Monday, March 31, 2008
The only source of pride for Arabs today, as suggested by the video, is Hizballah. Arabs who listen to this song must go beyond its pan-Arabist framework and consider why the only governments in the Middle East that are giving material support to Hizballah are the governments of Iran and Syria. When the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon began, the governments of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia were in fact quick to condemn Hizballah till the overwhelming Arab support for the Party of God forced them to retreat, at least in rhetoric. Hamas's breach of the Egyptian border to break the siege of Gaza in January this year also briefly highlighted the Egyptian government's role in imprisoning Palestinians under the Israeli occupation. The same role is played by the other pro-American Arab governments as well, albeit less visibly.
Arabs who care about Palestine and admire Hizballah, a majority of common people in the Arab world, therefore must reject the empire's attempt to pit Sunnis against Shi'is and Arabs against Iranians and establish new governments in their own countries that actually reflect the Arab public opinion.
By the same token, Iranians mustn't fall for an illusion that, if they abandon Hamas and Hizballah and help the Americans in Iraq, the empire will make peace with them. It won't.
Now, an aside to Western leftists. Western leftists must stop and think about who in Iran are the least enthusiastic about supporting Hamas and Hizballah: secular and religious liberals who solicit the support of the West in the name of human rights and democracy, the very type of people whom Western leftists professed to love. The only thought about Palestine that occurs to Iranian liberals, in Iran as well as in the diaspora, is usually "a waste of money" (the same thought that Russian liberals thought under the Soviet government as they contemplated the expenses of the Soviet Union's international commitments). A line from a Persian band Kiosk's song "Eshgh-e Sorat," Love for Speed, speaks for them: "scraped up the very last dime / sent it all to Palestine."
The most fervently anti-Arab Iranians, dogmatic secularists, even think that their nation began a long decline when Arabs conquered Persia and brought Islam to its people.
In conclusion, all major problems for Arabs and Iranians -- the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the US occupation of Iraq, the US-Israeli threat to Iran -- really require regional, not national, solutions. Whether such regional solutions can be found depends on whether Arabs and Iranians can learn to collaborate with each other in search of them and include both Turks and Kurds as part of their common regional project in the end.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Economically speaking, India really needs gas from Iran:
India, Asia's third-largest economy, can produce only half the gas it needs to generate electricity, causing blackouts and curbing economic growth. Demand may more than double to 400 million cubic meters a day by 2025 if the economy grows at the projected rate of 7 to 8 percent a year, according to the oil ministry. (Manash Goswami, "India Plans Talks with Pakistan over Stalled Iran Gas Pipeline," Bloomberg.com, 28 March 2008)However, the Indian government is under pressure from the United States, to stay away from the pipeline in exchange for a nuclear deal.
Although publicly New Delhi has maintained that it stands by the IPI pipeline, the reality is going to be different.The nuclear deal that Washington offered to India, however, is in fact no favor to the country. To the contrary, it's one that will subject Indian nuclear policy to whims of the United States:
"The final deal [on IPI] is not going to happen in the near future as the project is no longer just about energy security, it's more about India's strategic position in the global community," a Foreign Ministry official told Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity.
"The project is in the radar of the Prime Minister's Office and unless there is a clear signal from there, it is unlikely that India's Petroleum Ministry will agree to any final arrangement," he added.
US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, during a recent visit to India, is believed to have recommended that Delhi not go ahead with the project. And subsequently Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs David McCormick told reporters that the US hoped India would not move forward with the pipeline. He said "it would not be the right path during a time the world should be imposing greater discipline on its interactions with Iran". He added that India should meet its energy needs through the nuclear deal with the US that is now stalled in the Indian Parliament. (Siddharth Srivastava, "Iran, Pakistan Dump India on Pipeline," Asia Times, 15 November 2007)
Let us be clear then as to what this agreement entails: the U.S. openly gains the power to threaten to deny ongoing fuel supplies (and even the forcible removal of supplies previously given) in order to control future Indian policy. Is this a remote speculation? We must recall that in the 1970s the U.S. unilaterally cut off all fuel supply to Tarapur, in material violation of the previous "123" agreement between the U.S. and India of 1963. (Analytical Monthly Review, "The U.S.-Indian Nuclear Deal: An Unequal Colonial Treaty," MRZine, 12 August 2008)Communists and other leftists in India are opposed to this deal. Often at odds with one another over economic policy -- Maoists and other leftists are rightly critical of the CPI(M)'s neoliberalism, most clearly expressed in its embrace of Special Economic Zones -- they probably have more in common with one another on this issue than any other.
Can the Indian Left veto the Indo-US nuclear deal and get India again on a path toward its own national development and regional security, based on the ideals -- Swaraj, Swadeshi, Satyagraha -- that inspired the Indians toward independence? If not, "China has told Pakistan it is ready to join a gas pipeline project to import Iranian gas if India decides not to be part of the multi-billion dollar venture" (PTI, "China Ready to Join Tri-nation Gas Project If India Opts Out," The Hindu 25 March 2008).
Il movimento che si è dissolto
di Tariq Ali
Cos'è successo al movimento contro la guerra, che esplose nel 2003 mobilitando milioni di persone in tutto il mondo occidentale, al punto da esser definito una volta dal New York Times come «la seconda superpotenza»?
Il fatto è che esso non è mai stato un movimento vero e proprio ma solo lo spasmo di un giorno, un tentativo spontaneo e disperato dei cittadini di ogni sfumatura politica per fermare la guerra.
Era concepito, se si vuole, come un colpo preventivo contro una guerra che la gente istintivamente sapeva esser basata su un mucchio di bugie. Il giorno in cui la guerra è iniziata davvero, le mobilitazioni contro di essa sono andate a morire. I cittadini, demoralizzati dal proprio fallimento, non hanno più trovato la forza di scendere in strada in gran numero.
Pure, nel quinto anniversario di questa crudele e immorale occupazione, i dati che vengono dall'Iraq sono drammatici: oltre un milione di civili morti e più che altrettanti feriti, tre milioni di profughi rifugiati nei paesi vicini, una completa dissoluzione delle infrastrutture sociali del paese e una sua balcanizzazione di fatto.
Di fronte a tutto questo la risposta dei cittadini del Nord America e dell'Europa è muta. Perché? Non c'è solidarietà con gli iracheni. Sono arabi, in gran parte islamici: e l'ondata di islamofobia che ha spazzato il mondo occidentale ha portato alla de-umanizzazione di coloro che venivano uccisi.
La stessa cosa accadde quando il colonialismo europeo del diciottesimo e diciannovesimo secolo conquistò il Maghreb. Le atrocità commesse dagli italiani in Libia e la pubblica impiccagione del leader ribelle Sheikh Mukhtar non suscitarono nessuna emozione in Italia. I francesi fecero passare un sacco di tempo prima di protestare contro la guerra in Algeria. Gli esempi sono tanti. La «febbre civilizzatrice», oggi come allora, ha smobilitato l'opinione pubblica occidentale. C'è poi il fatto che i gruppi che resistono all'occupazione in Iraq tendono ad essere religiosi (anche se non solo): e i movimenti dei lavoratori o comunque progressisti nell'Europa occidentale, sempre più in crisi, sono indifferenti al loro destino -- così come sono indifferenti alle sofferenze dei palestinesi.
Tutto ciò è anche un riflesso di quanto sta accadendo nello stesso Occidente. Perché anche se negli ultimi quattro anni si può a stento dire che ci sia stata una qualsiasi mobilitazione contro la guerra, pure una maggioranza dei cittadini del Nord America e dell'Europa è ancora a favore del ritiro di tutte le truppe straniere dall'Iraq: ma le loro voci non sono ascoltate dagli establishment politici. C'è una crescente crisi di rappresentanza politica nell'Occidente. La democrazia viene svuotata. Nella campagna elettorale statunitense entrambi i candidati democratici pubblicamente sono a favore di un ritiro dall'Iraq, ma in privato riassicurano i militari sul fatto che non intendono davvero ritirarsi e devono dirlo perché la gente è scontenta.
Infine, il fatto che non ci sia la leva obbligatoria negli Stati uniti comporta che la maggior parte della popolazione non è toccata direttamente dalla guerra. Le famiglie di militari ostili alla guerra sono il solo serio gruppo di pressione. Invece della coscrizione, gli Stati uniti hanno reclutato mercenari da tutto il mondo: ci sono cinquemila ugandesi, migliaia di centroamericani, sudafricani e altri che vengono pagati a prezzi di mercato per combattere in Iraq. A chi importa se muoiono? E' un rischio che assumono per guadagnare soldi e la cittadinanza americana. E' un quadro sinistro, che dovrebbe motivare qualche riflessione tra i cittadini dell'Occidente.
The Movement That Has Dissolved Itself
by Tariq Ali
What has happened to the movement against the war that exploded in 2003, mobilizing millions of people in the entire West, to the point that the New York Times called it "the second superpower"?
The fact is that it never was, in the true and proper sense of the word, a movement -- only a day of paroxysm, a spontaneous and desperate attempt of citizens of all political persuasions to stop the war.
It was conceived, if you will, as a preventive blow against a war that people instinctively knew was based on a heap of lies. The day when the war really began, antiwar mobilizations began to die. Citizens, demoralized by their own failure, could no longer find the strength to take to the streets in great numbers.
Nevertheless, on the fifth anniversary of this cruel and immoral occupation, data from Iraq are dramatic: more than a million civilians dead, and at least as many injured; three million refugees taking shelter in neighboring countries; total destruction of social infrastructures of the country, and its de facto Balkanization.
In the face of all that, the response of North American and European citizens is silence. Why? There is no solidarity with the Iraqis. They are Arabs, largely Muslims, and the wave of Islamophobia that has swept the West has brought with it the dehumanization of those who were murdered.
The same thing happened when eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century European colonialism conquered the Maghreb. The atrocities committed by Italians in Libya and the public hanging of the rebel leader Sheikh Mukhtar did not provoke the least emotion in Italy. It took a long time before the French protested against the Algeria war. The examples are many. The "civilizing mission fever," now as then, has demobilized the Western public opinion. Then, there is the fact that the groups resisting the occupation of Iraq tend to be religious (although the religious are not the only ones): and the movements of workers and progressives in general in Western Europe, increasingly in crisis, are indifferent to their destiny -- just as they are indifferent to the suffering of Palestinians.
All that is also a reflection of what is happening in the West itself. Although in the last several years there has been scarce any mobilization against the war to speak of, a majority of the North American and European citizens are still in favor of the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq: however, their voices are not being heard by the political establishment. There is a growing crisis of political representation in the West. Democracy is becoming hollow. In the US electoral campaign, both the Democratic candidates publicly say they are in favor of a withdrawal from Iraq, but privately they reassure the military that they do not seriously intend to withdraw despite being forced to say so because people are discontent.
In the end, the fact that there is no draft in the US means that most Americans are not directly affected by the war. Military families opposed to the war constitute the only important pressure group. As a substitute for the draft, the US has recruited mercenaries from all over the world: there are 50,000 Ugandans, thousands of Central Americans, South Africans, and others who are paid the market price to fight in Iraq. Who cares if they die? It's a risk that they assume, in exchange for wages and US citizenship. A grim picture, which should make Westerners think.
Tariq Ali, a member of the New Left Review editorial committee, is the author of Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope (Verso 2006) among numerous other books and articles. His new book, The Duel: Pakistan in the Flight Path of American Power, will be published later this year. The essay in Italian was first published in Il Manifesto on 20 March 2008, available at Essere Comunisti. N.B. The English text on the right is a translation from the Italian text, not Tariq Ali's own words. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.
Friday, March 28, 2008
In doing so, the empire backs Hakim against Sadr.
Where does Tehran stand on the conflict between them, since it has cultivated both among other Iraqis? Vali Nasr speculates:
Well, Iran has backed both of them and has supported a truce between them that was signed last year. The Iranians encouraged the two of them to put the fighting aside and not to fight one another at a time when the larger issue of the fate of Iraq was still out there. However, Iran has only limited influence and ultimately Muqtada al-Sadr will not sit by idly as Hakim and the United States begin to downgrade his forces and ultimately move to crush him, regardless of what Iran says.In short, we have no clue.
On the other hand, one might say that Iran also encourages Sadr to disrupt the stability of southern Iraq because its relations with the United States are growing more tense and Iran ultimately would like to see the United States leave Iraq. The lull in the fighting, a sort of truce, which Iran contributed to by holding Muqtada down, may no longer be in Iran’s interest right now. It’s difficult to see how the Iranians are calculating this. They may be supportive of Muqtada raising the heat, not completely but somewhat, to put pressure on the United States. On the other hand, it might very well be that the Iranians are not able to totally control what happens next door, that they are able to influence the decisions that Sadr and Hakim make but they cannot completely control them.
We have to wait and see as this thing unfolds whether the Iranians will act to restrain the two sides or not. When the British moved out of Basra, it was argued that the Iranians would not try to control Basra but they did. For a very long period of time, the governor was very close to Iran, and the various militias maintained a truce in Basra. In fact the Iranians touted the relative stability of Basra as an indication of their ability to influence the situation in Iraq. It is possible the Iranians would use this issue of this escalation of tensions in the south as a way of reminding the United States that they are very relevant in southern Iraq and their value to stability in Iraq should not be taken for granted. ("Nasr: Iraqi Prime Minister ‘Irrelevant’ in Shiite Power Struggle," Council on Foreign Relations, 26 March 2008)
In my humble opinion, Tehran should back Sadr against Hakim, especially if Sadrists successfully resist the present US onslaught. Hakim won't be able to govern Iraq without US forces, but Sadr, potentially, can, and he is less likely than Hakim to establish a government that sells off Iraqi oil, hosts permanent US bases, and lets Iraq be used as a launching pad of attacks against Iran.
What of Western leftists? If Islamophobia weren't so prevalent among them,2 they would reach out to Sadr.
1 See, also, Hassan Hafidh and John D. McKinnon, "Violence Imperils Iraq's Oil Progress; Attacks in Basra Come amid Talks with Western Firms," Wall Street Journal, 28 March 2008: A1.
2 Explaining why the anti-war movement has dissolved, despite the staggering tolls that the occupation of Iraq has taken, Tariq Ali wrote on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq:
Di fronte a tutto questo la risposta dei cittadini del Nord America e dell'Europa è muta. Perché? Non c'è solidarietà con gli iracheni. Sono arabi, in gran parte islamici: e l'ondata di islamofobia che ha spazzato il mondo occidentale ha portato alla de-umanizzazione di coloro che venivano uccisi. La stessa cosa accadde quando il colonialismo europeo del diciottesimo e diciannovesimo secolo conquistò il Maghreb. Le atrocità commesse dagli italiani in Libia e la pubblica impiccagione del leader ribelle Sheikh Mukhtar non suscitarono nessuna emozione in Italia. I francesi fecero passare un sacco di tempo prima di protestare contro la guerra in Algeria. Gli esempi sono tanti. La «febbre civilizzatrice», oggi come allora, ha smobilitato l'opinione pubblica occidentale.Few leftists have trouble accepting liberal Muslims (who think and act like typical liberal Westerners in all relevant respects), but Muslims who think and act like Sadr are another story.
In the face of all that, the response of North American and European citizens is silence. Why? There is no solidarity with the Iraqis. They are Arabs, largely Muslims, and the wave of Islamophobia that has swept the West has brought with it the dehumanization of those who were murdered. The same thing happened when eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century European colonialism conquered the Maghreb. The atrocities committed by Italians in Libya and the public hanging of the rebel leader Sheikh Mukhtar did not provoke the least emotion in Italy. It took a long time before the French protested against the Algeria war. The examples are many. The "civilizing mission fever," now as then, has demobilized the Western public opinion. (Tariq Ali, "No War: Il movimento che si è dissolto," Il Manifesto, 20 March 2008, English translation by Yoshie Furuhashi)
Argentina: Workers and the "Agrarian Strike": The CGT against the Oligarchy and Its Proxies' Destabilization
The CGT against the Oligarchy and Its Proxies' Destabilization
by Julio Piumato and Hugo Moyano
Thirty-two years, one month, and ten days ago -- on 16 February 1976 to be exact -- bankers, industrialists, the Sociedad Rural, and other leading organizations of rural sectors initiated a strike in support of a coup d'état (known as the Bosses' Apegé Lockout), anticipating the military revolt of 24 March, all with the approval of the United States. That oligarchic, military, and pro-imperialist alliance overthrew a constitutional government which had already brought forward the presidential elections date in October of that same year. All with the complicity of the national press. The headlines of Clarín, La Nación, La Prensa, and La Razón exalted the overthrow of the constitutional order, going along with genocide and the neoliberal plan of Martinez de Hoz.
Then, while the genocidal dictatorship murdered and disappeared thousands of men and women -- a majority of whom were workers who, loyal to the National Constitution, resisted and lost their life, liberty, and rights for that -- the organizations of the countryside (which today uphold this "historic strike," which is the term used by the same media that covered up the dictatorship) happily went along with the mainstream press that did business like that of Papel Prensa. The "countryside" neither struck nor protested against the dictatorship despite what the country and its people suffered.
Nor were there strikes and protests of the Sociedad Rural and other rural organizations when Menem and Cavallo plundered Argentina, liquidating state enterprises, eliminating millions of jobs, marginalizing millions of our countrymen and women, destroying the national wealth. and completely pauperizing the people. Not even when convertibility devastated their farms, foreclosing all of them, was there any "historic strike." But they protested, side by side with the same media, demanding an iron fist, when workers resisted or when the excluded, villainous Blacks after all (as the "strikers" were heard saying yesterday at the "package pickets"), blockaded roads, begging for food or work.
And now, we have a government that is restoring the sense of dignity and social justice for all Argentineans; a government with a clear national and popular consciousness that, no longer a corrupt mistress to the superpower in international affairs, unites with our brothers and neighbors through the expanded MERCOSUR; a government that has promoted a productive model that combines the strengthened domestic market with the use of exports, having reestablished social dialogue through the collective labor conventions, making important changes in a very short time.
We are speaking of a government that did not forget about agrarian producers but created a farm-rescue program so that those producers, devastated by neoliberalism, would not lose their farms. It transformed them into profitable enterprises, modifying the exchange rate (from which wage earners suffered until the economy recovered), the exchange rate that -- added to international prices -- has permitted astronomical profits for all those producers that they had not seen in decades.
Nevertheless, when this government, in an orderly and sensible fashion, employs the mechanism of export taxes to progressively regulate a still regressive tax system, guaranteeing the supply of the domestic market abandoned by the egoistic greed of the oligarchy, in order to use those surpluses for fair social distribution and harmonious development of neglected areas, the financial and pro-imperialist oligarchic entente, devoid of a political leadership that guarantees accumulation of power, launches this wild protest, supported by the same media that favored the coup-plotters' strike in February 1976. We are talking about biased media coverage clearly intended to destabilize the government.
And in that act of destabilization there exist many things that go unmentioned:
- Since the taxes are on exports, why don't the protests target the monopoly exporters who are the ones strangling small producers?
- The romantic air that "the protests" affect hides the fact that a little more than 900 oligarchs own 35 million hectares, whereas 137,000 producers cultivate only 2,000,000 hectares.
- Those who reject the export taxes, safeguarding their fortunes and egoistic interests, are trying to get domestic meat and food prices to rise to international market values, which will make them inaccessible to the people, allowing only select minorities to consume them.
- If the protest is genuine, why does it exhibit so much class hatred against truck drivers and other workers? Why so much violence in the form of stone throwing, ostentatious displays of side arms (with silver grips, of course), and menacing rifles in the hands of the shock troops of the oligarchy destabilizing the nation and plotting a coup?
- It is not an agrarian strike, because, as is well known, the typical "strikers," far away from cattle gates, are still doing all the tasks of farming: crops are being harvested and cattle fed, that is to say, their own assets are not at risk. The protest does not affect the protesters -- rather it's about screwing the rest of the Argentinean people. That is exemplified by the contempt that the protesters show toward those who have suffered and are still suffering from hunger, by squandering beef to build barricades, in an attempt to stop a nation that is reconstructing its future.
So, we are not fooled. The "countryside" is not on strike. They are working like never before, thanks to the policies that have been implemented in Argentina for the last four years and a half.
Those who are blockading roads and the media that are supporting them are doing so to defend the oligarchic-imperialist interests, the very interests that plundered Argentina and killed -- by violence of weapons or violence of hunger -- thousands of our countrymen and women in the last decades.
In February 1976, everything began with a protest like this. Let us not be confused. Let us be clear that the taxes are levied on exports, so we shall not stop asking whether there is no other hidden aim and why the protests are not directed against the monopoly exporters that are strangling small producers. Let us defend this national project that includes us all, not just the oligarchs who throughout history have frustrated our destiny as a sovereign nation.
Buenos Aires, 25 March 2008.
Secretary of Human Rights
The original statement in Spanish by the Confederación General del Trabajo de la República Argentina was circulated on the Reconquista-Popular mailing list among other places. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi. Julio Piumato said to Página/12: "If the agrarian strike, which we consider to be a provocation, continues, the national mobilization of people will be quickly activated" (Martín Piqué, "La CGT fijó su posición frente a la protesta: Contra la 'oligarquía' del campo," 26 March 2008).
Thursday, March 27, 2008
A March 13 event on Capitol Hill intended to expose Iran’s human rights violations was overcome with political rivalry and infighting. The event, a one-hour briefing on Iran’s human rights record, was eventually broken up by Capitol Hill police officers.Be sure to read the whole article -- it's thoroughly delightful.
The briefing piggy backed on a recent rise in concern over Iran’s human rights abuses, and attempted to unite several Iranian ethnic and religious minority groups. The event, hosted by the Iran Working Group and The Leadership Council for Human Rights (LCHR), was aimed at uniting some of the many factions inside Iran, but fell apart due to internal rivalries. (Arash Hadjialiloo, "Iranian Ethnic Minorities Clash on Capitol Hill," National Iranian American Council, 26 March 2008)
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
by Mohssen Massarrat
Unfortunately, influential American and Israeli opponents of Iran have been successful: using negative propaganda of the sort that claims that Iran has an intention to cause a nuclear holocaust and that a Third World War and "Islamic fascism" must be prevented, and tying the disaster of Iraq to Iran's interference, they have turned Iran into a dangerous monster in the world public opinion. Thus the psychological battleground against Iran is being prepared, just as it was against Iraq before. Therefore, the war party is not confronted by any significant opposition in either the United States or European countries. Furthermore, with the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, France has joined the right-wing, war-mongering Western coalition of America, England, and Israel. Germany is now abstaining from any public opposition to the probable war against Iran, and its silence in effect legitimates the coalition of war mongers. The Russian and Chinese governments certainly will express opposition to any resolution that employs harsh measures at the United Nations Security Council, but in so far as the American government, away from the Security Council, takes steps toward war, just as it did in the case of Iraq, these two governments will not do anything except protest. Therefore, the only power, the only government, which can act in the interests of peace, the Iranian people, and the territorial integrity of our country, preventing an outbreak of disastrous war that destroys families, for the sake of not only Iran but also the entire Middle East and the whole world, is the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran itself.
Central Aims of the United States and Very Serious Danger of War
Given the undeniable evidence of danger of war, the intention of America and Israel is very serious. American neo-conservatives, like before, are out in full force, seeking to lay down the strategy of the Project for the New American Century and the Greater Middle East. The fundamental pillar of this strategy is the establishment of a Middle East wholly subordinated to the medium- to long-term interests of America. Having achieved regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq and unleashed chaos in these two countries, now, they have turned to Iran. The government of the Islamic Republic in the current condition has to be the most important obstacle to a Middle East wholly subordinated to America. For this reason, regime change in Iran has become the fundamental aim of US actions in the Middle East. The ideal Middle East for neo-conservatives is a Middle East all of whose major powers have been destroyed; a divided and fragmented Middle East in which local ethnic wars pitting, for instance, Arabs against Kurds, Arabs against Iranians, and Kurds against Iranians, and sectarian wars between Sunnis and Shi'is, involving Hizballah and Hamas or other forces in Lebanon and Palestine, proliferate; a Middle East in which the weak armies of the client states from the past century are reinforced -- so that America can set them all at one another's throats, sell them weapons, and turn the region completely into a laboratory of the military-industrial complexes of America and Europe, and, by aggravating competition, America can force them to exploit their oil as much as possible, till oil supply will correspond to demand at the global level, oil prices prevented from rising, and in the end the oil-producing region's dependence on the dollar maintained, with their joint measure to really sell oil for euros or other reliable international currencies decisively vetoed. The strategy of the Project for the New American Century is far from a mere adventurist and Christian fundamentalist wish under the influence of Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush. Unfortunately, their strategy is in keeping with the interests of the military-industrial complex, the goals of oil companies, and in truth short- to medium-term interests of the entire US economy.
The US economy is in debt to the world, and to maintain the continuing global capital inflows into this country, and maintain its residents' living standards, the dollar must be perpetuated as the only world currency, much like air indispensable for human life. In order to sustain the current position of the dollar, all oil trades must be conducted in dollars. Establishment of weak client states in the Middle East gives the United States a possibility that, by creating many military bases including in Iran, and with total military control over the oil-producing regions and the production and price of oil, it can hold onto its hegemonic position, vis-à-vis its current and future economic rivals, including the European Common Market, China, Russia, Japan, and India, for several decades to come. Therefore, many Europeans' assessment that, given the Bush government's difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan, they need not care much about the danger of war against Iran is superficial, merely helping them justify their indifference to the probable war against Iran and their historic irresponsibility when what is at stake is world peace. Furthermore, Europe's inattention to the danger of war is itself dangerous in that the American government takes it to be support for its policy of violence against Iran.
Regrettably, some of the government officials of the Islamic Republic, instead of taking the danger of war seriously, also set much store by America's difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan to give themselves peace of mind. They thus drive themselves and the Iranian people into a trap that America's economic and ideological leaders have set for them. Leaders of a country threatened at a dangerous moment act with profound insight and responsibility for their country's inhabitants and territory, starting from the worst case scenario and being prepared to respond to anything in kind, not by emphasizing the least dangerous scenario, failing to make use of all possibilities to prevent war, and thereby disarming themselves. Moreover, chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan isn't a reason not to start a new war in the region, especially against Iran -- rather, it should be understood that sowing chaos is one of the fundamental US aims in all countries of the Middle East, especially Iran.
The statements of an Iranian defense official to the effect that America is capable of bombing and destroying Iran but will be totally incapable of occupying the country are shocking. This mode of thinking of government officials, scoffing at US air attacks -- which, in the event they materialize, will destroy the human capitals, infrastructure, and culture of our country -- and promising victory at war against ground forces, is really unacceptable, and nothing except irreparable betrayal of the interests of Iran and its inhabitants can result from it. What people expect from the officials of the Islamic Republic is this: to prevent even a single bomb from getting dropped on our country. Moreover, some of the government officials' assertions, which seek to console the people of Iran by promising an all-out counter-attack to the likely US-Israeli air attacks on them, are ignorant, since the military capacity of the Islamic Republic lacks the quality and quantity that, by putting the fear of counter-attack in the enemy mind, can deter the US-Israeli attacks.
Lightening Military Strikes
From the point of view of military strategies, America and Israel are said to be heading in the direction of an all-out air attack lasting a few days, which makes use of the full capabilities of the two powers and aims at the entire military and economic infrastructure of Iran, hitting 2,000 targets. The objective is not only the annihilation of nuclear centers; the planned targets include munitions factories, bridges, power plants, oil refineries, water purification plants of major cities, and others. From the same military strategic point of view, it is anticipated that bombings will follow the model of Nazi Germany's attack on Poland in 1938, intense enough to limit or even eliminate any possibility of counter-attack. In the event of air strikes, lives of 12 million people of Tehran will be severely disrupted for several days, and emergency capacities of security services and economic, transport, and energy lifelines will be strained, which makes it impossible to expect the defense system to function and commence counter-attack. Given this likely scenario, boasting of Iran's military power to defend itself hinders the search for non-military solutions and raises the likelihood of an outbreak of war.
How to Prevent War
American and Israeli neo-conservative invaders, under the pretext of prevention of proliferation of nuclear weapons, have succeeded in exploiting Iran's uranium enrichment and thereby legitimating military attacks on Iran and their continuing control over the Middle and Near East. At the same time, no question about Israel's 300 nuclear warheads has been raised and no debate about them has been permitted. Israel's security alone gets mentioned, and the security needs of the other nations of the region, including Iran, are counted for nothing. The undeniable reality is that, under threat from US-Israeli military strategies for domination, our country will suffer more than theirs; the entire Middle East will be pushed into the direction of an arms race and lasting chaos, just as neo-conservatives would like; future generations will be made to waste all their energy resources and human creativities and condemned to perpetual backwardness. So, the people of Iran expect their country's leaders and elite to come up with, as soon as possible, measures that change the dominant atmosphere conducive to war against Iran in the public opinions of the Western countries, neutralize the weapon that legitimates the military aims of neo-conservatives of America and its accomplice Israel, and make impossible for them to execute the dirty, criminal, and anti-human program based on their military and economic self-interests. However, in the opinion of this writer, there are essentially two ways to really prevent war. One is to accept the United States' and the West's conditions, i.e., voluntary abandonment of uranium enrichment on the part of the Islamic Republic, as is proposed by the ad-hoc national peace committee of Iran; and the other is to propose a plan for an agreement on emergency measures to truly guarantee the common security of the Middle East and Near East region.
The path of voluntary abnegation of the right to uranium enrichment is a path based on powerful moral reasons, in that it upholds the right to life of the people of Iran above the inalienable right to uranium enrichment. The prerequisite for this path is an agreement of the leaders of the Islamic Republic and consent of the extreme wing of the country, which is not impossible to secure if they are, for instance, pressured from below by serious movements of people. Remember that this extreme wing, under the pressure of internal debates among leadership, reluctantly accepted the Russian proposal one year ago, the proposal that would have limited uranium enrichment in Iran to a laboratory scale and transferred industrial-scale enrichment to Russia. At the same time, we know that, after this agreement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov went to Washington, met stiff opposition from Bush and Cheney there, and immediately held a press conference announcing that Russia really had not proposed any such thing. If even unilateral and unconditional abandonment of uranium enrichment on the part of the Islamic Republic does not satisfy neo-cons and they demand that the leadership of the Islamic Republic, on pain of severe hardships, for instance open all doors to the main military centers of the country in order to build sufficient confidence and to prove that no other secrete nuclear program exists, then, what is to be done?
One, in my estimation, Bush and Cheney will do exactly that, because their aim does not lie in any nuclear problem, just as they did the same with Iraq before. Two, in that event, the extreme wing of the Islamic Republic, just as they did after Washington's rejection of the Russian proposal, will immediately put the strategy that promotes their own position of power on the agenda. This time, too, they will browbeat the supporters of the pacifist path, indict them for being naive, and silence them so that their own seemingly logical and yet dangerous path will continue to be followed. In that case, Iran will remain bereft of defense, and, what with the anti-Iranian atmosphere in the world public opinion, the beginning of war may come even sooner. Moreover, Bush and Cheney, in their own propaganda, long ago ceased to be content with stopping uranium enrichment and have begun to claim that Iran is the culprit responsible for the disaster in Iraq and the death of American soldiers. Exactly because of this change in their propaganda strategy, more than 50% of Americans now support war against Iran. Furthermore, even if we set aside uranium enrichment, the problem of power imbalance and security predicament of Iran, i.e., the power imbalance in the region, will remain the same, even if war against Iran doesn't come to pass, and addressing it can be postponed only for a few years.
Therefore, it is better, given the likely scenario mentioned above, for the Islamic Republic to choose a path that can significantly moderate the anti-Iranian atmosphere in the world public opinion, or, ideally, change it in Iran's interest, and thereby prevent an outbreak of war. In my view, a common regional security plan -- on the conditions that it gets deliberated upon seriously, purposefully, and steadfastly and that the leadership of the Islamic Republic, behaving morally, honestly, and searchingly, set aside hesitation and put it really in practice -- can put the United States and its accomplice Israel on the defensive and even isolate them in the world public opinion. I'd venture to say that a common security plan that promises economic and cultural collaboration can achieve its ideal goal if it is proposed long before concrete actions for military attacks are taken, that is to say, as soon as possible, so that all parties involved won't be able to easily pass it off as Iran's last-ditch tactical move and make it moot. The points that a common regional security plan should encompass are the following:
1. The Islamic Republic of Iran is to invite all countries that are ready to accept the idea of a common security plan, with no preconditions, to participate in a regional security conference for cooperation. At the same time, for the purpose of understanding at all levels and real participation, as many countries from the Middle East and Near East region as possible should put their security needs on the agenda.
2. The Islamic Republic of Iran is to announce a voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment by the beginning of the conference and continue the suspension in the event that a serious plan to address all security problems of the region, particularly nuclear weapons and military installations for them, materializes based upon common principles of security and cooperation.
3. The Islamic Republic of Iran is to announce the readiness to ratify bilateral treaties to guarantee mutual security with all countries of the region to truly build confidence and to emphasize the plan's seriousness.
Announcement of voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment on the part of the Islamic Republic is conditional upon the holding of a common security conference for cooperation in the region as soon as possible. Nevertheless, not only will the Islamic Republic of Iran remain true to all principles of its foreign policy -- attention of the world public opinion should be also drawn to a real undeniable problem, i.e., Israel's nuclear weapons. Then, the United States and Israel will be compelled to explain why, despite Iran's readiness to suspend enrichment, they are not ready to begin dialogue, in good faith, on common security of the region. In that event, serious measures and considered actions that are likely to get attention, including the offer to build trust such as mutual treaties to renounce military attacks on each other, the date and location of the conference, and diplomacy for that purpose, will be able to render ineffective all useless propaganda and baseless claims of psychological warfare. In addition to preventing an outbreak of war, a common security conference will put a new prospect for stopping American and European interferences on the agenda of all countries of the region.
Mohssen Massarrat, born in Tehran in 1942, is Professor of Political Economy and International Relations at Universität Osnabrück. The original article in Persian was published on the Web site of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) on 22 November 2007. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.
by Olivier Doubre
Sociologist and historian at Yale University, Immanuel Wallerstein has described the globalization of capitalism, and today he criticizes Western "universalist" justifications of expansionism.
In your book European Universalism, you revisit the 16th-century debate between Las Casas and Sepulveda on the American Indians. In what respect does this debate seem to you particularly relevant to the debate on universalism?
Immanuel Wallerstein: The intellectual justifications that Sepulveda gave, in the 16th century, to justify the conquests of the Indian lands are, almost word for word, the same ones used for colonization, and the ones that are given today for what is called intervention. Moreover, Las Casas' responses at that time seem to me much clearer than many criticisms of intervention today. Sepulveda's arguments were as follows: the others are barbarians, we must protect the innocent (whom the barbarians massacre) -- constant justification for all interventions -- and, finally, it is necessary to permit the diffusion of universalism, supposedly universal values. At that time, it concerned evangelization and the expansion of the Christendom. Today, these values are "freedom and democracy." But they are in fact the same thing.
Drawing upon the work of Braudel, you have elaborated on the concept of "world-system" to describe the political and economic environment. What do you mean by this term?
Social science analyses during the 19th and 20th centuries rested primarily on a unit of analysis which was the state, encompassing society, particularly with the nation state. All states exist in parallel with one another and follow more or less the same structural trajectory, even if some were more advanced than others. For me, this formula rests on a quite inaccurate vision. Rather, we have lived in a "world-system" since the beginning of the époque called modernity in the 16th century when the capitalist economy was born in an embryonic form in a small part of the world, Europe. The world is thus a unit of analysis vaster than the state. The capitalist system has gradually succeeded, by its internal processes, in extending itself to the totality of the world. You can in fact see that, since the end of the 19th century, the whole world has been governed by this capitalist system, to this day. Studying this world-system, in my opinion, makes it possible to enrich the approach of social sciences, by considering states as elements constituting themselves within this system. But they are not the only elements of the system, in which races, classes, nations, households, etc. also exist. All are institutions within this capitalist world-economy. Above all, this concept allows me to show that, like any structure, it has gone through various phases: initially its emergence and establishment, then its development, finally the moment of its structural crisis, before that of its disappearance. I think that we are currently living this moment of structural crisis, and, while I won't venture to guess a precise date or time, we shall witness (perhaps twenty-five to fifty years from now) its disappearance -- or rather its replacement by another thing. One cannot say by what, for the time being, but the process is inexorably moving.
How is your criticism of European universalism articulated with this concept of "world- system"?
Consider this world-system -- it needs an ideology, what I call a "geoculture," allowing it to justify its structural development. This book, European Universalism, is thus an effort to describe the rhetoric used by the powerful1: European universalism is used to justify imperialism, Western expansionism. Obviously, variants exist in sophisticated arguments. The first, the most brutal (as in Iraq today), consists in saying that the others are barbarians, whom we must tame. A second variant, a little more subtle, studied by Edward Said under the name of "Orientalism," claims that the others are different beings, fixed in their differences, to whom we must bring true civilization -- an argument that one finds in Samuel Huntington in particular. Lastly, a third type of argument is that of scientific truth to which one appeals to impose the Western point of view. And, as it so happens, this alleged scientific truth is held by the most powerful countries in the world!
You observe that, in the relations within this world-system, for the powerful it is always easy to give but much more difficult to receive. . .
Indeed, the powerful do not accept the idea that they have something to receive from others. They rebuff others who they think don't have anything to offer them. For example, George W. Bush just visited Benin: in his mind, what can he possibly receive from Benin? Only the United States can give things to Benin. The world-system, seen from the point of view of the powerful, rests on this type of relationship among its members.
During your conference at the Maison de l'Europe, on 20 February, Daniel Bensaïd declared: "Since 1991, our époque, in a way, has resembled 1830-1840, i.e. a utopian moment when the possible doesn't have a face yet. Hence, in the figure of the alterglobalization movement, the frequency of the term 'Other,' which is the unknown, the indefinite." Do you share his analysis?
In my opinion, this moment did not begin in 1991 but in 1968, when one witnessed a beginning of the collapse of great truths established and accepted for a very long time. In this type of period, it is normal for people to fall into confusion, not knowing what to do. Obviously, this impotence was reinforced again after 1991, when the Soviet Union, which had till then seemed immovable, ended up breaking down. Since then, it is especially the Left that has seemed at a loss for points of reference, with a great deal of pessimism. However, I believe that today we are seeing neoliberal globalization, which has extended itself everywhere since then, starting to show its limits: with the Zapatistas, Social Forums, Seattle, Genoa, people went back to discussion, in search of new experiments, new solutions. In 2002, I wrote an article in which I said: "The United States has already lost its hegemony!" At that time, people treated me as if I were crazy, but I don't believe I was mistaken after all: we are there, the United States is well on its way to losing its hegemony! That is why I believe that Bensaïd is right to say that we are now in a "time of Utopia"; for my part, I would rather call it a search for alternatives, where one wonders "what is to be done?". . . It seems to me that the Right, too, is increasingly finding itself in doubt, also raising the question "what is to be done?". . .
1 The subtitle of the American edition is precisely "The Rhetoric of Power." L'universalisme européen. De la colonisation au droit d'ingérence, Immanuel Wallerstein, translated from English by Patrick Hutchinson, Démopolis, 142 pp., 15 euros.
The original interview in French was published in Politis on 6 March 2008. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.
Monday, March 24, 2008
(1) the March 20 advisory [of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a unit within the US Treasury Department] represents a US declaration of war by sanctions on Iran and a sanctions threat to the international banking community, (2) the US has various unilateral financial sanctions measures at its command in the form of executive orders and Patriot Act Section 311 and (3) the BDA-North Korea sanctions were, at least in retrospect, a test run for Iran.Make no mistake: this economic war is a strategy pursued by both Democrats and Republicans, realists and adventurists alike: Daniel Dombey, "Senators Urge Formal Sanctions," Financial Times, 6 March 2008.
If the US succeeds, an international quarantine on Iran's banks would disrupt Iran's financial linkages with the world by blocking its ability to process cross-border payments for goods and services exported and imported. Without those linkages Iran is unlikely to be able to engage in global trade and commerce. As 30% of Iran's GDP in 2005 was imports of goods and services and 20% was non-oil exports (World Bank and other data), a large chunk of Iran's economy would shrivel up. The repercussions will be painful and extend well beyond lost business and profits. For example, treating curable illnesses will become difficult. According to an Iranian health ministry official, Iran produces 95% of its own medicines but most pharmaceutical-related raw materials are imported. (John McGlynn, "The March 20, 2008 US Declaration of War on Iran," MRZine, 24 March 2008)
The dollar hegemony is declining (cf. Jeffrey Frankel, "The Euro Could Surpass the Dollar within Ten Years," Vox, 18 March 2008; Wolfgang Münchau, "This Crisis Could Bring the Euro Centre-stage," Financial Times, 23 March 2008), but will it decline fast enough for the Iranians?
The ruling clerics of Iran are able leaders who have run their country with a surer hand than leftists would have, but this presents them with the greatest challenge since Saddam Hussein, backed by the West, invaded Iran -- perhaps even a greater challenge, since at least the richest third of Iranians are not made of the same stuff as those who made the revolution and defended Iran's sovereignty in the eight-year-long war.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
by Ellen de Visser
AMSTERDAM - TV Producer Harry de Winter, President of the board of the foundation Een Ander Joods Geluid [Another Jewish Voice], today placed a remarkable advertisement on the front page of the newspaper Volkskrant. De Winter puts Geert Wilders's criticism of Muslims in the same category as anti-Semitism.
See below the de Winter ad (click to enlarge)
"If Wilders had said the same thing about Jews (and the Old Testament) as he does about Muslims (and the Koran), he would have been ostracized a long time ago and accused of anti-Semitism."
What is your message?
"We Jews know better than anyone else what this sort of discrimination can lead to. Wilders claims that the Muslims must be dealt with and that the Koran is a fascist book. That's how the persecution of Jews once started, by generalization. Therefore, it is time for a sharper criticism from the Jewish community. If you say the same thing about the Jews or Israel, you are considered an anti-Semite and ostracized. It is good that this feeling of justice is so strong, but, for me, there is no difference between the yarmulke and the headscarf."
What impact does this generalization have, in your view?
"When I talk with Muslims, I see that they are hardly preoccupied with the question of faith, but because of Wilders they feel compelled to take a position. Either they live in fear or they harden and radicalize. Last week it became too much for me. Muslims are pushed to the brink, and that is dangerous. The Muslim community itself, moreover, must also publicly speak out against terrorism."
What do you hope to achieve?
"I hope that we will get support from the whole Jewish community. At least that's how it should be. Because we can recognize this problem like no one else."
Demo against Racism, 22 March 2008, Amsterdam
5,000 people, despite the rainy weather, participated in the demonstration. The protest focused, among other issues, on the discriminatory views of the "Party for Freedom" (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV). Photo by Nederland Bekent Kleur
The original interview in Dutch was published in Volkskrant on 17 March 2008. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi. The Muslim community in the Netherlands are heartened by Harry de Winter and other progressive Jews' solidarity: Michel Hoebink, "Dutch Muslims Surprised by Anti-Wilders Ad," Radio Netherlands, 17 March 2008.
The Democratic Party has come up with a man who inspires not just "hope" but fantasy, of the sort affectionately satirized by a popular Web site "Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle," which, with each click, displays a new Obama fantasy, like this:
Thursday, March 20, 2008
by Mahindokht Mosbah
Maryam Firuz in the final decade of her life
Maryam Firuz, the leader of Women's Democratic Organization and the first woman to become a member of the political committee of a party in Iran, passed away in Tehran in the afternoon of Wednesday, 12 March. A descendant of aristocrats, an iconoclast, and a friend of many of the literary and cultural elite, with a life spent with Noureddin Kianouri, 22 years in exile in the Soviet Union and the former German Democratic Republic, 7 years in a prison of the Islamic Republic, and 17 years under house arrest, she had a different profile from other social and political militants.
Maryam Firuz was born in 1914 in Tehran, a child of Abdol Hossein Mirza Farmanfarma, one of the Qajar princes. In 1942, she joined the Tudeh party and concentrated much of her activities in the women's branch of this party. Maryam Firuz, in the aftermath of the 28 Mordad coup d'état against the Mossadegh government in 1953, after three years in the underground, left Iran in 1956. During her years of exile, she was sentenced to death in absentia. Maryam Firuz was a relative of Dr. Mossadegh, and according to her own testimony, in the critical days of 17-19 August 1953, Dr. Mossadegh and the Tudeh party leadership were related on the distaff side.
Mohammad Ali Amui, a political prisoner of both the regimes of the Shah and the Islamic Republic, said about Maryam Firuz: "It's really astonishing that Mrs. Firuz so easily rejected her own aristocratic Qajar lineage. She turned her back on all class privileges she had and devoted her life to the task of acquainting women with their own rights. Women's Democratic Organization was established when women's rights weren't fundamentally debated. In this organization, problems like men's right to divorce at will and terrible legal and educational discriminations between men and women were studied."
Return from Exile
Maryam Firuz, after the revolution, together with many political activists and Tudeh party members, returned to Iran from 22 years of exile. From 1979 till her arrest in 1983, she was the leader of Women's Democratic Organization and the editor of the Zanan [Women] magazine. Her organization and magazine defended the anti-American policy of the Islamic Republic and the "Imam's Line."
Detention in Her Seventies
Maryam Firuz, with her husband Noureddin Kianouri, was arrested in February 1983. The two were first brought to the joint committee 3,000 and then to the first prison.
Mohammad Ali Amui said about the period of Maryam Firuz' detention: "Mrs. Firuz, like other political prisoners, was subjected to torture and pressure. These pressures and harsh treatments of political prisoners have been described in memoirs. When the process of her interrogation was over, Mr. Kianouri requested that he and his wife be put in the same cell, a request that was not granted. I witnessed the love they had for each other: whenever we were allowed to get together, Kianouri was all excited and, like a young lover, dashed to meet her."
Noureddin Kianouri, in a letter dated 5 February 1989 addressed to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wrote about a part of the tortures and pressures inflicted upon him and Maryam Firuz in prison.
Maryam Firuz and Kianouri never became truly free from imprisonment. From 1990, they were put under the surveillance of the Intelligence Ministry and lived under house arrest. Mohammad Ali Amui was one of those who remained by Maryam Firuz's side till her death, visiting her at home. Was Maryam Firuz able to obtain news of the problems of women's movement in Iran and their current activities?
Mohammad Ali Amui: "Dear Maryam read just about all newspapers, even though our newspapers didn't have much to say about women and women's movement. Such news was conveyed to her orally, and she followed it avidly. Mrs. Firuz, due to the prohibition of the Intelligence Ministry, was not permitted to visit anyone, and prominent activists also knew about that."
Maryam Firuz, in addition to several articles and translations, wrote a book titled Radiant Icons, describing those who dedicated their lives to defense of common people among the political activists prosecuted by the post-coup government. In this book, she paid tribute to forgotten radiant icons. Another book by the title of Memoir that Maryam Firuz published in her seventies, however, seems to be the work of the Intelligence Ministry.
Mohammad Ali Amui: "She herself didn't accept this book. Once I frankly raised a question about this book, and she said to me, 'My dear Amu, you don't really think these are my writings, do you? These were written by others under my name.' . . ."
According to Mohammad Ali Amui, on Thursday, 13 March 2008, Maryam Firuz's body was buried, by officials of the Intelligence Ministry, in the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in Tehran, in the double grave with Noureddin Kianouri.
The original obituary in Persian was published on the Web site of Deutsche Welle on 14 March 2008. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
There was little chance of that to begin with. Besides, Washington has long practiced and perfected the art of pocketing dissidents opposing foreign governments: "Tibet Uprising and U.S. Government Grants," Moon of Alabama, 17 March 2008.
What's interesting is that Washington is helping cause big trouble for the Chinese government just at the moment when it needs its cooperation (as well as cooperation of other governments) the most to resolve the credit crisis: it will take massive US government bailouts of failing banks and funds and generous income support for bankrupted home owners and unemployed workers to prevent this crisis from hitting the rest of economy hard; and yet since the USA is a debtor nation, the money for the bailouts has to come from outside, including China. It looks like the geopolitics of US imperialism, having taken on a life of its own, has become decoupled from the economics of the US-led multinational empire.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
On WMD's steering committee sits Mahnaz Afkhami, President of "Women's Learning Partnership for Rights, Development and Peace." One of WMD's projects is "International Women's Democracy Network," whose "secretariat [is] to be housed at an existing network with a substantial trans-regional membership, currently the Women's Learning Partnership." Iran must be close to the heart of this circle.
Afkhami, the first Minister for Women's Affairs under the Pahlavi regime, is naturally a friend of Reza Pahlavi, the son of the deposed Shah, who has not given up on the dream of restoration and is busily trying to organize Iranian exiles, not just monarchists but also leftists and separatists, in a vain attempt at regime change (Connie Bruck, "Exiles: How Iran's Expatriates Are Gaming the Nuclear Threat," New Yorker, 6 March 2006). What does Afkhami say about the former crown prince? "He's a regular guy" (qtd. in Franklin Foer, "Reza Pahlavi's Next Revolution: Successor Story," The New Republic, 3 January 2002). That says everything about the kind of world she lives in.
The NED's WMD is holding a conference in Kiev, Ukraine, one of the laboratories of "color revolutions," on 6-9 April 2008. At this conference it will pay tribute to "Irans One Million Signature Campaign" among other movements, says the NED's press release ("World Movement for Democracy to Meet in Kyiv,", 12 March 2008).
Only fools or knaves would accept a tribute from a combo of imperialists and monarchists. Those of you who have friends among the leadership or rank and file of the One Million Signatures Campaign should let them know that and encourage them to publicly repudiate it. Friends don't let friends get suckered into developing a political WMD.
Some of you may say, "They weren't born yesterday -- they are intellectuals who know what they are doing. How dare you patronize them?" But history shows that the empire has perfected the art of deceptive marketing, and some very good activists have become victims of it:
[Ramin] Ahmadi and a group of partners were among the earlier recipients of State Department democracy financing, securing initial grants of $1.6 million in 2004 to start the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. Its offices are now in a vast oblong space overlooking Yale's gothic campus. When I recently visited the center, its executive director, Tom Parker, emphasized that Ahmadi does not speak for the organization. But Ahmadi remains on the center's board. In early 2005, he brought the board a proposal to hold a human rights workshop in Dubai. . . .Moreover, some of the leaders of the One Million Signatures Campaign have been rather careless. To take one example, they have given interviews to Radio Farda and VOA Persian: e.g., "Iranian Activist Parvin Ardalan Tells VOA Women in Iran Struggle to Obtain Their Rights" (Press Release, VOA, 22 February 2008).
Emadeddin Baghi, who at that time was running a center for the defense of prisoners' rights in Tehran, sent members of his family -- including his wife and daughter -- to Dubai. "I was under the impression that this was a U.N.-sponsored event and that it would work on basic human rights reporting and documentation," he told me. "When the participants arrived, there was no trace of the U.N. And they had more in mind than reporting and documenting. We were lied to."
Upon arrival, he said, participants were kept sequestered in small groups, housed in separate hotels across Dubai. Over three sets of sessions, they were not only given some basic human rights and health training but also a session on successful popular revolts in places like Serbia, conducted by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, a Washington-based group. At least two members of Otpor -- the Serbian youth movement instrumental in ousting Slobodan Milosevic -- were present. Portions of "A Force More Powerful," a three-hour documentary series featuring civil-resistance movements overcoming authoritarian rule around the world, was also screened.
Further sessions included a lesson on how to use Hushmail (an encrypted e-mail account) and a secure open-source software called Martus designed to store information about human rights abuses. With the press of a single button, you can upload information to a server and erase any trace of the file from your computer. Each participant was given the software to take back to Tehran. One participant recently told me: "We were certain that we would have trouble once we went back to Tehran. This was like a James Bond camp for revolutionaries."
Two years later, at least two persons have been arrested in connection with attending the Dubai workshops. To this day, Ahmadi's name continues to come up in interrogations. (emphasis added, Negar Azimi, "Hard Realities of Soft Power," New York Times Magazine, 24 June 2007)
What's wrong with that, you may ask. How is that different from, say, speaking to the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal? All ruling-class media of the West, to be sure, have biases for imperialism, and it is clear that the US government plants its fake news in the commercial media ostensibly independent of it: e.g., Greg Mitchell, "'NYT' Reporter Who Got Iraqi WMDs Wrong Now Highlights Iran Claims," Editor & Publisher, 10 February 2007; and Glenn Greenwald, "Michael Gordon Trains His Stenographer Weapons on Iran," Salon.com 2 July 2007.
Radio Farda and VOA Persian, as well as others like them, however, are in another league, being expressly funded for regime change. "$36.1 million of the democracy money" went to just these two regime change media (Azimi, 24 June 2007). They are not even subtle about it, featuring monarchists and terrorists on their programs, so much so that some of the smarter neo-conservatives despair of their efficacy:
On occasion, V.O.A. has lurched toward Reza Pahlavi, the shah's son. The 40-something would-be monarch, who lives in Maryland, is often on the program and on occasion is invited to bestow New Year’s wishes on the Iranian people. And on April 1 of this year V.O.A. featured Abdolmalek Rigi, the head of Jondollah, a militant Sunni group that operates inside Iran’s southeastern border and claims to advance the interests of the Baluch minority. Jondollah is responsible for dozens of hostage takings and terrorist attacks. On this particular round-table program, Rigi was introduced as the leader of an armed national resistance group. Two days later, ABC News reported that the United States was funneling covert support to the group. (The U.S. immediately denied this.) Mehdi Khalaji, currently a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, worked at Radio Farda for three years and has spent the past months studying the Persian-language media. The new administrators at V.O.A. "do not seem to be able to distinguish between journalism and propaganda," Khalaji told me. "If you host the head of Jondollah and call him a freedom fighter or present a Voice of America run by monarchists, Iranians are going to stop listening." (Azimi, 24 June 2007)If Mehdi Khalaji, a fellow at a notoriously pro-Israel and anti-Iranian think thank, thinks that these media are too recklessly imperialist, it is safe to conclude that they indeed are. (Khalaji has made a detailed study of them: "Through the Veil: The Role of Broadcasting in U.S. Public Diplomacy toward Iranians," The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 2007.)
Now, is it a good idea for Iran's feminist leaders to get on the media that are too right-wing for this WINEP man? Would that make feminism popular among working people of Iran, the very people who must be won over to the idea of gender equality in order to decisively reform the state and civil society in Iran? These questions have apparently not occurred to the One Million Signatures Campaign leaders, which is another reason why a warning about the NED's WMD may not be out of place.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Often times, white people get frustrated with the state of their country. They do not like the President, or Congress, or the health care system, or the illegal status of Marijuana. Whenever they are presented with a situation that seems unreasonable to them, their first instinct is to threaten to move to Canada.But it turns out Canadians, no slouches at internal colonialism, aren't very good at overseas imperialism. What does imperialism look like when it's undertaken by nice liberal multiculturalists?
For example, if you are watching TV with white people and there is a piece on the news about that they do not agree with, they are likely to declare "ok, that's it, I'm moving to Canada."
Though they will never actually move to Canada, the act of declaring that they are willing to undertake the journey is very symbolic in white culture. It shows that their dedication to their lifestyle and beliefs are so strong, that they would consider packing up their entire lives and moving to a country that is only slightly similar to the one they live in now.
Within white culture, it is agreed upon that if Canada had better weather it would be a perfect place.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Note: Canadian white people threaten to move to Europe.
Note: Europeans are unable to threaten to move anywhere. ("#75 Threatening to Move to Canada," Stuff White People Like, 24 February 2008)
Peter MacKay [Minister of National Defence] claims: "More than 80 per cent of Afghans have access to basic health care today" ("Speaking Notes for Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence," Government of Canada, 17 Oct. 2007).If American imperialism is a tragedy, Canadian imperialism is a tragicomedy.
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For our research, we were unable to obtain a list of CIDA [Canadian International Development Agency] projects to tell us the specific location of projects in Afghanistan from either CIDA in Canada, or the Canadian embassy in Kabul. We happened to find two CIDA projects in Bamiyan province. Both were artificial insemination projects that appeared to be abandoned, or at best mothballed. These were the only evidence of CIDA projects we saw. At both sites, we found expensive vehicles and construction machinery left scattered about the sites in various stages of disrepair. (emphasis added, Michael Skinner, "Afghanistan: Why Canada Should Withdraw Its Troops," MRZine, 14 March 2008)
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Notice that (1) advocates of military strikes are minuscule in almost all nations, being sizable only in Israel (where they constitute the second largest bloc); and (2) even in the USA and Israel they are outnumbered by supporters of sanctions, by a large margin in the former.
Those who are still capable of rooting for bigger and badder military adventurism, having recognized (at least some of) its consequences in Iraq (if not those of imperialist interventions elsewhere), are true believers, unlikely to change their minds whatever leftists might say.
Those whose minds can be, and must be, changed are those who advocate "only diplomatic efforts" and those who want to "impose economic sanctions."
What's our message? The main point we need to get across is this: sanctions are not an alternative to war, but a prelude to it, so "diplomatic efforts" must be made against sanctions (without which clarification Washington can easily merge the pro-diplomacy and pro-sanctions blocs into a diplomacy for sanctions bloc).
We have seen how the use of economic warfare segues into the use of military force, in Iraq, most obviously, but also in Haiti, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. Economic sanctions degrade their target nation's capacity for self defense, materially by diminishing the nation's ability to maintain, let alone upgrade, economic foundations and military apparatuses for it, and psychologically by aggravating existing contradictions and antagonisms and sowing new ones within the target nation. That creates an opportunity for the empire. And, when sanctions fail to change behavior of the target government to the satisfaction of the empire, that creates a pretext . . . which is easy to do, for the empire merely needs to keep changing its demand (as it already has on Iran, from answering "outstanding questions" that the International Atomic Energy Agency has to stopping uranium enrichment regardless of the fact that the IAEA says Iran has answered all of them and to providing "additional clarifications" about information allegedly contained in the dubious laptop procured by MEK, a notorious anti-Iranian terrorist cult) so the target government can never meet it.
The time to act is now. If Washington succeeds in putting together a coalition of governments -- in which "center-left" political parties play the key role -- that will enforce the sanctions that really "work," the game is over for the Iranian people.
No matter how much the White House tries to stoke pro-war sentiment (so far having influence only over Israelis), it doesn't have troops for a ground invasion for now, with its troops tied up in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere; and no matter how badly it wants to sanction Iran, it cannot do so directly, for, after decades of unilateral US sanctions, Iran's main trade partners are now Asians and Europeans. Therefore, Washington seeks to wield its (declining but still existing) dollar hegemony to economically and politically isolate Iran, especially from Asia and Europe, but also from the rest of the world. Tehran seeks to do the opposite.
This is an international struggle that best illustrates the complex reality of imperialism today, whose modus operandi is not inter-imperialist rivalry but incorporation of the power elites and ruling classes (overlapping categories) of more and more nations (which is what the media actually mean when they speak of the "international community"), so that there will eventually be "nothing outside the empire" (the empire's preferred future that Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri mistook for its present). What the Iranians are up against, in other words, is not US imperialism plain and simple but a multinational empire under US hegemony, in which nations such as India, Brazil, and South Africa play increasing roles.
As it happens, however, Washington's demand regarding Iran is against the vital short-term interests of many nations in the world, since few will benefit from moves that cannot but aggravate the energy supply bottlenecks that are (combined with the declining dollar and surging energy demand among energy exporters as well as emerging industrial powers such as China and India) directly pushing up fuel prices, indirectly raising food prices, and helping create a specter of stagflation or even depression (since higher energy prices, in addition to its own current account deficit, constrain the US government's ability to resolve the crisis of credit), and against the long-term interests of just about all of them, especially in the global South. The struggle is not so much between Iran and the USA as in each nation, between its own objective interests (national development and international equality) and Washington's subjective preference (US hegemony).
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
"An English newspaper reported sarcastically that the 'Sword of Islam' had been manufactured by a goldsmith in Florence" (Margret Boveri, Mediterranean Cross-currents, Trans. Louise Marie Sieveking, Oxford UP, 1938, p. 25).Far from a sign of affinity between Islam and the European Far Right that some take it to be, it is a piece of colonial photo op, already judged tawdry by all thinking people even back then.
"Having purchased 'The Sword of Islam' as near to home as Florence and hired Libyan Jewish goldsmiths to engrave Arabic designs on it, the Duce presented it to himself with grotesque solemnity" (William N. Connor, The English at War, Secker & Warburg, 1941, p. 45).
"This sword had been made in Florence after a model published in a German book at the time of Wilhelm II" (Dorothy Norman, Twice a Year, 1948, p. 68).
The same charade, by the way, continues to this day. Just as Fascist Italy pretended to defend Muslims from British and French imperialists, the American empire, too, presents itself as the liberator, this time promising liberation not from other empires but from local "tyrants and dictators."