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Netanyahu and Republicans Beating the Drums of War

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(NNPA) We need to see beyond petty insults. The fact that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) chose to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress without coordinating this with the White House was bad enough. It was a snub and everyone knows that. Yes, it was an insult. What is actually more important is that the Republican majority, along with Netanyahu, wish to take the U.S. into a war with Iran. That is what we must understand.

The U.S.A., along with several other countries, are engaged in very tricky negotiations with Iran over the latter’s nuclear program. The U.S. and Israel assert that the Iranians wish to build nuclear weapons. No proof has ever been provided to that effect. The Iranians, signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, assert that they aim to build a nuclear program for peaceful energy purposes.

Netanyahu has been egging the U.S. n for years to take military action against Iran. Such action would be both illegal and immoral. There is no foundation for an attack, particularly since the only nuclear power in the Middle East is Israel, a country that is a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a possessor of more than 100 nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, Netanyahu and his allies in the Republican Party believe that Iran must be pushed to the wall. Further sanctions, as President Obama argued, will do nothing but destabilize the negotiations, which is precisely what Netanyahu wishes to accomplish. If the negotiations break down, then there is a good chance that there will be war.

Now, for a moment, let’s consider the implications. Please, step away from this column and get a map of the Middle East. Currently there is a civil war in Syria. The U.S. is involved. There is a civil war in Iraq. The U.S.A. is involved. There is a civil war in Libya. The U.S.helped to bring that about. There is instability in Bahrain. The U.S. has a fleet stationed there and has done nothing to mediate the crisis. There are more hot spots that can be added to this list. Given this, how could the USA even consider military action against Iran?

You might notice that I keep referencing Prime Minister Netanyahu singularly. That is because there is a split within the Israeli political class that is becoming evident. Recent reports have indicated that the Israeli security service – the Mossad — opposes an attack on Iran. So does the U.S. military. Yet, the Republicans in Congress and their friend Netanyahu are prepared to cry wolf, and let slip the dogs of war.

They know, better than us that they will have little price to pay for such irresponsible actions. You and I, instead, will pay the price, particularly when we view the body bags returning home.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Nigeria is Headed down the Road to Disaster

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(NNPA) Nigeria has the largest Black population in the world – 178 million. Within that population are 300 differing ethnic and culture groups. Traditionally, colonial powers such as England, would pit various ethnicities against one another to provide confusion and controversy. A confused populace was much easier to exploit and colonize. To call Nigeria confused is an understatement.

The largest group lives in the southwestern part of the nation and is known as the Yoruba. They have a control system managed mainly by monarchs and are successful politically. Another large group is the Igbo, which populates the southern Delta area known for its oil exploration. The third largest group is the Hausa – Fulani, which is basically Muslim and locally run by Emirs.

With the oil industry as its financial base, the Igbo decided in 1967 that they would go it alone and part from the government of Nigeria. Thus, the great Civil War of 1967 was begun. This became one of the bloodiest conflicts known to mankind. The Yoruba cut off the supply lines to Igbo country known as Biafra. At the end of the conflict, 1970, more than 1 million Igbo had died mostly from starvation during this time as the rest of the world ignored it all. The nation has kept in original formation but the tribal chasms remain.

In contrast to the Delta oil region, the northern Chad Lake Basin has discovered viable oil reserves and when the high price of oil returns, you will see an extreme amount of exploration. The Hausa – Fulani control this segment and they have plan of sharing it. Besides, the other major groups, the bordering nations of Chad, Niger and Cameroon, have their ideas about exploiting it. This is the major problem versus peace.

The Hausa – Fulani is becoming more and more Jihadist. The major negative activity is that of the Boko Haram whose mission is to form an Islamic state right over the Chad Lake Basin. They are starting a cleansing process through roving groups of murderers and ethnic cleansing. The Boko Haram is as lethal and as vicious as the ISIS organization in the Middle East.

This group was founded in 2002 by an educated, well-dressed gentleman named Mohamad Yusuf. After his death in 2009, Abubaker Shekau replaced him. In a sharp contrast, the new leader is a “butcher” with dreams of genocide. His funding is mysterious but one can bet it’s coming from the Middle East. With the oil revenue implications, it can also be coming from secretive corporate means or Intel Operandi such as the CIA, European and Middle Eastern counterparts and even the Israeli Mossud.

Boko Haram is growing and is unchecked by the Nigerian Army. This army is inept and corrupt. You don’t know what you get whenever the Army starts to move. There have been more than a few reports of atrocities committed by the Nigerian Army on its own people. Tribal rift and revenge often come into play.

Adding to an unreliable military is the political climate. For the first time in decades, President Goodluck Johnathan’s party is being seriously challenged in the upcoming elections. If the incumbent is defeated, there is a big question: Will he step aside? If not, major chaos throughout the nation will erupt.

At the same time, Boko Haram will reap massacre on the Chad Lake Basin area. That will invite the armies of Chad, Niger and Cameroon to step in and add to the carnage. If this develops into a major, long-term military/revolutionary struggle, I wonder which nation or group of nations can come in and settle the situation. The U.S. military is already strained with the debacles in the Middle East. Our European allies lack the backbone to get serious about a major war.

If there are religious and/or tribal implications, it will be an exhaustive experience. Financing it will be no problem for the “bad guys” and the bad guys could be on all sides of the struggle. No one will win and the world will suffer. The entire African Diaspora will become pre-occupied and current progressive projects will be put on hold.

Our State Department has shown no viable strategy in this above mess. The UN has provided token input or leadership. Right now, the situation reminds us of Iraq just before ISIS came storming through at the shock and dismay of President Obama. What we have is a large swath of land, well populated and about to boil over. The commercial activity of Nigeria may come to a big halt and it will take years and perhaps a few million deaths before some semblance of responsibility and good governance arrives. Is anyone listening?

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: halford@nationalbcc.org

Terror in the Name of Religion

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(NNPA) It has been deeply disturbing to hear and read suggestions that there is something inherently violent in Islam that distinguishes it from other religions. It is also a false notion, and one which we must dispel immediately.

Let’s start with the obvious facts. Islam has somewhere around 1.2 billion followers on planet Earth. All one has to do is to count the number of terrorists who have been involved in various actions over the years to see that we are talking about a minuscule percentage of adherents to extremism. The recent killings in France involved less than a dozen terrorists, for instance.

Thus, a reasonable person would ask who, in their right mind, would suggest that on the basis of such small numbers, that an entire religion is extreme, violent and outside of the human family? The answer is that this is not about being in one’s right mind; it is about a political agenda that wishes to demonize a religion plus suppress any and all discussions about the foreign policies of Western countries toward the Arab and Muslim Worlds.

Let’s think about another religion. Consider for a moment that official Christianity endorsed the slave trade. What conclusions should we draw from that? Here’s another example: What about the Ku Klux Klan that, again, in the name of Christianity, carried out open terrorist warfare against African Americans and their allies. What are the implications of this for Christianity? These are only three examples, but one can go on with many more. Rarely do I hear such a discussion in the mainstream media. How can anyone suggest that Islam is any more violent than any other religion or, more specifically, how can anyone suggest that religious extremism is somehow limited to adherents of Islam?

The simple answer is that one cannot. Unless one wishes to ignore key facts, it does not add up. But if you need one more story to convince you that we should be very careful about allegations suggesting that Islam is particularly violent, consider this. When the Mongols invaded Europe in the 1200s, they caught Eastern Europe by surprise. The Europeans did not know who the Mongols were and they could not figure out how to stop them, given the superiority of the military approach of the Mongols.

The Christian East Europeans concluded that the Mongols were actually devils, of some sort, and that they had been sent to Europe to destroy the Christians. Guess who they blamed for this? Jews. And, as a result, massive pogroms (lynchings) of Jews took place, including the incineration of entire villages of Jews.

The point here is not an attack on Christianity. In every religion there are examples of extremism in the name of that religion. Hindu extremists in India have attacked Indian Muslims as well as promoted the development of India’s nuclear weapons. Irish Protestants carried out terror attacks against Irish Catholics for decades in the name of religion. Extremism is not limited to one religion; it can always fly the banner of this or that religion in order to advance its nefarious objectives. For this reason we should step away from blind, ahistorical indictments of a religion because of the insane actions of some who would use its name.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

CBC Members Visit Ferguson, Mo.

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(NNPA) “Where do I start? How about undefinable frustration? It seems we can’t even catch our breath from our first tragedy before being hit by another gut-punch from a second, third, and fourth. The names Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice – and countless more. Too many more. That is the brutal truth – as brutal as the tactics employed with stunning regularity by some who are sworn to protect us.”

Those were the words delivered by Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) in Ferguson on January 18 at Wellspring United Methodist Church. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) had traveled to the hotspot in Missouri and Carson, who at 40 is the second youngest member of the CBC, took center stage as the keynote speaker.

“I come today with the Congressional Black Caucus because you ignited a flame,” he told the crowd. “You showed the world the cancer in Ferguson that continues to plague so many communities across our country.”

In addition to Carson, two other members of the Black Caucus spoke in Ferguson the day before the MLK Holiday: Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), and Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO) whose district includes Ferguson. In all, 10 CBC members were in attendance. While the service was underway, a group of Ferguson activists were protesting at restaurants for their #BlackBrunchSTL direct action. In all, 1 young activists met with the Black Caucus members.

“I talked to some brilliant young activists. They expressed their frustration with the challenges with the older generation. It’s a universal gripe that everyone has when we’re younger. They say: ‘The old people should step aside and let us take over.’ But where are you taking us? What is the action plan? Where are we going? Yes, we see your brilliance but do you have the heart of a surgeon,” Carson told the packed church.

That question has become the million-dollar question: What is the plan? What do the leaders who have come out of the Ferguson movement want to push in terms of police and what is their strategy? So, far many of the new groups formed in the wake of Ferguson have been detailed about their demands. However, there has been less detail on how to get those demands implemented.

Carson also focused on the key issue of getting out the vote in a town where voting participation is down.

He said, “There are many ways that we can serve and contribute to society. But in Ferguson I humbly submit to you that there is one act that stands out clearly at this time and that is us leveraging out voting block and exercising our right to vote.”

That the message in Ferguson was delivered by one of the Black Caucus’ youngest members was noteworthy. The Black Caucus often operates on seniority. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) is now the oldest member of the U.S. House. He will turn 86 in May. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) will turn 85 on June 11. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who is a member of the House leadership, is 74. The Black Caucus has 12 members over the age of 69.

The CBC has five members who were born in the 1970s: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), 44, Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas), 43, Rep Cedric Richmond (D-La), 41, and Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) who is 39. Another African American member of Congress, freshman Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), is the youngest Black member of Congress at 37.

Other members who took the trip to Ferguson were Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) and Don Payne (D-NJ).

With all the talk in the wake of Ferguson of “old leadership vs. new young activism,” Carson may have scored a breakthrough. Photos from the dinner meeting activists had with the Black Caucus showed the Congressman with young protesters Johnetta Elzie and Deray McKesson. Both Elzie and McKesson have been active and on the scene in Ferguson since last August after Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager was shot eight times by Darren Wilson, a White Ferguson police officer.

A St. Louis County grand jury refused to indict Wilson in connection with Brown’s death.

“We are here to support and encourage you to continue by engaging in the political process,” Carson said. “You have the power to determine the outcome of your mayor, school board, sheriff, and city council. The world is watching Ferguson – and Ferguson will always have the full force and power of the CBC, the conscious of the U.S. Congress as allies.”

Lauren Victoria Burke is a freelance writer and creator of the blog Crewof42.com, which covers African American members of Congress. She Burke appears regularly on “NewsOneNow with Roland Martin” and on WHUR FM, 900 AM WURD. She worked previously at USA Today and ABC News. She can be reached through her website, laurenvictoriaburke.com, or Twitter @Crewof42 or by e-mail at LBurke007@gmail.com.

France’s History of Violence

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(NNPA) In the aftermath of the killings of staff at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, there has been near universal outrage, and correctly so. The murders were brutal and indefensible, and whether coordinated or not with any terrorist organizations, were acts of terror. Yet, there is something very disturbing about what seems to have been forgotten in this moment. While France would like to present itself as a freedom loving country, its overseas policies are much more complicated and have led to a situation of simmering hostility within large chunks of the planet.

France had an overseas empire that it achieved through indisputable acts of violence. It retained its colonial possessions – until it could no longer do so – through open repression. In 1947, in the face of an anti-colonial uprising, France conducted a legendary and ignominious assault on the people of Madagascar, killing upwards of 100,000 people, as well as engaging in other brutal acts, such as rape. In the 1954-1962 Algerian War of Independence, at least 2 million Algerians were killed in their quest for freedom. In both cases France faced no consequences. The lives of the colonial people simply did not amount to much, and outside of the French-speaking world, little attention was focused on either of these massive atrocities.

Understanding history in no way excuses acts of terror. What it does do, however, is to put it in a much larger context. The demand for a cessation of terror must involve a recognition that terror did not start with the Parisian killings. Whether it was historic cases, such as the Madagascar massacres or the repression of the Algerians, or more recently the French involvement in the overthrow of Libyan President Qaddafi, violence has been used as an instrument of intimidation by the land of the tri-color flag.

While in no uncertain terms condemning the murders of the Charlie Hebdo staff, people of conscience in France – and around the world – must also examine carefully the policies of their own nations. The extent of hypocrisy, whether regarding freedom of the press, freedom of movement, or freedom from terror, that we have seen displayed in the days since the Parisian killings is more than unsettling. Parisians were killed; the French government declared its own war against terror, yet remains silent about terror and repression committed by its allies and by its own forces, thereby reinforcing the cynical view that might makes right. Such a view does not terminate terror. Rather, it gives a potent excuse for even more deadly terror in order to take on the mighty. That is not the 21st century for which we should be fighting.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

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