Archive for July, 2008

War threats against Iran: time to act now

July 31, 2008

There is a serious danger of a new and even bigger war in the Middle East. US and Israeli war threats against Iran have bene going on and on. The excuse: the nuclear program of the Iranian regime. The real reason: rain is the only big and oil-rich state in the Middle East that does not abide by the American-imposed rules, does nog accept Amercan hegemony. For that reason, American rulers and strategic planners and their Israeli sidekicks consider Iran a threat that must be brought to heel. That is way they prepare a wave of bombing raids on Iran.

In recent weeks, the war threat seems to be receding just a little bit. Mike Mullen, Chief of Staff of the US military, is not too keen on war: “I’m fighting wo wars and I don’s need a third one”, he has been quoted as saying. (Paul Rogers, “Iran, Israel and the risk of war”, OpenDemocracy, 24 July). The threat of serious resistance in the whole region, and of Iranian closure of the Street of Hormuz, through which a large part of Middle Easter oil moves to their destination, may giove the war planners second thoughts. Oil prices, already rising, may only explode even further if war with Iran comes.

Some commentators conclude from these factors that war with Iran is becoming somewhat less likely. Tom Engelhardt, a few weeks ago, says of those that push for war: “It’s a reasonable proposition today – as it wasn’t perhaps a year ago – thast, whatever their desires, they will not, in the end, be able to to launch an attack on Iran; that, even where there’s a will, there may not be a way.” But we cannot be sure. As he himselrff admits: “for the maddest  gamblers an dystopian dreamers in our history, never say never.” Richard Seymour, of Lenin’s Tomb, agrees with that last sentence after explaining why he is not convinced that hig oil prices and the prospect of spreading chaos will be enough to convince the war mongers that they better think twice. “I’m not saying they’re going to do it, because how in the hell would I know, but can you  really put it past them?”

For the moment, I tend to side with Tom Engelhardt here, but only partially. The threat of war may be receding – just a little bit. And  this is no reason to sit back and just relax. A receding threat is still a threat, and it can start growing again any minute.

To prevent that – and make it as hard as possible for the US and Israelis leaderships to start this new war of aggression – peace movement people have to move, to act. The price that agressors have to pay must be driven even higher that the price of oil. How? By threatening turmoil in the streets. By mobilising for an explosion of protest – now. The war people should not be in any doubt that their law and their order will not be safe when they start lawlessly spreading diorder from the skies above Tehran.

Activists and their organisations should me make ait clear beyond any doubt: the fiirst bomb – either American or Israeli – on Iran, wil be answered by organised prorotest and resistence. They attack Iran? We will put every American or Israeli embassy, every American and Israeli consulate or other diplomatic mission, under a siege by demonstrators, as soon as the bombs start falling. And we will announce our intention to do so from now on, and start planning for such actions.

And we will take to the streets in every city of every  ally of the US and Israeli state. This obviously includes the country that I live in myself, the Netherlands, a state that is disgustingly loyal to the US empire. We should demand of the governments of these allies : no support for the US/Israeli war drive against Iran, whether through sanctions, or theruogh miltary, logistical or economic support to this next war. An attack on Iran is the start of a war of agression, in other words: a major war crime. We should not let them get their way.

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Scary and hilarious at the same time

July 15, 2008

Basially, it is sary, very scary. But it has its funny, even hilarious side as well. i am talking about the eonomy -an eonomy enteringa severe recession, if I interpret the signs correctly.

Some of those signs: stock exchanges are almost in free fall. London loses 2,49 % today; Frankfurt and Paris lose more than two % as well. Asia: same story basically. Hong Kong donw 4 %, Japan 2 %, China 2 % (BBC, 15 july). In Britain, talk is now of impending recession. Consumer prices have risen 3,8 %, the highest inflation rate since 1997. Inflation is expected to rise even higher, to above 4 %. This means that the Bank of England is not inclined to lower rates. Lowering rates – the way to make lending-for-investments cheaper – is what central banks are supposed to do to encourage economic activity. But it also tends to encourage inflationary tendencies. “Rate cuts are looking much less likely”,  accoording to Ross Walker, an economist connected to the Royal Bank of Scotland Group ( International Herald Tribune , 15 July).

The recession is connected to the crisis in the housing market. Cheap lending to encourage people to buy their own house hase gone wrong, when too many people could nog pay back what they borrowed. That meant people losing their homes through repossession; it also meant banks getting in trouble because they did not get their money back. In the marxist sense, this is a crisis of overproduction: an overproduction of credit, as it were. But credit is connected with all kinds of economic activity, one bank in trouble can pull down other companies. The crisis in the banking sector is flowng over into what looks like a rather serious recession.

What makes the world economy more vulnerable is the steep rise in oil prices. Last week, the price of a barrel of crude oil reached 147 dollar. This means a price rise of 50 % in 2008 alone. Car drivers are paying the price, transport costs are rising, peoplecan look forward to high heating bills coming  winter (Aljazeera, 12 july). The threat of general inflation will become even more serious this way.

Meanwhile, companies are reacting to economic trouble in a very familiar and very anti-social way. Siemens, for instance, the big automobile company in Germany. “Against the backdrop of a slowing economy, we have to become more efficient”,  according to Peter Loescher, Siemens CEO. and that is why Siemens will cut 16,750 jobs, out of the 400,000 jobs in that company (Aljazeera, 8 July). Making workers pay for an recession that is the product of an economy over which these same workers have no serious say. That is the answer from above, from the company directors and big shareholders, supported by governments. When will we see a big company trying to become ‘more efficient’ by seriously cutting back on shareholders’ profits en CEO salaries and bonuses?

This all is scary. It means more unemployment, more people in financial troubles, more people losing homes. That is already scary enough. It means that there will be a need for collective resistance, for radical left wing answers, left wing forces uniting workers and other disadvantaged people in solidarity against lay-offs, wage cuts and so on. These left wing forces, however, are weak in many places, almost non-existent in oiothers. This is even more scary than the recession itself. For, where people get desperate, and the left isn’t there to offer hope, the fascist right may begin to fill that void. We better get our act together.

However, let us not stop smiling when we find a reason to smile. For instance, when the US government acts forcefully to save two lending institiutions, Fannie Mae en Freddie mac, both deeply introubled because of the problems in credits in the housing sector. Th government plans to buy stocks in both companies and is ready to lend momey to these companies as well (Christian Science Monitor, 15 July).

This shows how hollow are the neoliberal claims of ‘let the market do it’s job, and let the government stay out of the economy’. The money that is not there when it is a matter of supporting poor people, is readily available when it ios  a metter of corporate needs. As soon as it is a matter of saving big companies and the whole financial sector from collapse, we don’t see much free market liberalism. Instead, we see massive state support going to big corpaorations. Let us smile about this irony-coupled-with-hypocrisy. We will need all good cheer we can get in the troubled times ahead.

McCain, Obama: how sad that both cannot lose at the same time

July 1, 2008

The Biggest and Most Expensive Circus on Earth, also known as the American presidential election campaign, is upon us. And, by ‘us’, I mean all inhabitants of this tormented planet, not just the people of the United States themselves.

For that is the first thing I’d like to say on the presidential elections in the US: the one that will be selected to live in the White House is not just head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the US. He (the only she has lost the Democratic primaries) is in fact, world boss. If democratic principles would prevail, all citizens of the world should have the right to take part in this election. Something like this has had been suggested in 2004. Maybe every country should demand admission and ask to become a state within the United States – with the right to elect two Senators, a number of Representatives and to help elect the president…

This would, obviously, be too much democracy to be tolerated. So we will have to endure the elections as they are now, and that wil not be fun. For – and this is the second thing I’d like to say – in an race between a Democratic and a Republican candidate, the sad  thing is that they cannot both lose at the same time. For both deserve to lose. Both ar a threat to democratic rights, to the welfare of the majority, and to the remnants of peace in this world.

I will not insult my readers by taking much space explaining why McCain deserves to lose. He wants to continue the Iraq war endlessly. He threatens Iran with war. He walks in the footsteps of the Bush presidency. No more of that, please!

The other man, Barack Obama, has gained a deplorable amount of support from people on the Lleft. He does not deserve it, and that becomes clearer every week. He is refusing to block FISA, a piece of legislation that enables cooperation of big media in spying on people in America, and protects these corporations against lawsuits on that account. So much for privacy and civil rights. He basically blames black fathers for irrespioonsible behaviour towards their families – thereby going along with the racist sterotypes putting blame for poverty among black people on blacks, especially black men. So much for putting an end to racism. Het talks of withdrawing combat troops out of Iraq, but wants to keep a military force there: cambat troops number only half the American military force there. private contactors – or to use the proper term, mercenaries – may also be used under an Obama presidency, according to a Obama advisor. And Obama calls for more attention to other war fronts, especially Afganistan. A bit of de-escalation in Iraq, a bit of escalation in afghanistan, is that the best bargain for peace?! So much for ending war.

The vaguely progressive image thet Obama tried to promote in the primaries is fading quickly. And it’s not just a matter of moving to the center in order to win the elections. The problem goes much deeper that that. Every candidate that wants to become president through either the Democratic or the Republican party machinse, must be a defender of American capitalism, of the strong state that protects this capitalism. Every candidate, either Democratic or Republican, must be a promotor of empire and therefore an instigator of war. Being prepared to commit mass murder and other crimes usually goes with the (ambition for) job, as Arthur Silber explains, with only bits of exaggeration. 

Obama may talk have talked Left to gain his candidacy; but he has to act Right (which means, wrong) when he is president. And he has, again and again, to prove to the big corporations and their big media mouthpieces, that he is prepared to dump his left-leaning language and to be as brutal as his predecessors. Obama is not betraying his principles by turning to the center. he is paying obeisance to the true principles guiding both parties: fealty to corporate interest and to imperialist ambitions. Again, he does not deserve any left wing support.