by Bill Onasch
Again, our cup runneth over–Look for a Midweek Extra of the WIR devoted solely to Labor and the Climate Crisis.
Standing Solid Like a Rock
The confrontations in isolated Standing Rock, North Dakota, aiming to halt construction of a pipeline from the Bakken fracking fields to refineries in Illinois, have begun to attract world attention–as well they should. This is not just a local dispute. It raises multiple issues of great importance that have generated significant and still growing solidarity across North America and beyond. These include,
* The legal and moral rights of the nations and tribes of indigenous peoples who variously identify themselves as Indians, Native Americans, or in the Canadian state as First Nations, to determine the use of their ancestral and sacred lands.
* The environmental impact of not only construction of pipelines on land and under water but also their wretched track record of polluting leaks—in this case endangering the Missouri River which is the source of drinking water for numerous cities and towns, such as my home town of Kansas City.
* The fight against pipelines, along with dangerous rail shipments, have become the main fronts in the broader struggle to stop fracking. In addition to its environmental and safety dangers fracking has a major impact on climate change—and in some regions triggers earthquakes.
* A threat to peaceful protests was seen in the use of pepper spray and attack dogs by private “security” forces supplemented by state intimidation such as arrest warrants for journalists and the Green Party candidate for President.
Standing Rock has also renewed a deep division in the labor movement. The international presidents of the Teamsters, Laborers, Operating Engineers, and Pipefitters who represent the hard hats building the pipeline cynically called on state and Federal officials to “protect” their members so that they can do their work and get paid. But the only violence and threats on the scene came from the employer’s hired thugs. These bureaucrats preaching and practicing “partnership” with the boss echo climate change deniers and are grateful for the temporary jobs that are so destructive–first for local residents, and ultimately the biosphere upon which we all depend.
I am pleased that the union that collects my retiree dues–the Amalgamated Transit Union–issued a good statement in support of the Dakota protests. So did National Nurses United and the Communication Workers of America. My friend Ann Montague forwarded a solidarity message from her union, Service Employees International Union Local 503. These unionists know the Just Transition they support will provide generations of work for the construction trades–building solar power arrays, wind farms, and transmission lines to replace the need for fracking and pipelines.
The Standing Rock demonstrations won a partial, likely temporary victory over the weekend with a “pause” in pipeline construction in that area while specific complaints of the Tribes are given a fresh review. The movement can take pride in this achievement. But we have hardly begun to fight in this theater of nonviolent war for class and climate justice.
The Two 9/11s
Last Sunday was the fifteenth anniversary of the biggest terrorist attacks in USA history. The big majority of the victims that day were workers in their workplace and First Responders trying to save them. It was a despicable act and remembrance of those victims is our duty.
We should also remember—and compensate–an even greater number who have died, or are terminally ill, as a result of toxic exposure doing clean-up work after–while being assured by officials they would be safe.
But these thousands of innocent deaths were also exploited as prologue to a global “War on Terror” that will mark its fifteenth anniversary in a few weeks. Masterminded by “neocons,” It was launched by a President who had finished second in the 2000 election but had a majority on the Supreme Court. After perceived early victories in the invasion of Afghanistan, he initially modestly proclaimed a new Bush Doctrine. It essentially gave him and his successors the right to preemptive war anywhere, any time, he/they saw fit. The War on Terror exempted itself from the Geneva Conventions and through rendition even the Constitution and laws of the United States. It was used again, based on outright lies, to invade Iraq.
At times there was a mass antiwar movement in the USA, and around the world, against these wars throughout the Bush administration. That movement subsided when many thought he had been replaced by a peace President. But as the eight years of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in the White House winds down, the war in Afghanistan continues; there was a new adventure in Libya; GIs are back on the ground in Iraq; American “advisers” are fighting and dying in Syria. And planes, drones, and sea-launched American missiles and bombs rain death daily throughout the Middle East and East Africa.
This bipartisan, non-stop aggression dishonors the victims of 9/11, and sullies the Stars and Stripes the war-mongers wave. We should reaffirm the maxim of the great Eugene V Debs—For us there is no war but the class war!
Just about everyone remembers when they heard the horrible news on 9/11/2001. But many readers hadn’t yet been born on the other infamous 9/11 in 1973. I was working second shift at the time and first heard the breaking news about a coup in Chile on a radio in an empty laundromat where I was doing my household laundry chores. At home, my wife had already left for her day job and our two sleepy cats didn’t bother to wake up. It was frustrating to have no one to discuss the ominous situation.
While Latin American coups were not so unusual or transformative in those days this one in Chile was historic for two reasons.
In September, 1970 a free election–the results accepted by all major parties–chose the Socialist Salvador Allende to be President of Chile. He had run with the backing of the Popular Unity Alliance including the Communist Party, and Alliance members began to run the executive branch of government.
While the concrete achievements of the Popular Unity government were modest, and many on the left were critical of its timid pace, the Allende government in the most industrialized South American country was a great symbolic victory that inspired the working class of not only Chile but throughout Latin America–and beyond. The Chilean ruling class, however, understood the cautious regime was a mortal threat to their rule.
The Nixon White House shared that concern and Hillary Clinton’s “friend and mentor” Henry Kissinger was tasked to put together a strategic plan involving the CIA collaborating with Chilean military brass headed by General Augusto Pinochet. It was not to be a run of the mill coup.
They were not content to seize the Presidential Palace and murdering Allende. With the help of information supplied by numerous long-term CIA operatives, they rounded up thousands of suspects. Many were interned in a soccer stadium—most never seen alive again. They included not only leaders of working class parties and trade unions but also artists and academics.
American ex-pats were not spared. The father of one such American victim, Thomas Hauser, wrote a compelling book, Missing [no longer in print], which Costa-Gavras turned into an impressive 1982 film of the same name starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek, winning the Academy Award for best script.
The joint military-CIA task force also targeted Cubans—even those with diplomatic immunity. At least a couple of thousand of Chilean nationals, Cubans, and refugees from Uruguay, Bolivia, and Peru that had been granted asylum by Allende, were smuggled out of Chile through heroic efforts by the Swedish ambassador Gustav Harald Edelstam.
As the military dictatorship rolled back the gains of the Allende regime they relied on a group of economists known as the Chicago Boys—groomed by Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago. They succeeded in implementing a scheme Friedman failed to do in this country—privatizing Social Security and investing in the stock market. It was hailed at the time as the greatest thing since sliced bagels. It survived the gradual phasing out of junta rule. But earlier this week the New York Times reported,
“Discontent has been brewing for years in Chile over pensions so low that most people must keep working past retirement age. All the while, privately run companies have reaped enormous profits by investing Chileans’ social security savings.”
Of course, the U.S. government has never acknowledged—much less apologized—for their crimes in Chile. Indeed the Democrat front-runner for President has thanked Henry Kissinger for his service to his adopted country. Like the arch-criminal Pinochet Kissinger will likely go scot-free to his natural demise.
The victims of this secret American aided dictatorship deserve better. We at least should remind the old and acquaint the young with the shameful other 9/11.
That’s all for this week.
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