Wednesday, March 24, 2010

El Salvador: Ghosts at the Polls

El Salvador: Ghosts at the Polls

Editor’s Note: Three decades ago today, Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered in cold blood while saying Mass, an event that marked a troubling turn toward violent right-wing extremism in El Salvador and beyond, a pattern that continues to this day even in the threatening tone of U.S. politics.

Romero was gunned down on March 24, 1980, because he had emerged as an impassioned voice for impoverished peasants seeking greater justice. The assassination of a high-level Catholic cleric soon became a signal to global right-wing forces to do whatever was necessary to reverse trends toward equality.

In El Salvador and across Central America, Romero’s death was followed by a bloodbath of extrajudicial killings. By November of that year, right-wing oligarchs and their security forces rejoiced at the victory of their U.S. ally, Ronald Reagan, who then helped train their troops and provided weapons to make their violent campaigns even more efficient.

It would take a dozen years for El Salvador to emerge from its bloody nightmare and nearly three decades before Romero's political heirs finally gained control of the country via elections. In a story from last year, Don North, who had covered the Salvadoran conflict as a war correspondent, returned to witness that moment of Romero’s posthumous victory:

Today, many Salvadorans believe that Romero’s prophecy has been fulfilled with the election and inauguration of Mauricio Funes, the FMLN’s candidate for president, the first time the Left has won a national election in El Salvador’s history.

Romero’s assassination by a rightist death squad in 1980 marked the beginning of a 12-year civil war between government forces and the guerrillas of the FMLN, the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front, which now holds power as a political party.

In my new documentary “Yesterday’s Enemies,” I open with a song by Kris Kristofferson from 1983, the first year I reported from the war zone around the Guazapa volcano in central El Salvador. “They killed so many heroes, but the dreams they left behind them ain’t as easy as a man to blow away,” the lyrics said.

That appears to have proven true with Archbishop Romero, whose spirit seemed to hover above the 2009 election campaign, both as inspiration for Funes and the FMLN and as a reminder of the grisly history behind ARENA, the longtime rightist governing party.

In 1993, a United Nations truth commission determined that ARENA’s founder, Major Roberto D’Aubuisson ordered the assassination of Romero, who had emerged as a powerful voice protesting the repression of the country’s many poor and dispossessed.

Much as Romero became the inspiring symbol for El Salvador’s Left, D’Aubuisson, a boyish-looking former intelligence officer who ran death squads on behalf of El Salvador’s wealthy oligarchy, became the face of El Salvador’s Right.

After Romero’s murder, D’Aubuisson death squads (often government soldiers dressed in plain clothes) systematically slaughtered leftist politicians, labor activists, students, intellectuals and clergy. Eventually, the opposition retreated to the countryside and took up arms as guerrillas under a coalition known as the FMLN.

Backing Repression

Fearing the spread of leftist revolution in Central America, the Reagan administration brushed aside complaints about the government’s human rights abuses and threw U.S. support behind the Salvadoran military in what often was a scorched-earth campaign against the guerrillas and their suspected civilian sympathizers. El Salvador’s civil war killed an estimated 75,000 people.

Though notorious as a death squad commander, D’Aubuisson in 1982 founded the rightist ARENA (National Republican Alliance), which grew to be El Salvador’s dominant political party even after the civil war ended in 1992, the same year D’Aubuisson died of throat cancer.

In 1993, the United Nations truth commission found that Salvadoran government military units and death squads had been responsible for 85 percent of human rights abuses during the war. Rebel FMLN forces were blamed for 5 percent, while 10 percent were declared undetermined.

Amazing to many outsiders – given D’Aubuisson’s key role in the carnage – ARENA continued to honor its founder. A bronze statue of D’Aubuisson – bedecked with red, white and blue balloons – graced ARENA headquarters in San Salvador during the election.

On the other side, the FMLN adopted Archbishop Romero as its symbol. Funes frequently quoted Romero and his statements about El Salvador’s poor during the presidential campaign.

It was as if two ghosts were on the ballot, with Romero finally prevailing over D’Aubuisson, the man accused of his assassination.

After winning the election, Funes said, “I will govern like Monsignor Romero wanted the men of his time to govern, with courage, but with prophetic vision. Bishop Romero asked the rulers to listen to the cry of justice from the Salvadoran people.”

Confronting the Past

An hour before his inauguration, Funes prayed at Romero’s tomb. The new president – a 49-year-old former journalist who never carried a weapon in the civil war – also has promised legislation that would honor the archbishop’s principal causes.

While vowing fiscal austerity, Funes is raising spending on education and health care. To address unemployment, Funes wants to create 100,000 jobs in 18 months through construction projects. He's also cracking down on tax evasion to make the wealthy pay their fair share.

Though winning the election with only 51 percent of the vote, a recent poll found that Funes now has the support of nearly 72 percent of Salvadorans, suggesting that some of the residual fear of ARENA has faded.

Since taking office on June 1, President Funes also has cracked down on alleged ARENA party corruption, such as “ghost” jobs that drained money from the treasury. But more militant factions of the FMLN want Funes to pursue justice for Romero and the thousands of Salvadorans killed, tortured or “disappeared” by death squads during the war.

It has been suggested that an independent Latin American Human Rights Truth Commission be formed to investigate and publish evidence of crimes committed during the civil war. However, one obstacle is that just days after the UN truth commission released its report in 1993, ARENA rushed an amnesty law through the Legislature pardoning those responsible for war crimes.

The attitude of many Salvadoran political leaders is similar to the “look-forward-not-backward” approach that many U.S. politicians, including President Barack Obama, have taken toward holding former senior U.S. officials accountable for past crimes.

However, as author Noam Chomsky has observed, “Historic amnesia is a dangerous phenomenon, not only because it undermines moral and intellectual integrity, but also because it lays the groundwork for crimes that still lie ahead.”

Facing Challenges

Like Obama, Funes is torn between a responsibility to see justice done for past crimes and a need to cope with pressing social and economic problems.
Funes knows that his ambitious reform plans already face an uphill struggle in these difficult economic times. Although the FMLN won the most seats in the January elections with 35, it does not have anything close to the two-thirds majority needed to pass important bills.

If the conservative parties – ARENA and PCN (Partido de Conciliacion Nacional) vote together – they will control 43 seats, representing a majority in the Senate and thus able to block any legislation perceived as being too liberal. So, Funes must sway centrist votes to give him a fighting chance to pass the FMLN’s agenda.

Some analysts contend that prosecuting war criminals could deepen divisions and undermine chances of getting legislation passed, an argument also heard in the United States. Some also note that Romero – while facing his impending death – spoke in a forward-looking way.

“You can tell the people that if they succeed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it,” Romero said. “Hopefully, they will realize they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish.”

Yet, even if the martyred archbishop and Mauricio Funes might be inclined to forgive, the Center for Justice and Accountability, an organization that pursues human rights abusers in the United States and Spain, is not so lenient.

In the U.S., the center brings civil lawsuits under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act against violators who live in the United States. Among the almost three million Salvadoran exiles in the U.S., hundreds are suspected of crimes during the civil war.

In January 2009, 14 Salvadoran military officers were charged by the center in a Spanish court for the murder of six Jesuit priests in 1989.

In March 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed a jury verdict holding Memphis resident Colonel Nicolas Carranza, former Vice-Minister of Defense in El Salvador, liable for the torture and killings of four Salvadorans. A $6 million dollar judgment was entered against Carranza.

During the trial, former U.S. Ambassador Robert White testified that Colonel Carranza was a paid informant for the CIA.

Earlier, in September 2004, the Center for Justice and Accountability won a case against Alvaro Saravia, an alleged accomplice in Romero’s murder. The judge ordered Saravia to pay $10 million to the plaintiff, a relative of the archbishop. But Saravia, a resident of Modesto, California, fled.

Today’s Crime

Besides the question of the historic violence during the civil war and today’s economic troubles, Salvador also is beset with widespread criminal violence, as an average of 12 killings a day make El Salvador the murder capital of South America.

In the past 20 years, ARENA’s “iron fist” police policies have not been able to control crime, which critics say has been accelerated by government corruption, mafia control and the influx of lawless gang members who were deported from Los Angeles.

This year’s ARENA presidential candidate Rodrigo Avila was the former director of the National Civil Police and his failure in that role undercut his campaign promise to control crime.

Eduardo Linares, the new top cop in El Salvador and a member of Funes’s Cabinet, is a former guerrilla in Chaletanango who was known as “Commandante Santamaria.” I interviewed him for my documentary “Yesteday’s Enemies,” which features former FMLN rebels at all levels.

At the time of the interview, two years ago, Linares was a San Salvador Police Commissioner strongly opposed to ARENA crime-fighting tactics. He is now Director del Organismo de Inteligencia del Estado, the chief of intelligence in the Funes administration.

“We have a problem with gangs,” admitted Linares. “It’s a result of many causes not just a result of poverty. Migration to the United States is fundamentally for economic reasons, not like during the war for political reasons and persecution.

“So many young people got involved in gangs. Then they were deported and they came back to strengthen the gangs that were already here. So what happened? The ARENA government didn’t promote social and economic plans for the majority of these young people. They didn’t offer alternatives, only the use of force… ‘Hard Hand,’ then ‘Super Hard Hand’ and ‘Anti-Murder,’ which was part of a strategy essentially being promoted by the United States.

“Just like in the previous conflict [the civil war], the U.S. has been advising in this case, but these plans never resulted in anything. Just the opposite.”
Linares said that over the past three to four years, about 19,000 young Salvadorans had been arrested, yet it was proven that only about 1,600 had committed crimes.

“So from government, through the police, comes this violation of the rule of law, enforcing laws that are unconstitutional, that violate rights, but at the same time don’t achieve the objective,” Linares said. “So what happens is that organized crime takes advantage of all this, recruiting these kids.”

Even two years ago, Linares envisioned the FMLN winning the presidency in 2009 and legislating new social concepts to fight crime. He said:

“The Right wants to associate the FMLN with the gangs. A tattoo isn’t a crime. We believe this phenomenon must be fought without turning to violating the rights of young people, but to seek opportunities for them. We can’t attack a social phenomenon with punitive measures.”

The Old Guard

Eduardo Linares is one of the few former FMLN commanders in Funes's Cabinet. Instead of looking to the old guard from the civil war, Mauricio Funes has turned largely to highly qualified experts, particularly in the economic realm. That has caused grumbling in some FMLN party ranks.

However, a gathering of former guerrilla leaders of the Guazapa front a few days before the inauguration demonstrated strong support for the new president. (Though not directly involved in the civil war’s violence, Funes lost his older brother who was killed in the war’s early days. Funes also has been touched by the random violence of street crime, losing his 27-year-old son, Alexander, who died of stab wounds from an altercation in Paris, France.)

The Guazapa conclave began as Francisco Acosta, who lost over 80 family members during the war and is now a director of the Oscar Romero University in Chaletanango, led a group of family members and war veterans to plant balsam trees on the slopes of Guazapa mountain.

With graying hair and beards and paunches overhanging their belts, the old guerrilla fighters gathered for lunch and to hail the new era in El Salvador under President Funes.

There were no threats or criticisms, only chants of “Si, se puede” – “yes, we can” – and “Viva Mauricio.” There was also the old wartime battle cry: “El Pueblo unido jamas sera vencido” – “The people, united, will never be defeated.”

The former guerrillas had invited some Americans, Mexicans and Canadians who had known them during the war. I was included because I had reported on their struggle from Guazapa in the bloodiest days of 1983.

Dr. Charlie Clements, who spent nearly two years tending to the wounded and later helping to send $3 million worth of medical aid, was there, too. Tom Cronin, former Philadelphia labor leader, and John Grant of Veterans for Peace were also honored. We were all presented with a “diploma de reconocimiento” and a round of applause.

It was an emotional time as I greeted old friends and contacts whom I had believed to have died – and together remembering those who were killed in the conflict.

Most of the aging guerrillas seemed to be prospering in teaching positions or working with security companies. Some were now fluent in English.

Alas, the only Spanish phrase I could recall from those days was “Hasta la Victoria Siempre!” – a revolutionary slogan that roughly translates as “Onward always to victory!”

Which was what this modest inaugural lunch was all about for those who had spent most of their lives fighting for it.

The U.S. is on a Precipice

The U.S. is on a Precipice

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We are at a precipice. This is the end of one era and the beginning of another. The “real” world that so many people believe in, here in America is not the world you see on your TV sets, that is the world that the government and the media want you to believe in. We are so accustomed to believing in our own American ideology that we can’t understand the ramifications of what we have done. So many people in this country continue to believe that what we have done can’t be undone. This is the reason we have come to this point. We are not “invincible”. We are not “exceptional”. We must abide by the same financial tenants that rest of the world must obey. We cannot spend above our means. We cannot spend 1.4 Trillion dollars on the military and get nothing back. We cannot give trillions in fiat money to prop up the bankers and financiers on Wall Street.

The only ones benefitting from this spending spree America is going through are the families that own the banks that make up the Federal Reserve. Every fiat dollar that is printed, six cents ends up in the transnational banks of these families. We have mortgaged our own nation to the same people we fought the Revolutionary War against. To me, the worst President in the world was Woodrow Wilson. I hope he rots in hell. Like Obama, that man reneged on almost everything he said he stood for. He was pressured into the First World War, a war we should have stayed out of. He also let us become slaves of a Central Bank. Instead of printing our own money, we were now faced with printing money that included an automatic debt.

I believe that the only reason our government is waging these incessant wars and spending money that they don’t have is so that the rest of the countries in the world remain afraid to refuse to take dollars as payment for oil and other imports. The minute one nation refuses to accept dollars; there will be a cascade of other countries that will follow suit. That will trigger hyper-inflation and our dollar will be worthless. No more cheap imported oil. No more cheap electronics. No more spending on infrastructure. We won’t have a pot to piss in.

Undoubtedly the United States will launch a major war. Even they can’t understand that the petroleum to run the war machine has to be paid for. Ask the Japanese in WW2 how that worked out for them. We will be thrown into the same circumstances that the Soviet Union faced in the last great super-power meltdown. The break-up of the United States will be a huge probability. If you think that the families that own the Federal Reserve are going to bail us out, think again. They have seen empires come and go. No, they won’t back us up, they’ll just buy everything in this country in a huge fire sale with the money they made by putting us in debt.

This recent fiasco concerning health insurance really made me understand that most Americans have no idea what is really important. The minuscule amount of money compared to the defense budget and the bail-outs is not the important issue here. The selling out of our nation by Congress and the Executive Branch is the real problem. Giving away our nation’s treasure to financial insiders that produce nothing but debt and supporting military adventures that produce no lasting results is what is killing this nation. We can’t continue to go trillions of dollars in debt every year and continue to enjoy the standard of living that we enjoy in America. That day is coming to a close. Get used to it.

The other problem this nation faces is the timidity of the “Left”. It seems that the so-called left in this country can’t seem to get involved enough to speak out. Where are all the people that protested the Iraq War? Where is the outrage on this war for an oil pipeline in Afghanistan? The Taliban don’t want to attack the United States, they just want the “foreigners” out of their country. Afghanistan is funny like that; look at what they did to Alexander “The Great”. Let me tell Olbermann and Maddow and all the Daily Koster’s that Obama is not your friend. Supporting this so-called “progressive” is like the old socialists that supported Hitler. Hitler called himself a “socialist” but he was a Nazi. Obama may call himself a “Progressive” but he is a fascist. Most of our politicians are. Our government is in collusion with corporations that will ride this gravy train to the very end. Let the left stay quiet and when the toilet flushes on the United States, they can take it up with the tea-baggers or some other right wing coalition.

All I can say is that we had better start treating what is happening to this country with all the seriousness that we can muster. We don’t have much time; in fact, we may already be out of time. I am loath to write what I’m writing, but a friend reminded me that we must all continue to speak out. There is no place to hide. Maybe there are some of you out there that are listening.

timgatto@hotmail.com Read Tim's new novel "Kimchee Days or Stoned cold Warriors" at any online bookstore.

AP analysis: Average county is economically stressed

AP analysis: Average county was stressed in Jan.

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Worsening economic conditions caused the nation to reach a bleak milestone in January: For the first time since The Associated Press began analyzing conditions in more than 3,100 U.S. counties nearly a year ago, the average county was found to be economically stressed.

Driving the pain was a deterioration in states that earlier had weathered the Great Recession better than the nation as a whole. These states endured the sharpest gains in unemployment for the past three months due to job losses in such industries as energy and construction. The states include West Virginia, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana and Wisconsin.

"What we're seeing is the state of West Virginia getting sucked into the same vortex that swallowed the national economy," said George Hammond, an economist at West Virginia University.

The AP's Economic Stress Index found the average county's score in January was 11.9. That was sharply higher than the 10.8 reading in December, the previous high.

The index calculates a score from 1 to 100 based on a county's unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. A higher score indicates more stress. Under a rough rule of thumb, a county is considered stressed when its score exceeds 11.

More than 55 percent of counties were deemed stressed in January. That compares with less than 45 percent in December.

Though the nation's jobless rate fell to 9.7 percent in January from 10 percent in December, foreclosure rates didn't budge at 1.5 percent. That means 1.5 percent of households were in some stage of the foreclosure process. And the bankruptcy rate rose to 1.13 percent.

Nevada again endured the worst conditions of any state. Its Stress score in January was 21.57. Nevada was followed by Michigan (18.04), California (17.29), Florida (16.29) and Illinois (15.5). Stress scores for all five states rose from December.

North Dakota again was the least economically stressed state. Its score was 5.69. Next best were South Dakota (6.14), Nebraska (6.64), Vermont (8.03) and Hawaii (8.60).

The sharpest year-to-year increases in Stress scores in January were in Nevada, West Virginia, Illinois (15.5), New Mexico (10.23) and Alabama (14.05).

Early in the recession, which began in December 2007, strong demand and high prices for coal helped buoy West Virginia's economy. But conditions worsened as worldwide coal demand slackened. And construction jobs disappeared due to the housing bust in the once-booming eastern Panhandle, Hammond said.

West Virginia's Stress score hit 11.32 in January, up from 9.45 in December. Pushing up the score was a surge in lost jobs.

"Those job losses have been widely distributed across almost all sectors," Hammond said.

Early on, Mississippi, too, avoided the worst effects of the downturn because of rebuilding jobs from Hurricane Katrina and construction projects that were under way before the recession began. It also never experienced the housing bubble that triggered the downturn elsewhere. But in the past year, Mississippi lost more than 13 percent of its construction jobs.

Mississippi's Stress score jumped to 13.36 in January from 11.69 in the prior month, driven by higher unemployment.

"We were relatively late going into the recession," said Marianne Hill, an economist at the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, the state university system. "We now seem to be catching up with the rest of the country in some ways."

Since peaking at 10.1 percent in October, the nation's unemployment rate dipped to 10 percent in November and December before falling to 9.7 percent in January and February. The widespread layoffs of a year ago have slowed. But many businesses still lack enough confidence to hire.

"The lack of hiring remains the No. 1 threat to the recovery," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com.

Zandi and other economists predict the jobless rate will resume climbing in coming months. That will happen, in part, because people who had stopped looking for work out of frustration will re-enter the job market to resume their search.

Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, a private forecasting firm, said: "What we are seeing is the unevenness of the recovery. Many sectors of the economy are still struggling."

High-tech manufacturing is managing to make a comeback, Behravesh said. But the housing slump has only leveled off, auto production is still weak and commercial real estate remains in a deep recession.

Counties in Kansas and South Dakota topped the list of least-stressed counties with populations of at least 25,000. Ford County, Kan. was the healthiest county with a Stress score of 4.17, followed by Ellis County, Kan. (4.31), Brookings County, S.D. (4.59), Brown County, S.D. (4.84) and Finney County, Kan. (4.86).

California counties dominated the list of most-stressed counties. Imperial County, Calif., was again the most stressed county with a score of 31.34. It was followed by Merced County, Calif. (28.09), Lyon County, Nev. (27.91), San Benito County, Calif. (26.58) and Yuba County, Calif. (25.47).

PTSD Claims Rise Among Veterans Treated at VA

PTSD Claims Rise Among Veterans Treated at VA, New Research to Study PTSD and TBI

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New statistics show that the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veteran patients being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and who have had PTSD claims approved increased. Also, new research projects are in the works to treat PTSD and traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

The statistics, prepared by the advocacy group Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) with information obtained from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), indicate that the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans treated by the VA increased from 480,000 reported in June 2009 up to 508,000 reported in September 2009.

Also, of those veterans treated by the VA, the number of patients who were diagnosed with at least one type of mental health condition, such as PTSD or TBI, were about half of the veterans treated both as of June last year and March this year.

In addition, the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are being treated as PTSD patients by the VA has increased from 134,000 in June last year to 143,530 reported in January this year for up through the fourth quarter in Fiscal Year 2009. Also, the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans' claims against the VA that were approved for PTSD claims increased from 59,000 in June last year to 67,052 reported in November for up through September 2009.

"The VA data lead to the likely conclusions that, first, more veterans are returning home with serious mental health conditions, and second, that VA is providing diagnoses and treatment," said Paul Sullivan, spokesperson for VCS.

Also, Sullivan said, "VCS remains seriously concerned that VA appears to be failing our veterans diagnosed with PTSD. VA fails the veterans by not granting them the disability benefits when they need them."

However, he said, "There is good news on the horizon. VA is expected in the very near future to introduce final regulations to streamline PTSD regulations. VCS hopes this new regulations fix the problem where only half of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans receive disability benefits for their PTSD diagnosis."

Also, Sullivan said, "You notice that the number of new patients rose by 28,000 in three months? That rise is more than 9,000 new Iraq and Afghanistan patients every month. That means a first-time Iraq or Afghanistan veteran patient walks into a VA hospital every five minutes. That's the true number of casualties from the war."

VCS has estimated that the country may see a total of one million patients from the two wars at a total price tag of $1 trillion and rising.

As the number of PTSD diagnoses and claims rise, new research about PTSD is also on the horizon.

A new program will test new ways to identify and treat combat veterans who are suffering from PTSD disorder and TBI. The US Army Medical Research and Material Command is overseeing the work through the Department of Defense's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP).

With a $400 million budget funding 17 different programs, CDMRP has expanded its focus to confront devastating health problems such as PTSD and TBI. The CDMRP's Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (PH/TBI) Research Program (formerly called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury Research Program) was created in 2007 in response to US Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery and the Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, which provided $150 million for research on PTSD and $150 million for research on TBI.

Key priorities of the PH/TBI Research Program are to complement ongoing Department of Defense efforts to ensure the health and readiness of the military forces and to support the Department of Defense Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence in its efforts to advance and spread PH/TBI knowledge and to facilitate other vital services to best serve the needs of veterans' families impacted by PH problems and/or TBI.

Of eight planned clinical trials, one that is to begin this spring will test the benefit of administering a synthetic form of a neuro-steroid drug to PTSD patients. The drug naturally appears in the brain, but at lower levels, among some PTSD patients. It is expected to help relieve some PTSD symptoms such as anxiety, rage and aggression.

Another program tries to assess behavioral therapies to treat combat-related PTSD. Also, one program studies the benefit of offering treatment in primary-care facilities rather than mental health clinics.

In addition, one project under way in Central Texas is studying the benefit of offering troops with PTSD four, 30-minute sessions with a behavioral health consultant over six weeks.

Also, another program being done in the Houston area is being conducted by four academic institutions and hopes to develop better ways to diagnose mild TBI and improve patients' chances of overcoming it through nearly immediate treatment. One clinical trial will examine the link between endocrine dysfunction in patients with mild TBI and the benefits of treating TBI with hormone supplements.

Japanese government reveals secret nuclear agreement with the US

Japanese government reveals secret nuclear agreement with the US

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Earlier this month, the Japanese government revealed the existence of a secret agreement with the US, dating back to the early 1960s, allowing the American military to bring nuclear weapons into the country. The exposure will add to existing strains on US-Japan relations since the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won office last August, ousting the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Soon after taking office, the Democrat government established a six-person Foreign Ministry panel to investigate secret treaties with the US. During the election campaign, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had called for a more equal relationship with the US and closer ties with Asia. At the same time, he made clear that the US alliance would remain the cornerstone of Japanese foreign policy.

The LDP, which had held office for most of the previous half century, had cemented the Cold War alliance with the US, which took Japan under the American nuclear umbrella. Japan, which played a junior role in the arrangement, helped the US to maintain a number of major military bases in the country, which were used by the American military in its wars in Korea and Vietnam.

During the election, Hatoyama made a definite pitch to popular anti-war sentiment over Japan’s involvement in the US-led occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. He ended Japan’s naval refuelling operation in the Indian Ocean to assist US military operations in Afghanistan, but promised to provide economic aid to the Afghan occupation. His government is calling for a renegotiation of an agreement with Washington to relocate a US Marine base in Okinawa.

The six-member panel said LDP governments had made three secret agreements with the US: one to allow US naval vessels to carry nuclear weapons into Japanese ports; the second to permit the US military to use bases in Japan without prior consultation in the event of war on the Korean Peninsula; and the third to bear the costs of the 1972 return of Okinawa to Japanese rule. The panel also found that many key documents were missing, possibly intentionally destroyed.

The nuclear agreement is particularly sensitive in Japan, the only country to have been bombed with nuclear weapons. The US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 reduced the two cities to rubble, killed more than 100,000 people in the short-term and injured and permanently disfigured many more.

The panel’s report was an embarrassment to the LDP in particular. “The Japanese government offered dishonest explanations, including lies, from beginning to end. This attitude should not have been allowed under the principle of democracy,” the report declared. It did, however, offer a justification of the LDP’s action, saying it had not been easy to balance “between a nuclear deterrence strategy in the Cold War era and the Japanese people’s anti-nuclear sentiment”.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said it was “extremely regrettable” that LDP governments covered up the nuclear deal from “the Japanese [people], even to parliamentary sessions, even after the end of Cold War”. At the same time, Okada made it plain that the government remained wedded to the US military alliance and would, in the case of emergencies, allow the US to bring nuclear weapons into Japan, “even if it may affect its political fortunes”.

The Democrats’ exposure of the “secret treaties” is somewhat theatrical. The existence of the treaties has long been confirmed by declassified American documents, which successive LDP governments consistently denied, for fear of provoking public anger.

As a defeated power in World War II, and dependent on the US during the Cold War, Japan had little option but to agree to US demands. Japan signed a formal security treaty with the US in 1951, which was revised in 1960 amid mass protests. A secret addendum to the revised treaty clarified that the phrase “major changes to equipment” requiring prior consultation with the Japanese government referred to “the introduction into Japan of nuclear weapons, including intermediate and long-range missiles”.

The issue of nuclear-armed warships and submarines entering Japanese ports without prior consultation was agreed in the early 1960s and clarified in a Japanese Foreign Ministry briefing document of January 1968. The document stated that “there is no option but to continue in our present position” of allowing nuclear-armed US warships to enter Japan. In the margins are the names of successive prime ministers and foreign ministers and the date that they read or had been briefed on this arrangement. The last entry was in August 1989.

Foreign Minister Okada told the media that “we cannot confidently say no nuclear weapons were brought in”. In all likelihood, nuclear-armed US warships and submarines regularly stopped over in Japanese ports, without notifying Tokyo. The standard US operating procedure has been to neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear warheads on its warships entering foreign ports.

The attitude of LDP governments was duplicitous. The LDP adopted a policy of three non-nuclear principles in 1967, banning the possession, production and entry of nuclear weapons into the country. LDP Prime Minister Eisaku Sato eventually won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1974 for implementing this anti-nuclear stance.

Until Okinawa’s return to Japan in 1972, the US had stationed both tactical and strategic weapons on the island, aimed primarily at China. During the negotiations over Okinawa, the minutes of a meeting in October 1969 show that the US opposed Tokyo’s position of making the island nuclear-free in line with the rest of the country. Faced with US intransigence, Sato relented: “If they inform us it’s necessary [to reintroduce nuclear weapons] because of an emergency, then we will say ‘yes’.”

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the US announced it would stop loading tactical nuclear weapons onto its surface warships and submarines. Foreign Minister Okada claimed that this meant that nuclear weapons had not been brought into Japan for the past two decades. However, the US military continues to deploy strategic nuclear weapons, such as cruise missiles and long-range ballistic missiles, on its warships and submarines.

The Democrats’ exposure of the secret agreements has been cautious. While asserting a more independent foreign policy, the government does not want to alienate the US. Prime Minister Hatoyama told reporters that it was “important not to let the panel’s verification undermine the Japan-US relationship”. Washington’s response has been low key. A State Department official declared that the US understood “the special sentiment of the Japanese people regarding nuclear weapons” while reaffirming that “we do not discuss the presence or absence of nuclear weapons aboard specific ships, submarines or aircraft”.

The Hatoyama government has released the report now, in part to try to bolster its flagging fortunes as it prepares for crucial upper house elections in July. Amid continuing economic turmoil and a deepening social crisis, support for the Democrats has plunged since they won the lower house election last August. A recent Kyodo News poll found that only 26.9 percent of respondents would vote for the DPJ, down 6.7 points since February, and just ahead of the LDP on 26.3 percent. The remaining 46.8 percent declared they would vote for a third party or remained undecided.

While the DPJ is trying to score points off the LDP’s record on the nuclear issue, there is no indication that the government is changing the previous policy. Hatoyama has cynically reaffirmed the previous three non-nuclear principles, but continues to allow US warships and submarines into Japan without challenging US ambiguity on the presence of nuclear weapons.

US, México in crisis talks on "drug war"

US, Mexico in crisis talks on “drug war”

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton headed a high-level US delegation to Mexico City Tuesday for crisis talks on the US-backed “drug war”. The purpose of the visit is to upgrade the Mérida Initiative—more commonly known in Mexico as “Plan Mexico”—which will expire this October. Mérida, part of the structure of treaties and agreements through which the United States manages its geo-political and imperialist interests, providing resources and helping to institutionalize the police state conditions that currently exist along the US-Mexico border.

The level discussions that will take place are described as the second meeting of the Mexico-United States High-Level Group. The first meeting took place last December. The meeting is being promoted as an effort to better coordinate the war being carried out by the government of President Felipe Calderón on the drug gangs that operate in the country. The escalating violence in Mexico is unfolding at a time in which the president’s popular support has plummeted, placing a question mark on his ability to rule.

On March 15, Calderón travelled to Ciudad Juarez in Chihahua State accompanied by Carlos Pascual, the US ambassador to Mexico. Juarez is the scene of continuing bloodletting by the drug gangs, combined with repression at the hands of the Mexican troops occupying this city of 1.5 million. Calderon’s visit also highlighted the new involvement of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and a so-called special force drawn out of several other US police and intelligence agencies in military operations along the US-Mexico border.

The visit occurred two days after the drive-by killing of three people connected to the US Consulate in Ciudad Juarez in two separate, nearly simultaneous incidents near one of the border crossings between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez. The victims, a US consulate employee and her husband and the husband of another US consulate employee, were gunned down in broad deadlight.

President Obama was the first to weigh in on the killings, followed by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and other US officials. While expressing outrage over the shootings, the reaction in Washington was also one of genuine alarm that perhaps the embattled Mexican President is losing control.

On March 16 scores of Ciudad Juarez residents protested this, Calderón’s third visit to the city since a massacre of 15 youths on January 31. The demonstrators demanded the withdrawal of Mexican troops that occupy the city and signaled their opposition to the intervention of the FBI. However, the more the Mexican masses repudiate Calderón, the more the latter seeks support from the Obama administration.

Protesters at last week’s demonstration also demanded the resignation of the Mexican President, a call that is increasingly popular throughout Mexico. The demonstrators were violently repressed. Some, who had sat on the road to block traffic, were trampled on by phalanxes of federal police in riot gear. A section of 30 protesters, which included women, was cordoned off and beaten.

Human rights activists have accused the Mexican army and federal police in Ciudad Juarez of carrying out kidnappings and killings and have documented over 1,500 charges of military abuse against civilians.

The military in Ciudad Juarez has responded by threatening the human rights activists themselves, accusing them of being accomplices of the drug gangs. One rights advocate, under threats from the military, was forced to cross the border into El Paso, where he asked for US political asylum.

The March 16 demonstration was one of several marches across Mexico demanding Calderon’s resignation. On February 14 in Juarez, hundreds had protested the massacre of the 15 youths, demanding to know how it was that a heavily armed group had been able to move with impunity through a city under military control.

Despite the presence of 10,000 soldiers, Ciudad Juarez on a per capita basis is the city with the highest murder rate in the world. In 2009, 2,600 people were killed. Calderón, who had promised to be the “Jobs President” when he took office in 2003, is now known by many in Ciudad Juarez and along the border as the “Death President”. Despite three years of military repression, the number of victims in this so-called war on drugs has accelerated. It now stands at 19,000 dead, up from 7,000 a year ago.

US officials have seized on these statistics and on the killing of the consulate officials to further escalate US involvement through the expansion of Plan Mexico. Tuesday’s visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to result in a new strengthened version of Mérida.

Accompanying Clinton to Mexico was “who’s who” of high-level representatives of US imperialism. These include Secretary of Defense Gates, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security John Morton. Clinton visited Mexico City a year ago this month. Her visit was followed by that of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder.

A March 20 article in the Dallas News quoted Silvestre Reyes, a US Congressman from El Paso, Ciudad Juarez’s twin city on the US side of the border. “There is a tremendous amount of frustration that we simply aren’t taking these national security challenges seriously,” declared Reyes, who also chairs the intelligence committee in the US House of Representatives. According to the same article, new and more “flexible, robust and above all, speedier,” security arrangements have been quietly prepared in negotiations between Washington and Mexico City for some time.

The new tactical approach, informally called Mérida 2, supposedly will emphasize measures such as weeding out corruption and boosting job prospects with the goal of steering people away from drug trafficking in order to conquer hearts and minds and also to “strengthen Mexico’s weak democratic institutions,” a phrase that is often used as a justification for US military intervention and the setting up of military bases in every continent, from Afghanistan and Colombia, to Honduras, Iraq, Pakistan and the Philippines.

The Mérida Initiative, like its South American counterpart, Plan Colombia, goes far beyond the war on drug gangs. Mérida was signed into law in the United States on June 30, 2008 as part of an Iraq Supplemental funding bill. That fact is not without significance, since the initiative exists as part of a larger global strategy to ensure and expand US control of global resources. It imposed on US-Mexican relations what is essentially a counter terrorism model developed in Iraq. Like Iraq, both Colombia and Mexico, produce oil.

Plan Mexico was also created and existed in the context of the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America adopted by the Bush administration to more fully integrate the Mexican economy with that of the US and Canada. Unlike the North American Free Trade Agreement that preceded it, the Security and Prosperity Partnership was described as a “dialogue” rather than a treaty. Until it was cancelled in 2009, the SPP existed as a White House entity under the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security and was not subject to Congressional oversight or approval.

Mérida has always included a more sinister element, the criminalization of migration. To this day, under the guise of “border security”, the democratic rights of immigrants are trampled and criminalized. That this is accepted by the Mexican political elite is evidence that, despite its protestations of independence and sovereignty, its interests are subordinated to those of its US counterparts. In return for its collaboration, it benefits from the exploitation of Mexican workers and Mexican resources as a minority partner.

Both Plan Mexico and Plan Colombia share a common perspective; under both, economic and social concerns are addressed solely as “security issues” to be resolved in the context of the militarization of society.

Mérida was first implemented in October 2007 as a three-year plan; at the time the US government budgeted US $1.3 billion in equipment and payments to US subcontractors to train the Mexican military in torture techniques and other forms of repression. Reyes is now proposing to bump up the new Mérida agreement’s budget to $10 billion.

That the Obama administration plans to strengthen and expand Plan Mexico is one more confirmation that the Democratic President is continuing and intensifying the imperialist policies pursued by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Bush, Clinton visit Port-au-Prince: Washington dictates terms to devastated Haiti

Washington dictates terms to devastated Haiti

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Former US presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton visited the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, in advance of a donors’ conference in New York City called to coordinate international aid and investment in the country in the wake of the devastating January 12 earthquake.

President Obama named Bush and Clinton co-chairs of the US fundraising campaign after the quake. The joint visit combined public displays of concern, in photo-op visits to a refugee camp and two local businesses, and talks with Haitian president René Préval and other officials.

Television coverage showed Bush, who had never before set foot in Haiti, shaking hands with quake survivors with a fixed smile on his face, visibly uncomfortable. He spoke woodenly, telling reporters that his purpose was to see firsthand the destruction caused by the quake and “remind the American people there is still suffering and work to be done here.”

The Bush-Clinton visit to the refugee camp on the Champ de Mars, next to the presidential palace, was a high-security affair, with dozens of US Secret Service agents, Haitian police and blue-helmeted UN peacekeeping troops surrounding them and Préval as they shook hands with earthquake survivors.

The attitude of the Haitian people to the visitors was a mixture of hostility and indifference. Bush, in particular, is hated for the US role in the 2004 coup that removed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and exiled him to South Africa. Clinton, while posturing as a “friend” of Haiti, is identified with a policy of opening the Haitian market to foreign competition that devastated the country’s agriculture. He is now the UN special envoy to Haiti.

About 100 supporters of former president Aristide staged a protest outside the national palace, burning tires and an American flag. They chanted slogans like “Return Aristide! Down with Préval! Down with Bush!” One leader of Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party, which is now barred from running in the elections, told the Associated Press, “Those people have a lot of money. They could do something for Haiti, but they haven’t done it.”

A quake survivor, 35-year-old René Pierre, who is homeless, told one US reporter, “The visit is like no visit at all. They walked inside, it’s to show off.” The AP reported on a street-corner debate in the Bel Air slum: “Neighbors crowded into a narrow alley behind partially collapsed buildings to shout their opinions: Bush is bad, Préval ineffective and Clinton disappointing as UN envoy.”

The Miami Herald described the scene as Bush, Clinton and Préval entered the refugee camp: “Quake survivors screamed at the three leaders, shouting details of the losses they suffered…. Others took a moment to criticize their own president’s leadership. ‘President Préval has never come to see us before!’ screamed Myrlande Saint-Louis, who lives in the Place Mosolée camp the presidents visited. ‘Now because Bush is here he comes? Now he wants to see us!’ ”

One of the principal purposes of the Clinton-Bush visit was to prod Préval into taking action on a land ownership dispute that has hamstrung efforts to relocate many of the quake survivors. Private landowners in the Haitian elite have been reluctant to make land available, demanding more compensation than the government was in a position to provide. Restrictions on foreign land ownership, rooted in Haiti’s origins 200 years ago in the slave revolt against French plantation owners, have hampered the activities of both foreign NGOs and multinational corporations.

Clinton is a particularly assiduous promoter of the conception that foreign investment, particularly in the garment industry, is the key to Haiti’s economic revival after the quake. During his visit, he repeatedly dropped hints that unspecified Asian and Brazilian companies were just waiting for procedural obstacles to come down before they set up shop in Port-au-Prince and other areas.

Préval responded to the pressure by issuing an executive order forcing Haitian landowners to turn over property under eminent domain, with financial compensation, to be used by aid organizations and foreign investors.

The initial focus will be the establishment of a new neighborhood called Pole Nord, north of the capital city, where some 150,000 people are to be relocated. These will primarily be residents of 29 low-lying camps (among the 425 refugee encampments), which are in particular danger of mudslides once the rainy season begins next month. One Préval aide said that the government would spend $40 million to buy the land, and $86 million to provide shelter for those being moved out of Port-au-Prince.

The first heavy rains took place last week and quickly flooded many of the most vulnerable camps. Protests broke out over the inaction by the government in leaving camp residents to suffer, with several thousand people taking part. The demonstration turned in an anti-US and anti-UN direction, with protesters shouting, “We can’t take this any more!” They marched toward Toussaint Louverture Airport, now under US military control, but were barred by club-wielding Haitian riot police.

In the course of their visit, both Bush and Clinton preached capitalism as the solution to the appalling conditions of life in Haiti. At a press conference, Bush declared, “By stimulating the entrepreneurship we believe small business will help lead this nation’s recovery.” Clinton called for revision of the US legislation known as HOPE II to expand duty-free access for Haitian garment manufacturers to the US market, claiming “we can create 100,000 jobs in short order.”

Clinton made it clear that these jobs, if they actually were created, would represent a diversion of production to Haiti from other low-wage countries in Asia and Latin America. In other words, Haitian workers would be employed at the expense of workers in China, Korea, Mexico or Brazil.

While hailing the virtues of free trade and free flow of foreign capital into Haiti, Clinton was compelled to admit earlier this month that much of the current economic paralysis in Haiti stems from past free-trade policies promoted by Washington, especially during his own administration (1993-2001).

At a March 10 appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Clinton conceded that the abolition of tariffs on imported rice—carried out by Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1994-1995 at the urging of the Clinton administration—had destroyed Haitian subsistence agriculture. “It is unrealistic to expect that a country can totally obliterate its capacity to feed itself and just skip a stage of development,” he said. “I had to live every day with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else.” More importantly, the people of Haiti have to live with it.

According to government figures, 51 percent of all food consumed in Haiti is imported, including 80 percent of the rice. Haiti has become the fifth-largest export market for US-produced rice, and the leading company is Riceland Foods, based in Stuttgart, Arkansas, Clinton’s home state.

The donors’ conference in New York City, set for March 31, will set the stage for an effective takeover of Haiti by a consortium of foreign powers. The conference is supposed to approve an $11.5 billion aid package for the country, whose distribution will be overseen by an

Interim Haitian Recovery Commission that will give foreigners a formal, voting role on the use of aid money. Clinton is widely expected to be named co-chair, along with Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

The buy-in price is $100 million: every aid donor that provides a pledge of that size or larger will have a voting seat on the commission’s board. Creditors who forgive Haitian debt of $200 million or more will also have voting rights. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who announced last week the cancellation of Haiti’s $200 million debt, will thus have the right to name a member of the committee. So will the Inter-American Development Bank, which announced March 22 it would forgive Haiti’s $479 million in debt.

Obama health bill sets the stage for assault on Medicare and Social Security

Obama health bill sets the stage for assault on Medicare and Social Security

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The passage of the Obama administration’s health care bill has been greeted with a wave of media commentary hailing the measure as a milestone in progressive social reform and a political triumph for Barack Obama.

“A historic first step,” editorialized the Los Angeles Times. “Health Care Reform, at Last” was the headline of the New York Times’ editorial. As always, the revving up of the American media to overwhelm and manipulate popular consciousness has been impressive.

If anything, the major organs of international finance capital have been even more effusive. Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman published a commentary in which he writes, “By pushing through a social reform that eluded generations of presidents from Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, Mr. Obama can now point to a genuinely historic achievement.” The Financial Times editorial board published a similar piece, under the headline “Obama secures his place in history.”

Behind the celebrations of the health care overhaul lies a definite perspective. The authors of these commentaries see the legislation as a major step in confronting profound problems facing American and world capitalism. They are hailing what they consider a breakthrough in reining in massive US deficits that are destabilizing the world financial system.

It has for decades been deemed politically impossible to attack basic entitlement programs in the US, such as Social Security and Medicare, which account for an enormous and rising portion of the federal budget. Now, with Obama’s health care plan, the stage has been set for slashing these programs. This is the reason for the general jubilation in media and financial circles.

The claim that a genuinely progressive social reform has been dispensed as a gift from above flies in the face of the whole of American history. This is a country where every significant social reform has been the outcome of decades of the most bitter and bloody struggles against a ruling class that savagely resists social progress.

The enactment of such reforms has always followed brutal state repression and been associated with martyrs to the cause who were hunted down, jailed or murdered.

Slavery was abolished only by a Civil War that raged for four years and cost the lives of 620,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilians.

The eight-hour day was the result of mass strikes in the 1870s and 1880s that culminated in the Haymarket Massacre and the hanging of key leaders of the eight-hour movement.

The suffragettes endured repeated beatings and jailings in their battle for the right of women to vote.

Official recognition of the right to form industrial unions in America was the outcome of a 60-year struggle that began in the 1870s and continued even after Franklin Roosevelt recognized the right in 1934. It involved general strikes in major US cities, including the 1934 strikes in Toledo, Minneapolis and San Francisco.

In struggles such as the Flint sit-down strike, workers occupied factories and faced off against police and troops in industrial battles that verged on civil war. Ten workers were gunned down in cold blood and many others were wounded by Chicago police in the 1937 Memorial Day massacre.

It was in the context of such mass working class struggles fueled by the Great Depression that Roosevelt enacted Social Security.

The enactment of Medicare in the 1960s was the byproduct of the mass mobilization of African-Americans and their allies in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, in which hundreds of thousands marched in the face of killings and terror by vigilantes backed by the state. By the time of the passage of Medicare, the civil rights struggle had been joined by an upsurge of militant labor struggles and the initial eruption of the most oppressed sections of the working class in urban uprisings.

The right of 18-year-olds to vote was secured as a result of the mass movement against the Vietnam War.

In every case, the victories for social reform represented the frightened response of the ruling class to mass movements from below. And in every case, these victories were partial and limited, diluted with all sorts of caveats, and containing the seeds of their eventual undoing—due to the limited political perspective imposed on the insurgent movements by their reformist leaderships.

The moment the working class relaxed its pressure, the gains were watered down or eliminated.

In stark contrast to this historical experience, Obama’s health care plan has been enacted in the absence of a mass movement—indeed, in the face of mounting popular distrust and hostility. The final push for the bill came after the Democratic candidate was massively defeated in January’s special Senate election to fill the seat vacated by the late Edward Kennedy in Massachusetts.

That defeat was the result of growing disillusionment with Obama and the Democratic-led Congress, which have done nothing while millions have been thrown out of their homes, millions more have had their light and heat turned off, personal bankruptcies have broken all previous records, and wage-cutting—encouraged by the government’s Auto Task Force—has become epidemic.

The same administration whose policies have encouraged a further growth in social inequality and the continued erosion of existing social programs has now, it is claimed, handed down a historic piece of progressive legislation.

Amidst the official jubilation, no one has asked an obvious question: If the Obama administration dropped all of those provisions deemed “progressive” and “liberal”—such as the public option—in order to gain Republican support, why were they not restored when it became clear that the Republicans would offer no support and the final bill would be a purely Democratic measure?

There is another question. In what, precisely, does Obama’s success in passing health care “reform” consist? Why has he succeeded where previous Democratic administrations failed?

The basic answer is that discussions of health care reform previously assumed either some form of nationalization or significant provisions to rein in the power of the health care industry. Obama, however, has not only rejected any such measures, he has worked out his overhaul in the closest consultation with the insurance, pharmaceutical and hospital companies. The same corporate giants will continue to exert unfettered control over the health care system.

Far from the health care bill being an exception to the historical rule, it could be enacted only because of the absence of a mass movement of working people and under conditions of the collapse of the old organizations such as the trade unions. It is the product of a political system in which broad sections of the population have been effectively disenfranchised and become alienated from the entire political establishment.

Neither of the two big business parties has any substantial base of popular support. Politics has become little more than the artificial creation of public opinion, involving an unprecedented level of media manipulation.

This social and political vacuum gives the ruling class a degree of latitude it would otherwise not have to impose legislation that in the past would have been considered unacceptable. Immense resources have been devoted to pushing through Obama’s health care bill, but there has been nothing approaching a serious public discussion in which the details of the measure are examined. The people have had no say and do not know what this legislation will mean for them.

In the form of the current administration, the American people have become the victims of a colossal fraud, in which Obama, capitalizing on his carefully crafted popular image, is carrying out policies that previously would have been deemed unfeasible.

The US ruling class is playing the long game. It is seeking to impose a regime of economic rationalization that has been worked out between the White House, Congress and big business.

The dire consequences of this overhaul for the broad masses of the population will become clear over time. They are indicated, however, in some of the commentaries by supporters of the legislation. The Washington Post, for example, speaks openly in its editorial of the “opportunity” to slash costs by rationing care to the general population.

“It means,” the newspaper writes, “establishing pilot programs to reward quality over quantity—keeping people healthy rather than administering more tests. It means holding hospitals, doctors and others accountable… to minimize unnecessary or conflicting care.”

The repeated claims that those who are satisfied with their existing health plans have nothing to fear are not believable. In the first place, existing plans are constantly being cut back by employers, private insurers or both, a process that will only be accelerated under the health care bill. More and more people will be forced into plans that provide far fewer services, under which they will be compelled to pay out of pocket for drugs, tests and procedures beyond a bare-bones minimum.

The overall strategy underlying the health care bill is indicated by the New York Times, which writes in a front-page article published Tuesday that “central to the health care changes are hundreds of billions of dollars in reductions in Medicare spending over time.” The newspaper goes on the declare that the victory on health care sets the stage for an assault on Social Security, the bedrock social program that currently provides (highly inadequate) pension benefits to 51 million Americans over the age of 65.

“Proponents of acting soon,” writes the Times, “also argue that changes to benefits or taxes… would immediately reassure global markets fretful that the United States’ debt is already its highest since World War II. An agreement on Social Security ‘would send an important signal to the world,’ said Robert D. Reischauer, a former Congressional Budget Office director.”

As the consequences of these policies become more clear, the disgust and anger of working people will deepen. They will resist in ever growing social struggles. What is critical is that these struggles be guided by a new political perspective.

Policing thought in America: Why can't we discuss the events of 9/11?

Policing thought in America: Why can’t we discuss the events of 9/11?

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The brain trust that calls itself “The Huffington Post” has disgraced itself and shown the "progressive left" is a cowardly fraud by removing a column guest written by Jesse Ventura about 9/11. The official explanation from no less than Arianna Huffington, presumably, is “Editor's Note: The Huffington Post's editorial policy, laid out in our blogger guidelines, prohibits the promotion and promulgation of conspiracy theories--including those about 9/11. As such, we have removed this post.” Maybe no one explained to these worthies that if any one were to write about 9/11, they would be writing about a conspiracy theory, since the government’s own “official account” is only the most outrageous. And, as Jesse’s new book, AMERICAN CONSPIRACIES (2009) elucidates, there have been many more throughout our history.


3/9/10 Jesse Ventura on NBC's "Today Show": AMERICAN CONSPIRACIES

Conspiracies are as American as apple pie. All they require are two or more individuals acting together to bring about an illegal end. When a couple of guys knock off a 7/11, they are engaged in a conspiracy, even if they are subsequently charged with armed robbery instead. Most America conspiracies are economic, like Enron, WorldCom, and Halliburtion. Bernie Madoff comes to mind, since he can't possibly have done it alone. Since the "official account" maintains that 19 Islamic fundamentalists hijacked four commercial carriers, outfoxed the most sophisticated air defense system in the world, and perpetrated these atrocities under the control of a guy in a cave in Afghanistan, the "official account" is a conspiracy theory, too.


3/8/10 Jesse Ventura on CNN's "Larry King": AMERICAN CONSPIRACIES

Apparently that subject is taboo at The Huffington Post. But if that is the case, then many important events are not going to be covered there. Conspiracies to murder political leaders are far older than the assassination of Julius Caesar and include attempts on the lives of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Truman. Four of those involved in the Lincoln conspiracy were hung from the same gallows at the same time. Consider the range of events that could not be understood absent conspiracies as David Mantik, M.D., Ph.D., listed them in his chapter, "The Silence of the Historians", MURDER IN DEALEY PLAZA (2000), page 402:

Foreign Targets/Assassination Conspiracies (during 20th Century only): Franz Ferdinand / Rajiv Gandhi / Louis Mountbatten / Czar Nicholas II / Adolf Hitler / Rafael Trujillo / Salvadore Allende / Charles DeGaulle / Benigo Aquino / Anwar Sadat / Luis Colosio / Leon Trotsky / Ngo Dinh Diem / Rene Schnneideer / Pancho Villa / Ngo Dihn Nhu / Jacobo Arbenz / Grigorli Rasputin / Fidel Castro / Mohammed Mossadegh / Patrice Lumumba / Pope John Paul II / Saddam Hussein / Manuel Noriega

Egad! What would Shakespeare have had to write about but for plots against the Kings and Queens of England? And in the US (20th Century), the list would be extended to include John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Watergate, Iran-scam, Iran-Contra, Senator Paul Wellstone, Cpl. Pat Tillman, and many others as well, if you consider the evidence. So if the American press is not even willing to investigate conspiracies, we are going to be unable to begin to understand our own history, including the stories that appear on virtually every page of The New York Times, as I documented in "Thinking about 'Conspiracy Theories': 9/11 and JFK", which is accessible via google and published my book, THE 9/11 CONSPIRACY: THE SCAMMING OF AMERICA (2007). What would history be without them?


James Fetzer interviewed by Stephen Lendman on 9/11, JFK, and Barack Obama (12/3/10)

The Huffington Post is not the only prominent offender. Even amazon.com has refused to carry the DVD of a conference on “The Science and Politics of 9/11: What’s Controversial, What’s Not”, that I organized in Madison, WI, 5-7 August 2007. It runs 14 ½ hour and includes presentations discussing many aspects of 9/11. A publisher tired to market it on amazon.com and found it was suppressed:

Dear Jim

Bad news.

I tried to put it up on Amazon, but the thought controllers have blocked it.

Possible Matches on www.amazon.com
ASIN: 1615774629
Product Name: The Science and Politics of 9/11: What's Controversial. What's Not.
Binding: DVD
DVD Region Code: 0
EAN: 9781615774623

Sorry, this product is ineligible for Amazon Marketplace selling at this time.

The product you attempted to create a page for is currently suppressed so that it will not appear on our Web site. Because of this, it is ineligible for Amazon Marketplace selling. Products are suppressed in the Amazon.com catalog for numerous reasons. For example, Amazon prohibits the sale of illegal and offensive products. (For more information, please review a complete list of prohibited content.) In addition, products may be suppressed at the explicit request of artists or manufacturers.

As a former Marine Corps officer and retired professor of philosophy, I am at a loss as to what has become of this once-great country of ours. Are we so afraid of the examination of what our government has told us about “the pivotal event of the 21st century” that even progressive newspapers like The Huffington Post and presumably impartial business operations like amazon.com refuse to publish a column by the former Governor of Minnesota or to carry the DVD of a meeting of experts on different aspects of the case? What is there to be afraid of—unless the "official account" is a house of cards that will collapse if it is critically scrutinized?


A brief summary of presidential directives, executive orders, and congressionaly approved bills that where signed into law over the last 40ish years. And no, this isn't a bunch of conspiracy nonsense. They are simply facts.

And that indeed appears to be the case. According to the "official account" of the destruction of the Twin Towers, the planes hit the buildings, the resulting fires weakened the steel, and a pancake collapse of one floor upon another ensued. But that description is not even remotely consistent with the gross observable photo evidence. The buildings appear to be tuning into millions of cubic yards of fine dust:

“Revealing new aerial photos of 9/11 attack released”
James Fetzer, VoltaireNet, 18 February 2010
http://www.voltairenet.org/article164022.html

“New 9/11 Photos Released”
James Fetzer, 10 February 2010
http://jamesfetzer.blogspot.com/2010/02/new-911-photos-released.html

Does this look remotely like a “pancake collapse” to you? A set of 9/11 photos were recently release which, when they are temporally sequenced, provide a glimpse of what was actually going on, which was no “pancake collapse”. Every American deserves to see that the “official account” cannot even accommodate the gross appearance of the Twin Towers as they were destroyed even below ground level as first responders have told me.


"Conspiracy Theory" with Jesse Ventura on 9/11

No one knows exactly how this was done. It appears to have required a highly sophisticated combination of conventional and unconventional means. Once you understand that the sequence of events these photos display cannot have been the result of a "pancake collapse", that there was no "collapse" at all as these two 500,000-ton buildings were converted into very fine dust, but that some complex form of a demolition under control was taking place and you being to grasp why not even The Huffington Post or amazon.com can allow you the least glimpse of what actually happened on 9/11. It was indeed “the scamming of America” and the reasons appear to have had nothing to do with Islam or “19 Islamic fundamentalists”.

James H. Fetzer, McKnight Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota, Duluth; Founder, Scholars for 9/11 Truth (http://911scholars.org), Editor, Assassination Science (http://assassinationscience.com), and Co-Editor, Assassination Research (http://assassinationresearch.com), maintains a blog on 9/11 and other “false flag” attacks at http://jamesfetzer.blogspot.com.


Secrets of the CIA

France: Over a million people strike against Sarkozy's austerity policies

France: Over a million people strike against Sarkozy’s austerity policies

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Two days after French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) had suffered a landslide defeat in the regional elections, over a million French public service and government employees struck yesterday against the government’s austerity plans. Many private sector workers also walked out.

ParisPlace de la Bastille: Banner reads: Pensions - public and private all together - No to social regression

Between 600,000 and 800,000 workers and youth participated in 177 demonstrations throughout the country. In Paris banners called for united action “for jobs, wages, working conditions and pensions.”

According to the national rail company SNCF, 28.3 percent of staff were on strike. Despite the minimum service regulations imposed in 2007, some 50 percent of normal trains and 35 percent of TGV express trains did not run.

Paris’ urban transport was little affected except for a major regional transit line, the RER B, which was operating at 50 percent. Outside the capital, the towns most affected by public transport strikes included Cannes, Clermont-Ferrand, Morlaix, Nice, Pau and Lille.

Teacher unions estimated that over half of primary teachers, and about 40 percent of secondary school teachers walked out. Many primary schools were shut for the day. Many high school and university students also walked out of classes against education cuts and reductions in educational provision.

The civil service ministry reported that 17.4 percent of its employees were on strike. The tax and treasury staff and employees in the judiciary service were on strike against “the deterioration of working conditions linked to lack of staff,” and the increase of their workload.

Postal workers were out in opposition to “profound restructuring in all departments,” “job cuts” and “increased stress.” Workers at France Telecom, which has been devastated by stress-related suicides, also struck. Farmers and energy workers were also on strike. Industrial action shut down the ballet Siddharta by Preljocaj at the Opéra Bastille.

Demonstrations included contingents from many different sectors: teachers and maintenance staff, students and parents of pupils, hospital workers, municipal employees, shop workers, firemen, court employees, sans papiers (undocumented workers) and many factory and service workers from the private sector facing closures and sackings.

StudentsStudents: Placard reads: The state represses - the people are depressed. The banner reads: No to the reform

They carried banners and placards saying: “It’s not for the workers to pay for the speculators’ crisis,” “Schools are not a business, children are not commodities,” “Health is not a commodity,” “Mass meeting of schools in struggle: 60,000 teaching posts cut, training massacred, public education in danger of death,” “End inequality,” “Their crisis and their billions is our blood, sweat and tears.”

In Paris between 30,000 and 60,000 marched. In Bordeaux the demonstration of some 20,000 stretched over three kilometres according to union figures, in Toulouse there were between 9,000 and 18,000 on the streets. The Marseille demonstration—50,000 by union estimates—included Lipton tea workers, on the third day of their strike. Trade unions estimated there were 25,000 marchers in Nantes, 15,000 marchers in Rouen, 17,000 marchers in Caen, and 30,000 marchers in Le Mans.

Like Sunday’s regional elections, these strikes demonstrated above all the gulf separating workers’ social demands from the political establishment’s commitment to austerity measures. The government has made it clear that it has no intention of abandoning its plans, designed to reduce state expenditure by €100 billion by 2013.

Prime Minister François Fillon told the press yesterday that “the reduction of deficits...is an absolute priority.” He added: “That means that we will continue to hold down state expenditure, the General Revision of Public Policy and that we will continue with the non-replacement of one out of two retiring government workers.”

Yesterday, newspapers reported government plans for a further increase in the mandatory pay-in period for pensions, from 41 to 43.5 years. Newly-appointed Labour Minister Eric Woerth announced he would proceed with plans for cuts, cynically claiming they would be “marked with the sign of equity.”

This day of action, which was an “agreeable surprise” according to trade union bureaucrats, is part of a wave of limited strikes and protests which the unions have been calling and then cutting off in order to contain rising anger amongst workers and youth at being made to pay for the financial crisis. Meanwhile, the unions constantly discuss with employers and governments on how to impose austerity measures, without provoking a social explosion.

The day of action was called after a “social summit” of the unions with Sarkozy at the Elysée Palace on February 16. This was an opportunity for unions and the government to discuss budget-cutting proposals to slash the deficit, largely incurred through the bailout of the banks.

CGT leader Bernard Thibault called yesterday for another “social summit with the President.” He effectively called for an end to strike action, saying that further action “will depend on how the government conceives the meetings, the agendas and the coming reforms.”

War, Racism and the Empire of Poverty

War, Racism and the Empire of Poverty

When Empire Hits Home, Part 1

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At a time of such great international turmoil economically and politically, it is increasingly important to identify and understand the social dynamics of crisis. A global social crisis has long preceded the economic crisis, and has only been exacerbated by it. The great shame of human civilization is the fact that over half of it lives in abysmal poverty.

Poverty is not simply a matter of ‘bad luck’; it is a result of socio-political-economic factors that allow for very few people in the world to control so much wealth and so many resources, while so many are left with so little. The capitalist world system was built upon war, race, and empire. Malcolm X once declared, “You can’t have capitalism without racism.”

The global political economy is a system that enriches the very few at the expense of the vast majority. This exploitation is organized through imperialism, war, and the social construction of race. It is vitally important to address the relationship between war, poverty and race in the context of the current global economic crisis. Western nations have plundered the rest of the world for centuries, and now the great empire is hitting home. What is done abroad comes home to roost.

The Social Construction of ‘Race’

500 years ago, the world was going through massive transformations, as the Spanish, Portuguese, French, and British colonized the ‘New World’ and in time, a new system of ‘Capitalism’ and ‘nation states’ began to emerge. The world was in a great period of transition and systemic change in which it was the Europeans that emerged as the dominant world powers. The colonies in the Americas required a massive labour force, “Between 1607 and 1783, more than 350,000 ‘white’ bond-labourers arrived in the British colonies.”[1]

The Americas had both un-free blacks and whites, with blacks being a minority, yet they “exercised basic rights in law.”[2] Problems arrived in the form of elites trying to control the labour class. Slaves were made up of Indian, black and white labourers; yet, problems arose with this “mixed” population of un-free labour. The problem with Indian labourers was that they knew the land and could escape to “undiscovered” territory, and enslavement would often instigate rebellions and war:

The social costs of trying to discipline un-free native labour had proved too high. Natives would eventually be genocidally eliminated, once population settlement and military power made victory more or less certain; for the time being, however, different sources of bond labour had to be found.[3]

Between 1607 and 1682, more than 90,000 European immigrants, “three-quarters of them chattel bond-labourers, were brought to Virginia and Maryland.” Following the “establishment of the Royal African Company in 1672, a steady supply of African slaves was secured.” Problems became paramount, however, as the lower classes tended to be very rebellious, which consisted of “an amalgam of indentured servants and slaves, of poor whites and blacks, of landless freemen and debtors.” The lower classes were united in opposition to the elites oppressing them, regardless of background.[4]

Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676 was of particular note, as bond-labourers, black and white, rebelled against the local elites and “demanded freedom from chattel servitude.” For the colonialists, “Such images of a joint uprising of black and white, slave and bondsman, proved traumatic. In the face of a united rebellion of the lower orders, the planter bourgeoisie understood that their entire system of colonial exploitation and privilege was at risk.”[5]

In response to this threat, the landed elite “relaxed the servitude of white labourers, intensified the bonds of black slavery, and introduced a new regime of racial oppression. In doing so, they effectively created the white race – and with it white supremacy.”[6] Thus, “the conditions of white and black servants began to diverge considerably after 1660.” Following this, legislation would separate white and black slavery, prevent “mixed” marriages, and seek to prevent the procreation of “mixed-race” children. Whereas before 1660, many black slaves were not indentured for life, this changed as colonial law increasingly “imposed lifetime bondage for black servants – and, especially significant, the curse of lifetime servitude for their offspring.”[7]

A central feature of the social construction of this racial divide was “the denial of the right to vote,” as most Anglo-American colonies previously allowed free blacks to vote, but this slowly changed throughout the colonies. The ruling class of America was essentially “inventing race.” Thus, “Freedom was increasingly identified with race, not class.”[8]

It is out of this that ideas of race and later, ‘race science’ emerged, as eugenics became the dominant ideology of western elites, trying to scientifically ‘prove’ the superiority of ‘whites’ and the ‘inferiority’ of ‘blacks’. This would carry a dual nature of justifying white domination, as well as providing both a justification for and excuse to oppress black people, and in fact, people of all ‘races’. This was especially clear as in the late 1800s and early 1900s the European empires undertook the ‘Scramble for Africa’ in which they colonized the entire continent (save Ethiopia). It was largely justified as a ‘civilizing’ mission; yet, it was fundamentally about gaining access to Africa’s vast resources.

Following World War II, global power rested predominantly in America, the leading hegemon, expanding the economic interests of North America and Western Europe around the world. War, empire, and racism have been central features of this expansion. In large part, poverty has been the result. Now, the empire hits home.

Global Labour

The world has almost 6.8 billion people, half of them female. The world economy has a labour force of 3.184 billion people; of all people employed in the world, 40% are women. While the world is equally male and female, 1.8 billion men are employed, compared to 1.2 billion women. The population of people in low paying jobs, long hours, and part-time work are predominantly women.[9]

Global Poverty and Wealth

In 1999, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reported that, “Although 200 million people saw their incomes fall between 1965 and 1980, more than 1 billion people experienced a drop from 1980 to 1993.” In 1996, “100 countries were worse off than 15 years [prior].” In the late 1960s, “the people in well-to-do countries were 30 times better off than those in countries where the poorest 20 percent of the world's people live. By 1998, this gap had widened to 82 times (up from 61 times since 1996).” As of 1998, “3 billion people live on less than $2 per day while 1.3 billion get by on less than $1 per day. Seventy percent of those living on less than $1 per day are women.”[10]

Elites and academics, as well as major social movements in western nations focus on population growth as being the driver in global poverty, picking up from where the Malthusians left off; poverty becomes the problem caused by “population growth” as opposed to a problem caused by wealth and resource distribution. In 2003, a World Bank report revealed that, “A minority of the world's population (17%) consume most of the world's resources (80%), leaving almost 5 billion people to live on the remaining 20%. As a result, billions of people are living without the very basic necessities of life - food, water, housing and sanitation.” Further:

1.2 billion (20%) of the world population now lives on less that $1/day, another 1.8 billion (30%) lives on less than $2/day, 800 million go to bed hungry every day, and 30,000 - 60,000 die each day from hunger alone. The story is the same, when it comes to other necessities like water, housing, education etc. On the flip side, we have increasing accumulation of wealth and power, where the world's 500 or so billionaires have assets of 1.9 trillion dollars, a sum greater than the income of the poorest 170 countries in the world.[11]

Other figures from the World Bank report include the fact that, “The world's 358 billionaires have assets exceeding the combined annual incomes of countries with 45 percent of the world's people,” and “The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the poorest 48 nations (i.e. a quarter of the world's countries) is less than the wealth of the world's three richest people combined.” Incredibly, “A few hundred millionaires now own as much wealth as the world's poorest 2.5 billion people.”[12]

In regards to poverty and hunger statistics, “Over 840 million people in the world are malnourished—799 million of them are from the developing world. Sadly, more than 153 million of them are under the age of 5 (half the entire US population).” Further, “Every day, 34,000 children under five die of hunger or other hunger-related diseases. This results in 6 million deaths a year.” That amounts to a “Hunger Holocaust” that takes place every single year. As of 2003, “Of 6.2 billion living today, 1.2 billion live on less than $1 per day. Nearly 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day.”[13]

In 2005, according to World Bank statistics, “More than one-half of the world's people live below the internationally defined poverty line of less than U.S. $2 a day,” and “Nearly one-third of rural residents worldwide lack access to safe drinking water.”[14]

In 2006, a groundbreaking and comprehensive report released by the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University (UNU-WIDER) reported that, “The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth.” An incredible startling statistic was that:

[T]he richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. In contrast, the bottom half of the world adult population owned barely 1% of global wealth.[15]

This is worth repeating: the top 1% owns 40% of global assets; the top 10% owns 85% of world assets; and the bottom 50% owns 1% of global assets.

The 2009 UN Millennium Development Goals report stated that in the wake of the global economic crisis and the global food crisis that preceded and continued through the economic crisis, progress towards the goals of poverty reduction are “threatened by sluggish – or even negative – economic growth, diminished resources, fewer trade opportunities for the developing countries, and possible reductions in aid flows from donor nations.”[16]

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) report stated that in 2009, “an estimated 55 million to 90 million more people will be living in extreme poverty than anticipated before the crisis.” Further, “the encouraging trend in the eradication of hunger since the early 1990s was reversed in 2008, largely due to higher food prices.” Hunger in developing regions has risen to 17% in 2008, and “children bear the brunt of the burden.”[17]

In April of 2009, a major global charity, Oxfam, reported that a couple trillion dollars given to bail out banks could have been enough “to end global extreme poverty for 50 years.”[18] In September of 2009, Oxfam reported that the economic crisis “is forcing 100 people-a-minute into poverty.” Oxfam stated that, “Developing countries across the globe are struggling to respond to the global recession that continues to slash incomes, destroy jobs and has helped push the total number of hungry people in the world above 1 billion.”[19]

The financial crisis has hit the ‘developing’ world much harder than the western developed nations of the world. The UN reported in March of 2009 that, “Reduced growth in 2009 will cost the 390 million people in sub-Saharan Africa living in extreme poverty around $18 billion, or $46 per person,” and “This projected loss represents 20 per cent of the per capita income of Africa’s poor – a figure that dwarfs the losses sustained in the developed world.”[20]

While the world’s richest regions lie in North America, Europe, and Pacific Asia respectively, the vast majority of the rest of the world lives in gross poverty. This disparity is ‘colour-coded’, too; as the top, the worlds wealthy, are white, while the world’s impoverished, the vast majority of the world’s people, are people of colour. This disparity is further polarized when gender is included, as the majority of the wealthy are men, while the majority of the impoverished are women. This disparity of a global scale is carried over to a national scale in the United States.

Race and Poverty in America

In the last months of Martin Luther King’s life, he focused his attention to the struggle against poverty. Today, “Sadly, as far as the country has come regarding civil rights, more Americans live in poverty today than during King's lifetime. Forty million people, 13% of the population, currently fall below the poverty line.” In 1967, King wrote:

In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out. There are twice as many white poor as [black] poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and [black] alike.[21]

Today, “more whites than blacks do still live in poverty, but a higher proportion of minorities fall below the poverty line, including 25% of blacks and 23% of Latinos (compared to 9% of whites). Stable jobs, good housing, comprehensive education and adequate health care are still unequal, unsuitable and, in many cases, unavailable.” King wrote, “The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct, and immediate abolition of poverty.”[22]

In 1995, “Federal Reserve research found that the wealth of the top one percent of Americans is greater than that of the bottom 95 percent.” Further, “Wealth projections through 1997 suggest that 86 percent of stock market gains between 1989 and 1997 went to the top ten percent of households while 42 percent went to the most well-to-do one percent.”[23]

Wealth disparity is not colour-blind. As of 1998, “The modest net worth of white families [was] 8 times that of African-Americans and 12 times that of Hispanics. The median financial wealth of African-Americans (net worth less home equity) [was] $200 (one percent of the $18,000 for whites) while that of Hispanics [was] zero.” Further, “Household debt as a percentage of personal income rose from 58 percent in 1973 to an estimated 85 percent in 1997.”[24]

In 2000, a major university study revealed that the poor were more likely to be audited by the IRS than the rich.[25] In December of 2009, the Seattle Times ran an article in which they tell the story of Rachel Porcaro, a 32-year-old mother of two boys. She was summoned to the IRS back in 2008 where she was told she was being audited. When she asked why, she was told that, “You made eighteen thousand, and our data show a family of three needs at least thirty-six thousand to get by in Seattle.” Thus, “They thought she must have unreported income. That she was hiding something. Basically they were auditing her for not making enough money.”[26]

The reporter for the Seattle Times wrote that, “An estimated 60,000 people in Seattle live below the poverty line — meaning they make $11,000 or less for an individual or $22,000 for a family of four. Does the IRS red-flag them for scrutiny, simply because they're poor?” He contacted the local IRS office with that question; they “said they couldn't comment for privacy reasons.” What followed the initial audit was even worse:

She had a yearlong odyssey into the maw of the IRS. After being told she couldn't survive in Seattle on so little, she was notified her returns for both 2006 and 2007 had been found "deficient." She owed the government more than $16,000 — almost an entire year's pay.

[. . . ] Rachel's returns weren't all that complicated. At issue, though, was that she and her two sons, ages 10 and 8, were all living at her parents' house in Rainier Beach (she pays $400 a month rent). So the IRS concluded she wasn't providing for her children and therefore couldn't claim them as dependents.[27]

A family friend who was an accountant determined that the IRS was wrong in its interpretation of the tax law; “He sent in the necessary code citations and hoped that would be the end of it.” But the story wasn’t over; “Instead, the IRS responded by launching an audit of Rachel's parents.” Rachel said, “We're surviving as a tribe. It seems like we got punished for that.”[28]

Taxation is a major issue related to poverty. A major report issued in November of 2009 revealed that the state of “Alabama makes families living in poverty pay higher income taxes than any other state.” Thus, “At the lowest incomes, we have some of the highest taxes in the nation because our system is upside down.”[29]

In November of 2009, stunning statistics were revealed as a true test of poverty in America:

With food stamp use at record highs and climbing every month, a program once scorned as a failed welfare scheme now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children.

It has grown so rapidly in places so diverse that it is becoming nearly as ordinary as the groceries it buys. More than 36 million people use inconspicuous plastic cards for staples like milk, bread and cheese, swiping them at counters in blighted cities and in suburbs pocked with foreclosure signs.

Virtually all have incomes near or below the federal poverty line, but their eclectic ranks testify to the range of people struggling with basic needs. They include single mothers and married couples, the newly jobless and the chronically poor, longtime recipients of welfare checks and workers whose reduced hours or slender wages leave pantries bare.[30]

The food stamps program is growing at the pace of 20,000 people per day, as “There are 239 counties in the United States where at least a quarter of the population receives food stamps,” and “In more than 750 counties, the program helps feed one in three blacks. In more than 800 counties, it helps feed one in three children.” Further, “food stamps reach about two-thirds of those eligible” nationwide.[31] Thus, there is potentially 18 million more Americans eligible to use food stamps, which would make the figure soar to 54 million.

In 2008, tent cities started popping up in and around cities all across the United States, as the homeless population rapidly expanded like never before.[32] The Guardian reported in March of 2009 that, “Tent cities reminiscent of the "Hoovervilles" of the Great Depression have been springing up in cities across the United States - from Reno in Nevada to Tampa in Florida - as foreclosures and redundancies force middle-class families from their homes.”[33]

An April 2009 article in the German newspaper Der Spiegel ran a report on the middle class in the US being thrown into poverty, in which the authors wrote, “The financial crisis in the US has triggered a social crisis of historic dimensions. Soup kitchens are suddenly in great demand and tent cities are popping up in the shadow of glistening office towers.” Further:

Poverty as a mass phenomenon is back. About 50 million Americans have no health insurance, and more people are added to their ranks every day. More than [36] million people receive food stamps, and 13 million are unemployed. The homeless population is growing in tandem with a rapid rise in the rate of foreclosures, which were 45 percent higher in March 2009 than they were in the same month of the previous year.

[. . . ] The crisis in the lower third of society has turned into an existential threat for some Americans. Many soup kitchens are turning away the hungry, and even hastily constructed new facilities to house the homeless are often inadequate to satisfy the rising demand.

Many private corporations across America are withdrawing their funding for social welfare projects. Ironically, their generosity is ending just as mass poverty is returning to America.[34]

Crime was also reported to be on the rise at a dramatic rate. One criminologist explained that in the face of more Americans struggling in harsh economic times, “The American dream to them is a nightmare, and the land of opportunity is but a cruel joke.” Statistics were confirming his predictions of a rise in crisis-related crime, as April 2009 was “one of the bloodier months in American criminal history.” A professor of criminology stated, “I've never seen such a large number (of killings) over such a short period of time involving so many victims.”[35]

In the midst of the euphoria over a perceived economic recovery, which has yet to “trickle down” to the people, tent cities have not vanished. In late February of 2010, it was reported that, “Just an hour outside of New York City, a thriving tent city gives a home to refugees from the economic downturn.” Many people in poverty “have become so desperate that they have had to move into the woods.” One woman in this forest tent city outside of New York had been living there for two years. She said, “I just went through a divorce. And it was a bad divorce. And I ended up here, homeless in here.”[36]

Rob, a 21-year-old who was laid off when the Great ‘Recession’ began, is the youngest homeless man living in the forest tent city. He said the worst part is the shame, “The embarrassment of walking out of here, the cars see you come by and they know who you are. The shame of walking into town and having people give you dirty looks just for the way you’re forced to live.”[37]

While many more millions are being plunged into poverty, the internal disparities of race, gender, and age still persist. In November of 2009, it was reported that the jobless rate for 16-to-24-year-old black men has reached Great Depression proportions, as 34.5% of young black men were unemployed in October of 2009, “more than three times the rate for the general U.S. population.” Further:

The jobless rate for young black men and women is 30.5 percent. For young blacks -- who experts say are more likely to grow up in impoverished racially isolated neighborhoods, attend subpar public schools and experience discrimination -- race statistically appears to be a bigger factor in their unemployment than age, income or even education. Lower-income white teens were more likely to find work than upper-income black teens, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, and even blacks who graduate from college suffer from joblessness at twice the rate of their white peers.[38]

Another startling statistic in the report was that, “Young black women have an unemployment rate of 26.5 percent, while the rate for all 16-to-24-year-old women is 15.4 percent.” The fact that these are the statistics for young people is especially concerning, as “the consequences can be long-lasting”:

This might be the first generation that does not keep up with its parents' standard of living. Jobless teens are more likely to be jobless twenty-somethings. Once forced onto the sidelines, they likely will not catch up financially for many years. That is the case even for young people of all ethnic groups who graduate from college.[39]

With poverty, food scarcity increases. While many Americans and people the world over have felt the effects of the recession on their daily meals, the race disparity persists in this facet as well, as “one in four African-American households struggles to put food on the table on a regular basis, compared with about one in seven households nationally.” Further, “90 percent of African American children will receive food stamp benefits by the time they turn 20.”[40]

In March of 2010, a truly staggering report was released by a major economic research group which concluded that, “Women of all races bring home less income and own fewer assets, on average, than men of the same race, but for single black women the disparities are so overwhelmingly great that even in their prime working years their median wealth amounts to only $5.” Let’s review that again:

[W]hile single white women in the prime of their working years (ages 36 to 49) have a median wealth of $42,600 (still only 61 percent of their single white male counterparts), the median wealth for single black women is only $5.[41]

The research organization analyzed data from the Federal Reserve’s 2007 Survey of Consumer Finances. Wealth, or net worth, in the report, is defined as:

[T]he total of one's assets -- cash in the bank, stocks, bonds and real estate; minus debts -- home mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and student loans. The most recent financial data was collected before the economic downturn, so the current numbers likely are worse now than at the time of the study.[42]

The study further revealed that, “For all working-age black women 18 to 64, the financial picture is bleak. Their median household wealth is only $100. Hispanic women in that age group have a median wealth of $120.” Black women are more likely to be hit with the responsibility of working and raising children on their own:

In a 2008 study of black women and their money, the ING Foundation found that black women -- who frequently manage the assets of their households -- financially support friends, family and their houses of worship to a much greater degree than the general population.

They also are more likely to be employed in jobs and industries -- such as service occupations -- with lower pay and less access to health insurance. And when their working days are done, they rely most heavily on Social Security because they are less likely to have personal savings, retirement accounts or company pensions. Their Social Security benefits are likely to be lower, too, because of their low earnings.[43]

The poor youth of America are also disproportionately subject to racial exacerbations of their social situations. In America, “more than half of all young adult dropouts are jobless. And dropouts are at greater risk of being incarcerated and having poorer physical and mental health than those who graduate.” Again, the racial disparity emerges, as “[p]oor and minority youths are far less likely to graduate from high school than white children.”

An October 2009 report released by the National Center for Education Statistics says 59.8 percent of blacks, 62.2 percent of Hispanics, and 61.2 percent of American Indians graduated from public high school in four years with a regular diploma in the 2006-2007 school year compared to 79.8 percent for whites and 91.2 percent for Asian and Pacific Islanders. Black and Hispanic dropout rates were more than twice those of white youths.[44]

Many youths then venture into crime to survive. It is here where another racial divide rears its head in a clear example of how Justice is not blind, but sees in technicolour. The incarceration rate, that is, the prison rate of Americans is colour-coded. Black men are incarcerated “at a rate that is over 6 times higher than that for white males.” While black Americans make up 13% of the US population, they make up 40% of the US prison population. Meanwhile, whites make up 66% of the US population, yet only 34% of the prison population. Hispanics make up 15% of the U.S. population, and account for 20% of the prison population.[45]

The poor youth are subject to further insults, as new federally funded drug research revealed a startling and bleak disparity: poor children who are dependent upon Medicaid, a government health program for low-income families, “are given powerful antipsychotic medicines at a rate four times higher than children whose parents have private insurance.” Further, these children, the poor children, “are more likely to receive the drugs for less severe conditions than their middle-class counterparts.” A research team from Rutgers and Columbia posed the question:

Do too many children from poor families receive powerful psychiatric drugs not because they actually need them — but because it is deemed the most efficient and cost-effective way to control problems that may be handled much differently for middle-class children?[46]

The effects are not simply psychological, as “Antipsychotic drugs can also have severe physical side effects, causing drastic weight gain and metabolic changes resulting in lifelong physical problems.” Ultimately, what the research concluded was that, “children with diagnoses of mental or emotional problems in low-income families are more likely to be given drugs than receive family counseling or psychotherapy.”[47]

A study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry revealed that, “Children and youth on certain antipsychotic medications are more prone to getting diabetes and becoming fat,” and that, “the medication has significant and worrying side-effects.”[48] In America, the prescribing of anti-psychotic drugs to children rose five-fold between 1995 and 2002 to roughly 2.5 million.[49]

Thus, we have a situation in which the poor are treated in such a way as to dehumanize them altogether; to deprive them not simply of life’s necessities, but to then use them as guinea pigs and to punish them for their poverty. Hubert Humphrey once said, “A society is ultimately judged by how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable members.” How shall our societies be thus judged?

War and Poverty

It is to our own detriment that we fail to see the relationship between war and poverty both on a national and global level. War is the most violent and oppressive tool used by the powerful to control people and resources. The industry of war profits very few at the expense of the majority; it does not simply impoverish the nation that is attacked, but impoverishes the nation that is attacking.

In April of 1967, one year before Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, he delivered a speech entitled, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This speech is one of King’s lesser known, yet arguably, one of his most important. While reading the text of the speech does it no justice to the words spoken from King’s mouth in his magnanimous manner, they are worth reading all the same. Dr. King declared that, “A time comes when silence is betrayal. That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.” His words are as significant today as the day they were spoken, and are worth quoting at some length:

Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. [. . . ]

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

[. . . ] I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

[. . . ] In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken -- the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

[. . . ] A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

[. . . ] The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.[50]

After delivering such a monumental speech against war and empire, King was attacked by the national media; with Life Magazine calling the speech, “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi,” and the Washington Post saying that, “King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people.”[51]

War is inextricably linked to the impoverishment of people around the world and at home. Inherent within the system of war, racial divides and exploitation are further exacerbated.

In the midst of the economic crisis, military recruitment went up, as the newly unemployed seek job security and an education. A Pentagon official said in October of 2008 that, “We do benefit when things look less positive in civil society,” as “185,000 men and women entered active-duty military service, the highest number since 2003, according to Pentagon statistics. Another 140,000 signed up for duty in the National Guard and reserve.”[52]

In November of 2008, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported that recruitment into the military had increased by over 14% as a result of the economic crisis. Interestingly, “The north of England, where the credit crunch has hit hard, is among the areas where the MoD says recruitment is at its strongest.”[53]

In 2005, it was reported that the Pentagon had developed a database of teenagers 16-18 and all college students “to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment.” Further, according to the Washington Post, “The new database will include personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying.”[54]

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report in 2008, which revealed that there is a dangerous trend in recruiting youth in the United States. Recruitment of youth 16 and younger is prohibited in the United States, however:

[T]he U.S. armed services regularly target children under 17 for military recruitment. The U.S. military heavily recruits on high school campuses, targeting students for recruitment as early as possible and generally without limits on the age of students they contact. Despite a lawsuit challenging its identification of eleventh-grade high school students for recruitment, the Department of Defense’s central recruitment database continues to collect information on 16-year-olds for recruitment purposes.[55]

Various Army programs and recruitment services target students as young as 11, which includes a video game used as a tool for Army recruitment “explicitly marketed to children as young as 13.” Further, “The U.S. military’s recruitment policies, practices, and strategies explicitly target students under 17 for recruitment activities on high school campuses.”[56]

In 2007, prior to the economic crisis, it was reported that, “nearly three quarters of those killed in Iraq came from towns where the per capita income was below the national average.” Further, “More than half came from towns where the percentage of people living in poverty topped the national average.” The war casualties have disproportionately affected rural American towns, which make up the majority of military recruits. Interestingly, between “1997 to 2003, 1.5 million rural workers lost their jobs due to changes in industries like manufacturing that have traditionally employed rural workers.”[57] Now, they make up the majority of war casualties. War and poverty are inherently related in this example: the most impoverished suffer the most in war.

In 2007, it was further reported that more than 30,000 foreign troops are enlisted in the US Army, being recruited to join from foreign nations such as Mexico in return for being granted US citizenship.[58] In 2005, whites made up 80% of Army recruits, while blacks made up 15% of recruits. In 2008, whites made up 79%, while blacks made up 16.5% of Army recruits. However, an interesting statistic is that between 2007 and 2008, there was a 5% increase in the recruit of whites, while over the same period there was nearly a 96% increase in the recruitment of blacks. In 2008, 52% of recruits were under the age of 21. For the fifth year in a row, as of 2008, “youth from low- to middle-income neighborhoods are over-represented among new Army recruits.”[59]

In March of 2008, The Nation published an article entitled “The War and the Working Class,” in which it explained that the American military operated under an “economic draft,” as “Members of the armed forces come mainly and disproportionately from the working class and from small-town and rural America, where opportunities are hard to come by.”[60] This was even before the economic crisis had really started to be noticed in the United States.

In January of 2009 it was reported that, “The Army and each of the other branches of the military are meeting or exceeding their goals for signing up recruits, and attracting more qualified people.”[61] In March of 2009, it was reported that, “Fresh recruits keep pouring into the U.S. military, as concerns about serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are eclipsed by the terrible civilian job market.” All branches of the armed forces “met or exceeded their active duty recruiting goals for January, continuing a trend that began with a decline in the U.S. job market.”

The military acknowledged that weakness in the U.S. economy, which lost 2.6 million jobs in 2008 and another 598,000 in January, has made the armed services more appealing to potential recruits.[62]

It was reported in October of 2009 that due to the economic crisis, “Middle-class American youth are entering the military in significant numbers,” as the Department of Defense announced “that for the first time since the draft ended and the all-volunteer force began 36 years ago, every service branch and reserve component met or exceeded its recruiting goals, both in numbers and quality.” As the economic crisis “resulted in the largest and the swiftest increase in overall unemployment that we've ever experienced,” this created a boom for military recruiting.[63]

In December of 2009 it was reported that with a record number of college graduates unable to find work, recruitment soared to record levels, even in the midst of President Obama announcing the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. As one commentator put it:

The United States is broken – school systems are deteriorating, the economy is in shambles, homelessness and poverty rates are expanding – yet we’re nation-building in Afghanistan, sending economically distressed young people over there by the tens of thousands at an annual cost of a million dollars each.[64]

In January of 2010 it was reported by the military that many Marines nearing the end of their active duty are reconsidering re-enlisting due to the severe economic situation. According to the U.S. Department of Labor in November of 2009, there were 15.4 million unemployed people in the United States, with the unemployment rate hitting 10%. “Employment fell in construction, manufacturing and information industries, while jobs in temporary help services and health care increased.” Thus, the unemployment figures are somewhat deceiving, as it doesn’t take into account all the people that only rely upon part-time jobs, as “People working part-time jobs for economic reasons numbered 9.2 million. These individuals worked part-time because their hours at another job had been cut back or they were unable to find a full-time job.” Hence, “Marines reenlist for numerous economic reasons.”[65]

In 2007, Obama campaigned on a promise to increase defense spending, and that he wanted the American military to “stay on the offense, from Djibouti to Kandahar,” from Africa to Afghanistan. Obama proclaimed his belief that “the ability to put boots on the ground will be critical in eliminating the shadowy terrorist networks we now face,” and he said that, “no president should ever hesitate to use force -- unilaterally if necessary,” not simply to “protect ourselves,” but also to protect America’s “vital interests.”[66]

Sure enough, Obama followed through on those promises. Obama increased defense spending from the previous year. Alone, the United States spends almost as much on its military as the rest of the world combined, including seven times the amount as the next largest defense spender, China.[67]

In October of 2009, Obama signed the largest-ever bill for military spending, amounting to $680 billion. At the same time, he authorized a spending bill of $44 billion for the Department of Homeland Security. A sad irony was that, “Obama signed the record Pentagon budget less than three weeks after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.”[68]

In February of 2010, Obama asked Congress to approve a new record-setting defense budget, at $708 billion.[69] Interestingly, “the Pentagon budget increased for every year of the first decade of the 21st century, an unprecedented run that didn't even happen in the World War II era, much less during Korea or Vietnam.” Further, “if the government's current plans are carried out, there will be yearly increases in military spending for at least another decade.”[70]

As Eric Margolis wrote in February of 2010:

Obama’s total military budget is nearly $1 trillion. This includes Pentagon spending of $880 billion. Add secret black programs (about $70 billion); military aid to foreign nations like Egypt, Israel and Pakistan; 225,000 military “contractors” (mercenaries and workers); and veterans’ costs. Add $75 billion (nearly four times Canada’s total defence budget) for 16 intelligence agencies with 200,000 employees.

[. . . ] China and Russia combined spend only a paltry 10% of what the U.S. spends on defence.

There are 750 U.S. military bases in 50 nations and 255,000 service members stationed abroad, 116,000 in Europe, nearly 100,000 in Japan and South Korea.

Military spending gobbles up 19% of federal spending and at least 44% of tax revenues. During the Bush administration, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — funded by borrowing — cost each American family more than $25,000.

Like Bush, Obama is paying for America’s wars through supplemental authorizations ­— putting them on the nation’s already maxed-out credit card. Future generations will be stuck with the bill.[71]

Thus, the American Empire is in decline, spending itself into utter debt and is at the point of “imperial overreach.” As Eric Margolis wrote, “If Obama really were serious about restoring America’s economic health, he would demand military spending be slashed, quickly end the Iraq and Afghan wars and break up the nation’s giant Frankenbanks.”[72]

So, while people at home are on food stamps, welfare, living in tent cities, going to soup kitchens, getting by on debt, and losing their jobs; America sends forces abroad, conducting multiple wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, expanding the war into Pakistan, funding military operations in Yemen, Somalia, Uganda, building massive new military bases in Pakistan and Colombia and providing military aid to governments around the world. As the empire expands, the people become more impoverished.

We cannot afford to ignore the relationship between war, poverty and race. The poor are made to fight the poor; both are often disproportionately people of colour. Yet war enriches the upper class, at least powerful sects of it in industry, the military, oil and banking. In a war economy, death is good for business, poverty is good for society, and power is good for politics. Western nations, particularly the United States, spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year to murder innocent people in far-away impoverished nations, while the people at home suffer the disparities of poverty, class, gender and racial divides. We are told we fight to “spread freedom” and “democracy” around the world; yet, our freedoms and democracy erode and vanish at home. You cannot spread what you do not have. As George Orwell once wrote:

The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.

Notes

[1] David McNally, Another World is Possible: Globalization and Anti-Capitalism. Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2006: page 149

[2] Ibid, page 150

[3] Ibid, pages 151-152

[4] Ibid, pages 152-153

[5] Ibid, page 153

[6] Ibid, pages 153-154

[7] Ibid, pages 154-155

[8] Ibid, page 155

[9] ILO, Women in labour markets: Measuring progress and identifying challenges. International Labour Organization, March 2010: pages 20-21

[10] Jeff Gates, Statistics on Poverty and Inequality. Global Policy Forum: May 1999: http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/218/46377.html

[11] Social & Economic Injustice, World Centric, 2004: http://worldcentric.org/conscious-living/social-and-economic-injustice

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] PRB, PRB's 2005 World Population Data Sheet Reveals Persisting Global Inequalities in Health and Well-Being. Population Reference Bureau, 2005: http://www.prb.org/Journalists/PressReleases/2005/MoreThanHalftheWorldLivesonLessThan2aDayAugust2005.aspx

[15] GPF, Press Release: Pioneering Study Shows Richest Own Half World Wealth. Global Policy Forum: December 5, 2006: http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/218/46555.html

[16] UN, The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009. United Nations, New York, 2009: page 4

[17] Ibid.

[18] G20 Summit: Bank bailout would end global poverty, says Oxfam. The Telegraph: April 1, 2009: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/g20-summit/5087404/G20-Summit-Bank-bailout-would-end-global-poverty-says-Oxfam.html

[19] Press Release, 100 people every minute pushed into poverty by economic crisis. Oxfam International: September 24, 2009: http://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressrelease/2009-09-24/100-people-every-minute-pushed-poverty-economic-crisis

[20] Press Release, Financial crisis to deepen extreme poverty, increase child mortality rates – UN report. UN News Center: March 3, 2009: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=30070

[21] Josie Raymond, MLK's Last Goal: Eradicating Poverty. Poverty in America: January 18, 2010: http://uspoverty.change.org/blog/view/mlks_last_goal_eradicating_poverty

[22] Ibid.

[23] Jeff Gates, Statistics on Poverty and Inequality. Global Policy Forum: May 1999: http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/218/46377.html

[24] Ibid.

[25] David Cay Johnston, I.R.S. MORE LIKELY TO AUDIT THE POOR AND NOT THE RICH. The New York Times: April 16, 2000: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/04/16/business/irs-more-likely-to-audit-the-poor-and-not-the-rich.html?pagewanted=1

[26] Danny Westneat, $10 an hour with 2 kids? IRS pounces. Seattle Times: December 6, 2009: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/dannywestneat/2010435946_danny06.html

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Phillip Rawls, Study: Alabama Income Tax on Working Poor Harshest. ABC news: November 4, 2009: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=8996975

[30] Robert Gebeloff, Food Stamp Use Soars, and Stigma Fades. The New York Times: November 28, 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/29/us/29foodstamps.html

[31] Ibid.

[32] AP, In hard times, tent cities rise across the country. MSNBC: September 18, 2008: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26776283/

[33] Oliver Burkeman, US tent cities highlight new realities as recession wears on. The Guardian: March 26, 2009: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/26/tent-city-california-recession-economy

[34] Gregor Peter Schmitz and Gabor Steingart, Crisis Plunges US Middle Class into Poverty. Der Spiegel: April 23, 2009: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,620754,00.html

[35] Ibid.

[36] RT, Unemployed New Yorkers find a new home in the woods. Russia Today: February 24, 2010: http://rt.com/Top_News/2010-02-24/homeless-woods-new-york.html

[37] Ibid.

[38] V. Dion Haynes, Blacks hit hard by economy's punch. The New York Times: November 24, 2009: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/23/AR2009112304092.html?hpid=topnews

[39] Ibid.

[40] Greg Plotkin, A Quarter of All African Americans Are Hungry. Poverty in America: February 25, 2010: http://uspoverty.change.org/blog/view/a_quarter_of_all_african_americans_are_hungry

[41] Time Grant, Study finds median wealth for single black women at $5. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: March 9, 2010: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10068/1041225-28.stm

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Marian Wright Edelman, Children Drop Out and Into Lives of Poverty and Imprisonment. Poverty in America: January 22, 2010: http://uspoverty.change.org/blog/view/children_drop_out_and_into_lives_of_poverty_and_imprisonment

[45] Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prison Inmates at Midyear 2008 – Statistical Tables, March 2009 (Revised 4/8/09): http://allotherpersons.wordpress.com/2009/11/03/factoid-black-male-incarceration-rate-is-6-times-greater-than-rate-for-white-males/

[46] Duff Wilson, Poor Children Likelier to Get Antipsychotics. The New York Times: December 11, 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/12/health/12medicaid.html

[47] Ibid.

[48] Kelly Sinoski, Children on antipsychotic drugs more prone to diabetes: Canadian study. The Vancouver Sun: November 11, 2009: http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Children+antipsychotic+drugs+more+prone+diabetes+Canadian+study/2212393/story.html

[49] AP, Anti-psychotic drug use in kids skyrockets. MSNBC: March 16, 2006: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11861986/

[50] Rev. Martin Luther King, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/058.html

[51] Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon, The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV. FAIR: January 4, 1995: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2269

[52] David Morgan, Financial crisis could aid military recruitment. Reuters: October 10, 2008: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE4998WU20081010

[53] Simon Johnson, Armed Forces enjoy recruitment surge thanks to the credit crunch. The Telegraph: November 30, 2008: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/financialcrisis/3536738/Armed-forces-enjoy-recruitment-surge-thanks-to-the-credit-crunch.html

[54] Jonathan Krim, Pentagon Creating Student Database. The Washington Post: June 23, 2005: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/22/AR2005062202305.html

[55] ACLU, Soldiers of Misfortune. American Civil Liberties Union: May 13, 2008: page 8: http://www.aclu.org/files/pdfs/humanrights/crc_report_20080513.pdf

[56] Ibid, pages 8-9.

[57] AP, Rural America bears scars from Iraq war. MSNBC: February 20, 2007: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17231366/

[58] Cordula Meyer, US Army Lures Foreigners with Promise of Citizenship. Der Spiegel: October 19, 2007: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,512384,00.html

[59] NPP, Army Recruitment in FY 2008: A Look at Age, Race, Income, and Education of New Soldiers. National Priorities Project, 2008: http://www.nationalpriorities.org/militaryrecruiting2008/a_look_at_race_ethnicity_and_income_of_new_soldiers

[60] Michael Zweig, The War and the Working Class. The Nation: March 13, 2008: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080331/zweig

[61] AP, Bad economy makes for more military recruits. MSNBC: January 19, 2009: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28736832/

[62] Aaron Smith, Military recruitment surges as jobs disappear. CNN Money: March 16, 2009: http://money.cnn.com/2009/02/10/news/economy/military_recruiting/index.htm

[63] Tom Philpott, Weak Economy Draws Middle-Class Recruits. Military.com, October 22, 2009: http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,204238,00.html

[64] Nicholas Kimbrell, US army recruitment booms as economy slumps. The National: December 4, 2009: http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091205/FOREIGN/712049812/1135

[65] Lance Cpl. Antwain J. Graham, U.S. economy makes Marines consider re-enlistment options more seriously. Marines in Japan: January 15, 2010: http://www.okinawa.usmc.mil/Public%20Affairs%20Info/Archive%20News%20Pages/2010/100115-reenlist.html

[66] Robert Kagan, Obama the Interventionist. The Washington Post: April 29, 2007: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/27/AR2007042702027.html

[67] Glen Greenwald, The "defense cut" falsehood from The Washington Post and Robert Kagan. Salon: February 3, 2009: http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2009/02/03/kagan

[68] Patrick Martin, Obama signs bills for record Pentagon, Homeland Security spending. World Socialist Web Site: October 30, 2009: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/oct2009/dfns-o30.shtml

[69] Andrea Shalal-Esa, UPDATE 1-Obama seeks record $708 bln in 2011 defense budget. Reuters: February 1, 2010: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN0120383520100201?type=marketsNews

[70] William D. Hartung, Obama and the Permanent War Budget. Foreign Policy in Focus: December 22, 2009: http://www.fpif.org/articles/obama_and_the_permanent_war_budget

[71] Eric Margolis, Wars sending U.S. into ruin. The Toronto Sun: February 5, 2010: http://www.torontosun.com/comment/columnists/eric_margolis/2010/02/05/12758511-qmi.html

[72] Ibid.