Tag Archive: war


Stop The War Coalition

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Vietnam protest against Olympic sponsor Dow Chemical

The organisers of London’s 2012 Olympics call them the Green Games – a monument to best sustainable practice within the sports world. The Vietnamese government says the organisers should tell that to the hundreds of thousands of children born with cleft palates, mental disabilities, hernias, lung, larynx and prostate cancer, missing limbs and extra fingers and toes. Vietnam joined the growing chorus of protest against Olympic sponsors accused of “green-washing” their past sins earlier this month. In a letter obtained by GlobalPost, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism castigated the Lausanne-based International Olympic Committee (IOC) for green-lighting Dow Chemical as a major Olympic sponsor.

Dow produced about one-third of the 80 million liters of Agent Orange defoliants sprayed over southern Vietnam, during what the Vietnamese call “The American War.” The Vietnamese Red Cross estimates that up to 3 million Vietnamese have been affected by Agent Orange, including at least 300,000 children born with birth defects. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates are much higher. It says 4.8 million people were exposed, resulting in 400,000 deaths and injuries and about 500,000 children born with defects, many of which are still being born to this day — some four generations later. “Agent Orange … destroyed the environment, claimed the lives of millions of Vietnamese and left terrible effects on millions of others, who are now suffering from incurable diseases. Hundreds of thousands of fourth generation children have been born with severe congenital deformities,” wrote Hoang Tuan Anh, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism to the IOC.

“Dow Chemical has expressed indifference and refused compensation for victims of Agent Orange, as well as their responsibility to clean up contaminated areas. Dow also continues to destroy the environment. In 2010, US EPA listed Dow as the second worst polluter in the world,” the letter said.

Vietnam has unsuccessfully brought legal action against Dow and other Agent Orange producers in US courts. But activists say that the Communist state is caught in a legal bind. The producers of Agent Orange blame the US government for its use, while sovereign immunity shields Washington from prosecution in American courts.

US helicopters and planes sprayed about 20% of southern Vietnam with the defoliants over a 10-year period. The goal was to strip the North Vietnamese of jungle cover and limit access to food supplies. A less reported aim was to drive rural Vietnamese who may have been sympathetic to Hanoi into US-controlled cities in what was then South Vietnam. “It’s ironic that Dow is allowed to sponsor sporting events including Paralympics athletes when it is responsible for creating generations of severely disabled children and refuses to do anything to help them,” wrote a Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin spokesman in an email.

Dow, the IOC and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games ignored repeated requests for comment. Dow Chemical inked a 10-year deal with the IOC in 2010. Dow envisioned a global sales bump of about $1 billion by promoting, ironically enough, a raft of environmentally-friendly products.

But it was the $11.25 million contract doled out to Dow for the 336 giant panels that will make up the decorative wrap that first sparked controversy. The Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, a watchdog body charged with overseeing the Games’ environmental credentials, was rocked when commissioner Meredith Alexander resigned last month in protest over Dow’s awarding of the stadium contract.

Campaigners believe that Dow also has ongoing liabilities relating to the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India, that led to an estimated 20,000 deaths and serious injury to tens of thousands more. “But the Olympics is big business. There is an expensive machine behind the Games that is funded by corporate sponsors. Sadly when these sponsors are selected, money talks much more loudly than values,” said Alexander to The Guardian. Big business indeed. Dow’s Olympic stable mates also include BP and Rio Tinto, two resource extraction behemoths that rights groups say have woeful environmental and human-rights track records.

“Dow refuses to accept responsibility. They state they were told to make the chemicals by the US government and will not and have not paid one cent in compensation,” writes Len Aldis, secretary of Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society, in an email to GlobalPost. “Despite their record, money talks. The IOC should cancel Dow’s sponsorship of the Games.”
This article was first published on http://postnoon.com
For more on this story go to: Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society 

Leon Trotsky On the Sino-Japanese War – An Example of the Anti Imperialist United Front
(A must read for all members of those groups mired in the confusion over Libya )

Written: September 23, 1937
First Published: Internal Bulletin, Organizing Committee for the Socialist Party Convention (New York), October 1937. 

Dear Comrade Diego Rivera:

During the past few days I have been reading some of the lucubrations of the Oehlerites and the Eiffelites (yes, there is a tendency of that sort!) on the civil war in Spain and on the SinoJapanese War. Lenin called the ideas of these people “infantile disorders.” A sick child arouses sympathy. But twenty years have passed since then. The children have become bearded and even bald. But they have not ceased their childish babblings. On the contrary, they have increased all their faults and all their foolishness tenfold and have added ignominies to them. They follow us step by step. They borrow some of the elements of our analysis. They distort these elements without limit and counterpose them to the rest. They correct us. When we draw a human figure, they add a deformity. When it is a woman, they decorate her with a heavy moustache. When we draw a rooster, they put an egg under it. And they call all this burlesque Marxism and Leninism.

I want to stop to discuss in this letter only the Sino-dapanese War. In my declaration to the bourgeois press, I said that the duty of all the workers’ organizations of China was to participate actively and in the front lines of the present war against Japan, without abandoning, for a single moment, their own program and independent activity. But that is “social patriotism!” the Eiffelites cry. It is capitulation to Chiang Kai-shek! It is the abandonment of the principle of the class struggle! Bolshevism preached revolutionary defeatism in the imperialist war. Now, the war in Spain and the Sino-Japanese War are both imperialist wars. “Our position on the war in China is the same. The only salvation of the workers and peasants of China is to struggle independently against the two armies, against the Chinese army in the same manner as against the Japanese army.” These four lines, taken from an Eiffelite document of September 10, 1937, suffice entirely for us to say: we are concerned here with either real traitors or complete imbeciles. But imbecility, raised to this degree, is equal to treason.

We do not and never have put all wars on the same plane. Marx and Engels supported the revolutionary struggle of the Irish against Great Britain, of the Poles against the tsar, even though in these two nationalist wars the leaders were, for the most part, members of the bourgeoisie and even at times of the feudal aristocracy . . . at all events, Catholic reactionaries. When Abdel-Krim rose up against France, the democrats and Social Democrats spoke with hate of the struggle of a “savage tyrant” against the “democracy.” The party of Leon Blum supported this point of view. But we, Marxists and Bolsheviks, considered the struggle of the Riffians against imperialist domination as a progressive war.l77 Lenin wrote hundreds of pages demonstrating the primary necessity of distinguishing between imperialist nations and the colonial and semicolonial nations which comprise the great majority of humanity. To speak of “revolutionary defeatism” in general, without distinguishing between exploiter and exploited countries, is to make a miserable caricature of Bolshevism and to put that caricature at the service of the imperialists.

In the Far East we have a classic example. China is a semicolonial country which Japan is transforming, under our very eyes, into a colonial country. Japan’s struggle is imperialist and reactionary. China’s struggle is emancipatory and progressive.

But Chiang Kai-shek? We need have no illusions about Chiang Kai-shek, his party, or the whole ruling class of China, just as Marx and Engels had no illusions about the ruling classes of Ireland and Poland. Chiang Kai-shek is the executioner of the Chinese workers and peasants. But today he is forced, despite himself, to struggle against Japan for the remainder of the independence of China. Tomorrow he may again betray. It is possible. It is probable. It is even inevitable. But today he is struggling. Only cowards, scoundrels, or complete imbeciles can refuse to participate in that struggle.

Let us use the example of a strike to clarify the question. We do not support all strikes. If, for example, a strike is called for the exclusion of Negro, Chinese, or Japanese workers from a factory, we are opposed to that strike. But if a strike aims at bettering— insofar as it can—the conditions of the workers, we are the first to participate in it, whatever the leadership. In the vast majority of strikes, the leaders are reformists, traitors by profession, agents of capital. They oppose every strike. But from time to time the pressure of the masses or of the objective situation forces them into the path of struggle.

Let us imagine, for an instant, a worker saying to himself: “I do not want to participate in the strike because the leaders are agents of capital.” This doctrine of this ultraleft imbecile would serve to brand him by his real name: a strikebreaker. The case of the Sino-Japanese War, is from this point of view, entirely analogous. If Japan is an imperialist country and if China is the victim of imperialism, we favor China. Japanese patriotism is the hideous mask of worldwide robbery. Chinese patriotism is legitimate and progressive. To place the two on the same plane and to speak of “social patriotism” can be done only by those who have read nothing of Lenin, who have understood nothing of the attitude of the Bolsheviks during the imperialist war, and who can but compromise and prostitute the teachings of Marxism. The Eiffelites have heard that the social patriots accuse the internationalists of being the agents of the enemy and they tell us: “You are doing the same thing.” In a war between two imperialist countries, it is a question neither of democracy nor of national independence, but of the oppression of backward nonimperialist peoples. In such a war the two countries find themselves on the same historical plane. The revolutionaries in both armies are defeatists. But Japan and China are not on the same historical plane. The victory of Japan will signify the enslavement of China, the end of her economic and social development, and the terrible strengthening of Japanese imperialism. The victory of China will signify, on the contrary, the social revolution in Japan and the free development, that is to say unhindered by external oppression, of the class struggle in China.

But can Chiang Kai-shek assure the victory? I do not believe so. It is he, however, who began the war and who today directs it. To be able to replace him it is necessary to gain decisive influence among the proletariat and in the army, and to do this it is necessary not to remain suspended in the air but to place oneself in the midst of the struggle. We must win influence and prestige in the military struggle against the foreign invasion and in the political struggle against the weaknesses, the deficiencies, and the internal betrayal. At a certain point, which we cannot fix in advance, this political opposition can and must be transformed into armed conflict, since the civil war, like war generally, is nothing more than the continuation of the political struggle. It is necessary, however, to know when and how to transform political opposition into armed insurrection.

During the Chinese revolution of 1925-27 we attacked the policies of the Comintern. Why? It is necessary to understand well the reasons. The Eiffelites claim that we have changed our attitude on the Chinese question. That is because the poor fellows have understood nothing of our attitude in 1925-27. We never denied that it was the duty of the Communist Party to participate in the war of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie of the South against the generals of the North, agents of foreign imperialism. We never denied the necessity of a military bloc between the CP and the Kuomintang. On the contrary, we were the first to propose it. We demanded, however, that the CP maintain its entire political and organizational independence, that is, that during the civil war against the internal agents of imperialism, as in the national war against foreign imperialism, the working class, while remaining in the front lines of the military struggle, prepare the political overthrow of the bourgeoisie. We hold the same policies in the present war. We have not changed our attitude one iota. The Oehlerites and the Eiffelites, on the other hand, have not understood a single bit of our policies, neither those of 1925-27, nor those of today.

In my declaration to the bourgeois press at the beginning of the recent conflict between Tokyo and Nanking, I stressed above all the necessity of the active participation of revolutionary workers in the war against the imperialist oppressors. Why did I do it? Because first of all it is correct from the Marxist point of view; because, secondly, it was necessary from the point of view of the welfare of our friends in China. Tomorrow the GPU, which is in alliance with the Kuomintang (as with Negrin in Spain), will represent our Chinese friends as being “defeatists” and agents of Japan. The best of them, with Chten Tu-hsiu at the head, can be nationally and internationally compromised and killed. It was necessary to stress, energetically, that the Fourth International was on the side of China as against Japan. And I added at the same time: without abandoning either their program or their independence.

The Eiffelite imbeciles try to jest about this “reservation.” “The Trotskyists,” they say, “want to serve Chiang Kai-shek in action and the proletariat in words.” To participate actively and consciously in the war does not mean “to serve Chiang Kai-shek” but to serve the independence of a colonial country in spite of Chiang Kai-shek. And the words directed against the Kuomintang are the means of educating the masses for the overthrow of Chiang Kai-shek. In participating in the military struggle under the orders of Chiang Kai-shek, since unfortunately it is he who has the command in the war for independence—to prepare politically the overthrow of Chiang Kai-shek . . . that is the only revolutionary policy. The Eiffelites counterpose the policy of “class struggle” to this “nationalist and social patriotic” policy. Lenin fought this abstract and sterile opposition all his life. To him, the interests of the world proletariat dictated the duty of aiding oppressed peoples in their national and patriotic struggle against imperialism. Those who have not yet understood that, almost a quarter of a century after the World War and twenty years after the October revolution, must be pitilessly rejected as the worst enemies on the inside by the revolutionary vanguard. This is exactly the case with Eiffel and his kind!
L. Trotsky

International petty-bourgeois “left” backs imperialist war in Syria

By Alejandro López. 13 February 2012
A series of petty-bourgeois “left” parties and personalities from Spain, Tunisia, Latin America, and beyond recently issued a Spanish-language manifesto on Syria on the web site Rebelion, titled “To the People of Syria who are Fighting Tyranny”.

These signatories include leading members the Anti-capitalist Left (IA) in Spain, the Worker Communist Party of Tunisia (PCOT), Brazil’s Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), Argentina’s Socialist Left (IS), and similar forces in Mexico, Chile, Turkey, and other countries. (See http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=143778  for the full list of signatories.)

The statement exposes the organizations and individuals issuing this statement as tools of imperialism. Their statement gives total support to US-backed “opposition” groups now involved in an armed civil war and destabilization campaign in Syria, which it tries to treat as representing the entire Syrian people—even though it is well known that large sections of the Syrian population are hostile to the US-backed insurgency. Their goal is to give a “left” cover to plans by the US, the European powers, and the Arab League regimes for military intervention to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The statement begins, “Ten months ago, you, the people of Syria, rose up against the brutal dictatorship led by Bashar Al-Assad, resulting in countless martyrs, prisoners and refugees. We want you to know that we are by your side … We are also aware that the rich, powerful nations have ignored you by turning a blind eye while the killings by the regime continue, but keep in mind that there are many of us all over the world who are with you and reject the policy of collaboration that those imperial powers and their governments provide to the Bashar regime.”

This version of events stands reality on its head. The imperialist powers and their Arab proxies are not supporting the Assad regime; they have reportedly brought resolutions denouncing Assad and pressing for foreign intervention in Syria at the United Nations and the Arab League. They are widely reported to be providing arms and training to Syrian armed “opposition” groups, who are carrying out attacks and bombings against the Syrian government.

Turkey has provided a base near the border for training Syrian insurgents and is discussing with its NATO allies the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over Syrian territory. The Western media has widely reported that Turkey and France are providing arms and aid to these forces, resulting in more bloodshed and stoking up a civil war (See: “France’s New Anti-Capitalist Party backs imperialist intervention in Syria”).

They are using the same strategy as in last year’s NATO war against Libya. There the overthrow of Gaddafi by NATO was accomplished with the help of Libyan proxy forces on the ground, the National Transitional Council of Libya, dominated by Islamist fighters and funded and armed by US regional allies. The NATO war cost at least 80,000 casualties, by the NTC’s own estimates.

The Syrian version of the NTC is the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Free Syrian Army, which are backed by Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and supported by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The statement’s initial remark only begs the question: if the signatories of the manifesto are criticizing the imperialist powers for not acting aggressively enough against Assad, what more do they want? What else can they be advocating except an open and direct military intervention by the US and its allies to support its Syrian proxies, along the lines of the war in Libya?
The signatories of this manifesto are aware of the consequences of imperialist intervention. Indeed, many of them openly embraced imperialist intervention in Libya, sometimes making cynical and ineffectual attempts to present NATO’s overthrow and murder of Gaddafi in Libya as a defeat for imperialism.
In a press statement last August, Liliana Olivero (deputy for Córdoba), Angélica Lagunas, Jose Castillo and Juan Carlos Giordano of Izquierda Socialista (Socialist Left) in Argentina stated that “the imminent fall of the dictatorship of Gaddafi is a victory for the Libyan people … it is not a triumph of NATO as attributed by itself by Obama and European imperialism. They only made limited bombings to try to prevent a victory by the militia and seek a negotiated solution that would allow them to defend their oil business.”
Exactly one year ago, Esther Vivas and Josep Maria Antentas of Spain’s IA openly advocated “the political and economic international isolation of the [Libyan] regime, and the unconditional supply of weapons to the rebels.”
Pedro Fuentes, the secretary of foreign relations of PSOL, declared last May in the Mexican daily La Jornada: “What the rebels want and need are weapons and humanitarian aid … The supposed neutrality of the Brazilian government ends up being a totally ambiguous and hypocritical policy oflaissez-faire for Gaddafi and the imperialist countries. The only correct alternative would be to recognize the rebel government as a belligerent force and support them in every way possible and responding positively to what they ask. Meanwhile, the position socialists and anti-imperialists have to defend is, while recognizing and denouncing the goals of imperialist intervention, is by all means continue to support the overthrow Gaddafi.”
That is to say, that pro-imperialist politicians like Fuentes had to support NATO’s campaign to conquer Libya, while issuing empty criticisms of imperialism in order to deceitfully hide their role as unabashed defenders of imperialist war.
These scoundrels are repeating the same arguments now with Syria, even though the reactionary consequences of imperialist intervention in Libya are clear for all to see. The war led to whole cities being bombed to the ground, tens of thousands of casualties, racist pogroms against dark skinned people, and large-scale use of torture; Western oil companies now control Libyan oil fields and an Islamist proxy regime rules Libya.
The manifesto goes on to attack a “sector of the anti-imperialist left,” whom it accuses of “turning its back on the revolution against the dictatorship of Bashar.” This is nothing more than a preemptive strike against anyone who criticizes the imperialist intervention, by branding them as a defender of Assad.
The manifesto goes on to cynically cite the Assad regime’s reactionary role in repressing the “Palestinians in the refugee camp massacres of Tal Zaatar in 1976” and cooperating “with Israel in securing its borders.” That is, it is citing the Syrian bourgeoisie’s dealings with imperialism and Zionism to suppress the Palestinian people, in order to stimulate hostility to the Assad regime, now that Assad himself is the target of the imperialists. This remark is deeply misleading and reactionary. Its aim is not to oppose imperialist and Zionist oppression of the Palestinians, but to support imperialist war against Assad.
The manifesto continues: “Western powers only stand to gain in this situation and nothing good will come out of the American Empire and Western governments … do not trust them, the only thing they want is to rob the wealth taking it from the workers, the peoples of America, Africa and Asia, in the same way they did with their bombings in Iraq and in Libya and how they are doing now in Egypt, supporting the criminal military junta.”
The logical question to then ask is: if the signatories of the manifesto don’t trust the imperialists, why did they support the Libyan NTC, and why are they now supporting the imperialist-backed SFA to defeat Assad? Why are they treating the SNC as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian working class, instead of warning the Syrian workers of the role of the SFA and demanding a struggle of the working class against both the pro-imperialist forces and Assad?
The manifesto does not and cannot address this question, because it leads to only one conclusion: the manifesto’s authors are pro-imperialist forces, whose “left” verbiage is only a political fig leaf to hide their right-wing politics.
We must insist that Assad must be overthrown, but this task belongs only to the Syrian working class as part of a struggle of the entire Arab and international working class, directed first and foremost against imperialism. In that struggle, the working class will find that the signatories of the manifesto published in Rebelion are its bitter enemies.

Even the New York Times’ support for the TNC “Libyan Rebels” is wavering it seems.
Below is a report by C.J. Chivers of the NYT. published July 10th.

Looting and Arson in Qawalish The village of Qawalish sits on the rolling high ground of the mountains of western Libya, a small collection of houses, shops and a mosque astride a single two-lane asphalt road. By the time the fighters opposed to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi had chased away pro-Qaddafi forces last week, the battle for this tiny place, all but unknown by outsiders until that day, had provided several scenes that offered insights into how the rebel campaign is being conducted here.

Like those elsewhere in Libya, the fighters here share a sense of common purpose: the belief that their uprising represents a long-awaited chance to topple an ossified, brutal and corrupt regime. But also like that of rebels in the east, their performance on the battlefield is uneven, often unnerving, and at times at odds with the interests of their cause. All of this emerged in the kaleidoscopically mixed picture they presented as they pressed forward last week.

In Qawalish, rebel bungling and crime played out beside pockets of militarily impressive behavior. And then matters turned worse. Ultimately, the contradictory scenes along a single stretch of road underscored a shortage of strong commanders at the front, or at least of commanders who adhered to the pledges of the National Transitional Council, the de facto rebel authority, to respect human rights and the laws of war. And this raised worrisome questions.

Minutes after Qawalish fell last Wednesday, none of the village’s residents remained. They had bolted. There were signs, however, that until the rebels had arrived, at least some villagers had been present. The bazaar was still stocked with fresh vegetables, as if it had been working while the pro-Qaddafi forces held the town. The bakery had loaves of fresh bread. And little in the town appeared to have been disturbed as the town changed hands. Then the storm hit. The rebels began helping themselves to the fuel in Qawalish’s only gas station. Then an armed rebel wheeled about the road on a children’s bicycle he had apparently just taken from a home. A short while later rebels were shooting padlocks off the metal doors to shops, and beginning to sweep through them.

At the time, rebels said they were carefully searching and securing the town. But their behavior soon raised questions, including: Was something besides military necessity taking hold? The next day the questions became more pressing. Houses that had not been burning the previous day were afire, and shops were being aggressively looted by armed men in rebel attire. Every few minutes, a truck would pass by on the road, headed back toward Zintan loaded with what seemed to be stolen goods. Animal feed appeared to be a favorite item to carry off. Several trucks an hour carried away bales of hay and sacks of grain.

The rebels at the checkpoints at the town’s edge did nothing to stop any of this. The town, in short, was being looted by the rebels, and vandalized, and worse. The destruction was not total — five of the town’s scores of houses were on fire. But what would their owners think? And what kind of message was being sent to the people of this town? One eerie aspect of life now in western Libya is the number of villages near the front where no civilians are present, even weeks after falling to rebel hands. This is not exactly a novel sight for a continuing, fluid war. In some cases, the emptiness would seem to be related to infrastructure and scarce supply. Shortages of food and water, a lack of electricity — these are conditions that discourage the return of families who fled.

In other cases, the risks of incoming high-explosive rockets from the Qaddafi forces can keep much of a population away. But support for the rebels is not full-throated and uniform in several mountain towns — the village of El Harabah still flies the green flag of the Qaddafi government, for example. And there is a fair question here, after watching the rebels damage Qawalish and steal its residents’ possessions, about whether suspicions about villagers’ affiliations and tribes have given life to rebel crimes, which in turn have caused civilians to flee. Researchers from Human Rights Watch have been roaming the abandoned villages of the mountains, trying to answer these very questions; their findings could be released as soon as this week.

There are tantalizing clues that factional rivalries are in play — the sort of social kindling that could make the ground war uglier as it nears Tripoli, Libya’s capital, where more people who have enjoyed government patronage have their businesses and homes. One of the buildings being looted in Qawalish late last week bore a scratched-on label in Arabic. “Mashaashia,” it read. This was a tag indicating the presence of a tribe that has enjoyed the support of the Qaddafi government, and that rebels say is in turn the source of many pro-Qaddafi soldiers.

Had the rebels helped themselves to shopkeepers’ goods because they believed they were wrongly aligned? As one house burned inside near the road and rebels openly stole from the town’s few stores, the question by late last week was whether what was happening was the opportunistic looting of an inexperienced quasi-military force, which was suffering the same shortages as everyone else, or something punitive and potentially much worse. Either behavior would be a crime under any notion of modern law, though the first might not set into motion long-term grievances while the second might be taken as an indicator that as this war smolders on, the possibility of unleashing bitterness between tribes and Qaddafi-era political factions grows each day.

By Sunday evening, the rebel license to loot had run almost its full course, and any such distinctions were fast slipping away. All of the shops in the town had been ransacked, several more homes were burned, and the town’s gas station, in fine condition when Qawalish fell, had been vandalized to the point of being dismantled. In building after building, furniture was flipped over, dishes and mirrors shattered, and everything torn apart.

Except for a few rebels roaming the streets in cars and trucks, the town was deserted — a shattered, emptied ghost town decorated with broken glass. Fully sorting out the motivations behind what happened in Qawalish would take more time. Multiple victims and participants in the looting and the arson would have to be found and interviewed separately to gain a credible sense of whether Qawalish’s residents had been targets because of their tribal or other affiliations, or, almost as important, whether the residents believed they had. But for now, none of the villagers could be found. And the rebels were hardly talking. What was obvious and beyond dispute by Sunday was only this: Whatever their motivation, the behavior of rebels in Qawalish, who have been supported by the NATO military campaign against Colonel Qaddafi, was at odds with the NATO mandate to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and at odds with rebel pledges to free and protect the Libyan population.

Moreover, the leadership of the Free Libyan Forces, for all the statements otherwise, appeared to lack the ability or inclination to prevent these crimes. When asked on Sunday about the looting and arson, the former Qaddafi military colonel who commands fighters in the mountains, Mukhtar Farnana, had little to say beyond being careful to insist that any looting was not officially sanctioned. “I haven’t any idea about that,” he said. “We did not give an order or information to do it.”

The problem could be framed another way: that the rebel commanders did not do enough to stop it. In a small town like Qawalish, what happened was, from a military perspective, preventable. A standing post or a few patrols each day to the shops, a checkpoint or two at the town’s edge with fighters checking identification, instructing their colleagues not to steal and stopping cars departing the town with stolen goods — these might have been enough. Instead, the capture of Qawalish has shown that as the war grinds through its fifth month, the rebels, emboldened by NATO support and fired with the certitude that now is their time, risk suspending the distinction between right and wrong.

As the rebels talk of pushing toward Tripoli, they risk embarrassing their backers, losing international support and fueling exactly the kind of war they have insisted they and NATO would prevent. The rebels say they plan to push further through the mountains soon, toward the city of Garyan. Will the villages along the way suffer Qawalish’s fate?

My Reaction to Osama bin Laden’s Death
By Noam Chomsky, May 6, 2011

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.

It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.

There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

There’s more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the “Bush doctrine” that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and murder of its criminal president.

Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders. It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”

There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts should provide us with a good deal to think about.

Copyright 2011 Noam Chomsky

Experts demand inquest into David Kelly death.

Back in August a group of ‘prominent experts’ demanded a full inquest into the death of government weapons inspector Dr David Kelly. They described the official cause of death, haemorrhage, as “extremely unlikely” in the light of evidence since made public.

The call came in a letter to The Times signed by eight senior figures, including a former coroner, Michael Powers, a former deputy coroner, Margaret Bloom, and Julian Bion, a professor of intensive care medicine.

The scientist was found dead in woods near his Oxfordshire home in 2003 after he was exposed as the source of a BBC story disclosing anger within the intelligence service over use of Iraq arms data. Evidence has since shown that it was the government that leaked Dr Kelly’s name as the source in an attempt to smear him.

Mr Andrew Gilligan, on the BBC Today programme, 29 May 2003, reported Dr Kelly’s allegations that the Government ‘probably’ knew their claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed within 45 minutes was incorrect, but decided to put it in its dossier anyway- and secondly, that 10 Downing Street ordered the dossier to be ‘sexed up”.

On 1st June 2003 the Mail on Sunday published an article written by Mr Gilligan describing his discussion with Dr Kelly, an ‘unknown source’ at this time. The article stated that his source said: “The Government’s dossier on Iraq’s WMD was transformed the week before publication”. “I asked him how this transformation happened. The answer was a single word ‘Campbell”.  Alastair Campbell has publically called these allegations lies.

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee announced on 3rd June 2003 that it would hold an inquiry into the decision to go to war in Iraq. The allegations reported by Mr Gilligan were one of the reasons why the FAC decided to hold its inquiry.

There are however doubts as to weather Dr Kelly was indeed the source of Mr Gilligan’s story. To-date Mr Gilligan has never confirmed or denied his source was Dr Kelly. On 30th June, Dr Kelly wrote a lengthy letter to Dr Wells, his line manager at the MoD. He stated that he had met Mr Gilligan on 22nd May, but that he was convinced he was not Mr Gilligan’s primary source of information.

Dr David Kelly

A decision was taken at a meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday 8th July, to issue a statement that an un-named civil servant had come forward to say that he had met Mr Gilligan on 22nd May, a week before his broadcast.

On the evening of 8th July the BBC issued a press statement referring to the MoD’s statement. The BBC said that the description of the individual contained in the MoD statement did not match Mr Gilligan’s source.

The press officers in the MoD were given a brief not to volunteer Dr Kelly’s name, but if the correct name were put to them by a journalist, it should be confirmed. At around 5.30pm, the Financial Times put Dr Kelly’s name to the Director of News at the MoD, and she confirmed it.

Hutton claims in his final report that Dr Kelly did not tell Gilligan “that the reason why the 45 minutes claim was not included in the original draft of the dossier was because it only came from one source, and the intelligence agencies thought it untrue”. Hutton claims this was Gilligan’s invention and that it was unfounded.

The final report by Hutton, published 28th January 2004, points to evidence submitted by Donald Anderson MP and Mr Andrew Mackinlay MP, of the Foreign Affairs Committee. “Anderson said that after the Committee -who were about to publish a report on their Iraq inquiry- learned of the MoD statement of 8th July, that a civil servant had come forward to say that he had met Mr Gilligan, there was a meeting of the FAC to decide whether it should reopen its inquiry in to the Iraq War and call Dr Kelly to give evidence.

The meeting decided that “fundamental to our report had been the question whether the politicians had overborne the intelligence community in respect of the information. Our views on this question might well be fundamentally overturned as a result of meeting the person who may have been Gilligan’s source, and therefore it would look odd if we did not seek to clarify the position.”  Mackinley states that he considered it the duty of the government to have immediately informed the FAC that a civil servant had stepped forward claiming to be Gilligan’s source.

The government learned of it on 30th June, but didn’t inform the FAC, who only heard of it once the MOD had issued its press statement on July 8th. Mackinley expressed the view of the FAC that the government “deliberately stalled, hoping the FAC report would be published before they had learnt that Gilligan’s source had come forward. It was designed to avoid him coming before the FAC’s Iraq inquiry.

The BBC issued a statement on the evening of 8th July that the source was not Dr Kelly, but “one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up that dossier” as stated by Mr Gilligan in his broadcast on 29th May – “nor was it a source within the intelligence service as stated by John Humphrys on the Today Programme,” said the statement.

David Kelly (if he was the real source) claimed that Tony Blair’s press spokesman, Alastair Campbell “sexed up” his dossier on Iraq’s weapons capability, transforming it a week before it was published, to conclude Iraq had weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed within 45 minutes. Dr Kelly, the British UN weapons inspector, not only refuted these claims, but said he thought Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction what so ever.  

Dr Kelly stated prior to the war- in memos submitted as evidence to the inquiry in to his death- that the ‘45 minutes’ intelligence was based on one single unverified source. This source was an undergraduate’s thesis published on the internet. Dr Kelly said sarcastically, he knew of a source that claims it could be done in four minutes. The reality David Kelly said is that “reliable information was not obtainable and could not even be gained from detainees despite financial incentives”. Kelly further stated that “the sanctions in Iraq were working well. It was very hard to import things, and the Iraqi arms industry had been impeded”. He asserted in his memos that “there was no evidence of a WMD programme and a large weapons programme would be impossible to hide”.

The dossier was used by the British government as a pretext to invade Iraq. Studies by the British Medical Association, Havard University and University of Austin, Texas conducted between 2006 and 2007 agreed an estimated 1.2million to 1.8million people had died as a result of the illegal war – and still the casualties continue.

The inquest into Dr Kelly’s death was suspended before it could begin by the then Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer. The Lord Chancellor then used the Coroners Act to designate the Hutton Inquiry in to Dr Kelly’s death as ‘fulfilling the function of an inquest’ -so the inquest was never resumed. On the 5th August 2003, before the Hutton inquiry began, Hutton banned all broadcasting of its proceedings.

Just prior to the start of the inquiry, in a statement on the hutton-inquiry.org.uk web site, 23rd July 2003, Hutton said; “My terms of reference is this: To urgently conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of  Dr Kelly. I make it clear that it will be for me to decide, as I think right within my terms of reference, the matters which will be the subject of my investigation”.

In June 2010 The Mail on Sunday reported that Dr Kelly’s death certificate was officially registered before the Hutton inquiry ended and it was not properly completed. It was not signed by a doctor or coroner and does not state a place of death, as all death certificates should.

The Hutton report concluded “the principal cause of death was bleeding from incised wounds to his left wrist which Dr Kelly had inflicted on himself with the knife found beside his body”. But the letter sent to the Times in August, insists that the conclusion is ‘unsafe’. The signatories claim a severed ulnar artery, the wound found on Dr Kelly’s wrist, was unlikely to be life-threatening.
Dr Hunt, the post-mortem pathologist, claimed Kelly was suffering from ischaemic heart disease. “And had a toxic dose of Dextropropoxyphene, a dangerous drug in overdosage with direct effects on the heart”. According to Dr Hunt, Kelly also had a toxic dose of coproxamol present. Dr Hunt added, these ‘may or may not’ have played a part in his death.

On 1st July 2010, the Mail on Sunday reported that a female colleague of Dr Kelly’s had recently claimed, in a letter to the Attorney General, that the UN weapons inspector could not have committed suicide, as he was too weak to cut his own wrist. She said a hand and arm injury meant that the 59-year-old even ‘had difficulty cutting his own steak’. Miss Pedersen also said Dr Kelly had been suffering from a severe throat infection and had difficulty swallowing pills. She casts serious doubts in the letter that he could have swallowed 29 painkillers before slitting his left wrist. Therefore, she said, “he would have had to have been a contortionist to have killed himself by slashing his left wrist, as Lord Hutton concluded in 2004”. The letter continued: “The absence of a full coroner’s inquest into Dr Kelly’s death and perpetual secrecy meant it was crying out for further scrutiny”.

Miss Pedersen said in the letter that she had provided the Hutton enquiry with a witness statement that voiced these concerns, but her statement was not presented to the enquiry. Miss Pederson states in her letter that she also offered to testify at the enquiry, but that her testimony was refused. When she asked why it was refused, she was given no answer.

On 25th January 2010 it was reported in the Mail on Sunday that Hutton had secretly barred the release of medical records, post-mortem results, witness statements and unpublished evidence. The records will be kept under wraps for up to 70 years.

The normal rules on post-mortems allow close relatives and “properly interested persons” to apply to see a copy of the report and to “inspect” other documents. Hutton’s measure has overridden these rules, so the files will not be opened until all people are likely to be dead.

Hutton refused to speak to the Mail on Sunday about the ban, whilst a Ministry of Justice spokesman told them he was “unable to explain the legal basis for the order”. Such an order is totally unprecedented.

The ban and the existence of hidden, unpublished material – including witness statements not disclosed to the enquiry, all medical reports, the post-mortem findings of Dr Hunt and photographs of Dr Kelly’s body – only came to light a year after the conclusion of the enquiry in 2004.

The restrictions only came to light in a letter from the legal team of Oxfordshire County Council to a group of doctors who were challenging the Hutton verdict. The doctors claimed the artery is too small and difficult to access in cases of suicide and severing it could not have caused death.

Lord Hutton QC

Hutton is no stranger to controversy. He was the former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, presiding over an occupying force condemned internationally for human rights abuses.

Brian Hutton QC was the representative of the British MOD during the 1973 “Bloody Sunday” inquest. Members of the Parachute Battalion had opened fire on unarmed civilians attending a civil rights march in Derry. Fourteen people were killed and another fourteen shot and wounded.

The Londonderry City coroner, Major Hubert O’Neill, accused the British army of “sheer unadulterated murder”, adding there had been “no justification for the soldiers to open fire”. Addressing Major O’Neill at the inquest, Hutton said: “It is not for you or the jury to express such wide-ranging views, particularly when a most eminent judge has spent 20 days hearing evidence and come to a very different conclusion.” Hutton’s conclusion of the Bloody Sunday inquest has since been totally discredited and the British government has been forced to apologise for the actions of the British army.

In 1997 Brian Hutton featured in the case of David Shayler. Shayler, a former MI5 agent claimed in the Mail on Sunday that agents in the 1970s illegally tapped the telephone of Peter Mandelson, later to serve as Northern Ireland Secretary, and kept a file on Jack Straw who later became Foreign Secretary. David Shayler went on to expose an MI5 plot to assassinate Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffi.  

Lord Hutton, together with Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough and Lord Scott of Foscote unanimously agreed that it was “not in the public interest” to report on the illegal activities of MI5. Their ruling cleared the way for Shayler’s prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.

On the 11th of December 2003, as the Hutton Inquiry was nearing its climax. Hutton announced that he would retire as a Law Lord on the 11 January 2004, two weeks before his report was due to be sent to the printers.

The Hutton Report has failed to allay suspicions of foul play in Dr Kelly’s death and has been dismissed by many experts as a whitewash for clearing the Government of any culpability. Last year, a group of doctors, including former coroner, Dr Powers, compiled a 12 page medical dossier as part of their legal challenge to the Hutton verdict.

The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve has also indicated that he believes “the case could merit a further inquiry”. On the morning of July 17th 2003, Dr Kelly mysteriously told a friend by email that there were “many dark actors playing games”. In 2007 it was discovered, through a Freedom of Information request, that the blunt pruning knife he is said to have used to cut his wrist had no fingerprints on it.

Michael Howard, former Tory leader has joined the call for a full inquest. He told the Mail on Sunday on 15th August, “Recent evidence by the first police officer on the scene, together with new statements by doctors raise serious questions which should be considered”.

So; Who killed David Kelly? Well I’m buggered if I know. Anyone with a stake in perpetuating the public illusion that Iraq was in possession of WMDs would have a motive. It’s a very long list, one that concievably even includes the Iraqis themselves. It’s even posible- though on balance highly unlikely, that Dr David Kelly killed himself. I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with a Tory before, but “serious questions need to be answered”.

Since 2009 the Chilcot Inquiry, the most recent inquiry into the Iraq war has been drifting on. Dr Kelly’s name has scarcely been mentioned. Chilcot was quoted admitting he “did not want to touch the Kelly issue”.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war as an academic exercise, delving into some distant historical event in an attempt to understand what happened. But to many Iraqis, the inquiry is something else entirely. It is an inconsequential charade, a classic case of fiddling while Baghdad burns.

Last year Hans Blix, former chief UN weapons inspector, appeared before the inquiry. He told Chilcot there was no justification for war, because his inspectors had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction; and he had made it clear to the UN that he needed a few more months to finish his task.

However when Blix appeared before the UN Security Council in 2003, 11 days before the invasion, he failed to make a clear, unequivical stand against the war. It allowed Tony Blair to push on with plans to drag Britain into the war.

Like a lot of politicians with guilty consciences, Blix has thrown his weight behind justice and morality only after the fact. The problem is, the Iraq war is not some bygone event. When Blair misled parliament into passing a motion to disarm Iraq of its non-existent WMDs he started a chain of events that destroyed a country, and left millions dead, maimed, orphaned or widowed. Its horrific consequences are still being visited upon Iraqis – such as the mothers who are delivering deformed babies because of the chemical weapons used by the invading forces.

Meanwhile, the litany of repressive policies gets longer. It is illegal to be a member of a trade union, just as it was under Saddam. Paul Bremer, the US envoy who ruled Iraq after the invasion, revived Saddam’s infamous “decree 150” in 2004, effectively banning all public sector unions. Activists are now treated as if they were terrorists, with a government decree under the 2005 anti-terrorism act, allowing their assets to be siezed.

The regime has also brought terror-related charges against oil industry trade union leaders. The president of the Federation of Oil Unions, Hasan Juma’a, and several other union leaders have been charged with contacting the media, sabotaging the economy and high treason. Juma’a believes that the regime is trying to “liquidate” the unions while transferring Iraq’s oil wealth to the multinationals.

Last year, troops opened fire on the demonstrators protesting against elcticity restrictions and prices. The prime minister described them as “hooligans” and deployed troops in Baghdad to stop the protests – dubbed by Iraqis as the “electricity uprising”.

Last week Tony Blair was recalled to the Chilcot Inquiry, but whilst Chilcot rumbles on, there is palpable anger across Iraq against the regime’s policies and corruption. Baghdad has the biggest US embassy in the world, from which, many Iraqis believe, the US dictates important regime policies and deepens Iraqi political divisions in order to maintain its control of the country. US aims have changed since the invasion – America wants to steer Iraq’s political and economic direction, and use the country as a base against Iran – but most of the Iraqi people continue to bravely resist.

Focus On Iraq: The War Continues

For most people in Britain and the US, Iraq is already history. Afghanistan has long since taken the lion’s share of media attention, as the death toll of Nato troops rises inexorably. Controversy about Iraq is now almost entirely focused on the original decision to invade: what’s happening there in 2010 barely registers.

This view is being reinforced by the continuing Chilcot Inquiry in to the Iraq war, where Tony Blair was again called to give evidence last week. In August last year Obama declared that the occupation was over and he was bringing the troops back home on schedule.  For much of the British and American press, this was the real thing: headlines hailed the “end” of the war and reported “US troops to leave Iraq”.

The US isn’t leaving Iraq; it’s rebranding the occupation
Nothing could be further from the truth. The US hasn’t withdrawn from Iraq at all – it’s just rebranded the occupation. Just as George Bush’s war on terror was re-titled “overseas contingency operations” when Obama became president, US “combat operations” has been rebadged as “stability operations”.

But as Major General Stephen Lanza, the US military spokesman in Iraq, told the New York Times in August: “In practical terms, nothing will change”. After this month’s withdrawal, there will still be 50,000 US troops in 94 military bases, “advising” and training the Iraqi army, “providing security” and carrying out “counter-terrorism” missions. In US military speak, that covers pretty well everything they might want to do.

Granted, 50,000 is a major reduction on the numbers in Iraq a year ago. But what Obama once called “the dumb war” goes remorselessly on. In fact, violence has been increasing as the Iraqi political factions remain deadlocked in rows over the Green Zone and domestic policy. More civilians are being killed in Iraq than Afghanistan. According to the Iraqi government, last year saw worst figures for two years.

And even though US troops are rarely seen on the streets, they are still dying at a rate of six a month, their bases regularly shelled by resistance groups, while Iraqi troops and US-backed militias are being killed in far greater numbers. And al-Qaida – Bush’s gift to Iraq – is back in business across swaths of the country. Although hardly noticed in Britain, there are still 150 British troops in Iraq supporting US forces.

Meanwhile, the US government hasn’t just rebranded the occupation, it has privatised it. There are around 100,000 private contractors working for the occupying forces, of whom more than 11,000 are armed mercenaries, mostly “third country nationals”, typically from the developing world.

The US is now expanding their numbers, in what Jeremy Scahill – who helped expose the role of the notorious US security firm Blackwater – calls the “coming surge” of contractors in Iraq. Hillary Clinton wants to increase the number of military contractors working for the state department alone from 2,700 to 7,000, to be based in five “enduring presence posts” across Iraq.

The advantage of an outsourced occupation is clearly that someone other than US soldiers can do the dying to maintain control of Iraq. It also helps get round the commitment, made just before Bush left office, to pull all American troops out by the end of 2011. The other getout, widely expected on all sides, is a new Iraqi request for US troops to stay on – just as soon as a suitable government can be stitched together to make it.

What is abundantly clear is that the US, whose embassy in Baghdad is now the size of Vatican City, has no intention of letting go of Iraq any time soon. One reason for that can be found in the dozen 20-year contracts to run Iraq’s biggest oil fields that were handed out last year to foreign companies, including three of the Anglo-American oil majors that exploited Iraqi oil under British control before 1958.

The dubious legality of these deals has held back some US companies, but as Greg Muttitt, author of a book on the subject, argues, the prize for the US is bigger than the contracts themselves, which put 60% of Iraq’s reserves under long-term foreign corporate control. If output can be boosted as sharply as planned, the global oil price could be slashed and the grip of recalcitrant Opec states broken.

The horrific cost of the war to the Iraqi people, on the other hand, and the continuing fear and misery of daily life make a mockery of claims that the US surge of 2007 “worked” and that Iraq has come good after all.

It’s not only the hundreds of thousands of dead and 4 million refugees. After seven years of US (and British) occupation, tens of thousands are still tortured and imprisoned without trial, health and education has dramatically deteriorated, the position of women has gone horrifically backwards, trade unions are effectively banned, Baghdad is divided by 1,500 checkpoints and blast walls, electricity supplies have all but broken down and people pay with their lives for speaking out.

Even without the farce of last year’s elections, the banning and killing of candidates and subsequent political breakdown, to claim that “Iraq is a democracy” is grotesque. The Green Zone administration would collapse in short order without the protection of US troops and security contractors. No wonder the speculation among Iraqis and some US officials is of an eventual military takeover.

The Iraq war has been a historic political and strategic failure for the US. It was unable to impose a military solution, let alone turn the country into a beacon of western values or regional policeman. But by playing the sectarian and ethnic cards, it also prevented the emergence of a national resistance movement and a humiliating Vietnam-style pullout. The signs are it wants to create a new form of outsourced semi-colonial regime to maintain its grip on the country and region. The struggle to regain Iraq’s independence has only just begun.

Depleted Uranium
Meanwhile, it has become widely known that the UK used depleted uranium weapons during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. A UK defence official has reportedly admitted using the highly controversial ammunition. “UK forces used about 1.9 metric tons of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003,” UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox said in a written reply to the House of Commons last year.

It is alleged that a joint inquiry by Iraq’s environment, health and science ministries uncovered more than 40 sites across the war-torn country contaminated with high levels of radiation. The use of uranium ammunition is widely controversial because of potential long-term health effects. The US and UK have allegedly used up to 2,000 tons of such ammunition during the war.

In August last year, Labour Party MP Paul Flynn, speaking to Russia Today said: “The depleted uranium still causes serious health problems. “We know that in the first Iraq war depleted uranium was used in shells. It’s very likely it was used again,” Flynn said. “It’s used as ballast because of its density in shells. It’s not as radioactive as it might be, it’s uranium 238 where the gamma-radiation has been reduced. It’s not a weapon of mass destruction, but sadly it’s a weapon of eternal destruction because it turns into dust and gets into the water supply, into the air and it can of course give children cancer, and cause birth defects.”

Last year, findings of a study conducted by a group of researchers in London suggested the same. One of the authors of the report, British-Iraqi scientist Malak Hamdan told RT: “The study that we have conducted does actually prove that there are massive increases in cancer, a 38-fold increase in leukemia, 10-fold increase in breast cancer -and infant mortalities are also staggering,”.

Iraq’s Ministry for Human Rights is expected to file a lawsuit against Britain and the US over their use of depleted uranium bombs in Iraq and will seek compensation for the victims of these weapons.

Corruption & Repression
Sami Ramadani, a British Iraqi wrote in The Guardian, 28th July 2010: “The Iraqis who Blair and Bush glorified and brought to power through sham elections are bleeding the nation dry through corruption and the sell-off of Iraq’s resources to multinationals. Freedom and democracy is nowhere to be seen. Deploying the US-built Iraqi security forces against the people is common. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have drawn attention to the plight of thousands of prisoners, widespread use of torture, and both judicial and extra-judicial killings”.

“Meanwhile, the litany of repressive policies gets longer. It is illegal to be a member of a trade union, just as it was under Saddam. Paul Bremer, the US envoy who ruled Iraq after the invasion, revived Saddam’s infamous “decree 150” in 2004, effectively banning all public sector unions. Activists are now treated as if they were terrorists. Troops and police have raided the offices of workers’ unions across the country, following a government decree under the 2005 anti-terrorism act, to ban them and seize their assets”.

“Britain’s TUC has described the regime’s action as a “Saddam-style move”, and its general secretary Brendan Barber has written to the foreign secretary, William Hague, to help stop this “dangerous abuse of power”. The president of the Federation of Oil Unions, Hasan Juma’a, and several other union leaders have been charged with contacting the media, sabotaging the economy and high treason. Juma’a believes that the regime is trying to “liquidate” the unions while transferring Iraq’s oil wealth to the multinationals”.

Having auctioned Iraq’s oil wealth, the oil minister Hussain al-Shahristani was recently given the electricity portfolio after mass demonstrations against lack of electricity supplies and regime corruption. Troops opened fire on the demonstrators while the prime minister described them as “hooligans” and deployed troops in Baghdad to stop the protests – dubbed by Iraqis as the “electricity uprising” – spreading to the capital.

Missing Millions
Meanwhile last year, The US department of defence called in forensic accountants to help track $8.1bn – out of a total of  $9.1bn – in Iraq’s oil revenue entrusted to it after the fall of Baghdad, following an official audit that revealed the money was missing. The report was issued by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which had previously criticised poor book-keeping by senior officials throughout the last seven years.

Iraqi officials said they knew nothing about the missing billions and had no means to find where they had been spent. “We will speak to the oil ministry finance committee about this,” said a spokesman for Iraq’s oil minister.

The funds were to be used for the reconstruction of Iraq’s worn-out infrastructure which was to be a central plank of the US military’s achievement. The audit could not find any documentation to substantiate how the Pentagon spent $2.6bn. An additional $53bn has been allocated by Congress to rebuild Iraq and the audit committee is examining whether those funds can be accounted for.

        As The United States declines trade war looms

In the wake of the fractious International Monetary Fund (IMF) meeting held October 9-10 in Washington, the descent into global currency and trade war has accelerated, with the United States playing the role of instigator-in-chief.

The US is deliberately encouraging a sell-off of dollars on international currency markets in order to raise the relative exchange rates of its major trade rivals, increasing the effective price of their exports to the US while cheapening US exports to their markets.

While largely responsible for the growing financial disorder, Washington is accusing China, in particular, of jeopardizing global economic recovery by refusing to more quickly raise the exchange rate of its currency, the renminbi (also known as the yuan). By working to drive down the value of the dollar, the US government and the Federal Reserve Board are placing ever greater pressure on the Chinese to revalue, ignoring warnings from Beijing that a rapid rise in its currency will harm its export industries, leading to mass layoffs and social unrest.

The protectionist cheap-dollar policy has an important domestic political function as well. It aims to divert growing public anger over the refusal of the government to provide jobs or serious relief to the unemployed away from the Obama administration and Congress and toward China and “foreigners” more generally. Among its most enthusiastic supporters is the trade union bureaucracy.

The US Commerce Department report Thursday that the US trade deficit widened nearly 9 percent in August, primarily due to a record $28 billion deficit with China, will be used to justify further trade war pressure against China.

The US policy and the growth of international tensions were on full display at the IMF meeting in Washington. US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner declared China’s currency to be undervalued and demanded that the IMF take a harder line against surplus countries, such as China, that fail to revalue their currencies and accept a reduction in their exports.

China’s central bank governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, charged that expectations that the US Federal Reserve would pump yet more dollars into the markets through quantitative easing were compounding imbalances and swamping emerging economies with destabilizing capital inflows.

With the representatives of the world’s first- and second-largest economies at loggerheads, the IMF failed to arrive at any agreement on the currency crisis. Washington’s allies such as Germany and Japan indicated support for a revaluation of the renminbi, but they balked at lining up behind a US-led diplomatic offensive against Beijing.

This, in effect, postponed the US-China confrontation until the upcoming G20 summit of leading economies, to be held November 11-12 in Seoul, South Korea.

The ensuing week saw an escalation of Washington’s cheap-dollar policy, as the Federal Reserve Board gave further indications that it plans to resume the electronic equivalent of printing hundreds of billions dollars, so-called “quantitative easing,” perhaps as soon as its next policy-setting meeting November 2-3. While it is doing so in the name of stimulating job creation, the main effect of a renewal of Fed purchases of US Treasury securities will be to increase the supply of virtually free credit to the major US banks and corporations and fuel a further rise in stocks and corporate profits.

Since August, when the Fed took the first steps toward the large-scale resumption of debt purchases, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen by more than 10 percent despite continuing declines in US payrolls.

In a much-anticipated speech Friday at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke broadly hinted that he favored an early resumption of quantitative easing. Speaking of the Fed’s policy-making Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), he said, “Given the Committee’s objectives, there would appear—all things being equal—to be a case for further action.”

Bernanke took the highly unusual step of declaring that the present inflation rate is too low and making clear that the Fed’s policy going forward will be to raise the rate of inflation to around 2 percent by means of monetary stimulus. “Thus, in effect,” he said, “inflation is running at rates that are too low relative to the levels that the Committee judges to be most consistent with the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate [to maintain price stability and contain unemployment] in the longer run.” [Bernanke’s emphasis].

The call for an inflationary monetary policy is not driven, as Bernanke would have the public believe, by a desire to significantly bring down the jobless rate. The Fed would not declare that inflation is too low unless it was confident that continued high unemployment will enable big business to proceed with its wage-cutting drive and prevent a rebound in wages.

In giving his speech, Bernanke was well aware that simply talking of quantitative easing and a policy of reflation would spark a further sell-off of US dollars. In the event, the renewed decline in the dollar, which began after the IMF meeting, accelerated on Friday.

On a trade-weighted basis, the dollar dropped 0.7 percent to a new low for the year after Bernanke spoke, and the Australian dollar reached parity for the first time since it was freely floated in 1983. The US greenback also fell to parity with the Canadian dollar.

In addition, the dollar fell to a new low against the Swiss franc. Virtually all Asian currencies rose versus the dollar, gold hit a new record high, and other commodities such as silver, copper and corn continued their upward spiral.

The dollar is now at 15-year lows against the yen and nine-month lows against the euro. The Wall Street Journal on Saturday published a scathing editorial bluntly summing up the currency- and trade-war implications of Bernanke’s speech. It began: “Amid the dollar rout of the 1970s, Treasury Secretary John Connally famously told a group of fretting Europeans that the greenback `is our currency, but your problem.’ If you read between the lines, that’s also more or less what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said yesterday as he made the case for further Fed monetary easing.”

The editorial continued: “In a nearly 4,000-word speech, the Fed chief never once mentioned the value of the dollar. He never mentioned exchange rates, despite the turmoil in world currency markets as the dollar has fallen in anticipation of further Fed easing… The chairman’s message is that the Fed is focused entirely on the domestic US economy and will print as many dollars as it takes to reflate it. The rest of the world is on its own and can adjust its policies as various countries see fit. If other currencies soar in relation to the dollar, that’s someone else’s problem.”

Earlier in the week, Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf published a column similarly pointing to the unilateralist and nationalist essence of US policy. “In short,” Wolf wrote, “US policymakers will do whatever is required to avoid deflation. Indeed, the Fed will keep going until the US is satisfactorily reflated. What that effort does to the rest of the world is not its concern…

“Instead of cooperation on adjustment of exchange rates and the external account, the US is seeking to impose its will, via the printing press… In the worst of the crisis, leaders hung together. Now, the Fed is about to hang them all separately.”

The Financial Times on Friday gave some indication of growing anger within Europe over US monetary policy, quoting a “senior European policymaker” as calling the Fed’s policy “irresponsible.” The article cited Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin as saying one reason for the exchange rate turmoil “is the stimulating monetary policy of some developed countries, above all the United States, which are trying to solve their structural problems in this way.”

Following Bernanke’s speech on Friday, the Obama administration announced two further moves in its confrontation with China. The Treasury Department delayed the release of its semiannual assessment of the currency policies of major US trade counterparts, saying it would withhold the statement until after next month’s G20 summit in Seoul.

The administration is under pressure from leading Democratic lawmakers, backed by the unions, to declare China a currency manipulator in the currency assessment, an action that could lead to retaliatory duties and tariffs against Chinese imports. The administration, however, has resisted such an overtly hostile move that would, moreover, preempt G20 discussions on the currency issue. It prefers to build a coalition of European and Asian states against China.

At the same time, however, largely to placate protectionist hawks in the Democratic Party, the US trade representative announced that he was launching an investigation into a claim filed by the United Steelworkers union charging China with unfair and illegal subsidies to its green energy industry.
Global impact of US monetary policy

Washington’s cheap-dollar policy increases the pressure on the major surplus countries—China, Germany and Japan—as well as the emerging economies of Asia and Latin America to respond by devaluing their own currencies to offset the trade advantage of rivals with falling currencies, first and foremost the United States.

This is the classic scenario of competitive devaluations and “beggar-thy-neighbor” policies that characterized the Great Depression of the 1930s and produced a fracturing of the world market into hostile trade and currency blocs, ultimately leading to World War II.

All of the major powers and rising economic nations solemnly foreswore precisely this course of action at international meetings following the outbreak of the financial crisis in September 2008. It has taken less than two years for this much-touted global coordination to collapse into mutual threats and outright economic warfare.

Germany and Japan, while more than happy to force China to raise its exchange rate and prepared to fire some shots across China’s bow toward that end, are reluctant to fully enlist in Washington’s anti-Chinese crusade since they know that they too are targeted by the Fed’s cheap dollar policy.

Last month, Japan, whose currency has risen by more than 10 percent against the dollar over the past year, retaliated with a massive and unilateral one-day sell-off of yen, and this month the Japanese central bank announced a further lowering of its key interest rate and its own program of quantitative easing, through central bank purchases of $60 billion in Japanese government bonds.

Emerging economies such as South Korea, Thailand, India, Taiwan and Brazil are reeling from the upward pressure on their exchange rates fueled by waves of speculative dollars seeking a higher return through the purchase of government and corporate bonds of these faster-growing countries.

The Institute of International Finance, which lobbies for major banks, estimates that $825 billion will flow into developing countries this year, 42 percent more than in 2009. Investments in debt of emerging economies alone are expected to triple, to $272 billion.

Last month, the Brazilian finance minister warned of the outbreak of a global currency war and earlier this month his government announced the doubling of a tax on foreign purchases of Brazilian bonds in an attempt to stem the inrush of capital and the relative rise of the nation’s currency, the real.

This past week, Thailand took similar steps, announcing a 15 percent withholding tax on the interest payments and capital gains earned by foreign investors in Thai bonds, in an attempt to arrest the appreciation of the baht, which has already risen by 10 percent against the dollar this year.

The eruption of currency and trade war is being driven by the general slowdown in economic growth to anemic levels that make impossible any genuine recovery from the deepest slump since the 1930s. Faced either with slumping domestic demand or stagnant foreign markets, or (as in the case of the US) a combination of the two, the major economies are all intent on increasing their sales abroad. As the prospects dim for a revival of economic growth to pre-recession levels, the system of multilateral currency and trade relations dating back to the agreements made at the end of World War II is collapsing. So too are the chances of genuine multilateral coordination.

Ultimately, global coordination of economic policy between the major powers in the post-war period was anchored by the economic supremacy of the United States, embodied in the privileged position of the US dollar as the world trade and reserve currency. This has irretrievably broken down, with the palpable decline in the world economic position of the United States.

The result is a struggle of each against all, combined with a general onslaught in every country against the working class, which is to be made to pay—in the form of wage-cutting and austerity measures—for the breakdown of the global capitalist economic order.

By Barry Grey
18 October 2010
WSWS

At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, the US Air Force exploded an atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, instantly killing 80,000 civilians. Most of the city was leveled by the bomb’s shock wave or incinerated in the subsequent firestorm. Three days later, before it was understood what had happened in Hiroshima, the US exploded a second atomic bomb above Nagasaki, immediately killing 40,000.

Within weeks the toll had likely climbed to 250,000 killed through burns and radiation poisoning. Those who survived the blasts described scenes of nearly unspeakable horror—civilians, mainly women and children, burnt so badly there could be no treatment; “walking dead” staggering through the streets in their last hours, their skin hanging like rags from their bodies; atomic shadows seared into the pavement where humans had stood. Tens of thousands more continued to die and suffer in the years and decades after the attacks.

The US bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki stand among the most savage acts of violence against a civilian population ever committed. Sixty-five years later, they remain shrouded in lies and obfuscation emanating from the modern-day defenders of American militarism.

Typical is a column written by journalist Warren Kozac, published Friday in the Wall Street Jounal. Kozak recently wrote a biography that attempts to rehabilitate the bloodthirsty Air Force general Curtis LeMay, who, before the bombing of Hiroshima, organized the firebombing of Tokyo, killing an estimated 87,000 people.

Kozak repeats the standard lies used to justify the atrocity, including the claim that the decision to use the atomic bomb saved lives. “It should be noted that when President Harry Truman was considering whether to invade Japan instead of dropping the bombs, his advisers estimated that an invasion would result in one million American casualties and at least two million Japanese deaths,” writes. “In the strange calculus of war, the bombs actually saved Japanese lives.”

Truman’s decision had nothing to do with saving lives, Japanese or American. At the time of the bombing, Japan was, in a military sense, already defeated. Its navy, air force, and industrial capacity largely destroyed, the Japanese had sought out conditions for peace in the weeks before the attacks.

The use of the atom bomb was, above all else, a cold-blooded strategic decision made with Washington’s eyes already transfixed on the postwar order. At the Tehran Conference of 1943, the Soviet Union had agreed to declare war on Japan within three months after the ending of hostilities in Europe. After the defeat of Germany, the Soviet Red Army—which had borne the brunt of Allied fighting in Europe—began to be shifted across the Eurasian landmass in preparation for an invasion of Manchuria on August 8, 1945—two days after Hiroshima, and the day before Nagasaki.

Washington was aware that if the war were not concluded rapidly, the Soviet Union would be in a position to assert itself in the resumed Chinese civil war between the pro-US nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek and the peasant armies of Mao Zedong, on the Korean peninsula, and potentially in Japan itself, where a revolt of the country’s working class and peasants against the empire—as had taken place in Italy against Mussolini—was far more likely than the fight to the death of the Emperor posited by Kozak and others.

But even more crucially, Truman and the US military were anxious to use the atomic bomb, this new weapon of extraordinary destructive power, as an object lesson to the Soviet Union and the entire world of the lengths Washington would go to defend its interests.

Historian Thomas McCormick has eloquently summarized the decision: “In two blinding glares—a horrible end to a war waged horribly by all parties—the United States finally found the combination that would unlock the door to American hegemony. A prearranged demonstration of the atomic bomb on a noninhabited target, as some scientists had recommended, would not do. That could demonstrate the power of the bomb, but it could not demonstrate the American will to use the awful power. One reason, therefore, for American unwillingness to pursue Japanese peace feelers in mid-summer 1945 was that the United States did not want the war to end before it had had a chance to use the atomic bomb.” (America’s Half-Century, 44-45.)

This year we observe the anniversary of the slaughter in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a new period of war and militarist aggression. The Obama administration has intensified its war in Afghanistan, loosening up rules of engagement allowing the military to “take out” civilian targets. In recent weeks, Washington has staged a series of provocations designed to ramp up pressure on what it views to be its main strategic rival, nuclear-armed China.

And now the US is shifting toward a war footing with Iran, claiming that its nuclear program is designed to create nuclear weapons, the same charge it falsely leveled against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Washington’s hypocrisy is staggering. In cases where it views the nation as an ally—Israel, India, and now Vietnam—it turns a blind eye to nuclear weapons programs or supports uranium enrichment.

Moreover, the Hiroshima anniversary recalls that only the US has ever used nuclear weapons in war. If American imperialism was willing to unleash this destructive power to assert its hegemony at a time of its peak economic strength, it will not shirk its use to defend this hegemony under conditions of economic decline.

There have been repeated reports, beginning in 2006, that the US and Israel are contemplating the use of so-called “tactical” nuclear weapons in a preemptive strike against military targets in Iran. Late in 2008, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—then still in the employ of the Bush administration—formally advocated the use of preemptive nuclear strikes in a speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP). (See “US defense secretary expands pre-emptive war doctrine to include nuclear strikes”.)

Though the US has the largest nuclear stockpile and plays the most destabilizing role in world affairs, the danger of nuclear war is not limited to its designs. Russia, Britain, France, and China maintain thousands of nuclear missiles. Israel has in the past obliquely threatened to use nuclear weapons against its neighbors, while in any new South Asian war, India and Pakistan—and possibly China—would be tempted to use their nuclear missiles.

As in the lead-up to WWI and WWII, the world has become a tinderbox of sharp tensions among the Great Powers. In the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, Central Asia, the Balkans, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, any number of scenarios could touch off a new global conflagration that would repeat the horrors of the 20th century, including the use of nuclear weapons, but on a far more deadly scale.

The descent into depression and militarism, so reminiscent of the 1930s, can only be stopped by the international working class fighting for a socialist program. The capitalists’ genocidal “war of each against all,” as Lenin put it, must be replaced by a planned, socialist economy, organized to meet social needs rather than the profit drives of the rival cliques of billionaires.
By Tom Eley
7 August 2010
WSWS
Botom-Of-Post - Protest