Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Fourth World War

Directed by Rick Rowley. With Suheir Hammad

4th World War - taken from a speech by Marcos calling the war against globalization the 4th World War - is a brief, documentary of radical resistance to global capitalism

Despite the titanic struggles of dispossessed peoples around the world, the wealth of nations continues to reside in fewer and fewer hands. The economies of poor countries collapse under vicious IMF policies, and capitalism's global 'clubs' thrive ever and ever upward. Meanwhile, people keep struggling, ultimately downward.

From the front-lines of conflicts in Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Palestine, Korea, 'the North' from Seattle to Genova, and the 'War on Terror' in New York, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
It is the story of men and women around the world who resist being annihilated in this war.

The Fourth World War

Subcomandante Marcos
La Realidad, Chiapas, Mexico

Translated by irlandesa

The following text is an excerpt from a talk given by Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos to the International Civil Commission of Human Rights Observation in La Realidad, Chiapas on November 20, 1999. The outline for the talk was published in Letters 5.1 and 5.2 in November of the same year, with the titles "Chiapas: the War: 1, Between the Satellite and the Microscope, the Other's Gaze," and 2, "The Machinery of Ethnocide." Any similarity to the conditions of the current war is purely coincidental. Published in Spanish in La Jornada, Tuesday, October 23, 2001.

The Restructuring of War

As we see it, there are several constants in the so-called world wars, in the First World War, in the Second, and in what we call the Third and Fourth.

One of these constants is the conquest of territories and their reorganization. If you consult a map of the world you can see that there were changes at the end of all of the world wars, not only in the conquest of territories, but in the forms of organization. After the First World War, there was a new world map, after the Second World War, there was another world map.

At the end of what we venture to call the "Third World War," and which others call the Cold War, a conquest of territories and a reorganization took place. It can, broadly speaking, be situated in the late 80's, with the collapse of the socialist camp of the Soviet Union, and, by the early 90's, what we call the Fourth World War can be discerned.

Another constant is the destruction of the enemy. Such was the case with nazism in the second World War, and, in the Third, with all that had been known as the USSR and the socialist camp as an option to the capitalist world.

The third constant is the administration of conquest. At the moment at which the conquest of territories is achieved, it is necessary to administer them, so that the winnings can be disbursed to the force which won. We use the term 'conquest" quite a bit, because we are experts in this. Those States, which previously called themselves national, have always tried to conquer the Indian peoples. Despite those constants, there are a series of variables which change from one world war to another: strategy, the actors, or the parties, the armaments used and, lastly, the tactics. Although the latter change, the former are present and can be applied in order to understand one war and another.

The Third World War, or the Cold War, lasted from 1946 (or, if you wish, from the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945) until 1985-1990. It was a large world war made up of many local wars. As in all the others, at the end there was a conquest of territories which destroyed an enemy. Second act, it moved to the administration of the conquest and the reorganization of territories. The actors in this world war were: one, the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective satellites; two, the majority of the European countries; three, Latin America, Africa, parts of Asia and Oceana. The peripheral countries revolved around the US or the USSR, as it suited them. After the superpowers and the peripherals were the spectators and victims, or, that is, the rest of the world. The two superpowers did not always fight face to face. They often did so through other countries. While the large industrialized nations joined with one of the two blocs, the rest of the countries and of the population appeared as spectators or as victims. What characterized this war was: one, the arms orientation and, two, local wars. In the nuclear war, the two superpowers competed in order to see how many times they could destroy the world. The method of convincing the enemy was to present it with a very large force. At the same time, local wars were taking place everywhere in which the superpowers were involved.

The result, as we all know, was the defeat and destruction of the USSR, and the victory of the US, around which the great majority of countries have now come together. This is when what we call the "Fourth World War" broke out. And here a problem arose. The product of the previous war should have been a unipolar world - one single nation which dominated a world where there were no rivals - but, in order to make itself effective, this unipolar world would have to reach what is known as "globalization." The world must be conceived as a large conquered territory with an enemy destroyed. It was necessary to administer this new world, and, therefore, to globalize it. They turned, then, to information technology, which, in the development of humanity, is as important as the invention of the steam engine. Computers allow one to be anywhere simultaneously. There are no longer any borders or constraints of time or geography. It is thanks to computers that the process of globalization began. Separations, differences, Nation States, all eroded, and the world became what is called, realistically, the global village.

The concept on which globalization is based is what we call "neoliberalism," a new religion which is going to permit this process to be carried out. With this Fourth World War, once again, territories are being conquered, enemies are being destroyed and the conquest of these territories is being administered.

The problem is, what territories are being conquered and reorganized, and who is the enemy? Given that the previous enemy has disappeared, we are saying that humanity is now the enemy. The Fourth World War is destroying humanity as globalization is universalizing the market, and everything human which opposes the logic of the market is an enemy and must be destroyed. In this sense, we are all the enemy to be vanquished: indigenous, non-indigenous, human rights observers, teachers, intellectuals, artists. Anyone who believes themselves to be free and is not.

This Fourth World War uses what we call "destruction." Territories are destroyed and depopulated. At the point at which war is waged, land must be destroyed, turned into desert. Not out of a zeal for destruction, but in order to rebuild and reorder it. What is the primary problem confronted by this unipolar world in globalizing itself? Nation States, resistances, cultures, each nation's means of relating, that which makes them different. How is it possible for the village to be global and for everyone to be equal if there are so many differences? When we say that it is necessary to destroy Nation States and to turn them into deserts, it does not mean doing away with the people, but with the peoples' ways of being. After destroying, one must rebuild. Rebuild the territories and give them another place. The place which the laws of the market determine. This is what is driving globalization.

The first obstacle is the Nation States: they must be attacked and destroyed. Everything which makes a State "national" must be destroyed: language, culture, economy, its political life and its social fabric. If national languages are no longer of use, they must be destroyed, and a new language must be promoted. Contrary to what one might think, it is not English, but computers. All languages must be made the same, translated into computer language, even English. All cultural aspects that make a French person French, an Italian Italian, a Dane Danish, a Mexican Mexican, must be destroyed, because they are barriers which prevent them from entering the globalized market. It is no longer a question of making one market for the French, and another for the English or the Italians. There must be one single market, in which the same person can consume the same product in any part of the world, and where the same person acts like a citizen of the world, and no longer as a citizen of a Nation State.

That means that cultural history, the history of tradition, clashes with this process and is the enemy of the Fourth World War. This is especially serious in Europe where there are nations with great traditions. The cultural framework of the French, the Italians, the English, the Germans, the Spanish, etcetera - everything which cannot be translated into computer and market terms - are an impediment to this globalization. Goods are now going to circulate through information channels, and everything else must be destroyed or set aside. Nation States have their own economic structures and what is called "national bourgeoisie" - capitalists with national headquarters and with national profits. This can no longer exist: if the economy is decided at a global level, the economic policies of Nation States which try to protect capital are an enemy which must be defeated. The Free Trade Treaty, and the one which led to the European Union, the Euro, are symptoms that the economy is being globalized, although in the beginning it was about regional globalization, like in the case of Europe. Nation States construct their political relationships, but now political relationships are of no use. I am not characterizing them as good or bad. The problem is that these political relationships are an impediment to the realization of the laws of the market. The national political class is old, it is no longer useful, it has to be changed. They try to remember, they try to remember, even if it is the name of one single statesman in Europe. They simply cannot. The most important figures in the Europe of the Euro are people like the president of the Bundesbank, a banker. What he says is going to determine the policies of the different presidents or prime ministers inflicted on the countries of Europe.

If the social fabric is broken, the old relationships of solidarity which make coexistence possible in a Nation State also break down. That is why campaigns against homosexuals and lesbians, against immigrants, or the campaigns of xenophobia, are encouraged. Everything which previously maintained a certain equilibrium has to be broken at the point at which this world war attacks a Nation State and transforms it into something else.

It is about homogenizing, of making everyone equal, and of hegemonizing a lifestyle. It is global life. Its greatest diversion should be the computer, its work should be the computer, its value as a human being should be the number of credit cards, one's purchasing capacity, one's productive capacity. The case of the teachers is quite clear. The one who has the most knowledge or who is the wisest is no longer valuable. Now the one who produces the most research is valuable, and that is how his salary, his grants, his place in the university, are decided.

This has a lot to do with the United States model. It also so happens, however, that this Fourth World War produces an opposite effect, which we call "fragmentation." The world is, paradoxically, not becoming one, it is breaking up into many pieces. Although it is assumed that the citizen is being made equal, differences as differences are emerging: homosexuals and lesbians, young people, immigrants. Nation States are functioning as a large State, the anonymous State-land-society which divides us into many pieces.

If you look at a world map of this period - the end of the Third World War - and analyze the last eight years, a restructuring took place, most especially - but not only - in Europe. Where there was once one nation, now there are many nations. The world map has been fragmented. This is the paradoxical effect that is taking place because of this Fourth World War. Instead of being globalized, the world is fragmenting, and, instead of this mechanism hegemonizing and homogenizing, more and more differences are appearing. Globalization and neoliberalism are making the world an archipelago. And it must be given a market logic. These fragments must be organized into a common denominator. It is what we call "financial bomb."

At the same time that differences appear, the differences are multiplied. Each young person has his group, his way of thinking, such as punks and skinheads. All of which are in every country. Now the different are not only different, but their differences are multiplied and they seek their own identity. The Fourth World War is obviously not offering them a mirror that allows them to see themselves with a common denominator. It is offering them a broken mirror. As long as it has control of the archipelago - of human beings - the powers are not going to be very upset.

The world is breaking into many pieces, large and small. There are no longer continents in the sense that I would be a European, African or American. What the globalization of neoliberalism is offering is a network built by financial capital, or, if you would prefer, by financial powers. If there is a crisis in this node, the rest of the network will cushion the effects. If there is prosperity in a country, it does not produce the effect of prosperity in other countries. It is, thus, a network which does not function. What they told us about the size of the world was a lie, a speech repeated by the leaders of Latin America, whether Menem, Fujimori, Zedillo, or others leaders of compromised moral character. In fact what is happening is that the network has made Nation States much more vulnerable. It is useless for a country to struggle to construct an equilibrium and its own destiny as a nation. Everything depends on what happens in a bank in Japan, or what the mafia in Russia or a speculator in Sydney does. In one way or another, Nation States are not saved, they are permanently condemned. When a Nation State agrees to join this network - because there is no other choice, because they force it, or out of conviction - it is signing its death certificate.

In short, what this great market wants is to turn all of these islands into commercial centers, not nations. One can go from one country to another and find the same products. There is no longer any difference. In Paris or in San Cristóbal de las Casas you can consume the same thing. If you are in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, you can simultaneously be in Paris getting the news. It is the end of Nation States. And not just that: it is the end of the human beings who make them up. What matters is the law of the market, and that is what establishes how much you produce, how much you are worth, how much you buy, how much you are worth. Dignity, resistance, solidarity all disturb. Everything which prevents a human being from turning into a producing and purchasing machine is an enemy, and it must be destroyed. That is why we are saying that the human species is the enemy for the Fourth World War. It is not destroying it physically, but it is destroying its humanness.

Paradoxically, by destroying Nation States, dignity, resistance and solidarity are built anew. There are no ties stronger, more solid, than those which exist between different groups: between homosexuals, between lesbians, between young people, between migrants. This war, then, goes on to also attack those who are different. That is what those campaigns are owing to, so strong in Europe and in the United States, against the different, because they are dark, speak another language or have another culture. The means of cultivating xenophobia in what remains of the Nation States is to make threats: "These Turkish migrants want to take away your job." "These Mexican immigrants came to rape, they came to steal, they came to sow bad habits." Nation States - or the few of them that remain - delegate to those new citizens of the world - computers - the role of getting rid of those immigrants. And that is when groups like the Ku Klux Klan proliferate, or persons of such probity as Berlusconi reach power. They all build their campaigns based on xenophobia. Hate for the different, persecution against anything that is different, is worldwide. But the resistance of anything that is different is also worldwide. Faced with that aggression, these differences are multiplied, they are solidified. This is how it is, I am not going to characterize it as good or bad, that is how it is happening.

The War Is Not Only Military

In strictly military terms, the Third World War had its logic. It was, in the first place, a conventional war, conceptualized in such a way that, if I put in soldiers, and you put in soldiers, we confront each other, and whoever is left alive wins. This took place in a specific territory which, in the case of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, forces, and the Warsaw Pact, was Europe. Starting from a conventional war, between armies, a military and weapons oriented path was established.

We are going to look at the details a bit more. This [he shows a rifle], for example, is a semi-automatic weapon, and it's called an AR-15 automatic rifle. They manufactured it for the Vietnam conflict, and it can be taken apart very easily [he disarms it], there it is. When they made it, the Americans were thinking about a conventional war scenario, that is, large military contingents which confronted each other. "We'll collect a lot of soldiers, we'll advance, and in the end someone will have to be left." At the same time, the Warsaw Pact was developing the Kalashnikov automatic rifle, which is commonly called the AK-47, a weapon with a lot of firing volume at short range, up to 400 meters. The Soviet concept involved large waves of troops: a mountain of soldiers would advance, firing, and, if they died, a second and a third wave would arrive. The one who had the most soldiers would win.

The Americans then thought: "The old Garand rifle from the Second World War isn't of any use anymore. Now we need a weapon that has a lot of short-range firing power." They took out the AR-15 and tested it in Vietnam. The problem was that it broke down, it didn't work. When they attacked the Viet Cong, the mechanism remained open, and when they fired it went "click." And it wasn't a camera, it was a weapon. They tried to solve the problem with an M16-A1 model. Here the trick is in the bullets, which are called two different things. One, the civilian, 2.223 of an inch - can be bought in any store in the United States. The other - 5.56 millimeter - is for the exclusive use of NATO. This is a very fast bullet and it has a trick to it. In war, the objective is to see that the enemy has losses, not deaths, and an army considers itself to have casualties when a soldier can no longer fight. The Geneva Convention - an agreement to humanize war - forbids expanding bullets, because at the point at which it enters it destroys more, and it's a lot more lethal than a hard tipped bullet.

"Given that the idea is to increase the number of wounded and decrease the number of dead," - they said - "we are prohibiting expansive bullets." A shot from a hard bullet leaves you useless, you're a casualty now, it doesn't kill you unless it reaches a vital organ. In order to fulfill the Geneva Convention and to dupe them, the Americans created the soft tip bullet which, when it enters the human body, bends and turns. The entrance hole is one size, and the exit hole is much bigger. This bullet is worse than the expanding one, and it doesn't violate conventions. Nonetheless, if it gets you in the will blow you up. A 162 bullet goes through you and leaves you wounded, but this one destroys you. Coincidentally, the Mexican government has just bought 16,000 of these bullets.

That is, weapons are created for precise scenarios. We are going to assume they don't want to use the nuclear bomb. What are they going to use? Many soldiers against many soldiers. And so the NATO and Warsaw Pact conventional war doctrines were created.

The second option was a localized nuclear war, a war with nuclear weapons, but only in some places and not in others. There was an agreement between the two superpowers to not attack each other in their own lands, and to fight only on neutral ground. It remains to be said that that this ground was Europe. That's where the bombs were going to fall and one would see who would be left alive in Western Europe and what was then called Eastern Europe.

The last option of the Third World War was total nuclear war, which was a huge business, the business of the century. The logic of nuclear war is that there would be no winner. It doesn't matter who fired first, no matter how quickly he fired, the other would be able to fire also. The destruction was mutual, and, from the beginning, this option was simply renounced. The nature of it came to be what is called in military diplomatic terms, "deterrence."

So that the Soviets wouldn't use nuclear weapons, the Americans developed many nuclear weapons, and, so that they wouldn't use nuclear weapons, the Soviets developed many nuclear weapons, and so on. They called it IBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile), and they were the rockets that went from Russia to the United States and from the United States to Russia. They cost a fortune, and now they're not useful for anything. There were also other nuclear weapons for local use which were the ones they were going to use in Europe in the case of a localized nuclear war.

When this phase began, in 1945, there was a war to be fought because Europe was divided in two. The military strategy - we are speaking of the purely military aspects - was the following: a few forward positions in front of the enemy line, a line of permanent logistics, and the mother country, called the United States or the Soviet Union. The logistical line supplied the forward positions. Large airplanes that were in the air 24 hours a day, the B-52 Fortress, carried the nuclear bombs, and they never had to land. And there were the pacts. The NATO Pact, the Warsaw Pact and the SEATO (South East Asia Treaty Organization) Pact, which is like the NATO of the Asian countries. The model was put into play in local wars. Everything had a logic, and it was logical to fight in Vietnam, which was an agreed scenario. The local armies and insurgents were in the role of the forward positions. In the role of permanent logistics were the lines of clandestine or legal arms sales, and, in the role of the mother countries, the two superpowers. And there was also an agreement about the places where they had to remain as spectators. The clearest examples of these local wars are the dictatorships of Latin America, the conflicts in Asia, especially Vietnam, and the wars in Africa. These apparently had absolutely no logic whatsoever, since the majority of the time what was going on wasn't understood. But what was happening was part of this outline of conventional war.

It was during this period - and that is important - that the concept of "total war" was being developed. Elements which are no longer military enter into military doctrine. For example, in Vietnam, from the Tet offensive (1968) until the fall of Saigon (1975), the media again became a very important battle front. And so, the idea began to develop in the military that military power was not enough. It was necessary to incorporate others, such as the media. And also that the enemy could be attacked with economic measures, with political measures and with diplomacy, which is the game of the United Nations and of international organizations. Some countries create sabotage in order to secure the condemnation or censuring of others, which is called "diplomatic war."

All these wars followed the domino theory. It sounds ridiculous, but they were like two rivals playing dominoes with the rest of the population. One of the opponents would put down a piece, and the other would try to put his down in order to cut off the follow-up. It is the theory of that illustrious individual by the name of Kissinger, the Secretary of State for the United States government during the Vietnam era, who said: "We cannot abandon Vietnam because it would mean giving up the game of dominoes in Southeast Asia to the others." And that is why they did what they did in Vietnam.

It was also about trying to regain the logic of the Second World War. For most of the population, it [the Second World War] had been heroic. There was the image of the Marines liberating France from the dictatorship, liberating Italy from the Duce, liberating Germany from the military, the red army entering from all sides. The Second World War was supposedly waged in order to eliminate a danger for all humanity, that of national socialism. Thus the local wars attempted, one way or another, to regain the ideology of "we are acting in the defense of the free world." But now Moscow was in the role of national socialism. And Moscow, for its part, did the same thing: both superpowers tried to use the argument of "democracy" and the "free world", as each of them conceived it.

Afterwards came the Fourth World War, which destroyed everything from before, because the world is no longer the same, and the same strategy cannot be applied. The concept of "total war" was developed further: it is not only a war on all fronts, it is a war which can be anywhere, a total war in which the entire world is at stake. "Total war" means: at any moment, in any place, under any circumstances. The idea of fighting for one place in particular no longer exists. Now the fight can take place at any moment. There is no longer the concept of escalation of the conflict with threats, the taking of positions and attempts to reposition oneself. At any moment and in any circumstances, a conflict can arise. It can be domestic problem, it can be a dictator and everything which the last wars of the last five years have been, from Kosovo to the Persian Gulf War. The entire military routine of the Cold War has, thus, been destroyed.

It is not possible to make war, in the Fourth World War, under the criteria of the Third, because now I have to fight any place, I don't know where I'm going to have to fight, nor do I know when, I have to act rapidly, I don't even know what circumstances I'm going to have to prosecute this war. In order to resolve the problem, the military first developed the "rapid deployment" war. An example would be the Persian Gulf War, a war which involved a great accumulation of military force in a short period of time, a large military action in a short period of time, the conquering of territories and withdrawal. The invasion of Panama would be another example of rapid deployment. There is, in fact, a NATO contingent which is called "rapid intervention force." Rapid deployment is a large mass of military force which throws itself against the enemy and which makes no distinction between a children's hospital and a chemical weapons factory. That is what happened in Iraq: the smart bombs were quite stupid, they made no distinctions. And that's where they remained, because they realized that this is quite expensive, and it contributes very little. In Iraq they made an entire deployment, but there was no conquest of territory. There were the problems of the local protests, there were the international human rights observers.

They had to withdraw. Vietnam had already taught them that, in these instances, it is not prudent to insist: "No, we can't do this now," they said. They then moved on to the strategy of "projection of force." "Better to have forward positions in North American military bases all over the world, accumulating a great continental force which, in a matter of hours or days, will have the capacity to put in military units any place in the world." And they can, in fact, put in a division of four or five thousand men in the most distant point in the planet in four days, and more, constantly more.

But the projection of force has the problem of being based on local soldiers, or, rather, on US soldiers. They believe that, if the conflict is not resolved rapidly, the body bags, the dead, will begin arriving, like in Vietnam, and this could provoke many domestic protests in North America, or in whichever country. In order to avoid those problems, they abandoned the projection of force, making - let us be clear - mercantile calculations. They did not make calculations about the destruction of the human forces, or the natural ones, but of publicity and image. And so the war of projection was abandoned, and they went on to a model of war with local soldiers, more international help, more of a supranational body. Now it was not about sending soldiers, but of fighting by means of the soldiers who were there, helping them according to the basis of the conflict, and not using the model of a nation which declares war, but of a supranational body like the UN or NATO. The ones doing the dirty work are the local soldiers, and the ones in the newspapers are the Americans and the international support. This is the model. Protesting no longer works: it is not a war of the United States government. It's a war by NATO, and, besides, NATO is merely doing the favor of helping the UN.

Throughout the entire world, the restructuring of armies is so that they can confront a local conflict with international support under supranational cover, and under the disguise of humanitarian war. It has to do with saving the population from a genocide by killing it. And that is what happened in Kosovo. Milosevich waged a war against humanity: "If we confront Milosevich, we are defending humanity." That is the argument the NATO generals used and which brought so many problems to the European left: opposing NATO bombings implied supporting Milosevich, better, then, to support the NATO bombings. And Milosevich, you know, was armed by the United States. The military conception - which is what is now at play - is that the entirety of the world - whether Sri Lanka or any other country, the most distant one can think of - is now the backyard, because the globalized world produces simultaneity. And that is the problem: in this globalized world, anything that happens any place affects the new international order. The world is no longer the world, it's a village, and everything is very close. Therefore the great policemen of the world - especially the United States - have the right to intervene anywhere, at any time, under any circumstances. They can consider anything as a threat to their domestic security. They can easily decide that the indigenous uprising in Chiapas threatens the domestic security of North America, or the Tamils in Sri Lanka, or whatever you want. Any movement - and not necessarily armed - anyplace can be considered a threat to domestic security.

What is that has happened? The old strategies and old concepts of making war have collapsed. Let us see.

"Theatre of operations" is the military term for indicating the place where the war is going to occur. In the Third World War, Europe was the theatre of operations. Now it is not known where it is going to break out, it could be any place, it is no longer certain that it is going to be in Europe. Military doctrine moves from what is called "system" to what they call "versatility." "I have to be ready to do anything at any moment. A plan is no longer sufficient: now I need many plans, not just to construct a response to particular incidents, but to construct many military responses to specific incidents." This is where information technology intervenes. This change leads to moving from the systematic, the inflexible, the rigid, to the versatile, to that which can change from one moment to the next. And that is going to define the entire new military doctrine of armies, of military corps and of soldiers. This will be one element in the Fourth World War. The other will be the movement from "containment strategy" to that of "drawing out" or "extension": now it is not just about conquering territory, containing the enemy, now it is about prolonging the conflict to what they call "non-war acts." In the case of Chiapas, this has to do with taking out and putting in governments and municipal presidents, with human rights, with the media, etcetera.

Included in the new military conception is an intensification of the conquest of territory. This means that it is necessary to not only be concerned about the EZLN and its military force, but also about the church, the NGOs, international observers, the press, civilians, etcetera. There are no longer civilians and neutrals. The entire world is part of the conflict.

This implies that national armies are of no use, because they no longer have to defend Nation States. If there are no Nation States, what are they going to defend? Under the new doctrine, national armies go on to play the role of local police. The case of Mexico is quite clear: the Mexican Army is doing more and more police work, like the fight against drug trafficking, or this new body against organized crime which is called the Federal Preventative Police and which is made up of military personnel. It is about national armies turning into local police in the manner of a US comic book: a Super Cop, a Super Police. When the army in the former Yugoslavia was reorganized, it had to turn into a local police force, and NATO is going to be its Super Cop, its senior partner in political terms. The star is the supranational body, in this case NATO or the US army, and the extras are the local armies.

But national armies were built on the basis of a doctrine of "national security." If there are enemies or dangers to the security of a nation, their work is to maintain security, sometimes against an external enemy, sometimes against destabilizing domestic enemies. This is the doctrine of the Third World War or Cold War. Under these assumptions, national armies develop a national conscious which now makes it difficult to turn them into police friends of the Super Police. Thus the doctrine of national security must now be transformed into "national stability." The point is no longer defending the nation. Since the main enemy of national stability is drug trafficking, and drug trafficking is international, national armies which operate under the banner of national stability accept international aid or international interference from other countries.

The problem of again reordering national armies exists at the world level. Now we go down to America, and from there to Latin America. The process is a bit similar to that which took place in Europe and which was seen in the Kosovo war with NATO. In the case of Latin America, there is the Organization of American States, the OAS, with the Hemispheric Defense System. According to the former president of Argentina, Menem, all the countries of Latin America are threatened and we need to unite, destroying the national consciences of the armies, and to make a great army under the doctrine of a hemispheric defense system, using the argument of drug trafficking. Given that what is at stake is versatility - or the capacity to make war at any moment, in any place and under any circumstances - rehearsals begin. The few bastions of national defense which still exist must be destroyed by this hemispheric system. If it was Kosovo in Europe, in Latin America it is Colombia and Chiapas. How is this system of hemispheric defense constructed? In two ways. In Colombia, where the threat of drug trafficking is present, the government is asking for everyone's help: "We have to intervene because drug trafficking not only affects Colombia, but the entire continent." In the case of Chiapas, the concept of total war is applied. Everyone is a part, there are no neutrals, you are either an ally or you are an enemy.

The New Conquest

In the fragmentation process - turning the entire world into an archipelago - financial power wants to build a new shopping center which will have tourism and natural resources in Chiapas, Belize and Guatemala.

Apart from being full of oil and uranium, the problem is that it is full of indigenous. And the indigenous, in addition to not speaking Spanish, do not want credit cards, they do not produce, they are involved in planting maize, beans, chile, coffee, and they think about dancing to a marimba rather than using a computer. They are neither consumers nor producers. They are superfluous. And everything that is superfluous is expendable. But they do not want to go, and they do not want to stop being indigenous. There is more: their struggle is not to take over power. There struggle is to be recognized as Indian peoples, that their right to exist is recognized, without having to turn into other people.

But the problem is that here, in the land that is at war, in zapatista territory, are the main indigenous cultures, there are the languages and the largest oil deposits. There are the seven Indian peoples who participate in the EZLN, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Tojolabal, Chol, Zoque, Mam and mestizos. This is the map of Chiapas: communities with an indigenous population and with oil, uranium and precious wood. For neoliberalism everything is merchandise, it is sold, it is exploited. And these indigenous come to say no, that the land is mother, it is the depository of culture, that history lives here, and the dead live here. Absolutely absurd things that cannot be entered on any computer and which are not listed on a stock exchange. And there is no way to convince them to be good, to learn to think right, they simply do not want to. They even rose up in arms. This is why - we say - that the Mexican government does not want to make peace: it is because they want to do away with this enemy and turn this land to desert, afterwards reorganizing it and setting it to operate as a huge shopping center, a Mall in the Mexican Southeast. The EZLN supports the Indian peoples, and is, in this way, an enemy, but not the main one. It is not enough to sort things out with the EZLN, even worse if sorting things out with the EZLN means renouncing this land, because that will mean peace in Chiapas, it will mean renouncing the conquest of a land rich in oil, in precious woods and uranium. This is why they have not done so and are not going to do so.

Ironies in American Justice and Political Cheerleading

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(1) A reader reminded me of this yesterday and it’s really quite something: in July, 2009, NBC‘s Chuck Todd went on Morning Joe to defend President Obama’s decision to shield all Bush officials from prosecution for torture, arguing that because Bush got his lawyers to say he could torture, it was legal. I interviewed/debated Todd a couple of days later about those views, but before I did, I wrote a reply to the argument he made on television. When doing so, I tried to think of the most extreme tyrannical and lawless power possible which a President could hypothetically assert, in order to reveal the invalidity of Todd’s reasoning, and this is what I wrote:

I’d like to ask Chuck Todd: if Bush had John Yoo write a memo opining that it was perfectly legal for Bush to deploy hit squads within the U.S. to assassinate American citizens without any due process, would it be wrong to investigate and prosecute that, too, on the ground that everyone had permission slips from a DOJ lawyer and that’s just what lawyers do?

The current President has, of course, obtained his own DOJ permission slip to assassinate American citizens without due process. Since that permission slip is too secret for us to see, we do not know whether the authorized assassination power is confined to foreign soil or extends to the U.S., although once one embraces the Bush-Cheney-Yoo theory that the entire world is a “battlefield,” there is no coherent way to limit those asserted powers to foreign soil. In any event, the real point here is that our government has become so radical and warped that it outstrips one’s ability to create absurd hypothetical powers to test the validity of a principle: before you blink your eyes, you find that your hypothetical has become reality.

(2) Yesterday, the Obama administration — which, in the past six months alone, has killed three American citizens in Yemen: Anwar Awlaki, Samir Khan, and Awlaki’s 16-year-old son Abdulrahman — smashed the limits of all known irony charts:

The only civilized way to kill Americans in Yemen is through the use of drones. Or, put another way: killing Americans in Yemen: that’s our job — not the job of you Terrorists!

(3) After Bradley Manning was arrested on charges that he leaked documents to WikiLeaks, he was held in intense solitary confinement for ten months until political pressure finally forced his transfer to more humane conditions in Fort Leavenworth; the top U.N. torture official last week concluded that Manning’s treatment during those 10 months was “cruel and inhumane.” By stark contrast, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales — the prime suspect in the slaughter of 16 Afghan civilians — is already at Fort Leavenworth and is receiving this treatment:

Bales arrived at Fort Leavenworth last Friday and is being held in an isolated cell. He is “already being integrated into the normal pretrial confinement routine,” prison spokeswoman Rebecca Steed said.

The routine includes recreation, meals and cleaning the area where he is living. Steed said once his meetings with his attorneys are complete later in the week, Bales will resume the normal integration process.

An ABC News article back when Manning was transferred to Fort Leavenworth included these details:

The 150 inmates at the facility — including eight who are awaiting trial — are allowed three hours of recreation a day, she said, and three meals a day in a dining area.

That likely means that there will be some substantial interaction between Bales and Manning. Think about that: if you expose to the world previously unknown evidence of widespread wanton killing of civilians (as Manning allegedly did), then you will end up in the same place as someone who actually engages in the mass wanton killing of civilians (as Bales allegedly did), except that the one who committed atrocities will receive better treatment than the one who exposed them. That’s a nice reflection of our government’s value system (similar to the way that high government officials who commit egregious crimes are immunized, while those who expose them are aggressively prosecuted). If the chat logs are to be believed, Manning decided to leak those documents because they revealed heinous war crimes that he could no longer in good conscience allow to be concealed, and he will now find himself next to a soldier who is accused of committing heinous war crimes.

(4) I have an Op-Ed in The Guardian on the quick removal of Bales from Afghanistan and the resulting exclusion of Afghans from the investigation into what happened. Today, The New York Times explains the serious difficulties this could pose to Bales’ prosecution:

The case could founder in the courtroom on questions of evidence collected under difficult conditions thousands of miles away, . . . .Gathering evidence and securing the cooperation of witnesses can be bedeviling in far-flung places, and contributed to the collapse of the prosecutions against Marines linked to the killings of 24 men, women and children in the Iraqi city of Haditha. Charges were dropped against most of the Marines who were tried in that case.

Perhaps trying him in Afghanistan would have solved those problems. It is true that American soldiers accused of commiting crimes are not legally subject to the Afghan judicial system, but that does not mean that their trials cannot take place in Afghanistan, thus ensuring the inclusion of Afghans in the investigation and the subsequent attempts to bring justice to those who deserve it.

(5) There are a couple of articles that have appeared in the last week or so about the willingness of many Democrats to passively accept or even actively cheer for policies under President Obama that they vehemently condemned (or would have condemned) under President Bush: this from Politico, and this from Tim Carney at The Washington Examiner. Back in June, 2009, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert — once an ardent admirer of President Obama — wrote a column lambasting his civil liberties record, and this was the first sentence in Herbert’s column: “Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House.” At the time, I truly did not fathom how that principle — which really should just be an unstated axiom — would not only come to be so controversial but routinely violated and ignored.

(6) In November, 2011, Jonathan Chait wrote an article for New York Magazine castigating liberals as “unreasonable” for failing to revere President Obama as much as Chait does. Today, Chait wrote an article entitled “How Obama Tried to Sell Out Liberalism in 2011” about a new Washington Post piece detailing the President’s attempts last year to massively cut Social Security and other entitlement programs without any new revenue. Chait concludes: “What the story actually shows is that Obama’s disastrous weakness in the summer of 2011 went further toward undermining liberalism than anybody previously knew.” This was the essence of Chait’s accusation back when he was in Obama-hagiography mode: “Liberals are dissatisfied with Obama because liberals, on the whole, are incapable of feeling satisfied with a Democratic president.” The Prime Progressive Pundit Principle: The permissible range of Obama criticism is precisely equal to the amount that I criticize Obama.

Meanwhile, Chait’s primary competitor for supreme Obama media defender, Andrew Sullivan, has spent this week doing what he often does: insisting that President Obama is a True Conservative, and that the Right is therefore irrational for not adoring him the way that Andrew does. Notably, Andrew is equally fond of attacking liberals who fail to adore the President as much as Andrew does, on the ground that Obama has achieved more progressive goals than any President in decades. In other words, Andrew’s core defense of the President — set forth most comprehensively in his Newsweek cover story declaring the President’s critics on both the right and the left to be basically stupid and crazy – amounts to simultaneously claiming that: (1) conservative critics of Obama are dumb because Obama is a Real Conservative; and (2) liberal critics of the President are dumb because Obama’s presidency is a bonanza of progressive successes. As Guy Saperstein put it: “The fact that these two critiques are internally inconsistent has somehow managed to escape Mr. Sullivan.”

What seems to permit these simultaneously held views is the belief that President Obama’s personal greatness is so vast and profound (perhaps deserving of Mount Rushmore elevation given the pile of corpses he’s assembled) that he is actually both The Great Conservative President and The Great Liberal President all rolled into one. He deserves the gratitude and admiration of everyone regardless of their agreement with his policies and actions: that’s how fantastic he is as a leader. That said, Andrew really seemed to enjoy the White House state dinner to which he was invited last week, including his “warm chat with the president” and discovering “the impact that the Newsweek Obama cover-story had on Obama donors and staffers,” so that’s good. It’s important and gratifying as a journalist to know that you’ve given something of great value to a politician’s donors and staffers; isn’t that why the Founders insisted on a free press?

(7) I was on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story yesterday debating the material support given to MEK, a designated Terrorist group, by many of Washington’s most well-connected former officials. It was a robust and contentious debate, well worth watching, and I’ll post the video when it’s available. NBC News reported last week that more subpoenas have been issued seeking to investigate payments to these officials, now including former Gov. Ed Rendell, ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh, and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton. The extremely broad “material support” laws are a grave threat to free speech and free association, but nobody of any significance in Washington cared or objected when the ones being imprisoned were powerless, nameless Muslims (indeed, some now receiving payments from MEK were the same ones cheering or even perpetrating those “material support” prosecutions). Perhaps this is what is needed to motivate those with influence to put a stop to these McCarthyite prosecutions. I would draw an analogy to the Drug War: injustices are easy to perpetuate when they primarily affect those who are powerless and marginalized; it’s much more difficult when they apply equally to those with power.

Where is the outrage over the killing of a U.S. citizen?

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"... nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

-- from the 14th Amendment

Spin it any way you want. Justify it, rationalize it, chalk it up to the exigencies of war. And at the end, the fact remains:

A U.S. citizen is dead and the U.S. government killed him. Without trial. Without due process. Without hesitation. And many of those who loudly deplored George W. Bush for smaller excesses seem content to allow Barack Obama this larger one.

No, I do not mourn the death of Anwar al-Awlaki. If anyone ever deserved to have a missile from a predator drone land in his lap, it was this New Mexico-born Muslim cleric, killed last September in Yemen, his ancestral homeland. American counterterrorism experts say he planned the failed 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner. Additionally, he is said to have inspired the Fort Hood massacre of 2009 and the botched Times Square bombing of 2010. The world is a better place without this guy in it.

Still, the means of his dispatch from this world ought to give us pause.

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech in which he attempted to justify what the administration did. His reasoning was not compelling. In Holder's formulation, the U.S. government has the right to kill citizens if said citizens present an imminent threat of violent attack and if capturing them alive is not a feasible option. It can do this, said Holder, speaking at Northwestern University School of Law, without judicial oversight.

"Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qaida or associated forces," he said. "This is simply not accurate. Due process and judicial process are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process; it does not guarantee judicial process."

What a flimsy rationale upon which to balance a decision as monumental and portentous as the killing of a citizen. Even granting that the demands of armed conflict sometimes make such things necessary, it is inconceivable that the White House would claim the right to kill without at least presenting its evidence before a federal judge in a secret hearing. To eschew even that safeguard -- there is precedent, in urgent cases, for a ruling to be handed down in hours or even minutes -- is to set Obama up as potential judge, jury and executioner of every accused terrorist.

So where is the outrage? Had Bush claimed the right to kill American citizens without judicial oversight, the resulting cries of protest would have been audible on the moon. Indeed, one of the protesters would likely have been Obama himself; he came into office on a promise to rein in the excesses of the Bush years, most infamously the torture of so-called enemy combatants.

Now, Team Obama seeks to justify an excess Team Bush never did. Bush often said his job was to keep the American people safe. Not to diminish or demean that necessary goal, but it is worth noting that his oath of office actually says nothing of the kind. Rather, it requires him to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

It is difficult to see where torture -- much less, unilateral killing -- is consonant with that promise. And the people who decried Bush's excesses should also decry Obama's. Instead, he enjoys a measure of leeway and trust that Bush, whose overreach was much more habitual, never did. That forbearance is misplaced.

The leaders change, but the country is the country is the country -- and the principle at stake here is bigger than any one person's term in office. So, no, Obama does not deserve the leeway and trust our lack of outrage accords him.

No president does.

Job Seekers Getting Asked for Facebook Passwords

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When Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password.

Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. But she couldn’t see his private profile. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information.

Bassett refused and withdrew his application, saying he didn’t want to work for a company that would seek such personal information. But as the job market steadily improves, other job candidates are confronting the same question from prospective employers, and some of them cannot afford to say no.

In their efforts to vet applicants, some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person’s social networking profiles and instead asking to log in as the user to have a look around.

“It’s akin to requiring someone’s house keys,’’ said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor who calls it “an egregious privacy violation.’’

Questions have been raised about the legality of the practice, which is also the focus of proposed legislation in Illinois and Maryland that would forbid public agencies from asking for access to social networks.

Since the rise of social networking, it has become common for managers to review publically available Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts and other sites to learn more about job candidates. But many users, especially on Facebook, have their profiles set to private, making them available only to selected people or certain networks.

Companies that don’t ask for passwords have taken other steps — such as asking applicants to friend human resource managers or to log in to a company computer during an interview. Once employed, some workers have been required to sign non-disparagement agreements that ban them from talking negatively about an employer on social media.

Asking for a candidate’s password is more prevalent among public agencies, especially those seeking to fill law enforcement positions such as police officers or 911 dispatchers.

Back in 2010, Robert Collins was returning to his job as a security guard at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services after taking a leave following his mother’s death. During a reinstatement interview, he was asked for his login and password, purportedly so the agency could check for any gang affiliations. He was stunned by the request but complied.

“I needed my job to feed my family. I had to,’’ he recalled.

After the ACLU complained about the practice, the agency amended its policy, asking instead for job applicants to log in during interviews.

“To me, that’s still invasive. I can appreciate the desire to learn more about the applicant, but it’s still a violation of people’s personal privacy,’’ said Collins, whose case inspired Maryland’s legislation.

Until last year, the city of Bozeman, Mont., had a long-standing policy of asking job applicants for passwords to their email addresses, social-networking websites and other online accounts.

And since 2006, the McLean County, Ill., sheriff’s office has been one of several Illinois sheriff’s departments that ask applicants to sign into social media sites to be screened.

Chief Deputy Rusty Thomas defended the practice, saying applicants have a right to refuse. But no one has ever done so. Thomas said that “speaks well of the people we have apply.’’

When asked what sort of material would jeopardize job prospects, Thomas said “it depends on the situation’’ but could include “inappropriate pictures or relationships with people who are underage, illegal behavior.’’

In Spotsylvania County, Va., the sheriff’s department asks applicants to friend background investigators for jobs at the 911 dispatch center and for law enforcement positions.

“In the past, we’ve talked to friends and neighbors, but a lot of times we found that applicants interact more through social media sites than they do with real friends,’’ said Capt. Mike Harvey. “Their virtual friends will know more about them than a person living 30 yards away from them.’’

Harvey said investigators look for any “derogatory’’ behavior that could damage the agency’s reputation.

E. Chandlee Bryan, a career coach and co-author of the book “The Twitter Job Search Guide,’’ said job seekers should always be aware of what’s on their social media sites and assume someone is going to look at it.

Bryan said she is troubled by companies asking for logins, but she feels it’s not a violation if an employer asks to see a Facebook profile through a friend request. And she’s not troubled by non-disparagement agreements.

“I think that when you work for a company, they are essentially supporting you in exchange for your work. I think if you’re dissatisfied, you should go to them and not on a social media site,’’ she said.

More companies are also using third-party applications to scour Facebook profiles, Bryan said. One app called BeKnown can sometimes access personal profiles, short of wall messages, if a job seeker allows it.

Sears is one of the companies using apps. An applicant has the option of logging into the Sears job site through Facebook by allowing a third-party application to draw information from the profile, such as friend lists.

Sears Holdings Inc. spokeswoman Kim Freely said using a Facebook profile to apply allows Sears to be updated on the applicant’s work history.

The company assumes “that people keep their social profiles updated to the minute, which allows us to consider them for other jobs in the future or for ones that they may not realize are available currently,’’ she said.

Giving out Facebook login information violates the social network’s terms of service. But those terms have no real legal weight, and experts say the legality of asking for such information remains murky.

The Department of Justice regards it as a federal crime to enter a social networking site in violation of the terms of service, but during recent congressional testimony, the agency said such violations would not be prosecuted.

But Lori Andrews, law professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law specializing in Internet privacy, is concerned about the pressure placed on applicants, even if they voluntarily provide access to social sites.

“Volunteering is coercion if you need a job,’’ Andrews said.

Neither Facebook nor Twitter responded to repeated requests for comment.

In New York, Bassett considered himself lucky that he was able to turn down the consulting gig at a lobbying firm.

“I think asking for account login credentials is regressive,’’ he said. “If you need to put food on the table for your three kids, you can’t afford to stand up for your belief.’’

The Rich Evade Taxes and We End Up Paying Their Share

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The other day I helped my son with his taxes. He was doing them for the first time, after spending a year with his new college degree looking for a job and managing his student loan account. We found out that he would be paying more in federal taxes than a hedge fund manager who made $5 billion. Our calculations indicate that he won't be getting a state refund, because Illinois raised the state tax rate from 3% to 5% in 2011. He would have to pay the full 5% state tax. The top 20 corporations in Illinois paid 2.2% from 2008 to 2010, when the corporate rate was 7.3%.

Having ruined my son's day with this information, I made myself feel even worse by digging deeper into the details of tax avoidance by the wealthy. To get into the 1% club, it takes about $400,000 in salary. Members of the club can make up to 10,000 times MORE than this and pay ZERO taxes because they don't call their income "income" like we do. They call it "carried interest," which means they can defer taxes almost indefinitely.

Then I went back a few years to the 1970s when soon-to-be-in-power Republicans became convinced that lowering taxes on the rich would generate more revenue. It didn't work. Federal revenues are currently at their lowest level in 60 years. The average federal tax rate has gone way down for the richest 1%. Yet, remarkably it's gone UP for everyone in the 40th to 95th percentiles of taxpayers, which includes most of the rest of us.

How do wealthy individuals respond? They pout, and avoid taxes even further with clever strategies, such as hiring "full service tax evasion advisers" to help them elude the Internal Revenue Service.

It got worse when I compared my son's taxes to those of corporations. In the 1950s, for every dollar of payroll tax paid by workers, corporations paid three dollars. Now they pay 16 cents.

From 2008 to 2010, the top 100 U.S. corporations paid only 12.2% of their income in taxes, and thirty of them paid nothing at all.

At the state level, a study of 265 large companies revealed that an average of 3% was paid in state taxes, less than half the average state tax rate of 6.2%. The 265 companies avoided a total of $42.7 billion in state corporate income taxes over the three years.

How do corporations respond? They complain about the corporate tax rate in the US, even though the percentage actually paid is very low relative to other OECD countries. Then they look for tax havens. Citizens for Tax Justice reports that the 280 most profitable US corporations sheltered half their profits from taxes between 2008 and 2010.

The rest of us pay a variety of taxes that can consume over 40% of our incomes, such as state and local taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and excise taxes. These taxes are regressive and steadily rising. In my hometown of Chicago, the city with the highest sales tax in the country, where the state tax rate was recently increased by 66% and property taxes went up $300 per homeowner, and where 2012 state education spending was cut by a greater percentage than in any other state, a tax break of $85 million per year was given to a company (CME) that has a profit margin higher than any of the top 100 companies in the nation.

When my son's in a better mood I'll tell him about all this. I'll try to convince him that despite all the unfairness, paying taxes is still the best way for many of us to show our patriotism. The more benefits one has received from society, the more he or she should return to our country to keep it productive and well-maintained.

Worse than paying taxes, I'll tell him, is NOT paying taxes. Tax avoiders are cheating millions of people who have contributed to America's productivity over the years and would like to share in some of the resulting benefits.

And then I'll advise him not to stand too close when I start my own taxes.

Over 110 Groups Urge U.S. AG Holder to Open an Immediate Investigation of the NYPD

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Today over 110 civil rights, faith, community and civic groups sent a joint letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder demanding an immediate investigation of the NYPD's surveillance practices for violations of the constitutional rights of American Muslims. This request comes after New York Mayor Bloomberg and New York Attorney General Schneiderman's refusal to look into the matter, several months after 34 members of Congress asked Holder for an investigation, and after scores of organizations privately and publicly asked the Civil Rights Division to investigate the NYPD.

To read the letter, click here.

"The integrity of our justice system is on the line," said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, which organized the letter to the Attorney General. "Despite a barrage of complaints from public officials, civic organizations and concerned citizens, those responsible for oversight have turned a blind eye toward the egregious actions of the NYPD.

The letter is signed by a diverse group of organizations, across faiths and political backgrounds. Signatories include:

Center for Constitutional Rights
Occupy Wall Street
Muslim Advocates
Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee
Asian Law Caucus
Interfaith Alliance
Defending Dissent Foundation
Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (NYC)
NY State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Sikh Coalition
Rights Working Group
Alliance for Justice
Women In Islam (NY)
Bill Of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC)
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

About Muslim Advocates
Muslim Advocates is a national educational and legal advocacy organization that envisions a world in which equality, liberty, and justice are guaranteed for all, regardless of faith. Muslim Advocates provides leadership through legal advocacy, policy engagement, and civic education, and serves as a legal resource to promote the full and meaningful participation of Muslims in American public life.

Occupy Miami Raided, SWAT Team Draws Weapons on Children

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This week, I've been exploring all the different types of ways police and the District Attorney's office in New York have been monitoring, bullying, and harassing Occupiers. Of course, this civil liberties accosting is by no means isolated to the New York City area as we saw on Tuesday when dozens of police equipped with shotguns and assault rifles stormed a Miami, Florida apartment and drew their weapons on peaceful protesters and children with the local Occupy Wall Street campaign.

If a SWAT team drew down on unarmed occupiers, that would still be a horrifying, newsworthy story, but what makes the Miami event additionally alarming is that these were not squatters, but rather legal residents. (photo by Chris Mazorra)

That detail seems to have been glossed over in the media. The term "occupiers," though obviously drawing from the name of the protest group, paints an inaccurate depiction of this specific group as having been illegally occupying the apartment building. That's not the case.

Rodrigo Duque, the owner of the apartment building and Occupy protester, allowed some members of Occupy Miami to live there following the eviction of protesters from their camp on January 31.

During the raid, protesters claim police drew their weapons on children, forced a 57-year-old diabetic woman onto the ground, and allegedly harassed at least one individual, Ramy Mahmoud, during an informal interrogation.

"They are calling us terrorists, but what I saw today was demons pointing guns at us," Ramy Mahmoud adds to the account. "They terrified us.”

Mahmoud claims he was asked questions such as, "Are you a Muslim?" and "Do you love this country?"

"I said hell no, I don't love this country, and it's because of shit like this,” Mahmoud tells the Miami New Times.

Police say they were responding to alleged reports that residents inside were stockpiling weapons to use in an upcoming demonstration.

“They said that they had gotten a tip that we had 'long guns' and were going to use them at our protest," Occupy member Thomas Parisi tells the Miami New Times. "But we are a peaceful movement and told them that we had no intention of doing anything like that."

Police placed protesters in handcuffs initially, but later released them at the scene and no arrests were made, keeping with the national theme of the arbitrary "grab and release" strategy implemented by law enforcement in dealing with Occupy.

Like the rest of the country, Florida police have undergone a rapid militarization. Rania Khalek profiled this transformation that tends to accelerate in anticipation of political conventions like the Republican National Convention, which takes place in Tampa this year.

The Tampa City Council recently voted on using some of the $50 million in federal grants secured by the city for the 2012 Republican National Convention for a "series of police upgrades" that will include an armoured SWAT truck and a high-tech communication system.

The city council agreed to spend nearly $237,000 on a Lenco BearCat armored vehicle, which will be used in conjunction with two aging armored vehicles the city acquired through the military surplus program. Tampa Assistant Police Chief Marc Hamlin told the Tampa Bay Times that the trucks are strictly for the purpose of protecting officers from potential gunfire, not for day-to-day patrolling and crowd control.

When looking at a photo of the Lenco BearCat armoured vehicle, it's clear "aromored vehicle" is only a slightly friendlier euphemism for what this beastly monstrosity actually is: a tank.

Although the vote was unanimous, City Council Vice Chairwoman Mary Mulhern expressed alarm about the purchase. Mulhern told AlterNet, “I didn't even know that our police force had a tank and Hamlin made a convincing argument that it’s been used to save a life. I would’ve voted no if we didn’t already have one -- it’s chilling that the police have a tank.” She fears these types of purchases could “militarize” Tampa’s police force.

No evidence has emerged yet that the arrival of the RNC in the fall and the raids on Occupy are related, but it's important to monitor this kind of harassment of protesters, particularly now that SWAT teams are drawing their weapons on legal residents.

USDA Green-Lights Field Trials of Monsanto Drought-Resistant Corn After Admitting it Performs No Better Than Natural Corn

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) does not even pretend to legitimately evaluate genetically-modified organisms (GMO) before approving them anymore, having recently green-lighted approval for a new variety of "drought-resistant" GM corn produced by Monsanto that admittedly grows no better under drought conditions than natural varieties do.

According to the Washington Post, APHIS fast-tracked the corn, known as MON87460, without ever conducting an appropriate environmental risk analysis on the crop's efficacy, which includes determining whether or not the crop is even safe for humans or the environment. In fact, in accordance with the Obama Administration's new hands-off approach to regulating GMOs, APHIS decided to actually approve MON87460 even after a cursory evaluation of the data exposed it as a complete failure.

"The reduced yield [trait] does not exceed the natural variation observed in regionally-adapted varieties of conventional corn," wrote the USDA in an earlier report on the crop published last fall. "Equally comparable varieties produced through conventional breeding techniques are readily available in irrigated corn production regions" (

MON87460 is the first GMO to be approved with resistance to drought, as opposed to a pesticide or herbicide. And even though many drought-adaptive varieties of natural or hybrid corn already exist, Monsanto is pushing MON87460 on farmers all across the Midwest, and primarily in the Western plains where drought conditions are still severe, with promises that it will translate into increased yields.

Based on its initial findings, however, as well as the fact that GM crops are known to contaminate nearby conventional and organic crops, APHIS should have wholly rejected MON87460 and told Monsanto to hit the road. Instead, thanks to embedded special interests throughout the USDA and the highest levels of the federal government, this former regulatory body has become nothing more than a bureaucratic rubber stamp for the biotechnology industry.

"[Bio]technology has been spectacularly unsuccessful at delivering complex traits such as drought tolerance, which involve multiple genes and complex interaction with the plant's environment," wrote Dr. Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch U.K., in a piece last year on so-called drought-tolerant GM crops. "Meanwhile, conventional breeding and new techniques such as marker-assisted selection -- which uses knowledge of the plant's genome to inform breeding, without engineering the plant, have produced a long string of successes."