30 January 2005

Can Freedom Wear Jackboots?

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Elie Weisel, a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews, said eloquently: "In those times, those who were in the death camps felt not only tortured and murdered by the enemy, but also tortured and murdered by what they considered to be the world's silence and indifference."

Now, 60 years later, at the United Nations commemoration of the Holocaust, the world at least was trying to listen and to remember. "Those who committed the crimes were not vulgar, underworld thugs, but men with high positions in government, academia, industry and medicine."

The world is remembering Auschwitz and the Holocaust. It is not paying any notice to the 200-year Holocaust still under way in Haiti.

There, too, the people in hazard must feel tortured and murdered by the indifference of a world conned into believing that the high-minded leaders of the United States, France, Canada and Brazil have the interest of the Haitian people at heart when their agents torture, murder, maim and rape Haitians for no better reason than that they support their democratically elected and unconstitutionally removed president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

At the UN Holocaust commemoration, Archbishop Cilistino Migliore, the Pope's representative, welcomed the Holocaust commemoration "so that humanity would not forget the terror of which man was capable, the evils of arrogant political extremism and social engineering, and the need to build a safer, saner world for every man, woman and child".

He beseeched all men and women of goodwill to seize that solemn occasion to say "never again" to such crimes, no matter their political inspiration, so that all nations, as well as the United Nations, might truly respect the life, liberty and dignity of every human being.

The life, liberty and dignity of the Haitian people do not seem to matter to anyone in the ruling circles of the world. On their way to forced exile in the Central African Republic 11 months ago, the president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and his family, aboard an American airplane, were described by their kidnappers to the Antiguan Government as "cargo".

'Men without conscience'

At the Holocaust memorial, the vice-president of the United States of America declared "these great evils of history were perpetuated not in some remote, uncivilised part of the world, but in the very heart of the civilised world.

Men without conscience are capable of any cruelty the human mind can imagine. Therefore, we must teach every generation the values of tolerance and decency and moral courage. And in every generation, free nations must maintain the will, the foresight and the strength to fight tyranny and spread the freedom that leads to peace".

In his reference to remote, uncivilised corners of the world, Mr Cheney was obviously referring to the image conjured up by President Bush in his 2002 speech to the West Point graduating class: "Our security will require transforming the military you will lead, a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world."

And, referring to Iraq - "if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States army".
Mr Bush did not need the full might of the US army to strike against Haiti; a platoon of Marines was enough to blackmail the president to leave. They thought they had persuaded him to resign, a mistake which has cost them dearly in legitimacy.

But this legitimacy does not matter to the keepers of the flame of civilisation. Their agents are busy instructing the agents of death and destruction whom to arrest and shoot in Haiti - as if those depraved killers needed any guidance.

Shortly after the thugs took power, a Canadian diplomat attached to the OAS was a member of the party of official gangsters who were flown to Gonaives in American helicopters to congratulate and celebrate the 'Cannibal Army' whom they credited with overthrowing President Aristide.

This sinister association caused no concern to either the Canadians or the OAS until I commented on it in my column some time later. He was then removed. He is gone, but other Canadians have taken his place.

Meanwhile, in the United States, a self-confessed agent of the CIA and known terrorist, one "Toto" Constant, enjoyed apparent immunity from prosecution for the crimes he had committed in an earlier overthrow of Aristide.

A group of Haitian women has now charged him with rape. Within Haiti, his fellow gangster, Louis Jodel Chamblain, was freed of multiple convictions for serious crimes against humanity - in a judicial charade intended to legitimise him.

Despite the attentions of international and Haitian human rights groups, the world has turned a deaf ear to Haitian suffering. But some new developments may make it less easy to ignore the systematic brutalisation of the Haitian people at the hands of multinational troops and the home-bred Haitian gangsters.

A report by an American lawyer attached to the University of Miami law school is one of those developments. Two others are the murder of a Haitian journalist and the threat against another from the so-called prime minister of Haiti, Latortue.

Latortue; the Haitian minister of justice, Bernard Gousse; and the UN military mission have all been formally accused of murder in relation to the deaths of three men - Lavalas activist Jimmy Charles; Ederson Joseph, a student; and Abdias Jean, a journalist.

Jimmy Charles was taken into custody by MINUSTAH (the UN force), turned over to the Haitian 'police' and later found shot to death. Abdias Jean happened to witness the police killing of three children whom the police accused of hiding terrorists.

Caribbeannet senior news correspondent, Gus Thomas, has written to Latortue condemning the murder of Abdias Jean - who happened to be Thomas' friend - and called on him to safeguard the rights of journalists.

Thomas also complained about assaults and death threats against other journalists and about police seizure of journalists' tapes, photographs and other working material. He is also complaining to the emergency meeting of the Inter-American Press Association on Monday in Port-au-Prince.

A third and perhaps even more dangerous threat to Latortue was his recent outburst against the president of the Haitian Journalists Association and Reuters correspondent in Haiti, Guy Delva.

Delva was accused in an official statement by the PM's office of providing 'disinformation' about Haiti and of preaching to his own political clique. Latortue has made the terminal mistake of many dictators: he has attacked the Press. You can kill any number of civilians, but don't touch the Press.

Delva's crime was to report that Latortue was thinking of sending a delegate to South Africa to talk to President Aristide. According to Latortue, Delva's report was based on a "hypothetical" interview the PM was supposed to have given Delva.

More dangerous to Latortue than all of these, however, is a 61-page report by Thomas M Griffin, an American lawyer who led a team to Haiti in November. The report is published on the website of the University of Miami Law School.

Streets abandoned to cadavers

The report begins: 'After 10 months under an interim government backed by the United States, Canada, and France and buttressed by a United Nations force, Haiti's people churn inside a hurricane of violence.

Gunfire crackles, once bustling streets are abandoned to cadavers, and whole neighbourhoods are cut off from the outside world. Nightmarish fear now accompanies Haiti's poorest in their struggle to survive in destitution. Gangs, police, irregular soldiers, and even UN peacekeepers bring fear. There has been no investment in dialogue to end the violence.

"Haiti's security and justice institutions fuel the cycle of violence. Summary executions are a police tactic, and even well-meaning officers treat poor neighbourhoods seeking a democratic voice as enemy territory where they must kill or be killed.

"As voices for non-violent change are silenced by arrest, assassination or fear, violent defence becomes a credible option. Mounting evidence suggests that members of Haiti's elite. pay gangs to kill Lavalas supporters and finance the illegal army."

Among the factors working for the overthrow of Aristide were a number of US-funded non-governmental organisations, including a consultancy called the International Federation for Electoral Systems (IFES) funded by USAID.

The report details how this group organised opposition to Aristide, systematically subverted the Haitian bureaucracy and eventually succeeded in precipitating the putsch against him. Bernard Gousse was among those on their payroll.

The IFES administrators told the Griffin team '[that the ouster] of Aristide "was not the objective of the IFES programme, but it was the result." They further stated that IFES/USAID workers in Haiti wanted to take credit for the ouster of Aristide, but cannot "out of respect for the wishes of the US Government".

IFES is part of a group whose head is a close friend of Vice-President Cheney. The Griffin team also spoke to Haitian sweatshop millionaire Andy Apaid, the main civil society leader of the coup.

Apaid, the leader of the Group of 184, admitted to the investigators that he had directed the Haitian police not to arrest one particular gang leader - Thomas Robinson, aka "Labanye" - but to work with him. The Haitian slum-dwellers have a slightly different story.

According to them, Labanye is the leader of a well-armed, well-financed group which continually attacks people in Cite Soleil, the slum city. Many witnesses told the investigators that Labanye received financial aid, firearms and political support from Andy Apaid.

On Thursday, at the swearing-in of Condoleezza Rice at the State Department in Washington, President G W Bush said "Freedom is on the march, and the world is better for it".

No nation, he asserted, can build a safer and better world alone, although he made it clear in his inaugural speech that he was not about to turn back from his doctrine of pre-emptive action. "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands."

In Haiti, where the whole business of universal human rights began, they will no doubt be pleased to hear that, and also Mr Bush quoting Abraham Lincoln: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it."

If I may paraphrase Shylock, a victim of anti-semitism:
Hath a Haitian not eyes? hath not a Haitian hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?
If you prick us, do we not bleed. and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

23 January 2005

Mr Seaga Departs. . . and Some Things Will Change

Common sense
John Maxwell

On his departure from Parliament after a record 46 years, 43 of them as MP for West Kingston, Mr Edward Seaga expressed regret that the country remained divided between the haves and the have-nots, and that there had been few, if any, gains in the areas of governance, justice, education and the economy.

He thought both parties should share the blame for this lack of progress. Over the last 46 years, it has been Mr Seaga's thesis that the People's National Party has been the principal obstacle to progress in this country.

To admit now that the JLP may have to share some of the blame is a monumental concession.

I have known Mr Seaga since 1958. We met at one of the weekly soirees then given by Vicky Noonan, the artist wife of US Consul for Public Affairs Tom Noonan. A few months later, after the Federal Elections, we had a public brawl in print over the meaning of the results, with me, perhaps unkindly, terming Seaga's analysis "Pseudo-Scientific Balderdash".

I have never been forgiven for that. Mr Seaga values his enemies, and I am, for him, perhaps the oldest and most pestilential.

We collided again in 1962, shortly before Independence, when with Sir Alexander Bustamante in tow, he demanded that the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation fire me because of a commentary I did in which I belittled the British Government's farewell gifts to Jamaica: after 300 years "enough cash to run the government for 11 days and Up Park Camp, which they cannot take away".

Bustamante and Seaga intimidated Mr LA Henriques, chairman of the JBC board, who agreed that I should be dismissed. The rest of the board, including Douglas Fletcher, OT Fairclough and Henry Fowler, decided that the chairman was wrong and had exceeded his authority anyway, and I was reinstated. The chairman resigned.

A few weeks later, Mr Seaga, as minister responsible for broadcasting, dismissed the entire board. The new board in turn dismissed me and began the process of destroying Norman Manley's dream of a radio station which would be the prime exemplar of the nascent Jamaican culture. (That process was completed by Mr Patterson in 1997.)

On Independence Day 1962, Mr Seaga did something which I cannot forget or forgive. When he saw Norman Manley, leader of the opposition, Father of Jamaican Independence in the Royal Box at the Stadium, he asked the security people: "What is that man doing here?"

Sir Alexander Bustamante quickly put him in his place and invited Manley to sit with him.

That was the start of a relentless polarisation of Jamaican politics which, in my opinion, subverted the sense of community and national solidarity which had begun to build after 1938 and strengthened greatly during Norman Manley's 1955 to 1962 government. This polarisation (or 'tribalisation') is responsible for most of the lack of progress Mr Seaga now laments.

Seaga's special wrath was reserved for Norman Manley. At the re-internment of Marcus Garvey's body on the first National Heroes' Day, Seaga received some scattered boos from a section of the crowd. His reaction was to threaten Manley and the PNP with "Blood for Blood and Fire for Fire", a quote from Paul Bogle from which he carefully omitted Bogle's last line - "skin for skin and colour for colour".

Seaga threatened to bring his people from West Kingston to chase the PNP from the streets. It led me to write an editorial in Public Opinion entitled "Sieg Heil, Heil Seaga". In 1986, when he was prime minister, Seaga threatened to resign to allow the PNP to win the elections and then to chase them off the streets.

Seaga is famous for his sulks. In 1971, when he was minister of finance, he sequestered himself, incommunicado, in Vale Royal because of a dispute between himself and fellow ministers, Robert Lightbourne and Wilton Hill. When the JLP lost the 1972 general elections and the 1974 municipal elections, he complained that it was because his advice had not been taken.

After the 1974 debacle, he announced he would be taking leave to write some books. The sabbatical did not last long. His obvious lack of support for Shearer quickly led to the demand from the monied backers of the party that Shearer should resign.

At a meeting at Victoria Park (now St William Grant Park), Seaga had a Gethsamane moment: in a dramatic performance he pleaded before heaven that "this cup should pass from me".

Despite this, he proceeded shortly to make it impossible for his rivals to remain within the JLP, disposing of Wilton Hill, Robert Lightbourne, Ronald Irvine, Ian Ramsay and Frank Phipps, to name only some of the most prominent before the Gang of Five and other divertissements.

In the 1976 elections, Seaga caused an international scandal by disclosing the Government's secret negotiating position with the IMF. He quoted documents the Government said had been taken from the Cabinet room by a minister and leaked to Seaga by a permanent secretary. In 1979, Trinidad's prime minister, Eric Williams, berated him for his lack of patriotism in urging the IMF and World Bank not to lend Jamaica money.

Seaga had denounced the PNP as Communist and prophesied dire consequences for Jamaica if they were to win the 1980 general elections. Unfortunately for him, he was soon compelled to go before his American backers, the Rockefeller Committee, to confess that there were no Communists in the PNP.

His American backers fell away, as chronicled in Timothy Ashby's 1989 Heritage Foundation pamphlet in which Ashby asked whether Seaga was a 'statesman or a political conman'. Ashby had been the Heritage Foundation's liaison with Seaga.

Seaga has made some horrendous gaffes: In 1976, he became notorious for publicising an alleged 'prophecy' of Marcus Garvey's about "when the Four Sevens clash" ie, that dreadful things would happen on 7/7/77. The day passed uneventfully.

In 1980, he grandly ordered the Cuban ambassador out of Jamaica, getting headlines around the world. Seaga then crawled to the Cubans, asking them would they please leave their doctors in Jamaica? They were a vital part of the health delivery system, he said.

In 1995, faced with a popular rebellion in Tivoli Gardens, Seaga presented the commissioner of police with a list of aliases of about 20 'outlaws' resident in Tivoli who he expected the police to scrape up. If the police were unable to deal with these men, Mr Seaga promised or threatened to put a price on their heads!

Seaga treasures his enemies. There is a poignant story in last Friday's Gleaner by Heather Robinson who relates how, on Seaga's orders, she was prevented from working in her Government job for two years and turned to catering to survive. I am a special target of Mr Seaga.

Having got me out of the JBC in 1962, he was determined to shut me up as editor of Public Opinion. Between himself and Victor Grant, the attorney-general, there was a sedulous search for ways to silence me. One of my contributors, Bill Carr, was threatened with deportation and I was threatened with prison or worse. Bustamante publicly told me I should be shot, "but only in the leg". (Joke!!!) Finally, the Government attacked in force.

Civil servants were barred from having Public Opinion newspaper in their possession. Government departments and any entities in receipt of any Government funds were forbidden to advertise in Public Opinion or to buy printing from its parent, City Printery Ltd. These entities included the University and the Jamaica Agricultural Society, from which City Printery had recently won valuable contracts.

In one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the Jamaican press, the Press Association said that it could not agree that the Government's behaviour was a threat to freedom of the Press. The Government, like any business, had a right to decide how to spend its money!

When I complained to the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), then meeting in Montego Bay, they said they saw no reason to interfere. IAPA's famous interventions on behalf of freedom of the Press clearly did not include attacks on Press freedom from the Right.

There was a farcical debate in Parliament in which the de facto prime minister, Donald Sangster, defended his underlings' actions. Had I remained at Public Opinion, it would have meant the shutdown of City Printery and the pauperisation of 40 families. I didn't feel the struggle was worth that. I went to England where I worked with the BBC for the next five years.

I returned to Jamaica in 1970, about a year after an invitation from Norman Manley who wanted me to write his biography. Sadly, before I arrived, Manley died. I came anyway, on a month's holiday.

Michael Manley one day said to me that the PNP could find no one willing to run as PNP candidate in West Kingston. People were too afraid. I said, offhand, that if he still couldn't find anyone by the time the election was imminent, I would run. About a year later, when I was still the only black editor in the BBC World Service Newsroom, I got a call about three o'clock in the morning.

"Come," said Michael Manley, "we need you." I hadn't the foggiest idea what he was talking about, but he soon put me wise. He said that the PNP knew (as I did) that it could not win in West Kingston. My presence on the ticket was simply to prevent Seaga being declared elected on nomination day.

I decided that it was the least I could do for the memory of Norman Manley and the Jamaica he represented. In the unlikely event that I won, I could not have taken my seat anyway because on Election Day, February 29, 1972, I was not qualified to be a member of parliament.

Seaga regarded my running in West Kingston as a personal insult. In the 70s, when I was doing the Public Eye talk show, platoons of Tivoli people were organised to ring up and say outrageous things after having carefully identified their party loyalties. I used the broadcast delay switch to cut them off before their expletives were broadcast.

Seaga's story then was that I was simply denying freedom of speech to Labourites. After the 1980 elections when I was trying to discover my National Housing Trust status, I tried to get my personal file from the JBC.

There was a note in the filing cabinet that the file had been sent to Jamaica House and never returned. Another file sent to Jamaica House produced happier results. As chairman of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority I fought successfully for the authority to declare the entire island of Jamaica a protected watershed. The PNP, for two years, did nothing about it.

Mr Seaga, as prime minister, must by some means have come across some NRCA files and realised that the resolution needed only a ministerial signature to become effective. He signed the order and Jamaica became a Protected Watershed in 1981.

So between us, Seaga and I have accomplished at least one good thing for this country. I really wish we could have done more together. Whoever leads the parties now, the paranoia level is bound to go down. National solidarity may rise again. Some things will change.

16 January 2005

Not Even the Shadow of Truth

Common Sense
John maxwell

When Colin Powell attempted to blind the world with science, to convince us that the regime of Saddam Hussein was too dangerous to tolerate, he spoke in front of a carefully hidden symbol of human outrage against war and the murder of innocent people.

Behind him, but covered by an arras, was Picasso's Guernica, a passionate protest in paint against the fascist warplanes of Hitler and Mussolini slaughtering the innocent civilians of the Spanish town of Guernica.

If the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour is a day that will live in infamy, one wonders how historians of the future will describe the Anglo-American-led assault against the people of Iraq.

As the New York Times editorialised on Thursday, "Even after most of the sites were searched, the places that had been identified in spy photos as sinister weapons-production sites had been shown to be chicken coops, and the scary reports about nuclear weapons ready to be detonated proved to be the fantasies of feckless intelligence analysts, die-hard supporters of the invasion insisted that something would turn up."

In Britain, as in the United States, the truth-tellers have been disgraced, one committed suicide, while the liars, the spin doctors and the maleficent farceurs have moved on to bigger and better things.

In Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of children died because of sanctions, and thousands more were killed by picking up attractively styled packages of death, the killing continues.

The United States president, Mr Bush, with no rational excuse to be in Iraq, demands the right to install democracy in that country if he has to kill every Iraqi to do so.

As the world awaits the second installation of Mr Bush as president of the United States, it may yet be determined that despite all the damage he has caused in Iraq and in other places, the greatest damage the president has done is to his own country and its reputation for decency and fairness, however flawed: to the idea of the United States as the pillar of liberty and a haven for democracy.

On Friday, a military court found American soldier Charles Graner Jr guilty of gross abuses against helpless prisoners of war. The official story is that he and a few other delinquents violated established military orders and rules and subjected prisoners to humiliating and sometimes fatal terror and abuse.

Unfortunately for the official story, it is now becoming clearer that the torture and abuses at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo and at the other outposts of the American gulag round the world were part of a system, the product of an ideology and a psychology which refuses to admit that all human beings are entitled to the same rights.

The president of the United States, with the advice of his attorney-general and of the man slated to succeed that worthy gentleman, decided that prisoners in the "war on terror" were 'unlawful combatants' rather than prisoners of war.

According to the attorney-general designate, Alberto Gonzales, the president's war-making powers gave him the constitutional authority to overrule any relevant laws in the conduct of the war on terror. Mr Bush, Gonzales argued, had the discretion whether to respect the Geneva Conventions.

An assistant attorney-general, one Jay S Bybee, alleged that it would be unconstitutional to attempt to interfere with the president's direction of such core matters as the detention and interrogation of prisoners. Bybee argues in another memo: "Any effort to apply Section 2340A in a manner that interferes with the president's direction of such core war matters as the detention and interrogation of enemy combatants thus would be unconstitutional."

(Section 2340A refers to the United States law that incorporates the international Convention Against Torture.) (Atrocities in Plain Sight; book review by Andrew Sullivan, NYT 13/1/05.)

"Bybee analysed the relevant statutes against torture to see exactly how far the military could go in mistreating prisoners without blatant illegality. His answer was surprisingly expansive. He argued that all the applicable statutes and treaty obligations can be read in such a way as to define torture very narrowly. Bybee asserted that the president was within his legal rights to permit his military surrogates to inflict "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment on prisoners without violating strictures against torture.

For an act of abuse to be considered torture, the abuser must be inflicting pain "of such a high level of intensity that the pain is difficult for the subject to endure". If the abuser is doing this to get information and not merely for sadistic enjoyment, then "even if the defendant knows that severe pain will result from his actions", he's not guilty of torture.

Threatening to kill a prisoner is not torture; "the threat must indicate that death is 'imminent'." Beating prisoners is not torture either. Bybee argues that a case of kicking an inmate in the stomach with military boots while the prisoner is in a kneeling position does not by itself rise to the level of torture.

Bybee even suggests that full-fledged torture of inmates might be legal because it could be construed as "self-defence", on the grounds that "the threat of an impending terrorist attack threatens the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of American citizens". By that reasoning, torture could be justified almost anywhere on the battlefield of the war on terror.

Only the president's discretion forbade it. These guidelines were formally repudiated by the administration the week before Gonzales's appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee for confirmation as attorney-general."

It is difficult to see how Mr Bush and his Cabinet can escape responsibility for any or all of the heinous acts alleged against US soldiers anywhere in the war on terror.

According to the International War Crimes Tribunal indictment against Slobodan Milosevic, individual criminal responsibility includes committing, planning, instigating, ordering or aiding and abetting in the planning, preparation or execution of any crimes referred to in Articles 2 to 5 of the Tribunal Statute.

The Milosevic indictment makes it plain that it does not matter whether the defendant actually ordered any of these crimes, only that being in a position to stop them he could and should have prevented them.

I believe that any judge would be compelled to find not only that Mr Bush aided and abetted these heinous crimes, but that he was the intellectual author of them.

Certainly, the American soldiers carrying out these acts believed that they were doing them on behalf of their commander-in-chief. The White House has been even more recently involved in ensuring that torture could continue as a means of interrogation.

According to a story in the New York Times on Thursday, the White House defeated a recent Congressional initiative to limit the use of harsh interrogation techniques. The Senate had approved overwhelmingly (96-2) new restrictions on the use of extreme interrogation measures by US intelligence officials.

The new rules would have explicitly forbidden intelligence officers to use torture or inhumane treatment and would have required the CIA and the Pentagon to report to Congress about the methods they were using.

This Congressional initiative was killed in committee after the intervention of the White House. The national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, opposed the restrictions on the ground that they provided "legal protections to foreign prisoners to which they are now entitled under existing law and policy".

Death Squads For Iraq

According to Newsweek magazine, the US Department of Defence, the Pentagon, is now considering a bold new option for checking the insurgency in Iraq. One senior military officer told the magazine: "What everyone agrees is that we can't just go on as we are. We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defence. And we are losing."

The new strategy is not really new - it was used by the Reagan Administration to defeat the leftist insurgency in El Salvador 20 years ago. Faced with losing the war, the United States funded or supported nationalist forces that included death squads which hunted down and murdered actual or suspected left-wing leaders and community organisers.

The insurgency was eventually defeated, at the cost, some say, of more than 100,000 civilian lives.

The same strategy was tried even earlier, in Vietnam, where Operation Phoenix decimated the community leadership of the Vietnamese countryside in an unsuccessful attempt to quell that insurgency by "drying up the swamp".

The interim Iraqi regime of Iyad Allawi is, according to Newsweek, among the most forthright supporters of the "Salvador option". The rationale is to intimidate the largely Sunni insurgency by terrorising those who are thought to be giving at least tacit support to the guerrillas.

According to a new report prepared for the CIA, the ultimate result of the Iraq war may be to incite more terror, not less. Just as the US attempt to squash the Falluja uprising helped instead to spread it, the CIA think-tank theorises that the war in Iraq is creating a training and recruitment ground for a new generation of professionalised Islamic terrorists.

The report says that the risk of a terrorist attack involving biological weapons is steadily growing.

The "dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq" to other countries will create a new threat in the coming 15 years, especially as the al-Qaeda network mutates into a volatile brew of independent extremist groups, cells and individuals, according to the report by the National Intelligence Council.

I don't think it needed a think-tank to tell the CIA that. In fact, I suggested it a month after 9/11:
"Trying to 'get' bin Laden, as the FBI got Al Capone, is impossible, and anyway is sure to lead to further terrorist attacks. As I said in my first column on this subject, terrorists and/or 'freedom fighters' do not need to be led, if they are sufficiently imbued with a righteous sense of injustice and grievance.

It is, after all, perfectly possible that the WTC terrorists were a self-contained group, determined to do their bit for Allah and the greater glory of Islam. Did they really need a bin Laden?

"The grievance and bitterness were there before bin Laden and will survive him. As long as the causes for this bitterness and grievance persist, so long will the destructive anger and the horrific self-sacrifices continue.

"Fighting 'terrorism' is fighting a symptom. The disease will continue as long as Corporate America continues to push the American state in the furtherance of its own, hidden agenda while concealing its true nature from its own people."
I may, of course, have been wrong.

09 January 2005

Struggle for the Future

Common Sense
John Maxwell

In the heart of Africa, on November 11, 1965 the 'white' inhabitants of a vast area known as Rhodesia declared themselves an independent country.

In their 'Declaration of Independence' the tiny minority of white people (one per cent of the population) declared "That the people of Rhodesia, having demonstrated their loyalty to the Crown and to their kith and kin in the United Kingdom and elsewhere through two world wars, and having been prepared to shed their blood and give of their substance in what they believed to be the mutual interests of freedom-loving people, now see all that they have cherished about to be shattered on the rocks of expediency".

According to still loyal remnants of the so-called 'people of Rhodesia':

From the wilderness which existed at the time of Cecil John Rhodes' arrival, a vibrant new nation called Rhodesia was created. In less than 75 years this nation, created from nothing by toil and enterprise, became the jewel of Africa, the most progressive and socially evolutionary country on the African continent, until its tragic metamorphosis into the Republic of Zimbabwe in 1980. (Source)
Before the white man came, the story goes, Zimbabwe was a wilderness. It was a wilderness a little larger than Italy but smaller than Spain, with between five and 10 million people living there. These people were the descendants of an advanced civilisation which seemed to have disappeared about 1,600 years ago.

Civilisations disappear for many reasons, one of them being sudden and catastrophic climate change, as accounted for Maya kingdoms in Central America and Mohenjo Daro in what is now Pakistan. Conquest accounted for others such as the Mexican Aztecs, and disease wiped out the Taino in the Caribbean. The slave trade devastated numberless civilisations in Africa from the 15th century onward and killed millions more than were actually transported and enslaved.

In Africa, Europeans came upon what they considered virgin lands, because the people who lived there did not 'farm' like Europeans, spoke a different language and were, basically, mostly invisible except when they reverted to their native savagery.

Those who settled into places like Kenya and Ghana were blissfully ignorant that the depredations of the slave trade had destroyed and scattered the people who had lived there before - entire civilisations vanished.

While most people believe that slaves were captured only in West Africa, consider the case of a woman named Jendawi Serwah. "She is a lady from Bristol whose parents had each arrived in Britain from Jamaica as teenagers. Their ancestors had been taken from Africa as slaves to work the plantations."

Jendawi's story is told in The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes (Bantam Press, London 2001), one of the world's foremost experts on DNA. He traced Jendawi's DNA and found a "mitochondrial signature that was clearly African. When I told her of this result and also that we had found a very close DNA match with a Kenyan Kikuyu, the effect on her was overwhelming".

Mitochondrial DNA tells us some other things, among them the proof that all of us are members of the same human race. When the Rhodesians spoke of their kith and kin, hoping for special treatment from their 'white' relatives, they didn't know what they were talking about.

For instance: When Nelson's victorious fleet was paid off in England after the battle of Trafalgar, thousands of black sailors were assimilated into the English bloodstream. Who can say whether 'President Ian Smith of Rhodesia' may not have been more closely related to some carpenter in Four Paths than to Harold Wilson?

Nevertheless, the racists, bigots and religious diehards continue to beat the race drum for all they are worth.

A correspondent reports that on December 16 "I caught a report on our own Love TV. about Haiti. The report formed a segment of an American 'news programme' called The 700 Club...produced and broadcast by the Christian Broadcasting Company (CBN), owned by millionaire televangelist Pat Robertson. The 700 Club is carried in many nations and is broadcast every morning in Jamaica by Love TV.

"Yesterday's report on Haiti stated falsely that Boukman practised witchcraft and led the ceremony which dedicated Haiti to the Devil. Of course, the 'reporter' found so-called Voodoo priests in Haiti, who professed their allegiance to the Devil.

Then there were the 'brave' born again Christians of Haiti, the foot soldiers in God's war to reclaim the nation he had to curse. And not surprisingly there was the customary jab at Aristide. The 'reporter' claimed that Aristide used to practise Voodoo, that is, Devil worship in the presidential palace, so of course, since his ouster the new occupant has invited Christians to cleanse it.

The neo-Fascist fundamentalist right in American politics are a strange and dangerous breed. Testifying before Congress (February 5, 1981), President Reagan's secretary of the interior James Watt was asked if he agreed that natural resources should be preserved for future generations. His response: "I do not know how many future generations we can count of before the Lord returns." (Source)

The idea that blacks are cursed by God, and Haitians especially so, is prevalent among many of these so-called Christian sects. And their influence has spread to lots of people who should know better, among them many who wear the indelible uniform of the oppressed. But of course, who knows? Colin Powell, Kofi Annan and P J Patterson may very well be more closely related to Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun than they are to the majority of the eight million Haitians who have been relieved of their independence.

As in 1965, the putschists in Haiti are a tiny minority of the population and distinguished from them not so much by skin colour, although there is that, but by a cultivated sense of superiority born of their inheritance of the colonial burdens of the French slavemasters who were so rudely ejected from Haiti 200 years ago.

They are backed by the rednecks of France, Canada, the USA and of the Caribbean who believe, like Colin Powell and George Bush, that anything is better than Haitian independence. As Frantz Fanon said 45 years ago, the world of colonisation is a strictly compartmentalised world.

"The natives' challenge to the colonial world is not a rational confrontation of two points of view...The colonial world is a Manichean world. As if to show the totalitarian character of colonial exploitation, the settler paints the native as a sort of quintessence evil. Native society is not simply described as a society lacking in values.

It is not for the colonialist to affirm that those values have disappeared from, or, better still, never existed in, the colonial world. The native is declared insensible to ethics; he represent not only the absence of values, but also the negation of values. He is, let us dare to admit, the enemy of values, and in this sense he is absolute evil.

He is the corrosive element, destroying all that comes before him; he is the deforming element; disfiguring all that has to do with beauty or morality; he is the depositary of maleficent powers, the unconscious and irretrievable instrument of blind forces.

All values in fact are irrevocably poisoned as soon as they are allowed in contact with the colonised race. The customs of the colonised people, their traditions, their myths - above all their myths - are the very sign of that poverty of spirit and of their constitutional depravity."

So you can understand why one of the first acts of the unleashed thugs of the ancien regime was the destruction of the brand new Museum of Haitian culture with its treasury of folk art, including of course, voudon images and relics.

And that, too, was why the new medical school, established by Aristide with Cuban help, became the headquarters of the US Marines. It is also precisely the reason that Field Marshal von Rumsfeld was not just unconcerned but ecstatic that 8,000 years of history and civilisation were being scattered to the four winds after the fall of Baghdad. Why do you need history when we do not know "how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns".

I don't know if P J Patterson, our prime minister, walked barefoot like me when school was not in session. His uncle was the dispenser (pharmacist) in Duncans where I grew up, and boys of my station in life know all about 'jiggers', hookworm and similar pests. We were very much like Haiti then - poor, backward, largely illiterate and unhealthy.

It was our own effort that turned us around, pulled us up. We got help, of course, and we were not subject to the unremitting institutionalised violence visited upon Haiti by the black satraps of the United States who were tolerated from time to time and went their way into exile, from time to time.

It was our own struggles and bad behaviour plus the example of Haiti which frightened the British into abolishing slavery in Jamaica, 34 years after the Haitian slaves had abolished it in Haiti. But though our stories diverge, from time to time, the parallels remain. Aristide and Manley are demonised for the same reasons. We were luckier.

American intervention in tiny Grenada produced an uproar out of all proportion to the importance of the island. Imagine what would have happened had it been Jamaica.

Haiti, on the other hand, was George Canning's gift to the US. He was an enlightened Imperialist who realised that it didn't matter which section of the Master Race governed, as long as the Master Race ruled. "I have called a new world into existence to redress the balance of the old" he chortled at the announcement of the Monroe Doctrine.

His ghost must have had screaming fits when Castro sent his troops to liberate Southern Africa, fulfilling the other half of the prophecy. And it is that which may explain the American fixation on Haiti. Not only is Haiti to be punished for its temerity in destroying slavery, but its geographic position is perfect for an assault on Cuba from within the Caribbean.

Cuba has done in the 20th century what Haiti did in the 19th. It has demonstrated to the native, in Fanon's words, "that his life, his breath, his beating heart are the same as those of the settler. He finds out that the settler's skin is not of any more value than a native's skin; and it must be said that this discovery shakes the world in a very necessary manner".

Necessary, yes, if you believe that humanity's journey has just begun, and that the road is bound to be rough and bloody, but, most important, we know that there are many future generations ahead of us, and that it is their world that we must protect and preserve.

We, at least, have a duty to all the civilisations that have risen, fallen, been created and destroyed and are yet to arise. If we do not do what our duty tells us must be done, we will live in odium in the history of our progeny and our posterity.