Saturday, March 31, 2012

The New Mandela

The New Mandela


    Marwan Barghouti and the Third Intifada


By Uri Avnery

Counterpunch Weekend Edition

Mar 30-Apr 01, 2012


Marwan Barghouti has spoken up. After a long silence,

he has sent a message from prison.


In Israeli ears, this message does not sound pleasant.

But for Palestinians, and for Arabs in general, it

makes sense.


His message may well become the new program of the

Palestinian liberation movement.


I FIRST met Marwan in the heyday of post-Oslo optimism.

He was emerging as a leader of the new Palestinian

generation, the home-grown young activists, men and

women, who had matured in the first Intifada.


He is a man of small physical stature and large

personality. When I met him, he was already the leader

of Tanzim ("organization"), the youth group of the

Fatah movement.


The topic of our conversations then was the

organization of demonstrations and other non-violent

actions, based on close cooperation between the

Palestinians and Israeli peace groups. The aim was

peace between Israel and a new State of Palestine.


When the Oslo process died with the assassinations of

Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, Marwan and his

organization became targets. Successive Israeli leaders

- Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon -

decided to put an end to the two-state agenda. In the

brutal "Defensive Shield operation (launched by Defense

Minister Shaul Mofaz, the new leader of the Kadima

Party) the Palestinian Authority was attacked, its

services destroyed and many of its activists arrested.


Marwan Barghouti was put on trial. It was alleged that,

as the leader of Tanzim, he was responsible for several

"terrorist" attacks in Israel. His trial was a mockery,

resembling a Roman gladiatorial arena more than a

judicial process. The hall was packed with howling

rightists, presenting themselves as "victims of

terrorism". Members of Gush Shalom protested against

the trial inside the court building but we were not

allowed anywhere near the accused.


Marwan was sentenced to five life sentences. The

picture of him raising his shackled hands above his

head has become a Palestinian national icon. When I

visited his family in Ramallah, it was hanging in the

living room.


IN PRISON, Marwan Barghouti was immediately recognized

as the leader of all Fatah prisoners. He is respected

by Hamas activists as well. Together, the imprisoned

leaders of Fatah and Hamas published several statements

calling for Palestinian unity and reconciliation. These

were widely distributed outside and received with

admiration and respect.


(Members of the extended Barghouti family, by the way,

play a major role in Palestinian affairs across the

entire spectrum from moderate to extremist. One of them

is Mustapha Barghouti, a doctor who heads a moderate

Palestinian party with many connections abroad, whom I

regularly meet at demonstrations in Bilin and

elsewhere. I once joked that we always cry when we see

each other - from tear gas. The family has its roots in

a group of villages north of Jerusalem.)


NOWADAYS, MARWAN Barghouti is considered the

outstanding candidate for leader of Fatah and president

of the Palestinian Authority after Mahmoud Abbas. He is

one of the very few personalities around whom all

Palestinians, Fatah as well as Hamas, can unite.


After the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit,

when the prisoner exchange was discussed, Hamas put

Marwan Barghouti on top of the list of Palestinian

prisoners whose release it demanded. This was a very

unusual gesture, since Marwan belonged to the rival -

and reviled - faction.


The Israeli government struck Marwan from the list

right away, and remained adamant. When Shalit was

finally released, Marwan stayed in prison. Obviously he

was considered more dangerous than hundreds of Hamas

"terrorists" with "blood on their hands".




Cynics would say: because he wants peace. Because he

sticks to the two-state solution. Because he can unify

the Palestinian people for that purpose. All good

reasons for a Netanyahu to keep him behind bars.


SO WHAT did Marwan tell his people this week?


Clearly, his attitude has hardened. So, one must

assume, has the attitude of the Palestinian people at



He calls for a Third Intifada, a non-violent mass

uprising in the spirit of the Arab Spring.


His manifesto is a clear rejection of the policy of

Mahmoud Abbas, who maintains limited but all-important

cooperation with the Israeli occupation authorities.

Marwan calls for a total rupture of all forms of

cooperation, whether economic, military or other.


A focal point of this cooperation is the day-to-day

collaboration of the American-trained Palestinian

security services with the Israeli occupation forces.

This arrangement has effectively stopped violent

Palestinian attacks in the occupied territories and in

Israel proper. It guarantees, In practice, the security

of the growing Israeli settlements in the West Bank.


Marwan also calls for a total boycott of Israel,

Israeli institutions and products in the Palestinian

territories and throughout the world. Israeli products

should disappear from West Bank shops, Palestinian

products should be promoted.


At the same time, Marwan advocates an official end to

the charade called "peace negotiations". This term, by

the way, is never heard anymore in Israel. First it was

replaced with "peace process", then "political

process", and lately "the political matter". The simple

word "peace" has become taboo among rightists and most

"leftists" alike. It's political poison.


Marwan proposes to make the absence of peace

negotiations official. No more international talk about

"reviving the peace process", no more rushing around of

ridiculous people like Tony Blair, no more hollow

announcements by Hillary Clinton and Catherine Ashton,

no more empty declarations of the "Quartet". Since the

Israeli government clearly has abandoned the two-state

solution - which it never really accepted in the first

place - keeping up the pretense just harms the

Palestinian struggle.


Instead of this hypocrisy, Marwan proposes to renew the

battle in the UN. First, apply again to the Security

Council for the acceptance of Palestine as a member

state, challenging the US to use its solitary veto

openly against practically the whole world. After the

expected rejection of the Palestinian request by the

Council as a result of the veto, request a decision by

the General Assembly, where the vast majority would

vote in favor. Though this would not be binding, it

would demonstrate that the freedom of Palestine enjoys

the overwhelming support of the family of nations, and

isolate Israel (and the US) even more.


Parallel to this course of action, Marwan insists on

Palestinian unity, using his considerable moral force

to put pressure on both Fatah and Hamas.


TO SUMMARIZE, Marwan Barghouti has given up all hope of

achieving Palestinian freedom through cooperation with

Israel, or even Israeli opposition forces. The Israeli

peace movement is not mentioned anymore.

"Normalization" has become a dirty word.


These ideas are not new, but coming from the No. 1

Palestinian prisoner, the foremost candidate for the

succession of Mahmoud Abbas, the hero of the

Palestinian masses, it means a turn to a more militant

course, both in substance and in tone.


Marwan remains peace oriented - as he made clear when,

in a rare recent appearance in court, he called out to

the Israeli journalists that he continues to support

the two-state solution. He also remains committed to

non-violent action, having come to the conclusion that

the violent attacks of yesteryear harmed the

Palestinian cause  instead of furthering it.


He wants to call a halt to the gradual and unwilling

slide of the Palestinian Authority into a Vichy-like

collaboration, while the expansion of the Israeli

"settlement enterprise" goes on undisturbed.


NOT BY accident did Marwan publish his manifesto on the

eve of "Land Day", the world-wide day of protest

against the occupation.


"Land Day" is the anniversary of an event that took

place in 1976 to protest against  the decision of the

Israeli government to expropriate huge tracts of Arab-

owned land in Galilee and other parts of Israel. The

Israeli army and police fired on the protesters,

killing six of them. (The day after, two of my friends

and I laid wreaths on the graves of the victims, an act

that earned me an outbreak of hatred and vilification I

have seldom experienced.)


Land day was a turning point for Israel's Arab

citizens, and later became a symbol for Arabs

everywhere. This year, the Netanyahu government

threatened  to shoot anybody who even approaches our

borders. It may well be a harbinger for the Third

Intifada heralded by Marwan.


For some time now, the world has lost much of its

interest in Palestine. Everything looks quiet.

Netanyahu has succeeded in deflecting world attention

from Palestine to Iran. But in this country, nothing is

ever static. While it seems that nothing is happening,

settlements are growing incessantly, and so is the deep

resentment of the Palestinians who see this happening

before their eyes.


Marwan Barghouti's manifesto expresses the near-

unanimous feelings of the Palestinians in the West Bank

and elsewhere. Like Nelson Mandela in apartheid South

Africa, the man in prison may well be more important

than the leaders outside.



URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with

Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch's book

The Politics of Anti-Semitism.


Nature of Self-Defeating Convictions


Nature of Self-Defeating Convictions

Saturday, 31 March 2012 12:24 By Phil Rockstroh, Consortium News | Op-Ed

One of the curious realities of modern America is how many people – especially white males – have been propagandized into siding with a “free-market” power structure that treats them like tissue paper, to be used and thrown away. Poet Phil Rockstroh says he encounters many such confused souls in his native South.

Although I have resided in New York City for many years, I was born in the Deep South. On a daily basis, I negotiate Manhattan’s gridded streets and avenues, yet, in many ways, the terrain of my heart still winds like an Indian trail through a pine forest. I visit the South on a regular basis; the stain of red clay will never be scoured from my soul.

To this day, I retain close ties to a number of Southern friends and contacts who did not ventured far from home. As the years trundled on, I’ve witnessed the quality of life and emotional well-being of these friends, hailing from both laboring and middle-class origins, experience a steep, accelerating decline.

I’ve gazed upon the tormented faces of men I know, now deep in middle age, who are facing the prospect of never again holding a steady job that affords them a sense of dignity. As a consequence, all too many of these men — men who I thought I knew well — have been rendered sullen, spiteful, and, much to my heart’s duress, an unreachable shell of their former self.

As their economic prospects diminished, their denial and displaced rage grew malignant. In the case of a couple of my friends, their resistance to reality became so vast, toxic, and all-encompassing that any attempt at dialog proved prohibitive.

Emblematic of this situation is my strained-to-the-limit friendship with Vince (not his real name) who, due to the carnage inflicted on the U.S. laboring class by so-called free market “values,” has been chronically under or unemployed since the Wall Street bankster-perpetrated crash of late 2008.

Yet Vince remains stubborn in his refusal to connect his dismal plight with the reality-resistant political notions he clutches. To this day, he describes himself as a “conservative libertarian — a proud believer in the values of the free market.” This conviction, coming from a member of the laboring class, is analogous to a slave proclaiming he is a believer in the auction block and the verities of his master’s whip.

Worse, as the day-to-day humiliations exacted by the corporate state continue to inflict deeper, more emotionally debilitating wounds, the more Vince reacts like a wounded animal … lashing out at all but those who bestow him with the palliative of rightwing demagogic lies that distort the source of his suffering by means of directing his rage at a host of scapegoats i.e., phantom socialists (and, of course, their OWS dirty hippie dupes) whose, schemes, he insists, have denied him his rightful place among the serried ranks of capitalism’s legion of winners.

My apologies to Vince and all of his likeminded brethren of my native region: Although we rose from the same Southern soil, I’ve never had a knack for telling reassuring lies … for conjuring the sort of displaced emotional resentments and engaging in the brand of bigot-whispering that is the stock and trade of contemporary red-state conservatives.

Conversely, I have shown some promise in encouraging people to embrace the reality of their circumstances, and passing on the hopeful news that they are stronger than they know. … Withal, the act of carrying the burden of denial in a marathon flight from feelings of angst and despair is the force that exhausts one’s energy and demoralizes one’s spirit.

This is why such a large number of those whose lives have been degraded by the deprivations of the present economic order will not focus their anger at Wall Street grifters: If capitalism, by the very nature of the system, allows a swindlers’ class to not only legally exist — but to thrive — then it follows that there must be something flawed about the nature of capitalism itself.

Accordingly, a depressing revelation waits at the margins of Vince’s (and other downtrodden true believers in the existence of free-market fairy dust) sense of awareness: that the energies of one’s life have been devoted to the maintenance of an elaborate lie; not only have your labors been for naught — but your sacrosanct convictions have laid the groundwork for the crime that was committed against you. You have spent your life as an accessory to your own robbery.

Your faith in capitalism has left you in a similar position to the followers of a fanatical cult who were instructed to stand upon an isolated hilltop, so that, at midnight, as prophesied by their charismatic leader, their ranks will be lifted to heaven upon chariots of glinting gold … but who now stand stoop-shouldered before the breaking dawn, shivering into the cold light of day.

Rather than admit error, one’s pride can compel one to blame phantom enemies for humiliating circumstances. Thus, as Vince’s prospects shrank, his gun collection grew to mini-armory proportions.

Perhaps, he believes the weapon’s heft in his hands will stem the inexorable drift of his life into purposelessness; perhaps, his firearms will bestow a sense of security, in a life buffeted by uncertainty; perhaps, if he squints down the site of his rifle long enough, he can target the phantoms that made off with his hopes.

Vince, old buddy, the solution is a great deal more accessible than that. To mitigate feelings of hopelessness attendant to isolation, the simple act of starting a conversation is helpful. … The doable act of leaving the house and attending an OWS function can serve to transform gut-gnawing rumination into fruitful dialog … thus, Vince, you will become enjoined in an ongoing conversation — a collaboration between your soul and the soul of life.

In this way, we can become part and parcel of the story of our times, part of a living tale, unfolding in the eternal present that will affect the future in ways unseen.

Still, I’ve learned, on an individual basis, I remain powerless against red-state belligerent ignorance of the collective variety. My experiences as a Southerner inform me the process of change will be difficult, because only cultural earthquakes alter the course of streams of surging stupid.

Sure, start a dialog with even the most obtuse tea-bagger sort … attempt to convince him that the views he clutches are self-defeating … try to disabuse him of his calcified bigotry — but don’t be optimistic about the outcome of your efforts.

Trouble is: Depressingly large numbers of people have invested a great amount of time, energy and identity in the maintenance of their reality-defiant attitudes. … There is just too much fragile self-esteem, bulwarked by brittle pride, at stake.

While self-doubt is the worthy adversary of the wise, belligerent ignorance is the dubious ally of those who fear and resist self-awareness. Often, a journey towards self-knowledge and an attendant awakening to the nature of one’s condition can be unnerving and painful. The process is fraught with free-floating anxiety and weighted with saturnine regret.

If I’ve made numerous life-determining choices based on my acceptance of proffered falsehoods, then I have lost many years constructing my life accordingly. The grief can be overwhelming. What alms does one chant into the grieving dawn on the morning after one’s illusions have died?

This is why so many choose to spend their hours commuting through life in the company of the corpse of capitalism. Accordingly, the nation resembles the Bates Motel … its spree-killer government reflected in the acts of its murder-prone citizenry e.g., Staff Sgt. Robert Bales and guarded gate, vigilante flake George Zimmerman.

When a system of governance loses its purpose for existence (when the system becomes a mindless self-perpetuating monster) its sustaining lies will be internalized and acted on by those governed. Militarized police units lower truncheons upon the heads of peaceful demonstrators, as individuals, unhinged by displaced grievances, mirror official policy in tragic acts of rage engendered by hopelessness.

We live in a culture that worships the god of violent death; of course, its sermons will be played out beyond the confines of its official temples, in the form of hideous bacchanals of spilled blood. The chickens come home to roost, and they are heavily armed and in the thrall of a violent psychotic episode.

Vince simply cannot wrap his corporate/police state colonized mind around the fact that, as is the case with any nation containing the vast amount of wealth inequity extant in the U.S., the elite will utilize the services of the police to achieve less than noble ends … that police repression and violence will be exercised at a level equal to the lack of legitimacy of the governing class.

As we have witnessed in the case of the OWS movement and its encounters with police authorities, when members of the citizenry challenge the corrupt arrangement, dissenters will be met by brutal methods intended to crush those perceived as a threat to the existing order.

To Vince and any others still holding the quaint notion that the governing class of the U.S. possesses legitimacy, the actions of the NYPD testify to the contrary; their ongoing, brutal suppression of those attempting to exercise their right to dissent should disabuse you of that noxiously innocent fantasy.

When justice has been banished from the precincts of power, it must be reclaimed in the commons. … Hence, occupy defiance. … Make yourself at home on the premises, because, if you are outraged by oppression and you long for a more just world, you will be spending a good deal of your time in this location.

Vince, one day, upon your arrival, I hope to meet you there.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.



Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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Whose Recovery?

Whose Recovery?

By Robert Reich

Luxury retailers are smiling. So are the owners of high-end restaurants, sellers of upscale cars, vacation planners, financial advisors, and personal coaches. For them and their customers and clients the recession is over. The recovery is now full speed.

But the rest of America isn’t enjoying an economic recovery. It’s still sick. Many Americans remain in critical condition.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the economy grew at a 3 percent annual rate last quarter (far better than the measly 1.8 percent third quarter growth). Personal income also jumped. Americans raked in over $13 trillion, $3.3 billion more than previously thought.

Yet it’s almost a certainly that all the gains went to the top 10 percent, and the lion’s share to the top 1 percent. Over a third of the gains went to 15,600 super-rich households in the top one-tenth of one percent.

We don’t know this for sure because all the data aren’t in for 2011. But this is what happened in 2010, the most recent year for which we have reliable data, and there’s no reason to believe the trajectory changed in 2011 or that it will change this year.

In fact, recoveries are becoming more and more lopsided.

The top 1 percent got 45 percent of Clinton-era economic growth, and 65 percent of the economic growth during the Bush era.

According to an analysis of tax returns by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Pikkety, the top 1 percent pocketed 93 percent of the gains in 2010. 37 percent of the gains went to the top one-tenth of one percent. No one below the richest 10 percent saw any gain at all.

In fact, most of the bottom 90 percent have lost ground. Their average adjusted gross income was $29,840 in 2010. That’s down $127 from 2009, and down $4,843 from 2000 (all adjusted for inflation).

Meanwhile, employer-provided benefits continue to decline among the bottom 90 percent, according to the Commerce Department. The share of people with health insurance from their employers dropped from 59.8 percent in 2007 to 55.3 percent in 2010. And the share of private-sector workers with retirement plans dropped from 42 percent in 2007 to 39.5 percent in 2010.

If you’re among the richest 10 percent, a big chunk of your savings are in the stock market where you’ve had nice gains over the last two years. The value of financial assets held by Americans surged by $1.46 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2011.

But if you’re in the bottom 90 percent, you own few if any shares of stock. Your biggest asset is your home. Home prices are down over a third from their 2006 peak, and they’re still dropping. The median house price in February was 6.2 percent lower than a year ago.

Official Washington doesn’t want to talk about this lopsided recovery. The Obama administration is touting the recovery, period, without mentioning how narrow it is.

Republicans would rather not talk about widening inequality to begin with. The reverse-Robin Hood budget plan just announced by Paul Ryan and House Republicans (and endorsed by Mitt Romney) would make the lopsidedness far worse – dramatically cutting taxes on the rich and slashing public services everyone else depends on.

Fed Chief Ben Bernanke – who doesn’t have to face voters on Election Day – says the U.S. economy needs to grow faster if it’s to produce enough jobs to bring down unemployment. But he leaves out the critical point.

We can’t possibly grow faster if the vast majority of Americans, who are still losing ground, don’t have the money to buy more of the things American workers produce. There’s no way spending by the richest 10 percent – the only ones gaining ground – will be enough to get the economy out of first gear.

This article was published at NationofChange at: All rights are reserved.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


Afghanistan Chronicles, Part 6: Near Ground Zero and in Af-Pak Region, Two Labyrinths

Afghanistan Chronicles, Part 6: Near Ground Zero and in Af-Pak Region, Two Labyrinths

Friday, 30 March 2012 10:17 By Suzanne Bauman, Jim Burroughs, Truthout | News Analysis

The endless war on terror in South Asia - with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, the United States, Great Britain, Russia, India, France, Germany, Spain, all players -  must seem like a senseless maze to the people forced to live with daily random violence in this region. In the United States, too many Americans have emotional yet uninformed responses: either "Kill our enemies before they kill us," or "Get out of Afghanistan now." The history of this region is more important than ever to study, as daily headlines inflame both sides without leading to solutions.

It's been said that England's Queen Victoria gave Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya to her grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, as a birthday present. Whatever actually happened, this story makes clear how casually European empire-builders assumed they could divvy up regions of the world under their control according to their whim. During her reign in the 1890s, the British made a colossal mistake, which remains a root cause of the instability in South Asia to this day.

After losing two wars against the Afghans, and knowing they would never actually conquer Afghanistan as a colony, the British carved a deep scar across Asia that has never healed when the Durand Line agreement was drawn up in 1893 by Henry Mortimer Durand, foreign secretary of British India, and signed by Durand and Afghanistan's Amir Abdur Rahman Khan - supposedly to limit British, Afghan and (by proxy) Russian spheres of influence. The line - over 1,600 miles long - was drawn through the entire Hindu Kush mountain range in Afghanistan and the sovereign nation of Balochistan, which later became part of Pakistan. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus noted that most of this region was controlled by the Pashtuns, fierce tribal people with a moral code no less harsh than fundamentalist Islam's Shariah law.

When British Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India, orchestrated the 1947 partition of India into the free nations of Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India, he unleashed a demon that could not be put back into any sized bottle. How could a man of his intelligence support a plan that would find a Hindu nation in the center of the Asian subcontinent and a Muslim nation split into two parts east and west of India - West Pakistan, and East Pakistan (today Bangladesh), over 1,000 miles apart? This could arguably be one of the dumbest ideas in recorded history. But Lord Mountbatten was not dumb. He was a bright man who played an active role in the Allies' victory in World War II. More likely, the concept of "divide and conquer" was so ingrained in British strategy that perhaps even he failed to anticipate the tortured labyrinth that was being created.

The bells of freedom chimed across India on August 15, 1947, and they unleashed the largest migration of peoples in recorded history: Hindus to the new, free nation of India, and Muslims to the new, split nation of East and West Pakistan, which would endure less than 25 years before a genocidal civil war divided the nation into Pakistan and Bangladesh. Similar unrest continues to this day in Kashmir, and along the Durand line, the Pashtun peoples of the region (which had been considered part of Afghanistan for 200 years) were given only two choices - become part of the new India, or join the new Pakistan. The Red Shirt rebellion of 1947-1948, led by Abdul Ghaffar Khan, made it clear that most Pashtuns wanted no part of either nation. If they could not be a part of Afghanistan, they wanted their own nation of Pashtunistan.

Violence continued for years, until the Pashtuns finally agreed to accept Muslim Pakistan over Hindu India - but only after making it perfectly clear to Islamabad that their territory, the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), would be managed completely by the Pashtun people themselves. No Pakistani Punjabi police or military in the NWFP! Pakistan agreed, and since that time has never attempted to control the region - no matter what President Musharraf claimed to be doing in his supposed quest to eliminate al-Qaeda after the attack on America on September 11, 2001. Leaders in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia knew the reality, while the American CIA worked with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the American people remained clueless.

Since the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the Soviet war in Afghanistan in 1979-1989, the Afghan Civil War of 1992-1994, the Taliban takeover in 1996 of all but Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Massoud's and then-president Burhanuddin Rabbani's Pansjir Valley, to the US/NATO bombing of the Taliban in 2001 (more accurate and with far less collateral damage than more recent attacks), and now, the resurgent Taliban attacks against an occupying force of US and NATO troops - the government of Pakistan (influenced by the ISI and the military elite based in the Punjab) has stood by the Durand Line Agreement while Afghanistan has rejected it as invalid.

To say that the resurgent Pashtun Taliban (still covertly trained and supported by Pakistan's ISI) has taken refuge from the US/NATO and Afghan forces across the Durand Line is to put it mildly. To say that US/NATO and Afghan soldiers have been thwarted by an enemy that crosses the line each night to be fed by the ISI and sleep with their families is an understatement. To say that Afghanistan would like to see its own flag raised over the Pashtun cities of Quetta, Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan, as it had before the Durand Line Agreement in 1893, is to elicit raised fists and voices by Afghans determined to reclaim their homeland from the "Punjabis." To declare that the Durand Line has no real validity today raises questions that should be addressed by the World Court.

The issues are hugely complex if one takes the time to engage in battle with all the beasts in the labyrinth. First, Durand never gave Amir Abdur Rahman Khan a translation of the Durand Line agreement. The one he signed was in English, and the Amir knew no English. The second issue is grounded in the agreement itself, which states that any changes in the terms must be signed off on by the sovereign nations involved. But the British never disclosed that the agreement was also signed by the sovereign nation of Balochistan. When Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, sought the agreement of the Amir of Kelat in Balochistan to become part of Pakistan in 1947, the Amir refused. The Pakistani army then invaded Balochistan and coerced the government to cede its authority to Pakistan. But according to the Durand Line agreement, Balochistan was a sovereign nation.

To avoid sinking further into the morass of repercussions, we recall the statement of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who referred to the Durand Line border as, "A line of hatred that raised a wall between the two brothers."

If there is a crucial fact to glean from the subterfuge and confusion, it's that Pakistan does not want this border issue scrutinized by the world. The ongoing attempts by Pakistan since the early 1970s to control Afghanistan can be better understood in this light, as can its current support of the Taliban movement. If the United States and NATO grow even more tired of this war and pack up and go home, then what has been a violent quarrel between two points of view on a British fabrication over a century old could expand into a war between Pakistan (with its nuclear arsenal and friendly China) and Afghanistan (with its nuclear colleague India). In a war for South Asia, Iran would certainly play a pivotal role as well, as it borders both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Contrary to what the news media coverage implies, there are not just three entities (the Karzai government, the Afghan Taliban/al-Qaeda and the US/NATO forces) involved in the struggle for Afghanistan. There are many other players. First, there are the Afghan people themselves, who are not happy with how their government has been run, nor with the US military presence that has become an occupation. There is the distinct Pakistani Taliban, Tareq-i-Islami, comprising ethnic groups and agendas of their own. There is the Pakistani Army, comprising mostly soldiers from the Punjab region. There is the Pakistani ISI, also Punjab-based, which retains final control of the military. There is the Pakistani government in Islamabad, which must always walk a fine line with the ISI and the insurgents in the NWFP provinces. There are transnational corporate interests that owe allegiance to no nation or creed and always seek ways to profit from the confusion. Finally, there are the impoverished people of Pakistan itself, who really want no part of war, and only seek to live peacefully in the democratic nation promised them in 1947, a promise which has been continually thwarted by military coups - and the country could be on the edge of another.

There is one big difference between a labyrinth and a maze. A labyrinth is an ancient spiral path with the purpose of focusing thought, with a destination at the center where one can stop and perhaps find peace. With a maze, there are many blind paths leading to dead ends. A maze has one way out, perhaps, but always remaining is the sense of being tricked, of having no exit. Let us hope that with some thoughtful, deliberate review of all that has gone before in the Af-Pak region, all the players in this new "Great Game," as Kipling called it, will successfully navigate the labyrinth in this volatile time.


Suzanne Bauman, co-producer/director of "Shadow of Afghanistan," is an Academy Award-nominated independent filmmaker who has made specials and series for PBS and the networks for over 30 years.

Jim Burroughs, director, producer and cinematographer, has filmed on six continents, documenting wars, expeditions and historical events. Burroughs has just completed his first nonfiction book, "Blood on the Lens," (Potomac Books), a memoir of the shooting of the film, "Shadow of Afghanistan."

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


As Fukushima Worsens, US Approves New Nukes

As Fukushima Worsens, US Approves New Nukes

Nuclear Regulatory Commission OKs New Nuclear Plants in South Carolina

- Common Dreams staff

Despite reports this week that the Fukushima nuclear situation may be even worse than previously thought, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has given approval today for two combined licenses for two nuclear reactors in South Carolina, only the second time in the last three decades that new nuclear plants have been approved in the nation.

The Vogtle nuclear power plant, which was given the first license since the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in 1979 South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., a unit of SCANA Corp., and Santee Cooper, South Carolina's state-owned electric and water utility, will begin construction on the reactors in Fairfield County, S.C. at the Summer nuclear power site.

The NRC's decision to approve the license passed by a 4-1 vote, with the lone dissent vote coming from NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko due to safety measures raised by the Fukushima disaster. Jaczko wrote in his dissent, "I continue to believe that we should require that all Fukushima-related safety enhancements are implemented before these new reactors begin operating.”

The nuclear reactors will use Westinghouse's AP1000 design. But in November nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen warned of several unreviewed safety concerns with this design and said that Westinghouse’s assumption of zero probability of reactor and/or spent fuel cooling failure “is a blatant manipulation of a safety code designed to protect public health and safety.”

In February the NRC also voted to extend licenses to build two nuclear reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia.

Earlier this month, Amy Goodman noted that "Democrats and Republicans agree on one thing: they're going to force nuclear power on the public, despite the astronomically high risks, both financial and environmental."

* * *

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission: NRC Concludes Hearing on Summer New Reactors, Combined Licenses to Be Issued (pdf)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has concluded its mandatory hearing on the South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) and Santee Cooper application for two Combined Licenses (COL) at the Summer site in South Carolina. In a 4-1 vote the Commission found the NRC staff’s review adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings, clearing the way for the NRC’s Office of New Reactors (NRO) to issue the COLs.

* * *

The Hill: Regulators approve construction of nuclear reactors in South Carolina

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) voted 4-1 to approve a license allowing construction and conditional operation of two new reactors at Scana Corp.’s Virgil C. Summer nuclear power plant in Fairfield County, S.C. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko was the lone vote against approving the license. [...]

Friday’s decision is a major victory for the nuclear power industry, which has struggled for years to receive the necessary regulatory approvals to build new reactors.

In his dissent, Jaczko reiterated his long-standing call for the commission to include in the license a requirement that the plant operator – in this case Scana subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas – comply with all post-Fukushima safety standards. [...]

“I fully support the decision by my colleagues to include this license condition and I consider this important progress in incorporating the lessons from Fukushima,” he wrote in his dissent. “However, I continue to believe that we should require that all Fukushima-related safety enhancements are implemented before these new reactors begin operating.”

Jaczko was also the lone dissenting voice in February when the commission approved the Vogtle license. At the time, he raised similar concerns about incorporating the lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster into the license.

* * *

POWERGRID International: NRC approves COLs for SCE&G, Santee Cooper Nuclear Units

About 1,000 workers are currently engaged in early-site preparation work at the V.C. Summer construction site. The project will peak at about 3,000 construction craft workers over the course of three to four years. The two units, each with a capacity of 1,117 MW, will then add 600 to 800 permanent jobs when they start generating electricity. The two AP1000 nuclear reactors will be fabricated by Westinghouse.

V.C. Summer Station is about 20 miles northwest of Columbia, S.C., and includes the now-decommissioned Carolinas-Virginia Tube Reactor unit. The plant comprises one 1,000 MW Westinghouse 3-loop pressurized water reactor currently licensed to run through 2042.

* * *

Common Dreams: Experts: Radiation at Fukushima Plant Far Worse Than Thought
Water at surprisingly low levels; damage "worse than expected"

Radiation levels inside Fukushima's reactor 2 have reached fatally high levels, and levels of water are far lower than previously thought, experts say today.

The current radiation levels are so high that even robots cannot enter. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) says that new robots and equipment will need to be developed to deal with the lethal levels of radiation.

TEPCO spokesperson Junichi Matsumoto told the Associated Press, "We have to develop equipment that can tolerate high radiation" when locating and removing melted fuel during the decommissioning.

At ten times the lethal dose, the radiation levels are at their highest point yet.

At the current level of 73 sieverts, the data gathering robots can only stand two to three hours of exposure. But, Tsuyoshi Misawa, a reactor physics and engineering professor at Kyoto University's Research Reactor Institute, told The Japan Times, "Two or three hours would be too short. At least five or six hours would be necessary." He added that "the shallowness of the water level is a surprise, and the radiation level is awfully high."

* * *

Amy Goodman: Big Nuclear's Cozy Relationship with the Obama Administration

Super Tuesday demonstrated the rancor rife in Republican ranks, as the four remaining major candidates slug it out to see how far to the right of President Barack Obama they can go. While attacking him daily for the high cost of gasoline, both sides are traveling down the same perilous road in their support of nuclear power.

This is mind-boggling, on the first anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, with the chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission warning that lessons from Fukushima have not been implemented in this country. Nevertheless, Democrats and Republicans agree on one thing: they're going to force nuclear power on the public, despite the astronomically high risks, both financial and environmental.

One year ago, on 11 March 2011, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan, causing more than 15,000 deaths, with 3,000 more missing and thousands of injuries. Japan is still reeling from the devastation – environmentally, economically, socially and politically. Naoto Kan, Japan's prime minister at the time, said last July;

"We will aim to bring about a society that can exist without nuclear power."

He resigned in August after shutting down production at several power plants. He said that another catastrophe could force the mass evacuation of Tokyo, and even threaten "Japan's very existence". Only two of the 54 Japanese power plants that were online at the time of the Fukushima disaster are currently producing power. Kan's successor, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, supports nuclear power, but faces growing public opposition to it.

This stands in stark contrast to the United States. Just about a year before Fukushima, President Obama announced $8bn in loan guarantees to the Southern Company, the largest energy producer in the southeastern US, for the construction of two new nuclear power plants in Waynesboro, Georgia, at the Vogtle power plant, on the South Carolina border.

Since the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, and then the catastrophe at Chernobyl in 1986, there have been no new nuclear power plants built in the US. The 104 existing nuclear plants are all increasing in age, many nearing their originally slated life expectancy of 40 years.

While campaigning for president in 2008, Barack Obama promised that nuclear power would remain part of the US's "energy mix". His chief adviser, David Axelrod, had consulted in the past for Illinois energy company ComEd, a subsidiary of Exelon, a major nuclear-energy producer. Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel played a key role in the formation of Exelon. In the past four years, Exelon employees have contributed more than $244,000 to the Obama campaign – and that is not counting any soft-money contributions to PACs, or direct, corporate contributions to the new Super Pacs. Lamented by many for breaking key campaign promises (like closing Guantánamo, or accepting Super Pac money), President Obama is fulfilling his promise to push nuclear power.

That is why several groups sued the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last month. The NRC granted approval to the Southern Company to build the new reactors at the Vogtle plant despite a no vote from the NRC chair, Gregory Jaczko. He objected to the licenses over the absence of guarantees to implement recommendations made following the Japanese disaster. Jaczko said, "I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima never happened."

Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, one of the plaintiffs in the suit against the NRC, explained how advocates for nuclear power "distort market forces", since private investors simply don't want to touch nuclear:

"They've asked the federal government for loan guarantees to support the project, and they have not revealed the terms of that loan guarantee … it's socializing the risk and privatizing the profits."

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service, noting the ongoing Republican attack on President Obama's loan guarantee to the failed solar power company Solyndra, said:

"The potential for taxpayer losses that would dwarf the Solyndra debacle is extraordinarily high … this loan would be 15 times larger than the Solyndra loan, and is probably 50 times riskier."

As long as our politicians dance to the tune of their donors, the threat of nuclear disaster will never be far off.

* * *

Nuclear Expert Cites New Concerns about Westinghouse Reactor Design Based on Fukushima Disaster:

DURHAM, N.C. - November 10 - Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen has documented at least six areas of unreviewed safety concern involving the Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear plant design based on the ongoing Fukushima disaster, and he says these problems require full technical review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission before the plant design can be “certified.” Today public interest groups filed his report – which expands on problems identified by a federal task force – with NRC commissioners who are considering a final vote on the plant design without responding to a long list of problems raised earlier by experts within and outside the industry.

The report was commissioned by NC WARN and Friends of the Earth, who say the NRC staff has avoided resolving the earlier problems – along with others the NRC’s Fukushima Task Force said apply to new reactors – in order to meet the nuclear industry’s AP1000 construction schedule. In a legal motion accompanying today’s report, the groups say federal regulations require correction of the multiple problems during the design certification phase – not after full construction of the AP1000 begins in Georgia and South Carolina.

Gundersen, of Fairewinds Associates, reports multiple “failure modes that the NRC and Westinghouse have not considered … impacting the ability of the Westinghouse passive design to cool” the reactor and spent fuel pools. The former nuclear industry senior vice-president says Westinghouse’s assumption of zero probability of reactor and/or spent fuel cooling failure “is a blatant manipulation of a safety code designed to protect public health and safety.”

“Fukushima Unit 4 released enormous amounts of radiation when its spent fuel pool cooling system was shut down during the tsunami – and the lessons learned from this disaster must be applied in the design phase of the AP1000,” Gundersen said during a press conference today. “This same sequence is possible on the AP1000, but the NRC and Westinghouse-Toshiba have factored a zero percent chance of such an accident occurring.”

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs