Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"The Kill Team // How U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan murdered innocent civilians and mutilated their corpses – and how their officers failed to stop them. Plus: An exclusive look at the war crime photos censored by the Pentagon" a report by Rolling Stone magazine

On January 15th, 2010, U.S. soldiers in Bravo Company stationed near Kandahar executed an unarmed Afghan boy named Gul Mudin in the village of La Mohammad Kalay. Reports by soldiers at the scene indicate that Mudin was about 15 years old. According to sworn statements, two soldiers – Cpl. Jeremy Morlock and Pfc. Andrew Holmes – staged the killing to make it look like they had been under attack. Ordering the boy to stand still, they crouched behind a mud wall, tossed a grenade at him and opened fire from close range. This photograph shows Mudin’s body lying by the wall where he was killed.
Προσθήκη λεζάντας
In a break with protocol, the soldiers also took photographs of themselves celebrating their kill. In the photos, Morlock grins and gives a thumbs-up sign as he poses with Mudin’s body. Note that the boy’s right pinky finger appears to have been severed. Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs reportedly used a pair of razor-sharp medic’s shears to cut off the finger, which he presented to Holmes as a trophy for killing his first Afghan.
Morlock posing with an Afghan child. The photos collected by soldiers included many shots of local children, often filed alongside images of bloody casualties. At one point, soldiers in 3rd Platoon talked about throwing candy out of a Stryker vehicle as they drove through a village and shooting the children who came running to pick up the sweets.
Another photo of Afghan children. According to one soldier, members of 3rd Platoon also talked about a scenario in which they “would throw candy out in front and in the rear of the Stryker; the Stryker would then run the children over.”

During the first five months of last year, a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan went on a shooting spree, killing at least four unarmed civilians and mutilating several of the corpses. The “kill team” – members of the 5th Stryker Brigade stationed near Kandahar – took scores of photos chronicling their kills and their time in Afghanistan. Even before the war crimes became public, the Pentagon went to extraordinary measures to suppress the photos, launching a massive effort to find every file and pull the pictures out of circulation before they could touch off a scandal on the scale of Abu Ghraib.
The images – more than 150 of which have been obtained by Rolling Stone – portray a front-line culture among U.S. troops in which killing innocent civilians is seen as a cause for celebration. “Most people within the unit disliked the Afghan people,” one of the soldiers told Army investigators. “Everyone would say they’re savages.”

Many of the photos depict explicit images of violent deaths that have yet to be identified by the Pentagon. Among the soldiers, the collection was treated like a war memento. It was passed from man to man on thumb drives and hard drives, the gruesome images of corpses and war atrocities filed alongside clips of TV shows, UFC fights and films such as Iron Man 2. One soldier kept a complete set, which he made available to anyone who 

By Mark Boal

MARCH 27, 2011 10:00 PM ET

Early last year, after six hard months soldiering in Afghanistan, a group of American infantrymen reached a momentous decision: It was finally time to kill a haji.
Among the men of Bravo Company, the notion of killing an Afghan civilian had been the subject of countless conversations, during lunchtime chats and late-night bull sessions. For weeks, they had weighed the ethics of bagging "savages" and debated the probability of getting caught. Some of them agonized over the idea; others were gung-ho from the start. But not long after the New Year, as winter descended on the arid plains of Kandahar Province, they agreed to stop talking and actually pull the trigger.
Bravo Company had been stationed in the area since summer, struggling, with little success, to root out the Taliban and establish an American presence in one of the most violent and lawless regions of the country. On the morning of January 15th, the company's 3rd Platoon – part of the 5th Stryker Brigade, based out of Tacoma, Washington – left the mini-metropolis of tents and trailers at Forward Operating Base Ramrod in a convoy of armored Stryker troop carriers. The massive, eight-wheeled trucks surged across wide, vacant stretches of desert, until they came to La Mohammad Kalay, an isolated farming village tucked away behind a few poppy fields.
To provide perimeter security, the soldiers parked the Strykers at the outskirts of the settlement, which was nothing more than a warren of mud-and-straw compounds. Then they set out on foot. Local villagers were suspected of supporting the Taliban, providing a safe haven for strikes against U.S. troops. But as the soldiers of 3rd Platoon walked through the alleys of La Mohammad Kalay, they saw no armed fighters, no evidence of enemy positions. Instead, they were greeted by a frustratingly familiar sight: destitute Afghan farmers living without electricity or running water; bearded men with poor teeth in tattered traditional clothes; young kids eager for candy and money. It was impossible to tell which, if any, of the villagers were sympathetic to the Taliban. The insurgents, for their part, preferred to stay hidden from American troops, striking from a distance with IEDs.
While the officers of 3rd Platoon peeled off to talk to a village elder inside a compound, two soldiers walked away from the unit until they reached the far edge of the village. There, in a nearby poppy field, they began looking for someone to kill. "The general consensus was, if we are going to do something that fucking crazy, no one wanted anybody around to witness it," one of the men later told Army investigators.
The poppy plants were still low to the ground at that time of year. The two soldiers, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock and Pfc. Andrew Holmes, saw a young farmer who was working by himself among the spiky shoots. Off in the distance, a few other soldiers stood sentry. But the farmer was the only Afghan in sight. With no one around to witness, the timing was right. And just like that, they picked him for execution.
He was a smooth-faced kid, about 15 years old. Not much younger than they were: Morlock was 21, Holmes was 19. His name, they would later learn, was Gul Mudin, a common name in Afghanistan. He was wearing a little cap and a Western-style green jacket. He held nothing in his hand that could be interpreted as a weapon, not even a shovel. The expression on his face was welcoming. "He was not a threat," Morlock later confessed.
Morlock and Holmes called to him in Pashto as he walked toward them, ordering him to stop. The boy did as he was told. He stood still.
The soldiers knelt down behind a mud-brick wall. Then Morlock tossed a grenade toward Mudin, using the wall as cover. As the grenade exploded, he and Holmes opened fire, shooting the boy repeatedly at close range with an M4 carbine and a machine gun.
Mudin buckled, went down face first onto the ground. His cap toppled off. A pool of blood congealed by his head.
The loud report of the guns echoed all around the sleepy farming village. The sound of such unexpected gunfire typically triggers an emergency response in other soldiers, sending them into full battle mode. Yet when the shots rang out, some soldiers didn't seem especially alarmed, even when the radio began to squawk. It was Morlock, agitated, screaming that he had come under attack. On a nearby hill, Spc. Adam Winfield turned to his friend, Pfc. Ashton Moore, and explained that it probably wasn't a real combat situation. It was more likely a staged killing, he said – a plan the guys had hatched to take out an unarmed Afghan without getting caught.

Back at the wall, soldiers arriving on the scene found the body and the bloodstains on the ground. Morlock and Holmes were crouched by the wall, looking excited. When a staff sergeant asked them what had happened, Morlock said the boy had been about to attack them with a grenade. "We had to shoot the guy," he said.
It was an unlikely story: a lone Taliban fighter, armed with only a grenade, attempting to ambush a platoon in broad daylight, let alone in an area that offered no cover or concealment. Even the top officer on the scene, Capt. Patrick Mitchell, thought there was something strange about Morlock's story. "I just thought it was weird that someone would come up and throw a grenade at us," Mitchell later told investigators.
But Mitchell did not order his men to render aid to Mudin, whom he believed might still be alive, and possibly a threat. Instead, he ordered Staff Sgt. Kris Sprague to "make sure" the boy was dead. Sprague raised his rifle and fired twice.
As the soldiers milled around the body, a local elder who had been working in the poppy field came forward and accused Morlock and Holmes of murder. Pointing to Morlock, he said that the soldier, not the boy, had thrown the grenade. Morlock and the other soldiers ignored him.
To identify the body, the soldiers fetched the village elder who had been speaking to the officers that morning. But by tragic coincidence, the elder turned out to be the father of the slain boy. His moment of grief-stricken recognition, when he saw his son lying in a pool of blood, was later recounted in the flat prose of an official Army report. "The father was very upset," the report noted.
The father's grief did nothing to interrupt the pumped-up mood that had broken out among the soldiers. Following the routine Army procedure required after every battlefield death, they cut off the dead boy's clothes and stripped him naked to check for identifying tattoos. Next they scanned his iris and fingerprints, using a portable biometric scanner.
Then, in a break with protocol, the soldiers began taking photographs of themselves celebrating their kill. Holding a cigarette rakishly in one hand, Holmes posed for the camera with Mudin's bloody and half-naked corpse, grabbing the boy's head by the hair as if it were a trophy deer. Morlock made sure to get a similar memento.
No one seemed more pleased by the kill than Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, the platoon's popular and hard-charging squad leader. "It was like another day at the office for him," one soldier recalls. Gibbs started "messing around with the kid," moving his arms and mouth and "acting like the kid was talking." Then, using a pair of razor-sharp medic's shears, he reportedly sliced off the dead boy's pinky finger and gave it to Holmes, as a trophy for killing his first Afghan.
According to his fellow soldiers, Holmes took to carrying the finger with him in a zip-lock bag. "He wanted to keep the finger forever and wanted to dry it out," one of his friends would later report. "He was proud of his finger."
After the killing, the soldiers involved in Mudin's death were not disciplined or punished in any way. Emboldened, the platoon went on a shooting spree over the next four months that claimed the lives of at least three more innocent civilians. When the killings finally became public last summer, the Army moved aggressively to frame the incidents as the work of a "rogue unit" operating completely on its own, without the knowledge of its superiors. Military prosecutors swiftly charged five low-ranking soldiers with murder, and the Pentagon clamped down on any information about the killings. Soldiers in Bravo Company were barred from giving interviews, and lawyers for the accused say their clients faced harsh treatment if they spoke to the press, including solitary confinement. No officers were charged.
But a review of internal Army records and investigative files obtained by Rolling Stone, including dozens of interviews with members of Bravo Company compiled by military investigators, indicates that the dozen infantrymen being portrayed as members of a secretive "kill team" were operating out in the open, in plain view of the rest of the company. Far from being clandestine, as the Pentagon has implied, the murders of civilians were common knowledge among the unit and understood to be illegal by "pretty much the whole platoon," according to one soldier who complained about them. Staged killings were an open topic of conversation, and at least one soldier from another battalion in the 3,800-man Stryker Brigade participated in attacks on unarmed civilians. "The platoon has a reputation," a whistle-blower named Pfc. Justin Stoner told the Army Criminal Investigation Command. "They have had a lot of practice staging killings and getting away with it."
From the start, the questionable nature of the killings was on the radar of senior Army leadership. Within days of the first murder, Rolling Stone has learned, Mudin's uncle descended on the gates of FOB Ramrod, along with 20 villagers from La Mohammad Kalay, to demand an investigation. "They were sitting at our front door," recalls Lt. Col. David Abrahams, the battalion's second in command. During a four-hour meeting with Mudin's uncle, Abrahams was informed that several children in the village had seen Mudin killed by soldiers from 3rd Platoon. The battalion chief ordered the soldiers to be reinterviewed, but Abrahams found "no inconsistencies in their story," and the matter was dropped. "It was cut and dry to us at the time," Abrahams recalls.
Other officers were also in a position to question the murders. Neither 3rd Platoon's commander, Capt. Matthew Quiggle, nor 1st Lt. Roman Ligsay has been held accountable for their unit's actions, despite their repeated failure to report killings that they had ample reason to regard as suspicious. In fact, supervising the murderous platoon, or even having knowledge of the crimes, seems to have been no impediment to career advancement. Ligsay has actually been promoted to captain, and a sergeant who joined the platoon in April became a team leader even though he "found out about the murders from the beginning," according to a soldier who cooperated with the Army investigation.ked.
Read all the article and see the photos and the videos here:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Libyan People's Committees should be the foundation of a new life, not just an interim measure

The struggle of the Libyan people, as part of the wave of popular rebellions spreading like fire in all of the Arab world, is taking a really dramatic turn, with the people advancing their struggle against a regime bent on staying in power by whatever means necessary.
Gadaffi, in spite of his past as a thorn in the side of the US, had became a key ally in their War on Terror, as was proved by the late and clumsy reaction of the US to the events unfolding in Libya and the late suspension by the EU of their considerable trade in weapons with the Libyan regime. While the US and the Western powers re-discover, for public image purposes, that they really did not like Gadaffi after all (after a decade of friendly relations), talks have started about a possible intervention and US carriers have moved into waters close to the Libyan shores. The result of such a prospect would be terrible to say the least. In the meantime, the US and their Western allied are exploring the way to make sure that the revolt of the Libyan and the Arab masses does not settle down in revolutionary terms, as well as making sure that their economic and strategic interests are served in the best possible way in the post-Gadaffi scenario.
To understand better what is going on there, we held another dialogue on February 27th with our friend and comrade, the Syrian anarchist Mazen Kamalmaz, who works on the revolutionary blog http://www.ahewar.org/m.asp?i=1385
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.
March 3rd, 2011

What is actually happening in Libya and the rest of the Arab world?

It is a revolution . After 42 years of being governed by the Qaddafi regime, the masses took out to the streets. The bad thing here is that because of the brutal repression of the regime, the revolution was successful only in the eastern part, which also consists of different tribes from the western and middle parts of Libya. Soon the forces of the regime overcame the surprise factor and put down the revolt in Tripoli, the capital, and the rest of Libya by extreme and brutal force. The masses tried to go out again last Friday, which was really a day of outraged protests in a lot of Arab countries and cities, but they couldn't overcome the forces of the regime. Now there is a status quo between the two powers, that of the people and that of the regime, although both are trying to gather momentum again.

Beside Libya, Yemen is on fire for weeks now. In this country there are lots of tribes and sectarian minorities, beside the conflict between the governing north and the marginalized south that demands autonomy. University and High school students could manage, with their full devotion for freedom for all and their willingness to sacrifice for that cause, to gather all of the factions of the nation around the objective of removing the dictatorship there.

Last Friday was very hot also in Iraq, where thousands of Iraqi youth, from both Sunni and Shiia' background -that were on the verge of civil war few years back-, took to the streets protesting against the corrupt pro–American government. Policemen used the same repressive measures as happened elsewhere, which caused the death of some of the protesters.

The Sultanate of Oman just joined the rest of revolting countries now, the youth there took to the street chanting, as everywhere else, for jobs, more freedom and decent life conditions.

Many still see Gadaffi as a socialist and an anti-imperialist... is this true?

This is a very misleading and deluded statement, created by the authoritarian left before and still alive now. And this is due, partly, to the revival of this authoritarian left by figures like Chávez.

We have to keep in mind that Qaddafi's regime relations with the main Western powers improved significantly after 2003 and after the Libyan dictator gave up his nuclear programme, the then US secretary Condolezza Rice declared steps as a model of restoring normal relations between US and the Third World states, including those labelled as rogue by the US. This paved the way for Berlusconi, Blair and Sarkozy to visit Libya, to sign multi - billion contracts, including arms trade, with Western companies. This led Qaddafi to attend a G8 summit where he met Obama. Like Ben Ali and Mubarak, the big capitalist powers simply ignored human rights violations of the Qaddafi regime against his own people. Even when Qaddafi was declaring himself an anti - imperialist, long ago, it was just a lip service while he engaged, as an authoritarian, in trivial terrorist acts that never meant to support the libertarian objectives of the victims of imperialism.

We have to differentiate between being anti–American, anti–capitalist and being a real socialist, as there are lot of anti–Americans who are as authoritarian and repressive as the system of global corporate fascism or the pro–American regimes. Here we have to keep Stalinism in mind. Qaddafi himself came to power when Arab nationalism was on its peak, that was anti–imperialist in rhetoric only, while it led Arab countries from one defeat to another in all its confrontations against imperialism and its most important local agent, Israel. The last one was in 2003 in Iraq. After the June 1967 defeat of Egypt, Syria and Jordan by Israel, many leftists came to the conclusion that the regimes' repression and its exploitative nature were responsible for that defeat. Next year, the Egyptian youth and students started their demonstrations against the Nasser regime, which had libertarian character. The fact is that Egypt under Nasser, Iraq under Saddam and Syria under Assad, all were mere examples of bureaucratic state capitalism, namely, regimes that repress and exploit their own people.

What has been the role of the US and of the EU in this crisis? It is known that Gadaffi has been in very good terms with them for the last while...

In the Cold War both repressive superpowers, the US and the USSR, practiced a double play: they were repressing people in their dominant sphere and “supporting” the peoples' struggle for freedom in the sphere dominated by the opponent. Thus, the Soviet Union supported the Vietnamese people struggle against American intervention and the Cuban revolution, as well as other rebellions in South America and places which were under US packed dictatorships. On the other hand, the US and the capitalist bloc supported the wave of revolts in Eastern Europe, etc. This double game is still played until now. The US is ready and wiling to support such rebellions in Iran for example, but never, never in Saudi Arabia for example. In Iraq, the Bush administration helped Saddam to regain power in Iraq after his defeat in the first Gulf War 1991, while he was facing a massive popular revolution and only a small part of Iraq was under his power. They wanted to overthrow him when it looked easier, and when doing so did not compromise its regional dominance.

But things are happening all the time, sometimes against the will of the US, as it happened in Egypt and Tunisia. Despite all of its best efforts to maintain Ben Ali and Mubarak in power, the masses there created a new reality, and the US is trying to adapt to it. In Libya it looks somewhat different. The US is now like a predator, as Qaddafi' regime looks very weak and so much hated by his own people, and above all, because the Libyan territory is full of oil, it looks a very easy and big target. Besides that, this can help the main supporter of dictatorships in our region, the US, to look like a freedom fighter liberating a helpless nation from its bloody dictator, one they regarded until recently as a new friend. The bad thing about being a predator is that it cannot resist easy targets, despite all past and painful experiences. One very important thing about this possible US plan is that no one in Libya today, nor the revolting masses, nor even the Libyan opposition that resides in the West, accepts any foreign military intervention.

Of course, this would be a blow for the whole struggle of the Libyan nation, not only it would damage its independent fight for its freedom, but it would also threaten its future. The Libyans are near to overthrow the regime and regain possession of their oil and their life, I don't think they, at least most of them, are ready to sacrifice what they gained up to now for the sake of an easy victory that isn't their victory.

What’s the nature of the civilian-military government declared today in Benghazi?

Still there are no clear State institutions as such in the liberated areas. There are some trying to install their elite leadership, but until this very moment, not successfully yet.

Just recently, American and pro-American Arab press started talking about an interim council in Benghazi headed by an ex-minister of Qaddafi’s cabinet, just to highlight their welcoming position of a possible US intervention. Aside for this so called interim council, no other force or group in the liberated areas accepts or calls for such an intervention.

What’s the role of the Libyan People’s Committees? Are the masses creating their own means for direct democracy?

In fact, these committees became part of every revolution everywhere in the Arab world. I accept that these are good examples of direct democracy, the whole liberated areas are run in this way now, as was the situation after the fall of Ben Ali regime in Tunisia and after Mubarak ordered his security forces to pave the way for thugs to practice looting everywhere to intimidate the revolting masses. What is needed now is to make this a way of life, not just an interim measure: this must be our message to the masses.

Flags of the monarchy had been raised... Do you see the spectre of a comeback of the old regime of Idris?

To tell the truth, anything can happen. I think that the revolting Libyans themselves don't have clear idea about who will and how to run their country after they manage to overthrow Qaddafi. They have to learn their way. What I feel is that this is difficult to happen, that they will never submit easily to any new regime. They got to know their strength and this is not easy to be taken away from them again .

What´s the immediate prospect for this revolt?

It depends. Still the battle against the dictatorship isn't over, not yet won . But we have to realize the high potential that there is. The victory of the revolution will make a big difference in the region. We have to keep in mind that the new world order was declared and implemented here for the first time during the 1990–1991 Gulf crisis. This region, since then, replaced Southern America for Washington's backyard. Added to what already has happened in Tunisia and Egypt, the changes will be deep and lasting. There are two main possibilities as ever, either to install a new elite regime, or that the masses could make their way to a really free society, organised on the model of these popular committees that the people themselves have created in the heat of the struggle. 


Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Egypt Today, Tommorow the World", an analysis from Crimethinc ex Workers Collective

North Africa is in revolt. As usual, the most striking thing is how familiar everything is: the young man with the prestigious degree working at a coffee shop, the unemployment and bitterness, the protests set off by police brutality—for police are to the unemployed what bosses are to workers. These details cue us in that what is happening in Egypt is not part of another world, but very much part of our own. There are no exotic overseas revolutions in the 21st century. Make no mistake—though these events dwarf the riots in Greece and the student movement in England, they spring from the same source.
To keep up with events, we urge you to read our comrades’ dispatches from Egypt and anti-authoritarian perspectives from the Middle East in general. But for these uprisings to offer any hope, we have to understand ourselves as part of them, and think and act accordingly. To that end, we’ve solicited this analysis from a comrade in North Africa.

The Revolution in Egypt: 

The End of the New Pharaohs?

Ex-dictator Ben Ali flees in his private jet from crowds chanting for regime change—the hated Egyptian police stations long used for torture in the name of “anti-terrorism” are burned down—men and women armed with kitchen knives organize neighborhood self-defense against the police—the army refuses to fire on their families in the streets. 

What is happening—first in Tunisia and now in Egypt—is the beginning of the wave of full-scale revolutions that will inevitably follow the global financial crisis of 2008. Taking place in the wake of the failed “War on Terror,” these revolutions combine the latent force of massive numbers of unemployed youth with the dynamism of modern communication networks. They signal the conclusion of the decade of counter-revolution that followed September 11, 2001. Although they continue the exploration of new technologies and decentralized forms of organization initiated by the anti-globalization movement, the form and scale of these new revolutions is unprecedented. Largely anonymous groups are using the ubiquitous World Wide Web to spark leaderless rebellions against the pharaohs of the global empire of capital.
The self-styled rulers of the world are truly at a loss as to how to understand the new social and technological forces at play; the aging dictator Mubarak is a perfect example of this, but he is hardly the only one of his kind. One can almost smell the fear, not only amongst the despots of China and Saudi Arabia but also the supposed leaders of representative democracies. The contortions the US government has been going through are the most grotesque of all; it isn’t lost on the Egyptian people that the bullets striking down their comrades came from the USA. Egypt receives $1.3 billion dollars of military aid from the US every year. The suppression of “democracy” in the Middle East has been a deliberate policy of the US government: they know popular sentiment would never support their agenda as the military enforcement of global capitalism.
The best efforts of Mubarak’s dying regime to put its fingers in the ears of the world have not silenced the people on the streets of Cairo. Even blocking cell phones and trying to turn off the entire Internet have proved futile. For generations, Arabs and Africans have been silenced, represented by various colonial governments and portrayed as “primitive” and “terrorist” in Europe and the US. Now the people of Egypt are speaking in thunderous unison for freedom—not for political Islam, as demagogues from Iran to Israel would have the world believe. In doing so, they are realizing the ideals to which the US government pays only hypocritical lip service.
Today, the common condition from Egypt to Tunisia is approaching universal unemployment—especially among the younger generations, which comprise the vast majority of population. This is increasingly the case in the United States and Europe as well. Unemployment is no accident, but the inevitable result of the last thirty years of capitalism. Capitalism reached its internal limits at the end of the 1970s; now the factories of every industry produce ever more commodities, while increasing automation renders workers less and less necessary. The only way to make profits off these commodities is to eliminate workers or pay them next to nothing. To discipline the skyrocketing unemployed population and prevent revolt, the police wage a never-ending war on the population. We live in a world overflowing with cheap shit, in which human life is the cheapest of all.
In these conditions, people have nothing to left to lose. Nothing, that is, but their dignity—and it turns out they will not surrender that. It was precisely this innermost core of dignity that led Mohammed Bouazizi to light himself on fire rather than face humiliation at the hands of the police, who in seizing his fruit-selling cart took away the only way he could feed his family. The blaze lit by Mohammed Bouazizi has spread, carried by other unemployed people who thereby transform themselves from abject beggars into world-historical heroes. The people of Egypt are not only burning police cars, they are organizing popular committees to clean the police and other trash off the street, and the streets of Cairo have never felt safer.





It is not surprising that a wave of revolutions should begin now. Not since the days of pharaohs and monarchs has the world been controlled by as senseless a force as the global financial market. As capitalists became less and less able to produce profit from industrial production over the past decades, they had to invent means of profiting based on expected future returns. But in a world of increasingly cheap commodities and poor consumers, how could capitalists keep people buying stuff and still make a profit? They had to invent a way for consumers to continue buying even when they weren’t paid living wages: thus the invention of mass debt. When the sale of real goods can no longer produce profit, profits must be made on increasingly fantastic expected future returns—in other words, on finance.

Yet like any house of cards, debt cannot be built up forever. Eventually, someone wants to be paid back—and so the entire house of cards collapsed under its own weight in 2008. The financial crisis signals a deeper metaphysical crisis of our present order: capitalism is unable to provide for the real material needs of the global population. The high poverty rates in Egypt are not simply the result of mismanagement by Mubarak, but the inevitable consequence of the contradictions of our era.
Their eyes hopelessly clouded by their own ideology and lack of vision, heads of state can only stand dumb and surprised as the crisis goes on and on. They lamely hope to re-start the financial markets through “austerity” or “green” capitalism, refusing to consider systemic change despite the fact that the system cannot even deliver jobs and affordable commodities to people—much less a good life. Just as it took an era of revolution to overthrow the divine right of kings, it will take new revolutions to overthrow the divine right of things: the power of financial capital and its puppet dictators.
Revolutions are never brought about by technology, but rather by the collective action of human beings who radically transform their relationships with each other and the world they share. However, one cannot deny what an important role the World Wide Web has played in Egypt and Tunisia. Especially among cybernetically skilled and predominantly unemployed youth, it enabled people to call for and participate in mass mobilizations without any need of leaders. The demonstrations in Egypt on January 25 were called for by a Facebook page called “We Are All Khaled Said,” named for a victim of police brutality much like Alexis Grigoropoulos in Greece. The page itself was set up by the anonymous “El-Shaheed”—that is, “martyr” in Arabic. Meanwhile, youth throughout the world are mobilizing as Anonymous; in the battle over Wikileaksactions against the Tunisian government, Anonymous has showed itself to be a potent new international with an awakening political maturity beyond the message boards of 4chan. Demonstrators’ ability to communicate with large numbers of people and react immediately to events via mobile phones, Twitter, and Facebook is swiftly making previous forms of Leftist and industrial-based political organization obsolete, along with other hierarchical formations such as political Islam. and more recently in
This revolutionary use of social media should come as no surprise. In the hands of an elite few, expensive communications technology will naturally be used for self-aggrandizement and consumerism. In the hands of unemployed youth and other excluded classes, this technology can be re-purposed to organize revolution. The Internet is the new global factory floor, and we are seeing its first workers’ councils form—a new kind of collective intelligence that enables people to organize themselves directly without representation.
The blank confusion of global capitalists as to who is “really behind” the mysterious resistance in Egypt and Tunisia is revealing. It’s obvious how desperately US politicians wish they had anyone, such as Mohamad ElBaradei, with whom to negotiate. These revolts are anarchist in form if not content—and even the content is becoming increasingly radical. The absence of any organized group or leader in the early days of the protests speaks volumes: increased information technology has not only destabilized the old Leftist forms of organizing, but also the justifications for having hierarchical government in the first place. When people can communicate, they can organize their own lives. Expanding such horizontal structures to a global scale no longer seems impossible, even if it is not yet well thought out.
To make things even worse for capitalists and nation-states, the massive secret apparatus of the state has been revealed in all its incompetence by sites such as Wikileaks. While Wikileaks had nothing to do with the Egyptian revolution, the cables describing Ben Ali’s pet tiger being fed a luxurious diet while Tunisians starved further stoked the flames in that country. Wikileaks has produced paranoia in the global state apparatus itself, as the state cannot function without the subjugated population believing that it is necessary and according it the right to exercise violent force. Now the empire has no clothes—and its naked corrupt power is disgusting to behold. There is a growing consensus that the state apparatus is an archaic holdover no longer worthy of respect.
The Mubarak regime made the classic mistake of conflating technological structures with the people using them, an error typical of Silicon Valley and certain theorists as well. In a poorly thought-out move, the regime shut down all four ISPs in the country, effectively turning off the Internet. In addition, cell phones have been intermittently blocked before major demonstrations. If anything this only enraged the Egyptian people more. It may even have interrupted their spectatorship—it is easier to watch a demonstration over the Net than to participate—and driven more and more people into the street.
The lesson here is clear: the supposedly decentralized Internet is quite centralized, and while it may be useful, it is a mistake to depend on it as long as it remains in capitalist hands. Yet rulers such as Mubarak face a no-win situation. If they keep communications technologies up and running, these will be used to organize against them—but if they take them down, it will provoke worldwide outrage.

How do you organize without the Net? You might start with existing social institutions; in Egypt, this meant the mosques. The “Days of Wrath,” characterized by street-fighting with the police far more intense than the Greek insurrection of 2008, culminated in the torching of the headquarters of Mubarak’s party. Afterwards, in a brilliant move, the protesters called for people to gather after prayer at mosques—where most Egyptians would be gathered anyway. In this regard, the mosques served the same purpose that social centers and squats did during the Greek insurrection, only for a much greater part of the population.
So while communications technology may be advantageous in the early stages of organizing, a movement must become powerful enough not to need the Internet once it takes to the streets. In Egypt, the revolt actually grew in intensity after the Internet was shut off.
If there is one regard in which the Internet is indispensable, it is in spreading the news of disorder elsewhere. As the Empire’s power has become increasingly spectacular, it has become more vulnerable to being damaged on the terrain of the spectacular. Obama’s first response to the uprising was to call for the “violence” to cease—even though his government routinely administers violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan and inflicts it on US citizens through the world’s largest prison system. He and Mubarak are not against violence, but they appear to be afraid of images of violence. If these images escape, they undermine the state’s cover story about maintaining order.
At the same time, the state desperately needs people to distrust and fear each other. This explains why Mubarak released undercover police in civilian uniforms to pose as looters in order to justify his crackdown. When that failed, he turned off the Internet and denied media access in order to prepare the conditions for the kind of massacre it would take to restore his control. Yet now it seems doubtful that the army is willing to carry out such a massacre.
The insurrection that began by burning down police stations then shifted to massive peaceful demonstrations intended to win over the army. Pamphlets that have circulated indicate that Egyptian organizers planned from the beginning to pit the army against the police. Insurrectionists in Europe and the USA should take note of this clever strategic move. After the front line of the party of order was effectively defeated, the Egyptians clearly understood that the only force capable of stopping them was the army. Instead of attacking it directly, which would surely have resulted in a massacre, they undertook to win over the hearts and minds of the soldiers. Thus far they have been successful in this, demonstrating that they can self-organize and maintain a leaderless yet disciplined rebellion that makes the streets of Cairo safe and clean for the first time in years.
This leaves the army without a reason for existence, let alone any excuse for a massacre. Once an insurrection has reached a certain phase, as a friend has said, weapons are unnecessary. For a revolution to succeed in overthrowing the state, the army must refuse to shoot its own people and instead join them in revolt. In Egypt, the army is at least paralyzed enough right now not to start shooting; it may yet join the people, or more likely attempt to broker a transition to representative democracy.
All this shows that billions of dollars of military equipment can’t stop a revolution. Once things reach a certain point, military force is no longer the determinant factor. If the Egyptian people persist in revolt, the military can hardly bomb its own cities.
Yet even if a military defeat is avoided, the insurrectionary process begun on the “Days of Wrath” is more likely to be side-tracked into representative democracy than to end in a genuine communization of society—that is, in the immediate sharing of all production for the survival of the people. This is not to be pessimistic—already the neighborhood assemblies and defense committees resemble nothing more than the Paris Commune. But Mubarak is a dictator, and the youth of Egypt have not yet tasted the bitter fruits of representative democracy. They may have to learn about them the hard way. Even if a representative democracy is established, it will not be the end of the story—witness the continuing protests in Tunisia. There would inevitably be another insurrection sooner or later, although that could take years or decades.
In this context, it is promising that many young Egyptians seem aware that representative democracy will only limit their movement and redirect into yet another form of enslavement. This is visible in many ways—for example, in the message sent to self-appointed leaders like ElBaradei, “Shall we just call your mobile when we have finished the revolution for you?” The insurrection has also seen unparalleled action and power of the Egyptian women, who will not go back to being subservient under the Muslim Brotherhood after these upheavals.


Yet the popular occupation of Tahir Square cannot last forever; there must come a moment when food will be produced, train lines reactivated, and the Internet turned back on. These are the real keys to the success of the insurrection and to preventing the return to capitalism, even under the mantle of representative democracy. It seems that the steps in this direction have not yet begun.

Let’s step back now and ask larger questions. If Egypt is not fundamentally different from Europe and the US, why haven’t such insurrections happened there as well? First, let us not be too hasty—the dominos are already falling, with massive protests in the streets of Jordan, Algeria, Yemen, and Mauritania. One reason the insurrection has such popular power in Egypt is that, as many Arabic-speaking countries, the Egyptian form of life has not yet been fully subsumed into capitalism. For example, in many cases one only pays as much as “one feels” one should pay for goods. Haggling is not so much a way to maximize micro-profits as to ascertain an affordable and ethical price for an exchange. The commodity exchange itself is often less important than the social relationships that the commodity symbolizes. The collective responsibility and power of the family knits people together over generations, in contrast to the alienated individuals of the United States and most of Europe. The vibrant and public street life of the Middle East is a natural fomenting ground for insurrection.
Yet are there not dark forces waiting in the wings? This seems unlikely, as the protest is clearly focused on “freedom” rather than Islam, with those wanting to lead religious chants being shouted down on occasion. This is not to say that Egyptians are not Islamic—indeed they are—yet there are subtle distinctions. Political Islam is effectively the Tea Party of Egypt, a hierarchical religious movement mostly of the older and conservative generation; but Islam exists in other variants, binding social relationships and promoting a collective ethics. One can even interpret the giving of alms in Islam as a ritual to avoid excessive centralization of wealth. “Allah” does not necessarily denote a commanding deity; the notion may also point to the ineffable, the invisible excess of life that denies reduction and resists the catastrophic harnessing of all to the imperatives of profit.
Of course, currents far older than Islam hold sway in Egypt as well. Unlike many in Europe and America, many Egyptians are profoundly aware of their history from antiquity onwards, and feel deep shame at their present state of impoverishment. The dignity and respect they show each other in the streets in midst of the insurrection attests that this revolution is not abstract, but rooted in everyday lives; it is the deep metaphysics of these forms of life that provide the subjective conditions for transformation.
Communism is older than Marx, just as anarchy is older than Proudhon. The age of revolutions did not begin with the Paris Commune, nor did it end with the fall of the Berlin Wall. As capitalism now encircles the earth, the one thing that could unite the world would be a common rejection of it and the police that defend it. The communism of Marx was trapped in the abstract metaphysics of economics and poisoned by a misunderstanding of the danger posed by the state; this sabotaged the revolutions of the early 20th century, bringing about the catastrophe of Soviet-era state capitalism.
But the age of revolutions is not over; on the contrary. In a song of the Tuareg—“the desert is our mother, and we will not sell her”—we can glimpse a form of communism far more alien and hostile to capital than anything imagined by Lenin. Many of the calls for “freedom” in Egypt have little to do with the freedom to elect a president or choose among commodities on the market, but resonate with a common desire to live with their heads high and not cowed to any ruler. For this they are ready to die, whether by self-immolation or in the streets together.
Yet one can sense a profound need at this time for a common international revolutionary purpose that resonates outside of the Middle East, for something truly universal to fill the void left by capitalism. The nationalist flags of the protesters were tactically effective at confusing the army, but they also reflect a lack of critique of the conceptual apparatus of capital and the state. While the conditions are right for revolution, over the last thirty years revolutionaries have largely failed to create and spread the organization and analysis necessary for insurrections to become genuine anti-capitalist revolutions. What does it take for people to realize that the true potential of their neighborhood defense committees is not as a means of temporarily replacing the police, but of prefiguring the abolition of all police, in every country?
No event occurs in a vacuum; events originate in concrete conditions, and consequently they tend to come in waves. The events in Egypt show that the center of revolutionary impetus is no longer “the West”; this new age of revolution will culminate first in areas where the living conditions are becoming unbearable and the ways of life are not yet completely colonized by capital. However, it would be a mistake to see this as merely the conclusion of an unfinished anti-colonial revolt. It is something much bigger and deeper. The financial crisis is a sign that capitalism is on a declining trajectory. The conditions that precipitated the events in Egypt are rapidly becoming universal across the globe, spelling another cycle of revolution and possibly war. Eventually these same forces will hit Saudi Arabia, Europe, China, and finally even the United States with the strength of a tidal wave.


Make no mistake about it, we are entering an era of revolt. These revolts will reject and attack capitalism in their concrete practice, even if the systematic destruction of earlier revolutionary currents has left a vacuum. Hopefully the participants will realize that freedom is impossible without the destruction of capitalism and the state, and a new generation of revolutionary thought will update the concept of revolution for the dawning era. We are at a point now where it should become clear to all that we can direct our own lives—that the state is a historical fossil holding us back. As shown in Egypt, the stranglehold of the state and capitalism must be broken in the streets; over the coming decades the results of this ultimate struggle will likely decide the fate of humanity itself.
All Power to the People!
-A dissident exiled in North Africa
with assistance from the CrimethInc. Workers’ Collective

Friday, March 4, 2011

"These hunger strikers are the martyrs of Greece" by Costas Douzinas

Greece: 98 Migrants Hospitalized During 39 Days of Hunger Strike
from brandon jourdan on Vimeo.

"These hunger strikers are the 
martyrs of Greece" 
by Costas Douzinas
Asylum seekers willing to die in the face of expulsion 
after shame and exploitation bear witness to a higher 
truth than life

As the world follows the north African revolutions with bated breath, a less public north African revolt and tragedy is taking place in Athens and Thessaloniki. Three hundred non-documented migrants, mostly from the Maghreb, have entered the 35th day of a hunger strike. Many have been taken to hospital in pre-comatose condition and are reaching a state of non-reversible organ failure and subsequent death.
These are people who have lived and worked in Greece for up to seven years. They picked olives and oranges, they looked after the old and the sick, they worked on building sites and orchards for a fraction of the minimum wage. After years of exploitation and humiliation, they are now told they are no longer wanted because of the economic crisis. They must go back voluntarily or be deported. Immigrants are the double victims of boom and bust in Greece. Now they are deemed to be surplus to requirements, to be disposed of like refuse.
What do the hunger strikers want? To make Greeks notice their meagre existence, to ask for basic labour protections and minimum living conditions. They ask at least for the recognition that they live and work in Greece but are treated worse than convicts on chain gangs. They are saying: "We the invisible, uncounted and undocumented are next to you, we worked for pennies and are part of who you are and what your government is doing to you." They are people punished not for what they have done (criminality or illegality) but for who they are. They arehomines sacri – legally nonexistent and therefore non-persons, meaning they can be treated in the most cruel way by the state, employers, landlords and the xenophobic minority.
The Greek government rejects their demands but claims that it fully respects human rights. Rights belong to humans, we are told, on account of their humanity and not of narrower memberships such as nation, state or group. This is a comforting thought. But the treatment of the sans papiers shows these claims to be ideological half-truths. In theory, human rights are given to all humans, in practice only to citizens. This is further confirmed by the treatment of asylum seekers. In January, the European court of human rights held that sending refugees back to Greece amounted to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment because of the appalling conditions of detention in immigration camps.
Greece virtually never gives political asylum to refugees. Other European states, including Britain, will no longer return asylum seekers to Greece. The Greek government has been condemned as a violator of the basic dignity of the wretched of the Earth. This is a sad conclusion for a country last condemned for systemic torture in the 60s during thedictatorship of the colonels. Many of the governing party members, including the prime minister, George Papandreou, found refuge during that dark period in foreign countries.
The hunger strikers are martyrs in a double sense. In Greek, martyr means both witness and sacrificial victim. They bear witness to higher truths than life, they state that life is worth living if it is worth dying for. In this sense, the strikers are exercising what philosophers from Rousseau to Derrida consider as the essence of freedom: acting against biological and social determinations in the name of a higher truth. Sacrifice meanssacrum facere, making the ordinary sacred. It bridges everyday life with what transcends it. The truth the hunger strikers defend at the personal level is dignity – what makes each person unique in our common humanity. Individual identity is built through the reciprocal recognition others give to self and self to others. I feel good to the extent that my intimate and remote friends consider me such. The absence of basic rights of work and life for the sans papiers leads to absence of all recognition making them less than human.
What is justice? We are surrounded by injustice but we don't often know wherein justice lies. In Greece, justice has miscarried in the IMF measures and the Athens ghettos, in the unemployed and the salary cuts for the low-paid and pensioners, in the treatment of the refugees and the wall built to keep the poor out and the Greeks in.
Protesting against the worst injustice and abuse, asking to be seen, heard and acknowledged in a minimal way, even if they need to go to death for that, is the greatest service the sans papiers offer to Greece. By resisting their dehumanisation, they become free and fight for the honour of Greeks against the iniquities of their government. They also remind the millions of sans papiers around Europe that after Tahrir Square they can also take their fate in their hands and resist the racist policies of European governments.
• Hara Kouki helped in the development of this article
This article originaly appeared in Guardian:
For more info about the struggle and the hunger strike of 300 immigrants in Greece : http://hungerstrike300.espivblogs.net/category/%CE%B3%CE%BB%CF%8E%CF%83%CF%83%CE%B5%CF%82/english/
The youtube channel of the struggle: