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Monday, March 31, 2008

Climate Change Is a Wake-Up Call to Radically Reform Our Economy By Preeti Magala Sarkar& Tram Nguyen (blog from Alternet)

Environment

Climate Change Is a Wake-Up Call to Radically Reform Our Economy

By Preeti Mangala Shekar and Tram Nguyen, ColorLines. Posted March 31, 2008.


In these efforts lay a hopeful vision-that the crises-ridden worlds of economics and environmentalism would converge to address the other huge crisis-racism in the United States. It is what some of its advocates call a potential paradigm shift that, necessitated by the earth's climate crisis, can point the way out of "gray capitalism" and into a green, more equitable economy. The engine of this model is driven by the young and proactive leadership of people of color who intend to build a different solution for communities of color.

Van Jones, president of the Ella Baker Center, talks about how earlier waves of economic flourishes didn't much impact Black communities. "When the dotcom boom went bust, you didn't see no Black man lose his shirt," he points out, only half joking. "Black people were the least invested in it."

Climate change is the 21st century's wake-up call to not just rethink but radically redo our economies. Ninety percent of scientists agree that we are headed toward a climate crisis, and that, indeed, it has already started. With the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions, the clean energy economy is poised to grow enormously. This sector includes anything that meets our energy needs without contributing to carbon emissions or that reduces carbon emissions; it encompasses building retrofitting, horticulture infrastructure (tree pruning and urban gardening), food security, biofuels and other renewable energy sources, and more.

It's becoming clear that investing in clean energy has the potential to create good jobs, many of them located in urban areas as state and city governments are increasingly adopting public policies designed to improve urban environmental quality in areas such as solar energy, waste reduction, materials reuse, public transit infrastructures, green building, energy and water efficiency, and alternative fuels.

According to recent research by Raquel Pinderhughes, a professor of urban studies at San Francisco State University, green jobs have an enormous potential to reverse the decades-long trend of unemployment rates that are higher for people of color than whites. In Berkeley, California, for example, unemployment of people of color is between 1.5 and 3.5 times that of white people, and the per capita income of people of color is once again between 40 to 70 percent of that of white people.

Pinderhughes defines green-collar jobs as manual labor jobs in businesses whose goods and services directly improve environmental quality. These jobs are typically located in large and small for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, social enterprises, and public and private institutions. Most importantly, these jobs offer training, an entry level that usually requires only a high school diploma, and decent wages and benefits, as well as a potential career path in a growing industry.

Yet, though green economics present a great opportunity to lift millions of unemployed, underemployed or displaced workers-many of them people of color-out of poverty, the challenge lies in defining an equitable and workable development model that would actually secure good jobs for marginalized communities.

"Green economics needs to be eventually policy-driven. If not, the greening of towns and cities will definitely set in motion the wheels of gentrification," Pinderhughes adds. "Without a set of policies that explicitly ensures checks and measures to prevent gentrification, green economics cannot be a panacea for the ills of the current economy that actively displaces and marginalizes people of color, while requiring their cheap labor and participation as exploited consumers."

What remains to be seen is how green economics will transition out of current prevalent models of ownership and control. A greener version of capitalism could possibly address some of the repercussions of a consumption economy and the enormous waste it generates. But critics and activists also worry that a "replacement mindset" is largely driving the optimism and energy of greening our industries and jobs. Hybrid cars replace conventional cars, and organic ingredients are promised in a wide variety of products from hand creams to protein bars. Many mainstream environmental festivals like the popular Green Festival held in San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Chicago, have yet to embrace a democratic diversity. Peddling wonderful green products and services that will reduce your ecological footprint, they are accessible, alas, only to elite classes that are predominantly white.

"An authentic green economics system is one that would mark the end of capitalism," notes B. Jess Clarke, editor of Race, Poverty and the Environment. And one that would ensure labor rights and organizing, collective ownership and equality are all at the heart of it, he adds. "The real green movement has not started yet."

A movement toward economic justice requires the mobilizing and organizing of the poorest people for greater economic and political power. A good green economic model would surely be one where poor people's labor has considerable economic leverage. "Wal-Mart putting solar panels on its store roofs is not a solution," says Clarke. "We need real solutions and strong measures-carbon taxes on imports from China would considerably reduce the incentive of cheap imports and make a push to produce locally."

"Green economics can create a momentum-a political moment akin to the civil rights movement. But unless workers are organized, any success is likely to be marginal. So the key problem is in organizing a political base," adds Clarke. Green economics, then, is not just a green version of current economic models but a fundamental transformation, outlines Brian Milani, a Canadian academic and environmental expert who has written extensively on green economics. He writes in his book Designing the Green Economy: "Green economics is the economics of the real world-the world of work, human needs, the earth's materials, and how they mesh together most harmoniously. It is primarily about 'use value,' not 'exchange value' or money. It is about quality, not quantity, for the sake of it. It is about regeneration-of individuals, communities, and ecosystems-not about accumulation, of either money or material."

The $125 million promised through the Green Jobs Act is admittedly a drop in the bucket as far as the amount of financing and infrastructure needed to implement green jobs, activists say. Among the Democratic presidential candidates, all of whom have proposals for clean energy investment, talk has run into the billions of dollars for green economic stimulus.

So who will pay to get the green economy going and train a green workforce?

Throughout history we have freely released carbon and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and not had to pay a penny for the privilege. Industrial polluters and utilities may face fines for toxic emissions or releasing hazardous waste, but there has been no cost for emitting carbon as a part of day-to-day business. However, we have come to find that the atmosphere is a limited resource, and it's getting used up fast.

By limiting the total amount of carbon that can be released, and making industries pay for their pollution, global warming policies finally recognize that the atmosphere has value and must be protected. The policy with the most momentum in the U.S. and around the world is to "cap and trade" the amount of carbon that can be emitted every year. With this policy, the government sets a hard target for CO2 emissions, and then companies have to trade credits to get back the right to emit that carbon, no longer for free.

One often overlooked fact, though, is that under a "cap and trade" policy, a tremendous amount of money could change hands-the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new value created by such a policy ranges from $50 -- $300 billion each year. So far, public debate has focused on setting targets and caps, but the question of who will benefit from those credits has largely been ignored. In fact, many proposals have simply given these valuable new property rights away to polluters for them to sell to each other, because they were the ones who were polluting to begin with.

Under an important variant of the "cap and trade" policy called "cap and auction," the government not only limits the total carbon emissions, but it also captures the value of those carbon credits for public purposes by requiring that all polluters must bid for and buy back the right to emit. A 100-percent auction of permits would give the public ready access to the ongoing funds we will need to reinvest in social equity and bring down poor people's energy bills, or to support new research, or to launch new projects that not only establish training for green jobs, but create those jobs themselves, rebuilding the infrastructure of our communities for a clean energy economy.

However, there can be a lot of slippage between the green economy and green jobs that actually go to workers of color, especially in today's anti-affirmative action context. In one pilot program, nearly two dozen young people of color were trained to install solar panels, but only one got a job. Ultimately, employers can't be told who to hire, though there are some ideas about providing incentives, like requiring companies to show they hire locally and diversely before public institutions will invest their assets there.

"Green for All," the campaign launched in September 2007 by the Ella Baker Center and other partners like Sustainable South Bronx and the Apollo Alliance, is currently among the leading advocates pushing for policy that would ensure a racially just framework for green economics to grow and flourish, without which, green economics can end up being just a greening consumption. With a goal to bring green-collar jobs to urban areas, this campaign positions itself as an effort to provide a viable policy framework for emerging grassroots, green economic models. The campaign's long-term goal is to secure $1 billion by 2012 to create "green pathways out of poverty" for 250,000 people by greatly expanding federal government and private sector commitments to green-collar jobs.

"A big chunk of the African-American community is economically stranded," Van Jones said in The New York Times last fall as the campaign began. "The blue-collar, stepping-stone, manufacturing jobs are leaving. And they're not being replaced by anything. So you have this whole generation of young Blacks who are basically in economic free fall."

The challenge of making the green economy racially equitable means addressing the question of how to build an infrastructure that includes not just training programs but also the development of actual good jobs and the hiring policies that make them accessible. How can we guarantee that all these new green jobs will go to local residents? As one activist admitted, "There's just no good answer to this so far."

Many of the answers will have to come in the doing, and the details, as green industry continues to take shape. There are plenty of ideas about how to create equitable policies, as outlined in the report "Community Jobs in the Green Economy" by the Apollo Alliance and Urban Habitat. They include requiring employers who receive public subsidies to set aside a number of jobs for local residents and partner with workforce intermediaries to hire them. Some cities are already requiring developers to reserve 50 percent of their construction jobs for local businesses and residents. Cities can also attach wage standards to their deals with private companies that are pegged to a living wage. In Milwaukee, after two freeway ramps were destroyed downtown, a coalition of community activists and unions won a community benefits agreement from the city to require that the new development include mass transit, green building and living wages for those jobs.

As we have learned in many progressive struggles, communities need to be mobilized and actively involved in generating inclusive policies and pushing policymakers to ensure that green economic development will be just and equitable. Bracken Hendricks, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and co-author of Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy, says the green economy movement is still in its early stages of building public support. "There is not yet an organized constituency representing the human face of what it means to face climate change. There is an urgent need for a human face, an equity constituency, to enter into the national debate on climate change."

Omar Freilla, founder of Green Worker Cooperative, an organization that actively promotes worker-owned and ecofriendly manufacturing jobs to the South Bronx, is convinced that democracy begins at the workplace where many of us as workers and employees spend most of our time. "The environmental justice movement has been about people taking control of their own communities," he says. "Those most impacted by a problem are also the ones leading the hunt for a solution."

Environmental racism is rooted in a dirty energy economy, a reckless linear model that terminates with the dumping of toxins and wastes in poor communities of color that have the least access to political power to change this linear path to destruction.

Defining and then refining green economics as a way to steer it toward bigger change is at the root of understanding the socio-political and economic possibilities of this moment.

Van Jones calls for a historic approach, one that considers the world economy in stages of refinement. "Green capitalism is not the final stage of human development, any more than gray capitalism was. There will be other models and other advances-but only if we survive as a species. But we have to recognize that we are at a particular stage of history, where the choices are not capitalism versus socialism, but green/eco-capitalism versus gray/suicide capitalism. The first industrial revolution hurt both people and the planet, very badly. Today, we do have a chance to create a second 'green' industrial revolution, one that will produce much better ecological outcomes. Our task is to ensure that this green revolution succeeds-and to ensure that the new model also generates much better social outcomes. I don't know what will replace eco-capitalism. But I do know that no one will be here to find out, if we don't first replace gray capitalism."

The people most affected by the injustices of the polluting economy are already helping to lead the way, and it's business at its most unusual.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fighting Words: How to Humiliate -- and Convert -- a Right-Winger By John Dolan, AlterNet. Posted March 25, 2008.


http://www.alternet.org/mediaculture/80507/?page=entire

Fighting Words: How to Humiliate -- and Convert -- a Right-Winger

By John Dolan, AlterNet. Posted March 25, 2008.

Drop the condescending "populist" talk and get mean.


"....And please, don't tell me you're above such gross playground
considerations. The American people are the beneficiaries of centuries
of serious Leftist violence, starting with the American Revolution and
climaxing in the Civil War. Without brave Leftist warriors
slaughtering British and Confederate soldiers in large numbers, the
whole tradition of American liberalism would not exist......"

I'd like to suggest a very simple strategy for American liberals: Get
mean. Stop policing the language and start using it to hurt our
enemies. American liberals are so busy purging their speech of any
words that might offend anyone that they have no notion of using
language to cause some salutary pain.

Why, for example, not popularize slogans that mock the Bush loyalists
as "suckers"? Something like, "There are two kinds of Republicans:
millionaires and suckers." Put that on a few bumper stickers and I
guarantee a lot of "South Park Republicans" will quit the GOP. They
just smirk when you tsk-tsk at them for being disrespectful. They want
to be disrespectful; every normal young male wants to be.

And this, of course, brings up a big issue: At some point liberal
writers are going to have to decide if it's OK to be young and male at
all. For better or for worse, millions of American men hold on to
playground ethics long after they leave elementary school. For most of
them, the 2004 election came down to a classic playground scene: Would
John Kerry defend himself when attacked by bullies? Liberals, still
stunned by the way a legitimate combat vet like Kerry was beaten by a
combat-dodging spoiled brat like Bush, never understood that for
millions of voters, the question wasn't how well Kerry fought in
Vietnam but whether he would fight in 2004.

Would he defend himself when called out by the gang of disgusting
bullies Bush had gathered around himself? It would have been so
simple, so glorious, if he'd just turned on his accusers and reacted
like a human being: "You're questioning my record on behalf of a skunk
like Bush who spent the war with the Alabama National Guard, and then
went AWOL from the Guard?"

Millions of American voters were waiting, hoping Kerry would react
like any sane person would have. He never did. I don't know why not; I
assume he was in the hands of some Clinton gurus who babbled about
"rising above the fray." Well, that sure worked well.

And please, don't tell me you're above such gross playground
considerations. The American people are the beneficiaries of centuries
of serious Leftist violence, starting with the American Revolution and
climaxing in the Civil War. Without brave Leftist warriors
slaughtering British and Confederate soldiers in large numbers, the
whole tradition of American liberalism would not exist.

And we are the sufferers from the most disastrous wimp-out in recent
American history: Carter's debacle in response to the taking of
American hostages in Iran in 1979. That refusal to use punitive force
to free his country's diplomats may have made pacifists feel nice, but
it was an expensive treat; it got Reagan elected, showed a host of
evil right-wing PR staffers that all they had to do was talk tough to
win, and convinced a huge number of disgusted American male voters
that the liberals would not fight back.

Kerry could have turned that around in 2004; it was almost as if a
Hollywood scriptwriter had arranged the perfect confrontation, in
which the liberal champion could flatten his orc-like tormentors and
show the voters that one can be a progressive without being a wimp.
Instead, he confirmed a prevalent myth that liberals are "soft" on
terrorism and the military -- in other words, like illustrator Gary
Larson's Wimpodites: "Though skilled with their pillow arsenal, the
Wimpodites were frequent targets of Viking attacks."

And so far, the liberal response, the liberal attempt to reach out to
the guys in the big trucks is embarrassing "populist" essays using bad
imitations of American slang. Let's be blunt here: "populism" is
condescension. If you want male voters' respect, stop patronizing
them. (It just creeps them out.) Far better to insult them -- to their
face, in their face, telling them bluntly that the talk radio nonsense
they parrot is pure crap. They know that themselves. Half of what they
say is designed simply to reassure themselves and their friends that
they're not the same sort of wimps their social studies teachers tried
to make them into. So they're not afraid of being called cruel or
insensitive; they're afraid of being suckers.

The minute we start calling them on their suckerdom, they'll change
sides -- and we'll finally have some decent troops on our side. But as
long as liberals speak in the language of Beavis and Butthead's Mister
van Driessen, they'll despise you, even when they know you're right
(which they do). We may not be the most systematically intellectual
tribe on earth, but Americans are very verbally sensitive. They will
not heed Mister van Driessen, even if he's telling them to evacuate a
burning classroom. They'd sooner die. You may find this irrational,
but when I think back to the progressive mindset I became familiar
with UC Berkeley, I understand this reaction very well. I don't
condone it, but damn! I sure do understand it.

Liberals aren't generally perceived as fighting the robber barons --
they appear as a secular clergy far more obsessed with cleaning up our
gloriously obscene language than fighting back.

Note that I've used the word "fighting." Americans are a violent
people -- and I mean that as a compliment. We are a magnificently
violent people who value courage above all else. In this, the ordinary
American is in total agreement with George Patton, John Paul Jones and
John Brown. They were all violent leaders, who sent a lot of Redcoats,
Nazis and secessionist slaveholders to an early grave. I consider that
glorious; so do most Americans.

John Paul Jones said, "I intend to go in harm's way" and coined a
boast that generations of Americans, and even Bugs Bunny himself,
repeated with pride: "I have not yet begun to fight." John Brown
killed and died to provoke a final conflict over slavery. When
American liberals can appreciate, encourage and manipulate the
violence of such people, maybe you can talk to your fellow Americans
again.

A good first step would be accepting the fact that language is a
weapon -- and then start using it effectively. Most liberals affect
scorn for mere words, in the way that I affected scorn for mathematics
after flunking algebra twice in high schools. And most of the hardcore
academic progressives I've known have tin ears. Their sheer awfulness
is adaptive within the academic ghetto, in the way that a lack of any
olfactory ability is adaptive for carrion eaters; but it's disastrous
when they try to talk to people outside their guild.

It's not really that hard, after all. Just stop trying to be
"populists," because frankly when liberals start talking about
"populism," they sound like North Korean infiltrators trying to pose
as surfer dudes. Try smacking your South Park countrymen in their
deluded heads with some bumper stickers of our own, just as down and
dirty as theirs. Wanna get them out of their gas-guzzling Dodge
extended-cab semis? Stop whining at them and try putting these four
little words on the back bumper of your hybrid: "Big truck, small
dick." Yeah, you might get yelled at at a stoplight; you might even
get hit. You might even consider hitting back.

Liberals have always been good fighters, once they get going.
Reply

Forward



India; shame, says Mahasweta Devi

http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/uncategorized/taslima-leaves-india-shame-says-mahasweta-devi_10029269.html

India; shame, says Mahasweta Devi


Kolkata, March 19 (IANS) Bangladeshi writer Taslima
Nasreen, confined for nearly four months to a 'safe
house', finally left India Wednesday for medical
treatment abroad. Magsaysay winning social activist
Mahasweta Devi dubbed her departure as "shame" for
India. "I am at Heathrow airport now, waiting for a
connecting flight," Nasreen told a friend in Kolkata
from London but it was not yet clear where she was
heading to from there.

Sources said she left New Delhi Wednesday morning
alleging that she was denied treatment in India and
forced to live like a prisoner in a "death chamber".

Nasreen was almost forced to live in a "safe house" in
New Delhi since November-end after she was shunted out
of Kolkata following unprecedented street violence
over her stay in India and previous writings that
criticize Islam and its treatment of women.

Mahasweta Devi, the 82-year-old activist and writer,
told IANS: "It is a shame. The circumstances under
which she left are reprehensible for a free and
secular India.

"I read her email where she described her stay in New
Delhi like living in a death chamber. I called her up
and asked her to leave and get better treatment," she
said.

"West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee
colluded to ensure that she was forced to leave India.
It is a conspiracy in the name of Muslim votes.

"Is this independent India? It is a dangerous
situation where a woman seeking asylum is put behind
walls," she said.

Earlier, Nasreen told IANS: "I can't take it any more.
I will die if I continue to live like this."

"I am losing my eyesight, my heart is damaged. I have
to survive. I am dying like this. I have to
immediately get good treatment because I am not even
getting cardiologists here," she said from her
undisclosed address in New Delhi where she was
sheltered by the government from fundamentalists.

The author, facing protests, was kept incognito for
nearly four months in a place near New Delhi. Security
restrictions were imposed on her movement even in
Kolkata before she was forced out of the city Nov 21
last year following violent protests.

She was living virtually in a house arrest and was not
allowed to receive visitors.

India's external affairs ministry in mid-February
extended her visa but restrictions on her movements
continued.

"I want to come back to Kolkata - my home - if I am
allowed and not put in prison like this again. Right
now my only concern is to live and get proper medical
attention," said Nasreen. She recently spent a few
days in a New Delhi hospital.

"Stress and hypertension is killing me. There is
already a big damage to my heart. I need to save the
rest," she said.

"My world is in Kolkata. I have not been allowed to
visit the city and collect my own belongings. I hope
my friends in Kolkata would help me since I am not
allowed to go there," she said.

West Bengal's ruling Left Front shunted out Nasreen
Nov 21 last year after street violence in Kolkata over
her extended stay in India.

Nasreen, who was already living confined in a Kolkata
apartment, was taken first to Jaipur and then to New
Delhi by the central government and has since been
kept in a safe house.

In an earlier interview, the 45-year-old author had
said impassionedly: "I am only breathing. I don't
think I am alive like you are. Can anybody live like
this? It was beyond my imagination that in a secular
democracy like India, such a thing could happen to a
writer."

On Nov 30 Nasreen had agreed to expunge controversial
portions from her autobiography "Dwikhandita" (Split
in Two).

Though Jyoti Basu, the patriarch of the state's ruling
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), said on Dec
25 that Nasreen was welcome to return to Kolkata, the
Left Front government has chosen to remain silent on
her plight.

In a delicate balancing act, Mukherjee had promised to
"shelter" Nasreen but urged her to "refrain from
activities and expressions" that may hurt the
sentiments of Indian people and harm relations with
friendly countries.



______________________________

Unreported world India -THE BROKEN PEOPLE- Parts 1to3



Watch these videos

Unreported world India - "The Broken People" Part 1

Unreported world India - "The Broken People" Part 2

Unreported world India - "The Broken People" Part 3
India may have a booming economy with a soaring stock exchange fast growing technology and services sector, but it's built on service of a much more unpleasant kind, as this week's Unreported World reveals.

Reporter Ramita Navai and Producer Siobhan Sinnerton travel through India exposing the horrific plight of the country's 170 million Dalits; Literally meaning "the broken people" - and previously called "the untouchables", they are at the bottom of India's caste system and are some of the most oppressed people on Earth.

Economic growth has done little to improve the Dalits' lot; despite legislation, they still form 60 per cent of all those below the poverty line. Now, as Unreported World reports, Dalits are starting to fight for political power in an Indian civil rights movement against segregation every bit as bad as apartheid South Africa and the 1950s American South.

The team begin their journey with Dalits who are manual scavengers - a polite term for those whose role in life is to clean latrines by hand. It's a practise which is officially illegal, but a million Dalits do it every day. Navai accompanies Sangita as she begins her daily job cleaning the latrines of upper caste families. She is the third generation to do this and tells Navai that she desperately wishes her children don't suffer the same role.

Not only is it degrading, but the work can be dangerous. The team is told about a Dalit who has died after being overcome by fumes while cleaning a deep sewer. Other Dalits have dragged his body outside the municipality that hired him in protest. By law no Indian municipalities are permitted to employ manual scavengers, so the team goes to question the Chief Officer of the municipality. He denies that any scavengers are employed, despite the crowd outside who claim they are his employees.

The position of Dalits at the bottom of the caste ladder is deeply ingrained and those who step out of line are often ritually humiliated or punished with violence. In Devaliya an activist takes the team to a refuge full of Dalit families who have fled violence and harassment from upper caste families. Inside, Rudiben tells Navai that her husband had been standing up for the rights of Dalits in their village, angering the dominant caste and resulting in a horrific attack when he was speared to death by upper caste villagers. She says that when the case went to court, the villagers threatened to kill her children, intimidated the main witness and were subsequently aquitted.

In Maharashtra, the team meets Bhayalal, whose wife, daughter and two sons were beaten to death after he complained about access to land. Eleven villagers are currently on trial for murder. The Indian Government introduced an atrocities against Dalits law to deal with caste crime 18 years ago, but its implementation has been abysmal with a conviction rate of just two per cent.

Traveling to the eastern state of Bihar, the team finds a group of very young protesters - including school children who are forced by their teachers to clean toilets rather than study when they go to school. One boy tells Navai that when he asked to use the toilet, his teacher locked him in the cubicle for six hours.

Just as Black Americans did in the 1950s, educated Dalits are forming civil rights movements, challenging local governments and demanding equal access to services. As the team leaves the country, it's clear these leaders face an uphill struggle against such an entrenched system, but the price of failure will be to condemn millions to continuing misery and degradation.



Sunday, March 9, 2008

Noam Chomsky: Why Isn't Iraq in the 2008 Election?


http://www.alternet.org/election08/78408/

Noam Chomsky: Why Isn't Iraq in the 2008 Election?

- Hide quoted text -

Not very long ago, as you all recall, it was taken for granted that the Iraq war would be the central issue in the 2008 election, as it was in the midterm election two years ago. However, it's virtually disappeared off the radar screen, which has solicited some puzzlement among the punditry.

Actually, the reason is not very obscure. It was cogently explained forty years ago, when the US invasion of South Vietnam was in its fourth year and the surge of that day was about to add another 100,000 troops to the 175,000 already there, while South Vietnam was being bombed to shreds at triple the level of the bombing of the north and the war was expanding to the rest of Indochina. However, the war was not going very well, so the former hawks were shifting towards doubts, among them the distinguished historian Arthur Schlesinger, maybe the most distinguished historian of his generation, a Kennedy adviser, who -- when he and Kennedy, other Kennedy liberals were beginning to -- reluctantly beginning to shift from a dedication to victory to a more dovish position.

And Schlesinger explained the reasons. He explained that -- I'll quote him now -- "Of course, we all pray that the hawks are right in thinking that the surge of that day will work. And if it does, we may all be saluting the wisdom and statesmanship of the American government in winning a victory in a land that we have turned," he said, "to wreck and ruin. But the surge probably won't work, at an acceptable cost to us, so perhaps strategy should be rethought."

Well, the reasoning and the underlying attitudes carry over with almost no change to the critical commentary on the US invasion of Iraq today. And it is a land of wreck and ruin. You've already heard a few words; I don't have to review the facts. The highly regarded British polling agency, Oxford Research Bureau, has just updated its estimate of deaths. Their new estimate a couple of days ago is 1.3 million. That's excluding two of the most violent provinces, Karbala and Anbar. On the side, it's kind of intriguing to observe the ferocity of the debate over the actual number of deaths. There's an assumption on the part of the hawks that if we only killed a couple hundred thousand people, it would be OK, so we shouldn't accept the higher estimates. You can go along with that if you like.

Uncontroversially, there are over two million displaced within Iraq. Thanks to the generosity of Jordan and Syria, the millions of refugees who have fled the wreckage of Iraq aren't totally wiped out. That includes most of the professional classes. But that welcome is fading, because Jordan and Syria receive no support from the perpetrators of the crimes in Washington and London, and therefore they cannot accept that huge burden for very long. It's going to leave those two-and-a-half million refugees who fled in even more desperate straits.

The sectarian warfare that was created by the invasion never -- nothing like that had ever existed before. That has devastated the country, as you know. Much of the country has been subjected to quite brutal ethnic cleansing and left in the hands of warlords and militias. That's the primary thrust of the current counterinsurgency strategy that's developed by the revered "Lord Petraeus," I guess we should describe him, considering the way he's treated. He won his fame by pacifying Mosul a couple of years ago. It's now the scene of some of the most extreme violence in the country.

One of the most dedicated and informed journalists who has been immersed in the ongoing tragedy, Nir Rosen, has just written an epitaph entitled "The Death of Iraq" in the very mainstream and quite important journal Current History. He writes that "Iraq has been killed, never to rise again. The American occupation has been more disastrous than that of the Mongols, who sacked Baghdad in the thirteenth century," which has been the perception of many Iraqis, as well. "Only fools talk of 'solutions' now," he went on. "There is no solution. The only hope is that perhaps the damage can be contained."

But Iraq is, in fact, the marginal issue, and the reasons are the traditional ones, the traditional reasoning and attitudes of the liberal doves who all pray now, as they did forty years ago, that the hawks will be right and that the US will win a victory in this land of wreck and ruin. And they're either encouraged or silenced by the good news about Iraq.

And there is good news. The US occupying army in Iraq -- euphemistically it's called the Multi-National Force-Iraq, because they have, I think, three polls there somewhere -- that the occupying army carries out extensive studies of popular attitudes. It's an important part of counterinsurgency or any form of domination. You want to know what your subjects are thinking. And it released a report last December. It was a study of focus groups, and it was uncharacteristically upbeat. The report concluded -- I'll quote it -- that the survey of focus groups "provides very strong evidence" that national reconciliation is possible and anticipated, contrary to what's being claimed. The survey found that a sense of "optimistic possibility permeated all focus groups and far more commonalities than differences are found among these seemingly diverse groups of Iraqis" from all over the country and all walks of life. This discovery of "shared beliefs" among Iraqis throughout the country is "good news, according to a military analysis of the results," Karen de Young reported in the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago.

Well, the "shared beliefs" are identified in the report. I'll quote de Young: "Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the US military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of [what they call] 'occupying forces' as the key to national reconciliation." So those are the "shared beliefs." According to the Iraqis then, there's hope of national reconciliation if the invaders, who are responsible for the internal violence and the other atrocities, if they withdraw and leave Iraq to Iraqis. That's pretty much the same as what's been found in earlier polls, so it's not all that surprising. Well, that's the good news: "shared beliefs."

The report didn't mention some other good news, so I'll add it. Iraqis, it appears, accept the highest values of Americans. That ought to be good news. Specifically, they accept the principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal that sentenced Nazi war criminals to hanging for such crimes as supporting aggression and preemptive war. It was the main charge against von Ribbentrop, for example, whose position was -- in the Nazi regime was that of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. The Tribunal defined aggression very straightforwardly: aggression, in its words, is the "invasion of its armed forces" by one state "of the territory of another state." That's simple. Obviously, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan are textbook examples of aggression. And the Tribunal, as I'm sure you know, went on to characterize aggression as "the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself all the accumulated evil of the whole." So everything that follows from the aggression is part of the evil of the aggression.

Well, the good news from the US military survey of focus groups is that Iraqis do accept the Nuremberg principles. They understand that sectarian violence and the other postwar horrors are contained within the supreme international crime committed by the invaders. I think they were not asked whether their acceptance of American values extends to the conclusion of Justice Robert Jackson, chief prosecutor for the United States at Nuremberg. He forcefully insisted that the Tribunal would be mere farce if we do not apply the principles to ourselves.

Well, needless to say, US opinion, shared with the West generally, flatly rejects the lofty American values that were professed at Nuremberg, indeed regards them as bordering on obscene, as you could quickly discover if you try experimenting by suggesting that these values should be observed, as Iraqis insist. It's an interesting illustration of the reality, some of the reality, that lies behind the famous "clash of civilizations." Maybe not exactly the way we like to look at it.

There was a poll a few days ago, a really major poll, just released, which found that 75 percent of Americans believe that US foreign policy is driving the dissatisfaction with America abroad, and more than 60 percent believe that dislike of American values and of the American people are also to blame. Dissatisfaction is a kind of an understatement. The United States has become increasingly the most feared and often hated country in the world. Well, that perception is in fact incorrect. It's fed by propaganda. There's very little dislike of Americans in the world, shown by repeated polls, and the dissatisfaction -- that is, the hatred and the anger -- they come from acceptance of American values, not a rejection of them, and recognition that they're rejected by the US government and by US elites, which does lead to hatred and anger.

There's other "good news" that's been reported by General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker that was during the extravaganza that was staged last September 11th. September 11th, you might ask why the timing? Well, a cynic might imagine that the timing was intended to insinuate the Bush-Cheney claims of links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. They can't come out and say it straight out, so therefore you sort of insinuate it by devices like this. It's intended to indicate, as they used to say outright but are now too embarrassed to say, except maybe Cheney, that by committing the supreme international crime, they were defending the world against terror, which, in fact, increased sevenfold as a result of the invasion, according to a recent analysis by terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank.

Petraeus and Crocker provided figures to explain the good news. The figures they provided on September 11th showed that the Iraqi government was greatly accelerating spending on reconstruction, which is good news indeed and remained so until it was investigated by the Government Accountability Office, which found that the actual figure was one-sixth of what Petraeus and Crocker reported and, in fact, a 50 percent decline from the previous year.

Well, more good news is the decline in sectarian violence, that's attributable in part to the murderous ethnic cleansing that Iraqis blame on the invasion. The result of it is there are simply fewer people to kill, so sectarian violence declines. It's also attributable to the new counterinsurgency doctrine, Washington's decision to support the tribal groups that had already organized to drive out Iraqi al-Qaeda, to an increase in US troops, and to the decision of the Sadr's Mahdi army to consolidate its gains to stop direct fighting. And politically, that's what the press calls "halting aggression" by the Mahdi army. Notice that only Iraqis can commit aggression in Iraq, or Iranians, of course, but no one else.

Well, it's possible that Petraeus's strategy may approach the success of the Russians in Chechnya, where -- I'll quote The New York Times a couple of weeks ago -- Chechnya, the fighting is now "limited and sporadic, and Grozny is in the midst of a building boom" after having been reduced to rubble by the Russian attack. Well, maybe some day Baghdad and Fallujah also will enjoy, to continue the quote, "electricity restored in many neighborhoods, new businesses opening and the city's main streets repaved," as in booming Grozny. Possible, but dubious, in the light of the likely consequence of creating warlord armies that may be the seeds of even greater sectarian violence, adding to the "accumulated evil" of the aggression. Well, if Russians share the beliefs and attitudes of elite liberal intellectuals in the West, then they must be praising Putin's "wisdom and statesmanship" for his achievements in Chechnya, formerly that they had turned into a land of wreck and ruin and are now rebuilding. Great achievement.

A few days ago, The New York Times -- the military and Iraq expert of The New York Times, Michael Gordon, wrote a comprehensive review, first-page comprehensive review, of the options for Iraq that are being faced by the candidates. And he went through them in detail, described the pluses and minuses and so on, interviewing political leaders, the candidates, experts, etc. There was one voice missing: Iraqis. Their preference is not rejected; rather, it's not mentioned. And it seems that there was no notice of that fact, which makes sense, because it's typical. It makes sense on the tacit assumption that underlies almost all discourse on international affairs. The tacit assumption, without which none of it makes any sense, is that we own the world. So, what does it matter what others think? They're "unpeople," nice term invented by British diplomatic historian [Mark] Curtis, based on a series of outstanding volumes on Britain's crimes of empire -- outstanding work, therefore deeply hidden. So there are the "unpeople" out there, and then there are the owners -- that's us -- and we don't have to listen to the "unpeople."

Last month, Panama declared a Day of Mourning to commemorate the US invasion -- that's under George Bush no. 1 -- that killed thousands of poor Panamanians when the US bombed the El Chorillo slums and other poor areas, so Panamanian human rights organizations claim. We don't actually know, because we never count our crimes. Victors don't do that; only the defeated. It aroused no interest here; there's barely a mention of the Day of Mourning. And there's also no interest in the fact that Bush 1's invasion of Panama was a clear case of aggression, to which the Nuremberg principles apply, and it was apparently more deadly, in fact possibly much more deadly, than Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, happened a few months later. But it makes sense that there would be no interest in that, because we own the world, and Saddam didn't, so the acts are quite different.

It's also of no interest that, at that time of the time of Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, the greatest fear in Washington was that Saddam would imitate what the United States had just done in Panama, namely install a client government and then leave. That's the main reason why Washington blocked diplomacy in quite interesting ways, with almost complete media cooperation. There's actually one exception in the US media. But none of this gets any commentary. However, it does merit a lead story a few days later, when the Panamanian National Assembly was opened by President Pedro Gonzalez, who's charged by Washington with killing two American soldiers during a protest against President Bush no.1, against his visit two years after the invasion. The charges were dismissed by Panamanian courts, but they're upheld by the owner of the world, so he can't travel, and that got a story.

Well, to take just one last illustration of the depth of the imperial mentality, New York Times correspondent Elaine Sciolino, veteran correspondent, writes that "Iran's intransigence [about nuclear enrichment] appears to be defeating attempts by the rest of the world to curtail Tehran's nuclear ambitions." Well, the phrase "the rest of the world" is an interesting one. The rest of the world happens to exclude the vast majority of the world, namely the non-aligned movement, which forcefully endorses Iran's right to enrich uranium in accordance with the rights granted by its being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But they're not part of the world, even though they're the large majority, because they don't reflexively accept US orders, and commentary like that is unremarkable and unnoticed. You're part of the world if you do what we say, obviously. Otherwise, you're "unpeople."

Well, we might, since we're on Iran, might tarry for a moment and ask whether there's any solution to the US-Iran confrontation over nuclear weapons, which is extremely dangerous. Here's one idea. First point, Iran should be permitted to develop nuclear energy, but not nuclear weapons, as the Non-Proliferation Treaty determines.

Second point is that there should be a nuclear weapons-free zone in the entire region, Iran to Israel, including any US forces that are present there. Actually, though it's never reported, the United States is committed to that position. When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, it appealed to a UN resolution, Resolution 687, which called upon Iraq to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction. That was the flimsy legal principle invoked to justify the invasion. And if you look at Resolution 687, you discover that one of its provisions is that the US and other powers must work to develop a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, including that entire region. So we're committed to it, and that's the second element of this proposal.

The third element of the proposal is that the United States should accept the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a position which happens to be supported by 82 percent of Americans, namely that it should accept the requirement, in fact the legal requirement, as the World Court determined, to move to make good-faith efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether.

And a fourth proposal is that the US should turn to diplomacy, and it should end any threats against Iran. The threats are themselves crimes. They're in violation of the UN Charter, which bars the threat or use of force.

Well, of course, these four proposals -- again, Iran should have nuclear energy, but not nuclear weapons; there should be a weapons-free zone throughout the region; the US should accept the Non-Proliferation Treaty; there should be a turn to diplomacy and an end to threats -- these are almost unmentionable in the United States. Not a single candidate would endorse any part of them, and they're never discussed, and so on.

However, the proposals are not original. They happen to be the position of the overwhelming majority of the American population. And interestingly, that's also true in Iran; roughly the same overwhelming majority accepts all of these proposals. But that's -- the results come from the world's most prestigious polling agency, but not reported, as far as I could discover, and certainly not considered. If they were ever mentioned, they would be dismissed with the phrase "politically impossible," which is probably correct. It's only the position of the large majority of the population, kind of like national health care, but not of the people that count. So there are plenty of "unpeople" here, too -- in fact, the large majority. Americans share this property of being "unpeople" with most of the rest of the world. In fact, if the United States and Iran were functioning, not merely formal, democracies, then this dangerous crisis might be readily resolved by a functioning democracy -- I mean, one in which public opinion plays some role in determining policy, rather than being excluded -- in fact, unmentioned, because, after all, they're "unpeople."

Well, while we're on Iran, I guess I might as well turn to the third member of the famous Axis of Evil: North Korea. There is an official story -- read it right now -- is that the official story is this, that after having been compelled to accept an agreement on dismantling its nuclear weapons and the facilities, after having been compelled to agree to that, North Korea is again trying to evade its commitments in its usual devious way. So The New York Times headline reads "The United States Sees Stalling by North Korea on Nuclear Pact." And the article then details the charges of how North Korea is not going through with its responsibility. It's not releasing information that it's promised to release. If you read the story to the last paragraph -- and that's always a good idea; that's where the interesting news usually is when you read a news story -- but if you manage to get to the last paragraph, you discover that it's the United States that has backed down on the pledges made in the agreement.

The US just refused to supply it. It's refused only -- it's supplied only 85 percent of the fuel that it promised, and it was supposed to improve diplomatic relations, of course not doing that. Well, that's quite normal.

If you want to find out what's going on in the US-North Korea nuclear standoff, it's better -- you have to go to the specialist literature, which is uniform on it, nothing hidden, and in fact sort of sneaks out into small print in the press reports, as I mentioned. What you find is that North -- I mean, North Korea may be the most hideous state in the world, but that's not the point here. Its position has been pretty pragmatic. It's kind of tit-for-tat. The United States gets more aggressive, they get more aggressive. The United States moves towards diplomacy and negotiations, they do the same.

So when President Bush came in, there was an agreement -- it was called the Framework Agreement that had been established in 1994 -- and neither the US nor North Korea was quite living up to it. But it was more or less functioning. At that time, North Korea, under the Framework Agreement, had stopped any testing of long-range missiles. It had maybe one or two bombs worth of plutonium, and it was verifiably not making more. Now, that was when George Bush entered the scene. And now it has eight to ten bombs, long-range missiles, and it's developing plutonium.

And there's a reason. The Bush regime immediately moved to a very aggressive stance. The Axis of Evil speech was one example. Intelligence was released claiming that North Korea was carrying out -- was cheating, had clandestine programs. It's rather interesting that these intelligence reports, five years later, have been quietly rescinded as probably inadequate. The reason presumably is that if an agreement is reached, there will be inspectors in North Korea, and they'll find that this intelligence had as much validity as the claims about Iraq, so they're being withdrawn. Well, North Korea responded to all of this by ratcheting up its missile and weapons development.

In September 2005, under pressure, the United States did agree to negotiations, and there was an outcome. September 2005, North Korea agreed to abandon -- quoting -- "all nuclear weapons and existing weapons programs" and to allow international inspection. That would be in return for international aid, mainly from the United States, and a non-aggression pledge from the US and an agreement that the two sides -- I'm quoting -- would "respect each other's sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize relations."

Well, the United States, the Bush administration, had an instant reaction. It instantly renewed the threat of force. It froze North Korean funds in foreign banks. It disbanded the consortium that was supposed meet to provide North Korea with a light-water reactor. So North Korea returned to its weapons and missile development, carried out a weapons test, and confrontation escalated. Well, again, under international pressure and with its foreign policy collapsing, Washington returned to negotiations. That led to an agreement, which Washington is now scuttling.

There's an earlier history, an interesting one. You recall a couple of weeks ago, there was a mysterious Israeli bombing in northern Syria, never explained, but it a sort of hinted that this had something to do with Syria building nuclear facilities with the help of North Korea. Pretty unlikely, but whether it's true or not, there's an interesting background, which wasn't mentioned. In 1993, Israel and North Korea were on the verge of an agreement, in which Israel would recognize North Korea and in return North Korea would agree to terminate any weapons-related -- missile, nuclear, other -- any weapons-related activity in the Middle East. That would have been an enormous boon to Israel's security. But the owner of the world stepped in. Clinton ordered them to refuse. Of course, you have to listen to the master's voice. So that ended that. And it may be that there are North Korean activities in the Middle East that we don't know about.

Well, let me finally return to the first member of the Axis of Evil: Iraq. Washington does have expectations, and they're explicit. There are outlined in a Declaration of Principles that was agreed upon, if you can call it that, between the United States and the US-backed, US-installed Iraqi government, a government under military occupation. The two of them issued the Declaration of Principles. It allows US forces to remain indefinitely in Iraq in order to "deter foreign aggression" -- well, the only aggression in sight is from the United States, but that's not aggression, by definition -- and also to facilitate and encourage "the flow of foreign investments [to] Iraq, especially American investments." I'm quoting. That's an unusually brazen expression of imperial will.

In fact, it was heightened a few days ago, when George Bush issued another one of his signing statements declaring that he will reject crucial provisions of congressional legislation that he had just signed, including the provision that forbids spending taxpayer money -- I'm quoting -- "to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of [United States} Armed Forces in Iraq" or "to exercise [United States] control of the oil resources of Iraq." OK? Shortly after, the New York Times reported that Washington "insists" -- if you own the world, you insist -- "insists that the Baghdad government give the United States broad authority to conduct combat operations," a demand that "faces a potential buzz saw of opposition from Iraq, with itsdeep sensitivities about being seen as a dependent state." It's supposed to be more third world irrationality.

So, in brief, the United States is now insisting that Iraq must agree to allow permanent US military installations, provide the United -- grant the United States the right to conduct combat operations freely, and to guarantee US control over the oil resources of Iraq. OK? It's all very explicit, on the table. It's kind of interesting that these reports do not elicit any reflection on the reasons why the United States invaded Iraq. You've heard those reasons offered, but they were dismissed with ridicule. Now they're openly conceded to be accurate, but not eliciting any retraction or even any reflection.

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always want to defend peace, justice, peoples' right to love each other and live with dignity,struggles against parochial visions and hatred;instinctively a defender of socialist and democratic values  

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