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News and reports

May 27, 2005 | Pages 10 and 11

National Council of Arab Americans
Philippines solidarity

Shut down the military recruiters

U.S. MILITARY recruiters across the U.S. held a recruiting "stand-down" May 20--and counter-recruitment activists used the day to draw attention to the dishonest and aggressive tactics that recruiters use.

-- In New York City, more than 80 people demonstrated in front of the U.S. Armed Forces Recruiting Center in the middle of Times Square. "[The recruiting stand-down] shows how the resistance movement is hitting hard at the military," said Ardeshir Ommani, a retired teacher and member of the American-Iranian Friendship Committee.

The demonstration highlighted the success of anti-recruitment activities on campuses and stressed the need to stop all future military recruitment. The event was sponsored by the Campus Antiwar Network, Code Pink, the International Socialist Organization, Not in Our Name, Veterans for Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

-- In Chicago, the Save Senn Coalition in conjunction with the American Friends Service Committee held a press conference at Senn High School on May 20 attended by 30 people.

The U.S. Navy plans to take over a wing of the school in the fall for a Naval academy. Members of Save Senn joined students to pass out flyers with an "opt-out" form so students could get their names off the list supplied to the military by public schools complying with the No Child Left Behind Act.

The next day, more than 20 people gathered to protest Armed Forces Day at Navy Pier, Illinois' largest tourist attraction. On hand were recruiters using flight simulators, toys, chin-up competitions, free T-shirts and basketball contests to lure young people into giving them their phone numbers.

Despite being harassed by police and recruiters alike, protesters stood their ground and passed out counter-recruitment literature addressing everything from sexual harassment in the military to how few GIs actually receive money for college.

Susan Dwyer, Sarah Macaraeg, Tamar Szmuilowicz contributed to this report.

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National Council of Arab Americans

WASHINGTON--Eighty delegates attended the founding conference of the National Council of Arab Americans (NCA) in Washington, D.C., May 13-15.

The NCA brings together a broad cross-section of Arab activists from different political currents--including Palestinian activists from various political traditions, socialists and representatives of the Muslim American Federation--in a common organization for the first time.

NCA members are focusing on a number of ongoing and proposed national programs, including defense of civil rights in academia, a legal defense and education fund, a history project and a media project. As conference organizers reported, "The conference was unique in every aspect as it gave a real sense of hope for a community yearning for unity and collective empowerment on all levels."

The formation of an organization that gives voice to the opinions and interests of the Arab left can be an urgently needed wake-up call for the U.S. left as a whole. The U.S. antiwar movement has downplayed the victimization of Arabs and Muslims, who have suffered the brunt of the post-September 11 war at home.

One result has been that many liberals within the antiwar movement feel comfortable in veering close to Bush's own rationale for continuing the U.S. occupation of Iraq--that "Islamic extremists" will take over if the U.S. leaves.

NCA members say the organization aims to challenge this. As organizers put it: "From community leaders and sector activists, to academics, students and professionals, the conference was a strong starting point for an organization with a genuine grassroots vision."

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Philippines solidarity
By Eduardo R.C. Capulong

NEW YORK--About 40 protesters held a candlelight picket at the Philippine Consulate May 20 to denounce the continued killings of activists in the Philippines.

According to Gabriela Network, the Filipina women's organization that sponsored the event, there have been 32 political killings in the country this year alone. Nearly all of the victims are activists with nationalist organizations such as Gabriela, Bayan, Bayan Muna and Anakbayan. Of these, 13 were journalists, with the Philippines now surpassing Iraq as the "most murderous country" for the media in the world, according to the International Committee for the Protection of Journalists.

Activists blamed the Philippine military and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for the killings, saying that they stem from the government's war on any opposition, which masquerades as a "war on terror." "We stand here tonight to call attention to the attacks on all those who refuse to relinquish their right to dissent," said Doris Mendoza, a Gabriela activist. "Continuing the struggle is the only option."

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By Holly Beth

WASHINGTON--About 50 people converged on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to say no to the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). For more than two hours, the crowd kept up a lively mix of chants in Spanish and English and listened to moving bilingual testimony from workers and political activists about the effects that CAFTA will have throughout the Americas.

Many at the event were deeply troubled by the possible passage of CAFTA because of their close relations with families and friends in Central America struggling to maintain their livelihoods. Speakers included people from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic--as well as from the U.S. Despite several nasty remarks such as "Learn how to speak English" directed at the crowd, the show of solidarity was inspiring.

Like the North American Free Trade Agreement, implemented in 1994, CAFTA will likely wipe out large numbers of jobs as well as further squeeze peasants desperately trying to make a living by selling crops produced on their small plots of land.

There have been protests in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador with upwards of 80,000 people, yet the governments of both Guatemala and El Salvador, beholden to the elite of those countries, have passed the agreement. Say no to CAFTA and yes to small farmers, jobs and equality!

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