Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Bush Administration's 9/11 Story is a Conspiracy Theory

The story that the Bush Administration wants the world to believe about 9/11, namely that it was planned and orchestrated entirely by Osama bin Laden from the Bat Cave, is the most ridiculous conspiracy theory on the Internet.
U.S. Army General Says Flight 77 Did Not Hit Pentagon

A U.S. Army General has gone on record that he believes it was not American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon
Ex-CIA Analyst Ray McGovern Talks About 9/11 Truth on CSPAN

Camp Democracy interview with Ex-CIA Analyst Ray McGovern. He talks about running into ex-Secretary of the Department of Transportation Norman Mineta and confronting him regarding his testimony before the 9/11 Commission. Mineta testified that Cheney was well aware of the location and destination of Flight 77 (or whatever it was) and forced NORAD to stand-down and allowed it to hit the Pentagon.

Video - Runtime 7 Minutes

Empowered by Victory Over the PFP, the APPO Calls for Reinforced Barricades Throughout Oaxaca; Announces a Sixth Megamarch for Sunday

The Battle of Ciudad Universitaria

By James Daria
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Oaxaca
November 3, 2006

The federal forces occupying the city of Oaxaca chose November 2, one of Mexico’s, and especially Oaxaca’s, most sacred days to attack the nerve center of the popular anti-government movement. The Federal Preventive Police (PFP) began to make incursions against Oaxaca’s University City which not only houses the Autonomous University of Oaxaca Benito Juarez, but also the means of communication of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca, Radio Universidad. Under the threat of the violation of the constitutionally backed autonomy of the university and the silencing of the movement’s radio, thousands of Oaxacans chose to remember their recent dead, fallen in combat against the same federal troops, by pouring into the streets to confront the further aggression of the federal government. Through more than five hours of intensive street combat, the people of Oaxaca scored a decisive blow against the police and a symbolic victory over the government of Vicente Fox as they successfully out-fought and chased away the police.

In order to restore a semblance of law and order to Oaxaca, the federal police have begun to systematically clear away the numerous barricades scattered throughout the city. Around eight o’clock in the morning, federal troops amassed at the intersection of Cinco Señores, a major intersection connecting downtown Oaxaca, the University City and outlying residential neighborhoods. Protesters had built barricades out of burnt buses and semi trailers in this intersection to stop the incursion of the police into the university. The police operation was allegedly designed to break through the barricades surrounding the university. Since the occupation of the Zócalo by the PFP, the university has become the headquarters for the APPO and protecting Radio Universidad, a major preoccupation for the movement. Although the police had said that they would respect the autonomy of the university and not enter, the strategic importance of the site by the movement led them to fight for control of the principal avenue running in front of the university.

The police arrived early in the morning at both ends of this avenue, Avenida Universidad, and the radio sounded the alert. People began to arrive at the university from all over the city in order to defend it and the barricades from the federal police. The police chased away the protesters from the northern most intersection next to the neighborhood of Cinco Señores and began to work to clear the road of debris. As the protesters rallied an eventual conflict was inevitable.

The people began to yell at the police. While anger and hatred against the police was expressed, a few teachers began to give speeches to the human beings behind the shields and clubs. The orators remarked at the remarkable similarity between the faces of the front line of the PFP and those of the demonstrators. Pointing out the dark skin and indigenous features of the troops, the teachers tried to explain to them that the same poverty, racism and exploitation that drove the individual members of the police to leave their communities and search for a viable living for them and their families by joining the repressive forces of the state were the same reasons that the Oaxacan people chose to organize themselves and fight against the government. The speakers implored the officers not to repress their brothers and sisters but instead join them on their side of the struggle. Meanwhile, their superior officers, the majority “gueros” (or those with white skin) began to order their brown skinned orderlies into action. Instant barricades of burnt cars, telephone poles and barbed wire were constructed between the university and the police. At roughly 10 am the federal troops moved into an offensive stance and prepared for confrontation.

From behind the barricades Oaxacan youth, presumably university students, began to throw rocks at the police. The confrontation began as the riot police and their tanks began to move forward and break through the hastily prepared barricades. The police began to fire tear gas and use their water cannons and the protesters began to retreat strategically. As smoke and tear gas became visible on the south side of Avenida Universidad the protesters moved down the side street Reforma Agraria just north of the university. The police followed and pushed forward about a block into the community of Cinco Señores until reaching the corner of Plan de Ayala. The battle for control of the Reforma Agraria would last several hours and become one of the most intense conflicts in the struggle to prevent the federal police incursion into the university.

The back and forth advancement and retreat of the police came at a high price for them as many were injured in the confrontations. Protesters launched rocks from slingshots and slings and threw molotov cocktails at the police. The ingenious weaponry of the Oaxacan protesters included bottle rocket bazookas that shot homemade fireworks at the police on the ground and at the two police helicopters circling overhead dropping tear gas canisters. Eventually cars and buses driven by the protesters were burned in the street to block the advances of the police tanks. The police, apart from throwing rocks, used tactical emissions of chemical weapons to repel the advances of the masked youths. The water cannons shot a red chemical possibly made of dye and irritant chemicals from the tanks and at least two types of tear gas were used. The normal tear gas was thrown by hand or by gun and included a white smoke. Although potent it was not much of a deterrent against the people. At critical moments the police would launch an invisible and seemingly military strength type of tear gas that enveloped blocks and left the protesters retreating for air. Squads of street medics stationed themselves to receive the retreating troops of common citizens inundated by the tear gas. Flat Coca-Cola was used to wash eyes and vinegar soaked rags were used to help breathe amid the contaminated air. Roving medical clinics made up of doctors and nurses from the nearby communities treated the wounded as there was no presence of the Red Cross.

Battles raged across Avenida Universidad as university students waged war from behind the walls of the university as well. The police did not actually enter the university but launched their chemical weaponry against the protesters gathered inside. Word circulated in the street that the police would retreat as supporters in Mexico City blocked Eje Central in solidarity with the Oaxacan movement. Hours passed however and there was no sign of retreat from the police. The battle continued in Reforma Agraria and spilled over into all the major streets at the entrance of Cinco Señores. The incredible amounts of gas launched indiscriminately from land and by air began to inundate the community and enter houses. A mother ran hysterically through the streets fleeing the gases as she clutched her small baby. She said the baby was chocking to death from the gases and couldn’t breathe. Behind her a man pushing a stroller with two small children was vomiting from the chemical contamination. Not trusting reporters or protesters they refused to talk but said they were residents of the community and not involved in the protest but had to flee their houses because the chemical weapons had invaded their home.

Throughout the course of the battle the residents of the community came out in support of the protesters. While the front lines ferociously battling police were made up mostly of Oaxacan youth, there were large numbers of older adults and many women among the ranks of the rebels. Whole families came out in solidarity with the movement. Many residents watched from their roofs and others brought out their mirrors to try and blind the pilots of the helicopters.

Around two o’clock in the afternoon the police sent what must have been a suicide mission into the principle street of Cinco Señores. This diverted the protesters into at least three groups and occupied them in many different confrontations. One of the police tanks drove recklessly into the mob of protesters and the riot police followed throwing rocks and tear gas. The military style helicopters made much more frequent flyovers at increasingly low levels dropping tear gas canisters indiscriminately. This diversionary tactic gave the PFP the opportunity to withdraw their troops from Avenida Universidad and begin retreating to the intersection of Cinco Señores. The spirits of the protesters were lifted and exhaustion felt among them was forgotten as they sensed the battle was almost over and that they were winning.

At almost a quarter till three in the afternoon the police began to retreat heading back to the Zócalo or the Park of Love where they are stationed. During the retreat they were literally chased by the protesters who continued launching attacks at them from various sides. The people began to occupy the intersection of 5 Señores and rejoiced. The cries of “Yes we could! Si se pudo” and “He fell, He fell, Fox has fallen! Ya Cayó Ya Cayó Fox ya Cayò!” could be heard. The people began dancing in the street hugging each other and yelling. The people of Oaxaca had successfully organized themselves and defeated the federal government in a historic battle that will be remembered for a long time. Although a significant victory, they understood as well that it was but one battle in a long and protracted war. The retreating federal police made statements to the media explaining that they did not lose but instead made a tactical retreat in order to respect the autonomy of the university. Although they may not have actually planned on entering the university, they completely failed in their attempt to remove the barricades and regain control of this strategic part of the city. The protesters began to once again reconstruct the barricades in the intersection.

After the victorious people released their rebellious joy in countless acts of camaraderie and solidarity, a meeting was quickly organized by members of the organizing committee of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca. The first representative shouted to the crowed exclaiming that the long hours of struggle could be summed up in one word: VICTORY! The crowd went wild and began to shout. This being the last day of Muertos, after calming down the people held a minute of silence and then a minute of applause for their fallen comrades. In the meeting the representatives gave credit to the historic display of bravery and struggle on the part of all involved but especially the university students and the residents of surrounding communities. It was the base, and not the leaders, they exclaimed, that won this battle.

Communicating the next phase of struggle for the APPO, the representatives announced a four fold plan to continue the struggle calling for “offensive action” against the government. First, they called for the reinstallation and reconstruction of barricades throughout the city in defiance of the federal police operations to remove them and the reinforcement of Radio Universidad and the university campus. Second, the APPO called upon its bases of support from the seven regions of the state to converge on the capital to reinforce the struggle. Although they will have to pass through various military checkpoints intended on discouraging their participation, the organizers called for the sixth “Megamarch” to be held this Sunday. This march will not be directed at Ulises Ruiz but instead directed at Vicente Fox and the federal government. Lastly, they called for the people of Oaxaca to show the world that they are not only militant and victorious in battle, but also that they are a disciplined and respectful people. The order was given to avoid vandalism and looting, as well as to avoid indiscriminate detentions of government forces as a display of the rebel dignity of the Oaxacan people.

After the meeting the people began to disperse in order to return home, attend the wounded or begin to reconstruct the barricades around the university. Although victorious and reveling in their glory, the popular movement sustained many losses at the hands of approximately two thousand riot police. At least thirty people were arrested and more than seventy injured. However, the struggle continues as the protesters began to prepare for a possible offensive during the long, cold hours of the night. Word spread throughout the city that the federal police were defeated at the hands of the people. A major victory was won by the Oaxacan people against the federal government and further mobilizations are to follow. The battle for the university was won, but the battle for Oaxaca rages on.

Legal parody in Guantánamo: IN Guantánamo, iguanas have more rights than the detainees in the gulag of our time. By Yolanda Monge

Visit to a lawless prison

By Yolanda Monge
(Taken from El País)

IN Guantánamo, iguanas have more rights than the detainees in the gulag of our time. Being the protected species that they are, you have to drive at less than 40 kilometers per hour along the roads of the U.S. base in Cuba to avoid running over them. When haste, forgetfulness or the cruelty of certain soldiers fails to respect this speed limit and one of those saurians are crushed, the offender has to pay a $10,000 fine. A detention center that has sequestrated from the world the existence of some 800 people in something over four years has been raised on the shores of the idyllic Caribbean. “Around 430 of that figure are currently here, the rest have been released,” enigmatically concedes General Edward Leacock, second in the chain of command of the nightmare scenario that is Guantánamo.

No photos. No tape recorders. None of the names of those present can be used. You are only allowed into the room with paper and ballpoints. Credentials have to be left outside so that the detainees cannot identify you. The parody of justice that the military represents in Guantánamo is at the point of beginning. The entry door to the room advises and announces: “Trial in Progress.” Within, everything is ready. The judge’s chair, the table for the defense, the table for the prosecution. The area for the press. Additional chairs for the witnesses. The walls are white, there is no ventilation; outside it could be day or night. Outside it is daytime and it is hot; that’s Cuba. Inside, it is cold. The air conditioning makes your teeth chatter and folios fly. The furniture is crude. In each corner a camera records the trial, whose footage is seen by other soldiers or intelligence agents in the adjoining room. Everything is presided over by the flag of the United States.

“All rise!” exclaims a Marines lieutenant in a martial tone. The prisoner rises, corpulent (the daily diet in GITMO, the abbreviation of the long and complicated pronunciation of Guantánamo for Americans, consists of 4,200 calories which, with minimal physical exercise leads to fatness), heavily bearded, an Afghan aged 27 and over whose name the soldiers insist on total discretion and oblige you to sign a document agreeing not to reveal it; the interpreter rises; the U.S. soldier who represents the detainee rises; the only two journalists to have been conceded the pleasure of attending the circus rise. “This court is now in session,” solemnly intones a Marines captain who has just entered and whose function is to act as judge. Apart from the prisoner, journalists and the interpreter, the rest of the actors occupying the room are soldiers playing roles.

Moments before, two very young soldiers – a woman and a man – in army uniform with their hands covered in aseptic green plastic gloves left the room. They had just handed over the prisoner and, before leaving, left him tied to the floor with chains encircling their ankles. Everything is designed down to the minutest detail: the detainee sits in a vulgar white plastic chair – “which does not involve any danger for him or anyone else,” Captain Waddingham says of the chair when instructing the two reporters on what they are about to see – and there is a ring set in the floor to which he is chained so that his movement is zero. His manacled hands are clamped behind his back. His uniform is white, which means that that his degree of misdoing is the lowest within the range bequeathed by the U.S. soldiers in Guantánamo. If a detainee is considered of average danger, his dress is cream colored. Orange covers the bodies of those who, even after years of incarceration, have not lost their will. Good conduct prisoners have a toothbrush, a roll of toilet tissue, soap, shampoo, sheets and underwear. The rebels clean their teeth with their fingers; they are given one sheet of paper to clean themselves and sleep on a hard bed. Those who have tried to take their own lives¼ are forced into a kind of dark-green straitjacket over their naked bodies. But one detail: all the cells, punishment or not, are stamped with a crucifix pointing toward Mecca.

Her hair combed back into a bun stretching the skin of her face, an impeccably pressed uniform, huge glasses that cover nearly half of her face. It is the Marines captain who was given the judge’s notebook. Within a white plastic file she has in writing each and every one of the words that she will pronounce from that moment. As the detainee’s interpreter has them written down in Pashtun. For the actors-soldiers nothing is spontaneous. For the prisoner everything is so nightmarish that it could well appear unreal to him as well.

“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” the captain asks the detainee. The interpreter, an Afghan with a U.S. passport designated him by the U.S. government for his work, immediately asks the same thing in Pashtun language. Very softly, the accused patiently responds: “I have sworn that twice, and I swear it again.” Twice. Since he was captured by the U.S. Army in its battle against terrorism in mid-2002 in Afghanistan, the man with a name that cannot be revealed has been seated twice before those who decide his imprisonment or his release. On the previous occasions his jailors must have believed that he had not redeemed himself, because here he is still, here he is again, seated before the farce of a court that is judging him.

“Yes or no?” another high-ranking officer, this time from the army, inquires impatiently. With a nervous laugh, the interpreter repeats the question, embellished with amiabilities or recommendations that he should say yes and get it all over with, given the length, which did not correspond to a short yes or no. Finally came the “Yes.” He swears “by Allah.” Question: “Did you belong to Al Qaeda, the terrorist group of Osama Bin Laden?” Answer: “When the Taliban arrived, we fled to Pakistan¼” “Yes or no?” once again the officer of affirmations or negatives. The interpreter again, uneasy, almost scared, with his race reddening, trying to advise his “client.” The response to his mediation is given: “No.” Question: “Why do you consider that you are not a danger to the United States?” Reply: “I repeat for the third time that I have never said a single word against America, I am a friend of America and the Americans,” he states mechanically.

For half a minute, the accused, who doesn’t know what he is being accused of, because legal charges against him have never been brought before a judge – only 10 detainees in Guantánamo have had an open trial – because he has never had a lawyer to represent him, looks straight at me. The detainee knows that if he does not convince today, he will have to wait for another year until his case is reviewed again. He looks from side to side and knows that he is alone. Nothing or nobody is on his side. Apart from the reporters and the interpreter, he is the only civilian in the room. Facing seven soldiers, one of whom is making a tremendous effort not to fall asleep in the soporific Cuban afternoon. There are no witnesses. There are no lawyers. His look says that he is aware that he could be caught in the black hole that is Guantánamo for life or until the new order installed by George W. Bush collapses. “I am innocent,” he ventures to say. “I am innocent.” And once again assumes that silent plea to tell of his tragedy outside of these four walls.

The captain with the tight bun contemplates him. And states: “This court will decide that. The court is adjourned.” She leaves with a martial step. What court, if there is no trial? What court, if there are no judges? What sentence, if there are no charges? “Nobody believed him,” comments to the sergeant the soldier with the green gloves who releases the prisoner from the floor and takes him back to his cell slowly, or as quickly as the short chains that bind his ankles allow. What nobody would believe if they could contemplate it is what happened on Thursday, October 18 from 13:00 to 14:27 in a white room on the naval base of Guantánamo, Cuba, and which should have a sign at the entrance reading: “Farce of a trial in progress.”

General Leacock says: “I am going to give you today’s headline: There is no more transparent detention camp in the world than Guantánamo.” That transparency is what the Tajikstani Zen Ulabedin Merozhev shares with his interpreter who has spent five years without seeing his face. Imagine that for a second: five years without seeing yourself in a mirror. Five years abducted in a detention camp thousands of kilometers away from his home. Five years without any rights.

It should be recalled that more than 800 people, including minors, have passed through the Guantánamo cells since their creation as a weapon in the war on terrorism in 2002. That a number approximating 430 are still incarcerated there. That only 10 have been formally charged. That the exposés of physical and psychological torture have been constant. That the Geneva Convention has been violated and perverted, because the soldiers use it as an excuse to ban photos. It should be recalled, because if it isn’t, after the tour of the base offered by the U.S. Army, with dental clinic and Harry Potter books in Arabic for the prisoners, you would think that you were in a recreation camp on the shore of the Caribbean.

“They are lying,” shouts a detainee.

Camp V. The latest prison camp set up by the U.S. military. Cold as steel, aseptic as a morgue, impenetrable as a fortress. The Marine recites its facilities. “Capacity for 100 prisoners. Cutting-edge technology. Cameras in every cell. Constructed along the lines of the Indiana maximum-security prison.” He couldn’t be more accurate. As soon as the automatic gate that separates the street from the prison closes, you are buried alive and want to flee. And that’s after five minutes. The ghosts surviving in 4x3-meter cells have been there for four years.

“Lady, you can’t stand behind me,” the soldier warns. “You can’t take photos of my soldiers or the control center of my prison.” The use of the possessive makes me shudder. “You can photograph the chair for those being interrogated, as comfortable as any at home,” he says while ushering the press into the room. At the feet of a velvet chair there are some rings born from the floor, in order to chain up a prospective prisoner. It is the first room in the passage. After it come the cells. When the door of the cell is closed the cage is sealed. That avoids the inconvenient “cocktails” that detainees prepare for the guards. In Camp Delta, where only wire separates them from their jailers, the prisoners launch “body fluids” – urine and excrement. But they still haven’t constructed the wall around Guantánamo to contain the cries of desperation. It is Ramadan. It is the prayer hour. Among the prayers in Arabic, one detainee manages to shout out in precarious English on noticing my presence: “They are lying to you!”

(Translated by Granma International)

Bush Owes Troops Apology, Not Kerry by Keith Olbermann

On the 22nd of May, 1856, as the deteriorating American political system veered toward the edge of the cliff, U.S. Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina shuffled into the Senate of this nation, his leg stiff from an old dueling injury, supported by a cane. And he looked for the familiar figure of the prominent senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner.
Brooks found Sumner at his desk, mailing out copies of a speech he had delivered three days earlier — a speech against slavery.

The congressman matter-of-factly raised his walking stick in midair and smashed its metal point across the senator’s head.

Congressman Brooks hit his victim repeatedly. Sen. Sumner somehow got to his feet and tried to flee. Brooks chased him and delivered untold blows to Sumner’s head. Even though Sumner lay unconscious and bleeding on the Senate floor, Brooks finally stopped beating him only because his cane finally broke.

Others will cite John Brown’s attack on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry as the exact point after which the Civil War became inevitable.

In point of fact, it might have been the moment, not when Brooks broke his cane over the prostrate body of Sen. Sumner — but when voters in Brooks’ district started sending him new canes.

Tonight, we almost wonder to whom President Bush will send the next new cane.

There is tonight no political division in this country that he and his party will not exploit, nor have not exploited; no anxiety that he and his party will not inflame.

There is no line this president has not crossed — nor will not cross — to keep one political party in power.

He has spread any and every fear among us in a desperate effort to avoid that which he most fears — some check, some balance against what has become not an imperial, but a unilateral presidency.

And now it is evident that it no longer matters to him whether that effort to avoid the judgment of the people is subtle and nuanced or laughably transparent.

Sen. John Kerry called him out Monday.

He did it two years too late.

He had been too cordial — just as Vice President Gore had been too cordial in 2000, just as millions of us have been too cordial ever since.

Sen. Kerry, as you well know, spoke at a college in Southern California. With bitter humor he told the students that he had been in Texas the day before, that President Bush used to live in that state, but that now he lives in the state of denial.

He said the trip had reminded him about the value of education — that “if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you can get stuck in Iraq.”

The senator, in essence, called Mr. Bush stupid.

The context was unmistakable: Texas; the state of denial; stuck in Iraq. No interpretation required.

And Mr. Bush and his minions responded by appearing to be too stupid to realize that they had been called stupid.

They demanded Kerry apologize to the troops in Iraq.

And so he now has.

That phrase — “appearing to be too stupid” — is used deliberately, Mr. Bush.

Because there are only three possibilities here.

One, sir, is that you are far more stupid than the worst of your critics have suggested; that you could not follow the construction of a simple sentence; that you could not recognize your own life story when it was deftly summarized; that you could not perceive it was the sad ledger of your presidency that was being recounted.

This, of course, compliments you, Mr. Bush, because even those who do not “make the most of it,” who do not “study hard,” who do not “do their homework,” and who do not “make an effort to be smart” might still just be stupid, but honest.

No, the first option, sir, is, at best, improbable. You are not honest.

The second option is that you and those who work for you deliberately twisted what Sen. Kerry said to fit your political template; that you decided to take advantage of it, to once again pretend that the attacks, solely about your own incompetence, were in fact attacks on the troops or even on the nation itself.

The third possibility is, obviously, the nightmare scenario: that the first two options are in some way conflated.

That it is both politically convenient for you and personally satisfying to you, to confuse yourself with the country for which, sir, you work.

A brief reminder, Mr. Bush: You are not the United States of America.

You are merely a politician whose entire legacy will have been a willingness to make anything political; to have, in this case, refused to acknowledge that the insult wasn’t about the troops, and that the insult was not even truly about you either, that the insult, in fact, is you.

So now John Kerry has apologized to the troops; apologized for the Republicans’ deliberate distortions.

Thus, the president will now begin the apologies he owes our troops, right?

This president must apologize to the troops for having suggested, six weeks ago, that the chaos in Iraq, the death and the carnage, the slaughtered Iraqi civilians and the dead American service personnel, will, to history, “look like just a comma.”

This president must apologize to the troops because the intelligence he claims led us into Iraq proved to be undeniably and irredeemably wrong.

This president must apologize to the troops for having laughed about the failure of that intelligence at a banquet while our troops were in harm’s way.

This president must apologize to the troops because the streets of Iraq were not strewn with flowers and its residents did not greet them as liberators.

This president must apologize to the troops because his administration ran out of “plan” after barely two months.

This president must apologize to the troops for getting 2,815 of them killed.

This president must apologize to the troops for getting this country into a war without a clue.

And Mr. Bush owes us an apology for this destructive and omnivorous presidency.

We will not receive them, of course.

This president never apologizes.

Not to the troops.

Not to the people.

Nor will those henchmen who have echoed him.

In calling him a “stuffed suit,” Sen. Kerry was wrong about the press secretary.

Mr. Snow’s words and conduct, falsely earnest and earnestly false, suggest he is not “stuffed,” he is inflated.

And in leaving him out of the equation, Sen. Kerry gave an unwarranted pass to his old friend Sen. John McCain, who should be ashamed of himself tonight.

He rolled over and pretended Kerry had said what he obviously had not.

Only, the symbolic stick he broke over Kerry’s head came in a context even more disturbing.

Mr. McCain demanded the apology while electioneering for a Republican congressional candidate in Illinois.

He was speaking of how often he had been to Walter Reed Hospital to see the wounded Iraq veterans, of how “many of them have lost limbs.”

He said all this while demanding that the voters of Illinois reject a candidate who is not only a wounded Iraq veteran, but who lost two limbs there, Tammy Duckworth.

Support some of the wounded veterans. But bad-mouth the Democratic one.

And exploit all the veterans and all the still-serving personnel in a cheap and tawdry political trick to try to bury the truth: that John Kerry said the president had been stupid.

And to continue this slander as late as this morning — as biased or gullible or lazy newscasters nodded in sleep-walking assent.

Sen. McCain became a front man in a collective lie to break sticks over the heads of Democrats — one of them his friend, another his fellow veteran, legless, for whom he should weep and applaud or at minimum about whom he should stay quiet.

That was beneath the senator from Arizona.

And it was all because of an imaginary insult to the troops that his party cynically manufactured out of a desperation and a futility as deep as that of Congressman Brooks, when he went hunting for Sen. Sumner.

This is our beloved country now as you have redefined it, Mr. Bush.

Get a tortured Vietnam veteran to attack a decorated Vietnam veteran in defense of military personnel whom that decorated veteran did not insult.

Or, get your henchmen to take advantage of the evil lingering dregs of the fear of miscegenation in Tennessee, in your party’s advertisements against Harold Ford.

Or, get the satellites who orbit around you, like Rush Limbaugh, to exploit the illness — and the bipartisanship — of Michael J. Fox. Yes, get someone to make fun of the cripple.

Oh, and sir, don’t forget to drag your own wife into it.

“It’s always easy,” she said of Mr. Fox’s commercials — and she used this phrase twice — “to manipulate people’s feelings.”

Where on earth might the first lady have gotten that idea, Mr. President?

From your endless manipulation of people’s feelings about terrorism?

“However they put it,” you said Monday of the Democrats, on the subject of Iraq, “their approach comes down to this: The terrorists win, and America loses.”

No manipulation of feelings there.

No manipulation of the charlatans of your administration into the only truth-tellers.

No shocked outrage at the Kerry insult that wasn’t; no subtle smile as the first lady silently sticks the knife in Michael J. Fox’s back; no attempt on the campaign trail to bury the reality that you have already assured that the terrorists are winning.

Winning in Iraq, sir.

Winning in America, sir.

There we have chaos — joint U.S.-Iraqi checkpoints at Sadr City, the base of the radical Shiite militias, and the Americans have been ordered out by the prime minister of Iraq … and our secretary of defense doesn’t even know about it!

And here we have deliberate, systematic, institutionalized lying and smearing and terrorizing — a code of deceit that somehow permits a president to say, “If you listen carefully for a Democrat plan for success, they don’t have one.”

Permits him to say this while his plan in Iraq has amounted to a twisted version of the advice once offered to Lyndon Johnson about his Iraq, called Vietnam.

Instead of “declare victory and get out” we now have “declare victory and stay indefinitely.”

And also here — we have institutionalized the terrorizing of the opposition.

True domestic terror:

Critics of your administration in the media receive letters filled with fake anthrax.

Braying newspapers applaud or laugh or reveal details the FBI wished kept quiet, and thus impede or ruin the investigation.

A series of reactionary columnists encourages treason charges against a newspaper that published “national security information” that was openly available on the Internet.

One radio critic receives a letter threatening the revelation of as much personal information about her as can be obtained and expressing the hope that someone will then shoot her with an AK-47 machine gun.

And finally, a critic of an incumbent Republican senator, a critic armed with nothing but words, is attacked by the senator’s supporters and thrown to the floor in full view of television cameras as if someone really did want to re-enact the intent — and the rage — of the day Preston Brooks found Sen. Charles Sumner.

Of course, Mr. President, you did none of these things.

You instructed no one to mail the fake anthrax, nor undermine the FBI’s case, nor call for the execution of the editors of the New York Times, nor threaten to assassinate Stephanie Miller, nor beat up a man yelling at Sen. George Allen, nor have the first lady knife Michael J. Fox, nor tell John McCain to lie about John Kerry.

No, you did not.

And the genius of the thing is the same as in King Henry’s rhetorical question about Archbishop Thomas Becket: “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

All you have to do, sir, is hand out enough new canes.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Keith Olbermann Special Comment

Bush Owes Troops Apology, Not Kerry - by Keith Olbermann

American Prison Planet - The Bush Administration as Global Jailor by Nick Turse

Today, the United States presides over a burgeoning empire -- not only the "empire of bases" first described by Chalmers Johnson, but a far-flung new network of maximum security penitentiaries, detention centers, jail cells, cages, and razor wire-topped pens. From supermax-type isolation prisons in 40 of the 50 states to shadowy ghost jails at remote sites across the globe, this new network of detention facilities is quite unlike the gulags, concentration-camps, or prison nations of the past.

Even with a couple million prisoners under its control, the U.S. prison network lacks the infrastructure or manpower of the Soviet gulag or the orderly planning of the Nazi concentration-camp system. However, where it bests both, and breaks new incarceration ground, is in its planet-ranging scope, with sites scattered the world over -- from Europe to Asia, the Middle East to the Caribbean. Unlike colonial prison systems of the past, the new U.S. prison network seems to have floated almost free of surrounding colonies. Right now, it has only four major centers -- the "homeland," Afghanistan, Iraq, and a postage-stamp-sized parcel of Cuba. As such, it already hovers at the edge of its own imperial existence, bringing to mind the unprecedented possibility of a prison planet. In a remarkably few years, the Bush administration has been able to construct a global detention system, already of near epic proportions, both on the fly and on the cheap.

Sizing Up a Prison Planet

Soon after the attacks of September 11th, 2001, the U.S. began the process of creating what has been termed "an offshore archipelago of injustice." In addition to using "the Charleston Navy Brig" and locking up "one prisoner of war in Miami, Florida," according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Bush administration detained people from around the world in sweeps, imprisoned them without charges and kept them incommunicado at U.S. detention facilities at a CIA prison outside Kabul, Afghanistan (code-named the "Salt Pit"), at Bagram military airbase in Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba, among other sites.

Since it was set up in 2002, the detainment complex at Guantanamo Bay has been the public face of the Bush administration's semi-secret foreign prison network -- a collection of camps, cells, and cages that today holds 437 prisoners. But "Gitmo" has always been the tiny showpiece, the jewel in a very dark crown, for a much larger, less visible foreign network of military detention facilities, CIA "black" sites, and outsourced foreign prisons. It is a prison camp that rightly attracts opprobrium, but it also serves to focus attention away from shadowy ghost jails, borrowed third-nation facilities, much larger prisons holding thousands in Iraq, and a full-scale network of detention centers and prisons in Afghanistan.

We may never know how many secret prisons exist (or, for a time, existed) in the shape-shifting American mini-gulag, but according to the Washington Post, some locations for these black sites include itinerant CIA detention centers "on ships at sea," a site in Thailand, and another on "Britain's Diego Garcia island in the Indian Ocean." Uzbekistan has been reported as one possible location, Algeria another. Denials were issued about ghost jails being located in Russia and Bulgaria. The British Guardian named "a US airbase in the Gulf state of Qatar" as another suspected site. And while proposed prisons on "virtually unvisited islands in Lake Kariba in Zambia" were evidently nixed, various black sites located in "several democracies in Eastern Europe" apparently did come into being.

ABC News reported that the "CIA established secret prisons in Romania and Poland in 2002-2003" before shutting them down in early 2006 and moving the disappeared prisoners on to "a facility in North Africa." Following this report, Tomdispatch contacted Major General Timothy Ghormley, then the commander of the Combined Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) for U. S. Central Command, to inquire about the prisoner transfer. Ghormley stated: "There are no other U.S. bases in the Horn of Africa besides Camp Lemonier [in Djibouti]." He went on to assert, "There are no prisons under CJTF-HOA's command, and Camp Lemonier does not do prisoner transfers." When asked about CIA operations at the camp, he said he was barred from talking about "any security operations worldwide" and could not speak for the CIA. It is, however, worth noting that Amnesty International reported earlier this year on a Yemeni man who was "disappeared" and "flown on a small US plane to a site probably in Djibouti, where he was questioned by officials who told him they were from the FBI."

While these illegal sites, mainly run by the CIA, were intermittently identified in the U.S. or foreign press, it was only this September that President George W. Bush finally acknowledged the existence of the CIA's secret prisons. Still, it's unknown how many CIA black sites are still active and how many clandestine military prisons are still in operation.

What little we do know, however, indicates that the "archipelago of injustice" has grown to world-spanning proportions. For example, in an investigative article in the British Guardian in March 2005, Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark reported that a network of over 20 U.S. prisons was believed to exist in Afghanistan, including "an official US detention centre in Kandahar, where the tough regime has been nicknamed ‘Camp Slappy' by former prisoners." Just recently, Trevor Paglen and A.C. Thompson, authors of Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights, confirmed this, reporting that "the U.S. military has erected some 20 detention centers [in Afghanistan]… which all operate in near total secrecy. These are facilities that the U.N., the Afghan government, journalists, and human rights groups can't get into."

We know as well that suspects, swept up around the world, have been outsourced to the prisons and torture chambers of third countries in "extraordinary rendition" operations. The number of prisons operated by other countries is shadowy, but certainly geographically wide-ranging. Foreign facilities available for Bush administration use evidently have included the al-Tamara interrogation center, located in "a forest five miles outside [Morocco's] capital, Rabat"; sites in Jordan including "prisons in the capital, Amman, and in desert locations in the east of the country"; facilities in Saudi Arabia; "a series of jails in Damascus," Syria; "the interrogation centre in the general intelligence directorate in Lazoughli and in Mulhaq al-Mazra prison" in Egypt; "facilities in Baku, Azerbaijan"; and "unidentified locations in Thailand," among others.

The treatment given in 2002 to Canadian Maher Arar, recently the recipient of the Letelier-Moffitt International Human Rights Award, offers a glimpse into the American prison planet in action in its early stages of formation. Arar has described how he was detained and then held incommunicado -- shackled and chained -- in a terminal in New York's JFK Airport before being transported to Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center. At that Federal prison, Arar recalls an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) agent telling him, "The INS is not the body or the agency that signed the Geneva Convention… against torture."

"For me," said Arar, a Canadian citizen born in Syria, "what that really meant is we will send you to torture and we don't care." He was, in fact, soon flown to Jordan, where he was beaten, and then driven to Syria. There, he was locked in a filthy, dark cell "about three feet wide, six feet deep and about seven feet high" where he was kept in isolation for 10 months and 10 days when not being physically assaulted. Despite being tortured into a false confession, Arar was found to have no links to terrorism and was never charged with crimes of any sort by the United States, Canada, Jordan, or Syria. Instead, he was sent back to Canada without so much as an apology or explanation by the Bush administration. His is the archetypal tale of the American prison planet that has been under construction these last years -- a torture tour of the globe's most dismal hell holes. How many others have suffered variations of this treatment remains unknown. The few useful figures we do have, such as the European parliament's April 2006 findings of over 1,000 secret CIA flights over European Union territory alone since 2001, suggest a large number of "extraordinary renditions" have been carried out.

When President Bush finally came (somewhat) clean about the CIA's illegal prisons (even turning them, along with his torture policies, into a proud election issue), a senior State Department official also asserted that there were "no detainees" still in them. Within days, however, newspapers began to point to evidence that people presumed to have been disappeared by the U.S. were still unaccounted for. In mid-October, a specific case hit the press when it was disclosed that "a Syrian with Spanish citizenship, was captured in Pakistan in October 2005 and is held in a prison operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency."

Operation Iraqi Freedom?

The war in Iraq boosted the profile of the American prison planet immeasurably, especially after the Abu Ghraib prison revelations burst into public view in the spring of 2004. At that time, approximately 20,000 Iraqis were imprisoned by U.S. forces, including -- a report that year disclosed -- more than 100 children as young as 10 years of age.

Over two years later, there are still many thousands of Iraqis held by U.S. forces in that country -- including about 3,550 in a brand new "$60-million state-of-the-art detention center" at Camp Cropper near Baghdad's airport and another almost 9,500 in somewhat more primitive prison conditions at Camp Bucca in the south and Fort Suse in the Kurdish north.

Meanwhile, the number of prisoners and detainees held by the U.S.-backed Iraqi government and allied militias and death squads is murky at best, but probably sizeable. Secret prisons -- where the grimmest kinds of torture are performed, often with power drills -- are reputed to be scattered around Baghdad, the capital. In November 2005, then-Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari admitted receiving word on conditions in just one of these. According to the BBC, "173 detainees had been held [in an Interior Ministry building], that they appeared malnourished, and may have been 'subjected to some kind of torture.'" The next month, the Washington Post reported the discovery of a "second Interior Ministry detention center where cases of prisoner abuse have been confirmed by U.S. and Iraqi officials."

By June of this year, it was reported that the Iraqi Interior Ministry was still holding 1,797 prisoners; the Defense Ministry a smaller undisclosed number; and the Justice Ministry, at least 7,426.

Lockdown, USA

The offshore archipelago of injustice garners the headlines, but it's the homeland prison network that locks up far more people and provides at least one possible model for what the foreign network could morph into given the time and funds to expand and harden into a permanent supermax system. Comprised of federal and state prisons, territorial prisons, local jails, "facilities operated by or exclusively for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement," military prisons, "jails in Indian country," and juvenile detention facilities, the homeland prison system is a truly massive apparatus.

Just as the global network has expanded in the years since 9/11, so has incarceration in the U.S. In fact, it has climbed steadily in recent years. Today, the U.S. stands preeminent among all nations in treating people like caged animals. According to statistics provided to the BBC by the International Centre for Prison Studies, 724 people per 100,000 are imprisoned in the U.S., overwhelmingly trumping even increasingly authoritarian Russia, the world's second-ranked prison power, who's rate of caging humans is only 581 per 100,000.

All told, the U.S. now has 2,135,901 prisoners in domestic detention facilities, alone -- several hundred thousand more than are imprisoned in both China and India, the world's two most populous countries, combined. Of these people, 192,198 are imprisoned in federal facilities -- though just 5.3% of them for the violent crimes of most people's nightmares: homicide, aggravated assault, kidnapping, and sex offenses. Instead, most -- 53.6 % -- are locked up on (often small-time) drug charges.

Of the federal prison population, the government classifies about 0.1 % (100 people) as having committed "national security" offenses. There's no category in the U.S. system for political prisoners, which doesn't mean they don't exist. According to a 2002 Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal article by J. Soffiyah Elijah, there were, prior to September 11, 2001, "nearly 100 political prisoners and prisoners of war incarcerated in the United States" -- many of them the surviving victims of Vietnam-era government campaigns against activists.

There is also another group of political prisoners of indeterminate number not listed on the rolls -- war resisters. Just recently Iraq War veteran turned resister Kevin Benderman was released from a military prison where he had been held for over a year for refusing to redeploy to Iraq due to his conscientious objection to the war. While Army Lieutenant Ehren Watada is currently facing an eight-year prison sentence, if convicted, for similar opposition to Iraq. One website lists 27 war resisters "presently in legal jeopardy, or currently incarcerated" who have gone public with their stories.

Additionally, in the immediate wake of 9/11, the government conducted sweeps of Muslim immigrants (and Muslim-Americans) reminiscent of the detentions of Japanese and Japanese-Americans during World War II, "locking up large numbers of Middle Eastern men, using whatever legal tools they can." There was never any full accounting of these mass roundups, codenamed PENTTBOM, or what happened to all the people who were rousted from beds or yanked out of places of work by federal agents. What little is known suggests that "762 of the 1,200 PENTTBOM arrestees were charged with immigration violations at the behest of the FBI because agents thought they might be associated with terrorism... [but] almost every one was either deported or released within a few months." Only a small percentage of the 1,200 are thought to have even been processed through the federal criminal justice system.

This summer the Washington Post announced that, after 5 years of captivity, Benamar Benatta, "believed to be the last remaining domestic detainee from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was released." In mid-October, however, word surfaced that Ali Partovi, also caught in the dragnet, was still being held captive although he "is not charged with a crime, not suspected of a crime, [and] not considered a danger to society."

Preemptive Incarceration

From time to time, certain people in the U.S. also find themselves tossed into special kinds of detention facilities. For example, during the 2004 Republican National Convention (RNC) in New York City, protesters (and also bystanders) swept up in indiscriminate mass arrests or illegal acts of preemptive incarceration were temporarily locked up in "Marine and Aviation Pier 57," a filthy facility of razor-wire topped chain-link cages that was soon dubbed "Guantanamo on the Hudson." While being imprisoned in New York City's own Gitmo didn't begin to compare to being tossed in the real McCoy or any other secret offshore site, there was one striking similarity. U.S. intelligence officials estimated that 70-90% of prisoners detained in Iraq "had been arrested by mistake." That was also 2004. The next year, it was revealed that, of the large majority of RNC arrest cases that had run their course, 91% of the arrests were dismissed or ended in acquittals.

On the American prison planet, not only has the principle of habeas corpus been formally abolished and torture proudly added to the mix, but that crucial tenet of the legal system, the presumption of innocence, has been cast aside. Whether at home or abroad, the solution for U.S. security forces is a simple one, identify the likely suspects, conduct sweeps, and preemptively lock them up.

Concentration Camp, USA?

According to recent statements by the Department Homeland Security 's Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau, some time in the future undocumented economic migrants may be imprisoned on "old cruise ships." Other illegals may even find themselves in a KBR concentration camp.

Earlier this year, news broke that Halliburton subsidiary, KBR -- the firm infamous for building prison facilities at Guantanamo Bay and for scandals stemming from work in the Iraq war zone -- received a $385 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to build detention centers, according to the New York Times, "for an unexpected influx of immigrants" or "new programs that require additional detention space." For anyone who remembers the First World War-era proposal by four state governors to imprison members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) for the duration of the conflict, or the 1939 Hobbs ("Concentration Camp") Bill that sought the detention of aliens, or the forcible relocation and imprisonment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans during World War II, or the 1950 McCarran Act's provisions for setting up concentration camps for subversives, or the Vietnam-era plans to round up and jail radicals in the event of a national emergency and conduct mass detentions in the face of possible urban insurrections, the announcement may have seemed less than startling. But thought of in the context of prison-planet planning, it nonetheless strikes an ominous note indeed.

One Vietnam-era radical, former Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg, grasped the implications immediately. "Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters," he said. "They've already done this on a smaller scale, with the 'special registration' detentions of immigrant men from Muslim countries, and with Guantanamo."

Fear of a Prison Planet

In 2005, Irene Khan, Amnesty International's general secretary, described Guantanamo Bay as "the gulag of our time." But the American gulag is so much more than Guantanamo and so much worse. The combination of U.S. "homeland" prisons, where "one in 140 Americans, or as many people as live in Namibia, or nearly five Luxembourgs" are locked away, the offshore imperial detention facilities, the shadowy CIA black sites, and the ever-shifting outsourced detention facilities operated by other nations adds up to something new in history -- the makings of a veritable American prison planet.

Nick Turse is the associate editor and research director of He has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Nation, the Village Voice, and regularly for Tomdispatch. Articles from his recent Los Angeles Times series, "The War Crimes Files" can be found here.

[This article first appeared on, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of American triumphalism in the Cold War, a novel, The Last Days of Publishing, and in the fall, Mission Unaccomplished (Nation Books), the first collection of Tomdispatch interviews.]

Why the Mexican elections were stolen

Why the Mexican elections were stolen

It's the oil, stupid!

Even as popular pressure grows around Latin America for a stronger state hand in developing natural resources such as oil and gas, Mexico's president-elect Felipe Calderón may be forced to consider putting more power in private hands.
The country's flagship oil company Pemex, has been a point of pride since the industry was wrenched from foreign hands and nationalized in 1938. Its revenues alone cover one-third of Mexico's budget.

But prosperity from years of record oil prices has allowed Mexico to postpone what most agree are much-needed reforms. And now, as production at Pemex's top oil field declines, pressure to find new fields is mounting. But industry analysts say Mexico's constitutional restriction on foreign direct investment will hamstring costly exploration efforts, and possibly disrupt the flow of oil, 80 percent of which heads to the US.

Indeed, with his fragile political mandate, Mr. Calderón may find that oil becomes the issue that will define his presidency.

Translation: If he doesn't co-operate with the privateers, he's gonna find a horse's head on his pillow and a replacement in his chair.

This is an important first battle," says Benito Nacif, a political scientist at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CRTE), a Mexico City think tank. "In the industry sector, there is a consensus that this reform is necessary, that you have to open it up [to the private sector]. The question is: 'Will [Calderón] be able to build sufficient [political] consensus?' "
Many industry analysts had hoped that outgoing President Vicente Fox would be able to push through energy-sector reforms to open up Pemex to more private direct investment, in order to boost exploration and production.

Mexico is the second-biggest supplier of oil to the US, favored because of its proximity and relative political stability.

For "relative political stability", read stolen elections favorable to US-backed candidates.

In the end, Mr. Fox didn't push through a consitutional change, largely because trying to privative Pemex, even partially, is so politically unpopular.
Gee, I wonder why!

Also, when Fox came to office in 2000, capacity at Cantarell, the world's second-largest field and Mexico's most important, was not in question. The complex, located in southern Gulf waters, actually increased production during Fox's term, peaking in 2004 with 2.1 million barrels a day.
But since then, production has been dropping off at Cantarell. David Shields, an independent energy expert in Mexico City, says production declined by 10 percent in the first six months of 2006. He contends that Pemex is in much worse shape than is publicly expressed. "Pemex says everything is great," he says. "But [Cantarell] is going to run out, and they [in the long-term] don't have other things to replace it."

Earlier this month, the state monopoly announced that crude output from another offshore field, Ku-Maloob-Zaap, was expected to double in 2009. That, Pemex officials said at a press conference, would help maintain oil production at an average 3.2 million barrels a day, and offset losses from Cantarell.

George Baker, an energy analyst at the consulting firm in Houston, says he is not surprised by Pemex's announcement. "Pemex has a way of making magic," he says. Still, he says that potential finds in the Gulf of Mexico, similar to Chevron's recent announcement of a big discovery in US waters, are currently out of reach because Pemex does not have the technical know-how or money to undertake such exploration. The issues have been here all along, says Baker, but now that Cantarell is facing declines, "the slope downward is slipperier."

This is bullshit--it's what the vultures all say. Public sector backward and inefficient, private sector innovative and can-do!


Experts say that American companies are watching oil production in Mexico, but because of politics, cannot interfere by pushing for more foreign participation. If the US needed to purchase oil from more-distant countries, additional transportation costs would be passed onto the consumer, Baker says.
Notice how they never contemplate taking it out of the CEO's pay or the shareholders' profits? Pray tell me, what is investment about if not to help a company realize its goals?

Oh make profit for investors. Yo, heave ho.

So far, Calderón has reiterated that he will not consider private direct investment. "There will be deliberations that we Mexicans will have in Congress to find the means by which Pemex can access the probable reserves, particularly in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico," he said at a September press conference. "But, for now, I will be very respectful of national legislation on the matter, which doesn't permit foreign investment in petroleum extraction...."
In its legislative agenda, his incoming administration has also remained unclear when it comes to its energy plans, focusing on the need to "modernize" and increase investment in Pemex.

"These things are very vague, one could interpret them as minor fiscal reforms, or ... major constitutional reforms," says Allyson Benton, an expert on economics and politics at the CRTE in Mexico City. "They want to wait to see what kinds of coalitions can be built around these things."

When it comes to obtaining gasoline here, drivers have only one, decidedly Mexican, choice: the green and red pumps at Pemex. That's the way many want it. Calderón barely squeaked out a victory in the July 2 election, winning by just half a percentage point. While his rival, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, disputed the race this summer, López Obrador used many of his protest gatherings to rally supporters about keeping foreigners out of the energy sector. Each appeal brought wild applause.

Indeed, the divided electorate means that Calderón is unlikely to find the political capital to challenge nationalization, even partially. "It is too much of a political danger for them under the conditions they won," says Miguel Tinker-Salas, an oil and politics expert at Pomona College in California.

Mr. Shields puts it more starkly, saying that allowing international companies back into Mexico is tantamount to letting "the invader back in," he says. "There will be a revolution before there is foreign direct investment."

Yep, Calderon knows he's a dead man either way. If he strives to please the people of Mexico, the privateers will ensure that the SOA-trained Mexican military puts a bomb on his presidential plane and makes it look like an accident. If he pleases the privateers, the people of Mexico will revolt.

And now, for something truly surprising:

Those against foreign investment received a boost this month when businessman Carlos Slim, the third-richest man in the world according to Forbes magazine, announced that Mexico did not need foreign help to reach deep-sea oil.
Some analysts say that more foreign investment is not the only solution for Pemex. Mr. Tinker-Salas, for example, says that with more oversight, Pemex could become more efficient.

Ms. Benton says that Calderón might have the most room for change by addressing fiscal reform. One option would be to lift the heavy tax burden from Pemex, which sees nearly half of its earnings go to government coffers, so that Pemex can focus on daily operations. The budget is so stripped, she says, that Pemex has to import a significant portion of its refined products.

So...someone please remind me again of why privatization is the supposed only solution? Doesn't look like it is...doesn't even look like it's a solution at all. So why bother even contemplating it, then?

But some still hope that Calderón will be able to open the industry to more private participation, beyond the current flat-fee subcontracts that foreign companies can participate in. The long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), for example, moved to the right of the spectrum on the issue this election, says Mr. Nacif. The PRI is also more likely to cooperate with the Calderón administration because it is in a weaker position, having dropped to the third-largest party in Congress.
But more than anything, the reality of dwindling oil production may help to change sentiments. "One of the factors that drives policy change everywhere is the deterioration of the status quo," says Nacif, "and the perception is that the status quo is worsening. It's going to help [Calderón]" move toward opening the industry up to private firms.

Translation: Do as we say, or Guido lets da boid have it.

And that's why the Mexican elections were stolen. That, and the fact that they could be stolen, unlike the Venezuelan elections.

Any questions?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More PR for serial killers: Pentagon gears up for new media war - WATCH IT, BECAUSE WE'RE WATCHING YOU...

It's another Pentagon assault on facts and reality, the state of denial getting worse. It's also a threat by those serial killers from Washington: watch it, because we're watching you...


Pls. keep in mind that the BBC is one of the worst war propaganda channels ever. They this far broadcasted on average two percent (2%) dissent concerning the illegal wars, which they daily advocate and justify. Their two percent is criminally less than even FOX, CNN or similar propaganda sewers spout. - HR

Maybe it's better to read MediaLens and others before - Url.:

Personally I really dislike the BBC, which has become one of the worst warmongers on earth. And I sincerely hope to see the responsible propagandists - of any and double nationality, who all are guilty of crimes against humanity - in court soon. - Url.:

So when reading this war propaganda, we all know this is just the BBC, equal to Broadcasting Blair's Crap!

''Broadcasting Bush's Crap'' is OK too...


By Paul Reynolds

World affairs correspondent, BBC News website

2006/10/31 - The Pentagon's new effort to influence media coverage of the war in Iraq is an example of how governments react when a war is not going too well.

They begin to think it is not the war that is the problem, but the presentation of it.


The plan, detailed in a memo seen by the Associated Press news agency, is for a rapid response unit that would "correct the record" in the 24/7 news cycle that exists today - including, crucially, on the internet. One aim, AP says, seems to be to deflect criticism of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself.

It is on the internet that blogs and other sites rapidly spread information, sometimes as fact and sometimes as rumour, and build up pressure points of opinion. These are then reflected in the mainstream media.

There would also be a list of favourite speakers or "surrogates" who would be offered to broadcast media, especially to the US talk shows, where fast appearances and faster opinions matter.

Whether this will make much difference is open to question.


The insurgents in Iraq are brilliant at using the media, especially the internet, and it will not be easy for the Pentagon to counter the impact these videos can have.


An example of the way can be seen on a site run by Memri, the Middle East Media Research Institute. This is a pro-Israeli research group that specialises in showing extracts from Arab TV stations.

In this case, it has downloaded from a jihadist website an eight-minute video of a US ammunition dump on fire in Baghdad on 10 October. It is a spectacular display, well-packaged and accompanied by a commentary praising the fighters who carried out the attack.

Mr Rumsfeld signalled the Pentagon move in a speech to the Foreign Relations Council in New York in February. He said: "Our enemies have skilfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but for the most part we, our country, our government, has not adapted.

"Today we're engaged in the first war in history - unconventional and irregular as it may be - in an era of e-mails, blogs, cell phones, Blackberries, instant messaging, digital cameras, a global internet with no inhibitions, cell phones, hand-held video cameras, talk radio, 24-hour news broadcasts, satellite television. There's never been a war fought in this environment before."

He returned to the theme of the media deficit in August: "That's the thing that keeps me up at night", he told an audience of naval personnel.


The Pentagon, however, has tried before to influence the media, especially the Iraqi media, and fell on its face.

In 2005, the New York Times revealed that the Department of Defense was paying a public relations company to write and place articles in Iraqi newspapers. One of these had the lyrical line that "the sands are blowing toward a democratic Iraq," dismissing sceptical Western views that democracy was not working in Iraq.

This latest effort is supposed to be more open, but also more fleet of foot, and the memo compared it to the kind of political operation run by Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election campaign, in which immediate responses were made to criticism from opponents.

A cautionary tale comes from the Vietnam War. There, the war was lost when viewers in the living room realised what was happening on the battlefield. No amount of spin could change it.

The turning point in the media war came when the veteran CBS News presenter, Walter Cronkite, went to Vietnam after the Tet offensive in 1968. He came back and declared that there was "stalemate".

This is how he ended his TV broadcast:

"To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.

"On the off-chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations.

"But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors but as an honourable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.




Story at BBC - Url.:

The Pentagon and the US/Israeli war machine have been killing journalists for ages - Url.:

* FOX: Video 49 min. - The example how viewers are brainwashed and 'outfoxed' - Url.:

* What Bush c.s. their collaborators and media propagandists are afraid of - Url.:

* Google search "Biggest threat to world peace" - Url.:

* MSNBC - Live Vote: Do you believe President Bush's actions justify impeachment? - Url.:

* "People do not forget. They do not forget the death of their fellows, they do not forget torture and mutilation, they do not forget injustice, they do not forget oppression, they do not forget the terrorism of mighty powers. They not only don't forget: they also strike back." - 2005 Nobel Literature Prize winner Harold Pinter - Url.:

* The Nuremberg principles: "Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment." - Url.:

* 'Crying Wolf' - Media Disinformation and Death Squads in Occupied Iraq - Url.:

* Al Qaeda – The Database - Url.:

*Read the Fightin' Cock Flyer - Url.:

* 'Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one' — A.J. Liebling - The merciless engine of propaganda has been turned on: The infamous US 'Lie Factory' - Url.:

* He who travels far will often see things

Far removed from what he believed was the Truth.

When he talks about it in the fields at home,

He is often accused of lying,

For the obdurate people will not believe

Inexperience, I believe,

Will give little credence to my song.

'Journey to the East' - Hermann Hesse

* Help all the troops - of whatever nationality - to come back from abroad! - AND WITH ALL THEIR WEAPONS, WHICH WE ARE FORCED TO PAY FOR BY TAXES - [] - We need them badly at home in many countries to fight with us against our so called 'governments' and their malignant managers - Url.:

* The Dutch author this far has lived and worked abroad - never in an English speaking country - for more than 4 decades for international media as an independent foreign correspondent, of which 10 years - also during Gulf War I - in the Arab World and the Middle East. Seeing worldwide that every bullet and every bomb breeds more terrorism!

Editor: Henk Ruyssenaars
The Netherlands


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Israel Bombed Lebanon with Uranium

Once again, we are told those crazy Iranians have “stepped up” their enrichment program, and Israel has taken the opportunity to compare Iran to Nazi Germany.

War criminal Ehud Olmert, guilty of bombing Lebanese children while they slept in apartment buildings, used Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, to warn of Iranian “echoes of those very voices that started to spread across the world in the 1930s,” a reference to German fascism. Of course, Iranian nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism is hardly analogous to fascism, never mind the idiots on Fox News incessantly jabbering about “Islamofascism,” but this fact is lost on the ill-informed hordes tuned in to the corporate media Borg Hive.

Meanwhile, as the corporate media attempts to scare us into believing Iran will have nukes by the time I finish typing this sentence, the possibility Israel used uranium in Lebanon receives next to no coverage.

The Independent is reporting “that scientists were studying samples of Lebanese soil after Israeli bombing during the July-August war showed high radiation levels, suggesting that uranium-based munitions had been used. Samples taken from two Israeli bomb craters in the Lebanese villages of Khiam and aL-Tiri have been sent to the Harwell laboratory in Oxfordshire, southern England, for further analysis.”

According to the International Middle East Media Center, the “damage caused by such weapons inflict vicious wounds, which will burst into flames when exposed to air, even after the initial infliction. The threat does not end there as the particles of uranium released from the weapon remain in the land and air causing cancer for years to come.” In addition, notes IMEMC, there is “suspicion that Israel is also using illegal weapons in Gaza, during its ‘Summer Rains Operation’; the injuries that are being sustained by the weapons being used, according to the Rafah hospitals’ Director, are injuries that must be inflicted by a new weapon as he has not seen injuries like this before. They leave the victims torn apart and covered in burns, he stated.” A recent Italian “television report aired last week made a similar claim, raising the possibility that Israel had used a weapon in the Gaza Strip in recent months, causing especially serious physical injuries, such as amputated limbs and severe burns,” reports WAFA, the Palestinian News Agency.

Of course, this is scantly mentioned in the corporate media. A Google News search returns exactly a dozen results on the news story, ranging from the Khaleej Times in the United Arab Emirates to the Jerusalem Post in Israel, but as usual the American media, beyond the alternative media, is completely ignoring the story, a natural occurrence as such brutal revelations would inspire people to ask their government why it is sending billions of dollars a year to a country that nukes its neighbor (and using uranium-based munitions is indeed nuclear war, even if the signature mushroom cloud is absent).

Even Yedioth Ahronoth, a major Hebrew language tabloid newspaper published in Israel, reported the accusation, while its American counterparts remained silent. “We know that they drenched southern Lebanon with cluster bombs in the last 72 hours of the war, leaving tens of thousands of bomblets which are still killing Lebanese civilians every week,” YNet, the internet version of Yedioth Ahronoth, reports, quoting the Independent. “And we now know—after it first categorically denied using such munitions—that the Israeli army also used phosphorous bombs, weapons which are supposed to be restricted under the third protocol of the Geneva Conventions, which neither Israel nor the United States have signed.”

“Israel has a poor reputation for telling the truth about its use of weapons in Lebanon. In 1982, it denied using phosphorous munitions on civilian areas - until journalists discovered dying and dead civilians whose wounds caught fire when exposed to air,” writes Robert Fisk. “I saw two dead babies who, when taken from a mortuary drawer in West Beirut during the Israeli siege of the city, suddenly burst back into flames. Israel officially denied using phosphorous again in Lebanon during the summer—except for “marking” targets—even after civilians were photographed in Lebanese hospitals with burn wounds consistent with phosphorous munitions.”

Fisk then relates the fact Israel has admitted using internationally banned weapons. “Then on Sunday, Israel suddenly admitted that it had not been telling the truth. Jacob Edery, the Israeli minister in charge of government-parliament relations, confirmed that phosphorous shells were used in direct attacks against Hizbollah, adding that ‘according to international law, the use of phosphorous munitions is authorized and the (Israeli) army keeps to the rules of international norms.’”

Next, Mark Regev, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, told the Independent, “Israel does not use any weaponry which is not authorized by international law or international conventions,” a response that prompted Fisk to write, “This, however, begs more questions than it answers. Much international law does not cover modern uranium weapons because they were not invented when humanitarian rules such as the Geneva Conventions were drawn up and because Western governments still refuse to believe that their use can cause long-term damage to the health of thousands of civilians living in the area of the explosions.”

As Fisk notes, the “American and British forces used hundreds of tons of depleted uranium (DU) shells in Iraq in 199—their hardened penetrator warheads manufactured from the waste products of the nuclear industry—and five years later, a plague of cancers emerged across the south of Iraq.” In addition, the United States and NATO used DU in the former Yugoslavia in the late 1990s, resulting in “new forms of cancer.”

Thanks to this continued and persistent psychopathic insanity, according to Dr. James Howenstine, in “the year 2005 there were 175,000 new cases of lung cancer in the United States,” an increase that cannot be attributed to cigarette smoking or second-hand smoke. “Following exposure to radioactive iodine particulate debris in the air from shells and bombs, between 2 to 5 years of time is needed to lead to the appearance of malignancies. Our bombing of Afghanistan began in October 2001 (four and a half years ago) and the new bombing in Iraq began in March 2003 (exactly three years ago). Aerial bombs are more effective than artillery shells in increasing airborne radioiodine because they release more dust into the atmosphere.”

Howenstine believes this unprecedented release of uranium into the atmosphere is deliberate. “A frightening aspect of depleted uranium warfare is that there is no way to protect oneself from this hazard. Clothing and gas masks are easily penetrated. The key persons running the New World Order are brilliant planners. They would not want themselves to die from lung cancer along with the rest of humanity. My guess is they have discovered methods to protect themselves from developing lung cancer. Certainly one has to be impressed with how effectively David Rockefeller, Zignev Brezinski and Henry Kissinger appear to have managed to avoid the infirmities of aging at least to outward appearances.”

Regardless, Israel’s use of a possible new uranium bomb in Lebanon, and its use of mysterious weapons in the Occupied Territories, indicate the small outlaw state will go to new and frightening lengths to kill its enemies, who are mostly women, children, and non-combatant men.

Cuban Medical Diplomacy: When the Left Has Got It Right

As an addendum to Dr. Feinsilver's article on Cuba's Medical Diplomacy, please note that in August the Bush Administration announced its intention to lure to the U.S. some of the 15 to 20 thousand doctors now providing medical aid mainly in Venezuela and Bolivia by making it easier for Cuban doctors participating in the island's medical program abroad to gain refugee status in the U.S. In her report, COHA Senior Research Fellow Julie Feinsilver analyzes the multiple aspects of Cuban medical diplomacy. A version of this article originally appeared in Foreign Affairs en Español Vol. 6 (Octubre-Diciembre 2006), pp. 81-94.

The Cuban Threat: Medical Diplomacy
Living in a hostile neighborhood led Fidel to look for allies elsewhere. Part of this process has included the conduct of medical diplomacy, which is the collaboration between countries to improve relations and simultaneously produce health benefits. Medical diplomacy has been a cornerstone of Cuban foreign policy and its foreign aid strategy since shortly after the triumph of the 1959 revolution. Despite Cuba’s own economic difficulties and the exodus of half of its doctors, Cuba began conducting medical diplomacy in 1960 by sending a medical team to Chile to provide disaster relief aid after an earthquake. Three years later, and with the US embargo in place, Cuba began its first long-term medical diplomacy initiative by sending a group of fifty-six doctors and other health workers to provide aid in Algeria on a fourteen-month assignment. Since then, Cuba has provided medical assistance to scores of developing countries throughout the world both on a long-term basis and for short-term emergencies.

And now, with help from his friend, Hugo Chávez, who is awash in oil wealth, Fidel is threatening to provide massive amounts of medical aid to improve the health of poor Latin Americans. Rather than a fifth column promoting socialist ideology, these doctors provide a serious threat to the status quo by their example of serving the poor in areas in which no local doctor wouldwork, by making house calls a routine part of their medical practice and by being available free of charge 24/7, thus changing the nature of doctor-patient relations. As a result, they have forced the re-examination of societal values and the structure and functioning of the health systems and the medical profession within the countries to which they were sent and where they continue to practice. This is the current Cuban threat.

Over the past forty-five years, Cuba’s conduct of medical diplomacy has improved the health of the less privileged in developing countries while improving relations with their governments. By the close of 2005, Cuban medical personnel were collaborating in 68 countries across the globe. Consequently, Cuban medical aid has affected the lives of millions of people in developing countries each year. And to make this effort more sustainable, over the years, thousands of developing country medical personnel have received free education and training either in Cuba or by Cuban specialists engaged in on-the-job training courses and/or medical schools in their own countries. Today, over 10,000 developing country scholarship students are studying in Cuban medical schools. Furthermore, Cuba has not missed a single opportunity to offer and supply disaster relief assistance irrespective of whether or not Cuba had good relations with that government. This includes an offer to send over 1000 doctors as well as medical supplies to the United States in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Although the Bush administration chose not to accept the offer, the symbolism of this offer of help by a small, developing country that has suffered forty-five years of US hostilities, including an economic embargo, is quite important.

Symbolic Capital and Symbolic Politics: the Context for Medical Diplomacy
Because good health is necessary for personal well-being as well as societal development, the positive impact of Cuba’s medical aid to other countries has greatly improved both its bilateral relations with those countries as well as its standing and support in a number of multilateral forums. Therefore, as a consequence of its medical diplomacy Cuba has accumulated considerable symbolic capital (goodwill, prestige, influence, credit and power). The creation of symbolic capital requires an initial investment of material capital as well as time in a given project, such as the efforts mentioned above. The resulting symbolic capital may be accumulated, invested and spent just like material capital. Eventually, it can be converted into material capital, which in Cuba’s case has meant both bilateral and multilateral aid as well as trade, credit and investment. This is one of the rewards for the conduct of medical diplomacy.

From the outset of the revolution, Fidel has made the health of the individual a metaphor for the health of the body politic. Therefore, he made the achievement of developed country health indicators a national priority. Rather than compare Cuban health indicators with those of other countries at a similar level of development, he began to compare them to those of the United States. This was particularly true for the infant mortality and life expectancy rates. Both are considered to be proxy indicators for socioeconomic development because they include a number of other indicators as inputs. Among the most important are sanitation, nutrition, medical services, education, housing, employment, equitable distribution of resources, and economic growth. It is, therefore, symbolically important for Cuba to compare favorably with the US in an effort to demonstrate what Fidel sees as the moral superiority of Cuba’s social development policies.

This striving for first world health has been so important that in many of his major speeches, Fidel has dedicated considerable time to discussing his island’s health indicators. His annual July 26 speech this year, given right before his own serious illness was made known to the public, was no exception. In it, Fidel cited the latest data: Cuba’s infant mortality rate was 5.6 per 1000 live births, a figure less than that of the United States, which was 7.0 per 1000 live births according to the latest published data (NCHS 2005, data are for 2002). Life expectancy at birth in Cuba today is the same as for US citizens, 77 years. These achievements make Cuba a model and therefore make possible its medical diplomacy.

In the past thirty-five years Cuba has tripled its number of health care workers. Even more striking is the change in the ratio of doctors to population. This went from one doctor for every 1,393 people in 1970 to one doctor for every 159 people in 2005. This was part of Fidel’s 1984 family doctor plan to put a doctor on every block. Having accomplished this in both urban and rural areas, even isolated ones, Cuba is now exporting this model through its medical diplomacy initiatives.

Cuba’s accomplishments in health realms are not just in primary care or in the production of doctors. There was a simultaneous development of high tech medicine and biotechnology as well. Cuba shares its expertise through numerous international medical conferences that it holds every year and through scientific exchanges. Because research is also an important part of the operation of the health system, in the medical and public health field alone, Cuba publishes fifty-four professional journals.

As early as 1982, the US government recognized Cuba’s success in the health sphere in a report that affirmed that the Cuban health system was superior to those of other developing countries and rivaled that of many developed countries. Despite economic hardship during the 1990s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the subsequent loss of its preferential economic relations along with the tightening of the then three- decade-old US embargo, Cuba continuously increased its spending on domestic health as a percentage of total government spending in order to shield the most vulnerable population from the worst effects of the crisis. As a result, the initial deterioration in the population’s health status was short-lived and the health indicators quickly improved. Today, even some US analysts who oppose Fidel Castro agree that Cuba’s health system has produced impressive results despite the many material shortages that it always has faced. Some critics also recognize, albeit reluctantly that Cuban medical diplomacy is producing positive effects in the recipient countries.

Selected Examples of Cuban Medical Diplomacy
Perhaps as a portent of things to come, even during the 1970s and 1980s Cuba implemented a disproportionately larger civilian aid program (particularly medical diplomacy) than its more developed trade partners: the Soviet Union, the Eastern European countries and China. This quickly generated considerable symbolic capital for Cuba, which translated into political backing in the United Nations as well as material benefits in the case of Angola, Iraq and other countries that could afford to pay fees for professional services rendered, although the charges were considerably below market rates.

Early success with medical diplomacy and the accumulation of symbolic capital as well as the ability to convert it into material capital, led Fidel to announce in 1984 that Cuba would train 10,000 new doctors specifically to increase the volume of international medical aid. No country other than Cuba has developed doctors as an export commodity. This has paid off handsomely both for the government of Cuba and for the individual doctors involved, as they usually earn considerably more money abroad than in Cuba.

The Cuba-Venezuela-Bolivia Connection
It is, indeed, ironic that in 1959 Fidel unsuccessfully sought financial support and oil from Venezuelan president Rómulo Betancourt. It would take forty years and many economic difficulties before another Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, would provide the preferential trade, credit, aid and investment the Cuban economy desperately needed. This partnership is part of the Bolivarian Alternative [to the US] for the Americas (ALBA) to unite and integrate Latin America in a social justice-oriented trade and aid block under Venezuela’s lead. It also has created an opportunity to expand Cuba’s medical diplomacy reach well beyond anything previously imaginable despite Fidel’s three-decade-long obsession with making Cuba into a world medical power; an obsession which was analyzed and documented in my 1993 book, Healing the Masses: Cuban Health Politics at Home and Abroad.

By far the largest Cuban medical cooperation program ever attempted is the present one with Venezuela under Hugo Chávez. The symbolic and material payoffs for Cuba are clearly demonstrated, for example, by the oil-for-doctors trade agreements between the two countries. The accords allow for preferential pricing for Cuba’s exportation of professional services vis-à-vis a steady supply of Venezuelan oil, joint investments in strategically important sectors for both countries, and the provision of credit. In exchange, Cuba not only provides medical services to unserved and underserved communities within Venezuela (30,000 medical professionals, 600 comprehensive health clinics, 600 rehabilitation and physical therapy centers, 35 high technology diagnostic centers, 100,000 ophthalmologic surgeries, etc.), but also provides similar medical services in Bolivia on a smaller scale at Venezuela’s expense. And to contribute to the sustainability of these health programs, Cuba will train 40,000 doctors and 5,000 healthcare workers in Venezuela and provide full medical scholarships to Cuban medical schools for 10,000 Venezuelan medical and nursing students. An additional recent agreement includes the expansion of the Latin American and Caribbean region-wide ophthalmologic surgery program (Operation Miracle) to perform 600,000 eye operations over ten years.

The main medical aid programs are the provision of comprehensive health services throughout Venezuela through the Barrio Adentro programs (Barrio Adentro I and II). As of March 25, 2006, there were a total of 31,390 medical personnel (mostly doctors) providing services through Barrio Adentro I, the primary health care program. Of that number, 23,382 were Cubans and the 8008 were Venezuelan. These Cuban “medical diplomats” had conducted 171.7 million medical consultations, of which 67.9 million were carried out in the communities (schools, workplaces, and homes). They visited 24.1 million families at home, something previously unheard of on that scale and in those locales. Moreover, these personnel provided 103.1 million health educational activities as well.

During the same period, under Barrio Adentro II, which provides medical diagnostics and physical therapy and rehabilitation, 10,856 histological exams were conducted, 84.4 million clinical laboratory exams were done, 808,153 CAT scans and 47,454 nuclear magnetic resonance exams were performed, among others. The newly established Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers handled 886,609 emergency room visits and performed 7.2 million diagnostic exams; and the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Wards also established under Barrio Adentro II handled 520,401 rehabilitation consultations and applied 1.6 million rehab treatments.

The second largest medical cooperation program is with Bolivia, where in June 2006, 1,100 Cuban doctors were providing free health care, particularly in rural areas, in 188 municipalities, mainly in the departments of La Paz, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and Chuquisaca. Cuba already has provided the National Ophthalmologic Institute in La Paz with modern equipment and specialized personnel who, along with Bolivian doctors and recent graduates from the Latin American Medical School (ELAM), have treated over 1,500 patients free of charge. New accords stipulate the opening of two additional ophthalmologic centers, one in Cochabamba and another in Santa Cruz. They each will be able to treat 50 patients a day and the La Paz center will allow doctors to attend to 100 patients a day. As a result, Bolivia will have the capacity to perform ophthalmologic operations on a minimum of 50,000 patients annually.

Cuban sources indicate that by the end of July their medical team had attended one million Bolivians free of charge (to the patient) and had performed 23,000 ophthalmologic operations. Additionally, Cuba offered 5,000 more full scholarships to educate doctors and specialists as well as other health personnel at ELAM in Havana. At present, there are some 500 young Bolivians studying at the school and another 2,000 have started the pre-med course there. The six-year medical school program is provided free for low-income students who commit to practice medicine in underserved communities in their home countries upon graduation.

During the ELAM’S first graduation last August, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced that his country will establish a second Latin American Medical School, so that jointly with Cuba, the two countries will be able to provide free medical training to at least 100,000 physicians for developing countries over the next 10 years. The humanitarian benefits are enormous, but so are the symbolic ones. Moreover, the political benefits could be reaped for years to come as students trained by Cuba and Venezuela become health officials and opinion leaders in their own countries. Today, medical students whom Cuba trained as doctors in the 1970s, are now in positions of authority and increasing responsibility.

Other Western Hemisphere Examples
Cuban medical teams had worked in Guyana and Nicaragua in the 1970s, but by 2005 they were implementing their Comprehensive Health Program in Belize, Bolivia, Dominica, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Paraguay. Throughout the years, Cuba also has provided free medical care in its hospitals for individuals from all over Latin America and not just for the Latin American left. Please consult the bottom of this report for a list of countries for which Cuba has provided some type of medical assistance as of December 2005.

Under Haitian President Rene Préval, Cuba began its medical cooperation with Haiti in 1998. Currently, there are approximately 400 Cuban medical professionals working in Haiti on two-year assignments in 110 of the 164 comunes across the island. The program costs the Haitian government approximately US$1.8 million annually, which averages out to cost US$375 per month for each medical professional plus room and board, transportation and exemption for airport departure taxes. Because money is fungible, it is not evident which donor is providing the funding. Although very inexpensive by international standards, this program is relatively costly for the cash-strapped Haitian government and could become even more so if it is expanded as has been discussed recently.

Jamaicans, among others, with little means have been going to Cuba for free eye surgery as part of Operation Miracle. A spokesperson for the Jamaican Health Ministry has indicated that they had received positive feedback on the surgeries that had been administered. The number of patients reported with complications amounted to fewer than three per cent of the 1,854 patients who were treated in Cuba as of 2006.

As previously mentioned, Cuba has offered disaster relief over the years to every country that has experienced an emergency. And most often the offer has been accepted. A recent (2005) example is Guyana, where Cuba sent a team of 40 medical doctors and technicians to provide disaster relief after severe flooding had been recorded in the country.

Because Cuba has been successful in developing health programs at home and has provided medical aid abroad, often under difficult circumstances, some donor countries are willing to provide financial support for Cuban medical assistance in third countries in what is called triangular cooperation. Germany has provided funding for Cuba to develop health programs in Niger and Honduras. France provided some funding to execute a health program in Haiti. Japan provided two million doses of vaccines to vaccinate 800,000 children in Haiti and US$57 million to equip a hospital in Honduras where a Cuban medical brigade works.

Multilateral agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) also finance medical services provided by Cuba for third countries. Both organizations provided funding for Cuba’s medical education initiatives. Finally, Cuba’s Comprehensive Health Program, which is being exported to various countries that receive Cuban medical assistance, is supported by 85 NGOs and through triangular cooperation with both governments and NGOs, has received US$2.97 million in support. Although some of the amounts are small, it is clear that donors find that support for Cuba’s medical diplomacy makes professional sense.

Medical Diplomacy Outside of the Western Hemisphere
Cuba dispatched very large civilian aid programs in Africa to complement its military support to Angola and the Horn of Africa in the 1970s and early 1980s. With the withdrawal of troops and the later geopolitical and economic changes of the late 1980s and the 1990s, Cuba’s program was scaled back, but remained. Having suffered a post-apartheid brain drain (white flight), South Africa began importing Cuban doctors in 1996. Already in 1998 there were 400 Cuban doctors practicing medicine in townships and rural areas. By 2004, there were about 1200 Cuban doctors working in African countries, including in Angola, Botswana, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and areas in the Sahara.

On the African continent, South Africa is the financier of some Cuban medical missions in third countries. This South African-Cuban alliance has been much more limited in scope than the Venezuelan-Cuban deal. Discussions on the extension of Cuban medical aid into the rest of the African continent and a trilateral agreement to deploy over 100 Cuban doctors in Mali with US$1 million in South African financing, were concluded in 2004. Rwanda was to be next in a similar agreement. Cuba also had deployed 400 medical doctors to Gambia. As of December 2005, Cuba was implementing its Comprehensive Health Program in Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Conkary, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.

Cuban medical teams also have worked in East Timor since 2004 to create a sustainable health system. Currently, 182 medical professionals are providing a variety of services in Cuba’s Comprehensive Health Program. At the same time, Cuba offered full medical school scholarships for 800 East Timorese students to begin work on the sustainability of their program.

Recent Cuban disaster relief medical missions are still providing assistance in post-tsunami Indonesia and post-earthquake Pakistan. Shortly after the tsunami, Cuba sent a medical team and equipment to provide disaster relief. At the time, the team was handling over 150 consultations daily in a military field hospital and a polyclinic. They also were providing some preventive as well as curative care on their visits to refugee camps. Less than a week after the devastating October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, Cuba sent a team of highly experienced disaster relief specialists comprised of 2300 doctors, nurses and medical technicians. Part of the team worked in refugee camps and Pakistani hospitals. The rest worked in 30 field hospitals located across the earthquake-stricken zone. The team brought everything they would need to establish, equip, and run those hospitals. The cost to Cuba was not insignificant. Two of the hospitals alone cost half a million dollars each. Only recently (May 2006), Cuba sent 54 emergency electrical generators as well.

In the past Cuba has also provided aid to Armenia, Iran, Turkey, Russia, as well as to most Latin American countries that have suffered either natural or man-made disasters. This type of medical diplomacy in the affected country’s time of need has garnered considerable bilateral and multilateral symbolic capital for Cuba, particularly when the aid is sent to countries considered more developed.

In Search of Sustainability: Provision of Medical Education and Training in Cuba and Abroad
In an effort to have a more sustainable impact on the health of the aid recipient countries’ populations as well as a multiplier effect on the immediate aid given, medical education always has been an important part of Cuba’s medical diplomacy. Education and training consist of on-the-job training, seminars, courses and full medical education. As early as the 1970s, Cuban medical professors either established medical schools or taught in medical faculties in Angola, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Nicaragua, and Yemen. This has been a continuing process ever since.

Cuba has long provided total scholarships for students from other developing countries to study anywhere from secondary school (medical technicians) through post-graduate studies. From 1961 to 2001, almost 40,000 foreign scholarship students had graduated in various medical disciplines from Cuban schools. Of those, 16,472 graduated from institutions of higher education. These numbers peaked in the 1980s before the fall of the Soviet Union. Now, with an oil-for-services agreement with Venezuela, Cuba is vastly increasing its scholarship offerings.

The Latin American Medical School (ELAM) was established in 1998 specifically to train students from poor communities in Latin American and African countries. In exchange for full scholarships, these students must be willing to return to their countries and practice medicine in poor communities for at least five years. After meeting with members of the US Congressional Black Caucus a few years ago, Fidel announced a symbolically significant plan for medical diplomacy with the United States: 500 full scholarships to Cuba’s ELAM for US minority students. Half of the scholarships would be for African Americans and the other half divided between Hispanics and American Indians. So far only a few Americans have accepted the offer.

There were a total of 10,661 foreign medical students from 27 countries studying in Cuba at the ELAM during the 2005-2006 academic year. Of this total, 10,084 were enrolled in medicine, 67 in stomatology (dentistry), 134 in nursing, and 376 in health technology. This is triple the number of medical students enrolled in 2002. To train French-speaking Africans and Haitians, the Cuban Government established the Facultad Caribeña de Medicina (Caribbean Medical School) in Santiago de Cuba, where 254 Haitians and 51 Malian students were studying in 2002.

Graduates from these medical schools take the National Final Cuban Examinations (NFCE) at the end of their program and then do an internship in their home countries. After that, they must take their home country’s qualifying exam just as all other medical students must do to be licensed to practice medicine. Reports from Chile, which has one of the most highly developed health systems in Latin America and a rigorous university system and medical licensing requirements, indicate that the first seven Chilean medical students who have graduated from ELAM and returned to Chile have had their degrees validated by the University of Chile as required and have entered successfully into Chile’s public health system. This suggests that the quality of education provided at the ELAM is high. The fact that Cuban doctors who have found work in Chile on an individual basis have had their credentials validated by the University of Chile in what one Chilean official said was a complicated and demanding process, attests to the overall quality of Cuban medical education.

Medical Diplomacy Wins Friends But Also Makes a Few Enemies
Medical diplomacy primarily wins friends among the governments whose people receive the aid and the patients and students who directly and individually benefit from it. But not all are thrilled to have Cuban doctors in town. In particular, local medical associations and individual doctors have harshly criticized the Cuban presence because of their competition for jobs, their different manner of working and treating patients, and because of the perquisites they receive (principally, free room and board). In some cases, such as in Bolivia and Venezuela, these medical associations have gone on strike to protest the Cuban presence. In these and some other cases, such as in South Africa and Haiti, they have taken their complaints to the press. Despite protests (and strikes), numerous press and other reports from different countries extol the benefits to the patients, many of whom had never seen a doctor before, particularly living and working in their own neighborhood.

Not surprisingly, these medical associations sometimes seek to discredit the Cubans and use what appears to be a technical argument, the questioning of certification standards (credentials) and quality of care. Medical licensing is a standard practice in all countries, but it can be and is used by some who feel threatened by the competition of Cuban doctors willing to serve in areas that they themselves would not go, let alone work. On the other hand, standards are important and ideally, there should be a WHO or other supra-national independent accreditation agency that could establish criteria for and validate medical degrees and licenses or establish equivalences so as to eventually allow for global labor mobility. This, however, would be extremely difficult to negotiate and is unlikely to occur in the next few decades. Therefore, Health Ministries, or, in some cases, medical associations become the gatekeepers for entry into the profession. This is tricky when vested interests are in charge of the licensing or accreditation process or are politically strong enough to block it. In 2003, the Venezuela Medical Federation, which is ideologically opposed to the Chávez government and the Barrio Adentro medical program, filed a lawsuit to prohibit Cuban doctors from practicing medicine there. The court held in favor of the Medical Federation, but the Venezuelan government did not back down.

Similarly, in Bolivia, when the Colegio Médico de Bolivia and the association of unemployed doctors went out on strike to protest the presence of the Cuban doctors, President Evo Morales asserted publicly that the Cubans would stay as long as he is in office. He also exhorted the Colegio Médico to change its attitude and to “pay” with their professional services for their free medical education in public universities paid for by Bolivian taxpayers. Like in the case of Venezuela, the benefits to the host society far outweigh the costs to the local medical professions, which in these two cited cases are ideologically opposed to the government.

At the urging of the Haitian medical association, the previous government asked for a revision of the cooperation agreement to include better control by the Ministry of Health over the mix and quality of medical staff sent as well as the nature of their work in the field. However, this revision has yet to take place. Some malpractice accusations have been made against Cuban doctors in Venezuela, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Haiti. A much-publicized case in Venezuela proved to be the fault of opposition doctors who refused to treat a patient referred to a hospital by a Cuban doctor. On the other hand, it is quite possible and, indeed, probable that there are some genuine cases that need to be addressed. This would be normal among all cohorts of practitioners and should be properly investigated and remedied.

Rewards For Medical Diplomacy
As stated at the outset of this article, Cuba’s rewards are symbolic and material capital. There is enormous prestige and influence in determining the direction of public health systems in the countries in which Cuba practices medical diplomacy. The training of future leaders in the medical field assures Cuba of on-site support in the future. More importantly, Cuba’s medical diplomacy contributes to the positive views held by other governments as translated into voting results at the United Nations on issues of particular importance to Cuba, such as an end to the US embargo of Cuba and the stressing of human rights issues. Importantly, Cuba was elected to the new UN Human Rights Council by direct, secret ballot in which all member states were elected individually and not in blocs.

In a press conference reported in the daily Última Hora, Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte Frutos explained why his country would abstain rather than vote in favor of the US sponsored anti-Cuba resolution at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, despite President Bush’s personal call in April 2004 asking for his support. The reason: a cooperation agreement with Cuba dating back more than six years, whereby Cuban doctors provide medical assistance in Paraguay and Paraguayan youths from very poor families are studying in Cuba on scholarships. At that time, there were 600 students involved in the program.

With regard to the US embargo of Cuba, the US State Department’s own data show that in the 2005 General Assembly votes, only Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau supported the US position. This was the fourteenth consecutive time in which the US position was rejected, but to no material benefit to Cuba since the US has been going it alone for a long time now on this issue. Among Cuba’s trade and aid partners, voting coincidence with the US generally ranked only between 6 and 22 percent during 2005. The overall average coincidence for all countries was only 25%. The LAC average was 19.7%. The Asian group average was 18.7%; the African group averaged 13.5%; the Eastern European group averaged 40.4%; and the Western European and Others (Australia, New Zealand) came in at 46.7%. Cuba’s medical diplomacy should be seen as contributing to this pattern. Rather than isolating Cuba, it is the US that is becoming more isolated on this issue.

Far from being marginalized by Washington’s anti-Havana offensive, Cuba has remained an important member of the Non-Aligned Movement and once again has just hosted the summit of heads of state and government in September and has become the leader of the NAM for the next several years. Cuba previously hosted and led the NAM in 1979. Also Fidel attended the July 2006 MERCOSUR summit, which opened with the signing of a trade agreement with Cuba for mutual preferential market access. The agreement consolidates the already existing bilateral agreements on preferential tariffs that Cuba has had with each of the MERCOSUR members. Although the amount of trade between Cuba and MERCOSUR is not great, the agreement is significant for its timing: just before the release of the US-sponsored Commission for a Free Cuba’s tough report on tightening the US embargo and promoting regime change.

More importantly from an immediate standpoint are the export earnings deriving from medical diplomacy. Data on the amount paid for the various activities involved in Cuban medical diplomacy has always been difficult to establish. Rates paid for doctors have ranged from nothing where the country could not afford to pay, to some rate well below market prices. Nonetheless, rough estimates suggest that the amounts are truly significant and have surpassed earnings from tourism. The Economist Intelligence Unit estimates that the increase in non-tourism services exports between 2003 and 2005 was around US$1.2 billion for a total of US$2.4 billion, which puts non-tourism services ahead of gross tourism earnings (of US$2.3 billion) in 2005. Most of this is medical services.

Official data for export earnings from medical products (medicines and equipment) were below US$100 million in 2004, but there have been press reports citing a figure of US$300 million for such products. Cuba exports medical biotechnology products to 40 countries, but sales data were not available. Two important earnings streams not included in the export data come from the licensed manufacture of Cuban medicines in other countries and joint-venture production facilities abroad. Officials in Havana have indicated that these are significant, but no concrete data is available. Cuba has some licensing agreements, including one in the US for anti-cancer drugs, and even joint venture production facilities in China. Also, treatment facilities are being built in other countries, particularly in the field of ophthalmology, under agreement with Venezuela. The oil-for-doctors agreement is very lucrative for Cuba because of preferential pricing for Cuba’s professional services exports and because Venezuela absorbs the loss for any escalation of oil prices, a factor that has occurred to a considerable degree in recent months. Commercial trade between Venezuela and Cuba surpassed US$ 2.4 billion in 2005 and US$1.2 billon in the first trimester of 2006. Also, on the aid side between 2002 and 2006, Cuba has received some US$50 million for a range of physical development programs from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries Fund. These rewards make medical diplomacy well worth the effort, not to also mention the important humanitarian benefits.

The Cuban Challenge
Taking medical diplomacy a degree further, at the recent MERCOSUR summit in Córdoba, Argentina, Fidel called for a social agenda to globalize solidarity in health and education. He offered Cuba’s experience in health and education to support that agenda. In these remarks, he laid down a gauntlet not only for MERCOSUR, but also for his adversary, the US government. It appears, however, that no one will take him up on it.

Post-Fidel Medical Diplomacy
Fidel transferred power to his slightly younger brother Raúl Castro just days before the Non-Aligned Movement meeting was convened in Havana. Indications are that although Raúl is the heir apparent, something approaching a de facto collective leadership most likely will govern Cuba in the near future. This leadership group probably will include not only Raúl, but also Ricardo Alarcón, who presides over the National Assembly of People’s Power; Carlos Lage, Vice President; and Foreign Minister Felipe Roque Pérez. None of these figures is expected to alter significantly Cuba’s practice of medical diplomacy in the near term. As long as the export of excess Cuban doctors continues to provide both material capital (e.g., oil-for-doctors) and symbolic capital (e.g., support in international forums), it is likely to be maintained. However, the scale of this program depends more on Hugo Chávez’s largesse than on Cuba’s willingness to continue it.

The temporary export of Cuban doctors also provides a safety valve for disgruntled medical professionals who earn much less at home than less skilled workers in the tourism sector. Their earning opportunities abroad are significant both within the confines of medical diplomacy and even more so, beyond it. This has led to a number of defections, allegedly around six hundred, although some say this figure is too high. This figure could grow if Cuban-American activist groups carry out their threats to assist these doctors serving in foreign lands if they defect. Should this number increase dramatically in this period of political change, the Cuban government may decide that the cost is too great to bear. In an effort to break the oil-for-doctors bond that supports the Cuban economy and create a medical brain-drain, the Bush Administration announced (on August 7) a possible change in its Cuba policy to ease immigration for Cuban doctors who participate in Cuba’s medical programs abroad. This is in sharp contrast to its tightening of policy regarding immigration of Cubans who enter the U.S. illegally. The lure of vastly increased earnings, easy access to high technology, and a much better material quality of life may lead doctors born, raised and trained at great expense in revolutionary socialist Cuba to cease helping those in need in developing countries and depart en masse. If they do, this is unlikely to break the ties that currently bind Cuba and Venezuela. But, this will raise questions about the consistency of US immigration policy. The fact that the Bush administration is trying to destroy Cuba’s medical diplomacy program indicates that the program works. Rather than attempt to destroy it, the Bush administration should emulate it.

Statistical Registers of the Central Medical Cooperation Units, 2005 Statistical Yearbook of the Cuban Ministry of Public Health

The Americas
Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago

South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Lesotho, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Chad, Uganda, Zimbabwe, RASD, Algeria

Qatar, Yemen, Laos, Pakistan, East Timor, Indonesia

Italy, Switzerland, Ukraine

Source: Cuban Health Department 2005

Julie M. Feinsilver is the author of “Healing the Masses: Cuban Health Politics at Home and Abroad” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993). Dr. Feinsilver is a Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, DC, and an international civil servant. The views expressed herein are solely her own and do not necessarily reflect those of any institution with which she is affiliated.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Senior Research Fellow Julie M. Feinsilver
October 30th, 2006

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