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Iraq: The Carve-up Begins

June 30th, 2005 - by admin

Tom Burgis / The Line – 2005-06-30 23:38:57

http://www.thelondonline.co.uk/theline/article.php?articleID=437

LONDON (June 23, 2005) — The Iraq war has so far cost America and Britain £105billion. But the financial clawback is gathering pace as British and American oil giants work out how to get their hands on the estimated £3trillion worth of oil.

Executives from BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil and Halliburton, Dick Cheney’s old firm, are expected to congregate at the Paddington Hilton for a two-day chinwag with top-level officials from Iraq’s oil ministry.

The gathering, sponsored by the British Government, is being described as the “premier event” for those with designs on Iraqi oil, and will go ahead despite opposition from Iraqi oil workers, who fear their livelihoods are being flogged to foreigners. The Met will be on hand to secure the venue ahead of the conference.

“This is a networking opportunity for UK businesses involved in Iraqi oil,” explained Dr Hussain Rabia, managing director of the consultancy Entrac Petroleum Ltd. “We have the moral support of the UK government. They’re bringing the guys over from Iraq, offering them visas. We expect all the big oil companies to be there,” he said.

Delegate numbers are described as “confidential”. Shell spokesman Simon Buerk would not confirm that a representative of the company would be attending, but said he “wouldn’t be at all surprised if they were”.

“We aspire to establish a long-term presence in Iraq,” he said. “We have been helping the [Iraqi] Ministry of Oil and engineers with training.”

Those who have purchased their £1,200 tickets can expect access to executives from Iraq’s oil ministry, including Salem Razoky, the director general of exploration.

But Iraqi oil workers are furious about the conference. “The second phase of the war will be started by this conference carving up the industry,” said an outraged Hasan Juma’a, head of the Iraqi General Union of Oil Employees. “It is about giving shares of Iraq to the countries who invaded it – they get a piece of the action as a reward. The British government will back this action in order to pay its debt in Iraq.”

Multinationals Plotting to Seize Iraq’s Oil Wealth
Hasan, who represents 23,000 skilled oil workers, fears that deals struck at the conference will see profits from Iraq’s massive oil reserves — the second richest in the world — lining the pockets of multinational corporations at the expense of the Iraqi people.

Previous form suggests his concerns are well founded. Under the initial wage table drawn up by Paul Bremer’s provisional Baghdad government in September 2003, oil workers were to receive a minimum monthly pay packet of £25. After a threatened union strike, it was raised to £38. And, Hasan insists, “Iraqi oil workers are good enough to rebuild without any need of help. ”

Greg Muttitt, a researcher with Platform, an independent environmental think thank, agrees. “The decisions on how to carve up Iraq are being made behind closed doors in Washington, London and Baghdad.

“This conference is a key part of the plan to help multinational companies get stuck in once those arrangements are in place. It’s a corporate feeding frenzy — they’re not writing the recipes, they’re tucking in their napkins.”

Yahia Said, an Iraqi research fellow in global governance at the London School of Economics, commented:

“Iraq’s oil is very cheap to extract. In the lack of transparency and with Iraq under occupation, people suspect oil companies are up to foul play. But those companies wouldn’t yet dare sign a contract under the present government because it lacks legitimacy. But the oil companies are eyeing each other – this conference is like a dating game.”

As such, a spokesperson for British governmental body UK Trade & Investment insisted that “no contracts will be awarded” at the conference. “Although we believe that British and other companies can play a key role, it will be up to the Iraqis, through their elected representatives to decide whether there is a role for them or not.”

But the British government’s position is in line with that of conference organisers, who point to Iraq’s current oil output, which is stalled at 1.8million barrels per day, less than a third of what it could be.

“We all want to reconstruct Iraq,” argued Rabia. “You can have all the demos you want, but 70 per cent of people in my country don’t have sanitation. It’s 45 degrees there now. I’ve listened to a lot of people and there’s no way you can reconstruct without people from the UK and the US, and their money.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Former British Agent Claims 9/11 an “Inside Job”

June 30th, 2005 - by admin

Prison Planet – 2005-06-30 23:36:19

http://www.prisonplanet.com/headlines/june2005/27_06_05.htm

(June 27 2005) — Former MI5 agent David Shayler, who previously blew the whistle on the British government paying Al Qaeda $200,000 to carry out political assassinations, has gone on the record with his conviction that 9/11 was an inside job meant to bring about a permanent state of emergency in America and pave the way for the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq and ultimately Iran and Syria.

David Shayler joined MI5 in October 1991 and worked there for five years. He started at F Branch (counter-subversion) in January 1992, and worked in T Branch (Irish terrorism) from August 1992 until October 1994. He left the organization in 1996.

Shayler appeared on The Alex Jones Show to kick off what will be a wider public campaign to educate the public on 9/11 issues and government corruption.

Shayler again risked jail by speaking out. The British government has a legal gag preventing him from speaking about his work during his MI5 tenure. Since what Shayler discussed was already on the public record (a consequence of which was his imprisonment on two separate occasions), he now feels safer in stepping back out into the limelight.

Shayler delved into his past investigations and the evidence that led some within MI5 to conclude that the Israelis bombed their own London embassy in July 1994. Shayler said that the Israelis framed two Palestinians who remain in jail to this day.

“The same thing has happened with two Palestinians who were convicted of conspiracy to cause the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Britain in 1994 but MI5 didn’t disclose two documents which indicated their innocence.

“One document indicated another group had carried out the attack and the other document was the belief of an MI5 officer that the Israelis had actually bombed their own embassy and allowed a controlled explosion to try and get better security and these documents were never shown to the trial judge let alone the defense.”

Washington’s Response Suggests a Cover-up
Shayler said that his suspicions were first aroused about 9/11 when the usual route of crime scene investigation was impeded when the debris was immediately seized and shipped off to China.

“It is in fact a criminal offence to interfere with a crime scene and yet in the case of 9/11 all the metal from the buildings is shipped out to China, there are no forensications done on that metal. Now that to me suggests they never wanted anybody to look at that metal because it was not going to provide the evidence they wanted to show people that it was Al-Qaeda.”

Shayler then went on to dismiss the incompetence theory.

“The more I look at it, you realize that it’s not incompetence. There were FBI officers all over the country, Colleen Rowley is obviously the one who managed to get a congressional hearing, but there was plenty of evidence certainly.”

“There are so many questions that need to be answered, protocols being overridden within national defense, people actively being stopped from carrying out investigations. This wasn’t an accident, they were aware there was intelligence indicating those kind of attacks, there were FBI intercepts saying it in the days before the attacks. When you look at it all, that is a big big intelligence picture and yet these people were crucially stopped from doing their jobs, stopped from trying to protect the American people.”

Attack Was Intended to Have Been ‘Much Wider in Scope’
Shayler elaborated by saying the evidence suggests the attack was originally meant to be much wider in scope and was an attempt at a violent coup intended to decapitate the entire government as a pretext for martial law.

“So you’re looking at a situation in which you almost have a coup de’tat because you’ve got to bear in mind that there were weapons discovered on planes that didn’t take off on 9/11. Now people have obviously postulated that they were going perhaps to attack the White House, Capitol Hill. That looks to me like an attempt to destroy American government and declare a state of emergency, in fact a coup de’tat, a violent coup de’tat.

“There are so very many questions about this and you realize again that none of the enquiries ever get to the bottom of any of these things, they don’t take all the evidence, they don’t often take any evidence under oath when they should be taking it under oath.”

Shayler was forthright in his assertion that the attack was planned and executed within the jurisdiction of the military-industrial complex.

“They let it happen, they made it happen to create a trigger to be able to allow the invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq and of course what they’re trying to do now is the same thing with the invasion of Iran and Syria.”

Shayler ended by questioning the highly suspicious nature of the collapse of the twin towers and Building 7, the first buildings in history, all in the same day, to collapse from so-called fire damage alone.

“I’ve seen the results of terroristic explosions and so on and no terrorist explosion has ever brought down a building. When the IRA put something like a thousands tonnes of home-made explosives in front of the Baltic Exchange building in Bishopsgate and let off the bomb, all the glass came out, the building shook a bit but there was no question about the building falling down and it doesn’t obey the laws of physics for buildings to fall down in the way the World Trade Center came down. So you have the comparison of the two, Building 7 compared with the north and south towers coming down and those two things are exactly the same, they were demolished.”

David Shayler joins a spate of recent credible whistleblowers who share the same sentiments about the real story behind 9/11.

Former Chief Economist for the Department of Labor during President George W. Bush’s first term Morgan Reynolds publicly questioned the unexplained collapse of WTC Building 7 earlier this month.

In addition, a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under President Reagan, Paul Craig Roberts, shared his concerns last week when he said the Bush Administration were making the same mistakes as the Nazis when they invaded Russia in the dead of Winter. Roberts seriously doubts the official explanation behind 9/11.

Click here for a clip in which Shayler discusses 9/11. Prison Planet.tv subscribers can listen to the whole hour long interview by clicking here.

US Has Plans to Again Make Own Plutonium

June 29th, 2005 - by admin

William J. Broad / New York Times – 2005-06-29 23:01:15

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/27/politics/27nuke.html?pagewanted=print

(June 27, 2005) — The Bush administration is planning the government’s first production of plutonium 238 since the cold war, stirring debate over the risks and benefits of the deadly material. The substance, valued as a power source, is so radioactive that a speck can cause cancer.

Federal officials say the program would produce a total of 150 kilograms (330 pounds) over 30 years at the Idaho National Laboratory, a sprawling site outside Idaho Falls some 100 miles to the west and upwind of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Officials say the program could cost $1.5 billion and generate more than 50,000 drums of hazardous and radioactive waste.

Project managers say that most if not all of the new plutonium is intended for secret missions and declined to divulge any details. But in the past, it has powered espionage devices.

“The real reason we’re starting production is for national security,” Timothy A. Frazier, head of radioisotope power systems at the Department of Energy, said in a recent interview.

He vigorously denied that any of the classified missions would involve nuclear arms, satellites or weapons in space.

The laboratory is a source of pride and employment for many residents in the Idaho Falls area. But the secrecy is adding to unease in Wyoming, where environmentalists are scrutinizing the production plan — made public late Friday — and considering whether to fight it.

A Threat to National Park Ecosystems
They say the production effort is a potential threat to nearby ecosystems, including Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and the area around Jackson Hole, famous for its billionaires, celebrities and weekend cowboys, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

“It’s completely wrapped in the flag,” said Mary Woollen-Mitchell, executive director of Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free, a group based in Jackson Hole. “They absolutely won’t let on” about the missions.

“People are starting to pay attention,” she said of the production plan. “On the street, just picking up my kids at school, they’re getting keyed up that something is in the works.”

Plutonium 238 has no central role in nuclear arms. Instead, it is valued for its steady heat, which can be turned into electricity. Nuclear batteries made of it are best known for powering spacecraft that go where sunlight is too dim to energize solar cells. For instance, they now power the Cassini probe exploring Saturn and its moons.

Federal and private experts unconnected to the project said the new plutonium would probably power devices for conducting espionage on land and under the sea.

Even if no formal plans now exist to use the plutonium in space for military purposes, these experts said that the material could be used by the military to power compact spy satellites that would be hard for adversaries to track, evade or destroy.

“It’s going to be a tough world in the next one or two decades, and this may be needed,” said a senior federal scientist who helps the military plan space missions and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the possibility that he would contradict federal policies. “Technologically, it makes sense.”

A History of Deadly Disasters
Early in the nuclear era, the government became fascinated by plutonium 238 and used it regularly to make nuclear batteries that worked for years or decades. Scores of them powered satellites, planetary probes and spy devices, at times with disastrous results.

In 1964, a rocket failure led to the destruction of a navigation satellite powered by plutonium 238, spreading radioactivity around the globe and starting a debate over the event’s health effects.

In 1965, high in the Himalayas, an intelligence team caught in a blizzard lost a plutonium-powered device meant to spy on China. And in 1968, an errant weather satellite crashed into the Pacific, but federal teams managed to recover its plutonium battery intact from the Santa Barbara Channel, off California.

Such accidents cooled enthusiasm for the batteries. But federal agencies continued to use them for a more limited range of missions, including those involving deep-space probes and top-secret devices for tapping undersea cables.

In 1997, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration prepared to launch its Cassini probe of Saturn, hundreds of protesters converged on its Florida spaceport, arguing that an accident could rupture the craft’s nuclear batteries and condemn thousands of people to death by cancer.

More Radioactive that Weapons-grade Plutonium
Plutonium 238 is hundreds of times more radioactive than the kind of plutonium used in nuclear arms, plutonium 239. Medical experts agree that inhaling even a speck poses a serious risk of lung cancer.

But federal experts say that the newest versions of the nuclear batteries are made to withstand rupture into tiny particles and that the risk of human exposure is extraordinarily low.

Today, the United States makes no plutonium 238 and instead relies on aging stockpiles or imports from Russia. By agreement with the Russians, it cannot use the imported material — some 35 pounds since the end of the cold war — for military purposes.

With its domestic stockpile running low, Washington now wants to resume production. Though it last made plutonium 238 in the 1980’s at the government’s Savannah River plant in South Carolina, it now wants to move such work to the Idaho National Laboratory and consolidate all the nation’s plutonium 238 activities there, including efforts now at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

By centralizing everything in Idaho, the Energy Department hopes to increase security and reduce the risks involved in transporting the radioactive material over highways.

Draft Impact Statement Posted:
The Public Has 60 Days to Respond

Late Friday, the department posted a 500-page draft environmental impact statement on the plan at www.consolidationeis.doe.gov. The public has 60 days to respond.

Mr. Frazier said the department planned to weigh public reaction and complete the regulatory process by late this year, and to finish the plan early in 2006. The president would then submit it to Congress for approval, he said. The work requires no international assent.

The Idaho National Laboratory, founded in 1949 for atomic research, stretches across 890 square miles of southeastern Idaho. The Big Lost River wanders its length. The site is dotted with 450 buildings and 52 reactors – more than at any other place – most of them shut down. It has long wrestled with polluted areas and recently sought to set new standards in environmental restoration.

New Plutonium Plant Would Cost $250 Million
New plutonium facilities there would take five years to build and cost about $250 million, Mr. Frazier said. The operations budget would run to some $40 million annually over 30 years, he said, for a total cost of nearly $1.5 billion.

An existing reactor there would make the plutonium. Mr. Frazier said the goal was to start production by 2012 and have the first plutonium available by 2013. When possible, Mr. Frazier said, the plutonium would be used not only for national security but also for deep-space missions, reducing dependence on Russian supplies.

Since late last year, the Energy Department has tried to reassure citizens living around the proposed manufacturing site of the plan’s necessity and safety.

But political activists in Wyoming have expressed frustration at what they call bureaucratic evasiveness regarding serious matters. “It’s the nastiest of the nasty,” Ms. Woollen-Mitchell said of plutonium 238.

Early this year, she succeeded in learning some preliminary details of the plan from the Energy Department. Mr. Frazier provided her with a document that showed that production over 30 years would produce 51,590 drums of hazardous and radioactive waste.

He also referred to the continuing drain on the government’s national security stockpile, saying the known missions by the end of this decade would require 25 kilograms (or 55 pounds) of plutonium for 10 to 15 power systems. Those uses, he said, would leave virtually no plutonium for future classified missions.

Ms. Woollen-Mitchell was unswayed. In January she told the Energy Department that so much information about the plan remained hidden that it had “given us serious pause.”

The Energy Department is courting Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free because it has flexed its political muscle before. Starting in late 1999, financed by wealthy Jackson Hole residents like Harrison Ford, it fought to stop the Idaho lab from burning plutonium-contaminated waste in an incinerator and forced the lab to investigate alternatives.

In the recent interview, Mr. Frazier said he planned to talk to the group on Tuesday and expressed hope of winning people over.

“I don’t know that I’ll be able to make them perfectly comfortable,” he said, “but they know that the department is willing to listen and talk and take their comments into consideration.”

“We have a good case,” Mr. Frazier added, saying the department could show that the Idaho plan “can be done safely with very minimal environmental impacts.”

America’s Neo-conservative World Supremacists Will Fail

June 29th, 2005 - by admin

Eric Hobsbawm / The Guardian – 2005-06-29 23:00:21

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1514315,00.html

(June 25, 2005) — Three continuities link the global US of the cold war era with the attempt to assert world supremacy since 2001. The first is its position of international domination, outside the sphere of influence of communist regimes during the cold war, globally since the collapse of the USSR.

This hegemony no longer rests on the sheer size of the US economy. Large though this is, it has declined since 1945 and its relative decline continues. It is no longer the giant of global manufacturing. The centre of the industrialised world is rapidly shifting to the eastern half of Asia.

Unlike older imperialist countries, and unlike most other developed industrial countries, the US has ceased to be a net exporter of capital, or indeed the largest player in the international game of buying up or establishing firms in other countries, and the financial strength of the state rests on the continued willingness of others, mostly Asians, to maintain an otherwise intolerable fiscal deficit.

The influence of the American economy today rests largely on the heritage of the cold war: the role of the US dollar as the world currency, the international linkages of US firms established during that era (notably in defence-related industries), the restructuring of international economic transactions and business practices along American lines, often under the auspices of American firms.

These are powerful assets, likely to diminish only slowly. On the other hand, as the Iraq war showed, the enormous political influence of the US abroad, based as it was on a genuine “coalition of the willing” against the USSR, has no similar foundation since the fall of the Berlin wall.

Only the enormous military-technological power of the US is well beyond challenge. It makes the US today the only power capable of effective military intervention at short notice in any part on the world, and it has twice demonstrated its capacity to win small wars with great rapidity.

And yet, as the Iraq war shows, even this unparalleled capacity to destroy is not enough to impose effective control on a resistant country, and even less on the globe. Nevertheless, US dominance is real and the disintegration of the USSR has made it global.

Manifest Destiny by Proxy
The second element of continuity is the peculiar house-style of US empire, which has always preferred satellite states or protectorates to formal colonies. The expansionism implicit in the name chosen for the 13 independent colonies on the east coast of the Atlantic (United States of America) was continental, not colonial.

The later expansionism of “manifest destiny” was both hemispheric and aimed towards East Asia, as well as modelled on the global trading and maritime supremacy of the British Empire. One might even say that in its assertion of total US supremacy over the western hemisphere it was too ambitious to be confined to colonial administration over bits of it.

The American empire thus consisted of technically independent states doing Washington’s bidding, but, given their independence, this required continuous readiness to exert pressure on their governments, including pressure for “regime change”and, where feasible (as in the mini-republics of the Caribbean zone), periodic US armed intervention.

Christian Leaders and the ‘Divine Right to Rule’
The third thread of continuity links the neo-conservatives of George Bush with the Puritan colonists’ certainty of being God’s instrument on Earth and with the American Revolution — which, like all major revolutions, developed world-missionary convictions, limited only by the wish to shield the the new society of potentially universal freedom from the corruptions of the unreconstructed old world.

The most effective way of finessing this conflict between isolationism and globalism was to be systematically exploited in the 20th century and still serves Washington well in the 21st. It was to discover an alien enemy outside who posed an immediate, mortal threat to the American way of life and the lives of its citizens.

The end of the USSR removed the obvious candidate, but by the early 90s another had been detected in a “clash” between the west and other cultures reluctant to accept it, notably Islam. Hence the enormous political potential of the al-Qaida outrages of September 11 was immediately recognised and exploited by the Washington world-dominators.

The first world war, which made the US into a global power, saw the first attempt to translate these world-converting visions into reality, but Woodrow Wilson’s failure was spectacular; perhaps it should be a lesson to the current world-supremacist ideologists in Washington, who, rightly, recognise Wilson as a predecessor. Until the end of the cold war the existence of another superpower imposed limits on them, but the fall of the USSR removed these.

Francis Fukuyama prematurely proclaimed “the end of history” — the universal and permanent triumph of the US version of capitalist society. At the same time the military superiority of the US encouraged a disproportionate ambition in a state powerful enough to believe itself capable of world supremacy, as the British Empire in its time never did. And indeed, as the 21st century began, the US occupied a historically unique and unprecedented position of global power and influence.

For the time being it is, by the traditional criteria of international politics, the only great power; and certainly the only one whose power and interests span the globe. It towers over all others.

America’s Megalomania
All the great powers and empires of history knew that they were not the only ones, and none was in a position to aim at genuinely global domination. None believed themselves to be invulnerable.

Nevertheless, this does not quite explain the evident megalomania of US policy since a group of Washington insiders decided that September 11 gave them the ideal opportunity for declaring its single-handed domination of the world.

For one thing, it lacked the support of the traditional pillars of the post-1945 US empire, the state department, armed services and intelligence establishment, and of the statesmen and ideologists of cold war supremacy — men like Kissinger and Brzezinski. These were people who were as ruthless as the Rumsfelds and Wolfowitzes. (It was in their time that a genocide of Mayas took place in Guatemala in the 1980s.)

They had devised and managed a policy of imperial hegemony over the greater part of the globe for two generations, and were perfectly ready to extend it to the entire globe. They were and are critical of the Pentagon planners and neo-conservative world supremacists because these patently have had no concrete ideas at all, except imposing their supremacy single-handed by military force, incidentally jettisoning all the accumulated experience of US diplomacy and military planning. No doubt the debacle of Iraq will confirm them in their scepticism.

Even those who do not share the views of the old generals and proconsuls of the US world empire (which were those of Democratic as well as Republican administrations) will agree that there can be no rational justification of current Washington policy in terms of the interests of America’s imperial ambitions or, for that matter, the global interests of US capitalism.

It may be that it makes sense only in terms of the calculations, electoral or otherwise, of American domestic policy. It may be a symptom of a more profound crisis within US society. It may be that it represents the — one hopes short-lived — colonisation of Washington power by a group of quasi-revolutionary doctrinaires. (At least one passionate ex-Marxist supporter of Bush has told me, only half in jest: “After all, this is the only chance of supporting world revolution that looks like coming my way.”)

Such questions cannot yet be answered.

It is reasonably certain that the project will fail. However, while it continues, it will go on making the world an intolerable place for those directly exposed to US armed occupation and an unsafer place for the rest of us.

Eric Hobsbawm is author of The Age of Extremes: The Short 20th Century 1914-1991. This is an edited extract from his preface to a new edition of VG Kiernan’s America: The New Imperialism

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

UK Took Nuclear Arms to Falklands

June 29th, 2005 - by admin

This Is London – 2005-06-29 22:50:43

http://www.thisislondon.com/news/articles/PA_NEWA22321831119948325A0?source=PA%20Feed

(June 28, 2005) — Royal Navy ships sent to the Falklands in the 1982 war were carrying nuclear weapons, the official history of the conflict has revealed.

The book’s author, Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, said there was never any intention to use the nuclear depth charges against the Argentinian navy, but it proved impossible to remove the arms from the ships before the dispatch of the Task Force to retake the islands.

Prof Freedman’s two-volume history is the result of eight years of research, including access to secret Whitehall files and military communications.

In it, he reveals the anger of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the failure of her close ally, US President Ronald Reagan, to give her his full support against the military junta ruling Argentina.

He says that the British Government was taken almost completely by surprise by the Argentine invasion of the Falklands, which the South American nation has long claimed as its own.

And he rejects claims — publicised most prominently by former Labour MP Tam Dalyell — that the sinking of the Argentine warship the General Belgrano at the cost of hundreds of lives was a political move designed to scupper a possible peace deal.

Prof Freedman, the professor of war studies at King’s College, London, said he was “rather surprised” to find proof in official papers that the British fleet included nuclear-armed ships.

“A number of ships had come from exercises off Gibraltar and had the normal complement of nuclear depth charges that British ships took with them at the time, and they didn’t really have a good way of taking them off,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“The Government was desperate to get them away from the Task Force, but the delays that this would have caused at a time when they were trying to make the biggest diplomatic impact meant they decided they had better take them and get them off later.

“They put them in the safest places possible. There was no intention to use them, but they certainly went.”

Posted in accordancw with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

The Double Threat to Women in Iraq

June 29th, 2005 - by admin

Anissa Hélie / Znet – 2005-06-29 22:33:22

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=41&ItemID=8158

(June 24, 2005) — On February 8, 2005, the international feminist and anti-militarist network Women in Black (WIB) launched an urgent appeal for the immediate liberation of Giuliana Sgrena, an Italian journalist and WIB activist, who had been kidnapped in Iraq by a militant Islamist group (and who was later shot by US forces as she was en route to safety).(1)

Three days after the appeal, various WIB groups around the world had mobilized, holding 463 silent vigils across several continents. While this was an impressive display of both the efficiency and strength of women’s global solidarity, the incident remains just a snapshot of the mounting acts of violence against women in Iraq.

With about 140,000 troops currently deployed and a mounting death toll (2), the US occupation of Iraq raises numerous issues, ranging from allegations of war crimes to the backing of a new Iraqi government based on tribal, ethnic and religious affiliation — a fact likely to have long term implications for the region.

However, the Iraqi context is marked not only by the US occupation, but also by the rise of an extremist Islamist armed insurgency that is targeting women. The left needs to avoid romanticizing forces that, despite their claim to be primarily opposed to US imperialism, in fact pursue a fundamentalist agenda in Iraq. The left also needs to heed and challenge the steady incursion of the Muslim religious right in the West.

Mounting Violence Against Women
The ongoing trend of violence against women in Iraq should be seen in the broader context of human rights violations perpetrated by US forces against detainees and civilians, including children.

Indeed, the dehumanization of anyone identified as ‘Arab’ or ‘Muslim’ post 9/11 and a culture of institutionalized racism within the US army (3) have led to many acts of brutality. There is serious evidence, corroborated by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, that jailed Iraqi women have suffered abuse and torture at the hands of the US military.(4)

The breakdown of society in Iraq provoked by the US occupation has also had a detrimental impact on women. The current security situation is so poor that parents are reluctant to send their daughters to school unaccompanied and large numbers of teenagers have now abandoned pursuing their studies. Threats of sexual violence and murder have also led professional women to quit their jobs. Iraqi women and girls (some of them as young as nine years old) are abducted for both ransom and trafficking purposes.(5)

Widespread violence also affects women’s political participation: following the 2003 murder of Akila al-Hashimi (one of only three female members of the Governing Council), many activists were forced to retreat from the public sphere.

Yet a recent survey on “post-war” Iraqi women shows how much they continue to value access to political and legal rights. This study, undertaken in January 2005 by the Washington DC-based Women for Women International in collaboration with the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, is another example of women’s international solidarity.(6)

In addition to the destruction of basic infrastructure, an overwhelming lack of security, and violence at the hands of US occupation forces, the emergence and rise of religious extremism pose new threats to Iraqi women’s lives. In a move that goes beyond seeking to impose a rigid gender ideology, fundamentalist armed groups specifically target women in order to induce fear and helplessness among ordinary citizens.

This is often a prelude to imposing an Islamic state. The work of Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) shows there is a pattern in Iraq that has been repeated in many other contexts: violence against women as a form of political intimidation is one of the strategies extreme-right religious forces systematically employ.(7)

As they seek to secure political power, fundamentalists of various creeds (whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian, etc.) often begin by intimidating, persecuting, abducting and murdering women as well as minorities. Religious, ethnic and sexual minorities are especially at risk. Fundamentalist forces then move toward terrorizing all other citizens who may oppose their authoritarian theocratic project.

For example, an extremist group in Iraq called Mujahideen Shura (council of fighters) warned it would kill any woman who is seen unveiled on the street. The recent case of Zeena Al Qushtaini has shown this is not an empty threat. Zeena, a women’s rights activist and businesswoman known for wearing ‘Western’ clothing, was kidnapped and executed by Jamaat al Tawhid wa’l-Jihad, another armed Islamist group.

Her body was found wrapped in the traditional abaya which she had refused to wear when she was alive. Pinned to the abaya was the message: “She was a collaborator against Islam.” Muslim extremists have already moved on to assassinating male and female hairdressers whom they accuse of promoting ‘Western’ fashion.(8)

They also specifically target trade union leaders as well as gays and lesbians.(9) Religious minorities are also under attack, such as Christians in the Northern city of Mosul – with women from the Christian community singled out in a rape campaign.(10)

Given their political project and the violent tactics they employ, how can such militant groups gain any legitimacy in the West? It is necessary to reflect on the nature of the language used to refer to these increasingly powerful political actors.

Romanticizing “Resistance”
Western mainstream media and human rights organizations tend to describe these militants’ acts of violence using terms such as “insurgency.” There is also a tendency within some leftist and feminist circles to label Muslim extremists – who kill, rape, kidnap women and girls and openly target civilians – as “the resistance.”

This is highly problematic in that the word “resistance” has a revolutionary, heroic connotation that leaves unchallenged the political agenda pursued by fundamentalist factions in Iraq. In the U.K., leading voices from the left further romanticize the Iraqi “armed resistance against imperialism,” even comparing it to independence struggles in Vietnam and Algeria.(11)

It is worth remembering that there are plenty of unarmed civilians, as well as groups of every political affiliation, that reject the US occupation yet do not engage in violence or human rights violations. Islamist fighters should not be confused with national liberation movements.

The “resistance” label is politically misleading in the Iraqi context, at least as far as Muslim fundamentalist groups are concerned. It is inadequate because the emphasis is narrowly placed on a rejection of US occupation.

Despite the anti-imperialist claims made by the leaders of armed groups, it seems very unlikely that if or when US troops withdraw, persecution of women or religious and sexual minorities will stop — because what is really at stake is a theocratic agenda.

Referring to “resistance fighters” is also dangerous because it valorizes and glorifies Muslim right-wing militants. It renders invisible the authoritarian nature of extreme-right movements that use religion, culture and ethnicity to impose their project of society onto people.

What we have in Iraq is violence. What we have is a struggle for power, with various forces using extremely violent means – and different discourses. Some use dialectics of “democracy” and “importing freedom,” while others use the “resisting imperialism” rhetoric.

The current situation in Iraq sadly illustrates the knee-jerk thoughtlessness with which some progressive constituencies in the West adopt a language that blurs complex political realities. Even more worrisome is the increasing tendency for left-identified individuals and groups to lend support to right-wing Muslims on the basis of their (alleged) anti-imperialist stand.

Growing numbers of activists embrace short-sighted strategies, insisting for example that the Western “antiwar movement must not lose sight of the fact that its main enemy is at home-and any resistance to that enemy deserves our unconditional support.”(12) What is alarming about this statement is the immediate allegiance to unconditional support, without regard to the ideologies, practices, and acts of violence of those groups.

In Muslim contexts, as elsewhere, there are progressive and reactionary voices. Somehow, these political standpoints become blurred as segments of the Western left seem to adopt the strategy of “the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend,” even though Khomeini’s post-revolutionary Iran should have taught us that it is indeed misguided to confuse anti-women, anti-minorities, anti-diversity voices with those of feminists or progressive advocates.

This ideological confusion is not lost on Muslim fundamentalists – who are anything but politically naïve. In fact, their soft-spoken leaders actively take advantage of a misplaced white guilt to expand their hold on the West. The bloody hands threaten and the educated intellectuals charm: such is the division of labor for these extremists.

Aware of the reality of racism and in an effort to befriend the oppressed, a “Muslim perspective” on just about anything is sought by progressive forces in the West, from playwrights to academics or (often self appointed) community leaders.

Conservative voices, it seems, are seen as the most authentic. Liberal ones, somehow, lack the sweet perfume of exoticism. Hence, dangerously rigid standpoints are offered as the “true” expression of all Muslims. Space for dissent becomes monopolized by fundamentalists, at the expense of secular, feminist, and pro-democracy advocates.

Three recent examples highlight this point. In Ontario, Canada, so-called “moderate” fundamentalist groups lobbied to introduce Shari’a (the interpretation of Muslim jurisprudence that in some countries has condoned penalties like whipping, amputation and stoning to death) so that the “Muslim community” can resolve family conflicts without interference.(13)

There are similar pressures in Manitoba and Quebec, as well as in Europe and Australia. Despite the fact that laws framed with reference to religion have proven to be extremely detrimental to women’s rights in numerous contexts, the “multicultural” argument leads many on the left to blindly support an oppressive agenda.

In a less naïve and more strategic move, the U.K. Labor government, as it introduced its new Equality Bill in February 2005, decided to prioritize discrimination on the basis of religion and disregard discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – for fear that “Muslims might feel offended if they were ‘lumped together’ with homosexuals.”(14)

One can only wonder how British gays and lesbians from the Muslim community will appreciate the sacrifice of sexual rights on the altar of religious freedom.

Finally, the last European Social Forum (ESF), held in London in October 2004, was – in the tradition of the larger World Social Fora – meant to bring together large numbers of activists committed to debate issues such as “imperialist globalization, religious sectarianism, identity politics and fundamentalism.”

Sadly, ESF organizers took pride in inviting a number of extremist Muslim leaders. At the same time, they actively discouraged more progressive initiatives — such as a proposed panel including speakers from various feminist groups and international networks (WLUML, WIB, Women Against Fundamentalism, Catholics For a Free Choice and Act Together).

While the Muslim Council of Britain and other similar endeavors could boast access to all available facilities in the several panels they organized, the feminist panel’s request to obtain translation facilities was turned down. One wonders whether it was because the feminists’ focus on “unholy alliances” between the left and Muslim extreme-right forces was deemed too threatening.

Building Real Solidarity
These are not isolated incidents, and warnings about such alliances on such a broad scale have been circulated by international feminist groups.(15)

Fundamentalism’s proponents seek support from progressive forces by appealing to the very ideals the left stands for, such as equality, anti-racism, and freedom of expression. At this time in history when one can witness extreme-right offensives gaining ground (whether in the US with the Christian right, in India with the Hindutva forces, or in Iraq, Bangladesh and elsewhere), the need for international solidarity becomes all the more urgent.

To avoid lumping together cultural and religious identities and to recognize that not all those born in Muslim contexts happen to be believers, or choose to define themselves primarily on the basis of their faith, would be a good start. Indeed, with fundamentalists building coalitions across cultural and religious divides (16), we ourselves — as progressive people and as feminists of various horizons — should devise common strategies of resistance to groups who practice violence and oppression toward women and people in general. This is a matter of priority and an opportunity to further strengthen our global solidarity.

Anissa Hélie is a feminist historian by training and an activist by choice. In 2005 she was a recipient of a research/teaching Ford Foundation Fellowship at the Five Colleges, Inc. in Amherst, MA. She has worked with a wide range of women’s groups and human rights groups in various countries, focusing on issues of sexuality, fundamentalisms and reproductive rights. She has been involved with Women Living Under Muslim Laws since its inception in 1984.

Endnotes
• 1. Scahill, Jeremy. “No checkpoint, no self defense,” AlterNet, March 28, 2005. www.alternet.org/story/21613

• 2. American Friends Service Committee. “Wage Peace” Movie (2 mns). http://www.afsc.org/iraq//movie.ht

• 3. Rockwell, Paul. “New Revelations about Racism in the Military – Army Reservist Witnesses War Crimes,” The Black Commentator, April 7 2005: issue 133.

• 4. http://www.blackcommentator.com/133/133_think_racism_military.html

• 5. Amnesty International. “Iraq: Decades of Suffering, Now Women Deserve Better,” February 22, 2005. http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE140012005
See also: “US: Investigate Rumsfeld, Tenet for Torture,” Human Rights Watch, April 24, 2005. http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2005/04/24/usint10511.htm

• 6. Firmo-Fontan, Victoria. “Abducted, Beaten And Sold Into Prostitution: A Tale From Iraq,” The Independent, July 26, 2004. http://www.countercurrents.org/iraq-fontan260704.htm

• 7. Women for Women International. “Windows of opportunity: The pursuit of gender equality on post-war Iraq,” January 2005, released March 2005 (36p). http://www.womenforwomen.org/Downloads/Iraq_Paper_0105.pdf

• 8. www.wluml.org

• 9. Osborn, Mark. “Iraqi Union leader murdered. ‘Resistance’ targets trade unions, women, lesbians and gay men,” January 12, 2005. http://www.workersliberty.org/node/view/3532

• 10. Associated Press. “Iraqi Christians Keep Low Profile,” November 13, 2004. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,138375,00.html

• 11. Tariq Ali talks to Socialist Worker about empire and those who fight against it,” Socialist Worker Issue No. 239, March 26 2005 – April 12 2005. http://www.swp.ie/socialistworker/2005/sw239/socialistworker-239-9.htm

• 12. Smith, Sharon. “The Right to Resist Occupation – The Anti-War Movement and the Iraqi Resistance,” CounterPunch, Jan 21, 2005. http://www.counterpunch.org/smith01212005.html

• 13. Right-wing Muslim groups are making use of the Arbitration Act 1991. See the Canadian Council of Muslim Women’s website: www.ccmw.com
See also: “Canada: Support Canadian women’s struggle against Shari’a courts,”.WLUML, March 7, 2005. http://www.wluml.org/english/actionsfulltxt.shtml?cmd[156]=i-156-180177

• 14. Cracknell, David. “Discrimination bill snubs gays to save Muslim vote,” The Sunday Times, February 27, 2005. http://www.the-times.co.uk – See Appendix

• 15. “WLUML statement to the World Social Forum – Appeal Against Fundamentalisms,” January 21, 2005. http://www.wluml.org/english/newsfulltxt.shtml?cmd[157]=x-157-103376

• 16. Whitaker, Brian. “Fundamental union – When it comes to defining family values, conservative Christians and Muslims are united against liberal secularists,” The Guardian, January 25, 2005. http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,,1398055,00.html

UN Calls for International Involvement in Justice for East Timor

June 29th, 2005 - by admin

John M. Miller / East Timor & Indonesia Action Network – 2005-06-29 09:09:07

http://www.etan.org/news/2005/06exec.htm

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has reportedly handed-over the report of the Commission of Experts on justice for East Timor to the Security Council. The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network issued the following statement:

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) congratulates the UN’s Commission of Experts (COE) for its thorough and thoughtful report. ETAN agrees with the COE that continued strong international involvement is essential to ensure that impunity does not prevail for the brutal crimes of Indonesia’s security forces in East Timor in 1999. Although the COE’s mandate did not include pre-1999 crimes, we urge the international community not to impose an arbitrary cut-off on justice for the people of East Timor.

The report’s analysis supports our own conclusions and those of objective observers in East Timor, Indonesia and internationally that justice has not yet been achieved. Clearly, existing mechanisms to prosecute the organizers and perpetrators of crimes against humanity and others have proven woefully unsatisfactory.

The COE was appointed earlier this year by the Secretary-General to evaluate existing judicial processes and propose next steps to hold accountable those responsible for serious crimes in East Timor in 1999. The Commission examined the UN-initiated Serious Crimes process in East Timor and the Indonesian government’s sham Ad-hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor. Neither process has been able to hold any higher-level perpetrators accountable.

International involvement is crucial: The crimes committed in 1999 were not only against the people of East Timor, but against a United Nations mission and personnel. The 1975 invasion and subsequent occupation of East Timor violated international law and specific UN resolutions. Crimes against humanity were committed, and all humanity has an interest in seeing their perpetrators are brought to justice. Both the Secretary-General and Security Council have stated that impunity should not prevail in this case.

The truth of what happened in 1999 is well-established. We urge the governments of East Timor and Indonesia to set aside for now their joint Commission on Truth and Friendship (CTF) and fully cooperate with more substantive efforts toward justice and accountability. Currently, the CTF can recommend amnesties but not prosecutions, which will only institutionalize impunity. Friendship between the peoples of both nations requires justice, openness and the rule of law; genuine justice will build security and respect for human rights in both countries. We agree with the UN COE that no international support should be provided to the CTF unless its mandate is substantially altered to facilitate accountability and to conform to both international law and the wishes of the victims.

For the past five years, the Indonesian government has taken every opportunity to obstruct justice. We are skeptical that Indonesia will in the near term hold credible trials or engage cooperatively with a continued serious crimes process in East Timor. However, should the Security Council decide to give Jakarta a second chance, we agree with the COE that it must be time-limited and closely monitored. Should Indonesia again fail to hold its own accountable, the UN should move quickly to establish an international criminal tribunal or its equivalent.

The COE has provided several ways to move forward. It is now up to the Secretary- General, the Security Council and the governments of Timor-Leste and Indonesia to choose a path and embark on a process toward genuine justice. The credibility of the international community and the suffering of the victims demand no less.

The executive summary of the report can be found at www.etan.org/news/2005/06exec.htm.

John M. Miller is the Media & Outreach Coordinator for the East Timor & Indonesia Action Network: 48 Duffield St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA Phone: (718)596-7668 Fax: (718)222-4097 Mobile phone: (917)690-4391 Web site: http://www.etan.org

Iraq: A Bloody Mess

June 29th, 2005 - by admin

Patrick Cockburn / The (London) Independent – 2005-06-29 09:00:11

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=650186

(June 28, 2005) — A year ago the supposed handover of power by the US occupation authority to an Iraqi interim government led by Iyad Allawi was billed as a turning point in the violent history of post-Saddam Iraq.

It has turned out to be no such thing. Most of Iraq is today a bloody no-man’s land beset by ruthless insurgents, savage bandit gangs, trigger-happy US patrols and marauding government forces.

On 28 June 2004 Mr Allawi was all smiles. “In a few days, Iraq will radiate with stability and security,” he promised at the handover ceremony. That mood of optimism did not last long.

On Sunday the American Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, told a US news programme that the ongoing insurgency could last “five, six, eight, ten, twelve years”.

Yesterday in London, after meeting Tony Blair, the new Iraqi Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, tried to be more upbeat, commenting: “I think two years will be enough and more than enough to establish security”.

Tonight President George Bush will make his most important address since the invasion, speaking to troops at the US army base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He is expected to seek to assure increasingly sceptical Americans that he has a plan to prevail in Iraq, and that the US is not trapped in a conflict as unwinnable as the one in Vietnam, three decades ago.

The news now from Iraq is only depressing. All the roads leading out of the capital are cut. Iraqi security and US troops can only get through in heavily armed convoys. There is a wave of assassinations of senior Iraqi officers based on chillingly accurate intelligence. A deputy police chief of Baghdad was murdered on Sunday. A total of 52 senior Iraqi government or religious figures have been assassinated since the handover. In June 2004 insurgents killed 42 US soldiers; so far this month 75 have been killed.

The “handover of power” last June was always a misnomer. Much real power remained in the hands of the US. Its 140,000 troops kept the new government in business. Mr Allawi’s new cabinet members became notorious for the amount of time they spent out of the country. Safely abroad they often gave optimistic speeches predicting the imminent demise of the insurgency.

Despite this the number of Iraqi military and police being killed every month has risen from 160 at the handover to 219 today.

There were two further supposed turning points over the past year. The first was the capture by US Marines of the rebel stronghold of Fallujah last November after a bloody battle which left most of the city of 300,000 people in ruins. In January there was the general election in which the Shia and Kurds triumphed.

Both events were heavily covered by the international media. But such is the danger for television and newspaper correspondents in Iraq that their capacity to report is more and more limited. The fall of Fallujah did not break the back of the resistance. Their best fighters simply retreated to fight again elsewhere. Many took refuge in Baghdad. At the same time as the insurgents lost Fallujah they captured most of Mosul, a far larger city. Much of Sunni Iraq remained under their sway.

At the handover of power the number of foreign fighters in the insurgency was estimated in the “low hundreds”. That figure has been revised up to at least 1,000 and the overall figure for the number of insurgents is put at 16,000.

The election may have been won by the Shia and Kurds but it was boycotted by the five million Sunnis and they are the core of the rebellion. It took three months to put together a new government as Sunni, Shia, Kurds and Americans competed for their share of the cake. For all their declarations about Iraqi security, the US wanted to retain as much power in its own hands as it could. When the Shia took over the interior ministry its intelligence files were hastily transferred to the US headquarters in the Green Zone.

To most ordinary Iraqis in Baghdad it is evident that life over the past year has been getting worse. The insurgents seem to have an endless supply of suicide bombers whose attacks ensure a permanent sense of threat. In addition the necessities of life are becoming more difficult to obtain. At one moment last winter there were queues of cars outside petrol stations several miles long.

The sense of fear in Baghdad is difficult to convey. Petrol is such a necessity because people need to pick up their children from school because they are terrified of them being kidnapped. Parents mob the doors of schools and swiftly become hysterical if they cannot find their children. Doctors are fleeing the country because so many have been held for ransom, some tortured and killed because their families could not raise the money.

Homes in Baghdad are currently getting between six and eight hours’ electricity a day. Nothing has improved at the power stations since the hand-over of security a year ago. In a city where the temperature yesterday was 40C, people swelter without air conditioning because the omnipresent small generators do not produce enough current to keep them going. In recent weeks there has also been a chronic shortage of water.

Some Iraqis have benefited. Civil servants and teachers are better paid, though prices are higher. But Iraqis in general hoped that their standard of living would improve dramatically after the fall of Saddam Hussein and it has not.

Adding to the sense of fear in Baghdad is the growth of sectarianism, the widening gulf between Sunni and Shia. Shia mosques come under attack from bombers. Members of both communities are found murdered beside the road, in escalating rounds of tit-for-tat killings.

The talks between US officials and some resistance groups revealed in the past few days probably does not mean very much for the moment. The fanatical Islamic and militant former Baathists and nationalists who make up the cutting edge of insurgency are not in the mood to compromise. They are also very fragmented. But the talks may indicate a growing sense among US military and civilian officials that they cannot win this war.

Patrick Cockburn was awarded the 2005 Martha Gellhorn prize for war reporting in recognition of his writing on Iraq over the past year


Is US ‘Making Progress’ in Iraq? : Then and Now

Average daily attacks by insurgents
• Pre-war March 2003: 0
• Handover June 2004: 45
• Now: 70
Analysis: Figures should be viewed with caution because US military often does not record attacks if there are no American casualties.

Total number of coalition troops killed
• Pre-war March 2003: 0
• Handover June 2004: 982
• Now: 1,930
Analysis: Number of US troops killed increased sharply during Fallujah fighting in April and November 2004.

Iraqi civilians killed
• Pre-war March 2003: n/a
• Handover June 2004: 10,000
• Now: 60,800 (includes 23,000 crime-related deaths)
Analysis: Estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths have varied widely because the US military does not count them.

Electricity supply (megawatts generated)
• Pre-war March 2003: 3,958
• Handover June 2004: 4,293
• Now: 4,035
Analysis: Coalition is way behind its goal of providing 6,000 megawatts by July 2004. Most Iraqis do not have a reliable electricity supply.

Unemployed
• Pre-war March 2003: n/a
• Handover June 2004: 40%
• Now: 40%
Analysis: More than a third of young people are unemployed, a cause for social unrest. Many security men stay home, except on payday.

Telephones
• Pre-war March 2003: 833,000 (landlines only)
• Handover June 2004: 1.2m (includes mobiles)
• Now: 3.1m
Analysis: Landlines are extremely unreliable and mobile phone system could be improved.

Primary school access
• Pre-war March 2003: 3.6m
• Handover June 2004: 4.3m
• Now: n/a
Analysis: 83 per cent of boys and 79 per cent of girls in primary schools. But figures mask declining literacy and failure rate.

Oil production (barrels a day)
• Pre-war March 2003: 2.5m
• Handover June 2004: 2.29m
• Now: 2.20m
Analysis: Sustainability of Iraqi oilfields has been jeopardised to boost output. Oil facilities regularly targeted by insurgents.

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

A Nation Damned

June 29th, 2005 - by admin

Commentary / What Really Happened – 2005-06-29 08:55:18

http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/nationdamned.html

We are a nation damned.

There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We are past being able to pretend otherwise, no matter what comfort might be found in the deception

But that is not why we are damned.

The culmination of decades of accumulated overspending by the government has created an aggregate debt for the United States federal and state governments of $14 trillion dollars. That’s fourteen million million dollars. Or, to put it in a more personal scale, more than $48,000 for every single living human being in the United States, plus the accumulating interest.

But that is not why we are damned.

The national fiscal crisis is accelerating because of soaring unemployment, and the forced migration of workers from higher paying jobs to lower paying ones. Money is flowing out of the country at a billion and a half dollars per day. And as government debt drives taxes higher, the situation can only get worse.

But that is not why we are damned.

Despite the huge government debt, despite the loss of manufacturing over the last 30 years, despite soaring unemployment, despite American women and children sleeping in alleys and eating out of trash cans, the United States government hands out trillions of dollars as gifts to their friends (who used to be their enemies) and to make war on their enemies (who used to be their friends).

But that is not why we are damned.

Maybe the problem is the Congress. Congress is supposed to represent the people, but a body composed of millionaires and lawyers can hardly be expected to understand how to actually make things work. Maybe Congress would better serve the people if it were made up of teachers, doctors, road engineers, factory workers, bakers, people who actually know how to make a nation function, build an infrastructure, and know what it is like to have to live paycheck-to-paycheck in a nation where the government makes more money off of your work than you do and is always asking for more.

But that is not why we are damned.

We are damned because we know all the above and do nothing.

Like the Germans of 1930s Germany we see Der Fuhrer trying to distract the populace from the self-serving choices the government makes by creating a war with lies and deceptions, yet stay silent, less we be accused of being traitors to the national security.

We voice our outrage when a rock star bares her breast at a sporting event, because rock stars cannot after all hurt us, raise our taxes, or conscript our children to be crippled or killed in wars.

But we remain silent, or at best speak in hushed tones with a trusted few of our concerns about the government, which does hurt us, which does raise our taxes, and which has and continues to conscript our children to be crippled or killed in wars.

We are damned by our silence. We are damned by our inaction. We are damned by our fear to speak out. We are damned by our weakness. We are damned by being sheep under a government of wolves.

We are damned unless and until you realize that your anger and outrage must be targeted where it is needed, not just where it is harmless. We are damned by our willingness to be angry with those who cannot affect our lives, while remaining too afraid to be angry with those who can.

We are damned because individuals who refuse to obey the law morally offend us, but we remain enablers of a government that refuses to obey the Constitution.

We are damned UNTIL WE THE PEOPLE remember that we ARE a people, and that this nation is US.

The President is not the nation. The media is not the nation. The selfish desires of a powerful few are not the nation. The Congress is not the nation.

This nation is 288 million teachers, doctors, bricklayers, road layers, bridging engineers, railroad workers, bakers, grocers, and thousands of others who actually make the nation work. But we seem to have forgotten that simple truth, that wisdom conveyed in those first three words to the Preamble to the Constitution, “We The People”.

The Constitution makes it clear that the nation is the people, and the government only a temporary custodian of our national sovereignty that rules by and only by the leave of the people.

We are damned because we have forgotten that the government is the employee of the people, and that like any employee the government is required to obey orders, not to give them.

We are damned because we have forgotten that as the employers of the government, we have the right to decide what our employees can do and more importantly, what they cannot.

We are damned because we have forgotten who is really supposed to be in charge.

Joint Statement

June 29th, 2005 - by admin

Iraqi Labor Movement Leaders and US Labor Against the War – 2005-06-29 08:51:17

http://uslaboragainstwar.org/article.php?id=8371

A Joint Statement
Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions General Union of Oil Employees US Labor Against the War

WASHINGTON, DC (June 26, 2005) — At the invitation of US Labor Against the War, a delegation of six Iraqi labor leaders representing three of that country’s major labor organizations toured the United States between June 10 and June 26, 2005. They visited 25 cities, attended 45 events and 10 press conferences, met with thousands of working people, union leaders, members of Congress and other public officials, religious and community leaders, and antiwar and other social justice activists.

They have given voice to the people of Iraq whose voices have been largely unheard in this country. They brought a story of courage, hope, struggle and resistance on the part of Iraq’s working people that has been absent from the mainstream US media.

The following statement was drafted and signed at the conclusion of their visit. It represents the consensus view of all the Iraqis and their US hosts:

We, the representatives of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI), the General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE), and US Labor Against the War (USLAW) issue this statement at the conclusion of an historic 25-city tour by leaders of the three Iraqi labor organizations in the United States. We speak in the spirit of international solidarity and respect for labor rights around the world.

We speak in the spirit of opposition to war and occupation and for the right of self-determination of nations and peoples.

On behalf of the Iraqi labor movement, we met and spoke directly to thousands of Americans, including workers, union, religious and political leaders, anti-war activists and ordinary citizens. All of us, both Iraqi and American, were deeply heartened at the solidarity expressed throughout the tour.

We have seen with our eyes and felt with our hearts that the people of the United States do not want the war and occupation of Iraq to continue. We are strengthened in our understanding of the deep commitment of organized labor and workers in Iraq to a unified democratic, independent Iraq, with full equality between women and men in terms of rights and duties, and based on full respect for the human identity without discrimination on any basis.

Kkey Principles
The tour was an expression of the following key principles:

The principal obstacle to peace, stability, and the reconstruction of Iraq is the occupation. The occupation is the problem, not the solution. Iraqi sovereignty and independence must be restored. The occupation must end in all its forms, including military bases and economic domination.

The war was fought for oil and regional domination, in violation of international law, justified by lies and deception without consultation with the Iraqi people. The occupation has been a catastrophe for both our peoples.

In Iraq, it has destroyed homes and industry, national institutions and infrastructure – water, sanitation, electric power and health services. It has killed many thousands, and left millions homeless and unemployed. It has poisoned the people, their land and water with the toxic residue of the war.

In the United States, more than 1700 working families have suffered loss of loved ones and thousands more have been wounded, disabled or psychologically scarred in a war that serves no legitimate purpose. The cost of the war has led to slashing of social programs and public services. It has militarized our economy, undermined our own liberties and eroded our democratic rights.

We believe it is the best interest of both our peoples for the war and occupation to end and for the Iraqi people to determine for themselves their future and the kind and extent of international aid and cooperation that suits their needs and serves the interests of the Iraqi people.

We strongly and unambiguously condemn terrorist attacks on civilians and targeting of trade union and other civil society leaders for intimidation, kidnapping, torture and assassination. The occupation is fuel on the fire of terrorism.

The national wealth and resources of Iraq belong to the Iraqi people. We are united in our opposition to the imposition of privatization of the Iraqi economy by the occupation, the IMF, the World Bank, foreign powers and any force that takes away the right of the Iraqi people to determine their own economic future.

We call on nations across the globe to help Iraqis regain their economic capacity, including full reparations from the US and British governments to rebuild the war-ravaged country.

We call for the cancellation of Saddam’s massive foreign debt by the IMF and other international lenders without any conditions imposed upon the people of Iraq who suffered under the regime that was supported by these loans. The foreign debt of Iraq is the debt of a fallen dictatorship, not the debt incurred by the Iraqi people.

Further, we call for the cancellation of reparations imposed as a result of wars waged by Saddam Hussein’s regime, and call for the return of all Iraqi property and antiquities taken during the war and occupation.”

The bedrock of any democracy is a strong, free, democratic labor movement. We are united in our commitment to build strong, independent, democratic unions and to fight to improve the wages, working and living conditions of workers everywhere.

We confront the same economic and corporate interests that have mounted a global assault on workers and labor rights. We demand strong labor rights in Iraq at the same time that we strive to reverse the erosion of labor rights in the United States and elsewhere around the world where they are threatened.

We call for free and independent labor unions in Iraq based on internationally recognized ILO conventions guaranteeing the right to organize free of all government interference and including full equality for women workers.

We support the direct participation of labor and workers’ representatives in drafting the new labor code, in determining government policies affecting unions and workers’ interests, and in drafting the new constitution.

We condemn the continued enforcement of Saddam’s decree number 150 issued in 1987 that abolished union rights for workers in the extensive Iraqi public sector and call for its immediate repeal.

We commit ourselves to strengthening the bonds of solidarity and friendship between working people of our two countries and to increase communication and cooperation between our two labor movements.

We look forward to delegations of Iraqis and Americans visiting each other’s countries for mutual support, and to strengthen international understanding and solidarity in our common struggle for peace and establishment of a democratic civil society that respects human rights and freedom.

With the strength and solidarity of workers across the US, in Iraq and internationally, we are confident that we can build a just and democratic future for labor in Iraq, the US, and around the world.

Signed: June 26, 2005

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