Pakistan government in crisis as coalition partner quits

MQM has long been at odds with unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP over political violence in Karachi

Pakistan government in crisis as coalition partner quits

By Hasan Mansoor (AFP) – 2 hours ago

KARACHI — The second largest party in Pakistan’s ruling coalition Sunday quit the government to join the opposition, destabilising the US ally in the war on Al-Qaeda and threatening to paralyse business of state.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) made the announcement days after its two federal cabinet ministers resigned, abandoning crisis talks with the main ruling Pakistan People’s Party that had scrambled to keep them on board.

An administration that took power less than three years ago following elections has now lost its majority in parliament and faces possible collapse if the opposition unites to pass a vote of no-confidence.

“We have decided to sit on opposition benches because the government has not done anything to address the issues we have been protesting about,” MQM stalwart Faisal Sabzwari told AFP.

MQM has long been at odds with unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP over political violence in Karachi, tax reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund, corruption and crippling inflation.

Without MQM’s 25 seats, the PPP’s coalition numbers 160 seats in the 342-member national assembly, 12 short of the 172 required for a majority.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani tried to appear calm on live television, telling journalists: “The government is not going to fall.”

“I was unanimously elected, all parties voted for me in national assembly. We have contacts with all parties,” Gilani said, indicating that horse-trading to shore up a new coalition was already underway.

Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said he was confident the MQM would return to the ruling coalition, but an adamant Sabzwari said: “The government has not listened to our demands to control inflation and corruption and it is bent upon burdening them with new tax.”

MQM remains in the coalition in the southern province of Sindh, of which Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi and economic hub is the capital and where the party’s support is rooted in the Urdu-speaking majority.

MQM’s Farooq Sattar, minister for overseas Pakistanis, and ports and shipping minister Babar Ghauri last week submitted their resignations, but the party had stopped short of joining the opposition.

PPP luminaries had appeared publicly confident of stitching up a deal to keep MQM on board, but analysts said late Sunday that the party had decided it no longer wanted to be implicated in an increasingly unpopular government.

All eyes will now turn to Pakistan’s main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, that would need to support any possible parliamentary vote of no-confidence.

“It is their moral duty now to prove their majority in the national assembly,” PML-N spokesman Ahsan Iqbal said of the government.

“The prime minister should take fresh vote of confidence from the parliament,” he said.

Political analyst Hasan Askari said: “The government runs into serious problems with the exit of MQM… The basic issue for the government now is survival.”

Yet he doubted any immediate prospect of a vote of no-confidence saying that Sharif appeared unwilling to bring down the government immediately and face responsibility for the country’s myriad crises.

Pakistan is grappling with a depressed economy, the after-effects of devastating floods that hit 21 million people last summer and Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked sanctuaries in its northwest on the Afghan border.

“That (a vote of no-confidence) is not going to happen for the time being. Nawaz Sharif is not in favour and the opposition is divided,” said Askari.

Troubled relations between Sharif’s party and the MQM gives the government breathing space of at least three to four weeks, analysts estimate, to stitch together a new majority.

“The government will try to win over small groups so you’ll see lots of politicking,” said Askari.

One of those parties set to be wooed could be Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUIF), the country’s most prominent religious party that took seven lawmakers out of government on December 14 after Gilani sacked one of its ministers.


4,000 Carnations Laid At Kremlin In Memory of the Beloved Butcher

  • From correspondents in Moscow
  • From:AFP

RUSSIAN Communists placed four thousand red carnations on Stalin’s grave beside Kremlin walls overnight to celebrate what would have been the Soviet dictator’s 131st birthday.

Communist supporters raised 80,000 rubles ($2620) in a fundraising drive with the slogan “Two carnations for Comrade Stalin”, organiser Igor Sergeyev told the Interfax news agency.

Carrying a red flag and led by Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, they piled the flowers beside a bust of Stalin that stands on his grave and round its neck.

Mr Zyuganov overnight called for the “re-Stalinisation” of Russian society in an open letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who has frankly criticised the rights abuses of the Soviet era.

The leader warned against a draft law, proposed by the presidential council for the development of civil society and human rights, which would ban the glorification of Stalinism.

“Putin and Medvedev’s stability is based on what Stalin and the Soviet authorities created. They have not created anything themselves in 10 years,” Mr Zyuganov said at a news conference overnight.

The Communists of Petersburg and the Leningrad region, a splinter youth group, overnight called for Stalin’s remains to be returned to the Lenin Mausoleum.

Stalin’s body was embalmed and lay beside Lenin’s on Red Square until Nikita Khrushchev condemned his personality cult in 1956 at the 20th party conference.

His policies of forced industrialisation and collectivisation of agriculture and the imprisonment and execution of ideological enemies caused millions of deaths during his decades of rule.

Stalin remains popular among hardline Communists, most elderly and poverty-stricken, and he is widely respected for leading the Soviet Union to victory in World War II, although opinion polls show his influence waning.

In May, Mr Medvedev condemned the “totalitarian” Soviet regime and “unforgivable crimes” committed by Stalin in a move that broke ranks with his predecessor Vladimir Putin, who has frequently praised Soviet achievements.

A report in November in the Vedomosti business newspaper said that Mr Medvedev would next year launch a major anti-Stalinisation campaign, including declassifying the files that secret police compiled on ordinary citizens.

The Neo-Soviet Tinderbox

[There is a great danger that forces which are unfriendly to the US/Russian reset will take advantage of the situation and unleash forces that no “conflict manager” could keep under control.]

A worrying trend for 2011

by Tim Wall at 23/12/2010 21:21

As Russia prepares to see in the New Year, an ominous shadow has been cast over Moscow and the rest of the country in the form of race riots and ethnic tensions.
These troubles, while sparked by a specific incident – a street brawl between young Muscovites and Caucasus natives that led to the death of a Spartak football fan – can be seen as having their roots not only in the legacy of Russia’s wars in Chechnya, but also in policies that have tended to heighten ethnic tensions rather than defuse them.
After the race riot by thousands of nationalists on Manezh Square, where OMON riot police were at first reluctant to break up the protests, there are two worrying trends developing.
The first is the prospect of non-Slavic people in Moscow and throughout Russia being used as scapegoats. In a huge multi-ethnic country such as Russia, large-scale ethnic violence would be a recipe for the de-stabilisation of society as a whole.
With a high oil price and large foreign currency reserves, Russia has so far escaped the worst of the European Union’s debt and recession problems. But if the global economy takes a further hit in 2011, nationalist politicians in Moscow could try to use a new crisis to blame economic woes on “foreigners” or “migrants” – even though millions of non-ethnic Russians living and working here are Russian citizens.
Ethnic tensions could also be used in the run-up to the 2011 State Duma elections and 2012 presidential election to whip up a nationalist backlash – another development that, while it may seem attractive to some spin-doctors in Moscow, could stoke up huge problems in future.
The authorities have tried to stem the upsurge of frustration from the country’s young people in particular, many of whom feel marginalised in an often-brutal, corrupt society. But the official attempts to harness young people’s political energies into nationalist, pro-Kremlin groups such as Nashi and Molodaya Gvardia have clearly backfired – letting an uncontrollable racist genie out of the bottle.
The biggest danger in the current situation, however, could lie in a different direction. If the nationalist protests and riots are used opportunistically to introduce further crackdowns on any form of dissent, from whatever quarter, it could eventually provoke a general protest movement of even greater proportions.

“Islamists” Doing British Dirty Work In Denmark?

[If there are no coincidences, then does the appearance of “Al-CIA-da” clones in Denmark, just as the Brits are seeking to expand their claims to seabed rights to oil and gas around this tiny rock island (102′ x 83′) also claimed by Denmark, implicate the secret services in the Danish “Islamist” plots?   SEE: “Islamists” Go Where Oilmen Fear to Tread ; Denmark terrorism plot thwarted with arrest of five suspected militants, authorities say]

Oil billions at stake as UN examines British claims to Rockall

Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Iceland battle over Atlantic outcrop sitting on lucrative oil and gasfields

Rockall UN oilfields

Ownership of Rockall is disputed by Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Iceland. The competing applications are likely to be reviewed by the UN in March. Photograph: David Simms/AFP/Getty Images

British claims to ownership of Rockall – the isolated Atlantic outcrop jutting out of a potentially vast and lucrative oilfield around 240 miles west of Scotland – is to be examined within weeks by the UN.

A formal claim for thousands of square miles of the seabed surrounding the rock has been made by Denmark and the Faroe Islands, potentially overriding the claims of Britain, Ireland and Iceland. At stake could be licences and income worth billions of pounds.

The four competing applications are likely to be reviewed by the UN’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) in March.

Diplomatic talks between the four countries have been rotating around European capitals for several years, in the hope of agreeing an amicable division of the seabed in the Hatton-Rockall basin. They have failed so far to map out a mutually acceptable settlement.

The hunt for offshore gas and oil at a time of increasing energy demand is driving enthusiasm among coastal states around the world to annex as much of the seabed as they are legally permitted.

In June, the commission’s panel of marine experts dismissed Britain’s application to extend its prospecting rights over 200,000 square miles of the ocean floor around Ascension Island in the south Atlantic. The commission ruled that the island, an overseas British territory that is also a volcanic pinnacle, was too slender to generate rights to an extended zone of the submerged continental shelf.

The dispute over Rockall is historically complex. The Royal Navy formally annexed the rock in 1955 by hoisting the Union flag.

The 1972 Island of Rockall Act formally declared it as part of Invernesshire, even though the nearest permanently inhabited settlement is 228 miles away in the Outer Hebrides.

Imperial ambitions were set back, however, by international ratification of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that: “Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.”

All of the rival claims submitted to the commission over the past few years have focused on the surrounding Hatton-Rockall Basin, under which are believed to be extensive oil and gas deposits.

Rockall, nonetheless, sits on a plateau claimed by all four nations. Britain and Ireland have agreed a common marine border that leaves Rockall in the UK sector.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We note that Denmark has made its submission in respect of the Faroe-Hatton plateau. We are presently studying this and the attached note verbale, which Denmark presented to the UN secretary-general.

“The UK … re-affirms its own commitment to the quadrilateral talks between the UK, Denmark, Iceland and Ireland. The next round of talks is scheduled to be held in Reykjavik in May 2011.”

Television Is the Poison we Love

[Awais has done a wonderful thing in the following article, because, in it, he makes a critical observation which all thinking individuals should have made by now–Television is much more than addictive entertainment; it is a subtle trap.  All those who fall under its spell pause long enough to consider an alternative version of reality.  Because of TV and the process of “suspending disbelief,” we have allowed ourselves to entertain foreign thoughts which would have otherwise never entered into our thought processes.  Because we embraced it as “entertainment,” we have had the sick thoughts of every sort of sick criminal introduced into our heads.

Whether the viewer accepts the alternative reality is less important than the fact that he or she has paused and given thought to the programmed message.  The greatest power of programming is in the subtle ways it infects the minds of its receivers.  If the programmers are intent upon harming, or deceiving them, then the airwaves become instruments of psychological warfare.  If you have an entire population willingly, eagerly, opening their homes to these alien signals, then you have a situation like that which we face today.

The question is will the American people ever voluntarily switch-off these subversive transmissions?

This is our predicament–How do we convince millions of free-willed individuals to switch-off the poison that they have grown to love, which is manipulating their thoughts, inducing them to believe in false versions of reality, before the false reality that has been designed for us, overtakes us all?]

Media is the hub of falsehood

Media creates illusions for Mass Psychological Warfare

By Awais Bilal

Everyone who has access to electronic media needs to understand a basic fact. Whatever they are about to see is nothing but ‘The Illusion’. It is amazing that such a big dilemma has never been bought to the limelight.

Hal Becker, a syndicated writer in 46 Business Journal Newspapers worldwide, said in an interview in 1981, “I know the secret of making the average American believe anything I want him to. Just let me control television… You put something on the television and it becomes reality. If the world outside the TV set contradicts the images, people start trying to change the world to make it like the TV set images.” This was the case then and it is now. Instead of the ‘average American’, we see people believing what they see on television.

The situation is alarming. We have witnessed war plans being sold on the media stage. The blue prints of the Iraq war were being sold by Bush and Blair. Iraqis were terrorized at a grand scale before the actual war and then it was covered up by deception. The disinformation of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and Iraq being a danger to the rest of the world created hype across the globe. This gave the American Government a green signal from peace loving nations and the American public to invade Iraq.

Masses in America and around the world have started to think about America’s gain in invading Iraq. They began to question the legitimacy of the reports which stated that Iraq housed weapons of mass destruction. They were not told that they were making 740000 women widows and 4.5 million people homeless. They were not told that the population of Iraq would be made to suffer. This is where Hollywood comes in.

Hollywood is considered the Mecca of the film industry. The Hollywood filmmakers have a wealth of experience. They show people a world, painted with illusions. The American government is well aware that public events have been manipulated by filmmakers and that people’s views of these events are what they have been shown in films.

An example of this was after the Vietnam War. Films such as The Deer Hunter (1978), Platoon (1986), Good Morning Vietnam (1987) and The Green Berets (1968) depict the war. They turn the truth into fiction and film-goers believe these to be a true representation of the Vietnam War where as they just perpetuated illusion.

After any major world event, Hollywood never fails to produce films depicting these events. The Iraq War was no different. Films like Jarhead (2008) and the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker (2008) entered cinemas around the world. People have to realize that what they are watching about Iraq war is a ‘lie’ because this war has been orchestrated purely for financial benefits. These wars have provided a very legitimate route to American ‘elite class’ to bring half of War budget back into their personal bank accounts through different war contracts.

The relationship between Hollywood and Pentagon can be said to be a marriage of interest or mutual exploitation.  Movie-makers who toe Pentagons policies of military portrayal get free support in war equipment.  Hence it works better for both parties if the Pentagon gets access to the scripts with authority to alter them and movie-makers get the support. Tanks, jets and all other military equipment is  borrowed from Pentagon for movies, that means American taxpayers’ money is being invested to show them illusion. It’s a win-win situation for both of them but those who suffer are general public, who are being kept away from the truth.

All war movies supported by Pentagon are reviewed by Admirals and Generals before they go for release. Philip Strub, who heads the Pentagon’s film liaison unit can be scene credited at the end of several war movies.

We as general public have to stop allowing ourselves to be influenced by the subtle but powerful illusions presented by television and war movies. It leads to a kind of mass madness that can have rather frightening implications for the future of the world. We have begun to see things that aren’t there, giving someone else the power to make up illusions for us.

God Bless us!

Awais Bilal was born and raised in Islamabad, Pakistan and currently lives in the UK. He is a writer and a Marketing consultant. His articles have been published in several Pakistani news papers. His major area of research is ‘impacts of media on society’. He holds an M.Sc Advertising and Media degree from University of Hull, UK.

The Coming War over the Constitution–Civil War Next?

Despite a few victories in the lame-duck session of Congress, Democrats and progressives should be under no illusion about the new flood of know-nothingism that is about to inundate the United States in the guise of a return to “first principles” and a deep respect for the U.S. Constitution.

The same right-wingers who happily accepted George W. Bush’s shift toward a police state – his claims of limitless executive power, warrantless wiretaps, repudiation of habeas corpus, redefining cruel and unusual punishment, suppression of dissent, creation of massive databases on citizens, arbitrary no-fly lists, and endless overseas wars – have now reinvented themselves as brave protectors of American liberty.

Indeed, the Tea Party crowd so loves the Constitution that the new Republican House majority will take the apparently unprecedented step ofreading the document aloud at the start of the new congressional session, presumably including the part about enslaved African-Americans being counted as three-fifths of a white person for purposes of congressional representation.

One also has to wonder if these “constitutionalists” will mumble over the preamble’s assertion that a key purpose of the Constitution is to “promote the general Welfare.” And what to do with Section Eight of Article One, which gives Congress the power to levy taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce among the states, and “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization”?

If one were to buy into the Tea Party’s interpretation of the founding document, you’d have to denounce such concepts as “socialism” and/or “intrusions” on states’ rights.

Part of the Tea Party’s mythology is that federal taxes are an unconstitutional imposition invented by modern-day “lib-rhuls,” that the national debt is another new thing, and that regulation of commerce is outside federal authority.

Surely, there can be honest debates about what’s the best way to “promote the general Welfare,” or the wisest balance between taxation and debt, or the proper role of states in enforcing laws when there is a federal interest (as with Arizona’s anti-immigrant “present your papers” law).

But the pretense of the Tea Party is that the U.S. Constitution is definitive on these points and that the Founders favored today’s right-wing interpretation of the federal government’s powers, i.e. that taxes, debt and regulation of commerce are somehow unconstitutional.

Another curious “reform” from the new Republican House majority will be a requirement to specify what constitutional authority underpins every piece of legislation, a rather silly idea since every bill can make some claim to constitutionality even if the federal courts might eventually disagree.

But the larger truth that the Tea Partiers don’t want to acknowledge is that the Constitution represented a major power grab by the federal government, when compared to the loosely drawn Articles of Confederation, which lacked federal taxing authority and other national powers.

The Founders also recognized that changing circumstances would require modification of the Constitution which is why they provided for amendments. Indeed, the primary limitations on federal authority were included in the first ten amendments, called the Bill of Rights. Subsequent amendments included the eradication of slavery and extending the vote to blacks, and later to women.

Civil Liberties?

Yet, while the Tea Partiers and the Right have embraced a mythical view of the Constitution as some ideal document that opposes federal power to tax, borrow and pass laws that improve “the general Welfare,” they have been less interested in the document’s protection of civil liberties, especially when the targets of abuse are Muslims, Hispanics, blacks and anti-war dissenters.

Many on the Right have found plenty of justifications to trample on the rights of these minorities, even when the actions violate clear-cut mandates in the Constitution, such as the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of “probable cause” before the government can engage in search and seizure and the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on inflicting “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Especially when the Right’s hero George W. Bush was violating those rights last decade, there were word games to explain the unexplainable.

For instance, in 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales argued that “there is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution.” But that was a point of sophistry since the Founders took habeas corpus rights for granted under English law and thus limited the reference in the Constitution to the extreme circumstances required before the government could suspend its need to justify a person’s incarceration before a judge.

Gonzales’s game-playing was similar to the argument made by Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell during a Delaware Senate debate – that the Constitution doesn’t call for the “separation of church and state,” because those specific words aren’t used.

The First Amendment does say that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” which Thomas Jefferson paraphrased as the “separation of church and state.” But it has become an article of faith among many on the Right that “separation of church and state” is a myth. O’Donnell later described herself as high-fiving her aides, thinking she had won the debating point.

Many on the American Right also insist that the Founders created a “Christian nation,” even though the word “Christian” is nowhere to be found in the Constitution and the Founders pointedly set no religious exclusions for those serving in the U.S. government.

One has to wonder, too, how the Republicans on opening day will read the Constitution’s prescribed oath for the president’s swearing in, which ends with a promise to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of United States,” without the add-on “so help me God,” which was freelanced by George Washington but is not what the drafters of the Constitution wrote.

Leaving out “so help me God” might be deemed part of the war on Christmas.

Radical Revision

Curiously, too, while supposedly revering the Constitution and its original intent, the Tea Partiers and their Republican allies simultaneously are proposing a radical revision of the founding document, an amendment that would allow a super-majority of states to overturn laws passed by Congress and signed into law by the president.

This neo-nullificationism smacks of South Carolina’s resistance to President Andrew Jackson’s federalism in the 1830s, a clash that set the stage for the Confederacy’s secession and the Civil War in the 1860s. The proposed Tea Party amendment, which is supported by many Southern officials including incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, could again wreak havoc on the nation.

A New York Times editorial noted that because the proposed amendment “focuses on giving states power to veto (e.g., taxes) without their shouldering responsibility for asserting it (trimming appropriations because of lost tax revenue), the unintended consequences would likely be at least as important as the intended.”

In other words, the Tea Party and the Republicans are positioning themselves as both fundamentalists embracing the Constitution’s “original intent” and radicals determined to rip it up. Still, they are not likely to pay any price for their reckless ideas or their blatant hypocrisy.

If we’ve learned anything over the past several decades, it is that reason and consistency have little place in the U.S. political/media system. What counts is the size of the megaphone – and the American Right has built a truly impressive one, while the Left has largely downplayed the need for making an alternate case to the public.

As the Times noted, the Tea Party’s proposed 28th Amendment “helps explain further the anger-fueled, myth-based politics of the populist new right. It also highlights the absence of a strong counterforce in American politics. …

“The error that matters most here is about the Constitution’s history. America’s fundamental law holds competing elements, some constraining the national government, others energizing it.

“But the government the Constitution shaped was founded to create a sum greater than the parts, to promote economic development that would lift the fortunes of the American people.”

The Times also noted the inability of the American Left to make a case for more government intervention to address the nation’s deepening problems, such as high unemployment and severe income disparity. The Times wrote:

“In past economic crises, populist fervor has been for expanding the power of the national government to address America’s pressing needs. Pleas for making good the nation’s commitment to equality and welfare have been as loud as those for liberty.

“Now the many who are struggling have no progressive champion. The left have ceded the field to the Tea Party and, in doing so, allowed it to make history. It is building political power by selling the promise of a return to a mythic past.”

This means that we can expect the Tea Party’s myth-based assertions about the Founders’ intent to continue, along with the Right’s selective concern about the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.

When those rights are extended to non-white minorities, it’s “lib-rhul” activism. If the rights go to multinational corporations or white folks with guns, then that’s the way it was meant to be.

Though the Tea Partiers insist that race is not a factor in their current fury against government power, they don’t explain their relative silence when Republican George W. Bush, a white man, was asserting unlimited executive power. But Barack Obama, a black man, can’t even get away with welcoming students back for the school year without howls about Orwellian totalitarianism.

Even Michelle Obama’s well-intentioned campaign for healthful eating has become a target of anger from the likes of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the Right’s powerful media machine.

So, it seems the country is in for a new round of crazy while the voices for sanity stay largely mute.

[For more on these topics, see Robert Parry’s Lost History andSecrecy & Privilege, which are now available with Neck Deep, in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.]

Obama’s Selective Outrage: Rage Against Russia, Silence at Indian Injustice

Obama’s Selective Outrage: Rage Against Russia, Silence at Indian Injustice

The sham trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Russia is rightly being protested by those who have a right to do so: Russians in Russia, where more than a thousand people braved the batons of Kremlin storm-troopers to decry the travesty of justice in his recent conviction on more trumped-up charges. You do not have to warm to Khodorkovsky himself, a former oil oligarch who fell out with the power structure that enriched him, in order to denounce the thuggish authoritarianism that his persecution represents. I have courageous friends among those standing up in public against this injustice, putting their own bodies and livelihoods on the line, and I salute them, and all those standing with them.

There are, however, those denouncing the injustice of the Khodorkovsky trial who have absolutely no right to do so. Prominent among these, of course, is the Obama Administration, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the lead. Clinton, the foreign policy spokesperson for a government now raining death by droneon hundreds of civilians inside the sovereign territory of an American ally (among many other unjust and inhumane acts), thundered against the Kremlin for allowing “the rule of law [to be] overshadowed by political considerations.”

The grand poo-bahs of the Potomac lined up to condemn the Russian government for its barbaric treatment of Khodorkovsky — even while their own government was subjecting a 23-year-old soldier to KGB-style torture for the “crime” of telling the truth about outrageous atrocities committed by the American government in the course of an act of aggression that unleashed — and empowered — a living hell that has left more than a million people dead, and is still killing around 4,000 innocent civilians every year. Hillary Clinton voted to authorize this act of hyper-barbarism; Barack Obama has called the “surge”  of death squads and ethnic cleansing that kept the war going “an extraordinary achievement.”

The brave citizens and residents of Moscow who came out to denounce Khodorkovsky’s show trial deserve all praise for their moral courage; but these bloodstained hacks of the Beltway have no standing whatsoever to inveigh against the offenses of other regimes.

The Obama administration has been loud in its denunciations of the Kremlin’s perversion of justice to carry out a political vendetta. But what have these stalwart champions of human rights said about the life sentence given last week to Indian human rights activist Binayak Sen? What have we heard from the Nobel Peace Laureate, Barack Obama? What have we heard from Hillary Clinton? Not a single word.

As the Guardian reports, Sen is a “celebrated human rights activist and medical doctor, has worked for more than three decades as a doctor in the tribal-dominated areas of the state of Chhattisgarh in central India, working for people denied many of the basic services that the state should provide, such as health and education.” The people he works among are among the poorest on earth. Sen is also an avowed practitioner of non-violence, walking in the path of Gandhi.

Sen is also a leading civil rights activist, who has spoken out repeatedly and forcefully against the depredations of the state government, which has launched savage “counterterrorism” operations the Maoist movement spawned by the dire poverty. These “counterterror” methods include the creation of a deadly paramilitary force, the Salwa Judum, or “Purification Hunt.’

As Jawed Naqvi reports in Dawn, “the Judum was founded not so much to track or hunt down Maoist rebels as to clear the passage of local resistance groups to enable corporate access to Chhattisgarh’s largely untapped mineral resources.” Sen’s chief “crime” seems to have been his vocal opposition to the state-run militia’s atrocities. The official charge was that he visited an elderly prisoner who is alleged to be a Communist, and carried letters from the prison for him. As Naqvi notes, the “evidence” against Sen was threadbare, circumstantial and in some cases obviously fabricated, just as in the Khodorkovsky case.

What’s more, Sen was charged under an ancient law originally imposed on India by its British colonial masters. As Kalpana Sharma notes in the Guardian:

More than 150 years ago, the British introduced a law in India designed to check rebellious natives. In 2010 this law has been used by an independent India to check activists who question government policy.

Section 124A of the Indian penal code was introduced in 1870 by the British to deal with sedition. It was later used to convict Mahatma Gandhi. ..Sen worked among the poorest and most deprived people in India, the Adivasis. The Maoists have also established their base in the tribal belt stretching through the heart of India. Their concerns are similar; their strategies diametrically opposite.

..Denied bail for two years, Sen was finally allowed out on bail last year. On December 24, a case that on all counts was weak and based on hearsay and circumstantial evidence, concluded. Sen was found guilty of sedition and other charges, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

They gave a life sentence to a man who has never raised a violent hand against the state or another human being. (He only narrowly avoided a death sentence for another charge: “waging war against the state.”) A life sentence — under a colonial law. This is the “democracy” praised by Barack Obama just a few weeks ago during a state visit to India, where he made sure to be seen paying homage to Gandhi — whose mantle of moral courage Obama himself claimed during his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, declaring:

As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naive in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.
But moral force means nothing when there is money to be made — from the corporate exploitation of Chhattisgarh’s resources or, in Obama’s case, from hawking $5 billion worth of death machinery from America’s war profiteers to the Indian government.

Protests against Sen’s sentence have broken out all over India. The injustice has also provoked denunciations across the world. Even the imperial house organ, the Washington Post, published a decent news story about the case on Wednesday. (Obviously the main editors are still off enjoying the holidays.) The article, by Emily Wax, actually provides some good context to the Sen case, the larger machinations behind it, and even — gasp! — some understanding of how generations of poverty, despair and exploitation can give rise to an “insurgency”:

In a case that has prompted denunciations by international human rights groups and scholars, prosecutors said Binayak Sen, 60, had aided Maoist rebels in rural India, visiting Maoist leaders in jail and opening a bank account for a Maoist, charges that Sen denies. Human rights activists allege that police planted evidence and manufactured testimonies, and Indian judges have criticized the Dec. 24 judgment.

Soli Sorabjee, a former attorney general, called the ruling shocking. “Binayak Sen has a fine record,” he said. “The evidence against him seems flimsy. The judge has misapplied the section. And in any case, the sentence is atrocious, savage.”

Sen, a pediatrician, has worked for decades to help people displaced by violence and government land seizures in India’s mineral-rich regions. Despite the country’s booming economy, hundreds of millions of Indians remain mired in poverty – a stubborn inequality that has helped fuel a deadly Maoist insurgency in as many as 20 of India’s 28 states.

…en, who was arrested in 2007 and was not granted bail for two years, says he was targeted solely because he was a vocal critic of the government’s use of armed groups to push villagers out of mineral-rich forest areas. His sentencing comes as major economies, including the United States and China, are seeking access to India’s growing markets – a sign of the country’s emergence as an economic superpower.
I’m afraid if Ms Wax keeps writing like this, addressing actual realities, she will soon find herself out of a job. For it is surely the pursuit of “access to India’s growing markets” — for well-connected elites, of course — that has led to the Peace Laureate’s voluminous silence on the case of Dr. Sen, and to the lack of reaction from the world’s scolding schoolmarm, Hillary Clinton.

Wax even slips this passage into the article: an observation that has growing resonance not only in India:

“Anyone in India who dissents or questions the superpower script is ostracized,” said Kavita Srivastava, national secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, of which Sen is a vice president. “Sen’s arrest is happening because this government is extremely anti-poor. Our much-praised 9 percent growth is coming at the cost of displacing millions of people with land that is being given away for mining and corporate development.”

Wax concludes her piece with these damning quotes:

“Binayak Sen has never fired a gun. He probably does not know how to hold one,” historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in the Hindustan Times. “He has explicitly condemned Maoist violence, and even said of the armed revolutionaries that theirs is an invalid and unsustainable movement. His conviction will and should be challenged.”

Sen’s wife, also a doctor, said in an interview that she is launching an international campaign to do just that.

“He is a person who has worked for the poor of the country for 30 years,” Ilina Sen said. “If that person is found guilty of sedition activities when gangsters and scamsters are walking free, well, that’s a disgrace to our democracy.”

Yes, when gangsters and scamsters — and brazen war criminals — walk free, it is indeed a disgrace to democracy. A disgrace in India, a disgrace in the thug state of Russia — and a damnable disgrace in the United States of America, where hypocritical poltroons mouth empty pieties in their highly selective protests against injustices that pale before the crimes they are committing.