The Guardian reports: One in every five children in Iraq is at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence and recruitment into armed groups, while nearly 1,500 have been snatched from the streets or their homes since 2014, says a new report (pdf).
The UN children’s agency, Unicef, says 3.6 million children face this litany of risks – an increase of 1.3 million in 18 months. A third of all Iraqi children – 4.7 million – need humanitarian aid, with conditions only getting worse following fierce battles around the city of Falluja.
“Children in Iraq are in the firing line and are being repeatedly and relentlessly targeted,” says Peter Hawkins, the agency’s representative in Iraq.
“We appeal to all parties for restraint and to respect and protect children. We must help give children the support they need to recover from the horrors of war and contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq.”
The report says almost 10% of Iraq’s children – more than 1.5 million – have been forced to flee their homes since the intensification of fighting in 2014. [Continue reading…]
As regular readers here will have noticed, over the last week I have given a lot of coverage to the debate on whether Brexit can be dodged, reversed, blocked or somehow avoided by legal and/or political means. I’ve also engaged in that debate myself in several posts.
The careful examination of this issue by experts in constitutional and international law has undoubtedly contributed to a widening sense that it might just be possible that, as John Kerry put it, Brexit can be “walked back.”
Over the weekend, a European diplomat in Brussels said: “If they treat their referendum as a non-event, we will also treat their referendum as a non-event.”
With so many doubts and questions ricocheting back and forth along with the fact that no one knows when the British government will actually formally pull the trigger on Brexit by invoking Article 50, it hasn’t been difficult to get the sense that Britain’s withdrawal from the EU might never happen — that a worse disaster than the immediate one might still be avoided.
As happens all too often, when one gets engrossed in details, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.
What seems to me to be the most salient way of clarifying this issue is to pose a different question.
Suppose last Thursday the outcome of the EU referendum had been what pollsters predicted: 52% for Remain, and 48% for Leave.
Given that outcome, if the disgruntled Leave camp had then spent the following week arguing about why there should be another referendum, why the question had not been settled, and so forth, who outside their camp would have taken these protests seriously? How many legal opinions would have been crafted? How much serious discussion would have ensued?
In Westminster, Brussels and throughout the financial markets, in the media and across academia, the prevailing sentiment would be that the issue had been settled, the will of the British people determined, and it was time to move forward.
Even though the real outcome of the vote looks to so many of us as an act of self-inflicted harm of historic proportions, what actually matters more than being in or out of the EU, is democracy itself.
The evidence that democracy is working as it should comes exactly at times when the political establishment gets challenged. This isn’t because there’s some inherent virtue in rocking the system. On the contrary, it’s because it is at a time such as this that those people who insist the system is rigged are demonstrably proven wrong.
Everyone’s vote was indeed counted and we should be glad of the fact.
And in the Brexit aftermath, anyone who might be thinking democracy is overrated should pay more attention to those parts of the world where ordinary people must risk their lives if they want to be heard.
The rights we too easily take for granted are rights we risk losing.
Jean Pisani-Ferry writes: By the time British citizens went to the polls on June 23 to decide on their country’s continued membership in the European Union, there had been no shortage of advice in favor of remaining. Foreign leaders and moral authorities had voiced unambiguous concern about the consequences of an exit, and economists had overwhelmingly warned that leaving the EU would entail significant economic costs.
Yet the warnings were ignored. A pre-referendum YouGov opinion poll tells why: “Leave” voters had no trust whatsoever in the advice-givers. They did not want their judgment to rely on politicians, academics, journalists, international organizations, or think tanks. As one of the Leave campaign’s leaders, justice secretary Michael Gove, who is now seeking to succeed David Cameron as Prime Minister, bluntly put it: “people in this country have had enough of experts.”
It is tempting to dismiss this attitude as a triumph of passion over rationality. Yet the pattern seen in the UK is oddly familiar: in the United States, Republican voters disregarded the pundits and nominated Donald Trump as their party’s presidential candidate; in France, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, elicits little sympathy among experts, but has strong popular support. Everywhere, a significant number of citizens have become hostile to the cognoscenti.
Why this angry attitude toward the bearers of knowledge and expertise? The first explanation is that many voters attach little value to the opinions of those who failed to warn them about the risk of a financial crisis in 2008. Queen Elizabeth II spoke for many when, on a visit to the London School of Economics in the autumn of 2008, she asked why no one saw it coming. Furthermore, the suspicion that economists have been captured by the financial industry, expressed in the 2010 movie Inside Job, has not been dispelled. Ordinary people feel angry about what they regard as a betrayal by the intellectuals.
Most economists, let alone specialists in other disciplines, regard such accusations as unfair, because only a few of them devoted themselves to scrutinizing financial developments; yet their credibility has been seriously dented. Because no one pled guilty for the suffering that followed the crisis, the guilt has become collective. [Continue reading…]
Neil Irwin writes: What lesson should a card-carrying member of the economic elite take from the success of Donald J. Trump, and British voters’ decision to leave the European Union?
Voters in large numbers have been rejecting much of the underlying logic behind a dynamic globalized economy that on paper seems to make the world much richer. For the bankers, trade negotiators, international businesspeople and others who make up the economic elite (including journalists like me who are peripheral members of it), this is cause for introspection, at least among those who aren’t too narcissistic to care what their countrymen think.
Here is an overarching theory of what we might have missed in the march toward a hyper-efficient global economy: Economic efficiency isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Efficiency sounds great in theory. What kind of monster doesn’t want to optimize possibilities, minimize waste and make the most of finite resources? But the economic and policy elite may like efficiency a lot more than normal humans do. [Continue reading…]
Mary Fitzgerald writes: My daughter is three and my son is nine weeks old and from time to time – in the evenings when I can stay awake long enough – I write a diary for them that I hope they’ll read as adults. As well as documenting their first smiles, steps, jokes and nightmares (‘the wicked witch stole my snot rag!’), I’m trying to bring to life some of what’s happening in the world outside their home. And so I’ve been asking myself how to convey the events of the last few weeks to people reading about them in 20 years time.
In the end, 16 million Britons voted to stay in the European Union. Over 17 million voted to leave. It’s complicated, but both official campaigns primarily fed off and stoked fear: fear of economic collapse on the one hand, fear of immigration on the other. Across the mass media we heard little from those trying to advance more positive arguments: the idea of European/global citizenship on one side, of what ‘more democracy’ would mean on the other.
Whether you’re angry about the troika’s treatment of Greece or you want tighter immigration controls, the bloated, unaccountable, elitist EU can be blamed…
On openDemocracy, as always, we’ve tried to give space to perspectives sidelined or ignored elsewhere. During the lead up to the vote, we brought European voices into an alarmingly parochial national conversation. We asked if another Europe is possible and what a post-xenophobic politics would look like. In the wake of the result, we’ve featured the views of readers from the north of England to Kazakhstan, and profiled different reader voices on the future of the UK Labour party. We’ve asked what happens to EU migrant workers, to Scotland and to the entire continent. And we’ve challenged the idea that Leave voters didn’t know what they were doing – a dangerous and condescending attitutude which risks learning nothing from the result. Meanwhile Anthony Barnett’s Herculean ‘Blimey it could be Brexit!’, a magnificent book written ‘live’ one chapter a week during the referendum campaign, is a precious gift to those trying to dig deeper into what it all means both now and in the future.
I first drafted this article on the assumption that Remain would win, narrowly, and I warned against complacency and urged democratic reform of the EU. The fact that I was wrong about the result only reinforces those arguments. France chooses a new president in less than a year and the majority of opinion polls predict the Front National’s Marine Le Pen comfortably winning enough votes to be one of the final two candidates. The Brexit result is a gift for her, in a country where anti-EU sentiment is even higher than in the UK. Germans will also vote for a new government within the year, with the right-wing anti-EU Alternative for Deutschland rapidly gaining ground. The warning signals have been growing louder for years, with the far-right candidate Norbert Hofer’s narrow defeat in Austria’s presidential election yet another recent close call. On the right and the left, whether you’re angry about the troika’s treatment of Greece or you want tighter immigration controls, the bloated, unaccountable, elitist EU can be blamed.
Perhaps when the citizens of other European countries see the political and economic turmoil visited upon the UK, and watch the leaders who urged Brexit in short order failing to deliver on their promises, the idea of leaving the EU may start to look less appealing. But while many of the underlying causes of their discontent remain, such an effect is likely to be minimal.
Either way, a quick second vote or some other procedural or legal gymnastics to bypass Britain’s referendum result would be a big mistake. [Continue reading…]
Der Spiegel reports: For the last supper, quail salad is served. It’s 7:30 on Tuesday evening, and the leaders of 27 European Union countries — without British Prime Minister David Cameron — are scheduled to meet the next morning. A whiff of nostalgia is in the air, even if everyone is angry with Cameron, who because of a power struggle in his party, didn’t just gamble away his country’s EU membership, but may ultimately have triggered a political meltdown in the proud United Kingdom.
Cameron is buoyant, doing his best to avoid appearing as the tragic figure he has now become. His counterparts from across the EU are tactful enough to keep quiet about what they really think of the outgoing British premier. They speak of Britain’s historical accomplishments — at a time when the country, after 40 years of EU membership, looks to be leaving the bloc.
Taavi Roivas, the youthful prime minister of Estonia, who always sat next to Cameron during European Council meetings, expresses his gratitude that British soldiers ensured his country’s independence 100 years ago. French President François Hollande recalls how British and French soldiers fought side-by-side in World War I. The Irish prime minister notes that his country was at war with England for almost 1,000 years and that it was really only the EU that brought lasting peace.
And what about Cameron? He says that he wouldn’t do anything differently if he had it all to do over again. It wasn’t a mistake to hold the referendum, he tells the bewildered gathering, but the EU leaders refrain from contradicting him. Perhaps one important element of the European project is that it is no longer seen as necessary to respond to every folly. Only at the very end of the evening, when an EU diplomat is asked whether Cameron was presented with a departing gift, did he answer laconically: “He got a warm meal.”
By the next morning, no one is thinking of Cameron anymore. He made history, if involuntarily, but history has now moved on from the British prime minister. The vote in favor of Brexit, after all, hasn’t just convulsed British politics, it has also set the stage for the next monumental power struggle within the EU.
On one hand, that struggle is about the question as to how uncompromising the EU should be in hustling Britain out of the union. For those in favor of a strong and powerful EU, for those who always saw the UK as a bothersome obstacle in their path, the British withdrawal process can’t proceed fast enough. Plus, French President Hollande and others want to use Britain as an example to show the rest of Europe how bleak and uncomfortable life can be when one leaves the house of Europe. Hollande, of course, has good reason for his approach: The right-wing populist party Front National has threatened to follow Cameron’s example should party leader Marine Le Pen emerge victorious in next year’s presidential elections. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: The three suicide bombers who killed 44 people at Istanbul’s main international airport this week have been identified as citizens of Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, Turkish officials said Thursday.
Turkey, which has blamed the Islamic State for the attack, carried out raids across the country on Thursday, detaining 13 people, including three foreigners, in connection with the attack at Istanbul Ataturk Airport on Tuesday night.
There were 238 people wounded in the attack, and 94 of them were still in the hospital, the governor of Istanbul, Vasip Sahin, said Thursday.
No group has claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack.
Although Russian-speaking units of the Islamic State have played an important role on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, if the preliminary identifications of the Istanbul attackers are confirmed it will signify the first time that such fighters have taken part in a major external operation on a Western target. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: Two whistleblowers on the US drone programme have joined campaigners in Brussels ahead of a European parliament hearing on the use of armed drones.
Former military technicians Cian Westmoreland and Lisa Ling both worked on the high-tech infrastructure on which the drones flying in Afghanistan rely. They have now come forward as critics of the US drone programme.
At an event this week, they spoke about strategic flaws in the drone programme and the risks of civilian casualties in drone warfare. On Thursday, they attended the parliamentary hearing where campaigners spoke of the impact of drones on civilian populations and the lack of compensation or recognition of their losses for the families of those killed and wounded.
Britain is currently the only European nation to use armed drones, but the European parliament believes this is on course to change, and has tabled a resolution calling on states to make sure that their drone operations are lawful and transparent.
Unmanned warfare is an especially thorny issue in Germany, where Ramstein US air force base is believed to serve as a key node in the US’s international drone infrastructure, including for controversial strikes taking place in countries where the US is not officially at war, such as Yemen. [Continue reading…]
Human Rights Watch: The United Nations General Assembly should immediately suspend Saudi Arabia’s membership rights on the UN Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today. A two-thirds majority of the General Assembly may suspend the membership rights of any Human Rights Council member engaged in “gross and systematic violations of human rights.”
Saudi Arabia, as the leader of the nine-nation coalition that began military operations against the Houthis in Yemen on March 26, 2015, has been implicated in numerous violations of international humanitarian law. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented 69 unlawful airstrikes by the coalition, some of which may amount to war crimes, killing at least 913 civilians and hitting homes, markets, hospitals, schools, civilian businesses, and mosques. The two organizations have also documented 19 attacks involving internationally banned cluster munitions, including in civilian areas. Saudi Arabia should be suspended from the Human Rights Council until it ends unlawful attacks in Yemen and conducts credible investigations that meet international standards or agrees to and cooperates with an independent international inquiry. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: Israel should stop building settlements, denying Palestinian development and designating land for exclusive Israeli use that Palestinians seek for a future state, the Middle East peace “Quartet” recommended on Friday in a an eagerly awaited report.
The report by the Quartet entities sponsoring the stalled peace process – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations – said the Israeli policy “is steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution.”
“This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by the statements of some Israeli ministers that there should never be a Palestinian state,” according to the eight-page report.
Amid a spike in violence, the Quartet criticized Palestinian leaders for “not consistently and clearly” condemning terrorist attacks and said illicit arms build up and militant activities in Gaza – controlled by Islamist group Hamas – must stop.
On Friday, an Israeli family car came under Palestinian gunfire near the Jewish settlement of Ottniel and crashed, killing a man, medics said. In the nearby city of Hebron, Israeli police shot dead a Palestinian woman who they said tried to stab one of them after she was detained.
Diplomatic sources said the report carries significant political weight as it has the backing of close Israeli ally the United States, which has struggled to revive the peace talks amid tensions between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama. [Continue reading…]
May’s chief opponent, Michael Gove, when asked last month whether he was interested in being prime minister, said: “No, I’m not. There… I don’t want to do it and there are people who are far better equipped than me to do it.” In 2012, he said: “I could not be prime minister. I’m not equipped to be prime minister. I don’t want to be prime minister.”
Here are some clips from the launch of May’s Conservative leadership bid:
The principal role of whoever becomes Britain’s next prime minister will be negotiating with the EU.
The Guardian notes about May:
After 10 years she is now the most experienced interior minister in Europe and has proved highly influential in justice and home affairs policies. She has recently secured agreement for a new Europe-wide database logging passenger information for all flights in and out of Europe. Although a professed Eurosceptic it was little surprise when she announced she was backing the remain in Europe campaign. In an earlier life she was a Brussels lobbyist for the Association for Payment Clearing Services for six years and is very much at home trying to secure what she wants in Europe.
While argument among legal experts persists on whether Brexit must indeed move forward, May, although having campaigned against withdrawal, now insists there is no alternative.
In line with positioning herself as the candidate of stability, she has made it clear that it is the UK, not Brussels, which will determine the time to invoke Article 50 and that if she is prime minister, this will not happen before the end of the year.
Oxford University’s Professor Richard Ekins writes:
Parliament having decided to hold the referendum, and the public having participated fully in it, the result should be respected and not undone.
Political fairness and democratic principle require one to respect the outcome of the referendum even if one is persuaded that Brexit would be a very bad idea. One might think it wrong to hold the referendum, but it was held – and Parliament invited the people to decide this question. There was a lengthy, wide-ranging, high-powered campaign that culminated in high public turnout and a clear outcome. The remain camp had a fair hearing: it was led by the PM and most of cabinet, with the support of most MPs with much business and international support. In short, the important constitutional question of whether Britain should remain in the EU was fairly settled by public vote.
The proposal to ignore or undo the vote is unjust. It bears noting that the relatively powerless in our polity – the poor – overwhelmingly supported exit. Ignoring the referendum would be particularly unfair to them. It would not be consistent with treating them as free and equal persons entitled by the law and constitution of their land to a share in self-government, not least since the rationale for ignoring the process in which they participated has so often been framed in terms of outright contempt for them. Any failure to act on the decision made in the referendum that the UK should leave the EU would be a profound betrayal. It would be no mere failure to recognize the perspective of the dispossessed, but would be the betrayal of holding out to them, as to others, a question for decision and then ignoring their decision because one does not like it.
The fact that May sees no reason for there to be a general election until 2020, could provide the Labour Party with an opportunity to reconstruct itself rather than continue digging its own grave.
John Harris writes:
Labour is in the midst of a longstanding and possibly terminal malaise, and now finds itself facing two equally unviable options.
On one side is the current leader and a small band of leftist diehards, backed by an energetic, well-drilled movement but devoid of any coherent project and out of touch with the voters who have just defied the party in their droves. On the other is a counter-revolution led by MPs who mostly failed to see this crisis coming, have very few worthwhile ideas themselves, and are a big part of the reason the Brexit revolt happened in the first place. As the activist Neal Lawson says, the choice is essentially between different captains of the Titanic, and therefore is no choice at all.
As with the centre-left parties across Europe in the same predicament, Labour is a 20th-century party adrift in a new reality. Its social foundations – the unions, heavy industry, the nonconformist church, a deference to the big state that has long evaporated – are either in deep retreat or have vanished completely. Its name embodies an attachment to the supposed glories of work that no longer chimes with insecure employment and insurgent automation.
Its culture is still far too macho, and didactic; it has a lifelong aversion to analysis and ideas that has hobbled it throughout its existence, and now leaves it lacking any real sense of what is happening. I am a lifelong party member who was raised in a Labour family – my grandfather was a south Wales coal miner, my father a Labour activist – for whom the party was a kind of secular church. But if we do not confront the crisis now, then when? Look at any number of what we still laughably call “core” Labour areas, and you will find the same things: a vote share that has been steadily declining since 2001, an MP more often parachuted in from a different world, and voters who either vote for the party thanks to fading familial loyalties (“I vote Labour because my granddad did”) or have no idea what the party stands for.
Gary Younge writes: On polling day the Leave campaign reminded us that we were the fifth-largest economy in the world and could look after ourselves. By the following afternoon our currency was sufficiently decimated that we had fallen to sixth, behind France.
In the ensuing panic, some politicians argued that we could simply ignore the referendum result: David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, suggested it was “advisory and non-binding”, and urged parliament to call another referendum, in order to avert economic catastrophe. A huge number of people petitioned the government to do the same – while the eminent barrister Geoffrey Robertson insisted a second referendum was not necessary to overturn the result: parliament could just vote it down. “Our democracy does not allow, much less require, decision-making by referendum,” he wrote. “Democracy has never meant the tyranny of the simple majority, much less the tyranny of the mob.”
It was argued that we could not leave the final word on such momentous decisions to ordinary voters: they didn’t know what they really wanted, or they had been tricked into wanting something that would hurt them, or they were too ignorant to make informed choices, or maybe they quite simply wanted the wrong thing. A significant portion of the country was in the mood for one big do-over – a mood enhanced by considerable class contempt and the unmistakable urge to cancel the universal franchise for “stupid people” incapable of making the right decisions.
Everything had changed – we had decided to end a more than 40-year relationship with our continental partners and the consequences were far-reaching. In Scotland independence was once again in play; in Westminster, resignations from the shadow cabinet came by the hour; in the City, billions were wiped off by the day. Indeed, one of the few things that didn’t budge was the very issue that had prompted it all: our membership of the European Union. The only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know how and when we will actually leave it. We are simultaneously in freefall and at a standstill, in a moment of intense and collective disorientation. We don’t know what is happening and it is happening very fast.
But the only thing worse than the result and its consequences is the poisonous atmosphere that made it possible. The standard of our political discourse has fallen more precipitously than the pound and cannot be revived as easily. This did not happen overnight, and the sorry conduct of the referendum campaign was only the latest indication of the decrepit state of our politics: dominated by shameless appeals to fear, as though hope were a currency barely worth trading in, the British public had no such thing as a better nature, and a brighter future held no appeal. Xenophobia – no longer closeted, parsed or packaged, but naked, bold and brazen – was given free rein. [Continue reading…]
George Monbiot writes: Let’s sack the electorate and appoint a new one: this is the demand made by MPs, lawyers and the 4 million people who have signed the petition calling for a second referendum. It’s a cry of pain, and therefore understandable, but it’s also bad politics and bad democracy. Reduced to its essence, it amounts to graduates telling nongraduates: “We reject your democratic choice.”
Were this vote to be annulled (it won’t be), the result would be a full-scale class and culture war, riots and perhaps worse, pitching middle-class progressives against those on whose behalf they have claimed to speak, and permanently alienating people who have spent their lives feeling voiceless and powerless.
Yes, the Brexit vote has empowered the most gruesome collection of schemers, misfits, liars, extremists and puppets that British politics has produced in the modern era. It threatens to invoke a new age of demagoguery, a threat sharpened by the thought that if this can happen, so can Donald Trump.
It has provoked a resurgence of racism and an economic crisis whose dimensions remain unknown. It jeopardises the living world, the NHS, peace in Ireland and the rest of the European Union. It promotes what the billionaire Peter Hargreaves gleefully anticipated as “fantastic insecurity”.
But we’re stuck with it. There isn’t another option, unless you favour the years of limbo and chaos that would ensue from a continued failure to trigger article 50. It’s not just that we have no choice but to accept the result; we should embrace it and make of it what we can.
It’s not as if the system that’s now crashing around us was functioning. The vote could be seen as a self-inflicted wound, or it could be seen as the eruption of an internal wound inflicted over many years by an economic oligarchy on the poor and the forgotten. The bogus theories on which our politics and economics are founded were going to collide with reality one day. The only questions were how and when.
Yes, the Brexit campaign was led by a political elite, funded by an economic elite and fuelled by a media elite. Yes, popular anger was channelled towards undeserving targets – migrants.
But the vote was also a howl of rage against exclusion, alienation and remote authority. That is why the slogan “take back control” resonated. If the left can’t work with this, what are we for? [Continue reading…]
Natalie Nougayrède writes: if there is one bright side to an otherwise very dismal situation: it is that a sense of pro-European purpose and energy may now be appearing in a country where the EU had only ever been described in prosaic, if not hostile, terms. Britain is now discovering what it really meant to be part of a collective European endeavour.
Whatever lies ahead, its young people won’t forget this moment, and they will one day work towards correcting the failures of their elders. “Brexit not in my name” is trending on Twitter.
A new popular mood may be born, one in which the EU becomes a cause for engagement, for values and solidarity – not a scapegoat or a caricatured technocratic entity. If something good can be drawn from this referendum wreckage, it may be the beginning of a permanent, positive culture about Europe in Britain. That’s something that has never existed before. If only it had happened earlier. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: The former German chancellor Helmut Kohl has warned European leaders against applying too much pressure on Britain following the vote to leave the European Union.
In an account of an interview for the tabloid newspaper Bild by its editor-in-chief, Kai Diekmann, Kohl, 86, is indirectly quoted as warning against “unnecessary severity and haste” in the post-referendum negotiations.
The man who was one of the driving forces behind European integration in the 1990s believes that slamming the door on Britain would be an “enormous mistake” and that the country needs time to decide what it wants to do next, Diekmann writes.
Kohl, who oversaw the reunification of Germany and the introduction of the euro, is calling for Europe to “take a breather” and take “one step back before taking two steps forward”, at a pace that is manageable for all member states, the article says. [Continue reading…]