Saturday, February 18, 2006

SBS Torture Video, British Abuse Video and Photos of Torture and Abuse of Iraqis

SBS Torture Video, British Abuse Video and Photos of Torture and Abuse of Iraqis
In an effort to keep the videos and footage of abuse and torture of Iraqis by American and British forces in Iraq available despite U.S. government and Pentagon censorship efforts, we have decided to post them all.
Below are brief descriptions of each video and groups of photographs, followed by a link where they may be viewed.

*UK News Of the World shows British Troops Beating Iraqi Youth February 2006*

The UK's News of the World showed a 2 minute video of British Troops dragging a number of Iraqi youth involved in a protest behind a gate and then violently beating them. The News of the World website states that "The News of the World has a long history of supporting British troops - which is why we believe our heroes are shamed by these thugs [the troops doing the beating]". Obviously "these thugs" not only include the numerous individuals involved with the actual beating, but the tens of troops who walked by the incident unconcerned, and the man with the gun and video camera who was filming while cheering the "thugs" on. The video gives the distinct impression that this type of behavior is widespread amongst the British Troops.

To view this disturbing video, click here

*SBS in Australia broadcasts the Abu Ghraib footage the US government has not allowed you to see.*

February 16, 2006
On Wednesday 16 February 2006, Australian public broadcaster SBS current affairs program DATELINE telecast a segment featring 60 new photos of the torture inflicted on prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. These photos were secured by court order - the ACLU figures prominently in the report - but these photos haven't yet been shown in the media anywhere in the United States. Because of the broadcast on SBS, you now have access to both Web-downloadable versions and BitTorrent file-sharing network versions of the broadcast on this site. THESE PHOTOS ARE VERY DISTURBING. Please do not view this video if you are
easily disturbed by graphic imagery of torture and death.

To view this disturbing video, click here

*To view the photos from and the SBS broadcast click* here


WWIII or Bust: Implications of a US Attack on Iran

"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous... Having said that, all options are on the table." George W. Bush, February 2005
Witnessing the Bush administration's drive for an attack on Iran is like being a passenger in a car with a raving drunk at the wheel. Reports of impending doom surfaced a year ago, but now it's official: under orders from Vice President Cheney's office, the Pentagon has developed "last resort" aerial-assault plans using long-distance B2 bombers and submarine-launched ballistic missiles with both conventional and nuclear weapons.

How ironic that the Pentagon proposes using nuclear weapons on the pretext of protecting the world from nuclear weapons. Ironic also that Iran has complied with its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, allowing inspectors to "go anywhere and see anything," yet those pushing for an attack, the USA and Israel, have not.

The nuclear threat from Iran is hardly urgent. As the Washington Post reported in August 2005, the latest consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies is that "Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years." The Institute for Science and International Security estimated that while Iran could have a bomb by 2009 at the earliest, the US intelligence community assumed technical difficulties would cause "significantly delay." The director of Middle East Studies at Brown University and a specialist in Middle Eastern energy economics both called the State Department's claims of a proliferation threat from Iran's Bushehr reactor "demonstrably false," concluding that "the physical evidence for a nuclear weapons program in Iran simply does not exist."

So there's no urgency - just a bad case of déjà vu all over again. The Bush administration is recycling its hype over Hussein's supposed WMD threat into rhetoric about Iran, but look where the charade got us last time: tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, a country teetering on civil war and increased global terrorism.

Yet the stakes in Iran are arguably much higher.

Consider that many in the US and Iran seek religious salvation through a Middle Eastern blowout. "End times" Christian fundamentalists believe a cataclysmic Armageddon will enable the Messiah to reappear and transport them to heaven, leaving behind Muslims and other non-believers to face plagues and violent death. Iran's new Shia Islam president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, subscribes to a competing version of the messianic comeback, whereby the skies turn to flames and blood flows in a final showdown of good and evil. The Hidden Imam returns, bringing world peace by establishing Islam as the global religion.

Both the US and Iran have presidents who arguably see themselves as divinely chosen and who covet their own country's apocalypse-seeking fundamentalist voters. And into this tinderbox Bush proposes bringing nuclear weapons.

As expected, the usual suspects press for a US attack on Iran. Neo-cons who brought us the "cakewalk" of Iraq want to bomb the country. There's also Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, busy coordinating the action plan against Iran, who just released the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review calling for US forces to "operate around the globe" in an infinite "long war." One can assume Rumsfeld wants to bomb a lot of countries.

There's also Israel, keen that no other country in the region gains access to nuclear weapons. In late 2002, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Iran should be targeted "the day after" Iraq was subdued, and Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud Party, recently warned that if he wins the presidential race in March 2006, Israel will "do what we did in the past against Saddam's reactor," an obvious reference to the 1981 bombing of the Osirak nuclear facility in Iraq. It doesn't help that Iran's Ahmadinejad has called the Holocaust a myth and said that Israel should be "wiped off the map."

In the eyes of the Bush administration, however, Iran's worst transgression has less to do with nuclear ambitions or anti-Semitism than with the petro-euro oil bourse Tehran is slated to open in March 2006. Iran's plan to allow oil trading in euros threatens to break the dollar's monopoly as the global reserve currency, and since the greenback is severely overvalued due to huge trade deficits, the move could be devastating for the US economy.

So we remain pedal to the metal with Bush for an attack on Iran.

But what if the US does go ahead and launch an assault in the coming months? The Pentagon has already identified 450 strategic targets, some of which are underground and would require the use of nuclear weapons to destroy. What happens then?

You can bet that Iran would retaliate. Tehran promised a "crushing response" to any US or Israeli attack, and while the country - ironically - doesn't possess nuclear weapons to scare off attackers, it does have other options. Iran boasts ground forces estimated at 800,000 personnel, as well as long-range missiles that could hit Israel and possibly even Europe. In addition, much of the world's oil supply is transported through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow stretch of ocean which Iran borders to the north. In 1997, Iran's deputy foreign minister warned that the country might close off that shipping route if ever threatened, and it wouldn't be difficult. Just a few missiles or gunboats could bring down vessels and block the Strait, thereby threatening the global oil supply and shooting energy prices into the stratosphere.

An attack on Iran would also inflame tensions in the Middle East, especially provoking the Shiite Muslim populations. Considering that Shiites largely run the governments of Iran and Iraq and are a potent force in Saudi Arabia, that doesn't bode well for calm in the region. It would incite the Lebanese Hezbollah, an ally of Iran's, potentially sparking increased global terrorism. A Shiite rebellion in Iraq would further endanger US troops and push the country deeper into civil war.

Attacking Iran could also tip the scales towards a new geopolitical balance, one in which the US finds itself shut out by Russia, China, Iran, Muslim countries and the many others Bush has managed to piss off during his period in office. Just last month, Russia snubbed Washington by announcing it would go ahead and honor a $700 million contract to arm Iran with surface-to-air missiles, slated to guard Iran's nuclear facilities. And after being burned when the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority invalidated Hussein-era oil deals, China has snapped up strategic energy contracts across the world, including in Latin America, Canada and Iran. It can be assumed that China will not sit idly by and watch Tehran fall to the Americans.

Russia and China have developed strong ties recently, both with each other and with Iran. Each possesses nuclear weapons, and arguably more threatening to the US, each holds large reserves of US dollars which can be dumped in favor of euros. Bush crosses them at his nation's peril.

Yet another danger is that an attack on Iran could set off a global arms race - if the US flaunts the non-proliferation treaty and goes nuclear, there would be little incentive for other countries to abide by global disarmament agreements either. Besides, the Bush administration's message to its enemies has been very clear: if you possess WMD you're safe, and if you don't, you're fair game. Iraq had no nuclear weapons and was invaded, Iran doesn't as well and risks attack, yet that other "Axis of Evil" country, North Korea, reportedly does have nuclear weapons and is left alone. It's also hard to justify striking Iran over its allegedly developing a secret nuclear weapons program, when Israel, India and Pakistan did the same thing and remain on good terms with Washington.

The most horrific impact of a US assault on Iran, of course, would be the potentially catastrophic number of casualties. The Oxford Research Group predicted that up to 10,000 people would die if the US bombed Iran's nuclear sites, and that an attack on the Bushehr nuclear reactor could send a radioactive cloud over the Gulf. If the US uses nuclear weapons, such as earth-penetrating "bunker buster" bombs, radioactive fallout would become even more disastrous.

Given what's at stake, few allies, apart from Israel, can be expected to support a US attack on Iran. While Jacques Chirac has blustered about using his nukes defensively, it's doubtful that France would join an unprovoked assault, and even loyal allies, such as the UK, prefer going through the UN Security Council.

Which means the wildcard is Turkey. The nation shares a border with Iran, and according to Noam Chomsky, is heavily supported by the domestic Israeli lobby in Washington, permitting 12% of the Israeli air and tank force to be stationed in its territory. Turkey's crucial role in an attack on Iran explains why there's been a spurt of high-level US visitors to Ankara lately, including Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, FBI Director Robert Mueller and CIA Director Porter Goss. In fact, the German newspaper Der Spiegel reported in December 2005 that Goss had told the Turkish government it would be "informed of any possible air strikes against Iran a few hours before they happened" and that Turkey had been given a "green light" to attack camps of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Iran "on the day in question."

It's intriguing that both Valerie Plame (the CIA agent whose identity was leaked to the media after her husband criticized the Bush administration's pre-invasion intelligence on Iraq) and Sibel Edmonds (the former FBI translator who turned whistleblower) have been linked to exposing intelligence breaches relating to Turkey, including potential nuclear trafficking. And now both women are effectively silenced.

While the US public sees the issue of Iran as backburner, it has little eagerness for an attack on Iran at this time. A USA Today/CNN Gallup Poll from early February 2006 found that a full 86% of respondents favored either taking no action or using economic/diplomatic efforts towards Iran for now. Significantly, 69% said they were concerned "that the U.S. will be too quick to use military force in an attempt to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons."

And that begs the question: how can the US public be convinced to enter a potentially ugly and protracted war in Iran?

A domestic terrorist attack would do the trick. Just consider how long Congress went back and forth over reauthorizing Bush's Patriot Act, but how quickly opposing senators capitulated following last week's nerve-agent scare in a Senate building. The scare turned out to be a false alarm, but the Patriot Act got the support it needed.

Now consider the fact that former CIA Officer Philip Giraldi has said the Pentagon's plans to attack Iran were drawn up "to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States." Writing in The American Conservative in August 2005, Giraldi added, "As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States."

Chew on that one a minute. The Pentagon's plan should be used in response to a terrorist attack on the US, yet is not contingent upon Iran actually having been responsible. How outlandish is this scenario: another 9/11 hits the US, the administration says it has secret information implicating Iran, the US population demands retribution and bombs start dropping on Tehran.

That's the worst-case scenario, but even the best case doesn't look good. Let's say the Bush administration chooses the UN Security Council over military power in dealing with Iran. That still leaves the proposed oil bourse, along with the economic fallout that will occur if OPEC countries snub the greenback in favor of petro-euros. At the very least, the dollar will drop and inflation could soar, so you'd think the administration would be busy tightening the nation's collective belt. But no. The US trade deficit reached a record high of $725.8 billion in 2005, and Bush & Co.'s FY 2007 budget proposes increasing deficits by $192 billion over the next five years. The nation is hemorhaging roughly $7 billion a month on military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and is expected to hit its debt ceiling of $8.184 trillion next month.

So the white-knuckle ride to war continues, with the administration's goals in Iran very clear. Recklessly naïve and impetuous perhaps, but clear: stop the petro-euro oil bourse, take over Khuzestan Province (which borders Iraq and has 90% of Iran's oil) and secure the Straits of Hormuz in the process. As US politician Newt Gingrich recently put it, Iranians cannot be trusted with nuclear technology, and they also "cannot be trusted with their oil."

But the Bush administration cannot be trusted with foreign policy. Its military adventurism has already proven disastrous across the globe. It's incumbent upon each of us to do whatever we can to stop this race towards war.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Workers Reject Imperialist Aggression Against Venezuela By: UNT

In response to recent false claims of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that truckers in Venezuela are engaged in a strike, Venezuela's National Union of Workers (UNT) issues a rejection of Rice's strategy to attack Venezuela. See US Secretary of State Reverses Brief Thaw in Relations with Venezuela for more on Rice's recent comments.

The U.S. Empire’s intention of promoting an International Front against Venezuela is rejected by the Venezuelan workers, even more when they intend to manipulate the international community by stating that it is necessary to support “the transport strike” that would be in course in Venezuela, and which is only in the imagination and bad intentions of Bush’s attacking government.

Pretending to support workers that allegedly protest against the legitimate and democratic government of President Chávez is an old trick the United States used in Chile when they promoted a Truckers Strike against Allende’s government. This plan led to the establishment of Pinochet’s bloody dictatorship.

The workers strongly respond to this new attack. As happened with the oil strike, we will not let them use and manipulate workers. We will face the pro-coup and pro-empire workers’ organization in its attempt to stop businesses and services and make it look like a workers’ strike according to the U.S. propaganda against Venezuela.

We reject worker’s and business organizations that disguise themselves as workers, that are part of a plan designed in Washington and that try to stop transportation when the working families are going to enjoy their Carnival vacations.

We made an appeal to all unions for working together against this new attack against workers. The National Union of Workers (UNT, Spanish acronym) calls all Latin American unions in order to prepare an international response by workers to this imperialist attack targeting Venezuela. We also call U.S. workers and their unions to reject this attack and manipulation that the U.S. government wants to carry out against workers and Venezuela.






Evo and Coca: The Rock and the Hard Place

For those trying to follow the pivotal issue of coca here in Bolivia this week, it has been like watching a three year old giving it all she has on a swing. There has been a lot of moving back and forth.

As I have written in this space several times in the past few weeks – coca is the first issue that will define the relationship between the new Morales government and the US government. I heard that loud and clear on my trip to Washington, from the halls of the US Congress to meetings with progressive advocacy groups. There a lot of issues up for US/Bolivia discussion, from trade to gas, but on coca the US Congress will take an actual vote, probably sometime this spring, on foreign aid that is tied to coca eradication in Bolivia. When that happens the dialogue ends and the rubber starts to hit the road.

That makes the events here this week all the more important.

Time for the DEA to pack?

The confusing back and forth of Bolivian policy toward coca leapt to the surface this week when a national congress of the six major coca grower unions convened here in Cochabamba. That Congress voted to continue having President Evo Morales as its union leader. It then approved a resolution calling for all organizations that receive direct funding from the US government to leave the Chapare, the coca-growing jungle region outside of Cochabamba.

The obvious question then was – what was the position of President Morales? Was it the official position of the Bolivian government that USAID, the DEA and their subcontractors all needed to pack up and take new residence in the city? That might be good news for the local Burger King but not for the US anti-drug war.

Initially, it appeared that this was exactly the position of the Morales administration. The presidential media spokesman was quoted by the media here Wednesday saying that the US agencies needed to leave. Then the President of the Senate (a member of Morales' MAS party) announced publicly that press coverage of the media spokesman's comments didn't accurately describe the government's position. According to the Senate head, the real position of the government was that it was time for the Bolivian and US governments to start a dialogue about how "institutions [from the US] that had completed their work ought to begin to leave."

Amidst the confusion, an emergency meeting was called last night, bringing together President Morales, Vice President Garcia Linera, US Ambassador David Greenlee, and a few others. It is unclear who called the meeting. What is clear is that following it the position of the Morales government changed one more time. Morales announced that the DEA and the others were welcome to stay as long as they respected the law. "Everyone has a right to be in our country, respecting our dignity and national sovereignty, respecting the people," Morales said.

The Rock and the Hard Place

Morales critics on the right will be quick to site this as evidence of government incompetence. Critics on the left will cite this as a dangerous sign of kissing up to Uncle Sam. On both, everyone is free to reach his or her own judgment. That however misses a larger and more important point. On the hot potato issue of coca the Morales government is stuck in a very difficult position between a rock and a hard place.

The rock, in this instance, is the cocaleros, Morales' chief political base, one of the most organized social movements in the country, and a group of people eager to expand production of their crops. The hard place is the US government, which for years took a hard line on coca eradication but more recently, with a bit of a wink and a nod, has accepted the limit of "one cato per family", about 1600 square meters.

Keeping both sides happy amidst heightened hopes on the one side (for more coca production) and heightened wariness on the other, is one of the biggest challenges Morales faces. This is especially true as a handful of moderates within the Bush administration have stuck their necks out recently in favor of talking with Morales instead of demonizing him. There are clearly other, more right-wing, figures in the Bush administration eager to chop of their diplomatic heads. The cocaleros could easily hand them the axe.

What to do About Coca Headed for the Drug Market?

Morales and Bolivia suffer from some basic facts. One is that it is plain myth that all of the coca grown here is headed solely for traditional uses such as chewing, the production of bagged coca tea, and others. One reliable study may soon report that more than half of the coca grown here is unaccounted for in legal usage, raising the question – what happens to the rest of it?

From afar it looks like the Morales strategy for dealing with that excess is three-fold. First, contain that excess production by jawboning the coca-growers to voluntarily stick with the 1600 square meters per-family limit [the cocaleros want to raise that to 1600 square meters per family member, a major jump]. Second, support interdiction of illegal coca or coca paste at the border. Third, develop alternative markets that can use up that excess in legal ways.

That last objective, an important one, raises a pretty simple question for me. Why doesn’t the US start allowing the import of commercially-produced Bolivian coca tea? Let's be clear. One, you would be hard pressed to find a gringo who has visited here who hasn't tried it and loved it (including some well placed Bush supporters, I'll add). Two, coca isn’t cocaine until you totally alter it chemically. Three, Coca Cola is already allowed to import the leaves for its production. Four, there is potentially a huge market for it among herbal tea drinkers in the US. Last, anyone who claims that cocaine-makers in the US will start tearing up those little Lipton-sized bags to get the half teaspoon of ground-up leaf out and turn it into white powder ought to try doing that for a box or two.

All that said, this remains the tough spot in which Morales is trying to make coca policy and there is little doubt that he is making that policy personally. An even if the US manages to maintain a softer line against coca than it has in the past, history still hangs heavy around its neck. "It's pretty hard to accept a conciliatory message when you've been shot," notes Kathy Ledebur of the Andean Information Network, explaining the deep Chapare animosity toward the US government and the Bolivian anti-drug forces it backs.

Negotiating a way forward with coca growers on one side of him and the Bush conservatives on the other is going to take huge political skill. The days ahead will see if Morales can pull that off.

Stop the Threats Against Venezuela and Cuba!

Yesterday (hat tip to WIIIAI), CondoLIEzza Rice was testifying in Congress, stepping up U.S. threats against Cuba and especially Venezuela ("especially" not because Washington considers Venezuela a greater threat to its interests, but because they consider Venezuela more vulnerable). She called them "sidekicks" of Iran (whatever that means) and, as she has before, a "danger" to the region. Her concept of "danger" is rather curious. She accused Venezuela of "attempting to influence neighbors away from democratic processes." And her "evidence"? Alleged involvement in "political upheavals in Nicaragua, where the pro-U.S. President Enrique Bolanos barely survived a possible impeachment." That's funny, I thought impeachment was part of the democratic process. She also described the trial of Sumate as a "disgrace" and a "kangaroo trial," which is rich coming from the Secretary of State of a country which believes in holding hundreds of people prisoner for years without any trial at all.
Coincidentally, also yesterday a broad section of the U.S. left issued a call for a national demonstration in Washington, D.C. on April 8 to protest U.S. policy on Venezuela and Cuba. Whether you can be there or not, this call for a demonstration should awaken all of us to the fact that the U.S. threats against Venezuela and Cuba are no mere bluster. Unlike the situation in Iran, where the liklihood of a U.S. or Israeli attack (not invasion) is very real, but their liklihood of fostering internal opposition in practically nil, in Venezuela (and, I note, Bolivia as well, although the U.S. is still working the "quiet angle" there) there are very definitely government opponents (like Sumate) who are active and not to be underestimated, even if at present their ability to muster electoral challenges to Chavez is limited. Anyone who supports the right of countries to self-determination, to determine their own path in the world free of U.S. meddling (and worse), has to take the words of the U.S. administration seriously.

Harry Belafonte was excluded from Coretta Scott King's funeral service so the "Terrorist" Bush could have a Photo Op.

Where was Harry Belafonte? Where was the entertainer, civil rights activist and humanitarian last week when funeral services were held for Coretta Scott King?

Why wasn't he present? Mrs. King's husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Belafonte were very close before King was assassinated April 4, 1968 as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

Look at some of the photos taken on the day of MLK's funeral services, and you will see Belafonte walking alongside Mrs. King and three of her children, Yolanda, Dexter and Martin III.

So why wasn't Belafonte in attendance at Mrs. King's funeral? He had planned to be there:

"Due to a recent tragic unfolding, the death of Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr., I have been requested by the family and my fellow leaders from the civil rights movement to deliver a part of the eulogy on the occasion of her burial on Tuesday, February 7, 2006 in Atlanta, Ga.,'' the news center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, reported on the school's Web site on Feb. 6 as to why Belafonte postponed a scheduled speech at Case Western.

"The loss of Mrs. King is profound. My relationship to Dr. King and Mrs. King and with their children since the time of their birth has always been evident. I could not imagine being required to speak in the church at her service and not be in attendance,'' the Case Western email quoted Belafonte as saying.

So where was Belafonte, the man who linked arms with Mrs. King, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and thousands of others in March 2005 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March's Bloody Sunday?

Could Belafonte have been asked not to show up at Mrs. King's funeral after supposedly being on the program? Could he have been excluded to ensure the presence of President George W. Bush at the "first lady'' of civil rights' funeral?

Earlier this year, Belafonte called Bush "the greatest terrorist in the world'' while in Caracas, Venezuela, as he met with Venezuelan President (and Bush critic) Hugo Chavez, according to the Associated Press.

"I called Belafonte to find out for myself if it was true, and he said it was,'' the Rev. C.T. Vivian, a veteran civil rights activist, told me Friday after calling to see if I could find out why Belafonte was not at the funeral. "I asked were you disinvited, and he said, yes.

"The reason is that the president was not coming if Belafonte was going to be there. …''

That's just not true, according to a public relations spokesman who worked with the King family on services for Mrs. King.

"The rumor Harry Belafonte was disinvited to the King funeral is 100% inaccurate,'' Dan Rene, vice president of Impact Strategies, a Washington-based public relations firm, told me Friday over the telephone, and later in an e-mail. "The only individuals with the authority to take such action were the King family.

"The White House did not have that authority, nor did anyone else — again, only the family. It is ridiculous and insulting to suggest that they would treat someone so close to them and their mother in such a manner.

"It is up to Mr. Belafonte to answer the question of why he was not in attendance. The King children would have welcomed his presence. In fact, he was listed in the program as an honorary pallbearer.

"Additionally, the rumor is very suspect because no one, including Mr. Belafonte, can explain exactly who it was that supposedly disinvited him. The reason for this is, of course, the fact that he was always welcome.''

So, who and what do you believe?

I haven't been able to reach Harry Belafonte directly for comment, but Rev. Vivian told me it is unlikely he will respond publicly because he wants to maintain some relationship with the King children.

The issue was also raised Tuesday in a newsletter distributed by former Emerge magazine editor George Curry. "Evidently, the funeral organizers were more interested in not offending Bush than recognizing the person who had actually supported Dr. King and his work,'' Curry wrote.

And, in The Weekly Holla from the Web site,, a reader asked Tuesday, "Are y'all going to run anything about the King children dis-inviting Harry Belafonte …?"

Vivian, meanwhile, told me that Belafonte is saddened and hurt by this turn of events. If this is true, who could blame him? And it makes you wonder about that freedom we call speech. •


click on photo
Vice President Dick "Buckshot" Cheney kept his word to the inmates at California's maximum security Folsom State Prison. He played a one hour set with his band "Dickie and The Trigger Happy Birdie Killers". The set received a luke warm reception until Cheney launched into his new, as yet unreleased, single "Go Fuck Yourself". During the guitar solo the Vice President thrilled the assembled audience by producing a rifle and opening fire. "He seems angry. Very angry" one inmate said "I mean, I always thought that the American people didn't like to vote for angry people but...Man, that dude is angry!" I managed to obtain a tape of the performance and am proud to present it here....

The Súmate Case - How the NED Violates Sovereignty and Self-Determination in Venezuela by Eva Golinger *

Let's set the record straight once and for all. There is no need to keep kidding ourselves into thinking that our U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used by this little known entity, the National Endowment for Democracy, to truly "promote democracy abroad", as its mission proclaims.

Since its founding in 1983 via Congressional legislation, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has come under severe criticism and scrutiny from Republicans, Democrats, and other concerned citizens, for its clear roots in Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) activities and its misdirected motives. And now, the NED is once again at the forefront of controversy and inquiry but this time in one of the Bush Administration's latest areas of "focus," the hemisphere's largest oil-exporting nation, Venezuela.

On Thursday, July 7, 2005, a Venezuelan Judge determined the Federal Prosecutor had presented sufficient evidence to allow a case against four members of the opposition organization Súmate to proceed on its merits. The case against the two Súmate directors, Maria Corina Machado and Alejandro Plaz, and their accomplices, Ricardo Estévez and Luis Enrique Palacios, is based on the organization’s use of a $53,400 grant from the National Endowment for Democracy to “conspire against the government”.

Súmate was co-founded in late 2002 by opposition activist Maria Corina Machado, a signer of the famous “Carmona Decree,” the mandate implemented during the April 2002 coup d’etat against President Hugo Chávez by “dictator for a day” Pedro Carmona that dissolved Venezuela’s judiciary, congress, constitution and all public powers. The organization’s initial mission was to “promote a recall referendum against President Chávez” based on Article 72 of Venezuela’s Constitution that permits recall referendums on any public official’s mandate after the midway point of the functionary’s term has been reached, hardly an apolitical objective.

Yet Súmate and its directive were prime players in the debilitating oil industry sabotage and strike that caused the nation billions of dollars in damages and set back oil production for almost a year. And at the tail end of the strike in early 2003, Súmate still couldn’t play by the rules. Instead of waiting for President Chávez to reach the midway point of his presidential term, in August 2003, the organization demanded a “consultative referendum” on the President’s mandate in February 2003, and protested to the international community (read “USA”) when it didn’t get its way despite the fact that its request was unconstitutional.

In September 2003, Súmate entered into a contract with the National Endowment for Democracy for a $53,400 grant destined to implement a program of non-partisan “elections education.” Yet the goal of the program itself, to “promote a recall referendum against President Chávez” and the language used to justify the grant, claiming “...Chávez’s revolutionary rhetoric, public disregard for democratic processes and institutions and vitriolic attacks on his opponents, escalated political and social tensions and hardened the opposition,” was clearly anti-Chávez.

The concept of promoting a recall referendum against the President, though within the constitutional rights of all Venezuelans, is inherently a partisan act. Súmate was not pretending to educate or work with all Venezuelans on elections in general, but rather was specifically “promoting” and campaigning for a referendum against President Chávez, with the goal of prematurely terminating his mandate.

And that is precisely what the organization worked towards, utilizing the funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, along with additional and larger grants from the United States Agency for International Development (“USAID”) and funds from the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, both entities financed by NED and USAID.

Day after day during a period of almost a year, Súmate launched an aggressive and manipulative campaign against President Chávez in the mass media, aided in intimidating voters by threatening job loss for failure to sign petitions in favor of the referendum and later engaged in mass fraud during and after the referendum was over. In fact, to this day, Súmate continues to promote a thesis of fraud regarding the recall referendum last August 15, 2004, which ratified President Chávez’s mandate with more than 60% of the vote - certified as transparent and legitimate by the Organization of American States, the Carter Center and the U.S. Department of State.

Súmate continues to engage in an antagonistic campaign against the Venezuelan Government and its democratic institutions, including the National Elections Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral - CNE), responsible for conducting all electoral processes. Súmate, along with other opposition political parties, is now promoting a thesis of abstention and lack of confidence in the CNE and the upcoming congressional elections in Venezuela, hardly a position that encourages “participation in the electoral process”, or “elections education” and clearly not apolitical. In fact, Súmate has been deemed a political party by many analysts and spokespersons for the Venezuelan government.

Curiously, Súmate has also received an unprecedented and almost inexplicable level of support from the U.S. Government, and not just financial support, but rather political support on a very public and international level. In November 2004, after an initial court date had been set for the case against the Súmate directors, NED President Carl Gershman, accompanied by Latin America Program Director Chris Sabatini, made a historic visit to Venezuela with the objective of convincing the government to drop the case.

Gershman met separately with then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Ivan Rincon and Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez, threatening both functionaries that if the case were to proceed against the Súmate members, relations between the two nations would worsen and a World Bank grant to Venezuela’s Supreme Court for a judicial reform program would be cut.

Days afterward, Gershman came through on his promises. The NED, surely with the powerful aid of its boss, the Department of State, had pulled its strings with the World Bank and cut the funding to Venezuela’s judiciary, and just twenty-four hours after Gershman returned to U.S. soil, a well-crafted letter from “70 respected international democrats,” all either board members of the NED or beneficiaries of NED-related programs, was released from NED’s public relations office, condemning the case against Súmate and accusing the Venezuelan Government of political persecution and violation of democratic principles.

And before Gershman parted from Venezuela, he revealingly declared to the press, in a fit of anger perhaps for not getting his way, that “Venezuela is neither a democracy nor a dictatorship but rather something in between.” Clearly such a statement evidences NED’s opposition to Venezuela’s democratic government.

Just last month, Súmate director and defendant Maria Corina Machado received a surprise invitation to meet with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. Ms. Machado appeared in a fantastical photograph holding hands with President Bush in the Oval Office, smiling from ear to ear. Upon her exit from the momentous visit, Machado gave a press conference on the White House lawn, a place fit for prime ministers, presidents and high-level officials. She was the first Venezuelan during the Bush presidency to be invited and received in the White House, not a single member of the Chávez Government has received a similar invitation.

On the contrary, the Bush Administration has participated in and supported a coup d’etat against President Chávez in 2002, a vicious oil industry sabotage that caused almost irreparable damages and an ongoing destabilization campaign, including an international media war intended to discredit the Venezuelan leader, that has polarized Venezuela and fomented violence, conflict and animosity.

Yet Súmate and its members have received the royal treatment from the U.S. Government - democrats and republicans alike. Just recently, during a visit of several U.S. Congress members to Venezuela, it was declared that Súmate would receive “even more financing” from the NED and USAID. The day after the court decided to allow the case against Súmate to proceed on its merits, Tom Casey, Acting Spokesman for the U.S. Department of State issued a press release entitled “Súmate Trial Decision,” expressing the U.S.

Government’s “disappointment” in the judge’s decision to try the Súmate leaders and alleging the Venezuelan Government engages in “political persecution and continued threats to democratic rights and institutions.” Once again, the U.S. Government failed to recognize that Venezuela too cherishes the doctrine of separation of powers.

The case against Súmate now falls within the judicial power - and the prosecutor’s office that is bringing the case falls within the moral power, a branch nonexistent in the U.S. Venezuela has five independent branches of government: executive, legislative, judicial, electoral and moral - neither controls nor influences the other.

The U.S. Government has consistently attempted to pressure the Venezuelan executive into acting on the Súmate case, disrespecting outright the independent and separate nature of Venezuela’s political system and trying to dominate and intimidate the Venezuelan Government. So why is the U.S. Government so afraid of the case against Súmate? Most likely because the case exposes the nefarious and deceitful nature of the National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. Government facades for civil society intervention.

The NED is a U.S. Government agency, though often referred to as “quasi-governmental” because it insists on its status as “private,” despite the fact that 99% of its funding comes from Congress (tax money) and it was established through Congressional legislation in 1983. The NED is also required to report to Congress annually on its activities and exercises its functions under direct supervision of the Department of State. In fact, each NED representative in the more than 75 nations where the organization operates is stationed usually in the U.S. Embassy, working under the supervision of the U.S. Ambassador.

In early 2001, NED quadrupled its financing to groups in Venezuela and increased the amount of grants it was dispensing, funding new social organizations and political parties that had emerged within the growing opposition to President Chávez. NED spokespersons have not denied the fact that all of the entities it finances in Venezuela fall within the anti-Chávez spectrum. Furthermore, after the April 2002 failed coup against President Chávez, the NED received a special $1 million grant from the Department of State for its work in Venezuela. Instead of cutting funding to those groups that had participated in the illegal coup that briefly deposed Venezuela’s legitimate government, the NED actually increased such funding, rewarding those very same groups that had wrecked havoc on Venezuela’s democracy.

The NED has been engaging in ongoing efforts to strengthen organizations and political parties working to overthrow the Chávez administration or eventually oust the President from power through electoral processes. Its work consistently undermines the objectives and missions of the Venezuelan people and their Government by funneling millions into groups working against the wishes of the majority and providing and resources aimed at building a solid opposition party capable of challenging the Venezuelan Government.

While it is perfectly legitimate in democratic nations for diverse political parties and groups to co-exist, such efforts should never be funded by foreign governments, especially those governments with major self-interests in the nation and contrasting political positions.

The NED is one of the U.S. Government’s most powerful tools to discretely and subtly promote its interests abroad and penetrate civil societies with the objective of influencing the internal affairs of nations to placate U.S. needs. Ethiopia recently expelled the NED and USAID and their affiliates, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and IFES for “meddling in domestic electoral affairs” (see The Daily Monitor, April 1, 2005, Addis Abba, Ethiopia).

And in May, 2005, Russia’s security chief, accused the U.S. Government of “using non-governmental organizations that promote democracy to spy on Russia and bring about political upheaval in former Soviet republics”, referring specifically to the NED and USAID-funded International Republic Institute (see The Guardian).

The NED and USAID played key roles in recent elections in the Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus and other Eastern European nations that all resulted in outcomes favorable to U.S. interests. In Venezuela, the case against Súmate is exposing the NED’s dirty work and threatening its ongoing existence and success around the world, which is why it has provoked the involvement of the highest levels of the U.S. Government. This case may very well turn out to be the death of the National Endowment for Democracy, or at least the start of its slow descent into oblivion.

**For more information about the National Endowment for Democracy and its violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty using U.S. taxpayer dollars, read “The Chávez Code: Cracking U.S. Intervention in Venezuela” by Eva Golinger, available on Versions available in English and Spanish.

Top U.S. Defense Officials Increase Hostility Towards Venezuela by Eva Golinger *

Top U.S. Defense Officials Increase Hostility Towards Venezuela
by Eva Golinger *

During an appearance today at the National Press Club in Washington, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld compared Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Hitler, declaring, "We've got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money. He's a person who was elected legally, just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally, and then consolidated power, and now is of course working closely with [Cuban leader] Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales [Bolivian President Evo Morales] and others. It concerns me."

Concurrently, in testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence of the U.S. Congress, John Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the 15 intelligence bodies of the U.S. Government, claimed, "In Venezuela, President Chavez, if he wins reelection later this year, appears ready to use his control of the legislature and other institutions to continue to stifle the opposition, reduce press freedom, and entrench himself through measures that are technically legal, but which nonetheless constrict democracy. We expect Chavez to deepen his relationship with Castro (Venezuela provides roughly two-thirds of that island's oil needs on preferential credit terms).

He also is seeking closer economic, military, and diplomatic ties with Iran and North Korea. Chavez has scaled back counter-narcotics cooperation with the US. Increased oil revenues have allowed Chavez to embark on an activist foreign policy in Latin America that includes providing oil at favorable repayment rates to gain allies, using newly created media outlets to generate support for his Bolivarian goals, and meddling in the internal affairs of his neighbors by backing particular candidates for elective office."

Apart from the dangerous misrepresentation of the reality of Venezuelan social and political life and the absurd comparison to Hitler, with whom the U.S. went to world war, these declarations evidence a scary escalation of aggression towards the Venezuelan government and people by the Bush Administration. Rumsfeld and Negroponte represent the two entities in the United States that wage war: Defense and Intelligence. Their positions go beyond the State Department’s diplomatic rhetoric that has characterized relations between Venezuela and the United States during the past few years and up the ante to an increasing possibility of war between the two nations. As the U.S. prepares to take actions against Iran in the very near future, publicly declaring a link between Venezuela and Iran, as well as North Korea, provides justification for an inclusion of Venezuela on the list of nations targeted by the Bush Administration for military intervention.

During the past few days, the Venezuelan government has made public concrete evidence of an espionage case that has resulted in the expulsion of a U.S. military attaché, Navy Capitan John Correa, from this South American nation. Capitan Correa had been recruiting Venezuelan naval officials over a period of more than twelve months, with the aim of obtaining inside information of military and political strategies of the Venezuelan government and pressuring officials to turn against President Hugo Chavez. Although the U.S. Embassy in Caracas and its Ambassador, William Brownfield, have denied knowledge of any wrongdoing on the part of U.S. diplomatic officials, evidence of illegal penetration of Venezuelan armed forces by U.S. military attachés has been provided to this author.

An excerpt of testimony from a Venezuelan soldier recruited by the U.S. Embassy and working as a "double-agent" for the Venezuelan government, to be published in entirety in my next book, the follow-up to The Chavez Code: Cracking U.S. Intervention in Venezuela, follows:

"I am an enlisted soldier pertaining to the action command group. I am testifying about the activities of officials from the United States Embassy [in Caracas]. They seek information and analysis about certain activities of members of our Armed Forces and have contacts with officials that work with the Minister of Defense and they provide them with activities about our Armed Forces. My job is to try and find certain information and to monitor different political organizations, such as the Tupamaros, Bolivarian Circles, the people who work with Lina Ron, as well as information about the acquisition of arms in the Armed Forces. I note herein that I am working as an infiltrator in these groups, an undercover agent, I do not share the anti-American views of these groups, I am just trying to obtain the best information possible for my superiors, for the defense of our nation."
"What do they give you in return?"

"Money, political contacts and the possibility of work..." "What is the best they have given you up until now?" "A ten-year visa to enter the United States, whenever I want, and according to them, in the future I can attend a course in their intelligence agency in the United States and once I prove my loyalty to them and they see I truly have guts, I can possibly do an intelligence course with the CIA, that’s what the military attaché at the Embassy, [name removed], told me himself."

Today's statements by Rumsfeld and Negroponte merely confirm the diehard intentions of the U.S. government to continue its efforts to remove President Chávez from power and impede the development of the Bolivarian Revolution. Over the past few years, the Bush Administration has funneled millions upon millions of dollars into building up an opposition movement to the Chavez administration in Venezuela, utilizing U.S. tax payer dollars filtered through the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Agency for International Development, and has backed a failed coup d'état against President Chavez and oil industry sabotage that caused billions of dollars in damages to the nation yet failed to oust the government from power.

For the year 2006, the U.S. Congress has allocated more than $9 million dollars to opposition groups in Venezuela (again, U.S. taxpayer dollars) and has launched a psychological operations campaign coordinated from the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida. In a document published by the U.S. Army in October 2005 entitled "Doctrine for Asymmetric War Against Venezuela," President Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution were labeled as the "largest threat since the Soviet Union and communism."

Clearly, the Bush Administration has decided Venezuela and President Chavez represent a "severe threat" to U.S. domination in the region and U.S. control over energy resources in the hemisphere. Venezuela may very well be next on the list for a "preemptory war" in the style of Iraq. Citizens of the United States need to be aware of these dangerous steps taken by their government against a nation exercising its democratic and sovereign right to decide the type of socio-political system it desires. Venezuela's democracy, participatory in nature, is supported by more than 70% of its populace. Recent polls place President Chavez's popularity at 77%.

Citizens from around the world had the opportunity to witness Venezuela's thriving democratic revolution firsthand during the VI World Social Forum that just ended in Caracas. Hundreds of thousands of diverse voices from around the world, along with millions of Venezuelans, can attest to the fact that no dictatorship or threat to democracy exists in Venezuela. The only threat Venezuela presents to the United States is that of a good example.

Eva Golinger
Is a Venezuelan-American attorney based in New York. She is currently writing a book about the results of her investigation of U.S. intervention in Venezuela.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

VENEZUELA: The Bolivarian Revolution's Social Movements and Missions

The Bolivarian Revolution's Social Movements and Missions

The Bolivarian Revolution involves a strong social movement which has the goal of nationalizing industry, education, health care, housing for the poor, and systems of social justice (legal assistance). It further involves the development of policies that eliminate poverty.

The Social Movement begins with organizing people and it does so in steps. The steps are: 1) educate the people, 2) create a vision, and 3) work together to develop a plan for achieving the created vision. This is called endogenous development which means development from the bottom and from within.

The Missions are the basis of the Endogenous Development Principle. The Mission Concept began in February, 1999, with Plan Bolivar 2000. Under Plan Bolivar 2000, 40,000 Venezuelan Soldiers got involved in door to door anti poverty action, mass vaccinations, food distribution, education and literacy of the poor, neglected and marginalized adults.

Education Missions

The goals of the Education Mission are: 1) to be (personal empowerment, 2) to know (better knowledge), 3) to do (to do a better job), and 3) to co-exist (to be a better citizen). The school missions do this by providing education, child care so that the parents can work, cultural and sports activities, provide 2 meals and a snack to the students, and integrate the students into the community by having them responsible for creating and implementing community projects that improve the community. Students are thus developing a sense of social responsibility. There are GED programs for students who have dropped out of school. Students are given free technical and college education, but are expected to return to use their new skills for the benefit of the community.

Cuba provided the standardized teaching materials, video tapes and teachers to train the Venezuelan teachers or facilitators.

February 2, 2006

Bolivarian Achievements: Social Missions

The Bolivarian Missions are a series of social justice, social welfare, anti-poverty, and educational programs implemented under the administration of the current government. The missions are: Robinson, Ribas, Sucre, Barrio Adentro, Barrio Adentro Deportivo, Vuelvan Caras, Mercal, Guaicaipuro, Zamora, Cultura and, more recently, Negra Hipólita.

Robinson Mission (to eliminate illiteracy)
This mission was launched on July 1, 2003, and it was used to pull millions of Venezuelans out of the shadows of illiteracy.

These missions are directed towards serving poor, illiterate, neglected, and marginalized adults.

The Robinson mission is the most important civil and military operation ever launched in Venezuela’s history. This mission uses volunteers to teach reading, writhing and basic math to more than 1.5 million Venezuelans who were illiterate. Each educational district gave their support for the implementation of this mission, as well as the Venezuelan armed forces.

On October 28, 2005, Venezuela was officially declared illiteracy-free territory by the UNESCO. A total of 1,482,543 Venezuelans learned to read and write; they were helped by 128,967 teachers in 136,041 classrooms. Many other governments, heads of states, personalities and organizations praised this mission.

There are currently 11,700 Venezuelans registered for the new phase of this mission.

It is worth mentioning that the Bolivarian government had the will to eradicate illiteracy. This is the first time an effort of these characteristics is put in motion and this experience could be taken into other countries in the region.

Robinson II mission is called "I can continue" and it aims to provide ongoing basic education courses to those Venezuelans who have not completed their elementary-level education. There are currently 1,468,967 Venezuelans in this mission, helped by 104,171 teachers in 99,171 classrooms.

Ribas Mission
Five million Venezuelans had dropped out or otherwise failed to complete high school. Ribas Mission is aimed at aiding youth and adults in the attainment of their high school diploma. This Mission has been designed to adjust itself to the context of the participants. It allows participants to attend night classes, something that was not available in the past. It is named after independence hero José Félix Ribas. This mission is sponsored by the Oil and Energy ministry, as well as state-owned Pdvsa. Ribas Mission began on August 2003 as an extra-ordinary plan of communal participation funded by the Ministry of Oil and Energy. Ribas Mission was named after the independence hero José Félix Ribas. This mission is sponsored by the Oil and Energy ministry, as well as state-owned Pdvsa. The goal is for this mission to be a continuation of Robinson II mission.

The goal is for this mission to be a continuation of Robinson II mission.

From 2003 to January, 2006, the Bolivarian government has helped 885,410 Venezuelans enter this mission. There are currently 578,668 Venezuelans studying in this mission with the help of 32,167 teachers, 5,177 coordinators at 8,306 school facilities nationwide. There are 32,291 classrooms and 173,834 students have received scholarships.

Sucre Mission Mission Sucre: Higher Education
The Mission Sucre schools provide college education or technical training. They provide education in medical studies, environmental studies, technical studies, and the law (legal studies).

Sucre Mission was launched in September, 2003. The Ministry of Higher Education is in charge of this project and carries it out all around the country. The Bolivarian University of Venezuela (UBV, Spanish acronym) opens its doors to thousands of students who began to study in classrooms that were the luxurious offices of oil oligarchs.

This program's goal is to boost the institutional synergy and community participation in order to guarantee and provide access to higher education to all high school students.

So far, this program has registered 472,363 high school graduates, 429,215 of which have been assisted and 318,381 have finished the University Introductory Program. A total of 330,346 high school graduates have registered in the education programs. Also, the mission has granted 96,412 scholarships ($100) to the poorest students, and it is checking other 2,968 scholarships.

Likewise, 10,212 teachers work for the education programs and 1,107 university villages are distributed all around the country. These examples are a proof of the determination and strategy of the State to cancel a social debt. Also, this program guarantees access to higher education to all Venezuelans.

Barrio Adentro Mission: Inside the neighborhood

The Barrio Adentro Missions have multiple types of services.

Barrio Adentro Missions have community health clinics that provide free health care and medication. The clinics are staffed with Cuban doctors. The clinics provide information on birth control, sex education, treatment of venereal disease, preventative medication and education, childhood vaccinations and disease prevention, work with drug addicts and alcoholics and they provide social workers to assist where needed.

They have food distribution centers, cooperative businesses and other services as well.

Since April, 2003, the national government's main objective is to shape a health network through providing a free service to the poor sector of the population. This is why Barrio Adentro Mission I was launched.

This mission's general objective is to provide access to health care assistance to 60 percent of the excluded population through the construction of 8,000 Popular Medical Centers, to provide a doctor to 250 families (1,200 people), to increase the life expectancy rate of the population and to contribute to the development, growth and ageing with a good standard of life.

The Barrio Adentro Missions provide many types of services. The fact is that President Chavez has a solid basis of social programs. For example, Barrio Adentro, a free health program for the poor, with 5,000 medical modules that dispense free primary medical treatment, house calls, and medicines. Barrio Adentro, and other programs for the poor such as Mercal, distributor of subsidized food, the women's bank, and mini-credits, are all more than just statistics. They are programs that focus the power of the government on the previously ignored and invisible: the poor, both urban and rural, who were always marginalized, and who had to be content with crumbs that fell off the table, are now suddenly the focal point of the government and the economy.

Educational programs are all community based, participatory, and empowering.

The new clinics that comprise the program's first stage, Mission Barrio Adentro I, are concentrated in the poorest and traditionally most medically neglected and marginalized urban and rural districts throughout Venezuela. These new clinics are meant to replace the mostly dilapidated and abandoned health facilities built prior to Hugo Chávez Frias election to the Venezuelan Presidency. Each of these new clinics is intended to serve up to several hundred individual families. Besides clean, modern, and well-equipped examination rooms and doctor's offices on the ground level, the clinics feature modest accommodations for the clinic's resident doctors and nurses integrated into the clinic building's upper floor.

The program was inaugurated in March 2003 in the impoverished Libertador neighborhood of the Venezuelan capital Caracas, and has since then expanded rapidly to include clinics spread throughout the rest of Venezuela. At least 15,000 Cuban family physicians, medical specialists, dentists, and sports trainers have been put to work in the new medical clinics.

These clinics, staffed with Cuban doctors, provide information on birth control, sex education, treatment of venereal disease, preventative medication and education, childhood vaccinations and disease prevention. They work with drug addicts and alcoholics and provide social workers to assist where needed.

They are linked to food distribution centers, cooperative businesses and other services as well.

Since April, 2003, the federal government's main objective has been to shape a health network by providing a free service to the poor sector of the population. This is why Barrio Adentro Mission I was launched.

Barrio Adentro Mission I has made an important progress in this sense by providing 162,012,583 people with medical assistance, 14,716,325 people with dental assistance and 3,811,741 people with eye assistance, by saving 31,063 lives, by giving 375,144 glasses, and by constructing 1,012 medical centers.

Barrio Adentro Mission II was launched on June 12, 2005. This mission opened 30 Integral Diagnosis Centers and 30 Integral Rehabilitation Rooms all around the country. These centers have make possible to perform 3,936,874 lab tests, 535,631 emergency surgeries, 775,690 ultrasounds, 285,415 X-Rays, 324,936 electrocardiograms, 108 operations, 55,499 endoscopies, 1,064,339 rehabilitation treatments.

Also, 200 Integral Diagnosis Centers (CDI, Spanish acronym) and Integral Rehabilitation Rooms (SRI, Spanish acronym) have been opened during these last months. 103 are already finished and they are in the endowment phase. 704 are still under construction.

Likewise, Barrio Adentro III Mission is already working. This mission deals with the strengthening of the hospital networks all around the country in order to meet the demand of Barrio Adentro II (CDI and SRI). This project is known as People’s Hospitals since it implies the modernization of hospital centers with medical and electromechanical equipment.

Barrio Adentro Mission Deportes
This program began in February 2004 and its goal is assisting the athletic skills of students, senior citizens, pregnant women, people with disabilities and all people wishing to improve their standard of life and health. The goal of this mission is to take care of national sports through sport assistance centers located in each municipality and through the Training Schools for Sport Talents (one per state), specifically for high performance sport.

So far, 150,504,060 people (including all sports programs) have registered in this program. 43,976,715 people belong to sports, 25,259,343 people to physical activities at school, 980,574 people are training, 480,593 consultations and 40,417,071 recreation activities have taken place, 31,663,978 sport programs have been carried out and 7,726,786 people are registered in therapeutic sports.

Vuelvan Caras Mission
Has as its objective the transformation of the present Venezuelan economy to one that is oriented towards social, rather than fiscal and remunerative, goals. It seeks to facilitate increased involvement of ordinary citizens in programs of endogenous and sustainable social development, emphasizing in particular the involvement of traditionally marginalized or excluded Venezuelan social and economic sectors, including those participating in Venezuela's significant "informal" economy. It provides vocational training for work. The mission's ultimate goal, according to Hugo Chavez, is to foster an economy that brings "a quality and dignified life for all".

Mission Miranda: Military Reserves
When people leave the military, they often do not have jobs to go to, so they are invited to join the military reserves where they will be given minimum wage and given job training.

Media Communication Missions: Pirate radio stations and television stations that serve the community with the goal of improving media communication to counteract the mis-information practices of the private media which owns many television stations and most of the radio stations.

Mercal Mission Food distribution network.
This Mission has set up subsidized grocery stores in a state-run company called Mercal. At present some 11.36 million Venezuelans benefit from Mercal food programs on a regular basis. At least 14,208 Mission Mercal food distribution sites are spread throughout Venezuela, and 4,543 metric tons of food are distributed each day. Mission Mercal stores and cooperatives are mostly located in impoverished areas and sell generic-branded foods at discounts as great as 50%. While the company is heavily funded by the government, the goal is to become self-sufficient by replacing food imports with products from local farmers, small businesses, and cooperatives (many of whom have received microcredits from Mercal). This endogenous development is central to Chávez's stated goal of non-capitalistic development from the bottom up.

This program was created to trade and sell food and other essential products like medicines at affordable prices. It is worth mentioning that the Ministry of Food’s goal for 2005 was to set up 6,000 points of sales; this represents 14,539,300 people benefiting from this program.

Also, 6,004 Soup Kitchens are working; these benefits 900,600 people by giving them free meals. These meals are given to the poorest sectors of the population. Regarding nutrition and protection, 1,374,312 people living in extreme poverty have benefited from this program.

Guaicaipuro Mission
This mission’s goal is to restore communal land titles and human rights to Venezuela's numerous indigenous communities, in addition to defending their rights against resource and financial speculation by the dominant culture.

Guaicaipuro Mission represents the restoration of constitutional rights to indigenous people, as well as economic development, land demarcation, strengthening of their identity, language, education, habitat and health.

Zamora Mission
Mission Zamora’s main goal is to hand over land titles to farmers in order to guarantee the food offer for the have-nots and to bet for social economy and endogenous development. This mission is linked with Mercal.

Since January, 2005, the government has granted 68,528 future land titles. This represents an area of 7,222,880 acres, apart from the 80 awarded titles that represent an area of 87,739 acres. There are 48 Zamora Ranches, representing a total of 56,994 acres.

Culture Mission
Mission Cultura, a service-learning, university-degree program established to prepare future teachers. It has been in operation since July, 2005 and it is a new kind of university system; that is, people graduate as Teachers in Culture.

Negra Hipólita Mission
This mission is one of the newest created by the national government. It was launched on January 14, 2006, and is aimed at homeless children and adolescents. The government will take on the challenge of rescuing and rehabilitating homeless children and adolescents..

This mission will be carried out all across the country and it will take place in the barrios. This organization is to be made up of residents from the same communities. The Social Protection Committees and the “Shelter Families” have been chosen through citizen assemblies in order to make the process more participative; even the adolescents from these sectors are part of the committees.

Abandoned or severely neglected children are brought to the school, clothed, fed, given health care, are educated, and if abandoned, are placed with other families in the community.

Zuleima Centeno/ Missions / Ministry of Communication and Information

Myths and concerns relating to Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution

Myths and concerns relating to Hugo Chavez and
the Bolivarian Revolution


1. MYTH: Hugo Chavez is a dictator

  • Hugo Chavez was elected president in 1998 with 56 % of the popular vote. After a new constitution was ratified by popular vote (80%), he voluntarily put himself up for election again in 2001. He won this election with 59 % of the vote.
  • Chavez devised a democratic method for creating the Venezuelan Constitution. The people organized into community groups, met to give input as to what they wanted to see in their constitution. The Constitution was written and subsequently ratified by a majority of the popular vote. The Venezuelan Constitution does not give Hugo Chavez control over the branches of government.
  • In 2004 he was subject to a recall referendum, a process that did not previously exist in Venezuela but that he had added to the constitution. He won this referendum with nearly 60% of the vote.
  • The election was overseen by several international organizations, including the Carter Center, all of which declared the elections free and fair.

2. MYTH: Chavez is destabilizing South America and the Caribbean.

  • Venezuela has joined in many cooperative relationships in South America and the Caribbean. Following the examples of nineteenth-century Latin American liberators Simón Bolívar and José Martí, Chavez has promoted an all-inclusive Latin American "great homeland" ("patria grande").
  • A few examples of this include Venezuela's incorporation into Merco Sur; assistance in the creation of a South American television station TeleSur and oil enterprise PetroSur; and the building of a pipeline with Colombia, whose narco-traffickers, paramilitaries, and leftist guerrillas it seeks to prevent from crossing the border into Venezuela.
  • Petrocaribe is a new Venezuelan proposal through which 14 Caribbean counties will receive oil at preferential prices, and currently Venezuela has an oil-for-food accord with Argentina.

3. MYTH: Chavez supports narco-trafficking.

  • Chavez is promoting anti-drug policies. He is not cooperating with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) because their agents have been caught spying and participating in actions to compromise his government and his presidency. Chavez does, however, cooperate with U.S. law enforcement.
  • The US Congressional Research Service Report for Congress states: "Despite friction in US-Venezuelan relations, cooperation between the two countries at the law enforcement agency level continues to be excellent", according to the State Department's 2003 International narcotics Control Strategy Report.

4. MYTH: Chavez is repressing the media.

  • Venezuela's privately owned TV stations blatantly and admittedly participated in the 2002 coup attempt against Chavez (see Council on Hemispheric Affairs, "Investigation Memorandum. The Venezuelan Media: More Than Words in Play," Press Memorandum 03.18, April 30, 2003).
  • Yet not one of the stations has been closed, and none of the station owners has been arrested on charges of conspiracy.
  • Under Chavez, several new community TV channels have sprung up, hundreds of new "pirate" radio stations have raised antennas in every corner of the country, and hundreds of community newsletters are being printed. Even independent websites have gone up, including
  • The Chavez government is helping to jump-start the continental TV station TeleSur (TeleSud in Brazil) in hopes of breaking the monopoly of CNN and its disinformation reaching hundreds of millions in Spanish and Portuguese.
  • Venezuela's new Law of Social Responsibility of Radio and TV attempts to regulate the media in the same way that the FCC in the US does. It restricts violent content during high children viewing hours and it also establishes avenues for libel suits to combat slander. The new law, just as in the United States and other countries, makes threatening the President's life or promoting actions that threaten national security a crime.

5. MYTH: Chavez is propping up the Cuban economy and government.

  • First, the Cuban economy relies mostly on tourism and is not in need of "propping up" despite nearly half a century of US economic blockade. Second, Cuba and Venezuela have entered in to various agreements, including ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative to the FTAA, based on reducing poverty rather than raising profits) and the Caracas Accord through which 23 Latin American countries receive preferential oil prices.
  • For Cuba's part, it has been the key player in Venezuela's two most successful social programs: Barrio Adentro (BA) and Mission Robinson (MR). Tens of thousands of Cuban doctors are serving in community medical clinics throughout the country (BA). The MR literacy campaign used the U.N.-lauded Cuban program "Yo Sí Puedo," as Cuba trained Venezuelan teachers and provided televisions, VCR's, workbooks, pencils and even personal library sets to all those attaining a 6th-grade reading level. In the first year of MR more than a million Venezuelans became literate. Cuba also has sent thousands of sports instructors to Venezuela and has treated many Venezuelans with special medical needs in hospitals in Cuba. The US is increasingly isolated in its condemnation of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution.

6. MYTH: Chavez is a communist and is centralizing power.

  • According to the Webster dictionary Chavez falls into the category of a populist: "a believer of the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people."
  • Chavez has been described as a "populist", and as a "micro-capitalist". He has implemented a system of participatory democracy which encourages direct democratic participation in government affairs. Copies of the Venezuelan Constitution and pamphlets containing the laws of Venezuela can be purchased from street kiosks and book stores everywhere and are thus easily accessible to the Venezuelan population.
  • Chavez encourages development of small cooperative farms and businesses which are run cooperatively by the members.
  • Contrary to communist theory, the Chavez government has handed out millions of private land ownership titles.
  • And instead of taking over the means of production, the government has begun entering into joint management relationships with workers who have taken over control of their factories.
  • The current program of developing endogenous development communities that are self sufficient and locally governed are a profound expression of true decentralization of power to the local level.

7. MYTH: Chavez is building up a dangerous arsenal.

  • Venezuela, like any other country, maintains a means of defending itself. Keep in mind that Venezuela in 2002 underwent a short-lived coup that was backed by a foreign aggressor and shares a 1400-mile border with a country in the midst of a 50-year-old civil war that is the Western Hemisphere's headquarters of the cocaine trade and largest recipient of modern US military equipment. The Venezuelan military consists of 80,000 soldiers (in contrast with Colombia's 450,000). Soldiers carry obsolete rifles. Venezuela has purchased 100,000 less obsolete (1947 design) assault rifles from Russia and plans to buy 40 helicopters to patrol the Colombian border. Venezuela is also negotiating the purchase of coast guard patrol boats from Spain to combat the drug trade and a fleet of aircraft from Brazil to replace its U.S.-built F-16's for which the US will not sell Venezuela repair parts in violation of the U.S. government's maintenance contract with Venezuela. Unlike the United States and its countless targets, Venezuela has never been accused of developing or possessing any non-conventional weapons or "weapons of mass destruction."

8. MYTH: Chavez is going to cut off oil sales to the US.

  • Venezuela is currently providing heating oil at cost to the people of the north east section of the United States who cannot afford to pay for their heating oil.
  • Venezuela has recently made many mutually beneficial oil agreements (and other trade agreements) with not only the US but also other huge oil consuming countries such as India and China. These latter deals, once fully implemented, will lower Venezuela's dependence on the US as its main purchaser of oil. This does not mean that oil supplies to the US would be diverted to China and India, but instead Venezuela hopes to increase its market. However, this lower dependence on the US will give Venezuela, and by "Bolivarian" definition, all of Latin America, some breathing room and unprecedented bargaining power against US hegemony. This is the crux of US hostility toward Chavez.

9. MYTH: Chavez is friendly with terrorist nations

  • The Chavez government has friendly relations with just about every nation in the world. Venezuela's relationships with Middle Eastern governments that do not have good relations with the US, such as Iraq, Iran and Libya, stem from their common membership in OPEC, which was created in 1960.
  • Venezuela does not have a close relationship with Israel which is considered by the Venezuelan government to be a terrorist nation. Venezuela does have concerns about U.S. ties to Israel.

10. MYTH: Chavez government is violating human rights.

  • In fact, the Chavez government is the first government in over a hundred years in Venezuela that has addressed human rights in any meaningful way. The Chavez administration’s central tenet is the guaranteeing of basic human rights to the entire population. This, so far, has come in the form of universal health care, education, land distribution, subsidized food, and a participatory democracy. The Bolivarian constitution is the first in the world to recognize the rights of children to a healthy and happy life.
  • It gives unprecedented rights and sovereignty to indigenous peoples and recognizes housework as a value-added commodity that assures women a pension for a life of housework.
  • The signers of the 2002 coup decree that made Pedro Carmona dictator for a day and dissolved the national assembly, nullified the constitution and dismissed the Supreme Court have still not been brought to trial, although some of them are under investigation and possible charges may be brought eventually.
  • Can you imagine participants of a coup attempt against George W. Bush living free three years later (or living at all for that matter)?



The committee of Brazilian organizations that conceived of and organized the first World Social Forum, held in Porto Alegre from January 25th to 30th, 2001, after evaluating the results of that Forum and the expectations it raised, consider it necessary and legitimate to draw up a Charter of Principles to guide the continued pursuit of that initiative. While the principles contained in this Charter - to be respected by all those, who wish to take part in the process and to organize new editions of the World Social Forum - are a consolidation of the decisions that presided over the holding of the Porto Alegre Forum and ensured its success, they extend the reach of those decisions and define orientations that flow from their logic.

1. The World Social Forum is an open meeting place for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences and interlinking for effective action, by groups and movements of civil society that are opposed to neo-liberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism, and are committed to building a planetary society directed towards fruitful relationships among Mankind and between it and the Earth.

2. The World Social Forum at Porto Alegre was an event localized in time and place. From now on, in the certainty proclaimed at Porto Alegre that "Another World Is Possible", it becomes a permanent process of seeking and building alternatives, which cannot be reduced to the events supporting it.

3. The World Social Forum is a world process. All the meetings that are held as part of this process have an international dimension.

4. The alternatives proposed at the World Social Forum stand in opposition to a process of globalization commanded by the large multinational corporations and by the governments and international institutions at the service of those corporations' interests, with the complicity of national governments. They are designed to ensure that globalization in solidarity will prevail as a new stage in world history. This will respect universal human rights, and those of all citizens - men and women - of all nations and the environment and will rest on democratic international systems and institutions at the service of social justice, equality and the sovereignty of peoples.

5. The World Social Forum brings together and interlinks only organizations and movements of civil society from all the countries in the world, but intends neither to be a body representing world civil society.

6. The meetings of the World Social Forum do not deliberate on behalf of the World Social Forum as a body. No one, therefore, will be authorized, on behalf of any of the editions of the Forum, to express positions claiming to be those of all its participants. The participants in the Forum shall not be called on to take decisions as a body, whether by vote or acclamation, on declarations or proposals for action that would commit all, or the majority, of them and that propose to be taken as establishing positions of the Forum as a body. It thus does not constitute a locus of power to be disputed by the participants in its meetings, nor does it intend to constitute the only option for interrelation and action by the organizations and movements that participate in it.

7. Nonetheless, organizations or groups of organizations that participate in the Forum's meetings must be assured the right, during such meetings, to deliberate on declarations or actions they may decide on, whether singly or in coordination with other participants. The World Social Forum undertakes to circulate such decisions widely by the means at its disposal, without directing, hierarchizing, censuring or restricting them, but as deliberations of the organizations or groups of organizations that made the decisions.

8. The World Social Forum is a plural, diversified, non-confessional, non-governmental and non-party context that, in a decentralized fashion, interrelates organizations and movements engaged in concrete action at levels from the local to the international to build another world.

9. The World Social Forum will always be a forum open to pluralism and to the diversity of activities and ways of engaging of the organizations and movements that decide to participate in it, as well as the diversity of genders, ethnicities, cultures, generations and physical capacities, providing they abide by this Charter of Principles. Neither party representations nor military organizations shall participate in the Forum. Government leaders and members of legislatures who accept the commitments of this Charter may be invited to participate in a personal capacity.

10. The World Social Forum is opposed to all totalitarian and reductionist views of economy, development and history and to the use of violence as a means of social control by the State. It upholds respect for Human Rights, the practices of real democracy, participatory democracy, peaceful relations, in equality and solidarity, among people, ethnicities, genders and peoples, and condemns all forms of domination and all subjection of one person by another.

11. As a forum for debate the World Social Forum is a movement of ideas that prompts reflection, and the transparent circulation of the results of that reflection, on the mechanisms and instruments of domination by capital, on means and actions to resist and overcome that domination, and on the alternatives proposed to solve the problems of exclusion and social inequality that the process of capitalist globalization with its racist, sexist and environmentally destructive dimensions is creating internationally and within countries.

12. As a framework for the exchange of experiences, the World Social Forum encourages understanding and mutual recognition amongst its participant organizations and movements, and places special value on the exchange among them, particularly on all that society is building to centre economic activity and political action on meeting the needs of people and respecting nature, in the present and for future generations.

13. As a context for interrelations, the World Social Forum seeks to strengthen and create new national and international links among organizations and movements of society, that, in both public and private life, will increase the capacity for non-violent social resistance to the process of dehumanization the world is undergoing and to the violence used by the State, and reinforce the humanizing measures being taken by the action of these movements and organizations.

14. The World Social Forum is a process that encourages its participant organizations and movements to situate their actions, from the local level to the national level and seeking active participation in international contexts, as issues of planetary citizenship, and to introduce onto the global agenda the change-inducing practices that they are experimenting in building a new world in solidarity.


U.S. Royalty Plan To Give Windfall to Oil Companies, $7 Billion Over Five Years

Dear Friend,

Here's a headline from Tuesday's New York Times:

U.S. Royalty Plan To Give Windfall to Oil Companies, $7 Billion Over Five Years

And now, guess which topic will get more attention from the mainstream media:

Dick Cheney's birdshot.


Exxon's illegitimate, staggering profits?

You got it.

The growing divide between rich and poor is the 900-pound gorilla in the room.

On the whole, the mainstream media ignores it, because increasingly, the media executives and editors are part of the ruling elite.

The leading Democrats ignore it for the same reason.

That leaves us.

We raised it during the 2004 campaign because, as former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis put it:

"We can have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few or we can have democracy, but we cannot have both."

Did you know?

Top executives now make more in a day than the average worker makes in a year.

Plutocracy: 1. The rule or power of wealth or the wealthy; 2. A government or state in which the wealthy class rules. 3. A class for group ruling, or exercising power or influence, by virtue of its wealth. (Webster's Unabridged Dictionary)

Of the world's 100 largest economies, 47 are nations, and 53 are corporations.

Seventy-five percent of major corporations hire a union-busting firm to stop employees from forming a union.

Stretch limousines are longer, yet more people are homeless.

Thirty zip codes in America have become fabulously wealthy.

Meanwhile, whole urban and rural communities are languishing in poverty, crumbling infrastructure, growing economic insecurity and fear.

"Inherited economic power is as inconsistent with the ideals of this generation as inherited political power was inconsistent with the ideals of the generation which established our government."

-Franklin D. Roosevelt

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Anti-Empire Report - Some things you need to know before the world ends by William Blum

The Anti-Empire Report
Some things you need to know before the world ends
February 14, 2006
y William Blum

How I spent my 15 minutes of fame

In case you don't know, on January 19 the latest audiotape from Osama bin Laden was released and in it he declared: "If you [Americans] are sincere in your desire for peace and security, we have answered you. And if Bush decides to carry on with his lies and oppression, then it would be useful for you to read the book ‛Rogue State', which states in its introduction ... " He then goes on to quote the opening of a paragraph I wrote (which appears actually in the Foreword of the British edition only, that was later translated to Arabic), which in full reads:

"If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize -- very publicly and very sincerely -- to all the widows and the orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. I would then announce that America’s global interventions -- including the awful bombings -- have come to an end. And I would inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but -– oddly enough -– a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims and repair the damage from the many American bombings and invasions. There would be more than enough money. Do you know what one year of the US military budget is equal to? One year. It’s equal to more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born.

"That’s what I'd do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I'd be assassinated."

Within hours I was swamped by the media and soon appeared on many of the leading TV shows, dozens of radio programs, with long profiles in the Washington Post, and elsewhere. In the previous ten years the Post had declined to print a single one of my letters, most of which had pointed out errors in their foreign news coverage. Now my photo was on page one.

Much of the media wanted me to say that I was repulsed by bin Laden's "endorsement". I did not say I was repulsed because I was not. After a couple of days of interviews I got my reply together and it usually went something like this:

"There are two elements involved here: On the one hand, I totally despise any kind of religious fundamentalism and the societies spawned by such, like the Taliban in Afghanistan. On the other hand, I'm a member of a movement which has the very ambitious goal of slowing down, if not stopping, the American Empire, to keep it from continuing to go round the world doing things like bombings, invasions, overthrowing governments, and torture. To have any success, we need to reach the American people with our message. And to reach the American people we need to have access to the mass media. What has just happened has given me the opportunity to reach millions of people I would otherwise never reach. Why should I not be glad about that? How could I let such an opportunity go to waste?"

Celebrity -- modern civilization's highest cultural achievement -- is a peculiar phenomenon. It really isn't worth anything unless you do something with it.

The callers into the programs I was on, and sometimes the host, in addition to numerous emails, repeated two main arguments against me. (1) Where else but in the United States could I have the freedom to say what I was saying on national media?

Besides their profound ignorance in not knowing of scores of countries with at least equal freedom of speech (particularly since September 11), what they are saying in effect is that I should be so grateful for my freedom of speech that I should show my gratitude by not exercising that freedom. If they're not saying that, they're not saying anything.

(2) America has always done marvelous things for the world, from the Marshall Plan and defeating communism and the Taliban to rebuilding destroyed countries and freeing Iraq.

I have dealt with these myths and misconceptions previously; like sub-atomic particles, they behave differently when observed. For example, in last month's report I pointed out in detail that "destroyed countries" were usually destroyed by American bombs; and America did not rebuild them. As to the Taliban, the United States overthrew a secular, women's-rights government in Afghanistan, which led to the Taliban coming to power; so the US can hardly be honored for ousting the Taliban a decade later, replacing it with an American occupation, an American puppet president, assorted warlords, and women chained.

But try to explain all these fine points in the minute or so one has on radio or TV. However, I think I somehow managed to squeeze in a lot of information and thoughts new to the American psyche.

Some hosts and many callers were clearly pained to hear me say that anti-American terrorists are retaliating against the harm done to their countries by US foreign policy, and are not just evil, mindless, madmen from another planet.[1] Many of them assumed, with lots of certainty and no good reason at all, that I was a supporter of the Democratic Party and they proceeded to attack Bill Clinton. When I pointed out that I was no fan at all of the Democrats or Clinton, they were usually confused into silence for a few moments before seamlessly jumping to some other piece of nonsense. They do not know that an entire alternative world exists above and beyond the Republicans and Democrats.

Just recently we have been hearing and reading comments in the American media about how hopelessly backward and violent were those Muslims protesting the Danish cartoons, carrying signs calling for the beheading of those that insult Islam. But a caller to a radio program I was on said I "should be taken care of", and one of the hundreds of nasty emails I received began: "Death to you and your family."

One of my personal favorite moments: On an AM radio program in Pennsylvania, discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

The host (with anguish in her voice): "What has Israel ever done to the Palestinians?"
Me: "Have you been in a coma the past 20 years?"

This is a question I could ask many of those who interrogated me the past few weeks. Actually, 60 years would be more appropriate.

Elections my teacher never told me about

Americans are all taught from childhood on of the significance and sanctity of free elections: You can't have the thing called "democracy" without the thing called "free elections". And when you have the thing called free elections it's virtually synonymous with having the thing called democracy. And who were we taught was the greatest champion of free elections anywhere in the world? Why, our very same teacher, God's country, the good ol' US of A.

But what was God's country actually doing all those years we were absorbing and swearing by this message? God's country was actually interfering in free elections in every corner of the known world; seriously so.

The latest example is the recent elections in Palestine, where the US Agency for International Development (AID) poured in some two million dollars (a huge amount in that impoverished area) to try to tilt the election to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its political wing, Fatah, and prevent the radical Islamic group Hamas from taking power. The money was spent on various social programs and events to increase the popularity of the PA; the projects bore no evidence of US involvement and did not fall within the definitions of traditional development work. In addition, the United States funded many newspaper advertisements publicizing these projects in the name of the PA, with no mention of AID.

"Public outreach is integrated into the design of each project to highlight the role of the P.A. in meeting citizens needs," said a progress report on the projects. "The plan is to have events running every day of the coming week, beginning 13 January, such that there is a constant stream of announcements and public outreach about positive happenings all over Palestinian areas in the critical week before the elections."

Under the rules of the Palestinian election system, campaigns and candidates were prohibited from accepting money from foreign sources.[2] American law explicitly forbids the same in US elections.

Since Hamas won the election, the United States has made it clear that it does not recognize the election as any kind of victory for democracy and that it has no intention of having normal diplomatic relations with the Hamas government. (Israel has adopted a similar attitude, but it should not be forgotten that Israel funded and supported the emergence of Hamas in Gaza during its early days, hoping that it would challenge the Palestine Liberation Organization as well as Palestinian leftist elements.)

By my count, there have been more than 30 instances of gross Washington interference in foreign elections since the end of World War II -- from Italy in 1948 and the Philippines and Lebanon in the 1950s, to Nicaragua, Bolivia and Slovakia in the 2000s -- most of them carried out in an even more flagrant manner than the Palestinian example.[3] Some of the techniques employed have been used in the United States itself as our electoral system, once the object of much national and international pride, has slid inexorably from "one person, one vote", to "one dollar, one vote".

Coming soon to a country (or city) near you

On January 13 the United States of America, in its shocking and awesome wisdom, saw fit to fly an unmanned Predator aircraft over a remote village in the sovereign nation of Pakistan and fire a Hellfire missile into a residential compound in an attempt to kill some "bad guys". Several houses were incinerated, 18 people were killed, including an unknown number of "bad guys"; reports since then give every indication that the unknown number is as low as zero, al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, the principal target, not being amongst them. Outrage is still being expressed in Pakistan. In the United States the reaction in the Senate typified the American outrage:

"We apologize, but I can't tell you that we wouldn't do the same thing again" said Sen. John McCain of Arizona

"It's a regrettable situation, but what else are we supposed to do?" said Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana.

"My information is that this strike was clearly justified by the intelligence," said Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi.[4]

Similar US attacks using such drones and missiles have angered citizens and political leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen. In has not been uncommon for the destruction to be so complete that it is impossible to establish who was killed, or even how many people. Amnesty International has lodged complaints with the Busheviks following each suspected Predator strike. A UN report in the wake of the 2002 strike in Yemen called it "an alarming precedent [and] a clear case of extrajudicial killing" in violation of international laws and treaties.[5]

Can it be imagined that American officials would fire a missile into a house in Paris or London or Ottawa because they suspected that high-ranking al Qaeda members were present there? Even if the US knew of their presence for an absolute fact, and not just speculation as in the Predator cases mentioned above? Well, most likely not, but can we put anything past Swaggering- Superarrogant-Superpower-Cowboys-on-steroids? After all, they've already done it to their own, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On May 13, 1985, a bomb dropped by a police helicopter burned down an entire block, some 60 homes destroyed, 11 dead, including several small children. The police, the mayor’s office, and the FBI were all involved in this effort to evict an organization called MOVE from the house they lived in.

The victims were all black of course. So let's rephrase the question. Can it be imagined that American officials would fire a missile into a residential area of Beverly Hills or the upper east side of Manhattan? Stay tuned.

"The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting." Milan Kundera

I'm occasionally taken to task for being so negative about the United States role in the world. Why do you keep looking for all the negative stuff and tear down the positive? I'm asked.
Well, it's a nasty job, but someone has to do it. Besides, for each negative piece I'm paid $500 by al Qaeda. And the publicity given to my books by Osama ... priceless.

The new documentary film by Eugene Jarecki, "Why We Fight", which won the Sundance Festival's Grand Jury prize, relates how the pursuit of profit by arms merchants and other US corporations has fueled America's post-World War II wars a lot more than any love of freedom and democracy. The unlikely hero of the film is Dwight Eisenhower, whose famous warning about the dangers of the "military-industrial complex" is the film's principal motif.

Here is Jarecki being interviewed by the Washington Post:

Post: Why did you make "Why We Fight?"

Jarecki: The simple answer: Eisenhower. He caught me off-guard. He seemed to have so much to say about our contemporary society and our general tilt towards militarism. ... The voices in Washington and the media have become so shrill. ... It seemed important to bring a little gray hair into the mix.

Post: How would you classify your politics? You've been accused of being a lefty.
Jarecki: I'm a radical centrist. ... If Dwight Eisenhower is a lefty, I am too. Then I'll walk with Ike.[6] [ellipses in original]

Isn't it nice that a film portraying the seamier side of the military-industrial complex is receiving such popular attention? And that we are able to look fondly upon an American president? How long has that been? Well, here I go again.

Eisenhower, regardless of what he said as he was leaving the presidency, was hardly an obstacle to American militarism or corporate imperialism. During his eight years in office, the United States intervened in every corner of the world, overthrowing the governments of Iran, Guatemala, Laos, the Congo, and British Guiana, and attempting to do the same in Costa Rica, Syria, Egypt, and Indonesia, as well as laying the military and political groundwork for the coming Indochinese holocaust.

Eisenhower's moralistically overbearing Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, summed up the administration's world outlook thusly: "For us there are two sorts of people in the world: there are those who are Christians and support free enterprise and there are the others."[7]

[1] See my essay on this subject at:
[2] Washington Post, January 22 and 24, 2006
[3] Rogue State, chapter 18, includes the text of the US law prohibiting foreign contributions to US elections.
[4] Associated Press, January 15, 2006
[5] Los Angeles Times, January 29, 2006
[6] Washington Post, February 12, 2006, p.N3
[7] Roger Morgan, "The United States and West Germany, 1945-1973" (1974), p.54

William Blum is the author of:
Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire