Monday, March 22, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the race in Iraq is still too close to call, but some call already for a recount, protests took place around the US over the weekend, a US House Representative states the actual wounded (US service members) are being miscounted (intentionally miscounted) and more.
On the latest installment of Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday), one of Jasim's guests was the author Jurgen Todenhofer (former member of the German Parliament, Christian Democratic Party) and we're excerpting so as to note his remarks.
Jasim al-Azzawi: Jurgen Todenhofer, explain the enagmatic title of your book, Why Do You Kill, Zaid? Who is Zaid? And why are you asking him "why do you kill"?
Jurgen Todenhofer: The reason why I ask this question and why I make this trip to Iraq and sometimes also to Afghanistan is that the Western people, the people from the United States and from my country don't understand the Muslim world. They don't understand why these people are fighting, why they want to be friend. And I didn't want to give the answer. I wanted to ask a young student who lives in Ramadi and he was fighting against Americans and he has destroyed a tank. And I wanted to ask him why did you kill? And I spent a week with him in Ramadi and he told me his story and just a story of a young student, a student like all the students all over the world, he wanted to study and he didn't want to fight. And then his brother was killed and then he decided together with his youngest brother to continue to study and not to fight. And then the Americans killed his second brother. And he saw his second brother dying in front of their house, he couldn't go outside because there was heavy shooting. He saw through the window how his little brother died and, this night, he decided to fight. And he became a fighter. He became a fighter not to revenge but to free his country and that's his story. And when I ask, "Why do you kill, Zaid?" -- he gave me the answer. And it was a very sad answer.
[. . .]
Jasim al-Azzawi: You did something very unusual, Jurgen Todenhofer, you went an actually covered the war from the perspective of the Iraqi resistance. You went and saw exactly what they were doing. Were they fighting the Americans? Were they fighting al Qaeda? Who were they fighting against?
Jurgen Todenhofer: They were fighting for the freedom of their country and they were fighting for the pride of their country. But I -- Juan [Cole], I think there are still secrets in Iraq because the Iraq images, the images that we see from Baghdad are not the truth. I was in Iraq again in spring last year, in August last year, and this legendary city of 1001 Nights has turned into a gloomy fortress of thousands of shooting towers, of thousands of heavily armed checkpoints. And you can perhaps now, because you were a little bit optimistic, you can perhaps now vote freely -- I say perhaps -- but you can't move freely anymore. And I had a team -- a camera team -- because I am making a film about kids in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I ask my camera team, "Please film these concrete walls, film these-these towers, film these surveillance balloons over the city." And they said, "We cannot." And I asked them ten minutes, fifteen minutes and then they said, "Yes, okay, we try." And in the evening, I got the information they were arrested, they were beaten up. The camera was confiscated, the material was confiscated and the laptop was destroyed. And the reason why we don't see the real image is that this actual government doesn't want us to see the truth of this country. And, for example, I was in the German Embassy and I spoke to the German ambassador and I wanted to discuss the situtation in Baghdad but these people are unable to tell you anything about Baghdad because the German diplomats and their embassy are not allowed to leave the Embassy one single minute the same holds true with the members and diplomats of the American Embassy.
[. . .]
Jurgen Todenhofer: Yeah, Juan, for those who are informed and I'm very happy that you are informed. Other people? But when I read the comments on the elections in the Western press, when I read that now a new chapter is open and when I see the reality in this country, the sadness. The US didn't liberate this country, they broke it. And, as an example, in August last year, I want to Sadr City to a Sheik. He's a Shi'ite Sheik, he's the leader of one of the biggest tribes in Iraq, he's 29. He's now the leader of the tribe because 12 members of his family have been killed. And I said, "Now you are a Shia Sheik. Are you better off? You're liberated from Saddam Hussein." And he said, "Never in the history of our country, there was such a mess than under the American occupation." And in the six and-a-half-years, it was last August, of the American occupation, more civilians have been killed than under the hard 35 years of Saddam.
[. . .]
Jurgen Todenhofer: We have to find a way for reconciliation in this country. And you have mentioned -- Juan has mentioned -- that we have excluded the elite of the army. Paul Bremer was the guy who did this very, very silly thing. We have excluded the elite of the administration. And we have to reconciliate this country like we did it in South Africa or like we did it in Germany. This means also that in the future political process has to be included the resistance, the leaders of the resistance, the whole resistance and this is not only Sunni resistance, this is also a Shi'ite resistance. I think we have also to include Ba'athists, those that didn't commit crimes.
Todenhofer is a voice with a view point not heard in the US media -- Big or Small -- so we've focused on him at the expense of an overexposed guest in the West who didn't even have the manners or good grace to say, "It was a pleasure to speak to you as well."
Over the weekend in the US, protests took place against the wars. They started Friday and continued through Sunday. In San Francisco, the protest I attended, you could follow the pink road, follow the pink road. I'm referring to a large ground banner which was pink and asked: "Where is our change? Where is our hope?" People began gathering for the rally a little before 11:30 in the morning (you could tell it was about to start as about 20 visible police officers were joined by 16 additional visible police officers just arriving) and, approximately an hour later, the march began ending a little after two o'clock. Chants included "Hey, hey, hey, ho/ The occupation has got to go!" and "Money for jobs and education! Not for wars and occupations!" Signs called out the occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine and drew links to where the US money went and where it didn't. I saw no signs regarding Columbia but I probably missed them. A speaker, Cristina Gutierrez, spoke on the issue and "even under the so-called liberal Obama administration, they still call our freedom fighters 'terrorists' regardless of whether they are in Columbia or Palestine." She gave a powerful speech on how change has not come, with a wide range of supporting evidence including that it is Barack's administration that continues to imprison Lynne Stewart and has "taken over 7 of the 12 military bases in Columbia."
Cristina Gutierrez: We are hear to ask you to stop your government from destroying the aspirations of the people of the world for justice and freedom. We are hear not to ask you not to raise money for us not to commit solidarity with our people but we are here to ask you stop the military budget, to stop the wars and to demand that the money be spent on education, creating jobs, housing and health care of all in this country.
It was a large group -- especially considering that there were demonstrations all over California (Los Angeles and San Diego being only two others). The people were diverse -- in terms of race and ethnicity, economic classification and age. Among the speakers were Daniel Ellsberg.
Daniel Ellsberg: . . . 40 years ago, 41 years ago, in 1969, there was a group and a movement called the moratorium. And they called it the moratorium rather than call it a "general strike" because that seemed too inflamatory. But what it was was, like today, demonstrations all over the country being counted not just in one city. There was 75,000 in indeed in San Francisco, 100,000 in New York. But here were ten here, twenty there, a thousand there, all over the country adding up to 2 million. And the difference was that it was on a weekday. They took off for the day for this so it really was a general strike. They thought it had no effect. They were wrong, the people who ran that and the people who took part in it. Nixon had threatened the North, through Russia and China, that he was going to escalate on November 3, 1969. He was threatening and planning to use nuclear weapons. And, also, as well, to invade Laos and Cambodia, North Vietnam, hit the dikes, hit Hai Phong, All the things that he did do later in the invasion of North Vietnam.
Ellsberg called for more actions like the ones today across the US and a general strike to send the message to DC that we can't "afford one or two trillion dollars away from our infrastructure, our education and our health to kill people". KPFA's Evening News' report on Saturday featured some of A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Richard Becker's speech. Jonathan Nack (Indybay Media -- link has text and photos) reports on the San Francisco action, "The mobilzation was notable not only for its greater size, which organizers estimated at 5,000, but also for its diversity. The crowd was both younger and more multiracial."
DC was the main focal point in the US. Cuba's Periodico reported that gathering rallied "at Lafayette Park on the north side of the White House. The rally was followed by a march that made stops at Halliburton, the Washington Post, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, the National Endowment for Democracy and the Veterans Administration. Organizers said it was the largest demonstration to date opposing the Barack Obama administration's decision to expand the war in Afghanistan with tens of thousands more U.S. occupation troops." AP quoted Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan wondering if "the honeymoon was over with that war criminal in the White House," while Ralph Nader felt the only difference demonstrated between Bush and Barack was "Obama's speeches are better." Narayan Lakshman (The Hindu) added, "While the protest drew a smaller crowd than the tens of thousands who marched during the final years of the Bush administration, the ANSWER coalition, the main organiser, said momentum was building due to disenchantment with President Obama's troop surge decision for Afghanistan. Other participating groups included Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out and the National Council of Arab Americans and activists such as Ralph Nader and Cindy Sheehan." Russia Today offers video of the DC protests. The Times of India quoted Iraq War veteran and Iraq Veterans Against the War member Matthis Chiroux stating, "Obama policies in Iraq and Afghanistan are as criminal as Bush's. The US machine produces war regardless of who is president. We are killing innocents." David Rosenberg (The KPFA Evening News) reported Saturday, "At least eight people, including activist Cindy Sheehan, were arrested by US Park Police at the end of the march after laying coffins at the fence outside the White House." Katherine Shaver (Washington Post) quotes A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Brian Becker stating, "A huge part of the antiwar movement has been focused on the Bush administration and its policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush is gone. Millions of people thought his exit would mean an end to these wars. Instead, after one year of real-life experience, they're far from ending." Also reporting on DC's action is Kosta Harlan (Fight Back!):
Military veterans gave a powerful condemnation of the occupation, and two speakers with Military Families Speak Out and Iraq Veterans Against the War ripped their dog tags and badges off of their uniforms and threw them off the stage, in a symbol of their rejection of the immoral, unjust, and criminal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many of the protestors were youth and new to the antiwar movement, and are committed to rebuilding a broad movement to force the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq.
AP and NBC New York write that the Manhattan protest against the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars today only generated "a few dozen people." I call out the New York leadership in this entry Saturday (and I admit there and here that I was oh so wrong -- that entry was written when a friend and LA peace activist bet me the NYC protest would be miniscule). Good for those who demonstrated. Joan Wile is the author of Grandmothers Against the War. She and Edith Cresmer are members of the Granny Peace Brigade and they wrote the following regarding the NYC action:
On Saturday, March 20, 2010, a beautiful unseasonably warm day, the eighth year of our occupation of Iraq began. Although we are told that officially we are no longer fighting there, that we have pulled back our forces, nevertheless our soldiers continue to die there. And so do many more Iraqis. It is way past time for us to pull out, and yet we remain. Why?
To commemorate the end of our seven years of illegal and immortal attack and occupation of Iraq a compendium of 10 New York City peace groups called the Seven Years Too Many Coalition gathered at the Times Square Recuriting Center to protest the continuation of the war and to call for an end of all wars.
Cheryl Wertz, Exec, Director of Peace Action New York State (PANYS) introduced the speakers -- Councilwoman Gale Brewer, and Vietnam vet Chaplain Hugh Bruce of Veterans for Peace. They discussed some of the terrible effects of war on people at home -- lost jobs, libraries, fire companies, and teachers -- and even worse effects on the people of Iraq and on our G.I.s. Literature was handed out with facts about the terrible results and the absurdity of war.
Demonstrators chanted: What is the cost of War? How Many? and How Much? And answered Too Many, too Many . . . and Too Much, too Much.
Good for all the groups who participated, good for all the individuals. But don't think for a moment that we forget who was silent. That's an NYC action. Where the bulk of Little Media is based. As Elaine pointed out Friday, Little Media wasn't realyl concerned with the Iraq War (forget the kiss ass article you saw at Al Jazeera). As we noted at Third in "Editorial: Barack is killing the left," Saturday morning, NYC Indymedia had nothing on their home page about the demonstration, WBAI didn't have it on the home page or on their monthly calendar. Praise for the Granny Peace Brigade and others who participated but grasp that if the word had gotten out, the number present would have been higher. But 'leaders' weren't interested. Chicago saw action on Saturday. Matt Muchowski (Gapers Block) explains, " On March 17, 2010 over a thousand people rallied at Federal Plaza and marched on Michigan Ave. It came as President Obama is intensifying the war in Afghanistan. The protesters seemed to be mocking Mayor Daley's challenge, 'Where are the anti-war people? They disappeared! They stopped marching!' No, we never did stop marching, even as Daley has continued to antagonize us." CBS reports Chicago activists dyed the Chicago River red and stated, "Most college students can now say that more than one quarter of their lives have been lived while the U.S. has been at war." Melissa Allison (Seattle Times) reports that they gathered "near Westlake Center . . . before marching for an hour through downtown streets." While, according to AP, the people of Raleigh were apathetic as indicated by the lethargic Chris Skidmore who "sipped a drink on the artificial lawn" and stated, "Honestly, with everything that's going on in my personal life, it slipped my mind." AP notes that Albuquerque saw over 100 (local estimates are 120) gathered to protest the continued wars on Saturday. Jake Begun (Badger Herald) reports that Madison, Wisconsin saw 200 gather Saturday for rally and he notes, "Iraq Veterans Against the War Madison Chapter President Todd Dennis said his aim in attending the day's events was to show solidarity with the various groups present and his own friends who have served. The war itself, and veterans' services are lacking, he said. By raising awareness through actions like Saturday's rally and march the issues facing those who fight the country's wars can be better represented." Charles Purnell (Daily Titan) reported on the Los Angeles action and noted Tamara Khoury "was a lead organizer and stage manager at the anti-war protest and peace march. Khoury is also a member of Act Now to Stop War and Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.), the organization that put on the event. Formed September 14, 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, A.N.S.W.E.R. has grown to encompass branches in nearly every major city across the country and has organized some of the largest demonstrations in recent years, including the annual March 20 multi-city marches."
On the protests, Justin Raimondo (Antiwar.com) offers:
Even among those who attended the protests, there were some whose opposition to this administration's foreign policy is squishy at best. The same AP article cites one Shirley Allan of Silver Spring, Md., who "carried a sign that read, "President Obama We love you but we need to tell you! Your hands are getting bloody!! Stop it now."
Ms. Allan's sign says more about her than it does about the issue she purports to address. To confess to loving a political leader whose hands are even a little bit bloody is quite a revealing statement to make, and it just about sums up why the crowd was smaller than on previous occasions. The hate-Bush crowd has quickly morphed into the love-Obama cult of personality, and the so-called progressives have deserted the antiwar movement in droves. Our multiple wars just aren't an issue inside the Democratic party.
On the non-Marxist left, the triumph of the Obama cult is complete. Only the old-fashioned Leninists, such as the main organizers of the ANSWER rallies, have come out in visible opposition to Obama's wars. Even the Marxist left, however, is not immune to Obama-mania: the other major antiwar coalition, United for Peace and Justice, led by veterans of the old Communist Party, USA, issued a euphoric statement upon Obama's election and has been essentially moribund as an active antiwar organization ever since.
It was in this kind of political atmosphere, then – one of near complete political isolation – that rally attendees heard Cindy Sheehan wonder whether "the honeymoon was over with that war criminal in the White House." Sheehan's remark was met, according to AP, with merely "moderate applause." Ms. Allan was not among the applauders:
Many in the media spent the weekend ignoring the anniversary. Bob Schieffer (Face The Nation, CBS News -- link has text and video) didn't, he commented on the anniversary of the start of the Iraq War:
Washington has always been a one-story town. And for the last few weeks -- months, really -- the story has been health care reform. It's all we've been talking about.
Which is probably one reason a rather important anniversary passed almost without notice: March 19.
Ring a bell? Probably not. But March 19 was the seventh anniversary of the Iraq invasion, which began our longest war.
Turning to Iraq where the counting never stops. March 7th, Iraqis completed their voting in Parliamentary elections. Today is March 21st and the votes are still being counted. Rania El Gamal and Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) report that 95% of the votes have been counted and that the results of the 100% count (unofficial count) would not be publicly revealed until Friday; however, Ayad Allawi's political party is at the top of the seesaw currently. One minute the unofficial count has Allawi in the lead and then, as more votes are counted, the lead switches to Nouri al-Maliki's political party. Then it switches again. At this rate, if the official count is anything like the current count, either political party could become the ruling party depending upon which one is able to enter a power-sharing coalition soonest. Sunday Martin Chulov (Guardian) reported, "Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has invoked the spectre of renewed violence if there is no recount of all ballots cast in the general election as its chaotic aftermath appears to increasingly threaten his grip on power." When in doubt, Nouri always screams violence is coming. Of course, when it actually comes, he's forever caught by surprise. Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Iraq's electoral commission on Sunday brushed aside increased pressure from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other politicians demanding a recount in the close parliamentary race that could unseat the incumbent leader and other officials who have dominated Iraq's transition to democracy." If you're thinking of Nouri and how he loves to scream violence to get his way, you may be aware of step two: He stages protests. Hannah Allam and Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy's Miami Herald) report that already Nouri's supporters have taken to the streets in Najaf to 'protest.' The two reporters quote political analyst Haider al-Musawi stating, "The situation may well deteriorate into a state not unlike what happened in Iran. This would be catastrophic for the political process. Iraqis have started to believe that their votes could make a difference. If they see their votes turned around, God only knows where that would lead us -- maybe to violence once again."
Ned Parker and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) also sought out an analyst, "Kenneth Katzman, an analyst on Iraq for the Congressional Research Service, warned Sunday that Maliki could be building the foundations for a non-democratic regime. 'Especially with this language of defending the constitution, setting themselves up as the protectors of the constitution, that is how authoritarian parties usually justify what they do,' Katzman said. 'It's ominous'." Meanwhile another voice joins Nouri's. Timothy Williams and Zaid Thaker (New York Times) explain Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq, has joined in the cries for recounts -- but then, as he did in July's elections, he's sunk his own political party again and is demanding recounts to shift the focus away from his lousy leadership. Talabani is a Kurd. He got himself into trouble not with charges of corruption (though those exist) but by failing to understand his own people. He called a Kurdish land in Iraq "a dream" that would never come true. When he made that statement, he destroyed his own power-base and his party. The Ahrar Party is also calling for a recount and they issued this statement on Friday:
Iraq election results being fixed - call for election recount
The leader of the Ahrar Freedom Party in Iraq today called for a nationwide recount of the results in the recent General Election held on 7 March.
Ayad Jamal Aldin said, "We have sound evidence of nationwide corruption in the election results presently being declared across Iraq. A large number of smaller parties are being deliberately squeezed out of the election result. Thousands of votes are being stolen and transferred to the larger parties, within the Malaki, Allawi and Hakim camps.
"Our Ahrar Party was polling fourth in a large number of governorates and
regions across Iraq and we have evidence that our, and other parties', votes are being excluded and not declared in the results so far.
"We have no confidence in the fairness and honesty of the election counting process. We call for international observers, including the United Nations and
US Vice President Joe Biden to intervene and support an independently
monitored recount of all the votes cast on 7th March. The people of Iraq are
being cheated out of a fair election result. No one has anything to fear from
a fairly conducted recount but if the present election results are allowed to
go unchallenged, Iraq will descend again into conflict rather than benefiting
from a free and fair electoral process."
For further information, contact:
Ahrar Media Bureau
About Ayad Jamal Aldin:
Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a
new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free
of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected
as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party
for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption
and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.
Li Laifang (Xinhua) reminds, "Analysts believe the process of forming a new government
will be tough with much bargaining among blocs and may even take months. The formation of the current government took four months after the December 2005 election." What if the prime minister is neither Allawi nor al-Maliki? It's more than possible. Not only is Ahmed Chalabi said to have arranged for himself to be installed should State of Law prevail in the elections but it's also true that Nouri is a divisive figure. Sami Moubayed (Asia Times) looks at those rumored to be waiting in the wings:
If neither Maliki nor Allawi makes it to the premiership, Iraqis will need to search for a prime minister who is acceptable to both parties. Two names that originally surfaced were Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Adel Abdul Mehdi, both members of the Iran-backed Iraqi National Alliance (INA), which is currently placed third in the poll and is likely to win 68 seats.
Jaafari was immediately written off by Sunnis, since he failed to bring security to Iraq during his 2005-2006 tenure as prime minister. He was unable to control civil strife after terrorists struck at a holy Shi'ite shrine in February 2006, three months before he was replaced by Maliki.
Abdul Mehdi, although acceptable to Iran, is also an unconvincing candidate due, mainly due to objections to him from within the INA. Mehdi's greatest opponents are his own allies, men like Jaafari who have their own eyes on the premiership, or Shi'ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who has always seen Mehdi as an Iranian stooge.
One compromise candidate is Jaafar al-Sadr, a member of the State of Law Coalition who has excellent relations with both his cousin, Muqtada al-Sadr, and the prime minister. Muqtada has made it clear that he will not support Maliki gaining a second term, saying: "During his years in power, Maliki worked for his own personal benefit, not for the people of Iraq."
The count is still preliminary. It is also partial. 95% of the preliminary count is known. Friday, 100% of the vote is supposed to be known. Whether a recount will take place or not is currently up in the air with the election body stating that they will only review charges of fraud and not conduct a recount. That may change as Nouri ramps up the rhetoric. But these are not official results, remember. Turning to official (in that it was reported) violence today . . .
Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured six people and a Kirkuk car bombing which wounded one police officer.
Reuters notes a Baghdad shooting which claimed the lives of 2 police officers, a Baghdad shooting which claimed the lives of 2 Sadr City council members and left one person injured and, dropping back to Sunday, a Baghdad shooting which attacked "the convoy of Muaid al-Lami, the chief of the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate, and wounded his driver "
The Iraqi wounded get little attention. Do the US wounded get that much more? Not according to US House Rep Bob Filner who appeared this morning on Connect the Dots with Lila Garrett (KPFK) and explained that the government is hiding the number of US wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
US House Rep Bob Filner: [. . .] in understanding this war, you have to understand the costs both in the material costs and the human costs. Our official statistics for Iraq and Afghanistan is that over 5,000 have been killed, almost 40,000 injured. Now take that 40,000. Compare that with almost a million veterans of this war who have already come to the Veterans Administration hospital seeking care for injuries and conditions suffered in the war. I mean, compare a million versus 40,000. I mean, that's not just a rounding error, that's a deliberate attempt to mislead us on the nature of the war and its cost. And out of that million who have come to the VA, several hundred thousand who have brain injury, several hundred thousand have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and they were not diagnosed before they left the battlefield. And that's a purposeful ommission. If we don't evaluate them, then we don't know. And by the way, Lila, even earlier in the war when they were evaluating people, they deliberately changed the diagnosis from PTSD to what's called Personality Disorder. And a Personality Disorder means that you had this before you entered the armed services and therefore we didn't give it to you and, in fact, we don't even have to take care of you. Now that's a terrible crime perpetrated on these young men and women who have volunteered for service. When they get mental injuries, they're not recognized.
US House Rep Bob Filner is the Chair of the House Veterans Committee. In other news, we'll note this from Debra Sweet's "Two Days Into the 8th Year of the Iraq War: What do we Do Next?" (World Can't Wait):
What are you being asked to give money towards, in this Anti-War Offensive fundraising drive? We have a plan to stop the war - but you are needed.
The We Are Not Your Soldiers tour is getting ready to hit schools in Ohio this weekend, with more requests coming in from Seattle, Massachusetts and Connecticut. This tour brings Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to the schools to talk to students about the on-the-ground reality of the wars and the need for students to stop military recruiters.
We want recruiters out now and we want to turn schools into hot spots of resistance, creating a situation where military recruiters are met with daily protest by the students themselves in all areas where they recruit. There is great need and a demand for this from teachers, parents and students. Watch some of the previous presentations:
Coming up soon, March 29th and March 30, Liz, a World Can't Wait activist, and Anthony Wagner, an Iraq War veteran, will be traveling from Chicago to Cleveland, Ohio, where they have been asked by teachers to reach out to 2 schools and at least 200 students. Then, on March 31, they have been asked to travel to Columbus, Ohio to speak in multiple classes to 110 students!
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST). We'll close with this from Bacon's "MARCHING FOR CALIFORNIA'S FUTURE THROUGH TODAY'S DESOLATION" (New American Media):
As the March for California's Future heads up the San Joaquin Valley towards Sacramento, participants are coming up hard against the reality of the economic crisis in rural California. The march began in Bakersfield, the day after widespread protests swept through the state's schools and universities on March 4. It is a protest against the impact of state budget cuts on education and social services, and marchers are finding that Valley communities are among those that feel their effects most strongly.
"Watsonville has a 27% unemployment rate," says Jenn Laskin, a teacher at Renaissance Continuation High School there. "It's the strawberry capital of the world, and strawberries are a luxury. In a recession, people stop buying them, so workers no longer have a job in the fields. I have many students who have both parents out of work, who grow food in our school garden for their families."
But in the Central Valley, she thinks, things seem worse. "The towns we've been passing through feel a lot more desolate," Laskin explains. Those include the small farm worker communities of Shafter, McFarland, Delano, Pixley and Tulare. "I see a lot of fields with nothing planted at all. I was in a Mexican restaurant in Pixley and there was not a Mexican in sight. The problems I see in Watsonville might even be sharper here. I see more need here, and I'm guessing probably fewer services."
She's not far off. The official unemployment rate in December in Kern County was 16%. Since Bakersfield, a major urban area, has a lower rate, towns like Shafter and McFarland have even more jobless. Crossing into Kings and Tulare Counties, unemployment jumps to over 17% in each.
rania el gamal
the wall street journal
mohammed al dulaimy
the los angeles times