The Iron Cheer of Empire: No free tortillas in the Workhouse Republic By Joe Bageant

29 October, 2009 — joebageant.com

ajijic3Ajijic, Mexico: Every afternoon when I knock off from writing, after I suck down a Modelo beer and take an hour nap, I step out onto the 400-year-old cobbled street, with its hap-scatter string of vendors lining both sides. All sorts of vendors — vegetable vendors, vendors of tacos, chicharrones, chenille bedspreads and plucked chickens, cigarros, soft drinks, sopa and suet. Merchants whose business address consists of a tiny one room aboratto or a card table in front of their casita.

Tourists seldom venture over to this working class neighborhood on Calle Zaragoza, and the neighborhood merchants’ customers are their neighbors. Their goods are the common fare of daily family life in Mexico. Today, at a table less than two blocks away, I purchased a dozen brown eggs, with the idea of making huevos rancheros. The purchase took three quarters of an hour, and included stumbling but cheerful half English/half Spanish conversations with the six vendors between my casita and the table of Gabriel, the old egg and cheese vendor with an artificial leg and wizened smile who assures me that rooster fertilized eggs make a man go all night. “I am too old to care about that,” I half say, mostly in that gesturing rudimentary sign language understood everywhere.

“Hawwww” he chortles and says something in Spanish I cannot understand. An English speaking bystander, a teenager with a backward baseball cap and dressed in “L.A. sag,” translates: “He says his pendejo is as hard as his plastic leg. You still alive! You never too old!”

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ABC Of West’s Global Military Network: Afghanistan, Baltics, Caucasus By Rick Rozoff

28 October, 2009 — Stop NATO

The century’s longest war continues to rage in South Asia with no sign of abating. Instead, the invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 has exploded into endless armed hostilities that have spread across the length and breadth of the nation, with U.S. and NATO military forces fighting an intensified counterinsurgency conflict in the north, south, east and west of Afghanistan, now paralleled by equally brutal and even larger-scale combat operations in neighboring Pakistan.

With over 100,000 Western troops and rumors of perhaps a doubling of that number in the works, and with Washington spending billions of dollars in expanding bases to accommodate those reinforcements, the Afghanistan-Pakistan campaign under the direction of U.S. and NATO military commander General Stanley McChrystal and Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke portends yet greater violence, bloodshed and imperiling of regional stability.

The U.S. lost 22 personnel on October 26-27, making this month Washington’s costliest ever in the deadliest year of a war that is now in its ninth calendar year.

The White House and Pentagon have also extended lethal drone missile attacks inside Pakistan, where they are nearly daily occurrences, and will soon deploy Marines to the nation’s capital in a massively revamped U.S. embassy and army trainers to the Iranian border, “the first foreign forces formally stationed in Baluchistan since Pakistan’s independence in 1947.” [1]

Several million civilians have been uprooted and displaced by Western and Pakistani air and ground attacks.

In addition to being the lengthiest and biggest war in the world, the U.S. and NATO Afghan campaign is the first armed conflict in this young millennium with an international dimension. In fact its global scope in some aspects is grander than those of the two world wars of the first half of the last century.

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WHATS THE WORD IN JOHANNESBURG AS FINANCIAL CRISIS ROCKS “THE RAINBOW NATION” HOPES FOR PROGRESS? By Danny Schechter

29 October, 2009

Unemployment and Debt Rises as a Made In The USA Crisis Goes Global

Johannesburg: There was lots of skepticism when I came to South Africa two years ago to show my film IN DEBT WE TRUST. While my critique of consumer debt resonated, the film’s forecast of a financial crisis didn’t. Their economy seemed to be doing well and it was hard to tell a society that tends to look inward that they would be affected by a financial crisis in America, l0,000 miles away.

Most believed it would pass them by.

It hasn’t. A year ago, the International Monetary fund warned that 200,000 people would be affected. People living on $2 a day might end up surviving on $1 or not surviving at all. These victims around the world are mostly not part of the US debate or our media coverage. The faces and stories of these victims are as conspicuous by their absence as have been stories of the one million families that had their homes foreclosed upon in the last quarter,

As if South Africa doesn’t have enough problems—the AIDS Pandemic, massive poverty, and simmering unrest, the Finance Minister yesterday discussed the impact that the global economic crisis is having. There’s been a loss of 500,000 jobs and a fall off of taxes and an increase in expenditures.

The projected deficit will soar with a shortfall doubling to 7.6% of GDP. The government has to cut costs that will mean a further cutback in social services at the very time of growing protests against service failures and neglect of the poor. South Africa will now be forced to go deeper into debt, to borrow more money

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Olive Morris: Forgotten activist hero By Lizzie Cocker

29 October, 2009 — The Morning Star Online

Introducing an inspirational civil rights campaigner whose life and work offer important lessons for the left

In an age when xenophobia and Islamophobia are being stoked by illegal wars and immigration myths, the need to wrench hidden realities from history in order to see today’s truths has never been more urgent.

And thanks to the Remembering Olive Collective (ROC) founded by artist Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre in 2007, a bit of this history became available to the public last week at the Lambeth Archives in Brixton, south London.

Olive Morris, despite her awe-inspiring short life, remains virtually unknown. And she is one of the greatest unsung heroes I have ever come across.

My encounter with Morris began when a friend switched on my radar for forgotten female protagonists. He mentioned a local project he was doing on four practically unheard-of women activists who left in their wake cultural, social and political improvements which are enjoyed not just in London but in some instances internationally.

Three of these women were black.

With my radar on standby, I stumbled across a website which asked me if I “remember Olive Morris?” above a picture of a young black woman smiling with her shades on behind a megaphone.

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Ashley Smith, “A War of Terror in Pakistan: Interview with Saadia Toor”

27 October, 2009 — MRZine – Monthly Review

Saadia Toor is an assistant professor at Staten Island College, author of a forthcoming book on Pakistan from Pluto Press, and part of the group Action for a Progressive Pakistan.

The Pakistani Army has launched a major offensive against Taliban forces in the province of Waziristan. What is behind this assault, and what impact will it have on the people there?

The Army had been warning ever since it attacked in Swat earlier this year that its next move would be in South Waziristan. This area is incredibly undeveloped and has become a stronghold of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (or TTP), which had been led by Baitullah Mehsud until he was killed in drone attack conducted by the U.S. earlier this year

In the run-up to this assault, there was a series of attacks and suicide attacks on state facilities across Pakistan as a warning to the Army to back off from the incursion. The TTP took responsibility for most of these.

However, under a lot of pressure from the U.S., and with full U.S. military support, the Pakistani Army has unleashed its terror in South Waziristan.

Just as we witnessed in Swat, the Army is causing another humanitarian catastrophe. It has already driven 150,000 people from the area, and experts estimate that at least 250,000 people — over half the population — will be forced to flee from the fighting. The government has stated that it is not going to make any arrangements to accommodate the refugees, because they supposedly all have families they can stay with!

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US drone strikes may break international law: UN official

27 October, 2009 United Nations (AFP) — Spacewar.com

US drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan could be breaking international laws against summary executions, the UN’s top investigator of such crimes said Tuesday.

‘The problem with the United States is that it is making an increased use of drones/Predators (which are) particularly prominently used now in relation to Pakistan and Afghanistan,’ UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston told a press conference.

‘My concern is that drones/Predators are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law,’ he said.

US strikes with remote-controlled aircraft against Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan have often resulted in civilian deaths and drawn bitter criticism from local populations.

‘The onus is really on the United States government to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary extrajudicial executions aren’t in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons,’ he added.

Alston said he presented a report on the matter to the UN General Assembly.

He urged the United States to be more forthright about how and when it uses drone aircraft, something about which the US Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) usually keep silent.

‘We need the United States to be more up front and say, ‘OK, we’re willing to discuss some aspects of this program,’ otherwise you have the really problematic bottom line that the CIA is running a program that is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws,’ Alston said.

Since August 2008, around 70 strikes by unmanned aircraft have killed close to 600 people in northwestern Pakistan.

‘I would like to know the legal basis upon which the United States is operating, in other words… who is running the program, what accountability mechanisms are in place in relation to that,’ Alston said.

‘Secondly, what precautions the United States is taking to ensure that these weapons are used strictly for purposes consistent with international humanitarian law.

‘Third, what sort of review mechanism is there to evaluate when these weapons have been used? Those are the issues I’d like to see addressed,’ the UN official said.”