Saturday, February 9, 2008

Lessons of the Ron Paul Campaign?

It would appear that Ron Paul's heroic but quixotic presidential campaign is all but finished. That said, what lessons can be drawn from the Ron Paul experience? To some degree, it would appear that those of us advocating a "third way" beyond left and right have been on the right track. Ron Paul's support came primarily from the vast culture of the "radical right" (those so far to the Right as to be outside the Republican Party) and from "moderates" or "independents" (the radical middle), blacks (no doubt due to his stands on the Iraq war and the drug war), antiwar sympathizers, young people and "secularists" (who are mostly independently minded, dissident intellectuals). These are precisely the constituents a serious beyond left and right movement would need to capture.

Ron Paul is a good candidate. He is quite solid on the primary issues: the foreign policy agenda of the Neocons and their liberal-internationalist accomplices, sovereignty, the police state and its "root causes" (the drug war, terror war, crime war, etc.) and essential trade, monetary and fiscal matters. That mainstream Republicans in general and "movement conservatives" in general refused to support Ron Paul illustrates their true colors as the "Party of War and Fascism". RP is a solid family man, a baby doctor, an evangelical Christian, pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment, anti-gay marriage, anti-income tax and anti-immigration. One would think he would be the ideal conservative candidate, but he was rejected in favor of the warmongering AIPAC/Military-Industrial-Complex stooge McCain, the used car salesman Romney or the televangelist Huckster. This means we can pretty much forget about "conservatives" as reliable allies against Big Brother.

It is doubtful that Ron Paul could have done better by defecting to the Democrats or taking more liberal positions on social issues like abortion. His antiwar counterparts in the Democratic Party like Kucinich and Gravel did even worse than he did, despite their social liberalism. The Democratic campaigns are dominated by Race and Gender Identity Politics and all sorts of vested economic interests-business, labor, professional, civil service, public sector- seeking to maintain their place at the public trough. What of the libertarians? Some have risen to the occasion, but the neolibertarians at Cato and Reason have revealed their establishment friendliness. Many left libertarians have been unhelpful with their sectarian ideological posturings and political correctness. The paleolibertarians have been on board, of course, but their sectarian economic views are not sellable to a mass audience. Most Americans support a moderate to limited welfare state. This is a concession anarcho-libertarians will have to make in order to achieve eventual victory on the bigger issues pertaining to war, civil liberties and impending economic meltdown. Better to attack the alliance of state and capital and legislated, subsidized ruling class privilege.

Where do we go from here? Ron Paul seems to have ruled out a third party campaign so as to keep his Congressional seat. What we on the bottom level need to do is continue to agitate for the positions advanced by the Paul campaign and for the beyond left and right movement he has inspired. This means continuing to appeal to the various demographic groupings who have shown an interest in Ron Paul, and perhaps looking for those key issues that could bring more sympathizers on board the next time such a leader emerges.

The RP experience also indicates the limitations of nationally-oriented politics. Recall Tip O'Neill's quip "All politics is local." The major parties have repeatedly demonstrated their lack of viability as an institutional vehicle. The minor parties as presently constituted are beholden to ideologues, internal vested interests and organizational megalomania, thereby rendering them ineffective as a means of mounting a serious challenge to ruling class power. Strictly independent campaigns for national offices are not feasible, given the tremendous financial resources required for such efforts.

This leaves the dogcatcher strategy. A bottom up electoral effort would focus on capturing local offices and using these as a platform for building resistance to the empire at the local or regional level. However, any electoral effort is only going to be as good as the grassroots movement that supports it. So what is really needed is the cultivation of politically independent efforts outside the realm of the state. These include things like pressure groups, coalitions of pressure groups acting in mutual support of one another, alternative infrastructure (from schools to media to alternative economics), legal defense organizations, regionalist or community autonomy movements, labor associations, alternative social service delivery methods and much else.

Only a previously established popular movement and infrastructure of this type that is solid enough to resist both cooptation and internal fracturing from external pressures will be capable of forcing the state to cease acting in certain ways. The rejection of the Left/Right paradigm is essential to such a project. An insurgent movement acting in opposition to both the Party of Jingoism and the Party of Race and Gender Welfarism will need to make serious inroads into the constituencies of both groups, thereby creating a massive constituency for the liquidation of the empire and its mother state while recognizing the value and legitimacy of decentralism and particularism.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Do I Believe Jews Control the World?

Found this amusing post on the Revolution International blog:

"Very strange website. I note you link to Keith Preston (thinks Jews control the world), Peter Topfer (attended Teran holocaust denial conference), the National Bolshevik Party (neo-Nazi and old KGB), Black nationalists who are anti-Semitic (and anti-White), and Folk & Faith (who openly support Mussolini and, at least on their forums, refer to themselves as fascists). Needless to say, you lot aren't anarchists. Not even close. They are 2 different words - "Anarchist" and "Fascist." Real anarchists have this history of beating-up and killing fascists, and fascists have a history of jailing and shooting anarchists. Savvy?"

These comments come from an Irish left-anarchist by the name of Daniel Owen.

So do Jews really control the world? No, reality is more complicated than that. Modern democratic states are essentially an alliance of the political apparatus of government and the capitalist economic ruling class that displaced the traditional feudal aristocracy in the West. As mass democracy has grown, suffrage has become universal and the mass media has emerged as a major public institution, politics has become a kind of oligopoly of political interest groups seeking to control the forces of state and capital. The composition of the ruling class at any one time represents shifting coalitions of such interest groups, including those of an economic, ideological, cultural, racial, ethnic, religious, generational or some other nature. None of this can be explained in crudely reductionist terms. For instance, the Marxist view of the state as the "executive committee of the ruling class" frequently ignores the role of non-economic forces as well as intra-state and intra-capitalist class rivalries in determining political outcomes. It ignores the question of "bureaucratic thrust" whereby bureaucratic entities take on a life of their own where self-preservation begins to overshadow instrumental purposes.

Likewise, the National Socialist view that sees everything in terms of struggles between races often ignores the role of the economic, of power politics itself, of individual self-interest, of non-racial and non-economic forces like religion, and much else. Modern cultural leftists who see everything as a dualistic struggle between a long list of the offically oppressed and "straight, white, Christian male" hegemony fall into a similar error, but from the other end of the political spectrum.

So where do "the Jews" fit into all of this? Jewish opinion on virtually every question of significance is as diverse as the opinions of the public at large. What is the "white" opinion on foreign policy, economics, political ideology, race relations, theology, abortion, gay rights, immigration, family values, or gun control? Well, obviously there is no "white" opinion, only a multitude of different opinions. The same is true of Jewish opinion. However, do many Jews exhibit an extraordinarily high level of ethno-centrism or patriotic zealotry towards the state of Israel? No doubt about it. Are the political views of Jews in the US likely to on average lean considerably leftward from those of the mainstream society? Yes, Rabbi Harold Kushner once remarked that American Jews have the incomes of Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans. Do Jewish individuals have collective ethnic, cultural and religious interests that Gentiles do not? Of course.

Do American Jews use their political and economic power to influence American foreign policy? Yes, and any political scientist worthy of his credentials will admit that the US Israel Lobby is among the most powerful if not the most powerful in the US Congress. Do Jewish activists and intellectuals often exhibit particular zeal for what they perceive to be the interests of Israel, irrespective of the interests of other groups, such as Americans as a whole or Palestinians? Certainly. Are Jewish individuals with zealously pro-Israel views prominent in the worlds of business, entertainment, mass media, academia and government? Of course.
Do all Jews agree on these questions? No, of course not. Do some zealously disagree? Sure.
Do all Catholics follow the Church's teachings on birth control? No, but Catholics do have political interests apart from those of other groups. Do all whites have the same views on race relations? No, but whites still on average look at race relations differently from blacks.

Why is it such a taboo to point out that the Israel Lobby is among the most powerful of political interest groups in the US and that this situation maintains the active or passive support of many individual American Jews? Let's assume that the political and foreign policies pursued by this circle are perfectly reasonable and honest, and that these are never in conflict with legitimate interests of others, such as non-Jewish Americans or Palestinians, may have. Why is it wrong to simply mention it? Certainly the facts are well documented:

There are several reasons for this taboo. An obvious one is the fact that Neo-Nazis zealously point to these issues as supposed vindication of their own worldview. Another is the casual resemblance between genuine recognition of the political power of organized Zionist interests and older, archaic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Still another is the hysterical view that any recognition of the political power of Jews leads to pogroms and genocide. Another is the dominant left-liberal/neoconservative intellectual paradigm that regards any criticism of ethnic or racial groups other than whites as the ultimate moral offense.

The efforts of leftwing pro-Palestinian and antiwar activists, whose work is often quite commendable, to step around this issue are often quite comical. I've had numerous leftists, some with strongly anti-Israel views, tell me with a straight face that the US-Israel relationship has absolutely nothing to do with the power of organized Zionism in the US or the influence of powerful Zionist individuals. No, they will insist, the existence of groups like AIPAC has nothing to do with it and is only incidental or entirely irrelevant to US foreign policy. It's all about the evil capitalist ruling class seeking world hegemony and trying to control Middle Eastern oil. Adherents of this perspective do indeed raise many legitimate issues. It's even okay with them to point out the role of non-Jewish pro-Zionists like the Christian Right (those nasty reactionary folks who believe in intelligent design and don't believe in abortion, and who regard anal sex as something less than sacramental). But, no, Jews qua Jews never figure into the equation. I once had a pro-Palestinian activist tell me that what he admitted to be the pro-Israel bias of the US media had absolutely nothing to do with the ethnic composition of the ownership of substantial portions of the US media. No, he said, the media simply takes its marching orders from the government (and, of course, no Jews ever exercise influence over the government). This fellow was hardly an adherent of Marxist economic reductionism that regards ethnicity and culture as frivolities. Far from it. He was an enthusiast for "whiteness" theory of the type popularized among misguided leftoids by the "Race Traitor" crowd.

The US empire would still have all of its standard imperial interests in the Middle East without the influence of Zionism on the US government. But there would be no need for the US to take such a resolutely anti-Palestinian stance in collusion with the Zionists and in defiance of the opinion of the rest of the world. And three million people would not be held prisoner in their own homeland. Were Zionist forces the only force behind the present Iraq war or a potential future war with Iran? No, but these have certainly been among the most vocal proponents of these actions, and have played an important role in their implementation. Why should this be ignored for the sake of PC ideology?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Violent Secession?

"There is some doubt that the secessionist movement will ever be taken seriously by Americans."

"What insanity it is to reopen this issue," says Pauline Maier, professor of American history at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Secession is not possible today without violence," she told the online magazine "To assume something different is mad. It's to follow the example of the Southern secessionists who thought that they could just leave the union peacefully – and, nuttier still, get a part of the unsettled territory as a parting gift. It's almost as crazy as the idea that once you topple a dictator, democracy happens, much as weeds appear on a ploughed field. Isn't it time that Americans began learning something from history? Or must we again bleed ourselves into wisdom?"

So saith a member of the American academy. A predictable sentiment indeed. But these comments do raise an interesting question. If secession without violence is not possible, what about secession with violence? This may not be quite as farfetched as some may think. Recall how during the LA riots of 1992, the LAPD, one of the largest and best trained police forces in the world, simply went on strike. Remember how the New Orleans PD deserted en masse during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Recall how a demoralized Russian army refused to fight on behalf of the dying Soviet Union in 1991.

So if a genuine insurgency were to emerge in North America, it might well be quite likely that law enforcement agencies would retreat when faced with a hitherto unpredented challenge. And will the rank and file soldiers of the US armed forces continue to uphold a regime that has burdened them with endless, needless foreign wars? What if Peoples' Militias started to move and retake America county by county, city by city from the tyrants in Washington, D.C., and their accomplices in state houses and city halls? Indeed, the world's foremost military history and theorist Martin Van Creveld believes that non-state armies are the wave of the future so far as military organizations go. The resistance forces in Iraq have certainly show the superiority of fourth generation private armies to traditional state militaries. The stars seem to be lining up.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Paradoxically, Ron Paul's Success Proving Irrelevance of Libertarianism

British emigre and paleoconservative John Derbyshire has an interesting discussion of Ron Paul, Libertarian and Classical Anarchism on today's

Some responses to Mr. Derbyshire's critique:

"The libertarian Establishment has disdain for Ron Paul's presidential campaign. The geeky idealists of Reason and the Cato Institute failed to warm to him; or, having warmed to him, have quickly cooled again, finding that he fails to meet their standards of ideological purity. "

Agreed, and this is a shameful blight on substantial sectors of the libertarian milieu.

"Not only does Paul want to defend the America's borders, he has been running TV ads against birthright citizenship!—as if a genuine libertarian gives a fig for such antique concepts as "citizenship". He is also willing to let the welfare state wind down, fulfilling its current commitments to senior citizens. "

The idea behind traditional anarchism was to replace the state with voluntary communities. Presumably, each of these would maintain their own standards of citizenship which prospective members would be free to accept or reject. An Anarchist federation might well include many different kinds of communities with widely divergent standards of citizenship.

On the welfare state question, as the man is who by far the leading Anarchist economist suggests, it is important to eliminate the state's functions in the right order, beginning with the apparatus of imperialism, and the corporate state. As the wider welfare state becomes superfluous, it can be phased out.

"Worse yet, Paul seems to have associated with people, fifteen or twenty years ago, who thought that we were all better off when homosexuals had to be discreet, and that black Americans are prone to civil disorder, and that Martin Luther King was a philandering plagiarist, and that the Confederacy had a right to secede from the Union, and that the Korean storekeepers of Los Angeles behaved in true American spirit when they defended their property with guns against rioters. "

Well, I would consider myself to be pro-gay rights in the sense of believing gay people should be free of persecution by the state or from private vigilantes but opposed to the totalitarian PC agenda of the modern "gay rights" movement. I'm pro-black rights in the sense of favoring reparations for previous generations of unpaid labor, establishing self-governing black separatist states, amnesty for black prisoners, but I oppose the abridgement of freedom of association generated by coercive integration policies and affirmative action. I could care less whether King was a philanderer or plagiarist. I respect him as a critic of Jim Crow and the Vietnam War, but view him as irrelevant to the anarchist struggle given his affinities for coercive integration and state-socialism. I agree the Southern secession was legitimate. In fact, I wish they would secede again. And I'm certainly pro-right to bear arms and pro-self-defense.

"There is of course a difference of sensibility between the anarchist and the libertarian, resting mainly in the anarchist being hostile to money, private property, and markets, while the libertarian does not object to those things, but only wants them freed from state interference. Your anarchist believes that private property is the enemy of liberty; your libertarian, that it is liberty's guarantor."

I'm in the middle on this. I'm for property and markets, but against corporatism and state-capitalism. For the peaceful co-existence of anarcho-syndicalist unions, cooperatives, municipal enterprises, land trusts, mutual banks, kibbutzes, individual and family proprieterships, and partnerships!

"Going down a level, anarchism belongs on the Left because it posits human perfectibility—the notion that if only the human personality were not deformed by the need to submit to authority, and to practice acquisitiveness for survival, it would be nothing but sweetness and light, nothing but selfless forbearance and a willingness to cooperate with others."

I'm actually a cynic. I agree with Michels' "Iron Law of Oligarchy", Pareto's 80/20 principle and Mosca's theory of the circulation of elites.

"Or check in with the open-borders ├╝ber-libertarians at The Wall Street Journal. Borders? Nation-states? Race? Ethnicity? Tribe? Faith? Pfui! Just open up those borders and let economics work its magic! We'll all get on just fine!—like, you know, Hutus and Tutsis, Sunnis and Shias, Prods and Taigs. Right. These guys make Prince Kropotkin look like a hard-boiled cynic."

I suppose I could be called an anarcho-tribalist. I'm in favor of devolving the state in organic communities organized on the basis of cultural, religious, ethnic, linguistic, commercial, sexual or aesthetic identity with their own indigenous natural aristocracy.

"And yet, of course, both anarchists and libertarians have got hold of an essential truth: too much government is bad for ya. It is only that they have put that truth in the service of false ideas about human nature."

Agreed. I'm one of the anarchists who is trying to correct for this.

"Both groups are disciples of Jean-Jacques Rousseau—all-time winner, in my opinion, of the title "Person We Should Most Wish Had Been Strangled In His Cradle."

You won't get any argument from me on that one.

"And so libertarianism marches forward with its band playing ("Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart," perhaps) and its banners held high, all blazoned with images of Reason’s heroes—Larry Flynt! Madonna! Dennis Rodman! —and affirmations of undying political correctness… straight into the Swamp of Irrelevance, just like the anarchists of old."

The war against the state will no doubt have to be waged by those outside the official Libertarian or official Anarchist milieus. But, Mr. Derbyshire, we are not all alike. Some of us may surprise you:

The Wisdom of Paul Avrich

The late Anarchist historian Paul Avrich probably met and got to know more people from the original anarchist movement than anyone who was young enough to be alive at the beginning of the 21st century. He was acquainted with the sons of Johann Most and Rudolph Rocker, and the daughters of Benjamin R. Tucker and Peter Kropotkin and with those who had been personal friends of Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Sacco and Vanzetti and Voltairine de Cleyre. What did he have to say about the old anarchists?

""I've known thousands of anarchists and the percentage of them I didn’t like is very small," says Avrich. At his sparsely furnished Upper West Side apartment, overlooking the Hudson River, Avrich speaks quickly and passionately about the people and the movement he spent a lifetime chronicling. "I loved these people," he says, leaning forward with his hand clutching his heart. "I think about them every day."

Now what did the distinguished historian have to say about what passes for "anarchism" today?

"Avrich does not shy away from controversy in his books, treating the anarchist acts of violence honestly and in the context of the time. He does not condone the violence of Berkman, but says he still admires his decision, considering how brutal Frick acted toward striking workers. But Avrich does not have the same patience for some contemporary anarchists, who choose to destroy property and who, he says, come mainly from educated and middle-class backgrounds. "I’m not so crazy about anarchists these days,” he says. Anarchism means that you leave other people alone and you don’t force people to do anything."
He says he is sad that the old-timers are not around to guide the resurgent movement. "They were nicer people –much nicer people."

Of course, not a few of today's "anarchists" are really nothing more than brownshirts for the new Totalitarian Humanism. To hell with 'em.

Most Likely to Secede

The on-line journal Good Magazine has a very well-done article on the growing secessionist movement in the US:

Some highlights:

"In an October, 2006, poll broadcast on CNN, 71 percent of Americans agree that "our system of government is broken and cannot be fixed." A Daily Kos poll in April, 2007, asked, "Should states be allowed to secede from the union peaceably?" Sixty-nine percent of respondents answered in the affirmative. All in all, this was, in the words of the chief impresario of the Chattanooga convention, an impish 70-year-old author and activist named Kirkpatrick Sale, "extremely fertile ground into which secessionists can plant their seeds."

"Of all the western democracies, the United States stands near dead last in voter turnout, last in health care, last in education, highest in homicide rates, mortality, STDs among juveniles, youth pregnancy, abortion, and divorce—a society which, in keeping with its degenerate morals, wreaks one-quarter of the environmental damage on the planet every day."

"Vermont, you see, is already a separate country. It is the most radical state in the Union in terms of the number and kind of town meetings—direct democracy in action. Its constitution of 1777 made it the first state to outlaw slavery, it was the first to mandate universal suffrage for all men, and is currently one of only two states that allow incarcerated felons to vote. It has no death penalty and virtually no gun-control laws, yet remains one of the least violent jurisdictions in America. It has no big cities, no big businesses, no military bases, no strategic resources, few military contractors. All three members of its Congressional delegation voted against the Iraq War resolution. It is rural and wild, with the highest percentage of unpaved roads in the nation. And those billboards? It was the first state to ban them along its roads. With its strict environmental-impact laws, Vermont fended off the predations of Wal-Mart superstores longer than any other state, and Montpelier today remains the only state capital in America without a McDonald's restaurant."

"It was the stratagems of George Kennan, who died in 2005, that ultimately defeated the Soviet Union. Naylor sees this as historical irony, and he takes pleasure in drawing a dark comparison between the Soviet Union and the United States: There is the same far-flung geography. The same corporate socialism that defies free markets. The same spread of influence worldwide through violence, murder, and pillage. The same stunted public discourse. The same electoral sclerosis in the legislature (Congress is almost as stable in membership as the Politburo). "No one in the Soviet Union in 1960 or 1970 or even 1980 found it imaginable that someday it would collapse," says Naylor. So, too, he says, is our certainty today in the stability of the United States of America."

These issues were raised in the Comments section:

"Secession is alluring, but I tremble to think of the massive upheavals it might also produce as factions seize power and threats, real or perceived, are leveled at other groups. How do we navigate ourselves into a more hopeful place without the looming danger of massive violence visited back upon us in as recompense for our own hubris and lust? "

The US empire is going to fall one way or the other. It can either be dissolved relatively peacefully in the way the secessionists envision or it can be bloody. Obviously, the former is preferable to the latter. The best way to avoid a future scenario in North America that resembles post-Communist Yugoslavia is to develop a mutually agreed upon plan for dissolving the empire into autonomous units for incompatible groups following the demise of the present imperial system.

"There are many factors that may lead us to conclude that small is better. However, there is a big downside to secession. I'm the senior editor for a group of alternative papers (Atlanta, Chicago, DC, Tampa, Charlotte, Sarasota), and I've written a lot on extremist groups -- from Christian Reconstruction to white nationalist outfits such as the League of the South. The League puts on a moderate spin when it is utilizing the credibility Naylor and Sale bring. However, the group is intrinsically white nationalist, as a review of the statements and papers of its leaders will confirm."

This issue is getting a little tiresome. Aside from the fact that all of the major southern secessionist groups deny that they are in favor of restoring Jim Crow, the South now has a huge black population and many southern cities, particularly the larger ones, have black dominated governments. Blacks are influential in public life in the South. There's no going back to the "old order". Even most overtly white nationalist groupings reject such an idea. As for Christian fundamentalists, the Left's favorite scapegoat group, many of them are actually moving leftward in their cultural and theological outlook. Further, many of them wish to be free of the rule of liberal-secular elites who ridicule their beliefs. Yes, some Christian conservatives may wish to outlaw abortion, reinstate sodomy laws, censor pornography, enforce blue laws, etc. but how are they any different from left-liberals who support bans on private firearms, censoring politically incorrect speech, smoking bans, intrusions into private homes by social service agents, instrusive legislation rooted in environmental fanaticism, bans on gambling and prostitution, etc.? Indeed, it is rather apalling to see politically correct types perpetually whining about racism and homophobia, whether real or imaginary, among dissident groups while giving mainstream liberal Democrats who have been instrumental in bringing into being and perpetually expanding the War on Drugs a free pass. The drug war and the accompanying police state and prison industry that have grown out of it are far more menacing to black Americans and marginal populations than anything associated with the League of the South or religious believers who disapprove of homosexuality for theological reasons. It's time for liberals to get a life when it comes to these questions.

However, there is the issue of regionalist movements that may contain culturally incompatible elements within their own ranks. I would agree, for instance, that in the event of a southern secession, the liberal-cosmopolitan metro areas and those regions with majority black, Hispanic, Cuban or American Indian populations may need autonomy of their own from the wider "red zones" of the rural and small town South. Likewise, there may be similar conflicts between religious conservatives and other groups like gays and lesbians. For instance, the Christian Exodus Project wishes for South Carolina to become an independent Christian state. Yet sympathy for secession has also been expressed by gay South Carolinians:

So why not still more separatism? Why not the creation of independent gay city-states with gay marriage, etc. along with independent Christian communities with school prayer and a ban on abortion or pornography? Surely, this is preferable to an infinite Cultural Cold War that leaves everyone dissatisfied, or perhaps still further degeneration into violent conflict and bloodshed?

Stop the Hate-Smash the State-Unity in Diversity! Separatists Unite!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Under Curfew, This Is No Life

Under Curfew, This Is No Life
Inter Press ServiceBy Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail*
BAQUBA, Jan 24 (IPS) - Continuing curfew has brought normal life to a standstill in Baquba, capital of the restive Diyala province north of Baghdad. Through nearly three decades of rule under Saddam Hussein, Iraqis witnessed only two curfews; for the census in the 1970s and 1980s. Under the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, curfews are commonplace, enforced whenever the Iraqi government and U.S. military fail to control the situation on the ground. A curfew means all public utilities and services cease. Life becomes frozen, and nobody is able to get to work. Factories and other utilities close, the wheel of the economy and development stops.

"When the government imposes a curfew it does not think of those who have no salary," 39-year-old labourer Adnan al-Khazraji told IPS. "A very large number of people like me rely on daily income for their living. On the contrary, government employees feel safe whether there is a curfew or not because at the end of a month they receive the salary regardless of stoppage of work." Members of the government and parliament receive big salaries, "and therefore they forget poor people at such times," Khazraji added. Not just economically, curfews have taken their toll psychologically as well. In Baquba, 40 km northeast of Baghdad, there has been a curfew every Friday since 2005.

"I feel imprisoned when I have to keep to my home," Salma Jabr, a resident of the city told IPS. "It is the only holiday that we have to do things like visits, shopping, travelling."

The Friday curfew has also hit peoples' access to medical care. "When there is an emergency, we cannot go to a hospital, a physician, or even to a pharmacy because moving in streets is not allowed," resident Abdul-Rahim Ghaidan told IPS. "Travellers who come from outside Iraq have to stay outside the city if they come on Friday," said a taxi driver who did not want to give his name. "They are not allowed to go to the homes of their hosts, so everyone plans their arrivals on days other than Friday. This kind of curfew is applied only in Diyala province."
Friday is the Muslim holy day of the week. In Baquba, curfew is enforced on other religious occasions as well.

"The Shia have more than 30 religious occasions in a year," Ali Hassan, a resident of Baquba told IPS. "On each one, curfew is imposed by the predominantly Shia Baghdad government over all the provinces for a day or two except during Ashura. This procedure is taken for protecting Shia people when they perform their rites and ceremonies."

And, there are other reasons for curfews in Baquba. "A curfew may be imposed when a VIP visits the city," a local resident, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. "It is the only way to ensure protection for the visitor."

Schools and universities are feeling the effects of these curfews. "Curfew has a direct effect on education not only in Diyala but also in Iraq," a university professor told IPS. "Pupils and students are obliged to keep to their homes and forget about going to school. We cannot give enough subjects to the students because of the repeatedly imposed curfews." The professor said it has become difficult to complete the syllabus within the academic year. "Sometimes, we wake up early to get to the college but we may be told to get back home because of curfew," he said. "When we later ask the reason, we are told there may be a VIP visiting the city. We have to ask ourselves whether we need to stop life for such a trivial thing. The current government considers scientific process the last priority on their agenda."

Besides the full curfew every Friday and on other days, there is a daily curfew in Baquba city everyday from 6 pm to 7 am.

"We have to finish our work before 6 pm," a local engineer told IPS. "Long hours are lost from our time because of the curfew. We have to stop working, and stay home like animals. It is worth thinking how much work can be done during these lost hours."

"We have to close our shops regardless how much work we have because it is curfew time," said a local pharmacist. "It is a curse. We feel we are not free." "Once, my brother called me from the police station," Jawadeldine Fakri, a local primary school teacher told IPS. "He was arrested because he was seen in the street at ten past six. He is a lawyer, and he was treated like a criminal by the police."

"Curfew has reduced social relationships among people because people used to visit each other after they got back home from work," city official Bahira Jabbar told IPS. "Visiting anyone is difficult now."
(*Ahmed, our correspondent in Iraq's Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East)
Posted by Dahr_Jamail at January 24, 2008 04:13 PM
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