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The War Against Human Dignity

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 Washington Post, 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.

Memo to City Paper: We're at War and in a Recession

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.

In the 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.

Triumph at Pacifica

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:] 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.

Scott Loughrey

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