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Ameer Makhoul’s perpetual trial

Audrey Farber writing from Haifa, Live from Palestine, 20 December 2010
Ameer Makhoul (Adri Nieuwhof)

We arrive at the Haifa court building around 11am, half an hour after proceedings began in the ongoing trial of Ameer Makhoul, a leading Palestinian activist who holds Israeli citizenship and was arrested in his home in the middle of the night last May.

After being held without charge, tortured and denied access to an attorney for three weeks, the State of Israel accused Ameer of trumped-up charges of espionage. As it frequently does in “security cases,” the Israeli government based its accusation on “secret evidence” that Ameer and his legal defense had no access to. It became clear that Ameer’s arrest and the charges against him was an attempt to scare Palestinian citizens of Israel into submission. Ameer has stood for court dates almost monthly since being arrested, and little progress has been made. There has been talk of a plea bargain, but no judge has read a sentence and his trial has become a monthly meeting of his nearest and dearest, testifying to his commendable character and good standing in the community.

Today’s hearing was supposed to begin at 9am but was pushed back. The room — even though there is a horde of people outside waiting to get in — has only two benches for spectators. There are empty courtrooms with five or six benches, enough to easily accommodate all interested parties.

But instead we’re outside the door, while two, sometimes three, behemoth security guards control the door and glare at us intimidatingly. Milling around is a veritable who’s who of Haifa politics and activism. A Jewish member of the Communist party who is on city council comes out after giving testimony and hobnobs with influential activists, former Members of Knesset, employees of various nongovernmental organizations in Haifa, international activists, journalists, powerful lawyers and friends and family of Ameer. It’s a bit unnerving to realize that if they wanted, Israeli intelligence agents could show up outside this courtroom, arrest everyone standing there, and essentially silence all dissent in Haifa. All the major players in one place, for one cause.

As two people come out, two are let in. One comes out, one goes in. Then two come out, and the ogres at the door decide no one else is allowed in. Some among us start arguing with them, calling them out on their arbitrary change of policy, but they’re enjoying their show of strength too much. They tell us to move over; we have to wait from the side, for no apparent reason. They bring in those extendable line-makers, like those found in movie theaters and airports, and create a space where they can stand with their arms crossed, surveying their prey, a space we’re not allowed to enter. There is an easy parallel between this charade and the political situation here; we are told where we can stand, what we can do, and whether or not we are allowed in.

And just like that, it’s over. People come flooding out; greeting and kissing each other on the cheek, saying hello to friends and family and colleagues. Ameer’s wife and daughters come out into the crowd, so do his sisters and his brother, observers from European embassies, community members, then the lawyers. Some of the best lawyers in Israel were there, and still, this trial continues. It’s court date after court date of unanimously supportive character witness testimony. The prosecution has no evidence to present, at least not in a public hearing; such is the nature of these “security cases.” There was supposed to be a decision on his sentence today, but there wasn’t, and there will be yet another court date in January with more and more character witnesses, more and more people testifying in support of Ameer Makhoul. But there is irony in this; the longer they can postpone sentencing him, the longer he stays in jail, unable to kiss his wife, or hug his daughters. We can spend years and years giving positive testimony in support of Ameer but if he is not sentenced, he stays in jail, perpetually on trial.

When his younger daughter came out of the courtroom, I read her eyes. She is brave, so brave. I cannot imagine going through what she is enduring. Month after month she comes to these trials, sees the community supporting her father, perhaps once in a blue moon she can hold his hand. His sister was allowed to hug and kiss him for the first time today, but when Ameer’s wife visits him in prison they are permitted only to communicate through a telephone and a glass barrier. He is perpetually sealed off from his family. His daughter floats through the crowd, puts on a smile, hugs her aunts and uncles and shakes hands with her father’s colleagues. When they look away, her face falls, and her eyes are sad, almost empty, resigned in a way to his fate. She has gone through too much for an adolescent girl. Still she, and Ameer’s entire family, and the entire community, tirelessly fight for his rights. But with each farcical trial date, perpetuating this charade of “justice,” it seems less and less likely that these rights will ever be realized, a decision will be made, and he will be released, able to join his family at their home once again.

Audrey Farber is a writer, activist, photographer and brain-for-hire who most recently interned at Mada al-Carmel – Arab Center for Applied Social Research, in Haifa.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | 2 Comments

Not seen in American media: 131 anti war protesters arrested in DC

American Goy | December 21, 2010

131 anti war protesters arrested in DC.

News Black-Out in DC: Pay No Attention to Those Veterans Chained to the White House Fence

Whether you agree or disagree with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an anti war demonstration in front of the White House where 131 people are arrested is very probably national news.

Even more newsworthy seems this tidbit:

Among those arrested were Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who used to provide the president’s daily briefings, Daniel Ellsberg, who released the government’s Pentagon Papers during the Nixon administration, and Chris Hedges, former war correspondent for the New York Times.

In any normal country, this would be at least a blurb, a short mention on a nightly newscast.

But in our “democracy”, there is nary a mention of this, er, non-event.

Actually, I am wrong.

Nary a mention implies some kind of a mention, even in passing.

There is no mention of this event on any American media.

It is almost like the media and the government elites are cooperating.

Don’t believe me?

Use google news to search for this story, use “veterans DC protest” as the keywords and only use the “news” search option.

Google news search.

Do you see any NBC, CNN, ABC, FOX stations?

What about big newspapers?

No?

What do you see?

Local papers, blogs, even AOL News (these exist!?).

Lets go with “veterans DC protest cnn”

Eagle Tribune, Brad Blog (blog), Socialist Worker Online, GC Advocate.

That is it – a grand total of 4 entries, and no CNN.

Do it yourself.

Goto the google news tab and make up your own searches.

Make sure to use veterans and protest and then put your mainstream TV conglomerate(s) and/or newspaper(s).

Then make sure to turn on your TV, preferably onto a cable news channel, and see what they consider news.

That’s all I ask of you…

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on Not seen in American media: 131 anti war protesters arrested in DC

Israeli warplanes attack Gaza refuge

Rami Almeghari, The Electronic Intifada, 22 December 2010

Palestinian men clean up the remnants of a destroyed dairy in Khan Younis after it was bombed by an Israeli air strike. (Ismael Mohamad/UPI/Newscom)

A heap of ruins and dust is all that remains of a dairy that Israeli warplanes destroyed yesterday in the central Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis. The ruins of the dairy are adjacent to an amusement park in the Asdaa grounds which serves as a refuge to residents of the besieged Gaza Strip.

Adjacent to the amusement park in the Asdaa grounds in the central Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis stands a heap of ruins and dust. It is all that remains of a dairy that Israeli warplanes destroyed yesterday.

Before the bombing, the dairy had three production lines on 400 square meters. It produced milk, cheese and butter, providing income for forty Palestinian families in Gaza and distributing goods to various parts of the Gaza Strip.

At dawn, the dairy was hit by at least two jet-fired missiles, scattering machines and equipment several meters away and rendering the factory into a pile of rubble. The attack on the dairy comes amidst increased Israeli military activity across the Strip. Israeli warplanes also hit other targets on Tuesday, injuring four Palestinians, including a guardsman in Asdaa.

While inspecting the damage, Shadi al-Batsh, the dairy’s chief engineer, told The Electronic Intifada “This dairy was a dream and then became a reality but it finally turned to be a nightmare — not only for me but also for the forty workers who all have worked hard to make something under a crippling Israeli blockade.”

Standing amidst the rubble, al-Batsh described how the Asdaa dairy used to distribute its products across Gaza and the impact of the attack on the local economy, already straining under Israel’s 42-month-long siege.

“Our financial losses from this attack are estimated at about $300,000. Besides these direct financial losses, there is an indirect loss represented by the people who used to provide us with raw materials, plastic packs and those who used to carry the products in vans and distribute them to grocers in many parts of Gaza. We really wonder as to why such a place was targeted by the Israeli warplanes. It is a dairy and does not manufacture weapons or homemade rockets,” explained al-Batsh.

Al-Batsh added “This is the first time that the Asdaa facility was targeted. Today we had about fifteen buses of school children, on a field trip in which school children enjoy some time at the amusement park and this public garden. We are afraid that such trips would start to decrease after such a shelling.”

The Asd’a facility was built on the grounds of a former Israeli settlement. In addition to the dairy, it includes an amusement park, a fishery, a turkey pen and a public garden. The public garden features some wild animals, including monkeys, and a small train for children runs through the grounds; the train now passes by the ruins of the dairy. Since the facility was established, it has become an attraction for Gaza’s residents, who relish the opportunity to spend time outdoors in spite of Israel’s crippling siege.

Rusaila Hammad is a teacher from a nearby school who brought 120 children to the Asdaa gardens after the attack. “We learned earlier that the Asdaa facility was targeted. However, we in the school administration insisted that we should take the children on the scheduled school trip,” Hammad explained.

She added “Where should we go? To the sea or to Gaza’s closed borders? Do the Israelis think that by targeting such places they are doing the right thing? Such actions will only fuel hatred and these children have the right to enjoy their childhood as normally as children worldwide.”

Hammad explained that Asdaa is “one of the rare places for our children to release the stress they have to endure under the Israeli blockade and attacks on us.”

One of Hammad’s pupils, 14-year-old Marwa Zain, expressed her anger. “What do they want us to do? Every place in Gaza has become vulnerable to Israeli attacks. What do we children have to do with such violence? What do they want? We are determined to continue to come here; we have little choice because Gaza is a very small place and Israel is besieging it from all sides, including the coast.”

At another corner of Asdaa’s public garden, Fatma al-Hadidy asked a similar question. “If we stop visiting such a place out of fear of Israeli attacks, then where can we go? It is really a shame on them to attack such a place.”

Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | Comments Off on Israeli warplanes attack Gaza refuge

Seeking New Clues to Cancer Risks From Atom Bomb Tests

Baby Tooth Science

By JOE MANGANO | CounterPunch | December 22, 2010

The atom bomb tests over the Nevada desert are etched in the American consciousness, even though they ended nearly half a century ago. The clouds that looked like gigantic mushrooms rising into the stratosphere remind us of the Cold War-era American-Soviet race to test and manufacture as many nuclear weapons as possible to fight what many felt would be an inevitable nuclear war.

Those days are gone. The Cold War is over. Stockpiles of nuclear weapons are shrinking. All-out nuclear war, while still possible, is no longer regarded as inevitable. And testing has ended – in the atmosphere and below the ground. Thus, it is tempting to think of bomb tests as a relic of history, with no current relevance.

But the tests ARE relevant. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty of 1996, ratified by 153 countries, has still not been endorsed by the U.S. Senate, or other atomic nations. Thus, testing could legally resume at any time. Moreover, research on health hazards of test fallout is far from complete.

Some want to close the book on bomb test studies, citing the age of the tests and the difficulty of understanding health risk. But measuring risk is possible, thanks to – of all things – baby teeth.

Atomic Tests in 1950s Create Need for First Tooth Studies

Studying radiation in baby teeth was an unknown technique when U.S. atmospheric nuclear weapons tests started. By the mid-1950s dozens of weapons had been detonated, including hydrogen bombs one thousand times more potent than atomic bombs. The 422 American and Soviet nuclear explosions into the atmosphere during the arms race equaled the yield of 40,000 Hiroshima bombs.

Fallout from bomb tests consisted of over 100 radioactive and cancer-causing chemicals, not found in nature. Each chemical affects the body differently. Iodine-131 attacks the thyroid gland, Cesium-137 disperses into all soft tissues, and Strontium-90 attaches to bone and teeth. The mushroom clouds in Nevada moved eastward with prevailing winds across the continent, where fallout re-entered the environment through precipitation. Scientific measurements showed that only 2 or 3 days after a Nevada explosion, fallout from the test could be present in rain or snow throughout the country, even the east coast 2500 miles away.

Soon after the Nevada tests began, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission began the first program measuring radioactivity levels in human bodies by testing Strontium-90 in bones from autopsies in the U.S. and in Europe. The AEC program showed that Sr-90 levels varied by geographic area, and were greater in infants and children. (1) The program also became infamous for its failure to request family permission before testing skeletons. (2)

Although Sr-90 was just one of the 100-plus chemicals in fallout, it quickly became the favorite for in-body testing, as its half life of 28.7 years makes it detectable for a long period after a bone or tooth is extracted from the body. But Sr-90 was also recognized as one of the most harmful components of the clouds. It was known to penetrate into the bone marrow, where red and white blood cells crucial to the immune response are formed. (3)

Sr-90 became a standard part of the American vocabulary during the Cold War. In the 1956 presidential campaign, Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson declared Sr-90 as:

“the most dreadful poison in the world. For only one tablespoon equally shared by all the members of the human race could produce a dangerous level of radioactivity in the bones of every individual.” (4)

One month after this statement, an article in Newsweek described the Sr-90 threat:

“the testing of hydrogen bombs may have already propelled enough strontium 90, the most pernicious aftermath of nuclear fission, into the stratosphere to doom countless of the world’s children to inescapable and incurable cancer.” (5)

With the AEC bone program largely a secret government venture, the need for a more public study of fallout in bodies became clear. In August 1958, biochemist Herman Kalckar proposed an international, long-term program measuring fallout in baby teeth. Kalckar noted that young children “take up radioactive strontium and caesium more intensely than adolescents and adults.” (6)

Citizens and Scientists Collaborate, Tooth Study Helps End Testing

Kalckar’s idea was an instant hit. The Greater St. Louis Citizens Committee for Nuclear Information, a combination of Washington University scientists and concerned local citizens, began a study in December 1958. Teeth donations were solicited by distributing forms to schools, libraries, churches, dentists, and dental clinics. (7) By the time the study ended over a decade later, over 300,000 teeth had been collected. Federal funds gave some support, but many volunteers handed out forms, collected information from parents, and distributed buttons to children stating “I Gave My Tooth to Science.”

Lab testing of baby teeth confirmed the fears of many, namely, the enormous buildup of fallout in baby teeth. The average Sr-90 level in baby teeth for a St. Louis child born in 1963 was about 50 times higher than that of their counterparts born in 1950. (8) The St. Louis tooth study entered the policy arena when Washington University’s Dr. Eric Reiss presented results to the U.S. Senate. Soon after, President John F. Kennedy signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty.

The Washington University tooth study was duplicated in Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, Norway, the United Kingdom, and West Germany. All studies detected the same sharp increase in Sr-90 as bomb testing went on.

The St. Louis study also produced good news: five years after the Treaty went into effect, average Sr-90 in the jawbones of stillborn fetuses plunged about 50%. (8) Post-Treaty reductions were so dramatic that the U.S. government discontinued funding for the St. Louis tooth study in 1970, and studies of Sr-90 in bones of children (1971) and adults (1982), leaving the nation with no program measuring radioactivity in human bodies.

Baby Teeth Used to Address Cancer Risk from Bomb Tests

Talk of fallout causing cancer was common in the bomb test era. A Newsweek article covering the St. Louis tooth study asked “But what about the children who have done their growing while strontium-90 levels were high – are they liable to develop cancer?” (9) The St. Louis study addressed the buildup of fallout in human bodies, but not cancer risk. Government officials were in no hurry to look at the fallout-cancer link, so the topic went unexamined.

After decades of asserting fallout levels were too low to cause cancer, the government position changed after the Cold War ended. Federal studies estimated that fallout caused 49,000 Americans to develop thyroid cancer, with few fatalities (10), and about 15,000 Americans died of cancer from fallout. (11) Some believed these figures to be gross underestimates; a blue-ribbon European panel estimated worldwide cancer cases from fallout to be 123,200,000, half of them fatal. (12) But U.S. health officials, not eager to consider mass carnage, stopped studies of fallout in 2002.

The St. Louis tooth study, which had been largely forgotten for decades, experienced a rebirth in 2001. Washington University officials were startled to find hundreds of boxes of teeth not used in the study, stored in a remote ammunition bunker. Each tooth is contained in a small enveloped attached to a 3 x 5 card identifying the tooth and its donor. The school transferred the collection of about 85,000 teeth to the Radiation and Public Health Project (RPHP) research group, which was conducting its own study of Sr-90 in baby teeth near nuclear reactors.

RPHP officials recognized that these teeth could be used for a study of cancer risk of “Baby Boomers” now in their 40s and 50s. A sample of the 85,000 teeth was used to locate cancer survivors (through current addresses) and those who died of cancer (through official death records). In December 2010, the International Journal of Health Services published findings of the study, i.e. that “Boomers” born 1959-1961 who died of cancer had Sr-90 levels in their teeth more than twice (+122%) greater than those the same age who are alive and healthy. (13) While more research is needed to estimate casualties, it appears likely that the government figure of 15,000 U.S. cancer deaths from fallout is quite low.

Baby Teeth Play a Role in Public Policy

A long-ago baby tooth study of fallout can be greatly important in shaping current public policy, in several areas. First, it can help explain why 40% of Americans will develop cancer at some point in their life – many with no known risk factor. Second, it suggests that Americans are being harmed from the same substances produced in 104 nuclear power reactors around the country; the RPHP study of 5,000 baby teeth showed links between Sr-90 in baby teeth and child cancer risk near nuclear plants in New York and New Jersey. (14) Finally, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is still not ratified by the U.S. Senate, and findings of higher cancer rates in “Baby Boomers” from bomb testing underlines the need to ban all further tests of nuclear weapons and their usage in warfare.

 

Joseph Mangano is Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project.


1. Kulp JL, Eckelmann WR, Schulert AR. Strontium-90 in man. Science 1957;125(3241): 219-27.

2. Leary WE. In 1950s, U.S. Collected Human Tissue to Monitor Atomic Tests. New York Times, June 21, 1995.

3. Pecher C and Pecher J. Radio-calcium and radio-strontium metabolism in pregnant mice. In Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. New York: January-April 1941, Volume 46, p. 94.

4. Salisbury HE. Stevenson Calls for World Pact to Curb H-Bomb. New York Times, October 16, 1956.

5. Danger – Strontium 90. Newsweek, November 12, 1956, p. 88.

6. Kalckar HM. An international milk teeth radiation census. Nature 1958;4831:283-4.

7. Wyant WK. Strontium-90 in St. Louis: 50,000 Baby Teeth. The Nation, June 13, 1959, 535-7.

8. Rosenthal HL. Accumulation of environmental 90-Sr in teeth of children. Hanford Radiobiology Symposium, Richland WA, May 5-8, 1969, 163-71.

9. Moment of Tooth. Newsweek, April 25, 1960, p. 70.

10. National Research Council, Committee on Thyroid Screening. Exposure of the American People to Iodine-131 from the Nevada Bomb Tests. National Academy Press: Washington DC, 1999.

11. Eisler P. Fallout likely caused 15,000 deaths. USA Today, February 28, 2002, p. 1.

12. European Committee on Radiation Research. 2003 Recommendations of the ECRR: The Health Effects of Ionising Radiation Exposure for Radiation Protection Purposes. Green Audit: Aberystwyth, Wales, 2003.

13. Mangano JJ and Sherman JD. Elevated in vivo strontium-90 from nuclear weapons test fallout among cancer decedents: a case-control study using deciduous teeth. International Journal of Health Services 2011;41(1):137-58.

14. Mangano JJ. A short latency between radiation exposure from nuclear plants and cancer in young children. International Journal of Health Services 2006;36(1):113-35.


December 22, 2010 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | 1 Comment

Rethinking Imperialist Theory

James Petras | December 21, 2010

Almost all theories of contemporary imperialism lack any but the crudest sociological analyses of the classes and political character of the governing groups which direct the imperial state and its polices. The same is true about the theorizing of the imperial state which is largely devoid of institutional analyses.

Social Basis of Imperial Politics

Most theorists resort to a form of economic reductionism in which ‘investments’, ‘trade’, ‘markets’ are presented as ahistorical disembodied entities comparable across space and time. The changing nature of the leading classes are accounted for by general categories such as “finance”, “manufacturing”, “banking”, “service” without any specific analysis of the variable nature and sources of financial wealth (illegal drug trade, money laundering, real estate speculation, etc.).

The shifts in the political and economic orientation of governing capitalist politicians, resulting in linkages with different capitalist/imperialist centers, which have major consequences in the configuration of world power, are glossed over in favor of abstract accounts of statistical shifts of economic indicators measuring capital flows.

Imperial theorizing totally ignores the role of non-economic socio-political power configurations in shaping imperial policy, over and against major economic institutions like Multi-National Corporations, up to and including major military commitments. The role of zionist power configurations and militarist ideologues in shaping US Middle East policy (2000-2010) is a crucial consideration in discussing contemporary imperialism in theory and practice.

Imperial impacts are largely determined by the kinds of imperial states (predominantly economic or military and the sub categories of each), the kind of “targeted” or “host” state (neo-liberal run by collaborators, bourgeois nationalist “partners”, nationalist-statist adversaries) the kinds of policies on foreign capital inflows (sectors open, content and joint-venture rules, technology transfers, financial controls) as well as on capital and profit outflows (tax on profits, time constraints on buy and sell of stocks/bonds).

The issue of imperial domination is not based so much on how much capital flows from imperial countries. Rather it is based on class relation: between imperial and domestic classes. Different imperial classes (bankers, manufacturers etc) must compete with other imperial classes as well as domestic state and private capitalist classes. These multiple class relations are changing over time to the degree that the host state insists on transfers of technological, management and marketing know how. “Domination” or “dependence” is not a structural feature embedded over time. Insofar as learning by the “host” country leads to upgrading of productivity, access to world markets and increased competitiveness based on technological innovations. This results in qualitative changes in the relations between established imperial and emerging capitalist states.

Hence imperial theorizing which focuses only on imperial outflows and inflows of capital – as if the “host” country was a ‘blank factor’ – cannot account for the dynamic growth (or stagnation) of host countries with large scale, long term relations with imperial economies.

Emerging and World Powers

Can “emerging countries” whose dynamic growth is based primarily on the export of agro-mineral products sustain their expansion over time and avoid the volatility associated with past cyclical patterns? Can high demand and prices for commodity exports be sustained by ever growing Asian (Chinese) demands? Are the earnings and revenues accruing to agro-mineral export states having “spread effects” beyond the “enclaves” directly engaged in producing transporting and exporting commodities? Are the emerging states adding value to raw material exports, processing agricultural commodities, industrializing minerals, developing technology and upgrading skills? Are they developing marketing know-how, professional managers who retain and invest revenues productively? Are they diversifying their economies, markets and exports? Are their exports financing the development of the home market, lessening vulnerability to external market fluctuations? Is growth overly dependent on investments and exports at the expense of social consumption and the domestic market? Are state revenues from commodity exports secured at the expense of local industry? Is a local comprador class of importers and retailers, financiers and creditors of local consumers, creating a “power complex” which erodes the influence of local large, medium and small scale producers? Is access to overseas markets for commodities, secured at the expense of local manufacturers? Do agro-exporters undermine local food production, increase the need for food imports, augmenting food insecurity?

The dynamic growth of the emerging agro-mineral export countries has been combined with relatively high interest rates. In the context of economic crises, low interest rates in the imperial countries has led to the large scale influx of speculative funds into the local bond market of emerging economies. This has fueled a speculative bubble and overvaluation of the local currency, undermining the export competitiveness of local industrialists.
Imperial Power in Latin America

Most discussions of US imperial power in Latin America are impressionistic, superficial and anecdotal, relying on particular events, devoid of any comparative historical perspective. The general tendency in recent years has been to emphasize the ‘downside’ or decline of US power, without reference to specific political time frames or issue areas.

In this section we will raise a number of methodological and measurement problems that point to the complexity accompanying any estimate of the power of the US empire in Latin America. We will then identify the principle tendencies with regard to the direction of imperial power and conclude by providing an interpretation of the complex shifts over time and location.

Determining the direction of imperial power – rising or declining – depends on the comparative historical time frame as well as the type of indicators.

If for example, one compares US imperial power in Latin America between 1990-99 to 2000-2010 on a broad range of issues, including ideology, client regimes, market shares, economic policies, foreign policy alignments, there is no doubt that a sharp decline of US hegemony has taken place. However, if one examines a shorter time frame, comparing 2000-2005 to 2006-2010, an argument can be made that by certain measures, the US has stopped its decline and may have recovered relative influence.

For example, between 2000-2005 major popular upheavals and mass mobilizations took place, overthrowing incumbent neo-liberal client regimes, calling for the re-nationalization of privatized firms, the renunciation of the foreign debt, radical agrarian reforms and income redistribution. Neo-liberal ideology was totally discredited and US foreign policy was subject to a thorough discredit. Anti-imperialist, if not anti-capitalist ideology held sway among broad sectors of the working, middle and even elements of the political class.

This radical moment however, did not lead to a break with the capitalist system. Instead a series of ‘center-left’ regimes took power and, favored by extraordinarily high commodity prices, proceeded to stimulate an economic recovery, and a marked improvement in social conditions. These policies led to the de-radicalization of the social movements and a modicum of normalization of relations with Washington, albeit with greater autonomy.

If between 2000–2005 Washington ‘lost’ collaborator clients in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and faced strong opposition throughout the region, between 2006-2010, Washington retained or regained clients in Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Colombia, Peru and Chile. Equally important the center-left regimes stabilized capitalism and blocked any move to reverse privatized firms. They weakened independent class based movements which threatened radical changes. They moved the political-economic spectrum to the ‘center’. Furthermore, the disarray and retreat of pro-US right-wing parties of the 2000-2005 period was replaced by a recovery and re-groupment in Bolivia, Venezuela and elsewhere.

Using regime composition and alignment as a measure, Washington’s decline of 2000-2005 was contained and even to a degree reversed by the end of the decade.

However, when we turn to economic indicators, such as free trade agreements, market shares, trading and investment partnerships, the decline of US accelerated throughout the decade. By 2010 Asia, especially China, replaced the US as the major market for Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile as well as encroaching on US primacy throughout Latin America. If we examine patterns of regional integration a similar decline in US hegemony is apparent in the growth of inter-regional trade and political associations: UNASUR an association of Latin American countries eclipses the US dominated OAS. MERCOSUR, ALBA and other intra-Latin American free trade organizations expand at the expense of US centered ‘free trade’ projects.

In the area of military influence and political intervention, the US collaborators suffered major setbacks in coup efforts in Venezuela (2002, 2003), Bolivia 2008, but were successful in Honduras 2009. The US secured a base agreement with Colombia a major potential military ally against Venezuela in 2009. However, with a change in President in 2010, Washington suffered a partial setback with the reconciliation between President Chavez and Santos. Lucrative $8 billion dollar trade agreements with Venezuela trumped Colombia’s military base agreements with Washington.

Several propositions about US imperial power in Latin America can be outlined.

1. US decline in economic power is structural and irreversible, at least given the state of the world economy and the dynamic growth of Asia.
2.US political influence exhibits a great deal of fluidity, depending on the levels and intensity of the class struggle and most important the success or failures of the incumbent regimes in combining growth and increased living standards.
3.US military power does not translate into political influence and increased market shares, especially where the guiding ideology (“neo-liberalism” or “US-centered economic strategies”) and its local advocates have been discredited because of severe economic crises.
4.The decline of US imperial power has not led to an increase in the influence of the working class or other exploited classes: a dynamic “national” capitalist class is the prime mover and beneficiary of the loss of US influence.
5.The rise of a dynamic relatively independent capitalist class has not broken with the colonial international division of labor; rather the dynamism of this class is a product of the intensification and extension of primary product exploitation and exports. The new dynamism is derived from the revenues from high prices and expanding export markets and here lies future vulnerability if prices decline.
6.“Structural” analysis which underlies most theorizing about imperialism overlooks the important contingencies and class agencies which put into motion the organizational and institutional forms of capital accumulation.

An Interpretation of the Problematical Status of Imperial Power In Latin America

The poverty of class analysis of imperial power among the leading and best known theorists, underlies their superficial understanding of complex changes and continuities in US-Latin American relations.

The ‘fluidity’ found in the countervailing tendencies in imperial power is illustrated by the relative economic decline in the present decade and continued military hegemony in the same period. This can be best understood by the fact that there have been no changes in the mode of production in the hemisphere, no reversals in the wholesale privatizations of the 1990’s and the continuation of free trade practices. Given these continuities, US imperial policymakers retain a presence, albeit reduced, close collaborators in important economic sectors and are potentially in a position to reverse the current decline. Equally important the US is still the principle economic power in the hemisphere even as its ability to exercise ‘dollar diplomacy’ has diminished.

Secondly, while politically Washington can no longer dictate policy or easily pursue military intervention, the basic military linkages remain intact, including joint military exercises, sales and training programs, thus providing important points of leverage in limiting radical (but not reformist) changes.

Thirdly, the growth of autonomous political action and an independent foreign policy in Latin America, is to an uncertain degree, dependent on personalities in power. It is not clear to what degree the institutional bases to sustain the current course of action is firmly entrenched or based on merely ‘conjunctural’ circumstances.

Fourthly, Latin America’s current growing affluence, high growth rates and relative independence is to a large extent based on a ‘colonial division of labor’, mainly trade and investments in agro-mineral products and the importation of finished, intermediate and capital goods. Historically, this has been subject to great volatility in demand and prices.

Taken together these historical continuities argue for greater caution in assuming a permanent shift in imperial power relations with Latin America.

Nevertheless, there are powerful reasons to consider the decline in US power as a long term and irreversible trend. Among the most important structural considerations is the embedded military-Zionist power configuration which dictates continuing wars which bankrupt the treasury, devalue the currency and undermine any effort to project economic power and new initiatives to recover market shares in Latin America.

Secondly, the new dynamic capitalist centers in Asia are firmly established, growing and defining a multi-polar economic world. They have established in the minds of Latin American policymakers and ruling classes a new ‘world view’: Their future interests lie in Asia. As a consequence of this fact Latin America’s rulers have reoriented the direction of trade and investment, away from the US.

Thirdly, there are no signs of any reversal of the decline of US manufacturing; nor has Washington demonstrated any capacity to curtail the trade and budget deficits. Washington lacks the capacity to challenge, subvert or co-opt the emerging capitalist power configuration which underpins Latin America’s independent politics.

Summary

The ‘fluidity’ of US power relations with Latin America is a product of the continuities and changes in Latin America. Past hegemony continues to weigh heavy, but the future augurs a continued decline. The current balance of power will however be determined by shifts in world markets, in which the US is destined to play a lesser role. Hence the greater probability of more divergences in policy, barring major breakdowns within Latin America.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Economics | Comments Off on Rethinking Imperialist Theory

Israeli air strikes kill five Palestinians in Gaza

Report, The Electronic Intifada, 22 December 2010

Archive: The destruction caused by an Israeli air strike on Rafah in March 2010. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

In an ongoing assault on the occupied Gaza Strip, Israeli fighter jets struck the southern city of Rafah early this morning, injuring four. The IMEMC reported that four Palestinians were wounded in the attack, which destroyed an alleged “training base” for the armed wing of the Hamas party (“Army bombards Rafah,” 22 December 2010).

Today’s air strikes come after Israeli fighter jets attacked the Gaza Strip early morning yesterday in a coordinated assault on Khan Younis in the south and Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun, Jabaliya refugee camp and Zeitoun in the north, according to a report from Al-Jazeera English (“Israeli fighter jets attack Gaza,” 21 December 2010).

Ma’an News Agency reported that two Palestinian fighters and one security guard were injured in the missile strike on Khan Younis after Israeli warplanes destroyed a dairy and an entertainment center (“Israeli jets hit Gaza for 2nd time in day,” 21 December 2010). Israeli jets also struck tunnels at the southern border with Egypt. The tunnels are used by Palestinians to bring in essential items, including food, medicine, cement and thousands of other goods from Egypt and the outside world. Israel has imposed a years-long blockade on Gaza, rarely opening the border crossings and maintaining severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods.

Hours later, another Israeli warplane struck Khan Younis again, injuring two more in a missile strike.

These attacks follow similar Israeli airstrikes on Saturday, 18 December, in which five Palestinian men, all around twenty years old, were targeted by an Israeli missile in Deir al-Balah, according to Ma’an (“Medics recover bodies of 5 killed in Gaza strike,” 19 December 2010).

Israel claimed that the five young men were affiliated with an armed resistance group called the Jaljalat, and they were planning to launch a rocket over the boundary with Israel.

On Sunday, armed Palestinian resistance groups responded to Saturday’s attacks by firing a series of homemade rocket shells into Israel. The shells landed in the Negev desert, causing no injuries or damage, according to the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) (“Eight separate Israeli airstrikes reported throughout Gaza; 2 injured,” 21 December 2010). Additional rocket fire was reported on Monday as well, causing no injuries.

On Tuesday, following Israel’s overnight airstrikes, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth (Ynet) reported that a Gaza-fired rocket landed near a kindergarten in a kibbutz near Ashkelon, just north of the boundary with Gaza. A 14-year-old Israeli girl was lightly injured, Ynet reported (“Qassam explodes near kindergarten,” 21 December 2010).

Speaking to Ma’an News, an Israeli military spokesperson said Israel’s attacks on Gaza were “in response” to 13 homemade projectiles launched across the boundary with Israel this week (“Palestinian sources: Israel warplanes raid Gaza,” 21 December 2010). The spokesperson said that the military attacked four “Hamas tunnels,” a “smuggling tunnel” near Rafah, a “weapons manufacturing facility” and a “terror activity center.”

However, The Electronic Intifada’s correspondent in Gaza, Rami Almeghari, reported that the buildings targeted by the Israeli Air Force were not centers for “terror activity.”

“They targeted a dairy and an entertainment center in Gaza … Israel did not target some sort of proclaimed facilities for homemade rockets,” he stated.

Almeghari added that Israel’s latest attacks are a “systematic targeting” of the Palestinians inside Gaza in order to weaken the popular support for the elected Hamas government.

He added that the failure of the US-brokered peace talks allows Israel to continue attacking Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. By not addressing Israel’s ongoing violations of international law, including the ongoing confiscation of Palestinian land for settlement construction in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the international community is culpable for the situation across Palestine, Almeghari said.

“Israel only attacks for the sake of attacking, and by squeezing Palestinians in Gaza at the political level to accept Israel’s terms for peace,” Almeghari said.

Workers under fire

Meanwhile, Israel’s attacks on fishermen, industrial workers and shepherds have continued. As The Electronic Intifada has reported, industrial workers are frequently shot while collecting raw materials near Israel’s so-called “buffer zone” — a 300-meter-long militarized area along the northern, eastern and maritime boundaries.

On 10 December, Suhaib M., a 15-year-old Palestinian boy, was shot and injured while he collected wood inside the no-go zone alongside the northern boundary with Israel. Defense for Children International-Palestine Section reported that the boy and his brothers have been collecting raw materials in order to supplement their family’s income for the last five months. Suhaib and his brother Belal were loading pieces of wood from uprooted olive trees into a small cart when he was shot in the leg by an Israeli sniper (“Report: Voices from the Occupation ,” 18 December 2010 [PDF]).

Additionally, a man in his thirties was shot in his foot on 20 December by Israeli snipers as he collected stones in the northern Gaza Strip, according to Ma’an. Israeli forces opened fire on the man near the town of Beit Hanoun (“Worker injured in north Gaza,” 20 December 2010).

A 19-year-old shepherd, Ijmeian Abu Ihweishel, was shot by Israeli snipers on 19 December as he herded his flock of sheep in the same area, reported Ma’an (“Palestinian teen reported injured in north Gaza,” 19 December 2010).

Gaza’s health ministry reported that there have been 103 Palestinians shot by Israeli forces near the no-go zone since March 2010, Ma’an added.

Two days earlier, on 17 December, a Palestinian teenager died after being shot on a fishing boat off the southern Gaza coast by Israeli warships permanently stationed in the Mediterranean Sea. Agence-France Presse and Ma’an reported that Israeli forces fired on the small fishing boat, capsizing it and injuring 15-year-old Ziad Samir al-Bardawil, who died after being treated at a local hospital (“Gaza teen dead after Israel fires on fishing boat,” 17 December 2010).

In an article following al-Bardawil’s death, the right-wing Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli military sources who refuted the Ma’an report. The Israeli military said that it “does not recognize the event” and claimed it had nothing to do with the death of the Palestinian boy.

Rights organizations decry humanitarian situation

Although Israeli government officials have placed emphasis on the so-called “easing” of the blockade, Israel has done little to change the humanitarian situation for Palestinians inside the Gaza Strip, according to a new report signed by 22 major international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International UK, Oxfam International and the International Federation for Human Rights (“Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza Blockade ,” 30 November 2010 (PDF file)).

The report states that the inflow of construction materials, for example, is only at 11 percent of pre-blockade levels, food imports are only at 35 percent and the import of raw materials is still restricted.

Additionally, there is a strict ban on exported goods, a policy that has debilitated Gaza’s struggling economy. IMEMC reported that Israel has allowed only the exports of strawberries and carnations from Gaza this week, under the auspices of a Dutch governmental program to assist Gaza’s local farmers (“Israel opens only Kerem Shalom border,” 21 December 2010).

Jeremy Hobbs, director of Oxfam International, said in a press release related to the “Dashed Hopes” report that “only a fraction of the aid needed has made it to the civilians trapped in Gaza” (“Six months on: Little sign of improvement in Gaza since Israeli easing of blockade, shows report from aid and human rights groups,” 30 November 2010).

He added that “Israel’s failure to live up to its commitments and the lack of international action to lift the blockade are depriving Palestinians in Gaza of access to clean water, electricity, jobs and a peaceful future.”

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | Comments Off on Israeli air strikes kill five Palestinians in Gaza

CAIR slams Islamophobic US trainers

Press TV – December 22, 2010

The largest Muslim civil liberties advocacy organization in the United States has slammed the US government for using anti-Muslim trainers to teach the police.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, criticizing the US Justice Department for employing anti-Muslim trainers to teach city and state police how to deal with the Muslim community.

In his letter, CAIR’s Executive Director Nihad Awad says openly Muslim-bashing groups such as the Center for Security Policy run by neoconservative Islamophobe, Frank Gaffney, have been employed to train state and federal police about Muslims.

He argued that using taxpayers’ money to hire such extremist groups, who purposefully misinform those whom they train, must stop.

“What is shocking to us is that those who are training the government, those who are informing them about Islam and the Muslim community in the counter-terror area are the ones who see Islam as the enemy, and the Muslim community as the enemy of the United States,” Awad said in an interview with Press TV.

“So they give the government, therefore, inaccurate information — biased information — and we believe this is counterproductive and it is going to impact negatively the policies, the attitudes and the practices of the government law enforcement agencies at all levels vis-a-vis the Muslim community and Islam itself.”

He complained that the US government is hiring experts openly contemptuous of the Muslim population, who see them as a suspect community, who are teaching the police that radical Muslims are involved in a “jihad” in the United States to take over the country.

The CAIR director rejected the allegations and called on Washington to make sure the information the police are provided with is accurate.

“There are agenda-driven, anti-Islam activists, who under the facade of having institutions, come to the government and get paid with my — and everyone else’s — tax money to misinform the government about the Muslim population and Islam in general.”

The CAIR says it plans to send letters to the departments of Defense and Homeland Security to complain about the Islamophobic practice by the US Department of Justice.

See also:

Ramon Montijo has taught classes on terrorism and Islam to law enforcement officers all over the country.

“Alabama, Colorado, Vermont,” said Montijo, a former Army Special Forces sergeant and Los Angeles Police Department investigator who is now a private security consultant. “California, Texas and Missouri,” he continued.

What he tells them is always the same, he said: Most Muslims in the United States want to impose sharia law here.

“They want to make this world Islamic. The Islamic flag will fly over the White House – not on my watch!” he said. “My job is to wake up the public, and first, the first responders.”

Source

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Islamophobia | Comments Off on CAIR slams Islamophobic US trainers

WikiLeaks Thwarts Palestian Reconciliation

Hamas will reconsider talks with Fatah in light of WikiLeaks report

Palestine Information Center – 22/12/2010

GAZA– Senior Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil said WikiLeaks documents of Fatah leaders asking Israel to assault Hamas have prompted the resistance group in Gaza to reconsider talks with Fatah security leaders, and may mobilize judicial action for treason.

“Fatah’s denial of the documents does not concern us much. The group takes logistical support from Israel in order to eliminate the resistance movement led by Hamas since the signing of the Oslo agreements.”

“The documents which were revealed alongside the ‘peace illusions’ documents by Mohammed Haikal, revealing an Israel-Fatah agreement to strike Hamas proves that striking Hamas is the common denominator of both parties.”

“The liquidation of the resistance movement in the West Bank at the hands of Israel and Fatah is perfect evidence that security cooperation continues.”

“We had sensed and anticipated that what relates to the documents that leaked was correct, but the extent of cooperation will make us re-think talks with Fatah security leaders. We are now discussing who we will talk with.”

Bardawil strongly denied that Gaza was jailing anyone for political reasons. “This is a lie aimed at deceiving and creating a media confusion,” he said, adding that facts on the ground say there are no Fatah political prisoners in Gaza prisons. He challenged anyone who had proof of that to come forth.

A document that surfaced on WikiLeaks revealed that Fatah asked the head of the Israeli security agency (Shin Bet) Yuval Diskin to attack Hamas in 2007.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 1 Comment