Saturday, July 27, 2013


(A sad day...I had the chance to get to know Steve a bit, working with him on Random Chance Records studio sessions for Bill O'Connell's jazz albums, Black Sand and Latin Jazz Fantasy and on Fort Apache release Rumba Buhaina. A great percussionist and human being. We also discovered we shared a radical past having been activists in the 60s & 70s.)

Larry Blumenfeld on jazz and other sounds
BLU NOTES: Larry Blumenfeld on jazz and other sounds
July 27, 2013, 1:46 am

Drummer and Percussionist Steve Berrios, Who Fused Rhythmic Worlds, Dies
The death of drummer and percussionist Steve Berrios on Thursday, at age 68, came as shock—he died at home in New York City, no details were forthcoming as to the cause—and sent waves of sadness and gratitude through more than one music community.
Berrios played and recorded widely on more than 300 albums, beginning on traps and timbales with percussionist Mongo Santamaria’s band and, later on, with a long list that includes: Tito Puente, Art Blakey, Max Roach’s M’Boom, Randy Weston, Grover Washington Jr., Willie Colon and Miriam Makeba. With his own Son Bachéche band, playing music rooted in Yoruba tradition, he made two memorable recordings in the 1990s, one of which earned a Grammy nomination.
Yet Berrios is best known as a founding member of the Fort Apache Band. That group’s blend of Afro-Latin rhythms and the swinging pulses of American jazz is singular, and it was elevated mightily by Berrios’s precise skills, bilingual knowledge and graceful approach. I last heard Berrios perform with Fort Apache at Manhattan’s Blue Note, just three weeks ago. There, he locked into a rhythm section authoritatively (as befit a relationship spanning four decades) with bassist Andy Gonzalez, pianist Larry Willis, and the group’s leader, conguero Jerry Gonzalez, who also plays trumpet. As usual, from behind his trap set, Berrios projected both easeful humility and fierce focus; when he directed a shift from, say, a songo rhythm to a hard-dug bebop groove, the moment was often seamless enough as to be imperceptible. Gonzalez’s Fort Apache band is a wondrous machine of virtuoso parts; Berrios enabled its smooth gearshifts and quick acceleration, and kept its direction on track.
(These pictures were taken at that Blue Note gig, by Jerry Gonalez’s wife, Andrea Zapata-Girau.)
Berrios was born in Manhattan on February 24, 1945, to parents who had just arrived from Puerto Rico. Maybe he got on so well with Jerry Gonzalez because he first played trumpet—well enough to score first place at the Apollo Theater’s competitions five times. His father, Steve Sr., was a drummer with the major Latin bands of the era. Steve, Jr. soaked up jazz tradition from his father’s record collection and circle of musician friends. His early mentors in Afro-Cuban percussion were celebrated masters, Willie Bobo and Julio Collazo (the latter instructed him in the ritual traditions of the two-headed batá drums and became his spiritual mentor in Santería, the Yoruba-based tradition that is the wellspring of Afro-Cuban folkloric music). After settling on drums and percussion, Berrios began playing in local dance bands and, in the 1970s, joined Mongo Santamaria’s band. In 1981, he helped form Fort Apache, with which he recorded several albums, beginning with “The River Is Deep” (Enja, 1982) and through “Rumba Buhaina” (Sunnyside, 2005).
Jerry Gonzalez recalled the beginnings of his long collaboration with Berrios via email from his home in Spain:
I met Steve in the 1960s when I was still at Music & Art High School and my brother and I were playing with Monguito Santamaría’s band [Mongo's son]. Steve came to our rehearsal. At that time he was playing with Mongo Santamaría. I remember doing a few gigs opposite to Mongo Santamaria at the Village Gate and Bottom Line. We would bump into each other in rumbas in the parks, concerts and “toques de santo” [Santería ceremonies] and we kept gravitating towards each other until the point that we started the Nuyorican Village, which was a cultural center for all Latino artists. We started workshops there and, later, at the Soundscape, where we would perform once every week for two years with different musicians that we met.
We both played trumpet and Afro-Cuban percussion, we thought alike, we had the same kind of taste and we knew what we wanted to do. When I started Fort Apache, I was looking for someone who could really combine the Afro-Cuban and the jazz essence as one and Steve was it, the perfect combination. He was a walking encyclopedia of rhythms. He knew how to adapt the Afro-Cuban to the jazz with such a good taste—and he was one of the few who could really swing and understand what the swing was about. He had the essence of Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, Max Roach, Julito Collazo (one of the real masters of the batá drums in America) and the Muñequitos de Matanzas.
Gonzalez wrote that he is trying to organize a New York City memorial to Berrios—“Larry Willis, my brother Andy, [saxophonist] Joe Ford, me, and the whole Fort Apache extended music family together to pay tribute to Steve.”
Berrios’s subtle but bold influence spans musical communities and generations. Once, after sitting in on drums at the Blue Note with the Fort Apache band, Jeff “Tain” Watts described for me how Berrios was a source of “secrets you cannot find anywhere else.”
Berrios’s credits include work with Chico O’Farrill’s orchestra. He’s also worked with Chico’s son, pianist and bandleader Arturo O’Farrill. “I played with Steve for 20-plus years, as recently as three months ago,” Arturo wrote in an email. “We were all in awe of him because he was the definitive master Latin-jazz drummer. He was the contradiction to the notions that Latinos couldn’t swing and Jazzers had no timba. With all due respect to all the other great drummers, this man invented modern Latin-jazz drumming, he defined the style, and played it better than anyone. Last of a kind, his pocket will never be duplicated.”
PLEASE NOTE: Berrios’ family has requested that anyone wishing to contribute to his funeral expenses please make a donation here. Donations can also be mailed to Jazz Foundation of America, 322 W. 48th St.,

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Iraq Invades The United States

Iraq Invades the United States

And Other Headlines from an Upside Down History of the U.S. Military and the World

By Eduardo Galeano

[The following passages are excerpted from Eduardo Galeano’s new book, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History (Nation Books).]
The Day Mexico Invaded the United States
(March 9)

On this early morning in 1916, Pancho Villa crossed the border with his horsemen, set fire to the city of Columbus, killed several soldiers, nabbed a few horses and guns, and the following day was back in Mexico to tell the tale.

This lightning incursion is the only invasion the United States has suffered since its wars to break free from England.

In contrast, the United States has invaded practically every country in the entire world.

Since 1947 its Department of War has been called the Department of Defense, and its war budget the defense budget.

The names are an enigma as indecipherable as the Holy Trinity.

God’s Bomb
(August 6)

In 1945, while this day was dawning, Hiroshima lost its life. The atomic bomb’s first appearance incinerated this city and its people in an instant.

The few survivors, mutilated sleepwalkers, wandered among the smoking ruins. The burns on their naked bodies carried the stamp of the clothing they were wearing when the explosion hit. On what remained of the walls, the atom bomb’s flash left silhouettes of what had been: a woman with her arms raised, a man, a tethered horse.

Three days later, President Harry Truman spoke about the bomb over the radio.

He said: “We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.”

Manufacturing Mistakes
(April 20)

It was among the largest military expeditions ever launched in the history of the Caribbean. And it was the greatest blunder.

The dispossessed and evicted owners of Cuba declared from Miami that they were ready to die fighting for devolution, against revolution.

The US government believed them, and their intelligence services once again proved themselves unworthy of the name.

On April 20, 1961, three days after disembarking at the Bay of Pigs, armed to the teeth and backed by warships and planes, these courageous heroes surrendered.

The World Upside Down
(March 20)

On March 20 in the year 2003, Iraq’s air force bombed the United States.

On the heels of the bombs, Iraqi troops invaded U.S. soil.

There was collateral damage. Many civilians, most of them women and children, were killed or maimed. No one knows how many, because tradition dictates tabulating the losses suffered by invading troops and prohibits counting victims among the invaded population.

The war was inevitable. The security of Iraq and of all humanity was threatened by the weapons of mass destruction stockpiled in United States arsenals.

There was no basis, however, to the insidious rumors suggesting that Iraq intended to keep all the oil in Alaska.

Collateral Damage
(June 13)

Around this time in 2010 it came out that more and more US soldiers were committing suicide. It was nearly as common as death in combat.

The Pentagon promised to hire more mental health specialists, already the fastest-growing job classification in the armed forces.

The world is becoming an immense military base, and that base is becoming a mental hospital the size of the world. Inside the nuthouse, which ones are crazy? The soldiers killing themselves or the wars that oblige them to kill?

Operation Geronimo
(May 2)

Geronimo led the Apache resistance in the nineteenth century.

This chief of the invaded earned himself a nasty reputation for driving the invaders crazy with his bravery and brilliance, and in the century that followed he became the baddest bad guy in the West on screen.

Keeping to that tradition, “Operation Geronimo” was the name chosen by the U.S. government for the execution of Osama bin Laden, who was shot and disappeared on this day in 2011.

But what did Geronimo have to do with bin Laden, the delirious caliph cooked up in the image laboratories of the U.S. military? Was Geronimo even remotely like this professional fearmonger who would announce his intention to eat every child raw whenever a U.S. president needed to justify a new war?

The name was not an innocent choice: the U.S. military always considered the Indian warriors who defended their lands and dignity against foreign conquest to be terrorists.

Robots with Wings
(October 13)

Good news. On this day in the year 2011 the world’s military brass announced that drones could continue killing people.

These pilotless planes, crewed by no one, flown by remote control, are in good health: the virus that attacked them was only a passing bother.

As of now, drones have dropped their rain of bombs on defenseless victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Palestine, and their services are expected in other countries.

In the Age of the Almighty Computer, drones are the perfect warriors. They kill without remorse, obey without kidding around, and they never reveal the names of their masters.

War Against Drugs
(October 27)

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan took up the spear that Richard Nixon had raised a few years previous, and the war against drugs received a multimillion-dollar boost.

From that point on, profits escalated for drug traffickers and the big money-laundering banks; more powerful drugs came to kill twice as many people as before; every week a new jail opens in the United States, since the country with the most drug addicts always has room for a few addicts more; Afghanistan, a country invaded and occupied by the United States, became the principal supplier of nearly all the world’s heroin; and the war against drugs, which turned Colombia into one big U.S. military base, is turning Mexico into a demented slaughterhouse.

Eduardo Galeano is one of Latin America’s most distinguished writers. He is the author of Open Veins of Latin America, the Memory of Fire Trilogy, Mirrors, and many other works. His newest book, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History (Nation Books) has just been published in English. He is the recipient of many international prizes, including the first Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, the American Book Award, and the Casa de las Américas Prize.

Mark Fried is the translator of seven books by Eduardo Galeano, including Children of the Days. He is also the translator of the recently released Firefly by Severo Sarduy. He lives in Ottawa, Canada.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 Eduardo Galeano

This post is excerpted from Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History Copyright © 2013 by Eduardo Galeano; translation copyright © 2013 by Mark Fried. Published by Nation Books, A member of the Perseus Group, New York, NY. Originally published in Spanish in 2012 by Siglo XXI Editores, Argentina, and Ediciones Chanchito, Uruguay. By permission of Susan Bergholz Literary Services, New York City, and Lamy, N.M. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 22, 2013

graphic by Dimi Reader

Helen Thomas, A Truth Teller Pilloried


Here are excerpts of the Playboy interview in 2011 by David Hochman, in which Helen Thomas identified herself as an anti-Zionist, stood up for the Palestinian right to resist colonization, and said that American Jews control the media and the White House and Congress and she's old enough to speak the truth about it at last.

First some biography from that interview.

Born August 4, 1920, Thomas herself is of Arab descent. She was the seventh of nine children born in Winchester, Kentucky to Syrian-born emigrants from Tripoli, Lebanon. Her family soon moved to Detroit, where her father ran a grocery store even though he couldn’t read or write in English. News was often a topic around the house, and after college Thomas landed a job as a girl Friday at a Washington, D.C. newspaper toward the end of World War II. That led her to the copy desk and a cub reporter position and eventually to a job covering government bureaucracy for the wire service United Press International. She remained at UPI for much of her career.

Then some excerpts:

PLAYBOY: What was life like in the immediate aftermath as millions started viewing the video on YouTube?

THOMAS: I went into self-imposed house arrest for two weeks. It was a case of “know thyself.” Isn’t that what Socrates said? I wanted to see if I was remorseful—and I wasn’t.

PLAYBOY: Did the phone ring off the hook?

THOMAS: No. Nobody called. But I still have some friends in the White House press pool, who reached out to me. I understand they formed Jews for Helen Thomas at one point.

PLAYBOY: That’s interesting.

THOMAS: I also heard from Jimmy Carter. He called a few weeks later.

PLAYBOY: He did? What did he say?

THOMAS: Basically he was sympathetic. He talked about the Israelis in the Middle East, the violations. It was very nice of him to call, but I don’t want to get him into trouble.

PLAYBOY: His reaction certainly wasn’t typical.

THOMAS: No. Every columnist and commentator jumped on me immediately as anti-Semitic. Nobody asked me to explain myself. Nobody said, “What did you really mean?”

PLAYBOY: What did you really mean?

THOMAS: Well, there’s no understanding of the Palestinians at all. I mean, they’re living there and these people want to come and take their homes and land and water and kill their children and kill them. How many are still under arrest in Israel—never been charged, never been tried, never been convicted? Thousands. Why? Meanwhile, we keep giving Israel everything. Our government bribes the Israelis by saying, “Please come to the [negotiating] table and we’ll give you this and we’ll give you that.” Obama’s last offer to the Israelis was $22 billion in new fighter planes [Editor’s note: The offer was actually just under $3 billion], a veto at the UN for anything pro-Arab or pro-Palestinian and a three-month freeze on the colonization and settlers. I mean, what is this? They gave away the store, just as Reagan and every other president did. Why do you have to bribe people to do the right thing? I don’t want my government bribing anybody. I want them demanding. Stop all this aid to Israel when they’re killing people!

PLAYBOY: It was your follow-up comment, when you said the Jews should go back to Poland, Germany and America, that really infuriated people.

THOMAS: Well, that immediately evoked the concentration camps. What I meant was they should stay where they are because they’re not being persecuted—not since World War II, not since 1945. If they were, we sure would hear about it. Instead, they initiated the Jackson-Vanik law, which said the U.S. would not trade with Russia unless it allowed unlimited Jewish emigration. But it was not immigration to the United States, which would have been fine with me. It was to go to Palestine and uproot these people, throw them out of their homes, which they have done through several wars. That’s not fair. I want people to understand why the Palestinians are upset. They are incarcerated and living in an open prison. I say to the Israelis, “Get out of people’s homes!” It’s unacceptable to have soldiers knocking on a door at three in the morning and saying, “This is my home.” And forcing people out of homes they’ve lived in for centuries? What is this? How can anybody accept it? I mean, Jewish-only roads? Would anyone tolerate something like that in America? White-only roads?

PLAYBOY: You mean Israeli-only roads, not Jewish only, right? [Editor’s note: Israel closes certain roads to Palestinians, but roads are open to all Israeli citizens and to other nationals, regardless of religious background.]

THOMAS: Israeli-only roads, okay. But it’s more than semantics because the Palestinians are deprived of owning these roads. This is their land. I’m sorry, but we’re talking about foreigners who came and said, “God gave this land to us.” [Former Israeli prime minister ­Yitzhak] Rabin said, “Where’s the deed?” I mean, come on! Do you know that an Arab Palestinian trying to go home to see his mother has to go through 10 checkpoints and then is held there, while an American tourist can go through right like that? The Palestinian people have to carry their kids to hospitals and are not allowed to drive cars and so forth. What is this? No American Jew would tolerate that sort of treatment here against blacks or anyone else. Why do they allow it over there? And why do they send my American tax dollars to perpetuate it?

PLAYBOY: Do you acknowledge that some Palestinian behavior over the years, including hijacking and the use of suicide bombers, has been wrong and has added to the problem?

THOMAS: In an ideal world passive resistance and world disarmament would be great. Unfortunately we don’t live in that world. Of course I don’t condone any violence against anyone. But who wouldn’t fight for their country...

PLAYBOY: Do you have a personal antipathy toward Jews themselves?

THOMAS: No. I think they’re wonderful people. They had to have the most depth. They were leaders in civil rights. They’ve always had the heart for others but not for Arabs, for some reason. I’m not anti-Jewish; I’m anti-Zionist. I am anti Israel taking what doesn’t belong to it. If you have a home and you’re kicked out of that home, you don’t come and kick someone else out. Anti-Semite? The Israelis are not even Semites! They’re Europeans, and they’ve come from somewhere else. But even if they were Semites, they would still have no right to usurp other people’s land. There are some Israelis with a conscience and a big heart, but unfortunately they are too few.

PLAYBOY: In the wake of your anti-Israel comments, a blogger from The ­Atlantic argued there’s really no distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. He wrote, “Thomas was fired for saying that the Jews of Israel should move to Europe, where their relatives had been slaughtered in the most devastating act of genocide in history. She believes that once the Jews are evacuated from their ancestral homeland, the world’s only Jewish country should be replaced by what would be the world’s 23rd Arab country. She believes that Palestinians deserve a country of their own but that the Jews are undeserving of a nation-state in their homeland, which has had a continuous Jewish presence for 3,000 years.…”

THOMAS: [Interrupts] Did a Jew write this? [Editor’s note: The writer is Jeffrey Goldberg.]

PLAYBOY: “…and has been the location of two previous Jewish states. This sounds like a very anti-Jewish position to me, not merely an anti-Zionist position.”

THOMAS: This is a rotten piece. I mean it’s absolutely biased and totally—who are these people? Why do they think they’re so deserving? The slaughter of Jews stopped with World War II. I had two brothers and many relatives who fought in that war against Hitler. We believed in it. Every American family was in that fight. But they were liberated since then. And yet they carry on the victimization. American people do not know that the Israeli lobbyists have intimidated them into believing every Jew is a persecuted victim forever—while they are victimizing Palestinians.

PLAYBOY: Let’s get to something else you said more recently. In a speech in Detroit last December, you told an Arab group, “We are owned by the propagandists against the Arabs. There’s no question about that. Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question, in my opinion. They put their money where their mouth is. We’re being pushed into a wrong direction in every way.” Do you stand by that statement?

THOMAS: Yes, I do. I know it was horrendous, but I know it’s true. Tell me it’s not true and I’ll be happy to be contradicted. I’m just saying they’re using their power, and they have power in every direction.

PLAYBOY: That stereotype of Jewish control has been around for more than a century. Do you actually think there’s a secret Jewish conspiracy at work in this country?

THOMAS: Not a secret. It’s very open. What do you mean secret?

PLAYBOY: Well, for instance, explain the connection between Hollywood and what’s happening with the Palestinians.

THOMAS: Power over the White House, power over Congress.

PLAYBOY: By way of contributions?

THOMAS: Everybody is in the pocket of the Israeli lobbies, which are funded by wealthy supporters, including those from Hollywood. Same thing with the financial markets. There’s total control.

PLAYBOY: Who are you thinking about specifically? Who are the Jews with the most influence?

THOMAS: I’m not going to name names. What, am I going to name the Ponzi guy on Wall Street [Bernard Madoff] or the others? No.

PLAYBOY: Then how do you make the claim that Jews are running the country?

THOMAS: I want you to look at the Congress that just came in. Do you think [New York Democratic senator Charles] Schumer and Lehtinen—whatever her name is—in Florida [Republican representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a strong supporter of Israel] are going to be pro-Arab? No. But they’re going to be very influential. Eric Cantor, the majority leader of the Republicans, do you think he’s going to be for the Arabs? Hell no! I’m telling you, you cannot get 330 votes in Congress for anything that’s pro-Arab. Nothing. If you’re not in, you’re eased out, just as Senator William Fulbright was in the 1960s [after claiming that millions of tax-deductible dollars from American philanthropies were being sent to Israel and then funneled back to the U.S. for distribution to organizations with pro-Israel positions]. Congressman Paul Findley from a little old rural district in Illinois made the mistake of shaking hands with Yasir Arafat years ago. It ended up costing him his reelection. He later wrote a book called They Dare to Speak Out about how impossible it is to have a position in this country that takes on Israel. Maybe there is a handful that can, but in general you cannot speak against any Zionist movement in this country.

PLAYBOY: Do you begrudge people like Steven Spielberg? He created the Shoah Foundation to chronicle the life stories of Holocaust survivors. What’s your feeling about him?

THOMAS: There’s nothing wrong with remembering it, but why do we have to constantly remember? We’re not at fault. I mean, if they’re going to put a Holocaust museum in every city in Germany, that’s fine with me. But we didn’t do this to the Jews. Why do we have to keep paying the price and why do they keep oppressing the Palestinians? Do the Jews ever look at themselves? Why are they always right? Because they have been oppressed throughout history, I know. And they have this persecution. That’s true, but they shouldn’t use that to dominate.

PLAYBOY: In America you’re talking about a relatively small community. Jews make up roughly two percent of the U.S. population. On a worldwide level, the percentage is well under one percent. Those numbers don’t exactly spell domination.

THOMAS: I get where you’re leading with this. You know damn well the power they have. It isn’t the two percent. It’s real power when you own the White House, when you own these other places in terms of your political persuasion. Of course they have power. You don’t deny that. You’re Jewish, aren’t you?


THOMAS: That’s what I thought. Well, you know damn well they have power.

PLAYBOY: Why did it take you so long to speak out like this?

THOMAS: It hasn’t taken that long. I’ve told all my friends and so forth. This has been an issue for me since I first came to Washington.

PLAYBOY: You’ve kept quiet publicly since the 1940s?

THOMAS: It was certainly on my mind back then. The United Nations Partition Plan was being debated at the UN and in the Arab community, and I knew what the Arabs were going through since I have an Arab background. I was part of that community. Like I said, I’ve never hesitated to tell my views to all my friends. They knew exactly where I stood. But I finally wanted to speak the truth. And I think I’m old enough to get away with it. Well, almost. Not quite.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Struggle for Egypt, by Joseph Massad


Ever since Muhammad Mursi was elected president of Egypt in democratic elections marred by his Mubarakist opponent Ahmad Shafiq’s electoral corruption and bribes, a coalition of Egyptian liberals, Nasserists, leftists — including socialists and communists of varying stripes –and even Salafist and repentant Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members began to form slowly but steadily, establishing an alliance with Mubarak’s ruling bourgeoisie and holdover politicians from his regime to oust him from power, fearing that he and his party were preparing a “Nazi-like” takeover of the country and destroying its fledgling democracy.
The scenario they fear is the one that brought the Nazis to establish a totalitarian state in 1933. In July 1932, in the German Reichstag (parliamentary) elections, the Nazi party received over 37 percent of the vote, becoming the largest party in parliament. On 30 January 1933, German President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler Reich Chancellor, wherein Hitler headed a cabinet with a minority of Nazi ministers. A month later, on 27 February 1933, arsonists burned down the Reichstag building in Berlin. Hitler blamed the communists and accused them of a plot to overthrow the democratically elected parliament and asked the President of the Weimar Republic to grant him emergency powers to suspend civil liberties so that he could chase the communists, imprison them, dissolve political parties and close down the press. This came to be known as the Reichstag Fire Decree. On March 23, the Reichstag conferred on Hitler dictatorial powers, establishing the Nazi totalitarian regime and state.
The anti-Mursi alliance, which began to form in earnest in August 2012, started out bashfully but would become proud and assertive by November 2012, after Mursi’s infamous Constitutional Decree, which centralized political power in the hands of the President. With the aid of Mubarak’s judges, the Mubarakist bourgeoisie and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which had ruled Egypt for a year and four months after Mubarak’s ouster, had already dissolved the post-uprising democratically-elected parliament, which was composed of a majority of Islamists, on technical grounds, before Mursi’s election. They did so to the cheers of liberals and leftists who claimed that they were the real leaders of the 25 January uprising that overthrew Mubarak and who feared the elected Islamists whom they depicted not as part of the uprising but as encroachers on their “revolution.” A few days before the elections, the military also issued a constitutional decree constricting the powers of the elected president and concentrating it in the hands of the military.
The liberals’ and the leftists’ fear was that the MB was Egypt’s Nazi party –they pretend to be democrats until they get elected and then they will refuse to leave power and will eliminate the democratic process and establish an Islamist dictatorship. That the Mubarak-appointed judges were the ones who dissolved the democratically elected parliament seemed not to bother the liberals and the leftists much, but they were horrified when Mursi issued his Constitutional Decree, which aimed to take away the power of Mubarak’s judges whom he had tried to depose unsuccessfully. Indeed the Constitutional Decree was seen as a sort of Reichstag Fire Decree, which it could very well have been. Mursi would soon reverse himself and would cancel the Decree in response to popular uproar. He would more recently express regret for having issued it.
Mursi’s Record
The Mursi government seemed surprisingly pliant and friendly to Western interests, including towards Israel, whose president Shimon Peres was addressed by Mursi as “my dear friend” in an official presidential letter. Contrary to expectations of a burgeoning friendship with Hamas, under Mursi’s government, the Gaza border in Rafah was closed more times than under Mubarak, security coordination with Israel became more intimate than under Mubarak, and to make matters worse, Mursi, with the Egyptian army and the help of the Americans, destroyed the majority of the underground tunnels between Gaza and Sinai which the Palestinians had dug out to smuggle in food and goods during their interminable siege since 2005 and which Mubarak had not dared demolish. Mursi even went further by mediating between Israel and Hamas during the latest Israeli attack on Gaza, vouching that he would guarantee that Hamas would not launch rockets against Israel but not the other way around. It is true that Mursi refused to meet with Israeli leaders but even Mubarak had refused to visit Israel for years before his ouster and had recalled his ambassador in protest against Israeli policies. One of Mursi’s more major acts before his recent ouster was not the closure of the Israeli embassy, as friends and enemies of the Islamists threatened he would do, but closed down instead the Syrian embassy in support of the ongoing rightwing Islamist insurrection in that country.
While in power, Mursi and his government continued Mubarak’s policies of contracting the public sector and social spending in a continuing war against the poor and downtrodden of Egypt, who are the majority of the population, and pushed forth neoliberal economic policies that favored the rich and powerful, including an IMF deal (which was never finalized for no fault of Mursi’s), which would increase the already existing austerity measures against the poor. Indeed, he did nothing to change the existing labor and tax laws that favor the rich and oppress workers, middle class employees, and the poor. Mursi neither prosecuted army generals for crimes of which they stood accused (he rather bestowed on them major state honors and awards and made those whom he retired into advisors to the President), nor tried the Mubarakist thieving bourgeoisie in the courts for its pillage of the country for three and a half decades, let alone the security apparatus that continued to repress Egyptians under his rule.
On the contrary, as a president who came out of the rightist and neoliberal wing of the MB (compared to the more centrist ‘Abd al-Mun’im Abu al-Futuh who also ran for the presidency and lost), he was interested in an alliance between the Islamist neoliberal bourgeoisie, whose most visible member is Khayrat al-Shatir (who was barred from running for the presidency by the Mubarakist courts), and the Mubarakist bourgeoisie. Unlike al-Shatir who is the son of a rich merchant and who made his own fortune in Egypt, many among the Islamist rich, though not all, made their money in the Gulf. They were mostly kept out of a share in the pillaging of Egypt, restricted to the close businessmen friends of Mubarak, now wanted a place at the table to partake of the ongoing pillage of the country. While Mursi won the favor of the military with the US vouching for his good behavior, at least until last week, hard as he tried to convince the Mubarakist bourgeoisie to allow the Islamists to partake of pillaging Egypt, the Mubarakist bourgeoisie would not budge.
The Response of the Mubarakists
The Mubarakist bourgeoisie’s response was that Egypt was theirs to pillage alone (though they have always been happy to include the Americans, the Saudis, the Emiratis, and of course the Israelis) and that they would not allow some Islamist upstarts to move in on their territory. Having shunned Egypt’s poor, its peasants and workers, its low income middle classes, while courting the rank and file of the MB, the Islamist and Mubarakist bourgeoisies, and the military, Mursi had no one but the MB to fall back on when the army abandoned him and the Mubarakists and the coalition plotting with them intensified their attacks on him.
Mubarak’s bourgeoisie set their media empires loose on Mursi and the MB. Week after week, hour after hour, on television, in the press, on social media, especially Facebook but also twitter, a campaign of vilification, exaggerations, and outright lies would ensue. Television anchors would go as far as calling for the violent overthrow of Mursi. Members of the opposition, like millionaire engineer Mamdouh Hamzah, openly called on the army to stage a coup.
Campaigns, which were also supported by the Saudis and the Emiratis, would target Qatar, the sponsor of the MB around the Arab world, as a financial monster trying to buy out everything in Egypt, including allegedly the Suez Canal and the pyramids! The comedian Bassem Youssef (very popular among the Cairo and Alexandria bourgeoisie and middle classes but virtually unknown to the majority of poor and lower class Egyptians in the cities and the countryside who cannot understand the majority of his Western and upper middle class references) went after Qatar with a clever parody of a late 1950s Arab nationalist song which designated Qatar rather than “the Arab homeland” as its object of adulation, on account of the latter’s increasing financial investments in Egypt (both real and imagined). That the Saudis, the Emiratis, and the Americans are larger financial monsters and have investments and property in the country that far exceed what the voracious Qataris had been rumored to acquire did not merit any of them a parody song like the Qataris. The irony is that while the Qataris have been the sponsors and engineers of MB takeovers across Arab countries which experienced uprisings, including Egypt, or were sometimes made to experience them by the Qataris, as in Libya and even in Syria, the Saudis and the Emiratis have been the active sponsors of the counterrevolutions and of the anciens regimes.
In the meantime, the media and the pundits kept speaking about Mursi as the new “Hitler” and the MB as the “Nazi Party.” The highly westernized Bassem Youssef even unfurled the Nazi flag to his audience in one episode as a reference to the MB flag, thinking that the Nazi flag would be so familiar to most Egyptians that it would produce gasps of horror. Judging from the reaction of his choreographed studio audience, which reacted nonchalantly to the flag, which is not recognizable to most Egyptians (who are, unlike their western counterparts, not avid consumers of Hollywood films about WWII) outside political and intellectual circles, the impact seemed limited. But the Nazi and Hitler analogies would be made also by academics in their op-ed columns, time and again. Indeed, the recently appointed minister of culture was even likened to Goebbels by one columnist, which is not a problem unto itself, but what about the endless and repetitious barrage of propaganda and lies by the anti-Mursi media conglomerates? Does it deserve a comparison with Goebbels?
We should bear in mind that the Nazi accusations have been often used in world politics to justify all kinds of actions. In fact, Mursi is not the first Egyptian president accused of being a Hitler. In 1954, and in light of the Lavon Affair, Israel dubbed Nasser “Hitler on the Nile” for prosecuting Israel’s terrorist spies. The French and the British followed suit during their preparation for the 1956 invasion of Egypt
massadcoverclaiming that they were fighting a fascist Nasser and that their anti-fascism trumps his anti-imperialism. Western liberals who supported the US invasion of the Arabian Peninsula in 1991 and Iraq in 2003 to remove Saddam also argued that their anti-fascism trumps the anti-imperialism of opponents of the invasion. Husni Mubarak, in contrast, who served as tyrant for three decades was never called Hitler by the opposition press. Ironically, the only Egyptian president who ever flirted with Nazism was none other than Anwar Sadat who had been a pro-Nazi enthusiast in his youth.
In the case of Mursi, the media campaign against him and the MB, most prominently on CBC and ONTV satellite channels (both owned by members of the Mubarakist bourgeoisie), far outstripped anything that the CIA-financed El Mercurio could do in its anti-Salvador Allende campaign before the CIA-sponsored coup toppled him in 1973 Chile– which is not to say that Mursi is an Allende but rather that many of his powerful enemies are not unlike Allende’s (after all, middle class women carrying pots and pans, members of the truckers’ union, among other sectors, would march and strike against Allende’s rule).
Rumors had it also that the anti-Palestinian and increasingly anti-Hamas Mursi government was giving the poor and besieged Gaza Palestinians electricity (which it was not) that it was allegedly stealing from the Egyptian people and causing massive shortages in Cairo and around the country. Other rumors had it that Mursi was ceding the Sinai to Hamas and the Palestinians. More rumors would have it that Hamas elements were being brought in to harass Egyptian liberals and leftists who opposed Mursi’ policies. Just a week before his ouster, we were told without a shred of evidence that Mursi had imported 1500 Hamas elements to attack the anti-Mursi demonstrators set to stage their massive rallies on 30 June demanding that Mursi step down. The media-whipped hysteria gripping the country was of such magnitude that even usually levelheaded liberal and leftist academics abandoned their critical faculties altogether and immersed themselves exclusively in the world of Facebook rumors and yellow journalism, which became their primary source of information and education.
The Confrontation
The Mursi government was clearly adamant in its plans to push ahead, with blunders and all (and its stupid blunders let alone its neoliberal policies and its utter incompetence in running the country are sufficient on their own to discredit it), including its courting members of the MB and other Islamists for key positions in the government, in constitutional committees, and in the bureaucracy. It is true that Mursi invited many in the opposition throughout his year in power to join committees, the cabinet, the bureaucracy, and even his team of advisors (and some accepted for a while), but most of them rejected these offers, fearing, legitimately in many cases, that they would be used as fronts for what they expected would be a program of “Ikhwanization” (the MB in Arabic are truncated to “Ikhwan”) of the state, which has been astronomically exaggerated by the Mubarakist media. Others resigned advisory positions they had accepted because Mursi refused to heed their advice, something, according to reported MB sources, he also did with MB advisors.
But the incompetence of the MB presidency was not the only reason the country deteriorated in the last year. Everywhere Mursi turned, the Mubarakists put obstacles in his way. The government bureaucracy refused to cooperate with him, the judges fought him every step of the way, and the police refused to redeploy in the streets. The Mubarakist bourgeoisie, as is increasingly being revealed in the international press, fabricated an energy crisis causing massive shortages in fuel and electricity, which miraculously disappeared upon Mursi’s removal from power.
This set the scene for the massive mobilization that a new “movement” calling itself “Tamarrud” (which actually means “Mutiny” and in some contexts “Rebellion,” but not “Rebel” as its founders, supporters, and the western media erroneously translate it), which called for the demonstrations on June 30, the first year anniversary of Mursi’s assuming the presidency. The entire spectrum of the coalition, which had formed and consolidated itself since Mursi’s election, including the National Salvation Front, which was hastily put together following the issuance of Mursi’s Constitutional Decree, joined in demanding that Mursi leave office. They would be successful in mobilizing millions in the streets culminating in the 30 June demonstrations.
A deal was brokered with the army (and the Americans), by which the army declared a coup, ousted Mursi, and began a witch hunt, in which it is joined by enthusiastic members of the public eager for the chase, against the MB. MB office buildings were burned down around the country by the “peaceful” demonstrators, including its headquarters in Cairo. The coup was not called a coup, and members of the popular coalition that support it consider anyone who calls it a coup “an enemy of the Egyptian people,” as many have been posting on twitter and Facebook. While Islamist and MB television stations were closed down minutes after the coup was announced, Mursi was abducted by the military and placed under arrest in an undeclared military location, and top members of the MB were arrested or have become fugitives. Top member of the National Salvation Front and charisma-less Mohammed El-Baradei has defended the military repression unhesitatingly to Western leaders and politicians and is awaiting his appointment in the post-coup government in recognition of his efforts to sell the coup as a democratic revolution or even as a “recall election.”
One of the first acts of the coup leaders was to shut down indefinitely the Gaza border crossing, effectively strangling the Strip and its Palestinian population. They have also immediately resumed demolishing whatever underground tunnels have escaped destruction since the last campaign. Xenophobia in the country against Palestinians, and increasingly Syrians and Iraqis is taking on Fascist proportions. The coup leaders issued an announcement threatening members of these nationalities resident in the country with legal prosecution if they joined any of the demonstrations.
The current popular festive scene in Cairo is ironically reminiscent of triumphalist fascist festivities in the Europe of the 1930s rather than of democratic ones. But it is not the MB who declared the coup, as we have been prepared to expect for a whole year, nor was it they who put the opposition in jail and closed down their TV stations, burned down their headquarters, and are chasing them in the streets and calling on people to hand them over to the police and report on them.
Indeed, during the one-year rule of Mursi not one television station or newspaper was closed, even and especially as many of them would call for open rebellion and for the violent overthrow of the democratically elected government. True, some journalists were prosecuted for insulting the president (and no sitting president in Egypt or arguably in any other country has ever had to endure a small fraction of the daily if not hourly insults and ridicule Mursi endured during his tenure, let alone the type of media language used to humiliate him) by paying fines. Though he could not successfully interfere with the privately owned media, Mursi did take over all state-owned newspapers and replaced their editors, many of whom were Mubarakists, but a number of whom were elected editors, with his own appointments.
One feels the terror of the witch-hunt on the streets of Cairo, and the targets are not just card-carrying members of the MB. Pro-coup doormen of posh buildings in the upscale neighborhood of Zamalek, to take a small example, taunt and threaten other doormen who are accused of supporting the MB. The latter are staying indoors, fearing for their lives after the coup was announced. What is happening in more divided middleclass and poor neighborhoods and in smaller cities and the countryside is far worse with fire exchanges, shootings and outright killings in which all sides are involved. The army itself shot and killed tens of pro-Mursi demonstrators who oppose the coup. As the fascist adulation for the army and police have been adopted popularly in full force, this could very well spell the beginning of a much-feared civil war and massive pogroms against those identified as “enemies” of Egypt and the Egyptian people.
The Liberals and The Leftists
How can one explain that liberals and leftists would support a coup against a democratic order for which they fought, would stage a “revolution” against “democracy,” in alliance with the Mubarakist bourgeoisie and with the very military they condemned so hard just a year earlier until it ceded power to an elected government? The military and the bourgeoisie and Mubarak’s judges have evidently not changed, but the liberals and the leftists have. Their rationale is one reminiscent of the futurist and dystopic Hollywood movie Minority Report wherein the authorities prosecute people for “pre-crimes” – i.e. crimes they would commit in the future if they were not caught before they committed them. They allege that the MB was going to stage an anti-democratic coup of sorts and begin to repress them, and for this future crime, which the MB and Mursi were expected to commit, the anti-Mursi coalition had to intervene and punish them now to prevent them from canceling democracy in the future!
But it is the liberals and the leftists who helped stage the coup, and who ended extant electoral democracy, and who are persecuting and prosecuting the MB for real and imagined crimes, not the other way around. That their coup was popular, they insist, means it is what the people want. But the people also wanted Fascism and they also wanted Nazism? How is this an argument for democracy, which they claim it is? They assert in response that workers and the poor joined in their marches. But workers and the poor also joined the Fascist and Nazi rallies. They are also part of MB rallies.
The leftists are claiming that their support for the coup and their alliance with the Mubarakist comprador bourgeoisie are actually anti-imperialist in nature and are railing against the Western media for its current “orientalist” coverage of their coup (as if the western media has ever been anything but orientalist in its coverage of our part of the world at all times), which they deem hostile, and for Obama’s possibly having to cut off military aid in keeping with US laws that prevent him from extending aid to coup leaders in the Third World (Carter and Reagan found a way around this in the 1970s and 1980s when they subcontracted Israel to aid America’s anti-democracy allies in Central and South America and in Apartheid South Africa, and Obama will find a way too). At any rate, US military aid to Egypt for 2013 was already disbursed and the 2014 aid is not scheduled for a Congressional vote until the fall. Not to worry though, top Israeli diplomats are lobbying the White House and the US Defense Department to continue military aid to Egypt.
Another legitimate argument that the liberals and leftists offer is that when they and others staged an uprising in January and February 2011 that led to the removal of Mubarak and the take-over by the army who ruled the country directly afterwards, few referred to what happened as a “coup” but called it a “revolution,” whereas now that there was another massive uprising and the army also intervened but without designating themselves as rulers, many are claiming this as a “coup.” This of course is correct though not accurate, as it sidesteps the central issue. In February 2011, the army refused to obey the orders of an unelected dictator by not shooting at civilians, thus helping to topple him, while in July 2013, they overthrew a president that more than half the Egyptian electorate voted for in democratic elections.
The coup-supporting liberals and leftists are mad at the Americans and crying imperialism for the alleged failure of the Americans to support their revolt against democracy unequivocally, oblivious, it seems, to how much the Americans had actually helped in brokering the coup behind the scenes. Publicly, Obama has been attempting all kinds of verbal acrobatics to accommodate the liberals and leftists by not calling the coup a coup. Their misplaced anger at the Americans, however, is not necessarily anti-imperialist, but is rather elicited by a narcissistic injury that the United States (like the Egyptian Army) had allied itself, if temporarily, with the MB and not with them, even though the US (like the Egyptian Army) had clearly abandoned the MB and given the green light to the coup. Their fulminations are their way of courting the Americans back to their camp where the Americans already are. The Wall Street Journal has already expressed its hope and expectation that General Sisi will be Egypt’s Pinochet. Some amongst the liberals are complaining that had the Republicans been in power, they would not have given this “soft” response to their coup that the Democrats have allegedly shown. But the Americans have not tarried at all in this regard!
The Americans are allies of all parties in Egypt and they are willing to let Egyptians choose who will rule them so that the US can then give them their marching orders as they did with Mubarak and the MB. All the Americans care about is that their interests are protected, and no member of the current anti- or pro-Mursi coalitions has dared threaten those interests. They are all vying to serve American interests if the Americans would only support them. In the last two and a half years, the Americans have been floundering trying to determine who among those competing to serve them in Egypt will be most successful in stabilizing the country so that the US can continue its dominance as before.
Nazis, Islamists, Liberals, and Leftists
For a year, we have been told that Mursi is Hitler, the MB are Nazis, and that they are consolidating their power so that they could later crack down on everyone else. Perhaps they were planning to do so, but no shred of real evidence has been produced to prove this. What happened, however, was the exact opposite; it was the coalition of liberals, Nasserists, leftists, Salafists and the Mubarak bourgeoisie who called for, and cheered and supported the coup by Mubarak’s army. Unlike the MB who never controlled the army or the police, the latter two continue to be fully answerable to the Mubarakist bourgeoisie with which the liberals and leftists are allied.
Egyptians have been flooded with images that the “Islamofascists” were going to destroy the culture of Egypt and its identity with their intolerance, narrow-mindedness, lack of inclusivity, and anti-democratic policies. But it has been the liberals and the leftists, perhaps some would call them the “secularofacsists,” who proved to be less open, less tolerant, and certainly less democratic than the “Islamofacsists.” In the United States, the saying goes that “a conservative is a liberal who got mugged,” indicating in a proper American classist manner that the mugging of a well-to-do liberal by the poor turns the liberal against them, thus becoming a conservative. In the case of Egypt, one could easily say that “a secularofascist is a liberal democrat who lost to the Islamists in democratic elections.”
The army coup, which the leftists, among others, support, was not a coup by middle rank socially conscious anti-imperialist army officers who were supported by progressive anti-capitalist forces to overthrow imperial and local capitalist control of the country and the dictator that runs it (when the Free Officers staged their coup in 1952, within a few weeks they enacted laws that undercut the feudal lords of Egypt and redistributed the land to the poor peasants), but rather by top army generals who receive a hefty sum of US imperial assistance annually, and who have always been the protectors of Mubarak and his bourgeoisie. It is this army leadership that overthrew a democratically elected president, his incompetence and services to local and international capital notwithstanding.
Some of the leftists who are cheering on the coup seem to feel that their mobilization was successful because people are now educated and aware of their rights which the MB was undercutting. But the education that the members of the anti-Mursi coalition have been subjected to, including the workers and the poor who joined its rallies, is an education imparted to them by the Mubarakist bourgeoisie through their media empires. It has not been an education emphasizing the MB’s neoliberal anti-poor policies, stressing workers rights, peasant rights, the right to a minimum wage, etc. The Mubarakist media empire’s imparted education is an education that is not for the liberation of the poor, the workers, the peasants, and the lower middle classes of Egypt from capitalist and imperial pillage of their country and livelihoods but rather one for the liberation of the “secular” Mubarakist bourgeoisie and its partners from the competition of the neoliberal MB bourgeoisie and its Qatari sponsors.
That the King of Saudi Arabia and the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, the sponsors with the Americans of the Mubarakist bourgeoisie, were the first to send their congratulations to the coup leaders, minutes after the coup took place, clarifies who, they believe, was liberated from whom. Within hours of the coup, the Mubarakist bourgeoisie also celebrated. On Thursday, the 4th of July, Egyptian singer Muhammad Fu’ad, who had cried on TV two and a half years ago to express his sadness and despair over the toppling of his beloved Mubarak, was invited to open the Cairo stock market, which has been gaining billions of pounds since the coup. If the Qataris and the MB bourgeoisie won the first battle against the Saudis with the fall of Mubarak and then the second battle when the MB was elected, the Saudis and the Mubarakist bourgeoisie intend their latest battle, which they won by the removal of the MB, to be the final victory in the war for Egypt.
The goals of the Egyptian uprising from the outset included social justice as primary. Both the Mubarakists and the MB have a unified policy against the social justice agenda of the uprising. But the anti-MB coup, which has driven and will drive many of their supporters to openly violent means now that peaceful ones have been thwarted, has transformed the uprising from one targeting the Mubarakist regime and its security and business apparatus to one that has joined Mubarak’s erstwhile war against the MB. If the goals of the liberals and the leftists are to bring about a real democracy with social security and decent standards of living for the majority of Egyptians who are poor, then the removal of the MB from power by military force will not only prevent this from happening but is likely to bring about more economic injustice and more repression.
Whether the leftists’ and the liberals’ calculations, that their alliance with the Mubarakist bourgeoisie and the army is tactical and temporary and that they will be able to overcome them and take power away from them as they did with the MB, are a case of naïve triumphalism or of studied optimism will become clear in the near future. What is clear for now, however, with the massive increase of police and army repression with the participation of the public, is that what this coalition has done is strengthen the Mubarakists and the army and weakened calls for a future Egyptian democracy, real or just procedural.
Gripped by popular fascist love fests for the army, Egypt is now ruled by an army whose top leadership was appointed and served under Mubarak, and is presided over by a judge appointed by Mubarak, and is policed by the same police used by Mubarak. People are free to call it a coup or not, but what Egypt has now is Mubarakism without Mubarak.
Joseph Massad teaches Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University in New York. He is the author of The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"America has no functioning democracy at this moment," Carter said, according to Der Spiegel.

‘America has no functioning democracy’ – Jimmy Carter on NSA
Get short URL Published time: July 18, 2013 12:15
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP)Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP)
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Former US President Jimmy Carter lambasted US intelligence methods as undemocratic and described Edward Snowden’s NSA leak as “beneficial” for the country.

Carter lashed out at the US political system when the issue of the previously top-secret NSA surveillance program was touched upon at the Atlantic Bridge meeting on Tuesday in Atlanta, Georgia.

He also believes the spying-scandal is undermining democracy around the world, as people become increasingly suspicious of US internet platforms, such as Google and Facebook. While such mediums have normally been associated with freedom of speech and have recently become a major driving force behind emerging democratic movements, fallout from the NSA spying scandal has dented their credibility.

It’s not the first time Carter has criticized US intelligence policies. In a previous interview with
CNN, he said the NSA leaks signified that “the invasion of human rights and American privacy has gone too far." He added that although Snowden violated US law, he may have ultimately done good for the country.

"I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial."

Jimmy Carter was President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. After leaving office, he founded the Carter Center, an NGO advocating human rights. The ex-president’s human rights credentials won him Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Carter has frequently criticized his successors in the White House. Last year, he condemned the Obama administration for the use of drone attacks in his article "A Cruel and Unusual Record" published in the New York Times.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Zimmerman trial in Pesrspective

the following is the last half of an article by TA-NEHISI COATES's in the latest issue of Atlantic magazine:

....The injustice inherent in the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was not authored by a jury given a weak case. The jury's performance may be the least disturbing aspect of this entire affair. The injustice was authored by a country which has taken as its policy, for the lionshare of its history, to erect a pariah class. The killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is not an error in programming. It is the correct result of forces we set in motion years ago and have done very little to arrest.

One need only look the criminalization of Martin across the country. Perhaps you have been lucky enough to not receive the above "portrait" of Trayvon Martin and its accompanying text. The portrait is actually of a 32-year old man. Perhaps you were lucky enough to not see the Trayvon Martin imagery used for target practice (by law enforcement, no less.) Perhaps you did not see the iPhone games. Or maybe you missed the theory presently being floated by Zimmerman's family that Martin was a gun-runner and drug-dealer in training, that texts and tweets he sent mark him as a criminal in waiting. Or the theory floated that the mere donning of a hoodie marks you a thug, leaving one wondering why this guy is a criminal and this one is not.

We have spent much of this year outlining the ways in which American policy has placed black people outside of the law. We are now being told that after having pursued such policies for 200 years, after codifying violence in slavery, after a people conceived in mass rape, after permitting the disenfranchisement of black people through violence, after Draft riots, after white-lines, white leagues, and red shirts, after terrorism, after standing aside for the better reduction of Rosewood and the improvement of Tulsa, after the coup d'etat in Wilmington, after Airport Homes and Cicero, after Ossian Sweet, after Arthur Lee McDuffie, after Anthony Baez, Amadou Diallo and Eleanor Bumpers, after Kathryn Johnston and the Danziger Bridge, that there are no ill effects, that we are pure, that we are just, that we are clean. Our sense of self is incredible. We believe ourselves to have inherited all of Jefferson's love of freedom, but none of his affection for white supremacy.

You should not be troubled that George Zimmerman "got away" with the killing of Trayvon Martin, you should be troubled that you live in a country that ensures that Trayvon Martin will happen. Trayvon Martin is happening again in Florida. Right now:

In November, black youth Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old Jacksonville resident, was the only person murdered after Michael Dunn, 46, allegedly shot into the SUV Davis was inside several times after an argument about the volume of music playing.
According to Dunn's girlfriend, Rhonda Rouer, Dunn had three rum and cokes at a wedding reception. She felt secure enough for him to drive and thought that he was in a good mood. On the drive back to the hotel they were residing at, they made a pit stop at the convenience store where the murder occurred. At the Gate Station, Rouer said Dunn told her that he hated "thug music." Rouer then went inside the store to make purchases and heard several gunshots while she was still within the building.
Upon returning and seeing Dunn put his gun back into the glove compartment, Rouer asked why he had shot at the car playing music and Dunn claimed that he feared for his life and that "they threatened to kill me." The couple drove back to their hotel, and claim they did not realize anyone had died until the story appeared on the news the next day.
After killing Jordan Davis, Michael Dunn ordered a pizza.
When you have a society that takes at its founding the hatred and degradation of a people, when that society inscribes that degradation in its most hallowed document, and continues to inscribe hatred in its laws and policies, it is fantastic to believe that its citizens will derive no ill messaging.

It is painful to say this: Trayvon Martin is not a miscarriage of American justice, but American justice itself. This is not our system malfunctioning. It is our system working as intended. To expect our juries, our schools, our police to single-handedly correct for this, is to look at the final play in the final minute of the final quarter and wonder why we couldn't come back from twenty-four down.

To paraphrase a great man: We are what our record says we are. How can we sensibly expect different?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mandela’s Greatness May Be Assured -- But Not His Legacy By John Pilger

published in Counterpunch and ICH newsletter

July 11, 2013 "Information Clearing House - When I reported from South Africa in the 1960s, the Nazi admirer Johannes Vorster occupied the prime minister’s residence in Cape Town. Thirty years later, as I waited at the gates, it was as if the guards had not changed. White Afrikaners checked my ID with the confidence of men in secure work. One carried a copy of Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. “It’s very eenspirational,” he said.

Mandela had just had his afternoon nap and looked sleepy; his shoelaces were untied. Wearing a bright gold shirt, he meandered into the room. “Welcome back,” said the first president of a democratic South Africa, beaming. “You must understand that to have been banned from my country is a great honour.” The sheer grace and charm of the man made you feel good. He chuckled about his elevation to sainthood. “That’s not the job I applied for,” he said drily.

Still, he was well used to deferential interviews and I was ticked off several times – “you completely forgot what I said” and “I have already explained that matter to you”. In brooking no criticism of the African National Congress (ANC), he revealed something of why millions of South Africans will mourn his passing but not his “legacy”.

I had asked him why the pledges he and the ANC had given on his release from prison in 1990 had not been kept. The liberation government, Mandela had promised, would take over the apartheid economy, including the banks – and “a change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable”. Once in power, the party’s official policy to end the impoverishment of most South Africans, the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), was abandoned, with one of his ministers boasting that the ANC’s politics were Thatcherite.

“You can put any label on it if you like,” he replied. “…but, for this country, privatisation is the fundamental policy.”

“That’s the opposite of what you said in 1994.”

“You have to appreciate that every process incorporates a change.”

Few ordinary South Africans were aware that this “process” had begun in high secrecy more than two years before Mandela’s release when the ANC in exile had, in effect, done a deal with prominent members of the Afrikaaner elite at meetings in a stately home, Mells Park House, near Bath. The prime movers were the corporations that had underpinned apartheid.

Around the same time, Mandela was conducting his own secret negotiations. In 1982, he had been moved from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison, where he could receive and entertain people. The apartheid regime’s aim was to split the ANC between the “moderates” they could “do business with” (Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Oliver Tambo) and those in the frontline townships who led the United Democratic Front (UDF). On 5 July, 1989, Mandela was spirited out of prison to meet P.W. Botha, the white minority president known as the Groot Krokodil (Big Crocodile). Mandela was delighted that Botha poured the tea.

With democratic elections in 1994, racial apartheid was ended, and economic apartheid had a new face. During the 1980s, the Botha regime had offered black businessmen generous loans, allowing them set up companies outside the Bantustans. A new black bourgeoisie emerged quickly, along with a rampant cronyism. ANC chieftains moved into mansions in “golf and country estates”. As disparities between white and black narrowed, they widened between black and black.

The familiar refrain that the new wealth would “trickle down” and “create jobs” was lost in dodgy merger deals and “restructuring” that cost jobs. For foreign companies, a black face on the board often ensured that nothing had changed. In 2001, George Soros told the Davos Economic Forum, “South Africa is in the hands of international capital.”

In the townships, people felt little change and were subjected to apartheid-era evictions; some expressed nostalgia for the “order” of the old regime. The post-apartheid achievements in de-segregating daily life in South Africa, including schools, were undercut by the extremes and corruption of a “neoliberalism” to which the ANC devoted itself. This led directly to state crimes such as the massacre of 34 miners at Marikana in 2012, which evoked the infamous Sharpeville massacre more than half a century earlier. Both had been protests about injustice.

Mandela, too, fostered crony relationships with wealthy whites from the corporate world, including those who had profited from apartheid. He saw this as part of “reconciliation”. Perhaps he and his beloved ANC had been in struggle and exile for so long they were willing to accept and collude with the forces that had been the people’s enemy. There were those who genuinely wanted radical change, including a few in the South African Communist Party, but it was the powerful influence of mission Christianity that may have left the most indelible mark. White liberals at home and abroad warmed to this, often ignoring or welcoming Mandela’s reluctance to spell out a coherent vision, as Amilcar Cabral and Pandit Nehru had done.

Ironically, Mandela seemed to change in retirement, alerting the world to the post 9/11 dangers of George W. Bush and Tony Blair. His description of Blair as “Bush’s foreign minister” was mischievously timed; Thabo Mbeki, his successor, was about to arrive in London to meet Blair. I wonder what he would make of the recent “pilgrimage” to his cell on Robben Island by Barack Obama, the unrelenting jailer of Guantanamo.

Mandela seemed unfailingly gracious. When my interview with him was over, he patted me on the arm as if to say I was forgiven for contradicting him. We walked to his silver Mercedes, which consumed his small grey head among a bevy of white men with huge arms and wires in their ears. One of them gave an order in Afrikaans and he was gone.

John Pilger’s film, Apartheid Did Not Die, can be viewed on

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Israel moves ahead with plan to expell thousands of Bedouins from Negev and steal their land

On 8th anniversary of Palestinian BDS Call, BNC calls to isolate Knesset over Prawer Plan
by Annie Robbins on July 10, 2013

“Prawer Plan” to uproot and dispossess indigenous Bedouin-Palestinian Communities in the Naqab (Negev) is latest definitive evidence of the colonial nature of Zionism

Occupied Palestine, 9 July 2013 – The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) condemns the racist and colonial “Prawer Plan” which was adopted by the Israeli government as official policy and recently passed by parliament (Knesset) in the first reading. This plan calls for ethnically cleansing tens of thousands of Bedouin Palestinian citizens of Israel by confiscating hundreds of thousands of dunams [1] of land that they have owned for generations in the Naqab and destroying their homes and communities to expand Jewish-only settlements in the Naqab.

On today’s 8th anniversary of the Palestinian BDS Call, the BNC, which is the largest coalition in Palestinian society, reiterates its unwavering support for the struggle of our people in the 1948 territory against Israeli apartheid and its racist laws [2] and warmly welcomes the principled support for this struggle by anti-Zionist Jewish Israelis. The BNC calls upon all people of conscience around the world to escalate BDS campaigns against the state of Israel and its institutions which are responsible for this latest chapter of ethnic cleansing against our people.

In response to the Israeli parliament’s approval in the first reading of this racist “Prawer Plan”, and given its record of enacting tens of racist laws in the past, Palestinian civil society, as represented in the BNC, calls upon the Inter-Parliamentary Union to freeze the Knesset’s membership until it repeals all racist laws that are inconsistent with international law and the principles and objectives of the United Nations and of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in particular the principle of “protection and promotion of human rights.”

The “Prawer Plan” is a new chapter of the ongoing Nakba (catastrophe) against the indigenous Palestinian people which started in 1948 when Zionist militias, and later the newly established State of Israel, uprooted and dispossessed a majority of Palestinians from their ancestral land.

The main objective of the Prawer scheme is to sever the historical ties that bind Bedouin Palestinian communities to their land. It therefore presents new irrefutable evidence of the colonial nature of Zionism in thought and practice, as well as the nature of the apartheid system which the Israeli regime imposes on our people in the 1948 territory, reaching its peak with the insistence of this regime on maintaining an exclusionary “Jewish” identity that relegates the indigenous Palestinians into an inferior status by law. This aspect of Israel’s regime of oppression recalls the defining characteristics of apartheid South Africa and the Jim Crow South in the United States.

The “Prawer Plan” violates universal principles of human rights, such as equality and effective participation in decision-making matters that are related to human life and well-being. It specifically violates the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [3], which in Article (8) states that “Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture,” including “Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources,” as well as “any form or forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights.”

The plan also violates article (10) of the Declaration which prevents forcible removing of the indigenous peoples from their lands or territories.

“Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.”

All Palestinians in the 1948 territory, regardless of their different ideologies or political affiliations, are waging a determined and unified struggle against the Israeli apartheid regime that they are forced to live under in order to preserve what remains of their lands. Since the 1948 Nakba, successive Israeli governments have illegally looted and confiscated most of the land owned by Palestinians, who became citizens of the state, in order to further entrench the existing apartheid system that racially privileges Jewish citizens over Palestinian (Muslim and Christian) citizens, with legal and legislative cover. The Israeli judicial system and parliament share direct responsibility for their indispensable role in this ongoing process of dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian minority in Israel.

The time-honored logic of consistently pressuring rogue states to bring about their compliance with international law, including human rights principles, should be further applied to Israel, a regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid over the Palestinian people. BDS is one of the main forms of Palestinian popular and civil resistance which aims at regaining our fundamental rights, whether individual or collective, including the rights of nearly 1.5 million Palestinians in the 1948 territory.

BDS has proven over the last 8 years to be the most effective form of international solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality. The impressive achievements of the BDS movement in the last few months, such as Stephen Hawking’s boycott of an Israeli conference organized by Shimon Peres, and the frantic reaction of the Israeli establishment to the inspiring growth of the BDS movement across the world have underlined Israel’s vulnerability to this non-violent, rights-based movement that is anchored in international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

[1] One dunam = 1000 m2
[2] The 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines apartheid as “inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to in paragraph 1, committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” Israel’s regime over its own Palestinian citizens fits this definition as it maintains more than 50 laws that racially discriminate against them.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Egypt in Danger, 8 Reasons Why

from The Palestine Chronicle

By Abdelrahman Rashdan

Egyptians are again amazing the whole world with their abilities to change their political realities; yet this time might be to the worse.

The military coup that took place in response to the mass demonstrations in Egypt which lasted for few days came in to mark a new fundamental change in the political life. It seems now that the streets have become the ballot box, and military helicopters have now become the tool for counting the vote, while the results get announced by uniformed military personnel.

The reasons why Egypt reached this stage are numerous and can be tackled in another analysis, yet what is more important now is to underscore the looming danger that the country is heading towards.

Here are the reasons why I think Egypt's political future is in danger:

1 -Military coup is different from the January 25 revolution:

Egyptian people are divided now between supporters and opponents and each side has its own reasonable arguments. It is not black and white as it was before, not a dictator that has been abusing his people for 30 years.

2- Ballot boxes lost credibility:

Egyptians that have stood in endless lines for hours to cast their votes in three elections and two referendums have their votes simply replaced by the eyes of the military looking down their helicopters for the past few days to estimate the number of people on the streets, and determine which bloc has the majority: the opposition or supporters of the democratically elected president.

At the same time, there is a big portion of the masses supporting the Islamic movements, especially youth, which only participated in the democratic process because it was the only option available although they see it as a mean that contradicts Islamic Shari'ah. The military coup just proved them right now; they have all the Islamic and pragmatic reasons to reject democracy. I wouldn't be surprised if new solutions found increasing popularity in Egypt soon.

3- Referendum on early presidential elections not considered:

Detentions and media bans after the coup was launched say a lot about the democracy and rule of law that Egypt will witness for the upcoming period.
If the opponents of President Morsi represent the majority of Egyptians, as claimed by the military coup, then why did not the military allow all the Egyptians an equal chance to say their opinion about conducting early presidential elections? This way it would have been a democratic process to oust Morsi instead of an army boot stepping on the mouths of all other Egyptians, who have also filled up streets in masses since July 1st.

4- Unholy relationship between the opposition and Mubarak's regime:

It is a return of Mubarak's regime in a new face, if one wishes to say it bluntly. In reality, Dr. Mohamed al-Baradie - opposition leader who was invited during the military's declaration of the coup - declared it clearly days before the June 30th demonstrations; he said that Egyptians have to start a process of national reconciliation with "what is called the old regime," except for those who committed crimes.

Considering the fact that most of the figures of the old regime have been surprisingly granted acquittals from charges levied against them, so al-Baradie won't have a problem in letting them on board, contributing again to pushing the political wargon. In fact, , scores of influential figures from Mubarak's regime did participate in the June 30th demonstrations that culminated in the removal of Morsi through being in the streets or propagating it through media.

So it would not be a surprise to witness, very soon, well-funded and publicized political parties with Mubarak's men on top, or appointed in key positions and ministries.

5- Absence of unifying national figure to lead the country:

The last time all Egyptians stood together hand in hand was during the 18 days of the January 25 Revolution. Since then, divisions have been increasing by time with figures rising and others falling; the division reached its unprecedented peak during the June 30 events where some members of Islamic and other groups got killed in the streets in day light for their political affiliations.

Now, after the military coup, Egyptians stand even more divided between supporters and opponents of the coup. It is absolutely impossible to reach national agreement, or even comforting majority, on any figure, which brings Egypt to presidential elections results close to the level that brought Morsi to power -almost 52 percent - and the cycle repeats itself.

6- Military above the state:

For the second time in two-and-half years the military comes in to settle, mainly peaceful, political disputes. The June 30th demonstrations asked for the intervention of the military from its beginning, some demonstrators were even camping in front of the ministry of defense in an attempt to pressure the defense minister to step in.

Such military intervention in the political life sets a golden rule for Egypt: the state is still under the military and not vice versa. In fact, this has been the sole demand of the January 25th Revolution, to make Egypt a a civilian state after decades of being ruled by presidents with military background and support.

Not only that Egypt has failed again to create a healthy and democracy-based relationship between its government and military, it has reached a worse situation where people beg the military to take over and sort out matters that are supposed to be originally and purely civilian and peaceful in nature.
It is a return of Mubarak's regime in a new face.

In one of the international reactions to this event, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague noticed the looming danger; he told BBC, "If one president can be deposed by the military then of course another one can be in the future - that's a dangerous thing."

7- Weakening the military:

Continuous intervention in the political life will definitely make the Egyptian military distracted from its sole purpose: protecting the country against foreign enemies. The resources of the military are getting consumed in internal struggles while Egypt's borders are heating up from almost all its fronts, east, west, and south.

8- No clear roadmap:

Although the Defense Minister Al-Sisi declared the presence of a very clear road map in case the political parties were not able to settle their dispute, 48 hours before the coup, he failed to state any dates for any step, including the presidential and parliamentary elections. This reminds Egyptians with the promises of Tantawi to hand in the state to an elected government very soon, which turned out to be a painful year-and-half.

Not only that, as soon as the Sisi military coup was broadcasted on the television, pro-Morsi channels were blackened-out and their staff detained, and the Freedom and Justice Party newspaper banned. This is in addition to the reports of arresting and detaining big number of Muslim Brotherhood leaders and placing them on travel ban; something that says a lot about the democracy and rule of law that Egypt will witness for the upcoming period.

Square One

There are hundreds of thousands of pro-Morsi supporters still holding their grounds in the streets amid complete media blackout. Their news is being leaked through social media and some non-Egyptian satellite channels that have not been cutoff. It is not up yet; events are escalating hour-by-hour as people are increasingly realizing that Egypt is back to square one.

- Abdelrahman Rashdan is an academician of the Future University in Egypt. He holds a Master's degree in International Affairs and a Certificate in Middle East Studies from Columbia University. (This article was first published in on July 04, 2013)