Curtain Raiser

We Won’t Look Away, Colltalers

Heartbreaking scenes of Afghans desperate to leave with the Americans highlight 20 years of a brutal, wasteful, and ultimately useless war, our longest. As arms dealers revel in their business prospects, Biden hasn’t been quite up to speed but it’s what he decides to do now that may make a difference.
Meanwhile, wildfires continue undeterred in California. Their cause, climate change, also endangers the survival of over a billion children worldwide due to water scarcity and vector-borne diseases, a study found. All in time to rain at Greenland’s highest point of its ice sheet for the first time ever.
Let’s start in Peru where President Pedro Castillo is struggling to form his cabinet, amid relentless opposition from the conservative media and far-right politicians. A political neophyte, Castillo ran into trouble when he named well-known progressive professor Héctor Bejar for Foreign Minister. But Bejar’s old statements criticizing the CIA came to light and the fallout was immediate. Castillo replaced him with Oscar Maurtua, a career diplomat.
In Gaza, the Israeli army opened fire Saturday at Palestinians protesting blockade restrictions and eviction raids in the occupied territories. The Naftali Bennet administration, which had blocked millions of dollars destined to needy families of an agreement with Egypt, Qatar, and the U.N., said it’ll lift some economic restrictions and allow the payments under a new arrangement. Some 24 Palestinians were shot and wounded, including a 13-year-old.
In France, the great Josephine Baker will be the first Black woman whose remains will rest at the Panthéon mausoleum in Paris. The Missouri star born in 1906 was “an artist, the first Black international star, a muse of the cubists, a resistance fighter during the second world war in the French army, active alongside Martin Luther King in the civil rights fight,” according to the petition with 38,000 signature requesting the ceremony in November.
Back in the U.S., a Californian judge declared unconstitutional and “unenforceable” Proposition 22, the law calling workers “independent contractors,” a euphemism for lack of benefits or labor guarantees. It was a rare defeat to so-called “gig economy” companies, Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and others that are hard at work to end decades of labor achievements, and have promised to appeal. Besides denying benefits, P 22 prevents workers from organizing.
The weakest, most hypocritical claim that can be made about Afghanistan is that no one saw it coming. By now we should be used to that kind of abrupt collapse of an entire country on one side, and utter lack of accountability from those responsible on the other. Even if most Americans did not know the Taliban had allegedly offered to surrender to the U.S. back in Dec. 2001, consider that the Pentagon, the CIA, and at least four presidents did.
Despite back-to-back media coverage and the despair of thousands who may rightfully come knocking on our doors, we hardly see the faces of those who have everything to do with the enormity of what’s happening. Where are the Pentagon hawks who’ve been advising every president to pursue endless wars? Where are the defense contractors and all politicians who profited from them? That’s when powers-that-be retreat to dark corners.
To no one’s surprise, weapon manufacturers and defense contractor stocks made a lot of money to a lot of people with money to waste. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and others gave fat returns to investors untroubled by the moral implications of investing in the death business. Julian Assange, now in a U.K. prison for helping to expose U.S. war crimes, had a lucid point about that business in 2011: “The goal (of war in Afghanistan) is an endless war, not a successful war.” Even now, when the president announces that the U.S. will still remain active in the country pretty much as it pleases, and given the fact that trillions of dollars and thousands of lives will likely remain unaccounted for all foreseeable future.
The lack of humility and moral clarity is truly staggering. But from the dark, some shining moments. Such as the nine girls from a robotics research team who were rescued from Kabul by Digital Citizen Fund, the team’s parent organization, and are in Qatar. “The girls rescued themselves,” said DCF board member Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown of the prize-winning Afghan Girls Robotic Team, as other team members left behind may also need rescue.
A billion children face “extremely high risk” due to the climate emergency and pollution, a Unicef report found. Kids are “less able to survive extreme weather events,” said executive director Henrietta Fore. The report marks the third anniversary of activist Greta Thunberg’s Friday school strikes.
On Aug. 20, 2018, Thunberg skipped class to protest Sweden’s environmental record in front of the Riksdag. Young activists around the world got inspired and launched a global movement. “We are not just victims, we are also leading the fight,” said Thunberg. “We are in a crisis of crises. A pollution crisis. A climate crisis. A children’s rights crisis,” she wrote in the NYTimes. “We will not allow the world to look away.”
For the first time ever, rain fell in a Greenland region with 10,551 feet in elevation, another consequence of global warming driven by climate change. Glacial melting is increasing both in the Arctic and Antarctica, as global average temperatures have risen almost two degrees Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution. This rain may be the harbinger of floods caused by rising sea waters. So feel free to scream. And do something about it. Cheers WC


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