Saturday, April 15, 2006

The story that cries out to be told to the American people by José Pertierra

The story that cries out to be told to the American people
by José Pertierra
April 14, 2006

The Montreal Convention's Article 7 gives the US no discretion. It must either extradite or prosecute Posada Carriles for 73 counts of first degree murder in relation to the downing of the airliner. Deporting him to a third country is not an option and neither is releasing him to the community. The story of CU-455 cries out to be told to the American people. If the American people hear the true story of how those 73 people were murdered in cold blood by terrorists whom the United States prefers to shelter rather than prosecute, they'll not stand for it.

Three days ago in Miami, Luis Posada Carriles' accomplice in the downing of the Cuban passenger plane that was blown out of the sky with 73 innocent people on board on October 6, 1976 was interviewed by Juan Manuel Cao of Channel 41 in Miami. His name is Orlando Bosch.

HUGO'S LANGUAGE by Charles Hardy - a retired American priest in Caracas

Recently President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela said President George W. Bush of the United States was a donkey.

His comment immediately drew negative reactions. The U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, said that such words did not contribute to the bettering of relations between the two nations. I heard similar comments from other people.

But a longtime supporter of Chávez surprised me when he also said that he didn’t feel Chávez should be issuing such insults. Then he explained his thinking: donkeys are very nice animals and shouldn’t be deprecated by comparing them to President Bush.

Someone listening to his comment later added, “and donkeys have never started international wars.”

I have no problem adding my own voice to those who wish President Chávez would be more cautious in the words he uses. I would say the same to spokespersons for the U.S. government who have called Chávez a “hyena” and a “pied piper” and who have compared him to Hitler. Interestingly, Ambassador Brownfield didn’t mention these appellatives as hurting relations between the two countries.

Name-calling, I learned in high school, was the lowest form of argument and should always be avoided. I agree. But I have my doubts that Chávez is going to dramatically change his rhetoric; nor do I expect the current administration in the U.S. to tone down their comments.

Searching for some enlightenment on the matter, I think back to the words of Jack London in his short story, “The White Silence.” He wrote, “those of the Northland are early taught the futility of words and the inestimable value of deeds.

Traveling throughout Venezuela during the past few weeks, I am constantly awed with the changes that I see taking place. One has to be impressed as you see mass transit systems and beautiful public housing developments popping up. I was in a clinic staffed by Venezuelan medical personnel that would compare with clinics in the most “advanced” nations of the world. Anyone can go there, including U.S. citizens, free!

More important, however, than the construction projects is the enthusiasm that I sense in the rural communities and the barrios, neglected by so many governments for so many years. To most people living in these areas, the words Chávez uses merely bring a smile. (I did encounter one person from a humble background who said he personally didn’t like Chávez because of the poor example he was giving with his language and that his family would never speak that way. But even he praised Chávez for what he had accomplished for the disadvantaged.)

My mind also flashes back to a saying that I carry with me: words don’t have meaning; people have meaning. And I think of a wonderful woman I had the privilege to know in Rock Springs, Wyoming: Jackie.

Jackie would be what we called a tomboy, a word used for girls who behaved like boys. But Jackie was no girl. She was probably in her forties when I first met her and in her eighties when she died. Jackie dressed in overalls and rode a bicycle.

Jackie’s family was Mormon, but some Catholic nuns in the parish where I was assigned treated her with respect and she responded by attending the religion classes in their school each morning. Parking her bicycle by the front door, she sat with the elementary school children for an half-hour and listened to what the “sister” was saying about God. Eventually, she joined the Catholic community.

Jackie was a very holy person. If someday I arrive in heaven, I expect to see her sitting at God’s right hand. But Jackie was also known for having a strong tongue.

Early one morning, she came to the parish offices to talk with me. Rumor had it that some of the parishioners were not happy with a decision that I had made and were circulating a petition to the bishop to have me changed to another parish. Jackie said to me (and I think I remember her words exactly), “If anyone brings that petition to me, I will cram it down their goddamn fucking throat.” Strong words from a little woman who rode a bicycle and loved animals, flowers and all that was alive (with the exception of anyone carrying that petition).

I don’t know how my spirits were before she entered my office that day, but twenty-five years later her words still give me encouragement. Someone loved me.

Words don’t have meaning; people have meaning.

I never told Jackie she should change her way of speaking. If I ever meet President Chávez, I don’t plan to tell him that either. I will thank him for the inspiration and hope that he has given to millions of Venezuelans and others throughout the world. I wish I would be able to say the same to my own president in the United States.

Cuba Among U.S. Evil 7, Iran Tops List

Cuba Among U.S. Evil 7, Iran Tops List
by Circles Robinson

As Cuba remembers the 45th anniversary of the CIA directed Bay of Pigs invasion (April 17-19, 1961) the island’s media and observers of US-Cuba policy remind us that little has changed in Washington’s intentions to destroy the Revolution.

“America is at war,” begins George W. Bush in his introduction to the latest US National Security Strategy (NSS) guidelines. “We seek to shape the world, not merely be shaped by it,” he confides.

“The path we have chosen is consistent with the great tradition of American foreign policy. Our approach is idealistic about our national goals… and realistic about the means to achieve them,” states Bush.

The NSS document then goes on to set the priorities. It lists North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Belarus, Burma and Zimbabwe as candidates for future aggression, calling them tyrannies and/or sponsors of terrorism, with Iran clearly topping the list as today’s chosen land.

“We face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran,” warns the report.

This statement is probably the most significant in the 54-page document. A little over three years ago, Iraq was Washington’s public enemy No.1 and despite talk of diplomacy, Pentagon plans to attack were well advanced and the rest is history still unfolding. The fabricated justification alleging WMD was what being “realistic about the means” signifies in real terms. A year earlier, and riding on 9/11, Afghanistan was No.1.

On April 11, when the president was telling a group of international relations students at John Hopkins University that talk of an attack was still premature, Israel, the closest US ally, and the Middle East’s nuclear weapons power, said Iran should be “confronted by a broad and determined coalition.” The following day Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for “strong steps” from the UN Security Council.

The fact is that the US has been itching to launch a full-scale attack against Iran for years; what better place to try out the latest in “tactical” nukes. The only deterrent has been Iran’s defense preparation and the unknown effects of such an attack on the region and the world. When the US backed Saddam Hussein in his 1980-89 war on Iran, it wanted to help topple the Iranian Revolution; however, the resolute Iranians proved a much tougher match than expected.


Preparing to defend against a superpower aggressor is not something that takes place overnight and can involve virtually an entire population. Cuba, more than any country, can share its experiences.

From the time the Cuban Revolution triumphed on January 1, 1959 no time was lost in the preparation for what would inevitably come in the form of the Bay of Pigs invasion 52 months later. Just as with Iran, the US has longed to turn the clock back on Havana to the days when the “friendly” dictator Batista and Meyer Lansky’s boys ran the Caribbean island.

Analogical to current events, it should be remembered that the US denied plotting an invasion of Cuba well into the invasion itself.

The Bay of Pigs fiasco was defeated in less than 72 hours and the Kennedy administration got cold feet about sending in more troops or bombers. Subsequently, successive US governments have enforced a fierce blockade against Cuba.

For its part, Iran believes it has the right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to develop a nuclear power program to diversify its energy sources. President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian authorities have repeatedly said that Iran’s nuclear program is being developed for peaceful domestic energy purposes.

However, the US maintains a policy that says only its allies should be allowed to develop such nuclear technology. The irony is that the original idea of Iran developing nuclear energy came when the United States sold it a reactor back in 1959. At that time Iran’s dictator, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah, was in power and Washington supported the idea.

Of the world’s currently operating 443 nuclear plants, 383 or 86.45 percent are in developed countries—North America (122), Europe (174), Japan (56) and Russia (31).

Since it refuses to buckle under US pressure, Iran is now close to facing sanctions when the UN Security Council meets in the coming weeks and Washington prepares its ultimatums, which could soon include military action.

“Suddenly it looks like the policy is not tough diplomacy, but the path to war,” Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington told the Los Angeles Times.

US intelligence agencies and the Pentagon routinely draft plans to undermine or attack countries that fail to respond to hardball diplomacy or outright threats.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, (R-Tenn) tried to calm fears this week of a pending attack by saying, “We believe there has been much overstatement in the American press with regard to the use of military force in Iran.”

To put the “overstatement” into perspective, in the last 50 years the US has carried out military and CIA operations in among other countries: Puerto Rico, Korea, Iran, Vietnam, Guatemala, Egypt, Lebanon, Panama, Iraq, Laos, Cuba, Indonesia, Dominican Republic, Cambodia, Oman, Chile, Angola, Libya, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Grenada, Honduras, Bolivia, Virgin Islands, Liberia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Haiti, Zaire, Albania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Colombia, Philippines and Pakistan.

Whose next?

U.S. military operations are already 'underway' in Iran

Retired colonel claims U.S. military operations are already 'underway' in Iran

Ron Brynaert
Published: Saturday April 15, 2006

During an interview on CNN Friday night, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner claimed that U.S. military operations are already 'underway' inside Iran, RAW STORY has found.

"I would say -- and this may shock some -- I think the decision has been made and military operations are under way," Col. Gardiner told CNN International anchor Jim Clancy (as noted by Digby at the blog Hullabaloo).

(Crooks and Liars has a video clip of the interview)

Gardiner, who designed a war game in November of 2004 for Atlantic Magazine ("Will Iran be next?") which simulated "preparations for a U.S. assault on Iran," also claimed that Aliasghar Soltaniyeh, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told him a few weeks ago that units who had attacked the Revolutionary Guard had been captured and confessed to working with Americans.

"The secretary point is, the Iranians have been saying American military troops are in there, have been saying it for almost a year," Gardiner said. "I was in Berlin two weeks ago, sat next to the ambassador, the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA. And I said, 'Hey, I hear you're accusing Americans of being in there operating with some of the units that have shot up revolution guard units.'"

"He said, quite frankly, 'Yes, we know they are. We've captured some of the units, and they've confessed to working with the Americans,'" said the retired Air Force colonel.

Last Thursday, Raw Story's Larisa Alexandrovna reported (On Cheney, Rumsfeld order, US outsourcing special ops, intelligence to Iraq terror group, intelligence officials say) that, according to former and current intelligence officials, the Pentagon has been using a right-wing terrorist organization known as Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) as an operational asset "to create strife in Iran in preparation for any possible attack."

"[I]nstead of securing a known terrorist organization, which has been responsible for acts of terror against Iranian targets and individuals all over the world – including US civilian and military casualties – Rumsfeld under instructions from Cheney, began using the group on special ops missions into Iran to pave the way for a potential Iran strike," Larisa reported.

"They are doing whatever they want, no oversight at all,” an intelligence source told Larisa.

Larisa reported that the MEK soldiers were told to "quit" their organization and were "renamed" in accordance with a plan conceived by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld so that they could be "converted" into a military special ops team.

According to a UN official close to the Security Council whom Larisa interviewed, the "newly renamed MEK soldiers" were being employed in the place of U.S. military advance teams to commit "acts of violence in hopes of staging an insurgency of the Iranian Sunni population."

“We are already at war,” the UN official told RAW STORY.

Script for invasion of Iran appears headed for production

If you listen and read carefully, you will get a sense of déjà vu right now.
Remember Iraq? It’s like that….

A quietly rising media jingoism campaign is already beginning to stoke fear among the American people that Iran is an out-of-control regime dead set on raining down nuclear fire on innocent children.

So it is no real surprise that investigative journalist Seymour Hersh recently penned an article for the New Yorker revealing that the Bush Administration is currently laying the groundwork for an invasion of the Persian nation.

Iran is at least two and as much as 10 years away from developing a viable nuclear weapon, according to intelligence experts who spoke with Narco News. Even then, Iran would have a petty nuke arsenal that would be more than checkmated by much larger arsenals in India, Pakistan, Israel, China and the United States, among others.

So why the rush to war?

Well, to explore that subject, Narco News decided to check in with a trusted source -- a consultant who was recently invited to Washington, D.C., to bid on a contract to help develop an Iran war plan for the Pentagon. The source came forward after discovering that the insanity of the Bush Administration’s plan for Iran, as it was laid out in the contract negotiations, merited exposure.
Now, many folks reading this notebook may immediately conclude that a writer for Narco News couldn’t possibly have the inside skinny on this insanity. After all, Bill Conroy is no Seymour Hersh.

Still, I feel compelled to convey what I was told and only ask that you mark the link to this story. Then, six months from now, you can look back and see if any of it was on the mark. In terms of preventing this madness from unfolding in the meantime, well, that is something that can’t wait six months.

So, following, in brief, is what the source had to say about what he was told by Pentagon officials, whom, he claims, were seeking to hire him to help develop a strategy to get the American people “on board” with this Iran plan. (The goal, the source says, is to “educate” the American people, not through PR, but by “tweaking the danger” factor, to get the people to “support the government’s pronouncements about how much of a danger Iran is to us.”)

The source claims this Iran plan has been in the works for about 24 months, blowing out of the water any claim by the administration that it is a “contingency” plan.

The Pentagon, this consultant adds, plans to spend $1 billion to “refurbish” the two existing major bases the U.S. military now operates in Iraq.

"If we (U.S. troops) are getting out of Iraq in a year or so, they would not be spending $1 billion to refurbish the bases,” the consultant stresses.

In addition, the Pentagon plans to appropriate, through various channels, another $2 billion to build a third major base and three smaller ones, the source says.

“Then they will begin moving in aircraft and other equipment within three to four months,” the source says. “They are talking about maintaining 100,000 troops long-term (in Iraq). The plan is for the bases to be permanent.”

Included in the "equipment" shipped into Iraq for the assault on Iran will be tactical nuclear weapons, for use in targeting deep underground installations, the consultant claims. The troop preparation for the invasion of Iran, and the invasion itself, will be staged from U.S. bases in Iraq, he adds.

“They will need ground troops for the invasion of Iran,” the consultant says. “A 100,000 troops is not enough, but it’s better than trying to bring all of the necessary troops in from far away.”

Within six months (prior to the upcoming Congressional elections), the strategic bombing is slated to begin in Iran, the consultant claims. However, he says because there are an estimated 100 or more unknown underground sites that are being used as part of Iran’s fledgling nuclear program, strategic bombing (even tactical nuclear weapons) alone won’t do the trick, the consultant says, which is why the ground troops must be committed to the war effort.

The Bush Administration will launch the invasion with or without the consent of Congress, the consultant claims. The legal justification that will be used, according to information supplied to him by Justice Department attorneys, is that the Iraq war resolution adopted by Congress also authorizes the action in Iran.

The consultant adds that the rationale for the invasion currently being packaged for the media and the American public by the Pentagon (Iran’s supposed imminent nuclear-weapon threat) is a red herring -- the bait for the jaws of war.

“We’ve gone through nine reasons for going into Iraq,” the consultant says. “They aren’t looking for reality here (in the planned Iran invasion) either. The real reason for this (new war) is to rally the American people to get the administration out of the horrible bind they’re in.”

That’s right, it is an election year, and the big threat to the Bush Administration is not really Iran, after all. Rather, it’s a changing of the guard in Washington that might put Democrats in the position of setting up their own congressional committees with subpoena power.

Like I said, check back at this link in six months to see if I did, in fact, get an advance copy of the Iran War script.

However, I, for one, hope this Wag the Dog Tale never makes it to production.

The Poor Man's Air Force - The History of the Car Bomb

Buda's Wagon (1920)

"You have shown no pity to us! We will do likewise. We will dynamite you!

-- Anarchist warning (1919)

"Return to Sender" (Car Bombs, Part 2)

In the first part of his unique history of the car bomb, "The Poor Man's Air Force," Mike Davis (author of the only significant book on the Avian flu, The Monster at Our Door, and Planet of Slums, a startling analysis of the way significant parts of our planet have been rapidly urbanizing and de-industrializing all at once) took us up through a crucial moment in 1984. It was then that Hezbollah sent the Reagan administration into flight in Lebanon with its massive suicide car bombings and perhaps altered the state of our planet forever. In the second part of his history, we enter a "return to sender" world in which the sponsorship of "surrogate terrorism" blows back all over the globe and the car bomb becomes a near universal weapon of destruction.

Guantanamo by the Tigris

The U.S. government/military has been illegally squatting on Cuban soil for more than a century. Now AP reports on the new U.S. "embassy" being built in Baghdad:
The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future.

The embassy complex -- 21 buildings on 104 acres, according to a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee report -- is taking shape on riverside parkland in the fortified "Green Zone."

"Embassy Baghdad" will dwarf new U.S. embassies elsewhere, projects that typically cover 10 acres. The embassy's 104 acres is six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York, and two-thirds the acreage of Washington's National Mall.

It will have its own water wells, electricity plant and wastewaster-treatment facility, "systems to allow 100 percent independence from city utilities," says the report, the most authoritative open source on the embassy plans.

Security, overseen by U.S. Marines, will be extraordinary: setbacks and perimeter no-go areas that will be especially deep, structures reinforced to 2.5-times the standard, and five high-security entrances, plus an emergency entrance-exit, the Senate report says.

Consider all that security and self-containment in the light of this:
Iraq's interim government transferred the land to U.S. ownership in October 2004, under an agreement whose terms were not disclosed.

The interim government referred to was, as readers will remember, appointed by the United States, and while it was recognized by the United Nations as being the "sovereign government" of a "sovereign country," that can't really be taken seriously, any more than the Platt Amendment, signed at the point of a gun, by which the U.S. gained control of Guantanamo. Can we expect the U.S. to be occupying this fortress in the heart of Baghdad indefinitely in the future, even in the face of a future hostile Iraqi government? My money's on "yes," which is why they've already designed it for the security and self-sufficiency they had to build into Guantanamo years later.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The McKinney Affair - Rampaging Racism and a Cowardly Caucus

There are profound lessons to be learned from the ongoing travails of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), under siege by white America at large, the leadership of her own party, and the chairman of her own caucus.

In the aftermath of McKinney’s run-in with a Capitol Hill police officer, we have witnessed an orgy of unadulterated defamation that is actually directed at Black women in general. In rejecting and denouncing McKinney’s defense, her tormentors demonstrate that the very concept of racial profiling was never sincerely accepted among most white Americans, and that 9/11 is just an excuse for undoing decades of legal and political struggles against the abominable practice.

So virulent and shameless have been the attacks on McKinney – spewing caricatures of the six-term lawmaker that reflect whites’ own hallucinatory visions of Black people – it leads us to conclude that racists are conducting a kind of ritual, an exorcism to cast the “militant Black” out of the national polity, once and for all. Disgustingly, a number of Black voices have joined mob, in order to prove that they are reasonable and trustworthy Negroes who won’t intrude on white folks’ illusions of innocence.

Most distressingly, the McKinney affair dramatically demonstrates that the Congressional Black Caucus has been eviscerated as a body. The CBC is revealed as collectively gutless, devoid of any semblance of Black solidarity, without which it has no reason for being.

CBC Hits New Low

We at BC had previously believed that April, 2005, when 37 percent of the 42 Black House members voted for Republican bills, was the lowest point in Congressional Black Caucus history. A year later, the CBC has found a new nadir. On the evening of April 5, undoubtedly on orders from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, CBC chairman Mel Watt gathered twenty or so members to browbeat McKinney into firing her legal team and cease appearing before the media. Watt absented himself from the beat-down, so that it would not appear to be an “official” CBC event.

As congressional aides wandered in and out of the room, some Members dutifully echoed Pelosi’s demand that McKinney not frame the March 28 confrontation with the policeman as a “racial” incident, and that she issue an apology on the House floor the following morning. According to several sources who spoke with BC on condition of anonymity, and based on an account given by McKinney staff assistant Faye Coffield to a weekly Atlanta meeting of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, a “consensus” was reached that McKinney would deliver the apology and abandon efforts to defend herself in the media (although not her legal team).

The next morning, at the appointed hour, McKinney was prepared to offer her apology to the House. But Mel Watt had already put the word out that CBC members were to renege on their part of the deal. The Caucus must not stand with McKinney when she stepped to the microphone. Mel Watt, Nancy Pelosi’s poodle, attempted to enforce his Mistress’s wish that McKinney appear utterly isolated and alone. Nothing should distract from the Democrats’ non-strategy of doing and saying nothing until mid-term elections in November. The Republicans must be allowed to self-destruct without interference. McKinney’s charge of racial profiling was a distraction from the Democratic non-strategy – so she must be shunned. Mel Watt was the enforcer – the designated shunner-in-chief.

Pelosi appears to harbor a deep hatred for McKinney, whom she cannot control. Most recently, the 51-year-old Georgia lawmaker defied the Leader’s orders, voting in favor of a Republican bill, cynically modeled on Democrat John Murtha’s measure for a quick exit from Iraq. She was among only three Democrats, and the only CBC member, to do so. McKinney also ignored Pelosi’s order that Democrats boycott hearings on Katrina and leave the field to Republicans.

However, Pelosi has been the aggressor all along, bent on bringing the CBC and other progressives to heel as she pursues her spineless non-strategy for victory by default over the GOP – a scenario that by definition requires African Americans to mute their own demands, to be quiet and compliant. When McKinney returned to congress in January 2005 after a two-year hiatus, Pelosi denied her seniority, bumping her down to freshman status despite her previous ten years on The Hill. Not a peep from the CBC, cowed by their Leader and, recent events have shown, packed with members who are themselves fearful that McKinney’s militancy will raise the bar of constituent expectations for their own performances on Black people’s behalf.

On the House floor, the morning of April 6, Pelosi/Watt had set McKinney up for further humiliation. Not only would she be required to deliver an apology that would be seen as an admission of guilt (by those who had already condemned and defamed her), but the absence of CBC members at her side would mark her as a lone “extremist,” a “loon” whose politics could be dismissed out of hand. Why, even McKinney’s own colleagues won’t stand with her. She’s crazy (like the rest of those darkies who cry racism).

According to several congressional sources, McKinney confronted a gaggle of CBC members, reminding them of the consensus agreement of the night before, in which they had promised a display of physical solidarity at the microphone in return for her concessions. White Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), seeing the commotion, hurried over to the Black circle: “I’ll stand with you, Cynthia.” Others stepped forward to fulfill their pledge, despite CBC chairman Mel Watt’s treacherous machinations.

Here is a partial list of those who were videotaped standing with McKinney when she read the words of apology that had been demanded of her:

* Elijah Cummings (MD)
* Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (MI)
* Barbara Lee (CA)
* Alcee Hastings (FL)
* Maxine Waters (CA)
* Bobby Rush (IL)
* Corrine Brown (FL)
* Major Owens (NY)
* Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX)
Marcy Kaptur (OH)
Dennis Kucinich (OH)
Jose Serrano (NY)
Bob Filner (CA)
*CBC members
Only nine of the 20-plus CBC members who had reached “consensus” on standing with their sister the night before, bucked Pelosi’s petty dictatorial edict – and straw-boss Mel Watt’s attempt to enforce it.

Once upon a time, the CBC could collectively call itself “the conscience of the congress.” No more.

Multi-Profiling and Sheer Malevolence

By bowing to Pelosi, Black congresspersons reinforce her and other white’s belief that they can pick and choose the African American leaders and representatives they deal with, and isolate the rest, while still retaining mass Black support for the Democratic Party. Such Blacks are enablers of racism, and must eventually pay the price at the hands of their constituents, who are no different than the Black Georgia voters who sent McKinney to Washington six times. Worse, in urging McKinney to drop the “racial” aspect of her defense – to pretend that she was not racially profiled, when they know that police profiling is near-universal – they do grave injury to fundamental Black interests.

Days after his attempt to pound McKinney into dust, the duplicitous Mel Watt related to the Charlotte Observer his own scary run-in with Capitol police “a year or so ago”:

"I was running to the floor to vote and an officer said, `Can I see your ID?' and I said, `No' and kept running. I looked back and he had his hand on his gun. Then another (Capitol) police officer said, `Member.' He recognized me (as a House member). It just so happened that the first (officer) was white and the other one was black ... I was probably very rash. In retrospect, I thought to myself, `You had to be out of your mind.' I was trying to get to a vote and he had a job to do."

Watt understands very well that the Black officer, who didn’t go for his gun, but instead called his white partner off, was intervening in a case of racial profiling. Yet Watt’s desire to stay in the good graces of his Leader, Pelosi, drives him to conspire against a fellow Black congressperson, Cynthia McKinney, whose recent hair makeover is said to have made her fair game to be accosted by Capitol police. Said McKinney:

“Do I have to contact the police every time I change my hairstyle? How do we account for the fact that when I wore my braids every day for 11 years, I still faced this problem, primarily from certain police officers.”

Nobody knows better than Black officers that racism is rampant in the Capitol Police force. Of the 1,200 officers, 29 percent are Black, and many still have racial bias suits outstanding. "You have, basically, a renegade police department up here, that’s been operating under the protection of Congress," said Charles J. Ware, an attorney representing the Capitol Black Police Association.

But it’s not just race. Police officers, like workers in any organization, spend much of their time talking shop. For Capitol police, the subject of their shop-talk is the members of congress they are hired to protect. Cynthia McKinney is famous – no less so on Capitol Hill. She is the Black woman viciously branded as a friend of “terrorists,” the most uppity African American in the federal legislature. The cops are quite aware of what she looks like, new hair-do or not.

A McKinney lawyer got it right when he told a Howard University press conference that his client was targeted for reasons of “sex, race and Ms. McKinney's progressiveness."

The cops know who McKinney is – they have profiled her politically. Michael C. Ruppert, former Los Angeles cop and current honcho of the popular web site From the Wilderness, has felt the police hostility directed at his longtime friend, Cynthia McKinney:

” I have walked the halls of Congress with Cynthia McKinney maybe eight to ten times. I have walked into and out of the Cannon and Longworth house office buildings with her. I have walked to hearings in the Rayburn house office building with her. I have walked the underground tunnels from one of those office buildings directly to the edge of the House floor and its anteroom with her. I can tell you one thing for certain because I have seen it and I have felt it. Cynthia McKinney and her staff get treated differently from just about anyone else on the Hill. It’s subtle, but so is the taste of dirt when it’s in your mouth.”

Although the Capitol police have failed to produce a surveillance tape of McKinney’s confrontation with their officer, the congresswoman captured one incident in the movie, “American Blackout,” now being screened at sites around the country. The film depicts McKinney’s investigation of voting irregularities in the 2000 elections. One segment shows the congresswoman being accosted by police as she and her party approach the Longworth building of the Capitol. McKinney turns to the camera and reports that police subject her to such treatment “all the time.”

Does that happen to 535 members of congress “all the time”? Not hardly.

California Rep. Tom Lantos, according to the web reference site Wikipedia, “ran over a teenager in the Capitol parking area and refused to stop despite screams from the crowd. He never apologized for the hit-and-run either." The Boston Globe reported that Lantos was not charged with hit-and-run, but was only fined $25 for ''failure to pay full time and attention." However, a teacher accompanying the student was threatened with arrest by Capitol police when she chased Lantos’ car, demanding that he stop.

Apparently Capitol police are quite zealous in protecting their lawmakers – if they are white.

In an otherwise inane, anti-McKinney article, Black columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson gave some historical perspective to recent events:

“In past years, the Caucus raised heck when a white Republican Congressman punched a black Capitol police officer and a year later Ohio Democratic Representative Louis Stokes was hassled by Capitol police. And the Congressional Black Caucus rushed to their defense.”
Not this time, not for Cynthia McKinney. The Congressional Black Caucus is broken.

Sex and the Federal City

Around midnight on April 8, Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson performed a grotesque, bewigged skit in which he conjured up a fat, sloppy, dull-witted, belligerent, loud-talking, no-listening, from-deep-in-the-ghetto character who was supposed to be – Cynthia McKinney. Of course, this TV minstrel’s interpretation bore no resemblance to the congressperson – daughter of one of Atlanta’s first Black policemen, a former faculty member at Clark Atlanta University, world traveler and sought-after speaker, six-term legislator. But that did not matter. Although SNL does superb work caricaturing public personalities, its usual standards did not apply in McKinney’s case. The skit was a dehumanizing assault on Black women as a group, with “Cynthia” standing in for the female gender of her race.

A specific profile of Black women exists in the minds of vast sections of white America. As Dr. Abdul Karim Bangura relates in this issue of BC, in “an analysis of White students’ stereotypes of Black women by professor of women’s studies and sociology Rose Weitz at Arizona State University and Wakonse fellow Leonard Gordon at the same university, the students primarily characterize Black women as loud, aggressive, argumentative, stubborn, and bitchy.”

White men (and women, and some Black men) on and off Capitol Hill are eager to vilify and diminish McKinney, to call her a “bitch,” a “racist,” “crazy” and all manner of epithets. This abuse is actually directed against the defamers’ twisted idea of who and what Black women are. So diseased are their minds, they see only their sickness-induced delusions. White supremacy allows them to translate their delusions into public policy. September 11 gave them a free pass to run buck wild, with no apologies, under the umbrella of “homeland security.”

Black Voters Will Decide

It can be no consolation to Rep. McKinney that she is just a convenient target for what we now recognize as a great resurgence of racism in the United States. The South rules, a South that is not defined geographically, but socio-politically. White Americans have become much more homogenous in the electronic and high-mobility age – to the detriment of sanity. Their never-forsaken dreams of domestic and planetary racial conquest were given a Frankenstein-like jolt and boost by the Bush regime, which spoke directly to the predatory core of American myth and historical practice. Emboldened, they have snared Cynthia McKinney in one of their IRTs: Improvised Racist Traps. She awaits the decision of a grand jury.

The moral and political collapse of the Congressional Black Caucus could not come at a worse time – but it has occurred. Corroded by corporate money, dependent on corporate media – with the near-extinction of independent Black media – adrift in the gulf between the needs of the Black masses and the narrow aspirations of the miniscule hyper-mobile Black classes, and still steeped in rank male chauvinism, much of Black “leadership” cannot abide a genuinely progressive, charismatic female in their midst. Many also look on in sulking jealousy at the burgeoning unity and militancy of Latinos, whose grassroots are on the move, and whose media support their cause.

The CBC cannot even support each other.

When CBC members urged Cynthia McKinney to forsake the truth, to hide the ugly fact of racial (and political, and sexual) profiling, they gave enormous aide and comfort to the enemy. If there was one victory that African Americans had achieved in the post-Civil Rights era, it was to make racial profiling legally, politically and socially unacceptable. This victory was the fruit of countless suits, demonstrations – all manner of political struggles – and the legacy of the legions of dead, maimed, jailed and humiliated victims of profiling who became the focus of sustained Black action.

September 11 provided the excuse to undo decades of anti-profiling victories. Profiling is reckoned to be a good thing. Now the racists seek to reestablish arbitrary and capricious white supremacy, with legislation that would de facto deputize every police officer as an agent of “homeland security” who need not respect the constitution in the case of “suspected” undocumented immigrants. At that point, all persons of color become grist for the suspicion mill. Just as the Capitol policeman chose not to “recognize” Cynthia McKinney as a congressperson, any cop could willfully fail to recognize his fellow Americans and strip them of their rights. Such a regime already exists in designated “drug zones” in urban America, where everyone is suspect.

Yet the CBC allows Republicans and racist Democrats to jeer and bully Cynthia McKinney into a legal cul-de-sac, because she dares to cite profiling.

The masses of African Americans know the deal – they are profiled constantly in stores, when observed outside their neighborhoods, on the highways, when breathing while Black. McKinney’s version of events does not seem bizarre to them. Although the laughing racist hyenas convince each other – with the tacit help of CBC chair Mel Watt – that McKinney is on the ropes, it is the Black constituents of Dekalb County who will decide if she is “crazy” for standing up for her (and our) dignity and rights.

When McKinney arrived back in Atlanta shortly after her confrontation with the uniformed profiler, State Representative Tyrone Brooks, president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, was among those to greet and support her: "It's really not about Cynthia McKinney,” said Brooks. “It's about African-Americans in America who are victims of racial profiling every day."

Much of the Congressional Black Caucus seem to have lost touch with this reality. As a body, they have lost their moorings, and must be rehabilitated, surgically. A bunch of them have got to go.

BC Co-Publishers Glen Ford and Peter Gamble are writing a book to be titled, Barack Obama and the Crisis in Black Leadership.

Five Worker-controlled Factories in Venezuela: Can Socialism be Achieved through the Bolivarian Process? By Sharat G. Lin

12 April 2006

Five Worker-controlled Factories in Venezuela:
Can Socialism be Achieved through the Bolivarian Process?

By Sharat G. Lin

Historical background

President Hugo Chávez won his first election in December 1998 on the radical platform of his party, Movimiento Quinta República (Movement of the Fifth Republic, also commonly written Movimiento V República or MVR). In a 1999 referendum, voters approved a new constitution, renaming the country República Bolivariana de Venezuela. The election of 2000, re-elected Chávez and placed many members of the MVR into the National Assembly. At the grassroots level, supporters of the Bolivarian process (el proceso Bolivariano) organized themselves into open participatory assemblies called Círculos Bolivarianos (Bolivarian Circles).

However, Chávez faced fierce opposition from the private media (dominated by wealthy capitalist families), industrialists, bureaucrats in the oil industry, large landowners, and many shopkeepers and professionals (elements of the petty bourgeoisie). Government attempts in 2001 to assert more control over the state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), led to a general work stoppage organized by the opposition in December 2001. This was followed by a coup attempt in April 2002 in which businessman Pedro Carmona Estanga proclaimed himself president of an interim government with the support of a section of the military, press, business community, and labor bureaucracy. Carmona was then president of the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Federación de Cámaras y Asociaciones de Comercio y Producción de Venezuela, also known as Fedecámaras). Chávez was ousted from the presidential palace (Palacio de Miraflores) for two days until well over a million of his supporters stormed out of the barrios to surround the palace demanding his reinstatement. With the people’s backing, civil authorities, troops and palace guards loyal to Chávez reinstated him.

The traditional labor federation, Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CTV) has been considered to be the leading trade union body in the country. Claiming to represent over 1 million workers, CTV has consistently supported the opposition and opposition-led general strikes. In December 2002, CTV joined forces with Fedecámaras (!) to lead a prolonged anti-government strike in the oil industry from December 2002 to February 2003. The strike slashed oil exports, sending the country into a steep recession. A resolution of the crisis and end to violence was negotiated in May 2003 with the mediation of the Organization of American States (OAS), calling for a recall referendum on Chávez’s presidency. In August 2004, Chávez won the referendum with 59 per cent of the votes cast. While elements of the opposition and the U.S. government challenged the validity of the count, the OAS and the Carter Center certified the fairness of the vote. (Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, one of hundreds independent foreign election observers, stated that in his opinion the vote in Venezuela was fairer than the voting process in Florida in the 2000 U.S. presidential election.)

The oil strike of 2002-2003 symbolized the quasi-class divide within PDVSA itself in which white collar professional employees largely supported the opposition strike to oust Chávez and blue collar workers largely supported him. While the Venezuelan economy suffered two successive years of disastrous 9 per cent declines in GDP in the years of the oil strike, a positive outcome of the turmoil was that the oil workers and government wrested control of PDVSA from the former opposition management. Some 18,000 executives and professionals out of PDVSA’s 46,000 employees were fired in the process for their role in the strike to bring down the economy and the government. But, the resulting new PDVSA has been substantially restructured with features of state-worker co-management, and now provides nearly $4 billion in direct annual funding for social projects, bypassing the separate state programs funded indirectly by oil revenues.

In 2002 and 2003, it was acknowledged that the CTV leadership had received training and financial support from the U.S.’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) through the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center, long known as conduits for U.S. government funding (mainly USAID and State Department) with the objective of co-opting trade union bureaucrats in developing countries to collaborate with management by fostering “skilful collective bargaining.” In 2000, a new trade union federation was formed, Frente Bolivariano de Trabajadores (FBT), and in 2003, the Unión Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT) was established. Over time, many unions have severed their ties to the CTV and affiliated with the UNT or the FBT. No longer held back by the CTV’s corrupt leadership and its ties to the old business elites, UNT- and FBT-affiliated workers were at last freed to demand their just labor rights and act in the interests of the working class and poor.

Until the August 2004 referendum, industrialists had hoped to unseat Chávez by one means or another. As it became clearer that each successive attempt was destined to fail, industrialists, businessmen, and wealthy landlords accelerated the flight of capital out of the country. One aspect was the draining of value from fixed capital assets by taking out oversized loans collateralized against those assets, ostensibly for reinvestment in factories, and then fleeing the country with the money in hand. Thus, the year 2004 saw an upsurge in industrial bankruptcies with owners seeking to close down “sick” factories and idle thousands of workers. This flight of capital continues to accounts for the 10-20 per cent differential between the official exchange rate valuation of the Venezuelan currency, the Bolívar, and its black market value, despite an economy that grew at a healthy 8.3 per cent in 2005 and rising foreign exchange reserves ($31 billion at the end of 2005) bolstered by increasing crude oil prices.

With the Bolivarian government seeking to develop “21st century socialism”, it offered financial support to workers willing to organize into cooperatives. However, the ambient economic system remained overwhelmingly capitalist, and the relations of exchange remained fully market capitalist. In this context, Chávez recognized the need to work within the legal framework of the constitution and bourgeois law in order maintain continuity of production. Thus, wholesale expropriation of private capital and defaulting on private bank loans was not generally supported by the government. Instead, the state served to negotiate terms of transfer, typically putting up a major share of the capital with which to pay off external debts and restart production, and mandated the transfer of full legal title to workers’ cooperatives. Under worker-state “co-management” schemes, it was understood that the state will gradually reduce its equity share as revenues from factory production would enable workers to collectively increase their share capital over time.

Note that although the term “cooperativa” is more widely used that “colectivo” in Venezuela, it is generally associated with de facto workers’ control and statutory workers’ ownership. Thus, it implies a collective in Marxist terminology, rather than merely a cooperative of shared efforts, facilities, and resources. The following case studies of five worker-controlled factories in Venezuela provide some insight into the actual functioning of the Bolivarian process in the incremental transformation of the social relations of production.

Alcasa (Aluminio del Caroní, S.A.)
Ciudad Guayana, Estado Bolívar

Alcasa was founded on 14 October 1967 as a state enterprise. It produces aluminium by operating a carbon plant, foundry plant, and rolling mill employing 2700 workers. In 2004, Alcasa was reorganized as a worker-controlled cooperative under a scheme of “co-management” with the Venezuelan government. The state share of the ownership will decline over time as the workers’ cooperative generates the revenue to increase its equity share in the company. The workers’ cooperative is part of a larger umbrella cooperative that operates primarily in the mining and metellugical industries – Corporación Venezolana de Guayana.

Carlos Lanz is president of Alcasa. In an interview in one of the films by Dario Azzellini and Oliver Ressler, Lanz says that he is the only employee who does not come from among the workers of the company. Rather he represents the state, being on loan from the Venezuelan central government to Alcasa to help ensure a smooth and successful transition from bureaucratic state ownership to workers’ co-management. This is understandable from the standpoint of the Venezuelan government, since the success of the transition in such a large enterprise will inevitably have a demonstration effect, positive or negative, on future attempts to transform capitalist and state capitalist relations of production into a collective socialist ones.

Lanz demonstrates clarity in his understanding of the mode of production. He says that in the Soviet Union, industries, farms, and other enterprises were nationalized, but management did not pass on to the workers. [Here he refers to the 1930s, not the workers’ seizures of factories and the subsequent establishment of workers’ soviets after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.] He calls this “state capitalism” or “bureaucrat capitalism”. He, thus, differentiates worker co-management (“socialism from below”) from the top-down Soviet model of the Stalin period. He further acknowledges the challenges of creating nuclei of “21st century socialism” within the context of a capitalism mode of production in Venezuela and in the world.

Textileros del Táchira
San Cristóbal, Estado Táchira

Formerly a privately-owned capitalist enterprise, the former owners looted the company with bad debts until it went into bankruptcy in 2004. In order to save the factory and their jobs, the workers organized into a cooperative to reopen the factory in 2005. The factory performs cotton spinning and weaving, and employs 118 workers. All workers, no matter what position or skills they hold in the factory, earn the same salary. The company uses a portion of the revenues to provide social benefits directly to the community.

Caigua, C.A.
Altagracia de Orituco, Estado Guárico

When the private management of this small factory lost interest in running it, the company fell into arrears in payment of wages. When the workers learned that management was planning to sell off the remaining raw materials – tomato pulp – stored in the factory, the workers demanded to take over the plant. The government supported this transition financially and by facilitating the paperwork for legalization of the transfer of title. On 7 July 2005, control and ownership was handed over to the workers’ cooperative under a co-management scheme. The factory produces bottled tomato ketchup under the brand name Guárico and employs 58 workers. Its products are sold through the state distribution system for poor families, Misión Mercal through its extensive network of Mercal food stores.

Invepal (Industria Venezolana Endógena de Papel)
Morón, Estado Carabobo

Formerly the privately-owned paper company Venepal, the company had been in financial difficulty since the late 1990s. Conflict with the workers and the government sharpened when management joined in the oil industry shutdown in 2002-2003. But the resulting losses only worsened Venepal’s financial condition until it declared bankruptcy in 2004, and laid off its 900 workers in September of that year. However, 350 workers stayed on, demanding to take over operation of the factory and threatening to occupy it if the government did not take action.

In January 2005, with an injection of $7 million in state funding, a new worker-owned company was formed with the slogan “hecho en Venezuela”. Named as the Venezuelan Endogenous Paper Industry (Invepal), the new company sought to replace wood pulp imported from Chile with entirely domestic raw materials from the Venezuelan states of Anzoátegui and Monagas. This was part of the material component of a national program of desarrollo endógeno (endogenous development). [The social component of desarrollo endógeno is the encouragement of open participatory democracy from below in the running of all local organizations and collective enterprises.] The 350 workers of Invepal restarted production in March 2005, producing white copy paper and paper notebooks.

But more importantly, Invepal will be co-managed by join team of workers’ and state representatives. Initial equity ownership was divided between workers (51%) and the Venezuelan state (49%). Revenues from production would be used by the workers to gradually buy out the state’s share until the state retained only a symbolic 1 per cent “golden” share. Guidance in setting up a cooperative under worker ownership and worker management was being provided by joining the umbrella Cooperativa Venezolana de Industria de Pulpa y Papel (Covinpa).

Following the concept of “social production”, Invepal feeds many poor local school children in the company cafeteria and supports community development projects that are not otherwise funded by government programs. In other words, the surplus value of production is directed not into retained profits, but rather into social use value for the benefit of the local community.

Cacao Agro-industria
Península de Paria, Estado Sucre

This enterprise was reportedly the first to be converted to workers’ control in the Bolivarian process. It produces chocolate liquor which is sold as chocolate butter and chocolate non-fat solids to manufacturers of finished chocolate products. It includes a laboratory for testing the quality of incoming raw materials and outgoing products.

The cooperative actually consists of two member cooperatives. Unión de Productores de Cacao (Uproca) consists of 3600 cacao cultivators. Chocomar operates the factory with 96 workers. Each member cooperative elects 16 members to a joint 32-member assembly. Each also elects 4 members to a joint 8-member management team that coordinates day-to-day operations. All workers participate in the general body meetings to discuss long range plans and policies. One agreed-upon long-range plan is to gear up for production of finished chocolate products, such as chocolate pastries, bons bons, and chocolate candies.

Can socialism be achieved in Venezuela through the Bolivarian process?

The first three years of Hugo Chávez’s presidency, 1999-2001, were mainly preoccupied with consolidating political power in the face of a resentful opposition that had become accustomed to its historical monopoly over political power. The general strike of December 2002 – February 2003 marked a watershed by paving the way for workers to struggle for control of productive forces and take over factories in the wake of the Bolivarian coup in PDVSA management. Thus, between 2001 and 2006, if one includes PDVSA employees, the number of workers engaged in Bolivarian state enterprises, state-worker co-managed enterprises, or production collectives has grown from a negligible percentage to perhaps 2-3 per cent of the total labor force of 12.3 million (2005 estimate). Although PDVSA alone accounts for on the order of one-third of GDP (depending on the fluctuating international price of crude oil), enterprises potentially conforming to a socialist mode of production still engage only a very small fraction of the workforce. The ambient mode of production in Venezuela remains overwhelmingly capitalist. The relevant questions are several.

First, while worker co-managed factories may be viable in a growing economy, will they remain competitive in times of economic contraction in the context of an ambient capitalist mode of production? When the rules of exchange are driven by market forces of supply, demand, and manipulations of access to technology and finance by the much-larger capitalist sector, the deck could easily be stacked against socialist enterprises. The counterweight to capitalist technology and finance is, of course, the political and legal authority and financial clout of the Bolivarian state. But the prospects for future transitions to socialist production will depend in part on the success of the current collective experiments and their long-run economic viability.

Second, to what extent will the trend of conversions of capitalist enterprises into worker co-managed enterprises continue? As a section of industrialists decides to jump ship in the face of the rising tide of the Bolivarian process, the remaining industrialists consist of those who chose to stay and defend their companies maintaining their viability. Without resort to forced expropriations of private enterprises, the availability of sick industries that may become subject to worker occupation may level off. On the other hand, a new violent confrontation between Chávistas and opposition forces could provide a pretext for more industrialists to flee the country with all of their liquid and liquidatible assets. Another such confrontation is probably inevitable, given that the Bolivarian process tolerates incremental change over an indefinite period of time, and given that the social contradictions inherent in a situation of dual power (capitalist economic infrastructure versus worker-based political superstructure) are ultimately unsustainable.

Third, while Washington has critically tolerated a Bolivarian government in Caracas, unlike the economic boycott and travel ban that it has relentlessly imposed on socialist Cuba, further incremental movement towards a socialist mode of production could harden Bush administration policy as it tries to reassert the Monroe Doctrine in its “backyard”. Is there a threshold beyond which Washington will no longer tolerate Chávez and will seek extra-economic means to arrest the Bolivarian process? If U.S.-sponsored coup attempts continue to fail, the Bush administration will refuse to rule out pre-emptive military “options”. Once again this begs the question of socialism in one country. Nevertheless, Venezuela holds the oil card that Cuba never possessed as a lever on U.S. imperialism.

The available evidence strongly suggests that what has happened in Venezuela is not limited to the electoral victory of a worker-based party in a capitalist state. Rather the Bolivarian process is incrementally moving the country towards socialist relations of production is various sectors. While workers have achieved a measure of political power is a dual power situation, this does not imply any sort of “peaceful transition to socialism”. In fact, the transition from 2001 to 2003 has been anything but peaceful, only spread over a period of time instead of being concentrated in a single cataclysmic revolutionary overthrow of an old ruling class. These Bolivarian social experiments are not merely islands of socialism in a capitalist sea, but rather are connected by umbrella cooperative organizations, entities like the Coordinadora Nacional de Círculos Bolivarianos, and the vast array of politico-social structures intent on advancing the Bolivarian process. How far it can advance towards socialism remains to be seen. Perhaps the single more encouraging sign is that leading cadres like Carlos Lanz appear to have a profound understanding of the shortcomings of the Stalinist road to statism, and a commitment to pave a new path in “21st century socialism”. Precisely what that means will continue to be an unfolding drama in Venezuela.

Desert Rats Leave The Sinking Ship - Why Rumsfeld Should Not Resign By Greg Palast

Desert Rats Leave The Sinking Ship
Why Rumsfeld Should Not Resign

By Greg Palast

Well, here they come: the wannabe Rommels, the gaggle of generals, safely retired, to lay siege to Donald Rumsfeld. This week, six of them have called for the Secretary of Defense's resignation.

Well, according to my watch, they're about four years too late -- and they still don't get it.

I know that most of my readers will be tickled pink that the bemedalled boys in crew cuts are finally ready to kick Rummy in the rump, in public. But to me, it just shows me that these boys still can't shoot straight.

It wasn't Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who stood up in front of the UN and identified two mobile latrines as biological weapons labs, was it, General Powell?

It wasn't Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who told us our next warning from Saddam could be a mushroom cloud, was it Condoleezza?

It wasn't Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who declared that Al Qaeda and Saddam were going steady, was it, Mr. Cheney?

Yes, Rumsfeld is a swaggering bag of mendacious arrogance, a duplicitous chicken-hawk, yellow-bellied bully-boy and Tinker-Toy Napoleon -- but he didn't appoint himself Secretary of Defense.

Let me tell you a story about the Secretary of Defense you didn't read in the New York Times, related to me by General Jay Garner, the man our president placed in Baghdad as the US' first post-invasion viceroy.

Garner arrived in Kuwait City in March 2003 working under the mistaken notion that when George Bush called for democracy in Iraq, the President meant the Iraqis could choose their own government. Misunderstanding the President's true mission, General Garner called for Iraqis to hold elections within 90 days and for the U.S. to quickly pull troops out of the cities to a desert base. "It's their country," the General told me of the Iraqis. "And," he added, most ominously, "their oil."

Let's not forget: it's all about the oil. I showed Garner a 101-page plan for Iraq's economy drafted secretly by neo-cons at the State Department, Treasury and the Pentagon, calling for "privatization" (i.e. the sale) of "all state assets ... especially in the oil and oil-supporting industries." The General knew of the plans and he intended to shove it where the Iraqi sun don't shine. Garner planned what he called a "Big Tent" meeting of Iraqi tribal leaders to plan elections. By helping Iraqis establish their own multi-ethnic government -- and this was back when Sunnis, Shias and Kurds were on talking terms -- knew he could get the nation on its feet peacefully before a welcomed "liberation" turned into a hated "occupation."

But, Garner knew, a freely chosen coalition government would mean the death-knell for the neo-con oil-and-assets privatization grab.

On April 21, 2003, three years ago this month, the very night General Garner arrived in Baghdad, he got a call from Washington. It was Rumsfeld on the line. He told Garner, in so many words, "Don't unpack, Jack, you're fired."

Rummy replaced Garner, a man with years of on-the-ground experience in Iraq, with green-boots Paul Bremer, the Managing Director of Kissinger Associates. Bremer cancelled the Big Tent meeting of Iraqis and postponed elections for a year; then he issued 100 orders, like some tin-pot pasha, selling off Iraq's economy to U.S. and foreign operators, just as Rumsfeld's neo-con clique had desired.

Reading this, it sounds like I should applaud the six generals' call for Rumfeld's ouster. Forget it.

For a bunch of military hotshots, they sure can't shoot straight. They're wasting all their bullets on the decoy. They've gunned down the puppet instead of the puppeteers.

There's no way that Rumsfeld could have yanked General Garner from Baghdad without the word from The Bunker. Nothing moves or breathes or spits in the Bush Administration without Darth Cheney's growl of approval. And ultimately, it's the Commander-in-Chief who's chiefly in command.

Even the generals' complaint -- that Rumsfeld didn't give them enough troops -- was ultimately a decision of the cowboy from Crawford. (And by the way, the problem was not that we lacked troops -- the problem was that we lacked moral authority to occupy this nation. A million troops would not be enough -- the insurgents would just have more targets.)

President Bush is one lucky fella. I can imagine him today on the intercom with Cheney: "Well, pardner, looks like the game's up." And Cheney replies, "Hey, just hang the Rumsfeld dummy out the window until he's taken all their ammo."

When Bush and Cheney read about the call for Rumsfeld's resignation today, I can just hear George saying to Dick, "Mission Accomplished."

Generals, let me give you a bit of advice about choosing a target: It's the President, stupid.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Danger of Hugo Chávez's Successful Socialism by Ted Rall

When the hated despots of nations like Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan loot their countries' treasuries, transfer their oil wealth to personal Swiss bank accounts and use the rest to finance (in the House of Saud's case) terrorist extremists, American politicians praise them as trusted friends and allies. But when a democratically elected populist president uses Venezuela's oil profits to lift poor people out of poverty, they accuse him of pandering.

As the United States and Europe continue their shift toward a Darwinomic model where rapacious corporations accrue bigger and bigger profits while workers become poorer and poorer, the socialist economic model espoused by President Hugo Chávez has become wildly popular among Latin Americans tired of watching corrupt right-wing leaders enrich themselves at their expense. Left-of-center governments have recently won power in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. Chávez's uncompromising rhetoric matches his politics, but what's really driving the American government and its corporate masters crazy is that he has the cash to back it up.

In their desperate frenzy to destroy Chávez, state-controlled media is resorting to some of the most transparently and hilariously hypocritical talking points ever. In the April 4th New York Times Juan Forero repeated the trope that Chávez's use of oil revenues is unfair -- even cheating somehow: "With Venezuela's oil revenues rising 32 percent last year," the paper exclaimed, "Mr. Chávez has been subsidizing samba parades in Brazil, eye surgery for poor Mexicans and even heating fuel for poor families from Maine to the Bronx to Philadelphia. By some estimates, the spending now surpasses the nearly $2 billion Washington allocates to pay for development programs and the drug war in western South America."

Chávez, the story continued, is poised to become "the next Fidel Castro, a hero to the masses who is intent on opposing every move the United States makes, but with an important advantage."

Heavens be! A rich country using its wealth to spread influence abroad! What God would permit such an abomination? Notice, by the way, that the United States funds "development programs." Oh, and it's a "drug war" -- not a bombing campaign against leftist insurgents who oppose South America's few remaining pro-U.S. right-wing regimes.

Quoted by the Times -- which editorialized in favor of and ran flattering profiles of the right-wing oligarchs who attempted to overthrow Chávez in a 2002 coup attempt -- is "critic" John Negroponte, whose day job happens to be as Bush's Director of National Intelligence. Negroponte complained that Chávez is "spending considerable sums involving himself in the political and economic life of other countries in Latin America and elsewhere, this despite the very real economic development and social needs of his own country."

Pot, kettle, please discuss the $1 billion a week we're wasting on Iraq while people die for lack of medical care and schools fall apart right here in America. Maybe Chávez should have found a better use for the money he spent on Rio's Carnival parade. On the other hand, at least it didn't go to bombs and torture camps.

Televangelist Pat Robertson's 2005 call to assassinate Chávez was criticized only mildly by establishment media, and primarily on the basis that murdering heads of state violates a U.S. law. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accuses Chávez of a "Latin brand of populism that has taken countries down the drain." Which ones? Certainly not Venezuela itself, where a double-digit-GDP boom leads the region and new houses, $10 billion per year is banked for future anti-poverty programs and schools are sprouting like weeds.

Loaded language unworthy of a junior high school newspaper is the norm in coverage of the Venezuelan president. "Chávez insists his government is democratic and accuses Washington of conspiring against him," the San Jose Mercury-News wrote on April 3rd. Why the "insists"? No international observer doubts that Venezuela, where the man who won the election gets to be president, is at least as democratic as the United States. The 2002 coup plotters gathered beforehand at the White House. Surely the Merc could grant Chávez's "accusation" as fact. The paper continued: "He says the United States was behind a short-lived 2002 coup, an allegation that U.S. officials reject." He also happens to be right, though it's hard to tell by reading that sentence.

Eighty-two percent of Venezuelans think Chávez is doing a good job. That's more than twice the approval rating by Americans of Bush. He roundly defeated an attempt to recall him. So why is Washington lecturing Caracas?

"The [Venezuelan] government is making billions of dollars [from its state oil company] and spending them on houses, education, medical care," notes CNN. And – gasp -- people's lives are improving.

What if the rest of us noticed? No wonder Chávez has to go.

Ted Rall is the editor of " Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists," an anthology of webcartoons which will be published in May.

Unconfirmed US ambassador to the U.N. - John Bolton is Bush's " Joachim von Ribbentrop"

Unconfirmed US ambassador to the U.N. - John Bolton is Bush's "Ribbentrop" for the Iran war and the neo-con agenda. Joachim von Ribbentrop, hanged in Nuremburg for war crimes, was the diplomatic face of the Nazi German regime. John Bolton, former patron of New York City's now-defunct swingers' club, Plato Retreat, is the Bush administration's diplomatic face at the United Nations. The only difference between the two is that Ribbentrop was a successful diplomat, captivating equally British, French, and Soviet counterparts, according to the many Allied diplomats who interfaced with him in the years prior to the war. The same cannot be said of Bolton. Bolton has managed to alienate just about every UN ambassador and official.

Bolton's image at the UN: "Shock and guffaw"

It is clear that Bolton was sent to the UN by the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld neo-con clique to help stir things up with Iran and carry out the neo-cons' ultimate goal -- the destruction of the United Nations system -- a prized goal of the mustachioed GOP operative ever since he worked as a staffer for the right-wing racist North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammed ElBaradei has been a particular target of Bolton's undiplomatic and uncouth wrath. At a time when Iran is attempting to establish diplomatic back channels to the Bush regime through mediators like ElBaradei and European diplomats, these efforts have been scuttled by the neo-cons surrounding Bolton. UN insiders report that during the lead up to the war in Iraq, senior Iraqi Baathist officials opposed to Saddam Hussein attempted to use diplomatic channels, including those at the UN, to negotiate with the Bush regime. However, the Bush regime was intent on launching a blitzkrieg attack on Iraq and disregarded the diplomatic overtures from Baghdad.

Complementing Bolton in hurling abuse at ElBaradei is the US ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Gregory Schulte, a confidante of Bolton, Dick Cheney, and Bolton's successor as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph. In fact, for his neo-con compatriots and agents provocateur, Bolton has transformed the temporary US Mission to the UN at 140 East 45th Street in Manhattan into a virtual off-site neo-con operational activity. A number of Washington-based neo-cons work out of the mission, courtesy of the mission's travel and expense budget, to plan various neo-con operations to disrupt and weaken the organs of the international body and neutralize the UN in the Bush regime's march to war with Iran, the scrapping of the Israeli-Palestinian accords, and the isolation of Syria, Venezuela, North Korea, and other countries.

Bolton has tried to cover up the damage he has done at the UN by doing what Bush officials do best -- lie. When Bolton explained America's decision not to run for a seat on the new UN Human Rights Council, he said it was because the new body was not much better than the previous Human Rights Commission, which Bolton helped deep six. However, according to UN sources, Bolton decided not to seek a seat on the Council because it could not get the 96 votes needed to be elected. The United States is held in such low esteem by the UN membership (because of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, renditioning, torture, secret CIA prisoner flights, opposition to the International Criminal Court, Human Rights Council, and the Kyoto Protocol, and disregard for international law), the world's "only remaining superpower" could not get 96 votes to be elected to the Human Rights Council.

Bolton's neo-con colleague at the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, has similarly incurred the disdain of the international staff of that UN specialized agency. Surrounding himself with a coterie of neo-con advisers, Wolfowitz, as president of the institution, arrogantly runs the bank as a personal fiefdom, according to World Bank insiders.

One UN insider reports that under George W. Bush, the United States has now become a shunned pariah, one that is comfortable in being another "Israel," a UN member state that contemptuously flouts the decisions of the UN and international law. In fact, the United States can only count on the votes in the UN of Israel and three heavily-subsidized "Soviet Socialist Republic"-like ex-U.S. trusteeships in the Pacific -- Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands. During the Cold War, the USSR could always count on the pocket votes of two similar contrivances -- the Ukrainian and Byelorussian SSRs.

As Bolton and his neo-con co-conspirators contemplate the unthinkable, a tactical nuclear strike on Iran, it is sobering to look at two displays in the lobby at the rear of the General Assembly. One is the Statue of Saint Agnes, which was found face down in the ruins of Urakami Tenshudo Roman Catholic cathedral in Nagasaki following the U.S. atomic attack on the city on August 9, 1945. The back of the statue is charred and mottled, proof of the devastating effects of the A-blast on the church, which was located just a half a kilometer from ground zero.

U.S. Special Forces are training Guyanese rebels in Guyana for cross-border incursions into the eastern part of Venezuela.

April 13, 2006 -- As U.S. and NATO descend upon the Caribbean in two exercises -- Operation Tradewinds and Partnership for the Americas -- designed to intimidate populist and progressive governments and political movements in Latin America, particularly the Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela, comes word from U.S. intelligence sources that U.S. Special Forces are training Guyanese rebels in Guyana for cross-border incursions into the eastern part of Venezuela. It is clear that with the arming and support of secessionist forces in Zulia state in western Venezuela, the Bush regime has decided to also foment problems in Venezuela's east. The Guyanese-Venezuelan border has a history of irredentist problems among the tribal peoples who live in the region. U.S. missionaries tied to U.S. intelligence activities have been active among Amerindian tribal peoples of Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, and Guyana, especially those living in the border regions of Venezuela. It now appears that President Hugo Chavez was correct when he accused U.S. missionaries, particularly the New Tribes Mission, of being linked to the CIA. Suspiciously, New Tribes Mission is based in Jeb Bush's Florida, which has become a newly invigorated base for CIA-funded right-wing Cuban, Venezuelan, Bolivian, and other Latin American paramilitaries and terrorist groups.

The camouflaged armed bands on the Guyanese-Venezuelan border are not tropical bird watchers. They represent the "Eastern Front" of the Bush regime against Hugo Chavez. The Zulia state secessionists are key players in the "Western Front."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Don't Attack Iran By Cindy Sheehan

Fresh from a resounding victory in Iraq, George Bush swaggered onto the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and boldly and confidently declared victory. It was a pretty war, it was a clean war, it looked stunning in all of its shock and awe. Wow, never was there such a swift and amazing American victory and it all looked so damn glamorous on CNN!

As fake as his codpiece was, so was his "cakewalk" of an invasion. Over 2000 thousand dead soldiers, billions of wasted dollars, thousands of maimed young people, innocent Iraqis dead by the hundreds of thousands, still no consistent electricity or clean water in their country, later, and this swaggering imbecile of a "leaker in chief" has the nerve to be trying to sell all of us on a new war in Iran.

Do the warped neocons with their puppet president think that we are all stupid? Fool us once, shame on us, fool us,—well, we just can't be fooled again.

"But our objective is to prevent them from having a nuclear weapon," GWB, on Iran, 04/10/06 at Johns Hopkins University. So, let me get this straight, in order to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear, or "nucular" weapons, we will use tactical nuclear weapons on them! The continued hypocrisy of this regime is absolutely breathtaking!

Even having nuclear weapons is crazy, but talking about deploying them is sheer insanity. Retired General, Anthony Zinni said on CNN today that Iran would not just sit back and do nothing if attacked: they have the means and the capability to retaliate. Our young people in Iraq would be sitting ducks along with Israel and our supply of natural gas and oil could be greatly compromised. I have an even scarier reason: I, and others, believe that using tactical nukes in Iran could start WWIII or IV. With all of the "Left Behind" religious fanatics praying for Armageddon, this thought is made even scarier by the fake believers in the White House who are exploiting the neo-Christian idea that Jesus was a war monger and anything our great leader does is okay, because he is a Christian man!

By putting the focus on nuclear strikes we are also forgetting the appalling destructive power that conventional weapons wield. We must not even, for one moment, contemplate a conventional invasion in Iran either. No matter how George Bush lies about how rosy things are in Iraq, they aren't, and Iraq is proof that war of any kind is a horribly tragic way to solve problems.

We must not believe BushCo or anything they say about Iran. He has lied through his teeth so many times before: From WMD and terrorism in Iraq to the fact that no one could "anticipate" the levees breaking in New Orleans. He was the leaker of the documents that outed Valerie Plame, while he promised us that the leaker would be punished. We must not allow him to frighten us into this one.

The doctrine of preemptive war is an abominable doctrine, especially when we have such a vacuum of leadership in this country that rubberstamps any maniacal thing that this president wants to do. We cannot allow our leaders to destroy the world by jousting with windmills that are no threat to our safety, or our way of life.

We must elect leaders that will get at the root causes of terrorism and not pretend that every terrorist can ever be killed to satisfy some kind of primeval bloodlust that flows through the war machine's veins. When our leaders go terrorist hunting, they kill innocent men, women and children and they, themselves, become the very thing that they are trying to teach us to loathe.

Please go to Don't Attack Iran and sign the petition to our "fearless with other people's lives" leaders and tell them that you do not support an attack on Iran. We members of Gold Star Families for Peace, Code Pink Women for Peace, Traprock Peace Center,,, Progressive Democrats of America, The Velvet Revolution, and Global Exchange urge you to sign the petition prohibiting our leaders from committing more war crimes and crimes against humanity in our names. We must loudly repudiate the crimes lest we be accused of them also.

We cannot allow an attack on Iran. We must restore sanity to our country if it's not too late already.

On the eve of destruction

During the early 80s Steve Martin joked, "I believe that Ronald Reagan can make this country what it once was--an Arctic region covered with ice." Ronald Ray-gun may have failed to realize the goal of utterly decimating the planet, but his vice president's son may do just that.

Back when Democrats had spine they warned about giving conservative nutjobs like Barry Goldwater access to the nuclear launch button. But Dems have been neutered and no one is sounding the alarm.

Except for bloggers like Billmon. There is a must-read Billmon blog entry about the threat of a "nucular" strike by the Cheney-Bush Oil Junta against Iran. The malaise that has engulfed the United States makes this possible for three key reasons that Billmon points out.

First, the media is asleep:

Idiots, of course, don't need a reason to be idiots. But to the extent there is a rational excuse for treating a nuclear strike on Iran as the journalistic equivalent of a seasonal story about people getting their cars washed, it must be the cynical conviction that the Cheneyites aren’t serious -- they're just doing their little Gen. Jack Ripper impression to let the Iranians know they really mean business.

This may seem plausible – that is, if you were in a catatonic stupor throughout 2002 and the early months of 2003 (which is just another way of saying: if you were a member in good standing of the corporate media elite.) But the rest of us have learned that when Dick Cheney starts muttering about precious bodily fluids, you better take him seriously. He really does mean business, and when Dick Cheney means business, people are likely to start dying in large numbers.

Second, it would be good domestic press for the junta, and good TV for corporate media whores:

Let's be honest about it: For both the corporate and the conservative media, as well as for their audiences, a air campaign against Iran would make for great TV -- a welcome return to the good old days of Desert Storm and Shock and Awe. All those jets soaring off into the desert twilight; the overexposed glare of cruise missiles streaking from their launch ships; the video game shots of exploding aircraft hangers and government buildings, the anti-aircraft tracers arcing into the night sky over Tehran -- it would be war just the way we like it, far removed from the dull brown dust, raw sewage and multiple amputees of the Iraqi quagmire.

Third, we are already ruled by war criminals, there is no evidence that they have been rehabilitated in the slightest, and all who point out these facts are marginalized:

We’ve already seen a lengthy list of war crimes and dictatorial power grabs sink into that electronic compost heap: the WMD disinformation campaign, Abu Ghraib, the torture memos, the de facto repeal of the 4th amendment. Again, why should a nuclear strike be any different? I can easily imagine the same rabid talk show hosts spouting the same jingoistic hate speech, the same bow-tied conservative pundits offering the same recycled talking points, and the same timid Beltway liberals complaining that while nuking Iran was the right thing to do, the White House went about it the wrong way. And I can already hear the same media critics chiding those of us in left Blogostan for blowing the whole thing out of proportion. It’s just a little bunker buster, after all.

Please, somebody! anybody!! stop these people!!!

posted by Boiling Mad at Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Cocaína No, Coca Sí

Cocaína No, Coca Sí
By Chellis Glendinning, AlterNet
Posted on April 12, 2006, Printed on April 12, 2006

Cocaine cuts close to the bone here in New Mexico. An addict lives on either side of me. To the south, it's the angry Chicano whose proclivities run to shooting off guns and starting fires that require three fire departments to quell; to the north, it's the waif of a blonde whose high school graduation may have been awaited with joy, but who, in the presence of the white temptation, deteriorated into confusion, loss of a job and ill health.

So when Tom Hayden suggested I travel to Bolivia for el transmito del mando of the coca farmer Evo Morales to the presidency of that country -- one of the top Latin American growers of the plant used in the production of the narcotic cocaína -- I slapped a few Levi shirts into my maletita and waited for the departure date.

To the average U.S. observer, Morales' campaign platform might have appeared odd, even contradictory. It included halting sales of the coca leaf to the burgeoning narco business, which anyone who has seen the “This Is Your Brain On Drugs” TV ads could go for. But it also called for stopping U.S.-backed eradication of coca fields and the legitimization of the plant as the ancient sacred herb that it is.

Hayden's idea was in line with Morales' thinking. He wanted us to gather information and make contacts in Bolivia so that, upon return, we might launch a campaign to legalize sale of coca inside the United States. Mi compañero de viaje was jazzed by the potential medical application of the herb for heart and diabetes patients.

He himself, a heart attack survivor, had experienced its remarkable effects when, with leaves chocked into his cheek on a previous visit, his normal huffing and puffing had been miraculously replaced by an energetic mounting of the cobblestone streets of La Paz. His strategy was to put the herb through FDA hoops and make it a legal prescription drug for medical distribution.

I began to contemplate possible economic effects. The narcotraficantes are grossly in evidence in Colombia, Perú, Ecuador and Bolivia, where by military might and political manipulation they control the Andes' No. 1 commodity product: la coca, which is processed in laboratories for international distribution as cocaine. In some instances, the cartels kidnap farmers, sequestering them in wooden cages at night, forcing them to shout Wal-Mart-style pep chants and work the fields in double shifts. In others, village growers simply find it more remunerative to sell coca to drug dealers than to market pineapples at the local mercado. In still others, the crops are taxed, either by narcotraficantes themselves or by political groups amassing resources for military campaigns.

A thought -- which popped into my head not full-blown and solid as, let's face it, narcos are not ones to put up with competition -- was that a legitimate, collective-run venue for growers could provide uninterrupted income while upsetting the base of the illegal drug trade, a task that has thus far eluded every local, governmental and international effort ever attempted.

Sacred plant

La coca is the sacred plant of Bolivia, with 82 different species grown in the tropical Chapare, in the forests of Santa Cruz and on the altiplano of the Yungas de La Paz.

Why is it considered a "sacred” plant? The people value it above all else; they believe that its existence, like that of spirit, infuses every facet of life. When a couple marries, they plant a coca field; as their children grow, so the field matures, providing for all; when the children leave home, the field has passed its peak, producing now only for two. Coca is the gift that binds all social relations. It is the healer of humankind's ills. It is used to give thanks, to predict fortunes, to celebrate the season, to solidify the community, to experience the primeval space-time continuum of the gods.

And it has remarkable nutritional and medicinal attributes. Chock-full of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, it is reported to relax, invigorate and give strength. Hundreds of biological and medical studies propose it can aid digestion, combat arthritis, balance blood sugar, impede fungal and bacterial growth, heal ulcers, boost the immune system, augment oxygenation, act as a sedative, and -- of particular interest to Tom -- facilitate circulation and restore the cardiac muscle.

Coke. Snow. Flake. Blow. Tornado

Cocaine is a whole other story. Extracted as a lone alkaloid from a potpourri of nutrients in the coca plant, then processed with forty-some chemicals, including ether, acetone and methyl ketone -- it is a deadly drug. Snorted, injected or smoked, the white powder jacks the nervous system into a frenzy of extreme excitement, just as it interrupts the passage of nerve impulses, causing inhibition of pain sensations and failure of judgment.

And it is horrifically addictive. When laboratory rats are offered an endless supply of heroin, they ingest it constantly but also take time to eat and sleep; when they’re given an unending cache of cocaine, they do nothing but consume it. Complications can include heart attacks, respiratory failure, strokes, seizures and paranoid psychosis. According to the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 48 million Americans have used cocaine. Read: one in six. That's a lot of people. The business is bigger than that of McDonald's, Microsoft and Kellogg's rolled into one: $92 billion a year.

It can be no surprise that the kind of people running it are of the no-bullshit variety, the kind with personal zoological gardens, personal body guards, personal hit men, personal telecommunications systems and personal techno-armies. To go up against them, the primary cocaine-consuming nation in the world -- the United States -- has likewise amassed techno-armies. Fighter jets. Black Hawk helicopters. Ground-to-ground missiles. Rocket launchers.

Since 2000 the "war on drugs" has laid out $7.5 billion to the Andes region, ostensibly to eradicate cartel-grown coca and opium fields. But, in fact, wanton spraying of toxic chemicals onto innocent coca farmers, their families, and the fields producing their daily food has predominated -- while the bulk of the money has been funneled toward military actions aimed at securing Latin America's oil, natural gas, water, gold, etc., for unfettered corporate exploitation.

Talking revolution

People in Bolivia talk politics. Well, truth be told, they talk revolution. This is a place where both classical and current colonization have taken brutish forms: genocide, slavery, resource robbery, military juntas -- and almost every family has a member who has been arrested, tortured and/or desaparecido. Bolivia has endured 192 changes of government in 178 years of existence as a republic, 100 of them by revolution.

Consider what this means: You have to keep up.

The waiter at my hotel in La Paz, a supporter of Morales' Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), brightens at the thought I have come all this way for the inauguration -- and our mutual enthusiasm for conversation, as he serves mangos and trucha a lo macho, revolves around la liberación of his country.

A 20-year-old cab driver tells me that Evo is like a loaf of bread fresh from the oven: We'll find out how he tastes. In a village west of Cochabamba, a doctor lays out the shape of the new Latin America. Venezuela's president is socialist Hugo Chavez. Chile has just elected former torture victim and single mother Michelle Bachelet. Left-of-center Néstor Kirchner heads Argentina, while Luiz "Lulu" da Silva is president of Brazil. Uruguay's Tabaré Vazquez's initial act is to open diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Inauguration day

22 Enero. Plaza de los Héroes.

Thousands of people are overflowing the heart of La Paz where large gatherings have historically taken the form of pitched battles against the military. This is something different. The official state inauguration is taking place several blocks away in the Congress. The presidents of Venezuela, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Panama, Peru, Brazil and Paraguay are in attendance, and out here uncountable crowds are awaiting the arrival of their new leaders.

Smiling Aymara women in felt bowler hats. The street kids rehabilitated by El Teatro Trono atop stilts made of scrapwood, gyrating to the thunder of homemade drums. Quecha women in their flat-topped straw monteras. Miss Bolivia Universo. Bigger-than-life flying eagle puppets. Dance groups in feather headdresses. Bolivia's glorious trícolor, impressive blue MAS banners, the emblematic multicolored wiphala flags -- all flapping like foam caps atop a sea of humanity.

Rather than one mass leaning, lunging, looking toward one stage as would be done in the United States, the crowd organizes itself into circles resembling village clans. I am jammed into one, and an infant wrapped in a shawl grasps to hold my finger. An Aymara woman admires the artistry of the poncho I am wearing with a gold-toothed grin. To the emphatic toots of zampoña music, a cholito in red helmet hat dances with an African-American girl in dreadlocks, a willowy blond boy spins a laughing indígena. A serpent of miners in hardhats presses through, and every now and again the crowd lets roar a mass chant: "!EVO! !EVO! !EVO!"

It is 5 o'clock. Many have been waiting for Morales' appearance for six hours. Suddenly the distinguished Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano steps onto the stage and, with his gravely poetic voice, announces that Evo's presidency marks the death of la dictadura del miedo (the dictatorship of fear).

Next comes the handsome vicepresidente Álvaro García Linera. At last Evo steps to the microphone. The crowd stills. The coca farmer now festooned in the national medallion of liberator Simón Bolívar pledges obedience to the people and unprecedented striving for justice. The sky opens to its seasonal downpour, and thousands of people are drenched in hope.

Tears of Evo

One memorable thing about Morales is that, on both occasions of receiving his mandate -- the spiritual transmission at the sacred site Tiwanaku, for which he prepared with rituals of purification, and the official inauguration in Congress -- he burst into tears.

The 46-year-old Evo Morales Aima was born Aymara and poor in the department of Oruro. During a drought in 1983, his family was forced to move to the tropical Chapare to survive by coca farming. Before making his way through the ranks of local unions there, finally emerging as the president of El Comité de Coordinación de las Seis Federaciones, he had worked as a baker, a brick layer, a farmworker, a trumpet player and a soldier. In the mid-1990s he rose to lead MAS and, along the way, harshly derided the U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas as "an agreement to legalize the colonization of the Americas"; be thrown in jail for standing up for the cocaleros; and proclaim ”Cocaína no, coca sí,”"(Cocaine no, coca yes), with emphasis on solving the cocaine problem not at the campesino end, but at the consumption end.

Morales is known for two distinguishing characteristics: (1) his Beatle-like, bowl-cut hairdo (read: he's an indígena through and through); and (2) the ratty old red and blue alpaca sweater he would not take off during his world tour to meet the leaders of China, Spain and France (read: he doesn't compromise).

Because Morales is romantically unattached -- and now asserts that, by vote of the people, he is married to Bolivia -- la primera dama is his sister, Esther Morales Aima. She is a 54-year-old vegetable vendor.

Morales' politics are touted to be an unfolding of socialista and indígena. The MAS platform has 10 points, which include the nationalization of resources (read: profits go to the country, not to multinational corporations); decentralization of decision making back to the pueblos indígenas, municipalities and regions; eradication of rampant government corruption; the creation of a national health system and, for our purposes, decriminalization of traditional coca growing; routing out the narcotraficantes; and the return of land to the campesinos who work it.

At Tiwanaku, in reference to Che Guevara, who was executed in Bolivia in 1967 at the hands of the military and the CIA, Morales proclaims, "La lucha que dejó Che Guevara, vamos a cumplir nosotros" (We will finish the fight Che Guevara began).

In the garden of the activists

I arrive in the village of Totorcahua craving a good night's sleep. I get it on a three-acre piece of permacultured paradise. The German-Bolivian doctor José Carlos Ramirez Voltaire, veteran of Physicians for Social Responsibility International, is my host, and I am sharing the walled gardens of lime, lemon, plantain, comfrey, carrots and nasturtium with Bolivian activist Malena Vida, Spanish healer Ignacio Ballesteros and Quecha gardener Irgidio Torres.

The fact that they are activists working for worldwide legalization -- or, at least, removal from the United Nations’ controlled substances list -- is sheer synchronicity. What it means is I am privy to almost nonstop discussion on the meaning of coca and the means by which it might overcome the taint it suffers from its unfortunate association with cocaine.

The first guest to a political meeting on coca filters through the plantain leaves to the house around 4 o'clock. He is Guido Capcha whose dedication is finding health care for the villagers in the Chapare. Next comes Gabriel Yawar Nina dressed in disheveled khaki jungle gear, a camera artisan who brings his photo creations of indígenas printed on brown-bag paper. He is accompanied by writer-activist Malena Tuta Larama. Carmen Cárdenas, along with Grober and Alexia Loredo from Teatro Trono, arrives toting a suitcase full of colorful puppets. The painter Valentina Campos carries her two-month-old in a red and pink shawl. While José, Ignacio and Malena are laying out cheese and cakes, Appalachian folksinger Ricardo Jack Herrenan picks a tune he has written linking the struggles of coal miners in West Virginia with that of gold and silver miners in Bolivia's Potosí.

We talk politics. There are as many years of movement sweat under the bougainvillea as there are years since the arrival of Cristobál Colón. We are talking about a possible worldwide campaign to legalize coca. A major theme is la liberación de los pueblos. Another is the holism that is second nature to communities not yet totally wrenched from the land: coca is not separate from people, family, ancestors, nutrition, music, art or spirituality. La coca es sagrada, as is so often said, and everyone's cheeks are bulging with leaves meshed with the characteristic bolus of licorice that glues it all together.

Then Juan Carlos Escalera, the dedicated agronomist in the corduroy beret, puts it to me eyeball to eyeball. How can coca be forged into a product separate from origins, place and traditions? Wouldn't the demand from worldwide consumers transform its historic small-scale village production into technology-based corporate agribusiness? And wouldn't such an endeavor signal yet another assault on Bolivia's waning biodiversity?

Just that morning, while downing our daily mate de coca, jam and bread, José has expounded yet again on the possibilities of coca despenalización, and a question has niggled its way into my mind. Wait a minute -- it flies in like a bird seeking a nest -- we're talking about the creation of ... a global commodity. A beneficent global commodity, perhaps, but a global commodity nonetheless -- complete with its potential for wrenching community from tradition, entry into the wage economy, devolution to mass transportation and telecommunications technologies, imposition of economic inequities and individualism, etc.

I answer Juan Carlos eyeball to eyeball, relaying my own progression of thought. I begin by describing mi compañero's desire to legalize coca and put it through FDA standards to make it available to U.S. heart and diabetes patients. I hear a collective gasp of anguish and witness a row of black-haired heads drop into despairing hands.

I move on to describe my conversion to the softer notion of coca sold in U.S. health food stores like yerba mate or chamomile. The same gasp erupts, the same dropping of heads. Last I tell of the thought that has entered my mind just that morning: Selling coca in mass quantities could signify entry into the global economy with perilous consequences for people, culture and the natural world. There is no gasp and no dropping of heads.

The plant stays

Juan Carlos escorts Jack and me to the farming village of El Paso. Its claim to fame is chicha, a homemade corn drink akin to moonshine, and the chicherría is a cavernous adobe barn with chickens and roosters strutting freely among the tables.

We take our first round of chicha from a dried gourd cup, making sure to offer the first sip to Pachamama who, in this case, appears as the earthen floor of the barn. Juan Carlos launches into a lecture on Bolivia's ecological cosmology. Illustrating his thoughts on a piece of blue-lined paper, he overlays a ladderlike configuration depicting the four altitude zones over a birds-eye view of the country.

His drawing becomes ever more elaborate, like a labyrinth, as he adds seasonal charts revealing farming and festival schedules; statistics on loss of biological diversity since 1930; etchings of sun, land and people. We are into our third round of chicha, a black cow is ruminating at the barn door, and Juan Carlos and Jack are simultaneously putting away the coca. Juan Carlos' conclusion is as simple and complicated as a leaf.

"La planta no sale fuera" (The plant doesn't leave here), he states. It is dusk. Against the darkening valley splayed out beneath the Cordillera Cochabamba, I have clarity. It all comes down to a politic of la soberanía. Respect for other peoples' self-determination implies that my business stops at the boundary where theirs begins; it does not extend inside another's territory, community, body or psyche.

That understood, there can only be two possible responses on my part. The first is to take responsibility for what my own government is doing to Bolivia: to stop the military/political arm of the U.S. war on drugs. In the interest of not imposing a plan that I posit would be useful to me, my second task becomes respectful communication: to listen, learn and respond in cooperation.

Needless to say, the age-old question raises its tangled head. Who is the legitimate spokesperson for la soberanía? What if, in response to pressures to amass capital that press in on any government in a global economy, Morales himself negotiates a deal for mass coca production with a multinational pharmaceutical? Or a consortium of health food companies? Or even a group of left-leaning "free trade" collectives? Juan Carlos stares into me with those eyes.

He says nothing, and I suddenly laugh at my own doubt. "OK. I get it. The origin of sovereignty precedes government and always, always always resides with the people."

I return home to New Mexico -- as before, sandwiched between the vato and the sad blonde, whose lives are forever marked by a drug derived from leaves grown somewhere in the Andes, perhaps in the Bolivian Chapare. It is time: I, too, must work to finish the fight that Che Guevara began.


el transmito del mando: the inauguration; literally, the transfer of command
cocaína: cocaine, the narcotic
maletita: little suitcase
compañero de viaje: traveling partner
narcotraficantes: drug traffickers, cartels
altiplano: the high, temperate plateau of Bolivia
desaparecido: a "disappeared" or kidnapped person, possibly tortured and killed
trucha a lo macho: trout from Lake Titicaca served with garlic and onions
trícolor: national flag
wiphala: flag of MAS, representing all indigenous peoples of Bolivia
zampoña: a flute made of reeds strapped together
cholito: a term used to refer to an indigenous man
indígena: indigenous woman
cocaleros: coca farmers
la primera dama: the first lady
pueblos indígenas: indigenous peoples or communities
la liberación de los pueblos: the liberation of peoples or communities
sagrada: sacred
mate de coca: coca tea
despenalización: decriminalization
chicherría: neighborhood bar that serves chicha
la soberanía: sovereignty
vato: homeboy

Chellis Glendinning is the author of five books, including "Chiva: A Village Takes On the Global Heroin Trade." She is currently finishing an opera on the contemporary arrival of Mexican immigrants into the U.S., De Un Lado Al Otro, and beginning a book on coca in Bolivia.
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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