If we didn't know it before, the upsurge in global protest in the past couple of years has driven home the lesson that mass demonstrations can have entirely different social and political meanings. Just because they wear bandannas and build barricades – and have genuine grievances – doesn't automatically mean protesters are fighting for democracy or social justice.
From Ukraine to Thailand and Egypt to Venezuela, large-scale protests have aimed at, or succeeded in, ousting elected governments in the past year. In some countries, mass protests have been led by working class organisations, targeting austerity and corporate power. In others, predominantly middle class unrest has been the lever to restore ousted elites.… Seguir leyendo »
It was an "isolated incident", US officials insisted. The murder of 16 Afghan civilians as they slept, Hillary Clinton declared, was the "inexplicable act" of one soldier. And as Barack Obama and David Cameron prepared to put a public gloss on an earlier end to Nato's "lead combat" mission in Afghanistan, the US secretary of state pledged to continue "protecting the Afghan people".
After a decade of ever more degraded Nato occupation, who could conceivably wish for such protection? The slaughter of innocents in Panjwai, nine of them children, follows the eruption of killings and protests after US troops burned copies of the Qur'an last month.… Seguir leyendo »
If Honduras were in another part of the world – or if it were, say, Iran or Burma – the global reaction to its current plight would be very different. Right now, in the heart of what the United States traditionally regarded as its backyard, thousands of pro-democracy activists are risking their lives to reverse the coup that ousted the country's elected president. Six weeks after the left-leaning Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped at dawn from the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa and expelled over the border, strikes are closing schools and grounding flights as farmers and trade unionists march in defiance of masked soldiers and military roadblocks.… Seguir leyendo »
Barely six months into Barack Obama's presidency and public tensions between the US and Israel, unthinkable for most of the past two decades, have already spilled over into open recriminations. Israel will not take orders or accept "edicts" from Washington, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has declared, while reportedly branding two of Obama's most senior aides – Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod – as "self-hating Jews".
A posse of Obama emissaries has now been dispatched to Jerusalem to smooth Israeli feathers with talk of a "discussion among friends". In the face of intense Israeli resistance, Obama's demand for a "complete freeze" on Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories is now expected to become a fudge about 2,500 more homes currently under construction.… Seguir leyendo »
'They have elected a Labour government," a Savoy diner famously declared on the night of Britain's election landslide in 1945. "The country will never stand for it." From the evidence so far coming out of Iran, something similar seems to be happening on the streets of Tehran – and in the western capitals just as desperate to see the back of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Of course the movement behind opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi spreads far beyond the capital's elite, as did the supporters of Winston Churchill against Clement Attlee. In Iran, it includes large sections of the middle class, students and the secular.… Seguir leyendo »
What do the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Italy and Israel have in common? They are all either European or European-settler states. And they all decided to boycott this week's UN conference against racism in Geneva – even before Monday's incendiary speech by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad which triggered a further white-flight walkout by representatives of another 23 European states.
In international forums, it's almost unprecedented to have such an undiluted racial divide of whites-versus-the-rest. And for that to happen in a global meeting called to combat racial hatred doesn't exactly augur well for future international understanding at a time when the worst economic crisis since the war is ramping up racism and xenophobia across the world.… Seguir leyendo »
The British government's brand new counter-terrorism strategy is already in disarray - and ministers have only themselves to blame. The souped-up plan to fight al-Qaida, confound dirty bombers, halt suicide attacks and confront "extremism" in the country's Muslim community was unveiled by the prime minister with much fanfare on Tuesday. But even before the 175-page "Contest 2" document had been launched, the credibility of its promise to engage with the Muslim mainstream had been thrown into question by the decision of Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, to cut all links with the Muslim Council of Britain.
Blears had been gunning for the MCB, the country's main Muslim umbrella body, which has shown increasing independence in recent years, particularly in relation to British foreign policy.… Seguir leyendo »
The armed assault on Sri Lanka's cricket team in Lahore has been a brutal demonstration, if any more were needed, that the war on terror is devouring itself and the states that have been sucked into its slipstream. Pakistan is both victim and protagonist of the conflict in Afghanistan, its western and northern fringes devastated by a US-driven counter-insurgency campaign, its heartlands wracked by growing violence and deepening poverty. The country now shows every sign of slipping out of the control of its dysfunctional civilian government - and even the military that has held it together for 60 years.
Presumably, that was part of the intended message of the group that carried out Tuesday's terror spectacle.… Seguir leyendo »
I never imagined I would say this, but Stella Rimington is right. The former head of MI5 who made her career running the security service's dirtiest operations in the 1980s, against the miners' union and the IRA, has warned that the government has given terrorists the chance to find "greater justification" by making people feel they "live in fear and under a police state". Naturally, ministers described her remarks as nonsense and accused her of playing "into the hands of our enemies".
But the damage is done. To have the woman once hailed as Britain's Queen of Spies accusing the government of recklessly counter-productive authoritarianism carries a special weight - and incidentally turns the traditional relationship between Labour and the secret state on its head.… Seguir leyendo »
On 9 October 1967, Che Guevara faced a shaking sergeant Mario Teran, ordered to murder him by the Bolivian president and CIA, and declared: "Shoot, coward, you're only going to kill a man." The climax of Stephen Soderbergh's two-part epic, Che, in real life this final act of heroic defiance marked the defeat of multiple attempts to spread the Cuban revolution to the rest of Latin America.
But 40 years later, the long-retired executioner, now a reviled old man, had his sight restored by Cuban doctors, an operation paid for by revolutionary Venezuela in the radicalised Bolivia of Evo Morales. Teran was treated as part of a programme which has seen 1.4 million free eye operations carried out by Cuban doctors in 33 countries across Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.… Seguir leyendo »
Over the last 12 days, Israel has inflicted a bloodbath on the Gaza Strip that matches the darkest days of the Iraq war. Backed to the hilt by the US author of that catastrophe, it has killed more than 650 people in less than a fortnight, including at least 200 children, and wounded three thousand. Yesterday, after killing 50 civilians in UN schools sheltering refugees - "C'est la guerre", the Israeli minister Meir Shitreet told the BBC when asked about the atrocities - the Israeli government agreed a three-hour daily lull in the carnage for "humanitarian purposes", as diplomatic manoeuvring intensified over a possible ceasefire deal.… Seguir leyendo »
Israel's decision to launch its devastating attack on Gaza on a Saturday was a "stroke of brilliance", the country's biggest selling paper Yediot Aharonot crowed: "the element of surprise increased the number of people who were killed". The daily Ma'ariv agreed: "We left them in shock and awe".
Of the ferocity of the assault on one of the most overcrowded and destitute corners of the earth, there is at least no question. In the bloodiest onslaught on blockaded Gaza since it was captured and occupied by Israel 41 years ago, at least 310 people were killed and more than a thousand reported injured in the first 48 hours alone.… Seguir leyendo »
If British troops are indeed withdrawn from Iraq by next June, it will signal the end of the most shameful and disastrous episode in modern British history. Branded only last month by Lord Bingham, until recently Britain's most senior law lord, as a "serious violation of international law", the aggression against Iraq has not only devastated an entire country and left hundreds of thousands dead - it has also been a political and military humiliation for the invading powers.
In the case of Britain, which marched into a sovereign state at the bidding of an extreme and reckless US administration, the war has been a national disgrace which has damaged the country's international standing.… Seguir leyendo »
While the eyes of the western world have been fixed on the global financial crisis, the military campaign that launched the war on terror has been spinning out of control. Seven years after the US and Britain began their onslaught on Afghanistan to oust the Taliban and capture Osama bin Laden, the Taliban surround the capital, al-Qaida is flourishing in Pakistan and the war's sponsors have publicly fallen out about whether it has already been lost.
As the US joint chiefs of staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen concedes that the country is locked into a "downward spiral" of corruption, lawlessness and insurgency, Britain's ambassador in Kabul, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, is quoted in a leaked briefing as declaring that "American strategy is destined to fail".… Seguir leyendo »
If there were any doubt that the rules of the international game have changed for good, the events of the past few days should have dispelled it. On Monday, President Bush demanded that Russia's leaders reject their parliament's appeal to recognise the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Within 24 hours, Bush had his response: President Medvedev announced Russia's recognition of the two contested Georgian enclaves.
The Russian message was unmistakable: the outcome of the war triggered by Georgia's attack on South Ossetia on August 7 is non-negotiable - and nothing the titans of the US empire do or say is going to reverse it.… Seguir leyendo »
The war in Afghanistan is running out of control. The multiple attacks mounted by Taliban guerrillas on Nato occupation troops on Monday and Tuesday - in which 10 newly arrived French soldiers were killed near Kabul and a US base hit by suicide bombers - are the most daring since the US-led invasion of 2001. More than 100 people have been killed in fighting in the past three days, as the war against foreign occupation has spread from the south to the east and the area around the capital.
The assault on the French reinforcements follows the killing of nine US soldiers in a single attack last month, and the freeing of hundreds of Taliban prisoners from Kandahar's main jail in a night-time raid in June.… Seguir leyendo »
The outcome of six grim days of bloodshed in the Caucasus has triggered an outpouring of the most nauseating hypocrisy from western politicians and their captive media. As talking heads thundered against Russian imperialism and brutal disproportionality, US vice-president Dick Cheney, faithfully echoed by Gordon Brown and David Miliband, declared that "Russian aggression must not go unanswered". George Bush denounced Russia for having "invaded a sovereign neighbouring state" and threatening "a democratic government". Such an action, he insisted, "is unacceptable in the 21st century".
Could these by any chance be the leaders of the same governments that in 2003 invaded and occupied - along with Georgia, as luck would have it - the sovereign state of Iraq on a false pretext at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives?… Seguir leyendo »
The political knives are out for Shahid Malik, Britain's first Muslim minister. For years poor Malik has bent over backwards to toe the New Labour line and be the epitome of an acceptable, moderate Muslim. But Malik also knows his own community and, when a ministerial edict went out to boycott the largest Islamic cultural and political event ever staged in Britain, he balked. By any reckoning, he argued, the IslamExpo extravaganza, which attracted 50,000 people over the weekend, was a mainstream gathering and an important opportunity to win hearts and minds. Only when his departmental boss, the international development secretary, Douglas Alexander, cracked the whip did Malik relent.… Seguir leyendo »
At the heart of Europe, police have begun fingerprinting children on the basis of their race - with barely a murmur of protest from European governments. Last week, Silvio Berlusconi's new rightwing Italian administration announced plans to carry out a national registration of all the country's estimated 150,000 Gypsies - Roma and Sinti people - whether Italian-born or migrants. Interior minister and leading light of the xenophobic Northern League, Roberto Maroni, insisted that taking fingerprints of all Roma, including children, was needed to "prevent begging" and, if necessary, remove the children from their parents.
The ethnic fingerprinting drive is part of a broader crackdown on Italy's three-and-a-half million migrants, most of them legal, carried out in an atmosphere of increasingly hysterical rhetoric about crime and security.… Seguir leyendo »
Whatever the Iraq war was about, we were assured, it definitely wasn't about oil. Tony Blair called the idea a "conspiracy theory". It was about democracy and dictatorship, weapons of mass destruction and human rights, anything but oil. Donald Rumsfeld, then US defence secretary, insisted the conflict had "literally nothing to do with oil". When Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, wrote last autumn, "Everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil," he was treated as if he were some senile old gent who'd embarrassingly lost the plot.
That argument is going to be a good deal harder to make from next week, when four of the western world's largest oil corporations are due to sign contracts for the renewed exploitation of Iraq's vast reserves.… Seguir leyendo »