Saturday, November 23, 2013

Arts of War vs Peace: Chile Rises from the Fascist Ashes

Chilean Socialism 1: Indonesian Fascism 0

by Andre Vltchek - CounterPunch

Botero – Guantanamo, exhibition in Santiago

 Several years ago, I spoke to two members of Allende’s government. Two who managed to survive. One of them recalled: “They used to threaten us, before the coup, before that terrible September 11, 1973: ‘Watch out, comrades, Jakarta is coming!’”

“We did not know much about Jakarta then,” he confessed. “Only that it was the capital of a far-away country called Indonesia… But very soon we found out…”

‘Jakarta’ is not just the capital of the fourth most populous country on earth; it is also the ‘least habitable major city in Asia Pacific’. Jakarta is also a concept, an enormous experiment on human beings, which was quickly turned into a blueprint that has later been implemented by the West all over the developing world.

The experiment was about trying to figure out this: What happens to a poor country that is hit by a brutal military coup, then thrown to religious zealots, and forced to live under the heel of extreme capitalism and fascism? And what happens if almost its entire culture gets destroyed, and instead of education, some brainwashing mechanism perfected abroad, gets implemented?

What if you kill 2-3 million people, and then you ban entire languages and cultures, theatres, art films, atheism, everything that is to the left of center?

And what if you use thugs, paramilitaries, archaic family and religious structures and a ridiculously toothless media, to maintain ‘the new order’?

The answer is this: You get your Indonesian model! Which means – almost no production, a ruined environment, collapsed infrastructure, endemic corruption, not even one sound intellectual of international caliber, and frankly speaking, a ‘functionally illiterate’ population, ignorant about the world, about its own history, and about its own position in the world.

But the most important conclusion of this ‘research’ is that after the orgy of terror in 1965 and 1966, after the millions that were killed, millions that were raped, tens of millions beaten and tortured, the result is the entire archipelago that is wholly silenced, and unable to organize any resistance. You get the archipelago that is unable to think, and which constantly repeats religious, pop and television slogans, instead of thinking about the past, present and the future.

If you are a corrupt and treasonous local ruler, or if you are the puppeteer that controls such a country from abroad, what you get is easy access to all its natural resources, a population unable to organize itself and fight for its rights, and voters indifferent to reality and unfamiliar with concepts such as dignity, and therefore ready to cast their ballot simply for a fee.

You get all this and more, and all you have to do is to make sure you butcher some 2-3% of the population, 40% of teachers, and that you rape millions of women and children, then terrify and silence all the minorities.

Indonesian fascist art.

The West hailed this as a splendid success! It congratulated “Our Man – Suharto” (In 1995, a senior Clinton administration official, commenting on the Indonesian President, Suharto, then on a state visit to Washington, referred to him as “our kind of guy.”). Murdering millions of ‘Communists’, was after all, the best way of gaining the admiration and respect of the US White House and Congress. And “selling” the country to Western companies was the most honorable and sensible path to gaining political and financial rewards from the ‘free world’.

To terrify the country, to paralyze it by fear… To strip it of all real opposition, that was exactly what was needed! Suharto and his military cronies, his generals (one of them is presently the President of Indonesia), his thugs that murdered intellectuals, teachers, writers and union leaders, all became our ‘buddies’, our ‘mates’, our ‘jolly good fellows’.

Indonesian modern art – that will really save the country.

Like those guys, who dutifully cut people to pieces, raped 14-year old girls and terrorized those people who were still willing to think and to speak, everything was shown in detail in the award winning film by Joshua Oppenheimer: “The Act of Killing”.

And what did the Indonesian viewers and TV hosts do when the thugs confessed to kill hundreds? They laughed, and cheered, and applauded!

Magnificent Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago.

In 1998, Suharto fell, but the ‘model’ survived, and it is still being promoted, and pushed down the throats of many countries all over the world. It is marketed as ‘tolerant and democratic’ by European and US government officials and certain NGO’s. This I was told, recently, by members of the diplomatic community in Cairo, Egypt, the place where the revolution was successfully derailed and destroyed, mainly from abroad.

And why should it not be promoted? This is the masterpiece of Western domination: an enormous country, fully screwed and thoroughly ruined, plundered, abandoned to the market, robbed of everything… And the people here are so conditioned, so badly educated, so uninformed, that they are thoroughly unaware of how grotesque the state of their subsistence is.

In Indonesia, for years and decades, I have been interviewing hundreds of poor men and women who are living in a gutter, then shitting into filthy canals in cities like Surabaya, Medan and Jakarta, using the same water to wash their dishes and themselves… People who barely survive on a less than $1 a day, were proudly declaring on camera that they are not poor, that they are doing well, and that their country is just fine.

Praying in front of Suharto tomb.

A few streets away, the newly rich, sit in their luxury SUV’s in epic traffic jams, watching television, going nowhere, but proud that they have moved up the rungs on their class ladder.

What a success! What an absolute success of fascist, neo-colonial demagogy and the ‘market economy’!

This ‘success’ was, of course, studied and analyzed in Washington, Canberra, London and elsewhere. It has been implemented all over the world, in different forms and variations, but with the same essence: strike and murder every thinking being, shock and brainwash… then rob the poor and reward a few criminals… from Chile to Argentina, Yeltsin’s Russia and Rwanda, now again in Egypt.

It has worked almost everywhere. “Jakarta was coming”, and it has been spreading its filth, its ignorance, brutality and compassionless way of ‘thinking’ all over the planet!

Santiago Metro – huge public art gallery.

It seemed to be the most perfect ‘treatment’ for dissent and the dreams of freedom, all over the world. And the US has been busy administering it all over the Western hemisphere, but also in Asia, Africa, and everywhere. Death squads were trained in the North American military facilities, and then sent back to operate in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic and in many other unfortunate places.

Of course they could not fully compete with the insane sadism of the Indonesian butchers, but they did their best; they worked quite well, really… Blowing the brains out of rebellious priests during their sermons, raping teenage daughters in front of their parents, cutting people to pieces… slightly watered-down versions of the Jakarta scenario, but with some local ‘cultural’ flavors.

In Chile, in one of the oldest democracies on earth, the 9-11-1973 military takeover, brought new innovations to the established routine of horrors: women prisoners raped by dogs, prisoners with their hands tied, thrown alive into the sea from helicopters, while some were delivered to those old German Nazis inhabiting the so called “Colonia Dignidad” in the south of the country, for medical experiments.

It appeared that Western terror; its colonial tactics perfected and refined over centuries, will finally triumph, globally. It looked almost certain that no antidote would work: An antidote to the sadism and fear that has been paralyzing most of the subjects in the client states.

The Chilean military junta began with the same zeal as its Indonesian counterpart of eight years earlier. In Jakarta, religious Muslim cadres almost immediately joined the killing and torture, while in Santiago; it was conservative Christendom, particularly Opus Dei, which threw its support behind the murderers and rapists of General Pinochet. In both places ‘conservative family values’ were evoked, to justify the most appalling atrocities.

The streets of Santiago and other Chilean cities fell silent. Horror was omnipresent. Doors were kicked open by military boots and people dragged to dungeons, tortured, raped, murdered.

The National Stadium was filled with men and women. Like in Jakarta, noble, educated people were tortured and beaten, even killed with absolutely no scruples.

At one point, the soldiers came and arrested a bard; one of the most beloved singers of Latin America, Victor Jara. They broke his hands. Then they threw his guitar at him and shouted: “Now you can sing!”

Student protest – demanding free education all the way to university.

This was the most significant moment – I would insist, the crucial moment. The moment when Santiago and Jakarta parted! The moment when in South America, an extremely long and difficult process began: the process, which could be described as the fight for freedom, for true freedom, not for that empty fake slogan that has been repeated over and over again by Western propaganda.

Because at that moment, Victor Jara stood up, in terrible pain but undefeated, full of spite, and sang to his tormentors, straight at their filthy muzzles, “Venceremos!”

He sang loud, and after a while, they were overwhelmed by his voice and the lyrics, they aimed at him and shot him dead.

But he did not die, instead he became the symbol of resistance, of the struggle against fascism and imperialism. He became the symbol of the struggle that is still continuing and gaining momentum in so many parts of the world!

In 1965, in Jakarta, there was no struggle. The victims allowed themselves to be slaughtered. They were begging for mercy as they were strangled, stabbed, shot to death. They called their tormentors, their murderers, their rapists, ‘pak’ and ‘mas’ (respectful form of addressing a man). They cried and begged for mercy.

In 1973, in Santiago de Chile, young men and women went to the mountains, to fight fascism, under the banner of MIR; some 10,000 of them. It was a clean and proud fight, as MIR decisively rejected all forms of terrorism, and concentrated on military targets.

Hundreds of thousands of Chilean people left the country, scattering to all corners of the globe, from Mexico to Sweden, Canada to New Zealand. Wherever they went, they relentlessly worked on bringing down Pinochet and his US-backed junta. They wrote theatre and radio plays, made powerful films, wrote novels, arranged meetings and demonstrations in literally every major capital of the world. They never gave up. They dedicated their lives to the struggle. The millions at home and the hundreds of thousands of those forced to live abroad.

Eventually, Augusto Pinochet became a symbol of degenerate military power, of treason, of colonialism, of modern fascism.

In Indonesia, the victims accepted their ‘fate’ and with it, they accepted the most disgusting type of market fundamentalism. They accepted the fascist political system that stripped the poor (really the great majority) of all their rights. They accepted the thuggish, mafia-style arrangement for their country. They accepted a system where women are treated as the property of their fathers and later as the property of their husbands, while those who work and hold important positions are treated like whores, by their bosses, co-workers and even by their fellow Parliamentarians.

In Chile, nothing was really ‘accepted’. Nothing was forgotten and nothing was forgiven. Instead of looking at the ruling ‘elites’ as heroes, the majority of Chileans saw them as a bunch of bandits. Instead of looking at their parents with servile submissiveness ‘Indonesian-style’, a great number of Chilean youth held them responsible for creating or at least tolerating this monstrous system.

While Indonesia became the second (after Nigeria) most religious country on Earth (despite the fact that Muslim and Hindu cadres were directly responsible for some of the most appalling atrocities, while Christians are lately professing the outrageous belief that God loves the rich, and hates the poor, participating in the segregation of society, and even in open racism), Chile reformed its laws, modernized its education, and sent Christianity where it belongs – to its churches and very far away from public eyes.

In Indonesia, Suharto stepped down, but the system survived; it even hardened itself. One of Suharto’s generals is now serving as President of the country. And decades ago he was one of the leading military figures in occupied East Timor, during the most horrible massacres, during the genocide, in which some 30% of the local population lost their lives. The father of his wife was another general, who boasted that during the 1965 coup, they, the military, managed to kill around 3 million people.

In Chile, as in Argentina, most of those military leaders who committed crimes against humanity are now imprisoned, disgraced and despised.

Both armies, Indonesian and Chilean, of course, committed high treason, by selling their services to foreign powers, and instead of defending their citizens, fought for a fee, against their own defenseless women and children.

In Indonesia, many consider one of the worst butchers of the 20th century, and the most corrupt ruler of all times, General Suharto, a national hero! In Chile, General Augusto Pinochet is now clearly identified as a criminal, by a great majority of the people.

In Indonesia, between 2 and 3 million died in 1965/66. In Chile, the number was 3 to 4 thousand. Even adjusted to the dissimilar size of the population, the difference is overwhelming. Still, in Chile, there are hundreds of books written on the topic, dozens of powerful films made, and the topic is constantly addressed in newspapers, magazines and television programs – it is an essential part of the national memory. Without it, there seems to be a consensus – there is no way forward.

In Indonesia, there is an absolute blackout and silence.

The Indonesian population is fully loyal to the propaganda it has been fed for many decades. It is telling that at a recent attempt to resurrect the topic, at a screening of the documentary (unfortunately quite mediocre) called “15 Years After” (referring to numbers of years since Suharto’s stepped down), there were only 5 people in one of the major cinemas in Jakarta… And it was a Saturday afternoon.

Bandung – City of Learning.

Saturday afternoon in Santiago de Chile and the entire city is getting ready for an extremely long night. Dozens of theatres offer everything from classical performances to avant-garde plays. Nightclubs are preparing for the latest bands that come from all over Latin America. The music ranges from opera and symphonies, to ballads, salsa and cumbia. Cinemas in all corners of the city are showing the latest releases, as well as Asian, Latin American and European art films.

There is some ‘art for art’, but plenty of it is deeply political; it is shaping the nation, addressing every important issue, including the past.

The same obsession with culture and knowledge is the norm in other cities of the ‘Southern Cone’, including Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Montevideo. To know is to exist. To understand the world is to be free, independent, and to be alive. Knowledge is valued; it is deeply respected.

Some 15 thousand kilometers West of Chile, in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta, Surabaya or Medan, there is close to nothing one can do on Saturday nights. There are restaurants, of course, and several cinemas showing the lowest grade of Hollywood films. But there are no art cinemas, no theatres (only maybe one theatre performance a month, in a city like Jakarta, with 12 million inhabitants). The only random concerts are those organized by the European cultural centers, and those very few ones for the ‘elites’ in some hard to get into private hall.

Life is extremely boring in Indonesia, with no variety and no intellectual inspiration. And that’s how it was intended.

To get to the theaters, many citizens of Santiago opt for the metro system, one of the best and most efficient on earth. Each station is dedicated to local artists, many are equipped with public libraries, and one even has a free art cinema, where one can sit for the entire day for the price of one metro token, watching the greatest world classics.

In Jakarta, there is no metro at all, and almost no sidewalks, and there are only very few public parks. To cross the street, one often has to take a taxi. The city is approaching, and some people say it has already reached, a permanent gridlock.

Chile is embracing knowledge and everything that is ‘public’. Indonesia is stuck in uncool, totally cheap pop, buried in depressing individualism, forced to admire all in ‘private’.

The countries of South America that suffered from brutal dictatorships imposed by the West are now free and run by Socialist governments.

Indonesia is run by thugs, old generals and by a gloomy, degenerate, capitalist clique.

Women govern Brazil, Argentina and Chile, while a man who was in charge of a military unit in East Timor, during the genocide, runs Indonesia.

Michelle Bachelet who is poised to win in the second round and return as the President of Chile (after being a head of UNIFEM) is a doctor, pediatrician, single mother of 3 and an atheist. Her father, an army general during Allende’s administration, was murdered by Pinochet’s regime, and Ms Bachelet herself was brutally tortured in detention. She left the country and was trained as a doctor in East Germany, before returning back home.

While Camila Vallejo (25 years old), and her fellow student leaders are ready to become MP’s in Chile, many for the Communist Party. Indonesian women MP’s face sexual harassment from their fellow People’s Representatives, right on the floor of Parliament. And the Communist Party is flatly banned in Indonesia, just to make sure that nobody pushes for land reforms and social justice, anymore.

Chileans are now fighting for free education and for free medical care, and it is expected that their demands will be satisfied during the Presidency of Ms. Bachelet.

Indonesia is living with fully collapsed medical care and education systems, and everyone who can afford it, is leaving for hospitals in Singapore or Malaysia, and as far as possible for education.

There are countless private schools all over Indonesia, most of them religious. They specialize; it appears, in producing masses of young people unable to excel in anything at all, except in serving capitalist and religious dogmas, and in stealing for the sake of their family clans.

While Chile is fighting against poverty on all fronts, including by building high quality social housing, Indonesia has some of the most appalling inequalities on earth, and it even lies about the number of its inhabitants (it has over 300 million citizens, but only around 247 million are accounted for), just in case someone may demand, one day, that the poorest of the poor be housed, educated and healed.

Chile is one of the least corrupt nations on earth, while corruption in Indonesia is one of the highest on earth, with the former ‘our kind of guy’ Suharto entering the record books as the most corrupt ruler of all times.

Indonesia and Chile are two countries that went through a fascist hell; but there are two totally different stories, at the end of that hell.

One country – Indonesia – submitted itself, collaborated and in the end failed, collapsed, became much like some of those unfortunate nations of sub-Saharan Africa.

The other fought, proudly, consistently, and won, becoming one of the most habitable nations on earth, with a quality of life comparable to that of the European Union.

One is not able to produce one single decent novel after its great Communist writer – Pramoedya Ananta Toer (a former prisoner of conscience, whose books and manuscripts were burned by Suharto’s clique) – passed away. It produces nothing of intellectual value: no quality music or films, no scientific research, no ground-breaking educational concepts.

The other one – Chile – gave birth to some of the greatest modern writers, poets, filmmakers and architects. And some of the best wine!

The Indonesian model is frightening, but it can be defeated. It succeeds only when the people refuse to fight, when they submit to terror.

Indonesia, individuals are expected to surrender to brutal family and religious control. From birth, people here are conditioned: they live with fear, which is confused with ‘love’. First it is the potent fear of father, then of the priest, of the teacher. And then it progresses to fear of the military and capitalist dictatorship. In the end it becomes a paralyzing fear of ‘everything’, which stops every rebellion at the embryonic stage.

It is pathetic and depressing. It is working. But definitely not everywhere!

Rebelliousness works better. It has been working all over Latin America, including Chile. ‘Jakarta came’, but was fought, and thrown to the dogs.

But, as a result of the joint efforts of local and Western propaganda, the success of Latin America is absolutely unknown in Indonesia. And there is no one screaming in Jakarta at those brutal faces of the elites: “Watch out, bandits, Santiago is coming!”

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His discussion with Noam Chomsky On Western Terrorism is now going to print. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is now re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. He has just completed the feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

Finding Sense and Sensibility Among Syria's Palestinian Disaspora

Inside Emergency Damascene Shelters

by Franklin Lamb - CounterPunch

Al Zahera neighborhood, south Damascus  - This brief update is not focused on the ever deteriorating grave conditions of Palestinians and Syrians displaced and often trapped inside dangerous areas on Damascus, where this observer had been visiting some of the 24 former Damascus public schools currently being used as shelters.

Rather it seeks to highlight the esprit de corps, solidarity, resistance, and good will among Palestinians here is Damascus who were forced from Yarmouk and other camps and how they are huddled and preparing for a harsh winter which one senses these frigid nights it not far off.

This is not to gainsay that every shelter is a very fragile social existence for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) as aid agencies here refer to them. In the former schools there is no mazot (fuel oil) currently available to fire-up the furnaces and the among the needs at all the shelters are for “high-thermal” blankets, food, medicines winters clothe and shoes and knitted caps for the kids trekking early in the morning to government schools in the neighborhoods.

Thanks to the continuing cooperation between the Syrian government, particularly the Ministry of Education (MOE), and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) many former public schools have been made available as emergency shelters. Additionally, the MOE has created double shift in many schools offering youngster a 7 a.m. to noon shift followed by a noon to 5 p.m. shift.

Prior to the armed conflict in Syria, Yarmouk, a suburb just south of Damascus city, was home to over 160,000 Palestine refugees. In December 2012 and in the months since, armed conflict has caused at least 140,000 Palestine refugees to flee their homes in Yarmouk, as armed opposition groups established a presence in the area, with government forces controlling the periphery. Between December 2012 and June 2013, civilians could still access UNRWA assistance at the Zahera entrance to Yarmouk. However, from mid-July 2013, Palestine thousands of refugees have been trapped in the area, with little or no access to shops or freedom of movement.

At among the 4 school-shelters in south Damascus near Yarmouk camp and the 8 in the nearby neighbored of al-Vvahra, some of which this observer visited, “The Fayadeen” elementary public school currently houses 56 families- half of them Palestinians totaling 260 people. At “Fayadeen” there is a clean large make-shift kitchen where approximately half a dozen families use at one time based on a schedule.

The Syrian government and some NGO often deliver emergency food packages—most designed to feed a family of five for 15 days. “Fayadeeen” school also has a heavy duty Italian electric washing machine donated by a Palestinian businessman and which is shared by all. There is a high level of sanitation and sheds housing toilet are clean. Three times a week medical teams arrive to administer free government health care.

US sanctions have cut off some urgently needed medicines, particularly for cancer patients and cases where weekly doses of medicines are required but often only monthly doses are now available. Shelter rules are enforced. For example, if a family does not enroll their 6-15 year old children in local public schools they are evicted. This observer was briefed at length and shown around by two Syrian professions basketball players on the National team, Hani and Mohamad who have placed their careers and family life on hold to manage four school shelters in a south Damascus.

Several Palestinians in the school shelters have been asking this observer if he has news about their countrymen still trapped inside Yarmouk. There is of increasing concern because their families report that desperately needed humanitarian assistance is still not able to be not delivered nor have repeatedly promised “humanitarian corridors” opened; this despite UNRWA’s numerous appeals and efforts, and despite 32,000 Palestinian civilians and others who remain trapped in Yarmouk have had little or no freedom of movement or access to humanitarian assistance and in addition to facing death and serious injury from the armed conflict. Yarmouk’s civilian residents are exposed to psychological trauma, malnutrition and a lack of health care. The UN Security Council’s Presidential Statement on the humanitarian situation on Syria adopted on 2 October, 2013, among other stipulations, called on all parties to grant full humanitarian access and “to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law.”

Hope among the more than 100,000 refugees displaced from Yarmouk camp rises and sinks with on again off again announcements that militia will leave the camp to civilian Palestinian administration. Just this week a claimed settlement involving intense negotiation mediated by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to end the fighting in Yarmouk camp suffered collapsed, after opposition fighters close to Hamas insisted that they be included among the groups that will subsequently manage the affairs of the camp. PLO officials had recently arrived at a preliminary agreement with the various Palestinian factions and opposition armed groups that would lead to a ceasefire but excluded Hamas and the PFLP-General Command led by Ahmed Jabril. Within 72 hours another and still showing life signs, another proposal was announced on 11/22/13. Under the terms of this “agreement”

Palestinian Popular Struggle Front Khaled Abdul Majid , that “the armed groups in the Yarmouk camp aka the“Palestinian Resistance Alliance factions” would be withdrawing from the camp “very soon”. In statements to Al-Watan, Abdul Majid said:

“What is happening in Yarmouk is that most of the armed factions have reestablished contact with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – The General Command, as well as the factions of the Palestine Resistance Alliance, after the initiative of the Palestine Liberation Organization (to solve the camp’s crisis) failed. These factions thus expressed their willingness to regulate their situation, handle the issue and withdraw from the camp.”

He continued that the discussions with these groups were conducted via mediators, or in some cases through contacts with some of them.

This observer has witnessed the fact that since 11/17/13 almost complete calm has been prevailing over Yarmouk. Services teams from the Palestine Aid Committee have been cleaning the camp’s streets and removing the dirt mounds. This observer has been invited inside Yarmouk to witness this process. Government permission is required and date of entrance is not fixed.

Some refugees from Yarmouk are hopeful but during interviews the past two days most expressed doubt that this latest initiative will succeed any more than the previous dozen. The coming few days will provide the answer.

Palpable fear is also evident because of the fast approaching winter with rumors of severe cold this year, A condition that will be much more severe among the 250 camps in the nearby Lebanese Bekaa valley particularly for the 25 plastic wall and roof make-shift tents in 25 emergency refugee camps that are particularly flood-prone and shared by Syrian and Palestinian refugees.

Our brother and sisters keeper…

Hopefully subsequent updates on the Palestinian condition in Syra will allow for rather more detail regarding many examples of Palestinians helping Palestinians regarding community assistance to their sisters and brothers. But a brief example about a wonderful family is fixed in this observers mind.

It relates to the Khalid al Jrahi family from Haifa now living in “Taher al Jazari” public school shelter. Mr. al Jrahi granted permission to this observer to use his name publicly because he wants friends and relatives with whom he has lost contact since the events of December 17, 2013 which leveled some of his neighborhood in Yarmouk, to know that his family is alive and relatively well.

What a spectacular family. Including five teen-aged and early 20’s girls and two boys. What deeply impressed this observer is the esprit among these sisters, their charisma, charm and dedication to helping others among the approximately 260 refugees sharing the school while eschewing complaints about the own plight. The Al Jrahi family lives in a space probably ten feet wide and 20 feet long. Foam mattresses are neatly stacked along the walls and pillows and clothing stacked in the corners. A clothes line runs along one side of the room which is walled by an UNHCR white and blue lettered plastic tarp separating their neighbors. Shocking? Yes, but inspiring certainly.

The girls, whose English is quite good explained why and how they set up a school for pre-K’s in this and one other shelter. How organized it is. They showed me the ‘teaching manual’ they wrote and explained how they run their schools with occasionally donated pencils and crayons and notebooks for the tots donated by Palestinian NGO’s or even foreign visitors.

We did not discuss politics but two of the sisters reminded me of Hala, Jane Austen’s character Eleanor, in Sense and Sensibility. Hala is the sensible and reserved eldest of al Jrahi family daughters. She is in charge of the lesson plans for the informal ‘sisters schools’ in the shelter and carefully instructs her younger impetuous Zeina on school rules for the children, trying to keep her attention and her younger sister focused. Hala showed this observer her English grammar notes that she is learning from a tattered UNWRA grammar book. She points to her perfect cursive hand written notes and asks me about “present participles”, “dangling modifiers” and “past perfect tense”! When I last even heard these terms it was half a century ago and I have no idea what they even mean– if I ever did, which is questionable.

Her younger sister Zeina is all Austen’s character Marianne, and refuses to check her emotions and dramatically insists that she is ready to return to Yarmouk “despite the dangers even if I am killed going back home!” Her mother Fatima grimaces and Hala is disapproving when Zeina insists that she should teach the children dancing in the street outside the closed in-shelter as well as tree climbing so they “can properly express themselves under the sky.”

Rather wistful and not wanting to leave this family or the shelter, this observer and his companion left the wonderful Al Jrahi family wondering if Ms. Sense or Ms. Sensibility would triumph or if these two remarkable sisters in fact constituted a good balance to one another as they serve their fellow countrymen in emergency shelters.

Franklin Lamb volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (SSSP) in Shatila Camp ( and is reachable c/o

Enbridge Numbered Company Floats Plan to Dam the Clore River

Enbridge plan to dam Clore River near Terrace uncovered

by Friends of Wild Salmon

November 22, 2013

Enbridge is behind a controversial plan for a 120-megawatt hydro project that would dam the Clore River.

The project is being proposed by a numbered company, which local residents traced to the same Calgary address as Enbridge.

The Clore, located 60 kilometres southeast of Terrace, B.C., is the main tributary of the Copper River, which flows into the Skeena. The Copper-Clore watershed supports strong runs of wild salmon and steelhead and is critically important to First Nations’ food security, a world-class sport fishery and BC’s coastal commercial salmon fishery. It is also considered world class by kayakers and heavily used by hunters.

“This application shows Enbridge has absolutely no respect for the values we hold dear. If Enbridge thinks Northwest residents will let them dam our salmon rivers, they are even more delusional than we thought,” said Friends of Wild Salmon chair Gerald Amos.
“Hiding behind a numbered company is dishonest and shows Enbridge’s continued unwillingness to communicate openly with our communities. Enbridge might paint a pretty picture in their television ads but behind the scenes is threatening our most precious resources.”

Excerpts from the proponent’s scoping report:

“A headworks structure consisting of a weir and intake will divert a portion of flow from the Clore River first through a 6,400m tunnel and then through a penstock (water pipeline) for the remaining 1160m to a powerhouse.”

“In order to provide adequate intake submergence and to divert flows, a spillway control weir will be constructed across the stream. This will increase the water level behind the weir and provide adequate intake submergence. The depth and extent of the headpond is expected to provide sufficient time for larger sediment to settle out of the flow.”

“When flow is less than that required for maximum output, production is derived from the total stream flow less the minimum release.”

“This application illustrates the risk Enbridge poses to our rivers, coast and our region goes far beyond oil spills. Damming the Clore would have severe negative impacts and should be soundly rejected by local residents – just like Northern Gateway,” said Amos.

Numbered company 8056587 Canada Ltd. submitted water license application No. 6001392 for the Clore project. A web search shows 8056587 Canada Inc. was registered on December 22, 2011 at 3000 425 1st Street in Calgary – Enbridge’s address.

In 2009, the company C-Free Power withdrew a water license application for a similar project on the Clore due to environmental and community concerns surrounding their proposal.

November 22, 2013

Contact: Gerald Amos, Friends of Wild Salmon

Download Clore River Project Scoping report (1.9Mb PDF)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Walking On COP 19

Poor Countries and Civil Society Walk Out of COP 19 Over Inaction over Climage Change


Patrick Bond: Developing countries and green groups must evaluate if walkouts are the best way to get rich countries to address climate change.

Patrick Bond is the Director of the Center for Civil Society and Professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Bond is the author and editor of the recently released books, Politics of Climate Justice and Durban’s Climate Gamble

Hypocrisy and Fair Criticism: A False Syria/Palestine Analogy

This is the Real Hypocrisy: The False Analogy of Syria and Palestine

by Jonathan Cook

I have the honour of being the latest subject of a column by Louis Proyect, on his blog “The Unrepentant Marxist”, concerning my recent post criticising the decision of Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones to bolt the upcoming Stop the War conference. I appreciate the mainly restrained tone in Proyect’s criticism, and wish to reciprocate in kind.

Proyect, like other supporters of greater western military intervention in Syria who have written to me in the past few days, wants to accuse me of taking a side in the Syrian civil war. That is true: I am not taking their side. I am taking the side of the Syrian people, in so far as that can be discerned at this moment of profound crisis in all of their lives, whether they identify with the government or with the rebels.

I am also not taking the side of western governments, for whom Syria is – as all states in the Middle East are and have been for many decades – simply a chess piece in a great game called the Battle for Oil. For this reason, I wish to maintain maximum critical distance from official sources, as I did in Iraq and Libya and as I do now in Egypt. This position has proved to be the right one in those cases and I have reason to believe it is the right one again in this case. I also note that Proyect and many of his supporters took the opposite position, especially in Libya, and have been proven wrong, even if they refuse to admit it.

Proyect expends a lot of energy implying, without much evidence, which I suppose makes the task much harder, that I have been secretly pursuing a pro-Assad agenda. This seems to be a way to avoid dealing with my actual area of concern: the failure of many on the left to keep a critical distance from sources of information that have repeatedly led us astray in the Middle East.

When Proyect and his allies gleefully seize on power-friendly sources of information to bolster their case, I find myself looking for other tidbits of counter-evidence, if only because with such limited information emerging from Syria the dominant narrative – the one being promoted by our corporate media – has pretty much free rein. Unlike Proyect, I am extremely reluctant to simply swallow what the BBC, New York Times or even Human Rights Watch (which, it should be noted, has a poor record dealing with Israel and Palestine) offer as “fact”. I am also far less ready to accept than Proyect that Barack Obama’s White House is some great break from George Bush’s.

This brings me to my main point in responding to Proyect. Like a lot of interventionists, he wants to undermine the position of non-interventionists like me by accusing us of hypocrisy – or at least implying it. Proyect does it gently this way:

With his long time commitment to the Palestinian cause, he seems to have trouble understanding that those under attack in Homs or Aleppo have much in common with those living in Gaza. While he is obviously trained enough to understand and communicate the plight of one group of Arabs, another group gets short shrift because it is perceived as inimical to the interests of peace.

The problem is I don’t see Syria like Gaza on many levels, which is why I find the comparison deeply unhelpful. And in so far as I do see the situations alike, I actually hold a consistent position that differs markedly from Proyect’s.

First, Gaza is not like Syria because Palestinians in Gaza live under a belligerent occupation, not in a unified, if failing state run by a dictator. There are very few decades-long occupations, but there are lots of dictators I’d rather see the back of.

Occupations are regulated by international law, which in Gaza’s case is almost entirely ignored, whereas states have the luxury of being largely ringfenced from such accountability within their own domestic spheres. International law is mostly there to regulate the relations between states, not what goes on inside them. I may wish this were not so but I have to live with the reality that this is the current world order, and is there precisely to stop powerful states on spurious or selfish grounds destroying smaller states.

The comparison with Gaza is also unhelpful because I can be in favour of external efforts to remove the occupation in Gaza without that requiring the corollary that I am in favour of external efforts to overthrow the state apparatus in Syria. Doing the first may lead – potentially – to a liberation; doing the second leads – inevitably – to chaos, as we saw in Iraq and Libya.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank need help in freeing themselves from the rule of a belligerent foreign state in which they have no stake or voice. The people of Syria – if Syria is to survive and not end up as a series of feuding ethnic cantons – need to find a common cause, a sense of nationhood they can agree on. That, by the way, was a long and painful path Egypt was just beginning on when the Egyptian military – backed by decades of US money and armaments – decided to halt it.

So, in my view, the only thing that will change in Syria by intervening or by arming either side is that each will be able to inflict more bloodshed on the other. Ordinary civilians will die on both sides of the civil war in greater numbers because we will feed an industry of fighting and death by providing the factions with guns and rockets.

The only hope for Syria – as what remains of a rapidly collapsing state – is through bringing those sides that will talk to negotiations to create a new order in Syria. It will not be Sweden.

There is also the paradox that for the Syrian government to negotiate safely it needs to ensure its strength within the global system of nation-states, but with such strength it has less interest in making concessions to the rebels. This is a paradox that relates to the current world order. I don’t like the current world order, but it is the only one that exists at the moment. Similarly, I may not like gravity but unless I can hitch a ride on a spaceship I probably have to accept that I have to live with its effects for the time being.

I guess Proyect may want to argue that the Palestinians are in a civil war themselves and that I would be in favour of intervention to help them. Again, the situations are different. The civil war between Palestinians is being fed and manipulated by Israel to keep the Palestinians weak and divided so that the occupation can entrench. It is part of a familiar colonial settler project.

The Syrians are in a civil war because there is bitter competition between sectarian groups for dominance of the state apparatus. In short, there is not enough sense of Syrian-ness. If there were, we would have one of two situations: Assad would have mass support still, or the rebels would have been able to tip the balance in their favour and take over through a popular revolution. That revolution might have been bloody but it would have been liberating. Instead we are in a protracted civil war, which each side sees as a zero-sum game.

Exacerbating this problem is the exploitation by other states of the Syrian state’s current relative weakness. Those states, chiefly Saudi Arabia, are feeding the conflict and trying to distort its nature. They are further damaging the fragile sense of Syrian-ness. On the other side, Iran and Hizbullah in Lebanon are playing their part in interfering in favour of the Syrian government, propping it up with military support.

These last factors point to a more realistic way of interpreting events in Syria. Syria is caught in a power game, with the US and Saudi Arabia trying to keep Iran and its ally Syria weak on one side, and Iran desperately trying to keep its allies as strong as possible in its battle against efforts by Israel and the west to undermine its sovereign integrity. Ignoring this as the main framework for understanding what is going on in Syria inevitably leads to erroneous analysis and faulty solutions.

What is needed now in Syria to lessen the bloodshed is reduced negative western intervention in Syria and much greater western positive engagement with Iran. Syria’s best hope of a solution, doubtless far from ideal, is through the west coming to an accommodation with Iran.

A last point about the Palestine and Syria comparison. In so far as there may be some similarity in these situations, I am not in favour of western military intervention on behalf of the Palestinians either. Here I am not considering what is allowable in international law (which, as I noted earlier, treats these two situations differently); I am talking about what I personally believe makes most sense.

I am not arguing for, and have not argued for, the US and Europe to start arming Palestinian militants in the hope that the Palestinians can end the occupation by slaughtering either settlers or soldiers. The level of military support the Palestinians would need to challenge or defeat Israel militarily would result in only one outcome: a sustained bloodbath that would lead to large numbers of dead both among Palestinians and Israelis. Something less than massive military support for the Palestinians would lead to a bloodbath chiefly on the Palestinian side. Neither is an outcome I favour.

If I am required to declare a practical position on this, as its seems Proyect expects, I would prefer that military support from the US and economic support from the EU to Israel be drastically reduced or ended, or at least tied to genuine concessions to the Palestinians. Making Israel more militarily vulnerable to its neighbours, for example, would be an effective way to get it to the negotiating table and force it to make meaningful compromises.

So, in short, I wish nothing for the Syrians that I don’t also wish for the Palestinians.

A final, related point about the revolutionary fervour of Proyect and co. The Unrepentant Marxist doubtless believes in a global workers’ revolution but he is deeply misguided if he believes it will or can start in Syria. The armchair revolutionaries so eager to cite the coverage of the BBC, NYT and Human Rights Watch on Syria are far less ready to accept these organisations’ pieties and platitudes when it comes nearer to home.

This is the real hypocrisy. Those who want revolution are looking to build it on the bodies of Syrians who have little hope of liberating themselves in a world where their tiny state is no more than a pawn being shuffled around a board controlled by other, much stronger states. If the revolutionaries really want to effect change, they would be wiser – and more ethical – concentrating on the revolution needed first in their back yards.

Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, since 2001.

He is the author of three books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish State (2006)

Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (2008)

Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (2008)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

America's Complicated Military History in the Philippines

The US Military and the Philippines

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

In a brief statement last week on the impact of Typhoon Haiyan on the Philippines, President Barack Obama declared it a “heartbreaking reminder of how fragile life is.”

As the head of a government that has visited death and destruction upon impoverished peoples from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to Libya, Yemen and Syria, the US president hardly needed to wait for nature’s fury to be visited upon the Philippine people for such a reminder.

The US military, the principal instrument for carrying out this carnage—inflicting 100 times the number of deaths caused by Typhoon Haiyan during the last dozen years of aggressive wars waged by Washington—is now being promoted as the indispensable Good Samaritan in the Philippines.

Some 50 US warships and military aircraft and 13,000 American sailors, airmen and marines have been brought into the relief effort, led by the naval battle group of the nuclear-powered super-carrier, the USS George Washington, along with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
“We will be present as long as we are needed—no longer than required,” Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Wissler, the commander of the US military operations in the Philippines, said on Monday.

The people of the Philippines have ample reasons, rooted in both their country’s tragic history and its present geo-strategic position, to treat such promises with extreme skepticism.

There is perhaps no more egregious example of the US military overstaying its welcome than in the Philippines. It was there, at the end of the 19th century, that US imperialism first cut its teeth, becoming a colonial power by means of military conquest and savage repression.

In testifying before the US Senate Tuesday on relief operations in the Philippines, a State Department official cited the “close historic ties” between the two countries. Neither government officials nor the media, however, show any inclination to examine these “ties” in any detail, for the obvious reason that it would serve only to expose a historic crime.

The US military’s first appearance in the Philippines came in the form of a navy squadron commanded by Commodore George Dewey, who sailed into Manila harbor on May 1, 1898 and within hours sank the entire Pacific fleet of Spain, which had ruled the territory as a colony for the previous 300 years.

Brought back from exile aboard Dewey’s warship was Emilio Aguinaldo, the leader of a nationalist movement that had been fighting to end Spanish colonialism for three years before the US armada arrived. US forces were able to take Manila only because it was surrounded on land by these independence fighters. Washington posed as their ally and the liberator of the Philippines just long enough to secure control of a territory it coveted as a market, a source of cheap labor and raw materials, and a base for the projection of US power in the Pacific, particularly toward China.

It then turned savagely against the Filipinos and signed a treaty with Spain paying it $20 million for a land the Spanish no longer controlled. The Filipinos, who had proclaimed an independent republic, the first to be formed in Asia as the result of an anti-colonial rebellion, were excluded from these negotiations.

What followed was the imposition of a US colonial regime and over a decade of bloody counterinsurgency operations that would claim at least several hundred thousand Filipino lives. In 1901, Gen. Franklin Bell, who commanded US forces in Luzon, the island group that included Manila and roughly half the country’s population, told the New York Times that there alone some 600,000 had been killed in military operations or died from disease.

As another American general put it, “It may be necessary to kill half the Filipinos in order that the remaining half of the population may be advanced to a higher plane of life than their present semi-barbarous state affords.”

Mark Twain, the most prominent and passionate opponent of the US war in the Philippines, defied the “support our troops” rhetoric of the day, denouncing the US military for massacres that left “not even a baby alive to cry for its dead mother.” The celebrated American author referred to US occupation forces as “Christian butchers” and “uniformed assassins.”

The Philippines campaign was among the first counterinsurgency operations waged by the US military, and it introduced all of the atrocities that would later be visited upon Vietnamese, Afghans and Iraqis, from massacres, to torture, to “re-concentration” camps.

US colonial rule continued until the end of World War II, after which Washington backed a series of semi-colonial governments, including the hated martial regime of Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the country for two decades. Until 1991, the Pentagon maintained control of the massive Subic Bay naval base and Clarkson Air Force base, which played crucial roles in both the Korean and Vietnam wars.

This is no mere ancient history when it comes to the plight of the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. The widespread poverty, social inequality, inadequate housing and government corruption that are the legacy of colonial and neo-colonial oppression played at least as great a role as the blind forces of nature in inflicting so much death and destruction.

Nor are US designs on the Philippines a matter of a bygone era. Reuters news agency noted Wednesday:
“As US ships deliver food, water and medicine, they are also delivering goodwill that could ease the way for the United States to strengthen its often-controversial military presence in one of Southeast Asia’s most strategic countries.”

If the US military first came to the Philippines as the instrument of a rising imperialist power seeking to secure new markets in Asia, it now returns as the spearhead of a waning one, determined to encircle and contain a rising regional and global rival, China.

The Philippines is strategically crucial to the Obama administration’s so-called “pivot” to Asia. Its government, having closed the giant US military bases in 1992, has since allowed US special operations troops to return for training and for carrying out joint operations and has hosted visits by 72 US warships and submarines at Subic Bay during the first six months of this year alone. Meanwhile, negotiations are ongoing to secure US rights to bases for ships, planes, supplies and troops.

Naval base construction is proceeding at Oyster Bay on the island province of Palawan. Officials are referring to the facility as a “mini-Subic,” and plans have been reported for stationing both US warships and Marines there. Situated on the country’s western-most island, it is in close proximity to the Spratly Islands, the site of a provocative territorial confrontation between Manila and China egged on by the United States.

Thus, the “humanitarian” operation of the US military in the Philippines is inextricably bound up with war plans that could well drag the country into a global conflagration.

The predatory calculations of the US ruling class aside, there exist among the masses of American working people genuine feelings of sympathy and solidarity with the workers of the Philippines. The deep ties are expressed most concretely in the estimated presence of 4 million Filipino-Americans in the United States.

The catastrophe wrought by Typhoon Haiyan only underscores the necessity of a united struggle to sweep away the conditions of poverty and inequality in both countries, along with the capitalist profit system that has created them.

Copyright © 1998-2013 World Socialist Web Site - All rights reserved

Five Eyes on the Prize: Allies and Our Spies

NSA 5 Eyes Sharing

by Peter Lee - China Matters

Well, the guy who said this was full of crap:

David Skillicorn, a professor in the School of Computing at Queen’s University, says this is one piece of the data-sharing relationship “that has always been carefully constructed.”
“The Americans will not use Canadians to collect data on U.S. persons, nor will any of the other Five Eyes countries,” Skillicorn says.

“In fact, in practice, it’s as if the five countries’ citizens were one large, collective group, and their mutual communications are not intercepted by any in the Five Eyes community.”

Actual situation, as per the Guardian report, the NSA honored its no-spy-on-five-eye pledge in the breach:

Britain and the US are the main two partners in the ‘Five-Eyes’ intelligence-sharing alliance, which also includes Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Until now, it had been generally understood that the citizens of each country were protected from surveillance by any of the others.

But the Snowden material reveals that:

* In 2007, the rules were changed to allow the NSA to analyse and retain any British citizens’ mobile phone and fax numbers, emails and IP addresses swept up by its dragnet. Previously, this data had been stripped out of NSA databases – “minimized”, in intelligence agency parlance – under rules agreed between the two countries.

* These communications were “incidentally collected” by the NSA, meaning the individuals were not the initial targets of surveillance operations and therefore were not suspected of wrongdoing.

* The NSA has been using the UK data to conduct so-called “pattern of life” or “contact-chaining” analyses, under which the agency can look up to three “hops” away from a target of interest – examining the communications of a friend of a friend of a friend. Guardian analysis suggests three hops for a typical Facebook user could pull the data of more than 5 million people into the dragnet.

* A separate draft memo, marked top-secret and dated from 2005, reveals a proposed NSA procedure for spying on the citizens of the UK and other Five-Eyes nations, even where the partner government has explicitly denied the US permission to do so. The memo makes clear that partner countries must not be informed about this surveillance, or even the procedure itself.

When intelligence community apologists get wrongfooted by these kinds of revelations, one is inclined to wonder: is the so-called security insider who is allaying (and in some cases ridiculing) the public’s anxieties over government surveillance practices a clueless dupe or a duplicitous shill?

Inquiring minds want to know

The most recent revelation is tantalizing as it relates to my own personal hobbyhorse, as discussed in a previous post with the theme Blame Canada: did the NSA diddle with traffic patterns through its corporate buddies on the North American backbone and route US persons’ data to Five Eyes partners—like maybe Canada–for storage, collection, and processing, and thereby receive its tittle-tattle on interesting Americans second hand via a foreign intelligence agency, thereby not violating the letter of the U.S. law prohibiting these kinds of interception without a warrant?

With this background, the most interesting element for me was one that the Guardian didn’t even bother to report on. It only appears in the Guardian’s reproduction of the 2007 memo (click on the image at the head of the article for the full text) authorizing collection of UK persons’ info. The memo baldly stated that “unmasked” UK data—if I understand it correctly, this simply means in this case “metadata that has been revealed as relating to a UK person” is not only fair game for review by NSA analysts; it may also be dumped into a database for access by GCHQ:

“[US Analysts] Are not required to forward unmasked UK contact identifiers to GCHQ unless specifically requested by GCHQ. GCHQ should receive all unmasked UK contact identifiers via established or mutually agreed forwarding means or the contact identifiers should be available in the GCHQ-accessible five-eyes [deleted] database, the [deleted] access to [deleted], or other GCHQ-accessible metadata stores.”

Hmmm. Certainly sounds like the NSA was not only collecting UK data; it was making it available to GCHQ. If that was the case, one would assume it worked the other way around as well.

There’s probably more onion to be peeled. Maybe a couple more layers down we’ll find out if we can really {drumroll} “blame Canada.”

If this scenario is determined, I reserve the right to name the illicit, escalating signint exchange with our neighbor in the Great White North “snowballing”. In honor of Kevin Smith, of course.

Peter Lee edits China Matters. His ground-breaking investigation into the NSA, The NSA and Its Enablers, appears in the October issue of CounterPunch magazine. He can be reached at: chinamatters (at) prlee. org.

Afghanistan Occupation Serving Whose Interests?

Whose Interests Do the US Serve in Afghanistan?

by Kathy Kelly - CounterPunch

I’ve been a guest in Colorado Springs, Colorado, following a weeklong retreat with Colorado College students who are part of a course focused on nonviolence. In last weekend’s Colorado Springs Gazette, there was an article in the Military Life section about an international skype phone call between U.S. soldiers in Kandahar, Afghanistan and sixth grade girls at a private school in Maryland. (“Carson Soldiers Chat With Friends” November 17, 2013 F4)

Soldiers from Fort Carson’s Company C Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Infantry Division had been receiving care packages and hand-written letters from sixth grade girls at a private school in Brooklandville, MD. The project led to a late October video chat session which allowed the soldiers and students to converse.

I read in the article that one of the U.S. soldiers in Kandahar assured the girls in Maryland that girls in Afghanistan now have better access to education than they did before the U.S. troops arrived. He also mentioned that women have more rights than before.

On November 21st, I’ll participate in a somewhat similar skype call, focused not on soldiers in Afghanistan but on the voices of young Afghans. On the 21st of every month, through Global Days of Listening, several friends in the U.S. arrange a call between youngsters in Afghanistan and concerned people calling or simply listening in from countries around the world. I long to hear the optimism expressed by the Fort Carson soldier reflected in the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ words. But our young friends in Afghanistan express regret that their families struggle so hard, facing bleak futures in a country racked and ruined by war.

According to Ann Jones, who has reported from Afghanistan since 2002, UNICEF’s 2012 report states that:

 “almost half the “schools” supposedly built or opened in Afghanistan have no actual buildings, and in those that do, students double up on seats and share antiquated texts. Teachers are scarce and fewer than a quarter of those now teaching are considered “qualified,” even by Afghanistan’s minimal standards. Impressive school enrollment figures determine how much money a school gets from the government, but don’t reveal the much smaller numbers of enrollees who actually attend. No more than 10% of students, mostly boys, finish high school. In 2012, according to UNICEF, only half of school-age children went to school at all. In Afghanistan, a typical 14-year-old Afghan girl has already been forced to leave formal education and is at acute risk of mandated marriage and early motherhood. A full 76 percent of her countrywomen have never attended school. Only 12.6 percent can read.”

As for conditions among women in the area where the Fort Carson infantry are stationed, it’s worth noting that Kandahar is one of several southern provinces in Afghanistan where the UN reported, in September, 2012, that one million children suffer acute malnourishment.

Looking beyond southern Afghanistan, where the Fort Carson soldiers are based, the grim statistics persist. As of March 31, 2013, a total of 534,006 people were recorded by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) as internally displaced by conflict in Afghanistan. Increasing numbers of IDPs are moving to cities and towns, where they are co-settling with non-displaced urban poor, poor rural-urban internal migrants, and returning refugees. In Kabul there are 55 such informal settlements, housing about 31,000 individuals, and conditions are dire – especially with respect to shelter, access to water, hygiene and sanitation. I’ve personally visited some of these squalid, desperate camps, in Kabul, – one of the largest is directly across from a U.S. military base.

Outside Kabul and a few other major cities, almost no-one in Afghanistan even has electricity. (The World Bank estimates that 30% of the population has access to grid-based electricity.) Only 27% of Afghans have access to safe drinking water and 5% to adequate sanitation.

Recently, I studied the U.S. SIGAR (Special Inspector General on Afghanistan Reconstruction) report and puzzled over a chart which showed that even though U.S. non-military expenditures there approach 100 billion dollars spent since 2001, only 3 billion has been spent on humanitarian projects. And the military expenditures far outstrip these logistics expenses. The U.S. is now spending 2.1 million dollars per soldier, per year as part of expenses incurred by the drawdown of U.S. troops, while the Department of Defense maintains 107,796 security contractors, with the state department and USAID hiring several thousand more. The Pentagon’s request for operations in Afghanistan in 2013 is $85.6 billion, or $1.6 billion per week.

In Afghanistan, prospects may be looking up for U.S. corporate control of crucial oil pipelines in the region; for early military encirclement of anticipated superpower rival China; and for unrivalled access to some 1 trillion dollars’ worth of copper, gold and iron ore, and perhaps 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements vital to Western industry, all of it awaiting extraction from the earth beneath Afghans’ feet.

While mainstream media in U.S. locales with a strong military presence may suggest that the U.S. has convincingly promised enlightenment for Afghan people, regarding women’s rights and girls education, many Afghans wonder how they will fare caught between Western nations ruling the skies above their heads and the mineral resources which those nations are so uncontestably eager to bring out of darkness and into the light. Do they have a resource curse, they wonder, as other countries will want to avail themselves of these resources and jockey for control. Why is the U.S. so intent on maintaining security in Afghanistan? Whose interests do they want to secure?

I think it’s important to establish skype connections between people living in the U.S. and people who are in Afghanistan. Toward that purpose, I want to encourage people in Colorado Springs and beyond to search for hope and security by listening to young people in Afghanistan tell about their experiences longing for a better world, a world wherein women and children can survive hunger, disease, pollution and illiteracy. Please visit the Afghan Peace Volunteers at and/or listen to their international call on November 21st.

Kathy Kelly ( co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence ( While in Kabul, she is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers,

Emanuel: Chicago's "Mayor 1%"

"Mayor 1%" Rahm Emanuel vs. The 99% pt.1


"Mayor 1%" author Kari Lydersen about Rahm Emanuel's battles with Chicago's 99%. (pt1)

Kari Lydersen, a Chicago journalist and author, wrote "Mayor One Percent" to explore what Rahm Emanuel's leadership means for Chicago -- including the way he has galvanized the city's labor movement and fueled a debate about economic priorities. Lydersen specializes in covering labor, energy, environment and immigration stories. Until 2009 she worked for The Washington Post out of the Midwest Bureau; she's also written for The New York Times, People Magazine, WBEZ public radio and other outlets. She currently works for the Medill Watchdog Project at Northwestern University and is working on an ebook about the closing of Chicago's two coal-fired power plants.

Mother Agnes Mariam and the Sad State of the Left

These Sniveling ‘Lefties’: What A Sorry State Of Affairs

by William Bowles -

I have been involved with left-wing politics in one guise or another pretty much my entire life and I have to admit to getting an awful lot of stuff wrong, largely because rather than thinking things through properly for myself, I listened to the ‘authority’, to those who allegedly know best.

Contrary to popular belief, I’ve gotten more radical as I’ve gotten older and as just as willing to consider new ideas, new approaches, perhaps due to my 19th century ‘liberal’ arts education that encouraged us to explore wherever our fancy took us, (though it has to be said that much depended on the quality/interest/encouragement of the lecturers we had and a pretty motley but interesting crew it was).

All of this by way of a run-in to this Mother Agnes Mariam affair that once again reveals the bankrupt nature of left political activity in this country (and elsewhere in the ‘developed’ world).

If I remember correctly, Mother Agnes came to our attention back in September when she blew the lid on the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, incurring the wrath of the Western media as she contradicted the story then being peddled, that it was Assad wot did it.

The International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights (ISTEAMS) has just published a comprehensive report on the chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta. The document is called The Chemical Attacks on East Ghouta to Justify Military Right to Protect Intervention in Syria. With video clips and the evidence provided by witnesses to support the conclusions, the report has been submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council and spread among foreign diplomats.

The author is ISTEAMS President and International Coordinator Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross (el-Salib), the Mother Superior of the Monastery of St. James the Mutilated (Syria). A fearless faithful, she has been collecting the evidence related to bloody events in the conflict zone since the very start of Syrian rebellion: the militants running rampant, the staged fakes and instances of one-sided highlighting of the events in Syria by Western media… ‘East Ghouta: False Flag Chemical Attack‘ By Nikolai MALISHEVSKI | 28.09.2013, Strategic Culture Foundation

So Stop the War have organised (yet another) conference and Mother Agnes got invited (and as it turns out, the only person speaking who had actually experienced Syria first-hand!) and a couple of rogues, Jeremy Scahill activist journalist and Owen Jones of the Independent newspaper, refused to attend if Mother Agnes was on the platform, on the grounds that Mother Agnes was an apologist for ‘mass murderer’ Assad. No proof was offered for this opinion, nor has any emerged since then as far as I know that Mother Agnes is an ‘apologist’ for the Assad regime. Isn’t Owens the pot calling the kettle black?

Owen Jones…is a paid-up member of a UK…[Labour]…party that played a lead role in no less than genocide; in an act of military and economic aggression on Iraq totally against International Law, not to mention morality. He sits beside these politicians and pleads with leftist thinkers to join them and “change them from within”. — ‘Owen Jones & Mother Agnes. A lesson on conciliatory “leftists”’ By Phil Greaves

In any case Mother Agnes disinvited herself from the affair but the smell left by Scahill and Jones remains. Frankly, I think it’s outrageous that two people and one of them an employee of the corporate press, and the other a US journalist/writer, can dictate who should and should not appear at a public meeting organised by the left in the shape of the Stop the War Coalition!

I mean like what kind of threat is it if these two buffoons didn’t pitch? Who is likely to miss their presence? And shame on STW for caving in on this, once again revealing the bankrupt and utterly dishonest nature of the ‘left’.

I know I keep banging on about this but once more into the breach…when is the left here (and elsewhere) going to jettison its imperialist baggage? What does it take? Why is it that we are always, I mean always telling the rest of the world what to do?

Therein lies the imperialist core at the heart of the left, more commonly known as the ‘White Man’s Burden’. Apparently running the planet and its people is hard to give up even for those who claim to be anti-imperialist.

Mother Agnes’ biggest ‘sin’ was calling the ‘rebels’ murderers and exposing the Ghouta gas attack, and after all it was the ‘rebels’ that torched her monastery so perhaps she’s biased. But by the same token and in spite of this she has mediated meetings with all sides in the conflict even those she condemns as murderers. And what if she does support Assad? So what? What if she thinks Assad is preferable to mass murder? She’s not alone in thinking that in Syria.

What these sniveling ‘lefties’ want is everybody, everywhere toeing the Western lefty line. It’s all or nothing apparently. Essentially the Western left is saying, ‘What we need is a real revolutionary running Syria not Assad the phony anti-imperialist and until he comes along, we support bombing you into democracy’.

Now Assad’s credentials may or may not be up to the mark, this is not the point. It’s the idea that we, that is the miniscule Western left decides on the fates of others. It’s outrageous!

So it’s alright to rain bombs on Syria, Libya or wherever, if the pres ain’t Che Guevarra, seems to be the cry of many on the left. More chickenshit opportunism. But this attitude has a pedigree, it didn’t just happen. For as long as other countries have been having revolutions, we have been dismantling them in our critiques and more shamefully, in our actions, like effectively censoring Mother Agnes because two men objected.

Surely the lesson here is for us to keep our noses out of other country’s business and doing something about our own fucked up situation instead. Lost in shuffle are the fate of millions while we debate whether or not to support a country that’s getting hammered by the Empire, whether by proxy or direct intervention. I’m ashamed to be part of a left that even entertains these backward and reactionary views, never mind acting on them. What a sorry state of affairs.

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Fighting Fire with Fire: Climate Apocalypse and the Divestment Movement

How to Reverse a Slow-Motion Apocalypse: Why the Divestment Movement Against Big Energy Matters

by Todd Gitlin - TomDispatch

Apocalyptic climate change is upon us. For shorthand, let’s call it a slow-motion apocalypse to distinguish it from an intergalactic attack out of the blue or a suddenly surging Genesis-style flood.

Slow-motion, however, is not no-motion. In fits and starts, speeding up and slowing down, turning risks into clumps of extreme fact, one catastrophe after another -- even if there can be no 100% certitude about the origin of each one -- the planetary future careens toward the unlivable. That future is, it seems, arriving ahead of schedule, though erratically enough that most people -- in the lucky, prosperous countries at any rate -- can still imagine the planet conducting something close to business as usual.

To those who pay attention, of course, the recent bursts of extreme weather are not “remote “or “abstract,” nor matters to be deferred until later in the century while we worry about more immediate problems. 
 Tomgram: Todd Gitlin, Climate Change as a Business Model

When a crossroads doesn’t lie in the woods or the fields but in our minds, we seldom know it’s there or that we’ve made the choice to take one path and not the other until it’s long past. Sometimes, the best you can do is look for the tiniest clues as to where we’re really heading. When it comes to climate change, you can pile up the nightmares -- Super-Typhoon Haiyan, possibly the strongest such storm ever to hit land (with the usual prominent caveats about how we can never quite know whether an individual event of this sort was global-warming-induced or not); Australia, which only recently elected a climate-change denialist as prime minister and is experiencing its hottest year on record; the rest of the planet, which is living through the seventh warmest year on record; and so on.

And yet, every now and then, set against the overwhelming, you can sense change in the tiniest of things. Here, for instance, may be a little sign when it comes to global warming: on November 1st, the New York Times featured a piece prominently placed on its front page about how climate change might affect global food production (badly). The story was based on a leaked draft of an upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The piece wasn't itself particularly striking, but given that paper’s treatment of climate change over the years, its placement was. Just over two weeks later, after the devastation of parts of the Philippines and with a U.N. climate meeting underway in Poland that normally might hardly have been noticed, it front-paged a far more striking report whose title caught the mood of the moment: "Growing Clamor About Inequities of Climate Change." Recorded was the growing anger and frustration particularly of island nations that had, in greenhouse gas terms, contributed little to climate change and were feeling the brunt of it anyway. Like many other mainstream publications, theTimes hasn't exactly been stellar in the placement and attention it’s given to what almost certainly is the single most important issue of our era. So consider this a (rising) sea change, an indication that, for the paper of record, global warming has just jumped somewhere nearer the front of the line.

And here’s another little surprise and possible sign of changing times. In case no one noticed, Red State America (RSA), the land of climate deniers, has in recent years been hit hard by record droughts, heat, wildfires, floods, and storms, by what our news likes to call “extreme weather” (with little or no reference to climate change). So how has that everyday reality been absorbed, if at all? The British Guardian recently reported new polling research by a Stanford social psychologist, who has long been taking the American pulse on the subject, indicating that the inhabitants of RSA -- we’re talking about Texas and Oklahoma, among other states -- now overwhelmingly believe climate change is a reality, and that a significant majority of them want the government to work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Two stories placed strikingly in a major paper and one passing poll. Not exactly a typhoon of evidence, but sometimes you take your straws in the wind where you find them. In the meantime, young activists (and older ones, too) are trying to take the typhoon by the horns and, with a growing campaign to pressure universities and colleges to divest from the giant energy companies, to change the mood and calculations of our moment. Let TomDispatch regular Todd Gitlin tell the rest of the story -- and stay tuned because, whatever may be happening now, there will be crossroads ahead, choices to be made on a planet that’s guaranteed to be in increasing turmoil for the rest of our lives. Tom  

How to Reverse a Slow-Motion Apocalypse: Why the Divestment Movement Against Big Energy Matters

by Todd Gitlin

The coming dystopian landscape is all too real and it is already right here for many millions. (Think: the Philippines, the Maldives Islands, drowned New Orleans, the New York City subways, Far Rockaway, the Jersey Shore, the parched Southwest, the parched and then flooded Midwest and other food belts, the Western forests that these days are regularly engulfed in “record” flames, and so on.) A child born in the United States this year stands a reasonable chance of living into the next century when everything, from available arable land and food resources to life on our disappearing seacoasts, will have changed, changed utterly.

A movement to forestall such menaces must convince many more millions outside Bangladesh or the Pacific islands that what’s “out there” is not remote in time or geographically far away, but remarkably close at hand, already lapping at many shores -- and then to mobilize those millions to leverage our strengths and exploit the weaknesses of the institutions arrayed against us that benefit from destruction and have a stake in our weakness.

There is a poetic fitness to human history at this juncture. Eons ago, various forms of life became defunct. A civilization then evolved to extract the remains of that defunct life from the earth and turn it into energy. As a result, it’s now we who are challenged to avoid making our own style of existence defunct.

Is it not uncanny that we have come face-to-face with the consequences of a way of life based on burning up the remnants of previous broken-down orders of life? It’s a misnomer to call those remains -- coal, oil, and gas -- “fossil fuels.” They are not actually made up of fossils at all. Still, there’s an eerie justice in the inaccuracy, since here we are, converting the residue of earlier breakdowns into another possible breakdown. The question is: will we become the next fossils?

Subsidizing Big Energy

The institutions of our ruling world have a powerful stake in the mad momentum of climate change -- the energy system that’s producing it and the political stasis that sustains and guarantees it -- so powerful as to seem unbreakable. Don’t count on them to avert the coming crisis. They can’t. In some sense, they are the crisis.

Corporations and governments promote the burning of fossil fuels, which means the dumping of its waste product, carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere where, in record amounts, it heats the planet. This is not an oversight; it is a business model.

Governments collude with global warming, in part by bankrolling the giant fossil fuel companies (FFCs). As a recent report written by Shelagh Whitley for the Overseas Development Institute puts it,

"Producers of oil, gas, and coal received more than $500 billion in government subsidies around the world in 2011... If their aim is to avoid dangerous climate change, governments are shooting themselves in both feet. They are subsidizing the very activities that are pushing the world towards dangerous climate change, and creating barriers to investment in low-carbon development and subsidy incentives that encourage investment in carbon-intensive energy.”

Of course a half-trillion dollars in subsidies doesn’t just happen. It cannot be said too often: the FFCs thrive by conniving with governments. They finance politicians to do their bidding. Seven of the ten largest companies in the world are FFCs, as are four of the ten most profitable (just outnumbering three Chinese banks, which presumably have their own major FFC connections). These behemoths have phenomenal clout when they lobby for fossil-fuel-friendly development and against remedial policies like a carbon tax. And if this were not enough, they flood the world with fraudulent claims that climate change is not happening, or is not dangerous, or that its dimensions and human causes are controversial among scientists whose profession it is to study the climate.

The Cascade

Fossilized corporations do their thing while frozen governments produce (or opt out of) hapless and toothless international agreements. By default, initiative must arise elsewhere -- in places where reason and passion have some purchase as well as a tradition, places where new power may be created and deployed. This counterpower is, in fact, developing.

Given the might and recalcitrance of the usual culpable and complicit institutions, it falls to people’s initiatives and to other kinds of institutions to take up the slack. This means universities, churches, and other investment pools, now increasingly under pressure from mushrooming campaigns to divest funds from FFCs; and popular movements against coal, oil, fracking, and other dangerous projects -- in particular, at the moment, movements in the U.S., Canada, and elsewhere to stop tar sands pipelines.

Those in the growing divestment movement suffer no illusions that universities themselves wield the magnitude of power you find in investment banks or, of course, the FFCs themselves. They are simply seeking leverage where they can. The sums of capital held by universities, in particular, are small on the scale of things. Harvard, the educational institution with the largest endowment (some $32.7 billion at last count), reports that only 3% of its direct holdings are in the top 200 energy outfits. (The amount of its money held indirectly and opaquely, through private capital pools, and so also possibly invested in FFCs, is unclear.) Though millions of dollars are at stake, that’s a drop in the bucket for Harvard, whose holdings amount, in turn, to nowhere near a drop in the total market capitalization of those energy giants.

Set against a landscape in which people have lost faith in the principle sectors of power, however, universities still have a certain legitimacy that grants them the potential for leverage. Divestment will make news precisely because such movements are unusual: universities biting the hands of the dogs that feed them, so to speak.

We won’t know how much influence that legitimacy can bring about until the attempts are made. What we do know, from historical precedent, is that such efforts, even when they start on a small scale, tend to inspire more of the same. As Robert Kinloch Massie argues in his fine book on South African sanctions, Loosing the Bonds, divestment campaigns such as those over apartheid and Big Tobacco (phased out by Harvard in 1990) worked by creating a cascade effect.

With climate change, the stigmatization of the FFCs is already spreading from universities and churches to city and state pension funds. Eventually, if it works, the cascade changes the atmosphere around private and public investment decisions. Then those decisions themselves begin to change and such changes become part of a new market calculation for investors and politicians alike.

That’s why it matters so much that some 400 divestment campaigns are currently underway at American colleges and universities. Cascades of influence can move institutions, often in surprising ways. Every time a divestment demand is put forward, the conversation changes in elite board rooms where investment decisions are made. Children of FFC executives go home for Christmas and their nagging questions make their parents’ business-as-usual lives less comfortable. (This dynamic, though seldom credited, undoubtedly played some role in ending the Vietnam War.)

At Harvard, my alma mater, a fierce campaign by courageous and strategic-minded students has spun off a parallel campaign by alumni. They are being asked to withhold contributions to the university and to donate to an escrow fund until Harvard divests from its direct holdings in FFCs and undertakes to divest from its indirect holdings as well.

Is this sort of demand just a gesture of moral purity? Not necessarily. Indeed, there may well be an economic payoff for morally motivated divestment and reinvestment. My fellow alumnus Bevis Longstreth, a former commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission, makes a strong case that the policies of the FFCs are shortsighted and risky. (During the year 2012 alone, the top 200 sank $674 billion into acquiring and developing new energy reserves and working out ways to exploit them.) Significant parts of the capital they are now investing will likely be “wasted,” since in a climate-change world, large portions of those reserves will have to stay in the ground.

Looked at in the long term, the FFCs may not turn out to be such smart investments after all. Indeed, in the boilerplate language of financial prospectuses, past results are no guarantee of future results; and there are already investment models showing that non-FFC funds deliver better proceeds.

These efforts and arguments have yet to convince Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust that climate change is one of those “extraordinarily rare circumstances” when divestment is justified. Instead, she proposes “engagement” with the boards of the energy companies, as if sweet reason by itself stood a chance of outtalking sweet crude oil. She touts Harvard’s teaching and research on climate issues, while neglecting the way those corporations fund disinformation meant to blunt the effect of that teaching and research. Having declared that the issue is not “political,” she defends Harvard’s investments in the chief funders of propaganda against climate science. Some rejection of politics! Meanwhile, for saying no to divestment, President Faust wins the applause of an Alabama coal company front group.

Still, Divest Harvard is undeterred. By conducting referenda, organizing panels and rallies, gathering signatures, and activating alumni, it and like-minded groups are in the process of changing elite conversations about wealth and moral responsibility in the midst of a slow-motion apocalypse. They are helping ensure that previously unthinkable conversations become thinkable.

Something similar is taking place on many other campuses. At the same time, writers in influential conservative publications have already begun taking this movement seriously, and the first signs of a changing state of mind are evident. A report out of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, for example, recently warned against the risks of “stranded assets” (all those fossil fuels already bought and paid for by the FFCs that will never make it out of the ground). The Economist has begun to doubt that oil is such a great investment. The Financial Times heralds the spread of divestment efforts to city governments.

Hinges Open Doors

Transforming the world is something like winning a war. If the objective is to eliminate a condition like hunger, mass violence, or racial domination, then the institutions and systems of power that produce, defend, and sustain this condition have to be dislodged and defeated. For that, most people have to stop experiencing the condition -- and the enemy that makes it possible -- as abstractions “out there.”

A movement isn’t called that for nothing. It has to move people. It needs lovers, and friends, and allies. It has to generate a cascade of feeling -- moral feeling. The movement’s passion has to become a general passion. And that passion must be focused: the concern that people feel about some large condition “out there” has to find traction closer to home.

Vis-à-vis the slow-motion apocalypse of climate change, there’s plenty of bad news daily and it’s hitting ever closer home, even if you live in the parching Southwest or the burning West, not the Philippines or the Maldive Islands. Until recently, however, it sometimes felt as if the climate movement was spinning its wheels, gaining no traction. But the extraordinary work of Bill McKibben and his collaborators at, and the movements against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and its Canadian equivalent, the Northern Gateway pipeline, have changed the climate-change climate.

Now, the divestment movement, too, becomes a junction point where action in the here-and-now, on local ground, gains momentum toward a grander transformation. These movements are the hinges on which the door to a livable future swings.

Todd Gitlin, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, the chair of the PhD program in communications, and the author of The Whole World Is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left; The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage; and Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street.

[Note: Thanks go to the sociologist Gay Seidman, elected as an anti-apartheid candidate to Harvard’s Board of Overseers in 1986, and to Eric Chivian, M.D., who got me thinking about the concept of a slow-motion apocalypse.]

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Copyright 2013 Todd Gitlin