From Our Daily Report

  • migrantsCommentators have noted the roots of the current massive migration from Central America in the political economy of the free trade order. The US-led repression and counter-insurgency in the isthmus in the 1980s allowed the imposition of "free trade" or "neoliberal" regimes in the generation since then—culminating in the passage of CAFTA. This, in turn, has exacerbated the expropriation from the peasantry of their traditional lands by agribusiness and agro-export oligarchies. But this dynamic is now being augmented by factors related to political ecology—the degradation of the land itself due to climate destabilization. (Photo: IOM)

CRITIQUE OF GEOPOLITICS AND THE LEFT

An Interview with Veteran Journalist and Activist Bill Weinberg

Bill Weinberg

by Jae Carico, Pontiac Tribune

This interview with CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg was conducted via email by Jae Carico of The Fifth Column Network for its organ Pontiac Tribune. It also appeared on the Patreon page of Guillotine Press.

Could you introduce yourself for those unfamiliar with your work?

I'm a 30-year veteran journalist in the fields of human rights, indigenous peoples, drug policy and war. I've reported widely from Latin America and am the author of Homage to Chiapas: The New Indigenous Struggles in Mexico, about the Zapatistas and related movements. I'm struggling to finish a follow-up book about indigenous struggles in the Andes. I was news editor at High Times magazine in the '90s, and continue to cover the drug war beat for Cannabis Now magazine.

I was a producer on WBAI Radio here in New York for 20 years before being purged for my political dissent in 2011. Since 9-11, I have been obsessively blogging world affairs from an anarchist/autonomist point of view. You can read my daily offerings at CounterVortex.org. I have also been involved in solidarity work with the left and anti-occupation civil resistance in Iraq after the US invasion, and then the pro-democratic resistance in Syria after the revolution broke out in 2011. I was involved in similar solidarity efforts with anti-nationalist and anti-militarist opposition in all the ex-Yugoslav republics during the Balkan wars of the '90s.

U.S. LEFT MUST NOT FORGET AFGHAN WOMEN

Afghan women

by Andy Heintz, CounterVortex

The US government's announcement that it has opened negotiations with the Taliban to help bring the war in Afghanistan to an end should be a source of concern for women's rights advocates everywhere. While it's still not easy to be a woman in Afghanistan, women have made progress in the areas of education, employment and representation in government since the Talban were overthrown by the US-led invasion of 2003. President Donald Trump also has worried many Afghans—although some were optimistic about the decision—by talking about pulling troops out of the country to end US involvement in what is now its longest war.

The danger of women losing hard-won rights should not only be a concern to those who supported the war—but for anyone who cares about human rights and gender equality. The feminist writer Meredith Tax has a point when she criticizes many anti-war activists for not being able to hold two ideas in their heads at the same time. While the anti-war movement is not homogeneous, too many activists see the world from a US-centric viewpoint that narrows their vision and prevents them from seeing and understanding the struggles of progressive figures in other countries.

ANTI-TERROR LAW COULD TARGET AID GROUPS

UNRWA

by Samuel Oakford, IRIN

A new US anti-terror law that has forced the majority of American-funded aid operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to grind to a halt may have even wider humanitarian consequences, leaving nonprofits around the world more vulnerable to litigation. 

While the 700-word bill appears to have been targeted at the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, experts say the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, or ATCA, is poorly crafted and could result in some non-governmental organizations and businesses being reluctant to take US funding or be associated with US-financed programs.

Signed in October last year and law as of January 31, ATCA is an attempt by US lawmakers to make it easier for American courts to hear civil suits related to terrorist attacks abroad, specifically those involving authorities tied to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

WEATHER WAR

How Iran's Regime Uses Floods and Drought as Tools of Ethnic Cleansing

Ahwaz flood

by Rahim Hamid, Dur Untash Studies Centre

In most countries prone to regular severe weather events such as heavy flooding, governments take precautionary measures in vulnerable regions to at least minimize the probable damage and protect citizens' lives and property. 

Unfortunately, however, some governments not only exploit such disasters but deliberately manufacture and intensify them as a strategic weapon against parts of the population that threaten the leaders' economic exploitation of their resources. These governments spare no effort to engineer or exacerbate the effects of such disasters, effectively weaponizing climate change against the people.

Iran's theocratic regime is one such government, pursuing policies that effectively amount to ethnocide against the Ahwazi Arab population. Ahwazis have the misfortune to live in an oil-rich region, from which Iran extracts 95% of the oil and gas resources that it lays claim to. This massive oil wealth, which was the primary reason for Iran's forcible annexation of Ahwaz in the early 20th century, has been a far greater curse than a blessing to the Ahwazi people, most of whom now subsist in nearly medieval conditions of poverty. The international community, meanwhile, seems indifferent to their plight

TOGO PROTESTS CHALLENGE DICTATORSHIP

Togo protesters

by Regina Asinde, Waging Nonviolence

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets of cities across the West African country of Togo on Dec. 8, as part of a recently revived wave of nationwide protests demanding political reforms. At the center of their demands is the reinstatement of the 1992 constitution, which included a two-term limit on the presidency before being stripped away by former president Eyadéma Gnassingbé, father of current president Faure Gnassingbé.

Mass protests first erupted in August 2017, forcing the government into internationally-moderated negotiations, which—in an attempt to resolve the decades-long political crisis—led to the reinstatement of the two-term limit. However, outrage was soon reignited when it was discovered that past presidential terms would not apply, thereby allowing Faure Gnassingbé—already in his third term—to run for president in 2020 as if it were his first time. Negotiations broke down soon after that, leading to the revival of protests in November.

"Nobody is willing to take that in Togo," said Togolese Civil League executive director Farida Nabourema. "After 51 years of the Gnassingbé, asking us to give them an additional 10 years, starting 2020, is basically asking us to commit suicide. It's something we cannot let happen, and it’s the reason we are back on the streets."

After first allowing protests in pre-approved zones, the government outright banned large demonstrations before the Dec. 8 mobilization. When upwards of 500,000 people turned out in Lomé, the capital city, the regime deployed heavy military force, wounding dozens of civilians and killing at least three—including an 11-year-old boy.

IT'S NOT ABOUT 'REGIME CHANGE'

A Brief Account of US Intervention in Syria
al-Tanf
by Ani White, Fightback

Noam Chomsky's recent criticism of US withdrawal from Kurdish-held territory in Syria poses a strange contradiction: Why have so many on the left accused Syrian Arab rebels of being US proxies, while either supporting or remaining silent on the far more consistent US support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) against ISIS?

Given the widespread misinformation about Syria, a basic rundown of the facts about US involvement is necessary. What follows is a very brief outline of well-established facts about the war.

The dominant narrative on the left holds that US involvement in Syria is an attempt at "regime change." As highlighted by Michael Karadjis' Syrian Revolution Commentary and Analysis, this is in contradiction with the statements of US officials:

CUBA SURRENDERS 'GREEN SCARE' FUGITIVE

Is Assata Shakur Safe?

Dibee

by Bill Weinberg, Fifth Estate

Even amid worsening US-Cuba relations under Trump, it still seemed like a sign of changing times when Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, a fugitive animal-rights militant, was intercepted by Cuban authorities and turned over to the FBI in early August.

Popped by Cuban cops on an INTERPOL Red Notice, Dibee was flown to Portland, Ore., where he pleaded not guilty Aug 10 to taking part in a 1997 arson attack. The target had been a meatpacking plant in the Oregon desert, where wild horses were processed into dog food. This was but the first of several charges he faces before federal courts in Oregon, Washington and California.

The Cubans had apparently been tipped off by US authorities, who had learned that Dibee would pass through the island while traveling from Central America to Russia. He was apparently keeping mobile in a bid to avoid detection.

BLASPHEMY LAWS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Ireland's Vote to Remove Blasphemy from Constitution and the Asia Bibi CaseAsia Bibi

by Pearl Goldman, Jurist

In a referendum held on October 26, 2018, the people of Ireland voted to amend the Irish Constitution to remove the word blasphemy from Article 40.6.1, which declared that "[t]he publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law." This constitutional change enables the Oireachtas, Ireland's National Parliament, to change statutory law so that blasphemy is no longer a crime. It also represents the most recent advance in this predominantly Catholic country toward a more secular society. Same-sex marriage and abortion were legalized in two earlier referenda. And it might constitute an important step in undoing some of the unintentional international consequences of Ireland's criminalization of blasphemy.

Ireland's blasphemy ban was enshrined in the constitution in 1937, during an era when church and state were seen as a single entity and defaming the established religion was tantamount to treason. Corresponding definitions and penalties were enacted in the 2009 Defamation Act. In contrast to Article 40.6.1 of the constitution, which had protected only Christians from blasphemy, the 2009 Act was designed to protect all religions. The Act defined blasphemy as "publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defenses permitted." However, it was widely believed that the Act did no more than give lip service to the constitutional requirement that blasphemy be declared a crime because, on any fair reading, the statutory provision was unenforceable.

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