Millions Around the World are Starvingby Carolyn S. Scarr
Notwithstanding the fact that it has been replaced in the headlines, starvation around the world remains a stark fact of life and death. The titles alone of the more than 40 articles I have collected since January on this subject tell the story of international market forces destroying local agriculture and pushing food prices out of reach of working people in the poorest countries.
“More than a third of child deaths and 11% of the total disease burden worldwide are due to maternal and child undernutrition. These and other stark findings are the conclusions of an international collaboration of investigators publishing their findings in The Lancet’s maternal and child undernutrition series.”
Since EPI has been focusing on the situations in Haiti and Iraq, we have accumulated statistics and stories about the food crisis as seen there. These patterns are, unfortunately, repeated around the globe.
Iraq — Starvation in the Fertile Crescent
Iraq, the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers, was once referred to as the “Fertile Crescent”. Iraq is one of the early homes of agriculture. Irrigation was practiced there several thousand years ago. Countless generations of Iraqi farmers have saved the seed of crops best suited to local conditions. This is the foundation of successful agriculture around the world. Humans would have died out long ago without this practice.
One article from the Mathaba News Network states: “According to UNICEF malnutrition is widespread among Iraqi children and one child in five below 5 years of age suffers from illnesses caused by food shortages. People are now faced with scavenging from waste dumps in order to find anything edible. Quite a change from the days of Saddam when poor families were provided with food rations free by the central government even during the times of the food for oil sanctions.”
The article goes on to describe the Coalition Provisional Authority’s Order 81 which prohibits farmers from saving their own seed and the sequence of events wherein farmers were given genetically modified seeds which did not breed true, which required expensive supplements, and which required the payment of an annual ‘technology fee’. Farmers were also prohibited from using traditional varieties.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization was quoted as saying: “Iraq had a relatively stable and functioning public-sector-controlled seed industry before the war in 2003. After the war, research and seed production facilities have greatly deteriorated.”
In May , 2003, UNICEF conducted a rapid assessment survey. The results showed that acute malnutrition among children had almost doubled since before the war, jumping from 4 per cent to 7.7 per cent. Children who are acutely malnourished are literally wasting away, and for severe cases their condition can be fatal. Acute malnutrition sets in very fast and is a strong indicator of the overall health of children. UNICEF’s network of 3,000 Community Child Care Units, supported before the invasion, . . . collapsed with the onset of the fighting. UNICEF hopes to rebuild it as soon as possible.
Catholic-run hospitals in Iraq report to their friends that malnutrition is worse now than it was under sanctions and that their hospitals are currently even more poorly supplied with medical necessities than they were.
Haiti 2008 — in France's richest colony, the children eat mud
Historically, Haiti greatly enriched France’s coffers and was considered the jewel of their colonies.
Oxfam reports: Less than 20 years ago, [Haiti] was nearly self-sufficient when it came to rice production. But in 1995, when the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund cut import tariffs on rice from 50 percent to 3 percent, cheap subsidized rice from the US began to flood into the country. Urban consumers benefited for a while from the low-cost imports, but they caused national rice production to plummet. Today, Haiti is now importing 80 percent of the rice it consumes–just as world prices have doubled.
In Haiti, where three-quarters of the population earns less than $2 a day and one in five children is chronically malnourished, the one business booming amid all the gloom is the selling of patties made of mud, oil and sugar, typically only consumed by the most destitute. [Other articles give the recipe as dirt, oil and salt.]
1997 — "Miami rice" hits Haiti
Grassroots International report: Drastically reduced tariffs on imported food which the U.S. government has insisted upon as a condition for aid are flooding Haiti with cheap food, undercutting prices for locally grown products. [Actually Miami rice arrived in Haiti many years earlier, under the auspices of President Reagan and the dictator Duvalier, but later trade policies increased the flood.]
Throughout the rural areas surveyed by Grassroots International, farmers reported tremendous difficulty competing with cheap, subsidized foodstuffs imported under new tariff schemes. In the case of rice, for example, dramatic reductions in tariffs since 1995 have made imported rice cheaper than before, undermining Haitian rice farmers. Not only do these imports reduce the price that Haitian farmers receive for their rice, but they also depress the prices they receive for other key cereals, such as millet and corn. Spiraling food imports also consume much-needed hard currency; rice purchases now eat up 15 percent of Haiti’s import budget.
Grassroots International’s research found evidence supporting widespread complaints that U.S. Public Law 480 Title II [“Food for Peace”] food aid distributed by U.S. NGOs, also undercuts the prices for locally produced staples. This has discouraged Haitian farmers from growing basic grains, increasing Haiti’s dependence on imported food. Food aid shifts consumption patterns away from locally produced goods in favor of imported goods.
Grassroots International is a human rights and international development organization supporting community-led sustainable development dating back to 1983. See http://www.grassrootsonline.org/ For more details of the report see “Feeding Dependency, Starving Democracy: USAID Policies in Haiti” Grassroots International, 6 March 1997
1982 — Haitian pigs meet globalization
The history of the eradication of the Haitian Creole pig population in the 1980’s is a classic parable of globalization. Haiti's small, black, Creole pigs were at the heart of the peasant economy. An extremely hearty breed, well adapted to Haiti's climate and conditions, they ate readily available waste products, and could survive for three days without food. Eighty to 85% of rural households raised pigs; they played a key role in maintaining the fertility of the soil and constituted the primary savings bank of the peasant population. Traditionally a pig was sold to pay for emergencies and special occasions (funerals, marriages, baptisms, illnesses and, critically, to pay school fees and buy books for the children when school opened each year in October.)
In 1982 international agencies assured Haiti’s peasants their pigs were sick [with swine fever] and had to be killed (so that the illness would not spread to countries to the North). Promises were made that better pigs would replace the sick pigs. With an efficiency not since seen among development projects, all of the Creole pigs were killed over a period of thirteen months.
Two years later the new, better pigs came from Iowa. They were so much better that they required clean drinking water (unavailable to 80% of the Haitian population), imported feed (costing $90 a year when the per capita income was about $130), and special roofed pigpens. Haitian peasants quickly dubbed them “prince a quatre pieds” (four-footed princes). . . . One observer of the process estimated that in monetary terms Haitian peasants lost $600 million dollars. There was a 30% drop in enrollment in rural schools, there was a dramatic decline in the protein consumption in rural Haiti, a devastating decapitalization of the peasant economy and an incalculable negative impact on Haiti’s soil and agricultural productivity. The Haitian peasantry has not recovered to this day.
From Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization, by Jean-Bertrand Aristide http://www.eyesoftheheart.org
Swine fever is a deadly and contagious disease. A web search for information about swine fever shows that the usual response to the possibility of an epidemic taking hold in a region is to examine the animals of each farm and eradicate only those herds in which symptoms actually appear. A nation-wide extermination is not the accepted veterinary practice. Whether this eradication was intended to have the deleterious impact on the Haitian economy cannot be determined. The effect, however, is a matter of hard fact.
1804 Haiti gains independence — at a price.
France demanded the payment of what in today’s currency is $21.7 billion for the lost value of their slaves. After the success of their revolution — the first successful slave revolution in the Western Hemisphere — Haitians were forced to buy their freedom. It took until 1947 for them to pay off that “debt”. At the end, they were paying the United States which had bought the debt from France.
Thus the value of their work was drained away to France and to the U.S., preventing Haitians from accumulating the capital needed to develop their country. It is no wonder that Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. Very possibly one of the reasons for the 2004 coup against President Aristide was that he had formally demanded the repayment by France of that money to the people of Haiti. Governments in power since the 2004 coup have dropped the claim.
Another Food Problem — The Problem of Huge Profits
The Wall Street Journalreported on April 30: “At a time when parts of the world are facing food riots, Big Agriculture is dealing with a different sort of challenge: huge profits. On Tuesday, grain-processing giant Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. said its fiscal third-quarter profits jumped 42%, including a sevenfold increase in net income in its unit that stores, transports and trades grains such as wheat and corn, as well as soybeans. Monsanto Co., maker of seeds and herbicides, Deere & Co., which builds tractors, combines and sprayers, and fertilizer maker Mosaic Co. all reported similar windfalls in their latest quarters.”
In their paper, Food Prices Crisis: A Wake Up Call for Food Sovereignty, The Oakland Institute writes:
“The increase in food prices is impacting the most vulnerable and the poor are particularly affected, as their diets rely on the very staples that are becoming scarce or too costly: cereal grains, cooking oil, and dairy. However, the crisis is being felt not only by the poor, but is also eroding the gains of the working and middle classes, while investors and speculators are busy moving financial capital into food commodity markets after the housing bubble burst in 2007.”
They go on to point out that as food prices rise, the increase in price is not passed on to poor, small farmers. The Canadian Wheat Board figures show that farmers were paid between $260 - 284 a ton for wheat while the global price peaked to over $520 a ton. The two to one ratio between market sale price and price paid to the farmer was also seen in India.
The Impact of BioFuels —
An internal report put together by the World Bank and leaked to the Guardian claims that biofuels may be responsible for up to 75 percent of recent rises in food prices. . . .
More and more corn is ending up in fuel tanks rather than on plates. With soaring food prices high on the agenda for the G-8 Summit in Japan, World Bank President Robert Zoellick has been clear that action needs to be taken. “What we are witnessing is not a natural disaster — a silent tsunami or a perfect storm,” he wrote . . . to major Western leaders. “It is a man-made catastrophe, and as such must be fixed by people.”
According to a confidential World Bank report leaked to the Guardian . . . , Zoellick's organization may have a pretty good idea what that fix might look like: stop producing biofuels. The report claims that biofuels have driven up global food prices by 75 percent, according to the Guardian report, accounting for more than half of the 140 percent jump in price since 2002 of the food examined by the study. The paper claims that the report, completed in April, was not made public in order to avoid embarrassing US President George W. Bush.
. . . Criticism of fuel from grains and grass has not just centered on food prices. With farmers in developing countries cutting down rain forest and draining peat bogs — both valuable for their ability to soak CO2 out of the atmosphere — to make way for biofuel plantations, many doubt that the [biofuels] is carbon neutral. Plus, some fertilizers used in the production of grains for biofuels release nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas that is up to 300 times more harmful than CO2.
Other factors in higher food prices include:
• increased cost of fuel leading to higher cost for transportation of foodstuffs
• climate change leading to droughts, floods, freezing weather
• diversion of water resources to water-intensive commodities and general rip-offs like bottled water and soft drinks.
The Oakland Institute is a local progressive think tank working to strengthen social movements by providing quality information and analysis for grass roots groups.
What Is To Be Done?
Demanding that international financial institutions recognize the disastrous effects of “free” trade and the imposition of “technological fixes”, the Oakland Institute suggests the following structural changes:
• National Safety Nets for the Poor and Most Vulnerable — Food for distribution must be bought locally where ever possible.
• Increased Funding for the Poorest Countries — including more aid for rural development to develop local agriculture.
• Shift Away from Free Market Ideology, Allow Developing Countries to Protect their Agriculture. We remember that NAFTA forbade Mexico from assisting local farmers while in the U.S. large farmers continued to benefit from subsidized water, price supports and many other benefits. (Smaller farmers in the U.S. benefited much less.)
• Increased Support for Small Farmers — United Nations figures indicate that smaller farmers are more productive per acre than large farmers. They make less money because they do not own their own distribution system and don’t get as much benefit from government assistance in the U.S. and other countries operating under the “free” market.
These suggestions can form the basis of individual and group actions to work to end hunger. Locally small farmers can be supported by shopping at farmers’ markets. We can also act politically in support of small farmers by pressuring our members of Congress and Senators to pass farm bills designed to help small farmers rather than heaping benefits in the purses of big agribusiness. Recognizing our allies is vital.
We need focused work to oppose repressive trade agreements. We who looked at NAFTA knew that a trade agreement which permitted the U.S. to subsidize its agriculture and forbade Mexican support for its farmers was going to be a disaster for Mexican agriculture — as it has proved to be. Every trade proposal which surfaces must be scrutinized with this history in mind. Food First, The Oakland Institute and similar organizations are a great source of information to help us put pressure on Congress.
Americas Program, Center for International Policy (americas.irc-online.org) draws our attention to the expansion of NAFTA into “the Security and Prosperity Partnership” (SSP), being planned in secret discussions between Presidents George W. Bush, Vicente Fox, and Prime Minister Paul Martin. The Center’s assessment of the SSP: “The Bush administration has three fundamental objectives embodied in its SPP: to create more advantageous conditions for transnational corporations and remove remaining barriers for the flow of capital and crossborder production within the framework of NAFTA; to assure secure access to natural resources in the other two countries, especially oil; and to create a regional security plan based on ‘pushing its borders out’ into a security perimeter that includes Mexico and Canada.”
We have to look at our country’s military activity around the world. Military aid to dictators is frequently “necessary” because starving people tend not to go quietly into that dark night. The tragic misuse of the United Nations in Haiti needs to be dragged into the light and examined. It is well documented that UN troops have fired on demonstrators calling for the return of their elected President Aristide and engaged in other attacks which EPI has described in various articles in previous issues of Planted. This is just one instance of many where U.S. military is in the service of unjust economic policies. “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it’s won.”
Berkeley Residents Will Probably Get a Chance to Vote in November on Withdrawal from Iraq
[Alas, the Berkeley City Council failed to vote in favor of the recommendation of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission to put the Iraq Initiative on the Berkeley ballot. We have not yet learned the political “reasoning” behind this failure. Berkeley residents might call the mayor and ask.]
Thanks to the work of the Iraq Initiatives Project, which is sponsored by the Ecumenical Peace Institute, the residents of the city of Berkeley probably will vote on withdrawing from Iraq in the November elections. The language for the ballot measure was approved unanimously by the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission on July 7, and it will go before the Berkeley City Council on July 22, where it is almost certain to be approved.
Here is the text of the ballot measure:
Should the United States government immediately begin the safe and orderly withdrawal from Iraq of all U.S. troops and military bases, to be completed as soon as possible and no later than November 4, 2009?
Should the City of Berkeley adopt the following policy: It is the policy of the people of the City of Berkeley that its elected representatives in the United States Senate and House of Representatives should vote against any further funding for the deployment of United States Armed Forces in Iraq, with the exception of funds specifically earmarked to provide for their withdrawal?
Should the taxpayers’ money being spent on the war in Iraq be used instead to fund unmet needs here at home, to help alleviate the budget crisis facing many states, to care for our veterans, and to help reconstruct Iraq?
(The second clause is similar to a measure that will be on the City of San Francisco ballot in November. The successful effort there was partly inspired by the work of the Iraq Initiatives Project.)
A similar effort to place a withdrawal measure on the ballot is under way in the city of Alameda, spearheaded by EPI board president Janet Gibson and the Alameda Peace Network. There, they have collected hundreds of signatures on petitions in an effort to convince the city council to take action.
Although voters in other cities, such as San Francisco, Chicago, and Milwaukee, have approved measures calling for withdrawal from Iraq, this is the first ballot measure to set a deadline to end the war. The decision to call for a withdrawal to be completed within one year after the election was based on polls that show that 65 percent of Americans want U.S. troops withdrawn from Iraq within one year.
In calling for the funds spent on the war to be devoted instead to unmet needs here at home, the resolution presented to the Peace and Justice Commission pointed out that the war has cost Berkeley residents an estimated $189 million. The state of California’s share next year will be more than the state budget shortfall: if the funds devoted to the war had gone instead to state and local government, none of the upcoming budget cuts would be necessary.
The Iraq Initiative Project was founded last December. Its goal is to encourage a democratic, nonviolent, international end to the Iraq War through both the people of the United States and Iraq voting directly, in referendums and initiatives, to set a deadline to end the war. Iraqis across the political spectrum have strongly opposed an agreement being negotiated by the Bush administration and the Iraqi government that would extend the U.S. occupation. The majority of the members of Iraq’s Parliament have said that such an agreement must include a time line for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops. In late May, the most important religious leader in Iraq, Ayatollah Sistani, called for a referendum on any such agreement — essentially, a vote on the occupation — something the Iraq Initiatives Project has been advocating for months. Because more than two-thirds of Iraqis want U.S. troops withdrawn, such a referendum would pass, and that in turn would clear the way for the Iraqi government to ask the United States to leave. If the Iraqi people do so, and if all U.S. troops are withdrawn from Iraq, that will greatly reduce the threat of terrorism against the United States.
Alas, Father Louie, our scheduled speaker, fell and broke his shoulder Maundy Thursday night. We heard from him by phone from Kaiser and Lee Williamson read a letter he had written from jail earlier this spring.
About 250 people gathered to reject the torture, terror, lies and the bomb which support the U.S. empire and to embrace the peace, justice, hope and equality which are the foundation of the Beloved Community. We shared in a litany and observed Stations of the Cross based on Psalm 22 and a history of U.S. torture. One hundred people blocked the gates of the lab and were arrested as others sang in support.
Joe Woodard has made a moving DVD of the event. Call the office 510-655-1162 if you would like a copy, for $15.00 plus postage.
Why Fuss about Tibet — and NOT about Palestine?
by Esther Ho
I didn't get to see the Olympic torch, even though I was among the thousands who crowded along the San Francisco Embarcadero before the route was surreptitiously changed. As a person who married into a Chinese family and has visited not only Eastern China but also the Western regions where the people identify themselves as members of a specific culture rather than as Chinese, I have long supported the cause of the Tibetan people. As I experienced the demonstration by hundreds of nonviolent — but rather noisy — Tibetans and friends at the Embarcadero, it seemed to me a legitimate use of the event to call attention to their cause.
I had to wonder, however, what would have happened if Palestinians had climbed the Golden Gate Bridge and hung out a huge banner saying “Free Palestine” such as Tibet supporters did with the “Free Tibet” sign. I find it hard to believe that the police, media and the legal system would have handled a similar Palestinian action with as much equanimity. (San Francisco’s District Attorney decided in early June that the Tibet supporters should be charged with only misdemeanors, which made them eligible for a pretrial diversion program. They were given the opportunity to have all charges dropped once they’ve completed 25 hours of community service. They chose to perform the service with a group they were already affiliated with — Students for a Free Tibet.)
Why is the media not interested in other independence movements?
Having often pondered the question of why US media totally ignores or passionately denounces legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people for independence, I set out on an internet search of writings comparing Tibet and Palestine. My search led me to an article by Uri Avnery, Israeli activist, writing in the Haaretz newspaper and a brief interview by linguistics professor and activist Noam Chomsky.
Avnery states that the Tibetan people are entitled to carry out their independence struggle, but asks why the world media is not also interested in the struggle of Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, of the inhabitants of Western Sahara, who are occupied by Morocco, or by the Basques in Spain or the Corsicans off the coast of France. “What about the Chechnyans, who have long been oppressed by the Russian Empire?” he asks.
Then Avnery proposes a pragmatic moral principle: “Every population that inhabits a defined territory and has a clear national character is entitled to independence. A state that wants to keep such a population must see to it that they feel comfortable, that they receive their full rights, enjoy equality and have an autonomy that satisfies their aspirations. In short: that they have no reason to desire separation.
“That applies to the French in Canada, the Scots in Britain, the Kurds in Turkey and elsewhere, the various ethnic groups in Africa, the indigenous peoples in Latin America, the Tamils in Sri Lanka and many others. Each has a right to choose between full equality, autonomy and independence,” he continues.
What about Palestine?
Of course, this brings us to the Palestinian question. Avnery believes that the Palestinians are “unlucky” in their attempt to get the attention of world media. He states that according to the standards on which Tibetans have been judged worthy, Palestinians also have a right to independence. That is, they inhabit a defined territory, are a specific nation, and a clear border exists between them and their oppressor.
He continues with an explanation of several cruel strokes of fate from which Palestinians suffer:
“The people that oppress them claim for themselves the crown of ultimate victimhood. The whole world sympathizes with the Israelis because the Jews were the victims of the most horrific crime of the Western world. That creates a strange situation: the oppressor is more popular than the victim. Anyone who supports the Palestinians is automatically suspected of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.”
Another problem which Avnery sees is that the majority of Palestinians are Muslims (the vast majority of Palestinian Christians having long since fled the Israeli oppression.) He further points out that the West has propagandized Islam to connote “international terrorism.”
Noam Chomsky, when asked about parallels to the Palestinian occupied territories, stated:
“Take the recent US-backed Israeli violence in the Occupied Territories and Chinese violence in Tibet. The former is far greater, and the justifications far weaker. Just imagine how the US and Israel would react if Palestinians in illegally annexed East Jerusalem were to burn down a bank and Jewish stores, attack Jews, etc., as in Tibet. We can then compare the actual reactions. In the case of US-backed Israeli violence and illegal actions in the Occupied Territories, [we see] overwhelming support for embattled Israel. In the case of Chinese violence in Tibet, [there is] much grandstanding, as when Nancy Pelosi, ‘an enthusiastic supporter of Israeli violence,’ declares passionately that if we don't stand up for Tibet we will lose our ‘moral authority.’ ” Chomsky wonders on what that “authority” rests.
This exercise in comparison has led me to see more clearly that our government bases the causes which it supports almost entirely on its own political needs. Since the US leadership is worried about the growth of China’s economic and political power, it is conveniently using the struggle of the Tibetans to embarrass China. On the other hand, since those in power in the United States perceive (or perhaps pretend to perceive) that the U.S.’s political welfare requires them to approve of everything the Israelis do, regardless of how contrary these actions are to international law and human rights, our country is caught in a senseless charade of feigning interest in peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis while actively ignoring or undermining genuine possibilities for a just peace. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the American media take their marching orders straight from our government, assuming that their livelihoods depend on being willing parrots of the government line. I am convinced that this deplorable situation will change only when the people recognize the unclaimed power which they possess.
Report From Iran
by Carol Watson
Carol Watson, Esther Ho’s cousin, is a retired lawyer with a long and hard-working history of civil rights and police misconduct litigation work. She is a member of the National Lawyers Guild.
Bombing Iran is not the answer. Dialogue is the correct course. Although that should be obvious, apparently it is not. That fact was confirmed for me in a more personal way during a recent two week trip there. I traveled to Iran in a peace delegation organized by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. The group included a woman rabbi, two women pastors of the United Church of Christ, a Mennonite, a Lutheran minister, writers, artists, lawyers and a young Navajo woman–all long time peace activists. Our Iranian guide and interpreter are both Muslim. Our purpose was to act as civilian diplomats on a person-to-person level.
The threats to bomb Iran coming from the White House and urged by Israel are unrelenting but the human cost of war is discounted in the military mindset. Dead civilians become “collateral damage” to those who need to euphemize the tragedy of killing innocent people or who want to distance themselves from it. Violent and prolonged resistance is called “unintended consequences.” Again we are being disserved by the failure of the corporate media to provide objective reporting and by the passivity of the Congress.
In spite of the past and current hostility of our government toward Iran, the Iranian people love the American people. They do not love the policies of our government or those of their own. Bush and Ahmadenijad are seen by most of those we met as disrespected leaders yammering at each other.
I was struck by the warmth with which we were received. We encountered hundreds of ordinary Iranians on the streets and elsewhere — teachers, soldiers, merchants, engineers, and many more who were eager to talk with us, take our pictures, and have their pictures taken with us. Who would be the collateral damage if the warriors prevail — the group of little school girls in their pink hijab school uniforms; or the elderly couples with their walking sticks hiking on the mountain north of Tehran; or the people strolling on the ancient Thirty-Three Arches bridge in Esfahan; or the crowds at the Shiraz tomb of Hafez, the still highly revered 14th century poet?
A humanitarian position is directly inconsistent with military action against Iran. So is the political situation. The Bush administration has shifting excuses for its threatened bombing. One of them is the claim that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. The possibility exists that they may try to in the future but the unanimous opinion of our intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency is that they are not doing so now and cannot do so for many years. It would be irrational to make a preemptive strike based on existing evidence.
Another reason for the hostile rhetoric is that Iran is sending weapons to Iraq. That is quite probable although the evidence is less than overwhelming. According to the most recent articles in the Los Angeles Times, the military proponents of this claim have not produced for inspection any of the weapons allegedly captured. Even if the claim is true, the solution to that problem is to get out of Iraq, not to compound the disaster of the Iraq war by starting another one.
The policy of sanctions against Iran is similarly flawed. Iran is surviving and will continue to survive. They obtain whatever goods that they want from us through circuitous means. Shipments go from the United States to Amsterdam to Dubai to Iran. This routing results in inflated costs but they get what they need. They get the rest of what they want in Asia, particularly from China. We are not seriously damaging Iran but we are depriving ourselves of a lucrative market and driving them into the arms of an economic competitor.
The hostility between Iran and the Israeli government must be resolved through dialogue. Notwithstanding the posturing of Ahmadenijad, there is reason to believe that Iran would accept any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that was acceptable to the Palestinians. The question posed by several political leaders, including a Jewish member of parliament, is “Why should the Palestinians be punished for what the Germans did?” It is a question that cannot be answered with military aggression.
The Iranian position is not anti-Semitic, it is anti-Zionist. There is religious and cultural freedom for the Christian and Jewish communities in this Muslim nation according to the Jewish and Armenian Christian leaders we met. An archbishop of the Armenian Orthodox church and Jewish members of parliament — past and present — said they are allowed to practice their religions without interference from the government as long as they don’t try to convert Muslims. We attended a Shabbas service in a synagogue where there was a packed house and no indication whatsoever that participation was inhibited. The woman rabbi in our group was invited to the bema to speak to the congregation. It was an historic first and she was received with great enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, the adherents of Baha’i do not enjoy the same religious freedom. Shortly after our return, a group of Baha’i followers was arrested and imprisoned. It is reported, although not by anyone we met in Iran, that there is a long standing policy of persecuting members of that faith. One rationale that is given is that Muslims consider Baha’i to be apostate because Islam is the “final” and “perfection” of religion. Islam considers Jewish and Christian prophets to be earlier stepping stones to the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings. Also, they are not monotheistic in the same way that the Abrahamic faiths are. Another less credible explanation is that the Iranian government considers them to be British spies. In any event, it is a serious flaw in the image that our hosts sought to convey to us.
The Iranians we met said that they are glad that Saddam Hussein is gone. He invaded Iran with our support, including chemical weapons, and was defeated after an eight year war in which more than a hundred thousand people were killed. Over 70 per cent of the population is under the age of 30 and they are increasingly exposed to western culture — some good and some bad. There are many expatriates who have returned to Iran bringing with them western ideas of democracy. Satellite dishes, although illegal, are pervasive and a constant source of exposure to western life styles. Young people daily defy, in small but significant ways, the patriarchal rules imposed by the clerical government. Increasingly loose compliance with rules concerning the wearing of the hijab is but one example of the incremental changes that are inexorable. Any notion that we can effect regime change in Iran is foolhardy. Change will come to Iran through the will of the Iranians and at their pace. We cannot impose our version of it.
The Persian culture is ancient and complex. The importance and beauty of their historic monuments is breathtaking. The people are proud, well-educated and sophisticated and they want peace and prosperity. Admittedly a mere two weeks in Iran is not enough for a comprehensive understanding of the society or the issues but it does not take an expert to know that military aggression would be a tragedy with unfathomable consequences.
As we prepare this newsletter, we are facing the alarming possibility that the U.S. Congress will pass resolutions in the H.Con.Res.362 and S.Res.580 demandingthat President Bush “initiate an international effort” to prevent Iran from importing gasoline and to impose “stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains and cargo entering or departing Iran.” This would certainly require a naval blockade imposed without United Nations authority (which the resolution does not call for) and would constitute an act of war.
Support for Haiti
Berkeley (California) City Council Resolution — Adopted May 20, 2008
1) Call on all authorities in Haiti, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, the United States, Canada and France, as well as Brazil, Nepal, and Jordan (those countries who have large contingents of troops assigned), to work for rapid implementation of the following:
a) Release of all political prisoners,
b) Guaranteed freedom of speech and assembly,
c) The safe return of Human Rights Activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine,
d) A thorough investigation of all allegations of United Nations troop raids in Cité Soleil and elsewhere regarding perpetration of violent attacks, rapes and sexual exploitation, and where misconduct has occurred, ensure the restoration of the subject villages, homes and families, and compensation to innocent victims.
e) All alleged violators to be brought to justice and duly punished if guilty,
f) Withdrawal of foreign military forces from Haiti, and support for democratic processes in governance,
g) Jean-Bertrand Aristide must be free to return to Haiti, in accordance with the Haitian Constitution.
2) Urge Senator Dianne Feinstein to support S. 2261 with the Amendment passed in the House that adds a Sense of the Congress that, due to the current humanitarian and political instability in Haiti, including food shortages and political turmoil, the Secretary of the Treasury should use his influence to expedite the complete and immediate cancellation of Haiti’s debts to all international financial institutions, or if such debt cancellation cannot be provided, to urge the institutions to immediately suspend the requirement that Haiti make further debt service payments on debts owed to the institutions.
3) Request Representative Barbara Lee [CA-9] to introduce legislation to establish an Independent Commission on the 2004 Coup d’Etat in the Republic of Haiti, and request Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to introduce similar legislation in the Senate.
4) Express our city’s solidarity with the people of Haiti to achieve much needed peace and improved living and working conditions and extend a standing invitation to President Aristide to once again visit the City of Berkeley.
5) Direct the City Manager to send copies of this Resolution to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, United States Secretary of State Dr. Condoleeza Rice, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Representative Barbara Lee, President René Préval of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the Ambassadors of Canada, France and Brazil.
The 2004 Haiti Coup d’Etat resulted in the premature end of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s second term, and the installation of an interim government led by Prime Minister Gérard Latortue and President Boniface Alexandre.
Many of the supporters of the Fanmi Lavalas party and Aristide, as well as progressive and independent observers worldwide, denounced the rebellion as a foreign controlled coup d’état orchestrated by Canada, France, and the United States to remove a democratically elected President.
The people of Haiti have suffered tremendously as a result of violence, high unemployment, widespread hunger and natural disasters since the 2004 coup. They need real support from the international community to provide jobs for sustainable development under Haitian control. Debt cancellation is essential to this process.
Cancellation of Haiti’s debts will enable Haiti to improve health care, education and other essential government services; invest in critical infrastructure; and improve the lives of the Haitian people.
Attachment 1: “U.N. Troops Accused of Human Rights Violations in Haiti,” Maria Luisa Mendonca, Americas Program, Center for International Policy, January 29, 2008.
[Background material was provided to the City Council for their deliberations. Look for it, and other useful information on www.haitisolidarity.net]
Resolution adopted by the Berkeley, California City Council, May 20, 2008 by unanimous vote.
The Latin America Solidarity Coalition has issued an important statement on the situation in Haiti. [see www.lasolidarity.org/haiti/statementFeb08.html], and is in the process of launching a National Haiti Campaign. It is envisioned that this will be an action campaign focused on the following Seven Demands:
• End the US/UN Occupation - Respect Haiti's sovereignty
Get countries to withdraw troops from MINUSTAH
• Free the political prisoners - No more illegal arrests or prolonged detention without charges
• No more killings and sexual abuse of the poor by UN troops, police and paramilitaries under police control
• President Aristide must be free to return to Haiti - Respect the Haitian Constitution
• No more “disappearances” — Work for the rule of law and the safe return of kidnapped Haitian human rights advocate Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine
• Launch an independent inquiry into the February 29, 2004 coup and forced removal of President Aristide. Promote the “Truth Act”
• Perpetrators of the coup and massacres of the poor must be brought to justice — Reparations for the victims.
Introducing Annette Herskovits
EPI is pleased to announce that Annette Herskovits, Ph.D., has agreed to serve on our advisory board
Annette Herskovits was born in Paris, France, in 1939, the third child of Jewish immigrants from Transylvania, Rumania. In 1943, her parents were arrested by the French police, handed over to the Nazis and deported to Auschwitz, never to return. She and her brother and sister survived the war in hiding
Adopted after the war, Annette grew up and studied in Paris. In 1967, she came to the United States to do graduate study at MIT and, later, Stanford University where she eventually earned a Ph.D. in linguistics. Awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at UC-Berkeley, she completed a book on language and spatial knowledge.
After teaching at Wellesley College for ten years, Annette returned to the Bay Area in 1996 and turned to writing on politics and human rights. Her articles appeared regularly in Turning Wheel, the journal of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and covered the entire planet, from Tibet through the Middle East to Latin America.
In 2003, she learned of a French documentary about how Muslims in Paris’ main mosque sheltered Jews during WWII. Over the last few years, she has used the film as part of a program involving her own story and that of the massive participation of Muslims from the French colonies in the liberation of Europe from the Nazis. She has presented this program in some two dozen venues, mostly for church and school-based audiences.
Annette is currently working on a book about how her own life experiences as the child of genocide victims inform her work for peace in the Middle East.
EPI Fall Gathering — November 23
Ecumenical Peace Institute Autumn Gathering
EPI will hold its Fall Gathering at which we will hear from Byron Williams on
what people of color have to say to the American peace movement. Williams is a
columnist for the Bay Area News Group and is the pastor of Resurrection
Community Church in Berkeley. Strip Mall Patriotism: Moral Reflections on the
Iraq War is a collection of some of his columns
Iraq spanning the first four years of that conflict.
~ ~ ~
If Obama has been elected, people working for peace and justice will
want to join in pressing for an end to the occupation and a shifting
away from the U.S. imperial stance toward the rest of the world.
If McCain has been elected, we will have our work cut out for us, big time.
If the legitimacy of the election is in doubt, we will need to work with
others to reestablish democracy in this country.
Kathy Kelly speaking in East Bay and San Francisco, Sept 27 & 30
Kathy Kelly will be speaking in the Bay Area. Accompanying her is David Smith-Ferri who has also traveled extensively in Iraq and has written a book of poems about Iraq and Iraqis. Kathy is just back from Jordan where she has spent time with many Iraqis there.
Kathy is the founder of Voices in the Wilderness and led many delegations of Americans to Iraq, breaking the siege to bring desperately needed medicines and toys for children. She now leads the successor organization, Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
The Saturday, September 27, event will be at Berkeley Friends Church, Cedar and Sacramento. Tuesday, September 30, they will be at City College of San Francisco, Mission & 4th. Both events are at 7:00 p.m.
Call the EPI office 510-655-1162 or check this website www.epicalc.org for details.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Saturday, August 9
Livermore nuclear weapons Lab, Corner of Vasco Rd. and Patterson Pass Rd
•10:30 AM Traverse the “nuclear maze”
•11:02 AM Observe a moment of silence at the time the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki
•then music and keynote address by Rev. Nobuaki Hanaoka
August 9, 2008 might be just another day for the U.S. government. The nuclear weapons designers at Livermore Lab may not mark it. But, we will. And, we ask all people who value peace and justice to commemorate it with us.
This August 9 will be the sixty-third anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. Three days earlier, on August 6, 1945, the first nuclear weapon used in war unleashed unimaginable terror and death on the people of Hiroshima. Then, Nagasaki.
Bay Area groups are working to ensure that August 9, 2008 stands as a day of remembrance, a day of deepening our understanding of the nuclear fuel cycle and a day of rededicating ourselves and our efforts to achieve a nuclear weapons free future for all.
In this spirit, we invite you to join us for “Looking Back, Looking Forward,” a commemoration with speakers, music and activities at Livermore Lab.
Near the Laboratory fence line, we will erect the “nuclear maze,” which participants can walk through, learning as they go about the impacts of nuclear weapons and nuclear power. We will listen to music and to the experiences and wisdom of one of the Hibakusha (survivors) of the Nagasaki bomb.
Calendar & Announcements
Saturday, August 9, Hiroshima/Nagasaki Commemoration (see p. 7)
Saturday, August 9, Hiroshima/Nagasaki Commemoration (see p. 7)
Saturday, September 27, 7 - 9 p.m. Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence will speak at Berkeley Friends Church, Cedar & Sacramento
Tuesday, September 30, 7 - 9 p.m., she will speak at San Francisco City College, 4th & Mission. Call the EPI office 510-655-1162 or check the website www.epicalc.org for details.
November 23 EPI Fall Gathering. Byron Williams, speaking, Redwood Gardens, Berkeley. See p.7
Thanksgiving Weekend, EBSC Crafts Fair, First Congregational Church of Berkeley
Tuesdays, noon - one, Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street. End occupation of Iraq. Sponsored by Ecumenical Peace Institute, Berkeley Women in Black, and others.
Wednesdays, 6:30-7:30 p.m., El Cerrito vigil for peace, 1st, 3rd, 5th Weds, Del Norte BART, 2nd & 4th Weds in front of Target sign on San Pablo Ave.
Thursdays, 4:30 - 5:30, Five Flags Park, Foothill, Jackson & Mission, Hayward, justice for Palestinians. South Alameda County Peace and Justice (SAPJC) & Tri-City Peace and Justice (TCP)
Thursdays, noon - one, San Francisco Federal Building, 450 Golden Gate, peace in Iraq, San Francisco Friends
Fridays, noon - one, Berkeley, Telegraph & Bancroft, Berkeley Women in Black
Sundays, 3:00 p.m., walk around Lake Merritt for peace. Meet at the columns at the east end of the Lake, between Grand & Lakeshore Avenues. sponsored by Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace, LMNOP
Each third Tuesday, 12:00 - 1:00, at the Oakland Federal Building the weekly anti-war vigil is transformed into a “Living Graveyard.” Covered with white sheets, participants lie on the city sidewalk, far enough apart to allow for pedestrian and wheelchair traffic. This is legal street theater to make visible the reality of the deaths caused by the war.
Plan ahead—Tuesday, January 20, the inauguration of the newly elected president. This is a third Tuesday. Please join us in the Living Graveyard to press the new president to end the occupation of Iraq quickly.
Readers are encouraged to support the GI Resisters, such as Lt. Ehren Watada, who is facing heavy charges for his outspoken refusal to fight in the illegal war in Iraq. Other GI resisters are also facing harsh treatment. See Courage to Resist http://www.couragetoresist.org/ & the Lt. Watada support site http://www.thankyoult.org/
Iraq Moratorium organizes a public witness for peace on the Third Friday of each month. To find one near you, visit http://iraqmoratorium.org/ In Berkeley, people gather at the northwest corner of Acton & University from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m .
There is an envelope included in each issue of Planted by the Waters. If each person who received Planted put a check into the envelope and mailed it to EPI/CALC, it would greatly improve our ability to do the work for justice and peace which we are called to do together.
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