North Africa

Morocco orders closure of opposition newspaper

Moroccan authorities ordered closed the independent news magazine Le Journal Hebdomadaire following what editors and press freedom advocates call a long campaign of harassment.

Issue #164, February 2010

Electronic Journal & Daily Report HELPING HAITI: OUR DOLLARS AREN’T ENOUGH Active Solidarity is the Real Challenge by David L. Wilson, World War 4 Report HAITI AND THE JEWS: FORGOTTEN HISTORY by Nirit Ben-Ari, Ha’aretz MEXICO: DRUG WAR MILITARIZATION CONTINUES… Read moreIssue #164, February 2010


Book Review:

Voices from the Grassroots,
by Carlos MartĂ­nez, Michael Fox, and JoJo Farrell
PM Press, Oakland, 2010

by Hans Bennett, Upside Down World

There are many different ways that the corporate media continues to misrepresent the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Many critics of this biased media coverage have directly challenged the demonization of Venezuelan President Hugo ChĂĄvez, but very few critics, if any, have exposed the media’s virtual erasure of the vibrant and growing participatory democracy in Venezuela. The new book entitled Venezuela Speaks! Voices from the Grassroots offers a powerful correction to this misrepresentation by spotlighting a wide range of people and movements that are actively governing themselves, within official governmental structures created since the 1998 election of President ChĂĄvez, and the growing non-governmental social movements that have existed for several decades.

Venezuela Speaks! embodies this non-hierarchical philosophy by presenting the voices of the people themselves in interviews from practically every sector of society, including community organizers, educators, journalists, cultural workers, farmers, women, students, and Indigenous & Afro-Venezuelans. Co-authors Carlos MartĂ­nez, Michael Fox, and JoJo Farrell argue persuasively that this untold story of democracy from the bottom up is key to understanding the complexity of the present-day political situation in Venezuela. They write that “by failing to see beyond ChĂĄvez and the government’s anti-neoliberal policies, one of the most significant political dynamics in Venezuela has gone ignored and underappreciated—the dynamic between a government that has committed itself to a discourse of grassroots political participation, and the response of ordinary Venezuelans to this call, often in ways that go beyond the expectations of the government, occasionally even challenging it.”

Authors MartĂ­nez, Fox, and Farrell explain that “the idea of participatory democracy, as opposed to representative democracy has been a pillar of ChĂĄvez’s political movement since his successful run for office in 1998.” The most well-known example of participatory democracy in Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution is the system of communal councils, which have “provided Venezuelans with a legal mechanism to locally organize themselves into democratic structures of between 200-400 families, with the greater goal of determining the way that government funds get used for development and infrastructure projects in their communities.”

However, the authors argue that the community councils are just the “tip of the iceberg of the construction of popular power in Venezuela. Over the course of the Bolivarian Revolution, Venezuelans have created cooperatives; taken over factories; occupied urban and rural lands; launched community radio and television stations; built centers for culture and popular education; participated in creating national legislation and found numerous other ways of bringing the government’s discourse of popular power into reality. Many of these actions have been motivated by the words of President ChĂĄvez or have been facilitated by government initiatives. Meanwhile, many people behind these actions continue to pressure the government in order to survive or succeed.”

While the revolution has opened up new possibilities for popular participation, many of the participants interviewed explain how they are actively pressuring the governmental bureaucracy to follow through on the revolution’s goals. Looking at this tension between social movements and the state, the authors write that “while much of the blame has been attributed to corrupt or right-wing elements still functioning within the government’s bureaucracy, many social movements also argue that an overly ‘institutionalized’ approach to revolutionary change has not taken their independent initiatives sufficiently into account.” Indeed, “many social movements recognize the reality that although government leadership may have changed, radical transformation will often still demand confrontation with those in political power.”

The authors recognize the interviewees “conflict and frustration” with the government, but they argue that “rather than let their criticisms of Venezuela’s political process fill us with disillusionment, these testimonies should provide us with inspiration in knowing that so many people are actively engaged in constructing their new society, regardless of setbacks.” This point is clearly the dominant theme throughout the book, with the authors boldly asserting that “beyond the social programs, economic projects, and anti-neoliberal policies promoted by the national government, truly profound change will only come from the active debate and dialogue between organized peoples and the government. It is this debate and dialogue that has set Venezuela apart from many national liberation struggles of the past, and if Venezuela is to succeed where others have failed, then it must continue to strengthen this relationship.”

Yanahir Reyes Joins Book Tour
Marking the release of Venezuela Speaks!, co-authors Michael Fox and Carlos Martinez are joining photographer Sylvia Leindecker on a book tour around the US. The tour began in San Francisco’s Mission District on January 14 and on the East Coast on January 20, in Arlington, Virginia.

For the East Coast segment, they will also be joined by Yanahir Reyes, who works with Women’s First Steps Civil Association and is the founder of Millennium Women’s Word, a feminist radio program broadcasted on a community radio station in her neighborhood of Caricuao. The 28-year old Reyes is featured in Venezuela Speaks, as part of the chapter focusing on women and sexual diversity movements. Her powerful account is just one of the many interviews featured, but it shows the complexity of how the Bolivarian Revolution has impacted women’s liberation.

Reyes explains that her earliest feminist consciousness came from home, as she saw that her father, a former member of a leftist guerrilla movement, “could go out and do whatever he wanted. He was freer, while my mother stayed at home, taking care of us-the girls-ironing, washing, scrubbing, and cleaning the house.” After discovering that he was having an extra-marital affair, she saw her father as “a coward, a chauvinist,” who “had the power to dominate the situation.” According to Reyes, this type of sexual inequality is compounded by the poverty because “housing is very hard to come by in Caracas and sadly some women are forced to remain in demeaning situations because of it·I want to have my own apartment, alone. I want to travel, to do a lot of things without depending on a man.”

Reyes talks about her involvement in the local ludoteca, which serves as an educational, family, and community center that is flexible and “responds to the needs of the people. The ludotecas are different from traditional schools, because they can take place anywhere in a community—under a mango tree, a room in a barrio, on a closed-off street. The ludoteca isn’t managed by the teacher or an institution, it’s managed by the people. Mothers and fathers participate in the space,” and it “has the objective of strengthening the emotional bonds within the family and using play as a means of education—but an education for transformation.”

Along with working towards a healthy family, the ludoteca has been an important tool for women’s education. As mothers brought their children in, they would gradually become more involved with their children’s education by volunteering at the ludoteca. Reyes explains that “the women were not trained in workshops or anything like that. They began by observing what [co-worker] Milda and I did. But when the women began to participate as volunteers, they started learning children’s songs, how to play the children’s games, how to work with pregnant women. It wasn’t about us teaching the mothers. They learned through practice.” Even further, “the school pushes the community to organize, to solve serious human rights issues, like the right to water, education, security, recreation, nutrition, and other necessities. The ludoteca functions as a safe space, preventing the violence generated by the nature of survival and the vicious cycle of patriarchy and capitalism.”

Illustrating the Bolivarian Revolution’s contradictions and tensions, their ludoteca had trouble getting financial support from the government’s Ministry of Education, which Reyes attributes to the Ministry’s “conservative and bourgeois education policies.” However, “we were able to receive support from Fundayacucho, which is a foundation under the Ministry of Education. These are the contradictions we have in the government. The people inside Fundayacucho understand this project, but the people working directly in the Ministry don’t.”

Reyes concludes her interview by arguing that the Bolivarian Revolution has opened doors for women, but “our concern goes beyond the language of gender inclusion and the political participation of women. The larger struggle is to change the culture.” Reyes cites several important government initiatives for women, including the National Women’s Institute and the 2007 Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence, which “actually examined the different forms of violence established by patriarchy and machismo as a cultural and ideological system. The creation of the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality in March of 2009 was another very significant step. But I have to say that the bureaucracy swallows good intentions. I think it is a mistake to keep strengthening the institutions. The communities are ready to make the changes. The struggle continues to be the divide between institutions and popular power.”


Hans Bennett is an independent multi-media journalist whose website is Insubordination. This review first appeared Jan. 20 on Upside Down World. Details on the book tour are available at PM Press.

See also:

The Bolivarian Government Against Union Autonomy
by Rafael Uzcategui, Tierra y Libertad
World War 4 Report, November 2009


Reprinted by World War 4 Report, February 1, 2010
Reprinting permissible with attribution



What Comes Next For the Anti-War Forces?

by Bill Weinberg, Phase 2

In assessing how our position has changed one year into the Barack Obama administration, the anti-war forces must avoid twin errors: that of relaxing our vigilance and opposition to the continuing permanent war, and that of denying the de-escalations in the global and domestic situation that have in fact taken place. The prior error will defeat the very purpose of our movements, while the latter will relegate us to further marginalization. Only a distanced consideration of exactly what has changed since the Bush years can provide an accurate assessment of the empire’s new posture—and the correct way to respond to it.

Orwellian Nobel Peace Prize
Obama’s election was a repudiation of the “neocons”—and their hubristic program of endless “regime change” throughout the Middle East (and eventually the rest of the world)—by both the US electorate and political elite.

Citing a more “hopeful state of world affairs” brought about in part by the new administration in Washington, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in January announced that it was moving the minute hand of its famous Doomsday Clock one minute back—to six minutes of midnight. The decision echoes the findings of the Nobel Peace Prize committee that Obama has significantly ratcheted down global tensions.

Yet Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech was an open defense of the two wars that he is waging—the one in Iraq winding down but still involving some 130,000 US troops (and many more private contractors); the one in Afghanistan rapidly escalating, with the 100,000 US troops there slated to rise this year to higher than Iraq levels (in addition to private contractors and a 30,000-strong international force).

According to a Jan. 13 Associated Press report, Obama will ask Congress for an additional $33 billion for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars—on top of what promises to be a record-breaking $708 billion for the Pentagon next year. It is a grim comment on our times that a president elected on an anti-war platform, and still perceived as a peace-maker, will be the first to boost the Defense Department budget over $700 billion.

Obama’s Pentagon is now viewing Afghanistan and Pakistan as a single “Af-Pak” theater. Obama has actually escalated US drone strikes against presumed al-Qaeda targets in Pakistani territory—over the open objections of the Islamabad government, Washington’s supposed ally. The drone strikes—now coming every few days—reportedly killed some 700 in 2009, overwhelmingly noncombatants. This counter-productive strategy only fuels the Taliban insurgency that now threatens to destabilize Pakistan entirely.

Dismantling the Torture Regime—Maybe
Obama has not met his deadline, announced in an executive order last January, to close the military prison at GuantĂĄnamo Bay within a year, and officials admit the camp may remain open until 2011 to allow an Illinois prison time to prepare for the arrival of the detainees. Even at the Thomson Correctional Center, the detainees will still remain under Pentagon administrative control, not that of the civilian authorities.

Of the 775 detainees that have passed through Guantánamo since it was opened in the aftermath of 9-11, less than 200 remain—but their fate is uncertain. The Obama administration has decided to try some in the civilian courts—the five charged in the 9-11 conspiracy—but has gone ahead with military tribunals for others. The tribunals are ostensibly proceeding with greater standards for due process, following a reform of the Military Commissions Act. Of course, the right adamantly opposes any transfer of the Guantánamo detainees to US soil.

The administration has also taken measures to dismantle the secret network of clandestine prisons launched by the Pentagon and CIA under the Bush administration, which held many thousands around the world. The most significant hub in this global gulag, the prison at Afghanistan’s Bagram air base, has been moved off the base in preparation for its transfer to Afghan authorities. This will not necessarily mean an improvement in the human rights situation faced by the detainees there, but hopefully it will at least become a traditional prison rather than an extra-legal one. Obama has continued the Bush policy of denying any recognition of the habeas corpus rights of detainees held by the US overseas.

The passing of Obama’s deadline for the closure of GuantĂĄnamo means that now there is no longer any firm timeline for shutting the prison camp. And disturbingly, the Obama administration is calling for dismissal of the pending suit against Bush administration attorney John Yoo, author of the notorious “torture memos” that authorized human rights abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan and GuantĂĄnamo.

Slowing the Trajectory Towards a Police State—Tentatively
On the domestic front, Obama has called a halt to the Bush administration’s aggressive and brutal coast-to-coast raids on factories, workplaces and neighborhoods by the Homeland Security Department’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Instead, ICE is sending employers written notice that they may face civil fines if they are found to be using unauthorized workers. Obama’s Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona’s Maricopa County—who has run a local anti-immigrant police state complete with detainment camps—and ICE has revoked his authority to enforce federal immigration law. (Arpaio has vowed to defy the federal order, but so far hasn’t.)

But a New York Times report of Jan. 9 (based on data procured through the Freedom of Information Act) revealed that the Obama administration has continued to conceal the facts concerning more than 100 deaths in ICE detention facilities since 2003. And while Obama has thus far resisted calls to mobilize army troops to the Mexican border, he has not halted construction of the border wall launched by the Bush administration.

Following the attempted Christmas Day jetliner terror attack, Homeland Security has instated new airline passenger screening measures based on country of origin that rights groups are assailing as unconstitutional.

New Quagmires Beckon
Since the attempted Christmas attack, Yemen has emerged as the next country to be targeted for a US-directed counter-insurgency—although even before the attempt, there were reports of US warplanes carrying out bombing raids in Yemeni territory. The multiple insurgencies in Yemen (waged by both Sunni and Shi’ite militants) could draw the US into yet a third military quagmire.

With the change of administration in Washington, the likelihood of US aggression against Iran has greatly diminished. So too have the odds of the CIA and State Department attempting to groom the opposition there as proxies, following the neocon playbook—which is the last thing Iran’s pro-democracy movement needs. However, if Israel launches air-strikes against Iran, Obama will be faced with the choice of whether to back Tel Aviv up, either politically or militarily.

Obama has not removed the Special Forces troops sent by Bush as military advisors to West Africa, with little public notice. The growing presence of the self-declared “al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” means greater risk of US troops being drawn into combat in Mali, Niger or Mauritania.

US Special Forces and Marines continue to hold joint manoeuvres with Philippine troops in the southern island of Mindanao, wracked by a Muslim insurgency. Under Bush, US Special Forces were briefly drawn into combat in Mindanao, and there are reports that there have been such incidents under the new administration as well.

There are other opportunities for Washington to be sucked into military adventures by circumstance. The Pentagon rescue mission to earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince appears as a moral necessity, but could be the beginning of a new US occupation of Haiti—especially if the situation in the destroyed city turns violent.

Hemispheric Militarization Advances
There is little evidence that Obama’s CIA was involved in last summer’s coup d’etat in Honduras, but Washington’s supposed isolation of the de facto regime has in fact been full of loopholes—even Pentagon training of Honduran military officers apparently continued. Washington’s intent to normalize relations with Honduras after the transfer of power to a new government on Jan. 27—following an election rejected as illegitimate by the popular resistance movement—will place Obama at odds with much of the rest of the hemisphere.

Although the US media have barely noted it, Obama is going ahead with plans launched under Bush to establish permanent military bases in Colombia—which remains both the top US aid recipient and worst human rights abuser in the western hemisphere. The leftist government of Hugo Chávez in neighboring Venezuela openly views establishment of the bases as a springboard for intervention, and the issue has greatly escalated tensions along the already militarized border.

Obama is also replicating the “Plan Colombia” model in Mexico, where drug-related violence is escalating to nearly the level of a civil war. The $1.4 billion “Merida Initiative” of military aid packages to Mexico and the Central American republics is directly modeled on the Colombian experience, although it stops short of actually committing US military advisors (which would be deemed an affront to Mexican nationalism).

The Obama administration has taken some measures to de-escalate the War on Drugs, which has been a disaster for civil and human rights both at home and abroad. Obama’s Justice Department has pledged to respect California’s medical marijuana law, and call off the raids that were standard practice under Bush (and continued through Obama’s first year). But federal prosecutors will, in fact, still have autonomy to enforce the US drug laws even where they clash with state law. And this retreat is but a small step towards the general decriminalization that will be needed to undercut the ultra-violent cartels, to break the trajectory towards a domestic police state north of the border and entropic war in Mexico.

The Thunder on the Right
Of course, the most organized and angry opposition to Obama is coming from the right, and it is imperative to recognize that many of the grievances fueling this opposition are absolutely legitimate. The “Tea-baggers” are foremost furious at the massive tax-payer rip-off represented by last year’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)—the notorious $700 billion Wall Street bail-out. Unfortunately, this rage has become mixed up with racism and xenophobia, paranoid opposition to a public health care system, and the anti-choice position on reproductive freedom.

This movement employs paradoxical anti-fascist rhetoric. Even the National Review’s Jonah Goldberg has launched a blog baiting Obama with the oxymoron of “Liberal Fascism.” But fascism in its incipient phases always exploits populism—only to utterly betray it once power has been achieved. If more radical and openly racist elements consolidate leadership, the potential is real for the anti-Obama backlash to bring about a genuine fascist movement. Armed resistance on the right, or the taking of the White House by a right-wing populist such as Sarah Palin in 2012 are ominous possibilities.

On the other hand, a principled alliance with grassroots conservatives is possible around issues of civil liberties, economic justice and perhaps even the war(s). The prerequisites for such an alliance are, first of all, knowing our own politics and being explicit about where they differ from those of the grassroots right. We can openly disagree with Libertarians on economic issues and still make a tactical alliance with them around protecting constitutional rights, for instance. We can even coalesce with those we disagree with on abortion and immigration—if there is absolute clarity about those disagreements, and if they are not the ones actually leading the charge against reproductive freedom and immigrants’ rights.

Such alliances can not only raise the effectiveness of our demands, but hold the potential to spark a much-needed cross-grassroots dialogue and woo elements of the populist conservative opposition away from the hardcore racists—although if leftists attempt to impose their leadership, it will surely backfire.

There are, however, lines that cannot be crossed in alliance-building or even in dialogue. Embracing racists (even of the veiled variety today typical), or failing to make clear our differences with coalition partners, can play into the hands of the building fascist backlash—and help make a rope for our own necks. This grave error has already been displayed in Ralph Nader’s uncritical embrace of Pat Buchanan, and the growing popularity of right-wing conspiracy theory on the ostensible “left.”

The Post-GWOT Era?
Although the US military remains massively overstretched, there are indications that since Obama’s election, we have entered the post-GWOT era. The nomenclature, at least, has changed. The Obama administration has formally abandoned the Bush-era phrase “Global War on Terrorism.” The new term is the dryly clinical and antiseptic “Overseas Contingency Operation.” Is this an improvement—or a switch from a hubristic and bellicose rallying cry to an Orwellian euphemism? A normalization of permanent war?

In either case, the anti-war forces need to rethink the errors that have led to the decline of our movement even as the US escalates the unpopular Afghanistan war. Those who have relaxed their vigilance, failing to protest the Afghan “surge” because it is now a liberal Democrat’s war, represent one such erroneous tendency. And those who deny the de-escalations that have in fact taken place in other spheres paradoxically fuel this tendency.

Linked to this error is the hard left’s growing embrace of some of the ugliest exponents of global reaction. Supposed Marxists bizarrely look to the deeply reactionary forces of political Islam as the heroic “resistance” in occupied Iraq and Afghanistan. The so-called “9-11 Truth” movement similarly denies the realities of al-Qaeda and its allied forces, and increasingly embraces professional conspiracy hucksters of the right-wing and xenophobic variety (e.g. Alex Jones).

The Challenge of Solidarity
The secular civil resistance in the countries under imperial assault—groups such as the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, the Iraq Freedom Congress, and Iraq’s independent trade unions—have no such illusions about political Islam. They view political Islam and US imperialism as “twin poles of terrorism.”

The besieged civil opposition in Iraq—under threat of repression and assassination from the collaborationist and insurgent forces alike—is fighting to keep alive elementary freedoms for women, leading labor struggles against Halliburton and other US contractors, opposing privatization of the country’s oil and resources, and demanding a secular future for their nation. These—not the jihadists who seek to exterminate them—are our natural allies in Iraq.

It is from these voices that we must seek leadership. Building active human-to-human solidarity with these forces—and giving them a vocal role in our own organizing efforts—will both keen our own analysis, and undercut the false perception that secular and democratic forces in Afghanistan and Iraq support the occupations.

Back to the Grassroots
The greatest challenge is to understand that no anti-war opposition is now likely to be successful unless it recognizes the inexorable implications of an anti-war position for a far greater process of social change. Neither the fact that Obama is a liberal Democrat nor the fact that the insurgents the US faces in Afghanistan and Iraq are deeply reactionary alter the fundamental political economy of the global military crusade. This remains a struggle, both with rival powers and insurgent movements, to assure continued US global primacy through control of oil.

The architects of this global crusade in the Bush administration were an alliance of ideological neocons and figures such as Bush and Cheney who themselves emerged from the oil industry, and afforded its captains unprecedented access to policy-making. Obama has repudiated neocon strategies, and his administration lacks such organic ties to the oil industry. But he has inherited the crusade, and is propelled by its dynamics.

US global hegemony protects the uniquely privileged position of the US ruling class, which is predicated on the grossly disproportionate consumption of the planet’s hydrocarbon resources. Despite the conventional wisdom of the “national security” paradigm, which holds that US access to global oil is good for consumers on the lower levels of the social pyramid, in fact the tax-payers have borne the burdens of imperial overreach just as the sons and daughters of the working class bear its grim human costs on the battlefields. The effort to bring the Earth’s most critical oil resources under imperial control—especially via the Iraq adventure, although the Afghan campaign is also linked to encirclement of the Caspian Basin—has meant a hemorrhage of the national wealth of the world’s biggest economy, and contributed to the financial cataclysm. An effective anti-war opposition therefore necessarily involves issues of economic justice and the planetary ecological crisis.

A year ago, when it seemed global capitalism really teetered at the brink of collapse, there may have been a moment of possibility for Obama to rise to greatness in spite of his limitations in the manner of his role models Lincoln and FDR—to take the kinds of dramatic measures at home that would permit the military leviathan to withdraw its tentacles abroad. While Lincoln and FDR were war presidents, a marshalling of public power such as they effected could have been mustered in the interests of peace—a harnessing or even seizure of Detroit’s industrial apparatus and Wall Street’s financial machinery to instate a “Green New Deal” based on a crash conversion from the fossil fuel economy, concomitant with at least a degree of social leveling.

This opportunity is almost certainly lost. Obama has taken limited measures to impose discipline on the corporate petro-oligarchy—conditioning the Detroit bailout on retooling the industry, tightening auto emissions and smog standards, instating more restrictive rules for drilling leases on public lands and offshore waters. But his policy on the climate crisis centers on the technocratic pseudo-solution of carbon-trading. Ironically, it was TARP’s success in stabilizing the system (at tax-payer expense) that has removed any imperatives on Obama for systemic reform.

This lost opportunity shifts the responsibilities for addressing the global crisis even more firmly to the grassroots. Obama still represents, at least, an imperial adjustment to a new world situation that includes some hopeful signs—the shift to the left nearly throughout Latin America, the past year’s strikes and uprisings in Europe, growing planet-wide struggles by indigenous peoples to protect their lands from corporate plunder. If we are to regain lost ground, our challenge is to remain intransigently oppositional in this period of adjustment—but in a more intelligent way, which recognizes what has changed, and to what degree.


Bill Weinberg is editor of the online World War 4 Report and author of Homage to Chiapas: The New Indigenous Struggles in Mexico (Verso Books, 2000). This article will appear in German in the upcoming issue of the Berlin-based magazine Phase 2. It also appeared in English Jan. 25 on AlterNet.

See also:

“Everything Must Change So That Everything Can Remain the Same”
by George Caffentiz, Turbulence, UK
World War 4 Report, January 2010

From our Daily Report:

Obama’s first year: a World War 4 Report scorecard
World War 4 Report, Jan. 22, 2010


Reprinted by World War 4 Report, February 1, 2010
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingOBAMA’S FIRST YEAR: 
Greater Middle East

Aminatou Haidar

Saudi Arabia's attorney general confirmed that prominent journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi died in the country's Istanbul consulate. A statement said that Khashoggi was killed after a fight inside the consulate, and that 18 Saudis are detained pending an investigation. Turkish officials believe Saudi agents killed and dismembered Khashoggi. His body has not been found. "Now the same government that lied to the world, claiming for weeks that it had no knowledge of Khashoggi's fate, expects us to believe he died in a fight," said the Committee to Protect Journalists. "This ridiculous assertion is further evidence of a cover-up. We need an international investigation and relentless pressure on Saudi Arabia from the Trump administration, if we ever hope to get to the truth." (Photo: CPJ)



Aminatou Haidar” title=”Aminatou Haidar” class=”image image-_original” width=”180″ height=”178″ />Aminatou HaidarA Matter of Life and Death

by Stefan Simanowitz, Toward Freedom

Aminatou Haidar’s hunger strike, staged in protest after being deported for refusing to acknowledge Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, unleashed an intensive political and diplomatic activity in Spain, the US, the United Nations, and the European and African Unions. On December 19th, a 32-day standoff that had been playing out on the Canarian Island of Lanzarote between the Moroccan government and the hunger-striking Nobel Peace Prize nominee, reached its dramatic conclusion.

A day that began with Haidar’s hospitalization ended with the 42-year old mother of two being flown home to her family without having made any concessions to the Moroccans. Her homecoming was, in her own words, a victory for ‘international law, for human rights, for international justice” but it was also significant in that it was the first time in the 34 year history of the conflict that the international community had effectively intervened in Western Sahara to persuade Morocco to adhere to its obligations under international law. By capturing both the attention of the media and the imagination of the public, Haidar’s hunger strike gained massive public support and succeeded in propelling the issue of Western Sahara onto the political agenda. And yet despite these achievements and indeed perhaps because of them, Morocco seems intent on continuing a regime of violent suppression against Saharawis who call for self-determination. Recently, seven of the country’s most prominent human rights defenders were brought before a prosecutor in a military court in Rabat accused of treason. If found guilty, they could face the death penalty.

Aminatou Haidar’s deportation was condemned by governments, civil society groups and human rights organizations around the world and resulted in the direct intervention of Hillary Clinton, Nicolas Sarkozy and Ban Ki Moon. The Moroccans who had stated that Haidar would only be allowed home if she recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara and apologized to King Mohammed VI, were forced into a very public climb down that no amount of carefully-worded diplomatic statements could disguise. Indeed on her return to Laayoune Haidar rubbed salt in the wound: “I will never apologize to the King” she told waiting journalists. “I am waiting for him to apologize to the Sahawari people for their suffering and their torture.”

Since her return, the situation in Laayoune has remained tense with a number of Haidar’s supporters having been beaten or arrested. Reuters reported that Haidar, who has endured over four years of imprisonment and torture in the past, had been placed under virtual house arrest and that journalists were banned from visiting her. Although Haidar’s new-found media profile might afford her a degree of protection from state harassment, other human rights defenders do not enjoy the same protection. This is evidenced by the treason charges leveled against seven prominent human rights activists. They were arrested in October after returning from a visit to the refugee camps in the Algerian desert where 165,000 Saharawi’s have been forced to live for over three decades. Human rights groups have expressed particular concern over the physical and mental condition of one of the seven, Degja Lashgar, held in solitary confinement for three months. In the past numerous, bodies including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have raised concerns over violations of human rights in Western Sahara, but these have been brazenly ignored by the Moroccans.

Last November King Mohammed VI gave a speech in which he branded as “traitors” anyone who questioned Moroccan sovereignty over her “Saharan provinces”. This week he has announced a new committee to draw up an ‘autonomy plan’ for Western Sahara. Rather than signaling a new more open approach to the dispute, it seems like the Moroccan decision to allow Haidar to return home has made Morocco even more determined to prevent the long awaited referendum on self-determination in the territory. And yet if the Haidar debacle shows anything, it clearly demonstrates that Morocco will shift its position if subjected to sufficient international political pressure.

There are signs that the international community are now taking the situation in Western Sahara more seriously and at the end of 2009 the United Nations identified the conflict in Western Sahara as one of the “urgent issues” to resolve in 2010. Since 1975, the UN has passed over a hundred resolutions on Western Sahara, reaffirming Western Sahara’s inalienable right to self-determination and although it is very unlikely that the UN will pass any enforcement measures such as sanctions there are nonetheless other significant steps it can take. In April, the mandate for the UN mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) is up for renewal and there are hopes that this mandate will be extended to include a human rights monitoring role. At present, MINURSO is the only UN peacekeeping mission without such a role.

There are indications that the Obama administration would like to find a resolution to the conflict in Western Sahara that conforms to international law and, as evidenced by the key role played by the Spanish and French governments in resolving the hunger strike, Morocco’s ties with the European Union are crucial. The EU has strong relations with Morocco through its European Neighborhood Policy and it recently agreed to grant Morocco ‘advanced status’ relations reducing trade restrictions and increasing political and economic cooperation. The condition of advanced status however requires a demonstrable commitment to human rights.

Aminatou Haidar stressed throughout that her hunger strike was not about the single right of one individual to return to her home but about the collective right of all Saharawis to live freely in their own land. Although she is back with her family, the situation for the Saharawis living under occupation in Western Sahara or as refugees in the desert, has not changed. For a few brief weeks, Aminatou Haidar forced the worlds gaze on to one of the world’s longest running and least remembered conflicts. We must not look away now.


Stefan Simanowitz is a journalist and broadcaster. He is chair of the Free Western Sahara Network and spent time with Ms. Haidar in Lanzarote. This article first appeared Jan. 12 in Toward Freedom.

Photo from Wikipedia

See also:

International Complicity in Morocco’s Repression
by Simon Cunich, Green Left Weekly
World War 4 Report, December 2006

From our Daily Report:

Hunger-striking Nobel nominee seeks return to Western Sahara
World War 4 Report, Dec. 12, 2009


Reprinted by World War 4 Report, February 1, 2010
Reprinting permissible with attribution



from Frontera NorteSur

Whether active duty or retired, military men will continue playing a central role in Mexico’s drug war in 2010. In the northern border state of Coahuila, incoming mayors recently ratified the continuation of former military officers to head police departments in the municipalities of Ciudad Acuña, Piedras Negras, Saltillo, Monclova and Torreon. Colonel Salvador MĂ©ndez Cachu, who served as public safety chief in Ciudad Acuña, will now assume the same position in Piedras Negras.

“The work is coordinated with the Mexican Defense Department,” said Coahuila Governor Humberto Moreira Valles last month. “Decisions are made at that level. We are very content with the work that has been happening.”

In 2009, 200 retired military personel were placed in positions of law enforcement authority at both the state and municipal levels in Coahuila.

Up the Rio Grande in Ciudad JuĂĄrez, the deployment of soldiers in the anti-drug Joint Operation Chihuahua is likely to continue for much of this year. Countering earlier speculation that the Mexican army might pull back in March, a Chihuahua state offcial said the troops could be on the streets until next December. According to Fidel Bañuelos Madrid, spokesman for the Chihuahua Public Security Secretariat, the army’s presence will depend on public safety considerations as well as the readiness of civilian police forces to replace the army.

With nearly 2,700 killings in 2009, Ciudad JuĂĄrez has become the world’s most violent city, according to New Mexico State University researcher Molly Molloy. The carnage has continued into 2010. On January 3, human rights activist Josefina Reyes became one of the latest victims. Reported slain in the Juarez Valley, Reyes had once conducted a hunger strike to protest the disappearance of her son in 2008, allegedly by soldiers. On the afternoon of January 4, an unidentified man was shot to death in public in crowded, downtown Ciudad JuĂĄrez.

Commenting on troop movements that drew public attention at the end of the year, Bañuelos said they were part of the normal, 60-day rotation of soldiers that is carried out to prevent corruption by drug cartels. However, a contingent of elite GAFE troops, originally trained by the United States for counter-insurgency purposes, arrived in Ciudad Juårez as the year drew to a close. Bañuelos added that important modifications were forthcoming in the much-criticized Joint Operation Chihuahua, but the state official did not offer details to the press.

While many Mexican political actors support the military’s deployment in the drug war, criticisms continue to mount of alleged human rights violations by soldiers. For instance, both the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Amnesty International have leveled criticisms at General Mario Antonio Delgado Talavera, head of public security in the Coahuila state capital of Saltillo, for the mistreatment of migrants headed to the United States.

In the southern state of Guerrero, where the Mexican army has directed extensive anti-drug operations for decades now, the official state human rights commission documented 143 complaints against the military during 2009. The alleged violations included illegal searches of homes, arbitrary detentions, improper exercises of authority, robberies, damages, intimidations, and injuries. Six complaints were related to torture and one to homicide.

Defenders of the army’s anti-drug mission justify the use of the armed forces as a neccessary counter-weight to the tremendous firepower possessed by criminal groups.

In a letter published in 2010’s first edition of Mexico’s Proceso news weekly, Mexican Interior Secretary Fernando GĂłmez-Mont said one of the goals of the Felipe CalderĂłn administration’s reliance on the armed forces was to break the cycle of corruption that plagues civilian institutions.

“We reiterate that [military] cooperation always has been proposed as temporary and supportive, in effect as long as institutions of public security are being reconstructed,” GĂłmez-Mont wrote.

Dissenting from the dominant political consensus, the Guerrero-based Tlachinollan Human Rights Center warned of the consequences of the growing activity of the military outside its bases.

“The power of the army has been transformed into a threat to society,” Tlachinollan charged in a report that analyzed the state of human rights in Guerrero in 2009. “That’s because the army emerges as a de facto power that has no legal or social control and only provokes confrontation, elevating the levels of violence and weakening democratic institutions at the same time.”


This article first appeared Jan. 4 on Frontera NorteSur.


Tlachinollan Human Rights Center

See also:

from Frontera NorteSur
World War 4 Report, December 2009

From our Daily Report:

Mexico: 860 more army troops to Tijuana
World War 4 Report, Jan. 17, 2010

Mexico: more hideous narco-violence
World War 4 Report, Jan. 9, 2010

Mexico: Guerrero rebuked in disappearance of indigenous leaders
World War 4 Report, Jan. 4, 2010


Special to World War 4 Report, February 1, 2010
Reprinting permissible with attribution



by David L. Wilson, World War 4 Report

On January 14, two days after the Port-au-Prince earthquake, I finally got a chance to look over my e-mail, courtesy of a small Haitian NGO in a quiet, relatively undamaged neighborhood in the south of the city. After reading and answering personal messages, I noticed that a lot of my mail consisted of appeals for earthquake relief. Some messages were from people asking me to recommend ways to donate to grassroots Haitian groups.

I was moved to see how many people were eager to help, and I certainly knew how desperately Haiti needed help. Although I was in no position then to make up a list of recommendations, by the next day my colleague Jane Guskin had posted some good information. I strongly encourage people to donate to these and many other Haiti-based organizations.

At same time, I got a funny feeling reading all these notes and appeals. I found myself wondering if people would think that their dollars were enough, that making a donation meant they didn’t need to do any more to help. Because if that was the case, I thought it would almost be better not to contribute to the relief effort.

But what more can we do?, people will ask.

For starters, we can help Haiti by refusing to believe the hype. Even sitting in that little NGO I could already imagine how the politicians and pundits would exploit the disaster, using it as an excuse to attack Haiti. And I don’t mean the bizarre fantasies of outright racists like Pat Robertson—I mean the more insidious and influential opinion pieces by liberals like Nicholas Kristof who profess sympathy for the impoverished Haitians and offer advice on how to rebuild their devastated economy.

But this advice is in fact the same advice that successive Haitian governments have followed since the time of “Baby Doc” Duvalier. Instead of protecting agriculture, reforesting the hillsides, strengthening the infrastructure and public services, especially education, and developing the internal market, for the past 35 years Haiti has obeyed Washington’s dictates: it has opened itself up to competition from heavily subsidized US agribusiness, it has slashed its meager public works programs and public services, and it has encouraged the growth of assembly plants producing for export, holding down wages to make sure these sweatshops “remain competitive.”

The results were predictable: a decimated rural economy, a virtually non-existent infrastructure, and an impoverished, overpopulated urban center so badly constructed that tens of thousands of people, at least, were certain to die when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck.

So we need to inform ourselves and not be taken in. There’s no lack of material. There are overviews of the economic policies our government foisted on Haiti; more detailed studies on the eradication of local livestock and the destruction of local rice production; short histories of how the United States plundered Haiti in the early twentieth century. Back in 2004, I wrote a brief article trying to show some of the ways the US government has worked to stifle the grassroots resistance. (See links below. —ed.)

But just being informed isn’t enough either. We have to share the information. We need to talk about these things to everybody we know–in conversations, on the internet, in leaflets, in letters to the editor. Haiti is in the spotlight for now, and we have to use this short time to help people understand what U.S.-promoted economic policies mean in the real world, not just in Haiti but also in the neighboring Dominican Republic and in Mexico. We need to get our friends and coworkers together to watch Life and Debt, a powerful documentary on what these policies did to Jamaica, just a few hundred miles west of Port-au-Prince. And we need to think about the effect of these policies on Honduras, the site of Latin America’s latest military coup.

But this still isn’t enough. As they say, you can’t help others if you can’t help yourself. What can we really do for Haiti if we remain powerless in our own country?

After all, the same corporations and economic advisers that trashed Haiti’s economy also brought us our own crisis, a worldwide economic earthquake that continues to threaten much of the global population—including Haitians and ourselves–with further suffering. If we want to have any effect on the world, we need to organize to fight back against cutbacks in our own public services and labor abuses in our own workplaces. Why aren’t we building groups to resist foreclosures? Where are our unemployed leagues?

And as we organize in defense of our own interests, we need to recognize that our hopes for a better world are intertwined with those of Haitians, Hondurans, and people around the world. When people resist anywhere, we need to take action in solidarity.

In Haiti last summer thousands of assembly plant workers shut down the industrial park in the north of Port-au-Prince to demand a higher minimum wage. In some of the most dramatic protests in this hemisphere during 2009, the strikers marched into the capital and joined with protesting students to shut down the city’s center. The Haitian police and soldiers from a United Nations occupation force eventually managed to make the workers return to the assembly plants.

Would things have gone differently if people here—and around the world—had marched in the streets in solidarity with the Haitian workers and students? The next time Haitian workers mobilize for a wage increase, will we be ready?


David L. Wilson is co-author, with Jane Guskin, of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers (Monthly Review Press, 2007) and co-editor of Weekly News Update on the Americas. He was in Port-au-Prince with a delegation when the earthquake struck.


Pat Robertson: Haiti “Cursed” After “Pact to the Devil”
CBS News, Jan. 13, 2010

Some Frank Talk About Haiti
Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, Jan. 20

The Underlying Tragedy
David Brooks, New York Times, Jan. 14

Haiti-Earthquake: A wake-up call
Alex Dupuy, Alter-Presse, Jan. 23

What You’re Not Hearing about Haiti (But Should Be)
Carl Lindskoog,, Jan. 30

Porkbarreling Pigs in Haiti:
North American “Swine Aid” an Economic Disaster for Haitian Peasants
Allan Ebert, Multinational Monitor, December 1985

Trade and the Disappearance of Haitian Rice
Josiane Georges, Trade Environment Database (TED) Case Studies, American University, June 2004

How the U.S. Impoverished Haiti
Jean Damu, Berkeley Daily Planet, Jan. 16, 2010

Why the U.S. Keeps Invading Haiti
David Wilson, The Nonviolent Activist, May-June 2004

1930-1939: The unemployed workers’ movement, Dec. 27, 2009

Life and Debt
Film website

From our Daily Report:

Violence in Haiti —from police and “peacekeepers”
World War 4 Report, Jan. 30, 2010

Day Three in Port-au-Prince: “A difficult situation”
World War 4 Report, Jan. 21, 2010

Haiti: support grassroots relief efforts
World War 4 Report, Jan. 16, 2010

Haiti: more strikes hit maquilas
World War 4 Report, Aug. 26, 2009

Haiti: maquila workers march for wage hike
World War 4 Report, Aug. 12, 2009

See also:

This Is What Democracy Looks Like!
by Nirit Ben-Ari, World War 4 Report
World War 4 Report, May 2006

Lawlessness Brings Call for New U.S. Military Role
by Kody Emmanuel, World War 4 Report
World War 4 Report, July 2005

See related story, this issue:

by Nirit Ben-Ari, Ha’aretz
World War 4 Report, February 2010


Special to World War 4 Report, February 1, 2010
Reprinting permissible with attribution



by Nirit Ben-Ari, Ha’aretz

A field hospital established by the Israeli mission to Haiti treats dozens of earthquake victims every day, and is the only hospital prepared to perform complex surgeries and treatments in field conditions. But this delegation, which landed in Haiti following the recent earthquake, is not the first time the Jewish presence has been felt in the island.

In 1492, when Christopher Columbus landed on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola—where Haiti lies today—he was accompanied by Torres, a Jew from Spain who was forced to convert to Christianity, and served as an interpreter. Following European settlement in the New World, Jews who fled the terror of the Spanish Inquisition also found refuge in Haiti. Jews who came to Haiti were merchants, plantation owners and slave-owners, and settled all over the island. In the 17th century the French came, bringing with them African slaves, who took the place of the natives whose culture was largely annihilated by the Spanish conquest.

In 1685, King Louis XIV published the document known as “Code Noir”, which set the rules of slavery in the French Caribbean colonies. Besides imposing draconian restrictions on the slaves and prohibiting the practice of all religions except the Catholic, the document ordered the expulsion of all Jews from French colonies in the islands. Most Jews left, but in Haiti, as well as other French colonies, local government facilitated softer interpretation to “Code Noir”, and Jews involved in commerce with companies that France was interested in received the status of French citizens in Haiti.

Mordechai Arbel, a former Israeli ambassador to Haiti, wrote in his book The Jewish Nation in the Caribbean (Gefen, 2002), one of the Jewish families that came to the island was Mendùs-France—of the same family as Pierre Mendùs-France, prime minister of France from 1954-1955.

In 1804, after the slave rebellion, the former slaves slaughtered nearly all whites on the island, including Jews, and established a Free Republic. The government of freed slaves wrote in the constitution that a white person would never be a landowner in the country. Most of the remaining Jews left, the plantations closed and trade ceased. Only a very few Jews remained and were absorbed into the nation’s elite; some of their descendants still live on the island.

From 1830, when the revolt against Russian occupation of Poland started, some Jewish families fled to Haiti, where they generally joined the upper classes. Toward the end of the 19th century, some 30 other Jewish families came from Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, and joined in the textile trade activity. During World War II, Haiti was one of the few countries in the world to open its doors to Jewish refugees, but most Jews emigrated after the war ended.

Anti-Semitism and Slavery: the Link
Haiti, like other Caribbean nations, is an island with a tradition of carnival celebrations. Dr. Elizabeth McAllister, a professor of religions at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, wrote in her article “The Jew in the Haitian Imagination: A Popular History of Anti-Judaism and Proto-Racism” (in Race, Nation, and Religion in the Americas, Oxford, 2004) that “among the cast of characters during the Rara carnival in Haiti are the ‘Jews’.”

“Jews were Europe’s original, the first object of demonization”, reminds McAllister. “In Medieval Europe, Jews were associated with the devil, cannibalism, poisoning of the holy bread. When the Europeans came to the Caribbean, they brought these beliefs and applied them with little or no change on the native population and the Africans. So in fact, anti-Semitism of the Middle Ages was the basis for racism against blacks in the New World. ”

In her investigation of the Rara carnival, held during Easter in Haiti, McAlister found a a ceremony called “Bwil Jif”, in which carnival revelers make straw dolls called “Judas” or simply “the Jews “, dragging them in the march and finally setting them on fire. But at the same time, participants also see themselves as “Jews” celebrating the crucifixion of Jesus. According to McAllister, the participants adopted the negative representation of the Jews that the Spanish brought with them as an image of resistance and protest against their oppression under Catholic masters, and they burn the “Jewish” effigy as a mockery of to the racism and oppression against the slaves.

The Israeli Connection
Former ambassador Arbel says that when he lived in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, between 1972 and 1975, he insisted on uniting the 12 Jewish families who lived then in the city, organizing events on the occasion of Jewish holidays. As ambassador, he promoted agricultural development projects and invited Israeli farmers in Haiti to teach villagers how to develop agriculture. He says that two Israeli farmers lived in the Artibonite valley for four years, and helped local residents to grow vegetables for export. Arbel recalls a moving ceremony held in the village, in which all the residents exclaimed “Vive Israel!”

But it seems the Israeli involvement in the nation was not always so positive. On Dec. 27, 1982, the US newspaper Christian Science Monitor reported that since 1968 Israel had sold weapons to two Haitian dictators—Francois Duvalier, who became president in 1957; and his son Jean-Claude Duvalier, who succeeded him in 1971. The two, known as “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc,” controlled and terrorized the country with a private army. On March 27, 1983, the New York Times reported that Israel was among the few countries that had agreed to sell weapons to Baby Doc, and provided him with the long-term payment arrangement that he requested.

Paul Farmer, who would serve as President Bill Clinton’s deputy UN representative to Haiti, previously reported that Gen. Prosper Avril, the head of the military junta that took power in Haiti in 1988, received temporary asylum in Israel in 1990. Avril was the head of Baby Doc’s notorious “Presidential Guard,” and a US court ruled that he was responsible for “scandalous human rights violations.” He would later serve prison time in Haiti for his crimes.

In 1990, four years after Baby Doc was ousted from power, the popular priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president of Haiti—in the first democratic elections the nation had seen. But in 1991 he was deposed in a military coup. Britain’s The Independent newspaper reported Oct. 14, 1991 that about 2,000 Uzi and Galil machine-guns from Israel were sent to Haiti in the weeks prior to the coup—with diplomats claiming the weapons went to military units especially loyal to the coup-plotters.

According to an Aug. 1, 2005 report in Jane’s Intelligence Review, weapons of Israeli origin were being smuggled through Florida and ending up with armed gangs in Port-au-Prince in this period—some in collaboration with the junta, and some opposed.

The Israeli Defense Ministry did not issue any reaction by publication time.

Now, as Israeli doctors and nurses work around the clock at the hospital that was established in Haiti, one can only hope that Israel’s contribution to the suffering nation will now focus on saving lives, and not on weapons shipments.

Translation: Pacha Dovinsky


Nirit Ben-Ari is a doctoral student in political science who teaches at Israel’s Sapir College. This article first appeared in Hebrew in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz on Jan. 22

See related story, this issue:

by David L. Wilson, World War 4 Report
World War 4 Report, February 2010

From our Daily Report:

Israel exploits Haiti for propaganda …and Sri Lanka?
World War 4 Report, Jan. 26, 2010


Reprinted by World War 4 Report, February 1, 2010
Reprinting permissible with attribution