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"We don't seek empires. We're not imperialistic. We never have been. I
can't imagine why you'd even ask the question." Donald Rumsfeld,
questioned by an al-Jazeera correspondent, April 29, 2003.
"No one can now doubt the word of America," George W. Bush, State of
the Union, January 20, 2004.
The Miami Herald published a pretty decent editorial (i.e.,
opinion of the editorial staff) about the closing of al-Hawza -- Anti-American
news silenced in Iraq
Send props to HeraldEd@herald.com
In some circles, much is being made of revelations that
Zelikow, currently executive director of the 9/11 commission, made some
remarks that the Iraq war was about defending Israel (back when he was
still on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board):
attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I'll tell you what I
think the real threat (is) and actually has been since 1990 -- it's the
threat against Israel,” Zelikow told a crowd at the University of
Virginia on Sep. 10, 2002, speaking on a panel of foreign policy
experts assessing the impact of 9/11 and the future of the war on the
al-Qaeda terrorist organization.
threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don't care
deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American
government doesn't want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it
is not a popular sell,” said Zelikow.
Inter-Press Service has an article about it here
It quotes Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies, saying
"Those of us
speaking about it sort of routinely referred to the protection of
Israel as a component." She then goes on to suggest that Zelikow, who
is closely tied to the Bush administration,
has just validated one of the staple points of the antiwar movement's
Personally, I disagree. I respect Phyllis Bennis's work
tremendously (especially her magisterial "Calling
the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today's U.N.
"), but this
doesn't make sense to me.
Psychologically speaking, it is true, I think, that protection of
Israel may have loomed large in the minds of many of the war planners.
But, logically speaking, this is no more meaningful than the idea that
invading Iraq was protecting the United States.
Israel doesn't need protection from a military threat. Iraq was no more
likely to brave Israel's at least 200 nuclear missiles than it was to
brave the United States's 6000 ICBMs. In 1973, the United States did a
major re-supply of Israel when it was heavily pressed by Egypt and
Syria; this was to keep Israel from using its nuclear arsenal to defend
itself. Now, of course, the Arab nations couldn't even imperil Israel
conventionally; the only ones with modern technology are completely
integrated into the U.S. military-imperial sphere.
If it was to protect Israel from Saddam's payments to Palestinians who
died in the fight against Israel, then certainly Israel has always
maintained that Syria and Iran are a much bigger problem with regard to
state funding of terrorism.
I think it's seriously misleading to pretend that Israel has any
problem" except that stemming from the occupation. At the latest, that
problem ended when Israel made peace with Egypt.
The main problem is that this analysis that Israel is the primary
consideration (not what Bennis said, but it is what Zelikow said) is
seized on by people who want to believe that the occupation of Iraq is
not in U.S. imperial strategic interests but only in the interest of
For example, a recent CNN segment on anti-Semitism had this statement:
SAAD JAWAD, POLITICAL ANALYST: Whatever is
happening here in Iraq is not in the interest even of the United
States, this chaos and instability and security. In fact, it's in the
interest of Israel.
(Thanks to John Turri at Elenchus
Now, it's true that the fact that the occupation is going badly is not
in the interest of the United States. But the occupation itself, had it
been done properly, would have been very much in the long-term interest
the United States has had of controlling Middle East oil, which dates
back to the 1930's, certainly in a major way to the middle of World War
2. Why the chaos in Iraq is in Israel's interest is also unclear. In
fact, whatever economic benefits Israel may get from the occupation
also require stability.
Among those benefits for Israel are cheaper oil through the revival
of the Mosul-Haifa pipeline
and, presumably, the right of Israeli
corporations to do business in Iraq. These are small potatoes compared
to the cost of the war and also to the aid Israel already gets from the
United States -- and minuscule compared to what ExxonMobil and
ChevronTexaco would make in the long run if Iraq's oil was privatized.
All of this feeds into some desire many people have for not wanting to
see the United States as an imperial nation, at least not as a
deliberately imperial one -- just one that is misled by Israel.
Disclaimer: None of this is meant to deny the increasingly close
strategic alignment between the United States and Israel driven by the
neoconservative vision of U.S. imperial policy. I'm just addressing a
in the Guardian
reports that Louis-Jodel
Chamblain, formerly No.2 in the paramilitary Front for Advancement and
Progress in Haiti (FRAPH), which killed thousands in the early 90's
when Haiti was under military rule, and more recently an agent of U.S.
policy when he helped lead forces that overthrew Aristide, has
threatened to kill Aristide if he returns to Haiti.
The same article also mentions that the U.S.-and-France-installed
"interim government" (which the prime minister, Gerard Latortue, says
could last two years) has reneged on earlier commitments and offered no
place to the Lavalas Family Party. Only 80-90% of Haiti
supports Lavalas, so if they were included the government wouldn't fit
the Bush administration's definition of democracy.
in Fallujah. A mob shot four foreign contractors,
dragged their corpses through the streets, then hanged them from a
bridge, while chanting, "Fallujah is the graveyard of Americans."
This Saturday, I'll be leaving for Iraq. We'll be driving by Fallujah
very fast on our way into Baghdad.
Fallujah has been one of the biggest hotbeds of resistance. This is
usually attributed in the Western media to its being especially
pro-Saddam. It is true that it was on the pro-Saddam side, but everyone
I talked to on a previous trip in Iraq confirmed my original analysis
of this: it dates from an incident on April 28, in which U.S. troops
fired into a crowd of nonviolent protesters, killing 15 (another 3 were
killed on April 30). They claimed there was firing from the crowd, but
Human Rights Watch investigated
and discredited this claim.
This set off a cycle of escalating tit-for-tat violence to the point
that we see now. Not only was that killing an atrocity and a severe
violation of human rights, it wasn't exactly smart from the point of
view of controlling the country.
Kaus responded promptly when I notified him of the
mistake about Clarke and has removed it from his site.
Slate columnist Mickey Kaus once again demonstrates the
legendary background work
And if I read Newsweek's Isikoff
and Hosenball correctly, Clarke also came forward with his
scenario of how 9/11 could have been prevented only after his
book went to press. It's not an implausible
scenario--involving getting two hijackers' descriptions on "America's
Most Wanted"--but the fact that Clarke didn't even lay it out in time
for it to make his book weakens his claim that he would have come up
with it back in the summer of 2001 if only the Bushies had viewed the
Al Qaeda threat as more "urgent." ...
Actually, the "America's Most Wanted" idea is on page 24
book. Is it too much to ask that Kaus and people like him actually read
Clarke's book before they comment
Check out this headline from the Times -- Angola's
Plan to Turn Away Altered Food Imperils Aid
. Two million Angolans,
mostly war refugees, need to be fed by the World Food Program. 3/4 of
this comes from the United States, most in the form of GM corn and
Angola, like many other southern African nations in recent years, has
concerns about donated GM foods. Zambia barred them outright; Angola is
taking a milder position, just asking for the grains to be milled, so
that there is no chance they will germinate and contaminate the local
flora. Unfortunately, because of the emergency nature of this current
situation and the
small milling capacity in Angola, this will result in serious delays.
The Times says the United States has "accused governments of placing
political and theoretical concerns above the survival of their own
people." Nowhere in the article does it say that anyone accuses the
United States of taking advantage of humanitarian emergencies to insert
GM crops and take over the markets of other countries, despite the very
legitimate concerns about those crops.
Whenever this issue is covered in the U.S. media (and the Times
headline is no exception to this), it's always presented as the fault
of the African nations. Extra!, FAIR's publication, had an excellent article
about a year ago.
And what are those legitimate concerns? The primary problem with GM
crops is not whether they're safe to eat, it's that it can be
impossible to keep them from spreading and contaminating other crops.
This can certainly lead to consumption problems -- for example,
StarLink, a strain of corn that was engineered to produce a protein
toxic to the corn borer, was approved for use in animal feed but not
for human consumption. It spread, however, and contaminated corn
produced for humans, ending up
in Taco Bell's taco shells
. But the main thing is that nobody can
predict the multiple, proliferating, possibly synergistic effects of
piling up genetic modification after modification in different crops
that exist in the same ecosystem.
The other problem for non-corporate producers is that companies, like
Monsanto, that produce GM crops have aggressively required farmers who
use them to pay royalties, even if the farmers didn't want to use them
but are forced to because of contamination they could not control.
Courts have sometimes
that this is legitimate. A sensible legal system, presumably,
would hold that the farmers are the ones with a right to compensation
because of the contamination, but then corporate producers hire more
It's quite understandable that poor countries like Zambia and Angola
don't want to be subject to perhaps perpetual payment of royalties
because of a single famine crisis that could easily be alleviated by
donation of non-GM food.
more countries have joined NATO
-- the three Baltic republics,
Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Coverage of this issue in
the United States tends to leave one of two impressions. Either it's
just meaningless expansion of a treaty or it's building the glorious
European coalition of the civilized to fight terrorism.
Europeans understand well that NATO expansion is a way for the United
States to gain the dominant role in politically influencing/controlling
the new republics of eastern Europe, one-upping the powers in the area,
like France and Germany (and to a lesser extent Russia). Combine this
with EU expansion, and you have a substantial political voice of the
United States in the EU, which is the only global formation that can
even dream of rivalling the US in power. Vive la new Europe!
Apparently, there's still a presidential race going on. And
CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll
shows Bush now leading what's-his-name by
51 to 47 percent -- after all of Clarke's revelations and his
near-constant media coverage.
The article linked above explains why. Apparently, a bunch of idiotic,
badly done campaign commercials painting Kerry as a liberal have more
effect on the public than a long-time insider's claims that had the
Bush administration not lowered the level of vigilance 9/11 might have
So Bush and Rice have decided to compromise the critical
principle of separation of powers in order to let Rice
testify under oath
in a public hearing before the 9/11 commission.
And it was just the other day (Sunday) that Rice was so earnest about
the need to uphold the Constitution by making sure she was not put
So, after mounting public pressure, the administration caved. The
result will be less than impressive. My prediction: Rice will reveal
Friedman Watch. It has not escaped my attention that most of
the blogosphere is at its best in snarky analysis/criticism of
individual journalists or officials, dissecting their statements and
showing what fools they are. I figured I would give it a try.
If you're going to snark, Thomas Friedman, the New York Times foreign
affairs columnist, is sort of a cliche as targets go, but it's because
he's such a damn good target. So I'm inaugurating a new feature of
Empire Notes. Friedman comes
out with columns on Sundays and Thursdays. Every Monday I'll see what
inanity he's come up with in the past week. We'll see if it works out.
Friedman's latest is called "Awaking
to a Dream
" (although for him awaking from
a dream would be
apposite). In it, he boasts about not having read anything about the
9/11 commission hearings. He actually says something half-sensible:
It's because I made up my mind about
event a long time ago: It was
not a failure of intelligence, it was a failure of imagination. We
could have had perfect intelligence on all the key pieces of 9/11, but
the fact is we lacked — for the very best of reasons — people with evil
enough imaginations to put those pieces together and realize that 19
young men were going to hijack four airplanes for suicide attacks
against our national symbols and kill as many innocent civilians as
they could, for no stated reason at all.
There was a failure of imagination, just not the one he
imaginations are hardly lacking in the great minds that thought up
"limited" nuclear exchanges, "dirty war," the Phoenix program,
the School of the Americas, and structural adjustment. The problem is
that nobody could quite imagine that the violence could flow the other
way and that the defense establishment would have to defend us.
He goes on to talk about how the good guys should show some
imagination, concluding with the asinine idea that a Democratic
presidential candidate, to be really forward-thinking, has to ask a
conservative Republican warmonger (John McCain) to be his running mate.
But his column of the previous Thursday, No Vote
, has much better stuff. We are treated to his usual
profound insights (al-Qaeda doesn't do exit polls, an extra thousand
Europeans in Iraq would "make al-Qaeda weep"), but as a special treat
we also get this historical tidbit:
To answer that question I need to draw
analogy with a different era
of Spanish history: the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939, where all
the big powers of that day tested out the weapons they would employ in
World War II.
Friedman should try cracking a history book.
If Germany and Italy were the only "big powers of that day," he would
be right. The Soviet Union, however, supplied only minimal amounts of
light weapons. As far as Britain and France went, the weapon they
tried out, which was then tried again to such good effect when Hitler
took the Sudetenland, was appeasement. Although maybe"appeasement" is
not quite the right word, since the ruling groups in both societies
clearly favored Franco and Hitler because they would keep the Reds
down. The weapon the United States tried out was having its major
corporations supply Franco's fascists while trying to keep anything
from getting to the Republic.
At long last, I've finished Richard Clarke's instant
bestseller. Interesting stuff, and it's clear that Clarke is not who
anybody would want him to be -- he's a military hardliner, strongly
"tilted" toward Israel, and a big advocate of bombing the hell out of
things. More on this later, but for now a fascinating and revealing
quote from p. 74 of the book. The setting is the 1993 attack on the
World Trade Center. Clarke has just been called by his boss, NSA Tony
Lake, and is scrambling to find out what happened.
My next call was to the Situation
something just get bombed?"
"Well, something just exploded, we don't know if it was a bomb, sir.
The World Trade Center," a young Navy officer replied. "I know you
handle terrorism, sir, and we're supposed to tell you when something
happens that might be terrorism, but do you want to know when things
happen in the United States too? Do you guys handle domestic crises
The notion that terrorism might occur in the United States was
completely new to us then. The National Security Council staff, which I
had just joined in 1992, had only ever concerned itself with foreign
policy, defense, and intelligence issues.
Doesn't that say it all? Clarke is in charge of
working for the National Security
Council, and this Navy
doesn't know if an attack on the United States is within his purview.
For almost 50 years, at that point, "national security" had meant
destroying the security of other countries, not defending the security
of the United States.
Even while writing this, Clarke has the same blinders on as the rest of
the "national security" establishment, saying that the NSF had only
concerned itself with "foreign policy, defense, and intelligence
issues." Amazing how divorced their concept of "defense" can get from
the vernacular -- ever since the creation of the Department of Defense
in 1947, "defense" has meant "offense" and nothing more.
Reading this book, seeing the hidebound mentalities of people who were
just used to committing aggression against other countries, never
defending against it, and noting also the phenomenally unimaginative
bureaucratic turf-defending mindset, it becomes much easier for me to
understand that such a colossal failure of vigilance could happen on
has shut down al-Hawza
, a radical Shi'a weekly associated with
Moqtada al-Sadr, the young firebrand who has staked out a far more
anti-occupation position than the mainstream Sistani and colleagues.
Al-Sadr has support throughout the country, but the heart of it is in
Thawra, a sprawling mostly Shi'a slum area in Baghdad. He has built
support partly by using the reputations of his father and uncle, both
of them ayatollahs who
were killed by Saddam Hussein.
According to the Times, the CPA accused the paper of "printing lies
that incited violence." I expect the CPA to shut down the Times next
for running Judith Miller's stories about Iraq's WMD.
At the same time, apparently, "the letter outlining the reasons for
taking action against Al Hawza did not cite any material that directly
advocated violence." So saying that the occupying forces are committing
crimes is inciting violence and therefore is potential grounds for
The CPA says the paper can reopen in 60 days, but editors say that
they're basically out of business -- evicted from their offices, with
Some of the claims the paper printed were ridiculous, like the one that
U.S. forces were responsible for a car-bombing that killed over 50
Iraqi police recruits. No more ridiculous, of course, than so many of
the claims printed in American newspapers in the run-up to the Iraq
war. And you don't shut down a paper because you claim it's saying
things that are untrue. The claim that we are bringing democracy to
Iraq has become a bad joke.
Also, in pragmatic terms, this is idiotic. Shutting down al-Hawza
doesn't send a signal to other Iraqis that its claims are wrong, it
sends a signal that you're afraid of its claims -- rather the opposite
of the intended effect. All Iraqis are speculating about the source of
the phenomenally bloody bombings that have been rocking Iraq. There's
probably no one who hasn't heard someone claim that the Ashura
bombings, for example, were CIA or Mossad (of course, many Iraqis will
take such a claim with a grain of salt, whether or not it comes from a
The Americans may be viewing Iraq as a hotter, drier version of the
States. Here, there's little direct public discussion and if you can
keep an issue out of the media then it doesn't exist and no one talks
about it. In Iraq, they are talking about these issues, they can't be
stopped from talking about them, and the United States has just lent
credence to their speculations.
article in the Times
, about the global AIDS crisis. It actually
gives you enough background to make sense of the question.
The U.N. Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria is funded at
roughly 20% of what it needs -- Kofi Annan had called for $7-10 billion
per year, but it's getting $1.6. Of 6 million people in the "world's
poorest nations" who need treatment (this sounds like an underestimate
to me), only 300,000 are getting it. (If you do the math here, it seems
like, even if you limit yourself to treatment and don't spend on
prevention, Annan underestimated the cost by a factor of four, but this
doesn't take into account possible economies of scale, among other
things. So I'm sure $10 billion is on the low side, but how low is
Somehow, this is all happening despite Bush's great rhetorical
commitment to spend $15 billion on AIDS over the next five years. But,
surprise surprise, he only asked for $200 million to be given to the UN
fund last year and Congress had to up it to $550 million (still less
than a third of what US should contribute if you assessed countries
proportionally to their GDP).
And, bigger surprise, while everybody else is buying as cheap as
possible, from companies like the Indian Cipla, the U.S. money is all
going to the pharmaceutical giants, even if they have to pay twice as
much or more for the same drugs.
Anyway, the article gives you enough background so that you can figure
out that Bush's great AIDS initiative, to the extent that it wasn't
just a bald-faced lie for rhetorical effect (like his job training,
mission to Mars, you name it), was an attempt to do two things:
undermine the UN Global AIDS Fund by setting up a parallel source with
greater funding and give guaranteed largesse to Big Pharma while
simultaneously preserving this market for them, so that perhaps some
time in the future they could shut down the independents like Cipla
This politicking with what is currently the biggest global catastrophe,
just in terms of human cost, is disgusting but expected -- where is the
issue that the Bush administration won't exploit for cheap power
politics while padding the bank accounts of the wealthy?
The only other thing worth noting is that it takes a great deal of
global collusion to keep donations to the Fund so low. The European
countries are still abiding by the unwritten rule that nobody can
upstage the United States by giving a larger absolute amount (they
generally give at a much higher per capita rate). I'm not one of those
who thinks of the European nations as the founts of all morality (to
say the least), but even on the grounds of enlightened self-interest
why don't they just forget about how much the United States does or
doesn't give and allocate more than a pittance to deal with this plague
that has already killed 22 million people with no end in sight?
As many of you know (because you came to Empire Notes from
there), Michael Albert of Znet
just set up a blogging area
biggest feature is a "blog" by Noam Chomsky called Turning the Tide
-- I use the
scare quotes because it's actually a selection of Chomsky's responses
to readers in the Znet forums. Doesn't quite have the feel of a blog,
but it's good to see those responses getting out to a wider audience.
In Chomsky's latest
, he's responding to someone advancing the standard
humanitarian/liberation argument for the war on Iraq. At one point, he
invasion of Iraq brought two murderous regimes to an end: the sanctions
regime, and the rule of Saddam Hussein.
Based on my observations when I was in Baghdad in
January, and on some
press reports since then, I think it's misleading to say that the
sanctions regime was ended.
It is true in a purely technical sense. There are no longer any legal
restrictions on imports and huge
amounts of consumer goods are flooding the markets of Iraq. In a more
meaningful sense, however, the sanctions continue and have actually
been substantially worsened.
Let's not think of "sanctions" as some specific legal regime
controlling Iraq's trade. Let's look at the effects. In the last few
years before the war, what the sanctions on Iraq amounted to were a
situation in which there was minimal provision of basic government
services (garbage collection, electrical power, potable
water, health care in government hospitals, education) and the revenues
of Iraq were externally controlled. Iraq's oil revenues went into a
U.N.-controlled escrow account
in New York, there were massive bureaucratic impediments to its
disbursement, and the United States often denied or held up essential
contracts, especially for industrial and infrastructure reconstruction.
Because of this, you had high unemployment, high infant mortality,
minimal access to medical care, etc.
After the war, Iraq's revenues are still externally controlled. Now,
the escrow account is controlled by the United States.
No matter how bad the bureaucratic impediments under the Oil for Food
program, there was at least a government in Iraq that would make plans
to use its
oil revenues to buy various goods, to do reconstruction, and so on;
now, there is virtually nothing. The "government of Iraq,' the adjunct
of the CPA, has no authority or control over any substantial amount of
funds. Allocations are made by the U.S. government, a foreign
authority, and most of them go
to companies like Halliburton and Bechtel, which use their cost-plus
contracts to "study
problems instead of fixing them.
As a result, the level of services provided in Iraq is actually lower
than before. Hospitals get less in the way of supplies and can
deliver less care
than before the war. When I was in Baghdad in
January, there was no garbage collection. Unemployment is far higher
than it was before the war (most estimates run at about 60%).
Thus, Iraq is under something very much like the sanctions, just worse.
The "murderous regime" has not ended and will not until Iraqis have
control over their oil revenue.
Pretty dramatic news. The 15-nation Caribbean Community does
not intend to recognize
the U.S.-created govdernment in Haiti. A few
, the 53-nation African Union called the removal of
Aristide "unconstitutional." So there's at least 68 countries that
agree -- unfortunate that the great proponents of "democracy" have no
time for global democracy.
The Caricom is calling for the U.N. General Assembly to investigate
Aristide's removal -- they specifically don't want the Security Council
to do it because of the threat of a veto by the United States or France.
Early reports that Aristide would have asylum in South Africa may be wrong
The debate over whether Aristide was kidnapped or not remains as silly
as ever. Personally, I know who to trust when it's the Bush
administration versus anyone -- Richard Clarke, David Kay,
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Hugo Chavez, ... The point is this, however:
the fact that Aristide contests it means that if he ever did want to
step down he doesn't now.
Since it was purely the threat of force and no legitimate process that
removed him, whether or not his decision was "voluntary" (and, again,
there's little doubt, especially since members of Aristide's American
personal security forces have corroborated his story), the best you can
say about his "resignation" was that it was under coercion. Unless he
abandons his claim to be the head of state of Haiti, there's no
legitimate way to contest it. That's just common sense.
This article, "The
Occupation: U.S. Officials Fashion Legal Basis to Keep Force in Iraq
in today's Times should be mandatory reading for everyone. It lays out
in some detail the way in which the United States will keep control of
Iraq for the foreseeable future. In keeping with a common theme these
days, it will surprise no one who has been reading the work of the left
and the antiwar movement; it's just that the people putting forth this
analysis here are Bremer and his aides.
Apparently, some of Bremer's aides just did some heavy reading and
, passed in October. This resolution, they now realize, gives a
legal basis for continuing the occupation even after the so-called
"transfer of sovereignty." In fact, when Spain's Prime-Minister-elect
Rodriguez Zapatero said he would withdraw Spanish troops unless a
legitimate U.N. authorization was given, my first thought was that he
was unaware of 1511. As far as I can tell from re-reading the text,
Bremer's interpretation of 1511 is correct.
A lovely quote from the article:
Showing his confidence that the
approach was grounded in international law, L. Paul Bremer III, the
chief of the occupation authority, issued an executive order this week
specifying that the newly formed Iraqi armed forces be placed under the
operational control of the American commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S.
Sanchez, who has been named to lead American and allied forces after
the transfer of political authority to the Iraqis.
And another one:
The Americans hope they will not be
rely on a legalistic argument. They plan to negotiate with the
interim Iraqi government in place after June 30 for the kind of "status
of forces" agreement the United States has in dozens of nations where
its forces are deployed.
But if negotiations snag - many Iraqi political leaders are often
hostile to the foreign military presence - the Americans believe that
they will be able to fall back on the United Nations resolution.
Translation: The U.S. is in Iraq and will continue its
occupation (which includes little perks like extraterritoriality --
American soldiers are not subject to Iraqi courts) in the current
manner whether the new "sovereign" Iraqi government likes it or not.
But that's not all. There's more. The article quotes from Bremer's Executive
, which sets up the new Iraqi Armed Forces. Section 4,
clause 2, says,
All trained elements of the IAF, to
the ICDC when
transferred to the IAF, shall at all times be under the operational
the commander of coalition forces for the purpose of conducting
operations and providing other support ...
Here, the ICDC is the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, created
Another lovely quote from the article:
Top aides to Mr. Bremer have said in
days that the American troops will act as the most important guarantor
of American influence. In addition, they said, the $18.4 billion voted
for Iraqi reconstruction last fall by the United States Congress -
including more than $2 billion for the new Iraqi forces - will give the
Americans a decisive voice.
You can't be much clearer than that, can you? The
presence of U.S.
troops plus the complete control over Iraqi funds (don't forget that
it's not just the U.S. congressional appropriation -- UNSCR 1483 also
gives the United States control over Iraqi oil revenues) will mean that
the new "sovereign" government has no freedom of
action. Perhaps they'll be able to decide what color to paint the
garbage trucks -- if municipal garbage collection ever resumes.
And, last but not least, the article shows the delicate sensitivity
Bremer's officials have to matters of sovereignty:
Another official said Iraqis could
claim that Iraq's sovereignty was compromised by having its troops
under American command when nations like Britain and Poland had placed
military contingents here under an American general. "There's no
sovereignty issue for them," the official said.
Of course, there's no difference between having British
troops on a specific mission in a foreign land subject to temporary
control by a U.S.
commander and having your own land occupied and your armed forces and
police (that's what the ICDC is -- it is responsible, among other
things, for "patrolling urban and rural areas") in your own land
to a foreign power.
There can't possibly be any debate about the goals of this occupation
article of a couple days ago says that the United States is
constructing 14 "enduring bases" in Iraq and that force levels are
expected to remain at 105-110,000 at least through 2006 (which, of
course, has been mentioned in many earlier news articles).
At the same time, the United States is cementing its rule over Iraq
through a little-noticed provision in the interim constitution (thanks
to blogger Nathan
for mentioning this first). Clause A of Article 26 says
Except as otherwise
provided in this Law, the laws in force in Iraq on 30 June 2004 shall
remain in effect unless and until rescinded or amended by the Iraqi
Transitional Government in accordance with this Law.
The Iraqi Transitional Government will not come into
December 2004 and could be as late as the end of January 2005 (it
requires elections for the National Legislative Assembly). These laws
include the blatantly illegal Order 39, which allows for privatization
of a host of Iraqi companies (it excludes natural resources). Naomi
Klein's got a new
You can't really debate any longer whether a continuing military
occupation coupled with a closely held puppet government were the
primary goals of the war on Iraq. Personally, I've always maintained
that privatization of Iraq's oil is secondary to the political control
over the oil that comes from integrating Iraq very tightly into the
U.S. military-imperial network. But anyway, it's all in the papers. No
need to refer to the historical record, make inferences, draw
conclusions -- just open the newspaper.
Watched the first day of 9/11 commission testimony on CNN
yesterday. An interesting spectacle. We got to see, for example, noted
child-killer Bob Kerrey going ballistic on Madeleine Albright, William
Cohen, and Donald Rumsfeld (he handled Rumsfeld more gently than the
other two, unsurprisingly) about why they hadn't gone to war with
al-Qaeda or with Afghanistan earlier.
For me, however, the most interesting testimony came from Paul
Wolfowitz, in a completely offhand comment that came in the middle of
explaining why they didn't go to war with Afghanistan:
Senator Gorton, I fail to understand how
anything done in 2001 in Afghanistan would have
An absolutely obvious point, right? At the beginning of
hijackers were not in Afghanistan. Bomb Afghanistan all you want, you
couldn't have affected implementation of the 9/11 plan.
But what follows quite straightforwardly from this reasoning? Anything
done to Afghanistan right after the 9/11 attack couldn't have prevented
any potential further attack immediately afterward. If, as Wolfowitz
admits, even action eight months earlier in Afghanistan couldn't
prevent 9/11, then clearly action in Afghanistan had nothing to do with
any attack on the United States in the two or three months after 9/11.
What this means is that the war on Afghanistan could in no way be
justified as self-defense against an imminent attack. Even if you
thought the war was justified as self-defense in the long run, you
couldn't claim that the need was immediate. The UN Charter is very
clear that, whenever you have the time, you must submit questions of
war and peace to the deliberations of the Security Council. The only
exception is under ongoing attack or possibly under immediate threat of
attack, which doesn't give you time to go to the Security Council.
If the United States had gone to the Security Council, likelythe war
would have been approved; it did not, however.
Wolfowitz just admitted that even the legal case for the war on
Afghanistan is bogus.
This argument, as I said above, does not obviate the case for a war, if
the Security Council approved of it. For that, you have to add in the
other arguments -- primarily, the fact that the United States refused
to provide evidence to get an extradition agreement on bin Laden, and
the fact that the U.S. war plan was going to kill lots of civilians.
Tony Saca of El Salvador's right-wing ARENA party beat
Shafik Handal of the FMLN in a blowout
on Sunday, with 57% of the vote to Handal's 36%. Most observers had
expected that the result would be closer and would require a runoff
ARENA has won every presidential election since the 1992 ceasefire,
with results that, for once, are actually fairly well detailed in this LA
-- almost half the population cannot afford basic
nutrition and the richest 20% have 58.3% of the country's wealth,
compated to 2.4% for the bottom 20%.
In his concession speech, Handal said,
We don't congratulate Mr Saca,
because his vote has been achieved with
fear, lies and blackmail, and a vote with fear is a vote without
liberty. These methods aren't democratic and they aren't legitimate.
He's referring to some fairly heavy-handed
by Otto Reich and Roger Noriega, fomenters of a coup
in Haiti and a multi-staged coup attempt in Venezuela. From the website
of CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador):
U.S. intervention in the electoral campaign
early as June of
last year, when former Ambassador Rose Likins questioned the leftist
FMLN party’s commitment to democratic principles and accused its
leaders of celebrating the September 11 terrorist attacks. In February
2004, Assistant Secretary of Western Hemispheric Affairs for the U.S.
State Department, Roger Noriega, was in El Salvador where he canceled a
meeting with FMLN presidential candidate Schafik Hándal and then
called on Salvadorans to vote for someone who “shares our [U.S.] vision
A week before the election, Otto Reich gave a phone-in
(at ARENA headquarters), where he questioned the impact of an FMLN win
on "economic, commercial, and migratory relations
with the United States." More than a quarter of Salvadorean citizens
live in the United States and remittances from them make up about 16%
of El Salvador's economy. ARENA campaign commercials exploited this,
showing, among other things, a grandmother reading a letter from her
grandson in the United States, saying he could no longer send
remittances now that an FMLN government was in place.
In a quick search, of the four pillars of the aptly-misnamed National
Endowment for Democracy, only two claim any connection with El Salvador
-- the American Center for
International Labor Solidarity and the Center for International Private Enterprise.
The programs seem minor, though that can be hard to judge. If anyone
has more information on the NED in El Salvador, please email me. In any case, El
Salvador lost 75,000 people to the bloody Reagan-administration-backed
counterinsurgency in the 1980's and probably only requires a slight
hint of the consequences of displeasing Washington.
Tomorrow, it will be 24 years since the assassination of Archbishop
Oscar Arnulfo Romero. His murder was ordered by Roberto d'Aubuisson, a
graduate of our own School of the Americas, who later founded the ARENA
party -- this has been verified by a UN Truth
Commission established in 1992.
Twenty-four years later, the party of his killers is still in power.
Sorry for the long delay. I was finishing up some
non-EN-related writing over the past three days. More to come in a
moment, but a tidbit first from atrios
The Coalition Provisional Authority
has let its URL expire.
To anyone who hasn't been to Iraq, this would seem absurd beyond
belief. After all, the CPA is running an entire country. It is,
however, completely consonant with the negligence and lack of
government that I saw there. I went into a building that was set up to
be the State Company for Internet Services. This was in mid-January,
nine months into the occupation. This is no exaggeration: I couldn't
find a single computer in the whole building.
March 19, 2:10 pm
The General Accounting Office has just finished up a major
survey of misappropriation of funds
taken in by Iraq through oil
exports under the Oil for Food program. From 1997 through 2002, the GAO
claims, the Iraqi government took in $10.1 billion in addition to
listed OFF revenues that went into the U.N.-administered escrow account
-- $5.7 billion from oil sold outside the program and $4.4 billion from
surcharges placed on the oil and from a kickback scheme whereby the
Iraqi government would encourage foreign oil companies to buy from Iraq
at something like a 10 to 15% discount and then funnel about half of
that money back under the table.
There are many problems with the characterizations involved here. In
particular, concessional sales of oil to Jordan, which were technically
outside the OFF program but were winked at and allowed because of
Jordan's close relationship to the United States, are lumped in with
other "smuggling" revenues. Also, the claim that this money was just
appropriated by Saddam and his cronies is silly. Undoubtedly, there was
a lot of corruption and personal use of the wealth; it's also clear,
however, that much of the money went to what would be the normal
functioning of a normal government that had retained its own
sovereignty. This includes weapons (conventional, like the aluminum
tubes for use in artillery), on a pathetically low scale by the
standards of the region; it also includes government salaries,
incentive pay to doctors so that they would stay in Iraq, and such
uses. Although people like Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who are
in a position to know since they were both U.N. Humanitarian
Coordinators in Iraq have talked about these uses of the money obtained
in violation of the sanctions regime, I don't know of any comprehensive
accounting of those expenses.
And it will be a while before it can be determined how accurate the
GAO's analysis is -- although generally, at least pre-Bush, GAO reports
have been of a pretty high quality.
The main point of the study, however, is certain to be misconstrued.
The conservatives, and others, have jumped on this (the story is old;
it's just the survey that's new) in order to say that the sanctions
were justified, that the problem was lifting them at all, that the
suffering in Iraq really was Saddam's fault, etc.
In fact, what this shows is that the sanctions were even worse than one
would have supposed otherwise. We know about Saddam's spending before
the sanctions. While he did spend huge amounts on the military to
prosecute an absurd and bloody war with Iran, at the same time he ran
up Iraq's external debt in order to keep a high level of access to
basic services, education and health in particular, for Iraq's people.
Under the sanctions, however, the accountability mechanisms (even the
worst dictatorship has them) in Iraq were sidelined.
This is why Saddam moved to take in government revenue on the side,
behind closed doors. To the average Iraqi, it could easily be
justified. Why sell only through channels, when you knew that only 67%
of the money would get to Iraqis at all (for most of the duration of
OFF, 30% of oil revenues were taken to compensate victims of the 1990
Kuwait invasion; the biggest beneficiaries being oil companies; an
extra 3% went to U.N.-related expenses)? And when even that money could
not, for most of the duration of the sanctions, be used even for basic
infrastructure repair or for industrial reconstruction?
Combine that with the fact that the money was obtained under the table
and Saddam was far less constrained in the use of those revenues than
he was before the sanctions. And the fact is that much less of that
off-the-books money was spent on the needs of the Iraqi people.
One might further make the point that, bad as its use of Iraqi funds
was, Saddam's government can't compare with the CPA in that regard.
Billions and billions going to cost-plus contracts for Halliburton and
Bechtel to "study"
the problem of reconstruction
, but virtually no reconstruction
This is all just common sense. And yet it will be completely lost in
the ideological offensive going on. Saying this means you support
Saddam Hussein, just like saying that this "war on terrorism" could not
be done in any way more likely to increase the threat of terrorism
means you support Osama bin Laden.
March 19, 8:25 am
One year ago today, the United States started its illegal
war against Iraq. Tomorrow, people in 245 cities in the United States
and 124 others around the world will march against the continuing
occupation of Iraq. To find out whether there's a protest near you,
March 18, 10:50 am
Busy morning. More to come later on
Hans Blix and on the Iraqi constitution.
For now, some early
presidential endorsements. Apparently, foreign leaders really do want
Kerry to win. The newly-elected Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis
Rodriguez Zapatero, has
the American people to follow the Spanish lead and
reject Bush as the Spanish rejected Aznar.
Naively, that would seem like a real kiss of death. Kerry is being
endorsed by a foreigner who calls himself a socialist (they're kind of
odd socialists -- they're the party that took Spain into NATO, for
example). However, Bush has just gotten about the only endorsement that
could look worse -- al-Qaeda's.
Or, technically, the Abu Hafs al-Masri brigade (named after high-level
bin Laden aide Mohammed Atef, also known as Abu Hafs, who was killed in
the Afghanistan war), which claimed responsibility for the Madrid
bombing, has supposedly put
out a new statement
in which it endorses Bush.
This really looks like a spoof by someone, but it's too funny not to
The statement said it supported President Bush in his
reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather
than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to
find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by
force rather than with wisdom."
In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:
"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the
Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the
Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."
"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."
Can't give in to the terrorists, can we?
March 17, 1:50 pm
A remarkable new resource is now available. Rep. Henry
Waxman commissioned a study of Bush administration deception over Iraq,
WMD, and al-Qaeda. It is on the Web, along with a searchable
. Just pop in the official's name, select the subject, and
you get a passel of quotes. Everybody should know about this.
March 17, 1:40 pm
For any Canadians out there, I will be on CBC's Counterspin
from 8:00-9:00 pm Eastern time tonight, debating Tom Donnelly of the
American Enterprise Institute and Faisal Istrabadi, an Iraqi-American
lawyer who is advising Adnan al-Pachachi of the Governing Council and
was involved in the drafting of the new Iraqi constitution. The debate
will be about the occupation, as we come up on the one-year anniversary.
The latest argument against the occupation: a gigantic
near Firdaus Square in central Baghdad that,
according to preliminary reports, has completely destroyed the Mount
Lebanon Hotel. No body count yet, but it will be high.
March 17, 9:50 am
Part of the story about the Aznar coverup is in this Times
story. The story is all right, but the headline is idiotic: Election
Outcome: Spain Grapples With Notion That Terrorism Trumped Democracy
Aznar was personally calling up news directors, telling them that he
knew it was ETA. There was more speculation about al-Qaeda everywhere
else than in Spain the first day after the attack. Wonder if Aznar came
up with this methodology himself or learned it from his idol across the
March 17, 9:40 am
The Security Council is allowing itself to be railroaded
recently in an even more extreme fashion than is normal. I reported
regarding Haiti, which was passed unanimously on the day that
Aristide left, which called the
violent ouster of Aristide by a combination
of force and fraud
"constitutional succession and political process."
Check out UNSCR
, passed the same day as the Madrid bombings. It says that the
attacks were done by ETA. Finally, a huge coverup campaign launched by
Aznar is coming to light. As yet, there's very little about it in the
English-language press. More to come.
This is not supposed to be SOP for the Security Council. Even when it
ends up more or less doing the bidding of the United States and favored
allies, it doesn't just rubber-stamp pre-written resolutions without
any attempt at investigation. 1441, which the Bush administration
rammed through in the fall of 2002 in order to continue disarming Iraq
preparatory to war, was rewritten several times, with successively
language, and fine points of phrasing were debated over and over again.
It ended up, of course, being very problematic -- declaring Iraq in
material breach of its obligations while not mentioning at all the severe breaches
the whole international regime by the United States.
What was the need for the Security Council to validate Aznar's claims
while the dead were still being gathered up?
March 16, 5:00 pm
in Time Magazine
(which I saw mentioned on Talking Points Memo
us that the much-ballyhooed independent commission on "intelligence
failures" has not yet met, five weeks after its inception. The
justification Bush gave on Meet the Press for having the commission
report after the election is over was that the commission will need
time to do a good job; apparently, however, these past five weeks were
March 16, 9:40 am
Today is a day for reflection, a day of many anniversaries.
A year ago today, International
Solidarity Movement activist Rachel
was killed by an Israeli bulldozer operator in what
eyewitnesses said was clearly a deliberate act. To date, the U.S.
government has taken no action on the question. Two other ISM members
have been killed since then.
The Israelis had good timing. A year ago today, George W. Bush issued
his ultimatum to Iraq, actually his twin ultimata. Iraq was given 24
hours to "disarm." And the United Nations was given 24 hours to pass a
resolution calling for war.
I remember it well. It was a Sunday in New York. I was with several
friends, mostly Iraq and Palestine activists, who were all speaking at
a major conference. When we heard it, it was the other shoe dropping.
The moment we'd been dreading for well over a year had come. We were at
lunch; it took us about half an hour before we could start talking
That date struck me as the biggest turning point since the days after
9/11. I wrote a piece, Ave
, that was published on the Web the next day. I think it's
stood up pretty well. It concludes,
drew the battle lines through the entire globe and through the middle
each country. In order even to begin to understand how to oppose this
imperialism, we must understand this: weapons of mass destruction have
to do with this war, and even Iraq itself has to do with this war only
the sense that it is a strategic prize. This war is a small part of an
attempt to reshape the world.
this war is not Iraq. The target is the entire world order, and Iraq is
simply collateral damage.
Perhaps most important, 16 years ago today was the gassing of the
northern Iraqi town of Halabja, which killed 5-8,000 people. It was
part of the Anfal campaign, which is estimated to have killed
At the time it happened, only the left in the United States, and in
Turkey, took heed and criticized the U.S. government for its support of
Saddam Hussein. They might as well have been speaking in outer space.
The Reagan administration squelched efforts in Congress to react to the
atrocity, kept the Security Council from passing a resolution on the
issue, and kept up the stream of agricultural credits and export
licenses to firms to provide chemicals, biological materials, and
weapon components to Iraq. Most damning of all, it organized a
to help suggest that Iran was the real
culprit (it didn't address who was behind the numerous other chemical
attacks on civilian populations that characterized Anfal).
Ten years after Halabja, the United States finally took cognizance of
it, in order to start a new propaganda offensive in favor of the deadly
sanctions on Iraq. Fifteen years after Halabja, George W. Bush, whose
father was the biggest supporter of Saddam when he was gassing the
Kurds, made a shamefully cynical use of Halabja to justify his frontal
assault on the world order.
March 16, 8:30 am
Aristide is in Jamaica. He is not supposed to "foment
unrest" in Haiti while he is there. For some reason, this reminds me of
Paul Wolfowitz's famous injunction of last July: "I think all
foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq."
A new development in the Aristide kidnapping story. According
to the Washington Post
Aristide's version of the events
of U.S. officials.
The ousted president said that he had been
with U.S. Ambassador James Foley about ways of avoiding violence and
bloodshed in Port-au-Prince on Feb. 28. An armed insurgency -- led by
former members of Haiti's feared military, which Aristide had
disbanded, and onetime death squad leaders -- was threatening to attack
the capital the following day.
Aristide said Foley agreed that he should go
American escort to a location where he could appear on television to
appeal for calm.
"I wanted to talk to the press, as I did the
before for more than one hour and a half talking to the people through
the national TV," Aristide said. "This was my responsibility. And I
could do it again and again each time as was necessary."
But he said that by the time Moreno arrived
residence on the morning on Feb. 29, U.S. troops were surrounding it.
Aristide said he felt threatened by the Americans, who told him that
"thousands of people including me would be killed."
"I know there were American military and
militaries from other countries. I cannot say only Americans," Aristide
said. "But there were a considerable number."
Aristide said he left in a car with the
said they could provide security. "But instead of moving from where we
were at my house" to meet with news media, Aristide said, "we went
straight to the plane," which he described as an unmarked white
aircraft with an American flag.
Aristide said he was obliged to board the
was followed by a number of U.S. troops in full combat gear, who
changed into civilian clothes and baseball caps once they were aboard
the plane. Also on board with him and his wife were 19 members of a
private security company contracted by the United States to protect
Aristide's account was supported by two
present on the evening of Feb. 28 and the morning of Feb. 29. One was
Franz Gabriel, a pilot and aide to Aristide; the other was an American
"I was at the house at 5 a.m. when Moreno
came in to
tell the president they were going to organize a press conference and
be ready to accompany them," said Gabriel, who accompanied Aristide and
his wife to Africa and to Jamaica. "We boarded to go to the embassy and
we ended up at the airport. That's what Mr. Moreno wanted him to do."
The American security guard, speaking on
not be identified, described the U.S. security warning as a subterfuge
to lure Aristide away. "That was just bogus. It's a story they
fabricated," he said.
As far as I'm concerned, the whole dispute over whether Aristide was
kidnapped or not is absurd. He says he is still Haiti's president, he
was elected, and that should be that.
It reminds me of the old justification for the stealing of
Palestinians' homes and land in 1948, that advancing Arab armies called
for them to leave their homes and return after the Arabs were
victorious. It was always illogical (the Arab armies would prefer to
have the cover and aid provided by the inhabitants of those lands), it
was factually debunked by Walid Khalidi and Erskine Childers as early
as the early 1960's, but beyond all of that, it was just idiotic:
leaving your house, for whatever reason, doesn't mean you give up the
right to return to it.
The claim that Aristide has given up the right to the presidency is
absurdly legalistic at best. His right to return to Haiti is
As a Slate columnist points
, this major development, which sheds a lot of light on why
Aristide left, is buried under the headline, "Aristide Back in
Of course, the author of the article, showing the extreme originality
that characterizes our journalists, refers to Aristide as a "former
March 15, 2:20 am
Interesting article by Jonathan Weisman in the Washington
Post -- "Link
Between Taxation, Unemployment Is Absent
." Surveys some historical
data from the United States and a bit from other countries and
concludes that there is no evidence for the standard economic dogma
that higher marginal tax rates lead to higher unemployment. Actually,
the data the article picks show a distinct anti-correlation, but that
could be an artifact of the selection.
Very subversive idea, looking at the data. If this catches on,
neoclassical economics could be in trouble.
March 15, 8:50 am
I finally found a quote I was looking for two weeks ago. And
it's in a transcript I had posted to the site way back in January.
George W. Bush, being interviewed
by Mouafac Harb
on the new American Middle East TV Network,
al-Hurra (the free one):
Q And you
know the type of governments that now exist in the
Middle East, and for how long the U.S. has been accused of playing ball
with governments that people hate. When you say you want this
strategy, forward strategy of freedom, are you saying you're going to
be abandoning the monarchies and, you know, those guys?
PRESIDENT: No, of course not. I know them well. First of
all, many of the countries in the Middle East are modernizing. And
that's what I look for. I fully understand it takes time for free
societies, truly free societies to evolve. I don't expect instant
success. After all, in my own country it took a while for our current
system to evolve.
Arabia, for example -- first of all, I respect Crown
Prince Abdallah, and like Crown Prince Abdallah. He's a man of great
faith, and great integrity, who gave a speech the other day about the
need to modernize and to reform Saudi society. I take him for his
word. To me that was a positive development.
Abdullah of Jordan, the King of Morocco, I mean, there's a
series of places -- Qatar, Oman -- I mean, places that are developing
-- Bahrain -- they're all developing the habits of free societies.
They evolve differently. But nevertheless, progress is being made.
And for that, I'm very grateful.
So Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, etc., are "developing the habits of
free societies." Now we have two entries for the New World Order
(n): A democratically-elected head of state who
doesn't always obey U.S. orders. Usually, one who allows the media in
his or her own country complete freedom to criticize him or her and who
holds no political prisoners.
Evolving free society
(n): A dictatorship, usually feudal in nature, that generally obeys
March 15, 8:30 am
It's pretty clear that, although the Spanish vote was
influenced by the fact that Aznar's dragging them into the Iraq
occupation made them a target for al-Qaeda, the primary beef the swing
voters had with him was that he lied, played politics, insisted it was
ETA, instead of trying to confront the real situation the country is
now in. I think that's a pretty sophisticated response for a population
three days after a 9/11-scale massacre (actually, two days until there
were huge protests against Aznar for hiding the truth).
Post now reports
that investigators have basically come together
behind the idea that it was al-Qaeda, although they're still
investigating the possibility of some ETA connection. One of the
Moroccans detained, Jamal Zougam, was named as a member of al-Qaeda in
a Spanish judge's indictment of bin Laden last fall.
Juan Cole has more
about the Abu Hafs al-Masri brigade
, which claimed responsibility
for the attacks.
March 15, 7:40 am
Making great progress. Two weeks ago, I didn't have a clue
what RSS was
and now I have my own RSS
, thanks to Karl at Caltech. Look for the orange XML button in
the left-hand column.
March 15, 7:40 am
I got a lot of comments on my Spain piece
was a lot of confusion, because I probably wasn't as clear as I should
have been. When I said, "terrorism cannot be fought by military means,"
I meant, of course, that purely
military means would be
counterproductive. Obviously, there's some scope for force, although
frankly very little for military-style force. For that matter, any law
enforcement operation involves the credible threat of force. The point
is to give not just governments but people in the countries where these
organizations are growing an incentive to work on the same side as us
-- without trying to control the process, which is likely to backfire.
Also, the "twin occupations in the Middle East" were Palestine and
Iraq. The occupation of Afghanistan is also, of course, a source of
tension and long-term danger, although I think not as great. There are
many other sources too, like U.S. support for Egypt's dictatorship. I
just wanted to indicate the two primary problems, not give a whole list.
I've rewritten the piece and posted it here
, with updated
information, and a more detailed argument about how a meaningful
anti-terrorism effort would proceed.
March 14, 6:10 pm
I was waiting until the returns were in from Spain. Well,
with 79% of the vote counted, the Socialist
Party declared a surprise victory
and Mariano Rajoy, Aznar's
handpicked successor as head of the Popular Party, conceded defeat.
Projections were that the Socialists would have 164 out of 350 seats in
the Parliament and that the Popular Party would fall from 183 to 147.
What an amazing political dynamic emerged in Spain. First, in what is
pretty close to an unprecedented event, an estimated 11 million people
came out to protest terrorism. There were also 5,000 people who
protested Aznar, calling for him to come clean and blaming him for his
support of the Iraq war. They were dispersed by the police with
nightsticks and tear gas on that day of solidarity for all Spaniards.
This just prompted further
yesterday. Both Aznar and Rajoy
were jeered by protesters as they went to vote. And 62% of the
electorate voted, as opposed to 55% last time in 2000.
The big question politically was who was responsible for the attacks.
Here's a summary of the evidence for the claim that it was al-Qaeda (am
I missing anything? Let me
- There were 10 simultaneous attacks on commuter trains,
timed to go off at rush hour to maximize the loss of life, killing at
least 200. This is precisely the MO of al-Qaeda. ETA, on the other
hand, generally phones in a warning and in recent years has almost
exclusively concentrated on killing government officials. Also, the
largest number ETA had ever killed in one attack was 21 in a
supermarket parking lot in 1987 -- an attack it later characterized as
- An email was sent to the London newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi.
In part, it said, "The death
squad (of the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades) succeeded in penetrating the
crusader European depths to strike one of the pillars of the
alliance - Spain - with a painful blow. These bomb attacks were part of
settling old scores with the crusader Spain for its war against Islam."
(full text here).
- The Norwegian
Defense Research Establishment claimed that documents it found last
year on an Arabic website suggested Spain as a target and said, in
part, "We must make
of the proximity to the elections in Spain in March next year. Spain
can stand a maximum of two or three attacks before they will withdraw
- The Basque newspaper Gara claimed on Friday that a caller
from the ETA had denied
- Arnaldo Otegi, the spokesman for Batasuna, the illegal
Basque separatist party most closely associated with ETA, condemned
- Julien de Madariga, estranged founder of ETA, claimed
that this attack did not bear the hallmarks of ETA.
- And, of course, a van was found with a tape in Arabic. This
is a weird piece of evidence, since why would an Arab Islamist need
such a tape (described in some reports as a beginning instructional
tape on the Koran)? Of course, even if evidence was planted to
implicate al-Qaeda, this doesn't mean it wasn't al-Qaeda.
On the other side is the claim that the explosive used (titadine, a
concentrated form of dynamite) is commonly used by ETA, and the arrest
in December of an ETA volunteer who was planning to bomb a train.
Despite this, to my mind, fairly overwhelming evidence that it was
al-Qaeda, Aznar continued to insist that it was ETA. The most
interesting thing about it is this. If it was ETA, this would likely
help the Popular Party in the polls, since it has taken a tough
anti-ETA stand. On the other hand, if it was al-Qaeda, then many
Spaniards would blame Aznar, saying it was because of Spain's
illegitimate involvement in the illegitimate occupation of Iraq and its
support for the war.
Obviously, there was a sharp swing in the turnout and the results
because many people decided to punish Aznar for making them more of an
al-Qaeda target. This is fascinating. As the blogger Atrios pointed
a few days ago, conventional wisdom is that a terrorist attack
in the United States a few days before the election would have the
opposite effect, of giving Bush a boost.
Watch for the right wing to start bloviating about Spanish
"appeasement." Instead of casting it as a question of whether or
not you want to get tough on terrorists, we need to start recasting
this very serious question as whether we want to take steps that will
actually weaken al-Qaeda and affiliated organizations or do we want to
continue in this mode of strengthening them that we've had since 9/11?
The Spanish people are showing the way -- and doing it just days after
their horrific tragedy. Perhaps, two and a half years after ours, we
can start to learn too.
March 13, 7:45 pm
March 13, 5:45 pm
More on Spain shortly, but first Haiti. Gerard Latortue has
as Haiti's Prime Minister (but only for two years, he says,
until there are elections). He spent most of his life as an exile,
except for a brief stint as Leslie Manigat's foreign minister in 1988.
Manigat came to office in an "election" entirely boycotted by the
people, because the emerging Haitian civil society organizations that
became the core of Lavalas saw it as an attempt to preserve
"Duvalierism without Duvalier." Manigat was shortly thereafter removed
by the military when he showed too much independence.
that Aristide's proposed trip to Jamaica would
jeopardize efforts to stabilize Haiti. The head of Jamaica's main
opposition party has said his visit should be limited to three weeks,
Why are people so afraid of this short, bespectacled "slum priest" who
has no power and who, even as head of state, did not command enough
force to keep a small band of rebels with light arms from taking over
his country? Could it be because Haiti's masses support him and that as
long as he is alive and anywhere near Haiti they won't let themselves
be beaten down and deprived of all hope? Could it be that Latortue
thinks it will take two years of paramilitary and U.S.-French rule,
without Aristide, before the people of Haiti will give up their
aspirations for economic justice?
If Aristide returns to Haiti and is not assassinated, the coup
plotters, American, French, and Haitian, will not be able to control
the situation without serious bloodshed. If he returns and is
assassinated, anything could happen.
Aristide has been charged with no crime and, even if you accepted the
ridiculous claim that he resigned, uncoerced, from office, he has the
inalienable right to go back to his country.
Under the title CIA 'wildly
inconsistent' about policing Iraq claims
, the Christian Science
Monitor has a good compilation, with links, of numerous new articles
and developments regarding the WMD imbroglio. The words in quotes are
those of George Tenet, who said that the CIA didn't do very well at
babysitting the administration over WMD claims. In the article, you get
to see Ted Kennedy cross-examining Tenet:
"You can't have
it both ways, can you, Mr. Tenet?"
Kennedy said. "If you're saying that there was no immediate threat and
you hear either the president, the vice president, the secretary of
defense using that super-heated rhetoric, we have to ask, what is your
responsibility?" Tenet replied, "I have a responsibility. I lived up to
my responsibility." Tenet said that when he was aware that a senior
administration official exaggerated the Iraqi threat, he took action
Amusing idea. Bush, the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, the
National Security Adviser, and, yes, Mr. Kennedy, the Secretary of
State, are lying through their teeth about Iraq's WMD and it's George
Tenet who is shirking his responsibility.
At least, according to the article, it's Republican senators who are
now asking for Tenet's head. There were few things sadder than seeing
the Democrats focus on Tenet and "intelligence failures," as they were
March 12, 5:40 pm
in the Washington Post
suggests that the Bush administration will
move forward on implementation of the Syria Accountability Act within a
week. Two key reservations: the administration doesn't want to harm
U.S. corporations, like Motorola, that actually do business with Syria
and it doesn't want to impede security cooperation. But the sanctions
will keep U.S. corporations from doing significant new investment in
Syria, especially in the energy sector, and may involve banning
financial transactions by Syria as well as bans on many imports.
As Seymour Hersh showed in a July
article in the New Yorker
, Syria was providing a great deal of
intelligence to the United States, but that intelligence dried up in
March 2003 -- when the war on Iraq started. Yet another piece of
evidence showing the flagrant disregard this administration has for
actually addressing the problem of terrorism, as opposed to using it as
rhetorical justification for imperial adventures.
The Syria Accountability Act rapidly went from being a gleam in the eye
of AIPAC (the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee) to being
administration policy. It, as much as the embargo on aid to Haiti over
the past few years, is part of the policy of "regime change."
In fact, as early as April 28 of last year, Daniel Ayalon, the Israeli
ambassador to the United States, was saying that regime change in Syria
and Iran could be achieved without war, through a combination of
isolation, economic sanctions, and "psychological pressure."
It's starting in Syria. It may end with Bashar Assad being brought to
heel, but if he is not expect to see a slow buildup to regime change.
March 12, 11:25 am
In the Times: Haiti's
New Leader Sees a Long Transition
. Gerard Latortue, whose
democratic qualifications for leading Haiti are that the United States
picked him, has suggested that Haiti will need to wait two years for an
election. The article says
Mr. Latortue said that he expects to serve
as prime minister for two
years, leading a caretaker government that will hand over power
immediately after the next election, and that he has no plans to pursue
political office after he leaves this one.
Very good of him. Two years is almost exactly what
Aristide got in office his first time around, when his only
qualification was that he got 67.5% of the vote against a massive
U.S.-orchestrated campaign spearheaded by the National Endowment for
Democracy with a little help from the CIA (see Promoting
by William Robinson). On his second election, with 91.69% of the vote,
a beneficent providence was smiling on him and he got almost two and a
By the way, the Times article, like literally 80% of the articles on
Haiti I've read in recent weeks, refers to Aristide as a "slum priest."
Now, it's true that he preached in slums, which doesn't seem like a bad
thing; but why the constant epithet? Had he played the kind of role the
Pope no doubt expected of him (the Pope's antipathy for liberation
theology being made evident when, in 1984, two of the founders were
summoned before the Sacred Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith, the official descendant
of the Papal Inquisition), would all the papers refer to him as a
March 12, 7:25 am
Aristide is apparently going
next week, not for asylum but just for an eight to ten
week trip. If so, that's a very good sign. The Jamaica
Observer has been very clear
on the fact that this was a coup
d'etat. If going to Jamaica is a step toward getting him back in Haiti,
it's a move in the right direction. My guess is that the only reason
he's not pushing for an immediate return to Haiti is a fear that the
rebels will assassinate him while the U.S. stands by and does nothing,
and that any hope of organized resistance will die along with him.
The U.S.-installed new prime minister, who was in exile in the United
States until recently, has opined
that Aristide's disbanding of the military in 1995 may have been
unconstitutional. That's up there with the Bush administration
lecturing others on democracy.
The United States has changed
the rules of engagement
to allow it to intervene more easily and
frequently. A step in the inevitable evolution of operation. Expect to
see things segue from disarming the rebels to suppressing dissent among
and possibly disarming the people.
March 11, 10:20 pm
I'm just a little pissed off. I didn't notice this the first
time I saw Bush's new campaign ad, 100 Days
, but then I saw
, looked at the ad again and saw it was true.
The ad slams John Kerry for his putative first 100 day plans on taxes
and spending and on terrorism. In the terrorism section, there are
three images shown as insets; the bottom one is of a menacing-looking
swarthy man turning slowly to look at the viewer. He is obviously a
The ad has
already been criticized by numerous people
, most of whom have said
the man is supposed to be Arab or look Arab. The Bush campaign has
already said that the actor is not an Arab and the image was just "very
Well, it's half right. The man does not look like an Arab; he very
clearly looks north Indian or Pakistani. But then again people always
ask me if I'm an Arab. Clearly, to call it "generic" is an insult even
to the intelligence of the average dittohead.
What's there to say? This is absolutely disgusting. Ever since 9/11,
official discourse has been very neutral, taken great care to avoid
racism except of the paternalistic kind, and sent only coded messages.
The real load of racism was supposed to be carried by "comedy" shows,
talk radio, Republican congressmen from Louisiana, nutty generals
(William Boykin) and such lowlifes -- enough to keep it alive, to keep
a subliminal base of support for Bush's crusade, but not enough to make
it appear at a national or official level. This ad changes that.
The only positive thing is it's surely a miscalculation. There's
nothing to be gained from dredging that kind of ugliness up and making
people confront it.
March 11, 5:00 pm
attack in Spain
prompts me to post an excerpt
. This passage was written around December 2002. Here's
a short quote (the end of the excerpt
the war on terrorism reaches its reductio
ad absurdum—more military prowess leads to more terrorist attacks,
defense of hard targets leads to more attacks on soft targets, and it
impossible to defend all soft targets."
March 11, 4:55 pm
terrorist attack in Spain
. 13 backpacks were placed on Madrid
trains, timed to explode during rush hour. 10 backpacks actually
exploded, killing at least 190 people and wounding 1247. Expect the
death toll to increase. Since Spain has about one-seventh the
population of the United States, this is proportionately as if over
1200 people had been killed here.
Spanish government officials are blaming the Basque separatist ETA
(Euskadi Ta Azkatasuna),
which has killed over 800 people since 1968 (its biggest attack ever
was at a supermarket in 1987, killing 21). Arnaldo Otegi, spokeman for
Herri Batasuna, a Basque separatist political party, said he
didn't think ETA was responsible
and suggested that "Arab
resistance" elements did the deed. In March of last year, Herri
Batasuna and its successor Batasuna were permanently banned
by the Spanish Supreme Court.
It was reported that Spanish authorities found a van near Madrid with
seven detonators and a tape of Koranic verses in Arabic. At first
glance, this reminded me of the famous find, a couple of days after
9/11, at Boston's Logan Airport, of a car with a flight manual in
. As if the hijackers were cramming (and why in Arabic?)
right up to the last minute and then couldn't find the wherewithal to
dispose of the flight manual. Personally, I think there is little doubt
that al-Qaeda did the 9/11 attacks, and my first reaction when I saw
the headlines on Spain was that they were also done by al-Qaeda. Even
so, this really smelled of planted evidence -- either by the attackers,
to make sure that people knew it was Islamists, or by inept government
security and intelligence services.
The mystery here may be cleared up by reports that the London-based
al-Quds al-Arabi received an email
claiming that the Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri did it because Spain was
part of the "crusader alliance." Al-Qaeda in the past has used made-up
names to claim
responsibility for attacks. Of course, this is not authenticated
Julien de Madariga, estranged founder of the ETA, has said these
bear the ETA's hallmarks
, since they obviously targeted the working
class. In fact, the ETA has mostly targeted judges and other government
officials (they later called the 1987 supermarket attack a mistake).
And, of course, this pattern of simply going for the maximum body
count, without any concern for who is killed, is exactly what we saw in
the Ashura attacks and the Bali nightclub bombing, to take two examples.
These attacks come only three days before general elections in Spain.
Jose Maria Aznar's Popular Party had, depending on the poll, a five
to nine point lead
over the Socialist Party. This despite the fact
that about 90% of the Spanish disapproved of his decision to support
the war on Iraq and that something like 7.5% of the population (an
unheard-of number) actually protested in the streets on February 15,
2003. The Popular Party was, however, expected
to fall a few seats short
of a Parliamentary majority.
As the rightist party, the Popular Party has campaigned as the party
that will be tough on separatist terrorism and the claim that this was
done by the ETA could be seen as primarily election-directed (they
called off political campaigning, followed shortly thereafter by the
other parties). In any case, whoever did this, it may well give the
Popular Party the boost they need to get their majority.
March 10, 9:30 pm
study of 12,000 teenagers
found that of those who pledged chastity
until marriage 88% of them broke that promise. They did wait an average
of 18 months longer before having sex, but once they got started raced
to catch up.
For some reasons, the Times article (linked above) didn't report this,
but the study also found only
slight differences in STD rates
among pledgers and non-pledgers
(and, interestingly, Asian pledgers had STDs at almost twice the rate
The reason is that non-pledgers were one and a half times as likely to
wear a condom and twice as likely to get tested for STDs as pledgers.
Stunning revelation. Teens will have sex even if they promise not to
and promoting abstinence as the only solution leads to less care when
they do have sex.
March 10, 9:15 am
This just in. George Tenet admitted
sometimes corrects Cheney and even Bush when he thinks they are
On at least three occasions, July
, and February
, Mr. Bush has said that we went to war on Iraq because
Saddam Hussein wouldn't let inspectors in (for those of you who never
click on links, two of them are to www.whitehouse.gov and the third to
Bush's campaign website, georgewbush.com).
The first time this happened, it was reported
in the Washington Post
. Dana Milbank and Dana Priest, phrasing it
very circumspectly, wrote that, "The president's assertion that the war
began because Iraq did not admit
inspectors appeared to contradict the events leading up to war this
spring." Of course, it's also possible that the several-month-long
drama over inspections was just a mass hallucination and that the world
dredged up Hans Blix out of its collective unconscious.
If he'd said it once, you could claim it was a slip, but he's said it
at least three times (he's also given us fascinating insights like
"free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction).
Is this the kind of subtle misconstrual of intelligence that perhaps
Tenet should be correcting Bush on?
March 10, 8:10 am
The next stage in the U.S.-French coup in Haiti has arrived.
Gerard Latortue, formerly foreign minister in the 1988 Leslie Manigat
as the new prime minister.
All of this despite the fact that Aristide continues to maintain,
strenuously, that he was taken
against his will
and that he is still
of Haiti. Against this, all the administration has is
a piece of paper Aristide signed in which he clearly said that he was
leaving under the threat of bloodshed. Since there's an international
peacekeeping force there that is supposedly disarming the "rebels,"
there should be no problem with his resuming his position.
Certainly, there can be no problem with Aristide's returning to Haiti,
which he has said he wishes to -- it is every person's inalienable
right to return to their country of residence.
A good thing the media isn't trying to make the Bush administration
justify its current stance, since there's no imaginable way it could.
March 9, 3:45 pm
Bush is not
. His only consolation as far as polling goes is that,
contrary to Nader's announced expectations, Nader is drawing his
support from people who would otherwise favor Kerry (the latest
Washington Post_ABC News poll, for example has Kerry 48, Bush 44, Nader
3, but shows Kerry with a 9-point lead in a two-way matchup).
The reasons for that are not hard to see. Nader's two claims in this
regard are that
he will inspire a lot of non-voters to vote and that he will pull a lot
of conservatives and moderates who would otherwise vote for Bush. He's
forgetting the, shall we say, polarizing effect of Bush's last few
years in office. Bush's assault on civilization as we know it means
that voter turnout will be significantly higher than last time (and so,
in terms of
stimulating turnout, the low-hanging fruit is already picked) and also
means that the honest, relatively non-ideological conservatives
who might vote for Nader have mostly already decided not to vote for
Bush, no matter what.
March 9, 3:30 pm
both agree that the first series of Bush ads were a big mistake.
They've annoyed a lot of people; they've involved major gaffes like
using actors instead of real firefighters because, in the words of one
nameless media adviser, actors are "cheaper and quicker;" but, more
than all that, they've cost $10.5 million of an estimated $150 million
warchest (although Bush is expanding that every day).
All this for ads that are 99 44/100% content-free.
March 9, 3:20 pm
Sorry for the lengthy hiatus, the ultimate crime in the
blogosphere. Had a lot of writing to do, some of the results of which
will be posted on the site later. Also did a little work on the site,
trying to go beyond my very primitive knowledge of html -- results soon
to come as well. Anyway, I'm back to regular blogging now.
Just saw the Bush campaign
that created such a furor. Columnist Jimmy Breslin characterized
as "molesting the dead." Rita Lasar of September 11 Families
for Peaceful Tomorrows
, was quoted in the
Washington Post as saying,
"The idea that President Bush would rally support
around his campaign by using our loved ones in a way that is so
shameful is hard for me to believe," said Rita Lasar, a New York
resident whose brother, Abe Zelmanowitz, died in the North Tower of the
World Trade Center. "It's so hard for us to believe that it's not
obvious to everyone that Ground Zero shouldn't be used as a backdrop
for a political campaign. We are incensed and hurt by what he is doing."
Of course, it is extremely disgusting to see Bush invoking the victims
of 9/11 when he was still, until yesterday, stonewalling the 9/11
commission, most recently over how long he would allow them to question
him (he finally
on the issue, when John Kerry pointed
that if Bush has time to go to a rodeo he can probably spare
more than an hour for questioning over 9/11). This, of course, was only
the latest in a series of obstacles Bush has put in the way of this
It's even more disgusting to see the use being made of firefighters by
Bush, when his EPA covered up
the true health effects of the World Trade Center collapse while
firefighters and others continued to work in an environment hazardous
to their health, and when his proposed Homeland Security budget cut the federal allocation for
(like firefighters) by 30 percent.
And, of course, for individuals who lost someone in the attacks to feel
personally disgusted at any use of their loved ones' deaths is
But I can't agree with all of this talk about not "politicizing" the
tragedy of 9/11. It wasn't a hurricane or an earthquake; it was a
political act, tied to the history of U.S. policy, and one that
demanded a well-thought-out
(which, of course, it never got). Members of
Peaceful Tomorrows who got a wider stage to fight against the war on
Afghanistan or on Iraq were making political use of the event just as
did those on the other side. To me, it's a far more morally defensible
use of the event, but to claim it's not political is disingenuous.
When Eugene McCarthy ran as an antiwar candidate in 1968, was he
trampling on the dead by saying they were a reason the war on Vietnam
should be ended? Plenty of right-wingers said he was.
I recently discovered scrappleface.com. It's an absurd right-wing humor
site, but it's slightly less stupid than most. They recently posted an
amusing fake news story -- "Kerry Slams
War Images in Kerry TV Ads
March 5, 6:11 pm
I think pretty much everyone to the left of, say, Dennis
Hastert, has been speculating about whether the Bush administration has
held back on trying to get Osama bin Laden. There are two reasons they
might do that: one is, of course, timing, but the other is that
catching bin Laden might give many people a sense of closure (which
would be silly, because the question is of al-Qaeda and related
organizations, not of the figurehead at the top) and thus blunt
enthusiasm for U.S. aggression.
Well, we no longer have to speculate. Check this out: CNN
that the United States is about to implement 24-7
"high-tech snooping." They will soon be phasing in high-altitude U2
surveillance flights. Remember how they told us they were doing
everything possible to catch bin Laden? Apparently, they weren't.
On top of this, NBC News
that the United States turned down several
opportunities to attack Zarqawi before the war on Iraq, because it
didn't want to undercut its excuses for the war.
March 5, 3:50 pm
According to Reuters, 10,000
Aristide supporters demonstrated
in the streets of Port-au-Prince,
calling for an end to the U.S.-French occupation and for the
restoration of Aristide. They did this even though they are justly
terrified of reprisals by the paramilitaries that ousted Aristide.
Over the past year, there has been ample media coverage of
anti-Aristide protests (although you rarely see estimates of the
numbers involved). At the same time, there have been very few reports
of pro-Aristide or pro-Lavalas demonstrations. Was this because Lavalas
had no support? Check out an
interesting article by Kevin Pina
from last year for a different
March 4, 12:55 pm
The Bush administration has just increased
the amount of a requested exemption from the 1987 Montreal Protocol
on preservation of the ozone layer. The protocol calls for a phaseout
of methyl bromide production by 2005. Last year, the administration
requested an exemption of 21.9 million pounds of methyl bromide in 2005
and 20.8 in 2006. It's just increased its 2005 request by another 1.1
million pounds, because of the important needs of the cut flower
Unlike with carbon emissions, where the Kyoto Protocol was a pitiful
bandaid solution and where compliance even with that has been
unimpressive, the Montreal Protocol was shaping up to be a real success
story. The effects of a reduction in production of ozone-depleting
gases don't kick in for a few decades (the length of time it
generally takes for those gases to get up near the ozone layer),
and so the ozone hole has been growing worse since 1987, but production
of those gases is sharply down (for example, since 1999, when the
methyl bromide phaseout was to start, industrialized countries have cut
methyl bromide production by 70%).
Naturally, a global environmental treaty that actually works would be a
prime target for the Bush administration. Presumably it hasn't pulled
out because its requests for exemption are being granted.
March 4, 12:45 pm
More evidence of the Bush administration's dedication to
dealing with the problem of terrorism. After two and a half years, only
one person has actually been convicted in connection with the 9/11
attacks -- Mounir el Motassadeq, a Moroccan citizen convicted in
Germany and sentenced to the legal maximum of 15 years. He was
apparently part of a Hamburg cell of al-Qaeda, quite obviously a
greater threat to Western targets than an al-Qaeda member in
conviction has been set aside
and he will be given a new trial.
Why? Because his lawyer wanted testimony from Ramzi Binalshibh, who is
in U.S. custody, and the United States, citing "national security"
concerns, never produced Binalshibh. Here's a quote from the Washington
The appeals court concluded that it "will not make
the United States has the right to withhold the witness or not," said
Motassadeq lawyer Josef Graessle-Muenscher after the ruling. In his
view, "if the United States does not deliver the witness, they have to
bear the consequences."
Hmm. Perhaps to make inroads against a worldwide organization, which
Bush administration officials have repeatedly said may reside in up to
60 countries, international cooperation is essential? And perhaps in
order to get that, one must remember that some countries, unlike ours,
still respect the notion of due process?
March 3, 1:15 pm
to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
their editorial. Hard to cover the territory in 150 words.
March 3, 12:40 pm
Another gem of media coverage, this time from an editorial
by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
It is also
important to note that Aristide was not a democratically elected leader
whom the United States was in some way obligated to keep in power. Over
time, he had lost whatever credibility he once enjoyed by choosing to
rule his country through violence, not the rule of law. In 2000, he and
his supporters fixed elections to the Haiti Parliament, and when
Aristide was himself "re-elected" later that year, he got 92 percent of
the vote in an election in which only 5 percent of the eligible voters
He ruled the country through violence by disbanding the Haitian
military in 1995, so that for the first time in history Haitians could
speak their minds without fear of heavy state repression. The 2000
parliamentary elections, as
I've previously mentioned
, involved minor irregularities in giving
eight candidates election when they had a plurality but not a majority;
more important, everyone has always conceded that Fanmi Lavalas,
Aristide's party, had far more electoral support than all other parties
put together. On the presidential elections, turnout numbers are
contested; the government claimed far higher numbers. The main point,
though, is that the opposition boycott happened because no other
candidate could get a fraction of the support Aristide had. None of
these points are even contested in Haiti.
Not only that, the candidates whose elections were contested stepped
down and there were runoff elections within two months. It's always
worth repeating, these elections beat the hell out of certain other
elections held in 2000.
To send letters to the AJC, click here
March 3, 12:30 pm
Some fair and balanced coverage of Aristide, from Fox’s “The
Big Story with John
Gibson,” on March 2:
JOHN GIBSON: Folks in Haiti getting used to life
Aristide. As for Aristide, he is in exile pushing the idea that he is
the victim of a coup. Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew
Napolitano has more on the hazards of being a dictator. Well, one of
the hazards is you get run out of the country.
JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: Absolutely.
And you get run to a country which may turn on you. I mean, this
Central African Republic has a horrific history of housing dictators.
Emperor Bokassa I, who was reputed to be a cannibal.
GIBSON: He was actually acquitted of that charge.
NAPOLITANO: Acquitted of the cannibalism but convicted of murder. When
the Central Africa Republic got tired of supporting his lavish
lifestyle sent him back to the country out of which he had been kicked.
They tried him for murder, sentenced him to 20 years. He was let out
after a couple years and eventually died. So we don't know what life
will be like for Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
So Aristide has already become a dictator, and will soon be a cannibal.
March 3, 12:15 pm
On Super Tuesday (yesterday), California held district
elections. Orange Country and San Diego Country, both of which use
electronic voting machines (San Diego County's are provided by the
infamous Diebold), had major
. In Orange Country, voters were routinely given ballots
for the wrong district; one district, the 35th Senate district, did not
appear on the ballots at all. In San Diego County, the Diebold machines
didn't allow election workers access initially; an hour after polls
opened, 10% of machines were still not operating. No one knows how many
people left without voting. The claims are that Orange County's
problems are because of the errors of election workers, but, of course,
systems should be designed around human error, which is inevitable.
On the plus side, at least the machines are privately-owned
mostly by Republican-dominated corporations, leave no paper trail, and
. Best of all, Diebold refuses to divulge its
vote-tabulating algorithm because it claims that is proprietary
March 3, 11:22 am
The next step in the Bush administration's cynical game on
Haiti has now arrived. Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega,
summoning his best air of hypocrisy, has rejected
Guy Philippe's claim
that he is now the head of Haiti's military
and insisted, in the words of the AP, that the rebels "permit an
orderly transfer of power from ousted
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide."
Not only do they seek to distance themselves from their own catspaw
(just because he's a murderer, previously attempted a coup in Haiti,
and most likely a drugrunner as well?), they simultaneously want to say
that the guys who took over are a bunch of thugs but that their ouster
of Aristide is legitimate.
Why not call on the rebels to permit the return of the democratically
elected Aristide, the only legitimate head of state for Haiti right
now, instead of calling for an "orderly transfer of power?"
March 2, 7:35 pm
Definition for the New World Order Lexicon.
(n): A democratically-elected head of state who
doesn't always obey U.S. orders. Usually, one who allows the media in
his or her own country complete freedom to criticize him or her and who
holds no political prisoners.
March 2, 3:10 pm
Aristide was broadcast on CNN last night, in a phone
interview. From the transcript:
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE, FMR. PRESIDENT, HAITI: As I said, I
called this coup d'etat in a modern way, to have modern
kidnapping. And the way I described what happened...
COOPER: Who are you saying has kidnapped you?
Forces in Haiti. They were not Haitian forces. They were
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) and Americans and Haitians together, acting to
surround the airport, my house, the palace. And then, despite of
diplomatic conversations we had, despite of all we did in a diplomatic
way to prevent them to organize that massacre which would lead to a
bloodshed, we had to leave and spent 20 hours in an American plane. And
not knowing where we were going with force, until they told us that 20
minutes before they landed in Central African Republic.
COOPER: Mr. Aristide, Mr. Aristide,
the night you left, you signed a document in which you said, "For that
reason, tonight I am resigning in order to avoid a blood bath. I accept
to leave with the hope there will be life and not death."
is a document you have signed. I have a copy of it here. Are you saying
-- did you, in fact, sign this? And what does it mean?
Well, I should see what they give to you, because these people lie. And
when they lie, I need to see the paper before saying this is exactly
what I wrote. And in what I wrote, I explained that if I am forced to
leave to avoid bloodshed, of course I will leave to avoid bloodshed.
But as I said, I should see the kind of paper they give to you, because
they lied to me, and they may lie to you, too.
Well, I have it in French, the document. I could read it to you if
you'd like, but it basically, says that "I took an oath to respect and
have the constitution respected. This evening, February 28, I'm still
determined to respect and have the constitution respected."
goes on. Are you saying that you wish you were still -- that if it was
up to you, you would still be on the ground in Haiti, that you did not
leave of your own free will?
ARISTIDE: Exactly that.
I have a statement from Secretary of State Colin Powell, who earlier
today said, in regards to you, he says, "He was not kidnapped. We did
not force him on the airplane. He went on the airplane willingly. And
that is the truth."
Are you saying that Colin Powell is lying?
He said what he wanted to say. And I told you the truth. If you pay
attention to all what I described, you'd see the truth. You will see
the huge difference between the two versions.
COOPER: Are you going to seek refuge in the Central African Republic?
Well, I am here. So far, I don't have contact with the highest
authority in the country. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ministers to meet with me,
and I'm very delighted the way they welcomed me here. But I need to
have contact with him to know exactly what I should be doing.
Why did you go with the Marines? If you are saying you did not go of
your own free will, you had your own security detail, quite an
extensive security detail. I've seen it up close myself. Why did you
ARISTIDE: I made that point
for you. I had 19 Americans providing security to the government, and
that (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They were all told and forced to leave based on
what (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on February 28.
were supposed to have the day after 18 of 25 American agents to
reinforce (ph) them, based on an agreement which was signed with the
Haitian government. They told me that night the U.S. prevented them to
go to Haiti.
So on the American side, as
on the Haitian side, we all have the same picture. People, foreign
people with arms in the streets in Port-au-Prince, surrounding the
airport, the palace, my residence, and ready to attack, which would
lead to the bloodshed. And we would have thousands of people killed.
couldn't let that happen. We had the responsibility to protect lives
and not to let people kill thousands of people. When now you compare
Haiti to what they told me before, they still continue to burn houses,
my house, killing people, and waged what they intended to do.
COOPER: Mr. Aristide, was your departure in the best interest
Of course not, because no one should force an elected president to move
in order to avoid bloodshed. Why they are still killing people, burning
houses? And the contradiction in talking is very eloquent.
COOPER: Mr. Aristide,
I am having trouble reconciling the two statements, the statements that
you have made and the statement the U.S. government has made through
Secretary Colin Powell, who, again, has said that you were not
kidnapped, that we, the United States, did not force you on to the
airplane, that you went on to the airplane willingly. And they say that
is the truth. You say -- your story is categorically the opposite of
ARISTIDE: Of course, because I am telling you the truth.
COOPER: Why do you believe the American government -- or why are you
saying the American government is lying about this?
You could ask them the same question, and you can find the answer of
your question through the answers I cautiously shared with you.
Aristide is still being held, under the authority of the French and
Americans. In his incredibly difficult position, he can't quite come
out and say that Colin Powell is lying, but it's pretty clear. If
Aristide had actually left of his own free will, he'd hardly cancel any
benefits of leaving by speaking out in this way.
March 2, 1:45 pm
There's been a series of coordinated attacks on Shi'a, with
at least 41
dead in Quetta, Pakistan
, at least 58
dead in the bombing of Musa al-Kadhim mosque
(the chief Shi'a
shrine in Baghdad, which houses the remains of Musa al-Kadhim, the 7th
Shi'a Imam), and at least 85 dead in Kerbala, the town where the Shi'a
Imam Hussein was killed and which is one of the holiest cities in the
world for them.
These killings were done on Ashoura, which is the day when Shi'a around
the world commemorate, in a very public way, the death of Hussein. In
Quetta and Kerbala, processions of people on the street were attacked,
and in Baghdad, four different suicide bombers tried to enter the
I'm very much afraid that this is just the beginning. In Iraq, it
continues the policy seen earlier in the bombing
of the Imam Ali mosque
in Najaf (done to assassinate Ayatollah
Bakir al-Hakim, but it killed over 100 others) and the bombing
of KDP and PUK headquarters
in Erbil. The policy is clearly to
exacerbate Kurd vs. Arab and Sunni vs. Shi'a tensions and plunge the
country into chaos. The attack in Pakistan may be independent, but it
seems more likely that it's part of the same strategy.
Pakistan-Afghanistan and Iraq also happen to be the two primary loci of
U.S. intervention post-9/11. Every day it becomes clearer that U.S.
intervention increases the threat of al-Qaeda and similar
organizations; that threat is actually greatest in the Islamic world
itself, but is obviously not negligible in Europe and the United States
March 1, 7:15 pm
This just in. Aristide has just
spoken with the Associated Press
, courtesy of Jesse Jackson. An
excerpt from the article:
When asked if he left Haiti on his own, Aristide
quickly answered: "No. I was forced to leave.
"Agents were telling me that if I don't leave they would start shooting
and killing in a matter of time," Aristide said during the brief
interview via speaker phone. He spoke with a thick Haitian accent and
was interrupted at times by static.
When asked who the agents were, he responded: "White American, white
"They came at night. ... There were too many, I couldn't count them,"
Aristide told reporters that he signed documents relinquishing power
out of fear that violence would erupt in Haiti if he didn't comply with
the demands of "American security agents."
The White House has denounced this claim as a "conspiracy theory." The
White House has also recently discovered in Iraq sarin-filled uranium
centrifuges being transported in mobile biological weapons labs to
unmanned aerial vehicles that will be used in missions targeting the
4:00 pm EST. Reuters
is now reporting
the claims that Aristide was abducted. Without, of
course, any reference to Democracy
, which broke the story.
Randall Robinson of Transafrica, Rep. Charles Rangel, and Rep. Maxine
Waters all say Aristide told them he was abducted. Reuters reports
Robinson saying, "The president said to
me that he had been abducted from
his home by about 20 American soldiers in full battle gear with
automatic weapons and put on a plane."
I think we can trust that in fact Aristide told them he was abducted.
So it's his word against Scott McClellan's. And we know how honest the
Bush administration is.
Of course, it makes little difference. He left at gunpoint. That's the
2:40 pm EST. Scott
McClellan on Haiti
: This long-simmering
crisis is largely of Mr. Aristide's making.
Ari Fleischer on Venezuela (April 12, 2002): We know that the action
encouraged by the Chavez government provoked this
Oddly, in both cases, the United States was involved through the
National Endowment for Democracy (which is still meddling in the
question of the recall election in Venezuela) in provoking a crisis.
And in both cases the United States has presented a forcible ouster of
a democratically-elected head of state as a victory for democracy. And,
of course, both Chavez and Aristide, who are routinely excoriated in
the elite-dominated media of their own countries and who don't hold
political prisoners, are described as "autocratic."
George W. Bush, who was elected through the denial to 58,000 people of
their Fifteenth Amendment rights and who regularly strongarms mild
critics of his administration into recanting (and who, unlike Chavez
and Aristide, is not faced with imminent overthrow), is never described
1:50 pm EST.
Last night, the Security Council, acting in truly
unseemly haste (the Council met for three minutes), unanimously passed Resolution
, dealing with Haiti. Even though the language of the
resolution authorizes a multinational peacekeeping force, the
resolution was passed under Chapter VII, authorizing the use of force,
not Chapter VI, which deals with peacekeeping. Of course, the United
States does not believe in participating in Chapter VI forces, which
are constrained in what they're allowed to do -- for example, they
can't initiate violence.
The resolution, amazingly, describes what is happening in Haiti as part
of a "constitutional process" (Bush, presumably on advice of State
Department lawyers, also used this catchphrase). I haven't read Haiti's
constitution lately, but it's hard to imagine that the constitution
recognizes the legitimacy of armed takeover by a foreign-funded and
supplied paramilitary organization as a way to transfer power.
All of this is meant to completely bury the fact that Aristide was
elected in 2000 in elections whose validity no one has contested, and
that the Haitian constitution calls for him to hold office through 2006.
Somehow, the same forces that could see the illegality of U.S.-backed
regime change in Iraq can't see the illegality of U.S.-backed regime
change in Haiti. Can it be they think Aristide is worse than Saddam
12:32 pm EST.
Check out Bush's remarks
. Without quite saying it, he makes it sound as if
Aristide's forcible ouster is a positive development and creates new
hope for the country. The State Department hailed the U.S.-backed coup
attempt in Venezuela in
the same way
, but got a black eye when everyone else realized that
a coup is an infringement of the democratic process. Haiti has no oil,
no other country needs Haiti, so it's looking as if the administration
will get away with it this time.
11:25 pm EST.
Links to my past posts on Haiti: March 1
, February 29
, February 27
February 26 1
, February 25 1
, February 16
Democracy Now reports
that Aristide did not resign; he was kidnapped. Randall Robinson of the
Transafrica Forum and Rep. Maxine Waters both claim to have spoken with
Aristide. They report that he is surrounded by military right now, as
if he was in jail. They also say that he was threatened that if he
didn't leave, Guy Philippe's forces would storm the palace and kill
With Aristide out of the country, their thugs in power, and the Marines
in Haiti, expect the United States to call for new elections.
Aristide's term runs through 2006, but apparently he is never to be
allowed to complete one of his terms. Aristide himself earlier offered
new elections, but was never taken up on that for the obvious reason
that he and Lavalas had overwhelming support.
In the original disputed elections in May of 2000, Lavalas won an
overwhelming victory, including 18 of 19 Senate seats. The dispute was
over the vote-counting method. Instead of requiring that the
winning candidate get a majority of all votes cast, the electoral
council counted only the votes cast for the top four candidates and
required that the winner get a majority of those (in many countries,
you don't need a majority of votes cast, you just need to get more
votes than any other candidate). This affected the election of 7
Lavalas Senate candidates and one not from Lavalas.
After initial resistance, the Haitian government conceded the issue,
the 7 Senators resigned, and runoff elections were held.
In the fall of 2000, Aristide was elected president with 91.69% of the
vote. The main potential opposition boycotted the election, but no one
has ever suggested that Aristide wouldn't have won overwhelmingly no
matter what. This was the same year that George W. Bush stole the
elections in the United States, which has somehow never generated
international pressure on this country.
That's it. Very minor irregularities by a party which had and has the
support of the overwhelming mass of the country.
Elections now would be a different matter -- Aristide forced out,
well-armed U.S.-backed thugs projecting terror throughout the country,
and heavy U.S. intervention in building and holding together the
"opposition" parties. There is no way that elections could be fair;
even if they could, Aristide has the right to finish his term.
Aristide has left Haiti. Initial
media reports suggest
that he left by his own decision. Of course,
the same media reported that Chavez had resigned after the April 11,
2002, coup attempt in Venezuela.
I find it odd that he left in an American transport. Also that his
prime minister (who has the actual power, according to the Haitian
constitution) didn't leave with him.
It makes little difference. He clearly left under the combination of
the threat from the probably
and from the Bush administration, which has been
saying for a few days now that Aristide should step down. The reason he
should step down, the international community agrees, is that so much
violence is being done by anti-Aristide forces.
It's been infuriating, and surreal, to see Aristide repeatedly blamed
for the actions of the "rebels."
The next call will presumably be for "elections." Of course, elections
with the former elements of the military and FRAPH in charge will be a
joke; the only legitimate call is for the goons to leave and Aristide
to come back -- and especially for the U.S. Marines, who are now
, to leave.
from Baghdad -- Hospital Closings and U.S. War Crimes "Report
from Baghdad -- Winning Hearts and Minds"Report
from Fallujah -- Destroying a Town in Order to "Save" it"Report
from Baghdad -- Opening the Gates of Hell"War
on Terrorism" Makes Us All Less Safe Bush
-- Is the Tide Turning?Perle and
vs. Dean SOU
2004: Myth and