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Letters to the editor

December 5, 2003 | Page 4

A fighter for those society cast aside
Can they find a proxy in Iraq?

How war and globalization go hand in hand

Dear Socialist Worker,
I read in the Palm Beach Post that a reported $8.5 million from the federal government was provided to the city of Miami in order to host the recent Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) ministerial meetings. "The money enables the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County in particular to go the extra mile in security," said Charles Cobb, chair of the nonprofit Florida FTAA Inc., which helped organize the conference.

"It gives them much more comfort to do whatever is necessary to provide good security and do it in a friendly, positive way." Apparently "friendly" and "positive" involves hundreds of arrests, steel barricades, indiscriminately stopping protesters, rubber bullets and tear gas.

And where is this $8.5 million coming from? From the $87 billion gift that the Democrats and Republicans gave Bush to continue the occupation of Iraq! If the Bush administration connects the occupation of Iraq with the plundering of the Americas in the name of corporate profit, we must do so, too.

Under Order No. 39, passed in September, the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq permits 100 percent foreign ownership of businesses and allows companies to send their profits outside Iraq. This is exactly what the FTAA agreement wants to do all over the Americas.

Instead of "liberation," though, it's called "free trade." War and globalization are two parts of the same sick system that continues to place corporate profit over human needs.

And if war and globalization are part of the same system, the movements against them must be united. We will never defeat Bush and his corporate pals if we don't connect these movements and recognize the needs of U.S. workers, Iraqi workers and workers around the world as identical.

Leia Petty, New York City

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A fighter for those society cast aside

Dear Socialist Worker,
Chicago activists are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our most indomitable fighters, John Donahue. John passed away on November 16 after being diagnosed with lung cancer in October.

John, known to friends as "Juancho," was the executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless for more than a decade. A man of intense conviction, he never saw himself as simply an advocate on behalf of the poor, but instead as an organizer against the kind of society that would cast aside so many for the enrichment of so few.

I first worked with John in the Coalition Against the Contract on America in the mid-1990s. His good humor and energy were indispensable as we struggled against Newt Gingrich's war on the poor. John was a leading activist on all issues concerning social justice in Chicago and globally, including the fight against Clinton's welfare "deform," for affordable housing and immigrant rights.

He knew that the homeless men and women he worked with didn't need charity--they needed organization in order to fight for themselves.

When Joseph Gould, a homeless street vendor, was murdered by an off-duty Chicago cop for the "crime" of panhandling, it was John who called everyone he knew to an emergency organizing meeting. Homeless men and women, friends of Joseph's, anti-police brutality activists and homeless agency workers were brought together in this struggle and were able to apply enough pressure on the city that the officer was eventually prosecuted.

The last time that I saw John was at an antiwar protest last winter. He knew, and helped countless others to see, that a country which can find billions to bomb Iraq, but is unwilling to house the homeless, is a country that must be changed.

Kirstin Roberts, Chicago

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Can they find a proxy in Iraq?

Dear Socialist Worker,
Paul D'Amato's column "Has Iraq become the new Vietnam" (SW, November 7) was excellent--emphasizing the relationship between the increased use of naked force by the U.S. and the development of both the Iraqi resistance and discontent among U.S. soldiers. I do have a question about the article's conclusion, where D'Amato argues that the U.S. occupation must rely on naked force alone over the long term.

Most colonial occupations have combined brutal suppression of resistance with some effort to cultivate a local elite that serves the need of the occupying power. For most ruling classes in history, even the most brutal force is usually combined with some political strategy for justifying the rule of a minority.

Part of what made the U.S. war in Vietnam unwinnable in the long run was that the principal allies of the U.S. among the South Vietnamese were corrupt landlords threatened by the land reforms advanced by the National Liberation Front. Up to now, the U.S. effort to find Iraqi partners in crime has run up against the weakness of the various exile groups to whom the U.S. first looked.

Also, because the occupation is a form of gunboat neoliberalism--forcing the entire Iraqi economy to submit to the will of U.S. corporations--the possibilities for finding support for the occupation among Iraqi capitalists are limited.

But in the long run, the U.S. may aim for some more politically palatable form of government than what currently exists that would still allow U.S. capital to call the shots. The British, for example, first organized the Iraqi state after the end of Ottoman rule and the empire's defeat in the First World War. They set up a nominally independent government under an imported Arab monarch, but one where British "advisors" ultimately held veto power over all major decisions.

As the resistance grows, the U.S. may have no choice but to try to cobble together some sort of solution along similar lines. In today's Iraq, the U.S. relies on force not only because colonialism has been discredited ideologically, but also because it has extremely weak allies within Iraqi society.

David Thurston, New York City

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