Oct 14 2008

Paisley’s Legacy

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 16RCN @ 8:09 pm

An article on the Socialist Democracy website by US socialist, Matt Siegfried

After 45 Years as Northern Ireland’s leading demagogue the 82 year old sectarian preacher, Reverend Doctor Ian Paisley, has exited the political stage. He has resigned, as of May, his position as Stormont’s First Minister as well as Leader of his Democratic Unionist Party.

He is Reverend of the Free Presbyterian Church, which can only be described as a shrill caricature of fundamentalist hokum and evangelical brimstone. He will hold on to his honorary Doctorate in Divinity bestowed upon him by the racist Bob Jones University.

Since his rival, David Trimble, and the Ulster Unionists, along with the Good Friday Agreement fell, in large part, to his opposition, Paisley reconstructed the GFA with the pliant agreement of Sinn Fein into an even more sectarian and unionist agreement. Through the provisions of the October, 2006 Saint Andrew’s Agreement Ian Paisley became First Minister in a devolved Stormont regime. The structures of this regime are premised on a sectarian division. To create positions to fill it has more ministers, more members and more expenses than any other political entity its size. This large bureaucracy is perfect for handing out positions and sweetening pots. The Welsh and Scottish Assemblies have much more self rule than the one that sits in Ireland. Northern Ireland’s union with Britain is guaranteed by the Agreement and the Assembly itself carries a dual Unionist/British veto. It’s always potentially only a phone call away from collapsing if the Fenians ever get out of line.

Knee slap with George Bush

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has taken the job of Ian Paisley’s Deputy. Together they have become known as the Chuckle Brothers as they knee slap with George Bush and cut the opening ribbon to tacky shopping developments in Belfast. McGuinness’s lack of dignity not withstanding, the former IRA Commander sits as a Minister of the British Crown. This erstwhile revolutionary who once was at war with the very idea of a Stormont administers its rule. Sinn Fein still have the shamelessness to claim to be socialists as they partner with Ian Paisley, who believes the world is four thousand years old, the pope is the anti-Christ and who once led a Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign. The DUP is the most right-wing party in power in Western Europe and Sinn Fein chuckle as they administer the rule of a thoroughly capitalist British state with them.

Ireland of today, North and South, is vastly different than it was even ten years ago. The war the IRA waged against British rule is clearly over. Southern Ireland’s integration into the European Union has seen it grow economically. This once economic basket case now has one of the highest standards of living in Europe. Immigration trends have reversed, and instead of Ireland being a point of departure for the New World or Australia, it has become a place of arrival for hundreds of thousands of workers from the newly EU countries of the east like Poland and Lithuania.

Rebalancing sectarian privilege

But Ireland remains partitioned and Northern Ireland remains firmly British. Northern Ireland cannot help but be based on sectarianism because partition, British rule, requires it. What has been achieved in the North is a rebalancing of sectarian privilege not its destruction. Sinn Fein has readily accepted this formula, which necessitated their abandonment of all but the title of Irish Republicanism. But the problem with basing solutions on sectarian privilege is that it requires consensus and in the Stormont context that means a reactionary neo-liberal policy with no opposition.

It is also the nature of sectarian division to be unequal, otherwise there is no justification for the division. The unionist will always have the veto and the British state to back them up on whatever question should arise. The use of that veto to scuttle the attempt at an Irish Language Act late last year proves the point. If even the Irish language isn’t to be recognized how can Irish speakers? Sectarian benefits are doled out with precision. EU funds in particular are apportioned out to any number of projects defined by community or intercommunity, which can amount to the same thing since it is also premised on sectarian division. More than a few former guerillas now man these well funded community centres. Foreign investment and economic growth have not led to a single integrated school in Ireland or a single one of the Peace Walls to come down.

As I watched BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight on Tuesday as the substance of Paisley resignation began to seep in I was struck at the tone of the Unionists about Paisley’s legacy. Nigel Dodds of Paisley’s DUP and potential successor as party leader made it perfectly clear that from his perspective what was to celebrate about Paisley’s life was Paisley’s commitment to the Union and Unionist dominance within that Union. Far from a surrender to Sinn Fein, Dodds said, Paisley and the DUP had got them to not only drop their opposition to British rule but to be junior partners in its administration thus tying them politically to the fate of the union. Ironically, this is the same critique that many Republicans who disagree with the strategy Adams and McGuinness would invoke. His tone was one of bigoted triumphalism over the defeated nationalists. They would never see a united Ireland he said, and their leaders had even agreed to it.

Whos laughing now?

Who's laughing now?

Worst kind of divisions

There is nothing to celebrate in the life or politics of Ian Paisley. He has represented the worst kinds of divisions wrought by imperialism on Ireland. And no attempt to stand on the St. Andrews Agreement as history’s vindication will work. The agreement institutionalized a state that is a labyrinth of sectarianism and meaningless dispensations. It closes hospitals, cuts funding to education and pursues all of the devastating policies of neo-liberalism. Paisley’s gift to Ireland was almost 50 years of fighting for Protestant supremacy and Unionist rejection. That he became First Minister in his old age of a state with his former enemies that enshrined supremacy and rejection is no sign of change.

Though the war is over and I can’t imagine the circumstances that could reignite it, the state in the North is unstable. The pressures from within one side or the other could break down the consensus required to the balancing act. Due in large part to Sinn Fein’s malleability the balancing act may continue to work for a time. No balancing act lasts forever.

Unlike another Ian in another British colony Paisley wouldn’t go down like Rhodesia’s Ian Smith. Whatever clouds he may leave under and whatever may befall his party and their government one thing is clear after thirty-five years of strife; Ian Paisley won the war.

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Aug 24 2004

Torture, Rape, Murder….It’s the American Way

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 08RCN @ 2:14 pm

Matt Siegfried exposes the systematic abuse of Iraqi prisoners as an extension of the US penal system. This article originally appeared in Fourthwrite (see p27).

The photographs of US soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners have become symbols of American conceit, American hypocrisy and brutality. The folly of the Iraq adventure seems to be summed up by the pyres of naked, bound and hooded men smiled over by the missionaries of American democracy. More than one right wing commentator in the United States has likened these acts to college pranks.

Most of the world, however, fails to see the humour in employing attack dogs, surgical gloves, digital cameras, sodomising broom sticks and duct tape to torture prisoners, many of them guilty of only being Iraqis, in an orgy of power exercise. The self described experts on the Arab mind of the North American press have repeatedly told us that sexual humiliation is especially damaging to the Arab male with their allegedly macho and homophobic Islamic culture. After all, if US prisoners are any indication, we Americans have a much greater tolerance for rape than those testy Iraqis do. In this, as in all things, if only they could be a little more like us these little misunderstandings would disappear.

It must be said that these revelations have had the effect they have, swinging important segments of the American population against the administration of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush and casting their re-election in doubt, because of two concrete factors. The first is that they were photographed.

All indications are that these photographs were taken to humiliate and blackmail the prisoners photographed or to frighten other prisoners into submission or as souvenirs. How, in the age of the internet, the Military Intelligence units thought that these would remain in obscurity is a testimony to the arrogance of the imperial mindset. Mountains of words could not have had the same effect.

The grinning faces and thumbs up of the torturers are so damning precisely because they are not faceless names. They are recognisable as our neighbours, work mates, parents and children. Society has raised these monsters. America itself is indicted by the very normalcy of those that carried out and continue to carry out these crimes.

The second and more important factor is the strength of the resistance to the occupation. If this story had broken in the context of a war that had been going well for the United States it would not have had nearly the power it has had. Since the capture of Saddam the resistance has grown dramatically belying the myths and half-truths of the mouthpieces for American empire.

The resistance has proven to be varied, contradictory, resourceful and popular. America has responded brutally to this growth and in the process has served as a recruiting sergeant for the resistance. A predictable turn of events in the context of an occupation whose aims are at odd with the interests and desires of the now vast majority of the Iraqi population.

The Iraqi resistance has not yet found a common political or organisational voice. It is possible, even likely, that it will not. Elements of the opposition are undoubtedly criminal or reactionary fundamentalist. Elements employ tactics that run the gamut from counter productive to counter revolutionary. Could it be any other way? A brutal occupation will breed a brutal resistance. Every attempt at colonialism in its bloody history is witness to this dynamic. Though now many more are entering the ranks of the resistance out of a desire to protect their homes, communities and country from the rapacious onslaught of American tanks bulldozing the way for American corporations.

After the fall of Baghdad in April of last year there was not only speculation but also plans for the US military to move on Damascus and possibly Tehran and Pyongyang. The United States aimed at a long term colonial ownership of Iraq. In the face of growing Iraqi resistance the US ruling class has, for now abandoned the possibility of direct military confrontation with Syria, Iran and North Korea. At the endgame of a relentless assault by Israel the resistance in Palestine has been given a moral and morale boost by the people of Iraq.

The occupation itself is in doubt as the US is increasingly unable to force its agenda even on the most pliant of Iraqis. Looking to cede its Iraq quagmire to the United Nations (whose guise the United States has utilised in numerous previous imperial crusades) the fig leaf of the UN would placate European and Arab capitals but it is unlikely to convince the Iraqi people that the occupation has ended. In spite of the violence and pain inflicted in the course of its insurgency against US imperialism’s aggression the resistance in Iraq has already and undoubtedly saved many lives.

While the US media has, by and large, still refused to utter the word torture when describing the actions at Abu Ghraib, Mazar-e-Sharif, Guantanamo Bay and so many places in between that is clearly the definition of those actions. As more and more soldiers return from tours with stories of abuse, of rape and murder on a wide scale it is clear that these acts were sanctioned. They were routine. They were systematic. They came far too easily to some soldiers, Reservists and National Guards.

In fact some of the actions of the accused were already taught to and learned by them in the rape camps and torture chambers of the American penal system. One of the soldiers facing charges, Corporal Charles Graner, worked as a prison guard at Pennsylvania’s notorious SCI Greene where African American revolutionary Mumia Abu Jamal sits on death row and site of numerous allegations of abuse.

Never taken more seriously than a crude joke on late night television rape has long been considered part of the sentence for those imprisoned in this country. The Struckman-Johnson study of prisons in four mid-western states concludes one in five male inmates reported a pressured or forced sex incident while incarcerated. And one in ten male inmates reported that they had been raped. Extrapolating those percentages nationally makes for jaw-dropping number of prisoners sexually assaulted (400,000+ or raped in prison (200,000+)

Any one who has done time in an American prison could describe innumerable instances of abuse that are all but identical to the horrors of Abu Ghraib’s Wing 1A. From solitary confinement to four-point shackles and electric shocks to daily strip and cavity searches, the degrading treatment of human beings at the hands of other human beings is seen as normal, even necessary, in American society.

The United States is a country that has well over two million people currently in prison or jail (1 in 75 male adults) with another four and a half million people on probation or parole. A country that criminalises entire communities placing more black men in jail than college (1 in 5 black men will go to jail in their lives). A country where the “War on Drugs” places millions of its own citizens outside the jurisdiction of justice. A country where the imprisonment of its people is a giant industry, generating billions of dollars in contracts, free labour and entire prisons run for profit. A country that lectures the world on human rights.

Beyond torture the United States is one of the few countries that still sanctions state murder – executions – and regularly carries them out including on the innocent, on juvenile offenders, on the mentally disabled, on a disproportionately black and Latino and overwhelmingly poor population. How could anyone be surprised that in the midst of a racist colonial war the men and women of the US military were ordered to torture prisoners and some cheerfully obeyed? After all torture, rape, murder – it’s the American way. And while some day, hopefully soon, the US will leave Iraq ending this sad chapter what will it take to put an end to the abomination of the American prison system and the grossly unequal society it claims to protect?

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Dec 03 2002

The oil and military Industries behind Bush

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 04RCN @ 1:36 pm

Matt Siegfried, a socialist and trade unionist activist from Detroit, examines the motivation behind the US government’s obsession with war against Iraq.

This article originally appeared in Fourthwrite.

The United States is on the verge of war with Iraq. A section of the Bush administration, reflecting a section of the US ruling class, has long been pursuing an assault on Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein. It will come as no surprise to anyone that this group is intimately associated with the oil and, to a lesser extent, the military industries.

Dick Cheney, Vice-President, former Defence Secretary and chief of the Halliburton Corporation, is the main representative of these interests in the Bush administration. Halliburton, at a nominal value of over 18 billion dollars, is the largest oil supply company in the world. Giant oil corporation, Chevron-Texaco, has named one of its tankers after Condoleeza Rice, Bush’s National Security Advisor! If Chevron-Texaco needs parts in Nigeria or new oil wells in the Arctic wilderness, then Halliburton is there. The runways that launch U.S. bombing sorties on Afghan wedding parties and the prisoner camp at Guantanamo, in occupied Cuba, were both built by Halliburton.

This is not a conspiracy, nor is it a coincidence – it is how US capitalism works. The government sees its primary role to defend and extend US corporate interests. There is a constant revolving door between government and business. This, of course, is not a uniquely American reality but one shared with all the capitalist governments of the world. Utilising the bellicose mood of the post-September 11th political atmosphere, the US right wing has made a concerted effort to win the government to launching a new Gulf War.

The hawks have been in the ascendancy since last spring, though not without contradictions and real opposition from parts of the ruling class, government and military, who fear some of the consequences of a new war. These consequences include the prospect of a jump in oil prices and the inflationary pressure that would affect the already troubled economy; the further destabilisation of a region already seething from the
War on Terrorism, continued sanctions on Iraq and US patronage of Israel; and strains on an increasingly active volunteer army’s resources, to name but a few.

Old and new enemies

Some of them want revenge for their failure to dislodge Saddam Hussein in the last war and all the attempts made over the last decade to isolate and replace him. This looks and sounds a bit like the red-faced rage of the school-yard bully whose attempts at intimidation go unheeded. He can not remain a bully if others refuse to be bullied. Another motivation is that the US administration has little to show for its War on Terrorism. Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden have, so far, been unwilling to offer up their corpses for a trophy photo. Though the imperialists have clearly made many gains in Afghanistan, the looking-and-no-finding war seems to have powered down without any of the big issues being resolved in the administration’s favour. A war on Iraq would deflect charges of being soft on Al-Qaeda and the Axis of Evil from the far right of American politics and coincidentally, some Democrats. When other enemies prove too elusive, Saddam’s nefarious star tends to rise in the US government’s psyche. They seem to wilt without an enemy to compare to Hitler.

Oil, more oil and inter-imperialist rivalry

Oil remains a motivation – and not just oil within the boundaries of Iraq. While strictly economic aims are sometimes simplistically laid out as the primary reasons behind US war policy, it would be foolish to underestimate the power of oil interests in shaping American policy.

Competition among the imperialist powers over access to and control of oil has increased since the collapse of the USSR. One reason for this is that previously off-limits resources of the former Soviet Union have opened up, leading to a new Great Game for the riches of the new successor states in Central Asia and the Caspian Sea. These are now conveniently hosting U.S. military bases after the war in Afghanistan. Why leave all that oil to the Russians and the Central Asians? The privatisation of the old state energy companies is a potential windfall of many billions of dollars for US oil interests. All that is required is that the new companies partner with the US corporations and upgrade their facilities with the parts and know-how of the Halliburton Corporation.

Another reason is that the old equilibrium between the imperialist powers facing a common Soviet threat has broken down. This means that each is more likely to pursue its own energy goals, including their own direct access to oil. This is what is at the heart of France’s opposition to sanctions on Iraq. While many countries buy oil from the IPC which was nationalised in 1972, France is the only Western power which has partial ownership of the IPC. The sanctions prevent France from fully exploiting that relationship.

The US and UK, with four of the top five oil companies, were frozen out of investment in the IPC and therefore control over 10% of the world’s oil. Is it really any surprise then, that these two countries are the most adamant about continuing the sanctions and going to war, whatever the consequences for the Iraqi people? Japan and Germany have almost no indigenous oil resources, so the second and third largest economies in the world have to buy their way into the oil market. While their wealth provides them with access, they can not ‘protect’ their interests militarily, due to being defeated powers in the Second World War.

Thus they remain beholden to the US to protect their oil access. For the US, control of oil means control over its friends who are also its rivals. In the largest gas bill in history, the US made Germany and Japan cough up billions of dollars for their Kuwait oil in the last Gulf War. Recession and political problems at home make Germany and Japan much less willing to do this again.

Pax Americana – a policy shared by Republicans and Democrats

The more mercenary war-mongers in the US government see control over oil as the starting point of their policy, rather than the regime of Saddam Hussein. When they look at maps of the world they see resources and zones of influence, rather than countries and people. With all that has happened in the last decade they see an urgent need to reshape parts of the world in their own interests and, by virtue of being the only superpower, almost the ordained obligation to do so.

This attitude is not new with the Bush administration. The humanitarian interventions of the Clinton administration were rooted in the same arrogant view, which holds that the Middle East is too important to be left to its people. The goal of this patrician group is to impose a Pax Americana on the region. The costs and consequences of such brutal folly can only be guessed at, but the destruction Israel is inflicting on Palestine, is a good place to start. Iraqi oil is part of the motivation. Oil in general is a greater motivation. But the root of the cowboy attitude is the nature of capitalism and imperialism in general, whoever practices it. That is the violent imposition of the interests of the few, the rulers of the capitalist great powers on the vast majority of the world’s people. The ruined lives of the many underlie the profit and the power of a few.

Another World is Possible – Socialism

We, the working people of the world, are not simply exploited masses to be pitied. We are a power, who, by fighting for our own interests, fights for the liberation of all humankind. Crises are currently shaking continents as a consequence of the neo-liberal crusade of the last twenty years. From Jakarta and Buenos Aires, from Johannesburg and Jenin, from Seattle and Genoa, people have marched under the banner, Another World is Possible. In the face of another US-led war, it is time to give that world a name – Socialism – and urgently, to begin to change it. We need a common, rational and shared utilisation of what nature, finitely, has endowed this planet – that is Socialism.

Working people, the exploited masses also exist in the US, though usually more silently than in the rest of the world. Workers in the US need to enter this struggle with their own voices, rather than fall behind those voices who would speak for them. Should the US government succeed in launching their war, despite the mounting protest, we will continue to oppose them. If they triumph in their plans we will demonstrate the perfidy of their victory and use the lessons learned to resist the next war, which will surely come. Wars are in the nature of imperialism and we must press home the reality – to defeat war it is necessary to defeat capitalism.

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Aug 04 2002

Colombia, the IRA, US and Manifest Destiny

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 03RCN @ 1:38 pm

Matt Siegfried, a socialist and trade unionist activist from Detroit, looks at the implications for the US government’s Plan Colombia

This article first appeared in Fourthwrite No. 10, Summer 2002.

The ruling class of the United States has long viewed everything south of the Rio Grande as its exclusive domain. The United States became a capitalist power based on the genocidal clearing of North America of its native inhabitants coupled with chattel slavery and culling of the huge natural resources existing between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It became an imperialist power on the backs of Latin American workers and peasants as well as the wholesale theft of everything from the fruit that hung from the trees to the oil and metals that lay below them. Generations before the US became the global power it is today US marines were enforcing the rule of US corporations in Latin America and the Caribbean. The justifications have changed, but the relationship has remained the same.

Several recent events have brought the social crises now enveloping many parts of Latin America and the US’s role in them to the attention of the world. The orchestration of the, thankfully failed, coup in Venezuela to the US backed institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, impoverishing dictates to Argentina are examples of what living under the power of the Good Neighbour to the north means to the people of South America. Nowhere is that power more destructive in this hemisphere than currently in Colombia. The US government’s Plan Colombia provides for a massive infusion of money, weapons and training to a regime that presides over one of the most murderous places on earth.

Pax Americana

The target of this Plan is not simply the guerrillas of the ELN or the FARC. Its aim is nothing less than to pacify a continent reeling from global capitalism’s neo-liberal assault begun with the NAFTA and extended south through the machinations of the, as yet unfinished, FTAA. The reasoning for this intervention was first presented in the context of the US government’s War on Drugs begun in the 80’s. Never mind the fact that drug production in the Andean countries of South America is based on the unending appetite of the North American consumer. Never mind that US institutions like the CIA created drug markets, especially of crack cocaine, in impoverished American cities to fund right-wing paramilitaries and dictatorial juntas deemed essential to the Cold War struggle against popular movements in Latin America, bypassing restrictions implemented by Congress. From the Opium Wars of a hundred years ago to the Contra war against Nicaragua and the Prison Industrial Complex of the last decades, imperialism has always viewed the drug trade as a potential tool in its arsenal of subjugation whether as its purveyor or it opponent.

Now, with a new name, the unending war by the United States against the people of Latin America is heating up in Colombia. The FARC especially, but also the ELN, operate in large swathes of the Colombian countryside effectively putting those areas outside of the control of North America and the Colombian government. Whatever one can say about the politics of the FARC and the conduct of its war, they act as an obstacle to the regime of Pax Americana in Latin America, and indeed, the world. The United States will simply not allow a situation to continue where it’s rule is in question, all resistance must be confronted so as to make any resistance seem futile.

Let us briefly present what the US wishes to defend in Colombia through its $1.5 billion support to the Colombian government this year alone. [Sources on all statistics from the CIA Sourcebook and the Canada Colombia Solidarity Campaign] Unemployment was 20.5 percent officially in 2000 and has undoubtedly grown with the world wide economic recession. UNICEF reports that over 1 million abandoned children live rough on the streets of Colombian cities and that, as of 2000, 12 children are murdered every 24 hours by gangs contracted by local merchants who view these children as nothing but pests. The per capita income according to Colombian government statistics was just under US$2,000 a year in 2001. By 1999 22.7 million of Colombia’s 36 million people were living in dire poverty. 50% of all Colombian exports come to the United States and 35% of all imports into Colombia come from the United States for a trade of about US$28 billion annually. This combined with a debt of, in 2000, US$34 billion owed mainly to American banks and financial institutions as well as the private US investment of nearly US$6 billion in 2001 speaks volumes about American interests in Colombia.

Protecting huge profits

To protect the huge profits the US extracts from Colombia a reign of terror has been unleashed on the Colombian people. Nearly half of all trade unionists killed every year in the world are Colombian, 112 in 2000 alone. 2.1 million people are internally displaced, only Afghanistan and Palestine have larger refugee populations. The death squads of the AUC are responsible for the deaths of 76% of all those civilians killed in the last 3 years, amounting to over 14,000 noncombatants killed (10 times the number of combatants killed). Rape as a tool of repression by both the AUC and the Colombian military has been widely reported, and though no reliable statistics can be found it is estimated that the AUC has grown by 70% since 1999, the year US military support to the Colombian government began in earnest. The Colombian military and the AUC, far from being opponents, have an organic relationship – they both serve the same master. The Colombian ranchers and capitalists and the American ruling class need both the legal military and the extra-legal death squads. Any talk of separating the two is a shell game and the responsibility for the atrocities committed by the AUC lie squarely at the feet of the US and Colombian governments. Of course the FARC and ELN have committed, not just mistakes, but serious crimes and should be held accountable by the Colombian people for their actions, but to make a moral equivalent of the violence of the oppressed with that of the oppressor makes a mockery of justice. As the statistics above should make clear joining the guerrillas in many parts of Colombia is, regardless of the specific actions of the FARC and the ELN, seen by many as a decision based on the legitimate need of self defence.

Last summer three men were arrested in Colombia by the government and accused of being members of the IRA training the FARC in the use of mortars and explosives. The 3 men have been held for nearly a year in a prison where violence is notorious and in urgent need of protection from the AUC, which has stated its desireto kill the three, as well as any internationals coming to Colombia in order to show solidarity with those in struggle with the regime or those who suffer as a result of the war. This includes human rights delegations, trade unionists, environmental activists and aid agencies. No evidence has been presented that would pass muster in any legitimate court in America or Europe to prove the guilt of the three, but evidence is not needed to use them as a political tool. The Colombian government has paraded them before cameras to prove that the intentions of the FARC are warlike and opposed to negotiation. The Unionists (Peter King of the DUP was elicited by the Colombian government as an expert advisor) and some British officials are using the three’s capture to show that the IRA have broken their cease-fire, are still involved in terrorism, should be barred from Stormont and the Good Friday Agreement renegotiated without any but the most pliant nationalists. The Southern Irish ruling class has used their arrest in an attempt to stymie the electoral rise of Sinn Fein in the South. With howls about democracy prohibiting political parties from being connected to armed groups. Pretty rich when you consider the history of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to say nothing of those same parties current connection to the Irish Army and the Gardai (as far as I know both of those groups are still armed) as well as the Irish government as a whole’s new relationship with NATO (another rather well armed group) with the Partnership for Peace.

Expanding the War on Terrorism

So what then was the agenda of the US Congress when they opened highly public hearings into the relationship between the IRA and the FARC? It is hard to imagine the reasoning of the US Congress in the context of the Peace Process in Ireland. Why, after the long road of bringing Sinn Fein into bourgeois legitimacy through a process where Sinn Fein and the Provisionals shed nearly every principle which put them in conflict with imperialism that the US government would want now to make them illegitimate? Sinn Fein’s acceptance of British rule and the Unionist veto in Ireland are the lynch pin upon which the Good Friday Agreement is predicated.

Since September 11th and the beginnings of the War on Terrorism the United States has been seeking to expand the targets of that war beyond that of Al Qaeda and Afghanistan. The US has long been looking down the barrel of the gun at the FARC and insurgency in general in Colombia and Latin America. They have known that, on its own, the Colombian government is incapable of re-conquering the country and that public opinion in the US has long been opposed to sending troops to Latin America. In the aftermath of Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Dirty Wars in Brazil, Argentina and Chile even the notoriously ill informed US public has turned against many of the most brutal policies employed by the US government south of the Rio Grande. It is in this context that the US seeks to make Colombia another front in its War on Terrorism, but clearly there is no tie organizationally or politically between Al Qaeda and the FARC. The United States is attempting to portray Colombia (at least where the FARC operate) as Afghanistan and the FARC as the Taliban to legitimize the continued and intensifying war on the Colombian people.

The three unlucky Irishmen are a convenient tool in this endeavour. Colombia is now as dangerous to world peace as Afghanistan and if you want proof we will concoct enough evidence to prove that not only the IRA, but ETA, Cuba, even Iranian and Zimbabwean terrorists are training there. From their bases in Colombia these internationals terrorists, who on the surface seem to have nothing in common, will return to their countries to fly planes into building just for the sake of it. Truly a Terrorist International to be frightened of! If the consequences of US threats weren’t so deadly real it would be laughable. The fact that the War on Terrorism is so consuming for some policy makers in the US that they would consciously undermine other foreign policy efforts (and in their terms successes like the Irish peace process) is an indicator where politics is currently at in the United States. After Afghanistan, Iraq. After Iraq, Colombia. After Colombia, another and another.

While this writer would find it difficult to call the IRA criminal, if they were in Colombia to assist in the fighting capacity of the FARC against the thugs of the AUC and Colombian military, we cannot assume that is what they were there for. What we do know is that fundamentally the War against Terrorism is not about terrorism at all. Colombians and the rest of Latin Americans have suffered through the early, and God ordained, Manifest Destiny of the North Americans. They have been cruelly exploited during the Good Neighbour Policy of Franklin Roosevelt that smiled as it stole. Acts of genocide were committed as the barbarous hand of the United States smashed the popular aspirations of the Latin American workers and farmers in the Cold War struggle against the Soviet Union. The War on Drugs reinforced and deepened US control over the continent as use by American consumers, and consequently production in the Andes, continued to prove that even in the heart of rich and democratic America millions sought escape from their own misery through drug use. And now the US is telling the people of the world, and of Colombia, that they are either with the US government or against it, with the ashes of Afghanistan as an example to fear.

The War against Terrorism is a continuation of a never ending war by the wealthy nations against those that have made them wealthy through their exploitation. What horror it will bring to Colombia, and the effect it will have on places like Ireland we are just beginning to see. Whatever they chose to call it, the Latin American masses call it by its right name – Yankee imperialism and they are against it.

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Jul 25 2002

How the civilised US treats prisoners of war

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 02RCN @ 9:39 pm

Matt Siegfried, a socialist and trade unionist activist from Detroit, looks at the fate of prisoners of war held at Guantanamo Bay.

This article first appeared in Fourthwrite No. 9.

The United States is the country with more people locked up, both as a percentage and in absolute numbers, than any other country in the world. The US puts to death dozens of people a year who are retarded or who were children when they supposedly committed the crimes they were convicted of. Now the US is putting prisoners of war in cages.

Since September 11th erstwhile liberals and defenders of civil liberties, former radicals and anti- Vietnam war protesters have been queuing up to extol patriotism in this new War for Civilisation. With the self-appointed status as Ambassadors of Freedom, as Bush has called his new friends in Hollywood and the media, many on the soft left of politics are entirely engaged in the propaganda effort.

Some deny any inconsistency between their warmongering and their principles. Others, like noted liberal law professor and defence attorney, Alan Dershowitz, who says he now accepts the use of torture to prevent acts of terror, argue that there are exceptions to their principles concerning human rights.

Squalid war of power & revenge

Happy in the fact that the US is finally engaged in a war they can support and thereby be viewed as fully American by the citadels of power in this country, they paint a picture with dangerous implications for the rest of the world of a United States both omnipotent and victimised. This squalid war of power and revenge (with happy and not entirely coincidental benefits for the defence and oil industries) is best viewed by the means with which it is being fought. One must ask oneself what kind of War of Civilisation is the US fighting this time when it makes common cause with the gangsters of the Northern Alliance to bring to heel the gangsters of the Taliban, both descendent of the Mujahedin gangsters it made common cause with in the last War for Civilisation against the Soviet Union?

With the aim of criminalising any opposition to its policies or its rule by dehumanising and depoliticising its opponents, the United States has engaged in the most egregious treatment of those captured. Those who survived the executions, massacres and suffocations of prisoners in Afghanistan find themselves in a legal limbo without rights and at the whim of their US captors.

The United States, under George W. Bush, already noted in his brief tenure for a propensity to pull out of, or disregard for international treaties it had previously signed, denies the captured Taliban fighters are prisoners of war and that the Geneva Conventions apply to the captured Al Qaeda fighters. Citing legal ambiguities as to the prisoners’ exact status, it ignores the clearest legal pronouncement of the Geneva Conventions – that the captor has no right to decide the status of the captured.

Kept in cages on a stolen sliver of Cuban soil in Camp X-Ray, the prisoners are routinely degraded and tortured psychologically and physically, using British and Israeli methods. Some have been drugged against their will. All have been forced to wear manacles, blindfolds and earplugs on their long trip to Guantanamo Bay. One can imagine the howls emanating from Washington or London if one of their soldiers were treated in this way and paraded around as trophies by Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Because of their ambiguous status the prisoners do not know where they will end up or for how long they will be held. If they are tried by military tribunals, it is very likely no one will know their fate. Most are foot soldiers, though some are leaders possibly responsible for crimes committed in Afghanistan against women, gays, lesbians, ethnic and religious minorities or leftists among others.

Those who committed crimes against the Afghan people should be tried by their victims, not by the imperialists or the imperialist backed government, who are guilty of the same or worse crimes! The United States has no right to try anybody concerning war crimes against humanity when it continues to practice such offences itself and on a global scale.

The policies of dehumanising and depoliticising prisoners of war is similar to the policies carried out by Britain against Irish prisoners of war, and currently and dramatically, by Turks against Kurdish and leftist prisoners and by Israel against Palestinian prisoners, among many other countries.

Struggle for human rights, justice & dignity

We on the left have every right to make a clear and bold distinction between those like the Irish, Kurdish and Palestinian prisoners, who belong to the most progressive forces of their respective countries on the one hand; and those like Al Qaeda and the Taliban, who belong to the most reactionary forces of their respective countries on the other. This distinction, so clear to us, between those engaged in a struggle for liberation and those who seek the room to exploit on their own terms, is denied by the imperialists, who paint all obstacles in their path and resistance to their rule with the same brush.

Those of us on the left who fight against the barbaric treatment of Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners do it without political sympathy for those held. Neither do we fight against their brutal treatment simply because we know the imperialist governments have used similar techniques against people we do sympathise with, or indeed us and our comrades personally. We fight not just to block a precedent that will undoubtedly be used in an ever expanding war against terrorism.

We struggle for human rights, dignity and justice because we know that there is indeed a war for civilisation going on. In that war, which began long before September 11th, the United States is not the victim but the aggressor, and the civilisation we want ensures the humane treatment of all people, real justice and no need for cages and barbed wire to confine people.

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