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by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Revolution #012, August 21, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Within the fight against the juggernaut—the rolling monster of war and repression, driven forward by the Bush regime—and including the growing "fascistization" (growing repression of an essentially fascist nature and even developments toward outright fascist rule) there is the whole question of the battle around morality: against traditional morality and Christian Fascism, around the question of homosexuality, around the question of women and in particular abortion, around the question of separation of church and state, and so on. We need to play a much greater role in the ideological and also in the political battle around this, in the battle around public opinion and in important political struggles in these spheres.
We need to be intervening in and carrying out a process of unity-struggle-unity with a great diversity of people around this whole realm of morality and values. As part of this, we need to increase exponentially and in multiplying ways our work with religious forces. We need to be working with them in general anyway, but we also need to work with them specifically in terms of maximizing their role in, first of all really coming to grips with, and second of all battling against Christian Fascism. One of the interesting things that happened after a talk I gave on religion ("Christianity and Society—The Old Testament, The New Testament, Christian Fascism, Social Change and Revolution," available in audio at bobavakian.net) was that, after this talk, one of these progressive religious people made the comment: "I kind of get this point on unity-struggle-unity, because it’s working on me." [laughter]
There was also an interesting exchange where I was talking with another important and influential progressive clergyman who does work in the prisons. At one point, I asked him, "What is it you do there?" And he explained that what he is trying to do, in basic terms, is to get people to move from things like Pentecostalism and similar fundamentalist versions of Christianity to a more thinking Christianity. So I asked: "How are you doing?" [laughter]He answered: "I’m making some progress, I see some results." So I said, "Well, that’s good."
Now, that is probably not the response you would expect from a stereotypical dogmatic communist. But the point is, yes, I have had, and hopefully will continue to have, some good discussion and struggle with people like this about a communist as opposed to a religious worldview—and, in talks I have given, which some of these progressive religious people have heard, I have hammered at the religious scriptures and put forward atheism quite boldly and strongly—but I am very interested in the question of how, from their own viewpoint, progressive religious people like this can wage and contribute to the overall struggle against the Christian Fascists. We have a role to play, including through struggle waged in a good way, to help and enable these people to maximize their own positive aspect and their contributions to the overall struggle. Yes, we should struggle with them ideologically, but most of them are not going to be won to communism, certainly not in an immediate framework, so we need to continue to have dialogue with them, we have to learn from them—there are important things we can learn from them—and at the same time we have to try to enable them to play the most positive role they can play in the struggle.
These progressive clergy and other progressive religious people need to have meetings with other people like themselves, they need to "go on the road," they need to engage this question of fascism, particularly Christian Fascism—they need to challenge it, they need to attack it—they need to recognize, first of all, what a grave danger it is posing to society and to everything that they stand for, as well as the future of humanity in the largest sense. We need to be working—uniting and struggling—in a good way with these people. If we can apply the correct method and approach to this, and unite with and help unleash other forces on the basis of applying this method and approach, then (if you’ll pardon the expression) it will be possible to "achieve miracles" in transforming the political terrain and the political terms of things, with regard to the fascist, and specifically the Christian Fascist, danger in particular, and more generally in terms of the whole direction of society (and ultimately the world overall).
Revolution #012, August 21, 2005, posted at revcom.us
"If you fall into the orientation of trying to make the Democrats be what they are not, and never will be, you will end up becoming more like what the Democrats actually are."
Millions of people across the U.S. are seething with anger. Where are the "weapons of mass destruction"? they ask. "Why have we been continually lied to by President Bush and his advisors? And what is the real reason behind all this seemingly pointless slaughter in Iraq?!"
Last week, Cindy Sheehan showed just how deep and broad that anger is, when she set up camp outside of George Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch for the month of August. Her son, a U.S. soldier, was killed in Iraq in April 2004.
"I want him (Bush) to tell me ’just what was the noble cause Casey died for’?", she declared. "Was it freedom and democracy? Bullshit! He died for oil. He died to make your friends richer. He died to expand American imperialism in the Middle East.
"We’re not freer here, thanks to your PATRIOT ACT. Iraq is not free. You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you’ll stop the terrorism! There, I used the ’I’ word—imperialism, and now I’m going to use another ’I’ word — impeachment—because we cannot have these people pardoned. They need to be tried on war crimes and go to jail."
Cindy Sheehan’s actions proved to be a lightning rod for the questions and sentiments of millions. Spontaneous support began generating from across the country. Discussion of her stand and the Iraq war in general began to race across the Internet and soon broke into the press. Blogs and chat rooms were filled with commentary, debate and discussion. There were hundreds and eventually thousands of phone calls, e-mails, and statements of support. Many people wrote open letters of support to major newspapers, others wrote their senators demanding that they urge Bush to meet with Cindy Sheehan.
Organized demonstrations of support were held in different parts of the country. Still others jumped in their cars and started driving to Crawford to join the encampment. As the news spread, people all over started to debate this story, including basic working people.
Right wingers like Matt Drudge and outright fascists like Bill O’Reilly heaped slanderous attacks on Cindy Sheehan for daring to challenge Bush to answer for the lies that were the pretext for the Iraq war and for daring to say her son’s death was not for a "noble" cause. Other reactionaries even threatened her. By week’s end the right wing was on the counter-offensive, with a lot of people saying "they weren’t sure what to think"—but the war was suddenly "up for debate" again.
There is clearly a long long way to go. But the major spontaneous show of support by huge numbers of people indicates something very important: a lot of people are very pissed and hungering to do something. Many are actively outraged not just by the war and the lies, but the whole trajectory of the Bush administration. And when an opening like this occurs, that dramatically ruptures the atmosphere, they are galvanized. All this is good and very welcome and important.
But a major question is where this anger will go and what it will really take to end the insane path of the Bush agenda. This is the crossroads question posed in Crawford.
For example, if you look at the internet, you can find literally thousands of angry and impatient letters to U.S. Senators e-mailed over the internet, demanding that these congressmen get Bush to meet with Cindy Sheehan. This is an example and expression of something bigger that sharply divides into two.
It is good—it is very important and very positive—that people are justifiably outraged by the ugly, illegitimate, unjust and immoral war this system has waged on the Iraqi people and are seeking to act politically against it. That outrage and that desire are something to build on.
At the same time, the instinctive reliance on going to the senators or congressmen reveals a serious weakness. This is the established "way you do things" in this country, when you get mad—you go to your congressman or senator, to demand they do something, or you wait for the next election, or you even hope that somehow the pendulum will swing while you root for your side in your living room chair. All these paths amount to hoping that one section of the elite, or one group of rulers, will oppose the group that’s doing the bad things, and deal with the situation for the people. And it is precisely this sort of thing that time and again has not just confined but strangled and suffocated people’s deep desire and real interests in getting rid of the Bush regime, and all it does and stands for.
If the terms of things are such that the goal of people’s activities is to get one section of the rulers to oppose another competing section of the elite, and to take up the cause of people’s struggles, then very quickly those terms will be changed to accomodate one or another group of rulers. The elite will turn the struggles of the people to their own interests and change the agenda. And at the end of the day people will end up betraying the very cause they were fighting for in the first place, despite their best intentions.
Look at the last elections. Almost all of the antiwar movement found themselves pouring all their energies into electing John Kerry. John Kerry! A man who wouldn’t call Bush the liar that he was, a man who barely spoke out against the torture at Abu Ghraib, a man who didn’t even oppose the war! And what happened? Kerry got trounced, it was declared that Bush had a mandate for his program, and people become severely demoralized and demobilized. The point made by Bob Avakian—that "if you fall into the orientation of trying to make the Democrats be what they are not, and never will be, you will end up becoming more like what the Democrats actually are "—was borne out, sharply.
Why is that? Because fundamentally, the established and dominant political apparatus does not belong to the people in the first place. Instead, it was built by and is run by—it belongs to— those who rule over the people. And their interests are in fundamental opposition to the people and the people’s struggle for a better world. Their interests lie in expanding the U.S. empire and the imperialist stranglehold on the world. The Democratic Party—which is part of that apparatus and fights for those same interests, in their own way —functions in particular to corral and control those who protest against the system, and to derail their struggles.
This is why the government went ahead with the Iraq war, on the basis of egregious lies, despite the massive opposition to the war, in the U.S. and worldwide, even before this war began. This is why even today no serious Democratic politician will call for an immediate end to this unjust, immoral and utterly illegitimate war and instead mainly offer up plans on how to fight it more "intelligently"— meaning, in fact, more viciously.
And let’s be clear—to choose, or even drift, into this path, whatever your intentions, has real consequences. It has consequences right now as to whether people live or die. And it has consequences for the future of the whole planet and the lives of every person on it—from the prisoner in Abu Ghraib to the Tennessee teenager who desperately needs an abortion, from the AIDS victim in Kenya to the immigrant detained in some New Jersey prison, cut off from her family.
These kinds of abuses come from a system, a system of imperialism.
In the final analysis, the endless abuses and horrors of this system can only be done away with through communist revolution. The communist revolution is about a whole new society based on the rule of the working people and their allies that aims to abolish classes and class exploitation; the different kinds of oppressive social relations that come out of and reinforce that class exploitation; and the backward ideas that also reflect and reinforce those class relations.
This, of course, does not mean that it is impossible for or unimportant for the masses of people to affect the political direction of society, even short of overthrowing the system—quite to the contrary. But what it does mean, and emphasize, is that this can only really be done by breaking out of the confines of the established political framework and reliance on it.
Don’t let your anger be wasted in a squabble between different sections of an imperialist ruling class that care nothing for the people of the world and differ only in their strategies for domination and exploitation; don’t let your best aspirations be betrayed once again by their politicians, who’ve deceived you a hundred times; take history into your hands.
Think about it. Think about the lies that justify a horrific war; the torture and humiliation in the dozens and dozens of military prisons; the denial of fundamental rights concentrated in things like the Patriot Act; the government-sponsored moves toward theocracy and the suppression of science; the denial of the rights of abortion and even birth control to women here and around the world. Think about the roughshod destruction of the environment, all for the sake of imperialism, as it assumes a more grotesque form than ever.
And think also about the anger and frustration and seething bitterness against all that on the part of millions of people, revealed by the response to Cindy Sheehan’s bold stand in Crawford, Texas - -people who, however, will in the end not accomplish their aim if it goes under the wing of the Democratic Party.
The stakes are hugely high. But there IS a way to do what we need—to fight and work our way into a situation where the people (and not the various imperialist elites) are setting the terms—through uncompromising mass struggle against this whole regime and everything it stands for. There is not just one dynamic open to us—there is also the dynamic that can come into being when people take responsibility into their own hands and in their own interests. Then things can be different. The only way to fundamentally effect social change is through people taking independent historical action, not seeking to side with one or another section of the elite—but fighting without compromise for what they actually think is right, and opening up a new road in the process.
Listen to the call issued for massive demonstrations on November 2 to DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME:
"We are talking about something on a scale that can really make a huge change in this country and in the world. We need more than fighting Bush’s outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught. We must, and can, aim to create a political situation where the Bush regime’s program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed. We, in our millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of history.
"To that end, on November 2, the first anniversary of Bush’s ’re-election’, we will take the first major step in this by organizing a truly massive day of resistance all over this country. People everywhere will walk out of school, they will take off work, they will come to the downtowns and town squares and set out from there, going through the streets and calling on many more to JOIN US. . .
"November 2 must be a massive and public proclamation that WE REFUSE TO BE RULED IN THIS WAY. November 2 must call out to the tens of millions more who are now agonizing and disgusted. November 2 will be the beginning—a giant first step in forcing Bush to step down, and a powerful announcement that we will not stop until he does so—and it will join with and give support and heart to people all over the globe who so urgently need and want this regime to be stopped."
If you are someone who excitedly e-mailed your relatives, or angrily wrote your congressmen; if you are moved and inspired and gladdened by what is going down in Crawford; if you were talking with people at work about it all—then you are among those who hold the key to making this happen. Nobody is going to do it for you. But the last week has shown again that, yes, there are millions who have not made their peace, who still hate this wretched Bush regime and all it stands for, and who are waiting for a way to act that can make a difference. Now is the time to step forward, draw forth and organize those millions into a force that will take independent action that will not compromise on the crucial issues before us and humanity until they are solved. Time to put all you have into making November 2 a turning point in history.
Make no mistake—this truly is a battle for the future. The other side of the equation has the ruling clique in power, a very hard core of Christian Fascist supporters, the major media, and the armed force of the state all on their side. We are going to have to mobilize and organize all those who oppose this direction and then reach into even the supporters of the current regime, peeling them off by struggling with them over where their real interests—and the interests of the people on the planet—lie. We are going to have to get a lot better organized than we’ve ever been before, a lot more unified, a lot more creative and a lot more determined than we’ve ever been before.
Can this be done? If hundreds organize thousands, right now; if those thousands in turn reach out and touch the hearts of millions; then there can really be a whole new ballgame. As the call for November 2 concludes:
"The point is this: history is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. The future is unwritten. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US."
by Larry Everest
Revolution #012, August 21, 2005, posted at revcom.us
"The accounts I heard will live with me forever. You may think you know what happened in Falluja, but the truth is worse than anything you could possibly have imagined."
Iraqi Doctor Salem Ismael, who headed an aid convoy to Falluja in February 2005
The June 24-26 World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) in Istanbul, Turkey, was the concluding session of a two-year effort which included previous sessions in London, Mumbai, Copenhagen, Brussels, New York, Japan, Stockholm, South Korea, Rome, Frankfurt, Geneva, Lisbon and Spain. Drawing on the tradition of Bertrand Russell’s 1967 International War Crimes Tribunal on Vietnam, the WTI’s mission was to document the truth about the 2003 war and occupation—against official lies, disinformation and silence. The participants saw the Tribunal as "an act of resistance"—as Indian novelist and activist Arundhati Roy put it, "a defense mounted against one of the most cowardly wars ever fought in history."
Around 1,000 people from some 24 different countries attended this Tribunal. Over three days, six panels—a politically diverse group of 54 scholars, journalists, legal experts, witnesses, former soldiers and officials from around the globe, and most of all Iraqis direct from the occupation—presented evidence to an international jury of conscience comprised of people from 10 countries. I was invited to testify on the history of U.S. and UK intervention in Iraq. I’m pretty well informed when it comes to Iraq, but the three days of testimony I heard in Istanbul—especially the words of Iraqis direct from the occupation—were still eye-opening and gut-wrenching.
Day two of the Tribunal, which focused on the U.S. occupation, was particularly intense and moving. Witness after witness presented horrific and enraging pictures of life under the U.S. imperial occupation. Iraqis described living under a reign of terror—of torture in the prisons, massacres in Falluja and other cities, rape of women, nighttime raids and home demolitions, and many other horrors. Some witnesses showed slides, photos or video—including footage of the twisted metal and broken concrete rubble and ruin left by the U.S. assault on Falluja. A banner, probably 50 feet long and five feet high covered with pictures of massacred Iraqis and their children, was brought before the Tribunal.
It’s impossible to do justice in this article to all the testimonies and evidence presented at the Tribunal, which amounted to a damning, overwhelming, and compelling indictment of the Iraq war and the U.S.-UK occupation. (Many presentations can be read online at www.worldtribunal.org/main/) I’ve excerpted some of the witness statements from Iraq here.
Story of Hudda Fawzi Salam Issawa from Falluja:
Five of us, including a 55-year-old neighbor, were trapped together in our house in Falluja when the siege began. On November 9 , American Marines came to our house. My father and the neighbor went to the door to meet them. We were not fighters. We thought we had nothing to fear. I ran into the kitchen to put on my veil, since men were going to enter our house. This saved my life. As my father and neighbor approached the door, the Americans opened fired on them. They died instantly. Me and my 13-year-old brother hid in the kitchen behind the fridge. The soldiers came into the house and caught my older sister. They beat her. Then they shot her.
Statement of a 46-year-old engineer describing what he saw in a U.S. prison:
I saw a young man of 14 years of age bleeding from his anus and lying on the floor. He was Kurdish and his name was Hama. I heard the soldiers talking to each other about this guy; they mentioned that the reason for this bleeding was inserting a metal object in his anus.
U.S. Journalist Dahr Jamail, describing his interview with an Iraqi man released from Abu Ghraib after being held for over three months without charges:
Ali Abbas lives in the Al-Amiriyah district of Baghdad and worked in civil administration. He was forced to strip naked shortly after arriving [at Abu Ghraib], and remained that way for most of his stay in the prison. "They made us lay on top of each other naked as if it was sex, and beat us with a broom," he said. In addition to being beaten on their genitals, detainees were also denied water and food for extended periods of time, then were forced to watch as their food was thrown in the trash. Treatment also included having a loaded gun held to his head to prevent him from crying out in pain as his hand-ties were tightened.
"My hands were enlarged because there was no blood because they cuffed them so tight," he told me. "My head was covered with the sack, and they fastened my right hand to a pole with handcuffs. They made me stand on my toes to clip me to it.".
Abbas said that at one point, "Two men came, one a foreigner and one a translator. He asked me who I was. I said I’m a human being. They told me, ’We are going to cut off your head and send you to hell. We will take you to Guantánamo.’. Abbas added, "They shit on us, used dogs against us, used electricity and starved us."
He told me, "Saddam Hussein used to have people like those who tortured us. Why do they put Saddam to trial, but they do not put the Americans to trial?". Abbas did not feel this was the work of a few individual soldiers. "This was organized, it wasn’t just individuals. And every one of the troops in Abu Ghraib was responsible for it."
Statement of an agricultural engineer about his detention by the U.S. military:
They inserted some strange objects into my anus and asked me to take very humiliating positions while they messed with me. They were calling these positions some names, which I did not understand. They took many photos while I was in these positions, they were laughing and enjoying it. There was a male and female soldier who sat behind me; they were messing with each other. Their game was that the male soldier would aim at my injured and swollen leg with a piece of rock. As soon as he hit his target and I screamed of pain, she would reward him by letting him kiss her or fondle her. The stronger my pain was and the louder my scream was, the more he would get from her.
Journalist Fadhil Al Bedrani, who witnessed the U.S. assault on Falluja in November 1994:
On Nov. 15, in Goulan area, 20 to 25 persons were running barefoot when an American warplane bombed, killing and wounding them. Only one elderly woman and two children stayed safe when they hid under rubbles of a bombed house. The dead bodies were left in the street for 20 days.
On Nov. 25, 15 American soldiers entered a house at Bathara area, central Falluja. Three civilian men were there; one was handicapped, the second was 61 years old, and the third was 52 years old. The only one who stayed alive said, "When the Americans entered the house they saw that we were sitting unarmed; 14 left, and the last one threw us a grenade, saying bye. Two were seriously wounded. I with my slight wounds tried to help them, but after a while they were back; I pretended to be dead while other two were suffering. They put a bullet in every head and left."
Statement by Hana Ibrahim:
I would like to ask a question that most of you have already asked: why are detained women left naked? Why are they made to walk naked before other detained male prisoners? And why are naked men made to go into cages where naked women are kept under detention? We have documented all this. The Union of Physicians documented the Americans carrying out this torture through their own photos.
Testimony by Amal Sawadi about what happens when U.S. troops invade people’s homes:
Sometimes Americans arrest all the family and other times they leave the women and children outside and only arrest the men. Sacks are placed on the heads of the people who are to be taken away while their hands remain tied. Then they put everybody in a vehicle, piling people up without any respect.
Then the investigation starts. Actually, what they are investigating is ambiguous. There are no lawyers allowed for the detainees, and no information is given about the reasons or the evidence surrounding the detentions. In the process, Iraqi women are being raped. One woman was bleeding for three months and the raping continued. There is no health service. The media does not mention these facts—or the fact that all of Iraq has become a prison.
After hearing the testimony, the WTI Jury concluded that the occupation "has led to the destruction and devastation of the Iraqi state and society. Law and order have broken down completely, resulting in a pervasive lack of human security; the physical infrastructure is in shambles; the health care delivery system is in poor condition; the education system has virtually ceased to function; there is massive environmental and ecological devastation; and the cultural and archeological heritage of the Iraqi people has been desecrated."
The Turkish press—both mainstream and oppositional—gave extensive daily coverage to the WTI, complete with color pictures and banner headlines. At the concluding press conference, some 300 to 350 people jammed into the room, including every major Turkish TV station and newspaper and some international press. Given the criminal complicity of the U.S. bourgeois media, it was not surprising the WTI has been, as far as I can tell, totally whited out of mainstream U.S. media coverage.
The Jury delivered a sweeping and unconditional indictment of the U.S.-UK war and occupation, calling it "illegal" and "one of the most unjust, immoral, and cowardly wars in history." Among its indictments of the U.S. and British governments:
Planning, preparing, and waging the supreme crime of a war of aggression in contravention of the UN Charter and the Nuremburg Principles.
Targeting the civilian population of Iraq and civilian infrastructure.
Actively creating conditions under which the status of Iraqi women has seriously been degraded.
Imposing punishments without charge or trial, including collective punishment.
The Jury also stated: "Much evidence supports the conclusion that a major motive for the war was to control and dominate the Middle East and its vast reserves of oil as a part of the U.S. drive for global hegemony."
It also called for all complicit parties—including the "coalition of the willing," other governments, the UN Security Council, corporations involved in the war, and the major media—to be held accountable.
The WTI demanded, among other things, "the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Coalition forces from Iraq" and that "all laws, contracts, treaties, and institutions established under occupation, which the Iraqi people deem inimical to their interests, be considered null and void."
Very significantly, the Jury recognized and upheld the "the right of the Iraqi people to resist the illegal occupation of their country."
A heartening spirit of taking responsibility on behalf of the world’s people—when governments and institutions are directly culpable, complicit, or silent in the face of war crimes and crimes against humanity—animated the proceedings. "We aren’t just fighting for Iraq," Ayse Berktay, one of the lead organizers, told me, "but for the future of the planet."
This also came through in the outpouring of energy and commitment from the many volunteers who made the WTI possible, and in their harrowing (and inspiring) stories of how they pulled the event together by the skin of their teeth, as they pulled all-night sessions and wondered all the while if it could be done.
The WTI brought to life why the world truly cannot wait—why the people must drive out the Bush regime.
As Haifa Zangana, an Iraqi writer, painter, and humanist put it, "We will continue resisting in Iraq for you as well as for ourselves because America is not the fate of humanity. They are not the power to rule over the world in future and we can create another world."
Last month the Pentagon defied a federal court order to release dozens of additional photos and videos from Abu Ghraib, the infamous U.S. military prison in Iraq. The rumors are that these images reveal a whole new level of atrocities by the U.S. This is outrageous. The truth must be known. If you want to see what the Pentagon is trying so hard to hide.read the testimony from the World Tribunal on Iraq excerpted in this article.
Millions Die Amid Neocolonial Plunder
Revolution #012, August 21, 2005, posted at revcom.us
June 27, 2005. A World to Win News Service. Amidst the hypocrisy about aiding Africa and granting debt relief by Tony Blair and other spokespeople for oppressor countries, the situation in most of the continent grows grimmer with each passing day. With their hue and cry the Western powers are once again trying to deflect their responsibility for their rape, plunder and war crimes, if not crimes against humanity, around the world and in Africa in particular. Nowhere in Africa is the killing and looting as horrific as in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
From 1998 up to Christmas 2004, 3.8 million people died in the mineral-rich eastern Congo, according to the International Rescue Committee. It has been pointed out that this death toll works out to almost the equivalent of the entire Asian tsunami death toll every six months—the largest war death toll anywhere on earth since World War 2. About 31,000 people continue to die every month with no end to this carnage in sight. Given the number of states involved and the huge numbers of people who have perished there, this surely would have been considered a world war had the death and destruction been in Europe or North America instead of Africa.
Since 1996, Congo has become a very complicated war zone, with "wars within wars" as Human Rights Watch put it in a 2002 report. There has been a combination of civil war and inter-state wars involving at least nine African states—armies from Rwanda and Uganda invaded Congo and fostered local rebellions (of particular ethnic groups) on one hand, while Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Chad, and later Burundi and Libya, sent their armed forces to support Laurent Kabila’s government on the other. There have also been cross-border insurgencies, notably from Uganda and Rwanda, and involvement by European mercenaries.
The world is led to believe that inter- ethnic conflicts or feuding "tribal" communities have been mainly responsible for the deaths from slaughter of civilians accompanying armed clashes between rival insurgent groups and the starvation and diseases that follow. Little has been revealed in the Western media about the culpability of the multinational mining corporations, mainly from North America and Europe, and the role of the globalized market economy in fuelling this mass murder of holocaust proportions.
Glossed over in today’s Western press or mentioned only in passing are names such as the Arkansas- based America Mineral Fields, the Canadian-based Barrick Gold Corporation (on whose board of directors sits George H. Bush, a former U.S. president and the father of the current U.S. President), the U.S.-based OM Group, the Belgian Groupe George Forrest, the South African AngloGold Ashanti (part of an international mining conglomerate), the Anglo American company. These mineral extraction companies and others that trade on the natural resources of Congo, like Metalor Technologies, reap enormous profits out of the people’s misery.
It is quite common to hear Congolese people say, "If we weren’t so rich, our lives would have been so much better." This is true for most mineral-rich and oil-producing African countries. Indeed, when European explorers set foot on this fabulously wealthy land in the heart of Africa in the 1440s, the scourge of slavery and the slave trade took on a completely different dimension, even though it had existed for a long time before. Marx pointed to the turning of Africa into a "warren for hunting Black skins" for the trans-Atlantic triangular trade route (Europeans seizing slaves in Africa, selling them in the Americas, and returning to Europe with cargo holds full of goods and stolen treasure). This went on for centuries, hand in hand with the rape and plunder of the colonies and the genocide of native Americans. All this, he said, ushered in the "rosy dawn of capitalism" and began the process through which a handful of countries have become wealthy at the expense of the world’s peoples.
While Europe abolished the slave trade in the mid-nineteenth century, for the Congo, however, slavery did not end with its proclaimed abolition. From the end of the nineteenth century through the turn of the twentieth century, King Leopold II of Belgium ran the so-called Congo Free State as his private property, amassing an enormous fortune by turning most adult males into slaves to collect wild rubber and ivory from the jungle, while holding their womenfolk and even children as hostages. Their hands, noses and ears were often chopped off when their men were late in bringing the forest products or failed to return. Leopold’s army made hundreds of thousands of his slaves toil till their death over a period of 23 years. There were some 20 slave uprisings, all put down with extreme bloodthirstiness. In 1903, a Belgian expedition found gold. In those mines, people were worked to death. Then, as now, starvation and disease claimed the lives of most survivors who fled and were hiding in the rain forests. It has been estimated that about 10 million people out of a population of 20 million had lost their lives under King Leopold’s barbarous rule. With the formal acquisition of the Congo by the Belgium government in 1908, the killing continued, but gradually lessened. Forced labor, however, was still prevalent.
Throughout the twentieth century the exploitation of minerals such as copper and gold became increasingly important for the Belgian ruling class. In the twentieth century, diamonds and uranium (for nuclear power), yielded much of the profits that flowed to Belgium and the metropolises of the West generally. It is no accident that Antwerp, Belgium is still the world’s principal diamond cutting and trading center. In recent years, coltan has brought riches for some in the country and huge profits for Sony PlayStations, Motorola, Ericsson and Nokia, as well as for companies refining and processing coltan black mud into metallic tantalum powder out of which vital parts for laptops and cell phones are produced in America, Japan and Europe. All this has brought the immense majority of Congo’s people is the devastation of the tropical rain forest and increased misery.
In 1960, the country gained formal independence from Belgium. The Congo’s first elected prime minister, the popular nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba, emerged as one of Africa’s, and indeed the Third World’s, most vocal and articulate critics of colonialism and champions of the sovereignty of oppressed nations against colonizing powers, old and new. When independence was declared, Belgium’s former colonial puppet army mutinied. The country’s president, later revealed to be in the pay of the CIA, removed Lumumba from office. In the name of protecting the lives of its citizens, Belgium (aided by Britain and France) sent its armed forces to intervene. Their goal was to seize copper-rich southeastern Katanga Province (now called Shaba Province) and install Moise Tshombe as puppet prime minister of a separate country. Civil war ensued. The UN Security Council sent troops to trample on the national sovereignty of the Congo in the name of protecting it. The U.S., while utilizing the UN as a tool in its quest for global dominance then as now, was also very directly involved in the conspiracy against the new nation and its people. One reason it sought UN intervention was to block the advance of the European imperialist powers. The Soviet Union, where capitalism had been restored under Khrushchev and which was emerging as an imperialist contender with the U.S. for world domination, went along with the UN intervention in the name of supporting Lumumba. The UN troops supposedly sent to protect Lumumba instead kept him in confinement. Later the CIA had him tortured and murdered.
Joseph Mobutu, a colonel in Belgium’s colonial army and the CIA’s favorite, took over the whole country with the help of U.S.-supplied arms and money. Mobutu took an African name for himself (Mobutu Sese Seko) and changed the country’s name to Zaire, but the only thing that changed was that instead of being an outright colony of Belgium, it became a U.S. neocolony, a legally independent state where no decisions could be taken that would harm American interests. U.S. companies began plundering the country’s wealth anew (mostly copper, on which the country’s earnings depended in the 1960s until the mid-1970s), while Mobutu enriched himself to the tune of U.S. $4 billion. The country became a mainstay of U.S. interests in the region, serving as a springboard for U.S.-backed military intervention against Soviet-backed Angola. Mobutu was declared a pillar of the "free world." The regime’s security apparatus used torture and murder to crush attempts at building rebel movements among the people over almost four decades until he was overthrown in 1997 by Laurent Kabila, a former Lumumbist and guerrilla commander in the mid-1960s.
Kabila’s rebel army, the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL), was aided by Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame, who reinforced the AFDL with Rwandan Tutsi troops. Large numbers of Congolese Tutsi youth had by then also flocked to Kabila’s forces. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. no longer had any reason to prefer Mobutu to Kabila. Mobutu fled the country, but the legacy of his rule remains. Once in power, Kabila’s AFDL made deals with mining companies like AngloGold Ashanti and Barrick Gold. Other multinational corporations began flocking like vultures, contending for "rights" to prospect for and extract precious metals such as gold and cobalt, as well as copper, diamonds, and coltan. When Kabila was assassinated, his son Joseph Kabila took over and continued on the same path.
Half the world’s supply of coltan comes from this eastern region of the Congo. Often its price per ounce rises to the level of the price of gold. According to Adam Hochschild, the author of King Leopold’s Ghost:a Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa, the fighting between the rebel armies and government forces sometimes shifts location with the rise and fall of commodity prices. In 2000, the price of coltan increased tenfold on the world market. Indeed, in 2001, a UN report to the Security Council said, "because of its lucrative nature" the war "has created a `win-win’ situation for all belligerents. Adversaries and enemies are at times partners in business, get weapons from the same dealers and use the same intermediaries. Business has superseded security concerns." Yet, it acknowledges that coltan perpetuates Congo’s civil war, highlighting that the war "has become mainly about access, control and trade of minerals," with coltan the most coveted among them. The world price of coltan plummeted in the spring of 2001 owing to overproduction and slump in the demand for electronic goods, but Congo’s national wealth, from natural resources as well as from human labor, continues to be drained away to distant shores even as people face death, terror, deprivation, and diseases in jungle refugee camps.
Most of the coltan is mined illegally in the eastern region, where gold is also mined, often in forest reserves or national parks. The work is extremely low-tech and backbreaking, most of it by very small- scale operators. Much of the mineral is flown out of the country by Sabina, the Belgian airline. At least 70 percent, if not more, of all the gold currently mined in the Congo is smuggled through Uganda and Rwanda, both of which had a large military presence in eastern Congo until recently. While Uganda does not have gold, plentiful supplies of this precious metal, undoubtedly brought there by smugglers, have been bought by the Swiss Metalor Technologies based in Uganda. Both Uganda and Rwanda have sponsored local armed militias, which like the pro-government militias have committed atrocities—forced evictions of villagers and, in the process, massacres, gang-rape on a mass scale, and torture.
The armed rebel group Front for the Liberation of the Congo (FLC), for example, is supported by the Ugandan army, but it supplements its activities through extortion of local coltan and gold diggers. Rival rebel groups like the Nationalist and Integrationist Front of Congo (FNI) and Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) are based on particular ethnic groups, in this case the Lendu and Hema communities respectively. There are also pro-government militias, such as one, for instance, based on the Mai Mai community. These rival groups have clashed frequently, and whole communities are pitted against one another, bringing terror and death. The fighting is about establishing dominance over access to the mines in concession areas and trade or smuggling routes, as well as control over the mine workers, their work camps, and the "right" to extort protection money from the workers and prostitutes based in and around the camps.
"We are cursed because of our gold. All we do is suffer. There is no benefit to us."
A mineworker quoted by Human Rights Watch
International mining conglomerates have taken advantage of the instability and the extremely weak position of the state to greatly profit from their mining operations. So have refining companies, banks, finance houses, traders, profiteers, traffickers and a few local warlords and hoodlums. On June 2 this year, Human Rights Watch published a report entitled The Curse of Gold. It reveals that the multinational corporations mining for gold are deeply involved in financing rebel armies which use the money to purchase modern arms. For example, Human Rights Watch has exposed AngloGold Ashanti’s complicity in financing the FNI, responsible for mass killings, rape and torture.
In the far northeastern district of Ituri, much of the fighting is over the control of access to gold mines, which are beginning to be operational after a lapse of some nine years, that is, since the campaign to oust Mobutu was stepped up in 1996. Here, anarchy and lawlessness reign supreme. The central "transitional" government is hardly in a position to exercise much control. The giant corporations with strong ties to imperialist states have gained leverage over local authorities. They squeeze extremely lucrative deals out of state-owned companies in charge of concession areas and have resumed prospecting and mining. AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s second largest gold mining company, has secured a concession to a vast 10,000 square kilometers of potential gold fields from the transitional local government. Bush’s Barrick Gold Corporation has won rights over another 80,000 square kilometers of gold-bearing land.
As far back as November 1996 and April 1997, the magazine Africa Confi-dential revealed that George H. Bush’s former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Herman Cohen, and former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Jim Woods, had set up a consultancy firm with the Angolan government which argued loudly that Mobutu’s time was over and that the U.S. State Department should support Kabila. Barrick Gold gave Kabila’s forces tax payments and royalties in return for concession rights.
AngloGold Ashanti is now a "landlord and tenant" as well in its concession territory, in the words of a representative of the Office des Mines d’Or de Kilo-Moto (Okimo), the state corporation with powers to sign concessions on behalf of the Kinshasa government. Under the terms of the agreement, Kinshasa receives no more than 13 percent of the production. Okimo itself had no say in the deal.
AngloGold denies that it is financing any armed militia. But given its exclusive rights to prospect and mine gold in the Ituri district, that is, complete control over the territory around its Kilo mine, it is difficult to see how this giant monopoly mining concern cannot be held responsible for financing and arming the militias that oversee the unhindered operations and shipments of the gold and the security of its mining personnel.
"We just watch our country’s resources drain with no benefit to the Congolese people."
Congolese government official
In the meantime, the Congolese state treasury is being looted as well. Okimo failed to establish itself as the sole regulating authority over smaller mining concessions. A system of establishing an official trading house through which small-scale operators would be required to sell the gold also broke down. With the collapse of virtually all local authorities, most prospectors bypass the central state and bargain directly with private militias for a secure environment to begin mining operations, which frequently necessitate the eviction of local villagers from the gold-bearing land. All too often, this means they are massacred.
In 2002, a United Nations panel had reported that the DR Congo state had been stripped of assets valued more than U.S. $5 billion during the period since nine African countries, including Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, and Zimbabwe, were drawn into the conflict in 1998. The report said that the armed forces of these African states had collaborated with the rebel forces and the Congolese government to participate in organized pillage to drain away billions of dollars worth of minerals, diamonds, gems, and other resources.
According to the report, while in recent years the conflict has "diminished in intensity" after a series of peace accords between the local warring parties and the states of Uganda and Rwanda following the withdrawal of the Zimbabwean, Namibian and Angolan armed forces from the DRC, local power "networks" have not relinquished control over mining operations and trade flows.
This problem is but the tip of the iceberg. A consortium of four Belgian diamond-mining companies, it was revealed in 2002, and Groupe George Forrest, in partnership with the U.S.-based OM Group, had shut the Congolese government out from receiving any revenue from the processing of 3,000 tons of germanium associated with a U.S. $2 billion stockpile of cobalt and copper tailings. Moreover, 85 multinational companies, based in the U.S., Europe and South Africa, have effectively cut out the Congolese state from benefiting from the proceeds of mining through "tax fraud" and "a system of embezzlement, extortion, the use of stock options and kickbacks," and also through "the diversion of state funds by groups that closely resemble criminal organizations."
While the looting and killing go on, there have been voices calling for UN intervention, as though the UN were not already there, serving as an instrument for armed military intervention by imperialist powers—as though the UN were not already overseeing the plunder and killing.
"The private sector is the engine for growth in Africa, Tony Blair declared on the eve of the Gleneagles G8 meeting. George Bush called "fostering vigorous private sector engagement" the key to Africa’s future. Too many relief and humanitarian non-governmental organizations have gone along with this, insisting that "poor" countries such as Congo need "business investment" to provide jobs and help bring about development. It is true that mining minerals, pumping oil and other exploitation of raw materials is "legitimate" business. But as can be seen in Congo, legitimate business is the problem, not the solution. In an imperialist system where the whole world is dominated by a handful of monopoly capitalist countries and their companies, the normal workings of business mean robbing the people of their birthright, their livelihood, and their lives.
The Congolese people do not and cannot consume gold, diamonds, copper, or coltan. These items mostly end up in the banks, stockpiles, and factories of imperialist countries, enriching the already fabulously wealthy. Neither does Congo manufacture modern weapons, yet the country is awash with guns and ammunitions. Billions of dollars leave the country—and leave behind hundreds of thousands of dead bodies—every year. This, today, is the price of imperialist domination. As long as imperialist powers lord it over poor nations and peoples, their multinational corporations will continue to make a killing.
Revolution #012, August 21, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Sunday afternoon, somewhere in the neighborhood of Boyle Heights in East L.A., 20 immigrant proletarians—men and women—sat in metal folding chairs lined up in front of a small card table. They came to meet and talk with members of the Revolutionary Communist 4 tour. Some came to become organizers for the tour and others came just to check out what the communists had to say. After a brief presentation on the tour, people were encouraged to raise their questions and comments.
A slim young man wearing a T-shirt and baseball cap nervously stood up on the edge of the crowd. He began to talk about how he had attended the RC4’s first speaking engagement in L.A. and came home really excited. He spent hours talking with his wife about all he learned from the tour. He said he was so enthusiastic about what he heard about revolution, socialism and communism that his wife asked him if this was paradise. He said he had to stop and think about this and wanted to know what the RC4 thought he should tell her. After some discussion about the nature of socialism and communism, the young man smiled and sat back down. Suddenly he stood up again, pushed his hat back on his head and spoke much louder than he had before. "I know we are fucked. I work 6 days a week when I work. If I miss one day then everything falls apart; things like the rent don’t get paid. I have only worked two days this month and so I am in big trouble. I borrowed $100 last week so my wife and I can survive. Now I am down to $30. I know we are fucked, we are just fucked living like this. So I want to support this, I want give you something that I don’t have. I want to give you $10 to show my support for this tour."
The brother smiled as he carefully counted out ten one dollar bills. He passed them to the card table in front and sat down to listen to the rest of the questions and discussion—throwing in a few more of his own ideas about how to build the tour and some of the questions people ask him when he tells them about it. When he left a few hours later, he and many others at the meeting carried organizing packets for the tour under their arms.
Revolution #012, August 21, 2005, posted at revcom.us
The Pentagon’s "Northern Command" (Northcom) is preparing plans for sending U.S. military forces into action within the borders of the United States.
Buried in deep secrecy within Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain, this military headquarters has considered all of North America as its "battle space" since it was created for that purpose in 2002. It has developed a chain of command over both National Guard and regular troops, and it has been sifting through huge streams of information from federal agents and local police.
Now, two leaked Northcom documents reveal classified plans that include sending many thousands of troops to multiple places around the U.S., prepared to take over control from civilian forces.
One document (called CONPLAN 2002) is over 1,000 pages of plans and orders. The second (called CONPLAN 0500) envisions 15 different scenarios where these plans could go into operation.
CONPLAN 2002 has been approved by the military command at the Pentagon, and is on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s desk for final approval. CONPLAN 0500 is still undergoing final drafting at Northcom headquarters. (The Pentagon term CONPLAN means "concept plan." CONPLANs are the basis for making OPLANs, or "operations plans," that move specific troops into specific combat areas.)
From its founding in 2002, the Pentagon’s Northcom was constructed to be able to take command over every National Guard unit in the country and wield them together with regular troops into a unified, internal military force. Northcom’s command structure is now larger in personnel than the notorious Southcom (the headquarters the Pentagon uses to monitor and suppress the people throughout Latin America).
Historically it has been illegal for the federal government to use regular army troops for "policing" within U.S. borders. However, these new leaked plans show that all 50 states of the U.S. are treated as potential combat zones of an already ongoing war and, according to the Washington Post, Pentagon officials argue that President Bush (acting as commander-in-chief) can order regular troops into domestic operations, despite the fact that it is illegal under the Posse Comitatus law. Four active-duty Army battalions are now immediately ready to be deployed inside the U.S. on Northcom’s command.
What is particularly ominous is not just that such armed forces are at the disposal of Northcom, but also what Northcom is empowered to do: These newly leaked documents show that Northcom is developing plans for dispatching troops to several different parts of the country at once and take over from civilian government.
Several senior military officers told the Washington Post that these new plans assume that the military might need "to take charge in some situations." Admiral Timothy J. Keating, head of Northcom, explained to Washington Post reporter Bradley Graham that the involvement of National Guard troops (which are exempt from the Posse Comitatus law) would give the combined forces a legal loophole for extraordinary actions. Graham reported that Admiral Keating "cited a potential situation in which Guard units might begin rounding up people while regular forces could not."
In other words, these plans are not just about using the Pentagon’s chain-of-command to use armed force within U.S. borders in many areas at once, but they include preparations for imposing martial law (rule where the military commanders take control of cities and are empowered to shoot anyone who opposes them). A command structure is moving into place that could give full military backing to major grabs for power within the U.S. or to suppress opposition of the people (or even local governments) to those who currently have central power.
On paper, all this is described as preparations against "terrorist attacks," and the plans state that the military would only take over if civilian forces were "overwhelmed." A number of the "scenarios" described in Northcom plans include so-called "high-end" incidents like the release of biological agents. (And it is worth noting that the only known release of biological war agents within the United States—which happened in the fall of 2001—was then traced back to the U.S. military’s own laboratories.)
However Northcom does not assume that its troops will only act after some event. Its plans and preparation include "preventive" actions taken without any specific disturbance actually taking place, and the Washington Post reports that Northcom’s scenarios also include troop deployment for "low end" events, described as "relatively modest crowd-control missions."
Northcom’s CONPLAN documents can clearly be used to prepare, deploy and train a backbone force for a Pentagon-supported coup d’état or a major attempt to drown popular protest or upheaval in blood.
And with that in mind, it is worth soberly noting that the Northcom Command organizing all this is headquartered on an Air Force base just outside Colorado Springs. And that there have been well- documented exposures in the mainstream media of the high-pressure Christian fascist indoctrination and recruitment now being carried out among Air Force officers in that area (including especially at the national Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs).
All this points to the extreme character of these times—the ruling class takes very seriously the possibility of jolts and ruptures, and are preparing very extreme measures to deal with them. This has to be fully confronted.
The USA PATRIOT Act was rushed into law quickly after the September 11 attacks. It contained major police powers that powerful forces had long wanted in place. It was all justified as a way of protecting the people from future attacks, and the public was told that its most disturbing provisions would only be temporary—and would expire in December 2005.
Many people (and even many city governments) have loudly expressed their opposition to the Patriot Act. And it even looked like it might become hard for the Bush White House to push the Patriot Act back through Congress and make its provisions permanent.
But then came the London events of July 7. And suddenly, the House rushed to approve the Patriot Act on July 21. And days later, the Sanate again rushed to approve that Patriot Act, unanimously, without a single dissenting vote—making most of its provisions permanent and extending two of the most controversial ones for four years. This passage sets the stage for all this to become law this fall.
The police powers granted by this renewed USA PATRIOT Act are dangerous. Here are things promoted by its provisions:
FBI wiretapping of telephones and cell phones in new ways, along with the grabbing of voice mails and widespread monitoring of e-mail.
Police wiretappers following a targeted person through their life and tapping the phones in every place they visit.
Government agents going to libraries and bookstores and demanding lists of who has been reading particular books (while they can prosecute librarians who tell people about the police spying).
Federal agents breaking secretly into houses to steal papers, computer hard drives, and anything else they want—often without judge-approved search warrants.
Government prosecutors pressing charges against all kinds of people for supposedly providing "material support for terrorism"—which can include lawyers who defend "terrorist suspects" or people who manage certain web sites, or charity organizations that the government considers "linked" to terrorism.
These provisions have been shocking to almost anyone who learned about them. And millions of people sharply opposed this law—including many librarians and lawyers. And now the re - passage of this law, unanimously by the Senate (with the support of leading Democrats) is a slap in the face for all these people and a serious threat to the future.
And there is every basis to reach out to and win over those millions to take action to DRIVE OUT THIS REGIME!
This whole experience — which took the Patriot Act from a so-called "emergency move" to its current status of permanent police powers — drives home this important lesson:
That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop,
you will learn—or be forced—to accept.
The Oil-for-Food Scandal
Revolution #012, August 21, 2005, posted at revcom.us
The 1991 U.S. war on Iraq. The 2003 U.S. war on Iraq. More than 13 years of UN sanctions—starving the people and shattering the economy. The U.S. destruction of Iraq’s water system. All this has killed over one million Iraqi people and left the country in ruins.
Yet today, with Iraq under U.S. occupation, the big "scandal" being whipped up by the U.S. rulers, the source of right-wing "outrage," and the target of at least nine different government investigations, is the UN oil-for-food program. This program was instituted in 1997, after a global outcry over the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis due to sanctions, and was designed to allow Iraq, under tight UN control, to sell some oil to purchase food, medicine, and other needed goods, so that sanctions could be maintained. Now the U.S. imperialists, who are the dominant power in the UN and helped oversee sanctions, are shouting that the Hussein regime "ripped off" the program through smuggling, bribery, and kickbacks and that the UN was complicit.
This past week, Benon V. Sevan, the former director of the oil-for-food program, was accused by a UN investigating committee of taking $150,000 in kickbacks from Iraqi oil sales, and another UN functionary was charged with selling information to potential oil buyers and siphoning off over $1 million in UN funds.
Whether or not these investigations turn up corruption, this whole scandal is a grotesque and hypocritical effort to divert attention from the real source of death and destruction in Iraq—the staggering crimes committed by U.S. imperialism and the UN Security Council over the past decades, the lies and deceptions concocted to justify them, and their inability to control occupied Iraq (in part because of the massive death and destruction they themselves have inflicted). Instead the U.S. wants to focus attention and blame on Saddam Hussein and the UN. This "scandal" is also part of the Bush regime’s effort to reshape the UN to better serve its grab for supreme global hegemony.
Republican Ralph Hall began a July 2004 congressional hearing by declaring that "fraud and deception" in the oil-for-food program "probably resulted in the deaths of thousands of Iraqis through malnutrition," adding "We have a name for that in the United States. It’s called murder."
Yes, let’s talk about murder. Murder by the U.S. destruction of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure and 13 years of UN sanctions, controlled by the U.S. and Britain. The murder of at least one to two million Iraqis—mainly children, the sick, and the elderly, since 1990.
After Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the Bush I crew was determined to wage war not merely to expel Iraq from Kuwait, but to usher in a "new world order" of unparalleled U.S. dominance after the Soviet Union’s collapse, to crush Iraq as a regional power, and to solidify its imperialist hold on the Middle East. These goals demanded an extremely brutal war, not only against Iraq’s military, but against its economy and society as well. One to two hundred thousand Iraqis were slaughtered in Desert Storm, and many more afterward as a result of the bombing of Iraq’s water and power infrastructure—a direct violation of Article 54 of the Geneva Conventions which prohibits attacks on essential civilian facilities, including drinking water supplies.
U.S. goals also dictated that the war continue, in a different form, even after the 1991 Gulf War formally ended. This war was carried out mainly with UN sanctions that strictly regulated Iraq’s imports and exports. For the U.S., sanctions were never merely about disarming Iraq, as claimed; they were designed to prevent Iraq from rebuilding and to make life so miserable Iraqis would rise up (preferably via a military coup) and overthrow Hussein.
Under sanctions, Iraq’s annual GDP fell from some $60 billion to $13 billion; imports and foreign investments that could repair Iraq’s petroleum sector, its water system, and its power grid were consistently blocked; Iraq received only a fraction of its oil revenues; and Iraqi hospitals were unable to import needed antibiotics, cancer drugs, and many other medications and equipment.
Even if the Hussein regime never took a penny from the oil-for-food program, the amount of money Iraq received was pitiful —approximately $170 per year per person. This is less than half the annual per capita income of Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Destroying Iraq’s water system, and then preventing its rebuilding was probably the single greatest cause of death and disease in Iraq, where chronic and severe malnutrition and instances of water-borne diseases like diarrhea among Iraqi children soared after 1990.
As Revolution correspondent Larry Everest recounts in his book Oil, Power, and Empire (Common Courage Press), the Director of Iraq’s Red Crescent Society said in 1991: "Iraqi children have been exposed to biological warfare, massive biological warfare. When you destroy the infrastructure of a country, sewage with all its germs will flow into the streets; you stop pure water from reaching the children; you give them malnutrition; you prevent medicines from reaching the country. So it’s an excellent environment for death and disease."
A 1999 survey by UNICEF and Iraq’s Ministry of Health found that the rate of infant mortality had more than doubled and that roughly 5,000 Iraqi children under five were dying each month thanks to U.S. actions—more than a World Trade Center catastrophe every 30 days.
The government and media have systematically tried to bury and distort this truth. Many U.S. reporters who go to Iraq blame the chaos, disrepair, and suffering on Saddam Hussein, but never talk about the U.S. role in all this. They act as if the U.S. never bombed Iraq’s electrical grid, and sanctions never existed, and instead blame everything on Saddam’s "neglect" or "mismanagement."
They never discuss the fact that sanctions were continued even after Iraq destroyed its WMD (perhaps by the early 1990s)—and that the U.S. knew it. (The whole charade about "intelligence failures" is part of the coverup.)
Right-wing columnist William Safire called the oil-for-food program "the richest rip-off in world history." But meanwhile, the U.S. imperialists are trying to steal the whole country of Iraq by conquest and setting up a neo-colonial client regime. And in the process, theft and corruption are running rampant.
While UN officials are being pilloried over a few thousand dollars, this week alone there were reports that the U.S. occupation authorities "lost" a billion dollars supposedly earmarked for rebuilding Iraq. This comes on top of a report in January by the Coalition Provisional Authority’s own inspector general that nearly $9 billion in CPA funds were missing.
Who then are the world’s biggest liars, thieves, and murderers?
Revolution #012, August 21, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Three weeks ago, Revolution reported on the assassination of the Brazilian immigrant Jean Charles de Menezes by London police. The cops put seven shots into de Menezes’ head as he lay face down and was restrained by several plainclothes police. Since we first reported on this, new lies—and new truths—have come to light.
The police originally claimed that they began following de Menezes because he was acting suspiciously. But it’s now come to light that they were surveilling the apartment building in which he lived, without even knowing who he was.
The police originally claimed that he had been wearing a bulky coat which could have concealed a bomb, and they even floated quotes from "eyewitnesses" that there had been wires dangling from it. But it’s now come to light that de Menezes was wearing a Levi jacket, on a cool summer day.
They originally claimed that they had evidence he was "involved" in the attempted bombings in London the day before. But they had no evidence and he had no connection with any of this. He was an immigrant from Brazil, an electrician on his way to work, when he had his brains blown out by police.
The police originally claimed that de Menezes had run away from them, jumped over the ticket gates, and then raced down the escalator. But video footage has now been released which shows de Menezes using his travelcard to go through the gates.
The police originally claimed that they had identified themselves to Jean Charles de Menezes and warned him. But it’s now come to light that several witnesses say that the police did NOT identify themselves; and it’s further come to light that under a hitherto secret policy, the police did NOT have to identify themselves if they thought they were pursuing a "suicide bomber."
Lies on top of lies. All to justify the murder of an immigrant who decided to run away from several unidentified white men who were screaming at him and chasing him, with one of them waving a gun.
The British government has not apologized; indeed, the supposedly leftist London Mayor Ken Livingstone has supported the police, saying that the action they took was "appropriate" and intended to "protect the public." And the public was told to expect that such police killings might well happen again.
There have been some protests—mostly by the Brazilian community in London and in Gonzaga, Brazil, the hometown of Jean Charles de Menezes—but there has been little real outrage in London.
And so the murder of an unarmed immigrant becomes the new norm—appropriate action to protect the public (a public which, by definition, must exclude immigrants). And very few protest, or even speak out. This is a dangerous road, with a deadly logic.
The poem written 60 years ago by the German clergyman Martin Niemoller, drawing on the lessons of his years as a resister to the Nazi regime, rings out with chilling relevance:
"First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Commnist.
"Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
"Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
"Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
"Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."
Revolution #012, August 21, 2005, posted at revcom.us
"Let no one be in any doubt. The rules of the game are changing."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, August 5
On August 5, Tony Blair demanded broad new government power to silence, detain, and deport people, and justified it as a necessary response to the June 7 bombings in London.
In the most immediate sense, his proposed measures target Islamic political forces and place Britain’s Muslim and immigrant communities in the crosshairs of suspicion and threat.
And, at the same time, this whole package of government police powers is so sweeping and open- ended that it would impose deep changes in what people generally are allowed to say and do, in the ways political speech and activity can be criminalized and even in who is treated as truly British. Blair is demanding that all this be "fast tracked" through Parliament — in a climate of fear and a hyped sense of emergency.
We are seeing the British government take advantage of June 7. And we have already seen this before, when President Bush carried out two invasion, pushed through the USA PATRIOT Act and made many other sweeping changes — all justified in the name of 9/11 and the safety of the people.
Now Blair is exploiting June 7 to demand basic changes in Britain’s political and social life.
And there is a lesson here about how these governments (including quite possibly the Bush regime) can be expected to exploit future incidents to make even further police state leaps in an already harsh and repressive climate.
Blair is essentially demanding that, from now on, the British government should have the power to criminalize and punish people based on their political speech and associations.
Mosques are being closed, clerics are being deported, and two political associations are being banned—supposedly because they are associated somehow with "terrorism," "extremism," or "threats to British security."
And since all of those labels are quite vague and have been applied to many different anti- government movements around the world—these new police powers could potentially enable the British government to suppress many kinds of progressive and internationalist political activity in Britain.
For example, Blair announced that his government will now start deporting people for "advocating violence to further a person’s beliefs or justifying or validating such violence." (And we have to ask: Isn’t this precisely what both Blair and Bush did as they launched their "shock and awe" invasion of Iraq? And haven’t they been justifying unjust violence, day after day, through this long and bloody occupation?)
This threat of deportation is particularly severe because many political exiles face torture and the death penalty if returned to their home countries. And, to underscore his ruthlessness, Blair is specifically proposing rewriting existing British law so they can deport immigrants straight into the hands of even the most brutal governments, and even in cases where the deportees can expect execution.
Blair proposes new power to shut down websites that the government considers "extremist." Blair said that any foreigners in Britain in "active engagement" with such websites will be considered for deportation. And it is proposed that the government have the power to strip citizenship from "naturalized citizens engaged in extremism."
In other words, the Blair government is proposing that foreign-born British citizens are no longer consider citizens like everyone else, but should live in a permanent status of political probation, subject to de-naturalization and deportation if they step out of line.
In all of this, the label "extremism" has remained undefined, and can potentially be used to attack progressive and genuinely revolutionary activities. (And in fact, the use of this codeword "extremism" has consciously become a way of expanding the target of the "war on terrorism" — as, for example, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others have started to officially talk about waging a "struggle against global extremism.")
And while preparing expulsions, Blair also announced the creation of a list of people around the world who will not be allowed into Britain — based on their supposedly "unacceptable" political writings and Internet postings.
These plans build upon repressive plans Blair had already made before August 5, including a proposal to make it a crime to glorify, prepare for or incite acts of terrorism. In this Blair specifically said that he included acts carried out outside Britain. To understand what this could mean, it is important to remember that in the 1980s, the British government of Margaret Thatcher labeled the major South African resistance movements as "terrorist"— and if Blair’s laws had then been in place, many anti-apartheid groups in Britain could have been charged with "glorifying" or "inciting" acts of armed resistance within South Africa.
Lord Falconer, head of the ministry of legal affairs, explained that "indirect incitement of terrorist acts" included anything "attacking Western values." (Taken to its logical conclusion, you can imagine people being jailed, deported and executed for opposing the "Western values" of capitalism, exploitation, unprovoked invasion, turning political speech into crimes, and sending immigrants off to be tortured!
Blair’s government is pressing for new police powers to hold a "suspected terrorist" up to three months without charges, instead of the current limit of 14 days. He proposed making it a crime to refuse to give police full access to encrypted computer files.
Plans are being laid to call British Parliament back from vacation in order to rush these plans into law—exactly the way the USA PATRIOT Act was rushed into law after 9/11. The makings of a modern police state are presented as an emergency plan for keeping the people safe.
One of the ominous developments of this whole war on terrorism has been the way allied powers like the U.S., Britain and Israel have been increasingly sharing intelligence information and swapping vicious techniques of assassination and interrogation. And now we see an additional leap, where these powers are actually copying each other’s methods of mass political deception—all in the name of a common "war on terrorism."
Blair is exploiting June 7 to demand basic changes in Britain’s political and social life.
These governments can be expected to exploit future incidents to make even further police-state leaps.
Revolution #012, August 21, 2005, posted at revcom.us
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