Chemical warfare...

My own personal experience with tear gas and pepper spray is quite limited. A couple of brief encounters with pepper spray from a distance; I've been a little too close for comfort to an Israeli 'sound grenade'; I've been in the cloud of grey smoke that Israeli tanks secrete all over the place when they want to conceal themselves somewhat; but the main experience was at the anti-FTAA protests in Quebec City in 2001, when police apparently used thousands of canisters of tear gas. The strangest moment was the morning of the second day, after we'd thought we were used to the gas of the previous day. They somehow changed the concoction, so we who went out bravely into the clouds found ourselves choking and puking anew, faced with the new brew.

What Israel is doing in the West Bank now, as Jason Brooks presents in Counterpunch, seems a lot worse. In his words: "Israel's repeated use of highly toxic unknown chemicals against Palestinian civilians is now an open secret. We can expect these attacks to continue until a concerted effort is made to determine the facts and hold Israel accountable. So far, the international human rights community has steadfastly ignored the mounting evidence."

And in another example of the new world justice...

ZNet's Africa Watch has recently been updated. ZNet's Africa coverage has recently gotten far better. First, on account of Mandisi Majavu's blog and writing. And second, on account of the ongoing work of Lansana Gberie, who has written a number of pieces on the West African conflicts exclusively for ZNet. His most recent piece is about the 'Special War Crimes Tribunal' in Sierra Leone.

Whenever the 'Free World' makes a pompous claim about universal justice, or about a helping hand to the poor, or a genuine interest in development, or hell, even 'humanitarian intervention', Africa always gives the lie to the claim. A helping hand to the poor? A genuine interest in development? How about not denying the dying generic drugs that could save millions of lives (check out CP Pandya's blog today on the topic)? How about wiping out a debt that has been paid many times over and is as lethal as any bomb? How about not propping up dictatorships, training and arming militaries that slaughter civilians?

Gberie's piece takes on the West's pompous claims of justice. You see, the West did a humanitarian intervention in Sierra Leone, and is now bringing the criminals to justice. Or so the story goes. Read Gberie's work -- this piece and others in the West Africa section of ZNet -- and you'll have a better idea what is really happening.

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AIDS and Trade (C.P. Pandya)

This latest report on "corporate villainy" (as Justin Podur has so flatteringly subheaded my blogging efforts) comes under the auspices of government collusion. And its messenger is none other than the bastion of capitalism itself, The Wall Street Journal. A look at two stories in Tuesday's Journal teases the reader to make some fairly obvious connections. Since the paper isn't available free online (remember, "bastion of capitalism"), allow me to summarize.

Another senseless bombing in Iraq

Or are they senseless? This one killed at least 10 people. The subliminal messages that leak into these stories are amazing. So, this story says that they were "targeting" Zarqawi, though it demonstrates only that they killed a bunch of people. The same story also says that they are wondering whether or not Moqtada al-Sadr's 'intentions' are good. What possible reason could anyone have to doubt US 'intentions'? Other than the periodic murders of houses full of people, families, wedding parties; the pillage and plunder; the looting and insecurity; the joke of 'reconstruction'; the house raids and humiliation; the checkpoints and the arrogance...

And, in other 'why do they hate us' news, another story about starvation in Gaza. There is something missing from this story, however. An aid worker is quoted as saying: "the situation will not improve in the long-term unless the underlying cause is addressed: poverty." What's missing here is that the poverty itself is an effect of something, not just a cause of hunger. The poverty is a direct effect of the closures policy that has denied Gazans any access to employment (before 2000, most worked in Israel itself), causing unemployment to be near complete. Remember that Gaza is a prison. Israel holds the key. And Israel has deliberately decided to keep the place locked, and watch the prisoners starve. Even -- no, especially -- the children.

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Fahrenheit 9/11, continued

I just read Robert Jensen's review of Fahrenheit 9/11, which he calls a Stupid White Movie. I have to be honest. It is hard to argue with any of the points he raises.

-The Saudi stuff is sketchy and racist.
-The invasion of Afghanistan stuff does sort of imply that the US should have done the whole thing on a bigger scale (which would have been a bigger disaster).
-The coalition of the willing stuff is insulting.
-The idea that the real mission of the US military was subverted by the Iraq war is preposterous

And then there is all the omission -- Israel, Clinton, and a hell of a lot more -- all of which Michael Moore, who criticized Clinton plenty when he was in power and who dedicated one of his books to Rachel Corrie -- can't exactly argue that he didn't know about.

It's also the case that Moore could easily have fixed plenty of the politics of the film and not reduced the visibility or popularity (in other cases, like Israel, there would have been tradeoffs, where the right thing to do would have carried a cost, and I believe Moore chose deliberately not to pay that cost, whereas I think some of the subtle racism Jensen points out was just unexamined and unintentional, part of his adoption of a basically mainstream framework).

I do, however, have some disagreements with Robert.

The main one is when Robert says: "the real problem is that many left/liberal/progressive people are singing the film's praises, which should tell us something about the impoverished nature of the left in this country," and his admonition that "Rallying around the film can too easily lead to rallying around bad analysis" strikes me as a bit of a non-sequitur.

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Using the Killing Train just got easier

If you look to your left, you will see that there are some new categories. This is to make research easier for people using this blog for that purpose. Going over the blog entries over the past few months, I realized that much of my blogging falls into a number of categories finer than I had been using. So, I added the following self-explanatory categories:

Africa
Canada
Colombia
Haiti
Israel/Palestine

If you visit any of these links, you'll see that I've gone through the database and linked up each previous blog entry relating to these places in terms of the categories.

I realize there is a proportion problem here -- the idea of having a category for 'Canada' and a category for 'Africa' seems a bit preposterous, given that one is a massive tortured continent and the other is a small privileged country. But blogs are only as comprehensive as their bloggers, and I can't help but blog using sources to which I have access. I'm in Canada right now, so I might as well try to do something for Canadian readers and activists. I try to pay some attention to Africa, but Mandisi Majavu's blog will consistently do a better job than mine. Still, I might have something to offer from time to time.

The previous set of categories still exist:

Americas (South & North): has all the entries it used to have, and will continue to have entries on places that don't quite fit (I've had a few entries on Bolivia, for example, quite a few on Venezuela, some on Mexico, and so on. If I find myself covering something a lot, I'll create a new category for it). Of course United States coverage falls here as well.

Asia (West & South): Also has all the previous entries, but will continue to have things on places like Iraq (which I will cover when I have to or when I can say something dozens of others aren't saying), Saudi Arabia and South Asian issues -- India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka...

and of course,

Corporate World: will still continue to have CP Pandya's insightful blogging on corporate villainy.

Why we must be doing something right...

First, a personal note. I just published a major essay on Canadian Foreign Policy -- I hope Canadian readers (and others) find it useful.

Now to Latin America issues. Some time ago, Justin Delacour prepared a good article on Venezuela's pollsters, published for Narconews but republished on ZNet. He has revisited the issue now, with good reason -- the Venezuelan referendum is coming up and polls will be important. He discusses some replies from his critics from the Venezuelan 'opposition' (really the Venezuelan elite), one of whom discusses how unworried he is that sites like ours are publishing such critiques:

Thankfully, the 20,000 people who read ZMag [note: the article also ran on the progressive U.S. webzine ZNet, at http://www.zmag.org/] are all equally blinded by ideology and unreasonable, and such writing is most unlikely to reach or influence people who matter, who know anything at all, or who have anything like an open mind. So I really wouldn't worry about it.

Nice, huh? I got some hate mail myself recently that I thought I'd share as well. It speaks so eloquently for itself that I feel no comment is necessary, though I have to admit I did take some guilty pleasure in replying to this fellow in kind, attempting to ape his highly eloquent style.

Date: Fri, 2 Jul 2004 10:18:11 -0500
From: Sebastián Arboleda Palacios
Subject: Your little website, Sir.

Mr. Podur,

As a Colombian that actually lives in his country and studies in Canada, I must confess that your little website is not only a sack of lies and deceit, but it suffers from a chronical disease typical of first-world left-wing fools that can't see past their noses - naivety and misinformation.

Human rights workers in this country have, time after time, shown a politicised approach to the defense of human rights. From Amnesty International to the smallest NGO, they all, in one way or another, show their political orientation in every condemning report that ingenues like yourself value so much.

You know something's up...

You know something is up when even Rahul Mahajan is asking his readers whether he should spend some time on vision and strategy:

So here's a question, especially for readers who have been with me for a while. Do any of you feel as if further analysis of the occupation is beating a dead horse and that you want and need something different? Do you want to see more about vision for how to change the world, instead of an exclusive focus on what's wrong with it? Thoughtful, reasoned answers are welcome; so are straightforward votes. Drop me a line.

I guess readers who have been with me for a while know that I named this blog after an essay by Michael Albert, called 'Stop the Killing Train'. In his work, he emphasizes the stopping part. Readers who follow this blog know that I seem to be emphasizing the killing train part. I'm a lot more tentative in what I offer in the way of strategy or vision, probably just because I'm just not as sure about things as he is, though I do try to offer experiences that are positive, like the Northern Cauca process or even local things like OCAP.

But I have been feeling some of what Rahul describes -- a sameness to the news. A sameness to the non-news, which is what I report here. We report these things out of a sense of duty, sometimes.

Fernando Garavito is a Colombian journalist in exile, who lost his job with a major Colombian newspaper for doing it too well, and fled under threat from paramilitaries. He does an internet column called 'the Lord of the Flies' (I translated just one of his articles). About a month ago, Garavito wrote what he announced as his last column. The world was on fire, going insane all around him, and there was just no point in putting these silly writings out over email. It's the proportion problem I described a couple of days ago.

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