The “Mona Lisa of Afghanistan” arrested as undocumented immigrant

Mona Lisa of Afghanistan  Feb 26 2015

The renowned image of the “Mona Lisa of Afghanistan” from the cover of National Geographic in 1985 has been replaced with a copy of her mug shot from Pakistani immigration authorities. In 1984 when the iconic photo was taken, Sharbat Gula lived in a refugee camp in Pakistan, a refugee from the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Her parents had both been killed in Soviet bombing when she was 6-years-old & her grandmother & siblings walked across the mountains to get to the refugee camp in Pakistan.

Steve McCurry, the photographer, made quite a mythological travelogue out of his 17-year search to identify & locate her after she left the refugee camp & returned to Afghanistan–where she married & had kids. When McCurry located her, he asked if she had ever felt safe & she answered, “No. But life under the Taliban was better. At least there was peace & order.”

Now Pakistani authorities in Peshawar, Pakistan have detained Gula for questioning for obtaining immigration papers using a false identity. She’s one of an estimated 23,000 undocumented Afghan immigrants in Pakistan nailed for false papers. Of the 2.5 million Afghan refugees, only 1.5 million are registered; the rest are undocumented & these are being especially targeted for deportation. This is all part of Pakistan’s several-year campaign to drive refugees back to Afghanistan since US & Pakistani bombing have created millions of Pakistani refugees & there is no place to house more.

Human Rights Watch still cannot bring itself to condemn the US-NATO war in Afghanistan or drone bombing in Pakistan, but this week it issued a report criticizing Pakistan for forcibly expelling an estimated 33,000 Afghan refugees & for the crackdown & scapegoating of Afghans after the December 2014 massacre of schoolchildren by the Pakistani Taliban. The crackdown includes harassment, intimidation, beatings, & evictions from their homes by police in an acceleration of the campaign to deport Afghans back to likely homelessness, starvation, unemployment, war, & occupation.

This has gone on long enough! There are spring antiwar protests against the US-NATO wars. Grab a placard demanding “US out of Afghanistan!” “US out of Iraq!” & hit the streets.

(Photos by Steve McCurry)

Burn baby burn!

London firefighters (Dan Kitwood:Getty Images) Feb 25 2015

The austerity hustlers might want to think twice about slashing the pensions of firefighters. Here they’re protesting cutbacks to their pensions in London, England. This is only a 24-hour strike with a little fire display. Next time they may burn down Parliament. After that, they’re heading for Buckingham & may take out the whole empire. A lot of people around the world have their hopes pinned on that.

(Photo by Dan Kitwood/GettyImages)

Sign petition to participate in cultural boycott of Israel


The English singer & UNICEF ambassador, Robbie Williams is scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv this coming May. UNICEF claims its mission is to provide humanitarian assistance to women & children in poor countries. So apparently there’s a disconnect & Williams doesn’t know that just 45 miles away in Gaza, Israel killed & maimed hundreds of women & children in the siege last summer & made thousands homeless.

An Israeli concert promotion site said that since his career is “not quite in the superstardom ranks” anymore it was the perfect time for Williams to “rake in a few shekels from star-hungry fans.” We prefer to think the best of performers & think he’d want to know about Israeli ethnic cleansing. We can’t imagine the exorbitant fees paid to lure artists to Israel would reduce a humanitarian ambassador to venality & unseemly groveling for money. After all, he’s an artist, not a street monkey on a string, right?

Please sign & share this petition as part of the cultural boycott of Israel which is having a powerful impact.

New Hillary Clinton same as the old

CBS news reported that Hillary Clinton’s PR firm is coaching her to accent her “soft, feminine side” so she began chatting in homey style about her pregnancy, being a grandmother, challenging the “glass ceiling.” Previously they claim she tryed to downplay gender. Is it just me or is the old wooden androgynous Hillary indistinguishable from the new wooden feminine Hillary? She still talks like she has a pole stuck up her ass.

And as a postscript, whatever happened to politics in presidential campaigns?

Israel opens dams to flood Gaza and then claims it has no dams. How did they make the desert bloom?

Gaza flooding (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa:AP) Feb 25 2015

Last Sunday, media reported accusations from an official in Gaza that Israel opened “a number of dams” near the border with Gaza, flooding the Gaza Valley after a severe winter storm & causing many Palestinian families to evacuate along with damage to farmland. To Israel’s enormous disgrace, the story evoked outrage but not surprise. Israeli shame is blunted by the power of US support.

Soon enough, Zionist publications went ballistic (it appears their emotional apparatus is stuck in that mode) reporting Israeli claims that it has no dams in southern Israel. Most media immediately retracted the report as false.

Once again we witness the investigative shambology of modern media. Shambology enters the English language as of this post signifying a potpourri of false authority combined with canned news full of hearsay, half-truths, mysticism, baloney. You get the picture.
It should be easy enough to find out if there are any dams in Israel that could impact Gaza & they would not have to be on the border to do so. Can’t the reporters at least look at a map, query officials from Gaza & Israel about the locations, do that thing reporters are supposed to do, i.e., snoop around & ask questions? After all Israel already has an entire catalog of war & human rights crimes to account for so why add several more counts?

From what one can learn there are in fact no monstrous Hoover-type dams in Israel. But there are smaller ones including the Yeruham Dam (roughly 40 miles from Gaza) used for flood control, irrigation, & water supply. The dam is on a tributary of the HaBesor Stream which flows directly through the Gaza Valley & spills into the Mediterranean Sea.

Do we know as fact that Israel opened the dam? No we don’t. Is it possible? It’s more than likely. Is it verifiable? Absolutely. But only if reporters will do the work & then only if it is seen fit to print.

(Photo of flooding in Gaza by Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/AP)

Speech I gave at veteran event in Minneapolis to raise funds for Winter Soldier Investigation 2007

With all the odious revelations and trials of military “kill teams”, it’s important to recall that it is US government policy indoctrinating young people in racism which turns them into war criminals. When they return to civilian life they, their families, and American society pay a price in PTSD, addiction, mental illness, homelessness, incarceration, suicide, violence. The antiwar movement and its veteran participants do not glorify soldiers; nor do we vilify them. These are excerpts from a talk I gave in Minneapolis at a meeting where veterans and military families protested the wars.

Of the many important participants in the antiwar movement—students, churches, women, civil rights groups, unions—there is one constituency with a towering moral authority no one disputes, and that is the veterans and active duty Gis. Their opposition to war cuts, like nothing else can, through the patriotic jingoism, racism and lies that justify war. That’s why the proponents of war are so relentless in trying to create antipathy between veterans and the antiwar movement. Everyone’s heard the story about Vietnam vets being met at airports by taunting and spitting protestors? This ugliest of slanders is intended to alienate people from the antiwar movement, in particular to isolate and demoralize veterans with misgivings or opposition to the war. It gives them no place to go for support.

In the early antiwar movement there was some confusion and discussion about the value of reaching out to veterans and Gis—but no one ever saw them as the enemies of peace; some doubted they could overcome the military brainwashing or stand up to the harassment they would certainly receive. That confusion decisively ended when hundreds and eventually thousands of vets and Gis began organizing against the war and made their opposition public with newspapers, petitions, and demonstrations and they approached the antiwar movement for collaboration and support.

Without the support of a mass civilian antiwar movement they were subject to intimidation, court martial, prison time, and often charges of mutiny or desertion in time of war, which carry a maximum penalty of death. You may not know that all of this was true in the first Iraq war in the early 90s. Black and Latino soldiers played a major part in this resistance because they were so outraged at the racism of the war against the Arab peoples.

As a result of our collaboration, defense campaigns were waged and demonstrations held to keep Gis from being prosecuted and jailed. We marched with veterans reaching out to soldiers and to support those victimized for exercising their legal right to oppose the war.

The respect we have for these brothers and sisters in the antiwar movement is signified by the fact that even today all marches are led off by contingents of veteran’s and Gis because they are a direct rebuke to the demagogues calling racist wars a fight for freedom and democracy. Thousands have been inspired and persuaded to oppose the war by their public speeches and protests

Many of the veterans who have been involved in this work for now more than 40 years are here tonight. They’re probably too modest to stand up and identify themselves but I think we should tip our hats to them and express our respect and gratitude for the remarkable contributions they have made to advancing civil liberties, the causes of peace and antiracism, and to making this a suitable world for human beings to live and love in.

Guilty verdict against Eddie Ray Routh in redneck court


A Texas jury pumped full of patriotic fervor & other idiocies found Eddie Ray Routh guilty of capital murder in the shooting of American Sniper Chris Kyle & Chad Littlefield. A judge sentenced Routh to life without the possibility of parole.

It could be argued that Routh didn’t stand a chance in that kangaroo court. His goose was cooked after Clint Eastwood put out that malignant piece of war mongering glorifying the psychotic Kyle. What chance did a guy diagnosed with PTSD & exhibiting extreme psychosis & violent tendencies stand in comparison to that crap? He killed a patriot, an icon of US militarism, a whack job, a remorseless psychotic killer.

This is not a claim that Routh is some prize package but that he was mentally disturbed as a result of war deployment & should be treated for mental illness, not incarcerated where that illness will only get worse & likely lead to suicide.

In a FB discussion about Israeli veterans of the Palestinian occupation, there were those who got on moral high-horses, damning the now anti-occupation veterans for having committed unforgivable war crimes & deriding their role in exposing Israeli human rights crimes against Palestinians. Israel has a conscription army for all men & women over 18 years old. And as we know from US war resistance among veterans & soldiers, extreme pressures are put on them to conform–or they are prosecuted & vilified. That’s tough stuff for young people to stand up to.

There are those in the US also who want to extract contrition, want to beat the veterans up with moral superiority, want to ban them from human society. The antiwar movement never took that approach because we understand why young people enter the military, what pressures they are subject to within the military, & how terrifying it is to defy the rigid hierarchy of mind-control & unquestioning obedience.

There is a body of literature written by veterans describing the horrors of war. One of the most powerful from the Vietnam War is “Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans.” One veteran describes how he used Vietnamese peasants for target practice. When he returned to civilian life & realized what he had done, he described his inability to ever again trust himself or his sense of who he was.

There are remarkable, compelling, wrenching testimonies from veterans at Winter Soldier Investigations in 1971 & 2007, events organized by antiwar veterans to expose war crimes & atrocities by the US military in several wars. You can rock that moral high-horse till the cows come home, but only a fool would deride the antiwar impact & moral authority of those who suffer PTSD & despite the depleted psychic energy stand to denounce war & build opposition to it.

This verdict is an outrage & should be denounced. Along with the massive statistics on veteran & soldier suicides, it stands as testimony to the US treatment of working class kids who go to war, come back chewed up & in pieces, & are denied even elementary social, medical, psychiatric services.

(Photo of Eddie Ray Routh at his trial)

US federal kangaroo court ruling against Palestinians

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner Feb 24 2015

Marx is famous for saying that history repeats itself, first as tragedy & then as farce. And this case is an example of how neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism, has made it impossible to distinguish between the two.

Last Monday, after a six-week trial, a US jury in a Manhattan federal court ordered the Palestinian Authority (PA) & PLO to pay more than $218 million in damages for “providing material support to terrorists” in attacks on Jerusalem over a decade ago. The law suit was on behalf of ten US families suing over six attacks attributed to Hamas between 2002 & 2004 that killed 33 & injured over 450. There is as yet no explanation for why the PA was sued rather than Hamas. Maybe because Hamas would spit in their eye?

Reportedly the award could be tripled under the US Anti-Terrorism Act which allows US citizens injured by acts of international terrorism to pursue damages in federal courts. Of course, the US also defines what “international terrorism” is & who is engaging in it. The PLO & PA are expected to appeal & hopefully they will after they piss on such belligerence & nonsense. Reports say it’s unclear if the defendants will be able to collect. How about acknowledging they have a snowball’s chance in hell of collecting?

The attorney behind this legal foolishness is Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, an Israeli who founded Shurat HaDin law center in 2003 & which maintains a tight relationship with the Israeli government. While they engage in ethnic cleansing, she engages in what is called “lawfare” bringing suits on behalf of ‘terror victims’ against “Islamic & Arab groups engaged in terror attacks”–that is, Palestinian groups, their political leaders, & who she considers their financial patrons.

She’s a Zionist zealot & nutcase which has made her a media celebrity on Israeli, European, Canadian, & US radio & TV. But this strategy of hers is going to become an important impediment for Palestinian solidarity, which is what it’s intended to do since there is little chance most of the numerous law suits (including against banks) will reap much in actual damages. The intention is to discredit Palestinians as terrorists for defending themselves against ethnic cleansing, to tie up the resources of Palestinian groups, & to vilify Palestinian supporters as advocates of terrorism. She also wants to obstruct Palestinian access to the International Criminal Court. It is only a matter of time before Shurat HaDin begins targeting boycott (BDS) groups around the world.

There is an analog with the right-wing anti-abortion movement in the US which has used assassinations, paramilitary blockades at clinics, endless legislative initiatives in states, & even more silly-assed court actions to thwart abortion rights. This multi-faceted nonsense has reaped considerable benefits & strengthened the anti-abortion movement, especially in the absence of a defense by women’s rights groups.

One disturbing feature of these law suits by Darshan-Leitner’s law firm is her admission in an interview that she was schooled personally by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). This is not the first time the SPLC has been accused of facilitating Zionist projects. They have been criticized sharply for identifying antisemitism with anti-Zionism & have not refuted that criticism.

Led by Darshan-Leitner, Shurat HaDin is modeling her strategy on the SPLC strategy of bankrupting who they define as hate groups, like the KKK. But the question is, what gives SPLC the authority to define who is a hate group if they cannot (or will not) distinguish between antisemitism & anti-Zionism? If their commitment is to Israel, will they eventually place BDS groups on their hate list?

The only way to outflank this political treachery is to build Palestinian solidarity by evangelizing for the economic & cultural boycott of Israel (barcode beginning 729); holding teach-ins & forums on Palestinian’s just claims; & rallying to demand “No aid of any kind to Israel!”

(Photo is Nitsana Darshan-Leitner)

Child labor in Iraq: emancipation US-style

Iraq child brick workers ( Ahmad Al-Rubaye:AFP:Getty Images) Feb 24 2015

Emancipation US-style in Iraq: this photo is children brick workers at a large brick factory near Baghdad standing in front of the kilns. Faces covered with brick dust which includes silica, lead, & other contaminants; kilns emitting intense heat, hydrocarbons, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, & carcinogenic dioxins. And no safety equipment.

The children are facing a brief lifetime of respiratory, cardiovascular, skin, & eye diseases including bronchitis, asthma, pharyngitis, coughing, fibrosis, emphysema, rhinitis. These hazards have been well known for over 100 years. But in the hellhole the US war has created in Iraq (& Afghanistan) the welfare of children & safety protection of workers is of no concern.

Saddam Hussein was rightly excoriated for violating human rights in Iraq, including secret police, torture, mass murder, forced disappearances, summary executions, chemical warfare. And that differs from US occupation, how? One can’t judge a country by its laws or certainly by what it proclaims itself to be, but under Hussein children were required to go to school at six years of age & education was free through university. Iraq received UN awards for the high level of literacy, especially among women.

Statistics on child labor under Hussein are not available for comparison but over a decade ago (2004) a UN & Iraqi study showed that more & more children were leaving school to work, often as the sole wage earner in the family due to parental death, disability, or unemployment–& of course, because that’s the neoliberal capitalist way of doing things. According to that study, nearly 1,300,000 children, between eight & 16-years-old were working. Multiply that by the eleven intervening years, since things have not improved one iota but only worsened.

The UN-Iraq report informs us that the main reason for child labor is poverty. The damn fools needed a study to tell them that!? According to official statistics, about 25% of Iraqis live below the farcical World Bank poverty line of US $1 per day. To get a more realistic assessment of poverty in Iraq, double the official statistics.

What’s wrenching is that well over a million kids work in often hazardous jobs, like the brick workers, & are subject to sexual abuse & violence. Some experts claim there is a strong cultural push for child labor in Iraq, that parents don’t want their kids to attend school & prefer them to start work young. Oh really? How far back does that cultural thing go? And can we get the names of those unidentified “experts” so we can have their heads examined?

Statistics on the number of children killed, maimed, starved to death by US/UN sanctions & war have been documented & 19 years ago were estimated at 500,000. When you update those figures & add in those mangled & traumatized by war, we’re looking at a lot more indictments for US war crimes. These victims were even acknowledged with pride by the despicable Madeleine Albright who said on public TV in 1996 that the gruesome deaths of those children was “worth it” to achieve US military objections. We look forward to dumping her in a grave & writing her obituary.

Join the spring actions against US war demanding “US out of Iraq!” “US out of Afghanistan!” Our fullest solidarity with the people of Iraq & Afghanistan.

(Photo by Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

Call the local mall and ask if they have Prince Albert in the can

Ask me if I really believe news reports that terrorists are threatening US malls. Not any more than when we used to prank-call bars & ask if they had Prince Albert in the can. For those uninitiated to US adolescent humor in the days before video games, Prince Albert was a tobacco & the can is a toilet. If the clerk answered yes, we would say, “You’d better let him out.”

And that’s as credible as those reports are.