Friday, August 13, 2010

Torture & Death Squads, as American as apple pie.

How far would Washington go to defend torture and death squads?

Sometimes, it's just instructive to take a good hard look at the past in order to really grasp what's going on in the present. Take, for example, the fact that Washington has officially sanctioned torture and the use of death squads during the nearly ten years that the War on Terra has been raging. Dubya even went so far as to get some legal beagles to write him some excuse notes, sparking worldwide outrage. Think it's anything new? Think again. Here's the latest declassified bombshell from the National Security Archive, which landed in my inbox yesterday:

Washington, DC, August 11, 2010 - Documents posted by the National Security Archive on the 40th anniversary of the death of U.S. advisor Dan Mitrione in Uruguay show the Nixon administration recommended a "threat to kill [detained insurgent] Sendic and other key [leftist insurgent] MLN prisoners if Mitrione is killed." The secret cable from U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers, made public here for the first time, instructed U.S. Ambassador Charles Adair: "If this has not been considered, you should raise it with the Government of Uruguay at once."

The message to the Uruguayan government, received by the U.S. Embassy at 11:30 am on August 9, 1970, was an attempt to deter Tupamaro insurgents from killing Mitrione at noon on that day. A few minutes later, Ambassador Adair reported back, in another newly-released cable, that "a threat was made to these prisoners that members of the 'Escuadrón de la Muerte' [death squad] would take action against the prisoners' relatives if Mitrione were killed."

Dan Mitrione, Director of the U.S. AID Office of Public Safety (OPS) in Uruguay and the main American advisor to the Uruguayan police at the time, had been held for ten days by MLN-Tupamaro insurgents demanding the release of some 150 guerrilla prisoners held by the Uruguayan government. Mitrione was found dead the morning of August 10, 1970, killed by the Tupamaros after their demands were not met.

"The documents reveal the U.S. went to the edge of ethics in an effort to save Mitrione--an aspect of the case that remained hidden in secret documents for years," said Carlos Osorio, who directs the National Security Archive's Southern Cone project. "There should be a full declassification to set the record straight on U.S. policy toward Uruguay in the 1960's and 1970's."

"In the aftermath of Dan Mitrione's death, the Uruguayan government unleashed the illegal death squads to hunt and kill insurgents," said Clara Aldrighi, professor of history at Uruguay's Universidad de la República, and author of "El Caso Mitrione" (Montevideo: Ediciones Trilce, 2007). "The U.S. documents are irrefutable proof that the death squads were a policy of the Uruguayan government, and will serve as key evidence in the death squads cases open now in Uruguay's courts," Osorio added. "It is a shame that the U.S. documents are writing Uruguayan history. There should be declassification in Uruguay as well," stated Aldrighi, who collaborated in the production of this briefing book.

Who was Dan Mitrione? Oh, just the US's leading torturer in South America at the time. His specialty was the "scientific" use of electroshock as torture, ostensibly for purposes of interrogation. He not only tortured countless innocent people himself (some of them to the point of death), he trained the local police in three countries to do the same. Uruguay was the last; before that it was the Dominican Republic and Brazil. He was portrayed, in a thinly fictionalized form, by Yves Montand in Costa-Gavras's movie, State of Siege. You can read more about him here and here.

What's notable about all this is how long ago it happened. Mitrione met harsh justice in Uruguay 40 years ago, and yet it seems like it was only yesterday. We can clearly see a pattern, a striking similarity between how Tricky Dick did things, and how his ideological scion, Dubya, did them. The use of death threats, death squads (organized by the US's puppet regimes abroad) and torture--can you honestly tell the difference between Uruguay in the late '60s and early '70s, Central America in the Reaganite '80s, and Afghanistan and Iraq over the last ten years? I have difficulty with it, myself.

And no wonder. When it comes to imperialism, not much has changed from one decade to the next, other than the location of the worst manifestations of the disease. For the last 200 years, ever since the cry went up in South America for freedom from the Spanish empire, Latin America has felt that big stick of gringo imperialism coming to supplant the royal sceptre of Spain--here, there, everywhere. Not one country south of the Rio Grande has been immune. Nor, since the discovery of petroleum under its sands, has the Middle East, although it is a more recent target. The brutality has gone through minor variations, but the overall theme is readily recognizable: Whatever Washington wants, Washington gets, and damn the expense--even if the toll is a river of human blood.

And if a more "modern" form of the Spanish Inquisition is required to exact it, so be it. A Dan Mitrione is worth a death squad and the murders of hundreds of local freedom fighters--so runs the reasoning. They will go all the way--literally to the death--to defend their imperial methods.

I wonder what Mitrione-like characters have yet to shake out of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I predict we'll be seeing several, probably in the guise of "civilian contractors" to give plausible deniability to the military and the CIA. Mitrione was, after all, one who operated under the guise of a police chief, not an intelligence officer, although he was attached to the FBI in 1959, and the State Department as of 1960. He was sent on his first foreign assignment that same year. His plausible deniability: he was training local police in Latin America. In what? Well, what else: interrogation. "The precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount, for the desired effect"--that was his motto. Death of the victim was undesirable only because it meant that the torturer had been inept in getting what he wanted out of the poor soul.

Nowadays, it's waterboarding, not electroshock, that's in vogue. But the purpose is the same, both superficially and underneath it all. Nothing has changed much in 40 years, or indeed 200.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Neocon Preps US for War with Iran By Ray McGovern

I guess I was naïve in thinking that The Atlantic and its American-Israeli writer Jeffrey Goldberg might shy away from arguing for yet another war — this one with Iran — while the cauldrons are still boiling in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s worth remembering how Goldberg helped to make the case for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. For instance, on Oct. 3, 2002, as America’s war fever was building, Goldberg wrote in Slate, the online magazine:

“The [Bush] administration is planning … to launch what many people would undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality.”

Looking back on Goldberg’s commentaries at the time, it’s also a reminder of how many U.S. publications that are considered centrist or even liberal were bending over backward to get in line with that coming invasion.

Even earlier, on March 25, 2002, Goldberg filled the pages of The New Yorker with a mammoth 17,000-word story hyping Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s ties to terrorism and glossing over the ambiguities regarding the gassing of civilians in the Kurdish city of Halabja during the Iran-Iraq war.

Goldberg’s magnum opus, entitled “The Great Terror,” earned him high marks from other neocons and essentially “made” Goldberg’s career. The story was also made to order, so to speak, for President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Presenting Goldberg with an award for the article, the Overseas Press Club saw fit to note that former CIA director James Woolsey described the story as a “blockbuster.” Woolsey, the self-described "anchor of the Presbyterian wing of JINSA (The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs),” has been a strong advocate for the use of force against any and all perceived enemies of Israel.

Woolsey also was the prime manufacturer and a key disseminator of bogus “intelligence” on the Saddam-al-Qaeda connection. In The New Yorker article, while exaggerating Iraq’s links to terrorism, Goldberg quotes Woolsey complaining about the CIA’s alleged aversion to learning about Saddam’s ties to al-Qaeda.

It is a safe bet that Goldberg’s prose under the subhead “The Al-Qaeda Link” was inspired by Woolsey. But it gets worse; the detail in that section came mostly from a drug dealer in a Kurdish prison, whom a British journalist, following upon Goldberg’s reporting, quickly determined to be a “liar.”

A Friendly Reception

Yet, not surprisingly, Goldberg emerged from his work prepping the PR ground for the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a well-respected "journalist," so much so that he was afforded deferential treatment when he made a tour of the cable TV news programs this week promoting his new case for a new war, this time with Iran.

Goldberg had just produced a new magnum opus for another prestige journal, The Atlantic, entitled “The Point of No Return,” explaining Israel’s case for bombing Iran and the reasons why the United States should join in.

On Wednesday, Goldberg swatted away softball questions from MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell, who joined in a friendly chat about whether the U.S. or Israel or both should opt for what Mitchell described as a “military response” to the “Iranian nuclear threat,” and when.

Goldberg claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sees the challenge from Iran as being on a par with the Holocaust, believing that Iran is bent on the destruction of Israel with its 6 million people.

“Are you persuaded that Israel would take action against Iran unilaterally?” asked Mitchell. “Yes, I am; I am,” Goldberg responded.

Goldberg added that he believes that President Barack Obama is not prepared to live with a nuclear Iran but that it remains an open question whether he would take military action to prevent that eventuality. Goldberg said Obama “probably” would not.

And that being the case, Goldberg thought Netanyahu would be inclined to unleash Israeli forces unilaterally and absorb any damage this might do to bilateral relations with Washington.

At the end of the Mitchell interview, she lofted what appeared to be a canned question and, in response, Goldberg seemed downright eager to share what he called a “secret,” as he put it.

Mitchell asked when Obama planned to visit Israel. Goldberg, however, expressed a concern: “The Israelis are worried about Obama coming; they don’t want him to be boo-ed wherever he goes; that’s the last thing they need. Obama is not popular in Israel in the way Bush and Clinton were.”

The unmistakable message: An Obama tour of Israel could be an ugly affair.

Chatting with Wolf

Goldberg walked through a similar discussion on the merits of war when he appeared on CNN, a guest of Wolf Blitzer’s “The Situation Room.”

Goldberg: “The question is what can the Obama administration do to stop the Iranians from pursuing the nuclear program … it seems unlikely to me at this point that Iran is simply going to say, because President Obama asks, you know, we’re going to end our nuclear program.”

Blitzer: “You have concluded that an Israeli air strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities is — in your word — a near certainty?”

Goldberg: “Well, it’s a near certainty, in the long term, but even in the next year I give it a 50 percent or better chance. Next year, meaning by next July.”

Not that it probably would have mattered, but someone probably should have told Andrea Mitchell and Wolf Blitzer that more skeptical observers have described Goldberg’s previous “journalism” in very unflattering terms.

One critic deemed Goldberg’s pre-Iraq War reporting for The New Yorker as “a journalism-school nightmare: bad sources, compromised sources, unacknowledged uncertainties … with alarmist rhetoric that is now either laughable or nauseating, depending on your mood.”

For instance, the fact that many civilians were gassed as Iraqi and Iranian forces clashed on March 16, 1988, in the area of Halabja, just barely inside Iraq’s border with Iran, is beyond dispute.

However, what is not clear is the blockbuster charge that it was the Iraqis, rather than the Iranians, who used the deadly chemical warfare agents. The U.S. government has pointed the finger in both directions, often depending on which side of the conflict Washington was tilting toward.

A joint CIA and Defense Intelligence assessment focused in on the “blood agents (cyanogen chloride) deemed responsible for most of the deaths in Halabja and determined that the Iraqis had no history of using those particular agents, but that the Iranians did.

That particular CIA-DIA report concluded that, despite the conventional wisdom, “the Iranians perpetrated this attack.”

Dr. Stephen Pelletiere, a senior CIA analyst on Iraq during its war with Iran, told Roger Trilling of the Village Voice that he is one among many who believe that Goldberg’s account of the killings at Halabja was wrong and that the issue was far from academic.

Pelletiere said: “We say Saddam is a monster, a maniac who gassed his own people, and the world shouldn’t tolerate him. But why? Because that’s the last argument the U.S. has for going to war with Iraq.”

It may well have been the most emotionally riveting argument, I suppose.

Debunking the Junk

But what about Iraq’s alleged WMDs and supposed ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda? Goldberg made an attempt to include those canards as well, focusing mostly on chemical and biological warfare agents. (He left to the New York Times’ Judith Miller, who was later fired, and Michael Gordon, who is still chief military correspondent, to do the heavy lifting for the lies about Iraq’s supposed nuclear weapons.)

A final story about Jeffrey Goldberg’s pre-Iraq-invasion stories: Just a week before Congress bowed to Bush’s request for war authorization against Iraq, Goldberg was writing in Slate about the dangers of “aflatoxin,” which he had cited 15 times in his New Yorker article.

“Aflatoxin does only one thing well,” Goldberg wrote. “It causes liver cancer. In fact, it induces it particularly well in children.”

However, Goldberg’s obsession with “aflatoxin” didn’t stand up too well after the U.S.-led invasion found no evidence that Iraq still had bio-weapons stockpiles. Regarding aflatoxin, Charles Duelfer, the Bush administration’s chief weapons inspector in Iraq, concluded that there was “no evidence to link those tests [of aflatoxin] with the development of biological weapons agents for military use.”

Ken Silverstein of Harper’s, among the more serious journalists who have had macabre fun critiquing Goldberg’s contribution to the Iraq War effort, wrote “Goldberg’s War,” one of the best critiques.

Silverstein wrote:

“Whatever Saddam’s regime intended to do with the aflatoxin … it did not involve wholescale tot-slaughter. But it seems to me that Goldberg was out to prove that Saddam was singularly evil — a man who would kill kids using cancer, no doubt cackling with glee as he watched them expire — because the American public might be less willing to support a war if he was merely an evil dictator, which are a dime a dozen.”

But who is Jeffrey Goldberg and how did he achieve such influence, helping to create the false conventional wisdom that sleep-walked the American people into war with Iraq and is now pointing toward a new war with Iran.

For a 44-year-old writer, Goldberg surely has been around. He left college to move to Israel where he served with the Israeli army as a prison guard at the Ketziot military prison camp during the First Intifada; he also wrote for The Jerusalem Post.

Upon his return to the U.S., he worked for the Jewish daily Forward and eventually got hired by The New Yorker. Now, he’s a star writer for The Atlantic.

Pitching for War

Goldberg’s mission this time? Pitching war with Iran.

This time, Goldberg and the Israelis want us to buy into a syllogism without a valid major premise. Their argument presupposes that Iran has made the decision to develop nuclear weapons and is hard at work on such a program, which is what they want Americans to believe whether there’s evidence or not.

The Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) and the neocons who brought us the war on Iraq, and occasionally the President himself, speak as though Iran has restarted work on the nuclear weapons part of their nuclear energy program.

This internal government debate (and the external propaganda) is a replay of three years ago, when the FCM succeeded in convincing most Americans that Iran either had nuclear weapons or was on the verge of getting them.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney were out in front hyping the danger, whipping the American people into another war frenzy -- when an honest National Intelligence Estimate stopped them in their tracks.

Two things saved the day: integrity and fear.

Integrity on the part of analysts who, after the corruption before the Iraq War, were able to revert to the tell-it-like-it-is-without-fear-or-favor ethos that obtained during my 27 years as a CIA analyst; and fear on the part of the senior U.S. military that Cheney and Bush were about to order them to commit U.S. forces to war with Iran.

The integrity played out during work on a congressionally mandated National Intelligence Estimate that it took almost all of 2007 to complete. Most of those intelligence officials who had “fixed” the intelligence on Iraq had been given the heave-ho.

New leadership was installed under the direction of a non-corruptible Director of the National Intelligence Council, Tom Fingar, from the State Department.

Under Fingar, intelligence analysts rose to the occasion on the delicate issue of Iran’s nuclear development program by performing a bottom-up assessment. There would be no “fixing” of intelligence around the policy. Main question: Had Iran decided to go for the bomb?

The NIE’s first sentence conveyed the unanimous conclusion of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.”

Fearing Another War

Fear now came into play and, for once, played a salutary role. Fear is simply a by-product of a sane appraisal of what war with Iran would mean. The senior U.S. military had enough good sense to be afraid and saw the NIE as an opportunity to stop the juggernaut toward war.

And so, they and those in Congress who had commissioned the NIE insisted that its key judgments be declassified and made public, despite reluctance on the part of the Director of National Intelligence to do so.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and CENTCOM commander William “Fox” Fallon had been living in fear of a Cheney-inspired order to commit U.S. forces to war with Iran. Fallon actually had told retired Col. Patrick Lang, a few months before Fallon was cashiered, “We are not going to do Iran on my watch.”

Fear? Yes, fear — an altogether sensible reaction. No commander worth his salt looks with equanimity at the prospect of being on the receiving end of an order that could decimate his troops and lead to a wider war for which his forces would not be adequate.

On a more personal basis, no commander wants to be faced with a choice between having to resign on principle on the one hand and carrying out an order he knows to be fatefully misguided on the other.

Good sense prevailed, over Cheney’s strong objections and Bush sent Mullen to Israel in June 2008 with instructions to warn the Israelis in no uncertain terms not to provoke war with Iran with any expectation that the U.S. would pull their chestnuts out of the fire.

Fast forward to the present. Where is Iran now in its nuclear program?

When an important National Intelligence Estimate needs updating, the art form often chosen is what is called a “Memorandum to Holders” — in the case at hand, holders of the original NIE of November 2007.

Such a paper need not repeat the bottom-up research and analysis completed immediately prior to November 2007; it simply requires a close look at evidence acquired from the end of 2007 to the present to determine whether there is reason to change the key judgments of three years ago.

Pressure to Rewrite?

We hear nothing from our sources about any substantial change over the past three years. That is not what the Goldbergs and other neocons of this world want to hear, and this presumably is why the Memorandum to Holders has been held up for months and months. Not a good sign.

Authoritative statements for the record have been sparse but reassuring, inasmuch as they seem to confirm the 2007 NIE's key judgments. Congressional testimony in February by then-Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, and in April by the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs revealed no major developments.

Moreover, Blair consistently hewed to the 2007 judgment that Iran's eventual decision on whether or not to build a nuclear weapon can still be influenced by "the international community."

Scattered statements by other high officials, including President Obama, sometimes convey a sense that Iran is again working toward a nuclear weapon, and the FCM has been leaving hints left and right that this is the case.

Folks like Jeffrey Goldberg refer casually, but intentionally, to “Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

The neocons seem to be as strong now as under George W. Bush, with their Real-Men-Go-to-Tehran-type macho undiminished.

Can integrity trump macho this time? Without a strong man at the helm in the intelligence community, it will be very difficult. And the administration let drop months ago that this time the key judgments of the Memorandum to Holders will not be made public.

Meanwhile, Goldberg and his neocon colleague flaks are trying to create as much pressure as they can on Obama to produce a scarier Estimate … or to delay the one in progress sine die.

The outlook would seem even bleaker were it not for the availability of WikiLeaks and other non-FCM news outlets that would be ready and willing to publish documents about what is actually going on behind the scenes.

It would seem a safe bet that there are enough folks with access to the Memorandum to Holders drafts to recognize swiftly any attempt to corrupt honest judgments.

Some government officials will probably be able to recognize their own conscience, their integrity and their oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, as values that properly supersede other promises — like the promise not to release classified information that is a condition of employment.

Those who are tempted to exaggerate the threat from Iran will, at least, have to take into account how relatively easy it has become to evade the FCM’s gatekeepers and expose government dishonesty to the people.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27-year career as a CIA analyst, he chaired National Intelligence Estimates and prepared/briefed the President’s Daily Brief. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

REFLECTIONS OF FIDEL: The giant with the seven-league boots

Part 1

I learned of it through Aristotle, the most famous philosopher in the history of humankind.

Human beings are capable of marvelous actions or the very worst injustices.

Their astonishing intelligence is capable of using the unalterable laws of nature for good or evil.

With much less experience than I possess today, during those days in which our armed struggle was developing in the mountains of Cuba, in the great nation of Mexico – in which all Cubans saw something of their own – we experienced a fleeting but unforgettable period in which all those wonders came together in one corner of the Earth.

There would be no form or words of describing my impressions like a certain Mexican has done who, no wonder, is the person with the greatest authority to speak of the tragedy of that country, as he was the elected mayor of Mexico’s most important electoral district, that of Mexico City, capital of the Republic, and in the 2006 elections was the candidate of the "Coalition for the Good of All."

He stood during the elections and won a majority of votes against the PAN candidate. But the empire would not allow him to assume the mandate.

Like other political leaders, I knew how Washington had drawn up the ideas of the "neoliberalism" that it sold to the countries of Latin America and the rest of the Third World as the embodiment of political democracy and economic development, but I never had such a clear idea of the way in which the empire used this doctrine to destroy and devour the wealth of such an important country, rich in natural resources and the home of an heroic people who possessed their own culture before the pre-Christian era, more than 2,000 years ago.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a person with whom I have never spoken or maintained a friendship, is the author of a small volume that has recently been published, and I am grateful to him for his brilliant exposé of what is happening in that sister nation. His title is "The Mafia That Has Taken Over Mexico…and 2012."

I received the book four days ago, in the afternoon of August 7, after I had returned from my meeting with deputies of the National Assembly of People’s Power of Cuba. I read it with great interest. It describes the way in which the United States is totally devouring a sister nation in this hemisphere, one from which it has already snatched more than 50% of its territory, the largest high-quality gold mines, and the oil wealth that has been intensively exploited for more than one century, of which almost three million barrels are still being extracted a day. I am omitting the reference to the vast volume of gas extracted, as I am aware of the details.

In Chapter 1, he explains the extremely bizarre phenomenon of the total disappearance in Mexico of the railroad created during the time of Benito Juárez - when the first stretch from Mexico City to Veracruz was begun.

During the administration of Porfirio Díaz, it was extended by more than 20,000 kilometers, an endeavor that was subsequently and considerably expanded by the Mexican Revolution.

Today, there is a railroad that "goes from Chihuahua, Chihuahua to Los Mochis, Sinaloa. In the blink of an eye, the technocrats did away with the dreams of 19th century liberals, who saw in the railroad links the ideal way of making Mexico progress," Obrador’s book recounts.

"Fox’ arrival in the presidency of the Republic merely served to revamp the old regime and continue with the same corruption. In reality, it concerned the six-year period of gatopardism, that maneuver via which, in all appearances, everything changes but everything stays the same. Prior to assuming the presidency, Fox subordinated himself to the international financial organizations and, obviously, continued serving the country’s tycoons. Furthermore, not only did he maintain economic policy as inalterable, but supported the same group of technocrats who had been working since the era of Salinas."

Some pages further on, the author states, "…today, almost all the banking institutions belong to foreigners; they do not award credits to promote the country’s development, they invest in government securities, charge the highest interest rates in the world, obtain fabulous profits and are the fundamental source of the transfer of resources to their headquarters in Spain, the United States and the United Kingdom."

"With Fox, the assets of the people and the nation continued being handed over to private companies, both national and foreign […] with Fox, the handing over of national territory for the exploitation of gold, silver and copper was extended without limits […] the Mining Act was modified in order to award unique exploration and exploitation concessions valid for up to 50 years and with the possibility of being further extended […] up to December 2008, 24,816,396 hectares had been granted, 12% of national territory and equivalent to the size of Chihuahua state, the largest in the country."

Something truly astounding and surprising, even for those who have the worst opinion of neoliberalism, are the details that López Obrador offers in the final part of Chapter 1 of his book.

During the Fox government, he affirms: "…in 2005, during Fox-ism, the law on revenue tax was changed again, once again conceding 100% of benefits to large corporations. In order to better understand what this means, we have to bear in mind that in 2008, according to official figures, 400 large monopolies, which obtained incomes of five billion pesos – according to official figures – more than half the country’s GDP for that year – only paid 1.7% in revenue tax and business tax at a unique rate (IETU)."

"In addition, it was during the Fox government that the highest tax refunds were issued in favor of the so-called large contributors and, as is obvious, both the PRI and PAN governments have justified this fiscal sinecure with the fallacy of encouraging investment. If that was a certain fact, we would have had economic growth in the past 27 years and not the paralysis that has prevailed. At the same time, it can be demonstrated that the tax refunds are superior to the increase in private investment; in the 2001-2005 period alone, while private investment increased by 279 billion pesos, tax refunds reached 604 billion pesos; in other words, double that amount. Corruption in the upper echelons of power has been made so official that the Federal Institute of Access to Public Information (IFAI) has decided to keep secret for 12 years – until 2019 – the names of companies that, in 2005, were the beneficiaries of the Tax Administration Service (SAT), having received multi-million peso tax refunds."

Those were the exact words of Carlos Ahumada, when we arrested him in Cuba for violation of our laws. López Obrador knows them because we sent him the minutes together with the deportee Carlos Ahumada on April 28, 2004.

Without any doubt, the event constituted one of the greatest political frauds in the history of America. There are some other points that I will clarify with total precision.

In Chapter 1 itself, under the title, "The masters of Mexico", López Obrador writes: "During the time that I was mayor of Mexico City (2000-2005), I met almost every member of this elite…"

I also share López Obrador’s opinion of Carlos Slim. I also met him. He always visited me when I went to Mexico and, on one occasion, visited me in Cuba. He gave me a television set – the most modern at that time – which I kept in my house until just one year ago. He didn’t do it with the intention of bribing me. And I never asked him for any favors either. In spite of being the richest of all of them, with a fortune in excess of $60 billion, he is an intelligent man who knows all the secrets of the stock markets and mechanisms of the capitalist system.

There would have been multimillionaires with or without Salinas, and with or without Fox, although since then, never as many as there were under the mafia that took over Mexico. López Obrador includes their names in his book and identifies the power of the mafia that took over the country.

Chapter 2 is entitled "Abandonment, corruption and poverty." He notes the GDP of countries throughout the world during 1982-2009; he refers to China with admiration: 10.1%. Furthermore, in a separate paragraph, he mentions the GDP in 2009. He remarks that "if that were not enough – that year – Mexico occupied, in this matter, last place among all the countries on the American continent and, although it may seem incredible, we were below Haiti."

"The technocrats have behaved like fundamentalists. Not only did they comply with the orthodoxy of international financial organizations but they transformed their recommendations into ideology."

"Rural Mexico has been the most affected by so-called neoliberal policies. The abandonment of the countryside is dramatic. I still recall that Pedro Aspe, secretary of housing during the Salinas government, boasted that stimulating production activities in the agricultural sector was unimportant because in a globalized world, it was more economical to buy what we consume abroad."

"The package of neoliberal policies applied to rural areas has given rise to a serious decline in the agricultural sector in relation to population growth. In the three-year period of 1980-1982 to that of 2007-2009, the agriculture, forestry and fishing GDP per inhabitant fell by 15.2%. In other words, while total food production advanced at an annual rate of 1.5%, the population of the country grew, during the periods mentioned, at a rate of 1.7% annually."

"From 1996, oil production continued to rise until, in 2004, it reached the record figure of 1,231,145,000 barrels. Between 1996 and 2004, exports of crude rose from 563 to 683 million barrels per year. This increase coincided with the over-exploitation of the Cantarell complex which, from 2000 to 2004, increased its production from 47% to 61% of national production, becoming the oil field with the greatest output in the history of the world

"While oil extraction was increasing, proven reserves registered a resounding decrease: in 1982, these were 48.3 billion barrels; however, in 2009, they fell to 10 billion. During the period of the Fox government alone, a third of proven reserves were consumed."

"This absurd policy also led to devastation in oil refining, and the gas and petrochemical sectors. Companies linked to these activities were deprived of resources for their expansion and upgrading. No new refineries have been built in the country since 1979. Recently, because of our movement, Calderón was forced to say that there would be one; however, two years have passed since he announced it and still not one brick has been laid."

"And at the same time the price assigned in the United States, the most expensive in the world, was established as a reference. For that reason, we have turned into importers of gas."

In the case of the petrochemical industry, given the lack of investment and neglect, the only thing that has been done is to reduce "the losses" of the petrochemical complexes by halting production lines."

"…the large business and finance corporations have opted for confiscating all its revenues from Pemex. From 2000 to 2009, this company recorded accumulated sales of 8.841 trillion pesos and it paid 6.185 trillion pesos in taxes; in other words, the equivalent of 70% of its sales. …direct public investment in Pemex (not including debt) was 437 billion pesos, or 5% of its total sales."

"Logically, starting with the adoption of neoliberal policies, the energy sector was closely linked to external interests. In this period the possibility of integrating it and utilizing it as a national development lever became even more distant, and all the neoliberal governments have maintained the idea and the intention of privatizing both the electrical and oil industries."

"We do not accept any occupation of our territory. Mexico must continue being a free, independent and sovereign country. We do not want to turn into a colony."

"…on that occasion I ended by reminding them of what General Lázaro Cárdenas del Río once said: ‘a government or individual that hands over national resources to foreign companies is betraying the homeland.’ However, in these times, unfortunately, corruption is stronger than patriotism."

"One of the juiciest businesses benefiting officials and contractors has been buying gas from foreign companies. For this reason, for the technocrats, it has never been really important to extract gas or avoid it being wasted. Mexico is the oil-producing country that burns the most gas into the atmosphere."

"These days, what most concerns the people is the lack of work. Unemployment is alarming. The decline in the job market has grown exponentially. It is estimated that one million young people enter the job market every year and the new jobs that have gradually been created in the formal economy do not even satisfy 25% of demand."

"Even those people who have been able to hold onto their employment have incomes that do not even cover essentials. In a January 2010 investigative report, the Multidisciplinary Analysis Center attached to the UNAM Faculty of Economy maintains that 17.776 million people, who receive less than two minimum salaries and represent 41% of the economically active population, receive incomes that do not permit them to acquire a recommendable family shopping basket, taking into account nutritive, cultural and economic aspects."

"In terms of education, the backslide is dramatic: the population aged 15 and over without a complete elementary education has reached 34% and illiteracy

stands at 9.46%, but in states with a higher degree of marginalization, like Oaxaca, Guerrero and Chiapas it has even reached 23%."

"In Mexico, only two out of every 10 young people have access to higher education, or 20%. UNESCO has established 40-50% as a reference parameter for this level."

"In February 2010, Dr. José Narro Robles, UNAM rector, announced that out of the 115,736 students who took the entrance examination, only 10,350 were selected: 8.9%.

"In the last 20 years, as a consequence of the abandonment of higher education on the part of the state, matriculation in private schools has grown from 16% to 37%."

In Chapter 3 López Obrador reaffirms: "…The oligarchy, the power mafia, felt threatened and it wasn’t of any importance to them to destroy the little that had been constructed to establish democracy in Mexico."

"Time and the reality have demonstrated that fraud caused immense damage: it wounded the sentiments of millions of Mexicans, undermined institutions, totally degraded the so-called political society…"

"Today, March 9, 2009, here in Tamazula, Durango, where Guadalupe Victoria, the first president of Mexico was born, I end my tour of the 2,038 municipalities of the party regime existing in the country. Now, all that I am missing are the 418 indigenous municipalities, in terms of habits and customs, of the state of Oaxaca, which I will visit in the last quarter of this year."

"Over 430 days we covered 148,173 kilometers of paved and dirt roads, to reach the most isolated towns of Mexico."

"The lack of infrastructures and basic services in the municipalities is notorious. Of the 2,038 that I visited, 108 do not have paved roads in their administrative centers. The most backward state in this aspect Oaxaca; of its 152 party regime municipalities, 36 are unpaved. It is followed by Puebla with 15; there and in the region of the Guerrero mountain, I not only confirmed the bad state of the roads; I saw that the new ones, that are just barely being built, are of such poor quality that within 12 months at most they will revert to dirt roads."

"It is illogical that so much Coca-Cola or its equivalent is consumed…"

"I believe that this consumption of soda, calculated at one million liters per day, is fundamentally due to publicity and has become, in certain regions, a status symbol."

"It is indispensable to eliminate the current political economy which has not even produced results in quantitative terms. Mexico is one of the countries of the world with the lowest growth in the last few years."

"It is necessary to change the way of doing politics. This noble profession has been completely perverted. Today, politics is synonymous with deceit, elite arrangements and corruption. Legislators, leaders and public officials are removed from the sentiments of the people; the idea prevails that politics is a thing of politicians and not a concern of everyone."

"The transformation that the country needs must not only propose to achieve economic growth, democracy, development and wellbeing. It also, and above all, implies crystallizing a new current of thought sustained on the culture of our people, on their vocation for work and on their immense generosity; adding values such as tolerance, respect for diversity and environmental protection."

In March 2009, I concluded my tour of the 2,038 municipalities of the country’s party regime, for that reason I drafted a text called ‘‘El país desde abajo: apuntes de mi gira por México’ (The Country from Below: Notes of my Tour of Mexico). On November 20 I completed my visit to the 418 indigenous municipalities in habits and customs of the state of Oaxaca."

"The people of Oaxaca have survived because of their culture. Their mystique of work, their talent and their strong family and community relations emanate from that culture. Their link with the land helps them to maintain an economy of self-sufficiency in food, based on the production of corn, beans and farmyard poultry, as well as coffee cultivation, making use of forests, weaving mats and hats, handicrafts and other activities. In the country’s cities, in the agricultural areas of the north and abroad, their creativity and their workforce are highly appreciated. In the United States, the Mixteca peoples have really earned their reputation of being among the best workers in the world."

"Due to government neglect, Oaxaca is the state with the greatest poverty and marginalization in the country. And in these times they are feeling that more. Let us begin on the basis that people have three fundamental sources for sustaining themselves: an economy of self-sufficiency in food, government support and the money derived from emigration. In the first case, the principal cultivation is that of corn. This blessed plant is what ensures that they do not lack basic foods, among others, tortillas complemented with beans, chili, nopal, and which makes it possible to alleviate hunger. However, in 2009, given a delayed rainy season, the harvests were lost and they have had to buy corn."

"Finally, the third source of income is made up of remittances, which have fallen by approximately 18% in 2009, due to the economic crisis in the United States and in our country. In 2008, Oaxaca received $1.456 billion and in 2009 it is estimated that barely $1.194 billion was obtained."

"It broke my heart to see grown men crying while telling me of the difficult situation that they are enduring and the abandonment in which they find themselves."

"In terms of health, neglect is also a constant. There are municipalities without a doctor and although there are first-rate clinics in the administrative centers, the doctors there only work Monday through Friday and there is a shortage of medicines everywhere."

"In terms of education, despite the effort of pupils and teachers, the decline is apparent. The schools are neglected, with roofs in bad condition, they lack chalkboards, desks and chairs, there are classrooms built with flimsy materials. And most lamentable is that many children and adolescents walk for up to two hours to attend school and almost all of them arrive without having breakfasted."

"In the personal context I have been painted as messianic and a lunatic. Here, I am opening a parenthesis to say that I recently took part in a series of conferences at Mexico City College and the historian Lorenzo Mayer asked me if I had thought of doing something to counteract the attacks on my person, because if in 2006 I was associated with Chávez, whom I do not know, it wasn’t too ridiculous to think that, looking toward the presidential elections of 2012, they would even reach the point of comparing me with Osama Bin Laden."

"The campaign against us has gone so far that many have taken as read rumors that I have a lot of money and luxury residences in the country and abroad. Some people, blinded by their right wing position, and others, totally manipulated, cannot accept that I am not corrupt and that I am fighting for ideals and principles, for me the most important thing in my life."

"However, it is a motive of pride that, in spite of their attempts to destroy us, they have not succeeded nor will they do so. Not only because we have moral authority, but because we, the women and men taking part in this fight, profess a profound love for our compatriots and, beyond treachery and in the face of all kinds of adversity, we maintain the firm conviction of constructing a more just, more humane and more egalitarian society."

In that final chapter López Obrador notes 10 objectives as a synthesis of his political thinking:

"1. To rescue the state and place it at the service of the people and of the nation.

"2. To democratize the mass media.

"3. To create a new economy.

"4. To combat monopolistic practices.

"5. To abolish taxation privileges.

"6. To exercise politics as an ethical imperative and to put republican austerity into practice.

"7. To strengthen the energy sector.

"8. To achieve food sovereignty.

"9. To establish a welfare state.

"10. To promote a new current of thought."

He asks: "What are we doing with the mafia?"

"…our question on what we are doing with the mafia, or rather, what we will do with the oligarchies, moves in another context and is based on our concept that Mexico’s principal problem is, precisely, the predominance of a handful of people who hold power and are responsible for the current national tragedy. And, as is evident, if we are pledged to establishing democracy and transforming the country, it is best to make it known from now what we would do with the oligarchies upon the triumph of our cause."

"…unfortunately, what has predominated in the country is greed and making money at all costs, without moral scruples of any kind. In other words, the culture of agandalle (ruthlessly self-seeking) and the maxim that ‘he who doesn’t cheat, doesn’t advance.’"

He ends on Page 205, with the following words:

"So, the revolution of conscience to construct the new Republic is underway. The task is a sublime one, nothing in the public terrain can be more important than the renaissance of Mexico. No other activity can produce more satisfaction than that of fighting for the wellbeing of others. It is a seal of pride to live with daring and moreover, to have the good fortune of making history."

His book is a valiant and irrefutable condemnation of the mafia who took over Mexico.

1. He does not mention the fact that a colossal drug market has been created in the United States and that its military industry supplies the most sophisticated weapons, which have converted Mexico into the first victim of a bloody war in which more than 5,000 young Mexicans are dying every year. Although I understand that a man who is incessantly touring the most isolated municipalities of the country could not tackle that matter. However, for my part, I consider it a duty to remind the Mexican people that this problem is added to the facts noted in López Obrador’s courageous condemnation.

2. Neither does he put on record the fact that climate change has become a colossal danger to the survival of the species, that it is in fact already creating extremely grave problems like the one that Russia is currently suffering, where a the number of victims of heat and smoke from the fires it is provoking in the forests and peat bogs, has more than doubled the number of people requiring funeral services in Moscow and other cities. Mexico is precisely the country where the future Climate Change Summit and many other activities related to it will take place.

3. He omits any reference to the imminent risk of a nuclear war, which could make our species disappear. However, it is fair to note that on May 24, 2010, when López Obrador completed his book, the United Nations Security Council had not adopted Resolution 1929 of June 9, 2010, ordering the inspection of Iranian merchant ships and creating a situation from which it can no longer escape.

Nevertheless, López Obrador will be the person with the greatest moral and political authority in Mexico when the system collapses and, with it, the empire. His contribution to the battle to avert President Obama unleashing that war will be of great value.

I shall continue tomorrow.

Fidel Castro Ruz

August 11, 2010

9:53 p.m.

Translated by Granma International

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nasrallah charges Israel with being behind Hariri assassination

The leader of Lebanese Hezbollah, Hasan Nasrallah, has charged that contrary to an expected UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon report that will blame Hezbollah for the February 14, 2005 bomb assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, he has Israeli spy plane evidence that shows the Israelis were closely monitoring Hariri's route on the day he was killed in Beirut.

WMR has previously reported that it was Mossad, along with CIA contract operatives in Lebanon, that carried out the assassination of Hariri.

A recent Israeli Lobby-backed campaign against former CNN Middle East editor Octavia Nasr for tweeting that she regretted the death of the late Lebanese Shi'a cleric Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, who died last month, was likely an attempt by the Israeli-influenced U.S. media, including CNN -- which employs former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) spokesman Wolf Blitzer as its Washington bureau chief -- to paint Fadlallah as a pro-Hezbollah militant prior to the issuance of the UN report blaming Hezbollah for Hariri's assassination. The same cabal of Israeli apologists in the media also recently attacked CNN's Middle East correspondent Ben Wedeman for his views on Israel.

AIPAC and its friends who overly-populate the senior editorial and production positions in America's news media wanted to put all the attention on Nasr and her admiration for Fadllallah to take attention off of what happened to Fadlallah on March 4, 1985.

In the Beirut suburb of Bir-al-Abid, a massive car bomb was detonated in an attempt to assassinate Fadlallah. Although Fadlallah escaped, the bomb, detonated by remote control, leveled several city blocks, killed 8 innocent bystanders, and injured more than 300 people. The perpetrators were the CIA aided by Mossad. The people of Lebanon have long memories and recall how the CIA and Mossad conspired to try to kill Fadllalah. In fact, the bombing attack on Fadlallah bore similarities to the car bombing assassinations of Hariri, Lebanese parliamentarian Elie Hobeika, and other leading Lebanese politicians during the past eight years.

None other than former CIA director Stansfield Turner spilled the beans on the CIA being behind the assassination attempt on Fadlallah on June 1, 1986, when, in an interview, he revealed that the United States had tried to kill Fadlallah with a car bomb.

The CIA, using its own case officers and Lebanese operatives, planned the assassination of Fadlallah with Mossad agents inside Lebanon. It is with this background of joint CIA-Mossad assassination teams active in Lebanon that Nasrallah bases his contention that it was not Hezbollah, but the Israelis, who assassinated Hariri. Nasrallah, for the time being, is not alleging U.S. involvement but based on what the UN Report contains, that may change.

Contrary to the propaganda organs of Israel's Lobby in the United states, particularly the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a Mossad contrivance, Fadlallah was generally an informed voice of reason in the Muslim world in the Middle East. The pro-Israel at any cost camp is entitled to their opinions, all of which are deeply flawed and racist in nature, but they are not entitled to their own facts. The facts are that Fadlallah, targeted for assassination by the CIA, Mossad, and Lebanese Christian right-wingers, supported women's rights, religious dialog and scholarship, anti-colonialism, peace for Jews in the Middle East, and opposed turning Lebanon into an Islamic republic. Compare Fadllalah's beliefs to those of Israeli racists like Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and their anti-Arab and anti-black mole inside the Obama White House, Rahm Emanuel, and Fadlallah does come off sounding like a Middle Eastern version of Nelson Mandela.

The CIA under William Casey began tilting the agency in the direction of cooperating with Mossad and eclipsing the "Arabists" in the agency. The 1981 appointment by Casey of his friend Max Hugel, a pro-Israeli who was later enmeshed in improper stock transactions and problematic links to Israeli intelligence, as deputy director for operations at Langley, allowed for the promotion of officials who were biased toward Israel.

A formerly Secret Director of Central Intelligence memorandum, dated June 24, 1982, for Casey, prepared by an obviously pro-Israeli National Intelligence Officer (NIO) in the Near Eastern/South Asia Division for a briefing on June 25 for Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Deputy Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, took a swipe at the CIA's "Arabists."

At the time, Lebanon was mired in civil war and there were demands that Israel withdraw its forces from Beirut and their replacement by international and Lebanese forces. The NIO was looking for a "token" Israeli pullback to allow for "Arab regimes" to claim they influenced the United States in bringing it about. The memo indicates that the major regime to benefit from the duplicity of a token Israeli pullback was Saudi Arabia.

The NIO then writes of West Beirut, a stronghold of Hezbollah: "A move on West Beirut by the Israelis is obviously not in our wider interests. I personally feel it would not be totally cataclysmic, but many Arabists [emphasis added] disagree. If it occurs, it may not initially be the all-out bloody advance being discussed, but rather: -- Isolation of the Shi'a areas from attack, and pressure on Shia leaders to police their own area. The content of recent Shia/Phalange contacts seem to indicate this may be possible."

But then in a reference to Palestinian refugee camps in the Beirut region that would, three months later, between September 16 and 18 September, be the sites of a bloody massacre of as many as 3500 Palestinian men, women, and children by Israeli-supervised Lebanese Christian militia members at the camps of Sabra and Chatilla.

The CIA NIO/NESA memo states that a move by Israelis into West Beirut could lead to an "attack on the Palestinian camps (largely denuded of civilians) and advance to the Mazra' artea on the edge of the Beirut city center." Three months later, the "largely denuded" camps of civilian Palestinians would see as many as 3500 murdered by a joint Lebanese Christian-Israeli force. Evn the Israeli Kahan Commission charged the Israeli Defense Forces under then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon with "indirect" responsibility for the Sabra and Chatilla massacres. The goal of an Israeli move into West Beirut, as seen by the NIO/NESA, was "further compression of Palestinian/Leftist/regional Syrian elements into the remaining area of West Beirut." This would be followed by a token Israeli pullback to serve "our interests as well." The NIO/NESA hope was that Palestinian leaders (Arafat, Khalaf, and others) would exit the area clandestinely and not become "martyrs."

The memo also reports that President Reagan had an "acrimonious" meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin over the issue of Palestinian autonomy. The NIO/NESA said that Reagan pressured Begin "hard on a wider scenario for Palestinian autonomy than he now envisages." The NIO/NESA reports he discussed the stormy Reagan-Begin meeting with "the local Mossad representative" and was told the written autonomy plan Begin left, was "pretty much the same restricted autonomy scheme already discussed by the Israelis."

Some thirty years later, the Israeli "scheme" continues to emphasize a "restricted autonomy" plan for the Palestinians. And, unlike Reagan, Barack Obama has not lifted one finger to pressure the Israelis and insists on keeping a chief Mossad asset as his chief of staff.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Tears of Gaza Must Be Our Tears

by Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges made these remarks Thursday night in New York City at a fundraiser for sponsoring a U.S. boat to break the blockade of Gaza. More information can be found at

When I lived in Jerusalem I had a friend who confided in me that as a college student in the United States she attended events like these, wrote up reports and submitted them to the Israel consulate for money. It would be naive to assume this Israeli practice has ended. So, I want first tonight to address that person, or those persons, who may have come to this event for the purpose of reporting on it to the Israeli government.

I would like to remind them that it is they who hide in darkness. It is we who stand in the light. It is they who deceive. It is we who openly proclaim our compassion and demand justice for those who suffer in Gaza. We are not afraid to name our names. We are not afraid to name our beliefs. And we know something you perhaps sense with a kind of dread. As Martin Luther King said, the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice, and that arc is descending with a righteous fury that is thundering down upon the Israeli government.

You may have the bulldozers, planes and helicopters that smash houses to rubble, the commandos who descend from ropes on ships and kill unarmed civilians on the high seas as well as in Gaza, the vast power of the state behind you. We have only our hands and our hearts and our voices. But note this. Note this well. It is you who are afraid of us. We are not afraid of you. We will keep working and praying, keep protesting and denouncing, keep pushing up against your navy and your army, with nothing but our bodies, until we prove that the force of morality and justice is greater than hate and violence. And then, when there is freedom in Gaza, we will forgive ... you. We will ask you to break bread with us. We will bless your children even if you did not find it in your heart to bless the children of those you occupied. And maybe it is this forgiveness, maybe it is the final, insurmountable power of love, which unsettles you the most.

And so tonight, a night when some seek to name names and others seek to hide names, let me do some naming. Let me call things by their proper names. Let me cut through the jargon, the euphemisms we use to mask human suffering and war crimes. “Closures” mean heavily armed soldiers who ring Palestinian ghettos, deny those trapped inside food or basic amenities—including toys, razors, chocolate, fishing rods and musical instruments—and carry out a brutal policy of collective punishment, which is a crime under international law. “Disputed land” means land stolen from the Palestinians. “Clashes” mean, almost always, the killing or wounding of unarmed Palestinians, including children. “Jewish neighborhoods in the West Bank” mean fortress-like compounds that serve as military outposts in the campaign of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. “Targeted assassinations” mean extrajudicial murder. “Air strikes on militant bomb-making posts” mean the dropping of huge iron fragmentation bombs from fighter jets on densely crowded neighborhoods that always leaves scores of dead and wounded, whose only contact with a bomb was the one manufactured in the United States and given to the Israeli Air Force as part of our complicity in the occupation. “The peace process” means the cynical, one-way route to the crushing of the Palestinians as a people.

These are some names. There are others. Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish in the late afternoon of Jan. 16, 2009, had a pair of Israeli tank shells rip through a bedroom in his Gaza apartment, killing three of his daughters—Bessan, Mayar and Aya—along with a niece, Noor.

“I have the right to feel angry,” says Abuelaish. “But I ask, ‘Is this the right way?’ So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is I shall not hate.”

“Whom to hate?” asks the 55-year-old gynecologist, who was born a Palestinian refugee and raised in poverty. “My Israeli friends? My Israeli colleagues? The Israeli babies I have delivered?”

The Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali wrote this in his poem “Revenge”:

At times ... I wish

I could meet in a duel

the man who killed my father

and razed our home,

expelling me


a narrow country.

And if he killed me,

I’d rest at last,

and if I were ready—

I would take my revenge!


But if it came to light,

when my rival appeared,

that he had a mother

waiting for him,

or a father who’d put

his right hand over

the heart’s place in his chest

whenever his son was late

even by just a quarter-hour

for a meeting they’d set—

then I would not kill him,

even if I could.


Likewise ... I

would not murder him

if it were soon made clear

that he had a brother or sisters

who loved him and constantly longed to see him.

Or if he had a wife to greet him

and children who

couldn’t bear his absence

and whom his gifts would thrill.

Or if he had

friends or companions,

neighbors he knew

or allies from prison

or a hospital room,

or classmates from his school …

asking about him

and sending him regards.


But if he turned

out to be on his own—

cut off like a branch from a tree—

without a mother or father,

with neither a brother nor sister,

wifeless, without a child,

and without kin or neighbors or friends,

colleagues or companions,

then I’d add not a thing to his pain

within that aloneness—

not the torment of death,

and not the sorrow of passing away.

Instead I’d be content

to ignore him when I passed him by

on the street—as I

convinced myself

that paying him no attention

in itself was a kind of revenge.

And if these words are what it means to be a Muslim, and I believe it does, name me too a Muslim, a follower of the prophet, peace be upon him.

The boat to Gaza will be named “The Audacity of Hope.” But these are not Barack Obama’s words. These are the words of my friend the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. They are borrowed words. And Jerry Wright is not afraid to speak the truth, not afraid to tell us to stop confusing God with America. “We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands [killed] in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,” Rev. Wright said. “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”

Or the words of Edward Said:

Nothing in my view is more reprehensible than those habits of mind in the intellectual that induce avoidance, that characteristic turning away from a difficult and principled position which you know to be the right one, but which you decide not to take. You do not want to appear too political; you are afraid of seeming controversial; you want to keep a reputation for being balanced, objective, moderate; your hope is to be asked back, to consult, to be on a board or prestigious committee, and so to remain within the responsible mainstream; someday you hope to get an honorary degree, a big prize, perhaps even an ambassadorship.

For an intellectual these habits of mind are corrupting par excellence. If anything can denature, neutralize, and finally kill a passionate intellectual life it is the internalization of such habits. Personally I have encountered them in one of the toughest of all contemporary issues, Palestine, where fear of speaking out about one of the greatest injustices in modern history has hobbled, blinkered, muzzled many who know the truth and are in a position to serve it. For despite the abuse and vilification that any outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights and self-determination earns for him or herself, the truth deserves to be spoken, represented by an unafraid and compassionate intellectual.

And some of the last words of Rachel Corrie to her parents:

I’m witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide and I’m really scared, and questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature. This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore. I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my coworkers. But I also want this to stop. Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world. This is not at all what the people here asked for when they came into this world. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me. This is not what I meant when I looked at Capital Lake and said: “This is the wide world and I’m coming to it.” I did not mean that I was coming into a world where I could live a comfortable life and possibly, with no effort at all, exist in complete unawareness of my participation in genocide. More big explosions somewhere in the distance outside. When I come back from Palestine, I probably will have nightmares and constantly feel guilty for not being here, but I can channel that into more work. Coming here is one of the better things I’ve ever done. So when I sound crazy, or if the Israeli military should break with their racist tendency not to injure white people, please pin the reason squarely on the fact that I am in the midst of a genocide which I am also indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible.

And if this is what it means to be a Christian, and I believe it does, to speak in the voice of Jeremiah Wright, Edward Said or Rachel Corrie, to remember and take upon us the pain and injustice of others, then name me a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.

And what of the long line of Jewish prophets that run from Jeremiah, Isaiah and Amos to Hannah Arendt, who reminded the world when the state of Israel was founded that the injustice meted out to the Jews could not be rectified by an injustice meted out to the Palestinians, what of our own prophets, Noam Chomsky or Norman Finkelstein, outcasts like all prophets, what of Uri Avnery or the Israeli poet Aharon Shabtai, who writes in his poem “Rypin,” the Polish town his father escaped from during the Holocaust, these words:

These creatures in helmets and khakis,

I say to myself, aren’t Jews,

In the truest sense of the word. A Jew

Doesn’t dress himself up with weapons like jewelry,

Doesn’t believe in the barrel of a gun aimed at a target,

But in the thumb of the child who was shot at—

In the house through which he comes and goes,

Not in the charge that blows it apart.

The coarse soul and iron first

He scorns by nature.

He lifts his eyes not to the officer, or the soldier

With his finger on the trigger—but to justice,

And he cries out for compassion.

Therefore, he won’t steal land from its people

And will not starve them in camps.

The voice calling for expulsion

Is heard from the hoarse throat of the oppressor—

A sure sign that the Jew has entered a foreign country

And, like Umberto Saba, gone into hiding within his own city.

Because of voices like these, father

At age sixteen, with your family, you fled Rypin;

Now here Rypin is your son.

And if to be Jew means this, and I believe it does, name me a Jew. Name us all Muslims and Christians and Jews. Name us as human beings who believe that when one of us suffers all of us suffer, that we never have to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for us all, that the tears of the mother in Gaza are our tears, that the wails of the bloodied children in Al Shifa Hospital are the wails of our own children.

Let me close tonight with one last name. Let me name those who send these tanks and fighter jets to bomb the concrete hovels in Gaza with families crouching, helpless, inside, let me name those who deny children the right to a childhood and the sick a right to care, those who torture, those who carry out assassinations in hotel rooms in Dubai and on the streets of Gaza City, those who deny the hungry food, the oppressed justice and foul the truth with official propaganda and state lies. Let me call them, not by their honorific titles and positions of power, but by the name they have earned for themselves by draining the blood of the innocent into the sands of Gaza. Let me name them for who they are: terrorists.

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.