Archive for May, 2007

The US war and occupation of Iraq—the murder of a society

May 19, 2007

World Socialist Web Site

The US war and occupation of Iraq—the murder of a society

Part one

By Bill Van Auken
19 May 2007

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This is the first part of a three-part series. The second part will be posted May 21.

While official politics and the media in the United States are focused largely on competing plans for salvaging the American occupation from the debacle it confronts in Iraq, little serious consideration is given to the historic catastrophe that has been inflicted upon Iraqi society itself.

Although no definitive figures can be given on the total number of Iraqis who have died as a result of the US war and occupation—including those killed in the invasion and subsequent armed violence and those whose lives have been cut short by disease and hunger, particularly among the young and old—every serious estimate places the excess death toll between several hundred thousands and one million human beings.

Iraq, once among the most advanced countries of the region, has been reduced, in terms of basic economic and social indices, to the level of the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

What is involved is the systematic destruction of an entire society through the unleashing of violence and criminality on a scale not seen since Hitler’s armies ravaged Europe in the Second World War.

American society itself is suffering deadly consequences from this war. The number of US soldiers killed in Iraq has topped 3,400, with every indication that the casualty rate is climbing as the Bush administration’s “surge” sends combat troops into the densely populated and overwhelmingly hostile neighborhoods of Baghdad.

Another 30,000 American military personnel have been wounded or injured, many of them grievously. Undoubtedly, hundreds of thousands more will suffer the psychological effects of having participated in a dirty colonial war.

The war’s daily drain on the US economy is estimated at over $300 million, with predictions that its total cost could top $2 trillion.

There is an even greater cost, however, in terms of the damage done by this criminal war to the political, social and, indeed, moral health of American society. The Iraq war—all of the tired propaganda about the “war on terrorism,” the struggle for “democracy” and the “liberation” of the Iraqi people notwithstanding—is a failed attempt by America’s financial elite to further enrich itself and secure its continued global hegemony through the naked theft of Iraq’s oil wealth.

Every section of the US political and corporate establishment, all branches and levels of government, both major political parties, and the mass media are all implicated in massive war crimes. Criminality on such a grand scale cannot go unpunished without grave implications for the future of the American people and, indeed, all of humanity.

Taken together, US operations in Iraq have amounted to sociocide—the deliberate and systematic murder of an entire society.

A series of recent reports have pointed to the scale of death, destruction and oppression that have been wrought by the US occupation, now in its fifth year.

An occupation army engaged in slaughter and abuse

First, as a telling indicator of the violence that the US occupation has unleashed against the Iraqi people, there is the report released by the Pentagon earlier this month on the mental state of American occupation troops. The document presents a chilling portrait of an army suffering from growing demoralization and mental and emotional dysfunction, which find expression, in part, in callous indifference, if not outright hatred, towards Iraq’s civilian population.

The survey found that a majority of troops believed that Iraqi civilians have no right to be treated “with dignity and respect,” and that approximately 10 percent of them admitted to having inflicted gratuitous violence on Iraqis in the form of beatings or destruction of personal property.

Perhaps the most significant finding was that 14 percent of US soldiers and Marines said they were directly responsible for the death of an “enemy combatant.” Given that some 170,000 US troops are currently in Iraq—and over 650,000 have been deployed there at one time or another since 2003—this would indicate a massive death toll inflicted directly by US forces.

Many of these troops, of course, are in Iraq for second and third tours of duty, and the data does not account for incidents in which more than one person is killed, much less air strikes or artillery bombardments that can claim scores of victims. Nor does it include those killed by the tens of thousands of armed mercenary contractors, who are answerable neither to Iraqi law nor the military code of justice.

A further indication of the universal character of the deadly violence that has been inflicted upon the country came in the poll conducted earlier this year by ABC News, USA Today, the BBC and ARD German television, which found that fully 53 percent of Iraqis reported having a close friend or immediate relative either killed or wounded.

Along with the rising death toll has come a marked increase in the number of disappeared, which has far outstripped the horrors that this word came to symbolize in the worst years of dictatorship in countries like Argentina and Chile. Iraqi human rights organizations estimate that 15,000 or more Iraqis are missing, with between 40 and 60 more people joining the ranks of the disappeared daily—in other words, as many as 20,000 people on an annual basis.

Many, no doubt, have been exterminated by death squads, while others have joined the country’s burgeoning population of detainees, who are imprisoned without charges and subject to unlimited periods of pre-trial detention and often torture.

The Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights reported in March that the regime was holding nearly 38,000 detainees and prisoners, while the US military admits to 19,000 detainees jailed in its two main detention camps—Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca. This total amounts to nearly six times the number of prisoners held by the Saddam Hussein regime before the US invasion to “liberate” the Iraqi people. No doubt, it will rise substantially as the US military’s “surge” continues to sweep up large numbers of Iraqi civilians.

The displacement and exile of millions of Iraqis

In addition to the hundreds of thousands of deaths that the occupation has inflicted upon the Iraqi population, an equally telling indicator of its catastrophic implications for Iraqi society is the massive population of refugees and internally displaced persons.

It is estimated that 2 million Iraqis have fled their homeland, the vast majority of them seeking refuge in Syria and Jordan. Another 1.9 million Iraqis have been reduced to the status of displaced persons inside the country.

In sum, fully 15 percent of the country’s population has been driven from their homes. The United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that between 40,000 and 50,000 more Iraqis are being displaced every week, many of them forced to sleep in tents or out in the open with no means of support.

“We left Baghdad because the situation is very difficult. We were threatened with death and they took our houses and also our shops,” a man who recently came with his family to Syria told UNHCR. “You see what the situation is there—just destruction and death.”

The United States, which unleashed this destruction and death, has since 2003 admitted only 701 Iraqi refugees. Syria is currently hosting some 1.2 million. Washington has sought to obscure this massive refugee crisis—let alone take any responsibility for it—because it is such a damning indictment of the social catastrophe it has created in Iraq.

The vast flow of internal refugees has created increasingly desperate and volatile conditions in the country’s south, where an estimated 700,000 have fled, joining some 200,000 locally displaced people within Najaf, Kerbala and Basra provinces. Local governments and relief agencies are overwhelmed, unable to provide this vast population with housing, food or medical care. The central government in Baghdad has proven unable and unwilling to provide basic support.

“There are dozens of families arriving every day at camps for the displaced, causing a lack of essential needs such as food and health care,” Ali Fakhouri, a spokesman for the Najaf provincial council told IRIN, the news agency of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in March. “The past two months were the worst for those families. For security reasons, the delivery of aid has decreased considerably and because of a lack of medicines in the region’s hospitals and inaccessibility to hospitals, children are more vulnerable to diseases. Diarrhea is common among children in the displaced groups in the south.”

Iraq’s record rise in infant mortality

Perhaps most startling of the recent reports is that issued by the children’s advocacy group Save the Children documenting worldwide trends in infant mortality rates, universally accepted as one of the most fundamental indices of social progress.

According to this report, Iraq recorded a staggering 150 percent increase in the rate of infant deaths between 1990 and 2005. In raw figures, 122,000 Iraqi children died in 2005, half of them newborn babies. The rate was 125 deaths of children under five for every 1,000 live births, compared to 50 in 1990. According to the Iraqi health ministry, conditions have only worsened since, with the ratio climbing to 130 deaths for every 1,000 births in 2006.

The years selected by Save the Children in conducting its international survey had particular relevance for Iraq, beginning in 1990 with the initiation of the punishing US-backed economic sanctions and ending in 2005, two years after the invasion. As with most of the essential indices of social devastation in Iraq, the infant mortality figures reflect both the country’s relentless economic strangulation—punctuated by periodic military attacks—over the course of more than a decade, and the violent destruction of the invasion and occupation which followed.

The vast rise in infant mortality in Iraq is unprecedented. Even sub-Saharan African countries that have suffered the worst ravages of AIDS have not approached such a terrible retrogression.

No doubt a significant share of these infant deaths can be attributed to US military operations. Virtually every air strike and bombardment carried out against populated areas claims children among their victims.

Far more important, however, is the overall disintegration of Iraq’s water, electricity and sewage systems, as well as its healthcare network, which together have created conditions in which the principal killers of children—diarrhoea, malnutrition and preventable diseases like typhoid and hepatitis—go unchecked and untreated.

The United Nations has reported a stunning 70 percent increase in diarrhoea among Iraqi children just since January 2006, with the highest rates in Anbar province, a center of resistance to the occupation that has been continuously under siege by US forces. Fully 60 percent of the people in the province have access only to polluted river water for drinking.

Less than a third of the population nationwide has access to clean drinking water, and just 19 percent have a functioning sewage system. Both the water and sewage systems were damaged heavily by US bombardments in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the 2003 invasion. After toppling the Iraqi government, US forces did nothing to stop looters from stripping water treatment and pumping stations of essential equipment. “Reconstruction” here, as elsewhere, has proven catastrophically inadequate.

On average, Iraqis receive only eight hours of electricity a day, with even worse conditions in Baghdad, where most of the capital’s seven million people get only six hours or less of service daily.

To be continued.

See Also:
Pentagon survey exposes deep demoralization of US occupation troops
Support for torture, routine abuse of Iraqi civilians
[9 May 2007]
Iraqi infant mortality soars by 150 percent–a damning revelation of US war crimes
[9 May 2007]
Exchange of letters with Iraq Body Count on Johns Hopkins study estimating 650,000 Iraqi war dead
[6 April 2007]
The human costs of four years of war
The US invasion has caused nearly three-quarter million Iraqi deaths
[20 March 2007]

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Jimmy Carter criticises Blair’s imperial politics

May 19, 2007

Nasir Khan

Blair is a war criminal

In my opinion Blair has been a political charlatan, a puffed-up trickster and a pathetic power-hungry careerist all along, but it is also true to say that he is not the only one of the type around.
In foreign policy matters Blair had earned the unique distinction of being called even by the conservative British media the ‘poodle’ and the ‘lap dog of Bush’. And we all know that he has been a loyal errand boy of Bush all these years running around and selling Bush’s politics of war, terror, lies and more lies.
I would like to remind our readers that Blair is a war criminal who sided blindly with Bush to invade and destroy Iraq. The blood of almost seven hundred thousand Iraqi men, women and children is on the hands of Blair and his Washington boss.
The democratic forces throughout the world should call for the arrest and trial of Blair for war crimes, crimes against humanity and misleading the British people and Parliament about the Iraqi war. His place in the next round should be before the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

In his latest comments former American president Jimmy Carter exposes the pivotal role Blair played as President Bush’s hit man in Iraq and also in selling and defending his Washington boss’s policies before the world.

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Compliant and subservient: Jimmy Carter’s explosive critique of Tony Blair

By John Preston and Melissa Kite

Last Updated: 1:37am BST 28/08/2006

 

 

Tony Blair’s lack of leadership and timid subservience to George W. Bush lie behind the ongoing crisis in Iraq and the worldwide threat of terrorism, according to the former American president Jimmy Carter.

  Jimmy Carter, who condemns the pre-emptive strike on Iraq
Outspoken: Jimmy Carter condemns the Iraq invasion

“I have been surprised and extremely disappointed by Tony Blair’s behaviour,” he told The Sunday Telegraph.

“I think that more than any other person in the world the Prime Minister could have had a moderating influence on Washington – and he has not. I really thought that Tony Blair, who I know personally to some degree, would be a constraint on President Bush’s policies towards Iraq.”

In an exclusive interview, President Carter made it plain that he sees Mr Blair’s lack of leadership as being a key factor in the present crisis in Iraq, which followed the 2003 invasion – a pre-emptive move he said he would never have considered himself as president.

Mr Carter also said that the Iraq invasion had subverted the fight against terrorism and instead strengthened al-Qaeda and the recruitment of terrorists.

 

“In many countries where I meet with leaders and private citizens there is an equating of American policy with Great Britain – with Great Britain obviously playing the lesser role.

“We now have a situation where America is so unpopular overseas that even in countries like Egypt and Jordan our approval ratings are less than five per cent. It’s a shameful and pitiful state of affairs and I hold your British Prime Minister to be substantially responsible for being so compliant and subservient.”

The outspoken attack by the former Democratic president shows the extent of the alienation between the Labour Party and its traditional Democrat allies in America.

It will embarrass the Prime Minister on his return from his summer family holiday in Barbados and comes as Mr Blair prepares to make a defiant speech warning his party that it risks losing the next election if it does not unite behind him.

As friends of the Prime Minister mounted frenzied briefings in his defence yesterday, the Downing Street spin machine appeared to run out of control. A statement first put out on Friday was reissued, in which Mr Blair made a desperate defence of his Government, insisting that “after nearly a decade in office the PM is convinced that his Government has the experience and authority to meet these challenges”.

Later officials at Downing Street admitted that they had simply re-dated the identical statement before sending it out to the press.

At 81, Mr Carter – the 39th American president, from 1977 to 1981, and the winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize – plainly has no intention of sitting on his porch and nodding quietly away as the sun goes down over his peanut farm. He has just published a book, Faith and Freedom, in which he savages the American administration for leading the country into insularity and intolerance.

“We’ve never before had an administration that would endorse pre-emptive war – that is a basic policy of going to war against another country even though our own security was not directly threatened,” he said. In his book, President Carter writes: “I have been sorely tempted to launch a military attack on foreigners.”

But had he still been president, he says that he would never have considered invading Iraq in 2003.

“No,” he said, “I would never have ordered it. However, I wouldn’t have excluded going into Afghanistan, because I think we had to strike at al-Qaeda and its leadership. But then, to a major degree, we abandoned the anti-terrorist effort and went almost unilaterally with Great Britain into Iraq.”

This, Mr Carter believes, subverted the effectiveness of anti-terrorist efforts. Far from achieving peace and stability, the result has been a disaster on all fronts. “My own personal opinion is that the Iraqi people are not better off as a result of the invasion and people in America and Great Britain are not safer.”

Asked why he thinks Mr Blair has behaved in the way that he has with President Bush’s belligerent regime, Mr Carter said he could only put it down to timidity. Yet he confessed that he remains baffled by the apparent contrast between Mr Blair’s private remarks and his public utterances.

“I really believe the reports of former leaders who were present in conversations between Blair and Bush that Blair has expressed private opinions contrary to some of the public policies that he has adopted in subservience.”

American treatment of Iraqi prisoners

May 16, 2007

Nasir Khan

The Bush Administration claims to have brought democracy and American values to Iraq. But actions speak louder than words. The following pictures show the sort of democracy and American values Mr Bush, Mr Cheney, Mr Rumsfeld, Mr Wolfowitz, etc.,etc., had planned for the Iraqis.

I find it difficult to comment or say anything in this regard. However, the following photos are merely a glimpse of what American forces have been doing in Iraq and how they have been treating the Iraqis under occupation. But who is responsible for all this? President Bush is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of America and the ultimate responsibility for the crimes his forces commit in Iraq lies on him.

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s) 04/12/2004

(AP Photo) 04/12/2004

The Abu Ghraib Prison Photos

It’s the “liberation” of the Iraqi people

These are just some of the photos that led to an investigation into conditions at the Abu Ghraib prison run by the occupation authorities, as revealed in a shocking report broadcast by CBS on 60 Minutes II.

Images Copyright CBS News: Reprinted for Fair Use

 


The Passion PowerPoint
 

Kelly … ‘I had to act’

By JOHN SCOTT
and MICHAEL LEA

THE young mum who uncovered the Iraqi PoW sex snaps scandal said last night: “I felt sick to the stomach at those pictures.”
Kelly Tilford, 22, called police after developing a film in her photo shop.

http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/1,,2003250508,00.html

 
Brigadier-General Janis Karpinski, who was responsible for military jails in Iraq

Inside Abu Ghraib

Washinghtonpost video presoners abuse

Handcuffed in an awkward position, the prisoner’s ankle cuffed to the door handle behind him
اليدان مربوطتان مع الركبه و الكاحل مربوط بالباب الخلفي ليجبر الضحيه على الوضع الظاهر
Covered in a feces, Stool
الضحيه ملطخ بالبراز مقيد القدمين
ضربه مميته على النخاع الشوكي في الرقبه
Our Abu Ghraib? Former inmates at a Brooklyn detention center are suing the Justice Department on charges of abuse
Even after death !
ABC News has obtained two new photos taken at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq showing Spc. Charles Graner and Spc. Sabrina Harmon posing over the body of a detainee who was allegedly beaten to death by CIA or civilian interrogators in the prison’s showers. The detainee’s name was Manadel al-Jamadi. Mark Rothschild writes about the details of this poor man’s death.
http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/0,1518,299964,00.html
Beaten to death
http://www.aztlan.net/iraqi_women_raped.htm
http://ctdsaddam.i8.com/uscrimes11.htm

http://www.thememoryhole.org/war/iraqis_tortured/
http://www.albasrah.net/maqalat/english/kelly/Kelly.htm

SHAME OF ABUSE BY BRIT TROOPS

LAS TORTURAS DE LOS GENOCIDAS EN IRAK

http://www.carmillaonline.com/archives/2003/05/000221.html#000221

http://www.e-aljazeera.net/al3ar.htm

 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Iraqi Parliament wants U.S. to leave Iraq

May 13, 2007

the raw story

By Joshua Portlow – Washington Post, 11 May 2007

BAGHDAD — A majority of Iraq’s parliament has signed a proposed bill that would require a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Iraq and freeze current troop levels.

The bill would create a timeline for a gradual departure, much like what some Democratic lawmakers in the United States have demanded, and would require the Iraqi government to secure parliament’s approval before any further extensions of the U.N. mandate for foreign troops in Iraq, which expires at the end of this year.

“We haven’t asked for the immediate withdrawal of multinational forces; we asked that we should build our security forces and make them qualified and at that point there would be a withdrawal,” said Baha al- Araji, a parliamentarian allied with the anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose supporters drafted the bill. “But no one can accept the occupation of this country.”

In both Iraq and the United States, there is deepening frustration among lawmakers and the public over President Bush’s troop build-up, a policy that has yet to prevent widespread killing in Iraq. At the same time, Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are dispatching their emissaries in an urgent trans- Atlantic gambit to shore up support.

Iraq’s national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, was in Washington this week to ask Democratic congressmen to have patience with the troop surge and to not abandon Iraq at such a precarious time.

Wednesday, Vice President Cheney landed in Baghdad to press the government to act quickly on a list of divisive political issues the Bush administration deems necessary for longterm stability.

On his second day in Iraq, Cheney spoke to U.S. soldiers at a base near Tikrit about the difficulties they face each day.

“We are here, above all, because the terrorists who have declared war on America and other free nations have made Iraq the central front in that war,” he said.

“The United States, also, has made a decision: As the prime target of a global war against terror, we will stay on the offensive. We will not sit back and wait to be hit again.”

But as in the United States, Iraq’s lawmakers are moving further away from the views of the government, particularly on the basic issue of American presence in Iraq.

The draft bill is being championed by a 30-member bloc loyal to al-Sadr, but it has also gained support from some other Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish legislators. So far, at least 138 lawmakers have signed the proposed legislation, the slimmest possible majority in the 275- member parliament, according to al-Araji.

“We think that America has committed a grave injustice against the Iraqi people and against the glorious history of Iraq, when they destroyed our institutions, and then rebuilt them in the wrong way,” said Hussein al-Falluji, a lawmaker from the largest Sunni coalition in parliament, and a supporter of the timetable proposal.

Several legislators, including those loyal to al-Maliki, doubted the effort would succeed at a time when Iraqi troops still rely on U.S. firepower.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea. Unless we complete building our forces so we are capable of defending the country, and bringing security to the country, then we are not ready for something like this,” said Hachim al-Hassani, a secular Sunni from the Iraqi National List.

Ali al-Adeeb, a lawmaker from al-Maliki’s Dawa party, said any timetable for American withdrawal should be accompanied by a timetable for training and equipping the Iraqi security forces.

There was also some disagreement over the terms of the proposed timetable legislation. Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman told the Associated Press he agreed to back the measure on the condition it include an accompanying timeline for the build-up of Iraqi forces, but this was not included in the draft, which he called a “deception.”

The sectarian violence continued on Thursday, as the Islamic State of Iraq, an insurgent coalition that includes al-Qaida in Iraq, posted an Internet video that purports to show the killing of nine Iraqi police and army officers.

The U.S. military said one Marine had been killed Tuesday during fighting in Anbar province in western Iraq. Two other U.S. soldiers died Thursday from gunshot wounds, one in Baghdad and the other in Diwaniyah, south of the capital. The deaths raised the U.S. toll to 3,383 since the war began in March 2003.

39% Americans want to impeach Bush and Cheney

May 10, 2007
Michael Roston
Published: Tuesday May 8, 2007
   

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A poll published Tuesday shows that close to 40% of Americans favor the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, according to an article at Townhall.com.

“Few serious observers think things will ever get to actual impeachment. And yet the American public seems more open to the concept than many imagine, according to a new national poll,” wrote Matt Towery, CEO of InsiderAdvantage, which commissioned the poll. “The implications of this public sentiment could be huge for the 2008 presidential elections.”

The poll from InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion asked a sample of 621 Americans, “Would you favor or oppose the impeachment by Congress of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney?”

A total of 39% who answered said they favored impeachment, according to Towery. In opposition were 55% of respondents, with 6% answering undecided or don’t know. There was a 4% margin of error.

Towery noted that a high proportion of independent voters, who traditionally decide elections, favored impeachment.

“Forty-two percent of independents want Bush and Cheney impeached. These aren’t just voters who disapprove of the White House. Instead, they’re for initiating a process that could remove them from office,” he wrote.

InsiderAdvantage’s polls have “been praised by national media ranging from CNN’s Judy Woodruff to Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, and have appeared in Knight-Ridder newspapers, The Washington Post, Washington Times, New York Post, Business Week, US News and World Report, and CBS News/CBS Marketwatch,” according to the company’s website.

Towery’s full article can be found at this link.

An Appeal to the American People

May 10, 2007

The former prime minister of Malaysia Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad appeals to the Americans to stop killing the people of Iraq. Right from the start the Iraqi war has been a war of aggression, senseless and stupid. However, it should be noted that a growing number of Americans oppose President Bush’s war in Iraq. But are they in a position to influence the dangerous course Bush is following? I think, they can. The great American people have to rise to the occasion against this callous and cowardly war.

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Iraq, An Appeal to the American People

It is time we renounce killing masses of people in order to solve international disputes

Global Research, May 10, 2007

 

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The war in Iraq is getting worse. More and more American soldiers are being killed. Of course Iraqis are being killed in greater numbers.

This war was started by President Bush and supported by Prime Minister Tony Blair. They had lied in order to invade Iraq.

What has this war gained for America and Britain? Nothing except the unnecessary deaths of American soldiers, destruction of Iraq and higher oil prices. There is no democracy in Iraq, for which American soldiers were supposed to die.

Invading a country today does not end in conquest and subjugation of the people. The occupying forces would be continuously attacked by guerrillas and terrorists.

War is no longer an option for even the most powerful countries in the settlement of international disputes.

Killing people to achieve a national objective is primitive and barbaric.

Modern wars kill and destroy more.

The majority of those killed are non-combatants; old people, sick people, children and babies.

War makes a mockery of our claims to be civilised, to care for human life, human rights etc.

War reduces us to being brutish animals.

It is time we renounce killing masses of people in order to solve international disputes. It is time we renounce WAR! Defensive war would not be necessary in the absence of wars of aggression. Trillions of dollars would be saved as nations scale down their war machines.

I appeal to the American people to reject candidates in the Presidential primaries and election who do not reject killing people, who do not reject war as a policy option for the United States of America.

Elect only candidates who categorically declare they reject war and killing people.

If the United States does this, then candidates in elections in other countries will have to reject war.

Americans – you have a duty to yourselves – you have a duty to humanity at large.

Please do not fail in this moral duty.

Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad

Chairman,

Perdana Global Peace Organisation

Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad is the former Prime Minister of Malaysia.

American foreign policy and the Third Reich

May 10, 2007

While commemorating the 62nd victory parade over Nazi Germany during the Second World War, President Putin laid flowers and wreaths to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier on May 8. In this war over 20 million people from the Soviet Union were killed and the military losses from Russia only were over 13.4 million. In his speech Mr. Putin obliquely compared the foreign policy of the United States to the Third Reich.
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May 9, 2007

NY Times

MOSCOW, May 9 — President Vladimir V. Putin seemed to obliquely compare the foreign policy of the United States to the Third Reich in a speech on Wednesday commemorating the 62nd anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

The comments were the latest in a series of sharply worded Russian criticisms of the foreign policy of the United States — on Iraq, missile defense, NATO expansion and, more broadly, United States unilateralism in foreign affairs.

Many Russians say the sharper edge reflects a frustration that Russia’s views, in particular opposition to NATO expansion, have been ignored in the West. Outside of Russia, however, many detected in the new tone a return to cold-war-style antagonism, emboldened by petroleum wealth.

Mr. Putin’s analogy was a small part of a larger speech, otherwise unambiguously congratulating Russian veterans of World War II, known here as the Great Patriotic War. Mr. Putin spoke from a podium in front of Lenin’s mausoleum on Red Square before troops mustered for a military parade.

Mr. Putin called Victory Day a holiday of “huge moral importance and unifying power” for Russia, and went on to enumerate the lessons of that conflict for the world today.

“We do not have the right to forget the causes of any war, which must be sought in the mistakes and errors of peacetime,” Mr. Putin said.

“Moreover, in our time, these threats are not diminishing,” he said. “They are only transforming, changing their appearance. In these new threats, as during the time of the Third Reich, are the same contempt for human life and the same claims of exceptionality and diktat in the world.”

The Kremlin press service declined to clarify the statement, saying Mr. Putin’s spokesman was unavailable because of the holiday.

Sergei A. Markov, director of the Institute of Political Studies, who works closely with the Kremlin, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Putin was referring to the United States and NATO. Mr. Markov said the comments should be interpreted in the context of a wider, philosophical discussion of the lessons of World War II. The speech also praised the role of the allies of the Soviet Union in defeating Germany.

“He intended to talk about the United States, but not only,” Mr. Markov said in reference to the sentence mentioning the Third Reich. “The speech said that the Second World War teaches lessons that can be applied in today’s world.”

The United States, Mr. Putin has maintained, is seeking to establish a unipolar world to replace the bipolar balance of power of the cold war era.

In a speech in Munich on Feb. 10, he characterized the United States as “One single center of power: One single center of force. One single center of decision making. This is the world of one master, one sovereign.”

The victory in World War II, achieved at the cost of roughly 27 million Soviet citizens, still echoes loudly in the politics of the former Soviet Union, particularly in Russia’s relations with the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

In his speech on Wednesday, Mr. Putin criticized Estonia, also indirectly, for recently relocating a monument to the Red Army in Tallinn, the Estonian capital, along with the remains of unknown soldiers buried there. Mr. Putin warned that such changes to war memorials was “sowing discord and new distrust between states and people.” The remarks were a nod to the protests in Russia and Estonia after the relocation of the Bronze Soldier memorial from the city center to a military cemetery.

In his Victory Day speech last May, Mr. Putin brushed on similar themes of the lessons of the war. Then, he spoke of the need to stem “racial enmity, extremism and xenophobia” in a possible reference to rising ethnic tensions inside Russia.

Victory Day has evolved into the principal political holiday in Russia, replacing the Soviet-era Nov. 7 celebration, Day of the Great October Socialist Revolution. That holiday was canceled under Mr. Putin and replaced with the Day of Accord, observing a 1612 uprising against Poland, celebrated on Nov. 4.

Blair’s ten patronising years

May 3, 2007

In the following article Dr Sahib Mustaqim Bleher lays bare the disastrous political course prime minister Tony Blair has followed during his ten years in 10 Downing Street.

********************************************

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Blair’s ten patronising years

At last Britons will be given the brief triumph they’ve long been waiting for: to see their most unpopular prime minister in post war history (though some would call it a tie with Margaret Thatcher) leave office. Having sacrificed the interests of the country in order to achieve his personal milestone of ten years in office, Tony Blair is finally going to announce the date of his departure which will be greeted with more than a few cheers.

Shortly after Blair came to power he commented that in government Labour had to remember that they were not masters but servants of the people and that what the electorate gave it could also take away. Hopefully those words will come to haunt him again in the upcoming local elections to make his long awaited announcement of resignation an even greater humiliation. It is probably a little early for an obituary, but I doubt that Tony Blair will ever play any meaningful role in politics after this, not even in the upper house.

Of course, it would be unfair to lay the wilful destruction of Britain at the hands of an individual, but Blair – a career politician through and through or what less polite folks would call an intellectual prostitute – did allow his premiership to be used by those dictating his policies to fatally wound a country in the misguided belief it could rise once more to become an imperial power. It stood shoulder to shoulder with the USA in its wars of aggression, and together they will fall.

New Labour, with a sales pitch of shaking off the old socialist roots, managed to transform the UK into a through and through socialist state, also termed the Nanny state, where citizens pay high taxes with nothing in return but goverment interference in even the minutest detail of how they live their lives. No wonder that most Brits who can afford it are voting with their feet and emigrate to work or retire elsewhere in Europe or even as far away as New Zealand, whilst the British economy (or what is left of it, since it no longer has a manufacturing base nor a viable service industry) has to rely on immigrants from the new European states in the East.

The Blair government tried, and will continue to try under whoever succeeds Blair until the next general election, to set up one section of the UK against the other: “Middle England” against the “alien Muslims” within their midst. It has instigated the most vicious witch hunt against so-called Muslim terrorists, ignoring the fact that the European Commissions report on terrorism during the past year only managed to list one failed attack and one failed attempt by a group with Muslim leanings amongst the hundreds of terrorist attacks carried out on European soil by non-Muslims, with the Basque separatists in Spain leading the way. In the process of the government’s defamation campaign and the intrusion into people’s lives by giving the police unprecedented powers and pushing for identity cards and Big Brother style control, both sections of the traditional British populace, Middle England and the law abiding second and third generation Muslims were thoroughly put off the British enterprise and are making preparations, or at least hoping, to leave.

With illusions of grandeur Blair and his team succeeded in giving their country a death blow from which it might not recover. If it was not for the English language, the only thing of value Britain still exports, the UK would already be classified as the new sick man of Europe. Of course, Blair won’t ever understand why he is no longer popular, and he will try to go round and tell people – as Thatcher did after first having sold out what England once was – that they never had it so good. Those who supported him, however, in his obsessed crusade of trying to make all the people serve the state will soon come to regret his legacy.

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Indian Muslims

May 2, 2007

Professor Badri Raina contributes articles to ZNet. In the following article, published last August, he analyses Indian Muslims’ situation and suggests ways to improve their political status and their socio-economic conditions within the Indian State.

Net | Activism
Indian Muslims
Prospects and Ways Forward
by Badri Raina; August 16, 2006

My chief concern here is to understand the situation of Muslim’s in India. But, to the extent that the issue is inevitably affected by the condition of Muslims world-wide, it is relevant to take note of factors that impinge upon that condition even at the risk of enumerating a critique that is by now often made and well-recognized. The truth needs as much repeating as the lie, especially when the lie has the backing of imperialist money and muscle.

First a word about the villainous propagation that a “clash of civilizations” is now underway, globally.

Nobody but the indubitably partisan is any more taken in by the reification-in-reverse, as it were, whereby American imperialism, unimpeded by any concerted, state-level opposition, seeks to fetishize its untrammelled material ambitions in the resource-rich middle and west Asian regions principally as a purely ideological crusade on behalf of “freedom.”

This despicable subterfuge requires that Islam be recast as a theoretical breeding ground of “jehadis”; this for the simple enough reason that the preponderant population in these oil-rich regions is Muslim. Thus, nationalists throughout this region engaged in a life-and-death struggle to secure the rights of sovereignty need to be christened “terrorists.” Never mind that both Hamas and Hizbollah owe their political legitimacy to massive electoral victories, duly “certified” by reputed international agencies. Never mind also that American imperialism is hard put to find any “terrorist” Islamism in a Wahabi Saudi Arabia, even though all of the protagonists who brought the twin towers down were of Saudi extraction. Nor, for that matter, are the neocons able to see Pakistan as a centrepiece in the “Islamic” terrorist business. Or Musharraf as a military dictator who seems determined to hijack the promise of Pakistani democracy for ever and ever.

Clearly, for an American President who is widely suspected by his own countrymen of having stolen both his electoral victories, the “democracy” slogan is just one instrument of imperialist designs.

It needs to be recalled that the pioneers in the “terrorist” way of doing things were the Israelis. Scholarship, including the Wikipedia, has given us an elaborate record of the modus operandi of the Zionist Irgun and Stern terrorist groups—spearheaded by such respectable worthies as Menachem Begin, Yatzak Shamir, and Ariel Sharon—in their fight to dislodge the British from their mandate in Palestine. Those modus operandi included the cold-blooded murders of diplomats and United Nations’ officials, not to speak of the bombing of the King David Hotel in which more than ninety innocent people were blown to smithereens and many more maimed for life. Scholarship also records that these terrorists took their stand as much on religion as the jehadis of our day.

Is it also not rather cute that while a prospective Iranian nuclear capability is sought to be sold to the “international community” as the central source of menace for the world community, the well-known Israeli arsenal is never mentioned. Remember that Osama bin Laden and the Taliban were not viewed as “terrorist” material while the principal contradiction of American imperialism was with the Soviets in Afghanistan. Once, however, that contradiction shifted course, yesterday’s “freedom fighters” became today’s’ “terrorists.” Or that the “war on terror” should have been launched in Iraq which was notably the one truly secular state in the whole region. That the invasion of Iraq has now successfully converted that country into a jehadi hub goes of course to speak to the criminal accountability of the Americans in the matter, and to an imperialist folly that bids fair to destroy civilized governance throughout the world. There must some reason after all why already some 85% Lebanese today call themselves Hizbollah as opposed to some 50% before the current Israeli invasion. And that includes the Lebanese Christians as well. Or why Maliki, the puppet prime minister of a “free” Iraq has felt humiliated enough now to take issue with the continuing brutalities of the Bush regime in complete disregard of the so-called Iraqi government.

Having said that, if there is a clash now underway it is between those who advocate adherence to the principles of the Westphalian Treaty (1645) that guarantees the sovereignty of nation-states and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, and to the United Nations Charter which was drawn up by the world community to establish peaceful co-existence among nations and a non-recourse to violence and war as instruments of the redressal of disputes, on the one hand, and those others whose desire for global domination seeks to make mince-meat of both the Westphalian Treaty and the U.N.Charter.

And this clash today is nowhere more in evidence than within America itself. Never have Americans been as vertically divided—between the reds and the blues—since the Civil War as they are today. By the latest reckoning, some 60% Americans would be considered “anti-national” by the Bush administration! Having now christened the term “Islamic fascism” Bush has had to be at the receiving end of important articles in the American media that have asked whether this may not be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Same is true of people who inhabit the “Muslim” world. Despite the heinous depredations wrought everyday by the neocon “vision” of a new world order– whereby American Imperialism arrogates to itself the right to preemptive war, to regime changes in other countries, and to full-scale global dominance—in the middle and west Asian region, and wherever else people seek to resist that evil “vision,” Muslims are everywhere divided between those who think such resistance can succeed only through an asymmetrical guerilla war, and those who still wish to adhere to democratic, institutional mechanisms to force reason and sanity upon an imperialism gone berserk, or who desire to see a consolidation of state-level resistance to American imperialism.

On each side, of course, it suits the war-mongers to homogenize disparate, dissident, contentious identities and positions and complex political and intellectual considerations into crusading binaries—the regime, as it were, of a born-again Christianity against the injunctions of Allah. That the vast majority of the world’s population knows this to be, nonetheless, a war, on one hand, for the control of the world’s material resources and, on the other, for resisting that imperial agenda is by now obvious enough.

Indeed, this contention between the homogenizing political project and the concrete pluralities on the ground that demand democratic cognition lies at the root of much that has gone on in India during the last two decades.

Since the implementation of the recommendations of the Mandal Commissiion by the V.P.Singh government (1989)—recommendations that, deriving from the Constitution, recognized caste affiliation rather than an undifferentiated religious one as the basic social unit of identity among Hindus—a crusade on behalf of Brahminical Hinduism ensued.

Clearly, the object of that crusade has been to reconstitute Hindus across social contradictions as the dominant “majority” that then seeks to supplant the notion that a majority in a republican democracy can only comprise franchised “citizens,” a circumstance that then feeds directly into minority-bashing. Thus the Brahminical upper-caste crusade against affirmative action on behalf of deprived castes curiously yields the politics of communalism. This despite the fact that the BJP has never yet polled more than 26% of the national vote at any general election. Considering that not more than 5% Muslims have ever voted for the party, the BJP thus fails to draw the allegiance of some 70% or more of voting Hindus. As in America now, the chief political divide in India has thus been between high-caste Hindus who seek to force their vision of the nation on the Republic and the great majority of Hindus who refuse that fascist imposition. Thus the “cultural nationalism” of the Brahminical minority remains in clash with Hindus whose allegiance to the Constitutional scheme remains in place.

Likewise, despite the beleaguered attempts of religious Muslim leaderships to cast India’s Muslims into a monolithic block, the often peddled notion of a “minority vote bank” remains an interested myth. At no point during India’s political history of the last three decades have Indian Muslims voted en masse for any one single political party. Muslims have tended to vote only for such candidates who they have thought equipped to defeat the BJP. Such a voting pattern has inevitably meant that Muslims have often voted against many Muslim candidates along a diverse spectrum of parties in diverse electoral constituencies.

Post the recent train blasts in Mumbai, majoritarian fascism seeks once again to replicate the imperialist myth that “terrorism” is an exclusively Muslim phenomenon. Note that one has never heard the RSS, which is itself listed as a “terrorist” organization in an important American website, speak of LTTE terrorism as Hindus terrorism. Nor does one ever hear Christian or Jewish terrorism mentioned, although Wikipedia conscientiously records elaborate instances of both. Consider also the deep irony that Independent India’s most memorably high-placed losses to terrorism have all been perpetrated by non-Muslim agents: Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by a Brahmin, Indira Gandhi by a Sikh, and Rajiv Gandhi again by a Hindu LTTE assassin. It should also be noted that the many instances of espionage against the nation-state that have come to light in recent years have all involved non-Muslims; surely, treason can hardly be argued to constitute an offence less heinous than a “terrorist” act. Currently, as we know, a nationalist scion of the BJP—an ex-minister several times over—continues his refusal to share his self-confessed knowledge of espionage activity on behalf of the Americans. Yet, nobody seems particularly bothered.

Understandably, Indian muslims once again find themselves under siege, as day in and day out they are hauled up at any odd hour of day or night to answer to the most far-fetched suspicions. Muslim intellectuals, therefore, once again debate among themselves what new political expression the thwarted history of the community should now draw on, given that successive governments, including secular ones, have tended to leave their genuine material aspirations in limbo. Be it education, employment (especially in the army, police and higher bureaucracy) or traditional livelihoods in skills and crafts, or their share in property ownership, Indian muslims find themselves at the bottom of the social rung, just as Gujarat-like episodes that repeatedly bring to light the complicity of official mechanisms, including state-aparatus, with “majoritarian” rioters, city after city, with the honourable exception of India’s southern states, leave them fearing for their life and limb. Consequent ghettoisation of the community, both in terms of living conditions and an ideological inwardness that willy nilly collapses into religious identity causes a paralysis of initiative that is often easy to deride but difficult to redress.

Younger Muslims, not burdened by any direct memories of India’s partition, who aspire to seek for a future as authentic Indian citizens beyond mere physical security chaff at the failure of political choices the community elders have thus far tended to exercise. Even as episodes like the demolition of the Babri masjid and the Gujarat genocide fan the impulse to violent reassertion. That such an impulse has not come to any significant expression is of course a defining tribute to the specific formation of Islam in India, but a circumstance that ought not, however, to lull us into complacence.

What, then, is to be done? Easier asked than answered. The first important thing to recognize here is that whatever it is that ought to be done does not have to be done by India’s Muslims alone. The temptation, therefore, to be holier-than-thou must be resisted because such a frame of reference in itself bespeaks a flawed grasp of what is wrong in the first place.

The doing necessarily must involve the following agencies, at the least:

–various organs of the State;
–English and Hindi media agencies (both print and visual);
–secular Indians across the board (which is to say some three fourths of citizens);
–Indian Muslims, who like Indian Hindus or Sikhs are not a homogeneous monolith.

Briefly, ritual protestations notwithstanding, it remains an ugly fact that the police apparatus in the northern states of India seems invariably to reserve its sub-liminal brutal antipathy for India’s Muslims, a reality that has been repeatedly recorded whenever communal clashes take place. Just to cite one episode, at Hashimpora the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) a decade or so ago shot in the head some forty five Muslims in cold blood and dumped the corpses, one by one, in a canal nearby. It still remains to be seen what punishment the judicial system metes out to these murderers. Even as it is true that working class, factory protesters are also routinely caned and bashed by the PAC, the emotion that informs official violence against Muslim Indians in these states flows out of a mind-set that holds Muslims responsible for the partition of India, and thus regards them as guilty and inauthentic members of the republic, however just their cause.

The larger failure of the State clearly involves the complicity of governments in their disinterest in delivering, and seen to be delivering, the same kind of justice to rioters and killers that are drawn from the majority community as is promptly handed out to Muslims on the instant. There is perhaps no more blatant instance of this from recent history than the contrast in the way the findings of the Srikrishna Commission that enquired into the communal carnage in Mumbai prior to the 1993 bomb blasts, and the subsequent bomb blast accused case have been treated. The Srikrishna report which forthrightly held many senior officers and top-level political leaders guilty has remained rather unheard and shelved, while the State and the media that is equally complicit await with glee the judgement in the bomb blast cases.

Nor should it be overlooked that the massacre that took place in Gujarat in 2002 was followed by the refusal to file FIRs or file them in distorted ways, leading to the closure of thousands of cases even where eye-witnesses were willing to make disclosures. That some of the most gruesome ones were reopened and sent off for trial in other states, unprecedented in itself, testifies of course to the odyssey undertaken on behalf of the victims by civil society organizations like the Citizens for Peace and Justice, led by the outstanding Teesta Setalvad.

This predilection undermines in the gravest extent the faith that Muslims seek to repose in the secular democratic State. Such a collapse of credibility, needless to say, can in time become the prime factor for persuading Indian Muslims that they must seek justice by other means.

Wide interaction with Muslims reinforces the truth that this treatment is not the least of reasons why, unlike other sections of society, Muslim Indians have grave forebodings about mounting any organized public protests on issues of concern. Clearly, given this reality, it is grossly hypocritical and disingenuous to accuse Muslims of shying away from asserting their democratic rights through mass mobilization. Those elements within the State who still refuse equal “citizenship” rights to Muslims are much happier if Muslim demands of the republic turn into a seething cauldron of resentment. Once thus isolated, they can then the more easily be labelled as a potential danger to the nation. It is a remarkable statistic that under the draconian anti-terrorist legislation (TADA, repealed by the UPA government), more than 90% detenues were Muslims; when it is recalled that the total conviction rate under this act was all of 1%, it can be understood what political uses the act was put to.

As to the media, it is a grave indictment that the only time they seem to notice Muslim life in India is when “terrorism” is under discussion. It is an agonized Muslim complaint that even as ignorant anchors and suchlike cavalierly berate Muslims for not standing firmly against “terrorism” they almost never deign to report any one of umpteen instances of common and organized Muslim condemnations of the phenomenon, barring the exception of the Urdu media. Any one who watches ETV Urdu, a profoundly thought-provoking channel that analyses and debates issues that concern the community and the nation in such programmes as Hamare Masail, will know the depths of prejudice and ignorance that vitiate the mainline English and Hindi channels about the lives of some 130 million Indians! Indeed, this writer would make it mandatory for these channels to watch ETV Urdu, and to order back numbers of Hamare Masail for an educative introduction to Muslim life in India.

Thirdly, the most momentous onus of transforming the Muslim and national situation simultaneously falls jointly on the vast and preponderant majority of secular Indians– Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and all others. Indeed, given the failure of both the State and the mainline media to come up-to the stipulations of the Constitution, this onus may be understood to be decisive.

It is not as though some dramatic sleight-of-hand is here either proposed or expected. Indeed, this joint project is a long-term and difficult one, but such as is alone guaranteed to deliver a durable and long-lasting result. Secular Indians across communities must assume as a life-and-death enterprise the battle that the State has largely failed to win even some six decades after Constitutional republicanism. I refer to the battle to deliver an uncontestable Indian “citizenship.”

As a praxis, this project involves nothing less than a people’s democratic revolution that takes in the best lessons of Gandhian tolerance and of Marxian humanism. A revolution that breathes unquestionable life to those articles of the Constitution that guarantee fundamental rights to all Indian citizens regardless of caste, creed, gender, ethnicity, or linguistic practice. And, among those fundamental rights, the rights of minority populations enshrined in Articles 25-30 of the Constitution.

For Indian Muslims this involves the recognition that their well-being is inextricably intertwined with the well-being of the oppressed and dispossessed among all Indian communities. Put more radically, this involves redefining the concept of Ummah to include not just members of the Muslim community but the community of the labouring and suffering among all communities. Were this leftward reorientation to be undertaken, there can be little doubt that, leading such an initiative in close alliance with all struggling Indians, Indian Muslims would be inaugurating a second movement for independence rather than merely be pursuing, or seen to be pursuing, community concerns alone.

Having said that, it is equally incumbent on Left political forces in India—the only ones perhaps whose allegiance to the notion of a non-discriminatory “citizenship” is provenly credible—to provide the sort of leadership that expands the notion of class to include social groups and minorities who have a common stake in resisting class rule, since class rule in India often finds its easiest methodologies in fanning isolated social concerns. Any one would immediately recognize that in West Bengal, Kerala, Tripura these deeply transformative practices have been underway over a long time. The point is for Indian Muslims in the northern states to indicate to the Left that they are prepared to undertake those transformative struggles in the Hindi heartland states to the exclusion of the political options that they have thus far exercised with frustrating consequences.

Finally, and following from the argument thus far, the attempts now underway to forge exclusively muslim fora, it must be said, is an attempt entirely in the wrong direction. Such an attempt, born no doubt of extreme anguish and disenchantment with political options exercised thus far, can have all of the following consequences:

1. further ruinously ghettoize Muslim aspirations and politics;

2. face crushing setback to morale through crushing electoral defeats;

3. help reinvigorate forces that are constantly at work to supplant the very
notion of secular democratic citizenship by a culturally homogenized one.

One look back at the experience of the Majlis-e-Mushawaraat experiment of the 1960s (the Faridi movement) should be enough to bring home the truth that these consequences are inseparable from the very notion of political mobilization along sectarian lines.

Embedded in the very dilemma of Indian Muslims, therefore, there is a call—a call to forge a new consciousness that amalgamates a new future for India with a new effort on their own behalf.


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