by swimming, or more likely floating, for ten miles in the Yangtze River, as did Mao Tse-tung in 1966.

His claim of fitness, especially in the photo of him swimming, became an icon across China and revived his political fortunes after the disaster of the Great Cultural Revolution.

Americans consider themselves to be a tough breed. That in turn requires a macho man to be our leader. Even if Trump is not really that, the picture of a defiant Trump surviving an assassin’s bullet and pumping his fist is an incredibly powerful icon at this moment of destiny in the nation’s politics.

There were no photos when Lincoln was shot and the Kennedy assassination photos show blurs in the back of a speeding convertible. The only other iconic photo to stir the emotions of patriotic Americans with equally intense feelings would be that snapshot by photographer Joe Rosenthal Showing US Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi.

That picture captured American patriotism so perfectly that it was later sculpted into a colossal statue near the US Capitol in Washington.

Not many people know about semasiography—the science of symbols—but throughout history symbols have had an underlying, supremely powerful influence on religion, politics, and human behavior. This photo of Trump, like the one of the marines, has the capacity to impact people at a visceral level and therefore to change human behavior on a large scale.

There is no question of the overwhelming influence of such a potent symbol at this point in an evenly balanced and fiercely divided, nation.

The way symbols work is like this: they are simple, convey meaning in a generalized sense, and have the capacity to rally multitudes of people, sometimes continuing to evoke allegiance for thousands of years. Many national flags in the modern era include symbols.

The red, white, and blue of the American flag can cause tears to flow, pride to swell the chest, and infuse soldiers with the courage to face cannons on the battlefield.

One of the most omnipresent symbols worldwide is the Christian Cross, which has provided meaning and identity for millions of people over thousands of years. The Nazi Swastika and the Hammer and Sickle rallied Germans and Russians, functioning in a similar way for unbelievably vast numbers of people during WW II.

The swastika, or broken cross, was an ancient Aryan cultural sign, meaning to the Germans “Deutchland Uber Alles,” the racial-political creed of Germany. Hitler was delighted when he found it, knowing he could use it to rally the nation to his banner.

The Soviet hammer and sickle dominated great parts of the globe for much of the Twentieth Century, signifying the rise of the Proletariat. During the Vietnam War, millions of college students protested wearing the peace sign in support of the anti-war movement.

A symbol can carry a different meaning for millions of people, allowing each individual to put his or her own meaning into it, often leading to action. In short, a symbol is a way to capture and intensify personal feelings.

An appropriate and timely icon can be used to lure, move, or drive masses of people toward a desired goal, even if its message is vague and diffuse.

Several modern psychiatrists have focused on symbolism, beginning of course with Freud. The study of semasiography became a major preoccupation of his most prominent successor, Jung. Both knew the power of symbols.

Soon the icon of a defiant Trump—the ultimate American tough guy—will appear on t-shirts and coffee mugs, helping to build a different national culture than the one bequeathed to Americans by Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and others of the Greatest Generation.

This new political culture has already shown its true colors—dominance, retribution, reaction, discrimination, with threats of violence and coercion as the new mechanism of control. Sadly, this is the way history works. Change is coming—prepare for it.

James E. Jennings is President of Conscience International and Executive Director of US Academics for Peace.

IPS UN Bureau

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By Thalif Deen
Schools-turned-shelters run by the UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, have suffered serious damage in strikes in the last week. July 2024. Credit: United Nations

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2024 (IPS) - The Biden administration, which has come under heavy fire for its unyielding pro-Israeli stand on the nine-month-old war in Gaza, is facing a rebellion within its own bureaucratic ranks—12 and counting.

The 12 government officials, who recently resigned, have accused the US of providing diplomatic cover for the continuous flow of arms to Israel ensuring “our undeniable complicity in the killings and forced starvation of a besieged Palestinian population in Gaza.”

This is not only morally reprehensible and in clear violation of international humanitarian law and US laws, but it has also put a target on America’s back,” they continue, arguing that it has put the lives of service members and diplomats at risk.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, a retired professor of international relations, most recently at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University (NYU), and who taught courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies, told IPS: “I share the overall view of the 12 US government officials who have resigned in protest against the Biden administration’s policy in connection with the Israel-Hamas war”.

They wrote in their joint statement, titled Service in Dissent, that “America’s diplomatic cover for, and continuous flow of arms to Israel has ensured our undeniable complicity in the killings and forced starvation of a besieged Palestinian population in Gaza. This is not only morally reprehensible and in clear violation of international humanitarian law and US laws, but it has also put a target on America’s back.”


“I have supported Israel’s right to defend itself as well as the Biden administration’s support of Israel’s war efforts, standing by the US’s iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security by providing it with all necessary military aid and political cover.

“I have stated time and again that Hamas’s unprecedented October 7, 2023 attack and Israel’s unparalleled retaliation have reinforced my own view, which I share with many others, that there will be no resolution to the 76-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict short of a two-state solution.

I still hold to the position that it will be impossible to return to the status quo that prevailed before October 7, as a new paradigm was created that offered the inimitable opportunity to recommence the peace negotiations that could lead to a two-state solution,” said Dr Ben-Meir.

Meanwhile there have also been negative reactions in European capitals. Last February, the New York Times ran a story headlined “US and European officials release a Letter Protesting Israeli Policies.”

According to the Times report, more than 500 officials in the US, Britain and the European Union (EU) released a “public letter of dissent” against their (respective) government’s support of Israel in its war in Gaza.”

In an oped piece published on the IPS wire July 18, Mouin Rabbani, Co-Editor of Jadaliyya and Non-Resident Fellow with the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (CHS), says the Letter of Dissent makes indisputably clear that US policy towards the present crisis has been an absolute failure at virtually every level.


Not only has it failed to achieve any of its objectives and further consolidate Western hegemony in the Middle East, but it has made the US government directly and actively complicit in the genocide currently before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, he said.

As the signatories note, the US is “wilfully” violating not only international laws that are binding upon Washington, but is similarly and knowingly violating US domestic law in its fanatic determination to see Israel’s mass atrocities through to the bitter end, said Rabbani, who is also a Non-Resident Fellow at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).

“Tellingly, and quite accurately, they also point out that the Biden administration’s determination to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his ultra-rightist, annexationist government has led to the suppression of basic constitutional freedoms within the United States,” he declared.

Meanwhile, in an address to the UN Security Council on July 17, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that recent developments are driving a stake through the heart of any prospect for a two-State solution.

“The geography of the occupied West Bank is steadily being altered through Israeli administrative and legal steps. The seizure of large land parcels in strategic areas and changes to planning, land management and governance are expected to significantly accelerate settlement expansion”.

These changes, he pointed out, include the issuance of two military orders at the end of May. These orders transferred powers to, and appointed, a civilian deputy in Israel’s Civil Administration, which is alarming.

This move is another significant advance in the ongoing transfer of authority over many aspects of daily life in the occupied West Bank, and a further step towards extending Israeli sovereignty over this occupied territory.

If left unaddressed, these measures risk causing irreparable damage, he said.

“We must change course. All settlement activity must cease immediately. Israeli settlements are a flagrant violation of international law and a key obstacle to peace. The violence must end, and the perpetrators of the violence must be swiftly brought to justice.

Israel must ensure the safety and security of the Palestinian population, Guterres declared.

Elaborating further Dr Ben-Meir said: “Personally, I was in favor of crippling Hamas militarily. Still, I have also repeatedly stated that while Israel may be able to crush Hamas militarily, it will be unable to destroy it as a political movement that holds a specific ideology that calls for Israel’s destruction.

“However, I have never subscribed to the notion that Hamas will ever be in a position to extinguish Israel for many reasons, including the fact that Hamas leaders know only too well that Israel is a formidable military power whose existence is irrevocable. The war has made it clear that challenging Israel’s right to exist is tantamount to suicide”.

President Biden was the first global leader to affirm that, given the new developing circumstances, a two-state solution is a prerequisite to end this endemic conflict.

As the war continued to grind on and as the Palestinians’ death toll and destruction were mounting, and Prime Minister Netanyahu categorically refused to even mention any solution along the lines of an independent state, the whole idea of a two-state solution was dropped from Biden’s lexicon. But the flow of weapons to Israel, if anything, was increasing without any preconditions.

Moreover, the US vetoed two UNSC resolutions that called for a ceasefire while food, water, fuel, and medical supplies were dwindling, and the displacement of Palestinians by the hundreds of thousands continued unabated.

Meanwhile, Israel’s relentless bombing using American-made bombs, which were killing thousands in densely populated areas, made the US complicit in the horrific carnage. By now, more than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed, and more than half of Gaza lies in ruin, Dr Ben-Meir said.

IPS UN Bureau Report

Follow @IPSNewsUNBureau


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