The Spark

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

Issue no. 793 — March 5 - 19, 2007

Editorial:
Stock markets take a dive:
The tremors of a bankrupt system

Mar 5, 2007

On February 27, stock exchanges around the world took a sudden sharp plunge. In just that one day, more than 600 billion dollars were destroyed in the New York Stock Exchange.

Certainly this was a huge loss. Yet it constituted a little more than 3%, or a tiny fraction, of the amount of money in that one stock exchange. This is because Wall Street is awash in money – unimaginable amounts of it. And Wall Street is only the beginning of it. Banks, big financial companies, financiers of every kind have so much money, they don’t know what to do with it. They are constantly on the hunt to make a quick profit through speculation. They rush about buying and selling, trying to beat out their competitors in the next big deal.

That money is used for speculation, and not just in the stock market. As enormous as it is, the stock market constitutes only one of the many forms of speculation. There are enormous speculative markets in bonds, currencies, real estate, oil, precious metals – and, yes, even orange juice! Huge companies in every branch of the economy are bought and sold. Companies are broken up and put back together. And every time this is done, more speculative profits are carved out by the investment companies and financiers.

Where does all this speculative capital come from? It originated from the exploitation of the working class, that is, from the production of real goods and services.

That wealth, created by the working class, is then used against us.

Every time companies are bought and sold, the workers pay for it with layoffs and cutbacks of every kind. A huge speculative fever in real estate created enormous fortunes for real estate titans and financing companies. They destroyed affordable housing, leaving big parts of the population priced out of the housing market.

Fortunes are made off government bonds. Wealthy people do nothing but sit there and collect interest tax free, or trade their government bonds to one another and make even more money. Meanwhile the infrastructure is left to crumble and rot. There is no money to build enough new bridges, roads, schools and hospitals to meet the needs of a growing population. At the same time, city water and sewer systems, schools and hospitals are literally over a century old.

In other words, the workings of the economy are little more than an enormous Las Vegas casino running full tilt night and day. And the financiers are sitting there with chips piled as high as skyscrapers – that is, until they come tumbling down. Sooner or later, this drive to accumulate leads to more serious crashes, that in turn detonate other crises, which the wealthy will also try to make the working class and poor pay for.

The fact that there is a downturn in the real estate market today could very well bring about a bigger banking crisis. In other words, this speculative fever could very well wind up in much wider ruin. A whiff of that fear led to the dramatic drop last week.

What insanity. On the one pole, there is a parasitic capitalist class. At the other pole, there is growing impoverishment and decay. This is a complete dead end for humanity.

Let the working class that produces everything push aside the capitalist class that takes everything. Let the wealth that workers create finally satisfy their needs and the needs of all humanity.

Pages 2-3

Gas prices soar
– yet again

Mar 5, 2007

The price of a gallon of regular gas jumped 30 cents on average across the country in just a month. In Detroit, the average price went from $1.90 on January 21 to $2.50 on March 3 – a 32% increase!

The “relief” people felt when the price went down was obviously not a permanent state of affairs.

This time around, there has been little or no information about the price increases. The news media has barely mentioned it. And the oil companies have not even bothered to give their usual excuses – no hurricanes, no broken pipelines, no new war in the Middle East.

Maybe the oil companies are just having a harder time convincing people they were somehow forced to raise their prices, especially since they made record profits yet again last year – 72 billion dollars just for the three biggest companies.

So higher gas prices mean everything costs more. It costs more to get to work or to take the kids to school. Stores charge more for groceries and other products when their transportation costs go up.

So long as the oil companies can get away with it, the thieves will take everything they can put their hands on.

Putting education out of reach for workers’ children

Mar 5, 2007

Public universities in Michigan have raised tuition and fees 37% in the last four years. The average increase for last year alone came to $740.

One of the main reasons for the increase is that the state, under Governor Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, has cut university funding by 250 million dollars.

By decreasing public funding for the universities, the bosses make it harder for working families to put their kids through college. The school with the biggest increase was Wayne State, which draws most of its students from middle class and working class areas in and around Detroit. Wayne State raised its costs 58% over the four years.

With all the wealth in this society, quality higher education should be a right, not a privilege.

Michigan:
Charter schools suck money away from kids

Mar 5, 2007

The state of Michigan is threatening to cut its educational budget to make up for what they say is a budget shortfall. At the same time, many schools across the state have budget surpluses totaling over 1.7 billion dollars. The big majority of those schools are charter schools.

Charter schools drain huge amounts of public school money away from real public schools, damaging those public school systems in the process. And then they don’t even spend big chunks of that money – not on the students, not on the teachers, not on the buildings, not on supplies. They just sock millions of dollars away, out of public funds and into private hands.

Charter schools are nothing but a scam. And the children of the state are the victims.

Education for sale

Mar 5, 2007

The federal government is threatening to cut close to two billion dollars a year from the University of Phoenix, money it has been receiving as student financial aid. Phoenix is the largest for-profit system of colleges in the country, with 300,000 students in 39 states. Such financial problems, along with some lawsuits, have driven down Phoenix’s stock price.

Not too long ago Phoenix was a darling of the stock market. It made high profits by delivering a “low cost” education. At Phoenix, students spent a total of 20 to 24 hours per semester. The regular college courses average 40 hours per class per semester. It also saves money on staff, employing part-timers for almost every class. These teachers do not necessarily have the qualifications of full-time professors and they receive relatively low pay and no benefits. Phoenix also saves money by using office buildings near freeways for their sites, so they don’t have the expense of campuses or any of the facilities to be found at two-year and four-year colleges.

Those students choosing Phoenix are often adults who work full-time. They can’t afford the $9,600 in tuition and fees that Phoenix charges. So they have to take out loans and financial aid, much of which is provided by the federal government and banks. Their profits come from squeezing their students and pocketing the government subsidy. Education becomes a money machine for a private company like Acorn, which owns Phoenix.

In fact, the methods used to recruit students was the cause of a lawsuit against the University of Phoenix in 2003. Two counselors accused Phoenix of paying them based on how many students they recruited. It paid almost 10 million dollars to settle the matter, without admitting any wrong-doing. This embarrassment from this suit, as well as thousands of complaints from students and staff have led the federal government to consider withdrawing its financial aid.

The University of Phoenix is part of a 26-billion-dollar a year industry of proprietary, or for-profit schools. Working adults sacrifice time and money in hopes of improving their job prospects and gaining a bit of culture.

But all too often they are swindled.

Great Britain:
The “withdrawal” of troops from Iraq, Blair’s sleight of hand

Mar 5, 2007

The following article appeared in the March 2 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Last September, the government announced that the number of British troops in Iraq would be reduced. It didn’t happen. Five more months were necessary until February 21, when Blair decided to remember the announcement. According to his declaration, 1,600 British soldiers are going to leave Iraq (one-fifth of all British troops in Iraq) and they will go ... soon.

Blair is careful not to set the date. He adds that an aggravation of the situation could delay this plan. No one knows if there will be a partial withdrawal, or when. On the other hand, it’s clear that new troops are going to go to Afghanistan. Last summer, the British army ran into unforeseen resistance when it relieved U.S. troops in Helmand province in Afghanistan. The general staff has been clamoring for reinforcements for a long time.

This little game is nothing other than a sleight of hand, in many respects.

It wasn’t by chance that Blair chose February 21 to announce this “withdrawal.” That day there was going to be a vote in Parliament on the creation of a commission of inquiry on Blair’s Iraqi policy. Such commissions are used by the British parliament to bury political scandals under tons of paperwork. Nevertheless, they attract the attention of the media. Blair wasn’t about to let the vote for this commission come to pass, especially two months before municipal elections. Everything indicates that his announcement of a “withdrawal” is the price he had to pay to get a certain number of his Labor Party Members of Parliament to vote against the commission.

Since he had to make this gesture, Blair hastened to turn it to his advantage by using another trick. If we believe him, this “withdrawal” is only possible due to the improvement of the situation in the Basra region, so that the Iraqi authorities will now be in a position to assure the population’s security and even to “restore prosperity.” Put another away, they’ll finally be on the road to victory, a victory he has already declared so many times before.

Blair’s demagogy becomes ever more grotesque. Without even speaking about the situation in the rest of Iraq, British troops saw the number of their victims increase by nearly 200% over the past year, compared to the year before. Less than two months ago, a thousand British soldiers laid siege to a clandestine prison in Basra set up by one of the Shiite militias in an official building of the Iraqi police! They found 127 severely tortured prisoners.

Is this the “security” for the Iraqi population that Blair dares to congratulate himself on? Is this what the militias that the British and U.S. invasion armed and backed are reserving for the population? When he speaks of “prosperity,” Blair undoubtedly has in mind the stockholders of the oil company BP (British Petroleum), who will be among the beneficiaries of the new law on foreign oil concessions being adopted in Baghdad.

We can only rejoice at the large number of people who took part in demonstrations against the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan in the largest British cities on February 24. This showed that Blair’s revolting lies haven’t made people forget that his government and the bulk of the British political class have hands covered with Iraqi and Afghani blood.

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The human cost of the Iraq war

Mar 5, 2007

The following is excerpted from a presentation made at a Spark Public Meeting in Detroit, which also included the showing of a documentary film, The Ground Truth, featuring veterans and active duty U.S. troops from Iraq. A similar program is to be presented in Baltimore.

We are going to talk about the cost of this war, in human terms.

As of July last year, 655,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, according to researchers with John Hopkins University Medical School. They died directly – from gunshots, and bombs, and torture – and indirectly, from lack of food and water, medical care and sanitation.

On top of that, between the war and what is now becoming ethnic cleansing, more than ten% of the population of Iraq have been forced to leave their homes – creating the biggest refugee crisis since the end of WWII – bigger than the Palestinian refugee crisis in the late 1940s.

Today, in Baghdad, a city of six million people, two thirds of the kids receive no education, and electricity is available for no more than two to four hours a day. Unemployment rates in some areas run as high as 60%. People in urban areas are forced to live with open sewage on the streets, untreated drinking water when there is water, and with little access to adequate food and less to medical care. Up until the Iran-Iraq war that began in 1979, Iraq had the second highest standard of living in the Middle East.

In Iraq today, women cannot go out of the house without their heads and bodies being fully draped, without the risk of rape or kidnapping or murder. Religious law dominates the political scene. This is in a country that not too long ago had been largely secular and in which women had more rights than in almost any other country in the region.

Today, the country is in the midst of a brutal, growing civil war. Certainly the Hussein dictatorship had long played on ethnic differences between the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish populations. And his regime attacked those who rebelled, Shiites, Kurds or Sunnis.

But the bloodbath today is the direct product of what U.S. imperialism has done in Iraq. The U.S. sent Shiite militias against Sunni neighborhoods; Sunni former army units into Shiite areas, and Kurdish militias against Sunni areas. The U.S. has directly fanned the flames of ethnic hatred and brought Iraq to a civil war.

And yet there are well-meaning people who say the U.S. should stay in order to stop the civil war.

It’s a boldfaced lie, pushed by the Bush administration. For the past 17 years, the U.S. is the one force that is directly responsible for the death and destruction in Iraq. The Iraqi people understand this. In October, an Iraqi polling firm found that 80% of Iraqis wanted an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. Other polls in the past have shown that over 90% of Iraqis want an immediate U.S. withdrawal.

The price paid by U.S. troops

Let’s talk about the U.S. troops now. To date, almost 3,200 have been killed. When we look at the number of U.S. military dead compared to the Iraqi population, it doesn’t seem like much. But to the U.S. troops and their families, the price they paid and are paying, is the same.

More than 48,000 U.S. troops have been wounded.

Of those who are wounded, their injuries are so severe, that some 20% suffered brain trauma, spinal injuries or amputations; and another 20% have major injuries such as blindness, partial blindness or deafness and serious burns.

Even though the military recorded only some 48,000 troops as wounded, already over 100,000 are currently drawing disability payments as a result of this war, and another 50,000 are waiting approval of their application.

There will be still greater prices to be paid – as we saw in previous wars. Like PTSD. Officially, one in six Viet Nam veterans was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

But these were only the official statistics. We know, in fact, that the problem was much greater, so that even now, 32 years later, we still see the effects of that war – whether its in the number of Viet Nam veterans who are homeless, on disability or are still confined to V.A. facilities. The first Gulf War lasted for only four weeks, but 43% of U.S. troops who served in that war remain on disability today, 16 years later.

We also know that more Viet Nam veterans committed suicide, over 60,000, than the number who died in the war itself (58,000). We can expect to see similar tragedies in the ranks of veterans from this war.

So far, a total of 1.4 million U.S. soldiers have served in Iraq or are there now.

The sons and daughters of the working class and poor

So where do these troops come from? Unlike Viet Nam, they come, out of all proportion to theirpercentage in the population, from rural areas and from very small towns in rural areas. We see that many more of them are white and from areas which have historically been more patriotic than the population of the big cities, where black people have traditionally been more politically aware. At the beginning, some of those new troops may have gone in for patriotic reasons, but many simply went in because it was almost the only means to have access to a job or an education. If you live in a small town, and the main employer, the main factory or mine or mill shuts down, there are no other job options. Unlike big cities, like Detroit, where young people more easily can go to community colleges, there aren’t community colleges in many rural areas or small towns.

For the most part, ordinary soldiers in the U.S. military today went in for economic reasons and for schooling. But they have ended up dying or wounded, or changed forever by the horrors of this war and occupation. This fact has changed the way those areas of the country see this war.

Those who oppose the war

As we saw in this film tonight, some of the soldiers who come back and some who are still there are making it known what they think about this war.

Today there is much less opposition among the students – who aren’t subject to a draft – but much more from that part of the population whose young people are subject to this economic draft.

We have seen tiny little demonstrations in little towns; active duty soldiers petitioning Congress to get out of Iraq now; military families demonstrating on bases; the encampment with Cindy Sheehan and other military families in Crawford Texas; and the election last November, which was a repudiation of the war.

There is widespread opposition to this war. And it is out of this opposition that a movement can and is growing up. A movement not only against the war, but one which begins to oppose the very capitalist society that produces war.

People often ask, what can you do? You do what you can with the people around you. It’s what some people in the smaller towns are doing. It’s what military families are doing. They’ve done what they can do with the people they know.

As for us, for those of us with Spark, we do what we’ve been able to, at our level, in opposing this war. We provided information in every issue of our newspaper since the war started and over and over again in our newsletters that reach tens of thousands of workers, reaching workplaces in cities in this country where we are active – Detroit, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles.

And in the process, from the beginning we found that people reacted favorably. For example, a number of workers in the workplaces where we are active are Viet Nam vets, or the family members of Viet Nam veterans. They say that this war is their children’s and grandchildren’s Viet Nam. Many say that the bosses they have to struggle against in their own workplaces are members of the very same ruling class that has as its interest the domination of the countries and the peoples in the rest of the world.

These wars are rich men’s wars, which the laboring men and women fight.

When people in their workplaces want to change something, they do something. People who want an end to this war will do something. That’s how movements grow up – because people who want to change something do something.

U.S. wants Iran and Syria to agree to help police Iraq

Mar 5, 2007

Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that the U.S. would take part in a regional security conference with Iraq, Iran and Syria. Talks are set to begin March 10 in Baghdad.

This marks the first formal talks between the U.S. and Iran and Syria, and it could open the door to broader talks. In other words, this offer marks a possible turn in U.S. policy, a possible formal opening to Iran and Syria.

This stands in stark contrast to the recent bellicose threats from the U.S.; the U.S. naval build-up in the Persian Gulf just outside Iran; the blame of both countries, but especially Iran, for U.S. soldiers getting killed in Iraq; and the charges that both countries encourage terrorism and that Iran has been building a nuclear bomb.

Yet, even as the U.S. had been threatening Iran and Syria, there were always indications that they had been working together.

Certainly, when the U.S. went into Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, it had tried to limit and curtail both regimes’ influence, and it might have even had the hope of overturning them. But the fact that the U.S. military got bogged down in a quagmire in both Afghanistan and Iraq meant that the U.S. had to look to Iran for help.

The Iranian regime consistently showed a willingness to cooperate with the U.S. It supported the U.S. war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The Iranian government worked with the U.S. government to broker the support by the Northern Alliance for a coalition government under the leadership of Hamid Karzai, a U.S. puppet. And, Iran played a key role in the U.S.-organized donor conference in Bonn, Germany in November 2001, and pledged 560 million dollars for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

In the summer of 2003, as it became clear that the situation in Iraq was deteriorating, following the U.S. invasion and occupation, the Iranian regime secretly offered to work with the U.S. – throughout the Middle East, to rein in Hezbollah and Hamas, for example.

In return for its help, Iran sought negotiations with the U.S. over terms for diplomatic recognition, the halt of U.S. hostility and the abolition of sanctions – what it called a “grand bargain.”

But the Bush administration turned Iran down cold, that is, until the continued deterioration of the situation in Iraq left the U.S. with almost no other choice.

On May 31, 2006, Rice announced that the U.S. was willing to engage in direct negotiations with the Iranian government. The U.S. even offered to recognize the Iranian government’s right to nuclear technology. Secret documents that were later leaked to the press indicated that the U.S. was offering to lift – and not just suspend – long standing sanctions against Iran. The U.S. was ready to sell commercial jets, agricultural equipment, telecommunications technology. The U.S. was also prepared to end its opposition to Iran’s membership in the WTO, as well as to loans from the World Bank and other big institutions.

But as the situation continued to worsen in Iraq, the U.S. froze the negotiations. The U.S. was not willing to negotiate from a position of weakness. So it sought to shore up its position in Iraq as well as to threaten Iran enough to soften them up to U.S. demands for cooperation, by making a big show of force, both with its troop “surge’ in Iraq and the naval build-up off the coast of Iran. Having begun to make this demonstration, the U.S. has now opened the diplomatic door to Iran and Syria to more openly operate in Iraq and the rest of the region.

To extricate itself from the war, the U.S. government needs stability in the region. Therefore it must reinforce the existing regimes – starting with Iran, which shares a long border with Iraq. Both the U.S. and Iranian governments have a similar interest: they do not want the raging internal war and power struggle provoked by the U.S. invasion of Iraq to spill over the border, to become a regional war, or to upset the status quo throughout the region.

No one should think that the newly announced regional conference will bring about an end to the war in Iraq, or better conditions for the Iraqi people. On the contrary, even if the U.S. eventually begins to withdraw its troops, it may very well pummel the Iraqi population more heavily than ever – in order to send a message to the people of Iraq and the entire region of what it is willing to do to those who dare defy it.

Moreover, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has made it clear that the U.S. has no intention to pull out of Iraq completely; they plan to keep bases in the country permanently. After all, they have a strategic interest in controlling Iraq’s oil reserves.

For the population of Iraq – and the region – the war and destruction will continue for years to come – the price that they pay for the continued domination of imperialism.

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Detroit Public Schools paid an art dealer while cutting art classes

Mar 5, 2007

The Detroit Public Schools spent over 1.6 million dollars for professional art to decorate school buildings between 2002 and last year – at a time when they’ve been closing schools and cutting school programs across the district.

All the art was bought from one Detroit gallery, which took commissions of 20 to 50%.

Yes, students need art in their lives and in their schools. They should have the art classes that the district has cut, as well as the art classrooms and supplies necessary for those programs. And THEY should be creating the art that decorates their schools.

But then, friends of the administrators wouldn’t be getting their kickbacks!

Movie Review:
Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima

Mar 5, 2007

Two recent movies made by Clint Eastwood, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, tell the story of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II – one from the American viewpoint, the other from the Japanese.

Flags of Our Fathers bears the same title as a book written by James Bradley. The author’s father, John Bradley, was one of the six soldiers who were photographed raising the American flag on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima.

The movie’s title certainly has a patriotic ring to it. And there is little, if anything, in the movie that challenges the official American view of WWII – that it was basically a “good war,” fought against aggressive, expansionist dictatorships in Europe and the Pacific. Yet, in telling the stories of individual soldiers, the movie calls into question many of the myths about the way the U.S. fought the war.

Three of the six soldiers in the picture were killed within a week of the flag-raising. The surviving three were brought back to the U.S. and sent on a tour across the country to help sell war bonds. The movie shows how these three young men – still in their early twenties – suffer, to different degrees, what is today called post-traumatic stress disorder: nightmares, flashbacks, “jumpiness,” etc.

Among the three, the one who suffered the most severe symptoms was Ira Hayes – an Indian who continued to face racism back home despite his official “war hero” status. He became an alcoholic, was never able to hold down a job, and died at the age of 32. One of the other two, Rene Gagnon, also succumbed to alcoholism and worked low-paying jobs, always feeling betrayed by the government. John Bradley, who owned a funeral business and raised a family, suffered nightmares and anxiety attacks as a result of the horrible violence he witnessed as a young corpsman on Iwo Jima, and never wanted to talk about the war for the rest of his life.

In an interview, Eastwood said that he decided to make Letters from Iwo Jima when, in the process of making Flags of Our Fathers, he became familiar with the Japanese experience on the island. So he made the movie with a Japanese cast in the Japanese language.

It is hard not to be moved by this movie which shows, in a plain, down-to-earth way, the most basic reality of war: those who do the fighting on the other side are human beings just like us, most of whom didn’t choose to be there.

Did the Japanese government and military try to give their troops a false, racist image of American people and soldiers? Yes, just like the U.S. government and military did about “Japs.” Did the soldiers buy into it? Some did, just like on this side of the Pacific also. But just like here, on the other side also, there were soldiers who questioned their government’s propaganda. Even more so perhaps, since the Japanese understood the hopelessness of their situation: their navy already destroyed, the high command had sent 20,000 soldiers to Iwo Jima without any support from the sea or the air, to “die honorably for your country.”

Of the nearly 100,000 American troops who were sent to Iwo Jima, 7,000 were killed and 20,000 were wounded. On the Japanese side, only 1,000 survived.

When asked if he was trying to make an anti-war statement with these movies, Eastwood said that no movie that tries to show the reality of war can be pro-war. That is what makes these two movies so powerful.

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Treatment of wounded soldiers:
“If Iraq don’t kill you, Walter Reed will.”

Mar 5, 2007

On February 18 and 20, three articles appeared in the Washington Post detailing disgusting outpatient care for wounded troops from Iraq and Afghanistan at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C. These wounded soldiers are waiting for the army to decide whether or not they can return to duty or receive disability compensation.

As one wife of a vet put it, “If Iraq don’t kill you, Walter Reed will.”

The articles detailed surgical miracles in the hospital. But, for every soldier in the hospital recovering from surgery and wounds, there are 17 wounded soldiers, still on duty, as they wait for a medical review board to decide their future. Over 700 are simply waiting in other buildings at the Walter Reed Center or at nearby hotels and apartments rented by the Armed Services.

In one building, Building 18, the reporters described mold, broken floor boards, mouse droppings, dead cockroaches, even an elevator that didn’t work in a building with wheelchair-bound patients. A wounded sergeant from the National Guard, who had lost a leg and suffered traumatic brain injury, was wearing rags from the day he got his injury in Iraq. A case worker sent him to a charity, the Red Cross, to get some clothing. This man was still a soldier on duty!

VA officials began lying to the press after these articles appeared, when they weren’t already caught in lies before. General Kevin Kiley, the head of Walter Reed Medical Center from 2002 to 2004, said two days after the articles appeared, “We’re not letting soldiers languish ... Those great young Americans deserve nothing but the very best healthcare, which I believe they’re getting.”

But on March 1, the Army got rid of Major General George Weightman, who had been the head of Walter Reed for the past six months. And on March 2, the Secretary of Defense forced Army Secretary Francis Harvey to resign as well.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. William Winkenwerder, Jr. was quoted, “This news has caught me – as it did many other people – completely by surprise.” Having told the wrong lies, Winkenwerder was sent to a different job the next day, according to a White House spokesman.

Kiley, the VA and the White House all conveniently ignored the vets who testified in December of 2006 before a Congressional committee on exactly these problems. This testimony came two months before the Washington Post articles ran. However, a similar set of articles documenting the very same problems in the treatment of vets appeared in February of 2005 in Salon, the online magazine.

Other news media also gave details that VA officials conveniently overlook. Newsweek in a March 5 article gave the following figures: Wait to get benefits: minimum of six months; cases pending – 401,701 waiting decisions and 156,466 being appealed; waiting times to get appointments at VA hospitals – no official statistics.

Newsweek also said that 205,000 troops from Iraq and Afghanistan have been treated and one-third of them suffer from mental disorders. Reporters have covered stories of hideous cases of delay, lost paperwork, a bureaucracy gone mad, and, not surprisingly, suicides.

“The typical soldier is required to file 22 documents with eight different commands.... Sixteen different information systems are used to process the forms ... The Army’s three personnel databases cannot read each other’s files....” wrote the reporters from the Post.

And why is the wait so long? In 2005, before the House Committee on Government Reform, a lieutenant general testified that the army had 70 personnel for processing such cases during 2004. During the Viet Nam war, in 1972, the army had 260 employees on medical review boards. Soldiers today have to rely on family members or other wounded soldiers to try to navigate this nightmare system.

One officer of Disabled American Veterans – which helps soldiers for free – said that soldiers tell him, “You saved me for what? The soldiers feel like they are not getting proper respect...”

Support our troops, say the cheerleaders in Washington, from Congress to the White House to the media. We see exactly what that “support” means in reality – that to the U.S. government, the troops are little more than canon fodder.

Immigration "reform"
– a new attack on immigrant workers

Mar 5, 2007

Quietly, behind closed doors, a new "immigration reform" bill is being put together.

Little information appears in the press – only that the Democrats and Republicans are working together to come up with this bill, and that it has already been put "on the fast track" for passage.

When the politicians try to sneak something by you, better watch out!

Supposedly, it will be based on bills introduced last year in the Senate with some features taken from the Sensenbrenner bill that passed the House of Representatives.

Sensenbrenner, with all sorts of penalties against immigrants and those who might help them, was openly, clearly an attack on immigrants.

But all versions of the Senate bills last year were very bit as much of an attack, just more insidious and harder to see. Behind all the pretense that the Senate bills would grant legalization to immigrants stood this reality: every immigrant without papers would continue to be kept in a precarious situation for years, and most of the permanently.

All the bills under consideration include what are called "guest workers." Each year employers will be able to import hundreds of thousands of workers from a country like Mexico at the lowest possible wage. As soon as the employers no longer want them they will be kicked out of the country.

No matter what Congress does this year about immigration "reform," we can be sure of one thing. The immigrants won't gain a real, enduring, permanent, irrevokable legal status from it. It will be a reform just like those other "reforms' passed in recent years: welfare "reform," tax "reform," workers' disability compensation "reform." It will be an attack on the working class – in this case on immigrant workers – for the benefit of the biggest bosses in the country.

Immigrants will not get a reform that serves them by hoping for something from Congress. They will get it only through doing what workers who ever gained anything did – by fighting, by building their own organizations, by mobilizing and continuing to mobilize, tying up the bosses' economy.

Last year, for a couple months, there were massive demonstrations of immigrants – but those demonstrations were led by coalitions that included some of the biggest bosses in the country. And when those bosses decided they wanted the demonstrations stopped, the people who controlled the coalitions pulled the plug.

This time, immigrant workers need to depend on their own forces, on their own determination. It's the only thing they can trust.

And other workers need to give them every support. When one part of the working class is without full legal rights, the whole working class is weakened.

We are all part of one class. Don't let the bosses divide us.