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November 25, 2009

New Tomdispatch


Learning How to Count to 350
Remembering People Power in Seattle in 1999 and Berlin in 1989

By Rebecca Solnit

Next month, at the climate change summit in Copenhagen, the wealthy nations that produce most of the excess carbon in our atmosphere will almost certainly fail to embrace measures adequate to ward off the devastation of our planet by heat and chaotic weather. Their leaders will probably promise us teaspoons with which to put out the firestorm and insist that springing for fire hoses would be far too onerous a burden for business to bear. They have already backed off from any binding deals at this global summit. There will be a lot of wrangling about who should cut what when, and how, with a lot of nations claiming that they would act if others would act first. Activists -- farmers, environmentalists, island-dwellers -- around the world will try to write a different future, a bolder one, and if anniversaries are an omen, then they have history on their side.


The Pentagon Garrisons the Gulf
As Washington Talks Iraq Withdrawal, the Pentagon Builds Up Bases in the Region

By Nick Turse

Despite recent large-scale insurgent suicide bombings that have killed scores of civilians and the fact that well over 100,000 U.S. troops are still deployed in that country, coverage of the U.S. war in Iraq has been largely replaced in the mainstream press by the (previously) "forgotten war" in Afghanistan. A major reason for this is the plan, developed at the end of the Bush years and confirmed by President Obama, to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq to 50,000 by August 2010 and withdraw most of the remaining forces by December 2011.

Getting out of Iraq, however, doesn't mean getting out of the Middle East.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at November 25, 2009 03:02 AM

Turse's article is good. The Pentagon collects bases around the world like some old ladies collect knick-knacks, and it loves them even more. The "combat troops" are being withdrawn because the Pentagon wants them in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but they are never going to shut down the huge bases that Halliburton built in Iraq. Gates admitted when the SOF agreement was reached last December that he expected tens of thousands of US troops to remain in Iraq (at those bases) after 2011. One of these days we might shut down the bases we still have on Okinawa, which the Okinawans have been complaining about for fifty years, and after we do that we'll think about Iraq. (No cutting to the head of the line, Iraqis!)

The media is looking out for you, so don't concern yourself with this.

Posted by: N E at November 25, 2009 09:36 AM

The Solnit article was quite good and timely...she hits the nail on the head below. A reminder of how things change for the better...people dedicated and working to make it so and not waiting and hoping for elite salvation-aka President Change-from above.-Tony

...and it’s important to remember that events like the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia 20 years ago or the shutdown of the WTO weren’t just spontaneous uprisings; they were the fruit of long toil. While the right and too many American media outlets like to remember a fictitious Seattle that was nothing but a cauldron of activist violence (while ignoring serious police violence), too many on the left wanted to think of it as a miraculous convergence rather than the result of careful coalition-building, strategizing, outreach, and all the usual labors.

Posted by: tony at November 25, 2009 10:57 AM


You're right not to expect help from above with the kind of change you're talking about. Popular movements don't get help from above. And the media will make you look like hooligans, kooks, and trouble-makers. (By the way, Solnit's book about how communities can emerge stronger from disaster sounds very provocative.)

As the economy deteriorates in the coming years under the strains of corruption, empire, and internal capitalist dynamics, popular movements will likely grow stronger. Be mindful that as they do, covert government efforts to infiltrate and sabotage their efforts will increase too. It happened in the 60s and early 70s, and it was very effective, so it will happen again. (It actually happened before then too. At one time just about every other communist in the US was an FBI informant.) So if somebody suggests an innovative idea that might involve lawbreaking, be wary.

Finally, that book you recommended about the myths of free markets and globalization, Bad Samaritans by Ha-Joon Chang, is very good. I'm not far into it, but Change has a sharp eye, much knowledge, and uncommon insight.

Posted by: N E at November 25, 2009 12:45 PM

Hello NE,

Well, at least on this, we agree on how real change happens!

Glad you are enjoying Chang's book. It is a very good and informative book on capitalist economic history that punctures one myth after another. I would love to read Thomas Friedman's reaction to it!!

If you find the topic interesting you might want to also look at "Economics and World History" by Paul Bairoch. Its been years since I read it but I remember it as being a bit more technical than the Chang book but not a hard read at all.-Tony

Posted by: tony at November 25, 2009 01:26 PM

Hello Tony

Either you or I could probably WRITE Friedman's reaction to that book, but why bother. Friedman is just a journalist

Thanks for the other recommendation. Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by: N E at November 25, 2009 02:17 PM

Friedman is not a journalist.
Columnist? Stenographer for capital? Okay.

Posted by: Save the Oocytes at November 25, 2009 06:07 PM

Same to you and your family NE.

I only mentioned Friedman because he is specifically mentioned in Chang's book.-Tony

Posted by: tony at November 25, 2009 07:20 PM


You're right. I wasn't thinking of 'journalist' as a compliment, but there are some good ones, and that isn't Friedman.

Posted by: N E at November 25, 2009 08:51 PM