FZINE: a place for high school students and teachers to read, interact, and contrbute. LAUNCH

World News


by Sarah Cameron

Don't Shoot. I'm Irish.

Recently there have been many calls from the citizenry, and those within the Labor Party, for British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s resignation over his ongoing mishandling of military action in the Middle East.

However, it would appear that the British are not only ashamed of their leader, but also of their nationality, due in large part to UK involvement with US foreign policy. The Guardian obtained figures suggesting, “Applications from UK-born citizens for Irish passports have more than doubled in the past year.” The Guardian provided two possible explanations. A spokeswoman from the Association of British Travel Agents stated, “It may be because it is more fashionable to be Irish.” The more timely reasoning came from an American website, “With an Irish passport you are at lower risk when traveling in areas of the world that are hostile to Americans…Terrorists are far less likely to kidnap or attack an Irish citizen.” Also, Ireland gives their artists income tax exemptions.

IDF fails to admit to cluster bomb use.

As the most recent War in the Middle East begins to fall off the front pages, little has been said about a statement from an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Rocket unit commander to Israeli paper Haaretz that the IDF “fired around 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets.” The article also stated that the army “used phosphorous shells during the war, widely forbidden by international law.”

Cluster bombs are often not used, as they are inaccurate and continue to cause civilian deaths long after a conflict has ended. Occasionally, they are used for precisely these reasons. With over 1.2 million cluster “bomblets” spread across Lebanon, the number of unexploded mines will be huge. The use of phosphorous inflicts severe burns, which lead to a “slow and painful” death.

The unit commander who spoke to Haaretz described the IDF’s actions in Lebanon as “insane and monstrous.” Meanwhile the IDF spokesperson’s office stated to Haaretz: “International law does not include a sweeping prohibition of the use of cluster bombs. The convention on conventional weaponry does not declare a prohibition on phosphorous weapons, rather, on principles regulating the use of such weapons…the IDF does not respond to [accounts of] details of weaponry in its possession.”

And if your geography fails you, please see:

But then, it's not just the IDF that has difficulty acknowledging the truth.

The U.S. Senate declared on September 9th that “Saddam Hussein was distrustful of Al Qaeda and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from Al Qaeda to provide material or operational support.” Whilst one might hope that this would elicit some form of reality-based response from the White House, Bush instead preferred to write his own history. Rather than sticking to his own message, he delicately skirted around it, ensuring that we could hear Al Qaeda and Iraq in the same sentence as often as possible: “After 9/11, Saddam’s regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take. The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power… Al Qaeda and other extremists from across the world have come to Iraq to stop the rise of a free society in the heart of the Middle East...Our enemies in Iraq are tough, and they are committed.” Skillfully failing to either denounce or accept the Senate’s declaration, Bush would appear to have stated that because Al Qaeda is now in Iraq, where it was not before, that he was right to invade Iraq.

Expect more. Pay Less?

There was much rejoicing in July at plans to increase the minimum wage paid by “big-box” stores in Chicago to an actual living wage. The City Council ordinance would have seen a mandatory increase in wage to $10/hour by 2010, alongside an extra $3/hour in benefits. This vast improvement on minimum wage ($5.15 in the US, $6.50 in Chicago) was intended to prevent retailers such as Wal-Mart from cutting the cost of their own employees.

The July vote passed 35-14, but was then vetoed by Mayor Daley. Had the post-veto vote been the same, the ordinance would have become city law regardless. However, the “big-box“ stores got their way. Target threatened to halt all proposed stores in Chicago, and there were fears about the future of proposed Wal-Mart stores in the city. According to the Chicago Tribune, Daley convinced 3 aldermen who had previously supported the ordinance to vote against it in the post-veto vote. As a result, the ordinance failed to pass, at a vote of 31-18. Daley stated, in apparent contradiction, “Everybody wants a living wage. It has to be statewide.” How such a move will be possible when “big-box” stores can levy such economic and political weight is not yet clear.

U.S. Military digs up South Korean farms.

In South Korea, protests against the U.S. Military are gaining strength as farmers are relocated to make way for the expansion of a U.S. Military base in Pyongtaek, which is 40 miles south of Seoul. The expansion requires the demolition of the homes and farmland of over 90 families. In June, the head of a village whose residents would be relocated, Kim Ji Tae, was arrested over the protests. As the protests continued, reported that on September 12th, 10,000 South Korean Police were needed to “dislodge the protestors.”

The problem is not only the economic impact on farmers who are already suffering decreased profits. There is also a significant problem of pre-existing resentment towards U.S. troops in South Korea, as the U.S. attempts to increase its military presence on the border with North Korea.

Speaking to, George Katsiaficas, a researcher at Harvard University’s Korea Institute, described the expansion as “an offensive move…It takes American forces out of the range of North Korean artillery and creates a situation where the United States could attack North Korea without Americans necessarily being directly threatened in the immediate counter attack.”

Supporters of the South Korean farmers also protested in Washington, D.C. as President Bush met with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. quoted Kyo So of Korean Americans Against War and Neoliberalism as saying, “They are elderly farmers…They have been living there for many years. They turned the old wetlands into arable farmland. They raised their children there. They don’t want to move.”

Revolution Round-Up

September 18th saw violent protests in Budapest as crowds of over 10,000 people took to the streets, following the leak of a tape in which Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany admitted that the government had misled the Hungarian people. The AP reported that the Socialist leader had said to his colleagues, “I almost died when for a year and a half we had to pretend we were governing. Instead we lied morning, evening and night…We screwed up. Not a little, a lot… No European country has done something as boneheaded as we have.” By the weekend the crowd of protestors numbered over 60,000. The Independent, UK, described the situation as “[Hungary’s] biggest crisis since the fall of Communism.”

September 19th saw a dramatic military coup in Thailand while Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was visiting New York. Despite protests from those in Thailand who wished for a democratically elected leader, the reigning Thai monarch publicly expressed support for the coup. The BBC reported “the coup followed months of growing tension in Thailand, with protests against Mr. Thaksin and a general election, which was annulled due to concerns about its legitimacy.” The overall impression given by the media is that no one is surprised that such a coup is taking place, particularly in a country that had 17 such coups in the past century. However, PM Thaksin would not appear to have foreseen, or wished to foresee, such an event. Eight days prior to the military action, Thaksin stated to the Asia-Europe meeting in Finland: “I’ve never said that there was any movement suggestive of a coup plan. From as far as I know, there’s no such movement for the time being.”

Meanwhile, the remnant of an old revolution, Fidel Castro, is still alive, and eating birthday cake with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who made his feelings about the U.S. very clear in addressing the UN in September: “The devil [President Bush] came here yesterday… It still smells of sulphur today.” During his speech Chavez held up a copy of Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival: America’s quest for Global Dominance as he criticized the U.S. as a “democracy of bombs.” In addition, he also promoted Chomsky’s two-year-old book. “[This is an] excellent book to help us understand what has been happening throughout the 20th century… I think the first people who should read this book are our brothers and sisters in the United States, because the threat is right in their own house.” The New York Times reported that by the end of the week, Chomsky's book had hit number one on Amazon’s best-seller list.

And if you feel like doing something to voice your opinion about the current state of the US, October 10th will see a national day of action with protests starting at noon in Grant Park (permit pending), moving to Federal Plaza at 4.30pm. See