Monday, March 31, 2008

Mexico Oil

Opponents of efforts to allow foreign firms to invest and profit from Mexico's oil riches display a banner saying "Pemex is not for sale" in Mexico City's main square last week. Pemex, Mexico's state-owned oil company, says that it needs outside technological help to bring up oil from deep-water fields.

Leftist party decries Calderon's proposal

to enlist foreign firms in deep-water drilling.

Pemex, short for Petroleos Mexicanos, says that it needs outside technological help to bring up oil from deep-water fields. But such a proposal raises the hot-button question of whether foreign companies should be allowed to invest and profit from any of Mexico's oil riches.

The issue is deeply emotional as well as politically charged. Mexico nationalized its oil fields in 1938, expropriating American and European companies. Ever since, most Mexicans have considered public ownership of the country's most lucrative natural resource to be a cornerstone of their sovereignty.

On Tuesday, leaders of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, announced that they would form "resistance brigades" composed of 10,000 women and 18,000 men to fight Calderon's proposals with marches and barricades.

And Wednesday, leaders of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, expressed opposition to key elements of the reforms, though they earlier had suggested that they might support it. Calderon needs PRI votes to pass any legislation.

"We are in complete disagreement with the [Calderon] government," Manlio Fabio Beltrones, a PRI senator, said in a radio interview.

Analysts say Mexico's oil reserves could be depleted in a decade if new fields aren't discovered and tapped.

The county's main oil field, Cantarell, is in a major decline. In February, the output of Cantarell, in shallow Gulf of Mexico waters off Campeche state, averaged 1.145 million barrels per day, according to government figures. That's off 24% compared with to the same month last year. And it's down 46% since production peaked at just over 2.1 million barrels per day in 2004.

Calderon has said that Pemex needs foreign help to explore new fields.

In an interview with The Times in February, Calderon suggested that Mexicans should not look upon foreign investment in the oil industry with fear. He pointed to China and Brazil, two countries with government-controlled oil companies that allow foreign investment.

"We have a treasure that could finance the development of the country," Calderon said. "The problem is that it's in the ocean, and at a depth that we Mexicans cannot yet reach by ourselves."

The "treasure" metaphor has been repeated in Pemex television commercials this week in support of deep-water drilling. Those ads say Pemex can reach deep-water oil with "the experience and technology of others," but does not specifically refer to foreign companies.

The PRD has countered with its own spots, which call any private profit from Pemex a national betrayal.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the firebrand leader of the PRD, told the thousands at a rally here Tuesday that they should resist "the group of potentates, both foreign and domestic, who cynically . . . plan to transform our oil into a juicy private business."

Last year, Pemex generated $104.5 billion in revenue. Half of that money went to the government: The company is the nation's largest taxpayer, and Mexico relies on it to fund schools, roads and social programs.

After paying salaries and other costs, Pemex was left with a loss of $1.5 billion -- in a year when major oil companies around the globe posted blockbuster earnings.

Officials of the ruling National Action Party, or PAN, have not yet submitted their proposed legislation. But they have given the broad outlines of measures to allow private companies to sign contracts with Pemex for exploratory drilling.

PRI officials, who initially appeared warm to the idea, said this week that they could not support changes that guarantee investors a share of any oil they find.

Such arrangements are standard in the oil industry, accepted even by communist Cuba. But they are impossible under Mexican law, which says the country's oil deposits belong exclusively to Mexico's citizens. The nation's constitution allows private companies to participate solely as contractors and forbids so-called "risk contracts" that would reward them with a share of production.

Analysts say private investment is unlikely unless Mexico agrees to share profits from drilling and exploration, known in the industry as "upstream" operations.

"Any upstream component of an energy reform has been difficult from the beginning," said Enrique Bravo, Latin America analyst with the Eurasia Group, a New York-based political risk analysis consulting firm. "Now it looks even more so. . . . The PRI is toughening its position."

Indeed, Beltrones, the PRI's leader in the Senate, accused the government of "alarmism" Wednesday. In an interview with the newspaper Reforma, he said Calderon administration officials were painting the worst possible picture of Pemex to ram through its energy measures.

The PRI legislator said he was skeptical of data released this month on the company's plunging petroleum reserves. Proven reserves have fallen 41% since 2000, to about 14.7 billion barrels, according to Pemex figures. That translates into less than a decade's worth of production unless Mexico can quickly tap new sources of oil.

Independent oil analysts say the country's proven petroleum bounty is even less and for years have predicted the decline of the Cantarell field. The real surprise, they say, is how little Mexico has done to prepare for Cantarell's inevitable demise.

Geologists believe there may be vast reserves of oil below the seabed in the deepest waters of the Gulf.

The trouble is that Mexico has no way of tapping these potential riches.

Deep-water drilling requires specialized know-how, advanced technology and loads of money, none of which Pemex has, analysts say.

Today's Slaves

by Ben Skinner, Huffington Post

Recently, a friend told me that Barack Obama was giving a major speech addressing slavery. But unlike most of the two million others that watched it on YouTube, what drew me was not the promise of a mature discussion of race or even the spectacle of a man throwing his friend under the bus. I watched with the hope that the senator might call on the nation to get past its "original sin," as he rightly called slavery, by working against its modern incarnation. What I heard was a soaring and intelligent plea for racial reconciliation. As usual, however, the discussion of slavery was stalled in the past.

"Words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage," Obama said. He was speaking of his wife's nineteenth-century forbearers.

But he might have been speaking about a young, mentally-handicapped woman that was offered to me in trade for a used car in a brothel in Bucharest. In an attempt to make her sellable, her pimp had put makeup on her face, but when he presented her to me, the terrified woman was crying so hard that it had smeared. Her right arm bore angry, red slashes where apparently she had tried to escape the daily rape the only way she knew how.

Or he could have been referring to a third-generation quarry slave that I got to know in northern India. A serial-killing contractor regularly beat the man, and forced his entire family to work in a quarry for no pay beyond upkeep.

Or he might have been referring to our failed collective promise to a nine-year-old Haitian girl, whom a trafficker offered to me for $50 on the street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Or he might have been speaking about another Haitian girl, whom I met as a twenty-year-old survivor. She had been held as a domestic slave and sex slave for three years starting at age nine. The place of her bondage was a $351,000 household in suburban Miami, amidst what Senator Obama called "a land of big dreamers and big hopes."

For them, the Constitution that meant so little to Michelle Obama's forebearers means even less. For them, the three hundred international treaties banning slavery and the slave trade mean nothing at all.

There are more slaves today than at any point in human history. United Nations estimates begin at 12 million and range up to 27 million real slaves, worldwide. Yet leaders like Obama rarely mention their plight, because it doesn't register on the average American's radar, because slavery is everywhere illegal, because it is hidden behind the fraud of traffickers, masters and corrupt government officials. Real slaves -- those forced to work under threat of violence for no pay beyond subsistence -- are everywhere and nowhere.

In 2003, I set out to find slaves and their captors for my book, A Crime So Monstrous. Whenever I visited a new country, my first challenge was to find a single slave. After ingratiating myself to the right people, often shady characters, I went through the looking glass. Then the slaves were everywhere. In the end, I infiltrated trafficking networks and slave sales on five continents.

I found that slavery today is no less monstrous than it was 150 years ago. A pimp in Istanbul bargained with me for the lives of three young Eastern European women as if he were selling second-hand iPods.

In Moldova, I found villages essentially drained of young women by traffickers. A few made it back, only to face ostracism. Most never returned. One who did survive tearfully recounted how she had been tricked into prostitution in Turkey, violently raped, sold several times, only to be "rescued" by Turkish police, thrown into prison, repatriated, and trafficked again.

A mother living on the Indian border with Nepal broke down in tears as she described the pain of giving her son to a trafficker in order to save him from starvation, only to have him disappear into bondage, along with thousands of other children in India's carpet belt. I found the slave trader that had sold her son to a loom owner and I brought him to her. In a belated act of contrition, he too wept and pled for the mother's forgiveness.

When that is the reality of our world today, we may out of instinct turn away, preferring only to think of slavery at a distance, as a sepia-toned, historic relic, invoked to buttress the political argument of Senator Obama.

But slavery is no relic. And future generations will judge us harshly if we act as if it is. This Wednesday, Florida became the sixth state to formally apologize for its history of slavery, joining North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. It was an important act of reconciliation. But for those, like the girl enslaved in that suburban Miami house, apologizing for the past does nothing to alleviate the bondage of the present.

To date, none of the presidential candidates has truly "owned" the issue of modern-day abolition. Senator Clinton comes closest. She met survivors of sex slavery in Southeast Asia during her husband's presidency, and spoke out numerous times against the crime while in the Senate. Senator McCain has been thoughtful on modern-day slavery and some of his closest advisors have strong antislavery track records.

Ironically, the candidate with the weakest demonstrated record on modern-day slavery is Senator Obama. Though last year he co-sponsored a resolution supporting the National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness, such an effort hardly constitutes ownership of the issue.

Senator Obama has inspired millions of Americans with his message of hope. My hope, and the hope of other abolitionists, is that as president he will finally fulfill our collective pledge to bury slavery once and for all.

E. Benjamin Skinner is the author of A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery (Free Press, 2008)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Murder Inc. & Haiti

Globalization And Terror: Murder Inc. and Haiti

Corporate globalization depends on governmental readiness to murder. Peoples and organizations in countries that defend their right to self determination can expect no mercy. The Bush regime and its allies may squabble occasionally over ways and means, but their behaviour towards peoples like those of Haiti and Palestine leaves no room for doubt - the US and allied governments operate a system of murderous global gangsterism to get what they want. The UN Security Council now functions pretty much as a diplomatic version of Murder Inc.

Haiti's prolonged destruction by foreign powers is just one more example of rich country elites' determination to seize what they want by denying fundamental rights to peoples around the world. Four years on, the coup against President Aristide organized by the United States, Canada and France fits imperialism's familiar historical pattern. All the fake, elegant-suited blather about bringing democracy and prosperity to Haiti has boiled down to murderous military occupation by the United Nations defending a corrupt North American and European backed elite, while starving people survive by eating cakes made of dirt.

Immediately after the coup, George W. Bush said, "This government believes it essential that Haiti have a hopeful future. This is the beginning of a new chapter in the country's history." Then US ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte said, "Haiti has turned a new page in its history." (5) What, now, does this brave new world for Haiti, as prepared by George Bush, John Negroponte and their corporate gangster cronies look like?

The statistics of misery

Associated Press writer Jonathan Katz reported on January 29th this year " places like Cite Soleil, the oceanside slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal..."When my mother does not cook anything, I have to eat them three times a day," Charlene said. Her baby, named Woodson, lay still across her lap, looking even thinner than the slim 6 pounds 3 ounces he weighed at birth."

The World Bank reckons Haiti's population is just under 9 million. Gross national income per capita in 2006 was about US$480. After two and a half years of foreign intervention, in September 2006, the IMF reckoned (6) that over 70% of people still lived on less than US$2 a day with 55% of people living on a per capita income of just US$0.44 per day. Four years after the coup, Katz's report shows nothing has improved. So if we say Haiti's population is now around 8.8 million- that means that just an hour's flying time from Miami, nearly 5 million people are effectively starving.

That 2006 IMF report - an Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper - noted real per capita gross domestic product then equalled just 70% of Haiti's GDP in 1980. Also, "Access to basic public services (health, education, running water, sanitation) is very unreliable and social indicators are alarming. Infant mortality is estimated at 76/1,000 or two times the regional average, and life expectancy is about 18 years short of the regional average. Moreover, less than half of the population has access to drinking water in both rural and urban areas, compared to regional averages of 71 percent and 93 percent, respectively. Access to improved sanitary facilities is available to a very small portion of Haiti’s population: 16 percent in rural areas and 50 percent in urban areas, whereas in Central America and the Caribbean, these percentages average 49 percent and 86 percent, respectively."

Another report, this one by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, also appeared in September 2006. "Haiti’s Dirty Little Secret: the Problem of Child Slavery", reported on the "restavec" system of forced child labour, "According to the Haitian government, there are about 90,000 to 120,000 children in bondage, but UNICEF estimates significantly larger numbers, ranging from 250,000 to 300,000." This, remember, from a population of just under 9 million.

Right now, the sustainability of Haiti's economy is doubtful. Haiti has suffered the same imperialist policy pressures as all the other countries in Central America and the Caribbean that have led to a decline of their rural economies along with concomitant environmental destruction. Those neoliberal policies were deliberately designed by rich country "development" planners to create a large pool of vulnerable easily exploited migrant labour all too ready to seek work either as illegal immigrants to the US or in local super-exploitative maquila industries serving luxury brands in North America and Europe.

The resulting agricultural collapse has been disastrous for Haiti's rural economy and for the poor majority's ability to get enough to eat. "Student activists in Haiti are calling for an overhaul of the nation's agriculture policies, which they say have resulted in Haiti importing more than half of its food while local farmers are mired in poverty." (7)The misery and suffering endured by Haiti's people four years after the coup against President Aristide prevails despite what passes for support from the "international community".

Return to colonialism

Looking at Iraq or Palestine or Afghanistan, one can see quite clearly that anywhere the US government and its allies have intervened people are at least as badly off and usually worse off than they were before that intervention. Haiti's case follows the pattern. The US government and its Murder Inc. allies on the UN Security Council decide it is time for "regime-change". They impose economic sanctions. They deliberately attempt to provoke internal crisis and conflict. Their propaganda media mount a relentless campaign to prepare public opinion among the Murder Inc. countries' domestic audience. Finally they resort to military force to install the regime they want. Invariably, it is a puppet government facing fierce, resentful opposition from the people on whom it has been imposed, able to survive only via enforcement by foreign troops.

This is readily apparent if one reviews quotes from the time of the coup. Colin Powell , then US Secretary of State, said in the coup aftermath "...we felt by the end of last week that the only real answer was if President Aristide would take a hard look at the situation and decide to step down, which is what he did. And we said that under those circumstances we would come in, and we came in immediately." Or, " became very clear to all of us and to the Canadians and the French that he [Aristide] had pretty much used up whatever political authority and credibility he had." (see note 5)

"We felt". "It became pretty clear to all of us." But who are these "we", these "all of us" except the most reactionary elements among the elites of the former colonial powers? Effectively nothing has changed since the days of the US military occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934. The only superficial difference is that the occupying forces are now UN mercenaries, most shamefully from Latin American countries like Brazil, Bolivia and Chile. The supreme, revolting irony is that United Nations member countries are themselves effectively trashing the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Charter. One wonders if Evo Morales does not see that something similar to President Aristide's fate could just as plausibly befall him once John Negroponte and hit-men like US ambassador Philip Goldberg have created the right conditions in Bolivia.

Human rights in post-coup Haiti

Corporate media coverage of hunger and poverty in Haiti fits snugly into the long standing racist stereotype Haiti shares with impoverished African countries. They are viewed as "basket cases" whom their former colonial owners, unfortunately and regrettably, can do hardly anything to help. To indifferent rich country public opinion, such cliches are sufficient to explain away the "international community's" abject failure to help promote sustainable economic progress in Haiti.

But it is much harder for the UN occupation forces and the "international community" to justify the persistence of gross human rights abuses which is what the 2004 coup was supposedly intended to stop. To cover up the shocking reality, Murder Inc. governments enlist media obfuscation and oblivion to tread softly around gross abuses. These include the thousands of people killed during and after the coup, the political prisoners held without due process for years, the hundreds of people unjustly convicted, mass victimization of members of Fanmi Lavalas, impunity for US-trained murderers, UN massacres and blatant attempts to rig electoral processes.

Constant advocacy for human rights in Haiti by respected, authoritative organizations like the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti ( have been backed up by various studies since the 2004 coup describing and documenting abuse and violation of human rights in the country. The Center for the Study of Human Rights of Miami University's Law School published a report of an investigation by Thomas Griffin in November 2004. Griffin and his team documented the truly sickening security breakdown in Port-au-Prince with the police dominated by former Haitian army soldiers and gang warfare fomented by sinister US-supported figures like coup-instigator Andy Apaid.

Griffin gives important context in his report by explaining the role of US government not-so-non-governmental organizations like the International Foundation for Electoral Systems - funded directly by USAID on a no-competing-bid basis - in the coup against Aristide. The report's account of an interview with Pierre Vixamar, a stooge of the US and Canadian governments, is a classic portrait of the mentality of a colonialist catspaw. After documenting the nightmarish conditions in the Haitian capital's hospitals and morgue, Griffin concluded "Life for the impoverished majority is becoming more violent and more inhuman as the months pass since the elected government’s removal on February 29, 2004."

A July 19th 2004 report by IJDH, also covering the post coup period, documented hundreds of violent deaths. Anthony Fenton (8) makes two important observations about that report. Firstly, he notes that like all the other reports on the post-coup human rights situation it was only able to cover the Port au Prince/Central Plateau area - implying rightly that the full extent of abuses and violent death throughout Haiti following the coup is certainly many times higher. Secondly, he focuses on the report's assertion that “With the exception of four victims and for those whom it has not been possible to obtain their identity, interviewees have reported that the victims were supporters of Aristide or Haiti’s former constitutional government.”

Corporate media silence on the post coup massacres in Haiti is in stark contrast to mainstream media coverage of government repression of the 2007 uprising in Burma or of the post-election inter-communal violence in Kenya. One is entitled to assume that since most of the victims of Haiti's violence seem to have been impoverished supporters of President Aristide, their suffering was and is unimportant as far as the Western Bloc propaganda media are concerned. At the time of the coup only a handful of journalists like Kevin Pina and Jean Ristil were faithfully reporting matters at grass roots - their reports were ignored by the major corporate media.

One can draw a similar conclusion with regard to the The Lancet article "Human rights abuse and other criminal violations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: a random survey of households". (9) One of the report's authors, Athena Kolbe, wrote more graphically in at least one other article (as Lyn Duff) about the horrific use of rape and sexual abuse to destroy pro-Aristide families. (10) The Lancet article reported, "Our findings suggested that 8000 individuals were murdered in the greater Port-au-Prince area during the 22-month period assessed. Almost half of the identified perpetrators were government forces or outside political actors. Sexual assault of women and girls was common, with findings suggesting that 35,000 women were victimised in the area; more than half of all female victims were younger than 18 years."

The article's authors interpreted these findings as follows, "crime and systematic abuse of human rights were common in Port-au-Prince. Although criminals were the most identified perpetrators of violations, political actors and UN soldiers were also frequently identified. These findings suggest the need for a systematic response from the newly elected Haitian government, the UN, and social service organisations to address the legal, medical, psychological, and economic consequences of widespread human rights abuses and crime."

Given the Haitian government's meagre resources and the intimidating political context in which they are working, the promotion and defence of human rights in Haiti are likely to remain in the balance. The case of human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, still missing after seven months is emblematic of the the government's failure to impose whatever limited authority it may have. Amnesty International has issued repeated alerts lately documenting death threats to human rights activists, among them Wilson Mesilien, Franztco Joseph and Yveson Piton. (11)

Historical continuities : regional projections

Most of these these reports of systematic human rights abuses have been either ignored or when they are impossible to ignore, like the Lancet article, they have been rubbished, the integrity of their authors challenged, their methodology questioned. That pattern follows the same pattern of perception management deployed by the US government and its allies against any steadfast opposition in Latin America, from Sandino's pequeño ejercito loco in 1930s Nicaragua to guerilla groups in Colombia for over forty years, from Guatemala's Arbenz to Allende's Chile, from the Cuban revolution to the Sandinista revolution to the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela and the indigenous resurgence under Evo Morales in Bolivia.

During the Nicaraguan war the historic 1986 judgement by the International Court of Human Rights against the United States government for instigating the Contra terrorist campaign against Nicaragua's elected government was buried by the media. Numerous reports detailing systematic and widespread contra atrocities were discounted while Nicaraguan government measures to combat US government directed terrorism were demonized. Against current adversaries, the US government - run by many of the same people who connived in trafficking arms and drugs to fund the Nicaraguan Contra - continues implementing with its allies what in the 1980s, against Nicaragua, Mozambique and Angola, they called "total war at grass roots level".

Just as in those former conflicts, they openly fund non-governmental organizations opposed to target governments under the guise of "strengthening democracy and human rights". At the same time they covertly organize paramilitary organizations and murder campaigns. Having deliberately provoked conflict and instability, they then accuse the target government of being incapable of meeting its people's needs. Then it is time for "regime change" via whatever puppet quisling opportunists they can muster, imposed by some cynically engineered "coalition of the willing" with or without a UN Murder Inc. permit.

The United States and allies like Canada or member countries of the European Union maintain the same colonialist mentality they have always had. Their priority is the maintenance of their own power and influence via local proxies and enfeebled governments. To achieve that outcome they will relentlessly and deliberately arrange wholesale murder so as to repress democratic popular movements. They represent an ancien regime whose overwhelming advantage - derived from slavery and genocide in countries they colonised - is slipping away. The horrific deliberate destruction of Haiti and the wholesale murder and imprisonment of supporters of former President Aristide has a double aspect.

On the one hand it is a reprise of imperialist policy as applied throughout the 20th century against peoples that insist on their right to self-determination. On the other it is the latest precursor in Latin America of renewed US and allied readiness to destroy progressive movements in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. The recent Colombian government massacre of FARC members and visiting Mexican research students in Ecuador was a trial run for what is likely to be a series of such provocations through 2008. After their success in Haiti, the US government and its Murder Inc. allies are moving on to bigger, oil-and-gas-rich prey.

Written by Toni Solo
Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Americans are Guilty

Americans Are Guilty

We are guilty of a very great and ongoing evil.

Led by rulers blind to justice and deaf to history, arrogant and self-righteous, anxious for fame, indifferent to violence and willfully ignorant, a selfish and malleable American people, aroused by fear and steeped in obedience, sent their uniformed and armed sons and daughters into a strange and ancient land to conquer and root out its political leaders, defeat its forces, and remake that distant and foreign nation in its own image. Unfamiliar names like Mosul and Fallujah, crossed and re-crossed by the peoples of ancient civilizations for thousands of years before Americans birthed a nation and empire, became bloody headlines of mass destruction, death, desolation, and disruption.

Five years later, the shame of a nation, the invasion of a foreign Muslim land with massive injury and death brought to its people by this supposedly Christian nation, still multiplies its evil and continues the campaign of interference, domination, and suffering begun decades ago. History will record no shining victory here, but a long-running episode in which a mighty empire, like its brutal predecessors, wasted its blood and treasure in injustice, futility, and ineptitude.

We are guilty of a very great and ongoing evil. When will we not only end this very great evil but also extinguish its sources? Do we ask if we will repeat these deeds next year or five years from now? Do we even wonder what other strange and unfamiliar places and peoples we will invade or re-invade? Do we wonder what themes and stories we will then conjure up as justifications so that we may sleep the peaceful sleep of the innocent?

We have arranged our comfortable and painless lives so that, out of our sight and without being whipped and brutalized, we effortlessly pay for a massive machinery of blood operated by an immense political power that we have inherited, built up, maintained, blessed, and anointed. That machinery and what it does and is doing is who we are. That machinery embodies our evil, and it is a very great evil.

It is an evil waiting to be undone and overcome. Will we be the people to undo and overcome it? Maybe not. Time is short. Our disintegration runs on and on, unstoppably, on an unending track. Our leaders persuade us that we are racing to the top. We are racing to the bottom. The contempt for human life exhibited by us and our leaders rises. It shows no sign of diminishing.

Our rulers manipulate us into the worship of power and the machinery of war. We pay for our own destruction. Our war department and those of other nations are already building terrifying robot machinery that will develop itself under the programmed instruction of its masters. The bloodthirsty tyrants among us, left unchecked, will raise warfare to ever higher levels. What will they do but employ such a phalanx of robots domestically against us or those targeted as enemies of the people? Who will escape being a target? Oppression and domination are the life-blood of tyrants.

Empire abroad and oppression at home, in all its forms, are brothers under the skin, mutually reinforcing. We have empire abroad because we have domestic oppression, and we will have domestic oppression as long as we have empire abroad.

The quadrennial spectacles of presidential politics change faces. They do not change the organizations of power and blood that run America. Will we change them? Possibly, but maybe not. A democracy is a hydra. How does one change it? Where is the tyrant? He is everywhere. He is inside us. We must cut down the tyrant inside each of us.

We are not radical enough. We are too self-satisfied. We are not rebellious enough. We are bound up in invisible wires. We are indoctrinated. We fear too much, and in that fear is our slavery.

Whence cometh change? The spirit of peace hovers over and around all of us. The air carries its unaccustomed words to our ears. We hear them not, or ignore them. The light carries its messages to our eyes. We read them not, or ignore them. These are very great evils.

We have kneeled so long before our national altar that we can no longer arise and topple it. It is an idol with a huge mouth that symbolizes devouring. We worship and devour ourselves. We bow before this idol, which is a dehumanized and depersonified vision and version of ourselves. This is a very great evil.

Michael S. Rozeff [] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Classified Memo

Reveals Iraqi Prisoners as Starving

By Jason Leopold

A classified memo written by the top U.S. military officer in western Iraq reveals that a prison in downtown Fallujah is so overcrowded and dirty that it does not even meet basic "minimal levels of hygiene for human beings."

"The conditions in these jails are so bad that I think we need to do the right thing in terms of caring for the prisoners even with our own dollars, or release them," says the memo, written in late February by Maj. Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S forces in western Iraq.

The classified document, leaked to the Web site Wikileaks where whistleblowers can "reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations," was authenticated by the organization and has not been challenged by the U.S. military when asked about it.

The memo contains other shocking revelations about conditions at the jail, including a massive shortage of food and water. The prison is said to be run by Iraqi officials. U.S. Marines oversee operation of the facility.

"I found the conditions there to be exactly (unbelivable [sic] over crowding, total lack of anything approaching even minimal levels of hygiene for human beings, no food, little water, no ventilation) to those described in the recent (18 February) FOX news artickle [sic] by Michael Totten entitled the 'Dungeon of Fallujah,’" says Kelly’s memo.

"We need to go to general quarters on this issue right now... To state that the current system is broken would erroneously imply that there is a system in place to be broken."

Totten, an independent journalist, said the prison can house a maximum of 110 prisoners but he discovered that there were more then 900 crammed into the facility. U.S. contractors built the prison in 2005 which is located next to the U.S. Joint Communications Center.

It is unknown who received the memo from Kelly. A Pentagon spokesman did not return calls for comment late Wednesday.

Kelly wrote that when he inspected the prison "iraqis [sic] and marines present throughout my inspection as to why these conditions existed, three conditions were universaly [sic] cited as problems in Fallujah as well as the rest of Anbar," the commander’s memo says.

"First, there is zero support from the government for any of the jails in Anbar. No funds, food or medical support has been provided from any ministry," Kelly said.

"Second, the police that run Anbar's jails are the same personnel responsable [sic] for investigating crimes. These jailer/investigators are undermanned and more often than not spend most of their time out begging and scavenging for food than investigating crimes. (It is unlikely the prisoners will eat today)...

"I believe the Iraqi police are doing the best they can, and they literally begged me on humanitarian, moral and religious grounds to help them help the prisoners by somehow moving the government to action."

In a report published earlier Wednesday, Lt. Col. Michael Callanan told United Press International that following an inspection of the prison by Kelly, U.S. forces decided to "advise and assist" Iraqis managing the jail and are providing food to the prisoners.

"They are being fed now," Callanan told UPI.

In addition to the substandard conditions at the prison, Kelly’s memo describes how the U.S. military, five years since invading the country, still cannot seem to find success training Iraq security forces.

"The Iraqi police will ultimately be the ones whose shoulders the burden of winning or losing the fight will be carried," the classified memo says. "To date, little attention has been paid to the Iraqi corrections system in Anbar and its current discrepancies will prevent the [Iraqi police] from becoming a professional law enforcement force unless immediate and significant support is provided."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Coca Rights

Fighting for the Right to Chew Coca

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky

La Paz - Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela have avoided war, but now two other Andean nations are gearing up for battle. This time the foe is the United Nations, and the cause is the right to chew coca, the raw material of cocaine. It may not sound as important as the diplomatic row that shook the region earlier this month. But the dispute is momentous for millions of people in Bolivia and Peru — where the coca leaf is sacred to indigenous culture and a tonic of modern life — and for anti-drug officials in the U.S. and other countries who are desperate to stem the relentless flow of cocaine. Says Silvia Rivera, a sociology professor at San Andres University in Bolivia's capital, La Paz, "This is the most aggressive attack [Bolivians] have faced" since the U.N. designated coca a drug in 1961.

The latest affront, they say, is a recommendation this month from the UN's drug enforcement watchdog, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), that Bolivia and Peru criminalize the practice of chewing coca and drinking its tea. The move has provoked widespread anger and street protests in the two countries, especially among the majority indigenous populations. For them, coca has been a cultural cornerstone for 3,000 years, as much a part of daily life as coffee in the U.S. (La Paz is home to perhaps the world's only coca museum.) From the countryside to swanky urban hotels, it is chewed or brewed to stave off hunger or exhaustion or to ease the often debilitating effects of high-altitude life in the Andes. It is also "used by healers and in ceremonial offerings to the gods," says Ana Maria Chavez, a coca seller in La Paz, who refers to her product as "the sacred leaf." Pope John Paul II even drank coca tea on a 1988 visit to Bolivia. It is, says Chavez, "part of who we are."

The problem is, it's also considered the building block of broken lives in the rest of the world, where cocaine consumption and addiction remain rampant in developed regions like North America and Europe. The U.S. has spent more than $5 billion this decade aiding Colombia's largely failed efforts to eradicate coca cultivation. Meanwhile, Washington and the U.N. have tried to get Bolivia and Peru to reduce their coca crops to the bare minimum for traditional consumption. Peru and Bolivia are the region's second and third largest coca producers, behind Colombia, with about more than 75,000 hectares (185,000 acres) under cultivation, or almost half of global supply.

The 1961 U.N. convention called for coca's elimination by the late 1980s. A new accord struck in 1988 recognized the plant's traditional attributes and allowed for limited local use, while anti-narcotics forces continued to work to wipe out coca's drug-related cultivation, destroy the labs that process it into cocaine and intercept traffickers. But this month's INCB report seeks to end that uneasy arrangement. A big reason is that despite the decades-long, multi-billion-dollar drug war in Latin America, cocaine production has remained stable at best. Criminalizing even traditional coca use may be the only means agencies like the INCB feel they have left to salvage the anti-drug mission. Consuming the raw, unprocessed leaf, says the INCB report, abets "the progression of drug dependence."

Critics of the report call that conclusion an absurd stretch, especially since there is no published evidence that the coca leaf itself is toxic or addictive. Foremost among the detractors is left-wing
Bolivian President Evo Morales, who remains head of one of the country's largest coca-growing unions and was elected as Bolivia's first indigenous head of state in 2005 in part because of his defense of the leaf. "This leaf," Morales said at last year's U.N. General Assembly, holding one up at the podium, "represents... the hope of our people." Bolivia accounts for about 17% of worldwide coca supply and Morales gets much of the international blame for coca's persistence.

But while critics like the U.S may call him disingenuous for arguing that coca and cocaine are apples and oranges — analysts say that despite government efforts, much of the coca grown in Bolivia ends up in drug cartels' hands — he has also helped lead what experts like Rivera call "a revaluation of the coca leaf." "Many people," says the sociologist, "have begun to rediscover its nutritional and medicinal benefits."

Indeed, several international studies, including one published by Harvard University, say that raw coca is loaded with protein, calcium, iron and a range of vitamins. As a result, Morales has encouraged a local industry, with an eye to exporting, that is turning coca into everything from flour to toothpaste, shampoo and curative lotions. (Morales sent Fidel Castro a coca cake for his 80th birthday last year.) Even as the INCB was issuing its report, the Bolivian government was reaffirming its desire to increase Bolivia's legal coca crop limit from 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) to 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres). The Bush Administration has warned that the latter move would put Bolivia in violation of its international agreements — it is "not consistent with Bolivia's obligations," said the State Department — and risk tens of millions of dollars in U.S. aid.

Seemingly undeterred, Bolivia said this month it was also set to invest another $300,000 for developing new, legal coca markets. Not surprisingly, the Bolivian delegation was the first to issue what it called an "energetic protest" against the INCB's recommendations during the agency's annual meeting this week in Vienna. It also put forward a proposal to remove coca from the U.N.'s narcotics list. That's not likely to happen. The big question is whether the U.N. will adopt the INCB proposal — which would essentially leave Bolivia and Peru in breach of international law if they continue to allow coca's non-narcotic use and commercialization. That in turn could result in the U.N. calling for commercial or other embargoes against them.

Many Bolivians say they don't care. "My grandfather and my grandmother sold coca and I've been doing it for 48 years," says Josefina Rojas, another La Paz coca seller. "We aren't going to let them take coca away from us no matter what." Such is the latest Andean conundrum. One that might be harder to solve than a potential war.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Love, American Style

By Michael Green

Outside I hear the ground shaking
Up from underneath
It’s only when the empire’s breaking
That you see their teeth

Americans love to think that they are a peaceful people, and that they fight wars only when they must.

Unfortunately, you can count in nanoseconds how long those assertions hold up when exposed to such insidious commie dirty tricks as the application of logic or the examination of empirical history.

Sure, any war can be spun as some necessity against some Very Bad Person, preferably of brown skin, slanted eyes and/or differing deity. Not only can any war be so spun, probably every war there ever was has been, at least since the days when governments had to start offering some justification or another for their little foreign adventures.

But pick your barometer – any one will work – and you’ll quickly see who are the militant folks on the planet. For Americans, it turns out to be that bloated, frightened meth-addict staring back at them in the mirror, not some overseas evil emperor du jour.

For example, suppose you wanted to measure comparative national war-like tendencies by simply counting wars. Since World War II, the US has messed around, in ways big and small, in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Lebanon, Granada, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Somalia, Afghanistan again, and Iraq again. No country in the world can begin to match this record in the last half-century. And I’m not even listing here the covert operations (almost everywhere), including the ones that toppled democratically elected governments (Iran, Guatemala, Chile, etc.), the long-term occupations of Latin American countries by the US military, the gunboat diplomacy of the American Navy around the world, the aiding and abetting of other killers (Saddam invading Iran, for example, apartheid South Africa or the Israeli occupation of Palestine), the militarization of the oceans and of space, or the myriad other ways in which the US leads the planet in aggressive tendencies.

Who has China been invading lately? Russia? Cuba? Heck, even Saddam couldn’t touch this record for aggression, especially once you account for the fact that the US government assisted his foreign soiree into Iran (complete with the chemical weapons, of course) and likely green-lighted the one into Kuwait as well.

Isn’t the sheer volume of them – especially relative to the number of wars other countries have fought – a bit problematic for maintaining the pretense of America’s pacific intent? The list above goes to nearly twenty. Isn’t that a bit much for a peace-loving country?

But scratch that measure if you must (perhaps it cuts too close to the bone). Maybe we can detect America’s dislike for war in another metric, say military spending. Oops. Turns out that’s going to be a bit problematic too. I guess it won’t be a huge surprise to anybody that the US spends more on ‘defense’ than any other country in the world.

The United States not only outspends every other country in the world on military goodies, it outspends ALL other countries of the world. Combined. That’s right. Take all 190-plus countries out there and add together their defense budgets and you still won’t equal America’s alone. What’s more, that doesn’t even include the costs in veterans’ (so-called) care, munitions replacement etc. Oh, and did I mention that one-sixth of USA's population doesn’t have healthcare coverage? Never mind. I’m sure those are completely unrelated facts.

Anyhow, does that sound like a peace-loving country to you? They love it so much that they outspend nearly 200 other countries in the world – combined! – in buying shit for war? And think about this for a second: How absolutely disastrous does your diplomacy have to get so that you need to be able to fight off every other country of the world, all at once?!

Okay, okay, so that one didn’t work out so well either. The good news is that at least they don’t make the world an uglier place by continually inventing new and more vicious weaponry. Not the peace-loving Americans! You know, like atom bombs, napalm, bunker-busters, cluster bombs, neutron bombs, space lasers, phosphorous bombs and stuff like that! Who would build such things? What kind of depraved mind would harness so much of its scientific and industrial establishment to such ends? Who would... er... um... Hey, wait a minute! What do you mean that they invented and manufactured all those things?!?! I thought they were the peace-loving people! Meanwhile, can I interest you in some depleted uranium at a very, very attractive price?

Okay, but they must be good neighbors, really, because they’re always the ones who are pushing for all sorts of international treaties to limit war, weapons and the worst practices of nasty governments. You know, for example, how they signed on to the United Nations Charter (which they more or less also wrote), and its requirement that states may only use militarized aggression in the case of self-defense or when authorized by the Security Council to do so in a collective security operation. Or maybe you prefer the treaties against land mines, child soldiers or the weaponization of space, which they’re pretty much the only folks not signing? The “quaint” and “obsolete” Geneva Conventions against torture and war crimes? How about the International Criminal Court, which John Bolton led the Bush administration into single-handedly trying to destroy? Hmmm... Wonder why they would have wanted to get rid of that? Gee, I thought genocide and war crimes were a bad thing! America is the world leader in supporting human rights and seeking peace. So, remember, if you hear someone tell you that they have been abdicating, avoiding, ignoring and destroying all these (and myriad other) treaties that seek to end or prevent war, it’s just the liberal America-hating media elites telling lies again, because they want them to lose their wars.

Alright, alright, so it turns out that none of these measures of warlike tendencies turned out so very well. But at least the rest of the world thinks of them as nice, peaceful neighbors, right? Well, just not right now. And just not when they are engaged in their wars, which is most of the time. People didn’t like Vietnam, they didn’t like Central America in the 1980s, they didn’t care for Iran, Guatemala or Chile, Granada or Lebanon, and they resent the hell out of the US support for Israeli colonialism in Palestine. They can’t stand America’s duplicity, hypocrisy and arrogance when it comes to so many aspects of international diplomacy, including the aforementioned treaties they have avoided when they are not trying to destroy them. Yet nothing has so inflamed world opinion as the gross transgression against international law and human morality that is Iraq. America’s standing in world opinion isn’t the only measure of how comparatively warlike they are, but it certainly is a valid one. When everybody else in the neighborhood hates you, or hates something you do, it’s a moment for a little reflection and introspection, isn’t it? Unless, of course, you’re just an arsehole. Then why bother?

Americans fight by far and away more wars than any other country in the world. They spend way more money on their military than every other country in the world, combined! They out-do the world in creating new and vicious ways to liberate more and more people from the ongoing hassle of being alive. They abdicate every treaty meant to keep the dogs of war at bay, from ABM to Geneva to the UN Charter. Or else they smash them. And, finally, they are admired for their peaceful tendencies in every part of the world. Except where they are not. Which turns out to be just about everywhere.

What a record! Even if you disqualify one of these measures for some reason or another, surely the fact that they all point in the same direction is uncomfortably telling.

Way too often America’s pacific intentions are harder to find than the elusive Higgs boson particle. Probably you’d need a massive supercollider and a bunch of expensive detection equipment to do it, too.

But because of these monsters and the record they’ve created, Americans have to face an ugly and unfortunate fact. Despite what their sixth grade civics teacher told them, they are not the liberators of the world. They just like to think they are.

But thinking and being are, alas, two different things, as they found out going into Iraq – thinking they’d be greeted with chocolates and flowers.

They may get them yet, however. Perhaps they’ll be handed to them at the exit ramp, as they leave Iraq and their latest example of bringing love, American-style to the world.

Canada and US

Oppose The Right To Water

By Maude Barlow
The Star

"The Canadian government is at it again."

That was the opening line in an urgent email we received this week from an international NGO working to promote the right to water at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The Centre on Housing Rights and Eviction (COHRE) had just participated in a session where the Canadian government had undermined a key resolution tabled by Germany and Spain at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on March 10 that calls for water and sanitation to be recognized as a human right.

The resolution, which will be voted on within the week, is currently being debated at the UNHRC session in Geneva that ends on March 28. Canada has presented numerous objections that have been echoed by the United States.

As it stands, Canada and the United States are the only two countries to go on record at the United Nations to oppose the right to water.

Canada is a member of the UNHRC until 2009; the United States is not an elected member but is allowed to engage under the rules of the Council.

The joint resolution promoted by Germany and Spain aims to establish a "special rapporteur" with the mandate to provide guidance on the right to water and sanitation, identify best practices, investigate country situations and promote the right internationally.

This follows a report by Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stating that "specific, dedicated and sustained attention to safe drinking water and sanitation is currently lacking at the international level" and recommending that access to safe drinking water and sanitation be recognized as a human right.

Canada is working to weaken the resolution by demanding that references to the right to water and sanitation be removed and that the scope be reduced. Canada wants the proposed position of "special rapporteur" to be downgraded to "independent expert" serving for only one year instead of the proposed three years. Canada is also opposing visits by this expert to individual countries and the granting of a mandate enabling them to clarify the content of the right to water and sanitation.

This is the third time in six years that member nations of the UN have pushed for recognition of the human right to water. On each occasion, Canada has rejected the efforts to have water recognized as a right.

At a 2002 meeting, Canada stood alone among 53 countries by voting against the appointment of a special rapporteur on water. More recently, Canada reacted negatively to an October 2006 resolution of the UN Human Rights Council to conduct a study on the right to water.

The debate occurs as communities around the world observe today's 15th UN World Water Day.

The Liberal party defended the Harper government's position in the media earlier this week, claiming that a right to water would make Canada vulnerable to bulk water exports. This is utterly untrue.

All transboundary water issues were explicitly excluded from the scope of the resolution. A human rights convention is between a government and its citizens. Recognition of the right to water in no way affects a country's sovereign right to manage its own resources.

The reality is the resolution would be at odds with the North American Free Trade Agreement, which defines water as a good and an investment. The real issue is that the Liberals, like the Conservatives, refuse to reopen NAFTA to remove water. They would rather deny Canada and the world the right to water.

Recognizing water as a human right is vital to ensuring that governments address the reality of more than a billion people who are currently without access to clean water.

The fact that water is not acknowledged as a right has allowed decision-making over water policy to slip away from the UN and governments toward institutions promoting water privatization, which has harmed the environment and cut poor communities off from their water supplies around the world.

This motion by Germany and Spain presents new hope for groups who want to see an international solution to the global water crisis. Negotiations on the issue are expected to conclude this week and the Council of Canadians has responded to the call of our international allies by mobilizing thousands across the country to demand that our government reverse its position.

We will be marking World Water Day by working to promote the right to water in nearly 40 communities across the country. Sadly, our government seems determined to mark the day by denying that same right.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Latin America

We Won, but We Lost
An interview with Raquel Gutiérrez

click here for the full interview
click here for information on Raquel Gutiérrez
Bolivia - Last November, Olivera and Frank interviewed Gutiérrez during her brief visit to Bolivia. The following is an english translation of their conversation.

Question: In Europe, it is generally believed that Latin American governments have turned rapidly towards the left (Chávez, Lula, Kirchner, Morales, Correa) and that they identify themselves as part of a new wave of leftist politics in Latin America. Do you agree with this concept?

Raquel Gutiérrez: It is clear that the opposition to neo-liberal measures and the struggles following the terrible privatizations, plunder, devaluation of labor, and all the other disastrous happenings of last two decades, have led to the return of what is now being called a “progressive” government.

The experience of Venezuela is very positive; the experience of the other three countries could end up being very similar; although each has its particularities. But what we are experiencing are governments that claim to be assuming a leftist position only in the sense that they are not continuing the unchecked implementation of the neo-liberal programs of the past.

There has been a limiting of the excesses of past decades, but only that. A series of economic and political measurements continue to preserve a central tenets of what created a slow dismantling of social rights all over Latin America.

To begin with, these so called progressive governments continue allowing foreign capital investment in diverse sectors under conditions that are very adverse for the state. They continue proposing development programs centered on needs that are not agreed upon internally by the people, but which serve the need of accumulation. And perhaps most importantly, these governments are implementing policies only within the neo-liberal framework, which means that political parties remain the only means of representation. This is absolutely contradictory to what society was trying to construct in the moments in which the people broke from the grip of neo-liberalism. Social movements carried out this struggle outside the boundaries of political parties. Let’s look at some examples.

Mr. Kirchner, for example, has maintained energy production as a central focus of his government. , That is, he enables the Argentine state to continue producing energy in partnership with transnational companies and he has subordinated internal prices to undetermined international ones. He did a good job of stabilizing the country again, but he did not open new factories, nor did he support the widespread movement of re-appropriation of local, abandoned companies. So, if we have a “leftist” government that is partnering with certain transnationals and that is antagonizing and punishing workers, I ask myself: is this what it means to be leftist?

Let’s take Lula–perhaps the most frightening case. Lula is in his second term. He has not begun to implement an agrarian reform, which is the primary social issue in Brazil. Lula ground energy production in Petrobras even though it is not really a Brazilian state company but has essentially become a foreign company because of the type of business partnerships it has established. Additionally, Lula has completely become beholden to the increase of soybean cultivation as a means for producing ethanol despite the fact that this goes against the interests of the Brazilian people. Brazil’s prison system and its agrarian policy also make me wonder whether this is truly a leftist government.

Let’s talk about a country close to all of us: Bolivia. There we see a nationalization that is not a real nationalization but is merely a set of changes in the contracts with the oil companies to generate a little more revenue. Nationalization was one of the demands of the Bolivian people throughout years of struggle. We also have an agrarian reform that is not really an agrarian reform, but is a timid attempt to limit the expansion of continually growing extensions of agrarian property. The new law puts a limit on the possibility of expanding, but it is not a redistribution of land. Economically, Bolivia has is absolutely open to transnational capital. I ask myself: is this what a leftist government has to do right now? To me this is the central question concerning this wave of progressive governments.

These governments were born from Latin American societies’ attempts to limit the brutality of neo-liberalism. Yet they are governments which, nevertheless, lack direction and advance with an exasperating slowness, producing a frustration in their own societies that increases by the minute and that furthermore serve as the base on which the right wing reconstructs itself. That is to say, it is not that the right reconstitutes itself because the governments are very leftist, but rather the opposite: the right begins to capitalize off of this frustration and they put forth issues because the people gradually begin to feel that they are not represented by their progressive government.

Let’s talk panoramically: In Brazil, to a certain extent, and in Argentina and Bolivia with greater clarity, there was a popular movement that went beyond the liberal political institution (the party system) and beyond the established forms of decision making and beyond progressive government. For Néstor Kirchner’s government in Argentina—like for the Morales government in Bolivia—the reconstruction of governability or stability was a high-priority task. But this is a contradiction to the movements that brought these governments to power. During their struggles, the people operated from a position of autonomy, with their own organisms of self-governance. Theirs was a completely different way of understanding coexistence and collectivity. In my opinion, this is what constitutes a true and authentic leftist program. I therefore challenge the idea that these Latin American governments are progressive. To assume these government are the desired product of these social struggles skews our vision and prevents us from understanding the processes of social transformation we lived for the last several years. There is a contradiction between this tendency of self-governance and self-determinism (what I consider a true leftist agenda) and our new progressive governments that have elements of old nationalism and that generate dependency. I do not believe that this is conducive to any type of liberation.
[Link above for the rest of the questions]

Mexico Oil War

Mexico Braces for an Oil War
By IOAN GRILLO/MEXICO CITYA Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, near the shores of the state of Campeche, Mexico. Angelic children stare at rolling waves as a deep voice booms out the wonders of petroleum. "Mexico has a great treasure, a treasure hidden below the bottom of the sea," the narrator says soothingly above joyous music. "But the world now confronts a new reality." Suddenly, the watcher is bombarded with graphics explaining deep sea drilling in terms fifth graders might understand; the oil is at a depth 30 times greater than Mexico's highest building; the pressure is like 60 trucks weighing on a can of soda. As the music reaches a dramatic finale, the narrator hits the punch line as if in a preview for a blockbuster movie: "Reaching our oil is one of the biggest challenges of our time," he says. "And Mexico has to take the necessary actions to achieve it."

That five-minute spot being beamed out night after night on prime time TV is part of a campaign by President Felipe Calderon to sell foreigners a piece of Mexico's most sacred cow: the state-owned oil monopoly. Tuesday marks 70 years since the country nationalized its oil fields that were drilled by U.S. and British companies, but Calderon wants to bring back foreign oil companies by allowing some private investment in the industry. And his proposal has sparked a debate whose pitch nears hysteria on all sides of the political spectrum: Conservatives scream that Mexico's economy will collapse unless it takes action; while rabble-rousing leftists warn that a corrupt government wants to sell the nation's patrimony to the gringos.

Clearly, the stakes are high. Petroleos Mexicanos or Pemex provides Mexico with 40% of its federal budget. It also provides the United States with its fourth-biggest source of oil imports, after Canada, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, shipping it 1.2 million barrels per day.

Calderon, echoing the concern of most industry analysts, warns that Pemex is suffering from underinvestment and mismanagement. Its output is declining each year by about 200,000 barrels per day, and if the present trend continues, Mexico will be importing petroleum within nine years. The nation has vast deepwater reserves in the northern Gulf of Mexico — more than 50 billion barrels worth by some estimates. But the administration argues that Mexico lacks the capital and technology to drill those reserves.

"We must go after that oil," Calderon told reporters last month. "It's a problem of technology and operational capacity."

To allow international oil companies to invest in the Gulf would mean changing Mexico's Constitution, which requires that the country's oil industry remain closed to both foreign and private ownership. Calderon has promised to send an energy reform bill to Congress before the current session ends in April. While guarding the exact details of that reform, the president and his deputies have argued publicly that more foreign involvement is crucial.

Opponents argue that any foreign incursion equals privatization. Mexicans can take care of their own oil industry, they say, and the predictions of doom are exaggerated. Led by the fiery leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who lost the 2006 presidential election to Calderon by less than 1%, they evoke emotional calls to defend the Mexican nation and its resources. The nationalization of oil in 1938 was a symbol of Mexico's independence from foreign powers, and was celebrated in huge street parties. Lopez Obrador has called his supporters to Mexico's central plaza on the expropriation anniversary this Tuesday, to kick-start a campaign against the reform.

The president's position has been further complicated by a scandal involving Pemex and his chief deputy. Opponents accuse Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino of steering lucrative Pemex contracts to his family trucking business when he was assistant secretary of energy under Calderon in 2003. The son of a Spanish oil man, Mourino admits he signed the contracts but says he broke no laws by doing so. However, the deals are being investigated by federal attorneys and a congressional committee and have made daily front pages in the Mexican press.

"This is an example of how the mafia controlling Mexico want to steal the oil money," charged Rep. Alejandro Sanchez of Lopez Obrador's leftist Democratic Revolution Party. "Just imagine the kickbacks if these officials were making billion dollar deals with Exxon."

However, lawmakers in Calderon's conservative National Action Party believe they are in a strong-enough position to get an energy reform through Congress. In alliance with the former-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI, the president's party has passed financial, social security and justice reforms despite cries of protest.

The leftist opposition is on the ropes after its 2006 election defeat, government supporters say, and is grasping at the oil issue to regain momentum. An internal leadership contest in Lopez Obrador's party on Sunday was marred by infighting, with militants physically attacking a senator from a rival faction.

"They haven't even seen Calderon's energy bill and they are protesting," said National Action Rep. Jorge Nordhausen, a secretary on the energy committee. "They don't care about passing laws. They don't even care about oil. They just want a new flag to fight for so they can cause problems."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Five Years Genocide

By Zuheir Kseibati

Five years ago to the day, it was the dawn of the American invasion that carried Iraq to the endless darkness of the occupation. The fall of Baghdad, the Arab capital which they almost dubbed Saddam Hussein's capital, was nothing but the onset of a massive volcanic eruption in the region; its fires still consume the Arabs' stability and security and rewrite maps from the Ocean to the Gulf.

The captain of the invasion, George Bush, celebrates the "first large-scale Arab uprising against Usama bin Laden." He reassures Americans that the costs of the invasion and war against and in Iraq are petty when bearing the "gains" in mind…notably ending "Saddam's tyranny" and lighting the candles of hope towards "democracy."

As he celebrates the fifth anniversary of the invasion, Bush forgets the big misleading lie about the threat of weapons of mass destruction. The battle has turned into a front against al-Qaeda and terrorism, and its strategic goal is to prevent shifting the battlefield to the US. Let it then be the 100-year war fought with Iraqi blood!

Those were five years of tears and blood. They are good enough a price for the Baghdad government to prevent a quick American withdrawal, which would sweep away the "achievements" realized so far, including the reduction of death tolls and rates. The suicide bombers, however, continue to come in waves, while hundreds of thousands have been left dead since the invasion and occupation began. Millions are now refugees all over Mesopotamia and neighboring countries, announcing the worst humanitarian "crisis" in a country that holds the world's third largest oil reserves. Perhaps it is certainly much worse than a crisis.

Despite all this, Bush is still celebrating the liberation of Iraqis from tyranny, and also from their blood, wealth, sovereignty, security, stability, and unity. By all moral standards, neither he nor his Vice President Dick Cheney feel embarrassed when they present on their list of victories the face of a new Iraq in which al-Qaeda is weakened and the resources of terrorism are dried up. They conveniently overlook al-Qaeda's students and women, the swamps of corruption drowning ministers and officials, the impoverishment of the homeless and the insanity of those who have been plagued by massacres and bombings that have turned Iraq into the home of the forgotten genocide.

The president, the captain of occupation, and his vice president who has bestowed upon his wife an adventurous and challenging trip to the secret base, are not ashamed of revealing the "logical" conclusion of the extremely costly war: that no other generation of Americans will have to be sent here to deter a potential confrontation on American soil. And if the cost is the blood, wealth, and unity of Iraqis, that would be their problem.

When Mesopotamia becomes the nation of unified plagues falling upon the necks of a nation, the American president finds no reason to apologize for his lies about weapons of mass destruction. Only a handful of the original war architects remain with him but mostly in hiding, while Cheney promises the Iraqis that he would not tire. The battle still has chapters to come, and if the Americans were to be bored by any slackness on al-Qaeda's side, there would still be the Iranian "influence." It is as if the vice president is taking the risk to address the victim of murder and warn him against the murderer!

Five years of tears and blood. The deafening bombs are still louder than the wailing of the mothers who lost their children and the weeping of men every time they lost children and fathers. But does any of this happen in Iraq? Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is commending the "healing of the nation," for Iraqis are no longer killed on the basis of their sectarian identity! Genocide has become "fair," as it no longer discriminates between Sunni and Shiite. To become indiscriminate, the genocide has had to last as long as the occupation itself. Everything that has been since the dawn of March 20th, 2003 is a "success" according to Cheney's testimony.

According to al-Maliki's account, life goes on in Iraq. The only obstacle that hinders "reconciliation" between the ruling forces and the disgruntled parties is a final resolution over the oil law to divide the inheritance of the murdered victim.

The "Iraqis were liberated" five years ago. All they need to do is to believe the American when he offers them a medal for defeating tyranny so they can prepare themselves for another decade or two of war on terror, while he promises them "strategic" military bases to guard oil facilities …and the dead.

Cheney wonders about the Arabs and why they are so shy in front of Iran and al-Qaeda. In the century-long war, everyone has a role to play.
In the long night and the epic of forgotten genocide, only Bush hallucinates about victory….All the politicians of Iraq hallucinate about democracy-deception. It is the long night of genocide.

A Reckoning Is Due

For This Day Of Infamy

By Seumas Milne
The Guardian

The problem in Iraq, we're now told, was a lack of preparation, or the wrong kind of planning, or mistakes in implementation. If only, say the neocons, we had put our man Ahmad Chalabi in charge from the start, the Iraqis wouldn't have felt so humiliated. If only we hadn't dissolved the army, the pragmatists insist, the insurgency would never have taken off. If only the Brits had been running the show, mutter the old Whitehall hands, all would have been different. The problem, it turns out, was not the invasion and occupation of a sovereign Arab oil state on a tide of official deceit, but the way it was carried out.

Meanwhile, we're being subjected to a renewed barrage of spin about the success of the US surge in turning the country round, quelling the violence and opening the way to a sunlit future. In an echo of his notorious "mission accomplished" speech of May 2003, George Bush yesterday proclaimed the Iraq war a "major strategic victory" in the "war on terror".

All this is self-delusion on a heroic scale. The unprovoked aggression launched by the US and Britain against Iraq five years ago today has already gone down across the world as, to borrow the words of President Roosevelt, "a day which will live in infamy". Iraqis were promised freedom, democracy and prosperity. Instead, as Jon Snow's compelling TV documentary Hidden Iraq underlined this week, they have seen the physical and social destruction of their country, mass killing, tens of thousands thrown into jail without trial, rampant torture, an epidemic of sectarian terror attacks, pauperisation, and the complete breakdown of basic services and supplies.

On the eve of war, Tony Blair told parliament that, while there would be civilian casualties, Saddam Hussein would be "responsible for many more deaths even in one year than we will be in any conflict". Amnesty International estimated annual deaths linked to political repression in Iraq at that time to be in the low hundreds - many more were dying from the impact of western-sponsored sanctions. In the five years since, civilian deaths are estimated at anywhere between 150,000 (the figure accepted by the Iraqi government) and a million-plus, with the Lancet's estimate of 600,000 violent deaths in the first three years alone having held up as the most rigorous. After five years of occupation, Iraq is ranked as the most violent and dangerous place in the world by an Economist Intelligence Unit index. Two million refugees have fled the country as a result, while a further 2 million have been driven from their homes inside Iraq. This has become the greatest humanitarian crisis on the planet.

In the western world, far from the scene of the unfolding catastrophe, such suffering has been somehow normalised as a kind of background noise. But the impact on the aggressor states, both at home and abroad, has only begun to be felt: not only in the predicted terrorist blowback finally acknowledged by Tony Blair last year, but in a profound domestic political alienation, as well as a loss of standing and credibility across the globe. How can anyone take seriously, for example, US or British leaders lecturing China about Tibet, Russia about Chechnya, or Sudan about Darfur, when they have triggered and presided over such an orgy of killing, collective punishment, prisoner abuse and ethnic cleansing?

Given that the invasion of Iraq was regarded as illegal by the majority of the UN security council, its secretary general, and the overwhelming weight of international legal opinion, it must by the same token be seen as a war crime: what the Nuremberg tribunal deemed the "supreme international crime" of aggression. If it weren't for the fact that there is not the remotest prospect of any mechanism to apply international law to powerful states, Bush and Blair would be in the dock at the Hague. As it is, the only Briton to be found guilty of a war crime in Iraq has been corporal Donald Payne, convicted of inhumane treatment of detainees in Basra - while the man who sent him there is preposterously touted as a future president of the European Union.

Those who insist that the immolation of Iraq was the consequence of errors in the execution of an otherwise defensible policy are simply evading their own responsibility and culpability. The likelihood of a bloody quagmire was widely foreseen before the attack. The failure to do so by those who launched the aggression reflects a blindly arrogant refusal to accept that people are bound to resist foreign occupation, however much they detest their own government - particularly in a region that has already been subject to decades of destructive western intervention and exploitation.

Now the same voices can be heard arguing against an end to the occupation on the grounds that withdrawal might trigger even worse violence. Of course no stabilisation of Iraq is going to be bloodless, but such arguments fail to recognise that the occupation itself has fostered sectarian conflict in classic colonial divide-and-rule style - the current US sponsorship of Sunni militias is a case in point. As the US military's own surveys show, Iraqis of all religious and ethnic groups believe the presence of foreign troops is the main cause of violence and 70% want them out now. Tellingly, violence in Basra dropped by 90% after British troops withdrew from the city to their airport base last summer. Naturally, the green zone government is against a US pullout, because it wouldn't survive on its own. But only when the occupation forces make an unequivocal commitment to leave will Iraq's main political and military players be compelled to come to an accommodation.

For the future, so long as the disaster of Iraq is put down to mistakes or lack of planning, the real lessons will not be learned, but repeated - as appears to be happening now in Afghanistan. Gordon Brown has at last promised a full Iraq inquiry when British troops are no longer in the firing line. But any more delay to a proper accounting of what has taken place - including, as the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said at the weekend, the nature of the US-British relationship - will only further corrode the political system. The disaster of Iraq has at least had the effect of demonstrating the limits of imperial power and restraining further US attacks. The danger is, however, that next time they'll just try and do it differently - without the mistakes.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Destroyer

Of The Worlds

By Anwaar Hussain

On the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, George Bush said, "Because we acted, the world is better and the United States of America is safer." With a million dead Iraqis, more than 30,000 dead and wounded American soldiers, the world now teeming with a new breed of America haters and more than 3 trillion dollars blown to achieve all that, the US president sits atop an economically crumbling America and happily crows his mantra. George W. Bush indeed seems far removed from reality.

The essay below was written in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of Iraqi city of Fallujah. At the time, the article ricocheted across the cyber space and refused to die down. Every word of what was written has now been proven true. Here it is once again lest we forget.

Known as the "city of mosques" for its more than 200 mosques, Fallujah is also known for refusing to add Saddam’s name to the call for prayers from its ancient minarets. It is located on the banks of river Euphrates, the largest river in Southwest Asia. The 1700 miles long Euphrates is linked with some of the most important events in olden history.The city of Ur, found at its mouth, was the birthplace of Abraham. On its banks stood the city of Babylon. In the past, the army of Necho was defeated on its banks by Nebuchadnezzar. Cyrus the Younger and Crassus perished after crossing it. Alexander traversed it and continued his journey eastward. Presently, George Bush’s forces are crossing and re-crossing it making its waters redder each time with the blood of Fallujah’s citizens.

Fallujah has been laid waste. It has been bombed, re-bombed, its citizens gunned down, its structures devastated by powerful weapons. It is a hell on earth of crushed bodies, shattered buildings and the reek of death. In addition to the artillery and the warplanes dropping 500, 1000, and 2000-pound bombs, 70-ton Abrams Tanks and the murderous AC-130 Spectre gunship that can demolish a whole city block in less than a minute, the Marines had snipers crisscrossing the entire town firing at will at whatever moved outside the buildings. For those inside, the US troops were equipped with thermal sights capable of detecting body heat. Any such detection was eagerly assumed to indicate the presence of "insurgents" inviting a deadly salvo.

No body has an accurate idea of how many Iraqis, combatants and noncombatants, have been killed by the thousands of tons of explosives and bullets let loose upon the city. Mortuary teams collecting the dead rotting in the city streets are fighting the wandering dogs that are busy devouring their former masters. The hundreds buried beneath the rubble and debris will be dug out later. A US marine spokesman, Colonel Mike Regner, estimated 1,000 and 2,000 Iraqis dead. The world is awaiting the toll from more reliable sources with a wincing anticipation.

Eyewitnesses report human corpses littering the city’s streets, nibbled at by starving canines. Parents have been forced to watch their wounded children die and then bury their bodies in their gardens. An Iraqi journalist, reporting in the city for the BBC and Reuters, said: "I have seen some strange things recently, such as stray dogs snatching bites out of bodies lying on the streets. Meanwhile, people forage in their gardens looking for something to eat. Those that have survived this far are looking gaunt. The opposite is happening to the dead, left where they fell, they are now bloated and rotting…"

Some images that did manage to filter through the layers of American censorship include scenes of the devastated landscape of the city; the bloodied and fly-covered corpses of young Iraqi men lying in the streets or heaped in rows amidst the debris; a headless body; women and children escaping with the few possessions they have left; mortuary teams collecting the dead; and Fallujah infants being treated for horrific injuries in Baghdad hospitals. US general John Sattler declared: "We have liberated the city of Fallujah."

The assault on Fallujah is a pure and simple Nazi-style collective punishment, not liberation. The city has been razed to the ground because its political, spiritual and tribal leaders, motivated by Iraqi patriotism and opposition to the presence of foreign troops in their country, organized a guerilla resistance to the US invasion.The aim of the US assault is to make Fallujah a model to the rest of Iraq of what will happen to those thinking on similar lines. It is the leading thrust of an orgy of killing intended to crush and drive underground every voice of dissent and ensure that elections this coming January will throw up a weak-willed, pro-US toady regime. The American military is rumored to be planning similar attacks on scores of other Iraqi cities and towns.

Not a single major voice has been raised in the American media against the ongoing destruction of Fallujah. While much of the world recognizes something dreadful has occurred, the US press does not even bat an eyelash over the organized leveling of a city of 300,000 people. In none of the US media commentaries is there a single phrase of unease about the moral, or legal, questions involved in the attack on Fallujah. None have dared say it in as many words that the American military operation in the city is an unlawful act of aggression in an equally illegal, criminal, aggressive war.

The opposite is true in fact. Ralph Peters, the author of "Beyond Baghdad: Postmodern War and Peace." a rabid Neocon mouthpiece, revered by the ruling Neocons, in his prominently placed November 4 New York Post article wrote: "We need to demonstrate that the US military cannot be deterred or defeated. If that means widespread destruction, we must accept the price. Most of Fallujah’s residents, those who wish to live in peace, have already fled. Those who remain have made their choice. We need to pursue the terrorists remorselessly…

That means killing. While we strive to obey the internationally recognized laws of war (though our enemies do not), our goal should be to target the terrorists and insurgents so forcefully that few survive to raise their hands in surrender. We don’t need more complaints about our treatment of prisoners from the global forces of appeasement. We need terrorists dead in the dust. And the world needs to see their corpses…

Even if Fallujah has to go the way of Carthage, reduced to shards, the price will be worth it. We need to demonstrate our strength of will to the world, to show that there is only one possible result when madmen take on America."

Though the carnage carried out by Hitler’s regime was on a different scale than that now being committed by the Bush administration, there are striking parallels. For the first time since the Wehrmacht swept through Europe, the world is witnessing a major imperialist power launching an unjustifiable war, placing an entire people under military occupation and carrying out acts of collective and visible punishment against civilian populace. The US media’s wretched connivance in this deception is incredible, as incredible as the fact that this war, based on undeniable lies as it was, was sold to the American people as the gospel truth ordained by God.

To be honest, George Bush is not the first US president ordering the states machinery to pulverize nations and peoples abroad. Even a hurried analysis of the American government’s conduct in the last century makes for a most damning indictment. Out of the US’s past foreign policy woodwork, crawl out numerous invasions, bombings, overthrowing governments, suppressing movements for social change, assassinating political leaders, perverting elections, manipulating labor unions, manufacturing "news", selling blatant lies, death squads, torture, biological warfare, depleted uranium, drug trafficking, mercenaries … you name it.

This terrorizing of nations and individuals by various US governments has been going on full bore since at least the late 1890s, when Americans obliterated a million Filipinos to keep them safe from the Spanish. Likewise, millions of Native Americans, the children of a lesser God, were exterminated by the orders of earlier administrations throughout the 19th century. The difference with past is that George Bush does it in the name of his God, a God far superior to any other and sanctioned fully by his coterie. Ironically, both George Bush and his nemesis, Osama Bin Laden, refer to God almost equal number of times in their public pronouncements.

The United States went into Afghanistan to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden. They killed 10,000 innocent Afghans but could not find their man. They went into Iraq to discover and eliminate Saddam’s WMDs. They killed tens of thousands of Iraqis but found no WMD. They laid siege to the city of Fallujah to kill or capture Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. The city and its inhabitants have been blown to smithereens but there is no Zarqawi. Is it not only too convenient? Next when they want to attack Pakistan, or Iran, they simply have to say that Bin Laden is taking refuge there. Just like the next Iraqi city awaiting the fate of Fallujah will be the latest refuge of Zarqawi; the WMDs too could next fly to Syria or may be even Saudi Arabia. Is one imagining things here? Or is it that the US imperialism is indeed now riding full time on the back of gargantuan lies?

After granting George Bush a carte blanche to do what he likes the American citizens, of course, continue their daily lives oblivious to what is being done in their name. Between their work places and the nearest fast food joints, they just do not have enough time to check back on the activities of the man who is playing 'The Terminator’ in the name of God and in their name.

Those who do get to know a little are in a constant state of denial. One thing is sure though. Just like in post-war Germany where some even denied the holocaust, "We didn’t know what was happening" is bound to become a cliché that will one day be used to ridicule Americans who claim ignorance of the atrocities committed by their administration in their name. Ironically, Khomeini died trying to get people to see America as "the great Satan". It took George W. Bush and his cohorts only four years to do exactly that, and not just in the eyes of the Muslim world.

As America sinks deeper into the heart of darkness, its thinking citizens need to jolt each other out of their apathy. With each passing day their beloved America is scaling ever greater heights of hideous glories. The man in charge, George W. Bush, is actually living the throes of his apocalyptic dream of "I am become death-the destroyer of the worlds". He codenamed his destruction of Fallujah as "Operation Phantom Fury". But as the falsehood dies and gives way to truth, as all lies must one day, it will be the Iraqi dead that will form a legion of phantoms and would throng around Americans in a macabre dance to haunt them for decades. The fury of those phantoms will be hair raising.

Fallujah will enter history as the place where US imperialism carried out an offense of heinous proportions this November, a monstrous crime far beyond any possible forgiveness. The crimson waters of the Euphrates are now emptying into the Persian Gulf the hopes and aspirations of innocent people whose lives were snuffed out on the orders of a man rewarded for his monumental crimes by his great nation.

The Euphrates flows on.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

San Patricio

Batallón de San Patricio
The Irish Heros of Mexico
[This article is not only history that tries to be obscured by the Americans, it is very revealing of Americas invader mentality. It also shows Mexicos attitude towards peace.] Animus Mundi

by Martín Paredes

For Mexicans, the men of the San Patricio Battalion will forever be
enshrined in Mexico's hall of honor. Of the 175 members of the San
Patricio Battalion, who left the U.S. military to fight for Mexico
in the U.S.-Mexico war, 40 were from Ireland, 22 from the United
States, 14 from the German States and the rest from other countries.

Posted on March 17, 2008

On Sept. 12, 1997, Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo held a ceremony
in Mexico City in honor of the 150th anniversary of the San Patricio
Battalion. Representing Ireland, Ambassador Sean O'Huighinn was also
present at the ceremony. Although at least two historical accounts
have been written about the Mexican Irish soldiers, for the most
part, the general population of the United States is not aware of
the Irish who fought for Mexico during the Mexican-American War.
Few, outside of Mexico, have ever heard of the Irish soldiers who
defected from the American lines and bravely fought defending Mexico
from the American invasion. This is the story of the Batallón de San
Patricio, a group of Irishmen fighting for Mexico. For Mexicans, the
men of the San Patricio Battalion will forever be enshrined in
Mexico's hall of honor.

The Mexican-American War lasted for two years, from 1846 until 1848.
It resulted in 25,000 Mexican soldiers dead or wounded. Mexico also
lost about 40 percent of its territory. The Americans suffered
17,423 dead or wounded and had over 9,000 soldiers go AWOL,
according to American records. The war started as a result of the
declaration of independence by the State of Texas in 1836 and the
subsequent annexation of Texas into The United States in 1846. On
May 11, 1846, U.S. President James K. Polk asked and received
approval by Congress to declare war on Mexico.

As America prepared for war, thousands of European immigrants hit
the American shores. Among these were the Irish who were fleeing the
Great Hunger of 1845. With the offer of free acres of land and three
months of advanced pay, many enlisted in the American army.

John Miller, in his book; "Shamrock and Sword" writes that the
desertion rate for American forces was the highest during this
conflict as compared to other wars. According to Miller, the rate
was 8.3 percent, compared to 5.3 percent for World War II and 4.1%
for the Vietnam War. Peter Stevens, in his book; "The Rogue's March:
The Saint Patrick's Battalion" wrote that no U.S. Army has ever
encountered the problems of desertion that plagued Generals Zachary
Taylor and Winfred Scott. He adds that of nearly 40,000 regulars,
5,331 deserted.

Very few historians have written about the San Patricios. There are
two reasons for this, on the American side the war was unpopular and
was ultimately over shadowed by the American Civil War. Besides the
debate within the United States about the war, the high desertion
rates from the American lines made the discussion of the war taboo
within the American military. On the Mexican side, the loss of a
substantial part of its territory and the ongoing civil strife
within Mexico has left a lack of historical record for the war.

Historians on both sides of the border have generally acknowledged
that the Americans were intent on instigating war with Mexico
through unprovoked crimes; such as rapes and plunder and especially
the desecration of Catholic Churches in Texas, the disputed
territory. Also, many immigrants in the American army not only felt
discriminated upon by their fellow soldiers but also could not
accept the American provocation for war. They began to desert and
cross the river to join the Mexican army in defense of Mexico.

German Christopher Friedrich Wilhelm Zeh wrote in his memoirs that
the U.S. Army was a multicultural group where one of every thousand
was an immigrant. Although the American Army was composed of recent
immigrants, discrimination permeated through the ranks. Catholic
prejudice and harsh treatment by superiors and the use of extreme
disciplinary measures such as flogging added to the reasons for the
desertions from Taylor's ranks. "Potato heads" as the Irish were
commonly called were particularly singled out for harsh treatment.
Under these conditions the immigrants had no difficulty abandoning
their army and joining the Mexican lines in defense of Mexico.
Mexico was especially active in recruiting the deserters.

Mexico has historically recruited foreigners to fight in its ranks
since its war of Independence.

Throughout the war, Mexico actively recruited American soldiers to
defect their lines and join the Mexican army. The German immigrant
Zeh, serving in the US Army acknowledges in his memoirs that the
Mexicans routinely passed out pamphlets directed at the American
immigrant soldiers printed in German, English and French. According
to Zeh, the pamphlets read; "We live in peace and friendship with
nations you come from. Why do you want to fight against us? Come to
us! We will welcome you as friends with open arms, take care of your
needs, we offer you more than the Yankees can provide, due to their
brazenness, we (sic) have been forced into this war. Join us and
fight with us for our rights and for our sacred religion against
this infidel enemy". Zeh adds, "Several hundred Irishmen, stirred up
by religious fanaticism, went over to the enemy, thanks to this
piece of paper."

In October of 1846, after an additional 50 or so American soldiers
had deserted the American ranks, bringing the total number of
deserters to about 100, Santa Anna, using war powers bestowed upon
him by the Mexican Congress, directed that two infantry companies be
formed. The two companies would form the Batallón de San Patricio.
According to a dissertation by author Dennis Wynn, the battalion was
formed in October of 1846 as a separate unit. Additionally,
according to Mexican army payroll records for November
1846, "Voluntarios Irlandeses" were receiving pay from the Mexican
government for that period. Although the San Patricio Battalion was
made up predominantly of Irish immigrants, other European
nationalities also comprised the element. Of the 175 members of the
San Patricio Battalion, 40 were from Ireland, 22 from the United
States, 14 from the German States and the rest from other countries.

John Riley of K Company, 5th Infantry deserted his American post and
joined the Mexican ranks on April 12, 1846 prior to the U.S.
declaring war on Mexico. Part of the confusion over whether Riley
organized the battalion is caused by the different spellings of his
name found in official government records. John Riley, himself
signed his name as Riley, other times as Riely, Reilly, or O'Riley
in his correspondence to others. Mexican government records list him
as Juan Reyle, Reley, Reely or Reily. His enlistment record for the
U.S. Army lists him as Reilly.

On Sept. 2, 1845, Riley enlisted for a five-year term at Fort
Mackinac. He left for the Texas border two days later. During the
last three weeks in March of 1846, Riley, under Taylor's Army, setup
camp in Texas, just across the river from Matamoros. On April 12,
1846, Riley obtained a pass from Captain Merrill to attend a
Catholic Mass, deserted and joined the Mexican Army. According to
the records of the period, Sergeant John Riley's ability was such
that he was in line for a lieutenant's commission although rising
through the ranks during this period was difficult at best. By most
general accounts, The San Patricios fought bravely throughout the
war. The Battle of Buena Vista and Churubusco is where the battalion
left its most notable war marks.

One of the most "vicious" battles of the war was the Battle of Buena
Vista fought on February 22 and 23 of 1847, near Saltillo. In this
battle 4,759 Americans engaged about 15,000 Mexicans. Rather than a
battle, it was a serious of fights with few positions changing
hands; consequently it was at first difficult to tell who had won.
General Francisco Mejia's Buena Vista Battle Report lauded the San
Patricios' "as worthy of the most consummate praise because the men
fought with daring bravery."

On Aug. 19 and 20 of 1847, Mexico suffered two devastating defeats,
the second of which saw the destruction of the San Patricios as a
unit in this war. Of the original 120 San Patricios, 35 were killed
in action and 85 were captured by American forces.

After the battle, the captured San Patricios were tried for
desertion during war time and all were found guilty and sentenced to
death by hanging. Under General Scott's, General Orders 281 and 283,
issued in the second week of September 1847, Scott upheld the
capital punishment for 50 of the soldiers, pardoned five and reduced
the sentences for the other fifteen. John Riley was included in the
last fifteen because he had deserted during peace time and therefore
could not receive the death penalty. Riley had deserted prior to the
official declaration of war.

Under orders of Winfield Scott, the last of the 50 San Patricios
were hanged facing Chapultepec Castle precisely at the time the
American flag was raised after the American victory during that
battle. The mass executions left a deep impression on the Mexican
population. Rioting broke out in Toluca after the news reported that
the executions had taken place. Mexicans intent on seeking revenge
threatened to kill American prisoners but were prevented from doing
so by the Mexican authorities. From the Mexican point of view, the
San Patricios should have been treated as prisoners of war, not

Instead of hanging, Scott ordered that the 15 San Patricios spared
the death penalty, be instead branded with a two inch letter "D" for
desertion with hot-iron on the right cheek and receive 50 lashes.
Scott also ordered that the San Patricios be imprisoned until the
American army left Mexico. Upon being mustered out, Scott ordered
that the men's heads be shaved and drummed out of the Army. Although
Scott intended to return the San Patricio men back to the United
States at the conclusion of the war, the Mexican government
prevailed in keeping them in Mexico.

The Mexican Government had called the punishments an act of
barbarism, "improper in a civilized age." Under the terms of the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the San Patricio prisoners were to be
left in Mexico. Mexico had insisted on this clause in the treaty
during the negotiations. Maj. Gen. Butler issued General Orders 116
on June 1, 1848. In the last paragraph of that order, Butler ordered
that; "The prisoners confined at the Citadel, known as the San
Patricio prisoners, will be immediately discharged." After the
officer in charge of the Citadel read the orders, the 16 prisoners,
including John Riley had their heads shaved, the buttons of their
uniforms stripped off and marched out of the fortress while the
bugler played "Rogue's March." John Riley, instead of being branded
once, was branded twice according to some of the reports of the
time. The reports indicate that the double branding may have been a
result of the first "D" being applied backwards, either
intentionally or under orders. The second "D" was then applied

It can be argued that the defense of your homeland is a duty all
citizens must obey when an invading army threatens to destroy your
country. Many heroes have emerged from the defense of their nations.
No truer hero exists than those who give their lives for their
adopted nation.

Part of the reason for the lack of more concrete information
regarding the San Patricios and the distortion of their reasons for
disserting the American army may lie in that the whole affair was an
embarrassment to the United States. Continued Catholic persecution
in the United States after the war may have also contributed to the
distorted record. "Some newspapers in San Francisco cite that affair
to prove that Catholics are disloyal," wrote a private citizen in a
letter to the Assistant Adjutant General in 1896 requesting
information on the San Patricios. Because of sentiments against
Catholicism and the harsh treatment by American forces of the San
Patricios, the American Army seemed reluctant to discuss the affair
publically. In 1915, the American War Department was finally forced
to acknowledge the existence of the San Patricios and their
treatment of them at the end of the war. Ordered by Congress in 1917
to turn over the records to the National Archives the army complied.
The documents detailed one of the most embarrassing episodes for the
American Army. For the San Patricios, their story could finally be
told truthfully for all to know what was true in their hearts.

After leaving prison, the remaining San Patricios rejoined the
Mexican Army and continued to function as a unit for almost a year
after the Americans left Mexico. Riley was made commander of the two
infantry companies with the brevet rank of Lieutenant Colonel,
although he was actually a Captain. One unit was tasked with sentry
duty in Mexico City while the other was stationed in the suburbs of
Guadalupe Hidalgo. By late 1850, 20 of the original San Patricios
left Mexico and returned to Ireland under the agreement Mexico had
made with them when they enlisted to help them return should they
choose to do so. Riley was not among them.

John Riley died on the last days of August 1850 and was buried in
Veracruz under the name "Juan Reley", the name under which he had
enrolled into the Mexican Army.

Mexicans celebrate the Irish soldiers on two days, Sept. 12 in honor
of the anniversary of the first executions and on March 17, St.
Patrick's Day. Numerous street names across the country honor their
contribution to the Mexican cause. In front of the Convent of Santa
María in Churubusco the street is named "Mártires Irlandeses", or
Irish Martyrs.

The Mexican government has officially recognized the contribution of
the San Patricios through official acts of government. In 1997,
President Zedillo held a ceremony in honor of the 150th anniversary
of their executions along with Ireland's ambassador. On Thursday,
Oct. 28, 2002 the LVII Mexican Congress held a ceremony where the
inscription "Defensores de la Patria 1846-1848 y Batallón de San
Patricio" or "Defenders of the Fatherland 1846-1848 and the San
Patricio Battalion" was inscribed in gold letters on the Wall of
Honor in the Chambers of the Congress. Three hundred and ninety-four
Mexican congressmen, along with Irish Ambassador to Mexico, Art
Agnew, attended the ceremony recognizing the sacrifices made by the
young Irish soldiers.

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