Monday, July 30, 2012

UN Arms Treaty Blocked


WASHINGTON, 26.07.12 — A bipartisan group of 51 senators threatened to oppose a global treaty regulating international weapons trade if it falls short in protecting the constitutional right to bear arms.

In a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Senators expressed serious concerns with the draft treaty that has circulated at the United Nations, saying that it signals an expansion of gun control that would be unacceptable to them.

The world’s nations are pressing to complete the first legally binding treaty dealing with arms trade and preventing the transfer of weapons to armed groups and terrorists. The 193-member U.N. General Assembly is expected to approve the treaty this month.
The senators said as the negotiations continue, “we strongly encourage your administration not only to uphold our country’s constitutional protections of civilian firearms ownership, but to ensure — if necessary, by breaking consensus at the July conference — that the treaty will explicitly recognize the legitimacy of lawful activities associated with firearms, including but not limited to the right of self-defense.

“As members of the United States Senate, we will oppose the ratification of any Arms Trade Treaty that falls short of this standard,” they wrote.The Senators insisted that the treaty should explicitly recognize the legitimacy of hunting, sport shooting and other lawful activities.They also raised concerns that the draft defines international arms transfers as including transport across national territory while requiring the monitor and control of arms in transit.The National Rifle Association opposes the treaty, saying its members will never surrender the right to bear arms to the United Nations.

The treaty has been in the works since 2006. Abandoning the Bush administration opposition, the Obama administration supported an assembly resolution to hold this year’s four-week conference on the treaty.In April, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, Thomas Countryman, reiterated U.S. support for a treaty:

“We want any treaty to make it more difficult and expensive to conduct illicit, illegal and destabilizing transfers of arms,” he said. “But we do not want something that would make legitimate international arms trade more cumbersome than the hurdles United States exporters already face.”

Last week, the delegates who attended the Arms Trade Treaty Conference (ATT) did not come to a consensus to ratify the ATT, but, rather will come back to the issue later this year.
Further talks will likely take place at a UN General Assembly (UNGA) meeting wherein 192 nations could achieve the 2/3rd majority vote for ratification of the ATT. According to a British delegation member: “We feel that we could have agreed (a treaty). It is disappointing that more time is needed. But an arms-trade treaty is coming – not today – but soon. We’ve taken a big step forward.”

Although activists in support of a convention for global gun control advocated the need to prevent illicit trade of guns into conflicted zones, such as in Syria, those same activists blamed the US and Russia for causing a stalemate during the negotiations process.Victoria Nuland, US Ambassador to the UN released a statement on the US State Department website wherein it was admitted that “the illicit trafficking of conventional arms is an important national security concern for the United States.”

The US has committed to an ATT that works towards a contribution “to international security, protect the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade, and meet the objectives and concerns that we have been articulating throughout the negotiation” and the US government believes that the ATT “will make a valuable contribution to global security by helping to stem illicit arms transfers, and we will continue to look for ways for the international community to work together to improve the international arms transfer regime so that weapons aren’t transferred to people who would abuse them.”

The stance of the US government, in rejecting signature of the ATT over the trafficking of illicit arms directs the purpose of the CIA and Obama administration’s involvement in arming terrorist groups in order to facilitate foreign policy objectives in the Middle East with regard to the current situation in Syria and ultimately Iran. In the background, the massive US arms industry with its funding of Senators and Congressmen/women, whose constituencies host arms manufacture, continues to frustrate UN efforts to clamp down on the illegal arms trade which causes killing and oppression in countries with political instability and weak law enforcement. Aided and abetted by the political lobbyists of the NRA who fund opposition to US lawmakers who favour stricter gun control.

Áth Cliath/Dublin
Iúil/July 30 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012



The devastating terrorist attack by a lone gunman on a cinema audience in the city of Aurora, Colorado, last Friday, 20/07/12, killing twelve innocent people and wounding 58 others has once again spotlighted the failure of U.S. authorities to tackle the widespread and easy availability of deadly weapons to the population at large which results in the many incidents of this horrific nature which have occurred there over recent years.

The incident has led to sharp political debate in the media with the most notorious pro-gun lobby in the USA, the National Rifle Association (NRA) immediately on the defensive with its “right to bear arms” mantra with scant regard shown for the devastation caused by the deaths and injuries in Aurora apart from a mealy mouthed PR statement of “regret” that the incident happened.

In a presidential election year, the leading contenders, incumbent Barack Obama of the Democratic Party and his main opponent, Mitt Romney of the Republican Party both issued anodyne statements of condolences for the victims but carefully avoided any mention of the issue of gun control which neither wants to become an issue in the election. However, most voters will be aware that Romney and the Republican Party are stalwarts of the pro-gun lobby and will take no action but, President Obama, if re-elected will be capable of taking some initiatives since he won’t be looking for a third term in office. So, there is a clear political choice for the voters even if it remains unstated.

Nevertheless, some politicians are willing to speak out. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, the Long Island Congresswoman who lost her husband and nearly lost her son at the hands of the deranged Long Island Railroad killer, and has been the most stalwart crusader for protections against gun violence, said, “The horrific nightmare of a mass shooting on innocent civilians in a crowded public place has, sadly, come true once again. I mourn alongside the people of Aurora for the many killed and injured and the countless family and friends whose lives, as a result of the consequences of this event, will be negatively affected for decades to come.

"The shooter should be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But we as a nation should also not continue to ignore avenues to prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future.”

She is regularly targeted by the NRA, which is spending a fortune to defeat her in the upcoming election.

New York State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, the Assembly sponsor of microstamping legislation which would make all semi-automatic handguns microstamp capable by 2013 (a measure which has the support of 100 law enforcement agencies and elected officials), stated, “I am deeply saddened once again by the tragedy that occurred in the Colorado movie theatre. ....Elected officials on the State, local and Federal levels must recognize that they are at a crossroad—gun violence is an epidemic in the United States which is killing citizens in unprecedented numbers. I urge all elected officials to come up with their plan on gun control once and for all to protect our citizens.”

Statements also came from "Mayors Against Illegal Guns": "Your heart shatters when you think of the family members who were given the worst news imaginable, and we pray for the recovery of the dozens who were injured, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, co-chair, said in a statement "Now there will be many expressions of support and condolences from politicians in the coming days, but maybe it's time that the two people who want to be President of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.

"There are so many murders with guns every day – it's just got to stop. And instead of the two people – President Obama and Governor Romney – talking in broad terms about what they want to do to make the world a better place, okay, tell us how. And this is a real problem. No matter where you stand on the Second Amendment, no matter where you stand on guns, we have a right to hear from both of them concretely, not just in generalities – specifically what are they going to do about guns? I can tell you what we do here in New York. The State Legislature passed the toughest gun laws – some other states may say no. That's okay, what do you want to do? And maybe every Governor should stand up. But in the end, it is really the leadership at a national level, which is whoever is going to be President of the United States – what are they going to do about guns?


In a scathing attack on the philosophy and tactics of Gun-Toters United, the NRA, Bill Moyers, managing editor of the weekly current affairs TV “Moyers and Company”, said:

“You might think Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of and spokesman for the mighty American gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, has an almost cosmic sense of timing. In 2007, at the NRA’s annual convention in St. Louis, he warned the crowd that, “Today, there is not one firearm owner whose freedom is secure.” Two days later, a young man opened fire on the campus of Virginia Tech, killing 32 students, staff and teachers.

Just last week LaPierre showed up at the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty here in New York and spoke out against what he called “anti-freedom policies that disregard American citizens’ right to self-defense.”  Now at least 12 are dead in Aurora, Colorado, gunned down at a showing of the new film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” a Batman movie filled with make-believe violence. One of the guns the shooter reportedly used was an AK-47 type assault weapon that was banned in 1994. The NRA pressured Congress to let the ban run out in 2004.

Obviously, LaPierre’s timing isn’t cosmic, just coincidental and unfortunate; as Shakespeare famously wrote, “the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves”; in other words, people -- people with guns. There are some 300 million guns in the United States, one in four adult Americans owns at least one and most of them are men. According to the British newspaper The Guardian, over the last 30 years, “the number of states with a law that automatically approves licenses to carry concealed weapons provided an applicant clears a criminal background check has risen from eight to 38.”

Every year there are 30,000 gun deaths and perhaps as many as 300,000 gun-related assaults in the U.S. Firearm violence costs our country as much as $100 billion a year. Toys are regulated with greater care and safety concerns than guns.

So why do we always act so surprised?  Violence is our alter ego, wired into our Stone Age brains, so intrinsic its toxic eruptions no longer shock, except momentarily when we hear of a mass shooting like this latest in Colorado. But this, too, will pass as the nation of the short attention span quickly finds the next thing to divert us from the hard realities of America in 2012.

We are a country which began with the forced subjugation into slavery of millions of Africans and the reliance on arms against Native Americans for its westward expansion. In truth, more settlers traveling the Oregon Trail died from accidental, self-inflicted gunshots wounds than Indian attacks – we were not only bloodthirsty but also inept.

Nonetheless, we have become so gun loving, so gun crazy, so blasé about home-grown violence that far more Americans have been casualties of domestic gunfire than have died in all our wars combined. In Arizona last year, just days after the Gabby Giffords shooting, sales of the weapon used in the slaughter – a 9 millimeter Glock semi-automatic pistol – doubled.

We are fooling ourselves. Fooling ourselves that the law could allow even an inflamed lunatic to easily acquire murderous weapons and not expect murderous consequences. Fooling ourselves that the Second Amendment’s guarantee of a “well-regulated militia” be construed as a God-given right to purchase and own just about any weapon of destruction you like, a license for murder and mayhem. A great fraud has entered our history.

Maybe you remember a video you can still see on YouTube. In it, Adam Gadahn, an American born member of al Qaeda, the first US citizen charged with treason since 1952, urges terrorists to carry out attacks on the United States.  Right before your eyes he says, “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle without a background check, and most likely, without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”

The gunman in Colorado waited only for his opportunity. So there you have it – the arsenal of democracy has been transformed into the arsenal of death. And the NRA? The NRA is the enabler of death -- paranoid, delusional and as venomous as a scorpion. With the weak-kneed acquiescence of our politicians, the National Rifle Association has turned the Second Amendment of the Constitution into a cruel and deadly hoax”.

The discourse has widened with academics and media analysts focussing on whether the particular film on show at the Colorado theatre complex, the much hyped Warner Bros. production “The Dark Knight Rises”, third in a trilogy of “Batman” comic book character feature films  by British director, Christopher Nolan had any link to the mentality of the lone assassin. Nolan’s take on the character in these films has been notably “darker” and laced with more gratuitous violence than any previous outing of the same character and the Colorado suspect was dressed in an outfit resembling that of the main villain in Nolan’s film.

Nicholas Powers, Assistant Professor of Literature at State Universityof New York ,Albany, New York offered this analysis:

“Early morning July 20, we cheered the new Batman movie as a thousand miles away a crowd watching the same film screamed as a gunman, barged in, flung a smoke bomb and began shooting. In San Francisco, we left the cinema laughing at the stupid politics of The Dark Knight Rises. In Aurora, Colorado, 12 were killed and 58 wounded as the shock spread to the nation in the morning news. Already one truth stands out; the shooting is not isolated but like a mirror reflects the dark logic of the film, itself a reflection of America’s romance with violence. 

One thing we know about  the Aurora gunman  is that he wanted a stage. Like the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre gunman Seiung-Hui Cho, who mailed videos of himself; or the 1999 Columbine gunmen, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who meticulously recorded themselves prepping for the massacre; the Dark Knight gunman wanted to be seen. In killing others, he tried to secure for himself the image of a strong powerful man who could wreck havoc on the world. And this is exactly the role that Bane (acted by Tom Hardy), the anarchist villain in The Dark Knight Rises, plays as he bombs Gotham City and unleashes enraged prisoners on the rich. He and Wayne Enterprise executive Miranda Tate (played by Marion Cotillard) avenge those trapped in The Pit and forgotten by society. Already the Herald Sun reports that the Dark Knight gunman was dressed in armor and gas mask, like Bane.

What are we to make of this? Only someone whose self-identity is collapsing is driven to recreate themselves as a new character. It is the dark logic of the Batman films, whose title character begins as a boy who helplessly watches his parents murdered and transforms himself into a terrifying hero who punishes criminals. Is this not the archetypal plot in nearly every American superhero film and tragically, perversely the self-narrative of many gun-wielding mass murderers?

At a deeper, historical level, the superhero narratives are part of our national ideology in which self-creation through violence has always been celebrated. When immigrant Europeans chased the American dream, they did so with guns in their hands. Seizing the Frontier from Natives, they became citizens of a new nation built on stolen land by shooting enemies. Long after the Frontier was paved over, we kept the mythology. Whether it’s the nomadic gunslinger of the Hollywood Western, the renegade cops going rogue or pretty much every action hero, Americans have been raised on the archetypal plot of men recreating themselves through violence.

And this celebrated mythology, replayed every day in every cinema, every TV, in books and music is seductive and dangerous to what German professor Ines Geipel called the "Wounded Outsiders." In her book The Amok Complex, she analysed five mass shootings in Europe and distilled from the gunmen a common character. They live in pricey towns, come from well-heeled families but are labelled outsiders due to their failure to achieve in the high pressure of class paranoia. In an interview on the German news site DW, she said that after being isolated they retreat into a fictional world. “Most of them have a strong affinity to theater and film,” Geipel said. “It is the desperate search for their own skin, for their own role in life.”

In the British paper the Independent, Dr. Keith Ashcroft wrote how the path from low self-esteem is layered with resentment which becomes paranoia. The retreat from others into a shrinking world of rage and self-pity creates the conditions for more social isolation. A fast and powerful downward spiral begins that pulls the young men into fantasies of revenge. And finally there is some triggering event, loss of a lover or a job or a home that snaps him. “Their paranoia heightens the sense that the whole world is against them, which increases their anger,” he wrote “It is very immature to want a gun in order to have a sense of power and fulfillment. But it is a way of regaining control.”  

Add to this social isolation the possibility of chemical neural imbalance, a history of abuse or trauma and it is a toxic slush mixing in the mind of enraged young men. Finally, they stagger inside a blacklit life and see other wounded men on the movie screen, wearing masks and striking at the world. Virginia Tech gunman, Cho aptly detailed the arc of a disintegrating self image and its resurrection through violence. In his videos he declared, “You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. You just loved to crucify me. You loved inducing cancer in my head, terror in my heart and ripping my soul all this time.”

Anyone who watched the recent Batman movies will hear an echo of his lament in the villains. Ra’s al Ghul of the League of Shadows wants to cure civilization of rot by burning it down. The Joker’s nihilism drives his war on Gotham City. And now Bane and Miranda Tate again want to destroy a world that already destroyed them.

In repeating this mythology of regenerative masculine violence, we are creating stages where troubled lonely men take their stand and act out our fantasy. It’s not that we have sick young men among us. It’s that we have inherited and actively recreate a culture that gives them a vocabulary of indiscriminate vigilante rage. And then we allow guns to flow freely in the name of the Second Amendment. No wonder when they speak they speak in bullets”.

No doubt, further controversy will continue on the origins and causes of these events but, there is no excuse for the delinquency of American politicians in failing to confront the NRA and its perversion of democracy and the US Constitution and introduce without delay
effective legislation curbing access to and use of deadly weapons by any lunatic with the cash to buy them at the weapons supermarkets which exist in the USA. The non gun-toting citizens of that country deserve the right to live and go about their peaceful business without threat of lethal violence. These rights trump any spurious claims of the NRA, the arms manufacturers and their political lackeys, Romney and the Republican Party.

The wider world scene where the US Government orders the killing of thousands of innocent civilians in its brutal and illegal wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and its acts of subversion and coup-making in several Latin American countries, shows the hypocrisy of the leading politicians there and that the US Government is the world’s largest terrorist organisation and its own worst enemy, racked by delusions and paranoia. Is it any wonder then, as noted above, that some of its citizens readily resort to vicious violence against their neighbours in a tragic reflection of their Governments criminal foreign policy?


Áth Cliath/Dublin
Iúil/July 22 2012