Wednesday, November 3, 2010

10 Things Men and Boys Can Do to Stop Human Trafficking (and Other Sexual Terrorism), from the blog of Jewel Woods

poster opposing trafficking of predominantly female children is from here

So here's the deal: you can't promote prostitution and protect pornography and not have either political act negatively impact girls being trafficked and enslaved. So, now what's your position on prostitution and pornography? Are we going to pretend that systems of gross sexual exploitation, rape, and other physical and psychic/emotional harm end at national borders? I sure hope not.

Pornography, prostitution, trafficking, and sexual slavery are all part of one another, inextricably. To think otherwise means you must not be a sexually trafficked or enslaved girl, right now. Lucky for you. Not that luck has much to do with it.

This ought to lead us to ask President Obama and every other national leader in the most wealthy countries across the globe: When is terrorism not terrorism? Here's one answer: when it disproportionately and specifically impacts women and girls globally. If the U.S. cared about ending terrorism it would start arresting pimps, johns, traffickers, and slavers. (And here's another answer: when the people mass raped and mass murdered terroristically are raped and murdered by U.S. soldiers, governed by their "freedom-loving" generals and their Commander-in-Chief.)

But the CRAP-ruled U.S. government, specifically, has more important things to do like ramp up its plans to militarily occupy Yemen for sending a few packages with explosive dust on them through the mail. Never mind children and women being mass raped and enslaved. No mail. No explosive dust: just rape and slavery. That's not on the list of "forms of terrorism" to be militarily or militantly concerned about. Nice priorities, U.S. Government. NOT.

What follows is cross-posted from Jewel Woods' blog. Thanks so much, Jewel! You can link back by clicking on the title just below.

10 Things Men and Boys Can Do to Stop Human Trafficking

Submitted by Jewel on Thu, 08/05/2010 - 21:46.

This blog is based on our informational brochure "10 Things Men and Boys Can Do to Stop Human Trafficking " and is also published at

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. It is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel another person to provide labor or commercial sex against their will, and it is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world.

The Renaissance Male Project believes that men are complicit in this crime when they purchase sex because they create the demand by allowing others to exploit women and children for profit. Men must play a role in ending this form of modern-day slavery, a vicious industry that exploits and perpetuates the suffering of hundreds of thousands of women and children in the United States and around the world.

The Polaris Project estimates that:

* 27 million are enslaved globally.
* 14,500–17,500 individuals are brought into the U.S. as human trafficking victims each year.
* 1 million children enter the global commercial sex trade every year.

There are specific actions that men and boys can take to end these atrocities:

1. Challenge the glamorization of pimps in our culture
Mainstream culture has popularized the image of a pimp to the point that some men and boys look up to them as if they represent legitimate male role models, and they view “pimping” as a normal expression of masculinity. As Carrie Baker reflects in “Jailing Girls for Men’s Crimes” in the Summer Ms. issue, the glorification of prostitution is often rewarded, not punished, in pop culture:

Reebok awarded a multi-million-dollar contract for two shoe lines to rapper 50 Cent, whose album “Get Rich or Die Tryin” (with the hit single “P.I.M.P.”) went platinum. Rapper Snoop Dogg, who showed up at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards with two women on dog leashes and who was described in the December 2006 cover of Rolling Stone as “America’s Most Lovable Pimp,” has received endorsement deals from Orbit gum and Chrysler.

In reality, pimps play a central role in human trafficking and routinely rape, beat and terrorize women and girls to keep them locked in prostitution. Men can take a stand against pimps and pimping by renouncing the pimp culture and the music that glorifies it.

2. Confront the belief that prostitution is a “victimless crime”
Many men view prostitution as a “victimless crime.” But it is not. For example, American women who are involved in prostitution are at a greater risk to be murdered than women in the general population. Research also shows that women involved in prostitution suffer tremendous physical and mental trauma associated with their work. Viewing prostitution as a victimless crime or something that women “choose” allows men to ignore the fact that the average age of entry into prostitution in the U.S. is 12 to 14 and that the vast majority of women engaged in prostitution would like to get out but feel trapped. Men should stop viewing prostitution as a victimless crime and acknowledge the tremendous harm and suffering their participation in prostitution causes.

3. Stop patronizing strip clubs
When men think of human trafficking, they often think of brothels in countries outside of the U.S. However, strip clubs in this country as well as abroad may be a place where human trafficking victims go unnoticed or unidentified. Strip clubs are also places of manufactured pleasure where strippers are routinely sexually harassed and assaulted by owners, patrons and security personnel. Men rarely consider whether women working in strip clubs are coerced into that line of work, because to do so would conflict with the pleasure of participating in commercialized sex venues. Men can combat human trafficking by no longer patronizing strip clubs and by encouraging their friends and co-workers to do the same.

4. Don’t consume pornography
Pornography has the power to manipulate male sexuality, popularize unhealthy attitudes towards sex and sexuality and eroticize violence against women. Pornography leads men and boys to believe that certain sexual acts are normal, when in fact sexual acts that are non-consensual, offensive and coupled with violent intent result in the pain, suffering and humiliation of women and children. In addition, a disproportionate amount of mainstream pornography sexualizes younger women with such titles as “teens,” “barely 18,” “cheerleaders,” etc. Targeting younger women socializes men to develop appetites for younger and younger women and creates a pedophiliac culture among men. Victims of human trafficking have also been forced into pornography. Men can stop the voyeurism of sex and sex acts that fuel human trafficking by refusing to consume pornography and encourage others to do the same.

5. Tackle male chauvinism and sexism online
Contrary to the myth that men do not gossip, men spend a significant amount of time online discussing their sexual exploits. The Internet provides many men with the ability to mask their identities while indulging in racist, sexist and violent diatribes against women and girls. Choosing to be a critical voice online is an extremely important way to educate and inform men and boys about their choices. Men can change this culture by starting threads in online forums that cause men to talk about their attitudes towards women and how these attitudes and behaviors are linked to human trafficking.

6. End sex tourism
Men in the U.S. and other “first world” nations routinely travel overseas and have sex with women in developing countries. When men engage in these practices, they do not acknowledge the fact that many trafficked women and children come from developing countries—even in countries where prostitution is “legal.” Traveling overseas grants men a great deal of anonymity. As men, we have a responsibility to confront the men that go overseas and participate in sex tourism.

7. Talk to men and boys about men’s issues in male spaces
The only way to change men is by engaging spaces where men and boys talk and develop their ideas and attitudes towards sex and sexuality. Males spaces such as barbershops, locker rooms, fraternities and union halls are the real classrooms where boys learn to become men and where men develop most of their ideas about how to interact with women. If men do not feel comfortable talking about these issues in male spaces, they can drop off informational brochures and make themselves available to talk with other men and boys when they have questions or concerns. As men, we need to turn male spaces into circles of accountability where men learn about non-violence, social justice and ending violence against women.

8. Support anti-human-trafficking policies

President Obama declared January 2010 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. However, more substantive legislation is required to end human trafficking. Men can educate themselves about the issues by visiting anti-trafficking organizations and by asking their elected officials what they have done to support or sponsor anti-human trafficking legislation. One of the most important acts men can do to stop human trafficking is to support anti-trafficking legislation at the local, state or federal level.

9. Support creation of “John Schools”

There would be no human trafficking if there were was no demand for it. Strategies aimed at ending human trafficking must focus on eliminating the demand. “John Schools” are education programs designed to educate customers apprehended by law enforcement who attempted to purchase sex. By teaching the legal and health effects of buying sex and the realities of prostitution, such schools impart knowledge that can reduce demand, making men conscious of how their actions can spur on human trafficking. Learn whether or not your local community has a John School. If not, encourage your local prosecutor’s office or city counsel to start one.

10. Raise sons and mentor boys to challenge oppression
No boy is destined to be a “john,” a pimp, or a human trafficker. Raising young men in circles of accountability to be respectful and protective of all women and children is one of the most important things men can do to stop human trafficking. Talk about human trafficking as a modern form of slavery to help convince men and boys to become allies in the fight to end this form of oppression.

U.S. Mid-Term Election Results: Who Won?? Answer: WHM Supremacy, Genetic Lottery Winners and the top 5% of the U.S. Wealthiest People, who, shockingly are the same demographic as the Tea Party funders! Malalai Joya Responds

pie charts revealing the unjust truth about who controls the U.S. and who fights successfully to pay less taxes is from here
So this is crystal clear: in 2007, the UNrichest people in the U.S. (who are 80% of the total U.S. population, owned between7% - 15% of the nations wealth, depending on how you calculate it. So which income bracket earns and holds the most wealth in the U.S.? That'd be the top 5% most rich people, who made between 62% - 72% of ALL THE WAGES, SALARIES, PROFITS, AND just plain ol' MONEY in the U.S.A., depending on how you calculate it.

First, about that U.S. election:

The election results last night, with rich older white U.S.ers (pssst: "Tea Partiers") moving fast to the polls, moved what is rather hilariously and painfully called "The Center" deeper into Right-wing conservative-land. The Right has gone even farther to the fascistic (racist, misogynistic, heterosexist, classist, pro-corporate exploitation and corruption, pro-militaristic) Right, and so has what can only hilariously and painfully be called "the Left" in the U.S. There is no Left in the U.S.: there is the Far Right and the less-Far Right. And there are a few Moderates on the Right and some Right-leaning Liberals. That's about it, in terms of who showed up to vote last night and who holds office in this "democratic" country that pretends to want "justice for all". (Cough. Gag.)

What is clear is this: the wealthiest people in the country can fund election results--imperfectly to be sure. Some of the "fringier" Tea Party members did not get elected, but some of the scarier ones did, such as Rand Paul.

The most wealthy people in this country will now push to repeal health insurance company reforms pushed through by President Obama, and will make sure the billionaires and millionaires are not "burdened" by paying taxes. The deficit could be reduced entirely painlessly--with no burden the the poor, the working class, or the middle class, or the upper middle class, if the top 5% of the wealth-earners were taxed more, not less. But no, that'd be something akin to "socialism" according to those very wealthy WHM who get to control the media and tell it's mouthpieces what to say. G-d forbid we have economic justice.

The liberals are even more stupid than ever. A New York Times reporter speaking with Keith Olberman tonight said that the plan is to move forward in a way to not hurt the poor, middle class, and the rich, with taxes. Since when are the rich ever hurt by being taxed? Between their corrupt tax evasion strategies, having overseas bank accounts, and swimming in ocean-sized corporate loop-holes, we can rest assured as we suffer through the nights wondering how ends will meet for our loved ones that the rich will sleep comfortably knowing that they can get even richer in the next two years. What follows next is from *here*, but more follows that, so please read on--I've saved the best for last!

The source for what comes next is *here*. It offers us what some poor and working people ought to be up in arms about.  This little tidbit of information is one the Republicans and Tea Partiers don't want you to worry your poor little head about:

[T]he rate of increase is even higher for the very richest of the rich: the top 400 income earners in the United States. According to an analysis by David Cay Johnston -- recently retired from reporting on tax issues at the New York Times -- the average income of the top 400 tripled during the Clinton Administration and doubled during the first seven years of the Bush Administration. So by 2007, the top 400 averaged $344.8 million per person, up 31% from an average of $263.3 million just one year earlier (Johnston, 2010). (For another recent revealing study by Johnston, check out "Is Our Tax System Helping Us Create Wealth?").

How are these huge gains possible for the top 400? It's due to cuts in the tax rates on capital gains and dividends, which were down to a mere 15% in 2007 thanks to the tax cuts proposed by the Bush Administration and passed by Congress in 2003. Since almost 75% of the income for the top 400 comes from capital gains and dividends, it's not hard to see why tax cuts on income sources available to only a tiny percent of Americans mattered greatly for the high-earning few. Overall, the effective tax rate on high incomes fell by 7% during the Clinton presidency and 6% in the Bush era, so the top 400 had a tax rate of 20% or less in 2007, far lower than the marginal tax rate of 35% that the highest income earners (over $372,650) supposedly pay. It's also worth noting that only the first $105,000 of a person's income is taxed for Social Security purposes, so it would clearly be a boon to the Social Security Fund if everyone -- not just those making less than $105,000 -- paid the Social Security tax on their full incomes.

What's next is from *here*.

Socialism? The rich are winning the US class war

The rich and their paid false prophets are doing a bang up job deceiving the poor and middle class. They have convinced many that an evil socialism is alive in the land and it is taking their fair share. But the deception cannot last – facts say otherwise.

Yes, there is a class war – the war of the rich on the poor and the middle class – and the rich are winning. That war has been going on for years. Look at the facts – facts the rich and their false paid prophets do not want people to know.

Poor getting poorer: The facts are:

The official US poverty numbers show we now have the highest number of poor people in 51 years. The official US poverty rate is 14.3 percent or 43.6 million people in poverty. One in five children in the US is poor; one in ten senior citizens is poor. Source: US Census Bureau.

One of every six workers, 26.8 million people, is unemployed or underemployed. This “real” unemployment rate is over 17%. There are 14.8 million people designated as “officially” unemployed by the government, a rate of 9.6 percent. Unemployment is worse for African American workers of whom 16.1 percent are unemployed. Another 9.5 million people who are working only part-time while they are seeking full-time work but have had their hours cut back or are so far only able to find work part-time are not counted in the official unemployment numbers. Also, an additional 2.5 million are reported unemployed but not counted because they are classified as discouraged workers in part because they have been out of work for more than 12 months. Source: US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics October 2010 report.

Fifty million people in the US lack health insurance. Source: US Census Bureau.

Women in the US have a greater lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related conditions than women in 40 other countries. African American US women are nearly 4 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. Source: Amnesty International Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA.
Middle Class Going Backward: Facts

One or two generations ago it was possible for a middle class family to live on one income. Now it takes two incomes to try to enjoy the same quality of life. Wages have not kept up with inflation; adjusted for inflation they have lost ground over the past ten years. The cost of housing, education and health care have all increased at a much higher rate than wages and salaries. In 1967, the middle 60 percent of households received over 52% of all income. In 1998, it was down to 47%. The share going to the poor has also fallen, with the top 20% seeing their share rise. Mark Trumball, “Obama’s challenge: reversing a decade of middle-class decline,” Christian Science Monitor, January 25, 2010.

Eleven million homeowners (about one in four homeowners) in the US are “under water” or owe more on their mortgages than their house is worth. Source: “Home truths,” The Economist, October 23, 2010.

For the first time since the 1940s, the real incomes of middle-class families are lower at the end of the business cycle of the 2000s than they were at the beginning. Despite the fact that the American workforce is working harder and smarter than ever, they are sharing less and less in the benefits they are creating. This is true for white families but even truer for African American families whose gains in the 1990s have mostly been eliminated since then. Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, State of Working America.
Rich Getting Richer: Facts

The wealth of the richest 400 people in the US grew by 8% in the last year to $1.37 trillion. Source: Forbes 400: The super-rich get richer, September 22, 2010,

The top Hedge Fund Manager of 2009, David Tepper, “earned” $4 billion last year. The rest of the top ten earned: $3.3 billion, $2.5 billion, $2.3 billion, $1.4 billion, $1.3 billion (tie for 6th and 7th place), $900 million (tie for 8th and 9th place), and in last place out of the top ten, $825 million. Source: Business Insider. “Meet the top 10 earning hedge fund managers of 2009.”

Income disparity in the US is now as bad as it was right before the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s. From 1979 to 2006, the richest 1% more than doubled their share of the total US income, from 10% to 23%. The richest 1% have an average annual income of more than $1.3 million. For the last 25 years, over 90% of the total growth in income in the US went to the top 10% earners – leaving 9% of all income to be shared by the bottom 90%. Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, State of Working America.

These are extremely troubling facts for anyone concerned about economic fairness, equality of opportunity, and justice.

Thomas Jefferson once observed that the systematic restructuring of society to benefit the rich over the poor and middle class is a natural appetite of the rich. “Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to…the general prey of the rich on the poor.” But Jefferson also knew that justice can only be delayed so long when he said, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

The rich talk about the rise of socialism to divert attention from the fact that they are devouring the basics of the poor and everyone else. Many of those crying socialism the loudest are doing it to enrich or empower themselves. They are right about one thing – there is a class war going on in the US. The rich are winning their class war, and it is time for everyone else to fight back for economic justice.

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And now back to you, at the former website, *here*:

The Relationship Between Wealth and Power

What's the relationship between wealth and power? To avoid confusion, let's be sure we understand they are two different issues. Wealth, as I've said, refers to the value of everything people own, minus what they owe, but the focus is on "marketable assets" for purposes of economic and power studies. Power, as explained elsewhere on this site, has to do with the ability (or call it capacity) to realize wishes, or reach goals, which amounts to the same thing, even in the face of opposition (Russell, 1938; Wrong, 1995). Some definitions refine this point to say that power involves Person A or Group A affecting Person B or Group B "in a manner contrary to B's interests," which then necessitates a discussion of "interests," and quickly leads into the realm of philosophy (Lukes, 2005, p. 30). Leaving those discussions for the philosophers, at least for now, how do the concepts of wealth and power relate?

First, wealth can be seen as a "resource" that is very useful in exercising power. That's obvious when we think of donations to political parties, payments to lobbyists, and grants to experts who are employed to think up new policies beneficial to the wealthy. Wealth also can be useful in shaping the general social environment to the benefit of the wealthy, whether through hiring public relations firms or donating money for universities, museums, music halls, and art galleries.

Second, certain kinds of wealth, such as stock ownership, can be used to control corporations, which of course have a major impact on how the society functions. Tables 5a and 5b show what the distribution of stock ownership looks like. Note how the top one percent's share of stock equity increased (and the bottom 80 percent's share decreased) between 2001 and 2007.

Third, just as wealth can lead to power, so too can power lead to wealth. Those who control a government can use their position to feather their own nests, whether that means a favorable land deal for relatives at the local level or a huge federal government contract for a new corporation run by friends who will hire you when you leave government. If we take a larger historical sweep and look cross-nationally, we are well aware that the leaders of conquering armies often grab enormous wealth, and that some religious leaders use their positions to acquire wealth.

There's a fourth way that wealth and power relate. For research purposes, the wealth distribution can be seen as the main "value distribution" within the general power indicator I call "who benefits." What follows in the next three paragraphs is a little long-winded, I realize, but it needs to be said because some social scientists -- primarily pluralists -- argue that who wins and who loses in a variety of policy conflicts is the only valid power indicator (Dahl, 1957, 1958; Polsby, 1980). And philosophical discussions don't even mention wealth or other power indicators (Lukes, 2005). (If you have heard it all before, or can do without it, feel free to skip ahead to the last paragraph of this section)

Here's the argument: if we assume that most people would like to have as great a share as possible of the things that are valued in the society, then we can infer that those who have the most goodies are the most powerful. Although some value distributions may be unintended outcomes that do not really reflect power, as pluralists are quick to tell us, the general distribution of valued experiences and objects within a society still can be viewed as the most publicly visible and stable outcome of the operation of power.

In American society, for example, wealth and well-being are highly valued. People seek to own property, to have high incomes, to have interesting and safe jobs, to enjoy the finest in travel and leisure, and to live long and healthy lives. All of these "values" are unequally distributed, and all may be utilized as power indicators. However, the primary focus with this type of power indicator is on the wealth distribution sketched out in the previous section.

The argument for using the wealth distribution as a power indicator is strengthened by studies showing that such distributions vary historically and from country to country, depending upon the relative strength of rival political parties and trade unions, with the United States having the most highly concentrated wealth distribution of any Western democracy except Switzerland. For example, in a study based on 18 Western democracies, strong trade unions and successful social democratic parties correlated with greater equality in the income distribution and a higher level of welfare spending (Stephens, 1979).

And now we have arrived at the point I want to make. If the top 1% of households have 30-35% of the wealth, that's 30 to 35 times what we would expect by chance, and so we infer they must be powerful. And then we set out to see if the same set of households scores high on other power indicators (it does). Next we study how that power operates, which is what most articles on this site are about. Furthermore, if the top 20% have 84% of the wealth (and recall that 10% have 85% to 90% of the stocks, bonds, trust funds, and business equity), that means that the United States is a power pyramid. It's tough for the bottom 80% -- maybe even the bottom 90% -- to get organized and exercise much power.

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Now, so we can see how systems of wealth work to favor the rich and disenfranchise the poor, NOT do to a lack of tugging on one's own bootstraps, we have this honest statement from one wealthy white woman--I'd expect that the rich WHM are really just wanting her to shut the f*ck up and play with her wealth. You can link back to what follows next by clicking on the title. But don't forget about our special correspondent, who will close out this program.

Original publication: OtherWords
Date of publication: 10/25/2010

I'm a Genetic Lottery Winner--Tax Me!

The Estate Tax: A Critical Source of Revenue at a Time When Our Nation Needs it MostBy Judy Pigott
Distributed by OtherWords, Oct. 25, 2010
Judy Pigott

I am one of those lucky Americans who won the genetic lottery. That is, I was born rich. And believe it or not, my family's business success happened because of--not in spite of--our country's progressive tax system.

My great-grandfather, William Pigott, founded the Seattle Car Manufacturing Company in 1905. It has evolved into PACCAR, one of the largest heavy-duty truck manufacturers in the world. Although my great-grandfather's ingenuity and ambition was key to his success, in many ways you could say Uncle Sam was his business partner.

Around the mid-20th century, PACCAR (then Pacific Car and Foundry Company) acquired the Peterbilt Motors and Kenworth Motor Trucks companies. The trucks PACCAR manufactures would have nowhere to travel without the roadways, highways, bridges, and tunnels that the government builds and maintains. Not to mention the plows, streetlights, and police that keep these streets safe and passable--all paid for with tax revenue.

In essence, public structures supported by our tax revenue paved the way--literally--for my family's business success.

That's why I find anti-estate tax rhetoric so mind-boggling, especially coming from those who achieve business success because of government-created policies and structures. My great-grandfather and many others like him managed to accumulate enough wealth to pass on to younger generations during a time when taxes on the wealthy were far higher than they are now. I get more than a little frustrated listening to all of the misinformation that seems to cloud the debate surrounding the estate tax. So let's set a few things straight about the estate tax.

Much of the wealth subject to the estate tax has never been taxed. For wealthy Americans like me, the paycheck earned from the jobs we work is only a tiny portion of our wealth. Most of our income comes from watching our stock portfolios grow. Indeed, the majority of the one-quarter of one percent of American households who even qualify to pay the estate tax--that's one out of every 500 families--earn the majority of their wealth from accumulated assets, not earned income. If not for the estate tax, in many cases this wealth would avoid taxation entirely.

The estate tax is a critical source of revenue at a time when our nation needs it most. The one-year lapse in the estate tax this year will cost the U.S. Treasury roughly $25 billion in uncollected estate tax revenue. That's money that could be directed towards the significant challenges facing our country: an economy in shambles, structural and social needs going unmet, and a mounting federal deficit. Instead, $25 billion dollars is sitting in the bank accounts of wealthy heirs who didn't lift a finger to earn it. I, for one, am not interested in hoarding money that I didn't work to earn when it could be put to work to make our communities stronger.

The estate tax is an incentive for very wealthy individuals to engage in charitable giving and use their wealth for the greater good. As the recent "billionaire's pledge" demonstrated, the estate tax encourages people with wealth to support nonprofit services that are meeting critical needs in our communities. Repealing the estate tax entirely would provide no incentive for wealthy families to donate their wealth to the greater good, and could put the nonprofit sector in serious jeopardy.

Many pundits say the estate tax is shaping up to be one of the hottest debates of the year. That may be true, but to me the issue is very simple. Our tax code should reflect our collective values.

Preserving the estate tax will allow our government to support the public structures that keep our communities strong. It will provide revenue needed to pay down our federal deficit so our nation can return to secure financial footing. It will pave the way for future generations to access the same opportunities to succeed in business that my great-grandfather had more than 100 years ago.

And--most importantly--it will help us focus on what sort of a nation we wish to be.
Judy Pigott is a mother of four, educator, author, founder/CEO of Personal Safety Nets®, and a member of the Responsible Wealth Project at United for a Fair Economy. To learn more, visit [My source for the above article is *here*]

Finally, over to one of our most important correspondents, who I'll imagine you say not at all no matter how much election coverage you watched last night, because the U.S. loves to pretend its elections are all about itself, not about maintaining genocide, gynocide, and ecocide across the globe. The source for what follows is the RAWA website, linked to from my blog, but also you can click on the title to link back.

Any hope I had in the ballot box bringing change in Afghanistan is gone

If Karzai's re-election was a fraud, Obama's surge of troops brought just more violence. For Afghans he's the 'second Bush'

By Malalai Joya in Kabul

One year ago Hamid Karzai was declared re-elected as president of Afghanistan, ending an election that had no legitimacy in the eyes of ordinary Afghans. The presidential election last year was a fraud, with ballot stuffing, vote buying and massive corruption reported by the world's media. Even if the independent election commission had not cancelled the planned run-off between Karzai and his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, it would have represented only a choice of the "same donkey with a new saddle". People had no incentive to participate as they knew that both main candidates would bring nothing positive for Afghan people.
Malalai Joya

Karzai had lost his popularity way before the 2009 election. This was due to the ever increasing corruption of the government, the never-ending crimes of the many fundamentalists and warlords in his regime, and the financial scandals and corruption of his brothers. In Kandahar people even started calling Ahmed Wali Karzai the "little Bush", after the hated US president.

The vast majority of Afghans have lost all hope in Karzai. For us his words and actions have no value, and that includes his latest "peace negotiations" and other measures. Including killers like Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the government is not about negotiating for peace, but completing the decades-old circle of warlordism and fundamentalism.

It's important to say that these so-called elections haven't damaged Afghanistan as much as the US and its Nato allies have, with their bombing and occupation. Wikileaks has exposed some of the truth about the civilian toll of this war against the Afghan and Iraqi peoples. Afghans hold the US and Nato, and their puppet Karzai, responsible for these war crimes. They claim to fight terrorism, but in fact they are the biggest terrorists in the eyes of our people because of their crimes and brutalities.

Unfortunately the Afghan people are not yet strong enough to drive out the US, overthrow the mafia government of Karzai and bring an end to the crimes of the Taliban and other fundamentalists. Our history proves that this resistance to occupation will continue until we have won our freedom. Until both the US and the fundamentalists – of both the Northern Alliance and Taliban brands – are driven out of power in Afghanistan, we cannot see a bright future. It is now more than five years since I was elected to the Afghan parliament. My experience of this "democratic process" was to see my microphone cut off, and to be threatened with death by other MPs – many of whom teamed up to remove me illegally from my seat. My case alone is enough to prove that women's rights in Afghanistan have not truly been safeguarded – our situation was just invoked to justify the war.

In fact, it's important to remember another document that Wikileaks exposed earlier this year: a CIA paper assessing western public opinion on the war that recommended using "testimonials by Afghan women" expressing fear about a Taliban takeover in the event of Nato pulling out. A Time cover story featuring the disfigured Bibi Aisha was a clear example of using the plight of women as war propaganda. The headline – "What happens if we leave Afghanistan" – could have, or should have, been "What happens while we are in Afghanistan", because crimes of mutilation, rape and murder against women are commonplace today.

Many warlords and commanders aligned with Nato and Karzai carry out their sexist, misogynist crimes with impunity. Time could, for example, have done a cover story condemning the law signed by Karzai in 2009 that legalised crimes against Shia women, or about the shocking levels of women committing suicide by self-immolation.

We had another so-called parliamentary election in September, but I chose not to run. Any hope I had for using the ballot box to achieve change in Afghanistan is gone. Like last year's presidential vote, September's election was full of the buying and selling of votes – one province, Paktika, reported a turnout of 626%. This sort of thing is the reason elections in Afghanistan long ago became a bad joke.

Tomorrow there is an election in the US, and it is now two years since Barack Obama was elected president. His surge of troops has brought only a surge of violence, and his expansion of the war into Pakistan has claimed many innocent lives. Obama promised "hope" and "change", but Afghans have seen only change for the worse. Here he is now seen as a "second Bush".

The only change that can make us hopeful about the future is the strengthening and expansion of a national anti-fundamentalist and democracy-loving movement. Such a movement can be built only by Afghans. And while we want the world's support and solidarity, we neither need nor want Nato's occupying forces.

Category: Warlords, US-NATO, HR Violations - Views: 189