poloticsThis Week in Comparative History

Federales in Oaxaca, Martial Law in the US….
A few snapshots of random connections over the past few days

Oaxaca has now reached a tipping point, forcing outgoing Mexican president Vicente Fox to send federal police to take control of the barricaded city. With one more month to go in office, and the looming potential for civil unrest as Felipe Calderon gets sworn in, Fox has decided to move on the successful coalition of dissatisfied Mexican citizens.

At the same time, the story became major international news after a NY Indymedia journalist was shot and killed during an incident at the barricades of the city. Brad Will died from wounds to the abdomen sustained from armed Mexican police. With Dia de los Muertos approaching, Ward will be mourned and celebrated by a community of activists and friends he knew, and those who sympathize with the democratic rights of the people of Oaxaca.

Frank Morales reports that President Bush recently signed the “John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007” into effect on October 17. Buried deep in that act, which ups the Pentagon budget to over a whopping $500+ billion, Section 333 gives the standing president power to “employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of (“refuse” or “fail” in) maintaining public order, “in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.”

Simply put, this new law repeals the Posse Comitatus Act, which in 1878 outlawed US military actions against American people on US land. Not that this has mattered much over the years as State Governors have had no qualms calling in the National Guard to squelch massive protests. Still, the language now clearly states that the US government can bypass state and city governments and put down any unrest they deem worthy.

Along with this underreported item, the current administration has paid KBR (Kellog, Brown, & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton) $385 million to build detention centers across the country in the next five years. With a high-security fence being built on the US southern boarder, comparative details begin to cause unease among dissenting US citizens, as well as people of color, people with different sexual preferences, etc.

Meanwhile in Iraq, the death toll continues to mount for the US Military occupation forces. In a surreal moment, Lynne Cheney took CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to task over CNN’s running of “terrorist propaganda.” She specifically asked Blitzer if he wanted “America to win?” This question was answered, oddly, by David Letterman when Fox News celebrity Bill O’Reilly asked the same question.

CNN aired tapes of Iraqi insurgents sniping US soldiers. Blitzer called it “reporting the news. This is what we do… We make no apologies for showing it.”

Yesterday, in theaters across the country, South African history came to mainstream USA. Catch a Fire tells the story of Patrick Chamusso, an apolitical South African family man who accidentally becomes a prime suspect in a power plant bombing. Based on true events, Chamusso survives torture, intimidation, and humiliation to become the Apartheid Government’s worst nightmare: a “terrorist” from the African National Congress (ANC).

The pivotal moment for Chamusso occurs when his commander tells the ANC trainees that they may die for the freedom of their family. The trainees begin to sing a militant song, and, at first hesitant, Chamusso begins to sing and dance. We then see firsthand the ANC’s “terrorist” tactics: document forgery, bombings, assassination attempts, and pride through song and culture.

According to Lynne Cheney, Catch a Fire could well prove to be another example of “terrorist propaganda.” Michael Collins, a movie about the Irish Republican Army’s “terrorist” battle for independence could fit in there as well, showing many creative ways to assassinate occupying forces.

Which brings us back to looming martial law in Oaxaca, and outright power-grabbing from the White House….