Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
October 16, 2006

Week Of War Review
You probably caught the big stories:

●The world’s most prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, published a study by Johns Hopkins University researchers estimating 655,000 Iraqis—about 2.5 percent of the population—have died as a result of the U.S. led war. (In percentage terms that would be the equivalent of the U.S. losing the population of New York City.)

●In addition to deaths resulting from clashes between occupation/official Iraqi forces and armed resistance fighters, sectarian death squads are today making Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge look like boy scouts. Killing fields are yielding dozens of victims—often including women and children—every day. For the most part these are ordinary Iraqi working people targeted in “mixed” areas because of their religion.

●As these atrocities intend, many are fleeing their homes. Those with a little money, such as doctors and teachers, are immigrating to neighboring countries. A UN study estimates 1.5 million Iraqis have already relocated in Syria, Jordan, and Kuwait. Two thousand a day continue to cross into Syria. Tens of thousands of poorer Iraqis are taking refuge with relatives in marginally safer towns in other regions of Iraq.

●While U.S. Army officials were projecting plans to continue large scale American operations in Iraq until 2010, the top British general publicly declared that the Anglo-American occupation was “exacerbating”terrorism both in Iraq and around the world. Despairing of the stated mission to transform Iraq into a democracy, the Brit chief of staff urged Bush/Blair to settle for a “lower ambition.”

●Futile attempts of U.S. commanders to quell sectarian violence in Baghdad and other urban areas have led to a surge in GIs killed and wounded—the highest level since the bloody Falluja offensive in November, 2004.

A domestic weekday ritual in our household is watching the NBC Nightly News while eating our supper. We don’t really expect to learn much of what’s new but are interested in one of the more thoughtful spins of what cannot be ignored by the bosses’ mass media. My wife Mary, perhaps because she is somewhat younger, is less jaded than I have become since first watching John Cameron Swazye. She sometimes gets quite indignant with the malarkey peddled by GE’s brand of news and analysis.

Mary’s dander was aroused by a couple of NBC experts—one a retired Army brass hat—explaining the need for revising U.S. expectations in Iraq. It seems the slow witted Iraqis are just not getting this democracy thing and we may have to settle for a theocracy there—and we can live with that.

My agitated spouse recalled we had first been told the war was necessary to stop weapons of mass destruction; when there were no such weapons found the story changed to nipping Saddam’s close ties to bin Laden; and when those ties proved nonexistent the mission became to assist eager Iraqis in building a western-style democracy. She’s quite aware that the theocracy now considered an acceptable outcome is not just about having prayer in school but can also mean pulling females out of school.

Of course, none of the changing cover stories have ever been true. The real reason for launching the Iraq war was to boldly demonstrate that the U.S. is indeed the only remaining superpower and intends to act like one. It was to be an example of what can and will happen to anyone who incurs Washington’s wrath, an exposition of shock and awe to clear the way for corporate interests throughout the globe.

However, this Bush Doctrine has been largely a failure. While it has ruined Iraqi society it has not created stable imperial rule there. Yet they can’t simply walk away, as they once had to do in Vietnam, because they cannot risk Iraq’s huge oil reserves being taken over by others. And, as long as they are tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan, they cannot make credible threats of intervention in places such as Korea or Iran, not to speak of Cuba or Venezuela.

The Democrats criticize the failure of policy—not its goals. They soften the blow of exposed lies by accepting the excuse of “faulty intelligence.” They want to be in charge of preemptive war, not renounce it.

Some of the more ambitious ones are trying to present an acceptable bipartisan exit strategy. Senator Joe Biden, a liberal Democrat with hopes of some day occupying the White House, has long advocated a partition plan for Iraq. Essentially this would mean partnering up with a Shia theocratic regime in the southern oil fields, and a Kurd collaborationist regime in the northern ones, while letting sectarian rivals fight it out in the rest of the country where there is little at stake in long term American business interests. A presidential panel, headed by former Secretary of State Baker, is weighing the option of striking deals with two of the “Axis of Evil”—Iran and Syria—to divide up Iraq in a manner that protects essential corporate needs.

For the interests of the working class in both Iraq and the United States neither continued U.S. occupation, nor occupier-agreed theocracy, are acceptable solutions. We need first of all to demand that U.S. troops be brought home now. We should build solidarity between working people of both countries to fight for genuine democracy. And we should further demand adequate funding from those who have destroyed civil society and the economy of Iraq to rebuild that country.

How can we move toward such goals? That will be the subject of much discussion and debate at the upcoming USLAW National Assembly and National Labor Conference Against the Iraq War, being held in Cleveland December 1-3. Both American and Iraqi trade unionists will be present, along with leaders of the broader antiwar movement. The gathering comes at a crucial time and I urge you to make plans now to attend.

Roll Over Loan To Roll Over Workers
Goodyear has secured a billion dollar roll over line of credit to ease the pain of a USW strike against 16 plants in the U.S. and Canada.

Chairman Andy No Democrat Lap Dog
I admit I haven’t read SEIU President Andy Stern’s new book, A Country That Works: Getting America Back on Track. He didn’t send me a review copy and I’m not going to pay for it. But he’s been giving a lot of promotional interviews that allow us to get the gist. From time to time we’ll bring you some nuggets of Chairman Andy Thought. For example, this answer to a reporter in Tucson who wanted to know why he supported so many Republicans,

“I think the old labor movement was seen as too much of a lap dog for the Democratic Party and not a watchdog for its members....We were the largest contributor in 2004 to the Democratic Governors Association and the largest contributor to the Republican Governors Association in the same year, because we try to offer support to people who want to support the goals of our members, particularly how their hard work can be rewarded.”

Sounds like the ultimate win-win plan; back everybody and you’ll never lose. It also doesn’t hurt to have backed a governor who can help hand over thousands of child care and home health workers to your union “organizing” drive. Stay tuned for more such wisdom.

As usual, much of the material for this column was taken from stories posted on our Daily Labor News Digest, appearing Monday-Saturday by 7AM Central.

That’s all for this week.

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