Saturday, June 30, 2007

The wrong stuff. posted by Richard Seymour

Two ultra-shitty devices yesterday, one alleged attempted suicide attack today by - if the account is half-true - a bunch of numbskulls. If only there had been legions of tanks trundling around Glasgow airport's runways and concourses, they could have fired shells repeatedly at the vehicle as it hurtled toward the airport's doors. That would have minimised the danger to travellers, no question. At the risk of further alienating my decent, hardworking, family-supporting, honest, tax-paying, law-abiding readers, may I state once again how unimpressive the luxuriant media panic-fest is. I don't want to diminish it, but - well actually, I do. The current batch of British jihadis, if this is what they are, are failing to match the competition. They are the underachievers of global terrorism. When it comes to tearing up cities they simply lack the competence that anti-terrorist-terrorists bring to the task.

I suppose some nitwit will ask the question: "ah, but would you want them to be competent?" You're asking me to glorify terrorism? Sorry to disappoint, darlings, but what I'd actually like to happen is for those who currently imagine that murdering a few dozen bystanding Brits will stop our gluttonous military machine in its tracks, to pull their heads out of their arses and get a clue. The only answer to this grave state of perpetual crisis being forced on us is to assemble the broadest possible coalition of the willing against the empire and its spear-carriers.

Incidentally, Craig Murray has committed the grievous sin of asking pertinent questions - to the usual catcalls and brays from the usual assembly of bores and dimwits.

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Orgiastic posted by Richard Seymour

What a strange day. I went out to buy a bike and ended up among this crowd:

Queers against capitalism. Gay pride. Transvestites. Wigs, costumes, dancing, piercings. Sheer, unadulterated hedonism. Respect.


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Idolatry posted by Richard Seymour


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Friday, June 29, 2007

Palestinians shot dead in cold blood by Lebanese troops posted by bat020

You might have noticed this story on the BBC about Palestinian demonstrators shot dead by the Lebanese army while "trying to break through a checkpoint". Here is what really happened:

Lebanese soldiers have opened fire on a demonstration of Palestinian refugees in the Beddawi camp near Tripoli in northern Lebanon, killing at least two people and wounding dozens more.

Palestinian rights campaigner Caoimhe Butterly was an eyewitness to the shooting. "There was a big demonstration through the Beddawi refugee camp today," she told Socialist Worker by telephone.

"At 1:40pm local time a group of about 200 young men broke away from the main section of the march and headed towards the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, which has been under siege by Lebanese army in their battle with Islamist militants.

"The men pushed passed local Palestinian security guards on the outskirts of Beddawi and proceeded towards the Lebanese army checkpoint.

"A group of women and children, including myself, rushed to attempt to stop the young men from marching on the checkpoint. We were trying to de-escalate a dangerous situation. By this time the crowd had grown to around 400 people.

"As they appproached the army checkpoint, Lebanese soldiers fired several volleys of warning shots into the air.

"At this point the demonstration halted, and a group of women rushed to the front and sat in the road to block the young men from marching any further.

"The women were joined by representatives of Palestinian political parties who began negotiations to end the confrontation and persuade the young men to rejoin the main demonstration inside the Beddawi camp.

"The negotiations had calmed tempers and there were no incidents of provocation – neither shouts, taunts nor stones were thrown."

"It was during this period that the soldiers suddenly fired two to three minutes of sustained automatic fire directly into the crowd.

"Many of us took refuge in the alleyways and shops off the main road. When the firing stopped, a group of us returned into the main road to help the wounded.

"We raised our hands above our heads. One of our group raised a piece of white cloth – I believe it was a shirt – to indicate we were unarmed. The soldiers shot her in the thigh.

"Ambulances began to appear to ferry away the wounded. During this time a group of around 20 Lebanese men appeared and began to attack the survivors with fists and knives. One activist who had been keeping a video record of events was severely beaten and stabbed.

"From first reports, five women are among the wounded, seven demonstrators are in a critical state and seven children were hit by bullets or fragments that ricocheted from the road, among them a three year old girl.

"Two men were killed – one 50 year old, the other in his 20s to 30s. Many of the wounded were hit in the legs and thighs. Others were hit in the stomach and back. We will be compiling witness statements."

from Socialist Worker


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Something else for Gordon Brown to choke on posted by Richard Seymour

Oh dear. Barely his second full day on the job, and already he's got the first national postal strike in more than a decade, and it's solid, and it's aimed at his policies. Socialist Worker has a tonne of reports and pictures coming in from across the country, and it looks like the posties have hit hard. Bear in mind what's happening here: at a time when inflation on necessary goods is hitting the poorest hardest, and when house prices and rents are increasingly unaffordable, Brown is applying brakes on wages. One of the means by which New Labour has always run a tacit incomes policy has been to restrain public sector wage growth, thus setting the trend for the rest of the economy. The attempt to enforce a 2.5% cap on wage rises means that there is a de facto cut. House price inflation stands at 11%. Hidden inflation on essential goods was as high as 9% this Spring. Therefore it's extremely important that the posties break this policy now, while Gordon is still fresh.

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Goodbye Piccadilly, farewell Leicester Square... posted by Richard Seymour

Look, I'm busy, I'm not even here really, but what do you reckon: obviously not the work of a professional, then? Why? Oh, I don't know: driving 'erratically' in front of a bunch of people in Haymarket, crashing into bins, running away from the car and leaving it out in the open so that people can see a gas cylinder inside it. And what animus could anyone possibly have against theatre-goers? Still apparently, it's a 'very serious incident'. The BBC explains:

John O'Connor, former commander of Scotland Yard's Flying Squad, told BBC News the incident bore all the "hallmarks" of a failed suicide bomb attempt. And it was "lucky" the police had received the tip-off .

No, see, in a suicide bomb... And I love this quote from an 'intelligence source': "All options, including the Irish, are open at this stage". I'm not sure that the entire Irish population on the planet is likely to have conspired in this fashion. There is also a curiously philosophical response from Jack Straw, who said it was "saddening" but "these things happen". Did April Fool come late this year? Des Brown, the new Defense Secretary, says: "My first reaction to this is, thank God that we have police and explosives experts who can make these devices safe, and the arrangements they appear to have done, and that nobody has been injured." Of course we have fucking police and explosives experts! And on BBC News 24, the phrase "terror fatigue" has been uttered by some vacuous presenter. Apparently, we are insufficiently terrified.

What on earth is going on? Why is everyone on the news talking such utter fucking rubbish?


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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lockerbie appeal. posted by Richard Seymour

Al-Megrahi has won the right to an appeal. Obviously, this is because the trial was a farce - quite why this wasn't widely perceived at the time I leave to your assessment. But one aspect of the mistrial that did emerge last year was that the prosecution had suppressed evidence. Hans Köchler, the UN observer at Camp Zeist, reported at the time that the trial had been politically manipulated, and that the verdict had been "totally incomprehensible":

In his report Köchler wrote that he found the presence of US Justice Department representatives in the court ‘highly problematic’, because it gave the impression that they were ‘“supervisors” handling vital matters of the prosecution strategy and deciding . . . which documents . . . were to be released in open court and what parts of information contained in a certain document were to be withheld.’ ‘The alternative theory of the defence,’ he went on, ‘was never seriously investigated. Amid shrouds of secrecy and national security considerations, that avenue was never seriously pursued – although it was officially declared as being of major importance for the defence case. This is totally incomprehensible to any rational observer.’ The prosecution, Köchler noted, dismissed evidence on the grounds that it was not relevant; but now that that evidence has finally – partially – been released, it turns out to be very relevant indeed: to the defence.

Robert Black QC, who devised the trial, said: "No reasonable tribunal, on the evidence heard at the original trial, should or could have convicted him and it is an absolute disgrace and outrage what the Scottish court did." One witness was abruptly prevented from giving evidence:

After Alan Turnbull QC, prosecuting, and defence counsel William Taylor QC and Richard Keen QC finished their questioning, the trial judge, Lord Sutherland, asked Mr Salinger to leave the witness box.

The broadcaster said: "That's all? You're not letting me tell the truth.

"Wait a minute, I know exactly who did it. I know how it was done."

Lord Sutherland interrupted and told the witness: "If you wish to make a point you may do so elsewhere, but I'm afraid you may not do so in this court."

The Tory Lord Fraser who ran the prosecution later cast doubt on the reliability of the evidence of one of the key prosecution witnesses, telling the Sunday Times that he felt the Maltese shop-owner named Tony Gucci had been "one apple short of a picnic". "Gauci was not quite the full shilling," he said. "He was quite a tricky guy, I don’t think he was deliberately lying but if you asked him the same question three times he would just get irritated and refuse to answer." He later 'clarified' his remarks in light of a serious prospect of him having to answer embarrassing questions about his own conduct. I don't think anyone who was being fully reasonable about it could conceivably conclude that Fraser had been misrepresented, as he claimed to have been.

Naturally, the television news has raised the dread 'conspiracy' word. However, they have decided that it's worth providing about half of the alternative account of what took place. My guess is that this is because Iran get the blame for having caused the explosion. However, the evidence is much more complex than this, and tends to suggest the involvement of many agencies, including American ones. At any rate, I gave a brief run-down of some the evidence collated by Paul Foot in his investigation of the matter here, and you can always read his articles here and here. If anyone wants a complete copy of Foot's 1995 investigation, e-mail me.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Another missed appointment with his maker posted by Richard Seymour

Of all the things they could have put Blair to do after he was preemptively fired by his party, of all the deranged notions that were floated - Blair as a 'faith ambassador', please - they came up with and settled on this idiocy. Why stop there? Why not put a Klansman in charge of race relations, a paedophile at the head of the Boy Scouts, and set up a Melvyn Bragg School for Cultural Excellence while we're at it? They have selected Tony Blair, the executioner of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the co-sponsor of Israel's murderous attack on Lebanon, the arms dealer to the crooked Saudi dynasty, the detestable spear-carrier for the American Empire, and bag-carrier for Bush, to be the Quartet's envoy to the Middle East. The man is a disaster in general, and a catastrophe in specific. One strains to recount a single thing he has touched without debasing it or destroying it. Among his lesser victims was The Simpsons, but sure enough he fucked that up as well.

I don't doubt that it is a logical step for a body that has been casually starving the Palestinians into submission, or death, whichever comes first, while parts of it helped orchestrate a coup against their elected government (a policy known as 'democracy promotion'). Yet even they, I would have expected, must possess a sense of the inapt and the downright absurd. The only upside of this is that Blair isn't going to be a Member of Parliament any more. He thought, apparently, that he would try and find a niche where he is more popular than in the UK. The lousy bastard might have tried hell - they like his sort there.

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Trotsky Speaks! posted by Richard Seymour

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It will have blood, they say: blood will have blood. posted by Richard Seymour

Writing about the assault on Baqubah, you may recall, I said: "It will be a while before anyone starts to hear many details of what has happened to that city." One story has now emerged, from an area beyond the iron wall surrounding the city: a small, largely Shi'ite village, named al-Khalis. The BBC reports that one of the headline assaults last week that supposedly killed 17 'Al Qaeda' fighters actually wiped out a bunch of guards who were protecting the village from precisely the kinds of interlopers that the yanqui conquistadores were supposedly exterminating. The occupiers claim to have killed about forty 'Al Qaeda' fighters, and captured dozens more - but before they started this assault, they claimed that there were at least 300 fighters in Baqubah (itself an utterly implausible, ridiculous claim), so any trumpeted 'success' is likely to be an inflation at the least. And, as Juan Cole points out, the operation is an attempt to bring an unwilling, largely Sunni population under the control of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, now known - since the US has already effected their 'revolution' - as the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC). That isn't going to fly.

Although it is claimed that the US has so far taken 60% of the west of Baqubah, all reports have indicated that Iraq's Vichy army is not capable of holding the city for the SIIC. However, bear in mind the scale of this operation: as in other city-assaults, they have sealed the place off and entered with all guns blazing and bombers tearing up the streets. This is far from over, and if they seriously intend to keep the city under SIIC control, then I would anticipate an escalation. Don't expect a serious body count or even estimate until some of the humanitarian agencies get a look in there. I don't think there were many more than a dozen civilian deaths reported by the embedded media in Fallujah during Operation Phantom Fury, (and remember, all non-embedded reporters are being kept out of Baqubah right now), but the first post-bombing estimate was that 800 had died in the blitz, and later, NGOs estimated up to 6,000 deaths. It would have been much higher had most of the population not been driven out into the deserts to seek the canvas hospitality of any aid organisation that would provide it. And, as you know, that city has been under forced labour servitude, biometric lockdown, and round-the-clock military rule ever since. They constructed a huge torture regime in Camp Mercury on the outskirts of the city, where 82nd Airborne, describing themselves as Murderous Maniacs, would attack and torture their hostages: they called it "fucking" them. Now you know what to call it if you want to be as objective as possible by media standards: it is, after all, the term prescribed by the US military. 150,000 of the city's citizens remain refugees and, of course, reconstruction is practically non-existent. Having destroyed the city and run it as an open air prison, they are still facing resistance: they say they will have suppressed 'Al Qaeda' in that city by this August (although, if you recall, they didn't actually discover any 'Al Qaeda' there when they took the city, and they didn't expect to). And now, it is reported that they have blockaded that city for a month, keeping aid workers out. Why? Because they too might be 'Al Qaeda'. Residents are under a renewed curfew, and once again the prisoners are having to drink dirty water and live without electricity. Such is the calculated object-lesson in terror, annihilation and deprivation that the US decided to set for Iraqis, and if they have to make another example of another city, they will. It is called humanitarian intervention.

Still, Operation Arrowhead Ripper has thus far had a very successful media run. Little has been discussed beyond the occasional 'success'. We learn nothing, and they will tell us nothing that doesn't immediately jar as an obvious propaganda piece. One press-release from the MNF claims that troops have discovered 'Al Qaeda' prisons, torture chambers, execution houses. Its claims are broadly reflected in much of the coverage, with some variations and bagatelles. Who knows, it may even contain some truth: whatever combination of groups there are running the area, I daresay they impose some fairly strict discipline, up to and including executions. However, the idea is seriously being offered that the US military are liberating Iraqis from imprisonment, torture and death. Why don't they simply call it Operation Irony Death?


Meanwhile, Adhamiya seems to be experiencing a crackdown. It has been heavily cordonned off, and they are depriving neighbourhoods of electricity and water supply, as part of a blackmail to get residents to 'hand over' local insurgents. You'll remember that this is a Sunni district north of Baghdad, where a 'security wall' was built against the wishes of the local population, who were thus roundly abused as being 'Al Qaeda' (you begin to see how this works). And in Anbar, the local fighters who the US recruited with a sack full of $75m appear to have collapsed after the guy running the show ran off with all the cash. Now that sixteen of the tribal sheikhs that the occupiers were using to try and take control of local affairs for them in Anbar (on the basis of the military's stupendously racist 2003 assessment I would guess) have copped it from a suicide attack, some experts 'query' this way of going about things. On the contrary, the policy is ideal if taken to its logical conclusion: the occupation forces should transfer as much of their weaponry and money to Iraqis as quickly as possible. I guarantee you that this would result in less bloodshed all-round, and a much speedier exit for the poor, exhausted troops.

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Bullshit story posted by Richard Seymour

This is bullshit and I claim my five pounds. Do not, guys and gals, get me wrong. I am fully aware that insurgents in both Iraq and Afghanistan have engaged in some grizzly, grotesque spectacles. However, this story is caked in shit and is currently drawing more flies than a carcas in the sun. This one AP story has been repeated in at least 260, count em, 260 news items. On the calculation that at least half of you are too lazy to click on the link, it says that the Taliban tried to trick a young boy who doesn't appear to know his own age into becoming a suicide bomber, but he escaped into the arms of the Afghan troops. Oh, it's the usual: poor detail, no corroboration, lots and lots of emotionalism (a bunch of war-hardened men, some of whom have dropped cluster bombs on ickle children, well up and touch their eyes and sniffle and castigate the evil menace that would do such a thing). There is lots of the giveaway "colour": irrelevant but evocative details about the child's appearance, mannerisms, hobbies, background - and the allegedly besotted reactions of those who are in fact parading the child. And then they all have a whip round and give the kid $60. You would think that if Afghan troops defused a vest on the kid that they would be able to confirm the story, but apparently not. Now get this - this is a classic line:

Thomas said the case would force soldiers to think twice before assuming children are safe.

"This is one incident. We hope it doesn't repeat itself. But it gives us reason to pause, to be extra careful," he said. "We want to publicize this as much as we can to the Afghan people so that they can protect their children from these killers."

Oh yeah, you certainly want to publicise it. So, Major Thomas, what are you going to do if you see a child in a dirty coat running toward you? To be on the safe side, I mean? Hamstring him? Pepper him with plastic bullets? Destroy the brain instantly, utterly?

In other news, claims that the US army have used an impoverished child to legitimise the killing of other impoverished children left the editor of Lenin's Tomb incensed. "I kicked in the television screen and wept. How can anyone use a child in this way," he mourned, wiping away horrible tears. "This is an evil, cowardly act. Relating to these kids as someone who has not as yet impregnated anyone, I think, well golly, what if I did have children and someone tried to do that to them? I'd have to take the $60 off them."

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Monday, June 25, 2007

A 21st Century fable posted by Richard Seymour

"You like eating, don't you Timmy?" I sure do! "And you wouldn't want some nasty old commie to requisition your dinner, would you?" Gosh no! "Well, see here, Timmy, these here communists say mean things about globalisation - but that's what gets the food from Kenya to your plate!" And I'm hungry! "That's why we need to integrate world markets, share our goods across the planet, and make sure everyone gets to eat. It's called globalisation, Timmy." I like globalisation! "You certainly do!"

Thus, the voice of the master explains neoliberalism to the world's starving children. This fanciful deviation was inspired by the latest World Opinion Poll which, while containing some interesting findings, is custom-designed to produce a big thumbs up for 'globalisation'. It construes globalisation as "the increasing connections of our economy with others around the world", and is thus able to conclude that "Support for globalisation is remarkably strong throughout the world". It also finds that most people, shockingly, support the idea of transporting goods from one end of the planet to the other. Have we only thought up this astonishingly simple transaction in the last few years? And what must the pollsters think of those substantial minorities in places like Russia and Mexico who actually think that it's a bad idea? Retrograde, superstitious peasants, surely? And why is that in all countries, those with higher incomes tended to be ten points more supportive than others?

To tarry with the obvious for a moment, what exactly international trade means depends on the context, on what mechanisms for trade are promulgated, on what you're trading, on what the supporting political institutions are, on the global balance of power, on the environmental circumstances, and so on. It can bring you diamonds, coltan, t-shirts, soft drinks, cars and cotton, but it can also bring you slavery, the White Plague, the Black Death, genocide, eco-death, coup d'etat, slum corridors and Toby Keith. Unless you're a flat-earth, free-marketeer, ultra-riche dunce like Thomas Friedman, you are unlikely to simply assume that 'globalisation' only means the interpenetration of markets and growing international trade. That is something that the pollsters had to slot into the heads of their respondents in order to get the requisite response. In common political parlance, by contrast, it is used as a synonym for neoliberal policies, or at the very least as a quasi-natural phenomenon that can only be met with such policies.

For the use of polling organisations, here is a primer on neoliberalism. And while they're at it, they might ponder on the meaning of the term loaded question.

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Well, duh. posted by Richard Seymour

Occupiers have killed more civilians this year than the 'Taliban'. That doesn't include the civilians they killed in Pakistan. But it does include this latest massacre. Now, as usual, the occupiers say that it was the 'Taliban' what made them do it. When shall we hear solemn press-releases, solemnly recounted by newspapers, in which the 'Taliban' explain that they meant to hit only occupying troops with their latest suicide attack, but that the occupiers forced them to strike in civilian areas by hiding in humvees and helicopters and Bradley tanks, driving through densely populated areas and thus using the surrounding people as human shields like the cowards they are?

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That Rushdie affair in full posted by Richard Seymour

I venture, readers, that you are as sick of this idiotic topic as I am. Should Salman have received the gong? Was it the right time? Must we always give in to these zealots? Doesn't 'Sir Salman' have a nice ring to it? Doesn't he have a nice ring to him? Etc etc. So I will make this quick. I will admit, at the risk of being considered a fence-sitter, that I am almost as sick of the tawdry arguments against his knighthood as the endless arse-kissing and adulation in favour of it. The idea, for instance, that such an award is unsuitable for someone who has offended so many Muslims is surely correct, but only because to truly merit an award from the British Empire, one ought to have killed at least a few thousand of them as well as offending the rest. It is true that Rushdie argued in favour of the war on Iraq, thus helping legitimise the murder of thousands of Muslims, but that doesn't really cut it. If he really wants to earn that despicable award from that despicable, nasty, blood-drenched crew of gangsters of both ancient and modern regimes, he needs to strap on the pith helmet and get racing to Basra. As it is, however, he has so far only written a complex work of fiction which understandably offended some Muslims, but not at all understandably also resulted in his living in fear of murder for about a decade. All because Khomeini was running into a bit of trouble after the budget-draining war with Iraq and the revelations about Iran-Contra. What's more, Rushdie did spend a lot of time apologising for the offense and even made a big deal about converting.

The trouble with 'both sides' of this preposterous argument is that a) they both invest the honours system with legitimacy, and b) they either disappear up Salman's cherubic backside or completely miss the point by waffling about legitimate offense. And the worst of it is the media coverage, which constantly references a 'row' or a 'furore', as if there is one. As if a bit of empty fist-shaking from an Iranian ambassador, a few lonely crowds of right-wing Islamists in Pakistan, and a reference to possible suicide attacks by a politician working in the shaky Pakistani military government, constitutes a brewing clash of civilisations. It doesn't help either that most of Rushdie's defenders are those who vocally favour imperialist crusades, concurrently write the most ignorant, bilious, piss-poor nonsense about Islam, and are actually moist in the crevices at seeing one of their number ennobled for services to the empire. Incidentally, one of his defenders today is a rather smug neocon provocateur named Mark Steyn. When the first bounty was offered on Rushdie's head, Steyn was full of scorn for his defenders, for Rushdie's fiction, for his left-wing politics and, strangely, for Rushdie's physionogmy which he seemed to think had been improved in hiding. Rushdie had morphed from being a "sinister Bombay exotic" to being "an amiable Julian Critchley type", but still "those unnerving eyes gave him away - more heavily hooded than ever before, rolled upwards with the upper half of the irises permanently invisible. It was like watching some sort of intermediate stage between life and death." Yes. Muslims. Faaaasands of em. Wait til you the whites of their eyes, lads.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

"Damn, that's a lot of dead hajis" posted by Richard Seymour

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Levelling up, not down. posted by Richard Seymour

"This paper proposes that colonialism is a major explanation behind today's differences in income inequality across countries. We argue that income inequality has been higher in the colonies where the percentage of European settlers to total population was higher, as long as Europeans remained a minority. The countries where Europeans became the majority of the population did not suffer from high inequality. These initial differences continue to hold today. The empirical evidence we provide strongly supports our thesis."

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Whitey's planet, whitey's rules: on those unfit for self-government posted by Richard Seymour

Ignatieff complains, repeatedly, of Woodrow Wilson's legacy, for having embedded the concept of self-determination in liberal discourse. He thinks that it has failed, that the dream of national sovereignty is over and that the American empire will have to take over and live up to, or down to, his own liberal ideals (which, by the way, include defense of the state's inalienable right to torture suspects, until it becomes an electoral liability). If he had actually read a little bit of Wilson, or knew what he was talking about - which I can assure you he doesn't - he would know that he is actually very close to being a Wilsonian, but that this is no compliment. His was a doctrine mainly about those unfit for self-government and who could, at best, be redeemed after a training course under the despotism of whitey. Wilson was, as I think I briefly indicated elsewhere, for the sternest repression of the 'savage' races of the earth. He wasn't alone in it, and I only mention it again because he in particular has such a mountainous reputation. Well, they have never stopped with the white despotism, and are even today preparing for more of the same.

Consider: This has passed at the start of the year. That is a Congressional resolution calling upon the UN to "charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the United Nations Charter because of his calls for the destruction of the State of Israel." Genocide. This passed with bipartisan support. Wanna see how they support the claim of genocide? Well: "the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (commonly referred to as the `Genocide Convention') defines genocide as, among other things, the act of killing members of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the targeted group, and it also prohibits conspiracy to commit genocide, as well as `direct and public incitement to commit genocide'".

Seriously? Apparently so. It goes on to imply that Iran has threatened to use force against Israel, and then to elide the distinction between the threat of force and genocide; and then it repeats the 'wiped off the map' bullshit. This has been comprehensively debunked more times than the average US congressperson could count. The resolution also recites a mutilated quote from the Modern Right reformer Hashemi Rafsanjani, which has been bruited widely on the scum blogs and most reactionary news sites. The quote as rendered in the resolution is: "[i]f one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything [in Israel], while it will merely harm the Islamic world". Now, I don't expect much rhetorical maturity from American politicians, but I expect a little bit of sophistication. The quote is taken from a 2001 speech, (you can read all of it here), and it clearly doesn't signal an intent to harm Israel or destroy it. All to what end? Well, if the United Nations should consider a country guilty of breaching the genocide convention, that is a mountainous cassus belli, and would legitimise intervention - perhaps by the state of Israel - to thwart this 'genocide'. The news now is: IAF preparing for Iran strike. The Wahabbi Jundullah militia based in Pakistan have been probing and softening targets in the south of Iran on behalf of Washington, and have even been honoured on Voice of America as the leaders of a popular Iranian resistance movement. Their atrocities have easily matched the various assaults by people calling themselves 'Al Qaeda' affiliates in Europe, but who ever thinks to ask a White House spokesperson why they are supporting what Bush called in a moment of puerile demagogery, "Islamic fascism", in the Middle East, and why - if they are so concerned with the well-being of Iranians - they think it is more permissible to murder them than New Yorkers? Wouldn't Iran be entitled to its own 'war on terror', including retaliatory strikes on American military buildings, or a full-scale invasion if America refused to hand over the people who ordered this horror? What news corporation would allow a reporter of theirs to ask such a question, and broadcast the reply?

In Afghanistan, where the massacres pile up daily, they expect to stay for decades: the white man's tutelage was as long in the Philippines, and didn't ever completely end, even to this date. Similarly, in Iraq, the plan is to make a Korea out of it. If they could ever get troops to the heart of Tehran, you could be sure that it too would be temporary to begin with, transitional for a few years, and then mandatory for the ensuing decades. And recently, as Eli pointed out recently, the House of Representatives approved new money for 'democracy promotion' in both Venezuela and Cuba. In both cases, their allies for democracy are ultra-rightists nostalgic for Phillipine monarchy, adamant supporters of racial hierarchy, putschists and opponents of all forms of genuine democracy. Nor will they allow Somalia to govern itself, unless it accepts self-government to mean the rule of a clutch of warlords. Haiti, following a coup and multinational governance under the especial auspices and direction of the United States, France and Canada, is only now - after the invasion of death squads, after the overthrow of the elected government, after several massacres by the UN troops, after the empowering of former genocidaires, after the locking up of thousands of political prisoners, and after the destruction of cities - taking tentative moves toward getting its own security forces, that might "one day" replace the MINUSTAH forces. Although Haitian resistance ensured that they couldn't restore completely the butchers of Raboteau, Haiti is secured once more in North America's 'free trade' circuit, with the sporting goods and t-shirts flooding into US and Canadian markets on the back of the cheapest labour possible. You will recall also that in Nicaragua, the US government was even unwilling to leave the Nicaraguans to elect their own government in peace last year, since they feared that the winner would be one of the people who helped overthrow the dynastic autocracy that US forces imposed in 1937. The repeated, unveiled threats probably did much to alter the election result, as their combination of death squad terror and bribery decided the result of the 1990 election in favour of Chamorro. They are doing all possible to finish off even the prospect of real Palestinian self-government. And they are now worried, terribly, that Pakistanis and Egyptians may achieve self-government.

This résumé, far from comprehensive, describes a current and pressing state of affairs. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the lives and conditions of millions of people not living in the United States are determined in part by a largely Anglo-Saxon ruling class, which has learned not to openly espouse the principles of white supremacy and 'race' hierarchy, but operates on them nevertheless. Such an order cannot but be organised through the repeated and perpetual application of extreme violence - which task is effected not only by legions of amphetamined Alabama-bred eighteen year olds pumped up on racism and pornography, but also by the private contingent, the warlords and mercenaries and shock troops of different fundamentalisms. Now they are settled on decades of jackboot rule in several strategically important areas, mandate-style colonial governance with a few nods toward representation, as was very much the style in the old days. Apopthegmatically, of course, those who resist that order and support such resistance are evil, inhumane, and anti-democratic. Such people hate freedom, even their own, and abjure it every time they refuse whitey's rule.

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Herrenvolk democracy posted by Richard Seymour

The most Liberal and Radical personalities of free Britain, men like John Morley—that authority for Russian and non-Russian Cadets, that luminary of “progressive” journalism (in reality, a lackey of capitalism)—become regular Genghis Khans when appointed to govern India...

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Lenin Reloaded posted by Richard Seymour

Lenin is not merely the name of a deceased revolutionary, (or an epigonic blogger), but a signifier of pure evil. There is no good reason for this: Lenin fought a vicious civil war, but so did the sainted Abraham Lincoln; Lenin suspended habeus corpus, but ditto; Lenin was willing to expand the Bolshevik state with the use of the Red Army, but he wasn't a Great Russian chauvanist, in the way that successive US Presidents were Greater American chauvanists with new and perpetually shifting frontiers; Lenin ruthlessly pursued opposing parties when he perceived them as a threat to the revolution, but so did Robespierre, and to be fair, he had a great deal more provocation than Robespierre. Practically everything the bad man did was also done by good men, and women, under much less taxing circumstances.

To his credit, Lenin was not a racist or imperialist, while Wilson was; Lenin was not in favour of capitalist exploitation, while every opposing force was; Lenin was percipient and fought a sustained fight against Stalinist centralism and autocracy, before anyone else did; Lenin tried to stop World War I, that inferno of mass murder, while most European socialists capitulated. He popularised the term 'revolutionary defeatism', which is the most anti-racist, anti-imperialist and humane terminological innovation in a century whose other inventions included 'genocide', 'holocaust', 'ethnic cleansing' and so on - that one can even say 'and so on' is monstrous in itself. His April Theses foresaw the problems with the Provisional Government and the possibilities of a revolutionary situation even while most of his comrades thought him deluded. He also turned to a productionist version of socialism and was willing to compromise and re-introduce elements of capitalist social relations when it proved necessary. Most importantly, and to his greatest credit, Lenin oversaw the foundation of a Red Army to ruthlessly, without compromise and by any means necessary, defeat the White Army reactionaries and the Entente Powers. He practised what he preached, which was revolutionary realpolitik - power politics for the oppressed and exploited. He foresaw the threat of Stalinism, which is to say he foresaw the defeat of the revolution, and tried in his dying hours to stop it from happening. Of course he had his flaws: all of these circumstances tended to make his prose bombastic, and he was reputedly unwilling to spend much time listening to music.

The new volume, Lenin Reloaded, edited by Sebastian Budgen, Stathis Kouvelakis, and the particularly evil Slavoj Zizek, takes the figure of Lenin as an unmentionable, unspeakable thug, axiomatically responsible for The Worst Crimes of the Twentieth Century (although in fact he wasn't, not remotely), as it starting point (although, in fact, the theoretical starting point is Badiou and his Politics of Truth). It's a good collection of essays by some of the best marxist scholars working today, and among my favourites is the article by Domenico Losurdo on 'Lenin and Herrenvolk Democracy' - Losurdo is, if you ask me, the best critic of capitalist ideology writing today. Here, he engages with the difference between Lenin and Toqueville - between the Russian revolution and the American one, that is. Lenin, as I've mentioned elsewhere, was a birthday internationalist, and it is because of this internationalism, spooled into his gene pool if you like, that he won the respect of and provided the example for anticolonialists across the planet. Woodrow Wilson, a racial fundamentalist and Protestant fanatic, would try to be his equal in appealing to the colonised, but failed because he was himself a supporter of colonialism and Aryan supremacism.

Lenin is one of the topics on which Zizek is both entertaining and politically stringent, sort of. Lars Lih's essay on Lenin as an evangelical enthusiast overturns the notion of Lenin is a cold, calculating machinic presence hovering over the Russia of civil war and famine. It is known by Lenin's biographers that he was an uncharacteristically self-effacing and warm person for a leading revolutionary, (Trotsky, by contrast, was an imperious and dynamic orator). But it isn't well-known what an enthusiast he was: his most widely quoted statements speak of correcting spontaneist tendencies, but Lih shows - by citing more neglected statements and texts - exactly how important spontaneity and individual energy was to him. Frederic Jameson's essay is characteristially liberal and pomo, while Eagleton punctures the myth that Lenin's vanguardism is elitist and authoritarian. Bensaid's contribution is a reprint from International Socialism and can be read here. There are a whole swathe of excellent contributions that I can't really do a proper service to here, but it's worth having a look at. At the very least, if you fancy overthrowing the ruling class and replacing it with a revolutionary government of workers councils, or even if you simply want to realise what it means to think through alternatives to capitalism, and why the twentieth century was one of war and revolution, you need to engage with Lenin's legacy.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

"Reassurance" posted by Richard Seymour

Reports on US attacks on Iraqi cities use the occupiers' terms of reference almost without fail. However, the extent to which one has to be insulated from reality in order to continue to do so is illustrated in this report from the LA Times, which cites the following, without scepticism:

James Phillips, a Middle East and terrorism expert at the Heritage Foundation, said even if large operations such as this one did not capture many insurgents, they could disrupt their activities.

"I think probably the more fruitful raids are the small, pinpoint attacks," he said. "But one possible benefit of the big operations is it reassures the population, and maybe they will provide you the intelligence that you can use to hit insurgent leaders."

As usual, the article discusses the terrible things that have 'be-devilled' the occupiers efforts to bring the locals to heel. But look at that claim that "the big operations" - ferocious military assaults as they are usually known - reassure the population. This is a discussion of the attack on Baquba, and a series of coterminous assaults taking place in the famed 'Sunni triangle'. Now, how many times do the polls need to tell us that Iraqis demand an immediate withdrawal, especially in those areas? How many times do we need to hear that most Iraqis support resistance attacks on troops - again, particularly in the areas currently under attack? When even the cowed souls in the Iraqi National Assembly oppose the occupation, the correct word is intimidation.

According to the New York times, the US forces are once again cordoning off territory in advance of bombardment, this time western Baquba, where they have already dropped several tonnes of sattelite-guided explosives. One of the curious claims emerging from the occupiers at the moment is that the resistance in Baqubah only amounts to 300 'Al Qaeda' fighters. This tiny clique has supposedly governed a city of 300,000 people as the capital of the 'Islamic State of Iraq'. As a result, the US is putting the civilian population through the usual humiliating searches and taking biometric data from them. This is part of a massive operation across Iraq. Using the secret biometric files accumulated by Hussein's mukhabarat, they are cross-checking all fingerprints and iris scans, apparently so that they can separate evil-doers from those who simply need 'reassuring'.

Interestingly, the reports also mention that the '1920 Revolution Brigades' are operating in Baqubah. This is a non-sectarian Sunni resistance group whose name refers to the revolt against British colonialism in 1920. Their strategy has been to use guerilla tactics against military forces rather than the more brutal (but apparently effective) suicide attacks directed against the infrastructure of Iraq. If you're interested in seeing how they work, they have taken video footage of several of their attacks on tanks and helicopters. The curious thing is that the same reports that discuss their presence in Baqubah also discuss their widely noted attacks on 'Al Qaeda'. In fact, the LA Times report above says it is 'chilling': "In Diyala, there were reports of the 1920 Revolution Brigade using its newfound status to chilling effect. Rami Abdullah, a Baqubah schoolteacher, said masked men raided a house near his home and arrested two alleged Al Qaeda loyalists. 'They whisked them away to unknown destinations,' he said. Masked men also took over several homes near a dam and were using them as interrogation centers for people suspected of supporting Al Qaeda. 'They are executing anyone who is proved affiliated with these groups,' he said." Of course, when US troops arrest alleged supporters of 'Al Qaeda', it is called 'counterterrorism'.

The wider point I would like to make about this is that the constant references to the resistance movements in Anbar and other areas of Iraq as 'Al Qaeda', while certainly effective propaganda, are probably laughed at by experts. Among the armed resistance groups based in the Sunni areas of Baghdad, Anbar, Salah ad-Din and Diyala are: The General Command of the Armed Forces, Resistance and Liberation in Iraq (mostly former Ba'athists); Popular Resistance for the Liberation of Iraq (secular Sunni outfit); Iraqi Resistance and Liberation Command (secular nationalist, anti-Ba'ath); Al 'Awdah (former security personnel of the Ba'ath); Harakat Ra's al-'Afa (Ba'athist, linked to tribes in Ramadi and Fallujah); Nasserites, (a small bunch of non-Ba'ath pan-Arab nationalists); Thuwwar al-'Aral-Kata'ib al-Anbar al-Musallahuh (anti-Saddam nationalists); General Secretariat for the Liberation of Democratic Iraq (leftist nationslists); Higher Command of the Mujahideen in Iraq (both religious and nationalist); Munazzamat al-Rayat al-Aswad (religious nationalist); Unification Front for the Liberation of Iraq (anti-Saddam and anti-Baath); National Front for the Liberation of Iraq (incorporates both former Republican Guards and Islamists); Jaish Ansar al-Sunnah (one of the largest groups in Iraq, incorporating both Kurdish and Sunni Arab Islamists); Mujahideen al ta'ifa al-Mansoura (Salafist, includes non-Iraqis); Kata'ib al Mujahideen fi al-Jama'ah al-Salafiyah fi al-'Arak (Salafists, with some connections to former Afghan groups); Jihad Brigades/Cells (Islamist guerillas); Armed Islamic Movement of the Al Qaeda Organization, Fallujah Branch (a little known group with some amount of support in the city); Jaish Muhammad (apparently one of the largest Islamist groups); Islamic Army of Iraq (Salafist); Jaish al Mahdi (you know these guys already, and they do sometimes operate in the north where there are Shi'ites living).

That's far from comprehensive. If you had to estimate the scale of this patchwork of military outfits alone, however, by 2004, it was estimated by American sources to be at least 20,000. By 2005, when Ahmed S Hashim wrote Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Iraq, the resistance groups they were able to put a figure on had tens of thousands of members. The director of the new intelligence services built by the occupiers, General Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani claimed in early 2005 that the resistance numbered 40,000 hardcore fighters and 160,000 'part-timers'. In the middle of that year, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the US Army claimed that they had killed an estimated 50,000 people. A large number of those fighting have done so informally, outside the rubric of specific groups. Assume also that a large number of the hundreds of thousands so far killed by the occupiers were fighting the occupiers informally or as part of such cells. There must have been proportionately many more wounded than actually died as well. Add to that the fact that huge areas of Iraq are not under occupation control: Anbar and Diyala in particular are decisively under resistance hegemony, while other provinces such as Salah ah-Din, Ninewah and Kirkuk are contested, and 60% of Baghdad is controlled by different resistance groups (the south, of course, is largely under the influence of diverse Shi'ite militias, some of whom collaborate with the occupation). In several of the largest cities, resistance groups have been sufficiently in control to mount large public parades.

The actual number of resistance fighters is probably substantially larger than the number of occupying troops, and given the trends, it would probably be at least double what it was when General Shahwani made his estimate. The idea that the US army is conducting a counterinsurgency operation in Baqubah against a few hundred 'Al Qaeda' fighters with no base of support is palpably absurd. In mid-2004, Brigadier General Custer (oh yes), director of intelligence for CENTCOM, said that there was little evidence of 'Al Qaeda' operating in Iraq, and he was correct. Since then, one or two groups operating there have declared 'loyalty' to the 'Al Qaeda' network, but it remains the case that the bulk of the insurgency, more than 95%, is Iraqi. We have since been apprised of the massive propaganda efforts that went into persuading people otherwise. The propaganda persists, of course, with precisely the same motifs as before: it's Al Qaeda, it's a small number of foreign fighters, it's mostly evildoers who attack civilians (not so either, as I have repeatedly pointed out), and so on. What the occupiers are facing, as they know very well, a massive, popular (if poorly armed and trained) movement with enormous public support. So, who needs 'reassuring' here?

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Meanwhile... posted by Richard Seymour

Hossam el-Hamalawy reports on another victory for Egyptian workers, and brings two new studies of struggles taking place in Egypt.

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Farooq Tariq released posted by Richard Seymour

I can't see it mentioned in any of the English-language news sites yet, but a contributor to Marxmail brings news that the general-secretary of the Pakistan Labour Party (LPP) has been released from prison after fifteen days. Farooq Tariq is quoted as saying:

It was one of worst jail experience I had during my 30 year of activism. I was released after 15 days when my detention orders were withdrawn by the home secretary of Punjab government on 19th June. It was not due to a mercy of the government but our local and international massive solidarity campaign. Hundreds of protest letters have been sent to General Musharaf with dozens of faxes and messages of protest to different provincial authorities during the solidarity campaign against my detention.

He goes on to describe the atrocious conditions in which he was detained, along with hundreds of other political prisoners from the LPP, the Pakistan People's Party and Muslim League, who were among other things deprived of water during a sweltering heatwave. Musharraf is now particularly worried that he may not be able to pull-off a plausible re-election, in light of all the recent upheaval, and so he is considering early parliamentary elections with the hope that opposition parties in the assembly will nominate him. The US administration is determined to support General Musharraf, but is again saying that civilian rule of some kind would be 'preferable', which indicates which way they think the wind is blowing. Of course, the reason we don't get to hear very much about these things is that the news is already copiously occupied with the far more vital story of 'raging' protests in Pakistan against Salman Rushdie for accepting a title from the blood-drenched British ruling class (or something like that, I'm not really paying attention).

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Nigerian general strike posted by Richard Seymour

In addition to the huge political crisis in South Africa resulting from the almost million-strong strike, there is a solid general strike in Nigeria over fuel price increases, low pay for civil servants and high VAT. The increases in fuel prices both boost government revenues and allow the offshore refineries to make a handsome fortune, (whereas I think you can guess what it, along with doubled VAT, does to the poor). The strike is indefinite, and the Nigerian government is calling it a 'political' strike, which would obviously be scandalous if true. It's as well the strike is indefinite, because it will take a while for it to seriously impact the oil revenues, which is what needs to happen for it to be effective, but go ahead and check those links: the incoming government is a fraction worried. The House of Representatives has apparently declared the government's VAT increases illegal, and the Federal Government are furiously seeking a deal, with some concessions - which the unions have rightly dismissed as 'too little, too late'.

In fact, the Federal Government's claim that the strike is 'political' is probably partially accurate. Obasanjo's neoliberal 'People's Democratic Party' won yet another rigged election in April this year, awarding itself almost 25 million votes, compared with 6.6m for the nearest rival, the right-wing Islamist 'All Nigeria People's Party'. The labour unions responded to these results with a two-day general strike last month. Is it important that the US was 'deeply troubled' by the 'flawed' eclections? Well, that was a Bush administration official who said that. However, bear in mind how crucial Nigeria is to the United States. Together with Angola it produces nearly half of Africa's oil output, and is the fifth biggest supplier of oil to the US. It produces low-sulphur, or "sweet", crude oil, which American refiners adore for the proportion of high-value gasoline it yields. The PDP carries on a tradition established by successive dictatorships and Republics since 1980: gutting the state, privatising, SAPing, selling on up. Among the results of this process is the 'Planet of the Slums' phenomenon. As Michael Watts wrote last year, urban poverty in Nigeria exploded during the 1980s and 1990s. The population of Lagos "grew from 300,000 to 13 million in over fifty years, and is expected to become part of a vast Gulf of Guinea slum of 60 million poor along a littoral corridor 600 kilometers stretching from Benin City to Accra by 2020. Black Africa will contain 332 million slum dwellers by 2015, a figure expected to double every fifteen years." As Mike Davis writes in Planet of Slums, a total of 79.2% of Nigeria's urban population, over 41 million, lives in slums. A fifth of all of Nigeria's children die before the age of five, and the immiseration is such that GNP per capita is actually lower than it was on the achievement of Independence in 1960. On top of the SAPs, there is a crippling debt, which takes up more of government expenditure than health and education combined. As you might have guessed, that is all because 'independence' has a strictly limited meaning, and the last thing the American Empire wants is a genuine democracy in Nigeria.

The organised working class is key to democratising Nigeria, which is why the government has been so eager to smash the National Labour Congress, and why its security services have targeted labour activists for arrest, while the cops are given to shooting at strikers. A victory here would make a huge impact, and it is as well that no one is listening to the government's pleas of good faith.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hitchens the Warrenite posted by Richard Seymour

I don't know why they still let Hitchens write about Karl Marx. Here he is on Marx as a journalist:

Marx's appreciation of the laws of unintended consequence, and his disdain for superficial moralism, also allowed him to see that there was more to the British presence in India than met the eye. No doubt the aim of the East India Company had been the subordination of Indian markets and Indian labour for selfish ends, but this did not alter the fact that capitalism was also transforming the subcontinent in what might be called a dynamic way. And he was clear-eyed about the alternatives. India, he pointed out, had always been subjugated by outsiders. "The question is not whether the English had a right to conquer India, but whether we are to prefer India conquered by the Turk, by the Persian, by the Russian, to India conquered by the Briton." If the conqueror was to be the country that pioneered the industrial revolution, he added, then India would benefit by the introduction of four new factors that would tend towards nation building. These were the electric telegraph for communications, steamships for rapid contact with the outside world, railways for the movement of people and products, and "the free press, introduced for the first time to Asiatic society, and managed principally by the common offspring of Hindus and Europeans". His insight into the Janus-faced nature of the Anglo-Indian relationship, and of the potential this afforded for a future independence, may be one of the reasons why Marxism still remains a stronger force in India than in most other societies.

His belief that British-led "globalisation" could be progressive did not blind him to the cruelties of British rule, which led him to write several impassioned attacks on torture and collective punishment, as well as a couple of bitter screeds on the way in which Indian opium was forced upon the defenceless consumers of foreign-controlled China. As he wrote, reprobating Victorian hypocrisy and religiosity and its vile drug traffic, it was the supposedly uncivilised peoples who were defending decent standards: "While the semi-barbarian stood on the principle of morality, the civilised opposed to him the principle of self."

This is over a hundred years out of date. As Aijaz Ahmad points out in his introduction to a collection of Marx & Engels' writings on Colonialism and the National Question, Marx did not know India that well when he began to write, and had been misled by claims emanating from apologists for the Empire. For example, he wrote and believed that the title for agricultural land was held by the sovereign, an idea propagated by the imperialists in their accounts. In fact, this was a legal fiction. Most of the claims regarding Marx's idea of the progressive role of colonialism in India emerge from his 1853 writings. He later, particularly after the Indian Mutiny, was much less confident about even an unconscious 'revolutionary' role for colonialism. In the collection, an 1881 letter describes the methods of extraction by the British and concludes that "This is a bleeding process with a vengeance". Even as early as 1853 he had written that Indians would not themselves yeild the fruit of the elements of a new society until either they united to oust the colonists or until the British proletariat had overthrown their ruling class.

Aside from the Marxological point, there is the economic point made by Gunnar Myrdal (quoted in Michael Harrington's Socialism, Past and Future). Marx had assumed that the development of railroads would hasten the development of ‘modern’ society. Yet since the railroads were not the result of indigenous revolution/evolution, but instead were built by British for their own purposes, it was simply unrealistic to suppose that they would 'modernise' Indian society. They were "constructed primarily ... with the aim first of facilitating military security and secondly of getting the raw produce out cheaply and British goods in". The railways thus did not exert "spread effects" but rather "served to strengthen the complementary colonial relationship and further subordinate the Indian to the British economy". Capitalism was certainly transforming the continent, but not in a 'progressive' way: it drove the former mercantile and manufacturing classes back to the land to become peasants and constituted new landlord and proprietorial classes and Brahmanised elites. The colonial elite decreed the 'self-sufficient' agrarian community and royal privilege to be founded on 'ancient' prerogatives, 'since time immemorial' and so on.

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Defiling Cities. posted by Richard Seymour

"When we identify positively an enemy target, we're going to go ahead and take it out with every means we have available. I like to remember what Viscount Slim said during the Burma campaign. He said, 'Use a sledgehammer to crush a walnut.' And that's exactly what we will do. We will use force, overwhelming combat power when it's necessary." – US Major General Charles H. Swannack Jr.

Baqubah has, for nine months now, been a hotbed of resistance to the occupation. Conventionally and conveniently described by US military sources as an 'Al Qaeda' enclave (by practically every news organisation, probably repeating MNF press releases), Baquba is in fact a mixed town with Kurds, Shi'ites and Sunnis, where Mahdi Army fighters have battled US soldiers in the past. It was one of the first cities to break into open rebellion against the occupiers, after the magificent example of Fallujah, which drove them out of the city in April 2004 to massive cheering from gathered crowds. However, that example should immediately produce a pause: after all, look at what they did to that city of mosques. To a much lesser extent, similar fates have befallen other cities and towns that rebelled. Tal Afar, al-Qaim, Haditha, Samarra, and Ramadi, for instance. Huge areas of Najaf were destroyed. Parts of Baghdad have been turned into a patchwork of concrete, dust and broken furniture. Hospitals have been bombed, deliberately, as have ambulances. People fleeing in the streets have been ruthlessly gunned down. And Baquba has not been spared: the US has perpetrated repeated massacres there.

About a week ago, they fired on a mosque in the city. Currently, an offensive is under way against the city. 10,000 US troops are involved, with 30,000 more to come, and a wave of air strikes was perpetrated over night. The troops, confined in Bradley tanks and Strykers, have entered the city en masse. Little else is being explained, although we are given a glimpse of pillars of black smoke, at the end of which lie incinerated buildings and cavities of scorched earth. It will be a while before anyone starts to hear many details of what has happened to that city.

A new study by over thirty NGOs, including some excellent groups like the Transnational Institute, contains a lengthy section on attacks on cities by the occupiers. It outlines some rules of thumb for destroying a city:

1) encircle and close off the city, as in Falluah and Tal Afar, where they built an eight-foot high wall around the entire city before pulverising it: "Coalition troops seize control of all movement into and out of the cities, including goods and supplies, water, food, medicines and emergency assistance of all kinds. This “sealing off” strategy seeks to isolate insurgents and show ordinary civilians the heavy cost of not cooperating. Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Sassaman described the approach quite bluntly in the early months of the occupation: “With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them.” Coalition forces subject residents to intensive screening at check points, where they are required to present special identification cards.6 At the checkpoints, troops arrest and detain some Iraqis (often arbitrarily), while routinely denying access to others on grounds that their documents are not in order. “We are like birds in a cage,” said a resident of Abu Hishma to the New York Times, complaining of the humiliation endured";

2) forcefully evacuate those who remain: "In Falluja, a city of about 300,000, over 216,000 displaced persons had to seek shelter in overcrowded camps during the winter months, inadequately supplied with food, water, and medical care.16 An estimated 100,000 fled al-Qaim, a city of 150,000, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS). In Ramadi, about 70 percent of the city’s 400,000 people left in advance of the US onslaught.18 These moments mark the beginning of Iraq’s massive displacement crisis.";

3) cut off food, water and electricity: "The Coalition has repeatedly denied water to residents of cities under siege, including Falluja, Tal Afar and Samarra, affecting up to 750,000 civilians. Many families have only limited emergency water storage and cannot survive long once the central supply has been cut. Along with water, the Coalition has cut off electricity (which may power pumps and local wells). They also have cut off food and medical supplies, creating a “state of siege” and imposing a humanitarian crisis on the entire remaining urban population. In September 2004, the US “turned off” water supplies to Tal Afar “for at least three days,” according to the Washington Post. In October 2004, the Independent reported that 'US-led forces cut off power and water” in Samarra. And in November 2004, the UN reported a similar cut-off of vital necessities in Falluja, “directly affecting civilians (approximately 50,000 people then remaining inside [the city]) for whom water is a basic need and a fundamental human right.'";

4) confine reporters and block media coverage: "Preceding US military operations in Najaf in August 2004, Iraqi police encircled a hotel where journalists were staying, ordering them to leave the city and threatening to arrest all those who did not comply with the order. While claiming that the ban was based on concerns for the safety of the journalists, police officers said they would confiscate all cell phones and cameras. In Falluja, the US military banned all non-embedded journalists from the city. Reports have mentioned that journalists and camera crews were arrested and their equipment confiscated, without explanation, before being released later without charges";

5) massive bombardment: "The Washington Post reported that in Falluja, an “official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described 12 hours of overnight strikes by American helicopters, fighter-bombers, field artillery and tanks as ‘shaping operations.’ Military commanders use the term as shorthand for battlefield preparation, combat operations specifically intended to remove enemy strong points in advance of an assault.” In the second assault on Falluja, the air strikes began on October 15, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and continued for three weeks prior to the assault of November 7. In Najaf, US Marines bombarded the cemetery near the famous Imam Ali Shrine as well as much of the city center, in a massive attack backed by aircraft and tanks. In Ramadi, US forces carried out intensive bombardment, targeting the city’s power stations, water treatment facilities, and water pipes, leaving many destroyed houses and no civilian services functioning";

6) conduct a massive urban assault, using sniper fire, and put survivors through violent searches: "The US military has increasingly relied on snipers to back-up infantry patrols. Commanders portray snipers as a precision method to avoid civilian casualties, but in fact sniper teams often fire at anyone moving in the streets, in gardens or even inside of buildings. Everyone is treated in the besieged cities as an enemy. Using night goggles and special high-power scopes, snipers shoot at any moving object, which might be a civilian going out in desperate search for food or water, seeking medical care, escaping a collapsing building, or trying to leave the city. During the siege of Falluja in April 2004, the Guardian reported that US snipers shot an ambulance, an elderly woman carrying a white flag, and an aid worker delivering medical supplies on foot. The UN reported that, in August 2006, snipers in Ramadi shot thirteen civilians who had breached the curfew, killing six and injuring seven in just one district of the city."

7) attack hospitals, ambulances and other medical facilities: "Coalition troops have targeted medical facilities during urban offensives, and repeatedly destroyed and confiscated ambulances, making emergency care nearly impossible. In Falluja, US troops “destroyed a civilian hospital in a massive air raid, captured the main hospital and prohibited the use of ambulances.” Medical personnel were arrested and the patients removed. Similarly, as the US prepared to launch a major assault on Najaf, Al-Hakeem Hospital was “taken over as a coalition military base, off limits to civilians.” In the summer of 2006, during an offensive against Ramadi, Coalition forces captured the city’s General Hospital, endangering the sick and rendering health care impossible. According to the UN, troops seized the city’s Specialized Hospital on July 5 and held it more than a week until July 13, after which time they withdrew but set up a patrol outside. Further UN reports have spoken of Coalition snipers stationed on the roof of the Ramadi General Hospital, troops quartered in the hospital garden, and fearful residents avoiding the hospital altogether. In Tal Afar, the UN reported that the city hospital had been “occupied” by Coalition forces for six months."

Obviously, you have to expect massive civilians casualties and plenty of atrocities along the way - cos that's how it was planned, and destruction of the infrastructure. However, be sure that when you conduct "joint" operations with the security forces you've built, trained and indoctrinated, that the puppet government doesn't start complaining. I do recommend you read the full report, as it's an exceptional effort, relying for the most part on impeccably mainstream, respectable sources. It has excellent summaries of all the issues, from illegal detention to embezzlement, bases, atrocities and Iraqi public opinion. I selected the segment detailing attacks on cities in part because these are set-pieces of the occupation, the obect-lessons in terror that the occupiers have established throughout their prolonged and bloody efforts to take control of the country, with very clear patterns obtaining, but also in part because there is a related chapter in Derek Gregory's The Colonial Present entitled 'Defiled Cities'.

The 20th Century had not been short of defiled cities and towns. Guernica, Dresden, and Hiroshima stand out as obvious candidates. In the 21st Century, a new ground zero was created in New York City, the first massive attack on an American city by non-Americans in the history of the United States, using purloined technology. Since that crime was immediately sufficient to provide invisibility to others, a massive Israeli operation was undertaken: tanks were driven into Jericho, Jenin and Ramallah with back-up from helicopter gunships. Olive trees were uprooted, houses were bulldozed, civilians cut down in the streets (Israel, too, has its modus operandi when it comes to attacking cities). It caused the United States government some PR issues while they were busily taking Afghanistan to pieces, and so they started to uncharacteristically and frankly criticise the Israeli actions - but that was quickly brushed aside when the Taliban collapsed and the Northern Alliance helped a BBC reporter to 'liberate' Kabul. The Palestinians reacted with a fresh wave of suicide attacks, which killed a few dozen civilians but had little impact on Israel's military capacity. Instead, it permitted Israel to undertake its carefully planned Operation Defensive Shield, according to Sharon "a long and calculated war that knows no borders". Aside from destroying buildings and infrastructure, aside from killing civilians, Gregory notes that Israeli troops rampaged through PA offices to "destroy the record - the very archive, the institutional memory - of Palestinian civil society". City after city was invaded, and building after building was levelled with gunship fire and tankshells. And then the bulldozers moved in. Nablus, Hebron, the Jenin refugee camp reduced to Carthaginian ruins (the Romans, they say, salted the earth so that nothing would ever grow again - Israel simply uproots the olive groves and destroys the supporting life forms). In considerable depth, and with detailed images, Gregory outlines the cartography of terror that Israel set about imposing on the West Bank and Gaza.

We are, if the repeated signals via the news media are serious, about to see what new forms of depravity Israel can inflict on the cities of the tiny Gaza strip. Baquba is already being perforated and burned and razed. Next month it will be a new set of cities transformed into moonscapes. Israel may find itself back in downtown Beirut. Iranian cities may soon cop it from missiles - with nuclear heads, no less (and neither Republican nor Democrat will take such an option 'off the table'). Over thirty years of imperialist terror has left Afghanistan in ruins. To the Planet of Slums is being added dozens of mass graves and hollowed out bomb sites. Only the surreally calm Green Zones of the world are safe: but for how long?

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