According to a recent study by the United States Geological Survey, Afghanistan has nearly one trillion dollars in mineral deposits. The study claimed to have found previously unknown reserves of lithium, gold, cobalt and other minerals. According to the New York Times: “An internal Pentagon memo … states that Afghanistan could become the ‘Saudi Arabia of lithium’, a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.”
Imperialism & war
Put Rudd on a boat so that he can see what it feels like to be a refugee trying to run from imperial slaughter, on a leaky boat in shark-infested waters How can these arseholes be so heartless? — lock people up in bureaucratic darkness They say they're Christian, but where’s the compassion? They put Aboriginal people back on rations It’s the Lib-Lab; hypocrisy reigns supreme, they've got their redneck corporate Australian dream they want to make you think you're playing on the same team as them as they are skimming off your share of the cream
On May 30, big protests were held in most Australian capital cities against recent killings in the Afghan province of Behsud. Fifteen hundred people rallied in Sydney and up to 400 in Melbourne. Initially, the protest was to demand the Australian government stop deporting Hazara asylum seekers to Afghanistan, because the situation is not safe for the Hazara ethnic minority. However, when news broke that some Hazara had been massacred by Afghan Pashtun nomads in the province of Behsud, the protest’s focus shifted to calling for international support for the Hazara.
In 2006, as Labor opposition leader, Kevin Rudd, made much of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian, pastor and pacifist. Bonhoeffer took part in the German resistance to the Nazi regime and helped German Jews escape the country. Bonhoeffer was murdered by the Nazis in 1945. For Rudd in 2006: “Bonhoeffer is, without doubt, the man I admire most in the history of the twentieth century. He was a man of faith. He was a man of reason. He was a man of letters … He was never a nationalist, always an internationalist. And above all, he was a man of action …”
On May 31, Israeli defence force commandos boarded an aid ship in international waters. The ship was trying to break the illegal military blockade of the Gaza strip and transport much-needed food and medical supplies. Nine aid activists were killed and several snap actions were held in Australia to condemn Israel’s actions and call for an end to the blockade. On June 1, 250 people rallied in Brisbane to condemn Israel’s attacks on the Gaza aid fleet. ALP vice-president Wendy Turner, and socialist activist and lecturer in creative industries Gary MacLennan, spoke.
Israel faces unprecedented pressure to abandon its official policy of “ambiguity” regarding its possession of nuclear weapons. Israel’s equivocal stance on its atomic status was shattered by reports on May 24 that it offered to sell nuclear-armed Jericho missiles to South Africa's apartheid regime in 1975. The revelations are deeply embarrassing to Israel given its long-standing opposition to signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has argued instead that it is a “responsible power” that would never misuse nuclear weapons technologies if it acquired them.
“Break the war alliance” is one of the key messages anti-war groups will send to US President Barack Obama when he visits Australia in June. Protesters plan to focus on the stepped-up US war drive in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They will also demand of Obama and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that the occupying troops leave. Compared to the Bush administration, total US defence spending is projected to rise from US$534.5 billion in 2006 to $663.7 billion in 2010 according to Congressional budget papers.
American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein Directed by David Ridgen & Nicolas Rossier Baraka Productions Review by Antony Loewenstein Jewish critics of Israel are as old as the ideology itself. Zionism was regarded by most Jews in Europe as an idealistic delusion before the Second World War, but the Holocaust literally changed everything.
It took nearly six months to organise, but on May 21, representatives from seven anti-war groups finally met defence minister Senator John Faulkner to request he re-consider a Greens’ initiative to amend the Defence Act. The amendment would require that MPs vote on whether or not Australian troops are sent to war. While the lobby, spearheaded by Nick Deane from the Marrickville Peace Group, did not change the senator’s mind, Deane told Green Left Weekly that he felt the exercise was still worthwhile because Faulkner heard a range of views.
On March 31, a group of Christian peace activists from the Bonhoeffer Peace Collective entered a secretive military base on Swan Island off the coast of Victoria. Swan Island is a training base for Australia's elite SAS soldiers, who play the most active combat role in Australia’s deployment to Afghanistan. The activists wanted to shed light on the brutal ongoing occupation and war in Afghanistan. They switched off power to a satellite dish and one sector of the base: a symbolic act to call on the government to “hit the emergency stop button” on the war.
Hundreds of Tamils turned out in Sydney’s Martin Place on May 18 to mark the first anniversary of the Sri Lankan army’s capture of the last bit of land held by the pro-independence Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the north-east of the country. In driving rain, families lined up to place petals in front of a statue of a grieving mother. They heard from community speakers, the Greens, the Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) and the Socialist Alliance.
US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh told an audience at a journalism conference in April that American soldiers are now executing prisoners in Afghanistan, a May 12 Rawstory.com article said. Hersh helped break the story that US jailers were torturing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In 1969, Hersh broke the story of the My Lai massacre by US forces in Afghanistan. At the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Geneva, Hersh said US forces are engaged in “battlefield executions”.
Wollongong's Students Against War (SAW) collective crashed the university’s ‘fashion week’ on May 6 by holding a ‘die-in’ on the catwalk. Two activists entered the fashion parade and revealed bloodied clothes before they collapsed on the end of the catwalk. SAW co-convenor Ella Ryan said: ‘The idea behind this stunt, aptly named “Deathly Designs”, was to bring attention to Wollongong university's role in helping design military hardware for arms manufacturers as part of the $85 million "Defence Materials Technology Centre".
A May 17 International Crisis Group report said there were “reasonable grounds to believe the Sri Lankan security forces committed war crimes with top government and military leaders potentially responsible” in the last five months of the 30 year long war against Tamil independence fighters. The report cited the intentional shelling of civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations.
The Socialist Alliance has endorsed Dr Renfrey Clarke to run for the Senate in South Australia. Clarke was one of the founders of the Climate Emergency Action Network in 2008, and is a well-known activist and writer on environmental topics. He is a member of the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union. A specialist on Russia and Latin America, Clarke worked for many years as a foreign correspondent for Green Left Weekly and other progressive media. Below, Clarke outlines the priority issues around which he campaigns.
The campaign to end Australia’s involvement in the unjust war in Afghanistan has picked up momentum in the last few months in Melbourne. In December, a number of peace activists decided to organise regular anti-war activities, to tell people the truth about the foreign occupation force and call for Australian troops to be withdrawn. Since then, three vigils have been held across Melbourne. Activists handed out hundreds of leaflets called “Eight reasons to get out of Afghanistan”.