Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine - by Stephen Lendman

After two years of "underground" work, it was launched with a "successful press conference" and announcement that:

"The Russell Tribunal on Palestine seeks to reaffirm the primacy of international law as the (way to settle) the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Its work will focus on "the enunciation of law by authoritative bodies. The International Court of Justice (ICJ), in its opinion on the (Separation Wall in Occupied Palestine, addressed relevant) "International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law, as well as dozens of international resolutions concerning Palestine."

This Tribunal will "address the failure of application of law even though it has been so clearly identified." It begins where the ICJ "stopped: highlighting the responsibilities arising from the enunciation of law, including those of the international community, which cannot continue to shirk its obligations."

The Russell Tribunal is part of the larger BRussell Tribunal, named after noted philosopher, mathematician, and anti-war/anti-imperialism activist Bertrand Russell (1972 - 1970). Established in 1967 to investigate Vietnam war crimes, it's a hearing committee, most recently on the Iraq war and Bush administration imperialism. Its work continues as "the only game in town for the anti-war movement in America, Britain and Europe" - to unite non-violently for peace on various world's hot spots, now for Occupied Palestine to expose decades of injustice against a defenseless civilian population.

National committees will be formed globally, including expert ones composed of jurists, lawyers, human rights and international law experts, weapons experts, and others "to work on the evidence against Israel and third parties" to be presented in Tribunal sessions. Two are planned, "the the end of this year."

Frank Barat of the Organizing Committee urges activists to spread the news and offer support for this vital project. After Israel's unconscionable Gaza attack, it's never been more vulnerable given mass world public outrage. It's long past time to hold Israel accountable for its decades of crimes of war and against humanity, flaunting international humanitarian law, waging aggressive wars, continuing an illegal occupation, expropriating Palestinian land, and committing slow-motion genocide, so far with impunity. No longer can this be tolerated. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine is dedicated toward that end.

The Tribunal's Declaration on Iraq applies to Palestine. Substituting Israel for America and Palestine for Iraq, it reads as follows:

"The (Israeli) occupation of (Palestine) is illegal and cannot be made legal. All that has derived from (it) is illegal and illegitimate and cannot gain legitimacy. The facts are incontrovertible. What are the consequences?"

"Peace, stability and democracy in (Palestine) are impossible under occupation. Foreign occupation is opposed by nature to the interests of the occupied people, as proven" by:

-- the forced diaspora;

-- many others internally displaced or in refugee camps for decades;

-- harsh military subjugation;

-- a regimented matrix of control;

-- the genocidal Gaza siege;

-- state-sponsored mass incarceration, violence, and torture;

-- the flaunting of international law and dozens of UN resolutions;

-- targeted assassinations;

-- the many tens of thousands of Palestinians killed, injured, or otherwise grievously harmed;

-- massive land theft and home demolitions;

-- the lack of judicial redress;

-- denying all rights to non-Jews; and

-- a decades-long reign of terror against defenseless Palestinian civilians.

Western propaganda tries to justify the unjustifiable, vilify ordinary people, call the legitimate government "terrorist," rationalize savage attacks as self-defense, reject the rights of the occupied, and deny their self-determination.

"In (Palestine, people) resist the occupation by all means (including armed struggle), in accordance with international law. "The Commission on Human Rights has routinely reaffirmed" it. So have numerous General Assembly resolutions. The March 1987 Geneva Declaration on Terrorism states:

"Terrorism originates from the statist system of structural violence and domination that denies the right of self-determination to peoples....that inflicts a gross and consistent pattern of violations of fundamental human rights....or that perpetuates military aggression and overt or covert intervention directed against the territorial integrity or political independence of other states," such as Palestine.

The UN General Assembly has "repeatedly recognized" the rights of "peoples who are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination (to) have the right to use force to accomplish their objectives within the framework of international humanitarian law."

It also recognizes the legitimacy of self-determination seeking national liberation movements and their right to strive for and receive appropriate support for their struggle. Further, under the UN Charter's Article 51, "individual or collective self-defense (shall not be "impair(ed) to respond against) an armed attack."

In other words, armed force is a legitimate form of self-defense as distinguished from "acts of international terrorism," especially by one state against another or any group, organization, or individual. Israel refuses to accept this. It continues an illegal occupation, calls armed resistance "terrorism," and imposes its will oppressively and illegally.

World leaders "continue to justify the negation of popular sovereignty under the rubric of (fighting terrorism), criminalizing not only resistance but also humanitarian assistance to a besieged (and beleaguered) people. Under international law, (Palestinian freedom-fighters) constitute a national liberation movement. Recognition of (them) is consequently a right, (an obligation, and) not an option." World leaders have a duty to hold Israel accountable under the law and no longer support its crimes.

Palestine "cannot recover lasting stability, unity and territorial integrity until its sovereignty is (recognized, affirmed,) guaranteed," and enforced by the world international community.

"If (world leaders) and (Israel want) peace, stability and democracy in (Palestine), they should accept that only the (Palestinian) resistance - armed, civil and political - can achieve these by securing the interests of (their) people. (Their) first the unconditional withdrawal of (Israeli forces) illegally occupying" their land.

Palestinians are the only legitimate force to secure their own security and rights under international law. "All laws, contracts (and other occupation-related) agreements....are unequivocally null and void. According to international law and the will of the (Palestinian) people, total sovereignty" over Palestine, its resources, culture, and all else (past, present, and future) rests in (their own) hands.

Further, international law demands that full " paid" to compensate for what Israel plundered and destroyed. Palestinians want self-determination and "long-term peace" and security. They have every right to expect it. "We appeal to all peace loving people in the world to work to support" their struggle. Regional "peace, democracy, progress" and justice depend on it. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine is committed to work toward this end. Nothing short of it is acceptable.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening. posted by Steve Lendman @ 3:17 AM

When We Almost Nuked Savannah or The Case of the Missing H-Bomb (Since 1945, the United States has lost 11 nuclear weapons.)


Things go missing. It's to be expected. Even at the Pentagon. Last October, the Pentagon's inspector general reported that the military's accountants had misplaced a destroyer, several tanks and armored personnel carriers, hundreds of machine guns, rounds of ammo, grenade launchers and some surface-to-air missiles. In all, nearly $8 billion in weapons were AWOL.

Those anomalies are bad enough. But what's truly chilling is the fact that the Pentagon has lost track of the mother of all weapons, a hydrogen bomb. The thermonuclear weapon, designed to incinerate Moscow, has been sitting somewhere off the coast of Savannah, Georgia for the past 40 years. The Air Force has gone to greater lengths to conceal the mishap than to locate the bomb and secure it.

On the night of February 5, 1958 a B-47 Stratojet bomber carrying a hydrogen bomb on a night training flight off the Georgia coast collided with an F-86 Saberjet fighter at 36,000 feet. The collision destroyed the fighter and severely damaged a wing of the bomber, leaving one of its engines partially dislodged. The bomber's pilot, Maj. Howard Richardson, was instructed to jettison the H-bomb before attempting a landing. Richardson dropped the bomb into the shallow waters of Wassaw Slough, near the mouth of the Savannah River, a few miles from the city of Tybee Island, where he believed the bomb would be swiftly recovered.

The Pentagon recorded the incident in a top secret memo to the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. The memo has been partially declassified: "A B-47 aircraft with a [word redacted] nuclear weapon aboard was damaged in a collision with an F-86 aircraft near Sylvania, Georgia, on February 5, 1958. The B-47 aircraft attempted three times unsuccessfully to land with the weapon. The weapon was then jettisoned visually over water off the mouth of the Savannah River. No detonation was observed."

Soon search and rescue teams were sent to the site. Warsaw Sound was mysteriously cordoned off by Air Force troops. For six weeks, the Air Force looked for the bomb without success. Underwater divers scoured the depths, troops tromped through nearby salt marshes, and a blimp hovered over the area attempting to spot a hole or crater in the beach or swamp. Then just a month later, the search was abruptly halted. The Air Force sent its forces to Florence, South Carolina, where another H-bomb had been accidentally dropped by a B-47. The bomb's 200 pounds of TNT exploded on impact, sending radioactive debris across the landscape. The explosion caused extensive property damage and several injuries on the ground. Fortunately, the nuke itself didn't detonate.

The search teams never returned to Tybee Island, and the affair of the missing H-bomb was discreetly covered up. The end of the search was noted in a partially declassified memo from the Pentagon to the AEC, in which the Air Force politely requested a new H-bomb to replace the one it had lost. "The search for this weapon was discontinued on 4-16-58 and the weapon is considered irretrievably lost. It is requested that one [phrase redacted] weapon be made available for release to the DOD as a replacement."

There was a big problem, of course, and the Pentagon knew it. In the first three months of 1958 alone, the Air Force had four major accidents involving H-bombs. (Since 1945, the United States has lost 11 nuclear weapons.) The Tybee Island bomb remained a threat, as the AEC acknowledged in a June 10, 1958 classified memo to Congress: "There exists the possibility of accidental discovery of the unrecovered weapon through dredging or construction in the probable impact area. ... The Department of Defense has been requested to monitor all dredging and construction activities."

But the wizards of Armageddon saw it less as a security, safety or ecological problem, than a potential public relations disaster that could turn an already paranoid population against their ambitious nuclear project. The Pentagon and the AEC tried to squelch media interest in the issue by a doling out a morsel of candor and a lot of misdirection. In a joint statement to the press, the Defense Department and the AEC admitted that radioactivity could be "scattered" by the detonation of the high explosives in the H-bombs. But the letter downplayed possibility of that ever happening: "The likelihood that a particular accident would involve a nuclear weapon is extremely limited."

In fact, that scenario had already occurred and would occur again.

That's where the matter stood for more than 42 years until a deep sea salvage company, run by former Air Force personnel and a CIA agent, disclosed the existence of the bomb and offered to locate it for a million dollars. Along with recently declassified documents, the disclosure prompted fear and outrage among coastal residents and calls for a congressional investigation into the incident itself and why the Pentagon had stopped looking for the missing bomb. "We're horrified because some of that information has been covered up for years," said Rep. Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican.

The cover-up continues. The Air Force, however, has told local residents and the congressional delegation that there was nothing to worry about.

"We've looked into this particular issue from all angles and we're very comfortable," said Major Gen. Franklin J. "Judd" Blaisdell, deputy chief of staff for air and space operations at Air Force headquarters in Washington. "Our biggest concern is that of localized heavy metal contamination."

The Air Force even has suggested that the bomb itself was not armed with a plutonium trigger. But this contention is disputed by a number of factors. Howard Dixon, a former Air Force sergeant who specialized in loading nuclear weapons onto planes, said that in his 31 years of experience he never once remembered a bomb being put on a plane that wasn't fully armed. Moreover, a newly declassified 1966 congressional testimony of W.J. Howard, then assistant secretary of defense, describes the Tybee Island bomb as a "complete weapon, a bomb with a nuclear capsule." Howard said that the Tybee Island bomb was one of two weapons lost up to that time that contained a plutonium trigger.

Recently declassified documents show that the jettisoned bomb was an "Mk-15, Mod O" hydrogen bomb, weighing four tons and packing more than 100 times the explosive punch of the one that incinerated Hiroshima. This was the first thermonuclear weapon deployed by the Air Force and featured the relatively primitive design created by that evil genius Edward Teller. The only fail-safe for this weapon was the physical separation of the plutonium capsule (or pit) from the weapon.

In addition to the primary nuclear capsule, the bomb also harbored a secondary nuclear explosive, or sparkplug, designed to make it go thermo. This is a hollow plug about an inch in diameter made of either plutonium or highly enriched uranium (the Pentagon has never said which) that is filled with fusion fuel, most likely lithium-6 deuteride. Lithium is highly reactive in water. The plutonium in the bomb was manufactured at the Hanford Nuclear Site in Washington State and would be the oldest in the United States. That's bad news: Plutonium gets more dangerous as it ages. In addition, the bomb would contain other radioactive materials, such as uranium and beryllium.

The bomb is also charged with 400 pounds of TNT, designed to cause the plutonium trigger to implode and thus start the nuclear explosion. As the years go by, those high explosives are becoming flaky, brittle and sensitive. The bomb is most likely now buried in 5 to 15 feet of sand and slowly leaking radioactivity into the rich crabbing grounds of the Warsaw Sound. If the Pentagon can't find the Tybee Island bomb, others might. That's the conclusion of Bert Soleau, a former CIA officer who now works with ASSURE, the salvage company. Soleau, a chemical engineer, said that it wouldn't be hard for terrorists to locate the weapon and recover the lithium, beryllium and enriched uranium, "the essential building blocks of nuclear weapons." What to do? Coastal residents want the weapon located and removed. "Plutonium is a nightmare and their own people know it," said Pam O'Brien, an anti-nuke organizer from Douglassville, Georgia. "It can get in everything--your eyes, your bones, your gonads. You never get over it. They need to get that thing out of there."

The situation is reminiscent of the Palomares incident. On January 16, 1966, a B-52 bomber, carrying four hydrogen bombs, crashed while attempting to refuel in mid-air above the Spanish coast. Three of the H-bombs landed near the coastal farming village of Palomares. One of the bombs landed in a dry creek bed and was recovered, battered but relatively intact. But the TNT in two of the bombs exploded, gouging 10-foot holes in the ground and showering uranium and plutonium over a vast area. Over the next three months, more than 1,400 tons of radioactive soil and vegetation was scooped up, placed in barrels and, ironically enough, shipped back to the Savannah River Nuclear Weapons Lab, where it remains. The tomato fields near the craters were burned and buried. But there's no question that due to strong winds and other factors much of the contaminated soil was simply left in the area. "The total extent of the spread will never be known," concluded a 1975 report by the Defense Nuclear Agency.

The cleanup was a joint operation between Air Force personnel and members of the Spanish civil guard. The U.S. workers wore protective clothing and were monitored for radiation exposure, but similar precautions weren't taken for their Spanish counterparts. "The Air Force was unprepared to provide adequate detection and monitoring for personnel when an aircraft accident occurred involving plutonium weapons in a remote area of a foreign country," the Air Force commander in charge of the cleanup later testified to Congress.

The fourth bomb landed eight miles offshore and was missing for several months. It was eventually located by a mini-submarine in 2,850 feet of water, where it rests to this day.

Two years later, on January 21, 1968, a similar accident occurred when a B-52 caught fire in flight above Greenland and crashed in ice-covered North Star Bay near the Thule Air Base. The impact detonated the explosives in all four of the plane's H-bombs, which scattered uranium, tritium and plutonium over a 2,000-foot radius. The intense fire melted a hole in the ice, which then refroze, encapsulating much of the debris, including the thermonuclear assembly from one of the bombs. The recovery operation, conducted in near total darkness at temperatures that plunged to minus-70 degrees, was known as Project Crested Ice. But the work crews called it "Dr. Freezelove."

More than 10,000 tons of snow and ice were cut away, put into barrels and transported to Savannah River and Oak Ridge for disposal. Other radioactive debris was simply left on site, to melt into the bay after the spring thaws. More than 3,000 workers helped in the Thule recovery effort, many of them Danish soldiers. As at Palomares, most of the American workers were offered some protective gear, but not the Danes, who did much of the most dangerous work, including filling the barrels with the debris, often by hand. The decontamination procedures were primitive to say the least. An Air Force report noted that they were cleansed "by simply brushing the snow from garments and vehicles."

Even though more than 38 Navy ships were called to assist in the recovery operation, and it was an open secret that the bombs had been lost, the Pentagon continued to lie about the situation. In one contentious exchange with the press, a Pentagon spokesman uttered this classic bit of military doublespeak: "I don't know of any missing bomb, but we have not positively identified what I think you are looking for."

When Danish workers at Thule began to get sick from a slate of illnesses, ranging from rare cancers to blood disorders, the Pentagon refused to help. Even after a 1987 epidemiological study by a Danish medical institute showed that Thule workers were 50 percent more likely to develop cancers than other members of the Danish military, the Pentagon still refused to cooperate. Later that year, 200 of the workers sued the United States under the Foreign Military Claims Act. The lawsuit was dismissed, but the discovery process revealed thousands of pages of secret documents about the incident, including the fact that Air Force workers at the site, unlike the Danes, have not been subject to long-term health monitoring. Even so, the Pentagon continues to keep most of the material on the Thule incident secret, including any information on the extent of the radioactive (and other toxic) contamination.

These recovery efforts don't inspire much confidence. But the Tybee Island bomb presents an even touchier situation. The presence of the unstable lithium deuteride and the deteriorating high explosives make retrieval of the bomb a very dangerous proposition--so dangerous, in fact, that even some environmentalists and anti-nuke activists argue that it might present less of a risk to leave the bomb wherever it is.

In short, there aren't any easy answers. The problem is exacerbated by the Pentagon's failure to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the situation and reluctance to fully disclose what it knows. "I believe the plutonium capsule is in the bomb, but that a nuclear detonation is improbable because the neutron generators used back then were polonium-beryllium, which has a very short half-life," said Don Moniak, a nuclear weapons expert with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League in Aiken, South Carolina. "Without neutrons, weapons grade plutonium won't blow. However, there could be a fission or criticality event if the plutonium was somehow put in an incorrect configuration. There could be a major inferno if the high explosives went off and the lithium deuteride reacted as expected. Or there could just be an explosion that scattered uranium and plutonium all over hell."

This essay is featured in the forthcoming book, Loose Nukes published by Count Zero Press.

Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature and Grand Theft Pentagon. His newest book, Born Under a Bad Sky, is just out from AK Press / CounterPunch books. He can be reached at:

Landmark study finds Israeli control in occupied territories 'a breach of the prohibition of apartheid'

The following exclusive on an international report concluding that Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories "has become a colonial enterprise which implements a system of apartheid” was sent to us by journalist Ben White. Another stinging statement from the report: "The Wall and its infrastructure of gates and permanent checkpoints suggest a policy permanently to divide the West Bank into racial cantons." (White's book 'Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide', will be published this summer. He can be contacted at

Tomorrow, an important new report, "Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid: A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law", will be released at a special meeting at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. I have been passed a copy of the report’s Executive Summary, and it makes for vital reading.

What follows are some of the highlights of the Executive Summary, but first a few observations. Describing Israel or Israeli policies in terms of apartheid has become more common in recent times, but has also provoked a strong backlash. It is interesting to note, therefore, that this study is a measured assessment written by legal experts on the specific ways in which Israel’s policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) can be considered to be ‘colonialism’ and/or ‘apartheid’, as defined by international law. It is not, quite clearly and openly, saying Israel=South Africa.

The new report was carried out by the Middle East Project of the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa. The Middle East Project is:

an independent two year project of the HSRC to conduct analysis of Middle East politics relevant to South African foreign policy. Its funding was provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Government of South Africa. The analysis in this report is entirely independent of the views or foreign policy of the Government of South Africa and does not represent an official position of the HSRC. It is intended purely as a scholarly resource for the Department of Foreign Affairs and the concerned international community.


In January 2007, while addressing the UN Human Rights Council in his capacity as UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, South African law Professor John Dugard asked the following question:

Israel is clearly in military occupation of the OPT. At the same time, elements of the occupation constitute forms of colonialism and of apartheid, which are contrary to international law. What are the legal consequences of a regime of prolonged occupation with features of colonialism and apartheid for the occupied people, the Occupying Power and third States?

The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (and specifically, their Middle East Project) “commissioned this study to test the hypothesis” put forward by Dugard. Beginning in February 2008, fifteen months of workshops, drafting, re-drafting and revision finally produced this report for publication.

Aim and focus

The aim of the project “was to scrutinise the situation from the nonpartisan perspective of international law, rather than engage in political discourse and rhetoric”. The conclusion is that “Israel, since 1967, has been the belligerent Occupying Power in the OPT, and that its occupation of these territories has become a colonial enterprise which implements a system of apartheid”.

The study also focuses on “the responsibility of States as a result of internationally wrongful acts”, concluding:

Faced with a violation of the prohibitions of colonialism and apartheid, all States have three duties: to cooperate to end the violation; not to recognise the illegal situation arising from it; and not to render aid or assistance to the State committing it.

On the legal framework in the OPT:

“The occupied status of the West Bank was confirmed by the ICJ in the Wall advisory opinion. Israel’s ‘disengagement’ from the Gaza Strip did not constitute the end of occupation because, despite the redeployment of its military ground forces from Gaza, it retains and exercises effective control over the territory.”

“...Israel’s administration of the OPT systematically breaches the law of armed conflict, both by disregarding the prohibition imposed on an Occupying Power not to alter the laws in force in occupied territory and by enforcing a dual and discriminatory legal regime on Jewish and Palestinian residents of the OPT. Israel grants to Jewish residents of the settlements in the OPT the protections of Israeli domestic law and subjects them to the jurisdiction of Israeli civil courts, while Palestinians living in the same territory are ruled under military law and subjected to the jurisdiction of military courts whose procedures violate international standards for the prosecution of justice. As a consequence of this bifurcated system, Jewish residents of the OPT enjoy freedom of movement, civil protections, and services denied to Palestinians. Palestinians are simultaneously denied the protections accorded to protected persons by international humanitarian law. This dual system has gained the imprimatur of Israel’s High Court and constitutes a policy by the State of Israel to sustain two parallel societies in the OPT, one Jewish and the other Palestinian, and discriminate between these two groups by according very different rights, protections, and life chances in the same territory.”

Findings on Colonialism:

“Although international law provides no single decisive definition of colonialism, the terms of the Declaration on Colonialism indicate that a situation may be classified as colonial when the acts of a State have the cumulative outcome that it annexes or otherwise unlawfully retains control over territory and thus aims permanently to deny its indigenous population the exercise of its right to self-determination. Five issues, which are unlawful in themselves, taken together make it evident that Israel’s rule in the OPT has assumed such a colonial character: namely, violations of the territorial integrity of occupied territory; depriving the population of occupied territory of the capacity for self-governance; integrating the economy of occupied territory into that of the occupant; breaching the principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources in relation to the occupied territory; and denying the population of occupied territory the right freely to express, develop and practice its culture.”

“Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is manifestly an act based on colonial intent. It is unlawful in itself...”

“By thus partitioning contiguous blocs of Palestinian areas into cantons, Israel has violated the territorial integrity of the OPT in violation of the Declaration on Colonialism.”

“The economic dimension of self-determination is also expressed in the right of permanent sovereignty over natural resources, which entitles a people to dispose freely of the natural wealth and resources found within the limits of its national jurisdiction. Israel’s settlement policy and the construction of the bypass road network and the Wall have deprived the Palestinian population of the control and development of an estimated 38 percent of West Bank land. It has also implemented a water management and allocation system that favours Israel and Jewish settlers in the OPT to the detriment of the Palestinian population...Moreover, it is significant that the route of the Wall is similar to the ‘red line’ that delineates those areas of the West Bank from which Israel can withdraw without relinquishing its control over key water resources that are used to supply Israel and the settlements.”

“This study demonstrates that the implementation of a colonial policy by Israel has not been piecemeal but is systematic and comprehensive, as the exercise of the Palestinian population’s right to self-determination has been frustrated in all of its principal modes of expression.”

Findings on Apartheid:

“The Apartheid Convention criminalises ‘inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them’. The Rome Statute criminalises inhumane acts committed in the context of, and to maintain, ‘an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group.’ Both focus on the systematic, institutionalised, and oppressive character of the discrimination involved and the purpose of domination that is entailed. This distinguishes the practice of apartheid from other forms of prohibited discrimination and from other contexts in which the listed crimes arise.”

“It must be clear, however, that practices in South Africa are not the test or benchmark for a finding of apartheid elsewhere, as the principal instrument which provides this test lies in the terms of the Apartheid Convention itself.”

“...Palestinians are subject to legal systems and courts which apply standards of evidence and procedure that are different from those applied to Jewish settlers living the OPT and that result in harsher penalties for Palestinians.”

“Restrictions on the Palestinian right to freedom of movement are endemic in the West Bank, stemming from Israel's control of the OPT's checkpoints and crossings, impediments created by the Wall and its crossing points, a matrix of separate roads, and obstructive and all encompassing permit and ID systems that apply solely to Palestinians.”

“The right of Palestinians to choose their own place of residence within their territory is severely curtailed by systematic administrative restrictions on Palestinian residency and building in East Jerusalem, by discriminatory legislation that operates to prevent Palestinian spouses from living together on the basis of which part of the OPT they originate from, and by the strictures of the permit and ID systems.”

“Palestinians are denied their right to leave and return to their country... hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced to surrounding states from the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967 have been prevented from returning to the OPT...Palestinian residents of the OPT must obtain Israeli permission to leave the territory...Political activists and human rights defenders are often subject to arbitrary and undefined 'travel bans', while many Palestinians who travelled and lived abroad for business or personal reasons have had their residence Ids revoked and been prohibited from returning.”

“Israel denies Palestinians in the OPT their right to a nationality by denying Palestinian refugees from inside the Green Line their right of return, residence, and citizenship in the State (Israel) governing the land of their birth. Israel’s policies in the OPT also effectively deny Palestinians their right to a nationality by obstructing the exercise of the Palestinian right to self determination through the formation of a Palestinian State in the West Bank
(including East Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip.”

“Israeli military actions have included extensive school closures, direct attacks on schools, severe restrictions on movement, and arrests and detention of teachers and students...A segregated school system operates in the West Bank as Palestinians are not allowed to attend government funded schools in Jewish settlements.”

“Israel has divided the West Bank into reserves or cantons in which residence and entry is determined by each individual’s group identity. Entry by one group into the zone of the other group is prohibited without a permit. The Wall and its infrastructure of gates and permanent checkpoints suggest a policy permanently to divide the West Bank into racial cantons. Israeli government ministries, the World Zionist Organisation and other Jewish-national institutions operating as authorised agencies of the State plan, fund and implement construction of the West Bank settlements and their infrastructure for exclusively Jewish use.”

“Israel has extensively appropriated Palestinian land in the OPT for exclusively Jewish use. Private Palestinian land comprises about 30 percent of the land unlawfully appropriated for Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Presently, 38 percent of the West Bank is completely closed to Palestinian use, with significant restrictions on access to much of the rest of it.”

“In sum, Israel appears clearly to be implementing and sustaining policies intended to maintain its domination over Palestinians in the OPT and to suppress opposition of any form to those policies.”

“The comparative analyses of South African apartheid there to illuminate, rather than define, the meaning of apartheid, and there are certainly differences between apartheid as it was applied in South Africa and Israel’s policies and practices in the OPT. Nonetheless, it is significant that the two systems can be defined by similar dominant features.”

“A troika of key laws underpinned the South African apartheid regime—the Population Registration Act 1950, the Group Areas Act 1950, and the Pass Laws—and established its three principal features or pillars...Israel’s practices in the OPT can be defined by the same three ‘pillars’ of apartheid.”

“The first pillar derives from Israeli laws and policies that establish Jewish identity for purposes of law and afford a preferential legal status and material benefits to Jews over non-Jews... At the root of this system are Israel’s citizenship laws, whereby group identity is the primary factor in determining questions involving the acquisition of Israeli citizenship...Israeli law conveying special standing to Jewish identity is then applied extra-territorially to extend preferential legal status and material privileges to Jewish settlers in the OPT and thus discriminate against Palestinians.

“The second pillar is reflected in Israel’s grand policy to fragment the OPT for the purposes of segregation and domination....That these measures are intended to segregate the population along racial lines in violation of Article 2(d) of the Apartheid Convention is clear from the visible web of walls, separate roads, and checkpoints, and the invisible web of permit and ID systems, that combine to ensure that Palestinians remain confined to the reserves designated for them while Israeli Jews are prohibited from entering those reserves but enjoy freedom of movement throughout the rest of the Palestinian territory.”

“...the policy of geographic fragmentation has the effect of crushing Palestinian socio-economic life, securing Palestinian vulnerability to Israeli economic dominance, and of enforcing a rigid segregation of Palestinian and Jewish populations.”

“The third pillar upon which Israel’s system of apartheid in the OPT rests is its ‘security’ laws and policies. The extrajudicial killing, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of Palestinians, as described under the rubric of Article 2(a) of the Apartheid Convention, are all justified by Israel on the pretext of security.

“This study does not contend that Israel’s claims about security are by definition lacking in merit; however, Israel's invocation of 'security' to validate severe policies and disproportionate practices toward the Palestinians often masks the intent to suppress Palestinian opposition to a system of domination by one racial group over another. Thus, while the individual practices listed in the Apartheid Convention do not in themselves define apartheid, these practices do not occur in the OPT in a vacuum, but are integrated and complementary elements of an institutionalised and oppressive system of Israeli domination and oppression over Palestinians as a group; that is, a system of apartheid.”

“This discriminatory treatment cannot be explained or excused on grounds of citizenship, both because it goes beyond what is permitted by ICERD and because certain provisions in Israeli civil and military law provide that Jews present in the OPT who are not citizens of Israel also enjoy privileges conferred on Jewish-Israeli citizens in the OPT by virtue of being Jews. Consequently, this study finds that the State of Israel exercises control in the OPT with the purpose of maintaining a system of domination by Jews over Palestinians and that this system constitutes a breach of the prohibition of apartheid.”

Implications and Recommendations:

“The legal consequences of these findings are grave and entail obligations not merely for Israel but also for the international community as a whole.”

“Israel bears the primary responsibility for remedying the illegal situation it has created. In the first place, it has the duty to cease its unlawful activity and dismantle the structures and institutions of colonialism and apartheid that it has created. Israel is additionally required by international law to implement duties of reparation, compensation and satisfaction in order to wipe out the consequences of its unlawful acts.”

“Breaches of peremptory norms, which involve a gross or systematic failure by the responsible State to fulfil the obligations they impose, generate derivative obligations for States and intergovernmental organisations of cooperation and abstention. States, and intergovernmental organisations, must cooperate to bring to an end any and all serious breaches of peremptory norms.”

“States must not recognise as lawful situations created by serious breaches of peremptory norms nor render aid or assistance in maintaining that situation. In particular, States must not recognise Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem or its attempt to acquire territory in the West Bank through the consolidation of settlements, nor may they bolster the latter’s economic viability. Should any State fail to fulfil its duty of abstention then it risks becoming complicit in Israel’s internationally wrongful acts, and thus independently engaging its own responsibility, with all the legal consequences of reparation that this entails...If a State aids or assists another State in maintaining that unlawful situation, knowing it to be unlawful, then it becomes complicit in its commission and itself commits an internationally wrongful act.

“States cannot evade their international obligations by hiding behind the independent personality of an international organisation of which they are members.”

“Accordingly we respectfully suggest that, in accordance with Article 96 of the Charter of the United Nations and pursuant to Article 65 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, an advisory opinion be urgently requested on the following question:

Do the policies and practices of Israel within the Occupied Palestinian Territories violate the norms prohibiting apartheid and colonialism; and, if so, what are the legal consequences arising from Israel’s policies and practices, considering the rules and principles of international law, including the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 (1960), the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and other relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions?

Rumsfeld's renegade unit blamed for Afghan deaths

Special Forces group implicated in three incidents that claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians / MarSOC was set up by former defence secretary despite opposition from within the Marine Corps

By Jerome Starkey in Kabul

A single American Special Forces group was behind at least three of Afghanistan's worst civilian casualty incidents, The Independent has learnt, raising fundamental questions about their ongoing role in the conflict.

Troops from the US Marines Corps' Special Operations Command, or MarSOC, were responsible for calling in air strikes in Bala Boluk, in Farah, last week – believed to have killed more than 140 men, women and children – as well as two other incidents in 2007 and 2008. News of MarSOC's involvement in the three incidents comes just days after a Special Forces expert, Lieutenant-General Stanley McChrystal, was named to take over as the top commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan. His surprise appointment has prompted speculation that commando counterinsurgency missions will increase in the battle to beat the Taliban.

MarSOC was created three years ago on the express orders of Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary at the time, despite opposition from within the Marine Corps and the wider Special Forces community. An article in the Marine Corps Times described the MarSOC troops as "cowboys" who brought shame on the corps.

The first controversial incident involving the unit happened just three weeks into its first deployment to Afghanistan on 4 March 2007. Speeding away from a suicide bomb attack close to the Pakistan border, around 120 men from Fox Company opened fire on civilians near Jalalabad, in Nangahar province. The Marines said they were shot at after the explosion; eyewitnesses said the Americans fired indiscriminately at pedestrians and civilian cars, killing at least 19 people.

The US Army commander in Nangahar at the time, Colonel John Nicholson, said he was "deeply ashamed" and described the incident as "a stain on our honour". The Marines' tour was cut short after a second incident on 9 March in which they allegedly rolled a car and fired on traffic again, and they were flown out of Afghanistan a few weeks later.

The top Special Operations officer at US Central Command, Army Major General Frank Kearney, refuted MarSOC's claims that they had been shot at. "We found no brass that we can confirm that small-arms fire came at them," he said, referring to ammunition casings. "We have testimony from Marines that is in conflict with unanimous testimony from civilians."

At the military hearings on the incident, which were held back in the US, soldiers said the MarSOC troops, who called themselves Taskforce Violence, were gung-ho and hungry to prove themselves in battle. The inquiry also heard testimony suggesting there were tensions between the Marine unit and its US Army counterparts in Nangahar province.

Col Nicholson told the court the unit would routinely stray into areas under his control without telling him, ignoring usual military courtesies. "There had been potentially 25 operations in my area of operations that I, as a commander, was not aware of," he said. Asked about the moment he was told of the March shootout, he added: "My initial reaction was, 'What are they doing out there?' " The three-week military inquiry ultimately spared the Marine unit from criminal charges.

There are around 2,500 troops in MarSOC. Around half are frontline troops, the rest are support and maintenance. Originally the unit was used to plug gaps in the Special Forces world and it has operated in more than 16 countries since being set up by Mr Rumsfeld in 2006. However, in a recent interview, its commanding officer, Major General Mastin Robeson, revealed he has been ordered to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Today MarSOC answers to the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command, based in Kabul. That in turn answers to US Forces Afghanistan, which is led by the top US commander, David McKiernan, who is soon to be replaced by General McChrystal.

In August last year, a 20-man MarSOC unit, fighting alongside Afghan commandos, directed fire from unmanned drones, attack helicopters and a cannon-armed Spectre gunship into compounds in Azizabad, in Herat province, leaving more than 90 people dead – many of them children.

And just last week, MarSOC troops called in the Bala Baluk air strikes to rescue an Afghan police patrol that had been ambushed in countryside in Farah province. US officials said two F18 fighter jets and a B1 bomber had swooped because men on the ground were overwhelmed. But villagers said the most devastating bombs were dropped on compounds some distance from the fighting, long after the battle was over, and when Taliban forces were retreating. Afghan officials said up to 147 people were killed, including more than 90 women and children.

US officials dispute the number of people killed in each of the MarSOC incidents, which sparked angry public demonstrations and condemnation from Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Greg Julian, denied reports that commanders have lost confidence in the Marine unit. "MarSOC was involved in these incidents, but it's not all the same guys. They get the lessons passed on from all of the rotations and experiences. Yet, they are human," he said. "They have the same rules of engagement that everyone has."

The so-called "tactical directive" was introduced last September in the wake of the international uproar that followed the Azizabad deaths. It requires troops to exercise "proportionality, restraint, and utmost discrimination" when calling in air strikes. Claims that bombs were dropped in last week's incident in Farah long after the fighting finished suggest those directives may not have been followed by MarSOC.

Meanwhile, Afghan MPs have called for new laws to regulate the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan, and limit use of air strikes, house searches and Special Forces operations. Sayed Hussein Alemi Balkhi, one of the chief proponents of the planned legislation, said: "Special Forces, all forces, should be regulated by the law. If they won't accept that we have to ask bigger questions about what they are doing here."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Canada's "Fort Detrick" and lax security threaten deadly pandemics

Canada's version of the United States biological "research" laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland, the National Microbiology Center in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is once again in the news for a serious breakdown in security of pathogenic materials.

Konan Michel Yao, a native of Ivory Coast, was arrested by FBI agents on May 5, while trying to transport 22 vials of genetic material from the deadly Ebola virus from the Winnipeg laboratory to what Yao claimed was his new research job at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. NIH is near Washington, DC and is even serviced by a Metro subway station that transports passengers on the "Red Line" into the heart of the nation's capital.

Yao removed the material this past January and hid the vials, containing Ebola and HIV genetic material, in a glove and inside aluminum foil. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta claim the genetic material is not infectious, however, as previously reported by WMR, similar genetic material extracted from the corpse of an Inuit woman who died of the 1918 "Spanish flu" was extracted in 1997 and used the synthetically create the current A/H1N1 hybrid or "novel" influenza virus. The Winnipeg facility, as well as the University of Wisconsin in Madison, was involved in the H1N1 research and vials of H1N1 and other influenza strains were transported back and forth from Madison to Winnipeg.

On May 6, 2009, WMR reported that in 2007, "macaque monkeys were infected with the 1918 flu virus at the Canadian laboratory by some of the same researchers who were involved in the risky Ebola research in Madison." In addition, the article stated that on September 20, 2007, the Madison laboratory was cited for safety violations. The Madison facility claimed that because Ebola studies were being conducted in a less-secure Biosafety Level 3, instead of a Level 4 laboratory, the Ebola research was shut down. However, it was also reported that the Ebola genetic strains, said to be "DNA copies" of the virus, were then transferred to the Winnipeg facility's Level 4 laboratory. It was the Level 4 laboratory from which Yao reportedly stole the Ebola strains confiscated at the Manitoba-North Dakota border on May 5.

Yao was arrested at the border crossing at Pembina and was heading in a direction that would have taken him through Madison on Interstate 94 to Chicago and onward to Washington, DC. Based on past exchange of dangerous pathogenic materials between Winnipeg and Madison, there is a possibility that Yao could have dropped off some or all of the Ebola vials at the Madison laboratory.

On March 2, 2005, a courier truck crashed in downtown Winnipeg that was transporting anthrax from the Canadian Forces Base in Ralston, Alberta and influenza, salmonella, e.coli, tuberculosis, and HIV from a laboratory in British Columbia.

What is not being explained is where Yao kept the Ebola virus material from January to May and whether he transported any other pathogenic material from the Winnipeg laboratory. As WMR reported on May 6, the day after Yao was arrested, the Winnipeg facility also contains strains of hanta virus, Marburg virus, and Lassa fever. On November 30, 2001, the Memphis Police Department received a phone call from Detective Paul McKemmie of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police National Security Investigation Unit in Ottawa stating that a sicentist at the Winnipeg facility was a likely target for kidnapping by "bio-terrorists." The Memphis police were investigating the disappearance of Dr. Don Wiley, a noted virologist from Harvard University, whose body was later discovered in the Mississippi River in Vidalia, Louisiana.

A number of scientists working on AH1N1 and Ebola have also conducted research at St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis. Wiley served as a member of the St. Jude's science advisory board and was in Memphis for an annual St. Jude's banquet at the time of his disappearance, which was ruled a suicide by the Shelby County medical examiner.

For the first time, WMR is revealing what a special investigation in 2002 of Wiley's death, which now appears to have been a murder, revealed about St. Jude's. While investigating establishments around the Peabody Hotel in Memphis where Wiley may have stopped before he turned up missing, this editor obtained information from a St. Jude's insider that the books were "being cooked" at the charitable children's hospital, which is dedicated to finding cures for cancer. What was reported by the insider was that large sums of money were coming into the hospital from "Middle East" sources and this had raised alarms in the hospital's accounting department because it was not showing up on the official books.

Meanwhile, three public schools in New York City have been closed because of A/H1N1, which has left the assistant principal of one of the schools in critical condition. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organization WHO, has warned against a false sense of security over A/H1N1 and of dire global implications for the pandemic.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Jewish Victimology

Being a victim does not entitle any group to be insensitive to the suffering of others!

Hebrew original:,7340,L-3703925,00.html

As victims, we’re allowed

Ariana Melamed

Mistakenly, we continue to believe that being historical victims completely frees us of the need to develop solidarity with humanity and of the duty to consecrate the living, not only the dead.

From one Holocaust Day to the next, one registers a worrisome rise in Israeli racism. Between one compulsory mourning siren and another, the official Israel flatly denies other holocausts and sells arms to countries that use them against civilians. The official daily command to remember those murdered during the Second World War will not prevent the soldier at the checkpoint from then abusing those who aren’t our citizens,. All the tours in Yad Vashem, even now that it is revamped and renovated, have evidently failed to have an impact on our society. We have apparently not learned that being children and relatives of victims does not justify our own injustices. Maybe it is too late for learning.

For too many years now we’ve been living within a false ethos of victimhood. In the name of those victims – those whose opinions were never sought – youths enshroud themselves in blue and white flags in Auschwitz and most of them immediately understand that a strong military is the key to our continued existence, but too few understand or question the benefit of such an army when our conscience is faltering.

For too many years we compelled the world to look at the horrors committed against the Jews. We made a visit to Yad Vashem obligatory for visiting dignitaries. We employed a sophisticated rhetoric that makes a connection between the Nazi and Iranian threats, between the Khmelnytsky-led pogroms and the Intifada, as though all these events – the actuality of which must never be underestimated – granted us a sweeping, almost automatic permit to mimic those nations we accuse of ignoring our victims; as though the Holocaust endowed us with exclusivity over suffering for all time.

As far as official Israel and most of its citizens are concerned, there are no other holocausts, and the arguments are always beautifully constructed: no regime in the history of humanity has made its aim to annihilate a whole people, nor has this ever been done with such monstrous efficiency. Therefore, when the Argentinean military regime wiped out tens of thousands of dissenters, official Israel said nothing; when villains in Cambodia slaughtered millions of their own people, this surely was no holocaust but an internal matter, and what’s happening in Darfur is something between Muslims anyway, while Rwanda – there are no Israelis in Rwanda. So there’s nothing to worry about. If they have an earthquake, we’ll send over crews with blankets.

The Armenian holocaust was not as sophisticated as the Nazi assembly-line of death, hence it is not worthy of attention either, particularly since our relationship with Turkey is more important than our clear conscience. Regarding the Tibetans, we really have nothing to say; this Dalai Lama is nice enough – but our amazing trade with China is much more advantageous than a denunciation, however weak and polite, of what was clearly genocide and the ongoing dispossession of millions of their land.

In the name of the dead

We are victims, so we are allowed: this is the immoral defiant assertion uttered in the Israeli discourse between one Holocaust Day and the next. We are victims of Arabs wherever they may be, so we shall also apply dollops of disgust and fear to Arab citizens of Israel as well. Why not? Such a manoeuvre is worth 15 electoral seats and an honoured place at the Israel government’s table.

We are victims, so when someone speaks of racism within, the horror is never real and is always placed in a totally foolish juxtaposition to the actions of the Nazis. No one remembers that those actions started with words. When no one is punished for calling an Ethiopian a “dirty nigger”; when soldiers can abuse Palestinians uninterrupted, knowing full well that their punishment will be, at worst, a rebuke; when a Jew massacres Arabs and his tombstone is consecrated with no one even contemplating removing the temple blockading his house. When the IDF showers Gazan civilians with molten lead, questions must not be asked in wartime and mistakes must not be admitted to. It is as if we are permitted to do so, because we were killed first.

On 9 May, sixty-four years will have passed since the Allies defeated the Nazis and freed the world. There were those who believed then that it was the last battle against murderous ideologies, but they were wrong. We continue to believe this mistake, and the even worse error, that our historical victimhood completely rids us of the need for human solidarity, of the duty to consecrate the living and not only the dead, and of the lesson that is as important as sovereignty and power: the duty to create a moral society that is sensitive to injustice.

For too many years we told ourselves that we do all this in the name and memory of the dead. This was too easy a lie. Would the dead and the survivors have rejected a more moral stance towards the world and the Other among us? Does the annual siren exempt us of the need to care for the Holocaust survivors, which is surely a more difficult matter than state-sponsored mourning, but no less important? Is the only thing the State can promise its citizens, as a real lesson from the Holocaust, is limitless military power – but not the knowledge that power alone will not be enough on a real day of reckoning?

A few years ago in a CNN broadcast dedicated to one of the periodic holocausts in Africa, a Baptist American priest stood before the camera holding a dead baby’s carrier. He said, “People ask where was God during Auschwitz and I want to know where was man.” And I want to know that this man, the man who possesses sufficient compassion to see the horror of others and know they are just like him, that this man is still among us. Perhaps.

[Translated from Hebrew by Keren Rubinstein.]

כקורבנות מותר לנו

אנחנו ממשיכים להחזיק בטעות בתפיסה שהיותנו קורבנות היסטוריים משחררת אותנו לגמרי מהצורך לפתח סולידריות אנושית, מהחובה לקדש את האדם החי ולא רק את הקורבן המת

פורסם: 20.04.09, 18:27

בין יום שואה למשנהו, נרשמת בישראל עליה מדאיגה בגזענות. בין צפירת אבל הכרחית לעוד צפירה, ישראל הרשמית מכחישה בפנים אטומות שואות של אחרים ומוכרת נשק למדינות שבהן מכוונים אותו נגד אזרחים. פקודת היום הרשמית לזכרם של הנרצחים במלחמת העולם השניה לא תמנע מן החייל במחסום את ההתעמרות הבאה במי שאינו אזרח, וכל הסיורים במוזיאון "יד ושם", אפילו המחודש והמשופץ, כנראה לא הועילו לנו כחברה: כנראה עדיין לא למדנו שהיותנו בנים וקרובים של קורבנות אינה מצדיקה את עוולותינו שלנו. אולי כבר מאוחר מדי ללמוד.

שנים רבות מדי אנחנו חיים בתוך אתוס מזויף של קורבנות. בשמם של הקורבנות הללו – שלא נשאלו מעולם לדעתם – בני נוער מתעטפים בדגל כחול לבן באושוויץ ורובם מבינים מיד שצבא חזק הוא סוד קיומנו, אבל מעטים מדי מבינים או נשאלים, מה התועלת בצבא כזה כשהמצפון רופף.

שנים רבות מדי הכרחנו את העולם להביט בזוועה שנעשתה ליהודים, אם בביקורי החובה של מנהיגים ביד ושם ואם ברטוריקה משוכללת שמחברת בין האיום הנאצי לאיראני, בין פרעות ת"ח ות"ט לאינתיפאדה, וכאילו כל אלה – שלעולם אין להקל ראש בממשיותם – נתנו לנו הכשר גורף, אוטומטי כמעט לנהוג כפי שנהגו האומות שהאשמנו אותן בהתעלמות מן הקורבנות שלנו: כאילו השואה העניקה לנו בלבדיות על הסבל, מאז ולתמיד.

אין שואות אחרות, עד כמה שזה נוגע לישראל הרשמית ולרוב אזרחיה, והטיעונים תמיד מסודרים יפה: מעולם בהיסטוריה האנושית לא קם משטר ששם לעצמו מטרה לחסל את בניו של עם שלם, ומעולם לא נעשה הדבר ביעילות כה מפלצתית. לכן, כשמשטר הגנרלים בארגנטינה חיסל עשרות אלפי מתנגדים – ישראל הרשמית לא השמיעה קול, וכשנבלות בקמבודיה טבחו במליונים מבני עמם זו ודאי לא היתה שואה אלא ענין פנימי שכזה, ומה שקורה בדרפור זה ממילא ענין בין מוסלמים לבין עצמם, ורואנדה – אין ישראלים ברואנדה. אין מה לדאוג. אם תהיה להם רעידת אדמה, נשלח להם צוותים עם שמיכות.

השואה הארמנית לא היתה פס ייצור משוכלל של הרג כמו זו של הנאצים, ולכן גם היא לא ראויה להתיחסות, מה גם שיחסינו עם תורכיה ודאי חשובים יותר מאשר מצפוננו. בענין הטיבטים, באמת אין לנו מה לומר, נחמד הדלאי למה הזה – אבל יחסי המסחר המדהימים שלנו עם סין מועילים הרבה יותר מגינוי, אפילו רפה ומנומס, של מה שהיה בעליל רציחת-עם ומה שעודנו נישול של מליונים מאדמתם.

בשם המתים

אנחנו קורבנות, ולכן מותר לנו: זו ההתרסה הלא-מוסרית איתה אנחנו מסתובבים בפרהסיה הישראלית בין יום שואה למשנהו. קורבנות של הערבים באשר הם, ולפיכך נחיל את אמות המידה של התיעוב והפחד גם על אזרחי ישראל הערבים. למה לא, המהלך הזה שווה 15 מנדטים בחירות ומקום של כבוד בממשלת ישראל.

אנחנו קורבנות, ולכן כשמדברים על גזענות בתוכנו, החרדה לעולם אינה אמיתית ותמיד מועמדת בהשוואה מטומטמת לגמרי למעשי הנאצים. אף אחד אינו זוכר שהמעשים התחילו במלים. כשאיש אינו מעניש על הקריאה "כושי מלוכלך" כלפי אתיופי, כשחיילים יכולים להתעמר באין מפריע פלסטינים בידיעה ברורה שעונשם יהי נזיפה במקרה הגרוע, כשיהודי מבצע טבח בערבים מקדדים את מצבת הזכרון שלו ואיש לא עקר אותה או אטם את ביתו, כשצה"ל ממטיר עופרת יצוקה על אזרחים בעזה אין להעלות שאלות בזמן הקרב ואין להודות בטעויות. לנו כאילו כבר מותר, כי בנו הרגו קודם.

64 שנים ימלאו ב-9 במאי לניצחון של בעלות הברית על הנאצים ולשחרור העולם. היו מי שהאמינו אז כי זה הקרב האחרון נגד אידאלוגיות של רצח, והם טעו. אנחנו ממשיכים להחזיק בטעות הזאת ובטעות החמורה ממנה, שהיותנו קורבנות היסטוריים משחררת אותנו לגמרי מן הצורך לפתח סולידריות אנושית, מן החובה לקדש את האדם החי ולא רק את הקורבן המת, ומן הלקח החשוב בדיוק כמו ריבונות ועוצמה: החובה לבנות חברה מוסרית ורגישה לעוולות.

אמרנו לעצמנו, שנים ארוכות מדי, שאת כל זה אנחנו עושים בשמם של מתים ולזכרם. השקר הזה היה קל מדי. האם המתים והשורדים כאחד היו בוחלים בעמדה מוסרית יותר שלנו כלפי העולם וכלפי האחר שבתוכנו? האם הצפירה החד שנתית משחררת אותנו מן הצורך לדאוג לניצולי השואה, שהוא ודאי עניין קשה יותר מסתם אבל ממלכתי, אבל חשוב לא פחות? האם כל מה שהמדינה יכולה להבטיח לאזרחיה, כלקח אמיתי מן השואה, הוא עוצמה צבאית חסרת גבולות – אבל לא ידיעה שהעוצמה לבדה לא תספיק, ביום פקודה אמיתי?

חסרת גבולות – אבל לא ידיעה שהעוצמה לבדה לא תספיק, ביום פקודה אמיתי?

לפני שנים אחדות, בשידור של סי.אן.אן שהוקדש לאחת מן השואות התקופתיות באפריקה, התייצב כומר בפטסטי אמריקני מול המצלמה ובידיו ערסל תינוק מת. הוא אמר, "אנשים שאולים איפה היה אלוהים באושוויץ, ואני רוצה לדעת איפה היה האדם". ואני רוצה לדעת כי האדם הזה, האדם שיש בו די חמלה לראות בזוועתם של אחרים ולדעת שהם בדיוק כמוהו – האדם הזה עודנו מצוי בינינו. אולי.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

US-Latin American Relations in a Time of Rising Militarism, Protectionism and Pillage

Global Research, May 13, 2009

One of the most striking aspect of contemporary US-Latin American relations is the profound divergence between the hopes, expectations and positive image of the Obama regime and the policies, strategies and practices which are being pursued. Many so-called progressive North American commentators and not a few Latin American writers have ignored the most elementary features of US foreign policy, and focused exclusively on the highly deceptive rhetoric of "change" and "new beginnings." A serious understanding of US foreign policy toward Latin America requires a discussion of the main objectives of the Obama regime, the global priorities of imperial policy in times of multiple wars and world depression.

US tactics and strategy toward the region becomes relevant, only if we take account of the recent historical, economic and political changes in Latin America and the evolving political alignments.

A realistic assessment of US policy by necessity must go beyond policy pronouncements and Washington’s ‘projection of power’ to an analysis of its existing capabilities and the resources available to implement Obama’s agenda for Latin America. In evaluating Washington’s policy the key is to analyze its coherence and feasibility in light of its political diagnosis of Latin America. This provides a basis for determining the compatibility or conflict of interests between the two regions. A basic question arises: How do the Obama regime’s policies, objectives, and available resources square with the development needs of different Latin American countries in a time of deepening world depression?

To answer that question, requires we examine the recent policies and political alignments in Latin America. It would be utterly foolish to over or underestimate the degree of US "hegemony" or Latin American "autonomy," especially in light of major shifts in power relations over the past two decades, and continuing today.

Latin America’s relations with the US are decisively influenced by internal events, including class conflicts, which determine the correlation of political forces, as well as external events such as US intervention and outward expansion, and world market conditions. The shifts in Latin America’s political-economic relations can be divided into distinct periods, which provide an overview of the relative degree of hegemony and autonomy with regard to the US empire.

The Changing Contours of US-Latin American Relations: 1990-2009

Any "general overview" of US-Latin American relations is subject to exceptions and variations in particular country experiences, even as it highlight ‘dominant trends’ in the region.

The first two decades from 1980-2000 establish certain parameters for recent policies particularly the conflicts and divergences of interests.

The period from 1980-1999 was defined for Washington and Wall Street as the ‘Golden Age’ in US-Latin American relations. The regimes accepted and promoted US hegemony, following the precise terms of the IMF, the Washington Consensus and a US centered model of capital accumulation.

This included the lifting of trade barriers, the privatization of public enterprises (including banks, oil wells, mines, factories and telecoms) and their subsequent denationalization or transfer to US and European multinational corporations (MNCs).

The US and EU took over these public enterprises at exceptionally favorable prices and terms, which led to the massive transfer of profits, interest and ‘rent’ payments to the MNCs and provided them with extensive leverage over the entire financial/credit-system and access to local savings in the Latin American countries.

On the political level, the incumbent regimes embraced and promoted the US sponsored free market ideology known as "neo-liberalism" and backed US diplomatic and political intervention in the region as well as overseas.

The plunder of public treasuries and private savings by the MNCs and the resulting concentration of wealth and political power polarized society and precipitated major political economic crises. This led to popular upheavals throughout most of the region during the period from 2000-2004. Latin America witnessed the ousting of several US client regimes, serious widespread questioning of the free market ideology and a growing potential for radical structural changes.

As a consequence of the new correlation of forces, US political power declined and its influence was largely confined to political and economic elites at the margins of governance and under political siege from mobilized movements and disaffected electorates.

The ‘third period’ reflected ‘hybrid regimes’, which spoke to the populist demands and critiques of ‘neo-liberalism’ (empire-centered economic structures and policies) without actually reversing any of the unpopular structural/property legacies imposed by the earlier client regimes. The rise and consolidation of a wide range of highly differentiated ‘center-left regimes’ benefited from world economic conditions, especially high commodity prices, which facilitated social welfare programs and economic recovery as well as the relative ‘decline’ of US political power. This decline was intensified by the US involvement in a series of prolonged wars in the Middle East and South Asia and its ‘global war on terror’.

The ‘third period’ featured an increase in the relative autonomy of Latin America aided by huge windfall profits from exceptional prices and expanding markets in Asia, and from the regional political-economic initiatives of Venezuela’s Chavez government.

The end of the primary commodity boom and the emergence of a world-wide depression mark the beginning of the fourth period. Two contradictory phenomena impacted on US-Latin American relations. Because the US was the epicenter of the world economic crisis and its financial and investment institutions turned insolvent, finance and investment fled or were repatriated, weakening the US presence in Latin America and its economic leverage in a region with huge foreign reserves. Secondly, the over-extension of US military forces in other regions (Middle East/Asia/Eastern Europe) lessened its capacity for military intervention in Latin America. While developments in the world-economic and military situation opened opportunities to exercise greater Latin American autonomy, the decline of export markets, the drying up of credit markets and foreign capital inflows exposed the vulnerability of the ‘center-left’ regimes with their dependency on ‘export strategies’. The contradictory features of the ‘fourth period’ shaped the framework for contemporary US-Latin American relations and define some of the key issues facing Latin American rulers and the Obama regime.

Rising Militarism, Financial Protectionism and Declining Trade

The policies of the Obama regime toward Latin America are negatively framed by its three top policy priorities. The Obama regime’s foreign policy builds and expands the military-driven empire building of his predecessors. Contrary to the hopes and expectations of many of his progressive and leftist advocates of peace, Obama has staffed his regime with committed militarists, Zionists and Cold Warriors.

The major difference between Obama and Bush’s policy is the diplomatic language, which accompanies empire building and the scope and depth of military activity. Obama has adopted a rhetoric of ‘reconciliation,’ ‘negotiation’ and ‘change’ as opposed to Bush’s overtly bellicose rhetoric of confrontation, even as Obama has accelerated and extended military activities beyond the Bush regime.

A systematic analysis of the Obama regime’s policies reveals the overriding emphasis on projecting military power as the main instrument for sustaining the empire throughout the world.

South Asia

The Obama regime has increased US military forces in Afghanistan by over 40% - by 21,000 troops added to the current 38,000 - and increased financing for doubling the size of the Afghan mercenary army and police to over 200,000. Washington has extended the field of warfare in Pakistan, escalated its bombing attacks in the Swat Valley on a daily basis and increased cross-border commando operations. The Obama regime has formally extended the US war-zone deeper into Pakistan territory and extended its reach into Pakistan intelligence institutions.

Despite Obama’s intense pressure on the European Union and its allies and clients around the world, few countries have pledged combat forces in support of Obama’s military strategy. Just as during the Bush era, Obama unilaterally pronounces a major military escalation and then expects his allies to follow. The Obama military and intelligence apparatus has moved even more intrusively into Pakistani institutions with the clear intent to purge nationalist officers and select officials who will more aggressively repress the communities, organizations and leaders opposed to US intervention in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East.


The contrast between Obama’s diplomatic rhetoric of military withdrawal and military escalation is most blatant in the case of Iraq. The Obama regime has extended the time frame of US military occupation and increased funding for permanent military bases and related infrastructure. His military strategy envisions a massive mercenary Iraqi army and police force to control the population and repress any nationalist resistance. Obama will double the number of Iraqi mercenaries spread throughout the country under the Pentagon’s command.


The most striking policy adopted by the Obama regime toward Iran is his adding new and even harsher sanctions to the existing economic embargo. Obama continues to threaten Iran with a pre-emptive military assault in line with the contingency war plans developed by top Pentagon officials held over from the Bush regime. In pursuit of this saber-rattling posture, Obama appointed two of the most bellicose Israeli-American ideologues, includng Dennis Ross, as chief emissary to Iran and Stuart Levey to the Treasury in charge of imposing economic sanctions. Washington is making a major diplomatic effort to isolate Iran, through negotiations with Syria, Russia and China. In the face of these ‘facts on the ground’ Obama’s public rhetoric about offering Iran a ‘new policy,’ is blatant propaganda stunt. The massive US air and naval armada off the coast of Iran continues to threaten Teheran with a blockade or even massive air and naval strikes. The Obama regime continues to fund and train terrorist groups to infiltrate Iran from their bases in Iraq and Pakistan and to attack Iranian government facilities and officials. Israeli military threats to strike Iran are made more probable with the Obama regime’s transfer of new military technology, including the most advanced anti-missile system and ‘bunker-buster’ bombs designed to destroy underground Iranian government facilities.

Palestine/South Lebanon/Syria

The Obama regime’s military policy is clearly evidenced in its unconditional backing of Israel’s murderous military assault on Gaza, its selective assassination of Palestinian activists in the West Bank and its threats against Hezbollah.

The Obama regime, together with both houses of Congress, has backed every Israeli act of war– including its brutal economic blockade of Gaza and the systematic eviction of Palestinian residents in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Obama administration is deeply infested with prominent pro-Israel Zionists at all levels precluding any change in Washington’s robust military ties even with the far right militarist Netanyahu-Lieberman regime.

East Africa

Obama’s regime continues to pursue a confrontational policy toward Muslim Sudan by funding the armed separatists in South Darfur and by a recently reported air attack on a Sudanese military convoy. In the face of its failed military intervention in Somalia by its Ethiopian proxy, Washington has opted for a new Somali client coalition backed by African mercenaries from Uganda.

Russia/Eastern Europe

Under Obama, the provocative military encirclement of Russia continues via the recruitment of new client NATO ‘members’ among the former Soviet Republics and the building of bases on the very frontiers of Russia. Obama combines a double discourse of diplomatic conciliation while building new military bases, missile sites and advanced radar stations from Poland southward toward Ukraine and Georgia. Washington’s ‘diplomatic overtures’ to Russia are driven by its logistical needs in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and especially its war preparations toward Iran. The Obama regime is demanding that Russia provide logistical support for the US/NATO Afghan-Pakistan war and occupation while demanding Russia cancel its sale of advanced missiles as well as its nuclear power plant contract agreement with Iran in exchange for US ‘good will’...


Although the Obama regime is acutely aware of its dependence on China’s continued financing of the US economic deficits, it has nevertheless engaged in a high risk naval confrontation in China’s off shore economic zones. Recent Pentagon reports on Chinese military preparedness are laced with lurid Cold War rhetoric designed to inflate China’s ‘threat’ to US dominance in Asia and its ‘lack of transparency’. Once again, the Obama regime presents the double discourse of friendly diplomacy and aggressive militarist policies.

China faces a US military encirclement along an arc of US bases from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Japan, to South Korea, as well as a new military doctrine labeling China a ‘threat’ to be ‘contained’ in Asia.

Obama’s Latin American Policy

To decipher the real content of the Obama regime’s policy to Latin America one needs to look at the foreign policy priorities, the allocations of financial resources and public policy commitments and ignore its inconsequential diplomatic rhetoric. The first major pronouncement, in line with its global military policies, was to militarize the US-Mexican frontier, allocating nearly one-half billion dollars in military and related aid to the right wing Calderon regime. The entire focus of White House policy toward the Mexican and Colombian regimes over the problem of narcotics and narco-violence is military –ignoring its socio-economic structural roots:

Millions of young Mexican peasant and small farmers driven into bankruptcy, unemployment and poverty by the North American Free Trade Agreement NAFTA), created a large pool of recruits for the narco traffickers.

The expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Mexican immigrant workers from the US and the new militarized borders has closed off a major escape for Mexican peasants fleeing destitution and crime. In contrast to the formation of the European Union, which provided tens or billions to the less competitive countries, like Spain, Greece, Portugal and Poland, entering the European Union, the US has provided Mexico with no compensatory funds to upgrade its productive competitiveness and provide needed employment for its people.

The highly militarized Colombian regime, notorious for its violation of human rights, is currently the biggest recipient of US military aid in Latin America. Under Plan Colombia, the US financed counter-insurgency program, Bogota has received over 5 billion dollars, the most advanced military technology and thousands of American military advisers and sub-contracted mercenaries. The Obama’s support for the right-wing Colombian regime is his response to the emergence of democratically elected populist and radical governments in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Obama’s policies toward Latin America are driven by his extension of the military defense/priorities of the Bush Administration, including the economic embargo of Cuba and its virulent hostility toward Venezuelan nationalism. There are no new economic initiatives. Beyond the rhetorical support for free trade, Obama upholds past quotas and tariffs on more competitive imports from Brazil, even adding new protectionist measures against Mexican trucks and truck drivers.

Obama’s relentless pursuit of military-driven empire building while in the midst of an ongoing and deepening domestic economic depression forms the basis for understanding Washington’s contemporary relation with Latin America today. His regime’s military approach to Latin America is reflected in his inability or unwillingness to allocate economic resources and underscores his concern to sustain two major US clients, Colombia and Mexico through military aid programs. Obama’s limited interest and sparse commitment of economic resources to Latin America reflects the very low foreign policy priority it has in the current White House. Latin America is a fifth level priority after the US domestic economic depression, the Middle East and South Asian wars, coordinating economic policies with the European Union and formulating economic strategies and military relations with Russia and China. With these priorities, the Obama regime has little time, interest, or programmatic offerings to help Latin America cope with the onset of the economic recession.

At the most basic level the Obama regime is following a three-fold strategy of (1) retaining support from rightist regimes (Colombia, Mexico and Peru); (2) increasing influence on ‘centrist regimes’ (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay); and (3) isolating and weakening leftists and populist governments (Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua).

What is most striking about the supposedly "progressive" Obama regime’s policy for Latin America are the continuities with the previous reactionary Bush administration in almost all strategic areas. These include:

Latin America’s very low priority in US global policy;

The US emphasis on military ("security") drug enforcement collaboration over any long term socio-economic poverty alleviation and drug addiction treatment programs;

Its close collaboration with the most rightwing regimes in the region (Mexico and Colombia);

The continuation of the US economic embargo of Cuba, despite the loss of its last two Latin American backers;

Obama’s double discourse of talking free markets while practicing protectionism;

The US financing and strengthening the role of the IMF as an instrument of imperial expansion;

The US policy of driving a wedge between ‘centrist regimes’ (Lula in Brazil, Fernandez in Argentina, Vasquez in Uruguay and Bachelet in Chile) and ‘left and center-left nationalist regimes’, (Chavez in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia, Correa in Ecuador and Ortega in Nicaragua) and

Its support for separatist regional elites’ actions to destabilize center-left governments operating from their traditional far right-wing bases in Sta Cruz (Bolivia), Guayaqul (Ecuador) and Maracaibo (Venezuela).

In other words the Obama regime has embraced overall the strategic agenda of the Bush Administration essentially intact, while making several secondary changes having to do with adaptations based on the decline of US power. In addition, Obama has facilitated a few major negative changes, which go further than the Bush administration in harming Latin America’s financial and trading position. While reiterating the anachronistic demands for Cuba to convert to capitalism (dubbed a "democratic transition") as a condition for ending the US embargo, Obama has slightly eased travel restrictions for US-based Cuban families to visit relatives in Cuba and send them money. The State Department relies less on confrontational diplomatic language and has made overt gestures to centrist regimes, including White House meetings with Lula Da Silva (March 2009) and Vice President Biden’s attendance at a meeting with centrist Presidents (March 27-28, 2009) in Chile. Obama’s resort to "soft power", which is not backed by any new economic initiatives and which continues the basic policies of his predecessor has not gained him new allies.

However, there is one set of ‘changes’ resulting directly and indirectly from the US depression and Obama’s gigantic deficit financing, which has a very negative impact on Latin America’s economic recovery. The Obama regime is absorbing most of the Hemisphere’s credit to aid the financial bailout. This policy makes it difficult for Latin American exporters to finance their sales. Moreover, the Obama regime’s demands on the financial sector to expand their capital reserves and to direct their lending to the American domestic market has led banks to repatriate capital from their Latin American subsidiaries at the expense of Latin American borrowers - extending and deepening the recession in Latin America.

The Obama regime’s diplomatic and linguistic changes and affirmation of free trade have little substance: the White House continues the double discourse of talking up "free trade" while introducing a new and more virulent financial protectionism. In addition to the twenty billion dollar subsidies to agricultural exporters, the Democrats have pushed the "Buy American" provisions in Federal procurement policy and multi billion dollar subsidies to the auto industry.

Latin America faces a rising tide of US protectionism as the Obama regime reacts to the domestic economic depression by forcing Latin America to seek new trading partners, to protect their internal markets and to seek new sources for trade and credit.

Latin America Faces the World Crisis

Throughout Latin America, the economic depression is wrecking havoc on the economy, the labor market, trade, credit and investment. All the major countries in the region are headed toward negative growth, and experiencing double digit unemployment, rising levels of poverty and mass protests. In Brazil in late March and early April, a coalition of trade unions, urban social movements and the rural landless workers movement convoked large scale demonstrations - including participation from the union confederation, CUT, which is usually allied with Lula`s Workers Party.

Unemployment rates in Brazil have risen sharply, exceeding 10%, as massive lay-offs hit the auto and other metallurgical industries. In Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, strikes and protests have begun to spread in protest over rising unemployment, the increase of bankruptcies among exporters facing world-wide decline in demand and unable to secure financing.

The more industrialized Latin American countries, whose economies are more integrated into world markets and have followed an export growth strategy, are the ones most adversely affected by the world depression. This includes Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico. In addition, countries dependent on overseas remittances and tourism, like Ecuador, the Central American and Caribbean countries and even Mexico, with their ‘open’ economies, are badly hit by world recession.

While the US financial collapse did not have a major and immediate impact on Latin America- largely because the earlier financial crashes in Argentina, Mexico, Ecuador and Chile led their governments to impose limits on speculation - the indirect results of the US crash, especially with regard to the credit freeze and the decline of world trade, has brought down productive sectors across the board. By mid-2009, manufacturing, mining, services and agriculture, in the private and public sector were firmly in the grip of a recession.

The vulnerability of Latin America to the world crises is a direct result of the structure of production and the development strategies adopted the region. Following the ‘neo-liberal’ or empire-centered ‘restructuring’ of the economies which took place between the mid-1970s through the 1990s, the economic profile of Latin America was characterized by a weak state sector due to privatization of all key productive sectors. The de-nationalization of strategic financial, credit, trading and mining sectors increased vulnerability as did the highly concentrated income and property ownership held mainly by small foreign and domestic elite. These characteristics were further exacerbated by the primary commodity boom between early 2003 until the middle of 2008. The regimes’ further shift toward an export strategy relying on primary products set the stage for a crash. As a result of its economic structure Latin America was extremely vulnerable to the decision taken by US and EU policy makers in charge of key economic sectors. De-nationalization denied the state the necessary levers to meet the crisis by reversing the direction of the economy.

Structural changes imposed by the IMF/World Bank and its domestic ‘neo-liberal’ ruling class partners ‘opened’ the countries to the full blast of the world depression while dismantling the very state institutions which could have protected the economy or at least avoided the worst effects of the crisis.

Privatization led to the concentration of income, lessened local demand and heightened dependence on export markets while depriving the state of levers to control investment and savings, which could counteract the decline of overseas inflows of capital and the collapse of its overseas markets.

Denationalization facilitated the outflow of capital especially in the financial sector, deepened the credit crises and adversely affected the balance of payments. Foreign ownership made Latin American countries subject to strategic economic decisions made by overseas economic elites looking at the costs and benefits to their economic empires. For example, in Brazil the closing of US-owned auto factories and the mass firings of workers are based on ‘global market’ cost calculations, totally divorced from the needs of the Brazilian labor market.

The ‘export strategy’ was dependent on the state subsidizing the expansion of agro-business plantations producing staples for export markets. This came at the expense of small farmers, landless peasants and rural workers, weakening the domestic market as an alternative to a collapsing overseas markets, increasing dependence on food imports and undermining food security.

Export strategies depend on holding down labor costs, wages and salaries, thus weakening domestic demand and making employment dependent on the fluctuations of overseas demand. Specialized production in a vast complex international division of labor is central to the multinational corporation. This has dramatically reduced the national diversification of industry and integral manufacturing where all components of a product are produced within a single geographic region. Under the current division of labor, a Brazilian manufacturer of car brakes is totally dependent on external demand determined by the MNC. The strategic disadvantages of this ‘specialization’ in a global capitalist chain of production have become strikingly evident in this depression.

Despite these deep structural weaknesses, inherited from previous regimes, the current center-left regimes in Latin American have not moved toward any structural changes to decrease their economic vulnerabilities, with the partial exception of Chavez’s Venezuela.

The March 2009 summit of self-styled ‘third way’ regimes (plus the Obama-Biden and British Labor governments) met in Santiago, Chile where they studiously avoided even mentioning the flawed internal structures which have brought on the economic crises and promise to deepen it.

The consensus proposals of the "third way" regimes repeated anachronistic appeals for greater capital flows divorced from reality of the current crises. They called on the US, EU and Japan to resurrect collapsing markets and to promote trade. Specifically the Santiago meeting called for increased funding for the Inter American Development Bank (IDB, BID in Spanish), and encouraged the G20 leaders to promote stimulus packages and to pledge against protectionism. They called on Latin American regimes to increase spending and liquidity, to lower interest rates and to prop up, financial institutions and promote exporters.

The center-left regimes meeting in Santiago made no mention of plans to increase domestic demand through intervention in the labor market by preventing industrialists from firing workers. They did not mention increasing the minimum wage. They avoided any discussion on increasing demand in the rural areas through income generating agrarian reforms. They did not consider establishing publicly funded import substitution industrialization, which could generate employment for workers dismissed from export sectors.

In the face of rising food prices, no provisions were proposed to subsidize low income families, the unemployed, children and pensioners on fixed income. The center-left regimes’ proposals demonstrated high structural rigidity and their incapacity to break with failed strategies tied to the powerful agro-mineral export ruling class. Instead their proposals reaffirm their dependence on the ‘expansionary’ stimulus programs of the ruling classes in the US and Europe. Their repeated calls for ‘free trade’ and appeals to avoid ‘protectionism’ fell on deaf ears as all the imperial countries follow a dual policy of promoting free trade for their dynamic overseas multinationals and protectionism for their financial and troubled manufacturing sectors at home.

While eschewing any structural domestic changes that would favor unemployed workers, peasants, public employees and small businesses, they persist in following policies favoring the bankers, export elites and multi-national corporations. The main economic focus of Latin America’s center-left regimes is not internal reform; it is the pursuit of new overseas markets and investors.

In early April, Latin American leaders and their business elite met with their Arab counterparts in Qatar to expand investments and trade through joint ventures. Similar missions to China, Russia and Japan have led to investments almost exclusively in capital intensive extractive industries (petroleum and minerals) and mechanized export agriculture. Inter-regional trade via MERCOSUR has been highly asymmetrical as evidenced by Argentina’s $4 billion dollar trade deficit with Brazil. The center-left is structurally incapable of recognizing that the world depression has in large part undermined the ‘export strategy’; that the elites cannot overcome their internal contradictions and class constraints by ‘exporting’ their way to economic recovery. The search for new markets and investors in Asia and Middle East may provide a limited boost to the export enclaves but they will have little or no impact on the industry, service and related sectors, which employ the mass of workers and employees. Moreover, the Middle East and Asian countries are in serious crises as trade (both imports and exports), manufacturing and employment decline. Moreover China has opted for a vast economic stimulus plan based on increasing domestic demand. Asia can provide Latin American regimes with little relief from the crises.

The one country absent from the Santiago meeting of the center-left regimes was Venezuela, in part because President Chavez has pursued an alternative economic strategy to the world depression.

Chavez strategy includes the nationalization of key economic sectors like and oil and gas, which increases state revenue; protection of strategic social sectors/food processing and distribution sectors; and the expansion of agrarian reform to increase local production of food. The government has a program of subsidized food prices, a 20% increase in the minimum wage to cushion the effects of inflation and public spending on labor intensive infrastructure projects which has resulted in a drop in unemployment with the creation of 280,000 new jobs in Jan-Feb 2009.

Chavez is pursuing a radical Keynesian program, which depends on large scale public investments to expand the domestic market and social subsidies targeting a large swath of the lower classes. His state investment policy relies on the ‘cooperation’ of the still-dominant private sector, especially finance, construction, agro-mining and manufacturing, either via financial incentives and state contracts or through threats of intervention or nationalization.

Chavez’ domestic structural reforms are complemented by his promotion of regional political-economic pacts, like PETROCARIBE and ALBA, with Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and several Caribbean and Central American states. He is counting on the growing financial and investment agreements with China, Middle East, especially Iran, and Russia, particularly in joint ventures in the petroleum and mining sectors.

While Chavez’ strategy represents a clear break with and alternative to the center-left ‘export-elite’ centered approach, it still confronts a series of serious contradictions. Venezuela is over-dependent on a single export (petroleum) for 75% of its foreign exchange earnings and a single market (the US). Secondly it is rapidly depleting its foreign reserves. Thirdly, its efforts to promote regional integration have not prospered as the principle countries in Latin America look toward the G20 for salvation. State intervention and nationalization have increased national leverage over the economy but has not confronted the mal-distribution of income, property and power. As a result, a wave of worker/employee strikes in education, mining, smelting and manufacturing have hit the economy.

Equally serious a 30% rate of inflation has eroded buying power for those with fixed incomes and salaries undermining recent increases in the minimum wage. Increases in the price of foodstuffs, over 90% of which are imported, adversely affects the balance of payments. The immediate future could pose a threat to the social stability of the Venezuela.

Latin America and the Deepening Depression

The participation of several major Latin American countries in the G20 meeting in London, April 2, 2009, and the subsequent agreements reveal the political bankruptcy of the current political leadership. The declaration of a major new "stimulus" package was belied by the fact that most of the funds cited ($1.1 trillion dollars) were already allocated before the meeting and would have no effect. The actual amount of ‘new money’ was only a "fraction" ($250 billion dollars) and mostly geared to rescuing the financial sector.

The G20 solemn agreement to oppose protectionist legislation was belied by an OCED report that 17 of the 20 countries have recently adopted measures protecting local industries and restricting overseas financing. The biggest winner at the G20 was the IMF, which was promised an additional $500 billion dollars to provide credit lines and financing. Given the US-EU dominance of the IMF and given its past history of imposing restrictive conditions favoring the imperial countries, the strengthening of the IMF poses a major obstacle to any progressive Latin American recovery. The high expectations of Latin America’s center/left and rightist regimes that G20 would provide a meaningful stimulus were dashed.

On the left, Fidel Castro and like-minded allies in Latin America cite China as an alternative market and investment partner. Yet China’s overseas investments are almost always directed to the extractive export sectors (minerals, petrol) and, to a lesser degree, agriculture. As a result, Chinese investment in Latin America has created few jobs while favoring sectors that pollute the environment. Latin America’s export profile with China is reduced to a primary goods monoculture, highly vulnerable to the fluctuations of world prices. Moreover, China’s trade agreements with Latin America include the import of Chinese manufactured good produced by non-union, super-exploited workers which undermines any recovery of Latin America’s manufacturing sector.

Latin American leaders, who look to China to pull them out of the depression, are committed to a neo-colonial style recovery based on a raw material export model. Likewise, the turn to Russia as a new market and stimulus is a highly dubious proposition, given Russia’s petrol-gas dependent economy, its lack of competitive industries and above all its deepening depression with an economic decline of over 7% for 2009.

The Latin American leaders’ search for a new stimulus package from the US and EU or new trade alternatives with China and Russia are desperate efforts to save the failing elite export model. The idea promoted by Brazil that since the imperial countries caused the world depression, they should provide the solution, is a non-sequitor, especially in light of their incapacity to stimulate their own economies. The US promotion of the IMF is directed toward undermining any progressive Latin American policies and independent regimes, and not helping them recover from the crisis.


Because of the Obama regime’s profound and costly commitment to military-driven empire building and the multi- trillion dollar refinancing of its banking sector (while backing credit-financing protectionism), Latin America’s ruling classes cannot expect any "stimulus package" from US.

The deep political divisions between the US and Latin America (and between the classes within Latin America), divergent national and class strategies preclude any ‘regional strategy’. Even among the left nationalist regimes, apart from some limited complementary initiatives among the ALBA countries, no regional plan exists. In this regard it is a serious mistake to write or speak about a "Latin American" problem, or initiative. What we can observe today is a generalized breakdown of the export-driven model and divergent social responses, between income protecting policies of Venezuela and export subsidy policies of Brazil, Argentina and Chile, Peru and Colombia. Throughout the recession, these center-left regimes have demonstrated a high degree of structural rigidity, making no effort to deepen and expand the domestic market and public investment, let alone nationalize bankrupt enterprises. The crisis highlights the process of de-globalization and the increasing importance of the nation state.

The deepening economic crisis adversely affects incumbent regimes, whether they are center-left or right, and strengthens their opposition. In Argentina the right and far-right have dominated the streets, with a growing power base in the ‘interior’ among the Argentine agrarian elite and the middle class in Buenos Aires. The progressive trade union, CTA, which has organized strikes and protests, is not connected with any new left alternative political organization.

Brazil has witnessed similar protests by social movements and trade unions against rising unemployment of over 10% and the decline in export-oriented industries. But the principle political beneficiary of the declining popularity of Lula’s self-styled "Worker’s Party" is the Right.

In contrast, the center-left will benefit where rightist regimes are currently in power – namely Mexico, Colombia and Peru. But as is the case elsewhere, the mass movements lack an organized political response to a collapsing capitalism.

Moreover neither Cuba nor Venezuela offers a ‘model’ for the rest of Latin America. The former is highly dependent on a vulnerable tourist economy while the latter is a petrol economy. Given the systemic collapse of capitalism, these countries will need to move beyond ‘piecemeal reforms’(such as Chavez food subsidies) and piecemeal nationalizations and toward the socialization of the financial, trade and manufacturing sectors.

Mass protests, general strikes, and other forms of social unrest are beginning to manifest themselves throughout the continent. No doubt the US will intensify its support for rightist movements in opposition and its existing rightist clients in power. US ‘hegemony’ over the Latin American elite is still strong even as it is virtually non-existent among the mass organizations in civil society. Given the overall militarist-protectionist posture of the Obama regime, we can expect intervention in the form of covert operations as class struggle escalates and moves toward a socialist transformation.

James Petras is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by James Petras