Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for December, 2011

2011 – Spreading Nonviolence

From Nation of Change
by Jake Olzen
29 December 2011

2012: The Year of Nonviolence?

If 2011 was the year of the protester, 2012 may prove to be the year of nonviolence. What’s the difference? It’s as great as between yes and no. A crucial awakening that envelopes humanity’s collective struggle for justice, peace and democracy is happening; it is an awakening that clarifies the circumstances we embrace with a yes and those by which we respond with a vehement no. Like many I know, I often teeter between despair and hope–stuck in a kind of uncomfortable tension resembling Wendell Berry’s poetic instruction to “be joyful though you have considered all the facts” –grasping for some measure of sanity to make sense of all that is happening.

It is tempting to succumb to despair, what with the onslaught of major media coverage telling us all the bad news, dismissing the promising news, and ignoring the good news. Consider the challenges: the unraveling violence of the Egyptian revolution, the 5,000 killed in Syria, climate change and the instability and disasters brought by extreme weather patterns and an ill-equipped global populace with inadequate leadership, the threat of random violence and terrorist activity–Norway, Belgium, India, the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq–and state and cultural violence against immigrants, women, refugees, the poor, GLBTQ persons, and people of color. So where is the hope? Well, in 2011, the fires of our hope were stoked by the global protest movements–the Arab Spring, the Indignados, Occupy Wall Street–of millions of people rising up to say: كفاية …Basta…Enough! Resistance was in the streets and occupations in city squares. A resounding “no” echoed around the world–what Bernard Harcourt has perceptively termed “political disobedience”–signifying contempt, dissatisfaction, and rejection of entrenched governments and status quo economics. Dictators were ousted in Egypt and Tunisia. Revolutionary fervor was sparked by nonviolent action in Libya, Syria and Yemen. South Korean activists are poised to possibly shutter the building of a controversial US naval base with profound geopolitical implications. Afghan youth are getting organized–an incredible feat considering all the challenges they face. Palestinian nonviolent resistance and the Free Gaza movement is growing as are Israeli protests for social justice. In the US, activists and organizers in Wisconsin and Ohio occupied their state capitals to protest budget cuts and GOP anti-unionism. Undocumented students–DREAMers–took it to the streets and Senators’ offices. Environmentalists, farmers, ranchers, students and citizens staged sit-ins at the White House to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline–whose fate is still TBD but the resistance is growing. And then there was Occupy Wall Street. The movement propelled American activism back into public purview and is proving to be the era where a generation of young people–equipped with the tools, knowledge and experience of the civil rights and anti-war generations–are cutting their teeth in nonviolent social change. We are telling ourselves that there is reason to hope because we incarnate it.

The protests of 2011 are the harbinger of what we’ve already known–what we’ve been waiting and working for–that neoliberalism’s carte blanche as signed by the Washington Consensus is on the way out. The days of political regimes that are not truly democratic (and, apparently, equitable) are–at the very least in ideological terms–numbered. In the 00s, there was an explosion of social commentary on globalization: Thomas Freidman, Naomi Klein, Paul Hawken, Vandana Shiva. Paul Kingsnorth, a British journalist, penned a book whose title has stayed with me: One No, Many Yeses. The catchy, chant-like title offers a simple way to reflect on the the historical moment we are experiencing. As symbolized by Time‘s “Person of the Year,” there is a global “no!” to anti-democratic governments and unfettered capitalism. But at the same time, that singular no of protest is united by the multitude of “yeses” whose global resonance signifies the arrival of a comprehensive vision of nonviolence.

This yes to nonviolence signals the awakening consciousness that summarily connects us to that which is most important in our lives and our communities: the desire to be connected, to live without fear, to be healthy and be in healthy relationships, to be free to have self-determining and mutually-supporting ways of living, working, parenting, learning, teaching, creating, and, yes, even dying. Never before have we witnessed the acute, raw, powerful desire for life in such a way that so many diverse peoples are willingly struggling for that way of being.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

Whale’s Being Slaughtered

Dear Gabriel,

Japanese whaling ships are closing in on whales in the Southern Ocean right now. They call their mission “science,” but no valid science is gathered from their hunts — it’s just a cover for their bloody activities.

It’s not science, it’s senseless killing, and it must end.

Make an urgent gift today to protect whales, the oceans, and our planet.

We’re only two days away from December 31 and so close to reaching our $125,000 goal. We need just 7 more donations from California to reach it and have the resources we need to save whales in the new year.

Whales are smart creatures — they know where they are and who they are. They feel loss and pain. They “talk” to each other. A growing body of evidence shows that whales are very similar to humans in intelligence and self-awareness. There is nothing scientific about killing nearly every whale you encounter and selling the meat for profit.

Commercial hunts by any name must end.

Please donate now to stop the killing and save whales from this deadly “science.”

With your help we’ll mobilize public support, run newspaper ads, lead a coalition of NGOs and pressure the Obama administration and the International Whaling Commission to close these deadly loopholes and put an end to commercial whaling once and for all.

We’ve already been successful in dramatically reducing the market for whale meat to the point where the industry is shutting down. But operations like Japan’s are being propped up by government subsidies.

Right now is the time to tip the scales and completely end commercial whaling. Now’s our chance, and Gabriel, there’s not much time left.

For the whales,

Philip Radford
Greenpeace

Egyptian Blogger Speaks Out

From Nation of Change and Democracy Now
28 December 2011
Interview with Alaa Abdel Fattah

Democracy Now! speaks to Fattah about the Egyptian revolution’s ongoing struggle against the military regime and his ordeal in one of Egypt’s worst prisons.

Alaa Abdel Fattah, a prominent Egyptian revolutionary activist and blogger, has been released from prison after nearly two months behind bars. Fattah was ordered jailed by a military court on October 30 and summoned to face charges that included inciting violence — a charge he firmly denies. He refused to cooperate, rejecting the legitimacy of the military court who wanted to try him as a civilian. Democracy Now! speaks to Fattah about the Egyptian revolution’s ongoing struggle against the military regime and his ordeal in one of Egypt’s worst prisons, which prevented him from attending the birth of his first son. Fattah’s trial comes just as Egypt’s ousted leader, Hosni Mubarak, returns to a Cairo courtroom today to face charges over the deaths of 840 protesters during the uprising against his rule. “What comes next might be even tougher and even more difficult,” Fattah says, “but I don’t think that this revolution is going to end without really completely renegotiating the order of power in Egypt and across the Arab world.”

Read article and watch interview at Nation of Change.

Muslim’s Condemn Bombings

Muslim Leaders Condemn Christmas Day Bombings
27 December 2011

From Kunle Akogun, Damilola Oyedele in Abuja, John Shiklam in Kaduna, Tunde Sanni in Ibadan, Mohammed Aminu in Sokoto and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin.

The umbrella Islamic body for Muslims in the North, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), yesterday condemned the bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State and another church in Jos, Plateau State, saying it is not in a religious war against Christians. Both incidents claimed the lives of over 40 persons.

But the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 Northern states and FCT warned yesterday that the attacks may spark a religious war.

Secretary General of JNI, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, while reacting to the bombings in a telephone interview with THISDAY, said Islam, as a religion, respects human lives and would do everything to preserve it.

“Human lives must be preserved and protected by all including security agencies; it is rather unfortunate that Nigerians are losing their lives to bomb blasts,” Aliyu said.

The Islamic body also tasked security agencies to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to justice, stressing that it is only when the culprits are fished out and punitive measures taken against them that it would serve as deterrent to others planning to carry out such nefarious activities.

In his reaction, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, who joined other Muslims in voicing condemnation against Boko Haram, said taking of human lives in the name of religion was strange in Islam.

The sultan, at the formal opening of Islamic Vacation Course (IVC) organised by Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), B-Zone, said dispute could only be resolved through dialogue and not by violence or bloodbath.

He said Islam abhorred violence and called for unity among Muslims to address the challenges facing them.
“Violence is not part of the tenets of Islam and would never be allowed to tarnish the image of the religion,” the sultan said.
Chastising Boko Haram, another Islamic group, Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), said “cold blooded murder of innocent worshippers” was “horrifying and sickening”.

In a statement by its Director of Media and Communications, Disu Kamor, MPAC described the perpetrators of the dastardly act as “criminal and devilish hate cultists bent on imposing their evil ideology on us”.

“On this occasion and in similar incidents, Nigerian Muslims and Muslims everywhere stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Christian brothers and sisters and we are determined to continue to work together to remove the mischief of those seeking to destroy peaceful co-existence and harmony. We feel the sorrow and share the grief of all that were affected by this tragedy – this evil attack is a crime committed against mankind,” MPAC added.

Also, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) said it is “shocked and petrified by this development”.
MURIC in a statement by Dr. Ishaq Akintola disagreed with Boko Haram, which had said it carried out the attack to avenge the killing of Muslims during the last Sallah.

He said: “The attackers cannot claim that they were revenging the attack on Muslims in Jos during the last Eid el-Fitr on August 30, 2011 which left many Muslims dead because Christians celebrating Christmas earlier on December 25, 2010 were the first to be killed in bomb explosions.

“Nothing in the scriptures of Islam justifies this kind of attack. We therefore assert clearly, unequivocally and unambiguously that Boko Haram is not fighting for Nigerian Muslims.”

Similarly, the Chairman of the Sokoto State chapter of Izalat Bida’a Waikamtul Sunnah (JIBWIS), Sheikh Abubakar Usman Mabera, said the killing of innocent citizens, under any guise, is a case of murder and in contrast to Islamic teachings.

“Whoever takes the life of a fellow human being has committed evil irrespective of his religion – whether Christian or Muslim – and will pay for his sins. So, this is an act of terrorism which is against Islamic teachings,” he said.

Mabera, who frowned on the act, said: “Almighty Allah forbids the killing of a fellow human being. Whoever thinks that he is carrying out Jihad by destroying places of worship and killing innocent citizens is ignorant of Islam because the religion forbids that.”
The Muslim Congress frowned on the Madalla blast and said the continued killing of innocent Nigerians by the activities of Boko Haram is uncalled for and should be condemned by all Nigerians.

The Amir of the Congress, Mallam Abdulraheem Lukman, said in a statement that: “The endemic killings can best be described as inhuman, wicked, condemnable and totally unacceptable in civilised societies.

“The action is even more repulsive during the periods of celebrations and this is highly condemnable.”
CAN in the 19 Northern states and Abuja has warned that attacks on churches by Boko Haram are capable of igniting a religious war in the country.

But labour unions in the country have urged Christians not to retaliate the Christmas attacks on churches in Niger, Plateau and Yobe States which left scores of people dead.

The pan-Northern Nigeria group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), also condemned the attacks yesterday, warning that they serve no good in the prevailing circumstances.

At a news conference in Kaduna yesterday, Secretary-General of Northern CAN, Elder Saidu Dogo, said the bombing of churches and killing of Christians was an invitation to religious war in Nigeria.
Dogo urged Islamic leaders to call the perpetrators of the dastardly act to order to avert confrontation, saying that no group should push the other to the wall to fan the ember of religious war.

He said if the authorities fail to track down those behind the killings of innocent Nigerians, “we shall henceforth in the midst of these provocations and wanton destruction of innocent lives and property be compelled to make our own efforts and arrangements to protect the lives of innocent Christians and peace-loving citizens of this country”.

While calling on Christians to be law abiding, he expressed the need for them to defend themselves whenever the need arises.
He called on the Muslim Umma and Ulamas in Nigeria “to live up to their responsibilities by calling to order, all Islamic sects in the country to have respect for human lives and stop these killings. For we fear that the situation may degenerate to a religious war and Nigeria may not be able to survive as one. Once again, enough is enough”.

“We appreciate the efforts of the Federal Government and its security agents in trying to curtail these attacks. However, we are piqued that the efforts of government are being undermined by the sponsors of the Islamic fundamentalists in the North.

“We are particularly disturbed that the perpetrators of these dastardly acts and their sponsors are well known to government and no serious or decisive actions have been taken to stem their nefarious activities.

“The Federal and state Governments of Niger, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and such other areas that these wanton destruction of lives and property have been or are being perpetrated, should arrest and bring to book all the perpetrators and their sponsors.

“Government at all levels should provide 24 hours security services to all churches, Christian religious institutions and organisations in the county, especially in the North.

“We are also calling on the federal and state governments to urgently stem these massacres of Christians and the destruction of their churches and property in the North. The attacks so far have proved that some Islamic fundamentalists want to exterminate Christianity in the Northern states. We are assuring all Christians that the church will not allow that to happen,” Dogo said.

The ACF, on its part, condemned the frequent explosions, saying the Christmas attacks were capable of diverting attention to religious crises that would serve no one good.

The forum, in a statement emailed to THISDAY by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Anthony Sani, urged Boko Haram to embrace dialogue in pursuit of the resolution of whatever grievances it had with the authorities, stressing that the bombings and killing of innocent Nigerians and destruction of property were misguided.

“The spate of bomb blasts on Christmas day, which were directed at places of worship across some parts of the North, is a serious source of concern to Arewa Consultative Forum, to Northern Leaders and to the good people of the North, indeed, to patriotic Nigerians.

“Source of concern not because past bombings were less serious but because those on the Christmas day are capable of diverting attention to religious crises that would serve no one, including the perpetrators, any good now and for a long time to come.
“Consequently, ACF calls on the perpetrators of violence to stop forthwith and avail themselves to due process of addressing perceived grievances that are in place.

“ACF also wishes to say killing of innocent Nigerians is not correct and offends God and many people’s sense of justice. This is because a good number of those who go to places of worship are not lettered in either Western or Islamic education.
“More so that Western education is not necessarily the cause of the collapse of national ideals, moral values and cause of indiscipline in the polity, since there are examples of Muslim countries and Christian countries with western education that are morally sound. Turkey belongs to the former and Nordic country of Norway belongs to the later.

“Nigerians of all faiths must therefore come together and confront corruption in all ramifications by inspiring cultural renaissance for collective good. Corruption in Nigeria is not an exclusive preserve of Western education but a national malaise that should be confronted by all, and not government alone. Enough of the bombings and killing of innocent Nigerians,” the ACF said.
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) warned that there are certain disgruntled elements in the polity who want to divide Nigeria along sectarian lines.

President General of the TUC, Comrade Peter Esele, in a telephone conversation with THISDAY in Abuja yesterday, appealed to Nigerians, especially Christians, to be calm and avoid being incited to reprisal.
He added that it was necessary for Nigerians to stay united at these critical moments and not to allow any plot that is aimed at dividing the country along religious or ethnic lines to succeed.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) called on the Federal Government to make the fight against crime and terrorism its priority rather than diverting the attention of Nigerians with its debate on the need to remove fuel subsidy.

It added that it is necessary that the root causes of insecurity – poverty and unemployment – be addressed as budgeting huge sums of money for security would not solve the problem.

In a statement yesterday, the Acting General Secretary of the NLC, Comrade Owei Lakemfa, condemned the attacks in strongest terms, describing the perpetrators as “terrorists whose minds are as blurred as their vision”.

He called on Nigerians not to be deterred by the terrorists or give up on building a peaceful and united country where the will of the people would prevail.

50 Years of AI

Dear Gabriel,

When it comes to defending human rights, there is no organization I trust more than Amnesty International.

That’s why I’m honored to join Patti Smith, the Dave Matthews Band, Adele, My Morning Jacket and a host of other artists for the upcoming tribute album Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International.

Amnesty understands that defending human rights requires vigilance, doggedness and a strong, global force for good. Right now Amnesty faces multiple, urgent human rights crises and needs your immediate financial support to tackle them head on.

Be part of the most successful, most honored global rights movement in history. Make a year end donation to Amnesty International today.

Here’s some of what we are up against:

Dozens of health professionals were arrested in March, apparently for treating wounded protestors in Bahrain. In September a military court found 20 of these doctors and health workers guilty of “inciting hatred of the regime” and “occupying the hospital by force.”

The verdict brought prison sentences of 5-15 years. The health professionals are currently appealing the convictions.

Journalists threatened in Russia. Little progress has been made to increase the safety of journalists and human rights defenders who have the courage to expose abuses in Russia.

At least three high profile attacks, including the abduction and murder of human rights defender Natalia Estemirova, remain unsolved and uninvestigated.

Crackdown on human rights lawyers in China. Lawyers that challenge the government in court are threatened with suspension, disbarment and even criminal punishment. Where threats fail, lawyers are labeled dissidents and targeted with state violence. Human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng has been forcibly disappeared for more than a year.

These assaults on human rights must not go unanswered. Don’t let the brave individuals I’ve highlighted become casualties of our silence and indifference.

Support human rights the world over by making a year end gift to Amnesty.

Your gift is tax-deductible and will be put to work immediately. A generous donor will even triple your gift – but you must donate before December 31st.

With Appreciation,

Sting



Sea Turtles Survive

Dear Gabriel,

Every North American sea turtle is at risk—but we can save them together

Donate now to win important protections for sea turtles and the oceans we share»

Have you ever had the chance to see a sea turtle in the wild?

It’s no surprise if you haven’t. Six different species of sea turtles live in North American waters, but thanks to disappearing nesting beaches and destructive fishing gear, every single one of them is listed by the federal government as being threatened or endangered with extinction.

Sea turtles and the oceans that depend on them are in trouble – and we need your help if we’re going to save them. Give now to help reach our goal of $100,000 by the December 31st deadline.

Every year, sea turtle nests get crushed by people and cars. The baby turtles that hatch must get past a slew of predators in the air and water. And the precious few that make it into deeper waters and adulthood must somehow survive a gauntlet of fishing hooks and gear that kill thousands of turtles each year.

We can’t keep losing so many sea turtles. Not only are sea turtles a vital part of a healthy ocean ecosystem, they are some of the oldest living animals on our planet. Unless we do more to protect sea turtles now, our children and grandchildren may never get a chance to know these incredible creatures.

Thankfully, there is good news. Because of your financial support, Oceana has won many important victories, saving thousands of sea turtles and improving the health of our oceans.

Just this past summer, we took action to stop thousands of needless turtle deaths in the Gulf of Mexico. Our researchers uncovered shrimpers illegally using nets without turtle escape hatches. Without these escape hatches, sea turtles get trapped under water and drown to death. Your support allowed us to expose this crime against sea turtles and our oceans, and it will allow us to hold the government accountable for enforcing the law.

This kind of victory couldn’t have happened without your support. And if we’re going to build on that progress and win more, we’ll need your help once more.

Oceana is the largest organization in the world that takes a comprehensive approach to protecting sea turtles in every ocean at every stage of their life. We play a critical role by looking at how one fishery’s activities add to another’s, and at how protecting turtles in one ocean can impact the other side of the planet. Your contribution will fund our campaigns to protect areas sea turtles need in order to recover, and to hold the government accountable under the Endangered Species Act.

Be the reason we can save sea turtles today – and prevent an ocean with no turtles tomorrow. Make a tax-deductible donation to Oceana today.

For the oceans,
Tatiana Marshall
Oceana

Women of Egypt Protest

From McClatchy News Report by Mohannad Sabry
24 December 2011

Egypt’s women protest despite brutal military attacks.

Several army soldiers slapped, punched and kicked Mona Seif, hitting her with wooden batons while they dragged her inside the Cabinet Building shortly after they raided Tahrir Square. Minutes earlier she had been told to leave, but she refused unless they released a child she was protecting amid the violence.

“The army officer was infuriated when I told them to release the kid,” said Seif, a 25-year-old activist who leads the No Military Trials for Civilians movement. “He ordered the soldiers to take me where they will take the child.”

A young army officer in charge of the detention room continuously cursed at the female detainees.

“I am as old as your mother; have some respect for me,” said Khadiga, a woman in her 60s who sat on the floor beside Seif.

“The officer exploded when she said that. He kept slapping her over and over until she apologized,” said Seif. “I thought they distinguished between younger and older women. They don’t.”

“It’s a planned strategy,” she said. “… They want to scare off any girl thinking of joining a protest.”

Seif was detained around the same time that footage was taken of several army soldiers stripping and brutalizing another female protester, a video watched by millions worldwide.

This week, thousands of Egyptian women protested in Tahrir Square against military generals who silently watched their soldiers lead assaults on female protesters.

The female protest came despite an apology published on the official Facebook page of the ruling military council, a failed attempt to defuse public anger that backfired.

“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces expresses its deepest regret to the great Egyptian women after the violations committed during the latest protests. The council affirms its respect and appreciation for Egyptian women and their right to demonstrate and participate positively in political life,” said the statement.

Maha el Samadouni, a 62-year-old female protester, refused to accept any apology.

“Our traditions define women as a red line that should never be crossed,” she said. “It’s an unprecedented crime in the history of Egypt. The only way to stop this is by making an example of those who committed such a crime.”

“Women came out wearing black to mourn the dignity of Egyptian women that was killed at the hands of the military,” added Samadouni. She described the ruling military as “liars who denied any responsibility.”

Despite the shock caused by video images showing horrific assaults by soldiers on protesters, some seemed to have little sympathy for the victims.

“I am totally against violence, yet I don’t think it was right for this girl to be on the street at 3 a.m.,” said Gen. Sameh Seif el Yazal, a retired military and intelligence officer who now leads a strategic research unit.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

Illegal Invasion of Iraq

From Nation of Change and New America Media
22 December 2011

Ethnic Media Take Sober Look at U.S. Intervention in Iraq

When the last American troops pulled out of Iraq last week, Univision anchor and commentator Jorge Ramos tweeted in Spanish, “The last soldier is leaving Iraq, an unnecessary war, invented by Bush, that cost more than 100,000 lives and $1 trillion.” In another tweet, Ramos wrote in Spanish, “The war in Iraq is ending but you have to remember that no weapons of mass destruction were found there and that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11.”

In the wake of the end of the Iraq war, U.S. ethnic media are taking a sober look at the last nine years of American military intervention in Iraq, and the meaning of the war in each of their communities.

The Iraq war will be remembered as “an incomprehensible war whose repercussions will continue for a long time,” according an editorial in Los Angeles-based Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión looking back at the eight and a half years of U.S. military intervention in Iraq that ended last week.

The editorial argues that the Iraq war, a legacy of the George W. Bush administration, was built on “endless arrogance that led to denials of reality, deliberate lies and deep judgment errors.” The war itself, editors write, has done more harm than good, leading to losses in human lives, money and geopolitical uncertainty.

An op-ed in New York’s Spanish-language El Diario/La Prensa, called “A Vain Victory in Iraq,” explains the reason for this: “We continue fighting terrorists because they never were in Iraq, preferring to have their base in the lawless lands of Afghanistan and their alliances with the authorities of Pakistan. We continue to fear nuclear weapons, and that’s because Saddam Hussein wasn’t the problem; Iran and Pakistan are to blame. Israel still has enemies. And if there is a flourishing democracy in the region, it is thanks to the popular movements in Tunisia and Egypt, not our military adventure in Iraq.”

“War is a dirty business,” the commentator wrote for El Diario/La Prensa. “For a war to have popular support, the leaders of a democracy like the U.S. need to use illusions. That’s why the authors of the war in Iraq – especially President Bush and Vice President Cheney – promised us a miracle. The bombs would explode. And as the smoke dissipated, we would contemplate a simpler and less threatening world.”

That wasn’t exactly what happened, the writer concluded. “The bombs exploded. But today we hear sobs. And what we see is smoke as usual.”

Arab-American media, meanwhile, were not convinced that the withdrawal of American troops meant the end of military intervention in the region.

Ahemd Tharwat, a professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis and host of the local Arab-American TV program BelAhdan, called the U.S. troop withdrawal “an empty symbol.”

“The war was a huge mistake,” he said. “It was costly and unnecessary, and I don’t know if we can recover from it.”

Fatima Bakhit, publisher of the Los Angeles-based weekly newspaper Al Enteshar Al Arabi, echoed Tharwat’s disappointment and concern over the future of Iraq.

“The withdrawal is a joke,” Bakhit said. “It is just showing that America can realize its promise of ‘withdrawing,’” but, she said, “the American presence and influence will continue in Iraq.”

Bakhit noted that while “everyone has sadly paid a price in the war, Iraq is the biggest loser. The country has been completely destroyed as result of these nine years. And on top of that,” she said, “America’s relationship with the region, not just the country, has seriously worsened and will not improve.”

Media from the Iranian diaspora worried that the vacuum left in the wake of the American withdrawal from Iraq could provide an opportunity for Iran to step in.

“Less than a week after American troops left, an earthquake-like crisis is growing rapidly in Iraq,” noted a writer for Iranian.com, a website that posts stories by the Iranian Diaspora. “Some folks had warned that Iran would move to replace the Americans while others said Iraqi nationalism would prevent that. It’s starting to look like the first group was right.”

“For now Khamenei [Supreme Leader of Iran] would be playing a role similar to Milosevic in Bosnia,” the writer predicts. “He would encourage sectarian dominance next door and–rather than send armies openly, he would ‘loan’ weapons, offer trainers and send well armed ‘volunteers,’ stripped of their usual uniforms as the regime did in once prosperous Lebanon.”

Vietnamese Bayvut.com, based in Australia, also worried that Americans’ departure from Iraq could cause Iraq’s fragile democracy to disappear. Bayvut.com quotes a woman in Bagdad who said that she doesn’t “believe that real change has come. There are still bombings, assassinations, and the government is doing very little,” she said. “As for those who long for democracy in Iran, that hope has too dissipated with the Americans’ departure next door.”

Bao Moi newspaper, a Vietnamese Americans daily, adds that even as Iraqi citizens celebrate the departure of the U.S. military, “they are also worried regarding the new political fragmentation in their government that leads to issues of security and sovereignty of their country.”

Much of Korean media’s coverage of the Iraq war focused on South Korean businesses looking to take part in post-war reconstruction efforts.

An article in the Korea Herald from May celebrated the signing of a $7.25 billion contract between Hanhwa Engineering, one of South Korea’s largest developers, and Iraq’s National Investment Commission. The seven-year contract, which calls for the construction of a planned town 25 kilometers east of Baghdad, marks “the largest overseas construction project to be won by a Korean construction firm.”

Over its four-year presence in Iraq, South Korea dispatched some 19,000 mostly non-combat troops to the war-torn nation. The initial decision to take part in the effort proved controversial as most South Koreans opposed the war, though then President Roh Moo Hyun hoped to use it as leverage in efforts to move Washington toward a softer stance on North Korea.

As the war comes to an end, some Koreans are reflecting on the toll of the war for America. An editorial in the Korea Times notes that the nine-year conflict was fought on “false pretenses,” with the “misery and pain caused by the war far outweighing its glory.”

Paying a high price that included some 4,500 casualties, trillions of dollars spent and returning veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, the piece concluded that “in the end, the war sent America’s image abroad plunging.”

As American troops leave Iraq, some Chinese-American media outlets expressed concern that the U.S. military could take a renewed interest in China.

“The U.S. could redirect military resources from the Middle East to Asia, so that countries like South Korea and the Philippines, who are allies of the U.S., would receive more military support as the Iraq war ends,” said Joseph Leung, editor in chief of the Sing Tao Daily in San Francisco. “By directing more military resources to China’s neighboring countries, China’s development will be closely monitored by the U.S. and its allies in Asia.”

Chinese-American media also took a personal look at the families who have lost children in the war.

Read entire article at Nation of Change.

2011 Top 10

Gabriel,

2011 is almost over, and that means everyone’s making Top 10 lists. I decided to get in on the action too. Here’s my compilation of the 10 Worst Republican Actions of 2011.

Which do you think is the worst? Click here to vote:

Bring Back “Pre-Existing Conditions”: Health care reform is one of President Obama’s signature achievements. No longer can children born with health conditions be denied insurance. No longer can insurance companies deny care for “pre-existing conditions.” About 2.5 million young adults who lacked health insurance now are covered by their families’ plans. So what did Republicans do? Try to repeal “Obamacare” and put control back in the hands of insurance companies.

Kick Grandma Off Medicare & Give Her a Coupon: Republicans all lined up in favor of Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s extreme budget plan earlier this year that would kill Medicare as we know it and turn it into a voucher program. Thank goodness the Democratic Senate was there to stop them and keep our promise to seniors.

Hand Over Cash to Corporations and the Wealthy: Another part of Paul Ryan’s plan: Give huge tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy. While the middle class struggles to get ahead, Republicans tried to make things worse by reducing taxes on the wealthiest – and sticking everyone else with the bill.

Rip Away Workers’ Rights: When Republicans won the governorships in Wisconsin and Ohio, among other states, one of the first things they did was go after public workers, including taking away the rights of teachers and prison guards to bargain for better pay and benefits. Bad move. They clearly overstepped their bounds, and voters will remember at the ballot box in 2012.

Prevent You From Voting: Republicans this year decided that when it comes to elections, if you can’t beat, then cheat. From Florida to Wisconsin to Ohio, Republicans passed laws that will have the effect of suppressing Democratic turnout in these crucial swing states. The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that more than 5 million voters will be affected by these laws – a number higher than the margin of victory in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Senate Democrats are holding hearings on the Florida laws in January.

Declare War on Women: It was bad enough that Republicans tried to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning programs. Then they tried to change federal law to redefine rape and to allow hospitals to deny lifesaving care for pregnant women. So much for the Republican promise to have a “laser focus” on jobs. The Republican War on Women is alive and well.

Shove Gay Soldiers Back Into the Closet: It was a huge victory for civil rights and basic human dignity when President Obama signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell into law. Finally, all Americans could serve openly in the military. Or not. This year, Republicans tried to bring back the policy, and some Republican presidential candidates have said reinstituting discrimination is one of their top policy priorities.

Launch Assaults on Sesame Street and Lake Wobegon: I don’t know what Republicans have against Big Bird and Garrison Keillor, but they will do almost anything to shut off their microphones. In fact, earlier this year, Republicans vowed to shut down the federal government if NPR and PBS weren’t defunded. Luckily, Senate Democrats were there to stop the nonsense, and “Sesame Street” and “A Prairie Home Companion” were given a reprieve – for now.

Let Consumers Fend For Themselves: One of the most important reforms passed by Democrats in decades was the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to prevent big banks from ripping off their customers with dangerous financial products – some of the same products that contributed to the Great Recession. But Republicans hate anything that puts customers ahead of corporations. So they’ve fought the bureau – and people chosen to lead it – tooth and nail.

Increase Taxes for Middle Class Families. And last but certainly not least, this week House Republicans refused to support tax relief for the middle class, even as they demand it for billionaires and huge corporations. If your taxes go up next year, you’ll have nobody but Republicans to blame.

These policies and positions are simply awful — so awful, in fact, that I couldn’t choose the worst. That’s your job. Click here, vote, and tell us what you think is the No. 1 Worst Republican Actions of 2011. The Democratic Senate has been the firewall stopping most of these measures dead in their tracks. With only a four seat majority, it’s never been more important to protect the Senate.

From all of us here at the DSCC, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a great – and blue! – 2012.

Guy Cecil
Executive Director, DSCC

Havel and Jong il

From Nation of Change by John Feffer
20 December 2011

Two Leaders, Two Deaths

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and Czech leader Vaclav Havel occupied the opposite ends of the political continuum. One fought against the corrupt communist powers; the other consolidated communist rule. One tried to inject morality into the practice of politics while the other pursued political ends with little or no reference to morality. Having made their marks first in the artistic sphere, they were both in some sense reluctant politicians. Once in power, they managed to stabilize their respective countries during difficult times. But they failed in their efforts at more dramatic transformation.

Vaclav Havel waving to adoring crowd.

Kim Jong Il was only the second leader that North Korea ever knew. He ruled in the shadow of his father, Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea. The son had none of the charisma of the father, and none of the credentials either. Kim Il Sung fought as a guerrilla against the Japanese colonizers. His battles may not have been particularly impressive – and certainly not as impressive as North Korean propaganda has made out – but he at least could point to a revolutionary record. With no battlefield experience, Kim Jong Il even felt the need to fabricate his birthplace in order to suggest an authentic revolutionary past. Official North Korean history put his place of birth as the legendary Mt. Paektu in the northern part of North Korea, when in fact he’d been born in Russia.

The younger Kim established his reputation as a film director, translating his father’s revolutionary operas into cinematic blockbusters. He always seemed more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. He rarely made public comments. He stayed close to the military, which backed his rise to power. His first major policy as leader after his father’s death was to observe a three-year mourning period, during which his country descended into famine. He was always a half-hearted proponent of reform, backing some economic changes and then reversing himself (accepting private markets then cracking down on them, banning cell phones then encouraging their use within the elite). His chief interest, other than expanding his own huge film collection or enjoying the good life, was to preserve the power of North Korea’s ruling class. He was, at heart, a deeply conservative figure, more comfortable with the tropes of Korean nationalism than with the slogans of revolutionary communism.

Kim Jong Il waving to military troops.

Kim defied expectations in many ways. The North Korean government didn’t collapse after the elder Kim’s death in 1994. Nor did it crumble during the subsequent food crisis. Kim Jong Il managed to maintain alliances with China and Russia, coax South Korea into significant economic investments, bring North Korea into the nuclear club, and keep the United States at arm’s length at a time when other leaders (in Serbia, Iraq, and Libya) suffered regime change at the hands of U.S. forces.

But in the end, Kim Jong Il didn’t fundamentally change North Korea or offer an alternative economic or political system that could rival that of China or South Korea. He will ultimately be remembered as a transitional figure between his ruthless but transformative father and a future that has yet to be determined by his son and successor Kim Jeong Eun.

Vaclav Havel, more than perhaps anyone else of his political generation, represented the power of the dissident intellectual. A playwright and essayist, Havel brilliantly exposed the deceptions and stupidities of the communist system in Czechoslovakia. He spent time in jail. He helped nurture the small civil society that would prove so critical in 1989 in transforming not only his own country but the entire region of East-Central Europe.

Havel became president of Czechoslovakia at the end of 1989, a position that he claimed to have run for only reluctantly. However reluctant he might have been to assume the kind of political power that he had spent years deconstructing in print, he quickly became accustomed to high office. “Actually power, political power turned out to be something of an aphrodisiac for Vaclav Havel — four presidencies in two countries for 13 years,” observes his biographer John Keane. “Any obituary worth its salt will point out that if Vaclav Havel were writing honestly about Vaclav Havel it was the low point of his political career.”

Of course, even Havel’s low point was considerably better than most politicians’ high points. He effectively guided Czechoslovakia through its initial transition phase and then the “velvet divorce” that produced the Czech Republic and Slovakia. He fulfilled his promise in 2004 to bring the Czech Republic into the European Union, and today it ranks below only Slovenia among the former communist countries of the region in terms of per-capita GDP.

Read entire article at Nation of Change.

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