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Speech given to the Dialogue Conference on Genocide, 16.
November 2007, Voksenaasen, Oslo, Norway

by Alejandro Bendaña, CEI, Nicaragua

Remembrance—The Role of Historical Memory: To Speak the Unspeakable in Order to Remember what should be the Unforgettable

Sabra and Shatila[1] · The Massacre

It happened 25 years ago—16. September 1982. A massacre so awful that people who know about it cannot forget it. Photos are gruesome reminders—charred, decapitated, violated corpses .... For the victims and the handful of survivors, it as a 36-hour holocaust without mercy. It was deliberate, it was planed and it was overseen. But to this day, the killers have gone unpunished.

- These accounts need to be individually absorbed, lest they be lumped together as just the collective deal rather than the systematic torture and killing of individual, innocent human beings.

- The statistics of those killed vary, but even according to the Israeli military, the official count was 700 people killed while Israeli journalist, Amon Kapeliouk put the figure at 3,500. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society put the number killed at over 2,000. Regardless of the numbers, they would not and could not mitigate what are clear crimes against humanity

- 15 years later, Robert Fisk, the journalist who had been one of the first on the scene said: Had Palestinians massacred 2,000 Israelis 15 years ago, would anyone doubt the world’s press and television would be remembering so terrible a deed this morning? Yet this week, not a single newspaper in the US—or Britain for that matter—has even mentioned the anniversary of Sabra and Shatila.”

- There were Israeli inquiries, but as Chomsky pointed out, “the inquiry was not intended for people who have a prejudice in favour of truth and honesty”, but it gained support for Israel in the US Congress and among the public. It took an International Commission of Inquiry by Sean MacBride to find that Israel was “directly responsible” because the camps were under its jurisdiction as an occupying power. Yet, despite the UN describing the heinous operation as a “criminal massacre” and declaring it an act of genocide, no one was prosecuted. (UNGA Resolution, December 16, 1982)

- When relatives of the victims and survivors filed suit against Sharon in Belgium in 2001, US interference led to the Belgian Parliament gutting the universal jurisdiction law and by the time the ICC was established in The Hague the following year, the perpetrators of the Sabra and Shatila massacre could no longer be tried because its terms of reference did not allow it to hear cases of war crimes against humanity or genocide pre-dating 1 July 2002. Neither Sharon nor those who carried out the massacres have ever been punished for their horrendous crimes

- The length of time since these acts carried out should be no impediment to exposing the truth. More than 60 years after the Nazi atrocities against the Jews in Europe, the world still mourns and remembers and erects monuments and museums to that violent holocaust. How they are done, to whom they are and to how many does not make the crimes any more or less heinous. They can never be justified even on the strength of one state’s rational that another people ought to be punished, or worse still, are simply inferior or worthless beings.....

- A Crime Against a People. The atrocities committed in the camps of Sabra and Shatila could be put in the context of an ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people. The MacBride report found that these atrocities “were not inconsistent with wider Israeli intentions to destroy Palestinian political will and cultural identity.” Since Deir Ysassin and the other massacres of 1948, those who survived have joined hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fleeing a litany of massacres committed in 1953, 1967 and the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and the killing is still going on today.

- Thus were the victims and survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacre gathered up in the perpetual nakba of the slaughtered, the dispossessed, the displaced and the discarded—a pattern of ethnic cleansing perpetrated under the Zionist plan to finally and forever extinguish Palestinian society and its people.

- This is why we must remember Sabra and Shatila, 25 years on.

Is it a question of numbers or awareness, of time that now, unlike yesterday, we have a heightened moral awareness?

2.  Is there some selectivity at work when it comes to remember and labelling—Jews yes, Arabs no?

If that were true—then we would not have to the tell the tale of Two Genocides (Congo and Darfur)

-  Possibly a quarter million people have lost their lives in Darfur. The US government screams its head off in denunciation of genocide. But in the case of the DRC, as many as 5 million have died since 1994 in overlapping convulsions of ethnic and state-sponsored massacres—and not a word of reproach from Washington. A human death toll that approaches the Nazi’s annihilation Jews in WW2, an ongoing holocaust without a whiff of complaint from the Superpower
-  Why is mass death the cause of indignation and confrontation in Sudan, but exponentially more massive carnage in Congo unworthy of mention? The answer is simple: in Sudan, the US has a geopolitical nemesis to confront: Arabs, and their Chinese business partners. In the Congo, it is US allies and European and US corporate interests that benefit from the slaughter. Therefore, despite 5 million skeletons lying in the ground, there is no call to arms from the US government. It is they who set the genocidal Congolese machine in motion. (Kagame)

-  Both holocausts are crimes against humanity, but only the smaller one, Darfur, is a fit subject for inclusion in the US political debate. During the June 3 CNN Democratic debate, moderator Wolf Blitzer demanded that the candidates raise their hands if they supported the imposition of a no-fly zone in Darfur—an act of war against the Khartoum government according to international law. Only Kucinich and former Senator Mike Gravel declined to endorse the violation of Sudanese sovereignty.

-  The Congressional Black Caucus follows the same script. Lobby and demonstrate against the Sudanese regime, to the applause of the corporate press. But they never said a word, as a body, about the carnage in Congo. It is a taboo subject, to close to “Vital American interests”. But the Sudanese conflict is fair game.

-  The preferred narrative of Darfur fits nicely with that of the Israel lobby in the US. Although all the antagonists are Black Africans and Muslims, the aggressors are classified as “Arabs”. A regional inter-African, inter-Muslim conflict is made to appear as part of the “clash of civilizations”.

-  Racism. Darfur has been made into a stage-set of anti-Arab conflict, which perfectly suits the pro-Israel and right wing Christian lobbies in the US. Congo, where far more people have died, remains a gargantuan killing field, uncovered by the corporate media and ignored by the Congressional Black Caucus and the array of Democratic presidential candidates.

In his seminal article in the London Review of Books Mahmood Mamdami[2] points out how many opinions on Darfur call for ‘force as a first-resort response’. ”What makes the situation even more puzzling is that some of those who are calling for an end to intervention in Iraq are demanding an intervention in Darfur. Journalist Bryan Hunt points to the duality between the US Pentagon’s recent installation of a new unified to be established next year gaining acceptance as a humanitarian effort and not as part of the drive to control African’s oil and extend the war on terror, as is actively being fought in Somalia for example with operations carried over from US bases. At the same time, calls grow for humanitarian intervention in Darfur. How coincidental that this lay open another possibility for military engagement to deliver regime changing in another Islamic state rich in oil reserves.

Does the definition and practice of genocide depend on who is doing the killing—apparently.[3]

3. What About Prevention?  Somalia.

Last week the SGUN, said that 1.5 million people were in dire need of assistance. The organization Human Rights Watch stated “the failure of the International Community to end the violence reflects contempt for the value of Africa Life”. Is it racism? Or does it have more to do with the nature of the US relationship with the perpetrators.

4. We must be informed.  Ogaden.

On October 3 of this year, Human Rights Watch presented testimony before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Congress. focus on the conduct of the Ethiopian military, not only because the Ethiopian government’s military forces have systematically committed atrocities and violated the basic laws of war, but because Ethiopia is a key ally and partner of the United States in the Horn of Africa. HRW stated that in the Ogaden “ we have documented massive crimes by the Ethiopian army, including civilians targeted intentionally; villages burned to the ground as part of a campaign of collective punishment; public executions meant to terrify on-looking villagers; rampant sexual violence used as a tool of warfare; thousands of arbitrary arrests and widespread and sometimes deadly torture and beatings in military custody; a humanitarian and trade blockade on the entire conflict area; and hundreds of thousands of people forced away from their homes and driven to hunger and malnutrition. The Ogaden is not Darfur. But the situation in Ogaden follows a frighteningly familiar pattern: a brutal counter insurgency operation with ethnic overtones in which government forces deliberately attacks civilians and displace large populations, coupled with severe restrictions on humanitarian assistance. Unlike in Darfur, however, the state that is perpetrating abuses against its people in Ogaden is a key US ally and recipient of seemingly unquestioning US military, political, and financial support. Furthermore the crisis in Ogaden is linked to a U.S.-supported military intervention by Ethiopia in Somalia that has been justified in terms of counter terrorism. Because the United States has until now supported Ethiopia so closely, there is a widespread and growing sentiment in the region that the United States also shares some of the blame for the Ethiopian military’s abusive conduct...

A crucial first step would be for the U.S. government to publicly acknowledge the depth of the suffering, especially in the Somali region of Ethiopia—and then, immediately, take concrete steps to alleviate that misery
... Our investigators on the ground have been able to substantiate many killings by the Ethiopian forces; the burning of villages; widespread sexual violence; the arbitrary detention and torture of thousands in military custody; denial of access to wells; confiscation of livestock and hostage-taking to compel families to turn in family members suspected of ONLF involvement... In less than three months, Ethiopia's military campaign has triggered a looming humanitarian crisis...

While the Ogaden is not Darfur yet, it is probably only a few months away from sliding over the edge into a full-blown humanitarian crisis of massive proportions...

The United States has significant leverage over Ethiopia in the form of foreign aid and political influence. It is viewed regionally as the Ethiopian government’s main backer and implicitly—if not directly—responsible for the Ethiopian government’s conduct. Therefore, US support for Ethiopia's abusive counter insurgency efforts in the Horn of Africa threatens to make the United States complicit in continuing laws of war violations by the Ethiopian government.[4]

5. We must make the connections

None of this happens in isolation, but attention gets focused or deflected by others, who have the power to do so.

One can’t help but detect a pattern. If the killings take place in the South, or in a place the North does not have vital interests, then we speak of “form of culturally-generated mass violence, a “civil war”, “armed conflict” that takes place in the South, as opposed to more legally and morally stringent category of "genocide" that has taken place in the North?
And then when the label of genocide is used, we will have leaders of the South make enormous efforts to avoid intervention by avoiding the “G” word. The end result is that the term becomes a political football. Thus the former president of Nigeria Obasanjo to claim that genocide was not taking place in Darfur—it was rather conflict.

A South perspective therefore will insist, as Henning says, to “include the political dimension of the subject as an integral part of the effort to come to terms with a massive challenge. Or as Mufani says, get into the “politics of naming”. And when you get into that politics, you will rapidly get into the North South power relations.

6. There can be no impunity and it cannot be only the north that does the judging

The North not only assumes the right to name the genocide, to protect the victims, but also to act as judge and executioner.
The North may have its own standards and procedures, which they term universal, save for the fact that war criminals that occupied high position in the rich countries and their allies are somehow exempt from the militarist.
Kissinger, De Klerk, Sharon, (Nobel Prizes). Milosevic aside. Or Gore.
I would ask the Chief Prosecutor about another double standard: A separate criteria if you are black or brown and they you must face white jurors and Northern countries because courts in the South cannot be trusted? For example, the Rwandan government has issued formal and informal requests to several governments -- including the UK, the Netherlands, Canada, France and Finland -- for the extradition of several individuals accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. In June 2007, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) filed a request to transfer its first case to the Rwandan courts. However, Amnesty International urged the ICTR not to transfer any of its cases to Rwanda ”until the Rwandan government can demonstrate that it can and will conduct trials fairly and impartially”. Rwandan communities have mechanisms for reconciliation and justice, not perfect, but they demand respect.

Does the North have a monopoly on the theory and practice of what is fair and impartial? Indigenous leader Peletier, two decades. The point here is not to quibble legal procedures but rather a point of principle which the importance that our own countries in the South, our own national courts, in this case Rwandan, take responsibility for investigating and prosecuting persons accused of the heinous crimes that were committed in its own territory. Of course, there will be problems and limitations—but there should be no compromise on the principle, including the principle of respecting the rights of the victims. In Uganda you have the ICC demanding extraditions of leaders of the LRA for prosecution, but religious leaders from Uganda and others feel that if mechanisms on the national and local level for justice are there and willing to address issues of impunity, then what is the role for an ICC? Gets in the way of peace negotiations.

We know there are problems in the whole system of criminal prosecution (what country does not have them), yet we are also witnessing how those shortcomings are actually utilized by the United States for purposes of so-called extraordinary renditions—that is, transferring prisoners to compliant neo-colonial countries so that torture and other inhuman, degrading and cruel treatment can be applied. So if it is for purposes of the war on terror, extradition is fine and the worse the prevailing practices, the more welcome they are. So the less developed our national justice systems, the better for purposes of the WOT—we deal with ”their” criminalized and they deal with our criminals? Some justice. Is it a case of ”justice”—as with ’good governance’ or ’corruption’—yardsticks applied only to Africa and the South. Should we award prizes , as what Mo Ibriahim Prize, for ’good justice’ in Africa?

7. If the greatest crime in history is not genocide, then I do not know what is. (good intentions are beside the point)

Fashionable now in some quarters to apologize.

Somehow if the intentions were “good”, then what resulted was a historical injustice, not a historical crime, not a crime against humanity, not genocide. Huge difference, because the criminals get off scoot free, historically and in terms of prosecution. Because it was all done in the name of progress, civility and civilization. It was the white man’s burden, mission civilize, manifest destiny. And it is in this way that the greatest crime ever committed against a people goes not simply unpunished but often unrecognized.
I am talking about the crime of colonial expansion and colonialism.

The crimes against those on the receiving end of the ‘civilising’ expansion of capitalism beginning with the so-called “age of discovery”. Something with us today. Even Marx felt that capitalist expansion could be cruel but it was progressive, as revealed in the first section of the Communist Manifesto.

Yet for the discovered, for the objects of civilisation, the expansion of capitalism amounted to genocide that took the form of disease, the theft of land and other resources, the destruction of language and culture, and either forced labour or outright slavery. Anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro calculates that at the end of the 15th century, when the first Spanish conquerors arrived in the Americas there were approximately 70 million indigenous inhabitants. 150 years later, he states, there were only 3.5 million left, left in indigence and deprived of the land that had belonged to them for century because it now all belonged to the King. So to solve the problem, the slave trade began taking the genocide to the shores of Africa.

This is what we call “the indigenous genocide” because the European conquerors implements a series of practices that had the result of virtually exterminating the population, enforcing inhuman work practices that led to mass suicides in communities when they say that their future was misery and slavery. Disease also took its toll. Working to produce the tons of gold and silver that underwrote the expansion of commerce in the North Europe and the Industrial Revolution.

And then the unspeakable crime of slavery and the holocaust that it produced, and yet at the last Conference on Racism, the Northern countries objected strongly to formally apologizing and recognizing the crime.

8. Genocides are not an event they are also a process

The Killing and dispossession continues. To this day white people from Canada down to Argentina and Chile continue to confiscate indigenous land, while the communities suffer from real limbo, as their land is not recognized by much of Western Law. The same with the descendants of the slaves in the Americas.

Look at the situations of the indigenous communities today (and the rebellions including the electoral rebellion that today more than 500 years after the conquest has produced the first indigenous social leader to become President in Bolivia). But otherwise it is the same pattern of racism and contempt that prevails today. Second and third class citizens, “indios”.

As Eduardo Galeano says, indigenous populations that do not have a language, but rather a dialect, that to not produce art but rather handicrafts, that do not practice a culture but rather folklore.

Pope and King. And there were and are priests who insist that that Christianity meant accompanying the indigenous peoples in their struggles to conserve their spiritual and cultural identity, and to regain their land and resources stolen by the new landed elite and by huge corporations. This is a struggle that continues since governments and corporations seem bent on finishing the job of genocide begun by the first European conquerors 500 years ago.[5]

The other day, Brown said, "The days of Britain having to apologize for the British Empire are over. We should celebrate." Like Blair, like Clinton, like Bush, Brown believes in the liberal truth that the battle for history has been won; that the millions who died in British-imposed famines in British imperial India will be forgotten—like the millions who have died in the American Empire will be forgotten. And like Blair, his successor is confident that professional journalism is on his side. This may very well be the most powerful and dangerous ideology we have ever known because it is open-ended. This is liberalism—liberal imperialist genocide.

9. Journalism shares the responsibility for what has happened and for what continues to happen—including the depolitization of genocide and violence

Mamdami poses a critical question: ”What would happen if we thought of Darfur as we do of Iraq, as a place with a history and politics – a messy politics of insurgency and counter-insurgency? Why should an intervention in Darfur not turn out to be a trigger that escalates rather than reduces the level of violence as intervention in Iraq has done? Why might it not create the actual possibility of genocide, not just rhetorically but in reality? Morally, there is no doubt about the horrific nature of the violence against civilians in Darfur. The ambiguity lies in the politics of the violence, whose sources include both a state-connected counter-insurgency and an organised insurgency, very much like the violence in Iraq.”

That is a line of thinking you will not see in the mainstream press. It is too subversive—what is worse, the media is heavily responsible for the confused thinking. Because you can’t really accuse journalists of being disinformed—it may be more to do with corporate power and the old saying that it is difficult to understand a problem if your salary depends on not understanding it.

Australian journalist and filmmaker John Pilerger reminds us that ”Journalism gives us a simple moral world, where a group of perpetrators face a group of victims, but where neither history nor motivation is thinkable because both are outside history and context.

Even when newspapers highlight violence as a social phenomenon, they fail to understand the forces that shape the agency of the perpetrator. Instead, they look for a clear and uncomplicated moral that describes the victim as untainted and the perpetrator as simply evil. Where yesterday’s victims are today’s perpetrators, where victims have turned perpetrators, this attempt to find an African replay of the Holocaust not only does not work but also has perverse consequences. Whatever its analytical weaknesses, the depolitization of violence has given its proponents distinct political advantages.”

One of the oldest clichés of war is that truth is the first casualty. No it's not, says Pilger: Journalism is the first casualty. In Iraq the Pentagon invented the embedded journalist because it believed that critical reporting had lost Vietnam. (Pilger). This is what Saul Landau calls the “ the mind-altering glue inherent in imperial memory”.

We choose not to speak the unspeakable. It never happened! Harold Pinter's subversive truth, I believe, was that he made the connection between imperialism and fascism, and described a battle for history that's almost never reported. This is the great silence of the media age.
Like the scale of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. The enduring tragedy of Palestine is due in great part to the silence and compliance of the so-called liberal left. Hamas is described repeatedly as sworn to the destruction of Israel. The New York Times, the Associated Press, the Boston Globe—take your pick. They all use this line as a standard disclaimer, and it is false. That Hamas has called for a ten-year ceasefire is almost never reported. Even more important, that Hamas has undergone an historic ideological shift in the last few years, which amounts to a recognition of what it calls the reality of Israel, is virtually unknown; and that Israel is sworn to the destruction of Palestine is unspeakable.

And that's what's happening in Iraq. The bombing has doubled since last year, and this is not being reported. And who began this bombing? Bill Clinton began it.(With the knowledge and approval of the latest Nobel Peace Laureate) During the 1990s Clinton rained bombs on Iraq in what were euphemistically called the "no fly zones." At the same time he imposed a medieval siege called economic sanctions, killing as I've mentioned, perhaps a million people, including a documented 500,000 children. Almost none of this carnage was reported in the so-called mainstream media, says John Pilger, in “Freedom next time”.[6]

What happens when aggression takes place against an entire nation. How much do you read in the press about the economic sanctions imposed on that country for decades by the United States. The Cuban government for example speaks of the genocidal embargo placed on their economy by the US which affects the entire population—genocide as a form of economic war or blockade.

10. Let us also speak about structural violence of colonialist neoliberal practices

A people’s South perspective on genocide would look at the mass death and destruction that takes place on a day to day basis as a product of the global power order. For example, payment of debt and the debt relation, as managed by the IMF and the World Bank, and the imposition of constraints on state-led autonomous economic development paths under the coercion of WTO regulations (so-called investor rights, intellectual property, and other inside-the-border rules) have served as key tools leveraging imperialist control and extraction of surplus from the Global South—modern day slavery and exploitation, but also genocide where it takes the form of infant mortality rates and deaths occasioned by preventable disease..

That violence is being supported by every major Northern donor agency, with your tax money !

Global neoliberalism as an instrument of imperialist domination forces privatization of public goods and basic services, turning them over usually at bargain prices to capitalists, often to foreign investors from the core countries. Core governments push such policies as liberalization, opening local markets to transnational capital, lower taxes on capital, and a smaller role of government through deregulation of markets and reductions in the social wage. Thus peripheral states have been reorganized in form and function by the global economic governance institutions to maximally extract locally produced surplus and allow its appropriation by foreign capital and its local collaborators.

Imperialism, by its very nature, is genocidal. It is not simply a Clinton or a Bush. The expansion of U.S. power through the creation and modification of trade and investment relations on a global terrain. We are reminded by today’s events that imperialism is above all about defending and expanding global control. This involves two tactical avenues: military force and political governance. The two go together although not always in overt ways.


11. If we speak of genocide, of crimes against humanity, one must speak of its victims and of their right to reparations.

If slavery was a form of genocide, then should not the descendants of those that benefited from that awful business compensate the descendants of those slaves? Manning Marable, a US black scholar, looked at this issue and found that in the US, when asked whether "corporations that made profits from slavery should apologize to black Americans who are descendants of slaves," 68 percent of African Americans responded affirmatively, with 23 percent opposed, while 62 percent of all whites rejected the call for an apology, with only 34 percent supporting it. On the question of financial compensation, however, whites closed ranks around their racial privileges. When asked whether corporations benefiting from slave exploitation should "make cash payments to black Americans who are the descendants of slaves," 84 percent of all whites responded negatively, with only 11 percent supporting payments. A clear majority of African Americans polled, by contrast, endorsed corporate restitution payments, by a 57 to 35 percent margin, with 8 percent expressing no opinion. ….. America's version of legal apartheid created the conditions of white privilege and black subordination that we see all around us every day. A debt is owed, and it must be paid in full”, says Manning Marable.[7]

Genocide like racism is also a structural issue.—it may be more grounded in institutional processes rather than by individuals' behaviour. Marable explains that “Racial prejudice is reproduced by America's basic institutions-economic, educational, social, and political-of our society. The racial myths of white history are used to rationalize, explain away, and justify white supremacy and black inequality. What reparations do is to force whites to acknowledge the brutal reality of our common history, something white society generally has refused to do. It provides a historically-grounded explanation for the continuing burden of racial oppression: the unequal distribution of economic resources, land, and access to opportunities for social development, which was sanctioned by the federal government.

Manning adds that, Consequently, it is that same government that bears the responsibility of compensating those citizens and their descendants to whom constitutional rights were denied. Affirmative action was essentially "payback equality," in the words of political scientist Ronald Walters; it created millions of job opportunities, bud did relatively little to transfer wealth from one racial group to another

One-third of all African-American households today has a negative net wealth. The average black household's wealth is less than 15 percent of the typical white household's. Most of our people are trapped in an almost bottomless economic pit from which there will be no escape-unless we change our political demands and strategy from liberal integrationism to a restructuring of economic resources, and the elimination of structural deficits that separate blacks and whites into unequal racial universes.

Introducing the Reparations component in our deliberations is fundamental. As Manning argues, "Reparations" transforms the dynamics of the national racial discourse, moving from "handouts" to "paybacks." It parallels a global movement by people of African descent and other Third World people to renegotiate debt and to demand compensation for slavery, colonialism, and apartheid… the greatest challenge in the national debate over African-American reparations is in convincing black people, not whites, that we can actually win. The greatest struggle of the oppressed is always against their own weaknesses, doubts, and fears. The reparations demand is most liberating because it has the potential for transforming how black people see themselves, and our own history.”


In his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the playwright Harold Pinter made an epoch speech. He asked why, and I quote him,


"The systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought in Stalinist Russia were well know in the West, while American state crimes were merely superficially recorded, left alone, documented."


And yet across the world the extinction and suffering of countless human beings could be attributed to rampant American power. "But," said Pinter,


 "You wouldn't know it. It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest."


Pinter's words were more than the surreal. The BBC ignored the speech of Britain's most famous dramatist.

In conclusion, it is unfortunate that we feel it is necessary to introduce a South perspective in contraposition to North perspectives. What we need to work for is a universal conception and action plan.

As specialists we need to take heed of what Richard Falk reminds of the responsibility of the public intellectual or of what Hanah Arendt termed intellectual in dark times-- public intellectual is morally and politically motivated to speak out on particular topics, more as a citizen than as a scholar or a teacher.

If Genocide is a term that confuses people that keeps them from liberating themselves, then it must be targeted. "That great whistleblower Tom Paine warned that if the majority of the people were denied the truth and the ideas of truth, it was time to storm what he called the Bastille of words. That time is now."

And to carry out that task in this day and age, what is most needed is the real information, the subversive information, empowering as it is, which of course we do not get from most of the journalists and academies. Only politicians and media owners like to believe that the media speaks for the public. As Pilger states, But they need truth, and journalists , social scientists ought to be agents of truth, not the courtiers of power.

In closing a plea for action, for prevention

One year from now we do not want to meet to discuss how genocide in Iran could have been prevented. Today we are faced with clear US preparations to carry out what could be another genocide in Iran. If Iran is attacked, the reaction and the upheaval cannot be predicted. The national security and homeland security presidential directive gives Bush power over all facets of government in an emergency.

Finally, let me end on a sad note affecting my own country. Four days ago the legislative assembly approved a new criminal code that makes it a crime for any woman to interrupt her pregnancy for therapeutic reasons including danger to the mother’s own life. All the more tragic, because the majority governing party, the Sandinista front, voted overwhelmingly in favour of the measure, on account of its alliance with the catholic church hierarchy. Nicaragua became the sixth country in the world to ban all forms of abortion, after the Vatican, Malta, El Salvador, Honduras and Chile. Poor women in Nicaragua are being condemned to death, because the rich ones can seek a life-saving abortion, or any abortion, outside the country.

This targeted violence against women, this genocide, can be prevented, if people and organizations act and stand with the women of Nicaragua.

Yesterday president Kaunda reminded us where we all came from. That common motherland is being targeted. Let us defend our mothers, our daughters and our sisters. They/you are the best of what we are and what we can be.




Oslo 16. November 2007

[1] Sonja Karkar, “Sabra and Shatila: On Massacres, Atrocities and Holocausts”, JUST Commentary, Vol. 7., No 10, (October, 2007). Sonja is the president of Women for Palestine.

[2] Mahmood Mamdani, The Politics of Naming”, London Review of Books, March 8, 2007

[3] Glenn Ford, “A Tale of Two Genocides, Congo and Darfur”, Black Agenda Report, 18 July, 2007. Ford is the editor of Black Agenda Report.

[4] The House Committee on Foreign Affairs "The Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in the Horn of Africa", Submission by Human Rights Watch, October 3, 2007. http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/10/03/ethiop17010.htm.

[5] Daniel E. Benadava, “Mas de 500 anos de ‘Genocidio Indigena’ en America, ADITAL, 13/07/07

[6] ”Freedom Next Time: Filmmaker & Journalist John Pilger on Propaganda, the Press, Censorship and Resisting the American Empire”, Tuesday, August 7th, 2007. www.democracynow.org

[7] Manning Marable, In Defense of Black Reparations, ZNet, October 30, 2002

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