Circles Robinson Online

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Location: Havana, Cuba

is a blog to give a fresh angle on a fascinating and beautiful Caribbean Island country that, despite being relatively small and with only 11 million people, has been a major player in American and world politics for a half century. I also suggest you try

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The other NAM Heads for Cuba

by Circles Robinson

When most people in the United States think of NAM, they are thinking Vietnam. However, there is another NAM, the Non-Aligned Movement, comprised of 116 underdeveloped nations.

NAM held its first Summit of Heads of State in 1961 and holds its 14th in Havana, Cuba this September.

The organization, which began by trying to walk the line between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, has gained new impetus as a counterbalance to the US and its wealthy allies attempts to reshape the world using military might and economic pressure as their double-edged sword.

The task is daunting since most of the NAM member countries are suffering from the deteriorating world economy, in part from skyrocketing oil prices (nearing $80 dollars a barrel) and the direct or indirect effects of US led military adventures. Epidemics, led by HIV-AIDS, are battering dozens of the movements members and natural disasters have also recently hit member-countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Guatemala and Bolivia with severity.

Four NAM member states, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon are currently engulfed in major invasions and occupations by the United States or its chief ally Israel. The war in the Middle East is also on the verge of spilling over to members Syria and Iran.

North Korea, another NAM member country, is facing economic warfare from the wealthy countries who want to maintain a monopoly on nuclear capability for themselves or their client states.

As the Non-Aligned Movement chairmanship shifts in September from Malaysia to Cuba, the island will take the helm with a global situation quite different from 1979-1982 when it last led the movement and when Cuba’s economy was closely tied to the USSR and the Socialist Bloc Eastern European countries.

Some of the major issues likely to draw the attention of the NAM members under the leadership of Fidel Castro are: the double-standard US “war on terror” which singles out countries that don’t share it’s vision of the world; the search for energy alternatives and economic policies promoting development instead of further impoverishment; and the role of education, culture and healthcare in building a more just world.

In 2003, Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, the NAM chair from 2000-2003, warned that the movement's future depended on its response to global challenges. He called on the NAM to take stronger resolutions on key issues.

In May, 2006 the NAM foreign minister’s meeting in Malaysia declared that terrorism "should not be equated with the legitimate struggle of people's under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation," in a little veiled reference to the US and its allies.

NAM, under Malaysian leadership (2003-2006), has also opposed the categorization of “good and evil” countries “based on unilateral and unjustified criteria,” and the adoption of the Bush doctrine of preemptive attacks.

During Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s last visit to the island, Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon praised Malaysia’s leadership for making the movement more dynamic and reaffirming its determination to democratize international relations and work to make people’s hopes for independence and development a reality.

The Non-Aligned Movement is made up predominantly by almost all African, Middle Eastern, South Asia and Southeast Asian countries, and a majority of Latin American and Caribbean nations.

In September, Cuba will become the second NAM member state to twice chair the movement for a three-year period; the first was Yugoslavia. Other countries having led the movement are Egypt, Zambia, Algeria, Sri Lanka, India, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Colombia, South Africa, and Malaysia.

The summit declarations and efforts of the movement receive little or no attention in the mainstream corporate media, despite NAM representing over half the world’s population.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Fireworks at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

by Circles Robinson

From every angle you look at it, the US Guantanamo Naval Base and offshore detention center, located on occupied Cuban territory, would appear to be an embarrassment and permanent contradiction to the principles of law and justice defended by Washington. However, there appears to be another side to the story.

The world of the GIs and their families at Gitmo, as they fondly call it, seems like a Disney fantasy.

The base newspaper, the 12-page Guantanamo Gazette, presents a land of well manicured lawns, smiling kids, marriages, parties, promotions, abundant leisure time, yard sales and succulent awards dinners with immaculately white-clad commanding officers.

Take the July 7 edition for example. The front page is filled with Independence Day fireworks and pages five and six tell of scavenger hunts, one-pitch softball and dodge ball tournaments, a sailing regatta, kids carnival and a rock concert. There’s news about a nice art show on page three. A feature article on page four reports on the recent visit of a female comedy group with their “4 the Boyz” show.

One of the comedians, on a repeat performance, told the Gazette she “cherishes her trips to Guantanamo because it changes her perception of the base.” The entertainer adds, “It’s one thing seeing this base from the media perspective and it’s another being here in person. The lifestyle is wonderful. Gitmo has a lot to offer.”

The Independence Day celebrations were topped off by the availability of two new US chain products. The Gazette tells its readers: “As of July 4th there is more than patrol boats and the best Navy on the planet at Guantanamo Bay. Breyers Ice Cream and Starbucks Coffee are now available at MWR’s Caribbean Coffee and Cream Internet cafe in the Bay View food complex, a new hotspot that is sure to be a great meeting and greeting place for all base residents.”

Another 4 the Boyz comedian said: “I won’t hesitate to return to Gitmo in the future. I love it down here and I will be honored to perform here again.”

Ironically, as the rest of Cuba begins a long summer of recreational and cultural activities, the base is also preparing for a fantastic school vacation for SOME of its younger residents. The Oasis Teen Center has scheduled computer building and check-ups, picnics, swimming parties, pool tournaments, horse shoes, miniature golf, races, bowling, dances and approved US movies.

The Guantanamo Gazette even has its classified ads section where one can buy used fishing gear, near-new furniture or find out where the almost daily yard sale is located. Worship gatherings from ten different religions are also listed.

The spectacular fireworks on the 4th of July served a double purpose. While the base residents living outside of the cages enjoyed the beautiful shapes and colors, those shackled and enclosed got another sound bite of the bombs that hit Afghanistan when the US attacked in 2001, shortly before their capture and transfer from arid lands to what some see as a tropical paradise, and others as a preview of hell.

One more article in the Gazette plays down the recent Supreme Court ruling against holding the military trials ordered by the White House. It makes it clear that the court said nothing about the legality of holding the prisoners in state of eternal limbo.

Reading the Guantanamo Gazette one gets the feeling that the soldiers and their families are either totally calloused to the crimes being committed in their midst or they learned World War II lessons about turning their cheek and ignoring what’s happening to one’s victims or neighbors.

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