Tuesday, October 30, 2012

""Justice has fled the country": US Supreme Court won’t hear Holy Land Five case" -- Electronic Intifada



Nora Barrows Friedman: Michael, what does this say about the nature of where this country is in terms of the ongoing attacks against Muslims and Arabs and anyone who has to do with helping Palestinians live these days? 
Michael Ratner: I think that we have to look at particularly this case as … pre- 9/11, they [the US government] were already going after the Holy Land Foundation, the biggest Muslim charity in the US, the biggest humanitarian donor to Palestinians. As much as Zionists and others were trying to shut it down, there wasn’t the milieu to shut it down. After 9/11, they then had two facts — HLF was aiding Palestinians, and then it’s a Muslim foundation. After 9/11, they shut down six of the main Muslim foundations, by December 2001. The president signed an executive order without due process. 
That tells you a lot — that we were starting to attack Muslims not just in Bush’s crusade speech on September 18th, 2001, but shutting down charities, rounding up young men between certain ages, registration, and of course Guantanamo by January 2002. 
So what we see is a broad-spectrum attack on Muslims after 9/11. I know from a legal point of view, from surveillance here in New York of every mosque, of every eatery, of the gushing over a film like The Third Jihad, I know it in Los Angeles, from the invasion by informants of mosques, we know it from entrapment, we know it from Guantanamo, from drones, from shutting down Muslim charities. It’s really a broad-spectrum attack of which the legal attack is certainly a key element. 
And when I talk about it, I talk about it as we’re in the midst of a plague against Muslims, and we’re only in the midst of it. We’re not necessarily winning, and it’s really serious. People just have to understand that, and have to stand up. We’re not coming out of it yet. The Holy Land Five case just shows how deeply into a plague against Muslims we are … it really is a a plague of Islamophobia, and it is sweeping the country. 
That’s only the legal aspects, that’s not all the discrimination, from being kicked off an airplane, from being yelled at in the street, from being physically attacked, all the non-legal ways in which Muslims are discriminated against. And of course it’s very hard for Muslims — it’s hard for them to stand up for cases like the Holy Land Five, or Guantanamo people, without themselves being labeled in society, or watched or surveilled.
I consider this to be a very serious moment, and this case of the Holy Land Five is to me one of the most incredible outrages. [There is] not only my disappointment, but my anger and my feeling that justice has just fled this country when it comes to Muslims.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Obama Moves to Make the War on Terror Permanent -- Glenn Greenwald



As I noted yesterday, Afghan officials reported that three Afghan children were killed on Saturday by NATO operations. Today, reports CNN, "missiles blew up part of a compound Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, killing three people - including one woman" and added: "the latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children." Meanwhile, former Obama press secretary and current campaign adviser Robert Gibbs this week justified the US killing of 16-year-old American Abdulrahaman Awlaki, killed by a US drone in Yemen two weeks after his father was, on the ground that he "should have a far more responsible father".
Also yesterday, CNN profiled Abu Sufyan Said al-Shihri, alleged to be a top al-Qaida official in Yemen. He pointed out "that U.S. drone strikes are helping al-Qaida in Yemen because of the number of civilian deaths they cause." Ample evidence supports his observation. 
To summarize all this: the US does not interfere in the Muslim world and maintain an endless war on terror because of the terrorist threat. It has a terrorist threat because of its interference in the Muslim world and its endless war on terror. 
The Council on Foreign Relations' Micah Zenko, writing today about the Post article, reports
"Recently, I spoke to a military official with extensive and wide-ranging experience in the special operations world, and who has had direct exposure to the targeted killing program. To emphasize how easy targeted killings by special operations forces or drones has become, this official flicked his hand back over and over, stating: 'It really is like swatting flies. We can do it forever easily and you feel nothing. But how often do you really think about killing a fly?'" 
That is disturbingly consistent with prior reports that the military's term for drone victims is "bug splat". This - this warped power and the accompanying dehumanizing mindset - is what is being institutionalized as a permanent fixture in American political life by the current president. 
At Wired, Spencer Ackerman reacts to the Post article with an analysis entitled "President Romney Can Thank Obama for His Permanent Robotic Death List". Here is his concluding paragraph:
"Obama did not run for president to preside over the codification of a global war fought in secret. But that's his legacy. . . . Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes that Obama's predecessors in the Bush administration 'were actually much more conscious and thoughtful about the long-term implications of targeted killings', because they feared the political consequences that might come when the U.S. embraces something at least superficially similar to assassination. Whoever follows Obama in the Oval Office can thank him for proving those consequences don't meaningfully exist — as he or she reviews the backlog of names on the Disposition Matrix." 
It's worth devoting a moment to letting that sink in.

A Failed Formula for Worldwide War -- How the Empire Changed Its Face, But Not Its Nature by Nick Turse



In one way or another, the U.S. military is now involved with most of the nations on Earth. Its soldiers, commandos, trainers, base builders, drone jockeys, spies, and arms dealers, as well as associated hired guns and corporate contractors, can now be found just about everywhere on the planet. The sun never sets on American troops conducting operations, training allies, arming surrogates, schooling its own personnel, purchasing new weapons and equipment, developing fresh doctrine, implementing novel tactics, and refining their martial arts. The U.S. has submarines trolling the briny deep and aircraft carrier task forces traversing the oceans and seas, robotic drones flying constant missions and manned aircraft patrolling the skies, while above them, spy satellites circle, peering down on friend and foe alike. 
Since 2001, the U.S. military has thrown everything in its arsenal, short of nuclear weapons, including untold billions of dollars in weaponry, technology, bribes, you name it, at a remarkably weak set of enemies -- relatively small groups of poorly-armed fighters in impoverished nations like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen -- while decisively defeating none of them. With its deep pockets and long reach, its technology and training acumen, as well as the devastatingly destructive power at its command, the U.S. military should have the planet on lockdown. It should, by all rights, dominate the world just as the neoconservative dreamers of the early Bush years assumed it would. 
Yet after more than a decade of war, it has failed to eliminate a rag-tag Afghan insurgency with limited popular support. It trained an indigenous Afghan force that was long known for its poor performance -- before it became better known for killing its American trainers. It has spent years and untold tens of millions of tax dollars chasing down assorted firebrand clerics, various terrorist “lieutenants,” and a host of no-name militants belonging to al-Qaeda, mostly in the backlands of the planet. Instead of wiping out that organization and its wannabes, however, it seems mainly to have facilitated its franchising around the world.

American politicians never tire of extolling the virtues of the U.S. military, which is now commonly hailed as “the finest fighting force in the history of the world.” This claim appears grotesquely at odds with reality. Aside from triumphs over such non-powers as the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada and the small Central American nation of Panama, the U.S. military’s record since World War II has been a litany of disappointments: stalemate in Korea, outright defeat in Vietnam, failures in Laos and Cambodia, debacles in Lebanon and Somalia, two wars against Iraq (both ending without victory), more than a decade of wheel-spinning in Afghanistan, and so on. 
Something akin to the law of diminishing returns may be at work. The more time, effort, and treasure the U.S. invests in its military and its military adventures, the weaker the payback. In this context, the impressive destructive power of that military may not matter a bit, if it is tasked with doing things that military might, as it has been traditionally conceived, can perhaps no longer do. 
Success may not be possible, whatever the circumstances, in the twenty-first-century world, and victory not even an option. Instead of trying yet again to find exactly the right formula or even reinventing warfare, perhaps the U.S. military needs to reinvent itself and its raison d’ĂȘtre if it’s ever to break out of its long cycle of failure. 
But don’t count on it. 
Instead, expect the politicians to continue to heap on the praise, Congress to continue insuring funding at levels that stagger the imagination, presidents to continue applying blunt force to complex geopolitical problems (even if in slightly different ways), arms dealers to continue churning out wonder weapons that prove less than wondrous, and the Pentagon continuing to fail to win. 
Coming off the latest series of failures, the U.S. military has leapt headlong into yet another transitional period -- call it the changing face of empire -- but don’t expect a change in weapons, tactics, strategy, or even doctrine to yield a change in results. As the adage goes: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Americans so Scared They Accept Drone Assassination of A 16-Year Old American -- Conor Friedersdorf


October 26, 2012 "The Atlantic" - - Cornered by reporters with video cameras, former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, a senior adviser to President Obama's reelection campaign, attempted to defend the kill list that the Obama Administration uses to determine whose body should next be blown apart. American drone strikes have resulted in hundreds of dead innocents in the last four years, even as the program has killed a number of high-level al Qaeda terrorists. There are two remarkable things about the ensuing exchange, which eventually turns into a discussion about a dead 16-year-old kid:

First, it's vital for the uninitiated to understand how Team Obama misleads when it talks about its drone program. Asked how their kill list can be justified, Gibbs replies that "When there are people who are trying to harm us, and have pledged to bring terror to these shores, we've taken that fight to them." Since the kill list itself is secret, there's no way to offer a specific counterexample. But we do know that U.S. drones are targeting people who've never pledged to carry out attacks in the United States. Take Pakistan, where the CIA kills some people without even knowing their identities. "As Obama nears the end of his term, officials said the kill list in Pakistan has slipped to fewer than 10 al-Qaeda targets, down from as many as two dozen," the Washington Post reports. "The agency now aims many of its Predator strikes at the Haqqani network, which has been blamed for attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan." The vast majority would never make their way to New York or Washington, D.C., and the Obama Administration would never agree to rules that permitted only the killing of threats to "the homeland."

The second notable statement concerns the killing of 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.

Tom Junod gives the back story:

First, it's vital for the uninitiated to understand how Team Obama misleads when it talks about its drone program. Asked how their kill list can be justified, Gibbs replies that "When there are people who are trying to harm us, and have pledged to bring terror to these shores, we've taken that fight to them." Since the kill list itself is secret, there's no way to offer a specific counterexample. But we do know that U.S. drones are targeting people who've never pledged to carry out attacks in the United States. Take Pakistan, where the CIA kills some people without even knowing their identities. "As Obama nears the end of his term, officials said the kill list in Pakistan has slipped to fewer than 10 al-Qaeda targets, down from as many as two dozen," the Washington Post reports. "The agency now aims many of its Predator strikes at the Haqqani network, which has been blamed for attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan." The vast majority would never make their way to New York or Washington, D.C., and the Obama Administration would never agree to rules that permitted only the killing of threats to "the homeland."
The second notable statement concerns the killing of 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.  
Tom Junod gives the back story:
He was the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was also born in America, who was also an American citizen, and who was killed by drone two weeks before his son was, along with another American citizen named Samir Khan. Of course, both Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were, at the very least, traitors to their country -- they had both gone to Yemen and taken up with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and al-Awlaki had proven himself an expert inciter of those with murderous designs against America and Americans: the rare man of words who could be said to have a body count. When he was killed, on September 30, 2011, President Obamamade a speech about it; a few months later, when the Obama administraton's public-relations campaign about its embrace of what has come to be called "targeted killing" reached its climax in a front-page story in the New York Times that presented the President of the United States as the last word in deciding who lives and who dies, he was quoted as saying that the decision to put Anwar al-Awlaki on the kill list -- and then to kill him -- was "an easy one." But Abdulrahman al-Awlaki wasn't on an American kill list.  
Nor was he a member of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninusla. Nor was he "an inspiration," as his father styled himself, for those determined to draw American blood; nor had he gone "operational," as American authorities said his father had, in drawing up plots against Americans and American interests. He was a boy who hadn't seen his father in two years, since his father had gone into hiding. He was a boy who knew his father was on an American kill list and who snuck out of his family's home in the early morning hours of September 4, 2011, to try to find him. He was a boy who was still searching for his father when his father was killed, and who, on the night he himself was killed, was saying goodbye to the second cousin with whom he'd lived while on his search, and the friends he'd made. He was a boy among boys, then; a boy among boys eating dinner by an open fire along the side of a road when an American drone came out of the sky and fired the missiles that killed them all. 
How does Team Obama justify killing him? 
The answer Gibbs gave is chilling: 
ADAMSON: ...It's an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial. And, he's underage. He's a minor. 
GIBBS: I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don't think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.
Again, note that this kid wasn't killed in the same drone strike as his father. He was hit by a drone strike elsewhere, and by the time he was killed, his father had already been dead for two weeks. Gibbs nevertheless defends the strike, not by arguing that the kid was a threat, or that killing him was an accident, but by saying that his late father irresponsibly joined al Qaeda terrorists. Killing an American citizen without due process on that logic ought to be grounds for impeachment. Is that the real answer? Or would the Obama Administration like to clarify its reasoning? Any Congress that respected its oversight responsibilities would get to the bottom of this. 
Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional  nonfiction.

A Nation Armed to the Teeth but Living in Fear -- Dave Lindorff


I was at a gathering of journalists last night -- the annual dinner of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship program. Actually it was a gathering of journalists, bankers, public relations executives and media tycoons, all of the latter of whom help to fund this program at Columbia University designed to train journalists to report on financial and economic affairs. A former director, Pauline Tai, from Hong Kong, an old friend, was talking with me and said that she was amazed in her visits back to the US, at how afraid Americans have become. 
We remarked on how bizarre that was. America is far and away the most powerful nation in the world, favored in so many ways with abundant resources, with a diverse culture and population, and yet its people cower in fear. People in Hong Kong aren’t afraid. People in Taiwan and China aren’t afraid, and yet objectively they all live in much more vulnerable places -- Hong Kong right next to a totalitarian government that could snuff out its civil liberties overnight, Taiwan under the threat of Chinese missiles just across a narrow strait -- missiles that were test fired into adjacent shipping lanes during a crisis in 1995. And China itself a kind of pressure cooker of public frustration and anger held at bay by a sclerotic Communist Party elite that doesn’t really know how to change and reform without losing its grip in an uncontrolled explosion. 
The same can be said of much of the rest of the world, from what I have seen in my own travels. Look at Greece. It is seeing its economy destroyed and pillaged by the greedy demands of banks in northern Europe and by the governments of the more powerful economies in the European Union, yet far from cowering in fear, its people are fighting back in massive public demonstrations. 
Americans, worried about their own country’s economic future, go out and buy more and bigger guns and huddle in their homes in fear of the future. And then they vote for politicians who tell them they should be afraid --whether of terrorists, "death panels" in Obamacare, a bankrupt Social Security program, the budget deficit, regulations, or a black president -- and who, to public applause, hand ever more power over to an intrusive and increasingly violent domestic police/army. 
The worst thing about all this fear and fear-mongering is that it has turned the US into a nation of conspiracy theorists, so ready to believe the most far-fetched plots and schemes by the rich and powerful that we Americans are unable to see the real challenge facing not just us, but the entire world: the threat of catastrophic climate change. And that is a very real threat that cannot be avoided by cowering in a basement or by electing some tough-talking chief executive, or by buying guns. It can only be tackled by taking bold united action as a people to change the whole basis of the socio-economic system from one premised on encouraging wasteful consumption to one based upon utility and on bettering the lot of all as efficiently as possible. 
It is time for Americans to reject the fear-mongering, and to take responsibility for our own society and government. We don’t need a leader who will “keep us safe.” We need a leader who will denounce fear, who will declare that the freedoms that are enshrined in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights are the foundation of this nation, and that we will rely on them, not police and armies, to move the country forward to face the real challenges of the future.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Leonard's Statement for Russell Means: Oct. 22, 2012

Greetings my relatives and friends, I wish I was there to talk with you in person and share with you the sorrow that I feel with the passing of Russell Means, my brother, my friend, and inspiration on many levels.  Russell Means will always be an icon whenever the American Indian Movement is spoken of and whenever people talk about the changes that took place, the changes that are taking place now for Indian people.  One thing about Russell I always remembered, and I think someone else once said it, you may have loved him, or you may have disliked him, but you couldn't ignore him.  I'll always remember when an elder said one time, I was at a ceremony and I asked what this half shaped moon circle on the ground meant, and he said it was a symbol of the circle of life, the never ending of the circle of life, and I said there is only half a circle, and he said the other half was unseen, it is the spirit world.  For Indian people it never ends, we don't have a linear existence, so I know I will see Russell again, and I take comfort in that thought.  For men like Russell Means don't come along in a lifetime very often.  He was truly an inspiration for all of us younger guys at the time.  He had good words to say, he was eloquent when he spoke them, and he spoke English as clearly and precisely and as articulate as any one I have ever heard speak.  And he knew what he was talking about.  And I know all of you out there, as well as myself, will always remember our friend, our brother and fellow activist, and how he stood with us to recapture the freedoms we've lost, and protect the ones that we still have, and bring about a better future for our people, and all people of this Mother Earth, who's nature is in peril.  I really don't know what else to say about our brother Russell, other than to Russell himself, “We'll see you again my bro ther Russell, in some other time and in some other place, we will always be your friend, and we will always look forward to seeing your face.  Mitakuye Oyasin."
In the spirit of Crazy Horse, and Russell Means.    I'll close for now.  Leonard Peltier

Friday, October 19, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Free Palestine Vigil -- Seattle -- Westlake Park, Noon-2 p.m. Oct. 20

This vigil happens every 1st & 3rd Saturday of the month.  Info:  voicesofpalestine.org

Come join us this Saturday to support the Palestinian people in their daily struggle for Justice!
Saturday, October 20
Noon-2:00 pm
Westlake Plaza, 4th & Pine
Amin Odeh
"Stand up for what is right,even if you are standing alone"

Saturday, October 13, 2012

From Jews Sans Frontieres: "After the Greta Berlin Scandal"

The Greta Berlin scandal is painful, because yet again an activist project built with love, sweat and great personal cost is in serious risk of going to seeds because of the gullibility and egotism of some of its key persons, with the damage primarily affecting the people it is supposed to be in solidarity with. It is also saddening because nobody can doubt Berlin's dedication and contribution of many years, and the true love that drove it. It didn't have to come to that, and that is heart breaking. We've seen this happening before, although not with someone as prominent, for example with Deir Yassin Remembered, another Palestine Solidarity effort that was transformed into a front for bigotry, forcing its principled board members to abandon ship (the latest has been Susan Abulhawa--although don't expect to see it mentioned on their site. The Deir Yassin Remembered board is like Hotel California, you can check in any time you like, but you can never leave). 
But It is also a moment marked by growth in both the clarity and the confidence of a movement that knows what it wants and won't allow itself to be hijacked and blackmailed into supporting ideas and tolerating behavior that undermine it. The response to the debacle has been swift and tenacious, beginning with Ali Abunimah's rejection of Berlin's obfuscatory explanations, and the clear statement of the former board members, followed with the amazing organized response of leading Palestinian activists, and the refreshingly unequivocal position taken by the editors of Mondoweiss. Critics have made every effort to invite Berlin to come clean and recognize and deal with what happened, which goes beyond the mistake of inadvertently associating solidarity with Gaza with a potty antisemite and the consequence of that for the movement as a whole. The problem is the pattern of associations, "openess" to and tolerance of bigoted cranks, as if racism and bigotry is just another opinion that one must respect, as if refusing it is too "divisive" or unecumenical, an attitude that progressively blurs the distinction between diversity of views and unhinged chauvinism, that made that kind of mistake inevitable. She did not, and then came the recurrent refrain that finding that unacceptable is in some way giving comfort to the enemy. The opposite is true. It is the renewed independence and autonomy of the movement that allow it to refuse to have its agenda set by those who attack it. We don't take our beat from Zionists and racists in either direction. We have our own drum, and it is the unequivocal and uncompromising drum of "freedom, justice, and equality...opposed to all forms of racism and bigotry." This renewed clarity will help us help each other so we have no more scandals such as this, and also no more moments of picking up the pieces afterwards.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Leonard Peltier on Columbus Mass Murderer of Indigenous Peoples

Greetings my relatives and friends, supporters!

I know I say this same line all the time but in reality you all are my relatives and I appreciate you. I cannot say that enough. Some of our people, as well as ourselves have decided to call today Indigenous Day instead of Columbus Day and it makes me really think about how many People who still celebrate Columbus, a cruel, mass murderer who on his last trip to the Americas, as I have read, was arrested by his own people for being too cruel. When you consider those kinds of cruelty against our People and his status, it makes you wonder to what level he had taken his cruelty. In all of this historical knowledge that is available people still want to celebrate and hold in high esteem this murderer.

If we were to celebrate Hitler Day, or Mussolini Day, or some other murderer and initiator of violence and genocide, there would be widespread condemnation. It would be like celebrating Bush Day in Iraq. 

It’s kind of sad to say that even mentioning Columbus in my comments gives him more recognition that he should have. So I agree wholeheartedly with all of you out there that have chosen to call this Indigenous Day. If I weren’t Native American or as some of have come to say – Indigenous, I would still love our ways and cling to our ways and cherish our ways. I see our ways as the way to the future, for the world. Where as I and others have said over and over, and our People before us, this earth is our Mother. This earth is life. And anything you take from the earth creates a debt that is to be paid back at some time in the future by someone.

In speaking of our ways I can’t help but think of times that our sweat lodge that I feel that we could be anywhere, that we are with the Indigenous People, in that time, those moments in our prayers and in our hearts there is no distance between us. I am no longer in a prison in Florida. I can be on the prairie in South Dakota or in a lodge in British Columbia or in a lodge in South America. Or even with some of my children in a family lodge. We all need to be thankful for what we have but we cannot afford to forget what has been taken from us. There is no amount of freedom that I could personally receive that would be restitution enough for what they have taken from me. But if in some way my incarceration and sacrifices for our People who came before me and throughout our Indigenous history serves as a pathway to a brighter future, a healthier earth, and for life of all mankind; if it would bring us together to be of one mind in protecting the future of our People, our children, and all the future generations upon the earth, then it will have been well worth it.

Indigenous Day should become a way of life that embraces all that promotes life and not just a few days out of the year. If you’re standing or sitting or whatever with whoever lives around you, give your loved ones a hug for me. Guard your freedom zealously. Rescue Mother Earth where you can. Sweat often and know that this common man, Leonard Peltier, will always be with you in the struggle, one way or another.

May the Great Spirit bless you with the things you need and enough to share.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Osceola, Geronimo, Chief Seattle and all those many others who stood for what was right and tried to right what was wrong.

Mitakuye Oyasin.

Leonard Peltier
 from Brenda Norris' blog:  http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2012/10/leonard-peliter-columbus-mass-murderer.html

Monday, October 08, 2012

Miko Peled at University of Washington -- Univ. of Washington


Why Hugo Rules -- Pepe Escobar

He's done it. Again. In the 14th election in 13 years, Hugo Chavez Frias - the head of state Atlanticist right-wingers love to hate - was reelected president fair and square, in absolutely transparent conditions, monitored by anyone from the UN and the EU to the Organisation of Americans States (OAS). 

Two elections were at play here. One pitted Chavez against neoliberal right-winger reconverted democrat Henrique Capriles Radonski - a lawyer representing the Venezuelan, Washington consensus-aligned comprador class. The other was progressive South American integration versus Big Brother's desire for a pliable client state.  
Chavez won first of all because the Bolivarian project has the numbers. The Chavismo years - for all its faults and unbridled cult of personality - essentially recovered Venezuelan national sovereignty, redistributing wealth to the benefit of public services and the excluded, via social missions and a decent minimum wage. One may call it, like Chavez, "socialism for the 21st century". In Latin American terms, it is certainly a path towards a more equal society.

In the run-up to the election, Chavez made a point to position the figure of Guacaipuro - an indigenous leader who commanded Teque and Caracas tribes against Spanish colonisation - as a key Venezuelan symbol of resistance. "We are all Guacaipuro" was a resonant call - with its emphasis on the country's roots in "aboriginal, indigenous and black resistance pushing the struggle of the oppressed".

No illiteracy for oil

The facts are stark. Venezuela holds what is now recognised as the largest oil reserves on the planet - even larger than Saudi Arabia's. But until recently this was an energy Holy Grail run by the usual tiny, arrogant, rapacious elite, and where the masses had no possibility of decent education, decent housing or a decent salary.

The record of Chavismo is a story of how to progressively horizontalise a vertical society. Chavismo channels no less than 43 per cent of the state budget to an array of social policies.

Unemployment went down from over 20 per cent to less than 7 per cent. No less than 22 public universities were built in the past 10 years. The number of teachers went from 65,000 to 350,000. Illiteracy has been eradicated. There is an ongoing agrarian reform - still a dream in most South American latitudes.

The ruling class obviously was not amused - as it has not been amused in Brazil, Argentina or Bolivia for that matter (in Paraguay it even managed to organise a "constitutional coup" to depose a legitimate democratic government). In Venezuela, ten years ago it also managed to concoct a coup - with support from corporate media - that lasted a pitiful three days. The masses said "No Pasaran".

Defeated presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, by the way, is something like a born again democrat; he was directly involved in the April 2002 coup and even had to spend some time in jail for it.

Venezuela has the best Gini coefficient - meaning it's the least unequal country - in the whole of Latin America. In its January 2012 report, the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (known by its Spanish acronym, Cepal) states that Venezuela and Ecuador, between 1996 and 2010, were the champions in reducing poverty across the Americas.

Meanwhile, Americans in the US might be amused to know that Gallup has rated Venezuela as the 5th "happiest nation in the world". Salsa, anyone?

No wonder while corporate media in the US, Western Europe and South America kept peddling stories of Venezuelans dreaming of exile and sipping martinis in Miami, the fact is scores of young Spaniards with no European future are coming to Venezuela to find a job [SP].

Chavez demonisation in Western corporate media is pitifully cartoonish - as in the recent push to proclaim his imminent death practically on an everyday basis. It has been hard to admit that his cancer was successfully treated by Cuban doctors.  

The key reason for the Chavez demonisation cottage industry is that he refuses to be aligned with Washington's geopolitical whims. He maintains very close, complex connections with China's leaders (and that includes providing China with one million barrels of oil a day in the near future); he supports Iran's right for a civilian nuclear programme; he supported Gaddafi till the bitter end against what he saw as an illegal NATO war; he supports the Syrian government against what he identifies as Salafi-jihadist terrorists trying to depose it; and he has been a non-stop source of inspiration across Latin America - from Bolivia and Ecuador to Nicaragua.    

It's a toss-up whether Obama 2.0 - not to mention a still remotely possible Romney administration - will get real and try to "engage" Venezuela in conditions of mutual respect.

Chavismo meets Lulismo

Venezuela will grow 5 per cent in 2012 - way beyond Argentina (2 per cent) and Brazil (1.5 per cent). This is a partially socialised economy that is producing more jobs, more credit, more state investment - and the result is steady economic growth.
Internally, the class struggle won't magically vanish. The poor will solidify their newfound, at least lower middle class status. As for the emergent middle class and the upper middle class, they yearn for yet more conspicuous consumption. The cancer at the heart of Chavismo is essentially inefficiency and corruption; that's the great internal battle to be won. As James Petras argues [SP], the key for the progressive success of Chavez's social policies is to seriously curb corruption in local politics and administration.

In terms of Latin America integration, this is also good news. Venezuela is now a member of Mercosur. Along with more economic integration, there will be further political integration via Unasur - the South American union.

South America has been involved in an ample discussion about the emergence of an inevitable post-Washington consensus. Two different schools are at play; Chavismo, and what has been described as the Brasilia consensus.

Chile, Colombia and Uruguay may be seen as followers of the Brasilia consensus - and even Peru under President Ollanta Humala. The Brasilia consensus is obviously a synonym of "Lulismo" - after former, widely popular Brazilian President Lula, who Obama admitted was "the guy".   

Chavismo meanwhile is popular in Bolivia and Ecuador. Then there are the hybrids - such as Argentina and Paraguay before the coup against Fernando Lugo.

Yet essentially what is in play are minor differences relative to the degree of socialisation of the economy and the pursuit of an independent foreign policy. The basic model is shared by all - with emphasis on economic growth, social equality, real democracy and progressive integration.    

A more sober, less confrontational, less personalised Chavismo will do wonders for Latin American integration. But huge bumps on the road remain - such as the coup in Paraguay, the coup in Honduras, the manipulation of ecological concerns to destabilise Bolivia, Washington's perennial obsession in demonising Chavez. And there's something the overwhelming majority in Latin America doesn't forget; the US Fourth Fleet - resurrected under Dubya in 2008 - is watching.

A Palestinian Flag at Celebration in Venezuela's Presidential Residence

from Jody McIntyre's blog:  http://jodymcintyre.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/palestine-to-venezuela/

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Miko Peled Argues for a Unitary Palestine


The above video (question and answer period after a recent talk) was included in a SEATTLE TIMES op-ed, here: 

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Why This Black Man Is Watching the Debates, and Voting Green -- Bruce Dixon, Black Agenda Report


I grew up believing my vote meant something, that it was my voice. The people I called my teachers taught me to raise my voice against unjust wars and economic oppression, the same way I'd raise it against racism. Exchanging a few white faces in city halls, legislatures and the White House for black and brown ones isn't really such a big deal.
What passes for black political power nowadays isn't such a big deal to me because poverty rates are as high now as when a bygone Democratic president declared a war on poverty --- a project that failed because he spent all the money in a colonial war that killed millions in Vietnam, and climbing still higher. Prolonging the careers of black Democrats like Atlanta's Kasim Reed, Newark's Corey Booker, Philly's Mike Nutter or even of congressmen John Lewis and Jim Clyburn as they front for gentrifiers, charter schools, and power companies that build new nukes in the middle of poor black towns being poisoned by old ones is just not anything I want to do with my voice.
I can see why all the big preachers want black folks to vote Democratic. Most of them are part of, or aspiring parts of the black political class, the black misleadership class themselves. Many depend on so-called “faith based” funding to keep their ministries alive. The black church has been captured, and is a kind of “state religion” of the black political class, divorced from the lives of the class of black people who provide over 40% of the nation's prisoners.
I'm an old guy now, past sixty but not yet senior enough for Medicare, and I've been in the movement a long time. Younger people sometimes ask me what to do. After telling them not to respect their elders all that much --- we didn't respect them that much 45 years ago either --- the main thing I tell them is that movement leaders and participants back in the day had visions and horizons longer than the next election cycle or the one after that. They were prepared to fight whether they had allies in city hall, the legislature or the courts or not. Unlike today's NAACP and NAN, they developed agendas without the guidance of corporate funders and their recommended professionals.
We've proved we can elect as many Democrats as we want, all the way up the food chain without changing much here at the bottom. I know this well. I gave more than 20 years of my own life to electing better Democrats, helping Democrats run better campaigns, and registering more Democrat voters. I met Barack Obama 20 years ago on one of those gigs in Project VOTE Illinois, where he was state director and I was one of three field organizers who signed up 130,000 new voters and flogged them out to the polls that year. We elected Harold Washington, and a lot of state legislators and a few Congressional reps. The Democratic party will still let you work for it, but once in office, big money calls the shots. It's time to leave that house and build a new one.
It's an uncomfortable truth: the present US political system is largely people-proof and democracy-proof. The time and treasure we've sunk into supporting Democrats the last seventy years is gone. It's a horse we raised and watered and fed that somebody else has ridden off and it won't be back.
I still believe my voice and my vote mean something. Kwame Toure used to say the thing to do is find an organization you're in substantial agreement with and join it, or if it does not exist, start one and recruit your neighbors.
So I've joined the Georgia Green Party, and I'm recruiting those of my neighbors who still believes that unemployment and mass incarceration have to be addressed, that illegal wars and deportations must be stopped, that Wall Street must be reined in, and that gentrification and privatization have to be stopped. Most voters who call themselves Democrats, in fact millions of those voting for President Obama believe exactly these things already, but are substantially disinformed about what their elected officials actually DO.
I was at a demonstration in support of Chicago teachers Saturday, and some participants seemed to assume that the president was on their side, that maybe they could enlist figures like Rev. Al Sharpton to aid their struggle to mobilize people against the inroads of school privatizaters. It fell to me to tell them the bad news --- that Sharpton took a half million dollar bribe years ago to jump on the charter school bandwagon, that he toured the country with Newt Gingrich and Arne Duncan beating the bushes for high stakes testing and charters, and the administration is actually the enemy on this one.
Eventually they and many like them, if they want a party that stands up for what they believe, will have to become Greens. It's my job to make sure that happens.
So I'll watch the debates, sure. The crooks who run them won't let Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate on the same stage with the corporate candidates. So I'll watch Democracy Now's coverage, in which Jill Stein and another candidate in real time answer the same questions as they do. My colleague Glen Ford will be a guest at Occupy The Debates in Baltimore as well.
So yes, I'll watch. And I'll vote. But not for a Republican and not for a Democrat, not again. I'll vote like my voice means something. I won't be coerced into voting for a 100% evil Democrat just because the Republicans are 120% evil. I'm voting Green this year, and helping build a Green Party, right here in Georgia where I live.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


The Story of Palestine -- Never Before Campaign


The Deeply Disturbing Israel Court Ruling on Rachel Corrie -- Cindy Corrie, Guest Column, Seattle Times

LAST month, in a deeply disturbing ruling, an Israeli court dismissed the civil lawsuit brought by my family against the state of Israel for the wrongful death of my daughter Rachel Corrie.

Born and raised in Olympia, Rachel was a human-rights defender and peace activist killed in 2003 by an armored Israeli military bulldozer as she stood for hours, visibly and nonviolently protesting the Israeli government’s policy of civilian home demolitions in Rafah, Gaza.

The home Rachel and her friends from the International Solidarity Movement defended was eventually demolished with hundreds more in mass-clearing operations to create a buffer along Gaza’s southern border.

Our lawsuit was not a solution, but rather a symptom of a broken system of accountability within Israel and our own U.S. government. Despite a promise from Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for a “thorough, credible, and transparent” investigation and repeated calls from the highest levels of our government for such an investigation to occur, there was no diplomatic resolution. According to the U.S. State Department, its calls “have gone unanswered or ignored.”

Court testimony also confirmed a credible investigation did not occur. Investigators failed to question key military witnesses, including those recording communications; failed to secure the military video, allowing it to be taken for nearly a week by senior commanders with only segments submitted to court; failed to address conflicting soldiers’ testimonies; and ignored damning statements in the military log confirming a “shoot to kill” order and command mentality to continue work in order not to create a precedent with activists.

I had no illusions about the uphill battle we faced in Israeli court, but as I sat with my family in a packed courtroom awaiting the verdict, I held hope that, like so many observing the trial, the judge would see that evidence warranted some criticism of the military’s actions.

The room was filled with human-rights observers, U.S. Embassy officials, family supporters and a throng of media. Judge Oded Gershon surveyed the scene before reading his decision. From the halting tone of my translator and friend, and audible groans around us, I knew it was bad.

He ruled that Rachel was killed as an act of war, which, according to Israeli law, absolves the military of responsibility. He added that she alone was to blame for her own killing and then went on to commend the military police for their professionalism in carrying out such a credible investigation. The courtroom heard the judge parrot the state prosecuting attorneys’ original claims in the case, nearly verbatim.

Condemnation of the verdict was swift and decisive, ranging from President Jimmy Carter to the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others, all pointing out the climate of impunity enjoyed by the Israeli military, as well as the court thumbing its nose at the Geneva Conventions.

The verdict sends a dangerous message for future protections of civilians and human-rights observers.

The outcry was humbling, but the verdict represents a very personal challenge. With 45 days to determine whether to appeal, I weigh heavily the toll this ongoing effort takes. Our nearly decadelong search for information and a modicum of justice has turned into a war of attrition — a state versus a family.

As problematic as the process has been, our family has had access to a legal system, a basic tenet of justice most Palestinians are denied. They struggle, far harder than we, for their day in court.
Their stories are shadowed by the unjust silence that too often accompanies the word “Palestinian.”

We have sought truth, but also changes in policies Rachel came to Gaza to oppose — brutal Israeli military actions often targeting civilian populations resulting in unlawful killings and destruction of property with impunity.

An Israeli colonel testified there are no civilians in war. Rachel was in Gaza because there are civilians there with rights to be protected. No army is above the law when it comes to protection of civilians under occupation or during armed conflict.

Rachel taught us that when governments fail to act, people must step forward. When atrocities are committed in our name, we must shine a spotlight on them.

Our family will determine the next critical steps with Rachel’s spirit surrounding us. Our journey continues, alongside those who, despite the odds, pursue equal rights and nonviolence, human rights, peace and justice for all in the region and world beyond. 
Cindy Corrie is the mother of Rachel Corrie and the president of the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice based in Olympia.