Saturday, April 20, 2013

West, Texas explosions. An act of terror.

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444 retired

We don’t know much about the two people authorities claim are responsible for the Boston bombings.  We do know that two disturbed individuals have so far killed three innocent people and injured close to 200, many of them critically.  Such acts of individual terrorism have to be unconditionally condemned.  As of this writing, one suspect has been killed and the other arrested. Both of the suspects are immigrants from Chechnya, a member of the Russian Federation situated between the Caspian and Black Seas.

In response to the bombings there have already been attacks on Muslims or perceived Muslims.  The Muslim community along with Sikhs, Arabs and people of Middle Eastern descent in general are on edge.  No one knows why these crazed individuals did what they did but already Obama was criticized for not referring to it as an act of “terror” quickly enough.  As a terrorist act, the full force of the state and the numerous laws that have been added to the books since the inception of the “War on Terror” will fall in to place. The response from the state and intelligence forces has been intense and the city of Boston was put on lock down. We are expected to get used to this.

Acts of extreme violence are almost an everyday occurrence in the US.  Mass killings, family annihilations, we read about them constantly.  Placing incidents like Monday’s bombing in the “War on Terror” category though will increase the state’s powers of surveillance and its attacks on civil liberties.  Thrown in with all the patriotic and religious phrases (Obama and most politicians here in the US repeatedly quote the Christian Bible) is the promise that that they will travel to the ends of the earth to find the culprits which means bombing whichever sovereign state is deemed suspect. At times like these, the general public is asked to support the curtailing of our rights in the interests of security; but security for whom?  How can we be more secure by knowing less? 

A friend of mine said she was brought to tears by the events, the thought of a small child dying like that.  She is a good person; I know she is.  But I have never heard her utter one word of sympathy for the victims of the US war on terror, of the countless Iraqi, Afghani and Pakistani children that have died as victims of Obama’s drone war.  She has never commented on the 500,000 or so Iraqi women and children who died due to the US enforced sanctions after Saddam Hussein fell out of favor with his friends in the US Congress and the Pentagon. Then US Secretary of State Madeline Albright said on US television at the time that these deaths were “worth it.”  It is most likely my friend is oblivious to this, has no idea it occurred.  Where’s the outrage?

While I have sympathy with my friend and a certain tolerance for her ignorance of what US foreign policy is and the brutality it inflicts on people, I have none for the politicians of the rich and other mouthpieces of capitalism who are orchestrators of it when in response to the Boston bombings they talk of us all being one family and how horrified they are etc. When it comes to violence and brutality, the US ruling class excels.  I am not talking about the victims of US foreign policy alone. At the same time as the Boston events, an even more violent and destructive event took place in West Texas when a deadly explosion erupted at a fertilizer plant.  As of Friday afternoon according to the Huff Post, there are 14 deaths and 60 people unaccounted for and a neighborhood has been flattened. This will be described as an accident. But it was not an accident.  The war against workers and the lack of regulation on industrial activity and business are both greater in Texas than most other states, we might call it a “free” state in the sense that capital is fairly  “free” of government and Union interference.  The fertilizer plant, (we all know fertilizer can be used in bomb making) was last inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 1985.  1985!  That’s over a quarter century ago. Officials at the plant had previously told the Environmental Protection Agency and local authorities that the factory presented no risk of explosion, according to the Dallas Morning News.

When I was still at work and a Union steward I would often make the point at our safety meetings that were obligatory events aimed at covering the bosses’ ass, that OSHA has 10 investigators for 2 million workplaces.  I just threw these numbers out to make a point as anyone that has called OSHA for a safety violation knows no one will be able to come out before the job is finished. OSHA comes out after workers have been killed.

But I wasn’t far wrong.  OSHA increasingly lacks the manpower to perform as many on-site inspections as it used to.” , the Washington Post points out on Friday and that there has been a steady decline in staff.  (see graph).  Government agencies are never meant to ensure worker safety.  OSHA was introduced due to pressure from environmental groups and Unions representing workers in the oil and chemical industries like OCAW, the Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers’ Union.  OSHA was opposed by the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufactures.  These organizations are composed of individuals and led by very powerful members of the capitalist class---these prominent capitalists are terrorists. To their shame but as expected, many of the top leaders of the AFL-CIO also did nothing to get such legislation passed. In 1985, "OSHA fined the West, Texas facility in question just $30 “for a serious violation for storage of anhydrous ammonia.” according to the Wash Post adding that "The maximum fine for a serious violation is $7,000." This gives us some idea of how serious the authorities take safety when it comes to workers and our communities.

Today there are 2200 OSHA inspectors for 8 million workplaces this is a conscious decision by human beings, it is not an accident these figures are the way they are. In addition, within many of our communities (working class and poor) there are businesses that work with or produce extremely hazardous material. We are never informed about these.

The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was also not an accident. 
The Minerals Management Service, the agency of the Interior Department that was supposed to regulate deep water drilling left the regulation up to the industry itself.. The New York Times pointed at the time that an Interior Dept. investigation revealed “Federal regulators responsible for oversight of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico allowed industry officials several years ago to fill in their own inspection reports in pencil — and then turned them over to the regulators, who traced over them in pen before submitting the reports to the agency, according to an inspector general’s report to be released this week. The report said that investigators "could not discern if any fraudulent alterations were present on these forms."

These are just a couple of examples of the violence inflicted on the US population by capitalism and its adherents.  The death and destruction from Katrina and other disasters are disasters brought about by market forces rather than so-called "natural" ones.  Then there are the thousands of injuries and deaths in the workplaces and the thousands who die from inadequate health care.  These are the product of conscious decisions.  There will be no massive manhunt for the individuals responsible for the BP spill and the deaths of 11 workers and the communities destroyed by this criminal negligence.  No one is in prison for a conscious decision that caused untold environmental damage.  There will be no 24/7 media coverage about the lies the fertilizer plant bosses told OSHA and their conscious decision to put their employees and their community at risk. There will be no promises to the victim’s families of hunting those responsible to the ends of the earth to make them pay.

I am not laying blame here on OSHA inspectors, who, like social workers are so overwhelmed they can’t possibly protect the lives of young children.  They are overwhelmed because the resources they need are refused them.  I am merely pointing out that the public display of horror and sympathy by government officials and the 1%’s media at an act of terrorism by foreign nationals doesn’t merit much respect when we consider the terrorism waged on US workers by these same forces.

There is no doubt that there are individuals like those responsible for the two disasters I raise here who are terrorists as much as these two young men that carried out the Boston bombing are, assuming the individuals in question are the perpetrators. It goes beyond individuals though. Inequality in the US is at an all time high. The gap between the rich and the poor, the CEO’s and bankers, has become a chasm and will widen as US capitalism is forced to spend more and more maintaining its influence in the world and putting its own working class on rations to pay for it.

As the previous blog points out, the massive police and military presence used in Boston to go after a couple of teenager bombers is but a dress rehearsal for the future, getting the US population used to this increased police repression in the interests of security.  Our Unions, our democratic rights, our struggle against racism and equality, all were met by fierce repression from the state and the US ruling class recognizes that workers will not be driven to pre-1930’s conditions without a fight.

As US workers rise to oppose capitalism’s austerity agenda we will see the “terrorism” label and so-called terrorist laws applied more often domestically against workers on strike, and youth that protest in the streets and universities. As we pointed out in a previous blog, there will be an estimated 20,000 drones in the skies above US cities in the next decade; these are part of the weaponry aimed at suppressing the working class offensive that lies ahead.  The brutal repression and violence used against the Occupy Movement was but a dress rehearsal for the future.

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