Friday, November 17, 2006

Locals Accuse U.S. of Massacre in Ramadi by Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

November 17, 2006

Locals Accuse U.S. of Massacre in Ramadi

Inter Press Service
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

RAMADI, Nov 17 (IPS) - U.S. military tank fire killed scores of civilians in Ramadi, capital of Al-Anbar province, late Monday night, according to witnesses and doctors. Anger and frustration were evident at the hospitals and during the funerals in the following days.

Iraqi doctors and witnesses at the scene of the attack said U.S. tanks killed 35 civilians when they shelled several homes in the Al-Dhubat area of the city.

Ramadi, located 110 km west of Baghdad, has been beset with sporadic but intense violence between occupation forces and insurgents for several months.

On Tuesday, hundreds of people carried the 35 coffins of the dead to a graveyard in a funeral procession which closely resembled an angry demonstration.

"We heard the bombing and we thought it was the usual fighting between resistance fighters and the Americans, but we soon realised it was bombing by large cannons," 60-year-old Haji Jassim explained to IPS at the burial. "We weren't allowed by the Americans to reach the destroyed houses to try to rescue those who were buried, so certainly many of them bled to death."

Jassim claimed that everyone killed was innocent, that they were not fighters. He said that when he and others attempted to reach the rubble of the destroyed homes, located near mosques whose minaret's loudspeakers had broadcast pleas for help, "There was a big American force that stopped us and told us the usual ugly phrases we hear from them every day."

Jassim, speaking with IPS while several other witnesses listened while nodding their heads, said that ambulances did not appear on the scene for hours because "we realised that the Americans did not allow them to move," and that as a result, "there were people buried under the rubble who were bleeding to death while there was still a chance to rescue them."

Jassim then burst into tears and walked away saying prayers to Allah to bless the souls of the dead.

A doctor at Ramadi's main hospital, Abdullah Salih, told reporters that 35 bodies had been brought in and he also believed that others had not been retrieved since access had been limited by ongoing U.S. military operations.

Another doctor, Kamal al-Ani, said that in addition to the dead, another 17 wounded had been brought into the hospital.

The scene at the hospital was tragic as doctors confirmed the reason of death for many as severe bleeding that had gone on for several hours. Most of the doctors were unwilling to discuss too many details for fear of U.S. military reprisals.

"You can notice the number of dead is at least twice as high as the number of wounded," one of the doctors, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. A local Iraqi policeman who identified himself as Khalif Obeidi told IPS that tanks had destroyed several houses in the area during the U.S. raid, killing more than 30 civilians.

"We know that those killed were innocent," said Obeidi, "although there have been attacks on the Americans from near that area in the past."

Residents of the city and relatives of the dead who were at the funeral were furious.

"There is no other way for the Sunnis than to fight," Ali Khudher, a 25-year-old carpenter who lost a relative in the attack told IPS. "It is a religious war and no one can deny that now."

Others who attended the mass funeral chanted anti-American, anti-Israeli, anti-Iranian and even slogans against the Islamic Party which is now part of the Iraqi government.

Tempers run high in Ramadi also because the city has often been the scene of large-scale U.S. military operations and their inherent forms of collective punishment.

Last June, thousands of residents were forced from their homes due to military operations, according to Maurizio Mascia, programme manager for the Italian Consortium of Solidarity (ICS), a non-governmental group based in Amman, Jordan that provides relief to refugees in Iraq.

At that time, Mascia told IPS, "The Americans, instead of attacking the city all at once like they've done in their previous operations in cities like Fallujah and Al-Qa'im, are using helicopters and ground troops to attack one district at a time in Ramadi."

Mirroring a complaint heard often from residents of Ramadi, Mascia said, "The main dangers for the population are the MNF (multi-national force) at the checkpoints and the snipers: both usually shoot at any movement that they consider dangerous -- causing many victims among civilians."

In a phone conversation with IPS, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad said he had no specific details of the incident and that "the U.S. military has been conducting ongoing patrols and security details in Al-Anbar for months now. Our efforts are always to attack the terrorists and protect the civilian population."

Posted by Dahr_Jamail at November 17, 2006 06:01 PM

Charge Rumsfeld with War Crimes

Today, CCR filed a criminal complaint in Germany under their universal jurisdiction law charging Rumsfeld, Gonzales and other high-ranking officials in the Bush administration with war crimes. We’ve taken this step on behalf of 11 Iraqis , and one detainee at Guantánamo Bay subjected to torture and abuse there under Rumsfeld’s specific authorization.

If Rumsfeld is going to be held accountable for authorizing torture and other human rights abuses, we need your help.

The German Prosecutor has discretion to decide whether to initiate an investigation. It is critical that you write to her so she knows that people around the world support this effort. Please urge the German Prosecutor to open an investigation into this case.

Note all letters are in both German and English with German appearing first. (You may receive an automatic response from the Prosecutor's office. This message is in German and it acknowledges that your email was received.)
Send a message: HERE

An idea whose time had come: Impeach, Indict, Try, Convict, Execute at Nuremberg

By Ted Rall

11/16/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- Live every day as if it were your last. It's good advice. Modified for politicians: Treat every term in office as if it were your last.

Republicans get political existentialism. When they campaign for office, they promise to be uniters, not dividers. Once they win an election, however, talk of bipartisanship promptly sails out the window. They freeze out the Democrats, elected representatives and constituents alike. Rather than compromise to accommodate the millions who voted against them, Republicans play to their right-wing base: racists and Christianists. The GOP belligerently promotes the most extremist items on its legislative wish list by declaring their victory to be a broad manifesto for radical change and wholesale rejection of the other side. They nominate judges whose conservatism is far to the right of the average Republican. Sure, they want to unite the country--by forcing everyone to go along with what they want.

"Back in December 2000," recalls Lincoln Chafee, a Republican senator from Rhode Island, "after one of the closest elections in our nation's history, Vice President-elect Dick Cheney was the guest at a weekly lunch meeting of a small group of centrist Republicans." Many people expected Bush, who'd received 48 percent of the vote and had been anointed after a controversial Supreme Court decision to halt the recount, to make good on his campaign promises to reach out to Democrats in a spirit of bipartisanship. But Cheney had something else in mind. "I was startled to hear the vice president dismiss suggestions of compromise and instead emphasize an aggressively partisan agenda that included significant tax cuts, the abandonment of international agreements and a muscular, unilateral policy."

Cheney and Bush understood that they might only have one four-year term to accomplish their goals. Knowing that they might never get another chance, they insulated themselves with a staff of likeminded ideologues and got to work at remaking America in their image. Drawing on bluster and hubris, they bullied Democrats into going along with the transfer of the federal tax burden from the rich to the middle class. Next they skillfully exploited Americans' fear and anger following the September 11th attacks to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. By 2004 they had eliminated civil liberties that citizens of Western countries had enjoyed for hundreds of years, emasculating Congress and the Courts to create a "unified executive" form of government.

Most of the changes carried out by Bush's neoconservatives during his first term--new tax rates, USA-Patriot Act, two wars, pulling out of the Geneva Conventions, torture, domestic eavesdropping--will probably remain in force for decades. Their strategy of running roughshod over the Democrats worked.

It helps to enjoy the complicity of the media. Whenever Republicans win an election, mainstream pundits cite the results as prima facie proof that the American people have handed them a mandate to do whatever they want.

When Reagan won in 1980, Newsweek hailed his triumph as "an idea whose time had come," "a rousing vote of confidence in him and his politics," and posited that the results spelled "nearly certain death for liberal causes." When Republicans picked up seats in the 1994 midterm elections, House Speaker Newt Gingrich drew upon media support to stampede Clinton into a year-long "copresidency," resulting in welfare reform and free-trade pacts.

When is a win not a win? When it's Democratic. When a majority of Americans cast votes for the Dems, the results are invariably interpreted by the media as a public desire for moderation and bipartisanship rather than some "radical left-wing agenda." Democrats are told to abandon their campaign promises and ignore their liberal base. The pain and divisiveness of the (Republican-ruled) past must be healed by big-hearted (and soft-headed) Democrats. Democrats don't get mandates.

The double standard isn't new. "For all the records it broke," Time editorialized in 1996, "[Bill Clinton's 49-to-41 percent win] was a victory for studied modesty; for a willingness to swallow his pride to preserve his power, embrace his enemies to steal their ideas and march into history as the first two-term Democrat since F.D.R., not with great leaps forward but one baby step at a time. It couldn't be clearer if they had spelled it out letter for letter: voters elected a moderate Democratic President to carry out a moderate Republican agenda."


For the first time since 1994, Democrats find themselves in control of both houses of Congress. They picked up 28 seats in the House and six in the Senate--a stunning sweep considering that congressional redistricting has made it more difficult to unseat incumbents. But the facts that a lot more Americans voted Democratic than Republican and that Bush's approval rating has hit a record low (31 percent) don't mean much to the official media--or, it seems, to the winning Democratic candidates.

Time's post-election cover story was called "Why the Center is the Place to Be." The incoming freshmen representatives, reported The New York Times (house organ of the Clinton-style centrist Democrats) in its lead story on November 12, "say they were given a rare opportunity by voters, many of them independents and Republicans, who were tired of the partisanship and gridlock in Washington."

"Now, they say, they have to find a bipartisan avoid the ideological wars that have so dominated Congress in recent years, to be pragmatists, and to change the tone in Washington after a sharply partisan campaign."

"They've set a bad example in not working with us," incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said of the Republicans. "We're not following that example."

Blech. The fools are already running for reelection.

The New New Democrats need to study the calendar. Two years from now, they may well end up back in the minority, reading passionate speeches no one will ever hear to an empty chamber for the benefit of C-SPAN. Rather than triangulate or moderate their views, Democrats should take that two-year time limit seriously and go gangbusters, emulating Cheney and Bush's balls-to-the-wall style to pass as much legislation as they can before 2008. That means unraveling as many GOP accomplishments as possible. Cancel the tax cuts, close the torture camps, restore habeas corpus, get the NSA out of our email, yank our troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

It's high time for vengeance. Impeachment is essential, to cleanse our national soul, as a down payment of good will toward the rest of the world, and because they did it to Clinton for far, far less. And we need investigations--lots of them. Special prosecutors ought to track down everyone, up to and including Bush, who lied about WMDs in Iraq, chose not to pursue Osama in Pakistan after 9/11, deliberately withheld help that could have saved lives during the Hurricane Katrina, and signed off on warrantless wiretapping of American citizens. Law and order starts at the top.

At the same time, Dems ought to ram through such long overdue (and popular) liberal agenda items as national health insurance, pulling out of the failed NAFTA accord and a big hike in the minimum wage. If any Republicans object, do what they'd do: call them terrorists or traitors or some other smear that forces them to sit down, shut up, and vote yes.

Of course, there's an alternative. Bill Clinton wasted his entire political career placing short-term victory at the polls over achieving his political goals. Sucking up to moderates and Republicans got him eight years in the White House, but for what? He never signed a major bill that could be described as liberal.

If they govern like there's no tomorrow, Democratic lawmakers will be able to say that they represented their constituents, who will have gotten what they voted for. That's how democracy is supposed to work. Remember?

Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin : Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge. Visit his website.

© 2006 Ted Rall

Thursday, November 16, 2006

National Impeachment Movement Ignored by Corporate Media

By Peter Phillips

If a national movement calling for the impeachment of the President is rapidly emerging and the corporate media are not covering it, is there really a national movement for the impeachment of the President?

Impeachment advocates are widely mobilizing in the U.S. Over 1,000 letters to the editors of major newspapers have been printed in the past six months asking for impeachment. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette letter writer George Matus says, “I am still enraged over unasked questions about exit polls, touch-screen voting, Iraq, the cost of the new Medicare…who formulated our energy policy, Jack Abramoff, the Downing Street Memos, and impeachment.” David Anderson in McMinnville, Oregon pens to the Oregonian, “Where are the members of our congressional delegation now in demanding the current president’s actions be investigated to see if impeachment or censure are appropriate actions?” William Dwyer’s letter in the Charleston Gazette says, “Congress will never have the courage to start the impeachment process without a groundswell of outrage from the people.”

City councils, boards of supervisors, and local and state level Democrat central committees have voted for impeachment. Arcata, California voted for impeachment on January 6. The City and County of San Francisco, voted Yes on February 28. The Sonoma County Democrat Central Committee (CA) voted for Impeachment on March 16. The townships of Newfane, Brookfield, Dummerston, Marlboro and Putney in Vermont all voted for impeachment the first week of March. The New Mexico State Democrat party convention rallied on March 18 for the ”impeachment of George Bush and his lawful removal from office.” The national Green Party called for impeachment on January 3. Op-ed writers at the St. Petersburg Times, Newsday, Yale Daily News, Barrons, Detroit Free Press, and the Boston Globe have called for impeachment. The San Francisco Bay Guardian (1/25/06) The Nation (1/30/06) and Harpers (3/06) published cover articles calling for impeachment. As of March 16, thirty-two US House of Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors to House Resolution 635, which would create a Select Committee to look into the grounds for recommending President Bush’s impeachment.

Polls show that nearly a majority of Americans favor impeachment. In October of 2005, Public Affairs Research found that 50% of Americans said that President Bush should be impeached if he lied about the war in Iraq. A Zogby International poll from early November 2005 found that 53% of Americans say, "If President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment." A March 16, 2006 poll by American Research Group showed that 42% of Americans favored impeaching Bush.

Despite all this advocacy and sentiment for impeachment, corporate media have yet to cover this emerging mass movement. The Bangor Daily News simply reported on March 17 that former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark has set up the website and that other groups are using the internet to push impeachment. The Wall Street Journal, on March 16, editorialized about how it is just “the loony left” seeking impeachment, but perhaps some Democrats in Congress will join in feeding on the “bile of the censure/impeachment brigades.”

The corporate media are ignoring the broadening call for impeachment — wishing perhaps it will just go away. Television news and talk shows have mentioned impeachment over 100 times in the past 30 days, mostly however in the context of Senator Russ Feingold’s censure bill and the lack of broad Democrat support for censure or impeachment. Nothing on television news gives the impression that millions of Americans are calling for the impeachment of Bush and his cohorts.

The Bush Administration lied about Iraq, illegally spied on US citizens, and continues war crimes in the Middle East. Despite corporate media’s inability to hear the demands for impeachment, the groundswell of outrage continues to expand.

Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and Director of Project Censored a media research organization. Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush and Cheney by Dennis Loo and Peter Phillips is scheduled for release this summer by Seven Stories Press

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

30 years after war, Vietnam suffers toxic legacy

Tue, 14 Nov 2006 09:12:55 -0800
During the war, American forces sprayed about 12 million gallons of Agent Orange over the jungle canopies and jade-green highlands of Vietnam. The most toxic of the herbicides used for military purposes, it defoliated countless trees in areas where the communist North Vietnamese troops hid supply lines and conducted guerrilla warfare.
Because Vietnam lacked the resources to conduct its own environmental cleanup, dioxin-related birth defects have been diagnosed in thousands of children whose parents were not exposed during the war. In many cases, families such as the Nguyens were not warned of the hazard until it was too late.
[Posted By Judy]

By Anthony Faiola
Republished from The Washington Post via MSNBC

Officials move to address lingering effects of Agent Orange contamination
For a stark reminder of the Vietnam War, people living near the airport in this central industrial city can still stroll along the old stone walls that once surrounded a U.S. military base. But Luu Thi Nguyen, a 31-year-old homemaker, needs only to look into the face of her young daughter.

Van, 5, spends her days at home, playing by herself on the concrete floor because local school officials say her appearance frightens other children. She has an oversize head and a severely deformed mouth, and her upper body is covered in a rash so severe her skin appears to have been boiled. According to Vietnamese medical authorities, she is part of a new generation of Agent Orange victims, forever scarred by the U.S.-made herbicide containing dioxin, one of the world’s most toxic pollutants.

For decades, the United States and Vietnam have wrangled over the question of responsibility for the U.S. military’s deployment of Agent Orange. But officials say they are now moving to jointly address at least one important aspect of the spraying’s aftermath—environmental damage at Vietnamese “hot spots” such as Nguyen’s city, Da Nang—that are still contaminated with dioxin 31 years after the fall of…
[Click here to read the rest of the article]

Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin

• Open Letter - To the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit From the Vietnam Fatherland Front (11/05/2006)

Your Honors,

We, the Viet Nam Fatherland Front, would like to bring to your attention the following: the Agent Orange produced by a number of U.S. chemical companies for use in the Vietnam War has borne heavy consequences, and this indisputable fact has been acknowledged by various governments in the world.

In his press conference on 28th May, 1969 at the White House, President Bill Clinton said “I am announcing that Vietnam veterans, with prostrate cancer and the neuropathy, are entitled to disability disorder, payments based upon their exposure to Agent Orange. Our Administration will also propose legislation to meet the needs of veterans’ children afflicted with the birth defects, spina bifida – the first time to offspring of American soldiers will receive benefit for combat – related health problems”

The United States has ever since paid billions of dollars in compensation to the victims of Agent Orange who are Vietnam veterans and their families. This is a clear indication that the consequences of Agent Orange use in the Vietnam War have been recognized in the United States.

After the United States’ acknowledgement of that reality, ten years later, the Governments of New Zealand and Australia also declared that they would consider and address their Vietnam veterans’ claims about exposure to Agent Orange while serving side by side with American in the Vietnam War. This is another evidence.

More recently, on January26th, 2006, the High Court of Seoul in the Republic of South Korea ruled that Dow Chemical and Monsanto, two major U.S. producers and suppliers of Agent Orange, should pay 63 billion won, or 65 million USD as compensations to Korean veterans who had become Agent Orange victims due to their participation in the Vietnam War. This is yet another evidence.

The United States military conducted numerous experiments on Canadian land. As a consequence, though Canada did not send troops to participate in the war, a number of Canadians have become victims of the Agent Orange that was stored on their land. The Government of Canada has declared that it would consider the Canadian victims’ claims against the U.S chemical companies.

The total number of Agent Orange victims in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea may reach dozens of thousands of people..

The main objectives of Agent Orange for almost a decade were the people and the environment of Vietnam. Certain areas of the country was subjected to repeated rounds of spraying, not just twice or three times, but ten times. We can therefore say that this intentional destruction by Agent Orange was not only aimed at Vietnamese people and food crops but also all other living species, the environment and the ecology. The diseases suffered by the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange have been much more numerous and serious than those afflicting veterans from countries allies of the United States in the Vietnam war. Forty years have elapsed since the destruction and yet the eco-systems and the environment of Vietnam still have to recover. Compared with those countries having sent troops alongside the United States’ and with other wars in world history where chemical weapons have been used, the consequences caused by Agent Orange in Viet Nam in the Vietnam war are much more serious, more profound and more lasting.

The perpetrators should pay damages to their victims. This is a matter of universal morals.

The fact that the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange have brought a civil action to demand that the U.S. chemical companies pay damages is in complete conformity with universal justice and minimum fairness.

In his “Memorandum, Order and Judgment” of March 10th, 2005, the Honorable J. Weinstein, Senior Judge of the United States District Court of Brooklyn, correctly rejected the defendants’ arguments on the statute of limitations, plaintiffs’ standing, the government contractor’s immunity defense and the court’s jurisdiction.

It was, thus, hard to conceive that Judge J.Weinstein would decide to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint on the basis that “Agent Orange and other herbicides used …should be characterized as herbicides, not poisons.”

If Agent Orange is not a poison, then why did President Bill Clinton officially recognize that many hundred thousands of veterans in the Vietnam War have become its victims? Why have many billions of United States dollars been appropriated by Congress for their compensation?

If Agent Orange is not a poison, why should the United States Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency ban the use of Agent Orange.

What was the reason forcing President Gerald Ford in 1971 to order the cessation of Operation Ranch Hand in Vietnam?

If we may use the analogy of Snow White and the apple that was meant to kill her, how should we characterize the apple that the witch gave to Snow White? Was it, indeed, a normal apple or a poisoned one? Judging by the fact of the story, how could anyone rule, in the name of justice, that: “the apple that the witch gave to Snow White, though clearly poisoned, should still be characterized as a normal apple, not a poisoned one.” Judge Weinstein might have been aware of the paradox he created when he stated in his judgment “Should the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reverse dismissal on the grounds addressed in the present memorandum, the court will grant extensive discovery on the relevant general epidemiological and individual medical causation issues before addressing that problem.”

There is of no lack of objective evidence and scientific grounds for proving the toxicity and severe consequences of the use of Agent Orange. The core issue lies in the fact whether the United States court would overcome all the obstacles hindering the fair hearing of this legal action. If the Vietnamese victims’ case proceeds to trial, we believe that all of defendants’ defense could never hide the truth, a truth that they have wanted to hide from the American people and peoples all over the world for the past 40 years.

As an organization representing all socio-political, social, socio-occupational associations of Viet Nam, the Vietnam Fatherland Front calls upon the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to consider the truth and reverse the decision made by Judge J. Weinstein so that fairness and justice may be returned to the Vietnamese plaintiffs.

On behalf of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Committee,

Pham The Duyet
Controlled Demolition Expert and WTC7 (original subtitles)

Latin America is preparing to settle accounts with its white settler elite by Richard Gott

The political movements and protests sweeping the continent - from Bolivia to Venezuela - are as much about race as class

The recent explosion of indigenous protest in Latin America, culminating in the election this year of Evo Morales, an Aymara indian, as president of Bolivia, has highlighted the precarious position of the white-settler elite that has dominated the continent for so many centuries. Although the term "white settler" is familiar in the history of most European colonies, and comes with a pejorative ring, the whites in Latin America (as in the US) are not usually described in this way, and never use the expression themselves. No Spanish or Portuguese word exists that can adequately translate the English term.

Latin America is traditionally seen as a continent set apart from colonial projects elsewhere, the outcome of its long experience of settlement since the 16th century. Yet it truly belongs in the history of the global expansion of white-settler populations from Europe in the more recent period. Today's elites are largely the product of the immigrant European culture that has developed during the two centuries since independence.
The characteristics of the European empires' white-settler states in the 19th and 20th centuries are well known. The settlers expropriated the land and evicted or exterminated the existing population; they exploited the surviving indigenous labour force on the land; they secured for themselves a European standard of living; and they treated the surviving indigenous peoples with extreme prejudice, drafting laws to ensure they remained largely without rights, as second- or third-class citizens.

Latin America shares these characteristics of "settler colonialism", an evocative term used in discussions about the British empire. Together with the Caribbean and the US, it has a further characteristic not shared by Europe's colonies elsewhere: the legacy of a non-indigenous slave class. Although slavery had been abolished in much of the world by the 1830s, the practice continued in Latin America (and the US) for several decades. The white settlers were unique in oppressing two different groups, seizing the land of the indigenous peoples and appropriating the labour of their imported slaves.

A feature of all "settler colonialist" societies has been the ingrained racist fear and hatred of the settlers, who are permanently alarmed by the presence of an expropriated underclass. Yet the race hatred of Latin America's settlers has only had a minor part in our customary understanding of the continent's history and society. Even politicians and historians on the left have preferred to discuss class rather than race.

In Venezuela, elections in December will produce another win for Hugo Chávez, a man of black and Indian origin. Much of the virulent dislike shown towards him by the opposition has been clearly motivated by race hatred, and similar hatred was aroused the 1970s towards Salvador Allende in Chile and Juan Perón in Argentina. Allende's unforgivable crime, in the eyes of the white-settler elite, was to mobilise the rotos, the "broken ones" - the patronising and derisory name given to the vast Chilean underclass. The indigenous origins of the rotos were obvious at Allende's political demonstrations. Dressed in Indian clothes, their affinity with their indigenous neighbours would have been apparent. The same could be said of the cabezas negras - "black heads" - who came out to support Perón.

This unexplored parallel has become more apparent as indigenous organisations have come to the fore, arousing the whites' ancient fears. A settler spokesman, Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian-now-Spanish novelist, has accused the indigenous movements of generating "social and political disorder", echoing the cry of 19th-century racist intellectuals such as Colonel Domingo Sarmiento of Argentina, who warned of a choice between "civilisation and barbarism".

Latin America's settler elites after independence were obsessed with all things European. They travelled to Europe in search of political models, ignoring their own countries beyond the capital cities, and excluding the majority from their nation-building project. Along with their imported liberal ideology came the racialist ideas common among settlers elsewhere in Europe's colonial world. This racist outlook led to the downgrading and non-recognition of the black population, and, in many countries, to the physical extermination of indigenous peoples. In their place came millions of fresh settlers from Europe.

Yet for a brief moment during the anti-colonial revolts of the 19th century, radical voices took up the Indian cause. A revolutionary junta in Buenos Aires in 1810 declared that Indians and Spaniards were equal. The Indian past was celebrated as the common heritage of all Americans, and children dressed as Indians sang at popular festivals. Guns cast in the city were christened in honour of Tupac Amaru and Mangoré, famous leaders of Indian resistance. In Cuba, early independence movements recalled the name of Hatuey, the 16th-century cacique, and devised a flag with an Indian woman entwined with a tobacco leaf. Independence supporters in Chile evoked the Araucanian rebels of earlier centuries and used Arauco symbols on their flags. Independence in Brazil in 1822 brought similar displays, with the white elite rejoicing in its Indian ancestry and suggesting that Tupi, spoken by many Indians, might replace Portuguese as the official language.

The radicals' inclusive agenda sought to incorporate the Indian majority into settler society. Yet almost immediately this strain of progressive thought disappears from the record. Political leaders who sought to be friendly with the indigenous peoples were replaced by those anxious to participate in the global campaign to exterminate indigenous peoples. The British had already embarked on that task in Australia and South Africa, and the French took part after 1830 when they invaded Algeria.

Latin America soon joined in. The purposeful extermination of indigenous peoples in the 19th century may well have been on a larger scale than anything attempted by the Spanish and the Portuguese in the earlier colonial period. Millions of Indians died because of a lack of immunity to European diseases, yet the early colonists needed the Indians to grow food and to provide labourers. They did not have the same economic necessity to make the land free from Indians that would provoke the extermination campaigns on other continents in the same era. The true Latin American holocaust occurred in the 19th century.

The slaughter of Indians made more land available for settlement, and between 1870 and 1914 five million Europeans migrated to Brazil and Argentina. In many countries the immigration campaigns continued well into the 20th century, sustaining the hegemonic white-settler culture that has lasted to this day.

Yet change is at last on the agenda. Recent election results have been described, with some truth, as a move to the left, since several new governments have revived progressive themes from the 1960s. Yet from a longer perspective these developments look more like a repudiation of Latin America's white-settler culture, and a revival of that radical tradition of inclusion attempted two centuries ago. The outline of a fresh struggle, with a final settling of accounts, can now be discerned.

· This article is based on the third annual SLAS lecture, given to the Society for Latin American Studies in October. Richard Gott is the author of Cuba: A New History (Yale University Press)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Pinochet in Palestine by Joseph Massad

Before the United States government subcontracted the Chilean military to overthrow the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973, it carried out a number of important missions in the country in preparation for the coup of 11 September. These included major strikes, especially by truck owners, which crippled the economy, massive demonstrations that included middle-class housewives and children carrying pots and pans demanding food, purging the Chilean military of officers who would oppose the suspension of democracy and the introduction of US-supported fascist rule, and a major media campaign against the regime with the CIA planting stories in newspapers like El Mercurio and others. This was in a context where also the Communist Party and the Leftist Revolutionary Movement (MIR) criticised and sometimes attacked the Allende regime from varying leftist positions.

The Chilean example is important to keep in mind when one looks at the Palestinian situation today, as it functions as a sort of training video for US-planned anti-democratic coups elsewhere in the world. Not only are the US and Israel financially backing the open preparation for a coup to be staged by the top leadership of Fateh (and in the case of Israel allowing weapons' transfers to Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas's Praetorian Guard), but so are the intelligence services of a number of Israel-and US-friendly Arab countries whose intelligence services have set up shop openly in Ramallah more recently, making their longstanding and major, though understated, involvement in running the Palestinian territories more open and shameless. Indeed the intelligence "delegation" of one such Arab country has rented out a multi-story building in Ramallah to conduct their operations there.

Israel has helped this effort all along by kidnapping and arresting Fateh members who resist the collaborationist policies of the top leadership. As for the leadership itself, it has periodically purged members of Fateh who oppose its policies, and marginalised those in the Diaspora who continue to resist them. The Fateh/PA coup leaders consist of Abbas and the ruling triumvirate of Mohamed Dahlan, Yasser Abd Rabbo, and Nabil Amr. The profiles of these three make them well suited for the tasks ahead. Dahlan is universally known as America's and Israel's main corrupt military man on the ground. Abd Rabbo (aka Yasser Abd Yasser, literally "Yasser worshipper of Yasser" on account of his subservience to Arafat) is the architect of the Geneva accords, which recognise Israel's right to be a racist Jewish state as legitimate and reject the right of Palestinian refugees to return as illegitimate. He recently upheld the Israeli position when fighting with the Qatari foreign minister and his staff during the latter's visit to the occupied territories. Amr is the former PA information minister, and a former visiting fellow at the Israel lobby think tank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is also the speechwriter for Abbas and Dahlan.

Abbas and these three have undertaken not only to launch massive strikes by the Fateh security thugs that they have armed to police the territories on behalf of Israel, and strikes by the bureaucracy that staffs the PA ministries, but also have coerced large numbers of Palestinians, including teachers and professors, under the force of guns, to uphold a strike against Hamas, when most of them had voted for Hamas in the first place and refuse to strike. Palestinians who have fought for decades to keep their schools and universities open against Israeli draconian closures and suspension of Palestinian education, are now forced by Fateh and its armed thugs to stop the Palestinian educational process with strikes against Hamas, and threaten to shoot people if they refuse to follow Fateh's coup directives.

In addition, Abbas and the Fateh/PA triumvirate have organised demonstrations in Ramallah by middle-class Palestinians, including housewives, who brought out their pots and pans, in a scene borrowed from 1973 Santiago, in demonstrations against Hamas. The Fateh-controlled press, especially Al-Ayyam is fomenting major anti-Hamas propaganda campaign in preparation for the coup and is thus playing the same role as El Mercurio did in Chile. Al-Ayyam is aided in its efforts by the anti-Hamas secular Palestinian intelligentsia, most of whose members are on the payroll of the bankrollers of the Oslo process and its NGOs. These old leftist Palestinians, like their counterparts in Lebanon, are better known today as the right-wing left, as they take up right-wing positions while insisting that they are still leftists based on positions they had held in the 1980s or earlier.

The plan is that the Fateh/PA rulers would do their utmost to provoke Hamas to start the war at which point Fateh, with the aid of the intelligence services of friendly Arab countries, as well as assistance from Israel and the US, would crush Hamas and take over. Indeed, the first unsuccessful round took place when the Israeli government kidnapped a third of the Hamas government, both cabinet ministers and parliament members, and placed them in Israeli jails. This was not sufficient to bring Hamas down, and not for lack of help that Fateh rendered the Israeli occupiers. Aside from the initial burning of the Legislative Council building, Fateh thugs have also burned the prime minister's office, shot at his car, burned offices in different ministries several times, harassed and threatened Hamas ministers and parliamentarians whom Israel failed to kidnap and arrest, refused to allow the government ministries to operate, and so forth. Hamas however, is wisely adamant that it will respond by force only when Fateh launches an all-out war to bring about its planned coup, but not before.

Fateh's planned coup is not only based on the popularity of Hamas and its electoral victory but also on Hamas's increased ability to defend itself against Fateh forces. If the US and Israel armed Fateh thugs under Arafat's leadership to crush the first Palestinian Intifada and any remaining resistance to the occupation since 1994, today, Hamas is almost as well- armed as Fateh forces and can defend the rights of the Palestinians to resist the Israeli occupation and the well-armed Palestinian collaborators that help to enforce it. This is where the situation today differs measurably from that of the mid-1990s. To offset this new balance of forces, the United States government, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, has been training Abbas's Praetorian Guard in Jericho for over a month with American, British, Egyptian, and Jordanian military instructors, and is providing arms to them in preparation for the confrontation with Hamas. The Israeli cabinet in turn has recently approved the transfer of thousands of rifles from Egypt and Jordan to Abbas's forces. The Israelis also approved a US request that Israel allow the Badr Brigade -- part of the Palestine Liberation Army currently stationed in Jordan -- to deploy in Gaza. These steps have been conceived by General Keith Dayton, the American security coordinator in the occupied territories, who wants the Badr Brigade to function as Abbas's "rapid reaction force in Gaza". As a possible step to increase its security and military roles in the occupied territories, the Jordanian government recently established a legal committee to review the provisions of Jordan's decision to "disengage" from the West Bank announced on 31 July 1988, effectively suggesting the possibility of a reversal of part or all of these provisions. More recently, the Israelis intensified their bombings and killings in Gaza, most recently in Beit Hanoun murdering over 50 Palestinians in a few days.

Mahmoud Abbas and his ruling triumvirate are reticent at the moment to start an open war for fear of a public backlash. They prefer to remove Hamas through imposing a "national unity" government that would undercut Hamas gradually and peacefully. However, Abbas and his triumvirate are quickly losing patience. Indeed, in a hastily-arranged meeting of the Diaspora-based Fateh Central Committee set to convene in Amman three weeks ago to ratify the coup plans, members of the committee opposed Abbas's US and Israel-supported coup, which forced Abbas to cancel the meeting altogether claiming falsely lack of quorum as the reason. This speaks to Abbas's desperation in engineering the coup without adequate preparation. Indeed, rumour has it across the occupied territories that the desperate attacks committed recently against Palestinian Christian churches were the work of undercover thugs. Those who sent them want Palestinian Christians and the world at large to think that these were Hamas acts in response to the pope's racist pronouncements against Islam. Hamas duly condemned the attacks. Few in the occupied territories believe that Hamas was behind them and most know that they were the work of undercover agents.

The Fateh plan is simple: where Israel and its Lebanese allies failed to crush Hizbullah in the Sixth war, Fateh and its Israeli allies will succeed in crushing Hamas, even if the ongoing Israeli war against Hamas and the Palestinian people becomes an all-out Seventh war. The flurry of visits by Condoleezza Rice to the area in the last few weeks hoped to put the final touches on this plan. If Hamas, like Hizbullah, could be provoked into a military response, the coup planners believe, then Fateh's and Israel's wrath (backed by the US, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia) would be unleashed to finish Hamas off. The Fateh leadership and its thugs are sharpening their knives for the showdown. Hamas has remained calm despite the pressure.

In the meantime, Ramallah proper (excluding the surrounding villages), continues to be what many now refer to as the Palestinian Green Zone, sheltering, in addition to the intelligence staff of Israel and Israel-friendly Arab countries, those Palestinians who are paid and protected by the Oslo process, whether the Oslo bureaucracy, its technicians, and hired intellectuals, or the business and middle classes recently habituated to the new name-brand consumerism that the Green Zone can offer. This opulent life contrasts with the life of the rest of the Palestinians outside Ramallah who live in misery, hunger, and under the bombardment of the Israelis and the attacks of savage Jewish colonial settlers, not to mention the harassment by Fateh thugs. In Ramallah itself, the trigger-happy thugs shoot at random during their demonstrations, injuring and sometimes killing passers by "in error". Even the few secular intellectuals who deign to oppose Fateh inside Ramallah are harassed in different ways. Some of them experience mysterious robberies that are repeated every time they make anti-Fateh statements. The preservation of Ramallah as the Green Zone is paramount to Abbas and the Fateh/PA triumvirate, whose fear of any reform introduced by Hamas would strip the elite of the benefits of corruption and the dolce vita that Fateh-rule has ensured for them.

Meanwhile, Abbas and his triumvirate will continue to treat Hamas the way Israel has treated the PLO and other Arab countries all along. In the interminable negotiations that Hamas held with Fateh to avert a showdown, whenever Hamas would agree to a Fateh demand, Fateh would up the ante and insist on another concession or claim that its initial demands always included the now expanded terms, even though they did not. Moreover, Fateh would also publicly interpret Hamas's concessions as having included things that Hamas had not agreed to at all. If this is reminiscent of the post-Oslo negotiating strategy that the Israelis used successfully with Arafat, this is because it is the same strategy. Abbas has gone so far as to walk away from negotiations, and refuse to speak to Hamas leaders, just as the Israelis have done often with the PA. Moreover, if the Israelis would often carry undercover attacks against Western interests to implicate Arab governments, the clearest example being the infamous Lavon Affair of the mid-1950s targeting Egypt, similar operations are being committed to implicate Hamas by undercover agents, like the recent example of the attacks on the churches illustrates. There may be many more such operations being planned.

Whatever fig leaf still covered the Fateh leadership's complete collaboration and subservience to Israeli interests has now fallen off. As a result, there is very little left that can restrain Fateh's actions. The next few weeks will be decided by how much Fateh leaders are itching for a fight to save their skins and fortunes, and how much patience Hamas can muster in the face of so much thuggery. In the meantime, what has been unfolding in the Palestinian territories is nothing short of the Chilean script.

Pinochet is in Palestine. His success however remains far from certain.

* The writer is associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University. He is the author of The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians (Routledge, 2006).

More Bush/Cheney War Profiteering in the Middle East - Bechtel Bails on Iraq

After making billions and then pulling out of Iraq, the company has big plans for raking in more lucre in Bush's Middle East Free Trade Area.

Last month, the Bechtel Corp. became the first major U.S. contractor to announce that it was pulling out of Iraq. Bechtel's departure marks yet another significant failure for Bush's economic invasion of Iraq. It does not mark, however, the end of Bechtel's adventures in the Middle East as the company looks to take advantage of the Bush administration's expanding U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Area.

Bechtel received a quiet "request for proposals" from the Bush administration more than a month before the war began, which ultimately yielded the company $2.4 billion for work on electricity, water, sewage treatment, bridges, highways, airports, hospitals, schools and more.

It is virtually impossible to assess the performance of any one company working in Iraq. Only one independent monitoring agency exists, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction (SIGIR), a congressionally mandated office tasked with oversight of all U.S. spending on Iraq reconstruction. Of the 13,578 projects planned and paid for by the U.S. government for work in Iraq, SIGIR has assessed just 65.

But even this limited oversight allows us to debunk claims made by Bechtel. For example, the company reports that it rebuilt "war-damaged bridges on key highways." But SIGIR's October report to Congress finds that "no bridge or expressway projects have been completed" in Iraq.

Bechtel also claims that it failed to build a key maternal and children's hospital in Basra because of "security concerns." While SIGIR, on the other hand, makes clear that it ordered Bechtel to be dropped from the $50 million project after the company misreported its progress and went $90 million over budget and a year and a half behind schedule.

SIGIR's October report also allows us to clearly assess the overall failure of U.S. reconstruction in Iraq. In the electricity sector, less than half of all planned projects in Iraq have been completed, while 21 percent have yet to even begin. The term "complete," however, can be misleading as, for example, SIGIR finds that the electricity sector has been hampered by the failure of contractors to build transmission and distribution lines to connect new generators to homes and businesses. Thus, nationally, Iraqis have just 11 hours on average of electricity a day, and in Baghdad, the heart of instability in Iraq, there are between four and eight hours on average per day.

While there has been greater success in completing water and sewage projects (79 percent are complete), electricity controls both water and sewage in Iraq. Therefore, the fact that 80 percent of potable water projects are reported complete does little good if there is no electricity to pump the water into homes, hospitals or businesses.

The health care sector is truly a tragedy, with just 36 percent of planned projects reported complete. Just 12 of 20 planned hospitals are complete, while only six of 150 planned public health centers are serving patients today.

What went wrong? U.S. Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner, author of a U.S. government study of the likely effect that U.S. bombardment would have on Iraq's power system in 2003, answered the question well when he said, "Frankly, if we had just given the Iraqis some baling wire and a little bit of space to keep things running, it would have been better. But instead we've let big U.S. companies go in with plans for major overhauls."

Companies like Bechtel entered Iraq with hopes of cashing in on much more than reconstruction contracts. As Cliff Mumm, head of Bechtel's Iraq operation, said in December 2003, Iraq "has two rivers, it's fertile, it's sitting on an ocean of oil. Iraq ought to be a major player in the world. And we want to be working for them long term."

Bechtel's vision was part of a larger Bush administration plan to transform Iraq from a state- to a market-controlled economy virtually overnight and by U.S. fiat. The administration implemented new laws in Iraq (virtually all of which remain in place today) allowing for, among other things, the privatization of Iraq's state-owned enterprises and for American companies to receive preferential treatment over Iraqis in the awarding of contracts.

So, Bechtel was hired instead of the Iraqi companies who had successfully rebuilt their country after the previous U.S. invasion. And, since Bechtel's contract guaranteed that all of its costs would be covered, plus a set rate of profit, it took its time, spending its first five months in Iraq doing a countrywide assessment rather than rebuilding. Bechtel then worked on expensive new facilities that showcased its skills and would serve its needs were it to run the systems itself one day (and which have proven far too expensive for Iraqis to run). The Iraqis, meanwhile, knew that the Americans had received billions of dollars for reconstruction, that Iraqi companies had been rejected, and that the country was still without basic services. The result was increasing hostility, acts of sabotage targeted directly at foreign contractors and their work, and a rising insurgency.

In the end, Iraq has not emerged as the wealthy free market haven companies like Bechtel had hoped for, at least not yet (the economic policies put in place by the Bush administration remain and the work is on-going to turn Iraq into a corporate-friendly Middle East Mecca). However, the war has not been completely useless.

One month after the invasion of Iraq, President Bush announced plans for a U.S. Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA) to expand his economic vision from Iraq to the rest of the Middle East. The war intensified the pressure on countries to prove that they were with, rather than against, the Unitede States. As a result, the MEFTA has progressed rapidly, with 14 nations signing agreements with the administration.

Bechtel is a member of the U.S. Middle East Free Trade Coalition, the corporate lobbying group behind MEFTA. Thanks to the MEFTA, a new free trade agreement expected to be signed with the United Arab Emirates this year is already opening new opportunities for U.S. firms, including Bechtel. The company was recently hired by the Abu Dhabi Ports Co. of the UAE to manage the construction of a major new industrial zone at the country's Khalifa Port.

While Bechtel turns its attention beyond Iraq, U.S. taxpayers, must remain focused. Those companies that have failed in Iraq must be held accountable and forced to return all misspent funds. This money, plus the several billions of as of yet unspent U.S. reconstruction money, and new money, must be made immediately available to Iraqi companies and workers. The U.S. corporate invasion of Iraq of must be brought to a quick end and it must not be allowed to spread.

Several key committees in the U.S. Congress are set to be run by allies in this fight. Most notably, congressman Henry Waxman of California, who will chair the House committee on government reform. Now is the time to push hard and push often to expose the companies and demand action from our newly empowered elected officials.

Antonia Juhasz is a visiting scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of "The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time" and contributing author with John Perkins to the forthcoming book, "A Game as Old as Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption."

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Democrats Don't Care - Screw the Palestinians, Full Steam Ahead By KATHLEEN and BILL CHRISTISON

At a panel on the defense and foreign policy impact of the midterm election, sponsored two days after the election by Congressional Quarterly, Steven Simon, late of the Clinton administration and still a member of the Democratic, pro-Zionist mainstream at the Council on Foreign Relations, pronounced on prospects for Palestinian-Israeli peace and essentially declared it not worth anyone's effort. Using words, a tone, and a body language that clearly betrayed his own disinterest, he said that Hamas is "there" (exaggerated shrug), that the Israeli government is in turmoil after its Lebanon "contretemps" (dismissive wave of the hand), that both sides are incapable of significant movement, and that therefore there is no incentive for anyone, Democrat or Republican, to intervene (casual frown indicating an unfortunate reality about which serious people need not concern themselves). There is simply no prospect for more unilateral Israeli withdrawals and therefore for any progress toward peace, Simon said in conclusion -- signaling not only a total lack of concern but an utter ignorance of just what it is that might bring progress, as if Israeli unilateralism were truly the ticket to peace.

Thus spake the Democratic oracle. Not that anyone who knows the Palestinian-Israeli situation from other than the selective focus of the Zionist perspective had any expectations in the first place. No one ever thought the new Democratic Congress would hop to and put pressure on Israel to make peace. Just remember John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, to say nothing of Bill Clinton, when any question of the Democrats' stance arises. And don't forget Nancy Pelosi, who rushed to condemn Jimmy Carter for using the word "apartheid" in the title of his new book and for whom, according to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency profile, support for Israel is personal and "heartfelt." One Jewish activist and long-time friend described her as "incredibly loyal" (interesting term) and as feeling Jewish and Israeli issues "in her soul."

But Simon's brief disquisition on the futility of even making an effort was particularly striking for its profound dismissiveness and its profound blindness to what is and has been going on on the ground. Simon's "contretemps" in Lebanon was no mere embarrassing misstep but a murderous rampage that killed 1,300 innocent Lebanese and dropped over a million cluster bomblets in villages across the south, left to be discovered by returning residents. But the Democrats don't care, and Steven Simon considers this hardly worth a second thought. Israel gets itself in trouble, showing its true brutal nature in the process, and this gives Simon and the Democrats a handy excuse to avoid doing anything.

Eighteen Palestinian innocents in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip were murdered while sleeping in their beds a day before Simon spoke, killed by Israeli shellfire, round after round fired at a residential housing complex -- 16 members of one extended family and two others who came to help them after the first round exploded. The Democrats don't care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.

In the six days preceding this incident, Israel assaulted Beit Hanoun the way it assaulted Jenin and Nablus and other West Bank cities in 2002 -- a murderous assault reminiscent of Nazi sieges or of the Russian siege of Chechnya, in which in these six days 57 Palestinians were killed, to one Israeli soldier. The dead include Palestinian fighters and a large number of civilians, including children and including two women shot down in the street while attempting to lift the Israeli siege of a mosque. The mosque was leveled. The Democrats don't care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.

In the four months preceding this six-day siege, the Israelis killed 247 Palestinians in a prolonged attack on Gaza. Of the dead, two-thirds are civilians, 20 percent children. Of nearly 1,000 injured, one-third are children. The Democrats don't care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.

Israel is planning a larger siege of Gaza, concentrating not just on Beit Hanoun in the north but on Rafah in the south, ostensibly to unearth arms-smuggling tunnels. This has been going on for years; Rafah has been the scene of Israel's murderous pummeling periodically since the intifada began -- in 2003 when Rachel Corrie was killed trying to protect the home of an innocent family from demolition, in 2004 when hundreds of homes were demolished in multiple sieges and a peaceful protest demonstration was strafed from the air. But the Democrats don't care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.

Gaza, of course, is not the only Palestinian territory being raped and pillaged. Its 1.4 million residents are the most distraught -- living imprisoned in a territory with the highest population density in the world, walled in with no exit except as Israel sporadically allows, being deliberately starved by the official policy of Israel, which dictates to the U.S., which dictates to Europe, vulnerable to constant Israeli assault. But the West Bank's 2.5 million Palestinians are not much better off. They continue to be killed by Israelis and squeezed by Israel's separation wall, by settlement expansion, by movement restrictions, by theft of agricultural land, by diminishing economic opportunity, and by massive Israeli-fostered unemployment. Their death toll is only minimally less than Gaza's.

This obscenity of oppression and murder does not faze the Democrats or any of Israel's Zionist supporters in the U.S. Whatever Israel wants is all right with the Democrats. The 110th Congress will screw the Palestinians just the way the Republican 109th did.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA's Office of Regional and Political Analysis. They spent October 2006 in Palestine and on a speaking tour of Ireland sponsored by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

TERRORIST GROUP BASED IN CALIFORNIA (Vietnamese court convicts seven, including three U.S. citizens, on terrorism charges)

By MARGIE MASON Associated Press Writer

(AP) - HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam-A Vietnamese court convicted seven people, including three U.S. citizens, on terrorism charges Friday, saying the group had plotted to take over radio airwaves to call for an uprising against the communist government.

A judge sentenced all of them to 15 months in prison, with credit for time served. They will all be freed within one month, and the Americans will be required to leave the country within 10 days of their release.

The defendants, all of Vietnamese descent, had been jailed without charges for more than a year, prompting Washington to pressure Hanoi to move forward swiftly and fairly.

U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plan to visit Vietnam next week for the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Both countries had been eager to resolve the case before Vietnam's biggest-ever international event begins.

The charges were punishable by 12 years to execution, but prosecutors sought lesser terms, saying the defendants had repented and had no previous criminal records.

It is highly unusual for Vietnam to hand down a lenient sentence for national security crimes, especially in a high-profile case. The quick resolution to the diplomatically sensitive case comes amid APEC preparations and Vietnam's entrance into the World Trade Organization, approved this week.

Prosecutors read a 21-page indictment accusing the defendants of plotting to smuggle radio equipment to Vietnam to take over the airwaves and call for "a total uprising that would lead to violence and harm to the lives of civil servants and ordinary people."

"This is a terrorist case of a particularly serious nature," the indictment said.

It said the scheme was hatched by the "Government of Free Vietnam," a Garden Grove, California, organization that the Vietnamese government considers a terrorist group.

It is considered among the more virulent of the many anti-communist groups founded by Vietnamese refugees in the United States. Many of its leaders are soldiers of the former South Vietnamese Army who fled Vietnam after the war ended in 1975. The group is run by Chanh Huu Nguyen, wanted in Vietnam for failed plots to bomb the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand and targets in Vietnam.

Prosecutors say the group set up an adoption agency in Cambodia as a front to disguise their plans.

Sentenced were U.S. citizens Thuong Nguyen Foshee, 58, of Orlando, Florida; Le Van Binh, 31, of Tampa, Florida; and Huynh Bich Lien "Linda," 51, of San Gabriel, California, along with Vietnamese citizens Tran Dat Phuong, 65; brothers Ho Van Giau, 59, and Ho Van Hien, 38, and 35-year-old Cao Tri - a U.S. resident who had been living in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Addressing the court before her sentencing, Foshee said, "I accidentally committed a mistake."

"I've been away from this country for too long," Foshee said. "I don't speak good Vietnamese and I do not know much about Vietnamese laws."

Earlier, under questioning from the judge, some of the defendants acknowledged carrying radio equipment to Cambodia on behalf of the Government of Free Vietnam. Others described themselves as employees of an adoption agency.

Foshee said Chanh had invited her to join his organization, but that she had declined. She said she met with him at his office in the United States several times, and that he had referred to her as "vice foreign minister."

The group gives titles to people as though they served in an actual government.

Foshee's brother, Nguyen Phu Tri, 41, told The Associated Press that Vietnamese officials told him in July 2005 to warn her to break off any ties with the group.

Tri told the court that Chanh's group gave him an air ticket and money to carry four radio transmitters from the U.S. to Cambodia. He said he had been trained to assemble and operate the equipment so he could pass the knowledge on to others.

Lien said she was not a member of the Government of Free Vietnam, but had gone to work for USIM, a charity in Cambodia that helped arrange adoptions of Cambodian children by people in the United States.

She said that she knew Chanh was associated with USIM, but that all she did was help care for children.

The case has attracted attention from U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, a Florida Republican, who raised the issue with the administration of President George W. Bush on Foshee's behalf and is reportedly blocking a key vote in Congress that would normalize trade relations between the former foes.

Bush had been hoping to get the bill approved before the APEC summit. Resolution of the terrorism case might increase his chances, although Congress will only be in session briefly before he departs next week.


Peace, Propaganda & The Promised Land

Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land provides a striking comparison of U.S. and international media coverage of the crisis in the Middle East, zeroing in on how structural distortions in U.S. coverage have reinforced false perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This pivotal documentary exposes how the foreign policy interests of American political elites--oil, and a need to have a secure military base in the region, among others--work in combination with Israeli public relations strategies to exercise a powerful influence over how news from the region is reported.
Through the voices of scholars, media critics, peace activists, religious figures, and Middle East experts, Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land carefully analyzes and explains how--through the use of language, framing and context--the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza remains hidden in the news media, and Israeli colonization of the occupied terrorities appears to be a defensive move rather than an offensive one. The documentary also explores the ways that U.S. journalists, for reasons ranging from intimidation to a lack of thorough investigation, have become complicit in carrying out Israel's PR campaign. At its core, the documentary raises questions about the ethics and role of journalism, and the relationship between media and politics.

Israel's influence of US policy & the Israeli lobby

In One Word: Massacre (of innocent civilians at Beit Hanoun by Israeli Butchers)

By Uri Avnery

11/11/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- "Thank God for the American elections," our ministers and generals sighed with relief.

They were not rejoicing at the kick that the American people delivered to George W. Bush's ass this week. They love Bush, after all.

But more important than the humbling of Bush is the fact that the news from America pushed aside the terrible reports from Beit Hanoun. Instead of making the headlines, they were relegated to the bottom of the page.

The first revolutionary act is to call things by their true names, Rosa Luxemburg said. So how to call what happened in Beit Hanoun?

"Accident" said a pretty anchorwoman on one of the TV news programs. "Tragedy", said her lovely colleague on another channel. A third one, no less attractive, wavered between "event", "mistake" and "incident".

It was indeed an accident, a tragedy, an event and an incident. But most of all it was a massacre. M-a-s-s-a-c-r-e.

The word "accident" suggests something for which no one is to blame - like being struck by lightning. A tragedy is a sad event or situation, like that of the New Orleans inhabitants after the disaster. The event in Beit Hanoun was sad indeed, but not an act of God - it was an act decided upon and carried out by human beings.

Immediately after the facts became known, the entire choir of professional apologists, explainers-away, sorrow-expressers and pretext-inventors, a choir that is in perpetual readiness for such cases, sprang into feverish action.

"An unfortunate mistake… It can happen in the best families… The mechanism of a cannon can misfunction, people can make mistakes… Errare humanum est… We have launched tens of thousands of artillery shells, and there have only been three such accidents. (No. 1 in the Olmert-Peretz-Halutz era was in Qana, in the Second Lebanon War. No. 2 was on the Gaza sea shore, where a whole family was wiped out.) But we apologized, didn't we? What more can they demand from us?"

There were also arguments like "They can only blame themselves." As usual, it was the fault of the victims. The most creative solution came from the Deputy Minister of Defense, Ephraim Sneh: "The practical responsibility is ours, but the moral responsibility is theirs." If they launch Qassam rockets at us, what else can we do but answer with shells?

Ephraim Sneh was raised to the position of Deputy Minister just now. The appointment was a payment for agreeing to the inclusion of Avigdor Liberman in the government (in biblical Hebrew, the payment would have been called "the hire of a whore", Deut. 23,19). Now, after only a few days in office, Sneh was given the opportunity to express his thanks.

(In the Sneh family, there is a tradition of justifying despicable acts. Ephraim's brilliant father, Moshe Sneh, was the leader of the Israeli Communist Party, and defended all the massacres committed by Stalin, not only the gulag system, but also the murder of the Jewish Communists in the Soviet Union and its satellites and the Jewish "doctors plot").

Any suggestion of equivalence between Qassams and artillery shells, an idea which has been adopted even by some of the Peaceniks, is completely false. And not only because there is no symmetry between occupier and occupied. Hundreds of Qassams launched during more than a year have killed one single Israeli. The shells, missiles and bombs have already killed many hundreds of Palestinians.

Did the shells hit the homes of people intentionally? There are only two possible answers to that.

The extreme version says: Yes. The sequence of events points in that direction. The Israeli army, one of the most modern in the world, has no answer to the Qassam, one of the most primitive of weapons. This short-range unguided rocket (named after Izz-ad-Din al-Qassam, the first Palestinian fighter, who was killed in 1935 in a battle against the British authorities of Palestine) is little more than a pipe filled with home-made explosives.

In a futile attempt to prevent the launching of Qassams, the Israeli forces invade the towns and villages of the Gaza Strip at regular intervals and institute a reign of terror. A week ago, they invaded Beit-Hanoun and killed more than 50 people, many of them women and children. The moment they left, the Palestinians started to launch as many Qassams as possible against Ashkelon, in order to prove that these incursions do not deter them.

That increased the frustration of the generals even more. Ashkelon is not a remote poverty-stricken little town like Sderot, most of whose inhabitants are of Moroccan origin. In Ashkelon there lives also an elitist population of European descent. The army chiefs, having lost their honor in Lebanon, were eager - according to this version - to teach the Palestinians a lesson, once and for all. According to the Israeli saying: If force doesn't work, use more force.

The other version holds that it was a real mistake, an unfortunate technical hitch. But the commander of an army knows very well that a certain incidence of "hitches" is unavoidable. So-and-so many percent are killed in training, so-and-so many percent die from "friendly fire", so-and-so many percent of shells fall some distance from the target. The ammunition used by the gunners against Beit-Hanoun - the very same 155mm ammunition that was used in Kana - is known for its inaccuracy. Several factors can cause the shells to stray from their course by hundreds of meters.

He who decided to use this ammunition against a target right next to civilians knowingly exposed them to mortal danger. Therefore, there is no essential difference between the two versions.

Who is to blame? First of all, the spirit that has gained ground in the army. Recently, Gideon Levy disclosed that a battalion commander praised his soldiers for killing 12 Palestinians with the words: "We have won by 12:0!"

Guilty are, of course, the gunners and their commanders, including the battery chief. And the General in charge of the Southern Command, Yoav Gallant (sic), who radiates indifference spiked with sanctimonious platitudes. And the Deputy Chief-of-Staff. And the Chief-of-Staff, Dan Halutz, the Air-Force general who said after another such incident that he sleeps well at night after dropping a one-ton super-bomb on a residential area. And, of course, the Minister of Defense, Amir Peretz, who approved the use of artillery after forbidding it in the past - which means that he was aware of the foreseeable consequences.

The guiltiest one is the Great Apologizer: Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister.

Olmert boasted recently that because of the clever behavior of his government "we were able to kill hundreds of terrorists, and the world has not reacted." According to Olmert, a "terrorist" is any armed Palestinian, including the tens of thousands of Palestinian policemen who carry arms by agreement with Israel. They may now be shot freely. "Terrorists" are also the women and children, who are killed in the street and in their homes. (Some say so openly: the children grow up to be terrorists, the women give birth to children who grow up to be terrorists.)

Olmert can go on with this, as he says, because the world keeps silent. Today the US even vetoed a very mild Security Council resolution against the event. Does this mean that the governments throughout the world - America, Europe, the Arab world - are accessories to the crime at Beit Hanoun? That can best be answered by the citizens of those countries.

The world did not pay much attention to the massacre, because it happened on US election day. The results of the election may sadden our leaders more than the blood and tears of mothers and children in the Gaza strip, but they were glad that the election diverted attention.

A cynic might say: Democracy is wonderful, it enables the voter to kick out the moron they elected last time and replace them with a new moron.

But let's not be too cynical. The fact is that the American people has accepted, after a delay of three years and tens of thousands of dead, what the advocates of peace around the word - including us here in Israel - were saying already on the first day: that the war will cause a disaster. That it will not solve any problem, but have the opposite effect.

The change will not be quick and dramatic. The US is a huge ship. When it turns around, it makes a very big circle and needs a lot of time - unlike Israel, a small speed-boat that can turn almost on the spot. But the direction is clear.

Of course, in both new houses of Congress, the pro-Israeli lobby (meaning: the supporters of the Israeli Right) has a huge influence, perhaps even more than in the last ones. But the American army will have to start leaving Iraq. The danger of another military adventure in Iran and/or Syria is much diminished. The crazy neo-conservatives, most of them Jews who support the extreme Right in Israel, are gradually losing power, together with their allies, the crazy Christian fundamentalists.

As former Prime Minister Levy Eshkol once said: when America sneezes, Israel catches cold. When America starts to recover, perhaps there is hope for us, too

Uri Avnery is an Israeli author and activist. He is the head of the Israeli peace movement, "Gush Shalom".
El Corrio de Maisanta, el último hombre a Caballo (Chávez)

Interpretación del corrio por parte del Presidente Hugo Chávez, en el Teatro Teresa Carreño de Caracas.

OTTO REICH: Funeral for a liar

BY JEAN-GUY ALLARD – Granma International staff writer –

IF lying was a life-threatening disease, Otto Reich would have been on his deathbed long ago: his latest feats of deception, along with his grotesque personality, show how an individual with a proven criminal past can continue to make headlines and manipulate the U.S. public, with the complicity of the media.

On October 26, Reich published an article on the Internet that has now become – without a doubt – the most spectacular piece of foolishness in his little-known career as a misinformation specialist.

That day, the former U.S. Special Envoy to the Western Hemisphere for the Secretary of State in the Bush administration, announced with the utmost seriousness that if Fidel Castro was not dead already, he would be within a matter of hours, and that “Confirmation of the terminal illness comes from the usual sources but in a non-conventional manner.”

He added, with the tone of one who knows everything and more, that “The Cuban government has been summoning to Havana representatives of the major international media to negotiate the best seats, camera angles, and interviews with the despot’s political survivors, and to inform them of the ground rules for coverage of the state funeral.”

What follows is really mind-blowing: Reich confides to his readers the model for this funeral, coming straight out of his imagination – as sick as it is cynical: that of Pope John Paul II.

Bush’s former advisor on Latin America follows with a ridiculous description of an event that never took place.

This memorable piece of writing – which has certainly contributed to the permanent misinformation campaign carried out under the Bush Plan for Cuba – is accompanied by an indulgent note mentioning that Otto J. Reich collaborated with George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004, first as assistant secretary of state and then on the National Security Council.


His official biography, available through U.S. embassies in Latin America when he was a White House official, left out his most important exploits: how he helped Félix Rodríguez Mendigutía, the official who in the name of the CIA ordered Che to be murdered, and Luis Posada Carriles, the most dangerous terrorist on the continent, in covering up the massive drugs-for-arms trafficking that supplied the Nicaraguan Contra forces.

Reich, when he was U.S. ambassador in Caracas, Venezuela, orchestrated the entry of Posada’s accomplice, Orlando Bosch Avila, to U.S. territory.

Born accidentally in Cuba in 1945 to an Austrian father, Reich got married to the CIA at the University of North Carolina, thanks Frank Calzón, who guided his path to the White House.

After spending two years in the ranks of the U.S. Army in Panama, Reich moved to Miami in 1972, where the CIA JM/WAVE

station flourished, carrying out anti-Cuba terrorist operations. That is also where Porter Goss was stationed, who was later to become CIA director under George Bush Jr., as well as a large number of other terrorists who reappeared in the following years in a succession of crimes, from Watergate to Operation Condor.


Reich appeared in the U.S. public eye when George Bush Sr., former head of the CIA, was vice president (under Reagan). Reich was then appointed director of the Latin America Department of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where John Bolton was general counsel.

He then became chief of the so-called Office of Public Diplomacy, a CIA invention to use State Department cover for cover-up and misinformation work. He was under the orders of Colonel Oliver North.

Years later, a report from the General Accountant Office revealed to Congress the nature of the deception operations carried out by Reich in the U.S. dirty war in Nicaragua. The U.S. public then discovered how, using taxpayers money, he had fabricated a series of gross lies with the goal of misinforming both citizens and politicians.

He published news claiming that the Sandinistas were persecuting Misquito Indians, and that they had purchased a number of Mig-29 fighter planes from the Soviet Unions to prepare air attacks against the United States. He went so far as to order the fabrication of false statements attributed to the names of the Contra’s mercenary ringleaders.

Reich published announcements asking for donations for the Contra – as a way of justifying the appearance of the drug-trafficking money, raised by his cohorts in Ilopango, in the bank accounts of anti-Sandinista mercenaries in the Grand Cayman Islands and Switzerland.

With the ostentatious title of Special Counsel for Public Diplomacy of the State Department, he remained in permanent contact with Félix Rodríguez and Luis Posada, who, from the Ilopango air base in El Salvador, were directing the trafficking that was later exposed in the Coca-Contra scandal.


When the operation “blew up,” Reich was suddenly named U.S. ambassador in Caracas, Venezuela. There, he carried out the mission of taking care of the case of Orlando Bosch, who was in prison for the murderous attack on a Cubana Aviation airliner. He got Bosch a friendly ruling from a military court.

Bosch was already known as a dangerous terrorist: he had publicly admitted – in an interview published in the New York Times on May 3, 1977 – his responsibility in more than 50 attacks carried out by the CORU organization.

Bosch arrived in the United States on May 17, 1988 with a visa illegally obtained for him by Reich, despite contrary orders from State Department officials, and was immediately arrested for having violated parole years before.

In July 1990, after a campaign unleashed by Reich, Congressional candidate Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, her campaign director Jeb Bush, and their buddies in the Miami mafia, George Bush authorized – without great risk – the release of the murderous pediatrician.

In 1991 and 1992, Reich — there is no limit to his shamelessness – represented the United States in the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

In 1996, he founded RMA International, and received $600,000 from the Bacardi corporation for protecting its interests and facilitating the murderous Helms-Burton Act, signed by Bill Clinton on March 12, 1996 in the midst of the Special Period in Cuba.

In January 2002, Otto Juan Reich was chosen as assistant secretary of state, despite opposition from Congress, which refused to give its consent to such a scandalous appointment.

It is now known how, that very year, he encouraged several conspirators to carry out their unsuccessful coup d’état against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, and how he led the misinformation campaign.

In 2003, forced to step down, he became a “special envoy for Western Hemisphere initiatives,” given that it allowed him to carry out other “initiatives,” such as preparing the coup against Haitian President Aristide and the creation of the presidential Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which created the Bush Plan and its secret appendixes with plans for aggression.

Reich resigned on May 4, 2004, to be a self-employed lobbyist and dedicate himself full-time – with the complicity of media agencies that pretend to ignore his past and use him as a refernce – to his specialty: lying.

His last exclusive, however, could mark the end of what was left of his marketing value. And his political death, given that there has to be a limit to the fun, even with carte blanche from the Bush clan.
Israel's influence of US policy & the Israeli lobby by Scott Ritter