Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Truth About Land Reform in Zimbabwe

From the BBC,

Zimbabwe's often violent land reform programme has not been the complete economic disaster widely portrayed, a new study has found.

Most of the country's 4,000 white farmers - then the backbone of the country's agricultural economy - were forced from their land, which was handed over to about a million black Zimbabweans.

The study's lead author, Ian Scoones from the UK's Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University, told BBC News he was "genuinely surprised" to see how much activity was happening on the farms visited during the 10-year study. "People were getting on with things in difficult circumstances and doing remarkably well," he said.

When Zimbabwe announced its radical agrarian reforms aimed at redistributing white owned farms to black workers, the Western media initiated a demonization campaign against the government of Robert Mugabe. The reforms were defined as bad economic policy, reverse racist and black farm workers were blamed for lower productive outputs. The study discussed above puts to shame the core arguments of Western critics and validate the necessity for radical land redistribution in other Southern African countries. Not surprisingly, there has been a lack of significant coverage of the facts on the ground. The reason is because the relative success of land redistribution in Zimbabwe invalidates the free-market orthodoxy to which Western sources say there is no alternative.

And that is exactly the reason why we should spread this story as far as possible.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Obama's Visit to India

President Obama is in India today courting one of the world’s growing economic powers on issues of trade, counter-terrorism and nuclear proliferation. The image of President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, signing agreements and addressing the “defining challenges of our time” are supposed to be a signal of international cooperation and democratic values but I can’t help but wonder how the most widespread issue facing the vast majority of people in both countries is off the agenda?

According, to the Hindustan Times of India,
“India has been ranked among top 10 global countries on income gain but widening disparity between rich and poor and gender inequality have been identified as major challenges in a United Nations report released on Thursday. The Human Development Report 2010 said India gained 15 positions on global Human Development Index (HDI) because of a high income growth since 1970. However, on overall HDI, Nepal, being the second fastest HDI gainer globally, did much better.”
India is not alone. As corporate profits soar and the burden of economic recovery is placed onto the backs of workers and the unemployed, the gap between the rich and poor is growing in nearly every country around the world including the United States. If wages internationally are declining and unemployment rising as corporations heighten exploitation and roll back social protections, then the only logical expectation is greater social instability, conflict and death at the hand of treatable diseases. In other words a decline in human well-being even if economies grow slightly.

The United States and India should be trying to bridge the rich-poor divide in their own countries and cooperating to ensure greater accountability among multinational corporations who skirt labor and environmental standards. Manufacturers, petroleum companies, and investors operating in North America and South Asia should be forced to follow unified codes of conduct that puts the breaks on ruthless competition. There should also be a coordinated attempt to promote fairer trade agreements between the two countries that create quality jobs in both nations and raise incomes.

There are a number of very important issues on the table during the President’s visit in India. But unfortunately, the most critical problem has been overlooked.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Google and the CIA Plan Joint Spy Technology

Google has long depicted its self as one of the good corporations, even promoting the motto "don't be evil". But investing along with the CIA on new advanced internet spy technology that "scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come" is not exactly the best way to keep the progressive facade up. Thanks to Democracy Now for breaking this story.

Shocking Video From the War in Afghanistan

The Guardian in U.K. has published an excerpt of a film highlighting "the horrific chaos of a stalemate that is taking its toll in blood" in Afghanistan. I just wish this video was required viewing for millions of Americans who never have to see or hear the brutality of the longest war in U.S. history in Afghanistan.

The Netherlands started withdrawing over a thousand of its troops from the war in Afghanistan. After a year of duty with NATO forces, the country has left behind an increasingly grim war effort to which the United States supplies 2/3 of all soldiers. The war in Afghanistan has indeed become a bloody stalemate with the U.S. apparently giving up on winning hearts and minds and now focused on fomenting a civil war to provide cover for them to leave. According to Brian Becker, national coordinator of the ANSWER anti-war coalition, the strategy of the Obama administration in Afghanistan is the same one pursued by President Richard Nixon at a similar phase in the Vietnam war.
"The Obama administration and its generals are borrowing a page from Nixon and Kissinger’s murderous “Vietnamization” plan, which became the announced policy in 1969. Since there was a rising tide of anti-war sentiment at home, Nixon and the Pentagon wanted the Vietnamese to kill each other in greater numbers as a way of diminishing U.S. war dead."
Validating Becker's comparison, Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the famous Pentagon papers during the Vietnam war, has come out swinging against the current war effort in Afghanistan. He has even drawn parallels about how propaganda has been used in both cases to manipulate the American public.
"I would say in a very crucial way they are deceiving us. President Obama in his state-of-the-union speech said that he would begin withdrawing troops in July 2011. Although other officials, like Robert Gates, almost immediately backed away from that, they all collaborated in implying, with Obama, that July 2011 would represent the high point of our troop presence there.

I feel quite confident that unless the public and Congress demand that that timetable is adhered to, there will be more troops in 2012 than there are in 2011, and more troops in 2013 than there are in 2012. In other words, I believe we are currently in the process of an open-ended increase, which is limited by the fact that we don't have a draft."
There is no way that this war could sustain its self politically if the images and brutality of the effort was made known to the American people. That is why it is so tragic that more U.S. media outlets have not published videos like the film above. Perhaps, blogs including my own can help fill the void.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Who is to Blame for the Famine in Niger?

There is currently a famine in the African country of Niger that threatens to kill millions of people, but as attention now spotlights the mounting disaster the question still remains, who is to blame for the lack of leadership surrounding food security in Niger and the Sahel region in general?

For starters we can point the finger directly at a hand full of African political leaders that have spent millions of dollars in public resources (financial and technical) on military affairs as part of a NATO-led "war on terror" in the Sahel at the expense of people's needs. In recent years, the militarization of Africa has diverted attention away from the most important on going war in the continent, the war against poverty. For all of the propaganda about the threat of Al-Qaeda to civilian lives in Africa, there has never been and can never be another force more lethal than hunger. The failure of Africa's political leadership to provide for the most basic necessities of people in a continent rich in oil and mineral resources is absolutely criminal. In the 21st century, with all of the numerous technological and scientific advancements available to humanity, it is ridiculous that millions of people can die from a lack of something as fundamental as food.

What is even worse, is that the African Union can mobilize thousands of troops to fight a civil war in Somalia, indiscriminately killing civilians, but Niger is forced to look toward the West to send food aid to those on the verge of starvation. If ever there were a time for real progressive leadership in Africa, now is it.

The U.S. Military Fights to Silence Opposition to the Afghanistan War

Protesters in Afghanistan burned SUV's and chanted "Death to America" after security armored vehicles of the US embassy crashed killing civilians. The public outcry against the United States after this accident shows that their presence there is not welcomed by most of the Afghan people even in the capital city of Kabul where they have the strongest base of support. Rather than confront the reality of an unpopular colonial-type occupation head-on, the U.S. military continues to cover-up their failures in Afghanistan in order to justify their continued occupation.

Secretary Robert Gates of the U.S. Defense Department for example condemned the release of thousands of documents that reveal the indiscriminate killing of Afghan civilians and the failure of the U.S-lead war effort to defeat the Taliban. Hypocritically, Secretary Gates is criticizing the leak of information about the crimes of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan rather than demanding an investigation of those who committed the crimes. He has also signaled that the documented evidence of U.S. crimes committed against civilians in Afghanistan will not in anyway change U.S. policy there."They do not, in my view, fundamentally call into question the efficacy of our current strategy in Afghanistan and its prospects for success.”

It is well known that Secretary Gates believes that public opposition in Europe and the United States to the occupation of Afghanistan is as dangerous to his mission there as the Taliban. He publicly stated his fear that the anti-war sentiment of Europeans could pressure European governments to back-down from the U.S.-lead wars in the Middle-East. This of course would be a positive development and signal of democracy if leaders responded to the public opposition of their citizens to endless war and occupation. But for the U.S. superpower democracy is not the goal. The Afghan war is an unpopular war at home as it is inside Afghanistan its self, but under the logic of empire voices of opposition are considered obsolete.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

AFRICOM & US Militarization in Africa: Radio Interview

Yesterday, I was part of an hour long discussion on WPFW radio in Washington D.C. with Emira Woods Co-Director, Foreign Policy In Focus, Institute for Policy Studies and coordinator of Trans-Africa Forum, Mwiza Munthal. We talked at length about current events in Africa related to the U.S. military Command in Africa (AFRICOM). For my part, I tried to emphasize the fact that there is an on going class struggle in Africa that we should be conscious of and support as we discuss militarization.

Click here to listen to the full interview.