In a recent article (1/3/02) the U.K. Guardian
published an account of
the Maslakh refugee camp which is located 30 miles from Herat in Afghanistan. Maslakh translates to "slaughterhouse" in English.
One hundred Afghans, mostly children, are dying every day there from exposure and from starvation.
The pictures of the camp are unsettling to the extreme. The young condemned faces particularly
will break the hearts of those who care.
Food is being delivered to the camp and elsewhere in Afghanistan. However, as their cold winter
continues to set in shelter and medicine are both urgently needed in the refugee camps. Also,
getting help for these people cannot be accomplished without more attention by the US mainstream media.
Still, the Washington Post doesn't believe this is a big story. At this writing, a
search in their online archives reveals exactly one article that has mentioned the camp, and it
was published in September, 2001. In contrast, if you do a search on the name "Michael Jordan" in
the archives of the
hundreds of entries appear.
In retaliation for the horrendous crimes that took place on 9/11/02, the US is conducting a war that
predominantly harms civilians. Just as the terrorists didn't care about our civilians dying the
US government doesn't seem to be concerned about the children wasting away in those refugee camps,
or the Afghan victims of our bombing campaigns.
Another issue the mainstream media doesn't discuss is why are we still bombing Afghanistan?
The pretext for the bombing campaign has been that the Taliban were harboring terrorists. However, the
Taliban have been toppled and Hamid Karzai has been made the interim premier. (By the way,
Karzai's brother is the owner of two successful restaurants here in Baltimore.) Karzai has
pleaded for the US to halt the bombing campaign but to no avail. So have the aid agencies.
Still, the bombing continues without any let-up in sight.
The Pentagon tells us that this war "against terrorism" may last six years or more. We're also told
that any countries that the US considers to harbor terrorists may face our military wrath.
(This doesn't mean we will be bombing ourselves for the terrorists, like Emmanuel Constant of
Haiti, that we harbor.) Since there are approximately 60 countries with some kind of
terrorist cells residing the Pentagon's saber-rattling has much of the world on edge.
The mainstream media is presenting the discussion of whom the Pentagon should bomb next
entirely from the perspective that we are entitled (or morally right) to do so. For example,
Henry Kissinger, himself one of the leading employers of state-sponsored terrorism in the
world, argues in the Washington Post that we next need to start bombing Iraq on the
grounds that it is "implacably hostile to the United States and to certain neighboring countries."
(Washington Post, 1/12/02). Now, "certain neighboring countries" is definitely a coded
reference to Israel. What he's saying is that we should bomb Iraq next because they are
developing the same kinds of nuclear weapons and weapons or mass destruction which the US and
Israel currently maintain. What no one in the Post has suggested is the possibility
that the US work with the UN in attempting to disarm the entire Middle East region. Still,
despite the popularity of that view in the world there probably isn't a columnist in a
mainstream newspaper in the US who has been expressing this idea.
We're nearing the point of perpetual warfare as envisioned by George Orwell in his nightmarish novel, 1984.
With our new and insane $343 billion annual "defense" budget we're outspending the next fifteen
nations combined. This money has to be spent for the budget to be justified. Meanwhile, our
Wannabee Justice League of America President, who continues to use the words "evil doers" and "the evil one" in
public statements, has been telling the cadets at our nation's military academies that he'll
minimize the amount from the military budget that is spent on "nation-building" or "peacekeeping". With
every one of his smirks he's saying those children in those refugee camps in Afghanistan are
simply out of luck.
It is a brutal war we're conducting. At home the Bill of Rights is under attack. While the
economic recession is in full force the President continues to do little else but promote tax breaks
for the wealthy. In a city full of young people working in service industries no one is being
spared the bite of these times. With so much they could talk about the Baltimore City Paper continues to
look elsewhere for its commentary. Despite having some intelligent writers there CP continues to
have no relevance with regards to current national events.
January 16-23, 2002 edition of CP we
find Wiley Hall III discussing high school violence from a mystified perspective. Hall has
no idea that economic inequality that rivals the Third World could possibly be the
root cause for the increased schoolyard violence. He can't imagine that spending more
than 50% of our discretionary national budget on the world's most wasteful bureaucracy (i.e., the Pentagon)
while scarcely investing in our cities could be a major source of the societal breakdown.
In the same issue Tom Scocca continues his auditioning for a major newspaper with his sports
commentary. While he's a good at it sports talk is hardly a rare commodity these days. Meanwhile,
Joe Macleod produces another column that is impossible to start much less finish. The
feature article that week concerns the National Brewing company in Baltimore, with
interviews of ex-employees nostalgic for the old days. An interesting subject, no doubt.
However, it certainly is the kind of story that would leave a better aftertaste in better times.
While the City Paper remains fluffy and cute it is worth recalling there are
essentially two historical responses to severe economic turmoil. Take the Great
Depression of the 1930s. President Roosevelt is credited with holding off a growing
fascist movement by his democracy-building policies of investment in the public infrastructure, his
jobs programs and general support for unions and working families. In stark contrast, the Nazis
seized power in Germany during the same time and banned labor unions, shot labor leaders and
banned freedom of speech. Roosevelt and Hitler had vastly different ways to cope with the Great Depression.
Jump forward to today and observe how George Bush signed the USA PATRIOT act which
eviscerates the Bill of Rights, particularly the Fourth Amendment. Even worse, Bush's executive
order for military tribunals enables for the government to secretly try and execute anyone it
determines is a "terrorist" (although they assure us it will only apply to non-citizens.)
The military tribunals are what we would expect in a country like Chile under Pinochet-not a
presumed democracy. And, there's certainly been a tremendous chill in the mainstream media since
the tragedies of 9/11/01. Free speech is still alive but it is an endangered species.
Our nation is not responding to tragedy and economic turmoil like it did under Roosevelt. There is a
clear sense that we're lurching towards fascism. For this reason it is an extremely dangerous time
for City Paper to be taking their customary pass on national events. This city
desperately needs an "alternative weekly" newspaper that fights for democracy during this awful time-and
City Paper is running from the challenge.
It isn't all bad. There are still great victories being won for the general public. One such
victory is the restoration of Pacifica's banned contributors who were purged in the "Christmas coup" of 2000.
Democracy Now! [Marc: http://www.DemocracyNow.org] has returned to the airwaves with Juan Gonzalez
returning as the invaluable Amy Goodman's co-host. This is an extraordinary achievement and
it came about from great struggle largely conducted on the Internet. Gonzalez and his allies
were sending out emails informing thousands of people about every small battle that the true
Pacifica wing was fighting. Thousands of people (including yours truly) wrote letters and otherwise
petitioned the Board of Directors to restore Democracy Now! as well as Pacifica to its original vision.
Inch by inch Pacifica's fans fought back until the public was finally heard.
Just as the public facilitated Democracy Now!'s return so too can we control our national
destiny. We don't have to sit back and allow the predatory and opportunistic to take
away our hard-fought freedoms and the Bill of Rights. We don't have to accept tax cuts
for the wealthy as an economic solution to this economy. We also do not have to
accept a foreign policy of perpetual, mad warfare. We can also struggle on behalf of
the human beings who are the victims of our military campaigns just as we do so for our
own victims of terrorism.
The time is now for all good patriots to oppose our government's policies that are an
affront to justice and threaten democracy. We must fight for the true "American" values
while we still can.