Friday, November 30, 2007
Plan Colombia, the $5,000,000,000 drug war boondoggle cooked up in 1999 by Bill Clinton and then-Colombian president Andres Pastrana and subsequently transmographied into a War on Terror adjunct by George Bush and Alvaro Uribe brought U.S. troops, fleets of helicopter gun ships, spray planes spewing poisons, and a vast array of human rights abuses to that troubled Latin American country. It also made Colombia the third largest recipient of Washington's foreign aid and the number one repository of U.S. military aid in the western hemisphere.
But Plan Colombia failed to stem the flood of cocaine pouring across U.S. borders nor has it even eradicated much Colombian coca acreage - 144,000 hectares continue to thrive under coca cultivation in Colombia concedes the U.S. State Department's Office of International Narcotics Enforcement in its 2006 annual report, and while spraying massive doses of glysophate did force some farmers out of business, production simply moved south, spreading throughout the Andean region.
Indeed, the price of cocaine on U.S. streets dipped slightly last year and supply and quality remained constant, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. For the first time in five years, the DEA registered an increase in first time users. 90% of the cocaine confiscated in the U.S. last year continues to be Colombian-based.
Despite the abysmal results, the U.S. Congress has again budgeted $367,000,000 for Plan Colombia in 2008 although some congressional reps appear to be tiring of fighting this losing war and are beginning to call for an exit strategy. With the Democrats in titular control of both houses, doubts about Plan Colombia forced consideration of a bi-lateral free trade agreement to be shelved this spring. President Uribe, in Washington to lobby for the pact, complained to the press that he was being treated as "a pariah."
Despite Plan Colombia's fading allure, the Bush administration is about to debut a sequel: Plan Mexico, an interdiction strategy to confront the increasing "Colombian-ization" of Mexico by bi-national (Colombian and Mexican) drug cartels who have managed to spread their brand of mayhem into every nook and cranny of this distant neighbor nation.
The finishing touches for a Plan Colombia-like joint venture were worked out at the early June G-8 summit in Germany during a meeting between Bush and Mexico's freshman president Felipe Calderon, a special guest at the conclave. According to insiders in both camps as reported in the U.S. and Mexican media, Calderon will make a formal application for increased anti-drug assistance from Washington come August. Mexico currently receives $40,000,000 in drug moneys from the White House.
If you liked Plan Colombia, you are going to love Plan Mexico.
Like Plan Colombia, Mexico will be gifted with tons of military equipment, whiz-bang technology, and billion buck grants to battle the cartels, although U.S. troops will be held out of the package (for now) because of Mexico's long-standing resistance to such deployment. The U.S. military has invaded Mexico eight times since both countries won their independence from Europe 200 years ago.
Fumigation of Mexican drug crops will also meet with hard-core resistance on this side of the border. Whereas U.S. spray crews have been dousing southern Colombia for seven years with the virulent defoliant glysophate, poisoning food crops, streams, farm animals, and farming populations, Mexico was painted with Paraquat in 1969 when Richard Nixon launched his bonehead "Operation Intercept" to destroy Mexican marijuana plantations without first asking the Mexican government's permission. One dazzling result of Operation Intercept was to incite domestic marijuana cultivation in the U.S. - the U.S. now produces more marijuana than Mexico.
Mexico halted its U.S.-financed spray program several years ago when it could no longer obtain replacement parts for the planes, with no noticeable increase in drug cropping. Mexico is not suited to coca cultivation and is used by the cartels principally as a "trampoline" to move Colombian cocaine across the U.S. border. Opium poppy cropping, as in Colombia, accounts for single digit percentages of U.S. heroin imports, 90% of which have their origin in Washington's War on Terror partner Afghanistan.
Plans for Plan Mexico were inadvertently leaked at a June 8th - 9th bi-lateral meeting of Mexican and U.S. lawmakers in Austin Texas by Democratic congressperson Silvestre Reyes, now chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee and a former U.S. Border Patrol honcho who pioneered construction of the first wall between Mexico and the United States back in the mid-90s. As top dog on the House Intelligence committee, Reyes is a heavy hitter in the Bush terror war and Plan Mexico is seen as much of a War on Terror tool as it is a drug interdiction strategy.
Officials in both Washington and Mexico City have remained tightlipped about the joint endeavor, implying that Reyes' revelations may have tipped off the cartels.
Since taking office December 1st, Calderon, whose election was as shady as George Bush's Florida 2000 sham victory, has been prepping Mexico for the nation's new enhanced role in Washington's War on Terror. Within the first week of his chaotic swearing-in, Calderon sent 30,000 Mexican troops into nine drug-saturated states in a virtual declaration of martial law to combat the five Mexican-Colombian cartels that dominate the drug trade here. Civil rights were suspended and abuses abounded but precious little cocaine was confiscated.
The new president followed up the military offensive by moving a draconian anti- terrorism measure in the Mexican congress. The so-called "International Terrorism Law" which actually criminalizes domestic dissent, passed both houses with only token opposition from the left-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and mandates 40 year prison sentences for "terrorist" activities defined as "the use of violence against persons, things, or public services that spread alarm or fear in the population or any part thereof in order to threaten national security or pressure authorities to take certain determinations."
This Mexican "U.S. Patriot Act" in effect transforms social change movements as diverse as the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, Greenpeace, and Oaxaca's Popular Peoples' Assembly (APPO) into terrorist organizations. The first application of the new law against Ignacio Del Valle, a leader of the machete-wielding farmers of San Salvador Atenco, resulted in a 67-year prison sentence. Del Valle's "terrorist" crime? Locking the door during a meeting of Mexico state school officials and local farmers so the officials could not abandon the room.
But Calderon was not done yet with converting his regime into a doppelganger of the Bush administration's perversion of justice. This April, the President, who, much like George Bush, is considered a usurper by over 50% of the Mexican electorate, foisted a constitutional amendment on his congress that would grant him carte blanche powers to tap phones and break into private homes without first obtaining a search warrant from a court. The amendment, which has not yet passed the legislature, bears a startling resemblance to George Bush's unconstitutional eavesdropping and surveillance of millions of U.S. citizens but with one notable caveat - Calderon, at least, went to his congress to modify the Constitution to allow such intrusions. Bush simply imposed his illegal operation in violation of his country's Magna Carta.
One purported benefit of Plan Mexico will be technology transfer, affirm boosters like Mexican attorney general Eduardo Medina Mora. Bankrolled by a $3,000,000 U.S. State Department grant, Mexico is upgrading its eavesdropping capabilities even without congressional approval of the constitutional amendment. The installation of a super-duper "communication interruption" system will allow the government to tap into landline telephones, cell phone traffic, and electronic mail. The new system is designed by Verint Technologies ("actionable intelligence for a safer world") and features automatic voice identification. Verint, a Nee York-based start-up that provides spy technology to everyone from Domino's Pizza to the National Security Agency, has reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from Bush's terror war.
The Verint system will intercept tens of thousands of calls from the U.S. to Mexico and visa versa each day. Although these conversations will be officially recorded by Mexican authorities, the chatter will be admissible evidence in U.S. courts. Mexico's monopoly telephone company, Telmex, owned by Carlos Slim, the third richest man on the planet, tells reporters that it will comply with the government's eavesdropping plans.
Plan Colombia has sunk Colombia in a morass of corruption and human rights abuses. The drug war offensive was endorsed from its inception by the paramilitary "Autodefensa Unida de Colombia" or AUC, which, along with the long-lived leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), are prominent players on the Bush White House's terrorist list. The AUC, which is held responsible for 9000 extrajudicial killings since Plan Colombia kicked in (one leader, Salvatore Mancuso, boasts of 300 personal kills) shared the U.S. largesse in building up its arsenal and financed itself by drug running and extorting transnationals like Hyundai and Chiquita Banana Brands.
Now AUC leaders, whose 31,000 strong private army was granted amnesty in 2004, are spilling the beans to the Colombian Supreme Court about the extent of the paramilitaries' backing from the Uribe government and the military - 12 generals and 14 legislators in the national congress are under indictment in the escalating scandal that has severely eroded Uribe's presidency.
But Mexico's armed forces will not have to take lessons from their Colombian counterparts when it comes to violating human rights. In the latest of several such homicidal "incidents", Mexican troops opened fire on a family of five at a Sinaloa checkpoint June 2nd, killing three children. Rather than extending sympathy to the bereaved family, Mexico's Interior Minister Francisco Ramirez Acuna insisted that such tragedies are "the price we have to pay for our vigilance."
Details for the implementation of Plan Mexico were hammered out at a hush-hush June 9th closed door meeting in Morelos state just south of the capital that involved beleaguered U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, White House drug czar John Waters, and the attorney generals of Mexico and Colombia - Eduardo Medina Mora and Mario Iguaran. Iguaran recently replaced Luis Camilo Osorio as his nation's chief prosecutor - Osorio who is accused of whitewashing AUC's murderous activities is now his country's ambassador to Mexico.
As George Bush's only other Latin American ally besides Alvaro Uribe, Felipe Calderon borrowed a page from the faltering Colombian president's playbook by extraditing a dozen long-sought (but largely out of the loop) Mexican capos to the U.S. soon after taking office, an early signal that Mexican was ready to sell its sovereignty to Washington.
Both U.S. and Mexican authorities strongly deny that U.S. troops will be on the ground in Mexico anytime soon, a clear violation of Mexico's national sovereignty. Under Plan Colombia, U.S. forces grew to 800 "trainers", including 70 Green Beret Special Forces, and 600 private "contractors" (mercenaries.) Actually, Mexican troops receive extensive U.S. military training at Fort Bragg North Carolina's Center for Special Forces and Fort Benning, Georgia, the site of the infamous School of the Americas. Some of the trainees have since defected to the narco gangs, banding together in a truly terrorist brigade known as the "Zetas" who function as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel.
With Plan Colombia as a model, Plan Mexico would also open the door to the use of private military contractors like Blackwater, on the ground here.
Mexican police agencies, long gangrenous with corruption, are already being trained in country by the U.S. FBI. Washington is pushing for the development of a hemispheric police force that will be able to cross borders. The International Law Enforcement Academy in El Salvador is a kind of School of the Americas for cops, which reportedly employs former Salvadoran death squad members as trainers.
Since the U.S. and Mexico achieved nationhood two centuries ago, Washington has had designs on annexing its nearest neighbor to the south. The United States invasion of 1846-48, the so-called Mexican War, deposed Mexico of all of its northern territories that today comprise 13 U.S. western states. Since then, Washington has invaded and annexed Mexico from afar. The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement in effect annexed Mexico's economy. Beginning with World War II and extending through the Cold War, the War on Drugs, and now the War on Terror, the U.S. has sought to annex Mexico's security apparatus. Plan Mexico is, in fact, a plan to lock in the annexation of Mexico.
John Ross is the author of "The Annexation of Mexico - From the Aztecs to the IMF" (Common Courage 1998.) He is again in residence in Mexico City cogitating the future.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Flight Logs Reveal
By Stephen Grey
The London Sunday Times, Sunday 25 November 2007
The secret flight plans of American military planes have revealed for the first time how European countries helped send prisoners, including British citizens, to the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
Despite widespread criticism of alleged human rights abuses and torture at the US base in Cuba, a Sunday Times investigation has shown that at least five European countries gave the United States permission to fly nearly 700 terrorist suspects across their territory.
Three years ago, The Sunday Times published flight logs of CIA civilian jets in Europe, setting off a controversy over the whether countries across the continent have been secretly involved in America's rendition of terrorist suspects to countries that carry out torture.
The row is now set to be reignited. Inquiries by Ana Gomes, a Portuguese member of the European parliament, have uncovered not only more CIA flight logs but also more sensitive military flight plans, which until now have remained a closely guarded secret.
The logs show how most prisoners changed planes at a Turkish military airbase and flew across Greek, Italian and Portuguese airspace. Others reached Cuba after touching down in Spain, whose governing socialist party once expressed indignation at conditions in Guantanamo.
The flight logs show that three Britons - Shafiq Rasul, Jamal Udeen and Asif Iqbal - were flown across Europe to Cuba on January 14, 2002. Moazzam Begg, another Briton, was taken by the same route to Guantanamo on February 2, 2003; and Binyam Mohamed, a British resident whose release the British government is now trying to negotiate, arrived in Cuba after crossing Europe in a special flight in September 2004.
According to the flight plans, the first 23 prisoners to arrive at Guantanamo - including another British citizen, Feroz Abbasi, then 21, and an Australian, David Hicks - had arrived at the American naval base in Cuba after flying from the Moron airbase in Spain.
Abbasi has claimed in a statement that prisoners were abused within hours of arriving. "We were made to sit on our heels, one foot over the other, supported by one foot's toes alone, for hours. Some of us were old, weak, fatigued, and injured - they were the ones to drop first in the searing Caribbean heat."
Described by the Pentagon as the "worst of the worst" from Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the images of prisoners such as Abbasi dressed in orange jumpsuits, their heads shaved and shackled by their wrists and ankles, shocked the world. Within a day, Donald Rumsfeld, then US defence secretary, announced that the Geneva conventions would not apply to what were now called "enemy combatants".
Last week, Europe's leading watchdog on human rights alleged that European countries had breached the international convention against torture by giving the US secret permission to use its airspace.
Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, said: "What happened at Guantanamo was torture and it is illegal to provide facilities or anything to make this torture possible. Under the law, European governments should have intervened and should not have given permission to let these flights happen."
Gomes added: "It's clear to me that Guantanamo could not have been created without the involvement of European countries."
Methods used at Guantanamo Bay, condemned by Britain's Court of Appeal as a legal "black hole" and as a "monstrous failure of justice" by one law lord, have included the prolonged use of isolation, sleep deprivation, and use of stress positions. "These are methods that have been declared as unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights," Hammarberg said.
The military flight plans show that all key flights arriving in Guantanamo had come across European airspace either through Spain or the Incirlik airbase in southeastern Turkey. The Sunday Times compared the military flight plans against a database compiled by Reprieve, the British-based charity that represents Guantanamo prisoners, of when prisoners first weighed in at the camp.
The investigation, cross-checked against other Pentagon documents, shows for the first time which prisoner arrived on which flight at Guantanamo, and by what route. At least 170 other prisoners flew over Spanish territory, more than 700 crossed Portuguese space, and more than 680 were transshipped at Incirlik. Most flights also crossed Greek and Italian airspace, according to a source in European air traffic control.
On February 2 2003, for example, a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster plane took off from Incirlik with 27 prisoners on board for Cuba. The same day, prisoner number 558 weighed in at 136lb (62kg) at the camp. He can be named as Moazzam Begg, now 39, from Birmingham, who was released in January 2005, and has never been charged with a crime.
Interviewed by phone last week, Begg recalled: "Inside the plane there was a chain around our waist, and it connected to cuffs around my wrists, which were tied in the back, and to my ankles. We were seated but it was so painful not being able to speak, to hear, to breathe properly, to look, to turn left or right, to move your hands, stretch your legs, or anything." At the time flights were landing in Spain and crossing Spanish airspace, socialist leaders there were expressing "indignation" over conditions in Guantanamo. Now the socialists are in government after winning an election in March 2004 just after the Madrid train bombings and they are being asked to defend Spain's continued collaboration with American operations. Under international law, government and military planes can cross another country's territory only with diplomatic permission.
In a statement to the European parliament on the visits of CIA planes to Spain, the foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has testified: "Our territory may have been used not to commit crimes on it, but as a stopover on the way to committing crime in another country."
Spain, it has now emerged, had a specific agreement with the US to allow flights and visits to Spanish airbases for American planes.
In Portugal, the foreign minister Luis Amado has said flights across his country's airspace took place "under the aegis of the UN and Nato and that Portugal naturally follows the principle of good faith in the relations with its allies". Nato's role in Guantanamo stems from a secret agreement made in Brussels on October 4 2001 by all Nato members, including Britain. Although never made public, Lord Robertson, the former British defence secretary who was later Nato's secretary-general, explained that day that Nato had agreed to provide "blanket overflight clearances for the United States and other allies' aircraft for military flights related to operations against terrorism".
Today, Nato is more coy about its role in helping send prisoners to Guantanamo.
In a letter to Gomes, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the current secretary-general, said no Nato planes had "flown to or from Guantanamo Bay" and that Nato "as an organisation has no involvement or co-ordinating role in providing clearance or overflight rights for other flights". Turkey, meanwhile, has declared that its agencies had "reached no findings regarding any unacknowledged deprivation of liberty conducted by foreign agencies within the territory of the republic of Turkey or any transport by aircraft or otherwise of the persons deprived of their liberty".
In London, Clive Stafford Smith, legal director of Reprieve, said, with America threatening that Guantanamo prisoners faced the death penalty, European governments had made "pious statements" that they would never send prisoners to the US without obtaining assurances they would not be executed.
Stafford Smith added: "Some European governments, it's now clear, systematically assisted in clandestine flights and illegal prisoner transfers to Guantanamo Bay. We need a full investigation and Europeans need to face their responsibility for these crimes."
See flight logs and complete list of prisoners at www.ghostplane.net.
Self criticism in the European Parliament? How endearing!
Monday, November 26, 2007
Evo Morales, the first Indian president of Bolivia, is forcing a showdown with the oligarchy and the right wing political parties that have stymied efforts to draft a new constitution to transform the nation. He declares, "Dead or alive I will have a new constitution for the country by December 14," the mandated date for the specially elected Constituent Assembly to present the constitution.
Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linares states, "Either we now consolidate the new state…with the new dominant forces behind us, or we will move backwards and the old forces will again predominate." A leading trade union leader, Edgar Patana, put it bluntly: "The final battle has begun, and the people are prepared for it."
For over a year the oligarchy centered in the eastern city of Santa Cruz has conspired to frustrate the efforts of the Constituent Assembly in which the governing party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), and its allies hold 60 percent of the seats. First the right wing parties in the Assembly, led by Podemos, insisted that a two-thirds vote was needed even for committees to approve the different sections of the new constitution.
When the opposition was overruled on this point, the oligarchy then won allies in the city of Sucre, where the Constituent Assembly is being held, by asserting that the executive and congressional branches of government should be moved from La Paz to Sucre, which used to be the center of government until the late nineteenth century. This was also a racial strategy as La Paz and its sister city El Alto are at the heart of the country's majority Indian population that support Morales and mobilized in 2003 to topple an oligarchic president in La Paz who murdered Indian demonstrators in the streets.
In Sucre in recent months right wing militants have menaced and assaulted delegates of MAS, including Silvia Lazarte, the Assembly's indigenous women president. The Assembly has been effectively prevented from functioning since August 15.
Then in a move to more equitably redistribute the country growing oil and gas revenues, Morales in mid-October declared that a retirement pension equal to the minimum wage would be extended to all Bolivians that would come directly out of a special hydrocarbon fund. Morales simultaneously cut the payments from the fund that go to municipal governments like Santa Cruz with no congressional oversight. This caused an uproar in the Media Luna (Half Moon) region, comprised of the department of Santa Cruz and allied departments, with many of the business interests of the country threatening to create shortages and sew economic chaos by withholding their produce from the market.
Three hundred peasants, who came to Sucre last week to protect the Assembly members in its efforts to reconvene, were violently expelled from their sleeping quarters at the Pedagogical Institute by right wing students and Lazarte was prevented from convening the Assembly. Then Morales moved the Assembly meeting site to an old castle on the outskirts of Sucre that also serves as a military school and barracks. The head of the armed forces, General Wilfredo Vargas, backed the meeting of the Assembly at the castle, saying "it has to meet to continue …to modernize the state in all its features."
Then Vargas in a swipe at one of the regional political leaders allied with the Media Luna who claimed that Cuban and Venezuelan military units where in the country, declared: "No information exists of such units. And if it were the case, they are military units of the State and as part of the State they represent the Bolivian people."
The Bush administration is also jumping into the fray. Earlier this year Morales denounced that US backed agencies and non- governmental organizations that are providing direct support to right-wing political parties and allied institutions, ordering that all such funding would now be channeled directly through the government. Then at the recent Ibero-American Summit in Santiago Chile, Morales declared that "while we are trying to change Bolivia…small groups of the oligarchy are conspiring in alliance with the representative of the government of the United States," referring to the US ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg. To support his claims a photo was shown of Goldberg in Santa Cruz with a leading right wing business magnet and a well known Colombian narco-trafficker, who had been detained by the local police.
On November 15, the US State Department spokesperson, Sean McCormick, responded by demanding that Morales stop launching "false" and "unfounded" allegations of conspiracy by the ambassador. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the Bolivian ambassador in Washington to deliver the same tough message.
The delegates of the right wing parties led by Podemos boycotted the meetings at the castle, declaring that the Assembly is "illegal." On Friday 139 of the 255 Assembly members met and approved the broad outlines of a new constitution to carry out the reforms championed by Morales and the country's social movements. The next step is for the Assembly to adopt the specific clauses and content of the constitution.
But before that process could begin, the opposition in Sucre, led mainly by students and young people, violently took over all the major public buildings using dynamite and Molotov coctails, demanding the resignation of "the shitty Indian Morales." Parts of the city were in flames as the members of the Assembly abandoned the castle on Saturday, and by Sunday rioting mobs controlled Sucre, forcing the police to retreat to the mining town of Potosi, two hours away. Three people, including one policemen, are dead, with hundreds injured. The right wing and the business organizations in Santa Cruz and allied departments are threatening to declare autonomy and even talking of cession.
"We are at a national impasse" says Manuel Urisote, a political analyst and director of the Land Foundation, an independent research center in La Paz. "The right wing led by the Santa Cruz oligarchy is in open rebellion, but Morales, the Movement Towards Socialism and the popular movements will not back down. The military is supporting the president. As a national institution it intends to maintain the territorial integrity of Bolivia and it will not accept decrees of cession by Santa Cruz."
Roger Burbach is director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA). (http://globalalternatives.org) His most recent article is, "Ecuador's Popular Revolt: Forging a New Nation," NACLA's Report on the Americas, Sept.-Oct., 2007. He is a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
The U.S. Aggression
Process and Its Collaborators:
From Guatemala (1950-1954) to Iran (2002-)
by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson
We are living in a very dangerous period in which a predatory superpower has embarked on a series of aggressive wars in rapid succession—three on two different continents during the past decade alone. Not only have these wars violated the UN Charter, and constituted what U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson declared at Nuremberg to be “the supreme international crime;” not only has it gotten away with its wars, despite their increasingly destructive and murderous nature; but in waging them, the United States has been able to enlist leaders of the “international community” and United Nations in support of its assaults on distant lands. As the world's preeminent multilateral organization, the central purpose of which was purportedly to save humankind from the scourge of war, and to ensure that armed force not be used except for the common defense, we find the UN’s role here to be troubling indeed.
This superpower's wars are opposed by a majority of the world's population, and often even by a majority of the heavily propagandized citizens of its own country. But popular opinion and voter preferences, even when manifested in national elections, as in November 2006, do not determine policy in the United States. Freed at last from any deterrent of the kind the Soviet Union exercised until its demise, and the kind posed for a more abbreviated period by the civil protests that confronted it on its own streets between 1965 and 1974, the U.S. program of "power projection" proceeds apace. Now it sets its sights on Iran, likely to produce a much wider war and one that quite possibly could involve the use of nuclear weapons.
U.S. wars of aggression are certainly not new, nor is its leaders' brazen disregard for international law. Greece, Guatemala, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Grenada, Panama—these do not exhaust the list of U.S. victims since World War II. What is more, the assumption that international law does not apply to the United States is longstanding. The "propriety of the Cuba quarantine is not a legal issue," former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson explained in reference to Kennedy's naval blockade of Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis. "The power, position and prestige of the United States had been challenged by another state; and law simply does not deal with such questions of ultimate power.” For Acheson, any U.S. action to counter alleged threats trumps international law, and law cannot be allowed to interfere with the exercise of the "pre-eminent power" of this country. The belief that although law should apply to others, it never applies to the United States, was internalized long before Acheson's day; and it reaches straight through to the present, widely accepted abroad because the scale of U.S. power permits its leaders to ignore the law with complete impunity.
Read the rest of the article here
Saturday, November 24, 2007
The End of America?
It Could Happen
This is the text of an interview by AlterNet's Don Hazen of Naomi Wolf, author of The End of America.
If you think we are living in scary times, your worst fears may be confirmed by reading Naomi Wolf’s newest book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. In it, Wolf proves the old axiom that history does repeat itself. Or more accurately, history occurs in patterns, and in order to understand where our country is today and where it is headed, we need to read the history books.
Wolf began by diving into the early years leading up to fascist regimes, like the ones led by Hitler and Mussolini. And the patterns that she found in those, and others all over the world, made her hair stand on end. In “The End of America,” she lays out the 10 steps that dictators (or aspiring dictators) take in order to shut down an open society. “Each of those ten steps is now under way in the United States today,” she writes.
If we want an open society, she warns, we must pay attention and we must fight to protect democracy.
I met with Wolf to discuss what she learned while researching this book, how the American public has received her warnings, and what we can do to squelch the fascist narratives we are fed in this country each day.
Don Hazen: Let’s take up a big question first — your fears about the upcoming U.S. presidential election and what the historical blue print about fascist takeovers shows in terms of elections.
Naomi Wolf: We would be naive given the historical patterns to have hope that there’s going to be a transparent, accountable election in 2008. There are various ways the blueprint indicates how events are much more likely to play out. Historically, the months leading up to the national election are likely to be unstable.
What classically happens is either there will be a period of provocation, and we have a history of this in the United States — agitators who are dressed as or act like activist voter registration workers, anti-war marchers … but who engage in actual violence, torch property, assault police officers. And that scares people. People are much less likely to vote for change when they’re scared, and it gives them the excuse to crack down.
In addition, I’m concerned about the 2007 Defense Authorization Act, which makes it much easier for the president to declare martial law.
DH: Are you saying that they keep on adding coercive laws for no apparent reason?
NW: Yes. Why amend the law so systematically? Why do you need to make martial law easier? Another thing historical blueprints underscore is the hyped threat; intelligence will be spun or exaggerated, and sometimes there are faked documents like Plan Z with Pinochet in Chile.
DH: Plan Z?
NW:Yes, Plan Z. Pinochet, when he was overthrowing the Democratic government of Chile, told Chilean citizens that there was going to be a terrible terrorist attack, with armed insurgents. Now there were real insurgents, there was a real threat, but then he produces what he called Plan Z, which were fake papers claiming that these terrorists were going to assassinate all these military leaders at once.
And this petrified Chileans so much that they didn’t stand up to fight for their democracy. So it’s common to take a real threat and hype it. And close to an election it’s very common to invoke a hype threat and scare people so much that they will not want to have a transparent election.
Americans have this very wrong idea about what a closed society looks like. Many despots make it a point to try to hold the elections, but they’re corrupted elections. Corrupted elections take place all over the world in closed societies. Ninety-nine percent of Austrians voted yes for the annexation by Germany, because the SA were standing outside the voting booths, intimidating the voters and people counting the vote. So you can mess with the process.
One current warning sign is the e-mails that the White House is not yielding about the attorney general scandal. The emails are likely to show that there were plans afoot to purge all of the attorneys at once, like overnight. And then to let the country deal with the shock.
Now that’s something that Goebbels did in 1933 in April, overnight. He fired everyone, focusing on lawyers and judges who were not a supporter of the regime. So you can still have elections … in an outcome like that. If that had happened, if the bloggers and others actually hadn’t helped to identify the U.S. attorney scandal, and they had been successful and fired them all, our election situation would be different.
Basically we’d still have an election, but it is possible the outcome would be predetermined because it’s the U.S. attorneys that monitor what voting rights groups do, what is legal and who can decide the outcome of elections.
DH: Well there’s a lot of activity currently in terms of the Justice Department aimed at purging voters … reducing voter rolls … that’s an ongoing battle to try to keep voters eligible. Conservatives are always trying to reduce the electorate. By the way, are you familiar with Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism?
NW: Yes, and it all makes a lot of sense. And its certainly historically true. We’re in this post-9/11 period when there is a lot of potential for these kind of “shock therapy” things to happen, but virtually everything … has happened previously in history in patterns. It’s just the blueprint. It’s not rocket science.
I could tell last fall when a law was passed expanding the definition of terrorists to include animal rights activists, that people who look more like you and me would start to be called terrorists, which is a classic tactic in what I call a fascist expansion.
DH: Don’t look at me — I’m not a vegetarian. Just kidding.
NW: (Laughs) Right. It’s also predictive … according to the blueprint, that the state starts to torture people that most of us don’t identity with, because they’re brown, Muslim, people on an island. They’re called an enemy.
That there will be a progressive blurring of the line, and six months, two years later, you’re going to see it spread to others. … According to the blueprint, we’re right on schedule that this kid recently got tasered in Florida, I gather, for asking questions.
There was a study by people who pioneered tasers, and the state legislature supported it; a Republican legislator put pressure on the provost, who put pressure on the university, and then the police at this university implemented the taser use. So unfortunately, it’s likely that we’re going to see more demonstrators, typical society leaders, in a call to restore “public order,” leading up to the election. You put all those cases together …
DH: I want to shift gears a bit and ask you to talk about what the response to the book, what kind of people have heard you speak, and what kind of reactions have they had?
NW: I’m really gratified by the response to the book. I have found, with the book’s publication, though I’m not following everything that’s been written about it, that most of America gets it — people across the political spectrum.
All kinds of people, including very mainstream people. Republican people. Progressive. Libertarian. Very moderate people. Very conservative people. They are basically saying to me, “Thank you for confirming our fears and showing us how these things fit together, and what we can do about them.”
DH: I’m also interested in your process of deciding that you were comfortable in using words like “fascism,” “Nazism,” “Hitler,” “Mussolini.” Michael Ratner talks about it in the jacket of your book, when he writes: “Most Americans reject outright any comparisons of post-9/11 America with the fascism and totalitarianism of Nazi Germany or Pinochet’s Chile. Sadly, what Wolf calls the echoes between those societies and America today are too compelling.” At some point you must have come to this turning point in terms of the language — how far am I going to go, how am I going to talk about this? Was it a difficult decision?
NW: It was hard emotionally but it was unavoidable intellectually. The book actually got started with the influence of a holocaust survivor — a dear friend, who’s the daughter of two holocaust survivors from Germany. She basically forced me to start reading history.
Not the end or outcome. She was talking about the early years and the effects on rights groups, gay rights groups, and sexuality forums and architecture, At first I didn’t even want to draw conclusions, but my hair was just standing on edge.
When I saw that, then I went and read other history books, and looked at Stalin and Hitler, a real “innovator.” I thought If people want an open society, they need to pay attention.
You see the same things happening again and again and again. And historically people were really mislead and just reading kind of teaches us the blueprint. People use the same approach all over the world because it works. This is what they do.
Now we’ve just seen it in Burma. It is like clock work: monks in the street … and because I know the blueprint, how long before they start curtailing free assembly, shooting monks, and cutting off that communication? And two days later … you know what happened.
So intellectually I couldn’t avoid using the language. Now in terms of the word “fascist,” it’s a very conservative usage in the book. I used the dictionary definition. There are many definitions of fascism. And even fascists disagree with other fascists. It’s kind of like the Germans thought the Italian fascists weren’t butch enough.
DH: So the Italians were wussier fascists than the Germans?
NW: Exactly. It gets better. The definition is pretty straightforward: “When the state uses violence against the individual to oppose democratic society.” And that’s what we’re seeing.
And then looking back at Italy and Germany, which were the two great examples of modern constitutional democracies that were illegally closed by people that were elected … duly elected … most Americans don’t remember. Mussolini, a National Socialist, came to power entirely legally. And they used the law to shut down the law. So that’s what I call a fascist shift.
DH: So let’s talk about what could happen here. Is America in denial? Or is avoidance an attitude that seemed to be present in all historical examples? That people assume it’s not going to happen to them. Does the Americans’ denial at this point run parallel with the denial of Germans and Italians? Or do we have our own version of denial here?
NW: That’s a really great question; both are true. It’s really instructive to read memoirs and journals from Germany. People writing, “This can’t last … we surely will come to our senses”; “they can’t gain any ground in the next election … you know, we’re a civilized country”; “this is ridiculous, they’re a bunch of thugs; no one takes them seriously.”
History is particularly instructive in the early days of the fascist shifts in Germany and Italy, when things were really pretty normal. People go about their business, just like we’re doing now. It’s not like goose stepping columns of soldiers are everywhere. It looks like ordinary life. Celebrities, gossip columns, fashion, before getting caught up in a snare. People kept going to movies, worrying about feeding the cat. (laughs) Even while you watch the sort of inevitable unfold.
DH: And now in America?
NW: Right. So in some ways it is human nature to be in denial … but Americans have our own special version, which is profoundly dangerous. Europeans know democracies are fragile, and they could close. They had closed. Bismarckian Germany was not a democracy.
But here we’re walking around … we usually have that sense that somehow our air will sustain us, even when no one else’s air does. And we don’t have to do anything about it. We have this like bubble, that somehow democracy will just take care of us, and we don’t have to fight to protect democracy.
They can mow down democracies all over the world, but somehow we’ll be just fine. But what’s so ironic about that is that the Founding Fathers drafted the Bill of Rights in fear. They knew that you had to have checks and balances, because it’s human nature to abuse power, no matter who you are. They knew the damage that the army could do breaking into your home. … they knew that democracy is fragile, and the default is tyranny. They knew that. And that’s why they created the system of checks and balances.
DH: In your book, on page 36, you write in terms of the political environment we are in: “But we are not wracked by rioting in the streets or a major depression here in America. That is why the success that the Bush administration has had in invoking Islamofascism is so insidious. We have been willing to trade our key freedoms for a promised state of security in spite of our living conditions of overwhelming stability, security, affluence and social order.”
How and why has it been so easy here in the U.S. in terms of taking away liberties?
NW: I assume you mean how did it succeed even though we don’t have Bolsheviks rioting in the street? Yes. I mean it is incredible looking back, but in a way it’s not. I mean 9/11 was a complete left brain shock. If we had had wars at home, experienced the kind of violence at home that other countries have, we would not have gone into shock … not have been willing to trade in our heritage in exchange for a manipulated false sense of security.
DH: Most people were not affected directly by 9/11 except traumatically by seeing it on the screen.
NW: Yes, but you can’t undercredit the incredible sophistication of the way the Bush administration manipulates fear. For example, the sleeper cells narrative, which is Stalin’s narrative, was totally made up.
And I give lots of examples in the book of alleged sleeper cells that never turned out to be the creepy, scary, nightmare scenario that the White House claimed they would be.
DH: In the book you say that fascists have great skills at changing public opinion.
NW: That’s correct. That’s exactly right. They’ve been very skillful at creating extremely terrifying narratives. And this is why looking at Goebbels is so instructive. Our leaders have been busy creating footage and sound bites that can be petrifying, and as a result, some of us live in a state of existential fear.
In contrast, in England and Spain, where they were hit by the same bad guys we’re fighting, they’re going after terrorists, but the population isn’t walking around in a state of existential anxiety.
Gordon Brown said it, “Fighting terror … well, terror’s a crime.” You can’t underplay how sophisticated the Bush team has been about manipulating our fears. And one reason we really can’t ignore is our home-grown ignorance. We now have two generations of young people who don’t know about civics. A study came out that showed that even Harvard freshmen really don’t understand how our government works.
And so we really don’t know what democracy is anymore. I had to do a lot of learning to write this book — I’m not a constitutional scholar. I’m just a citizen. And we’ve been kind of divorced from our democracy. We’ve let a pundit class take it over. Where the Founders wanted us to know what the First Amendment was and what the Second Amendment does for us.
So as a consequence we don’t feel the kind of warning bell of “Oh, my God, arbitrary search and seizure! That’s when they come into your house and take your stuff and scare your children! We can’t have that!”
Because there’s this class of politicians, scholars and pundits who do the Constitution for us, so we don’t bother educating ourselves. It’s hard to educate yourself now these days.
All of that plays into how easily we can be manipulated. We really don’t read history in America, so we don’t notice warning signals. We tend not to pay attention to the rest of the world or the past, so we don’t know what the classic scenarios are.
DH: In terms of your personal narrative, the kinds of books you’ve written about feminism and gender like the Beauty Myth, Fire With Fire and Promiscuities … this book seems pretty far a field. It seems like it would have to be a wrenching realization to lead you to read everything and produce the book. Was it traumatic?
NW: Well, I would say that it’s been traumatic.
DH: Is it because you are out there on the front lines now?
NW: That’s not the trauma. I feel like I’m living inside a consciousness of urgency and potential horrific consequences. And that is much more uncomfortable than living inside my prior being where I generally thought, “We’re living in a democracy where there are some annoying people doing the wrong things” kind of mindset.
But I know that there’s a “true consciousness” that we need to overcome the false consciousness. I know it’s the right consciousness to get the facts. And I guess what’s heartening is that a bunch of other people seem to be collectively entering this consciousness. They are saying: “My gosh, there is a real emergency here with very devastating stakes.” That is traumatic but necessary.
It is a loss of innocence to see how easy it is to degrade democracy. I certainly walk around with kind of hyperawareness tuned into, for example, the toll in Guantanamo and those children in Iraq. It doesn’t get covered well.
There’s basically a concentration camp being established in Iraq with children in it. And no one appears to be digging in to it …
DH: As we are coming to an end here, there are a couple of concepts I found particularly interesting in the book. One is when you talked about the “10 steps,” or the “blueprint” that fascists have used time and time again to close down democracies. You say that that these factors, ingredients, are more than the sum of their parts, which suggests a kind of synergy, “each magnifies the power of the others and the whole,” as you write.
You also write about the pendulum cliché, that we have this illusion through our history that the pendulum always swings back. But because of the permanent war on terrorism, that may not be true anymore. Can you say a little bit more about those two things, and how that might fit together?
NW: Well part of the illusion is created because it seems we are in two different countries, operating at home and abroad. For example, they can come at you, anyone and claim you’re an enemy combatant. They rendered people in Italy … they can render people all over the world. And they can put people like Jose Padilla in solitary confinement for three years, literally drive sane healthy people insane.
If the president can say, Well, “Don is an enemy combatant,” there is nothing you can do. It’s like “Tag, you’re it!” To that extent we can not be innocent. And then someone is in jail for three years without being able to see their families or have easy access to a phone.
If they can do that, the pendulum can’t swing, because after the first arrest, it generally goes in one direction, and according to the blueprint, the time has come for those first arrests. We’re having this conversation now, before these arrests. But if tomorrow you read in the New York Times or the Washington Post that New York Times editor Bill Keller has been arrested, the staff will all be scared, others will get scared. And people don’t understand that that’s how democracy closes down. And when that happens first, it’s the tipping point at which we think it’s still a democracy.
DH: That is when the rules have changed?
NW: Yes, and people need to believe and realize that that kind of negotiation is pretty much over. And there’s just the lag time, which is so dangerous, when people still think it’s a democracy, even while the martial law steps have begun. And that’s where we are at, unless we get it.
Because you know, Congress keeps saying, “Hello, we’re Congress.” You have to answer us when we ask for information. The president’s like, “Sorry, I’m ignoring you!” It starts becoming thinking like an abused woman, like: “Surely he’s going to do it right this time, surely he’s not going to do it again.” And he does.
Friday, November 23, 2007
The single, spindly seven foot-tall cornstalk spiring up from the planter box outside a prominent downtown hotel here was filling out with new "elotes" (sweet corn) to the admiration of passer-bys, some of whom even paused to pat the swelling ears with affection. Down the centuries most of the population of this megalopolis migrated here from the countryside at one time or another over the course of the past 500 years and inside every "Chilango" (Mexico City resident) lurks an inner campesino.
But the solitary stalk, sewn by an urban coalition of farmers and ecologists under the banner of "No Hay Pais Sin Maiz" ("There Is No Country Without Corn") in planter boxes outside the downtown hotels, museums, government palaces and other historical monuments can just as easily be seen as a signifier for the fragile state of survival of Mexican corn.
As the year ripens into deep autumn, the corn harvest is pouring in all over Mexico. Out in Santa Cruz Tanaco in the Purepecha Indian Sierra of Michoacan state, the men mow their way down the rows much as their fathers and their fathers before did, snapping off the ears and tossing them into the "tshundi" basket on their backs.
In the evenings, the families will gather around the fire and shuck the "granos" from the cobs into buckets and carry them down to the store to trade for other necessities of life. It is the way in Tanaco in this season of plenitude just as it is in the tens of thousands of tiny farming communities all over Mexico where 29 per cent of the population still lives. But it is a way of life that is fading precipitously. Some say that these indeed may be the last days of Mexican corn.
In fact, this January 1 may prove to be a doomsday date for Mexican maiz when at the stroke of midnight, all tariffs on corn (and beans) will be abolished after more than a decade of incremental NAFTA-driven decreases. Although U.S. corn growers are already dumping 10 million tons of the heavily subsidized grain in Mexico each year, zero tariffs are expected to trigger a tsunami of corn imports, much of it genetically modified, that will drive millions of Mexican farmers off their land - in NAFTA's first 13 years, 6,000,000 have already abandoned their plots - and could well spell the end of the line for 59 distinct "razas" or races of native corn.
Corn was first domesticated eight millennia ago in the Mexican states of Puebla and Oaxaca and Mexico remains the fourth largest corn producer on the planet but its 22,000,000 ton annual yield pales in comparison to U.S. growers who are expected to harvest near 300,000,000 tons this year, accounting for 70 per cent of the world's maize supply. A third of U.S. corn acreage is now under genetically modified seed.
Big Biotec has had its guns trained on Mexican corn for a long time but under the national biosecurity law, Monsanto and its ilk have been barred from selling their GMO seed here. Now the transnationals are putting a full court press on the CIBOGEN, the inter-secretarial committee on bio-security, to vacate the prohibition on GMO sales - the measure was originally enacted in the late '90s in an effort to protect native seed from contamination and homogenization by genetically modified materials.
This September, the CIBOGEN was on track to designate experimental GMO farms in the north of Mexico (Sonora's Yaqui Valley and the Valley of Culiacan) where there are no native corns that could be corrupted by the engineered seeds but the designation was abruptly postponed around issues of potential contamination to the great frustration of a powerhouse pro-GMO coalition motored by the Biotec giants and including the Mexican National Farming Council (big growers), the National Association of Self-Service Stores (Wal-mart - now the biggest tortilla retailer in the country), and the National Farmers Central (CNC) which groups together rank and file farmers attached to the once-ruling (71 years) PRI party.
A dubious milestone in the history of corn was reached in July when scientists at the National Genetics & Biodiversity Laboratories announced that they had successfully mapped the genome of Mexican maiz. That was the good news. The bad news is that the genome will be available to anyone who can pay the Institute's asking price.
Who owns the genome is crucial to the survival of Mexican corn. There is little doubt that the Monsanto Corporation of St. Louis Missouri would love to get its hands on this breakthrough information so that for-profit scientists could design seeds modeled upon the DNA of native corns for commercial sales.
Mexican corn is a rich source of genetic history. Millions of adaptations to specific conditions have created a seed stock with extremely variegated properties. For millennia, native seed savers have set aside corn seed that is resistant to drought whose DNA structure Monsanto will now be able to simulate in its laboratories and market under its brand.
Monsanto took a giant step in locking up the genetic wealth of Mexico this past April 18 when it signed an agreement with the National Association of Corn Producers (CNPMM), a section of the CNC that groups together big corn farmers, to establish regional seed banks in the center and south of the country. CNC members were designated "guardians of the seed" and charged with assembling collections of native corn to be housed in Monsanto-financed repositories.
(Big bucks from Cargill and Maseca-ADM have also funded the seed banks.) "Allowing Monsanto to get so close to the secrets of Mexican corn is like asking Herod to baby-sit," writes Adelita San Vicente, an activist with the "No Hay Pais" coalition in a recent agrarian supplement of the left daily La Jornada.
55 per cent of the crops needed to feed the human race are now grown by just ten corporations. The biggest players in this monopoly game are Bayer, Dow, Dupont, Syngenta (once Novartis), and Monsanto. None of these conglomerates is a seed company. They all began their corporate life selling chemicals for war and farming.
Monsanto, which dominates 71 per cent of the GMO seed market, has operated in Mexico since the post-World War II so-called "green revolution" that featured hybrid seeds ("semillas mejoradas") that only worked when associated with pesticides and fertilizers manufactured by the transnational chemical companies. Selling hybrid seeds and chemical poisons in Mexico continues to be profitable for Monsanto whose total 2006 sales here topped 3,000,000,000 pesos ($300 million USD.) It doesn't hurt that Monsanto Mexico sells hybrid seed for $2 Americano for a packet of a thousand when its states-side price is $1.34.
22,000,000 Mexicans, 13,000,000 of them children, suffer some degree of malnutrition according to doctors at the National Nutrition Institute and Monsanto insists that it can feed them all if only the CIBOGEN will allow it to foist its GMO seed on unwitting corn farmers. But the way Monsanto sells its GMO seed is severely questioned.
Farmers are forced to sign contracts, agreeing to buy GMO seed at a company-fixed price. Monsanto's super-duper "Terminator" seed, named after California's action hero governor, goes sterile after one growing cycle and the campesinos are obligated to buy more. By getting hooked on Monsanto, Mexican farmers, once seed savers and repositories themselves of the knowledge of their inner workings, become consumers of seed, an arrangement that augurs poorly for the survival of Mexico's many native corns.
Moreover, as farmers from other climes who have resisted Monsanto and refused to buy into the GMO blitz, have learned only too traumatically, pollen blowing off contaminated fields will spread to non-GMO crops. Even more egregiously, Monsanto will then send "inspectors" (often off-duty cops) to your farm and detect their patented strains in your fields and charge you with stealing the corporation's property.
When Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser came to Mexico several years back to explain how Monsanto had taken his farm from him for precisely these reasons, local legislators laughed that it was a science fiction scenario. "It is going to happen to you," the old farmer warned with all the prescience of an Aztec seer.
Mexican corn is, of course, not the only native crop that is being disappeared by global capitalism. Native seeds are under siege from pole to pole. In Iraq, where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers come together to form the birthplace of agriculture, one of the very first acts of George Bush's neo-colonial satrap L. Paul Brenner was to issue the notorious Order 81 criminalizing the possession of native seeds. The U.S. military spread out throughout the land distributing little packets of GMO seeds, the euphemistically dubbed Operation "Amber Waves." To make sure that Iraq would no longer have a native agriculture, the national seed bank, located at Abu Ghraib, was looted and set afire.
The threat to native seed has become so acute that the United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization is funding the construction of a doomsday vault on remote Svalbard Island in northern Norway 800 miles from the North Pole. It was thought that seeds cryogenically frozen and stored in deep underground bunkers would be insured of survival. But as the polar bears of that gelid bioregion now know only too well, nothing is safe from the globalizers' hunger to destroy the planet and what it grows.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
In 10 Easy Steps
From Mussolini, Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf in her book “The End of America”, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all.
Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.
They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.
1 Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
Creating a terrifying threat - hydra-like, secretive, evil - is an old trick. It can, like Hitler's invocation of a communist threat to the nation's security, be based on actual events. One Wisconsin academic has faced calls for his dismissal because he noted, among other things, that the alleged communist arson, the Reichstag fire of February 1933, was swiftly followed in Nazi Germany by passage of the Enabling Act, which replaced constitutional law with an open-ended state of emergency.
2 Create a gulag
Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal "outer space") - where torture takes place.
At first, the people who are sent there are seen by citizens as outsiders: troublemakers, spies, "enemies of the people" or "criminals". Initially, citizens tend to support the secret prison system; it makes them feel safer and they do not identify with the prisoners. But soon enough, civil society leaders - opposition members, labour activists, clergy and journalists - are arrested and sent there as well.
This process took place in fascist shifts or anti-democracy crackdowns ranging from Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s to the Latin American coups of the 1970s and beyond. It is standard practice for closing down an open society or crushing a pro-democracy uprising.
3 Develop a thug caste
When leaders who seek a "fascist shift" want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens. The Blackshirts roamed the Italian countryside beating up communists; the Brownshirts staged violent rallies throughout Germany. This paramilitary force is especially important in a democracy: you need citizens to fear thug violence and so you need thugs who are free from prosecution.
The years following 9/11 have proved a bonanza for America's security contractors, with the Bush administration outsourcing areas of work that traditionally fell to the US military. In the process, contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been issued for security work by mercenaries at home and abroad. In Iraq, some of these contract operatives have been accused of involvement in torturing prisoners, harassing journalists and firing on Iraqi civilians. Under Order 17, issued to regulate contractors in Iraq by the one-time US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, these contractors are immune from prosecution
4 Set up an internal surveillance system
In Mussolini's Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China - in every closed society - secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours. The Stasi needed to keep only a minority of East Germans under surveillance to convince a majority that they themselves were being watched.
In 2005 and 2006, when James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wrote in the New York Times about a secret state programme to wiretap citizens' phones, read their emails and follow international financial transactions, it became clear to ordinary Americans that they, too, could be under state scrutiny.
In closed societies, this surveillance is cast as being about "national security"; the true function is to keep citizens docile and inhibit their activism and dissent.
5 Harass citizens’ groups
The fifth thing you do is related to step four - you infiltrate and harass citizens' groups. It can be trivial: a church in Pasadena, whose minister preached that Jesus was in favour of peace, found itself being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, while churches that got Republicans out to vote, which is equally illegal under US tax law, have been left alone.
Other harassment is more serious: the American Civil Liberties Union reports that thousands of ordinary American anti-war, environmental and other groups have been infiltrated by agents: a secret Pentagon database includes more than four dozen peaceful anti-war meetings, rallies or marches by American citizens in its category of 1,500 "suspicious incidents". The equally secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (Cifa) agency of the Department of Defense has been gathering information about domestic organisations engaged in peaceful political activities: Cifa is supposed to track "potential terrorist threats" as it watches ordinary US citizen activists. A little-noticed new law has redefined activism such as animal rights protests as "terrorism". So the definition of "terrorist" slowly expands to include the opposition.
6 Engage in arbitrary detention and release
This scares people. It is a kind of cat-and-mouse game. In 2004, America's Transportation Security Administration confirmed that it had a list of passengers who were targeted for security searches or worse if they tried to fly. People who have found themselves on the list? Two middle-aged women peace activists in San Francisco; liberal Senator Edward Kennedy; a member of Venezuela's government - after Venezuela's president had criticised Bush; and thousands of ordinary US citizens. "Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that," asked the airline employee. Anti-war marcher? Potential terrorist. Support the constitution? Potential terrorist. History shows that the categories of "enemy of the people" tend to expand ever deeper into civil life.
7 Target key individuals
Threaten civil servants, artists and academics with job loss if they don't toe the line. Mussolini went after the rectors of state universities who did not conform to the fascist line; so did Joseph Goebbels, who purged academics who were not pro-Nazi; so did Chile's Augusto Pinochet; so does the Chinese communist Politburo in punishing pro-democracy students and professors.
Bush supporters in state legislatures in several states put pressure on regents at state universities to penalise or fire academics who have been critical of the administration. As for civil servants, the Bush administration has derailed the career of one military lawyer who spoke up for fair trials for detainees, while an administration official publicly intimidated the law firms that represent detainees pro bono by threatening to call for their major corporate clients to boycott them. Elsewhere, a CIA contract worker who said in a closed blog that "waterboarding is torture" was stripped of the security clearance she needed in order to do her job.
8 Control the press
Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the 30s, East Germany in the 50s, Czechoslovakia in the 60s, the Latin American dictatorships in the 70s, China in the 80s and 90s - all dictatorships and would-be dictators target newspapers and journalists. They threaten and harass them in more open societies that they are seeking to close, and they arrest them and worse in societies that have been closed already.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says arrests of US journalists are at an all-time high: Josh Wolf (no relation), a blogger in San Francisco, has been put in jail for a year for refusing to turn over video of an anti-war demonstration; Homeland Security brought a criminal complaint against reporter Greg Palast, claiming he threatened "critical infrastructure" when he and a TV producer were filming victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Palast had written a bestseller critical of the Bush administration.
Prosecution and job loss are nothing, though, compared with how the US is treating journalists seeking to cover the conflict in Iraq in an unbiased way. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented multiple accounts of the US military in Iraq firing upon or threatening to fire upon unembedded (meaning independent) reporters and camera operators from organisations ranging from al-Jazeera to the BBC.
9 Dissent equals treason
Cast dissent as "treason" and criticism as "espionage'. Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of "spy" and "traitor". When Bill Keller, the publisher of the New York Times, ran the Lichtblau/Risen stories, Bush called the Times' leaking of classified information "disgraceful", while Republicans in Congress called for Keller to be charged with treason, and rightwing commentators and news outlets kept up the "treason" drumbeat. Some commentators, as Conason noted, reminded readers smugly that one penalty for violating the Espionage Act is execution.
In Stalin's Soviet Union, dissidents were "enemies of the people". National Socialists called those who supported Weimar democracy "November traitors".
And here is where the circle closes: most Americans do not realise that since September of last year - when Congress wrongly, foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 - the president has the power to call any US citizen an "enemy combatant". He has the power to define what "enemy combatant" means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive branch the right to define "enemy combatant" any way he or she wants and then seize Americans accordingly.
10 Suspend the rule of law
The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency - which the president now has enhanced powers to declare - he can send Michigan's militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state's governor and its citizens.
Even as Americans were focused on Britney Spears's meltdown and the question of who fathered Anna Nicole's baby, the New York Times editorialised about this shift: "A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night ... Beyond actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or any 'other condition'."
By Robert Jensen
One indication of moral progress in the United States would be the replacement of Thanksgiving Day and its self-indulgent family feasting with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting.
In fact, indigenous people have offered such a model; since 1970 they have marked the fourth Thursday of November as a Day of Mourning in a spiritual/political ceremony on Coles Hill overlooking Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, one of the early sites of the European invasion of the Americas.
Not only is the thought of such a change in this white-supremacist holiday impossible to imagine, but the very mention of the idea sends most Americans into apoplectic fits -- which speaks volumes about our historical hypocrisy and its relation to the contemporary politics of empire in the United States.
That the world's great powers achieved "greatness" through criminal brutality on a grand scale is not news, of course. That those same societies are reluctant to highlight this history of barbarism also is predictable.
But in the United States, this reluctance to acknowledge our original sin -- the genocide of indigenous people -- is of special importance today. It's now routine -- even among conservative commentators -- to describe the United States as an empire, so long as everyone understands we are an inherently benevolent one. Because all our history contradicts that claim, history must be twisted and tortured to serve the purposes of the powerful.
One vehicle for taming history is various patriotic holidays, with Thanksgiving at the heart of U.S. myth-building. From an early age, we Americans hear a story about the hearty Pilgrims, whose search for freedom took them from England to Massachusetts. There, aided by the friendly Wampanoag Indians, they survived in a new and harsh environment, leading to a harvest feast in 1621 following the Pilgrims first winter.
Some aspects of the conventional story are true enough. But it's also true that by 1637 Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop was proclaiming a thanksgiving for the successful massacre of hundreds of Pequot Indian men, women and children, part of the long and bloody process of opening up additional land to the English invaders.
The pattern would repeat itself across the continent until between 95 and 99 percent of American Indians had been exterminated and the rest were left to assimilate into white society or die off on reservations, out of the view of polite society.
Simply put: Thanksgiving is the day when the dominant white culture (and, sadly, most of the rest of the non-white but non-indigenous population) celebrates the beginning of a genocide that was, in fact, blessed by the men we hold up as our heroic founding fathers.
The first president, George Washington, in 1783 said he preferred buying Indians' land rather than driving them off it because that was like driving "wild beasts" from the forest. He compared Indians to wolves, "both being beasts of prey, tho' they differ in shape."
Thomas Jefferson -- president 3 and author of the Declaration of Independence, which refers to Indians as the "merciless Indian Savages" -- was known to romanticize Indians and their culture, but that didn't stop him in 1807 from writing to his secretary of war that in a coming conflict with certain tribes, "[W]e shall destroy all of them."
As the genocide was winding down in the early 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt (president 26) defended the expansion of whites across the continent as an inevitable process "due solely to the power of the mighty civilized races which have not lost the fighting instinct, and which by their expansion are gradually bringing peace into the red wastes where the barbarian peoples of the world hold sway."
Roosevelt also once said, "I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn't like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth."
How does a country deal with the fact that some of its most revered historical figures had certain moral values and political views virtually identical to Nazis?
Here's how "respectable" politicians, pundits, and professors play the game: When invoking a grand and glorious aspect of our past, then history is all-important. We are told how crucial it is for people to know history, and there is much hand wringing about the younger generations' lack of knowledge about, and respect for, that history.
In the United States, we hear constantly about the deep wisdom of the founding fathers, the adventurous spirit of the early explorers, the gritty determination of those who "settled" the country -- and about how crucial it is for children to learn these things.
But when one brings into historical discussions any facts and interpretations that contest the celebratory story and make people uncomfortable -- such as the genocide of indigenous people as the foundational act in the creation of the United States -- suddenly the value of history drops precipitously and one is asked, "Why do you insist on dwelling on the past?"
This is the mark of a well-disciplined intellectual class -- one that can extol the importance of knowing history for contemporary citizenship and, at the same time, argue that we shouldn't spend too much time thinking about history.
This off-and-on engagement with history isn't of mere academic interest; as the dominant imperial power of the moment, U.S. elites have a clear stake in the contemporary propaganda value of that history. Obscuring bitter truths about historical crimes helps perpetuate the fantasy of American benevolence, which makes it easier to sell contemporary imperial adventures -- such as the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- as another benevolent action.
Any attempt to complicate this story guarantees hostility from mainstream culture.
After raising the barbarism of America's much-revered founding fathers in a lecture, I was once accused of trying to "humble our proud nation" and "undermine young people's faith in our country."
Yes, of course -- that is exactly what I would hope to achieve. We should practice the virtue of humility and avoid the excessive pride that can, when combined with great power, lead to great abuses of power.
History does matter, which is why people in power put so much energy into controlling it. The United States is hardly the only society that has created such mythology. While some historians in Great Britain continue to talk about the benefits that the empire brought to India, political movements in India want to make the mythology of Hindutva into historical fact.
Abuses of history go on in the former empire and the former colony. History can be one of the many ways we create and impose hierarchy, or it can be part of a process of liberation. The truth won't set us free, but the telling of truth at least opens the possibility of freedom.
As Americans sit down on Thanksgiving Day to gorge themselves on the bounty of empire, many will worry about the expansive effects of overeating on their waistlines. We would be better to think about the constricting effects of the day's mythology on our minds.
Many thanks to Steve who sent this article to me
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The Furtherleft Group has now added a Music Section to the Furtherleft Chatroom. With new programming we now have a constant flow of world wide music playing in the room. These songs have been contributed from our members. Here is a LIST of these songs, they are constantly changing. And one of the best features is, the chatter himself can pick which songs he wants to hear from the list, and with a simple command can hear them.
Here is a sample shown on Youtube of one of these songs.
Guantanamera. Written by Jose Marti, a Cuban poet, essayist and journalist, who became the symbol of Cuba's struggle for independence from Spain and who promoted better understanding among American nations. "No man has any special right because he belongs to any specific race; just by saying the word man, we have already said all the rights.
It is sung here by Joseito Fernandez who made it popular.
Singer and composer.Joseíto Fernández was born on September 5, 1908 and always lived in "Los Sitios", a Havana neighborhood. He spent his life in the city environment but, as many Cuban researchers say, his abilities as sonero and his qualities as singer and improviser, allowed him to perform the peasant son and the Cuban punto.When he was 20 years old, he already worked as shoe repair man, street vendor and singer in different septets. He also sang with the Raimundo Pía Orchestra and later on he founded his own orchestra. In 1928, he composed a guajira son on a refrain or montuno entitled "Guajira Guantanamera"; but improvisation will not be the traditional quartets found in the son, but the seguidilla, thus developing a history composed by a number of décimas, sung uninterruptedly. This improvising singing was the greatest merit attributed to Joseíto Fernández who also had a voice with an extensive register.Joseíto and his orchestra interpreted all the repertoire in fashion at that time, namely rumbas, congas, guarachas, criollas and boleros. But the "Guajira Guantanamera" conveyed messages and transmitted facts and daily events. So, it became extremely popular in radio stations across the country and listeners called him "The King of Melody".During the 1960s, American singer Pete Seeger, who was interested in learning Cuban country music, replaced the "Guajira Guantanamera" refrains by quartets from Versos Sencillos written by José Martí, exquisite poet and National Hero of the Revolutionary Cuba. In 1971, Pete Seeger met Joseíto Fernández during his visit to Cuba for that purpose and since then they became close friends. This friendship lasted until Joseíto´s death eight years later.There are more than sixty versions of "Guajira Guantanamera", performed by groups and singers from all over the world.
And here is one more version of this famous song on Youtube, one can hear it being played in the background.
There is also a version of Guantanamera by Pete Seeger playing in our Chatroom.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
When you can determine the point of incongruity in an argument, it is analogous to finding a tiny pebble - which, if placed correctly, will enable one man to move a mountain - or one idea to change the world. Knowing exactly where to place the pebble, or finding the point of balance where the weight of an argument will determine the direction of thought, we can affect change with only the slightest use of force in relation to the magnitude of the problem.
About this video - Wally Wallington has demonstrated that he can lift a Stonehenge-sized pillar weighing 22,000 lbs and moved a barn over 300 ft. What makes this so special is that he does it using only himself, gravity, and his incredible ingenuity.
If you take six minutes to watch this video, you will see Wally demonstrate how he moves these gigantic blocks of stone without the aid of machinery. Using simple principles involving levers, gravity, buckets of sand, and his resourcefulness - he is able to manipulate these huge objects and replicate such monolithic structures as found at Stonehenge or in Egyptian style obelisks. In one segment he demonstrates his technique for moving a block of stone weighing over a ton by tilting it with wooden boards, and then placing a few pebbles underneath so he can rotate this massive object and thereby position it quite easily.
Aside from the simple genius of this man's method, I believe there is an important allegorical message inherent to this approach. When you can determine the point of incongruity in an argument, it is analogous to finding a tiny pebble - which, if placed correctly, will enable one man to move a mountain - or one idea to change the world. Knowing exactly where to place the pebble, or finding the point of balance where the weight of an argument will determine the direction of thought, we can affect change with only the slightest use of force in relation to the magnitude of the problem.
"Give me a lever long enough, and a place on which to rest it, and I will move the world" - Archimedes
Just as Wally has demonstrated so vividly in physical terms - as he could have brought in a huge piece of machinery to move such a block, or just a pebble placed at the right spot with just one man pushing a small load, thereby accomplishing the same task. The weight of the object or the severity of the problem is irrelevant - the most important elements being correct intellectual analysis and measurement, determining point of fulcrum and leverage, and application of minimal force to achieve the desired result.
History is replete with stories of people facing incredible odds, but succeeding in the end because of determination, belief in themselves and the righteousness of their cause - as well as the ability to place a small pebble of an idea correctly into the massive machinery of injustice. Today we are faced with audacious examples of the government's mendacity and outright disregard for human rights - so it is easy to find many spots to place our pebbles - here's one:
The entire National Security doctrine is predicated on the existence of Al Qaeda. The history of this organization is inexorably tied to the CIA since the Soviet-Afghan war - although we of course will never hear about any of these facts through the propaganda machine known as the mainstream media. The US intelligence community created Al Qaeda, nurtured it, and is now utilizing it as a central proposition for their "war on terror". Even among most of the dissenters of the current administration, the tendency to blame our protectors for security failures which allows terrorism to thrive is in itself a ruse - if you demonize the government for ineptitude you still buy into their myth and central premise as to the existence of Al Qaeda. Once you apprehend the basic fraudulence of the US government's claims about this mythical organization and their omnipresent threat to the world - the entire "war of terror" unravels and we can clearly see it as a system of lies, hatred and fear promulgated to benefit a small, malevolent group of psychopaths.
"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." - H.L. Mencken
There is no Al Qaeda without the CIA, that's what makes it so horrendous as they torture people into confessing their ties to this organization, when in reality the ones doing the accusing are actually the terrorists in question. That's why the Department of Homeland Criminals is not a legitimate entity, they are no better than a bunch of mafia gangsters - correction, they are MUCH better than any organized crime syndicate because they have managed to establish themselves as part of government while most of us are transfixed on how well America can dance.
"The 'Criminalization of the State', is when war criminals legitimately occupy positions of authority, which enable them to decide 'who are the criminals', when in fact they are the criminals" - Michel Chossudovsky
How about another spot where we can place a pebble - one of the most obvious being the ludicrous and asinine statement, "we can't show you the evidence because it's a matter of National Security". Despite the many cameras at the Pentagon, we are only presented with 5 frames that show us absolutely nothing. Apparently it's a matter of "National Security" that we are not allowed to see an airplane that would support the government's claims. Anyone who went to trial and declared, "We have evidence, but we can't show it to you" would be laughed out of court. Let's think about it - what do you suppose would happen if we saw a video of a commercial airline slamming into the Pentagon - I guess most of us would grab a butcher knife and run down to City Hall while setting ourselves on fire. Exactly how is "National Security" compromised by citizens looking at any evidence in this case? Here's the answer - if they show us the videos we will all see that they are lying and there is no plane. It is their security that is in jeopardy here, not that of the nation. The same goes for suppressing the mountain of evidence for the controlled demolition of the World Trade Center towers in their bogus investigation. How about the many videos at the airport - they could shut us up in 2 seconds flat by showing just one video of the "terrorists" with the other passengers. There's the guy - see him, he's buying a double latte coffee and doing the crossword before getting on the plane. Oops, don't spill that hot drink onto your seat there, Mohamed, the frame on that vibrating recliner might crumble from the intense heat.
"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transformation was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
There are many more points of leverage where we can place our allegorical pebbles - we just have to look at the giant brown stain on humanity known as the mainstream media for many glaring examples of intellectual inconsistency. Polls taken in the last few years show hundreds of millions of people who doubt the US government's fairy tale story about 9/11. How is this fact by itself not a major news item? The media's silence and complicity in this matter, and many others concerning 9/11, and the subsequent wars are a huge smoking gun. However, within the context of their role as a propaganda tool of this regime, it is no longer such a mystery. I still hear people naively ask, "If what you say about 9/11 is true, then why is it not all over the media?" The answer is simple. You are starting from the proposition that these networks which are owned by the same corporations that have military industrial ties, are somehow genuine and unbiased news entities that want to inform the public in an impartial way, while nothing could be further from the truth. The media's part in the cover-up is tantamount to a crime even greater than the one which occurred on 9/11 because it facilitates all the subsequent horrors based on a fallacious premise. It's one thing to be ignorant of the truth, but to be kept in the dark on purpose is an offense more egregious than all others.
The Parable of the Sheep
There was a magician who was also a shepherd. He had thousands of sheep to look after and he was a very miserly man, so he didn't want to pay anybody and he did not want his sheep to be lost or taken by the wolves. So he played a trick on the sheep. He hypnotized them and told every sheep, "You are not a sheep. Don't be afraid." To some he said, "You are a lion." To some he said, "You are tigers." To some he even said, "You are men. Nobody is going to kill you. Don't be afraid and don't try to escape from here."
The sheep started believing in his hypnosis. Every day he would butcher a few sheep but the others would think, "We are not sheep. He is butchering only sheep. We are lions, we are tigers, we are wolves, we are this and that...", even that they were men. And they believed it. It was always some sheep which was to be butchered. They remained aloof, distant. They were not worried. And by and by they were all slaughtered. - George Gurdjieff
Those people "over there" in Iraq and Afghanistan who get butchered today are no different than those unfortunate souls who were murdered on the day of 9/11, or anyone else whose life is sacrificed for the cause of war. It is a fact that every war serves to consolidate the assets of the ruling elite, this is as true today as when the New York and London bankers financed the Bolshevik Revolution or Hitler's Nazi party in WWII. It takes a long time and a huge amount of money to plan and wage a war - these folks want a return on their investment, and the common people are always the ones who end up paying through taxes and blood. I wish I could reach back through time and tell my ancestors not to pick up that gun, that all such conflicts are based on deceit and manipulation of both sides by a ruling class on top. If you stand there wearing a costume and holding a weapon, you might be hypnotized into believing these lofty ideals about duty, honour, justice and peace. The reality is that you are being used to kill others so a select few can grow rich and gain more power. If somebody took an automatic weapon and started murdering your neighbours you might kick up a fuss - but when it happens "over there" and they put on a uniform, then it's supposed to be okay. In fact, you should be proud on behalf of your country.
Until we wake up to the incongruity of thought in this situation we will play a vital role which enables its continuance. It is entirely possible to stop the machinery of war and change this path toward human destruction. The enormity of this task may seem daunting when you consider what it might take to move this gigantic block of oppression and injustice that is pressing down on our world, or it could be as easy as changing your mind and picking up a pebble.
"The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness" - Lao Tzu