Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Settler State


The other day, the almighty General Security Service (Shabak, formerly Shin Bet) needed a new boss. It is a hugely important job, because no minister ever dares to contradict the advice of the Shabak chief in cabinet meetings.

There was an obvious candidate, known only as J. But at the last moment, the settlers’ lobby was mobilized. As director of the “Jewish department” J. had put some Jewish terrorists in prison. So his candidature was rejected and Yoram Cohen, a kippah-wearing darling of the settlers was appointed instead.

That happened last month. Just before that, The National Security Council also needed a new chief. Under pressure from the settlers, General Yaakov Amidror, formerly the highest kippah-wearing officer in the army, a man of openly ultra-ultra nationalist views, got the job.

The Deputy Chief of Staff of the army is a kippah-wearing officer dear to the settlers, a former head of Central Command, which includes the West Bank.

Some weeks ago I wrote that the problem may not be the annexation of the West Bank by Israel, but the annexation of Israel by the West Bank settlers.

Some readers reacted with a chuckle. It looked like a humorous aside.

It was not.

The time has come to examine this process seriously: Is Israel falling victim to a hostile takeover by the settlers?

* * *

FIRST OF all, the term “settlers” itself must be examined.

Formally, there is no question. The settlers are Israelis living beyond the 1967 border, the Green Line. (“Green” in this case has no ideological connotation. This just happened to be the color chosen to distinguish the line on the maps.

Numbers are inflated or deflated according to propaganda needs. But it is can be assumed that there are about 300,000 settlers in the West Bank, and an additional 200,000 or so in East Jerusalem. Israelis usually don’t call the Jerusalemites “settlers”, putting them into a different category. But of course, settlers they are.

But when we speak of Settlers in the political context, we speak of a much bigger community.

True, not all settlers are Settlers. Many people in the West Bank settlements went there without any ideological motive, just because they could build their dream villas for practically nothing, with a picturesque view of Arab minarets to boot. It is these the Settler Council chairman, Danny Dayan, meant, when, in a (recently leaked) secret conversation with a US diplomat, he conceded that they could easily be persuaded to return to Israel if the money was right.

However, all these people have an interest in the status quo, and therefore will support the real Settlers in the political fight. As the Jewish proverb goes, if you start fulfilling a commandment for the wrong reasons, you will end up fulfilling it for the right ones.

* * *

BUT THE camp of the “settlers” is much, much bigger.

The entire so-called “national religious” movement is in total support of the settlers, their ideology and their aims. And no wonder – the settlement enterprise sprung from its loins.

This must be explained. The “national religious” were originally a tiny splinter of religious Jewry. The big Orthodox camp saw in Zionism an aberration and heinous sin. Since God had exiled the Jews from His land because of their sins, only He – through His Messiah - had the right to bring them back. The Zionists thus position themselves above God and prevent the coming of the Messiah. For the Orthodox, the Zionist idea of a secular Jewish “nation” still is an abomination.

However, a few religious Jews did join the nascent Zionist movement. They remained a curiosity. The Zionists held the Jewish religion in contempt, like everything else belonging to the Jewish Diaspora (“Galut” – exile, a derogatory term in Zionist parlance). Children who (like myself) were brought up in Zionist schools in Palestine before the Holocaust were taught to look down with pity on people who were “still” religious.

This also colored our attitude towards the religious Zionists. The real work of building our future “Hebrew State” (we never spoke about a “Jewish State”) was done by socialist atheists. The kibbutzim and moshavim, communal and cooperative villages, as well as the “pioneer” youth movements, which were the foundation of the whole enterprise, were mostly Tolstoyan socialist, some of them even Marxist. The few that were religious were considered marginal.

At that time, in the 30s and 40s, few young people wore a kippah in public. I don’t remember a single member of the Irgun, the clandestine military (“terrorist”) organization to which I belonged, wearing a kippah – though there were quite a number of religious members. They preferred a less conspicuous cap or beret.

The national-religious party (originally called Mizrahi – Eastern) played a minor role in Zionist politics. It was decidedly moderate in national affairs. In the historic confrontations between the “activist” David Ben-Gurion and the “moderate” Moshe Sharett in the 50s, they almost always sided with Sharett, driving Ben Gurion up the wall.

Nobody paid much attention, however, to what was happening under the surface – in the national-religious youth movement, Bnei Akiva, and their Yeshivot. There, out of sight of the general public, a dangerous cocktail of ultra-nationalist Zionism and an aggressive tribal “messianic” religion was being brewed.

* * *

THE ASTOUNDING victory of the Israeli army in the 1967 Six-day War, after three weeks of extreme anxiety, marked a turning point for this movement.

Here was everything they had dreamed of: a God-given miracle, the heartland of historical Eretz Israel (alias the West Bank) occupied, “The Temple Mount Is In Our Hands!” as a one general breathlessly reported.

As if somebody had drawn a cork, the national-religious youth movement escaped its bottle and became a national force. They created Gush Emunim (“Bloc of the Faithful”), the center of the dynamic settlement enterprise in the newly “liberated territories”.

This must be well understood: for the national-religious camp, 1967 was also a moment of liberation within the Zionist camp. As the Bible (Psalm 117) prophesied: “The stone the builders despised has become the cornerstone”. The despised national-religious youth movement and kibbutzim suddenly jumped to center stage.

While the old socialist kibbutz movement was dying of ideological exhaustion, its members becoming rich by selling agricultural land to real estate sharks, the national religious sprang up in full ideological vigor, imbued with spiritual and national fervor, preaching a pagan Jewish creed of holy places, holy stones and holy tombs, mixed with the conviction that the whole country belongs to the Jews and that “foreigners” (meaning the Palestinians, who have lived here for at least 1300, if not 5000 years) should be kicked out.

* * *

MOST OF today’s Israelis were born or have immigrated after 1967. The occupation-state is the only reality they know. The settlers’ creed looks to them like self-evident truth. Polls show a growing number of young Israelis for whom democracy and human rights are empty phrases. A Jewish State means a state that belongs to the Jews and to the Jews only, nobody else has any business to be here.

This climate has created a political scene dominated by a set of right-wing parties, from Avigdor Lieberman’s racists to the outright fascist followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane – all of them totally subservient to the settlers.

If it is true that the US Congress is controlled by the Israel lobby, then this lobby is controlled by the Israeli government, which is controlled by the settlers. (Like the joke about the dictator who said: The world is afraid of our country, the country is afraid of me, I am afraid of my wife, my wife is afraid of a mouse. So who rules the world?)

So the settlers can do whatever they want: build new settlements and enlarge existing ones, ignore the Supreme Court, give orders to the Knesset and the government, attack their “neighbors” whenever they like, kill Arab children who throw stones, uproot olive groves, burn mosques. And their power is growing by leaps and bounds.

* * *

THE TAKEOVER of a civilized country by hardier border fighters is by no means extraordinary. On the contrary, it is a frequent historical phenomenon. The historian Arnold Toynbee provided a long list.

Germany was for a long time dominated by the Ostmark (“Eastern marches”), which became Austria. The culturally advanced German heartland fell under the sway of the more primitive but hardier Prussians, whose homeland was not a part of Germany at all. The Russian Empire was formed by Moscow, originally a primitive town on the fringes.

The rule seems to be that when the people of a civilized country become spoiled by culture and riches, a hardier, less pampered and more primitive race on the fringes takes over, as Greece was taken over by the Romans, and Rome by the barbarians.

This can happen to us. But it need not. Israeli secular democracy still has a lot of strength in it. The settlements can still be removed. (In a future article, I shall try to show how.) The religious right can still be repulsed. The occupation, which is the mother of all evil, can still be terminated.

But for that we have to recognize the danger - and do something about it.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch's book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

In Portugal Crisis, Worries on Europe’s ‘Debt Trap’

PARIS — For the third time in a year the European Union is going through the same ritual, bailing out another insolvent country. Portugal now follows Greece and Ireland to the European welfare office to ask for new loans on the condition of ever more drastic spending cuts.

So far the markets have taken Europe’s third successive sovereign financial crisis in stride. But many economists are a good deal more alarmed, most notably because the bailout formula European leaders keep applying to their most indebted member nations shows no signs of working.

Greece, Ireland and now almost certainly Portugal have access to hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency European aid to help them avoid defaulting on their debt. But the aid is really just more loans, and the interest rates the countries are paying, if a little lower than what the private market would charge, are still crushingly high. Their pile of debt gets bigger with every passing day.

Moreover, the price of these loans has been a commitment to slash government spending far more drastically than domestic leaders would have the desire or the political power to accomplish on their own. And for countries that depend a good deal on government spending to generate growth, rapid decreases in spending have meant sustained economic stagnation or outright recession, making every dollar of debt that much harder to pay back.

Economists call this “the debt trap.” Escape from the trap generally requires devaluation of the currency, which cannot happen among countries that use the euro as their common currency, or strong economic growth, which none of the three have, or some kind of bankruptcy process, which all three forswear. Add to that the likelihood that all three countries will continue to have unstable governments until they figure a way out, and Europe’s financial crisis has no end in sight.

“What has been missing, in the debate about how countries can restore their finances to some kind of sustainability, is the limit of how much they can cut in a period of austerity,” said Simon Tilford, chief economist for the Center for European Reform in London. “There is a limit of how much any government can cut back spending and survive politically unless there is a light at the end of the tunnel, a route back to economic growth.”

The problems of the weaker countries are not just sovereign debt, but also lack of competitiveness, both in Europe and the larger world. Without the nations’ restoring competitiveness and selling more goods abroad, which can come only through a longer-term process of reducing wages and taxes to spur private sector investment, economists are not optimistic about prospects for new growth soon.

The crisis in Portugal also raises new questions about whether the European Union will come to grips with the other side of its crisis: the banks. Banks in well-off countries like Germany, France and the Netherlands, as well as Britain, hold a lot of Greek, Portuguese and Irish debt. And if these countries cannot pay their debts, they would have to reschedule them, reduce them or default, causing a major banking crisis in the rest of Europe.

That reckoning would require governments to ask their taxpayers to recapitalize the banks, which is exactly what political leaders are afraid to do.

“We have a banking crisis interwoven with a sovereign debt crisis,” Mr. Tilford said. “Europe needs to address both, and it needs to acknowledge that the banking sectors of creditor countries — especially Germany — are not now in a position to handle restructuring and default, and that governments will have to pump money into the banks to recapitalize them.”

In essence, Mr. Tilford said, it is the taxpayers of Greece, Ireland and Portugal who are bailing out German, French and British taxpayers and depositors — not the other way around. The indebted countries are not really getting bailouts, he said, “but loans at high interest rates.” For there to be a real bailout, he said, there would have to be a default.

António Nogueira Leite, a former Portuguese secretary of the treasury and an adviser to the center-right opposition, said that the bailout packages “don’t really take into account the arithmetic of the debt.” The experiences of Greece and Ireland show, he said, “that once austerity sets in, the country doesn’t generate the means to be able to pay for the already incurred debt.”

The Economist this week, in an article about Greece’s problems, said, “The international plan to rescue Greece is instead starting to paralyze it.”

Of course the indebted countries have responsibility for their own dire straits. Greece lied about its statistics, Ireland decided to guarantee the enormous debts of its reckless banking sector and Portugal borrowed cheap money but did not restructure its economy. Still, Mr. Nogueira Leite said, “If you can’t devalue, and you say no restructuring of the debt, and say that the taxpayers of Germany must receive a risk premium in interest to loan to the peripheral countries, then it’s impossible to avoid the debt trap.”

Portugal is not in a great position to bargain, he said, but “we must fight to get as low an interest rate as possible, so we don’t end up like Greece and Ireland.”

Portugal’s decision to seek a bailout from the European Union was hardly unexpected, and funds had already been set aside to cover its needs. But the decision is also a marker about the political costs of austerity.

Portugal went to the European Union after the opposition refused to support the minority government’s fourth austerity package, and the government of José Sócrates, the Socialist prime minister, finally fell. Portuguese bankers also made it clear that they would no longer keep buying up Portuguese government debt, which was approaching junk status, even if they could offload it to the European Central Bank.

“The government had a cash problem, but was just kicking the can down the road,” said Ricardo Costa, deputy editor of the weekly newspaper Expresso.

He said that when the European Union failed to agree on more flexible measures to aid countries like Portugal — blocked in February by Germany and Finland — Mr. Sócrates “was alone against the markets.” Elections in June are likely to bring the center-right Social Democrats to power in a coalition.

They accept the need for cuts, but how they react to the bailout deal Mr. Sócrates will have to negotiate before then is complicated, Mr. Costa said.

Portuguese efforts to get a small “bridging loan” to get the country through the elections failed because the European Union has no such practice and no country would give a bilateral loan. So on Friday, in Hungary, European finance ministers said they would begin negotiations, together with the International Monetary Fund, for a roughly 80-billion-euro rescue package for Portugal with all political parties.

“If the opposition signs the package before elections, voters will say, ‘You’re the same, raising taxes, closing schools,”‘ Mr. Costa said.

“But our main problem is that we’re not growing enough; actually we’re not growing at all,” he said. “And if we don’t grow, we won’t get out of this problem in a decade.”

There are also fears about Spain, one of the largest economies in the euro zone, which has problems with bank debt, unemployment and bad mortgages that are still on the books after the construction bubble burst. If Spain needs a bailout, the euro will be in deep trouble because the rescue fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, is not big enough. On Friday, European officials insisted that the Portuguese bailout would reduce the risk to Spain.

The Spanish government has worked hard to pacify the markets by cutting spending, but its economy must also grow to convince markets that it can handle its debt. The austerity program already in place has made the Socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and his party so unpopular that he announced this week that he would not run again.

Stephen Castle contributed reporting from Brussels.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

민족어가 버림받는 땅

외세가 판을 치는 남조선에서는 우리의 고유한 민족성과 미풍량속이 사멸될 위기에 처해있다.

민족의 기본징표의 하나인 우리 말과 글의 순수성이 사라지고있는것만 보아도 그것을 잘 알수 있다.

지금 남조선에 《세계화》의 바람을 타고 쓸어든 외래어, 잡탕말들은 력사적으로 면면히 이어온 우리의 민족성을 해치고있으며 사람들, 특히 새 세대들의 정신상태를 좀먹고 그들을 정신적불구자로 만들고있다.

현재 남조선에서 사용되는 언어수는 영어, 그리스어, 에스빠냐어를 비롯하여 무려 30여개나 된다.

남조선에서 사용되는 국어사전은 외래어와 한자어가 80%이상을 차지하여 국어사전이 아니라 《외래어사전》, 《남의 말사전》으로 불리우고있다.

《정부》에서 발행한 《법전》들과 판결문, 공문서같은것은 전부 한자어와 외래어로 되여있으며 《국회》표식과 《의원》들의 이름을 쓴 명패, 개별적사람들이 사용하는 명함장들도 거의나 한자어와 외래어로 표시되여있다.

남조선의 출판물과 각종 간판들, 상업광고들도 온통 외래어와 잡탕말투성이다. 주요잡지 이름만 보아도 《인싸이드 월드》, 《뉴스 메이커》, 《키노》 등 영어로 되여있으며 남조선의 3대방송의 이름도 《KBS》(한국방송공사), 《MBC》(문화방송), 《SBS》(서울방송)로 표시하고있다.

이 방송사에서 나오는 방송제목들도 《뉴스라인》, 《뉴스투데이》, 《뉴스이브닝》, 《정보더이트》 등 영어로 되여있기때문에 남조선방송인지 외국방송인지 도저히 분간하지 못할 지경이다.
한개의 일간신문에 하루 표기되는 외래어수는 830여개에 달하고 방송제목의 외래어사용률은 50%이상이나 되며 그 사용비률도 매해 4~5%씩 증가하는 등 모든 대중보도수단들이 외래어를 경쟁식으로 마구 퍼뜨리고있다.

언제인가 남조선의 《국어문화운동본부》가 서울 마로니공원일대에 있는 간판들을 조사한데 의하면 건물들과 가게방들에 붙어있는 간판 468개 가운데 외래어와 한자어간판이 85%를 차지하는 반면에 우리 말로 된 간판은 불과 15%밖에 되지 않았다고 한다.

남조선주식시장에 올라있는 700여개 회사가운데 《SK》, 《LG》 등 외래어로 된것이 기본을 이루고 고유한 우리 말로 이름을 단 회사는 2개밖에 되지 않는다고 한다.

이러한 현실을 두고 남조선인민들은 《외래어속에 우리 말이 숨쉬고있다.》라고 개탄하고있다.

더우기 분격하게 되는것은 극악한 외세의존정책으로 남조선을 언어오물장으로 만들어놓은 현 집권세력이 오히려 동족대결에 광분하던 나머지 공화국에서 쓰는 말이라면 아무리 좋은것이라고 해도 덮어놓고 못쓰게 하고있는 사실이다.

대구의 한 중학교교원이 학생들에게 《원양어업》이라고 하는것보다 공화국에서 쓰는 《먼바다고기잡이》라고 하는것이 더 낫다고 가르쳤다고 하여 《보안법》의 희생물로 된것이 그 한 실례이다.

《인민》, 《동무》라는 말도 공화국에서 쓰는 말이라는 단 한가지 리유로 하여 이미 오래전부터 사용이 금지되여있다.

그런가 하면 남조선당국자들은 《미스터》니, 《미스》니 하는 미국말을 끌어들이고있으며 평시에도 미국말을 쓸것을 강요하고있다.

북침전쟁연습의 명칭도 《키 리졸브》, 《을지 포커스 렌즈》 등과 같은 외래어로 달아놓고 외세와 야합하여 반공화국대결소동에 열을 올리고있는것이 남조선의 보수집권패당이다.
남의 말과 글이 판을 치고 민족어가 버림당하는 남조선은 말그대로 《언어식민지》이고 그속에서 인민들은 민족의 넋을 잃고있다.

나라와 민족의 운명은 안중에도 없이 외세에 아부굴종하면서 우리 말과 글까지 말살하고있는 매국배족의 무리들이 살판치는 한 남조선사회는 민족성불모지로 더더욱 겨레의 규탄과 배격을 받게 될것이다

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bring War Dollars Home by Closing Down Bases

By Christine Ahn and Sukjong Hong,
March 31, 2011

On the eighth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, U.S. fighter planes took off to start yet another military action -- this time, in Libya. A recent Gallup poll found that only 47 percent of Americans approved of military action in Libya, the lowest level of support for military intervention in 40 years. At the same time, U.S. President Barack Obama has sent Congress a budget that includes $1.2 trillion dollars for military and security expenditures. Clearly, Americans are weary of war, especially during an economic crisis that has threatened jobs, health plans, and pensions most families need to survive.

The hopeful news is that a grassroots movement of ordinary people across U.S. towns and cities has launched the New Priorities campaign, uniting under the demand to “bring the troops and war dollars home” by cutting defense spending instead of benefits, jobs, and basic government services. Worldwide actions are also being planned for the Global Day of Action on Military Spending on April 12th to shine a light on egregious amounts of military spending by the world’s governments. Central to these efforts must include demands to shut the 1,000-plus U.S. military bases in over 46 countries.

Bases are the most visible structures of the U.S. drive to maintain global military hegemony. Yet for most Americans, bases remain out of sight and outside the national discourse on war. Many don’t know about the enormous footprint of U.S. military installations around the world and how they undermine the lives and aspirations of the people who live directly in their shadow. Ending U.S. wars is essential, but closing down foreign bases is even more critical to dismantling U.S. militarism and global hegemony.

On the island of Cheju off the coast of South Korea, villagers are struggling to prevent the construction of a South Korean naval base intended for U.S. military use. In 2009, one of us traveled there and can still remember the tattered yellow flags lining the fence posts of homes, symbolizing the movement’s determination to stop the project. Walking along the endangered rocky coastline at the edge of this quiet village of farmers and fisherfolk, it was clear that Cheju Island and other sites of U.S. military bases in Korea have borne enormous costs to the people and to the future of peace in the region.

A Huge Financial Cost
Most figures used to estimate the cost of U.S. wars omit the global network of U.S. bases that provides vital resources and infrastructure to existing military conflicts. The Pentagon’s 2010 Base Structure Report, for example, lists 662 overseas bases but fails to include the 411 bases in Afghanistan, the 88 remaining bases in Iraq, or sites in Qatar and other countries where U.S. military personnel are stationed. Maintaining and constructing all U.S. bases cost American taxpayers $41.6 billion in 2010, according to Undersecretary of Defense Dorothy Robyn.

Of these 662 overseas bases, more than 70 military installations and bases and 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea. Ted Galen Carpenter and Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute estimate that the cost of U.S. bases in Korea “probably runs on the order of $15 to $20 billion annually.” Although the United States and South Korea have agreed to reduce and consolidate the number of U.S. military bases in Korea, other bases and training ranges — including Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek — are expanding displacing thousands of villagers and destroying Korea’s productive and limited farmland. ­

The agreements governing the responsibility for U.S. base relocation in Korea illustrate the unequal dynamic prevalent in countries that host U.S. bases. Under the Special Measures and Base Relocation Agreements, the United States and South Korea agreed to share the cost burden of moving U.S. bases, with South Korea obligated to pay more than half that cost. In 2008, South Korea paid $741.4 million, angering South Koreans unhappy over having to foot the majority of the moving bill and pay to clean up 60 years of environmental contamination. At some of the 23 bases ”returned” to South Korea, the levels of contamination are 100 times above the limit set by Korean law. Cleanup at these sites will require years of decontamination at enormous cost to South Korean citizens, not to mention the public health and ecological consequences for generations to come.

Moreover, U.S. bases and troop presence are an extension of U.S. intervention in South Korea. Historically, the U.S. military provided legitimacy, economic aid, and protection to dictatorial regimes that maintained their power with brute force. Today, the U.S. and South Korean governments control and suppress dissent through the infrastructure of bases, particularly Pyeongtaek and Osan, which are now major U.S. military intelligence outposts for the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). While conducting research for his book Spies for Hire on the privatization of U.S. intelligence, Tim Shorrock found unsavory evidence of eavesdropping on Korean civilian activities by U.S. military bases located there. Although the primary target of surveillance activity is North Korea, U.S. intelligence also monitors China and Vietnam from Korean bases. What worries Shorrock is that since 9/11, what is considered a threat has widened to include almost any activity that questions or challenges U.S. interests. His discovery of the U.S. military in Korea colluding with Korean police to monitor anti-base activities is “an amazingly frank assessment that the anti-bases movement is being as closely monitored, and probably more so, than Al Qaeda - and basically puts the movement in the same camp as global terrorists." But it’s not just anti-base movements. Recently protests against the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement were also noted in the log of the U.S. forces in Korea.

Resistance to U.S. Military Bases in Korea
Given the fierce opposition to U.S. military bases throughout the Asia-Pacific rim, the United States has become savvy at reducing its military footprint in regions where its presence is politically contested. Rather than establish its own base, the U.S. military has sought the cover of the South Korean military in the construction of a new naval base in Cheju, an island located off the southern coast of South Korea.

The people of Cheju Island are known for their fierce resistance to Korea’s division and occupation by U.S. troops over the south during the post-World War II period. For their resistance, the people of Cheju paid dearly. Following the April 3 rebellion of 1948, South Korean government forces killed up to 30,000 people – more than one in ten residents –for opposing separate elections between the north and south and the U.S. occupation of the southern half of Korea. In a long-awaited gesture of apology, in 2005, former President Roh Moo-Hyun named Cheju the “Peace Island.”

Cheju Island is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and a national protected area by the Korean Cultural Heritage Administration. The Joongduk coastline, adjacent to Gangjeong village, is home to rare sea life, including soft coral, and is the seasonal habitat for dolphins migrating across the Pacific Ocean from Alaska during the summer.

In 2002, Seoul announced plans to build a naval base on Cheju. After two villages resisted, Gangjeong Village became the government’s third target. In 2007, 94 percent of the Gangjeong Village People’s Council voted “no” to the base plans. The government then proceeded to pressure residents. Some 1,500 farmers and fishermen live in Gangjeong village, including the legendary Haenye pearl divers—women in their 50s and older who forage in the sea for their livelihoods. Some of the villagers, including a few elderly Haenye divers, sold their farmland to the military under pressure from the South Korean government. According to Sung-Hee Choi, a South Korean peace activist and blogger, many of the villagers who signed the contract now regret their decision. However, they’ve been told that if they renege, they would have to pay back the money plus interest. Still, dozens of families are resisting the naval base construction.

In May 2009, the South Korean government approved construction of the joint U.S.-South Korean naval base. The military has begun to dredge the Joongduk coastline to accommodate the massive naval warships. If construction proceeds, it will not only destroy the rare coral reefs and surrounding ecosystems, it will kill the area’s fishing industry and displace citrus growers in Gangjeong village whose lands will be confiscated as part of the base expansion.

Gangjeong villagers have filed several lawsuits without much success. On December 15, 2010, a Cheju court ruled that the naval base did not infringe on the rights of the villagers, despite the projected destruction of the tangerine groves and the soft coral habitat where the villagers fish. The Gangjeong villagers have used every possible democratic means to block the base construction, but the South Korean government has been completely unresponsive. On Christmas Day, some 500 supporters joined dozens of villagers to block the cement trucks brought in by the Navy to pour concrete over the coral reefs along the shoreline.

The Cheju facility is ostensibly a South Korean naval base, but for all intents and purposes it will be used by the U.S. military. This was confirmed when Americans made calls to the South Korean embassy urging them to close the base, to which the South Korean embassy responded, “Call your own government, which is pressuring us to build this base.” The villagers are currently occupying the site, stopping the construction cranes from dredging up the shoreline and facing off against riot police.

Not for Korean Security
When most Americans learn how U.S. military bases are infringing on the sovereignty and rights of the Korean people, most agree that it’s high time for troops to be withdrawn. But many ask, what about the threat of nuclear-armed North Korea — who will protect the Korean people?

Although the U.S. military has long stated that it maintains a presence in South Korea to protect the civilian population, South Koreans have experienced the impunity with which U.S. troops behave on their territory. Organizations have documented thousands of crimes committed by soldiers against South Koreans. Between 1988 and 1996, U.S. troops committed an average of two crimes per day, ranging from the mundane to the heinous. The frequency of crimes committed by U.S. military personnel demonstrates the impunity with which U.S. forces act in South Korea — and likely, in many other host countries in which Status of Forces Agreements clearly give the U.S. military the upper hand. Furthermore, contrary to most fear-mongering projections of a nuclear-North Korea, “Most economic and military indicators show that South Korea has an edge over North Korea in almost all measures of power,” writes Jae-Jung Suh.

But perhaps more relevant today than the U.S.-South Korean military alliance is the grander regional alliance the United States has been forming in response to the perception of a growing Chinese military and economic threat. A key indicator of this is how the Mutual Defense alliance of the U.S. and South Korea has been transformed. Under the 2009 “Strategic Flexibility” agreement signed by Presidents Obama and Lee, the defense of South Korea is returned to Seoul, allowing the United States to deploy its forces outside Korea. Under the new arrangement, not only will South Korea be used as a rapid deployment hub for US military objectives elsewhere, South Korean troops will also be deployed for U.S.-led military deployments beyond Korean borders.

The realignment and consolidation of U.S. bases is also revealing. Many of the larger U.S. bases are along Korea’s West Coast and have moved away from the Demilitarized Zone toward more southern locations. This network of bases is part of a new missile defense shield directed as much toward China as toward North Korea. In the region as a whole, U.S. base expansions are taking place in Japan, Okinawa, Guam, Australia, and other key locations in the Asia-Pacific theatre, which effectively form a belt of bases that encircle China and Russia. The United States, South Korea and Japan have strengthened their tri-lateral alliance, which has resulted in more intense and frequent joint war games among all three nations, including the recent Key Resolve Foal Eagle ROK-U.S. joint military exercises involving 13,000 US troops and a nuclear aircraft carrier,

In a 2007 interview, former U.S. Forces in Korea Commander General B.B. Bell explained why South Korea was so vital to the United States by saying, “Twenty-five percent of the world’s trade flows through northeast Asia. Whether it’s Korea, Japan, or China, if you’re trading in the world, one out of every four things you trade, commodity-wise and dollar-wise, is going through that area.” Korea itself is the seventh-largest U.S. trading partner. Bell further explained the need for U.S. military engagement in Northeast Asia “because of the natural resources, lines of communication, and products that we will have to deliver around the world.”

But there’s more than cargo protection driving U.S. base strategy — U.S. bases are there to encircle China. Of all U.S. military bases, South Korea is the closest spot to Beijing, a strategic location to gather intelligence, and a key point for a possible standoff with China. The Project for the New American Century clearly states this: “Raising U.S. military strength in East Asia is the key to coping with the rise of China to great-power status.”

This broader regional strategy also explains U.S. pressure on South Korea to build a naval base in Cheju. Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space explains why villages in Cheju are being destroyed to accommodate the expansion of the U.S. military base: “China imports 80 percent of its oil on ships and a Navy base on Cheju would help give the U.S. ability to ‘control’ this vital shipping lane in the Yellow Sea. While the declining U.S. economy can’t compete with China anymore, the Pentagon is embarking on a strategy that says if we can control access to declining supplies of oil then we will still hold the keys to the global economic engine.” This year, China surpassed the United States in energy consumption. As Michael Klare puts it, “China’s decisions on energy preferences will largely determine whether China and the United States can avoid becoming embroiled in a global struggle over imported oil and whether the world will escape catastrophic climate change.”

With bases encircling China, the U.S. military has the capacity to stave off a growing Chinese presence and control its growing demand for energy. South Koreans know this reality well. In a recent visit to Pyeongtaek, when Bruce Gagnon asked the Pyongtaek Peace Center, an organization based in South Korea, to whom the United States was directing its aggression, Center representatives replied, “Russia and China. Russia has large supplies of natural gas. It’s about energy wars.”

Close Down U.S. Bases and Cut Military Spending
As grassroots efforts are made in the U.S. to shift funding from the military budget to our communities, we must remember the active struggles of groups overseas that are directly resisting the footprint of U.S. military bases. Whether in Okinawa, Guam, or Korea, residents are on a daily basis fighting to stop the construction or expansion of U.S. military bases. Not only are the massive joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises diverting critically needed public dollars in both countries, they are moving the two Koreas further away from the promise of reconciliation and reunification. U.S. bases in Korea are no longer needed. The real issue is how these bases are serving to keep tensions high on the Korean peninsula and in the region as a whole.

Rather than accept the unending stalemate that continually threatens to erupt into war, in the United States, a broad movement is calling for the end of the Korean War, in solidarity with groups in South Korea that have long campaigned for the same demand. The signing of a peace treaty is the first step to demilitarizing not just the Korean peninsula, but also the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, and paving the way for a self-determined reunification of the two Koreas.

Bringing the war dollars home refers not just to active, hot-wars but also to the network of bases that makes war and U.S. empire-building possible and thwarts democratic advancement and the development of more just, equitable societies.

Perhaps few can express the importance of this struggle better than those who have defended their rights to land and life against US military interests. From 2004 to 2007, for nearly 1000 days, villagers in Pyongtaek, South Korea held candlelight vigils to stop the expansion of the US military base, Camp Humphreys. When asked by the South Korean Defense Ministry for the price for his land, Pyongtaek village leader Kim Ji Tae replied, "The price will be unimaginably high. The price must include every grain of rice grown and harvested here. It must include all of our efforts to grow them, as well as our whole life here, including our sighs, tears, and laughter. The price must include the stars, which have witnessed our grief and joy, and the wind, which has dried our tears. If all of these could be added, I would tell you the price."

We must call for the defunding of U.S. bases and war games, and join this global people’s struggle for peace and sovereignty.

Christine Ahn is the executive director of the Korea Policy Institute and a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus. Sukjong Hong is a member of Nodutdol for Korean Community Development and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus

Friday, April 1, 2011

Occupying the World

The New Colonialism

What we are observing in Libya is the rebirth of colonialism. Only this time it is not individual European governments competing for empires and resources. The new colonialism operates under the cover of “the world community,” which means NATO and those countries that cooperate with it. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was once a defense alliance against a possible Soviet invasion of Western Europe. Today NATO provides European troops in behalf of American hegemony.

Washington pursues world hegemony under the guises of selective “humanitarian intervention” and “bringing freedom and democracy to oppressed peoples.” On an opportunistic basis, Washington targets countries for intervention that are not its “international partners.” Caught off guard, perhaps, by popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, there are some indications that Washington responded opportunistically and encouraged the uprising in Libya. Khalifa Hifter, a suspected Libyan CIA asset for the last 20 years, has gone back to Libya to head the rebel army.

Gaddafi got himself targeted by standing up to Western imperialism. He refused to be part of the US Africa Command. Gaddafi saw Washington’s scheme for what it is, a colonialist’s plan to divide and conquer.

The US Africa Command (AFRICOM) was created by order of President George W. Bush in 2007. AFRICOM describes its objective:

“Our approach is based upon supporting U.S. national security interests in Africa as articulated by the President and Secretaries of State and Defense in the National Security Strategy and the National Military Strategy. The United States and African nations have strong mutual interests in promoting security and stability on the continent of Africa, its island states, and maritime zones. Advancing these interests requires a unified approach that integrates efforts with those of other U.S. government departments and agencies, as well as our African and other international partners.”

Forty-nine countries participate in the US Africa Command, but not Libya, Sudan, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, and Ivory Coast. There is Western military intervention in these non-member countries except for Zimbabwe.

One traditional means by which the US influences and controls a country is by training its military and government officers. The program is called International Military and Education Training (IMET). AFRICOM reports that “in 2009 approximately 900 military and civilian students from 44 African countries received education and training in the United States or their own countries. Many officers and enlisted IMET graduates go on to fill key positions in their militaries and governments.”

AFRICOM lists as a key strategic objective the defeat of the “Al-Qaeda network.” The US Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP) trains and equips “partner nation forces “ to preclude terrorists from establishing sanctuaries and aims to “ultimately defeat violent extremist organizations in the region.”

Apparently, after ten years of “the war on terror” an omnipotent al-Qaeda now ranges across Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia in Africa, across the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the UK and is such a threat within the United States itself as to require a $56 billion “Homeland Security” annual budget.

The al-Qaeda threat has become Washington’s best excuse for intervening in the domestic affairs of other countries and for subverting American civil liberties.

Sixty-six years after the end of World War II and 20 years after the Collapse of the Soviet Union, the US still has an European Command, one of nine military commands and six regional commands.

No other country feels a need for a world military presence. Why does Washington think that it is a good allocation of scarce resources to devote $1.1 trillion annually to military and security “needs”? Is this a sign of Washington’s paranoia? Is it a sign that only Washington has enemies?

Or is it an indication that Washington assigns the highest value to empire and squanders taxpayers’ monies and the country’s credit-worthiness on military footprints, while millions of Americans lose their homes and their jobs?

Washington’s expensive failures in Iraq and Afghanistan have not tempered the imperial ambition. Washington can continue to rely on the print and TV media to cover up its failures and to hide its agendas, but expensive failures will remain expensive failures. Sooner or later Washington will have to acknowledge that the pursuit of empire has bankrupted the country.

It is paradoxical that Washington and its European “partners” are seeking to extend control over foreign lands abroad while immigration transforms their cultures and ethnic compositions at home. As Hispanics, Asians, Africans, and Muslims of various ethnicities become a larger and larger percentage of the populations of the “First World,” support for the white man’s empire fades away. Peoples desiring education and in need of food, shelter, and medical care will be hostile to maintaining military outposts in the countries of their origins.

Who exactly is occupying whom?

Parts of the US are reverting to Mexico. For example, demographer Steve Murdock, a former director of the US Census Bureau, reports that two-thirds of Texas children are Hispanics and concludes: “It’s basically over for Anglos.”

Ironic, isn’t it, while Washington and its NATO puppets are busy occupying the world, they are being occupied by the world.