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Archive for April, 2006

Crimes of US Imperialism

Posted by Taimur Rahman on April 28, 2006

Published in The Post 28/04/2006

Taimur Rahman

The foreign policy of Pakistan since 1953, with the brief exceptional period of the first People’s Party government, has been of complete alignment with the United States of America. This policy of alignment with an empire that spends a billion dollars a day to maintain 730 military installations in 156 countries around the world must be re-evaluated, not merely from the perspective of “national interest”— which has come to mean little else than the interests of the armed forces and elite of this country — but from the perspective of all humanity.

The facts speak for themselves.

US imperialism is the only power in history to have used the atomic bomb to the utter destruction of not only two hundred thousand immediate victims but to the mutilation of four generations of people born in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, all for the strategic imperative, not of a Japanese surrender, but to christen the destructive era of the Cold War against socialism. While restricting the peaceful use of nuclear energy by Iran and simultaneously threatening the country with a strategic nuclear strike, the US continues to possess half the existing nuclear warheads in the world (that is the US has nearly 10,000 nuclear warheads). The US also possesses the greatest stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and the most advanced and extensive research in mass destruction weaponry in the world. Military spending by the US exceeds that of the nine next largest budgets for war combined, and President Bush has repeatedly declared the right to strike first.

US imperialism is in direct violation of all codes of conduct with respect to prisoners of war in its open utilization of torture and inhumane treatment not merely in Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib but further by permitted American companies to ship electric-shock weapons, stun batons, radio-frequency weapons that may induce an artificial fever, stun guns, “stench chemicals”, taser mines that could deliver a 50,000-volt shock to anyone within a certain radius, UV lasers that can ionize the air to also deliver an electric charge, and mechanical restraints to the tune of more than 20 million dollars to 39 countries accused of torturing dissidents and detainees. This excludes companies that continue to ship their torture devices overseas without seeking a government licence.

US imperialism is behind the longest running embargo in all history against the socialist government of tiny little Cuba. In 2005, the United Nations voted by a margin of 184 countries against four to end the embargo (amongst the four in favour of the embargo were the United States, Israel, and the Marshall Islands). And I will emphasize that our government, owing to its alignment with the US, has on several instances voted in favour of the embargo. Yet the Cuban government completely overlooked this when it sent 1,500 doctors as humanitarian aid for the earthquake victims.

US imperialism has been responsible for bombing 22 countries since World War II. They include: China 1945-46, Korea and China 1950-53 (Korean War), Guatemala 1954, Indonesia 1958, Cuba 1959-1961, Guatemala 1960, Congo 1964, Peru 1965, Laos 1964-73, Vietnam 1961-73 (Vietnam War), Cambodia 1969-70, Guatemala 1967-69, Grenada 1983, Lebanon 1983, 1984 (both Lebanese and Syrian targets), Libya 1986, El Salvador 1980s, Nicaragua 1980s, Iran 1987, Panama 1989, Kuwait 1991 (Iraqi targets), Iraq 1991- the present, Somalia 1993, Bosnia 1994, 1995 (Bosnian Serb targets), Sudan 1998, Yugoslavia 1999, Afghanistan 1998, 2001-the present, Iraq 2003-the present.

The USA has the most number of people in prison in the world, at 1.725 million. That is, the US not only has the greatest number of incarcerated people in per-capita terms but has the greatest number of people incarcerated in absolute terms. And this number excludes ‘Unlawful combatants’ held on a military base in someone else’s country by US outsourced torture prisons.

US imperialism is the main pillar of support against the occupation and genocide of the Palestinian and Arab people and has provided the racist Apartheid-like state of Israel with a direct annual installment of $3 billion for the last quarter century, of which 60 precent is military aid utilized to butcher Palestinians and Arabs fighting for their rights and only 40 precent is economic aid. That means Israel usually receives roughly one third of the entire foreign aid budget of the US government, despite the fact that Israel comprises less than .001 of the world’s population and already has one of the world’s higher per capita incomes. In other words, Israel, a country of approximately six million people, is currently receiving more US aid than all of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean combined, when you take out Egypt and Colombia. In addition Israel usually gets another $2-3 billion or so in indirect aid: military support from the defence budget, forgiven loans, and special grants. While some of the indirect aid is difficult to measure precisely, it is safe to say that Israel’s total aid (direct and indirect) amounts to at least five billion dollars annually. Pro-Palestinian groups rightly call it the “lifeblood of occupation”.

The continuing war and occupation of Iraq that violates all international laws, rules, and customs has directly caused the death of 40,000 combatants and civilians. But that pales in comparison to the genocide of the Iraqi people through economic sanctions. According to former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, “Those sanctions are the direct cause of the very cruel deaths of more than a million people. This is the greatest crime against humanity, in the last decade of the most violent century in history: each the painful death of an individual wasting away from malnutrition, dehydration, contaminated water, and easily preventable diseases. Every United Nations agency dealing with food, health and children – including the FAO, WFP, WHO, UNICEF – has proclaimed the horror, magnitude and responsibility for this human catastrophe.”

Those who have changed their tune after the break up of the Soviet Union, or those who have always been lackeys of the powerful and have sold their pen to the highest bidder, may point to the “failure of socialism”, “end of history” or the “crimes of communism” to justify their support for a foreign policy aligned with US imperialism. They may attempt to convince us that, “There is No Alternative” – TINA or the infamous local version called the “doctrine of necessity” and all such arguments are always the last defence of the scoundrel – but the facts are that the alternative is and has always been raising your voice against injustice irrespective of the consequences. If that leads you to the path of socialism, than that merely underscores the continuing validity of the doctrine that has been pronounced dead by the rich almost incessantly since it saw the light of day.

Whatever one’s ideological proclivity, supporting US imperialism is neither wise nor honourable. In fact, all those who support US imperialism in its war drive are equally culpable in the current genocide and slaughter. The path to real democracy, justice, equality, peace, and prosperity lies not in supporting US imperialism but in standing against it.

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Thoughts on the civil war in Balochistan

Posted by Taimur Rahman on April 14, 2006

Published in The Post 14/04/2006

Taimur Rahman

I am aware that many people will balk at the title of this column since, aside from the fact that life in the city centres of Pakistan continues in its usual uneventful state, no less a person than the governor of Balochistan Awais Ghani in an interview with the Voice of America has assured us that there is no civil war in the province. However, those who have been following events in Balochistan are daily bombarded with images and headlines that scream about a crisis of enormous proportions that is brewing exponentially in an area that the Pakistan army has treated as the “backyard” of Pakistan; just as Latin America is considered the backyard of the US Empire. Indymedia, an independent internet based news service, has running coverage and video clips on its website that clearly show hundreds of people being killed by helicopter gunships and other instruments of death. One merely has to open up a simple webpage such as

http://radio.indymedia.org/news/2006/02/8426.php to know that the situation in Balochistan is extremely serious. It is time for the Pakistani public in other provinces to wake up and take cognisance of the situation that threatens to become a catastrophe.

Once more the government has broken off all talks with Baloch leaders and gone on the military offensive against what they call “backward Sardars”. The recent declaration of the Balochistan Liberation Army as a ‘terrorist” group no doubt implies an upgrade in the eyes of the military about the potentiality of this group – when last heard of, the BLA were mere “miscreants”. If, courtesy of the US “War on Terror”, the word “terrorist” is enjoying enormous currency these days and signifies a further attempt by our establishment to cosy up to the big boss in dealing with the Baloch issue, it simultaneously has become a kind of badge of honour that is greatly sought by various resistance groups – not all of whom are as crazy as Zarqawi. The confidence of the Information Minister Sheikh Rashid in dealing with the Baloch issue notwithstanding, the facts are that the only way to end this state of civil war is by redressing the economic, political, social, and cultural imbalance in the relationship between the Baloch people and the central government. And this is precisely the approach that has completely evaded our rulers, deliberately I might add, because while our rulers may admittedly lack a bit in the upper-story, they can nonetheless be credited with enough intelligence to know what is in their own vested interest.

Many intellectuals are reaching the conclusion that the very structure of this neo-colonial multi-national state, especially the manner in which state-society relations have come to be structured in favour of the military in the last six decades and the completely lopsided relation between the central government and the various nationalities of Pakistan, strongly imply that this country is destined for nothing other than self-destruction. When the otherwise cautious Ayesha Siddiqa begins to write that, “Pakistan will break into pieces,” then I think alarm bells should begin to ring. Far from such a conclusion being premature, as some might say, one is at pains to point out that the majority of the country created in 1947 already seceded in a manner that both our public and our rulers care not to remember. Musharraf made the accusation in an interview with the TV channel CNN-INN that India was providing the Baloch nationalist forces ‘financial support and support in kind’ and the interior minister Aftab Sherpao was quick to follow that up with his own statements to the same effect. While on the one hand, the public is still waiting for concrete evidence to support this accusation, on the other hand, deeper questions are also being raised about the manner in which the national question has historically been treated by the Pakistani establishment and how this mistreatment leads to not only providing an opening for India to intervene but also leaves people with no alternative but to redress their grievances by relying on foreign powers – as occurred in 1971. Former Army Chief Aslam Beg and former chief of ISI, General Hamid Gul (retd) want to add the United States of America to the list of foreign powers helping the Baloch nationalists but frankly that makes little sense given that Pakistan is a key ally in the “war against terror” that the US is principally interested in conducting at the moment. In this atmosphere of warmongering, even the voice of the otherwise extremely compliant former Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali, when heard saying, “We need to talk to resolve the conflict by peaceful political means,” sounds like a breath of fresh air. A dialogue of equals, and not phosphorous bombs, can solve the six-decade old problem of Balochistan. All that can be said with any degree of certainty, in this uncertain situation, is that if the current government continues down the path of antagonism, instead of redressing the genuine grievances of the Baloch, the outcome could be not too dissimilar from what occurred in 1971.

There is, however, one and only one hope: The people of Pakistan. If they could be made to see that the propaganda of fighting the “sardari system” is merely a smokescreen for an aggressive usurpation of the natural resources of Balochistan and that they ought to raise their voices to stop the military operation, force the authorities to negotiate a just solution, redress the historic imbalances, and in future take the Baloch people and their elected representatives into confidence on all questions pertaining to the province, then and only then can we begin to construct a relationship based on mutual trust between the various nationalities that exist within Pakistan. The precondition for such an initiative is not merely the ability to see beyond the myopic lens of the paradigm, if I can call it that given the poverty of its intellect, peddled to us every hour from various outlets of the establishment, but also to understand that we have a stake in the outcome of this civil war and must act in order to lay claim to that stake.

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WSF: Return on 30-year investment : NGOs are a 1.6 trillion dollars industry

Posted by Taimur Rahman on April 7, 2006

Published in The Post 07/04/2006

Taimur Rahman

As the initial euphoria of participating in the World Social Forum (WSF) in Karachi wears off and one sits back to analyse the event from a more cool and dispassionate point of view, one cannot help but reflect on the mechanics of international politics that inform, support, and finance such a gigantic effort. While there is little doubt that the WSF gave hundreds of organizations and dozens of social movements the opportunity to voice their opinions, network with each other, and raise awareness about their conditions, all of which are like oxygen for a movement, and there is also little doubt that many social movements gathered in Karachi were in a truly festive and even revolutionary mood, all of which represents small but not insignificant advances for individual organizations and movements, one cannot but analyse this event from the holistic point of view of global politics. In the final analysis, though this may be unpopular with enthusiasts of the WSF, the entire process was the return on a three-decade old investment made by imperialist governments and their coterie of direct and indirect organizations for the preservation of their imperial system. Let us briefly look at the history of this 30-year investment.

It is no secret that the WSF process was intended to and did in fact “strengthen civil society”. But what is this mysterious concept of civil society and how has such an antiquated notion become so popular in the 21st century? Civil society was an ideological concept utilised by the rising bourgeoisie in its struggle against feudalism, but by the turn of the twentieth century, its importance had begun to wane as attention shifted to questions of war, peace and class struggle. It was only in 1975 that the US administration and President Jimmy Carter brought this concept back to the centre-stage of politics. The US ruling class gave unprecedented assistance (financial and moral) to the Helsinki Accords and the concept of “human rights” in an attempt to fan dissent in socialist Eastern Europe. The entire “civil society” and “human rights” agenda was directed almost exclusively at the socialist governments of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and for all its rhetoric of “dignity” and “freedom”, its inevitable and logical result is there for all to see in the form of the restoration of a rapacious free market capitalism accompanied by prostitution, poverty, unemployment and general misery of the vast majority. How the grand word “liberty” was dragged through the mud is another story, but what is relevant to our narrative is that it was in the struggle by US imperialism against socialism that today’s NGOs, “civil society” and “human rights” rhetoric finds its roots.

By the early and mid-1980s, the attention of the ready-made Helsinki “human rights” machine was given a secondary target: national liberation movements in neo-colonies of the soon-to-emerge sole superpower. Latin America was a sea of revolution from the Sandanistas in Nicaragua to the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) in Colombia and needed pacification, Africa needed more civilizing, and East Asia could not be trusted with its own affairs. International aid and donor agencies began to pour in millions of dollars while simultaneously, international financial institutions such as the IMF, GATT, World Bank combined to force countries to undertake massive structural adjustment programmes. The NGOs acted as massive pressure valves, letting off steam and resentment and most importantly, preventing social movements and intellectuals from joining forces with national liberation movements or socialist political parties. The argument at the grassroots level was always the same, though it assumed many different forms. The NGOwalas would say present their “tangible” achievements in ameliorating immediate wants, whereas political activists would argue about the necessity of ideological struggle, the connection of NGOs with imperialism, and the necessity of preparing for the revolution. Soon an NGO culture grew around the millions of dollars flowing from sources beyond. It was a culture of high salaries, scepticism about revolutionary change, cynicism towards politics, belittling theoretical struggle, and a gradual but complete reconciliation with the state and ruling class. If most NGOs today support the military government in Pakistan, it is only the historical product of an entire epoch of the erosion of all principles in the struggle to change society.

Today the top 20 percent elite which controls 85 percent of the world’s income recognizes that its global dominance cannot be maintained without a network of such NGOs with their tentacles in every part of the globe. That is why they are ready, through their governments and through other channels, to provide NGOs with truly monumental levels of financial support. The non-profit sector in the world today is not merely a million dollar, not even a billion dollar industry. According to the Comparative Non-profit Sector Project at Johns Hopkins University, the non-profit sector in only 37 nations had total operating expenditures of over $ 1.6 trillion in 2002. The Red Cross reckons that NGOs now disburse more money than the World Bank. The high-powered NGOs of the world now have budgets of more than $ 1 billion a year. For example, the American Red Cross manages an annual budget of $ 3 billion and its President and CEO Marsha J. (Marty) Evans has an annual salary of $ 450,000. And a substantial portion of this NGO aid comes directly from government sources. For example, in 2004 government aid reached the staggering amount of $ 78.6 billion worldwide, which incidentally is the amount necessary to provide all basic services to all the people in the planet. The principal reason behind the mushrooming of NGOs around the world is that Western governments finance them. Yet, three billion people live below the $ 2 a day poverty line and 850 million people live below the hunger line. Why? Where does the money go?

An analysis of global inequality patterns and spending in the non-profit sector ironically shows an almost inverse relationship. Whereas in the last two decades global spending in the non-profit sector has multiplied from millions to trillions, the UNDP confirms that global inequality and poverty are worse than they were two decades ago. This paradox between the exponentially increasing global spending on and by NGOs and the simultaneous growth of poverty can only be explained if one understands that the real function of NGOs is to act as a conduit and a vast network for international bribery. In the final analysis the NGO network is nothing other than a system through which the latent revolutionary content within social movements is replaced with demands that are innocuous for the capitalist-imperialist system as a whole.

The WSF held in Karachi from March 24-29 was mainly an NGO mela, although I do not deny that small left-wing political parties also participated freely, but they were not dominant. After the Forum a trade union leader remarked to me, “When 35 people assemble outside Press Club to demand their legal rights, the police beats them to a pulp and declares them enemies of the state. In the WSF 35,000 people gathered to create ‘another world’ and the state gave them protection and treated them like royalty. That alone speaks miles about the extent to which the global and local elite are actually threatened by the WSF.” As I heard these words I couldn’t help but think that this WSF-mela costing lakhs and crores of rupees all paid-for by international donor agencies was basically the return on a 30 year old investment made for the preservation of the wealth and privileges of the tiny minority that monopolizes the human and natural resources of the world.

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