International Politics


“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

The war on drugs has failed. It isn’t DJ Chaos on Pirate Radio stating it but the Global Commission on Drug Policy. A think tank made up of former presidents of nation states including Switzerland, Brazil and Mexico and Mr Kofi Annan former General Secretary of the UN, amongst others.

http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/Report

The truth, in lay terms is very simple. The profits in the drugs industry are so high that if there is a demand, there will surely be a supply. It is also abundantly clear that fear of getting caught isn’t affecting the demand for drugs.

It is not only academic studies that prove this, but also a little common sense. Why is it that in a country such Malta, where there is no classification between soft and hard drugs, only a very small fraction of cannabis users, use heroin too? Not only are both drugs equally illegal and carry the same penalties but for those whose bodies have not yet developed a tolerance for heroin, (thus needs larger quantities for the same effect) the latter actually cheaper than cannabis. Yet, most choose not to opt for heroin. It’s clear that it’s neither the legal deterrent nor the price that’s keeping these people away from it.

In spite of all this, governments in many European countries (or both government and opposition in countries like Malta) refuse to bulge an inch when they hear the word decriminalization.

Rest assured that the more the argument for decriminalizing drugs surface, the more will the scaremongers get hysterical that Malta will be infested with drugs. I’m sure that before decriminalizing all drugs in Portugal in 2001, there were scaremongers making the same claim. Truth is the exact opposite happened.

That said, it needs to be clear though that there is no quick fix solution for the complex problems caused by drug abuse. Portugal is not drug free. But the drug problem has diminished since decriminalization.

What’s going on in Portugal?

A simple overview shows that since 2001:

Use of cannabis has increased
Use of cocaine didn’t change significantly
Use of heroin has decreased
Total use of drugs has decreased

This is even more positive than it looks at face value. During the past 10 years, drug abuse in most EU countries has increased significantly. The increase in use of cannabis, was in fact in proportion of the increase in use in the EU average. In other words there is no evidence to show that this increase was brought about by decriminalization.

Cocaine is definitely the drug that is most on the increase in Europe, in some countries including Malta, at an alarming rate. Unlike most European countries, cocaine use in Portugal did not significantly increase since 2001 This is even more striking one considers that Portugal is the closest European country to the main cocaine exporter Colombia, and has a lot of historic ties with South American countries.

There are other benefits the Portuguese people have enjoyed since decriminalizing drugs such as a decrease in crime and certain contagious diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B and C.

Decriminalizing drugs in Portugal, one of the most conservative countries in the EU block didn’t happen in a vacuum. It was part of a whole package of admitting that the war on drugs – the way it was being waged – had failed and honestly try to do something about it.

A Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction (CDT) was introduced in every region in the country. Anyone caught with the possession of drugs (calculated as roughly the amount for 10 days of use or less) was no longer arrested. No arrest, criminal record or lawyer fees. Just a mandatory visit to his regional CDT in 72 hours. The CDT has the power to impose sanctions such as fines and community work, but that’s not its main aim.

The main aim of the CDT is to assess whether the individual is just a casual drug user or an addict, and proceed accordingly. The CDT also has the power to refer a person identified as an addict to either residential or non-residential treatment. However, unlike in a Court of law treating the person as a criminal, the CDT considers the addict as a patient and tries to act in his best interest rather than punish him. In fact, though legal advisors also form part of the CDT, it is mainly formed from health care professionals.

This system’s major successes are the following

1) More people in treatment. Being confronted by health care professionals within 72 hours was seen much more likely to lead a person to decide to start facing his drug problem seriously than being in the hands of law enforcement officers whose main aim is to secure a conviction. Which is exactly what happened.

(This was coupled with pumping more financial resources by the Portuguese government into treatment centres)

2) Less people were convicted with drugs, yet those who did were prosecuted for a total of a larger amount of drugs. Since the burden of arresting and convicting people with the personal use of drugs had eased from the criminal justice system, more resources were allocated for drug trafficking.

Classification of Drugs

Most EU countries have a system where punishment for the trafficking (or possession in countries where the personal use is still a criminal offence) of drugs varies significantly between hard and soft drugs. Malta is one of the few exceptions. Importing a Kg of cocaine will carry the same penalty as importing a Kg of cannabis.

This is not only unfair, but also absurd. Hard drugs are, nearly always, more expensive. Even heroin, which a beginner it is usually cheaper than cannabis, becomes horrendously expensive when develops tolerance for it.

When harsh sentences, for soft drugs (such as that of David Holmes who got 10.5 years imprisonment and a 23,000 fine for cultivating cannabis) are compared with equally harsh sentences for trafficking soft drugs, the courts are actually giving a clear message to would be traffickers: Don’t traffic soft drugs. They are much less profitable and if caught you’ll get the same punishment.

This is not speculation but a reality. Though authorities are not admitting it, we have a serious cocaine problem in Malta. Most violent robberies we hear about are committed by people under the influence of cocaine and/or from people needing money to buy more cocaine. This dangerous drug is being presented as a party drug and is abused regularly in places such as weddings and village feasts. Many young people are under the illusion that “it’s not that harmful”. Unlike cannabis users, most of whom use the drug only occasionally and during leisure time, most cocaine users don’t stop there. Many realize that cocaine isn’t just a “recreational party drug” when it’s too late.

The influx of cocaine could not be attributed solely to the lack of classification in our drug laws. The biggest cause is the fact that the cocaine industry (mostly in South America) is booming. Supply has exceeded demand and new marketing strategies are being used. Aside from branding it as a party drug, today’s cocaine is also cheaper.

The lack of classification is just adding insult to injury. It is making the drug more available something which, amongst other things continues to reinforce the idea that it’s just a party drug.

Lets Talk Sense About Drugs

The drugs aren’t coming. They are here and on the increase. Drug addicts are not one-offs, nearly every extended family has one.

Relatives of drug addicts know that they are ill. They’ve seen them vow a million times they won’t use anymore. They saw them flourish in a clean period only to lose all they have gained in a weak moment. They’ve seen them sick, suffering from withdrawals. Above all, they’ve seen them change from energetic youths to withering flowers. Some were lucky. They also watched their loved ones kick off their habit. Enjoying life once again, building again what they had lost.

Others had the misfortune of watching them die, in a vegetative state, or in jail.

Re-thinking the war on drugs will not provide a miracle cure – there isn’t. But as the success story in Portugal has shown, more people will start seeing their loved ones in rehab, and clean. And less people will have to visit their loved ones in prison, where rehabilitation is only a buzzword.

Re-thinking the war on drugs means that we stop calculating our success on just the number of convictions but the impact on people’s lives, because amid increasing convictions drug use and the problems it causes are not getting better but worse, substantially worse.

All it takes is political will. The fact that Malta’s politicians aren’t even addressing the failed war on drugs is either the result of laziness to make some research or cowardice to work towards the much needed change.

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The savages in the video below did not win the general elections in Greece. In fact they just got 7% of the vote. Neither are they likely to form a coalition with any other mainstream party, which has somewhat to do with the fact that one of their slogans is “We are against everyone”.

They’re called Golden Dawn and are the horrific face of the Greek far-right. They contested democratic elections, even though the visceral hatred they have for anything democratic is more than obvious.

Golden Dawn politicians and activists have a long history of violence, not only towards immigrants but also leftists, journalists as well as anyone who doesn’t speak Greek. In fact they have an obsession with the Greek language.

The cause of the mayhem by Golden Dawn activists in the video below is that a Greek “traitor” dared publish a dictionary that translates Greek to Macedonian.

Some of Golden Dawn’s members were also members of the Greek Volunteer Guard (GVG) which took part in the genocide in Srebrenica in July 1995.

The party’s main proposals include sending immigrants to concentration camps and planting landmines in the Greek-Turkish border.

I’ve argued elsewhere that the far-right problem in Europe should not be countered with censorship and repression. My view on politicians like Geert Wilders of the PVV or the British Nationalist Party is that they should be allowed full democratic rights and freedom of expression. Their views will be easily argued against by activists from the mainstream, both from those on left and those on the right.

I have to take an exception here. Democratic rights should be granted to those who abide by the rules of democracy not violent savages. Assaulting people and terrorizing your opponents is not freedom of expression.

Political activism is about a battle of ideas, including extreme ideas. The Nazi thugs terrorizing neighbourhoods in Athens aren’t debating with ideas but fists, baseball bats and bombs. (Party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos (the speaker in the first video) himself has been arrested for the illegal possession of explosives).

Now the same thugs are in the Greek parliament. As Michaloliakos himself said, it’s time for those who love peace and democracy to be afraid.

When Ray Paul attended an activity with African immigrants, no one suspected anything of the inconspicuous looking guy who came accompanied by his Somali friend.

When far-right terrorist Anders Breivik identified Richard the Lionhearthed aka Ray Paul as his mentor I wouldn’t have suspected anything hadn’t a friend called me “He was there, the guy Breivik is talking about was there at the Valletta activity”

After doing some Internet research about Ray Paul , I found the real reason why he was clapping and singing to African rhythms that day.

While I do not think Paul Ray is a violent person, he’s clearly an obsessed fanatic. What was he doing at the activity, as well as during a visit to Marsa Open Centre befriending Somalis and asking them about the Al Shabbab? He was looking for terrorists, Muslim terrorists.

It seems that while this guy sees Muslim terrorists everywhere, he ended up inspiring one of the worst terrorists in modern European history.

Not only that. He also brought to Malta a former terrorist from Northern Ireland, Johnny (Mad Dog) Adair, and former neo-Nazi Nick (Mad Nick) Greger:

The following is in fact a documentary about these two men, dubbed as “two of the most dangerous men in Europe”

Interesting to note that both Adair and Greger accompanied Ray Paul to Marsa, looking for…..terrorists!

Like I’ve argued in other posts, far right and Muslim extremists are just two sides of the same coin. Most of them (like Paul Ray, or some radical Imam) are not violent people and probably neither condone violence. Yet, with their obsessions of hatred against the other side, they inspire people like Breivik or Mohamed Mehmet to go out on a killing rampage.

It seems these two groups are in a love-hate relationship with each other. As much as they hate each other, they owe their survival to each other.

Killing someone by omission is still a murder. If a nurse is responsible for giving medications to a patient and as a consequence of her failure to do so he dies, that’s murder. If a prison guard fails to ask for medical assistance for an inmate who has shown the need, and as a result of that the latter dies, that’s murder. At best, if there was no intention to kill and the deaths were the result of negligence, that’s manslaughter.

Thus when 63 out of the 72 Sub-Saharan migrants on a rickety boat died of dehydration and starvation while Malta, Italy and NATO were bickering on who had to take responsibility for rescuing them, that is at best manslaughter. There’s no way to go around it. Especially when one considers the fact that a distress signal had been sent and received. Even more so when the surviving migrants reported that a military helicopter hovered over the boat and gave them water and biscuits and indicated it would come back.

Not knowing was definitely not an excuse.

What happened is more than clear. This isn’t the first time the Maltese and Italian authorities left people on the open sea while they were playing who blinks first to impress the public back home (ara kemm ahna taff mal-klandestini!). On other occasions, either someone blinked before people had died, or there happened to be no survivors to recount the story.

This is unacceptable. The blame is simply on “Malta”, “Italy” or “NATO” as noted in the press. It is on the individuals responsible who shrugged off their duties so that they could appear tough.

If the prison guards remain playing Monopoly, forget to feed the inmates and the latter die they will be charged with murder or manslaughter. These 63 human beings have died because our so holy politicians were having fun playing “who blinks first”.

The American people are angry. Their anger is directed mainly at the super rich 1% whose net worth is the equivalent of a third of the whole US. They’re asking for more affordable healthcare, housing and education. They are fed up of bearing the burnt of a recession caused by other people, while those same people are barely affected. Hence, the Occupy movement.

One of their slogans says, “Is this what democracy looks like?”

They are right. They have been fooled and betrayed. And if the betrayal had a name, it would be Barak Hussein Obama.

Before becoming President, Obama promised change. Not a superficial one, like the skin colour of the President, but change where it really matters, namely foreign policy.

The Iraqi invasion and the following occupation were based on a lie: There were no Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and Saddam Hussein, disgusting as he was, wasn’t a threat to the US. Many acknowledge the fact that the main aim of the invasion was getting hold of Iraq’s resources, especially oil.

What many non-Americans fail to realize is that the US average Joe, who pumped billions of dollars on this senseless war through his taxes, has gained nothing. All the spoils of war went to the same elite – the CEOs, bankers and politicians who are part of the 1%, or even a portion of it.

Public sentiment towards interfering in foreign countries has changed a lot since 2003. American citizens are fed up of financing these wars and prefer that their money is spent on them, in healthcare, housing and education.

Obama promised change. As Senator he used to ask the most relevant questions about the invasion/occupation of Iraq. Questions about its expenses, the use of mercenaries and the accountability of US troops. He gave clear indications that he was less interested in overthrowing regimes hostile to the US and more concerned about the health of American citizens.

Yet, three years later, while thousands of Americans are protesting and occupying public space, they are seeing a déjà-vu. Not only didn’t the US troops get out of Iraq, but it’s very likely that Iran will be invaded. The threat this time is nuclear weapons. The public is sceptic. They have been fooled too many times. They refuse to finance another war for the benefit of the 1% and their priorities are paying their bills, continuing education and feeling safe that the state will take care of them if they get ill.

They are also angry, very angry. This is not democracy; this is a farce. They voted for a Democrat who became a Republican once he got elected. Their protests were met with police brutality with the excuse of protecting the “general public”.

The similarities between their “democracy” and a totalitarian state are increasing by the minute. And they definitely don’t want this. How can one blame them?

Second only to the lack of concrete reason for the senseless violence, what was most striking about the riots in Britain was the extreme restraint the police used with the rioters and looters. Even myself, a strong believer in civil liberties and a hardliner against police brutality felt like screaming “what the hell are you doing, protect the people, they’re burning everything down and all you do is just watch

 

The lack of action by the police has also lead to the formation of vigilante groups of people trying to protect their areas. Once again, I’m generally against vigilantism, but how could I not approve otherwise peaceful people protecting their locality from burning?

This is all very strange, since the British police aren’t usually known for their softness. The most notorious tactic used by Britain’s police is known as kettling, used for the first time against people with a disability fighting for their rights in 1995.

Kettling involves a large number of police officers forming a cordon among the protesters and then tightening them up, many times for long hours without access for food, water, and fresh air.

https://i0.wp.com/previous.presstv.ir/photo/20110321/lotfi_morteza20110321171002793.jpg

 

This tactic, which has become closely associated with Britain’s police is a serious violation of Human Rights for many reasons. It is a type of collective punishment because if only a small section of the protesters are turning rowdy, all the rest have to suffer being in the cordon. There have also been many cases of passer bys being caught inside the kettle.

 

It has also been criticized for the fact that it is sometimes used pre-emptively with peaceful protesters and that rather than contain violence, the intention is mainly to deter people from going out to protest in the first place.

 

Some high profile cases where this was used in the UK, include the Mayday protests of 2001, the G8 summit of 2005, G20 of 2009 as well as last March during the anti-austerity protests.

 

While none of these protests was a full blown riot – at times there was no violence at all – by the time of writing (5th day of the London riots) not only kettling has not been used, but as everyone can see the rioters and looters are many times being allowed to do what they want.

 

Why have Britain’s police moved from excessive brutality practiced for the last 15 years, to this soft handedness in a matter of months? I don’t want to get into some conspiracy theory, but in face of such contradictions one starts thinking the absurd.

 

Is it possible that kettling and brutality have been used because all the other occasions, involved organized people demanding rights, while in this case this is just senseless violence? Since kettling usually provokes a backlash, is it possible that the police were instructed to turn non-violent people violent deliberately so that people justifiably demanding their rights come to be seen as violent thugs in front of the media?

The threat of right wing extremism in Europe has been lurking for a couple of decades by now. Yet, most mainstream politicians started regarding this as a problem only when extremist parties managed to get a significant number of votes. It seems the hate crimes such organizations and sympathizers have been committing weren’t of real concern. The fact that except for gays and some European Muslims, the victims of these crimes don’t have the right to vote, probably contributes to this indifference.

 

What is now concerning most politicians (except for losing votes to the extreme right) is that most of these movements and parties have a total aversion towards democracy. Some of them have made it clear, while others were more subtle, that they want authoritarian rule, in some cases even military.

 

Probably even a large number of their voters oppose this, however their trump card of hatred against minorities and the present elite is enough to lure people who would otherwise preferred more democratic parties.

 

Possibly, leaders and members of these parties are not violent people themselves. However, they way they conduct their campaigns can (and do) incite people to harass minorities. This advert is a case in point:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYavOiI-8uY

 

 

What happened in Oslo however, has changed the whole scenario, or at least, should change it. This time it’s not ethnic, religious or sexual minorities who happen to be the victims but the Norwegian man in the street. Common people who just happen not to discriminate against minorities and embrace a politics that doesn’t. The traitors. (In fact the word “traitor” features in any extreme-right literature I’ve encountered).

 

What can stop this madness? The extreme right themselves (who have distanced themselves from Breivic for obvious PR reasons) still blame multiculturalism. Something which as I argued in other blogs, can’t be reversed.

 

Freaks come in all colours. As with other kinds of terror, there is no fool-proof way to prevent right wing terrorism. But I may have some suggestions:

 

Close monitoring but not censorship. Apart from disagreeing with censorship in principle, it doesn’t work anyway. In many cases it has been used by these extreme right to play the victims and is a good excuse not to appear on mainstream media. The place where other mainstream politicians are asked the hardest questions, and are expected to answer them (Avoiding the media using this excuse was one of the main tactics elected far-right politician Geerth Wilders used in the Netherlands).

 

In the Maltese scenario, this monitoring must include amongst others our home grown extremists whose website www.vivamalta.org also talks clearly about taking revenge on the traitors.

 

Secondly, mainstream parties must stop using some of the extremists language with the hope of attracting the vote of some of their followers. Appeasement doesn’t work. It may weaken them temporarily by making their politicians lose votes but in the slightly longer term it only makes them stronger by legitimizing their claims. Appeasement has already been tried with their main icon Adolf Hitler – and everyone knows what happened next.

 

Thirdly, and probably most important, leftist parties all over Europe, definitely including Malta’s shall become once again true workers parties. Research shows clearly that extreme right politicians attract mainly the working class. It’s crucial to not that these extremists don’t consider themselves only as anti-minority groups. They are also anti-establishment. And if the present establishment is failing them (especially in terms of employment, housing and finance related issues), the lure of the extreme right just becomes more tempting.

 

Finally, all mainstream parties should completely distance themselves from these extremist movements. While this has been the case in Malta (Joseph Muscat categorically distanced himself when misinterpreted by Norman Lowell), not all politicians in other counties behave as such. Probably most notorious is Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi who didn’t shy away from forming a coalition with Lega Nord. A party that has lately become a serious embarrassment after outspoken MEP Mario Borghezio came out justifying the terror in Norway:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pw76a4eVp5M

 

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