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US imperialism

What does Obama mean for the world?

By Barry Sheppard, San Francisco

January 23, 2009 -- More than 1 million people gathered in bitter cold in Washington DC to witness the historical inauguration of an African American as president.

The crowd was disproportionately Black, but majority white — and jubilant. Celebrations were held in Black communities throughout the country, and in other sectors of the population.

He was sworn in by his full name, Barack Hussein Obama, itself historic. In the aftermath of the election, he enjoys overwhelming support according to polls, far higher than his margin of votes. This indicates a large swing of whites among those who voted for the Republican candidate John McCain.

Hopes are running high that he will do something to turn around the accelerating downturn in the economy. On “inauguration day”, it appeared that the crisis in the banks and other financial institutions was once again critical.

With rising unemployment, rising home foreclosures, falling wages, failing retail chains and US$1 trillion poured down what one economist called a bottomless pothole to apparently no avail, the working and middle classes have experienced a massive shock.

The “free markets will solve all” ideology is a dead duck. US people are demanding that the government take action. Obama has promised to do just that.

Obama and the change the world demands

[Kavita Krishnan will be a featured guest at the World at a Crossroads conference, to be held in Sydney, Australia, on April 10-12, 2009, organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective, Resistance and Green Left Weekly. Visit http://www.worldATACrossroads.org for full agenda and to book your tickets.]

By Kavita Krishnan

The United States – and the world – has just witnessed Bush's exit from and Barack Obama's entry into the White House. The mood at Obama's inauguration – an event replete with symbolic resonances, situating the Obama presidency in the history of the civil rights movement against racism in the US – indicates the endurance of that groundswell of popular hope in the US which powered Obama's election campaign. For a US people reeling from financial crisis and the highly unpopular Bush presidency, Obama has offered a promise of ``change''.

`What we expect from President Obama on Palestine' (+COSATU solidarity message to the people of Gaza)

Joint statement by the Palestine Solidarity Committee (South Africa) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions

January 20, 2009 -- In a few hours, Barack Hussein Obama will be sworn in as president of the United States of America, the largest and most powerful empire in recorded history. His inauguration comes at the end of a long and hard election campaign which rode on his campaign promise of ``Change'', a promise which captured the imagination of his voters and of people across the world. The change that Obama promised -- for the people of the United States and for the rest of the world -- is welcomed for the break that it suggests with the depraved capital-centred and imperialist policies of the George Bush administration.

We are confident that Obama will make some changes. We welcome his commitment to closing down Guantanamo Bay prison, an institution which makes a mockery of international law and human rights, and his commitment to eliminate torture techniques as a form of interrogation. We welcome his commitment to withdrawing troops from Iraq. We welcome his commitment to ensuring that the state, in the US, improves the health care provisions to its people. Our concern, however, is about those things that Obama is determined not to change.

What won't change?

Obama's intention to increase military personnel in Afghanistan and continue the military occupation of the country reflects both a commitment to sustaining an imperial agenda and a disrespect for the lives and choices of people in the Global South.

Good riddance, Dubya!



Poster of President George W. Bush outside the US Consulate in Montreal, Canada. US President George W. Bush and shoes are now synonymous. People around the world were inspired by Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi. Source: Flickr. Thanks to http://osocio.org/message/bye_bye_dubya_and_thank_you/.

COSATU leader Zwelinzima Vavi: Sanction and boycott apartheid Israel!

Protesters call for boycott of apartheid Israel, Johannesburg, January 2, 2009.

By Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary, Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)

January 14, 2009 -- From our own experience, we know how painful and dehumanising is the system of segregation, otherwise known as apartheid. Apartheid is a system based on the assumption that one group or race is superior to others and therefore has a right to all the privileges and virtues associated with that particular status. It has a right to run and determine the lives of others, excluding them from certain privileges, merely because they do not belong to the “chosen” group.

What other definition would so fittingly define a system based on different rights and privileges for Jews and Arabs in the Middle East? The bantustanisation of Palestine into pieces or strips -- West Bank, Ramallah, Gaza Strip and so on -- run by Israel and with no rights whatsoever for the Palestinians, is definitely an apartheid system.

Israel — an apartheid state

Protest in Melbourne, January 4, 2009. Photo by Margarita Windisch.

By Tony Iltis

January 6, 2009 -- In a 1969 interview, then-Israeli PM Golda Meir, referring to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, said: “It is not as though there was a Palestinian people … and we came and threw them out and took their country … They did not exist.”

Of course, the Palestinian people did, and still do, exist. This inconvenient fact helps explain why Israel is forced to continuously resort to brutal military force.

Meir herself was part of the Zionist leadership that threw out 800,000 Palestinians in 1948 and took 78% of their country in a meticulously planned war to establish the new, exclusively-Jewish state in historic Palestine.

Palestinian villages and towns were systematically razed and new European-style communities built.

It is impossible to understand the current bloodbath in Gaza without understanding the inherently racist nature of Israel. The slogan of Zionism (the ideology that advocates an exclusively Jewish state in Palestine) since it began in the 1890s has been, “A land without people, for a people without land”.

Tariq Ali on Israel's massacres in Gaza

Tariq Ali addresses the Stop Gaza Massacres meeting in London, January 8, 2009. Organised by Stop the War Coalition (http://www.stopwar.org.uk).

Hamas' three requests before talks: `Withdrawal of Israel from Gaza; lift the unjust siege; open all border crossings'

Hamas: `Immediate withdrawal of Israel from Gaza; lift the unjust siege; open all border crossings -- With an open mind, we will deal with any initiatives based on these three requests'

In a speech from Damascus on January 11, 2009, Khalid Mish'al, head of the Hamas political bureau, spoke on Israel's 15-day assault on the Gaza Strip. This edited text of the televised address appeared on the Socialist Unity website. For earlier statements from Hamas, see http://links.org.au/node/842.

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The Zionists wanted to impose a humiliating defeat on us because the only obstacle to confront them is resistance, especially in the Gaza Strip.

Perhaps the Zionists, because of the difference between the resistance in Lebanon and Gaza, thought that in comparison with Hezbollah, we were weak and they could regain the reputation of their army following its defeat in Lebanon. They tried to use the territories of Gaza to show their military might.

So this is a battle of demonstrating military strength, a fight or war to impose a defeat on our people. The Zionists thought that we were the weakest. However, the Zionists were surprised by the resistance.

Hamas: What is really behind Israel's assault on the people of Gaza (updated Jan. 13)

By Mousa Abu Marzook

January 6, 2009 -- Damascus -- While Americans may believe that the current violence in Gaza began December 27, in fact Palestinians have been dying from bombardments for many weeks. On November 4, when the Israeli-Palestinian truce was still in effect but global attention was turned to the US elections, Israel launched a "preemptive" airstrike on Gaza, alleging intelligence about an imminent operation to capture Israeli soldiers; more assaults took place throughout the month.

The truce thus shattered, any incentive by Palestinian leaders to enforce the moratorium on rocket fire was gone. Any extension of the agreement or improvement of its implementation at that point would have required Israel to engage Hamas, to agree to additional trust-building measures and negotiation with our movement -- a political impossibility for Israel, with its own elections only weeks away.

Not that the truce had been easy on Palestinians. In the six-month period preceding this week's bombardment, one Israeli was killed, while dozens of Palestinians lost their lives to Israeli military and police actions, and numerous others died for want of medical care.

50 years of people's resistance and strength -- Interview with Cuba's President Raúl Castro

Raúl Castro speaks on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.

December 31, 2008 -- Interview with Raúl Castro, president of the Councils of State and Ministers of Cuba, conducted by Talía González Pérez for Cuban Television’s News System. From Granma Internacional.

Talía González Pérez: During the initial years of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, Commander of the Revolution Fidel Castro Ruz affirmed to the people that, although the Revolution had been victorious, nobody should think that everything would be easier in the future, but that everything might be more difficult in the future. How difficult has it been in the last 50 years to construct a socialist Revolution in the face of imperialist aggression and the complex international panorama?

The future of socialism and LGBTI rights in Cuba -- Interview with Mariela Castro Espín

January 1, 2009 -- In Havana, Mariela Castro Espín speaks to Anastasia Haydulina of Russia Today Television. Mariela Castro is director of CENESEX –- the National Center for Sexual Education -- and a leading authority and proponent of LGBT freedoms in Cuba and globally. She addresses how Cuban society is dealing with changing perceptions of sexuality and concrete measures benefiting LGBTs. Castro also reflects on new legislation, transsexualism, same-sex unions, gay rights, AIDS, her father President Raúl Castro, her mother Vilma Espín, founder and President of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), the woes caused by the US economic blockade of Cuba and her views on US President-elect Barack Obama, as well as the history of the revolution. Sections of the interview have been translated and transcribed below.

Israel invades Gaza, Palestinians, solidarity activists call for solidarity and resistance (updated Jan. 7)

Non-Aligned Movement condemns Israel’s attacks against Gaza

January 6, 2008 -- The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) condemned Israel’s military invasion against the Gaza Strip as it expressed its sorrow over the loss of more than 550 innocent Palestinians and the merciless destruction of their territory.

A statement issued by the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), published at the United Nations, in New York, expresses the NAM’s concern about Israel’s ground invasion, which started on January 3, when hundreds of tanks opened fire against the Gaza territory, [defying] the world’s outcry.

The NAM statement reads as follows:

The Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) strongly condemns the military aggression, including airstrikes, carried out by Israel, the occupying Power, on the Gaza Strip, which has caused death and injuries to hundreds of civilians, including children, and destruction of Palestinian property and infrastructure.

This unacceptable military escalation by Israel constitutes a grave breach of international law, including humanitarian and human rights law, fuels the cycle of violence and threatens international peace and security as well as the fragile peace process between the two sides.

1959-2009: 50 years of the Cuban Revolution -- Fidel Castro: the Untold Story

Part 1


To mark the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, which triumphed on January 1, 1959, here is filmmaker Estela Bravo's remarkable portrait of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution. Click HERE for more.

Can Washington `save Darfur’?

By Kevin Funk and Steven Fake

Few humanitarian crises have occasioned as much media and activist attention in the US as the conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

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Click HERE for an exclusive free excerpt from Kevin Funk and Steven Fake's latest book, Scramble for Africa.

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Major politicians routinely pay homage to suffering Darfurians in their speeches, well-heeled Darfur advocacy groups take out full-page ads in the New York Times, and commentators regularly fill op-ed ledgers around the country with righteous, indignant calls for the West to act to end the suffering. Yet for all the rhetorical attention and concern afforded to Darfur in the US, what is actually understood about the US role in addressing the conflict? Further, what do we know about the historical and current nature of Washington’s relations with Sudan, and how does this relate to our understanding of the Darfur crisis, and what we can do to address it?

Lockerbie, 20 years on: Behind the frame up of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi

To mark the 20th anniversary of the Lockerbie air disaster, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal is republishing these important articles. Since their first publication, important new evidence has cast even more doubt on the unjust conviction of  Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi -- see comments section below. 

[Read Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi's legal defence documents HERE.]

By Norm Dixon

February 14, 2001 -- The eminent barrister Horace Rumpole has often noted that the “golden thread running through the history of British justice” is that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty by the prosecution “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Of course, Rumpole is a fictional character created by writer John Mortimer. As the verdict handed down in the Lockerbie bombing trial proves, the “golden thread” is just as fictional.

On January 31, 2001, the three Scottish lords sitting in judgement on the charges against two Libyans accused of planting the bomb that felled Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland on December 21, 1988, found Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi guilty of the murders of the 270 people killed in the disaster. Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah was found not guilty.

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Play Sock and Awe, inspired by Muntadar al-Zaidi

Join the growing international call for the release of Muntadar al-Zaidi! Click here to sign a petition: http://www.iraqsnuclearmirage.com/articles/Zaydi.html

Click HERE for more on Muntadar al-Zaidi.

Release Muntadar al-Zaidi!

December 16, 2008 -- Join the growing international call for the release of Muntadar al-Zaidi! Click here to sign a petition: http://www.iraqsnuclearmirage.com/articles/Zaydi.html

By now, you've all seen the footage of the Iraqi journalist hurling his shoes at George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad on December 14, 2008. See below.

What has not been so widely reported are the words Muntadar al-Zaidi, a correspondent for Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya TV, shouted. As the first shoe was thrown at Bush, he said: "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog." And with his second shoe, which the president also dodged, al-Zaidi said: "This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq."

India must not succumb to the US strategy of proliferation of terror

By Dipankar Bhattacharya

December 15, 2008 -- The recent siege of Mumbai for nearly three days by a small band of well-trained terrorists has almost universally come to be described as ``India’s 9/11’’. In terms of sheer audacity of planning and execution, the places targeted and the scale and range of people killed and injured, the Mumbai terror siege can surely be bracketed with the original 9/11, and in terms of the duration of the skirmish it can also claim to have left the original way behind.

The analogy between New York 9/11 and Mumbai 26/11 must not however be confined to these operational details. What is most important is to recognise the Mumbai attack was an extension of the same terror trajectory that struck New York seven years ago. What should we learn from this?

Fidel Castro on `Team Obama'

By Fidel Castro Ruz 

December 4, 2008 -- Following Barack Obama’s speech, on May 23, 2008, to the Cuban American National Foundation established by Ronald Reagan, I wrote a reflection entitled ``The empire’s hypocritical policy''.

In that reflection I quoted his exact words to the Miami annexationists: “[…] together we will stand up for freedom in Cuba; this is my word and my commitment […] It's time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime. […] I will maintain the embargo.”

I then offered several arguments and unethical examples of the general behaviour of the presidents who preceded the one who would be elected to that position in the November 4 elections. I wrote:

I find myself forced to raise various sensitive questions:

1. Is it right for the President of the United States to order the assassination of any one person in the world, whatever the pretext may be?

2. Is it ethical for the President of the United States to order the torture of other human beings?

Team Obama: Channelling Clinton, extending Bush

By Patrick Bond

December 4, 2008 -- Barack Obama was elected on a platform of change. Yet, his actions are pointing to more and more of the same. The question of whether Obama can possibly replace Bush as a danger to world peace is worth considering.

The president-elect’s turn to the Zionist, militarist wing of the US ruling class in recent weeks negates the interest and support he showed for the Palestinian cause while a Chicago community organiser during the 1990s and to the anti-war movement when Bush attacked Iraq five and a half years ago.

To counteract ongoing their economic and cultural decline, it appears that US imperialist managers have adopted two strategies: political revitalisation via Obama’s carefully crafted image as a non-imperialist politician with roots in African-American, Kenyan and even Indonesian traditions; and the activism anticipated through his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, a firm supporter of the US war against Iraq.

In reaction to election campaign allegations that he is a peacenik, Obama himself uttered that the ``surge'' of US troops in Iraq ``succeeded beyond our wildest dreams''.

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