Friday, June 23, 2006

The Politics of Fear and Why We Must Eradicate War

For some of you who will read this, I am preaching to the choir. For others, this may be shocking news. And finally, there are many who believe that war is absolutely necessary in order to preserve our safety and way of life.

No one is right or wrong; it is the way we perceive the world and our personal perception of reality. My perception of reality is that war only breeds a greater division of people who, in reality, must be working together if we are going to save the planet we live on. The sooner we are able to value each person without creating a bias based on race, color, religion, culture or country-of-origin, the sooner we can begin healthy dialogs toward world change.

Something I have learned through the creation of my vanilla business and the subsequent International Tropical Farmers Network, is that one white woman, in the United States who is not a farmer, who has earned no money from working with the farmers, but who values those who work so hard for our benefit, can make a significant difference, think of what we can do as a group! The fact that I have a life threatening disease and am in active treatment has not stopped me from my work. In fact, the cancer has acted as a catalyst toward bringing the farmers I work with closer together. If I care enough about them and what they do, they now feel a responsibility to continue my legacy and to support one another in creating greater opportunities for personal empowerment in their work. I am seeing major change; I am attempting to do something that no one, to date, has felt important enough to actively jump in and do something about it.

Find your passion and breathe it to life. It is a small gift to give to a world in need and a great gift to your children, grandchildren, and others who deserve a healthier planet!

The V.Q.

Published on Wednesday, June 21, 2006 by Their Barbarism, and Ours
by Norman Solomon

The Baghdad bureau chief of the New York Times could not have been any clearer.
"The story really takes us back into the 8th century, a truly barbaric world," John Burns said. He was speaking Tuesday night on the PBS "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," describing what happened to two U.S. soldiers whose bodies had just been found. Evidently they were victims of atrocities, and no one should doubt in the slightest that the words of horror used by Burns to describe the "barbaric murders" were totally appropriate.

The problem is that Burns and his mass-media colleagues don't talk that way when the cruelties are inflicted by the U.S. military -- as if dropping bombs on civilians from thousands of feet in the air is a civilized way to terrorize and kill.
When journalists maintain a flagrant double standard in their language -- allowing themselves appropriate moral outrage when Americans suffer but tiptoeing around what is suffered by victims of the U.S. military -- the media window on the world is tinted a dark red-white-and-blue, and the overall result is more flackery than journalism.

Based on the available evidence from Abu Ghraib to Afghanistan to Guantanamo, anyone who claims that U.S. foreign policy does not include torture is disingenuous or deluded.

Reporters for the New York Times and other big U.S. media outlets would not dream of publicly describing what American firepower does to Iraqi civilians as "barbaric."
An eyewitness account from American author Rahul Mahajan, during the U.S. attack on Fallujah in April 2004, said: "During the course of roughly four hours at a small clinic in Fallujah, I saw perhaps a dozen wounded brought in. Among them was a young woman, 18 years old, shot in the head. She was having a seizure and foaming at the mouth when they brought her in; doctors did not expect her to survive the night. Another likely terminal case was a young boy with massive internal bleeding."
Hundreds of civilians died in that attack on Fallujah, and many more lost their lives when U.S. troops attacked the city again seven months later. Since then, the U.S. air war has escalated in Iraq, often putting urban neighborhoods in the cross hairs.

Days ago, in mid-June, independent U.S. journalist Dahr Jamail tells us, "a hospital source in Fallujah reported that eight Iraqis, some of whom were women and children from the same family, were killed and six wounded when U.S. warplanes bombed a home in the northeastern Ibrahim Bin Ali district of the city."
We hear that of course the U.S. tries to avoid killing civilians -- as if that makes killing them okay. But the slaughter from the air and from other U.S. military actions is a certain result of the occupiers' war. (What would we say if, in our own community, the police force killed shoppers every day by spraying blocks of stores with machine-gun fire -- while explaining that the action was justifiable because no innocents were targeted and their deaths were an unfortunate necessity in the war on crime?)

Meanwhile, routinely absent from the U.S. media's war coverage is the context: an invasion and occupation fundamentally based on deception.
"The Bush strategy for victory is about to begin," author Beau Grosscup said Tuesday. "U.S. and Iraqi forces have surrounded the city of Ramadi. Food and water have been cut off. Next is the 'Shock and Awe' strategic bombing of the city, to be followed by 'mop-up' operations: ground troops, snipers and aerial 'support.'"
Grosscup, a professor of international relations at California State University in Chico, added: "It is the hallowed 'Fallujah' model, intended to bring 'stability' by flattening the city with civilian death and destruction. It is a 'clean' way to victory, one supported by Rep. Jack Murtha, who would withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq but continue to engage the 'enemy' from far away and from 15,000 to 30,000 feet above with air power. By October 2004, this 'clean war' had killed close to 100,000 Iraqi civilians and thousands more since. But, as any enthusiast of strategic bombing would say, it is the price of victory and somebody has to make the ultimate sacrifice. Terror from the skies, anyone?"
Without maintaining a single and consistent moral standard in their work, journalists -- no matter how brave, skilled or hardworking -- end up prostituting their talents in the service of a war machine.

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the author of "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." E-mail to:

Friday, June 09, 2006


We need your help to get Mariam Mukalazi from the countryside of Uganda and Norma Vallejo from a a rural agricultural city in Veracruz, Mexico, to the Women Leaders of the World cohort July 22 - 30, 2006 sponsored by the Global Women's Leadership Network (GWLN) and the Leavey School of Business in Santa Clara, California. These two women are natural leaders dedicated to assisting indigenous, poor, and abused women in their countries to become independent business women.

The Global Women's Leadership Network ( a remarkable group, providing training and a network of resources for women who are already leaders to be able to fulfill their goals in affecting change. The Mission of the GWLN and the Leavy School of Business at Santa Clara University includes: Unleashing the world's greatest untapped source of leadership

"Today's economic, social, political, technological, spiritual, and environmental challenges demand new levels of creativity, talent, and innovation. The Global Women's Leadership Network at Santa Clara University is working to meet this demand by building an international network of women leaders who dare to transform the future of their organizations, communities, and the world.

"The Global Women's Leadership Network provides programs that cultivate powerful international leaders and establish worldwide connections that will support their success. Through these women, we touch the lives of many more."

As an alumni of the inaugural program, I speak from firsthand experience about how the network of resources provided through the GWLN has assisted me in organizing and uniting tens of thousands of tropical farmers, most of whom are vanilla producers, and working with them to create greater opportunities for their lives and to bring change to the ways that tropical commodities are traded.

Part of my vision has been to establish women's collectives in countries where vanilla is grown as a way to employ women who otherwise have few, if any, personal resources, independence, or means of support. The most effective way to do this was to identify women leaders who could implement this vision and to create model programs that can then be replicated in other regions of their country or even otehr countries. By empowering women by creating meaningful work and an income to sustain themselves and their children, their self-esteem will increase. This, in turn, will be passed along to their children who will hopefully have an opportunity for an education. The health of the tropics brings health to us all.

Mariam Mukalazi is a Muganda woman from the Lake Victoria region of Uganda. She has two boys, Faisal, who is six and Sula, who is four. She fled an abusive marriage but the tribal elders forced her to return home. Her husband then harmed the boys and nearly killed her. She now lives in a small home in the countryside and represents the Yeboah Farmers, a group of farmers throughout a large region of Uganda. She earns $60 a month to support herself and two boys.

A couple of years ago Mariam organized over 200 women at her church in Kampala. Some of the women fled the war and violence in Northwestern Uganda. This region is affected by the Darfur war in Sudan, the remnants of the terrible genocide in Rwanda, and the war in the Congo. Others are widows or fled abusive marriages. Many have AIDS and most have children. These women live in a treeless compound of small houses with no electricity or running water. Open sewers surround the property. Mariam started a program where the women could be of emotional support to one another, make crafts, and get counseling.

Mariam and I met over the Internet. I knew immediately that she has strong leadership qualities. I saw her through the forced return to the home of her husband and helped to convince her to flee. Despite poverty and bouts of malaria, Mariam has maintained her goal for a better life, not only for herself and her sons, but for the women of Uganda.

When Mariam was nominated to be part of the WLW, she was asked what she could do to raise money toward her scholarship. She spoke with the women's group and her pastor and they agreed to put on a program of music and dance, and to sell crafts and food. She so much wanted the training that she was also willing to sell her four cows that she had recently inherited from her grandmother.

The GWLN women told her, "Don't Sell the Cows!" Instead, we have created a way that people may buy shares of Mariam's cows to bring her to the conference.

Norma Vallejo grew up in Papantla, Veracruz. Her father was originally from Michoacan and came with his family to California during World War II to work in the fields as all the American field workers were drafted into the war. He chose to stay here to complete high school, learned fluent English, returned to Mexico and went to college, and began life in Mexico City working for RCA. He realized that his true passion was farming, so he and his family moved to Veracruz where they have had a farm with dairy cattle, a cheese business and they also grow vanilla and chili. Norma is a sociologist who has lived in Mexico City for decades. She has a grown daughter in Germany and she speaks fluent German as well. She has worked in the corporate world as a sociologist and has organized many women's groups. Now that her father is in his 70s Norma is moving back to the countryside to run her father's farm.

It has been her dream to work with the Indigenous women, so she readily agreed when I approached her about heading up a women's collective where the women would make vanilla ornaments and other value-added products that could be sold through Fair Trade channels in the US and Europe and also to the tourist market in Mexico.

Our goal is to have both Mariam and Norma at the WLW cohort because the training is so exceptional. It also makes it possible for the three of us to work as a team to design the women's programs in Mexico and Uganda and to get funding in place. The WLW training is very intensive and includes world-class executive training. The cost of the program, which includes food and lodging, is $6500. We depend on donations to make this possible.

This Spring I mentored a high school senior in Walnut Creek who did her senior paper on vanilla. For her community service project she threw a bake sale. Unfortunately, it was supposed to be on the big sports day of the year at her school, and everything was rained out! Nevertheless, she raised over $200 for Norma and Mariam.

We are holding a fundraiser June 19th in Palo Alto, California. If you live in the area and would like to attend the fund raiser, please go to You will see the invitation posted there. There will be a raffle (with some of our gift baskets), a silent auction to bid on some great events and services, ( go here to see the auction items; new items posted daily: refreshments and presentations by some of the 2005 attendees of the WLW. I will be presenting a slide show of our ITFN group and projects.

If you don't live in the area but would like to contribute to bringing Mariam and Norma to the WLW cohort, follow this link:

Any assistance you can provide will be greatly valued, not only by Mariam and Norma, but by hundreds of women in Mexico and Uganda who will benefit from their training and assistance. Together we can make a difference!!

To buy shares in Mariam's cows, cut and paste this link in your browser: