Monday, April 04, 2011

Violence and political jockeying

Xiong Tong (Xinhua) reports a Ramadi bombing late last night claimed the lives of 3 police officers and left thirteen injured while a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life (bodyguard for "a senior official of the Iraqi industrial ministry") and left three more injured while a second Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Sahwa member and a third Baghdad roadside bombing injuring Razzaq Issah ("director general of the government-owned Iraqi Investments Board") and leaving one more person wounded.

In news out of Parliament, Alsumaria TV reports that the vote on whether or not Falluja was a massacre has been shot down "due to rows between the National Alliance and Iraqiya on considering Falluja incidents as a massacre." Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) notes that many saw the proposal as political jockeying and notes that most of the parties in Parliament were members in 2004 and that such a measure would point the finger at more than just Ayad Allawi (Allawi was prime minister then). Aswat al-Iraq reports that Saturday, approximately 95% of Iraqiya MPs refused to vote in favor of Khalid al-Obaidi for the post of Minister of Defense. Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) reports that Ali Youssef al-Shukri was confirmed by Parliament as the Minister of Planning today.

Meanwhile Mohammad Akef Jamal (Gulf News) surveys the non-progress in Iraq:

Since the downfall of the former regime in 2003, Iraq has seen grave events that resulted in almost a million deaths, including those of prominent members of society needed by the community for their knowledge and skills. And whenever a major violent operation takes place, we hear that the Iraqi government is about to set up a high-ranking investigative body to look into the matter. However, the public is never informed about the results of the investigations.
After all these years, we still don't know who bombed the two Al Askari Shrines in Samara, or who was behind the assassination of Iraqi pilots, Iraqi experts and technocrats.
We still don't know who killed and displaced hundreds of university professors, doctors, and media personalities. The secrecy and cover up is a good reason for suspicion.
Moreover, if the investigative committees have discovered the identity of the criminals, why aren't the culprits brought to justice and put on trial in the open, like officials of the former regime were tried?
Aren't the crimes committed against Iraqi minorities a form of genocide and mass killings that need conclusive measures to expose the groups responsible? Or is the cover up a political necessity?
Who are the groups behind the criminal acts of today? Why are the security authorities unable to prevent these crimes?

Today on Law and Disorder Radio (begins broadcasting at 9:00 am EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week), Michael Ratner, Heidi Boghosian and Michael S. Smith remember legendary attorney Leonard Weinglass who passed away last month and Michael Ratner talks with Germany's Wolfgang Kaleck about Uinversal Jurisdiction cases. David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this from Bacon's "CESAR CHAVEZ AND THE FARM WORKERS MOVEMENT" (In These Times):

The conditions that ignited the burning desire to organize in the 1960a are still out there in the nation's fields today. In fact, they've gotten worse. At the height of the union's power in the late 1970s the base farm labor wage was twice the minimum wage. Today that would be $16 an hour - more if the minimum wage had actually risen with inflation. Today the minimum wage is the wage for most farm workers, and many earn less, law or no.
Growers tore down most labor camps in California in the era of the great strikes. Today thousands of migrant field laborers sleep under trees, in cars, or in the fields themselves as they travel with the harvest. Most workers have toilets and drinking water, and where they know their rights, they don't have to use the short-handled hoe. But labor contractors, who were once replaced by union hiring halls, have retaken control of the fields. And as contractors compete to sell the labor of farm workers to the growers, they cut wages even further.
Medical insurance, once guaranteed by UFW contracts, has again become a dream for most workers. In the meantime, the lack of safe working conditions was dramatized by the death in 2008 of 17-year-old Maria Isavel Vasquez Jimenez, who was denied shade and water and collapsed in 100-degree heat. The low value put on her life and that of workers like her was also dramatized - by the sentence of community service given by the state court to the labor contractor responsible. West Coast Farms, the grower, wasn't penalized at all, because it claimed the contractor was responsible for conditions in its grape field.
The response that led to the creation of the UFW is still the answer farm workers themselves give to those conditions - to organize, strike and boycott. The year before Cesar died, five thousand workers struck in the grape fields in Coachella, winning the first wage increase they'd had in a decade. Every year spontaneous work stoppages like it, although perhaps not on that scale, take place in U.S. fields.
And in the years since the first grape strike in 1965, farm worker unions have grown to over a dozen, in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Texas, Ohio, Connecticut, Florida, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, in addition to California. To one degree or another, all draw inspiration from the movement that started in Coachella and Delano. Chavez was that movement's leader, but not the only one. Others also had a part - women like Dolores Huerta and Jessica Govea, Filipino labor leaders Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, African American Mack Lyons and many white organizers from the civil rights and student movements of the day.

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