People in other lands are fed up with the U.S. empire which now numbers more than 800 military bases and come at an astronomical cost to the taxpayers of our nation.
Here are a few highlights from around the globe:
* Calling themselves "the invisibles" protesters paraded outside the EU parliament in Brussels yesterday while 130 Czech mayors assembled inside to speak with many members of the legislative body. Solidarity protests, also using same the white "invisible" costumes, were held throughout major European cities. The invisible theme represents the fact that 70% of the people in the Czech Republic oppose plans for the US Star Wars radar facility in their country. It is not yet known how Obama will move on this Bush deployment plan.
* The New York Times today says, "The Parliament of Kyrgyzstan voted Thursday to terminate the American military’s eight-year lease on an air base outside the capital, Bishkek, and President Kurmanbek Bakiyev is expected to send Washington an official notification requiring it to vacate the base within six months...... The closure of the base, a key logistical hub for American forces in Afghanistan, is a serious complication for President Obama’s plans to deploy as many as 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan over the next two years. The base, in Mana, provides transit facilities for thousands of personnel and 500 tons of cargo each month, and is used by the tanker aircraft that refuel fighter planes on combat missions over Afghanistan."
* Speaking of Afghanistan, 40% of all deaths in that war in 2008 were civilians. This is causing much anger with the people there who are resoundingly demanding that US and NATO forces leave their country. Writing for the International Herald Tribune, William Pfaff asks, "Exactly what do we think we are doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan?" Obama's answer so far is looking for Osama Bin-laden. Do we still believe that one?
* Anti-War.com reports: International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei says that Israel’s status as the Middle East’s only nuclear power and its only non-signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a major obstacle to efforts for global nuclear disarmament. “What compounds the problem is that the nuclear non-proliferation regime has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of Arab public opinion because of the perceived double-standards concerning Israel, the only state in the region outside the NPT and known to possess nuclear weapons.” Though Israel has never formally admitted to its arsenal, it is widely known that it has a considerable number of nuclear weapons. The US is seen by the rest of the world as enabling Israel's nuclear weapons development while lecturing Iran about the evils of nukes. Recently Obama refused to even acknowledge that Israel had nukes which only helped raise the hairs on every one's back throughout the Middle East.
* Germany's Spiegel Online recently reported that top NATO commander in Afghanistan, US General John Craddock, has issued a "guidance" providing NATO troops with the authority "to attack directly drug producers and facilities throughout Afghanistan." According to the document, deadly force is to be used even in those cases where there is no proof that suspects are actively engaged in the armed resistance against the Afghanistan government or against Western troops. It is "no longer necessary to produce intelligence or other evidence that each particular drug trafficker or narcotics facility in Afghanistan meets the criteria of being a military objective," Craddock writes. German NATO General Ramms made it perfectly clear in his answer to General Craddock that he was not prepared to deviate from the current rules of engagement for attacks, which reportedly deeply angered Craddock.
* Despite ordering the closing of Guantanamo Bay Obama has ordered that the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, or the secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the US. Intelligence officials say the rendition program will play an expanded role because it is the key remaining mechanism—aside from Predator missile strikes—for taking "suspected terrorists" out of circulation. The rendition program became a source of embarrassment for the CIA, and a target of international controversy, as details emerged in recent years of botched captures, mistaken identities and allegations that prisoners were turned over to countries where they were tortured. The European Parliament has condemned renditions as an "illegal instrument used by the United States." Prisoners swept up in the program have sued the CIA as well as a subsidiary of Boeing Corp., which is accused of working with the agency on dozens of rendition flights.
* 2009 is the 60th anniversary of NATO and the US-led alliance is planning big celebrations in Europe to promote their expanded global role as an extension of US foreign and military policy. In 1999, seeking to justify its existence after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, NATO acknowledged that it was seeking to orient itself according to a new fundamental strategic concept. From a narrow military defense alliance it was to become a broad-based alliance for the protection of the vital resource needs (oil/natural gas/etc) of its member states. Besides being mired in Afghanistan today, NATO is now expanding eastward as a tool in the aggressive US program to surround resource rich Russia. There are even discussions now within NATO to take the alliance into the Asian-Pacific to help the US militarily surround China.
From April 3-5, 40 heads of state and government leaders, including President Obama, will come to Strasbourg, France and Baden-Baden, Germany for 60th anniversary events. In response to these events activists from throughout Europe are planning protests in Strasbourg during the period of April 1-5. In order to plan these events 500 activists from 19 countries met at Marc Bloch University in Strasbourg, on February 14-15.
The No to War - No to NATO coalition issued a statement after their meeting that reads in part: "60 years are more than enough – this is the consensus uniting the participants of the peace, anti-globalization movements, leftist parties and organizations, Trade Unions, and student initiatives. They stand against the war policy of NATO, against today's wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, against the intervention strategy and reinforce their claim to 'No to NATO'. They refuse to accept the EU linked with NATO and ask for a drastic reduction of military spending: we do not want to pay for your crisis , nor for your wars."
NATO of course is responding by trying to keep the protests away from Strasbourg. They have arranged for the city government to outlaw protests. In response No to NATO says, "We want to express our rejection of this kind of politics and want to give the citizens of Strasbourg and the social movements the opportunity to publicize their rejection without any obstacles. These are the demands for the prefecture which turned down the proposal of the NATO Preparatory Committee to demonstrate against NATO in the inner city of Strasbourg on 4th of April. The implementation of the NATO Summit will turn Strasbourg into a fortress; this is not acceptable for its own citizens and for the thousands of peaceful demonstrators form all parts of the world.
"Extraordinary security parameters will be enacted: the establishment of a red zone, the labelling of the citizens, the establishment of an all-encompassing new video surveillance system. For us this staging of heads of states in the city centre of Strasbourg – a closed off city – and its inhabitants who will be unable to have a normal daily life, having no freedom of movement, is unbearable and makes it impossible for us to unveil NATO's real face. Whereas the citizens will pay for the summit and the glorified presentation of NATO their dissenting opinion is to be marginalized."
For activists back here in the US it should be reassuring and exciting for us to see so much effort being organized to shut down the US empire. But we have to do our part as well. We can start by calling for the closing of US bases and for major cuts by Congress in the Pentagon's bloated budget. None of us have to do this on our own. When we work together as a globalized movement we can really begin to make progress.