The U.S. war and occupation of Afghanistan was supposed to bring stability and democracy. Instead, Afghanistan remains a country on the brink of disaster – one that has clearly been exacerbated by the U.S. presence. More than 10 years after the U.S. war began, in spite of the presence of about 2,000 international aid groups, at least $3.5-billion in humanitarian funds and $58-billion in development assistance, humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan remain abysmal.
This past winter, one of the harshest in recent years, compounded the suffering of those living in refugee camps – an estimated 35,000 people just in the capital of Kabul, and many more around the country. The camps, according to the New York Times, are euphemistically referred to as “informal settlements,” because labeling them as what they really are, camps full of war refugees, is “politically sensitive.” According to the Times, “The Afghan government insists that the residents should and could return to their original homes; the residents say it is too dangerous for them to do so.”
The struggles across the Middle East and North Africa and on-going resistance to austerity in Europe catalysed a fightback in North America – the Occupy Movement – that no one saw coming.
Together, all testify to the pervasive and deepening crisis of capitalism, not just as an economic system, but as a comprehensive way of living and valuing.
This civilizational crisis creates the opportunity for a renewal of socialist politics, but also poses hard questions to socialists: what does capitalist crisis mean on the deepest levels, what are the lessons of the Occupy movement, what ought our relationship to existing political and social institutions be, and how to do we go about building a broad democratic movement that has a plausible chance of overcoming capitalist life-crises?
The following ten theses aim to be part of a conversation, not the conclusion to an argument.
A nation’s progress should be measured as much by its advancement of human rights as by its accumulation and equitable distribution of wealth.
Though conditioned on gender, race and property, we were the first nation on earth to embrace the fundamental principle of democracy. Had we remained as we were at our founding we would likely have dissolved as a nation but we changed. We progressed. We answered the challenges of human evolution.
With the adoption of a constitution replacing the Articles of Confederation, we announced to the world that we were one nation, united in principle and purpose. We became a union with a strong federal government that could defend our borders and guarantee the rights of our citizens enumerated in the Bill of Rights.
We reformed our democracy by empowering the people to elect not only our representatives in the lower house but also our senators in the upper chamber of congress. We expanded our franchise by eliminating property as a condition of voting. We survived a bloody civil war, abolishing slavery and eventually welcoming all races to the full rights of citizenship.
As someone who vividly recalls the Iranian “students” who took our diplomats hostage in 1979 and the 444 days it took to get them back, the repeat of this by the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, putting 19 pro-democracy, non-government organization (NGO) Americans on trial on trumped up charges has an ugly repetitive feel to it.
The contempt the Iranian revolutionaries, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, had for America and, I might add, international law and practice that goes back centuries, is everything you need to know about dealing with militant Islamists, whether they are in Iran, Egypt, or anywhere else on the face of the Earth.
Just as then-President Jimmy Carter dawdled while looking for a diplomatic response, this same scenario is now being played out by Barack Obama and it won’t work now just as it did not work then. Carter authorized a failed military operation that, by most accounts, was poorly organized and executed.
The latest news is the Supreme Court taking suo moto notice of the Bankers helping themselves to large dollops of cash as ‘Bonuses’ for their performances delivering high profits for their institutions. The bankers have already been giving themselves gold medals for their being voted ‘banker of the year’ and, of course, ‘Best Central Banker of the Year’ to two State Bank governors.
These Bankers, mainly of the National Bank and State Bank of Pakistan, have presided over the sharpest decline in industrial production in the country. This decline has caused the largest unemployment in the country, and could have triggered a massive revolt.
The poverty levels are already below known records, while desperation-driven suicides for economic reasons have become a daily occurrence. The interest rates have been maintained at ridiculously high rates, so that it is not economically viable for industry to be financed with bank funding.
The late Israeli scholar and diplomat, Abba Eban, (1915-2002) said, “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.”
Similarly, Winston Churchill said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they have tried everything else.” In Churchill’s case, he was referring to the U.S. reluctance to become involved in another war in Europe, but the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 changed that overnight. By 1945, along with our allies, the wars in Europe and Asia were over.
The Nazis killed people on such a scale that it is almost incomprehensible. It happened within my lifetime and that of many others, some of whom are among the fortunate survivors. And yet, today, the denial of the Holocaust and the millions of other Nazi victims is an article of faith among Arabs in the Middle East and countless others around the world.