FROM THE WEB
Net Briefs - 05/11
Caustic Political Speech
STOP THE DAM
8 Years of Occupation
Hezbollah in Lebanon
The Master's Plan
Kristen L. Buras
30th Years of FNB
War, Prisons, Torture
Angola 3 News
What Happened in Wisconsin
A Serious Fight
The Libya Intervention Debate
Stop Bombing Libya
On Libya & Crises
Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert
A Q&A on Libya
Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert
Civil Wars U.S. Labor
Guide to Green Politics
Toward Climate Justice
Zaps - 05/11
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Eight Years Of Iraq's Occupation
The war in Iraq is supposedly over. The U.S. administration says the occupation, which began on March 20, 2003, is ending as well with the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. But as the U.S., Great Britain, and France begin another military intervention in North Africa, their respective administrations are silent about the price Iraqis are paying for the last one.
Unemployed men demonstrate outside the office of a contractor who had promised them work
Street children sleeping
A stand where the children of oil refinery workers sell motor oil
Workers at an Iraqi shoe factory in Baghdad
Not so the Iraqis, however. Demonstrations have taken place in Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk, and other cities calling on the U.S., in particular, to stop its escalating military intervention in Libya. Iraqi unions have been especially vocal, linking the U.S. invasion of Iraq with continued misery for its working people. According to one union representative, Abdullah Muhsin of the General Federation of Iraqi (GFIW) workers, "Eight years have ended since the fall of Saddam's regime, yet the empty promises of the 'liberators'—the invaders and the occupiers who promised Iraqis heaven and earth—were simply lies, lies, and lies."
The GFIW, which supported the recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, says the U.S. should "allow the people of Libya, Bahrain, and other countries to determine their own destiny by themselves." Falah Alwan, president of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, says violence directed against workers and unions is intended to keep a lid on protests against miserable living conditions. "We are still under occupation," he charges. "The new Iraqi army created by the U.S. occupation is doing the same job, protecting the corrupt government while we are suffering from the difficulties of daily life."
"There's no electricity most of the time, no drinking water, and no services at all," says Qasim Hadi, president of the Union Of Unemployed of Iraq (UUI). Eight years after the start of the U.S. military intervention, "there's hardly even any repair of the war damage, there's still rubble in the streets, and people are going hungry."
Despite often extreme levels of violence in the years of occupation, Iraqis have never stopped protesting these conditions. At the time demonstrations broke out in other countries of the Middle East and North Africa, people in Baghdad, Basra, and Kirkuk had been protesting for years. Their living conditions never changed, despite promises of what the fall of Saddam Hussein would bring. "There has basically been no change in the unemployment situation since the occupation started," Hadi charges. "There are more than 10 million unemployed people in Iraq—about 60-70 percent of the workforce."
According to UUI, government unemployment statistics are artificially low because they don't count many people. "Women aren't counted," Hadi says, citing just one example, "because the government says their husbands or fathers are responsible for supporting them."
Hadi was one of Baghdad's first protestors, leading marches of unemployed workers to the gates of the Green Zone where U.S. occupation chief Paul Bremer had his offices. On July 25, following the May 2003 invasion, Hadi was arrested by U.S. troops. For the next six years, he led one protest after another, making the Union of the Unemployed a thorn in the side first of the U.S. occupation administration and then of the Iraqi regimes that followed. Some government representatives tried to stop the union's growth with bribes. "They said they'd give us a position in the labor ministry, and make us responsible for unemployed people," Hadi says. Those attempts were unsuccessful because, he explains, "we belong to the union because we want civil rights, not for ourselves, but for all people."
When bribes didn't work, threats followed. "A representative of the Dawa Party [the party of Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki] told us to leave the union," Hadi recalls. "If we didn't, he said we'd be enemies of the people of Iraq. We know what this language means. They will kidnap you. They'll make holes in your body with a drill. They will kill you slowly, with lots of pain."
Union Organizers Murdered
During the years of U.S. occupation, many union organizers were murdered. Some, like Hadi Saleh, were brutally tortured first. "People who get threatened like this change the place where they sleep many times," Qasim Hadi says. "Sometimes they go live in another city. I don't care what they do to me. I have a dream I'm fighting for. But when they threatened to kidnap my wife and children I couldn't stay." He left Iraq a year ago.
He describes enormous economic pressure on families. "Prices are very high and millions of people have no income at all.... Even for those who have a job, wages are so low you see people on the street selling all their furniture. If they get a sugar ration, they sell it instead. People stopped drinking tea because they had to spend all their money just on the food they need to stay alive. It surprises me how people can survive."
The Iraqi government only counts two million unemployed and pays unemployment benefits to a quarter of them. Benefits are low, about $110 a month, and if there's more than one unemployed person in the family, they reduce the benefit. But the worst problem, the UUI says, is that you have to register with the governing political party at the same time you register for benefits. "If you oppose the governing party, you can't register," Hadi says. "Benefits are given out as political bribes."
Unemployment, hunger, and corruption were the fuel that fed the rising wave of protest that culminated in Iraq's Day of Rage at the end of February. At the beginning of the month, Baghdad neighborhoods saw rallies calling for dismissing and jailing corrupt officials, including those involved in election fraud. Al-Kuray'at neighbors protested declining services, while the people of Al-Mutanabbi Street demanded more freedom. Some held banners saying, "The Baghdad Municipality is wasting billions and the capital is sleeping in trash." Other banners had warnings for the government: "O inhabitants of the Green Zone, think about the others" and "Remember the fate of Arab dictatorship regimes and how their people revolted." On Al-Fardaws Avenue in central Baghdad protestors accused a security company of executing a man in front of his children and called for ending random arrests and home invasions by police.
Limited Basic Services
One of the sorest points for Iraqis has been the lack of more than a couple of hours of electricity a day and skyrocketing prices for gasoline and diesel oil. Last summer, Basra was rocked by protests over the lack of services. Police put down June demonstrations over blackouts, supported by the Iraqi Electrical Utility Workers Union, the first national union led by a woman, Hashmeya Muhsin. Haider Dawood Selman was killed and several others injured. Electricity and Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani then issued an order to shut down the union. A thousand Basra workers protested, shouting slogans asking Shahristani where the $13 billion appropriated for electricity reconstruction had disappeared. Within days, the union was expelled from its offices.
A similar fate met Iraq's oil union after it protested corruption, privatization, unemployment, and bad housing. Hassan Juma'a and Falih Abood, president and general secretary of the Federation of Oil Employees of Iraq, were hauled into court and threatened with arrest. The government has never taken off the books the infamous Public Law 150, issued by Saddam Hussein in 1987, which makes unions illegal for public workers, including in the oil and electricity industries.
Both Qasim Hadi and Hashmeya Muhsin charge that the electricity blackouts are not simply the result of unrepaired war damage—the claim of U.S. contractors like Bechtel Corporation that received billions of dollars for their (unsuccessful) reconstruction. "Since 2005 there have been many projects to fix the electrical stations," Hadi says, "but the money appropriated for them has been stolen. Big generators are not repaired. The workers in the stations say they can fix them, but instead they're sold and government people pocket the money. Each new minister just demands more money and time." In addition, Hadi says, blackouts are used to punish communities for opposing the government.
Muhsin incurred the government's anger when she accused ministers last year of using blackouts and repression to create an atmosphere of desperation. "If people are desperate enough, the government believes they'll accept anything to get electricity, including privatization," she charges. "It knows our union won't accept that, so it wants to paralyze us so we can't speak out."
This year, as the February demonstrations grew, other workers joined in, including the oil and gas workers' branch of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers, which struck the refinery and fields of the North Oil Company in Kirkuk on February 13. The union demanded pay raises, especially for temporary workers who make only a tenth of a normal salary. The Mechanics and Printing Workers Union held a one-day protest, followed by a contingent calling itself the Youth of the 14th of February, who organized a big rally that day in Baghdad's Tahrir Square. In addition to the constant complaint of lack of services and corruption, the young people demanded jobs.
As the month wore on, the government passed an $82 billion budget, financed almost entirely from oil revenues. Endemic corruption, however, practically guarantees that little of that will reach the country's hungry and unemployed populace. The growing anti-government tone of the demonstrations was displayed in one large banner that read: "The oil of the people is for the people, not for the thieves."
Finally, unions, left-wing political parties, and other organizations of Iraqi civil society announced a national mobilization for the February 25 Day of Rage. The Maliki government attempted to keep turnout low by arresting leaders of the organizations calling for the protest. One was Jabbar al-Asadi, a member of both the Executive Bureau of the Iraq Freedom Congress in Baghdad and the People Protests Committee in Iraq. Another was IFC member Mahmood Khalis, who had applied for a rally permit for Tikrit. The offices of both the Iraqi Communist Party and the Iraqi Nation Party were closed by troops as well.
Nevertheless, Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, reported that almost 70,000 people participated in the day's protest rallies. One demonstration in Samarra was the first tribal protest organized by women, in part because widows now make up a majority of the city's female population. "The army shot the demonstrators in the evening," Mohammed says, "attempting to disperse them. Seven were killed in Samarra and 15 were wounded." According to the Iraqi Society for the Defense of Press Freedoms, 14 people were killed in Hawija, Mosul, Tikrit, and Basra during the Day of Rage.
It's hard to measure the number of people in the Baghdad protest, the largest, because the government used force to disperse people. When even more protested on the following day, tanks closed off the square. Marwan was an IFC activist who helped organize the Baghdad demonstration.
He told Hadi, "When we started, they surrounded us with Hummers. We were shouting slogans, 'Give us 24-hour electricity; give us a minimum wage; Raise the salaries of those who work; Give us unemployment benefits.' At first, we thought the authorities would protect us, but then they suddenly withdrew and cars rushed in full of plainclothes police. They attacked us with knives, sticks, and their fists. That's when we began demanding that the government resign." Marwan was shot in the neck.
The government closed streets leading into Tahrir Square. While 6,000 people were able to assemble there, Hadi says that in every street around it there were many times the number of people in the square itself. Al Jazeera reported 20,000 in one street alone. "Everyone was shouting about their civil rights," Hadi says. "Then the police and army began to attack them, so everyone sat down. They called out to the army and police, 'There's no reason to hit us.' When the attacks continued, people fled into the neighborhoods. The police followed, beating and shooting people. Residents let people into their homes, but then the army followed.
"The government says we're Baathists or Al Qaeda. That's their main tactic—try to scare people, to say we're going back to 2003. But it's a lie. They know the people don't want them. They're just the government because the U.S. and Iran helped them get power with threats and militias and the military. But I believe people will lose their fear, and the protests will get bigger."
David Bacon is a freelance writer and photographer. All photos are by Bacon.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.