I went through the masochistic exercise of watching CNN, briefly, this morning. They were talking about how bad it would be for Americans when Iraqis learned of the abuse of prisoners by the Americans, the story that came out on 60 Minutes. Rahul Mahajan of Empire Notes has republished the photos of abuse. I think the photos say quite a lot. It’s a good thing that our culture is so deeply racist that it forbids people from seeing the utterly obvious. If it didn’t, all that sanctimony about the ‘barbarians’ in Fallujah celebrating the brutal treatment of the US mercenaries might ring hollow. But in fact, that kind of sanctimony and this kind of callous brutality are perfectly consistent with one another.
Following up on an earlier post — the Colombian oil workers of the Union Sindical Obrera, USO, are on strike trying to prevent the further privatization of the state oil company, ECOPETROL. The UK-Colombia Solidarity Campaign sent around this communique which they translated: it has some useful background on the strike situation.
THE OIL WORKERS UNION STRIKE HAS STARTED
USO, the United Workers Union, the union of the Colombian oil workers has voted to start a general strike in all the industrial installations of the state company ECOPETROL from 22nd April 2004. The strike came as a last resource in view of the submissive policies of the Uribe government to the United States and the IMF; its arrogance towards the workers and our country, which have resulted in the dangerous situation, this Colombian company finds itself in.
For 17 months USO made efforts to reach an agreement to save ECOPETROL and for the rights of its workers to be respected. However, the proposals for talks presented by the union were answered with repressive measures such as the taking over of the plants by the armed forces, the refusal to let the union leaders into the plants, legal actions were started, union leaders and workers were fired and the government threatened to declare the strike illegal if it was started.
At the same time the government has implemented new policies that lead to the privatisation of the company. It decided to extend the association contracts of gas in the Guajira, of oil in Sabana de Torres y Cano Limon, to the benefit of the multinationals CHEVRON TEXACO and OXY. It also reactivated the Concesion Moderna contract by which the multinationals get 100% of the oil production making strategic alliances with OXY, SCHULEMBERGER and BP among others. Besides, it announced the sale of the Cartagena refinery and has intentionally abandoned the maintenance of the Barrancabermeja Complex in order to facilitate its dismantling and later privatisation.
The truth of the matter is that the national company ECOPETTROL is being privatised obeying the interests of the United States government. They have decided to take control of the world’s oil as we have seen in their invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, Venezuela, Bolivia and Mexico with different methods, but all with the same aim in mind: to ensure the appropriation of oil.
In the past days the management have decided to impose a veto against the union leaders and to expel the workers for the Barrancabermeja and Cartagena refineries, a measure that they have vowed to apply to all other production centres. While it threatens to declare the strike illegal, it is actually stopping production because of supposed sabotage; using this also to apply repressive measures.
In view of this, the Uribe government and the ECOPETROL management have obliged the workers to start a STRIKE MOVEMENT to defend ECOPETROL, the workers’ rights and the existence of the Oil Workers Union. At the same time the leaders of the union in a brave attitude have declared a Hunger Strike supporting the workers’ fair demands.
The Workers Central Union is strongly committed in this fight, as well as the rest of the Colombian union movement. The unions have declared their support to this movement that seeks to defend our national patrimony.
As a result, we call on the national and international union movement, all social and popular organisations, and all democratic forces and in general to all those citizens that care about the fate of our nation to accompany and support us in our fight.
22nd April 2004
Please send messages to the following address:
Álvaro Uribe: firstname.lastname@example.org
with copies and solidarity messages to:
Comisión Paz USO email@example.com
Departamento de Derechos Humanos CUT firstname.lastname@example.org
Uso Nacional email@example.com
International Commission United Workers Union (USO)
This will probably be a big story and hence unnecessary for me to blog, but I couldn’t help but notice that part of the ‘political solution’ the US was seeking was to put a Saddam-era general in charge of Fallujah. Irony: yesterday in our Counterspin debate the one thing that the American Enterprise Institute columnist could say in defense of the murderous invasion and re-destruction of Iraq was that it removed Saddam.
But no need to worry too much. The US has pretty much called off the ‘political solution’ and has re-started the slaughter in Fallujah after all, thus insisting on differentiating themselves from Saddam’s regime yet again.
So, I suppose I should talk about Canada from time to time. There are actually some very serious labour disputes going on in Canada. There is a health care strike in British Columbia and as of this morning, the government had imposed back-to-work legislation on the workers, with a very generous settlement: a 15% wage rollback, plus no cap on external contracting (ie., privatization and layoffs, ie., total job insecurity). If the workers are going to stay on strike, it will be ‘illegal’, a line Canadian unions have been loath to cross.
The same thing happened in Newfoundland recently, which is going through its own self-imposed ‘structural adjustment’ by its millionaire premier (one of the wealthiest men in Canada). There, too, labour responded by striking. There, too, the strike was declared ‘illegal’.
It is a tactic that is instantly imposed by every legislature in the country when they want to break a union or attack the public sector generally: impose a nasty agreement, wait for the strike, then declare it ‘illegal’ and impose a settlement. They are forcing unions to break the law — but until the unions are ready to fight back as hard as the state and elites are, the workers will continue to lose the gains that were won by previous generations through hard struggle.
I was on CBC’s Counterspin, a political debate show, tonight, debating a columnist from the American Enterprise Institute. The theme was “What should Paul Martin say to George Bush”, on Haiti, Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Missile Defense. Kind of a strange premise: two unelected leaders (who turfed out an elected leader) deciding on the fate of the world. Not that Martin decides on the fate of the world. It was television — a medium that I don’t think is conducive to changing people’s minds, but who knows. Maybe someone hears something that does move them in some way. That’s the hope… it’s difficult to try to convey anything under such time constraints. Still, it is a bit of a shame that Counterspin is going to be off the air after two more shows… I suspect that having Fox News in Canada won’t be much of a compensation.
I’ve got an article from April 25’s ‘El Tiempo’, Colombia’s national newspaper, in front of me. Apparently Uribe, Colombia’s President, has a bright new plan: he’s going to — escalate the war!
The plan is to send 14-15000 soldiers into the south of the country. There have been dozens of meetings with the State Department and the Southern Command of the US to this end.
The article ends with a few questions. How will all this be financed? If forces are transferred into guerrilla territories, how will the rest of the country be controlled? What if the guerrillas just hide?
One could add a few more. How could this be anything other than a disaster for the population? Will paramilitaries follow the army, as they always do? Will this result in more massacres, as it inevitably does? Is this a pretext for an increase of US troops in the region? Is there anything suspicious in the timing of a major operation and a buildup for one around the same time as Colombia has made threatening noises towards Venezuela?
For a preview of what Plan Patriota will look like on the ground, take a look at this report on what they’ve been doing in Arauca, that comes via the Colombia Support Network.
The Arauca Regional Foundation Committee of Human Rights ‘Joel Sierra’ denounces, repudiates and repels before the national and international public opinion, by way of the Arauca Network and national and international, non-governmental defenders of Human Rights. Also before the organizations of justice and control of the Colombian State the following acts which fills the Araucan community with mourning, pain and anxiety:
1.) On Thursday April 14, 2004 Senor Jose Alfonso Preciado Cruz was assassinated in the city of Arauca. Senor Preciado Cruz was employed as a driver of a public service taxi affiliated with Radiotax. Unknown persons committed this act.
2.) On the same day, April 14, 2004, Senor Carlos Silva Chovo was also killed in the village of LaPaz of the municipality of Arauquita. At this time nothing is known of the motives or the persons who committed this crime.
3.) Sunday, April 18, 2004 in the downtown section of Tame, at approximately 2:00 p.m. Moises Mojica Cerenza and Yolanda Duarte, 30 years old, were executed. The authors of the crime are unknown.
4.) On Sunday April 18, 2004 Senora Anadelina Lizcano Fonteilio was killed by gunfire on the road to Tame from Arauca.
5.) On April 19, 2004 in downtown Arauquita, Nelson Mogollon was killed by unknown assailants.
6.) Senor Pablo Antonio Lemus Sepeda, 45, and his son Javier Andres Lemus, 23, who had been illegally detained because they were presumed to be members of AUC,( a paramilitary group known as the Autodefensas of Colombia) were left free, and the other person detained with them Maria Elena Giraldo Herrera, was disappeared.
7.) In the municipality of Saravena on the top of the bridge located in the Hamlet Bajo Pescado on the way to Saravena-Pamplona, Alicio Aveldano Castro was assassinated on April 20.
8.) The community of Saravena is terrorized and in this state they have received various phone calls which tell of masked persons carrying heavy arms who are patrolling various barrios of the municipality. They were informed on Sunday that these persons were seen on the edges of the barrio Pablo Antonio.
9.) All of these acts which have left more than 15 dead in one month, illegal retentions, civil patrols, arbitrary detentions, etc. are occurring in the moment since the military and civil authorities are questioning the recent report of Amnesty International over Arauca and they only confirm that this report on Human Rights Violations in Arauca is well founded.
10.) We demand that the organizations of justice and control of the Colombian State investigate and sanction those responsible for these acts, which are being presented on repeated occasions and which increase the index of violations of Human Rights and impunity in our department of Arauca.
11.) We call upon the Defender of Human Rights Organizations, both national and international, the Colombian Office of the High Commission of Human Rights of the United Nations that a continuation and evaluation of the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Rights be realized for that which is happening in our region.
FOR THE DEFENSE OF LIFE, THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND PERMANENCE IN THE TERRITORY
REGIONAL FOUNDATION COMMITTEE OF HUMAN RIGHTS ‘JOEL SIERRA’
Our social action is legal and legitimate.
Please send this action to the following people:
S.E. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Presidente de la República, Cra. 8 n°.7-26,
Palacio de Nariño, Santa fe de Bogotá. Fax: (+57 1) 566.20.71 e-mail:
· Doctor Jorge Alberto Uribe Ministro de la Defensa,Avenida El Dorado con
Cra. 52 CAN, Santa fe de Bogotá. Fax: (+57 1)222.18.74; E-mail :
firstname.lastname@example.org ;email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org
· Dr. Carlos Franco, Director del Programa Presidencial de DerechosHumanos
y de Derecho Internacional Humanitario. E-mail :email@example.com
-Your representative and senators
COLOMBIA DESK STATE DEPARTMENT
Tel (202)647 3360
200 Constitution Ave N.w.
Washington d.C. 20210
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
I see a lot of writing calling Iraq a ‘quagmire’ and comparing it to Vietnam. I could be mistaken, but I detect almost a kind of smugness in the comparison, ie., people who think the US is going to get a come-uppance in Iraq the way it got such in Vietnam. I have to admit I dislike this, very strongly, for several reasons.
1) Tariq Ali complained once that the West had a ‘lack of imagination’ because it made every third world leader singled out for attack into ‘Hitler’… paraphrasing, he said: “Nasser was Hitler on the Nile; we had Milosovic who was Hitler on the Danube; we have Saddam who is Hitler on the Euphrates…” I think the Vietnam comparison is similar. Colombia was the next Vietnam; Iraq is Bush’s Vietnam; and so on.
2) If you want to make the comparison, the least you could do is not be smug about it. You should be crying when you make the comparison, not laughing at Bush. Vietnam was a holocaust. There were between 2-5 million Vietnamese killed, probably 40 Vietnamese for every American invader. Carter said ‘the destruction was mutual’, but I can’t help but see it as the US going off and destroying a country and murdering a large chunk of its population. If Iraq is ‘Bush’s Vietnam’, it is so in that respect, but that’s a tragedy.
The situation in Sudan is very serious. Reports are that the Sudanese government is engaging in massacres and massive reprisals against civilian populations. There is an insurgency in the South against a political-Islamist government in the North — but there is also a great deal of opposition to that government in the North, and in other regions.
One of the reasons I suspect the left doesn’t touch this conflict is the simple moral dictum that we should work on issues we can affect — it doesn’t take a moral giant to criticize something the Islamist government in Sudan is doing in the United States, but riskier and less popular to criticize what the US is doing in Iraq or the US/Israel are doing in Palestine. Another reason might be that people don’t want to help imperialism — the US has launched cruise missiles on Sudan before, and didn’t exactly help (instead it destroyed one of the country’s only pharmaceutical plants), and the last thing anyone wants to do is help the US prepare another ‘intervention’ against a ‘terrorist’ state.
Having said that, though, there are Western corporations cashing in on the Sudanese government’s displacement of people from resource-rich areas. There are, therefore, ways for people to try to prevent the west throwing gasoline on the fire. A prerequisite to figuring out these ways is understanding what’s going on, which is tricky, because many of the ‘experts’ take imperialism for granted. Here’s a backgrounder based on a fairly good book by one such ‘expert’.
Lots to report today. First things first — from one blog to another. Some students and teachers in Jenin have put together a blog, with photos and evocative text, updated not daily but frequently. It’s called Voices from Jenin.Take a look.
In the spirit of the title of the blog, I have to revise the Palestinian body count of the week. Apparently it’s reached 40 killed over the course of the week, for those interested in counting. Among those not interested in counting — the mainstream media. I saw a headline somewhere saying: “Israel identifies new Hamas leader…” and couldn’t help but feel a sense of foreboding.
Mordecai Vanunu is looking for help from the UK, fearing for his life in Israel, where he’s trapped by restrictions. Uri Avnery suggests that Israel and the US don’t want him to expose the US connection, in an interesting piece that is marred by a metaphor I don’t like.
The Israeli Army apparently used a child as a human shield during a military operation. This happens fairly frequently, as far as I’ve heard, but it apparently is being reported to great scandal, which can only be a good thing.
As usual, most of the above came via the News Insider.
Does anyone remember before the invasion of Iraq last year, how Palestinians were worried that the ‘cover’ of the invasion of Iraq would be used by Israel to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians in the West Bank?
Continue reading “The ethnic cleansing plan…”