"I don't battle anymore! I uplift motherfuckers!" - GZA
Thursday, February 23, 2006,10:20 PM
Roots of Rising Homicides Found in Forgotten Black History
by Randy Shaw, 2006-02-23

As San Francisco officials try to address the city’s rise in homicides, killings by and of young African-American men have also increased in Richmond and West Oakland across the Bay, and in Newark, Washington D.C. and other black communities across America. The roots of violence in America’s African-American neighborhoods have multiple explanations, but a critical factor was white resistance to ensuring that federal War on Poverty programs and benefits of the 1960’s and 70’s reached black recipients. Much has been written about such resistance in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston, but the all-too similar histories of West Oakland, Bayview, and the Western Addition are largely forgotten. Before Black History Month ends, it is worth looking at how the liberal Bay Area denied African-American dreams, setting in motion the problems plaguing black neighborhoods today.

Because the San Francisco Bay Area has long been known for its racial tolerance, those unfamiliar with the past forty years of local history are likely unaware of how Oakland and San Francisco city governments sought to drive African-Americans away. These governments responded to the federal War on Poverty by doing everything in their power to deny jobs and benefits to blacks, and both used anti-democratic Redevelopment Agencies to ultimately achieve their goals.

Despite Oakland’s large African-American population, its white political establishment succeeded through the end of the 1970’s in stifling black economic progress. San Francisco journalist Warren Hinckle, then editor of the national Ramparts magazine, accused Oakland’s white elites in 1966 as “making 99% of the decisions in Oakland.” Hinckle castigated the city’s “power elite” as “frightened oligarchs” afraid to come down from the Oakland hills to face “the people” in a truly democratic process.

The chief problem for Oakland’s black population was that the city’s public resources were diverted away from low-income neighborhoods to either downtown businesses or to white residents living outside the city. Over 50% of Oakland city jobs through the 1960’s went to residents in places like Fremont, San Leandro, and Milpitas---three nearby cities whose homeowners maintained strict racial covenants that prohibited sales to blacks.
The Port of Oakland, 78% of whose employees did not live in Oakland, made money hand over foot but hired few blacks and gave little back to its West Oakland neighborhood.

So during the greatest period of American economic growth, when white workers could afford a single-family home with a picket fence, African-Americans were shut out of the American dream. By the time Oakland’s hiring practices changed and racist real estate practices were illegalized, the price of East Bay homes had dramatically increased. Whites got the benefit of appreciating home values, the African-American workers forced to rent during through the late 1970’s did not.

The ability of whites to divert Oakland’s wealth from the local black population led a broad range of West Oakland activists in the 60’s and 70’s to view the white community’s economic control in colonial terms. Black activists took the War on Poverty’s mantra of “community empowerment” seriously, but were stopped at every turn from implementing any of its plans by an entrenched Oakland establishment---cheered on by the right-wing Oakland Tribune---that resented African-American’s effort to shape city policies.

But Oakland’s black community was organizing, and had a comprehensive economic development strategy for ensuring city revenue returned to the neighborhoods instead of going to downtown businesses and the Port. In 1973 and 1975, the Black Panther Party promoted a strategy for reorienting civic priorities around the rehabilitation and health of low-income neighborhoods that brought a record black voter turnout to the polls in city elections

However, no matter what strategy activists came up with to get the federal funds supposedly targeted for them (and remember, this was the last era in America when federal spending on domestic problems was a top priority), Oakland’s white power structure always had a response. Their absolute line of defense was the city’s system of at-large voting for City Council, which meant that the white voting majority could always ensure the defeat of black candidates seeking to give a voice to West Oakland concerns.

By the time Oakland elected Lionel Wilson as its first Black mayor in 1977, the debate over redirecting federal money to the black community became almost a moot point. The Nixon Administration had abruptly retreated from concern over eradicating poverty in the ghetto, having halted new federal housing construction and greatly reduced spending on community-based economic development programs. Never again has America attempted anything close to a War on Poverty, and the nation’s commitment toward spending sufficient money to solve the problems of the ghetto was over almost as soon as it had begun.

Oakland’s election of a black mayor just as urban America was being starved for money was a pattern repeated across America. Black mayors ascended to office in Newark, Gary, Detroit, Cleveland and other cities after federal money dried up and when it was too late to stem the loss of manufacturing and other blue-collar jobs.

Like Oakland and San Francisco, these cities also suffer from rising homicide rates.

A year after Lionel Wilson became mayor, California voters passed Prop 13, which shifted millions of dollars from older, poorer cities like Oakland for the benefit of large corporations and white suburban homeowners. Combined with the federal cuts, Wilson and subsequent Oakland mayors would have far less resources to address the deepening problems of the city’s long neglected black neighborhoods.

Governor Jerry Brown gave Wilson the oath of office in 1977 as a way to highlight the fruition of the city’s black political aspirations. But Brown has spent his eight years as the city’s Mayor prioritizing upscale condominium development, and declared soon after taking office that West Oakland’s chief problem was not a lack of jobs or community-based development, but rather that the area had too many tenant-occupied housing units.

Should we then be surprised when Oakland’s young African-Americans, who know they have a President, Governor, and Mayor who do not care about them, express their resignation and hopelessness in the form of violence?

San Francisco’s history is more blatant. The sole purpose of the Redevelopment Agency’s destruction of thriving African-American neighborhoods in the Fillmore and Western Addition was to drive blacks out of San Francisco.

How do we know this? Because the rationale for “urban renewal” across America in the 1950’s-70’s was to attract affluent consumers to declining downtown business districts. The Fillmore and Western Addition are nowhere near downtown, so that there is no non-racial rationale for San Francisco’s bulldozing of its historic black neighborhoods.

No wonder thirty years later the Redevelopment Agency was still trying to figure out what to build in the area. Its mission was accomplished once the African-American community was displaced, and we cannot be surprised to see anger and violence burst out when so few of the promises made to the community have been kept.

Displacing African-Americans from Bayview-Hunters Point will not require bulldozers; a rising real estate market will alone get the job done. To expedite the transformation of Bayview away from its African-American roots, the Redevelopment Agency is stimulating the construction of thousands of market rate units that current residents cannot afford to buy.

Bayview-Hunters Point lacks the rich black political organizing history of West Oakland, and time is running out for challenging future plans for the area. The longtime persistence of crime and unemployment in Bayview has broadened support for an “urban renewal” strategy that might have brought massive resistance as recently as a decade ago.

As for West Oakland, former Congressman Ronald V. Dellums has returned to his political roots in an attempt to become Oakand’s next mayor. Dellums’ election could represent the neighborhood’s—and Oakland’s-- last and best hope for economic revival without displacement.

Ron Dellums is a unique historical figure that can convince Oakland’s low-income black residents that their dreams of a better future need no longer be deferred. By replacing resignation with hope, Dellums offers Oakland the most potent homicide prevention strategy.

Unfortunately, neither Gavin Newsom nor any San Francisco local political leader has the history in the black community to play the role Dellums can perform in Oakland. This leaves San Francisco officials to craft anti-violence funding packages while awaiting new national leadership that can revive African-American hopes for the future.

(Those interested in the recent history of urban America are strongly encouraged to read Robert Self’s American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland)
posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤ 0 comments
,10:14 PM
Post Hip Hop Generation
M.K. Asante Jr

The "hip-hop generation," a tag customarily attached to blacks born after the civil-rights movement, may have once captured the essence of the rebellious, politically discontent twenty-somethings of the 1980s and '90s, but not today.

With rapper/producer Kanye West recently amassing eight Grammy nominations, there is no doubt that hip-hop is an integral part of global pop culture. Global -- as opposed to American or black -- because, like scores of other innovations and phenomena that emerge from the black community, it has helped to shape the perceptions of people, especially young ones, all over the world. Although contemporary images often reinforce negative stereotypes, hip-hop was able to successfully break through a slew of music-industry barriers and bring many talented voices into the mainstream -- voices that had previously barely been heard and never listened to.

Hip-hop, like the black musical forms that preceded it, cannot, because of its cultural context, be looked at in a vacuum. To observe hip-hop then, is to observe the aesthetics, attitudes and ideologies of its progenitors as well. That understood, and with today's hip-hop boasting problems loud enough to drown out even the most seductive samples, the urgency for redefinition by a new generation couldn't be more evident.

The current crisis isn't just that rap, hip-hop's central asset, has drifted into the shallowest pool of lyrical possibilities, or that the latest version of hip-hop betrays the attitudes and ideals that framed it. It's that many young blacks who allegedly belong to the "hip-hop generation," feel misrepresented by it and have begun to realize the limitations of being defined by a musical genre -- a misogynistic, homophobic and violent one to boot. All of this against the ambivalent backdrop of globalization and the fog of a new war has led us to a generational tipping point, the moment when a dramatic shift is more than a possibility; it's a certainty.

The term "post hip-hop" describes a period of time -- now -- of great transition for a new generation of black youths in search of a deeper understanding of themselves in a context outside of the hip-hop monopoly. Post hip-hop is an assertion that encapsulates my generation's broad range of abilities and ideas and incorporates recent social advances (i.e., the women's movement, gay rights) that hip-hop has refused to acknowledge or respect.

Post hip-hop is not about the death of rap, but rather the birth of a new movement propelled by a paradigm shift that can be felt in the crowded spoken-word joints in North Philadelphia, the krump-dance dance-offs in Compton, and on a tattered stoop on a corner of Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn where Rashard Lloyd, a high school senior grumbles when I ask him, "what does hip-hop mean to you?" After a moment of contemplation, he makes clear, "hip-hop don't speak to or for me."

While Lloyd's attitude may surprise most of us who mistake the ring tones, reality shows and glossy ad campaigns as indicators of hip-hop's dominance, it shouldn't. According to "The U.S. Urban Youth Market: Targeting the Trendsetters," a study conducted by research and analysis firm Packaged Facts, black youths like Lloyd "possess an overriding desire to remain outside of the mainstream." Claire Madden, vice president of marketing for Market Research, parent company of Packaged Facts, says that once "there is a perception from urban youth that these manufacturers [companies and artists] are ignoring their origins ... they are named sell-outs and it is only a matter of time before they fall."

The commercialism of hip-hop, which has resulted in a split from those it's supposed to represent, is not new. In fact, it goes, in part, by the same name: hip. Just as the hip-hop generation was charged by rap, the hip era of the 1950s and '60s was fueled by jazz. In hip's case, and the same is true for hip-hop, Scott Saul, professor of English at UC Berkeley, points out that "it [hip] moved from a form of African-American and bohemian dissent to become the very language of the advertising world, which took hip's promise of authenticity, liberation and rebellion and attached it to the act of enjoying whatever was on sale at the moment."

No one knows what will be next, or if my generation will sell it. However, the post hip-hop ethos allows the necessary space for new ideas and expressions to be born free from the minstrel show that is modern hip-hop.

Post hip-hop is not about music, per se, although the music that is and will be created functions as a kind of soundtrack to a fresh set of attitudes, ideas and perspectives. Art, not just music, is fundamental to the post hip-hop development, as art possesses the remarkable ability to change not only what we see, but how we see.

The late Martinican writer, Frantz Fanon, once said, "each generation, out of relative obscurity, must discover their destiny and either fulfill or betray it." The post hip-hop generation must fully engage in exploration, challenge and discovery -- acts that will result in a revelation of contemporary truths that will help define us, and in turn, the world.

M.K. Asante, Jr. is the author of the books "Beautiful. And Ugly Too" (Africa World Press, 2005) and "Like Water Running Off My Back" (Africa World Press, 2002). He wrote and produced the film "500 Years Later" and is completing his masters of fine arts at UCLA.
posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Wednesday, February 22, 2006,8:35 AM
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the full text of which appears in the following pages. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories."
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤ 1 comments
Tuesday, February 21, 2006,8:42 PM
Appeal to African Heads of State
By Malcolm X

Your Excellencies:

The Organization of Afro-American Unity has sent me to attend this historic African summit conferences as an observer to represent the interests of 22 million African-American whose human rights are being violated daily by the racism of American imperialists.

The Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) has been formed by a cross-section of America’s African-American community, and is patterned after the letter and spirit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

Just as the Organization of African Unity has called upon all African leaders to submerge their differences and unite on common objectives for the common good of all Africans—in America the Organization of Afro-American Unity has called upon Afro-American leaders to submerge their differences and find areas of agreement wherein we can work in unity for the good of the entire 22 million African-Americans.

Since the 22 million of us were originally Africans, who are now in America, not by choice but only by a cruel accident in our history, we strongly believe that African problems are our problems and our problems are African problems.

Your Excellencies:

We also believe that as heads of the Independent African states you are the shepherd of all African peoples everywhere, whether they are still at home on the mother continent or have been scattered abroad.

Some African leaders at this conference have implied that they have enough problems here on the mother continent without adding the Afro-American problem.

With all due respect to your esteemed positions, I must remind all of you that the good shepherd will leave ninety-nine sheep, who are safe at home, to go to the aid of the one who is lost and has fallen into the clutches of the imperialist wolf.

We, in America, are your long-lost brothers and sisters, and I am here only to remind you that our problems are your problems. As the African-Americans “awaken” today, we find ourselves in a strange land that has rejected us, and, like the prodigal son, we are turning to our elder brothers for help. We pray our pleas will not fall upon deaf ears.

We were taken forcibly in chains from this mother continent and have now spend over 300 years in America, suffering the most inhuman forms of physical and psychological tortures imaginable.

During the past ten years the entire world has witnessed our men, women, and children being attacked and bitten by vicious police dogs, brutally beaten by police clubs, and washed down the sewers by high-pressure water hoses that would rip the clothes from our bodies and the flesh from our limbs.

And all of these inhuman atrocities have been inflicted upon us by the American governmental authorities, the police themselves, for no reason other than we seek the recognition and respect granted our human beings in America.

Your Excellencies:

The American government is either unable or unwilling to protect the lives and property of your 22 million African-American brothers and sisters. We stand defenseless, at the mercy of American racists who murder us at will for no reason other than we are black and of African descent.

Two black bodies were found in the Mississippi River this week; last week an unarmed African-American educator was murdered in cold blood in Georgia; a few days before that three civil-rights workers disappeared completely, perhaps murdered also, only because they were teaching our people in Mississippi how to vote and how to secure their political rights.

Our problems are your problems We have lived for over 300 years in that American den of racist wolves in constant fear of losing life and limb. Recently, three students from Kenya were mistaken for American Negroes and were brutally beaten by New York police. Shortly after that, two diplomats from Uganda were also beaten by the New York City police, who mistook them for American Negroes.

If Africans are brutally beaten while only visiting in America, imagine the physical and psychological suffering received by your brothers and sisters who have lived there for over 300 years.

Our problem is your problem. No matter how much independence Africans get here on the mother continent, unless you wear your national dress at all times, when you visit America, you may be mistaken for one of us and suffer the same psychological humiliation and physical mutilation that is an everyday occurrence in our lives.

Your problems will never be fully solved until and unless ours are solved. You will never be fully respected until and unless we are also respected. You will never be recognized as free human beings until and unless we are also recognized and treated as human beings.

Our problem is your problem. It is not a Negro problem, nor an American problem. This is a world problem; a problem for humanity. It is not a problem of civil rights but a problem of human rights.

If the United States Supreme Court justice, Arthur Goldberg, a few weeks ago, could find legal grounds to threaten to bring Russia before the United Nations and charge her with violating the human rights of less than three million Russian Jews, what makes our African brothers hesitate to bring the Untied States government before the United Nations and charge her with violating the human rights of 22 million African-Americans?

We pray that our African brothers have not freed themselves of European colonialism only to be overcome and held in check now by American dollarism. Don’t let American racism be “legalized” by American dollarism.

America is worse than South Africa, because not only is America racist, but she also is deceitful and hypocritical. South Africa preaches segregation and practices segregation. She, at least, practices what she preaches. American preaches integration and practices segregation. She preaches one thing while deceitfully practicing another.

South Africa is like a vicious wolf, openly hostile towards black humanity. But America is cunning like a fox, friendly and smiling, but even more vicious and deadly than the wolf.

The wolf and the fox are both enemies of humanity; both are canine; both humiliate and mutilate their victims. Both have the same objectives, but differ only in methods.

If South Africa is guilty of violating the human rights of Africans here on the mother continent, then America is guilty of worse violations of 22 million Africans on the American continent. And if South Africa racism is not a domestic issue, then American racism also is not a domestic issue.

Many of you have been led to believe that the much publicized, recently passed civil-rights bill is a sign that America is making a sincere effort to correct the injustices we have suffered there. This propaganda maneuver is part of her deceit and trickery to keep the African nations from condemning her racist practices before the United Nations, as you are now doing as regards the same practices of South Africa.

The United States Supreme Court passed a law ten years ago making America’s segregated school system illegal. But the federal government has yet to enforce this law even in the North. If the federal government cannot enforce the law of the highest court in the land when it comes to nothing but equal rights to education for African Americans, how can anyone be so naïve as to think all the additional laws brought into being by the civil-rights bill will be enforced?

These are nothing but tricks of the century’s leading neo-colonialist power. Surely, our intellectually mature African brothers will not fall for this trickery.

The Organization of Afro-American Unity, in cooperation with a coalition of other Negro leaders and organizations, has decided to elevate our freedom struggle above the domestic level of civil rights. We intend to “internationalize” it by placing it at the level of human rights. Our freedom struggle for human dignity is no longer confined to the domestic jurisdiction of the United States government.

We beseech the independent African states to help us bring our problem before the United Nations, on the grounds that the United States government is morally incapable of protecting the lives and the property of 22 million African-Americans. And on the grounds that our deteriorating plight is definitely becoming a threat to world peace.

Out of frustration and hopelessness our young people have reached the point of no return. We no longer endorse patience and turning-the-other-cheek. We assert the right of self-defense by whatever means necessary, and reserve the right of maximum retaliation against our racist oppressors, no matter what the odds against us are.

From here on in, if we must die anyway, we will die fighting back and we will not die alone. We intend to see that our racist oppressors also get a taste of death.

We are well aware that our future efforts to defend ourselves by retaliating—by meeting violence with violence, eye for eye and tooth for tooth—could create the type of racial conflict in America that could easily escalate into a violent, world-wide, bloody race war.

In the interests of world peace and security, we beseech the heads of the independent African states to recommend an immediate investigation into our problem by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

If this humble plea that I am voicing at this conference is not properly worded, then let our elder brothers, who know the legal language, come to our aid and word our plea in the proper language necessary for it to be heard.

One last word, my beloved brothers at this African summit:

“No one knows the master better than his servant.” We have been servants in America for over 300 years. We have a thorough, inside knowledge of this man who calls himself “Uncle Sam.” Therefore, you must heed our warning: Don’t escape from European colonialism only to become even more enslaved by deceitful, “friendly” American dollarism.

May Allah’s blessings of good health and wisdom be upon you all. Salaam Alaikum.
posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤ 0 comments
,4:02 PM
Rules for Radicals Prologue
by Saul D. Alinsky

A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals


The Revolutionary force today has two targets, moral as well as material. Its young protagonists are one moment reminiscent of the idealistic early Christians, yet they also urge violence and cry, "Burn the system down!" They have no illusions about the system, but plenty of illusions about the way to change our world. It is to this point that I have written this book. These words are written in desperation, partly because it is what they do and will do that will give meaning to what I and the radicals of my generation have done with our lives.

They are now the vanguard, and they had to start almost from scratch. Few of us survived the Joe McCarthy holocaust of the early 1950s and of those there were even fewer whose understanding and insights had developed beyond the dialectical materialism of orthodox Marxism. My fellow radicals who were supposed to pass on the torch of experience and insights to a new generation just were not there. As the young looked at the society around them, it was all, in their words, "materialistic, decadent, bourgeois in its values, bankrupt and violent." Is it any wonder that they rejected us in toto.

Today's generation is desperately trying to make some sense out of their lives and out of the world. Most of them are products of the middle class. They have rejected their materialistic backgrounds, the goal of a well-paid job, suburban home, automobile, country club membership, first-class travel, status, security, and everything that meant success to their parents. They have had it. They watched it lead their parents to tranquilizers, alcohol, long-term-endurance marriages, or divorces, high blood pressure, ulcers, frustration and the disillusionment of the "good life," They have seen the almost unbelievable idiocy of our political leadership - in the past political leaders, ranging from the mayors to governors to the White House, were regarded with respect and almost reverence; today they are viewed with contempt. This negativism now extends to all institutions, from the police and the courts to "the system" itself. We are living in a world of mass media which daily exposes society's innate hypocrisy, its contradictions and the apparent failure of almost every facet of our social and political life. The young have seen their "activist" participatory democracy turn into its antithesis - nihilistic bombing and murder. The political panaceas of the past, such as the revolutions in Russia and China, have become the same old stuff under a different name. The search for freedom does not seem to have any road or destination. The young are inundated with a barrage of information and facts so overwhelming that the world has come to seem an utter bedlam, which has them spinning in a frenzy, looking for what man has always looked for from the beginning of time, a way of life that has some meaning or sense. A way of life means a certain degree of order where things have some relationship and can be pieced together into a system that at least provides some clues to what life is about. Men have always yearned for and sought direction by setting up religions, inventing political philosophies, creating scientific systems like Newton's, or formulating ideologies of various kinds. This is what is behind the common cliché, "getting it all together" - despite the realization that all values and factors are relative, fluid, and changing, and that it will be possible to "get it all together" only relatively. The elements will shift and move together just like the changing pattern in a turning kaleidoscope.

In the past, the "world," whether in its physical or intellectual terms, was much smaller, simpler, and more orderly. It inspired credibility. Today everything is so complex as to be incomprehensible. What sense does it make for men to walk on the moon while other men are waiting on welfare lines, or in Vietnam killing and dying for a corrupt dictatorship in the name of freedom? These are the days when man has his hands on the sublime while he is up to his hips in the muck of madness. The establishment in many ways is a suicidal as some of the far left, except that they are infinitely more destructive than the far left can ever be. The outcome of the hopelessness and despair is morbidity. There is a feeling of death hanging over the nation.

Today's generation faces all this and says, "I don't want to spend my life the way my family and their friends have. I want to do something, to create, to be me, to 'do my own thing,' to live. The older generation doesn't understand and worse doesn't want to. I don't want to be just a piece of data to be fed into a computer or a statistic in a public opinion poll, just a voter carrying a credit card." To the young, the world seems insane and falling apart.

On the other side is the older generation, whose members are not less confused. If they are not as vocal or conscious, it may be because they can escape to a past when the world was simpler. They can still cling to the old values in the simple hope that everything will work out somehow, some way. That the younger generation will "straighten out" with the passing of time. Unable to come to grips with the world as it is, they retreat in any confrontation with the younger generation with that infuriating cliché, "when you get older, you will understand." One wonders at their reaction if some youngster were to reply, "When you get younger which will never be then you'll understand, so of course you'll never understand." Those of the older generation who claim a desire to understand say, "When I talk to my kids or their friends I'll say to them, 'Look, I believe what you have to tell me is important and I respect it.' You call me a square and say that 'I'm not with it' or 'I don't know where it's at' or 'I don't know where the scene is' and all of the rest of the words you use. Well I'm going to agree with you. So suppose you tell me. What do you want? What do you mean when you say "I want to do my own thing.' What the hell is your thing? You say you want a better world. Like what? And don't tell me a world of peace and love and all the rest of that stuff because people are people, as you will find out when you get older - I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say anything about 'when you get older.' I really mean to say anything about 'when you get older.' I really do respect what you have to say. Now why don't you answer me? Do you know what you want? Do you know what you're talking about? Why can't we get together?

And that is what we call the generation gap.

What the present generation wants is what all generations have always wanted - a meaning, a sense of what the world and life are - a chance to strive for some sort of order.

If the young were now writing our Declaration of Independence they would begin, "When in the course of inhuman events..." and their bill of particulars would range from Vietnam to our black, Chicano, and Puerto Rican ghettos, to the migrant workers, to Appalachia, to the hate, ignorance, disease and starvation in the world. Such a bill of particulars would emphasize the absurdity of human affairs and the forlornness and emptiness, the fearful loneliness that comes from not knowing if there is any meaning to our lives.

When they talk of values, they're asking for a reason. They are searching for an answer, at least for a time, to man's greatest question, "Why am I here?"

The young react to their chaotic world in different ways. Some panic and run, rationalizing that the system is going to collapse anyway of its own rot and corruption and so they're copping out, going hippie or yippie, taking drugs, trying communes, anything to escape. Others went for pointless sure-loser confrontations so that they could fortify their rationalization and say, "Well, we tried and did our part" and then they copped out too. Others sick with guilt and not knowing where to turn or what to do went berserk. These were the Weathermen and their like: they took the grand cop-out, suicide. To these I have nothing to say or give but pity - and in some cases contempt, for such as those who leave their dead comrades and take off for Algeria or other points.

What I have to say in this book is not the arrogance of unsolicited advice. It is the experience and counsel that so many young people have questioned me about through all-night sessions on hundreds of campuses in America. It is for those young radicals who are committed to the fight, committed to life.

Remember we are talking about revolution, not revelation; you can miss the target by shooting too high as well as too low. First, there are no rules for revolution any more than there are rules for love or rules for happiness, but there are rules for radicals who want to change their world; there are certain central concepts of action in human politics that operate regardless of the scene or the time. To know these is basic to a pragmatic attack on the system. These rules make the difference between being a realistic radical and being a rhetorical one who uses the tired old words and slogans, calls the police "pig" or "white fascist racist" or "futher mukkers” and has so stereotyped himself that others react by saying, "Oh, he's one of those," and then promptly turn off.

This failure of many of your younger activists to understand the art of communication has been disastrous. Even the most elementary grasp of the fundamental idea that one communicates within the experience of his audience - and gives full respect to the other's values - would have ruled out attacks on the American flag. The responsible organizer would have known that it is the establishment that has betrayed the flag while the flag, itself, remains the glorious symbol of America's hopes and aspirations, and he would have conveyed this message to his audience. On another level of communication, humor is essential, for through humor much is accepted that would have been rejected if presented seriously. This is a sad and lonely generation. It laughs too little, and this, too is tragic.

For the real radical, doing "his thing" is to do the social thing, for and with people. In a world where everything is so interrelated that one fells helpless to know where or how to grab hold and act, defeat sets in' for years there have been people who've found society too overwhelming and have withdrawn, concentrated on "doing their own thing." Generally we have put them into mental hospitals and diagnosed them as schizophrenics. If the real radical finds that having long hair sets up psychological barriers to communication and organization, he cuts his hair. If I were organizing in a orthodox Jewish community I would not walk in there eating a ham sandwich, unless I wanted to be rejected so I could have an excuse to cop out. My "thing," if I want to organize, is solid communication with the people in the community. Lacking communication I am in reality silent; throughout history silence has been regarded as assent - in this case assent to the system.

As an organizer I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be. That we accept the world as it is does not in any sense weaken our desire to change it into what we believe it should be - it is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it to what we think it should be. That means working in the system.

There's another reason for working inside the system. Dostoevsky said that taking a new step is what people fear most. Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and chance the future. This acceptance is the reformation essential to any revolution. To bring on this reformation requires that the organizer work inside the system, among not only the middle class but the 40 per cent of American families - more than seventy million people - whose income range from $5,000 to $10,000 a year (in 1971). They cannot be dismissed by labeling them blue collar or hard hat. They will not continue to be relatively passive and slightly challenging. If we fail to communicate with them, if we don't encourage them to form alliances with us, they will move to the right. Maybe they will anyway, but let's not let it happen by default.

Our youth are impatient with the preliminaries that are essential to purposeful action. Effective organization is thwarted by the desire for instant and dramatic change, or as I have phrased it elsewhere the demand for revelation rather than revolution. It's the kind of thing we see in play writing; the first act introduces the characters and the plot, in the second act the plot and characters are developed as the play strives to hold the audience's attention. in the final act good and evil have their dramatic confrontation and resolution. The present generation wants to go right into the third act, skipping the first two, in which case there is no play, nothing but confrontation for confrontation's sake - a flare-up and back to darkness. To build a powerful organization takes time. It is tedious, but that's the way the game is played - if you want to play and not just yell, "Kill the umpire."

What is the alternative to working "inside" the system? A mess of rhetorical garbage about "Burn the system down!" Yippie yells of "Do it!" or "Do your thing." What else? Bombs? Sniping? Silence when police are killed and screams of "murdering fascist pigs" when others are killed? Attacking and baiting the police? Police suicide? Power comes out of the barrel of a gun!" is an absurd rallying cry when the other side has all the guns. Lenin was a pragmatist; when he returned to what was then Petrograd from exile, he said that the Bolsheviks stood for getting power through the ballot box but would reconsider after they got the guns! Militant mouthings? Spouting quotes from Mao, Castro, and Che Guevara, which are as germane to our highly technological, computerized, cybernetic, nuclear-powered, mass media society as a stagecoach on a jet runway at Kennedy airport.

Let is in the name of radical pragmatism not forget that in our system with all its repressions we can still speak out and denounce the administration, attack its policies, work to build an opposition political base. True, there is government harassment, but there still is that relative freedom to fight. I can attack my government, try to organize to change it. That's more than I can do in Moscow, Peking, or Havana. Remember the reaction of the Red Guard to the "cultural revolution" and the fate of the Chinese college students. Just a few of the violent episodes of bombings or a courtroom shootout that we have experienced here would have resulted in a sweeping purge and mass executions in Russia, China, or Cuba. Let's keep some perspective.

We will start with the system because there is no other place to start from except political lunacy. It is most important for those of us who want revolutionary change to understand that revolution must be proceeded by reformation. To assume that a political revolution can survive without the supporting base of a popular reformation is to ask for the impossible in politics.

Men don't like to step abruptly out of the security of familiar experience; they need a bridge to cross from their own experience to a new way. A revolutionary organizer must shake up the prevailing patterns of their lives--agitate, create disenchantment and discontent with the current values, to produce, if not a passion for change, at least a passive, affirmative, no-challenging climate.

"The revolution was affected before the war commenced," John Adams wrote. "The revolution was in the hearts and minds of the people...This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people was the real American Revolution." A revolution without a prior reformation would collapse or become a totalitarian tyranny.

A reformation means that masses of our people have reached the point of disillusionment with past ways and values. They don't know what will work but they do know that the prevailing system is self-defeating, frustrating, and hopeless. They won't act for change but won't strongly oppose those who do. The time is then ripe for revolution.

Those who, for whatever combination of reasons, encourage the opposite of reformation, become the unwitting allies of the far political right. Parts of the far left have gone so far in the political circle that they are now all but indistinguishable from the extreme right. It reminds me of the days when Hitler, new on the scene, was excused for his actions by "humanitarians" on the grounds of a paternal rejection and childhood trauma. When there are people who espouse the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy or the Tate murders or the Marin County Courthouse kidnapping and killings or the University of Wisconsin bombing and killing as "revolutionary acts," then we are dealing with people who are merely hiding psychosis behind a political mask. The masses of people recoil with horror and say, Our way is bad and we were willing to let it change, but certainly not for this murderous madness--no matter how bad things are now, they are better than that." So they begin to turn back. They regress into acceptance of a coming massive repression in the name of "law and order."

In the midst of the gassing and violence by the Chicago Police and National Guard during the 1968 Democratic Convention many students asked me, "Do you still believe we should try to work inside our system?"

These were students who had been with Eugene McCarthy in New Hampshire and followed him across the country. Some had been with Robert Kennedy when he was killed in Los Angeles. Many of the tears that were shed in Chicago were not from gas. "Mr. Alinsky, we fought in primary after primary and the people voted no on Vietnam. Look at the convention. They're not paying any attention to the vote. Look at your police and the army. You still want us to work in the system?"

It hurt me to see the American army with drawn bayonets advancing on American boys and girls. But the answer I gave the young radicals seemed to me the only realistic one: "Do one of three things. One, go find a wailing wall and feel sorry for yourselves. Two, go psycho and start bombing--but this will only swing people to the right. Three, learn a lesson. Go home, organize, build power and at the next convention, you be the delegates." Remember: once you organize people around something as commonly agreed upon as pollution, then an organized people is on the move. From there it's a short and natural step to political pollution, to Pentagon pollution.

It is not enough just to elect your candidates. You must keep the pressure on. Radicals should keep in mind Franklin D. Roosevelt's response to a reform delegation, "Okay, you've convinced me. Now go on out and bring pressure on me!" action comes from keeping the heat on. No politician can sit on a hot issue if you make it hot enough.

As for Vietnam, I would like to see our nation be the first in the history of man to publicly say, "We were wrong! What we did was horrible. We got in and kept getting in deeper and deeper and at every step we invented new reasons for staying. We have paid part of the price in 44,000 dead Americans. There is nothing we can ever do to make it up to the people of Indo-China--or to our own people--but we will try. We believe that our world has come of age so that it is no longer a sign of weakness or defeat to abandon a childish pride and vanity, to admit we were wrong." Such an admission would shake up the foreign policy concepts of all nations and open the door to a new international order. This is our alternative to Vietnam--anything else is the old makeshift patchwork. If this were to happen, Vietnam may even have been somewhat worth it.

A final word on our system. The democratic ideal springs from the ideas of liberty, equality, majority rule through free elections, protection of the rights of minorities, and freedom to subscribe to multiple loyalties in matters of religion, economics, and politics rather than to a total loyalty to the state. The spirit of democracy is the idea of importance and worth in the individual, and faith in the kind of world where the individual can achieve as much of his potential as possible.

Great dangers always accompany great opportunities. The possibility of destruction is always implicit in the act of creation. Thus the greatest enemy of individual freedom is the individual himself.

From the beginning the weakness as well as the strength of the democratic ideal has been the people. People cannot be free unless they are willing to sacrifice some of their interests to guarantee the freedom of others. The price of democracy is the ongoing pursuit of the common good by all of the people. One hundred and thirty-five years ago Tocqueville gravely warned that unless individual citizens were regularly involved in the action of governing themselves, self-government would pass from the scene. Citizen participation is the animating spirit and force in a society predicated on voluntarism.

We are not here concerned with people who profess the democratic faith but yearn for the dark security of dependency where they can be spared the burden of decisions. Reluctant to grow up, or incapable of doing so, they want to remain children and be cared for by others. Those who can, should be encouraged to grow; for the others, the fault lies not in the system but in themselves.

Here we are desperately concerned with the vast mass of our people who, thwarted through lack of interest or opportunity, or both, do not participate in the endless responsibilities of citizenship and are resigned to lives determined by others. To lose your "identity" as a citizen of democracy is but a step from losing your identity as a person. People react to this frustration by not acting at all. The separation of the people from the routine daily functions of citizenship is heartbreak in a democracy.

It is a grave situation when a people resign their citizenship or when a resident of a great city, though he may desire to take a hand, lacks the means to participate. That citizen shrinks further into apathy, anonymity, and depersonalization. The result is that he comes to depend on public authority and a state of civil-sclerosis sets in.

From time to time there have been external enemies at our gates; there has always been the enemy within, the hidden and malignant inertia that foreshadows more certain destruction to our life and future than any devastating tragedy than the death of man's faith in himself and in his power to direct his future.

I salute the present generation. Hang on to one of your most precious part of youth, laughter--don't lose it as many of you seem to have done, you need it. Together we may find some of what we're looking for--laughter, beauty, love, and the chance to create.
posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤ 0 comments
,10:35 AM
The Corner
posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Monday, February 20, 2006,10:35 AM
Modernity and tradition entwined in a complex dialogue

by Leslie Camhi

Royal Portraits

What was it like to step before Seydou Keïta camera in Bamako, Mali, in the 1950s? If you were a woman, you might have donned your best flowered boubou (the wide-sleeved, flowing robe adapted to both sexes) and elaborately bejeweled your hair, thrown ropes of carnelian beads around your neck and gamely tied your headscarf à la Versailles, before setting out, either alone or with family, for the famous photographer's studio, situated at the bustling crossroads of modernity, near the city's train station, market, and cinema.
While you waited (for the lines could be long), you might, if you were a man, consider changing into one of three Western-style suits Keïta kept on hand to burnish his clients' image with a sheen of wealth and sophistication. Man or woman, you might strap on a wristwatch for perhaps the first time in your life and contemplate posing beside a radio or holding an artificial flower.

When your turn came, the slim, elegant photographer, with his intense eyes and lighthearted manner, did his best to banish any lingering suspicions—the rumor, for example, that someone possessing your picture could revive your unwilling spirit after your death. He seemed to know exactly which gestures would put you and your family at ease and make you look your best, lending your mother-in-law's tribal formality a touch of unexpected nonchalance, throwing your fine shoulders and your sister's impossibly slender fingers into high relief. A lacy bedspread or riotously patterned fabric hung in the courtyard against a mud wall; you stood, sat, or reclined before it, and with one click of the shutter, proudly proclaimed your hybrid allegiance to both the complex, colonially inflected traditions of the Sahel and the latest chic.

Royalty is currently residing amid the fumes from the truck repair shops on West 29th Street, where an exhibition of posthumous prints drawn from Keïta's estate is at Sean Kelly Gallery. Keïta who was born in Bamako around 1923, apprenticed in his father's carpentry workshop and discovered photography at age 12, when an uncle returning from a trip to Senegal brought him a small box camera.

He set up his own atelier in 1948, taking pictures outdoors when he couldn't afford lights. Working under French colonial rule, he photographed the notables of his native city—its women, in particular, as if they were queens, their vivid self-fashioning and embrace of modernity at one with the country's growing thirst for autonomy.

Mali joined the great wave of African independence in 1960. Under pressure from the fledgling socialist government, Keïta closed his portrait studio and went to work as an official state photographer. But he carefully preserved some 7,000 negatives from its heyday. In 1992, visitors from the West discovered this trove of images embodying the promise of a newborn society and its dawning self-consciousness—precious documents of a rare humanity.

The art world lapped them up. Promoted by French curator Andre Magnin and collector Jean Pigozzi, new Keïta prints (vastly enlarged from their original, dimensions) were shown internationally. In 2001, Keïta broke with Magnin and Pigozzi, demanding the return of 921 negatives in Magnin's hands and setting up a foundation with Parisian gallerist Jean-Marc Petras to look after his legacy. (Legal proceedings are pending in France for the return of the now possibly endangered negatives, which represent the photographer's best-known and some of his most brilliant images.) Keïta died later that year, two weeks before the opening of a show Petras had organized at Sean Kell.

The current exhibition confirms the remarkable depth of Keïta achievement. It also suggests just how much work is still to be done by scholars. In the extraordinary ornamental details of their dress and in their comportment, his Bamakois send out a wealth of psychological and political signals that, to the unenlightened viewer, remain both opaque and intriguing, hinting at familial relationships (such as "co-wives," the multiple spouses of a Muslim man) that are not part of everyday life in the West.

The portraits show modernity and tradition entwined in a complex dialogue with no beginning or end. The ghost of Marie Antoinette hovers over the pleated bodices and ruffled blouses of these gay and pensive beauties, some made of "Dutch wax" fabrics imitating colonial Indonesian designs, which were printed in Manchester for export to Africa. Their "aeroplane wing sleeves" and "coat hanger braids" (as the Bamakois called them) turn up in the breeze; they bear the marks of scarification and of Western affluence with equal pride.

Above all, they live. "My wish is that my negatives will survive for a very long time," Keïta remarked in a late interview. "It is true, my negatives breathe like you and me."
posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Friday, February 17, 2006,10:48 AM
Bayard Rustin
A master strategist and tireless activist, Bayard Rustin is best remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the United States. He brought Gandhi’s protest techniques to the American civil rights movement, and helped mold Martin Luther King, Jr. into an international symbol of peace and nonviolence.

Despite these achievements, Rustin was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and fired from important leadership positions, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era. Five years in the making and the winner of numerous awards, BROTHER OUTSIDER presents a feature-length documentary portrait, focusing on Rustin’s activism for peace, racial equality, economic justice and human rights.

Today, the United States is still struggling with many of the issues Bayard Rustin sought to change during his long, illustrious career. His focus on civil and economic rights and his belief in peace, human rights and the dignity of all people remain as relevant today as they were in the 1950s and 60s.

Rustin’s biography is particularly important for lesbian and gay Americans, highlighting the major contributions of a gay man to ending official segregation in America. Rustin stands at the confluence of the great struggles for civil, legal and human rights by African-Americans and lesbian and gay Americans. In a nation still torn by racial hatred and violence, bigotry against homosexuals, and extraordinary divides between rich and poor, his eloquent voice is needed today.

In February 1956, when Bayard Rustin arrived in Montgomery to assist with the nascent bus boycott, Martin Luther King, Jr. had not personally embraced nonviolence. In fact, there were guns inside King’s house, and armed guards posted at his doors. Rustin persuaded boycott leaders to adopt complete nonviolence, teaching them Gandhian nonviolent direct protest.

Apart from his career as an activist, Rustin the man was also fun-loving, mischievous, artistic, gifted with a fine singing voice, and known as an art collector who sometimes found museum-quality pieces in New York City trash. Historian John D’Emilio calls Rustin the "lost prophet" of the civil rights movement.
posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤ 0 comments
,10:45 AM
National Liberation and Culture
by Amilcar Cabral

This text was originally delivered on February 20, 1970; as part of the Eduardo Mondlane (1) Memorial Lecture Series at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, under the auspices of The Program of Eastern African Studies. It was translated from the French by Maureen Webster.

When Goebbels, the brain behind Nazi propaganda, heard culture being discussed, he brought out his revolver. That shows that the Nazis, who were and are the most tragic expression of imperialism and of its thirst for domination--even if they were all degenerates like Hitler, had a clear idea of the value of culture as a factor of resistance to foreign domination.

History teaches us that, in certain circumstances, it is very easy for the foreigner to impose his domination on a people. But it also teaches us that, whatever may be the material aspects of this domination, it can be maintained only by the permanent, organized repression of the cultural life of the people concerned. Implantation of foreign domination can be assured definitively only by physical liquidation of a significant part of the dominated population.

In fact, to take up arms to dominate a people is, above all, to take up arms to destroy, or at least to neutralize, to paralyze, its cultural life. For, with a strong indigenous cultural life, foreign domination cannot be sure of its perpetuation. At any moment, depending on internal and external factors determining the evolution of the society in question, cultural resistance (indestructible) may take on new forms (political, economic, armed) in order fully to contest foreign domination.

The ideal for foreign domination, whether imperialist or not, would be to choose:

either to liquidate practically all the population of the dominated country, thereby eliminating the possibilities for cultural resistance;
or to succeed in imposing itself without damage to the culture of the dominated people--that is, to harmonize economic and political domination of these people with their cultural personality.
The first hypothesis implies genocide of the indigenous population and creates a void which empties foreign domination of its content and its object: the dominated people. The second hypothesis has not, until now, been confirmed by history. The broad experience of mankind allows us to postulate that it has no practical viability: it is not possible to harmonize the economic and political domination of a people, whatever may be the degree of their social development, with the preservation of their cultural personality.
In order to escape this choice--which may be called the dilemma of cultural resistance--imperialist colonial domination has tried to create theories which, in fact, are only gross formulations of racism, and which, in practice, are translated into a permanent state of siege of the indigenous populations on the basis of racist dictatorship (or democracy).

This, for example, is the case with the so-called theory of progressive assimilation of native populations, which turns out to be only a more or less violent attempt to deny the culture of the people in question. The utter failure of this "theory," implemented in practice by several colonial powers, including Portugal, is the most obvious proof of its lack of viability, if not of its inhuman character. It attains the highest degree of absurdity in the Portuguese case, where Salazar affirmed that Africa does not exist.

This is also the case with the so-called theory of apartheid, created, applied and developed on the basis of the economic and political domination of the people of Southern Africa by a racist minority, with all the outrageous crimes against humanity which that involves. The practice of apartheid takes the form of unrestrained exploitation of the labor force of the African masses, incarcerated and repressed in the largest concentration camp mankind has ever known.

These practical examples give a measure of the drama of foreign imperialist domination as it confronts the cultural reality of the dominated people. They also suggest the strong, dependent and reciprocal relationships existing between the cultural situation and the economic (and political) situation in the behavior of human societies. In fact, culture is always in the life of a society (open or closed), the more or less conscious result of the economic and political activities of that society, the more or less dynamic expression of the kinds of relationships which prevail in that society, on the one hand between man (considered individually or collectively) and nature, and, on the other hand, among individuals, groups of individuals, social strata or classes.

The value of culture as an element of resistance to foreign domination lies in the fact that culture is the vigorous manifestation on the ideological or idealist plane of the physical and historical reality of the society that is dominated or to be dominated. Culture is simultaneously the fruit of a people’s history and a determinant of history, by the positive or negative influence which it exerts on the evolution of relationships between man and his environment, among men or groups of men within a society, as well as among different societies. Ignorance of this fact may explain the failure of several attempts at foreign domination--as well as the failure of some international liberation movements.

Let us examine the nature of national liberation. We shall consider this historical phenomenon in its contemporary context, that is, national liberation in opposition to imperialist domination. The latter is, as we know, distinct both in form and in content from preceding types of foreign domination (tribal, military-aristocratic, feudal, and capitalist domination in time free competition era).

The principal characteristic, common to every kind of imperialist domination, is the negation of the historical process of the dominated people by means of violently usurping the free operation of the process of development of the productive forces. Now, in any given society, the level of development of the productive forces and the system for social utilization of these forces (the ownership system) determine the mode of production. In our opinion, the mode of production whose contradictions are manifested with more or less intensity through the class struggle, is the principal factor in the history of any human group, the level of the productive forces being the true and permanent driving power of history.

For every society, for every group of people, considered as an evolving entity, the level of the productive forces indicates the stage of development of the society and of each of its components in relation to nature, its capacity to act or to react consciously in relation to nature. It indicates and conditions the type of material relationships (expressed objectively or subjectively) which exists among the various elements or groups constituting the society in question. Relationships and types of relationships between man and nature, between man and his environment. Relationships and type of relationships among the individual or collective components of a society. To speak of these is to speak of history, but it is also to speak of culture.

Whatever may be the ideological or idealistic characteristics of cultural expression, culture is an essential element of the history of a people. Culture is, perhaps, the product of this history just as the flower is the product of a plant. Like history, or because it is history, culture has as its material base the level of the productive forces and the mode of production. Culture plunges its roots into the physical reality of the environmental humus in which it develops, and it reflects the organic nature of the society, which may be more or less influenced by external factors. History allows us to know the nature and extent of the imbalance and conflicts (economic, political and social) which characterize the evolution of a society; culture allows us to know the dynamic syntheses which have been developed and established by social conscience to resolve these conflicts at each stage of its evolution, in the search for survival and progress.

Just as happens with the flower in a plant, in culture there lies the capacity (or the responsibility) for forming and fertilizing the seedling which will assure the continuity of history, at the same time assuring the prospects for evolution and progress of the society in question. Thus it is understood that imperialist domination by denying the historical development of the dominated people, necessarily also denies their cultural development. It is also understood why imperialist domination, like all other foreign domination for its own security, requires cultural oppression and the attempt at direct or indirect liquidation of the essential elements of the culture of the dominated people.

The study of the history of national liberation struggles shows that generally these struggles are preceded by an increase in expression of culture, consolidated progressively into a successful or unsuccessful attempt to affirm the cultural personality of the dominated people, as a means of negating the oppressor culture. Whatever may be the conditions of a people's political and social factors in practicing this domination, it is generally within the culture that we find the seed of opposition, which leads to the structuring and development of the liberation movement.

In our opinion, the foundation for national liberation rests in the inalienable right of every people to have their own history whatever formulations may be adopted at the level of international law. The objective of national liberation, is therefore, to reclaim the right, usurped by imperialist domination, namely: the liberation of the process of development of national productive forces. Therefore, national liberation takes place when, and only when, national productive forces are completely free of all kinds of foreign domination. The liberation of productive forces and consequently the ability to determine the mode of production most appropriate to the evolution of the liberated people, necessarily opens up new prospects for the cultural development of the society in question, by returning to that society all its capacity to create progress.

A people who free themselves from foreign domination will be free culturally only if, without complexes and without underestimating the importance of positive accretions from the oppressor and other cultures, they return to the upward paths of their own culture, which is nourished by the living reality of its environment, and which negates both harmful influences and any kind of subjection to foreign culture. Thus, it may be seen that if imperialist domination has the vital need to practice culturaloppression, national liberation is necessarily an act of culture.

On the basis of what has just been said, we may consider the national liberation movement as the organized political expression of the culture of the people who are undertaking the struggle. For this reason, those who lead the movement must have a clear idea of the value of the culture in the framework of the struggle and must have a thorough knowledge of the people's culture, whatever may be their level of economic development.

In our time it is common to affirm that all peoples have a culture. The time is past when, in an effort to perpetuate the domination of a people, culture was considered an attribute of privileged peoples or nations, and when, out of either ignorance or malice, culture was confused with technical power, if not with skin color or the shape of one's eyes. The liberation movement, as representative and defender of the culture of the people, must be conscious of the fact that, whatever may be the material conditions of the society it represents, the society is the bearer and creator of culture. The liberation movement must furthermore embody the mass character, the popular character of the culture--which is not and never could be the privilege of one or of some sectors of the society.

In the thorough analysis of social structure which every liberation movement should be capable of making in relation to the imperative of the struggle, the cultural characteristics of each group in society have a place of prime importance. For, while the culture has a mass character, it is not uniform, it is not equally developed in all sectors of society. The attitude of each social group toward the liberation struggle is dictated by its social group toward the liberation struggle is dictated by its economic interests, but is also influenced profoundly by its culture. It may even be admitted that these differences in cultural level explain differences in behavior toward the liberation movement on the part of individuals who belong to the same socio-economic group. It is at the point that culture reaches its full significance for each individual: understanding and integration in to his environment, identification with fundamental problems and aspirations of the society, acceptance of the possibility of change in the direction of progress.

In the specific conditions of our country--and we would say, of Africa--the horizontal and vertical distribution of levels of culture is somewhat complex. In fact, from villages to towns, from one ethnic group to another, from one age group to another, from the peasant to the workman or to the indigenous intellectual who is more or less assimilated, and, as we have said, even from individual to individual within the same social group, the quantitative and qualitative level of culture varies significantly. It is of prime importance for the liberation movement to take these facts into consideration.

In societies with a horizontal social structure, such as the Balante, for example, the distribution of cultural levels is more or less uniform, variations being linked uniquely to characteristics of individuals or of age groups. On the other hand, in societies with a vertical structure, such as the Fula, there are important variations from the top to the bottom of the social pyramid. These differences in social structure illustrate once more the close relationship between culture and economy, and also explain differences in the general or sectoral behavior of these two ethnic groups in relation to the liberation movement.

It is true that the multiplicity of social and ethnic groups complicates the effort to determine the role of culture in the liberation movement. But it is vital not to lose sight of the decisive importance of the liberation struggle, even when class structure is to appear to be in embryonic stages of development.

The experience of colonial domination shows that, in the effort to perpetuate exploitation, the colonizers not only creates a system to repress the cultural life of the colonized people; he also provokes and develops the cultural alienation of a part of the population, either by so-called assimilation of indigenous people, or by creating a social gap between the indigenous elites and the popular masses. As a result of this process of dividing or of deepening the divisions in the society, it happens that a considerable part of the population, notably the urban or peasant petite bourgeoisie, assimilates the colonizer's mentality, considers itself culturally superior to its own people and ignores or looks down upon their cultural values. This situation, characteristic of the majority of colonized intellectuals, is consolidated by increases in the social privileges of the assimilated or alienated group with direct implications for the behavior of individuals in this group in relation to the liberation movement. A reconversion of minds--of mental set--is thus indispensable to the true integration of people into the liberation movement. Such reonversion--re-Africanization, in our case--may take place before the struggle, but it is completed only during the course of the struggle, through daily contact with the popular masses in the communion of sacrifice required by the struggle.

However, we must take into account the fact that, faced with the prospect of political independence, the ambition and opportunism from which the liberation movement generally suffers may bring into the struggle unconverted individuals. The latter, on the basis of their level of schooling, their scientific or technical knowledge, but without losing any of their social class biases, may attain the highest positions in the liberation movement. Vigilance is thus indispensable on the cultural as well as the political plane. For, in the liberation movement as elsewhere, all that glitters is not necessarily gold: political leaders--even the most famous--may be culturally alienated people. But the social class characteristics of the culture are even more discernible in the behavior of privileged groups in rural areas, especially in the case of ethnic groups with a vertical social structure, where, nevertheless, assimilation or cultural alienation influences are non-existent or practically non-existent. This is the case, for example, with the Fula ruling class. Under colonial domination, the political authority of this class (traditional chiefs, noble families, religious leaders) is purely nominal, and the popular masses know that true authority lies with an is acted upon by colonial administrators. However, the ruling class preserves in essence its basic cultural authority over the masses and this has very important political implications.

Recognizing this reality, the colonizer who represses or inhibits significant cultural activity on the part of the masses at the base of the social pyramid, strengthens and protects the prestige and the cultural influence of the ruling class at the summit. The colonizer installs chiefs who support him and who are to some degree accepted by the masses; he gives these chiefs material privileges such as education for their eldest children, creates chiefdoms where they did not exist before, develops cordial relations with religious leaders, builds mosques, organizes journeys to Mecca, etc. And above all, by means of the repressive organs of colonial administration, he guarantees economic and social privileges to the ruling class in their relations with the masses. All this does not make it impossible that, among these ruling classes, there may be individuals or groups of individuals who join the liberation movement, although less frequently than in the case of the assimilated "petite bourgeoisie." Several traditional and religious leaders join the struggle at the very beginning or during its development, making an enthusiastic contribution to the cause of liberation.

But here again vigilance is indispensable: preserving deep down the cultural prejudices of their class, individuals in this category generally see in the liberation movement the only valid means, using the sacrifices of the masses, to eliminate colonial oppression of their own class and to re-establish in this way their complete political and cultural domination of the people.

In the general framework of contesting colonial imperialist domination and in the actual situation to which we refer, among the oppressor's most loyal allies are found some high officials and intellectuals of the liberal professions, assimilated people, and also a significant number of representatives of the ruling class from rural areas. This fact gives some measure of the influence (positive or negative) of culture and cultural prejudices in the problem of political choice when one is confronted with the liberation movement. It also illustrates the limits of this influence and the supremacy of the class factor in the behavior of the different social groups. The high official or the assimilated intellectual, characterized by total cultural alienation, identifies himself by political choice with the traditional or religious leader who has experienced no significant foreign cultural influences.

For these two categories of people place above all principles our demands of a cultural nature--and against the aspirations of the people--their own economic and social privileges, their own class interests. That is a truth which the liberation movement cannot afford to ignore without risking betrayal of the economic, political, social and cultural objectives of the struggle.

Without minimizing the positive contribution which privileged classes may bring to the struggle, the liberation movement must, on the cultural level just as on the political level, base its action in popular culture, whatever may be the diversity of levels of cultures in the country. The cultural combat against colonial domination--the first phase of the liberation movement--can be planned efficiently only on the basis of the culture of the rural and urban working masses, including the nationalist (revolutionary) "petite bourgeoisie" who have been re-Africanized or who are ready for cultural reconversion. Whatever may be the complexity of this basic cultural panorama, the liberation movement must be capable of distinguishing within it the essential from the secondary, the positive from the negative, the progressive from the reactionary in order to characterize the master line which defines progressively a national culture.

In order for culture to play the important role which falls to it in the framework of the liberation movement, the movement must be able to preserve the positive cultural values of every well defined social group, of every category, and to achieve the confluence of these values in the service of the struggle, giving it a new dimension--the national dimension. Confronted with such a necessity, the liberation struggle is, above all, a struggle both for the preservation and survival of the cultural values of the people and for the harmonization and development of these values within a national framework
posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Thursday, February 16, 2006,1:22 PM
Listen to the Donkey
Old Benjamin, the donkey, seemed quite unchanged since the Rebellion. He did his work in the same slow obstinate way as he had done it in Jones's time, never shirking and never volunteering for extra work either. About the Rebellion and its results he would express no opinion. When asked whether he was not happier now that Jones was gone, he would say only "Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey," and the others had to be content with this cryptic answer

- George Orwell

posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤ 0 comments
,1:10 PM
Remains of toxic bullets litter Iraq
By Scott Peterson

BAGHDAD - At a roadside produce stand on the outskirts of Baghdad, business is brisk for Latifa Khalaf Hamid. Iraqi drivers pull up and snap up fresh bunches of parsley, mint leaves, dill, and onion stalks.

But Ms. Hamid's stand is just four paces away from a burnt-out Iraqi tank, destroyed by - and contaminated with - controversial American depleted-uranium (DU) bullets. Local children play "throughout the day" on the tank, Hamid says, and on another one across the road.

No one has warned the vendor in the faded, threadbare black gown to keep the toxic and radioactive dust off her produce. The children haven't been told not to play with the radioactive debris. They gather around as a Geiger counter carried by a visiting reporter starts singing when it nears a DU bullet fragment no bigger than a pencil eraser. It registers nearly 1,000 times normal background radiation levels on the digital readout.

The Monitor visited four sites in the city - including two randomly chosen destroyed Iraqi armored vehicles, a clutch of burned American ammunition trucks, and the downtown planning ministry - and found significant levels of radioactive contamination from the US battle for Baghdad.

In the first partial Pentagon disclosure of the amount of DU used in Iraq, a US Central Command spokesman told the Monitor that A-10 Warthog aircraft - the same planes that shot at the Iraqi planning ministry - fired 300,000 bullets. The normal combat mix for these 30-mm rounds is five DU bullets to 1 - a mix that would have left about 75 tons of DU in Iraq.

The Monitor saw only one site where US troops had put up handwritten warnings in Arabic for Iraqis to stay away. There, a 3-foot-long DU dart from a 120 mm tank shell, was found producing radiation at more than 1,300 times background levels. It made the instrument's staccato bursts turn into a steady whine.

"If you have pieces or even whole [DU] penetrators around, this is not an acute health hazard, but it is for sure above radiation protection dose levels," says Werner Burkart, the German deputy director general for Nuclear Sciences and Applications at the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. "The important thing in any battlefield - especially in populated urban areas - is somebody has to clean up these sites."

Minimizing the risk
Fresh-from-the-factory DU tank shells are normally handled with gloves, to minimize the health risk, and shielded with a thin coating. The alpha particle radiation emitted by DU travels less than an inch and can be stopped by cloth or even tissue paper. But when the DUmaterial burns (usually on impact; or as a dust, it can spontaneously ignite) protective shields disappear, and dangerous radioactive oxides are created that can be inhaled or ingested.

"[The risk] depends so very much on how you handle it," says Jan Olof Snihs, of Sweden's Radiation Protection Authority in Stockholm. In most cases dangers are low, he says, unless children eat toxic and radioactive soil, or get DU oxides on their hands.

Radioactive particles are a "special risk associated with a war," Mr. Snihs says. "The authorities should be aware of this, and try to decontaminate places like this, just to avoid unnecessary risk."

Pentagon officials say that DU is relatively harmless and a necessary part of modern warfare. They say that pre-Gulf War studies that indicated a risk of cancer and of causing harm to local populations through permanent contamination have been superseded by newer reports.

"There is not really any danger, at least that we know about, for the people of Iraq," said Lt. Col. Michael Sigmon, deputy surgeon for the US Army's V Corps, told journalists in Baghdad last week. He asserted that children playing with expended tank shells would have to eat and then practically suffocate on DU residue to cause harm.

But there is a growing chorus of concern among United Nations and relief officials, along with some Western scientific experts, who are calling for sites contaminated with DU be marked off and made safe.

"The soil around the impact sites of [DU] penetrators may be heavily contaminated, and could be harmful if swallowed by children," says Brian Spratt, chair of the working group on DU at The Royal Society, Britain's premier scientific institution.

Heavy metal toys?
Fragments and penetrators should be removed, since "children find them fascinating objects, and can pocket them," says Professor Spratt. "The science says there is some danger - not perhaps a huge danger - of these objects. ... We certainly do not say that these things are safe; we say that cleanup is important."

The British Ministry of Defense says it will offer screening to soldiers suspected of DU exposure, and will publish details about locations and quantities of DU that British troops used in Iraq - a tiny fraction of that fired by US forces.

The Pentagon has traditionally been tight-lipped about DU: Official figures on the amount used were not released for years after the 1991 Gulf War and Bosnia conflicts, and nearly a year after the 1999 Kosovo campaign. No US official contacted could provide DU use estimates from the latest war in Iraq.

"The first thing we should ask [the US military] is to remove that immediately," says Carel de Rooy, head of the UN Children's Fund in Baghdad, adding that senior UN officials need urgent advice on avoiding exposure.

The UN Environment Program last month called for field tests. DU "is still an issue of great concern for the general public," said UNEP chief Klaus Töpfer. "An early study in Iraq could either lay these fears to rest or confirm that there are indeed potential risks."

US troops avoid wreckage
During the latest Iraq conflict Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and A-10 Warthog aircraft, among other military platforms, all fired the DU bullets from desert war zones to the heart of Baghdad. No other armor-piercing round is as effective against enemy tanks. While the Pentagon says there's no risk to Baghdad residents, US soldiers are taking their own precautions in Iraq, and in some cases have handed out warning leaflets and put up signs.

"After we shoot something with DU, we're not supposed to go around it, due to the fact that it could cause cancer," says a sergeant in Baghdad from New York, assigned to a Bradley, who asked not to be further identified.

"We don't know the effects of what it could do," says the sergeant. "If one of our vehicles burnt with a DU round inside, or an ammo truck, we wouldn't go near it, even if it had important documents inside. We play it safe."

Six American vehicles struck with DU "friendly fire" in 1991 were deemed to be too contaminated to take home, and were buried in Saudi Arabia. Of 16 more brought back to a purpose-built facility in South Carolina, six had to be buried in a low-level radioactive waste dump.

Television footage of the war last month showed Iraqi armored vehicles burning as US columns drove by, a common sign of a strike by DU, which burns through armor on impact, and often ignites the ammunition carried by the targeted vehicle.

"We were buttoned up when we drove by that - all our hatches were closed," the US sergeant says. "If we saw anything on fire, we wouldn't stop anywhere near it. We would just keep on driving."

That's an option that produce seller Hamid doesn't have.

She says the US broke its promise not to bomb civilians. She has found US cluster bomblets in her garden; the DU is just another dangerous burden, in a war about which she remains skeptical.

"We were told it was going to be paradise [when Saddam Hussein was toppled], and now they are killing our children," she says voicing a common Iraqi perception about the risk of DU. "The Americans did not bother to warn us that this is a contaminated area."

There is a warning now at the Doura intersection on the southern outskirts of Baghdad. In the days before the capital fell, four US supply trucks clustered near an array of highway off-ramps caught fire, cooking off a number of DU tank rounds.

American troops wearing facemasks for protection arrived a few days later and bulldozed the topsoil around the site to limit the contamination.

The troops taped handwritten warning signs in Arabic to the burned vehicles, which read: "Danger - Get away from this area." These were the only warnings seen by this reporter among dozens of destroyed Iraqi armored vehicles littering the city.

"All of them were wearing masks," says Abbas Mohsin, a teenage cousin of a drink seller 50 yards away, said referring to the US military cleanup crew. "They told the people there were toxic materials ... and advised my cousin not to sell Pepsi and soft drinks in this area. They said they were concerned for our safety."

Despite the troops' bulldozing of contaminated earth away from the burnt vehicles, black piles of pure DU ash and particles are still present at the site. The toxic residue, if inhaled or ingested, is considered by scientists to be the most dangerous form of DU.

One pile of jet-black dust yielded a digital readout of 9,839 radioactive emissions in one minute, more than 300 times average background levels registered by the Geiger counter. Another pile of dust reached 11,585 emissions in a minute.

Western journalists who spent a night nearby on April 10, the day after Baghdad fell, were warned by US soldiers not to cross the road to this site, because bodies and unexploded ordnance remained, along with DU contamination. It was here that the Monitor found the "hot" DU tank round.

This burned dart pushed the radiation meter to the far edge of the "red zone" limit.

A similar DU tank round recovered in Saudi Arabia in 1991, that was found by a US Army radiological team to be emitting 260 to 270 millirads of radiation per hour. Their safety memo noted that the "current [US Nuclear Regulatory Commission] limit for non-radiation workers is 100 millirads per year."

The normal public dose limit in the US, and recognized around much of the world, is 100 millirems per year. Nuclear workers have guidelines 20 to 30 times as high as that.

The depleted-uranium bullets are made of low-level radioactive nuclear-waste material, left over from the making of nuclear fuel and weapons. It is 1.7 times as dense as lead, and burns its way easily through armor. But it is controversial because it leaves a trail of contamination that has half-life of 4.5 billion years - the age of our solar system.

Less DU in this war?
In the first Gulf War, US forces used 320 tons of DU, 80 percent of it fired by A-10 aircraft. Some estimates suggest 1,000 tons or more of DU was used in the current war. But the Pentagon disclosure Wednesday that about 75 tons of A-10 DU bullets were used points to a smaller overall DU tonnage in Iraq this time.

US military guidelines developed after the first Gulf War - which have since been considerably eased - required any soldier coming within 50 yards of a tank struck with DU to wear a gas mask and full protective suit. Today, soldiers say they have been told to steer clear of any DU.

"If a [tank] was taken out by depleted uranium, there may be oxide that you don't want to inhale. We want to minimize any exposure, at least to the lowest level possible," Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, a top Pentagon health official told journalists on March 14, just days before the war began. "If somebody needs to go into a tank that's been hit with depleted uranium, a dust mask, a handkerchief is adequate to protect them - washing their hands afterwards."

Not everyone on the battlefield may be as well versed in handling DU, Dr. Kilpatrick said, noting that his greater concern is DU's chemical toxicity, not its radioactivity: "What we worry about like lead in paint in housing areas - children picking it up and eating it or licking it - getting it on their hands and ingesting it."

In the US, stringent NRC rules govern any handling of DU, which can legally only be disposed of in low-level radioactive waste dumps. The US military holds more than a dozen NRC licenses to work with it.

In Iraq, DU was not just fired at armored targets.

Video footage from the last days of the war shows an A-10 aircraft - a plane purpose-built around a 30-mm Gatling gun - strafing the Iraqi Ministry of Planning in downtown Baghdad.

A visit to site yields dozens of spent radioactive DU rounds, and distinctive aluminum casings with two white bands, that drilled into the tile and concrete rear of the building. DU residue at impact clicked on the Geiger counter at a relatively low level, just 12 times background radiation levels.

Hot bullets
But the finger-sized bullets themselves - littering the ground where looters and former staff are often walking - were the "hottest" items the Monitor measured in Iraq, at nearly 1,900 times background levels.

The site is just 300 yards from where American troops guard the main entrance of the Republican Palace, home to the US and British officials tasked with rebuilding Iraq.

"Radioactive? Oh, really?" asks a former director general of the ministry, when he returned in a jacket and tie for a visit last week, and heard the contamination levels register in bursts on the Geiger counter.

"Yesterday more than 1,000 employees came here, and they didn't know anything about it," the former official says. "We have started to not believe what the American government says. What I know is that the occupiers should clean up and take care of the country they invaded."

US military officials often say that most people are exposed to natural or "background" radiation n daily life. For example, a round-trip flight across the US can yield a 5 millirem dose from increased cosmic radiation; a chest X-ray can yield a 10 millirem dose in a few seconds.

The Pentagon says that, since DU is "depleted" and 40 percent less radioactive than normal uranium, it presents even less of a hazard.

But DU experts say they are most concerned at how DU is transformed on the battlefield, after burning, into a toxic oxide dust that emits alpha particles. While those can be easily stopped by the skin, once inside the body, studies have shown that they can destroy cells in soft tissue. While one study on rats linked DU fragments in muscle tissue to increased cancer risk, health effects on humans remain inconclusive.

As late as five days before the Iraq war began, Pentagon officials said that 90 of those troops most heavily exposed to DU during the 1991 Gulf War have shown no health problems whatsoever, and remain under close medical scrutiny.

Released documents and past admissions from military officials, however, estimate that around 900 Americans were exposed to DU. Only a fraction have been watched, and among those has been one diagnosed case of lymphatic cancer, and one arm tumor. As reported in previous articles, the Monitor has spoken to American veterans who blame their DU exposure for serious health problems.

The politics of DU
But DU health concerns are very often wrapped up in politics. Saddam Hussein's regime blamed DU used in 1991 for causing a spike in the cancer rate and birth defects in southern Iraq.

And the Pentagon often overstates its case - in terms of DU effectiveness on the battlefield, or declaring the absence of health problems, according to Dan Fahey, an American veterans advocate who has monitored the shrill arguments from both sides since the mid-1990s.

"DU munitions are neither the benign wonder weapons promoted by Pentagon propagandists nor the instruments of genocide decried by hyperbolic anti-DU activists," Mr. Fahey writes in a March report, called "Science or Science Fiction: Facts, Myth and Propaganda in the Debate Over DU Weapons."

Nonetheless, Rep. Jim McDermott (D) of Washington, a doctor who visited Baghdad before the war, introduced legislation in Congress last month requiring studies on health and environment studies, and clean up of DU contamination in the US. He says DU may well be associated with increased birth defects.

"While the political effects of using DU munitions are perhaps more apparent than their health and environmental effects," Fahey writes, "science and common sense dictate it is unwise to use a weapon that distributes large quantities of a toxic waste in areas where people live, work, grow food, or draw water."

Because of the publicity the Iraqi government has given to the issue, Iraqis worry about DU.

"It is an important concern.... We know nothing about it. How can I protect my family?" asks Faiz Askar, an Iraqi doctor. "We say the war is finished, but what will the future bring?"
posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Oriental Trading Company