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The Crisis in Greece: The Collision of Two World Models

The question of how to proceed on the Greek crisis, for pro-austerity European Union leaders, is not about helping Greece’s economy recover, but about enforcing discipline and ensuring obedience to the pro-bank global neoliberal agenda they envision for Europe and the rest of the world. The landslide Greek rejection of further austerity is nothing short of a direct challenge to that agenda, which seeks to marginalize the will of people and their democratically elected governments in the bank-dominated world order they’re fighting so hard to impose. But too harsh a punishment could backfire on the EU leaders and their bank lords; a middle ground solution seems to be the only choice if they want to prevent the collapse of their pro-bank global agenda.

When the Tsipras government turned to the Greek people to decide the way forward, the European bank lords saw an existential threat to their austerity- and privatization-driven vision, which is causing serious problems in other European nations struggling with similar harsh austerity measures, such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and France. The Syriza government’s audacity to let people decide how to move forward was a direct challenge to that failing vision, and one that gives hope to other left-wing movements and parties throughout Europe. The way forward for the pro-bank European elite, led by Germany, seems very clear on the surface: punish the Tsipra’s government, and turn Greece into a horror show whose example no one will want to follow.

The problem for the EU and the banks they represent, is that even if Greece had obeyed their dictates down to a T, the austerity model they are pushing for seems to only work for the banks themselves. In the long-term such model is simply unsustainable. Further, a punitive expulsion of Greece from the Eurozone could also have serious consequences for the entire European Union, especially if China and Russia help Greece recover without the harsh austerity measures imposed by the EU. Such a Grexit, followed by financial recovery, could be the catalyst for other European nations to choose left-wing solutions to their problems, and could usher the end of the pro-bank neoliberal vision, starting in Europe, but with ripple effects throughout the rest of the world.

Pro-bank European Union leaders hoping to continue their march towards a unified, federalized EU, envisioned as both a financial and a military superpower, will have to curb their aspirations of a privatized Europe in which the will of people is ignored, and the rule of banks runs wild and unquestioned.

The austerity measures the EU and their bank lords are so bent on imposing on working people throughout Europe, alongside their blatant efforts to silence the populations on the receiving end of those measures, are only emboldening those who stand in direct opposition to their agenda. The only way to prevent a collapse of the European Union and their currency zone is to start embracing a financial model that places the needs of people over the financial profits of their banking institutions.

Whatever the outcome of the crisis in Greece, however, one thing that has been made perfectly clear is that the current neoliberal world order is not interested in the well-being of working people, much less in governments who dare to heed the guidance and directives of those who elect them. And while the elites of the neoliberal world order might do well to find a common ground solution in Greece, one can always hope for a solution entirely outside of that order; a solution driven by a vision of international solidarity in which the will of banks is overruled by the will of working people… May it be so.


Greeks Vote “No” to Austerity… and to the Global Neoliberal Agenda

Known as the cradle of western democracy, Greece, today more than ever, gave the world a glimpse of what real democracy looks like, delivering a blow to the global neoliberal agenda with a whooping 61 percent of voters saying ‘No’ to harsh austerity measures demanded by EU and IMF lenders in exchange for more bailout loans.

The EU and IMF creditors, who did not receive a payment of some €1.6 billion due on June 30, had demanded that Greece further tighten the grip on several social lifelines by cutting pensions, healthcare services, education, and by increasing taxes on the poor. Much to his credit, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras left the decision up to Greek voters, instead of capitulating to the draconian demands. His bold move was highly discouraged by top banking officials and European leaders, who warned that the referendum would herald the exit of Greece from the Eurozone, and prevent the Mediterranean nation from gaining more credits needed to save its collapsed economy.

While today’s referendum on austerity bailout measures was hugely significant to the Greek people, its significance to the world was even bigger, as it provided a model to follow by countless nations whose struggling economies have fallen pray to similar “bailout” packages and harsh economic conditions.

The dramatic events unfolding in Greece represent an indictment not on the Greek government’s ability to pay its creditors, as the banks would have us believe, but on the global neoliberal agenda, which will always seek to impose irrational economic demands to further advance its savage brand of capitalism. Such agenda would have people the world over believe that in order to survive, nations must sacrifice their peoples’ safety nets – pensions, education, healthcare, salaries, labor protections, and other life-sustaining programs and services – to create friendly business environments that welcome investment and create prosperity. But today, 61 percent of Greek voters told EU and IMF creditors, and the entire world, that there is another way.

While it is hard to predict precisely what the immediate future holds for Greece, it is safe to assume the audacity of practicing real democracy will be harshly punished. Fear not! The neoliberal agenda, with its banks, wealthy governments, and its vast militaries, is very strong. But the world, today more than ever, stands with the Greek nation, which has given birth to the almighty creature of real democracy, in a way it never had before.


We Were Arrested For Protesting Police Brutality

By my dear activist  friends Daniela Saczek and Marcia Olivo:

My name is Marcia Olivo. Last Thursday, I was arrested with seven members of the Dream Defenders at the Department of Justice’s offices in Miami after we refused to leave the lobby.


We were there to protest the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, but also the death of Israel “Reefa” Hernandez in Miami, both at the hands of police officers. I was also there for my own kids. As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic with a son in middle school, another in fourth grad, and a nephew I helped to raise in college, I could have been Michael Brown’s, Israel Hernandez’s or Trayvon Martin’s mother. That’s why I insisted on being a part of this civil disobedience. That’s why I risked arrest. I was one spunky, loud, native-Spanish-speaking, hurting woman joining a rambunctious and overwhelmingly college-age and younger crowd, together reclaiming our integrity and dignity. Participating in that action was my moral responsibility to my children, and the children of other women who suffer as direct and indirect victims of police brutality and state violence. As a mother of three black boys, I live in fear of the possibility that they may become victims of police brutality in this country. As a woman who has worked with and for survivors of domestic violence, I feel the need to stand with other women who have to endure violence from our decision to have or not to have children and then again to keep them alive and healthy.

Women are not only mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, girlfriends or friends of the male victims of police brutality, we are also direct victims of police abuse as well. Countless undocumented women are victimized for simply working, driving a car to get to their workplace or to take their children to school, or even seeking help in situations of domestic violence because of their legal status. Women are the number-one growing prison population. I am part of a group of women in Florida who are saying enough is enough, who have come together to form a network of women of color leaders, to work together on solutions that will allow us and our children to fully participate in every opportunity and aspect of society including civic participation, economic security and reproductive health. Central to this are concerns over safety and protection of our reproductive rights: safety for ourselves, our bodies, and our children’s future and protection to our rights to have children and to raise them in safe and healthy environment or not to have them.                                                  ————————————————————————————My name is Daniela Saczek. Before I could even cry, scream or process the murder of Michael Brown, my body went into autopilot to organize a response and a call for justice.


I did so because, as a 23-year-old college graduate growing up in a low-income immigrant neighborhood, life taught me that police represent threats to the well-being of black and brown communities every day. But also as a young feminist I believe that is time for the feminist movement in the US to connect the dots by raising the visibility of the issues impacting the lives of poor women of color. The killing of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Israel “Reefa” Hernandez and many more is a violation of women’s reproductive rights.

Reproductive justice emphasizes women’s deep contributions to the family, the community, all work, and every important aspect of life. It’s a perspective that realizes that nothing happens in a vacuum, and as a woman I am connected to the death of Mike Brown and other youths whose dreams and futures have been brutally taken. That could be my brother, neighbor, friend, boyfriend. How am I supposed to feel safe when I know any interaction with the police can quickly escalate to violence? How is anyone to rely on the cops to “protect and serve” when they are the same people responsible for so many deaths?

Despite our age difference we stand together as women, to fight injustices, and to take action to end the racial and gender-based violence in our lives, our bodies and our communities. We will continue to respond to the call for leadership in holding the police accountable for the crimes they perpetuate on our black and brown brothers and on all people of color.

(This article was first published by Feminist Campus – the world’s largest pro-choice student network. Click on the following link to see the article as it was published originally:


Veterans’ and GIs’ appeal to National Guard: 
”Stand with Ferguson protesters, not the police!”

From my brothers and sisters at MarchForward…

To our brothers and sisters in the Missouri National Guard

We are writing to you as active-duty U.S. service members and veterans, most of us having served in the Iraq war.

You have a choice you can make right now.

The whole world is watching the Ferguson police with disgust. They killed an unarmed, college-bound Black youth in broad daylight, and subsequently responded to peaceful, constitutionally-protected protests with extreme violence and repression.

Countless constitutional and human rights violations by these police have been documented over the course of the Ferguson protests; from attacking and threatening journalists, to using tear gas against peaceful protesters, including children.

Now, Governor Nixon is deploying you to serve under the command of those same police forces. But you don’t have to follow their orders—you can stand with the protesters instead.

Our true duty.

When we signed up, we swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States.

The police in Ferguson are violating that Constitution.

The First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press.

These laws are, as we are taught our entire lives, our most cherished Constitutional rights—the whole basis for the “freedom” we are told makes us the greatest country on Earth.

It is undeniable that the Ferguson police have been using extreme violence against peaceful protesters, suppressing the right of the people to free speech and the freedom to assemble. They have attacked crowds, with children in them, with rubber bullets, sound cannons and tear gas. People have been mass arrested for simply being at the protest.

The police have also begun sweeping houses door to door; a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, protecting our right to have our home entered and searched without a warrant.

Freedom of the press has also been severely infringed upon by Ferguson police. Journalists have been arrested; photo evidence shows riot police firing tear gas directly at reporters and tearing down their camera equipment; Ferguson police have been caught on video threatening journalists with violence if they don’t leave, and declaring that they are not allowed in the protest area.

With such important and dramatic events unfolding, the right of the people in the United States to have the truth covered by the press is essential to any so-called democratic society.

The people have the right to protest. If we were truly honoring our oath, we would be in Ferguson to protect the protesters against the repression of their rights by the police.

We don’t just have a legal obligation, but a moral one.

Clearly, we would be within our legal rights to refuse to help the Ferguson police unconstitutionally suppress these protests. But beyond the constitutional case, we have a moral obligation to refuse to participate.

The Ferguson police are treating this like a war. And we know that not all wars are just.

These protests have done something very important in our society: they have raised the deep issues we face of inequality, poverty, racism and police misconduct onto a national stage. It has turned public consciousness to these real problems that plague our society.

Do you really want to be part of suppressing those civilians raising all these important issues on the national stage?

Racist police brutality is a real issue in America

The autopsy of Michael Brown confirms at least five eye-witness accounts that the young man—who was not even suspected of any crime—was shot while he had his hands in the air.

Those of us in the military—especially with combat experience—knows that this flies in the face of any Rules of Engagement, and we know that it is completely ridiculous to believe that Officer Darren Wilson feared for his life in anyway whatsoever.

Increasingly, the issue of rampant police brutality in America—most frequently by white officers against people of color—is garnering more and more attention on a national and international scale.

History is unfolding, with the whole world watching. You have a decision to make on which side of history to be on.

You will make history, one way or the other


If you take part in the suppression of the protests for Michael Brown, we will be enshrined in history just as the National Guard soldiers who followed their orders to attack and repress civil rights actions, union pickets and anti-war protests. History has not looked kindly on them.

But you have the chance to make a different kind of history.

Imagine the powerful impact it would have if you abandoned your posts and marched with the protesters.

That single action could have the biggest possible effect on the crisis in Ferguson and the larger issues it represents in the entire country. It could be a major turning point in the fight against racism, inequality and police abuse.

You wouldn’t be alone. There is a whole community of service members, veterans and civilian supporters who would defend your right to do so. And now, in this critical moment, we are urging you to exercise that right.

This appeal is supported by organizations and individuals who are dedicated and trained to help service members who refuse orders. Sign the appeal here and someone will contact you with more information, or email us at

If you are a veteran or active-duty service member, click here to sign this public appeal to the National Guard!

This appeal was initially signed by:

  • Kourtney Mitchell, US Army, 2011-present
  • Monique Salhab, US Army, 1997-2007 (Iraq war veteran)
  • Mike Prysner, US Army, 2001-2005 (Iraq war veteran)
  • Margaret Stevens, US Army, 1997-2004
  • Anonymous Air Force Technical Sergeant, 2000-present (Afghanistan war veteran)
  • Alynn McLellan, US Army, 2008-2012 (Iraq war veteran)
  • Adam Fuentes, US Navy, 2007-2012
  • Ryan Endicott, US Marines, 2004-2008 (Iraq war veteran)
  • William Griffin, US Army, 2004-2010 (Iraq war veteran)
  • Jason Cardenas, US Army, 2002-2007 (Iraq war veteran)
  • Hart Viges, US Army, 2001-2004 (Iraq war veteran)
  • Ross Caputi, US Marines, 2003-2006 (Iraq war veteran)
  • Camillo Mejia, US Army, 1995-2010 (Iraq war veteran)
  • James Circello, US Army, 2001-2008 (Iraq war veteran)
  • Jayel Aheram, US Marines, 2006-2010 (Iraq war veteran)
  • Miguel Colon, US Marines, 2001-2006 (Iraq war veteran)
  • Wendy Barranco, US Army, 2003-2006 (Iraq war veteran)

More veterans and service members are signing this public appeal.

Click here to add your name.


The VA access bill and the appointment of Bob McDonald: The quiet privatization of the VA

This past Thursday, August 7 President Obama signed into law the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014; the week prior to that the U.S. Senate appointed Robert McDonald as the new VA secretary. Am I crazy or are these two events clear signals of the privatization of the Veterans Administration and veterans’ care?

Let’s see…

The VA access bill contains $16.3 billion dollars alleged to improve veterans’ access to and quality of medical care. Approximately $5 billion are designated to hire new doctors and nurses at nearly 1000 hospitals and other medical facilities throughout the United States; $2 billion to lease (not build) new medical facilities; and $10 billion for a program allowing veterans to seek outside help if they have waited 30 or more days for care or if they live farther than 40 miles from a VA facility. The bill also gives the new VA secretary unprecedented power to fire personnel, allowing for an appeals’ window of only one week.

As far as the new secretary, Bob McDonald, I doubt his credentials could have possibly been more business oriented. After serving only 5 years in the military, and having no experience whatsoever in healthcare, secretary McDonald moved on to build a profitable career in Corporate America. He served for four years as CEO of Procter and Gamble (P&G), a giant consumer goods multinational company. During his tenure, McDonald’s signature was to downsize the company (he downsized 10% of the company’s personnel!).  McDonald earned an estimated $15.9 million on his final year as P&G’s CEO, before being asked to leave by the company’s board, which claimed the company was not moving fast enough to improve efficiency.

One of McDonald’s main critics was Bill Ackman, a hedge fund investor who said McDonald served on the board of too many organizations to be able to really focus on P&G; those boards presently include Xerox Corporation and U.S. Steel. McDonald also serves as an advisor for several other groups.

While his credentials are mostly about business, the new VA secretary is no stranger to politics. He was appointed by President George W. Bush, and later re-appointed by President Barak Obama, to serve on the U.S. government’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy. And the new secretary’s political loyalty is no secret to anyone; according to the Federal Election Commission records, McDonald has made political campaign contributions in excess of $30,000 to the Republican Party, with half of the contributions going to Mitt Romney’s campaign. He has also contributed to House Speaker John Boehner, who applauded his appointment and called him the right man for the job. The Senate appointed McDonald with a vote of  97-0.

My reading of this bill and appointment is that our government’s response to the veterans’ care crisis is to outsource health treatment to the private sector. Not only is most of the money going to outside personnel and facilities, but the new Chief Executive Secretary has been empowered to fire existing personnel with hardly any appeal’s recourse. And while all this money is going into the hands of a Corporate America Republican darling with no healthcare experience and minimal military service, no one in Congress is speaking about the huge conflict of interest that his several corporate connections will present when handing out billions of dollars to outside private entities and personnel, with near absolute power to fire existing employees and hardly any funds to build new VA facilities.

It is time for the U.S. government to start facing the real crisis in the health care and wellbeing of veterans, which unequivocally points to a mentality and addiction to prevailing war-for-profit policies. Sadly, it seems that rather than learning from this crisis, Washington has decided to turn it into an opportunity to turn the VA into another business venture. Sadder still is that no one in Congress, or in the public at large, is doing or saying anything about it.


La Copa Mundial y la Masacre Israelí en Gaza: Un Dilema Moral

Hago la pregunta de si es o no un acto de negligencia moral el invertir tanta energía emocional en la copa mundial mientras el ejercito israelí bombardea despiadadamente al pueblo palestino en Gaza.

Es una pregunta que me hice este pasado miércoles, mientras en compañía de amigos y de mi hija Samantha, veíamos con gran ansiedad el partido entre Holanda y Argentina. El restaurante en el que nos hallábamos estaba repleto de la hinchada albiceleste, la cual, entre sorbos de cerveza Quilmes, tamborazos, y canciones populares, palidecía con genuino terror cada vez que los holandeses se acercaban a la portería argentina, a pesar de que no se esperaba que hubiese ningún muerto, independientemente del resultado.

Los palestinos también aman el fútbol.

Mientras observábamos absortos el partido, el gobierno israelí bombardeaba a Gaza. Un grupo de palestinos, en medio del horror del bombardeo y unidos al resto de nosotros en su amor al deporte, fue atacado mientras veían el mismo partido en un café; nueve de ellos murieron; quince fueron heridos.

Sé que algunas personas sancionan la ofensiva israelí, que empezó este pasado martes, alegando como justificación el secuestro y asesinato de los tres jóvenes judíos desaparecidos, y aduciendo que Israel solamente se está defendiendo. Pero la verdad es que los recientes acontecimientos representan apenas un capitulo más en una larga historia de desplazamiento y exterminación de palestinos por el gobierno israelí. Consideren el marcador macabro de esta barbarie desde que empezó el bombardeo: 0 muertos israelíes; 88 muertos palestinos.

Seguramente algunas personas harán la pregunta de si los mismos palestinos están siguiendo el mundial ¿Por qué no nosotros? Es una pregunta válida. Creo que no tiene nada de malo ver los partidos, o incluso enmudecer y palidecer con pánico cuando nuestro equipo favorito se ve en peligro, saltar de alegría ante la victoria, llorar por la derrota, en fin, tomar un descanso de nuestro quehacer cotidiano para sumergirnos en el frenesí de la copa.

Creo que lo importante es recordar que mientras millones de nosotros hacemos pausa para ver el mundial, una lluvia de fuego y hierro cae sobre Gaza, aniquilando a decenas de palestinos, entre ellos niños, y en su mayoría civiles. La pregunta entonces es ¿Qué hacer al respecto? Creo que es importante no callar; no ignorar la masacre; asegurarnos de que la pausa que tomemos de nuestra vida cotidiana no nos prohiba condenar esta infamia israelí en contra del pueblo palestino.

Es probable que entre muchas personas que están siguiendo el mundial, y que también están siguiendo la situación en Palestina, prevalezca la frustración, la sensación impotente de “no poder hacer nada desde donde estamos.” Sugiero que es mucho lo que podemos hacer. Podemos pronunciarnos en contra de la masacre. Podemos usar parte del tiempo que usamos para escribir comentarios sobre la copa escribiendo comentarios sobre las atrocidades en Gaza, compartiendo información, o escribiendo cartas a periódicos, a políticos, o marchando, o de alguna manera, desde donde estamos, haciendo clara nuestra indignación y condena.

Consideren la siguiente pregunta: ¿Qué podemos hacer desde donde nos encontramos para que gane nuestro equipo favorito? ¿Podemos cambiar el resultado final de un partido? No ¿Podemos hacer que un referí cambie de parecer con nuestros gritos de indignación? No, tampoco. ¿Podemos hacer que uno de nuestros jugadores haga mejores pases a sus compañeros? No, no creo.

Entonces ¿Por qué lo hacemos!?

Lo hacemos porque tiene un gran valor el vernos unidos por un deseo común, y angustiarnos, y llorar, y patear, y gritar, y reírnos o enfurecernos ante una gran victoria o injusticia. Y es lindo hacer eso ante un duelo entre países que luchan con todo su cuerpo y alma. Y es lindo ser partícipes de esa rivalidad entre naciones, ser testigos de esa guerra mundial que ocurre cada cuatro años y que termina sin la destrucción de ciudades ni la masacre de millones de personas.

Voy a llorar lágrimas amargas si pierde Argentina este domingo… Dios quiera que eso no ocurra! Pero antes, durante, y después de ese partido crucial, voy a pronunciar mi condena ante el crimen israelí en contra del pueblo palestino… Voy a gritar, patear, marchar, escribir, y llorar por mi pueblo palestino! Porque aunque no podamos detener las bombas desde aquí, sí tiene un gran valor el condenar la barbarie, y unirnos y solidarizarnos con nuestros hermanos y hermanas palestinas, y enfurecernos ante la injusticia y la masacre.

Voy a pronunciarme porque quiero que algún día Palestina se enfrenten a Argentina, a Alemania, a Irán, a Chile, o a cualquier país, en una cancha, sin bombas. Porque es importante soñar con ese día en el que podamos protestar los excesos y la corrupta codicia de la FIFA ante la miseria de los pueblos, sin tener que protestar la matanza del pueblo palestino ni de ningún otro pueblo. Es importante soñar con poder protestar en contra de estadios, sin tener que protestar en contra de bombardeos. Es importante exigir y luchar por un mundo en el cual las naciones peleen a muerte, pero sin que nadie muera.

 Digo basta al silencio, y exijo un alto a la masacre… y pase lo que pase este domingo, estoy con vos, Palestina!



US World Cup Team: One Nation One Team… of Immigrants!

This past Sunday, as I watched the USA vs. Portugal world cup match at a local bar in my neighborhood, it was really hard to hear anything above the crowd’s roar: “U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!” Clint Dempsey’s goal at minute 81 had given the United States a 2-1 lead over a battered Portuguese team struggling to stay alive. It was difficult to resist the patriotic furor, a sort of frantic and vociferous sirens’ call to embrace the home team and chant with the drunken masses as beer mugs clashed in the air and cheap American lager splashed down on hot wings and greasy French fries. But the irony of an all-white-American crowd cheering for a team 60% percent of whose players are immigrants did not escape me.

One Nation One Team!

Immediately after the second US goal Facebook posts went crazy with status reports both celebrating and lamenting the US lead over Portugal. Among those celebrating were some of my friends who are immigrant rights’ activists, people who have been actively fighting for comprehensive immigration reform for many years. Some of those activists have been working with domestic workers, who are overwhelmingly immigrant women, and overwhelmingly undocumented. Their efforts have concentrated on calls to the US government to pass laws to protect the rights of this group of workers, which is among the most disenfranchised in the American labor force. The demands include sick days, vacation time, overtime pay, workers’ comp, medical insurance, and other benefits and protections to which all workers should be entitled.

Other immigrant rights’ activists advocate for changes in policy to allow undocumented workers who are parents to US-born children to stay legally in the country until comprehensive immigration reform is passed. In other words, they advocate against family separation. Yet other activists concentrate their efforts on laws and policies protecting the rights of farm workers, who are exposed to infrahuman working conditions, including toiling in the sun under armed guard surveillance. At least 8 employers have been found guilty of modern day slavery in the fields of Florida.

The list of grievances around which immigration reform activists concentrate their efforts is long and multifaceted, but one of the main commonalities among the different struggles is that all these groups of immigrant workers and families are severely exploited by the industries that finance the campaigns of the very xenophobic politicians who are bent on keeping these workers “illegal.”

The goal that tied the game and saved the Portuguese team came literally at the last minute, complicating things for Team USA. Portugal’s problems are far from over, but at least there is the hope that Germany will defeat the United States, in which case a strong victory over Ghana might give them the lead they need to avoid elimination.

The crowd did not cheer!

As I became aware of the silence, I realized my glass of red wine was the only drink up in the air. As I withdrew it I wondered if my position could be deemed un-American or, even more importantly, if I could be deemed un-American. And then I remembered… I am not American; I am an immigrant!

The conflict I face is not one I should face by myself. As a nation the United States was founded and built by immigrants looking for a place where they could live with freedom and dignity. Today, the right to that freedom and dignity is being denied to undocumented immigrants who came to this country looking for a better life.

For some immigrants, like those in Team USA, the search for the American Dream may be over; the glory of playing in a world cup for the United States should provide enough protection from the racist and anti-immigrant atmosphere that dominates politics in the US. But for the vast majority of immigrants, who also came to this country looking for a better life, the One Nation One Team slogan provides no protection. There is no glory in their trade; no drunken crowd cheers for them.

But not all is lost… Portugal’s fate in this world cup may hang by a thread, but there is hope yet for them, and, who knows, they might still make it to the final. For Portugal, and for all undocumented immigrants, laboring in the sun, cleaning toilets, working construction jobs, taking care of rich white babies while their own kids are home alone, for all my people, unglamorous, uncelebrated, I raise my glass!


Chaos in Iraq: The Untold Story

The reports we have been hearing from U.S. officials and members of the American media about the situation in Iraq are quite alarming. They tell us a group of Muslim extremists known as the Islamist State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, an al Qaeda split-off, has been murdering Shiite families and government collaborators in the most brutal way as they take city after city in Iraq; Their goal? To overthrow the government of Nouri al Maliki in order to establish a strict Islamist government run by Sharia Law. The barbarians, we are told, have already taken several cities in the north of Iraq, including Mosul and Tikrit, the country’s second biggest city and the home of the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, respectively. They continue to push towards Baghdad, spreading death and destruction in their path.

What we are not being told is that ISIS is only one element of several that have risen to fight against the government of Nouri al Maliki, which has been unpopular from the beginning, and is said to have used fraud and intimidation to stay in power after losing parliamentary elections in 2010. As reports become available from various different sources, a different picture unfolds before our eyes, a picture of not only a sectarian government that, while established by the United States, seems to answer to the government in Iran, but also of a movement of armed resistance that includes members of the former Awakening Councils, Tribal Leaders, and former members of Saddam’s military. ISIS, it seems, is able to move easily through the country because of the pacifying effect of the other elements of the rebellion, which are said to have resorted to nonviolent means in the past, but to no avail.

According to a group of prominent European politicians the conflict taking place in Iraq is a movement of armed popular resistance in response to the al Maliki government, which they said has resorted to the indiscriminate killing of civilians and missile strikes against members of the resistance to crush political dissent, all under the guidance of elite Iranian military forces. They portray the al Maliki government as sectarian and violent, and hold it responsible for the crisis. The group of politicians is called the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA), and it is chaired by the President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq.

Meanwhile the United States government finds itself in an interesting position. On one hand, Washington has recently financed ISIS in their efforts to overthrow the Assad government in Syria, but the group itself is so extreme and brutal that even al Qaeda wants nothing to do with it! On the other hand, the al Maliki government, which is calling for U.S. airstrikes against the rebels, is being strongly supported by Teheran, and it is part of an oil pipeline an alliance with Iran, Syria and Russia. The Persian pipeline would bypass and rival an Arab pipeline financed by U.S. allies, prominently Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Which means that at this moment any strong response by the White House could lead to charges of aiding the enemy, therefore the response has so far been to limit involvement to the protection of American interests in Iraq.

Perhaps the Obama administration has gotten this one right, at least for the moment, as it seems that the best response is to wait until there is more clarity around who might end up arising as the leader of Iraq. Once a clear leader emerges, a great opportunity might also emerge: the opportunity to work with Iran in order to support a political solution to a crisis that Washington created and Teheran exacerbated; Such solution would only work if the end objective is to allow the Iraqi people to establish an inclusive government by and for Iraqis. Supporting such a solution would require both the United States and Iran to set their differences aside, and to work together for a new, democratic and inclusive Iraq, a goal above and beyond their own individual interests.


The Curious Case of Sgt. Bergdahl and the Not So Curious Case of American Warmongering

Congressional outcry over President Obama’s exchange of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders, is not due to any real or perceived violation of trust or of the law, or to the emboldening of the enemy or the endangerment of American lives, as some politicians would like us to believe. It is due to the atrocious addiction to warmongering that has plagued our government for longer than we would like to admit. The condemnation of the prisoner swap is nothing more than a thinly veiled defense of American militarism.

The outcry has assumed different shapes and forms, but at the heart of it is a staunch defense of America’s self-attributed right to circumvent, manipulate, and violate the law, in order use military force to advance and protect war profiteering.

The politicians denouncing the swap as a sign of weakness that emboldens our enemies and threatens American lives have used the same argument to denounce the leaking of embarrassing, and in many cases incriminating, information about U.S. government behavior. From reportage of massacres in Haditha and Fallujah, to the whistleblowing of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, any time something comes out that threatens or even questions the ability of the United States to impose its will on other nations, we hear about threats to national security, and about the endangerment of U.S. troops. But those arguments are old and ring shallow to most people in the United States, who are of the belief that the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was a mistake.

In reality, what creates enemies of the United States and places American lives at risk is the toxic combination of U.S. government violations of human and civil rights everywhere, the violation of International law, the endless wars and occupations, and the relentless attempts to overthrow democratically elected governments the world over.

The pro-militarist frenzy is also conveyed through careful manipulation of the impassioned opinions and feelings of members of military units who served in Afghanistan around the time of Sgt. Bergdahl’s disappearance. Those who consider him a traitor have received a powerful platform and sounding board to further exacerbate the right wing’s condemnation of his release. The corporate news network CNN has interviewed some of Bergdahl’s unit members, but mostly those who are calling him a deserter and who are requesting that charges are pressed against him. The network even broadcasted the pictures and names of soldiers who were allegedly killed searching for him, even though there is still no conclusive evidence to prove those claims.

Much is also being said about Sgt. Bergdahl’s disillusionment with the war in Afghanistan and about his expressed shame of being an American citizen. What we are not seeing are corporate media spaces where other service members, who share Bergdahl’s feelings about the war, can openly discuss their opinions.

The mainstream media blackout of public and military antiwar sentiment in the U.S. should not surprise anyone, since opening an honest dialogue about Bergdahl’s case may easily present the corporate elite that dominates the political establishment with a moral challenge to their warmongering agenda.

We are also hearing that the Taliban prisoners should not be released because they have killed Americans, because they are likely to rejoin the effort to kill more Americans, and because the United States has a policy not to deal with terrorists. By this rationale, however, no American prisoner of war should ever be released if there can be any possibility that he or she might have killed the enemy. And this “terrorist” organization, the Taliban, were they not dealt with already, wined and dined in Washington D.C., when U.S. companies were trying to sign pipeline deals with Afghanistan? Did we not deal with them when we were fighting the Soviets during the Cold War? Were they not portrayed as Freedom Fighters in one of the Rambo movies? Have we not been dealing with the Taliban for years? Of course we have. They control most of Afghanistan and they are winning the war. We have been dealing with them simply because we’ve had no other choice!

In truth, President Obama’s executive decision to free the five Taliban without Congressional approval represents a threat and challenge to every politician bent on keeping the Guantanamo Bay prison operational and its detainees outside the legal guarantees and protections to which every human being should be entitled. The exchange of America’s last POW is also an unequivocal sign that the American military is about to leave Afghanistan; the negotiated swap a tacit acknowledgement of the Taliban as an enemy that, in spite of all our military might, we could never defeat.

The hawks are livid!

Media blackout or not, and whether or not we fully understand Sgt. Bergdahl’s decision to walk off from his unit, it is of vital importance that all service members, military veterans, and civilians who are fed up with endless wars and occupations, expose this circus of false indignation for what it really is: a concerted effort by the American warmongering elite to keep the U.S. war machine marching forward.

We must decry the vociferous right wing’s condemnation of President Obama’s prisoner swap, as well as every effort to denigrate Sgt. Bergdahl’s decision to walk away from the war, as a pro-militarist attack against life. This we must do, not as a show of support of President Obama’s appalling foreign policy record, but because it is a step towards ending the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and against perpetual U.S. militarism; It also a step towards closing the Guantanamo Bay prison and towards upholding and honoring the inalienable rights of all human beings, prisoners or not. It is also a show of support of any human being, who for any reason whatsoever, decides to walk away from war. If we are truly committed to peace, then our moral duty is not to judge that decision, but to support it at all cost.



The Forced Resignation of General Shinseki: Not a Veterans’ Affair

Having sought medical care from the Miami Veterans Administration  hospital for my PTSD, years after my return from the Iraq war, I know from personal experience how detrimental it can be for veterans to have to wait weeks, or months, for much needed medical attention. In the most tragic cases the wait turns to be too long, as it is no secret that veterans’ suicides claim more lives than actual combat. And yet, despite the grim reality of appalling care at VA facilities across the nation, I believe  General Eric Shinseki’s resignation as Secretary of Veterans Affairs represents a tremendous loss to all veterans.

It is not that we should not be outraged about the secret wait lists or the inadequate treatment of veterans at VA facilities. No doubt the entire nation should be questioning America’s supposed love affair with its service men and women, and how that affair translates into actual commitment to enhancing the lives of veterans and their families. But the situation should not be used as a political tool  to continue pushing an agenda that has nothing to do with said commitment, but with votes and corporate profit.

We can already see how candidates from within President Obama’s own party are distancing themselves from the Affordable Care Act as a historic change in the way this nation views universal healthcare, namely as human right rather than as a profit-driven industry. We can see Democratic hopefuls embracing only parts of the act that can turn into votes, when they should be embracing the entire law, while recognizing that mishaps are naturally expected, and that the law is a work in progress. Republican politicians and hopefuls have wasted no time in trashing the ACA, but this is hardly surprising to anyone who’s been awake for more than five minutes.

Likewise, the media-driven outrage about the VA is part of a game for political game. For democrats the game is about gaining votes; for republicans it is about attacking government-funded healthcare, which includes the VA, the ACA, and beyond.

The recent “revelation” about the VA secret lists and appalling care is not news to veterans at all. We have known about it because we have been the direct recipients of it. We also know that the situation is not a result of General Shinseki’s negligence, but the result of foreign policies that view war as a first resort to solving any situation in which the financial interests of corporate America are threatened… valuing dollars and wins over and above any cost to human life. It is the result of a policy of war-without-end that’s embraced across the power establishment.

We are beginning to hear calls for a “change in culture” in the VA; read “privatization.” What we are not hearing is how more than ten years of war are creating generation after generation of wounded veterans. The wounds are both physical and moral, and more are created each day. And they are overwhelming the system, regardless of whether or not there is responsible administration and proper funding.

We should be outraged about the culture of endless war that prevails without question not only among politicians, but with the general public as well.

Shinseki is actually an honest man. He’s the one who told Rumsfeld his little Iraq war scheme was never gonna work with the amount of troops they had allocated for the invasion/occupation, and that they would need a force of at least half a million ‘boots-on-the-ground’ to fight off an insurgency. This during a time they were selling the idea that we would be received as liberators by the Iraqi people, and when all the generals were happily reaffirming everything the Bush administration was claiming. However I feel about the Iraq war, Shinseki was honest and actually had the courage to stand his ground and speak truth to power.

My take-home message to everyone who cares about veterans is that this crisis, which is hardly new to any vet, is not about General Shinseki’s mismanagement of the VA, but about our voracious, profit-driven, corporate culture of militarism, disguised as (false) patriotism. What we really need is political representation that actually values life — the lives of not only veterans, but of everyone. Until we stop viewing war as matter of pride and glory, we will continue to deal with the devastating effects of it, regardless of who the shift manager happens to be.