Monday, June 23, 2008

Bob's archive: The real axis of evil

I am away this week, so am posting one or two things from my archive. This is the first longish thing I ever posted, back in January 2005. I wonder how much it stands the test of time...

No doubt the liberal left will be outraged at the identification of a new rollcall of rogue states by Bush's new Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice:
"To be sure, in our world there remain outposts of tyranny, and America stands with oppressed people on every continent, ... in Cuba, and Burma (Myanmar), and North Korea, and Iran, and Belarus, and Zimbabwe," .
But let's take a look at this list.

First, I want to leave aside Cuba, as it is a complex question. Cubans ar undoubtedly oppressed, but it is also true that the US blockade makes things considerably worse there. (Anyone interested in Cuba should check out Sam Dolgoff's historical account of the Castro regime.)

Second, though, we come to Burma. Rice is absolutely correct in identifying Burma's rulers as one of the world's evil regimes. This is Human Rights Watch talking to an EU committee in August:
"The human rights situation in Burma remains appalling. Burma is the textbook example of a police state. Government informants and spies are omnipresent. Average Burmese people are afraid to speak to foreigners except in most superficial of manners for fear of being hauled in later for questioning or worse. There is no freedom of speech, assembly or association. State TV and radio are merely a crude propaganda tool of the regime, merely recounting what the top Generals did on any given day. To read the the English language “New Light of Myanmar” is to understand what George Orwelll feared when he wrote “1984.”... Torture continues to be routine in Burma. Disgustingly, rape has been documented as a political weapon in Shan state, with thousands of reported cases."
The mention of Orwell is apposite, as Burma is a totalitarian country in the strict sense of the term, as used by Hannah Arendt, who defined totalitarianism as rule by terror, which aims to expunge freedom as such by systematically destroying the boundaries between public and private, destroying the space for individuality and action. So, we must support Rice in her determination to stand by the oppressed people of Burma.

Third, North Korea. In North Korea,
"Radios and televisions come with government-approved frequencies locked in. Possession of a radio capable of picking up South Korean, Japanese or other foreign stations is a capital offense as is ownership of a cellular telephone."
Some Stalinists actually think North Korea is a beacon of freedom and hope in the world. Leading US anti-war group, ANSWER, is closely connected to the regime. ANSWER was set up by the International Action Committee (an outfit dominated by Ramsay Clarke, one of Saddam Hussein's defence lawyers). Deirdre Griswold, an IAC executive, declared that North Korea was a socialist success story because there was no poverty, famine, or homelessness in North Korea. The IAC in turn is a front of the Workers World Party, which supports the North Korean regime. Brian Becker is a Director of ANSWER and the IAC and a member of the Secretariat of the WWP of the United States. He denounced the U.S. during a press interview held in Pyongyang in 2002. The UK's Stop the War Coaltion (StWC) works closely with ANSWER. John Rees, of StWC, sits with Elias Rashmawi of ANSWER on the international committee of the Cairo Conference, sharing the vice-presidency of the International Campaign Against US Aggression which emerged at this conference. The London demonstration on March 19 this year is designed to co-ordinate with ANSWER's day of action in the US.

Fourth, Iran. About the best thing you can say about the Iranian regime is that they pardoned a woman sentenced to death for defending herself against a rapist after she agreed to pay $62,500 compensation to the man's family. However, they will still hang a mentally disabled woman for prostitution. The victim started working as a prostitute when she was 14, and has two children now being cared for at a state orphanage. Amnesty had said the woman's mother forced her into prostitution when she was eight. It said the girl was raped repeatedly and gave birth to a baby when she was nine.

Belarus has been less in the press than the rest of this real axis of evil. It seems benign compared to Iran, Burma and North Korea. But it is under an oppessive regime. According to Human Rights Watch:
"The government of Belarus failed to ensure free and fair election in 2004, in large part by attacking the independent media and undermining freedom of association. The situation worsened in the months leading up to October 2004 parliamentary elections and a simultaneous referendum to remove presidential term limits. Several independent newspapers were closed, and journalists jailed on libel charges. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and independent trade unions were given warnings or closed. Many opposition politicians were prevented from registering as election candidates. Some were arrested on trumped-up charges."

Finally, Zimbabwe. According to the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust in December:
"During the 2002 election the government enacted laws sharply curbing freedoms of the press and public assembly, citing national security. Now, with new national elections looming in March, new laws and other measures promise to silence the remaining independent press and activist groups that have been vehicles for dissent. In November alone, Zimbabwe's Parliament enacted legislation mandating a two-year prison term for practicing journalism without a license. A second law made it illegal to conduct voter education without government approval, requiring most election workers to register and clear electioneering materials with the state. A third law, passed in early December, effectively places nongovernmental groups, churches and charities under state control, empowering the government to investigate their finances, to restrict their activities and, in many cases, to disband them at will. A fourth proposal would impose prison sentences of up to 20 years for 'materially false' statements or writings that impugn the state. Earlier this year, the government installed equipment on Zimbabwe's Internet service providers to monitor and censor e-mail messages. In July, it tried to bar the one cellphone company outside state control from routing calls outside the country, saying unsupervised foreign telephone calls were a national security threat."
(Some interesting articles on Zimbabwe: Land Invasions and lessons for the working class, Reading by Paraffin: Cracks in the Zimbabwean Mirror, Africa, neo-liberalism and anarchism)

I'd suggest that these are viable candidates for inclusion in the real axis of evil. Other countries should probably join them. Indonesia, for example, would have pride of place, a being rammed home now as the tsunami crisis dramatises its repressive practices. More on this in a future post!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what about Sudan?