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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

As things get worse in Pakistan, the optimism continues to soar by Robert Fisk

Civilians have paid the price in revenge attacks that usually target the army

A few days ago, I was driving around Lahore, its population still shattered by the suicide bombers who blew themselves up next to two army trucks, killing 18 Pakistani soldiers and 48 civilians. The civilians, of course, were the usual "collateral damage" – the bad guys have even adopted our own obscene expression for unintended casualties – and they paid the price for Pakistan's continuing war against the Taliban in Swat and South Waziristan on behalf of America's "war on terror". Indeed, the conflict here is primarily between the army and the Taliban. I couldn't help noticing that the street where the bombs exploded is in the RA Barracks area of Lahore – and it took a time before I discovered that RA stands for Royal Artillery. Yes, our imperial ghosts continue to stalk this place while America's more recent empire ensures that its people suffer as they did under the Raj. Will freedom at midnight never come?

Yet far more outrageous was Richard Holbrooke's cocky, overconfident performance on CNN just three days later. Things are getting better on the "Af-Pak" scene, he told the world – how I hate these infantile expressions ("Af-Pak", "strategic depth", "spikes" and "surges") and al-Qa'ida is "under great pressure after losing key members of its leadership". Ten to 12 al-Qa'ida leaders had been "eliminated" over the past year – mostly in pilotless drone attacks on Pakistani territory, it should be added, which cost 667 lives in 2009 alone . Pakistan's civilians have paid the price in revenge attacks that usually target the Pakistani army: 322 Pakistanis killed and more than 500 wounded in 15 suicide bombings in the first 70 days of this year. The Pakistani army now has two divisions in Swat and several more in south Waziristan and Mr Holbrooke would like to see them move into north Waziristan as well, although – he generously agrees – that will be up to the commander of the Pakistani army.

So that's it, folks. Just like Bushy and Blair of Kut-al-Amara on Iraq, it's the same old story. The worse things get, the greater the optimism. If it's bad, it's getting better. By last year, Pakistan's dead since 2001 – from suicide bombers, Pakistani army operations, inter-tribal battles and Nato drone attacks – reached a total of 12,632 (with 12,815 wounded). Not bad, huh? And the overall political situation in Pakistan – where the Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif has just appealed to the Taliban to stop bombing Lahore on the grounds that residents hate the Americans (and ex-dictator Pervez Musharraf) just as much as they do – is "much better now", according to Dickie Holbrooke. After all, the Pakistani military is no longer in Pakistan's "complicated" politics. We shall see.

I can recall sitting on the lawn one evening this week with Imran Khan – among the most honest of Pakistan's politicians (there aren't many, I promise you) – as dusk fell over the Margalla mountains. And Imran was raging. "My God, these people in Waziristan, they are wonderful, beautiful people and what are we doing to them? The army fire their artillery 20km from their target, and they're told they are shooting at 11 Taliban people and then they fire and the army announce that 11 Taliban have been killed. We are killing our own people. This has to stop." But there's not much point in thinking that Obama and his dotty secretary of state care a damn. They are lost.

Why, only a few months ago, la Clinton was bitching about Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's refusal to stop building settlements following Obama's "reach-out" – another of those bloody phrases – to Muslims. She meant all settlements, she said. Illegal settlements, "legal" settlements, outposts, whatever the Israelis liked to call it. And when Netanyahu offered his ridiculous "freeze" on just West Bank Jewish colonies for a mere six months – not in Jerusalem, mark you – off la Clinton trotted to the Arab League to publicise this extraordinary and "unprecedented" offer by the land-grabbers of the Netanyahu government.

Now she is huffing and puffing again. Joe Biden turns up in the land to which the United States has donated almost £200bn over the past decade in the hope of getting the Israelis and Palestinians to talk to each other again – and Netanyahu's government announces another 1,600 Jewish homes in East Jerusalem. Biden, of course, should have jumped back on his plane and flown back to America. Hasn't the US, after all, registered 39 vetoes to protect its little Middle Eastern Prussia in the UN? No way. The timing of the statement – the timing, mark you – was "unhelpful". Netanyahu said he didn't know about the announcement in advance – which, if true, suggests we should all believe in Father Christmas and fairies at the bottom of the garden.

But what does la Clinton do? Not appreciating that Biden and she and Obama have been treated by the Israelis with the contempt they deserve, she rants on the phone to Netanyahu about the "affront" and the "insult" of the timing of the announcement. But this is preposterous.

The affront and the insult were not caused to la Clinton or Obama. So self-regarding is this wretched woman that she could not grasp that the real affront and insult were being endured by the Palestinians – who are again being driven from their homes and dispossessed so that Netanyahu's Israeli colonists can move further into east Jerusalem. La Clinton should have asked Netanyahu how he could inflict such punishment on innocent Palestinians – but she thought that she and Obama were the victims.

My guess is that it's only a matter of time before Obama's pitiful envoy George Mitchell will be replaced by a tougher man – and who better than Dickie Holbrooke, the tough guy who knows how to handle "Af-Pak" and will know how to handle Netanyahu? Why, it's not so long ago that he produced "peace" in Bosnia at Dayton, Ohio – one S Milosevic being an honoured guest – while telling a pleading delegation of Kosovo Muslims to get lost. Nothing should get in the way of peace in Bosnia. So the Kosovars departed to endure their own ethnic cleansing when Nato went to war with Serbia. You may remember that we were fighting this war to get the Kosovo Albanians back into their homes – even though most of them were in their homes when our USAF and RAF warriors started their bombing campaign against Serbia.

But who cares? Things are getting better in Pakistan. It's only the Americans who are upset about Netanyahu. One thing at a time. That's what Holbrooke told the Kosovo Muslims. Al-Qa'ida are on the run. And they expect us to believe all this guff.

Published in The Independent Saturday, 20 March 2010

London 2012 is a mess already, but they could still make it fun by Mark Steel

Bit by bit, the promises of the organisers are becoming cloudier

You can now register to be in the queue of people who'd like to hear about when you can apply for tickets to the Olympics. But there should be a vetting process, to make it fairer.

For example, during the Beijing games I once watched five uninterrupted hours, and only turned off when the commentator said: "And you have to say, that is a pivotal moment in the history of Algerian judo." Surely that gives me some priority. Points should be awarded to anyone who's stayed up to 2am to watch handball on Eurosport, or stood all day holding cups of tea for warmth in the drizzle, hoping play might begin at a county cricket match in Maidstone.

Instead they'll probably allocate them the same way they sort out school places. Families will move next to the Olympic pool to be in the catchment area. And some tickets will go to churches, so people will start going along every Sunday in the hope they'll be granted a seat at the semi-final of the canoeing.

Whatever they do, it's hard to appreciate the event as a festival of sport, when you see the priorities of those in charge of the franchise. One reason the Vancouver Winter Olympics is regarded as a success is because the sales of McDonald's, one of the main sponsors, rose by 5 per cent during the games. Even the city's libraries were sent memos advising: "Do not have Pepsi sponsoring any library events, as Coke and McDonald's are the Olympic sponsors."

Maybe for the London Games we'll do even better, and pensioners will be told: "This Catherine Cookson book is two days late, Mrs Tomkins. Instead of spending all day steaming carrots you should try a McDonald's Chicken, Bacon and Onion 3 in 1 multi-burger, then you might have time to bring your books back."

For London there are seven "tier-one" sponsors, such as Lloyds, BT and EDF, and the committee's marketing director has advised that now is the time for the, "Seven first-tier sponsors to lock down their market masterplan." Because there are so many opportunities.

They could sponsor tennis players that grunt, so instead of "Yaeeeuuugh", Maria Sharapova can yell "Llooooyds TSB" with every backhand. And the pentathlon could involve the 100 metres, the 1500 metres, the long jump, the discus and persuading someone in the crowd to get their gas supplied by EDF in a 12-month agreement with a completed form for the direct debit.

The Games have been sold to us partly as an opportunity to leave an "Olympic legacy", of stadiums and facilities. But bit by bit these promises are becoming cloudier. For example, the £9.3bn cost of the Games was supposed to include a new park stretching across East London. And this was promoted with one of those virtual films swooping across implausibly green trees and palatial arenas of jollity.

But this week it was announced this won't be built unless someone finds an extra £450m on top. So what will go next? Maybe there'll be no athletics track either, and the athletes will be told it doesn't matter as there's a marvellous virtual one, and these days you can throw a javelin with a Nintendo Wii and hardly notice the difference.

You can guess the underlying spirit of the Games from reading the names of the Olympic Committee. There's HRH Prince Nawaf Faisal Fahd Abdulaziz who, and I'm guessing here, may be there because of his links to Arab royalty. Or maybe I'm being cynical and he's an expert on bloody badminton.

There's the son of former Olympic President Juan Samaranch, once a member of Franco's government. There are some fetching photos of the former president giving a Nazi salute, but maybe he did a special twisting curling one with a degree of difficulty of 5.9 and that's what made him an ideal man to run the Olympics. The current chief is Count Jacques Rogge, and we can all agree the trouble with modern life is our committees don't have nearly enough Counts.

These and more like them run the show, which is why every Olympic decision is based on money, then power, and sport a distant non-qualifying seventh. That's why they introduce daft events to boost the sponsorship, and it won't be surprising if the London Games includes a lap-dancing event, with Barry Davies sent to commentate and gasping: "Oh my goodness, terrific wriggling there from the Latvian."

Or maybe the bankers who profit from the Games will get jealous and demand sports they can compete in, such as coxless offshore accounting and a three-day hedge fund investment event.

But somehow, for reasons beyond the finest of shrinks, there will come a moment when I'm utterly delirious because I've got a ticket for Holland versus Namibia in the water polo.

First published in The Independent on 24th March 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Climate Action Summit 2010: A step forward by Ewan Saunders

Three hundred climate activists participated in Australia’s second national Climate Action Summit in Canberra on March 13-15, marking an important step forward for the grassroots climate movement in this country.

Over the three days, activists discussed a wide range of issues facing the climate movement and formulated campaign strategies for the coming year.
The summit opened with a plenary fronted by renowned climatologist Professor David Karoly, Greens Senator Christine Milne and Damien Lawson from the Melbourne Climate Action Centre.

Karoly, who has served as lead author for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, gave a summary of the science of climate change. He addressed the climate deniers’ campaign to attack and discredit climate scientists around the world.

He exposed the myth, popularised through the corporate media, that global warming stopped in 1998 and since then the Earth has been cooling. He noted the Earth was warming in 1998 and has continued to warm since.

On the question of the relationship between scientists and the grassroots movement, he said, “Scientists can help”, but went on to describe the restrictions imposed on scientists by academic and other institutions.

Milne expanded further on the climate denialists’ campaign. She said: “The old vested interests have fought like partisans.

“These people had money, they organised, and they organised globally.”

Milne mapped out the strategy of the denial campaign: first, to cast doubt on the science as something irrational, dogmatic and religious; second, repeat the mantra the public will be worse off if action for a safe climate is taken.

She said the climate movement must respond by stating and restating that we must accept the science and condemn climate change denial as the irrational, dogmatic religion.

She said the movement must convey the message that acting on climate change will mean we will be better off. The movement must offer a vision of a clean future in which people lead healthy, purposeful lives.

Another major plenary featured Walden Bello, founding director of Focus on the Global South, Donna Jackson from the Australia Nuclear Free Alliance, Mark Ogge from Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) and Clive Spash.

Spash resigned from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation last year when the organisation attempted to censor his report criticising carbon trading.

Ogge gave a preview presentation of BZE’s soon-to-be-released fully costed blueprint for Australia’s transition to 100% renewable energy by 2020, powered by commercially-available wind and solar-thermal technology.

Bello, via video-link from the Philippines, addressed climate impacts on the Third World and global climate justice. Jackson condemned the federal government’s plan for a high-level nuclear waste dump in Australia.

This year’s summit was more ambitious than the last.

There were six campaign streams held over the first two days: "100% renewables campaign"; "coal campaigning"; "vote climate"; "trade unions and green jobs"; "climate emergency"; and the "national climate network".

Proposals from the campaign streams were voted on by the whole summit, which set a timeline of climate action for the coming year. Summit decisions are not binding on climate action groups (CAGs), but decisions made indicate that an issue or proposal has wide and strong support in the movement.

Vote climate
The summit agreed the CAGs should campaign in support of candidates who support the climate policies of the summit.

It also resolved to encourage activists to engage in “meet the candidates” events, community surveys, “Vote Climate” candidate scorecards, community campaigning stalls, letterboxing, door-knocking and “MP re-branding”.

The idea of politician “re-branding” was launched by the Yarra Climate Action Network. Activists held a banner reading “Labor in the pocket of big coal” outside Labor MP Richard Wynne’s office for one hour each week.

The summit agreed to hold a national door-knock day to inform voters why climate is an important election issue and to recruit to local CAGs.

General themes decided for a national climate election campaign included: direct investment to create 100% renewable energy; stop fossil fuel subsidies; replace Australia’s dirtiest power station, Hazelwood, with clean energy by 2012; a moratorium on new coal; a price on carbon through an effective carbon levy; and a guarantee for a “just transition” to clean jobs for workers in polluting industries.

The big support for a carbon levy was a significant change from last years’ summit, at which a large majority of participants supported a “well-designed” emissions trading scheme as the best option to curb greenhouse gas emissions. This year, there was next to no support for carbon trading.

Trade unions and green jobs
Another important development was a session to discuss proposals to strengthen the relationship between the trade union and grassroots climate movements.

The session adopted a resolution supporting the locked-out Xstrata workers at the Tahmoor colliery in New South Wales and heir right to safe employment.

The summit stressed the need for a just transition to non-polluting industry for all workers, and encouraged climate activists to join their unions and build pressure within workplaces for climate action.

Significantly, it also resolved to form a national working group on green jobs and union involvement in the climate movement. The working group will look at creating a climate jobs strategy, connecting climate activists in unions by encouraging state-based conferences, and ensuring unions are included at climate and environment conferences.

It was agreed that green jobs needed to be included as a theme in actions emerging from the summit.
Prior to the summit, a number of groups had collaborated on forming a national campaign for 100% renewable energy in Australia. The summit agreed to encourage more groups to become involved in this campaign.

The campaign will be launched nationally on May 2, with a “photo petition” (a photographic media release of activists in their local areas holding signs with campaign slogans), community surveys on renewable energy, and visits to MPs offices.

A proposal to host a web-based climate science resource was adopted. The site will be part of the website for a new national climate network.

A new national network

The 2009 Climate Action Summit began a process of formulating and circulating a proposal for a national grassroots climate network — the Community Climate Network Australia.

By December 2009, 104 CAGs voted on the proposal, with 99 supporting it. This year’s summit discussed the network proposal at length. There was very lively discussion from the audience.

The result was a slightly amended version of the proposal. Australia now has its own national network of climate activists. Each state network will be asked to elect up to three representatives for the network’s facilitation group.

With a well-funded climate denial campaign to contend with, and some of the large conservative NGOs supporting the Rudd government’s fatally-flawed emissions trading scheme (rejected outright by the 2009 climate summit), the launch of this new network represents an advance for the grassroots movement in Australia.

Activists now have the framework in place for a politically independent network of their own, laying the groundwork for a stronger, better-organised movement that can begin to challenge the might of the fossil fuel lobby and its agents in government.

Combined with a strong schedule of national campaigns and events in 2010, the new network offers opportunities for collaboration and communication. It gives the movement the basis to speak with one voice on nationally agreed goals.

A national calendar of climate action

June 5, World Environment Day, was adopted as a national day of climate action, with the themes of renewable energy, no to coal, a safe climate transition, and a focus on climate jobs.

This year’s NSW climate camp will aim to be a national event, inviting involvement from CAGs and climate networks around the country.

Also on the agenda is a national day of action against coal. Activists have targeted the coal industry previously, with visits to coal-affected communities, meetings with coal workers, and direct action targeting coal-fired power stations and coal in transit.

Activists will also organise “Fossil Fools Day” on April 1.

Other debates at the summit

The broad range of topics covered made for some rich discussion and debate.

The question of population was no exception.

On the second day, a debate was organised between those advocating for policies to reduce immigration to Australia and those arguing that a focus on immigration would be detrimental to action for the campaign for a safe climate.

The Socialist Alliance’s Simon Butler and the Greens’ Alex Bhathal faced two representatives from Sustainable Population Australia, before a polarised audience.

A policy proposal that included a focus on reducing Australia’s population as a response to climate change was rejected by the summit on the final day.

A similar proposal had received more support at the last year's summit.

While numbers were down on the 2009 Climate Action Summit, this year’s event represented a step forward for the grassroots climate action movement.

With a host of proposals for local and national activity over the coming year, and a new national network to provide a counterweight to the previously NGO-dominated environment movement, the grassroots is in a stronger position than it was one year ago.

Now the hard work of implementing the host of plans for action and strategy begins.

From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #831 24 March 2010.

Commissioner-Your staff always seem to be on the bosses' side By Matt McCarten

Dear Police Commissioner Howard Broad,Why do the police always take the bosses' side in an industrial dispute?
It seems whenever my union, Unite, is trying to help a group of workers, your uniformed staff can't wait to help some ratbag employer by charging us with trespass or even arresting us.

Recently, I met one of your constables at a picket line. The arrogant little sod, who looked 12 years old, announced that he could use a charge of disorderly behaviour to arrest me or anyone else for anything he liked. Where do you get these recruits from?

Fortunately for us, in this instance his sergeant arrived and we resolved the matter. But my staff have been arrested or threatened with arrest a dozen times in the past 12 months. None of those arrested has been convicted.

I normally regard this as an occupational hazard, but this week Judge Peter Spiller in the Manukau District Court found that your staff had misused their powers by falsely arresting and falsely imprisoning one of my staff.

He was awarded $4000 in damages and legal costs.

Your staff instinctively side with the boss and threaten to arrest us or trespass us. Once we've been jailed, your staff make it a condition of bail that we not go near the employer's business. Then, after a few days, the charges are quietly dropped or thrown out of court.

It's a total misuse of power. You wouldn't dare do this to a compliance officer investigating a complaint from the local council, fire department or the SPCA.

It's instructive to workers seeing how police side with their bosses, even if they are wrong.

To counter this abuse takes a lot of resources. I have to pursue the matter through the courts so I don't bother. But in this case, one of the two officials who had been arrested decided he'd had enough and took a private prosecution for misuse of police powers, wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.

He won but he shouldn't have had to do it.

Let me tell you more about the incident, in which your officers were in cahoots from day one with a ratbag employer.

This was someone who sacked a woman because she was pregnant. That was unlawful.

He had refused to let his workers join a union. That was unlawful.

When he was taken to mediation he refused to comply with the agreement reached. That was unlawful.

He locked out his workers for a month without pay and brought in scab workers to replace them. That was unlawful.

He then claimed these workers were family members, working for nothing. That was untrue.

Two Unite officials then entered the premises, as the law permits, to investigate this breach by the employer.

This employer later claimed there had been a confrontation and he'd been physically threatened, though interestingly he didn't make a complaint the following day.

Your officers took this ratbag's word and arrested my staff, who were banned from the site under threat of a trespass charge.

Incidentally, one of the officials was Pakeha and the other Maori: your officers booked and released the former but interrogated and incarcerated the latter for several hours. It appears they just assumed he was the person who had threatened the boss.

He hadn't. When it went to court and the boss was on oath, his story was exposed: the plaintiff had merely been acting as a witness for the other official. He hadn't said a word and had had his hands in his pockets the whole time.

The court found he had acted lawfully and had not done anything wrong. He was merely a witness to ensure that the employer didn't tell lies - as they thought he would.

So here are some questions for you. What are you going to do about this? Why do your staff always assume the boss isn't a liar? Why do they have the innocent arrested while a ratbag gets away with a crime?

Your officers have a job to uphold the law, not to act as private security enforcers for bosses who commit crimes against their workers.

Their actions cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars. Who is held to account?

Any chief executive should want to know why his staff are acting illegally. I look forward to a change of behaviour from your staff.

Human Rights Rides Again? Taunting Havana By SAUL LANDAU

The State Department echoed by the EU has once again raised the human rights issue to beat up Cuba. In 1959, Fidel Castro declared his independence from the United States – possibly without realizing that punishment could last 51+ years. Even when US national interests are involved, Washington acts petulantly if not downright childishly.
Following last month’s session with Cuba’s diplomats re Cuban immigration quotas, narco-trafficking and other mutual interests -- Bush canceled all talks in 2002 – the US Interest Section sent its vehicles to fetch “dissidents” to a party. The Cuban government responded with barely concealed anger. US diplomats behaved as progress toward dealing with joint concerns merits a US poke in Cuba’s eye: celebrating with people who announced unending opposition to Cuba’s government and received US perks and privileges as a result.

For example, the Interest Section supplies dissidents with a variety of “needs,” such as cell phones and lap tops which, “dissidents” claim, get confiscated by Cuban State Security. “We have photographs of them selling these items,” a Cuban official told me. “When the “dissident” reports the loss, the Interest Section, meaning US taxpayers – although few know it – supply them with new ones.”

Did the State Department think of possible consequences of the Interest Section’s little joke? Suppose Raul Castro acted in as mean-spirited a way as State’s tough-guy image of him. He would announce to Cuba’s considerable unemployed population that those who wanted to seek work elsewhere could do so without repercussion. Now, imagine waves of rafters landing in south Florida with its high unemployment rate!

Cuban security agents could arrest and try a group of the Interest Section’s favorite “dissidents” In the ensuing trial, witnesses against them would come from State Security. The Interest Section had known them as other favored “dissidents.” (“They’re giving our taxpayers’ money to Cuban State Security Agents? An angry Senator might ask.) In 2003, Cuba arrested 75 “dissidents,” twelve witnesses testified the accused took money, goods and services from US diplomats all undercover moles disguised as “dissidents.

Memory seems absent when the issue is punishing Cuba. In 2006, a former Interest Section official waxed eloquent about Cuba’s human rights violations, as if the US record was immaculate. Under Eisenhower and Kennedy, when Washington first bellowed its “democratic” principles, millions of black Americans could not vote, chain gangs flourished at state prisons, and lynchings periodically took place.

Fidel Castro, the Kennedy crowd righteously sneered, refused to hold elections. Some cynics thought Kennedy and his bootlegger father had padded Illinois’ ballot boxes where JFK narrowly defeated Nixon. Cuba’s electoral system may have flaws, but its Supreme Court didn’t declare counting votes unessential to democracy. (See Gore v. Bush.)

As Washington hurled its “principled” criticisms at Havana consistently over decades, it simultaneously financed thousands of terrorist attacks and assassinations against Cuba and its leaders. Killing people did not violate human rights?

In 2010, Washington continues to taunt Havana – currently for failing to rescue a “political prisoner,” Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died during a hunger strike. Zapata, arrested on assault charges, decided in prison to convert to dissidence. Videos show Cuban authorities hospitalized. No one asked for his insurance policy. The video shows him receiving top-level medical attention. A current “dissident” Guillermo Farinas then launched his hunger strike at his home until Cuba released all its political prisoners. When he fainted, Cuban authorities rushed him to the hospital.

Prisoner abuse should become a US human rights scandal. A Chinese account on US Human Rights cites “a report presented to the 10th meeting of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in 2009 by its Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering Terrorism.” The report showed “the United States has pursued a comprehensive set of practices including special deportation, long-term and secret detentions and acts violating the United Nations Convention against Torture. (China Daily, Marc 17, 2010)

The Chinese report, using a Department of Agriculture study, states that currently 16.7 million US “children, or one fourth of the U.S. total, had not enough food in 2008.” (USA Today, November 17, 2009). A Feeding America report added that “more than 3.5 million children under the age of five face hunger or malnutrition.” (, May 7, 2009).

Washington’s real issue relates to Cuban disobedience of its policies; not human rights. In fact, Cubans enjoy substantive rights American citizens don’t: food, housing, medical care, and education. Cuba falls short on procedural rights regarding press and political parties.

But when the religious police in Saudi Arabia our oily partner cane women who show skin, the State Department says “Ho Hum.” Nor does Cuba’s Communist rule matter – witness Vietnam and China, major commercial partners of the US.

Ronald Reagan privatized Cuba policy, leaving it with a right wing minority sector in Miami that doesn’t want improvement. Each step forward such as immigration talks in February begets a step backwards, thanks to the anti-Cuba lobby’s power: one hunger striker dies; another emerges to steal headlines.

Maybe things will change when Cuba’s off shore oil starts spouting!

Saul Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow who received Chile’s Bernardo O’Higgins award for human rights. CounterPunch published his A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD

Globalization Marches On by Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky 

Growing popular outrage has not challenged corporate power

Shifts in global power, ongoing or potential, are a lively topic among policy makers and observers. One question is whether (or when) China will displace the United States as the dominant global player, perhaps along with India.

Such a shift would return the global system to something like it was before the European conquests. Economic growth in China and India has been rapid, and because they rejected the West's policies of financial deregulation, they survived the recession better than most. Nonetheless, questions arise.

One standard measure of social health is the U.N. Human Development Index. As of 2008, India ranks 134th, slightly above Cambodia and below Laos and Tajikistan, about where it has been for many years. China ranks 92nd-tied with Belize, a bit above Jordan, below the Dominican Republic and Iran.

India and China also have very high inequality, so more than a billion of their inhabitants fall far lower on the scale.

Another concern is the U.S. debt. Some fear it places the U.S. in thrall to China. But apart from a brief interlude ending in December, Japan has long been the biggest international holder of U.S. government debt. Creditor leverage, furthermore, is overrated.

In one dimension-military power-the United States stands alone. And Obama is setting new records with his 2011 military budget. Almost half the U.S. deficit is due to military spending, which is untouchable in the political system.

When considering the U.S. economy's other sectors, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and other economists warn that we should beware of "deficit fetishism." A deficit is a stimulus to recovery, and it can be overcome with a growing economy, as after World War II, when the deficit was far worse.

And the deficit is expected to grow, largely because of the hopelessly inefficient privatized health care system-also virtually untouchable, thanks to business's ability to overpower the public will.

However, the framework of these discussions is misleading. The global system is not only an interaction among states, each pursuing some "national interest" abstracted from distribution of domestic power. That has long been understood.

Adam Smith concluded that the "principal architects" of policy in England were "merchants and manufacturers," who ensured that their own interests are "most peculiarly attended to," however "grievous" the effects on others, including the people of England.

Smith's maxim still holds, though today the "principal architects" are multinational corporations and particularly the financial institutions whose share in the economy has exploded since the 1970s.

In the United States we have recently seen a dramatic illustration of the power of the financial institutions. In the last presidential election they provided the core of President Obama's funding.

Naturally they expected to be rewarded. And they were-with the TARP bailouts, and a great deal more. Take Goldman Sachs, the top dog in both the economy and the political system. The firm made a mint by selling mortgage-backed securities and more complex financial instruments.

Aware of the flimsiness of the packages they were peddling, the firm also took out bets with the insurance giant American International Group (AIG) that the offerings would fail. When the financial system collapsed, AIG went down with it.

Goldman's architects of policy not only parlayed a bailout for Goldman itself but also arranged for taxpayers to save AIG from bankruptcy, thus rescuing Goldman.

Now Goldman is making record profits and paying out fat bonuses. It, and a handful of other banks, are bigger and more powerful than ever. The public is furious. People can see that the banks that were primary agents of the crisis are making out like bandits, while the population that rescued them is facing an official unemployment rate of nearly 10 percent, as of February. The rate rises to nearly 17 percent when all Americans who wish to be fully employed are counted.

Bringing Obama to Heel

Popular anger finally evoked a rhetorical shift from the administration, which responded with charges about greedy bankers. "I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat-cat bankers on Wall Street," Obama told 60 Minutes in December. This kind of rhetoric was accompanied with some policy suggestions that the financial industry doesn't like (e.g., the Volcker Rule, which would bar banks receiving government support from engaging in speculative activity unrelated to basic bank activities) and proposals to set up an independent regulatory agency to protect consumers.

Since Obama was supposed to be their man in Washington, the principal architects of government policy wasted little time delivering their instructions: Unless Obama fell back into line, they would shift funds to the political opposition. "If the president doesn't become a little more balanced and centrist in his approach, then he will likely lose" the support of Wall Street, Kelly S. King, a board member of the lobbying group Financial Services Roundtable, told the New York Times in early February. Securities and investment businesses gave the Democratic Party a record $89 million during the 2008 campaign.

Three days later, Obama informed the press that bankers are fine "guys," singling out the chairmen of the two biggest players, JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs: "I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That's part of the free-market system," the president said. (Or at least "free markets" as interpreted by state capitalist doctrine.)

That turnabout is a revealing snapshot of Smith's maxim in action.

The architects of policy are also at work on a real shift of power: from the global work force to transnational capital.

Economist and China specialist Martin Hart-Landsberg explores the dynamic in a recent Monthly Review article. China has become an assembly plant for a regional production system. Japan, Taiwan and other advanced Asian economies export high-tech parts and components to China, which assembles and exports the finished products.

The Spoils of Power

The growing U.S. trade deficit with China has aroused concern. Less noticed is that the U.S. trade deficit with Japan and the rest of Asia has sharply declined as this new regional production system takes shape. U.S. manufacturers are following the same course, providing parts and components for China to assemble and export, mostly back to the United States. For the financial institutions, retail giants, and the owners and managers of manufacturing industries closely related to this nexus of power, these developments are heaven sent.

And well understood. In 2007, Ralph Gomory, head of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, testified before Congress, "In this new era of globalization, the interests of companies and countries have diverged. In contrast with the past, what is good for America's global corporations is no longer necessarily good for the American people."

Consider IBM. According to Business Week, by the end of 2008, more than 70 percent of IBM's work force of 400,000 was abroad. In 2009 IBM reduced its U.S. employment by another 8 percent.

For the work force, the outcome may be "grievous," in accordance with Smith's maxim, but it is fine for the principal architects of policy. Current research indicates that about one-fourth of U.S. jobs will be "offshorable" within two decades, and for those jobs that remain, security and decent pay will decline because of the increased competition from replaced workers.

This pattern follows 30 years of stagnation or decline for the majority as wealth poured into few pockets, leading to what has probably become the greatest inequality between the haves and the have-nots since the end of American slavery.

While China is becoming the world's assembly plant and export platform, Chinese workers are suffering along with the rest of the global work force. This is an unsurprising outcome of a system designed to concentrate wealth and power and to set working people in competition with one another worldwide.

Globally, workers' share in national income has declined in many countries-dramatically so in China, leading to growing unrest in that highly inegalitarian society.

So we have another significant shift in global power: from the general population to the principal architects of the global system, a process aided by the undermining of functioning democracy in the United States and other of the Earth's most powerful states.

The future depends on how much the great majority is willing to endure, and whether that great majority will collectively offer a constructive response to confront the problems at the core of the state capitalist system of domination and control.

If not, the results might be grim, as history more than amply reveals.

Published on Friday, March 26, 2010 by the New York Times
Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor (retired) at MIT. He is the author of many books and articles on international affairs and social-political issues, and a long-time participant in activist movements. His most recent books include: Failed States, What We Say Goes(with David Barsamian), Hegemony or Survival, and the Essential Chomsky.

The Coalition Question in Tasmania: Why Class Matters by Tim Dobson

Protest against Gunn's pulp mill

The election results in Tasmania have certainly been a wake-up call to many in the Australian Labor Party, who either thought they could ignore the Greens or that they could deal with them by running a smear campaign against them at election time.

The Greens are a force that both major parties have to deal with, whether they like it or not. After the Tasmanian Greens achieved their highest ever vote in any election last Saturday, Federal Labor MP Lindsay Tanner tried to explain their appeal in a Sydney Morning Herald article. He said that, “essentially the rising Green vote is a product of increasing tertiary education. Green voters are typically either tertiary educated or undergoing tertiary education. Their support is heavily concentrated amongst tertiary disciplines that are focused on much more than just making money.”

There is a kernel of truth to this statement, as can be borne out in some of the figures in the Tasmanian election. For instance, at the relatively more affluent booths of West and South Hobart (which contains a high percentage of public servants, students, small business owners etc) the Greens easily outpoll the ALP. Compare this to the poorer, almost exclusively working class suburbs of Glenorchy and Chigwell where the ALP has 4 to 5 times more votes than the Greens.

Undoubtedly, as Richard Flanagan has pointed out (Article below, and HERE), the Greens have been able to win over more Labor voters, particularly by focusing strongly on cost-of-living issues such as electricity prices and water and sewerage charges. But the ALP remains the dominant force in poorer suburbs throughout Tasmania, which can only be explained by a class instinct.

It was fairly common to see in the Hobart Mercury voters from the Northern suburbs say they would vote Labor, because they always have voted Labor. This, of course, is not a considered choice of weighing up the pros and cons of each party. They vote for the Labor Party because they believe it will best represent their interests as workers. This is supplemented by the fact that the ALP has such a stranglehold over trade union organisations throughout the state that have an influence beyond their own membership.

But is the Labor Party actually a workers party?

While quoting Vladamir Lenin on Australian politics may raise a few eyebrows, his description of the contradiction at the heart of Australian politics is bettered by no Australian commentators when he wrote that the ALP “is a liberal bourgeois party, while the so-called Liberals in Australia are really conservatives.” In other words, the Labor party is a party that represents the interests of the bosses, and always has.

This was written in 1913 and subsequent ALP governments both federal and state have only proven this assertion. Currently, the NSW and Queensland Labor governments are on a push to privatize all that they can, federally Labor continues with a policy of outlawing strikes outside of bargaining periods and continue the draconian Australian Building and Construction Commission set up under Howard. Big Business is more than willing to support this “workers party” because it knows whose interest it is ultimately looking out for, even if it is willing to make concessions to some working class demands.

Verity Bergmann, in her book In Our Time: Socialism and the Rise of Labor, 1885-1905 describes how the ALP has always played this role of selling-out its supporters, when she wrote, “long before Labor Parties were given the opportunities, in government, to “sell out” the workers, the Labor MPs, as a body, had already grown away from the workers.”

The Greens, however, represent a force which is independent of big business. This is what allows it to stand up to companies like Gunns; in contrast the ALP does everything in its power to please Gunns and ensure they get the greatest possible deal. It is why the Greens could stand up against the Ralph Bay’s project proposed by Walker Corporation, as well as take many other socially progressive stands they have. By going into coalition with either the Labor or Liberal Parties, who represent business interests, there will be one of two outcomes. Either the Greens continue their in-principle opposition to the type of politics which puts corporate interests before people, which will mean such a coalition will collapse or the Greens will have to compromise on that type of principle politics, which will ensure that the Greens will become appendages to the major parties anti-social and anti-environment agenda.

This will have the consequence of devastating the thousands and thousands of Greens supporters, who have faith that the Greens represent a new type of political system, based on the principles of peace and non-violence, grassroots democracy, social and economic justice and ecological sustainability.

The next step for the Greens should not be to enter into a coalition government with either capitalist party but continue its opposition in parliament to the major parties pro-corporate agendas. This however needs to be supplemented by trying to reach out to voters such as those in the Northern suburbs of Hobart and convince them that the Greens represent their interests much more than the pro-corporate Labor Party.

Tasmania Times.Com 27.03.10

Saturday, March 27, 2010

ABC chair pressures journos on climate change by Renfrey Clarke

Renfrey Clarke

Journalists at the ABC have come under strong pressure from the organisation’s chairperson to give more weight to the views of climate change deniers.

In a speech to 250 programmers, journalists and executives at the ABC’s Sydney headquarters on March 10, chairperson Maurice Newman warned of “group-think” and “a collective censorious approach” in media reporting of climate change.

The issue, he said, was one where “contrary views have not been tolerated, and where those who express them have been labelled and mocked”, the March 12 Australian said. The previous day, the newspaper had said Newman “warned ABC staffers that he would not tolerate anyone suppressing information”.

Newman’s allegations were interpreted as an attack on the integrity and professional judgement of ABC news staff. Journalists at the Sydney meeting rose to their feet to express shock and anger.

A spokesperson for Friends of the ABC later described Newman’s criticisms as “extraordinary and inappropriate”, saying his comments looked to be “an attempt to influence ABC programming to be more favourable to global warming scepticism”.

The ABC, it is fair to say, has a one-person anti-environment pressure group in its top official. A former stockbroker and businessperson, Newman is a friend of former prime minister John Howard, who appointed him in 2007.

Newman claims to be “agnostic” on climate issues, but sources quoted in the Australian describe him as “a passionate climate-change denialist in private”.

His unsubtle message adds to crude pressures on the ABC to report climate questions in a vein that (in the view of mining executives, at least) befits the country that is the world’s number-one coal exporter.

The usual charge leveled against the ABC has been of flagrant green bias on climate issues. Writing in the March 16 Spectator, former Australian opinion editor Tom Switzer argued: “With honourable exceptions, such as Chris Uhlmann, [ABC journalists] actively campaign for an alarmist cause.”

Analysis of the ABC’s reporting, though, reveals a quite different pattern.

Early this year, the ABC followed the herd of the commercial media in failing to debunk the claims of British climate change denier Christopher Monckton during his Australian tour.

Climate writer Clive Hamilton, in a January 28 post, related the dismal story of Monckton’s interview with ABC journalist Fran Kelly: “He compared climate scientists…to the eugenicists of Nazi Germany and to the Soviet scientific fraud Trofim Lysenko….

“Fran Kelly allowed Monckton to present himself as a credible scientific voice, and … did not ask him what his qualifications were.

“She did not ask him why he lied about being a member of the House of Lords, or why he claims to be a Nobel laureate.

“She did not ask him about his preposterous claims to have won the Falklands war or to have invented a cure for Graves’ disease, multiple sclerosis, and HIV.”

On March 11, reported on a Media Monitors count of references to Monckton since the beginning of the year, comparing them with references to renowned US climatologist James Hansen, who at that point was close to the end of his own Australian tour.

Monckton, with training in classics, mathematics and journalism, had received 455 mentions across the media; Hansen, only 21.

For the ABC, the ratio was almost as lopsided. Monckton, the narcissistic crank and impostor, rated 161 references; Hansen, the doyen of US climate scientists, just nine.

If the ABC has any bias on climate change, it is not in the direction alleged. If its journalists are “alarmists”, they practice a rigorous self-censorship.

When Monckton out-references Hansen by 161 to nine in ABC coverage, it is plainly not climate deniers within the organisation who are having to watch where they tread.

The implication that a different “balance” is needed, meanwhile, begs the question: what is to be balanced against what?

Science is not about opinions, but findings that other researchers, through observation and experiment, can reproduce. If the “science” of the denialists can’t meet these criteria, it is not science but speculation and has no place in news reporting.

Where does demanding “balance” in the reporting of science lead? To requiring that evolution be balanced with creationism, modern medicine with leech therapy, and astronomy with the signs of the zodiac?

Newman’s speech and interview, meanwhile, provide insights into the thinking of senior business figures that rely for their “understanding” of climate change on diligent reading of the Murdoch press.

Again and again Newman’s “facts” are plain wrong, as when he maintains that “growing numbers of distinguished scientists [are] challenging the conventional wisdom with alternative theories and peer-reviewed research”.

The last serious effort to pose an alternative, “natural” cause for global warming, Henrik Svensmark’s theory of the effects of cosmic rays on cloud formation, was disproved years ago.

If Newman were merely an ignoramus on climate change, that would not matter, provided he worked to guarantee journalists the ability to gather information freely, and to relay it without pressures or harassment.

But that is not the situation. Instead of defending his staff, Newman is adding to their already substantial problems.

Journalists and the public in general should demand to be rid of him.

From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #831 24 March 2010.

Afghan war fuels opium boom by John Jiggens

It was common during the opening of the Iraq war to see slogans proclaiming “No blood for oil!” The cover story for the war — Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s links with Al Qaeda and his weapons of mass destruction — were obvious mass deceptions, hiding a far less palatable imperial agenda.

The truth was that Iraq was a major producer of oil and, in our age, oil is the most strategic resource of all.

The war’s real agenda was confirmed by moves to privatise Iraq’s state-owned oil company to Western interests in the aftermath of the invasion.

Why then, are there no slogans saying “No blood for opium”?

Afghanistan’s major product is opium and opium production has increased remarkably during the present war. The current NATO military offensive around Marjah in Hemand province, reported to be Afghanistan’s main opium-producing area, is clearly motivated by opium.

Why then won’t people consider that a hidden agenda for the Afghan war has been control of the opium trade?

The weapons of mass deception tell us that the opium belongs to the Taliban and the US is fighting a “war on drugs” as well as terror.

Yet it remains a curious fact that the opium trade has tracked across southern Asia for the past five decades from east to west, following US wars and always under the control of US assets.

In the 1960s, when the US fought a secret war in Laos using the Hmong opium army of Vang Pao as its proxy, south-east Asia produced 70% of the world’s illicit opium.

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, opium production in areas of Afghanistan controlled by US-backed drug lords took off until it rivalled Southeast Asian production.

Since 2002, Afghan opium production, encouraged by both the Taliban and US-backed drug lords, has reached 93% of world illicit production, an unparalleled performance.

The 2008 United Nations World Drug Report showed the astonishing increase in Afghan opium production that followed the US invasion. In 2001, Afghanistan’s share of global illicit opium production was 185 metric tons out of the global total of 1630 metric tons.

By 2007, this had skyrocketed to more than 8200 metric tons of the nearly 8870 metric ton global total.

In the 1980s, the US supported Islamic fundamentalists, the Mujahideen, against the Soviets in Afghanistan. To pay for their war, the Mujahideen ordered peasants to grow opium.

Across the border in Pakistan, Afghan leaders and local syndicates, under the protection of Pakistani intelligence, operated hundreds of heroin labs.

As the Golden Crescent in south-west Asia eclipsed the Golden Triangle in south-east Asia as the centre of the heroin trade, it sent rates of addiction spiralling in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and the former Soviet Union.

To hide US complicity in the drug trade, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officers were required to look away from the drug-dealing intrigues of US allies — and the support they received from Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) and the services of Pakistani banks.

The CIA’s mission was to destabilise the Soviet Union through the promotion of militant Islam inside the central Asian republics and the drug war was sacrificed to fight the Cold War.

Their mission was to do as much damage as possible to the Soviets. Knowing the drug war would hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union, the CIA facilitated the operation of anti-Soviet rebels in the provinces of Uzbekistan, Chechnya and Georgia.

Drugs were used to finance terrorism and western intelligence agencies used their control of drugs to influence political factions in central Asia.

The Soviet army withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, leaving a civil war between the US-funded Mujahideen and the Soviet-supported government that raged until 1992.

In the chaos that followed the Mujahideen victory, Afghanistan lapsed into a period of warlordism in which opium growing thrived.

The Taliban emerged from the chaos, dedicated to removing the warlords and applying a strict interpretation of Sharia law.

They captured Kandahar in 1994 and expanded their control throughout Afghanistan. They captured Kabul in 1996, declaring the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Under the Taliban government, opium production in Afghanistan was curbed. In September 1999, the Taliban authorities issued a decree, requiring all opium-growers in Afghanistan to reduce output by one-third.

A second decree, issued in July 2000, required farmers to completely stop opium cultivation. Taliban leader Mullah Omar called the drug trade “un-Islamic”.

As a result, 2001 was the worst year for global opium production in the period between 1990 and 2007. During the 1990s, global opium production averaged above 4000 tonnes. In 2001, opium production fell to less than half this amount.

Although not admitted by the then-Howard government, which claimed the credit for itself, Australia’s 2001 heroin shortage was due to the Taliban.

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, the armies of the Northern Alliance — led by US Special Forces and supported by daisy cutters, cluster bombs and bunker-busting missiles — shattered the Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

The opium ban was lifted and, with CIA-backed warlords back in control, Afghanistan again became the major producer of opium.

Despite official denials, former US National Security Council official for Afghanistan Hillary Mann Leverett confirmed the US knew that government ministers in Afghanistan, including the minister of defence in 2002, were involved in drug trafficking.

After 2002, Afghan opium production rose to unheard of levels.

Thomas Schweich, who served as US state department co-ordinator for counter-narcotics and justice reform for Afghanistan, accused Afghan President Hamid Karzai of impeding the war on drugs.

Schweich also accused the Pentagon of obstructing attempts to get military forces to assist and protect opium crop eradication drives.

Schweich wrote in the July 27, 2008 New York Times that “narco-corruption went to the top of the Afghan government”.

He said Karzai was reluctant to move against big drug lords in his political power base in the south, where most of the country’s opium and heroin is produced.

The most prominent of these suspected drug lords was Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who was said to have orchestrated the manufacture of hundreds of thousands of phony ballots for his brother’s re-election effort in August 2009.

US officials have criticised Ahmed Wali Karzai’s “mafia-like” control of southern Afghanistan.

An October 28, 2009 NYT article reported the Obama administration had vowed to crack down on the drug lords who permeate the highest levels of Karzai’s administration. US pressed Karzai to move his brother out of southern Afghanistan, but he refused to do so.

Scheich wrote: “Karzai was playing us like a fiddle.

“The US would spend billions of dollars on infrastructure development; the US and its allies would fight the Taliban; Karzai's friends could get richer off the drug trade.

“Karzai had Taliban enemies who profited from drugs but he had even more supporters who did.”

But who was playing who like a fiddle? The puppet president or the puppet masters who installed him?

In his 2009 history of the “war on drugs”, The Strength of the Pack, Douglas Valentine showed this never ending war has been a phony contest, an arm wrestle between two arms of the US state, the DEA and the CIA.

While the DEA has vainly attempted to prosecute the war, the CIA has protected its drug-dealing assets.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, European powers (chiefly Britain) and Japan used the opium trade to weaken and subjugate China.

During the 21st century, it seems that the opium weapon is being used against Iran, Russia and the former Soviet republics, which all face spiralling rates of addiction and covert US penetration as the Afghan war fuels central Asia’s heroin plague.
[Dr John Jiggens is a writer and journalist who has published several books including The Incredible Exploding Man; Marijuana Australiana; The Sydney Connection and The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald Mackay. Along with Matt Mawson, Anne Jones and Damien Ledwich, he edited The Best of The Cane Toad Times.]

From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #831 24 March 2010.

Tasmanian Greens vote a victory but also a challenge by Peter Boyle

The Greens' 21% vote in the March 20 Tasmanian election represents the most serious shake-up yet to the two-party domination of electoral politics. Australia has been dominated by the Liberals and the Australian Labor Party, two parties loyally representing the interests of the corporate rich.

The left should welcome the Greens' electoral advance as a significant step forward, because it lifts confidence in the broader progressive movement. It also opens up important debates and experiences the movement needs in order to achieve real social and environmental change.
The Greens' vote indicates that a growing number of people are sick of the two-party no-choice system and have voted for change. The ruling class has made no secret of its antagonism to the Greens' electoral advance. Both Labor and Liberal party leaders in Tasmania swore that they would not enter into a coalition with the Greens. They campaigned viciously against the Greens, using every dirty trick in the book.
At this stage, both Labor and Liberal are sticking to their no-deal-with-the-Greens promises. But if the final outcome of the vote leaves neither Labor nor Liberal with a majority, as is likely, there is a strong possibility that one or both of the major parties could relent.
On the other hand, Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim has made it clear that his party intends to negotiate to form a coalition with either Labor or Liberal. He said the Greens would "be making no demands" in those negotiations. Not even a defence of old-growth forests or a call for a final end to Gunn's hated pulp mill plan?
A Greens coalition government with either the Liberal or Labor party, especially one based on a deal that removes the Greens' right to oppose serious environmental or social attacks, would turn this victory into a defeat.
So many people fought so hard to make this break away from domination by the two big parties of the corporate rich. They did not vote Green to be dragged into a coalition deal that helps one of those parties advance its narrow, ecologically and socially suicidal agenda.
Apologists for McKim's super pragmatic stance argue that the Greens will lose ground if they don't help deliver a stable government and ultimately force Tasmanians to another election. In such a scenario, the Green pragmatists argue, the party would face a backlash and see its vote decimated.
Further, there could be repercussions for the Greens Senate vote in coming federal elections.
In his election night speech, McKim said the Greens' vote heralded a new "age of cooperation". Ironically, the vote for the Greens is based on a popular desire to move towards a society based on cooperation and sustainability instead of the facilitation of corporate greed. Unprincipled cooperation with the parties of the corporate rich will deliver the opposite result.
Another argument is that the Greens' vote is not a vote for radical change but a vote for the Greens to simply ameliorate the worst excesses of the traditional parties of government. There is no doubt that the Green vote captures a wide spectrum of political views and hopes, some of which are quite moderate.
However, as the experience of the Green-Labor Accord in the late 1980s showed, entering a coalition government with one of the parties of the corporate rich can help such a government implement socially and environmentally destructive measures.
It can end up dashing even the most modest hopes of Green supporters and it can also lose the Greens their support.
There is no doubt that the Greens now face some difficult tactical choices. But tactics should serve political objectives: if the Greens want to break from the two-party system then their tactics must serve such a break.
The Greens should choose tactics that maximise popular pressure on any minority government that is formed and preserve their political independence. They should set clear and principled conditions for any cooperation with a Labor or Liberal minority government.
The Greens should also learn from the negative examples of the coalition governments entered into by the Green parties in Germany and Ireland, especially from the shameful behaviour of the German Greens leader acting as that country’s minister for imperial war!
Arena magazine’s Guy Rundle has argued persuasively on a blog on March 23 that the Tasmanian Greens would have more power if they stayed out of government.
The Greens' dramatic electoral advance inevitably presents new challenges, difficulties and conflicts. This is especially true within the Greens, between those who recognise that the climate emergency requires immediate radical transformations and a more conservative section focused on making parliamentary gains.
The conservative section will want to make any compromise to grab some cabinet positions in what will inevitably be an unstable coalition government in Tasmania.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Why Are We in Afghanistan? Written and directed by Michael Zweig

Why Are We in Afghanistan?, a new video being promoted by US Labor Against the War, explores domestic pressures, strategic interests, the history of U.S. foreign intervention, and popular resistance related to the war. Written and directed by Michael Zweig of the Center for Study of Working Class Life at New York's Stonybrook University.

Have a nice world war, folks by John Pilger

In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes the increasing American war front across the world: from Afghanistan to Africa and Latin America. This is the Third World War in all but name, waged by the only aggressive "ism" that denies it is an ideology and threatened not by introverted tribesmen in faraway places but by the anti-war instincts of its own citizens.

Here is news of the Third World War. The United States has invaded Africa. US troops have entered Somalia, extending their war front from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and now the Horn of Africa. In preparation for an attack on Iran, American missiles have been placed in four Persian Gulf states, and “bunker-buster” bombs are said to be arriving at the US base on the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

In Gaza, the sick and abandoned population, mostly children, is being entombed behind underground American-supplied walls in order to reinforce a criminal siege. In Latin America, the Obama administration has secured seven bases in Colombia, from which to wage a war of attrition against the popular democracies in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay. Meanwhile, the secretary of “defence” Robert Gates complains that “the general [European] public and the political class” are so opposed to war they are an “impediment” to peace. Remember this is the month of the March Hare.

According to an American general, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is not so much a real war as a “war of perception”. Thus, the recent “liberation of the city of Marja” from the Taliban’s “command and control structure” was pure Hollywood. Marja is not a city; there was no Taliban command and control. The heroic liberators killed the usual civilians, poorest of the poor. Otherwise, it was fake. A war of perception is meant to provide fake news for the folks back home, to make a failed colonial adventure seem worthwhile and patriotic, as if The Hurt Locker were real and parades of flag-wrapped coffins through the Wiltshire town of Wooten Basset were not a cynical propaganda exercise.

“War is fun”, the helmets in Vietnam used to say with bleakest irony, meaning that if a war is revealed as having no purpose other than to justify voracious power in the cause of lucrative fanaticisms such as the weapons industry, the danger of truth beckons. This danger can be illustrated by the liberal perception of Tony Blair in 1997 as one “who wants to create a world [where] ideology has surrendered entirely to values” (Hugo Young, the Guardian) compared with today’s public reckoning of a liar and war criminal.

Western war-states such as the US and Britain are not threatened by the Taliban or any other introverted tribesmen in faraway places, but by the anti-war instincts of their own citizens. Consider the draconian sentences handed down in London to scores of young people who protested Israel’s assault on Gaza in January last year. Following demonstrations in which paramilitary police “kettled” (corralled) thousands, first-offenders have received two and a half years in prison for minor offences that would not normally carry custodial sentences. On both sides of the Atlantic, serious dissent exposing illegal war has become a serious crime.

Silence in other high places allows this moral travesty. Across the arts, literature, journalism and the law, liberal elites, having hurried away from the debris of Blair and now Obama, continue to fudge their indifference to the barbarism and aims of western state crimes by promoting retrospectively the evils of their convenient demons, like Saddam Hussein. With Harold Pinter gone, try compiling a list of famous writers, artists and advocates whose principles are not consumed by the “market” or neutered by their celebrity. Who among them have spoken out about the holocaust in Iraq during almost 20 years of lethal blockade and assault? And all of it has been deliberate. On 22 January 1991, the US Defence Intelligence Agency predicted in impressive detail how a blockade would systematically destroy Iraq’s clean water system and lead to “increased incidences, if not epidemics of disease”. So the US set about eliminating clean water for the Iraqi population: one of the causes, noted Unicef, of the deaths of half a million Iraqi infants under the age of five. But this extremism apparently has no name.

Norman Mailer once said he believed the United States, in its endless pursuit of war and domination, had entered a “pre-fascist era”. Mailer seemed tentative, as if trying to warn about something even he could not quite define. “Fascism” is not right, for it invokes lazy historical precedents, conjuring yet again the iconography of German and Italian repression. On the other hand, American authoritarianism, as the cultural critic Henry Giroux pointed out recently, is “more nuance, less theatrical, more cunning, less concerned with repressive modes of control than with manipulative modes of consent.”

This is Americanism, the only predatory ideology to deny that it is an ideology. The rise of tentacular corporations that are dictatorships in their own right and of a military that is now a state with the state, set behind the façade of the best democracy 35,000 Washington lobbyists can buy, and a popular culture programmed to divert and stultify, is without precedent. More nuanced perhaps, but the results are both unambiguous and familiar. Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, the senior United Nations officials in Iraq during the American and British-led blockade, are in no doubt they witnessed genocide. They saw no gas chambers. Insidious, undeclared, even presented wittily as enlightenment on the march, the Third World War and its genocide proceeded, human being by human being.

In the coming election campaign in Britain, the candidates will refer to this war only to laud “our boys”. The candidates are almost identical political mummies shrouded in the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes. As Blair demonstrated a mite too eagerly, the British elite loves America because America allows it to barrack and bomb the natives and call itself a “partner”. We should interrupt their fun.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Arundhati Roy on Obama’s Wars, India and Why Democracy Is “The Biggest Scam in the World”

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy, award-winning Indian writer and renowned global justice activist. Her latest book is Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. Her most recent article is published in the Indian magazine Outlook called Walking with the Comrades.

ANJALI KAMAT: We spend the rest of the hour with acclaimed Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy on the dark underbelly of India, a country that prides itself on being known as the world’s largest democracy.

Earlier this month, when Forbes published its annual list of the world’s billionaires, the Indian press reported with some delight that two of their countrymen had made it to the coveted list of the ten richest individuals in the world.

Meanwhile, thousands of Indian paramilitary troops and police are fighting a war against some of its poorest inhabitants living deep in the country’s so-called tribal belt. Indian officials say more than a third of the country, mostly mineral-rich forest land, is partially or completely under the control of Maoist rebels, also known as Naxalites. India’s prime minister has called the Maoists the country’s “gravest internal security threat.” According to official figures, nearly 6,000 people have died in the past seven years of fighting, more than half of them civilians. The government’s new paramilitary offensive against the Maoists has been dubbed Operation Green Hunt.

Well, earlier this month, the leader of the Maoist insurgency, Koteswar Rao, or Kishenji, invited the Booker Prize-winning novelist Arundhati Roy to mediate in peace talks with the government. Soon after, India’s Home Secretary, G.K. Pillai, criticized Roy and others who have publicly called state violence against Maoists, quote, “genocidal.”

G.K. PILLAI: If the Maoists are murderers, please call the Maoists murderers. Why is it that if Maoists murders in West Midnapore last year from June to December 159 innocent civilians, I don’t see any criticism of that? I can call it—159, if government have done it, a lot of people would have gone and said it’s genocide. Why is that not genocide by the Maoists?

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Arundhati Roy recently had a rare journalistic encounter with the armed guerrillas in the forests of central India. She spent a few weeks traveling with the insurgency deep in India’s Maoist heartland and wrote about their struggle in a 20,000-word essay published this weekend in the Indian magazine Outlook. It’s called “Walking with the Comrades.”

We’re joined now here in New York by the world-renowned author and global justice activist. She won the Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Prize in 2002 and is the author of a number of books, including the Booker Prize-winning novel The God of Small Things. Her latest collection of essays, published by Haymarket, is Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers.

Arundhati Roy, welcome to Democracy Now!

ARUNDHATI ROY: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we go into the very interesting journey you took, you arrive here on the seventh anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. You were extremely outspoken on the war and have continued to be. I remember seeing you at Riverside Church with the great Howard Zinn, giving a speech against the war. What are your thoughts now, seven years in? And how it’s affected your continent, how it’s affected India?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I think the—you know, the saddest thing is that when the American elections happened and you had all the rhetoric of, you know, change you can believe in, and even the most cynical of us watched Obama win the elections and did feel moved, you know, watching how happy people were, especially people who had lived through the civil rights movement and so on, and, you know, in fact what has happened is that he has come in and expanded the war. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and took an opportunity to justify the war. It was as though those tears of the black people who watched, you know, a black man come to power were now cut and paste into the eyes of the world’s elite watching him justify war.

And from where I come from, it’s almost—you know, you think that they probably don’t even understand what they’re doing, the American government. They don’t understand what kind of ground they stand on. When you say things like “We have to wipe out the Taliban,” what does that mean? The Taliban is not a fixed number of people. The Taliban is an ideology that has sprung out of a history that, you know, America created anyway.

Iraq, the war is going on. Afghanistan, obviously, is rising up in revolt. It’s spilled into Pakistan, and from Pakistan into Kashmir and into India. So we’re seeing this superpower, in a way, caught in quicksand with a conceptual inability to understand what it’s doing, how to get out or how to stay in. It’s going to take this country down with it, for sure, you know, and I think it’s a real pity that, in a way, at least George Bush was so almost obscene in his stupidity about it, whereas here it’s smoke and mirrors, and people find it more difficult to decipher what’s going on. But, in fact, the war has expanded.

ANJALI KAMAT: And Arundhati, how would you explain India’s role in the expanding US war in Afghanistan and Pakistan? This is a climate of very good relations between India and the United States.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, India’s role is—India’s role is one of, at the moment, trying to position itself, as it keeps saying, as the natural ally of Israel and the US. And India is trying very hard to maneuver itself into a position of influence in Afghanistan. And personally, I believe that the American government would be very happy to see Indian troops in Afghanistan. It cannot be done openly, because it would just explode, you know, so there are all kinds of ways in which they are trying to create a sphere of influence there. So the Indian government is deep into the great game, you know, there, and of course the result is, you know, attacks in Kashmir and in Mumbai, not directly related to Afghanistan, but of course there’s a whole history of this kind of maneuvering that’s going on.

AMY GOODMAN: For an American audience, and perhaps for an audience just outside of the region, if you could really talk to us about an area you’ve been focusing a great deal on, of course, and that is Kashmir. Most people here know it as a sweater. That’s what they think of when they hear “Kashmir.”


AMY GOODMAN: So, starting there, if you can tell us what is going on there—even place it for us geographically.

ARUNDHATI ROY: OK. Well, Kashmir, as they say in India, you know, is the unfinished business in the partition of India and Pakistan. So, as usual, it was a gift of British colonialism. You know, they threw it at us as they walked—I mean, as they withdrew. So Kashmir used to be an independent kingdom with a Muslim majority ruled by a Hindu king. And during—at the time of partition in 1947, as there was—you know, as you know, almost a million people lost their lives, because this line that was drawn between India and Pakistan passed through villages and passed through communities, and as Hindus fled from Pakistan and Muslims fled from India, there was massacre on both sides.

And at that time, oddly enough, Kashmir was peaceful. But then, when all the independent princedoms in India and Pakistan were asked to actually accede either to India or Pakistan, but Kashmir, the king was undecided, and that indecision resulted in, you know, Pakistani troops and non-official combatants coming in. And the king fled to Jamu, and then he acceded to India. But he was—you know, there was already a movement for democracy within Kashmir at that time. Anyway, that’s the history.

But subsequently, there’s always been a struggle for independence or self-determination there, which in 1989 became an armed uprising and was put down militarily by India. And today, the simplest way of explaining the scale of what’s going on is that the US has 165,000 troops in Iraq, but the Indian government has 700,000 troops in the Kashmir valley—I mean, in Kashmir, security forces, you know, holding down a place with military might. And so, it’s a military occupation.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to your travels in Kashmir, Arundhati Roy, award-winning Indian writer, renowned global justice activist. Her new book is a book of essays; it’s called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. She’s here in the United States for just a little while. Stay with us.

AMY GOODMAN: ”Hum Dekhen Ge” by Iqbal Bano. This is Democracy Now!,, the War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Anjali Kamat. Our guest for the rest of the hour, Arundhati Roy, the award-winning Indian writer, renowned global justice activist. Her latest book, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers.

You recognize that music, Anjali?

ANJALI KAMAT: Yes, “Hum Dekhen Ge” by Iqbal Bano. Arundhati Roy, your latest article in Outlook, “Walking with the Comrades,” you end the piece by talking about this song that so many people rose up in Pakistan listening to this song, and you place it in a completely different context. Start by talking about what’s happening in the forests of India. What is this war that India is waging against some of the poorest people, people known as tribals, indigenous people, Adivasis? Who are the Maoists? What’s happening there? And how did you get there?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, it’s been going on for a while, but basically, you know, I mean, there is a connection. If you look at Afghanistan, Waziristan, you know, the northeast states of India and this whole mineral belt that goes from West Bengal through Jharkhand through Orissa to Chhattisgarh, what’s called the Red Corridor in India, you know, it’s interesting that the entire thing is a tribal uprising. In Afghanistan, obviously, it’s taken the form of a radical Islamist uprising. And here, it’s a radical left uprising. But the attack is the same. It’s a corporate attack, you know, on these people. The resistance has taken different forms.

But in India, this thing known as the Red Corridor, if you look at a map of India, the tribal people, the forests, the minerals and the Maoists are all stacked on top of each other. You know, so—and in the last five years, the governments of these various states have signed MOUs with mining corporations worth billions of dollars.

ANJALI KAMAT: Memoranda of understanding.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Memorandums of understanding. So as we say, it’s equally an MOU-ist corridor as it is a Maoist corridor, you know? And it was interesting that a lot of these MOUs were signed in 2005. And at that time, it was just after this Congress government had come to power, and the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, announced that the Maoists are India’s “gravest internal security threat.” And it was very odd that he should have said that then, because the Maoists had actually just been decimated in the state of Andhra Pradesh. I think they had killed something like 1,600 of them. But the minute he said this, the shares in the mining companies went up, because obviously it was a signal that the government was prepared to do something about this, and then started this assault on them, which ended up as Operation Green Hunt, which is where now tens of thousands of paramilitary troops are moving in to these tribal areas.

But before Operation Green Hunt, they tried another thing, which was that they armed a sort of tribal militia and backed by police in a state like Chhattisgarh, where I was traveling recently, they just went into the forest. This militia burned village after village after village, like something like 640 villages were, more or less, emptied. And it was—the plan was what’s known as strategic hamletting, which the Americans tried in Vietnam, which was first devised by the British in Malaya, where you try and force people to move into police wayside camps so that you can control them, and the villages are emptied so that the forests are open for the corporates to go.

And what happened actually was that out of the—in this area, in Chhattisgarh, out of, say, 350,000 people, about 50,000 people moved into the camps. Some were forced, some went voluntarily. And the rest just went off the government radar. Many of them went to other states to work as migrant labor, but many of them just continued to hide in the forests, unable to come back to their homes, but not wanting to leave. But the fact is that in this entire area, the Maoists have been there for thirty years, you know, working with people and so on. So it’s a very—it’s not a resistance that has risen up against mining. It preceded that a long time—you know, by a long time. So it’s very entrenched. And Operation Green Hunt has been announced because this militia, called the Salwa Judum, failed, so now they are upping the ante, because these MOUs are waiting. And the mining corporations are not used to being made to wait. You know, so there’s a lot of money waiting.

And, I mean, what I want to say is that we are not using this word “genocidal war” lightly or rhetorically. But I traveled in that area, and what you see is the poorest people of this country, who have been outside the purview of the state. There’s no hospital. There’s no clinic. There’s no education. There’s nothing, you know? And now, there’s a kind of siege, where people can’t go out of their villages to the market to buy anything, because the markets are full of informers who are pointing out, you know, this person is with the resistance and so on. There’s no doctors. There’s no medical help. People are suffering from extreme hunger, malnutrition. So it’s not just killing. You know, it’s not just going out there and burning and killing, but it’s also laying siege to a very vulnerable population, cutting them off from their resources and putting them under grievous threat. And this is a democracy, you know, so how do you do—how do you clear the land for corporates in a democracy? You can’t actually go and murder people, but you create a situation in which they either have to leave or they starve to death.

ANJALI KAMAT: In your piece, you describe the people you traveled with, the armed guerrillas, as Gandhians with guns. Can you talk about what you mean by that and how—what you think of the violence perpetrated by the Maoists?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, you know, this is a very sharp debate in India about—I mean, you know, even the sort of mainstream left and the liberal intellectuals are very, very suspicious of Maoists. And everybody should be suspicious of Maoists, because, you know, they do—they have had a very—a very difficult past, and there are a lot of things that their ideologues say which do put a chill down your spine.

But when I went there, I have to say, I was shocked at what I saw, you know, because in the last thirty years I think something has radically changed among them. And the one thing is that in India, people try and make this difference. They say there’s the Maoists, and then there’s the tribals. Actually, the Maoists are tribals, you know, and the tribals themselves have had a history of resistance and rebellion that predates Mao by centuries, you know? And so, I think it’s just a name, in a way. It’s just a name. And yet, without that organization, the tribal people could not have put up this resistance. You know, so it is complicated.

But when I went in, I lived with them for, you know, and I walked with them for a long time, and it’s an army that is more Gandhian than any Gandhian, that leaves a lighter footprint than any climate change evangelist. You know, and as I said, even their sabotage techniques are Gandhian. You know, they waste nothing. They live on nothing. And to the outside world—first of all, the media has been lying about them for a long time. A lot of the incidents of violence did not happen, you know, which I figured out. A lot of them did happen, and there was a reason for why they happened.

And what I actually wanted to ask people was, when you talk about nonviolent resistance—I myself have spoken about that. I myself have said that women will be the victims of an armed struggle. And when I went in, I found the opposite to be true. I found that 50 percent of the armed cadre were women. And a lot of the reason they joined was because for thirty years the Maoists had been working with women there. The women’s organization, which has 90,000 members, which is probably the biggest feminist organization in India, now all 90,000 of those women are surely Maoists, and the government has given itself the right to shoot on sight. So, are they going to shoot these 90,000 people?

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, the leader of the Maoists has asked you to be the negotiator, the mediator between them and the Indian government. What is your response?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Look, I wouldn’t be a good mediator. You know, that’s not my—those are not my skills. I think that somebody should do it, but I don’t think that it should be me, because I just have no idea how to mediate, you know? And I don’t think that we should be jumping into things that we don’t know much about. And I certainly—I did say that. You know, I mean, it’s—I don’t know why they mentioned my name, but I think there are people in India who have those skills and who could do it, because it’s very, very urgent that this Operation Green Hunt be called off. Very, very urgent, you know, but it would be silly for someone like me to enter that, because I think I’m too impatient. I’m too much of a maverick. You know, I don’t have those skills.

AMY GOODMAN: I remember, back to Kashmir, when President Obama was running for president, Senator Obama, in an interview, talked about Kashmir, and he talked about it as a kind of flashpoint, said that we have to resolve the situation between India—between India and Pakistan around Kashmir so that Pakistan can focus on the militants. Can you talk about it as being a flashpoint and what you think needs to be done there?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I think, you know, unfortunately, the thing about Kashmir is that India and Pakistan act as though Kashmir is a problem. But really for them both, Kashmir is a solution. You know, Kashmir is where they play their dirty games. And they don’t want to solve it, because whenever they have, you know, internal problems, they can always pull up—pull this bunny out of the hat. So it’s really—I really think that these two countries are not going to solve it, you know?

And what is happening is that there is a population of people who have been suffering untold misery for so many years, you know, and once again so many lies have been told about it. The Indian media is just—the falsification that it’s involved with about Kashmir is unbelievable. Like two years ago—or was it last year? Two years ago, there was a massive uprising in Kashmir. I happened to be there at the time. I’ve never seen anything like this. You know, there were millions of people on the street all the time. And—

AMY GOODMAN: And they were rising up for?

ARUNDHATI ROY: They were rising up for independence. You know, they were rising up for independence. And then, that uprising was—you know, when they rose up with arms, that was wrong. When they rose up without arms, that was wrong, too.

And the way it was defused was with an election. An election was called. And then everybody was shocked, because there was a huge turnout at the elections. And all the—you know, we have many election experts in India who spend all their time in television studios analyzing the swing and this and that, but nobody said that all the leaders of the resistance were arrested. Nobody asked, what does it mean to have elections when there are 700,000 soldiers supervising every five meters, all the time, all year round? They don’t have to push people on the end of a bayonet to the voting booth, you know? Nobody talked about the fact that there was a lockdown in every constituency. Nobody wondered what does it mean to people who are under that kind of occupation. The fact that they need somebody to go to, you know, when someone disappears—or, you know, they need some representative.

So now, once again, the violence has started. You know? It’s a permanent sort of cycle where, obviously in the interest of geopolitical jockeying, any sense of morality is missing. And of course it’s very fashionable to say that, you know, there isn’t any morality involved in international diplomacy, but suddenly, when it comes to Maoists killing, morality just comes riding down on your head. You know, so people use it when they want to.

ANJALI KAMAT: And Arundhati, in both India and the United States, as these wars expand, as the military occupations, as you delineated, in Kashmir, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, as they expand, what is your message to antiwar activists, to peace activists around the world, here and in India? What do you think people need to be doing?

ARUNDHATI ROY: See, I think I just want to say one thing more, which is that in Kashmir, you have, as I said, 700,000 soldiers who have been turned into an administrative police force. In India, where they don’t want to openly declare war against the Adivasis, you have a paramilitary police, which is being trained to be an army. So the police are turning into the army. The army is turning into the police. But to push through this growth rate, you know, you have basically this whole country is turning into a police state.

And I just want to say one thing about democracy. You know, in India, the elections—the elections were—they cost more than the American elections. Much more. This poor country costs much more. The most enthusiastic were the corporates. The members of parliament are—a majority of them are millionaires. If you look at the statistics, actually this big majority it has ten percent of the vote. The BBC had a campaign where they had posters of a dollar bill—$500 bill sort of molting into an Indian 500 rupee note with Ben Franklin on one end and Gandhi on the other. And it said, “Kya India ka vote bachayega duniya ka note?” meaning “Will the Indian vote save the market?” You know? So voters become consumers. It’s a kind of scam that’s going on.

So the first message I would have to peace activists is—I don’t know what that means, anyway. What does “peace” mean? You know, we may not need peace in this unjust society, because that’s a way of accepting injustice, you know? So what you need is people who are prepared to resist, but not just on a weekend, not peace but not just on the weekend. In countries like India, now just saying, “OK, we’ll march on Saturday, and maybe they’ll stop the war in Iraq.” But in countries like India, now people are really paying with their lives, with their freedom, with everything. I mean, it’s resistance with consequences now. You know, it cannot be—it cannot be something that has no consequences. You know? It may not have, but you’ve got to understand that in order to change something, you’ve got to take some risks now. You’ve got to come out and lay those dreams on the line now, because things have come to a very, very bad place there.

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, we want to thank you very much for being with us. Her latest book is called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. I look forward to being with you and Noam Chomsky in Cambridge in a week.