Friday, 29 February 2008


Hip-Hop pioneers Eric B & Rakim explaining
their view on Iraq - from their 1992 album
Let the Rhythm Him 'Em

click here for video

Casualties of War!

Casualties of war; as I approach the barricade
Where's the enemy? Who do I invade?
Bullets of Teflon, bulletproof vest rip
Tear ya outta ya frame with a bag full of clips
Cause I got a family that waits for my return
To get back home is my main concern
I'ma get back to New York in one piece
but I'm bent in the sand that is hot as the city streets
Sky lights up like fireworks blind me
Bullets, whistlin over my head remind me...
President Bush said attack
Flashback to Nam, I might not make it back
Missile hits the area, screams wake me up
from a war of dreams, heat up the M-16
Basic training, trained for torture
Take no prisoners, and I just caught ya
Addicted to murder, send more bodybags
They can't identify em, leave the nametags
I get a rush when I see blood, dead bodies on the floor

Day divides the night and night divides the day
It's all hard work and no play
More than combat, it's far beyond that
Cause I got a kill or be killed kind of attack
Area's mapped out, there'll be no, Stratego
Me and my platoon make a boom wherever we go
But what are we here for? Who's on the other side of the wall?
Somebody give the President a call
But I hear warfare scream through the air
Back to the battlegrounds, it's war they declare
A Desert Storm: let's see who reigns supreme
Something like Monopoly: a government scheme
Go to the Army, be all you can be
Another dead soldier? Hell no, not me
So I start letting off ammunition in every direction
Allah is my only protection
But wait a minute, Saddam Hussein prays the same
and this is Asia, from where I came
I'm on the wrong side, so change the target
Shooting at the general; and where's the sergeant?
Blame it on John Hardy Hawkins for bringing me to America
Now it's mass hysteria
I get a rush when I see blood, dead bodies on the floor

The war is over, for now at least
Just because they lost it don't mean it's peace
It's a long way home, it's a lot to think about
Whole generation, left in doubt
Innocent families killed in the midst
It'll be more dead people after this
So I'm glad to be alive and walkin
Half of my platoon came home in coffins
Except the general, buried in the Storm
in bits and pieces no need to look for em
I played it slick and got away with it
Rigged it up so they would think they did it
Now I'm home on reserves and you can bet
when THEY call, I'm going AWOL
Cause it ain't no way I'm going back to war
when I don't know who or what I'm fighting for
So I wait for terrorists to attack
Every time a truck backfires I fire back
I look for shelter when a plane is over me
Remember Pearl Harbor? New York could be over, G
Kamikaze, strapped with bombs
No peace in the East, they want revenge for Saddam
Did I hear gunshots, or thunder?
No time to wonder, somebody's going under
Put on my fatigues and my camoflouge
Take control, cause I'm in charge
When I snapped out of it, it was blood, dead bodies on the floor

Wednesday, 20 February 2008


Malcolm X 1964: ‘Revolution is like a forest fire’

From The Militant, Vol. 72/No. 6 February 11, 2008

Below is an excerpt from By Any Means Necessary, a
collection of speeches and interviews by Malcolm X that is
one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for February. On
March 19, 1964, shortly after leaving the Nation of Islam
and forming the Muslim Mosque, Inc., Malcolm gave an
interview to poet and music critic A.B. Spellman, which is
excerpted below. Malcolm outlined his initial thinking on
the formation of a new organization to fight for the rights
of Blacks and his views on self-defense, nonviolence, and
revolution. Betty Shabazz and Pathfinder Press 1970.

SPELLMAN: What is your program for achieving your goals of

MALCOLM: When the black man in this country awakens,
becomes intellectually mature and able to think for
himself, you will then see that the only way he will become
independent and recognized as a human being on the basis of
equality with all other human beings, he has to have what
they have and he has to be doing for himself what others
are doing for themselves. So the first step is to awaken
him to this, and that is where the religion of Islam makes
him morally more able to rise above the evils and the vices
of an immoral society. And the political, economic, and
social philosophy of black nationalism instills within him
the racial dignity and the incentive and the confidence
that he needs to stand on his own feet and take a stand for

SPELLMAN: Do you plan to employ any kind of mass action?

MALCOLM: Oh, yes.

SPELLMAN: What kinds?

MALCOLM: We’d rather not say at this time, but we
definitely plan to employ mass action… .

SPELLMAN: If the Muslim Mosque, Inc., joined in a
demonstration sponsored by a nonviolent organization, and
whites countered with violence, how would your organization

MALCOLM: We are nonviolent only with nonviolent people. I’m
nonviolent as long as somebody else is nonviolent—as soon
as they get violent they nullify my nonviolence.

SPELLMAN: A lot of leaders of other organizations have said
they would welcome your help but they qualify that by
saying “if you follow our philosophy.” Would you work with
them under these circumstances?

MALCOLM: We can work with all groups in anything but at no
time will we give up our right to defend ourselves. We’ll
never become involved in any kind of action that deprives
us of our right to defend ourselves if we are attacked.

SPELLMAN: How would the Muslim Mosque, Inc., handle a
Birmingham, Danville, or Cambridge—what do you think should
have been done?

MALCOLM: In Birmingham, since the government has proven
itself either unable or unwilling to step in and find those
who are guilty and bring them to justice, it becomes
necessary for the so-called Negro who was the victim to do
this himself. He would be upholding his constitutional
rights by so doing, and Article 2 of the Constitution—it
says concerning the right to bear arms in the Bill of
Rights: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the
security of a free state, the right of the people to keep
and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Negroes don’t
realize this, that they are within their constitutional
rights to own a rifle, to own a shotgun. When the bigoted
white supremists realize that they are dealing with Negroes
who are ready to give their lives in defense of life and
property, then these bigoted whites will change their whole
strategy and their whole attitude… .

SPELLMAN: What is your evaluation of Monroe?

MALCOLM: I’m not too up on the situation in Monroe, North
Carolina. I do know that Robert Williams became an exile
from this country simply because he was trying to get our
people to defend themselves against the Ku Klux Klan and
other white supremist elements, and also Mae Mallory was
given twenty years or something like that because she was
also trying to fight the place of our people down there. So
this gives you an idea of what happens in a democracy—in a
so-called democracy—when people try to implement that

SPELLMAN: You often use the word revolution. Is there a
revolution underway in America now?

MALCOLM: There hasn’t been. Revolution is like a forest
fire. It burns everything in its path. The people who are
involved in a revolution don’t become a part of the
system—they destroy the system, they change the system. The
genuine word for a revolution is Umwaelzung which means a
complete overturning and a complete change, and the Negro
revolution is no revolution because it condemns the system
and then asks the system that it has condemned to accept
them into their system. That’s not a revolution—a
revolution changes the system, it destroys the system and
replaces it with a better one. It’s like a forest fire,
like I said—it burns everything in its path. And the only
way to stop a forest fire from burning down your house is
to ignite a fire that you control and use it against the
fire that is burning out of control. What the white man in
America has done, he realizes that there is a black
revolution all over the world—a nonwhite revolution all
over the world—and he sees it sweeping down upon America.
And in order to hold it back he ignited an artificial fire
which he has named the Negro revolt, and he is using the
Negro revolt against the real black revolution that is
going on all over this earth.


Spielberg: Chauvinist in humanitarian drag

By Stephen Gowans

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg has withdrawn as
artistic adviser to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing
because China has failed to pressure Sudan to end the war
in Darfur.

China is developing oil fields in the embattled region of
Sudan and Spielberg wants Beijing to use its clout to end
the insurgency in the west of the country.

Arguing that "Sudan's government bears the bulk of the
responsibility" for the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur,
Spielberg blames China for failing to do "more to end the
continuing human suffering there." (1)

"China's economic, military and diplomatic ties to the
government of Sudan continue to provide it with the
opportunity and obligation to press for change," Spielberg
says. (2)

But while Spielberg wants China to use its influence in
Khartoum, he has released no statements, of which I'm
aware, to press Washington to use its influence to end the
larger humanitarian catastrophes in Somalia and Iraq, both
of which are directly attributable to the actions of his
own country, and therefore should be well within the grasp
of the US government to end.

China's ability to end the Darfur conflict, however, is a
far more uncertain matter.

Three of the five rebel groups fighting Sudanese forces in
Darfur are unwilling to negotiate a peace, according to the
UN's special envoy to Darfur, Jan Eliasson. (3) This makes
it difficult for Khartoum, let alone China, to bring an end
to the conflict, unless ending the conflict means Khartoum
capitulating and handing Darfur and its oil assets to the
rebels and their Western backers. This, of course, would
suit strategists in the US State Department, to say nothing
of the US oil industry.

By comparison, ending the much larger humanitarian
catastrophes in Somalia (with 850,000 displaced, Somalia
has been called Africa's largest and most ignored
catastrophe) and Iraq (four million refugees and hundreds
of thousands dead as a result of the US invasion) is
directly within the capability of Washington. (4)

The US simply has to order Ethiopia, which it directed to
illegally invade Somalia in December 2006, to withdraw. (5)
If the Ethiopians balk, cutting off the rich flow of
military aid Washington rewards the Meles regime with, will
exert needed pressure. (6)

As regards the tragedy of Iraq, there can be no greater
ameliorative act than immediate withdrawal of foreign
troops. Withdrawal should occasion no fear of touching off
a full-scale civil war. The Pentagon's own research shows
that Iraqis attribute sectarian tensions to the US military
presence and ardently wish to see the Americans leave. (7)
If a civil war were to ensue, it could hardly be worse than
the suffering the US continues to visit upon Iraq in lost
lives, mangled bodies, rampant disease, hunger and
homelessness ­ far in excess of the tragedy in Darfur.

If China's ties to the government of Sudan provide it with
the opportunity and obligation to press for change, doesn't
Spielberg's visibility, and his status as a US citizen,
provide him with the opportunity and obligation to press
for change where his own government has created far greater
human suffering?

In the fall of 2002, Spielberg said he "could not not
support" the Bush administration's policies on Iraq (8).
Today, he seeks to embarrass China over Sudan, another
oil-rich country Washington seeks regime change in. And as
far a Spielberg is concerned, the US-authored humanitarian
catastrophes in Somalia and Iraq are best ignored. Are
these the actions of a humanitarian, or of a chauvinist
whose concern for the suffering of others stops at the door
of, and indeed caters to, US ruling class interests?

(1) New York Times, February 13, 2008.
(2) Ibid.
(3) New York Times, February 8, 2008.
(4) Displacement of Somalis,
Washington Post, November 14, 2007; Iraqi refugees, The
Independent (UK), July 30, 2007. There are a number of
estimates of deaths in Iraq due to the US invasion: The
Iraqi Body Count, 47,668; World Health Organization,
151,000; Johns Hopkins, 600,000; British polling firm ORB,
1.2 million (mid-range estimates.)
(5) US General John
Abizaid visited the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi,
in November, 2006. Ethiopia invaded Somalia the next month.
"The US provided key intelligence from spy satellites CIA
agents traveled with the Ethiopian troops, helping direct
operations US forces have carried out at least four attacks
inside the country in the past 12 months." The Independent
(UK), February 9, 2008.
(6) Stephen Gowans, "Looking for
Evil in all the Wrong Places,",
November 20, 2007,
(7) Washington Post, December 19, 2007.
(8) In September
2002, Spielberg pledged support for the gathering US war on
Iraq. "Film director Spielberg lines up with Bush war
drive," WSWS, October 3, 2002,

Tuesday, 19 February 2008


Bush and ExxonMobil v. Chavez

Stephen Lendman
February 18, 2008

Since the Bush administration took office in January 2001,
it's targeted Hugo Chavez relentlessly. From the aborted
two-day April 2002 coup attempt to the 2002-03 oil
management lockout to the failed 2004 recall referendum to
stoking opposition rallies against the constitutional
reform referendum to constant pillorying in the media to
funding opposition candidates in elections to the present
when headlines like the Reuters February 7 one announced:
"Courts freeze $12 billion Venezuela assets in Exxon row."
Call it the latest salvo in Bush v. Chavez with ExxonMobil
(EM) its lead aggressor and the long arm of the CIA and
Pentagon always in the wings.

EM temporarily won a series of court orders in Britain, New
York, the Netherlands and Netherlands Antilles to freeze up
to $12 billion of state-owned PDVSA assets around the
world. Hugo Chavez called it Bush administration "economic
war" against his government. Energy Minister and PDVSA
president, Rafael Ramirez, said it was "judicial terrorism"
and that "PDVSA has paralyzed oil sales to Exxon (and)
suspend(ed) commercial relations" in response to actions it
"consider(s) an outrage....intimidating and hostile."

PDVSA's web site went further. It explained that the
company will "fully honor existing contractual commitments
relating to investments in common with ExxonMobil on the
outside, reserving the right to terminate those contracts"
under terms that permit. This likely refers to a Chalmette,
Louisiana joint venture between the two companies that
refines 185,000 barrels of oil daily into gasoline. It also
reflects a commitment to supply 90,000 barrels of oil daily
to Exxon that continues unaltered.

EM sought the injunctions ahead of an expected
International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes
(ICSID) arbitration ruling. It's over a compensation claim
owed Exxon after Venezuela nationalized its last
privately-owned oil fields last May in the Orinoco River
region. PDVSA now has a majority interest, Big Oil
investors have minority stakes, but the government offered
fair compensation for the buyouts. Chevron, UK's BP PLC,
France's Total SA and Norway's Statoil ASA agreed to terms
and will continue operating in the country.

ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips balked, and it led to the
current action. In Exxon's case, it refused a generous
settlement offer for its 41.7% stake, but that's the
typical way this bully operates. The company is the world's
largest, had 2007 sales topping $404 billion, it's more
than double Venezuela's GDP, and it places EM 25th among
world nations based on World Bank GDP figures.

It's too early to predict what's ahead, but one thing is
sure. As long as George Bush is president, he'll go after
Chavez every way possible with one aim in mind - to
destabilize the country and remove the Venezuelan leader
from office. Once again, battle lines are drawn as the
latest confrontation plays out judicially, economically and
geopolitically. The stakes are huge - the most successful
democracy in the Americas and the "threat" of its good
example v. the world's most powerful nation and biggest

The next judicial hearing is on February 22, but it's
unclear where things now stand with Exxon and the Chavez
government having different views. The oil giant claims
PDVSA's assets are frozen, but on February 9 Minister
Ramirez denied it saying: "They don't have any asset
frozen. They only have frozen $300 million" in cash through
a New York court. On February 13, it heard the case, and to
no one's surprise affirmed the freeze until a final
arbitration settlement is reached. PDVSA has no "assets in
that jurisdiction (or in Britain) that even come close to
those" billions that are about 16 times the value of
Exxon's Venezuelan $750 million investment.

Ramirez also added that EM's action is a "transitory
measure" while PDVSA pressed its case in New York and will
do it again in London. The current status has no "affect on
our cash flow (or) operational situation at all." Exxon
wants to undermine the government and "create a situation
of anxiety in the country, a situation of nervousness."

Ramirez expressed confidence that his government will
prevail. It's arbitrating fairly, offered just
compensation, and that in the end may defeat the latest
Bush administration assault against the right of a
sovereign state to its own resources. He also explained
that Exxon violated ICSID arbitration proceedings by
seeking separate court orders, and that PDVSA is
considering a response. It may sue the oil giant for
damages that caused Venezuela's dollar-denominated bonds to
record their biggest drop in six months on the prospect of
a long legal battle.

On February 8, PDVSA declared its position on its web site
to put the facts in context, clarify the situation, and
dispel how the dominant media portrays it ExxonMobil's way.
Below is a summary.

The company states it's been "in arduous level agreements
and negotiations with" its joint venture partners - "Total,
Statoil, (Italy's) ENI, ConocoPhillips, Petrocanada,
(China's) CNPC, Petrochina, (Venezuela's) Ineparia, British
Petroleum (and) Exxon Mobil." The US giant is the "only
case in which we have a clear situation of conflict" so it
was "envisioned that these strategic issues....could be
settled in international (arbitration) tribunals." It
appears that agreement has been reached or "in the process
of agreeing" with every company (including ConocoPhillips)
except ExxonMobil, and the situation with them is this:
"this company has not complied with the terms of
arbitration....and introduced an arbitration against the
Republic (in) the International Centre for Settlement of
Investment Disputes (ICSID)."

PDVSA awaits its ruling "which, we are confident, will
promote the interests of the Republic." In addition, Exxon
sued PDVSA. As a result, "we see a clear position (of this
company) to go against the sovereign interest of an
oil-producing country such as Venezuela," deny its legal
right to its own resources, and get overt US backing for it
from State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack saying:
"We fully support the efforts of ExxonMobil to get a just
and fair compensation package for their assets according to
the standards of international law" that Washington
defiantly trashes.

PDVSA's statement explained that the national media have
"such ignorance of the situation (by reporting that) our
company has (assets of) 12 billion dollars (frozen and)
that is completely untrue....we do not have any court
decision that is final with respect to all of our assets.
We have an interim measure in a court in New York, we have
the right - and so we are going to....respond. This is a
transitional measure while (PDVSA) presents its case;
defend(s) ourselves....defend(s) the interests of the
Republic and we are confident we will remove this measure."

Exxon also got injunctions in London and the Netherlands.
"I must report we have no assets in those
jurisdictions...."The same status is true for the
Netherlands Antilles" where another injunction was gotten.

"We are no longer surprised (about) the attitude of
ExxonMobil, as it is the typical American transnational
company which....historically has tried to attack the
oil-producing countries and impose their views on the
management of (their) national resources....On behalf of
workers and our oil industry, we are not going to (be)
frightened, intimidated, or retreat in the sovereign
aspirations of our people to manage their natural

We must "warn our country because they could continue this
type of action....the position of our people and our
Government is firm in defence of our decisions." We will
defend our interests. We won't "yield to this (action), we
will defeat them (on the) ground(s) that (are) raised...."

In a February 12 interview, Ramirez repeated Hugo Chavez's
message two days earlier on his weekly Sunday television
program, Alo, Presidente: "If you end up freezing (our
assets) and it harms us, we're going to harm you. Do you
know how? We aren't going to send oil to the United States.
Take note, Mr. Bush, Mr. Danger....I speak to the US
empire, because that's the master: continue and you will
see that we won't send one drop of oil to the empire of the
United States....The outlaws of ExxonMobil will never again
rob us....If the economic war continues against Venezuela,
the price of oil is going to reach $200 (a barrel) and
Venezuela will join the economic war....And more than one
country is willing to accompany us in the economic war."

PDVSA spokesperson, Eleazar Diaz Rangel, then said on
Latest News on February 12 that "we are ready" to stop
supplying oil to the US if their hostile actions continue.
He explained that Washington is waging economic war, and
Venezuela is seeking to develop new customers like China.
He added that the cash flow of the company is sound because
it's based on daily crude oil sales.

On February 12, Venezuela's deputy oil minister, Bernard
Mommer, said on state-owned Venezolana de Television that
Exxon knows it will lose in arbitration and its "maneuver
represents a way to intimidate" other countries against
standing up to its will. It's trying to "create panic and
anxiety with the banking and the oil sector."

Venezuela is America's third or fourth largest oil supplier
after Canada, Saudi Arabia and at times Mexico. It accounts
for between 10 to 12% of US imports and averages around 1.2
million barrels a day, sometimes as much as 1.5 million.
PDVSA's assets total around $109 billion, according to its
web site. It calls itself "the most creditworthy company in
Latin America" which is likely considering its enormous oil
reserves and at their current elevated prices.

Views from the US Media

It's no surprise how the US media portray Chavez and the
Exxon dispute. called it his way to use the
"Exxon Battle to Stoke Anti-US Sentiment" as though he's
the aggressor and poor USA and giant Exxon his victims.

Then, there's the Washington Post's editorial view on
February 15. It's astonished that "Mr. Chavez himself
threatened to cut off exports of crude oil to America" over
Exxon's having "moved to freeze" its assets. It lamentes
how "regrettable" the US "voracious consumption of oil" is
because it "underwrites Venezuela's Chavez regime....If the
Bush administration were really as committed to
overthrowing Mr. Chavez as Mr. Chavez claims (it ought to
boycott) Venezuelan oil (to) devastate" its economy. "Two
cheers for ExxonMobil. In standing up to Mr. Chavez through
'peaceful, legal means,' it has once again exposed the
hollowness of the anti-imperialism with which he justifies
his rule."

The Chicago Tribune was just as hostile by asking "Where is
the king of Spain when we need him?" Chavez "says the
'bandits' at Exxon are trying to rob Venezuela. From where
we sit, it looks like the other way around."

Then there's the Houston Chronicle in Exxon's home city. It
blasted Chavez for "making a fool of himself on the floor
of the UN General Assembly last year," called him a
"clown," and said "his buffoonery is neither amusing nor
benign." Ignoring Exxon's shenanigans in cahoots with
Washington, it stated that Chavez "was in full bluster (and
that he) and his henchmen (were launch(ing) a war of words
in response (that is) little more than political theater,
sound bites for the loyalists back home, and You Tube
fodder abroad."

This type bluster gets supplemented with outrageous
comments about how Chavez "seized power," shuts down his
opposition, control's Venezuela's media, took over American
oil fields, is a "destructive menace" to the region, and
even worse a communist and a dictator with a terrible human
rights record. Is it any wonder that Americans know almost
nothing about Venezuelan democracy and the man who shaped
it for the past nine years. Under his leadership, it's the
real thing, is impressive and improving. Compare it to
America where "The People" have no say, democracy is
nowhere in sight, and under the Bush administration it's
pretense, lawless, and corrupted.

What's Going On and What's At Stake

Throughout most of the last century, and especially post-WW
II, America's international relations have been appalling
and destructive. It's the world's leading bully, it
practices state terrorism, disdains democracy, defiles the
rule of law, tramples on human and civil rights, demands
unquestioned obedience, and rules by what Noam Chomsky
calls "the Fifth Freedom" that shreds the other four: to
"rob, to exploit and to dominate society, to undertake any
course of action to insure that existing privilege is
protected and advanced." Outliers aren't tolerated,
national sovereignty is sinful, independence is a crime,
and dare disobey the imperial master guarantees certain

William Blum documented the history in three editions of
his book, "Rogue State." He wrote: "Between 1945 and 2005
the United States has attempted to overthrow more than 50
foreign governments, and to crush more than 30
populist-nationalist movements struggling against
intolerable regimes. In the process, the US has
caused....several million (deaths), and condemned many
millions more to a life of agony and despair." Washington
won't tolerate nations that won't:

-- "lie down and happily become an American client,"

-- accept free market capitalism and today's
steroid-enhanced neoliberal version that's even more

-- sacrifice its peoples' welfare for ours,

-- "produce primarily for export,"

-- allow dangerous environmental dumping on its soil,

-- surrender to IMF, World Bank, WTO and international
banking rules; accept exploitive structural adjustments and
debt slavery as a way of life;

-- relinquish control of its natural resources, especially
if they're large oil and gas deposits,

-- surrender all freedoms and call it democracy,

-- permit US military bases on its soil, and

-- agree unquestionably to all other imperial demands.

Countries unwilling to oblige are called "bad examples
(and) reduced to basket cases." In addition, their leaders
are replaced by "friendlier" ones. It's an ugly story of
the rich against the poor, the monied interests against all
humanity, and if outliers are tolerated, they'll be "bad
examples" for others to follow.

Chavez became one of them after his 1998 election. Ever
since, he's been a thorn in America's craw and its greatest
threat - a "good example" that's a model for other nations.
He also inspires social movements throughout the Americas,
even though none so far are dominant or even even close,
and he shows signs of wavering on some of his earlier
commitments. More on that below.

Imperialism is safe in the Americas, and James Petras
explained it in his new article: "Movements in Flux and
Center-Left Governments in Power." He states: "The singular
fact about Latin America is that, despite a number of
massive popular upheavals, several regime changes and (some
ascendant) mass social movements, the continuity of
property relations remains intact." In fact, they're more
concentrated, "giant agro-mineral export enterprises" are
prospering, and "class structure (and) socio-economic
inequalities" persist, even though Hugo Chavez stands out,
in part, as an exception. Petras calls him "pragmatic."

He "reversed (some of) the corrupt privatizations of
previous rightest neo-liberal regimes," but still supports
business. Nonetheless, Washington sees him as a threat
because he embraces participatory democracy, practices
redistributive social policies, and envisions a "new
socialism of the 21st century....based in solidarity,
fraternity, love, justice, liberty and equality." Those
ideas and his expressive language are anathema to America
and its hard line neoliberal model.

As a result, he tops George Bush's target list outside the
Middle East, and that status won't change under a new
administration in 2009, especially if a Republican heads
it. But even Democrats are hostile. When candidates discuss
Latin America, Chavez is Topic One and their comments
aren't friendly.

Earlier (but no longer), John McCain's web site was
outrageous. It featured a petition to "stop the dictators
of Latin America" and supported ousting Chavez "in the name
of democracy and freedom throughout the hemisphere." He
lashed out at a news conference in Miami's Little Havana
stating that "everyone should understand the connections"
between (Bolivia's) Evo Morales, Castro and Chavez. "They
inspire each other. They assist each other. They get ideas
from each other. It's very disturbing." He also calls
Chavez a "wacko" and a "two-bit dictator."

These comments aren't surprising from a man who headed the
hard right International Republican Institute (IRI). Along
with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and USAID,
these organizations front for imperialism, support rightest
dictators, and plot the overthrow of independent democrats
like Chavez who dare confront America.

Think hard about this man from what his fellow Republicans
say about him. Some call him psychologically unhinged and
unqualified to be president. Mississippi Senator Thad
Cochran said: "The thought of (McCain) being president
sends a cold chill down my spine." Others from the far
right, like Alabama's Dick Shelby, former Pennsylvania
Senator Rick Santorum, and Oklahoma's Jim Inhofe, mention
times McCain screamed four-letter obscenities at them in
the Senate cloak room. Another senator said: "He is
frighteningly unfit to be Commander-in-Chief."

Along with these unsettling comments, there are disturbing
allegations about McCain's POW years and reported special
treatment he got after his father, Admiral JS McCain,
became CINCPAC Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command over all
Vietnam theater forces. An organization called "Vietnam
Veterans Against John McCain" is actively addressing his
record on things people have a right to know about public
officials, if they're true, and McCain has an obligation to
explain them.

Democrats aren't much better, and consider their views
about Chavez. They're hardly friendly with Hillary Clinton
saying "we have witnessed the rollback of democratic
development and economic openness in parts of Latin
America" with no confusion about who she means. Barack
Obama is also suspect despite saying if elected he'll meet
with Iranian, Cuban, Syrian and Venezuelan leaders. It
sounds good until he qualifies it and spoils everything. He
labels these countries "rogue states," reveals his real
feelings, and signals his hostility and unwillingness to
establish good relations with them.

Forget Obama's friendly smile, comforting demeanor and
reassuring rhetoric. Bottom line - he's no different from
the rest. There's not a dime's worth of difference among
them that matters. Next January, they'll be a new face in
charge with the same agenda: wars without end; subservience
to the monied interests; disdain for the common good; and
deference to the dominant media view that Chavez is: an
authoritarian, a strongman, a dictator and what Wall Street
Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady calls him:
anti-democratic, dictatorial, vengeful, bullying, crude,
unpopular, and having "an insatiable thirst for power that
should give Venezuelans reason to be fearful."

Forget that under Chavez Venezuelan business is booming or
how gracious he was in defeat last December after voters
rejected his constitutional reforms. Petras assessed what
followed. Centrist and other influential Chavez advisors
jumped on the setback and "pressed their advantage to
secure programmatic, tactical-strategic and organizational
changes." They got him to replace over a dozen cabinet
ministers and others in government with new faces sharing
their views. They also, to a degree, shifted Chavez to the
center, influenced him to "slow down....the move to
socialisma, (establish) economic ties with the big
bourgeoisie, (halt) immediate moves to nationalize
strategic economic enterprises, and (move slowly) in
reforming land tenure."

In addition, they got him to ally "with the middle class
center-right parties, and (won) them over (by eliminating)
price controls to let "basic food prices.... soar, while
salaries remain stagnant." The result: a fundamental
contradiction in trying to advance socialism by
"liberalizing economic policy." Petras is worried that
Chavez's base (the urban poor) "will lose interest, abstain
or resist the centrists and withdraw their loyalties."
Indignation is surfacing, loyal Chavez support may be
jeopardized, and it "raises fundamental questions about the
long-term future of state-class movement relations under"
his leadership.

In addition, rightest forces see an opening, are pressing
their advantage, Exxon's move is a warning shot, and so are
reports about Colombian paramilitaries entering the country
in greater numbers. More destabilization will follow, and
continued efforts will be made to weaken Chavez, then try
to oust him. More than ever, he needs strong support at a
time it's jeopardized, and that's a worrisome situation to
consider. Venezuela's Bolivarianism is glorious provided it
flourishes, grows and achieves its long-term goals. It's
been extraordinary so far, still has miles to go, and it's
unthinkable to waiver now and pull back.

Petras alarmingly notes that when "social movements (adopt
common) electoral strategies, (work) within the framework
of institutional politics, and (ally) with center-left
regimes....few positive reforms and numerous regressive"
ones result. Will this be Venezuelans' fate? The prospect
is frightening because if not Chavez, who'll lead their
struggle for social equity and justice - for the nation,
the region and beyond. Bolivarianism is glorious and
vibrant. But to flourish, grow and prosper, it needs care
and nurturing from a resolute leader backed by mass popular

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and
listen to The Global Research News Hour Mondays on from 11AM - 1PM US Central time
for cutting-edge discussions of world and national issues
with distinguished guests.


US army ‘stretched thin’ by Iraq war

By Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
Financial Times
Feb 18 2008

The Iraq war has strained the US military to the extent
that America could not fight another large-scale war today,
according to a new survey of military officers.

Nine in 10 officers said the war had stretched the
­military “dangerously thin”. However, 56 per cent
disagreed with the suggestion that the conflict had
“broken” the armed services, while 64 per cent said morale
was high.

More than 3,400 current and retired officers, including
more than 200 generals and admirals, participated in the
survey by Foreign Policy magazine and the Center for a New
American Security, a centrist think-tank.

The results underscore the concerns of officers about the
strain that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have placed on
the military. Of respondents, 60 per cent said the military
was weaker today than five years ago.

The results of the independent survey come as the Pentagon
debates whether to pause the reduction of forces in Iraq,
or whether to make further cuts to ease the stress on the
military. The Pentagon is unwinding the “surge” by reducing
the number of combat brigades to the pre-surge level of 15,
which would leave about 130,000 troops in Iraq by the

General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, wants to
pause the reduction to assess the impact of removing the
surge, which commanders credit with ­dramatically reducing
violence in Iraq. But General George Casey, his predecessor
in Iraq and now the army chief of staff, advocates further

Gen Casey has warned that the military was deploying at
unsustainable rates, and was in danger of crossing a “red
line” beyond which it would take a generation to rebuild.

Retired Lieutenant General Greg Newbold, a survey
respondent who also participated in the generals’ revolt –
a string of calls from ­senior military figures in 2006 for
the resignation of then defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld –
said the survey showed that the Pentagon could not afford
to be complacent.

“If the question had been ‘Are we in danger of straining
the military in ways that may take a generation to
recover?’, the answer might have been different,” said Lt
Gen Newbold.

“We ought to be very careful that we don’t overplay the
degree of selfless sacrifice and patriotism that we are
relying on from a number of people in the military, the
mid-grade officers and mid-grade non-commissioned officers
that are really the backbone of the services.”

The extended and repeated deployments in Iraq and
Afghanistan have led to concerns about the US military’s
ability to respond to other potential threats, including
Iran, North Korea or a conflict with China over Taiwan.

According to the survey, 80 per cent of respondents
believed it would be “unreasonable” to ask the US military
to wage another large war today; 37 per cent also said Iran
had gained the greatest strategic advantage from the Iraq
war, compared with 19 per cent who saw the US as having
gained the most.

In a worrisome result for the Pentagon, which has attempted
to repair the ­damage done to its image by the Abu Ghraib
prison scandal, 44 per cent of respondents disagreed with
the statement that “torture is never acceptable”; 43 per
cent also disagreed that waterboarding – an interrogation
practice that simulates drowning – was torture, in spite of
the fact that it is banned by the army field manual.

Sunday, 17 February 2008


TV poll backs Berwick border move


TV poll backs Berwick border move Residents in the
Northumberland town of Berwick-upon-Tweed have "voted" in
favour of becoming part of Scotland.

According to a poll by a TV company, 60% of those who
responded wanted the town to be administered by Scotland.

Better financed public services, including free personal
health care for the elderly, were the main reasons.

The referendum, for Monday's ITV1 Tonight programme, saw
1,182 voters in favour of becoming part of Scotland and 775
in favour of staying in England.

Earlier this month politicians in the town vowed to block
any move to take Berwick back into Scotland.

The hard-line stance came after Scottish National Party MSP
Christine Grahame lodged a motion in the Scottish
Parliament calling for the town to "return to the fold".

But the town's Lib Dem MP and council leader warned it
would be too complicated and cause major upheaval.

Organisers of the TV programme said the poll turnout of
1,957 votes compared to some 3,800 in the last local

Former policeman Michael Ross, from Berwick, who headed the
pro-Scotland campaign for votes, said: "Berwick is a very
special place and I think it is largely forgotten within

"I believe we would be the jewel in the crown of Scotland,
I believe our economy would be better understood and better
looked after by the Edinburgh government than it is by

'Grass is greener'

Former school teacher Barbara Herdman campaigned in the
town for a pro-English vote and for a change in how public
spending is allocated across the UK.

She said: "I think that Berwick should stay part of England
because it's so unfair what is happening at the moment.

"The Scots are getting more money than we are. I'm not
saying that the Scots should not get what they get, but
that we should get the same."

Last week Isabel Hunter, leader of the borough council,
said residents would like to enjoy the same benefits as
people in Scotland, but added: "You can always say the
grass is greener but I think it would just be too

A similar poll carried out by the local newspaper revealed
79% of people in the area backed reunification with

The town has changed hands between the two nations at least
13 times.

Friday, 15 February 2008


And the gold medal for China-bashing goes to…

The Beijing Olympics have been turned into an
all-purpose platform for panicmongering about the Yellow Peril. We name the culprits.

Brendan O’Neill in Spiked
Thursday 14 February 2008

In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, a new sport has
emerged: Yellow Peril-mongering. Western politicians,
commentators and even athletes (not previously known for
their skills in political oration, or in any other kind of
oration) have been competing to see who can express the
shrillest and most spine-tingling fears about the Chinese
beast looming on the Eastern horizon. The Beijing Olympics
have been turned into an all-purpose platform for moral
posturing about China’s pollution levels, industrial
arrogance, meddling in Africa, lack of free speech, and
human rights record.

spiked has no illusions about the Chinese regime. We are
passionate defenders of democracy and liberty, which remain
anathematic words to the Communist Party of China. Yet nor
are we remotely interested in signing up to the current
Orientalist Olympics, where writers, actors and activists
are using the premise of Beijing 2008 to spread some snooty
and frequently irrational fears about the Chinese.

This China-bashing competition is not about offering
solidarity to the Chinese masses who want to live more
freely. It is about making observers in the West feel like
medal-winning moralists, possessed of an Olympian Outrage,
warm and moist in the notion that they are taking a stand
against Evil Far Easterners. Here, we list the main events
in the Orientalist Olympics so far, and unveil the winners
in each category.

Throwing the hammer at China for meddling in Africa

This week, film director Steven Spielberg pulled out of his
role as artistic adviser to Beijing 2008 over China’s
support for ‘unspeakable crimes’ in Darfur. Other Hollywood
actors-cum-bearers of the White Man’s Burden, including
George Clooney and Mia Farrow, have slated China for
allegedly funding ‘Khartoum’s genocide’. Grotesquely, some
are referring to Beijing 2008 as the ‘Genocide Olympics’,
comparing China’s hosting of the Games with Hitler’s
hosting in 1936.

Such hysterical language shows how purely and perniciously
moralistic is the China-bashing over Darfur. It is true
that China has trade and arms relations with Khartoum, but
to leap from this fact to the accusation that China is
‘funding genocide’ is to ignore two inconvenient truths (a
phrase that Hollywood types surely understand).

The first inconvenient truth is that few serious
international organisations, including the United Nations,
describe Darfur as a ‘genocide’; indeed, the evidence
suggests that Save Darfur activists have grossly
exaggerated, for political purposes, the death rates in
Darfur (1). There was a bloody civil war in Darfur, but it
reached its nadir five years ago. As Jonathan Steele
argues: ‘Today’s Darfur is still appalling, but not so
bloody a place [as it was in 2003 and 2004].’ (2) Yet a
five-year-old, tragically all-too-familiar civil war in
Africa is being used to label the 2008 Beijing Games as the
‘Genocide Olympics’ and to compare Chinese rulers to the

The second inconvenient truth is that China’s role in the
events in Darfur is far from clear-cut. As Steele writes,
it is naive to pin the blame for this extremely messy
conflict solely on Khartoum, much less on the Chinese
officials with whom Khartoum does business: ‘There are
around a dozen different rebel groups currently fighting
the government. To put the blame on only one party makes no
moral or political sense.’ Indeed, even as China trades
arms with Khartoum in return for Sudanese oil, it has
joined with the West in putting pressure on Khartoum to end
the conflict: ‘It helped to pass the UN resolution to set
up UNAMID [the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur], and it
has contributed several hundred military engineers to
UNAMID.’ (3)

To accuse China effectively of being genocidaires is to
distort both the reality on the ground in Darfur and to
overestimate China’s influence on Khartoum. The celebrity
posturing over China allegedly giving the nod to a new
Holocaust is not about calling for a powerful state to stop
interfering in Africa’s affairs (something that the
celebrities’ own countries of origin do all the time). In
fact, it’s about doing precisely the opposite: it is
motivated by a sense that the Chinese, by doing business
with Khartoum, are undermining Western activists’ ability
to boss Khartoum around. China is seen as standing in the
way of Western interference in Africa, which is apparently
the right kind of interference, motivated by morals rather
than money and greed and avarice and other Chinese traits.
As one American commentator complained: ‘Sudan’s government
feels it can ignore Western revulsion at genocide because
[thanks to China] it has no need of Western money…. China,
along with Sudan’s other Arab and Asian partners, feels
free to trample on basic standards of decency.’ (4)

Those bloody, indecent, no-standards Chinese, getting in
the way of Western efforts to financially blackmail an
African country and determine its affairs. Don’t these
uppity Easterners know that only Westernised, well-educated
NGO activists and super-rich LA luvvies have the right to
interfere in Africa? This event in the Orientalist Olympics
is not about calling for ‘Hands off Africa!’ - it’s about
calling for ‘Yellow Hands off Africa!’

Gold medal winner: Steven Spielberg, for magnificent
displays of both moral spinelessness (by giving in to
of pressure from Mia Farrow who said he would be the
Riefenstahl of Beijing’s ‘Genocide Olympics’) and
superiority (see his references to the power of his
in his resignation statement). It is hard to
disagree with the
Chinese official who accused Spielberg of
spouting ‘empty rhetoric’.

Sprinting to denounce China’s pollution levels

This is a toughly contested event in the Orientalist
Olympics: numerous green activists and green-leaning
Western officials are looking at China’s stadium-erecting,
road-building and subway-digging with barely concealed
disgust and claiming that these will be the Grimiest Games
in history.

Environmentalists are latching on to Beijing 2008 as a way
of ratcheting up fears about China’s alleged poisoning of
its own people, and its potential poisoning of we
Westerners, too. One commentator says the Games will
‘showcase pollution as well as world-class athletes’.
Reporters write that ‘the effects of pollution can be seen
everywhere… smokestack factories spew toxins into the air…
rivers teem with sewage’ (5). And it’s not just the Chinese
who will suffer at the hands of their polluting rulers.
Some say that athletes who have to run or ride bikes in
Beijing this summer will be weakened and choked by smog
(which will at least give British competitors a good excuse
when they lose), while others remind us that China is
cooking the entire planet: ‘China’s emissions of carbon
dioxide, the most important global warming gas, are
expected to surpass those of the United States in 2009.’

Here, even the most positive thing about contemporary China
– its speedy, inspiring economic development – is discussed
as something disgusting. What ought to be celebrated as a
wonderful leap forward for mankind is seen as a threat both
to the Chinese people and to the West itself. No doubt
China is a smelly, smoggy, sooty place right now, but that
is because it is experiencing the birth pangs of
industrialisation. There is a powerful whiff of double
standards when well-off greens in comfortable Western
societies that were built on Industrial Revolutions moan
about Chinese smog.

The view of China as a ‘green peril’ overlooks the fact
that Chinese officials are taking serious steps to combat
pollution. In the run-up to the Olympics, they have
completely relocated 100 Beijing-based chemical, steel and
pharmaceutical factories outside of the city, dismantling,
transporting and rebuilding them in pastures new. Beijing
is replacing 300,000 polluting taxis and busses with
lesser-polluting vehicles. In 1998, Beijing recorded 100
so-called Blue Sky Days – that is, days with an acceptable
level of pollution; in 2005, it recorded 244 Blue Sky Days
(7). In Britain, ‘tackling climate change’ has become a
code-phrase for officials making petty interventions into
our lives: flush your toilet less; recycle your bottle
tops; don’t drive to the supermarket. In Beijing, combating
pollution is a targeted, meaningful and ambitious project.

The idea of the Chinese as a pollutant has a long history.
Today that mass nation is seen as an environmental
pollutant… in the past, as the American author Jess Nevins
points out, they were seen as ‘physical, racial and social
pollutants’ whose backward ways might undermine Western
civilisation (8). Today’s pre-Olympics concern about the
‘green peril’ has ditched the overtly racist lingo of the
past – but it has breathed life back into old Western fears
about Eastern ‘pollutants’ poisoning us, and especially our
super-healthy athletes, with their strange habits and
thoughtless ways.

Gold medal winner: Environmentalist correspondents
in the
British press (you know who you are), who seem
incapable of
writing about China without using the words
‘sludge’ or ‘smog’. They have displayed a truly
ability to see only the bad in economic progress
and never,
ever, ever the good (less absolute poverty, rising
standards, greater mobility, and in the future more choice).

Boxing Chinese officials over freedom of speech

Some British athletes have attacked China’s attempts to
curb their freedom of speech. British Olympians have been
asked to sign a contract before they arrive in Beijing: it
will prohibit them from, amongst other things, attending
political demonstrations or making ‘propagandistic’
statements. Outraged athletes – including that well-known
political activist, er, the badminton champion Richard
Vaughan – have complained about being denied the right to
criticise China’s human rights record or its antics in
Darfur. The gagging of athletes is held up as evidence of
China’s extreme authoritarianism, which threatens even to
ruin the greatest show on earth.

In reality, these new contracts build on strict rules that
were drawn up by the International Olympics Committee over
the past 30 years. Following the 1968 Olympic Games in
Mexico, when two black American sprinters gave the Black
Power salute as they received their medals, the IOC
introduced Section 51 to its charter – this forbids
athletes from taking part in any ‘kind of demonstration, or
political, religious or racial propaganda in the Olympic
sites, venues or other areas’ (9). In asking for the rules
to include barring athletes from making ‘politically
sensitive’ statements, the Chinese are building on
already-existing IOC directives rather than importing their
Stalinist distaste for liberty into an apparently free and
open sporting event.

British athletes are not principled fighters for ‘freedom
of speech’. If they were, we might have expected to hear
them complain about New Labour’s numerous assaults on free
speech over the past 10 years – from its criminalisation of
criticism of religion to its imprisonment of five students
for the ‘crime’ of browsing radical websites (10). The
Chinese do not have a monopoly on criminalising ‘sensitive’
comments that are likely to ‘cause offence’ (11).

The British athletes are actually demanding the ‘freedom to
be morally outraged’. They want the ‘right’ to use the
opportunity of a visit to China to wear a Free Tibet
t-shirt or to state their concern about pollution or to
join Spielberg and Farrow and others in exaggerating the
crisis in Darfur in order to get their moral rocks off. In
this sense, they’re actually dragging free speech’s name
through the mud, turning it into a political weapon that
can be used to take potshots at foreign regimes. Their
outraged reaction against their contracts gives the
impression that illiberal attitudes to free speech are a
peculiarly Eastern thing; in calling on British Olympics
officials to reject the contracts and rewrite them – in the
name of British fair play and liberty – the athletes are
conniving in the mad idea that Britain is a free country
and therefore it has the right and the responsibility to
lecture the Chinese about their attitudes and affairs. Such
a paternalistic and partial use of the banner of ‘free
speech’ will do no favours whatsoever for either the
campaign for free speech in Britain or the campaign for
freedom and autonomy in China.

Laughably, some of the gagged athletes are comparing
themselves to Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the black
American runners who raised their black-gloved fists and
bowed their heads during the playing of the American
national anthem at the 1968 Games. Smith and Carlos made a
serious protest at a time of violent conflict over civil
rights within their own country, when an armed oppositional
movement – the Black Panthers – was fighting under the
banner of Black Power. And they paid an extremely heavy
price: they were effectively barred from sports for the
rest of their lives. To compare this brave and dramatic
stand to the hurt feelings of a largely unknown badminton
player who wants to express his pity for poor pathetic
Africans while in China, and who would do so with the full
backing of Hollywood, American and European liberals, most
Western governments and a mish-mash of armed rebel groups
in Darfur… that only highlights the extent to which this
event in the Orientalist Olympics, bashing China over its
gagging contracts, is driven by bloated moral pomposity.

Gold medal winner: Richard Vaughan, the British badminton
champ who has made a right shuttlecock of himself by trying

to pose as a warrior for freedom of speech. Clearly he has

swallowed whole the idea that sportsmen and other
celebrities are so supremely important that they
single-handedly try to topple the Chinese regime by
a shocking t-shirt or holding a press conference
with some
Tibetan monks.

Spearing China’s dedication to sports training

Forget the empty rhetoric of the Save Darfur missionaries
and the ‘green peril’ screaming of the environmentalist
lobby – the Olympics are, of course, all about sport. For
all Western observers’ attempts to attach their
narcissistic agendas to Beijing 2008, the vast majority of
us will enjoy it as a spectacular competition between the
fastest runners, longest jumpers and most agile gymnasts on
Earth. And yet… even in the area of sport, China is getting
an earful from concerned Westerners.

The Chinese are being attacked for ‘torturing’ their young
people by forcing them to become the best. The Chinese
training of gymnasts, some as young as seven or eight, has
been described as a form of ‘child abuse’, where teachers
and trainers bend kids’ bodies in ‘unnatural directions’
and push them, at all costs, to become the flexible
champions of the future (12).

Apparently the Chinese are far too obsessed with
self-sacrifice and winning at any cost. During an earlier
Olympics contest, one commentator said: ‘When entertainment
requires this kind of self-sacrifice, our values – for
willingly watching and participating – and the values of
the Chinese are severely out of line with basic human
standards.’ (13) Notice how even the discussion of Chinese
attitudes to sport, as well as their attitude to Darfur,
focuses on their alleged inhuman depravity.

There’s no doubt that young sportsmen and women in China
are put under extraordinary pressure. Yet even this desire
to win, in a competition in which winning is the only thing
that counts, is talked up in the Orientalist Olympics as
evidence of China’s warped ways. The Chinese are seen as
unemotional, unforgiving, as peculiarly arrogant. Again,
this is an old prejudice that is being rehabilitated on the
back of the Olympic Games. As Robert L Gee points out in
his book Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture,
China-bashers in the past talked about ‘Chinese arrogance’
and ‘Chinese aloofness’ (14). Back then, people saw
‘Chinese arrogance’ in their snooty ‘Yellowfaces’ (15);
today it is glimpsed in the robotic automatons forcing
young children to become winning machines.

Perhaps Western observers and athletes are making excuses
for themselves early. If they lose, it won’t be down to
their own lack of training or determination - which could
be seen as products of the West’s distinctly PC and
un-Chinese ‘everyone’s a winner’ attitude to competitive
sports - but rather down to the strange powers of the
Eastern weirdos.

Gold medal winner: BBC TV’s Newsnight, which recently
a reporter to stare in horror at young Chinese children
training to become gymnasts of the future. Much to
Newsnight’s disappointment, however, the kids seemed
to be
enjoying themselves.


(1) See Darfur: pornography for the chattering classes, by
Brendan O’Neill

(2) Why blame China?, Jonathan Steele, Comment Is Free, 14
February 2008

(3) Why blame China?, Jonathan Steele, Comment Is Free, 14
February 2008

(4) China and Darfur: The Genocide Olympics?, Washington
Post, 14 December 2006

(5) Will the 2008 Olympics in Beijing Showcase Pollution as
Well as World-class Athletes?, Knowledge Wharton, January

(6) Will the 2008 Olympics in Beijing Showcase Pollution as
Well as World-class Athletes?, Knowledge Wharton, January

(7) Will the 2008 Olympics in Beijing Showcase Pollution as
Well as World-class Athletes?, Knowledge Wharton, January

(8) See Polluting minds, Brendan O’Neill, Comment Is Free,
25 July 2007

(9) Athletes face Olympics ban for criticising China, Daily
Telegraph, February 2008

(10) Five students win terror appeal, BBC News, 13 February

(11) See In Britain, heretics get a metaphorical lashing,
by Brendan O’Neill

(12) Pinsent shock at way China treats gymnasts,
Independent, 18 November 2005

(13) ‘Chinese torture, Olympic style’, A Freudenheim, The
Truth As I See It

(14) Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture, Robert
G Lee, Temple University Press, 1999

(15) Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture, Robert
G Lee, Temple University Press, 1999


Samir Amin Frustrated:
Which Political Islam is allied with imperialism?

Dear Friends,

I have received many e-mails from those of you who do not
speak Arabic asking for a summary of my latest article. I
usually provide it out of my own initiative but I must
admit that the assassination of Commander Moghniyeh is
weighing heavy upon our spirits, so my apology for
forgetting it this time. but here you have it:

This summary is related to my Arabic language piece in
reply to an article published by Samir Amin the famous Arab
leftist thinker, which he published in the Monthly Review
under the tittle "Political Islam in the service of
. I try to refute some of his arguments and the
tittle of my reply is : Samir Amin Frustrated: which
political Islam is allied with imperialism?"

My arguments in short:

While the left in the world is regrouping and regenerating
itself under various forms (anti-globalisation, Zapatista,
Bolivarian, etc) and it has reviewed several of its
former premises and abandoned in many ways some futile
dogmas; the Arab Left (whether Marxist, or Nationalist) is
still routed and unable of doing the same.

Samir Amin attacks the alliance between sections of the
Left and Political Islam claiming that political Islam can
only be in service of imperialism for the following

1- Political Islam is not secular. This is a strange
argument of Amin, because what antagonism does secularism
and imperialism have? Most imperialist states are secular
so how can being secular or not play a role in determining
the position of any political movement towards imperialism?
Just like being secular is no guarantee for
anti-imperialist positioning, being non-secular is not
related to a pro-imperialist positioning. Add to that the
fact that Amin opts for a restrictive definition of
secularism as being separation of religious thinking and
politics while I define it as separation between religious
institutions and the State. According to my understanding
it is totally conceivable to have an Islamic ideology and
adhere to secularism at the same time, Just like the
Christian Democratic parties in Europe are secular.

2- Amin considers Political Islam to be the carrier of
culturalist policies of belonging and he claims that it
focuses too much upon identity and group loyalty. First of
all again this does not define any relationship whether
positive or negative towards imperialism. Second this is a
common feature among all national liberation movements in
the Third World and not only Political Islam. Why does Amin
not criticize the Zapatistas or the Chavistas, who also
adhere to a cultural version of nationalism along with
socialism. The fact that Islamist movements are developing
a nationalist discourse should be considered a step in the
right direction and not the opposite. This allows Islamist
movements to build bonds of citizenship with their
countrymen even those who do not adhere to the same
religious views, or to the same religion for that matter.
Add to that the fact that denying the peoples of the world
their right to cultural emancipation and identity is a
frightening idea and is more aligned with the imperialist
project of globalization. The fact that Amin considers the
diversity-friendly left to be a retreating left is a matter
of concern to me. It reflects an ancient reflex of the time
when the left oppressed diversity and capitalism was
striving on it. Today it is the left in the world (and the
left in the world today is centered in the South and not in
the West) that is striving on diversity and it is
capitalism that is promoting the unique thought, in that
regard Amin is reactionary just like many segments of the
European left.

3- Amin claims that the Islamists approach the conflict
from an angle of clash of civilization, nothing is less
true. Whether it is Hezbollah, or Hamas, or even Al Qaeda
one thing they have in common and that is linking the
linking of their struggle to the act of aggression by
imperialism against their countries and peoples. The clash
of civilization discourse is much underrepresented in
Islamist circles and is often expressed by marginal figures
and streams, while it is more dominant in the West and it
find its way to the highest ranks in politics and

4- Amin considers Political Islam to be allied to
capitalism. It is true that Islamists don't have yet a
completely formed economic theory. But one can not claim
that they are left or right. Both tendencies are
represented in the Islamist camp when it comes to
economics. However, some Islamic principals like Al-Zakat
(tax on capital roots) and rentless economy can be meeting
points with a leftist vision of economy that is also yet to
be reinvented and still being debated. The Islamists are
not less leftist than the social democrats and one can work
towards deepening their awareness of the nature of

5- Amin claims that the governing classes in some pro
imperialist countries like Saudi and Pakistan belong to
Political Islam. Nothing is less true, these classes belong
to Islam and use it to depolitise the masses and not to
politicise them. The Saudi's used Islam in the sixties
against Abdel Nasser and then exiled the Islamists in the
eighties to the Afghani Jihad but eventually clashed with
them in the nineties in both their moderate and Salafi
Jihadi versions. In Pakistan the power circles are formed
by feudal leaders and the Islamist movement in all its
factions have always been in cold or open conflict with the

My conclusion is that Amin is frustrated because of the
fact that Islamism is today leading the struggle in the
Arab world against imperialism. It is not easy to belong to
the Arab Left in our days and we share a lot of Amin' s
frustration. We also share the belief that the best
scenario would be to organize resistance around national
tittles and not sectarian ones because we see our enemy
using sectarianism to weaken resistance. Nevertheless we
should not act upon frustration and wishes but upon facts,
and the facts on the ground are clear. Our task as the Arab
Left is to organize ourselves and claim our role in the
struggle for freedom and change in our countries. The wrong
reaction would be to enclose ourselves in a ghetto and not
to face facts. Islamism can produce resistance and it can
produce collaboration ( Hezbollah and Badr corps are both
belonging to the same ideological school yet one is
resisting and the other collaborating) and the same goes
for a secular ideology or any other ideology. We must ally
ourselves with Political Islam on clear basis of dialogue
and mutual respect and in order to defend our people and
Nation, and we should agree on resolving our differences
through the democratic choice of the people.

Thursday, 14 February 2008


Scotland and the Connolly connection

An Phoblact

[PICTURE: Jim Slaven with Scottish National Party leader
and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond]

JIM SLAVEN (37), from Scotland, is this year’s Le Chéile
honouree on behalf of the Sinn Féin International Department. Of Irish descent, Jim was, as he puts it, part of “the Hunger Strike generation”, from an era that accelerated many people’s political development. In Jim’s life it sent him at an early age in search of his origins and in particular a neighbouring family, that of James Connolly. He talks to ELLA O’DWYER about the obstacles which have faced the Irish in Scotland over generations and his commitment to promoting the name and cause of Connolly.

Jim you’re of Irish descent. Can you tell me about that?

I was born and raised in Edinburgh but my grandfather, John
Slaven, was from Letterkenny in County Donegal. My mother’s
family (on her mother’s side) were Kellys from Tyrone. My
parents, Vicky and John, are still alive and I’ve a sister,
Lisa, who’s five years younger than me. I live in the same
part of Edinburgh where my grandfather moved to all those
years ago and actually it’s the same part where James
Connolly came from. The area is called Oldtown. We lived in
a place called Drummond and Connolly’s family lived in
Cowgate, a stone’s throw from our home. My parents support
the concept of a united Ireland and would have been
sympathetic to republicanism but none of my family other
than myself got involved in politics.

You left school at an early age.

Yes, I didn’t feel very comfortable at school. I came to
learning much later in life. When I was 11 the big issue
was the Hunger Strike of 1981 and that was very much to the
fore of my mind. When things like that happen in the
country that your people come from you tend to want to
learn more about it all. We wore the Hunger Strike badges
to school and were very aware of what was happening to the
republican POWs. In Scotland, the very notion of being
Irish would be contested. The view in places like Edinburgh
would generally be: if you’re born in Scotland you should
consider yourself Scottish even if your family originally
came from Ireland. In Scotland I’m always going to be
called a ‘Fenian’ and in Ireland, because I’ve a Scottish
accent, I’m always going to be called a ‘Jock’ [laughs].
There’s an issue of how immigrants view themselves. The
Irish in places like America and Australia have done very
well for themselves but in Scotland that has not been the

So the Hunger Strike triggered your interest in republicanism?

People, particularly from an older generation often ask me
why I got involved in Irish politics. After the Hunger
Strike the natural progression was to want to learn more
about Ireland. A lot of us who went on to get involved in
Irish solidarity groups like the James Connolly Society
were the same age because we were of the Hunger Strike
generation and that, of course, brought me to James
Connolly, a man who came from just up the road two streets
a way. A group of us formed the James Connolly Society in
the 1980s. The annual James Connolly march began in 1986
here in Edinburgh. It caused a lot of controversy in
Scotland because it was the first time such a thing would
have happened. On the first march we had a turn-out of
about 300 people and that grew over the years to 3,000.

But you were very young then and you’re still young.
all your youth taken up with politics?

[Laughs] When I was young we’d play soccer. Hibs
(Hibernian) are my team – they’re the Irish team in
Edinburgh. Historically the Irish were treated very badly
here and what’s happened now is that there’s been an
attempt to brush Irishness out of history. Despite the fact
that the Irish are the largest and oldest immigrant
community, there is scarcely any funded support centres for
the Irish community here. While people like the Scottish
National Party would be in favour of Scottish independence,
the majority of people here consider themselves British and
unionist. But my Irish ethnicity is something I’m very
proud of because in Scotland you do really have to defend
it. There’s a real problem with sectarianism and anti-Irish
racism here.

Did you experience harassment from the police?

In the period between 1989 and 1996 I’d have been arrested
about a hundred and fifty times. It was to do with the fact
that, historically in Edinburgh, there had never really
been any outward representations of republicanism and they
wanted to clamp down on it. So people in the Connolly
Society, for instance, would have been regularly harassed.

You seem like a person with a great passion and commitment
to your beliefs.

I’m still committed to the Irish Socialist Republic and to
ensuring that James Connolly’s memory is celebrated in
Edinburgh. Up until that first march in 1986 hardly anyone
knew who James Connolly was and now everyone knows and
that’s largely due to the controversy the march caused at
the time.

You helped establish Cairde na hÉireann.

We set the organisation up about four or five years ago.
Its aims are to campaign for a united Ireland and to
support sister organisations in Ireland. The feeling was
that there had never been a national structure for various
solidarity groups around Scotland so we decided to
establish one national structure as an umbrella group. It
still exists but I left it recently to take up a job as a
community development worker, work which I enjoy very much
because I can help people on the ground.

You continued your education in latter years, you said?

Because I left school early I ended up working on building
sites and the like. It was much later that I got interested
in education. It was really through my involvement in
republicanism. I used to meet IRA prisoners who were out on
parole or released and they encouraged me to read and get
an education. I could see how important it was that
republicans got an education so that they could articulate
the republican position. So I went back to university and
did a degree in what’s called Mental Philosophy. The course
incorporated philosophy, logic and politics. Then I did a
post-graduate degree in Community Education, which lead me
to the community development work. I work with marginalised
people in working-class areas.

How did you feel when you were told you were to be the

honouree for the International Department?

I was embarrassed [laughs]. I don’t view it as personal but
I think it’s important that all the work that’s been done
here over the generations, in terms of promoting the cause
of Irish freedom and addressing the obstacles facing the
Irish in Scotland, be recognised. I’m very happy and
comfortable with my republican involvement and the work
goes on. We’re establishing a charity in James Connolly’s
name with a view to helping marginalised groups here.

So you’re carrying through the James Connolly vision?

[Laughs] I wouldn’t say that but I want to take from his
name and his ethos.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


Five students win terror appeal


[PICTURE: Clockwise from top left: Irfan Raja, Awaab Iqbal,
Aitzaz Zafar, Akbar Butt, Usman Malik]

The convictions of five young Muslim men jailed
over extremist literature have
been quashed by
the Appeal Court.

Freeing the men, the Lord Chief Justice said there was no
proof of terrorist intent. The lawyer for one said they had
been jailed for a "thought crime".

A jury convicted the students in 2007 after hearing the
men, of Bradford and Ilford, east London, became obsessed
with jihadi websites and literature.

The Home Office said it would study the judgement

'Serious threat'

It said it understood the Crown Prosecution Service was
considering whether to appeal against the ruling, which it
must do within seven days.

It added that the threat of terrorism remained serious and
real and the government was committed to ensuring it had
the strongest possible anti-terrorism legal framework.

Irfan Raja, Awaab Iqbal, Aitzaz Zafar, Usman Malik and
Akbar Butt were jailed for between two and three years each
by the Old Bailey for downloading and sharing extremist
terrorism-related material, in what was one of the first
cases of its kind.

But at the Court of Appeal, Lord Phillips said that while
the men had downloaded such material, he doubted if there
was evidence this was in relation to planning terrorist

He said the prosecution had attempted to use the law for a
purpose for which it was not intended.

'Huge implications'

Lawyers for the men say the decision to restrict how the
law on extremist literature works has huge implications for
counter terrorism prosecutions.

Critics inside the Muslim community and civil liberty
campaigners say section 57 of the 2000 Terrorism Act has
been used as a blunt instrument to prosecute young Muslim
men where there is no proof of genuine links to terrorism.

The BBC understands there have been three other convictions
under this legislation - more cases are expected before the
courts this year.

Imran Khan, solicitor for Mr Zafar, said the five had been
prosecuted for "thought crime" and that the ruling would
have an significant impact.

He told BBC News: "Young Muslim men before this judgement
could have been prosecuted simply for simply looking at any
material on the basis that it might be connected in some
way to terrorist purposes."

He said section 57 of the 2000 Terrorism Act had been
written in such wide terms that "effectively, anybody could
have been caught in it" but prosecutors would now have to
prove such material was intended for terrorist purposes.

'Unknown students'

In a statement released through his solicitors, Mr Malik
said he had always maintained his innocence.

"It is a great thing to live in a country where the Lord
Chief Justice takes the time from hearing important cases
to see if a group of unknown students have been fairly
convicted for reading the wrong kind of literature," he

"As I said when I was arrested, I do not, have not and will
not support terrorism in any form against innocent people.

"My prosecution was a test case under the 2000 Terrorism
Act. Today's decision means no first year student can ever
be prosecuted again under this Act for possessing extremist

Mr Malik's solicitor, Saghir Hussein, said it was a
"landmark judgement", with implications for other cases,
including those alleging glorification of terrorism.

Zahid Iqbal, father of Awaab Iqbal, said he was feeling
"great" after the decision.

"Justice has been done. It's restored my faith in the
justice system," he said.

Asked if he had any advice for other young Muslim men who
were looking at similar material, he said: "I don't think
these boys did anything wrong. It was just propaganda they
were looking at. They had no links to terrorism - everybody
looks at websites."

'Knee-jerk terror laws'

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said
the government's "knee-jerk drafting of new terrorism
offences" had led to confusion on the part of prosecutors.

He said: "Ministers need to be more cautious when drafting
new offences and more effective in enforcing old ones."

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said it would not be
appropriate for him to comment on the decision the Court of
Appeal had made after "very careful consideration".

Muslim Parliament of Great Britain leader Dr Ghayasudin
Siddiqui told BBC Radio 5 Live he welcomed the ruling but
hoped that the students' experiences would serve as a
warning to other young Muslims.

He said: "It must go out to other young people that it is a
dangerous area and they have to keep themselves far, far
away from visiting these websites."

Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary-general of the
Muslim Council of Britain, said the Lord Chief Justice had
been "right" to quash the convictions.

He said: "If there is no actual terror plot uncovered by
the police then we do not believe we should be convicting
people for what is effectively a thought crime."

Online chatrooms

During the trial, the jury heard the four Bradford students
were arrested after Mr Raja - then an Ilford schoolboy -ran
away to join them.

He left a note for his parents saying he was going to fight
abroad after getting to know the others via online
chatrooms used by extremist recruiters.

He returned home within days but his parents had already
alerted the police, who arrested all five and collected the
extremist material.

In their appeal, the men argued they should not have been
convicted solely on the basis that they had downloaded and
shared literature from the internet.

The material included publications popular among extreme
Islamist organisations, encouraging Muslims to fight. One
of the five had also used a computer to superimpose his own
face on a montage of the 9/11 hijackers.

But their lawyers said the law was designed to catch people
holding plans for bombs rather than propaganda.

None of the men possessed information suggesting they were
plotting a bomb attack, although there had been talk of
heading to Pakistan for paramilitary training.

Published: 2008/02/13 17:42:42 GMT

Friday, 8 February 2008

DOC-FILM: Isle of Rhyme aka Bare Means a Lot

'This is a London Thing'

As Sons of Malcolm brought you the very insightful lecture
by KRS-One earlier this week, this time this film explores
some of the issues around London youth culture. This is a
short documentary-film by Sean Christophe-Mattison about
the musical cultural expression of young people in Britain,
but speficially London here. The film focuses on British
Hip-Hop & Rap and Garage & Grime. Grime, like
Jungle/Drum&Bass being a musical genre borne of largely
London working class youths from all racial backgrounds
expressing the very London/English metropolitan sound. The
film explores the dynamics within the music and whole it
relates to society from which it came and the record

Generations of youth in England, with the focus in London,
has produced a grassroots culture without the direct
manipulation of the record industries. This liberates the
artists in these scenes as there are no directly imposed
boundaries to the style and content of the music. But this
lack of commercialism also frustrates many artists who
often pursue the dream of 'making it big' through their
work, with only a very few getting a record deal, but as
Skinnyman - one of the most 'sucessful' British rappers
states in the film, there are hardly any artists who are
living off their artistic work. Often we hear of
professional artists talking about how young people should
never give up on their dream of 'making it'; although one
understands their encouragement to young people, one also
wonders if it wouldnt be better to say, like Skinnyman
does, that there is realistically no prospect of a
full-time job through this culture, and better to just be

Although there is potentially a radical voice through this
music, and here and there in the scene there are a good
deal of concious MCs and crews, London's unique youth
culture interacts with a whole load of negativity: the
disintegration of communities that has taken place as a
result of the Thatcherite offensive in the 1980s continued
by Blair and now Brown, the illeal drug industry and
dealers that only takes place due to a lack of community
organisation and the collusion of the British state
(specifically the police), the privatisation and
gentrification of many working class areas, and on a
cultural level, arguably connected to the 'bigger picture',
is the growth of anti-social and generally anti-people
conciousness in music which has been cultivated by a
racist, sexist and generally backward record industry, with
the US-based companies in the lead, with the rest of the
Euro-centric and even Third World following suit. The
challenge of culturally as well as materially defending
oppressed communities in London and the Third World, looms
large amongst us, wit too few people taking up this

Not all of the youth of England are represented in this
film. Apart from the other cultural groups of young people
who are into other types of dress and music, the
multi-racial nature of the culture shown in this film
should not blind one to the fact that there is a lot of
racism in England. There are places where the is
comparitively little mixing between young people of
different racial backgrounds, and often leads to small and
bigger scale race riots, the biggest of recent times being
in the northern English cities of Bradford, Oldham and
Burnely in the summer of 2001. The challenge to defeat the
rise of racism and division is another struggle which is
slowly being lost up and down England.

Finally, our culture is ou culture at the end of the day,
and there always remains a profound potential for this to
turn into a radical and progressive voice, as it once was
in the case of earlier British rap and dance genres with
artists such as Rebel MC, Ragga Twins, and which is
reflected today with people like Miss Dynamite and M.I.A.
It has been the grassroots voice of London youth culture
which has allowed the wave of new English-centric artists
such as Lilly Allen, Jack Penate, The Streets, Jamie T,
Scouting for Girls and many others to come to commercial
success. Possibly it has been the financially-poor but
culturally-rich grassroots culture of London and other
English cities that has given the new-wave of British rock
the confidence to sing in their own accents rather than
copying Yankee accents. At least, we always represented
ourselves, our own identity when others looked to US
commercial music.


Sukant Chandan
-Sons of Malcolm