- Category: Imperialism & War
- Created on Thursday, 25 April 2013 19:08
- Written by Gary Leupp
Why It's Not a Chechen Thing, But All About the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
What Motivated the Boston Bombers
New details emerge every day, raising more questions. But the outlines of the stomach-churning story seem clear. Two young men, brothers who emigrated from Kyrgyzstan twelve years ago with their parents and sisters—high-achieving, “well-assimilated” immigrant men—planted bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring well over 250. They killed an MIT campus policeman for no apparent reason, hijacked an SUV, engaged in a gunfight with police, and sowed citywide fear for five days. Both self-identified as Chechens, although neither grew up nor spent much time in the Russian republic of Chechnya; and as Muslims, although the older was the observant one, the younger a pot-smoking (maybe pot-dealing) Hennessey drinker. The older held a green card and had applied for U.S. citizenship but had been denied it.
How to define these men, and to describe the event? Let us step back and survey the big picture.
Racism and Islamophobia Shape the Coverage
The U.S. remains a deeply racist society, the nature of its racism always evolving, old targets forgotten, new targets found. The habit of hate does not diminish but merely seeks new objects. The “No Irish Need Apply” signs of the 1860s (here in my city of Boston) are a distant historical memory after the election of presidents of Irish descent. Young people in the Obama era can hardly imagine the Jim Crow laws in the South in effect to the 1960s. The Japanese-American internment camps of the 1940s are treated officially as a national shame. Old racisms survive of course (just consider the Black unemployment and incarceration rates) but new ones more energetically flourish. Especially since 9/11, Middle Eastern ethnicities have been popular targets. Hate crimes against people appearing to be of Middle Eastern origin quadrupled in the following year.
After the 9/11 attacks, it was not difficult for those promoting a U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq to win over the majority of people in this country. They were able to convince them that al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were in cahoots. They argued this based on contrived evidence too thin to persuade any critical mind, but that was not the point. The war-mongers knew they could rely on the (sometimes subconscious) racist reasoning: the attackers were Arabs, Saddam is an Arab, they all hate America, they must be working together to attack us, we must defend ourselves by preventative action. The plan worked, as it could not have if the “us vs. them,” essentializing anti-Arabism had not resonated somewhere deep in the American soul.
Most people in this country are unclear about the distinctions between Arabs, Iranians and Turks (the three major ethic groups in the Middle East), much less distinctions within the Arab nations. So when a “War on Terror” was declared, and targets as in fact dissimilar as al-Qaeda, Iraq, Yassir Arafat, Hamas, Hizbollah, Iran, Syria, a tiny faction of Iraqi Kurds, etc. lumped together and labeled “terrorist,” the way was paved, psychologically and ideologically, for ongoing war against anyone in the Middle East. GIs in Iraq decorated their barracks with posters showing images of bin Laden alongside images with Saddam, linking them both to 9/11, urging the troops to see their occupation of Iraq as somehow retaliation for those attacks.
- Category: Imperialism & War
- Created on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 08:02
- Written by A World to Win News Service
The hunger striker Fayiz al-Kandari told his lawyer, "I scare myself when I look in the mirror. Let them kill us, as we have nothing to lose. We died when Obama indefinitely detained us. Respect us or kill us, it's your choice. The United States must take off its mask and kill us." (Russian Times, 27 March 2013)
The following article first appeared on A World to Win News Service.
15 April 2013. After weeks of minimizing the extent and seriousness of a hunger strike at the U.S.'s Guantanamo prison camp, the authorities have moved to stop it by force. Shortly after 5 am on 13 April, guards moved in to the communal living area with the intention of forcing the men into individual cells. Prisoners "resisted with improvised weapons" and the guards fired "four less than lethal rounds", causing injuries, none of them serious, according to a statement from the U.S. military's Southern Command, which refused to provide further details. The weapons were said to be broom and mop handles.
The reasons given for this assault are mutually contradictory on the face of it. The statement says that the action was in response to the covering up of surveillance cameras, windows and glass partitions by the prisoners, and at the same time, it claims that the "ongoing hunger strike necessitated" that the prisoners be moved into individual cells for "medical assessments". The media was also informed that prisoners had to be isolated from one another to prevent "coercion" by their fellow detainees to join the hunger strike.
- Category: Imperialism & War
- Created on Thursday, 21 March 2013 17:18
- Written by Communist Organization of Greece (KOE)
Cryprus has now become the first country to reject the austerity terms of the IMF, the European Union, and the European Central Bank. Cyprus may now be expelled from the Euro-zone, perhaps triggering a Euro-wide crisis. Kasama will continue to report on these events as the unfold. -eric ribellarsi
The Cypriot NO represents Hope for the Peoples (20/3/2013)
[KOE Translator’s Note: Yesterday the Cypriot parliament, surrounded by a huge demonstration, rejected, with 36 NO and 19 abstentions, the decision of the Eurogroup - which had been adopted last Friday following Germany’s demands. This unprecedented decision, to “bailout” the banks through a direct “haircut” of the citizens’ bank deposits, had initially been accepted by both the right-wing Cypriot government and the docile Greek tripartite government.]
The Communist Organization of Greece salutes the Cypriot NO and congratulates the Cypriot people, who are facing the catastrophic policy and the cynical threats of the Eurogroup’s and IMF’s loan sharks, for their Dignity. The new Cypriot NO, following the massive rejection of the imperialist “Annan Plan” back in 2004, is a proud response against the plans aiming at Cyprus’ economic devastation and pushing forward the transformation of the Republic of Cyprus into a protectorate.
The martyred Cypriot people, who have shed their blood in order to gain their Independence and are very well aware of what invasion and foreign occupation means, once again stand up and send a message of Resistance, Dignity and Hope to all the European peoples. It is in Cyprus that, for the first time, the blackmailing dilemma “Memorandum or Bankruptcy” is rejected. It is in Cyprus that, for the first time, the supposedly “almighty” Merkelist policy and the supposedly “omnipotent markets” receive a heavy blow.
Simultaneously, these developments are a slap on the face of the Samaras’ tripartite Greek government. Not only because of the despicable and docile attitude of the Greek Finances’ minister Stournaras during the Eurogroup’s meeting, where he supported the unprecedented German demands… Not only because Samaras trampled his electoral commitment to “renegotiate the unproductive and failed Memorandum imposed by the Troika”… But mostly because now it is clearly demonstrated that a different way exists: refusing the catastrophic Memoranda and imposing a negotiation, instead of continuing the submissive and servile attitude kept by the successive Greek governments.
What is expected in the immediate future is that Troika and Merkel shall climax their aggression in order to punish the “rebels”. This is why the Left must undertake immediate initiatives in order to coordinate all the progressive, anti-systemic and popular forces in Europe’s South and in the Mediterranean, focusing on the solidarity with Cyprus and expanding the Cypriot NO.
Moreover: Today more than ever, it is time for solidarity and fraternity among the peoples of Greece and Cyprus. It is time to initiate a new era of common course. That’s how the Cypriot NO will stand firm! That’s how Cyprus shall mark a victory against Troika and Merkel! Together we can build a solid prospect, without Memoranda. Together we can pave the way towards popular sovereignty, genuine democracy and social progress, for a different Greece and Cyprus in a different Europe.
Today it is time for the peoples of the South, and primarily for the Greek people, to draw strength from the example of the Cypriot people. The Left has to coordinate with the popular demand for a common march of Greece and Cyprus, abolishing the Memoranda and reconstructing our countries.
In a few days, on March 25, we shall celebrate the Anniversary of the Independence Revolution. This shall be a good occasion for our people to send the message of solidarity with the Cypriot people, but also to exalt our morale and to further intensify the struggle in order to get rid of the Troika and of the Memoranda.
Athens, March 20, 2013
- Category: Imperialism & War
- Created on Tuesday, 26 February 2013 23:12
- Written by Joe Ramsey
Things which distinguish the National Bird
Golden feet with
Razor sharp talons.
Cold reptilian eyes, as large as a human's
But four times as sharp.
A hooked beak evolved to tear through muscle and tendon,
but nimble enough to feed flesh strands to its young.
A shrill high pitched call that pains the ear--
produced not by vocal chords
but in a bony chamber located where the trachea divides.
Wide broad wings that allow it to soar almost two miles high
Without expending its own energy.
The eagle soars by catching drafts of warm air
that rise from the sun-cooked earth.
Its body is black and brown.
Its head, neck, and fanned tail--white.
Hatched, the eagle is brown-black from head to toe.
It takes around five years for its head to go "bald,"
its beak to turn gold.
There is no other large blackish-brown bird with a white head and tail in North America.
It looks to be a vicious bird of prey.
And it can be.
But it prefers carrion to live meat.
Close cousin to the vulture
It feeds on flopping fish,
seeks the fresh rot.
A predator and a scavenger
it sits atop the food chain,
yet is still vulnerable to concentrated toxins
that pool in the corpses it feasts on.
Its numbers in the continental US
have exploded, from a few hundred in the 1967
to almost ten thousand now.
Concentrated now in Louisiana and Florida
It remains the only eagle that is unique to North America.
The Eagle's secret is in its seven thousand ingenious feathers,
which serve as both an on board navigation and an insulation system.
Together the feathers weigh twice as much
as all the eagles bones do (beak and talons included).
The eagle's bones are hollow,
making its skeleton--when plucked of feathers and flesh--
- Category: Imperialism & War
- Created on Saturday, 23 February 2013 23:37
- Written by A World to Win News Service
The French military intervention in Mali – taking the North of the country in a firestorm of imperialist arrogance and air power – has the French rulers and press gloating about easy victories and the apparent support of much of the Malian population and a majority of French too, arguing "There's no other solution". A small demonstration of Malians in the southern capital city of Bamako disputed this charade of "liberation" with hand-printed signs reading, "Down with imperialist interests, down with ECOWAS".
This crisis in Mali reveals a maelstrom of contradictions in the entire region of West and North Africa known as the Sahel-Sahara that no imperialist army or state will even begin to solve. In fact their role is certain to accelerate the contradictions that have spun into a war and a multi-national occupation of Mali spearheaded by French imperialism. It is the imperialists who are largely responsible for the impoverished, very short and crushed lives most Malians lead.
The immediate war was triggered by the descent from the North of an alliance of armed Islamic forces who had seized control of the key northern cities last spring. In early January 2013 they advanced right up to the doorstep of the southern region where Mali's central state is headquartred, 90 percent of the population live and most of its resources are to be found. Yet the crisis is long in the making, with French colonial and imperialist footprints, along with those of many others, all over it.
Last March 2012, just before national elections, junior army officers, some trained and equipped by the U.S., staged a coup d'etat and ousted Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré, allegedly because he hadn't taken a strong enough stand against the most recent rebellion by the Tuareg minority in January 2012. Within a short time, the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), reinforced by a large number of defections from the Malian army itself, including some Tuareg officers, declared the North to be independent, under the name of Azawad. Touré fled to Senegal.
A friend of Muammar Gaddafi who supported the Libyan government and opposed France's intervention there, Touré claims to have warned NATO that overthrowing Gaddafi would have destabilising effects in the region. The interim government that replaced Touré in Bamako has little legitimacy among the population. The national army, quickly overrun by the offensive in the North, was left weakened, dysfunctional and divided, just like the rest of the Malian state.
The French plan to intervene was already in preparation, but was speeded up when the jihadists descended towards the southern cities of Mali in a stream of 300 pick-up trucks. The French government had got a UN Security Council resolution passed in December 2012 to allow military intervention primarily by West African ECOWAS soldiers (Economic Community of West African States) that France would command and train. The neighbouring countries Niger, Burkina Faso and Nigeria were dragging their boots until the terms of financing this all-African ground force-for hire were spelled out. At the 29 January 2013 meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa, a first sum of USD 470 million was raised, mainly by imperialist powers.
The French enlisted the help of these West African troops under the guise of Africans "settling their own affairs" in order to "peacefully [!] restore the territorial integrity of Mali". This meant, at least for public opinion's sake, driving out the Islamist jihadists from northern Mali who reportedly had cast aside the Tuareg-based MNLA and imposed their authority. The French imperialists also clearly aim to prepare the ground for a reinforced central state apparatus in Mali, in line with strengthening French interests in its historical zone of influence. The alternative press in France is calling out Francois Hollande for his hypocrisy, since less than a year ago, during his successful campaign for the French presidency, he was heard insisting on an end to "FrancAfrique" (France's privileged relationship with its former West African colonies and interference in their affairs).
Thus with U.S. and British intelligence and logistical support and the Algerian government's agreement to let France use its airspace, the French moved into northern Mali on 11 January. In what they said was an act of retaliation, jihadist forces attacked a British Petroleum gas production site in southern Algeria, taking some 40 foreign hostages. The Algerian government wasted no time negotiating and brutally ended the operation in its southern desert, bombing the jeeps with hostages on board retreating to Libya and killing some 70 people. Many believe Algeria, which has the largest army in North Africa, is pursuing regional interests of its own.
On 11 February 2013, while French and Malian troops with some West African soldiers' assistance had taken control of the northern cities – mostly through air superiority and little on the ground fighting – Islamic Mujao forces re-entered the city of Gao via boats on the Niger River and attacked the police station. The fighting lasted a few hours, backed by French airpower and, significantly, involved suicide bombers for the first time. French and Malian troops have moved into the mountainous areas in the eastern province of Kidal, to where it was assumed the Islamic forces would retreat. Much of the debate around the world has focused on the new "Sahel-istan"– in other words, the potential "bogging down"of the French army in Mali, with Hollande revising the schedule of French troop withdrawal on nearly a daily basis. Sound familiar?
Neo-colonial dependence governed by weak state
Mali – a large country sitting geographically at the heart of the French West African colonial empire and one of the world's poorest – became formally independent from France in 1960 but has continued a dependent (if sometimes strained) relationship since that time, its economy straightjacketed by imperialist domination and international financial institutions. After independence the pro-Soviet "socialist-leaning" Modibo Keita took power. He was a close ally of Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah and Guinea's Sekou Touré, with ties to Cuba and China, and the Algerian and other liberation movements in Africa. Keita was overthrown in 1968 and replaced by a more imperialist-compliant regime in the first of several military coups d'etat over the past 45 years, reflecting the weakness and instability of the Malian state. A multi-party constitution was adopted only in 1992, after student-led rioting against the government, and a Tuareg revolt had been brutally repressed in 1991 by Touré's predecessor.
For the Malian people it's been a story of overwhelming poverty rooted in neo-colonial relations of domination and dependence under the watch of client governments and the IMF. This has kept the development of the country's productive forces at a very low level. Mali's immense territory straddles the Saharan Desert in the North and Sahel grasslands in the South, and is divided by the Niger River Valley. Only 4 percent of the land is arable but 80 percent of the people are involved in agriculture, either growing crops or animal herding and fishing.
One feature of French colonialism was the cash crop policy of monocultures – peanuts in Senegal for example, and in Mali, cotton for France's own textile needs. So instead of varied food crops for mainly local needs, peasant farmers are contracted to grow cotton even more cotton, in an effort to boost national export earnings, but in the process becoming chained to foreign distributors and volatile imperialist markets like so many countries in Africa and the third world. When world market prices for cotton crashed starting in the late 1990s, caused partly by subsidized dumping of cheaper European and American cotton, Malian farmers were the ones to suffer, and national debts mounted.
In the 1990s under IMF structural readjustment plans, Mali was assigned to the category of Highly Indebted Poor Countries, which after six years of belt tightening supposedly in exchange for debt relief – but in reality to cut the rich countries' losses – ended up with even higher debt service payments than before. The 2006 independent film Bamako by Abderrahmane Sissako stages a mock courtyard trial of the IMF, World Bank and Western interests, showing the devastating effects of structural adjustment on Mali. (http://artthreat.net/2007/04/bamako-film-puts-the-world-bank-on-trial-and-wins/).
A relatively small bourgeoisie in and around the state has grown wealthy from gold mine profits in the eastern part of the country (although 80 percent are siphoned off, mainly by South African and Canadian multinationals, Mali is Africa's third largest gold producer). They also benefit from the extensive donor aid and skim off profits from the vast networks trafficking drugs and other commodities. Yet the state itself has carried out very little infrastructural and other development in either the North or the South and has never had much support from the population. Of the some 15,000 kilometres of roads, less than 2,000 km are paved, for example. Healthcare is abysmal and life expectancy only 49 years (with only 2 percent living past the age of 65).
In the main, the tiny educated elite travel to Dakar, Abidjan or Paris for their studies and few new schools have been built over the decades, resulting in an astonishingly low literacy rate, especially among women. Less than 30 percent of the population vote in national elections. Keeping the masses illiterate and ignorant is partly a political strategy too, scholars argue: the state fears the rise of politically astute students and educated strata that are more likely to expose and challenge it.
So while many Malians at first welcomed the "rescue"by French forces from the reactionary and intolerable exactions, amputations and suppressions of basic freedoms under jihadist rule in the northern cities, it is important to understand the heavy hand of imperialism in Mali's highly distorted economic development that has been long opposed and exposed by revolutionary and nationalist political movements against the regime and in the region.
Ethnic groups, the national question and Islam
The Tuareg minority, related to the Berbers of North Africa's coastal mountains, is itself composed of several different tribal groupings. Together with people of Arab origin, Tuaregs are estimated to make up 10 percent of the 15 million total population and live primarily in the North. Since 1960 Tuaregs have led four separate rebellions against the central Malian government and its neglect of the northern region, centred around the demand for autonomy there. Mostly nomadic herders, they are spread across a more or less contiguous area in several countries – Algeria, Libya and Niger as well as Mali.
With significant investments in Mali and ties to both the Malian state and the movement for autonomy in the North, Gaddafi had also incorporated Tuaregs into the Libyan army. Thus after the imperialists invaded, led by then French president Nicolas Sarkozy's Mirage jets in March 2011, and Gaddafi's government eventually collapsed, Tuaregs seized modern Libyan weapons and headed for northern Mali, according to numerous reports. Although this is likely only one reason for the plentiful supply of guns and equipment in Mali, it begins to explain why the poorly organized Malian army was easily defeated when the Tuareg movement took over northern cities and declared Azawad independent.
Then also heavily-armed and well-equipped jihadist forces, organized into groups such as Ansar-al-Dine, Mujao and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI), took over militarily as the MNLA pulled back and reportedly offered to negotiate. The French maintain they are bombing only the jihadist groups (with numerous civilian casualties) and many within French political circles are arguing for talks with the MNLA, while others say they are only a political cover for the jihadists who settled in the main town of Timbuktu as well as Gao and others along the Niger River. Competing heads of clans still figure heavily in the social structures of the northern territory and are said to be another factor in what appears to be constant reshaping of alliances and splits between Islamic armed groups. Local residents apparently told reporters that the armed group who invaded and took over Konna last April 2012 was composed of lighter-skinned Tuaregs and Arabs as well as blacks speaking several different languages from Mali and from the neighbouring countries of Niger and Nigeria. According to press accounts, Canadian and French citizens also were involved in the militias.
As soon as the French launched their air strikes in mid-January, driving the Islamic forces further into the desert areas, some emboldened Malian army soldiers carried out retaliatory acts against people they suspected of supporting the Islamists (perhaps this was not unrelated to the army's having been routed by them a year ago). This helped fuel press reports that ethnic conflicts were behind the war. In addition, local residents furiously targeted mainly Arab businesses, many run by merchants from neighbouring Mauritania with a long history in Mali. When these stores were ransacked, large caches of ammunition where found in some of them that merchants had either stocked willingly or under pressure for the Islamic forces. This increased suspicion that Arab merchants had supported the Islamists during the 10-month occupation.
In fact imperialist meddling does stir up the possibilities for these divisions to take nasty forms among the people. The African Arab slave trade predating colonisation also left its mark on ethnic divisions between North and South. Many Malians are quick to say that they have lived for centuries with numerous different and languages and tribal groupings, mostly black-skinned, but also mixed (Peul) and lighter skinned peoples, and that these ethnic differences are not the main factor driving this crisis as the media has sometimes implied.
Ninety percent of the Malian people are Sunni Moslems, the remaining 10 percent mostly animist. Thus much of the local population in the northern cities initially did not see a strong distinction between themselves and the Islamists, and did not put up much resistance to them. However, reports say most people quickly turned against the fundamentalists who made life miserable for them by banning radio and television (including televised football events!), beating women, cutting off hands for "blasphemy" or "loose moral behaviour", and carrying out executions under the new and much harsher version of Islamic law they rapidly imposed on the population.
In the process of the foreign grab for Africa's land, resources and zones of influence that has also benefited small parasitic ruling classes and elites, imperialist relations of domination and organised dependence become mixed with remaining pre-capitalist social relations. In Mali, this includes a not-so-distant past of slavery, not legally abolished until 1905. Scholars describe a caste-like system in which some tribal/ethnic groups were vassals (often referred to as slaves) of others, including among the Tuaregs. There are reports that the current war has also created the social terrain for "masters" in the North to recuperate their former vassals, or their children, still recognised as belonging to inferior castes, thus stirring up further resentment.
Under Islam, the traditional social code of polygamy and child marriages as well as female genital mutilation represents a huge oppressive burden on Malian women. On top of this, when Islamic fundamentalists occupied the northern cities they began flogging women in public for not fully covering themselves with the newly-imposed veil, reportedly whether they were young girls, grandmothers or pregnant mothers. Suddenly women were not even allowed to talk to their own brothers in public.
Scholars argue that the Islamisation of the Malian state has in fact already been well underway for some time and that Moslem law in the form of shariah is already mixed in practice with "modern jurisprudence". The absence of the state from the daily lives of most of the population, heightened by the 2012 coup d’etat, created a vacuum that "moderate" Islamic forces in the High Islamic Council have stepped into more vigorously, both providing services to the people and taking up a cabinet post in the government. The New York Times reports that they oppose the jihadists and have already played an important political role for the Malian government by negotiating the multimillion-euro ransoms paid for the release of hostages taken in the North by AQMI over the past decade.
Trafficking hub with state complicity fuels parasitism, warlords, and jihadis
In a word, the North is awash in money and guns, but has no paved roads or electricity. In addition to not developing the region, the deposed central government in Bamako is accused of tolerating organized criminal trafficking networks, from which it profited nicely. Customs officials are apparently generously compensated or rare in the porous border area that Mali shares with Mauritania, Algeria and Niger and some Bamako bureaucrats are said to have become rich on sources other than government salaries.
Centuries-old trading routes have become conduits for cigarettes, drugs and other forms of trafficking in the northern region, at the vortex of the southern Algerian and Libyan Sahara, Niger and west from Mauritania. In addition to cocaine, Moroccan cannabis resin and a significant amount of ransom "business" through hostage-taking in the past several years, trade has expanded into guns, through the changing political situation in North Africa. The control of smuggling also appears to be intertwined in the Tuareg political rebellions. At stake are large profits both from trafficking and from taxes numerous networks controlling the routes impose on each other as goods are moved through the region. To try to maintain its authority and keep control over the north, in 2006 the Malian government utilised these rivalries by pitting one group of Tuareg rebels against others.
Geopolitical stakes being played out in Mali
Mali shares borders with seven West and North African countries, all former French colonies and the dynamics of the conflict are clearly regional in nature. Stretching from Senegal on the western coast across the Sahel to Sudan and Chad, Islam is historically the main religion, and most countries have radicalised Islamic movements.
Whatever France's stated immediate aim and belligerent means of achieving it, clearly France has been accelerating its efforts to shore up its influence in the Sahara-Sahel. Contrary to its image after refusing to join the war against Iraq initiated by former president G.W. Bush, the French state has not been idle militarily. Far from it. Sarkozky dispatched troops to Afghanistan and into the conflict in Ivory Coast, and recently special forces into Somalia. Deploying 2,000 Chadian mercenary soldiers in Mali's North, who are not part of ECOWAS but have plenty of experience in previous conflicts in Central African Republic on France's behalf, also figures into its strategic plans, experts point out. Despite the talk of ending "Francafrique", the business daily Les Echos wrote that in Mali the stakes for France are its future presence in Africa.
A new political order and the role of the imperialist powers within it are being fought out and recast in the region. The crumbling of the old order of post-independence states in the Sahel-Sahara has been accelerated by the mass uprisings against the U.S.'s Mubarak in Egypt and France's Ben Ali in Tunisia. There is also the instability and opening that Gaddafi's fall in Libya created, together with other armed conflicts in the Sahel, notably Sudan. And the antagonism between Western imperialism and the political Islam shaping many developments in the Middle East is influencing the internal dynamics and struggle over this recasting of political configurations in West and North Africa as well.
Algeria, also a French colony until France lost a bitter war of independence, is considered by many a key player in the machinations behind the crisis in Mali. In worrying that France may finds itself bogged down in Mali like the U.S. in Afghanistan, Le Monde writes that it must rely on the Algerian army. At the same time Algeria's links with the U.S. have grown steadily stronger in the "fight against terrorism" since the 1990s when the Algerian army carried out massacres of both civilians and armed jihadists following the Islamist electoral victory. This has included significant provisions of arms.
The U.S. is increasingly a major player in this geopolitical recasting of the region, through active intelligence bases in several countries, training soldiers and solidifying ties with the leadership of a number of West African armed forces. The US-Africa command, or Africom, was set up under George W. Bush in 2008 expressly for the purpose of monitoring Islamist forces and preventing their implantation in a West African state where they could find a haven. According to Rudoph Atallah, former U.S. director of counter terrorism for Africa, the Sahel is a "destabilized region with ethnic conflict that if not dealt with quickly many disgruntled groups will be recruited by Al Qaida". He said that military intervention is one approach the U.S. is considering in Mali, while assisting France and helping to pay the bill. US drones are already flying in Malian skies. In fact it appears that the imperialists are actively destabilising the region for an outcome more to their liking, sometimes cooperating and sometimes acting on their own. Already huge camps of Malian refugees fleeing the fighting sprawl along the borders and are causing tensions with neighbouring states.
Economic interests and particularly exploring new energy sources also underpin the scramble to reshape states and political configurations in the Sahel. France is heavily dependent upon uranium deposits in Niger for its nuclear power. Several imperialist countries, together with Algeria, Qatar and China (a rising aggressive presence throughout Africa) have their eye on the untapped gas fields, oil and uranium deposits apparently lying under the northern desert sands in Mali. China recently constructed a third bridge in Bamako and in many African countries it has combined commercial penetration with infrastructure development.
For the people of Mali nothing good can come out of French imperialist military intervention, with or without West African or UN troops to project a different image, or out of religious rule. In fact, imperialist domination has provided the conditions for obscurantism to persist and grow in new forms. Both imperialism and Islamic rule maintain the Malian people in a position of continued subordination to dominant interests and the whole ensemble of economic and social relations they need to break out of to build a radically different society.
- Category: Imperialism & War
- Created on Saturday, 02 February 2013 13:04
- Written by Charlie Post
Is the working class divded? How is it divided? What does this mean for revolutionary strategy? A new book by a Zak Cope, Divided World, Divided Class: Global Political Economy and the Stratification of Labour Under Capitalism which some see as theoretical evidence for the politics of third worldism has sparked a great deal of debate? Kasama will be posting a series of reviews of Cope's work in order to spark discussion on the relation between class composition, imperialism,and revolutioinary strategy. Other posts can be found here and here. The following review by Charlie Post is from the webzine New Socialist.
Workers in the Global North: A Labor Aristocracy?
Review of Zak Cope, Divided World, Divided Class: Global Political Economy and the Stratification of Labour Under Capitalism (Kersplebedeb, 2012)
By Charlie Post
A specter has haunted anti-capitalist radicals and revolutionaries for more than 150 years—the specter of working class reformism and conservatism in the global North of the capitalist world economy. Why have those who Marx called the "grave-diggers of capitalism," the wage-earning majority of the industrialized societies, embraced politics that either seek to "balance" the interests of capital and labour (reformism) or blame other workers for falling living standards and working conditions (conservatism)?
- Category: Imperialism & War
- Created on Saturday, 02 February 2013 14:19
- Written by M-L-M Mayhem
Is the working class divded? How is it divided? What does this mean for revolutionary strategy? A new book by a Zak Cope, Divided World, Divided Class: Global Political Economy and the Stratification of Labour Under Capitalism which some see as theoretical evidence for the politics of third worldism has sparked a great deal of debate? Kasama is posting a series of reviews of Cope's work in order to spark discussion on the relation between class composition, imperialism,and revolutioinary strategy. We've posted reviews by Matthijs Krul and Charlie Post. The following is a critique of Charlie Post's review on the MLM Mayhem blog.
The Theory of Labour Aristocracy and its Discontents: a meta-review of Cope's "Divided World Divided Class"
Although the position Charlie Post takes in his thorough, and thoroughly backwards, review of Zak Cope's Divided World Divided Class was predictable, the review itself tells us more about the state of critical thought amongst marxist theorists at the centres of capitalism than anything else. We could point out that the fact that Post begins by snidely claiming there is no empirical basis for the theory of the labour aristocracy is a rather humorous attempt at empty rhetoric: he knows that numerous revolutionary political economists such as Samir Amin have provided an empirical framework to apprehend a labour aristocracy because he argued with their frameworks in his own analysis (simply because your empirical framework is in disagreement with another doesn't mean that there is no empirical data, it just means that you are calling one set of empirical data into question with your own); he should also be aware that his own empirical data was called into question with another framework of competing empirical data. We could also point out that his argument from authority where he claims that the theory of the labour aristocracy was disproved by a non-marxist (though anti-capitalist) political economist Anwar Shaikh is somewhat laughable. The real point, however, and one that Post cannot help but miss, is that any attempt to prove or disprove the theory of the labour aristocracy through empiricism can only go so far: just us Cope can find the data to prove the theory, Post can mobilize opposing data to supposedly undermine this data, and Cope could probably reply with another pie chart or set of statistics, and Post would reply again... round and around it goes.
- Category: Imperialism & War
- Created on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 19:19
- Written by Gary Leupp
The following first appeared on the Counterpunch website.
Thus you can be the president of an imperialist country, carrying on as normal, killing from the Af-Pak borderlands to the Sahel, presiding over much evil, and still pose as a cutting-edge advocate of human rights, in this case declaring that “if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” Powerful words equalizing hetero- and homosexual loves...
Obama selects his causes carefully, politically. It’s good he has, in his own understated way, paid tribute to the Stonewall uprising. I’m sure many thousands are Google-searching that term since the speech, maybe some feeling inspired by what they learn. But as we revisit the Stonewall experience, should we not also recall how the Obama administration arms the police in countries like Saudi Arabia where gays are flogged, lashed or executed? And should we not note that the campaign for gay rights, however important, is no substitute for a campaign to topple U.S. imperialism, the endless source of war?
The Drones Continue to Kill
Obama Endorses Stonewall?
by Gary Leupp
At first I wasn’t sure I had heard right. “…Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.”
Does Obama, I wondered, mean that Stonewall? Or is there some battle by that name I’ve never learned about?
It soon became clear, that yes, he was referring to the Stonewall Riots of 1969. “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like everyone else under the law.”
This is significant, I thought. A Reuters report this morning notes that “Obama’s inclusion of gay rights—still opposed by many conservatives—among his list of priorities might have been unthinkably divisive as recently as his first inauguration in 2009.” It would at least have been unthinkably risky for a traditional, centrist politician with an instinctive inclination towards compromise.
- Category: Imperialism & War
- Created on Sunday, 20 January 2013 01:36
- Written by Mike Ely
Part 1 of our series is “Puerto Rico’s Fight for Independence.”
This work is presented by the Kasama project.
The Early Years — 1898-1954
by Mike Ely
July 25, 1898–thousands of U.S. troops invaded Puerto Rico’s southern coast from the sea–landing at the small port of Guánica and then in the larger town of Ponce. A force of 16,000 moved onto the island, commanded by U.S. General Nelson A. Miles. In Puerto Rico, African slaves, Native peoples and Spanish immigrants had already forged a unique people and rich culture during 400 years of Spanish colonial rule. A million people lived on the island, mainly scattered in small villages, fishing and farming to gather the food they needed. These Puerto Rican people had long fought their oppressors.
The Taino Indian people had fought from the beginning–in the face of genocidal policies that drove them into the highlands and left few of them alive. The captive Africans had risen up in repeated uprisings against their enslavement. And, in 1868, the independent Republic of Puerto Rico was first proclaimed in the famous armed uprising against Spain — El Grito de Lares, the Cry of Lares.
The U.S. high command had chosen to land their troops on the island’s southern coast because the people were known for their resistance to the central colonial authorities. When the U.S. troops landed, many Puerto Rican people welcomed them. Everyone knew that the U.S. had also once been a colony. And they believed that its armed forces had come to end Spanish oppression. In towns like Ciales, Adjuntas, Yauco, and Mayaguez, Puerto Rican guerillero bands took up arms against the Spanish. But when a treaty was finally signed on December 10, 1898 in Paris, passing the Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to U.S. control, the people of those countries were not consulted or involved. Their local governing bodies were ignored.
When the Spanish flag was lowered at San Juan’s La Fortaleza palace, it was the Yankee Stars and Stripes that took its place. There was some armed resistance to the new U.S. domination. It was four years before it was finally silenced. As Maoist revolutionaries say: While the tiger was driven out the front door, the wolf had slipped in the back.
A Prize of War
“Cuba and Puerto Rico are natural appendages of the United States.”
John Quincy Adams, 1823, then Secretary of State to President Monroe
“We have not come to make war upon the people of a country that for centuries has been oppressed, but, on the contrary, to bring you protection, not only to yourselves but to your property, to promote your prosperity, and to bestow upon you the immunities and blessings of the liberal institutions of our government.”
Proclamation by General Nelson A. Miles to the people of Puerto Rico, 1898
“English spoken here”
Sign posted by U.S. troops in Ponce 1898
“An island or a small group of islands acquired for naval purposes does not differ greatly from a war vessel or fleet at anchor. It would be as improper to transfer the administration of such an island or island group from the Navy to another department as to turn over war vessels to any other than the Navy Department.”
Major General Frank McIntyre, head of U.S. War Department’s Bureau of Insular Affairs during World War 1
The U.S. ruling class had coveted Puerto Rico from the early days of the North American republic. And despite its claims to oppose colonialism, its troops came as new conquerors. Even before the July 25th invasion, the decision had already been made to take Puerto Rico as “Spanish war indemnity.” Senator Perkins described the island as a U.S. “prize of war.” The new U.S. rulers insisted that the Puerto Rican people needed “protection” and “tutoring.”
In crude racist language, Puerto Ricans were described as a “mongrel people” who needed to be taught “civilization.” Someday (it was implied), the islanders would be “ready” to govern themselves. This was classic colonialist self-justification. In 1900 this colonial rule was formalized. The U.S. Congress passed the Foraker Act–which decreed that Puerto Ricans would be ruled by a governor appointed by the U.S. president. A century has now passed since the U.S. invasion–and Puerto Rico is still not free. And the official life of this island continues to be dominated by the decisions made in this foreign and distant U.S. Congress. In 1917–as World War 1 was raging–the U.S. decided to tighten its legal annexation of Puerto Rico. U.S. citizenship was imposed on the Puerto Rican people by the Jones Act–without their consent and over the unanimous objection of the island’s House of Delegates.
In other countries, like Cuba and Panama, the U.S. was refining a system of neo-colonialrule, where they controlled countries through phony “independent” governments. But in Puerto Rico, they chose to impose colonial rule–a sign that they intended to directly rule the Puerto Rican people forever. This same Jones Act created a new toothless legislature for Puerto Rico. This body asked the U.S. Congress five times to take up the question of Puerto Rico’s status–Washington didn’t even answer the letters.
The real control of the island was handed over to the Navy and the U.S. War Department who ruled it until 1934. The Puerto Rican independence leader Pedro Albizu Campos used to say in the 1930s that these invaders were “interested in the cage, not the bird.” The U.S. strategic planners intended to hold Puerto Rico’s territory and make it a key military base for dominating the surrounding region.
Satisfying the Empire’s Sweet Tooth
“There is today more widespread misery and destitution and far more unemployment in Puerto Rico than at any previous time in its history.”
Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1935
U.S. capitalists quickly followed their troops into Puerto Rico, eyeing their new possession for ways to make money. Step by step, U.S. corporations snatched up the best land. The homegrown owning classes of Puerto Rico were bought out and shoved aside. Many working people lost their small farms and growing numbers were forced to work on huge Yankee-owned plantations as wage workers or sharecroppers. They often made as little as $1 a day, and lived with bitter poverty and hunger.
Meanwhile, the U.S. colonialists sent missionaries and enforcers to undermine the language and culture of the people. Puerto Rican teachers were ordered to teach children in English. The economy of the island was twisted to serve U.S. interests in the world market. And the rich land no longer produced the food that people ate. Production went for export, and the people were forced to buy U.S. products for their basic needs. Then in 1929 the Great Depression brought a sharp decline in the sugar economy–and the people were left with almost nothing. The suffering was intense. Oppression gave rise to resistance.
A radical new Puerto Rican independence movement was born. Pedro Albizu Campos rose to the leadership of the island’s Puerto Rican Nationalist Party (PNP) in 1930. Inspired by the anti-British struggle of Ireland, he led his followers onto a daring path of militant and uncompromising resistance.
The Nationalists were a revolutionary movement most firmly rooted among the middle classes of Puerto Rico. It did not have a clear perspective of how to win independence from the Yankees, and did not have a clear sense of the kind of society it would build after independence was won.
But the PNP did make several far-sighted and path-breaking contributions to the politics of the Puerto Rican people. The Nationalist Party promoted the principle of retraimiento–rejection of official politics and colonial elections. They boldly proclaimed that U.S. domination of Puerto Rico was illegal and illegitimate–and refused to recognize the colonial authorities, their courts or laws. They pointedly accused the U.S. of causing the ruin and poverty of Puerto Rico’s people. And they sought international recognition for Puerto Rico’s right to independence. Most daring of all, they taught that Puerto Rican people had a right to wage armed struggle against the U.S. invaders.
Albizu Campos declared he was working to form a revolutionary army to drive out the North Americans. Knowing that they were challenging a ruthless and powerful military power, the movement trained its members in an intense sense of moral righteousness and fearless self-sacrifice. The poet-revolutionary Juan Antonio Corretjer talks of the movement’s “mixture of nationalism, mysticism and revolutionary fervor.”
The Revolt of the Jíbaros
In 1934 a major turning point arrived. In early January, thousands of jíbaros, the landless peasants of the island, walked out of the sugar cane fields of the Armstrong-owned plantation in Fajard. Their furious wildcat strike spread.
The farmworkers were disgusted with their sellout leadership–and they sought out the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, asking Albizu Campos to lead them. The Nationalists wholeheartedly threw themselves into the strike–and the combined movement shook the island. The colonial rulers were terrified at the specter of a mass revolutionary movement.
Agents of U.S. corporations formed the “Citizens Committee of One Thousand for the Preservation of Peace and Order” who cabled the U.S. President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, to report, “A state of actual anarchy exists. Towns in state of siege, police impotent, businesses paralyzed.” General Blanton Winship was appointed governor to suppress the people. His top aide, the soon-notorious Colonel Francis Riggs, became the island’s police chief. The authorities moved to calm the movement with a series of concessions, while they prepared to break up its most organized forces using brutal means. The island’s police were quickly militarized.
Teams of FBI agents secretly arrived on the island to target the independence movement. Wherever the new independence movement raised its head, these forces responded with harassment and killings. Several attempts were made on Albizu Campos’s life. After repeated police murders of Nationalists, Albizu Campos announced that his movement would respond by targeting representatives of the U.S. imperialists. In October 1935, three Nationalists were killed by police bullets outside the island’s main university. On February 23, 1936, Colonel Frances Riggs–head of this counterrevolutionary campaign–was shot dead. The two young Nationalists who killed him, Elias Beauchamp and Hiram Rosado, were then murdered in the police headquarters shortly after their capture.
On March 5, 1936, the Nationalist leadership was charged with seditious conspiracy–conspiring to overthrow the federal government in Puerto Rico. The first trial (in the English-only federal courts) ended when the seven Puerto Ricans on the jury of 12 refused to convict. In a crude act of railroading, the authorities then handpicked a new jury with 10 Anglo-Americans and condemned Albizu Campos to federal prison in late 1936.
The Ponce Massacre
“Viva la República. Down with the assassins.”
Written on a wall by a dying Puerto Rican fighter, Ponce, 1937
The authorities moved to suppress the remaining movement by force. The Nationalist Party called for a march to commemorate the abolition of slavery on the island. It was planned for Palm Sunday, March 21, 1937, in the southern city of Ponce. The local authorities first granted a permit and then, on orders from General/ Governor Winship, the permits were withdrawn.
Hundreds of police were rushed to Ponce to carry out a planned ambush. On the appointed day, PNP’s youth group defied the ban on the march and lined up in ranks along Marina Street. About 80 young men stood proud, dressed as Cadets in black shirts and white pants. Then came a bold contingent of young women dressed all in white. Following them was a five-piece band playing La Borinqueña, the island’s anthem. The crowd cheered. Suddenly, police lines moved into place, both in front and in back.
The cops were heavily armed–including a special squad of nine men with Thompson submachine guns. The unarmed youth stood their ground bravely, without panic. The police simply opened fire on the march, and kept shooting. Marchers, supporters, bystanders, even small children went down before the police bullets. Then the cops rushed the survivors, shooting some at point blank range, and clubbing others.
Twenty-two were killed and over 100 wounded. Defying the threat of new police attacks, more than 15,000 attended the funerals at Ponce, and more than 5,000 in Mayaguez. The victims of the massacre were tried for conspiracy to commit murder. Permits were denied to future Nationalist marches.
More police killings followed. President Roosevelt refused to recall Winship. On July 25, 1938, Winship organized a military parade though Ponce to celebrate the U.S. invasion of 1898. It was intended as a show of force.
Rejecting the Blood Tax
Under intense attacks, and with much of their leadership in prison, the remaining Nationalists continued to struggle. World War 2 soon broke out, and thousands of Puerto Rican men were ordered into the military. On President Franklin Roosevelt’s orders, steps were taken to create the world’s largest naval base on the eastern side of the island.
The Nationalists denounced the military draft as a colonial “blood tax” on their people. They organized the island’s youth to resist the draft. This consistent anti-imperialism was considered shocking–even by many leftists of the time–and the Nationalists were even accused of being “pro-fascist” for refusing to join the U.S. imperialist military. Scores of young Puerto Rican draft resisters were actually condemned to federal prisons. Many suffered extreme punishments. Some were even killed. Their stand inspired future generations–and helped give birth to the powerful movement of draft resistance that grew up in Puerto Rico during the Vietnam War.
Defying the “American Century”
World War 2 brought intense changes to the world–and to colonial countries like Puerto Rico. The U.S. emerged as the world’s biggest imperialist power and wanted to establish neo-colonial domination of many countries throughout the world. It was going to be, the U.S. imperialists said, the start of an “American Century.” As they pursued these plans, the U.S. imperialists found their open colonial rule in Puerto Rico to be an embarrassment. So they wanted to work out a new political arrangement with the appearance of local self government–while maintaining the reality of rule from Washington.
Meanwhile the plantation economy of Puerto Rico had forced many people off the land into growing slums like La Perla (the Pearl) and El Fangito (Little Mud). The imperialists were determined to better exploit these propertyless Puerto Ricans. The government launched a major campaign to create sweatshop factories–called “Operation Bootstrap.” In Puerto Rico itself, many people had a radically different idea of change. The whole world was rumbling with major anti-colonial struggles. In 1949 the Chinese revolution led by Mao Tsetung achieved victory over the forces of imperialism. And many thousands of Puerto Rican soldiers came back from war to a country without jobs–after eye-opening experiences with U.S.-style racism. A new movement for liberation stirred.
In 1947, an unrepentant Pedro Albizu Campos returned to the island from federal prison. He immediately crisscrossed the island speaking passionately against the reorganization plans of the imperialists and against the suffering of the Puerto Rican people. The authorities permitted moderate political forces on the island to discuss various neo-colonial visions of “independence.” But they were determined to keep control of Puerto Rico forever. They responded to Albizu Campos’s activities with intense repression. In 1948, the authorities passed the Ley de la Mordaza, the gag law. La Mordaza made it illegal to advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government in Puerto Rico. It was also known as “the Little Smith Act” because it was patterned after a similar fascist law passed for the mainland. In practice, such things as pro-independence speeches and poetry and even raising the Puerto Rican flag were treated as illegal.
The imperialists simply criminalized the politics of Puerto Rican liberation. And La Mordaza was immediately used to attack the PNP and eliminate its leadership. Albizu Campos was placed under intense police pressure. Police patrols followed him openly, occasionally in jeeps with mounted machine guns. Every person he talked to, even clerks in stores, would be visited by police and harassed. In 1948, Nationalists called on the Puerto Rican people to boycott the elections of a colonial governor. Almost half of the people stayed away from the polls. The U.S. ruling class was finalizing their plans to impose a new colonial arrangement on Puerto Rico. They wanted no militant, organized campaign against this new setup. And so, in April 1950, President Truman ordered his agents to destroy the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. The fascistic campaign that followed foreshadowed in many ways the murderous cointelpro operations unleashed against the Black Panther Party almost 20 years later.
The U.S. Secretary of War, Louis Jiohnson, went to Puerto Rico and met with U.S. military leaders for three days in April. Like Mafia godfathers, they met with the governor, Muñoz Marin, and gave him the order: either break up the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party or kill their leader, Albizu Campos. The Nationalists learned about this plot from their informants within the government. And they worked to alert the people of the danger. However, newspapers refused to carry the information–and would not even accept a paid advertisement. So the PNP organized a campaign of public meetings starting in Manati on June 11, 1950.
The Nationalists were determined to resist by any means necessary–and to take arms if they were denied peaceful avenues of resistance. On October 27, 1950, the police stopped a Nationalist car caravan near Panuelas. Four Nationalists and two police died in the resulting firefight. Albizu Campos called on the people to take up arms.
Taking Up Arms
On October 30, 1950, Puerto Rican fighters attacked police headquarters in Jayuya. They set fire to the building and destroyed the government offices in town. They proclaimed the Second Republic of Puerto Rico and raised their revolutionary flag.
The U.S. air forces bombed from the air, as National Guard troops advanced to take back the village. Blanca Canales, a woman who helped lead the Jayuya revolt, described how the U.S. forces massacred those who surrendered during the nearby uprising in Utuado. Similar armed revolts broke out in Arecibo, Mayaguez, and Naranjito. In San Juan, independence fighters attacked the governor’s palace–La Fortaleza, a symbol of colonial domination.
This was a time when the U.S. imperialists were perhaps at the most powerful and arrogant moment in their history. And in the face of such power, the independence forces of Puerto Rico dared to rise up in a powerful armed manifesto–a Grito de Jayuya. Altogether it was the most powerful uprising in Puerto Rican history, and the largest armed revolt on U.S.-claimed territory since the last wars of the Native Peoples in the 1890s. At the same time, it was a difficult moment to actually carry a revolutionary struggle through to victory–to the seizure of nationwide power. The armed fighting proved impossible to sustain. The various centers of revolt were put down one by one, as columns of National Guard troops moved across the island. The colonial police besieged Pedro Albizu Campos in his house for two days before the Nationalist fighters there laid down their arms and surrendered. Even then, the fighting was not over. November 1, 1950, the world was stunned to hear that the independentistas had taken the armed struggle to the U.S. mainland. Two Nationalists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, attacked the temporary residence of President Truman in Washington’s Blair House. Torresola was killed at the scene and Collazo was wounded. Though the imperialist media had worked to suppress news of the uprisings on Puerto Rico itself, they could not ignore this armed act in their capital. At least 21independentistas gave their lives in the uprising. And the whole world was made aware of the independence struggle of Puerto Rico. The U.S. imperialists unleashed an intense reign of terror on the people of Puerto Rico. Three thousand people were arrested–including virtually all known members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, and even many members of the reformist Puerto Rican Independence Party, which had always rejected armed struggle. Police were issued blank arrest warrants to seize anyone they chose. An internationalist Anglo-American, Ruth Reynolds, was seized by the authorities after the historic uprising of Jayuya.
Trials lasted for three years. The hundreds of people on trial were almost all convicted and condemned to prison. In some cases, people were reportedly imprisoned simply because some government spy testified that they had shouted “Viva Puerto Rico Libre!”
One example: The independentista Carlos Feliciano and twelve other people were convicted of killing four cops in Arecibo. Feliciano was sentenced to 465 years in prison. (He later joked, “They thought I was Methuselah.”) A state witness later testified that Feliciano had been in his home town, Mayagüez, when the cops died. And the conviction had to be overthrown. The government refused to release him, but instead set up new charges of “advocating the overthrow of the government” and sentenced him to prison for his views. Membership in the PNP was itself a felony.
The colonialist police, working with the FBI, developed a huge blacklist of independence supporters who were pursued over the coming years.Independentistas, their families and employers were harassed. In 1988, when this blacklist was challenged in court, it contained more than 100,000 files.
The Lie Did Not Go Unopposed
“The Popular Democratic Party desires to have a banana republic with United States air conditioning.”
J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI
The colonial Popular Democratic Party rose to power in the new elections and on July 25, 1952 (again the anniversary of the notorious U.S. invasion!), they and the U.S. proclaimed the so-called Estado Libre Asociado (ELA) or Commonwealth.
This put in place the political arrangement the U.S. has used to exploit and dominate the Puerto Rican people for the last 46 years. Historian Afredo López describes it as “a sophisticated colonial enterprise where everything–laws, administrative organization, even popularly accepted ideology–works toward the efficient exploitation of the land’s natural resources and labor.” This new arrangement set up a phony political system in Puerto Rico that was modeled on electoral politics within the U.S. And based on this set-up, the U.S. pushed through a UN resolution in 1954 that removed Puerto Rico from the official list of “non-self-governing territories.” In other words, the U.S. (and the United Nations) were trying to claim that Puerto Rico was no longer a colony. Puerto Rico independence fighters again took up arms to answer this lie. On March 1, 1954, four Nationalists–Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andrés Figueroa Cordero–walked into the gallery of the U.S. Congress and opened fire on the congressmen below. They were in the middle of a debate about immigration, and one politicians had just referred to Mexicans as “wetbacks.” Five congressmen were wounded.
The four independentistas were captured. The attack marked a third proclamation of the free and sovereign Republic of Puerto Rico. In prison, Albizu Campos faced intense mistreatment. He accused the authorities of bombarding him with radiation–causing painful illness. Afraid to have him die in prison, the authorities released him, a few months before his death in April 1965. The movement he had built suffered heavily from the ruthless repression of U.S. imperialism. But just as he died, the 1960s were heating up. And a whole new generation all around the world was rising in struggle against U.S. imperialism.
Deeply inspired by Albizu Campos and his fighters, many people, both on the island and on the U.S. mainland, stepped forward to advance the cause of Puerto Rican liberation.
- Doña Licha’s Island–Modern Colonialism in Puerto Rico, Alfredo López, South End Press, 1987
- Prisoners of Colonialism-the Struggle for Justice in Puerto Rico, Ronald Fernandez, Common Courage Press, 1994
- Puerto Rican Nationalism: A Reader, edited by Jose E. Lopez, Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Chicago, 1977
- Puerto Rico–A Political and Cultural History, Arturo Morales Carrión, Norton, 1983
An early version of this piece appeared in the Revolutionary Worker newspaper in 1998 Published online: December 2007
Available online at mikeely.wordpress.com
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- Category: Imperialism & War
- Created on Sunday, 25 November 2012 12:36
- Written by David E. Sanger
It was hard to miss. Yesterday’s New York Times featured a front page editorial, gloating that the holocaust being carried out against the people of Palestine was not about “Hamas rocket fire,” but about a test run for a U.S./Israel invasion of Iran. Make no mistake: this attack comes after secret Israeli bombings of Somolia, and is perfectly timed to take place after the elections so that these events would not affect the election of Barack Obama who they have carefully planned this invasion with. We are reprinting that editorial here for our readers.
For Israel, Gaza Conflict Is Test for an Iran Confrontation
WASHINGTON — The conflict that ended, for now, in a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel seemed like the latest episode in a periodic showdown. But there was a second, strategic agenda unfolding, according to American and Israeli officials: The exchange was something of a practice run for any future armed confrontation with Iran, featuring improved rockets that can reach Jerusalem and new antimissile systems to counter them.
It is Iran, of course, that most preoccupies Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama. While disagreeing on tactics, both have made it clear that time is short, probably measured in months, to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.
And one key to their war-gaming has been cutting off Iran’s ability to slip next-generation missiles into the Gaza Strip or Lebanon, where they could be launched by Iran’s surrogates, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, during any crisis over sanctions or an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“In the Cuban missile crisis, the U.S. was not confronting Cuba, but rather the Soviet Union,” Mr. Oren said Wednesday, as the cease-fire was declared. “In Operation Pillar of Defense,” the name the Israel Defense Force gave the Gaza operation, “Israel was not confronting Gaza, but Iran.”
It is an imprecise analogy. What the Soviet Union was slipping into Cuba 50 years ago was a nuclear arsenal. In Gaza, the rockets and parts that came from Iran were conventional, and, as the Israelis learned, still have significant accuracy problems. But from one point of view, Israel was using the Gaza battle to learn the capabilities of Hamas and Islamic Jihad — the group that has the closest ties to Iran — as well as to disrupt those links.
Indeed, the first strike in the eight-day conflict between Hamas and Israel arguably took place nearly a month before the fighting began — in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, as another mysterious explosion in the shadow war with Iran.
A factory said to be producing light arms blew up in spectacular fashion on Oct. 22, and within two days the Sudanese charged that it had been hit by four Israeli warplanes that easily penetrated the country’s airspace. Israelis will not talk about it. But Israeli and American officials maintain that Sudan has long been a prime transit point for smuggling Iranian Fajr rockets, the kind that Hamas launched against Tel Aviv and Jerusalem over recent days.
The missile defense campaign that ensued over Israeli territory is being described as the most intense yet in real combat anywhere — and as having the potential to change warfare in the same way that novel applications of air power in the Spanish Civil War shaped combat in the skies ever since.
Of course, a conflict with Iran, if a last-ditch effort to restart negotiations fails, would look different than what has just occurred. Just weeks before the outbreak in Gaza, the United States and European and Persian Gulf Arab allies were practicing at sea, working on clearing mines that might be dropped in shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz.
But in the Israeli and American contingency planning, Israel would face three tiers of threat in a conflict with Iran: the short-range missiles that have been lobbed in this campaign, medium-range rockets fielded by Hezbollah in Lebanon and long-range missiles from Iran.
The last of those three could include the Shahab-3, the missile Israeli and American intelligence believe could someday be fitted with a nuclear weapon if Iran ever succeeded in developing one and — the harder task — shrinking it to fit a warhead.
A United States Army air defense officer said that the American and Israeli militaries were “absolutely learning a lot” from this campaign that may contribute to a more effective “integration of all those tiered systems into a layered approach.”
The goal, and the challenge, is to link short-, medium- and long-range missile defense radar systems and interceptors against the different types of threats that may emerge in the next conflict.
Even so, a historic battle of missile versus missile defense has played out in the skies over Israel, with Israeli officials saying their Iron Dome system shot down 350 incoming rockets — 88 percent of all targets assigned to the missile defense interceptors. Israeli officials declined to specify the number of interceptors on hand to reload their missile-defense batteries.
Before the conflict began, Hamas was estimated to have amassed an arsenal of 10,000 to 12,000 rockets. Israeli officials say their pre-emptive strikes on Hamas rocket depots severely reduced the arsenal of missiles, both those provided by Iran and some built in Gaza on a Syrian design.
But Israeli military officials emphasize that most of the approximately 1,500 rockets fired by Hamas in this conflict were on trajectories toward unpopulated areas. The radar tracking systems of Iron Dome are intended to quickly discriminate between those that are hurtling toward a populated area and strays not worth expending a costly interceptor to knock down.
“This discrimination is a very important part of all missile defense systems,” said the United States Army expert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe current military assessments. “You want to ensure that you’re going to engage a target missile that is heading toward a defended footprint, like a populated area. This clearly has been a validation of the Iron Dome system’s capability.”
The officer and other experts said that Iran also was certain to be studying the apparent inability of the rockets it supplied to Hamas to effectively strike targets in Israel, and could be expected to re-examine the design of that weapon for improvements.
Israel currently fields five Iron Dome missile defense batteries, each costing about $50 million, and wants to more than double the number of batteries. In the past two fiscal years, the United States has given about $275 million in financial assistance to the Iron Dome program. Replacement interceptors cost tens of thousands of dollars each.
Just three weeks ago, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited an Iron Dome site as a guest of his Israeli counterpart during the largest American-Israeli joint military exercise ever. For the three-week exercise, called Austere Challenge, American military personnel operated Patriot land-based missile defense batteries on temporary deployment to Israel as well as Aegis missile defense ships, which carry tracking radars and interceptors.
Despite its performance during the current crisis, though, Iron Dome has its limits.
It is specifically designed to counter only short-range rockets, those capable of reaching targets at a distance of no more than 50 miles. Israel is developing a medium-range missile defense system, called David’s Sling, which was tested in computer simulations during the recent American-Israeli exercise, and has fielded a long-range system called Arrow. “Nobody has really had to manage this kind of a battle before,” said Jeffrey White, a defense fellow for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “There are lots of rockets coming in all over half the country, and there are all different kinds of rockets being fired.”