The trial of Oskar Gröning and US military affiliations with Nazis

Oskar Gröning, a 93-year-old former SS guard at Auschwitz, went on trial in Germany yesterday, charged with being accessory to murder of at least 300,000 prisoners. Over a million people were murdered at Auschwitz, most of them Jewish & primarily in gas chambers. Fifty-five survivors & victims’ relatives are plaintiffs in the case.

Gröning does not deny witnessing the mass killings; in fact, he came to prominence refuting holocaust deniers, saying “I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria. I saw the open fires. I was on the ramp when the selections [for the gas chambers] took place.” He didn’t march them to their deaths in the gas chambers but prosecutors claim he accounted for their confiscated money & belongings. Close enough to the crime for prosecution.

Putting aside the legal difficulties of prosecuting him or the value of sticking a man on the threshold of death in prison, this case exposes the failure to prosecute Nazis who worked at concentration camps or served fascism in other capacities. One historian claims only 49 of 6,500 SS members who worked at Auschwitz were ever convicted & most sources blame the German judiciary for that. Of course Germany was occupied after the war & the political, economic, & legal affairs of the country were administered by the US, British, French, & Soviet armies.

The US occupation would give us a clue as to why so many Nazis walked away scot-free. It’s an open secret & an absolute abomination that the US military hired hundreds of Nazi scientists & doctors. Many of them were the psychos involved in human experimentation, responsible for developing chemical & biological warfare, the ones who proposed putting nuclear bombs on rockets, & guilty of war crimes. Does this partially explain affinities between Nazi ideology, the Pentagon & US militarism?

The US military spirited about 1,600 Nazis out of Germany, many with false papers, & gave them US citizenship. They put Nazis like Wernher von Braun, a leading figure in the Nazi rocket program, in charge of NASA, the new US space program. Herr von Braun got all sorts of accolades in his life, including from the Nazi regime & the president of the US.

Old man or not, Gröning probably should spend time in jail but there are a whole raft of others who should be exposed even if they’re too dead to prosecute. Eisenhower & Truman would be first among them.

There is a really cheery side to the prosecution of Gröning–who is two years older than Henry Kissinger. Time may not yet have run out to corner that warty old decrepit war monster & bring him to justice. The question of who will have prosecutorial jurisdiction out of the millions clamoring for justice remains open.

Unaccompanied children are the new face of immigration

Syrian refugee in Istanbul (Bulent Kilic:AFP:Getty) Apr 20 2015

It has long been observed on immigration routes across the globe that unaccompanied children are a massively growing part of immigration. In the past few years on the US southern border, about 70,000 unaccompanied children (mostly teens but some as young as five) were apprehended annually by border patrol & confined to detention centers. About the same number of families with children were apprehended. That means unaccompanied children represent nearly a quarter of immigrants apprehended trying to enter the US.

The same situation prevails on other immigration routes. On the Zimbabwe to South Africa route, 20 percent of undocumented immigrants are unaccompanied children. As in the US, those apprehended are kept in detention centers or deported. There are no reliable estimates of the percentage or numbers of unaccompanied children coming from the Middle East & war zones like Syria, Iraq, & Afghanistan except the observation that they are coming by the thousands & seeking asylum. These are not trafficked children, which is another very serious problem, but they do face extreme abuse & violence along the way.

The UN & refugee agencies have parsed immigration status into categories of legitimacy from those seeking asylum from war & civil conflict to “economic immigrants.” This malignant legal conceit is a way to exclude tens of thousands from sanctuary. But these legal maneuvers are falling apart & proving useless in the face of US-NATO wars & military interventions. How the hell can you tell an Afghan adolescent he has to be deported since he’s only an economic immigrant because US-NATO have emancipated Afghanistan? Women even have a nail salon there now. And there’s work in the brick factories & coal mines for kids.

If anyone fits the definition of asylum seekers it would be children & anyone coming from a war zone. But to show just how little authority those legal parsings have, the European Union (EU) & its naval goon squad Frontex pay no heed whatsoever & let everybody drown or deport those who don’t.

This Syrian child, who surely fits the image of the “wretched of the earth,” is begging on the street of Istanbul. He’s an adolescent, not yet a teen, & the EU doesn’t see this as a massive humanitarian crisis but rather as a policing problem!? The horrific accidents of the past several days are exposing the EU & Frontex as utterly barbaric & rotten to the core.

Immigration is a human right! Sanctuary is an ancient commitment of civilized people. If the EU isn’t up to it, then it’s time to take them down. Nothing trumps human rights. An injury to one of our little brothers & sisters is an injury to all.

(Photo by Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

Please sign petition to European Union demanding emergency search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea

African baby immigrant (Alessandra Tarantino:AP) Apr 21 2015

This infant is one of the 100 immigrants, including 28 children, rescued Sunday from the boat capsize. There’s no indication either of her/his parents were among the rescued. Media reports 700 drowned but rescued immigrants claim there were 950 people on the boat so the actual death toll is quite a bit higher & a crime of catastrophic proportions. And it was not the only incident in the past few days. They’re still dragging bodies out of the water near the Greek island of Rhodes where a boat capsized.

European Union (EU) immigration policy (which polices the borders & does not rescue) is being exposed as barbaric & is coming under international fire. Media is helping it save face by blaming smugglers & traffickers, who are not without culpability, but the real problem is racist, xenophobic immigration policies. They’ve arrested two smugglers implicated in the recent incident but they haven’t yet hauled in any EU officials, without whom a prosecution would be incomplete.

Please sign & share this petition to the EU demanding emergency search & rescue operations on the Mediterranean Sea:…

(Photo by Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

“Do You Hear The People Sing?”

The gruesome news of 1,100 drowned immigrants in just one week seems overwhelming. They were young & old, men, women, & children with dreams & possibilities now rendered irrelevant while their families grieve.

In writing a post on Spanish protests against the Gag Act I read of activists who held a flash mob at the parliament singing “Do You Hear The People Sing” from the ending of Les Miserables & I went to listen to it again.

It reminded me of 1974 when I took a train from Paris to witness the revolution against dictatorship in Portugal. I traveled with immigrants returning home for vacation (who taught me to ride outside the train crossing the Pyrenees & shared their food with me since I heard 12 hours when the ticket seller said it was 32 hours to Lisbon). Through them I met activists in the revolution including African activists from the former colonies. Every day we joined massive protests. It was extraordinary to witness a social revolution. That it’s incomplete is another matter but it was unforgettable to see human beings take their destinies into their own hands.

Most renditions of “Do You Hear The People Sing” are quite machista & martial, leaving women out when women have always been in the forefront of social justice–as they are among the first victims of tyranny. But an anthem of social revolt suits my dark mood today, regardless of this misrepresentation.

What happens in Spain won’t stay in Spain: democracy under attack

Spain hologram protest (QMS Comunicacion:AFP:Getty Images) Apr 20 2015

That PR ditty about “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” has zilch value when it comes to politics & international solidarity. This is an era of collaboration between ruling elites & what happens in one country is likely to happen in others. So the draconian reforms in two pieces of Spanish legislation should be of acute concern to activists everywhere. The proposed reforms to the Criminal Code & the Law on Public Security are a broadside assault on civil liberties including freedom of speech & assembly, due process, immigrant rights, & will introduce new definitions of terrorism that outlaw comments on social media which could be perceived as inciting others to violent acts.

It isn’t irrelevant that a central leader in the Popular Party voting in these “reforms” is a figure from Generalissimo Franco’s regime who should have been prosecuted instead of allowed to run free. What the Citizen Safety Law, denounced as the “Gag Act,” does is criminalize protest at a time when they are increasing in opposition to government austerity measures imposed by the IMF-EU.

The Gag Act (voted in last December & scheduled to go into affect July 1st)) will also legalize immediate expulsion without due process of immigrants & refugees from the North African enclaves of Ceuta & Melilla in violation of international human rights & refugee law. Linking civil liberties to immigration rights might not be the smartest maneuver the Spanish elite ever pulled because the destiny of immigrants is now linked to the future of democracy in Spain rather than pitted against each other. For immigration & human rights activists that makes political organizing much more coordinated because in every way democracy & immigrant rights form an indissoluble nexus. It’s no mere coincidence, for example, that attacks on immigrants (& on Black youth) in the US required shedding the US Bill of Rights. Obama signed the NDAA soon after, allowing indefinite detention of Americans without charges, just cause, or due process.

One form of protest to dramatize the meaning of the Gag Act was organized by a collective of activists from over 100 organizations. Using special technology they produced a virtual hologram protest outside the Spanish parliament in Madrid when under the Gag Act an actual protest would mean a fine of up to 30,000 euros (US$31,800). Organizers of such protests could be fined up to 600,000 euros ($634,100). Not to be daunted by repression & riot cops, in-person protests have been ongoing in over 30 different Spanish cities since the law was passed.

Our fullest solidarity with the democracy movement in Spain. Their struggle has everything to do with democratic rights around the world. May they kick tyranny, austerity, & repression from Iberia to the deepest levels of hell. The anti-fascist slogan of the Spanish Civil War was “No pasarán” meaning “They shall not pass.” That is again the battle cry of freedom.

(Photo of holographic protest by QMS Comunicacion/AFP/Getty Images)

Xenophobic violence in South Africa

South Africa immigrants ( Mujahid Safodien:AFP:Getty Images) Apr 20 2015

South Africa, with a population of about 50 million, has an estimated 5 million immigrants from African countries including Somalia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe & Malawi, & including China & Pakistan. Many own shops or hawk goods on street corners & in markets.

Periodic outbreaks of anti-immigrant violence are attributed to high unemployment, widespread poverty & glaring social inequality. Some report the inequality is the worst in the world even after the end of apartheid but that ignominy is hard to gage in a world increasingly based on massive inequality everywhere. The plunge to the bottom is a competitive race & signals the need to get rid of neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism.

The recent outbreak of xenophobic violence in several South African cities is linked to inflammatory comments by Goodwill Zwelithini, king of the Zulu nation, & by Edward Zuma, son of South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma, who supported Zwelithini’s comments & attributed the drug trade, gun violence, criminality, & moral decay to immigrants.

Nativist, xenophobic rhetoric & scapegoating immigrants is a divide & conquer strategy used by all regimes to deflect from systemic culpability for inequality & human misery. It may resonate in unique ways in South African society because of the history of apartheid but the only way to turn back the tsunamis of ethnocentrism & social division are to stand against it with power–& that is exactly what progressive forces in South Africa are doing with several protests in defense of immigrants.

The history of immigration policy around the world shows clearly that regimes collaborate in what can loosely be called “theorizing” policies & coordinating practices. In a world with a human history based on human migration, at some point capitalists realized what a useful & malignant purpose whipping up xenophobia could play in maintaining social control. If working people around the world don’t smarten up & defy this social engineering of conflict between us, it will prove our undoing. And the only way to smarten up is to do what South African activists are doing: hit the pavements in large numbers in a massive show of power. United we stand; divided we’re taken out like sitting ducks.

Photo is a tent at a refugee camp for immigrants fleeing the recent wave of violence against them in Primrose, South Africa. We stand in solidarity with them.

(Photo by Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty Images)

Immigration to Greece: will SYRIZA choose Frontex or human rights?

Lesbos immigrants ( Angelos Tzortzinis:AFP:Getty Images) Apr 20 2015

Increasingly, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Rio Grande River along the southern US border with Mexico, we are seeing children as the face of immigration. These anxious little ones are in Lesvos, Greece waiting to board a ship to Athens. Since Greece, as the first phalanx of European immigration, sealed up the land border with Turkey by building a barrier wall & enforced patrols, the undocumented fleeing war & poverty have been forced to take the treacherous sea route via the Greek islands.

SYRIZA came to power promising a more humane immigration policy but the European Union (EU) is certainly putting the screws on them to maintain the racist, xenophobic policies of the former regime. If the EU forces Greeks to choose between Frontex & human rights, it provides yet more compelling evidence the EU has outlasted its purpose on this planet.

Dump the EU! Dismantle Frontex! Immigration is a human right! Open the borders!

(Photo by Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images)

More European Union and Frontex mass murder on the Mediterranean Sea

African immigrants in Libya (Yaseen Kanuni for the Guardian) Apr 20 2015

The news that 700 African immigrants who set off from Libya in a rickety fishing boat died in a capsize comes just days after the news that 400 drowned on the same route, considered the most dangerous immigration route in the world. So far this year already 1,600 African immigrants have died on that route. What will it take to charge the European Union (EU) & Frontex (the EU’s border control agency) with criminal negligence & mass murder? Frontex operates a high-tech surveillance system with live satellite imagery & drone surveillance for close-ups & have already reported 500,000 immigrants are in Libya waiting transport to the Italian island of Lampedusa. But they refuse to do search & rescue in defiance of maritime law & instead patrol the European coast to intercept immigrants.

It has to be said without hesitation that this is only allowed to continue because the immigrants are mostly black Africans. If they were white people, the entire world would be up in arms bellowing thunderously like bull elephants for the EU to send boats to get them safely across the Mediterranean. This is where you understand the malignancy, utter social debasement, & political utility of racism.

It is crystal clear the EU will not change its murderous immigration policy without massive opposition across Europe in defense of immigration rights. It is not presumptuous to suggest human rights activists across Europe hit the streets with placards demanding emergency search & rescue off the coast of Libya (& elsewhere) & asylum for every single immigrant.

Immigration is a human right! Granting asylum to refugees is an ancient humanitarian practice the EU cannot be allowed to flip off. Abolish Frontex! Dump the EU! Open the damn borders!

(Photo of immigration detention center in Libya by Yaseen Kanuni for the Guardian)

Palestinian solidarity and the political degeneration of the left

Gaza ( Thomas Coex:AFP:Getty) Apr 18 2015

As Palestinian solidarity grows massive with the economic & cultural boycott of Israel, the small radical groups that used to stand almost alone in defense of Palestine have begun to retreat into the mysticism & kookiness of Zionism. The theoretical & political degeneration of the left is a process not yet sufficiently evaluated. But what do you bet some were just whack-jobs that are only happy when they feel left out? You could call them the happy misfits.

One such character now calls Palestinian solidarity an “antisemitic Arab chauvinist position.” Wow is that a mouthful! And it doesn’t mean a damn thing when you look at the rubble that is Gaza; when you consider Palestinian prisoners, including children, being tortured in the Israeli gulag; when you witness Zionist settlers from all over Kingdom Come building high-rise tenements on Palestinian farm lands in the West Bank. The only thing it signifies is political corruption & shame.

Take a look at this photo of two little girls in Gaza City walking through the Shejaiya neighborhood destroyed by Israeli bombers last summer. According to a UN report Israel killed more Palestinians in 2014 than in any other year since the occupation of the West Bank & Gaza in 1967. Now if you were to describe this carnage would you think “antisemitic Arab chauvinism” or would you have the decency to call it what it is: Israeli ethnic cleansing?

(Photo by Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty)

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