Vol 9, No. 5
HUMAN BODY PARTS By Dahr Jamail In Iraq, time leaves bloody marks upon each day of the ongoing US occupation. The policies of the Obama administration, adopted from the Bush administration, continue to wreak their havoc on the Iraqi people. The US-created al-Sahwa (Sons of Iraq), a Sunni militia comprised mostly of former resistance fighters and even some members of al-Qaeda, that grew to 100,000 in number, now threatens to fade back into the shadows in order to resume antioccupation resistance operations against the US military and Iraqi government security forces. The Sahwa, which were to be incorporated into the government security apparatus, have instead been suffering attacks by that same apparatus for several months - attacks that are now occurring daily. And they are reacting in kind. On April 14, ten Sahwa-controlled checkpoints were abandoned in Babel, south of Baghdad. The Sahwa forces left their posts after not receiving their salaries. This was exactly what I was told would begin to happen when I spoke with a Sahwa commander in Baghdad two months ago. At the time of our discussion, he had told me that many of
his men had not received payment from the government since October, and he feared it was only a matter of time before they would leave their posts to likely resume resistance operations.
direction, on uniting Sunnis and Shias, to build one country.” Obviously, Maliki’s vice president has other ideas for the Sahwa that don’t appear to include “a unified Iraq.”
Also on April 14, Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi accused members of the Sahwa of biding their time to wait for a chance to resume attacks against the Shiite-led government. Obviously, an effort to justify ongoing Iraqi government attacks against the Sahwa, which are perceived by the government as a threat. Mahdi credited some members of the group with helping “restore order in the country,” but said that the government “can’t distinguish between the two,” referring to helpful members of the militia and the members waiting to strike. “That’s why there have been arrests when we have discovered their links with other terrorist groups,” he said.
Complicating matters in Anbar, April 16 saw a suicide bomber wearing an Iraqi army uniform detonate his vest packed with explosives at a military base there, killing 16 soldiers and wounding another 50. “We had a regular parade, and were about to go into the cafeteria when a huge noise made me fall to the ground ... I saw fire, smoke and debris ... I saw people without arms and legs,” soldier Mokhaled al-Dulaimi told reporters. This type of violence will not motivate the Sahwa in Anbar, led by Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, to “renounce armed struggle.”
Mahdi’s move came just after an announcement made by Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, president of the Sahwa of alAnbar province, stating he was renouncing armed struggle and was prepared to work with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “If we want a unified Iraq,” he said, “we must work in that
Meanwhile, continuing empty promises to the Sahwa are being made by the Iraq government. Spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that the government will integrate 20 percent of the groups members into the security forces, and the other 80 percent will be appointed to “other positions,” while giving no timeline for how long that might take. This sort of Turn to next page
RESTORING INTER-RELIGIOUS HARMONY.....The proposals made by the
THE EMBARGO ON CUBA
Malaysian Cabinet pertaining to conversion, ........P.4
ISRAEL, RACISM & ZIONISM
THE PLIGHT OF THE TAMILS OF SRI LANKA .....The International Movement for a Just
By Chandra Muzaffar .................................. page 7
World (JUST) joins civil society groups all over the world in urging the Sri Lankan government ..........P.4
OBAMA AND THE QUEST FOR A NUCLEAR WEAPONS FREE WORLD ... At last, a President of the United States of America has committed himself to ..........................................P.4
By Daniel Bruno Sanz ................................. page 5
PIRACY, GEOPOLITICS & PRIVATE SECURITY By Abukar Arman ....................................... page 8
CAPITALISM’S SELF-INFLICTED APOCALYPSE By Michael Parenti ..................................... page 9
WHY HEDONISTIC POLYGAMY I SLAM
By A. Faizur Rahman ...............................
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Last week alone, at least 53 Sahwa fighters were killed in attacks across the country.
Ironically, the current of nationalism during the January elections in Iraq that kept Maliki in power is the same current of Iraqi identity and nationalism that could now threaten his government. The film “Meeting Resistance,” one of the only films made of the Iraqi Resistance, provides clarity here. Filmmakers Molly Bingham and Steve Connors spent months in Baghdad interviewing resistance fighters. I asked Connors his thoughts about Iraqi nationalism and how large a factor he feels it is in the current situation in Iraq. “In recent months we have seen the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, don the mantle of nationalism and, riding on a wave of popular sentiment that in recent provincial elections has rejected the divisive US-backed ethno-sectarian politics of the last few years, consolidated his hold on power in the country. There are many who doubt the sincerity of Maliki’s position and prefer to see it as cynical political opportunism, but what can no longer be denied is that the sense of Iraqi-ness that permeates the society remains a potent force in Iraq. “Throughout the reporting for Meeting Resistance, a common thread among the people we spoke to was a powerful sense of national identity - of being Iraqi - that
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wants us to stay we will stay,” Volesky told reporters, as though the Iraqi government has any jurisdiction whatsoever over the US military. Laying some groundwork for the ongoing US presence in Mosul, Volesky added, “There could be bad days ahead.”
continued from page 1 thing has been ongoing since October, the date the Sahwa were theoretically to be incorporated into the Iraqi government security forces.
Further complicating matters, the Maliki government recently started re-examining the records of thousands of detainees who US forces recently released. The spokesman of the so-called Baghdad operation, Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, said: “Rearrests of a number of persons released by the American forces were completed because they were once again returned to practice of armed action. The orders issued by Prime Minister Maliki, the Ministry of the Interior and the Supreme Judicial Council aim to examine the records of those released people as a result of the recent violence.”
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sometimes was underpinned by a religious belief that defense of the nation was a divine duty,” Connors explained, “This held true for those who were involved in violence and their supporters in the broader community. “As early as November of 2003 the US National Intelligence Council produced a National Intelligence Estimate that reported the resistance to occupation in Iraq as being nationalist in motivation with deep roots in the society. Department of Defense reports to Congress have shown that for the duration of the war 73 percent of significant attacks (those requiring planning and organization) have been directed at the US-led coalition forces, 15 percent targeted Iraqi troops and police, with the remaining 12 percent being aimed at civilians and producing massive casualties that have done severe damage to those groups that oppose the occupation.” Thus, this same nationalism may well be in the process of being increasingly vented against the Maliki government that is strong-arming the Sahwa and any other former resistance fighters it can get its hands on. Then, we have more broken promises from the US military, again backed by Maliki since his government’s survival depends on it, which continue to erode general Iraqi support for the government in Baghdad. April 14 turned out to be an interesting day, indeed, as not-socoincidentally Army Col. Gary Volesky, commander of US forces in the northern city of Mosul, which is largely completely out of the control of either US or Iraqi forces, announced that US troops could remain in that city after a June deadline for withdrawal, which, of course, violates a pact reached last year that called for all US forces to withdrawal from all Iraqi cities by June 30. “If the Iraqi government
Between Mosul and Baghdad lies the oil rich city of Kirkuk. Along with the growing storm of the Sahwa-Iraqi government impasse, the other current major flashpoint in Iraq is the growing tension between Iraqi Kurds and Arabs regarding the fate of Kirkuk. Also on April 14, a Kurdish political coalition announced it will boycott provincial council meetings until the main Arab party there cedes council leadership positions. In the northern province of Nineveh, the Kurdish political coalition the Nineveh Fraternal List walked out of the council’s inaugural meeting and vowed not to return until the Arab’s handed over two of the council’s top three leadership positions - seats the Arab’s had legitimately won in the January provincial elections. Hashim al Tael, a Sunni Arab national lawmaker from Nineveh, said of the disagreements: “This is just the beginning. We may witness much more.” Not surprisingly, as a result of the aforementioned, the next day, April 15, at least 14 people were killed and more than 25 injured in a car bomb attack in Kirkuk targeting police guards outside a building of the state-owned North Oil Company. The guards were traveling home on a bus when they were struck by the bomber. Lt. Col. Ghazi Mohammad Rashid, a police spokesman, told reporters, “All that was left of the bus were its seats, the officers’ Kalashnikovs and human body parts.” Bombings not dissimilar to this occur on a near-daily basis in Iraq. Sadly, these are generally what catches the headlines - as most corporate media outlets choose to report these, or nothing at all, or how much better things have become in Iraq as of late. What continues to be missed is the deep suffering within the country that is cutting through the Iraqi people like a vicious incurable cancer, which is how continued next page
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continued from page 2 most Iraqis continue to perceive the occupation.
Nowadays, at least 150 Iraqi children per year are being sold into child trafficking rings, a growing crisis that is gripping Iraq. Iraqi children are being abducted by the scores on an annual basis, and are being sold both internally and abroad. Some of the bartered youngsters become sex abuse victims. On April 6, The Guardian reported, “Criminal gangs are profiting from the cheap cost of buying infants and the bureaucratic muddle that makes it relatively easy to move them overseas. Accurate figures are difficult to obtain because there is no centralized counting procedure, but aid agencies and police say they believe numbers have increased by a third since 2005 to at least 150 children a year.” One senior police officer reported that at least 15 Iraqi children were sold every month, some overseas, some internally, some for adoption, some for sexual abuse. The paper continued, “Officials believe at least 12 gangs are operating in Iraq, offering between £200 and £4,000 per child, depending on its background and health. The main countries in which they are sold are Jordan, Turkey, Syria and some European countries including Switzerland, Ireland, the UK, Portugal and Sweden - One dealer, who asked to be called Abu Hamizi, said child trafficking from Iraq was cheaper and easier than elsewhere, given the readiness of underpaid government employees to help with the falsification of documents We prefer babies but sometimes families request children from one to four years old but they are rare cases.” A 2007 report by the NGO Heartland Alliance showed that traffickers regularly employed the threat or use of coercion, abduction, force, fraud, deception, abuse of vulnerability or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim. One of the child traffickers told The Guardian that he heard one of the babies sold last year was used for organ transplants.
Why such desperation among the people of Iraq? It requires little imagination to understand their dilemma. The country was heavily bombed in 1991 by the United States, then bombed throughout the strangling twelve and a half years of economic sanctions-also led by the US, then invaded and beset with a torturous occupation now into its seventh year. The bright and shining promises of “reconstruction” and “rehabilitation” were, of course, simply part of the worst kind of propaganda used to justify an illegal act of aggression against a sovereign country. The United States, like all empires through history, is raping and pillaging Iraq. What funds were available for reconstruction were often plundered by US soldiers themselves. Recently, The Los Angeles Times reported, “Some US troops tempted by reconstruction cash,” and that the Department of Justice is pursuing some “three dozen prosecutions” of soldiers and others involving bribery for “reconstruction” projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, 28-year-old Army Capt. Michael Dung Nguyen, who was also a graduate from West Point, “managed to skim more than $690,000 in cash as the civil affairs officer overseeing millions of dollars intended for reconstruction projects and payments to private Iraqi security forces northeast of Baghdad.” According to The Los Angeles Times, “at least 25 theft probes are underway.” And those are only the instances where someone was caught. Liliana Segura wrote for AlterNet recently, “The money comes from the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP), which has so far spent at least $2.8 billion in US funds. It is not tied to international standards of redevelopment or normal government purchasing rules. Instead, it is governed by broad guidelines packaged into a field manual called ‘Money as a Weapon System.’” Segura points out that, according to The Los Angeles Times, “$3.5 billion in taxpayer money has been spent on the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, ostensibly on ‘humanitarian aid and community reconstruction projects’ as well as the practice of hiring Sunni
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gunmen, ‘often former insurgents, as security officers with the US-allied forces known as the Sons of Iraq.’” Aside from funding ongoing Wall Street corruption in the form of so-called bailouts, this is another great use of US taxpayer money. While direct payments to the Sahwa by the US military theoretically ceased last October when the Sahwa were to be incorporated into the Iraqi military and police forces, payments morphed into another form that of funding “reconstruction projects.” Thus, most of the Sahwa who are still being paid, albeit indirectly with US tax dollars, are the same Sahwa who are slowly melting back into the Iraqi resistance in order to resume attacks against US and Iraqi soldiers. A quick review of recent US military fatalities in Iraq finds: “ April 12: One US coalition soldier died of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated in Salah-ad Din Province. “ April 13: Sgt. Raul Moncada, 29, of Madera, California, died April 13 near Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an explosive device detonated near his vehicle. “ April 13: A coalition forces soldier died of injuries sustained during an explosively formed projectile attack on a convoy five kilometers south of Karbalah, Iraq, at approximately 7:40 AM. The soldier’s name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. Everything becomes twisted, grotesque and inhuman amidst the bilateral psychosis that is war and occupation. This is how West Point graduates loot funds meant for providing aid to Iraqis. This is how your tax dollars are paying the men who are killing US soldiers in Iraq. This is how nothing touched by the vile, immoral, US occupation of Iraq is left unscathed. 17 April 2009 Dahr Jamail is an independent US journalist, his website is JamailIraq.com. Source:http://www.truthout.org/
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S T A T E M E N T S
STATEMENTS RESTORING INTER-RELIGIOUS HARMONY The proposals made by the Malaysian Cabinet pertaining to conversion, the religion of a child one of whose parents has converted to another religion, and the responsibilities that a convert will have to fulfil in relation to his or her spouse and children, should be welcomed by all Malaysians. These proposals will help to improve inter-religious ties in the country. In the last few years a number of episodes related to conversion and the responsibilities of a convert towards his non-Muslim spouse and family have had a negative impact upon our multireligious fabric. By allowing these controversies to drag on and on, without providing any solutions, the authorities had indirectly aggravated inter-religious antagonisms.
Equally important, the Cabinet proposals project the essence of Islam with its strong commitment to justice and fair play. It is wrong of a person who converts to Islam to abdicate his responsibility to his nonMuslim spouse and children. Neither should he coax or coerce his young children to become Muslims. It is only right that they remain in the religion of the parent or guardian who has been given custody over them until they attain maturity at which point they can decide for themselves on the religion they want to embrace. This is a variation of the cabinet proposal. It is hoped that these sane and sensible proposals from the cabinet will be supported by the State Muftis and other religious authorities. Given the right advice by their Muftis, the Rulers as
Heads of Islam in their respective states will undoubtedly endorse these proposals which are fundamental for enhancing inter-religious ties. Political party leaders should also rise above partisan politics and power play and eschew narrow interpretations of Islamic law. They should appreciate the larger significance of these proposals for the dignity of Islam and the honour of the Muslim community in Malaysia. Dr. Chandra Muzaffar. President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST). 24 April 2009.
THE PLIGHT OF THE TAMILS OF SRI LANKA The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) joins civil society groups all over the world in urging the Sri Lankan government to ensure that the Tamil civilian population trapped in the country’s war zone is provided safe passage to sanctuaries that will protect life and limb. The government has a moral responsibility to protect Tamil civilians who are after all citizens of Sri Lanka. This should be the government’s highest priority. According to some independent sources civilian casualties have been mounting. A conservative estimate places the number of civilians killed since January 2009 at 4,200 persons. One Red Cross official on the ground has described the plight of the Tamils as “ catastrophic.” The Sri Lankan government should realize that there is no military solution to the decades old conflict. Even if the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are defeated in combat, it is quite conceivable that the remnants of the LTTE will re-group and launch fresh attacks against government forces in the future— as long as the fundamental causes of the conflict are not resolved. The LTTE too should acknowledge that the use of violence has not advanced its cause. The very fact that it is fighting for its survival today proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that force as a strategy has its limits. The international community should persuade both the government and credible leaders of the Tamil community to resume negotiations immediately. Over the years Sinhalese and Tamil leaders — and peacemakers from outside Sri Lanka — have made various proposals on how the conflict can be brought to an end. Greater devolution of power from Colombo to the regions, including the Tamil ‘homeland’ of Jaffna, which would
bestow these regions with genuine autonomy, has to be an important dimension of any solution. While the position of the Sinhalese majority should be respected, the rights and aspirations of the Tamils and other minorities such as the Muslims, should be safeguarded at all costs. There is no alternative to a politically negotiated settlement. The Sri Lankan tragedy illustrates the utter futility of resorting to violence to overcome ethnic problems. More than a hundred thousand people— Tamils, Muslims, Sinhalese and others — have been killed since the conflict took a turn for the worse in 1983. How many more Sri Lankans will have to die before peace returns to Sri Lanka? Chandra Muzaffar, 23 April 2009.
OBAMA AND THE QUEST FOR A NUCLEAR WEAPONS FREE WORLD At last, a President of the United States of America has committed himself to “a world without nuclear weapons.” In a speech in Prague on the 5th of April 2009, Barack Obama openly acknowledged that as the only country in the world that has
used nuclear weapons, the US “has a moral responsibility to act.” President Obama has called for concrete steps to be taken in the quest for a nuclear weapons free world. These include
reducing the role of nuclear weapons in US nuclear security strategy and persuading other nuclear weapons states to do the same; reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the US arsenal; continued next page
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continued from page 4 working for US ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; seeking a new treaty to end production of fissile materials for weapons; strengthening the Non-Proliferation Treaty; and hosting a Global Summit on Nuclear Security within the year. Even before the proposed Global Summit, Obama should perhaps convene a meeting of the eight nuclear weapons states — the US, Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India and Pakistan—- and obtain their endorsement of a nuclear weapons free world and the type of
measures that should be adopted immediately in the quest for this goal. Equally important, American public opinion should be mobilized to ensure that the US President has a solid mandate from his people as he seeks to translate vision into reality. The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in the US, one of the most consistent and principled voices against nuclear weapons, has already begun to urge the American people to stand with their President. The rest of the world should also persuade their governments to champion
A R T I C L E S the cause of a nuclear weapons free world. A number of middle level states in the Global South and the Global North have spoken out against nuclear weapons for a long while. Malaysia is one of them. In the light of Obama’s unambiguous commitment to a nuclear weapons free world, Malaysia should get its ASEAN partners to re-dedicate themselves to the same goal. It would add moral weight to one of the noblest struggles for peace today. Chandra Muzaffar, 10 April 2009.
ARTICLES THE EMBARGO ON CUBA AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA ON THE OCCASION OF HIS UPCOMING SPEECH AT THE FIFTH SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS, PORT-OF-SPAIN, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO By Daniel Bruno Sanz Dear Mr. President, On May 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine, Mohammed Ali defeated Sonny Liston in the first round by TKO. As Ali stood over Liston in triumph, photographer Neil Leifer captured one of the most iconic moments in sports history. 40 years later, this image was matted, framed and prominently displayed in your new Senate office suite. Now, perhaps it has accompanied you to the White House.
worldwide. He also knows that even if food and medicine were exempted from the embargo, the financial carnage the embargo leaves in its wake leaves Cubans like his friend Teofilo Stevenson, unable to buy. Olympic gold medallist Stevenson, dubbed the Cuban Ali because of likeness and similarities, turned down Don King’s offer of five million dollars to go pro in 1976 because he would have to defect from Cuba to accept it.
Ali was ahead of his time, a man of principles who speaks his mind. Ali is a thinking man’s boxer. Less powerful than Liston, Frazier and Foreman, he understood how to unnerve his opponents before a bout. In his prime, Ali was controversial. He retired his Anglo name, rejected Christianity and went to jail for refusal to serve in Vietnam. They called him un-American and he was stripped of his boxing titles. He lost millions in revenue. He was an American dissident. Today, he is an American hero. He opened the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. He is your hero.
Mohammed Ali, a UN ambassador for peace, has called on the United States to end the embargo on Cuba.
In 1996 and 98 Ali traveled to Cuba with medicine supplies blacklisted by the US embargo. He did it because he understood that American conglomerates dominate the pharmaceutical and medical fields
The UN General Assembly has condemned the US embargo on Cuba every year since 1992 and demanded the US “take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate” it. In 2000 and ’01, this Resolution passed 167 to 3 with three abstentions. In 2002, it passed 173 votes to three, with four nations abstaining. In 2003, only two nations voted with the US. In its 2002 report, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations condemned the embargo as “the main cause of malnutrition in Cuba.” UNICEF has condemned the embargo. UNESCO condemned the embargo, saying it “violates the rights of the Cuban people.” The United Nations Population Fund condemned the embargo for
deterioration of Cuban living standards. The World Health Organization condemned the embargo for its “very significant negative impact on the overall performance of the national economy” which “compromises the quality of life of the population, specifically the children, the elderly and the infirm.” It notes that the embargo increases the cost of milk for children by 600% and puts medical equipment out of reach. Amnesty International condemned the embargo because it “helped undermine the enjoyment of key civil and political rights in Cuba by fueling a climate in which the fundamental rights of freedom of association, expression and assembly are routinely denied.” The US embargo against Cuba is described as “the longest and most severe set of trade sanctions ever imposed on any one nation” by international health organizations. Mr. President, it is not a coincidence that the embargo is nearly 50 years old and Fidel Castro holds the world record for non-inherited longevity in power. Mr. President, during the election campaign you said that, as president, you would stand before the UN General Assembly to let the world know that “America is back.” Now is the time, and I know of no better way to do it, than to continued next page
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continued from page 5 boldly announce that the US will heed the call made every year to drop the embargo on Cuba. Unable to dislodge Castro, the everfrustrated embargo on Cuba has metastasized into an absurd, unsustainable policy at odds with who we are. Doomed to failure because of its unilateral nature, the embargo has become an ersatz blockade. On February 28, 2004, James Sabzali, a Canadian citizen, was charged with 75 counts of violating a 1917 US law - the “Trading with the Enemy Act” and one count of conspiracy. He was convicted of selling water purification supplies to Cuba - mostly from Canada, but also from the United States, in violation of the embargo. He grossed US $3 million in sales. A laughable sum for business. Sabzali, a Canadian, ended up with an criminal record for violating American law even though he lived in another country when he sold goods to Cuba. When he visited the US, he was charged with smuggling, taken to court, given a year’s probation and fined $10,000. The hapless Sabzali spent three years in the US under strict travel restrictions, including 14 months when forced to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and restricted to no more than an hour drive from his home - even to visit his wife and children back in Canada. The irony is that the extended family of Osama bin Laden was allowed by the Bush White House and State Department to leave the US immediately after 9/11 on private jets even as the FAA ordered all aircraft grounded. American intelligence never got the chance to question the bin Ladens about the attack on the WTC and Pentagon. I think you will agree, Mr. President, that safe drinking water is a human right. Certainly, had a water borne epidemic appeared, proponents of the embargo would have seized upon it as proof of Castro’s disregard for human life. At the same time, they zealously condemn businessmen like Sabzali, whose crime was to sell Cubans the wherewithal to provide clean water, defeating the US embargo. What is it about Cuba that Gives Embargo Proponents the Fits?
A R T I C L E S Boston Market and Popeye’s. Could it be Because Cuba is a One Party, Totalitarian and Communist Police State with Political Prisoners?
Is it Fidel Castro? At 82, Castro is a shadow of a man. Unable to speak in public, he is reduced to photo ops with visiting dignitaries (last call for photos with Fidel!) and quaint reflections in Granma, Cuba’s daily rag. Cuba’s Gross Domestic Product is smaller than the GDP of the Bronx and its army is the same size as the New York City Police Department. Fidel, Raul and the Cuban government certainly don’t have the military or economic might to challenge the United States. Words are all they have left and their ideology is in tatters. Nationalism and defiance are all that remain. Could it be Because Castro Corrupts the Minds of Men? Castro has no corporate public relations mouthpiece to compete for influence in 4 the media outside Cuba, no entertainment empire to shape values and perceptions of young people, no recording industry or marketing gurus to shape public opinion outside Cuba about anything. But when Oliver Stone, Kevin Costner or Naomi Campbell does lunch with Castro, the embargo crowd goes ballistic. Could it be Because Cuba will cost Americans their Jobs? With the exception of sunshine in December, Cuba doesn’t produce anything of value that could threaten US market share of world trade if the embargo were lifted. Actually the balance of trade would be far in our favor. Cuba has little of importance to sell but needs everything, and that alone is why the embargo has been able to persist for so long. Cuban music has found a comfortable but obscure cultural niche that’s unlikely to compete with MTV or BET. Cuba’s peasant cuisine (rice and beans) won’t lure Americans away from
In spite of all the embargo rhetoric about the need to punish Castro for being a dictator and a stain on human rights, the truth is that US foreign policy is unburdened with such trifles. Republican and Democratic presidents and congress-people alike have advocated cruel dictators, hard-line Communists, petro-monarchs and rude oligarchs.... and won accolades for doing so. Remember Nixon and Mao? Truman and Tito? Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein? Constructive Engagement in South Africa, when Thatcher and Reagan said Mandela was a terrorist? What about support for Batista in Cuba, Ceausescu in Romania, Videla in Argentina, Pinochet in Chile, Diem in South Viet Nam, Marcos in the Philippines, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Somoza (our son of a b) in Nicaragua, (Blowtorch Bob) d’Aubisson in El Salvador, Noriega the drug dealer in Panama, Papa and Baby Doc in Haiti, Musharif in Pakistan, the sadistic Shah of Iran, a series of deathsquad military juntas in Guatemala, kleptomaniac Mobuto Sese Seko in Zaire, bin Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan (Reagan and Sylvester Stallone thought they were freedom fighters)... the list of despots tolerated and encouraged by Washington is quite extensive and includes Cuba’s former dictator himself, General Batista. What makes Cuba under the Castros worthy of unique treatment now? 35 years after 55,000 Americans were killed to keep the dominos from falling in south-east Asia, and when that failed, an economic embargo applied to make sure the Communists never recovered after being bombed back to the stone age, Nike has three footwear factories and Dominoes pizzas are falling on dinner tables in Vietnam, a one party, totalitarian Communist state. Is it Because Cuba is Atheist, Denies Freedom of Religious Choice and Thought? In 1992 the Cuban constitution dropped references to atheism. Catholicism, Santeria and Judaism are openly and continued next page
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continued from page 6 freely practiced. Prominent churches on Havana’s key 5th Avenue are open for worship seven days a week. In 1998 Pope John Paul, credited with bringing Communism down in Poland, met with Castro in Havana and stated that the US embargo is “monstrously immoral.” Jimmy Carter, outspoken on human rights issues everywhere, visited Cuba in 2002 and called for the embargo to be lifted. In 2003, Mikhail Gorbachev condemned the embargo in a Washington Post editorial “The Last Relic of the Cold War.” Mr. President, it is inconceivable that, against the better judgment of these men, the embargo could have value as a tool to change Cuba for the better.
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nationals of Canada, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Spain and France were resolved long ago. The disruption of ties between the US and Cuba, codified by the embargo, makes a compensation plan impossible and, using circuitous logic, serves as justification to continue the embargo. Complicating matters further, losses sustained by Cuba as a result of the embargo give Cuba a claim for damages and impede its ability to pay.
Could it be Because Castro Nationalized American Property Without Compensation?
Mr. President, Cuba’s automotive fleet is the oldest in the world, a rolling museum. 60,000 specimens of battered, pre-1960 Detroit muscle and chrome roam the island, lost in a time warp. Maintained by home made spare parts, infinite patience and strong will, the ancient fleet has become a source of pride and a tourist attraction. It is also a metaphor for Cuba’s political system and US policy.
Compensation claims in Cuba by
They all belong to another era. The
ancient fleet, Cuba’s political system and the US embargo are all obsolete. Now is the time, Mr. President, to drive us in a new direction. Now is the time for change we can believe in. April 17, 2009 This essay is the introduction to Cuba at a Crossroads, a new scholarly book about Cuba. Daniel Bruno Sanz is an author and educator. He writes on financial and foreign policy affairs. Eighteen months before the November 2008 election he predicted the recession and used econometrics to predict Obama’s victory in Why Obama Will Win in 2008 & 2012. He encourages criticism of his essays and welcomes inquiries at Brunoceo@gmail.com His website is DanielBrunoSanz.com Source: http://www.zcommunications.org/ znet/viewArticle/21201
AND ZIONISM By Chandra Muzaffar
It is not surprising at all that the UN Review Conference from 20 to 24 April 2009 in Geneva to assess progress made since the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa adopted a protective attitude towards one of the most racist states on earth today. It was obvious long before the Conference began that the United States government and the European Union would not allow any honest scrutiny of Israel’s racist laws and policies vis-a-vis non-Jews. Since the vast majority of the governments participating in the Conference were not prepared to stand up to the US and EU, the UN, through its Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon and its High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, just surrendered to the West. In this regard, it is important to note that in the Durban meeting too, the UN refused to describe Israel as a racist, apartheid state— in spite of NGO insistence. It is the height of hypocrisy to pretend that Israel is not a racist, apartheid state. Its ‘Law of Return’ for instance which encourages Jews from any part of the world to settle in Israel and acquire
citizenship is blatantly discriminatory especially when one recalls that the Israeli government denies five million Palestinian refugees their right to return to their land, as provided for in international law. There are also polices on land and house ownership which are biased against Palestinians and other Arabs. Even in the use of water from the West Bank, Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Jews in Israel are allotted almost 12 times as much water per person as the Palestinians who also pay more for the precious commodity. The confiscation of Palestinian agricultural land which is then transferred to Israeli settlers, and the destruction of Palestinian orchards are further testimonies to discrimination and racism. There are roads which are for exclusive Israeli use just as the Wall that separates Jewish settlements in the West Bank from the Palestinian population and the creation of Palestinian enclaves are reminiscent of apartheid South Africa in the decades before the demise of the White supremacist regime in the early nineties. It is because racism has been widespread in Israel since the very establishment of the State in 1948 that the late Professor Israel Shahak, one of Israel’s most
outstanding human rights advocates, once noted that the State of Israel is a racist state in the full meaning of the term. In this state people are discriminated against, in the most permanent and legal way and in the most important areas of life, only because of their origin. This racist discrimination began in Zionism and is carried out today mainly in cooperation with the institutions of the Zionist Movement.” More recently, even former US president, Jimmy Carter in his book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid observes that the policy now being followed is a system of apartheid, with two peoples occupying the same land but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of their basic rights.” At the root of Israeli apartheid and racism is political Zionism which as it evolved demanded an exclusive Jewish state and justified the eventual eviction and expulsion of Palestinians “because they were barbarians.” There was also a strong streak of chauvinism in political Zionism which saw Zionist occupation of continued next page
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continued from page 7 Palestine as God’s gift to God’s chosen people. It was this political Zionism which since 1948 has been the official ideology of the state of Israel that the UN General Assembly (UNGA) condemned as a form of racism and racial discrimination in 1975. 16 years later the US used its new found influence and authority following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union to coax the UNGA to rescind its Zionism-Racism resolution. Only 25 member states of the UN — including Malaysia — voted to retain the equation between Zionism and Racism. However, political Zionism linked to the state of Israel should be distinguished from Zionism as a cultural and spiritual movement concerned with the sufferings of the Jewish people in history. Indeed, neither Israeli racism nor Israeli apartheid
in the contemporary period diminishes the significance of Jewish suffering or the magnitude of the holocaust as the culmination of centuries of racial discrimination in Christian Europe against the Jews as a people. What is tragic is that the descendants of the victims of racism in an earlier epoch have now become the perpetrators of apartheid targeting another people in another civilisation.
A R T I C L E S It is also important to emphasise that Judaism in its essence has nothing to do with the racist policies of the state of Israel. In fact, there are elements of universalism and inclusiveness in Judaism which repudiate aspects of political Zionism and the apartheid structures of present-day Israel. There are many Jews within and without Israel, in the past and the present, who would not only make these distinctions between Judaism, political Zionism and Israel, but who have also adopted principled positions against the racism of the Israeli State. Apart from Shahak, the late Tanya Reinhart, Ilan Pappe and Marc Ellis are some of the names that come to mind. It is these and other ‘Jews of Conscience’ who are the beacons of hope in the struggle against racism and racial discrimination in Israel. 26 April 2009.
AND PRIVATE By Abukar Arman
Make no mistake: the proliferation of piracy in the Somali coast is a serious problem — not only for the international community but for Somalia in general, and more specifically, for the current Islamistled government of national unity. After all, Islamic law has zero tolerance for banditry, whether sea-based or landbased. That said: piracy in Somalia was not born out of vacuum — it was initially an act of protestation by local fishermen to the illegal hyper-fishing practised by numerous fishing companies primarily based in Europe and Asia. The reckless greed of these “fishing mafia” has been dangerously depleting sea life in that part of the world. In due course, the local fishermen would be joined by others, including some of the profiteering elements of the Somali civil war, for reinforcement and thus creating an identity conflation. The partnership would describe itself as the de facto Somali coast guard. It would offer the following reasons for its controversial activities: to prevent the fishing mafia from abusing the Somali sea resource, and to prevent mercenary ships from dumping toxic chemical waste in the Somali waters. Leaders of the partnership
would offer interviews to the international media challenging the conventional wisdom that identified their acts as “piracy” and the monies they collect as “ransom.” This claim would not only help present a moral argument in defense of the partnership’s illegal activities, but it would enable them to score a few public relations points. However; while the grievance that they put in the center stage is real and deserves serious attention, there is practically zero evidence to indicate that these pirates are driven by altruistic objectives. Meanwhile, the number of high-jacked ships and vessels (commercial or otherwise) and the cost of freeing them and their crews have been escalating. Today, piracy is not only disrupting international trade, it is preventing the flow of humanitarian aid to several million Somalis on the verge of starvation and is perpetuating the very culture that kept Somalia in an abyss of anarchy. The insurance rate for a single trip in the Gulf of Aden went up from $500 last year to about $20,000 this year. And there are roughly 30,000 ships that travel through the Gulf of Aden every year and little over 100 have been victims of piracy the last
12 months. And this indeed is a serious matter. However, the nagging query that most media seem to ignore is: at a time when massive budget cuts became survival necessity for most of the wealthy nations, how could seemingly manageable level of threat logically justify the multinational deployment of the mightiest navies of the world to engage in a much costlier and indeed indefinite endeavor (operation water circus)? How many warships are needed in order to carry surveillance operation on Eyl and Harardheere where all the Somali pirates are based? We are talking about two bone-dry coastal villages that no rat could find a place to hide. These pirates are not falling off the sky, and it is not like there is a tourist industry that could give the commissioned speedboats anchored along the shores of these two villages the appearance of leisure boats. To adequately understand the piracy situation would require context beyond the illegal activities. Albeit, in the past continued next page
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continued from page 8 eight years, America and much of the world were inculcated with an ill-advised notion that context is obsolete and that the official statement is all that matters in understanding complex issues such as extremism, terrorism and indeed piracy. It goes without saying that that mindset has not only failed to reduce or irradiate any of these ills. It, in fact, exacerbated them. With that in mind, clearly missing out of the piracy discussion is a couple of critical factors: First, the importance of the Indian Ocean as a premier strategic region in light of the ‘shifting economic balance of power from West to East’ and China’s rapidly expanding influence in Africa. In his insightful essay, “Center Stage for the 21st Century: Power Plays in the Indian Ocean,” Robert D. Kaplan presents a compelling argument that the power that controls the Indian Ocean controls the new century. Kaplan is one of a few neoconservatives whose ideas still generate some interest; he is a National Correspondent for The Atlantic magazine and a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Kaplan points out that “the Indian Ocean accounts for fully half the world’s container traffic. Moreover, 70 percent of the total traffic of petroleum products passes through the Indian Ocean, on its way from the Middle East to the Pacific...” Furthermore, “More than 85 percent of the oil and oil products bound for China cross the Indian Ocean.” Second is what Phil Carter, Acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, describes in his speech “U.S. Policy in Africa in the 21st Century” at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies last February, as “the professionalization of Africa’s security sector.” And if this sounds like
A R T I C L E S
a thinly veiled euphemism and a page out of the last administration’s foreign policy playbook, it is. Currently there are three possibilities being considered — reenergizing the Africa Command Center known as AFRICOM, which was rejected by all African nations asked to host; providing US Navy escort services, or simply securing lucrative deals for private security contractors such as Blackwater —however, there is only one that is readily available for hire. And under such inevitable scenario, Obama’s foreign policy would be seen as nothing but a continuation of the old bankrupt neocon scheme. Meanwhile, like at the peak of the Cold War era, Somalia remains as an exploited pawn in a deadly chess game. And as Nick Nuttall, the spokesman for the United Nations Environment Program, recently said, “European companies and others” will keep using Somalia “as a dumping ground for a wide array of nuclear and hazardous wastes.” Nuttall confirmed the horrific allegations that “There’s uranium radioactive waste, there’s lead, there’s heavy metals like cadmium and mercury, there’s industrial wastes, and there’s hospital wastes, chemical wastes, you name it.” For a solution to the piracy dilemma, the Obama administration should: 1) Distance itself from anything that reminds the world of the last eight years
4) Introduce a UN resolution that mandates a massive international effort to clean the countless barrels and containers of radioactive materials dumped in the Somali waters 5) Sign a security treaty with the Somali unity government. [This will not only mark the first time the US signs any treaty with Somalia; it will also send a peace message to the rest of the Muslim world that America is indeed ready to establish formal relationship with anyone on issues of mutual interest] 6) Help build a Somali navy to protect its waters 7) Use the legal option in order to freeze and confiscate assets There is no military solution to this problem. The military option will only win the pirates more support and sustain the current state of lawlessness. 28 April 2009
2) Ensure safe passage for the humanitarian aid 3) Introduce a UN resolution banning the dumping of chemical waste in the Somali waters and banning the illegal hyper-fishing in the Somali coast
Abukar Arman is a writer who lives in Ohio. His articles on Islam, Somalia, and US policy are widely published. He can be reached at email@example.com.
CAPITALISM’S SELF-INFLICTED APOCALYPSE By Michael Parenti After the overthrow of communist governments in Eastern Europe, capitalism was paraded as the indomitable system that brings prosperity and democracy, the system that would prevail unto the end of history. The present economic crisis, however, has convinced even some prominent
free-marketeers that something is gravely amiss. Truth be told, capitalism has yet to come to terms with several historical forces that cause it endless trouble: democracy, prosperity, and capitalism itself, the very entities that capitalist rulers claim to be fostering. Plutocracy vs. Democracy
Let us consider democracy first. In the United States we hear that capitalism is wedded to democracy, hence the phrase, “capitalist democracies.” In fact, throughout our history there has been a largely antagonistic relationship between democracy and capital concentration. Some eighty years ago Supreme Court continued next page
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continued from page 9 Justice Louis Brandeis commented, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Moneyed interests have been opponents not proponents of democracy. The Constitution itself was fashioned by affluent gentlemen who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to repeatedly warn of the baneful and dangerous leveling effects of democracy. The document they cobbled together was far from democratic, being shackled with checks, vetoes, and requirements for artificial super majorities, a system designed to blunt the impact of popular demands.
Capitalist rulers continue to pose as the progenitors of democracy even as they opportunities to invest. With more money than they knew what to do with, big investors poured immense sums into nonexistent housing markets and other dodgy ventures, a legerdemain of hedge funds, derivatives, high leveraging, credit default swaps, predatory lending, and whatever else.
Worse still, the ensuing multi-billion dollar government bailouts are themselves being turned into an opportunity for pillage. Not only does the state fail to regulate, it becomes itself a source of plunder, pulling vast sums from the federal money machine, leaving the taxpayers to bleed.
In the early days of the Republic the rich and well-born imposed property qualifications for voting and officeholding. They opposed the direct election of candidates (note, their Electoral College is still with us). And for decades they resisted extending the franchise to less favored groups such as propertyless working men, immigrants, racial minorities, and women. Today conservative forces continue to reject more equitable electoral features such as proportional representation, instant runoff, and publicly funded campaigns. They continue to create barriers to voting, be it through overly severe registration requirements, voter roll purges, inadequate polling accommodations, and electronic voting machines that consistently “malfunction” to the benefit of the more conservative candidates. At times ruling interests have suppressed radical publications and public protests, resorting to police raids, arrests, and jailings—applied most recently with full force against demonstrators in St. Paul, Minnesota, during the 2008 Republican National Convention. The conservative plutocracy also seeks to rollback democracy’s social gains, such as public education, affordable housing, health care, collective bargaining, a living wage, safe work conditions, a non-toxic sustainable environment; the right to privacy, the separation of church and state, freedom from compulsory pregnancy, and the right to marry any consenting adult of one’s own choosing.
A R T I C L E S
About a century ago, US labor leader Eugene Victor Debs was thrown into jail during a strike. Sitting in his cell he could not escape the conclusion that in disputes between two private interests, capital and labor, the state was not a neutral arbiter. The force of the state— with its police, militia, courts, and laws— was unequivocally on the side of the company bosses. From this, Debs concluded that capitalism was not just an economic system but an entire social order, one that rigged the rules of democracy to favor the moneybags.
Among the victims were other capitalists, small investors, and the many workers who lost billions of dollars in savings and pensions. Perhaps the premiere brigand was Bernard Madoff. Described as “a longstanding leader in the financial services industry,” Madoff ran a fraudulent fund that raked in $50 billion from wealthy investors, paying them back “with money that wasn’t there,” as he himself put it. The plutocracy devours its own children. In the midst of the meltdown, at an October 2008 congressional hearing, former chair of the Federal Reserve and orthodox free-market devotee Alan Greenspan confessed that he had been mistaken to expect moneyed interests— groaning under an immense accumulation of capital that needs to be invested somewhere—to suddenly exercise self-
The classic laissez-faire theory is even more preposterous than Greenspan made it. In fact, the theory claims that everyone should pursue their own selfish interests without restraint. This unbridled competition supposedly will produce maximum benefits for all because the free market is governed by a miraculously benign “invisible hand” that optimizes collective outputs. (“Greed is good.”) Is the crisis of 2008-09 caused by a chronic tendency toward overproduction and hyper-financial accumulation, as Marx would have it? Or is it the outcome of the personal avarice of people like Bernard Madoff? In other words, is the problem systemic or individual? In fact, the two are not mutually exclusive. Capitalism breeds the venal perpetrators, and rewards the most unscrupulous among them. The crimes and crises are not irrational departures from a rational system, but the converse: they are the rational outcomes of a basically irrational and amoral system.
Those who scold us for “running to the government for a handout” are themselves running to the government for a handout. Corporate America has always enjoyed grants-in-aid, loan guarantees, and other state and federal subventions. But the 2008-09 “rescue operation” offered a record feed at the public trough. More than $350 billion was dished out by a right-wing lame-duck Secretary of the Treasury to the biggest banks and financial houses without oversight—not to mention the more than $4 trillion that has come from the Federal Reserve. Most of the banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of New York Mellon, stated that they had no intention of letting anyone know where the money was going. The big bankers used some of the bailout, we do know, to buy up smaller banks and prop up banks overseas. CEOs and other continued next page
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continued from page 10 top banking executives are spending bailout funds on fabulous bonuses and lavish corporate spa retreats. Meanwhile, big bailout beneficiaries like Citigroup and Bank of America laid off tens of thousands of employees, inviting the question: why were they given all that money in the first place? While hundreds of billions were being doled out to the very people who had caused the catastrophe, the housing market continued to wilt, credit remained paralyzed, unemployment worsened, and consumer spending sank to record lows.
is by its nature a disaster waiting to happen. Its essence is the transformation of living nature into mountains of commodities and commodities into heaps of dead capital. When left entirely to its own devices, capitalism foists its diseconomies and toxicity upon the general public and upon the natural environment — and eventually begins to devour itself. The immense inequality in economic power that exists in our capitalist society translates into a formidable inequality of political power, which makes it all the more difficult to impose democratic regulations.
A R T I C L E S If the paladins of Corporate America want to know what really threatens “our way of life,” it is their way of life, their boundless way of pilfering their own system, destroying the very foundation on which they stand, the very community on which they so lavishly feed. 10 February 2009 Michael Parenti received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University. He has taught at a number of colleges and universities, in the United States and abroad. He is the author of twenty books: Please visit his website http:// michaelparenti.org Source: Information Clearing House
In sum, free-market corporate capitalism
WHY HEDONISTIC POLYGAMY
IS By A. Faizur Rahman
The marriage, under pressure, of Mukhtaran Mai, the courageous woman who stood up to the atavistic tribal laws of Pakistan after being honour-raped by a gang of human beasts, has brought into focus the enormity of the gender bias prevailing in Muslim societies, particularly through the misuse of the law of polygamy. Without doubt, Ms. Mai is a victim of both emotional and physical blackmail. That she is also a victim of medieval indoctrination can be deduced from her unqualified statement (“A controversial marriage in Pakistan,” Hindu The, March 30, 2009) that taking a second wife is permitted in Islam. Therefore, it could be said with some conviction that it was the belief that her marriage was not un-Islamic (rather than the fear of jeopardising the marriages of three other women) that prompted her into marrying an already married man. For it is unbelievable that a woman of the mental strength of Ms. Mai could have succumbed to the threats of a cowardly blackmailer. Polygamy, which finds mention just once (4:3) in the Quran, is one of the most misunderstood concepts of Islamic law. It has been abused over the centuries by Muslim men without appreciating the spirit behind its exceptional sanction, which is clearly contextualised in the historical conditions of the time when a large number of women were widowed and children orphaned as Muslims suffered heavy casualties in defending the nascent Islamic community in
Medina. Even a simple reading of verses 4: 2, 3 and 127 will show that it was under such circumstances that the Quran allowed conditional polygamy, mainly to protect orphans and their mothers from an exploitative society. Verse 4:2 warns caretakers against devouring the assets of orphans either by merging them with their own, or substituting their “worthless properties for the good ones” of the orphans. And, if the caretakers “fear that they may not be able to do justice” to the interests of the orphans in isolation, the next verse allows them to marry their widowed mothers — on the condition that the new family would be dealt justly on a par with the existing one. For those who are not up to it, the instruction of Quran was: “Then [marry] only one.” The sanctity of taking care of widows and their children was further emphasised in 4:127; “And remember what has been rehearsed unto you in the Book [in 4:2 and 3] concerning the orphans of women to whom you give not what is prescribed, and yet whom you desire to marry...” It is clear from these arguments that verse 4:3 is not a hedonistic licence to marry several women. This can be better understood by analysing the concept of marriage in the Quran. Not enough research has been done on the statements of the Quran which repeatedly describe man and woman as “spousal mates” created to find
“quiet of mind” (7:189) and “to dwell in tranquillity” (30:21) in the companionship of each other. Verse 7:189, which traces the origin of man to a single cell (nafsan waahida), talks of the wife in the singular as zaujaha, thereby emphasising monogamy. Thus, marriage according to the Quran is the emotional bonding of two minds. This cannot be achieved simultaneously with more than one woman. Chennai-based psychiatrist Dr. Vijay Nagaswami, in his book The 24 x 7 Marriage, echoes similar sentiments when he defines the purpose of marriage as “emotional fulfilment” of the needs of two people, which is not possible if a third person is involved. It is sad that Muslim women have allowed themselves to be subliminally brainwashed into becoming objects of sexual gratification for men, which has resulted in scores of them suffering in silence. It is time they broke free from the shackles that hold them hostage to the whims of a few patriarchal ulema who have stalled the progress of the Muslim community through their misinterpretation of Islam. Let them take the first step towards achieving this by questioning all medieval readings of Islam that seek to exploit their femininity. 7 April, 2009 A. Faizur Rahman is a student of the comparative study of religions. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org