THE LIVING DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT:
ALTERNATIVES TO THE BANKRUPTCY OF GLOBALISATION
by Vandana Shiva
World Social Forum, 2002
February 23, 2002
The Bankruptcy of Globalisation
Globalisation was projected as the next great leap of human evolution
in a linear forward march from tribes to nations to global markets. Our identities and
context were to move from the national to the global, just as in the earlier phase of
state driven globalisation, it was supposed to have moved from the local to the global.
Deregulated commerce and corporate rule was offered as the alternative
to the centralised bureaucratic control under communist regimes and state dominated
economies. Markets were offered as an alternative to states for regulating our lives, not
just our economies.
As the globalisation project has unfolded, it has exposed its
bankruptcy at the philosophical, political, ecological and economic levels. The bankruptcy
of the dominant world order is leading to social, ecological, political and economic
non-sustainability, with societies, ecosystems, and economies disintegrating and breaking
The philosophical and ethical bankruptcy of globalisation was based on
reducing every aspect of our lives to commodities and reducing our identities to merely
that of consumers on the global market place. Our capacities as producers, our identity as
members of communities, our role as custodians of our natural and cultural heritage were
all to disappear or be destroyed. Markets and consumerism expanded. Our capacity to give
and share were to shrink. But the human spirit refuses to be subjugated by a world view
based on the dispensability of our humanity.
The dominant political and economic order has a number of features that
are new, which increase injustice and non-sustainability on scales and at rates that the
earth and human community have not experienced.
- It is based on enclosures of the remaining ecological commons -- biodiversity, water and
air, and the destruction of local economies on which people's livelihoods and economic
- The commodification of water and biodiversity is ensured through new property rights
built into trade agreements like the WTO which are transforming people's resources into
corporate monopolies viz. TRIPs and trade in environmental goods and services.
- The transformation of commons to commodities is ensured through shifts in governance
with decisions moving from communities and countries to global institutions, and rights
moving from people to corporations through increasingly centralised and unaccountable
states acting on the principle of eminent domain -- the absolute sovereignty of the ruler.
This in turn led to political bankruptcy and anti-democratic formations
and constellations. Instead of acting on the public trust doctrine and principles of
democratic accountability and subsidiarity, globalisation led to governments usurping
power from parliaments, regional and local governments, and local communities.
For example the TRIPs agreement was based on central governments
hijacking the rights to biodiversity and knowledge from communities and assigning them as
exclusive, monopolistic rights to corporations.
The Agreement on Agriculture was based on taking decisions away from
farming communities and regional governments.
The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) takes decisions and
ownership over water from the local and public domain to the privatised, global domain.
This undemocratic process of privatisation and deregulation led to
increased political bankruptcy and corruption and economic bankruptcy.
A decade of corporate globalisation has led to major disillusionment
and discontentment. Democracy has been eroded, livelihoods have been destroyed. Small
farmers and businesses are going bankrupt everywhere. Even the promise of economic growth
has not been delivered. Economic slow down has been the outcome of liberalising trade.
Ironically some corporations that led the process of trade liberalisation and
globalisation have themselves collapsed.
Enron which came to India as the "Flagship" project of
globalisation with the full force of backing and blackmail by the U.S. Trade
Representative has gone bankrupt and is steeped in scandals of corruption. Chiquita, which
forced the banana wars on Europe through a U.S./Europe W.T.O. dispute has also declared
First South East Asia, now Argentina have exposed how vulnerable and
volatile current economic arrangements are.
The non-sustainability and bankruptcy of the ruling world order is
fully evident. The need for alternatives has never been stronger.
Creating alternatives to Corporate Globalisation
During the last decade of the 20th century, corporate driven
globalisation shook up the world and the economic and political structures that we have
shaped to govern us.
In December 1999, citizens of the world rebelled against the economic
totalitarianism of corporate globalisation. Social and economic justice and ecological
sustainability became the rallying call for new movements for citizen freedoms and
liberation from corporate control.
September 11th 2001 shut down the spaces that people's movements had
opened up. It also brought back the focus on the intimate connection between violence,
inequality and non-sustainability and the indivisibility of peace, justice and
sustainability. Doha was rushed through in the shadow of global militarisation in response
to the terror attacks.
As we face the double closure of spaces by corporate globalisation and
militarised police states, by economic facism aided by political facism, our challenge is
to reclaim our freedoms and the freedoms of our fellow beings. Reclaiming and recreating
the indivisible freedom of all species is the aim of the Living Democracy Movement. The
living democracy movement embodies two indivisibilities and continuums. The first is the
continuum of freedom for all life on earth, and all humans without discrimination on the
basis on gender, race, religion, class and species. The second is the continuum between
and indivisibility of justice, peace and sustainability -- without sustainability and just
share of the earth's bounties there is no justice, and without justice three can be no
Corporate globalisation ruptures these continuities. It establishes
corporate rule through a divide and rule policy, and creates competition and conflict
between different species and peoples and between different aims. It transforms diversity
and multiplicity into oppositional differences both by breeding fundamentalisms through
spreading insecurity and then using these fundamentalisms to shift humanities focus and
preoccupation from sustainability and justice and peace to ethnic and religious conflict
We need a new paradigm to respond to the fragmentation caused by
various forms of fundamentalism. We need a new movement which allows us to move from the
dominant and pervasive culture of violence, destruction and death to a culture of
non-violence, creative peace and life. That is why in India we started the living
Seattle was a watershed for citizens movements. People brought an
international trade agreement and W.T.O. the institution that enforces it to a halt by
mobilising globally against corporate globalisation. Seattle was the success of a strategy
focussing on the global level and on protest. It articulated at the international level
what citizens do not want. Corporations and governments responded quickly to Seattle's
success. They killed protest possibilities by moving to venues like Doha where thousands
could not gather. And they started to label protest and dissent of any kind as
The Biotech industry (Economist, Jan 12th, 18th, p62)) has called on
governments to use anti-terror laws against groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the
earth and groups critical of the industry.
Mr. Zoellick, the US Trade Representative has called the
anti-globalisation movement terrorist.
A different strategy is needed post September 11/post Doha. Massive
protests at global meetings can no longer be the focus on citizen mobilisation. We need
international solidarity and autonomous organising. Our politics needs to reflect the
principle of subsidiarity. Our global presence cannot be a shadow of the power of
corporations and Bretton Woods institutions. We need stronger movements at local and
national levels, movements that combine resistance and constructive action, protests and
building of alternatives non-cooperation with unjust rule and cooperation within society.
The global, for us, must strengthen the local and national, not undermine it. The two
tendencies that we demand of the economic system needs to be central to people's politics
-- localisation and alternatives. Both are not just economic alternatives they are
democratic alternatives. Without them forces for change cannot be mobilised in the new
At the heart of building alternatives and localising economic and
political systems is the recovery of the commons and the reclaiming of community. The
living democracy movement is reclaiming people's sovereignty and community rights to
Rights to natural resources are natural rights. They are not given by
States, nor can they be extinguished by States, the W.T.O, or by corporations, even though
under globalisation, attempts are being made to alienate people's rights to vital
resources of land water and biodiversity.
Globalisation has relocated sovereignty from people to corporations,
through centralising, militarising States. Rights of people are being appropriated by
States to carve out monopoly rights of corporations over our land, our water, our
biodiversity, our air. States acting on the principle of eminent domain or absolute
sovereignty of the State are undermining people's sovereign rights and their role as
trustees of people's resources on the public trust doctrine. State sovereignty, by itself,
is therefore not enough to generate countervailing forces and processes to corporate
The reinvention of sovereignty has to be based on the reinvention of
the state so that the state is made accountable to the people. Sovereignty cannot reside
only in centralised sate structures, nor does it disappear when the protective functions
of the state with respect to its people start to wither away. The new partnership of
national sovereignty needs empowered communities which assign functions to the state for
their protection. Communities defending themselves always demand such duties and
obligations from state structures. On the other hand, TNCs and international agencies
promote the separation of the community interests from state interests and the
fragmentation and divisiveness of communities.
The living democracy movement
We started the living democracy movement to respond to the enclosures
of the commons that is at the core of economic globalisation. The living democracy
movement is simultaneously an ecology movement, an anti-poverty movement, a recovery of
the commons movement, a deepening of democracy movement, a peace movement. It builds on
decades of movements defending people's rights to resources, the movements for local,
direct democracy, our freedom movements gifts of Swadeshi (economic sovereignty), Swaraj
(Self-rule) and Satyagraha (Non-cooperation with unjust rule). It seeks to strengthen
rights enshrined in our Constitution.
The living democracy movement in India is a movement to rejuvenate
resources, reclaim the commons and deepen democracy. It relates to the democracy of life
in three dimensions.
Living democracy refers to the democracy of all life, not just human
life. It is about earth democracy not just human democracy.
Living democracy is abut life, at the vital everyday level, and
decisions and freedoms related to everyday living -- the food we eat the clothes we wear,
the water we drink. It is not just about elections and casting votes once in 3 or 4 or 5
years. It is a permanently vibrant democracy. It combines economic democracy with
Living democracy is not dead, it is alive. Under globalisation,
democracy even of the shallow representative kind is dying. Governments everywhere are
betraying the mandates that brought them to power. They are centralising authority and
power, both by subverting democratic structures of constitutions and by promulgating
ordinances that stifle civil liberties. The Sept 11 tragedy has become a convenient excuse
for anti-people legislation worldwide. Politicians everywhere are turning to xenophophic
and fundamentalist agendas to get votes in a period when economic agenda have been taken
away from national levels and are being set by World Bank, IMF, W.T.O. and global
The living democracy movement is about living rather that dead
democracy. Democracy is dead when governments no longer reflect the will of the people but
are reduced to anti-democratic unaccountable instruments of corporate rule under the
constellation of corporate globalisation as the Enron and Chiquita case make so evident.
Corporate globalisation is centered on corporate profits.
Living democracy is based on maintaining life on earth and freedom for
all species and people.
Corporate globalisation operates to create rules for the global,
national and local markets which privilege global corporations and threaten diverse
species, the livelihoods of the poor and small, local producers and businesses.
Living democracy operates according to the ecological laws of nature,
and limits commercial activity to prevent harm to other species and to people.
Corporate globalisation is exercised through centralising, destructive
Living democracy is exercised through decentralised power and peaceful
Corporate globalisation globalises greed and consumerism. Living
democracy globalises compassion, caring and sharing.
Democracy emptied of economic freedom and ecological freedom becomes a
potent breeding ground for fundamentalism and terrorism.
Over the past two decades, I have witnessed conflicts over development
and conflicts over natural resources mutate into communal conflicts, culminating in
extremism and terrorism. My book Violence of the Green Revolution was an attempt to
understand the ecology of terrorism. The lessons I have drawn from the growing but diverse
expressions of fundamentalism and terrorism are the following:
Nondemocratic economic systems that centralize control over decision
making and resources and displace people from productive employment and livelihoods create
a culture of insecurity. Every policy decision is translated into the politics of
"we" and "they." "We" have been unjustly treated, while
"they" have gained privileges.
Destruction of resource rights and erosion of democratic control of
natural resources, the economy, and means of production undermine cultural identity. With
identity no longer coming from the positive experience of being a farmer, a craftsperson,
a teacher, or a nurse, culture is reduced to a negative shell where one identity is in
competition with the "other" over scarce resources that define economic and
Centralized economic systems also erode the democratic base of
politics. In a democracy, the economic agenda is the political agenda. When the former is
hijacked by the World Bank, the IMF, or the WTO, democracy is decimated. The only cards
left in the hands of politicians eager to garner votes are those of race, religion, and
ethnicity, which subsequently give rise to fundamentalism. And fundamentalism effectively
fills the vacuum left by a decaying democracy. Economic globalisation is fueling economic
insecurity, eroding cultural diversity and identity, and assaulting the political freedoms
of citizens. It is providing fertile ground for the cultivation of fundamentalism and
terrorism. Instead of integrating people, corporate globalization is tearing apart
The survival of people and democracy are contingent on a response to
the double facism of globalization -- the economic facism that destroys people's rights to
resources and the fundamentalist facism that feeds on people's displacement,
dispossession, economic insecurities, and fears. On September 11, 2001, the tragic
terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon unleashed a "war
against terrorism" promulgated by the US government under George W. Bush. Despite the
rhetoric, this war will not contain terrorism because it fails to address the roots of
terrorism-- economic insecurity, cultural subordination, and ecological dispossession. The
new war is in fact creating a chain reaction of violence and spreading the virus of hate.
And the magnitude of the damage to the earth caused by "smart" bombs and carpet
bombing remains to be seen.
Living Democracy is true freedom of all life forms to exist on this
Living Democracy is true respect for life, through equitable sharing of
the earth's resources with all those who live on the planet.
Living Democracy is the strong and continual articulation of such
democratic principles in everyday life and activity.
The constellation of living democracy is people's control over natural
resources, and a just and sustainable utilisation of land, water, biodiversity,
communities having the highest sovereignty and delegating power to the state in its role
as trustee. The shift from the principle of eminent domain to the public trust doctrine
for functions of the State is key to localisation, to recovery of the commons and the
fight against privatisation and corporate take over of land, water and biodiversity.
This shift is also an ecological imperative. As members of the earth
family, Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam, we have a share in the earth's resources. Rights to
natural resources for needs of sustenance are natural rights. They are not given or
assigned. They are recognised or ignored. The eminent domain principle inevitably leads to
the situation of "all for some" -- corporate monopolies over biodiversity
through patents, corporate monopolies on water through privatisation and corporate
monopolies over food through free trade.
The most basic right we have as a species is survival, the right to
life. Survival requires guaranteed access to resources. Commons provide that guarantee.
Privatisation and enclosures destroy it. Localisation is necessary for recovery of the
commons. And living democracy is the movement to relocate our minds, our production
systems and consumption patterns from the poverty creating global markets to the
sustainability and sharing of the earth community. This shift from global markets to earth
citizenship is a shift of focus from globalisation to localisation of power from
corporations to citizens. The living democracy movement is a movement to establish that a
better world is not just possible, it is necessary.
CHINA'S LEAP OF FAITH
People admit it, although it is not official, yet. In the southern
province of Zhejiang, officials discovered a strange phenomenon: a drop in crime along
with a growth in the number of religious believers, particularly Christians. It is not
final evidence, but the indication is that the spread of religion helps social order, an
idea that the Communist Party is examining. This is behind a story produced by the
official Xinhua News Agency on February 8 ("China's religious groups contribute to
modernization") that gave a new spin on the issue of religion in the country.
The heads of China's five official major religious groups (Protestant,
Islamic, Buddhist, Taoist and Catholic) were quoted as saying: "Religion constitutes
a positive force to the progress of modernization." Shi Zesheng, vice chairman of the
official Protestant Church of China, said: "President Jiang Zemin's speech at the
national conference on religion last December was encouraging. We feel our endeavors are
not only recognized by the country and people, but are also well received."
Furthermore Chen Guangyuan, chairman of the Islamic Association of
China, said: "One should not associate terrorism with any specific ethnic group or
religion. Islam upholds peace and friendship. Religious groups in China respect each other
and contribute to the country's stability."
A few days after the Xinhua story, the People's Daily published an
article that attacked cults, of which Falungong was an example, but was careful to draw a
line between cults and religions. The story (by Liao Wengen, "The dregs of
superstitious movements are resurfacing", People's Daily, February 11) denounced the
revamping of some cults so that they "waved the flag of religion".
Some days earlier, in "Islamic community condemns 'East Turkistan'
terrorist force" (January 26), Xinhua reported that Zunong Abula, a member of the
Islamic Association of Xinjiang and the imam of the Nongjichang Mosque in the regional
capital, had realized the nature and background of the "East Turkistan"
In sum, after Jiang's speech we have been told that religion is a
positive force not to be confused with cults or terrorist activities.
The exact contents of Jiang's speech on religion are still unknown but
the gist seems to be a revaluation of religion in positive terms, as a contribution to
modernization. This is a long way from the persecution of religious activities during Mao
Zedong's time. The new attitude, while still not tolerance of religion, rejects the old
atheist principle that religions are bad. And, although it is far from being a green light
to total freedom of religion, this development opens a new chapter in the process of
change of China and could be a first step toward the eventual normalization of ties with
the Vatican and restarting a dialogue with the Dalai Lama.
These signs did not escape the attention of Catholics. Father Angelo
Lazzarotto, in a forthcoming article in the Hong Kong review Tripod, points at what he
called "the great opportunities of China's modernization". Despite hopes in the
Vatican, however, normalization of ties will not occur in a short period of time.
But the Communist Party has embarked on a complex quest for the
improvement of standards of morality in China, which could help stem corruption. Last year
the party launched a subtle campaign on morality as a part of an anti-corruption drive.
On the foreign front, a re-evaluation of religion also would help
relations with the United States, and also with the Islamic world. The latter is extremely
important. China wants to gain a free hand in dealing with its own terrorists without
offending Islamic countries or its own influential domestic Islamic community.
JAPANESE WAVER ON FOREIGN AID
Sagging Economy Threatens Public Support for Generosity
Ten years of slow growth, a raft of diplomatic scandals and persistent
allegations of the misuse of public funds have significantly eroded Japanese taxpayers'
support for foreign aid.
Over the years, Japan has bankrolled a large share of international
reconstruction efforts in Cambodia, the Balkans, East Timor and Africa. Japan is the
world's largest aid donor, according to the Foreign Ministry, and in 2000 contributed $13
billion in grants, low-interest loans and other forms of foreign assistance. Japan's aid
contribution per capita, more than $100, is the highest of any major industrialized nation
and nearly triple that of the United States.
But as unemployment soars and the government sinks deeper into debt,
Japanese who once took pride in their nation's status as the world's biggest aid donor are
beginning to think that more attention should be given to their own domestic problems.
The percentage of Japanese who want the government to maintain or
expand overseas development assistance has plunged from 84% in 1991 to 64%, according to
one government survey. The number of respondents who say Japan should curb or eliminate
aid has risen to 27%, from 9% a decade ago.
Many of the skeptics expressed concern that the money would be
squandered by Japanese officials or wind up in the pockets of corrupt middlemen. But the
leading complaint -- cited by 74% of those who said they favored cutting or eliminating
aid -- was the deteriorating health of the economy.
At a recent conference, Koizumi promised to spend $250 million this
year to help rebuild Afghanistan, with most of the money earmarked for school
construction, health care and land-mine removal. But a long-term shift in Japanese public
opinion bodes ill for Koizumi's promise to play a leading role in helping Afghanistan
rebuild. The United States, which pledged $297 million, was the only country to put up a
But unlike the United States, which says its aid for Afghanistan won't
come at the expense of other nations, Japan is carving its contribution from existing
programs -- at a time when the government's overall aid budget is shrinking.
Koizumi has chopped 10 percent off Japan's billion-dollar overseas
development assistance budget, and China has borne the brunt of recent reductions.
Japanese lawmakers have found it increasingly difficult to explain to voters why their
government should dole out billions in aid to a country a whose economy is growing 7
percent a year and that is churning out low-cost exports that squeeze Japanese producers.
Last year, Japan slashed aid to China by 35 percent, to $802 million.
China remains the third-largest recipient of Japanese assistance, however, despite Tokyo's
official reluctance to provide aid to countries involved in producing nuclear weapons.
Japan is also paring contributions to Indonesia, Thailand, the
Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries, undercutting Koizumi's effort earlier
this month to forge closer ties to those nations in a highly publicized tour of the
[Source: Washington Post]
DITA SARI SPURNS REEBOK AWARD
Prominent womens labor rights activist Dita Indah Sari has
rejected a $50,000 human rights award from sporting apparel giant Reebok in protest
against the meager salaries the company pays its Indonesian factory workers. The
factories do not pay a living wage. The pay packet cannot cover basic needs", she
She said it would have been hypocritical to accept the money, even
though it could have been used to fund her cause to improve the conditions of Indonesian
Dita, who was jailed by the regime of ex-president Suharto, was the
main labor rights campaigner and unionist within the left-wing Peoples Democratic
Party (PRD). She founded the National Front for Indonesian Workers' Struggle (FNPBI).
Since her release from jail after the 1998 fall of Suharto, she has
resumed organizing rallies aimed at getting low-income workers a better deal.
Workers at Reebok factories in western Java receive minimum wage, which
is less than $2 a day.
|Dita Saris Statement on Reebok Human Rights Award:
The driving forces of globalisation are the movement and expansion of
capital and technology, through multinational companies. Globalisation, some people argue,
has contributed a lot to the creation of a new world, with a global welfare and justice
But in practice, globalisation is producing neither universal welfare
nor global peace. On the contrary, in reality, globalisation has divided the world into
two sides, which are antagonistic towards each other. There are wealthy creditors and
bankrupt debtors, there are super rich countries and underdeveloped countries, super
wealthy speculators and impoverished malnourished children. Globalisation intensifies, not
a higher paid and a better life for workers in the third world, but the growing gap
between the rich and the poor.
And this also happens in Indonesia, among Indonesian workers who work
in multinational shoes companies, including Reebok.
In November last year, I was informed that I was selected as one of the
awardees of the annual Reebok Human Rights Award program and ceremony.
The Reebok Human Rights Foundation then has officially announced the
names of the awardees.
I have taken this award into a very deep consideration. We finally
decide not to accept this. On the one hand, this is a kind of recognition of the struggle
and the hard work that we have done for years. But on the other hand, we are very
conscious of the condition of the Reebok workers from the third world countries, such as
in Indonesia, Mexico, China, Thailand, Brazil and Vietnam. As a trade union, we strongly
put a lot of pressure to achieve what every worker deserves: higher wages, better working
conditions and a brighter future for their children.
In Indonesia, there are five Reebok companies. 80% of the workers are
women. All companies are sub-contracted, often by the South Korean companies such as Dung
Jo and Tong Yang. Since the workers can only get around $1.5 a day, they then have to live
in a slum area, surrounded by poor and unhealthy conditions, especially for their
children. At the same time, Reebok collected millions of dollars of profit every year,
directly contributed by these workers.
The low pay and exploitation of the workers of Indonesia, Mexico and
Vietnam are the main reasons why we will not accept this award. Some of our members in the
union work in companies producing Reebok shoes.
The decision I have made is not merely based on data, report,
statistics or assumptions. In 1995, I was arrested and tortured by the police, after
leading a strike of 5000 workers of Indoshoes Inti Industry. They demanded an increase of
their wages (they were paid only US$1 for working 8 hours a day), and maternity leave as
well. This company operated in West Java, and produced shoes of Reebok and Adidas. I have
seen for myself how the company treated the workers, and used the police to repress the
We believe that accepting the award is not a proper or a right thing to do. This is part
of the consequences of our work to help workers improve their life. We cannot tolerate the
way multinational companies treat the workers of the third world countries. And we surely
hope that our stand can make a contribution to help changing the labor condition in
National Front For Indonesian Workers Struggle
Jakarta, January 29, 2002
BANGSAMORO MUSLIMS LIKELY TO BE TARGETED
IN US'S WAR AGAINST TERRORISM
By Maulana M. Alonto in Mindanao
Senator Sam Brownback, a member of the US Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, was more honest than Filipino officials when he said that the Philippines is to
be the "next Afghanistan." This remark was made as he pointed out that the US
war against terrorism makes it more likely that Washington will send
additional troops here to assist the Philippine army to fight the Abu Sayyaf group,
allegedly linked to Usama bin Ladins al-Qaeda, that has been holding hostage two
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, naturally, was distressed by the
candid revelation. She lost no time in trying to diffuse the public outrage precipitated
by the statement. The presidents spokesmen blurted out the usual inane excuses in
futile attempts to ameliorate the alarming impact of the statement, saying that Senator
Brownback had been "quoted out of context" and that no such horrible scenario is
What exactly is the truth behind Senator Brownbacks revelation?
Can his statement be shrugged off as something that was merely "quoted out of
context"? Coming from the horses mouth, Brownbacks prophesying a
war in the Philippines that parallels the bloodbath in Afghanistan is
certainly more believable than the yarn spun by Philippine officialdom to deceive their
people, especially the inhabitants of Mindanao.
Using the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement
(VFA) with the US as a pretext, the Arroyo regime has allowed the entry of US combat
troops into the Philippines under the so-called Balikatan Kalayaan Aguila-2002. Ostensibly
Balikatan is a joint military exercise held by US and Filipino forces. In reality it is
more because it is being held in the island-province of Basilan and in the Zamboanga
peninsula, which are combat zones in war-torn Mindanao. According to CNN, quoting US
official sources, a thousand US troops (more if need be) are to be deployed in the
Philippines to fight the Abu Sayyaf group. Already 660 US soldiers, who comprise the
initial American contingent, are being transported to Zamboanga City in batches. Why
President Arroyo should need that many foreign troops to run after a ragtag bunch of
kidnappers in Basilan, comprising not more than a hundred emaciated fighters, is beyond
comprehension. What is even more confusing is that she insists that the Americans will not
engage in combat but will only fire back in self-defense if fired upon! One can only
deduce that either the Armed Forces of the Philippines have reached the peak of
incompetence, or that there is something much more sinister going on.
Indeed, despite the governments denial that US troops will be
used for combat against the Abu Sayyaf group, the fact that such a military
exercise is being conducted in the war zones indicates that US troops are not here
to play hide-and-seek with their Filipino counterparts or haunt the fleshpots that
flourish wherever western soldiers go. The first batch of American soldiers to arrive in
Mindanao have admitted that they are prepared to take casualties, belying the official
tale of a military exercise.
It would seem that the government and the defense establishment have
failed to understand the implications of inviting American troops to Mindanao. By opening
Mindanao to foreign invasion, what Manila has demonstrated is not only obsequiousness to
an imperialist power and the hollowness of Philippine sovereignty, but its
contempt for Mindanao and its peoples. The present regime in Manila cares not at all that
American bombs might send Mindanao to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, provided that the
What is certain is that this policy will transform Mindanao into a
magnet that will attract foreign mujahideen from all over the world. Many groups are eager
to hit back at the US for what it has done to Afghanistan and Palestine. Unlike
Afghanistan, which is landlocked and surrounded by Muslim states hostile to the Taliban,
which made it difficult for mujahideen from other parts of the world to enter the country,
Mindanao and its satellite islands have a long coastline that the Philippine navy will not
be able to guard all the time. Mujahideen from Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and even Arab
countries, and those from as far away as the Balkans and the Caucasus who are eager for
jihad and shahadah (martyrdom), can easily join their Muslim brothers here to fight what
they see as an infidel invasion. Mindanao would then become an international battleground,
with US military personnel, camps, facilities and installations as tempting targets. In
this hypothetical yet likely scenario, the war would be far bitterer and bloodier than the
ones so far fought on Moro soil: it would be a vicious guerrilla war whose arena could not
be limited to the traditional war zones but must eventually involve all the cities and
provinces of Mindanao, and perhaps Manila and other areas as well.
In the meantime, the Manila government would have to bid goodbye to the
peace process with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Once deployed for war in Mindanao, there is no guarantee
that the US forces will target only the Abu Sayyaf group, or confine themselves to Basilan
and Zamboanga. They could spread to other areas in Mindanao as they get more involved. If
that happens, even the communist New Peoples Army (NPA), which the US has classified
as terrorist like the Abu Sayyaf group, should be drawn into the fray.
Recently, through the media, it has transpired that vice-president
Teofisto Gungona, Jr., who is also the secretary of foreign affairs, has been critical of
US forces in the Philippines for repeatedly violating the restrictions prescribed by the
VFA. It has turned out that in previous joint military exercises in Luzon, the Americans
took unilateral actions without consulting their Filipino counterparts. Who can say that
they will not do so again, this time in Mindanao? The MILF and the MNLF have forces in
Basilan and Zamboanga, and the Americans, once casualties have been inflicted on their
ranks, may not make the distinction between MILF and MNLF fighters on one hand and the Abu
Sayyaf on the other.
In the Vietnam war, the American soldiers took to labeling all brown
faces gooks or Charlies who deserved to be wasted. In
Mindanao, there might well be a revival of that infamous American war slogan, "A good
Moro is a dead Moro," adapted from the US Armys pacification policy in the
American West that read "the only good Indian is a dead Indian". With the US
militarys history of brutality toward non-white peoples, American atrocities on
innocent civilians in Mindanao are not a remote possibility.
Still, if US troops clash with Moro revolutionary forces, this could
lead to the unification, not to mention radicalization, of all Moro groups and sectors in
Mindanao. In the face of US technological superiority in weaponry, we may even see the
resurrection of the "Moro juramentado," or the sabil (derived from jihad fi
sabilillah), that was the dread of American soldiers in the American-Moro wars in the
beginning of the 20th century. It may not be in the classic manner of a lone Moro warrior
brandishing a kris (a Malay blade) and attacking American soldiers who come within
striking distance, but it could be in the form of a human bomb such as felled
the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, or the human bomb that is defeating
Israel in Lebanon: the same human bomb that is also playing havoc with Israeli
usurpers in Palestine and Indian colonizers in Jammu-Kashmir.
On the bright side, the arrival of US military forces has stirred a
nationwide furore. Civil society groups, concerned citizens, NGOs, the political
opposition, moderate and radical organizations, and even government officials and
politicians are denouncing the governments policy of inviting US forces to intervene
in Mindanao. Some are even calling for the impeachment of the president for
"violating the Constitution."
The public perception is now that the stakes go beyond Arroyos
unabashed subservience to Bush and the billions of American dollars in economic aid
promised in payment for such subservience, or even her ambition for re-election. What the
Filipinos fear most is that US involvement in Mindanao will turn their country into
another Afghanistan, but not into another Vietnam.
ILO BLOCKED FROM MEETING SUU KYI
A delegation from the International Labor Organization (ILO) was denied
access to Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for unknown reasons, according to
sources in Rangoon.
According to eyewitness reports, a vehicle carrying the four-member
delegation was prevented from passing a checkpoint outside of Suu Kyi's home in Rangoon
where she remains under house arrest.
The ILO WAS in Rangoon to see how the government is responding to its
report from last November on the continued practice of forced labor in Burma. An ILO
representative said the delegation and the government had been engaging in
"candid" discussions during the current visit.
The report cites a number of issues including the need for an ILO
office in Rangoon. Past attempts by the ILO to establish a presence in the country have
been deemed unnecessary by Burma's military government.
The delegation said any decision to ease sanctions against the regime
would be made at the ILO's June meeting. The ILO levied unprecedented sanctions against
Burma in 2000 for refusing to eradicate forced labor.
PALESTINIAN VISION OF PEACE
|By YASIR ARAFAT
For the past 16 months Israelis and
Palestinians have been locked in a catastrophic cycle of violence a cycle which only
promises more bloodshed and fear. The cycle has led many to conclude that peace is
impossible, a myth borne out of ignorance of the Palestinian position. Now is the time for
the Palestinians to state clearly and for the world to hear clearly, the Palestinian
But first, let me be very clear. I condemn the attacks carried out by
terrorist groups against Israeli civilians. These groups do not represent the Palestinian
people or their legitimate aspirations for freedom. They are terrorist organizations, and
I am determined to put an end to their activities.
The Palestinian vision of peace is an independent and viable
Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, living as an equal
neighbor alongside Israel with peace and security for both the Israeli and Palestinian
peoples. In 1988, the Palestine National Council adopted a historic resolution calling for
the implementation of applicable United Nations resolutions, particularly, Resolutions 242
and 338. The Palestinians recognized Israel's right to exist on 78 percent of historical
Palestine with the understanding that we would be allowed to live in freedom on the
remaining 22 percent, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. Our commitment
to that two-state solution remains unchanged, but unfortunately, also remains
We seek true independence and full sovereignty: the right to control
our own airspace, water resources and borders; to develop our own economy, to have normal
commercial relations with our neighbors, and to travel freely. In short, we seek only what
the free world now enjoys and only what Israel insists on for itself: the right to control
our own destiny and to take our place among free nations.
In addition, we seek a fair and just solution to the plight of
Palestinian refugees who for 54 years have not been permitted to return to their homes. We
understand Israel's demographic concerns and understand that the right of return of
Palestinian refugees, a right guaranteed under international law and United Nations
Resolution 194, must be implemented in a way that takes into account such concerns.
However, just as we Palestinians must be realistic with respect to Israel's demographic
desires, Israelis too must be realistic in understanding that there can be no solution to
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if the legitimate rights of these innocent civilians
continue to be ignored. Left unresolved, the refugee issue has the potential to undermine
any permanent peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis. How is a Palestinian
refugee to understand that his or her right of return will not be honored but those of
Kosovar Albanians, Afghans and East Timorese have been?
There are those who claim that I am not a partner in peace. In
response, I say Israel's peace partner is, and always has been, the Palestinian people.
Peace is not a signed agreement between individuals it is reconciliation between
peoples. Two peoples cannot reconcile when one demands control over the other, when one
refuses to treat the other as a partner in peace, when one uses the logic of power rather
than the power of logic. Israel has yet to understand that it cannot have peace while
denying justice. As long as the occupation of Palestinian lands continues, as long as
Palestinians are denied freedom, then the path to the "peace of the brave" that
I embarked upon with my late partner Yitzhak Rabin, will be littered with obstacles.
The Palestinian people have been denied their freedom for far too long
and are the only people in the world still living under foreign occupation. How is it
possible that the entire world can tolerate this oppression, discrimination and
humiliation? The 1993 Oslo Accord, signed on the White House lawn, promised the
Palestinians freedom by May 1999. Instead, since 1993, the Palestinian people have endured
a doubling of Israeli settlers, expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian
land and increased restrictions on freedom of movement. How do I convince my people that
Israel is serious about peace while over the past decade Israel intensified the
colonization of Palestinian land from which it was ostensibly negotiating a withdrawal?
But no degree of oppression and no level of desperation can ever
justify the killing of innocent civilians. I condemn terrorism. I condemn the killing of
innocent civilians, whether they are Israeli, American or Palestinian; whether they are
killed by Palestinian extremists, Israeli settlers, or by the Israeli government. But
condemnations do not stop terrorism. To stop terrorism, we must understand that terrorism
is simply the symptom, not the disease.
The personal attacks on me currently in vogue may be highly effective
in giving Israelis an excuse to ignore their own role in creating the current situation.
But these attacks do little to move the peace process forward and, in fact, are not
designed to. Many believe that Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister, given his opposition
to every peace treaty Israel has ever signed, is fanning the flames of unrest in an effort
to delay indefinitely a return to negotiations. Regrettably, he has done little to prove
them wrong. Israeli government practices of settlement construction, home demolitions,
political assassinations, closures and shameful silence in the face of Israeli settler
violence and other daily humiliations are clearly not aimed at calming the situation.
The Palestinians have a vision of peace: it is a peace based on the
complete end of the occupation and a return to Israel's 1967 borders, the sharing of all
Jerusalem as one open city and as the capital of two states, Palestine and Israel. It is a
warm peace between two equals enjoying mutually beneficial economic and social
cooperation. Despite the brutal repression of Palestinians over the last four decades, I
believe when Israel sees Palestinians as equals, and not as a subjugated people upon whom
it can impose its will, such a vision can come true. Indeed it must.
Palestinians are ready to end the conflict. We are ready to sit down
now with any Israeli leader, regardless of his history, to negotiate freedom for the
Palestinians, a complete end of the occupation, security for Israel and creative solutions
to the plight of the refugees while respecting Israel's demographic concerns. But we will
only sit down as equals, not as supplicants; as partners, not as subjects; as seekers of a
just and peaceful solution, not as a defeated nation grateful for whatever scraps are
thrown our way. For despite Israel's overwhelming military advantage, we possess something
even greater: the power of justice.
[Yasir Arafat was elected president of the
Palestinian Authority in 1996 and is also chairman of the Palestine Liberation
Personal Testimony of an Israeli
By Asaf Oron
[Asaf Oron, a Sergeant Major in the Giv'ati Brigade, is one
of the original 53 Israeli soldiers who signed the "Fighters' Letter" declaring
that from now on they will refuse to serve in the Occupied territories. He is signer #8
and one of the first in the list to include a statement explaining his action. (There are
251 signers as of February 17, 2002.) Below is the translation of Oron's statement by Ami
Kronfeld of Jewish Peace News.]
On February 5, 1985, I got up, left my home, went to
the Compulsory Service Center on Rashi Street in Jerusalem, said goodbye to my parents,
boarded the rickety old bus going to the Military Absorption Station and turned into a
Exactly seventeen years later, I find myself in a head to head
confrontation with the army, while the public at large is jeering and mocking me from the
sidelines. Right wingers see me as a traitor who is dodging the holy war that's just
around the corner. The political center shakes a finger at me self-righteously and
lectures me about undermining democracy and politicizing the army.
And the left? The square, establishment, "moderate" left that
only yesterday was courting my vote now turns its back on me as well. Everyone blabbers
about what is and what is not legitimate, exposing in the process the depth of their
ignorance of political theory and their inability to distinguish a real democracy from a
third world regime in the style of Juan Peron.
Almost no one asks the main question: why would a regular guy get up
one morning in the middle of life, work, the kids and decide he's not playing the game
anymore? And how come he is not alone but there are fifty... I beg your pardon, a
hundred... beg your pardon again, now almost two hundred regular, run of the mill guys
like him who've done the same thing?
Our parents' generation lets out a sigh: we've embarrassed them yet
again. But isn't it all your fault? What did you raise us on? Universal ethics and
universal justice, on the one hand: peace, liberty and equality to all. And on the other
hand: "the Arabs want to throw us into the sea," "They are all crafty and
primitive. You can't trust them."
On the one hand, the songs of John Lennon, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Bob
Marely, Pink Floyd. Songs of peace and love and against militarism and war. On the other
hand, songs about a sweetheart riding the tank after sunset in the field: "The tank
is yours and you are ours." [allusions to popular Israeli songs - AK]. I was raised
on two value systems: one was the ethical code and the other the tribal code, and I
na´vely believed that the two could coexist.
This is the way I was when I was drafted. Not enthusiastic, but as if
embarking on a sacred mission of courage and sacrifice for the benefit of society. But
when, instead of a sacred mission, a 19 year old finds himself performing the sacrilege of
violating human beings' dignity and freedom, he doesn't dare ask - even himself - if it's
OK or not. He simply acts like everyone else and tries to blend in. As it is, he's got
enough problems, and boy is the weekend far off.
You get used to it in a hurry, and many even learn to like it. Where
else can you go out on patrol - that is, walk the streets like a king, harass and
humiliate pedestrians to your heart's content, and get into mischief with your buddies -
and at the same time feel like a big hero defending your country? The Gaza Exploits became
heroic tales, a source of pride for Giv'ati, then a relatively new brigade suffering from
low self esteem.
For a long time, I could not relate to the whole "heroism"
thing. But when, as a sergeant, I found myself in charge, something cracked inside me.
Without thinking, I turned into the perfect occupation enforcer. I settled accounts with
"upstarts" who didn't show enough respect. I tore up the personal documents of
men my father's age. I hit, harassed, served as a bad example - all in the city of
Kalkilia, barely three miles from grandma and grandpa's home-sweet-home. No. I was no
"aberration." I was exactly the norm.
Having completed my compulsory service, I was discharged, and then the
first Intifada began (how many more await us?) Ofer, a comrade in arms who remained in the
service has become a hero: the hero of the second Giv'ati trial. He commanded a company
that dragged a detained Palestinian demonstrator into a dark orange grove and beat him to
As the verdict stated, Ofer was found to have been the leader in charge
of the whole business. He spent two months in jail and was demoted - I think that was the
most severe sentence given an Israeli soldier through the entire first Intifada, in which
about a thousand Palestinians were killed. Ofer's battalion commander testified that there
was a order from the higher echelons to use beatings as a legitimate method of punishment,
thereby implicating himself.
On the other hand, Efi Itam, the brigade commander, who had been seen
beating Arabs on numerous occasions, denied that he ever gave such an order and
consequently was never indicted. Today he lectures us on moral conduct on his way to a new
life in politics. (In the current Intifada, incidentally, the vast majority of incidents
involving Palestinian deaths are not even investigated. No one even bothers.)
And in the meantime, I was becoming more of a civilian. A copy of The
Yellow Wind [a book on life in the Occupied Territories by the Israeli writer David
Grossman, available in English -AK] which had just come out, crossed my path. I read it,
and suddenly it hit me. I finally understood what I had done over there. What I had been
I began to see that they had cheated me: They raised me to believe
there was someone up there taking care of things. Someone who knows stuff that is beyond
me, the little guy. And that even if sometimes politicians let us down, the "military
echelon" is always on guard, day and night, keeping us safe, each and every one of
their decisions the result of sacred necessity.
Yes, they cheated us, the soldiers of the Intifadas, exactly as they
had cheated the generation that was beaten to a pulp in the War of Attrition and in the
Yom Kippur War, exactly as they had cheated the generation that sank deep into the
Lebanese mud during the Lebanon invasions. And our parents' generation continues to be
Worse still, I understood that I was raised on two contradictory value
systems. I think most people discover even at an earlier age they must choose between two
value systems: an abstract, demanding one that is no fun at all and that is very difficult
to verify, and another which calls to you from every corner - determining who is up and
who is down, who is king and who - pariah, who is one of us and who is our enemy. Contrary
to basic common sense, I picked the first. Because in this country the cost-effective
analysis comparing one system to another is so lopsided, I can't blame those who choose
I picked the first road, and found myself volunteering in a small,
smoke-filled office in East Jerusalem, digging up files about deaths, brutality,
bureaucratic viciousness or simply daily harassments. I felt I was atoning, to some
extent, for my actions during my days with the Giv'ati brigade. But it also felt as if I
was trying to empty the ocean out with a teaspoon.
Out of the blue, I was called up for the very first time for reserve
duty in the Occupied Territories. Hysterically, I contacted my company commander. He
calmed me down: We will be staying at an outpost overlooking the Jordan river. No contacts
with the local population is expected. And that indeed was what I did, but some of my
friends provided security for the Damia Bridge terminal [where Palestinians cross from
Jordan to Israel and vice versa - AK].
This was in the days preceding the Gulf War and a large number of
Palestinian refugees were flowing from Kuwait to the Occupied Territories (from the frying
pan into the fire). The reserve soldiers - mostly right wingers - cringed when they saw
the female consscripts stationed in the terminal happily ripping open down-comforters and
babies' coats to make sure they didn't contain explosives. I too cringed when I heard
their stories, but I was also hopeful: reserve soldiers are human after all, whatever
their political views.
Such hopes were dashed three years later, when I spent three weeks with
a celebrated reconnaissance company in the confiscated ruins of a villa at the outskirts
of the Abasans (if you don't know where this is, it's your problem). This is where it
became clear to me that the same humane reserve soldier could also be an ugly, wretched
macho undergoing a total regression back to his days as a young conscript.
Already on the bus ride to the Gaza strip, the soldiers were competing
with each other: whose "heroic" tales of murderous beatings during the Intifada
were better (in case you missed this point: the beatings were literally murderous: beating
Going on patrol duty with these guys once was all that I could take. I
went up to the placement officer and requested to be given guard duty only. Placement
officers like people like me: most soldiers can't tolerate staying inside the base longer
than a couple of hours.
Thus began the nausea and shame routine, a routine that lasted three
tours of reserve duty in the Occupied Territories: 1993, 1995, and 1997. The
"pale-gray" refusal routine.
For several weeks at a time I would turn into a hidden "prisoner
of conscience," guarding an outpost or a godforsaken transmitter on top of some
mountain, a recluse. I was ashamed to tell most of my friends why I chose to serve this
way. I didn't have the energy to hear them get on my case for being such a "wishy
I was also ashamed of myself: This was the easy way out. In short, I
was ashamed all over. I did "save my own soul." I was not directly engaged in
wrongdoing - only made it possible for others to do so while I kept guard.
Why didn't I refuse outright? I don't know. It was partly the pressure
to conform, partly the political process that gave us a glimmer of hope that the whole
occupation business would be over soon. More than anything, it was my curiosity to see
actually what was going on over there.
And precisely because I knew so well, first hand, from years of
experience what was going on over there, what reality was like over there, I had no
trouble seeing, through the fog of war and the curtain of lies, what has been taking place
over there since the very first days of the second Intifada.
For years, the army had been feeding on lines like "We were too
nice in the first Intifada," and "If we had only killed a hundred in the very
first days, everything would have been different." Now the army was given license to
do things its way. I knew full well that [former Prime Minister] Ehud Barak was giving the
army free hand, and that [current Chief of Staff] Shaul Mofaz was taking full advantage of
this to maximize the bloodshed.
By then, I had two little kids, boys, and I knew from experience that
no one - not a single person in the entire world - will ever make sure that my sons won't
have to serve in the Occupied Territories when they reach 18. No one, that is, except me.
And no one but me will have to look them in the eye when they're all grown up and tell
them where dad was when all that happened. It was clear to me: this time I was not going.
Initially, this was a quiet decision, still a little shy, something
like "I am just a bit weird, can't go and can't talk about it too much either."
But as time went by, as the level of insanity, hatred, and incitement kept rising, as the
generals were turning the Israeli Defense Forces into a terror organization, the decision
was turning into an outcry: "If you can't see that this is one big crime leading us
to the brink of annihilation, then something is terribly wrong with you!"
And then I discovered that I was not alone. Like discovering life on
The truth is that I understand why everyone is mad at us. We spoiled
the neat little order of things. The holy Status Quo states that the Right holds the
exclusive rights to celebrate the blood and ask for more. The role of the Left, on the
other hand, is to wail while sitting in their armchairs sipping wine and waiting for the
Messiah to come and with a single wave of his magic wand make the Right disappear along
with the settlers, the Arabs, the weather, and the entire Middle East. That's how the
world is supposed to work. So why are you causing such a disturbance? What's your problem?
Woe to you, dear establishment left! You haven't been paying attention!
That Messiah has been here already. He waved his magic wand, saw things aren't that
simple, was abandoned in the midst of battle, lost altitude, and finally was assassinated,
with the rest of us (yes, me too) watching from the comfort of our armchairs. Forget it. A
messiah doesn't come around twice! There is no such thing as a free lunch.
Don't you really see what we are doing, why it is that we stepped out
of line? Don't you get the difference between a low key, personal refusal and an
organized, public one? (and make no mistake about it, the private refusal is the easier
choice.) You really don't get it? So let me spell it out for you.
First, we declare our commitment to the first value system. The one
that is elusive, abstract, and not profitable. We believe in the moral code generally
known as God (and my atheist friends who also signed this letter would have to forgive me
- we all believe in God, the true one, not that of the Rabbis and the Ayatollahs). We
believe that there is no room for the tribal code, that the tribal code simply camouflages
idolatry, an idolatry of a type we should not cooperate with. Those who let such a form of
idol worship take over will end up as burnt offerings themselves.
Second, we (as well as some other groups who are even more despised and
harassed) are putting our bodies on the line, in the attempt to prevent the next war. The
most unnecessary, most idiotic, cruel and immoral war in the history of Israel.
We are the Chinese young man standing in front of the tank. And you? If
you are nowhere to be seen, you are probably inside the tank, advising the driver.
List of Refuseniks