Saturday, March 03, 2007
Ver igualmente la animación: «Objetivo Pentágono» http://www.voltairenet.org/IMG/swf/es-pentagon_sp-2.swf
Tales datos figuran en el Base Structure Report ( BSR , por sus siglas en inglés, 2005), un inventario anual del Departamento de Defensa de EE.UU. que registra la proliferación de tales bases a partir del 2002.
El colonialismo, antes, consistía en la ocupación militar permanente de países enteros. Ya no.
El historiador Chalmers Johnson señala en Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (Metropolitan Books, 2007) que las cifras del BSR no incluyen las 106 guarniciones estadounidenses instaladas en Irak y Afganistán desde mayo del 2005 ni las construidas en Israel, Qatar, Kirguizistán y Uzbekistán. Tampoco las 20 que las fuerzas norteamericanas comparten con tropas locales en Turquía, de propiedad del gobierno de Ankara, pero bases norteamericanas al fin.
Ni la mayoría de las que en Gran Bretaña se dedican al espionaje de las comunicaciones mundiales: su valor total asciende a 5.000 millones de dólares y están convenientemente disfrazadas de bases de la Royal Air Force. O la enorme base Camp Bondsteel de Kosovo, edificada en 1999 por una subsidiaria de la Halliburton que aún se ocupa de su mantenimiento. "Si la cuenta fuera honesta -subraya el autor-, la dimensión real de nuestro imperio militar probablemente ascendería a unas mil bases en el extranjero, pero nadie -tal vez ni siquiera el Pentágono- conoce su número exacto."
Un velo espeso envuelve operaciones como el desplazamiento de armamento nuclear y Johnson cita a una autoridad en la materia, el columnista de temas militares de Los Angeles Times, William Arkine, quien escribió que la Casa Blanca viola las obligaciones impuestas por los tratados de los que es Estado Parte: "EE.UU. ha estado mintiendo a muchos de sus aliados más cercanos, incluso a la OTAN, sobre sus designios nucleares. Decenas de miles de armas nucleares, centenares de bases y docenas de buques y submarinos existen en un mundo secreto especial, sin justificación militar racional y menos con fines de contención".
La construcción de un imperio ofrece éste y otros detalles.
EE.UU. ha desplegado silenciosamente unos cinco mil efectivos en las fronteras de Jordania con Irak y Siria, lo cual no impide al rey jordano Abdullah II declarar que no hay tropas ni bases norteamericanas en el país.
Antes de la retirada de Arabia Saudita en el 2003, la Casa Blanca negó con pertinacia que mantenía una flota de bombarderos B-52 -reconocibles a simple vista por su gran tamaño- estacionados en Jeddah, frente al Mar Rojo. "Mientras los burócratas militares sigan implantando la cultura del secreto para protegerse a sí mismos -propone Johnson-, nadie sabrá la verdadera latitud de nuestra red mundial de bases, y menos que nadie los representantes elegidos por el pueblo estadounidense." Nemesis, el libro del que se extraen estas citas, es el último de una trilogía que desnuda prolijamente las entrañas de las políticas de W. Bush y sus acólitos. Su autor es un personaje particular.
Historiador y catedrático brillante, reconocido no sólo en EE.UU., Chalmers Johnson sirvió como teniente en la Marina a principios de los ’50 y fue consultor de la CIA en el período 1967-1973. Se ocupaba de la URSS y demás países del "socialismo real": "Fui un soldado de la Guerra Fría -afirmó en una entrevista que concedió a TomDispatch.com, sitio del Nation Institute de Nueva York (19-2-07)-. Nunca tuve la menor duda. Creía que la Unión Soviética era una verdadera amenaza. Lo sigo pensando". Y también confesó: "El problema es que yo sabía demasiado del movimiento comunista internacional y no lo suficiente acerca del gobierno de EE.UU. y su Departamento de Defensa... mirando hacia atrás, ojalá hubiera acompañado el movimiento contra la guerra (de Vietnam). Con toda su ingenuidad y turbulencia, tenía razón y la política estadounidense estaba equivocada".
Cifras siempre del Pentágono indican que posee 32.327 cuarteles, hangares, hospitales y otros edificios en sus bases del extranjero y que alquila además 16.527 instalaciones.
Durante el año fiscal 2005-06, casi 200.000 uniformados y un número igual de empleados y funcionarios civiles del Pentágono fueron desplegados en esos verdaderos enclaves en territorio ajeno y se contrató a más de 80.000 nacionales de diferentes países, un medio millón de personas en total para ser breves.
Chalmers Johnson pensaba que el colapso de la Unión Soviética en 1991 tornaba inútil la alta concentración de tropas estadounidenses en Alemania, Italia, Japón y Corea del Sur. El estudio de la realidad le mostró otra cosa: a fines de los ’90 y dos años antes de los atentados del 11/9, "los neoconservadores desplegaron su grandiosa teoría de que la ’única superpotencia’ debía adoptar abiertamente una postura imperialista, incluyendo las operaciones militares preventivas y unilaterales, la imposición de la democracia en el extranjero a punta de pistola, la neutralización de cualquier país o bloque de países que podrían desafiar la supremacía militar de EE.UU. y la visión de un Medio Oriente ’democrático’ que nos abastecería de todo el petróleo que quisiéramos" .
Parece que no es fácil.
Day by day, witness by witness, exhibit by exhibit, Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor in the trial of Dick Cheney’s man, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, is accomplishing what no one else in Washington has been able to: He has impeached the Presidency of George W. Bush.
Of course, it’s an unofficial impeachment, but it will also, through its documentation, be inerasable. The trial record—testimony, exhibits, the lot—will be there, in one place, for investigators, scholars, reporters and Congress to pore over. It goes far beyond the charges against Mr. Libby. It is, instead, a road map to the abuses of power that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney and their shadow government of neoconservatives have committed as the neocons carried out what they had been planning for years: an invasion of Iraq—and other military excursions—for the purpose of expanding American dominion.
From the start, when he was named special prosecutor in late 2003, Mr. Fitzgerald seemed to understand and embrace this much wider significance.
Yet he was careful not to overreach, crafting the indictment of Mr. Libby narrowly: He had lied to a grand jury, and to F.B.I. agents, about leaks he had given his favorite media people to discredit a vocal critic of the war.
The critic was former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Mr. Wilson, whose diplomatic service had included work in Africa, was asked in 2002 by the C.I.A. to investigate unconfirmed reports that Saddam Hussein had recently tried to purchase 500 tons of yellowcake uranium from Niger to be further refined to produce nuclear weapons.
Mr. Wilson went to Africa, consulted his sources, and found no meaningful evidence of such a plot. He reported these negative findings to the C.I.A. And further investigations by several parties, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, a U.N. body, established that the uranium story was phony. Yet Messrs. Bush, Cheney and others in the President’s close circle kept presenting the uranium story as part of the pressing rationale for a U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Even as the White House found itself apologizing for a January 2003 State of the Union address which continued to tout the uranium story and other known falsehoods about the Iraqi threat, it continued the push for war. The invasion began on March 20, 2003.
Mr. Wilson responded to the White House in a July 6, 2003, Op-Ed article for The New York Times, charging that the administration had manufactured evidence to win support for the war. It was this story, published in the country’s most influential news organ, that drove the White House into a frenzy—in particular Mr. Cheney, the administration’s leading hawk.
The smear campaign against Mr. Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, went into high gear. Conservative pundit Robert Novak, a frequent conduit for White House whispers, wrote a column on July 14, 2003, attacking Mr. Wilson and outing Ms. Plame as a C.I.A. “operative.” The trial has since identified one of the unnamed senior administration officials Mr. Novak cited as his sources: Karl Rove, the advisor closest to the President.
The Justice Department responded to calls for an investigation into the leak by naming the U.S. Attorney for Chicago, Mr. Fitzgerald, as special prosecutor for the case.
Whether or not Mr. Fitzgerald gets a conviction, he has created a trial record that establishes the administration's guilt. Sprinkled throughout are the names of most of the neoconservatives who had been planning the current Iraq War ever since the 1991 Gulf War ended with Saddam Hussein still in power.
They came out in the open in 1997 when they formed a Washington think tank of their own—the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Their first public act was a 1998 letter to President Bill Clinton, calling for the swift “removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime.”
Citing those still-undiscovered “weapons of mass destruction,” they said: “[W]e can no longer depend on our partners in the Gulf War coalition … to uphold the [U.N.] sanctions …. ”
Then, in 2000, just before Mr. Bush’s elevation to the White House by the Supreme Court, the PNAC war-seekers issued a lengthy manifesto calling for a major escalation of the country’s military mission. This 81-page document proposed a buildup that would make it possible for the United States to “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars.” The report depicted these wars as “large scale” and “spread across [the] globe.”
Iraq was named as a major threat.
Another aim of this escalation was as follows: “Control the new ‘international commons’ of space and cyberspace, and pave the way for the creation of a new military service—U.S. Space Forces—with the mission of space control.”
Perhaps the eeriest sentence in the document is found on page 51, conjuring up images of 9/11: “The process of transformation … is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.” (The PNAC documents can be found online at newamericancentury.org.)
Among the 25 signatories to the PNAC founding statement: Dick Cheney, I. Lewis Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, Elliott Abrams, Zalmay Khalizad.
Most of these names echo throughout the Libby trial record. Besides the damning notes from Mr. Cheney, accounts of conversations between Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby and Mr. Libby’s subsequent conversations with other pivotal administration officials, there is at least one document, in Mr. Cheney’s handwriting, that suggests the President had direct knowledge of the campaign to discredit Mr. Wilson.
The trial and its record was always all about the unnecessary war—a war created by massive and deliberate lying about an imminent security threat that wasn’t there. That’s why the President and his men were desperate to shut Mr. Wilson up.
He was the imminent threat—to their delusional empire-building.
Friday, March 02, 2007
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is squeezing the International Monetary Fund out of Latin America, the region that once accounted for most of its business.
IMF lending in the area has fallen to $50 million, or less than 1 percent of its global portfolio, compared with 80 percent in 2005. Meanwhile, Chavez has used his oil wealth to lend $2.5 billion to Argentina, offer $1.5 billion to Bolivia and hold $500 million out to Ecuador.
Chavez, 52, is promoting what he calls a “socialist” alternative to the Washington-based IMF and its biggest shareholder, the U.S. Treasury. The timing couldn't be worse for the IMF, whose global clout is diminishing as countries from Uruguay to the Philippines pay their debts.
“Chavez is the No. 1 enemy of the IMF in the region,” said Jose Guerra, a former head of economic research at Venezuela's central bank and now a professor at Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas. “He views the IMF as an agent in the service of the U.S.”
The international lender's worldwide portfolio has shriveled to $11.8 billion from a peak of $81 billion in 2004, and a single nation, Turkey, now accounts for about 75 percent. As its lending wanes, so does the fund's ability to influence government policies. The IMF and its sister institution, the World Bank, have used aid to promote free trade, unfettered investment flows and limited government.
“We don't accept the kind of development the World Bank and International Monetary Fund want to push on us to change our hopes, our souls, our pain,” Chavez told a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana last September.
Chavez has proposed creating Banco del Sur, or Bank of the South, to supplant international lenders. Such a bank would allow Latin American nations to avoid the policy conditions that generally come with IMF loans.
“Chavez's effort to undermine the IMF is also an effort to undermine the Washington consensus on privatization and liberal economics,” said Francisco Rodriguez, a professor of Latin American studies at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.
Chavez's presidential press office said he was unavailable for comment. IMF spokesman Bill Murray declined to comment.
Chavez has used the wealth of Latin America's largest oil exporter to extend his financial influence. Oil exports last year rose 21 percent to $58.4 billion, according to Venezuela's central bank.
Oil revenue has helped Venezuela amass reserves of more than $34 billion. Chavez also controls an $18 billion pool of cash, known as the Fonden, transferred from the central bank and the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA.
The bounty can't last, said Ted Truman, a former assistant U.S. Treasury secretary for international affairs.
“Chavez is at grave risk of running out of money,” said Truman, who is now a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.
Venezuela's budget deficit soared to 8.2 trillion bolivars ($3.8 billion) in the first 11 months of last year from 447 billion bolivars a year earlier. The bolivar has plunged 16 percent against the dollar on the black market this year, making it the world's worst-performing currency.
For now, Chavez shows no sign of slowing down.
Venezuela is offering to help Ecuador as its newly elected leader, Rafael Correa, threatens to default on $10 billion of overseas debt. On Feb. 22, Venezuela offered Ecuador as much as $500 million of “financial cooperation.”
Such offers allow Venezuela to take over the IMF's role as “lender of last resort” to governments, said Mark Weisbrot, an analyst at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.
Venezuela is also backing bonds sold jointly with Argentina, Rodriguez said. Venezuela's Finance Ministry on Feb. 26 said it plans to sell $1.5 billion of the so-called “Bond of the South” this week following a $1 billion sale last November.
Venezuelan purchases of $2.5 billion of Argentine government bonds helped Latin America's third-largest economy replenish its reserves after it repaid $9.5 billion of debt to the IMF in late 2005. Chavez said he wanted to “help Argentina end its dependence on the IMF.”
Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, elected in May 2003, said IMF policies had “devastated” his country, which defaulted on $95 billion of debt in 2001. “There is life after the IMF, and it's a good life,” Kirchner said in Munich in April 2005.
IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato defended the fund's record in Latin America in a speech in New York on Feb. 16, saying that the region's economy grew 5 percent last year, and “countries that liberalized trade and reformed the role of the state in the private sector have performed particularly well.”
Prosperity in Latin America means hard times for the IMF, which depends on income from loans. The fund projects a loss of $103 million this fiscal year and is considering selling and investing some of its estimated $6.6 billion gold hoard to cover losses.
“They're having problems, while here in Venezuela we're opening the Banco del Sur,” Chavez gloated during a news conference in Caracas on Feb. 24.
To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Swann at email@example.com .
As we all know, several weeks ago, a military intelligence briefing occurred in Iraq where several officials, including Brigadier General Caldwell, the mouthpiece for the American Occupation Forces, and several intelligence analysts, claimed that not only was Iran responsible for the use and manufacture of EFPs, which they said had killed upwards of 170 Americans -- but that the orders for their use, manufacture, and supply to "insurgents" came from "the highest levels of the Iranian Government." The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, quickly said that while there were aspects to the briefing he agreed with, he could not state, unequivocally, that the orders for the use and manufacture of these EFPs had come down from on high. This was when the American people, indeed, the people of the world, were told that the nefarious "Quds Brigade" were the operatives who had carried out these tasks for high Iranian officials.
Checking through various books I've read about the Shia, I learned that the Quds Brigade, besides being a counter intelligence and intelligence unit for the Supreme Leader, ali Khamenai, has considerable expertise and probably HAD supplied training to insurgents in Iraq on how to build these massive and powerful weapons. Once I saw some of the photos of Abrams M1 tanks completely destroyed, or flipped, it became clear that yes, the insurgents had a new, more powerful weapon.
Several things hadn't jelled with me, though, about this briefing. First, no one ever, even to this day, said that the briefing was blessed by General Odierno, General Petraeus's second in command. Nor have they ever indicated whether Petraeus had blessed the briefing. Having worked for the U.S. Air Force for 20 years, I would say that that constitutes poor reporting. To NOT have been given the blessing to conduct the briefing, by one or both of those officers, would constitute such gross negligence, that they ought to be recalled immediately. The civilian intelligence analyst who speculated that the highest type officials of the Iranian government had blessed the use of these devices probably is shoveling poop in Alaska now, if he even has a job. But General Caldwell, you can believe, reports to Odinero or Petraeus. If either of them had signed off on the briefing, then why no action for them? The charges, after all, led to a serious reversal by even the White House.
The Mercury News article goes over the details in a way that more media reporters should have taken. They sorted out how many EFPs and IED attacks have occurred in 2005 and 2006. There isn't much difference ... about 40 killed from the former year to the latter. But the EFPs have clearly become an almost certain death sentence for our troops. But the details bear out what I thought from having read the casualty reports that come out daily from Globalsecurity.org. The greatest % of fatalities connected with those devices is in Sunni or Mixed areas.
So, nix the so called solid intelligence the Administration has once again claimed to warrant severe scrutiny of the Iranians and Iranian leadership. Essentially, they can't prove it, or, if they can, they're not going to compromise their intelligence sources (most likely signals intelligence of some kind derived from NSA monitoring). Additionally, what about the eight choppers shot down or brought down due to the use of SA-7s, 14s, and 17s? All Soviet weapons. And, again, according to Globalsecurity.org's glossary of weapons information, at least two Sunni dominated nations -- Egypt and Pakistan -- had all of these weapons, plus the heavy machine guns that have also been used in downing these 8 choppers. Is it possible that rouge intelligence or military agents from those two nations, among other Sunni nations which might have some reason to see the Americans humiliated, have migrated to Iraq? And taught insurgents -- Sunni insurgents -- how to use those weapons in coordination with RPGs, heavy automatic weapons fire, as well as other diversions, to cause chopper problems for the Americans?
That would be serious. It would embarrass perhaps Saudi Arabia, or Egypt, or Pakistan. And speaking of Pakistan: today we were told by Brian Ross, on ABC Evening News, that the very day Cheney read the riot act to Musharraf, the Pakistanis found the #3 of the Taliban and arrested him. Or is it more likely that Cheney delivered, personally, intelligence that showed Musharraf exactly WHERE this man was. And that Cheney told him: either you get him or we will. Today. And then Cheney leaves, and goes to Baghram Airport. Where, oddly enough, he is forced to stay overnight, due to weather.
And oddly enough, the Taliban blow up a suicider at the main gate. Surely, not to get Cheney, American officials proudly proclaim. There's no way to get Cheney! No, but the Taliban said they wanted Cheney to know we knew you were staying there. And perhaps that info came from a Pakistani ISI source? Was all of this a ruse to smoke out, for Musharraf, a very high placed spy for the Taliban and al-Qaeda? Or was the bombing at Baghram, more a signal to Cheney: WE got YOUR message! YOU told Musharraf where our #3 guy was, and YOU were sending US a message. Now, here is OUR message to YOU, Mr. Cheney! WE knew you were there. We KNEW your movements. Think about THAT! Maybe next time you come around our part of the world, we'll get YOU!
I suspect Musharraf is walking a razor blade. I suspect that since the squandered opportunities in the War in Afghanistan, and especially since the U.S.- India nuclear deal, elements of the Pakistani Army and ISI have once again begun to assist the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Cheney and Bush are blowing all kinds of intelligence to let the Pakistanis know that we know what they're up to. But will it really do Musharraf much good? Will he suddenly be able to swoop down on rogues in his Army and ISI, and quell yet another possible coup? How long can he last, when he sucks up more and more to the Americans?
And, of course, the Brits are very unhappy with Musharraf and Pakistan. The British Pakistanis are the ones causing Great Britain real concern, as they show up in plot after plot to kill British citizens.
Finally, why in the world would Ahmadinejad make a trip to Saudi Arabia? What deals could he convey to the Saudis? Is a deal in the works to soft pedal any criticism the Iranians have made against the Saudis, in exchange for the same from the Saudis against the Iranians? Are the Iranians going pull a rabbit out of their hat at the upcoming diplomats conference in Iraq? Or, do the Iranians have intelligence which will seriously implicate Saudi rouges in the transition of EFP training to the insurgents? Are the Iranians about to expose that? And embarrass the Saudis AND, the Americans?
Could it be that the rampant Bushista rant against Iran is the new "yellowcake" incident of this potential war? Because why in the world would the Americans NOT cite ANY Sunni nations as transferring not only IED and EFP technology and training to Sunni insurgents, but also, why would they not even mention the implications of Sunni experts from some Sunni nation, assisting insurgents in shooting down choppers? And possibly, the chlorine gas IEDs, as well. For there being 170 Americans killed and nearly 700 wounded by EFPs, it's remarkable that nothing's been said to Sunni nations when it is Sunni insurgents doing the killing. Rather, without naming Sunnis as the killers using these devices, the Bush Administration makes it appear that the deaths are caused by IRANIAN weapons and trainers.
There are roughly 15 of the 30 outposts now located in Baghdad. There are only two ways to resupply them: over the road and by chopper. If the Americans suddenly see a chopper shot down every day, that will make chopper supply more tenuous for those isolated outposts. Supplying them by ground will be even more dangerous. Are we about to see a massive chain reaction ambush, using IEDs, snipers, EFPs, counter chopper equipment and techniques (Manpad shoulder fired missiles), heavy machine gun and automatic weapons fire, as well as chlorine gas releases near American outposts?
And who will be behind such coordinated attacks? Quds Brigade or Sunnni dominated nations' rogue elements, assisting their brethren, in the fight on the ground. Vali Nasr makes it very clear that the Iraqi Shia will NOT allow themselves to be dominated ever again by Sunnis. Nor will Iran allow Iraqi Shias to be wiped out. Saudi Arabia recently said that they would never allow their Sunni brethren be slaughtered in Iraq. Have the Saudis, through so-called "rogues," already begun to fight the Shias on the ground, in Iraq?
Is the Administration willing to ignore that, so that they can once again, build up a phony case for attacking not a Sunni nation, but colluding with the Sunnis, who are killing Americans right and left ... to squash the Shiites?
Imagine the implications of THAT kind of secret game. In essence, claiming Shias are responsible for Americans being killed by EFPs, when, in fact, we KNOW it's Sunni inspired insurgents doing the killing. That would shake the very foundations of this country. It would be dejå vu all over again.
I hope Brown and McClatchy can push this further, and I hope Informed Comment can scour the news, to see what the Pakistani press says about the arrest of the #3 Taliban leader. And what they say about the bombing in Baghram. And what they say about Ahmadinejad's trip to Saudi Arabia. The Bush Administration is definitely the darkest regime we have EVER seen in America. Frankly, I wouldn't doubt that if they could push American opinion to accept the Iranians are behind all the evil in Iraq, they'd be willing to sacrifice some Americans to perpetuate that myth. It is heinous to think that, but this regime is heinous.
There is a golden award of some kind for the first reporter to bring this level of scrutiny to the national media's attention. They are lazy, asleep, and still gullible when it comes to trusting military or intelligence community briefings. Thank God there are a few real reporters left in the American media.
"IN TIMES OF UNIVERSAL DECEIT, TELLING THE TRUTH WILL BE A REVOLUTIONARY ACT." - George Orwell
BUSH AND CHENEY, WHO AVOIDED THE VIETNAM WAR, ARE PREPARING FOR A NEW U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: AFTER THE MIDDLE EAST DISASTER
While in Southeast Asia, this editor looked into rumors that the Bush/Cheney administration has initiated a major military move into Southeast Asia to secure for itself large oil deposits discovered in the waters of the Gulf of Thailand. The U.S. military push into the region is centered on the Cambodian coast, particularly around Sihanoukville.
With three countries -- Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam -- vying for the off-shore oil booty in seas where maritime borders are contested, the Bush/Cheney cartel hopes to achieve a dominant position to exploit the oil reserves for their oil industry friends and backers.
The recent visit of the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet's USS Gary (FFG 51) to the Ream Naval Base near Sihanoukville on February 9, 2007 was billed as the first visit of a U.S. Navy ship in 30 years. What the Navy and media did not report was that the last U.S. Navy ships to "visit" Cambodia were those in 1975 that pulverized the Cambodian coast in response to the capture of the SS Mayaguez by Khmer Rouge forces.
The visit of the Gary to Ream coincided with the beginning of light building construction by the U.S. Navy at the base to accommodate a greater U.S. naval presence. Photos taken of the Ream Naval Base by WMR show the construction of at least one barracks on the base.
In addition, between 15 and 18 U.S. National Security Agency/Central Security Service signals intelligence (SIGINT) personnel have arrived at Ream to establish an off-shore SIGINT station on one of the Cambodian islands in the Gulf of Thailand. According to a New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) source in Cambodia, the island chosen to host the new U.S. intelligence base is Koh Tang, a location with a prime intelligence-gathering vantage point in the disputed waters of the Gulf of Thailand. Assigned to the nascent NSA contingent are Thai, Khmer, and Vietnamese linguists.
Ironically, the new U.S. naval presence in Cambodia is in the very same area that saw intense fighting between the U.S. Navy and Marines and Khmer Rouge forces that captured the U.S. "container ship", the Mayaguez, in 1975. The 39-man crew of the Mayaguez was briefly imprisoned by the Cambodians on Koh Tang, the suspected site of the new U.S. spy base. Although the Gerald Ford administration contended the Mayaguez was an unarmed merchant ship, it was under contract to the military and may have been spying on oil exploration operations in the Gulf of Thailand near the Wai Islands, claimed by Cambodia. The Cambodians were in the process of releasing the Mayaguez crew when Ford ordered U.S. bombing of the port and airfield of Sihanoukville. Forty-one American military personnel died in the needless attack on Cambodia, most from an accidental explosion. The Mayaguez crew was picked up by the Navy from a Cambodian fishing boat.
With the U.S. support for the September 16, 2006 military coup in Thailand that overthrew that nation's democratically-elected government becoming clear (U.S. ambassador to Thailand Ralph Boyce now sports a yellow tie, a show of support for the royalist-backed coup -- yellow being the color of the monarchy), there is speculation that the U.S. will beef up a presence at Thai bases that were once important during the Vietnam War. This includes the base at Utapao, Thailand, a one-time P3-Orion naval reconnaissance aircraft base and US Air Force base used to attack Cambodia over the Mayaguez incident. Since Thailand was never consulted on the use of Utapao in the attack on Cambodia, Thailand ordered the base vacated by the Americans. The Thais never believed the Mayaguez was an innocent merchant vessel but had somehow provoked the Cambodians to seize it in Cambodian territorial waters.
The Thais continue to be wary of U.S. intentions in Cambodia. The Thai-Cambodian border is in dispute and some Khmers make no secret of their desire to take back historically Khmer territory in eastern Thailand.
"IN TIMES OF UNIVERSAL DECEIT, TELLING THE TRUTH WILL BE A REVOLUTIONARY ACT." - George Orwell
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Hugo Chávez.- Who is speaking?
Fidel Castro.- Listen.
Hugo Chávez.- I’m listening.
Fidel Castro.- My illustrious and dear friend, how are you?
Hugo Chávez.- Caramba, it’s Fidel! (Applause and exclamations of: "Fidel, Fidel, Fidel!")
Fidel Castro.- So, I am listening to you here on "Aló, Presidente, and all of the information that you’ve used in the last few minutes. I think your line of argument is very good on growth, the GDP, the decline in unemployment, many interesting things.
Hugo Chávez.- [In English] How are you, Fidel?
Fidel Castro.- [In English] Very well (Laughter).
Hugo Chávez.- So, you have no idea how happy I am to hear your voice and to know that you are well.
Fidel Castro.- Thank you very much.
Hugo Chávez.- Here’s a hug. We are very surprised, pleasantly surprised, and we were talking about you — like we almost always do — a little while ago.
Fidel Castro.- I knew that I would end up on "Aló, Presidente."
Hugo Chávez.- Now it’s on every day.
Fidel Castro.- No, no; don’t make me do that, I have hard work to do here (Laughter), studying a lot, above all; but I see that you are not letting go of your books. What time do you go to bed?
Hugo Chávez.- Well, I sleep for a little while in the early morning.
Fidel Castro.- A little while.
Hugo Chávez.- I sleep for a little while. I’m studying a lot; it is one of the tasks of a revolutionary, and we are following your example.
Fidel Castro.- Yes, and you have been reading for a long time, and you have an exceptional talent for retaining everything, remembering everything. What you sometimes forget are numbers (Laughter).
Hugo Chávez.- Well, I forget them, but not all that much, either.
Fidel Castro.- But you have everything marked down there, so as not to miss a single one, because keeping track of everything is difficult.
Hugo Chávez.- Do you know how many hectares of corn it takes to produce one million barrels of ethanol?
Fidel Castro.- Of ethanol, I think you talked about 20 million hectares the other day, something like that (Laughter), but remind me.
Hugo Chávez.- Twenty million. No, you are the one with the exceptional mind.
Fidel Castro.- Ah, 20 million.
Well, of course, the idea of using food for producing fuel is tragic, it is dramatic. Nobody is certain about what is going to happen with food prices, when soy is becoming a fuel, with the need there is in the world to produce eggs, to produce milk, to produce meat, and it is one more tragedy of the many that exist at this time.
I am very happy that you have taken up the cause of saving the species, because the battle to save the species is a difficult one, because there are new, very difficult problems, and you are like a preacher; really, a great preacher, who has become a champion of the cause, or a champion of keeping the species alive, that is why I am congratulating you.
I see you wrestling with the Morality and Enlightenment Progam [Moral y Luces education reform initiative] to educate people so that they understand. And regarding this, there is a ton of details that I read and go over every day, and I stay very informed: war-related dangers, climate-related dangers, food-related dangers, because — as you have noted — there are thousands of millions of people going hungry, and those are realities.
For the first time in history, governments have set themselves to thinking about that, governments that have powers, that have moral authority to do so, and you are one of those rare examples.
Not long ago I read that Australia was proclaiming itself the first country in the world to carry out an energy revolution, and it turns out that it is a project to be implemented in two or three years; they make me want to laugh, because in two months, you all have distributed 34 million light bulbs, and in four months you will have met the first goal of taking those light bulbs, which have so many advantages, to every home. So, there is another one out there; but now, there are some who are competing with Australia for that first place.
There is not a single country, in Europe or anywhere else, that is not concerned about that problem today.
Excuse me for taking so long, and stealing half of your program from you.
Hugo Chávez.- No, it’s not long at all; it is 7:49 minutes of today.
We were thinking about you, because you know that today is February 27, and they told us here, 18 years ago, that one of the reasons for the Caracazo [Caracas uprising] was that when you came at that time, you left 200 agitators here who had lighted the wildfires, so to speak. And today we were analyzing the causes of the whole issue of the foreign debt, the issue of Black Friday, the plunder of the country, capital flight, privatizations, inflation accompanied by a terrible recession, unemployment, the breakdown of even the middle class.
Well, as Einstein, whom we were reading a minute ago, says — I don’t know if you heard — when he reflected on the whys of socialism, and Einstein concluded that what capitalism produces is chaos.
So, with the Caracazo, Fidel, we were remembering you, and I was remembering that during those days, I saw you from far away here, and wanted to come up and greet you, even though I could not; but we were already involved in the revolutionary movement here. And to say to everyone here, via "Aló, Presidente," now listening to you and talking with you, what a great honor, that day that a people rose up against neoliberalism.
The Caracazo was — Fidel, you know it — the first response on a world scale, with enormous weight, to the neoliberal project, when the Soviet Union was already falling, the Berlin Wall, and it was beginning to be said that the end of history had come, along with a single way of thinking.
And that the Caracazo came out of February 4. You know that those events, one without the other, would not be understood; and then this entire road, this revolution of ours, in which Cuba is always, has always and always will be present and Cuba with you at the helm. So many things to be grateful for; that energy revolution, which would have been impossible without Cuba.
Now we will continue on with you. Today, the 7th Meeting of the High-Level Joint Commission is meeting there in Havana, as you know, and the results that I have learned of so far are extraordinary, of the progress of the ALBA and bilateral relations.
I should inform you, you should be informed by now, but to comment to you, so that everybody knows, that yesterday I approved for Rafael Ramírez, the minister, to establish a joint enterprise with Vietnam, and I asked for him to raise that today there in Havana; because we could make — Cuba, Vietnam, Venezuela — an enterprise to install here in Venezuela, or in Cuba, or in both republics, a light bulb factory to continue spreading the revolution; energy-saving bulbs and other elements that are needed for deepening the energy revolution — solar panels, the system for eolian [wind] energy. I want us to set up all of those factories here, Fidel; let’s bring the technology.
What do you think about that?
Fidel Castro.- I think all of that sounds wonderful.
About three days ago, we inaugurated an eolian park on the Isle of Youth, still a small one, with 275-kilowatt windmills; but they work for the test that we are going to carry out there. And there is a very important area in the eastern part of the country where we are taking all sorts of measurements to install more eolian parks, which will produce electricity with less-costly investments.
You all have an advantage, which is you have a land free of hurricanes, and we are constantly visited by hurricanes; measures must be taken to protect them, of different types, sometimes using cranes, sometimes removing the blades, and, in short, finding solutions. There is solar energy, for which you have installed technology there in Caracas that is worthwhile, that has been well-utilized, although the investment is costly; afterward, if it is manufactured in the country, it will be much more economical.
You all are going to build a factory for stainless steel using the cheap energy that is available to you today and above all, the energy that you can save.
Venezuela has almost one million square kilometers of territory; we are a nutshell, which the Gulf Stream took very near to your friends in the North.
Hugo Chávez.- [In English] Our friends.
Fidel Castro.- You say that I learned English, but I learned it some time ago.
Hugo Chávez.- Have you forgotten it?
Fidel Castro.- The trauma that they left me with afterward has made me forget, and that is why I do not have the exceptional memory that you have, the capacity for summing up, your musical ear, your ability to remember any song; because I cannot believe that you have gone to so many parties to remember all of the songs that you sing on "Aló, Presidente." So I envy you that.
Hugo Chávez.- No, I have not partied as much as you; I never went to parties like you did, nor did I sing as much as you.
Fidel Castro.- No way, man! I remember more or less the essence of the ideas, but you have the exact words; I see how you find it, repeat it, and search for the exact word.
In the end, you are going to go down as one of the great writers of this hemisphere. And don’t be sorry about it, because writers have an increasingly greater power.
Hugo Chávez.- I was going to ask you something.
What do you think about this breaking news we’re hearing about here? That 67% of people in the United States disapprove of Bush’s policy in Iraq. You know that we are preparing to welcome Bush in South America.
Fidel Castro.- Ah! You’re going to welcome him.
Yes, I’ve heard something about it, I think that there are going to be mass organizations, all in a very peaceful and very respectful spirit.
But I bet you don’t know about two new pieces of news today.
Hugo Chávez.- Tell me, let’s see, give me an exclusive for "Aló, Presidente."
Fidel Castro.- For example, the Shanghai stock market fell 9% today, and the New York stock market, which is the queen, fell 4% today. It is one of the largest falls that it has had in recent years, and that really does nothing but confirm what we are thinking.
Hugo Chávez.- Well, that news, I did not... .
Fidel Castro.- Today they lost $8 billion there, and that is the queen of the stock markets, and it fell more than when the crisis happened in South East Asia.
So, I don’t know what is going to shake up the leaders of the United States more — well, the one leading the United States muto proprio — whether it is the news of what happened over there, or his tour of South America. What do you think?
Hugo Chávez.- No, I’m telling that I didn’t know about that news, those falls on the Shanghai and New York stock markets.
You should know by now — because you know everything — that the [International] Monetary Fund is in crisis, and I was saying yesterday, and today, that most likely they are going to have to ask for a loan from the Bank of the South. The Monetary Fund does not have the money to pay its salaries; it is selling its gold bars.
Fidel Castro.- Yes, it is selling gold, which is the only thing worth anything these days; what it should sell is papers, the papers that the United States pays with. To sell gold now is crazy; but, well, the Bank of the South is a serious bank, it aspires to be a serious bank.
Hugo Chávez.- It will be a serious bank.
Fidel Castro.- The International Monetary Fund never was, but the crisis is proving it, the crisis is proving it. Just look at how this happened two or three days before this fall by the stock markets.
Hugo Chávez.- It is the same crisis — as you well know — the crisis of the world economy, but of the alternative one. At the national level each one has its own model: we have socialism, there in Cuba, here in Venezuela, with their particularities, and at the international level, the ALBA [Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas], which we are accelerating, Fidel, as you well know, accelerating.
Everybody asks how you are. We went to Martinique, we were in Dominica and in Saint Vincent; the prime ministers sent many greetings to you, Roosevelt Skerrit, our friend, and the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; we were observing the project to expand the airport. There, I got together with the Cuban and Venezuelan workers, the Venezuelan Army engineer corps. We inaugurated the first fuel storage facilities in Dominica and the gas-filling plant in Saint Vincent, with Ralph Gonsalves.
Everybody asks me about you, and I tell them what I know, about your recuperation, your new Sierra Maestra, that great battle that you have waged and that you keep waging, and in which we are with you every day, asking God, who, like you said, "Helps Chávez and his friends," to keep helping you in your full recovery. All of us, there are millions of us, you know it Fidel, in the world who want to see you completely recovered soon, as I am sure you will be.
Well, Daniel Ortega came three days ago, we spoke for several hours; next week we have the meeting of the Joint Commission there in Managua.
Kirchner came, as you know, to the Orinoco Belt, and well, Kirchner has invited me. I’m using this opportunity to make it public, given your call; we had not made it public. We are going to have a meeting in Buenos Aires next week. We are going to keep making progress on bilateral relations between Argentina and Caracas, and then there is another meeting in Bolivia — we are going to visit Evo next week — of the strategic alliance, the Caracas-Buenos Aires axis, passing through Brasilia, the axis with La Paz, and now with [Ecuadorian President Rafael] Correa.
In Quito, the first ship arrived, you must know by now; I am just taking advantage of your phone call to brush up on all of these things about how we are progressing and will continue progressing.
And you, as an example of resistance and now of going on the offensive, Fidel. I don’t want let this opportunity go by of your surprise telephone call, which motivates us so much, and makes us so happy, to continue reminding our peoples about the valor of revolutionary Cuba and your valor; your valor, your conscience.
We remembered that you were here in 1959, at the start of the so-called democratic experience, which utterly failed, and that failure led to the Caracazo, and to the Caracazo of February 4, and from February 4 to today, to what is happening here; but you, Cuba and your example of dignity, of battle, of courage, and your infinite solidarity have always been and will be with us as an example, Fidel.
Fidel Castro.- Listen, Hugo, I wanted to tell you that I was meeting precisely with the head of your delegation, we were talking when news arrived from over there, so I’m very happy. I will see if I can talk — I am with him in person — with some of the other individuals a little later on.
They are working very hard here, very enthusiastically, using the little time that we have left. The time factor cannot be forgotten, and in my opinion, we have little time left, and they are, apparently, more conscious of that.
I am very thankful to you for all of your greetings, your good wishes, and above all, I remembered to return your microphones to you, because if not, I get enthused, just like you. I could not compete, but I could emulate a little bit.
I would also like to thank the Venezuelan people for their greetings, from that people who are so heroic, so beloved, that they have led you to take on the responsibilities that you have today. History has been rewritten again, but 200 years ago, it was very different. The world has changed tremendously and above all during the last 60 years, and that is the time that must be used, and about which it is necessary to meditate a lot. I dedicate time to that, and I feel good, because I think there is nothing that is more important. And I am also happy to see how your people are working — I already told you something about that — with enthusiasm, with seriousness. And I would like to thank everybody for the proof of the affection and encouragement that they are giving me, now that I am dedicated to this task.
I cannot promise that I will travel there soon to accompany you on one of those trips, but I am gaining ground, I feel like I have more energy, more strength and more time for studying. I have become a student again, to sum it up.
Hugo Chávez.- Morality and enlightenment.
Fidel Castro.- Morality and enlightenment! I can’t get that out of my head now, because it is the first time that I have seen somebody trying to win that moral battle on the basis of conquering what is inside: people’s hearts and minds.
I don’t know if you have much time left there, but you were supposed to speak with Ramírez. Tell me what to do.
Hugo Chávez.- No, I can speak with Ramírez tomorrow. We are very happy about listening to you, very happy to hear you and learn about your recuperation. Keep recuperating; don’t forget about your "tsunami."
Fidel Castro.- No.
Hugo Chávez.- Keep recovering.
Fidel Castro.- And one thing I was forgetting; that here, everybody is thankful to you for receiving news about me, because I talk, and I am silent, total silence, because I can’t be talking every day, I can’t create the habit, the bad habit of having daily news. I am asking everybody for patience and calm, and I am happy, because I see everybody tranquil; and the country is running, which is important. And I am asking for tranquility for myself, to be able to carry out my new duties as of now.
Hugo Chávez.- Yes, Fidel, I have become... well, you have made me into a sort of emissary or source. Whoever wants to know how Fidel is, well, comes here, calls me, talks to me, and I always tell the truth, what is happening: your recovery, your example, your consistence.
You have said that you would not be able to accompany me here on a trip here right away, but that’s not necessary; you are always with us, and I hope to return soon to Havana so that we can keep talking, working and gaining time from time, because you have said so, and it is a good thing for all of us to think about.
Greetings go out to you from the vice president, the People’s Power Commission, of Community Power, whom we are going to meet with right now to end the program; from all of the kids, Teresita, Elena, the Venezuelan Television team, Venezuelan National Radio, and well, all of the millions who are listening to us.
Do you know how big the audience is for the first hour of the program? Forty percent! Which is, as you know, astronomical, the audience for "Aló, Presidente."
We are gaining time, Fidel, and we are winning the battle for life.
Fidel Castro.- Very good.
Hugo Chávez.- Thank you for your historic phone call.
Fidel Castro.- A million thanks for everybody.
Hugo Chávez.- Let’s have a round of applause for Fidel (Applause). A good round of applause, brother; a hug, comrade, compañero, and you that regarding that, I have no complexes — I call you "father" for all the world to hear!
¡Hasta la victoria siempre!
Fidel Castro.- ¡Hasta la victoria siempre!
Hugo Chávez.- ¡Venceremos!
Fidel Castro.- ¡Venceremos!
Hugo Chávez.- Bravo! (Applause and exclamations of "Bravo!")
February 27, 2007
On January 22, Evo Morales celebrated his first year as Bolivia’s president. No one can deny that in this time, despite the problems he has had to confront, there has been a clear improvement in the majority of principal economic indicators, possible thanks to the fact that one of the first measures of his government was ending the relationship with the International Monetary Fund. By allowing the agreement with the IMF to expire it has given the government of Morales a certain liberty to push forward with new economic and development policies.
One of the first measures put in march by the government of Evo Morales was to increase its control over hydrocarbons. The high prices on the international market and the increase in taxes for petroleum companies demonstrated to Bolivians that the changes could reach their pockets in beneficial way, along with the social plans that have reached even the most distant and abandoned places: literacy programs, soft credit loans for the purchasing of tractors by agricultural cooperatives, extension of healthcare thanks to the 2000 Cuban doctors and other improvements.
With a starts, and criticism for what has been considered a timid policy at the time of putting into practice the nationalisation of hydrocarbons, what is certain is that it has allowed the country to have a growth rate –talking always in macroeconomic terms – of 4.1% this year, a percentage not seen in Bolivia during the 20 years that the country was subject to the dictates of the IMF and World Bank.
Nevertheless, the critics are not without reason. Although it is true that their exists is an anti-imperialist position, one of independence from the IMF and World Bank, everything possible has been done to preserve macroeconomic stability. “Evaluating the contracts [with the multinationals such as the Spanish Repsol, Brazilian Petrobras, British BG or French Total] and its reaches in working in the interest of national development, it is worrying to verify that we continue to prioritise responding to the interest of the companies who have found in the new terms of the contracts, terms not only acceptable, but moreover, conditions favorable to their transnational character: they conserve their strategic role in the hydrocarbon industry in the country and are obtaining large profits as they further consolidate the role they have consigned to us in their international strategy, that of a primary exporting country” reads one of the specialised reports published at the end of 2006. It continues, saying something even more disturbing: “the possibility of Bolivian initiatives to industrialise gas and petroleum, are possible but overall they do not promise to be of great impact; in large part because the economic resources that should be destined for YPFB are, if not omitted, frankly reduced for a decent time. What is certain is that under the new conditions we have taken on, the interrogation over which resources will be capitalised on by YPFB to assume the strategic challenge of industrialisation remains without answer. Industrialisation within the nation territory and through YPFB loses viability because the new contractual terms opt for ratifying YPFB as a supervisory company and administrator of contracts; renouncing the taking of operative control of the industry and becoming an effective manager of its development.” 
The government of Morales has maintained a more pragmatic behaviour and has not given the state company, Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales de Bolivia (YPFB), the predominant role that, for example, Venezuela’s PDVSA has been playing, to push forward a drastic change in the improvement of the living conditions of the great majority of the population. A lost opportunity, where one has to point out the important role that Lula’s Brazil has played in “moderating” the application of the nationalisation. Regardless of this, it is not just a few voices who are asking for a “refoundation” of YPFB so that production and exploitation of hydrocarbons is really in the hands of this state institution.
The oligarchy's game plan
The moderate nationalisation of hydrocarbons did not expressly disturb the oligarchy (according to the polls 90% of the Bolivian population supported the nationalisation), but what did was the passing of the new agrarian reform law which if applied to the full extent would suppose the redistribution to campesinos of some 123,000 kilometres squared of idle and unproductive land, a size equivalent to two countries, Austria and Switzerland put together. For now, only 11% of the idle land in the hands of large landowners has been handed over to campesinos. It is not a frontal attack on the large landowners, nor less so, but it is a measure that the oligarchy considered a vital threat to its status quo, given it is where their power is situated: the actual Episcopal Conference of Bolivia considers that 90% of productive land in Bolivia is in the hands of 50,000 people.
Since then the attempts to overthrow the Morales government have been continuous, only changing in form, amongst which the latest is the demand of “autonomy” from a series of departments: Beni, Pando, Santa Cruz and Tarija. The oligarchy’s proposal for regional autonomy only won in these departments, and was abruptly defeated in the rest of the country, but the US ambassador in this Andean country, Phillip Goldberg, is playing a crucial role in the plans for what is now occurring. This man has occupied important positions in the US diplomatic missions in ex-Yugoslavia and in Kosovo, which is why his naming was not coincidental, given it occurred only months after the failure in the referendum on autonomy pushed by the oligarchy. In Bolivia the trajectory of this ambassador has been followed in great detail and they speak openly of the dangers of the “balkanisation” of the east of the country .
Since that moment, the objective has been to overthrow Morales. The so-called opposition and the economic elite consider that the reforms put in march are a threat to their way of life and they are using all the means possible to impede them being consolidated. It is also a racist struggle: “if us cambas [white, majority inhabitants of these departments] don’t unite, the collas [indigenous peoples] will want to ruin us, given that unfortunately we have an indigenous president” . It could be said louder, but not clearer than this.
Following the partial failure at that moment to impede the passing of the agrarian reform law – and although it is moving forward very slowly – the oligarchy has opted to agitate around the banners of autonomy for what in Bolivia is know as the “half moon”, the most eastern departments which hold the largest reserves of gas in the country and where the most fertile lands exist. During the months of November and December, the oligarchy launched various ultimatums warning the government that if it did not attend to its demands it would declare “de facto” autonomy, to which Morales responded with a call to the armed forces to defend national unity.
Although the separatist pretensions are not likely to succeed in the immediate future, it is worth looking at the role that the government of Evo Morales has given to the army and recall what the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, did after winning the 1998 elections: rely on the army as the only institution implanted across the whole territory.
One of Morales’ first objectives after winning the election was to neutralise the army, which was a hypothetical obstacle for his government. The Bolivian Army has always been classist, strongly influences by the National Security Doctrine that the US sponsored, which in synthesis considered the army as the guarantor of internal security, that is to say, controlled social mobilisations. Morales wanted to convert the army into his ally and, following the Venezuelan model, “guarantee the democratic revolution”. For this he took advantage of the “missile crisis” – the sending of Chinese missiles in the hands of the Bolivian army to the US during the term of the preceding executive – to put into retirement 28 generals, promoting people in intermediary posts such as colonels, opened the military academy to indigenous cadets (vetoed from entering until that moment) and thereby gained a greater fidelity on the part of the new military estate.
The change in the army, carried out not without fears given that the oligarchy counts on important ties with the estate which have always being faithful to them, was visualised on May 1, 2006, when Evo Morales decreed the nationalisation of hydrocarbons and the army occupied the gas fields and refineries of the multinationals, provoking a undisguised malaise in the European Union, expressed to Morales via the European commissar on energy, Andris Piebalgs and the Austrian minister of the same branch, Martin Bartenstein (at the time Austria held the presidency of the EU). Half a year later the same operation was carried out with the nationalisation of minerals, symbolised in the take over by the state of the Vinto tin smelter plant in Oruro last February 9. Here again members of the army were used and Morales announced that it would be this institution which was to be put in charge of controlling 25 technological centres where future technicians in the field of minerals would be trained up.
At the same time, Evo Morales gave the armed forces of Bolivia the mission of extending social development to all parts of the country in front of the incapacity of the state to guarantee its presence in all the territory and guarantee attention to the basic necessities of the population. That is why it is not uncommon to see a soldier carrying out tasks in eliminating parasites, vaccination programs, teaching literacy – in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Culture – or building roadways. The army has also carried forward the “Free Surgery Campaign” in separated zones, covering aspects that the Cuban doctors, in charge of the preventive medicine, do not.
And this in a moment in which Morales has decided to accelerate the campesino-military alliance by giving military status to the “red ponchos”, Aymara campesino soldiers with a long combative tradition in Bolivia, who he entrusted with defending territorial integrity “together with the armed forces” .
The oligarchy has seen in this a real threat and considers them “illegal armed groups”, threatens a civil war and affirms that the popular vote of the departments who accepted the autonomy proposal has to be respected. Here we have an example of the manipulation of information, much liked by the defenders of liberty, and in the footsteps of Globovision in Venezuela: “the government [of Evo Morales] is promoting violence, the exclusion of minorities, racism, sectarianism, it deepens differences of ethnicity, social class, campesinos and city dwellers, rich and poor and is dangerously polarising the country into regions. It does not have the vision to accept that the “half moon” wants autonomy, that they won the vote. It wants to centralise, taking power and control of the state institutions, and lacks a program of government. The election of the judges to the Supreme Court by appointment, signifies the buying of justice” .
This is the universal discourse of the oligarchy when it sees its privileges in danger, valid in any country in the world. The first year of Evo Morales has bright and dark spots, but it is necessary to support an experience that has rescued the sovereignty and dignity of Bolivia, at the same time as pushing forward a multicultural and participative democracy never before seen in this Andean country, even despite the rejection of the oligarchy and US. Maybe more and better things could have been done, but what has been done until now is nothing small.
Alberto Cruz is an analyst at the Center of Political Studies for International Relations and Development. Translated from Rebelion
 Bolivia Press nº 12, 3 de diciembre de 2006.
 CEDIB, 15 de enero de 2007.
 Declarations made by David Torrico, president of the Comité Cívico de Pando to La Razón el 4 de julio de 2006.
 La Razón, January 24, 2007.
 La Razón, January 25, 2007.
These orchestrated attacks on Chávez are a travesty - A social revolution is taking place in Venezuela. by George Galloway
by George Galloway
The chilling Oliver Stone film Salvador got a rare airing on television this week. It was a reminder of a time when, for those on the left, little victories were increasingly dwarfed by big defeats - not least in a Latin America which became synonymous with death squads and juntas. How different things seem now. Yesterday US Vice-President Dick Cheney came uncomfortably close to the reality of Afghan resistance to foreign occupation. On the same day Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez delivered a mightier blow to the neocon dream of US domination, announcing an extension of public ownership of his country's oil fields - the richest outside the Middle East.
Much more is at stake than London mayor Ken Livingstone's welcome oil deal with Chávez, which will see London bus fares halved while Venezuela gets expertise from city hall and a bridgehead in the capital of the US's viceroy in Europe. Washington's biggest oil supplier is now firmly in the grip of a social revolution. This month I watched with Chávez as thousands of soldiers, French and British tanks, Russian helicopters and brand new Mirage and Sukhoi fighter bombers passed by: the soldiers chanting "patria, socialismo o muerte" - enough to make any US president blanch. Chávez answered the salute with the words: "the Bolivarian revolution is a peaceful revolution but it is not unarmed".
The music played throughout the event was the hymn of Salvador Allende's 1970s Chilean government, declaring that the people united will never be defeated. But Chávez's socialism is a good deal more red than Allende's - and its enemies seem no less determined than those who bathed Chile in blood in 1973. Despite complete control of Venezuela's national assembly - the opposition boycotted the last elections after being defeated in seven electoral tests in a row - Chávez has been given enabling powers for 18 months to ensure he can pilot his reforms through entrenched opposition from the civil service, big business, the previously all-powerful oligarchy, their vast media interests and their friends in Washington. Among those friends we must include our own prime minister, who only last year declared Venezuela to be in breach of international democratic norms - though when I pressed him in parliament he was unable to list them.
The atmosphere in Caracas is fervid. The vast shanty towns draping the hillside around the cosmopolitan centre bustle with workers' cooperatives, trade union meetings, marches and debates. The $18bn fund for social welfare set up by Chávez is already bearing fruit. Education, food distribution and primary healthcare programmes now cover the majority for the first time. Queues form outside medical centres filled with thousands of Cuban doctors dispensing care to a population whose health was of no value to those who sat atop Venezuela's immense wealth in the past.
Chávez, who regularly pops over to Havana to check on the health of Fidel Castro, is at the centre of a new Latin America which is determined to be nobody's backyard. Reliable US allies are now limited to death squad ridden Colombia, Peru and Mexico - and latterly then only by recourse to rigged elections. But Chávez's international ambitions are not confined to the Americas. He became a hero in the Arab world after withdrawing his ambassador from Tel Aviv in protest at the bombardment of Lebanon by US-armed Israeli forces last summer, and has pledged privately to halt oil exports to the US in the event of aggression against Iran. This all represents a challenge to US power which, if Bush was not sunk in the morass of Iraq, would be at the top of his action list.
Not that his supporters are marking time. The mendacious propaganda that Chávez is a dictator and human rights abuser is being spread with increasing urgency by the Atlanticist right and their fellow travellers, such as leftie-turned-neocon Nick Cohen who told his London newspaper audience last week that Livingstone's relationship with Chávez was making him think of voting Tory. Chávez's decision not to renew an expired licence for an opposition television station involved in a coup attempt - there are plenty of others - is being portrayed as the beginning of the death of democracy. It's as if Country Life's diatribes against the fox hunting ban were taken as irrefutable proof of totalitarianism in Britain.
The so-called "dictator" Chávez is nothing of the kind. He has won election after election, validating his radical course. Still the fear of a coup - such as in 2002 when Chávez was removed and imprisoned for three days before millions descended to the presidential palace to reinstate him - is everywhere. One Englishman abroad who welcomed the 2002 coup as the "overthrow of a demagogue" was the foreign office minister Denis MacShane - a humiliating correction had to be issued following Chávez's restoration. That tale underscores the importance of the links being forged between revolutionary Caracas and anti-war London. Chávez is well aware that the people were defeated in Chile, the fascists allowed to pass in Republican Spain. Just as in Venezuela, the defence against counter-revolution lies with the poor and the working people who are shaping the world they want; so too must all those internationally who want to see this ferment reach its potential rally to Venezuela's side.
· George Galloway is the Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow and presents a radio show three times a week on TalkSport
A leading Western energy consultant, who prefers to remain anonymous, went to Tehran in early February and personally met with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. He tells Asia Times Onlinethat according to his assessment, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "has a couple of months at most - prostate cancer".
On this extremely sensitive matter, he is contradicted by a Western-educated political analyst in Tehran, who for security reasons also prefers to remain anonymous: "There is no consistent proof that Khamenei's cancer is serious and he is dying." In Iranian state media, this topic is taboo.
The Western consultant's top sources also told him the Supreme Leader "will not be replaced, but a triumvirate/council will replace him, consisting of Khatami, Rafsanjani and Kharroubi". Former president Mohammad Khatami is a reformist. Mehdi Kharroubi - the Majlis (parliament) Speaker - is a moderate. And former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, a Machiavellian pragmatist, is in fact the next notable in the line of succession, according to the current rules (he would be chosen by the Council of Experts, of which he is the top member).
Were such a triumvirate to become a reality, it would represent a constitutional nightmare. According to the Iranian political analyst, "It would require an amendment to the constitution. The talk of a council replacing the leader is not new but it is chock full of legal and religious issues."
The whole arrangement, nonetheless, is feasible. Khamenei rose to power basically because of an unconstitutional white coup after ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's death in 1989. The new "coup" would in fact extinguish fears among the Iranian elite that wily Rafsanjani - even though he is correctly positioned from a legal point of view - could be allowed the same overarching position as Khomeini, the father of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Rafsanjani is overwhelmingly regarded by the clerical establishment as not exactly a paragon of virtue.
The key merit of the triumvirate solution would be the isolation of Ahmadinejad. Khatami coined the "dialogue of civilizations" and Rafsanjani is in favor of normalization of relations with the United States. In the Western consultant's assessment, "only a wave of populism caused by a US attack can rescue Ahmadinejad from being chucked out pretty soon".
The Western consultant corroborates insistent speculation in sectors of the Iranian press, and already reported by Asia Times Online (see Ahmadinejad be damned, January 19), according to which Ahmadinejad has fallen from favor among the ruling elites. The last straw was the US sanctions on operations involving Iranian banks and companies (Washington is pressing the European Union and the United Nations Security Council to adopt this escalation as punishment for Iran's nuclear program).
Tehran did not expect these sanctions, which have taken a toll. "The bottom line is that the elite are seriously worried about the flow of oil money into their accounts and the restricted uses to which they can now be put," said the consultant.
"They've made alternative arrangements for sure, by moving accounts into euros and opening new ones with Malaysian and Indonesian banks in particular, but being frozen out of the Western financial system is in fact the only sanction that works, and the elite is basically pissed off because of this."
At the same time, with an insider's knowledge of Iran's nuclear dossier since the Khatami presidency, the Western consultant said, "Iran's nuclear capability is to all intents and purposes non-existent due - as I am painfully aware - to a management deficiency of cosmic proportions." The Russians, as the builders of the Bushehr nuclear plant, are also aware of this "cosmic" deficiency. So much for Israeli assertions that Iran's bomb is just around the corner.
As to speculation that Ahmadinejad and his Republican Guard allies are betting on a US preemptive strike so the whole country will be united under his presidency, the Iranian political analyst insisted, "Neither the president nor the Republican Guards want an American attack. What Ahmadinejad wants is to come out of this as the man who stood up to the Americans and made them back down."
The bottom line in all this is that Iran will not suspend uranium enrichment under pressure - especially when totally encircled by US troops, military bases and aircraft-carrier battle groups as well as being infiltrated by US special forces east (Sistan-Balochistan) and west (Khuzestan). Respected former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, at a recent conference on international security in New York, has laid down the law: "To sit down with them in a direct talk rather than saying to them, 'You do this, thereafter we will sit down at a table and tell you what you get for it.' That's getting away from a humiliating neo-colonial attitude to a more normal [one]."
But as the diplomatic neo-colonial ballet at the UN drags on, a deadly quartet, in parallel, develops a covert agenda. The quartet consists of Cheney; Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams; former ambassador to Kabul and Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad; and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi national security adviser and ambassador to the US for 22 years. Their objective: the destabilization and fragmentation of Iran.
A new variable - the Supreme Leader's health - is now introduced. The next true deciders may be much more amenable to serious discussion. But will regime change in Iran - not provoked by bombs but by natural causes - be enough to quench the United States' war thirst?
"IN TIMES OF UNIVERSAL DECEIT, TELLING THE TRUTH WILL BE A REVOLUTIONARY ACT." - George Orwell
Sy Hersh Blames Saudis for Neocon War Against the Shi’a of Iran, Lebanon
Monday February 26th 2007, 9:00 pm
Believe Seymour Hersh or not, his contention, revealed in the video below, follows the established pattern. As we know, the CIA organized the Afghan Mujahideen, with the assistance of Pakistan’s ISI and a large influx of Saudi money, and after the Soviets exited Afghanistan with their tails tucked, the Mujahidden splintered into the Taliban and “al-Qaeda,” the latter comprised of primarily Sunni Wahhabi fanatics.
Once again, the “al-Qaeda” myth will be put to the test, for Mr. Hersh tells us there are “at least three jihadist groups… connected at al-Qaeda” at work in Lebanon against the Shi’a, i.e., Hezbollah, and they are financed by the Saudi monarchy.
Rest assured, Saudi intelligence, Al Mukhabarat Al A’amah, does not act without explicit instructions from the United States. It is no mistake Turki bin Faisal al-Saud, former intelligence head, now comfortably ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland, was Osama bin Laden’s handler in Afghanistan, although the corporate media has turned mighty somersaults to make this relationship appear innocent, if not disappear altogether.
According to Hersh, none other than Bandar bin Sultan, known simply as Prince Bandar here in America, is behind this effort to pass out money to “tough” Sunni groups—apparently associated with “al-Qaeda,” thus connected to U.S. and Saudi intelligence—and tasking them with killing Shi’ites in Iran and Lebanon, much the same way the mythical al-Zarqawi killed Shi’ites in Iraq. It should be no surprise Bandar is so important to the Bush crime family and the neocons, he was informed of the decision to invade Iraq ahead of Secretary of State Colin Powell, or so claims the former military intelligence operative Bob Woodward.
Hersh believes the neocons have made a “policy change,” deciding to put “pressure on the Shi’ites” through Sunni proxies and thus replicate the chaos and misery of Iraq in both Lebanon and Iran, referred to as the “Shi’ite Crescent,” according to the neocons. Hersh believes “his government” is “sitting back” while the Saudis run this operation—a delusional fantasy at best, as there is plenty of evidence “al-Qaeda” and “Sunni jihadists” are not renegade operations but rather under the control of U.S., British, Saudi, and Pakistani intelligence, the latter two acting as liaison offices passing out marching orders, as no self-respecting “jihadist” patsy would take an order directly from the CIA or the Pentagon.
In short, Seymour Hersh buys into the “al-Qaeda” fairy tale, as does the rest of the corporate media.
Finally, Hersh expects us to believe John Negroponte was shifted over to the State department because he was “not in tune with Cheney” and was considered “too ethical” for the continuing plans of the neocons, never mind Negroponte’s ethics were obviously nowhere to be found when he was micromanaging Honduran death squads during the good old “Iran-Contra” heyday of the 1980s. Moreover, Hersh tells us Robert Gates, no slack when it comes to Iran-Contra and facilitating what would ultimately become “al-Qaeda,” is attempting to “get control” over Pentagon covert operations, behavior Hersh ascribes to Rumsfeld. In fact, the Pentagon has engaged in brutal covert operations for decades, in essence competing with the CIA to see who can kill more people.
It should be obvious what is going on here—Sy Hersh, offering a mix of truth and fabrication, is acting as a shill for the neolib faction of the ruling elite, weary of neocon over-the-top brusqueness and their overt Israeli obsession. Of course, the neolib faction does not exactly cringe at the prospect of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dead Muslims, or the splintering of the Arab and Muslim world along the fissures of a hyped-up and exacerbated Islamic schism, but rather they prefer to do such behind the scenes, as they have in the past—through skullduggery and “color revolutions”—and avoid a cataclysmic “World War Four,” as the neocons fondly call their mass murder and misery project.
Geography -- Does Size Really Matter?
Is the United States geographically too big to hold a general strike? My answer is no. From a practical perspective, general strikes happen in urban, industrial and transportation centers. The strike that shuts down the shipping and rail centers of coastal Italy, for example, affects the entire country, including the interior. A strike by Canadian rail workers shuts down all production centers in Canada. Similarly, a strike on the East, West and Gulf Coast port cities of the United States (an admittedly tall order) would effectively shut down the entire United States.
It is not the geographic size of a country that makes it vulnerable to a general strike, but the degree to which it is commercially integrated. The US economy is now completely interwoven. That is why when shipping and oil refineries in Louisiana and Texas went down due to Hurricane Katrina, the economic ripples were felt everywhere. For that matter, the globalized nature of capitalism has made the US and all western “democracies” more susceptible to a general strike anywhere on the planet if it were to shut down major centers of finance, manufacturing or energy production. So whereas size matters for Internet spammers, size does not matter in terms of bringing the global economy to a halt.
Who Needs a General Strike When We Have the Peace Movement and Elections?
Is a general strike necessary in America where we have a viable peace movement? I do not believe that any peace movement, in and of itself, has stopped any war. More importantly, no “peace movement” has yet to prevent any war from starting (as in the impending assault on Iran).
Although the Vietnam era peace movement in the United States contributed to the ultimate cessation of the war, it gained traction because of the ferocious determination of the Vietnamese people themselves to rid themselves, at their own extremely bloody personal cost, from the yoke of foreign occupation. The armed resistance of the Vietnamese people, together with the GI resistance movement, the economic destabilization caused by the war, and the peace movement collectively ended the conflict. However, it might have ended sooner if American labor, students and peace activists had had the ability to coordinate a national strike.
Likewise, the primary credit for the shift in American public opinion regarding the occupation of Iraq belongs to the Iraqis who have sacrificed themselves by the hundreds of thousands for the principal of self determination. Their willingness to shed their own blood (and the blood of their occupiers) has given the impetus to the domestic peace movement that it would not otherwise have. It is sheer hubris to deny primary credit to those who have sacrificed the most for the sake of their own resistance movements.
Not for one moment do I denigrate the sincerity and good intentions of the peace movement. I question tactics of permitted weekend marches in parts of town where mild acts of very civil disobedience are not seen and quickly forgotten. A demonstration has to marshal a huge number of participants and have (or threaten to have) a significant economic impact for it to register on the rock-hard consciousness of the ownership class. Somehow, one gets the sense that the ownership class has “figured out” the peace movement, learned new tactics and learned how to let people harmlessly let off steam through harmless parades in obscure “free speech zones.” Meanwhile the American peace movement, as though nostalgic for the '60s, seems to have learned nothing new. Politics, although it is very serious business, is played by the usual game rules. If your opponent evolves and changes tactics, then so might you, too, have to evolve and change tactics.
Americans, particularly those in thrall of “liberal” religious doctrines, seem immobilized by the canonization of Gandhi and his “non violent” approach to anti-colonialism. Mr. Gandhi's tactics, however, though technically “non violent”, deliberately incited violence by the British occupiers and mass civil disobedience by the Indian people in order to increase media pressure for an end to the occupation. A general strike would be similar to Gandhi's targeted salt strike of the 1930s. But what worked for India and a post-WWII Great Britain that was militarily and economically prostrate may not work for a bellicose United States where, as in the old USSR, the Administration is deaf to public opinion and the media work hand in glove with business and government to pimp for war.
Is a general strike unnecessary in the United States because voters can change their government through the ballot box? I disagree, even assuming, for the sake of argument, that all votes are counted, that no voters are discouraged from casting their ballots, and that nobody tampers with the voter lists.
In the first place, elections matter only if there is a real choice of candidates to choose from. Due to political gerrymandering by both the Democratic and Republican Parties, most congressional seats are simply uncontested affairs. They are more like coronations than elections.
In the second place, elections in the United States will matter only if there is a plethora of alternative political parties. Unfortunately, it is on that issue -- the destruction or marginalization of any third parties -- that both the Democrats and the Republicans agree. Moreover, the cost of running for national public office is prohibitive unless you are independently super wealthy or you have sold your soul to corporate Mephistopheles.
Lastly, national elections tend to suck the life out of anti-war movements. In 2008, just as happened in 2004, the pressure will be on activists to line up with one mainstream candidate or the other in order to elect, yet again, the lesser of two evils. Even now, otherwise earnest anti-war candidates like Dennis Kucinich (who knows his party will never nominate him for executive office), serve more as the Pied Pipers of Denver. Like at Boston 2004, they will lead the little lefty mice to the Democratic Convention . . . where, just like in Boston 2004, they will be turned over to fat cat political bosses and brow-beaten into getting with the program.
A general strike, on the other hand, is tough business. Practicing for one also makes one tough. European socialists and unionists, for example, through years of experience and education, have learned how to negotiate with their political class. Most importantly, they have learned when to stop negotiating and when to go out on strike.
Americans in this century, and especially labor unions, students and working class people, have either forgotten or failed to learn that type of hard nosed negotiation. It does not grow out of being the volunteer grassroots water bearers for the mainstream parties. It does not come from humbly begging for political breadcrumbs. True democratic strength comes from exercising it. Peacefully, yes. But as aggressively as circumstances require. And experience teaches that strength often translates into a general strike, a deliberate, universal withholding of one's labor.
Media Matters – or Does It?
Is a general strike impossible in the United States because of the soporific effect of the corporate mass media? Ten years ago I might have thought so, but not now.
It is true that a majority of the media serve to entertain and distract. They are the modern equivalent of the Roman circus. Like the Roman circus, the major commercial networks also strive to barbarize the general population and thus acclimatize them to a culture of hatred, violence and self-indulgence. Self-indulgent people are egoists and they tend not to organize politically. Therefore, they are the ownership class's ideal antithesis of democratically engaged, strike-capable citizens.
Although the mass media targets one segment of society, other specialized media target another segment. There are definite opinion makers among the corporate media, like The Washington Post, The New York Times and, especially, The Wall Street Journal. Their primary target audience is the leadership cadre of society. They speak for the ownership class to the management class. These “newspapers” (I use the cautionary quotation marks around the word “newspapers” because of their predilection for uncritical amplification of official government policy and for blatant propaganda) seek to shape the opinions of the upper “management” echelons of society: the mid-level business executives, professors, lawyers, judges, teachers, doctors, other regional news editors and publishers, and government administrators. They, in turn, are expected to disseminate these approved opinions down into society in general. (1)
Although that has been the pattern for many decades, something new has evolved: the Internet and the Web. I am not a starry-eyed futurist who spouts inanities about how technology has changed the world. Neither am I a back-to-the-Stone-Ages Luddite. All of us must recognize, however, that technology, notwithstanding its abuses, has given us a tool for communicating with one another much more powerful than the military progenitors of the world wide web ever anticipated when they first created it.
Many of us daily read news from around the world. (2) We have access to encyclopedic knowledge at the scroll of the mouse, courtesy of the Wikipedia and thousands of similar sources. Some have direct RSS news feeds from far flung sources and know long before the Mainstream Media what is happening where, and why. We know which radio programs to listen to, and which to eschew. Many of us receive news, information and analysis from trusted sources who have mini distribution networks of their own. The readers of this website are themselves participating in an exercise in alternative communication. Better still, although the bloggers of the Web are a mixed lot in terms of wisdom, garbage-mongering and communication skills, they are undoubtedly a highly democratic phenomenon. Like Arlo Guthrie's “Alice's Restaurant”, you can, indeed, get anything you want from the Web, and it is entirely up to you to pick and choose from the huge a la carte read-all-you-want menu.
So-called “experts” and “pundits” and highly credentialed talking heads mean very little in this free-for-all cafeteria of ideas. Justifiably so. If there is one “free market” concept that we can endorse (and which the Wall Streeters and established political leadership deride) it is that we all can educate ourselves to figure out for ourselves what makes sense and what does not. The anonymity of the Web is as democratic as the world wide free software movement in which the quality of the programming is evident in the product itself, and not in the size or advertising of the company that churns it out.
Although the number of people who regularly read this particular website are vastly fewer than those who subscribe to the mainstream infotainment networks, one suspects that you who read this website tend to have a lot of opinions of your own... and you tend to communicate these opinions to others. In short, the highly democratic nature of the Internet has permitted each of you to become small ink splotches on the dirty fabric that represents your world, real people providing real content of your own. Sometimes these ink splotches spread. They do not always spread too far, but when there are many of you, reposting, forwarding, linking people together, spreading by osmosis, sometimes the ink splotches can transfigure the whole fabric.
In a nutshell, the mainstream corporate media still dominates and propagandizes, but it is no longer absolutely dominant over the formation of public opinion. Indeed, the anonymous web users and bloggers are now a sufficient part of an alternative opinion-shaping media to actually have an incremental, but statistically significant effect on politics. Thus, too, will the American attitude toward a general strike eventually be shaped from below and not from the top by the traditional media venues.
Precisely because of this, there is an ongoing effort from the top to consolidate the Internet into the hands of the largest corporations. All members of the ownership class regard absolute Internet dominance as equally, if not more essential than the manipulation of the actual election process. The overall effect of aggregating the control of the Internet and of regulating the speed of its delivery based on content or provider, would be a political body blow to the very democratic possibilities that the ownership class most dreads. “Net democracy” is a better term than “net neutrality” to describe this technical phenomenon that now is a small counterbalance to the previous hegemony of the anti-democratic corporate media.
Does the Lack of Community In America Preclude a General Strike?
Yes and no. From one perspective, nothing makes a general strike more difficult than the fact that, in the USA of the past fifty years or so, people have no “roots”. Unlike in Europe where people may live and work among colleagues that they have known since childhood, Americans tend to move all over the place. Business interests describe this as “flexible labor”, that is, they can make you move wherever they want you to go in order to get a job. The only “community” that the ownership class wants you to have is lonely communion with your television set or while sitting in the highly choreographed spectacle of a sports-temple where folks are trained en mass to scream, stand up, sit down and salute the flag on command.
Nowadays, however, for the reasons described in the preceding section, “communities” are actually more meaningful than they used to be. Precisely because of the explosion of information, you can become part of like-minded communities wherever you live in the United States. Whereas a “community” used to be geographically defined, it no longer needs to be. This website is a community and we have never met. The entire network of like-minded people reposting articles and emailing viewpoints and opinions to their friends and acquaintances is a community. (3)
The notion of “communitarianism” also has some potential dangers against which we should all be on guard. A “community”, of course, can be nothing less than nationalism on the local level. If the sole criteria of your “community” is where its members live, then it has no more rationality than a nation of people bound by the accident of where they were born. It must be an idea that glues a community together, rather than any accident of race, religion, work or residence, otherwise it can slide into politics of exclusion. Many of us believe, in fact, that our community is not just “local”, but includes the international community of all like-minded people wherever in the world they reside. You and I may have as much (or more) in common with someone living in Mumbai or Buenos Aires or Munich or Barcelona than we have in common with our next door neighbors.
So long as the Internet, as it is, is permitted to exist, there is greater potential for true “community” to emerge than ever before. It is that type of community that is fertile ground for a general strike. (4)
We Can't Agree On Anything in America Let Alone a General Strike!
Clarity of purpose, resolve, coordination and planning are essential for any general strike to succeed. A general strike that fails for lack of adequate preparation only demoralizes and is worse than no strike at all. Although it may be impossible for the national community to unify on the essential strike criteria, it is not necessary that everyone agree to participate for the strike to take effect. In the Industrial Age, it was sufficient for coal miners or steel workers to strike, or for railroad employees, longshoremen or teamsters to go out on strike.
In our times there is one -- albeit mostly unorganized, generally apolitical -- professional group that unknowingly holds the most power in our society: the computer programmers, hardware engineers, web masters, hackers and system analysts. Veritably nothing functions anymore in the 21st Century if these people withhold their services. Everything from the world banking system to retail commerce to manufacturing to the federal government to college campuses to air traffic control to intelligence operations to the military depends absolutely on the daily massage therapy of the world's millions of computer geeks. If they do not work, then nothing, absolutely nothing works. Indeed, short of Nature herself whacking humankind upside the head with catastrophic global climate change and petroleum depletion, nothing other than the international community of digi-sophisticates has the power to redirect the course of humanity.
I do not pretend for a moment that this is a homogeneous group -- its personality and politics range world-wide from all flavors of libertarian free marketeers to anarchistic Black Hats, from socialists to capitalist freebooters, from sexually insecure alter egoists to arrogant flamers, gamers and crackers. Nevertheless, those who are interested in the dynamics of the general strike should understand where the critical pressure points are in their society and who has their laboring hands and minds on those pressure points. In the information age of the 21st century we should ask: who would constitute the equivalent of the coal miners, steel workers, railroad employees, teamsters or longshoremen of the past century? The answer is staring you in the face from your computer screen.
Practice Makes Perfect.
My purpose in writing “The Docile American” was not to provoke an ill-conceived general strike. My purpose was to identify some (though certainly not all) of the historical factors that have led to the impotence of America's citizens and which need to be addressed before an effective general strike could be organized. (5) One hugely important factor that coincides with overwhelming current public opinion is the need to radically change the health care system in the United States.
We should not be charmed by either the Democratic or Republican parties and their game of musical power chairs. However, to the extent that either party needs our votes or our money, then socialized medicine, not incremental fixes to the existing privatized health care system, must be one of the first non-negotiable demands we make. It is one of the most economically emancipating steps toward creating the next democratic tool: the power to make a general strike.
In the meantime, Americans should consider how to exercise their democratic muscles. Like a fighter who trains by lifting weights and shadow boxing to build strength and stamina, so should we, as citizens, be training, laying the groundwork for seeking fundamental changes in the future that will require more strength and stamina than we now have.
Zbignew Zingh can be reached at: Zbig@ersarts.com. This article is CopyLeft, and free to distribute, reprint, repost, sing at a recital, spray paint, scribble in a toilet stall, etc. to your heart’s content, with proper author citation. Find out more about Copyleft and read other great articles at: www.ersarts.com. copyleft 2007.
1) These thoughts are loosely borrowed from the writings of C. Wright Mills, author of the classic text The Power Elite (1956).
2) Some news is harder to get than others. Google, for example, has stopped indexing news headlines from Uruknet.net apparently because it is too stridently opposed to the American occupation of Iraq. My perspective is that informed citizens need exposure to all points of view and it is highly improper for a search engine like Google, which seeks to establish its own flavor of pervasive Net culture, to exercise censorship over what we can read.
3) Neither, however, should we fall into the antithesis of jingoism by believing that everything American is bad and everything non-American is good. People are people. They are good and awful, and everything in between, in equal measures across all cultures and societies. There are saints and bloodsuckers in every religion, in every political system, in every community on earth. Although some economic, religious and political systems have proved to be consistently worse than others in that they naturally lead to extremes of injustice, the essential thing is to pick and choose the best from all societies and systems and to discard the detritus.
4) Nothing published in clear on the Internet is confidential and we should assume that this site, and every other interesting website in the world is being monitored. That is why no one should write or post anything these days that s/he would be embarrassed to see offered as an exhibit at trial. On the other hand, there is nothing that prevents you from reaching out even to those on the other side of the divide. Most police and nearly all soldiers come from the working classes. They should be your natural allies. Even the folks who are paid to monitor this site may not necessarily identify with their paymasters. The concept of democracy is truly ecumenical. Those who know how to bear arms are as entitled to participate in it as are those who loathe them. And the day could one day come when the one will need the other.
5) One significant shortcoming of “The Docile American” that some readers pointed out was the choke-hold of consumer debt and how that contributes to the economic shackling of the people. I totally agree. It is a significant topic that I want to address in a separate article dedicated to that one issue.