Saturday, April 18, 2009
*Does Anyone On The Left Want To Reconsider Their Opposition to Soviet Intervention in Afghanistan in 1979?
Sometimes a news story stands by itself. That is the case with this Thursday April 16, 2009 story by Dexter Filkins of the New York Times entitled “Afghan women march to protest restrictions”. I have posted the article below. That, along with the recent news of a Taliban execution of a young Afghan couple for- ah, eloping- should give even the most brazen liberal cultural relativist cause for pause.
I also address all those leftists, feminists, socialist-feminists and pseudo-feminists who “howled with the wolves” along with all the Western imperial establishment, led by Jimmy Carter’s American imperial state, when the ex-Soviet Union in 1979, at the repeated request of the then Afghan government, intervened against the same kind of yahoos who are running the show in Afghanistan now. The question posed by the headline above stands as a challenge to those who are not totally ideologically wedded to adherence to American imperial policy in Afghanistan.
The Soviets, to be sure, may have had other additional more geo-political and ideological considerations for their support to the Afghan Peoples’ National Democratic government in 1979 but an important component of their support was to protect those gains for women that that Peoples’ government was trying to preserve in the face of the then savage pre-Taliban Islamic fundamentalist opposition. A photograph then of un-scarfed women students at Kabul University studying along with men compared with any photograph I have seen recently, including the one accompanying the article that I am posting below, from that benighted region tells the tale. In short, one need not be a flaming socialist, although it helps here, to question a policy that thirty years later empowers, in many cases, the very same Islamic fundamentalists the Soviets fought and who now enjoy American support and dollars. Let’s get this thing straight right now- Obama- U.S./Allied Troops Out Of Afghanistan Now!
“Afghan women march to protest restrictions”.
By Dexter Filkins
New York Times / April 16, 2009
KABUL, Afghanistan - The young women stepped off the bus and moved toward the protest march just beginning on the other side of the street when they were spotted by a mob of men.
"Get out of here, you whores!" the men shouted. "Get out!"
The women scattered as the men moved in.
"We want our rights!" one of the women shouted, turning to face them. "We want equality!"
The women ran to the bus and dove inside as it rumbled away, with the men smashing the taillights and banging on the sides.
But the march carried on anyway. About 300 Afghan women, facing an angry throng three times larger than their own, walked the streets of the capital yesterday to demand that Parliament repeal a new law that introduces a range of Taliban-like restrictions on women, and permits, among other things, marital rape.
It was an extraordinary scene. Women are mostly illiterate in this impoverished country, and they do not, generally speaking, enjoy anything near the freedom accorded to men. But there they were, most of them young, many in jeans, defying a threatening crowd and calling out slogans heavy with meaning.
With the Afghan police keeping the mob at bay, the women walked 2 miles to Parliament, where they delivered a petition calling for the law's repeal.
"Whenever a man wants sex, we cannot refuse," said Fatima Husseini, 26, one of the marchers. "It means a woman is a kind of property, to be used by the man in any way that he wants."
The law, approved by both houses of Parliament and signed by President Hamid Karzai, applies to the Shi'ite minority only, essentially giving clerics authority over intimate matters between women and men. Women here and governments and rights groups abroad have protested three parts of the law especially.
One provision makes it illegal for a woman to resist her husband's sexual advances. A second provision requires a husband's permission for a woman to work outside the home or go to school. And a third makes it illegal for a woman to refuse to "make herself up" or "dress up" if that is what her husband wants.
The passage of the law has amounted to something of a historical irony. Afghan Shi'ites, who make up about 10 percent of the population, suffered horrendously under the Taliban, who regarded them as apostates. Since 2001, the Shi'ites, particularly the Hazara minority, have been enjoying a renaissance.
Karzai, who relies on vast support from the United States and other Western governments to stay in power, has come under intense international criticism for signing the bill into law. Many people here suspect that he did so to gain the favor of the Shi'ite clergy; Karzai is up for reelection this year.
Responding to the outcry, Karzai has begun looking for a way to remove the most controversial parts of the law.
In an interview yesterday, his spokesman, Homayun Hamidzada, said that the legislation was not yet law because it had not been published in the government's official register. That, Hamidzada said, meant that it could still be changed. Karzai has asked his justice minister to look it over.
"We have no doubt that whatever comes out of this process will be consistent with the rights provided for in the constitution - equality and the protection of women," Hamidzada said.
The women who protested yesterday began their demonstration with what appeared to be a deliberately provocative act. They gathered in front of the School of the Last Prophet, a madrassa run by Ayatollah Asif Mohsini, the country's most powerful Shi'ite cleric. He and the scholars around him played an important role in the drafting of the new law.
"We are here to campaign for our rights," one woman said into a loudspeaker. Then the women held their banners aloft and began to chant.
The reaction was immediate. Hundreds of students from the madrassa, most but not all of them men, poured into the streets to confront the demonstrators.
"Death to the enemies of Islam!" the counterdemonstrators cried, encircling the women. "We want Islamic law!"
The women stared ahead and kept walking.
A phalanx of police, some of them women, held the crowds apart.
Afterward, when the demonstrators had left, one of the madrassa's senior clerics walked outside.
Asked about the dispute, he said it was between professionals and nonprofessionals; that is, between the clerics, who understood the Koran and Islamic law, and the women calling for the law's repeal who did not.
© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The latest news out of Washington on the Iraq/Afghan war front is that President Obama (unlike the “dovish” Illinois Senator Obama) is asking Congress for some 85 billion additional dollars to cover the cost of his war projects in Iraq and Afghanistan (Associated Press, Andrew Taylor, Friday, April 10, 2009).
I am so sorry for my almost error in the headline to this commentary above concerning which presidential administration, Bush’s or Obama’s, is asking for a supplemental war budget of some 85 billion dollars to cover incidental war expenses in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next year or so. Over the past several years we have gotten so use to seeing this little ploy used and having to make an additional fight against the imperial war budget that I felt that I was in something of a time warp.
However, you can hardly fault me for my little mistake when the Obama administration takes a page from the Bush playbook and tries to do an “end around” by special pleading for separate funding for these little military adventures. The Obama administration does, however, promise according to the AP report that this will be the last time this little ploy will be used. So next time instead of an overall military budget of say, 500 billion dollars, it will be an overall budget of some 600 million dollars. Thank heaven for tender mercies. Then we will only have to do one propaganda fight to call for a NO vote on the war budget. Nice, right?
But enough of all this emphasis on the bloody Obama administration. The crux of the matter here is that the Congress must appropriate these funds and that is where the struggle lies. I have spilled no little ink each year around this time dealing with calling for a NO vote on these bloated imperial war budgets, supplementary or other wise. This year is no exception. Here is one of the good things about the Internet though; one can save information readily without the muss and fuss of spending a lot of time looking for it. Thus, I was able to conger up some old commentary from 2006 and 2007 around the question of the fight against the war budget.
I repost some of that commentary here. I have not done much editing so where its says Bush put Obama, where it says Republicans put Democrats and where it says political con job put political con job. The funny thing is that except for changing a few of the names of the politicians in charge, a few of the purposes that the money to be appropriated for and the fact that we are a couple of more years into this Middle Eastern quagmire they could have been written today. So maybe, just maybe, it was not some Freudian slip (or other psychological quirk of mine) when I make my 'mistake' in the headline. To be on the safe side let’s just leave it at this- Obama- Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S. / Allied Troops From Iraq/Afghanistan. Vote NO on Funding For The War Budget.
“Hold Their Feet To The Fire”, April 22, 2006
FORGET DONKEYS, ELEPHANTS AND GREENS- BUILD A WORKERS PARTY
The election cycle of 2006-2008 has started, a time for all militants to run for cover. It will not be pretty and certainly is not for the faint-hearted. The Democrats smell blood in the water. The Greens smell that the Democrats smell blood. Various parliamentary leftists and some ostensibly socialists smell that the Greens smell blood. You get the drift. Before we go to ground let me make a point.
The central issue in the 2006 elections is the Iraq quagmire. As we enter the fourth year in the bloody war in Iraq many liberals, and some not so liberal, in Congress and elsewhere are looking to rehabilitate their sorry records on Iraq and are having a cheap field day. As militants we know that the only serious call is- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal of all U.S. and Allied Forces Now (or rather yesterday). Many politicians have supported a pale imitation of this slogan-now that it safe to do so. These courageous positions range from immediate withdrawal in six months, one year, six years, etc... My personal favorite is withdrawal when the situation in Iraq stabilizes. Compared to that position, Mr. Bush’s statement in May, 2003 that the mission in Iraq was accomplished seems the height of political realism. Hold on though.
After the last slogan has faded from the last mass anti-war demonstration, after the last e-mail has been sent to the last unresponsive Congressman, after the last petition signed on behalf of the fellowship of humankind has been signed where do we stand in 2006. When the vast majority of Americans (and the world) are against the Iraq war and it still goes on and yet the “masses” are not ready for more drastic action we need some immediate leverage.
The only material way to end the war on the parliamentary level is opposition to the continued funding for the occupation. For that, however, you need votes in Congress. Here is my proposal. Make a N0 vote on the war budget a condition for your vote. When the Democrats, Republicans, Greens, or whoever, come to your door, your mailbox , your computer or calls you on the telephone or cell phone ask this simple question- YES or NO on the war budget.
Now, lest I be accused of being an ultra left let me make this clear. I am talking about the supplementary budget for Iraq. Heaven forbid that I mean the real war budget, you know, the 400 billion plus one. No, we are reasonable people and until we get universal health care we do not want these “leaders” to suffer heart attacks. And being reasonable people we can be proper parliamentarians when the occasion requires it. If the answer is YES, then we ask YES or NO on the appropriations for bombs in the war budget. And if the answer is still YES, then we ask YES or NO on the appropriations for gold-plated kitchen sinks in the war budget. If to your utter surprise any politician says NO here’s your comeback- Since you have approximated the beginning of wisdom, get the hell out of the party you represent. You are in the wrong place. Come down here in the mud and fight for party workers can call their own. Then, maybe, just maybe, I can support you.
I do not believe we are lacking in physical courage. What has declined is political courage, and this seems an irreversible decline on the part of parliamentary politicians. That said, I want to finish up with a woefully inadequate political appreciation of Karl Liebknecht, member of the German Social Democratic faction in the Reichstag in the early 1900’s. Karl was also a son of Wilhelm Liebknecht, friend of Karl Marx and founder of the German Social Democratic Party in the 1860’s. On August 4, 1914, at the start of World War I the German Social Democratic Party voted YES on the war budget of the Kaiser against all its previous historic positions on German militarism. This vote was rightly seen as a betrayal of socialist principles. Due to a policy of parliamentary solidarity Karl Liebknecht also voted for this budget, or at least felt he had to go along with his faction. Shortly thereafter, he broke ranks and voted NO against the war appropriations. As pointed out below Karl Liebknecht did much more than that to oppose the German side in the First World War. THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS THE KIND OF POLITICIAN I CAN SUPPORT. AS FOR THE REST- HOLD THEIR FEET TO THE FIRE.
“ONCE AGAIN ON THE DEMOCRATS AND THEIR IRAQ WAR”, March 9, 2007
ON THE WAR BUDGET FIGHT FOR A NO VOTE
I can hold out no longer. It seems like a political eternity since I have commented on the question of the Democrats and their response to their Iraq war. I have been waiting patiently for my liberal political friends to cry “uncle” over my prediction, made in the wake of the midterm elections, that when all the hoopla died down their Democrats would take a political dive on the Iraq question. Oh, yes I forgot the House of Representatives did pass a non-binding ‘softball’ resolution that even my mother, a life long Republican, was in favor of-as long as it had not teeth. Be still my heart, that one sure had President Bush shaking in his cowboy boots. While my liberal friends wait until Iraq freezes over for their Democrats to turn the corner those of us who really want to end this damn war need to take stock.
For the past year I have been propagandizing for the formation of anti-war soldier and sailor solidarity committees in order to lead the way out of Iraq. If one thinks about it for a moment in that time anti-war soldiers and sailors have done more to end this war than all the parliamentary actions of Democrats and all the anti-war demonstrations put together. As noted in an earlier commentary in this space (SEE THE CALIFORNIA SOLDIERS MUST NOT STAND ALONE in the January 2007 archives) many anti-war service personnel have signed onto a petition for the redress of grievance- and that grievance is the continuation of the war in Iraq. That is a good start but more will have to be done than petitions to get out of Iraq before hell freezes over. More on this later.
The next matter is getting a little redundant, that is of having to bring up the question every time the war appropriations are up for a vote, but I will repeat it once again. In wartime the only parliamentary question that matters is the question of funding the war budget. You know, the way the war gets paid for. A few thoughtful Democrats know that but, more importantly, President Bush and his coterie damn well know it. And have thumbed their noses at Congress whenever any slight rumbling about ending the war funding comes on the horizon.
There is a Democratic-sponsored bill before Congress now that speaks to tying war funding to some specific exit date. It is, however, as is true of much such legislation, so filled with loopholes, exemptions, exceptions and fallback positions as to be worthless. This is not a supportable bill. Moreover, it has as much chance of passing the Democratically-controlled Congress as Iraq freezing over. Here are the ABC’s of the situation. For those who still suffer a belief in the Democrats pose this question, STRAIGHT UP-on the war budget – YES OR NO. I fear you will not like the answer. And if you do not like the answer then you had better hurry along and form those anti-war soldier and sailor solidarity committees. Forward.
“ON THE HOUSE WAR BUDGET VOTE-THE DEMOCRATS OFFICIALLY OWN THE IRAQ WAR”, March 24, 2007
NOT ONE PENNY, NOT ONE SOLDIER FOR THESE WARS!
On Friday March 23, 2007 the United States House of Representatives by a narrow vote of 218 to 212 voted for a 124 billion dollar war budget for funding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, among other things. That is more than the Bush Administration requested. However, attached to this budget was a binding (finally, something other than smoke and mirrors) resolution for withdrawal of troops from Iraq no later than August 31, 2008. President Bush in response stated unequivocally that he would veto this budget due to the withdrawal resolution and the fact the war budget was more than he wanted. Who would have thought?
Militants call for a straight no vote to any capitalist war budget. That is a given. However, some comment is required here. Clearly a war budget that was patched together with little goodies by the Democratic House leadership in order to get a majority vote is not supportable. Nor is a budget that is passed on the basis that the President is going to veto it anyway but everyone gets to look good for the folks back home. That is cynical but hardly unusual in bourgeois politics. What I find important out of this jumble is the amount of pressure that the House leadership felt was on it to carry out its mandate from the mid-term elections about doing something to get the hell out of Iraq. Unfortunately this is not the road out of Iraq. Increasing the war budget and then leaving it up to Bush to veto the damn thing smacks of parliamentary cretinism. Forget the Democrats (on this one the Republicans are not even on the radar).
A semi-kudo to Democratic presidential candidate Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich for voting against this charade. At least he had the forthrightness to state that if you wanted to end the war you needed to vote against the measure. That he is a voice in the wilderness and is in the wrong party is a fact of life. That his candidacy is thus not politically supportable by militants does not negate the fact that he is right on this one. NOT ONE PENNY, NOT ONE SOLDIER FOR THE WAR! UNITED STATES OUT OF IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN! BUILD A WORKERS PARTY THAT FIGHTS FOR SOCIALISM!
Monday, April 13, 2009
What passes these days for the anti-war protest spring season has just been wrapped up and the results are, frankly, discouraging. Here are a few items to fill out the story of that pathetic showing. Locally, here in Boston there were two small demonstrations in mid-March around the 6th Anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, one a stand out vigil sponsored by local pacifists the other another such effort this time with the ritual reading of the names of the American soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. From what I can gather from the very few sources that I have found that covered the event (none in the mainstream press, at least that I saw) the “radical” ANSWER coalition’s March On The Pentagon on March 21st drew, at most, a few thousand. To top the season off a New York City rally against war and corporate greed that I did attend (and that also got minimal media coverage, as well) sponsored by the United For Justice and Peace (UJP), coalition drew, at most, a thousand or so. I should note that UJP, as an organization went out of its way, despite internal dissent, to NOT protest in the streets during the recently completed 2008 American presidential campaign (for fear of stirring up the red necks against Obama, I assume). So much for parliamentary cretinism of the second mobilization.
So what gives? Well, of course, we are in the age of the Obamiad and there are more than enough illusions in that presidency than one can shake a stick at. This despite that hard facts on the ground, as the mainstream reporters like to say, that Obama has upped the ante in Afghanistan by his escalation of troop levels to amounts similar to that of ex-President George W. Bush when he presented his “surge” strategy for Iraq that had anti-warriors howling in the streets. Recent developments in the aftermath of various European summits have also indicated that that same Afghan war has become, or will shortly with the increased American troop presence, become Americanized. Obama has plenty of Teflon, a chemical compound that old W never had. But there is more to it than that, at least for now, reflected in the worn out strategies that various anti-war coalitions have put forth in reaction to Obama’s current popularity.
I have addressed this issue of differences in the strategy and tactics of the Vietnam anti-war movement and the current Iraq/Afghanistan/ Pakistan fiasco a couple of time before in this space. I have reposted (and updated somewhat) those comments as I believe that we anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist anti-warriors (that is a mouthful, right?) face many of the same problems that we faced in trying to end that still continuing Iraq war and/or bringing down the Bush (and now Obama) government. And just for the record I aver now as I did then- Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S. / Allied Troops From Iraq And Afghanistan! Hands Off Pakistan!
Originally posted on November 6, 2006 (around the time of the mid-term Congressional elections that brought a wave of “progressive” Democrats to Congress.
“Where Have All The Protests Against The Iraq War Gone?
UPDATED: NOVEMBER 16, 2006
Below are some thoughts concerning the lack of major street protests against the war in Iraq despite the rise in opinion polls of opposition to the war which will apparently filter through the upcoming midterm election results. These thoughts are a response to an article in the “IDEAS” section of November 5, 2006 “Sunday Boston Globe” entitled-“Where Have the Protests Gone?” The theme of the article is the rather apparent contradiction between the rise of opposition to the war and the lack of response on the streets in comparison to various stages of the Vietnam War.
Some of those interviewed commented that the lack of a draft and therefore a general immediacy of the effects of the war on vast sections of the population as a reason. Others argued that the movement was alive and well but that the parliamentary route was the way to go. Others that the rise of high technology has changed the nature of left-wing political opposition. (You know, the Internet as an organizing tool, the cell phone, Sidekick, various social organizing sites, etc.) Yes, okay but we still have the damn hard fact of political life that the war continues unabated, will continue unabated and that unless we take action outside the parliamentary framework and off the Internet that will continue to be the case. In any case, here are a couple of points to consider.
The writer came of political age during the Vietnam War. Here are a few thoughts then from someone who came to protesting from a leftist political perspective the Vietnam War rather late (1968) and the Iraq War very early (early summer of 2002) who also wonders where the heck the protests have gone.
I am as enamored of the potential political uses of today high speed technologies as the next person but let us face it this is a very passive medium. One cannot create social change or create “community” in the privacy of one’s office or recreation room. In fact a very good argument can be made that current technological uses are making us more individualized, or as someone recently put it hyper-individualized, beyond the trends noted in the book “Bowling Alone In America”. There is no substitute for face to face organizing. One of the most interesting parts of organizing against the Vietnam War was when local PTA-type groups would ask me, a known radical at the time, to come and talk about the war. While these suburban matrons did not come away as devotees of Ho Chi Minh they did take what I had to say seriously. To finish the thought up in one phrase- if the revolution will not be televised neither will it be broadcast over the Internet.
A thought on the effectiveness of street protests. Most people I know believe that the huge anti-war rallies were decisive in ending the Vietnam War. Wrong. In the final analysis it was the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam and the North Vietnamese Army that sent the United States packing. Please remember (or find a photo of) those evacuations from the roof top of the United States Embassy in 1975 as the American left scurrying like rats. I have, as others have as well, noted the many differences between Vietnam and Iraq but every week Baghdad politically looks more and more like Saigon 1975. That said, it is still necessary for the good of our political souls as well as an act of elementary political hygiene to hit the streets to protest this war- against the policies of both Republicans and Democrats.
While the initial strong opposition to the Iraq War was welcome, if surprising, I believe that it was (and is) more shallow that the opposition to the Vietnam War. Vietnam occurred in the, perhaps, unique context of the 1960’s. No only were there many movements going on or created like the black liberation struggle, women’s liberation and assorted anti-imperialist struggles but fights to create alternate cultural traditions in music, the arts and social life in general were everywhere. That most of these failed or still have not achieved their goals does not negate the effect that it had on the times. When there was, for example, a vibrant Student for a Democratic Society (SDS, one of the main villains for most conservatives at that time) in places like South Dakota you knew something was giving way at the base of society.
In contrast, today’s protesters have virtually no connection with past social and political struggles which could help to drive the movement forward. And to some extent, from my experiences, they willfully do not want to know these lessons. Taking to the streets en masse again in 2008 after the Democrats fail to get the troops out of Iraq is way too late. Additionally, almost forty years of relentless right-wing attacks that would have made Genghis Klan blush have made many fearful of challenging this government. But that is another story for another time.
I have noted the following point previously, but as we close in on the 89th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution on November 7th, it bears repeating. That revolution was truly the only time that I know of that an anti-war movement actually ended a war. Without going into all the details here or all the many causes for it the Bolshevik seizure of power from those in the Russian Provisional Government who were committed to continuing Russian participation in World War I on the Allied side graphically points out our dilemma. The Russian soldiers, aided by Bolshevik propaganda, voted with their feet to leave the trenches. The American troops should do the same. Who will help them?
Originally posted October 15, 2008 around the time of the 6th Anniversary of the United States Senate’s “green signal” for the Bush Administration to pursue its war aims in Iraq and during the height of the Obama love fest in the 2008 American presidential campaign.
October 11, 2008 marked the sixth anniversary of the United States Senate’s signing off on authorization for President Bush’s war on Iraq. That date and March 20th (the date of the start of the actual invasion of Iraq in 2003) seem to be the focal points for the spring and fall “anti-war” campaign seasons each year. As such one would have expected a huge outpouring of anti-war sentiment on Saturday to “keep fire” under the feet of the various so-called ‘anti-war’ Democrats in the struggle to end the war. Or, at least, to end the funding of the war that so many of them had promised to stop in the Congressional campaign of 2006.
Not so, at least at the local gathering here at the Boston Common. At most a few hundred protesters showed up, mainly the tried and true veterans of the movement. I found myself talking mostly to old anti-warriors from past campaigns. The rather ‘shocking’ part of this sad spectacle was that in the very first lead up action in opposition to the war in the summer of 2002, when the Bush Administration started seriously beating the public tom-toms for war, there were actually more (and varied) people present at the first local demonstration. What has happened to that vaunted ‘street’ anti-war movement?
Well, the short answer, as always in a presidential election year, is that the focus shifts to parliamentary politics. Especially true this year, as year Barack Obama, the Democratic standard bearer, is “committed” to ending the war in Iraq (and shifting the forces and resources to Afghanistan, as the small print of his position reads. But who are we to quibble over such a detail). Moreover, the main anti-war coalitions like Troops Out Now and United For Peace and Justice (or is it justice and peace?) have purposefully, as they do in every presidential fall season, refrained from mass demonstrations in Washington and other major cities so as not to upset people (read, mainly Democrats) with such wild and outlandish slogans such as immediate withdrawal from Iraq AND Afghanistan.
That is the real nub of the matter. The vast majority of the “movement”, such as it is, really believes that one of the lessons that should have been learned from the vast Vietnam War-era protest was to keep off the streets and let the parliamentary road work its ‘magic’ as the way to end the Iraq war. We know now, painfully, the results of that strategy- almost six years of non-stop war. And if we are at all honest no end is in sight. Of course, to be fair there are other reasons for the dwindling number of protests and protesters but let’s address the one reason that we have control over. A new anti-war leadership has to be thrown up and a new strategy of serious opposition has to be embarked on (The odd thing is that even the vaunted current commitment to the parliamentary road has not been seriously organized). In any case- until that day- Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal of All U.S./Allied Troops and Their Mercenaries from Iraq and Afghanistan is still the order of the day. Forward.