This month marks the fifth year of the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq, which commenced on March 19, 2003. Despite setbacks for the U.S. empire, including unexpected losses in lives and money as a result of the continuing resistance of the Iraqi population, this war has succeeded in the U.S. imperial objective of eliminating Iraq, once a powerful force in the Middle East, as a nation to be reckoned with. Much of its population is dead, displaced, and divided. Its infrastructure is in tatters. The country is occupied on a seemingly permanent basis by U.S. military forces, allowing Washington to project its power more fully in the region, and making it easier to threaten Iraq’s neighbor Iran. Iraqi oil, designated as a vital strategic asset by Washington, is now largely in the grip of the U.S. empire.
Volume 59, Issue 10 (March)
Bad times inhibit good writers, but they also inspire them. Just look at the new and recent arrivals in bookstores and libraries. The double-barreled assault on civil liberties and human rights, by the administration of President George Walker Bush, has, if nothing else, spurred an outpouring of books, both fiction and nonfiction, condemning the erosion of American democracy and the perceived drift toward totalitarianism. Jack London—the best-selling twentieth-century American author, who was born in 1876, the year of the American Centenary, and who died in 1916, the year before the United States entered the First World War—would surely not be surprised. In fact, one might well anoint London the founding father of the contemporary body of literature about political repression, including Henry Giroux’s The Emerging Authoritarianism in the United States, Matthew Rothschild’s You Have No Rights, Chris Hedges’s American Fascists, Robert Kennedy Jr.’s Crimes Against Nature, and Philip Roth’s disquieting 2003 novel The Plot Against America. Of course, there are many others that cover much the same terrain.
In March 2003, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was captured in Pakistan. Much of the information on his movements and whereabouts is believed to have come from interrogations of his two children, aged six and eight. The children are known to have been held in an adult detention facility for at least four months while they were interrogated. During this time, according to one witness, “the boys were kept in a separate area upstairs, and were denied food and water by other guards. They were also mentally tortured by having ants or other creatures put on their legs to scare them and get them to say where their father was hiding.” After that, they disappeared into the system and nothing more was heard about them. Their current whereabouts and condition are unknown. The United States has sunk to kidnapping, imprisoning, torturing, and then “disappearing” children in order to get at their parents. What were once dark and unlikely rumors have gradually proven to be true: many men, women, and yes, children have been abducted around the world and fed into the maw of the American system.
Rodrigo Granda is a member of and the leading international spokesperson for the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC–EP). His name gained global prominence in December 2004 when he was kidnapped in Venezuela and handed over to Colombian authorities by a number of Venezuelan National Guard soldiers seeking a reward placed on his head by the Colombian government. At the time of his capture Granda was attending a meeting of the Bolivarian Peoples Movements in Caracas. Granda’s kidnapping in Venezuela at the instigation of the Colombian government created an international dispute between Venezuela and Colombia. He was released in 2007 in response to pressures exerted on the Colombian government by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The collapse by century’s end of most of the post-revolutionary social experiments of the twentieth century put socialists nearly everywhere on the defensive. Today’s call for a “socialism for the twenty-first century” is an attempt to transcend this defensive posture and to engage fully with the most urgent problem of our time: the creation of a sustainable socialist order. In this respect, “István Mészáros,” in the words of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, “is someone who lights up the road. He points to the core of the argument we must make in order to go beyond the defensive attitude in which the world’s peoples and revolutionary movements find themselves, and to take the offensive, throughout the world, in moving toward socialism” (quoted from back cover of Mészáros, O desafio e o fardo do tempo histórico [Sáo Paulo: Boitempo Editorial, 2007]; English edition, The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time [forthcoming from Monthly Review Press, 2008]).
Marge Piercy is the author of Pesach for the Rest of Us: Making the Passover Seder Your Own (Schocken, 2007). Her most recent novel is Sex Wars: A Novel of the Turbulent Post-Civil War Period (New York: William Morrow, 2005), and her newest book of poetry is The Crooked Inheritance (Knopf, 2006).
Soon after joining Cuba’s Foreign Relations Ministry, in the early 1960s, I learned about Victor Rabinowitz and Leonard Boudin. Before meeting them I already knew how much Fidel admired and respected these two distinguished American lawyers, who were representing Cuba in the midst of a very complex and difficult confrontation and a very uneven one.…At the time I didn’t imagine that I was going to be sent to New York to my first and only diplomatic assignment. It was not exceedingly easy to begin a diplomatic career, or any career for that matter, at the top and to transform yourself in a couple of years from a student of philosophy into the youngest ambassador ever at the UN. It did not help that I was representing a country that was almost completely isolated in the Western Hemisphere.
Peter Cole has offered an excellent historical examination of a poorly explored moment in labor history. His book, Wobblies on the Waterfront, explores the period (1913–22) when Local 8 of the National Industrial Union of Marine Transport Workers (of the Industrial Workers of the World [IWW]) was the preeminent force on the Philadelphia waterfronts.