Category Archives: News

The role of soldiers and veterans in opposing war

Palestinian detainees (June 9 2014)

It’s not uncommon for those ardently opposed to war to issue blanket condemnations of all soldiers as war criminals. The US antiwar movement has a different approach based on what it learned from the endless number of US wars. The movement neither glorifies soldiers & buys that “fighting for our freedoms” crap nor does it vilify them as unredeemable war criminals.

While the anti-Vietnam War movement debated how to approach GIs in a conscription army, those soldiers were already organizing opposition to the war, including on military bases. They protested, put out newsletters, risked court-martial in their opposition, & approached the antiwar movement for collaboration in their defense & to reach more soldiers. At no time, it must be insisted, did the US antiwar movement ever spit on soldiers & call them “baby killers.” That venomous slander is the invention of a right-wing think tank to drive a chasm between the antiwar movement & antiwar soldiers.

Political collaboration has only deepened with every new US war so that now antiwar veterans are the backbone of antiwar opposition. Their testimony is horrifying, wrenching, & an irrefutable indictment of all that crap about fighting for freedoms.

So now we see in Israel that active duty soldiers are refusing to serve in the military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, or the military siege of Gaza. Breaking the Silence is an organization of Israeli soldiers & veterans that has collected testimony from now hundreds of soldiers documenting capricious military violence toward Palestinians, including shootings, beatings, & profligate use of assault weapons; the humiliations of checkpoints & special roads; & the expropriation & destruction of Palestinian property.

Based on the reported funding sources, Breaking the Silence is not an organization comprised entirely of anti-Zionists. But it is an organization of men & women who recoil in horror at the barbarisms of the Israeli military, in which many served a part. They are an organization of the greatest importance in breaking the logjam of Zionist ideology in Israel & for exposing Zionist ideologues elsewhere for the racist creeps they are.

They are also further testimony to the importance of finding a way to work with active duty soldiers & veterans in every army, in every country & not simply writing them all off as war criminals. Nowhere is the antiwar movement in a position to write people off or to exact contrition. Soldiers returning from war pay a heavy price for their credulous service to power: beside numerous physical impairments, they face homelessness, incarceration, addictions, mental health problems, suicide. Our job is not to excoriate them but to find ways to work with them in exposing the atrocities of war & mobilizing opposition to it.

(Photo of Israeli soldiers manhandling Palestinian teens from muslimnews.co.uk)

What is the meaning of solidarity?

Cork protest Jun 8 2014

You wouldn’t think there’d be much dispute about what solidarity is but in fact there is–or at least there is confusion. For those who want to change the world, “an injury to one is an injury to all” isn’t a sentimental or ceremonial mantra but an iron law of social change.

Somehow, in an attempt by some to thwart the appeal of socialist ideals, solidarity became identified as an act of white supremacy, the noblesse oblige of privilege. Some of that discredit is due to political chicanery by those who prefer capitalism since conformity can be a lucrative career move. But also implicated in the confusion is the “mismanagement” of those ideals by some socialists who have made solidarity an expedience–or much worse, the pivot of betrayal. Mismanagement is the politic word for treachery.

Solidarity is not an act of supremacy; nor is it not an expression of sympathy or, heaven forbid, pity. Nor is it negotiable. We don’t express solidarity with sweat shop workers, immigrants, homeless, unemployed, starving, & those millions fighting tyranny & austerity because we feel sorry for them because they’re the “underdog.” Solidarity has more muscle than mere weepy-eyed sentimentality. It means we recognize our connections with others in a complex, international nexus of economic, social, historic, & political bonds. Our fate is inextricable from that of all others.

Neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism, tries to sever those bonds by creating competition between working people from Asia to Africa to Europe to the Americas. Racism is central to that competition & the rancid, hateful howlings of that ideology change little from one continent to the next.

We render solidarity–of the muscly hard-nosed kind–because of our common humanity, because we are committed to the ideal that all human beings are equal, & because one consequence of neoliberal globalization is making working people around the world completely dependent on each other for justice & emancipation.

This photo of a 2010 protest in Cork, Ireland in solidarity with Palestinians is repeated thousands of times at thousands of protests around the world to support those being targeted by tyranny. These protests represent humanities highest aspiration: solidarity. Someday it will represent our highest achievement. Solidarity forever!

(Photo by John Jefferies)

Casey Kasem and the antiwar movement

Casey Kasem June 6 2014

Usually I don’t comment on the passing of celebrities so much as I ridicule celebrity culture. But it’s being reported that Casey Kasem, the long-time radio host of “American Top 40”, suffers dementia, is in critical condition & that his family is engaged in an unseemly dispute over his care.

The one thing media won’t mention about Kasem (of Lebanese ancestry & raised in Detroit) is that he was an antiwar activist, especially prominent against the first Iraq War. I’m unable to find links to confirm my memory but Kasem played a role in promoting & financing “The Fire This Time: US War Crimes in the Gulf” by Ramsey Clark which is about the first Gulf War in 1991.

He also spoke at antiwar protests in Washington, DC & elsewhere to oppose the Gulf War. I have listened to hundreds of antiwar speeches (& given them) in my lifetime but one speech by Kasem always stood out to me for its power. It wasn’t just my surprise that a man famous for being a rock & roll DJ could be so powerfully opposed to war but that he could express our anger with such eloquence & without an ounce of pretension.

The theme of his speech is now nearly cliched but then it was entirely original: In litany form he said, “How come there’s never money for education but there’s always enough money for war. How come there’s never money for healthcare….”

I hope Mr. Kasem recovers, though at 82 & in bad health that’s unlikely. But his eulogies should not be written without honoring his role in antiwar opposition. The first Gulf War was a turning point in the US antiwar movement, signaling a decline in massive participation, due in part to the barbarity of the military onslaught against Iraq. Mr. Kasem was not daunted & for that we tip our hats to him.

Subway workers on strike in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sao Paulo, Brazil June 6 2014

This is an ironic case of “chickens coming home to roost.” Much more aptly, it’s an exercise of the most powerful weapon working people have in their arsenal: the right to strike. The irony is that in June 2013, millions of Brazilians were provoked to massive opposition against neoliberal austerity policies by a hike in public transportation fees.

Now, less than a week before the opening game of the World Cup (next Weds., June 12th) at Itaquerao stadium in San Paulo, Brazil, subway train operators are entering the second day of a strike, jeopardizing the only means most soccer fans will have of getting to the stadium. The 70,000 fans expected for the opener will be all dressed up with no way to go. It don’t get better than that!

Construction on the $431 million stadium was scheduled for completion December 31st, 2013 but the roof is still not complete & won’t be done until after the games end. Serious irregularities found in construction of an entire seating section for 20,000 mean fire officials will not release approval permits.

That stadium is looking more & more like a white elephant but even more like a dreadful safety hazard. Those sports fans who can’t book a limo to replace the subway may thank their lucky stars they couldn’t get to the place due to the strike.

Meanwhile demonstrations in twelve cities across Brazil, including near the Itaquerao stadium, continue to protest the billions spent to host the games & demand funding to improve education, health care, social services, affordable housing & transportation. Hopefully this goes way beyond “chickens coming home to roost” to a general uprising against neoliberal plunder & “bread & circuses” for the ruling rich.

In this photo riot cops are battling it out with striking subway drivers but when all is said & done, next Wednesday they need someone to drive those trains. Power is a relative thing.

(Photo by Nelson Antoine/AP)

Israel’s gulag for Palestinians

West Bank June 6 2014

This scene of Israeli soldiers manhandling Palestinian protesters is so common in the West Bank that it’s almost not newsworthy–except that hundreds continue to be arrested & held under “administrative detention”, which means without charge or trial. Administrative detention orders can range from one to six months in length & can be arbitrarily extended an indefinite number of times up to five years by Israeli military courts. 5,000 Palestinians are presently in Israeli custody, including 200 children. About 550 of these are administrative detainees, including 13 children under the age of 18.

It’s embarrassing to read Zionist defenses of administrative detention; they claim Israel’s denial of the basic standards of due process (like being told what you’re accused of) are “security precautions” & that Palestinians who protest this egregious violation of international law are just grandstanding for media attention & to make Israeli justice look bad.

In late April of this year, 120 Palestinian administrative detainees began a hunger strike in protest because, in the style of Guantanamo, they have no idea why they’re sitting in jail or for how long. Contrary to the rubbish spewed by hateful Zionists, media attention seems a damn good idea if they ever want to get out of prison. Over the past several weeks, hundreds of non-administrative detainees joined the hunger strike in solidarity, bringing the total number now to 1,500.

A UN Special Committee to assess Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights concluded their recent fact-finding tour with an appeal to Israel to end administrative detention of Palestinians, even though International law does allow administrative detention in exceptional circumstances. (The only exceptional circumstances that seem worthy are the detainment of White House & Pentagon officials for war crimes, but it’s unlikely the UN would agree on this.) Of particular concern to the UN committee is that the Israeli government is vigorously promoting a bill in the Knesset to allow force-feeding the hunger strikers. The invidious comparison with Guantanamo is complete.

Solidarity protests throughout Gaza & the West Bank have been going on for the past several weeks, including very moving candle vigils. Apparently in the West Bank, the Israeli military just views these protests as another place to pick up Palestinian activists for detention. This young Palestinian being attacked by three Israeli soldiers is protesting in solidarity at the Qalandia checkpoint near the city of Ramallah.

Stand with Palestinian justice & support the hunger strikers by boycotting all Israeli products (barcode beginning 729), by supporting the cultural boycott of Israel, & by demanding “No military aid to Israel!”

(Photo by Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

The new jesters for apartheid: Rolling Stones defy cultural boycott of Israel

Mick Jagger June 6 2014

And here we have the very picture of ignominy: the Rolling Stones performing in Tel Aviv despite appeals to them to stand against apartheid by honoring the cultural boycott of Israel. This performance as jester to ethnic cleansing comes as no surprise since Sir Mick, who prides himself on giving the middle finger to convention, has admitted to an affinity with Margaret Thatcher (he was disgusted by the jubiliation at her death) & of course Betty Windsor who decked out his bony ass with feudal honorifics.

Other than that, there isn’t much to say about our man except “for shame.” Petulant minds will however note how plug ugly a man becomes when he turns his back on massive injustice.

Use the photo for hurling horse manure.

(Photo by Ariel Schalit/AP)

Women march against government inaction on rape in Uttar Pradesh, India

Anti-rape protest Uttar Pradesh June 5 2014

This is another photo of the anti-rape protest in Uttar Pradesh, India where mostly women stormed government offices demanding justice for the victims. Most people don’t know that until the women’s movement of the 1960s-70s (which was international in scope), all sexual crimes, including rape & child sexual assault, were considered secrets & were seldom reported, let alone prosecuted.

It is a giant political step forward when women emerge into the public streets & begin to dominate public discourse on violent crimes against women.

Our hats off to these sisters in India who are showing women around the world how to stand up to the violence of social hatred facilitated by governmental indifference & outright collusion.

(Photographer not identified; from revolution-news.com)

Anti-rape protests in Uttar Pradesh, India

Uttar Pradesh rape protest Jun3 5 2014

Following the rape & hanging murder of two lower-caste teenage girls in Uttar Pradesh, India, several new rapes were reported in other villages of the same state. In one case, a young girl was gang-raped & thrown in a ditch; in another case a young woman was gang-raped & killed when the rapists poured acid down her throat. The crimes are absolutely ghoulish because social hatred toward women of the oppressed castes is so profound & so malignant.

It isn’t easy to unravel the complexities of caste & class, of ethnicity & gender but that is the monumental political task imposed on millions in India & elsewhere. After the series of rapes, hundreds of mostly women protesters showed up at the offices of the state chief minister of Uttar Pradesh–not only because two policemen were arrested in connection with the hanging murders but because police have obstructed justice every step of the way by protecting upper-caste perpetrators.

Indian police used extreme force against the protesters; videos show them drowning the protesters with water cannons which are extremely dangerous assault weapons. On the part of the women protesters, defending themselves wasn’t a ladylike affair. They responded just exactly the way women around the world have to in order to put an end to crescendoing violence against women.

Our fullest solidarity with their struggle for justice.

(Photographer of protest in Uttar Pradesh not identified; from revolution-news.com)

Spanish republicans demand “down with the moochocracy!”

Spain June 5 2014

Someone who lives in the US can’t get all high & mighty about much in politics but at least we don’t have feudalism. There’s a lot of wannabes but no actual lords & ladies & God forbid, kings or queens. So it’s really good to see somebody in Europe doing something about feudalism. Tens of thousands of people protested in several Spanish cities on Monday demanding a vote on whether to keep the moochocracy. It’s not certain why they didn’t just go ahead & bounce that useless institution but the squadrons of riot cops might have been a deterrent.

You wouldn’t think it possible to be more worthless than the British moochocracy, but Spain’s Juan Carlos & his progeny are sure trying to keep pace. Hapless Juan has been in power for 39 years & is credited with the transition from dictatorship under Francisco Franco to democracy & now back to dictatorship under the IMF & EU. As long as the welfare checks keep coming in, Juan doesn’t much care what form of government Spain has.

Worthless Juan abdicated & handed power to his son Felipe who at 46 appears to have done nothing with his life except yacht. Of course, he couldn’t hand power to his daughter since her & her husband are under investigation for corruption. You can’t be issuing royal edicts from a prison cell. That does show the superiority of Spanish feudalism over the English kind because the corruption of the English moochocrats is lauded in English media. It would be unthinkable to prosecute.

Felipe is no prize package–we’ll soon find that out–but he isn’t yet marked with the toxic miasma his father emits. This is the second abdication in Europe in just a year or so; last year, Betty of the Netherlands abdicated to her son, Willy. Some fools speculate Betty Windsor might soon abdicate to Chuckles, but not those who run the stock markets. They know stock markets would tremble & many might even collapse just at the suggestion. Chuckles will be sitting tight for quite a while.

This is an anti-monarchist protest in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol Square following Juan’s abdication. England take heed!

(Photo by Juan Medina/Reuters)

Hong Kong 2014 commemoration of Tiananmen massacre 1989

Hong Kong June 4 2014

This is the scene today in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park where an estimated 180,000 people gathered for the annual candlelight vigil commemorating the 25th anniversary of the crackdown in Tiananmen Square & repression of the democracy movement which engulfed all of China in 1989.

The article linked here says Victoria Park is the size of six football fields which may not say much to those outside the US but as you can see from the photos, it means mighty big.

The most inspiring thing about this photo is witnessing the power of the democracy movement to inspire younger generations. Like the US Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, it stands as a beacon to suffering humanity. The fact that the movement was violently repressed has not daunted the spirit of rebellion or the desire for human rights but continues to light the way in the annual candlelight vigil.

Our fullest solidarity & respect with the movement of 1989 & with the democracy movement today.

(Photo from business insider.com)