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Schwarzenegger’s True Lies, September 1, 2004

Report by Anuradha Mittal The young man was carrying a picture of an Iraqi woman holding a frail-looking child. The girl next to him held a placard which read, “Noor Ali Mohammed, 16, Afghanistan.” Along with hundreds others, they were marching down in twos on the sidewalk, from the site of Ground Zero. Others carried pictures of young American soldiers killed in fruitless wars launched by the Bush administration; names of innocent civilians killed in Afghanistan and Iraq; and others carried signs with names of immigrants held in detention in the U.S., victims of the “War on Terrorism.” And they were singing like human rights activists always do . . . ain’t gonna let nothing turn me around, turn me around…” One protestor carried the Constitutional First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” He claimed, “This is the only permit I need.” Another group read aloud their First Amendment Right to free assembly and freedom of speech, which seemed to fall on deaf ears of the NYPD, as they arrested hundreds across the street. Ground Zero had the look of a military base, plastered with hundreds of riot police menacingly armed with batons, guns, and handcuffs. Hundreds of protestors penned off by the barricades, were being “processed” and then taken away in the paddy wagons. Flags with “Expose the Truth Behind 9/11” and posters of Bush with “Guilty” written over his picture, were strewn all around. The pavements were stenciled red, “RNC Out.” The march, organized to protest the U.S. foreign policy that supports repressive regimes through the School of the Americas and sanctions killing of innocent civilians, started around 4 pm. The New York police moved in immediately and arrested hundreds, claiming the march was “illegal.” August 31 actions were unprecedented with over 950 arrests, with the total arrests since the start of the RNC reaching 1,500. But the voice of protestors could still be heard across New York. The Texan delegation faced protestors wearing pig snouts outside their hotels. Others marched for immigrant rights and at noon, the others used street theatre to remind the country of shameful abysmal treatment of prisoners in Iraq. Beth, vice principal of an elementary school, lamented to her husband, Kenny Bruno, an activist with the Earth Rights International, $70 million have been spent on “security for the RNC” while she continues to be outraged by the cuts in education, libraries, health care.” Last evening, as I took the flight back to California, I watched Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Hollywood Governor of California, deliver his speech at the RNC. As he outlined “an immigrants’ dream,” I was outraged by the unfolding of the events during the last few days. As the Republican crowd cheered, Schwarzenegger called America “a land for immigrants where we can come with our dreams and be welcomed.” And I thought of Julia and my other friends with the Coalition of Immokalee Farm Workers (CIW), who I ran into at the Still We Rise march on August 30. Displaced from their lands in Mexico, Haiti, and other Latin American countries, these small family farmers came to America with dreams of a better life. And they found death or incarceration at the border, or slavery in the fields of America. Over the last few years the CIW has helped unveil cases of slavery in America where farm workers have worked in conditions that can be best described as indentured servitude: working 12-13 hours a day, 6 days a week, for $20 a week! Schwarzenegger cheered on that America gives more then anyone else to fight AIDS and disease in Africa. “We are the America that works for democracy and human rights around the world.” Schwarzenegger’s arrogance requires a degree of official amnesia. In relation to the size of its economy, America is the world's smallest donor of foreign aid, with much of this aid given for strategic and economic humanitarian reasons - as in the cases of Israel and Egypt. And the Global Fund, the world's most promising AIDS program has been starved for funding, with the U.S. bearing much of the responsibility. In addition, Washington has placed the requirement on its aid recipients and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) regarding the purchase of generic life-sustaining AIDS drugs, approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), and has provisions in new trade agreements that require poor countries to import brand-name drugs for at least five years before importing cheaper generics or producing their own. And the Governor of a bankrupt California boasted to a Republican audience that America is back. “ Back from the attack on our country. Attack on our economy. Under Bush and Cheney, the economy is moving ahead.” In August the administration shared the good news with the Americans. It revised its figure for this year's budget deficit: $445 billion. This, or so the spin goes, is good news, because the original forecast was even higher – $521 billion. Only in the administration's upside-down economic world could a deficit, $70 billion higher than last year's and $445 billion marking the highest deficit ever, be hailed as progress. Today the national debt is $7.3 trillion with each citizen’s share of this debt being over $25,000. While according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Statistics, the nation’s international deficit in goods and services increased to $55.8 billion in June, from $46.9 billion in May, 2004. The only True Lie in Schwarzenegger’s speech was that America is the “lamp lighting the world.” Indeed, the world sees America lighting up the world, as it recalls its ‘smart bombs’ lighting up the skies of Kabul and Baghdad. America's name is stamped on the missiles, AGM 114-D air-to-ground rocket made by Boeing and Lockheed-Martin, fired by Israel into Gaza and the West Bank - fired from Apache helicopters, made in America, of course. And “No matter what the nationality, what religion, America brings out the best in people,” the Governor claimed. The True Lies of the Governor might have gotten him a standing ovation at the Republican Convention, but have failed to impress the working poor and the immigrant communities in America. The international community can see through his lies. It is the pictures of protestors trying to reclaim the principles this country is built upon, that the global community learns of another America that demands the end of the “Empire.” These patriots are America’s best good will ambassadors that will make America and its communities and families safe. No wonder, it is because of True Lies of the Bush administration, the New York Times, Monday August 30, 2004, acknowledged that the peaceful message of the protestors at the RNC is drowning out the Republican message.