Thursday, November 30, 2006
Unfortunately, despite their close relationship with their US advisors (or, perhaps, because of it?), it became impossible to distingush the armed Shia from death squads as they increasingly began killing, kidnapping and torturing their victims. Apparently, they were so successful that the US recently sought to expand the program into al-Anbar province by creating its own client Sunni militia to challenge the Sunni insurgency there. For more background, see my post of October 5, 2006, Negroponte's People.
There has, however, been one prominent figure in Iraq that has publicly opposed the occupation, the partition of the country and efforts to foment violence between the Sunni and the Shia. Of course, that person is Muqtada al-Sadr, the Iraqi politician most maligned in the US media, and he still persists, even in the face of the horrible violence that has erupted:
The story is revealing in many respects. First, it shows that, contrary to what you might think if you watched US television, prominent Shia and Sunni leaders still communicate with one another in an attempt to stop the violence. Second, while al-Sadr's outreach to the Muslim Scholars Assocation is nothing new, he's sought to create a coalition against the occupation including Sunni and Shia since its inception, the fact that he is still persisting is significant. Third, in a classic instance of Sherlock Holmes' observation about the dog that didn't bark, why isn't the US promoting such dialogue? Could it possibly be that the US doesn't want it to succeed because it presents the prospect of a unified Shia/Sunni front against the occupation?
Last week, at least 215 people were killed in a series of car bombings in a Shiite slum of Baghdad, stronghold of the powerful Al Mahdi militia loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr. The massive assault prompted days of reprisal attacks against Sunni neighborhoods.
Sadr demanded that Harith Dhari, the leader of the Muslim Scholars Assn. who is wanted on charges of inciting terrorism, issue edicts forbidding the killing of Shiites, banning participation in the group Al Qaeda in Iraq and supporting reconstruction of the Samarra shrine.
Dhari said he had already repeatedly denounced the killing of any Muslim and did not see the need to do so again. "Why is Sadr saying it now? Is he trying to provoke a problem?" Dhari asked The Times in a rare interview with a Western newspaper this week in neighboring Jordan.
He sidestepped the question of whether he is prepared to denounce Al Qaeda in Iraq, which is blamed for some of the deadliest attacks against the Shiite-led government and civilians.
"Al Qaeda is part of the resistance, but the resistance is of two kinds," he said, surrounded by tribal elders at a residence in Amman, the Jordanian capital. "The resistance that only resists occupation, this we support 100%. And the resistance that mixes up resisting the occupation and killing innocents … this, even if it calls itself resistance, we condemn."
Other clerics, particularly those living in areas dominated by Iraq's Shiite majority, see a pressing need for compromise. The tiny Sunni community in southern Iraq has been in disarray since the mufti of Basra, Yousuf Hassan, was assassinated in June, leaders said Wednesday.
Many Sunni clerics have fled the country. Those who remain said they wanted to signal a break with more radical leaders in Baghdad and Sunni-dominated Al Anbar province, heartland of the insurgency.
"We thought that what Muqtada Sadr set as conditions are not impossible," said Abdalfatah Abdalrazaq, a Basra imam. "All of them are aimed at preventing bloodshed."
After consulting local political and tribal leaders, the southern branch went ahead and issued its fatwa, or edict, including a specific ban on killing Shiites, language others have so far avoided.
"We did this to please God and our conscience," Abdalrazaq said. "We hope that we will be able to apply this fatwa to the reality on the ground, as it gives us a chance to live side by side with our brother, the Shiites, in the south."
Sadr's representatives in Basra welcomed the move.
"We think the Sunnis in the south are different in nature from the Sunnis in other regions," said Khalil Maliki, of Sadr's office. "Such a frank fatwa at this specific time will calm down all the violence in the south."
Rhetorical questions aside, Sadr's effort is consistent with his recent decision to withdraw from the al-Maliki government:
Could it possibly be more obvious? We are endeavouring to form a national front inside parliament to oppose the occupation. In other words, there is an intense effort amongst Shia and Sunni to come together in an attempt to isolate, and eventually drive out, the US military and al-Qaeda, the two forces that Iraqis consider resposible for the conflagration has engulfed the country. If you still have doubt, consider the following, as it appears that the effort is gaining momentum:
Radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is building an anti-US parliamentary alliance to demand the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, some of his party's lawmakers have told AFP.
The 30-strong Sadrist bloc has suspended its support of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ruling coalition and withdrawn six ministers from cabinet in protest at the premier's meeting with US President George W. Bush.
Maliki on Thursday urged the group to end their boycott.
"I wish they would revise their decision as it is not a positive milestone in the political process," Maliki told reporters after he returned from Amman where he met Bush Thursday.
Earlier on Thursday, Salih al-Agaili, a member of Sadr's parliamentary group, said the bloc now hoped to persuade more lawmakers to follow their suspension, adding that some have "started contacting us to take a similar position. We are holding talks with them."
He did not name the groups but said they would soon declare their intentions. "We are endeavouring to form a national front inside parliament to oppose the occupation," Agaili said.
He stressed that the minimum condition for Sadrist deputies to rejoin the government would be "a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces."
Here's the Cliff Notes version: al-Maliki is a puppet of the US who supports a perpetual US occupation, and will do nothing to curtail that sectarian violence relied upon to justify it, so Iraqis want to be rid of him. Hence, the expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of collective decision making, as puppets installed to run client states aren't noted for their tendency to consult other domestic political leaders and act upon their advice.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki faced a widening revolt within his divided government as two senior Sunni politicians joined prominent Shiite lawmakers and Cabinet members in criticizing his policies.
Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi said he wanted to see al-Maliki's government gone and another "understanding" for a new coalition put in place with guarantees that ensure collective decision making.
"There is a clear deterioration in security and everything is moving in the wrong direction," the Sunni leader told The Associated Press. "This situation must be redressed as soon as possible. If they continue, the country will plunge into civil war."
Al-Maliki's No. 2, Deputy Prime Minister Salam Zikam Ali al-Zubaie, also a Sunni, argued that the president's government failed to curb the spread of sectarian politics.
A boycott by 30 lawmakers and five Cabinet ministers loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was in protest of al-Maliki's meeting with President Bush in Jordan on Thursday. The Sadrists said the meeting amounted to an affront to the Iraqi people.
Sadr is an essential figure in bringing about the creation of such a coalition. No wonder that two CNN hosts inquired of their American guests last weekend as to whether it was time to take out Sadr. Carol Costello and Wolf Blitzer were the culprits, with Blitzer's instance being the most illuminating :
As with the war resolution, there was bipartisan consensus. Not much has changed since the November election. More generally, it reflects an attempt to Israelize the occupation of Iraq by adopting the policy of assassinating prominent political opponents, or targeted killings, as it is euphemistically called. But Cornyn and Reed were too cowardly to expressly adopt it, instead opting for an approach similar to the one that the Chicago police took with Fred Hampton. Let's provoke a firefight so that we can say that we had to kill him in self-defense. No doubt true fascists like Joshua Muravchik snorted in contempt.
BLITZER: Do you think -- I want to take a break, Senator Cornyn, but do you think it's enough for the U.S. or the Iraqi government to arrest Muqtada al-Sadr, this young Shiite cleric, or is it time to take him out as some are suggesting? In other words, kill him.
CORNYN [Republican Senator from Texas]: Well, I would say arrest him, and if he's unable to go peacefully, obviously I think he's a danger to the Iraqis and the Iraqi future in the entire Middle East. We need to disarm him and his militias. Arrest them.
Take them out of action whatever way we need to, and to provide basic security to allow the political process that Jack Reed and others have talked about to go forward. It's not going to do that in a period of such chaos and violence as we're seeing right now.
BLITZER: Senator Reed, kill him if necessary?
REED [Democratic Senator from Rhode Island]: I think what you -- that's a decision I think that the Iraqi government would make. But I think if he's -- an arrest warrant is authorized and they go after him, he resists, he becomes a combatant. I would hope we could get him off the scene without making him a martyr.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
The opposition, in the aftermath of the 2004 referendum to recall Chavez, alienated its liberal allies in the US, requiring even sympathetic friends like the Carter Center to repudiate their paranoid claims. But, for people in Venezuela, where memories of the 2002 coup are still fresh, there is no margin for error. There is also the troubling fact that US efforts to destabilize the Chavez regime have intensified.
Eva Golinger Describes the ThreatAs Golinger recently explained to Green Left Weekly, the US is attempting to do so financially, diplomatically and militarily:
Golinger's description of US military efforts reveals a coordinated, sophisticated effort:
“One of them is the financial front, which the US has been pursuing over the last five years or so, by financing the opposition. This has increased over the past year, doubled in some instances. In fact, funding by USAID [the US Agency for International Development], through its Office of Transition Initiatives (set up here after the coup), is now up to US$7.5 million a year. But, more interestingly, the recipients of the funding have increased dramatically.
“Two years ago, there were about 63 organisations receiving funding and, today, according to the latest documents I’ve gotten under the US Freedom of Information Act, there are 132 groups. When we talk about financial power, it’s not just the money; it’s about the penetration of Venezuelan society by using money to get into the various sectors. They find groups that are allegedly human rights groups, groups that work in the education system and so on, but are really working for the opposition.
“Basically, the US is funding these organisations in civil society ... to obtain control in all different parts of the country. There are large concentrations of programs in Merida, for example, also in Tachira, Zulia, and then in the interior of the country - places like Barquisimeto, and the states of Lara, Monagas, and Anzoategui. . . .
“So, USAID money has increased, and the same with [money from] the National Endowment for Democracy. And it’s not just the money. They’re bringing down their best experts. For example, in the case of the [presidential] election campaign right now, they’re bringing in political strategists, communications experts, to help them craft the entire [opposition] campaign. It’s not just money, because in the case of Venezuela, which is different from Haiti, or Nicaragua, or even Bolivia, the opposition doesn’t need the money. The dollars don’t really compare, if you contrast it to the new Plan for Transition in Cuba, for example. The total there is about $80 million. In Venezuela, the total is about $9 million a year.
I’ve done a lot of investigating this year on the island of Curacao [in the Caribbean], close to Venezuela, where the US has a military base. I have a chapter devoted to it in my new book, because it is really alarming.”
“[The US build-up] is with the support of the Dutch government, less so with the Antilles government”, Golinger explained. She said there is a government-owned refinery in Curacao that has been rented to Venezuela since 1984. The contract is set to expire in 2019. Golinger said the refinery “produces most of the oil for Central America and the Caribbean. It’s incredibly important and strategic.”
Washington is trying to convince the Curacao government to break the contract and sell the refinery to a US company. “All the major infrastructure companies, water, gas, electricity, telephone, [in Curacao] are US-owned. And now they want the refinery. You can see Venezuela from Curacao ... You could launch a missile attack from Curacao, easily.”
“So, there’s Curacao, and then there’s Colombia”, Golinger told GLW. “There’s a major build-up of military bases there. While we are not certain of the exact number of US troops in Colombia, we do know from official documents that the sum total of US forces in the Latin American region is 40,000 troops ... That’s a huge number. It’s enough to invade any Latin American country.
“The US conducts military exercises regularly. I went to Curacao to check out some of the warships involved. It’s pretty freaky ... that’s all intended to intimidate. They haven’t done that since the end of the Cold War.
“Another part of the military front are the psychological operations. It’s a media war, but it goes beyond use of the regular media and gets into all kinds of propaganda ... There’s a doctrine of psychological warfare prepared by the Pentagon ...
“The use of Colombian paramilitaries by the US is also included in the military front. And the intervention of US Special Forces is part of that as well.”
Golinger explained: “I actually interviewed a paramilitary here in Caracas. What he told me is that all the paramilitaries work jointly with the US and the Special Forces in Colombia. They’re trained by them, in command-and-control operations.
The paramilitaries are the “actors”. “For example, they’re the ones sent over to try to assassinate Chavez. But the command-and-control is directed and controlled by the US Special Forces. The US forces come in, and are on the ground in Colombia, but they send the paramilitaries to do the dirty work, together with the Colombian army.
“The US has been building up a secret base near the border with Venezuela, next to Apure state. It’s a small base, but the US is building airplane hangars for spy planes. It’s basically a launching point for espionage operations and monitoring of Venezuela. They also have large amounts of high-ranking US Special Forces there. At every one of these bases ... there are always the high-ranking US Special Forces, the high-ranking Colombian forces, then the low-ranking Colombian forces, and finally the paramilitaries. It’s like a chain of command, but at the head of that command are the US Special Forces.”
Golinger said that there were attempts to push the FARC into Venezuela to provide an excuse for Colombian troops to enter the country. “They want to increasingly make that border area a combat zone - to declare it an uncontrollable international zone, so they need to bring in international forces to control it. This would include all of that area, from Apure to Zulia.”
In her new book there is a chapter on Plan Balboa, a 2001 military exercise underwritten by the US that is “basically the invasion plan for Venezuela”. “What they do is come in from Colombia, Panama and from bases in Curacao. What they do on their map is take over Zulia and the border area and declare it an international zone ....
“In the case of Venezuela, Plan Balboa is the virtual, trial stage of invading the country, and then over the past five years they have been trying it out. The April 2002 coup was the first stage. The US had military forces here, and brought in submarines and other equipment, and their Black Hawk helicopters. How did it play out? It didn’t work, and since then they have been preparing for the next stage. For example, the movement for Zulia to secede, or to become an autonomous state, is related to all that.”
Right now, most of Venezuela’s developed oil industry is located in Zulia and Falcon. “So, the idea is to expand Plan Colombia into that region, and the border area that requires international forces, and, at the same time, move for secession of Zulia. Eventually, they would just divide the country and take the oil wealth. And from there they would deal with the rest of the country.”
GLW asked Golinger about Washington’s ability to stage a military intervention while it was bogged down in Iraq. She explained that, on top of the 40,000 US troops stationed in Latin America, “the recent military exercises in the Caribbean showed their strength ... right in the area near Venezuela, they had about eight major warships, one of which was the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, with 85 combat planes and 6500 troops on board. In all, they had about 10,000 troops. That’s a total of 50,000 [soldiers] in the region.
George Ciccariello-Maher Describes the ResponseIn a highly informative Counterpunch article, Ciccariello-Maher explains how the US and opposition may activate these resources by seek to manufacture an electoral crisis after the election results are announced, an endeavor that he identifies as Plan B:
Predicably, the Chavistas have their own contingency plan:
. . . unfortunately, this doesn't mean that the opposition will be passively accepting their electoral defeat on December 3rd. Instead, rather than complaining of electoral conditions beforehand and talking the abstentionist talk, the opposition is rallying around the slogan of "defend the vote." This vague slogan has some clear consequences, as became clear when opposition ideologue Rafael Poleo appeared recently on Globovisión. Poleo, who has links to the Bush clan and the CIA, who was thoroughly implicated in the April 2002 coup, and whose daughter has been directly implicated in the assassination of Danilo Anderson, the judge whose job it was to collect evidence against the coup-plotters, laid out the strategy of the radical opposition in the clearest of terms on November 6th: "On the 3rd, it is up to the citizens to align themselves with the opposition, they need to go and vote. On the 4th, it's up to Manuel Rosales to lead the protests against the fraud that has been set up. And on the 5th, it's up to the Armed Forces to decide if it will continue forcing those in the Venezuelan opposition to put up with a shameful regime."
According to Poleo, Rosales could be the most important Venezuelan of the 21st century "if he does what he needs to do." The Electoral Committee (CNE) "will announce the victory of Hugo Chávez, regardless of what the numbers say," and "at 6am on the 4th, the streets will fill with people decrying fraud, and then we will see the true size of Rosales." Revealingly, Poleo declares that "that day after, the 4th, will be even more important than December 3rdOn the 4th, it's up to the people to do what the Ukranians did, to carry out an 'Orange Revolution,' to hurl themselves onto the streets, because the fraud has already been arranged, they already have the numbers ready." The Chavistas will not abandon power for the simple reason that "they are Nazis." A coup attempt is in the works, and it has been publicly announced beforehand (all claims of a lack of press freedom in Venezuela thereby proven false).
While Poleo seems uncertain about which path Rosales will choose, the ground is already being laid for his participation in this coup attempt. Hence, Rosales has been clearly evasive when faced with questions about his recognition of the election results: when Chávez publicly agreed to respect the results of the election and challenged his opponent to do the same, the response from Rosales echoing the "democratic" doublespeak of the Northern superpower. Rosales made the very question sound silly: Venezuela is, according to Rosales, the "only country on earth" in which there would even exist a doubt regarding the recognition of elections, but despite this the opposition candidate would not agree to accept these results without the significant caveat that said results must be fair. In terms of the second step of the plan-appeals to the military-Rosales even beat Poleo to the punch, openly calling on November 5th for a meeting with the military high command, a request which was flatly denied by Minster of Defense General Raúl Baduel on the basis that such a meeting would constitute an unconstitutional intervention of the military into the electoral process.
. . . So we shouldn't be surprised to find that the most radical sectors of Chavismo are also making plans. Specifically, several armed self-defense organizations rooted in the Tupamaro movement and largely-defunct Bolivarian Circles, which claim a particularly powerful following in the barrios of western Caracas, are preparing plans for the defense of Chavista neighborhoods.
Such plans are centered in the historically revolutionary neighborhood of 23 de Enero (January 23rd), in the climbing foothills in western Caracas. 23 de Enero has long represented the organizational "brain" of radical Caracas, as opposed to the "heart" of revolt represented by the slums of Petare, that powderkeg standing far to the east of the city which gave rise to the epic 1989 Caracazo riots. The spirit of revolt has often been sparked in the utter destitution of Petare, the largest and most dangerous of Caracas' slums, but the organizational structure which fans the flames can generally be found in 23. In the short lived April 2002 coup against Chávez, several ministers were spirited away for safe keeping in the "bunker" of 23 de Enero, only to reemerge and participate in the efforts to recover the president.
Given this role as radical safe haven, the many radical armed groups populating the neighborhood-from the Carapaica, who made their plans public in local newspapers, to Cepa Cartolini, to the Colectivo Alexis Vive (most of these groups descended from the earlier Coordinador Simón Bolívar and later Tupamaros)-think first of protecting the "bunker": a source close to sectors of the Tupamaros tells me that "the general line is that, in the event of trouble, if it's a confrontation with lead, they'll guard 23 de Enero, keep in contact with other organizations, and mobilize resistance." Specifically, I am told, most organizations have adopted a bifurcated approach to resisting the "Plan B" of the opposition: half of their forces will be devoted to rearguard defense of the bunkers, while half will form "mobilization groups" traveling throughout the city.
It should be pointed out that, while the Metropolitan Mayor's office has "fulfilled a necessary support role" by providing logistical support to radical neighborhoods (cellphones, motorcycles), this role is precisely that: support. That is to say, these neighborhood organizations are best considered as "base movements" engaged in a revolutionary process of local administration. In the words of one participant, the resistance to threats from the opposition has led these groups to "create new forms for organizing the local self-defense of sovereignty." These new forms are not limited to urban areas, either: from the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front-several thousand of whom marched through the city in military formation on November 20th-to the much more shadowy rural resistance army deemed the "Bolivarian Liberation Front," grassroots resistance to any efforts to put the brakes on the revolutionary process is ubiquitous.
Predictably, the Neoconservative Media is FrightenedThe London Telegraph, known for its notorious role in libeling George Galloway and advocating the launching of the war in Iraq, is concerned about the creation of groups capable of resisting an attempt to topple Chavez:
Not surprisingly, the article neglects to mention two things, beyond the failure to acknowledge Chavez's string of electoral victories from 1998 to date: (1) that the Venezuelan civil service has historically been both corrupt and aligned with the opposition, necessitating his recourse to people that he has encountered in the military that he considers more competent and trustworthy; and (2) that polls have consistently shown Chavez with substantial leads over Rosales, most recently by nearly 2 to 1 by Zogby.
With Mr Chavez hoping to win another six years in power, the opposition fears that even if it wins at the ballot box it will never be able to take power.
After purging the armed forces of elements opposed to his populist Left-wing rule, Mr Chavez has ensured that a new reserve force is outside the normal military command chain, answering only to him.
The former paratrooper colonel, who led a failed coup in 1992, has military men in most ministries, in politics, and even on the Supreme Court.
"What we have now is a form of Praetorian government," said Domingo Irwin, a defence analyst at the Pedagogical University in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.
Neither omission is a coincidence, as the first serves the purpose of casting doubt on a electorally victorious politician's entitlement to appoint his own people to leadership positions, while the second one is consistent with the attempt to persuade people outside Venezuela that opposition claims of fraud, should they lose as indicated by the polls, are credible. Psychologically, however, the problem is much simpler:
Let's examine this outwardly short, simple comment with care. Contrary to the implication of Garrido's remark, as already observed by Ciccariello-Maher, Chavez has already expressed his willingness to accept the result, while Rosales has equivocated. So, once this has been clarified, we can see how Garrido gives the game away: the president is building up and arming his support base should he . . be removed from power by other means. And, just what might those be? The implementation of Plan Balboa, as described by Golinger? US military support for an armed rebellion launched by the opposition after the election? Or, more simply, the assassination of Chavez?
For Alberto Garrido, a leading political analyst in Caracas, the president is building up and arming his support base, should he lose elections or be removed from power by other means.
"He believes in the revolutionary principle of a people in arms, and he believes that he can never be beaten should his people be armed," said Mr Garrido.
And, then, Garrido's direct quote: . . . he believes that he can never be beaten should his people by armed. Sadly, according to the standards of the Telegraph and Garrido, Chavez isn't playing by the rules. After 2002, he's not going to diminish the significance of the threat because he is naive enough to think that the US cannot blatantly remove a popularly elected president of another country from power. He's not even going to wait for the attack, in whatever form it comes, and then, unlike the Republican government in Madrid in 1936, respond to the call of the people for arms. No, he believes that an attack is coming, as do many in Venezuela, and they are going to be armed and ready before it happens.
Let's hope that the US remains preoccupied with Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and the rest of the Middle East. Let's hope that my distanced American perspective about the plausibility of a US inspired opposition uprising is correct, because if Marines are ever sent into the slums of Petare, 23 de Enero and elsewhere, they will find themselves in the Sadr City of South America, and the boundaries of that allegorical Sadr City could rapidly extend from Santiago to Mexico City, anywhere with a combustible mix of an American presence, a wealthy elite and a large populace impoverished as a consequence of neoliberalism.
If that happens, there will be no nonsense about Support the Troops, rather, it will be unconditional support for the right of the Venezuelans to prevail by any means necessary. Many rightly fear that a war with Iran could quickly become uncontrollable, but we ignore the prospect that an attempt to remove Chavez could initiate an equally calamitous conflict.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Is it possible that the insurrection has already begun in Oaxaca? For background as to the continuing civil unrest there, go here and here. According to indybay.org, Federal authorities escalated the conflict on Saturday with attacks upon protesters, mass detentions and home invasions:
December 1, the day that Felipe Calderón takes office, will be “the beginning of the end for a political system that, since the Mexican Revolution, became deformed and began to cheat generation after generation, until this one arrived and said, ‘Enough,’” warned Subcomandante Marcos during a press conference. Calderón, he added, “will begin to fall from his first day.”
He stated, “we are on the eve of either a great uprising or a civil war.” As to the question of who would lead the uprising, he responded, “the people, each one in his or her own place, within a system of mutual support. If we can not succeed in having it happen that way, there will have to be spontaneous uprisings, civil explosions all over, a civil war in which each person is only looking out for his or her own well-being, because the possibility is already there for things to cross that line.” He cited the case of Oaxaca, where “there are no leaders or political bosses; it is the people themselves who have organized. It will be like that across the entire country.”
One can place this struggle in context by reference to a recent seminal column by Richard Gott, a journalist who has spent decades covering events in Central and South America:
A peaceful protest in Oaxaca was repressed by the federal police stationed in the center of the city. By nightfall, a few people were reported killed, hundreds arrested and hurt and many disappeared.
Today, after the seventh megamarch in Oaxaca, members of the APPO attempted to form a human fence around the federal preventative police (PFP), but were attacked with gas. This unleashed a series of clashes with violence again igniting in the city. Many have been arrested and there are reports of many wounded, some by gunfire. It is confirmed that three people were killed.
The march unfolded in a festive atmosphere until it reached Oaxaca’s downtown. There began the attempt to form a human fence around the PFP forces in Oaxaca's zocalo. Groups of PRI members started provoking the demonstraters with insults and shooting slingshots with marbles. Later, the PFP began using tear gas to disperse the people. People started to withdraw, but police kept moving forward and then began the riot. While shooting off tear gas, police kept charging on. People tried to resist in a peaceful way, but couldn`t stand up against the tear gas. The people began to defend themselves with rockets, home made bombs and stones.
The situation became very tense toward the area north of downtown where the police attempted to surround the protesters. At some point, the PFP entered Santo Domingo, which is occupied by an APPO encampment, and then set fire to the camp. Many fires started throughout the city, which were set by saboteurs. A bus near the University City, a door of the Hotel Camino Real and then the legislative palace and external relationships buildings were all set aflame.
The police started using gunfire and also shot gas cans at the protestors. This practice has killed people before in Oaxaca on Nov. 2 and in other places like Atenco. Radio Universidad made a general call to withdraw and to get off the streets. Three people were shot by police from two pickup trucks using heavy gunfire near the College of Medicine. Reports indicate more than one hundred shots heard. The killers took two of the bodies and left the third one lying at the spot.
Near a place known as El Pochote, a big group of people were surrounded by the police. Also in the streets of Fiallo y Colón, a big number of teachers and workers of the health department were detained and removed in two buses. To the north of downtown, several reports indicate that there were massive arrests of up to thirty people who were sprayed with gas after being detained. In a place called El Fortin, witnesses report how police were beating up and torturing detained ones before moving them from the spot aboard pickup trucks. Radio Universidad keeps transmitting and making announcements and denunciations.
The pacific mobilization received an attack from the federal police with gases and gunfire. Then protesters faced a wave of represion by armed police officers and paramilitary which resulted in the deaths of three people, many injured individuals, more than 60 detained protesters and innocent bystanders and an unknown number of disappeared people. The numbers are increasing because violence has not ceased in the streets of Oaxaca.
People caught on the streets are looking for safe places to hide as the night promises more terror. Radio Universidad is asking its listeners to open their doors and allow people to hide. Now the PFP is entering people’s homes to ransack them and search for protesters. The APPO has made a plea for all national and international organizations in solidarity with the Oaxaca struggle to protest where they can against the brutality of the Mexican federal government in its support of Ulises Ruiz.
Gott concludes: The outline of a fresh struggle, with a final settling of accounts, can now be discerned. On this, it appears, Gott and Marcos are in agreement.
A feature of all "settler colonialist" societies has been the ingrained racist fear and hatred of the settlers, who are permanently alarmed by the presence of an expropriated underclass. Yet the race hatred of Latin America's settlers has only had a minor part in our customary understanding of the continent's history and society. Even politicians and historians on the left have preferred to discuss class rather than race.
In Venezuela, elections in December will produce another win for Hugo Chávez, a man of black and Indian origin. Much of the virulent dislike shown towards him by the opposition has been clearly motivated by race hatred, and similar hatred was aroused the 1970s towards Salvador Allende in Chile and Juan Perón in Argentina. Allende's unforgivable crime, in the eyes of the white-settler elite, was to mobilise the rotos, the "broken ones" - the patronising and derisory name given to the vast Chilean underclass. The indigenous origins of the rotos were obvious at Allende's political demonstrations. Dressed in Indian clothes, their affinity with their indigenous neighbours would have been apparent. The same could be said of the cabezas negras - "black heads" - who came out to support Perón.
This unexplored parallel has become more apparent as indigenous organisations have come to the fore, arousing the whites' ancient fears. A settler spokesman, Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian-now-Spanish novelist, has accused the indigenous movements of generating "social and political disorder", echoing the cry of 19th-century racist intellectuals such as Colonel Domingo Sarmiento of Argentina, who warned of a choice between "civilisation and barbarism".
Latin America's settler elites after independence were obsessed with all things European. They travelled to Europe in search of political models, ignoring their own countries beyond the capital cities, and excluding the majority from their nation-building project. Along with their imported liberal ideology came the racialist ideas common among settlers elsewhere in Europe's colonial world. This racist outlook led to the downgrading and non-recognition of the black population, and, in many countries, to the physical extermination of indigenous peoples. In their place came millions of fresh settlers from Europe.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Yesterday, before traveling to the airport for our flight home, we drove over to the Carter Museum and Library. Politically, it is easy to dismiss Carter, despite his evolutionary rehabilitation over the years. Cockburn is correct: Neoliberalism won the day on his watch. His much advertised emphasis upon human rights was fraudulent. As with Pope John Paul, the invocation of human rights was a sword to use almost exclusively against Communist regimes.
Arms continued to flow to repressive regimes, with the public distracted by highly publicized personal requests by Carter that dissidents be released from prison. Upon leaving office, not much has changed. James Petras has mercilessly exposed the role of the Carter Center in facilitating the removal of democratically elected governments hostile to US interests, an effort that experienced a rare failure during the recall referendum against Hugo Chavez in 2004.
In a world in which we have been forced to substitute the intimidation and violence of military neoliberalism for the earlier, softer coercion of its parent, one cannot resist stating the obvious. Recalling Yeltsin's famous quote about himself, Gorbachev and perestroika, if Carter, the messianic monitor of voting rights did not exist, the US would have had to invent him. And, in a sense, it did, as the Center is funded by private donations from individuals, foundations and corporations.
Carter's recent criticisms of the war in Iraq and Israel's suppression of the Palestinians are most properly understood, as those of his National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, as indicative of a disagreement with the neoconservatives as to how US power within the Middle East can be preserved. But, of course, I knew all this before going into the museum, and, while it predictably casts Carter and his presidency in an appealing light, it, consistent with Carter's self-effacing, technocratic temperment, does so in an understated way.
I was especially struck by the sense of time and place. Carter emerged in an era very different from the one in which we now live. After the excesses of LBJ and Nixon, the public was suspicious of outwardly egotistical political figures. In 1976, Carter outlasted the self-deprecating Mo Udall, another figure whose success was dependent upon the post-Watergate mood, while the stoical Ford survived the challenge of the charismatic Reagan. He and his wife, Rosalynn, engaged the public directly, symbolized by their walk down Pennsylvania Avenue for his inaugural speech.
Carter, as later, with Clinton, consciously eschewed the trappings of the imperial presidency, and emphasized a religious inspiration for his life in politics quite different than the fundamentalist kind repeatedly described by Bush. He, with a charming naivete, has sought to live a life of humble Christian service, and, while President, believed that the public would respond to his example, and his attempts to educate them. It was a simpleminded idealism that might have been very effective in a communitarian society, but it was destined to fail in the crucible of the final stages of the Cold War, with the contours of the coming neoliberal order, designed to drain away the energy of the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, already visible.
Accordingly, it was now the primary function of leaders to depoliticize the social life of their countries, not encourage it, and sadly, a lot of people were ready to acquiesce. Carter, unlike his successors, lacked a clear understanding of his role, and, hence, swung between social and economic policies that disempowered people, and attempts to motivate people through education, appeals to rationality and community involvement (and, if necessary, sacrifice, as with his national energy policy).
In other words, Carter actually believed that Americans, and, indeed, people everywhere, could be persuaded to endorse an increasingly deregulated, privatized world under the benign oversight of the US, and, curiously enough, he still seems to believe it today. For others, the toppling of the Shah of Iran, and the subsequent hostage crisis that overwhelmed his presidency, persuaded them that a more cynical, sophisticated approach was required.
In the future, the public would be discouraged from believing that they had any capacity to effect meaningful social change, the government would be stripped of its power to protect people legally and economically from the predations of transnationals, and, for purposes of intimidation, and, if necessary, those rare instances when force was required, the military and security services would be better armed and less restrained. As President, Carter was noteworthy for two important things. He participated in no military adventures, unless one counts the ill-fated Desert One, and did not espouse the doctrine, so much in vogue today, of an executive that must be able to act independent of the Congress to protect our security.
Carter was either too stubborn or too ignorant to understand that, instead of using military force only after great deliberation, it was essential for the US to demonstrate that it was willing to use force unilaterally and aggressively to deter perceived opponents. Given the necessity of doing so, he was equally incapable of recognizing the importance of releasing the presidency from the restraints of the Constitution, not just to facilitate covert operations and military actions, but, also, to psychologically narcotize the public into accepting that it was subordinate to the President, that, in effect, the President and the state are indistinquishable, such that any criticism of the President is, necessarily, a criticism of the legitimacy of the state, or, put more simply, sedition.
In the congressional elections, the public rejected these tenets of neoconservatism. They voted, in essence, for Carterism, in the absence of a better term, even if neither of the parties is yet showing an inclination to act in accordance with this result. Despite all of its defects, Carterism is certainly superior to the brutality of neoconservatism, but neither is a plausible response to a world that is, paradoxically, both increasingly independent and interdependent.
Now that it has become evident, after Iraq, that the world cannot be subjected to the demands of transnationals and finance capital through force, Carterism suggests a rosier outcome through dialogue, multilateralism and economic coercion. If adopted, it will fail again, even more so than in the 1970s, because it retains that enduring American perspective that it is our mission to modernize the world in our image, despite increasing opposition to such an endeavor. Perhaps, this helps explain why the new Democratic majority is so fractious. Each fork in the road leads to the abyss, and it is impossible to know which route is more circuitous.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
At this point, it seems almost beside the point to say this: The New Republic deeply regrets its early support for this war. The past three years have complicated our idealism and reminded us of the limits of American power and our own wisdom. [...] As we attempt to undo the damage from a war that we never should have started, our moral obligations will not vanish, and neither will our strategic needs.
Yeah, cry me a river...
Beinart, of course, gets in on the act with a braindead rehashing of the standard liberal line that the US can't pull out now because doing so will result in a bloodbath. He says the US should threaten to leave and use staying as a carrot on a stick to force Iraq's "political elite" to whip the rabble in line. Yes, Beinart is convinced that Iraqis -- at least Iraq's "political class" -- are quaking in their boots with fear that America will withdraw. He, for example, states directly "prominent Sunni leaders now actually want the United States to stay" citing no source beyond the wisdom of General Beinart himself.
Unlike Peter Beinart I don't have any Iraqi political elites on the phone but, the last time I checked, general Iraqi opinion looked like this:
The above is from a PIPA survey conducted less than two months ago, well after the Sammarra mosque attack and so forth. Perhaps opinions among Beinart's elite vary significantly from the above, but even if such is the case the point is irrelevant: the puppets in the Green Zone governed with little power to begin with and with even less now. Maliki is now the mayor of Baghdad as surely as Karzai is the mayor of Kabul. But even if such were not the case, even if Maliki's administration was all powerful and was begging the US to stay forever, wouldn't it be democratic and idealistic, and all the good things that the liberal hawks like to pretend to be, to side with the 70% of the population -- the 35% of Kurds for godsake -- that want the US out by September of 2007 at latest?
Beinart's instinctive faith in the power of enlightened insiders betrays a peculiar view of democracy that he shares with neoconservatives. Part of Peter Beinart's schtick as a commentator is peppering his writing with pretentious historical allusions. The one he picked this time around is pretty ironic:
"Were not those right who held that it was self-contradictory to try to further the permanent ideals of peace by recourse to war?" wrote John Dewey in The New Republic in 1919, confessing his despondency at the outcome of World War I. Yes, they were right then, and they are right now. War can be necessary, but, in the decade between the liberation of Kuwait and the liberation of Kabul, it became the repository for too many of our hopes for a better world.
The full Dewey quote is as follows:
Were not those right who held that it was self-contradictory to try to further the permanent ideals of peace by recourse to war? Was not he who thought they might thus be promoted one of the gullible throng who swallowed the cant of idealism as a sugar coating for the bitter core of violence and greed?
Dewey, of course, in his day, argued against Walter Lippman's elites-know-best version of democracy (in the New Republic no less) and probably wouldn't have appreciated being quoted by chief spokesman for the gullible throng in an essay defending a Lippman-esque solution to the devastation wrought by a war aggression, ... but what do I know?
Second, I don't see cable news very often, I only pay for basic cable at home, but, yesterday, Charles Rangel was all over, on CNN, on FOX, promoting his pet proposal for a draft, designed, he claims, to make it more difficult for leaders to take the US to war. Does anyone other than Rangel believe such nonsense? And, why isn't Rangel just talking about getting the troops out of Iraq, and back to the US, instead of creating the legal authority for the government to draft people? Am I the only person who believes that a bill authorizing a draft actually could pass within the framework of an escalation of US threats against the Iranian nuclear program, providing the government with the power to immediately order large numbers of people into combat if war erupted? Again, is this why people voted for the Democrats, to have a prominent leader in the House push a bill for a draft which would, contrary to what he says, actually facilitate more aggressive US military operations around the world?
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Muravchik's column is rife with fascistic sensibilities: a hypernationalistic belief that the US is entitled to unquestioned military superiority, that the US has the right to replace the political leadership, if not the political systems themselves, of other countries, that the US may undertake such action through either covert operations or overt military action, and that the US may use military force to prevent other countries from developing economic and military capabilities that the US itself already possesses.
WE MUST bomb Iran.
It has been four years since that country's secret nuclear program was brought to light, and the path of diplomacy and sanctions has led nowhere.
First, we agreed to our allies' requests that we offer Tehran a string of concessions, which it spurned. Then, Britain, France and Germany wanted to impose a batch of extremely weak sanctions. For instance, Iranians known to be involved in nuclear activities would have been barred from foreign travel — except for humanitarian or religious reasons — and outside countries would have been required to refrain from aiding some, but not all, Iranian nuclear projects.
But even this was too much for the U.N. Security Council. Russia promptly announced that these sanctions were much too strong. "We cannot support measures … aimed at isolating Iran," declared Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov.
It is now clear that neither Moscow nor Beijing will ever agree to tough sanctions. What's more, even if they were to do so, it would not stop Iran, which is a country on a mission. As President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad put it: "Thanks to the blood of the martyrs, a new Islamic revolution has arisen…. The era of oppression, hegemonic regimes and tyranny and injustice has reached its end…. The wave of the Islamic revolution will soon reach the entire world." There is simply no possibility that Iran's clerical rulers will trade this ecstatic vision for a mess of Western pottage in the form of economic bribes or penalties.
So if sanctions won't work, what's left? The overthrow of the current Iranian regime might offer a silver bullet, but with hard-liners firmly in the saddle in Tehran, any such prospect seems even more remote today than it did a decade ago, when students were demonstrating and reformers were ascendant. Meanwhile, the completion of Iran's bomb grows nearer every day.
In other words, the peoples of other countries live subject to the right of the US to dictate the nature of their societies, the right of the US to economically exploit them and, if necessary, subject them to military occupation, as in Iraq, if the indigenous populace objects. There is also the presentation of other major powers, in this instance, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, as feminized in the pejorative sense, as incapable of undertaking essential actions necessary for self-defense. Hence, there is the need for a strong father figure, the US, to administer the discipline necessary to preserve order, despite the emotional weakness of those incapable of confronting the threat. Countries that have been the victims of past US aggression, such as Iran, are recast as threats as our collective amnesia about such practices is exploited, suggesting an insecurity that can only be relieved through acts of explosive violence.
In the US of 2006, such sentiments are frequently disseminated throughout the mass media. They form the centerpiece of discourse about how the US should engage the rest of the world. Rarely, is there any warning that the attempt to intimidate others to conform to our wishes through militarism and coercion is dangerous and immoral, recalling the worst aspects of our own history as it relates to immigrants and people of color. Never is there any acknowledgement that it brings Hitler and Mussolini to mind much more quickly than it does the mythic figures of Adams, Washington and Jefferson from our own idealized history. Instead, there is only the tepid liberal response that evades this grotesqueness, an emphasis upon an antiseptic pragmatism that seeks to achieve the same ends while fulfilling a craven need to retain the approval of others.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Today, I believe that it is very important that we support antiwar.com during its quarterly fund drive. Fund drives are always challenging, and it is easy to succumb to the temptation that a wealthy saviour will step forward at the last minute, as has appeared to have happened during previous antiwar.com drives. In this instance, we need to resist it, and show our appreciation for the most dynamic American anti-imperialist site on the Internet.
Admittedly, antiwar.com is not a leftist one, it is avowedly libertarian. I have substantial disagreements with the social and economic beliefs of the people who operate it. Even so, on the most important issue of our time, the expansion of the American empire through extreme violence and economic coercion, the people involved with antiwar.com are unequivocal and forthright in their opposition to it.
It is the portal to news articles and columns from around the world regarding the war in Iraq, the war on terror, a possible war in Iran and the perpetual attempt of the Israelis to colonize the entirety of Palestine. It has played an essential role in destroying the monopoly of information that the US media once possessed. No longer are we at the mercy of the The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and, worst of all, FOX News.
The breath of news and commentary at antiwar.com is, quite simply, without peer. Ideologically, one finds the anarchist Noam Chomsky alongside Reaganite Paul Craig Roberts, the Tory Peter Oborne with Tom Engelhardt of The Nation. Indispensable reports and analysis from Dahr Jamail, Aaron Glantz and Jorge Hirsch are readily available. Without antiwar.com, it would be much more difficult to readily access such disparate sources of information.
The thread tying them all together is the essential cause of creating a broad based coalition from right to left to resist the predations of the American empire, a cause that has become even more urgent as a consequence of neoconservative control over US foreign policy. Justin Raimondo has written today that he believes that contributions have declined because of the recent Democratic victory in the congressional elections. He may well be correct.
If so, the refusal to financially support independent entities like antiwar.com by instead placing confidence in a Democratic Congress to bring the war to a conclusion is profoundly misguided. Already, the red lights are flashing: Lieberman and McCain, part of the bipartisan Group of 12 who really run the Senate, advocating 20,000 more troops for Iraq, a recommendation that will purportedly be made by James Baker's Iraq Study Group, the containment of moderately antiwar House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with two pro-war subordinates, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Democratic Caucus Chair, Rahm Emanuel, all confirming this prediction by Alexander Cockburn (referenced here in this post by Joe last week):
Antiwar.com is part of the effort to create an alternative to this kind of cynical politics, an alternative emphasized by Cockburn:
What may well happen now is what we satirically predicted at the statrt of the week: a bipartisan consensus by the national leadership of both parties around the McCain position, calling for fresh troops and better manangement of the war. This is what Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden all endorse.
The loss of antiwar.com, or even just a reduction of service, would be significant setback for this endeavor. Personally, I donated $75.
What's needed now is a de facto alliance between the antiwar Democrats bolstered by Tuesday's results, and the antiwar Republicans led by Chuck Hagel who no longer have to be beholden to the neocons and who have no desire to go the way of Santorum or Burns.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Ng notes the conventional wisdom that Hu cannot push this drive too far by going after Jia and Huang, because the removal of two Politburo members for criminal activity would be unprecedented, and risks irreparable damage to the legitimacy of the CCP. But Ng recognizes an alternative perspective, examined here at length last month, that the CCP cannot survive unless it restores public confidence in its ability to govern for the benefit of more than a privileged, connected group of party officials, entrepreneurs and their families.
An intensified campaign to crack down on official corruption is sweeping across China, with public attention focused on which big fish will be netted next after the Communist Party's announcement last month of the dismissal of Chen Liangyu as its Shanghai chief. . .
The anti-corruption drive has won the wholehearted support of the general public, with the growing expectation that President Hu Jintao will restore some social justice by fighting corrupt officials. . .
Speculation is rife that Hu's next targets will be two of the nine members of the Standing Committee of the politburo: Jia Qinglin and Huang Ju.
The ill Huang, who is also vice premier and ranks as No 6 in the official hierarchy, was Chen's predecessor. Investigations into Chen's case have so far implicated more than 50 Shanghai officials and entrepreneurs. It is suspected that Huang could have been involved in some of the scandals that are being exposed as this investigation continues.
Jia is also chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and ranks as China's No 4 leader. Though not a member of the Shanghai Gang, Jia is close to Jiang, having worked under him.
Jia was based in Fujian province from 1985 to 1996 as deputy CCP chief, governor and then party chief. It has been noted that rampant smuggling by the notorious Yuanhua Group of Lai Changxing, who is now in exile in Canada, took place in Fujian when the southeastern province was under Jia's control.
Many Fujian officials have been implicated and jailed for their involvement in this, but Jia has appeared to be immune. Two years before Beijing launched an investigation into the Yuanhua smuggling case, Jia was promoted by Jiang as Beijing's party chief, replacing Chen Xitong, who had just been purged by Jiang for corruption. The Beijing post enabled Jia to become a politburo member.
Accordingly, the attainment of Hu's goal of a harmonious society is not an ideal, it is an imperative:
Of course, the great unmentionable is the rising tide of protest that threatens to engulf the country. For now, it appears that Hu may be having some success in channeling public discontent into the safe harbor of enthusiastic support for the anti-corruption campaign. But will the public accept the limitation of this campaign to the achievement of Hu's political goals of consolidating power within himself and his supporters?
Hence Hu's decision to build a harmonious society means that society now is not harmonious. Indeed, there are far too many unharmonious factors: an ever-widening wealth gap; unbalanced development between regions and industries; street protests every day; deadly coal-mine accidents; local officials' abuse of power in bullying ordinary people, such as taking away land from farmers with little compensation - the list could go on.
Almost all such "unharmonious" problems could be blamed on social injustice stemming from official corruption. Hence the key to building an harmonious society is to restore social justice. But social justice cannot be restored without getting rid of official corruption.
This goes to the heart of the legitimacy of the rule of the CCP. Hu is fully aware of this. He once said at a party meeting that the CCP and the communist state would cease to exist if rampant official corruption were not effectively curbed.
While speculation about big fish being netted grabs most attention, China's anti-graft campaign is going deep into every corner of the country. Almost every day there are reports of local officials being caught.
From this point of view, by putting forward the idea of building a harmonious society, Hu aims to preserve communist rule in China. For him, this is a war he must win. If he succeeds, he will be remembered by the Chinese people. But if he fails, official corruption could provide the ultimately threat to the CCP.
It sounds dubious, inconsistent with a recent decision to promote the unionization of much of China's manufacturing and migrant workforce. Furthermore, one wonders to what extent Hu will dictate the ultimate outcome of this campaign, given that it has been launched partially in response to riotous public displeasure with the government. Is Hu already discovering that he must learn to ride the tiger of public demands for radical change, something that even Gorbachev found impossible?
Neoliberalism has left China with a sinister, covert network of developers, business owners, investors and Marxist-Leninist bureaucrats, a network that has not only displayed a callous disregard for the well being of the populace, but, quite literally, substituted itself for the government and the CCP. It remains to be seen whether Hu can destroy it without destroying the party as well, as the extent to which the party independently exists separate from these neoliberal social and economic structures is uncertain.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
German prosecutors received a complaint on Tuesday from rights groups seeking charges against outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for alleged abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons.
The federal prosecutor's office, which refused to take up a similar case in 2004, confirmed it had received the complaint, which also names U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, former CIA director George Tenet and high-ranking military officers.
"We received it by email this morning," spokesman Frank Wallenta said. "We have to look at it and that will take some time."
He declined to say when the prosecutor's office, based in Karlsruhe, could make a decision on the complaint, which he said was over 300 pages long.
As mentioned above, this is the second time the CCR has tried to prosecute Rumsfeld. The first time was in 2004 but the complaint was thrown out -- I think, in 2005. They're filing it again, arguing that due to current events Rumsfeld can no longer claim immunity. Actually, according to the Reuters article, the new complaint "contains substantial new evidence", so perhaps the new evidence is a factor beyond Rumsfeld getting axed that is driving the new filing.
The entire old complaint is publicly available for download -- not sure if the new one is available as well...
Sunday, November 12, 2006
To date, I have only read about a third of it, but decided to post about it, anyway, as it is a delight. If this book is any indication, Lens was one of those rarities, someone capable of presenting complex historical research and analysis in a conversational form that is easily understood. Unlike many writers, he had a voice, and it is a friendly one that engages and captivates.
His fascination with American history as an intimate political and social phenomenon beyond the confines of theory shines throughout. There is a free will associated with the large cast of characters, whether Tecumseh, Jefferson or Tyler, among others, an individuality that persists as they participate in the narrative, and, in a deterministic age defined by The Clash of Fundamentalisms, there is a nostalgic charm to it.
While he walks us through the paces of the political decisions of the leaders of the day, Lens rarely loses sight of the collective social dimension that, in some instances, dictated them, or, in others, lead to unanticipated consequences and outcomes. For example, in regard to the War of 1812, he describes the imperial motivations for it, and initial public enthusiasm, but then reveals the unwillingness of many Americans to subsequently fight it, an unwillingness taken to the extreme of refusing to finance it, or even come to the assistance of forces under attack by the British. He emphasizes something that is often marginalized in the popular consciousness of this period: the extent to which fears over possible succession by various parts of the country at different times constrained the expansionist impulse, even before the slavery question became so contentious.
Similarly, the distinction between war, conquest and property theft was slippery, socially, more so than politically, as Lens highlights the role of filibustering, attempts by the hardy, the restless, and the lawless to establish private empires of their own in relatively unoccupied regions (translation: predominately Native American areas under the nominal control of Mexico). Filibustering played a prominent role in the acquisition of West Florida (the coastal regions of Alabama, Mississippi and most of the current Florida panhandle), East Florida, as well as, of course, Texas. Filibustering was an endeavor that the federal government lacked the capacity to suppress, even if it had been inclined to do so. Cormac McCarthy's great novel, Blood Meridian, is a harrowing account of a variation of this activity, the killing of Native Americans living on land under contract for white settlement.
All of this, however, would limit the significance of the book to the realm of history, even if we acknowledge that Lens' possessed an acute understanding of how it is shaped by politicians, the populace and economic developments. But there are additional aspects that deserve our attention today. First, and most importantly, Lens exposed the myth that the United States did not display imperial aspirations, and act upon the, until much later, say, 1898, with the Spanish American War. It is important, because there remains a belief to this day that the US was originally a republic devoid of territorial ambitions. It was, in other words, an idealized place where farmers, merchants and shippers sought commerce with much of the rest of the world despite the obstruction of foreign mercantilist powers. Echoes of it can be found among libertarians, Gore Vidal and even Chalmers Johnson. Lens emphasizes that many prominent political figures openly expressed, since the country's inception, the urgency of obtaining large territories to the north, south and west, by war, if necessary.
Indeed, by Lens' account, Alexander Hamilton could be accurately described as both the country's first neoconservative and first neoliberal. Neoconservative, because, like the contemporary ones, he distrusted the masses, promoted the creation of an executive branch with powers analoguous to monarchy and possessed a fondness for intrigues, military force and territorial expansion. He tried, unsuccessfully, to provoke a war with France in the 1790s so as to seize the Floridas, Louisiana, and conceivably, most of Central and South America. Meglomaniacal grandiosity, it appears, did not originate with the participants in the Project for a New American Century.
Hamilton also simultaneously possessed neoliberal qualities as well. He funded the national debt as Secretary of the Treasury, and, here, we observe the beginnings of a system whereby debt interest serves the dual purpose of promoting the primitive accumulation of capital, by redistributing income from laborers to financiers through taxation required to make bond payments, contributing to the outbreak of the Fries Rebellion in 1796, and, quite predictably, rendering these same laborers more economically vulnerable and constricting the ability of the government to assist them. He also, according to Lens, extolled the virtues of child labor, much like transnationals traverse the globe today, looking for the most impoverished places to obtain a docile workforce, including children, to manufacture and assembly their products.
Second, Lens provides a brief, fascinating account of the Barbary States conflict, one that foreshadows the methods of future US involvement in the nearby Middle East. Discontented with the rapidly escalating costs of paying tribute to the rulers of these North African states to ensure safe passage for maritime shipping, President Jefferson found himself in a conflict with them, which could not be won militarily. Jefferson then, rather reluctantly, supported what we would now call a covert operation, an effort to remove the Pasha of Tripoli and replace him with his brother. The ragtag force succeeded, but Jefferson accepted the Pasha's favorable settlement offer, apparently because of the possibility that the Pasha might kill 300 captured American prisoners.
Today, the most striking aspect of the story is the practicality displayed in reaching this settlement, and avoiding a potentially more violent, calamitous conflict. At that time, it was not necessary that the Pasha govern according to the prescriptions of US advisors, purchase weapons for US arm manufacturers and privatize his economy for the benefit of Wall Street brokerages and transnational corporations. The unmolested passage of American ships along his coastline was enough. By the end of the 20th Century, the US could no longer achieve its far more intrusive objectives through such indirect means, resulting in the application of direct military force, with disasterous consequences in Iraq.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
“We’re showing the world that no multinational company can just come here to humiliate Venezuelan employees”, Nixon Lopez, a Venezuelan workers’ leader, told BBC News on October 24. Lopez was referring to the actions of over 10,000 former employees at the Coca-Cola Femsa bottling company, the second-largest soft drink bottling company in the world.
The workers began blockading all 75 plants and warehouses on October 23, shutting down operations across Venezuela. They were demanding that Coca-Cola pay them up to US$2.3 million they say they are owed in pension payments. Current workers also joined the dispute over plans for further redundancies, according to an October 23 Venezuelanalysis.com article by Steve Mather.
via Politics in the Zeros
What triumphed on Tuesday was not the Rahm Emanuel platform but something far closer to what Ralph Nader spoke for in 2000 and 2004.
The furthest the national Democrats have wanted to go on the war has been to attack its management. Not the principled position of Cut and Run as urged by Jack Murtha just over a year ago. Not Howard Dean's "stabilize" message on Wednesday morning. What may well happen now is what we satirically predicted at the statrt of the week: a bipartisan consensus by the national leadership of both parties around the McCain position, calling for fresh troops and better manangement of the war. This is what Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden all endorse. What's need now is a de facto alliance between the antiwar Democrats bolstered by Tuesday's results, and the antiwar Republicans led by Chuck Hagel who no longer have to be beholden to the neocons and who have no desire to go the way of Santorum or Burns. Hagel-Edwards in 2008! (We mean Liz Edwards of course.)
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
1. The words of the decider, son of George, king in Washington:
2. To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.
3. A time to lie and a time to tell half truths, a time to stonewall and a time to cut losses,
4. A time to air 30-second attack ads and a time to reach out in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation,
5. A time to stand behind an incompetent cabinet secretary and a time to offer a sacrificial head to thine enemies in order to dominate the news cycle.
Politics of politics, sayeth the decider. All is politics. Amen.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
This election provides the antiwar movement with some reason for optimism, but we shouldn't put our trust in politicians. Once they are in office, they tend to forget the reasons the voters put them there. Unless we hold their feet to the fire, they'll get comfortable in their new Washington offices, and will soon accommodate themselves to the ruling bipartisan foreign policy consensus, which is that we are in Iraq (and the Middle East) in a big way for the long haul, and there isn't much anyone can do about it. Now is the time to put the pressure on: where are those long-promised investigations into who lied us into war? The Democrats, most of them, claim they were tricked into voting for the war resolution, yet there has been a distinct lack of interest on their part in finding out how this occurred. Was the intelligence about Iraq's alleged "weapons of mass destruction" faked – and, if so, by whom? What role did Vice President Dick Cheney's office play in the propaganda campaign that eventually succeeded in roping in most of the Democrats? What about those blatant forgeries that were somehow injected into the president's State of the Union address, the infamous "16 words" that turned out to have been quite wrong? Not to mention the machinations of Ahmed Chalabi, Iranian agent and the neocons' favorite to replace Saddam Hussein's – surely his shenanigans, conducted at taxpayers' expense, cry out for a congressional investigation.
INITIAL POST: As I write this, it is clear that the Democrats will have a majority in the House of Representatives, a substantial one, and it is now probable the three remaining Senate races, Missouri, Montana and Virginia, will also go their way, giving them a razor thin majority in the Senate as well. Discontent with the war in Iraq, and the President's style of leadership, has provided them with a victory that is psychologically more powerful than the numbers themselves. Even if the Republicans retain the Senate by prevailing in Virginia, they do so with the knowledge that the country has repudiated them and their President. Much like the Labour Party in Britain, they can only face the future with trepidation.
The most significant development in this election is the decline of religious right coalition that emerged in 1978, subsequently elected three Presidents and dominated this country's political discourse over the last 10 years. As Steve Gilliard recognized over at the News Blog, an AP exit poll discovered that one-third of evangelicals voted for the Democrats. In 2004, three quarters of evangelicals voted Republican. One perceives the initial cracks in the ice that may foreshadow the end of religious right dominance in American politics, and it is the war in Iraq that is threatening to permanent shatter it. Evangelicals have been strong supporters of the war, but that support has dramatically diminished. Beyond the over 2800 dead, the shock of wounded Americans returning home from Iraq, day by day, many with serious, permanent injuries, now over 20,000 total, appears to be having a profound effect upon a constituency previously known for its avid support for the conflict.
Paradoxically, the electorate has rejected the war in Iraq, having awakened from feverish imperial dreams that became nightmares, even as the victorious Democrats merely demand a 'smarter policy', and frequently attempt to envelop opposition to the occupation in the protective garb of other purported security threats in Iran and North Korea. In other words, they risk creating a justification for withdrawing from Iraq that accidentally empowers the President to launch even more catastrophic wars elsewhere. Consistent with the aftermath of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Americans have little appetite for new military adventures, but the elites persist in chattering about the transformation of the doctrine of preemptive war into informal imperial practices, derived from past experience, that present the allure of less risk for Americans: regime change through covert operations, use of so-called 'special forces', housed in secure bases, from where they can venture out into the countries around them, usually Middle Eastern and Central Asian, and, of course, the tried and true methods of economic coercion.
None of it has any plausible relationship to the world today, as all of these instruments have atrophied, and it will be the unhappy lot of the Democrats to attempt to mediate between the pragmatic insight of the American public and the grandiose attachment to empire among the governing elite in academia, fianance, media, government, and, most of all, the security services. All of them derive influence and a sense of self-importance through the expansion of the empire facilitated by the pretext of the war on terror, and it will be extremely difficult to persuade them to disassociate themselves from it. To date, there is no reason to believe that the Democrats understand the enormity of the challenge, arrogantly believing as they do that, because of their superficial internationalism, they are more suitable for imperial administration, especially as it relates to gently persuading satellites to conform to our wishes, as if the fact that Nancy Pelosi hails from San Francisco and John Kerry speaks French will encourage other countries to participate in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The cold, hard facts are that the US urgently needs to find a way to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, create a working relationship with the Iranians and develop the means for removing troops from East Asia by encouraging the Japanese, the Chinese and the Koreans, North and South, to resolve their own problems, instead of inflaming them. The US no longer has the will or the resources to seek to impose its will upon others, indeed, so many others, all over the world. Americans do not want their children to die for it, and the country lacks the financial capability to sustain it. If the Democrats fail to accept this changed landscape, and develop a political discourse to accomplish the dismantling much of this country's global military presence, the same anti-establishment sentiment that wiped out the Republican majority in the House (and, perhaps, the Senate) will soon destroy them, more rapidly than they could ever imagine.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista guerrilla leader who ran Nicaragua in the 1980s, regained power by winning the Central American country's presidential election, an early count of the votes showed.
Ortega, making his third bid to return to office since being voted out in 1990, had 40 percent of yesterday's vote with 40 percent of ballots counted, La Prensa newspaper said, citing the electoral tribunal. Ortega can win election in the first round by taking 40 percent of the vote or getting 35 percent and beating the second-place candidate by at least 5 percentage points. Calls to the tribunal by Bloomberg weren't answered.
I don't know much about modern day Ortega. I know he's moderated his image and has now replaced the out-and-out Marxism in his public speeches with Catholic populism, but I don't know if he will be more like a Lula or more like a Chavez.
Of course, from the White House's point of view, it doesn't really matter -- Ortega could come out in favor of the full neoliberal program, print Milton Friedman's picture on the Nicaraguan dollar, and the Bushies would still sling the full treatment at him just because it makes them look like idiots that a cold war icon was just elected president of a country that is "two days' march from Texas", to quote Chomsky quoting Reagan.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Federal officials are investigating whether Smartmatic, owner of Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia Voting Systems, is secretly controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, according to two people familiar with the probe. [ ... ]
Concerns about Smartmatic are keen on the eve of the Nov. 7 election, given fears that someone with unauthorized access to the electronic system could create electoral chaos. Some critics believe that if the Venezuelan government is involved, Smartmatic could be a ''Trojan horse'' designed to advance Chavez's anti-American agenda.
God, you can't make this stuff up...
Perle goes so far as to say that, if he had his time over, he would not have advocated an invasion of Iraq: "I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, 'Should we go into Iraq?,' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.' … I don't say that because I no longer believe that Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, or that he was not in contact with terrorists. I believe those two premises were both correct. Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention? Well, maybe we could have."
(from Vanity Fair)
Also Tom Tomorrow mentions in his post about the above that there's a piece in the NYT Sunday Magazine in which Chalabi tries to blame everything on Wolfowitz -- has anyone seen this?
Friday, November 03, 2006
Hersh errs, however, by describing the episode as one of indiscriminate random violence. There is, in fact, a purpose to it. It inflicts collective punishment, no matter how crude and inexact, upon the populace in the vicinity of insurgent activity. It is based upon the bizarre notion that insurgent activity can be discouraged through violent retaliatory attacks upon non-combatants.
During his hour-and-a-half lecture – part of the launch of an interdisciplinary media and communications studies program called Media@McGill – Hersh described video footage depicting U.S. atrocities in Iraq, which he had viewed, but not yet published a story about.
He described one video in which American soldiers massacre a group of people playing soccer.
“Three U.S. armed vehicles, eight soldiers in each, are driving through a village, passing candy out to kids,” he began. “Suddenly the first vehicle explodes, and there are soldiers screaming. Sixteen soldiers come out of the other vehicles, and they do what they’re told to do, which is look for running people.”
“Never mind that the bomb was detonated by remote control,” Hersh continued. “[The soldiers] open up fire; [the] cameras show it was a soccer game.”
“About ten minutes later, [the soldiers] begin dragging bodies together, and they drop weapons there. It was reported as 20 or 30 insurgents killed that day,” he said.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Greg Burger of Narco News has provided a more detailed account:
Thousands of protesters hurling Molotov cocktails forced riot police officers with tear gas and water cannons to retreat on Thursday, as clashes intensified here in this popular tourist city.
At least eight people were injured in the violence, including a newspaper photographer who was hit by fireworks launched from the grounds of Oaxaca State’s university, a center of the protests. More than a dozen people have died in the conflict.
The federal police, who took over downtown Oaxaca last weekend, were pushed back by hundreds of protesters guarding the entrance to the university.
The riot police had the upper hand at first, when reinforcements arrived in armored trucks and helicopters, spraying water cannons and firing tear gas canisters.
But as they pushed through barricades of burned vehicles, the activists, who have blockaded the city for five months and demand that Gov. Ulises Ruiz step down, threw gasoline bombs at them. Local residents joined the demonstrators.
George Salzman, also affiliated with Narco News, personally witnessed the intensity of the conflict:
As helicopters, tanks, and scores of armed federal police approached the University campus, “la doctora,” the now famous host of radio APPO, urged the citizens of Oaxaca to rush to the scene to aid in the defense of the campus and particularly, of the radio station.
Scores of neighbors and students reportedly surround the PFP troops. Simultaneously, APPO supporters in Mexico City marched from the hunger strikers’ encampment near the Senate to the offices of the PFP to demand a retreat from the campus.
Mexican law prohibits the incursion of law enforcement into autonomous universities, unless requested by the university rector. The rector of the Benito Juarez University categorically rejects the presence of the PFP and did not give his approval to the agency to enter the campus.
Although it is unclear whether or not the retreat will be followed by a return to the scene tonight, one thing is quite clear at this moment; the APPO has dealt an important blow to the PFP and has proven that they are indeed capable of defeating the invading army.
The assault also marked an increase in the brutality of the PFP’s methods; at least 40 protesters were injured, according to radio universidad. Another “innovative” technique by the PFP today was the use of a staining agent mixed into the water shot by tanks at demonstrators. The staining agent presumably marks protesters for subsequent arrest.
There are additional reports of more prisoners being flown off into custody in helicopters, and also word of tear gas having been shot directly into private homes in the vicinity of the University.
And, finally, Radio Universidad has provided a translated, curt chronology of events. A brief sample:
The battle raged on University Avenue while I was there. University Avenue is a north-south four-lane road a little over a half-mile long that runs from the Periferal highway junction at the north, the Cinco Senores intersection, to the Plaza del Valley junction at the south. University City occupies a roughly square block a little more than 1/4 mile on each side. This is the main campus of the Benito Juarez Autonomous University of Oaxaca (UABJO in its Spanish initials), located about 1.1 miles southeast of the Zócalo. This area is supposedly “autonomous” in the strict sense that the university authorities have exclusive control over the area. Police, military, federal authorities, state officials, and so on are, in principle, not allowed to enter the grounds unless explicitly invited by the Rector of the university. It is located on the east side of University Avenue, about a block or two south of the intersection.
This morning we heard that the PFP was going to invade the university on the grounds that there were reported to be firearms there. That’s a typical pretext the police use. It’s easy enough to get some corrupt state official or PRI-affiliated thug (PRI is the Institutional Revolutionary Party, in its Spanish initials) to file a denunciation that firearms or other illegal possessions are in a particular location. Radio Universidad was calling for citizens to come to protect the university, with a great sense of urgency. A friend dropped me off a few blocks from the Cinco Senores intersection, which was blocked on all sides by the PFP. As usual, I was able to circle the blocked intersection on a few side streets and soon was “inside” University Avenue in a mass of people, most facing north towards the lines of shield-equipped PFP troops.
Many in the dense crowd were busy photographing and videotaping the then-still-peaceful confrontation, several of them perched atop a burned-out VW-bug. Some people on a raised platform with a loudspeaker were telling the troops that they were the same as the protesters and shouldn’t have been sent to Oaxaca. The PFP lines stood inert, as trained. Several older women in the crowd, right at the front, not more than a foot or two from the plastic shields facing them, forcefully told the troops right in front of them that they are citizens, without arms, capable of running their own lives, and the PFP should leave Oaxaca.
By about 11:30 I started south. After the first barricade, which was north of university property, students were passing pieces of split wood through the barred fence from the university grounds to others on the street side with shopping carts. They use the wood for fires at the barricades. Suddenly an alert spread that an attack was imminent at the south end of University Avenue, and people streamed past me, leaving, I supposed, a smaller crowd at the north intersection. The shopping carts barreled by, along with people with cameras, many folks adjusting their bandannas getting ready for tear gas. Apparently the PFP, who had been massed at the Plaza del Valle end of the road, began advancing in a solid front. Then fireworks began. From the distance I saw clouds of smoke and/or gas and the wobbly arched paths of the home-made rockets launched towards the police, which left a trace of white smoke as they streaked across the space between the protesters and the PFP forces.
When one of the projectiles hit the ground and burst into flame in front of the first line of troops a wave of adrenaline swept the protesters, many of whom ran forward and hurled rocks at the police. I’ve written a lot about the teachers and APPO maintaining a militant but non-violent struggle, which I remain convinced is correct. But this was a different matter: this was people trying to protect their own turf from being invaded by lethally-armed forces, and there’s no way the attempted defense could be described as non-violent. Had the police been ordered to shoot, it could have been a massacre. All that can be said is that the imbalance of power was incomparably in favor of the police; had it been used, it would have been overwhelming.
Most of the defenders were younger men. But not all. Their major weapon was a stream of rocks. I think that in addition to their homemade incendiary rockets they may also have had some molotov cocktails. As the police shot tear gas canisters and began a slow step-by-step advance, I headed back a ways and entered the university athletic fields, located on the west side of the avenue behind a fence, and then came forward again, close to but separated from the exchange. Not, however, separated from the tear gas. People were taking large rocks and smashing them against other rocks on the ground to break them up into sizes suitable for hurling a considerable distance. Their courage and determination not to yield to the PFP was incredible. I’ve never seen anything close to it before.
Perhaps, this is the sort of unrest that one associates with Mexico every 5 to 10 years. But this seems much more serious.
13:47 Judicial state police, dressed in grey, entered into the Institute of Communication Sciences of the university of Oaxaca
13:46 Another person detained at the Noria Avenue at the entrance to the Five Señores intersection
13:41 Felix Jiménez Fabián a carpenter's assistant, was detained and was visibly beaten. 2 helicopters are dropping tear-gas, trying to take out the Radio Universidad antenna. There is a house on fire set by the police attacks. David Jarramillo, photographer from the Universal, was wounded, in the police attacks.
13:38 A dramatic report from a woman on the Radio Universidad in Oaxaca, who explains how the judicial state police (Policia ministariales) attacked people in the streets- the helicopters flying above dropping tear-gas bombs. Two helicopters are dropping concution grenades.