Porto Alegre, Brazil–Under a strong summer sun and a broad political proclamation that “Another world is possible,” tens of thousands of activists from around the world are arriving here for the second annual World Social Forum. The host, like last year, is Brazil’s southernmost major city, capital of the state of Rio Grande de Sul. The city and state governments, which are both facilitating and underwriting some of the Forum’s cost, have won international acclaim for their progressive policies, providing extensive social services and a high quality of life.
As the endgame nears in the fighting in Afghanistan, with Taliban power collapsed and Al-Qaeda members dead or on the run, it is tempting to believe that military success has decided the outcome of the war on terrorism. The Bush administration has already made it clear that it has limited interest in the long and arduous task of rebuilding Afghanistan. But Washington decisionmakers may want to heed this advice from a senior U.S. military officer and statesman from an earlier era, General George C. Marshall. In outlining the so-called Marshall Plan to rebuild a war-ravaged Europe on June 5, 1947, he warned that there could be “no political stability and no assured peace” without economic security. Europe, much like Afghanistan today, was torn by war, poverty, disease, and hunger, and risked “disturbances arising as a result of the desperation of the people,” and thus deserved American attention and funds to recover and rejoin the world community.
Not a shot has been fired–yet–at Afghanistan’s Taliban, but the country’s beleaguered population already is paying a heavy price for the ruling militia’s pariah status as host to alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
The U.S. boycott of the historic United Nations Conference Against Racism is indicative of the growing U.S. arrogance in international forums. The Bush administration, backed by congressional leaders of both parties, used a couple of controversial lines–out of a document hundreds of paragraphs long–critical of the policies of a U.S. ally as an excuse to avoid addressing such critical questions as racism, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination that continue to plague humanity.
Nearly every five to ten years the U.S. overhauls its immigration policies, sometimes giving illegal aliens a fresh start through legalization programs. What is novel about the current, serious discussion of a new illegal alien legalization program, is that it is taking place within the context of a much greater awareness of and concern over the expansion of human smuggling into the U.S. and around the world.
The United States, the self-described leader of human rights, effectively decided to boycott the UN conference against racism in Durban, South Africa. The U.S. could have made a strong, positive impression by sending its African-American Secretary of State, a descendent of slaves, and making a forceful stand against racism. Instead, it chose to send a low-level delegation.
On July 26, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William J. Burns appeared before the House International Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.
Death Squad Democrats By Stephen Zunes August 2001
Some 200 nations are gathered in Durban, South Africa from August 31 to September 7 for the UN World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). Unfortunately, America’s official conduct leading up to the conference has not been its finest hour. Rather than deal with its own sorry legacy of slavery, discrimination, and racism, the Bush administration has chosen at the highest level to deny that historical matters and redress have any place on the agenda. It has withheld support and threatened to stay home.
The black and white-checked scarves, known as kafeeyyehs, symbolizing the Palestinian resistance, were everywhere among the 6,000 delegates to the UN Non-Governmental Forum that preceded the governmental portion of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). Soon they were joined by white t-shirts exhorting participants to “fight racism, not Jews.” As predicted, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has loomed over both the NGO Forum and now the main event, given mega-prominence by the refusal of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to attend while statements equating Zionism with racism are anywhere on the table.