Sunday, March 20, 2011

No to Imperialist Intervention in Libya

The drive toward war, which was given the green light by the UN Security Council on Thursday, has nothing to do with the humanitarian pretexts offered up by the major powers. Rather, it represents the violent imperialist subjugation of a former colony.

The bombing of Libya by French, British and American planes is not protecting human life, but is transforming the country into a battlefield with thousands of innocent victims. This is an imperialist war. Libya is an oppressed, former colonial country.

Moreover, this war takes place without any democratic legitimacy. There is not the slightest indication that it is supported by the populations of the countries involved. Once again, huge sums are being spent on a war even as the same governments declare there is no money for social programs.

Those who say a military attack on Gaddafi's bases would bolster a democratic opposition movement against a bloody dictatorship must answer the following question: Why are the great powers not applying the same criteria in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the regimes they back employ brutal violence against any opposition?

And what of Bahrain, headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet, where Sheikh al Khalifa has shot down unarmed protesters with Saudi support? What about Gaza, where these same powers stand by as the Israelis massacre Palestinians? What about Yemen, where the Western-backed President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Friday shot dead some 50 protesters?

Not a single government or newspaper that supports a military strike against Libya has taken the trouble to explain these glaring contradictions. However, the real target of the violent action against Libya is clear, if one considers the logic of recent events.

It is only two months since the Tunisian ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was overthrown in a popular uprising. One month later, he was followed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. As a result, the Western powers have lost two of their key allies in the region.

As with Gaddafi himself, the US and Europe had collaborated closely with these dictators until the last minute. France, which is now shouting the loudest for military action against Libya, even offered Ben Ali police assistance when the uprising against him was in full swing.

Only a few weeks later, the great powers are preparing a military intervention in North Africa. Coincidence? Only someone who is politically blind can fail to see the relationship between these events.

The domestic opposition to Gaddafi, a brutal tyrant and a close ally of the Western powers, may initially have expressed real grievances of the Libyan people. But in the underdeveloped desert state of Libya, forces quickly materialized that were ready to do the dirty work of the great powers.

They were to be found in the figures making up the so-called National Transitional Council, who not only guaranteed international oil companies unhindered exploitation of the country's mineral wealth, but also called for the bombing of their own country. The Transitional Council is composed of senior officials of the old regime who turned their backs on Gaddafi in response to the shift by the imperialist powers.

Military intervention in Libya, whose energy resources have made it the object of imperialist intrigues for decades, is being used both to secure access to oil and to contain the revolutionary movements in the region, which are increasingly directed against the interests of the imperialist powers and capitalist property.

A military presence in Libya, which is bordered by Egypt to the east and Tunisia to the west, would help the major powers to intimidate revolutionary movements throughout the Arab world.

Reference in the UN resolution about excluding the military occupation of the country by foreign troops is hogwash. Military necessity has its own logic. Officially, neither Afghanistan nor Iraq are "occupied" by American troops, but this does not change the fact that in both countries tens of thousands of American soldiers have taken up permanent residence.

It is significant that it was the Arab League that called for a no-fly zone over Libya, giving the US and its imperialist allies a cover of "regional support" for military intervention. The representatives of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other emirates, who are in the process of arresting, torturing and shooting opponents of their own regimes, have voted in favor of a military intervention for the supposed purpose of strengthening democracy in Libya!

The major powers are acting with extreme recklessness. Apart from the greed for oil and domination, they seem to have no thought-out strategy. President Sarkoz y, who received Gaddafi four years ago with great pomp in Paris to negotiate trade deals worth billions, recognized the National Transitional Council as the official representative of Libya without even consulting his own foreign minister, let alone his NATO allies.

No one seems to have considered the likely economic, geopolitical and security implications of a longer war in Libya, a country on the Mediterranean in the immediate vicinity of Europe. Those expressing warnings of the consequences of military action come mostly from conservative circles of the military, who, after Afghanistan and Iraq, have little desire for another military adventure.

Both President Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron also have their own domestic political reasons for intervening. A year before the next presidential elections, Sarkozy is falling in opinion polls and hopes to make up ground through an aggressive foreign policy.

Cameron faces growing opposition t o his austerity measures and--echoing his model Margaret Thatcher's 1982 Malvinas war--hopes a war against Libya can divert attention. Since the British army has been weakened by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is barely able to intervene independently, Cameron has worked hard to engage the US.

The imperialist adventure against Libya is reawakening old divisions in Europe. The European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) is once again in tatters. Germany abstained in the vote on the UN Security Council, stressing it would not be party to any military intervention. It thus found itself in a bloc with Russia, China, India and Brazil against NATO allies France, Britain and the United States--a development with far-reaching implications.

These divisions result from the imperialist character of the war. It is significant that for the first time since the Second World War, Britain and France are jointly involved in a military conflict and have take n a position opposed by Germany. One should also recall that the last war between German and British armies included major battles in North Africa.

Germany does not in principle reject taking military action against Libya, and the German government has pushed for tough economic sanctions. However, it has to date based its influence in North Africa and the Middle East less on military than on economic factors, and fears losing out in any military adventure. "Germany fully supports the economic sanctions, because the rule of Muammar al-Gaddafi is over and must be stopped," said UN Ambassador Peter Wittig to justify Germany's abstention. "But the use of the military is always extremely difficult and we see great risks."

While there are disagreements within the European and American ruling class over a military offensive against Libya, among the "humanitarian" imperialists there is full and enthusiastic approval. This category also includes political tendencies tha t support military operations in the name of an abstract "humanity," ignoring class issues and questions of history--such as the Greens, Social Democrats, the Left Party, etc.

Since the German Greens supported the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, they have become enthusiastic supporters of war and play an irreplaceable role in the imperialist war propaganda. The same applies to the preparation for a military intervention against Libya.

The Greens have attacked foreign minister Guido Westerwelle because he did not support the resolution in the UN Security Council. "We have a responsibility to defend human rights," parliamentary faction leader Renate Kuenast said. The Social Democrats also attacked Westerwelle because he does not favor the war effort.

Green EU Parliament representative Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a major figure in the 1968 student movement, campaigned aggressively for the recognition of the Libyan National Transitional Council and the establish ment of a no-fly zone. The parliament finally adopted such a resolution on March 10 by an overwhelming majority.

In addition to the Greens, a variety of pseudo-left organizations in France have demanded recognition of the National Transitional Council. A resolution to this effect from the Committee of Solidarity with the Libyan People bears the signatures of the Communist Party, the Left Party and the New Anti-Capitalist Party. President Sarkozy is now fulfilling their demand and launching a military offensive.

From WSWS

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Need for Independent Review of Indian Nuclear Plants

The Indian government has promised a full safety audit of the existing reactors. The Atomic Energy Commission has also said that they would review the Areva designs taking into consideration the experience of Fukushima. However, the prevailing voice within the nuclear energy establishment is one of smug complacency.

Nevertheless, it is very hard to share such optimism. This is because the issue here is not that a safety audit should be done but who does this safety audit? We have an Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) that draws its personnel from Atomic Energy Commission, report to the Atomic Energy Commission and is even located in the Anushakti Bhavan, the headquarters of the Atomic Energy Commission.

This is no way to run a critical safety regulatory function. It is also contrary to international practice as well as treaties that India has signed on the need to separate regulatory and operational functions in nuclear energy. This remains the single biggest obstacle for a safe nuclear energy program in the country.

In no country with a large nuclear energy program is the nuclear regulator a part of the body it is supposed to regulate. A former chairman of AERB (Mail Today, March 15, 2011, Nuclear Regulation in Shambles, Dr A Gopalakrishnan) has stated that AERB has no serious disaster management oversight and does not have the ability to address serious design and safety issues.

If India is indeed serious about a nuclear energy program, it needs to create a proper safety organisation in this area instead of the current AERB, which has become a virtual rubber stamp for Atomic Energy Commission. A safety audit without an independent regulatory body is of little value.

It is not the best kept secret in the world that Indian plants have had problems at different points. The collapse of the Kaiga dome and the fire in Narora which caused all controls to be lost are cases in point. In Narora, again workers facing very heavy odds, managed a safe shut-down of the reactor manually.

The point is with complete opacity surrounding the nuclear plants and the functioning of the Atomic Energy Commission and its attached body, the AERB, it is difficult to accept the results of the safety audit. We can already predict the report – all we need to do is to listen what the nuclear establishment has been saying for the last few days and we will know what the report is likely to say.

Interestingly, one of the points that the country's nuclear establishment has made repeatedly is that Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) -- that are the bulk of the Indian reactors -- are much more safe than the Light Water Reactors (LWR's ). If this is indeed so, why the fascination for the LWRs which according to the nuclear establishment is less safe? Why then leave the tried and tested route of PHWRs for which we have indigenous capacity for imported reactors which by their own admission is less safe?

It is in this context we have to look at the controversial Jaitapur project. The government is keen to put 6 units of 1650 MW EPR reactors of Areva, France make. Though Atomic Energy Commission chairman, Srikumar Bannerjee claims that this design is tested, as it has worthy predecessors, the fact remains that there is not one plant of this design that has yet been commissioned.

That a Fukushima type of accident of earthquake-cum-tsunami will not affect Jaitapur is no consolation as no two serious nuclear accidents have ever been alike. Question of how safe this plant is cannot be answered by saying a Fukushima type accident will not occur here.

Jaitapur plant proposes to have 5 per cent enriched uranium as fuel against the normal enrichment of 3.5 per cent for LWRs and natural uranium for PHWR's. It also has a higher burn rate than the current LWRs. Dr Gopalkrishnan, former chairman, AERB has asked in his article, (DNA, February 9, 2011, Jaitapur Deficit of Public Trust) “How much understanding, based on relevant data, do Areva and NPCIL together have on the radiological and physical behavior of high-burnup spent-fuel from these EPRs and the consequent serious safety issues related to its long-term storage, cooling, transport and reprocessing?” These questions are not going to be answered based on the belief of a few scientists.

It is interesting also to note that Areva, while claiming its technology is completely safe, has also been very unhappy with the prospect of liability that the current Indian law prescribes, even though the upper limit for such liability is only Rs 1,500 crore. This itself shows how much confidence they have for their technology.

There is little doubt that Fukushima will cast a radioactive cloud over the nuclear renaissance touted by the nuclear industry. Nuclear technology still remains one of the most complex technologies that we know. Rushing in with ever larger sizes and complex designs have been the bane of this technology from the beginning. In their hurry to invite foreign suppliers for the Indian market, the Manmohan Singh government never took this into account.

All the reactors being pushed by foreign suppliers – Areva, GE and Westinghouse – have the same problems regarding provenness of technology and complexity of design.

DAE has been pushing the case for import of 40,000 MW of Light Water Reactors. In this, the DAE and other agencies seemed to have become captive to the PM's objective of a strategic tie-up with the US and pushing in imported reactors, without addressing issues of safety. What has been effectively lost sight is that safety of nuclear plants cannot be subordinated to whatever foreign policy objective that the PM has in mind.

The Fukushima disaster provides a clear warning on this.

As India is now trying to induct in a number of foreign reactors, particularly Light Water Reactors, which, by the admission of senior figures in the nuclear establishment, is less safe than the indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors, it is critical that such designs should be subjected to independent review.

India should halt all import of reactors, particularly of untested and unproven designs from Areva, GE or Westinghouse and focus on creating a proper safety infrastructure for nuclear energy. Till then, there should be a moratorium on all imported reactors including Jaitapur and Kudankulam. Simultaneously immediate steps should be taken up to separate AERB from DAE and make it a truly independent body, reporting directly to the parliament.

Finally, as an immediate measure, all existing plants should be reviewed by creating a task force including independent members outside DAE to make this exercise of safety audit credible.

Prabir Purkayastha/People's Dmocracy

Monday, March 14, 2011

Nuclear Meltdown: The Threat is Real for India

Japanese nuclear engineers are making heroic efforts at immense personal risk to prevent a steam explosion (not a nuclear explosion) in the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) at Fukushima. This is the point at which the design and construction standards of the concrete double containment structure of the nuclear reactor will have to withstand the explosion.

This could trigger a partial or total meltdown of the reactor core, similar to what happened in USA in 1971 in the Three Mile Island NPP. (This put the US nuclear power industry into the doldrums until USA revived it by negotiating the nuclear deal with India in 2009).

Japan has a reputation for good design and safety standards and good quality control and quality assurance in execution. It would be the fervent wish of every thinking person on the planet that the double containment will not fail and that the engineers will control the desperately delicate situation in the Daiichi NPP. Nobody is as yet even thinking of the costs of containing the accident and the subsequent nuclear clean-up.

But let us now cut to the nuclear situation in India. The issue of Indian design and construction quality standards stands naked when we note that the concrete containment dome of the Kaiga (Karnataka) NPP collapsed when under construction, and had to be rebuilt. It has not been revealed whether it was a failure of design or execution quality.

It is not possible to obtain reliable information regarding the operation, safety standards and performance or other cost, constructional or operational aspects of any NPP because of the following reasons: One, Section 18 (Restriction on disclosure of information) and Section 24 (Offences and penalties) of the draconian Indian Atomic Energy Act 1962, do not permit anybody to even ask questions about NPPs.

Two, nobody except the nuclear industry is permitted to conduct tests for radioactivity even outside the perimeter of any NPP. Three, the Environment Protection Act 1986, does not apply to NPPs. Four, the safety and monitoring agency (AERB) is not an independent agency and the public has to accept whatever health and safety information is released by the NPP or the AERB.

Five, the budget of the DAE is not placed even before Parliament and the power generation and efficiency figures are not available even to the Central Electricity Authority (CEA). In short, the Indian nuclear industry is a closed door to the rest of India, and this can be at the cost of public safety and health.

Further, in the event of a nuclear accident, Government of India (GoI) has sought to cap or limit the liability of operators or suppliers of nuclear hardware and technology to assure profits to the US nuclear industry. In simpler language, this means that the real financial cost of post-accident nuclear clean-up and repair would be borne by India, as the liability of the suppliers would be limited to the cap amount, while the real costs of health and livelihood would be borne by the people.

In view of the secrecy and the poor standards of construction even in the nuclear industry, the conflicting parameters of safety, operational cost and radioactive emissions of any NPP leave the public to guess when one of India's NPPs may suffer a serious accident, and whether we will be able to handle the disaster effectively and efficiently.

Indian nuclear engineers are second to none, thus the issue of safety in India's nuclear establishment is institutional. The secrecy, intransparency, unaccountability and self-certification of the nuclear industry makes one doubt whether we will be able to prevent serious emergency or handle it effectively should it happen.

This also raises questions about the advisability of going for mega NPPs such as planned in Jaitapur, Maharashtra. This is quite apart from the fact of enormous resistance to its construction from local people on the grounds of livelihood and environment.

Let us hope that the Indian nuclear establishment would never need to handle a serious accident of the type of Three Mile Island or Chernobyl or Fukushima.

SG Vombatkere

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Eyeless in Libya

Reliable confirmation of any of the situation in Libya is unavailable because reporting by all members of the media has been irresponsible, lazy, not based on actual investigation and racist, argues Mary Lynn Cramer

The Left is waiting (for Goddess only knows what), leaderless and immobilized, bombarded 24/7 by corporate and so-called alternative media demonizing the Libyan crazy man while anxiously supporting the brave, “untrained” rebels who fearlessly confront Qaddafi's superior forces.

NPR, Democracy Now and the BBC are embedded with those courageous “revolutionaries.” Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (National Public Radio), Pascale Harter (BBC) and Anjali Kamat (Democracy Now) report with palpable sisterly compassion every moment of exhilaration or frustration the lads experience.

The BBC drops a few seconds of incomprehensible words from the Mad Man's Master Plan (“The Green Book”) while ignoring Qaddafi's insistence that over two weeks ago, he invited the UN to send in an investigation team, as well as news reporters, to see what was actually going on.

What is actually going on? Peter Bouckaert, the Emergencies Director at Human Rights Watch in Benghazi tells Democracy Now correspondent, Anjali Kamat, that reporters from all the major corporate and alternative media—people you would expect to know better--are doing a very sloppy and unprofessional job of coverage in general.

Most of what passes for journalism, he says, is “irresponsible reporting and just lazy reporting. You know, rather than going out and investigating these incidents and whether they’re true, these rumors, Western journalists from very reputable publications just published the rumors as true. And they talked about African men running wild, raping women and all of these things, which is just about as racist a myth as you can get.”

The Democracy Now correspondent appears unmoved by Bouckaert's accusations. But she is curious about the rumors that Qaddafi has recruited African men thought to be committing crimes. Her immediate response to the Human Rights Watch complaint is “Can you say a little bit about who the mercenaries actually are?”

Bouckaert patiently explains that Qaddafi “does have the capacity---not to go recruit African mercenaries, but to use the groups that he’s already training and financing. And it’s possible that some of those fighters have been mobilized around Tripoli or even in the east. But before we jump to that conclusion, we should investigate. And for the moment, all of the cases we have investigated in the east, these allegations have turned out not to be true.”

There have been reports of American, French and British “mercenaries” arriving in Libya three weeks ago. Some of the young “rebels” interviewed speak American English without a trace of foreign or Arabic accent. On-line photos show a variety in skin color from white to black, as well as a wide range in physiognomy. All appear healthy, energetic and well-armed.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro assures us they are not lacking in arms and munitions. The "rebels" are reportedly carrying everything from smart new anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns, rocket propelled grenade launchers, surface-to-air missiles, and machine guns. News photos of “rebels” mounting armored tanks with canon, and missile launchers mounted on large trucks are impressive.

However, the NPR reporter complains the “trigger-happy” youth can be heard shooting off their fire arms all night long; but she understands they have little experience and need the practice.

Neither she nor the BBC, NPR, or Democracy Now reporters ask where the rebels come from, or the origin of their handsome camouflage uniforms, rugged all-weather apparel and heavy military weapons. Surely no outside influence or mercenaries among this good-spirited, heroic bunch.

Professor Sam Hamod notes that accounts and photos of Africans being lynched in Libya have not provided identification of the victims: “We don't know who they are, but we do know there are African Union members sending troops to help Qaddafi against the American backed 'rebels.'

But remember this, Libyans are black, blue black, dark brown, brown, dark tan, tan and white -- the Africans who are helping Qaddafi are black and the ones fighting Qaddafi are mostly white -- so if there is any lynching going on, it is more likely the white Libyan 'rebels' doing the alleged lynching.” (“African Union, Destroy It: The Secret Agenda of America and the EU,” 3/7/11)

Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report also commented that a “racist pogrom is raging against the 1.5 million sub-Saharan Black African migrant workers who do the hard jobs in Libya, work that is rejected by the relatively prosperous Libyans.

"Hundreds of Black migrant workers have already been killed by anti-Khadafi forces – yet the U.S. corporate media express absolutely no concern for their safety. One western report noted that large numbers of Black Africans were seized in Benghazi, and were assumed to have been hanged. That is a war crime, whether these men were soldiers or migrant workers, but the western correspondent seemed unconcerned.

"One suspects there are many atrocities occurring in the rebel-held areas of Libya, especially against people that are not members of the locally dominant tribe. Benghazi is not Tahrir Square, in Cairo.”

Reliable confirmation of any of these accusations is officially unavailable because, as Human Rights Watch observed, reporting by all members of the media has been “irresponsible,” “lazy,” and not based on actual investigation. They should have added “racist.”

Democracy Now's Anjali Kamat says these crimes against Black Africans are the result of “populist rage,” and assures us that the rebellious members of the “popular uprising” have promised to stem the tide of racism.

It is estimated that there were between 1.5 million to 2 million foreign workers in Libya, employed in all types of positions from technical experts and laborers in oil related activities, to service and domestic workers. Apparently none of them had felt any need to flee Libya before the revolt began on February 17.

Who and what caused hundreds of thousands to run for the borders attempting to escape Libya with what ever possessions they could carry? Reflecting on this question, Diana Johnstone doubts that the refugees fled persecution from Qaddafi, the man who encouraged them to come to Libya to fill essential jobs and develop Libya's infrastructure.

“Rather,” she states, “it is fairly clear that some of the 'democratic' rebels have attacked the foreign workers out of pure xenophobia. Qaddafi's openness to Africans in particular is resented by a certain number of Arabs.” Nevertheless, that these workers are fleeing Qaddafi seems to be the unquestioned assumption of the Western press.

Repeated statements that Qaddafi is murdering his own people, are backed up by telephone calls from one Libyan family member to another who then passes the information onto American and British reporters, who in turn broadcast the phone call to listeners literally all day long.

I keep waiting for a report or investigation and body count, or description of the injured by an official on-site witness. Nothing, just the repetitive taped phone call: “I talked to my cousin who lives in that town, and he says....”

Are these casualties from the well-armed opposition forces engaged in battle with the government military? Are they civilians? A house was bombed. News of the bombing of that house was repeated every half-hour on NPR.

There was a brief report some days ago that the heavily armed rebels had burned down government buildings. As others have pointed out, we are not talking about government soldiers firing on “peaceful protesters.”

Even though he is certain Qaddafi is “a guy who has already shown a willingness to kill civilian protesters that are his own countrymen,” CNBC senior editor, John Carney, is not in favor of bombing Libya and setting up the no-fly zone. No photos and no investigative reporters' first-hand account of those dead Libyan civilians were provided to back up Carney's certainty.

Opposition reports that on February 22, Qaddafi had bombed civilians in Benghazi, were again not investigated or verified. However, other sources, including Russia Today (RT), reported that the US and NATO were aware of Russian satellite images showing no air strikes in Libya that day.

The BBC insists it is impossible to know what is going on in areas where there are large populations of Qaddafi supporters. Foreign reporters, they say, can't get into Tripoli for example.

(After weeks of audibly snickering at Libyan government officials interviewed, and reporting that Qaddafi and his troops were committing crimes against humanity ‒ and that anyone cooperating with him would be subject to the same international legal procedures reserved for war criminals ‒ three British reporters apparently were taken to Tripoli against their will, but not treated to the usual Libyan hospitality. Gadhafi Troops Detain, Beat BBC News Team,UPI.com, 3/10/11) Gadhafi troops detain, beat BBC news team,UPI.com, 3/10/11)

However, non-Western reporters have been reporting from Tripoli, and several current video interviews with families and groups of people of all ages, good-naturedly talking with reporters can be seen on RT. Boys and girls, men and women cheerfully express their support for Qaddafi and invite “foreign reporters” (including Al Jazeera; or, especially Al Jazeera) to come to Tripoli to see what is actually going on. “Does this look like a war-torn area to you?” a young man asks as he gestures toward a crowed avenue of casual pedestrians, shoppers, children at play, and families on park benches.

In their news reports from Libya, RT includes recent interviews with Americans seldom heard from in US corporate media, like Danny Schechter, American film maker (known as “The News Dissector” of Cambridge in the 6o's), and Sara Flounders, Co-director of International Action Center. (RT News Videos: Tripoli Under Fire In Media Information War; Money As a Weapon In West's War on Libya; 3/8/11).

It is not only the Western news media that seem to have lost any sense of objectivity as they romanticize the opposition's attempts to topple Qaddafi and claim Libya as their own. In my neck of the woods, there is a loud silence on Left side of this issue. The usually quite outspoken and easily mobilized human rights and anti-war activists are strangely mute.

One hears no public criticism of the exaggeratedly biased corporate and “alternative” media coverage. No recognition that here we go again on a “humanitarian” war of liberation to save a foreign nation from another Hitler-like, Saddam-incarnate, diabolic ruler.

When pushed for a private opinion some will assert, in sotto voce , that they would not like to see US military intervention in Libya, of course. But then, with heightened intensity and a sharper tone, they quickly confirm their hatred for that murderous devil Qaddafi, and pray that a younger generation will oust him from power. Others, with perhaps less emotional involvement in Middle East politics, ponder how one mounts a protest against US “humanitarian intervention” that won't be misunderstood as support for Qaddafi.

You cannot have it both ways. Vilifying Qaddafi as a homicidal, suicidal criminal cannibalizing his own kin, while at the same time opposing US military intervention, may not make sense to those “masses” the American Left hopes to eventually enlist in a “mass movement.”

Along these lines, author and teacher Jean Bricmont points out: “It is difficult for ordinary citizens to know exactly what is going on in Libya because Western media have thoroughly discredited themselves in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine, and alternative sources are not always reliable either. That of course does not prevent the pro-war left from being absolutely convinced of the truth of the worst reports about Qaddafi, just as they were twelve years ago about Milosevic.”

Bricmont also criticizes the “radical” Left, which he says “often manages both to denounce Western governments in every possible way and to demand that those same governments intervene militarily around the globe to defend democracy. Their lack of political reflection makes them highly vulnerable to disinformation campaigns and to becoming passive cheerleaders of US-NATO wars.(“Libya and The Return of Humanitarian Imperialism,” Counterpunch.org, 3/8/11)

The ability of another leftist political author, Diana Johnstone, to take the pulse of European Left and also diagnose them “cheerleaders for war” leaves me breathless. As does the thought of a US-led bombing of Libya.

In this regard, we do not have to look to the Left for pro-war pep rallies. I nominate the BBC's Pascale Harter, head cheerleader. On March 9, she told the listening audience that the importance of establishing a no-fly zone would basically be “symbolic” to “help boost the morale” of the self-appointed National Council of rebels who intend to govern Libya.

There is something new about the way deeply affectionate tones are used to embrace biased reporting in support of war these days. Whatever the reason, Harter seems blind to the real consequences of bombing raids she passionately promotes. Not so Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has laid it out in spades: “Let’s just call a spade a spade,” Mr. Gates told Congress. “A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses. That’s the way you do a no-fly zone. And then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down. But that’s the way it starts.” (NYT 3/4/11)

Speaking to a House Committee, Defense Secretary Gates stressed that “creating a no-fly zone would have to begin with an attack on Libya.” (CNN 3/2/11). During an interview with the BBC (3/9/11), Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, set out the implications of a no-fly zone in more detail. He explained that due to the US bombing raids on Libyan cities in the 1980's, Qaddafi has built extensive anti-aircraft installations everywhere, especially near crowded urban areas.

Consequently, Zunes' analysis is that it would take a great deal of bombing to destroy these defensive installations, with a high probability there would be large numbers of civilian causalities. Zunes points out that the recent self-appointed Council of rebels does not represent the whole of the opposition, nor the whole of Libyan society, and certainly not the large number of Qaddafi supporters and government armed forces. “Right now it is a civil war.”

He says it would have to get a lot worse before he could accept justification for “humanitarian intervention” in the form of bombing Libya and imposing a no-fly zone. Although Zunes is explicit about his support for anti-Qaddafi forces, he reminds the idealistic BBC reporter that “supporting an armed faction usually doesn't result in a democratic government” and that “martial law is not a good way to bring about representative government.”

And the Winner is......??!

“Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has told the Wall Street Journal that Israel may soon seek an additional $20 billion in military aid from the United States in light of the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. Barak told the paper, 'It might be wise to invest another $20 billion to upgrade the security of Israel for the next generation or so. A strong, responsible Israel can become a stabilizer in such a turbulent region'."

Israel already receives $3 billion in military aid a year from the United States. But the big door prize and the oil bucks, as we all know, go to the US and its closest Western allies; while the big losers will inevitably be the majority of Libya's six million people, “those who just want the peace they had and don't care who is in charge as long as there is stability...a mixed group of tribal and city folk...[who] did not flee when Qaddafi was in charge...people [who] do not flee the safety of their homes, farms, jobs or whatever unless they fear a new situation.”

In that case, their story is yet to be told. They are not among the handful of individuals interviewed by the Western media, and not among the glorious rebels embraced by that same media.

Mary Lynn Cramer



Monday, March 7, 2011

Fidel Castro on NATO'S Inevitable War in Libya

In contrast with what is happening in Egypt and Tunisia, Libya occupies the first spot on the Human Development Index for Africa and it has the highest life expectancy on the continent. Education and health receive special attention from the State. The cultural level of its population is without a doubt the highest. Its problems are of a different sort. The population wasn't lacking food and essential social services. The country needed an abundant foreign labour force to carry out ambitious plans for production and social development.

For that reason, it provided jobs for hundreds of thousands of workers from Egypt, Tunisia, China and other countries. It had enormous incomes and reserves in convertible currencies deposited in the banks of the wealthy countries from which they acquired consumer goods and even sophisticated weapons that were supplied exactly by the same countries that today want to invade it in the name of human rights.

Colossal Campaign of Lies

The colossal campaign of lies, unleashed by the mass media, resulted in great confusion in world public opinion. Some time will go by before we can reconstruct what has really happened in Libya, and we can separate the true facts from the false ones that have been spread.

Serious and prestigious broadcasting companies such as Telesur, saw themselves with the obligation to send reporters and cameramen to the activities of one group and those on the opposing side, so that they could inform about what was really happening.

Communications were blocked, honest diplomatic officials were risking their lives going through neighbourhoods and observing activities, day and night, in order to inform about what was going on. The empire and its main allies used the most sophisticated media to divulge information about the events, among which one had to deduce the shreds of the truth.

Without any doubt, the faces of the young people who were protesting in Benghazi, men, and women wearing the veil or without the veil, were expressing genuine indignation.

One is able to see the influence that the tribal component still exercises on that Arab country, despite the Muslim faith that 95% of its population sincerely shares.

Taking Advantage of Internal Conflict in Libya

Imperialism and NATO ‒ seriously concerned by the revolutionary wave unleashed in the Arab world, where a large part of the oil is generated that sustains the consumer economy of the developed and rich countries ‒ could not help but take advantage of the internal conflict arising in Libya so that they could promote military intervention. The statements made by the United States administration right from the first instant were categorical in that sense.

The circumstances could not be more propitious. In the November elections, the Republican right-wing struck a resounding blow on President Obama, an expert in rhetoric.

The fascist "mission accomplished" group, now backed ideologically by the extremists of the Tea Party, reduced the possibilities of the current president to a merely decorative role in which even his health program and the dubious economic recovery were in danger as a result of the budget deficit and the uncontrollable growth of the public debt which were breaking all historical records.

Rebel Leaders Reject Foreign Military Intervention

In spite of the flood of lies and the confusion that was created, the US could not drag China and the Russian Federation to the approval by the Security Council for a military intervention in Libya, even though it managed to obtain however, in the Human Rights Council, approval of the objectives it was seeking at that moment. In regards to a military intervention, the Secretary of State stated in words that admit not the slightest doubt: "no option is being ruled out".

The real fact is that Libya is now wrapped up in a civil war, as we had foreseen, and the United Nations could do nothing to avoid it, other than its own Secretary General sprinkling the fire with a goodly dose of fuel.

The problem that perhaps the actors were not imagining is that the very leaders of the rebellion were bursting into the complicated matter declaring that they were rejecting all foreign military intervention.

Various news agencies informed that Abdelhafiz Ghoga, spokesperson for the Committee of the Revolution stated on Monday the 28th that "'The rest of Libya shall be liberated by the Libyan people'".

"We are counting on the army to liberate Tripoli' assured Ghoga during the announcement of the formation of a 'National Council' to represent the cities of the country in the hands of the insurrection."

"'What we want is intelligence information, but in no case that our sovereignty is affected in the air, on land or on the seas', he added during an encounter with journalists in this city located 1000 kilometres to the east of Tripoli."

"The intransigence of the people responsible for the opposition on national sovereignty was reflecting the opinion being spontaneously manifested by many Libyan citizens to the international press in Benghazi", informed a dispatch of the AFP agency this past Monday.

“We Know What Happened In Iraq”

That same day, a political sciences professor at the University of Benghazi, Abeir Imneina, stated:

"There is very strong national feeling in Libya."

"'Furthermore, the example of Iraq strikes fear in the Arab world as a whole', she underlined, in reference to the American invasion of 2003 that was supposed to bring democracy to that country and then, by contagion, to the region as a whole, a hypothesis totally belied by the facts."

The professor goes on:

"'We know what happened in Iraq, it's that it is fully unstable and we really don't want to follow the same path. We don't want the Americans to come to have to go crying to Gaddafi', this expert continued."

"But according to Abeir Imneina, 'there also exists the feeling that this is our revolution, and that it is we who have to make it'."

A few hours after this dispatch was printed, two of the main press bodies of the United States, The New York Times and The Washington Post, hastened to offer new versions on the subject; the DPA agency informs on this on the following day, March the first: "The Libyan opposition could request that the West bomb from the air strategic positions of the forces loyal to President Muamar al Gaddafi, the US press informed today."

"The subject is being discussed inside the Libyan Revolutionary Council, 'The New York Times' and 'The Washington Post' specified in their online versions."

"'The New York Times' notes that these discussions reveal the growing frustration of the rebel leaders in the face of the possibility that Gaddafi should retake power".

"In the event that air actions are carried out within the United Nations framework, these would not imply international intervention, explained the council's spokesperson, quoted by The New York Times".

"The council is made up of lawyers, academics, judges and prominent members of Libyan society."

The dispatch states:

"'The Washington Post' quoted rebels acknowledging that, without Western backing, combat with the forces loyal to Gaddafi could last a long time and cost many human lives."

Who are These “Prominent Members of Society” Demanding Bombing in Order to Kill Libyans?

It is noteworthy that in that regard, not one single worker, peasant or builder is mentioned, not anyone related to material production or any young student or combatant among those who take part in the demonstrations. Why the effort to present the rebels as prominent members of society demanding bombing by the US and NATO in order to kill Libyans?

Some day we shall know the truth, through persons such as the political sciences professor from the University of Benghazi who, with such eloquence, tells of the terrible experience that killed, destroyed homes, left millions of persons in Iraq without jobs or forced them to emigrate.

Today on Wednesday, the second of March, the EFE Agency presents the well-known rebel spokesperson making statements that, in my opinion, affirm and at the same time contradict those made on Monday: "Benghazi (Libya), March 2. The rebel Libyan leadership today asked the UN Security Council to launch an air attack 'against the mercenaries' of the Muamar el Gaddafi regime."

"'Our Army cannot launch attacks against the mercenaries, due to their defensive role', stated the spokesperson for the rebels, Abdelhafiz Ghoga, at a press conference in Benghazi."

"'A strategic air attack is different from a foreign intervention which we reject', emphasized the spokesperson for the opposition forces which at all times have shown themselves to be against a foreign military intervention in the Libyan conflict".

Which One of the Many Imperialist Wars Would This Look Like?

Which One of the Many Imperialist Wars Would This Look Like? The one in Spain in 1936? Mussolini's against Ethiopia in 1935? George W. Bush's against Iraq in the year 2003 or any other of the dozens of wars promoted by the United States against the peoples of the Americas, from the invasion of Mexico in 1846 to the invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982?

Without excluding, of course, the mercenary invasion of the Bay of Pigs, the dirty war and the blockade of our Homeland throughout 50 years, that will have another anniversary next April 16th.

In all those wars, like that of Vietnam which cost millions of lives, the most cynical justifications and measures prevailed.

For anyone harbouring any doubts, about the inevitable military intervention that shall occur in Libya, the AP news agency, which I consider to be well-informed, headlined a cable printed today which stated: "The NATO countries are drawing up a contingency plan taking as its model the flight exclusion zones established over the Balkans in the 1990s, in the event that the international community decides to impose an air embargo over Libya, diplomats said".

Further on it concludes: "Officials, who were not able to give their names due to the delicate nature of the matter, indicated that the opinions being observed start with the flight exclusion zone that the western military alliance imposed over Bosnia in 1993 that had the mandate of the Security Council, and with the NATO bombing in Kosovo in 1999, THAT DID NOT HAVE IT".

When at just 27 years old Gaddafi, colonel in the Libyan army, inspired by his Egyptian colleague Abdel Nasser, overthrew King Idris I in 1969, he applied important revolutionary measures such as agrarian reform and the nationalization of oil. The growing incomes were dedicated to economic and social development, particularly education and health services for the reduced Libyan population living in the immense desert territory with very little available farm land.

Beneath that desert was an immense deep ocean of fossil waters. I had the impression, when I learned about an experimental farming area, that this would be more beneficial in the future than oil.

Religion, preached with the fervour that characterizes the Muslim peoples, was helping in part to balance the strong tribal tendency that still survives in that Arab country.

The Libyan revolutionaries drew up and applied their own ideas in regards to the legal and political institutions which Cuba, as a norm, respected.

We refrained completely from giving opinions about the conceptions of the Libyan leadership.

Basic US Concern is Not Libya but the Revolutionary Wave Being Unleashed in the Arab World

We see clearly that the basic concern of the United States and NATO is not Libya, but the revolutionary wave being unleashed in the Arab world, something they would like to prevent at any cost.

It is an irrefutable fact that relations between the US and its NATO allies with Libya in recent years were excellent, before the rebellions loomed up in Egypt and Tunisia.

At senior level meetings between Libya and the NATO leaders, nobody had any problems with Gaddafi. The country was a sure supply source of top-quality oil, gas and even potassium. The problems arising between them during the first decades had been overcome.

Strategic sectors such as oil production and distribution opened their doors to foreign investment.

Privatization reached many public corporations. The World Monetary Fund exercised its beatific role in the orchestration of these operations.

As logic would have it, Aznar piled lavish praise on Gaddafi and on the heels of Blair, Berlusconi, Sarkozy, Zapatero and even my friend the King of Spain, they paraded under the mocking gaze of the Libyan leader. They were happy.

Although it may appear that I am being facetious, that's not the case; I merely wonder why they now want to invade Libya and haul Gaddafi up in front of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

They are accusing him, 24 hours a day, of shooting against unarmed demonstrating citizens. Why don't they explain to the world that the weapons, and especially all the sophisticated repressive equipment Libya possesses, were provided by the United States, Great Britain and the other illustrious hosts of Gaddafi?

Cynicism and Lies

I am against the cynicism and the lies that they are now using in an attempt to justify the invasion and occupation of Libya.

The last time I visited Gaddafi was in May of 2001, 15 years after Reagan attacked his rather modest residence where he took me to show me how it had been left. It received a direct air hit and was considerable destroyed; his little three-year-old daughter died in the attack: she was murdered by Ronald Reagan. There was no prior agreement by NATO, the Human Rights Council, not even the Security Council.

My earlier visit had taken place in 1977, eight years after the start of the Libyan revolutionary process. I visited Tripoli; I participated in the Libyan Peoples' Congress in Sebha; I toured the first experimental farms using the waters extracted from the immense sea of fossil water; I saw Benghazi and I received a warm reception. This was a legendary country that had been the stage for historic battles in the last world war. At the time the population barely reached six million, nor were they aware of the enormous volume of light oil and fossil water. By then the former Portuguese African colonies had been liberated.

In Angola, we had fought for 15 years against the mercenary gangs organized by the United States on tribal bases, the Mobutu government, and the well-armed and trained racist apartheid army. That army, following instructions of the United States, as we know today, invaded Angola to prevent its independence in 1975, reaching the outskirts of Luanda with their motorized troops. Several Cuban instructors died in that brutal invasion. With the utmost urgency we sent resources.

Ejected from the country by internationalist Cuban troops and the Angolans, right up to the border with Namibia that was occupied by South Africa, for 13 years the racists received the mission of liquidating the revolutionary process in Angola.

With the backing of the United States and Israel they developed nuclear weapons. They already had that weapon when Cuban and Angolan troops defeated their land and air forces in Cuito Cuanavale and, confronting the risks, using conventional tactics and weapons, advanced to the Namibian border where the apartheid troops wanted to put up resistance. Twice in their history our troops have been under the risk of being attacked by these kinds of weapons: in October 1962 and in southern Angola, but on that second occasion, not even using the weapons that South Africa possessed would they have been able to prevent the defeat that marked the end of the odious system. The events occurred under the Ronald Reagan government in the United States and that of Pieter Botha in South Africa.

No one speaks about that, and about the hundreds of thousands of lives that were the toll of the imperialist exploit.

I regret having to remember these facts when another great risk hovers over the Arab peoples, because they do not resign themselves to continue being the victims of pillage and oppression.

Arab Revolution Against Privileges

The revolution in the Arab world, so feared by the US and NATO, is the revolution of those who lack all their rights in the face of those who wield all the privileges, thus called the most profound revolution since the one which burst on Europe in 1789 with the storming of the Bastille.

Not even Louis XIV, when he proclaimed that he was the State, had the privileges that King Abdul of Saudi Arabia possesses, and much less than the immense wealth that lies beneath the surface of this practically desert-covered country where Yankee transnationals determine extraction and thus, the price of oil in the world.

Starting with the crisis in Libya, extractions in Saudi Arabia reached a million barrels a day, at a minimal cost and, as a result, for just this reason, the incomes of that country and those controlling it are reaching a billion dollars a day.

Nobody imagines, of course, that the Saudi people are swimming in money. It is heartrending to read about the living conditions of many of the construction workers and those in other sectors, who are forced to work 13 and 14 hour days for miserable salaries.

Alarmed by the revolutionary wave that is shaking the prevailing system of plunder, after what has happened in Egypt and Tunisia with the workers, but also because of the unemployed youth in Jordan, the occupied territories in Palestine, Yemen and even Bahrain and the Arab Emirates with their higher incomes, the Saudi upper hierarchy is under the impact of these events.

Unlike other times, today the Arab peoples receive almost instant information about what is happening, even if it is being extraordinarily manipulated.

The worst thing for the status quo of the privileged sectors is that the stubborn events are coinciding with a considerable increase in the price of foods and the devastating effect of climate change, while the US, the biggest producer of corn in the world, uses up 40 percent of that subsidized product and a large part of soy to produce biofuel to feed automobiles. Surely Lester Brown, the American ecologist who is the best-informed on agricultural products, can give us an idea about the current food situation.

Bolivarian President Hugo Chávez is making a brave attempt to seek a solution without NATO intervention in Libya. His possibilities of reaching his objective would be increased if he would attain the feat of creating a broad movement of opinion before and not after the intervention happens, and the peoples don't see a repetition in other countries of the atrocious Iraqi experience.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Protests Spread Throughout Arabian Peninsula



Renewed popular protests hit Yemen, Oman and Bahrain yesterday. In addition to the increasing instability of regimes already facing mass opposition, there are signs that the protests that spread from Tunisia and Egypt to the Arabian Peninsula may also overtake Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

In Yemen, mass protests took place throughout the country against US-backed President Ali Abdullah Saleh, while opposition parties—in an about-face from their position on Sunday—refused to participate in a unity government with Saleh. Protests have shaken the Saleh regime since February 11.

Tens of thousands marched in a “day of rage” protest in the capital, Sanaa, demanding an end to bloodshed against demonstrators and Saleh’s departure from power. According to Xinhua, roughly 5,000 people traveled 60 kilometers from Dhamar province to join the protests in Sanaa.

Government supporters reportedly organized another rally in Sanaa, attended by a few thousand people. It called for the resumption of dialog between the ruling party and the opposition to avoid further violence.

Demonstrations took place throughout the country, including in Dhamar, Ibb, Taiz, Aden, Abyan, Shabwa, Al-Bayda and Hadramout provinces. The Ibb protest reportedly gathered 10,000 people. Protests in Aden, the port city that has seen 24 of the 27 confirmed deaths at the hands of state forces, reportedly focused on commemorating those who had been killed.

Saleh simultaneously denounced the protests as orchestrated by Israel and the US and attempted to placate protesters’ anger. He ordered an investigation into the killing of demonstrators in Aden. He also sacked five provincial governors amid reports of violence against protesters in their areas. These included Aden Governor Adnan al-Jefri, Hadramout Governor Salim al-Khanbashi, Al-Hodayda Governor Ahmed al-Jabali, Abyan Governor Ahmed al-Maisary, and Lahj Governor Muhsin al-Naqib. They all received other government posts, however.

Saleh was forced to postpone talks on a unity government with the Joint Meeting Parties. The bourgeois opposition coalition formed in 2006 includes the Islamist Islah Party, the nationalist Popular Nasserist Organization, and the Yemen Socialist Party (YSP), which ruled South Yemen prior to the reunification of Yemen in 1990.

On February 28, its spokesman, Mohammed al-Mutawakil, said the party would “be ready to take part in the joint unity government with the ruling party.” It demanded only that Saleh resign from posts in the army and finance ministry. Yesterday, the Joint Meeting Parties indicated that they would participate in government only if Saleh stepped down.

Tribal leaders and southern separatists are turning against Saleh. Sheikh Hamid ben Abdallah Al-Ahmar, a leader of both the Hached tribe and the Islah party, reportedly endorsed the call for the removal of Saleh last week, together with leaders of the Baqil tribe.

Yassin Ahmad Saleh Qadih, a leader of the separatist Southern Movement, announced that he would push for a referendum on separation after Saleh falls. Though it has only 5.5 million people, compared to 18 million in the north, the south is wealthier and produces most of the country’s daily oil output of 300,000 barrels. Saleh reportedly has warned that the partition of Yemen would break the country into many pieces.

Yemen specialist Gregory Johnsen told the New York Times: “A lot of people are really worried about what happens the day after Saleh is gone. No one knows where the different tribal groupings would land.” Saleh’s Sanhan tribe controls Yemen’s military and intelligence agencies.

In the industrial and port city of Sohar, in northern Oman, the army yesterday again fired on protesters demanding jobs and reform of the absolute monarchy of Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Only one person was reported wounded. The reported death toll for Sunday’s protests was increased to six, however.

Troops and armored vehicles occupied the Globe Roundabout in Sohar, which had attracted up to 2,000 people in previous protests. Protesters blockaded the Sohar port, however, and Westerners in the port management briefly left Sohar for the capital of Oman, Muscat. According to the Tehran Times, protesters demanded that “the benefits of our oil wealth” be “distributed evenly.”

Protesters in Muscat gathered around the buildings of the Shura Council, an advisory body that counsels Sultan Qaboos, demanding jobs, higher salaries and freedom of the press.

Sultan Qaboos issued a statement promising to create 50,000 jobs, implement a $390 per month unemployment benefit, and study the possibility of widening the powers of the advisory council. On Saturday he sacked six cabinet ministers and increased the minimum wage by 40 percent.

Oman is a strategic country located across the Arabian Sea from Iran and astride the narrow Strait of Hormuz, through which Persian Gulf oil exports must travel. The US has backed Qaboos. US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, “We have been in touch with the government and encouraged restraint and to resolve differences through dialog.” There are no opposition parties in Oman because political parties are illegal there.

Thousands of protesters again demonstrated in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, against the Al-Khalifa dynasty that has ruled Bahrain for 200 years. The protesters marched from Salmaniah district to Pearl Square, the central square around which anti-government protests have rallied in recent weeks. Demonstrators opposed attempts to divide them along sectarian lines, chanting: “We are brothers, Sunnis and Shiites. The people want the fall of the regime.”

Bahrain hosts a major naval base for the US Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf and has close security ties with Saudi Arabia. The Saudi armed forces intervened in Bahrain after popular protests developed there in 1996.

Crude oil prices rose yesterday on reports that 30 Saudi tanks had been transported to Bahrain. Bahraini officials denied the report, though they confirmed the movement of tanks across the border.

“There are no Saudi Arabian tanks in Bahrain,” the officials said. “Tanks identified on Monday evening were Bahraini tanks returning from Kuwait National Day celebrations, where military from several Allied countries participated.”

There are indications that protests may also spread to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, two oppressive pro-US monarchies that are critical to the world oil trade.

In Kuwait, a youth group called the Fifth Fence has announced plans for a March 8 protest outside the country’s parliament. Opposition parties in Kuwait have called for the ouster of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the nephew of Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

In Saudi Arabia, Internet activists have set up Facebook pages calling for protests on March 11 and March 20, largely based on demands for elections to the Shura Assembly. These pages have attracted 17,000 supporters. However, press reports point out that in 2004 Saudi security forces were able to disperse protests in Riyadh and Jeddah by force, and Saudi officials are monitoring the Facebook pages.

Protests could intensify divisions inside the ruling Saudi monarchy. The UPI press agency noted: “The kingdom faces a potentially touchy royal succession, complicated by the advanced age of the country’s top leaders. King Abdallah, Crown Price Sultan, Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Prince Nayef, and Riyadh Governor Prince Salman are all in their 80s.”

From WSWS

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Libya: Imperialist Powers Accelerating Plans for Military Intervention

The situation in Libya is threatening a major world oil price shock and a sharp downturn in the US economy. On Thursday, Obama underscored this concern when he addressed corporate executives assembled for the “President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.”

Speaking of oil prices, he declared, “We actually think that we’ll be able to ride out the Libya situation and it will stabilise.” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sought to allay concerns by stressing the excess oil producing capacity of other OPEC member states.

A US military operation in Libya would have nothing to do with defending the population against Gaddafi’s violence or establishing “democracy” in the country. When the regime first unleashed a wave of carnage against opposition forces, Obama’s initial response was to say nothing, apparently waiting to see if Gaddafi’s forces would quickly regain control.

The dictator has enjoyed the warmest of relations with the US and European powers in recent years, having junked barriers previously erected against the operations of foreign oil companies in Libya and declared his full support for the so-called war on terror.

Western governments regarded with alarm the spread into Libya of the North African uprising of workers and youth. Obama was not alone in his prevarication as reports of Gaddafi government massacres first emerged. TheGuardian today reported that the British government’s delay in preparing to evacuate its citizens from the country was primarily due to commercial considerations.

Unnamed officials told the newspaper that the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government of Prime Minister David Cameron had “hesitated because it was concerned about the Libyan response to a hurried decision to evacuate UK citizens from a country with which it was still keen to do lucrative business and in whose future it had invested heavily.”

Only now that Gaddafi has lost control of the majority of Libyan territory and proven unable to crush the opposition have the US and European governments moved against him. They fear the consequences for their economic and strategic interests of a power vacuum or protracted civil war in Libya.

It remains to be seen whether a military intervention eventuates, but there is ongoing discussion of an initial imposition of a “no-fly” zone. James Phillips, a Middle East expert at the Heritage Foundation, admitted to USA Todaythat this “would amount to military action,” adding it “should be used a last resort.”

The systematic US bombardment of Iraqi targets in the 1990s demonstrated the aggressive character of “no fly” zones. The establishment of one over Libya would almost certainly result in deadly air strikes.

The US and international media have thrown their weight behind the US and European governments’ humanitarian posturing, reviving the pretexts that were used as a cover for US-led interventions in the Balkans in the 1990s. On Thursday, the Financial Times recalled US President Ronald Reagan’s denunciation of Gaddafi in an editorial entitled “Time to Muzzle Libya’s Mad Dog.” The London-based publication demanded an immediate no-fly zone and the opening up of “humanitarian corridors” from Tunisia and Egypt.

The same theme was sounded by the New York Times in its editorial “Stopping Gaddafi.” Halting just short of openly demanding military intervention, the newspaper declared: “After Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda, the United States and its allies vowed that they would work harder to stop mass atrocities. One thing is not in doubt: The longer the world temporizes, the more people die.”

These statements are utterly cynical and hypocritical. Less than a decade after the New YorkTimes played a central role in promoting the bogus “weapons of mass destruction” pretext for the US invasion of Iraq, it is propagandizing in support of another colonial intervention in yet another oil-rich country, Libya.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Making American Public Sector Workers Pay Instead of Greedy Corporates


In a bizarre, post-crisis turn of events, public sector activities, in general, and public sector workers, in particular, have become the targets of rightwing attacks in the US. Government spending is unsustainable it is being argued, and therefore, the public sector must be trimmed, by reducing jobs and slashing wages and benefits. It is indeed true that government spending as a percentage of GDP has risen sharply by around seven percentage points from 35 per cent to 42 percent (see Chart). But this occurred during the years after the crisis, when the government was pumping billions of dollars to bail-out the financial system that had speculated its way to failure and the firms that were damaged by the recession that ensued. It was the “subsidy” to capital rather than payments to workers that increased public spending to significantly higher levels.
It is to ostensibly address that problem, that the US House of Representatives recently approved a bill cutting spending this year by $61 billion. But the cuts don’t fall on the rich. Spending cuts, as is well known, fall heavily on social spending for the poor. Reduced social security for the poor and middle classes are the first consequences of austerity. But the impact soon goes further. It begins to adversely affect public sector employment and the benefits accruing to public sector workers.
At the moment, the attacks seem sharper in the states. In Wisconsin, for example, public sector workers are protesting an effort by Republican governor Scott Walker to reduce their benefits and limit their collective bargaining rights. Governor Walker wants workers to contribute more to their pension and health care plans, to roll back wage increases and limit the length of employment contracts. He also wants to bar most state and local government employees from negotiating on issues like benefits and work conditions. In addition, he is working to weaken unions by requiring them to face an annual vote to retain recognition, while pressuring workers to stop paying union dues and resign from union membership.
The reason for the attack is a budgetary deficit that is projected to touch $3 billion. The argument is that public sector pay and benefits are now way out of line with that in the private sector, necessitating some sacrifice on the part of these workers to redress imbalances in public finances. This is an argument that is being pursued in other states as well: New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee and Indiana among them. And these states see the standoff between the unions and government in Wisconsin as the test of whether they can get their own public sector workers to accept austerity to resolve at least partly their fiscal problems.
Budgetary shortfalls are not, however, engineered by workers. They reflect the fact that governments have not been able to keep revenues buoyant as expenditures rise. One reason is the increasing reticence of governments to tax their citizens and their proclivity to offer huge tax concessions, especially to the more well to do among them. This inability to get citizens, especially the rich, to finance through taxes the social services and infrastructure they benefit from is one among the many failures inherent in a neoliberal ethos that celebrates the market and the wealth derived by a few from its workings. Seen in that light the attack on public sector workers is not the solution to the public sector crisis, but a way of diverting attention from its real sources and origins.
This reasoning is supported by the fact that judging by relative circumstances, Wisconsin should not be a state that should consider forcing public workers to tighten their belts to resolve the fiscal crisis and release resources to support a recovery. The state’s deficits are nowhere near the top of the league table in the US. Its unemployment rate is, at 7.5 percent, below the national average. And, its pension fund is assessed as being relatively robust. Ideologically, the attack on the public sector in the state of Wisconsin originates elsewhere and not in a fiscal crisis.
The attack on public sector workers is not a marginal issue. Such workers in state and city governments and educational institutions total 19.4 million and account for close to 15 per cent of the workforce in the US. Their significance does not stop here. Over the last four and half decades, the unionised segment of the non-agricultural workforce has collapsed from close to a third to just above 12 per cent. Much of the decline has been in the private sector, which has managed to push workers out of unions. According to figures from the Bureau of Labour Statistics, in 2009, the number of unionised public-sector employees (7.9 million) rose above that of private-sector employees (7.4 million), even though public sector workers are a minority even in the non-agricultural sector. Attacking unions in the public sector is, therefore, a larger attack on collective bargaining.
That attack comes at a time when workers are at the losing end of a sharp shift in the distribution of incomes. Workers wages and benefits have stagnated in real terms in the US for a long time now. On the other hand, incomes of the super-rich have exploded. According to University of Massachusetts economists Robert Pollin and Jeffrey Thomson, “during the economic expansion and Wall Street bubble years of 2002–07, the average incomes of the richest 1 percent of households rose by about 10 percent per year, more than three times that for all households. The richest 1 percent received fully 65 percent of all household income growth between 2002–07.”
Rather than tax these surpluses at the top of the pyramid to help resolve the crisis, the right has decided to shift attention to a small segment of the workforce they mistakenly claim is pampered. It is indeed true that the public sector is the standard bearer for the terms and conditions that constitute decent work. But that standard is not extravagant. For similar qualifications and experience public sector workers in the US earn less than those in the private sector. And even those terms have not been garnered with ease. Using the unavoidable public accountability of government, to sustain unions in the public sector, has ensured them. That union strength has in turn been used to win and retain better employment terms and conditions.
This points to points to the real factors explaining the effort to bash the public sector and its workers. It is part of an effort to weaken unions and dilute the standards to which private workers would aspire for. This would make stagnant real wages, deteriorating work conditions and high unemployment appear to be the unavoidable lot of the many, who will not have options to turn to and better conditions to look to and aspire for. Even when there is enough money to dole out concessions to the rich.
What is shocking is the context in which this occurs. America’s government has just poured billion of dollars to buy up worthless toxic assets, render banks that speculated their way to near bankruptcy solvent, and offer cheap credit to speculators who put their institutions and the country’s economy at peril, so that they can bounce back to profits and pay themselves big bonuses. The attack on public sector unions is only an effort to cover up these unjustifiable actions.
By CP Chandrashekhar/thehindu.com

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tom Morello Rages Against Anti-Union Bill at Wisconsin Rally, Denounces 'Mubarak of Midwest'


Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello spent Monday at the Wisconsin protests, performing acoustic songs at a rally and delivering a fiery speech to the thousands inside of the capital rotunda who are protesting Governor Walker’s attempt to end the right of state employees to collectively bargain.

"What's happened so far might be the most inspiring 24 hours of my life as an activist," Morello tells Rolling Stone. "I've never seen this kind of outpouring of unapologetic, steel-backboned support for union causes in the United States. The Madison police were delivering bratwurst to the protesters inside the capitol, and the kids were thanking them. It was unbelievable."

At a freezing cold rally outside of the capital, Morello was joined by Rise Against frontman Tim Mcilrath, Wayne Kramer of the MC5 and Boston folk group Street Dogs. The show mixed classics like Neil Young's "Ohio," Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up" and Morello's driving acoustic version of Rage Against the Machine's "Guerilla Radio." "No matter what Gov. Walker, the Mubarak of the Midwest, says, this land is your land," Morello said before singing Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land." "Never give up and never give in!"

If Governor Walker’s bill passes, it would effectively destroy Wisconsin’s civil servant unions; many fear that other Republican-controlled states would attempt to follow suit. "I come from a coal-mining town in central Illinois where everybody was union," says Morello.

"For almost 30 years, my mom was a public high school teacher in Libertyville, Illinois. I grew up with a firm belief that the leverage we have as working people is through the union. It's the only counterweight to the raw greed of corporate power. For the past 22 years, I've been a union man in L.A. as a member of the Professional Musicians Local 47."

After the rally, Morello entered the packed Capitol rotunda, which had been occupied for the past week, grabbed a bullhorn, and made one of the most rousing speeches of the day. "This is what they do in times of economic crisis," Morello said.

"They think people aren't paying attention, that they can just sneak through this legislation that would rob us of decades, centuries of social progress. We didn't pick this fight. [Governor Walker] tapped us on the shoulder and said 'let's fight.' And now we're gonna knock his legislative teeth out."

Patrick Doyle/Rolling Stone

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

US Veto: Speaking With Forked-tongue

By Jim Miles
It is common within early U.S. history to describe the communications from the white settlers to the indigenous population as being done with a “forked tongue,” as described clearly by Wikipedia:

The phrase "speaks with a forked tongue" means to say one thing and mean another or, to be hypocritical, or act in a duplicitous manner. In the longstanding tradition of many Native American tribes, "speaking with a forked tongue" has meant lying, and a person was no longer considered worthy of trust, once he had been shown to "speak with a forked tongue".

The U.S. tradition of speaking with a forked tongue is long and dishonourable, as the actions taken by the U.S. for its imperial and foreign policies are as indicated hypocritical, duplicitous, and untrue.

Today’s vote at the UN continued this manner of dialogue as Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN tries to explain why the U.S. vetoed the UN vote on settlements. Her arguments and reasoning, while rhetorically sounding firm, are at best duplicitous and at worst lying by evasion.

Rice begins saying, “The United States strongly opposed continued Israeli settlement activity so our objection was not on that point.” Okay, so why then over the history of the ongoing settlements has the U.S. not done anything within its power to prevent the settlements. Words are fine, but as the Palestinians have learned on one side of the fence and the Israelis have learned on both sides of the fence, words simply allow more settlements to be built, more Palestinian land to be expropriated.

If the U.S. actually wanted to do something, they could have held back many or all of the billions in dollars of aid that it forwards each year, and could have held back much or most or all of the military equipment and technology it has transferred over each year. Actions like those would speak much louder than words.

Rice continued, “The question for us was would this resolution and its adoption advance that goal of achieving an independent Palestinian state or cause one or both parties to dig in and make it even harder to resume the very necessary process of direct negotiation?” Well, yes, it would as it would signal that perhaps the U.S. is finally reading world opinion more correctly and is at minimum willing to change some of its rhetoric if not its actions.

Two problems remain. First, the Israelis are already dug in, literally, as they have built their settlements, have built their barriers, have built their bypass roads, have built their waterworks and gas lines. They are literally dug into the Palestinian territories, as the Palestinians are slowly being ethnically cleansed from their own land.

Secondly, the “process of direct negotiations” has always been and always will be a failure, as one side with no power of any kind cannot “negotiate” with a side that has all the power, and further has all the complicit and tacit support of the world’s largest and most powerful military and economic empire.

That is sheer and utter hypocrisy - pretending to be good, moral, and ethical, while stealing what one wants - as the U.S. did in its imperial drive against the indigenous peoples of North America and as they continue to do so alongside Israel within the Palestinian territories.

On the limitations of the UN Rice says, “The United Nations cannot create an independent state of Palestine. It won’t happen. It has to be negotiated between the two parties.” This is an interesting statement as it is part of the Israeli narrative of their creation that - apart from biblical claims and following on the Balfour Declaration - the UN “legitimized” Israel when it proposed the UN partition plan.

The UN also created a series of mandates in the Middle East that the world did not seem to have too much trouble with, mainly because they carved the region up for the sake of mainly the British and French imperial interests of the time. There is no reason, other than U.S. obstructionism, that the UN could not make a declaration that there is a state of Palestine in such and such an area.

Many countries of the world, more recently the South American countries, have given recognition to a Palestine using the ‘green line’ of the 1948 war as the border. The green line is an amazing concession of territory on the part of the Palestinians, giving up eighty per cent of their territory for peace and a small remnant of their former territory.

I have already discussed the uselessness of negotiations. In addition to my earlier comments, the recent exposure of the Palestine Papers by al-Jazeera should demonstrate that, yes, there were partners for peace, and even more, partners for capitulation. The Palestinian Authority does not have legitimate authority to negotiate a settlement on behalf of any of the Palestinian people other than its own cronies and quislings attempting to preserve their elite and relatively more powerful and wealthy positions while being subservient to the Israelis.

There is no legitimate authority at the moment to negotiate with - not because there are no “partners for peace” as the Israelis and U.S. have always claimed, but because the Palestinians have not been allowed to create a truly democratic and representative bargaining committee consisting of representatives of the common people of Palestine.

As for the UN declaration, Rice says, “We can have declaration after declaration but at the end of the day they don’t create facts recordon the ground.” Well, truthfully they do, Israeli facts on the ground, as the U.S. provides a smokescreen of useless rhetoric and the lie of neutrality.

Twice Rice phrases a time line during which the U.S. has been “clear” and “consistent” with its comments on the settlements. That much the world knows, and - pardon the constant reiteration (it is what the U.S. is also very good at) - is what allows the settlements to continue unabated.

She says, “The United States has for six administrations been very clear we do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. There’s no question about that. We have been clear and unequivocal.” Later she adds, “This is not the view of the Obama administration, this is the view of the United States. We do not and have not for thirty years accepted the legitimacy of Israeli settlement activity.”

This can only be read as that the duplicity, lies, and dishonesty are consistent traits of all U.S. administrations. And even though Obama campaigned on “hope” and “change”, and then made a sort of wonderfully conciliatory speech in Cairo (and the world knows what is happening their and elsewhere in the Arab world) he too has accepted as part of his worldview that speaking with a forked tongue works well in the world of U.S. diplomacy.

When questioned on the difference between “legitimacy” and “legality”, Rice came up with the latter statement above on the thirty years of forked tongue speaking. The reality of international law is that the settlements are illegal, under several sections of the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions. Part of international law, developing from the Nuremberg trials, is that being passive in the face of internationally illegal activities makes a party complicit with the crime.

The U.S. is guilty of international crimes by supporting the Israeli crimes in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza both materially and politically, as well as supporting their illegal attacks on Lebanon.

The goal of the U.S. as stated by Rice is laughable, “The goal is to achieve a viable, independent, contiguous, and democratic Palestinian state.” Let’s work backwards on this one. When a democratic vote was taken in Palestine in 2006, Canada (being the first), the U.S., the U.K., the E.U., and other U.S. mercenary states disallowed the vote and took concrete actions, in the form of money transfers and training of the PA authorities militias in security measures that could be used against their own people.

The U.S. plays loose and fancy with democracy, and again recent events in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, and Yemen among others demonstrates the lie of the U.S. rhetoric on democracy (with U.S. puppet regime of Saudi Arabia remaining silent).

Next, a contiguous state is declared the goal. This in total denial of the hypocrisy, the double standards, the basic ignorant stupidity of all other statements about stopping settlement activity. There is no contiguous state, only a series of cantons or bantustans, or enclaves, perhaps prisons will do. This will not be undone through a series of false front negotiations that the Israelis will gladly continue for the next sixty years as they continue to claim Palestinian land.

Viability and independence are next. Another set of impossibilities for negotiations, and another full on ridiculous statement in light of the so called peace process and its total failure to do anything but create more Israeli inhabited territory.

The U.S. has continually used its forked tongue for its own benefit in any “negotiations” it has carried out. This originated from the first negotiated treaties with the indigenous people of North America - at least those that were not simply outlawed and made subject to massacres and murder without recourse to any law of any kind. It continues today with its UN rhetoric and with its rhetoric about its concerns for Palestine and Israel.

No matter how nice and kind and civilized its word, its actions are illegal under international law, and basically barbaric when it comes to human common sense. As the empire unravels, even with the violence that accompanies that, it will be better than the violence of the forked tongue empire.

Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles' work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.