Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

Obama and the continuity of war crimes

June 26, 2010

Change you can belive in, yes indeed! We are at the end of a week in which continuity, not change, was the name of the Obama game. Continuity in war and in war crimes, that is.

Firsdt, we had the high-profile quarrel about general McChristal, ending in his dismissal as commander of the Western troops in Afghanistan. The general and his aides had made a number of unflattering remarks about president Obama and high civilian officials in his administration. Rolling Stone magazine published them in a profile of the general, written with his cooperation. This was – so the liberal commentarocracy commented – insubordination, contempt for civilian elected leadership, and so on and on. The general had to go.

Of course,  this is hardly cause for relief. There goes the general, but the war remains. And the president insisted:  there will not be a change in strategy. “This is a change in personnel, not in policy. We will not miss a beat because of the change of command in the Afghan theatre.” Thus spoke the President of Change. The new Afghan commander? General Petraeus, (in)famous for his presumed ‘successes’ in the Iraq ‘theatre’, ‘successes’ on which Juan Cole has some interesting observations. By the way, you see, war is played out in ‘theatres’, these days. There is no bloodier busines than this bloody show business. 

Yes, much more can be said about the fall of the general. It says something about relationship between civilian and military authorities, about the way power is working in high circles, and about the impasse in which America’s war inm Afghanistan has landed. But that is for another place and time. For now, I’ll just quote Arthur Silber, from one of his perceptive pieces on his weblog: “I don’t give a glimmer of a shadow of the faintest damn about the outcome of incidents of this kind, because the major participants are all war criminals.” The whole article, in which he explains why he is saying this, is well worth reading.

The poor general had barely left the scene when another  highly symbolic announcement attracted some attention. Guantanamo Bay wil stay, for much longer than Obama promised. Remember the promise? He would close that concentration camp, that symbol of the horrors of the so-calles War on Terror, that place with cages for human beings, from which stories of mistreatment and outright torture dripped like blood from the bodies of its prisoners.

Within a few mothns after becoming president, Obama let go of his own deadline, after resistance from Congress. And now, we read in the New York Times: “Stymied by political opposition and focused on other priorities, the Obama administration has sidelined efforts to close the Guantanamo prison, making it unlikely that President Obama will fulfill his promise to close it before his term ends in 2013.” THe NY Times bases this conclusion on what priminent senators, presumably with inside knowledge, are saying.

Changing priorities, resistance age against policies, that is the story. Let’s just say this. Committing new and continuing crimes seems to be a much higher priority for Obama than ending earlier, but still ongoing, crimes. Where’s the change in that?

Strike in Yemen should cheer us up

May 16, 2010

Capitalist society is torn apart in two ways. One offers despair; the other may offer a way out. One way leads to a seemingly endless series of wars.  ‘Seemingly ‘, because, with all the high-tech-weaponry around, sooner or later humanity might get utterly exterminated through military violence, in which case the series of wars does come to an end. The other way puts class against class, those down below against those at the top. This may lead to revolution, the end of capitalism, liberation from wage slavery, from exploitation, the end of capital and the state.

The two tendencies play themselves out all around the globe. Competition drives segments of the ruling class into rivalry, spilling over into wars. That is the root cause of the first tendency. But competition also leads capitalists to put pressure upon workers, to exploit them even more in order to remain, uh, competitive 🙂 This pushes workers towards self-defence, towards resistance. This is the root cause of the second tendency.

We are in a race between these two tendencies. Will wars – and other destructive tendencies rooted in competitive exploitation – dominate? or will workers find and use their collective strength in time to themselves and thereby liberate humanity? To be free, or not to be at all? That – with due respect to Shakespeare – is the question.

These two tendencies are both at work all over the world. In countries like Greece, the tendency of hope, of workers against capitalists and state – dominates. That does nog mean that revolution is at the point of succeeding. But it does mean that the battle lines are those indicating revolution as possibility. We see insurgent workers and other downtrodden layers of the population, striking, demonstrating, rioting against the government, the banks, the police. Class against class, the tendency of hope. But the other tendency is there as well: the Greek government who translates the crisis as a national one: international financial institutions   ant EU governments on one side, the whole of the Greek population on the other. A shallow anti-imperialism, not without influence amongst left-wing parties which have influence among the working class as well.

Other parts of the world are, sadly, dominated by the other, dangerous, destructive, tendency. A case in point is the Middle East region. Here, we see rivalries between segments of the ruling classes, mobilising peasants, workers, the poor against other peasants, workers and the poor, by means of religious, nationalist, ethnic and/ or regionalist themes. We have seen Iraqi society torn apart in that way. First, an American-British invasion and occupation. Then through classic divide-and-rule policies, Shiite elites, often under cover of the occupation,  encouraging oppressive policies against Sunni population, Sunni leaders encouraging a resistance against both the occupation and against the Shia community. Western occupation opened the door to communal slaughter. The violence has abated in recent years. In recent months, however, we see a new wave of bombings and bloodshed.

Other countries see the same dynamics. There is, for example, Yemen. A very poor country, formerly two countries that became one through a unification process in 1990. Regional rivalry remains, however. People in the south complain that most power is reserved for people in the North. There is an armed resistance in operation, based on this kind of feelings. Again, poor people kill and die for the ambitions of the powerful. Again, the destructive war-tendency in full bloom.

But even in countries full of despair, like Iraq, like Yemen, the other tendency now and then raises its head. There is a workers’ movement in Iraq, for instance with collective action in the oil industry – sometimes, as in April 2009,  successfully. In Yemen, there is workers’ struggle as well. The GLU trade union federation, in which 520.000 empluyees are organised, is  holding strike action, in the form of escalating general strikes: one hour yesterday and today, two hours the next to days, three hours the day after that… until the strike is complete on May 24. Emergency services in, for instance, water supply and health, are exempt from the strike.

The union federation demands higher wages. “Following  the sharp rise in prices and cost of living that has been afflicting Yemeni citizens in the last two years, GLU demands a rise in wages and salaries and the establishment of a minimum wage of at least 300 dollars as well as recognition of employees’ rights for workers in the cleaning sector.”  This is the kind of news that cheers me up, as it hopefully cheers you up as well.

Good news from Iraq

January 21, 2007

Friends and fans of president Bush have frequently complained about media coverage of His Holy War Against Al Qaeda and For Democracy And Many Other Good Things, also known as the war in Iraq. Why, so goes the complaint, always focus on the bad news? Why doesn’t the press cover all the Many Good Things happening in Iraq?

Well, I know my civic duty as a world citizen, and I will not disappoint the president of the world (for that is what he appears to be, judging from his behaviour and his speeches). Here, then, some good news from Iraq.

Saturday, January 20, a high number of U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq. Four died in the rebellious province of Anbar; one got killed in Bagdad; 12 died when a helicopter crashed (or was shot down, as seems more likely, judging from an eyewitness accopunt in the LA Times on Januari 21, found via Today in Iraq) ; five in a confrontation in Kerbala; two in roadside bomb attacks elsewhere.

Why do I call that “good news” ? Not because I like killing as such. Thes 25 dead soldiers are victims – but the ones who shot or bombed them are not the guilty ones. The dead soldiers and the families are the victims of the ones who sent them there for no good reason – unless one things that invading and occupying a country to rob its oil counts as a good reason.

The death of 25 soldiers from the main occupying force is good news because it brings defeat ot the US plans in Iraq another step closer. The people fighting the occupation, the poeple attacking, wounding and killing American (and British) soldiers have justice on their side. Their successes weaken the will of the occupyer, they make it harder for  the US government to continue their war and occupation, and they may discourage them to do such hings anywhere else. They may be taken up as another argument for antiwar people to raise the pressure to end the occupation. That is why the killing of 25 US soldiers by resistance forces is, indeed, good news. The same stand applies, as far as I’m concerned, to the wounding of 5 Dutch soldiers, Friday, Januari 19,  , part of the NATO force in Afghanistan, another unjust occupation whose weakening through resistance is to be welcomed.

What also is encouraging is the geographical spread of resistance. Most attacks on the occupation forces occur in the cenlral and Western regions – in and around Bagdad, and in the province of Anbar wher the resistance has deed roots among the, mainly Sunni, population. But now, “Southern Iraqi Tribes Joining Armed Resistance” , wrote Dahr Jamail (I found this piece of information on Lenin’ s Tomb). He specifies: “Resistance in the southern parts of Iraq has been escalating over the last three months, leading to increased casualties among British and  other occupying forces.  In the last  seven months, at least 24 British soldiers have been killed in Southern Iraq, with at least as many wounded, according to the independent website Iraqi Coalition Casualties.”

 Not only do these casualties help to do the same kind of damage to the occupation as the 25 dead among the US military. Not only do they help to  put the same kind of pressure on the occupation. The spread of resistance to the mainly Shiite south brings the coming together of nationwide rebellion against the occupation closer. The deadly fighting in Kerbala points in the same direction. This widening of the anti-occupation revolt will make the occupation even hmore unsustainible than it already is. And because the occupation is unjust, I can only welcome and applaud ist further weakening.

There is more. “Kurdissh troops from north deserting” , I read in the Boston Globe, January 21 (found on Today in Iraq). The story: the government wanted to use a Kurdish militia force to subdue Shia resistance in Bagdad. This was only oen more example where a policy of divide and rule set different groups against each other. The relations between Kurdihs people(who have suffered terrible oppression from the Iraqi state under Saddam Hussein) and the Sia and Sunni Iraqis have not exactly been harmonious.. Sending Kurds to suppress Iraqi resistance would only add to the tensions and hostility. The fact that Kurdish soldiers  don’t want to go to Bagdad is understandable and encouraging as well. Ameen KareeM, one of the Kurdish soldiers who evade their repressive “duty” explains: “I joined the army to be a soldier in my homeland, among my people. Not to fight for others who I have nothing to do with. I used to fight in the mountains and valleys, not in the streets.”

Resistance becoming more deadly en more widespread, Kurdisch collaboration with the suppression of resistance collapsing… things are not getting any easier for the White House and its criminal Iraqi operation. And that, indeed, is no bad news at all.