Ten Things You Can Do to Oppose the War in Afghanistan

Afghanistan War Protest

In recent months, we have posted a fair number of articles objecting to President Barack Obama’s plans to escalate the Afghanistan War. Unfortunately–as is so often the case–we’ve often neglected to say what people can do to stop the escalation.

Thankfully, The Nation has published a list. While we have mixed feelings about some of the suggestions, they are a worthy starting point:

 1 Watch parts one and two of Brave New Films’ documentary Rethink Afghanistan, which explores many fundamental questions.

 2 Read up on the war. Anand Gopal‘s coverage for the Christian Science Monitor has been insightful; see also Ann Jones’s Kabul in Winter and articles like Gilles Dorronsoro’s “Focus and Exit: An Alternative Strategy for the Afghan War”. The Nation‘s own Robert Dreyfuss has more “For Your Reading Pleasure.”

 3 Check out the coalition of bloggers and activists seeking nonmilitary alternatives to escalation at Get Afghanistan Right.

 4 Demand Congressional oversight hearings. It is Congress’s duty to challenge policy-makers and inform the public about everything from the overall mission to the efficiency of military agencies. Sign a petition calling on Senator John Kerry and Representative Howard Berman to hold hearings immediately.

 5 What question would you ask at a Congressional hearing on Afghanistan? Take a video of yourself or a friend asking your question and e-mail it to Brave New Foundation via YouTube. For help on recording and uploading your video to YouTube, watch the tutorial video and follow the Quick Capture instructions and then go to Rethink Afghanistan to submit the video.

 6 Contact your senators and representative directly to demand Congressional oversight hearings. If you can’t visit their offices, a phone call or e-mail to voice your opinion can be just as effective.

 7 Write to your local paper’s editorial board and your favorite political blogs to raise concerns about the war. Don’t let the mainstream media remain silent as they did before the Iraq War!

 8 Support anti-escalation Afghan groups working for women’s rights and social justice. You can aid organizations like the Afghan Women’s Mission, MADRE and the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) by buying them equipment from their Amazon “wish list” that helps them document and spread the news about their efforts. Stay updated with the Afghan Women’s Mission newswire.

 9 Join the Campus Antiwar Network and hold teach-ins, debates, talks, demonstrations and walkouts on college campuses across the country.

10 Get involved in the peace movement with groups like Win Without War and Peace Action West, which are devoted to finding nonviolent alternatives to military escalation in Afghanistan. Follow Peace Action West on Twitter.

Headlines: Anti-War Protests on Wall Street this Weekend; 1 in 10 on Food Stamps

Democracy Now Headlines: Anti-War Protests on Wall Street this Weekend; 1 in 10 on Food Stamps

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

G20 Leaders Pledge Voluntary Regulation, Loans

The G20 summit ended in London Thursday with a pledge to overhaul financial regulation and spend more than $1 trillion on loans to struggling economies. In a nine-page declaration, G20 leaders outlined a series of voluntary steps, including regulating hedge funds, cracking down on tax havens, and increasing international lending. Funding for the International Monetary Fund was quadrupled with a $1 trillion commitment.

Aid Money Could Favor Donors’ Economies

Despite touting the financial pledges as aid for developing economies, the new money could actually be funneled back into the donor economies. The Washington Post reports a $250 billion G20 line of credit to increase liquidity will mostly go to the US, Europe and Japan. The US alone could draw upon as much as $42.5 billion.

Clashes Break Out at NATO Protest

In France, clashes erupted at a protest Thursday ahead of today’s opening of NATO’s sixtieth anniversary summit. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets against hundreds of protesters in the city of Strasbourg, where the meeting is taking place. Some protesters pelted officers with bottles and rocks. Thousands of police officers are on hand as protests continue over the two-day summit.

Aid Groups Warn Against Afghan Military Escalation

Ahead of the meeting, a group of aid organizations has issued an appeal to NATO leaders warning that an increased military occupation of Afghanistan will lead to a rise in civilian deaths. In a new report, eleven groups, including Oxfam and ActionAid, say, “Too many military operations by foreign troops involve excessive force, loss of life and damage to property.”

3 Bagram Prisoners Granted Habeas Corpus

Here in the United States, a federal judge has ruled three prisoners at a US military jail in Afghanistan can challenge their detentions in US courts. The three were seized in foreign countries and brought to Afghanistan, where they’ve been confined at the Bagram Air Force Base for at least six years. There are about 650 prisoners at Bagram, but it appears the ruling would only grant habeas corpus to those seized abroad. The decision marked a loss for the Obama administration, which has mirrored the Bush administration in seeking to deny the prisoners habeas corpus rights. Ramzi Kassem, an attorney for one of the prisoners with the International Justice Network, said, “This is a great day for American justice…A US federal judge ruled that our government cannot simply kidnap people and hold them beyond the law.”

Blagojevich Charged in Corruption Scandal

In Illinois, a federal grand jury has charged former governor Rod Blagojevich in connection with the alleged corruption that forced his removal from office. On Thursday, Blagojevich was charged with racketeering, extortion and fraud. His brother and four other associates were also charged. Blagojevich was impeached in January following his indictment on bribery and wire fraud charges. The allegations against him include trying to sell President Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder.

House OKs $3.5T Budget

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers have approved President Obama’s $3.5 trillion budget plan. The vote was split along party lines, save for twenty Democrats who joined Republican Congress members in voting against. Senate Democrats say they expect to pass their version of the bill later today.

House Measure Boosts Tobacco Regulation

The House, meanwhile, has voted grant to regulators new authority to oversee the tobacco industry. The measure would allow the Food and Drug Administration to reject new tobacco products, bar additives, and restrict advertising. The measure is likely to face a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

Ex-AIG Head Rejects Blame for Firm’s Collapse

The former head of the bailed-out insurance giant AIG testified on Capitol Hill Thursday. Maurice Greenberg defended his role in steering AIG and blamed his successors after he left the company in 2005.

Maurice Greenberg: “AIG’s business model did not fail. Its management did. AIG’s business model has a long track record of success over many decades. AIG can recover from its immediate crisis, continue to be an employer of tens of thousands of hardworking Americans, and repay the assistance it has received from the American taxpayer, but only if both the government and AIG’s management change their approach in dealing with its future.”

Greenberg has come under wide criticism for running AIG when it helped create many of the complex financial instruments that caused the current economic collapse.

Jury: Colorado Professor Fired for Political Beliefs

In Denver, a jury has found the University of Colorado wrongfully dismissed Professor Ward Churchill two years ago. Churchill sued the school after he was fired from a tenured position on charges of research misconduct. But Churchill maintains that the allegations were a pretext to remove him for his political beliefs. In 2005, he described the September 11 attacks as a response to a long history of US abuses and called those who were killed on 9/11 as “little Eichmanns.” On Thursday, the jury said Churchill had been fired in large part for his views. But it only granted him one dollar damages, along with ordering the University of Colorado to pay his attorney fees. Churchill’s lawyers say they will ask the judge to reinstate him at his old job.

Activists to Hold 2-Day Wall Street Protest

In New York, a pair of social justice groups are teaming up for a two-day protest that begins today. The Bail Out the People Movement and United for Peace and Justice plan to march on Wall Street to protest the financial bailout and the ongoing US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Tomorrow’s event is being held on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination on April 4th, 1968 in Memphis, where he had traveled to lead a march of striking sanitation workers. It’s also the anniversary of Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech, delivered at New York’s Riverside Church one year earlier.

Record 1 in 10 Americans Using Food Stamps

New figures show a record 32.2 million, or one in ten, Americans are receiving food stamps. The government’s figure for January marked the third record food stamp enrollment in five months.

Obama Envoy Visits Sudan

In Sudan, the Obama administration’s new special envoy made his first visit on Thursday since his appointment last month. Retired Air Force General Scott Gration pledged to seek cooperation with Sudanese officials in addressing the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

Retired Air Force General Scott Gration: “The United States and Sudan want to be partners, and so we’re looking for opportunities for us to build a stronger bilateral relationship. And I come here with my hands open, and it will be up to the Sudanese government to determine how they want to continue with that relationship. Hopefully, it will be with hands of friendship, hands of cooperation.”

Uncovered Graves Could Hold Bodies of Dili Massacre Victims

And in East Timor, investigators are believed to have found the first bodies of protesters gunned down by US-backed Indonesian forces in the Dili massacre of 1991. On November 12th, 1991, Indonesian troops opened fire on a crowd of several thousand unarmed Timorese civilians gathered at the Santa Cruz cemetery. At least 271 people were killed, but no bodies were ever found. The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine says it’s dug up sixteen bodies from unmarked graves at Hera, near Dili.

Caterpillar Kills! Local Group Stages Protest to Kick Off Boycott/Divestiture Campaign

Caterpillar Kills

Folks from the Grand Rapids area activist group, Brunch & Revolution, kicked off the local Caterpillar/Motorola boycott and divestiture campaign with a protest in front of a local Caterpillar dealership along US 131 near 76th Street this morning. They held up two large banners, despite the cold morning chill. Hundreds of commuters on their way to work read the message, “Caterpillar Kills!” The second banner provided the web address of End the Occupation Coalition, the US-based group coordinating the national Divestment/Boycott Campaign.

The national campaign calls attention to the Israeli government’s apartheid practices as its Palestinian neighbors are denied food, medical care, the right to pursue livelihoods and the freedom to come and go for normal daily activities. This apartheid policy was savagely evident during Israeli military attacks in December and early January that left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead (for the most part regular folks, women and children) and thousands more injured, displaced and homeless. (14 Israelis died; of those 10 were military, four of which were friendly fire.)

Divestment Portfolios Available

Throughout this week, folks involved in the action will be contacting local churches, campus groups, progressive organizations and unions with “Divestment Portfolios,” informational packets with many pages of information on the campaign as well as a CD/PowerPoint presentation that explains Caterpillar’s role in its illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. “Today is the kickoff to our local campaign for Divestment/Boycott of Israel,” says Mike, Brunch and Revolution spokesperson. “We are hoping to get as many groups to sign on to this campaign, so please help us get the word out.”

Why Caterpillar?

The Israeli military routinely uses Caterpillar bulldozers as part of its occupation strategy. Caterpillar Corporation assists the Israeli Defense Forces by supplying them with the D9 Bulldozer, critical to the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. A multitude of reports indicate that homes are bulldozed without giving people time to get out of their homes.

“Caterpillar Corporation’s contribution makes possible the bulldozing of Palestinian homes, the uprooting of olive trees (a Palestinian economic mainstay) and militarization of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. This should be met with the utmost resistance by any nation or person who holds value in the Geneva Conventions and the tenants of international law,” Mike says.

For additional information, visit http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=1869

Headlines: White House Forces Out GM CEO; Thousands Protest G20 in London

Democracy Now Headlines: White House Forces Out GM CEO; Thousands Protest G20 in London

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.<

Spanish Court Launches Probe of Bush Administration Officials

A Spanish court has launched a criminal investigation into whether six Bush administration lawyers, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the Bush administration’s use of torture at Guantanamo. Spain’s law allows it to claim jurisdiction in the case because five Spanish citizens or residents who were prisoners at Guantanamo Bay say they were tortured there. The case was sent to the Spanish prosecutor’s office for review by Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge who ordered the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998. The other former Bush administration officials facing investigation are former Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee, Pentagon official Douglas Feith, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff David Addington, and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes. Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights praised the Spanish court’s decision and said arrest warrants might have already been issued.

Michael Ratner, author of The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: “If you’re any of those six at this point, you don’t want to go to the twenty-five countries that make up the European Union, because you may be subject to immediate arrest. What will happen next is this investigation will most likely continue in a very vigorous form. It will look at those six, and it also has the possibility of going up the chain of command, not just to Rumsfeld, but all the way up to Cheney and Bush. So it’s a serious investigation. It’s one that the Obama administration has to take very seriously. And it means, for them, that the pressure is increasing really in this country to open its own criminal investigation.”

Waterboarding, Torture of Abu Zubaydah Produced False Leads

Meanwhile, former senior government officials have told the Washington Post that the CIA’s decision to waterboard and torture their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaydah, produced little intelligence. The officials said not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaydah’s tortured confessions. Most of the useful information gained from him was obtained before waterboarding was introduced.

Dozens Killed in Pakistan as Militants Seize Police Academy

In Pakistan, gunmen seized a police training academy in Lahore and killed as many as forty police officers before Pakistani officials were able to retake the building after an eight-hour siege. As many as eighty officers were injured. The Pakistani newspaper Daw said militants attacked the police academy with machine guns and grenades. 850 young cadets were inside the building when the assault began.

President Obama Outlines Plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan

The attack came two days after President Obama defended his decision to send 21,000 more US troops to Afghanistan and to increase aid to Pakistan. Obama said his one goal is to wipe out al-Qaeda militants whom he said were plotting new attacks on the United States.

President Obama: “The world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos or al-Qaeda operates unchecked. We have a shared responsibility to act, not because we seek to project power for its own sake, but because our own peace and security depends upon it. And what’s at stake at this time is not just our own security; it’s the very idea that free nations can come together on behalf of our common security.”

The New York Times reports the Obama administration was divided over what to do in Afghanistan. The commanders in the field wanted a larger surge of troops but Vice President Joseph Biden reportedly warned against getting into a political and military quagmire.

White House Forces Out GM CEO Wagoner

In business news, General Motors Chair and CEO Rick Wagoner has stepped down after he was asked to resign by the Obama administration as part of the government’s demand for GM and Chrysler to restructure before receiving more federal aid. President Obama is scheduled to unveil his full plan for the auto industry today. The McClatchy Newspapers reports Obama will reject requests for almost $22 billion in new taxpayer bailout money for GM and Chrysler, saying the car makers have failed to take steps to ensure their viability. The government sought the departure of the GM chief and said the company needed to be widely restructured if it had any hope of survival. The government is expected to provide the company with sixty days’ operating capital to give it time to undertake reforms. The government will also grant Chrysler thirty days’ operating funds, but said it must merge with the Italian car maker Fiat in order to remain viable. So far, GM and Chrysler have received $17.4 billion in government rescue money, a fraction of what the government has given to help revive the banking industry.

Unemployment Rate Over 10% in Seven States

New employment figures show Michigan still has the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 12 percent. In February, the unemployment rate jumped into double figures in Nevada, North Carolina and Oregon. The jobless rate is also above ten percent in California, South Carolina and Rhode Island.

35,000 Protest in London Ahead of G20 Summit

At least 35,000 protesters marched in London Saturday to kick off a series of demonstrations leading up to the G20 summit. Protest organizers said the turnout was three times larger than expected. Protest organizer Chris Knight with the group G20 Meltdown said the demonstrations will focus on the bankers who wrecked the economy.

Chris Knight: “The main message to them, really, is you are–you are financial fools. You are the architects of this catastrophe, with the exception of Barack Obama, of course, who has to make a choice which side he’s on still. But those fools, what makes them feel that they are the people qualified to sort out the mess? And if you ask me what do we want from them, I would say it’s quite a lot, actually. It’s–we want the earth. Give us back our planet. We want it; you’ve got it. We’re gonna take it, and you should be good-humored about it. You are incompetent idiots who have messed everything up, and you should step aside and let the people take over.”

The protest against the G20 is expected to be the largest anti-capitalist demonstration in London in years.

Terry Pierce, protester: “We say that unless the leaders of the world break from capitalism, unless there’s a change in the whole attitude towards climate change and towards poverty, towards the problem in the world, then there’s no chance resolving these problems. We need a socialist alternative.”

Large demonstrations are also expected this week in France and Germany during the NATO summit in the French city of Strasbourg.

Gates: US Has No Plans to Shoot Down N. Korean Missile Test

In news from Asia, North Korea says it will launch a communications satellite as early as Saturday, but Japan and other nations have accused North Korea of secretly testing an intercontinental ballistic missile. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the US has no plans to shoot down the missile.

Robert Gates: “I think if we had an aberrant missile, one that was headed for Hawaii, that looked like it was headed for Hawaii or something like that, we might consider it. But I don’t think we have any plans to do anything like that at this point.”

Vast Electronic Spy Network Unveiled; Targeted Dalai Lama

A team of Canadian researchers have uncovered a vast electronic spy network that infiltrated the offices of the Dalai Lama, the Asian Development Bank, the Associated Press and many foreign embassies. Researchers linked the spy operation to servers in China but cautioned that there is no direct evidence implicating the Chinese government. Intelligence analysts say many governments, including those of China, Russia and the United States, use sophisticated computer programs to covertly gather information. The spy network known as GhostNet infiltrated nearly 1,300 computers in 100 countries. Once a computer is infected, the spies gain the ability to turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of the computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room. The spy network also gained control of mail servers for the Dalai Lama’s offices, allowing the spies to intercept all correspondence.

Israeli Troops Shoot at West Bank Protesters

In the occupied West Bank, Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Friday at a crowd of Palestinians protesting the construction of the separation wall in the town of Bilin. Reuters video showed an Israeli soldier shooting a Palestinian demonstrator with a rubber-coated bullet at point-blank range, injuring his leg. Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouti attended the demonstration and said the new Israeli government will further damage the lives of the Palestinians.

Mustafa Barghouti: “The only thing that the new Israeli government is bringing is more settlement, more land confiscation, more discrimination, more apartheid and more building of this wall that is killing the lives of the Palestinians and destroying the option of peace based on two-state solution.”

Campaign to Boycott Motorola Launched in New York

The company Motorola is a target of a new boycott campaign organized by the group New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel. Organizer Ryvka Bar Zohar accused Motorola of supporting Israel’s military occupation.

Ryvka Bar Zohar: “Motorola produces bomb fuses, communications devices, surveillance technology, that’s used directly by the Israeli military in its ongoing occupation of the Palestinian people.”

Eight Die in NC Nursing Home Shooting

In North Carolina, eight people died Sunday after a gunman opened fire at a nursing home in the town of Carthage. Seven elderly patients died as well as a nurse. The Raleigh News and Observer reported the gunman’s estranged wife was working at the nursing home at the time of the attack but was not listed as a victim.

Union Activist & Folklorist Archie Green, 91, Dies

And the union activist and folklorist Archie Green has died at the age of ninety-one. The New York Times said Green single-handedly persuaded Congress to create the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. For decades, he studied what he called laborlore: the work songs, slang, craft techniques and tales that helped to define the trade unions. Two years ago, he published The Big Red Songbook (Charles H. Kerr), a collection of lyrics to more than 250 songs written by the Industrial Workers of the World, best known as the Wobblies.

George W. Bush to Deliver First Domestic Post-Presidency Speech in Michigan

George W. Bush is Speaking in Benton Harbor

Former President George W. Bush will deliver his first domestic post-presidency speech in Southwest Michigan later this Spring. Bush will be speaking to The Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan in Benton Harbor on May 28.

The event is closed to the public and the media. There has been no disclosure of how much Bush will be receiving for his speech. Members of the Economic Club are the only ones who will be invited to attend. Membership dues range from $135 to $195 per year according to the Club’s website.

The speech is part of a series that advertises itself as an opportunity to “meet and talk with six of the most influential leaders in the world.” Other guests in the series include Karl Rove, Mike Huckabee, and Condoleezza Rice (who will also be speaking in Grand Rapids this summer).

Protestors Organizing to Greet Bush

On the social networking website Facebook, protestors are organizing to greet Bush.

At a recent speech in Canada, hundreds of people protested against former President Bush. Protestors hurled shoes at effigies and accused Bush of being a war criminal due to his actions as part of the so-called “War on Terror.” Protest organizers were seeking to put Bush on trial “for the seemingly endless list of crimes for which his regime was responsible.”

Before the protest, a group called Lawyers Against the war filed a letter with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) asking them to bar Bush from entry citing his involvement in torture and war crimes.

Headlines: White House Opposes Tax on Wall Street Bonuses; Protests Mark Iraq Invasion Anniversary

Democracy Now Headlines:  White House Opposes Tax on Wall Street Bonuses; Protests Mark Iraq Invasion Anniversary

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Report: US Will Appoint “Afghan PM” to Bypass Hamid Karzai

The Guardian of London reports the Obama administration and European allies are preparing to plant a high-profile figure in the heart of the Afghan government in a direct challenge to Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan. The US is considering creating a new chief executive or prime ministerial position in an attempt to bypass Karzai, who has has fallen out of favor in Washington. In a further dilution of Karzai’s power, the US is proposing to divert money from the Kabul government to the provinces. Last week, Karzai accused an unnamed foreign government of trying to weaken the central government in Kabul. Karzai said, “That is not their job. Afghanistan will never be a puppet state.”

Obama: Exit Strategy Needed for Afghanistan

On Sunday, President Barack Obama appeared on 60 Minutes and discussed the situation in Afghanistan.

President Obama: “But we can’t lose sight of what our central mission is: the same mission that we had when we went in after 9/11. And that is, these folks can project violence against United States citizens, and that is something that we cannot tolerate. But what we can’t do is think that just a military approach in Afghanistan is going to be able to solve our problems. So what we’re looking for is a comprehensive strategy. And there’s got to be an exit strategy. There’s got to be a sense that this is not perpetual drift.”

Last month, President Obama ordered 17,000 more US troops to fight in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, US Special Forces are being accused of killing five Afghan civilians inside the home of a local mayor. The US disputes the report and says the dead were all militants.

Obama: Bush-Cheney Policies Haven’t Made Us Safer

During the same interview on 60 Minutes, President Obama was asked about former Vice President Dick Cheney’s comment that the new administration’s counterterrorism policies were making the US more vulnerable to attack.

President Obama: “I think he is–that attitude, that philosophy, has done incredible damage to our image and position in the world. I mean, the fact of the matter is, after all these years, how many convictions actually came out of Guantanamo? How many–how many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney? It hasn’t made us safer. What it has been is a great advertisement for anti-American sentiment, which means that there is constant effective recruitment of Arab fighters and Muslim fighters against US interests all around the world.”

Geithner to Unveil Plan to Purchase $1 Trillion in Toxic Assets

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is preparing to unveil a plan today to purchase as much as $1 trillion in troubled mortgages and other assets from banks. The government is reaching out to hedge funds, private equity firms and sovereign wealth funds to help buy the toxic assets. The Obama administration has described the plan as a public-private partnership, but most of the actual money will be put up by the government. The New York Times reports the government will offer low-interest loans to coax investors to form partnerships with the government to buy toxic assets from banks. If the assets go up in value, the hedge funds stand to benefit greatly, but if the assets fall, taxpayers bear most of the risk. We’ll have more on the plan after headlines.

White House Officials Oppose Tax on Wall Street Bonuses

Obama administration officials are expressing concern over moves by Congress to heavily tax Wall Street bonuses. Last week, the House voted to levy a 90 percent tax on bonuses paid since January 1 by companies that owe the government at least $5 billion in bailout loans. Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser, said the House bill is a “dangerous way to go.”

World Bank: 2009 Will Be “Very Dangerous” Year

In other economic news, World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned the entire globe will feel the effects of the economic meltdown this year.

Robert Zoellick: “Well, I think 2009 is going to be a very dangerous year. And just to give you some reference points, the IMF came out with a new global forecast recently, close to decline of about one percent of growth. We at the Bank will be coming out with ours soon, and it will probably be in the range of one to two percent. But to put that number in a context, you haven’t seen a figure like that globally since World War II, which really means since the Great Depression.”

The World Bank also warned over the weekend that a wave of social and political unrest could sweep through the world’s poorest countries if G20 leaders fail to come to their aid. A new report from the Overseas Development Institute said the collapse of the global economy would cost 90 million lives, lead to an increase to nearly a billion in the number of people going hungry, and cost developing countries $750 billion in lost growth.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Responds to Obama’s Message

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Saturday President Barack Obama’s offer of better ties was just a “slogan,” but pledged Tehran would respond to any real policy shift by Washington. Khamenei’s comment came one day after President Obama released a videotaped appeal to the people of Iran.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: “They (Americans) give the slogan of change, but in practice no change is seen. We haven’t seen any change. Even their literature has not changed. Since the first moment the new United States president officially took office and delivered speech, he insulted Iran and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s government.”

Israel Accused of Targeting Medical Personnel in Gaza

Physicians for Human Rights has accused Israeli soldiers of failing to give medical teams special protection during the attack on Gaza. Sixteen Palestinian medical personnel were killed by Israeli fire; another twenty-five were wounded. Israel attacked thirty-four medical facilities, including eight hospitals.

IDF Soldiers Ordered to Shoot at Gaza Rescuers

Documents have also been found that suggest Israeli troops were given orders to shoot at rescue teams during the war. One document found in a Palestinian home taken over by the Israeli military reads, “Rules of Engagement: Open fire also upon rescue.” The note was handwritten in Hebrew.

Soldier: Israeli Rabbis Turned Gaza Invasion into Religious War

The McClatchy News Service reports rabbis affiliated with the Israeli army urged troops heading into Gaza to reclaim what they said was God-given land and to ”get rid of the gentiles.” This according to the testimony of a soldier who fought in Gaza. The soldier said the message from the rabbis effectively turned the twenty-two-day Israeli attack into a religious war.

Israeli Activist Calls for Assassination of Mahmoud Abbas

A prominent right-wing Israeli activist has publicly called for the assassination of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Nadia Matar of the group Women in Green made the call last week during a speech in New York organized by Americans for a Safe Israel.

Nadia Matar: “And don’t you understand that in order to bring peace to Europe, one has to first destroy the Nazi beast? Today we must destroy all the terrorist organizations. We must kill all the terrorist leaders, starting with Mahmoud Abbas and all others.”

Nadia Matar was speaking at the Safra Synagogue in New York. The synagogue’s rabbi, Elie Abadie, condemned Matar’s remarks, saying he was “horrified at such hateful statements.”

Antiwar British MP Barred from Canada

The Canadian government has barred British antiwar lawmaker George Galloway entry into the country on the grounds that he is a threat to national security. Galloway was scheduled to start a four-city speaking tour next week. Galloway has been a vocal critic of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli government. Canadian officials accused Galloway of giving financial support to Hamas and offering sympathy to the Taliban.

Family of Slain Iraqi Guard Sues Blackwater

The private military firm formerly known as Blackwater is facing another lawsuit over its work in Iraq. The family of a slain Iraqi security guard sued the company last week, saying a Blackwater contractor shot the man without provocation on Christmas Eve of 2006. At the time of the shooting, the Iraqi guard was on duty protecting Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi. According to the lawsuit, Blackwater promised to compensate the widow of the Iraqi guard in a series of payments but stopped after an initial payment of $20,000.

Costco, Starbucks and Whole Foods Fight Proposed Labor Law

In labor news, executives from Costco, Starbucks and Whole Foods have launched a campaign to block the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to form unions. The three retail giants have proposed a so-called compromise bill that strips the key portions of the legislation. The companies want to preserve the current law that allows employers to force workers to hold a secret ballot election before recognizing a union. Under the Employee Free Choice Act, workers would be able form a union if a majority of them signed a card or a petition.

Jury Acquits Former Puerto Rican Governor

In Puerto Rico, a federal jury has found former Puerto Rican Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila not guilty on nine counts of conspiracy, false statements and wire fraud, among other crimes.

Vermont Panel Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Vermont has moved a step closer to legalizing same-sex marriage. On Friday, the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill extending marriage to same-sex couples in Vermont. The full Vermont Senate is expected to vote on the bill today.

NYC Pays $1.5 Million to Families of Two Killed by NYPD

In New York, the city has agreed to pay out $1.5 million to the families of two young men shot dead by New York police detectives fourteen years ago in the Bronx. The families of Hilton Vega and Anthony Rosario had sued the city, claiming police used excessive force in the shooting. The detectives in the case were both former bodyguards for Rudolph Giuliani during his 1993 mayoral campaign.

Four Oakland Police Officers Killed in Shoot-Out

In Oakland, police are investigating how a routine traffic stop turned into one of the bloodiest days for police officers in California history. Police say a twenty-six-year-old man, Lovelle Mixon, shot dead four Oakland police officers over the span of several hours before he was fatally shot. Police said Mixon was already wanted on a warrant. He had been despondent over his inability to find a job and afraid of being arrested again.

Protests Mark 6th Anniversary of US Invasion of Iraq

And protests were held in Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities on Saturday to mark the sixth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.

Anti-War Veterans Groups Call for Continued Anti-War Organizing

Anti-War Veterans Groups Are Calling for Continued Protest Against The Iraq War

Three of the nation’s leading anti-war military groups–Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Veterans for Peace–have issued an open letter to the anti-war movement calling for continued anti-war activism:


An Open Letter to the Anti-War Movement from

Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Veterans For Peace

After six years of war and the historic election of a new President, we as veterans, military and Gold Star families felt an urgent need to reach out to the larger peace/anti-war movements to make our position on Iraq clear during this time of political and economic uncertainty. Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out and Veterans For Peace continue to stand together in our demand to Bring the Troops Home Now! We ask all those who have stood with us in the past to stay faithful to the cause.

President Obama has announced a plan to gradually reduce troop levels in Iraq. Many in the peace/anti-war movements are breathing a sigh of relief, and suggesting that it is time for us to scale back our efforts to bring an end to the occupation of Iraq. But for our troops on the ground, their families and the Iraqi people, the nightmare continues. They need all of us to stay in the struggle. IVAW, MFSO and VFP have been long united in our call for an immediate and complete end to the occupation of Iraq and will not shift our stance under any circumstances.

President Obama’s plan will result in more casualties and suffering for U.S. troops, their families and Iraqis. To the American public facing hard times here at home, two and a half more years of occupation may not sound like that long — but for our troops and their families it means two and a half more years of fear, pain, and separation in a war and occupation based on lies. Hundreds of the troops deployed in the next two and a half years will not come home alive. Many more will return forever scarred by deep wounds to their bodies, minds, and spirits. Well over a million Iraqis have died as a result of this war — many more will be killed as the occupation continues.

We cannot afford the cost of empire. Today we are in the midst of the worst economic crisis most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Yet our government continues to allow the occupation to drain $10 billion a month from our nation’s coffers. Meanwhile, veterans and military families struggle to put food on the table and get decent housing and adequate medical care. Women and men who risked their lives for this country are often forced to fight tooth and nail to get health care from an underfunded and overburdened Veterans Administration. Hundreds of thousands of veterans are homeless.

The occupation of Iraq is the source of the violence not the solution. Living under occupation the people of Iraq are held back from taking control of their own lives to determine their destiny. The continued U.S. military presence there is a cause of the violence they face, not its solution. U.S. continued interference contradicts the principles of democracy and self-determination our country was founded on.

IVAW, MFSO and VFP will continue to keep pressure on Congress and the President to bring all our troops home from Iraq NOW, ensure that veterans receive the care they need and deserve, and that the U.S. provides resources to rebuild a country we destroyed. But we cannot do that alone. We need your help to reach out to the vast majority of the American people who are completely isolated from the realities of this war. Please don’t abandon this struggle or shift your position before the occupation is over and our veterans and the Iraqi people are on the path to healing.

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) was founded by Iraq war veterans in July 2004 at the annual convention of Veterans for Peace (VFP) in Boston to give a voice to the large number of active duty service people and veterans who are against this war, but are under various pressures to remain silent. From its inception, IVAW has called for: Immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces in Iraq; reparations for the human and structural damages Iraq has suffered, and stopping the corporate pillaging of Iraq so that their people can control their own lives and future; and dull benefits, adequate healthcare (including mental health), and other supports for returning servicemen and women. IVAW’s membership includes recent veterans and active duty servicemen and women from all branches of military service, National Guard members, and reservists who have served in the United States military since September 11, 2001.

Military Families Speak Out is an organization of people opposed to the war in Iraq who have relatives or loved ones who are currently in the military or who have served in the military since the buildup to the Iraq war in the fall of 2002. Formed by two families in November of 2002, MFSO now has over 4,000 member families. MFSO’s national chapter, Gold Star Families Speak Out includes families whose loved ones have died as a result of the war in Iraq.

Founded in 1985, Veterans For Peace is a national organization of men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations spanning the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts cold or hot. It has chapters in nearly every state in the union and is headquartered in St. Louis, MO. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary. Veterans For Peace is an official Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) represented at the U.N.

RI workers arrested while protesting closed plant’s assets auction

Workers Were Arrested Protesting the Sale of Colibri Group's Assets in Rhode Island

Twelve workers in East Providence, Rhode Island, were arrested yesterday while protesting the auctioning off of their closed factory’s assets.

The factory, owned by the Colibri Group, manufactured jewelry and employed 280 people. On January 14, Colibri closed the factory without giving its workers sixty days notice as is required by the federal WARN Act. Today, machinery inside the plant was being auctioned off to the highest bidder as workers were still demanding two months of back pay. Over 200 people picketed outside during the auction chanting “We’ll go away when we get our pay.” A dozen were arrested after laying down to block cars as buyers entered the premises to bid on the factory’s machinery.

The workers’ demand to receive sixty days’ pay was supported unanimously by the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

This is the second time in the last several months laid-off workers have responded to a violation of the WARN Act by taking militant action. Workers in Chicago at the Republic Windows and Doors factory occupied their plant for six days when management closed the factory with only three days’ notice. The occupation received widespread support from a number of notable people and organizations including then-President-Elect Obama. Unlike Republic workers, however, who were members of United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America, Colibri workers were not members of a union.

Ironically, the protest and arrests took place on the same day three million French workers took to the streets to protest French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s handling of the world financial meltdown in France. While workers in the US have not engaged anything close to such large-scale action since labor’s hayday, there is a long tradition of radical working-class activism in the United States.

From the massive public anger over publicly-bailed-out AIG’s massive bonuses to execs and other employees and the House of Representatives’ voting overwhelmingly to levy a 90 percent tax on those bonuses to the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart’s blistering criticism of CNBC for its financial coverage, the tide of public opinion and action has clearly shifted against corporate interests and in favor of workers.

Those of us in West Michigan working towards a more just and democratic world should capitalize on this opportunity and support organizing efforts of workers like the folks from Cobrini.

To discuss this article further, either leave a comment below or email mikeyblogging [at] gmail [dot] com.

Iraq War Protest this Weekend


Following up on a protest this past weekend, there is another protest planned Saturday against the Iraq War in Grand Rapids.

The information passed on from Facebook:

Iraq War Protest: 6th Anniversary Of The Occupation

03/21/09 – 12:00pm

Heartside Park

Cherry Street SW & Ionia Ave SW

Grand Rapids, MI

For six years, the war in Iraq has raged. It has cost nearly a million Iraqi lives and millions more have been forced from their homes. Meanwhile the war has cost billions of dollars while the U.S. economy crumbles. With all the talk of “stimulus” and “bailouts”, it doesn’t take much imagination to think of other ways this money could be used. Look around: schools are closing, people are sleeping on the streets, and unemployment rates are skyrocketing…

In 2006 and 2008, many of us voted for the Democrats because they promised to “end the war”. Many people hoped their vote would make the difference, but so far it hasn’t.

Recently, President Obama announced his plan to “end the war”. He says “combat brigades” will be removed from Iraq by August 2010. However, 30,000 to 55,000 U.S. troops will remain in the country indefinitely to “protect” U.S. interests and “advise” Iraqi forces. Many military representatives are suggesting that they could stay there years from that date.

It’s up to us to get them out sooner.

We cannot let another anniversary of this occupation pass quietly.

Bring friends, signs, banners, musical instruments, megaphones, etc.

Protest Demands Obama Really “End the War” by Removing All Troops from Iraq

Protestors Drew Attention to Obama's Iraq Policy on Saturday

Led by a banner reading “Out Now!” around fifty people protested the continued U.S. occupation of Iraq on Saturday. The protest–smaller than previous years–was held in commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Iraq.

However, while the protest was smaller, it had a far clearer message than what has been conveyed in the past. The majority of signs criticized President Barack Obama’s policy on Iraq, arguing that his plan to “end the war” has not gone far enough. Protestors drew attention to the fact that Obama plans to keep up to 50,000 troops in the country until 2011–and likely longer–under his recently unveiled Iraq policy.

Other signs called attention to the human cost of the war, reminding people that the price of the war has been paid with the blood of Iraqi civilians. Estimates of the dead range from 100,000 to 1 million.

Police presence was minimal, with two cruisers eventually trailing the march and ordering people on to the sidewalk. No arrests were made.

Participants and organizers were pleased with the turn-out and are planning to protest again this Saturday (3/21) at noon. The protest will meet at Heartside Park in downtown Grand Rapids. People are encouraged to bring signs, banners, noisemakers, and other related items.