The ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

Rohingya (Ruben Salgado Escudero) Apr 3 2015

Nearly one & a-half million Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have been subject for decades to violent state-sponsored persecution & discrimination conducted by the military. The persecution & ethnic cleansing which has been relentless includes denial of citizenship (though they have lived in the region for decades); religious persecution; forced labor; land confiscations; arbitrary taxation & various forms of extortion; forced eviction & house destruction; restrictions on travel for health & work; restrictions on marriage, education, & trade.

The Myanmar regime tries to portray the persecution of Rohingya as a conflict between Buddhists & Muslims which can explain some of the assaults on persons & property but not things like denial of citizenship & all the rest of state-sponsored oppression–along with incitement to personal violence.

The violence is so extreme & sustained going back decades that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya flee for asylum to Malaysia, & to squalid refugee camps in Thailand & Bangladesh. Bangladesh has long been trying to deport the thousands living in refugee camps, has subjected them to harrowing human rights violations, & refuses to accept new refugees, with border guards turning back boats of Rohingya refugees. There have been several reported incidents of Rohingya refugees to Thailand being towed by the military in dilapidated boats & abandoned on the open sea.

The violence has also displaced thousands within Myanmar, forcing them into squalid, run-down camps. An estimated 140,000 now live in the camps, including these little boys in a camp near Sittwe, in the state of Rakhine, where Rohingya are 80 to 98 percent of the population.

One thing that makes the violence of Buddhists against Muslims so deeply disturbing is that the first monk to protest British colonial rule in Myanmar & the monks who initiated opposition to the military dictatorship in Myanmar in 2007 originated in Sittwe.

(Photo is from album in Wall Street Journal by Ruben Salgado Escudero)

The Germanwing’s pilot could be a terrorist yet; they keep hoping

Media reports the Germanwing’s pilot was trawling the internet for ways to commit suicide & about the security workings on cockpit doors. They say these new details portray a deeply troubled man battling serious mental health problems.

They’re still combing through his belongings & his internet history so if they find a Quran or any Islamic web sites he visited they still have time to change that diagnosis to terrorist.

“The Dovekeepers” and Zionist origin mythology


Gaza City (Khalil Hamra:AP) Mar 31 2015

CBS is showcasing “The Dovekeepers,” a four-hour miniseries based on Alice Hoffman’s novel dramatizing the story of Masada, an ancient “Israeli mountaintop fortress” where a pseudo-historical battle took place in 73 CE between Israelites & Roman soldiers ending in a mass suicide. The miniseries is of the 1960s Biblical epic genre, full of melodrama & tedium not relieved by a few even more tedious make-out scenes. It’s a wreck of a thing & completely out of fashion cinematically.

Cote de Pablo plays one of the central women figures. Is it conspiratorial to suggest that her role as a Mossad agent in NCIS helps explain why she was chosen & the possible motivation behind this dreadfully dull miniseries? It’s really an elaboration of the Exodus myth giving Zionists claim to Palestine.

This isn’t the first time the likely fictitious siege of Masada featured in a TV miniseries. In 1981, Peter O’Toole headed the cast. It’s as memorable as this unfortunate work because propaganda always rings false in some way.

The historicity of the siege of Masada is challenged by Israeli archaeologists, anthropologists, & forensics experts. Many scholars argue there is less scientific rigor involved in excavations of the site than attempts to enshrine Masada as part of Zionist origin mythology–the same way they do with Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem & the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in the West Bank.

The Masada mythology of Israelite freedom fighters choosing suicide over slavery in their conflict with the Roman Empire became a symbol in forging the State of Israel & for a long time served as a centerpiece of Israeli national identity. At one time, the Israeli military actually held induction rituals at Masada. The place is still a tourist attraction but mass suicide has fallen out of favor as a symbol only to be replaced with ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

This is a photo of Gaza City today. The media caption says displaced residents have begun to return to their “war-damaged” homes. The romanticized siege of Masada confronts the barbarisms of Operation Ethnic Cleansing in Gaza. When you build a nation on lies, paramilitary violence, massacres, terrorism, carpet bombing, this dystopia is where it leads.

Enough with the fairy-tales. Build the economic & cultural boycott of Israel.

(Photo by Khalil Hamra/AP)

Land Day commemoration for Palestinians

West Bank (Majdi Mohammed:AP) Mar 30 2015

Yesterday was Land Day for Palestinians, a commemoration which began in 1976 among Palestinians in Israel against land expropriations to build settlements & military installations. In 1976, six unarmed Palestinians were killed while protesting the annexation of their homes, over 100 were injured & hundreds were arrested when Israel sent army & police after them. It’s now a political event commemorated by Palestinians & their supporters around the world.

This Palestinian man being assaulted by an Israeli border policeman is at a Land Day commemoration near Nablus in the West Bank. He’s not an old man but he’s not a kid either & could be seriously injured by such an attack. Of course, age has never been an impediment to Israeli security forces who manhandle & arrest children as easily as they do seniors & according to human rights groups, torture them in prison.

Build the hell out of the economic & cultural boycott of Israel & demand not a penny of aid of any kind to Israeli apartheid, ethnic cleansing, & land expropriations.

(Photo by Majdi Mohammed/AP)

The importance of the farm workers’ strike in Baja, Mexico

Baja strike:Mexico ( Edgard Garrido:Reuters) Mar 31 2015

The US labor movement is so compromised & wedded to the Democratic Party that strikes are often ritualized, inanimate things–as boring to participate in as to witness. There are exceptions but they are rare. Not so the current farm workers strike in Baja California, Mexico (south of San Diego). Mexico was the first country where neoliberal agribusiness (called the “green revolution”) was instituted, accompanied by extreme political repression to crush dissenting farmers & farm workers who were dispossessed & often forced to move to the US as undocumented workers. So this strike in Baja is of the greatest consequence.

Last week, the agribusiness bloc offered a six-percent wage increase on a paltry US $8 to $10 a week wage. The farm workers blew a cherry at that insult. Since millions of produce is rotting in the fields (estimated at a $80 million to $100 million loss), agribusiness offered a 15-percent raise yesterday. Chump change again amounting to about $1.40 when strawberries laden with pesticides sell for $4 to $5 a pint in supermarkets just across the US border.

It’s very hard for workers earning so little to sustain a long strike, especially since many are migrant workers (including children) from more southern Mexican states, so agribusiness is gloating that many have returned to the fields. That’s unfortunate since it will make activists & strike leaders easier to victimize after the strike is ended. But that doesn’t mean agribusiness has seen the last of farm worker opposition.

Our inability to render them active solidarity speaks loudly to the need to transform the US labor movement from a boot-licking operation into a fighting organization. For heavens sakes, they couldn’t even get off their asses to oppose the Obama regime in 2012 when it legitimized child labor among farm workers in the US.
This photo is of strikers in Baja California waiting for news about the negotiations. Our fullest solidarity at least in sentiment & our commitment to transform US unions.

(Photo by Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

Start scouring flea markets for Andy Warhol doodles

A woman brought seven hand-painted lithographs by Andy Warhol to the Antique Road Show on PBS where their value at auction is estimated. They were of a woman’s high-heel shoe & of absolutely no artistic merit. Even less than his Brillo pad boxes & Campbell soup cans.

I’ve seen tons of his stuff in exhibition & in the interests of full disclosure must admit never considered him more than a glorified commercial artist. His masterpiece was self-promotion. But that’s just me. Anyway, they estimated the value of the lithographs at $20,000 to $30,000. I’ve heard Picasso did the same thing on napkins & think it must have been his way of flipping the bird to the irrationalities of the art market.

Good morning, Vietnam! Neoliberalism has arrived.

Hanoi (Kham:Reuters) Mar 30 2015

Good morning, Vietnam! Neoliberalism has arrived. When millions around the world opposed the Vietnam War, it wasn’t to defend socialism but to oppose US military barbarism–though many hoped ending US intervention would lead to the free development of a socialist society. But in the 1980s, the leadership of Vietnam cast its lot with the IMF & World Bank & transforming the centralized-planned economy into private enterprises in a market-based economy began. Thousands of companies have been privatized since then. Just between 2014 & 2015, Vietnam has targeted the transfer of 432 businesses to private investors.

Only twenty years ago, bicycles were the dominant mode of transport in cities & there was an extensive, state-subsidized public transportation system. Under IMF privatization, public transportation has been destroyed & mopeds & automobiles dominate the streets & continue to increase in numbers, traffic congestion, & pollution.

This is where neoliberalism conflicts with coherent urban planning (not to mention social life) & where there are apparent disputes between the Vietnamese government & IMF/World Bank advisors about how to proceed. Vietnam wants to reduce city traffic by building satellite townships outside Hanoi with business parks & industrial zones. Both the regime & IMF identify poor infrastructure as a major obstacle to economic development but when they speak of infrastructure they don’t mean improved roads & railways for public transportation but to transport goods from the growing sweatshop enterprises to waiting planes for delivery to US & European retailers.

The regime & IMF are in complete agreement on seeing too many people as the problem behind traffic congestion & compulsory population control programs have been operative for years. Women played a leading role in opposing US intervention & now their rights to reproductive freedom are being sacrificed to neoliberalism & private profit.

Until recently, most of the privatization was in light industries, trading, & tourist services. The government dominated in telecommunications, air traffic, railways, & energy. The IMF is dissatisfied with the rate of privatization & profit & is putting the screws on the regime to step it up which only means more economic & political dislocation & stress for working people. Hopefully the skills used to defeat the mightiest military machine in history & send them packing in 1975 will be used against the regime & a free society built to honor the sacrifice made by so many.

(Photo of Hanoi by Kham/Reuters)

Homeless in Bangladesh

A street child in Srimangal Railway Station, Bangladesh (from Eikipedia) Mar 24 2015

This is an undated photo of a street child near the Srimangal Rail Station in Bangladesh. There are millions of little kids like him around the world–truly the wretched of the earth in a world chock-full of sentimentality about ‘kids being the future, blah blah blah.’

The face on this little guy captures just some of the social isolation & terror homeless children sustain. If we investigate how human society came to this, to a point where millions of children are cast-offs hunted by starvation & violence, we’re likely to find ourselves back to the origins of capitalism. If it didn’t always exist, perhaps we can & should make it go away so we can create a world suitable for the little ones to come of age in, to live & love in.

Social hatred like racism or misogyny is a malignant thing but hate itself is too much maligned. If we didn’t hate the sight of children suffering the unbearable, we might just try to coast our way through life & make the best of a bad system. Homeless children make that choice completely unacceptable.

(Photo from Wikipedia, by unidentified photographer)

Boko Haram and the Nigerian army terrorize Nigeria

Nigeria (Emmanuel Braun:Reuter) Mar 30 2015

These apprehensive little girls are in Damasak, a town in northeastern Nigeria taken back last week from Boko Haram by a joint operation of the Nigerian army, foreign mercenaries, & a coalition of military forces from Chad, Cameroon, & Niger. They’re watching soldiers investigating a mass grave where they found up to 90 decomposed bodies decapitated or with their throats slit. It isn’t certain the crime was committed by Boko Haram since many Nigerians are almost as terrified of the army & police as they are of Boko Haram.

Boko Haram has terrorized northern Nigeria since 2009, attacking schools, churches, mosques. An estimated 11,000 people have died & hundreds have been kidnapped, including 276 schoolgirls abducted in Chibok one year ago next month. They are still missing & the corrupt, kleptocratic regime of President Goodluck Jonathan is accused of doing little to find them.

The joint military operations which managed to push Boko Haram out of all but three of the 20 districts they once held was likely an election maneuver on the part of Jonathan who was running for another term in last Saturday’s election. He was running against General Muhammad Buhari, a former president & military dictator who The Economist called “the least awful” candidate. Both candidates are completely beholden to the IMF & World Bank who are squeezing with deadly force. In the era of neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism, austerity & political repression are essential to plunder.

According to several sources, systemic political corruption has fed & not fought the Islamist fundamentalism & terrorism of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. Critics of the regime include entirely establishment NGOs like Amnesty International & Human Rights Watch as well as the US State Department who all accuse the regime of egregious human rights problems including torture & degrading treatment of prisoners, rape, arbitrary arrest, denial of due process, extrajudicial killings by security forces, summary executions, violation of privacy rights, massive repression of civil liberties. The US wouldn’t see such atrocities as a problem so much as signs of a perfect ally.

It’s unspeakable that these little girls have to come of age & are completely vulnerable in a situation where the “liberating” armies are as dangerous as the vanquished irregular forces. Changing the world to make it safe for children is the most historic task facing humanity.

(Photo by Emmanuel Braun/Reuters)