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13 April 2012 | Draft

10 Demands for Concrete Proof by We the Peoples of the World

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Produced in a period when the USA is demanding concrete evidence from Iran that it is halting efforts to produce nuclear weapons


On 12th April 2012, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, indicated that in order for P5+1 Iran Summit (Istanbul, 14-15 April 2012) to continue the US is "looking for concrete results" from Iran to show that it is not in pursuit of nuclear weapons. Clinton declared, as reported by Chris McGreal (US warns Iran to give 'concrete' evidence it is halting nuclear ambitions, The Guardian, 13 April 2012):

"We want them to demonstrate, clearly, in the actions they propose that they have truly abandoned any nuclear weapons ambition," she said. "Of course, in a negotiation, we understand that the Iranians will be asking for assurances or actions from us and we will certainly take those under consideration."

This US demand is consistent with a statement at a White House press conference by President Barack Obama (6 March 2012) who asserted that "Iran has to come to the table and prove its nuclear program is peaceful", and that Iran "knows how" to prove this to the satisfaction of the international community. This is the classic legal challenge of proving a negative of which Obama is presumably fully aware, skilled lawyer that he is. How is a negative satisfactorily proven or evidence of absence to be provided? How does anyone prove that they are not a terrorist -- or a secret agent?

It is from within this framework, and in this spirit, that it is appropriate to formulate a set of issues on which "We the Peoples of the United Nations" require concrete and convincing evidence at this time. As indicated by Obama, the parties in question "know how" to provide this proof to the satisfaction of "we the peoples". The issues could be articulated as follows:

  1. We require concrete and convincing proof that:
    • the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council have not covertly agreed on a policy of sustaining warfare and insecurity in order to sustain the arms manufacture on which their economies are so significantly dependent.
    • the world's military-industrial complex is not deliberately engendering security threats through covert operations in order to maintain society on a war footing.

  2. We require concrete and convincing proof that:
    • the global financial community is not systematically and deliberately ensuring that a large proportion of the population is placed in a condition of debt-bondage for generations to come
    • the disproportionate financial benefits in some institutions, and the generalized pattern of severe economic inequality, have not been deliberately engineered with the aid of spurious arguments and misleading appeals to the highest human values

  3. We require concrete and convincing proof that:
    • the administration of justice is not systematically undermined by political and economic pressure, to which only the few have access, and by which they are ensured of a degree of impunity
    • the processes of interrogation do not make extensive use of torture, however framed, wherever this is considered expedient by authority
    • the policies of incarceration are not deliberately designed by authorities to maximize brutality of the stronger against the weaker -- a condition to which the "blind eye" of authority is systematically turned

  4. We require concrete and convincing proof that:
    • the educational institutions are not complicit in deliberately developing narrow skill-sets rendering students dependent on the availability of corresponding jobs, rather than developing skill-sets enabling students to create their own forms of sustaining employment when jobs are not available
    • the concentration of global media ownership is not engendering a policy of deliberately dumbing down the peoples of the world, and habituating them to violence in every form, whether as preferred entertainment, as the most appropriate means of resolving disagreement, or as a means of marginalizing and deprecating potentially viable alternatives

  5. We require concrete and convincing proof that the scientific community is not:
    • deeply and consciously complicit in the development of technologies destructive of human lives and of the environment on which lives depend
    • giving priority to research issues which avoid highlighting systemic insights that might enable a more coherent approach to the unresolved challenges of global civilization

  6. We require concrete and convincing proof that:
    • the technological and construction remedies proposed by various corporate interests do not have neglected side effects or vulnerabilities which will subsequently endanger lives, livelihoods and the environment (as with nuclear power, genetic engineering and geoengineering)
    • the agribusinesses controlling the world's food supplies are not deliberately complicit in systematically ignoring side effects, exposing the population to substances deleterious to human health and to progressive degradation of the environment on which human survival depends
    • the pharmaceutical industry vital to the health of people is not deliberately ignoring side effects and addiction in order to promote the sale of costly proprietary drugs and the neglect of alternative therapies

  7. We require concrete and convincing proof that the Abrahamic religions, in their various manifestations, are not complicit in:
    • deliberately maximizing the increase in the world's population in order to maximize the suffering consequent on shortage of vital resources for survival
    • systematically exploiting women and enabling sexual abuse by clergy
    • deliberately prolonging the lives, suffering, and loss of human dignity, of those in terminal conditions or unable to care for themselves

  8. We require concrete and convincing proof that:
    • the democratic electoral processes, by which we elect our representatives, are not systematically undermined by the fraud and influence peddling so readily denied
    • the legislative assemblies, debating issues of importance to us, are not subject to fraud and other questionable processes, including those by bodies formally accountable to them
    • the lobbyists active in that context do not have undue influence on the capacity of the democratic representatives to fulfill the mandates for which we elected them

  9. We require concrete and convincing proof that the vast number of documents classified as secret do not contain information which would require radical reformulation of public policy and priorities vital to the survival of individuals and humanity

  10. We require concrete and convincing proof that men are not a threat to women, adults to children, nor caucasians to people of colour.

The evidence might be appropriately "brought to the table", by the parties in question, on the occasion of the forthcoming "Rio+20" Earth Summit -- the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (2012) -- to avoid that initiative becoming, like its predecessors, an exercise in denial by the international community. Given that each of these issues has potentially life-threatening implications on a massive scale, as with the threat of  nuclear weapon deployment by Iran, response commensurate with that envisaged against Iran merits consideration.

BREAKING NEWS: On the day of the negotiations with Iran in Instanbul, 11 US secret service agents were suspended from duty for alleged sexual misconduct immediately prior to the arrival of President Obama at a Summit of the Americas conference in Cartagena (Secret Service agents relieved in Colombia amid prostitution allegations, CNN, 15 April 2012; US secret service scandal widens to include military, The Guardian, 15 April 2012). Several bombs exploded on the occasion (Bombs, Secret Service mar Obama's arrival in Cartagena for Americas summit, Global Post, 14 April 2012). The people of the Americas now require concrete proof that the security of the President was not endangered. The secret service "knows how" to supply that proof. Assurances have allegedly been supplied by the head of the secret service. It is however unclear whether these are of the evidential quality requested of Iran or of that already furnished by Iran.

Consideration of the problematic nature of "concrete proof" is highlighted by the contrast between "briefings", "assurances" (as seemingly presented by the head of the US Secret Service), "remarks", and "testimony". With respect to foreign affairs, the US Department of State provides a checklist of Remarks, Testimony, Speeches, and Briefings by Department of State Officials -- distinguishing between each. Curiously the key presentation to a plenary session of the United Nations Security Council on 5 February 2003, by US Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, arguing in favour of military action in Iraq, is defined by the Department of State as "remarks" (Remarks to the United Nations Security Council. 5 February 2003).

It was in this presentation that "concrete evidence" was purportedly presented. It is curious that the presentation did not apparently have the status of "testimony" given the importance of the matter, and the manner in which other interventions before the Security Council are described as "testimony". The Security Council does not seemingly require sworn testimony in receiving "concrete evidence". It is apparent from the checklist that reference is made to "testimony" in the case of presentations by officials of the Department of State to committees of the US Senate and of the US House of Representatives -- whether or not this is considered to be sworn testimony. There are however numerous instances in which the UN Security Council is said to have received "testimony" from ambassadors and other officials. The historic "remarks" by Powell to the UN Security Council, which enabled so many thousands of deaths, are so described by others, and by himself. For example, CNN reports that:

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said his pre-war testimony to the U.N. Security Council about Iraq's alleged mobile, biological weapons labs was based on information that appears not to be "solid." Powell's speech before the Security Council on February, 5, 2003 -- detailing possible weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- was a major event in the Bush administration's effort to justify a war and win international support. Powell said Friday his testimony about Iraq and mobile biological weapons labs was based on the best intelligence available, but "now it appears not to be the case that it was that solid," (Powell: Some Iraq testimony not 'solid', CNN, 3 April  2004)

The key question at this time is whether the "concrete evidence" presented in justification for a strike against Iran will take the form of "remarks" or "testimony" -- preferably sworn -- and whether thereafter such "testimony" is regrettably indicated to have been based on information which was "not solid". Conversely, given such standards of evidential quality, what is to be expected in any presentation by Iran of "concrete proof"?

With respect to the 10 Demands for Concrete Proof (above), there is clearly a requirement by "We the Peoples" that the evidence as presented be "solid" -- in the form of sworn testimony, rather than as "assurances" or "remarks".


Relevant documents

Stéphane Hessel. Time for Outrage: Indignez-vous! Twelve, 2011

Colin L. Powell. Remarks to the United Nations Security Council. 5 February 2003

Warping the Judgement of Dissenting Opinion towards a general framework for comparing distortion in rules of evidence (2002)

Politicization of Evidence in the Plastic Turkey Era: al-Qaida, Saddam, Assassination and the Hijab (2003)

Abuse of Faith in Governance: Mystery of the Unasked Question (2009)

United Nations Overpopulation Denial Conference (2009)

10 Unanswered Questions on Iran and Israel (2012)

Questions to which Many deserve Answers (2000)


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