Archive for May, 2006

Indigenous Movements: Between Neoliberalism and Leftist Governments

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

After scoring resounding victories, the indigenous movements of South America are encountering new challenges, both on an institutional and state level, that they have not been able to answer. Expanding on the wide range of experiences and deepening the exchange between organizations appear to be some of the possible routes that lie ahead.

“Three times we have won and all three times we lost,” explains Pablo Davalos, Ecuadorian economist and treasurer of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE, for its Spanish initials). It is not a play on words, but rather the bitter conclusion that the continent’s most powerful indigenous movement has arrived at after a decade marked by major victories. It is the lesson learned from the three triumphs scored over the last decade: in 1998, when the indigenous uprising toppled the AbdalÓ Bucaram government; in 2000, when a vast popular indigenous insurrection forced President Jamil Mahuad to step down; and in 2002, when the CONAIE played a decisive role in the election victory of Lucio Gutiurrez.

Some of these debates came up in the Second Andean-Mesoamerican Conference, “The Indigenous Movement, Resistance, and the Alternative Project,” held from March 22-25 in the Bolivian cities of La Paz and El Alto. Academics and indigenous leaders from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru attended the conference and discussed the many problems facing movements in the new political context of the region. In spite of the heterogeneous nature of the situations, a few common themes prevailed over the course of the conference, in particular, the relationship between social movements and the State as a consequence of the recent emergence of progressive and leftist governments. At the heart of these debates lies the proposal of the Santa Fe Documents, drawn up by U.S. conservative strategists. The latest considers the indigenous a threat to be fought and neutralized, much as the earlier version warned of the dangers of liberation theology. The empire considers indigenous peoples one of the major problems affecting governance in the region. As subscribers to this assessment, the World Bank and other international organizations have begun financing projects to prevent the formation of collective indigenous actors.

Cochabamba’s Water War: The Start of Other Struggles

Doubts Arise Over Presence of Foreign Muslim Fighters in Somalia

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

An alliance of secular factional leaders battling Islamic militias for control of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, says that militant Muslim fighters from various countries have entered Somalia and are fighting alongside the militias. But, so far, there is no clear proof.

Israel tells Hamas leaders from East Jerusalem to quit party or leave city

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Israel last night issued an ultimatum to the four most senior Hamas politicians from East Jerusalem: leave the faction or leave the city.

The Interior Minister, Ronnie Bar-On, announced in a television interview that the Palestinian Authority Minister for Jerusalem Affairs and three other members elected to the Legislative Council in January will have their residency rights revoked unless they renounce Hamas membership.

The minister, Khaled abu Arafa, and the three backbenchers, Mohammed Abu Tir, Ahmed Abu Atoun and Mahmoud Totach, all have the blue identity cards issued by Israel to Palestinians in the Arab eastern sector of the city. “You will either resign or you won’t be with us,” Mr Bar-On said.

In the Village of Nowhere, a Fate Soon Sealed
NUAMAN, West Bank — For generations, first in caves hollowed from hillsides, then shepherds’ tents and simple stone houses, the Shawarwa and Darawi families thrived here amid pine windbreaks, olive orchards and flocks of sheep. On a hill of their own, they worked, married and raised children.

Jamal Darawi was born here in a weathered house in June 1967, the same month Israel triumphed in the Middle East war. In the conflict, Israel’s army seized East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan. Soon, the Israeli government drew a larger municipal boundary around Jerusalem, annexing the lands to the Jewish state, including Darawi’s home.

But Israel did not take the people of Nuaman. An Israeli military census right after the war registered families here as West Bank residents, even though their village fell inside Jerusalem’s new borders. As a result, the Israeli government has never offered them the right to live in the city, apply for Israeli citizenship or vote in Jerusalem, rights given to Palestinians in other annexed neighborhoods.

For many, it was a distant problem, and as the years passed on Nuaman’s single street, the residents did little about it. But now their lives in the village are threatened. Israel’s separation barrier is rising along the eastern edge of the village, sealing them inside the Jewish state.

Death toll from road accident in Afghanistan rises to 25

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

The death toll from a road accident involving a U.S. military convoy and Afghan civilians reached 25 on Monday.

The fatal accident, which took place in Sarai Shamali, some 10 km north of the Presidential Palace, also damaged 15 civilian vehicles, according to eyewitnesses.

Dozens others were also wounded in the accident.

Officials are yet to make any comment.

Mobs run riot in city seized by fury over US convoy collision
BLOODY riots flared across the Afghan capital yesterday as thousands marched in protest at the deaths of several passengers in a car involved in a collision with a US military convoy.
Security forces then reportedly shot dead demonstrators who had gathered at the accident site, sparking violent protest across the city. At least 14 people died and the Government introduced a night-time curfew.

Up to 2,000 people gathered in central Kabul, with groups marching on parliament, the presidential palace and Western missions, including the US and British embassies. Shops were looted and the offices of an aid agency ransacked. Protesters chanted ‘Death to America’ and burnt US flags as they fought running battles with police.

While chaos reigned in the capital, US bombers struck against Taleban positions in southern Helmand province, killing up to 50 people.

Five Canadian soldiers were wounded during a clash in the neighbouring province of Kandahar.

The day of unprecedented violence capped a fortnight of killing in which 500 people, mainly Taleban militants, are reported to have died.

Afghan parliament demands arrests after US crash

Iraq Poised to Become Main Iranian Ally

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

TEHRAN, Iran — To Iran’s west lies a natural ally and perhaps its most potent weapon in the international fray over its nuclear program. While Iran and Iraq were arch enemies during the rule of Saddam Hussein, all signs point to an increasingly robust relationship now that Shiites have achieved a dominant role in the Iraqi leadership.

It’s a bond that has yet to reach its potential- in large part because the U.S.-led invasion is responsible for Iraqi Shiites being at the top of the political heap for the first time in modern history. Iraqi Shiites are not looking the gift horse in the mouth.

But Iran and Iraq share a Shiite Muslim majority and deep cultural and historic ties, and Tehran’s influence over its neighbor is growing. Iran will likely try to use Iraq as a battleground if the United States punishes Tehran economically or militarily, analysts say.

Many key positions in the Iraqi government now are occupied by men who took refuge in Iran to avoid oppression by the Saddam’s former Sunni Muslim-dominated Baathist regime.

U.S. Moves to Weaken Iran
WASHINGTON The Bush administration, shunning pressure from allies for direct dialogue with Iran, is shifting toward a more confrontational stance and intensifying efforts to undercut the country’s ruling clerics.

U.S. officials have taken a series of steps to increase pressure on Iran, most recently creating new offices in the State Department and Pentagon specifically to bolster opposition to the Tehran government. In February, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked Congress for $75 million to supplement $10 million in funds to promote democracy, aid Iranian dissidents and expand the Voice of America’s Persian-language broadcasts beamed across the Persian Gulf from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

“We are more out of sync now with Iran than at any time since 1979,” said a State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I don’t think the time is right now for a dialogue. We seem to be moving closer toward a confrontational stance, versus a compromise stance.”

Although some observers note similarities in the Iran policy to the stance on Iraq in the lead-up to the war in that nation, officials emphasize that this time around, State Department diplomats rather than Pentagon war planners are in charge. Still, the campaign illustrates the administration’s hostility toward Iran’s rulers and raises the question of whether its ultimate goal is to curb Iran’s nuclear program or change the regime.

“The administration is trying to make regime change through democratization the policy, instead of making confrontation by military means the policy,” said Trita Parsi, a Middle East specialist at Johns Hopkins University who advocates direct U.S. talks with Tehran.

The administration’s efforts are taking shape on the second floor of the State Department, where a new Office of Iranian Affairs has been charged with leading the push to back Iranian dissidents more aggressively, boost support to democracy broadcasters and strengthen ties with exiles.

Nearby at the Pentagon, an Iranian directorate will work with the State Department office to undercut the government in Tehran.

Rice and other officials have publicly advocated steps to pressure the Iranian government. But by setting up the new offices, staffs and programs, the administration is institutionalizing its long-held antipathy toward Iran’s government.

The new offices are modest in size: the Pentagon’s directorate began with six full-time staff members. But they can draw on expertise throughout the government, providing access to potentially hundreds of specialists.

The State Department’s new Iranian Affairs office is headed by David Denehy, a longtime democracy specialist at the International Republican Institute, who will work under Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Elizabeth Cheney, daughter of the vice president.

Giant U.S. Embassy project dismays Iraqis

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

BAGHDAD — On the western bank of the Tigris River, scenes of intense activity rarely witnessed in Iraq are unfolding behind the fortified perimeter of the closely guarded Green Zone.

Trucks shuttle building materials to and fro. Cranes, at least a dozen of them, punch toward the sky. Concrete structures are beginning to take form. At a time when most Iraqis are enduring blackouts of up to 22 hours a day, the site is floodlighted by night so work can continue around the clock.

This is to be the new U.S. Embassy in Iraq, and it will be the biggest embassy in the world. It also is the biggest construction project under way in battered Baghdad, where the only other cranes rising from the skyline belong to Saddam Hussein’s abandoned project to build the world’s biggest mosque.

The irony is not lost on Mohammed Jasim, 48, a truck driver who was forced out of his home last month by sectarian violence and now is squatting in an abandoned building just across the river from the $592million embassy project.

“They could build houses, or they could bring security to Baghdad,” Jasim complained as he sat in the shade of a big tree on the riverbank. “But it’s clear they only came here for their own benefit because you can see how much money they are spending across the river.”

Though the site is an open secret, U.S. Embassy officials, currently based in Hussein’s former Republican Palace, are forbidden to discuss it.

The few details available are contained in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report. Scheduled for completion in June 2007, the 104-acre embassy compound, roughly the size of the Vatican, will resemble a mini-state, entirely independent from the outside world. It will generate its own power, pump its own sewage and draw its own water.

More U.S. troops move into Iraq

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

As violence escalates, top commander moves brigade from Kuwait to Anbar province, a hotbed for insurgent attacks.

Marines Haunted By Killings In Haditha
HANFORD, Calif. — Two Marines were severely traumatized after following orders to photograph corpses of unarmed Iraqi civilians whom members of their unit are suspected of killing, their families said Monday.

The parents of Lance Cpl. Andrew Wright, 20, and Lance Cpl. Roel Ryan Briones, 21, both members of a Marine unit based at Camp Pendleton, said their sons were sent into the western Iraqi city of Haditha to help remove the bodies of as many as two dozen men, women and children who were shot.

While there, the two were ordered to photograph the scene with personal cameras they happened to be carrying the day of the attack, the families told The Associated Press in separate interviews. Briones’ mother, Susie, said her son told her that he saw the bodies of 23 dead Iraqis that day.

The Iraq War-On Drugs
Wounded U.S. soldiers are being patched up and returned to battle before they are healed. The wounds in this case are to the psyche, caused by the trauma and horror that are as integral to war as guns and death.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, when ‘suck it up’ fails to snap a soldier out of depression or panic, the Army turns to drugs. ‘Soldiers I talked to were receiving bags of antidepressants and sleeping meds in Iraq, but not the trauma care they needed,’ says Steve Robinson, a Defense Department intelligence analyst during the Clinton administration.

Sometimes sleeping pills, antidepressants and tranquilizers are prescribed by qualified personnel. Sometimes not. Sgt. Georg Anderas Pogany told Salon that after he broke down in Iraq, his team sergeant told him ‘to pull himself together, gave him two Ambien, a prescription sleep aid, and ordered him to sleep.’

Other soldiers self-medicate. ‘We were so junked out on Valium, we had no emotions anymore,’ Iraq vet John Crawford told ‘Fresh Air’ host Terry Gross. He and others in his unit in Iraq became addicted to Valium.

Blair has been blinded by an imperialist illusion

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Britain has been asked to leave Iraq by the leader it helped to install. Only arrogance or myopia can explain its refusal.

…The hidden premise of Blair’s position is that British (and American) troops must by definition be a blessing to any nation they occupy. It is inconceivable that they could increase anarchy or that their departure might alleviate it. This arrogant assumption runs through every argument about Iraq at present. It is the last shred of imperialist illusion, held even by many who opposed the invasion. It is encapsulated in the brainless Tory proposition that in Iraq we must “finish what we started”.

US frustrates Swiss nuclear probe

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

A Swiss investigation into an international nuclear smuggling network is being hampered by a lack of cooperation from the United States.

Authorities in Bern say they asked US officials for judicial assistance a year ago but have yet to receive a reply.

Washington’s failure to respond to “multiple” Swiss appeals was revealed last week by former United Nations weapons inspector David Albright.

He told a US hearing into the nuclear trafficking ring run by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s atom bomb, that he found the lack of cooperation by the US “frankly embarrassing”.

“It is difficult to understand the actions of the US government. Its lack of assistance needlessly complicates this important investigation,” said Albright, who is president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.

Dollar plunges on Paulson appointment

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

The US dollar fell sharply on Tuesday as Hank Paulson, Goldman Sachs’ chief executive, was named as the new US Treasury secretary, replacing the increasingly pressurised John Snow.

Mr Paulson has extensive links with China and some saw him as potentially better equipped than his predecessor to encourage Beijing, and the wider emerging Asian bloc, to allow a faster appreciation of the renminbi in order to help reduce global economic imbalances.