The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Issue no. 751 — May 23 - June 6, 2005

Editorial:
Judge lets United dump its pension plans
– It's nothing but a swindle!

May 23, 2005

On May 10, a U.S. bankruptcy judge gave United the go-ahead to dump all four of its pension plans. United, the second biggest airline in the country, claimed that the funds were severely underfunded.

Underfunded? Yes, they were. Because United underfunded them. Ever since the 1990s, not only did United not put enough money into the funds to cover its pension obligations; it even "diverted" money from the funds – to pay out bigger dividends to stockholders, as well as bigger bonuses and mega-salaries to executives. In 2002/2003, United CEO Glen Tilton raked in over 5.5 million dollars compensation – while locking up 4.5 million dollars in a pension trust for himself.

United dares to say it can't afford pensions for the workers?

It's nothing but a scam – one that a lot of other companies had already run. Just to mention a few of the biggest scammers: there was LTV Steel, Bethlehem Steel, Kaiser Aluminum. They each threatened to go out of business; they each found a friendly bankruptcy judge to help them dump their pension plans. And they each went on operating very profitably – under their own name, or as part of another company.

Everything went on the same, with this difference: workers no longer had a pension plan.

Oh, yes, they now get pensions issued by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Board – which itself seems to be nearing bankruptcy! But a PBGC pension doesn't mean a full pension. Depending on how old workers were when their plan got dumped, they might get as little as one third of what they were supposed to get. And don't think about medical insurance – the PBGC doesn't cover it. As for the workers with only a few years of seniority, they won't have any pension at all.

What next? The other airlines are already crying poor, practically drooling, as they think about pulling the same swindle.

Standing in the wings, just waiting to try out the same scam, are the big auto companies. For years – very profitable ones – Ford and GM kept their funds underfunded. GM's plan today is underfunded by 9 billion dollars, Ford's by 12.3 billion.

All told, private company pension plans are underfunded by half a trillion dollars, according to the PBGC. And every single one of those underfunded plans is a time-bomb waiting to go off in the workers' faces.

Today only 21% of all workers in the private sector are covered by a regular pension – down from 41% in 1978. We are watching pensions disappear, right in front of our eyes, even as these monster companies roll up bigger profits than ever before.

It's a scam, yes. But more than that. It's an outrage.

The problem isn't lack of money for pensions. It's greed – outright, damn greed.

These companies – taking more of what we produce for their profits than at any time in the last 76 years – want still more profit.

They think, because they take us on one group of workers at a time, that they can isolate us, keep us from fighting back.

They couldn't be more wrong. The United workers can decide they won't be thrown out in the street in their old age, with nothing to show for it. They can start the fight that spreads to other workers, to the whole working class. We all have a reason to resist these attacks. We all have a reason to join a fight. And any group of determined workers can set things off.

Pages 2-3

Like a king on a bike

May 23, 2005

Patuxent Research Refuge, less than 20 miles from Washington, D.C., is one of 540 national wildlife refuges, part of the federally funded U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Its budget has been cut, its building maintenance has been put off, two of its research facilities have been shut, its hours have been cut.

But Patuxent is used – in a very special way. On land the public is no longer allowed to visit, one man goes bicycle riding: President Bush.

When Bush and his Secret Service arrive, the scientists have to leave their labs. The federal refuge becomes Bush's personal recreation grounds.

Just another "privatization!"

Baltimore:
Man beaten to death while awaiting trial

May 23, 2005

On May 14, 52-year-old Raymond Smoot was beaten to death in the Baltimore jail. According to witnesses, at least six guards beat and kicked Smoot to a bloody pulp while another dozen or so milled around. Smoot died within hours.

What was the man's crime for which he was summarily executed by a gang of vicious guards? He was out of his cell asking to talk to a guard supervisor about his medications. A diabetic with high blood pressure, Smoot had been without his medications.

Why was Smoot being held in the first place? He was too poor to post the $150 cash bond required to get out of jail for a minor crime.

There has been enough of a reaction in the Baltimore black community to this vicious beating that some of the guards may face charges of some sort. But if the guards involved believed they could get away with such behavior, it is because they felt that they had a license to do so.

Look at the record of the Baltimore jail: Maryland State Senator Verna Jones said that since 2002, 27 inmates have died there.

It's how prisons are run. Terror is used to control a population of poor people, most of whom are in prison for no other reason than that they are poor.

Compton, California:
The cops' 120-round rampage in the 'hood

May 23, 2005

Shortly before midnight on Mothers' Day, a working-class neighborhood in Compton, south of Los Angeles, rattled with a 120-round fusillade. The bullets, many of which ended up in surrounding houses, came from the guns of ten sheriff's deputies. The rampage left two people wounded and several homes riddled with bullet holes. The terrified residents said it was a miracle that no one was killed.

The shots were apparently aimed at Winston Hayes, who lives in the neighborhood. The cops claimed that they wanted to stop Hayes' SUV because he had fired shots – which is obviously not true because Hayes was unarmed. After a low-speed chase, Hayes pulled onto the lawn of a house, and the deputies started to empty their guns on his car. Four of the bullets hit Hayes, who was lucky to survive. The deputies also hit one of their own, who suffered a minor wound. The rest sprayed throughout the neighborhood, just like any other drive-by shooting.

The deputies' total disregard for the people living in the neighborhood is nothing new. Within the last three years, at least four other incidents have been reported in which sheriff's deputies fired a total of 60 rounds or more. In one of these incidents in March 2004, the deputies shot and wounded a roofer.

All of these incidents happened in poor, working-class neighborhoods. And authorities treated these shooting orgies by cops the way they treat most crimes in working-class neighborhoods: they ignored them.

Is it any wonder that the people in these neighborhoods call the cops "the biggest gang in town"?

Charter schools:
Profit destroys education

May 23, 2005

For-profit charter schools have been a huge disaster for the children in the cities where they were imposed.

Congress passed charter schools acts in 1994 and 1997, pushing local school districts to let private enterprise take over or create schools.

The justification for this was that the competition of "market pressures" would force these schools and the public schools to perform and deliver a quality product. The track record has shown otherwise.

In Michigan, seventy-five% of charter schools are run by for-profit companies. These schools are paid with public education funds, but they are not controlled by the public. Because these schools are run by private companies, they don't have to reveal how they have used their money, or how much profit they have made. As far as the communities are concerned, the schools are just big holes that the money gets poured into.

These companies find many ways to make their profits. The schools set up shop in abandoned theaters, storefronts, supermarkets – and often, old school buildings that the school district has closed. These buildings are often owned or leased by a management company that is owned by the for-profit charter school company. The charter school, run by the same company, gets state education money for each student – $7,000 in Michigan. The school then pays the management company hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in rent.

The educational quality in most cases is worse than in the public schools. Students at the charter schools around Detroit have scored lower than Detroit public school students on the Michigan statewide test.

How could it be otherwise? The profit taken out of these schools is money NOT spent on education. So schools have a high number of uncertified teachers; a high turnover rate, with sometimes several teachers teaching the same class in a school year; and even classes taught by a string of temporary service employees. At the ten schools run by one company, Charter School Administrative Services, 62% of teachers are uncertified. This same company received 42 million dollars from the state of Michigan last year. This is money that did NOT go to the public schools. And that's just one company, running ten schools. There are 215 charter schools in Michigan.

A number of Detroit parents pulled their children out of the public schools out of desperation, trying to find someplace that would provide a quality education – only to move their children from one charter school to another. The parents often end up bringing their children back to the Detroit public schools.

But in the meantime, those charter schools have gotten that $7,000 per student per year. And when students move back to the Detroit public schools, the money often doesn't move with them – the charter schools just keep the money they were paid for that year, so the public schools have to accommodate these extra students without the state aid they would normally get. This puts an even greater financial strain on the public schools.

In 1996, the Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers issued a report in which it said, "the education industry may replace health care ... as THE focus industry." That's exactly what the charter schools are: private industry taking over public education, squeezing out all the profit they can – and leaving children with an even worse education.

Charter schools?
Take a look at Dayton

May 23, 2005

If anyone wonders what the large-scale effects of charter schools could be, all you have to do is take a look at Dayton, Ohio.

Dayton, a city of 166,000 people, has 40 charter schools. Twenty-six% of Dayton's public school students are enrolled in charter schools – a higherpercentage than anywhere else in the country.

Dayton's public schools have been among Ohio's worst. Have the charter schools turned things around?

Not on your life. They've made things worse.

Test scores at these charter schools are even lower than at the public schools.

At the same time, they've sucked 41 million dollars – 36% of its state aid – from the Dayton public schools, throwing the district into a financial crisis.

That's right: they have 26% of Dayton's students, but they've gotten 36% of the district's state aid!

The Dayton experience is a perfect example – of how to destroy a public school district, while making a few people very rich.

Los Angeles:
Closing a hospital while plundering its funds

May 23, 2005

In response to scandals about the poor quality of care and corruption at the King/Drew hospital, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors which runs the hospital, hired Navigant Consulting to supervise the management of the hospital, paying it 15 million dollars for the job.

Here's a sampling of what Navigant charged every MONTH: $67,500 for each of three top managers, $45,000 for each of several "department advisors," $36,000 for each of five "nurse advisors." These figures do NOT include "expenses," which may be hefty since some of these advisors have apparently been commuting to Los Angeles – from as far as North Carolina!

The county supervisors, who have already closed down the hospital's trauma center, are now saying that the hospital may be beyond "being saved." In other words, the 15 million dollars didn't improve the hospital. It did, however, improve the bank account of another corporate shark.

King/Drew's problems apparently were just an excuse to hand out millions of taxpayer dollars to the corporate world!

Using Social Security to give tax breaks to the wealthy

May 23, 2005

In 2003, Social Security taxes produced 40% of federal revenues. That's almost as much as personal income taxes, which brought in 41%, while corporate taxes made up only 10%.

That's almost the reverse of fifty years ago when corporations paid 27% of federal taxes, personal income taxes made up 45%, and Social Security taxes produced less than 13%.

That's a really enormous change, and one that weighs most heavily on those with the lowest income. The cost of government has been shifted onto Social Security, which is a really regressive tax. There is no Social Security tax on income over $90,000, so people with higher incomes pay a lower rate than everyone else.

The change is a drastic one, but it happened in stages. In the last fifty years Social Security taxes have been raised 18 times. In 1955, the Social Security tax rate was only 2% of income. Today, including the Medicare tax, it is 15.3%. That includes what both workers and employers pay in, which economists and the employers consider part of a worker's total wage compensation.

In that same period, the income tax rate for the top bracket has been decreased four times. These cuts started under Kennedy, when the top tax rate was lowered from 91% to 70%. Under Reagan, the top rate dropped from 70 down to 28%! It was raised a bit under Clinton – but only in exchange for a series of loopholes that benefit only the wealthy. Bush's tax cuts have dropped the top rate again down to 33%. The rate on the top bracket is never the rate on the entire amount of their income, only on the very top portion. The politicians have lowered the top rate so much that it is barely more than the rate an ordinary worker pays.

The top corporate tax rate has been lowered eight times in the last 50 years, from over 50% to 35%. The "effective" tax rate is always much lower, since the corporations shelter huge portions of their income.

This is what the politicians call "reforming" the tax system. They keep "reforming" upward the proportion workers pay in Social Security taxes and "reforming" down the amount corporations and the wealthy pay in income taxes.

And this is what they are trying to do today again – claiming they need to "reform" Social Security to save it.

Don't even let them try!

Pages 4-5

Kuwait:
The right to vote for some women

May 23, 2005

In the particularly reactionary emirate of Kuwait, women did not have the right to vote – despite the fact that for the last dozen years the Constitution hypocritically guaranteed equality between women and men.

In 1999, a decree had been submitted to the Parliament granting women the right to vote and be eligible for office, but deputies representing tribes tied to the ruling family and Islamic fundamentalists were opposed to it. In July 2003, courageous women protested against their exclusion from voting by organizing a symbolic vote when the legislative elections occurred.

Finally, in May of the year 2005, women gained the right to vote and to be candidates.

This was too much for the religious charlatans and tribal chiefs. They were up in arms against what they called disruption of "society's identity." They declared that this measure was "contrary to Islam" and they got the law amended to say that women must conform to "Islamic norms" in the exercise of their rights. What does this mean? No one knows. But one thing is certain: it bodes ill for the new rights that Kuwaiti women are supposed to have.

Even if women get the vote, there's no such thing as democratic rights for the Kuwaiti population. The Kuwaiti monarchy, led by the ruling El Sabah family, strictly limits citizenship to the descendants of "true" Kuwaitis and denies it to hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers who are in the emirate – the ones who produce its riches and who make up the majority of the population. In this country, with more than two million inhabitants, only 150,000 men have had the right to vote. Tomorrow, if everything isn't called into question by fundamentalists who are convinced that women aren't full human beings, 200,000 women will be able to vote. But the Palestinian, Filipino or Indian workers – men and women – who represent 60% of the population, will have no rights. They can only work for a pittance, while the threat of being expelled hangs over their heads from one day to the next.

Israeli government tries to solve its garbage problem by building a dump in the heart of West Bank

May 23, 2005

Adding insult to the injury it inflicted by constructing a fence zig-zagging across the West Bank, the Sharon government has begun to construct a stinking dump one mile downwind from Deir Sharaf, a village of 3000 Palestinians.

The plan is to dump 10,000 tons of garbage a month from Israel and Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories.

The villagers already had their own garbage problem, which they tried taking care of until the Israeli military set up obstacles. Five years ago, Israeli soldiers seized the village garbage truck, saying it would contaminate the ground water.

So concerned about the environment, this hypocritical Israeli government is now using earthmovers to carve out a huge pit with piles of rubbish building up near where villagers live. This may not be the worst attack carried out by the Israeli government against the Palestinians, but it shows how stinking rotten its policies are!

Anti-Castro terrorist being protected in the U.S.

May 23, 2005

On May 17, Louis Posada, a right wing Cuban, was arrested by the Homeland Security Department for illegally entering the country. He had been in the country for two months, having entered through Mexico. During that time, a Miami TV station said he was in the country, but a top State Department official said claims he was here were "completely manufactured." He was arrested only after he held a public news conference.

Posada is a long-time CIA agent, hired for the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and trained in the use of explosives. In 1976 he was involved in the bombing of a Cuban plane that killed 73 people. A State Department intelligence brief issued after the attack admitted it. The government of Venezuela, which had citizens killed in the plane attack, held him in prison for nine years during trials and an appeal, until he escaped. He promptly joined with the CIA once again to work with Ollie North's team aiding the armed Contra attacks against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. Posada never stopped his violent attacks against Cuba. He admitted publicly to arranging bombings of tourist spots in Havana in 1997, one of which killed an Italian tourist.

Unlike the arrest of Arabs accused of terrorism who are today promptly deported to countries claiming a case against them, especially to countries well known for using torture, the U.S. government is handling the Posada case quite differently. Condoleeza Rice said about this request for asylum: "The issues here concern understanding the record of Mr. Posada and then making judgements about what that means about his request." Well, that record is plain: he is a terrorist long in the service of U.S. foreign policy.

Venezuela has an extradition treaty with the U.S., but as its Vice President Jose Vicente said, "It seems that for some there is a good terrorism and a bad terrorism." Or as Bush said after September 11, "If you harbor terrorists, you are terrorists." That's true! And the U.S. government is the chief terrorist in the world.

U.S. soldiers tortured prisoners in Afghanistan
– in the so-called war on terror

May 23, 2005

In December of 2002, two Afghanistan men held by the U.S. military died after torture at a detention center. Details of their deaths were just released on May 20 and 22 in The New York Times. In addition to beatings and humiliations, the detained were regularly chained to hang from the ceiling of their cells, threatened with rape, kept hooded, and deprived of sleep. One was kicked so hard that a military doctor said his legs looked like they had been run over by a bus; he died from this treatment by U.S. soldiers.

According to what soldiers later told investigators, all detainees were to be considered terrorists, with no rights, until proven otherwise.

What was the man's crime? He drove his taxi with three passengers in it past a U.S. air base on a day when it had been hit by rockets. Even most of his interrogators admitted the taxi driver was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nonetheless, he was tortured to death and his three passengers were sent to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for further "questioning" by the U.S. military. After 15 months of questioning, the men were released with a statement that they posed "no threat." None of these four Afghan men had any information about the "terrorists" whose existence was the excuse for the war in Afghanistan in the first place. But torture in such a situation isn't aimed only or even primarily at getting information. Its aim is to terrorize a population into complete submission.

People in other parts of the world, especially Afghanistan and Iraq, have every reason to think of the U.S. government as terrorists.

French workers resist the removal of a paid holiday

May 23, 2005

In the summer of 2003 an exceptional heat wave led to the death of about 15,000 people in France, most of them elderly, and most living alone. The government had done nothing to anticipate the danger, and when disaster struck it failed to respond. In the aftermath, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin declared that workers would have to give up their Monday Pentecost holiday. They would work and the additional taxes employers paid for the day's production would go to a fund to help the elderly. In fact, it was nothing but a pretext, aiming at removing one of the 11 paid holidays all workers in France are entitled to. The French government did not quite get its way, however.

We translated excerpts from an article that appeared in the May 18 issue of the newspaper Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Fight) about the situation.

Work Monday of Pentecost: A failure

Two days after Pentecost Monday, Raffarin congratulated himself on the pretended success of his initiative. He added that while an assessment should be made – later on – no polemic was needed. We understand his wish, for the least that we can say about it is that everything didn't go as well for the government as Raffarin pretended.

Anticipating the reactions of their workers, a number of bosses decided to close their businesses, or to give out "reduction of working time" days. On the French National Railroad, management decided beforehand that the day would remain a holiday and that the 100,000 railroad workers would have to work an extra one minute 52 seconds a day during the rest of the year to pay for it, which in fact was a retreat due to the threat of a strike over the entire rail network. In numerous cities, public transit was affected by protest strikes. And many workers, in the public as well as in the private sector, went on strike that day. They didn't want to have their holiday stolen from them.

We hear all about our "duty of solidarity" and the necessity for "financing solidarity!" All the government ministers are gushing with morality lessons addressed to the workers. They ignore their own lessons. For, in fact, the government and its ministers led the way in incompetence and the absence of generosity and solidarity. What have they done since the sweltering days of summer 2003, so that this tragedy couldn't happen again? Almost nothing. If solidarity had meaning for these rulers, it wouldn't consist of trying to make workers work for free, under the pretext of paying into a fund, when everyone knows perfectly well that a good part of the fund will never go to the elderly. Solidarity would consist in taking money from business profits, which have gone through the roof this year, and putting necessary measures into effect immediately to protect the elderly.

This Monday of Pentecost, the workers didn't go along with Raffarin's orders, which was a failure for the government. Perhaps this will encourage it to try something else to finance what it dares to call "solidarity" toward the elderly.

Bush opposes medical progress in play to voting base

May 23, 2005

South Korean scientists announced a breakthrough in growing a patient's own stem cells. It holds promise for treating many very difficult diseases.

In the very same week, in the U.S., President Bush said he would veto any bill legalizing any of that sort of thing here!

Bush said he was worried about human cloning. Well, not really. If anything, he is worried about maintaining his voting base in the Christian right – a base also suffering the economic setbacks of his policies.

By dragging out the false issue of human cloning, Bush appeals to the reactionary attitudes in this religious milieu – while he puts up a barrier to medical research in this country.

Of course, it's no problem to him if medicine progresses in other parts of the world and not here. He's got a big jet, a passport and lots and lots of money.

Pages 6-7

Ford-Visteon:
Aiming to take even more from the workers

May 23, 2005

Ford Motor Co., well satisfied with its first maneuver to steal wages and benefits from workers in its parts plants, is now launching a second maneuver to steal even more.

On May 19, Ford said it would buy back up to 15 parts plants that it had put under the name of Visteon five years ago. Most of these plants are to be put into a separate holding company, fully controlled by Ford.

By making these plants a legally separate entity, Ford and Visteon expect to junk the workers' prior contractual protections. This worked well for Ford five years ago, when it moved these plants from the Ford to the Visteon name and then imposed two-tier wage and benefit scales, cutting new hires' pay in half. Now Ford is setting up that same scheme again, expecting to swindle workers out of even more money.

Of course the ground has been prepared by a steady stream of publicity about Ford's and Visteon's supposed financial crises, including Bill Ford's own declaration that he would accept no salary until things improved – easy enough for him to live on his bonuses and dividends! And Visteon constantly declares that it is close to bankruptcy – the better to put pressure on workers to accept the idea that half a loaf is better than none, when Ford demands further wage and benefit cuts from employees spun off into the new holding company.

Of course it's not necessary that workers accept anything less than a full loaf. Behind the accounting that is adjusted for public view, Ford's big shareholders revel in more money than they know what to do with. There's no need for workers to agree to add more to it!

Moreover, since all of that money was coined from workers' labor, it would be only right and proper for the workers to demand some of it back – as much as they need.

More train accidents with deadly spills, caused by the drive for more profit

May 23, 2005

The derailment of a Union Pacific freight train near San Bernardino, California, on April 4 caused a leak of hazardous chemicals, including chlorine – a deadly gas which was used as a weapon during World War I. More than 300 people were evacuated in nearby residential areas. No one was killed, but residents have been reporting illnesses such as headaches, nausea and rashes.

It's only the most recent in a string of such accidents. In Macdona, Texas, a chlorine leak following a train crash killed three people and injured dozens last June. Then, in January, another collision in Graniteville, South Carolina resulted in nine deaths and over 500 injuries due to chlorine exposure.

From 1990 to 2004, 9231 train accidents involving dangerous chemicals were reported, and the companies admitted that 504 of those resulted in leaks. Many of these accidents happened near residential areas, causing death and injury to residents, in addition to railroad workers.

With accidents on the increase, the railroads increasingly blame them on "human error." This is nothing but a euphemism for "fatigue."

Before the Macdona accident, for example, the engineer and conductor of the train that ran a stop sign and slammed into another freight train had fallen asleep. Both of these workers had worked more than 60 hours in long, irregular shifts the previous week.

Especially on freight trains, railroad companies routinely assign engineers, conductors and brake operators 60 to 70 hours a week. The workers may be called in to work any time during the day or night, disrupting their sleep patterns.

In the mid-1980s, the National Transportation Safety Board listed fatigue as a safety problem that railroad companies must deal with. Nothing has come out of such government "recommendations," though. To the contrary: railroad companies have actually downsized their workforce in the name of "cost cutting." Since 1990, for example, railroad employment has declined more than 25%, while the volume of freight transported has increased by 60%!

These accidents are caused by the unending drive of the railroad companies to maximize their profits by overworking their crews. These accidents, with all the avoidable deaths and suffering they cause, are a direct result of the capitalist system.

Toyota gets a gift from Michigan

May 23, 2005

The State of Michigan plans to give Toyota a 39-million-dollar tax break to build a tech center near Ann Arbor.

This is on top of a gift of the land itself for the bargain basement price of 11 million dollars – 14 million less than the highest bid for the land. All together, this comes to 53 million dollars the state is giving Toyota.

According to the announcement, 400 jobs will be created by this new facility. The gifts from the state come out to a total of about $132,500 per job!

This assumes that Toyota actually "creates" this many jobs. A recent study by the Michigan state auditor showed such claims of job creation usually don't nearly materialize – which often hasn't prevented the company involved from enjoying the full tax break.

Michigan's state government claims to be deep in a budget crisis. It sure doesn't stop them from throwing big bucks to big corporations!

Opening Day and the parking mess

May 23, 2005

The Washington Nationals will play baseball at the old stadium in Washington, D.C. until the new stadium is built.

Only three days before Opening Day, the neighborhood residents were told they had to go get special stickers for their vehicles. Otherwise, they would be ticketed and towed. Residents had to show up between 9 and 5 at the Armory with proof of their residency and car titles and registration.

Memo to the bureaucratic bunglers: We work for a living. Bring your stickers to our homes between 6:30 and 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Or you pay the tow.

Page 8

Will the U.S. be "many years" in Iraq?

May 23, 2005

General John P. Abizaid, head of the U.S. military's Central Command in Iraq, recently admitted that U.S. troops would have to be in Iraq longer, although he did not say how much longer.

An "unidentified" general in Iraq filled in the blanks. He told reporters that troops could be there "years, many years."

This may be big news to the news media, but it's no news at all to the working class – not after all the casualties, all the pictures, letters and e-mails from troops to their families.

If recruiting for the army has fallen off, so much so that the army raises signing bonuses and lowers the enlisting qualifications, it's simply a sign that the working class is awake to the reality of this endless war. In refusing to sign up, workers are beginning to refuse to pay the price.

In fact, the troops won't necessarily have to occupy Iraq for the general's "years, many years." Already, some GIs have decided that it's not worth getting killed. As more troops make that decision, the top brass can find themselves isolated in Iraq. Then, sounding the retreat will be merely a formality.

The policies of Viet Nam re-appear

May 23, 2005

In early May, a thousand U.S. Marines were sent out on "Operation Matador" along the Iraq-Syria border. The Marines claimed that the operation "neutralized" an insurgent stronghold, and 125 "insurgents" were killed. Nine Marines were killed. Civilian casualties were not announced.

The Marines claimed that the operation "strove to ensure the well-being of the local Iraqi citizens." But aid agencies like the Red Cross and Red Crescent reported at least a thousand refugees fled from one town, al-Qaim, into the desert. At least 8,000 refugees overall could be counted. News services reported that the al-Qaim hospital was bombed so badly that doctors had to move operations to private homes.

A tribal elder said, "The Americans were bombing whole villages and saying they were only after foreigners." A woman who fled from Karabilah told an AP reporter, "The Americans do not hit the gunmen, they hit the houses of civilians. No one can go back now, and we do not know what happened to our husbands."

In these reports, those who remember Vietnam will recognize the policies from that war:

  • The policy of citing "body counts" (always with at least one or two zeros added) to prove the U.S. is "just about" to win.
  • The policy of "bombing them back into the stone age," "destroying the village in order to save it."
  • The policy of "strategic hamlets," removing whole populations from their towns and herding them into barbed-wire camps elsewhere.
The reincarnate ghosts of these policies – policies needed only by armies of occupation – are the strongest warnings of what is to come, if the U.S. population fails to force the politicians to bring the troops home. Now.

Anti-U.S. demonstrations in Afghanistan:
It's the U.S. policy, stupid!

May 23, 2005

For three days in May, angry anti-American demonstrations shook cities and towns across Afghanistan. Protests started on May 10 and 11 in the eastern city of Jalalabad, where thousands of protesters ransacked and burned down the governor's office and other government buildings. The local TV station, United Nations offices and the Pakistani Consulate were also attacked. The next day, the protests spread to 10 of the country's 34 provinces and to neighboring Pakistan. There were three separate demonstrations in Kabul, the Afghan capital, where protesters burned the U.S. flag and effigies of George Bush, and called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

With the help of U.S. troops, the Afghan police and army eventually put down the protests, but not before they fired on protesters and killed at least 17 people.

U.S. government officials quickly blamed a small Newsweek article for causing the wave of protests. Newsweek had reported that U.S. military investigators at the prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, had flushed a Koran down the toilet in an attempt to "rattle suspects." Under pressure, Newsweek first apologized and then retracted the article, saying that their source who had reported the Koran incident was unable to prove it.

What a feeble, cowardly attempt to hide behind a few lines published in a magazine! The incident Newsweek reported may or may not have been true. But there are hundreds and hundreds of undisputed facts about the actions of the U.S. military that Afghan people are aware of, because they witness them on a daily basis.

Afghan people know, for example, that the U.S. military has been viciously bombing their country under the pretext of "fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban." They know that the U.S. military randomly rounds up innocent Afghans, sends them halfway around the world to Guantanamo, where it tortures them to press any kind of confession out of them. And they know that the U.S. has brought back to power the same warlords who, while fighting each other in the 1990s, ruined the country and killed, raped and robbed the population. These warlords continue to commit these crimes with impunity today, under U.S. supervision.

All this is certainly no secret. People around the world, including Americans who read the newspaper, also know that the U.S. is responsible for the same type of crimes against the people of Iraq. And people everywhere understand that there is a continuous, consistent policy behind the actions of the U.S. government around the world. It's an aggressive, reckless, murderous policy which has only one goal: to control the world's resources for the benefit of U.S. corporations. In a word, it's a policy of imperialism.

This is what has angered people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. The Newsweek report, whether truthful in its details or not, was no more than a spark that ignited an explosion. But the explosive mixture was already there, brewing for a long time. It's the mixture of angry, impoverished masses around the world and what they rightfully see as their oppressor and enemy: U.S. imperialism. And the mixture is certainly still there and brewing, pregnant with more, bigger explosions to come.

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