29 May 2005

They Cry 'Respect' - AGAIN!

Common Sense
John Maxwell

"The grave's a fine and private place, but none I think, do there embrace" - or traffic drugs, for that matter. Fundamentalists obviously believe something different. A 26 year-old Australian woman, Chavelle Corby, was on Friday sentenced to 20 years in prison for smuggling 10 pounds of ganja into Bali, Indonesia.

Indonesia, like many other countries in Southeast Asia, is very hard on drug traffickers. It doesn't matter that Miss Corby (who had no previous trouble with the law) contended that the drugs found in her bag must have been put there by baggage handlers in Australia.

Most Australians believe her. The Indonesian court said she had presented no evidence to back her contention, a position rather like the US position that Iraq had presented no evidence that it had no WMDs.

Anyway, whether Miss Corby is guilty or not is beside the point. She has been found guilty and sentenced. There are some in Indonesia who think that 20 years in prison is not enough.

Anak Agung Semara Adhyana, who heads the Bali chapter of Indonesia's Anti-Narcotics Movement, said his organisation would prefer that offenders be sentenced to life [imprisonment] or put to death by firing squad. "We still call for life imprisonment or death," he said. "We think a lesson should be learned."

I thought that if dead men can tell no tales, neither could they learn. Perhaps there are ganja fields in hell and Miss Corby needs to be convinced that in the afterlife, she must keep her nose clean.

Capital punishment doesn't punish the dead, only the living. And since (as the United States has been proving with DNA evidence) guilty verdicts are often mistaken or corrupted, it is clear that many innocent people have been executed "In Error' - as the euphemists say.

The fundamentalists do not really care. Anyone executed must be guilty of some capital crime, even if not the one they have been sentenced for. God does not make mistakes.

Which is an odd position, since if God is correctly quoted as saying "Vengeance is mine" - why should he need any help ? If God is omnipotent, why does he need hangmen?

Why are we so thirsty for blood and revenge? The desire for retribution is perfectly logical in the sense that the criminal should pay for his crime. He should not get a free pass.

But how do we assess the value of one life compared to another? As I argued when the Israelis executed Adolph Eichman four decades ago, it was ridiculous to think that killing Eichman could possibly be reparation for his part in the killing of six million Jews and assorted blacks, Gypsies, homosexuals and other 'untermenschen'.

It is not simply ridiculous as a matter of scale, it is ridiculous if one believes that every person is unique and has a unique contribution to make to the world. Mr Azan's offer to become Jamaica's next hangman cannot possibly contribute to any meaningful appreciation of his relative's life, but rather demeans it.

To join the ranks of the killers is as much a defeat as is the United States' descent into torture to 'fight terrorism'. Or to have to decide between 'good' terrorists like Posada Carriles and 'bad' terrorists like Osama bin Laden, between bad murderers and good hangmen.

No man is an island, John Donne said. Every man's death diminishes me and all of us. The police and others demand at emotional gunpoint, that all the knee-jerk bleeding-heart-liberals should issue press releases when a policeman dies, just as we condemn the killing of innocent people by policemen.

No one rejoices when anyone dies, and when a policeman dies, his death diminishes all of us. We cannot take sides against anything but wickedness.

When the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica decided last week to shut down their businesses in protest against crime, it seemed to me an empty gesture. We are all sad and we all grieve at the senseless killings. But making political statements won't stop the gunmen.

We cannot eradicate crime by killing criminals. We need to prevent people becoming criminals and we need to catch and imprison those whom we can't stop in any other way.

Those who call for death sentences to be carried out in Jamaica would seem to be unaware of many facts that make their arguments less than convincing.

First, the idea of State revenge and retribution is the most potent argument for murder. If the State can kill, why then, so can I! If the State can kill in error, why then, so can I! If the police can catch only about one in three of all criminals, it means that a life of crime has a 66 per cent chance of success - better odds than opening a small business.

If we caught and tried all murderers in Jamaica, we would, at any given time, have between 20 and 30 murder trials in progress during any one week.

Clearly, this is not the case, so it seems that if we are to talk about crime reduction, we must first deal with the first principle: the greatest deterrent to wrongdoing is the probability that the wrongdoer will be caught, exposed and punished. If you don't catch me, how can you prove that crime does not pay?

We obviously have to begin to rethink our positions. First of all, let us forget about task forces and special anti-crime squads. We have more than enough information about the factors promoting delinquent behaviour. We don't need any more.

We even have the World Bank being able to predict with a high degree of accuracy, what Jamaica's murder rate will be, given certain economic data.

We know that the State is unable to deal with the economic causes of crime. Any self-respecting State, 30 years ago, could implement programmes to produce work, increase employment, rebuild communities, collect the garbage and ensure that there were beat duty policemen.

The Jamaican State has many of the same problems as those others who followed our lead in accepting the ukases of the unholy trinity - the IMF, the World Bank and USAID. Conditionality was used to give us an excuse to relax and enjoy the apparently inevitable rape.

As the OECD advised us, leaders could claim 'tied hands' in order to ignore democratic pressure. We cut off our limbs like Calcutta beggars, to induce sympathy in our benefactors. The more helpless we were, the more help we would get.

Privatisation, liberalisation and devaluation have not produced the promised fulfilment. Instead, by levelling the income tax, by taking the poor, by shutting down government enterprises or selling them, by turning skilled men and women into sidewalk peddlers, we find ourselves in a hand-to-mouth existence where, if we want to construct a social safety net, we have to borrow the money from the World Bank to be repaid by our grandchildren.

This means that in the 'ghetto' the garbage goes uncollected, the fire brigade has no trucks, water is scarce and/or unsafe, gastroenteritis, malnutrition, stunting, overcrowding, incest and HIV/AIDS are rife, gunmen provide community protection and the community goes to hell in the basket we have been given to carry water.

Ten years ago, some of us pleaded with our rulers just to read the report They Cry Respect, product of a university intervention. This short report examines several communities of poor people of different ideologies and voting preferences.

All were of the same general opinion: most people wanted peace, safety and community development, all of which were impossible because the State had abandoned them. One of the many reports on crime and violence was in fact edited by the present Minister of National Security when he was a socialist and a lecturer at the university.

The problems are well known, the prescriptions are clear and the benefits of intelligent and humane action have been spelled out, not least in World Bank publications on crime and violence in Jamaica and the effect of economic conditions on youth behaviour.

So, why don't we do what we know to be right?

Why is a private sector, which is financing criminality through extortion, not willing to look at itself and its part in the problem? Why is the Government unable or unwilling to pay the teachers as much money and respect as they do the police?

The only rational answer must be that the present situation, by and large, suits them. If it didn't, we would very soon hear about it. When I hosted the radio talk-show Disclosure on Wednesday, several of my interlocutors told me that what we need to do is simple. They believed that the State must better reflect the community which it is supposed to represent.

This meant going out to promote the healthy environments which are the essential background for peaceful development. We need clean streets, safe streets, streets without criminals, garbage and child-traps.

We need training programmes for the young men and we need more schools so that they can get better basic and advanced education and training. We need apprenticeship programmes and, above all, we need to give the people back their self-respect.

If the private sector is to have any serious claim to be the engine of growth, it needs to understand that social growth and development must complement economic development in order to enable economic development.

As President Aristide once said, if all we have is a dung heap and we want to create Paradise, then we must start with the dung heap.

23 May 2005

Our Lives in Their Hands

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Field Marshal von Rumsfeld is correct. The Iraq Torture Scandal is going to get worse, much worse before it blows over. Before that happens, however, the scandal will have presented to the people of the United States a unique opportunity for decision: whether to follow the Bush Administration's precipitous descent into a degenerate corporate statism and ultimately, dictatorship, or to seize control of the ideals and instruments bequeathed them by their founding fathers two centuries ago, to re-invent a functioning democracy.

Franklin Roosevelt, and most of the liberal democrats who have led the United States at one level or another, believed that the US "constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form" as he said in his first inaugural speech in January 1933.

Most American leaders - presidents and others and particularly the members of the Supreme Court - did not, until recently, regard the US Constitution as inherently vulnerable to subversion. Of whatever party, all felt constrained by an idea of 'America' which was inherently well-meaning and dedicated to the greater good of the people as a whole.

Roosevelt put it this way in his inaugural speech:
If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realise as we have never realised before, our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good.

Who Benefits?

The Bush counter-revolution, on the other hand, makes no bones about its dedication to the larger good of the rich and powerful. At this very moment it is engaged in an ideological struggle within its own ranks in the Senate, to entrench new benefits for the rich as against providing for the disinherited. And it marshals consent by scaring the daylights out of its own people.

Roosevelt said: "There is nothing to fear but fear itself." He might have added, "and unbridled selfishness and arrogance".

The Bush single-minded concentration on satisfying the greed of the few at the expense of the needs of the multitude is nowhere better expressed than in the so-called war on terror and the inhumanities and injustices which flow from that 'war'.

It was a truism, stated even by Bush himself, that the essence of defeat would be for the United States to yield its liberty and surrender its civilisation in the struggle. But it was clear from the start that this struggle against terror was a con. Declaring war against terror is declaring war against an abstraction, as many of us said at the time. It allows the president to pick and choose his enemies, without regard for anything that they might have done. And among those enemies, it transpired, were Free Speech and Justice.

Iraq was invaded on totally and now, admittedly false pretences for what South Sea Bubble prospectuses described as "purposes which will in due time be revealed". At the moment, the US is supposed to be bringing civilisation and the rule of law to a nation which is now horrified by tales of American depravity and outlawry.

It has allowed the US to intervene on the side of a few rich elites to decapitate the nascent Haitian democracy and to threaten Cuba with social 'improvements' which would turn that nation back 40 years.
Here in Jamaica, to demonstrate its complete control of our destinies, the US has decided to wreck what remains of our efforts at town planning by inserting its terrorist attracting embassy into the heart of a residential community - doing what Ariel Sharon says terrorists do - hiding behind innocent bystanders, using them as shields.

'We Pledge Our Word.'

John F Kennedy's inaugural speech, which we at the JBC broadcast live on January 20, 1961, electrified millions of people around the world when the new president promised to deal honourably with people like us. "To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom - and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside."

The tiger, of course, was the spectre of communism which dominated the waking thoughts of western statesmen. But people of goodwill then believed that eventually, even that obsession would go away. Kennedy held out his hand "to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction".

Kennedy had no intention of being a softie, of adopting any leftish position, but he recognised the madness of "both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind's final war".

Kennedy proved he was no pushover in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and began the path which would lead to the de-escalation of nuclear menace, to nuclear non-proliferation treaties and to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty so cavalierly scrapped by President George Bush.

Bush's reasons: to free the United States from any apparent restrictions on the use of its power and to empower the military industrial complex against which, in his farewell speech in 1961, President Eisenhower warned so strongly:
The total influence - economic, political, even spiritual - is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military/industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Last year, I was one of millions round the world who marched in protest against the United States' plans to attack Iraq, in violation of international law, common sense and common decency. 'No blood for oil!', we said, but tens of thousands of Iraqis perished, plus nearly a thousand Americans and their allies, while the ranks of the terrorists and those who hate the United States have swelled beyond calculation.
In a column ten days after 9/11 I said:
Anyone who has studied the honeybee soon realises that bees make four types of cells: honeycomb cells and brood cells for Queens, Drones and Worker bees. Queen Bees lay the same eggs in every brood cell. Some cells are differently shaped and sized for Drones and Queens. When a hive loses a Queen it simply transfers an egg from a worker cell to a Queen cell, and presto, a new Queen. Queens go on laying eggs for life, once fertilised by a Drone.

Any human brain, fertilised by injustice, can, similarly produce a hero or a terrorist.

As the careers of Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon demonstrate, the differences between them may not be visible to the naked eye.
While Mr Bush may see every justification for Mr Sharon's latest campaign in the Gaza Strip, and approve of his tanks, helicopter gunships and bulldozers, the Palestinians collectively punished by him may have very different ideas. Some of them, indeed, may be provoked into turning themselves into one-man armies - aka terrorists - to avenge their grievous injury.

Sharpening the Contradictions

In the same column in which I discussed the habits of bees, I also suggested that "Although a majority of Americans are now standing to attention and saluting the flag, many, I believe, would welcome a little more obvious moral and intellectual leadership from the White House. What they get instead is incitement to lynch law and racial war. Sooner or later, it will be obvious that Justice cannot be achieved that way."
That denouement has come sooner rather than later.

A majority of Americans now disapprove of Mr Bush's handling of the war, and as the heinous and depraved nature of the military response becomes more apparent, an even greater majority will develop. Mr Karl Rove - Mr Bush's so-called 'brain' - obviously believes that all of us - Americans and others - are fools who can be turned around by the expenditure of millions of dollars on misleading and untruthful advertisements. Their underhand methods of propaganda extend even to using taxpayers' money to pay for a campaign boosting their political version of Medicare. With the money at their disposal, the Republicans will do much more damage to American trust and national integrity before they are through.

The people they went to rescue in Iraq, are, according to a US Army-sponsored poll, 90 per cent against American presence in Iraq. And this was before the exposure of the torture regimes of Messrs Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Cambrone.

The Bush war has sharpened the contradictions between the original American Dream (however inadequate) and the neo-fascist nightmare now being prepared for all of us. American conservatives are now beginning to understand what people like us in the developing world meant when we said that Globalisation was slavery by another name. In Iraq, the US Army is preparing to sacrifice its own slaves to save the necks of the elite. And, at last, even the corporate American media is awakening to an understanding of what is at stake.

The latest Abu Ghraib videos reportedly show American soldiers engaging in sex orgies in the sight of Iraqis they had just finished abusing. It may be depraved, but it is not unexpected. People whose civilised instincts are suppressed by intimidation or coercion are likely to express their alienation and distress in singularly inappropriate ways. They are as much victims as the people they had so recently and brutally victimised.

War is not a civilised pursuit. General George Patton 60 years ago had the courage to put into words the real depravity of war, whether conducted by Americans or anyone else:
. . .the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans. Now, an army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap. The bilious bastards who wrote that stuff about individuality for the Saturday Evening Post don't know anything more about real battle than they do about fornicating. Now we have the finest food and equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. You know. My God, I actually pity those poor bastards we're going up against. My God, I do. We're not just going to shoot the bastards, we're going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We're going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel.

Mr Bush said he wants to be known as a "war president". Little does he know.

22 May 2005

The Politics of Ersatz Gentility

Common Sense
John Maxwell

It wasn't a good week for US foreign policy, nor was it a good week for George Bush. It wasn't a good week for Jamaica and it certainly wasn't a good week for Haiti. But when last has Haiti had a good week?

In Jamaica, the fires of hysteria are burning bright. The private sector is shutting down business across Jamaica to protest against criminal violence. The criminals, no doubt, will be enormously impressed.

On Wednesday, the Haitians commemorated that day in 1803 when Dessalines finally managed to unite all the Haitian rebels under his leadership and a new flag.

Then began the final campaign to chase the French out of Saint Domingue and to establish the new nation of Haiti. For the first time at last, every man, woman and child was entitled to the fabled Rights of Man.

The French and the American colonists had declared that in their realms all were equal, although slavery persisted for years in French colonies and for nearly a century longer in the US.

It was the Haitians who abolished plantation slavery and recognised every human being - women and men - as equals in every respect. As I have argued before, that was a fatal mistake.

Thomas Jefferson, father of American democracy and father of several half-breed children by his black mistress, Sally Hemmings, was a genuine American gentleman who foresaw great danger if the contagion of black freedom were allowed to spread to the United States.

Facing the same sort of problem that Dwight Eisenhower faced in Cuba two centuries later, he took the same course and embargoed trade with the turbulent Caribbeans who spoke so eloquently of, and fought so determinedly for, freedom.

A hundred years later, another US secretary of state, the creationist William Jefferson Bryan, was astounded at "the idea of niggers speaking French". He, too, sent in the Marines to rule and create an army which was to abuse and terrorise the people of Haiti for most of the 20th century.

Nearly a century after that, Colin Powell (descendant of Jamaicans liberated in large part because the British feared another Haiti in Jamaica) sent troops in to kidnap the freely elected president of Haiti and to restore, once again, the rule of unlettered goons and their rich, infamous and elite sponsors.

As I write, the Haitian prime minister is caged without reason, charge or trial, on the point of death. He gives to his American, French and Canadian captors the same response Dessalines gave to the French two centuries ago: Liberty or Death!

Meanwhile, the American governor of Haiti, Ambassador Foley, backed by the racist troika of Bolton, Noriega and Reich, is busy pretending that he neither sees, hears nor smells any evil in Haiti, and he speaks no evil because he cannot speak at all without giving the game away.

In the United States, Noriega and Reich were last week frantically attempting damage control as elements of the normally quiescent and compliant press managed to summon the nerve to advise the president that, no, he really should not give asylum to one of the most notorious and bloody terrorists of the last century, Luis Posada Carriles.

Posada, having lain low, undisturbed, in Florida for two months, decided that the coast was clear and gave a press conference in Miami. That was the straw that spooked the official flacks and led to the authorities 'discovering' Posada's hidey-hole. They could have found it earlier had they thought to phone Havana.

It was in Havana, of course, where the best laid plans of Reich and Noriega were derailed. While they were suggesting to the press that, of course, the US would not extradite Posada (if he actually existed) to Venezuela because Venezuela was too close to Cuba, the Cubans were telling the world that they didn't want Posada; they simply wanted him to face justice in Venezuela where he had plotted his most heinous crime. Posada was a then member of Venezuela's secret police, and that connection and Otto Reich, then US ambassador to Venezuela, helped get him off the hook.

Reich is now in check, as it were, immobilised by Fidel Castro's successful campaign to expose the whole panorama of official lies, deceit and bloody violence in which Posada once freely operated.

And suddenly, there have also appeared people from Central America who can speak, with feeling, if not in agony, about Mr Posada's role in torturing them and others in the dirty wars of 20 years ago.

Mr Posada embodies the contradiction which most of the world sees in US foreign policy but which the US media, subscribing to some ersatz concept of civility and gentility, refuses to recognise.

Like Queen Victoria, they don't mind what the government does, as long as it doesn't do it in the street and frighten the consumers. And, as FDR said of Somoza, "He is a sonofabitch, but he's our sonofabitch".

Newsflash: Christian eats Lions

Into this climate of denial, poisonous euphemism and hypocrisy last week strode a Scotsman, a member of the British parliament named George Galloway. He had been traduced by the chairman of the US Senate Sub-committee on Investigations, a rising right-wing star called Norm Coleman.

Coleman is determined to make a name for himself and he has played to the Republican radical right by abusing, among others, Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations.

Mr Coleman saw in the Oil for Food scandal the opportunity for months of headlines, although he was perfectly aware that a serious inquiry was already in progress under a man far better qualified than almost anybody to undertake such a task - Paul Volcker, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve.

Mr Galloway was taunted by Mr Coleman when Galloway protested, from London, that the committee had not asked him anything about their so-called evidence before finding him guilty of fraud and consorting for money with the enemy. Mr Coleman, it seemed, was salivating at the prospect of Mr Galloway appearing before him to be exposed and shamed.

I remember, when I was about seven years old, my father telling me about Joe Louis, then the world heavyweight champion who the American press thought was going to be beaten on points if he fought Billy Conn, then the latest Great White Hope.

The conventional wisdom was that Conn would jab and run, jab and run, scoring points and compiling an unbeatable lead. Joe Louis, never the most communicative of men, was asked what he thought about that scenario. After a minute or two Louis opined: "He can run, but he can't hide."

Coleman was Billy Conn to Galloway's Joe Louis. Galloway went on the attack from the beginning, exposing what he called a schoolboy 'howler' in Coleman's evidence, which made it clear how ignorant Coleman was about the Oil for Food Programme.

He taunted Coleman, a former district attorney for his "cavalier attitude to the law". He denied the charges forcefully and made it obvious that they were based on the same manufactured evidence which had miraculously been unearthed in the chaos of Baghdad after the fall.

He went much further, attacking the smokescreen of lies behind which, he said, the United States policy was hiding. He launched into the Congress for not having the courage to expose the gigantic financial scandals of occupied Iraq, in which the US/coalition administration was unable to account for $8 billion in Iraqi money and hundreds of millions more absorbed by Halliburton. He was merciless and thorough, like Joe Louis in his destruction of Max Schmeling.

Throughout Mr Galloway's assault, Mr Coleman, his voice cracking occasionally, may have been wishing he were somewhere else. Nobody, it was clear, had ever spoken to him like that, although, as a lawyer, he should have realised that someone who is libelled has the right to fire back as vigorously and trenchantly as he chooses. After the drubbing was over, Coleman told reporters that he had questions about Mr Galloway's credibility.

For me, there were no questions about Mr Coleman's credibility. He had none. Mr Galloway was in his element as he said he had been an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and American governments and businessmen were selling the dictator guns and poison gas.

"You have my name on lists provided to you by the Duelfer inquiry, provided to him by the convicted bank robber, and fraudster and conman Ahmed Chalabi who many people, to their credit in your country, now realise played a decisive role in leading your country into the disaster in Iraq.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 have paid with their lives, 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies."

It was powerful stuff, accurate and important. But if most Americans hear about it it will probably be another generation, from their history books. In the Orwellian world of George Bush and the Republican party, freedom and truth are strictly relative.

The Administration condemns "abuses of human rights", especially in Cuba, while it supports a tyrant in Uzbekistan who has been known to boil his enemies alive. The US sends him suspected terrorists for questioning, ignoring his grisly record.

President Karimov and the US president's spokesman are both agreed that the opposition in Uzbekistan are terrorists. Just as Mr Posada was a freedom fighter, while people like Aristide and Yvon Neptune, if not terrorists are about as close as you can get.

And of course, Aristide, like George Galloway, was accused of high crimes and misdemeanour, which Mr Powell promised more than a year ago, were soon be exposed.

Aristide, like Saddam, has already been exposed. Mr Aristide has already been secretly photographed - like Saddam - in his underwear. That sort of exposure holds no terrors for him. The one thing that surprises me is that that photograph has not yet appeared on CNN.

15 May 2005

The Devil's Cookroom

Common Sense
John maxwell

There is a small area of the Caribbean Sea, a few miles away from where I was born in Trelawny, which is marked on old maps as "The Devil's Cookroom". I imagine it got that name for the sudden, explosive storms which can develop there especially in winter.

But I have always thought that if the small patch of sea near Duncans deserved such a name how much more apt it would be applied to the entire Caribbean.

The Caribbean can probably claim a greater quantum of extreme human suffering over a longer time than anywhere else in the world. Millions of people were exterminated by the Spanish through ill-treatment and disease "they died in heaps, like bedbugs", Las Casas reported.

There was the Middle Passage with its bestial cruelty and slavery itself, degenerate and murderous, the brutal conquests of Central and South America on the same grisly pattern, and for five hundred years, slavery followed by colonial exploitation no less brutal or inhumane.

The paradoxes abound: Haiti, the first people in modern history to abolish slavery and to free themselves from the bonds of plantation colonialism, are now the most miserable and poorest, occupied by foreigners, ruled by psychopathic gangsters, convicted assassins, torturers and rapists.

Cuba, one of the last to abolish slavery, is now, unarguably, the most socially advanced, and, arguably the place in the world where people can claim to be most free.

Of course, freedom is different things to different people. Mr Bush declares that he is spreading freedom around the world, notably in Afghanistan and Iraq both now in the throes of civil war.

In Haiti, agents of American freedom are busy preparing "free and fair" elections while the lawful prime minister is unlawfully incarcerated and on the point of death from a hunger strike.

The lawfully elected president is seven time zones and half a world away in an exile planned, promoted and executed by the same people who are preparing those free and fair elections.

Meanwhile, the majority of the Haitian people, marching for their president's return, are butchered and tortured by elements who seem to be the moral descendants of Henry Morgan and his cutthroat brethren who looted and raped Cartagena, Porto Bello and Panama.

As Dr Pangloss was declaring at the time of the Haitian revolution - everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. As it was then, so it is now. Mr Bush now has the same kind of problem that Charles II had with Henry Morgan.

The King solved his problem by making Morgan a knight and Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. President Bush is unequivocal: those who harbour terrorists are terrorists and those who are not against terrorism are themselves terrorists. So what does one do when a committed, veteran terrorist makes a present of himself to the US government?

Declassified FBI documents say Mr Posada Carriles spent time working for the CIA and blame him for the bombing of a flight from Caracas to Havana via Guyana and Barbados. The bombing killed 73 people. Some call it Cuba's 9/11.

Posada Carriles hates Fidel Castro and has been plotting against him for more than 40 years, along with such partners as the CIA, the Mafia, the Iran Contra organiser, Oliver North and a host of others, some of distinguished ancestry and barnyard morality.

Mr Posada expects to be granted asylum by Mr Bush, as his equally murderous comrade in arms, Orlando Bosch, was granted a presidential pardon by the other President Bush.

He reasonably expects that after a lifetime of dirty work on behalf of well-heeled and important people, he should now be able to come in from the cold and live like a gentleman in Miami or somewhere else in Florida, where he has lots of friends, including many in very high places.

However, as the New York Times and other important newspapers around the world have pointed out, Mr Posada is a professional terrorist, trained, like Mr Bin Laden, by the CIA.

According to the Cubans, former US undersecretary Otto Reich got Posada out of prison in Venezuela in the '80s and no less an intermediary than Colin Powell paved the way for his pardon in Panama last year. In Panama, Posada was jailed for plotting to blow up an entire auditorium of students in order to kill Fidel Castro.

The Cubans allege that the former president of Panama, Mrs Meyrel Moscoso, was given US$4 million and a Lincoln Town car to sign pardons for Posada and his criminal associates on the day she demitted office.

The Cubans say Posada was flown from Panama in an unmarked plane to Honduras where he remained for months until he slipped away in a fishing boat sent by one of his rich Cuban patrons in Miami.

The Cubans say that Otto Reich's successor, Mr Noriega, oversaw Posada's translation to the US, although Mr Noriega strenuously denies that the United States has any idea where Mr Posada might be. This is strange, since any application for asylum must state the applicant's actual legal address.

The San Francisco Chronicle asks - "When is a terrorist not a terrorist? When he's an anti-Castro "freedom fighter'' hiding in Florida. The White House should lose no time in deporting Luis Posada Carriles, a prime suspect in the midair bombing of a civilian airliner that killed 73 people in 1976. It was a terrorist act by any definition."

The New York Times (NYT) concurs: "The one thing the Bush administration cannot do is to shelter Mr Posada by granting him political asylum.

"Since 9/11, the United States has become so zealous in its efforts to exclude potential terrorists from American soil that it has made it much harder for genuine refugees fleeing deadly persecution in their home countries to find sanctuary here. Washington would offend American principles and set an extremely damaging precedent by making a special exception for an admitted terrorist"

The NYT demands a single standard for terrorists, despite the risks of "retribution at the polls from a ferociously anti-Castro Cuban-American community that has helped swing Florida into the Republican column in recent elections".

Venezuela has now officially demanded Posada's extradition. Hopefully, that may happen before Mr Posada dies either of old age or of one of those unfortunate accidents to which septuagenarians are so susceptible.

Neither the NYT nor any other major US news agency considers that the situation in Haiti may, as the Times puts it, "offend American standards".

Caricom has piously declared its concern but champions of freedom and human rights like the Prime Minister of Jamaica (Patterson) and Barbados (Owen Arthur) have been conspicuously silent, no doubt because they have ceased to be young, gifted or black.

Next week, supporters of constitutional legitimacy and human rights in Haiti will be making a special effort on Wednesday, May 18, to bring the noxious situation there to world attention. I am scheduled to be the host of HOT 102's Disclosure programme that day and I will be happy to discuss Haiti if you are minded to telephone me.

In the meantime I ask you to consider the appeal by Haiti's President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, speaking from exile in South Africa to the courageous American journalist Amy Goodman on Democracy (http://www.democracynow.org/) a few days ago.

"It is very sad what we have as information about our Prime Minister, Yvon Neptune. He is still in hunger strike. How long he will be able to survive, we don't know. That's why we grasp this opportunity to ask everybody who can do something to not hesitate, because it is a matter of life and death. We need to save his life.

"We need many, many voices to equal the voices of Haiti. The people of Haiti want life and not death. They want peace and not violence. They want democracy and not repression.. Whoever can say something, whoever can do something, please do it, because the Haitian people right now are waiting for your help.

"You arrest someone, as they did with Minister Pivert, So Ann and so many others - there are hundreds who are in jail - there is no basis, no legal basis for that. But they just put them in jail because they have power with them, weapons with them, support of the United States, France, Canada, some others. . .it's a matter of life and death. We need many voices to put that truth out and see finally if they can pay attention to that and save his life.

"Today, those who kidnapped me and continue to support those criminals while they're killing innocent people, while they keep Yvon Neptune the way he is, clearly they maintain the black holocaust. The United States, France, Canada and so many others should do something to repair, if they can, what they did.

"Because what they did is a crime. The same way slavery is a crime against humanity, the same way what they're doing against the Haitian people, it's also a crime. And all of that [is] maintaining a black holocaust in Haiti."

They already killed more than 10,000 people. Can you imagine Cité Soleil, where people need food, not violence; where people need work, jobs, not violence? And we have tanks surrounding Cité Soleil, as if it were a concentration camp.

God, can you imagine what we have in Bel Air? Can you imagine what we have in so many popular areas, poor areas where they continue to kill people while people are asking for the respect of their votes? They voted for democracy, as our forefathers fought for our independence in 1804..

"But there is clearly a small minority in Haiti with their allies in foreign countries. Together, they said no to elections, because they knew once they respect the will of the people in a democratic way through free, fair democratic elections, then they will not be able to continue to live in a country where they don't pay tax, where they still have the wall of apartheid.

"Once we keep the line of peace, of nonviolence, we will win, because peace must be the way to go towards the victory. And love from my heart to all our friends, because we have many friends who love Haiti, who are trying to do their best to help the people of Haiti.

Of course, sharing that love, this is one way for me to express deep respect to them and also renewing my commitment to move with all of them in order to build, slowly but surely, a civilisation of love."

08 May 2005

Shaken . . . and Stirred

Common Sense
John Maxwell

There must be something about being a recovering social democrat that makes it impossible for some politicians to understand what politics is supposed to be about. In Jamaica, for instance, Mr Patterson has just recently discovered that the country is literally dying for an education programme which will improve the ordinary child's prospects of growing up to be a useful member of society.

After 14 years as prime minister, he has just announced a crash programme which might, in ten years or so, depress the level of delinquency and death among the least privileged in our society. In some ways Mr Patterson is not quite as bad as Mr Tony Blair.

On Friday night, after two terms as Prime Minister of the British, he announced that he had been taught a lesson: from now on, he pledged, he would listen to his constituents - "I. we. the government are going to focus relentlessly now on the priorities the people have set for us."

Wouldn't it be nice if there were a convenient word to express the process by which a decent, rational human being is transformed from being a democratic socialist into being a zombie? It would be great to find a word like 'denazification' for example, or 'de-Ba'athification' (as in Iraq)?

Perhaps we should ask the World Bank - our all-purpose intellectual provisioner - for a word. They have published treatises against 'Populism' - apparently a notifiable disease involving listening to people and respecting their choices.

The apostles of globalisation like the World Bank and the OECD would appear to believe that it is rational to accept the people's decision in electing you, but that anything they decide after that is irrational, irrelevant and unimportant. Which of course brings me back to Mr Blair.

Almost exactly two years ago the British people, like a majority of people round the world, even including the Americans, were dead set against war. We marched in protest demonstrations in our millions, so impressing the New York Times that it declared that there were now two world superpowers, the United States and world public opinion.

Unfortunately, the other superpower did not listen to us and Mr Blair defied a million marching citizens in his own capital and millions more who thought that he and Mr Bush were leading the world down a garden path designed by Hieronymus Bosch and Edvard Münch.

Before the assault, Iraq had been subject to a debilitating decade of starvation rations, sanctions and intermittent bombing which one American general said had reduced the likely military targets in Iraq to a few outhouses.

We now know that Messrs Bush and Blair, months before anyone else knew what they were up to, were cooking up plans for 'regime change' in Iraq - a wholly illegal enterprise under the laws of the UK, the US and International law.

As we now know, the Americans promised the British that they would sex-up the intelligence sufficiently to deceive the United Nations into giving them an excuse to carry out their barbarous adventure. The British went as far as alleging that the evil genius Saddam Hussain had the capacity, within 45 minutes, to visit destruction on whomsoever he chose.

The scenarios were awesome, shocking, horrific and, unbelievable. We now know that - as we thought then - it was all a pack of lies, the biggest con job in the history of mankind, designed to fulfil Mr Cheney's still secret plans to conquer and divide the Middle East for the greater good of the oil companies of the world, the United States and Israel.


On Friday night in his own constituency Mr Blair had to listen, teeth clenched, as a retired ambulance driver, Mr Reg Keys, denounced the Prime Minister for sending his 20 year-old son to be killed in an illegal war. Mr Keys, a total unknown, had decided to oppose the Prime Minister in his own constituency, to protest against the PM's behaviour.

Most people expected that Mr Keys would get a few charity votes. He got more than 4,000 and those votes he said, "sent a clear and resounding message against the war". He was right.

The New Labour 'spinmeisters' are busy trying to minimise the truth. According to them, the war was only one of several factors operating against Labour, and no doubt some will soon say that the really decisive factor was voter fatigue.

People had got so used to voting for Labour that many of them simply took a break. The important factors were quite simply the war and Mr Blair's shredded credibility.

Unfortunately among the facts that proved the 'spinmeisters' wrong is one named George Galloway. Mr Galloway is a Scotsman, a Labour member of parliament who had met Saddam Hussain several times in relation to an Iraq-connected charity run by Galloway.

Galloway is a man who, as we say in Jamaica, pays no licence for his mouth. His enemies decided that the war was as good an excuse as any to wound him fatally and get rid of this nuisance forever.

According to the Daily Telegraph and other newspapers in Britain and the US, documents found in the rubble of Baghdad "revealed" that Mr Galloway had been on Saddam's payroll, had made millions off the Oil For Food programme, making him corrupt as well as unpredictable.

Unfortunately for his enemies, Mr Galloway has managed to clear himself and his reputation, being able to prove that the documents were forged. Before that, however, the New Labourites had expelled Mr Galloway from their party.

He decided to fight back and decided to do this by standing for election in Bethnal Green, one of the poorest parts of London, where nearly half the electorate is Muslim with a solid record of voting for Labour. Mr Galloway had represented a constituency 700 miles away from London, in Glasgow, Scotland.

On Friday night, to the shock and awe of millions, Mr Galloway succeeded in overturning a Labour majority of 10,000 votes and won the seat against a dedicated 'Blair Babe', a mixed-race Jewish barrister named Oona King. In his victory speech, George Galloway, as is his habit, went straight to the point.

"This is for Iraq," he began. "Mr Blair, this defeat is for Iraq, and the other defeats that New Labour has received this evening are for Iraq. All the people you have killed and all the loss of life have come back to haunt you and the best thing that the Labour Party can do is sack you."

But Bethnal Green wasn't Labour's worst defeat. In Wales, in the constituency which was probably the safest Labour seat in Britain, one of the first seats won by Labour after the party was formed, a seat once held by Aneurin Bevan and after him by Michael Foot, a member of the Labour party bolted the party because Mr Blair had decided to impose his own candidate on the constituency.

The rebel, a man with an impeccable record as a Labour councillor but now running as an independent, routed the official candidate. In London, the Liberal Democrats, now to the left of Labour, uprooted some Labour stalwarts, in one case, nearly doubling their vote in a swing of over 25% - unheard of in British politics.

The Labour party is back in office with a reduced majority and the Conservatives, the main Opposition party, increased their seats to a respectable figure (197 seats against 351 for Labour). Although they have increased their seats, there was hardly any swing at all to them - about one half of one per cent. They benefited by the haemorrhage of Labour votes to the Liberal Democrats, mainly in protest against the war.

The real winners were the Liberal Democrats, formed in the 1970s by a fusion between the old Liberal party and the breakaway right wing of the Labour Party.


This provenance makes it all the more remarkable that the LibDems are now seen as the alternative to Labour - and the left alternative at that. They were against the war and, generally, espouse a more 'populist' programme than either of the other parties.

The chastening of Tony Blair is a defeat for George Bush every bit as important as the defeat of Aznar in Spain. He is a lame duck; in fact, he is a legless duck, open to pressure now from nearly 100 leftish members of his own party plus the invigorated LibDems with their 60 seats. If these ever combine with the nearly 200 Tories, Blair will be pinned. Politics has once again reared its lovely head in Britain and all bets are off.

With Blair's freedom of action now limited, Mr Bush will find his parliamentary opposition not in Washington, but in London, and that may perhaps help invigorate the forces for change and civilisation in the United States.

There are already signs that the Creationist mobocracy are not having things their own way. Mr DeLay seems to be swinging slowly in the wind and the democratic forces seem to be gaining strength, enthusiasm and most important, boldness.

The Free Trade Area of the Americas is effectively dead, the Central American Free Trade Area is likely to be stillborn and the Doha Round of the WTO is suffering from oxygen starvation.

People round the world are beginning to realise that we don't have to be bullied if we don't want to be, and that there are effective ways of resistance apart from and distinct from terrorism.

The rest of us - the force described as the other superpower - suffers from disorganisation and a lack of awareness of our own strength. But as the strength grows, so will the awareness. Pundits find it easy to speak of watersheds, and thankfully, none has yet called this one. I believe it really is a watershed, for a number of reasons.

I see the Thatcher era as the last flowering of the Tories, rather like the enormous efflorescence of the "Century Palm" before it dies. The so-called Thatcher-Reagan revolution was not the dawn of a new era, but the last spasm of a culture in a frantic effort to turn back the tides of history and civilisation.

Blair and Bush are the last fruits of that efflorescence.

01 May 2005

Naked to their Enemies

Common Sense
John Maxwell

It may very well have something to do with the very thin ozone layer prevailing this year, allowing the earth to be bathed in excessive ultraviolet radiation, threatening malignant melanoma for those with fair skins. Our destructive past is catching up with us and the poisons we have excreted into the environment are coming back to haunt us.

But I do wonder if it is the ozone layer which is also stripping away the glaze from the eyes of some of us, and, at an absolutely astonishing rate, revealing the nakedness of our emperors and the pathetic figures they cut once the gilt has been removed.

Take the Mexican Emperor, for instance, Vicente Fox. EL Presidente was last week forced to backtrack and effectively apologise for his government's part in attempting to get rid of its most dangerous opponent, the Mayor of Mexico City, Lopez Obrador.

It probably doesn't harm Mr Lopez Obrador that his (mother's) name is a Spanish word for worker (trabajador is more usual) and that he is a hard and diligent worker. He has become immensely popular in Mexico City for the job he has done as mayor. When his opponents decided to remove him from the presidential race, they could not have known that they would instead, spread his renown across Mexico and into the wider world.

Lopez Obrador is a social democrat, which in American eyes is next to being a 19th century nihilist. President Fox may have thought he was doing his sometime compadre, G W Bush a favour by landing Obrador with a criminal prosecution.

Obrador was accused of a minor, technical and utterly unimportant violation of an obscure land law regulating the process by which municipalities could acquire land for public purposes. But, with a criminal prosecution hanging round his neck, no matter how trifling, Lopez Obrador was barred from being a candidate.

The uproar the government's action caused produced protest around the world as well as in Mexico, and the mayor's profile is now higher than ever, because he not only forced El Presidente to back down, but brought down the attorney-general who prosecuted him, a candidate for the ruling party's presidential nomination.


Prime Minister Tony Blair (right) and Jack Straw
Tony Blair is a barrister who became leader of the British Labour Party just as the British were getting fed up to the teeth with Margaret Thatcher. He was one of those people who believed that if you can't beat your opponent, you should steal his clothes, dry clean them and proclaim them NEW! BRILLIANT!! SEXY!!!

He tried but didn't quite succeed in burying Labour's old working class clothes. He paraded his newness, his grand piano smile, his lack of ideology and his love affair with GW Bush.

Unfortunately for this Emperor Manqué, his touching faith in the Transatlantic Templar from Texas led him into indiscretion, most notoriously, into war with Iraq, or rather, into a criminal conspiracy to commit war crimes.

Aggressive war is a crime, according to the Nuremberg rules. Tony Blair thought he had hoodwinked his British public and the world when he claimed, falsely as it turned out, as most of us suspected, that the war was illegitimate.

In those days, Blair brandished before Parliament advice from his attorney-general saying it licenced him to go to war. As a lawyer he should have remembered two things: one, that no one can give you permission to commit an illegal act; two, that in this day, this age of instant communication, nothing can long remain secret.

On Friday, the pressure of public opinion aroused by the election campaign and concerted by the media forced Blair to publish the full text of the Attorney-General's Opinion, all 13 pages of it, and it strips the gloss from Blair's claims.

Alas for Blair, his embrace of the Bushian principles convinced him to disregard the very lawyerly advice in the Opinion. The Opinion makes it clear that the attorney-general did not give much for the chances of Blair proving in court that the assault on Iraq was justifiable.

It could have been justified, said the AG, if Blair and Bush had been able to persuade the Security Council to pass another resolution threatening Iraq with war, unless... The Security Council, remember, would have no truck with that. Old Europe, as Generalissimo Rumsfeld so appositely remarked, was out of the loop of Bushian reality.

So they went to war. And we, who were vilified for protesting in our millions round the world against the planned aggression, have been proved to have been right from the start.
It is an enormously satisfying feeling which cannot, however, balance against all the hurt and suffering caused.

Mr Blair has shredded his reputation. It is possible and British commentators think it probable that the Labour Party will still win this week's election. The voters, they think, will hold their noses long enough to vote Labour, since they know that Gordon Brown stands ready to take charge if the prime minister, for some unforeseen reason, should feel too 'indisposed' to continue.


The American Emperor has been able for so long to give the impression that he can walk on water that he probably thinks he can really do it. As Jay Bookman points out on Thursday in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Mr Bush arrived at his apogee on March 21, just a month ago, when the President signed a bill authorising federal court intervention in the sad case of Terry Schiavo.

Bookman says, and I agree with him: "By over-reaching so badly in that case, Republicans gave many Americans a fresh appreciation of the dangers of unchecked government arrogance, not to mention a renewed respect for the checks and balances needed to restrain that arrogance.

And when Republican leaders began to attack federal judges as part of their holy crusade against the only government branch beyond their control, what had been a vague and growing unease began to coalesce into a deep distrust."

It couldn't have come at a worse time, Bookman points out, because the numbers have begun to run against the administration. Most Americans don't think the federal judges are too liberal as the GOP says - 52% think they are just about right, while 16% think they are too conservative.

Only 25% agreed with Bush and his crusaders. In the same poll, 66% of Americans rejected the Republican jihad in the Senate, the so-called nuclear option to change the congressional rules to elevate some real Neanderthals to the federal bench.

And, to quote Bookman again, "on critical issues from Iraq to energy to the economy and social security, enough time has passed to see the results of Bush's ideology driven policies and it isn't pretty".

The Dow has fallen 800 points in six weeks, and 61% of Americans think the economy is getting worse. In the same poll, nearly 60% of respondents disapproved of Bush's policy in Iraq and 54% think the war is a waste of time. A Gallup poll disclosed that 60% of Americans now recognise that Bush deliberately lied them into war.

The impressive pantheon of the Bush Reich is shedding its tiles. The Senate majority leader is under attack for his ineptitude and his grovelling to the religious right. The Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, the pretentious Tom De Lay, is in serious danger of ending up in jail.

The man who led the moral assault against Bill Clinton is rapidly turning into a political leper, an untouchable.


It's long been obvious to me, if to no one else, that as soon as our Jamaican Prophet-Emperor was exposed to the harsh glare of political reality, his charms would melt like ice cream on a hot sidewalk.

Like the other Emperors, he has not had a good week. This week Portia Simpson finally got her way and, over the howls (one imagines) of the Prime Minister's Praetorian Guard, she got rid of the entire board of the National Solid Waste Authority, touts porous, or whole hog, as we used to say.

What the latest 'bangarang' reveals is how few people it takes to run this country. I once declared that Mr Neville Athenaeum wore so many hats that it was impossible to know which one he was talking through at any given time.

Alston Stewart, Kingsley Thomas, Dennis Morrison and Vin Lawrence make Athenaeum look like a piker. Stewart, the chairman of the NSWA, has his own businesses plus a radio station, KLAS, to manage as well. And managing a radio station is one of the world's most thankless jobs, reportedly akin to herding cats.

In spite of all these serious jobs, Mr Stewart was project manager for the government's mega-project at Sandals Whitehouse, the mismanagement of which will probably become a case study in the annals of hotel construction.

Butch Stewart (no kin), a man who operates and has built hotels in several places inside and outside of Jamaica, told me on Disclosure (Hot102, Wednesday, April 26) that he had never seen so much confusion. And, despite the fact that he is a shareholder in the project management company set up for the purpose, he was usually completely in the dark about what was going on.

On Breakfast Club the day before, the Supreme Grand Panjandrum in Chief, Dr the Hon Vin Lawrence, expressed surprise that Stewart had not known the true state of affairs. The cost of building the hotel had jumped from $60 million to $73 million and is now somewhere near double the original estimate, it appears. But who knows?

Dr Omar Davies, the minister of finance, has decided to get, if he can, to the bottom of this barrel of worms. One wishes him luck. It will be interesting to know what this latest disaster will eventually cost the taxpayer so that someday we might have some idea of what Mr Patterson's primacy has cost us.

The PM himself in what was expected to have been a triumphant farewell budget speech was his usual unexciting self. His speech might have been titled "Better late than never" as he announced, in the gloaming of his final year as leader of this country, that he will be using money from the Housing Trust to spruce up a few schools.

Instead, as he did not remind us, we have spent our not inconsiderable credit on grand and futile schemes, rescuing the bankers, building the Doomsday Highway and last, the monumental beach-stealing exercise which will forever rid ordinary Jamaicans of the onerous duty of going sea-bathing.

As Jamaicans say, when you have to jump off a cliff to get into the water, what you have to worry about "is not the drop; is the sudden stop".