Bush’s Last Speech to the UN (yes, it really is ending!)

If you want confirmation that the US empire is crumbling, check out Bush’s speech to the UN General Assembly today.

Better yet, compare it to the talk he gave in 2002, when he bluntly informed the world that he would invade Iraq with or without authorization from the Security Council. The next year, Bush was still waxing delirious about how “a transformed Middle East would benefit the entire world.”

Today, the best he could come up with was: “In Iraq, the fight has been difficult, but daily life has improved dramatically over the past 20 months.” In other words, after four years of US occupation. Bush can’t even report that Iraqis feel safer than they did under the notoriously brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. That’s because levels of armed violence, forced displacement, poverty, and social chaos are still far higher than they were before Bush decided that Iraqis were in need of liberation.

For much of the speech Bush stuck to his favorite topic: the “global movement of violent extremists.” Of course, everyone from Osama bin Laden to the CIA knows that such movements have been vastly strengthened since Bush turned Iraq into one big terrorist recruiting ground and training camp.

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25th Anniversary Video Countdown: MADRE in El Salvador 1988

Last week, we announced that we will be posting a regular series of videos, tracking MADRE’s history over the past twenty-five years.  It’s been awesome getting the chance to sift through our archives to pick videos for this series, and I hope you’re excited for what’s yet to come.

Here’s our next installment, from a short film by Barbara Groth, a two-minute clip that traces the origins of the name “MADRE” from the organization’s roots in Nicaragua.  You’ll also hear Digna Sanchez, then a member of MADRE’s board, talk about our work in El Salvador, where women faced death threats and government repression for their involvement in human rights movements.

25th Anniversary Video Countdown: “Tell Them For Us” 1985

It’s been twenty-five years since MADRE was founded.  We wanted to take the opportunity to look back over our history and reflect on the memories, achievements and challenges shared by MADRE and our sister organizations.  Every week—until our 25th anniversary celebration on November 10—we plan to share with you a short video clip of a moment in the organization’s past.

Below is the first entry in this series: an excerpt from a longer video produced in 1985, documenting a trip taken by MADRE delegates to Nicaragua.  The title of the film, “Tell Them for Us,” comes from a repeated refrain heard by the visiting women from the US.  As they heard people in Nicaragua tell stories of facing violence and displacement at the hands of the Contras, they were also charged with the responsibility to share what they heard with people in the US—whose Reagan-led government funded these abuses.

(Keep an eye out for a glimpse of one of MADRE’s earliest and longest-standing partners, Myrna Cunningham!)

Stock Market Down, Weapons Sales Up

As a parting gift to humanity, the Bush Administration is unloading another $32 billion in weapons and military equipment on the people of the world. That’s nearly triple what US arms sales totaled in 2005.

The single best quote from The New York Times article that brought us this story?  “This is not about being gun-runners.” So says Bruce S. Lemkin of the US Air Force, who is coordinating some of the biggest deals. So why does it seem that this is about being gun-runners?

For one thing, the US has long been the world’s biggest arms dealer, supplying everything from complex weapons systems to the types of small arms that cause 90 percent of the world’s civilian casualties.

For another, the weapons sector (known in more polite company as the defense industry), is one of the few things the US economy still has going for it. Most everything else the country once produced is now made in Mexico, China or beyond. And now that the US finance sector has tanked, weapons manufacturing is one of the country’s few remaining areas of comparative advantage in the global economy.

Of course, a weapon is like a (bad) work of art. Once you release it into the world, you don’t get to control how it is used. And it lives on for a long, long time. Just ask the people of Guatemala, who are still being shot dead with guns sold decades ago to a different government for a different purpose. That government is long gone and people barely remember the rationale for that arms sale. Only the killings are memorable—and ongoing.

“Our 36-year civil war ended in 1996, but 25 people are killed or seriously injured every day by gunshots, in a country of just 12 million people,” said Mayda de León, a researcher with the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA).

Happy Anniversary to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (and Many More…)

Just this past weekend, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We take this opportunity to honor the decades of advocacy by Indigenous Peoples that preceded this achievement. We also recognize that there is still much to be done to bring the vision of that Declaration to life. The Declaration imagines an alternative world, integrating sustainable agriculture, preservation of biodiversity, and respect for Indigenous Peoples' rights and all human rights—including women's rights.

MADRE has taken a step to make the principles of the Declaration a reality. With our sister organization, Umoja, an Indigenous Samburu women-run village in Kenya, we have launched the Kenya Women's Water Tap. This project aims to supply reliable and safe drinking water for Umoja and the surrounding communities. Watch the video below, and see how MADRE went about launching this project to meet the needs of the women of Umoja and uphold the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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Haiti’s Unnatural Disaster

Gonaive_Rue_Christophe
 We’ve been doing all we can this week to get emergency support to our partner organizations in Haiti.

One of the most harrowing parts of the disaster is that rescue workers cannot reach people in need. Haiti’s third-largest city, Gonaives, is under water right now. Many are huddled on rooftops with what few possessions they have left. They are waiting for rescue, but relief workers are nowhere in sight.

We need to get people off of rooftops and into shelters. Longer-term, we need to recognize that this is not a natural disaster. The two biggest reasons for the shocking death toll in Haiti are deforestation (which leads to flash flooding) and lack of civic disaster planning and response. Both are consequences of the fact that Haiti has no functional government. US-led policies, like the 2004 overthrow of Haiti’s only democratically-elected president, have kept the country impoverished and virtually ungoverned.

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More Information about Haiti in the Wake of the Hurricanes

Yesterday, I had the chance to go on GRITtv with Laura Flanders, to talk about the situation in Haiti after the hurricanes and how we can support relief efforts. You can watch the video below. Laura Flanders, also a MADRE board member, points out much of the media's failure to recognize the severity of these storms as they have impacted Haiti and other places in the Caribbean. Today, we find out that the death toll in Haiti is said to have risen above 1,000 people and five million people are without food, water or shelter.

Haiti Left Reeling by Four Storms in a Row; You Can Support Local Organizations

(c) KOFAVIV In the past month, Haiti has been slammed by four severe storms, and this weekend the most recent, Hurricane Ike, took the lives of more than 50 people.  Over 600 people have been killed in less than four weeks by the ravages of these storms and hurricanes, and nearly one million are now at risk in the aftermath.  

The dangers do not disappear when the storms leave: many people have been left homeless and without access to drinkable water, food, and other basic necessities.  In one area, the town of Gonaives, some 200,000 people have been left without food or water for as many as four days.

In response, MADRE has joined with our long-time partners to launch an emergency campaign: KOFAVIV, a women’s support group in Port-au-Prince, and Zanmi Lasante, a community clinic serving people in rural areas without access to medical services.  Our partners are already on the ground and working with vulnerable populations.  They are able to mobilize quickly and use their knowledge of the lay of the land to deliver services effectively.

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Using Art to Create Change in Peru

Mónica Carrillo is a MADRE partner and a leader of LUNDU, a youth organization in Peru.  She stopped by the office today, and we had a chance to sit down with her to talk about her work with Afro-Peruvian youth, using art to create a political message and to combat racial discrimination.  She describes some of these activities in this video.  What’s more, she’s an amazing spoken-word poet, and she performs one of her pieces at the end of the video.  The English translation of her poem is included below.

Thank you, Mónica, for helping us to get this blog off to a great start!  For more information about Mónica and about MADRE’s work with LUNDU, click here.

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Welcome to the first entry of myMADRE, the MADRE blog!

VS portrait copyright Harold Levine
 Over the past twenty-five years, MADRE has worked to demand rights, resources and results for women and families worldwide.  Our goal has never been to save the world, but to re-invent it on a stronger foundation. We need a world where human rights are a reality for all women and families. And to build that world, we need you.

That’s why we’ve always worked to offer unique opportunities to learn about the work of MADRE and our sister organizations around the world.  In 1984, we inaugurated MADRE Speaks, a print newsletter for our members.  Years later, our e-newsletter provided new avenues for online education and action. Today, we are excited to move into a new phase in our conversation with you, through myMADRE.

This blog will be a space for learning and exchange.  In it, you will hear the perspectives of those who are MADRE: our staff, our sister organizations, our partners.  MADRE’s strength comes from our belief that working together, we can make a real difference. To  that end, we’ve developed an internationally recognized model of human rights in action. The MADRE model encompasses everything from meeting urgent needs for food and medicine in the wake of disasters like hurricanes, to giving women the training they need to create long-term change in their communities and around the world. 

For a glimpse of what blogging by MADRE looks like, you can visit our blog on climate change, launched in December 2007 at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Bali, Indonesia.  You can expect more on this topic and on other issues that matter to you in myMADRE.

We look forward to sharing our challenges and achievements with you.

Sincerely,

Vivian Stromberg
Executive Director

Picture credit: Harold Levine