The price of building materials has gone up unbelievably, in spite of the fact that major reconstruction has not yet begun. I assumed it was because so much of the concrete and other building materials was going to reinforce the restricted areas. A friend who recently got involved working with an Iraqi subcontractor who takes projects inside of the Green Zone explained that it was more than that. The Green Zone, he told us, is a city in itself. He came back awed, and more than a little bit upset. He talked of designs and plans being made for everything from the future US Embassy and the housing complex that will surround it, to restaurants, shops, fitness centers, gasoline stations, constant electricity and water- a virtual country inside of a country with its own rules, regulations and government. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Republic of the Green Zone, also known as the Green Republic.
The Americans wont be out in less than ten years. Is how the argument often begins with the friend who has entered the Green Republic. How can you say that? Is usually my answer- and I begin to throw around numbers- 2007, 2008 maximum Could they possibly want to be here longer? Can they afford to be here longer? At this, T. shakes his head- if you could see the bases they are planning to build- if you could see what already has been built- youd know that they are going to be here for quite a while.
The Green Zone is a source of consternation and aggravation for the typical Iraqi. It makes us anxious because it symbolises the heart of the occupation and if fortifications and barricades are any indicator- the occupation is going to be here for a long time. It is a provocation because no matter how anyone tries to explain or justify it, it is like a slap in the face. It tells us that while we are citizens in our own country, our comings and goings are restricted because portions of the country no longer belong to its people. They belong to the people living in the Green Republic.
This is the mantra of politicians centre-left and centre-right who govern the Western world. They tell us that there is no alternative to the current system, thus reducing democracy and its institutions to a farce. Why then the glycerine tears over Africa? Why is that continent such a poignant sight? Why is Africa the last resort of scoundrel politicians and their hangers-on?
It was the same over a decade ago. A big fuss, a big spectacle but nothing changed. Why? Because there are structural causes and the structures at fault were created by the G8 and its forebears. The venal elites that rule most of Africa do so in alliance with giant corporations which milk the wealth of the country. The continent is rich in oil, gold and diamonds. It could fund its own recovery, but it has not been left alone and leaders who tried to change things were assassinated or removed. Regime-change is an old Western habit.
And we'll note this from the bottom of the article: "Tariq Ali will be speakin gat the Make the G8 History rally at the Old Theatre, London School of Economics on Tue 28th June @ 6:30pm with George Monbiot, George Galloway MP and others."
The Department of Homeland Securitys Transportation Security Administration is set to disclose this week in the Federal Register that the agency has collected and stored personal data about airline travelers, despite a Congressional ban and promises from the agency that it would not do so. The American Civil Liberties Union today said the secret collection of personal data from private companies shows a complete disregard for the privacy of Americans, and said it shows that the Secure Flight program should not be launched because testing of commercial data using a more limited amount of data failed.
The agency is set to issue a revised "Privacy Impact Assessment" this week, as required under the Privacy Act of 1974. The statement in the Federal Register is expected to be retroactive; it will discuss how TSA failed to comply with its own promises to the public to safeguard actual passengers records used to test Secure Flight.
The following can be attributed to Timothy Sparapani, an ACLU Legislative Counsel:
"In a blatant disregard for restrictions set by Congress, and in violation of its own stated positions, TSA rounded up enormous amounts of personal data held in secret files compiled by private companies concerning unsuspecting travelers. The agency has been trying to calm public concerns about the privacy implications of this invasive program: meanwhile, theyve been secretly gathering personal information, in violation of Congressional restrictions and behind our backs. Private data brokers records are notoriously riddled with errors."
Lastly, we'll note Christian Parenti's "Bolivia's Battle of Wills" (The Nation) which Rhonda e-mailed to highlight:
In many ways the first chapter in Bolivia's current season of political upheaval began here in the Chaparé during the 1990s, when the US-orchestrated drug war began targeting these new cocaleros and their openly socialist and indígenista trade unions. Known simply as the Six Federations, the cocaleros' unions function as a de facto state, mixing traditional Quechuan communitarian custom with more modern forms of political organizing. Though land is formally titled to individuals, it is really the Six Federations that collectively manage it. Cocaleros who do not cultivate their plots and refuse to participate in union and community struggles have their land repossessed and redistributed by the unions.
In the city hall of Villa Tunari, one of the damp little towns in the Chaparé, MAS party mayor Feliciano Mamani takes a break from meetings to explain the politics of the Chaparé. "The drug war is a political fight. It's about dismantling our union organizations," says Mamani, who came up through the ranks with Evo. "First they called us communists, then they called us narco-traffickers, now they call us terrorists."
To emphasize his point Mamani rolls up his pants to reveal his dented and blackened shin, where he took a canister of police tear gas five years ago. The wound exposed his bone and remained open and weeping until recently. As he explains the story of his injury, a gray Huey helicopter sweeps low and loud overhead.
For the past six years the Chaparé has been in the grip of a very-low-level guerrilla war and counterinsurgency: The military kills unarmed civilians, tortures detainees, uproots the cocaleros' crops and occasionally burns down their homesteads, while police and prosecutors jail union leaders and MAS officials on charges of drug trafficking and terrorism. So far, 150 MAS leaders have faced such charges, often based on evidence as flimsy as possession of coca or pamphlets by Che Guevara.
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