The Spark

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

Issue no. 889 — March 21 - April 4, 2011

Editorial:
Oppose the Attack on the Libyan People by the U.S. and by Qaddafi!

Mar 21, 2011

On Saturday, March 19, the U.S. sent 124 Tomahawk missiles against cities in Libya. Pretending that the U.S. was not leading the attack on Libya – that it was only the “leading edge” of the “coalition” – Admiral Mike Mullen declared that the U.S. was coming to the aid of the people of Libya. According to another U.S. spokesperson, France and England were heading the coalition – even though each of them had only one warship stationed near Tripoli, Libya’s capital, while the U.S. had 11.

Of course, all this talk about “coalition” is nonsense – the same kind spouted by George W. Bush when he talked about the “coalition of the willing” going to war against Iraq. The fact is, the U.S., the predominant imperialist power, has made the decision to carry out military action against another oil-rich country in the Middle East, and it has enlisted second-rate imperialist countries that don’t want to be left out if Libya’s oil goes on the block.

We can understand why the rebels who had lately been pushed into a corner in Benghazi and a few cities to the east were out in the streets celebrating when they heard the news. Since the middle of February, they had been carrying out a determined fight against Qaddafi’s regime. In the first three weeks, up to March 6, they seemed to be taking one position after another away from the forces controlled by Libya’s longtime dictator. But, then bringing out his air power, tanks and other heavy weaponry, Qaddafi began to turn the battle around, pushing the rebels back. As his forces took cities away from the rebels, they went house to house, terrorizing the population, making it pay for letting the rebels hold their city for a while.

So, yes, we can understand the joy the population of Benghazi must have felt when they heard the announcement that the big powers were going to impose a “no-fly” zone over Libya, hoping this meant someone was coming to their aid.

But no one should believe that this new version of “shock and awe” will be carried out in the interests of the Libyan people. Whenever imperialism generally, and the U.S. specifically, has intervened militarily against another country, it has never been to serve the people there.

The hundreds of thousands of people killed in the U.S. attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan stand as a bitter reminder of who pays when imperialism goes to war. No matter what excuse the U.S. and other imperialisms gave – looking for Osama bin-Laden in Afghanistan, looking for “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq – it was and still is the people who pay the mortal price.

We shouldn’t forget what happened when the U.S. got its coalition partners to impose another famous “no-fly-zone.” In 1991, after the first Gulf War, the U.S. imposed a no-fly-zone, supposedly to protect the Shiites in the South of Iraq and the Kurds in the North from Saddam Hussein. In fact, when those peoples acted on what the U.S. said and rebelled, the U.S. handed Saddam’s tanks, his heavy artillery and his army back to him, and de facto they lifted the no-fly zone until he had completed the dirty job of putting down both of those rebellions.

And we shouldn’t forget that the big imperialisms, which today pretend that Qaddafi is a brute, have used this brute for years to keep order for them in this important oil rich corner of the world.

In 2004, George W. Bush’s administration resumed diplomatic relations with Qaddafi’s regime in Libya – because of the “moral support” he had provided for their war on Iraq. In 2008, Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Qaddafi in Libya. And in 2009, Qaddafi was warmly greeted by President Obama at a meeting to which he had been invited by the imperialist powers.

The U.S. and its partners may well leave Qaddafi in place, just as they left Saddam Hussein in place after the first Gulf War – in place to keep the population in line.

Or they may remove him, as they removed Saddam Hussein after the second Gulf War, only to replace him with another strong man, used also to keep the population in line.

If the Libyan people are really to liberate themselves, to decide for themselves what they want, they will have to make their own fight.

The U.S. and the other imperialisms, just like Qaddafi, are all the enemies of the Libyan people.

Here, in the middle of U.S. imperialism, we have every reason to oppose its every move against other peoples around the world.

Pages 2-3

California State Debt:
Another Way to Steal from the Working Class

Mar 21, 2011

Almost eight billion dollars, or about one-third of the state of California’s 25-billion-dollar deficit, goes simply to service the state’s debt. The state government pays this to bond holders in interest and principal.

This cost to the budget has almost quadrupled over the last 10 years, as the state government took on huge amounts of new debt to funnel ever more money to big business and the wealthy through rich government contracts. This debt also includes 15 billion dollars that Governor Schwarzenegger and the state legislators used before to paper over a deficit brought on by all their tax cuts and subsidies to big business and the wealthy that they couldn’t cover despite big cuts in social programs and education.

As this debt grew, the banks increased the debt payments even more by increasing the interest rates on the bonds. California pays 20% more in interest on its debt than most other states.

The cost to service the debt today ranks as one of the biggest items on the budget, about as much as what the state devotes to higher education.

All that money goes directly into the pockets of the capitalist class. And the real insult is that they don’t even pay state income tax on it!

The higher the state debt grows, the more money they make. But, of course, the bankers don’t care.

Democrats and Republicans Play the Game:
Good Cop, Bad Cop

Mar 21, 2011

Arguing that they want to “put America on a fiscally sustainable path to help create jobs and save our children from bankruptcy tomorrow,” the House Republicans passed a bill cutting last years’ budget by 61 billion dollars.

The Senate Democrats, arguing that the Republicans’ budget bill is “extremist and reckless,” are trying to appear as if they were the good guys.

This leaves the door open for Obama to push through a compromise. We know from the past that Obama’s compromises take from the poor and give to the rich. In his previous compromises he froze federal workers’ pay for two years and handed the wealthy huge tax breaks.

The Democrats and Republicans are playing a political game. But it’s win-win for the Democrats. They can blame the Republicans all while voting to cut programs we need. For workers and the poor it’s a lose-lose situation.

Neither party is proposing to eliminate tax breaks for the wealthy, like the 11.5-billion-dollar per year cost of recent tax cuts millionaires’ estates, or the 8.9-billion-dollar cost of allowing mortgage interest deduction for vacation homes, or even the 6.7-billion-dollar cost of “estate planning” techniques used by the wealthy to avoid taxes – to name just a few. These three alone add up to 27.1 billion dollars.

Instead they both propose cuts in Head Start, Pell grants, job training for the unemployed, etc. These are all attacks aimed straight at the poor and working class. It doesn’t matter if the person holding the gun is a Democrat or a Republican.

Both parties say that “shared sacrifices” are needed. Shared? Taking food from poor single mothers and their children against a tax break on the estates of millionaires? We share the sacrifices and they give the spoils to the wealthy who put them in office.

Bobb’s Give-Away to Charters

Mar 21, 2011

The Emergency Financial Manager of the Detroit Public Schools Robert Bobb’s latest plan to “save” the Detroit Public Schools is actually a plan to hand almost one third of the district to charter operators.

Detroit already has 36% of its students attending charter schools. This plan would push that to 47% – almost half of all Detroit public school students would be attending charter schools.

Several months ago, Bobb announced that the school district was in so much debt that the only way to save it was to close half the schools and stuff 60-plus students into each remaining classroom. (Never mind the fact that the debt has nearly doubled since Bobb took over the DPS!)

But now, Bobb has come back and said he has a new idea, one that will keep these schools open while saving the district money:

Bobb’s plan calls for the district to turn 41 of the district’s schools into charter schools, run by private charter operators.

What hogwash! All studies have clearly shown that private charters COST districts money, not save money. Which means this isn’t about saving money at all. And it means that his earlier proposal was nothing more than a battering ram – to try and soften people up to accept this new plan.

Bobb paints this plan as a way to ensure that the students and teachers in these schools wouldn’t have to move, as they would if the schools simply closed. All of the students in those schools could transfer directly into the charters that will be in the same building.

In the past, the introduction of charters into the district was presented as a way to give choice to parents – and with all the hype about charter schools, many parents believed that this would be a better choice for their children. But then it became increasingly clear that charters were no choice at all, often providing an education worse than the public schools that students had transferred from. Now that the truth is out about charter schools, the hype no longer works to attract parents to them.

So now Bobb’s plan takes away even the pretense of choice, sticking students with a charter school whether they or their parents like it or not. Oh yes, they could transfer into another school – if they can find one that will take them!

DPS and Detroit Federation of Teachers officials say that the schools will be under the ultimate control of the DPS, and that the teachers will still be under the DFT contract with the DPS. But charter school operators have made it clear that their real interest is in complete “autonomy”: the ability to make all their own decisions about what to teach, and how, and who to hire at what wages. And now that the governor has passed a new law allowing Emergency Financial Managers to wipe out all union contracts, we can bet that what the charter operators want is what Bobb will give them – no matter what the current contracts might say.

By law, charter schools aren’t held to even the minimal standards for building quality and student achievement that public schools are held to. Charter schools also don’t have to hire certified teachers. They don’t even have to hire teachers with a college degree! We can bet that for-profit charter schools will hire the lowest qualified teachers for the lowest possible wages they can get away with, and allow the buildings to crumble even more than they already are.

In the past, Bobb and the school board have closed schools, which then were allowed to reopen as charters. Now, they’re going a more direct route: handing schools directly over to the charters, not even caring to make a pretense of choice or increasing quality. It’s just an out-and-out gift to for-profit charter operators.

Michigan EFM Law:
An Outright Attack on Workers

Mar 21, 2011

On March 16, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill allowing the governor to declare any city or school district in the state to be in a “financial emergency,” and to appoint an Emergency Financial Manager to take it over and run it.

According to the new law, that EFM would have dictatorial powers over that city or school board, and be able to: dismiss any elected officials; wipe out any union contracts; lay off any workers; and privatize any departments and services that he or she wants.

The people within the taken-over city or school district would have no way even to object to the decisions made by the EFM: the financial manager has no obligation even to hold public meetings. Everything can happen behind closed doors – even more than it does already.

Not only can elected school boards and city councils simply be done away with: the Emergency Financial Managers themselves can be private companies. The appointing of an EFM could be a direct corporate take-over of whole cities!

Not to mention the fact that the governor’s new budget, with its huge tax give-aways to corporations and cuts to cities and schools, is sure to create dire financial emergencies all over the state.

Earlier state budgets enacted under Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm played the same kinds of financial shell games, creating deficits for a number of cities and school districts which allowed her to appoint EFM’s for school districts like the Detroit Public Schools and cities like Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Highland Park and Ecorse.

Snyder’s new budget takes this even further; and the new law gives even more dictatorial powers to Emergency Financial Managers. Snyder’s budget will set up an even bigger financial emergency that he can then use – to attack unionized workers, dismantle government services, and hand over big chunks of public assets to private corporations.

This rotten law, passed by Governor Snyder and state Republicans with hardly a peep of opposition by Democrats, is just as bad as what’s been pushed in Wisconsin. It’s just more sneaky because it takes on groups of workers one at a time instead of all at once.

State officials have declared war on the state’s workers. But workers have started organizing THEIR side in this war.

Workers’ Rights on Fire

Mar 21, 2011

The Anne Arundel Maryland County council just overturned collective bargaining rights for county employees like firemen and police.

It’s a sign of the times. Public workers are blamed for the deficits. But the deficits are due to politicians giving tax breaks, contracts and special arrangements to their corporate friends.

Some county workers protested in the capital Annapolis. It’s a start.

Pages 4-5

Japan:
A Natural Disaster Magnified by a Social System Based on Profit

Mar 21, 2011

No human being can remain indifferent to the images of death and destruction coming from Japan.

It was not as much the earthquake that directly caused the deaths, but rather the tsunami, the giant waves rolling forth from the sea. A number of buildings resisted the shocks of the earthquakes. There were some deaths at this point, but in Haiti last year, a much less violent earthquake caused 200,000 deaths. This proves that humanity has the technical means, not to avoid the earthquakes, but to limit the damage they cause. But earthquake-resistant buildings are expensive. The deaths in Haiti were due to its underdevelopment, its poverty. But, in Japan, even quake-resistant construction was insufficient to resist the onslaught of the waves provoked by the tsunami.

So, is it true that despite scientific and technological progress, humanity is weak when confronting the unleashed forces of nature? Not at all. Humanity has evolved precisely in the struggle to protect itself from nature, and to master it. It is an unending battle in which humanity can never be totally successful.

But, even with the tsunami, there were choices made that are not just technical, but social and even political. For example, where people are forced to live, how they are warned of danger, etc.

Whatever harm the earthquake and the tsunami did, the Japanese population today most fears the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe.

And in this arena, there’s no question of uncontrolled natural forces, but rather forces that humanity has put to its own use. It is not nuclear energy itself that is at fault! A human society that is conscious and responsible for its acts could develop this form of energy step by step as it mastered the knowledge and techniques involved. But the fear of the Japanese population is legitimate, since neither the economy nor society are consciously and responsibly directed.

Japan has already suffered a nuclear catastrophe, with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which produced far more victims than the earthquake and the tsunami of this year. The unleashing of nature had nothing to do with this. A social organization capable of engendering wars is what killed – just as it can kill today, by placing nuclear reactors in unsafe places, by eliminating necessary safety measures, and so forth.

Of course, the nuclear threat is on an entirely different scale than that in other industries. Yet how many deaths are there from work accidents that could have been prevented, if not for cost cutting?

And now another threat weighs on Japan: the collapse of its economy due to the unleashing of speculation!

The same capitalism responsible for speculation, work accidents, cost cutting, is the same system making decisions concerning nuclear issues. And therein lies the menace for humanity. By getting rid of an economic organization in which profit is the only driving force, humanity could finally make conscious choices including those concerning energy. That will not eliminate natural hazards, but it will limit the damage. This would enable humanity to stand together and to fight together when a natural disaster ravages any region of the planet.

TEPCO’s History:
Deceit and Lies

Mar 21, 2011

Tokyo Electric Power, known as TEPCO, which owns and operates the nuclear reactors that are melting down in Japan, has repeatedly falsified safety data.

Five years ago the company admitted that it had falsified temperature readings for coolant materials for at least two decades. That same year, four workers were killed and several others injured during a nuclear accident at another plant.

In 2002, top company officials were forced to resign after the government disclosed that the company covered up the fact that there were at least 29 cracks and other damage to the very reactors that are burning up today.

In 1999, two workers at TEPCO’s nuclear processing plant died from radiation poisoning.

TEPCO prepared the conditions for this current disaster long before the earthquake.

Haiti:
In Temporary Shelter Refugees Manage Themselves

Mar 21, 2011

The U.N. announced that more than 810,000 Haitians still live in refugee camps. Some 125,000 temporary shelters were planned, but only 19,000 have been built!

The Haitian government has shown itself incapable of pressuring public, private and U.N. sources for the heavy equipment needed to clear and demolish ruins, because those are the institutions it serves! For the same reason, the government has been unable to take over private land and avoids expropriating it. The refugees living in tents looked for another place to live as soon as they could. They returned to their neighborhoods and cleared, collected and stacked up concrete blocks to provide more solid shelter.

On February 10th, a river south of the capital Port-au-Prince overflowed its banks with the first big rain of the year. Three days of rain led to more floods. The national road was washed out; several parts of the capital were flooded, as were at least three refugee camps.

Due to the absence of dredging, each time there’s a downpour the area floods. Whenever those living near the river demand public works, the government says it doesn’t have the resources to aid them.

Some people say they must take care of matters themselves, without waiting for institutional aid. They are right. The situation is urgent, since the hurricane season begins in June, which also brings the threat of cholera.

Nuclear Power Plants:
Designed for Profit

Mar 21, 2011

In the U.S., there are 23 nuclear reactors in 16 power plants that have the same reactor and containment designs as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan that has been spewing deadly radioactivity into the environment. These include the Oyster Creek plant in central New Jersey, the Dresden plant near Chicago, the Monticello plant near Minneapolis, and the Fermi 2 plant near Detroit, Michigan.

The design of these reactors was developed in the 1960s by General Electric, which greatly reduced construction costs by cutting back strength and integrity of vital structures in the power plant – with government approval, of course.

A few years later, some government officials began to ring alarm bells. In 1972, a U.S. safety official branded the design of this kind of reactor more susceptible to explosions and ruptures from a buildup in hydrogen – which was exactly what happened in Japan. But this official was overruled by the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), even though the chairman agreed that the reactors might be unsafe. According to the chairman, any reversal in policy after the government had already given the nuclear power industry the okay to build and operate these reactors “could be the end of nuclear power.”

Again in the mid-1980's, another official with the NRC explained that this kind of reactor had a 90% probability of bursting should the fuel rods overheat and melt in an accident. GE, the plants’ designer and manufacturer, disputed this, with assurances about how safe the reactors were supposed to be. But during a trial in the late 1980s, GE was forced to disclose that internal company documents dating back to 1975 admitted that its designs were either insufficiently tested or had flaws that could compromise safety.

Today, these plants are just as old as the nuclear plants in Japan. And most have had their own share of close calls that were only one additional failure away from their own runaway nuclear catastrophe. And no earthquakes were involved – only the every-day running of these plants.

Italy:
Berlusconi’s Contempt for Women ... and the Rot of Bourgeois Society

Mar 21, 2011

“Enough! Italy is not a brothel!” This was the cry of hundreds of thousands of women who demonstrated Sunday, February 13 throughout Italy. They were fed up with the degraded image of women and their role in the country, especially, but not limited to, Prime Minister Berlusconi’s sex scandals.

For months, these scandals have come out one after the other. Berlusconi used the services of a prostitute who was a minor. He organized orgies in his villa near Milan, calling them “bunga-bunga” parties. A regional representative from Lombardy, elected thanks to Berlusconi, revealed the role of a madame who provided high-priced call girls for these parties – what Berlusconi’s procurers called “fresh meat.” Berlusconi’s business associates provided him with “escort girls” in return for various favors. These businessmen, some of them in the mafia, would reward a minister with pretty “masseuses” as thanks for the contracts they were awarded. The list goes on and on.

Now charged with a crime – only because he hired an underage prostitute – Berlusconi indignantly proclaimed these were slanders, that the prosecution was a “political” conspiracy of “communist” judges, who wanted him to resign against the will of the Italian people. He claimed the February demonstrations of women were scandalous, part of a political plot.

It’s hard to decide whether to laugh or cry watching this semi-mafioso, head of a major European state, enjoy the lifestyle of an old hedonist. Berlusconi argues that since he has the money to pay, he did nothing wrong. It is true that in society as he sees it, everything is for sale: he even bought his position as the head of government thanks to his money as a big television capitalist. He has bought his ministers, his deputies, so why not his women, even if they are minors. What’s wrong, he says, with “bunga-bunga” parties?

Many Italian women have shown their disgust with this sad display – and not out of fake moralism. They are angry not just at Berlusconi and his pathetic antics, but at the increasing contempt for women shown throughout society. While it’s true that the Prime Minister is a symbol of the traditional machismo in Italian society, it’s also true that this machismo is increasing as society regresses. Women’s growing unemployment and the precariousness of their jobs make their situation ever more fragile.

Berlusconi responded to a student complaining about the lack of jobs with a chuckle, “since she’s pretty, she can find a rich husband.” That is his response to the situation of women.

It’s more than a bad joke. In this society in crisis, where the only law is the sacrosanct market, unemployed women are given the goal to succeed in selling themselves. This “ideal” offers women the chance to become a “maid,” or else they can become undressed models on Berlusconi’s TV stations, as well as on state TV, for bra ads or for a men’s magazine. Or they can find a “rich husband.” So, in some men’s minds, why not also become an “escort girl” or a prostitute? Perhaps such methods could lead to a job as a deputy or minister.

People like Berlusconi laugh at women who don’t want to follow this “ideal,” because they think that women’s “natural position” is “horizontal.”

Berlusconi symbolizes this society very well, as those who screamed their disgust understand. But this society where everything is for sale doesn’t just degrade the image and role of women; it also increasingly degrades men, and, in the end, all human beings and our relations with one another.

Berlusconi will eventually fall because he’s less and less presentable, but the society he represents will continue. And it will remain until we make a revolution.

Drug Dealers Approved by the Government

Mar 21, 2011

Last week, the price of a drug called Makena, which is given to pregnant women to prevent premature births, shot up from less than $20 to $1,500 per injection. This staggering price hike means that the total cost of treatment during a pregnancy could be as much as $30,000.

This is not a new drug. It was invented in 1956, and doctors have been using it to help women with high risk pregnancies since 2003. Special pharmacies have been preparing this drug inexpensively for years, without any quality problems according to doctors using it, although it has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

But, a few weeks ago, the FDA gave approval to one company, KV Pharmaceuticals of St. Louis, to exclusively manufacture and market this drug for seven years. And since there are no regulations to price the drugs, this company was free to set any price it wanted.

And the price KV Pharmaceuticals wanted was $1,500, up from $20. This company will make gruesome profits out of women’s misery. Just like drug dealers on street corners, ready to kill to increase their profits.

Pages 6-7

Maryland State Workers and Teachers Rally in State Capitol

Mar 21, 2011

“Keep the promise! Keep the promise! Hands off our pensions!” chanted thousands of Maryland state workers, teachers and local government employees as they surged down the main road leading to the state capitol recently. This rally on the evening of March 14 was organized by AFSCME and AFT – officially to protest attacks on state workers’ and teachers’ pensions, health care and jobs. These unions succeeded in turning out more than 10,000 workers, joined by some supporters from other unions. It was the largest and most spirited rally in the state capitol in decades.

In contrast to Republican governors in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and some other states, Maryland’s Governor O’Malley – a Democrat – hasn’t directly attacked unions and collective bargaining. In fact, the O’Malley administration will soon start collecting union service fees from all those state workers the unions bargain for who haven’t yet joined a union – the majority of such workers.

But just like Republican governors, O’Malley is proposing to require state workers and teachers to pay more for their pensions, sharply increase what retirees have to pay for their prescription drugs, and carry out other attacks on the workers’ jobs, pay and benefits.

Nonetheless, union leaders were friendly to O’Malley when he made a “surprise” appearance at the end of the Annapolis rally. They had chosen slogans and chants for the rally that did not go directly against his administration. They did their best to keep the heckling he faced at a minimum. He ended quickly, thanking those present for working hard for all the citizens of the state and for coming to the rally.

Hopefully Maryland’s public workers – and workers in other states with Democratic administrations, can see through the nice words and excuses used by both Democratic officials and their own union leaders. Then they will be in a position to organize a real fight to defend their interests and the interests of other working people in their states.

Michigan:
Lively Demonstration

Mar 21, 2011

On March 16th – the same day that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed Emergency Financial Manager legislation – public employees and their supporters poured into the state capitol to loudly protest this outrageous legislation.

During this all-day rolling demonstration, the inside of the capitol reverberated with noise from workers and students. Outside, there were enough people that a crowd of 2,000 to 3,000 was able to be maintained all day.

Perhaps as many as 8,000 – teachers, state workers, firefighters, construction workers, nurses, auto workers, retirees, small business owners, high school students, and college students – participated throughout the day.

Many carried hand-made signs – funny, poignant and angry. There was a consensus that all unions and all workers are under attack and those in power have crossed the line.

Denouncing the new taxes on pensions, a favorite refrain was: “Don’t Tax Grandma; Don’t Tax Grandpa!”

Denouncing the horrendous budget cuts, the crowd chanted: “They say cut back; We say fight back!” and popular all day was the chant: “ENOUGH is ENOUGH!”

It was encouraging that so many came on just a few days’ notice from towns and cities all over Michigan. This was the largest and loudest protest so far this year. There have been a series of protests since the attacks were first announced in February.

Few seemed daunted when, despite the crowd, the governor signed the legislation as expected. As one state employee put it: “We lost one battle, but the war continues.”

And two days later, on Friday, students from a number of Lansing high schools walked out of school and went to the state capitol to protest cuts to the schools.

Page 8

The “Davis Affair”:
U.S.’s Dirty War in Pakistan

Mar 21, 2011

Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who was accused of shooting and killing two people on a busy street in Lahore, Pakistan, has been acquitted.

The Pakistani court’s verdict was not based on Davis’ claim of self-defense – but on payment of blood money. A U.S. official admitted that the U.S. government had paid off the families – a total of 2.3 million dollars to get the victims’ family to agree to “forgive” Davis.

The 36-year-old Davis is a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, who has also worked for Blackwater, a company that supplied contract soldiers – that is, mercenaries – to the U.S. military. After Davis was arrested by Pakistani police last January, U.S. officials admitted that he had been working for the CIA.

The CIA, acting as a branch of the U.S. military, has widened its secret war in Pakistan in recent years, as the Obama administration officially extended the war on Afghanistan into neighboring Pakistan. According to the Washington Post, “The CIA has a major presence in Pakistan ... The agency has carried out more than 100 drone strikes over the past year in the tribal areas of Pakistan,” as well as “captures and other operations,” including assassinations.

Davis’s identity as a CIA contractor has now been revealed. But certainly, there are still thousands of other secret U.S. “operatives” like Davis. They are the soldiers of the secret, dirty wars, reinforcing the open, dirty wars the U.S. government wages all over the world – not just in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These wars are fought in the interests of U.S. multinational corporations whose tentacles reach around the globe. Their price is paid for by the working class, both in money and lives.

End all of these wars – overt and covert – right now!

Afghanistan:
Debt Slavery

Mar 21, 2011

In hundreds of brick kilns around Afghanistan, adults and young children work as slaves to pay off debt they can’t escape. They went to work for the kilns after their families borrowed money from the kiln owner and then couldn’t pay it back because of the extremely high rate of interest.

A typical loan may have started as 10,000 rupees, but ended up as 150,000 eleven years later because of the interest. When someone can’t pay, the kiln owners put them or their children into slavery.

A New York Times reporter visited kilns that had 150 to 200 child slaves each, working 12 hours a day, breathing in the smoke. The result is early death from pneumonia and acute respiratory infections.

A spokesman for the imperialist armies, Lieutenant Bashon Mann, said he had no knowledge of using building materials produced by children. But the kiln owners contradict him, openly telling the Times their self-made bricks are used regularly in NATO projects.

The U.S., the richest country in the world, is occupying, bombing and destroying one of the absolutely poorest countries in the world. So, yes, it’s ready to benefit from child slavery.

Bahrain:
Saudi and Emirate Soldiers to the Rescue of the Monarchy

Mar 21, 2011

While Qaddafi’s troops in Libya tighten their grip against the insurgents in the east of the country, Bahrain, at the other end of the Arab world, took a turn toward repression. Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain to restore “order and stability.” A thousand Saudi soldiers arrived on March 13th in Bahrain. The United Arab Emirates also announced that it would send troops. This is the response of Saudi Arabia to the demonstrations that have shaken Bahrain for a month.

Faced with this outrageous intervention, the opposition denounced the “foreign military occupation.” Bahraini protesters blocked several roads into the center of the capital, Manama. The police sprayed them with tear gas to clear access to the business district.

The Saudi monarchy is afraid the protests in Bahrain will only encourage protestors in Saudi Arabia. On March 10th, the Saudi police made warning shots to disburse protesters in the east of the country, wounding three people. Small demonstrations have taken place since mid-February in this Saudi province.

In Saudi Arabia, petitions have circulated to demand political reforms, more openness about the state budget and for measures to cut unemployment and poverty. Youth unemployment is in fact the number one problem in Saudi Arabia, since 70% of its population is under age 30. Today 40% of these youth are unemployed.

Unemployment is all the more important as the Saudi bosses prefer to employ non-Saudis, at lower wages. So the number of Saudi youth in a precarious situation and the number of people living under the poverty level has begun to climb in one of the most prosperous states in the world. But in Saudi Arabia, wealth profits only businessmen, especially those linked to royal family.

There have been numerous scandals recently that reveal the degree of corruption and nepotism in state institutions, but the guilty are never punished. Criticism of the king and princes remains prohibited while the regime’s prisons are full of political militants, irreverent bloggers, lawyers and university peace activists.

The Saudi monarchy had announced that 36 billion dollars would be spent for social measures. Obviously, it’s a matter of trying to appease the protestors. It’s also a measure of the fear the regime is beginning to have. Still the protests spread to different sectors, like intellectuals in favor of democracy and defenders of human rights, Salafist Islamists, representatives of the Shiite minority and even clans of the royal family that have been pushed aside.

The direct intervention of Saudi troops in Bahrain shows that the Riyadh monarchy intends to stifle all political protest. It uses its petrodollars – 20 billion dollars dedicated to support its neighbors in Bahrain and Oman – but also, when necessary, it uses the club.