Sunday, August 15, 2010

'What Happens if We Stay in Afghanistan': A Response to TIME Magazine

by South Asia Solidarity Initiative
The August 9, 2010 issue of TIME magazine featured a striking cover photograph of an 18-year-old Afghan woman, Aisha, who was disfigured by the Taliban last year.  The cover title read, "What happens if we leave Afghanistan."  While Aisha's story and the stories of many other women like her may depict some part of the reality of women's lives under the Taliban, TIME's conclusion that continuing the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is necessary, is highly misleading and troubling.


Afghan women, like women around the world, have lived under very oppressive conditions for decades.  Many women remain indoors, without education or health care, or economic security, have early marriages, and are unprotected from domestic violence.  Today, after a decade of the U.S.-led occupation, the lives of Afghan women have become worse, not better: in addition to facing continued oppression under the Taliban and the equally oppressive Northern Alliance, they also live in a war zone.
TIME's statement echoes and resurrects the same justification for the war given during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan: if U.S. forces withdraw from Afghanistan, any rights gained for Afghan women will be reversed by fundamentalist forces.  However, this false logic grossly ignores the history of the U.S. imperialist relationship and presence in the region and its effect on women's rights.  During the Soviet occupation in the 1980's, the U.S. armed the anti-Soviet Mujahideen forces, who were at one point led by Osama Bin Laden. In subsequent years the Taliban rose to power, with the Unitd States as its ally. In 2001, when the Bush administration sought to topple the Taliban regime, the United States armed and enlisted the help of the Northern Alliance, a coalition of warlords with its own track record of human rights abuses. Indeed, the United States has consistently chosen the side of fundamentalist allies at the expense of Afghan women, and has always sought its own gains in the region.
In its nine long years, the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan has done nothing to improve the conditions for people in Afghanistan, especially for women. As the classified documents recently leaked by WikiLeaks.org corroborate, the coalition forces have been killing hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents.  According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, the 2009 civilian death toll, close to 2,412 civilian deaths, was the highest of any year since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, and an increase of 24% from 2008. There has been a general increase in violence and civilian deaths because of occupation.  A Human Rights Watch Press Alert in 2005, stated that up to 60% of law makers in the lower house of Afghanistan's newly elected parliament are directly or indirectly connected to human rights abuses. By 2009, the U.N. human development index ranked Afghanistan 181 out of 182 countries. The maternal mortality rate in Afghanistan reveals the highest ever documented. Over the past decade, the immensely corrupt, U.S.-backed Afghan regime led by Hamid Karzai has passed and maintained numerous misogynist laws, including the one that put Aisha in jail after she fled from her in-laws.

For the last decade, the occupying forces of the U.S. and its NATO allies have nourished warlords and supported a corrupt government, leading many to join the Taliban and increasing their influence across Afghanistan. Increased civilian deaths, a fundamentalist resurgence, and deadly bombing raids have led to a devastated country and a Taliban stronger than ever before. TIME's claim to "illuminate what is actually happening on the ground" falsely equates the last decade of occupation with progress. The occupation has not and will not bring democracy to Afghanistan, nor will it bring liberation to Afghan women. Instead, it has exacerbated deep-seated corruption in the government, the widespread abuse of women's rights and human rights by fundamentalists, including Karzai's allies, and stymied critical infrastructure development in the country. The question should not be "what happens if we leave Afghanistan," the question should be "what happened when we invaded Afghanistan" and "what happens if we stay in Afghanistan."

The Afghan people are capable of creating their own democratic future.  Progressive groups and democratic parties in Afghanistan are fighting to reconstruct the peace and safety of their country, and more often than not, are forced underground for fear of their safety.  Despite the repression from the U.S.-backed Karzai government, thousands of brave students and women have come out on to the streets of Kabul to protest the bombings and the continued war.  It is from these forces that a larger progressive movement will emerge that could play a role in bringing real democracy to Afghanistan.  If the United States continues the occupation, the space for progressive forces becomes increasingly limited.

We must know and remember, that liberation never comes from occupation. We must know and remember, that there will always be resistance to occupation. Occupations, no matter where they take place, from Iraq to Palestine to Turtle Island, are unjust. The American people must come out in support and solidarity with the resilient peoples of Afghanistan and elsewhere who are fighting for their own liberation, and must call for the end of all U.S. wars and occupations.
Signatories:
South Asia Solidarity Initiative
Iraq Veterans Against the War
Derrick O'Keefe co-writer of the autobiography Malalai Joya -- A Woman Among Warlords
Veterans For Peace
Courage to Resist
Anjali Kamat, Producer, Democracy Now!
Robert Jensen, University of Texas, Austin, TX


The South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI) is an organization based the United States that is in solidarity with progressive social movements and democratic politics in South Asia.  We believe in the shared history and common struggles of South Asia and break from the confines of nation-states to carry forward an alternative vision for South Asia and its peoples.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Report: Military Assistance and Human Rights: Colombia, U.S. Accountability, and Global Implications

U.S. military aid flowing to Colombia is having a direct, negative effect on the human rights of Colombians. Though the “Leahy Law” prohibits aid to military units that have committed gross violations, the United States continues to support such units in Colombia. Worse, areas where Colombian army units received the largest increases in U.S. assistance reported increased extrajudicial killings on average.
You can read the executive summary below or download the full 51 page report (PDF, 1.4 MB).
The scale of U.S. training and equipping of other nations’ militaries has grown exponentially since 2001, but there are major concerns about the extent to which the U.S. government is implementing the laws and monitoring the impact its military aid is having on human rights. This report by the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and U.S. Office on Colombia examines these issues through a detailed case study of U.S.military aid, human rights abuses, and implementation of human rights law in Colombia.
28
U.S. Military Assistance to the Colombian Army
The experience of US military funding to Colombia shows alarming links between Colombian military units that receive U.S. assistance and civilian killings committed by the army. To prevent similar errors in Afghanistan and Pakistan, relevant Congressional committees and the State Department Office of the Inspector General must thoroughly study the Colombia case and implementation of U.S. law designed to keep security assistance from going to security force units committing gross human rights violations.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

5 Passages from the WikiLeaks "Afghan Diary" That Bring the Bizarre, Tragic Reality of War to Life



By Alexander Zaitchik, AlterNet
Posted on August 7, 2010, Printed on August 12, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/147755/
Much has been made of the unfolding scandal surrounding the WikiLeaks Afghanistan war cache. Surprisingly less attention has been paid to the vast amount of material itself -- beyond, that is, what the New York Times and Guardian have deemed important enough to publish. Much of the public, including many people who consider themselves engaged in the war debate, seems (understandably) intimidated by the size of the mega-dump and content to let others explain its significance. This is strange, given that perhaps the loudest message of the leakers is that we should never rely only on officials, embeds, and editors.
Putting to the side the political debates swirling around the leak, the material is rich on its own terms, rich in a way that second-hand round-ups and editorializing syntheses simply cannot capture. The mass of 91,000 raw files is perhaps best read (or heavily skimmed) as a very long work of experimental combat non-fiction, with each chapter a narrative bark of unedited, acronym-packed military speak. Over the course of hours, the sheer redundancy of the material -- a drumbeat of tribal skirmishes, dead civilians, and firefights among Afghan cops, soldiers, and militias -- powerfully conveys with incredible compression the daily grind of chaos and violence that is Afghanistan. The WikiLeaks memos make even the shortest wire dispatch read like an Op-Ed. They are bullets by bullet-point.
Below are five memos that gave this reader pause, each for different reasons. They don't represent the most shocking or important details buried in the cache, but are representative of the tiny rough gems you might find perusing the leaks. They are highly compressed true war stories that will lead different people to different conclusions, including none at all.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Blackwater: Can't Stop, Won't Stop

Published on Friday, August 6, 2010 by Foreign Policy in Focus

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Colombian Mass Grave Of More Than 2000 May Be Civilian Trade Unionists, Not Military Casualties

Colombia is currently the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists, and the U.S. is likely implicated in the murders.
By Conn Hallinan, Foreign Policy in Focus
Posted on August 5, 2010, Printed on August 12, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/147728/
If you want to understand what’s behind the recent tension between Colombia and Venezuela, think “smokescreen,” and then go back several months to some sick children in the Department of Meta, just south of Bogota. The children fell ill after drinking from a local stream, a stream contaminated by the bodies of more than 2,000 people, secretly buried by the Colombian military.
According to the Colombian high command, the mass grave just outside the army base at La Macarena contains the bodies of guerilla fighters killed between 2002 and 2009 in that country’s long-running civil war. But given the army’s involvement in the so-called “false positive” scandal, human rights groups are highly skeptical that the dead are members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army, the two insurgent groups fighting the central government.
“False positive” is the name given to the Colombian armed forces operation that murdered civilians and then dressed them up in insurgent uniforms in order to demonstrate the success of the army’s counterinsurgency strategy, thus winning more aid from the U.S. According to the human rights organizations Comision de Derechos Homanos del Bajo Ariari and Colectivo Orlando Fals Borda, some 2,000 civilians have been murdered under the program.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Obama's Neo-Liberal Agenda for Education



By GILLIAN RUSSOM 
WRITING IN March 2008, the editors of a Rethinking Schools book on charter schools held out hope that the end of the Bush administration would mean new possibilities for a progressive education agenda:


This country is on the cusp of a new political dialogue. The conservative stranglehold on political debate is ending, opening up new opportunities for progressives to regain the initiative. How this opening will affect public education in general and charter schools in particular is not yet clear, but it ushers in new possibilities not imaginable a decade ago.1
Two years later, the direction of education policy under the Obama administration is indeed clear. The biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression has called into question whether our public schools will be funded at even the most basic level required for their functioning. Last year, budget cuts cost 40,000 teacher jobs. This year, 66 percent of school districts across the country have cut more jobs, while 83 percent of districts project cuts for the 2010–2011 academic year.2 Kansas City’s school board has voted to shut down twenty-eight of the city’s sixty-one schools. In California, more than 23,000 teachers received pink slips in March, and students hoping to attend college are facing tuition increases of 20 percent at the California State University and 32 percent at the University of California.These devastating cuts are being applied to a public school system that is already in horrible shape. Many schools are overcrowded and crumbling, lacking essential technology and materials; learning is often dull because teachers are exhausted or focused on preparing for standardized tests; and students rarely get experiences that connect what they are learning to the real world. These abysmal conditions have led to a high school dropout rate of nearly 30 percent nationwide, and more than 50 percent in many major cities.3
Education should be at the center of a national debate on social priorities, led by a president who promised “change.” Instead, the economic crisis is being used by the White House to dramatically accelerate a neoliberal agenda for education, going far beyond what George W. Bush’s administration was able to do with its No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy. With Arne Duncan, a political operative with no formal training in the field, as education secretary, the administration has aggressively promoted an education program with three principal elements: using test score data to evaluate teachers, shutting down and “reconstituting” schools deemed to be failing, and expanding privately-run, mostly non-union charter schools. Other elements include the standardization of curriculum and the lengthening of the school day. This agenda is supported by a nearly unified front of the powerful—Wall Street, Democrats and Republicans at all levels, and many non-profit organizations.Obama recently signaled the lengths to which he’s willing to go to implement this agenda. Speaking before an audience of business executives at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on March 1, the president supported a Rhode Island school board’s decision to fire all seventy-four teachers and nineteen other school employees at Central Falls High School. “If a school continues to fail year after year after year and doesn’t show sign of improvements then there has got to be a sense of accountability,” he remarked.4 As the only high school in the poorest community in Rhode Island, Central Falls has been chronically underfunded. Yet it seems that the only people being held accountable are the teachers who have dedicated their lives to working with Central Falls students.5

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Toxic legacy of US assault on Fallujah 'worse than Hiroshima'

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/toxic-legacy-of-us-assault-on-fallujah-worse-than-hiroshima-2034065.html


By Patrick Cockburn
The shocking rates of infant mortality and cancer in Iraqi city raise new questions about battle
Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.
Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents.
Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s. Infant mortality in the city is more than four times higher than in neighbouring Jordan and eight times higher than in Kuwait.

Monday, July 19, 2010

June was worst month for Army suicides, statistics show

By Mike Mount, CNN Senior Pentagon Producer

Washington (CNN) -- More U.S. soldiers killed themselves last month than in recent Army history, according to Army statistics released Thursday, confounding officials trying to reverse the grim trend.

The statistics show that 32 soldiers killed themselves in June, the highest number in a single month since the Vietnam era. Twenty-one of them were on active duty, while 11 were in the National Guard or Army Reserve in an inactive status.

Seven of those soldiers killed themselves while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Army numbers.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

March to End the Siege of Gaza!

FRIDAY JUNE 4TH: March to End the Siege of Gaza, Solidarity with Freedom Flotilla Activists
 
When: Friday, June 4th at 3:15pm

Where: Leaving from the State Capitol steps in Saint Paul and marching to the Minnesota Trade Office (32 Minnesota Street, St. Paul)

Early Monday morning, The Gaza Freedom Flotilla was raided by Israeli military commandos in international waters who fired live ammunition on the civilian passengers, killing at least 9 people and wounding scores more. The flotilla was a humanitarian aid convoy of 6 ships en route to the Gaza strip carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid, including food, medical supplies, construction materials. On board were more than 600 passengers from over 40 countries including activists, parliamentarians, journalists, and doctors. The flotilla's stated purpose was to break the inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza's borders which has deprived its population of more than 1.5 million of mobility and access to basic needs since 2007.  While the violent raid of the Freedom Flotilla in international waters is itself a horrific assault on human life and a repressive act of state violence by Israel, it is but one expression of Israel's ongoing apartheid program in Palestine.

On Tuesday, Minnesotans entered Senator Amy Klobuchar's office to demand a political response to both the killings on the flotilla and the inhumane blockade of Gaza. This Friday, we will go to the MN trade office to demand an end to local economic relations between Minnesota and the State of Israel as part of a larger project of ending all US financial sponsorship of the Israeli war economy. The Minnesota Trade Office facilitates the relationship between Minnesota-based corporations and the State of Israel. In 2008, Minnesota companies made over $10 million on goods exported to Israel. The blockade of Gaza and the occupation of Palestine cannot be sustained without the military and financial support of the United States. This year alone the US will give a total of $2.8 billion to the state of Israel. The US also supports the occupation of Palestine through military aid in the form of technology, training, and weapons.  In Minnesota, companies with Israeli contracts directly profit from the systematic violent assault on Palestinian life in the occupied territories.

Join us Friday to show that we will NOT tolerate the murder of activists and the undue persecution of Gazans. March on the Trade Office and demand NO MORE TRADE! TAKE DOWN THE BLOCKADE!
 
For twitter updates on the march, text "follow DASWO" to 40404 and visit our website at www.daswo.wordpress.com. Email us at daswo.tc@gmail.com.

--Direct Action To Stop War & Occupation (DASWO)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Zine: Confronting Militarism and Military Recruitment In Our Schools


by: DC Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)


note: this was scanned in to be printable. feel free to print as many copies as you want.


Download/View: http://bit.ly/sds-cr-zine




Opening: Thinking about joining the military? Are you willing to leave your family for extended periods of time? Are you ready to kill or die for a cause you don’t believe in? Are you prepared to give up the rights you enjoys as a civilian? Are you willing to fight someone else’s war? If you answered “No” to any of these questions, then the military may not be for you.


thanks to FYRadicalLiterature for the information!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Attention Youth Activists: We’re going to the United States Social Forum 2010!

It’s going to be one HELL of a Summer ROADTRIP!

From June 22-26th activists from all over the country will be converging in Detroit, MI for what is sure to be the largest convention of leftist activists in years! We are expecting more than 10,000 people.

According to the website, “the US Social Forum will provide a space to build relationships, learn from each other's experiences, and share analysis of the problems our communities face. It will help develop leadership, vision, and strategy needed to realize another world”.

Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR) will be organizing a contingent of youth to leave Minneapolis on June 21st, attend the forum for five days, and come back to Minneapolis on June 27th. YAWR will organize transportation, food, and board for all of its contingent members for a fee of $150--$250 per member. If this cost is unaffordable, scholarships are available.




Israel attacks Gaza Aid fleet



Israeli forces have attacked a flotilla of aid-carrying ships aiming to break the country's siege on Gaza.

At least 19 people were killed and dozens injured when troops intercepted the convoy of ships dubbed the Freedom Flotilla early on Monday, Israeli radio reported.
The flotilla was attacked in international waters, 65km off the Gaza coast.

Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, confirmed that the attack took place in international waters, saying: "This happened in waters outside of Israeli territory, but we have the right to defend ourselves."


Footage from the flotilla's lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara, showed armed Israeli soldiers boarding the ship and helicopters flying overhead.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Thousands protest Arizona's immigration law

Under a broiling desert sun, tens of thousands of protesters on Saturday slowly marched five miles to the state Capitol to rally against Arizona's controversial new immigration law.

There was no official crowd estimate, but the march was by far the biggest demonstration since Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law on April 23. The law makes it a state crime to lack immigration papers and requires police to determine the status of people they stop and suspect are in the country illegally.

The law's backers, who held their own rally at a suburban stadium Saturday evening, contend that the measure is necessary to protect against violence seeping across the border from Mexico. "Why not make the country like it's supposed to be? Borders define us," said Don Baggett, who came to the rally from a Houston suburb.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

New (and Old) Members YAWR Meeting (FREE PIZZA)

Youth Against War & Racism Meeting
--- Join us to prepare a summer of youth activism ---
--- Pizza and drinks provided! ---
Monday (Memorial Day), May 31st
5:00pm - 6:30pm
Mayday Bookstore, 301 Cedar Ave, Minneapolis (West Bank)

After a period of internal re-organization, Youth Against War & Racism is back in action, and we're inviting you to join us for a summer of organizing an activism. Our immediate focus is mobilizing for a local youth delegation to join with thousands at the U.S. Social Forum at the end of June (email back if you want to come!).

YAWR already has a long track record of organizing against military recruitment in the schools, including our continued campaign of anti-war tabling which brought us into all but two Minneapolis high schools this past Spring semester. But while maintaining a strong youth antiwar presence, YAWR is planning to branch out even further this summer, potentially taking up budget cuts to education, immigrant rights, LGBT rights, and more. We have several exciting campaign ideas, but we want your input before firmly deciding on our next steps. Join us Monday to help set the direction of youth activism in the Twin Cities in 2010 and beyond.

Here is the Agenda for the Monday YAWR Meeting

1. Introductions/pizza
2. What is YAWR? (What we stand for, what we have done)
3. Next Steps?
4. U.S. Social Forum
     What is the Social Forum
     What YAWR wants to do and logistics
     Why you should go

See you there!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

NO JOKE: CIA Had Plan to Portray Saddam Hussein as Pedophile

(May 25) -- The CIA had a bag of dirty tricks ready for Saddam Hussein in preparation of the 2003 American invasion of Iraq that included making him look like a pedophile. It also had something similar planned for Osama bin Laden.

The Washington Post blog Spy Talk, citing former CIA officials, said one devious tactic involved creating a video showing the Iraqi strongman purportedly having sex with a teenage boy.

"It would look like it was taken by a hidden camera," one ex-CIA official told Spy Talk's Jeff Stein. "Very grainy, like it was a secret videotaping of a sex session."


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Arizona to Obama: We need Predator drones!



The governor specifically asked for OH-58 Kiowa helicopters, used by the military for reconnaissance, noting that Arizona currently has only four of them "available for border missions."
"These helicopters are extremely valuable assets in supporting law enforcement efforts on the ground," she wrote. "The number available, though, is inadequate to provide the kind of support needed on the Arizona border."
The governor said that a fleet of eight to 10 Kiowa helicopters "would enable us to double our border coverage to 2,000 hours per year. To be effective, these additional aircraft must be equipped for day and night operations."

Obama Set To Send 1,200 Troops To US-Mexico Border

by Erica Werner and Jacques Billeaud

WASHINGTON — Under pressure to take action, President Barack Obama on Tuesday ordered 1,200 National Guard troops to boost security along the U.S.-Mexico border, pre-empting Republican efforts to force a congressional vote to send the troops.

Obama will also request $500 million for border protection and law enforcement activities, according to lawmakers and administration officials.

The president's action comes as chances for comprehensive immigration reform, Obama's long-stated goal, look increasingly dim in this election year. Obama has been all but compelled to do something since Arizona's passage of a tough illegal-immigration law thrust the border problem into the public spotlight.

Indeed, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer credited her signing of the controversial new law for compelling Obama to act. Signing the law, Brewer said in a statement, "clearly ignited the talk of action in Washington for the people of Arizona and other border states."

Monday, May 24, 2010

U.S. Is Said to Expand Secret Military Acts in Mideast Region

by mark mazzetti

WASHINGTON — The top American commander in the Middle East has ordered a broad expansion of clandestine military activity in an effort to disrupt militant groups or counter threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region, according to defense officials and military documents.

The secret directive, signed in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces. Officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate.

While the Bush administration had approved some clandestine military activities far from designated war zones, the new order is intended to make such efforts more systematic and long term, officials said. Its goals are to build networks that could “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” Al Qaeda and other militant groups, as well as to “prepare the environment” for future attacks by American or local military forces, the document said. The order, however, does not appear to authorize offensive strikes in any specific countries.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Occupation of U.S. Public Schools: Kids as Cannon Fodder and Consumers

by Mary Beaudoin, Women Against Military Madness

In November of 2009, ninety retired U.S. military leaders, including former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark, two former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and six other four-star generals and admirals, announced their plans to cultivate another demographic to fight future imperial wars—pre-schoolers. According to Rear Admiral Barnett, “Our national security in the year 2030 is absolutely dependent on what’s going on in pre-kindergarten today.”

Major press throughout the country printed the story, echoing the concern that so many 17-24 year olds are unfit for military service today and that in the future it could mean “a limited pool (of potential recruits) will hold back our military readiness and erode our national security in the long run.

Although it may be surprising that they are targeting tots, it’s probably not surprising that high-ranking retired military men have an interest in raising cannon fodder for the future and passing on the lethal legacy associated with their careers. But what may come as a surprise is that they are already well on their way with the aid of the Obama administration and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as well as congress, in pursuing an aggressive agenda, spearheaded by the Pentagon and corporate business interests, to alter the entire U.S. public education system.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Defying Police Threats, Students Walk Out Against the Republican National Convention

by Ty Moore


Despite police attempts to intimidate students from participating, hundreds of Twin Cities youth walked out of high schools on Thursday, September 4th, to protest the war on the final Republican National Convention. Over 400 joined an energetic rally and march from the State Capitol, featuring a theatrical mock trial of giant puppet caricatures of Dick Cheney and other "War Criminals" who run Washington.

"While the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul roll out the red carpet for the convention, we say no to business as usual while the people responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iraqis, Afghans, and U.S. soldiers come to our city to plot their next steps," said Desarae Walker, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota and an activist with Youth Against War & Racism and Socialist Alternative. "We are tired of paying for a war with no end in sight."

The walkout also received substantial media coverage, including on TV news, in both local and national outlets (several links are included at the end of this article).

Most organizers of the event had anticipated a substantially higher turnout, but this was cut across by thinly veiled threats by police of violence against students who walked out - threats echoed by school officials. With the student strike called for just the third day of classes, there was little time for organizers to counter this fear campaign.

Friday, May 7, 2010

They're Not Illegal, They're Heroes: Why Immigrants Are Right to Chase the American Dream

We need to stop calling undocumented immigrants in the United States “illegal”. A more appropriate term is: New American Heroes.


Why are undocumented immigrants heroes?

Millions of Americans, immigrants and citizens, work incredibly hard every single day in ridiculously low paying jobs that are the life-blood of our economy but are barely life-sustaining in return. I think every person who gets up at the crack of dawn or in the middle of the night to work one or two or even three jobs so they can pay the rent and put food on the table are heroes. But as hard as it is for every low-wage worker in the United States (and increasingly, middle class folks too) undocumented immigrants face additional, greater obstacles. These undocumented immigrants are heroes, too.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

“Hey Dad, Why do we save Billionaires, but not Teachers?”


This week thousands of New Jersey public school students walked out of class to protest draconian school budget cuts. “Save my teacher,” their signs read. In a state that is home to a bevy of high finance billionaires, with the highest per capita income in the nation, teachers are being sacked left and right. In our town half the student body protested outside the high school. Perhaps the protesters should turn their eyes towards the twenty-five top hedge fund honchos who took in $25 billion in 2009. Their “earnings” alone could fund 658,000 entry level teachers.
It’s ironic that the battlefield in this war over resources is public education. Because the public remains entirely uneducated about the connection between those billionaires and school budget cuts. We are clueless about what the Wall Street billionaires do to earn their riches and whether it’s of any value. We might be able to understand “weapons of mass destruction,” but financial weapons of mass destruction are way beyond us.
The new earning reports are good, we read. The giant financial institutions are back to making billions through “trading.” So are these bankers grown-up versions of kids trading baseball cards–or are they robber barons? Are they enriching our society or siphoning off its wealth? Maybe the marching students of New Jersey could ask Governor Christie to explain.

May Day Protest v. GOP State Convention

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arizona Legalizes Racial Profiling

JURIST Contributing Editor Marjorie Cohn of Thomas Jefferson School of Law says that Arizona's new immigration legislation - requiring law enforcement officers to stop everyone whom they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is an undocumented immigrant and arrest them if they fail to produce their papers - demeans us all by effectively legalizing racial profiling...



The conservative “states” rights” mantra sweeping our country has led to one of the most egregious wrongs in recent U.S. history. New legislation in Arizona requires law enforcement officers to stop everyone whom they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is an undocumented immigrant and arrest them if they fail to produce their papers. What constitutes “reasonable suspicionâ��? When asked what an undocumented person looks like, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who signed SB 1070 into law last week, said, “I don't know what an undocumented person looks like.” The bill does not prohibit police from relying on race or ethnicity in deciding who to stop. It is unlikely that officers will detain Irish or German immigrants to check their documents. This law unconstitutionally criminalizes “walking while brown” in Arizona.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Colombia's Deadly "Democracy"


More Than 150,000 May Have Been Killed

By DANIEL KOVALIK
In his book, Colombia: the Genocidal Democracy, Father Javier Girardo, a Jesuit priest and long-time human rights activist in Colombia, estimated that, between 1988 and 1995, more than 60,000 Colombians lost their lives to the internal conflict in Colombia – most of them at the hands of the state, either in the form of the official Colombian military or the paramilitary forces supported by the state.

As for the Colombian state’s support for the paramilitaries, also known as “death squads,” that is well-known. Thus, as the U.S. State Department has concluded in its annual human rights reports, the paramilitaries have received active support from the Colombian government and from the Colombian military which has provided the paramilitaries with weapons, ammunition, logistical support and even with soldiers. Given that the U.S. has aided the Colombian military with over $7 billion in military assistance since 2000, all the while knowing the military’s close collaboration with the murderous paramilitaries, the U.S. itself is complicit in the paramilitaries’ crimes.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Yes, We Could... Get Out! Why We Won’t Leave Afghanistan or Iraq


By Tom Engelhardt
Yes, we could. No kidding. We really could withdraw our massive armies, now close to 200,000 troops combined, from Afghanistan and Iraq (and that’s not even counting our similarly large stealth army of private contractors, which helps keep the true size of our double occupations in the shadows). We could undoubtedly withdraw them all reasonably quickly and reasonably painlessly.
Not that you would know it from listening to the debates in Washington or catching the mainstream news. There, withdrawal, when discussed at all, seems like an undertaking beyond the waking imagination. In Iraq alone, all those bases to dismantle and millions of pieces of equipment to send home in a draw-down operation worthy of years of intensive effort, the sort of thing that makes the desperate British evacuation from Dunkirk in World War II look like a Sunday stroll in the park. And that’s only the technical side of the matter.
Then there’s the conviction that anything but a withdrawal that would make molasses in January look like the hare of Aesopian fable -- at least two years in Iraq, five to ten in Afghanistan -- would endanger the planet itself, or at least its most important country: us. Without our eternally steadying hand, the Iraqis and Afghans, it’s taken for granted, would be lost. Without the help of U.S. forces, for example, would the Maliki government ever have been able to announce the death of the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq? Not likely, whereas the U.S. has knocked off its leadership twice, first in 2006, and again, evidently, last week.
Of course, before our troops entered Baghdad in 2003 and the American occupation of that country began, there was no al-Qaeda in Iraq. But that’s a distant past not worth bringing up. And forget as well the fact that our invasions and wars have proven thunderously destructive, bringing chaos, misery, and death in their wake, and turning, for instance, the health care system of Iraq, once considered an advanced country in the Arab world, into a disaster zone(that -- it goes without saying -- only we Americans are now equipped to properly fix). Similarly, while regularly knocking off Afghan civilians at checkpoints on their roads and in their homes, at their celebrations and at work, we ignore the fact that our invasion and occupation opened the way for the transformation of Afghanistan into the first all-drug-crop agricultural nation and so the planet's premier narco-nation. It’s not just that the country now has an almost total monopoly on growing opium poppies (hence heroin), but according to the latest U.N. report, it’s now cornering the hashish market as well. That’s diversification for you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Guantanamo Deception

Wilkerson Discloses Hundreds of Innocents Jailed

By BILL QUIGLEY
Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, provided shocking new testimony from inside the Bush Administration that hundreds of the men jailed at Guantanamo were innocent, the top people in the Bush Administration knew full well they were innocent, and that information was kept from the public. 
Wilkerson said President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld “indefinitely detained the innocent for political reasons” and many in the administration knew it.  The wrongfully held prisoners were not released because of political maneuverings aimed in part to cover up the mistakes of the administration.
Colonel Wilkerson, who served in the U.S. Army for over thirty years, signed a sworn declaration for an Oregon federal court case stating that he found out in August 2002 that the US knew that many of the prisoners at Guantanamo were not enemy combatants.  Wilkerson also discussed this in a revealing and critical article on Guantanamo for the Washington Note.
How did Colonel Wilkerson first learn about the innocents in Guantanamo?  In August 2002, Wilkerson, who had been working closely with Colin Powell for years, was appointed Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State.  In that position, Wilkerson started attending daily classified briefings involving 50 or more senior State Department officials where Guantanamo was often discussed.
It soon became clear to him and other State Department personnel “that many of the prisoners detained at Guantanamo had been taken into custody without regard to whether they were truly enemy combatants, or in fact whether many of them were enemies at all.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Soldiers in "WikiLeaks" Unit Apologize for Violence + VIDEO



Editor's Note: The WikiLeaks "Collateral Murder" video shook an apathetic and misled public awake with images of civilian killing in the chaotic streets of Baghdad in July 2007. US forces wounded two small children and killed over a dozen people including members of the media. Two soldiers from the company involved in the shooting incident have written a letter of reconciliation and apology to the people affected by the incident, which is published below. -Matt Renner.
An Open Letter of Reconciliation and Responsibility to the Iraqi People: From Current and Former Members of the US Military
Peace be with you,
To all of those who were injured or lost loved ones during the July 2007 Baghdad shootings depicted in the "Collateral Murder" Wikileaks video:

Memo To America: Stop Murdering My People


Amid increasing civilian deaths and resurgent warlordism, Afghan women's leader Malalai Joya writes that Hamid Karzai and the U.S. are losing credibility in Afghanistan day by day.
Almost every day, the NATO occupation of our country continues to kill innocent people. Each time, it seems, military officials try to claim that only insurgents are killed, or they completely deny and cover up their crimes. The work of a few courageous journalists is the only thing that brings some of these atrocities to light.
For instance, it was only after the reporting of Jerome Starkey of the Times of London that officials admitted to the brutal Feb. 12 murder of two pregnant women, a teenage girl, and several young men in a night raid at a home where a family was celebrating the birth of a child.
We can no longer bear the killing of our pregnant mothers, the killing of our teenagers and young children, the killing of so many Afghan men and women. We can no longer bear these “accidents” and these “apologies” for the deaths of the innocent.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ninety-Four Percent of Kandaharis Want Peace Talks, Not War

Gareth Porter*

WASHINGTON, Apr 18 (IPS) - An opinion survey of Afghanistan's Kandahar province funded by the U.S. Army has revealed that 94 percent of respondents support negotiating with the Taliban over military confrontation with the insurgent group and 85 percent regard the Taliban as "our Afghan brothers".The survey, conducted by a private U.S. contractor last December, covered Kandahar City and other districts in the province into which Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal is planning to introduce more troops in the biggest operation of the entire war. Those districts include Arghandab, Zhari, rural Kandahar and Panjwayi.

Afghan interviewers conducted the survey only in areas which were not under Taliban control.

The decisive rejection of the use of foreign troops against the Taliban by the population in Kandahar casts further doubt on the fundamental premise of the Kandahar campaign, scheduled to begin in June, that the population and tribal elders in those districts would welcome a U.S.-NATO troop presence to expel the Taliban.

That assumption was dealt a serious blow at a meeting on Apr. 4 at which tribal elders from all over Kandahar told President Hamid Karzai they were not happy with the planned military operation.

An unclassified report on the opinion survey was published in March by Glevum Associates, a Washington-based "strategic communications" company under contract for the Human Terrain Systems programme in Afghanistan. A link to the report was first provided by the website Danger Room which reported the survey Apr. 16.

Ninety-one percent of the respondents supported the convening of a "Loya Jirga", or "grand assembly" of leaders as a way of ending the conflict, with 54 percent "strongly" supporting it, and 37 percent "somewhat" supporting it. That figure appears to reflect support for President Karzai's proposal for a "peace Jirga" in which the Taliban would be invited to participate.

Obama’s “Remainees” Will Not One But Two Guantanamos Define the American Future?



By Karen J. Greenberg
On his first day in office, President Barack Obama promised that he would close the Bush-era prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “as soon as practicable” and “no later than one year from the date of this order.” The announcement was met with relief, even joy, by those, like me, who had opposed the very existence of Guantanamo on the grounds that it represented a legal black hole where the distinction between guilt and innocence had been obliterated, respect for the rule of law was mocked, and the rights of prisoners were dismissed out of hand. We should have known better.
By now, it’s painfully obvious that the rejoicing, like the president’s can-do optimism, was wildly premature. To the dismay of many, that year milestone passed, barely noticed, months ago. As yet there is no sign that the notorious eight-year-old detention facility is close to a shut down. Worse yet, there is evidence that, when it finally is closed, it will be replaced by twoGuantanamos -- one in Illinois and the other in Afghanistan. With that, this president will have committed himself in a new way to the previous president’s “long war” and the illegal principles on which it floundered, especially the idea of “preventive detention.”