Gagging protest

Several recent events point to a sharp escalation of the Bush administration’s drive to silence growing opposition to its doctrine of unilateral, preemptive war:

Item – Police fire concussion grenades and beanbag bullets at demonstrators who are protesting war profiteering by two shipping companies at the Port of Oakland, Calif., in the most violent assault yet on peaceful protesters. Many are injured, including nine members of the dockworkers union.

Item – In a veiled warning that journalists must fit the needs of U.S. propaganda, three reporters are killed in Baghdad when U.S. projectiles hit the Palestine Hotel and the offices of al-Jazeera, the Arab-language television network.

Item – When Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), a decorated Vietnam war veteran, told a crowd in New Hampshire that “regime change” is needed in Washington, Marc Racicot, the ultra-right GOP attack dog, leaped on him with fangs bared. Racicot accused Kerry of crossing “a grave line when the lives of Americas sons and daughters are at stake,” stopping just short of accusing him of being a traitor.

Item – Thousands of legal immigrants are caught in limbo, ordered to report to INS, not knowing if they will be immediately deported. Many are being detained without criminal charges.

Item – Not satisfied with the police state powers given him in the USA PATRIOT Act, Attorney General John Ashcroft is seeking Patriot Act II which grants the federal government even more sweeping powers of surveillance and mass detention.

These – and there are more – add up to a menacing drive to intimidate and stamp out the broad-based movements against the policies of the Bush Administration. It is another reason to demand a halt to the shooting and bombing in Iraq.

As long as U.S. troops are in harm’s way, the Bush gang will use their plight as a cover to whip up a climate of fear and to attack our most precious democratic rights.

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Attacks on Cuba

The Bush administration took another step in its effort to remake the world on March 24 when the Office of Foreign Office Control (OFOC), the Treasury Department agency charged with enforcing restrictions on travel to Cuba, issued new regulations.

The most worrisome change in the regulations is the elimination of the “people-to-people” exchanges that have permitted groups of teachers, university alumni or people interested in Cuban art or culture, etc., to travel as a group, sponsored by a licensed organization in order to meet with Cuban citizens. Under the new regulations, OFAC will only grant licenses for group travel that is related to “academic coursework.”

As is the case with those who bomb the Iraqi people in order to liberate them, the new regulations are ballyhooed as an “Initiative for a New Cuba” aimed at “encouraging freedom in Cuba” and “helping to build Cuban civil society.”

The new regulations, described by OFAC as an “expansion of support for the Cuban people and humanitarian programs,” are, in reality, intended to increase support for opposition groups in Cuba. by calling them “humanitarian programs,” the new regulations allow for the licensing of “educational training within Cuba and elsewhere.”

The emphasis on working with “independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy,” is thinly veiled rhetoric meant to increase opposition to the government.

These restrictions, which go into effect immediately, are but the latest in a long series of attempts by the U.S. government to undo the Cuban Revolution – efforts that began in earnest with the CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, imposition of a U.S. blockade in 1963 and several attempts on the life of Fidel Castro.

None have succeeded and this effort will fail, too. But the battle is not just one for the Cuban people. It is our government that is responsible for this latest outrage and it is our responsibility to help correct it. It’s called international solidarity.