Daniel Kovalik

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Dan Kovalik (born 1968) is a human rights, labor rights lawyer and peace activist. He has contributed to articles CounterPunch, Huffington Post and TeleSUR. He currently teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.



(most recent first)

  • Some of the wars America fought were "simply for profit" and the sanctions it has imposed on certain countries have been as destructive as wars... The American people have virtually no say over when we go to war. These decisions are made in back rooms somewhere...The American people continue to be lied to about why we go to war, because again, one of the big reasons is simply for profit, and that's always been true to some extent, but now it is in a very naked way.
  • [On the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan] From a strategic point of view, it has to be seen as a complete failure, and yet it went on for 20 years, why did it go on for 20 years? Because the defense industry companies that make the bombs, that make the planes, that make the vehicles, and also the private military contractors that now are fighting the wars in lieu of public military personnel, they made trillions of dollars as long as the war continued. So they didn't care if the war was ever won, the goal was for the war to simply continue forever... the point is not to win the war, but to make sure it never ends because you're going to keep making profits.
    The U.S. is not advancing human rights through its military interventions. It's not advancing humanitarianism. In fact, it's undermining it in a huge way.
  • ..in terms of the damage, sanctions and wars do deliver similar results... They do deliver death. They do deliver destruction of infrastructure, in the same way, that bombs and bullets do...If we can't just overthrow you, we will destroy you, and that's what the U.S. has done time and again. The sanctions... have also prevented Venezuela, which has the world's largest proven oil reserve, from maintaining its oil industry and maintaining its power grids... Sanction is war by another means...You're just denying the people the economic benefits of their industries, and also, again, you're denying them electricity, other infrastructure, again in much the same way that you could or would through actual military means...However, most Americans don't see sanctions as war and they don't know the consequences so they tolerate it more and think the sanctions are somehow a legitimate form of coercion...When you look at the results, they're the same or similar to actual military warfare...
  • Instead of taking responsibility for its own failings, the US government, and its compliant media, have taken to trying to scapegoat others... Russia is taking measures to confront the pandemic which the US has failed to do, particularly in the epicentre of the pandemic, Moscow... far exceeds the efforts of the US which has yet to announce plans for mass testing of individuals for the virus...
    The US has always prided itself at being number one in the world, and it continues to be number one in many categories – for example, the number of prisoners held in jails, the most mass shootings, and the most costly and ineffective healthcare system in the industrialised world. And now, the US has the dubious distinction of being number one in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases and the number of people killed by COVID-19
  • Former president Jimmy Carter recently made a profound and damning statement — the United States is the “most warlike nation in the history of the world.” Carter contrasted the United States with China, saying that China is building high-speed trains for its people while the United States is putting all of its resources into mass destruction. Where are high-speed trains in the United States, Carter appropriately wondered.
  • As if to prove Carter’s assertion, Vice President Mike Pence told the most recent graduating class at West Point that it “is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life... You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen.” Clearly referring to Venezuela, Pence continued, “Some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.” In other words, Pence declared, war is inevitable, a certainty for this country.
  • Nearly every day, we are bombarded with “news” about problems in Venezuela. And certainly, there are problems, such as food and medicine shortages and skyrocketing inflation. But there is something that is downplayed. What the press downplays, if it mentions it at all, is the very real and significant ways that US sanctions have contributed to these problems facing Venezuela and how these sanctions are making it nearly impossible for Venezuela to solve these problems. What the press also fails to mention is the even greater humanitarian issues confronting Venezuela’s next-door neighbor, Colombia – the US’ number one ally in the region and, quite bizarrely, the newest “global partner” of NATO from Latin America. And, the US is very much responsible for these issues as well, but in quite different ways. The fact is that, by a number of measures, Colombia has one of the worst human rights situations on earth, but you would never know this from watching the nightly news.
  • I just returned from observing my fourth election in Venezuela in less than a year. Jimmy Carter has called Venezuela’s electoral system “the best in the world,” and what I witnessed was an inspiring process that guarantees one person, one vote, and includes multiple auditing procedures to ensure a free and fair election. I then came home to the United States to see the inevitable “news” coverage referring to Venezuela as a “dictatorship” and as a country in need of saving. This coverage not only ignores the reality of Venezuela, it ignores the fact that the U.S. is the greatest impediment to democracy in Venezuela, just as the U.S. has been an impediment to democracy throughout Latin America since the end of the 19th century. ...most of Venezuela’s poor are better off now than they were before the Bolivarian Revolution of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro ... Before Chavez, the sprawling poor barrios which ring the cities were literally not on any government maps, and they had no utilities and no election centers. After Chavez...they were provided with utilities, health service, election stations and, most important, dignity. Chavez even started a world-class music program which has now provided 1 million underprivileged children with music education.
  • Grateful for a government on their side and flouting U.S. extortion, the poor came out to vote in large numbers for Mr. Maduro.... These are the same poor, by the way, who came down from the mountains in 2002 to demand the return of Hugo Chavez to power after he was overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup and kidnapped. But you never hear the voices of these poor people in the U.S. press. You never hear their side of the story, how they have benefitted from the Bolivarian Revolution and how desperately they do not want to go back to how things were before. While they have been given a voice in Venezuela, it remains muzzled in this country, and by a press which passes off pro-intervention and pro-war propaganda as journalism. It is no wonder the United States continues to careen into one disastrous military adventure after another.
  • It is these U.S. wars, along with the U.S.’s over 800 military bases in more than 70 countries (Russia has bases in only one country (Syria) outside the former Soviet Union) which has led to the U.S. rightly being viewed in a poll of people in 65 countries as by far the greatest threat to world peace... President Trump’s expressed desire to stop antagonizing Russia and to work with it... should be welcomed as eminently reasonable and indeed necessary to avoid a possible nuclear confrontation. This should also be welcome by an American public whose resources have been drained by the greatest military-spending spree by far on the planet....Certainly, liberals, who at least once stood for peace and for greater social spending, should be in the lead in cheering such overtures instead of drumming up anti-Russian hatred which can only lead to more war and more impoverishment of our society.
  • I certainly consume NPR news more than any other mainstream source, usually listening to it at least twice daily, though I abhor its coverage of international events. For these reasons, and with the reader’s forbearance, I have chosen to single NPR out to look at how we in the U.S. are collectively misled into ignoring or accepting our own government’s atrocities.
  • This week, NPR has had some significant segments on the world’s refugee crisis, the worst since World War II. While Syria is always mentioned in these segments and gets much mention on NPR in general, there is barely a mention of the refugee crisis emanating from Yemen.
  • And, this is a big omission, for as the International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) has recently reported, Yemen had more people displaced last year due to conflict than any other country on earth. Thus, 2.2 million people were displaced by the armed conflict in Yemen in 2015, a figure which accounts for over 25% of the 8.6 million people displaced around the globe due to conflict last year. In addition to Yemen’s refugee crisis, the IDMC also notes that over 14 million Yemenis are on the verge of starvation as a result of the current conflict.
  • ...The only discussion I have found that NPR gave to Yemen in the context of the world refugee crisis was one, solitary piece back on May 11, and that piece was very telling in what it refused to say about the causes for Yemen’s mass displacement problem... The result of this disproportionate news coverage is that the listener could very well miss out entirely on any discussion of such issues as U.S.-backed crimes in Yemen. And, even if one does hear a segment or two on this matter, this issue will be easily forgotten and certainly not taken as seriously or treated as urgently as the misdeeds of the U.S.’s ostensible enemies, such as Syria’s Assad government, to which NPR gives nearly obsessive attention.
  • In this way, we in the U.S., who may otherwise be moved to care about the fate of millions in Yemen whose lives are being upended with our own government’s complicity, are lulled into complacency, with our comfortable feeling about our nation’s inherent goodness fully intact. The result is that those in power in our ostensibly democratic government are given a free hand to aid and abet such atrocities as the near-total destruction of Yemen without the fear of any reprisal or approbation.
  • If it weren’t bad enough that the U.S. has imposed an illegal embargo against Cuba for over 50 years, it has also tried to prevent those interested in learning about this embargo (more accurately termed a blockade because the U.S. aggressively enforces it against third countries to stop them from trading with the island) from reading Salim Lamrani’s new book, The Economic War Against Cuba.... author Salim Lamrani... explains that the U.S. war against post-revolutionary Cuba began on March 17, 1960 – one month before Cuba established relations with Moscow. Lamrani relates that this war, declared by President Eisenhower, was “built on several pillars: the cancellation of the Cuban sugar quota, an end to the deliveries of energy resources such as oil, the continuation of the arms embargo imposed in March 1958, the establishment of a campaign of terrorism and sabotage, and the organization of a paramilitary force designed to invade the island overthrow Fidel Castro.” This war would then be expanded by President Kennedy in 1962 to include the unprecedented economic blockade against Cuba – a blockade which continues to this day... it demonstrates what Noam Chomsky has argued numerous times before: that during the Cold War the U.S. intentionally pushed Third World countries guilty of declaring their independence from U.S. hegemony towards the Soviet Union so as to manufacture a convenient pretext for U.S. belligerence.... Indeed, the stated purpose of the blockade all along has been to inflict suffering on the Cuban people to achieve the U.S.’s political objective of regime – the sine a qua non of terrorism.
  • Why does the U.S. government not lift the blockade against Cuba? I will answer: because it is afraid. It fears our example. It knows that if the blockade were lifted, Cuba’s economic and social development would be dizzying. It knows that we would demonstrate even more so than now, the possibilities of Cuban socialism, all the potential not yet fully deployed of a country without discrimination of any kind, with social justice and human rights for all citizens, and not just for the few. It is the government of a great and powerful empire, but it fears the example of this small insurgent island.

Kovalik's articles in the Huffington Post