27 February 2005

In the Twinkling of an Eye

Common Sense
John Maxwell

It was there one minute and gone the next, like something seen out of the corner of your eye which disappears as you turn to give it your full attention. Fortunately, I had saved it to my hard disk and I could retrieve it. My mind was not playing tricks.

The story was frightening, as the headline suggests: 'HIV rate for blacks has doubled in 10 years'

It was from the Winston-Salem Journal and I'd found it on GoogleNews at about 8:30. Ten minutes later, it had vanished from GoogleNews, not to be found again. I checked one of my favourite US newspapers, the Los Angeles Times. It was not there.

It was not even in the archives. The New York Times was equally unproductive. But the NYT does carry a sidebar with links to Associated Press and Reuters. It wasn't on Reuters but on AP it was their top health story.

"The HIV infection rate has doubled among blacks in the United States over 10 years but is holding steady among whites - stark evidence of a widening racial gap in the epidemic, government scientists said yesterday.

"Other troubling statistics indicate that almost half of all infected people in the United States who should be receiving HIV drugs are not getting them.

"The findings were released in Boston at the 12th Annual Retrovirus Conference, the world's chief scientific gathering on the disease.
" 'It's incredibly disappointing,' " said Terje Anderson, the director of the National Association of People With AIDS. 'We just have a burgeoning epidemic in the African-American community that is not being dealt with effectively'.

"Researchers and AIDS-prevention advocates attributed the high rate among blacks to such factors as drug addiction, poverty and poor access to health care."

You would think, wouldn't you, that a story which affected millions of Americans would hit the front pages and stay there. You would be wrong. There are lots of other non-stories.

Male chauvinist and what else?

Mr Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard, the most prestigious university in the US and outside of Oxbridge, in the world, is in hot water because of sexist remarks he made at a seminar two weeks ago.

SUMMERS. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that

He tried to suggest that women were less qualified than men for certain pursuits. Having been identified as a sexist, or a male chauvinist pig, as they used to say, Mr Summers appears to have taken his deserved licks. The trouble is that Mr Summers is more than just sexist. He is racist as well.

Consider a memo he wrote when he was vice-president of the World Bank, advocating that the bank should give incentives to industry to move polluting activities to the developing world, where, according to him, the social cost would be lower.
"I've always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City.

"From this point of view, a given amount of health-impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that."
In his view, dumping toxic waste in poor countries would be "world welfare enhancing" cancers, like 'prostrate' cancer as he calls it, are relatively unimportant to those who, statistically, are unlikely to survive long enough to get it.

"The demand for a clean environment for aesthetic and health reasons is likely to have very high income elasticity" or translated: the poor won't care what kind of air they breathe when they are starving. I do not wonder at the fact that such an obnoxious panjandrum is head of Harvard when the present US Administration can be reliably reported as chiding the Russians for their democracy deficit.

In a country that tolerates a worldwide gulag where people are tortured and held incommunicado and unrepresented, it is a little rich. In a country where the very result of the last presidential election is in serious doubt, it seems a little odd for its president to be lecturing anyone else about democracy.

Yet, satraps of the Administration are busy lecturing the United Nations, for example, about such things. One particularly repellent member of the species satrapus bushii, a certain Luigi Einaudi, has been telling the Security Council of his strenuous efforts on behalf of democracy in Haiti.

Last year, in Port-au-Prince, in the hearing of several witnesses, Einaudi delivered himself of the immortal words:
"The only trouble with Haiti is that it is run by Haitians." For the Security Council his message was different.

"Our most recent mandate from our own [ie OAS] General Assembly refers to support for the elections, to the institutional strengthening of the Haitian state, and the defence of human rights, all of that in co-operation with MINUSTAH and the United Nations.

"The first one is, I think, that good elections - that is to say, open, participative, nonexclusive elections in which the people can vote and have their votes counted and respected - are central to democratic stability and legitimacy in Haiti. I think there is absolutely no doubt of that among any of us."

Of course, Einaudi speaks of human rights against the background that tomorrow is the first anniversary of a coup which overthrew the democratically elected president of Haiti and replaced him with a barbarous regime which respects no human rights except those of its own members.

Nor does he refer to the fact that he and others, on behalf of the US Government, actively sabotaged Aristide in order to weaken him to the point where he would be overthrown. They didn't succeed, so they intervened themselves.

On Friday, it was reported that a Haitian woman had complained of being raped by two Pakistani members of the UN mission (MINUSTAH) - while a third watched. Yesterday, it was reported that a 'prostitute' has admitted being paid by the soldiers for her services. These services were performed in a canefield, a strange place for prostitutes to be plying their trade.

I wonder how much was paid out of UN funds?

Then a 14-year-old girl, the daughter of a trade union leader now in hiding, tells her story to human rights activists.

This girl testified that soldiers came looking for her father one night. Not finding him, they proceeded to rape her, her mother and an 11-year-old cousin staying with them. Not satisfied with that, the soldiers forced two young men, nephews of the girl's mother, to have sexual intercourse with the girl and her mother.

They were very open about all this. When the 14-year-old closed her eyes against the rape, she was threatened and hit.
This is the regime now defended by Mr Einaudi on behalf of its sponsors, the United States, Canada and France.

Never smile at a crocodile

Meanwhile, the Caribbean association - Caricom - has passed a resolution declaring themselves troubled by the human rights situation in Haiti.

There is a problem with feeding your neighbours to the crocodile: eventually the crocodile will eat you too. The hypocrisy of the UN Security Council is equalled only by its culpability for what is happening in Haiti. Blackmailed by the US, the council did nothing when President Aristide appealed for help last year. God knows what assurances it received then from the US.

But, as we end Black History Month, it is clear that the concerns of such as the Haitians carry very little weight where it counts, in the corridors of the World Bank or the United Nations, to say nothing of the Organisation of American States.

Why should they, when the US founding fathers decreed 200 years ago that blacks were only three-fifths human, and therefore made a mockery of their declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights which proclaimed the equality of man?

In Haiti, on the other hand, the slaves who abolished slavery proclaimed what we now recognise as a declaration of universal human rights and set out to help free the Americas from foreign domination. For these and other crimes against civilisation, the Haitians were sentenced to indefinite penal servitude - a sentence now being strictly enforced by the man who, as governor of Texas, signed more death warrants than anyone since Judge Jeffries.

Meanwhile, the US Press sets new standards for newsworthiness. The trials and travails of Michael Jackson are of far greater import than the fact that a male prostitute penetrated the White House Press Corps and gained close access to the president himself. This access was granted to a character named James Guckert, alias Jeff Gannon, while the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is still awaiting her admission to the select company of the White House Press.

Mr Gannon/Guckert could be found on websites last week, nude and 'standing to attention', like the Marine he once was, offering his services as a male escort who caused no hurt - "leaving no scars only impressions". His fee was $200 an hour or $1,200 for a weekend. The Press has not found it newsworthy enough to expose the tremendous security breaches which allowed Gannon access to this most security-conscious White House.

Instead, they are busy claiming privilege to conceal sources who broke the law by disclosing the identity of Mrs Valerie Plame, a CIA undercover agent. One such law-breaker may have been Jeff Gannon himself. But the Press claims that it has special privilege to protect its confidential sources

As a poor third world journalist, I want to know how the New York Times, for instance, can defend a reporter's concealment of a crime by claiming privilege? In my kind of perhaps obsolete ethic, journalists are citizens, and as such, we have no more right to break the law than does say, a president, the police, the army or anyone else.

It may be remembered that as the secretary-general of the UN Kofi Annan recently discovered, the law was broken last year when the United States decided to attack, invade and destroy Iraq. And, of course, somebody broke several laws this time last year when President Aristide was kidnapped and transported back to Africa. But we won't go into that now, will we?

Suetonius reported that gladiators gallantly, before they began their contests, would say: "Ave, imperator, morituri te salutamus" - "Hail Emperor, we who are about to die, salute you."

They were, of course, observing protocol. We, too, should no doubt, gallantly embrace our fates. "We've got to fulfil the book," as Marley said.

20 February 2005

Hearts of Stone

Common Sense
John Maxwell

We often use words without fully understanding and appreciating their real meanings. Take 'atrocity' for instance, often used to describe run of the mill nastiness. According to the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1993) the word means, among other things: Horrible or heinous wickedness; wanton cruelty; an act of wanton cruelty or extreme heinousness; a repellent act or thing.

'Heinous', in turn, means highly criminal or wicked; utterly odious.
You get the message. An atrocity is an act of wanton wickedness, so nasty as to be what used to be termed 'unspeakable' meaning, literally, that no words can adequately describe the essentially evil nature of the offence, the inhumanity of it, an act of barbarism such as only the truly civilised are capable.

My column today is not written by me, but consists mainly of excerpts from a report of an investigation undertaken by a team from the University of Miami's Centre for the Study of Human Rights led by attorney and law professor, Thomas W Griffin.

It is published on the University's website. I am doing this because I believe that the responsible authorities in the United States, Canada, France and Jamaica must know precisely the nature of the atrocity that is Haiti today, as detailed here, but have hardened their hearts against the eight million helpless people in their concentration camp. We, outside the ranks of privilege, should know what they know.

"Since September 30, 2004, gang violence overwhelms the notorious hunger, disease, abandonment and despair of Cité Soleil. [Port-au-Prince's largest slum city with 250,000 people.] A well-armed, well-funded group in the Boston neighbourhood of the Cité continually attacks the people in all its other neighbourhoods.

Witnesses repeatedly explained this siege as an effort to hold hostage and stifle the political voice of the poor, and to wipe out the Lavalas movement.

Numerous witnesses stated the Boston gang leader, Thomas Robinson, alias "Labanye", receives financial, firearms, and political support from wealthy businessmen. Cité Soleil witnesses and police officers reported that Apaid's support of Labanye keeps the police from arresting him.

"Efforts to access Labanye failed. Multiple sources stated, however, that Labanye has a large United States flag draped in front of his headquarters under which he forces victims to kneel and beg for their lives before killing them. "Professionals and business people told investigators that Apaid is 'the real government in Haiti'.

"Apaid, like his family before him, is the owner of several of the largest factories in Haiti. He admitted that he is a United States citizen by birth, but noted that his family has a long history in Haiti. Unlike most Haitians, Apaid is white and of Middle Eastern ancestry.

"Apaid said he is personally active in the effort to curb the violence in the poorest neighbourhoods. .He explained that he had arranged a meeting with all Cité Soleil "gang" leaders three weeks after Aristide's ouster, including Tupac, Amaral, Billy, Dred Wilme, and Thomas "Labanye" Robinson. Apaid says he asked each of them to agree to disarm, and only Labanye agreed.

Apaid admitted that since Labanye's agreement, he has directed the police to protect Labanye's life, and "not to arrest him, but to work with him". Labanye deserves special treatment, he said, "because he is a witness to the others refusing to disarm". Apaid remarked that he now has "great influence over Labanye".

Apaid denied providing financial support or firearms to Labanye, and emphasised that he opposes violence and is committed to helping the poor of Cité Soleil. .He said that "the poor should have a piece of the pie. We just need the structures in place that allow the pie to get bigger."

"In response to Labanye's Boston group cutting off exits from Cité Soleil, the gangs in other neighbourhoods have established a type of martial law and have taken control of their own borders. Armed guards stand at entryways.

As a result, there is no commercial traffic into Cité Soleil. The marketplaces sit empty. The outside world and its food can only be safely reached in makeshift boats. The little food that does reach Cité Soleil comes at a premium..

"On an almost daily basis, the Haitian National Police (HNP), in various units and dressed in a wide variety of uniforms, often masked, select and attack a neighbourhood in operations reported as efforts to arrest armed gang members, with UN soldiers backing them up.

"Observations and interviews in Bel Air revealed that there are dead bodies in the street almost daily, including innocent bystanders, women and children. One witness stated that police, and often former soldiers, have continued to reinforce the message of repression by committing open-air massacres at mid-day.

[The investigators witnessed one of these police operations and saw several dead bodies in the streets as well as several seriously wounded people. They managed to get one such out of the slum and into the care of the Red Cross. This young man was delivered to the hospital, left untreated and died within a few days.]

"...the Pétionville suburb in the Port-au-Prince area, is home to many of Haiti's wealthy, its business elite, foreign expatriates, international reporters on assignment, and temporary foreign workers (from NGOs, the Red Cross, the UN, etc).

According to residents and municipal authorities, Pétionville has operated normally and without major incident since President Aristide's ouster.

"There is an obvious tension between the HNP, who have a large station and jail in Pétionville's centre, and the soldiers. The HNP are visibly nervous, while the soldiers swagger with large firearms, marching and drilling, speeding through and out of Pétionville on operations in the day, and patrolling nightly.

Residents not only have protection from the HNP, but a heavily-armed regiment ready to serve the neighbourhood that has been feeding and housing them.

"In Pétionville, investigators confirmed the repeated, highly consistent reports from neighbourhoods under siege that former soldiers have reunited, calling themselves the "Haitian Army".

The soldiers insist that the army be reinstated and included in any discussion of Haiti's future. These heavily-armed soldiers assist HNP operations, and conduct their own, in the poorest and most densely populated neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince. They dress in green military fatigues or camouflage and green helmets.

"The investigators made repeated visits to the single, 9-feet by 9-feet jail cells at the HNP Anti-Gang Unit headquarters across from the National Palace. On the first visit, there were 42 prisoners in the cell, some already there for as long as 30 days.

None had been brought before a magistrate as required, within 48 hours of arrest, under the Haitian Constitution. All stated they were arrested for supporting Lavalas. All appeared to be extremely impoverished and many had no shoes or shirts.

"Several. appeared to have been beaten and were severely injured, and none had been seen by any medical professionals. After investigators' complaints and calls to the Red Cross, some prisoners were moved to the National Penitentiary. About 30 remained in the cell at the end of the investigation period.

"The US has been a strong supporter of the interim government, providing substantial political and financial assistance...investigators spoke with officials at the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince, and with employees of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)...a subcontractor of the US Agency for International Development.

"The [US Embassy] administrators stated that they, and IFES, considered the programmes to be an avenue to exposing and then ending corruption in the Haitian Government.

They felt that President Aristide was corrupt, and that their job was to nurture civil society institutions that could provide a counterweight to the elected authorities.

"IFES initially undertook to form a network of organisations that could concentrate opposition to the perceived corruption of the judiciary by the Aristide Government. IFES formed new associations and established relationships with existing ones, making them more cohesive with a formally planned programme of sensitisation.

"The administrators reported that IFES used the same formula to establish formal associations of "private sector" and "business sector" groups in order to "provide economic force" to the opposition movement. IFES included a programme to "sensitise" media and journalist groups, and to "use all the radio stations in Haiti" to publicise Aristide's corruption.

"The administrators reported that IFES, through its creation or "sensitisation" of associations, set the groundwork for the establishment and nurturing of the Group of 184 - the business-centred coalition led by factory owner Andy Apaid that played a major role in Aristide's ouster.

"The administrators stated that "we [IFES] put Aristide in a bad situation". They stated that IFES united "all forces against Aristide".The administrators stated that IFES was bootstrapped to USAID, and that Aristide had to allow IFES to operate or else he would have had to forego humanitarian and other assistance from USAID.

This would have damaged relationships with his own people who needed USAID services, and further alienated Washington, they said.
"The administrators stated that the ouster of Aristide "was not the objective of the IFES programme, but it was the result. FES/USAID workers in Haiti want to take credit for the ouster of Aristide, but cannot "out of respect for the wishes of the US Government".

"Morgue workers stated that since September 30, 2004, the date the police shot into the large Lavalas demonstration, the HNP rarely even bring people killed by violence to the morgue. the police simply take the bodies of those they kill directly to undisclosed dumping grounds, sometimes stopping by the morgue only to borrow the dump truck.

"The palpable tension, the hunger, and the fear have led to the poor killing the poor, in Cité Soleil, where rich businessmen appear to be fuelling the fire. In other poor neighbourhoods, the police, backed by UN forces, routinely carry out indiscriminate and unprofessional killing operations.

[The report concludes with a stomach-turning report of a visit to the official morgue, where dead bodies are left unrefrigerated to be consumed by maggots and bacteria in a miasma of inhuman disrespect and barbaric indifference to human dignity. Finally, the investigators sum up:]

"As they die from bullets, starvation, and disease, the poor cry out for a chance to be heard. Despite the ubiquity, and the planning of the United States, Canada, the UN and others, no one in control can claim to have made any investment in real dialogue.

The investments that have been made are in firepower. the observable returns on the investment are bodies left in the street to be eaten by pigs or rotting in the morgue, and the tearing apart of communities that have long been knitted together by their shared hunger."

George Bush, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Martin, Jacques Chirac, Kofi Annan and P J Patterson cannot say that they don't know.

13 February 2005

Open Letter to Our Prime Minister

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Dear Prime Minister,
When I address you today I do not presume on the fact that we have known each other for 60 years, or that we have been to the same school, been members of the same political party and that we have, before now, been fairly good comrades and friends.

I address you as my Prime Minister, as a man who has, in the past, campaigned on his African roots, ('Young, gifted and Black') and as a human being with the same responsibilities and duties as every other member of the human race.

Today in Haiti, and for most of the last year, the people are subjected to the most brutal and inhuman oppression. They are being terrorised, their women and children brutalised, raped and maimed, and any one of them, but particularly those of the national movement - Lavalas - subject to the most obscene denial of their basic human rights.

The latest assault on the rights and dignities of the people of Haiti began when you were still chairman of Caricom, an association of which Haiti is a member.

But, as I am sure you are aware, Haiti has been persecuted and oppressed for almost all of the 200 years of her independent existence. It is time for a change, time for a new day.

Haiti and her people have not only been terrorised, they have been foully slandered in order to make their oppression more palatable to the world outside. As one of my correspondents wrote some months ago, Haiti is an international crime scene.

As I wrote 10 years ago, Jamaica has treated Haiti, our sister, as the Levite treated the man in the parable who fell among thieves, was robbed, beaten and left for dead on the road to Jericho.

According to the parable, a priest and a Levite both saw the badly injured man and passed him by. A certain Samaritan, however, saw the man, had compassion on him, bound up his wounds and took him up, lodged him in a place of safety and guaranteed payment for his treatment.

In the parable, Jesus asked the question: Who was the neighbour of the man who fell among thieves? The priest and the Levite were members of his own community; the Samaritan was not.

Eleven years ago, when Haiti was going through another period of agony I asked how could you, as the head of the government of this country, walk by on the other side? I compared Haiti then to someone who was being raped, whose neighbour hears the screams, and shuts himself off, ignoring the suffering and the crime being committed.

Will you do the same again? Can you bear to do the same again? We Jamaicans share with Haiti a history of slavery and indecent oppression. We, like them, rebelled against this treatment, and in Jamaica, some of us, the Maroons, won from the British a form of partial independence which was eventually dishonourably disregarded by the British.

The Haitians - counting among their leaders a Jamaican Maroon named Boukman - began a war of liberation defeating in the process the armies of Napoleonic France (twice), of Spain and of Britain.

In addition to these extraordinary feats of arms the Haitians, imbued by the Enlightenment doctrine of the Rights of Man, abolished slavery and declared the fundamental equality of all human beings. Haiti was the first country anywhere to recognise what we now consider the fundamental rights of every human being.

They did so while the Americans in their contemporaneous revolution and fight for freedom from the British, were constructing a state of Free Men, so-called, on a foundation of slavery and while the French, while speaking of 'Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité", maintained slavery in their own dominions.

For this alone Haiti should be prized above all nations. But the Haitians went further, financing and arming Bolivar in his successful assault on the Spanish Empire in the New World. For these deeds they are still being punished and persecuted.

The example of Haiti directly influenced not only the abolition of the slave trade but of slavery itself at long last, mainly by frightening the British with the prospect of revolutions in their slave plantations.
We owe to them a large part of our freedom.

The Americans meanwhile, speaking of freedom while building on slavery, began through their hero, Thomas Jefferson, a campaign of slander and lies which even included allegations that Haitians were cannibals.

And we were all smeared by the same vile libel which continues to this day, with books like The Bell Curve and other lying propaganda attempting to justify the long war against black people in the western hemisphere and poor people everywhere.

It was in response to this oppression that people like Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King began their struggles and inspired people like you and me to fight for the recognition of the essential dignity of all human beings. You and I were inspired not only by Garvey and King, but even more powerfully by Norman Manley, the leader of our National

Movement and the Father of our Nation. It was he who, in 1958, launched an economic attack on the Apartheid regime of South Africa while Jamaica was still a colony, flouting the colonial rules without regard for the consequences.

Manley, saluted by all Jamaica, including you and me, took a stand which could have cost Jamaica its freedom, as Jagan's impertinence had five years earlier cost British Guiana hers.

And every Jamaican leader since then was part of the fight against the evil apartheid until it was at last defeated, yielding power to Nelson Mandela's African National Congress and the people of South Africa.

Mandela is still at it. He and Thabo Mbeki, his successor as leader of South Africa, have warmly welcomed Jean-Bertrand Aristide and make no bones about their recognition of him as the rightful elected leader of the Haitian people.

In Jamaica, for everything that I have written about Haiti, I have got nothing but approbation from the people I meet. Many are ashamed that we were not more hospitable to Aristide, and almost everybody I meet wants to know why we have done so little to redress the wrongs inflicted upon our next door neighbours.

It is, of course, not only Jamaicans who feel this way. Less than three weeks ago, in Puerto Alegre, Brazil, a convocation of people from all over the world passed by acclamation a resolution which demanded:
  1. Return President Aristide and the democratic process to Haiti. President Aristide must be allowed to complete his term after which free and fair elections would be held according to Haiti's Constitution.
  2. End the occupation of Haiti. Use the money and other resources now used in the war against Haiti's poor for the fight against poverty in Haiti.
  3. UN "stabilisation forces" must cease all illegal arrests, indiscriminate raids on poor neighbourhoods and support for illegal activities by the puppet regime's police force and members of the former army.
  4. Political prisoners must be freed, politically motivated persecution must end.
  5. Governments and intergovernmental organisations must refuse to recognise Haiti's illegitimate puppet regime, and must demand an investigation into the circumstances of President Aristide's removal from office.
  6. Refugees fleeing political persecution in Haiti must be given asylum, internally displaced refugees in Haiti must be given protection and financial assistance.
  7. US hands off Latin America and the Caribbean. We stand in solidarity with the governments and people of Venezuela and Cuba, countries struggling against a process of destabilisation not unlike the one that resulted in the overthrow of President Aristide.

We invite people and organisations throughout the world to join us in this Declaration.
In the preamble to the resolution, the World Social Forum members gave much more of the history and background of the struggle than I can give here, but you know most of it.

In the governments of Michael Manley you were foreign minister, travelling all over the world and proving extremely effective in forging alliances to achieve significant results - including the Lome Convention. You are well known in the developing world and you know your counterparts all over the world.

You are a friend of Kofi Annan and of Colin Powell, both of whom have second homes here in Jamaica.

You have taken part in collective action when the conscience of the world was aroused, for instance in the case of Zimbabwe. Right now the African Union has take up the case of Togo, where the human rights of the people are thought to be threatened by an attempt to continue the dictatorship of the family of Eyadema Engissabe.

Their rights are nowhere abused to the extent of the Haitians', yet the African Union feels justified to intervene.

On the other hand, your Government and the Organisation of American States have behaved in a way which many of us feel is shameful, especially when contrasted with the behaviour of St Lucia and St Vincent, whose leaders may not be your exact contemporaries, but who, like you, are graduates of the University of the West Indies whose motto promises to bring "Light out of the West".

In the darkness which now enshrouds Haiti, in the miasma of rapine and murder which now stifles her liberty, our own self-interest in involved.

If what is being done to Haiti is allowed to continue, there is no guarantee that we will not be next. Condoleezza Rice says that Iran is not 'yet' in the gunsights of the Bush Administration. And, presumably, neither are we, 'yet'.

But self-interest is the least of what is involved here.

Going to the aid of Haiti is an historic responsibility, not only for those who share her history, but for every human being who believes in the essential dignity of humanity and the integrity of the ideas of Freedom, Liberty and Solidarity.

It is even more than that: If we, and this means you, abandon Haiti in this extremity, you bring dishonour not only upon your own head, but upon the heads of every Jamaican and upon our entire so-called civilisation itself.

Norman Manley said it best: "The duty of a leader is to Lead!"

You, the Most Honourable Percival James Patterson, PC, ON,QC, Prime Minister of Jamaica, comrade of my youth, protegé of N W Manley, you, PJ, have a duty to act now, to lead, to rescue Haiti and defend the lives and prospects of its once again enslaved people.

Yours sincerely,
John Maxwell

06 February 2005

The Silence of the Blonds

Common Sense
John Maxwell

There was a curious story out of the Congo a few days ago. The culture minister, Mr Christopher Muzungo, explained that he was personally responsible for the re-erection of a giant statue of Belgium's King Leopold II in the capital Kinshasa. For nearly 40 years it had lain in a trash heap outside the city.

Just hours after the statue was put up, it was taken down again. There was no explanation. In the 1885 Berlin carve-up of Africa, Leopold II persuaded the Europeans and the Americans to give him free rein in the Congo for a "civilising project, rather like the Red Cross", he said.

In less than two decades he made himself one of the world's richest men. Leopold was allowed by the great powers to murder and maim millions of Congolese while he plundered Congo's resources.

His subjects lost their hands, feet and heads to Leopold's sub-agents. One of them was described, under the name of Captain Kurtz, in Joseph Conrad's novel, The Heart of Darkness. In the novel, the narrator approaches Captain Kurtz' jungle encampment and sees round it a palisade with white knobs decorating the tops of the posts.

It is only when he comes close that he discovers that the objects atop the posts are human skulls. Conrad's Kurtz was based on a real Belgian lieutenant who, like his fellows, carried out his monarch's orders with fatal efficiency.

Conrad described the Congo's Belgian experience as "the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience". According to Congo's minister of culture, he replaced the statue of Leopold because it was part of Congolese history.

"A people without a history is a people without a soul," he said, and referred to the remembrance of the holocaust two weeks ago. Perhaps no one had explained to him that the Jews had not felt the need to erect a statue of Hitler to remind themselves of their history.

Several months ago, at about the time of the start of the Iraq misadventure, I wrote a column which asked the question: "What can they be smoking?" It was about the strange behaviour of the leaders of the western civilised world, which then and now, seemed to me to be more than simply perverse.

I now realise that the reason for their aberrant behaviour had nothing to do with psychoactive substances, but was due to another factor entirely - their inherent and ineffable 'official blondness'.

When Hitler was busy turning Jews into handbags, lampshades and black smoke, his reason was that the world needed to be rid of them (and of blacks, homosexuals, Gipsies and others) because they threatened the purity of the Aryan master archetype.

This archetype was a blue-eyed, blond superman with no resemblance to Hitler himself or to most of his main assassins. They, I now realise, were a new species, Geopolitically Modified Humans (GMH) Officially Blond. Looking at them you wouldn't know it.

Some people even said that Hitler himself "looked Jewish' - whatever that meant - obviously missing his essential blondness, which gave him the right to talk nonsense and murder as many people as he wished.

What I realised last week is that the Congo's Muzungo was not crazy, simply blond. And when this thought occurred to me it cleared up a host of misconceptions in my mind.

I had been asking myself how could Africans like Kofi Annan and Afro-Americans like Colin Powell, Canadians like Prime Minister Paul Martin, and Haitians like Gerard Latortue not understand the appalling wickedness which their policies have created in Haiti? Or how did Tony Blair, George Bush and Malcolm Fraser of Australia not understand the primeval wickedness they had let loose in Iraq? The answer was simple.

Like Adolph Hitler, they are GMH-Blonds and are, therefore, exempted from normal human feelings, duties and responsibilities. They are expected to giggle helplessly when confronted with murdered children and dismembered teenagers, with tortured Arabs and raped Haitian women. Like the good Germans in Tom Paxton's 1960s song We Didn't Know A Thing.

Anyone who has seen the movie Schindler's List or simply given thought to the logistical problem of murdering six or seven million people will realise that the neighbours must be aware when the people next to them are arrested and sent in huge trains to extermination camps.

Vast stretches of housing suddenly become vacant, people vanish from schools, synagogues are closed; something must be happening.

"We didn't know," the blonds will tell you, "we were born with built in rose-coloured glasses and a missing sense of community." The G-7 group of first-world countries is having a finance ministers meeting in London this week.

The US representative has airily told the British chancellor that the US has no time to consider his proposal to reduce or abolish the debt obligations of the poorest countries.

Gordon Brown, the British chancellor, wants to write off the debts completely and to construct an International Finance Facility (IFF) which would double aid to Africa to US$100 billion annually. The US treasury undersecretary, John Taylor, brushed Brown's idea off: "Not only does the IFF not work for the US, we don't need the IFF."

The Americans are in favour of debt relief of course; their president regularly announces that he will increase the amount of US aid to Africa and the Third World.

It is an odd fact that some of the poorest countries in the world are responsible for creating much of the First World's riches. I won't speak of slavery and the contribution that made to accelerating the progress of Europe and America.

That is old hat. But a few days ago, the Shell Oil Company announced that it had made a profit of £9 billion, nearly US$20 billion from oil. We don't know how much of Shell's profit was made from Nigeria, from which it gets 10 per cent of its oil, what they call in the business "sweet" crude, low sulphur and extremely profitable.

Shell, which is indefatigably blond, is only one of several predators in Africa and the Third World. In Nigeria it has destroyed whole environments and rendered thousands homeless and suffering.

BP - British Petroleum - is about to announce a similar quantum of profit and the five biggest British banks between them are about to announce total profits exceeding £30 billion (US$56 billion).

None of this appears to excite the North American Press, but why should it? TIME magazine a few issues ago distinguished itself in blondness by publishing a whole column of statistics about the Iraq war without even an estimate of the number of Iraqis killed - surely the most significant statistic.

It is astonishing how many of the crucial interventions which have not been made could have been made by people whose appearance, at least, might have suggested that they recognise some sort of ties to the underdog. Like Powell, the head of the TIME conglomerate is an African-American, a man called Richard Parsons. Unfortunately, like Powell, he is hopelessly 'Officially Blond'.

His company, Time-Warner, made a net profit of nearly $4 billion. The revenues of the world's largest companies outstrip the Gross Domestic Product of most countries. In fact, the giant retailer WalMart's revenues - $165 billion - are larger than the combined GDP of all the Lesser Developed Countries (LDCs) - $156.5 billion.

The uncomfortable fact is that most of these large transnational corporations derive much, if not most of their revenue from the exploitation of Third World resources such as oil, aluminium, gold and other metals or raw materials such as cacao, coffee, sugar and so on.

The unfair distribution is, according to the blonds, a matter of historical accident, incompetence of the natives or just bad luck.

One of the factors driving the poverty is the simple fact that there are groups in the LDCs who realise that they are being encouraged to destroy the local culture and national self-reliance and self-government by carrying out plots which are not officially ordered by their metropolitan masters.

Such a case occurred in Ghana in 1966, when, after destroying the Government of Kwame Nkrumah, the new dictator, General Ankrah, wrote personally to President Lyndon Johnson stating his willingness to prostitute Ghana for American moolah. In the case of Haiti, as the Griffin report (quoted here last week) makes plain, the subversion was planned and executed by conscious and paid agents of the United States.

The situation today is one of bloody chaos, unremarked by the diligent, freedom-loving, upright American Press which, in its blondness, cannot see injustice or understand that their own democracy is in danger as the poison from evil foreign adventures seeps back into the American soul.

Last week an American general who is clearly, exquisitely 'blond' had his say in the Press. This character, due to be played in a movie by Harrison Ford, is a US Marine general named James Mattis.

Lt Gen Mattis had a news conference on Tuesday in San Diego, California, after the announcement of his scheduled immortalisation in the movie.

"Actually, it's quite fun to fight 'em, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up front with you, I like brawling," Mattis said.

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis said during a panel discussion. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

According to Reuters, Marine Corps Commandant Gen Michael Hagee praised Mattis as "one of this country's bravest and most experienced military leaders".

"While I understand that some people may take issue with the comments made by him, I also know he intended to reflect the unfortunate and harsh realities of war," Hagee said.

Of course, we could also remember the comments of another US general who is in a crucial position of power at the Pentagon. Senior Pentagon Intelligence official Lt Gen William Boykin referred in 2003 to the struggle against Islamic extremists as a battle with Satan.

In a speech, Boykin referred to a Muslim fighter in Somalia, and said, "Well, you know what I knew, that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol."

I remember when I was about 15, reading an article in the Saturday Evening Post about the Congo, then completely controlled by Belgium. The place was portrayed as a demi-paradise, except that nowhere was there any mention of the Africans who presumably lived there.

Later, I discovered some of the real facts about the Congo, such as, that as the Belgians fled in 1960 they left in the Congo the priceless bequest of four trained doctors in a population of about 20 million. It was much later that I heard about the unspeakable blondness of King Leopold and his campaign of dismemberment and murder.