Editorials: No trade war with Colombia; and Disarm the Middle East

The stereotypes are about gangsters and hookers, but the reality about most Colombians and most of their investments in Panama is something else.

Let’s not have a trade war with Colombia

The developments around the former Howard Air Force Base, many of Panama’s banks and countless legitimate small businesses run by Panama’s large Colombian minority add up to billions of dollars of proper and beneficial investments in this country. Yes, money launderers and other Colombian racketeers are active here too, but while the money they move through Panama is substantial the numbers of these people is a small fringe of the Colombian community that lives among us.

The Colombian government has legitimate grievances about its losses due to money laundering through Panama, and we have legitimate grievances about our merchants’ losses due to Colombian protectionist measures against clothing and shoes coming though the Colon Free Zone. But the ever more frequent expressions of xenophobia, the stereotyping on both sides and the escalating measures and counter-measure do neither Panamanians nor Colombians any favors.

The two countries’ governments should calm down and go back to the negotiating table. It’s in our mutual interest to resolve our differences in a more amicable fashion than we have seen.


The smoke rises from Abs Hospital, the fourth medical center in Yemen that’s associated with Doctors Without Borders that has been specifically and deliberately attacked by US-armed Saudi forces.

More or less on cue…

The disgraced former chair of the Democratic National Committee, facing a primary challenge in her bid to be re-elected to the US House of Representatives, blasted her challenger, law professor Tim Canova, for advocating a general disarmament in the Middle East. This, Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, endangers the State of Israel.

Promptly, within a matter of a few hours, Saudi jets dropping US-made bombs attacked a hospital in Yemen, killing at least 11 people. It was the fourth Saudi bombing of a Yemeni hospital in the past year and a half. There was money to be made in manufacturing and selling those bombs, enough of it spread around by lobbyists to get bipartisan Washington support for the arming of a vicious Sunni jihad against the Shia, led by the country from whence most of those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001 came.

The time when those who object to this sort of US policy in the Middle East are vilified as favoring a massacre of Jews ought to be over. Especially so, because the flow of US arms into that troubled region of the world hasn’t really solved anything. Sure, US drone strikes have driven the jihadis of the Islamic State out of positions that they held — so they retreated, taking their many US-made weapons with them. There may be arguments for selected and discrete arms shipments to this or that nation or faction, in the interest of US national security or fending off genocide. But what’s happening now has little to do with those things. It’s just big business that makes a lot of money for a few companies but doesn’t really serve ordinary Americans.


Bear in mind…

Many participants in the public discourse about “terror” have a quite different purpose. It is to apply the word as a pejorative to certain acts and actors in order to stigmatize them. This is a political exercise rather than an intellectual one. … The aim is to produce a certain emotional effect that encourages certain types of responses. In popular usage, it is akin to calling someone a “bastard” or a “son of a bitch” as an insult without bothering to determine the legal status of his parents or his mother’s temperament.
Professor Michael Brenner
Terrorism as a Word and Epithet (2016)


Stalin originated the concept enemy of the people. This term automatically rendered it unnecessary that the ideological errors of a man or men engaged in a controversy be proven; this term made possible the usage of the most cruel repression, violating all norms of revolutionary legality, against anyone who in any way disagreed with Stalin, against those who were only suspected of hostile intent, against those who had bad reputations. This concept, enemy of the people, actually eliminated the possibility of any kind of ideological fight or the making of one’s views known on this or that issue, even those of a practical character. In the main, and in actuality, the only proof of guilt used, against all norms of current legal science, was the confession of the accused himself, and, as subsequent probing proved, confessions were acquired through physical pressures against the accused.
Premier Nikita Khrushchev
The Crimes of the Stalin Era (1956)


It is unlikely that any State at this moment in history would attempt to make it a criminal offense for a person to be mentally ill, or a leper, or to be afflicted with a venereal disease. A State might determine that the general health and welfare require that the victims of these and other human afflictions be dealt with by compulsory treatment, involving quarantine, confinement, or sequestration. But, in the light of contemporary human knowledge, a law which made a criminal offense of such a disease would doubtless be universally thought to be an infliction of cruel and unusual punishment.
Justice Potter Stewart
Robinson v. California (1962)


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