Archive | January 17th, 2018

More War Threats and Sanctions against North Korea. Vancouver Group Diplomatic Disaster

NOVANEWS

 

Sanctions don’t work. They’re counterproductive. They don’t change how nations operate. They’re illegal unless imposed by Security Council members.

They’re imposed as punishment against sovereign independent states, harming ordinary people in targeted nations, not ruling authorities.

On January 16, foreign ministers from 20 nations met in Vancouver on North Korea – hosted by Washington and Canada.

Participating nations were involved in America’s naked aggression on North Korea in the 1950s – Russia and China not invited because they favor diplomacy, not confrontation.

US and Canadian news releases followed Tuesday’s meeting. Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland announced “a $3.25 million commitment aimed at strengthening the global sanctions regime and countering North Korea’s sanctions evasion and proliferation networks,” explaining:

“The initiative will be implemented in partnership with the United States.”

Both countries want tougher sanctions on the DPRK, circumventing the Security Council’s exclusive authority to impose them.

Others unilaterally, bilaterally or in cahoots with multiple nations are unacceptable and illegal.

During Tuesday’s session, Freeland lied saying

“(t)he grave and growing threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs is a global challenge.”

Fact: North Korea threatens no one. It wants peace and stability on the peninsula, not confrontation or war.

It wants its sovereign independence respected, harsh sanctions removed, and a peace treaty, formally ending the 1950s war. An uneasy armistice is unacceptable, perpetuating tensions, instead of easing them.

It wants the threat of US aggression eliminated, why it continues developing its nuclear and ballistic missile deterrents – solely for defense, not offense.

Together with his Canadian, South Korean, Japanese and UK counterparts on Tuesday, Rex Tillersoncalled for “maximum pressure” on the DPRK, including tougher sanctions and interdicting North Korean vessels, high seas piracy if implemented, saying Washington “cannot and will not accept (North Korea) as a nuclear state.”

He rejected the Sino/Russian “freeze-for-freeze” approach, urging Washington halt its provocative military exercises with South Korea and Japan in return for Pyongyang freezing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

It’s a common sense approach the Trump administration finds unacceptable, favoring bullying, brinkmanship and belligerence instead, risking nuclear war on the peninsula, catastrophic if launched, assuring millions of casualties and mass destruction.

Tillerson lied claiming Kim Jong-un “threaten(s) international peace and security through unlawful ballistic missile and nuclear tests.”

US imperial lawlessness threatens regional and world peace and stability. The problem on the peninsula lies in Washington, not Pyongyang.

Instead of favoring responsible diplomacy, US-led Vancouver participants “agree(d) to consider and take steps to impose unilateral sanctions and further…actions that go beyond those required by UN Security Council resolutions.”

Instead of agreeing on ways to ease tensions, they want them escalated.

Tuesday’s Vancouver meeting was a diplomatic disaster, perhaps prelude to US-launched aggression.

On Wednesday, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said the following:

“The Russian-Chinese road map for the Korean settlement, announced in the Joint Statement of the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministries of July 4, 2017, aims at a mutually acceptable solution of the entire set of problems exclusively by peaceful political and diplomatic means through a mutual reduction in military activity in the region, direct American-North Korean and inter-Korean negotiations and the discussion of security issues in Northeast Asia in a broad format.”

“No alternative is offered to this document. Nothing constructive was proposed by the participants in” Vancouver.

“Regrettably, we have to state that such events which are conducted hastily and which have a negative effect on functioning of proven multilateral formats, do not contribute to the normalization of the situation around the Korean Peninsula.”

“(O)n the contrary, (Vancouver) aggravated it. The ‘decision’ of the participants to consider introducing unilateral sanctions and other diplomatic measures (is) completely unacceptable and counterproductive.”

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang slammed the Vancouver meeting, saying

“it divide(s) the international community and damage the chances of an appropriate settlement on the peninsula,” adding:

“Only through dialogue, equally addressing the reasonable concerns of all parties, can a way to an effective and peaceful resolution be found.”

Vancouver participants increased chances for war on the peninsula, instead of responsibly stepping back from the brink.

Posted in North KoreaComments Off on More War Threats and Sanctions against North Korea. Vancouver Group Diplomatic Disaster

“Fractures, Fears and Failures:” World’s Ruling Elites Stare into the Abyss

Next week will see some 2,500 bankers, hedge fund managers, corporate CEOS, government officials and celebrities descend once again on the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos for the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Paying $55,000 a head as the price of admission, one could well assume that the representatives of the financial and corporate oligarchy drawn to the annual meeting, and the lavish parties that accompany it, have a lot to celebrate.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index published last month established that the fortunes of the world’s wealthiest 500 billionaires—many of whom will be in attendance—rose 23 percent over the past year, making them $1 trillion richer than at the end of 2016. And the obscene amounts of wealth keep rolling in, with the Dow closing at 26,000 Wednesday, recording its fastest ever 1,000-point rise.

Yet the principal report issued as the basis for the four days of meetings and closed-door discussions presents a picture of a global ruling elite living in mortal fear that growing economic and social crises, and, above all, the threat of world war and social revolution, may rob them of not only their fortunes, but their heads as well.

Titled “Fractures, Fears and Failures,” the WEF’s 2018 Global Risks Report includes subheads such as “Grim Reaping,” “The Death of Trade,” “Democracy Buckles,” “Precision Extinction”, “Into the Abyss”, “Fears of Ecological Armageddon” and “War without Rules.”

The report was drafted in conjunction with a survey conducted among nearly 1,000 banking and business executives, government officials and academics, which found that 93 percent of them feared a worsening of confrontations between the major powers in 2018. Fully 79 percent foresaw a heightened threat of a major “state-on-state” military conflict. The report cited both the confrontation between the US and North Korea, which has created the greatest threat of nuclear war since the height of the Cold War, and the increasingly complex inter-state conflicts produced by Washington’s military intervention in Iraq and Syria.

The fears of global war are well-founded. Last month, US President Donald Trump presented his new National Security Strategy, targeting Russia and China as “revisionist powers” standing in the way of the US assertion of global hegemony, and outlining an aggressive first-strike nuclear war policy, including against adversaries using conventional or cyber weapons.

This policy has been further fleshed out by a draft Nuclear Strategic Posture document to be unveiled by Trump later this month calling for the development of new smaller and more “usable” nuclear weapons for deployment on battlefields in Eastern Europe and Asia, making a full-scale global conflagration all the more likely.

This year’s gathering at Davos—sealed off and surrounded, as always, by thousands of troops and police—will be overshadowed by the attendance of Trump, the first US president to make an appearance since Bill Clinton 18 years ago. Aides indicate that Trump intends to deliver his standard “America First” tirade to the final session of the gathering.

While Trump’s speech may provide a particularly crude rebuff to the official slogan of this year’s forum— “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World” —it will constitute only one of the more noxious symptoms of the unraveling of the entire previous framework for international economy and politics under the impact of capitalism’s deepening contradictions and the incapacity of the various rival capitalist state to create a new “shared future” or mend the world’s fractures.

The contents of the WEF risk report point to the deep and insoluble character of the crisis gripping global capitalism.

The document states that while “headline economic indicators,” i.e., the soaring rise in share prices that have fattened the portfolios of the Davos attendees, are positive, this only “masks continuing underlying concerns.”

“This has been the weakest post-recession recovery on record,” the report states, adding, “Productivity growth remains puzzlingly weak.”

The world capitalist economy, it continues, is beset by “unsustainable asset prices, with the world now eight years into a bull run; elevated indebtedness … and continuing strains in the global financial system.”

In a section titled “Into the Abyss,” the document warns:

“Against a backdrop of domestic and international political strife—and with economic policy-makers already operating in uncharted territory—the eruption of another global financial crisis could overwhelm political and policy responses. A systemic collapse of the sort that was averted in 2007-2008 could push countries, regions or even the whole world over the edge and into a period of chaos.”

In addition to “rising military tensions,” “military buildups,” “proxy conflicts” and multiple “flashpoints” threatening war, the document points to the danger of rising social tensions within every capitalist country.

“In many countries the social and political fabric has been badly frayed by many years of stagnating real incomes,” it states, pointing to figures illustrating decelerating wages and rapidly rising social inequality.

“High levels of personal debt, coupled with inadequate savings and pension provisions, are one reason to expect that frustrations may deepen in the years ahead,” the report states.

It also recalls the 2014 WEF Global Risk Report’s warning that one of the world’s greatest threats was a level of youth unemployment so high that it threatened to create a “lost generation.” The report notes dryly that in the four years since, this level has remained “broadly static.” It warns that with so many millions of young people without work, “generational clashes over fiscal and labour-market policies” may erupt.

Concern over explosive social divisions is coupled with a worried section dealing with the Internet, headlined “Digital Wildfires”. It decries “the intentional use of social media to spread misinformation,” i.e., exposures of the real conditions confronting working people in every country, as a challenge to “global governance.” The report welcomes measures taken by Google and Facebook, as well as governments, to crack down on the “disruptiveness of online misinformation” through outright censorship.

The political conclusions drawn by the report are particularly stark:

“Democracy is already showing signs of strain in the face of economic, cultural and technological disruption. Much deeper damage is possible: social and political orders can break down. If an evenly divided country sees polarized positions harden into a winner-takes-all contest, the risk increases of political debate giving way to forms of secession or physical confrontation. In these circumstances, a tipping point could be reached. A spiral of violence could begin, particularly if public authorities lost control and then intervened on one side with disproportionate force. In some countries—with widespread ready access to weapons or a history of political violence—armed civil conflict could erupt. In others, the state might impose its will by force, risking long reverberating consequences: a state of emergency, the curtailment of civil liberties, even the cancellation of elections to protect public order.”

In other words, the world’s financial oligarchy is assembling in the exclusive and scenic Alpine resort of Davos to hold a frank discussion on the prospects for a new world war, the eruption of social contradictions into civil wars and the imposition of police state dictatorships.

What is described in the WEF report are conditions already emerging in the United States and every major capitalist country.

In 1938, on the eve of the Second World War, Leon Trotsky wrote of a capitalist ruling class that “toboggans with closed eyes toward an economic and military catastrophe.” While the WEF risk report suggests that at least some elements of today’s ruling elite see the catastrophe on the horizon, they are as powerless as their forebears of 80 years ago to prevent it.

This places the greatest urgency upon the working class formulating its own independent strategic response to the global capitalist crisis, based on the perspective of uniting workers of every country in the fight to reorganize society on socialist foundations.

Posted in Politics, WorldComments Off on “Fractures, Fears and Failures:” World’s Ruling Elites Stare into the Abyss

“Two Channels”, Pentagon and CIA: Don’t Be Fooled, the CIA Was Only “Half the Problem” in Syria

This article first appeared on GR in August 2017.

The news that President Trump has halted the CIA program to arm and train rebel groups in Syria should be viewed with caution, as the CIA program only represented half of US involvement in Syria. Even if we take this information as completely accurate, and the CIA will cease to be involved in any covert programs in Syria, there is still a giant arm of US imperialism that is going to be heavily involved in the Syrian conflict for the foreseeable future; namely, the Pentagon.

The notion that the CIA was the only branch of the US establishment involved in the destabilization of Syria is nonsense. The US has always had two operations running simultaneously in Syria, with one being ran by the CIA, and other being ran by the Pentagon. As Reuters reported in an article in May of this year, titled: Syrian rebels say U.S., allies sending more arms to fend off Iran threat, military aid has been provided through “two separate channels:”

“Rebels said military aid has been boosted through two separate channels: a program backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), known as the MOC, and regional states including Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and one run by the Pentagon.”

These two programs have often clashed, as was the case last year, when militias armed by the CIA fought against militias armed by the Pentagon.

The Pentagon has been as involved in the disastrous operation to arm and train rebels in Syria as the CIA has, and has contributed heavily to the mess on the ground.

In September 2015 for instance, it was reported that a Pentagon-armed group of rebels – named Division 30 – handed over their weapons to al-Qaeda in Syria, a scenario that was a common outcome from many CIA operations as well. The Pentagon, never shy to blow an obscene amount of taxpayers’ money on imperial matters, has already wasted hundreds of millions of dollars training and arming rebels in Syria, yet Trump only wants to increase the US war budget. 

Trump: The Man of the Military 

Trump’s decision to halt the CIA program was hardly surprising, considering the support Trump has received from large sections of the military. A look at the backgrounds of the individuals that Trump has given cabinet positions reveals Trump’s close relationship with the military.

The Secretary of Homeland Security for instance, John Kelly, is a retired Marine Corps General and former Commander of US Southern Command. Trump’s pick for the Director of the CIA is even more telling, as Mike Pompeo has his roots in the military, graduating from West Point in the 1980s:

“Mr. Pompeo graduated first in his class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1986 and served as a cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall. He also served with the 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry in the US Army’s Fourth Infantry Division.”

Undoubtedly, there are many good forces in the US military (as in any other large organization), and there is nothing wrong with having a military background. But equally, there is also many nefarious forces in the military, and the influence of military-industrial complex is pervasive, constantly agitating for more imperial wars.

With this context in mind, it is hardly surprising that Trump favours the Pentagon program over the CIA one, especially considering the power struggle taking place between the CIA and the military within the US. It should be highlighted that Trump has notcompletely halted all US programs to arm and train militias in Syria, he has merely shutdown one channel.

Pentagon Using Kurds to Balkanize Syria 

The Pentagon has been heavily involved in arming Kurdish forces in Syria, using them as a tool to attempt to Balkanize and fracture Syria into micro-states. In May of this year, President Trump approved a plan – supported by many in the Pentagon – to arm the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), a Kurdish militia operating predominantly in northern Syria.

The YPG is also the controlling militia in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes an array of other militias. In addition to providing arms to the YPG, US special forces have been pictured on the ground in northern Syria working in conjunction with YPG fighters.

When most of the public was distracted by the story of Trump halting the CIA program, footage surfaced showing US armed military vehicles passing through Qamishli – a city in northern Syria on the Turkish border – reportedly on route to Raqqa. The recipients of the vehicles are believed to be either the SDF or US forces directly, who are involved in the battle against ISIS in Raqqa.

If (or when) ISIS is defeated in Raqqa, it will be very interesting to see who ends up controlling the city. It is possible that the Pentagon wants to defeat ISIS in Raqqa, and then hand Raqqa to the Kurds – a scenario that many Kurds would only be too happy with. In March of this year, Saleh Muslim, the co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) – the political affiliate of the YPG – said that once ISIS is defeated in Raqqa, the city should be incorporated into a Kurdish state in northern Syria. 

The Pentagon’s support for Kurdish forces is clearly part of a strategy to break the northern part of the country away from control of the Syrian government in Damascus. A subservient Kurdish state in northern Syria (which would probably join with Kurdish zones in Iraq and other countries in the future) would allow the US to have a permanent military presence in Syria, and easy access to thenatural resources in the Kurdish region.

The creation of Kurdish state in northern Syria would of course cause a severe breakdown in relations with NATO member Turkey, given the views of the current Turkish leadership that is. Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group Ankara views as a terrorist organization. Turkey has repeatedly denounced US support for Kurdish groups in Syria, with this being a major source of disagreement between the US and Turkey. It is no coincidence that Turkish state media recently published a list of classified US military bases and outposts in northern Syria, with this information revealing the extent to which the US military is embedded in Kurdish-controlled regions in Syria.

The plan to balkanize Syria is well on its way, and the Pentagon is leading the charge. How Russia positions herself in the coming months will be crucial for the future of Syria. 

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on “Two Channels”, Pentagon and CIA: Don’t Be Fooled, the CIA Was Only “Half the Problem” in Syria

Slapping Nazi Soldier More Newsworthy than Shooting a Palestinian Child in the Face

NOVANEWS
Slapping an Israeli Soldier More Newsworthy than Shooting a Palestinian Child in the Face
Coverage of Ahed Tamimi obscures Israeli violence and occupation

Israeli soldiers shot 14-year-old Palestinian Mohammad Tamimi point-blank in the face with a rubber-jacketed bullet on December 14, 2017, in Nabi Saleh, a small village in the occupied West Bank. The boy had to undergo six hours of surgery and was placed in a medically induced coma.

An hour later, Mohammad’s cousin, Ahed Tamimi, slapped and kicked at an armed Israeli soldier. Early the next week, after video of Ahed’s actions went viral, Israeli soldiers raided the Tamimi home at 3 a.m., arresting Ahed and confiscating the family’s phones, computers and laptops.

Ahed has been denied bail and could face years in prison. (Nour Tamimi, a 16-year-old cousin of Ahed’s who is also in the video, was also arrested and has been released on bail. Ahed’s mother Nariman was arrested later that day when she inquired about her daughter, and she remains in custody.)

Erasing the shooting

A January 1 Newsweek article described the incident as Ahed “assaulting Israeli soldiers,” “threatening two Israeli soldiers and then hitting them in the face,” “pushing the soldiers as well as kicking them, hitting them in the face and throwing stones at them.” The piece referred to Ahed’s actions as “assaults” and an “attack.” It failed to report that Israeli soldiers had just shot and severely injured her 14-year-old cousin.

Ahed Tamimi in Newsweek

Newsweek‘s depiction (1/1/18) of Palestinian prisoner Ahed Tamimi (left), “16-year-old who attacked Israeli soldiers.”

CNN (1/8/18) also ran a piece that left out the most serious act of violence that day, as did Reuters (12/28/171/1/18). An Associated Press report (12/28/17) had the same deficiency, leaving the false impression that the soldier was attacked without provocation.

The Newsweek piece also failed to note that the Israeli soldiers are members of a military force that has been occupying the West Bank for 50 years. Nor does CBS’s December 21 account mention the occupation, which structures every interaction between Palestinians and Israelis. (The fact that occupied people have a legal right to resist occupation is left out of all of the articles discussed in this piece.)

A report in the New York Times (12/22/17) does not mention that Mohammad Tamimi was shot in the face with a rubber bullet until the 13th paragraph, as though this fact is of minimal importance. The Times describes Nabi Saleh as having “long-running disputes with a nearby Israeli settlement, Halamish, that Nabi Saleh residents say has stolen their land and water.” The Times does not note that, as a colony on occupied territory, Halamish is illegal under international law.

Normalizing military tribunals

The Newsweek piece says Tamimi “has now been indicted on five counts of assaulting security forces,” and that she is “charged with interfering with the soldiers’ duties by preventing them from returning to their post.” It notes that “in May, she was charged with interfering with soldiers who were trying to arrest a protester throwing stones,” and refers to her indictment two other times, including in the headline. At no point does the article mention that the proceedings are taking place in a military court. Similarly, an Associated Press(1/9/18) report refers to “Israel’s hard-charging prosecution” and “the charges” against Tamimi, without mentioning that she is being tried by the same occupying military that shot her cousin.

Omitting that information makes it sound like Tamimi will receive a fair legal process, but the evidence suggests the opposite. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are subjected to a military court system that “does not grant the right to due process and the rights derived from it,” whereas Israelis illegally colonizing the Occupied Territories have the rights and privileges of a civilian legal system.

In the military courts, the age of majority is 16, which means that Palestinian teenagers can be tried as adults, while 18 is the age of majority for Israelis. Defence for Children International Palestine (DCIP), a group that has consultative status with the UN, reports that Israeli military court judges, who are either active duty or reserve officers in the Israeli military, “rarely exclude evidence obtained by coercion or torture, including confessions drafted in Hebrew, a language most Palestinian children do not understand.” The Israeli military courts’ conviction rate of greater than 99 percent underscores how stacked they are against Palestinians.

Framing Resistance as PR Stunts

The New York Times’ framing of Tamimi’s story suggests that the case’s central issue is whether Palestinians or Israelis would have been better off if the soldier had reacted more violently to being slapped. The Times’ David Halbfinger says

that Israelis could not decide whether the soldiers were virtuous pillars of forbearance and strength . . . or an embarrassing advertisement of national paralysis and vulnerability.

Palestinians, meanwhile,

debated whether the video might have damaged their cause, by showing their oppressors behaving gently, or helped it, by showing that resistance can be effective even when one is unarmed.

The paper even implied that Palestinians may be happy that Tamimi was arrested, writing that “the scene of the young woman being hauled away may have given Palestinians the clear-cut propaganda coup they had been denied by the original confrontation.”

NYT: Acts of Resistance and Restraint Defy Easy Definition in the West Bank

The New York Times (12/22/17) placed the same emphasis on life-threatening violence and social media tactics: “The latest incident, filmed in the family’s backyard, occurred within hours after a cousin of Ms. Tamimi’s was shot in the face with a rubber bullet, and it was streamed live on Facebook on December 15.”

CNN similarly trivialized Tamimi’s arrest, noting that Israelis call her “Shirley Temper” because of “her long ginger curls” and because they accuse her of “starring in carefully choreographed ‘Pallywood’ videos, a dismissive characterization of protests considered staged for the camera.”

While the Times and CNN provide a forum for speculation about whether Palestinians want their own children to suffer because it makes for good public relations, there is much this framing overlooks. For example, none of the above-mentioned articles mention the risk of Tamimi being seriously harmed in Israeli jails. Yet UNICEF charges Israel with subjecting Palestinian youth to “practices that amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture.” These include children “being aggressively awakened in the middle of the night by many armed soldiers and being forcibly brought to an interrogation center tied and blindfolded, sleep-deprived,” and “threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member.”

Israel’s well-documented mistreatment of Palestinian youth is ignored in these reports, which suggests it is not Palestinian parents but Western reporters who are interested in crafting a public relations spectacle.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Slapping Nazi Soldier More Newsworthy than Shooting a Palestinian Child in the Face

U.S. Creates Kurdish/Terrorist “Border Force” in Syria to Define Borders of Kurdistan

For those that hoped Trump would bring a more sensible approach to the Western-induced Syrian crisis, it is almost for certain that those hopes have been officially dashed with the revelation of the Trump administration’s new policy regarding the SDF, Kurds, a new border force, and the logical partitioning plan that is obviously moving forward.

The new plans announced by the United States involve the creation of a “border force” that is expected to contain around 30,000 personnel to be deployed at the borders controlled by the SDF (Syria Democratic Forces). The force will be trained by the United States and will contain members from the SDF and YPG and will see Kurdish members patrolling “Kurdish areas” while Arab members patrol “Arab areas.”

Naturally, the move has angered Turkey since it is opposed to Kurdish nationalism out of fears that it will inspire Kurdish extremists inside Turkey itself. Russia has also condemned the move claiming that it will lead to partitioning. Syria, for its part, has labeled the Trump administration’s plan as an insult to Syria’s national integrity and appears dedicated to Assad’s promise to liberate every inch of Syrian territory.

As Business Insider reports,

The U.S.-led coalition is working with its Syrian militia allies to set up a new border force of 30,000 personnel, the coalition said on Sunday, a move that has added to Turkish anger over U.S. support for Kurdish-dominated forces in Syria.

A senior Turkish official told Reuters the U.S. training of the new “Border Security Force” is the reason that the U.S. charge d’affaires was summoned in Ankara on Wednesday. The official did not elaborate.

The force, whose inaugural class is currently being trained, will be deployed at the borders of the area controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – an alliance of militias in northern and eastern Syria dominated by the Kurdish YPG.

In an email to Reuters, the coalition’s Public Affairs Office confirmed details of the new force reported by The Defense Post. About half the force will be SDF veterans, and recruiting for the other half is underway, the coalition’s Public Affairs Office said.

The force will deploy along the border with Turkey to the north, the Iraqi border to the southeast, and along the Euphrates River Valley, which broadly acts as the dividing line separating the U.S.-backed SDF and Syrian government forces backed by Iran and Russia.

U.S. support for the SDF has put enormous strain on ties with NATO ally Turkey, which views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – a group that has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey.

Syria’s main Kurdish groups have emerged as one of the few winners of the Syrian war, and are working to entrench their autonomy over swathes of northern Syria.

Washington opposes those autonomy plans, even as it has backed the SDF, the main partner for the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in Syria.

The coalition said the BSF would operate under SDF command and around 230 individuals were currently undergoing training in its inaugural class.

“Efforts are taken to ensure individuals serve in areas close to their homes. Therefore, the ethnic composition of the force will be relative to the areas in which they serve.

“More Kurds will serve in the areas in northern Syria. More Arabs will serve in areas along the Euphrates River Valley and along the border with Iraq to the south,” the coalition’s Public Affairs Office said.

“The base of the new force is essentially a realignment of approximately 15,000 members of the SDF to a new mission in the Border Security Force as their actions against ISIS draw to a close,” it said.

“They will be providing border security through professionally securing checkpoints and conducting counter-IED operations,” it said, adding that coalition and SDF forces were still engaging Islamic State pockets in Deir al-Zor province.

Source: Activist Post

The “coalition” has stated that the training was already underway. This has prompted a strong response by Turkey. As ABC Australia reports,

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the US was “playing with fire” by setting a force that would include Kurdish militia.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Washington “is taking worrying steps to legitimise this organisation [YPG] and make it lasting in the region”.

“It is absolutely not possible for this to be accepted,” he said, adding that Turkey “will continue its fight against any terrorist organisation regardless of its name and shape within and outside its borders”.

US support for the SDF has put enormous strain on ties with NATO ally Turkey, which views YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — a group that has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey and is considered a terrorist group by the European Union, Turkey and the United States.

Turkey has criticised the US for arming YPG and Arab fighters in the SDF, which drove Islamic State (IS) out of Raqqa and other parts of Syria.

“The US sent 4,900 trucks of weapons in Syria. We know this. This is not what allies do,” Mr Erdogan said.

“We know they sent 2,000 planes full of weapons.”

‘We will tear them down’

Mr Erdogan on Saturday said Turkish forces in Syria would “vanquish” Kurdish militia that control the neighbouring region of Afrin, putting Turkey at odds with US-backed forces.

“God willing, in the coming days, we will continue the operation to purge our southern border from terror,” he said in a speech in the eastern Turkish city of Elazig.

Turkish troops entered Idlib three months ago after an agreement with Russia and Iran for the three countries to try to reduce fighting between pro-Syrian government forces and rebel fighters in the largest remaining insurgent-held part of Syria.

But now they have turned their sights on the neighbouring Kurdish-controlled region of Afrin.

“If the terrorists in Afrin don’t surrender we will tear them down,” Mr Erdogan said.

Rojhat Roj, the YPG spokesman in Afrin, said Turkish forces stationed in Syria shelled several Kurdish villages in the Afrin region on Saturday, without causing casualties.

“From our side, there is no shelling at present,” he added.

Mr Erdogan has said the Kurdish YPG militia is trying to establish a “terror corridor” on Turkey’s southern border, linking Afrin with a large Kurdish-controlled area to the east.

In 2016 Turkey launched its Euphrates Shield military offensive in northern Syria to push back IS from the border and drive a wedge between the Kurdish-controlled regions.

“With the Euphrates Shield operation we cut the terror corridor right in the middle; we hit them one night suddenly,” Mr Erdogan said.

“With the Idlib operation, we are collapsing the western wing,” he said, in reference to Afrin.

The traditional borders of Kurdistan extend from Syria, through Turkey, Iraq and Iran.

Turkey fear Kurdish independence in Syria could spark a new push for independence among ethnic Kurds in Turkey.

Mr Erdogan said Turkey expected support and “strategic cooperation” from the US in their “legitimate efforts” in Syria.

“Despite it all, we believe we have common interests with America in the region and hope we can act in concert,” Mr Erdogan said.

“We expect our friends to display an attitude that befits them in this issue of survival that is so sensitive and so critical for our country.

“During the Afrin operation, I hope these powers will not give rise to error by appearing on the same side as the terror organisation.”

It is, of course, ironic that Erdogan would mention a “terror corridor” as reason for his military operations in Syria since it was initially Turkey who operated the “terror corridor” known as the “Jarablus corridor” that saw ISIS fighters trained in Jordan by the U.S. and NATO pouring into Syria along with foreign terrorists belonging to fighting units of various names (but all extremists, essentially ISIS fighters). Many writers such as myself stated early on that Erdogan was, at best, making a huge strategic mistake in encouraging the destruction of Syria since such a move was likely to stir up Kurdish nationalist sentiment both outside and inside Turkey. Now that Erdogan has risked the stability of his own country on pipe dreams of being the next Ottoman Empire, he is worried that the cards he played on his reckless gamble are not going to pay off. Make no mistake, Turkey is not interested in righting its wrongs but in expanding its territory, defending against the Kurds, and continuing to push an Islamist overthrow of the Syrian government. It’s closer partnership with Russia came only as Erdogan came to understand that the U.S. and its “coalition” had very little concern with the overall aspirations of Turkey.

Russia also condemned the plans. ABC, again, reports,

Chairman of the Defence Committee of Russia’s State Duma Vladimir Shamanov told local media Russia would undertake measures as a response to the US-led coalition’s decision to create the “so-called Border Security Force”.

He said the move “stands in direct confrontation” with Russian interests, and they would take measures to stabilise Syria.

The Syrian government stated that the new American-organized force “represents a blatant assault” on Syrian sovereignty and has referred to the US as an illegal occupying force. It also referred to members of the SDF and new American “border force” as “traitors.”

What is becoming more and more clear is that the United States, GCC, Israel, and NATO have determined that the feasibility of destroying the Syrian government in the same manner as in Libya is becoming less and less plausible by the day. Plan B, however, is the partitioning and the “Federalization” of Syria into several independent countries or one country with several “autonomous” zones headed by a weakened central government incapable of maintaining power and steering the ship of state.

The move to create a “border force” is nothing more than an attempt to solidify the borders of “Kurdistan” in Syria and a possible “Sunnistan” in the east. These plans are not reasonable solutions to a crisis, they are imperialism pure and simple and they have existed for decades. Not only Syria’s allies but the American people must oppose this plan as well.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on U.S. Creates Kurdish/Terrorist “Border Force” in Syria to Define Borders of Kurdistan

Masses defend Louisiana teacher arrested for speaking up

NOVANEWS

Masses defend Louisiana teacher arrested for speaking up

Deyshia Hargrave speaking up at school board meeting.

Deyshia Hargrave speaking up at school board meeting.

People throughout the United States were shocked and outraged to see that a Louisiana middle school teacher was arrested and assaulted by a police officer after speaking out at a public school board meeting in Kaplan, Louisiana. The teacher, Deyshia Hargrave, taught English at a middle school in southern Louisiana where she won a teacher of the year award in 2016. A video of the arrest was recorded by a local television station and went viral on Facebook where the incident angered millions of people across the United States.

Hargrave was speaking out against the superintendent of schools Jerome Puyau for accepting a 30 percent raise while teachers, cafeteria workers and other school employees had gone 10 years without a permanent raise. “Superintendent, how are you going to take a raise when classes have grown from 21 to 29 students?” she asked. Hargrave spoke to the fact that Puyau was essentially taking money from the teachers’ pocketbooks when it is the educators at schools—not the bureaucrats like himself—who do the real work of educating youth.

At that moment, she was ruled out of order by the school board and was removed from the school board meeting by a police officer. She was wrestled down to the ground in the hallway outside the meeting by the officer while several witnesses watched. “What are you doing? Are you kidding me?” Hargrave cried. “Sir, hold on, I am way smaller than you!”

The arrest was posted to YouTube where it has close to three million views. School Board President Anthony Fontana inexplicably blamed Hargrave for the incident and in an act of extreme condescension called her a “poor little woman.”

The police charged Hargrave with “remaining after having been forbidden” and “resisting an officer.” Yet in a great show of the power of working class solidarity, the charges were dropped after a rally last week in support of Hargrave which attracted hundreds of supporters, many of whom wore black in solidarity. At the rally Hargrave took to the microphone to chants of “Stand by Dyeshia” where she urged people to attend local meetings and fight for what is right.

This incident was not an isolated affair. It was indicative of the alienation that exists for many teachers who work in public education who feel powerless when decisions pertaining to everyday working conditions are made without regard for how it will impact students. These decisions are made by bureaucrats who do not teach themselves and who in many cases have in fact never taught a day in their lives and are far removed from the realities of the classroom.

In public education under capitalism, as is the case with most fields of employment, those who do the real work are disregarded when it comes to making important decisions. It is a slap in the face to every worker in Louisiana’s Vermillion Parish School District that the  superintendent receives a huge raise while teachers and the school workers on the ground received nothing for a decade. It was an injustice, but a wrong that is common and familiar to educators and workers across the United States.

It is also emblematic of a troubling trend in the United States where voices of dissent are silenced. Anyone who dares to criticize society and the institutions that maintain the rule of the bosses can either be slandered or put in jail. Basic democratic rights such as free speech are under attack in this country. This incident also shows what role police play in capitalist society: Cops exist to protect the interests of the bosses and suppress the workers.

In a statement in a video posted last week Hargrave describes how students and parents have been supportive of her efforts in light of the incident—that the community she serves as well as people across the United States rallied to her defense and got the charges against her dropped. It was an inspiring act of working class unity, and if educators fight the bosses and capitalist class across district boundaries and state lines we can achieve real gains towards winning the schools that students deserve. If workers unite to fight the ultra-rich—our common oppressor—together we can win a new society.

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on Masses defend Louisiana teacher arrested for speaking up

Trump deals new blow to TPS immigrants

NOVANEWS

Trump deals new blow to TPS immigrants

Los Angeles pro-immigrant rally. Liberation photo: Ben Huff

Los Angeles pro-immigrant rally. Liberation photo: Ben Huff

Continuing its attack on immigrants, the Trump administration on Jan. 8 cancelled the Temporary Protected Status for 200,000 Salvadorans who were allowed to stay in the United States since 2001, when two earthquakes shattered El Salvador that year.

The Salvadoran TPS designation was maintained until now by continued renewals during the Bush and Obama administrations, due to conditions of gang violence and poverty in El Salvador. It was ended by Trump’s Department of Homeland Security Jan. 8. Trump revoked Haitian and Honduran TPS status in November, setting the stage for deeper crisis in those communities.

The Temporary Protected Status is a federal program that began in 1990, after intense mobilization by Central Americans and their supporters.

For any country granted a TPS designation due to armed conflict, natural disaster or other extraordinary crisis, their nationals can remain in the United States for a period of time, but only if they were already in the United States at the time of the designation. That status can be extended. More than half of the Salvadorans under TPS were already living in the United States, many who escaped the terror of a U.S.-backed dictatorship during the 1980s civil war.

TPS has enabled immigrants to build their lives in the United States and raise families, especially with the economic crisis and pervasive gang violence back home.

Whether they are Central American, Haitian, Syrian, Mexican or Yemeni, millions of immigrants are forced to flee the economic and military destruction of their countries by U.S. imperialism.

Now the future for TPS Salvadorans and their children — who are mostly U.S. citizens — could be drastically affected.

Thousands of Salvadorans being targeted in most recent attack

There are 192,700 U.S.-born children of the Salvadoran TPS recipients, according to research by the Center for Migration Studies. A total of 273,000 children of Salvadoran, Haitian and Honduran TPS recipients were born in the U.S.

On Nov. 6, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security terminated TPS for Nicaraguans, ordering a deportation date of Jan. 5, 2019.

On Nov. 19, DHS terminated TPS status for 59,000 Haitians. They face a deportation deadline of July 22, 2019.

Haitians had been granted TPS after the 2010 catastrophic earthquake, which killed at least 300,000 Haitians. Haiti’s crisis has worsened in its aftermath, with a cholera epidemic and more than 80 percent of the people living in poverty, 55 percent in deep poverty.

Remittances from immigrants to TPS-designated countries are a major source of revenue and stability. Haiti alone depends on remittances that are 25 percent of its Gross Domestic Product.

TPS has been extended for Hondurans to July 5, 2018, but their status is also threatened, given the Trump administration’s now-predictable anti-immigrant actions.

Over 94 percent of all TPS members come from just three countries, El Salvador, Haiti and Honduras, 302,000 people. The other seven countries whose citizens have TPS status in the Untied States — some 18,000 people — are Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Effective immediately, Trump’s decision means Salvadorans who were on TPS lose their employment rights, and must leave the country by Sept. 9, 2019.

Causing economic hardship

Blocking TPS members from work will create economic hardship. Deportation will force a cruel separation of their families. Their children will have to live alone if they remain in the United States, or move with their parents to a country they never knew.

A much larger crisis of families being split up is on the near horizon, according to a 2017 study by CMS director Donald Kerwin and demographer Robert Warren.

The study shows that 3.3 million U.S. households are of mixed status, that is, one or more family members have residency or citizenship status — including 5.7 million children under 18. Others in the household are undocumented and face possible deportation.

The TPS attacks follow another blow: Trump announced the end of the program for 800,000 youth known as “Dreamers,” effective next March. Brought to the United States by their parents as minors, they qualified to stay in the U.S., to work and study, under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, implemented by President Obama in 2012. Now DACA youth are set to lose their jobs, driver’s licenses, financial aid for college and be deported. Their parents face deportation, too.

Interview with Salvadoran-American community activist

Ramón Cardona is director of Centro Latino Cuzcatlán in the Bay Area and a longtime Salvadoran-American community activist. He said today, “The terrible notice of cancelling TPS is a nightmare that the Salvadoran community will suffer until September 2019. They are filled with anguish that they could be deported. It is the same for Haitians, for Hondurans and Nicaraguans, who barely know their country of origin anymore and whose children have no history there.

“DHS says El Salvador has overcome the conditions that created the TPS status. That is a lie. There is no way for those countries to receive them in an integral way, with such high unemployment and generalized crime.

“This is a true humanitarian crisis,” continued Cardona. “We have received calls and visits from TPS recipients all day, people crying, who tell us ‘I don’t know what I will do, maybe go to Canada.’ The vast majority is in shock.” He estimates that only about 15 percent of the TPS Salvadorans have possible options to file for some legal status.

Even Salvadoran President Salvador Sánchez Cerén called Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen last Friday, to urge her to postpone her decision until a Congressional solution could be found. She refused.

Cardona emphasized major steps in the coming fight.

“We must continue the struggle to create a favorable public opinion. We know that with this anti-immigrant phobia motivated by Trump, who gives carte blanche to white supremacists, it is not easy. But we have no other option.”

Cardona explained that a National TPS Alliance, “Salvemos al TPS,” has joined together affected communities and organizations in more than 32 cities to mobilize and fight for legislation that will allow permanent residency for TPS people.

Community organizing

The first Alliance conference was June last year. The second in October drew close to 400 people, with two-thirds being TPS recipients.

The next assembly will take place in Washington DC, Feb. 4-6. They plan to fill the halls of Congress to argue their case for legislation to protect TPS and raise visibility for the cause.

“We have done it before, during the 1980s when we fought in Congress and in 1990 TPS came into being,” says Cardona. “We sued the INS because it discriminated against the ABC settlement (American Baptist Church). Then, when Clinton signed the 1996 arch-reactionary, anti-immigrant law (IIRIRA), we succeeded with CARA, the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act.

Cardona has no illusions about the ominous situation ahead. “When DHA said Haitians’ TPS should expire, claiming they were no longer in danger, that was our alarm. Haiti is in worse condition economically and socially than any other group, and yet they have been denied.”

A severe restriction in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996, pushed and signed by President Bill Clinton, provides that anyone who entered the United States “without inspection” and has lived here more than a year, once deported, is barred from applying for re-entry for 10 years. Before Clinton’s law, if that person became married to a U.S. citizen, he or she was allowed to remain in the United States while applying to legalize due to their marriage status. Or they could be sponsored by a family member who became eligible to do so. After IIRIRA, now that person must leave the United States for 10 years, and apply from abroad, with no guarantee of being granted permission to return.

“Without inspection” refers to someone who entered without permission, versus the other scenario, entering with a visa. But someone who overstays an entry visa, usually a tourist, can remain in the United States while processing for legalization, if they meet other criteria.

The IIRIRA law has contributed to widespread racist discrimination against poorer immigrants from oppressed countries, especially Latino immigrants whose only usual option is to enter by crossing the Mexican-U.S. border.

“Brown-skinned immigrants, Mexican, Central American, are blatantly discriminated against. In 2017 for instance, the immigrants who overstayed their tourist visas the most are Canadians, 142,000. Only 74,000 Mexicans overstayed visas. Over 600,000 people, Europeans, Canadians, overstayed, but you don’t see them targeted,” said Cardona, exasperated. “This is so racist.”

Protests will continue to take place where TPS recipients are in higher concentration, including Los Angeles, Houston and Washington DC. A mass meeting of TPS recipients is expected Dec. 13 at the Salvadoran consulate in San Francisco.

In a protest at the S.F. Federal Building on Dec. 5, immigrants from several TPS communities spoke of the real crisis they now face. But they also promised to fight with determination and unity for their right to stay home in the United States.

Cardona says, “We will continue the popular struggle so everyone understands immigrants have contributed so much, economically, socially and in many practical ways. From DACA to TPS and all immigrants, these are intolerable attacks on vibrant, hard-working people.”

The racist, anti-immigrant offensive by Trump’s government must be strongly opposed by all. There are no borders in the workers’ struggle!

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on Trump deals new blow to TPS immigrants

Students for Justice in Palestine take Fordham U to Court

NOVANEWS

Students for Justice in Palestine take Fordham U to Court

Recent demonstration of students and supporters protesting Fordham’s ban of SJP.

Fordham students who brought the suit, from left, Sofia Dadap, Julie  Norris, Sapphira Lurie, Ahmad Awad.

Over 70 people came to a Manhattan courtroom on Jan. 3 to support students fighting for two years to start a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at Fordham University.

In the crowd were Fordham alumni and current students, several members of Fordham’s faculty, past members of the United Student Government that voted to approve Fordham SJP’s club status in 2016, dozens of members of Jewish Voice for Peace, members of the ANSWER Coalition, several journalists, and many others who came to show solidarity for SJP.

Fordham SJP’s case against Fordham University was brought before the court by four petitioning students, Ahmad Awad, this reporter, Sapphira Lurie, and Julie Norris, who are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal. Lurie, Norris and Dadap are also members of the ANSWER Coalition, an anti-war group. The students are asking the court to reinstate the United Student Government’s vote in support of establishing the chapter. As Fordham is a private university, this lawsuit is not making a claim of first amendment “free speech” but rather is making a claim based on Fordham’s own policy, mission statement, and stated commitment to “academic freedom.”

The court did not make a judgment, and a date has not yet been set for one.

Much of the arguments today focused on SJP’s support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, a nonviolent global campaign to pressure Israel to end its abuses of Palestinians’ rights. In legislative bodies around the country, there is an attempt to declare BDS illegal, and to wrongly equate support for Palestinian rights with anti-Semitism. In particular, college campuses have become a heated arena for the struggle to explain the plight of the Palestinian people and advocate for their rights.

Club baited as ‘terrorist-affiliated’

Fordham SJP’s case against the University was first filed on April 26, 2017, after Fordham College at Lincoln Center’s Dean of Students, Dean Keith Eldredge, vetoed the United Student Government vote to approve the club. His called SJP too “polarizing” a club to exist on Fordham’s campus, based largely on articles by right-wing sources suggesting that the thousands of college students around the country involved in the 200 or so chapters of SJP are terrorists or affiliated with terrorist organizations.

The same argument of “polarization” was presented in court on Jan. 3.

Center for Constitutional Rights cooperating counsel Alan Levine cited the existence of other clubs on campus which might be called polarizing for espousing specific political beliefs and advocating for their own positions on social issues. Among these clubs are Fordham’s Feminist Alliance and Rainbow Alliance (the LGBTQ club). Levine stated, “Fordham hasn’t advocated for LGBT rights, or feminist rights, but they have a club of students who do so.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, Levine pointed out, there exists Fordham’s long-standing anti-abortion club, “Respect for Life,” which until last year would put on a yearly display called the “Memorial of the Innocents.” This display features hundreds of white flags in the ground, in past years in the shape of a cross or a heart.

Fordham never condemned racist threats to SJP members

Fordham’s lawyers also claimed a potential for violence, disruption, or destructive behavior on the part of the club. As Levine argued, there is no evidence of violent behavior by SJP chapters.

Additionally, any hypothetical “violent behavior” would go against Fordham’s student code of conduct, and Fordham SJP’s proposed constitution explicitly promises not to break Fordham’s rules. The document explains that SJP stands against all forms of racism, discrimination, bigotry and oppression based on nationality, religion, and ethnicity; as Fordham’s own lawyer read these lines in court to try and prove that SJP’s primary goal was to “go against Israelis,” it became clear that this claim was not substantiated in the document.

In fact, it is SJP members who have experienced violence and harassment. Members of Fordham SJP have been the target of racialized threats and identity based harassment by other students and by external right-wing organizations. Fordham has never condemned these racist and dangerous actions against its students.

Fordham’s bias against BDS

Fordham’s lawyer also said, “Fordham does not want any association with the BDS movement.” This prompted comparisons to South African apartheid and the boycotts that happened against it around the world which proved to be an effective nonviolent tactic against it. The African National Congress, Mandela’s party and ruling party of South Africa, has repeatedly called Israel an apartheid state and condemned the occupation of Palestine, making BDS a part of its official platform in 2012.

Judge Bannon even chimed in, saying, “Ireland!” referencing the origin of the term “boycott” in historical Irish resistance against English colonial landlord, Colonel Boycott.

The tactics of boycott, divestment, and sanctions have been critical to Ireland’s and South Africa’s anti-colonial movements, and divestment campaigns have been employed for decades against fossil fuels, private prisons and dangerous farm labor conditions.

Fordham claims that they want and are legally entitled to distance themselves from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and from the “controversy” that is apparently attached to the name“Students for Justice in Palestine.” This appears to be based on a political and ideological opposition to the goals articulated by the international movement, which likely constitutes viewpoint discrimination on Fordham’s part.

Fordham complicit in colonialism and racism

Fordham states that the safety and lives of Palestinians are not in the balance here, that this is “just a student club.” In reality, the denial of an SJP shows complicity in colonialism and racism, and encourages other universities to act similarly toward students hoping to advocate for Palestine at their schools.

Fordham’s outright ban of SJP is a dangerous step in the direction of complete repression of speech advocating for the liberation of Palestine or even for increased awareness about the oppression of Palestinians. This is often called the “Palestine Exception to Free Speech.” It is meant to discourage people around the world from learning about the occupation, establishing meaningful solidarity or fighting to uplift the Palestinian movement for self-determination.

Despite this, the overflow of supporters and allies for SJP at the Jan. 3 hearing suggested that the anti-colonial internationalist spirit in solidarity with Palestine is alive and well.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Students for Justice in Palestine take Fordham U to Court

Rise Up confronts Duterte’s war on the poor in the Philippines

NOVANEWS

Rise Up confronts Duterte’s war on the poor in the Philippines

“My son Djastin Lopez didn’t deserve to die. He was twenty-five with two beautiful children, Jailo & Quiana. He was a basketball player and a craftsman. When the police ambushed him right over there by those train tracks, his hands were up. He surrendered but the police slapped him first before riddling his body with bullets. While he was still breathing, they fired the coup de grace. These alleyways where we live in Tondo are ground zero of the war on us poor Filipinos. The police ambushed my son, intent upon killing him. We were victims but today thanks to Rise Up we are advocates for life & organizers against Duterte’s extrajudicial killings (EJK’s).”

–Normita, founding member of Rise Up

Rise up for Life and for Rights is a coalition of families whose children or loved ones were ambushed and murdered by Rodrigo Duterte’s police because they were suspected of being low-level drug dealers or addicts. Normita is one mother who emerged as a leader of Rise Up in Tondo, Manila’s largest shantytown of over 700,000 people, after her son was executed by the police. She explained the guiding principle behind the coalition formed shortly after Duterte’s electoral victory in 2016:

“We will not be sitting ducks as our children are picked off by the police. We were victims but today we are advocates. We are organizers to prevent the butchery of our communities.”

As Duterte’s ever-more cavalier statements about killing off the poor make world news and an average of ten bodies turn up dead every night in Manila with cardboard labels claiming they were “criminals,” there is a lesser known story, the story of Rise Up, the burgeoning community resistance to Duterte’s death squads and vigilante violence.

Understanding Duterte’s rise to national power

Rodrigo Duterte emerged as a prominent national figure in Filipino politics after serving 22 years as the mayor of Davao City in the southern island of Mindinao. Much like former New York City mayor Rodolph Giuliani and a whole slew of conservative politicians across the spectrum of global politics, Duterte built up his reputation as a politician who was “tough on crime.” In his seven-term tenure as mayor, Duterte oversaw a campaign to eradicate suspected criminal elements from the streets of Davao City. Under his reign, human rights organizations documented over 1,400 extrajudicial killings (EJK’s) of alleged addicts, dealers and street children, many by the infamous paramilitary police unit known as the Davao Death Squad. Duterte himself brags about having personally murdered three kidnapping suspects at a police checkpoint. All too often, these “suspects” were simply everyday workers from “high violence” areas, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For anybody from East New York, the Bronx, West Oakland or any of the U.S.’s oppressed communities, this police terror sounds all too familiar.

Powerful sections of the Filipino ruling class, including the military, used “Duterte Harry’s” reputation to win the 2016 presidential race. On May 9th, 2016 Duterte won 39.01 percent of the votes, defeating EDSA-establishment candidates Mar Roxas of the Liberal Party (23.4 percent) and Senator Grace Poe of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (21.6 percent).

Operation Tokhang

Upon assuming power, Duterte implemented Operation Tokhang, the official name for the state execution campaign targeting the most marginalized.

Tokhang is a portmanteau formed from two words in Cebuano, Duterte’s native language. Tuktok is an onomatopoeia for knocking and hangyo means request, in reference to the police’s aggressive raids of the homes of the poor. In coordination with the military, local police precincts compile lists of suspicious men in the barangays (neighborhoods). Often, they rely on coercion, bribing the police and snitching to develop “black lists.” The police then raid the homes of the suspects, following a policy of shoot first, rarely asking any questions.

This was how Rise Up member Princess lost her father, Pablo.

“The police murdered my father Pablo Cabangon. He was 46. They executed him right where I sit with three shots to the head. My mom died giving birth ten years ago. My father never recovered. Melancholic & depressed, he reached for a common escape, shabu (crystal meth). That was his death sentence. The police raided at midnight & executed him. This portrait you see in my hand, my father, this is Duterte’s “war on drugs.”

Like alcohol, shabu is a common drug in disenfranchised communities that workers use for an extra pick-me-up or to deal with rough times. It is highly addictive and has been called “the cocaine of the Filipino poor.” Rise Up puts a human face on the victims and addicts vilified by the mainstream media. Rise up see addiction as an illness directly connected to poverty, unemployment and the inability of capitalism to resolve the issues of the vast majority of humanity. The per capita GDP in the Philipines is a paltry $3,500 and roughly a quarter of all households survive on less than $5 dollars per day. These are the families Duterte’s EJK’s target.

Tricycle taxi driver King said shabu helped him work double shifts to put food on the table for his family. A recovering addict, he thanked Rise Up for rehabilitation programs that saved his life. Like the Black Panthers and Young Lords two generations before, the rank-and-file of Rise Up see organizing as a key part of individual rehabilitation and community healing.

16,000 murdered and counting

With the backing of powerful sections of the ruling elite and flattered by Trump’s praises during his visit in November, Duterte scoffs at the official number of 16,000 EJK’s to date and boasts that he is just getting started. He has been quoted as saying that 100,000 more dead bodies will be dumped into Manila Bay and that if Hitler can kill millions of Jews, he can kill millions of “criminals” in the Philippines.

Like Trump, Duterte preys upon the most vulnerable sectors of society. Seeking to score points with voters and his powerful backers, he scapegoats, bullies and slaughters who he perceives to be “the perfect victim,” because he thinks the most vulnerable cannot fight back.

But like the immigrant rights movement, Muslim and woman’s organizations in the U.S., Rise UP is proving that a united resistance can confront and defeat state-sponsored divide-and-conquer schemes and state terrorism.

The Filipino state’s highly touted “war on drugs” is nothing more than a war on the poor. It is all too similar to “the war on drugs” Black America and poor communities across the U.S. have endured. Rise Up member Isabelita described the police’s two-pronged approach:

“If the suspect is rich, they’re set free. If they’re poor, they end up sprawled on the street.”

Duterte’s campaign comes as his son Paulo was recently linked to the P$6.4 billion pesos (U.S.$128 million) shipment of shabu that was smuggled into the country from China. The fact that there was never any investigation into his involvement in drug-dealing shows the hypocrisy of “the war on drugs.” Instead of pursuing any leads on Paulo Duterte, state prosecutors instead targeted the two senators who acted as whistleblowers, accusing them of “tax fraud.”

Irma, whose son Bong Bong was executed by the police one year ago, emphasized the hypocritical nature of the government’s “war.”

“We are from Bagong Silangan in Quezon City. Our community is the epicenter of Duterte’s war. Just in our neighborhood alone, we have lost 45 of our children to this war. The police raided a wake right across this alleyway and shot my son dead in a case of mistaken identity. They would never do this in Forbes Park or Dasmariñas [the wealthy neighborhoods of Manila].”

‘Mourn the dead, fight like hell for the living.’

Socialist labor organizer Mother Jones’ quote captures the spirit of Rise Up. The most affected families have come together, not only to mourn but to fight. Reality demands no less.

Rise Up’s efforts are similar to the People’s Vigils which seek to unite families around a deeper understanding of the massive “opioid epidemic” afflicting working families in the U.S. The 66,000 overdose deaths last year in the U.S. and the 16,000 EJK’s thus far under Duterte’s reign have a common source, an unequal, predatory class system. Moving forward, there are a lot the two organizations can learn from one another and collaborate on.

Rise Up belongs to the National Democratic movement which seeks to unite different oppressed sectors of Filipinos in the struggle for a just, equitable society.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) is the legal front of the movement which seeks to prosecute the police officers and hired vigilantes who fired the lethal bullets. Attorney Kathy Panguban is one NUPL lawyer who has brought fourth cases on behalf of the grieving families to make sure there is an end to state impunity. Panguban documented a long history of state sponsored terrorism where the courts have always ruled in favor of the executioners.

Progressive churches are at the center of the organizing efforts. Following a tradition of Filipino Liberation Theology, the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) has been instrumental in providing psycho-social, logistical and legal support for the Rise Up families. Quoting the Bible, Norma Dollaga, a representative of the NCPP, articulated what motivated her as a Christian to join the struggle:

“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).

Rise Up, the NUPL and the NCCP are three members of the BAYAN alliance (short for Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or the New Patriotic Alliance) which brings together different workers, women, migrant, barangay(neighborhood) and peasant organizations to struggle against the imperialist pillaging of the Philippines. BAYAN and Rise Up are clear that addiction, hustling and the EJK’s are but three tragic manifestations of capitalism, a system diametrically opposed to the interests of the vast majority of this super resource-rich country of over 100 million people. The BAYAN alliance is equally confident that through unity and struggle the Filipino people can overcome imperialism and its local lackeys in order to construct a new society based not on profits and pilfering but the diverse needs of the population.

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Behind the rise of the Indian labor struggle

NOVANEWS

On Nov. 9, 2017, 70,000 workers from all corners of India came together in New Delhi for a three-day sit in. Workers from rail, telecommunications, defense, construction, ports and docks, energy, and many other sectors associated with some the largest unions in India joined together to protest the anti-worker, anti-people, and anti-national policies of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. If their demands are not met, the unions have plans for an indefinite countrywide general strike. The growing unity and militancy of the Indian labor movement are welcome developments and a possible sign of future militant actions.

Among the major unions taking part are:

  • All India Trade Union Congress (The oldest trade union in India; associated with the Communist Party of India)
  • Hind Mazdoor Sabha (Indian Workers Assembly; unaffiliated)
  • Centre of Indian Trade Unions (Associated with the Communist Party of India — Marxist)
  • All India United Trade Union Centre (Associated With Socialist Unity Centre of India — Communist)
  • Trade Union Coordination Centre (Unaffiliated)
  • Self Employed Women’s Association (Unaffiliated)
  • All India Central Council of Trade Unions (Associated with the Communist Party of India [Marxist-Leninist] Liberation)
  • United Trade Union Congress (Associated with the Revolutionary Socialist Party);
  • Labour Progressive Federation (Associated with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a regional left-wing party in Tamil Nadu)
  • Mazdoor Ekta Committee — Workers Unity Committee (Associated with the Communist Ghadar Party of India)
  • Indian National Trade Union Congress (associated with Indian National Congress Party)

Those protesting had several demands, including but not limited to an end to speculative trading, an end of privatization and selling of public assets to foreign capital, a higher minimum wage, enforcement of already-existing labor laws, schemes to end unemployment and a universal social security system. The protesters also highlighted the plight of minorities: dalits (“untouchables,” or peoples belonging to the lowest social caste) and adivasi (tribal groups) — both of whom have been under attack by the ruling party and right-wing street gangs supportive of the BJP. Those protesting called for unity among all oppressed people to oppose the religious fundamentalism and bigotry of the ruling BJP and Modi government. The unions’ anger was summed up time and time again by pointing out the anti-worker, pro-capitalist, anti people, bigoted, and pro-international capital policies implemented by the Modi government.

The BJP is a Hindu-Nationalist party and the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (meaning National Volunteer Organization, simplified as RSS) a paramilitary right-wing organization heavily influenced by Italian and German fascism. They promote Hindutva (Hindu-ness), the idea that India is a Hindu Rashtra (a Hindu nation). This notion is completely the opposite of what is written in the Indian constitution, that India is a secular nation.

As with most fascist or semi-fascist political formations, the BJP implements laws to benefit the ruling class. India’s working class and the left in general have been on the defensive since India’s adoption of neoliberal economic policies in the early 1990’s under the leadership of the Indian National Congress Party, which had governed India since independence. The BJP has intensified the class struggle — in part by exacerbating social struggle along caste lines — with an all-out attack on the working class, lower castes, dalits and non-Hindu religious practitioners. Even the BJP’s main social base — small shop owners — has not been spared from the attack, which is carried out in service of big capitalists and foreign capital.

Anti-worker attacks

The two outstanding examples of the BJP’s anti-people attacks — besides near-complete inaction over the murder of journalists, communist cadres and Muslims — are demonetization and the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Demonetization and the GST, both touted as master strokes by the BJP government and its lackeys in the Indian corporate media, have destroyed the lives of many ordinary Indians. Demonetization was an attempt to force people in the informal economy into the formal economy. The informal economy, in which a significant portion of people in South Asia work, operates on a cash-only basis and is not well-documented and thus not easily taxed. Many people still lack bank accounts and keep their savings physically in high-denomination rupee notes.

In order to force Indians into the formal economy, the government ruled that the 500- and 1000-rupee notes would become officially worthless. Instead, they could trade in their old currency for a new 2000-rupee note. Overnight, 80 percent of the entire Indian currency stock was worthless. Lines formed across the country as people tried to gain access to their own money. Banks ran out of the new currency notes, while, strangely enough, BJP party members and allies never seemed to have a problem obtaining the new notes. Meanwhile, ordinary Indians were forced to spend weeks in line to access their own money.

After this ‘masterstroke’ came the GST, an attempt to standardize the notoriously complicated tax system. Although the GST might not have had a negative effect on the big corporations in the formal economy, it has hit the small capitalists in the informal economy — such as small shopkeepers, restauranteurs, etc. —particularly hard, which in turn has forced many small producers to fire workers. These attempts by the Indian upper classes to force the working and middle classes in line with their dreams of a neoliberal India are beginning to backfire.

India is a country of extreme wealth disparity. The richest 10 percent of Indians own 80 percent of the wealth in the country, whereas the poorest 50 percent control 3 percent of the wealth. This wealth disparity did not start when the BJP came to power but rather has been a feature of Indian society since the time of the British rule. Joblessness and lack of opportunity has plagued poor and working Indians as food and housing prices have skyrocketed in recent years. Tens of thousands of farmers, unable to pay their debts, have committed suicide as a protest of last resort.

Meanwhile the BJP and Modi in particular have opportunistically used pro-Hindu identity politics (often referred to as “communalism”) and religious intolerance to demagogically pander to its base, as well as a
divide-and-conquer tactic. Whenever there has been economic trouble or an upcoming election, the BJP consistently whips up anti-Muslim sentiment to try and gain the support of the Hindu middle classes. This has unfortunately worked before, but it seems that the economic onslaught has taken its toll and the BJP is losing support.

Rise of left opposition

Meanwhile, the Indian left and formerly-obscure parties are on the rise. The show of unity of India’s major unions is an important development.

India is an incredibly diverse country with thousands of ethnic groups and languages. In response, various unions have spent the previous three months intensively campaigning, spreading information in all major regional languages to activists in all corners of the country. These unions coming together have formed a pole to which activists from all the struggles facing the Indian working masses and oppressed peoples can gravitate towards. The unity of the main unions in the country was apparent in the November mass actions and their call for a continued unified struggle is a real accomplishment, so much so that the unity impressed several independent worker federations who have recently joined.

Continued actions to pressure the government to give in to the demands of the workers are on the horizon. If these demands are not met, the unions have all agreed to launch an indefinite countrywide general strike. This general strike will be the third in 4 years following nationwide strikes of 80 million in 2015 and 150 million in 2016 that took to the streets against the anti-people policies of the Modi government. This time, the workers intend to sustain the general strike until their demands are met. The unions also have plans for sector-/industry-wide strikes across India if the government moves to privatize any more public firms or if any anti-worker laws are passed in the union budget.

Posted in IndiaComments Off on Behind the rise of the Indian labor struggle


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