geneva conference


May 7th 1954: Battle of Dien Bien Phu ends

On this day in 1954, the decisive battle of the First Indochina War at Dien Bien Phu ended with a resounding victory for the Viet Minh. The war was fought between the colonial French powers and a group of Vietnamese soldiers led by communist Ho Chi Minh. The Vietnamese forces had been battling the colonial French since the aftermath of World War Two, with each side being funded by the opposing camps of the Cold War - the Vietnamese from China, and France from the United States. In the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the communists were led by General Vo Nguyen Giap, who encircled the French stronghold with 40,000 men and heavy artillery. After a fifty-seven day siege, the French defense crumbled and the Viet Minh were victorious. The decisive battle essentially ended the war, which led to the Geneva Conference to negotiate peace. The Conference, which was attended by most of the major world powers, resulted in the division of Vietnam along the 17th Parallel. It was this division which kept tensions alive between the communist North and US-backed South, which ended in war between the two and heavy US involvement to support the South. In 1975, after the US had mostly retreated, the Southern capital of Saigon fell to the communists and the nation was once again united.

“The Viets are everywhere. The situation is very grave. The combat is confused and goes on all about. I feel the end is approaching, but we will fight to the finish”
- Christian de Castries, French commander at Dien Bien Phu, in the last hours of the siege

Lying about Vietnam: it was now a Washington way of life.  The lies started with the war’s ontological premise.  We were supposed to be defending a ‘country’ called “South Vietnam.’  But South Vietnam was not quite a country at all.  Vietnamese independence fighters had begun battling the French since practically the day they stopped fighting side by side in World War II.  In 1954 they fought their colonial overlords to a final defeat at the stronghold of Dien Bien Phu.  It was the first military loss for a European colonial power in three hundred years.  Though these stalwarts, the Vietminh, now controlled four-fifths of the country’s territory, at the peace conference in Geneva they made a concession: they agreed to administer an armistice area half that size, demarcated at the seventeenth parallel (but for some last-minute haggling, it would have been the eighteenth).  A government loyal to the French would administer the lands to the south.  The ad hoc demarcation was to last twenty-four months, at which time the winner of an internationally supervised election in 1956 would run the entire country.
Instead, the division lasted for nineteen years.  The reason was the United Sates, which saw to it the reunification election never took place.  American intelligence knew that Ho Chi Minh, the Communist leader of the independence fighters, would have won 80 percent of the vote.  The seventeenth parallel was read backward as an ordinary international boundary.  If 'North Vietnam’ crossed it, they’d be guilty of 'aggression.’  Meanwhile, the CIA launched a propaganda campaign to depopulate North Vietnam, whose sizable Catholic population was shipped to 'South Vietnam’ via the U.S. Seventh Fleet.  There, they found themselves part of a citizenry that had no reason for being in history, culture, or geography; even as the U.S. pretended- then came to believe- they were a brave, independence-loving nation of long standing.  Actually the great city in the South, Saigon, had been France’s imperial headquarters.  There, France had crowned a figurehead emperor at the tender age of twelve.  During World War II, Emperor Bao Dai had collaborated with Vichy France and the Japanese.  This was the man the South Vietnamese were supposed to venerate as the leader of their independent nation.
He was replaced by someone worse: a wily hustler named Ngo Dinh Diem.  In 1952, Diem engineered a presidential election between himself and the emperor, with the help of U.S. government advisers, and 'won’ 98.2 percent of the vote.  He then revived the guillotine as punishment for anyone 'infringing upon the security of the state.’  His favorite rebuff to an insult from a political opponent was 'Shoot him dead!’  His sister-in-law Madame Nhu, who served as his emissary abroad, told Americans the last thing her family was interested in was 'your crazy freedoms.’  This was the government to which the United States would now ask its citizens to pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.  Diem was not a Communist.  And that, said America, made him a democrat.
Ho Chi Minh had no special beef with the United States.  He liked to quote the Declaration of Independence; on the march to Hanoi during World War II, his forces called themselves the Viet-American Army; after the war, Ho sent telegrams to President Truman offering an independent Vietnam as 'a fertile field for American capital and enterprise.’  (Truman never answered.)  The French reconquered Vietnam with what was practically an American mercenary force: 78 percent of the French army’s funding came from the United States.  More hawkish Americans lobbied for direct intervention; Richard Nixon, after his visit in 1953, advised Eisenhower that two or three atomic bombs would do the trick.  Ho Chi Minh’s supporters in South Vietnam began their guerrilla war in 1960.  It led to a kind of Cold War nervous breakdown.  Falter in Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson claimed in 1964, and 'they may just chase you into your own kitchen.
—  Rick Perlstein, Nixonland, pgs 100-101

It is difficult to imagine the Ariana Park, home to the United Nations in Geneva, without its peacocks. It is not unusual to see peacocks walking, dancing and singing in full splendor on the Palais grounds.

Most of the birds that visitors can see today are peafowl donated to UN Geneva in 1997 by a zoo in Japan. Others were a gift from the Permanent Mission of #India. The birds are fed and cared for by the park’s gardeners.

The overall complex at UN Geneva hosts 34 conference rooms and 2,800 offices, making it one of the largest diplomatic conference centres in the world.

📷: UN Geneva


From the personal scrapbooks of Clark J. Kent: Candid photographs of President Lex Luthor.

Scrapbooking is a habit Clark picks up from Martha and keeps as private as possible, both for the obvious masculinity-challenging reasons, and because he’s not sure Lex would like it. It’s not completely voluntary. He just ends up collecting pictures of her and Conner, of the three of them, because suddenly he’s more visible than he’s ever been, and it actually feels like him this time. The moments are ones he actually wants to document, instead of hide. And so he keeps his favorites, catalogues them with love and care, and writes little notes on the backs of them. 

“Had to leave before the show let out – miss this dress ;)” 

“She still calls him an ‘experiment’. (Yeah, right!)”

“Trying not to laugh right after she told me the one abt Bruce and the fake bomb threat”

“Heading to the airport after the medical conference in Geneva. Bad day”

“Remember to send Jimmy an extra pie this Xmas. Might frame this”

Coretta Scott King

Married to one of the most influential civil rights leaders of our era, but a legend in her own right. She continued MLK Jr.’s legacy by founding the King Center, and was also the leader of a successful campaign in making her husband’s birthday a national holiday. Not only was she involved in civil rights for minorities, but human rights all around; this included LGBT and women’s rights. What’s her story?

Keep reading

From Jackie to Joan – Circa 1979 (First page is missing). This is the most complete version, to date.

“…Don’t explain apologetically - You’ve had it!…Explain pattern - why it happens & when!! This is the 20th century - not 19th - where little woman stayed home on pedestal with the kids & her rosary - Your life matters - as much as his - you love him - but you can’t destroy yourself - you are the mother of 3 children…A mother is more important to children than a father - That is the parent it hurts children most to lose - and you are not going to let that happen - You want a life of sharing - otherwise why doesn’t he just get a Japanese houseboy - to wait quietly in the other room while he & aides discuss his problems - then he can have his girls on the side & his sisters can campaign for him - You’re no prude or fool - if he goes off to a Refugee Conference in Geneva - you don’t like to think about it - but you wouldn’t be surprised if he had a big blow-out in Paris with Hooter or someone - That’s different - Men under pressure have to let off steam sometimes - that’s why even the Catholic Church has carnival & Mardi Gras…

But having your own little black phone billed to [reporter and Washington insider] John Warnecke so that you can talk to Mootsie or Pootsie every night - right in the house with his wife & children - and bringing them there when you’re away. What kind of woman, but a sap or a slave, can stand that & still be a loving wife - & care about him & work like a dog for him campaigning. It is so old fashioned - probably got it from his father [Joseph Kennedy, Sr.] - Forbidden fruit is what is exciting. It takes much more of a real man to have a deep relationship with the woman he lives with. The routine of married life can become boring…if you married Mootsie & she had a few miscarriages [Joan had three miscarriages] & had to go to the movies at the Cape and on the Marlin with the whole family every day - you’d be sneaking off from her too, after a while…this community living has to stop. The family that really counts is his own…He can go to the graduations of all of Ethel’s children & teach John to sail the Victura - but, if he botches up his own family…that will be a pretty sad record…

Get out of the house in daytime - do exercise things and stimulating things & see people that weren’t a part always of his tight little world…girls with friends he doesn’t know, meet secretly once a week. Don’t explain where you will be, don’t speak of yourself as a delicate health problem - Don’t ask permission…Be a bit mysterious - so he never knows exactly when you are going away or coming back - when you may walk into the house at home returning early from a trip…then he can’t plan things around your absence…Go places with him - fun places…You can go to restaurants - Jack did as President…Go on foreign trips with him…It will be hard for him to tell you can’t come…Don’t let him assume that you are Old Faithful…Take vacations with your friends - not the family. Make the sisters scared to death of you - so they…don’t walk all over your house and appropriate your husband - He’s your husband - (that’s more important than being their brother). Tell Eunice everything - & be mad when you’re telling her. Say you’d like to talk to his mother about it… [you may tell her] if things continue to be this difficult & you have to take Teddy & Kara to the Canadian Mountains this winter for their asthma (the excuse to the public)… He’ll do anything to avoid that!… ”.

In a two-day conference in Geneva on Monday, Syrian women’s rights activists demanded equal involvement in their country’s peace talks set to begin January 22. Syria’s civil war has created 2 million refugees and claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people. “We cannot remain silent regarding events unfolding in Syria such as daily death, massive destruction, starvation of people and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Syrian families, in Syria and abroad, as well as the spread of terror, of violence, ongoing detentions, acts of kidnapping,” said prominent Syrian activist Kefah ali Deeb.

Read more via Al Jazeera.

‘If Not You, Then Who?’

The Philosophy and Work of Kailash Satyarthi

Here are 10 facts about his life and work:

He belongs to Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh. Trained as an electrical engineer, he turned into an activist for children’s rights at the age of 26.

As a boy, he was moved by other children who had to work, and whose parents were too poor to send them to school.  He started a football club with membership fees paying the school fees of needy children.

He and a friend collected donations of 2,000 schoolbooks in a single day, a project that eventually became a book bank in his home town.

“If not now, then when? If not you, then who? If we are able to answer these fundamental questions, then perhaps we can wipe away the blot of human slavery,” Mr Satyarthi has said, summing up his philosophy.

In 1983, he founded the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) to fight child labour. His efforts have helped rescue thousands of children from bondage, trafficking and exploitative labour.

With the help of NGOs and activists, he has organized hundreds of raids on factories and warehouses where children were being made to work.

He created “RugMark”, a scheme which certifies that carpets and rugs sold abroad have been made without the labour of children. The initiative turned out to be highly successful in raising international awareness about children’s rights.
In 1998, Mr Satyarthi was chairman of a global march against child labour that wound through more than 60 countries around the world.  Children rescued from jobs in Asia, Africa and Latin America were among more than 1,000 people who ended the march in Geneva, at a conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

A year later, the ILO approved an accord designed to protect children from jobs that expose them to danger or exploitation.

After Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister, Mr Satyarthi tweeted, “A tea-boy dares his detractors by becoming the PM of India. Now it’s his turn to ensure that no child is forced to become a child labourer.”

The Syrian Peace Talks Look Like a Tragic Farce

Peace talks aiming to bring Syria’s bloody civil war to a conclusion finally began yesterday in Switzerland, the land of peace and harmony. The conference officially starts Friday and will see delegates getting down to the seemingly impossible task of trying to thrash out a deal, but yesterday was the initial meeting of the “Geneva II” conference, where the participants got to let off some steam in lengthy speeches.

All things considered, the occasion didn’t get off to the best start, with Syria’s foreign minister using his speech to accuse some of the nations involved of having “Syrian blood on their hands” before calling the rebels “traitors.” The US and the Syrian opposition used the opportunity to state that Bashar al-Assad had no legitimacy—which, shockingly, didn’t go down too well with the Assad camp—while Syria’s information minister argued with the UN secretary-general before shouting, “Assad will not leave! Assad will not leave!” at the assembled pack of reporters. So it doesn’t look like the negotiations—the first time the opposition and the Syrian government have formally sat down together since the conflict began in 2011—will be particularly fruitful.