Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Immigration Bills: They Are All No Good

Update on the Immigration Bills: They're All No Good
Revolution #043, April 16, 2006

Millions of immigrants have defiantly taken to the streets in recent weeks, demanding to be treated as human beings. Thousands of children of immigrants have walked out of high schools and more marches are planned. Protesters have targeted the fascist Sensenbrenner bill (HR4437), which would make it a felony—punishable by criminal prosecution to be or help an undocumented immigrant.

The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed the Sensenbrenner bill (HR4437). The other body of the Congress, the Senate, has been debating their own version of an immigration bill. After much debate and backroom maneuvering, the Senate, Thursday, failed to agree on a bill. When the Senate does pass a bill, a conference committee will negotiate how to handle differences between the two versions. The final version is voted on again in both houses and becomes law when signed by the President.

There are divisions among the rulers—whose economy depends to a large extent on superexploited immigrant labor, and who fear immigrants as well (see “Welcome the Immigrants”). But these divisions being debated out are NOT over what is in the interests of the people—but what is in the strategic interests of the ruling class.

In the Senate, a bill pushed by Senator Specter has been portrayed in the media as pro-immigrant. But it's not. The Specter bill would seriously increase repression of immigrants in some unprecedented ways, as outlined in last week’s issue of Revolution, (issue #42).
A “compromise” on the Specter bill, which came closest to uniting the Senate, would divide immigrants into three categories. The first category is immigrants who have lived in the country at least five years—about 7 million people. The plan is that these immigrants could apply for citizenship after a very repressive process—without any real guarantees of getting it. The process, taking six to eight years, would require learning English and passing a civics test (evoking the literacy tests used in the south to keep poor Blacks from voting). It would impose fines of $2,000 plus payment of back taxes, proof of continual employment for six years, and background checks. These checks include a criminal background check, which presents a “Catch 22”—an impossible situation—since immigrants are often forced to live outside the law in order to survive. While it is being presented as a way millions of immigrants could “gain citizenship,” in actuality it is a very highly repressive and selective process.

The second category is for those who have lived in the U.S. for two to five years—about three million immigrants. These immigrants would be forced to leave the country, then report to an American port of entry to be classified as temporary workers or refused entry. They would not be guaranteed citizenship and would have to leave after six years of being exploited as temporary workers. And the third category, about a million immigrants in the country less than two years, would be forced out. They could try to sign up to be exploited without a guarantee of getting a temporary work visa. Just think about what it would mean if literally millions of immigrants were forced to leave the country by law and what that would look like.

The failure of the Senate to pass any bill so far is a result of both infighting among the capitalists, and also the courageous protests of immigrants. Part of the strategy behind this “compromise” was to deal with and divide up millions of immigrants who have actively taken to the streets. The Senate bills were not, as some have claimed, a “step in the right direction.” What direction were these bills going? Where immigrants will be tracked down and categorized? Pitting older immigrants against newer immigrants? Forcing them to turn themselves in to the authorities—where the best outcome is tightened control, repression and more systematic exploitation? And this “compromise” was added to the already dangerously repressive proposals in the Specter bill—increased immigrant jails, unprecedented legal detention of immigrants, an apartheid-like work system—and militarizing the border—leading to even more death among those forced to cross by the workings of this global capitalist-imperialist system.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

No to Nuclear Weapons! No to Nuclear Hypocrisy!

In the first version of this article, there was a mistake in the first sentence in paragraph nine.
It should read as:
"Although Iran has been a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, it has worked secretly for about two decades to revive and develop Iran's nuclear industry that began during the Shah's regime."

No to Nuclear Weapons!
No to Nuclear Hypocrisy!

By Mahmood Ketabchi
April 23, 2006

After more than two years of haggling with the Islamic regime of Iran over its nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), under pressure from the European powers and particularly the US government, referred Iran to the UN Security Council. In its last meeting, the Security Council issued a statement requiring Iran to stop all nuclear activities within 30 days.

In response to the US threat and mounting pressure by the UN Security Council, the Iranian Islamic regime has been flexing its muscles and threatening the US and world with dire consequences. In response to a reporter who asked what Iran would do in case of a US attack, an Iranian official declared, “Let the ball roll.” Defying the UN call to suspend uranium enriching activity, Iran demonstrated its “military might.” It announced that it had fired a new missile that could carry multiple warheads and evade radar systems, and a few days later said it had test-fired what it described as a sonar-evading underwater missile. Later, it declared that it has been able to enrich uranium and further announced that Iran is preparing to move nuclear activity to a large scale industrial level.

In its conflict with Iran, the Bush administration is increasing its war-mongering rhetoric and war preparations in a way that is disturbingly reminiscent of the US pre-invasion policies and practices towards Iraq. As the US government pushes to end Iran's nuclear activity, the Bush administration is shamelessly threatening Iran with a nuclear attack. It is no surprise, yet it only demonstrates the kind of world that America has in store for us. Although an invasion of Iran, similar to Iraq, seems implausible, the US government is working frantically to impose economic sanctions and/or launch a military assault on Iran.

The US threats toward Iran have little to do with Iran's nuclear program. Iran's nuclear activity is only an excuse to increase hostility with Iran and prepare the ground for possible military attacks on Iran. In fact, before Iran's secret nuclear program was revealed, the right wing reactionary warmongers, who direct the US government's foreign policies, already had envisioned an attack on Iran. These are the same people who relentlessly pushed to launch a war against the people of Iraq. The war on Iraq was merely a step towards broader changes in the Middle East. Not only Iraq, but also Iran, Syria, and even to some extent the Saudi regime have been on the hit list. The US government has a strategic plan to consolidate its control over the Middle East and enforce its role as the world's only superpower. The New World Order that the US wants to create is characterized by its indisputable domination over the world. It is a fantasy being contemplated by a cold-blooded and ruthless gang in Washington who want to bring the whole world under their thumb. (To read more about the US goals in the Middle East, please refer to my article, Goals and Strategy Behind the War on Iraq)

The US government's opposition to the Islamic regime of Iran has more to do with the fact that Iran has turned into a serious headache for the US government. Political Islam, with the Islamic regime of Iran forming its backbone, wants to consolidate itself as a regional power in the Middle East vis a vis the US government's effort to consolidate its control over the Middle East and shape and build a New World Order.

During the cold war, the Soviet Union as an international superpower struck some sort of balance with the US government in the Middle East. As a result, certain segments of the Middle Eastern bourgeoisie under the guise of nationalism, and with Soviet protection behind them, were able to limit US intrusion in their area of influence. This balance fell apart with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Islam as political movement filled that void and became a battle cry for a section of the Middle Eastern bourgeoisie that had no intention of letting the US government get a free ride.

Political Islam was nurtured by the US government and the western powers during the Cold War era in their effort to fight communism and progressive movements of all kinds. However, over the last two decades, Islamism has increasingly became a voice of opposition to the US and the west. Political Islam must not be confused with the aspirations of the masses of people for freedom, equality, and a better world. It is not a “movement of the oppressed” as pro Islamist leftists and liberals believe. It is a brutal and reactionary movement of the bourgeoisie in Islamic ridden countries. Political Islam has brought great misery, destruction, mass killing, sectarian wars, gender apartheid, and utter rightlessness for the masses of people.

In a world that is characterized by growing militarism and intense rivalry among international and regional powers, joining the world's “nuclear club” has become the secret to gaining “respectability” and “acknowledgment.” The Islamic regime's effort to develop a nuclear industry should be viewed in this context. To consolidate the Islamic regime in Iran and bolster political Islam as a regional and international power, the Islamic regime in Iran has a clear reason to gain nuclear weapons. A nuclear program to “produce electricity” is only a facade put up by Islamic regime to weaponize Political Islam with a nuclear bomb.

Although Iran has been a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, it has worked secretly for about two decades, dating back to the Shah's regime, to revive and develop Iran's nuclear industry. When Iran's secret nuclear program was exposed by the Mujahedeen, an Iranian opposition force, it agreed, under international pressure, to suspend nuclear activity, allow broad and snap inspections, and negotiate with Britain, France, and Germany, for a solution . That agreement did not stop the Islamic regime from continuing its nuclear development in secret, as it was later revealed by Hassan Rowhani, former secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran. Rowhani headed talks with the European Union 3 -- Britain, France, and Germany.

Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his cabinet, mainly made of military personnel and security agents, replaced Khatami's so called “reformist” faction, the Islamic regime has started to pursue an open confrontation policy with the US and the west. The quagmire that the US government has created in Iraq bodes well for the Islamic regime. Believing that the US is in a weak position, the Islamic regime has become more aggressive and openly defiant. They believe that while the US is in deep trouble in Iraq, it is the best time to exact maximum concessions from the US and the west.

Iran must be stopped from acquiring nuclear weapons. Yet, it is outright hypocrisy and quite ridiculous for the US government to tell other countries that they should not develop nuclear weapons while it owns enough nuclear weapons to destroy the whole world and has repeatedly threatened other countries with nuclear assault. Moreover, the US government lacks any moral authority to claim concern over nuclear weapons proliferation when it was the first and the last government to use nuclear weapons. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki led to the horrific death of hundreds of thousands of people and the total destruction of both cities. After more than 60 years, the US government has yet to acknowledge that it committed a brutal crime against humanity. It is quite preposterous for a government that is so cruel, thoughtless, and smug to speak of Iran’s nuclear threat to the world.

Opposition to Iran’s effort to gain nuclear weapons should be placed within an international framework of ridding humanity from nuclear weapons all together. The five nuclear giants (the US, Russia, France, England, and China) who occupy the five permanent seats in the UN Security Council and have the audacity to act as the arbitrators for world peace and human life have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire world several times over. They have made these weapons not just for deterrence as they want us to believe. They are made to be used. They will use them when and where they see fit.

It is a bogus argument that some nuclear powers can be “responsible” and trusted with our lives, and some others are “irresponsible” and cannot. This assertion is only an effort to maintain the dominance of the world’s largest military and destructive powers. No responsible human being and no responsible country need nuclear weapons. If the world’s largest nuclear weapon holders had any respect for human life, they would begin to get rid of their own weapons first and have everybody else do the same. But they will never do it, unless the progressive humanity comes forward in full force and compels them to.

While there is no justification for any one country to develop nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons proliferation will continue to be a great threat for humanity as long as the US government and other powerful nations hold fast to their nuclear arsenals. The US policy of warmongering, bullying, and continually threatening nuclear assault to subdue recalcitrant governments will only encourage and inflame nationalist sentiments and provide others the opportunity to justify their effort to gain and develop nuclear weapons. The US government is in no position to tell others what they have to do. This government has no credibility. No one could ever take the US government’s concern over Iran’s nuclear program as sincere and out of respect and value for human life and world peace. In fact, with its immense power across the world, a power that has been indiscriminately and repeatedly unleashed, the US government is a major source of suffering and misery for many people across the world.

It's important to oppose US bullying and hypocrisy, but at the same time, no one should support the efforts by Iranian regime to obtain nuclear weapons. Weapons of Mass Destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, are an example of the kind of brutal “ingenuity” that only capitalism could invent. Nuclear weapons continue to be one of the most important concerns for humanity. Even the nuclear industry for civilian use has come to pose a great danger to human life. Health and safety concerns over the nuclear industry has brought about world wide opposition . As a result of massive protest movements across the world, many countries with nuclear industries were forced to slow down their nuclear program, place it under moratorium, or scale it down.

Despite world wide concern over the nuclear industry, particularly nuclear weapons, some pro Islamists on the American left argue that “Iranians have a right to develop any means of self-defense against their former oppressors.” Developing nuclear weapons for “self -defense” is just a shameful excuse for all reactionary bourgeoisie and brutal regimes who want to consolidate their control and rule over the masses of people. Moreover, it is shallow and stupid to argue for the rights of governments to brutalize and massacre people. Supporting Iran's right to arm itself with nuclear weapons is a regressive and reactionary position that undermines the efforts by peace-loving humanity to rid the world of nuclear weapons. A position such as this must be confronted head on. The world does not need another country with a nuclear arsenal. The Islamic regime of Iran must be stopped from weaponizing the Islamist movement with a nuclear bomb, a movement that is determined to crush every trace of human decency and dignity.

Progressive humanity does not need killing machines that are made with the sole purpose of massacring civilians and destroying vital societal infrastructures that maintain human life. Nuclear weapons must go, period. There is no “good” nuclear bomb and no “responsible” nuclear power. As people across the world continue to fight the US occupation of Iraq and gear up to confront the US warmongering threats and economic sanctions against Iran, they must simultaneously call to rid humanity of nuclear weapons.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The US Goals Behind the Iraq War

I wrote the following article before the US government attack on Iraq. Since in this article, I talked about the US goals and stragey in the Middle East and brought up issues that are relevant to the current US government's warmongering towatds Iran, I decided to post it here. At the time, a short version of this article was printed in "Worker's Democracy," a publication of Workers Democracy Network.

Goals and Strategy Behind the War on Iraq
And the US Anti-war Movement
By Mahmood Ketabchi
October 6, 2002

The war against Iraq is not anything new. To be precise, it started in 1991 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Since then, Iraq has been under siege. The United States and British forces have used every opportunity to bomb Iraq, under the guise of protecting the “no-fly zone” in northern and southern Iraq. The US government has committed its political, economic, and military support to configure a pro-American regime in Iraq to replace Saddam Hussein’s government.

The most brutal war against Iraq, however, has been an economic war. The economic sanctions, authorized by the UN and led by the US, has brought massive suffering and misery for the Iraqi people, resulting in the death of more than one million Iraqis, over half of them children. The genocidal economic sanctions turned the Iraqi issue into the second Palestinian question in the minds of the people of the region. It became living evidence of US and Western terrorism in the Middle East. The plan to destabilize the Iraqi regime failed miserably and furthermore helped perpetuate the reactionary Iraqi government.

A new all-out war against Iraq has been on the US government’s agenda for a long time. By now, after many months of “debate” and behind-the-scene war preparation, it should be transparent that the US government wants nothing short of an all-out war, the military invasion of Iraq, and the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. The US officials are knocking on every possible door to push the situation towards a war and make it seemingly inevitable.

The Bush administration claims that their coming war is about “freedom,” “world security,” “the war on terrorism,” “dismantling Iraq’s weapon of mass destruction,” and “enforcing UN resolutions.” The public relation demagogy displayed by Bush and his henchmen is utterly baseless and so ridiculous that even some of the most hawkish elements among the US elite, those with a long history of warmongering and interventionist policy, do not find sufficient evidence to justify an attack on Iraq.

In addition, the US government has no moral authority to claim that it is concerned with human life, freedom, or disarmament. This public relations campaign is shameless. It is a belligerent display of lies, hypocrisy, selective morality, and contempt for Americans as well as world public opinion. US war propaganda is by and large an all out ideological war to impose US jingoism and a war plan on the world. Bush and his administration will use all their might to bully and silence the world into submission and resignation, while marginalizing any serious effort or movement by peace and freedom-loving people to oppose this US war campaign.

The attack on Iraq is simply another step toward further regional domination. Saddam’s leadership in Iraq provides a convenient target in this process. The Bush administration is not publicly discussing a broader plan for the Middle East. However, some high US officials hinted that a regime change in Iraq will lead to further changes in the region. Even though the US government is by and large secretive about their ultimate regional plans, many think-tank “neo-conservative” organizations and individuals, blending Zionism, racism, and a lust for war with the pretense of democracy, are pushing for a frontal assault - not only against Iraq but also other countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. These right-wing organizations and individuals, often with close ties to the Bush administration, advocate regional action in the Middle East. They say that the US is facing a regional challenge, and that it must respond accordingly.

US Regional Problems and Failures

Indeed, the US government does have a regional problem that has gotten worse after the invasion of Afghanistan. By attacking Iraq, the US will dig itself even deeper into the ground. The Bush administration is infuriated with the US Arab allies who have undermined the US policy regarding Iraq since the Gulf war. The Arab regimes, by and large, have refused to recognize Israel and have not given their support to Washington to break down the Palestinians’ resistance. Arab leaders, in one way or another, have lent their support to various Islamic terrorist organizations. The “war on terrorism” has not brought the purported outcome; many Al Qaeda leaders remain free, and other Islamic terrorist organizations are still active and committing bloody murderous activities. Fascist Islamic militias, whom Reagan once called “freedom fighters,” and whom the US government and Western powers helped create to fight communism, have now become a headache for their creators. Many Arab leaders opposed the US war on Afghanistan. Afghanistan is in such a state of chaos and instability that US army personnel even must act as the bodyguard for their puppet, Hamid Karzai. Moreover, the US’s continuous bloody attacks on Afghan civilians have brought increasing resentment toward the US, and fomented a guerrilla warfare style resistance to the continued US military presence in Afghanistan.

The political future of Iran stands in the balance, with the US having very little control over it. A political change in Iran will undoubtedly send a ripple effect throughout the region as it did after the 1979 revolution. The Islamic regime in Iran will go, and it is simply a matter of time. Khatami and his faction have long since ceased to be an alternative to conservatives in Iran, for they are part and parcel of the Islamic criminal and fascist regime. The revolutionizing process of the masses started long ago, for they see that the Islamic regime is not reformable. The masses of people in Iran are increasingly moving toward radicalization. Socialism, this time around, is even stronger than it was in the1979 revolution, and will be present on the current political scene. The “threat” of the left and socialism in Iran cannot be ignored. The prospect of a political chaos, internal strife, and the possibility of a revolutionary change in Iran and the victory of socialism, even though small, is making the US government quite uneasy.

In addition, in an increasingly globalized world it is questionable as to how long reactionary Arab regimes can survive and cling to their closed and stagnant political systems. These regimes, often with the sword of Islam in their hands, are tyrannical, corrupt, and misogynist. Popular dissatisfaction against the Arab regimes is on the rise. The US and Western governments have propped up these despotic regimes. Without the US, these regimes would hardly have a chance to stand. Their existence during the Cold War served the US government and Western powers. These regimes suppressed progressive movements and kept oil flowing steadily at an affordable price in exchange for US protection. Whether these regimes are still useful for the US and the Western powers after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, is now in doubt.

An economy dominated by state monopolies in oil-producing countries of the region is not exactly the type of “liberalized” economy Bush and his “free-market” thieves would like to see. Oil is at heart of the economy in oil-producing countries. For example, Saudi Arabia depends on oil and oil derivatives, which account for 90-95% of Saudi export earnings, 75% of the budget, and about 35-40% of GDP. Moreover, these countries, led by Saudi Arabia, have decisive control over oil reserves, production, and supply. Revenue from oil, and dominance over the oil market, not only has helped the survival of these tyrannical regimes, but also has made it possible for them to hold a strong position in relation to the US and western governments. Moreover, considering the US and Western reliance on oil, long term political uncertainty in the Middle East and Gulf region adds to the US government’s uneasiness about what they call “oil and global security.”

US Goals and Strategy beyond Iraq

The refusal of Arab states to get in line with the US war plan indicates their distrust of Washington. This refusal is not due to any affection for Saddam Hussein. Many did fight along the US government against Iraq in the 1991 Gulf war. Many Arab leaders would like to see him gone. But a regime change in Iraq through a US military invasion of Iraq will have larger implications. In addition to fear from their own citizens and reaction in the streets, Arab leaders see a “regime change” in Iraq through a US military invasion as a possible first step towards an overhaul of the region, and the eventual change or collapse of despotic and reactionary ruling dynasties that have enjoyed tight and unquestionable control over their societies.

Indeed the far-right neo-conservatives who set the agenda for the US foreign policy say that when Saddam is defeated and replaced, US enemies and unreliable allies will either have to put their house in order or prepare for collapse. Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia are specifically the three countries they have in mind. If these regimes are forced in line, others, they hope, will easily follow suit. Over the past year, relations between the US government and Saudi Arabia have become strained. Those who pushed and made their war plan on Iraq official US policy are arguing that Saudi Arabia must be considered an enemy of the US not an ally, because it encourages and finances terrorism. The same warmongers also suggested that if the Saudis refuse to support the “war against terrorism,” the US will be compelled to freeze Saudi assets and occupy their oilfields, a proposition that made the Saudi government furious.

Iran is already on the US hit list. An invasion of Iraq will put the US government in a stronger position to exert pressure on Iran and have greater influence in shaping the political future of the country. US troops are stationed to the east of Iran in Afghanistan, to the south in the Gulf region, and to the northwest in Turkey. An invasion of Iraq would mean that the US would have its military troops to the west of Iran as well. In other words, Iran will be encircled by the US army from the west, east and south. That is a lot of pressure from a hostile army that considers Iran part of an “axis of evil.” If the pressure on Iran does not create what the US is hoping for, then a regime change and/or a military attack on Iran will be officially added to the agenda.

Gaining control over oil reserves, oil production, and oil supplies is an important part of the American strategy in the Middle East and the Gulf regions. Pursuing its “free market” policy and the further globalization of capital, the US government, particularly considering Bush administration’s immense interest in the oil industry, wants to break the monopoly over the oil market controlled by Arab countries and led by Saudi Arabia. Breaking Arab control over the oil market would open doors for international capital to have an immediate control over oil production, supply, and market.

Diversifying the major sources of oil production seems to be the first important step towards such a strategy. Iraq, after Saudi Arabia, has the second largest oil reserve, amounting to approximately 300 billion barrels. If Iraq were to produce oil at the rate of its oil reserves, it would mean that Saudi Arabia would lose its domination over the world’s oil market. Since the power of oil-producing countries is tied to their control over the oil market, undermining their power over oil is a potential threat to their regimes. In addition, controlling the oil market will put the US in a stronger position in relation to Europe, Japan, and Russia. The US government, unabashedly behaving like a common thief, is already using Arab oil in the hopes of luring other nations to join or support the US war effort in the Gulf. Oil companies are rushing to hold talks with Iraqi opposition groups for possible future contracts.

Breaking Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation is another goal of the US government. Israel has been openly and forcefully pushing for the US attack on Iraq. Also, in the US, among the advocates and proponents of war on Iraq, are Zionist and fascist Jewish organizations and individuals. They hope that an attack on Iraq will make it possible for Israel to accomplish its long-dreamt genocidal policy to cleanse Palestinian territories and force Palestinians out of their homeland. If this Zionist nightmare fails, a victorious Bush after invading Iraq in addition to pressuring Arab states to get closer to Israel and recognize the Israeli government, will try to break up Palestinian resistance, possibly force Arafat out of office, and find a “reformed” leader that will succumb to pressure and accept a South African style Bantustan under the guise of a Palestinian State or some sort of a transitional government. The “peace” that the US is looking for is to come at the expense of Palestinians and the defeat of the Arab population, a peace that will give Israel a privileged and superior status in the region. Nonetheless, there will always be an endless potential for further conflicts and instability.

Looking at the US strategy in the region, the “20-year war” that Bush, Cheney and company have talked about, if not underestimated, is real. Every new step will drag the US government deeper into regional problems and conflicts. The US government wants to bring the region more in line with US policies, reign in on political Islam and Islamic terrorism, settle the Arab-Israeli conflict at the expense of the Arab population with a privileged status for Israel, push tyrannical, stagnant, and corrupt regimes, foes as well as allies, to adopt themselves to post Cold-War exigencies of international capital, forcefully promote privatization of the economy, break up OPEC control over oil, and enhance the ability of oil companies and other multinational corporations to have more direct and immediate control over resources and the economy of the region. But make no mistake about it, these changes, as envisioned by the US government, are not to come through “democracy” but by setting up brutal and despotic regimes that will work hand in hand with the US government. The US strategy is to be realized through continuous threat of violence and US military power. These goals are to be accomplished through war, mass murder, massive destruction, inflicting immense pain, suffering, and misery on the people of the region.

An Attack on Iraq, a Crime against Humanity

Iraq is mainly a modern urban society, very different than Afghanistan. The war on Iraq as envisioned by Bush will bring massive destruction to Iraqi society. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people will perish, and enormous misery will befall the Iraqi people who have not yet recovered from the destruction of 1991 war and who still suffer under US-imposed genocidal sanctions. As in the1991 war, the US will bomb schools, hospitals, water and electric plants, roads, bridges, communication and transportation networks, and factories to force Iraq into capitulation. But this time, Bush is after Saddam who promises to fight tooth and nail with the intention of prolonging the war as much as possible.

If the Iraqi army or a significant section of it puts up resistance and fights in and around the cities (especially Baghdad), only a massive bombardment leading to the complete destruction of these cities and massive loss of life could bring a quick victory for the US. In a life-and-death struggle, Saddam may well choose to use biological and chemical weapon (if he has any) against the US Army and/or its mercenary forces. Then what will the US do? It is quite probable that it will use nuclear weapons in retaliation, as they threatened to do in the 1991 war. Also, it is probable that Israel may be drawn into the war as result of an Iraqi attack on Israeli cities. A US-Israeli war on Iraq will unleash fury in Arab societies that may lead to a regional conflict with unpredictable implications.

An invasion of Iraq will probably last for years to come, especially if it leads to a crushing military defeat of Iraqi forces and breaks up Saddam Hussein’s vast governmental bureaucracy, both of which made Iraq governable under Saddam’s brutal capitalist regime. There is no quick fix to fill the vacuum. The opposition groups do not have the capacity to govern the country without a US military presence. These groups include ex-army generals with a long history of crimes; reactionary and nationalist Kurdish parties; corrupt and despotic politicians; fascist Islamic organizations with close ties to Iran; and various reactionary tribal leaders, none of whom have so much as a trace of progressive history. Indeed, replacing a bunch of criminals with other criminals who would bend to the will of the US is exactly the type of “democracy” Bush has in mind for Iraq, just like the one engineered in Afghanistan. Empowering these groups could unleash a wave of tribal wars, nationalism and national hatred, a new rise in Islamic fascism, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.

The fall of the Soviet “Evil Empire” did not make the world any safer, as Reagan once promised. The world which the US is creating is more dangerous than ever. The US war plan on Iraq symbolizes the “New World Order” it has embarked upon to create after the downfall of the Soviet block. This war is intended to enable the US government to maintain and reinforce its unilateral superpower hegemony and military domination of the entire world. This war plan sends a message to the world that no one should ever dream of challenging or questioning US superiority, because the US government is prepared to unleash its murderous power upon anyone whom it feels to be a threat, with or without evidence of a threat. Its demonstrated cruelty and barbarism, its repeated threats and use of unbridled violence abroad and against its own people, and its demonstrated and unprecedented capacity for destruction and mass murder, all show that the US government, possessing the most powerful armory of weapons of mass destruction in human history, is the most serious terrorist menace on earth.

The US government is on the verge of a criminal adventure. Those in and around the Bush administration who are dragging America into this bloody war with the full intention to go after other countries as well, are no different than Saddam and his cohorts in their brutality. They are cold-blooded and dangerous criminals who fantasize of dominating the world and keeping it under their thumb.

Fight the War, Fight for Socialism

This war, with or without the United Nation’s sanction, with or without Congress’s approval, is a crime against humanity. Bush and his administration must be stopped. Only the peace and freedom-loving people of the world can stop this insane, murderous, and heartless adventure. Governments and ruling elites will not risk their relations with the US and their interests to defy this war. Many are actually hoping to reap some benefit from it. Bush and his cronies have stuck their necks out so far on this war that a defeat for their war plan might well be a major blow to his disgraced and reactionary administration.

In addition, defeating Bush’s war plan may be an important impetus to scrutinize all US unbridled and insane militarism and challenge the tight control which the military industrial complex has over our society. For so long as the US government continues to maintain and develop its massive stockpile of killing machines and its murderous military power, so long as they are able to undermine and ignore the well-being of human beings in the interests of militarism, there will always be found yet another reason to inflame war and destroy human life. The vast killing apparatus that the US government has developed needs justification for its existence. Thus, we are confronted with a cycle of war, insecurity, brutality, and military build-up. Insanity feeds more insanity. Our struggle against the US war on Iraq must be a struggle against US capitalism and militarism. Our movement must cast aside bourgeoisie constitutionalism and legality and populist tendencies. It must be a struggle for worker-socialism.

Yet we have to be prepared for this war. Bush and his administration and their warmongering henchmen are hoping that once the war begins, the anti-war movement will lose its momentum. This is a serious concern that we should not ignore. Much of the opposition against the war coming from liberal patriots will fade away. The anti-war movement needs a more aggressive and energetic effort to keep up the momentum against the war. In order to become a powerful and effective force, the anti-war movement must be a movement of workers, poor people, immigrants and communities of color. This movement must be tied our ongoing struggle to create a better world for people here and around the world. In addition, we must bring the war home for people to see the crimes and murderous insanity of the US Government. The US government can only run this war so long as it keeps its people uninformed and ignorant about the extent of the crime and destruction it intends to create. Just as before, only US generals will describe the war and set the agenda for public consumption. The mainstream media and bootlicker journalism will follow suit. The massive network of communication developed by anti-war and progressive forces must be consolidated and mobilized. It will be harder than during the 1991 war for the government to keep people ignorant. We must bring the truth about the war home. We must confront the warmakers with the nightmare ramifications of their actions.

While we fight against the war, we also must fight for freedom, equality and a better life for the people of the region. We must respond to the warmongers’ gimmick democracy, with our persistent struggle for freedom and our opposition to tyrannical regimes in the region. We must not, and should not, under the guise of anti-imperialism, romanticize reactionary, nationalist, medieval, Islamic or fascist tendencies. That would be counterproductive for the anti-war movement if it becomes identified with these inhumane forces. It will only dull its cutting edge, and weaken its message of justice and humanity. Thus, it must truly and deeply distance itself from the forces of brutality that happen to be in conflict with the US government. The struggle against the war must be explicitly a struggle for freedom, equality, human dignity, and integrity. Saddam’s regime and other reactionary and brutal governments in the region must go, but it must be done by the power of people. It is only the progressive forces, workers, and socialists that can build a truly open and free society, bring equality, and guarantee a humane life for the people of the region.

Timid nationalist, passive, and isolationist policies of non-interference must be cast aside. The attitude of, “It is not my business” also must be criticized. This kind of attitude is only a projection of nationalism onto other people, not to mention that it fails to recognize we are living in a globalized world and there’s no turning back. The world will never change without a visionary perspective and active intervention to bring those necessary changes. The anti-war movement should reach out and align itself with socialist, progressive and freedom-seeking people of the region and support their struggle against oppression, despotism, exploitation, and the US war insanity. The lack of truly revolutionary and socialist alternatives has helped to embolden the warmongering adventurers. If there were a visible horizon of revolutionary socialist change, these criminal warmongers would have thought twice before placing so much of humanity in harm’s way. Capitalism was born and maintained through sweat and blood. Only hope for freedom, equality, human integrity, and socialism can put an end to this capitalist insanity. Only a call for socialism can prevent people from being pushed towards the barbarism, of which the war on Iraq is just one more example.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Amnesty or Freedom of Movement for Workers

Freedom of Movement, a Working Class
Alternative to the Immigration Problem
by Mahmood Ketabchi
April 7, 2006

As Republican and Democrats in Washington have been debating what sort of anti immigration bill they can pass, millions of immigrant workers, student, and progressive forces all across the country have come out in protest. Their voice was clear; the sea of people who poured into streets condemned the racist and xenophobic immigration measures that the government plans to impose on the society. The protesters demanded human rights and equality for millions of undocumented immigrant workers who with their blood and sweat have worked to build this country.

While right-wing republicans and their fascist allies want to turn millions of immigrant into criminals and erect a 700-mile wall on the border with Mexico among many other draconian and sickening racist measures, a so called “bipartisan” group of Republican and Democrats are pushing another reactionary legislation that will make millions of undocumented immigrants into second class workers to be ruthlessly exploited by US capitalist who need cheep and under sieged labor.

The level of discussion in the Congress over the immigration bill is so degraded that it only shows the deep seated hatred and contempt that Washington politicians have against immigrants. The debate over the immigration bill has been so openly racist that even Bush noticed and advised his racist colleagues to watch their mouths while referring to immigrants.
The right-wing and racist campaign to criminalize current and future undocumented immigrants, as well as humanitarian and progressive groups who help them, is a “shock and awe” tactic to intimidate the public and immigrant rights groups and push the Democrats as far to the right as they can possibly go. These reactionary lunatics who hold a powerful position in Washington, as a matter of political maneuvering, always end up with the most abhorrent policies. Many people can still remember Newt Gingrich's “Contract with America” where he proposed taking kids away from their poor families and placing them in orphanages. These right-wingers know they have very little chance to push through all their outrageous policies as they would love to, but by lowering the level of the debate they exact the maximum concession. The “Contact with America” although not fully realized, led to the most sweeping anti welfare legislation in 1996 that basically laid the foundation to dismantle a social program that provided a bare minimum of relief for poor women and children.

Now as the immigration bill is being discussed, right-wing politicians such as Sensenbrenner, Tom Tancredo, Bill Frist, Dana Rohrbacher, etc are taking the most intimidating and thuggish posture as they possibly can. As usual, Democrats are aligning themselves more and more with the Republicans and have come up with a disgraceful “guest worker” or rather “Bracero” program that will legalize and institutionalize millions of immigrant workers in a sort of 21 century indentured servitude.

Although some immigrant rights groups and labor unions are picking the “guest worker program” to fend off the criminalization of undocumented workers, progressive forces by and large, together with millions of other people, are opposing both anti immigration bills being discussed at the Congress. This opposition basically revolves around a third alternative that calls for amnesty for all current undocumented workers.

But what about those who will come in to the US in the future? In the next 10 or 20 years, we will have millions of other undocumented workers crossing the border in search of jobs and joining their families and relatives. What about the thousands of people who will perish and die as the US government and the fascist vigilantly groups force immigrants to take greater risks to their lives in crossing the border? What about all the families who will be deprived of having their loved ones with them here in the US?

The movement of labor is an unstoppable trend that has become a fact of life in a globalized capitalist economy. Workers from across the border will come to the US, and it is their inalienable right to come and work here just like everyone else who lives and has a job here. Capital since long ago has lost its national character. Capital has no borders and it increasingly flows freely from one place to another. It goes wherever greater exploitation and higher profit is obtainable. This course cannot be reversed as nationalists and protectionists dream of. It can only be confronted on a global level. Free movement of workers is a crucial step towards developing a global strategy to confront capitalist exploitation.

While capital moves freely around the globe, workers are tied to their national borders as modern slaves who were tied to their owners or as serfs who were confined to a piece of land. Capital supposedly freed workers from dependence and bondage to feudal lords and allowed them to work for whoever they desire in order to sell his labor power at a better price. But in todays globalized world, workers are forcefully deprived of their basic right to move freely in search of a job that pays higher wages and provides better benefits. In a global battle between capital and labor, the restriction of workers from free movement has put them everywhere at a great disadvantage. As Mexican workers in Mexico are forced to sell their labor power at lower prices, American workers lose their jobs, work for lower wages, lose their bargaining power, see their unions shattered, and take greater risks any time time they confront their employers and the government. The current system is set up to divide workers and push them to compete against one another in a race to the bottom. This is a race to a life of rightlessness and misery.

We need a different solution. Amnesty for all the undocumented worker is a great idea, but it does not resolve the underlying problem of undocumented and other workers in the US. In 1986, about 3 million undocumented workers were given amnesty. Twenty years later, we are faced with the same problem; this time even bigger. We now have about 12 million workers who work day in day out in fear and inhuman conditions that is harmful to themselves and all other workers. This vicious cycle must end.

We need a solution that will enhance working class solidarity in the long run, place workers at a higher ground where they can fight capital with full force, and enable them to lift their living standards up to a level that is worthy of all human beings. We must openly and clearly oppose nationalism, xenophobia, and nativism, for they are all shameful sentiments that divide workers and weaken their movement. This solution cannot and should not be articulated based on the level of discussion being conducted in Washington. The ruling class is always far far away from the masses of people and their needs, desires, and sense of justice. The immigrant and worker's rights movement should build a movement around demands such as:
  • Providing an immediate general amnesty to all undocumented immigrants;
  • Opposing all militarization of the borders, shutting down all immigration detention centers, and prosecuting fascist militia gangs who target immigrants crossing the Mexican border;
  • Defending workers right and providing equal protection to all workers;
  • Allowing free movement of labor among the US, Mexico, and Canada;
  • Issuing permanent residency and citizenship upon request by anyone for reasons such as, humanitarian, family reunification, and work; and
  • Opposing all temporary work permissions.

These demands are expressions of freedom and human rights for workers. At the same time, that they will help lift the general standard of living for workers in the US, Mexico, and Canada, they will also help close the gap between poor and high paid workers. Also, overtime they will reduce the pressure off workers to move around in search of job, and they will balance out the spread of population across the three countries.

To build a movement around these demands is long over due. There will never be a “prefect” and “appropriate” timing to raise these demands as the banner of worker's movement. We can only create them. The opportunity to build a powerful movement does exist as immigrants have come forward in astonishing and unprecedented number that surprised friends and foes. Millions of workers marched across the country and 10s of thousands of kids walked out of their schools and poured into the street to protest against the hideous immigration bills being discussed in the Washington halls of power.

A new buzz is around that there is a sleeping giant that might be waking up. It is a powerful force that has the potential to move the country into a new humane direction. But, it can only do so if it has a clear radical demand, lucidity of thought about its future direction, and the ability to understand its Herculean power. To the extent that this movement is able to move to the left and separate itself from half-hearted friends who only want to ride on its back for their petty class interests, it will have the ability to be present on the scene for a longer time and make the greatest impact in charting a new direction for worker's movement.

The potential to build a powerful movement around the demands mentioned above does exit. It is only the question of vision and willingness to push this movement forward and to a new level. Which side are we on? That is the challenge we are facing.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

AFL-CIO and the Immigration Debate

As the immigration debate has heated up over the last few weeks, I thought it might be a good idea to post the following article I wrote in 2002 which appeared in “Workers Democracy,” a publication of Workers Democracy Network.

Freedom of Movement, Not Just Amnesty
by Mahmood Ketabchi
January 20, 2002

Among the many resolutions passed at AFL-CIO convention, the resolution on immigration is supposedly an indication of visionary policy of the Sweeney administration. The resolution renews AFL-CIO call, first announced in February 2000, for: a) “legalization of the undocumented workers,” b) “full protection of workplace rights,” c) “reform, not expansion, of guest worker programs,” and d) “repeal and replacement of the sanctions/I-9 immigration enforcement scheme” that requires the employers verify work permission.

Even though we are to believe that current AFL-CIO position on immigration is a groundbreaking policy, it is not significantly much different from the one held by previous labor leadership, Kirklane-Donghue. AFL-CIO was a major proponent of 1986 immigration law that legalized millions of undocumented workers in the US. The only significant difference this time around is that AFL-CIO has reversed its position regarding the legal requirement that the employers verify the eligibility of people to work in the US. In part, labor leadership previously hoped that the requirement to verify work permission would deter what they called “illegal entry” to the US. Nonetheless immigrants continued to come to the US and many of them worked without work permission, with the only difference that the requirement pushed by AFL-CIO made undocumented workers extremely vulnerable and exploitable.

Even though a general amnesty for all undocumented immigrants is an urgent and immediate demand, in no way it would solve the problem faced by workers. Granted such demand is met, in a decade or so there will be millions of other immigrants living in US without any documentation and many other will be kept out of the US forcibly. There will be no end to this cycle of inhumanity, violence, brutal exploitation, and union busting. Immigration barriers only intensify competition among workers and create a downward pressure to the bottom. Workers need a different and real solution to their problem. They need immigration barriers removed and thrown away.

If capital can move freely in the world in search of higher profit, workers too must have the right to move to wherever they can sell their labor power to the highest not the lowest bidder. Freedom of movement must be regarded as a fundamental right for worker and people around the world. Freedom of movement can empower workers, strengthen their solidarity, and increase their living standards. Working class and struggle for better life cannot be defined on the national basis. Only an international perspective can make workers a real and serious social force to reckon with. Failure to understand and promote the freedom of movement for workers only indicates the deeply rooted national prejudice in labor establishment.

Moreover, the resolution is silent about 1996 illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act which labor supported many of its provisions that targeted illegal entry to the US. The Act authorized doubling the size of Border Patrol by 2001 and increased significantly the funding to investigate employer sanction violations, false documentation and finding visa overstayers. It toughened the punishment against undocumented immigrants apprehended by the INS and mandated an aggressive enforcement of immigration laws. Moreover, it provided an increase in INS detention facilities to 9,000 beds by the end of 1997.

As result of this Act, and increasing number of people each year die at the border and many more are detained and brutally treated by border patrols and fascist vigilante groups and thousands are incarcerated by INS for immigrations violations and live in inhumane conditions in US prisons and jails across the country- many remain incarcerated for years. It is not quite clear why the AFL-CIO resolution on immigration did not condemn the callous treatment and imprisonment of many immigrants who entry the country illegally. Is it simply negligence, or labor officialdom still thinks they are necessary to deter illegal immigration to the US?

AFL-CIO position on temporary workers is even more problematic. They oppose temporary workers programs not because temporary status is harmful for the working class bad but because temporary workers take US workers jobs away from them. While labor attacks "corporate efforts to pit worker against worker," it resorts to the same divisive argument in opposing temporary workers program. Arguing against temporary immigration from a nativist view is nothing but inciting anti-immigrant sentiment and feeding into racist hysteria that immigrants steal the U.S. jobs. In addition, AFL-CIO has consistently demanded that current annual limit of 140,000 permanent job related visas be reduced to 90,000 presenting the same argument that US job must be protected against foreign workers. Defending immigration barriers is a short sighted and narrow-minded policy that expends one group of worker in the interests of another group. Even though the US official labor movement has set aside its openly racist immigration policy, it has steadfastly stuck with its original nationalism and xenophobic view of non-white immigrants workers.

“US workers” and “foreign workers” is a reactionary, racist, and divisive dichotomy that breaks down working class solidarity. According to this view, American workers come first; they are the first class and privileged workers who have the first claim to everything that is nice and to all the goodies. Their lives are more important than that of non-Americans. They have more rights to a better life than other people do. Then, there is the second class and underdog foreigners who must, in the best situation, wait at the end of the line to pick the crumbs that are thrown at them. They are the non-deserving workers and human beings born in foreign soil. Their lives are expandable for it does not worth a whole lot. They have lived in poverty and are used to a brutal life so they’d better learn to live with it rather than coming to the US.

To build strong labor solidarity among workers around the world and enhance our living standard, we workers should oppose nationalism and all its derivatives for they are shameful sentiments that separate us from our common human character. As workers, labor activists and leaders we must build a movement around following demands:

  • Defending worker’s rights and granting equal protection for all U.S. citizens and residents irrespective of their nationality.
  • Free movement of labor, similar to the one in European Union, among United States, Canada, and Mexico.
  • An immediate general amnesty for all undocumented workers in the U.S.
  • Opposing all kinds of temporary residency.
  • Issuing permanent residency and citizenship for all those who want to come to the U.S. for reasons such as, humanitarian, family reunification, and work.
  • Repeal 1996 Immigration Act and free all immigrants held in INS detention center for violating immigration laws such as, working without permission, illegal entry, and etc.

These demands do not remove national boundaries, but they would greatly enhance our freedom of movement and our power to confront capital for a better future. We are not slave who were bought and sold. We are not serfs who were bound to land. We are workers and we must be free to move and live wherever we can make a better living. Freedom of movement is a human right that we workers should fight for.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Censorship at NYC Indymedia

Censorship at NYC Indymedia
by Mahmood Ketabchi
April 02, 2006

The cartoons of Muhammad created much discussion and debate within the progressive movement. I wrote two articles regarding the cartoon crisis and posted both of them on the NYC Indymedia. On March 1st, I posted my second article "US Left Nationalists Join the Islamists against Freedom." In this article, I criticized the section of the US left which supported the Islamists' campaign against freedom of speech and the right to blasphemy. The article generated some pro and con debate among people who read the article. Two days later, to my astonishment, I noticed that the article was removed from the website. I emailed the moderator of the website and inquired why they took my article off the site. In response to my question, I received an email from NYC Indymedia. I was told that my article "is being held until the list moderator can review it for approval." It stated that the reason it was being held was because it was a "Post by non-member to a member-only list." Further, I was notified that "Either the message will get posted to the list, or you will receive notification of the Moderator's decision."
On the one hand, I was pleased to see that I did get a response to my email, on the other hand I found the reply to be contradictory and somehow disturbing. It did not make any sense to me. If only members can post articles why is there a need for approval anyway? So, I emailed them back and expressed my concern and asked how I can become a member. I waited for a response, but I got none. I checked the NYC Indymedia website just to see if they re-posted my article, and I could not find it. Thus, I emailed them again and asked if the moderator made any decision regarding my article. For the second time, they ignored my email.

I decided to look at NYC Indymedia policy guideline regarding open publishing, and I found nothing that would prohibit me from publishing my article. It was pretty clear to me that the people who run the NYC Indymedia removed my article because they found its content to be disagreeable. I brought up my concern with a few friends. They were also surprised that I was told only members could post article on the NYC Indymedia website. As I listened to them, my conclusion about censorship by NYC Indymedia was confirmed. Why else would they take cut my article from their website?

It is quite bizzare to see how a discussion about free speech was censored by a website that claims to stand up for freedom of speech!! NYC Indymedia has a motto that says "Free Media for Free People." What sort of freedom is it when they censor a voice that defends unconditional freedom of speech and is critical of people who choose to side with political Islam, a brutal and barbaric right-wing movement that is ready to crush any dissenting voice that stands firm in defense of freedom.

The independent media movement came about and flourished as a radical grassroots response to censorship by mainstream and corporate media that succumbs to the US government control. But, is NYC Indymedia still truly committed to freedom of speech? I strongly doubt that. At least, that has not been my experience. How many other people have the same experience as mine I do not know.

I withhold further judgment about the NYC Indymedia because I am not familiar with the politics of the people who run the organization. However, I emphatically express my dismay and condemnation at this censorship of my article. This example of censorship at NYC Indymedia is a cause for concern for anyone who truly supports the idea of free media as a vehicle for expressing dissenting opinion.