Archive | February 27th, 2015

FIRST PHOTO (albeit an old one) of Islamic State beheader, ‘Jihadi John’


Mohammed Emwazi has been identified as Islamic State chief beheader ‘Jihadi John’ believed to have beheaded several American, British, and Japanese hostages. Smiling at the camera with his church school friends, one wouldn’t think this middle-class Muslim schoolboy would grow up to become the merciless terrorist butcher ‘Jihadi John.’


UK Daily Mail  Arriving in Britain when he was six years old, Kuwaiti-born Mohammed Emwazi appeared to embrace British life, playing football in the affluent streets of West London while supporting Manchester United. Neighbours recalled a polite, quietly spoken boy who was studious at his Church of England school, where he was the only Muslim pupil in his class.

The son of a Kuwaiti minicab driver, young Emwazi arrived in Britain speaking only a few words of English, and appeared more interested in football than in Islam. He went to mosque with his family, who spoke Arabic to each other, but wore Western clothing and became popular with his British classmates at St Mary Magdalene Church of England primary school in Maida Vale, West London.

JIHADI JOHN'S family Council House

JIHADI JOHN’S family’s Council Home

Former schoolmates were yesterday struggling to believe that the quiet boy they knew had been unmasked as the world’s most notorious terrorist. But in a school yearbook from when he was 10, Emwazi lists his favourite computer game as shooting game “Duke Nukem: Time To Kill” and his favourite book as “How To Kill A Monster” from the popular children’s Goosebumps series.

His role as Islamic State’s sadistic butcher was a far cry from the football-mad schoolboy who moved to Britain from Kuwait with his parents in 1993. Given a council flat overlooking the Regents Canal in the exclusive Little Venice area of West London, his father found work as a minicab and delivery van driver while mother stayed at home with Mohammed and his two younger sisters now 25 and 23.

JIHADI JOHN about to behead a victim

JIHADI JOHN about to behead a victim

Former classmates at St Mary Magdalene said Emwazi had got into occasional fights after school assemblies, but said he was usually reserved and dedicated to his religion. One former classmate said: ‘It was a Church of England school and he was the only Muslim in our class. One time we had an RE lesson and he got up and talked about his religion.

‘He wrote Arabic on the board to show us what it looked like and how it went in the other direction. He showed us a religious text and spoke about what his religion was about. ‘That was when we were eight or nine. He mentioned fasting. His English wasn’t very good throughout primary school. He could only say a few words at first – like his name and where he was from. ‘He wasn’t so good in school, he was the bottom half of the class, but he was one of the sporty guys.

JIHADI JOHN Beheading Victims from US, UK, JAPAN

JIHADI JOHN Beheading Victims from US, UK, JAPAN

After finishing primary school in 1999, young Mohammed moved to Quintin Kynaston Community Academy, in St John’s Wood. Once there, he became more observant of his religion and began wearing more traditional Islamic dress, and his sisters began to wear the hijab.



Teachers said Mohammed was still ‘diligent, hard-working…everything you would want a student to be’ and neighbours said he was ‘like any other teenager’. It was only after he won a place studying computing at the University of Westminster that his behaviour began to change.

The university has since been linked with several proponents of radical Islam, and Emwazi appeared to have fallen under their sway.  He began attending different mosques and was known to associate with Bilal el-Berjawi, who was killed by a drone strike in Somalia three years ago.



In August 2009, after his graduation, Emwazi flew to Tanzania in East Africa with friends and told authorities they were going on a wildlife safari. But the group was refused entry and put on a plane to the Netherlands, where Emwazi later claimed he was questioned by an MI5 agent called Nick.



The British officer accused him of planning to travel to Somalia to join the militant group Al Shabaab, he said, and said MI5 had been watching him. Emwazi denied the accusation – bragging that he would not take a designer Rocawear sweater in his luggage if he was planning to join Somalian rebels.



In emails to the campaign group Cage, Emwazi said: ‘He [Nick] knew everything about me; where I lived, what I did, the people I hanged around with.’ ‘Nick’ then tried to recruit the 21-year-old, Emwazi claimed, and threatened him when he refused to cooperate. Emwazi said the officer told him: ‘You’re going to have a lot of trouble…You’re going to be known…You’re going to be followed…Life will be harder for you.’

KENJI GOTO holding up photo of fellow Japanese hostage, HARUNA YUKAWA, who was beheaded the other day

KENJI GOTO holding up photo of fellow Japanese hostage, HARUNA YUKAWA, who was beheaded the other day

Meanwhile, two British trainee medics who met Jihadi John in Syria said he had a fearless ‘nothing to lose’ attitude and was always ready for war. Speaking anonymously to ITV, they said the killer was an ‘adrenaline junkie’, they said he went to fight for the al-Nusra front, an Al Qaeda-linked jihadist group in Syria, before moving to ISIS to further his ambitions.



The younger brother of Mohammed Emwazi is a small-time criminal with hardline and outspoken Islamist views.  It emerged yesterday that the 21-year-old from London follows a radical Muslim cleric – while his younger sister is a media student who once made a short film about a ‘hooded serial killer’. Emwazi’s brother – whom the Mail had decided not to name – is a member of the Woolwich Dawah group, who once harboured the killers of Lee Rigby.

Posted in Syria, UK1 Comment




00Kafr Naasij:  The Syrian Army has confirmed the death of a major Jordanian terrorist field commander.  He was known as “Abu ‘Umar Mukhtaar” (a reference to the laurelled hero of Libya’s insurrection against Italy’s occupation). His id is pending.  A movie was made about the life of the principled hero of Libya’s revolt. It was produced by Mustafa Al-‘Aqqad, a Syrian educated at UCLA’s film school and who claimed to have been an associate of Sam Peckinpah.  The movie starred Anthony Quinn (of course) in the title role with Oliver Reed playing his nemesis.

Al-Zirqaan Hatcheries in Tal-‘Antar:  The SAA killed 7 Nusra rodents and arrested 3. I have no names.

Al-Karak Quarter:  At the Katakeet Building at the Umm Al-Daraj Well, the SAA killed another major Nusra field commander on February 24, 2015:

Abu Muhammad Al-Sharhooli (Id pending)

‘Itmaan:  At the north entrance to the city of Der’ah, the SAA killed these cockroaches:

As’ad Qarqoor

Muhammad Abu-Fahd

Jihaad Sa’ab

Another 5 were not identified.

West Al-Ghaariyya:  A bus loaded with rodents was completely destroyed along with an accompanying pickup with a 23mm cannon aboard.  Total dead, everybody at 18.  A real mess for the vermin.

Zimreen:  A convoy of vans and pickups coming out of Jordan was turned into molten metal by a combination of aircraft and artillery.  The SAA is becoming incredibly adept at using its ground artillery.  Lots of practice.

More fighting reported here: ‘Aqrabaa, Umm Al-Awsaj area, Tal Qareen, Simleen

The rat groups, especially Nusra, are losing their best commanders in firefights and to SAAF strafing.  It is hard to imagine how the organization can continue without foreign recruits to take the place of dead Syrian rat leaders.  Some of them, like Jamal Ma’roof, are in Turkey applying for asylum in Australia or Paraguay.  Others are missing in action – probably rotting in the fields. 


Sharmine Narwani sent me this by email. It will gladden your hearts to know Hizbollah is able to knock down airplanes:

John Esq. sends us this uplifting video of the SAA blowing a bulldozer into smithereens with a Kornet:

Almasdar News published this article about the traitor Al-Harmoosh and the principled Turkish agent who could not abide helping mass murderers.  I was told that Al-Harmoosh was executed by firing squad in Qatana: Thanks, Cataro

More scenes of rat destruction courtesy of John Esq.


Uruguay in Haiti: The poorest president of a mercenary army?

By Fernando Moyano
 Meeting with H.E. Mr. José Mujica, President of the Republic, (President’s Office – 11th floor Torre Ejecutiva)

Outgoing Uruguayan President José Mujica with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in Montevideo in June 2011. Credit: Evan Schneider/UN Photo

“Uruguayans participate with 13% to 15% of our armed forces in peace missions. For years and years, we have always accepted the places assigned to us. But however you decide and allocate resources, do not consider us to be there just to serve coffee.

Uruguayan President José Mujica, United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2013.

Ten years ago, a leftist party came to power for the first time in Uruguay, the Frente Amplio (Broad Front). Five years ago, the party won again, and it has recently won for the third time. In all three elections, the Frente Amplio (FA) won an absolute parliamentary majority. José Mujica (“Pepe”), the president elected five years ago, is stepping down to make way for his FA successor, Tabaré Vázquez.

Uruguayan UN soldiers in Port-au-Prince during a food distribution in 2010. Increasingly, Uruguay has exported its soldiers as "political goods" to assist "democratic colonialism." Credit: Marco Dormino/UN Photo

Uruguayan UN soldiers in Port-au-Prince during a food distribution in 2010. Increasingly, Uruguay has exported its soldiers as “political goods” to assist “democratic colonialism.” Credit: Marco Dormino/UN Photo

Mujica has been termed, “the poorest president in the world.” He drives a 1967 Volkswagon Beetle, is a former guerrilla and was a political prisoner of the civilian/military dictatorships that ruled Uruguay from 1973 to 1985. His outgoing government has legalized marijuana, abortion rights and gay marriage and has welcomed refugees from Syria as well as six foreign prisoners from the US gulag in Guantanamo, Cuba.

Mujica donates his salary to a voluntary plan for housing construction by a militant labor association of workers. The Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica is making a film about him titled The Last Hero. But there is another side.

Uruguay and the phenomenon of UN military missions

For 10 years, Uruguay has maintained troops in Haiti as part of the United Nations police and military occupation force known as MINUSTAH (1)
Uruguay not only participates in MINUSTAH, it is the second-largest component of the force, by numbers, after Brazil.

Latin American countries are a key pillar of this occupation, contributing about half of its foot soldiers. The Latin American participants in MINUSTAH contribute an average of 10 soldiers per one million inhabitants. But at the peak of its participation, Uruguay, a country of 3.4 million, had 330 soldiers per million of its population!

UN “peacekeeping missions” are becoming ever more clearly the “colonialist screen” that was denounced long ago by Patricio Lumumba, the first, post-colonial leader of Congo. He was assassinated in January 1961, only eight months after being elected prime minister of that country of fabulous natural wealth.

These missions are not neutral forces. They typically support one side against another in times of political and social conflict with imperialism or its local representatives. This was the case in Congo in 1960-61 and it is the case today in Haiti and more recently in Mali. Their function is not “peace” but, rather, to maintain imperial order in points of disturbance on the global, capitalist periphery.

“Peacekeeping” missions of the UN Security Council have a twofold function. One, they are shrouded in the legitimacy of the UN name, and they assist the imperialist powers from becoming overextended in their military efforts to maintain their world order. They also confer a seeming legality to the maintenance of an imperialist order of permanent war. The United States is the prime beneficiary of this service.

Haiti is a special case. There was no armed conflict there in 2004, when MINUSTAH was established (in June of that year). There has been no armed conflict for the 10-plus years of MINUSTAH’s presence. But the “possibility” of violence is used as a convenient pretext for intervention and containment by military means against an eminently political and social conflict.

This aspect of Uruguayan foreign policy—enthusiastic participation in foreign military adventures—requires some explanation.

On the one hand, in common with other leftist Latin American governments participating in MINUSTAH, the government in Uruguay has not broken with imperialism. It and other soft-left governments in Latin America today, including Brazil and Argentina, are still beholden to capitalism. One expression of this is their participation in the occupation of Haiti.

Even Bolivia and Ecuador have participated in MINUSTAH, although with smaller forces compared to others. Ecuador has recently withdrawn from the force, but its military base in Haiti was transferred to the authoritarian government of Haitian President Michel Martelly, and in 2013, Ecuador provided training to some 40 Haitian paramilitaries, whom Haitians fear will form the nucleus of a revived Haitian army. The reviled, human rights-violating former army was disbanded in 1995 by the pacifist president of the day, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay have played major roles in MINUSTAH. Chile joined with the United States, Canada and France in landing troops in March 2004 to consolidate the violent overthrow of Aristide, then serving his second, elected term as president. Brazil uses these missions to train its troops in military control of its civilian population. For several years, the Brazilian army has militarily occupied the favelas (poor districts) of Rio de Janeiro. The World Cup tournament of 2014 prompted the extension of that occupation to other cities in Brazil.

This contrasts with the attitude of Cuba and Venezuela, which have no military presence in Haiti but, instead, have provided very substantial humanitarian assistance, before and after the devastating earthquake in 2010. Cuba has extensive medical brigades in Haiti and has also assisted with agriculture, fishing and road construction. Venezuela has also assisted with construction and is a key energy supplier. These two countries operate without military support from MINUSTAH, thus refuting the claims of other foreign governments, particularly those of Europe and North America, that armed protection from the Haitian people is required for large aid efforts.

Why Uruguay?

The Mujica period in Uruguay has been characterized by a deepening of the capitalist, extractive economic model and a continual search for foreign, direct investment. The accompanying, mercenary foreign policy is not new. What is new, for several decades now, is the degree to which the military institution and its wishes shape that foreign policy.

For geographic and historical reasons, the Uruguayan bourgeoisie is weaker than others in the region. It has always been drawn toward close ties with whatever empire is dominant. That is an historical constant.

In an earlier era, Uruguay exported agricultural products needed by English industry. But in the Yankee era, the United States does not need or desire such products. Increasingly, Uruguay has resorted to the export of “political goods” that can assist “democratic colonialism.” That is today’s “Product of Uruguay” commercial stamp.

To understand further the new militaristic aspect of Uruguayan foreign policy, it is necessary to understand the historical role of the military in this country.

Uruguay is a small country without great resources. It is surrounded by much larger, friendly countries. Its only borders are with Argentina and Brazil. It has no national conflict hypothesis, no history of wars and no need for armed forces for territorial defense. In any event, armed forces would be useless in the case of real war with its much larger neighbors.

But this small country, pacifist and without enemies, is one of the most militarized in Latin America. Its army counts eight soldiers per 1,000 inhabitants, triple the proportions of Argentina and Brazil.

The bloated and useless army has played a vital role historically in intimidating and deterring social rebellion, despite seeming to be much more passive than elsewhere on the continent. The system of social domination in Uruguay cannot run without the army. This is the counterpoint to democratic political rule in Uruguay—what is termed the “buffer society.” (2)

But the cost of the armed forces is a heavy burden on the government’s budget. As armaments become outmoded, it is very costly to modernize them. Participation in “peacekeeping” abroad is a way to share these costs with the imperialist world system, by providing a mercenary police service as a commodity. It also promotes an international image of a country committed to world peace, all the while obtaining direct financial benefits and indirect political ones from militarism.

The full scale (and cost) of Uruguay’s overseas missions includes the soldiers who are serving, those preparing to replace them, and returnees who are in recovery. To this must also be added the permanent staff of logistics services and again, their replacement and recovery. Fully 40 percent of the armed force is thus engaged at any one time. Ninety percent of Uruguay’s armed forces have passed through a foreign mission at some time.

Uruguay has outsourced its armed forces to the point where they would not be present for the country should a real war arise.

The country depends on its foreign roles even to pay the salaries of its soldiers. It receives $50 million per year for the missions in which it participates, including $18 million for Haiti. Eleven million of that pays for salaries; the remainder is supposed to pay for ammunition and equipment maintenance. It’s an inexpensive army, but the costs of maintaining it are inflated by corruption in the spending of its resources. In one renowned case, it cost more to sail two naval vessels to Haiti than the cost of the vessels themselves. There have been several prosecutions of military officials, but the exact degree of corruption and diversion of funds by officials is difficult to quantify.

Uruguay must purchase its own weapons and equipment. The UN pays for the maintenance of equipment during its time in operation. The remainder of the revenue Uruguay earns is used by the Ministry of Defense, whose budget is about $300 million. A Uruguayan soldier earns $400 per month; if he goes abroad on a mission, he earns a total of $1,000 thanks to the stipend paid by the UN. The financial incentive for soldiers to volunteer abroad is thus very considerable. An added incentive is the right to travel to Europe or North America on UN-issued visas.

Military officers, who already earn very high salaries, pensions and additional funds, also boost their salaries when they go on missions. They are already an inflated, upper segment of an inflated army.

It is shameful to hear arguments that have been made by Frente Amplio parliamentarians or senators that participation by Uruguayan soldiers in UN missions allows the soldiers to then buy a small house. Or worse, they argue that missions provide opportunities in actual combat, conveniently overlooking who it is (this is, local populations) that are killed or injured by such “opportunities.”

Haiti threatens a good thing

This comfortable business in foreign military missions has always been challenged by the MINUSTAH mission in Haiti for a host of reasons:

• The Haitian people have consistently rejected foreign occupation of their country.

• The government of President Martelly is increasingly taking shape as a dictatorship.

• The Uruguayan social organizations, including the national trade union center, have always demanded complete and immediate withdrawal of Uruguayan troops from Haiti. Each year, Parliament must approve the extension of Uruguay’s participation in MINUSTAH (the Security Council itself must approve the mission in a vote each year). In these annual votes, the Frente Amplio has imposed a military discipline on its parliamentary bloc (the notorious, “hand in a cast” votes). (3)

This has led to the resignation of three FA deputies in the recent period, who refused out of principle, to vote for keeping troops in Haiti. This is the only issue in the FA over which internal differences have come to such a point. (4)

• On top of all this, Uruguayan forces in Haiti have displayed the worst forms of conduct. There has been corruption in military purchases and ineptitude of military aviators, causing a crash with fatal consequences (the ministry of defense falsified the record of flying hours of pilots serving in Haiti to have their credentials accepted by the UN). The whole world viewed on the internet the scandalous images of Uruguayan soldiers anally raping a young Haitian at a Uruguayan naval base in Haiti. That has turned out to be the lasting image of Uruguay in Haiti.

Faced with all these difficulties, the Mujica government is attempting an intermediate solution. It is conducting a gradual withdrawal, in stages, already completed in part. From its peak of 1,100 soldiers, the number is now 240. To deal with the increasingly embarrassing evidence of the authoritarian drift of the government of Martelly, Uruguay is joining with other foreign powers to pressure Martelly into an agreement with the political opposition in Haiti for the holding of elections to the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. The electoral mandates of deputies and senators have expired, and Martelly threatens to rule by decree.

Uruguayan Foreign Minister Luis Almagro has virtually extorted Martelly with the threat of immediate withdrawal of the Uruguayan troops if the political deadlock is not solved, a rather unusual diplomatic style for a small country, to say the least. Meanwhile, President Mujica has stated emphatically that Uruguay “will not be a praetorian guard of a dictatorship.”

Uruguayans who are truly anti-colonialist do not agree with any “imposition of liberty” on Haiti from abroad. They are demanding unconditional and unilateral withdrawal of troops. But even if we treat the gestures of Mujica and Almagro as signs of good intention, these have failed. Why? Because Martelly does not govern Haiti.

Martelly and his government are nothing more than Yankee puppets. What’s more, they have lost control of the situation. They no longer have anything to offer to Haitians short of Martelly’s resignation. This is what the Haitian people are now demanding in street protests and in other forms of struggle, day after day.

Prospects for Haiti, for MINUSTAH, and for Uruguay’s role

So what is happening in Haiti? There is no agreement between the government and the political opposition. The Parliament [Senate] is no longer functional because there have been no elections as the mandates of senators and deputies expired. Martelly’s government now rules by decree as [is] a dictatorship; the people are demanding his resignation as well as the departure of foreign occupation troops. Popular mobilizations are growing.

In Uruguay, Mujica’s government now faces a very big dilemma: to act as a praetorian guard of a dictatorship, or use the law approved by Parliament in December (proposed by Mujica himself) which contains the option of a complete withdrawal of the troops.

Mujica’s government will end at end of February. His successor Tabaré Vázquez, also FA, will return to the presidency, having served from 2005-10. He wants a political rapprochement with the United States. The situation in Haiti has provoked internal tension and debate in the government.

There is still no Uruguayan decision on withdrawal from Haiti. The government is “watching” to see if a dictatorship becomes installed in Haiti or whether this can be averted.

Defense Minister Fernandez Huidobro defends the position of keeping the troops. Like Mujica, he is a former guerrilla of the Tupamaros movement. But in the early 1970s, after he was captured and imprisoned and while the Tupamaros were still operating under the command of its legendary founder Raul Sendic, Huidobro began negotiations with the military. He said he wanted the military government to adopt a “nationalist agenda” and accord better treatment of prisoners. In exchange, he would advocate that the guerillas give up their arms. No accord materialized, and Huidobro’s efforts served to camouflage the ongoing military dictatorship.

Today, Huidobro is a strong supporter of maintaining the status quo with the military, including leaving its privileges untouched and not to lift the impunity it was granted for the crimes of the military dictatorships of the 1970s and 80s. There are only a half dozen military officials who were convicted for past crimes, and they are residing in a luxurious “VIP prison” built with funds remaining from overseas “missions.”Huidobro (and also Mujica) wants them freed in deference to their advanced age.

There are at least 400 military personnel implicated in past torture and murders who remain unpunished. Unlike the luxurious conditions of genocidal military officers, overcrowding of common prisoners in Uruguay’s prisons is a serious problem that has been reported by the UN’s special rapporteur against torture.

Huidobro has just been through a bruising controversy with human rights organizations who accuse him of obstruction of justice by not providing information files. A recent report of the International Commission of Jurists (an office of the UN) says the same.

Huidobro’s argument in favor of MINUSTAH is that it is preferable to have an “anti-imperialist intervention” instead of a “Yankee invasion.” When the 2010 earthquake happened, 10,000 additional US soldiers, including 2,000 marines, entered Haiti unilaterally. Within days of the 2010 earthquake, 20,000 US troops were amassed in Haiti. The “anti-imperialist” MINUSTAH did nothing to stop that, of course. MINUSTAH’s own forces swelled from 9,000 to 12,000.

The Uruguayan army has a keen interest in keeping the money earned from foreign missions flowing. The challenge facing the government in a withdrawal from Haiti is to first get a pledge from the UN for “new work for the guys.”

Uruguay has just received the support of the countries of Latin America for one of the 10, nonpermanent, rotating seats on the Security Council. Foreign Minister Almgro is a strong candidate for a posting as General Secretary of the Organization of American States. What policies will Uruguay pursue though in these institutions? Will the country vote for an end to the occupation of Haiti and for the UN to take responsibility for the damage of cholera that it brought to the country? Or will it be there “just to serve coffee” while others make the decisions?

The business of praetorian guards requires customers to be successful. That means serving dictatorships, of course. Democratic and popular regimes, on the other hand, do not require such a service. It’s not only in Haiti that “peacekeeping” serves the worst national and social interests. It’s also in Uruguay.

As Frederick Engels once wrote, “A people which oppresses another cannot emancipate itself.”

This article was first published by Truthout on Feb. 11, 2015. 

Fernando Moyano is a Marxist political activist in Uruguay and a longtime writer and editor in left-wing media in Latin America media, including the journal of Marxist theory Alfaguara. He began his political activity in the late 1960s in the Proletarian Socialist Unification Movement, a detachment of the Socialist Party. He joined other political organizations, including the Popular Participation Movement, led today by outgoing Uruguayan President José Mujica. He was a founder of the Coordination of Social Organisations for Withdrawal of Troops in Haiti and a member of the Uruguay Free of Strip Mining movement.


1. MINUSTAH is the French acronym for “United Nations International Mission for Stability in Haiti.”

2. The “buffer society” is a term coined by Carlos Real Azúa (1916-1977), a lawyer, professor of literature and aesthetics, literary critic, historian and essayist. He is considered the foremost pioneer of political science in Uruguay. His term is a metaphor for Uruguay and its people in which social and political changes do not explode; they are contained by social commitments and nonviolent forms of domination.

3. The “hand in a cast” (mano de yeso) is a metaphor used in Uruguay to refer to a party imposing a rigid discipline on its parliamentary deputies in voting on matters deemed vital to the interests of the party hierarchy.

4. When MINUSTAH was created in June 2004 and Uruguay joined in, the Frente Amplio was in opposition and voted against it. One of those MPs who was emphatic in rejecting the mission was current defense minister, Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro. A year later, the FA was in government, and it voted to continue Uruguay’s participation. A veteran socialist deputy and leading figure on the political left in Uruguay, Guillermo Chifflet, refused to vote in favor and gave up his seat. In the following years, no one challenged the party discipline. But in 2012, another deputy, Esteban Pérez, like Mujica a former guerrilla and political prisoner of the military dictatorship, refused to vote in favor during the annual vote to extend participation, and he was forced to leave the FA. Last December, a third rebel deputy, Luis Puig, came out in opposition. He is a leader of a small political organization affiliated to the FA with deep roots in the labor movement.

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Capitalism kills: unemployment cause of 45K suicides per year

By IV Sta
Capitalism kills: unemployment cause of 45K suicides per year

It is almost common sense that loss of a job or prolonged unemployment has a negative affect on mental health, leading in some cased to suicide.  But how many deaths by suicide are actually caused by unemployment? According to a new study published in Lancet Psychiatry, unemployment caused approximately 45,000 suicides each year between 2000 and 2011. Through a longitudinal assessment of the World Health Organization’s mortality database and the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook database, it was discovered that these rates remained consistent regardless of economic stability.

The study was conducted in 63 countries in four world regions. One of the goals of the study was to see if there was a difference in the impact of unemployment on suicide rates before and after a recession. Using statistical analysis, the researchers deduced that unemployment was the cause of 41,148 suicides in 2007 and 46,131 in 2009. Therefore, they reasoned that the recession in 2008 caused 4,983 additional suicides.

Additionally, it was found that suicide rates increase six months before unemployment rates rise, which indicates the complexity of the process of job loss: unemployment often begins as underemployment, wage theft and abuse on the job.

Suicide intervention is not enough

Carlos Nordt, a leading researcher who conducted the study, said that the implications of this study are that suicide intervention resources need to be made more available during times of high unemployment. “Besides specific therapeutic interventions,” Nordt adds, “sufficient investment by governments in active labor market policies that enhance the efficiency of labor markets could help generate additional jobs and reduce the unemployment rate, helping to offset the impact on suicide.”

For a researcher involved in making such an important discovery, Nordt’s proposed solution could not be further from the mark. Suicide intervention and other mental health resources, while crucial, are only band-aids on a deeper problem.

As for Nordt’s trickle-down solution for the deeper problem, that theory has been debunked time and again. Propping up wealthy capitalists in hopes of making jobs and higher wages a possibility for workers simply does not work. When another study laid the change in unemployment rate against the top tax rate from 1954 to 2002, the four largest decreases in unemployment were observed to have occurred when the top marginal tax rate was 91 percent.

Workers know from experience that giving tax cuts, bailouts and support to so-called “job creators” does nothing but line the pockets of those bosses. It does not by any means incentivize bosses to somehow develop morality and give more to their workers: if anything, the statistics show that it does the opposite.

The solution: end capitalism

Capitalism promotes the idea that the owners of capital are infallible, their interests come first and anyone struggling in life only has themselves to blame for it. It is not set up to value working and oppressed people’s lives. The success of the tiny few that benefit from capitalism is ensured by the uncertainty of survival for the majority. Products of that mandatory disenfranchisement are both high unemployment rates and an incompetent mental health system that does not serve oppressed people.

When the average person calls most lifelines, they are usually not given resources to help them resolve the issues they have. They are listened to and told to feel better. If they mention that they are thinking about harming themselves, police are called. Police are not trained to treat mentally ill people—particularly marginalized communities—with respect. There are several occasions on which someone intending to kill themselves were killed by a cop for having a weapon.

Despite efforts made by communities to create support networks of their own (such as the free Trans Lifeline, run by and for trans people with a strict no-police-involvement policy), no helpline or therapeutic resource can solve the underlying economic issues plaguing workers. In order for mental health resources to be truly effective, we need to cut out the cancer of capitalism.

It has been proven that the only thing that “inspires” bosses to treat workers adequately is organized fightback by workers. It has also been proven that the only path to a real system that guarantees employment, education, health care and basic resources for all is by overthrowing capitalism.

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Imperialism, the Islamic State and the Policy of Endless War

Imperialism, the Islamic State and the Policy of Endless War

An Iraqi demonstration against US occupation

Why we are marching in Washington, D.C., on Saturday March 21, 2015, to say NO to authorization for new war in Iraq and Syria

On Saturday, March 21 the ANSWER Coalition is taking a lead role, as part of a broader coalition, in organizing a National March in Washington, D.C., to oppose the policy of “endless war” in Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. The March 21 National March will gather at the White House at 12:00 Noon and will be the culmination of four days of actions in the Capitol. The events are being organized under the banner of Spring Rising.

This is a critical moment as the Obama administration seeks Congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in the Middle East and perhaps beyond.

I hope you will participate in these actions, spread the word and show your support.

This message is written to explain why we consider the situation now to be of critical importance.

A grave moment

We are on the eve of what is being planned as a decades-long war — a war that will expand and grow. Although there was a promise by the President to “limit” the war, that should be understood as merely a talking point to soothe a skeptical public. If Obama had said that he was ordering a new “surge” of tens of thousands of troops to Iraq there would be massive anti-war protests in the streets of this country.

The President couldn’t risk that. Neither could the chest-thumping Republicans who always depict Obama as a weak leader. They too are afraid to tell the public that this is just the start and that the commitment will lead to a huge number of troops in Iraq — that military advisers and trainers will not succeed in defeating the Islamic State and that their failure will result in a steady expansion of U.S. troops to the battlefield.

Despite the initial promise of “No Boots on the Ground” we now see several thousand more U.S. troops in Iraq. On February 14, the Pentagon announced that it is sending a 4,000-strong brigade equipped with heavy weaponry to Kuwait. Massive U.S. airpower is deployed on bases and ships in the region. Iraqi cities and towns will be bombed again but the “limited war” will not succeed any more than it did in Vietnam and thus there will be a call for more and then more troops.

The U.S. Army has set up a Division Headquarters in Iraq. The only reason to establish such a Headquarters is for it to lead a Division. The Division hasn’t arrived yet but it will. A Division consists of 20,000 troops.

The problems in Iraq and Syria today are the consequences of U.S. military action. More U.S. military action now will strengthen the Islamic State, not weaken it. The catastrophe of an open-ended U.S. war will impact not only the people of the region, but the entire globe. To say that the stakes are high does not capture the magnitude of the possible disaster.

Now is the time for people to go into the streets to say NO to Congressional authorization for endless war.

U.S. military action broke up Iraq, Syria and Libya

There is a great deal of confusion about what the Obama administration is doing and why they are doing it. The confusion is caused by the deceptive presentation about the U.S. military struggle against the so-called Islamic State.

The Islamic State has established a formidable military presence in Iraq, Syria and Libya, and its influence is growing in other countries as well.

We must tell the truth, expose the lies and help the people of this country understand how they are being deceived by the Pentagon and the leadership of both the Republicans and Democrats.

The U.S. military strategy in the Middle East has been and is the primary catalyst for the growth of the Islamic State. Now, fighting the Islamic State is the public rationale for authorization for an open ended war by the Pentagon in the Middle East. That will require military bases, thousands of troops, fighter jets and hundreds of billions of dollars in military expenditures.

The Pentagon destroyed the secular governments and state apparatus in Iraq and Libya that created the political space for the rise of the Islamic State and other right-wing Islamic militias. The CIA, through Jordan and Turkey, coordinated the massive foreign arms flow into Syria to those the State Department and the mainstream media labeled “freedom fighters” from 2011 to 2014. Flush with arms and funding from abroad, and their victory in Libya, these armed units successfully captured large areas of Syrian territory from the government. These spaces have been used to create the so-called Islamic State Caliphate.

In August/September 2013, Secretary of State Kerry and his neo-conservative friends in Congress were demanding that the United States start the massive bombing of the Syrian Army. That was prevented only by the grassroots anti-war opposition in the United States, Britain and elsewhere. Kerry and McCain led the charge for the bombing of the Syrian Arab Army at that time and not once during that entire episode did they call for military action against the Islamic State. By then (August/September 2013) the Islamic State and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra were the dominant military force in the armed opposition in Syria and would have been the prime beneficiary of U.S. military action.

The rise of the Islamic State is the direct outcome of U.S. military policies

Without the criminally destructive actions of U.S. politicians and the Pentagon high command, the Islamic State would not exist today except perhaps as a very small entity.

Under the direction of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, the Pentagon invaded Iraq. U.S. authorities immediately dissolved the national government and the national army. Since the UN would not authorize this action, the Bush White House premised the “legality” of its actions on the spineless Congressional Authorization of October 2002.

As a direct result of this premeditated act of aggression, the nation of Iraq fragmented along ethnic and sectarian lines. Bush and Cheney, after ordering the dissolution of the Iraqi government, established their own military dictatorship in Iraq under the control of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Led by an American, L. Paul Bremer, who did not even speak Arabic, the CPA tore up Iraq’s Constitution and set about to re-create Iraq under the tutelage of American military occupation. From the beginning, the U.S. occupation, both wittingly and unwittingly, fragmented Iraq along ethnic and religious lines.

In response to the Iraqi armed resistance – unanticipated by Washington – against the occupation that began in the summer of 2003, U.S. officials consciously re-organized and funded Iraqi political life and the government on a strictly sectarian basis: A Shiite would be Prime Minister, a Kurd would be President, a Sunni would be the Speaker of the National Assembly. And then, starting in 2004, in an effort prevent the emergence of unified, nationwide Iraqi resistance front, U.S. occupation officials and the Pentagon and CIA started funding militias whose identity was anchored in religion or ethnicity. It was a classic divide-and-conquer tool that British colonialism had employed in the Indian sub-continent and throughout its far-flung empire.

It was precisely U.S. policies that fragmented Iraq. And today, Iraq as it existed up until 13 years ago is no more. That is why the Islamic State exists as a force in Iraq.

The areas that the Islamic State now control are the population centers that were bombed and occupied by U.S. military forces, marginalized and brutalized by the U.S.-created central Iraqi government and the sectarian militias who supported the government.

The urgent task of the anti-war movement in the United States

As we know — and knew then — the invasion of Iraq was based entirely on lies. It was an aggression based on power alone.

The criminals who ordered the invasion and occupation of Iraq were not arrested nor are they demonized in the U.S. media. In fact, both Bush and Cheney are making large sums of money giving speeches, engaged in partisan fundraising, and writing and selling books while they appear on television talk shows to render their opinion on this or that issue.

For those who argue that the “United States must do something” in Iraq, it must be pointed out that the “something” is the bombing of the very cities and towns in Iraq that the U.S. military bombed and brutally occupied during the Bush years. The “something” is the arming and directing of sectarian militias and the national Iraqi army that for the past years has carried out a reign of terror against the population centers that are now under the control of the Islamic State.

It is important to think through the contradictory public positions adopted by the U.S. government — again, including both its Democratic and Republican wings.

U.S. foreign policy is an imperialist policy. Having wreaked so much destruction and suffering on the peoples of the Middle East, it is either crudely naive or an act of unabashed cynicism to assert that the Pentagon can be the agency to bring justice in the same countries it violently destroyed. The growing strength of the Islamic State and other such reactionary political forces is a dominant problem for progressive people in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world. For the past half century, the U.S. foreign policy and military strategy has been to destroy leftist and secular anti-imperialist movements and governments that constituted the leadership of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements in the region. Having fulfilled that agenda, the officialdom in United States should not act surprised that loathsome organizations like the Islamic State have risen to fill the void.

Progressive forces in the Middle East are locked in a life-and-death struggle for the leadership of society against brutal reactionaries like the Islamic State. U.S. military action is not designed to nor can it help them. We, in the West, can offer political support and solidarity for their struggle to rescue the region from imperialism, the reactionary monarchies, the Israeli military machine and the revanchist reactionaries like the Islamic State.

For our part, progressive people in the United States have to mobilize now against the policies of our “own” government that has created a firestorm of destruction in the Middle East and now seeks “authorization” for decades more of war in the same countries and against the same peoples. Authorized by an imperial establishment, the policy of endless war that will be carried out by the Pentagon military machine can only lead to more suffering – neither peace nor liberation for the targeted peoples.

It is urgent that we revive the broad anti-war movement. Let’s start with the March 21 National March gathering at 12:00 Noon at the White House and by joining in the other actions scheduled in the days before in Washington, D.C.

Click here for a detailed list of the March 18-21 Spring Rising events.

— Statement of Brian Becker, Director of the ANSWER Coalition

Posted in Iraq, SyriaComments Off on Imperialism, the Islamic State and the Policy of Endless War

Obama, Naziyahu and the management of empire

Obama, Netanyahu and the management of empire

Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress on March 3. Netanyahu’s visit and the controversy surrounding it brings to sharp focus the divisions in the U.S. ruling class on its approach towards Iran, and more broadly its strategy on the Middle East.

Much of the media focus has been on the effect of the visit on partisan politics in the U.S. and the Israeli elections. Netanyahu will be visiting Washington in the lead up to the upcoming March 17 elections in Israel. By appearing strong on his opposition to Iran in taking his case to the U.S. Congress, Netanyahu hopes to gain an advantage in the Israeli elections.

Infighting between ruling class parties in U.S.

Within the U.S. political establishment, Netanyahu’s visit has sharpened the in-fighting between the two ruling-class parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. It is unprecedented for a foreign leader to be invited to address Congress without coordination and consent from the president, constitutionally in charge of conducting foreign policy. House Speaker John Boehner has invited Netanyahu precisely because he will attack President Obama’s policy of negotiations with Iran.

Obama has said that he would not meet with Netanyahu during his U.S. visit. Joe Biden, who as vice president is expected to preside over joint sessions of Congress, has said that he will be on a trip to Latin America – originally the announcement from his office was that he would be away on a trip to an undisclosed country.

An increasing number of Democratic members of Congress have stated that they would not be present at the session. Even some Republican members of Congress have expressed reservations about Netanyahu’s scheduled address. There have been many calls on Netanyahu, including calls within Israel, to cancel or postpone his U.S. visit.

Netanyahu is expected to call on Congress to introduce new sanctions on Iran. New sanctions, if passed by Congress and not vetoed by Obama, is sure to bring an end to negotiations, as Iran has announced repeatedly. Netanyahu has been an outspoken critic of the negotiations, ongoing between the P5+1, the five permanent UN Security Council member countries, the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia and China, along with Germany. Netanyahu does not want the U.S. to reach any sort of agreement with Iran.

U.S. and Israel’s foreign policies not identical

The fact that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East today is not identical to Israel’s is not a surprise. There are those who falsely claim that Israel and/or the Zionist lobby – e.g. AIPAC –dictate U.S. foreign policy. The current open conflict between Washington and Tel Aviv is proof that this is not the case. But even under the administration of George W. Bush, one of the most pro-Israel presidents, Washington steered clear from following Israel’s line, especially when it came to Iran.

However, the level of open conflict between the administrations of Obama and Netanyahu is unprecedented in relations between the U.S. and Israel in recent decades. Up to now, differences were kept behind closed doors. On Feb. 18, the Obama administration announced that it would no longer provide Israel with classified information on its negotiations with Iran.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest characterized Israel’s statements and leaks as motivated by an attempt to sabotage the negotiations:”There’s no question that some of the things that the Israelis have said in characterizing our negotiating position have not been accurate…We see that there is a continued practice of cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States.”

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Israel has been strongly advocating for the U.S. to attack Iran militarily. Netanyahu has campaigned for the destruction of Iran, a country he claims presents to be “existential threat” to Israel. Israel has repeatedly threatened to take the initiative to bomb Iran itself. But not only did the Bush administration not follow this advice, it explicitly warned Israel against taking any action on its own. The Obama administration, as well as the leadership of other imperialist states, have not bought into Netanyahu’s hyperbole and, instead, have sought to use comprehensive sanctions to bring Iran under control.

From the perspective of Israel’s ruling class, bombing Iran would be a low-risk proposition. Once military action in any shape or form is launched, it will be the U.S., not Israel, that will bear the risks and the costs. Israel does not have the capability to invade Iran or launch an extended air campaign. But any reaction from Iran would force the U.S. to get involved.

What is the current division in U.S. ruling class?

Why the United States, under both the Bush II and Obama administrations, has refused to bomb or invade Iran goes to the heart of the current division within the U.S. ruling class. There is no question that all the factions of the U.S. ruling class would like nothing more than regime change in Iran.

Following the downfall of the Soviet Union, U.S. imperialism pursued the goal of removing the remaining independent states in the Middle East, at the time Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya (in North Africa). Since that time, the U.S. has overthrown the state in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011. Syria is in the midst of a civil war that the U.S. has done much to foment. Whether or not Syria survives, it is unlikely to emerge as a strong state from the ravages of its catastrophic civil war. Post-occupation Iraq did not turn out to be a client state, which is what the U.S. hoped the occupation would achieve.

Still, Iraq is a weak state in a heavily fragmented country, much of it currently under the control of the Islamic State (ISIS). So there are no more strong independent states in the region that the U.S. needs to worry about, other than Iran.Today, in many ways Iran is the lynchpin of resistance to imperialist domination of the Middle East. It provides vital financial and military support to Syria. Iran’s support is key to the continued strength of Hezbollah, a Lebanese resistance force that delivered a crushing blow to Israel’s myth of invincibility in 2006. Iran also supports Palestinian resistance against Israel’s criminal state. Iran’s removal from the scene would be a most welcome development for the U.S. and Israel alike.

But, along with many establishment foreign policy analysts, the Obama administration has come to terms with the fact that regime change is not a realistic goal in the foreseeable future. An invasion and occupation of Iran is not feasible because, given Iran’s size and population, it would require more than double the troop numbers that were required for the occupation of Iraq.

An aerial bombing campaign, no matter how intense and extended, will not result in the downfall of the Islamic Republic and carries great risks for the U.S., its client Gulf states and Israel. And the right-wing Green Movement, that appeared to be a promising prospect for internal developments leading to regime change in 2009, has long since evaporated.

Two approaches to ‘managing’ Iran

Recognizing that regime change is not in the cards, the Obama administration is now working on engaging with and containing Iran through negotiations and agreements. This is in sharp contrast to the Bush administration, whose only engagement with Iran was issuing threats and ultimatums. An agreement with Iran would strengthen the more conciliatory faction of the Iranian political establishment, currently led by President Rouhani. Reaching a deal with Iran could potentially help the U.S. deal with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Facing a March 31 deadline, in the last week of February, Secretary of State John Kerry and other Western diplomats are scheduled to continue negotiations with Iran. In November 2013,an interim agreement was reached under which Iran would reduce its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium in exchange for limited sanctions relief, allowing Iran limited access to some of its own funds frozen in foreign banks.

It is not clear what the exact terms of the negotiations are. Nor is it clear whether or not an agreement will be ultimately reached. But it is clear that, unlike previous U.S. administrations, the Obama administration does in fact want to reach a deal.

The U.S. position used to be that Iran should essentially shut down its entire nuclear operations. Its precondition for negotiations used to be that Iran should halt uranium enrichment altogether. But now the main sticking point of the negotiations is whether or not Iran is allowed uranium enriched to 20 percent purity, and if so how much. Iran has forced the U.S. to concede to its demand that it continue its nuclear program under the watch of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

To keep an overall perspective, whatever conditions are imposed on Iran are unjust. Countries armed with thousands of nuclear bombs are imposing sanctions and severe restrictions on a country only now developing its nuclear program – a program that years of sanctions have not turned up a shred of evidence that it has a nuclear weapons component. Still, if an agreement is reached, it represents a major concession on the part of U.S. imperialism. It will be a recognition of Iran as a regional power, one that cannot be pushed around the same way that U.S. client states are.

Some factions of the U.S. ruling class are unwilling to accept this retreat. For them, stopping short of imposing the U.S. will on an independent state through threats, bombings or invasions, is an admission of imperialist weakness. The image of invincibility, the message to oppressed peoples that they should succumb to the power of empire or face annihilation, is important to maintaining the world order in the interests of the giant banks and corporations Washington serves.

Differences are real, may create an opportunity for progressives

The rift between Obama and Netanyahu is real and important. But Obama’s opposition to Netanyahu’s ultra-right wing cabinet, and the more militaristic factions of the U.S. ruling class, should not be confused with a progressive position. Obama and his wing of ruling-class politicians are pursuing a path they see as best serving imperialist interests.

Cracks in the ruling class often create openings for revolutionaries. Protests, movements and positions that would otherwise be shut out of the mainstream bourgeois media might get some exposure. The current conflict between Washington and Tel Aviv might open a discussion on the relations of the two countries. It might raise the question of why the U.S. gives billions of dollars of annual aid to Israel.

The ANSWER Coalition, of which the Party for Socialism and Liberation is a member organization, is joining with other forces to protest Netanyahu’s U.S. visit, not because he is undermining Obama but because of the crimes that he and his state commits against the Palestinians and other people in the region.

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The movement against racist police terror and the need for revolution


By Eugene Puryear

Eugene Puryear of the Party for Socialism and Liberation spoke at a Black History Forum in San Francisco on Feb. 13.

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Planned offensive can’t put Iraq back together

Planned offensive can’t put Iraq back together

U.S. soldiers training members of the Iraqi Army

A recent high-profile leak from an official at the U.S. Central Command—which overseas military operations in the Middle East—confirms that an offensive is being planned to recapture Mosul this spring. The city is the second largest in Iraq and holds great political significance. Its fall last year marked the beginning of the Islamic State’s wide-ranging offensive across the country.

Such a victory would be a much-needed boost to the authority of the central government, led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. It would not, however, settle fundamental questions about the future of Iraq. Recent events have shown that the recapture of Mosul would be little more than a cosmetic sign of Iraqi national unity, which has been shredded by the criminal policies of U.S. imperialism.

Thousands of U.S. troops are deployed across Iraq, and even more may be sent to the country in the lead-up to the offensive. In order to placate both a skeptical domestic population as well as militias that are fighting IS but also fought the U.S. occupation following the 2003 invasion, the U.S. government has insisted that they will not engage in direct combat. Instead, the U.S. military presence, aside from the daily aerial bombardment, is claimed to be solely aimed at reconstructing and advising the Iraqi army.

With Congress considering a wide-ranging war authorization and the steady escalation of the U.S. military presence, the ability of the “advisors” to avoid combat, even if they wanted to, is highly questionable. But the state of the Iraqi army is indeed a major concern for U.S. and associated imperialist powers. After overthrowing the secular, nationalist Baath party regime in 2003, the U.S. government sought to install a stable puppet government that would facilitate the plunder of Iraq. A key piece of this plan was the new national army, which the U.S. spent approximately $25 billion to create.

The Iraqi army in the predominantly Sunni areas in the north and west of the country captured by IS largely collapsed without a fight. With members and commanders chosen on the basis of clientelism and overseen by the Shia-dominated central government, the army is widely seen as a sectarian institution, even by those suffering under the ultra-reactionary rule of IS. It is also ridden by corruption. The pay structure of the army creates an incentive for officers to claim to have more soldiers in their units than actually exist. The army supposedly had 200,000 members, but 50,000 of these turned out to be non-existing “ghost soldiers.”

The Iraqi army is the closest thing to a U.S. proxy force on the ground in the country, and the impending Mosul offensive is a critical opportunity to prove that it has the capacity to fight and win. If it fails, the leadership of U.S. imperialism may consider a more dramatic expansion of their military role.

Military victories alone cannot unify Iraq   

Prior to the U.S. occupation that left over a million Iraqis dead, Iraq enjoyed a relatively high level of national unity and development. Caught off guard by the rapid emergence of fierce resistance, the U.S.-led invaders modified their strategy. In order to divide and weaken the Iraqi people, sectarianism was legally codified through discriminatory decrees and an explicitly sectarian model of governance.

A bloody civil war between Sunnis and Shiites was promoted. It was in this context that the Islamic State of Iraq, then an al-Qaeda affiliate that later became the Islamic State following its intervention in the Syrian civil war, was formed. Rather than fighting the occupiers, ISI focused almost exclusively on fighting other Iraqi armed groups, exacerbating sectarian tensions on the basis of an extreme right-wing religious program.

In order to avoid the appearance of outright defeat, the U.S. government was able to broker a temporary period of stability by buying off the main Sunni militias. While they publically credited the “surge” of U.S. troops for this improvement, it was only the promise of an eventual withdrawal that made the political deal palatable. Almost all U.S. forces left by the end of 2011 after the Maliki government refused to grant legal immunity for Western soldiers.

The wounds of imperialist-instigated civil war were so deep that this arrangement could not last for long. Tensions shortly reemerged and the government of then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki became an increasingly-hated symbol of Shia dominance over the central government. As its violent repression of Sunni protests in the western Anbar province escalated and political deadlock ground on, IS saw its opportunity and captured huge swaths of Iraq in a lightening offensive. In the territories it now controls, IS has aggressively carried out the murderous sectarian agenda that was introduced into Iraqi politics by the U.S.-led occupation.

Assassination of Sunni leader causes political crisis

On Feb. 15, prominent Sunni leader Sheikh Qassem al-Janabi was kidnapped and executed along with his son and seven bodyguards. Janabi was an opponent of IS and an important part of the central government’s efforts to undercut the group’s base of support among Sunnis who deeply resent Abadi’s government and its predecessor. He was ambushed while traveling through a Shia neighborhood in Baghdad, and the assassination is widely believed to have been carried out by Shia militia members.

While it should be noted that not all Shia militias are motivated by sectarian hatred—many were formed during the U.S. occupation to fight against foreign domination—the murder of Janabi has reenergized calls to disband all militias. The Iraqiya Alliance and the National Coalition, the two main Sunni blocs in the national legislature, announced that they would be indefinitely suspending their participation in parliament. They issued a statement arguing that Prime Minister Abadi was responsible for “the breakdown of security and letting loose killers and outlaws to commit crimes of ethnic cleansing.”

However, the Sunni politicians have indicated that they would be willing to end their boycott if long-delayed legislation authorizing the formation of a new military force called the National Guard is approved. The National Guard would be commanded by the governor of each province. This would in effect mean the creation of a standing Sunni army, and accelerate the disintegration of Iraq.

In addition to the existing militias, a huge number of volunteers have joined the Popular Mobilization forces—emergency military units formed following a call by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest Shia religious authority in Iraq, as IS closed in on Baghdad following their surprise victories in the west and north of the country. This has heightened Sunni anxiety.

Massacre in Diyala

The assassination of Janabi occurred just three weeks after a massacre of nearly 100 Sunni civilians shot execution style by Shiite militia members in the town of Barwana in Diyala province. Barwana had just been recaptured from IS after an offensive by the Iraqi Army backed by various irregular armed groups.

In a display of both the balance of forces within the pro-government camp as well as the sectarian inclinations of the central government’s military, army members near the scene did nothing to intervene. It has been reported that some of those shooting were wearing the uniforms of the official special forces.

This is a horrifying preview of what may occur on a much larger scale during this spring’s Mosul offensive. Having developed in the same U.S.-constructed sectarian incubator as IS, many militias and members of the Popular Mobilization may see successes on the battlefield as an opportunity to seek revenge against those they perceive as being responsible for Sunni sectarian violence. This would strengthen IS’s hand as it seeks to present itself as defenders of the country’s Sunni population and make it even more difficult to politically reintegrate the areas of Iraq liberated from IS.

Dispute over Kurdish oil

Meanwhile, tensions between Prime Minister Abadi’s government and the Kurdistan Regional Government are continuing and threaten to escalate. The Kurds are an oppressed nationality concentrated in northern Iraq, northeast Syria, southeast Turkey and northwest Iran. The KRG governs the semi-autonomous Kurdish zone in Iraq and is led by forces that follow a policy of collaboration with imperialism.

Even before the IS offensive, there was sharp conflict between the central government and the KRG over the distribution of resources. Last year, the share of the Iraqi national budget going to the Kurdish authorities was cut by then-Prime Minister Maliki, and in response the KRG increased the amount of oil it was selling independently on the world market. This violated an arrangement in which these transactions were conducted by the central government.

In the opening days of the IS offensive, there were signs that the KRG would use the political instability as an opportunity to declare complete independence. However, the military tenacity of IS proved to be enough of a threat that this strategy soon shifted towards enhanced cooperation with the authorities in Baghdad. A new agreement was reached for the distribution of oil and revenue in December.

This deal has now largely broken down. The central government is accusing the KRG of failing to meet its production targets for political reasons, but the KRG insists that it is able to do so in the long run and any disruptions are temporary consequences of the collapse in global oil prices.

Poor relations between Abadi’s government and the KRG could have serious military ramifications. The KRG has its own military force, the Peshmerga, which has been engaged in fierce fighting with IS. An offensive to retake Mosul would bring the Iraqi army within the immediate vicinity of Kurdish territory.

Of particular importance is the disputed city of Kirkuk, surrounded by major oil fields. Last week, the president of the KRG declared that “should there be a need to bring in the popular mobilization forces [to Kirkuk], the request should be made by the Peshmerga forces alone.” Iraq seems to be caught in a deadly catch-22—as IS retreats, the incentive for disparate political and military forces to cooperate declines.

The tremendous suffering endured by the people of Iraq and the toxic, sectarian political environment is a consequence of the U.S. invasion and occupation. As U.S. imperialism yet again seeks to expand its footprint in the country, it is crucial to understand that this will do nothing to help the people who find themselves under the boot of IS. Self-determination is the essential precondition for the reconstruction of any semblance of Iraqi national unity and true stability.

Posted in USA, IraqComments Off on Planned offensive can’t put Iraq back together

SYRIZA bows to banks, capitalists take aim at democracy

By Walter Smolarek
SYRIZA bows to banks, capitalists take aim at democracy

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem (left) and Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis (right) speak during a press conference following a meeting at the Finance Ministry in Athens, Greece, Jan. 30

On Feb. 20, the new Greek government led by the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) signed an agreement with the Eurogroup, composed of the finance ministers of all the countries that use the Euro currency. Upon assuming control of the government after last month’s election, SYRIZA declared that the hated Memorandum—the agreement between heavily indebted Greece and its creditors trading money for bank bailouts in return for devastating austerity measures—was over. This has been proven false. The Feb. 20 agreement extends the Memorandum for four months and commits the new government to all of its basic features for the foreseeable future.

The agreement states, “The Greek authorities reiterate their unequivocal commitment to honor their financial obligations to all their creditors fully and timely.” SYRIZA intends to make sure the banks get their money.

The basic formula of anti-worker “reforms” in exchange for financing (which goes right back in the pockets of the big bankers) is upheld in the agreement. On Monday, the Greek government will need to provide an initial list of austerity measures it will take. If this is judged to be “sufficiently comprehensive to be a valid starting point for a successful conclusion of the review,” negotiations will begin to develop a final, detailed plan by the end of April.

Although the agreement does not use the word “Troika”—the coalition of the European Central Bank, European Union and International Monetary Fund that imposed the Memorandum on Greece—it empowers these three institutions to oversee the extended bailout. The Troika lives on in all but name.

There are several general references to “flexibility” and “social fairness.” It is possible that some minor concessions will be granted to Greece, such as a reduction in the required budget surplus but nothing near what would be required for SYRIZA to fulfil its election campaign promises for massive public investment and expanded social services. There is no word for this other than capitulation.

In the first days of the new government, SYRIZA officials took an assertive tone. Announcements were made that privatizations were to be canceled, the minimum wage hiked, and a variety of other social rights restored. This won the government widespread popular support, and even the parties that agreed to the Memorandum hesitated to criticize SYRIZA for fear of being perceived as unpatriotic. For the first time in recent memory, large demonstrations took place in support of the authorities.

The Feb. 20 agreement shows that this was more a failed bargaining strategy than genuine statements of intent. The announcements were simply that—announcements. None had been voted into law.

Parallel to these attempts to shore up a mass base of support and pressure the Eurogroup into driving a softer bargain were actions to reassure the domestic Greek ruling class. SYRIZA promotes a patriotic narrative around the struggle against the Memorandum, characterizing it as an effort by all Greeks—workers and capitalists alike—to regain national sovereignty and dignity from German domination. As long as they pay their taxes, the government sees the Greek elite as an important constituent of this national consensus.

Just before the Feb. 20 agreement was signed, Prokopis Pavlopoulos was proposed and subsequently voted into office as the next president of Greece. Pavlopoulos is a vile figure especially hated by the radicalized and radicalizing youth for his role as head of the Interior Ministry (which controls the cops) during the police murder of 15-year-old activist Alexis Grigoropoulos in 2008, which sparked a nationwide uprising. The presidency is a mostly ceremonial position with little power, but it presented an opportunity for SYRIZA to communicate its political orientation.

Meanwhile, the minister of defense, from the right-wing Independent Greeks party, held a press conference that highlighted joint military drills Greece is taking part in with Israel, along with its close ally Cyprus.

The Feb. 20 agreement, however, cannot erase the resilience and resistance of the poor and working people of Greece. It remains to be seen as to whether this capitulation will lead to despair and the strengthening of the fascist right wing or deeper radicalization. The Greek Communist Party (KKE) refused to enter into any united front with SYRIZA in its opening struggle against the EU capitalist bankers. This was a missed opportunity. Instead of offering a principled and critical united front with the multi-tendency SYRIZA, which could have demanded and pressured the SYRIZA leadership to stick to its election promises to “end austerity,” the formidable KKE stood on the sidelines predicting that the new government would cave in to the pressure of the central European capitalists.

Perhaps the KKE will assert that their “we told you so” line has been validated and hope to pick up disaffected SYRIZA members, but this is not the way a minority communist movement succeeds in its efforts to win over the broad masses. More than 35 percent of the electorate voted for SYRIZA because they wanted it to succeed in the struggle against the ECB and the EU capitalists.

Condemning SYRIZA in advance and offering no support after the elections told this enthusiastic section of the people that they had only wasted their time and they had only been duped by SYRIZA’s promises. That is sterile and ineffective as a tactic. The question for communists is how best to influence and win over a larger sector of the SYRIZA base within the larger population. Offering a united front with SYRIZA against the EU bankers, while retaining political independence to criticize, would have made the KKE a dynamic part of this momentous struggle. The KKE refused to carry out this fundamental united front tactic.

SYRIZA’s leadership suffered a massive setback through its forced capitulation to the banks’ harsh demands. But it is not just a setback for an organization. This is a big setback in Greece and throughout southern Europe for the people too, who were so excited just weeks ago.

But the struggle is far from over. In Greece and throughout broad swaths of Europe, the capitalist offensive against working people is bound to create more resistance. The extension of the Memorandum shows that within the confines of the European Union, and the capitalist system more broadly, fundamental change is impossible. This makes the activities of revolutionary forces around the world all the more crucial.

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Sharif Mobley: lawyers for man missing in Yemeni prison say US left him behind


US officials refuse to confirm whereabouts of Sharif Mobley, who was swept up off the streets of Sana’a in 2010 and whose lawyers have not seen him for a year

Sharif Mobley, Yemen
 Sharif Mobley’s family rejects claims that he has links with al-Qaida and is concerned for his safety following the Houthi coup in Yemen where he is being held. Photograph: AP

 in New York

An American man missing inside Yemen’s prison system for one year has been abandoned by the US government after it suspended operations at the US embassy in Sana’a, his lawyers have said.

Sharif Mobley, a US citizen, was snatched off the streets of the Yemeni capital in 2010 on terrorism suspicions that local courts have since dropped. But it has been exactly one year ago since Mobley’s lawyers were able to contact him.

“We’re incredibly worried,” said Mobley’s attorney Cori Crider, working with the human rights group Reprieve. “The US has now left with their tail between their legs. The court system has shut down. Sharif is effectively alone.”

Mobley’s lawyers have over the last 365 days struggled without success to get the Yemeni government to publicly display Mobley, and to enlist the Obama administration to advocate on Mobley’s behalf with its ally. A coup led by Houthi rebels that has deposed President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and upended the US-Yemen relationship has thrown those efforts into even greater uncertainty.

Last month, fearing violence from the Houthis, the State Department suspended operations at the embassy and evacuated staff. It left Mobley behind.

In a comment piece published on the Guardian on Friday, Crider wrote: “Today, Sharif is incommunicado, alone, staring down the barrel of a capital charge in a hopelessly unfair court process.”

Asked about Mobley, a State Department official who would not speak for the record told the Guardian: “The United States does not evacuate prisoners in a crisis situation.”

The official added that consular officers “strive to assist US citizens detained abroad whenever possible”.

In her comment piece, Crider said US suggestions that it has provided appropriate consular assistance to Mobley are “false.”

“The typical sentence for a capital case in Yemen is to be brought to a public square and shot through the heart,” Crider wrote.

Mobley’s wife Nzinga Islam is in Philadelphia, where work and school have been tough. She must drop everything when he gets to call her from a cellphone, halfway around the world. While their oldest child, at eight, is terrified for her father, their youngest, two, has never met him.

Reprieve and Islam have long felt the US – which they say was partly responsible for his initial detention – has abandoned Mobley to his fate. Last summer, as Mobley missed court date after court date, they learned he had been moved to what they believed was a military base not far from the embassy. Using a cellphone smuggled by a sympathetic guard, Mobley spoke to Islam in September, telling his wife he was being forced to drink from a water bottle someone had urinated in and expressing fear for his life.

While US officials have said they have met with Mobley, they have refused to confirm or disclose his whereabouts – or tell Islam much of anything. The US refusal to evacuate him as Sana’a fell into chaos was the latest blow.

“Maybe, maybe, I could understand what they were saying if he was serving a sentence there – so he’s been charged, he’s been found guilty, and now he’s serving a sentence. Maybe I could understand that,” Islam told the Guardian from her Philadelphia home. “Even then, I couldn’t, really.

“But Sharif is not serving a sentence. He’s not found guilty. He’s just there. It definitely doesn’t make sense.”

Mobley, who friends described as growing radical before traveling to Yemen, had contact with the al-Qaida propagandist and English-language preacher Anwar Awlaki. Crider categorically denied Mobley’s involvement in terrorism. But in January 2010, men snatched Mobley off the street, shot him in the leg and took him into custody.

In hospital, men identifying themselves as with the FBI and the Defense Department interrogated Mobley. Shortly thereafter, Yemen charged him with the killing of a guard in what has been described as a botched escape attempt. Yemen has not pursued terrorism charges.

Difficult as it was for Mobley’s family and his lawyers to press his case in the unfree legal system of the US-backed past two Yemeni governments, they at least were able to see Mobley in Sana’a’s central prison. That all changed after 27 February 2014, the last time Reprieve was able to see him.

Even the diplomat who served as US ambassador when Mobley was captured considered a year’s disappearance within the the black hole of custody by Yemen’s security service to be alarming.

“I would say after a year of being lost, if you will, or having gone missing, I think that we should be very worried about his whereabouts,” Stephen Seche told the Guardian.

“That’s not a situation anyone would want to be in, when you’re somehow moved or otherwise made to go missing in a Yemeni jail environment. A year is an awfully long time for this to have persisted, and without any confirmation of his whereabouts or well being, I think there should be a lot of concern.”

Seche said he was unsure if the US “had knowledge of [Mobley’s] detention” in 2010. He said he recollected that Mobley traveled to Yemen in 2008 “with the idea of affiliating himself with the al-Qaida movement in Yemen”, something Islam rejects, saying the family moved to Yemen so Mobley could study Arabic and religion.

Mobley, as of Wednesday, is alive. Islam said she spoke to him then in what has become a series of sporadic phone calls about every six or seven weeks, which come without notice. As she told Vice, when the Houthis overran Sana’a in late January, Mobley called home and said he feared they would kill everyone in his military jail.

With the old government overthrown, she said, Mobley has some degree of hope. But while trying to remain optimistic as she raises their three children, she is unsure if his hope has any basis. She fears that his new reluctance to discuss his treatment is an indicator that his life remains in danger.

“Whereas before he would mention it, even if he wouldn’t talk about it in great detail … you would have to try to pull it out of him … now he’s not even mentioning it at all,” Islam said. “He doesn’t say anything at all.”

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