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Decriminalising marijuana - taking the high ground

By Sir Ronald Sanders



From the outset of this commentary, let me state categorically that I have never smoked marijuana, and I do not drink alcohol except for the occasional glass of wine at a celebration. I was a heavy cigarette smoker until 1980 when, with great difficulty, I went from over 20 cigarettes a day to none at all overnight.

I am relating all this because, not for the first time, I am arguing that the Caribbean should legalise the growing of marijuana for medicinal purposes and should end laws that criminalise the use of small quantities for recreational and religious purposes.

Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean diplomat who publishes widely on small states in the global <br />
community. Reponses to: www.sirronaldsanders.com <br />
Every serious and independent scientific study that has examined the matter of decriminalising marijuana has recommended that it should be decriminalised, and now the US billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros has donated $1 million to a proposal in the election campaign in the state of California in the United States to try to legalise marijuana.

In the Caribbean, there are thousands of people who are criminals because they are, in one way or another, involved in illegally growing, picking, packing and distributing marijuana.

Many of these are farmers or people who worked on farms and who have lost markets for their products such as bananas or citrus because Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) countries were deprived of preferential access to the European Union market because of challenges by Latin American countries and the United states encouraged by large US-owned corporations that dominated the banana market. They have turned to working the marijuana business because without it, they will not survive. So, they are criminals.

If these countries were growing and exporting marijuana legally, the current financial crisis that many of them face from the loss of markets for agricultural exports would be swiftly corrected.

Marijuana is already California's biggest cash crop, worth an estimated $14 billion annually - more than the state earns from grapes harvested for its wines. For a time, there were more than 800 dispensaries in Los Angeles - which is more marijuana outlets than coffee shops.

If it is legalised in California, the state’s coffers will swell.

Of course, the attitude to criminalising marijuana is driven by lobbies in the United States – the same country that had prohibited the use of alcohol. Few countries are willing to stand-up and say: “We will examine all aspects of decriminalising marijuana and we will take a decision based on our own national and regional circumstances”. In fact, the converse is true. Every year countries live in fear of the annual report by the United States that points an accusing finger at countries where marijuana is grown or is transited to the US market.

But this is what George Soros says about the issue: “The criminalisation of marijuana did not prevent marijuana from becoming the most widely used substance in the United States and many other countries. But it did result in extensive costs and negative consequences”.

Soros goes on to observe: “Regulating and taxing marijuana would simultaneously save taxpayers billions of dollars in enforcement and incarceration costs while providing many billions of dollars in revenue annually”.

He also makes a point that is substantiated by expert studies that “it would also reduce the crime and violence associated with drug markets and the violations of civil liberties and human rights that occur when large numbers of law abiding citizens are subject to arrest” .

In 2002, a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in Britain indicated that relaxation of the cannabis laws could save police $60 million a year and vastly improve police and community relations, and in a previous commentary on this issue I pointed out that University of the West Indies Professor Alston Chevannes, who chaired a Task Force on Drugs in Jamaica some years ago, noted: “Jamaica would like to decriminalise personal use of cannabis but is afraid of US decertification. Other CARICOM countries would probably like to but can't for the same reason. An international movement that includes big players like Mexico and Brazil would prevent our small countries from being exposed. If the US can be won, then I reckon the UN would have to come to its senses and reconsider the Conventions”.

This matter of decriminalisation would have to be handled responsibly. The entire process from production to distribution would have to be highly regulated and taxed heavily just as cigarettes and alcohol are heavily taxed. Advertising for its use would have to be severely restricted as happens now with cigarettes and cigars, and education programmes explaining its addiction and discouraging its use should be mounted in a sustainable fashion. And, just as it would be illegal to drink alcohol and drive so it should be to use marijuana and drive. Excessive use of cannabis should also be discouraged in the same way as the excessive consumption of alcohol.

People are not allowed to go to work drunk on alcohol or to be drunk on the job; similar restrictions should apply to marijuana use.

But, at the bottom line, marijuana should be brought into the legal system of regulation and control and education and taxation. If it were to happen, the gang warfare, the spread of illegal weapons, the number of young people in jails – all would be reduced in Caribbean countries.

As Professor Chevannes suggested, no one Caribbean country could contemplate such action on its own, but all of them should – at the very least – mount a study on the matter which should include the likely scenario for Caribbean countries in the future if marijuana continues to be a lucrative, illegal trade that lures our unemployed (many of them young people) into its web.

Incidentally, apart from the vote in California, two other states – Arizona and South Dakota have medical marijuana initiatives on their ballot. A third state, Oregon, will consider expanding its existing medical marijuana law by authorizing state-licensed dispensaries.

Surely if the American states are considering it, so should the Caribbean.

October 29, 2010

caribbeannewsnow


October 30, 2010 | 2:27 PM Comments  {num} comments



The 2010 elections, the working class and the Democratic Party
Related to country: United States


With only a few days remaining in the 2010 election campaign, one thing is certain: the Obama administration and the Democratic Party are preparing a further lurch to the right.

Four years after a massive turnout at the polls to repudiate the Republican-controlled Congress and give the Democrats the majority, and two years after the election of Barack Obama to the White House by a margin of 7 million votes, the administration’s right-wing policies have shattered the popular illusions raised by Obama’s vague appeals to “hope” and “change.”

Millions are coming to see the Democrats as a second party of big business, committed to the defense of corporate interests both at home and abroad. But within the framework of the American two-party system they are given no way of expressing their frustration and anger except by staying home on election day or casting a vote for the even more right-wing party of big business, the Republicans.

Given the orchestrated and manipulated character of the election, with more than $4 billion expended, largely by the wealthy and corporate interests, and a corporate-controlled media that suppresses any consideration of political alternatives to the two official parties, the outcome of the November 2 vote must necessarily have a contradictory character.

Under the impact of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American population is moving broadly to the left, as suggested in poll after poll. But the official interpretation of the vote, reiterated in a thousand commentaries by media pundits and echoed by politicians of both parties, is just the opposite: the American voter will deliver a rebuke to the supposed liberal excesses of the Democratic Party, demanding fiscal austerity, more tax breaks for the rich and further deregulation of banks and corporations.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported a new poll that found some 53 percent of the American people are seriously worried about being able to make their next mortgage or rent payment, up from 37 percent at the time of the September 2008 Wall Street crash. That figure rises to 75 percent among African-Americans.

Of those polled, 65 percent blamed mortgage lenders for the crisis, and a majority supported an immediate moratorium on home foreclosures. Yet the Obama administration has flatly rejected calls for such a moratorium, despite the widespread reports of banks using fraudulent documents to evict working people from their homes.

This continues its right-wing stance from the moment Obama entered the White House: everything possible must be done to bail out the banks and financial institutions, while there is complete indifference to the fate of millions of working people who are losing their jobs and their homes.

A New York Times poll released the same day declared that key sections of the population were turning away from Obama and the Democrats, citing a loss of support among women, lower-income groups and independent voters. But the poll results did not show any enthusiasm for the Republican Party, which was rated even lower than the Democrats. More blamed the economic slump on George W. Bush than on Obama. Nor was there support for the extreme-right policies of the Republican candidates linked to the Tea Party movement. Large majorities opposed any cuts in Social Security, such as raising the retirement age or reducing benefits.

The first two years of the Obama administration have dealt a major blow to the pretense of the Democratic Party as a party of the “people” or the “middle class.” It is increasingly clear that it speaks for major sections of the financial elite and the most privileged and comfortable sections of the middle class—including the trade union bureaucracy, the civil rights establishment and wealthiest layers of African-Americans and other minorities, and the petty-bourgeois left-liberal and ex-radical milieu that long ago rejected the class struggle in favor of identity politics.

The two big business parties have already begun preparing for the post-election period. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, in an interview with the National Journal magazine, said the Republicans would not repeat their mistake after 1994, attempting to override administration policies even if that meant shutting down the government. Instead, he said, they would seek to “finish the job,” adding, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

White House officials gave a groveling response that foreshadows the predictable response of the Democrats to an electoral defeat—a further shift to the right. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs pleaded for cooperation from the Republicans, saying, “[I]n the weeks, in the months after this campaign, the message that voters are going to send and the message that we as elected officials should take is that of working together.”

“I can assure you that when the political and election season has passed and we get… back into the governing of this country, that this is a president that will reach out to, as he did, and try as best as he can to work with the Republican Party,” Gibbs said. McConnell responded arrogantly, saying that if Obama were to do “a Clintonian back flip, if he’s willing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest issues, it’s not inappropriate for us to do business with him.”

Obama will not have to perform any such anatomical contortions to join forces with the congressional Republicans, since he is largely operating with the same playbook, despite the posturing of the election season. The White House has continued the foreign policy of the Bush administration with little variation, even of personnel—Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and General David Petraeus play central roles.

On domestic policy, back-channel discussions have already begun over a post-election consensus on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Obama has campaigned during the election on ending the tax cuts for those making over $200,000 a year, but Vice President Biden suggested last week that the figure could be substantially raised, a position endorsed by numerous Democratic candidates in closely contested House and Senate races.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal Thursday, liberal Democratic Senator Russell Feingold is working with ultra-right Republican Tom Coburn “on new legislation to trim billions in federal subsidies and other spending programs,” and there were potential agreements on trade policy and renewing the No Child Left Behind Law, which has devastated public education. The Financial Times reported that Obama told business lobbyists he is open to a cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 24 percent provided it is offset by closing “loopholes,” noting that the “reform” is similar to one brokered by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

The 2010 election starkly poses before working people the need for a new political perspective. The corporate-controlled two-party system is a blind alley. The only way to fight the mounting attacks on jobs, living standards and social programs, and to oppose a foreign policy based on militarism and war, is to break with the Democrats and Republicans and build an independent political movement of the working class, based on a socialist and internationalist program.

Patrick Martin

29 October 2010

wsws




October 29, 2010 | 9:27 PM Comments  {num} comments



Bahamas: Study says conservation efforts slowing animal extinctions
Related to country: Bahamas


Study says conservation slowing animal extinctions
tribune242



GOVERNMENT Ministers attending a Bahamas National Trust breakfast briefing yesterday on shark conservation were urged to introduce early legislation to ban shark fishing in the Bahamas.

Since the announcement by a Mastic Point, Andros, businessman that he was considering expanding his sea cucumber export market to include shark finning to satisfy the Hong Kong market, the protection of sharks has become a priority.

It is estimated that about 40 species of sharks thrive in Bahamian waters. This is attributed to the long-line fishing ban introduced about 20 years ago when sharks were unintentionally scooped up in the long lines dragged along the ocean floor to catch other fish. Other than Palau and the Maldives, which are now shark sanctuaries, the Bahamas also has a healthy --so-far undisturbed -- shark population.

According to the experts this is the first time in its 400-million year existence that sharks have had a predator -- a predator in the form of man who now threatens their existence and eventually the whole marine ecosystem.

It is especially bad news for the Bahamas, its coral reefs, its fisheries and its growing shark tourism market.

Malcolm Ritter, AP science writer, reports that according to a new analysis, on average 52 species of mammals, birds and amphibians are taking a significant step toward extinction each year,

But if not for conservation efforts, the march would be even faster.

Efforts to save endangered animals are making a difference, even as about 1 in 5 of the world's backboned species -- mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish -- are threatened with extinction, according to a study published online in the journal Science.

The report was released as delegates from more than 190 nations meet at a United Nations conference in Nagoya, Japan, to set 20 measurable targets to combat the loss of many diverse species.

"Our results should be a timely wake-up call to governments in Nagoya," said Stuart Butchart, a study author and global research coordinator at BirdLife International. "Biodiversity is in a desperate state. Its situation is getting worse, but our results show we can turn the situation around. We just need greater political will and resources."

The study considered almost 26,000 species of vertebrates -- animals with a backbone -- whose conservation status is on the "Red List" of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It found that about one-fifth of vertebrate species are "threatened," meaning they are close to going extinct in the near future. That ranges from 13 per cent of birds to 41 per cent of amphibians.

The one-fifth number isn't much of a surprise, but the new study is the first global audit of vertebrates, said Craig Hilton-Taylor of the IUCN, a study author.

To look for trends, the authors used a statistical measure that tracks how particular species have moved among the eight categories of the Red List -- an indication of improvement or worsening of their conservation status. Because of data limitations, they focused on birds, mammals and amphibians. Their results translate to an average of 52 species moving one category closer to extinction each year.

Amphibians, which include frogs and salamanders, showed the fastest decline, with mammals second. The trend was less severe for birds, but still included creatures like the green-coloured Hose's broadbill of Malaysia and Indonesia, which has suffered declines in its forest habitat.

About 1 in 6 declines in conservation status in the study resulted in extinction, the authors said. The extinctions include the golden toad of Costa Rica and a Hawaiian forest bird called the Kamao.

To study whether conservation efforts like protecting habitat or controlling predators were helping, the authors examined cases where a species' status improved, moving away from extinction. That was the case in 68 of the 928 reclassifications they found, almost entirely due to conservation action, the authors said. Nearly all involved mammals or birds, because they have a longer and better-funded history of conservation efforts, the authors said.

Humpback whales, for example, moved from "vulnerable" to being at low risk for extinction because of protections against commercial whaling, the authors said.

In all, the researchers calculated that the overall march toward extinction would have been some 20 per cent faster if no conservation steps had been taken. But they also said the true impact is much greater than their calculations could show.

"Conservation is working, it's just not enough" at current levels, said Ana Rodrigues of the Centre for Evolutionary and Functional Ecology in Montpellier, France, a study author.

Stuart Pimm, a conservation expert at Duke University who didn't participate in the study, agreed that the results contain good news.

"A lot of those species would have been moving a lot faster (toward extinction) if it weren't for conservation efforts," he said. "Conservation efforts really do work, they're just not stemming the full extent of the losses of species. The overall trend is still downhill."

October 27, 2010

tribune242


October 28, 2010 | 9:13 AM Comments  {num} comments



Haiti cholera epidemic reaches Port-au-Prince
Related to country: Haiti


By Tom Eley



The cholera epidemic that broke out last week in central Haiti, so far killing 259 people, has now reached Port-au-Prince, raising fears that the disease will take root in the capital city’s squalid refugee camps that sprang up after the January earthquake that left as many as 300,000 dead.


As of Tuesday morning, five cases had been found in Port-au-Prince, all among Haitians who had traveled to the city from the Artibonite area 50 miles to the north where the disease emerged and several thousand cases have been reported.


The five have been isolated and treated, but it is all but certain other cases will emerge. Medical aid workers are reporting some success in slowing the disease’s spread—only six new deaths were reported Monday—but they warn it can only be contained if it is prevented from contaminating the water supply in Port-au-Prince and its surrounding refugee encampments, where an estimated 1 million people reside.


The outbreak exposes the inadequacy of the international aid operation in the aftermath of the earthquake. Public health experts and aid workers had warned for months that water-born diseases could develop if steps were not immediately taken to ensure a clean water supply. They have also repeatedly warned that the effects would be disastrous if such diseases take hold in the refugee encampments and slums of Port-au-Prince.


From the beginning, the Obama administration’s response to the earthquake disaster in Haiti has been shaped by the predatory aims of US imperialism. The first reaction was to launch a major military operation to encircle the island and prevent Haitians from escaping. Even those in desperate need of medical attention were barred passage to American hospitals, while the US military effectively choked off the attempts of aid organizations to rush food, water and medicine to the wounded and homeless.


After a degree of stability was achieved and the corrupt and incompetent regime of President René Préval propped up, the White House turned its attention to further opening the island to sweatshop exploitation in the garment industry. This is the specific task of former president Bill Clinton, who heads the US response to the disaster. Clinton is seeking to lift trade barriers to the products of Haitian garment factories, where workers earn less than $3 a day.


The US pledged $1.5 billion in relief money, but as of July, six months after the earthquake, no money had arrived to the international relief commission. Presented as a staggering sum, the figure is less than the personal fortunes of hundreds of US billionaires. Overall, only a small percentage of the aid and pledges of private charities and other national governments have been released for use in Haiti.


The result is that Port-au-Prince and nearby cities remain in a state of ruin, and ripe for the spread of disease. As of July, 98 percent of the rubble from the earthquake had yet to be cleared. Almost no new housing has been built. The teeming encampments have little or no access to electricity, running water and sewerage.


A September report from Refugees International called the relief operation “dysfunctional,” concluding that the “people of Haiti are still living in a state of emergency, with a humanitarian response that appears paralyzed.”


The cholera bacterium is a danger only under conditions of extreme deprivation. The intestinal disease that killed millions in global pandemics in the 19th century and early part of the 20th century has been eliminated wherever there is rudimentary water and sewage treatment. It is now once again on the rise, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where the majority of the estimated 100,000 yearly cholera-related deaths take place. There is also a current outbreak in Pakistan.


Once contracted, cholera is easy to treat with “with cheap and simple antibiotics, fluids and oral rehydration solution,” according to Christian Nordqvist of Medical News Today. In the absence of medical attention the death rate for those who exhibit symptoms can rise as high as 50 percent.


Poverty is thus at the root of the rapid spread and deadly effects of the disease in Haiti. The disease was likely communicated to people through untreated water consumed in the Artobinite River valley, either directly from the river or from some other source. There is now speculation that the bacterium, Vibrio Cholerae, may have been present in Haiti for years, and conditions created by the earthquake have allowed for its epidemic spread. It is also possible the bacterium came into Haiti during the international relief operation.


Local hospitals in the Artobinite area were “overwhelmed” by the epidemic, according to multiple accounts. Federica Nogarotto of the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders, which is treating patients in St. Marc, said that the city does “not have the capacity to handle a cholera emergency.” The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles described scenes of patients packed into small rooms in overcrowded regional hospitals, many lying on the floor.


CNN reported that after the outbreak, “people with buckets lined roadsides in and around villages, hoping that passersby might have clean water.”


Though the Artobinite area escaped the earthquake with minor damage, its population swelled through the migration of Haitians from Port-au-Prince, many of whom set up tents or crowded in with relatives.


Aid workers in Port-au-Prince are now advising residents to wash their hands with soap and drink only purified water, but most residents can use such products only if they are distributed for free.


“People don’t have the money to buy these things—they don’t even have the money to eat,'” Vilason Francois, a 34-year-old painter and resident of the tent city in Petionville plaza told the Miami Herald.


“I know they say don’t drink the water, but we can’t afford not to,” said Adievi Miralus, 53, of the Sou Pic encampment in Port-au-Prince, where tens of thousands reside. “If we can survive the quake, it would be stupid for us to die because of lack of water.”


Meanwhile, a new report from researchers at Purdue University warns that there is a possibility of another, perhaps larger, earthquake. They discovered that the January 12 quake emerged from a previously unmapped fault, which they named the Léogâne fault.


Eric Calais, a Purdue professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, explained that the newly discovered fault runs alongside the Enriquillo fault, which was originally thought to be the source of the earthquake.


“This means that the Enriquillo fault is still capable of producing large earthquakes and that Haiti has to adapt to this seismic hazard,” he said. “Preliminary measurements indicate that the Enriquillo fault did not release any accumulated seismic energy and, therefore, remains a significant threat for Haiti, and Port-au-Prince in particular.”


Calais pointed to the “need to focus attention, energy and funds on proactive measures to help the country adapt to earthquake hazards and, eventually, reduce economic losses and save lives. Our finding raises many important scientific questions and we are working to find the answers, but we already know that the earthquake threat in Haiti is inexorable.”


There is no indication that any improvements have been made to Haiti’s shoddily constructed buildings and infrastructure, which were responsible for much of the death toll in the quake.

26 October 2010

wsws



October 26, 2010 | 6:25 PM Comments  {num} comments



The Afghan peace talks and the “war on terror”
Related to country: Afghanistan


US and NATO officials revealed earlier this month that they are facilitating talks between senior Taliban leaders and the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai—a regime that Washington and its allies have sustained in power through a nine-year-long counter-insurgency war.

Based on information fed it by the Obama administration and the US national security apparatus, the New York Times reported that US and NATO forces have ensured the safe conduct of Taliban leaders to Kabul, including providing air transport for at least one leader of the insurgency.

Soon after, Gen. David Petraeus, the US commander of all foreign forces in Afghanistan, and NATO Secretary General Andres Fogh Rasmussen publicly spoke of their role in enabling Taliban leaders to join the peace talks.

At the request of the White House, the Times is withholding the names of the Taliban officials involved in the talks, but they are said to include at least three leaders of the Quetta Shura and one leader of the Peshawar Shura.

Since 2008, the beleaguered Karzai regime has been seeking talks with at least sections of the Taliban and allied anti-occupation groups, using Saudi Arabia as a go-between. The admission that Washington is itself assisting such negotiations represents a significant shift and is yet another indication of the crisis confronting the US-NATO intervention in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration has dramatically expanded the Afghan War. It has more than tripled the number of US troops in Afghanistan to over 100,000, bringing the total number of foreign troops deployed there to more than 150,000, and it has bullied Pakistan into mounting major military operations in its Pashtun-speaking borderlands.

But the US-NATO forces have failed to stanch, let alone defeat, the insurgency. The corrupt and repressive Karzai government is reviled by the Afghan people as a colonial puppet regime, dependent upon massive US-NATO firepower to maintain control over Afghanistan’s major urban centers. Popular opinion in the US, Britain and other NATO countries has shifted sharply against the war, and a number of countries, including the Netherlands and Canada, have withdrawn or announced plans to withdraw their troops.

The US ruling elite and its military are determined to prevail in Afghanistan no matter the cost in lives and the devastation wreaked on Afghan society. But there is a growing apprehension in Washington that the heavy commitment of US geo-political and military power to waging war in Afghanistan is weakening the US in the face of other challenges, including China and Iran. Hence the interest in seeing whether a deal can be made with sections of the Taliban, offering them a role in a reconfigured but still US-dominated regime in exchange for renouncing the insurgency.

Of course, this new ploy undermines the entire public rationale for the war in the first place. The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan have been promoted and justified by the entire US establishment as vital to the “war on terror.” Only, or so the story goes, by crushing the Taliban can the safety of the American people be secured.

But now, to better serve US interests in Central Asia, sections of the Taliban are apparently to be brought in from the cold. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she does not discount the possibility that Washington and its Afghan clients will cut a deal with those whom the US press and politicians have denounced ad infinitum as Islamist fanatics and terrorists.

“You don’t make peace with your friends,” said Clinton. She added that although she thought it “unlikely that the leadership of the Taliban that refused to turn over bin Laden in 2001 will ever reconcile” with Washington, “stranger things have happened in the history of war.”

The truth is that the “war on terror,” like Iraq’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction,” was a pretext, a propaganda ruse, invoked to justify the pursuit of US imperialism’s predatory agenda. The US ruling class seized on the still unexplained events of September 11, 2001 to implement long-planned changes in Washington’s geopolitical-military strategy, waging wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with the aim of gaining a stranglehold over the world’s principal oil exporting regions and thereby arresting the historic decline in the world position of US capitalism.

By occupying Afghanistan, Washington sought to secure a strategic beachhead in Central Asia, which has exportable oil reserves second only to the Middle East. Afghanistan, moreover, borders on China and Iran and lies close to Russia, three countries whose ambitions have long been viewed with suspicion and hostility by the US.

In sponsoring talks with the Taliban and Taliban-aligned groups such as the militia led by the Hekmatyars, Washington is renewing old acquaintances. The leaders of the Taliban, and for that matter the leaders of Al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden, were US allies and CIA “assets” in the anti-Soviet war that the Islamic fundamentalist Mujahedeen waged during the 1980s.

This war, as Zbigniew Brzezinski, US President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, has boasted, was fomented by the US in the late 1970s. With the aim of luring the Soviets into invading Afghanistan, ensnaring it in a Vietnam-type guerrilla war, and transforming the Central Asian country into a Cold War killing field, the US instigated tribal and Islamist opposition to a pro-Soviet government in Kabul.

A decade after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, Washington came to view some of its former Mujahedeen allies as obstacles to its drive to establish US hegemony over Central Asia and launched its colonialist project in Afghanistan.

The second pretext the US and it allies have cited to justify the Afghan war—that they are waging war for democracy—is equally threadbare. The Karzai government is a regime of corrupt war lords, many of them fervent Islamic fundamentalists. Like last year’s Afghan presidential election, this September’s parliamentary elections saw massive vote-rigging and other anti-democratic practices, including the arbitrary exclusion of candidates deemed inimical to Karzai and his allies.

The revelation that Kabul is involved in peace discussions with Taliban leaders suggests a possible shift in US tactics. No one should have any illusion, however, as to Washington’s brutal aims. The talks are viewed as complementary to the “surge”—a massive increase in violence now being mounted by the US-led occupation forces.

Since General Petraeus took over command of Afghan operations in July, the number of air attacks has more than tripled, reaching 700 in September. And Special Forces death squads are reportedly carrying out 10 missions a day.

As in Iraq, where Petraeus engineered a similar strategy, the US military aims to inflict maximum death and destruction against insurgent groups while at the same time seeking to split the armed resistance by offering political and financial pay-offs to those ready to accept US domination.

The Afghan war has been a criminal enterprise from its beginning nine years ago this month. That the Obama administration has massively expanded the war is testament to its basic role, which has been to deepen the drive of the US ruling elite toward reaction all down the line—militarism, the assault on democratic rights at home, the looting of the state to preserve the wealth of the financial aristocracy, and the attack on the living standards and rights of working people.

Keith Jones

25 October 2010

wsws


October 25, 2010 | 8:31 AM Comments  {num} comments



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