Catalonia’s Decisive Week for Independence

On Tuesday, Catalan President Puigdemont “declared Catalonia’s independence,” but soon after suspended its effects in favor of dialogue with Spanish authorities. His decision came after numerous international actors suggested that mediation would only be possible if he halted independence as a sign of good faith.

Nevertheless, numerous members of parliament, who were informed about Puigdemont’s decision only 45 minutes before his intervention, expressed their disagreement and threatened to boycott his speech, as well as threatening to break the pro-independence absolute majority in Parliament. They stressed that they had agreed on a different declaration earlier in the day.

To address this alarming situation, President of Parliament Forcadell decided to suspend the plenary for 1 hour. While the disagreements remained, everyone present in the meeting finally accepted Puigdemont’s changes to the speech in order to maintain unity. Additionally, they agreed to hold a ceremony to sign an unofficial declaration of independence in another building after the plenary in order to give more solemnity to the day.

Tens of thousands of people who gathered around the parliament to celebrate the proclamation of the new Catalonian Republic ended up with mixed feelings. At first, when Puigdemont declared independence, they felt very excited, but this turned to disappointment when he suspended its legal effects without setting a deadline a few seconds later.

Most experts saw Puigdemont’s move as a wise one because it served to show the international community that Catalonia is seeking dialogue until the very end, which favours future international recognition of Catalonia as an independent country.

On Wednesday, Spanish PM Rajoy refused Puigdemont’s latest offer of dialogue and activated Article 155, which can be fully implemented a few days after Puigdemont responds to a mandatory request for information as to whether he has declared independence. He was given until Monday to respond; if it is in the affirmative, this period is extended until Thursday, with the option of altering the decision.

With Article 155, Rajoy can suspend Catalonia’s government, intervene in the education system and the police, and even call for an early election while installing technocrats from the central government to rule Catalonia for at least 3 months. In parallel, pro-independence parties and organizations may also be barred from participating in any eventual general election for at least 4 years.

Major pro-independence organizations are preparing a proportionate response to the implementation of the Article 155 and the possible arrest of Catalonia’s President and vice-president, which includes mass protests, and an indefinite general strike. The main idea would be to collapse the Spanish and European economies and eventually force an international intervention/mediation in Catalonia.

The response may be precipitated by Spain this Monday, because the leaders of the two major pro-independence organizations, Cuixart and Sanchez, have been summoned by the Spanish National Court to testify about “sedition charges” (punishable by up to 15 years in prison + a fine). According to some journalists with contacts in the Spanish government, the judges who are hearing these two cases have already made the decision to jail them in order to smash their respective organizations and thus spread fear across Catalonian society.

Against this possible outcome, Cuixart and Sanchez named their replacements on Saturday. In the meantime, pro-independence organizations and parties such as the ANC, Omnium, ERC, CUP, Democrates and several MP’s from the PDECAT have called on Puigdemont to lift the suspension of Catalonia’s declaration of independence and implement its legal effects as soon as next week. If possible before the Spanish implementation of Article 155.They believe there are no longer grounds for mediation or negotiations as equals with Spain, and that the only way to bring about international mediation/negotiations is by formally declaring independence first.

With this in mind, Puigdemont will have to make the most important decision of his life tomorrow morning. He must decide whether to go all-out to respect the will of the Catalonian people and face a prison sentence of up to 15 years or to surrender, refuse to declare independence, and thus comply with the Spanish government’s will.

Whatever Puigdemont’s decision may be in the coming hours, the worsening of the conflict between Catalonia and Spain appears to be inevitable, given that if he surrenders the independence process, millions of Catalans will then feel betrayed, resulting in the radicalization of many who would rise up against the Spanish government in order to defend the newly promised Catalonian Republic.

Perhaps the only thing that can stop this upcoming clash would be Spain’s acceptance of international mediation. Although, I must admit that I do not have much hope of that happening.

 

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1 Million People Attend a Pro-Independence Rally in Barcelona

On Monday, one million pro-independence supporters gathered in Barcelona for the National Day of Catalonia, three weeks before the key independence referendum on October 1st.

The city’s streets were flooded with hundreds of thousands of people several hours before the rally organized by the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural was set to begin. According to the organizers, up to 2000 buses from cities all over Catalonia made the journey to the capital.

The rally began at 5.14 PM with one minute’s silence held in remembrance of the victims of the Barcelona and Cambrils terror attacks. Spirits were high as the atmosphere changed from one of anticipation to eager excitement and optimism with hopes for a positive result in the coming referendum.

Four banners with messages of peace, independence and liberty were passed along by the protesters in a show of unity.

Voting has never been a crime,” President of Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart, addressed the crowd of thousands. “In spite of their fears and threats, we have our own laws based on international legislation. The Spanish courts no longer defend the collective interests of the Catalan people… They want to silence democracy.”

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and representative of the Tunisian Human Rights League Ahmed Galai was also present. A key supporter of Catalan independence, he inspired crowds with his speech stating that “referendum is democracy.” After key speeches made by organizers and pro-independence politicians, crowds began to disperse at around 7 pm.

This year, the annual pro-independence rally was more crucial than ever, since it came in the context of an all-out confrontation between the Spanish and Catalan governments. A few days before the rally was held, the international community said that a low turnout would weaken the legitimacy of the Catalan government‘s disobedience of the Spanish government and Supreme Court in holding the independence referendum set for October 1st.

Nevertheless, the spectacular turn out of 1 million people demanding that the Catalan government hold the referendum, no matter what, appears to have given the necessary legitimacy to the Catalan President to disobey the politicized Spanish Supreme Court and the Spanish government.

After Monday’s mass rally, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said this morning during an interview that he and his government will not accept a hypothetical suspension of their mandate by the Spanish Supreme Court. He added that from now on, he will only follow the Catalan legislation which stipulates that he can only be suspended by the Catalonian people. He also stressed that not only is holding a referendum on independence not illegal, but a right spelled out in the two 1966 UN Conventions on Human Rights which the Spanish Constitution recognizes as the supreme law of the land.

Last week, Catalonia’s parliament passed two crucial laws: the law of the referendum, which allows the government to hold the unilateral independence referendum in October, and the law of “transitorietat” that will only be applied if most Catalans vote in favor of the independence in the referendum. This law would serve as a new constitution until the new one is written, approved, and voted via referendum by the Catalonian people.

It is expected that the tension between the Spanish and Catalan governments will grow to limits never before seen in democracy during the days prior to the referendum. The Spanish government will try to prevent the referendum from happening by all means, but, if it is held in the end, the most important indicators for the international community to validate the results will be the turnout, the opinion of the international observers, and the transparency of the process.

Poor Media Coverage of the Barcelona Terror Attack

On Thursday, CNN, Fox News, ABC News, BBC, CBS, The Guardian, and Telecinco’ coverage of the terror attack in Barcelona, in which fourteen people died and a hundred were injured after a van plowed into crowds of tourists in Las Ramblas, appeared to be inaccurate and harmful to the victims.

CBS News, CNN, and FOX News were the first to broadcast videos of the victims bleeding to death, causing trauma for families who discovered through TV that their loved ones had died. These networks also spread falsehoods such as that there was a hostage situation in a restaurant and that numerous fugitive terrorists were carrying long-range weapons through Barcelona’s streets, which caused terror and endangered the ongoing police operation.

Sadly, the same media had already misreported previous terror attacks such as the latest in London and Manchester. This time, however, thousands of people complained about what they saw as a ratings grab. However, the aforementioned media justified their misreporting, suggesting that in the aftermath of a terror attack it is normal that witnesses give them false information because they are confused.

All of this despite the fact that the Catalonian government had enabled numerous communication lines with the press from where it was giving regular updates about the ongoing investigation and the police operation in order to prevent the media misreporting. The government asserted that the only reliable information was what they were providing through the aforementioned channels.

It is also important to highlight that part of the media did a great job by verifying all the information before broadcasting it. The lack of seriousness of some ‘prestigious’ media has as its ultimate goal to grow their audiences regardless of the veracity and the possible negative consequences that their actions may have in the aftermath of a terror attack.

This sort of coverage has raised many questions about the implementation of new restraints on the media; for example, to pixel the faces of victims of terrorism in the aftermath of terror attacks in order to respect their families and prevent these episodes from happening again.

Indeed, if implemented a new regulation should always respect the freedom of the press in all cases. This would only be to protect the victims of terrorism and their families because they deserve to be the first to know how their loved ones are without watching their mutilated bodies on TV.

 

Is the UN a Useless Organization?

WWII was the real reason that the US, the UK, and the Soviet Union formed the original UN declaration. The document was signed by 26 countries in January 1942 and lead to the creation of the official UN in 1945, as a formal act of opposition to Germany, Italy, and Japan, the Axis Powers.

The United Nations, an international organization, was officially founded at the UN Conference on international organization in San Francisco, California in June 1945, replacing the failing League of Nations as an organization able to maintain international cooperation, peace, and security. However, regular disputes between its members with veto power such as the US and Russia, which have always been butting heads with one another, has led the UN to fail in solving most of the global conflicts, resulting in the deaths of millions of innocent people, including children worldwide.

SOME OF THE UN’S FAILURES SINCE ITS CREATION:

SYRIA

The UN has failed in solving the Syrian conflict due to the regular confrontation between the US and Russia which defend different solutions for the Syrian war. According to the UN, the war has already caused more than 500.000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of casualties and refugees. Last year, more than 200 civil society organizations from around the world issued a statement demanding a real solution for the Syrian conflict from the UN. However, it has not formally responded yet. Sherine Tadros, Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office, said:

It is becoming clearer every day that the UN Security Council has failed the Syrian people. There have been almost half a million deaths, and each one is a stark rebuke of the Security Council, the supposed guardian of international peace and security, which has allowed a political deadlock to stand in the way of saving lives.”

This is why we, along with 224 civil society organizations, are urgently calling on UN member states to take action and request an Emergency Special Session of the UN General Assembly to demand an end to all unlawful attacks in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria. They must call for immediate and unhindered humanitarian access so that life-saving aid can reach all those in need.”

UN member states can and should use all the diplomatic tools at their disposal to take action towards ending the atrocities in Syria – the inaction we have seen over the past five years is a shameful chapter in the history of the Security Council.”

YEMEN

The civil war in Yemen has already killed more than 12.000, mainly by the Saudi-led coalition, displacing millions and destroying most of the nation’s infrastructure. It has also left some 21 million people dependent on foreign aid to survive. Out of 27 million people in Yemen, 20 million are starving, including 400,000 children, and some 2.2 million are in need of urgent care.

The Saudi blockade of drinking water across the country has caused an outbreak of cholera that has already infected more than 300,000 Yemenis and killed 1,500 people, 55% of which were children. More than 600,000 people are expected to contract the disease before the end of the year. 

The UN is led by the US, which is a fierce ally of Saudi Arabia. This has blocked any agreement on solving the Yemeni conflict, stopping Saudi Arabia’s war crimes across the country and solving the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

RAPE AND CHILD SEX ABUSE

UN Peacekeepers were accused of raping and paying young girls for sex in Cambodia in 2005, Since then similar cases have also been found in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and other places. The UN has yet to condemn these criminal acts in order to preserves its “high reputation” worldwide.

SREBRENICA

The war in Bosnia began in 1992 in an effort to separate Serbs from other ethnicities. In 1993, the UN named Srebrenica a safe zone and sent 400 soldiers from the Dutch United Nations Protect Force in order to protect civilians and refugees living in the city. In 1995, however, some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men were slaughtered by Serb forces. The UN Dutch commander did not order his troops to defend the innocent people against the Serbs. Instead, he was later pictured with the leader of the massacre, the Serb commander, Ratio Mladic in a celebration.

RWANDA GENOCIDE

In 1994, the UN which was on a mission in Rwanda failed to prevent the Hutus from killing almost a million people of the Tutsi minority. The conflict began in the capital Kigali when the Hutu power government and officials incited civilians to take up arms against the Tutsis. The conflict rapidly spread throughout the country and resulted in the slaughter of a million and caused more than 2 million refugees.

IRAQ OIL FOR FOOD PROGRAM

The UN began the Oil-for-Food program in 1996 to allow Iraq to sell oil to pay for food and other necessities for its population. However, numerous corrupt UN employees mismanaged the program for their own benefit. Saddam Hussein also earned some $1.7 billion through kickbacks and surcharges.

There is no doubt that the UN has sometimes succeeded, but it has always been useless as a peace-keeper due to the diversity of positions between its members. The UN was founded to maintain international cooperation, peace, and security. However, it has become a slow, ineffective, and corrupt organization unable to bring peace, cooperation, and assist millions of people and refugees suffering from wars worldwide. The UN has failed as the old League of Nations did, so the questions now are: Should the UN be reformed to become an effective organization able to bring peace worldwide? or should the UN disappear instead?

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

Conservative Organizations, Theresa May, and Their Connections with ISIS

Tomorrow, the world will watch the lastest episode of a long-term soap-opera involving conservatives and Islamist terrorism. The UK will hold a controversial general election that will be definitive in the fight against Islamist terrorism.

Over the years, western society has assumed that conservative parties such as the Tories in the UK are more reliable than the lefties in the fight against terrorism. In recent times, however, there has been clear evidence that ISIS and conservative forces have been helping each other. 

ISIS has used terrorism to spread chaos worldwide and thereby influence elections in Western democracies. Conservative forces have used this chaos to bolster racism and use the ready-made fear campaigns for their own ends, to ensure their re-election.

Recently, Theresa May has used the latest terrorist attack in London to launch a manipulative fear campaign to improve her chances of winning the election. Additionally, she has announced measures that purport to improve security but will not, and will bolster racism in UK society, which is the ultimate goal of ISIS.

Theresa May is trying to adopt the ploys used by George W. Bush’s campaign during his re-election in 2004. Bush was one of the first conservative world leaders to use terrorism as a tool to win elections and cause destruction overseas.

Bush had the lowest presidential approval ratings ever recorded in 2004 as a consequence of the Iraq War. Though most pundits contended that he did not have any chance of being re-elected in the presidential election that same year, he launched a mass “fear campaign” based on two points:

1. Vote for me, and you will be safe.

2. Vote for someone else, and terrorist forces will invade your country.

Bush’s fear campaign proved successful when he was re-elected. Within a few weeks, Americans started thinking that “Muslims” represented a real threat to their lives. As a result, there was an increase in the number of racial attacks across the US. This was later used by ISIS to attract new combatants. It targeted those “Muslims” who were born in the US and had suffered from harassment, intolerance, and racial attacks. That created hundreds of potential new terrorists ready to commit terrorist attacks in the US and the UK.

Theresa May, who is now following in the footsteps of Bush, could cause a catastrophe if she became Prime Minister. ISIS is actively helping her to win this election through terrorism. ISIS knows that terrorism bolsters conservative forces, which tend to react by using an anti-immigration narrative, leading to an increase in racial attacks. This is the best scenario for ISIS to recruit new militants. Consequently, it is clear that conservative parties cannot lead the fight against terrorism any longer.

Furthermore, May is still endorsing Saudi Arabia -the main state sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East- and led a cut off of 20,000 police officers as home secretary, leading terrorists to circumvent British security surveillance. For that reason, anyone who is still thinking of voting for May should think twice before casting their votes.

Jeremy Corbyn has made numerous mistakes during his life, like everyone else. However, he has spent most of his life by trying to integrate immigrants and unite UK society. If he became Prime Minister, he would commit more resources to security forces, allow them to monitor potential terrorists, thus resulting in a substantial reduction of terrorist attacks in the UK. This election is all about two options:

1. Theresa May: An increase in the number of terrorist attacks.

2. Jeremy Corbyn: A reduction of terrorist attacks.

If you are by chance a British person reading this piece, you must know that this is your time to take action to build a better world. Think about the aforementioned two options and vote for the better one, and remember that Corbyn’s victory would make the UK safer. In a certain way, the destiny of Europe, western countries, and the world is in your hands!

Note: In this opinion, piece I refer to the political class that represents conservative organizations. So I assume that not all conservative supporters endorse any sort of collaboration with Islamist terrorism.

U.S. Strike on Syria

On Thursday night, Donald Trump directed a strike against a Syrian military airbase, which targeted fighter planes, ammunition bunkers, radars, and petroleum storage. The Syrian regime said that the attack killed 7 soldiers and wounded 3.

In a brief press conference, Trump assured the American public that the strike was in retaliation for the last chemical attack against innocent civilians in Khan Sheikhoun in north-western Syria, which caused as many as 80 casualties, including many children.

Despite the fact that the UN could not reliably determine the accountability of the Syrian regime over the chemical attack, the U.S. government and the mainstream media launched a campaign to accuse them.

Ignoring the resolution of the UN, the NATO and other allies expressed their support for the strike and said that it was proportional. On the other hand, the Russian government condemned the attack and said that the U.S. is helping terrorists on the ground. Furthermore, the Russian Army announced the cessation of its communications with the U.S. in Syria and reiterated its support for the Syrian regime.

48 hours after the strike, in a joint statement, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and several local militias said that the U.S. had crossed the line and that the next time they will respond with force. According to this coalition, there are many reasons to think that the U.S. wants to exert utter control over Syria due to its geolocation.

Despite their many lies, Russia and the U.S. have committed several war crimes in Syria. For years, the U.S. has bombed civilians and assisted rebel groups with ties to terrorist organizations, which have killed thousands of innocents. And Russia has supported the Syrian regime, which has also killed thousands of innocent civilians.

Everyone still remembers, when in 2003, at an assembly of the UN, the then U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, assured that the Iraqi government had WMD, which could soon cause carnage in the region and perhaps worldwide. As a result, the international community created a coalition to invade Iraq, which caused as many as 1 million of deaths. It was not until after some years that the international community found out that the CIA deliberately fabricated that story to intervene in Iraq.

By attacking Syria, Trump has gained as much popularity as Bush did during the Iraqi invasion. Since the strike, the mainstream media, including the most critical such as CNN, and The New York Times have praised Trump’s military action and elevated him as an excellent President.

It is deeply troubling that Trump has found out the key to gain popularity. Due to his incapacity to govern the country, it appears that he will launch more military interventions in countries such as North Korea and Iran.

It is important to remember that for years, Donald Trump suggested that Obama’s intervention in Syria was a political move to gain popularity. However, he is now adopting the same ploy. Fortunately for everyone, he could not delete his past tweets and here there is a sample of them:

Screenshot from 2017-04-08 13-55-13Screenshot from 2017-04-07 23-10-42

Despite the complexity of the Syrian conflict, this will only end when all parties negotiate a realistic resolution. Apparently, Trump is not willing to do so, but a strong antiwar movement may force him (like in the past with previous administrations) to step back in his bellicose decisions.

While the U.S. antiwar movement is organizing to become stronger, Trump is deploying warships, and troops in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula. Over the next months, the world will observe whether the antiwar movement succeeds or Trump causes chaos everywhere.

 

Donald Trump: The War on Terror

From the outset of his presidency, Donald Trump has appeared to be willing to follow in the footsteps of previous presidencies in the “war on terror.” His cabinet has started to hammer out an international plan which, once approved will give green light to the U.S. military forces deployed in the Middle East to direct air strikes on civilian areas in the name of killing terrorists.

Despite his many promises and oaths, Obama embraced Bush’s military strategy to fight terrorism, and endow the JSOC (Joint Special Operations Commands) with the capability of operating undercover in countries such as Pakistan and Iraq with absolute immunity. The JSOC often targeted innocent civilians (including children) causing a real massacre in the region.

Emulating the legacy of previous administrations, and during his first week in the white house, Trump directed a fatal raid in Yemen, which jeopardized the lives of several members of the American special forces, and caused the death of Chief Petty Officer William and 30 civilians, including the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born “radicalized” leader who was killed in a drone strike in 2011.

During his first intervention at the Congress, Trump vehemently used the death of Officer William to make propaganda and reaffirm that the fatal raid in Yemen was necessary to protect the country against terrorists.

Far from stopping his acts of barbarism, Trump recently announced the deployment of 1000 additional soldiers to Syria. In addition, Trump has ordered the U.S. military commanders in Syria to escalate their operations in civilian areas to target and kill terrorists.

The tragedy came swiftly, on March 17, when the US-led coalition directed an air strike in a residential area in West Mosul (controlled by ISIL.), which slaughtered as many as 200 civilians. That was preceded by the killing of dozens of civilians in a school in Raqqa province where refugees were being sheltered, which itself was preceded by the US-led destruction of a mosque near Aleppo that also killed dozens.

Because of these atrocities, a large pool of U.S. commanders announced an investigation to establish accountability for the above-mentioned carnage against innocent civilians in Mosul.

“We have an investigation going on, but our initial assessment… shows we did strike in that area; in fact there were multiple strikes in that area, so is it possible that we did that? Yes, I think it is possible,” Lt. Stephen Townsend told reporters Tuesday.

“Because we struck in that area, I think there’s a fair chance that we did it.”

Unfortunately, several U.S. soldiers and commanders justified the lethal air strike, which caused so many deaths, alleging that since ISIL uses civilians to shield then the air strikes are justified because it is more important to kill terrorists.

Later on, numerous civilians fearful of reprisal expressed their concerns, and asked the authorities if there was any justification for bombing innocent civilians who are denigrated, mistreated, tortured, and raped on a regular basis by the most inhumane terrorist group on earth.

It is worth recalling that the international law prohibits the targeting and bombing of civilians. The deliberate assassination of civilians constitutes a war crime, and essentially if someone commits it, he or she is liable to face prosecution at the International Court. However, the world’s most powerful countries do not bear any legal responsibility for their crimes since they control the very organizations which investigate war crimes.

Another concerning fact is Trump’s struggle to re-establish the network of U.S. secret military prisons to torture terrorists and civilians worldwide. Several experts argue that torture programs are ineffective in fighting terrorism. Most of the prisoners who are tortured on a regular basis are likely to incriminate themselves to stop the physical and mental suffering.

Under Bush’s presidency, the U.S. unjustly targeted and jailed thousands of innocents civilians for years. Once out of the White House, Bush acknowledged some of his mistakes, although it does not exempt him from the war crimes that he committed during his presidency.

By unjustly killing thousands of innocent civilians, Trump will never annihilate terrorism. On the contrary, it will be used for terrorists as a propaganda tool to convince and persuade citizens that the U.S. is the real enemy of the Middle East.

The defeat of Islamic terrorism will only come when the international community shows citizens of the Middle East that they are there to help them. However, it is unlikely to happen since Trump could have several conflicts of interest in the Middle East.

During the last presidential campaign, Trump announced that if he became President, he would then try to take control of petroleum production in the Middle East, and this fact will undermine his efforts to build trust with the citizens.

While I am writing this piece, Trump is probably planning his next move in the Middle East. Or perhaps a deadly strike is being directed against defenseless civilians causing carnage in Syria or Iraq. What is certain is that the international media will be waiting for the next fatal event, and the international community, as usual, will lean on global superpowers and do nothing to stop the massacre in the Middle East.