Archive | December 2012

Bangladesh Fire

I hate to do this to you, but next time you pick up some clothing at a retail store to purchase, just think that the worker who made it might well have burned to death in an inferno.

Many people mistakenly think imperialism just means attacking or invading smaller and weaker countries. While that is certainly a part, it’s not the main aspect of world imperialism headed by the US. The main point is to secure profits for multinational corporations. Militarism and war is the last resort to that end.

There are three main objectives imperialism pursues to ensure profits for corporations: controlling natural resources such as oil, raw materials and minerals, controlling and dominating over markets, and controlling and exploiting cheap labor. Unlike in the 19th and first part of the 20th century when exploitation of poor and underdeveloped nations by the developed countries was more direct and often involved military presence, imperialism accomplishes its goals mainly, though not exclusively, through corrupt and Mafia like local governments that benefit the local ruling class and business owners, and through and beyond them, and to a larger degree, the transnational corporations of the wealthy countries.

Naturally, the preference is to have direct presence in the country in the name of military or police trainers or advisors or better yet to have a military base and even troops to ensure workers don’t revolt or a working class party doesn’t come to power, but it’s not always feasible or even necessary. Such local governments which represent the local bourgeoisie do a fine job putting out workers’ revolts and keeping wages down on their own, though often with assistance from the US and its allies. Incidentally, the police departments of some major US cities, including Los Angeles and New York and others, have been sent to developing countries to train the local police to suppress their workers.

The alliance between global imperialism headed by the US and corrupt local governments
is ideal for the former since it hides its culpability behind the latter since they seem to be the party in direct charge. Furthermore, any direct involvement by the government of the multinationals in oppression of workers is minimized in the eyes of their own public and justified under cooperation,development,and training.

Neoliberal policies and “free trade” which was championed and boasted by Clinton and continued to this day was a renewed effort to open up more markets and sources of cheap labor for US corporations with countries where labor was cheap and was to stay cheap and where local businesses could not compete with companies of the developed world, practically, not only handing over their markets but also their cheap labor. One such country has been Columbia which both Bush and Obama renewed “free trade” agreements with which has the highest number of assassinations against its workers and labor leaders in the world.

Garment industry which retailers and major brands use to make their huge profits is particularly oppressive with unbearable working conditions, infamous track record in ignoring worker safety and low pay. It’s the largest employer in Bangladesh With a $20 billion business making it the second largest exporter of cheap clothing to developed countries after China. A typical garment worker in Bangladesh makes $56 a month.

Besides keeping wages down, the alliance also prevents the implementation of any meaningful safety standards since any such prevention ultimately is a cost that reduces profits. Garment industry is especially susceptible to fires due to storage of large amount of flammable fabric and loom and especially acrylic which often result in raging infernos burning workers to death in large numbers. More than 300 workers have died in garment factory fires in Bangladesh since 2006. Such accidents which are largely preventable are made worse when they do occur due to the pressure put on the managers and supervisors to deliver the products fast and cheap. Also, to control worker movement and prevent theft, doors are often kept locked.

Many of the workers who survived the latest fire at Tazreen Fashions garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where 112 workers burned to death and 150 were injured, said that exit doors were locked and there was no emergency exit. When they tried to flee, managers told them to go back to their work stations.

This particular factory which employed 1400 workers, most of them women – about 70 percent of the workers – had previously been found to be in violation of safety standards which presumably retailers demand of factories. Nevertheless, an Associated Press reporter discovered clothes and account books that indicated the factory was used by a host of U.S. and European retailers. Concerned about their reputation, these retailers tried to distance themselves from the infamous sweatshop. Wal-Mart said that a previously conducted safety audit had showed the factory was “high-risk” and had decided to stop doing business with them, but a supplier had continued to use the factory without their knowledge. Sears said it learned after the blaze that its merchandise was being produced there. Disney likewise said none of its vendors were permitted to make Disney-brand products at the factory.

But, this is not the only factory that had such an accident. nosweat reported that in February of last year, 22 workers died in a fire at the Garib and Garib sweater factory in the southern district of Gazipur, Bangladesh, where clothes were made for H&M. At least 20 other workers were injured in the blaze, many with serious burns. At least 28 more Bangladeshi garment workers died and dozens more were injured after a fire broke out in June of last year at the “That’s It Sportswear Ltd” factory located 16 miles from the capital Dhaka. Several workers appeared to have suffocated, while others jumped to their deaths trying to escape the burning building. Another factory fire killed at least 21 workers and injured a further 50 in 2011. To make matters worse, the surviving workers are out without a pay. Such is the condition of the world ruled by US Empire.

If you think companies like Walmart are unfair to their workers here, you should see how they or their representative government in collusion with corrupt governments that work with them do to their workers.

We must begin to think and act globally. We must show solidarity with the workers of Walmart and Hostess and others who fight for livable wages and healthcare and against union busting and must also actively support workers of the developing nations as our sisters and brothers.

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Syria Again

Following reports by US intelligence officials that Syrian forces are moving their chemical weapons into position for a possible deployment, Obama issued a warning to the Assad regime that “there will be consequences and you will be held accountable” should chemical weapons be used against US-backed “rebels”. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his country had also warned Assad over the use of chemical weapons. Meanwhile, NATO is about to order deployment of Patriot missiles to Turkey’s border with Syria, despite warnings by Russia. “I have made it clear that we will support the deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey”, said Mr. Hague.

US intelligence sources have also reported recently that they have intercepted orders to prepare Sarin nerve gas for use.

According to London’s Telegraph, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato’s secretary general, warned Syria that the international community would not stand by if the Assad regime unleashes chemical warfare against the Syrian people. And United Nations today announced it is pulling “all non-essential international staff” out of the country.

Now, I don’t claim that the Assad regime is above using chemical weapons, but nor would I put US intelligence reports above fabrication for a more direct and forceful intervention. And “more” is the operative word here since they already have been intervening. But, now, as The Telegraph says, “the West seriously contemplates further measures to aid Syrian rebels”.

Before all the lies about the intelligence reports pointing to Saddam possessing weapons of mass destruction, warnings by skeptics that such reports are lies designed to justify military action would largely go unheeded. But, those false reports are not ancient history and are still relatively fresh in people’s minds. That’s why when broadcasting Obama’s and Secretary Clinton’s warnings to Assad, CNN quickly made it clear that “this is different”, that there already is a war and they are using other weapons anyway, making it more plausible that they might use whatever they have. This is the same logic that says “things are different now” because Obama is the president, not Bush. That president could have lied, but this one “is different”.

Yes, people are getting killed from both sides. Bombings by Free Syrian Army kills both government soldiers and civilians, as well. But, this war, at this point, given the current dynamics and composition of forces is anything but a revolution or popular revolt. If it was a revolt at some point, now it’s anything but. Revolution is what happened in Tunisia and Egypt and what has been going on in Bahrain and Yemen for over two years where unarmed and defenseless people have been protesting on the streets for democracy and social justice despite the brutal crackdown by US supported dictators using US supplied arms and ammunition and crowd control gear. What we see in Syria is not a sea of people in city squares demanding change. What we see is US backed “rebels” armed with heavy weapons and RPG’s and rockets and sophisticated communication gear and satellite images and command and control openly receiving weapons from the CIA from the Turkish border.

In a revolution, an empire does not selectively arm certain individuals it has screened for loyalty and let loose against the regime, no matter how undemocratic, in order to topple it and bring to power those chosen “rebels”, as they did in Libya where the kind of weapons they used to overthrow the regime was not an issue and neither was how many innocent civilians were killed to achieve their goal. Is phosphorous and cluster bombs that the US and its allies drop or thousand pound bombs that level neighborhoods or depleted uranium dropped on urban areas supposed to be okay but a possible use of chemical weapons is where they draw the line? The truth of the matter is, even setting aside the questionable veracity of the so-called intelligence reports, it’s not so much where the line is drawn, but who’s doing the drawing. Their or Israel’s bombs that kill people in the hundreds aren’t discussed on CNN as “this is different”, neither is the ongoing brutal suppression of protests by unarmed people in Bahrain and Yemen.

What started as a pro-democracy movement against the Assad regime was immediately viewed by the West as an opportunity to undo some of their “loss” in Egypt when a loyal US puppet and Israel collaborator was overthrown by a popular revolution – a real revolution without and despite foreign intervention. While they left no stone unturned in trying to get UN approval for military intervention which would involve massive aerial bombardment to topple the regime as they did in Libya, they wasted no time in arming and funding anti-regime individuals.

At one point, they raised the “danger” that the chemical weapons might fall in the hands of Lebanon’s Hezbollah fighters who are Israel’s nemesis and were successful in driving them out of their country during the latest invasion of Lebanon by Israel. That pointed to their thinking even then that the chemical weapons are something they might be able to use to justify military action. Mentioning Israel as a possible target of the chemical weapons also indicated that they contemplated getting them involved as they have several times in the past. But, gone were those days when the Zionist regime would roll in its US provided tanks and impose the will of their bosses’ in Washington without a second thought. The world we live in now is different thanks to the Arab Spring, and Israeli invasion is no longer such an easy solution.

So the US turned to Turkey, an old ally with common border with Syria, a Muslim nation whose military has for decades been the de facto ruler of the country, receiving aid and substantial military assistance to prepare them for a time like this. They used the pretext of some cross border mortar by Syrian military that killed four Turks to have Turkey stage an attack against Syria. Turkish parliament approved sending in tanks and troops and fighter jets started flying into Syria. But, that idea too died soon since they failed to invoke enough resentment among people against their neighboring nation to garner support for war, especially given the ongoing genocide against Palestinians and overwhelming anti-US and anti-Israel sentiment among the population.

So, the stalemate has continued. But, now, it seems they have revisited the chemical weapons pretext once more, but without Israeli assistance. This time, they’re talking about taking “action” on their own should the Syrian government cross “the red line”.

On the one hand, the Arab Spring and the awakening it created among people in the region, as well as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the atrocities against the Palestinian people, have created conditions that make it more difficult for the US to attack countries in the region as freely as they did in the past. On the other hand, however, I believe, they might be viewing the fast changing landscape as closing on them their chances for regaining the momentum and turning the tide to their advantage. I believe, given their losses and a more limited use for Israel in the region, they may decide to get more aggressive as hard as it seems given how aggressive they already are. Furthermore, they realize that changing the regime in Syria will bring them one step closer to their next goal: regime change in Iran.

Psy

The widely popular Korean rapper, Psy, whose performances have gone viral and have been viewed on YouTube in record numbers around the world, is one of the artists scheduled to perform Sunday night at “Christmas in Washington”, the annual holiday concert held at the National Building Museum, with President Obama and his family in attendance, reports Washington Post.

What’s interesting about this is that the band held performances in South Korea in 2004 against US and US military. The lyrics of one of his songs urged Iraqis to “kill the f… Yankees”. At one of his performances back then, when he got up on the stage, he smashed a US military vehicle model against the stage, at the cheer and applause of the audience.

At the time, Bush’s war on largely defenseless Iraq, which by the time Obama was forced to withdraw, resulted in the death of over a million Iraqis and the utter devastation of the country which US leaders like to describe as taking the country “back to Stone Age”, was fresh in the minds of Korean people – as with most of the world. And so was the striking and killing in 2002 of two 14 year old girls as they were walking along the street by a US military vehicle whose driver did not face any charges and was flown back to the US thanks to the immunity US soldiers receive when they occupy a country. Of course, US troops have committed far worse crimes in many countries without being tried in any court, including murder and rape of underage girls.

Furthermore, for 10 years, starting in 1998, both South and North Korea pursued a policy of rapprochement and dialog, and during the entire time, the US pressured the South to stop the talks and continue to view the North as their arch enemy, against the sentiment of the vast majority of the Korean people, who were overwhelmingly behind the move to ease tensions and develop understanding with their own people in the North. This writer was at several meetings in Los Angeles where South Korean delegations who had traveled to North and met with government officials there presented their progress reports and spoke of US arm twisting. As reported by the Post, a poll taken in 2004 of South Korean 20 somethings, revealed that 75% expressed hatred for the Empire occupying their country, which continues to this day, and wanted the US to leave.

Now, why is Washington Post, which like other mainstream papers of the Empire, cheered the marines as they invaded Iraq, mentioning Psy now? Because he, the lead singer, has decided it’s more expedient for his career now to apologize for his lyrics of 8 years ago and has even been performing for the Yankee soldiers. I suppose the Post feels vindication that a popular international rapper has come around to the side of the Empire – out of business considerations, mind you – to the point that he’s seen safe now to perform in front of the criminal in chief himself.

5 Things You Should Know About Syria

1. While it is true that the Assad regime is a dictatorship, like so many in the region, and while it is true that there was an uprising for democracy, it is also true that Al Qaeda groupings and sympathizers inspired and led by Al-Zawahiri, current Al Qaeda commander after Bin Ladin’s death, who has personally issued a fatwa against the Assad regime, as well as mercenaries hired and paid by Saudi Arabia and Sunni volunteers from neighboring countries including Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Libya who get money and weapons from Saudi Arabia and want to see an Islamic fundamentalist regime in Syria have been seen and identified among those fighting the regime.

2. Saudi Arabia has sent hundreds of millions of dollars as well as weapons to the fighters in Syria through Turkey, and with the help of the CIA and the Turkish government has set up camps at the Turkish-Syrian border for the fighters who easily slip in from Syria and slip back in with heavy weaponry in hand. Kurdish residents of the villages near the border have seen and reported on trucks carrying weapons for the fighters. In order to avoid and prevent inspection by the UN and other organizations which normally inspect and assist with refugee camps set up at a border during a war, the Turkish government calls those camped near the border “guests”, and does not allow any organization or journalist to enter the camps.

3. CIA agents are doing the vetting as to who can get money and weapons. Ordinary people demanding democracy are not among those receiving money, training and weapons which include AK-47’s, rocket propelled grenades, anti-tank weapons, communication gear, intelligence, ammunition, etc. Using these and other weapons and explosives, these fighters have been able to fight like an army. It’s ironic that the US and Al Qaeda whose predecessors were the Mojaheddin of Afghanistan including Bin Ladin himself when they were receiving aid and weapons from the CIA and Pakistan while fighting the Soviets in early 1980’s, have come full circle to fight on the same side again. This time, instead of Pakistan, it’s Saudi Arabia that’s the conduit, but the fighters are of the same religious fundamentalist ideology and fervor, if not the same individuals.

4. The 6-point peace plan which was announced in February of this year and accepted by the Syrian government and was mediated by joint UN and Arab League peace envoy, Kofi Annan, and called for cease fire to end the fighting and begin talks to resolve the conflict diplomatically, was ended by Free Syrian Army (FSA), which continued to receive money, weapons and foreign fighters with the help of the US, UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

5. The massacre in Houla, Syria, in May of this year, where 108 people, mostly women and children (34 women and 49 children) were shot to death in close range was first attributed to the forces allied with the regime by the UN Human Rights council which voted 41 to 6 to condemn the Assad government on June 1, which resulted in Western governments expelling Syrian ambassadors, though later, on June 27, the Council modified that position and said other perpetrators were possibly involved and left the issue as inconclusive. Without making a conclusive statement when none is warranted, one cannot rule out Al Qaeda fighters who are known to be fighting there against the government.

Conclusion: Though opinions may vary about the civil war in Syria, the mere involvement of Saudi Arabia and the CIA as well as diplomatic shuttling between London and Riyadh, must make one think twice about defending the so-called “rebels”, especially when one considers that none of such outcry by Western governments such as the US, UK, France and Germany is uttered about the pro-democracy movements in Bahrain and Yemen, where unarmed protesters are being shot at and killed or jailed with the full support of the US. The monarchy in Bahrain, which is “home” to US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, is not only receiving US help in cracking down on defenseless protesters, but has received troops (mercenaries really) from no other than Saudi Arabia which in recent years fearful that Arab Spring may come to them and kick them off their royal thrones have become active in trying to reverse the tide. They have realized that to put an end to the Arab Spring, once and for all, they have to help secure the region with governments allied with the US and Israel.

The Assad regime must eventually be replaced by a popular and democratic government, but that’s not what the West and the Saudi kings and Israel have in mind for the nation and that’s not what those fighters receiving weapons from Saudis and the CIA represent.

Newtown Massacre

People are asking what kind of sick psychopath would go to an elementary school with multiple guns and rounds of ammo and shoot defenseless little kids to death – unspeakable horror, indeed. The mother of this disturbed 20 year old, a kindergarten teacher, had legally purchased the guns and ammunition that Her son used to kill those kids and their teacher, including his own mother.

But, given the fact that millions of Americans are clinically depressed and given decades of pro-war and militarist propaganda brainwashing the American people to garner their acquiescence to “endless wars” of imperial conquest and empire building, especially the young, who must become the cannon fodder for the empire’s war machine, it’s not as surprising as one might think that such senseless and horrific violence continues to occur without an end in sight, while all the gun manufacturers’ lobby can be worried about is that such violence might result in legislature that might cut into their profits.

And “profit” is the word that rises to the surface of any meaningful and analytic look at the phenomenon over and over again, a word Which is after all behind a culture of war and violence which kills innocent little children all the time by the sons and daughters of a desensitized population, who shoot at people overseas by clicking on a joystick controlling a drone thousands of mines away that brings down the roof on children in their “elementary school” and the severed limbs of 5 year olds don’t even make it on the evening news and don’t cause statements of grief by the President and people don’t go to their churches to pray for those victims …

5 best things that happened for US Empire

5 best things that happened for US Empire that made it what it is today and the outlook for the future:

1. WWII which weakened Europe and made the US a superpower with the strongest military and economy and widest sphere of economic, military and political influence around the world that continue to this day. It almost overnight doubled US GDP and made it the number one military power and opened up vast new regions for exploitation by US corporations.

2. TV which gave the US ruling class and their corporations who owned the channels and controlled what the people would hear and see day in and day out sitting in their living rooms. Through a corporate owned media but especially the TV, they accomplished the most successful and most complete brainwashing achieved anywhere and anytime. By controlling the mindset and culture, they were able to push policies that benefited the minority of super rich at the expense of the poor majority resulting in people’s acquiescence to policies that are clearly against their own interests and would otherwise never agree to, including busting their unions, cutting spending on social programs and spending the money on endless wars of conquest, to name a few.

3. The creation of the state of Israel that has served and defended its interests, especially in the vital and oil-rich region of the Middle East since its formation by playing the role of a cop in the region to keep the “order” for the US and protect its corporate interests and to keep the region’s governments in line, often doing their dirty work for them, including assassinations, bombings, invasions and blackmailing. It has been used to fight off and prevent national liberation and anti-imperialist movements and has provided the Empire with the largest and strongest military base waging wars on behalf, but not in the name of the US. This is why they give the apartheid state billions of dollars every year, including massive amounts of most advanced weaponry and defend it, unconditionally.

4. 9/11 which overnight gave it the pretext it needed and wanted to begin, on the one hand, a deceptive “war on terror” and its corollary “endless wars” to try and accelerate the pace of achieving global hegemony, and on the other, tighten its screws on its own population, taking away many of their civil rights and freedoms in order to stifle dissent and preempt any popular movement that might rise in opposition to all the wars and the austerity required to finance them. Without 9/11, they would have a very hard time selling this two-pronged strategy to the people.

5. The breakup of the Soviet Union which left the US without a serious challenge to its policies of war and militarism and left it free to exert its hegemony in all four corners of the world.

But, things are surely if gradually changing. The Arab Spring has challenged the policy of installing and aiding dictators who would do the US bidding against the interests of their own people. This has also limited what Israel can do in the region given the high level of anger towards it for the genocide they have been committing against the Palestinians. Also, Latin America is fast getting out of their hands where nations are increasingly exerting their independence from the Empire. China is also taking some of the economic and political opportunities away from the US which is why the latter is frantically trying to stop its advances in the Pacific by taking more warships to the region including beefing up their positions in Australia and frequently meeting with heads of states of the region. But, as they continue to be challenged in Middle East, in Latin America and in the Pacific, the danger is for the Empire to strike back with more wars in the coming years.