Archive for August, 2011

Libya: Another victim of Humanitarian Imperialism

August 30, 2011 Leave a comment
As someone who has written about the plight of black Africans in Libya since the beginning of the civil war it was disheartening to read this passage in an article by Independent journalist Kim Sengupta, titled “Rebels settle scores in Libya”,
The killings were pitiless.
They had taken place at a makeshift hospital, in a tent marked clearly with the symbols of the Islamic Crescent. Some of the dead were on stretchers, attached to intravenous drips. Some were on the back of an ambulance that had been shot at. A few were on the ground, seemingly attempting to crawl to safety when the bullets came.
Around 30 men lay decomposing in the heat. Many of them had their hands tied behind their back, either with plastic handcuffs or ropes. One had a scarf stuffed into his mouth. Almost all of the victims were black men. [emphasis added]
There was never any proof of the “mercenaries.” Amnesty International was in Libya looking into this from late February to late May. After three months of looking this is what they had to say,
We examined this issue in depth and found no evidence. The rebels spread these rumors everywhere, which had terrible consequences for African guest workers: there was a systematic hunt for migrants, some were lynched and many arrested. Since then, even the rebels have admitted there were no mercenaries, almost all have been released and have returned to their countries of origin, as the investigations into them revealed nothing.
That being said, Amnesty International needs to think outside the box a bit because there are foreign mercenaries operating in Libya . . . against the will of the population . . . and the whole world already knows the location of their headquarters. They are a composite of professional soldiers from different countries and belong to a single organization they call NATO and are located in Brussels, Belgium.
Face it. The rebels are a bunch of racists—ethnically cleansing blacks from their neighborhoods, and now in Tripoli. This is not the glorious revolution so many leftists pretend it to be. This is not liberation. Former regime officials, spooks and Islamic militants that go around butchering black people and rely on the military might of the world’s biggest terrorist organization (NATO) are not a liberating force.
For example, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the head of the Libyan rebels was once loyal to Colonel Gaddafi. He was the Minister of Justice and during his reign he twice upheld the death sentence for Bulgarian nurses charged with spreading HIV despite evidence of their innocence. And once he fled the government he then accused Gaddafi of masterminding the outbreak!!
Then there is Abdelhakim Belhaj, an Islamic jihadist who made a name for himself fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan and was imprisoned by Gaddafi and released in 2008 along with nearly two hundred Islamic fighters, who is now the head of the Tripoli Military Council.
It’s worth remembering that this rebel group would never have been able to do what they have done without the help of NATO. Or as Luis Rumbaut, a Cuban-American lawyer, recently put it:
At its peak, the 26 of July Movement had some 300 fighters, ill fed and poorly armed, bitten by mosquitoes and accompanied by the rain.  Against them, Gen. Fulgencio Batista mobilized an army, a navy, an air force, a coast guard, and the Rural Guard, aside from a network of spies and irregular bands of enforcers at his command.
How could the 26 of July Movement have achieved victory?  The majority of the people were against Batista and for the 26 of July.  There was also an active underground, and organized resistance among student, union, and political organizations.  Batista fell because he had no support.  Revolutions succeed when the system they replace can no longer survive.
Libya’s rebels are a different story.  A front patched together from groups of varying interests and ideologies, they were disorganized, undisciplined, and untrained for battle when they first attacked an army base and a police station.  By themselves, they could have perhaps achieved negotiations and reforms, but they could not have overthrown the government.
I would like to ask if the world has forgotten that in early July an estimated 1.7 million Libyans came out in support of Gaddafi and now we are to believe they cheer his removal . . . but I don’t think many people knew about it anyway. Down the memory hole.
This imperialist war masked as humanitarian intervention was sold as stopping the killing of civilians, and despite NATO not intervening one single time to save black Africans from the rebels it was clear within a couple of days when the NATO war started that this was about regime change—i.e. terrorism: the use of force to achieve political goals.
Another deeply disturbing fact about this war is that a peaceful solution was never even an option. Even before President Obama announced the war it was public knowledge that Secretary of State Clinton and French President Sarkozy was meeting with the rebels to discuss a plan of action. There were even rumors that Clinton told the Arab League (i.e. Saudi Arabia) that we would allow Saudi Arabia to send in forces to put down the popular rebellion in Bahrain if they would call for a no-fly zone for Libya at the UN. And considering how quickly we went from enforcing a no-fly zone to regime change it should be pretty clear that our intentions all along was war, so it’s no wonder Obama has snubbed the African Union’s peace plan and even went so far as to send diplomats around the continent in an effort to undermine their initiative.
It is also an interesting observation that just as the only charges levied against Saddam Hussein came from a particular period where he received the blessings of Uncle Sam, so too will you notice that the only charges levied against Gaddafi come from post-rebellion. Prior to February 2011 the US was courting him, as Wikileaks is showing—and even beyond that you can learn how in the Fall of 2009 Libyan officials were meeting with AFRICOM—but any crimes from those days never existed in the Orwellian sense.
Therein lies the rub, one can’t bring up many of these things without being called an apologist for Gaddafi. However, one is no more an apologist for Gaddafi for opposing the NATO war and speaking out against the crimes and composition of the rebels than one was an apologist for Saddam Hussein for opposing the Iraq War and criticizing the Badr Brigade, Peshmerga or Ahmed Chalabi, and certainly one is no more an apologist for the Taliban for opposing the Afghanistan War and criticizing the Northern Alliance.
Humanitarian imperialism is nothing new, and that victims or aggressors can be highjacked and/or exploited by some to justify their heinous crime is not unusual in human affairs. Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany had their useful arguments to justify their aggression, and one wasn’t an apologist for the crimes of the British in India and Africa, or the crimes of the Americans in Latin America or the genocide at home of the native population or the slavery of Africans, if they spoke out against Japan and Germany.
International peace and justice is still threatened by the same evil that lurked in the 1930s, and any anti-war activist worth their salt opposes these wars of aggression. The victims don’t have to be saints or adherents of our political ideologies to warrant us taking a firm stand against aggression.
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Marx vs Lenin: Worker’s emancipation from below or above?

August 16, 2011 Leave a comment
Not to reopen old wounds and rub salt and vinegar in them but I happen to read this particular comment of Karl Marx’s and thought it read like a prediction of Lenin and calling for his dissolution:

We cannot, therefore, go along with people who openly claim that the workers are too ignorant to emancipate themselves but must first be emancipated from the top down, by the philanthropic big and petty bourgeois. Should the new party organ take a position that corresponds with the ideas of those gentlemen, become bourgeois and not proletarian, then there is nothing left for us, sorry as we should be to do so, than to speak out against it publicly and dissolve the solidarity within . . .

Now, just before that quote Karl—this is in 1879, a few years before he dies (so this isn’t young Marx, but old Marx)—reiterated what he “expressly formulated” “at the founding of the International”:

The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself.

Now, you might be like me and wonder how the working class can emancipate itself if the process of emancipation is channeled not through a social movement that is autonomous and self-managed, but through a political party, which is hierarchical and limited to partisan and electoral politics. Tom Wetzel, a fellow anarchist, recently put the problem this way:

In regard to electoral politics, I think we already know enough to know that it creates the wrong dynamics, tends to focus on leaders, tends to bureaucratize movements, discourages direct collective action. Look at the way the union bureaucrats in Wisconsin were able to push advacing actions such as strikes off the table by pushing people into electoral politics, via the recall. [authors note: which failed, btw]

But it is only thru participation and collective action that the working class can develop its own social power. And only through developing mass organizations that the oppressed & exploited control directly. And thru this development of direct working class social power, people can overcome fatalism and develop relevant skills and so on.

Tom’s point was the political or party process robs the working class of developing its “social power.” So why Marx continued to push the party line despite it being an obstacle to the working class emancipating itself is a good question. But one that is not the point of this post. Instead here are some gems from Lenin; comments that in the context of Marx’s quote above makes you wonder if he would have railed against Lenin and called for the dissolution of the Communist Party . . .

Now in 1917 Lenin tells Trotsky that, “The land of the workmen and the poorest peasants is […] a hundred times more Left than we,” which helps explain comments like, “We are the stable centre, we are stronger in ideas, and we must exercise the guidance from here,” or “Class political consciousness can be brought to workers only from without,” or “The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade-union consciousness.”

Clearly, according to Lenin, the working class is “too ignorant to emancipate themselves but must first be emancipated from the top down, by the philanthropic big and petty bourgeois.”

“Wait,” you say. “Lenin did not favor emancipation from the top down.”


The organizational principle of revolutionary Social-Democracy . . . strives to proceed from the top downward.

And of course, when you read Lenin and how he talks about the working class it’s crystal clear that he sees himself separate from, and above and beyond, the working class. They are 100x to the left of him. They can only develop trade-union consciousness. Political class consciousness can only be brought to them by the stable center that is Lenin and his Party. Also, Lenin responded to those workers, who wanted to make a “fetish” of democracy by directly planning the economy or choosing their own bosses, by saying:

It destroyed the need for the Party. If the trade unions, nine-tenths of whose members are non-Party workers, appoint the managers of industry, what is the use of the Party?

Thus, Lenin lets the cat out of the bag: the “use of the Party” is not to emanicpate the workers and let them control their own lives, but to be a tool of power over the workers. If “the Party” isn’t calling the shots then what’s the point? My thoughts exactly, Vladimir. If the working class controls and manages its own affairs then there is simply no need for a political party. Goodbye.

Therefore, I agree with Marx that only the working class can emancipate itself but must part with him on the need for a political party to lead that emancipation. We don’t need a revolutionary vanguard or political party. We just need ourselves in the streets bringing down concentrated centers of power and putting direct and participatory democracy in its place. We need movements that are autonomous and independent, self-organized and self-managed, from below until there is no above. Should the movement take a position that corresponds with the ideas of those gentlemen, become bourgeois and not proletarian, then there is nothing left for us, sorry as we should be to do so, than to speak out against it publicly and dissolve the solidarity within . . .

PS: Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos put it best when he said to the ETA that, “I shit on all the revolutionary vanguard of this planet.”
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Turning Tides: Has the US been defeated in Libya?

August 9, 2011 Leave a comment
The US/NATO War on Libya undermined international law from the get go and that has always been an important reason to oppose the war. As fragile and almost non-existent (at least in its consistent and fair application) as international law is, we should be trying to strengthen it, not undermine it. This is one of the reasons why I found some of the support for the war on the Left so troubling. That, and the glorification of the “rebels.”
But once the war started I was confident that the US/NATO would “win.” Militarily the US/NATO never loses, that is until they attacked Libya. I must admit that I never thought that Gaddafi would last this long. Nearly six months ago when President Obama began bombing and called for Gaddafi to step down or be removed from power I pretty much assumed his days were numbered, and were very short. Libya, barely more than 6 million people or a third of the size of Iraq (though not suffering the same genocidal sanctions), could never successfully resist a US bombing campaign and regime change.
Well, that looks like what has happened. And with Obama scurrying diplomats around Africa in order to kill the African Union’s peace plan—which calls for a ceasefire and free democratic elections—and reassert that the bombing will not stop until Gaddafi steps down, it is not surprising to see that the US sees peace as a threat. Of course, when the “bad guys” use violence for political motives we call it “terrorism” but when the Empire does it we call it “humanitarian intervention,” or a more benign term like “regime change.”
After the US/NATO began bombing the country not only is Gaddafi still in power, but the rebel government is collapsing under its own corrupt weight (notice how in this linked article the US recently killed dozens of civilians in an effort to enhance the rebel position in the civil war, thus highlighting further the criminality and hypocrisy of this war being waged under the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine—which is just an imperial doctrine designed to allow the US and its allies to attack in violation of international law, and which the vast majority of the world rejects on similar grounds). Did some of the former regime officials who defected get caught with the same surprise? Did they think it was time to join the winning team only to find out they were on the winning team and now suspect as “traitors” to Mustafa abdul-Jalil (himself a former “justice” minister under Gaddafi)?
What started as an armed uprising quickly turned into a coup (or was it always one?) with former regime officials defecting to the “rebels” and starting their own transition government (it now looks like there will be no transition). There are questions to just how much in advance this event was planned. For example, I still don’t know how the rebels were able to get so many Kingdom of Libya flags produced and distributed in such a quick amount of time. And while I admit that is completely a conspiratorial inquiry, it’s my personal impression that this was a planned operation. With US special forces in dozens of countries and a history of CIA operations I would not be the least bit surprised—in fact I find it very likely—that the CIA had connections with the “rebels” beforehand and were behind this. Remember when British and American soldiers were found to be in Libya in the earliest days?
Also, it’s sad to say that black Africans in Libya are still suffering abuse from the rebels. They are still fleeing in massive amounts. When the victims are “worthy” of our attention we call such things ethnic cleansing (but more on that later). Italy has called for an investigation into why NATO didn’t respond to distress signals from a ship of hundreds of black refugees, where many died and were thrown overboard. Just last week another boat of black refugees was found in similar condition, leaving more than two dozen dead.
What was touted as a “humanitarian intervention” has exposed how politicized and hollow the intervention is simply by looking at the plight of the black underclass, which has been targeted by the rebels since day one and are fleeing in terror. If there is any group who needs humanitarian intervention in Libya, it is black Africans and they primarily need to be protected from the rebels.
Some still claim blacks were targeted because Gaddafi used “black mercenaries” from countries like Chad to put down the rebellion, but a number of problems remain.
First, judging from images from the press it is clear that the vast majority of Gaddafi’s forces are Arab, not black.
Second, last month there was a massive demonstration in support of Gaddafi where an estimated 1.7 million turned out. How accurate that figure is, is irrelevant to the simple fact that judging from images and videos of the demonstration there was a tremendous public presence and green flags and banners waved throughout the sea of people. With no similar show of support for the rebels, though with some pro-Gaddafi marches in Benghazi being put down by rebels, clearly Gaddafi retains considerable public support.
This is what I underestimated when I previously wrote that Gaddafi would be overthrown, and this goes a long way to explain how NATO has likely been defeated. I have no special fondness for Gaddafi, or leaders in general, but I cannot deny he has a popular support base.
It should also be pointed out that one of the claims recently repeated by the Wall Street Journal claims blacks were targeted because,
Many Misratans are convinced that Tawerghans [mostly black Libyans who have long been in racial conflict with the Arabs of Misrata] were responsible for some of the worst atrocities committed during their city’s siege, including allegedly raping women in front of their relatives and helping Gadhafi forces identify and kidnap rebel sympathizers and their families.
The WSJ went on to say,
The hatred of Tawergha stems from witnesses who say loyalist soldiers were accompanied by hundreds of volunteer fighters from Tawergha when they ransacked and burned dozens of properties in an assault against Misrata and surrounding areas on March 16 to 18.
Curiously, reports of blacks being targeted by rebels preceded mid-March. Accounts of massacres and grisly videos of murdered blacks were showing up weeks before. And don’t forget that human rights organizations, like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, were saying they could find no evidence of it. Amnesty International:
We examined this issue in depth and found no evidence. The rebels spread these rumors everywhere, which had terrible consequences for African guest workers: there was a systematic hunt for migrants, some were lynched and many arrested. Since then, even the rebels have admitted there were no mercenaries, almost all have been released and have returned to their countries of origin, as the investigations into them revealed nothing.
Also, HRW has recently reported on rebel abuses and said that,
How the rebels behave in towns that have supported Gaddafi gives an indication of what they may do if they gain control in other areas, especially if they approach Tripoli.
I ran across this piece while trying to keep up with what was going on in Libya in regards to black Africans, as well as this lengthy but highly informative article by Maximilian Forte at MRZine.
Interestingly enough, there is another propaganda dynamic to this war: the term “genocide” has been used dozens of times at the New York Times to justify the NATO bombing, in that unless the organization intervened then Gaddafi would commit genocide against rebels and their sympathizers. Yet, the targeting of blacks specifically by the rebels in Misrata and other places has been a clear case of ethnic cleansing, though there is not one mention of it at the NYT. The imperial hubris of the media and the abuse of terms like genocide and ethnic cleansing has gotten so out of hand it’s amazing the NYT hasn’t yet accused the Taliban of ethnically cleansing American forces from Afghanistan.
I bring this up because like much of the conflict, the coverage has been one-sided and heavily politicized to suit the agenda of dominant political powers. No surprise here. The US and other Western powers have even gotten the ICC to press charges against Gaddafi for crimes that pale in comparison to that of the powerful and their allies. Again, that is not surprising. In Bahrain the government has brutally put down an authentically democratic movement and the US and the West have done nothing to criticize or punish the government. There have not been and will not be any ICC charges against Bahrain’s dictatorship. But the charges against Gaddafi won’t matter unless NATO can topple Gaddafi and bring him to “justice,” which now—and surprisingly—doesn’t look like it will happen.
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Up Shit Creek without a paddle

August 3, 2011 2 comments
Budget, budget, budget. Debt, debt, debt. Deficit, deficit, deficit. Entitlements, entitlements, entitlements.
The narrow repetitions of buzz words is the primary reason I avoid TV news. Once you understand the Propaganda Model all you can think about is how what is being presented is filtered and shaped to fit a corporate-state/fascist agenda.

Another thing you can’t help but think about is the miracle that Americans hold the progressive views that they do. The Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin said humans had an “instinct for freedom,” and he must be right because when you consider the sheer size and magnitude of the Propaganda System and how effective it has become over the decades of experimentation and perfection it is a marvel that 60% feel the rich should be taxed and there should be no cuts of “entitlements.”

How is it that so many of us are able to have sensible views on matters that are not presented clearly and informatively in the mainstream press, even when considering that opinion polls show most Americans get their news from the mainstream press?
In terms of specificity I think most people probably don’t fully understand that taxes for corporations and the richest Americans have been cut considerably over the last 40 years, or that the real problem of Medicare and Medicaid is that the programs are tied to a private companies who overcharge so as to make profits, or that Social Security is taking in more revenue than it is giving out and will continue to do so until 2036—assuming no changes are made, like ending the cap on earned income which is currently under $108,000 (so if you make $216,000 only half of your income is taxed for the program) or taxing all income (e.g. investment), and so on and so forth.

But in general terms we know there is a class war going on. There is us, the working class—those who struggle to make ends meet and don’t live luxurious lifestyles; and there is them, the ruling classes (i.e. capitalists and coordinators)—those who own the economy or by their positions in the economy are privileged with way more wealth and power you and I get.

We also know this is the way things are. We know the problems are systemic. We’re not dumb. We may feel cynical and jaded and think they can’t be changed. But we know that the problems we face are products of the way things are—how the social system is structured.
But it can be changed and it has to be changed. We can’t vote it in. Change is not a candidate. It may be a PR stunt, but the only candidates up for election in this marketized electoral system are those who are competing to represent Wall Street. We shouldn’t expect politicians to take our side unless we give them a reason to. If we don’t already know we should know that our electoral system is heavily influenced by markets. Politicians spend most of their time trying to get investments for their campaigns. An American philosopher, John Dewey, once said that politics is the shadow cast on society by big business. That’s right. In economic terms there are comparative advantages. The comparative advantage of the ruling classes is that they have the disposable income to bankroll the campaigns of politicians. The comparative advantage of the working class is that despite not having the disposable income to compete with the rich bastards, we have bodies. They have power in money; we have power in numbers.
Before we can carry out acts of civil disobedience or general strikes or takeovers of workplaces or offices of elected officials, we have to organize. We have got to reach out to our communities—our neighbors, families, friends and coworkers. We have to talk to one another, and listen. We have got to share our grievances, our hopes, our aspirations. We have to understand what is wrong and what we can do to fix it—in the short term and long term.

Then we will have their attention. When they see our social power in action; when they see we are organized, then we will see something done on Capitol Hill. In the short term we will get the rich to pay their fair share of taxes, we will end the wars, we will reign in the banks, we will stop the foreclosures, we will get our jobs, we will get our carbon-free energy economy, we will have our Medicare for All, and more. But we will also know that new social institutions will be needed to serve the values we know Capitalism and Representative Democracy have not and cannot provide. Markets are not complimentary to democracy and self-management anymore than the hierarchical approach of modern government is. If we want People Power it cannot be delivered through institutions dominated by anything but the people themselves.

This is our struggle. If we fail to see it through or if we wait too much longer we might find ourselves up Shit Creek without a paddle—hell, we maybe already are.
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Terror in Texas: A look at how local media responds

August 1, 2011 Leave a comment
Here in Texas there was one terrorist attack (very likely by one or some of the rightwing Christians who were protesting the clinic earlier that day) on a Planned Parenthood office in Mckinney, and a thwarted attack of an AWOL soldier at Ford Hood. I look at a local news station (WFAA) to see how the two incidences were treated.
FacebookIn McKinney, Texas—about an hour and a half drive from my home in south Arlington—is a Planned Parenthood clinic that does not provide abortions, but rather contraceptives and advice. Nevertheless anti-abortion groups pretending to be pro-life* have been protesting the office for awhile now. Just before midnight on Tuesday, July 26th someone threw a Molotov cocktail at the office. Luckily the fire was quickly put out and the damage was slight.
At the Fort Hood Army base near Killeen, Texas “an AWOL Muslim soldier who had been granted conscientious objector status earlier this year was arrested.” The attack was prevented thanks to a tip by gun shop clerk. Apparently Naser Abdo, the suspect, had explosives with him when he was arrested.
Two incidences. One carried out, and one thwarted. One presumably by rightwing Christians, and one by a Muslim. In today’s political climate (i.e. the rightwing tilt of the media, prevalence of Christianity and Islamophobia) patterns emerge where it is possible to see how the media treats “worthy” and “unworthy” news items. If we use the Propaganda Model as created by Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky we should expect to see how ownership, advertising, source, flak and ideology shape the two news items.
When I set out to do this experiment I had a hypothesis: the planned attack in Fort Hood by a Muslim soldier who went AWOL would receive more attention than the attack carried out in McKinney, Texas against a Planned Parenthood clinic. I also predicted that the incident in McKinney would not be called a “terrorist attack” whereas the incident in Fort Hood would be labeled as such. The reason is that in our racist, predominantly Christian society rightwing Christian terrorists are treated differently than Muslims who are enduring a climate of Islamophobia and wars of aggression targeting Muslim countries—these imperial wars are viewed by Muslims as being a War on Islam.
I chose local news station WFAA, an ABC-affiliated station because it is not FOX. Here is what I found:
As of today, and in regards to the incident in McKinney there was one news item that totaled 183 words; it was not referred to as a terrorist attack, though it was a violent attack for religious purposes clearly intended to terrorize Planned Parenthood into closing their clinic.
The incident at Ford Hood has received, so far, nine news items totaling 6,506 words with the phrase “terror” used 19 times.
For every word the incident in McKinney received, the incident at Fort Hood received thirty-five words. And even though the attack in McKinney was carried out, and there was damage, the attacker was not called a “terrorist,” but rather an “arsonist.” Compared to the planned incident at Fort Hood, the suspect was not limited to being simply called a “bomber.” No, the use of the phrase “terror” was used repeatedley to describe the incident and the suspect.
I also looked at the two main newspapers, the Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News. Neither paper ran anything on the incident in McKinney but both ran numerous articles online with the Dallas Morning News including one in its opinion section and the Star-Telegram putting it on the front page of last Friday’s paper.

Just like with the terrorist attack in Norway, rightwing Christians get preferential treatment for their terrorism; as opposed to Muslims or other groups who are more “worthy” of being demonized by a mainstream media that are components of the dominant political and economic systems of power. Terrorism should mean something and its application should be consistent and not politicized. But the reality is it is highly politicized and is reserved for those who are not close to power.

* I take this jab because it has been my observation that anti-abortionists are not anti-war, anti-death penalty or opposed to certain political and economic policies that create suffering and death, but rather that the issue is something used to push through rightwing agendas that are often anti-life
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