Vol 13, No.03
CHAVEZ:THE REVOLUTION WILL CONTINUE By Kevin Zeese & Margaret Flowers
US, which are owned by six corporations, aggressively misinform the public about Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution.
he death of Hugo Chávez is a great loss to the people of Venezuela who have been lifted out of poverty and have created a deep participatory democracy. Chavez was a leader who, in unity with the people, was able to free Venezuela from the grips of US Empire, brought dignity to the poor and working class, and was central to a Latin American revolt against US domination.
Chávez grew up a campesino, a peasant, raised in poverty. His parents were teachers, his grandmother an Indian whom he credits with teaching him solidarity with the people. During his military service, he learned about Simon Bolivar, who freed Latin America from Spanish Empire. This gradually led to the modern Bolivarian Revolution he led with the people. The Chávez transformation was built on many years of a mass political movement that continued after his election, indeed saved him when a 2002 coup briefly removed him from office. The reality is Venezuela’s 21st Century democracy
is bigger than Chávez, this will become more evident now that he is gone. The Lies They Tell Us If Americans knew the truth about the growth of real democracy in Venezuela and other Latin American countries, they would demand economic democracy and participatory government, which together would threaten the power of concentrated wealth. Real democracy creates a huge challenge to the oligarchs and their neoliberal agenda because it is driven by human needs, not corporate greed. That is why major media in the
Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research writes, “The Western media reporting has been effective. It has convinced most people outside of Venezuela that the country is run by some kind of dictatorship that has ruined it.” In fact, just the opposite is true. Venezuela, since the election of Chávez, has become one of the most democratic nations on Earth. Its wealth is increasing and being widely shared. But Venezuela has been made so toxic that even the more liberal media outlets propagate distortions to avoid being criticized as too leftist. We spoke with Mike Fox, who went to Venezuela in 2006 to see for himself what was happening. Fox spent years documenting the rise of participatory democracy in Venezuela and Brazil. He Turn to next page
STATEMENTS .DRONE WARFARE: THE HEGEMON’S LATEST WEAPON
BY EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, JUST......P5
.ENSURE JUSTICE IN WAR CRIMES TRIAL
BY EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, JUST......P6
ARTICLES .HACKING INCIDENTS AND THE RISE OF THE NEW
.IRAQ AT THE BRINK: A DECADE AFTER THE INVASION
.ISRAEL GAVE BIRTH CONTROL TO ETHIOPIAN JEWS
.ONE IN EVERY EIGHT PEOPLE ON EARTH GOES TO BED
CHINESE BOGEYMAN BY HAROON MEER...............................................P 6
WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT BY ALISTAIR DAWBER...........................................P 10
BY RAMZY BAROUD..............................................P 8
HUNGRY EACH NIGHT BY COUNTERCURRENTS.ORG...................................P 11
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found a grassroots movement creating the economy and government they wanted, often pushing Chávez further than he wanted to go.
They call it the “revolution within the revolution.” Venezuelan democracy and economic transformation are bigger than Chávez. Chávez opened a door to achieve the people’s goals: literacy programs in the barrios, more people attending college, universal access to health care, as well as worker-owned businesses and community councils where people make decisions for themselves. Change came through decades of struggle leading to the election of Chávez in 1998, a new constitution and ongoing work to make that constitution a reality. Challenging American Empire The subject of Venezuela is taboo because it has been the most successful country to repel the neoliberal assault waged by the US on Latin America. This assault included Operation Condor, launched in 1976, in which the US provided resources and assistance to bring friendly dictators who supported neoliberal policies to power throughout Latin America. These policies involved privatizing national resources and selling them to foreign corporations, de-funding and privatizing public programs such as education and health care, deregulating and reducing trade barriers. In addition to intense political repression under these dictators
between the 1960s and 1980s, which resulted in imprisonment, murder and disappearances of tens of thousands throughout Latin America, neoliberal policies led to increased wealth inequality, greater hardship for the poor and working class, as well as a decline in economic growth. Neoliberalism in Venezuela arrived through a different path, not through a dictator. Although most of its 20th century was spent under authoritarian rule, Venezuela has had a long history of pro-democracy activism. The last dictator, Marcos Jimenez Perez, was ousted from power in 1958. After that, Venezuelans gained the right to elect their government, but they existed in a state of pseudo-democracy, much like the US currently, in which the wealthy ruled through a managed democracy that ensured the wealthy benefited most from the economy. As it did in other parts of the world, the US pushed its neoliberal agenda on Venezuela through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. These institutions required Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) as terms for development loans. As John Perkins wrote in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, great pressure was placed on governments to take out loans for development projects. The money was loaned by the US, but went directly to US corporations who were responsible for the projects, many of which failed, leaving nations in debt and not better off. Then the debt was used as leverage to control the government’s policies so they further favored US interests. Anup Shah explains the role of the IMF and World Bank in more detail in Structural Adjustment - a Major Cause of Poverty. Neoliberalism Leads to the Rise of Chávez A turning point in the Venezuelan struggle for real democracy occurred in 1989. President Carlos Andres Perez ran on a platform opposing
L E A D A R T I C L E neoliberalism and promised to reform the market during his second term. But following his re-election in 1988, he reversed himself and continued to implement the “Washington Consensus” of neoliberal policies privatization and cuts to social services. The last straw came when he ended subsidies for oil. The price of gasoline doubled and public transportation prices rose steeply. Protests erupted in the towns surrounding the capitol, Caracas, and quickly spread into the city itself. President Perez responded by revoking multiple constitutional rights to protest and sending in security forces who killed an estimated 3,000 people, most of them in the barrios. This became known as the “Caracazo” (“the Caracas smash”) and demonstrated that the president stood with the oligarchs, not with the people. Under President Perez, conditions continued to deteriorate for all but the wealthy in Venezuela. So people organized in their communities and with Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez attempted a civilian-led coup in 1992. Chávez was jailed, and so the people organized for his release. Perez was impeached for embezzlement of 250 million bolivars and the next president, Rafael Caldera, promised to release Chávez when he was elected. Chávez was freed in 1994. He then traveled throughout the country to meet with people in their communities and organizers turned their attention to building a political movement. Chávez ran for president in 1998 on a platform that promised to hold a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution saying, “I swear before my people that upon this moribund constitution I will drive forth the necessary democratic transformations so that the new republic will have a continued next page
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Magna Carta befitting these new times.” Against the odds, Chávez won the election and became president in 1999. While his first term was cautious and center-left, including a visit by Chávez to the NY Stock Exchange to show support for capitalism and encourage foreign investment, he kept his promise. Many groups participated in the formation of the new constitution, which was gender-neutral and included new rights for women and for the indigenous, and created a government with five branches adding a people’s and electoral branches. The new constitution was voted into place by a 70 percent majority within the year. Chávez also began to increase funding for the poor and expanded and transformed education. Since then, Chávez has been reelected twice. He was removed from power briefly in 2002, jailed and replaced by Pedro Carmona, the head of what is equivalent to the Chamber of Commerce. Fox commented that the media was complicit in the coup by blacking it out and putting out false information. Carmona quickly moved to revoke the constitution and disband the legislature. When the people became aware of what was happening, they rapidly mobilized and surrounded the capitol in Caracas. Chávez was reinstated in less than 48 hours. One reason the Chávez election is called a Bolivarian Revolution is because Simon Bolivar was a military political leader who freed much of Latin America from the Spanish Empire in the early 1800s. The election of Chávez, the new constitution and the people overcoming the coup set Venezuela on the path to free itself from the US empire. These changes emboldened the transformation to sovereignty, economic democracy and participatory government.
In fact, Venezuela paid its debts to the IMF in full five years ahead of schedule and in 2007 separated from the IMF and World Bank, thus severing the tethers of the Washington Consensus. Instead, Venezuela led the way to create the Bank of the South to provide funds for projects throughout Latin America and allow other countries to free themselves from the chains of the IMF and World Bank too. The Rise of Real Democracy The struggle for democracy brought an understanding by the people that change only comes if they create it. The pre- Chávez era is seen as a pseudo Democracy, managed for the benefit of the oligarchs. The people viewed Chávez as a door that was opened for them to create transformational change. He was able to pass laws that aided them in their work for real democracy and better conditions. And Chávez knew that if the people did not stand with him, the oligarchs could remove him from power as they did for two days in 2002. With this new understanding and the constitution as a tool, Chávez and the people have continued to progress in the work to rebuild Venezuela based on participatory democracy and freedom from US interference. Chávez refers to the new system as “21st century socialism.” It is very much an incomplete work in progress, but already there is a measurable difference. Mark Weisbrot of CEPR points out
L E A D A R T I C L E that real GDP per capita in Venezuela expanded by 24 percent since 2004. In the 20 years prior to Chávez, real GDP per person actually fell. Venezuela has low foreign public debt, about 28 percent of GDP, and the interest on it is only 2 percent of GDP. Weisbrot writes: “From 2004-2011, extreme poverty was reduced by about two-thirds. Poverty was reduced by about one-half, and this measures only cash income. It does not count the access to health care that millions now have, or the doubling of college enrollment - with free tuition for many. Access to public pensions tripled. Unemployment is half of what it was when Chávez took office.” Venezuela has reduced unemployment from 20 percent to 7 percent. As George Galloway wrote upon Chávez’s death, “Under Chávez’ revolution the oil wealth was distributed in ever rising wages and above all in ambitious social engineering. He built the fifth largest student body in the world, creating scores of new universities. More than 90% of Venezuelans ate three meals a day for the first time in the country’s history. Quality social housing for the masses became the norm with the pledge that by the end of the presidential term, now cut short, all Venezuelans would live in a dignified house.” Venezuela is making rapid progress on other measures too. It has a high human development index and a low and shrinking index of inequality. Wealth inequality in Venezuela is half of what it is in the United States. It is rated “the fifth-happiest nation in the world” by Gallup. And Pepe Escobar writes that,”No less than 22 public universities were built in the past 10 years. The number of teachers went from 65,000 to 350,000. Illiteracy has been eradicated. There is an ongoing agrarian reform.” Venezuela has undertaken significant steps to build continued next page
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food security through land reform and government assistance. New homes are being built, health clinics are opening in underserved areas and cooperatives for agriculture and business are growing. Venezuelans are very happy with their democracy. On average, they gave their own democracy a score of seven out of ten while the Latin American average was 5.8. Meanwhile, 57 percent of Venezuelans reported being happy with their democracy compared to an average for Latin American countries of 38 percent, according to a poll conducted by Latinobarometro. While 81 percent voted in the last Venezuelan election, only 57.5 percent voted in the recent US election. Chávez won that election handily as he has all of the elections he has run in since 1999. As Galloway describes him, Chávez was “the most elected leader in the modern era.” He won his last election with 55 percent of the vote but was never inaugurated due to his illness. Beyond Voting: The Deepening of Democracy in Venezuela This is not to say that the process has been easy or smooth. The new constitution and laws passed by Chávez have provided tools, but the government and media still contain those who are allied with the oligarchy and who resist change. People have had to struggle to see that what is written on paper is made into a reality. For example, Venezuelans now have the right to reclaim urban land that is fallow and use it for food and living. Many attempts have been made to occupy unused land and some have been met by hostility from the community or actual repression from the police. In other cases, attempts to build new universities have been held back by the bureaucratic process. It takes time to build a new
democratic structure from the bottom up. And it takes time to transition from a capitalist culture to one based on solidarity and participation. In “Venezuela Speaks,” one activist, Iraida Morocoima, says “Capitalism left us with so many vices that I think our greatest struggle is against these bad habits that have oppressed us.” She goes on to describe a necessary culture shift as, “We must understand that we are equal, while at the same time we are different, but with the same rights.” Chávez passed a law in 2006 that united various committees in poor barrios into community councils that qualify for state funds for local projects. In the city, community councils are composed of 200 to 400 families. The councils elect spokespeople and other positions such as executive, financial and “social control” committees. The councilmembers vote on proposals in a general assembly and work with facilitators in the government to carry through on decisions. In this way, priorities are set by the community and funds go directly to those who can carry out the project such as building a road or school. There are currently more than 20,000 community councils in Venezuela creating a grassroots base for participatory government. A long-term goal is to form regional councils from the community councils and ultimately create a national council. Some community councils already have joined as communes, a group of several councils, which then have the capacity for greater research and to receive greater funds for large projects.
L E A D A R T I C L E Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989 and has grown so that as many as 50,000 people now participate each year to decide as much as 20 percent of the city budget. There are more than 1,500 participatory budgets around the world in Latin America, North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Fox produced a documentary, Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas, which explains participatory budgeting in greater detail. The Unfinished Work of Hugo Chávez Continues The movements that brought him to power and kept him in power have been strengthened by Hugo Chávez. Now the “revolution within the revolution” will be tested. In 30 days there will be an election and former vice president, now interim president, Nicolas Maduro will likely challenge the conservative candidate Chávez defeated. If the United States and the oligarchs think the death of Chávez means the end of the Bolivarian Revolution he led, they are in for a disappointment. This revolution, which is not limited to Venezuela, is likely to show to itself and the world that it is deep and strong. The people-powered transformation with which Chávez was in solidarity will continue. This article is a modified version of “The Secret Rise of 21st Century Democracy,”which originally appeared in Truthout.
6 March, 2013 Kevin Zeese JD & Margaret Flowers MD
The movement to place greater decision-making capacity and control of local funds in the hands of communities is happening throughout Latin America and the world. It is called participatory budgeting and it began in
co-host Clearing the FOG on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC and on Economic Democracy Media, co-direct It’s Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DC. Source: Countercurrents.org
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S T A T E M E N T
DRONE WARFARE: THE HEGEMON’S LATEST WEAPON Deafening silence can no longer be tolerated in the face of the United States of America’s covert drone warfare program. Since the Bush administration, the United States has deployed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to numerous countries around the world including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and most recently, Niger and Mali. Under the Obama administration, UAVs have been the primary vehicle through which the US has conducted foreign warfare. Despite not formally deploying troops to these various countries, the Obama administration is directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians who were assassinated on the grounds that they were thought to be Al-Qaeda operatives or terrorists hostile to the US. Researchers at Stanford University and New York University published their ‘Living Under Drones’ report in September 2012, which found that only about 2 percent of drone casualties are militants. Both the Executive and Legislative branches of the US government have not formally offered any kind of casualty estimate. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the organization that oversees the drone program, has failed to confirm many strikes, despite various media organizations presenting harrowing first-hand accounts from survivors of
the attacks. US Senator Lindsey Graham, who has sought to expand the role of drone warfare in America’s foreign wars, has recently made public the alarming casuality figures behind the controversial program. According to the senator, 4,700 casualties resulted from US drone strike throughout the world. Pakistan’s Interior Minister has said that around 80 percent of drone deaths in his country were suffered by civilians. US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta maintains that since 9/11, the US has engaged in a global war on terror, and drone strikes are an effective tool to eliminate Al-Qaeda militants planning terror attacks on America. Operatives in these countries who are targeted are killed without a court verdict or any form of due process. Panetta has also rejected the idea that overseas drone operations should be turned over from CIA control to the US military, which would require open reporting on every operation, insisting that the program must stay covert to remain effective. US-born Anwar alAwlaki, along with another American citizen and al-Awlaki’s sixteen-year old son, were killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011, prompting huge controversy at home and abroad. Members of the US Congress, such as Dennis Kucinich, have condemned the ongoing extrajudicial slayings of
Americans and foreigners overseas using unmanned drones, demanding more transparency from the Obama administration. An overwhelming lack of transparency surrounds the drone program, and the “kill list” which President Obama reportedly reviews during regularly scheduled weekly counterterrorism meetings, as reported by the New York Times. The United States drone-warfare operation is a deeply reprehensible program that further solidifies America’s standing as an immoral and hegemonic state. During just the first ten days of 2013, 40 Pakistanis were killed with drones, and at least 11 of them are reported to have been civilians. The drone program is an extension of the pathological logic of US foreign policy, one that enables extremism while claiming a just and moral position. In January 2013, the UN launched a probe into civilian casualties from US and UK drone strikes and their legal implications. The global citizenry must do more to make its voice heard loudly in opposition to continued US militarism and aggression.
Executive Committee, JUST 28 February, 2013
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S T A T E M E N T
ENSURE JUSTICE IN WAR CRIMES TRIAL Nine top ranking leaders of Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami party, the largest Islamic political party in Bangladesh with representation in almost all parliaments since independence, are currently on trial under allegations of having committed war crimes during the Liberation War of 1971. Critics have accused the trial of being politically motivated for several reasons. The allegation of war crimes has been raised against Jamaat leaders after almost 40 years. The Bangladesh Awami League, the ruling party, released a list of 36 individuals from the Jamaat-e-Islami party who were guilty of war crimes before the commencement of the trial. Several of the individuals on the list were between 4 and 8 years old during the war in 1971. When Bangladesh’s Government drew up a list of 195 war criminals after Independence, only members of Pakistan’s armed forces
and other Pakistani nationals were mentioned, with no acknowledgement of the involvement of the individuals on trial today. All 195 individuals were later pardoned in a diplomatic agreement. Mr. Motiur Raman Nizami, the chief of Jamaat, Allama Delwar Hossain Sayeedee, deputy chief and Mr. Ali Ahsan Mujahid, the Secretary General have been jailed since June 2010 on the allegation of having committed war crimes during the Liberation War of 1971. The nine detained individuals have been denied medical treatment. One of them a former leader of the Jamaat Professor Ghulam Azam is 90 years old and in a frail condition. It would appear that the issue of war crimes committed during liberation has been revived to persecute the political opponents of the Bangladesh Awami League. Leaders of the Islamic Movement are being tried under the International Crimes Act of 1973,
which the international community has criticized as falling far below international standards and contrary to the Bangladesh Constitution. The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) believes that this trial should be conducted in accordance with international norms and standards. International observers should be allowed to monitor the trial. This is important especially since one of the accused has already been sentenced to death and another has been sentenced to life imprisonment. Other verdicts are pending. To ensure that what appear to be politically motivated verdicts are not perpetuated, the government of Bangladesh and the judiciary should do all they can to convince the international community that there will be no travesty of justice.
Executive Committee, JUST 13 February, 2013
ARTICLES HACKING INCIDENTS AND THE RISE OF THE NEW CHINA BOGEYMAN By Haroon Meer
February kicked off with reports from the New York Times that their computer networks had been breached by Chinese hackers. A few weeks later, US Computer Security firm Mandiant, released a report which purported to link Chinese cyber attacks against 141 US companies to a section of the People’s Liberation Army (Unit 61398). Just two days after the release of the report, the US government announced a new strategy for dealing with such attacks and released a 142- page policy document on “Mitigating the Theft of US Trade Secrets”. This all makes for excellent drama. State sponsored villainy, high-tech skullduggery and victims facing clear
and present danger. The media frenzy that followed is understandable, predictable and completely dangerous. We have seen this movie before and with the ever-growing moves to militarise the internet, it would behoove us to pause for a bit before hauling out the pitchforks. Does China have a military unit dedicated to Computer Network Operations (CNO)? Certainly. But this is perfectly normal for most developed countries today. Wikipedia claims that Israeli unit 8200 is the largest unit in the Israeli army and the American NSA has always taken pride in the number of PhD mathematicians it employs. Lots of ink has been dedicated over
the past few years to the formation of US Cyber Command which is dedicated to US Cyberspace Operations and there have been just as many articles written on the drive to draft cyber warriors into the military (recently, the DoD even created new medals to hand out for this “new” theatre of war). So the existence of a dedicated Chinese unit signals intelligence and cyberwar is not news, and the fact that this unit would recruit from science and engineering faculties of Chinese universities should hardly come as a surprise. What is surprising is the unfaltering belief that since attacks continued next page
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come from IP addresses in the same geographic region as a PLA unit, ipso facto, the attacks are state sponsored and need some sort of government response. For context, the area in question is about the size of Los Angeles and houses over 5 million people (making it roughly the equivalent of the second most populated US city). Claiming that attacks originating from anywhere in this city must imply the involvement of Unit 61398 is a stretch and ignores a raft of other possibilities. So why do so many people so readily believe that attacks from China are state sponsored? An argument is made that the attacks show coordination and shared purpose that implies a state sponsored mission. We know from recent history that the one does not imply the other. When Anonymous (and its splinter group Lulzsec) relentlessly attacked the Japanese Sony Corporation and brought down the Playstation network (and compromising Sony sites worldwide), was the natural assumption that this was a US state sponsored attack against Japan? When the US hosts hundreds of conferences every year dedicated to hacking and computer security, are they accused of promoting cyber terrorism? Another weak argument that is often bandied about is that the attacks show a scale that must imply the employment of thousands dedicated to the task (which must imply government funding). Again, we know that this is not true. The internet is a force multiplier and allows a handful of smart engineers to build infrastructure that scales exponentially. Don’t believe me? Ask Instagram, who managed to use a dozen engineers to build a service that scales to service millions (while generating billions in income).
Many assume that the existence of the “Great Firewall of China” means that the PLA has tight control over the entire Chinese internet space. A brief glance through the address space shows that this simply isn’t true. In 2011, a security researcher discovered that a popular Chinese entertainment programme inadvertently opened up an open proxy on all machines that ran the software. Presto, with one piece of misconfigured software, we have “100 million open proxies in China”. An open proxy means that we can coopt the proxy to act on our behalf (which probably explains why so many attacks seem to be coming from Chinese address-space). The thought of state sponsored attackers helps us feel better about the fact that we are so easily compromised, but the truth of the matter is that we are so easily compromised because for the most part, we haven’t figured out yet how to properly defend ourselves on the internet. This is another topic for another day, but one I have previously written about here. Even if we accept the premise of the Mandiant report, the squeals from the US about these cyber espionage attacks ignore some ironic bits of history. To date, the largest documented offensive cyber operations in the world were conducted by the USA and Israel in the form of 2010’s Stuxnet and Flame attacks against Iran. Even relatively passive countries that were avoiding the topic of cyberwar were forced to re-evaluate their positions post-Stuxnet.
A R T I C L E S Session Document from 2001 covering the USA’s echelon program lists a number of egregious instances of US cyber espionage being used to benefit US- based corporations over their European counterparts. Examples include: The NSA intercepted communication between Airbus and the Saudi Arabian government during contract negotiations and forwarded this communication to Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas (who went on to win the contract instead). - The NSA forwarded technical details of an engineering design to a US- based firm (who then patented the design before the original inventors). - The CIA hacked into the Japanese Trade Ministry to obtain details informing their negotiation on quotas for US cars. The NSA intercepted communications between VW and Lopez (and then forwarded this information to General Motors). -The NSA surveillance of the Thomson-CSF/Brazil negotiations (for a billion dollar contract) were forwarded to Raytheon (who were later awarded the contract instead). So China doesn’t exactly have the monopoly on cyber warfare or industrial espionage. In fact, it is fairly well understood that most modern states are engaged in similar activities against each other.
But this is state sponsored corporate espionage, not cyberwar, which makes it all different. Once more, a brief history lesson makes sense.
The new policy document pushed through by the White House includes the promise of “Enhanced Domestic Law Enforcement Operations” and “Improved Domestic Legislations” as two of its five strategic action items.
The European Parliamentary
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The penny drops. First comes the bogeyman, and then comes the protection we need more legislation and more law enforcement. Again, this all has a strangely familiar feeling.
digital complex can be even more profitable than the military industrial complex was. There is a powerful lobby that constantly pushes for increased regulation and there is an everincreasing call for freedom-restricting technology that limits anonymity and online whistle-blowing.
A R T I C L E S us give up essential online liberties. We have made this mistake before.
25 February, 2013 There is a huge lobby in the US desperate to reclaim engineering jobs that have been shipped to China, and there is a huge lobby of hawks who are beginning to realise that the military
All of them benefit from hyping the Chinese-Cyber-Demon and we would be well advised to make sure that we don’t let scary headlines, injured pride and our desire for online safety make
Haroon Meer is the founder of Thinkst, an applied Research company with a deep focus on information security. Source: Aljazeera.com
IRAQ AT THE BRINK: A DECADE AFTER THE INVASION By Ramzy Baroud
again. He was a guest at the hotel and somehow he learned of my dilemma. As I profusely, but hurriedly thanked him before taking my seat on the bus, he insisted that no such words were needed. “We are brothers and your daughter is like my own,” he said.
Soon after the joint US-British bombing campaign ‘Operation Desert Fox’ devastated parts of Iraq in Dec 1998, I was complaining to a friend in the lobby of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. I was disappointed with the fact that our busy schedule in Iraq – mostly visiting hospitals packed with injured or Depleted Uranium Victims - left me no time to purchase a few Arabic books for my little daughter back in the States. As I got ready to embark on the long bus journey back to Jordan, an Iraqi man with a thick moustache and a carefully designed beard approached me. “This is for your daughter,” he said with a smile as he handed me a plastic bag. The bag included over a dozen books with colorful images of traditional Iraqi children stories. I had never met that man before, nor did we ever meet
I was not exactly surprised by this. Generosity of action and spirit is a distinct Iraqi characteristic and Arabs know that too well. Other Iraqi qualities include pride and perseverance, the former attributed to the fact that Mesopotamia – encompassing most of modern day Iraq – is the ‘cradle of civilization’ and later due to the untold hardship experienced by Iraqis in their modern history. It was Britain that triggered Iraq’s modern tragedy, starting with its seizure of Baghdad in 1917 and the haphazard reshaping of a country to perfectly fit the colonial needs and economic interests of London. One could argue that the early and unequalled mess created by the British invaders continued to wreak havoc, manifesting itself in various ways – spanning sectarianism, political violence and border feuds between Iraq and its neighbors – until this very day.
But of course, the US now deserves most of the credit of reversing whatever has been achieved by the Iraqi people to acquire their ever-elusive sovereignty. It was US Secretary of State James Baker, who reportedly threatened Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz in a Geneva meeting in 1991 by saying that the US would destroy Iraq and “bring it back to the stone age.” The US war which extended from 1990 to 2011, included a devastating blockade and ended with a brutal invasion. These wars were as unscrupulous as they were violent. Aside from their overwhelming human toll, they were placed within a horrid political strategy aimed at exploiting the country’s existing sectarian and other fault lines therefore triggering civil wars and sectarian hatred from which Iraq is unlikely to cover for many years. For the Americans, it was a mere strategy aimed at lessening the pressure placed on its and other ally soldiers as they faced stiff resistance the moment they stepped foot in Iraq. For the Iraqis however, it was a petrifying nightmare that can neither be expressed by words or numbers. But numbers are of course barely continued next page
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lacking. According to UN estimations citied by the BBC, between May and June 2006 “an average of more than 100 civilians per day (were) killed in violence in Iraq.” The UN reserved estimates also placed the death toll of civilians during 2006 at 34,000. That was the year that the US strategy of divide and conquer proved most successful. Over the years, most people outside Iraq – as in other conflicts where protracted violence yields regular death counts – simply became desensitized to the death toll. It is as if the more people die, the less worthy their lives become.
The fact remains, however that the US and Britain had jointly destroyed modern Iraq and no amount of remorse or apology – not that any was offered to begin with – will alter this fact. Iraq’s former colonial masters and its new ones lacked any legal or moral ground for invading the sanctions-devastated country. They also lacked any sense of mercy as they destroyed a generation and set the stage for a future conflict that promises to be as bloody as the past. When the last US combat brigade had reportedly left Iraq in Dec 2011, this was meant to be an end of an era. Historians know well that conflicts don’t end with a presidential decree or troop deployments. Iraq merely entered a new phase of conflict and the US,
Britain and others, remain integral parties of that conflict. One post-invasion and war reality is that Iraq was divided into areas of influence based on purely sectarian and ethnic lines. In western media’s classification of winners and losers, Sunnis, blamed for being favored by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, emerged as the biggest loser. While Iraq’s new political elites were divided between Shi’ite and Kurdish politicians (each party with its own private army, some gathered in Baghdad and others in the autonomous Kurdistan region), the Shi’ite population was held by various militant groups responsible for Sunni unfortunates. On Feb 8, five car bombs blew up in what was quickly recognized as “Shi’ite areas”, killing 34 people. A few days earlier, on Feb 4, 22 people were also killed in a similar fashion. The sectarian strife in Iraq which is responsible for the death of tens of thousands, is making a comeback. Iraqi Sunnis, including major tribes and political parties are demanding equality and the end of their disfranchisement in the relatively new, skewed Iraqi political system under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Massive protests and ongoing strikes have been organized with a unified and clear political message. However, numerous other parties are exploiting the polarization in every way imaginable: to settle old scores, to push the country back to the brink of civil war, to amplify the mayhem underway in various Arab countries, most notably Syria, and in some instances to adjust sectarian boundaries in ways that could create good business opportunities. Yes, sectarian division and business in today’s Iraq go hand in hand. Reuters reported that Exxon Mobil hired Jeffrey James, a former US ambassador to Iraq
A R T I C L E S (from 2010-12) as a ‘consultant.’ Sure, it is an example of how post-war diplomacy and business are natural allies, but there is more to the story. Taking advantage of the autonomy of the Kurdistan region, the giant multinational oil and gas corporation had struck lucrative deals that are independent from the central government in Baghdad. The latter has been amassing its troops near the disputed oil-rich region starting late last year. The Kurdish government has done the same. Unable to determine which party has the upper hand in the brewing conflict, thus future control over oil resources, Exxon Mobile is torn: to honor its contracts with the Kurds, or to seek perhaps more lucrative contracts in the south. James might have good ideas, especially when he uses his political leverage acquired during his term as US ambassador. The future of Iraq is currently being determined by various forces and almost none of them are composed of Iraqi nationals with a uniting vision. Caught between bitter sectarianism, extremism, the power-hungry, wealth amassing elites, regional power players, western interests and a very violent war legacy, the Iraqi people are suffering beyond the ability of sheer political analyses or statistics to capture their anguish. The proud nation of impressive human potential and remarkable economic prospects has been torn to shreds. UK-based Iraqi writer Hussein Alalak wrote on the upcoming tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion with a tribute to the country’s ‘silent victims,’ the children. According to Iraqi Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, he reported, there is an estimated 4.5 million children who are now orphans, with a “shocking 70 percent” of them having lost their parents since the 2003 invasion. continued next page
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“From that total number, around 600,000 children are living on the streets, without either shelter or food to survive,” Al-alak wrote. Those living in the few state-run orphanages “are currently lacking in their most essential needs.”
I still think of the kindly Iraqi man who gifted my daughter a collection of Iraqi stories. I also think of his children. One of the books he purchased was of Sindbad, presented in the book as a brave, handsome child who loved adventure as much as he loved his country. No matter how cruel
A R T I C L E S his fate had been, Sinbad always returned to Iraq and began anew, as if nothing had ever happened. 14 February, 2013 Ramzy Baroud is an internationallysyndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. Source: Countercurrents.org
ISRAEL GAVE BIRTH CONTROL TO ETHIOPIAN JEWS WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT By Alistair Dawber
Israel has admitted for the first time that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections, often without their knowledge or consent.
The drug in question is thought to be Depo-Provera, which is injected every three months and is considered to be a highly effective, long-lasting contraceptive.
The government had previously denied the practice but the Israeli Health Ministry’s director-general has now ordered gynaecologists to stop administering the drugs. According a report in Haaretz, suspicions were first raised by an investigative journalist, Gal Gabbay, who interviewed more than 30 women from Ethiopia in an attempt to discover why birth rates in the community had fallen dramatically.
Nearly 100,000 Ethiopian Jews have moved to Israel under the Law of Return since the 1980s, but their Jewishness has been questioned by some rabbis. Last year, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the health portfolio, warned that illegal immigrants from Africa “threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state”.
One of the Ethiopian women who was interviewed is quoted as saying: “They [medical staff] told us they are inoculations. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.” It is alleged that some of the women were forced or coerced to take the drug while in transit camps in Ethiopia.
Haaretz published an extract from a letter sent by the Ministry of Health to units administering the drug. Doctors were told “not to renew prescriptions for Depo Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment”.
Sharona Eliahu Chai, a lawyer for the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), said: “Findings from investigations into the use of Depo Provera are extremely worrisome, raising concerns of harmful health policies with racist implications in violation of medical ethics. The Ministry of Health’s director-general was right to act quickly and put forth new guidelines.”
27 January, 2013 Alistair Dawber is The Independent’s Jerusalem correspondent. The paper’s former foreign editor and deputy foreign editor. Source: The Independent
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ONE IN EVERY EIGHT PEOPLE ON EARTH GOES TO BED HUNGRY EACH NIGHT By Countercurrents.org
Hunger haunts all. Hunger ultimately determines path of politics. War against hunger is going on for decades. What will be the number of hungry people in the world in 2013? The World Food Programme provides a list of 10 facts related to hunger. A news item* of the WFP said: How many hungry people are there in the world and is the number going down? What effect does hunger have on children and what can we do to help them? Here is a list of 10 facts that go some way to explaining why hunger is the single biggest solvable problem facing the world today. 1. Approximately 870 million people in the world do not eat enough to be healthy. That means that one in every eight people on Earth goes to bed hungry each night. (Source: FAO, 2012) 2. The number of people living with chronic hunger has declined by 130 million people over the past 20 years. For developing countries, the prevalence of undernourishment has fallen from 23.2 to 14.9 percent over the period 1990–2010 (Source: FAO, 2012)
period can protect children from the mental and physical stunting that can result from malnutrition. (Source: IGME, 2011) 7. It costs just US $0.25 per day to provide a child with all of the vitamins and nutrients he or she needs to grow up healthy. (Source: WFP, 2011)
3. Most of the progress against hunger was achieved before 2007/08. Since then, global progress in reducing hunger has slowed and leveled off. (Source: FAO, 2012) 4. Hunger is number one on the list of the world’s top 10 health risks. It kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. (Source: UNAIDS, 2010; WHO, 2011). 5. A third of all deaths in children under the age of five in developing countries are linked to undernutrition. (Source: IGME, 2011) 6. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life, from pregnancy through age two, are the critical window in which to tackle undernutrition. A proper diet in this
8. If women in rural areas had the same access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets as men, the number of hungry people could be reduced by 100-150 million. (Source: FAO, 2011) 9. By 2050, climate change and erratic weather patterns will have pushed another 24 million children into hunger. Almost half of these children will live in sub-Saharan Africa. (Source: WFP, 2009) 10. Hunger is the single biggest solvable problem facing the world today. * World Food Programme, “10 Things You Need To Know About Hunger In 2013”, Jan. 2, 2013, http:// www.wfp.org/stories/10-things-youneed-know-about-hunger-2013 4 January, 2013 Source: Countercurrents.org
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