Sunday, May 22, 2005

Army Officers Plot Their Own Exit Strategy

Here's the latest evidence that an all-volunteer military is incapable of fighting a long deadly counter-insurgency war: "Last year, Army lieutenants and captains left the service at an annual rate of 8.7% -- the highest since 2001" (emphasis added, Mark Mazzetti, "Officers Plot Exit Strategy," Los Angeles Times 22 May 2005).

Washington "Painted Itself into a Corner" over Iran?

Arnaud de Borchgrave claims that Washington "has gradually painted itself into a corner in its diplomatic campaign to get Iran to cough up its nuclear ambitions" ("TKO by Axis of Evil," World Peace Herald 20 May 2005). Is it true?

If Washington is smart, it can pursue a two-track campaign with regard to Iran (indeed, it may be doing so already): (A) public pressures against Iran on nuclear weapons, including threats to use military force (such as bombings and special forces) and support for pro-Washington Iranians (there must be some) in Iran (ostensibly universal "democracy support," semi-open funding for political forces to its liking, and covert actions to win over key elements of the Iranian military and police); and (B) behind-the-scene negotiations with Teheran to get it to use its influence on Ayatollah Ali Sistani and other Shiite leaders for Washington's benefits. The idea is to use public pressures to motivate Teheran to help Washington in Iraq. Such a two-track campaign won't necessarily succeed, as Teheran has its own interests that aren't the same as Washington's and Iranian assistance probably won't make much difference in the outcome of the US occupation of Iraq, but a two-track campaign is in keeping with Washington's modus operandi, as Contras-supporter de Borchgrave should know. Nevertheless, the Bush administration may be indeed far clumsier than the Reagan administration, as de Borchgrave suggests.

It would be in Washington's medium-term interest to make a little firmer alliance with Beijing, Moscow, Teheran, and New Delhi, so that it can go more aggressive toward Maoists in Nepal, Islamists in Pakistan, and Bolivarians in Venezuela if necessary as well as make its job easier in Iraq, but it doesn't seem to want to do so, as it wants to simultaneously appeal to domestic interest groups (enthusiasts for "regime changes" in the region that encompasses the Balkans, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia, weapons manufacturers, protectionists, and so on) on issues ranging from Chechnya, F-16 fighter jets, to the Yuan. As a result, Washington's foreign policy is often incoherent and unfocused.

Then again, it is also true that a seemingly contradictory policy can be very profitable. For instance, selling a couple of dozens of F-16s to Pakistan can encourage India to buy hundreds of them:
On the same day last month that the United States announced that it would sell F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, President Bush personally called the prime minister of India, Pakistan's archrival, with advice intended to soften the blow. The United States, Mr. Bush confided, had decided to allow fighter jet sales to India as well.

Newspapers around the world put the Pakistani deal in headlines. But it was the 15-minute phone call that was heard loud and clear by American military contractors.

The jet sales to Pakistan have high symbolic value, but little in the way of business promise. Two dozen new F-16's will be made available to Pakistan as a reward for that country's aid in the war on terror and will strengthen a fleet of about 40 F-16's acquired before Congress halted sales in 1990 to protest Pakistan's nuclear ambitions.

But the decision to open up the Indian market means that contractors now have the chance to sell up to 126 fighter jets -- with price tags starting at $35 million each -- to a country with an aging military fleet of 800 jets, none of them made in America.

"The real prize is India," said Richard Aboulafia, a military analyst at the Teal Group, an aerospace consulting firm in Fairfax, Va. (Leslie Wayne, "Connecting to India Through Pakistan," New York Times, 16 Apr. 2005, p. C1)

Friday, May 20, 2005

Heroes of Socialist Labor

The work ethic is the most wrathful God in America, and unemployed American workers are condemned to a hell of poverty and insecurity. Unemployment imposes losses of wages and health benefits, diminished future incomes from pensions, Social Security, and individual retirement funds, holes in resumes (which are likely to lower future wages in the event of reemployment), and many other hardships on individual workers. That is unfair. The unemployed who give up looking for jobs and withdraw from the labor force do great service to the employed, by keeping their fellow workers' wages higher than otherwise. Therefore, the unemployed's noble act of solidarity ought to be reciprocated by the employed's.

The mettle of any labor movement is tested by its willingness to fight to make unemployment a pleasurable state of being, through struggles for universal health care, high severance pays, high unemployment benefits for long periods (at least three years, considering business cycles), easy qualification for generous disability benefits, and so on.

The goal of workers under capitalism should be to stay out of the labor market as much as possible: no child labor (no wage labor allowed until children turn 18 -- the only exception being child actors), free public education (from elementary to graduate school), short workdays and weeks, long vacations (three months a year at a minimum), long paid parental leaves (three years at a minimum, with children packed off to free public day care and kindergartens thereafter), unlimited sick leaves, fat pensions, and early retirement (at 50 at the latest).

There ought to be a law that sets the maximum lifetime work hours, as well as the maximum work hours per day, per week, and per year. Those who willfully work -- or make others work -- more than the law allows will be made to stand in a downtown square, wearing a dunce's cap with a scarlet letter S on it, which signifies SCAB. The punishment will be waived upon a televised oath to take more vacations -- or allow workers to take more vacations -- than the law demands.

The idlest worker is awarded a Hero of Socialist Labor medal, designed by the Sandwichman -- "The famous Croix de Flâneur!"

To reorient the US labor movement in such a direction, there must be a sea change in its culture. As productivity goes up, there is a struggle to wage, in order to capture as much productivity gains as possible for the working class. Even organized labor in America understands this. What to do with captured productivity gains, though?

Now, there is a choice to make. "Starting from the same level of productivity and per-capita income as the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, Europe fell behind steadily to a level of barely half in 1950, and then began a rapid catch-up. While Europe’s level of productivity has almost converged, its income per person has leveled off at about three-quarters of America's. How could Europe be so productive yet so poor [sic]? The simple answer is that hours per person in Europe have fallen drastically in the past 40 years, reflecting long vacations, high unemployment, and low labor force participation" (Robert J. Gordon, "Two Centuries of Economic Growth: Europe Chasing the American Frontier," 30 Mar. 2004). High unemployment, low labor force participation, and low per-capita income, however, are not a sign of relative European poverty. It is an index of the European labor movement's strength, successfully keeping more workers out of the labor market, allowing many of the unemployed in Europe to live better than many of the employed in the USA, and having the public sector provide many goods and services (such as health care and higher education) for which Americans must pay fortunes out of their own pockets.

Becoming more like European workers -- working less, consuming more in public, consuming less in private -- is the recipe for labor renaissance in America. Some may argue that the European model is not compatible with free movement of labor across borders. But immigrant workers tend to come with immigrant capitalists and petty producers who create jobs by employing them, so immigration shouldn't be a problem after all, especially if native-born workers keep their birth rate far below the replacement level, as many of them do already, fewer births being more conducive to women's well-being, gender equality, and more leisure for both sexes in any case.

How can we become like European workers? Let's begin by acting in solidarity with unsung working-class heroes -- the unemployed who know they are worth more than what the labor market offers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Welfare Poets, "Sak Pasé"

Listen to The Welfare Poets' first single "Sak Pasé" (the title means "what's up" in Creole), "a cry for liberty" for Haiti, whose slave revolution hastened the abolition of chattel slavery in the Western Hemisphere and made a crucial contribution to Latin America's struggle for independence and yet whose people are once again deprived of freedom by a neocolonial coup and occupation.
The Welfare Poets

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Kung Fu Hustle

Kung Fu Hustle (Dir. Stephen Chow, 2004) is an exuberant joyride that you wouldn't want to miss.

Unlike the forays of auteurs Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Zhang Yimou (Hero and The House of Flying Daggers) into the martial arts genre, which centered on the aristocratic warrior class, Kung Fu Hustle celebrates denizens of a slum, Pig Sty Alley, who defend themselves and their neighborhood from the Axe Gang, who, clad in shiny suits and top hats, rule the casino capitalism of Shanghai.

Kung Fu Hustle, moreover, is perhaps the only action movie that portrays a stereotypically swishy queen -- played by Chiu Chi Ling -- as a proletarian hero, a humble tailor who surprisingly turns out to be a kung fu master and, together with a coolie and a baker, puts up a good fight against the evil gangster capitalists.
Chiu Chi Ling
Chiu Chi Ling plays a tailor who finds himself under siege in "Kung Fu Hustle," Stephen Chow's comedic take on the martial arts genre (Tang Chak Sun/Sony Pictures Classics).
While the Chiu Chi Ling character is unusual in an action film (characters who depart from the mythical norm of heterosexuality, if they make an appearance in an action film at all, are usually associated with the sinister rich), he is in the spirit of the best of kung fu comedy, which Kung Fu Hustle embodies.

Kung fu comedy, like sports, offers a populist dream of true meritocracy. Regardless of your class, gender, or sexuality, it is merit and merit alone -- mastery of kung fu -- that makes you a master fighter. Isn't meritocracy a capitalist dream, rather than a populist one, though? Yes and no. The myth of free enterprise would indeed have us believe that the world we live in is a level playing field, where a person rises according to her talent and hard work. But we all know that ain't so. The rule of capitalism is to pay to play. Social mobility under capitalism is strictly limited.
  • [David J.] Zimmerman found that long-term average income status was mostly determined by parental earnings. Of children born into the bottom quartile, 40 per cent stayed there; 29 per cent moved up just one level. At the top, the picture was similar. Among children born into the highest quartile, 41 per cent remained in that segment; 17 per cent moved down just one level. Because these numbers measured earnings alone, rather than inherited wealth, they probably understate the stability of socio-economic class. (Victoria Griffith, "The Myth of Upward Mobility," Financial Times, 24 Mar. 2001)

  • New studies ["Earnings Mobility in the US: A New Look at Intergenerational Inequality," December 2001] by Bhashkar Mazumder of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago suggest that the similarity in income [between fathers' and sons' earnings] is even greater [than Gary Solon's and David J. Zimmerman's studies showed]. Using Social Security records, he averaged fathers' earnings over 16 years (1970 through 1985) and sons' earnings over four years (1995 through 1998), and found that around 65 percent of the earnings advantage of fathers was transmitted to sons. The wider window provides a better reflection of lifetime earnings.

    The relationship between fathers' and daughters' earnings was just as strong.

    So that grandson (or granddaughter) mentioned previously could expect to earn 42 percent more than average. After five generations, the earnings advantage would still be 12 percent.

    Furthermore, the degree of persistence across generations is strong for both rich and poor. Thomas Hertz of American University finds that a child born in the bottom 10 percent of families ranked by income has a 31 percent chance of ending up there as an adult and a 51 percent chance of ending up in the bottom 20 percent, while one born in the top 10 percent has a 30 percent chance of staying there and a 43 percent chance of being in the top 20 percent.

    In another study ["Choosing the Right Parents: Changes in the Intergenerational Transmission of Inequality -- Between 1980 and the Early 1990s," June 2002], David I. Levine of Berkeley and Dr. Mazumder found that the impact of parental income on adult sons' income increased from 1980 to the early 1990's. (Alan B. Krueger, "The Apple Falls Close to the Tree, Even in the Land of Opportunity," New York Times, 14 Nov. 2002)
In the real world, hidden talents of poor men and women in slums will go undiscovered and undeveloped, wasted by the drudgery of wage labor or worse, unlike the natural gift of lumpen Sing, Kung Fu Hustle's protagonist, who gets liberated from his perpetual loserdom by death blows of the Axe Gang's hired assassin. Hence the enduring popularity of kung fu comedy, which offers a utopian vision of merit, in service of common people, vanquishing the power of money.

Whether or not a utopia of meritocracy is worth dreaming is a good question, but, for that, we would have to wait for a film that would make all denizens of Pig Sty Alley, not just proletarian kung fu masters, its collective protagonist.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Make Capitalism Gay

Simon Jenkins opined before the British general election: "How to vote in next week’s general election is easy. If you want a Labour government, vote Liberal Democrat. If you want a Conservative government, vote Labour. If you want a Liberal Democrat government, vote Tory. Recite that every morning for a week" (Simon Jenkins, "For Red, Vote Yellow. For Blue, Vote Red. For Yellow, Vote Blue. Got It?" The Times, 27 Apr. 2005). According to the Jenkins formula, the British electorate ended up with a Conservative government: "Labor had won 355 seats -- down from 412 in 2001 -- while the Conservative tally increased by 31 to 197" (Alan Cowell, "A Wounded Blair, Rivals Strengthened, Begins Third Term; Tory Leader to Step Down," New York Times, 7 May 2005). Labour won only 36.1% of the total vote (out of the turnout of 61%, which makes the Labour vote less than a quarter of the eligible electorate), "one of the lowest proportions ever recorded by a winning party," but the Liberal Democrats (22.6%, up 4 percentage points since 2001) failed to even overtake the Conservatives (33.2%, up 1.5 percentage points since 2001) (Cowell, 7 May 2005).

The impact of the Iraq War on electoral politics in "the coalition of the willing" has been mixed. So far, the only ruling pro-war parties that suffered a decisive loss are the Popular Party in Spain and Forza Italia in Italy. The others (some of which are on the right and others "center-left" for lack of a better term) have either made electoral gains or managed to hang on to power:
  • Japan: Junichiro Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party won "only 49 of the 121 seats up for reelection in the 242-seat upper house," a major decline since April 2001 when it won "64 of the 121 seats," but "[t]he LDP’s coalition partner New Komeito increased its seats by one, from 10 to 11, and the ruling coalition retains a comfortable 139-seat majority in the upper house," though Minshuto [the Democratic Party of Japan] "increased its 38 seats by 12 to 50 and now holds 82 seats in the upper house," the major losers being the Japanese Communist Party [JCP], which won "only 4 of the 15 seats it had up for re-election," and the Social Democratic Party [SDP], which is down to "just 2 seats" (Joe Lopez, " Ruling Coalition Suffers Backlash in Japan’s Upper House Election,", 28 Jul. 2004).

  • Australia: "Howard won his fourth consecutive election as Liberal leader, increasing the coalition’s primary vote by more than 3 percent, to 46.6 percent, largely as a result of the disintegration of the right-wing populist One Nation party, while the Labor Party primary vote remained at just over 38 percent—the second lowest result since 1931. After the distribution of preferences the result was a victory for the Howard government by 52.6 percent to 47.4 percent—representing a swing of just under 2 percent to the coalition" (Nick Beams, "Australia: Howard Government Returned, Courtesy of Labor,", 11 Oct. 4).

  • South Korea: The Uri Party trebled its seats from 49 to 152 in April 2004 (Peter Symonds, "South Korean Voters Reject Right-wing Establishment Parties," 17 Apr. 2004) but went down to 146 on April 30 this year ("Park Basks in Election Win," The Korea Herald, 5 May 2005).
Besides, the Iraq War didn't differentiate the major electoral parties in all of the nations in "the coalition of the willing." In the United States, both George W. Bush and John Kerry pledged to "stay the course," while, in Ukraine, both the major candidates (one backed by Washington, the other by Moscow) advocated withdrawal from the Iraq War.

What can we say about the results? The electoral parties on the left (as well as labor movements) in the Anglo and Asian countries are clearly feebler than their counterparts in the Latin nations in "the coalition of the willing." Moreover, historically speaking, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and South Korea (two of which joined the US in the Vietnam War) have been more closely integrated into the US empire than Italy, Spain, and France (where even the ruling party on the right has refused to participate in the Iraq War), though, in the case of South Korea today, it may be more accurate to say that the Uri Party has paid for peace in the Korean peninsula by SK troops in Iraq. Lastly, the anti-war oppositions that did beat the ruling pro-war parties (in Spain and Italy) incorporated a boldly progressive gay political agenda, unlike the oppositions that continued to lose (in the US, the UK, Australia, Japan, and South Korea). Gay men, lesbians, and transgender/transsexual individuals are the only segment of population whose most basic civil rights, which can be won under capitalism, have yet to become social and legal norms, so the GLBT rights movement still has a significant momentum. If electoral parties on the left have to (like the Socialist Party in Spain) push or (like the Refondazione in Italy) live with neoliberal capitalism, the least they ought to do is to make capitalism gay. Parties that fail to do even that surely deserve to lose.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

"Pleasure Marriage" in Iraq under the Occupation

Shiite Islam appears to tacitly recognize that marriage and prostitution exist on a continuum, giving religious sanction to an intermediate category of "pleasure marriage" (also called "temporary marriage" and "fixed-term marriage").
Al-Zaidi hopes to soon finalize his third muta'a, or "pleasure marriage," with a green-eyed neighbor. This time, he talks about it openly and with obvious relish. Even so, he says, he probably still won't tell his wife.

The 1,400-year-old practice of muta'a -- "ecstasy" in Arabic -- is as old as Islam itself. It was permitted by the prophet Mohammed as a way to ensure a respectable means of income for widowed women.

Pleasure marriages were outlawed under Saddam Hussein but have begun to flourish again. The contracts, lasting anywhere from one hour to 10 years, generally stipulate that the man will pay the woman in exchange for sexual intimacy. Now some Iraqi clerics and women's rights activists are complaining that the contracts have become less a mechanism for taking care of widows than an outlet for male sexual desires.

The renaissance of the pleasure marriage coincides with a revival of other Shiite traditions long suppressed by the former regime. Interest in Shiite customs has accelerated since Shiite parties swept Jan. 30 elections to become the biggest bloc in the new National Assembly.

"Under Saddam, we were very scared," says Al-Zaidi, 39, a lawyer from Sadr City, a sprawling Shiite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. "They would punish people. Now, all my friends are doing it."

A turbaned Shiite cleric who issues wedding permits from a street-side counter in Sadr City says he encourages permanent marriages but gives the OK for pleasure marriages when there are "special reasons." The cleric, Sayid Kareem As-Sayid Abdullah Al-Mousawi, says he grants licenses for muta'a in cases where the woman is widowed or divorced, or for single women who have approval from their fathers.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"Clerics who blessed them were hounded by security during the previous regime," he says. "I can assure you, these (muta'a) marriages are flourishing in (Shiite cities) Najaf, Karbala and Kadhamiya in an amazing way. There are a lot of hotels (patronized) by Shiites who approve of such marriages."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Most Shiite scholars today consider it halal, or religiously legal. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest religious authority in Shiite Islam, sets conditions and obligations for muta'a on his Web site. ("A woman with whom temporary marriage is contracted is not entitled to share the conjugal bed of her husband and does not inherit from him ...")

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and other Shiite lawmakers have said they want Iraq's new constitution to use the sharia, or Islamic law, as its basis. That could give muta'a formal legal protection. Sunni Arabs and Kurds, who are mainly Sunni, oppose the idea. But the practice is growing among Sunnis and Shiites alike.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A woman agreeing to a pleasure marriage that involves a one-time encounter might be able to count on about $100. For a muta'a that runs longer, she might be paid $200 a month, though the amounts vary widely and can depend on whether she has children.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Contracts for pleasure marriage strongly favor men.

Married women can't enter a muta'a, although a married man can. Men can void the contract at any time; women don't have that option unless it's negotiated at the outset. The couple agrees not to have children. A woman who unintentionally gets pregnant can have an abortion but must then pay a fine to a cleric. (Rick Jervis, "'Pleasure Marriages' Regain Popularity in Iraq," USA Today, 4 May 2005)
The status of women in Iraq was the highest in the 1970s: "In the 1960s and 1970s, for example, Iraq enacted mandatory education for women and equal pay for equal work. And by the 1980s women constituted almost 40 percent of public sector workers" (Andrea Buffa, "Iraqi Women Under Siege: Unemployment, Violence Rising," War Times 14, December 2003). It's been downhill ever since, the resurgence of "pleasure marriage" being just one indication of the decline in Iraqi women's economic power.

Unequal relations between nations aggravate the already unequal relation between men and women, especially men of richer nations and women of poorer nations. Everywhere the military goes, the sex industry that caters to it flourishes, thriving upon the interlocking systems of gender, class, and national oppressions. The US military, with its imperial reach, has become the biggest john of all militaries in the world. Take South Korea, Okinawa, and the Philippines, for example, where their respective national power elites have served as pimps for Americans.
The evolution of camptowns and camptown prostitution as permanent fixtures in American-Korean relations began with the Korean War and the arrival of U.S. troops. They are no less a part of the history of U.S. involvement in the Korean War than General Douglas MacArthur's successful push of North Korean troops back beyond the 38th parallel. . . .

Prior to the Korean War, the sex work of camp followers was informally organized and unregulated. The women who sold sex to U.S. occupation forces from 1945 to 1949, who like other camp followers in other lands at other times, followed or greeted troops with willingness to wash laundry, run errands, and provide sex for some form of remuneration -- money, food, cigarettes. Prostitution took place in U.S. military barracks in the early years of U.S. military occupation (1945-46) and in shabby makeshift dwellings called panjatjip (literally, houses made of boards). By the late occupation period (1947-49), simple inns or motels (kani hot'el) also became the loci of sexual exchange.47 . . .

The Korean War and the U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty (effective November 1954) provided the raw materials for the kijich'on R&R system. The war, with its accompanying poverty, social and political chaos, separation of families, and millions of young orphans and widows,"mass-produced" prostitutes, creating a large supply of girls and women without homes and livelihoods.49 Fleeing bombs and gunfire and seeking food, shelter, and work, camp followers flocked to areas where the UN/U.S. forces were bivouacked. The majority of the strategic areas (close to the border with North Korea) developed into R&R boomtowns beginning in the mid-1950s. Most of these areas had been sparsely populated agricultural villages. For example, Tongduch'on sprouted from agricultural fields into one of the most notorious camptowns, having housed four different U.S. infantry divisions since the end of the Korean War (3d, 1st, 7th, 2d). During its"golden age" in the mid-1960s, Tongduch'on boasted approximately 7,000 prostitutes.50 . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The economic power that U.S. servicemen represented and wielded in the camptowns easily translated into social and sexual clout over Korean kijich'on residents. South Korea in the 1960s became the"GI's heaven"; it was a time when an average GI could live like a king in villages"built, nurtured and perpetuated for the soldiers of the U.S. Army,"56 a time when things American, especially the dollar, were almighty. Men and women danced and drank to their hearts' content with cheap liquor and loud music; over 20,000 registered prostitutes were available to"service" approximately 62,000 U.S. soldiers by the late 1960s. For $2 or less per hour ("short time") or $5 to $10 for an"overnight,"57 a soldier could revel in sexual activities with prostitutes. Servicemen purchased not only sex mates but maids, houseboys, shoeshine boys, errand boys, and other locals with ease. Bruce Cumings characterizes the 1960s as a time when"[o]ne could be born to a down-and-out family in Norfolk . . . and twenty years later live like the country-club set" in Korea, a time when the"highest Korean ultimately meant less than the lowest American in the entourage."58

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The U.S.-Korean history of military prostitution shares many of the characteristics and tensions present in other sites of overseas U.S. bases, especially in Asia. The economic dependence of local camptown residentson the presence of U.S. troops is not unique to South Korea. For example, Takazato Suzuyo, a political activist on Okinawa, reported that Okinawa, which served as a R&R area to U.S. troops in Vietnam, lived off U.S. dollars:
In its heyday, there were more than 1,200"approved" bars, night clubs, and restaurants on Okinawa, and soldiers spent money freely. B-52 bombers were taking off from Kadena [US Air Force] base almost every day to bomb North Vietnam, while returning soldiers from Vietnam, with their chest pockets filled with dollar bills, sometimes spent all their money in one night.67
In Olongapo and Angeles in the Philippines, where the U.S. Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Force Base were respectively located (until the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1992),"[t]here was virtually no industry except the 'entertainment' business, with approximately 55,000 registered and unregistered prostitutes and a total of registered 2,182 R&R establishments.68 By 1985 the U.S. military had become the second largest employer in the Philippines, hiring over 40,000 Filipinos. . . . The sum of their salaries amounted to almost $83 million a year."69

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

[Hyoung] Cho and [P'ilhwa] Chang's 1990 study of forty years of discussion on prostitution in the ROK National Assembly (the legislature) highlights a"pragmatic permissiveness" toward kijich'on prostitution on the part of its members. The authors state that from 1948 to the late 1980s, members of the National Assembly focused on GI prostitution among the different types of prostitution they mentioned.137 Assemblymen made a sharp distinction between domestic and foreign-oriented prostitution, advocating strict control and/or abolition of domestic-oriented prostitution but sup porting, tongue in cheek, U.S.-oriented camptown prostitution.138 One Assemblyman in October 1959 stated bluntly:
It's inevitable that there are prostitutes who cater to foreign soldiers. . . . We should distinguish between those prostitutes who cater to domestic customers and those who cater to U.S. soldiers and train those catering to the foreigners on American customs, [entertainment] facilities, or language and etiquette.139
The Korean legislators held the view that man's nature necessitated prostitution as a"necessary evil" among troops:
As long as the U.S. continues to stay in the ROK, we must acknowledge that the majority of the troops are single and by human nature want entertainment (sex). It's better to provide special facilities for them than discuss the problem of prostitutes alone. For example, we could provide luxurious accommodations/facilities around Seoul for these men so that they don't have to go to Japan [for R&R].140
Cho and Chang conclude that the legislators viewed U.S. camptown prostitution"as rather functional for national defense and/or for GNP growth" and therefore supported"policies that promote[d] prostitution, in compensation [for the U.S. soldiers' presence in Korea]."141 (footnotes omitted, Katharine H.S. Moon, Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in U.S./Korea Relations (Columbia University Press, 1997)
The sex industry that caters to US troops has emerged in Iraq, too, though to a lesser extent than in the examples cited above because Washington doesn't fully control any part of Iraq beyond the Green Zones and checkpoints. Listen to Christian Parenti: "It [Iraq] is like an extreme version of the Wild West. There is a lot of drug use and prostitution. Drugs, especially Valium and other sedatives, are readily available throughout the urban centers. Prostitution is rampant because women are hungry, women are widowed, and there is a type of lawlessness that encourages it. Most of the prostitution caters to Iraqi men, but it also involves many U.S. soldiers" (qtd. in Tucker Foehl, "What Kind of Freedom? An Interview with Christian Parenti," Mother Jones, 26 Jan. 2005). For better or worse, prostitution that depends on vastly unequal international relations of military and economic powers is more likely to become an explosive political issue than prostitution based on garden-variety inequality between men and women of the same class and nation or between men of higher and lower social classes (or strata within the same class). A huge international scandal that would embarrass Washington, as well as its Iraqi collaborators, is just waiting to happen.

Monday, May 02, 2005

IAC, ANSWER, and UFPJ: Time for an Obituary?

Did anyone but the most dedicated observer of political activism notice the two rallies held in New York City on May 1, 2005? The International Action Center, through a new "coalition" called Troops Out Now!, organized a march and rally to "Revive May Day," attracting only 1,000-1,500 according to organizers' own estimate. United for Peace and Justice, meanwhile, marched and rallied to "Abolish Nukes!" (as May Day fell on "the day before the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference begins at the United Nations"). Perhaps, 10,000-40,000 attended the UFPJ march and rally. It is clear that neither May Day nor nuclear disarmament resonated with many Americans.

Whether you look at the home page of UFPJ, Troops Out Now!, or International ANSWER, you don't see any more plan for a big national mass action to Bring the Troops Home Now. Delegates to the UFPJ National Assembly on February 19-21, 2005 did vote for a proposal to make September 10, 2005 "World Day of Mobilization on the U.N. against War," but mobilization for it apparently has yet to begin.

Anti-war activists nationwide, who have always had only tenuous relations to the main US anti-war coalitions headquartered in New York City, are effectively on our own. Is it time to write an obituary for the IAC, ANSWER, and UFPJ?

Ron Jacobs, arguing that ANSWER and UFPJ are not "the proper vehicles" to raise the political and economic costs of the Iraq War high enough to compel the US power elite to abandon it, calls for the creation of "a broad anti-imperialist coalition," rather than trying to change ANSWER's and UFPJ's nature and direction ("If Imperialism Is the Cause, Shouldn't the US Anti-War Movement Be Anti-Imperialist?" CounterPunch, 2 May 2005). Whether we agree or disagree with Jacobs on his call, it is undeniable that there is a big vacuum in the anti-war movement.