30 October 2005

'None Dare Call it Treason'

Common Sense
John Maxwell

I've never had particularly warm feelings towards either President Bush or his Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney spooked me early - as soon as I discovered that having been tasked to find a Vice Presidential running mate for George Bush, he selected himself.

Later, when his wife disclosed some of his personal predilections, he spooked me even more. It had been her husband's habit, Mrs Cheney said, to baby-sit his infant daughters by taking them with him to view Civil War battlefields.

To me, the story suggested a racist bitter-ender, obsessing about what might have been had Robert E Lee been more successful. Fanciful? Perhaps, but the behaviour of Cheney and the rest of the Bush administration since has given me no cause to revise my speculation. They have emphasised their racist agenda in many ways, from Affirmative Action to Katrina, from Haiti to Darfur - and of course, above all, in Iraq. And the main architect has been Mr Cheney.

So, although like every other Cassandra in the world I hate saying 'I told you so', it was not without some satisfaction that I watch the howling winds of Hurricane Patrick approaching Washington as I write, while the greedy and the powerful, the mighty and the unscrupulous, sit quivering and agonising about the wrath to come.

And although, as I write, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had not handed up an indictment for Dick Cheney, I have no doubt that one is in the offing. I believe that he is the main - if not 'onlie begetter' - of the devastation about to engulf the Bush Administration over the next few weeks and months.

Although Mr Cheney may have been mysteriously absent at crucial times in the history of this administration, his ever-present snarl, like the evanescent grin of the Cheshire Cat, has hovered over everything.

His secret task force on energy was, I postulate, the blueprint for the Iraq war. And that is the reason its deliberations are still secret. The war was not for ridding the world of Saddam except and inasmuch that his removal would have been expected to make the American take-over of Iraq's oilfields less expensive in terms of bodies destroyed, and more cost-effective in every other way.

The war was not for spreading democracy - a concept foreign to the imaginations of the administration; it was not for improving the conditions of the Iraqi people; it was not even for safeguarding Israel. It was all about oil. Everything else was secondary, including humanity, history and civilisation. And that is why it was so important that a credible case had to be made out that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons.

Without that crucial piece of 'evidence' the United States was unlikely to recruit any UN allies in the run-up to its Iraq misadventure. It was important to scare the American people with the idea of a 'smoking gun' in the guise of a mushroom cloud, to terrify the British with the idea that Saddam had the capacity to obliterate the Royal Family and every fish and chips and curry take-out in Britain at 45 minutes' notice. The prospect made their flesh creep, in the words of one cabinet minister.

None dare call it Treason

In the sixteenth century Sir John Harrington wrote:
"Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."
Had the Iraq War been the 'slam dunk" its progenitors predicted, the minor matter of a forged bill of goods would probably not have come up for 50 years, when historians might have disinterred it. But it didn't happen that way.

Although the war had actually started when the fraud was exposed, the "Shock and Awe" son et lumiere production which had been meant to herald it had to be postponed for all kinds of pesky formalities, by which time the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had already discounted the documents as 'crude forgeries'.

Even the chosen messenger, an Italian journalist named Elisabetta Burba, had discounted the authenticity of the documents before she handed them over to the Italian authorities.

The visit of Ambassador Wilson to Niger was simply to confirm what the CIA had known, before it saw the documents, that the story was a fake. The CIA knew what Cheney, Libby, Bush and Rove did not know: that Niger cannot sell uranium to anyone since the sale of Niger uranium is controlled by three western companies under the strict supervision of the IAEA.

So, the frantic attempt to discredit Ambassador Wilson was crucial, because Mr Cheney had long before 'discredited' the CIA, and the White House was paying no attention to its main intelligence agency and hoping no one else was. The White House Iraq Group - WHIG - believed it had all the intelligence it needed. And with Tony Blair prepared to lie (as he still is) the way was clear.

Homage to the Discredited

Some of my readers have chastised me for being too hard on Mrs Judith Miller, that soon-to-be ex-employee of the New York Times newsroom. I really, really, really, do hate to say 'I told you so', but everything that has happened since my column appeared has proven me correct. Mrs Miller was stooging for Mr Libby and Mr Cheney. In the process she revealed that she had earlier been co-opted by the Pentagon and allowed to see top secret documents under a special, personal clearance. None of this was communicated to her editor.

It is my contention that since the editor normally is the person designated to go to jail in any cataclysmic conflict between a newspaper and the law, no reporter can take it upon himself to compromise the editor and the newspaper by attempting to guarantee the 'confidentiality' of any source.

The public has a right to know the source of the news. Confidential sources may be used if no other source is available AND if the story is of such transcendental importance that the public interest would be harmed by not publishing. Whatever the reason, the editor must be certain that the source is reliable and trustworthy. It would be a dereliction of duty for an editor to allow someone like Mrs Miller to vouch for the bona fides of any source, particularly when her sources had already proved to be spectacularly wrong, spectacularly prejudiced and spectacularly unreliable.

NYT publisher Sulzberger and editor Keller sat by and allowed Mrs Miller to hijack the New York Times' reputation, credibility and honour, and they too deserve to be fired. As Maureen Dowd has said, Mrs Miller's time in jail may have been an attempt at career rehabilitation. It had nothing whatever to do with defending the freedom of the press.

And it may be useful to remember in all of this that freedom of the press is a public right. It does not belong to the press. It is meant to guarantee that the public gets all the information they need to make up their minds - the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth. They need to be able to rationally decide, for instance, whether they wish to have their children face death in a war to defend the remainder of their freedoms.

In this case, the press surrendered its responsibilities to people like Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and lent them the confidence that they could walk on water and defy common sense, common decency, public opinion and the law. What they were walking on was the turf on the grave of democracy.

They very nearly succeeded in making the United States into a one-party state. If you don't believe me, consider the curious case of the Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court.

Ms Miers was spectacularly unqualified, a fact which was obvious even in such dark corners of the world as Jamaica. She may be a very nice lady and a good lawyer in her own specialities, but she was not known to be a constitutional scholar or to be interested in such matters.

Her nomination seemed to be proceeding along a rocky but well trodden path until, horror of horrors, it became known that she had been an advocate of sexual and ethnic affirmative action. Nobody now mentions this disaster, but Ms Miers nomination was holed below the waterline by that disclosure.

With everything the press knows about Ms Miers, there was hardly any reasoned criticism of a woman who, had her nomination been confirmed, would have been making constitutional law for perhaps decades to come, deciding matters of life and death, of security and happiness of people not only in the United States but all over the world - in Haiti, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq, for instance.

The press was unperturbed that the president and the Republican Party saw the nomination as an opportunity to put the stamp of the American Taliban- the right-wing fundamentalist - creationists upon the Supreme Court of the United States. They have not been concerned when it is clear that the Republicans are anxious to deform the law and pervert the constitution to suit their prejudices.

They are not concerned that radical extremists are not satisfied that all but two of the judges on the Supreme Court were appointed by Republican presidents. Like the Judas Goat, they are prepared to lead the US down a path charted by people like Dick Cheney, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
In the words of Hilaire Belloc:
"...the stocks were sold; the press was squared,
The middle class was quite prepared."
Unfortunately, after 2,000 of their children have been slaughtered and another 15,000 maimed, the American people have terminally lost confidence in Mr Bush, none more so than the black minority, whose support of the Republicans and Mr Bush is said to be two - within the statistical margin of error. That is to say - apart from Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas and Gerard La Tortue - there may be no black American citizen now prepared to believe anything Mr Bush says.

And the population as a whole? If an election were to be held today, more than half (55 per cent) are now prepared to vote for any Democratic candidate in preference to Mr Bush. The tragedy is two-fold: Mr Bush is the same person he was in November last year and the press knew then exactly who he was.

They just didn't bother to inform the people who pay their salaries.

Freedom of the press they preach; freedom of the press they do not practise.

23 October 2005

Vandalism and Slavery

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Vandalism is the barbarian's tribute to that to which he considers himself inferior. When the Spanish conquistadors destroyed the Aztec/Maya cultures they were performing the same ritual which Napoleon's troops enacted three hundred years later when they shelled the negroid lips and nose of the Sphinx in Egypt.

They didn't understand and were intimidated, so they destroyed the sources of their discomfort - the evidence of their assumed inferiority.

In the "New World", the Spaniards collided with a number of ancient civilisations, Aztec, Maya and in South Americas, the Inca, and all of them shared, among other things, a calendar which, although much older, is said to be more accurate than the Gregorian calendar in use in Europe at that time.

The New World cultures were so thoroughly ransacked and pillaged that it is extremely difficult to tell much about their origins or their level of achievement. And especially, they cannot easily be connected to the precedent Olmec civilisation which must have bequeathed some of its characteristics to the newcomers.

The Olmecs tantalise us and confound certain historians in that they appear to have been negroid people, judging from the enormous carved heads they left behind.

Of course, European Christians like the Spaniards would have found it difficult anyway to give the slightest credence to the idea that blacks, as the Olmecs at least, would have seemed to them, could possibly be of the same level of humanity as they were, especially because they (the Spaniards) were proving the moral and intellectual superiority of European civilisation by employing the Chinese invention of gunpowder.

Mayan ruins in an old civilisation
And since the Spaniards and their fellow Europeans were about to embark on the most ambitious exercise in parasitism known to mankind - the institution of black plantation slavery- it would have been highly inconvenient for them to believe that they were enslaving civilised people. Except, of course, that they may have been taking revenge for the conquest and six centuries of occupation of Spain by Africans.

It isn't nice to bring up these matters, and positively indecent to suggest that there may have been civilisations antecedent to the Greeks and Romans - especially since the Ancient Egyptians have been rebranded as Honorary Whites.

The enormity of such a crime may be gauged by Mr Rumsfeld's response to the sacking of Baghdad's museums and the treasury of ancient history that was Iraq. Mr Rumsfeld's God, like General Boykins and Pizarro's, is obviously bigger than anybody else's.

These remarks are provoked by an occurrence this week in Paris, where the United States received its most decisive rebuff ever in the international arena. The UNESCO General Conference voted by more than 150 votes to two to endorse a new Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression. The only countries to vote against the convention were the United States and Israel. Four countries abstained: Australia, Nicaragua, Honduras and Liberia.

The United States was incensed at its defeat. It had offered 28 amendments and every one was rejected. The US Ambassador to UNESCO Louise Oliver described the convention as "a hastily drafted text which is subject to misinterpretation and abuse in ways that could undermine rather than promote cultural diversity".

UNESCO's Director General Koichiro Matsuura, says: "This Declaration, which sets against inward-looking fundamentalism the prospect of a more open, creative and democratic world, is now one of the founding tenets of the new ethics, promoted by UNESCO in the early twenty-first century. My hope is that one day it may acquire the same force as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

The Americans fear that the convention will be used to counter the globalisation of American culture. Right now the US is in a quarrel with South Korea over that country's insistence on limiting American penetration of its cultural space by legislating face time on Korean television for Korean culture.

The United States will probably not be too discommoded by this convention, and may, as in the case of the International Criminal Court, simply blackmail smaller nations into yielding to cultural rape. Most other countries support the UNESCO idea that a convention is needed to promote indigenous and other ethnic traditions and minority (that is non-English) languages, and protect national and local cultures from the negative impacts of globalisation.

In this connection I am happy to relate that the McDonald's Corporation has conceded defeat in its decade -long attempt to infiltrate the Jamaican fast-food market. Beginning last Wednesday, the McDonald's stores are up for auction. Jamaica must be the first country in the world to achieve this distinction.

Jamaica is not a lost cause for transnational fast-food chains however. Although a number of them including Shakey's Pizza, Taco Bell and Kenny Rogers' Chicken have also failed to make a dent here, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King are alive and well. But while a place like Jamaica may defend itself against fast food and perhaps American music, it can offer no real defence against language, the gun culture, or US film, video/TV or book and magazine publishing.

Many other countries can offer no defence at all to any intrusion, and the result could well be that the arbitrament of scale will win out against good taste and cultural imperatives. And, as I say, conventions don't mean much to the US, if one remembers for instance the Geneva and Hague Conventions and the Nuremberg precedents.

In the Caribbean we have two glaring examples of US disregard for what the rest of the world terms Justice and Law.

The Men in the Iron Masks

In Guantanamo Bay, the US has captured a sizeable piece of Cuban territory and claims it as its own, but, when convenient, the US also claims that it owes no duty to recognise US law at Guantanamo Bay, because it is not American territory.

Because of this, hundreds of people are held like medieval prisoners, without charge, without access to justice or mercy, force-fed while shackled to their beds when they have the temerity to protest by refusing to eat. If, as the Bush administration claims, the internees are being treated humanely, one wonders what the prisoners would do if the conditions were inhumane.

If people are willing to fast unto death to get out of this humane treatment, inhumane treatment by the US must be another dimension of horror entirely.

Last week, the Ibero-American summit rebuffed the US, as I reported. But the US still insists it has a right to wage an undeclared war against Cuba while insisting that Cuba, under American attack, should behave according to the very same democratic ideals the US itself has discarded in its PATRIOT Act and similar legislation and practice. The United States is busy kidnapping people from foreign countries and shipping them off to be tortured in places like Uzbekistan and Egypt (and Guantanamo Bay) with human rights records that cannot stand comparison with Cuba's.

Next door to Cuba is Haiti where the United States and its quondam allies France and Canada, are determined to make the Haitians pay for their temerity in defining a new standard in human civilisation.

I have become convinced that the real motive for the two hundred years war against Haiti by France and the United States arises from the simple fact that the Haitians were the first people in the world to abolish slavery on their own - and then go on to proclaim universal human rights. Although France and the US in their revolutions had proclaimed the Rights of Man, it was the Haitians who first promulgated them.

The French, having been twice defeated by their former slaves, subjugated Haiti with the help of the United States by the same process of blackmail now being used against Cuba. Unless Haiti agreed to pay an indemnity of billions to the French, the newly independent republic would be denied all opportunity to trade and develop.

Thus, the French, in concert with the US, achieved by compound interest what they had not been able to achieve by war.
Haiti is the model for the new slavery by globalisation. Having been made utterly destitute by commercial exploitation and conquest, the Haitians are now thought to deserve no say in their own affairs.

The racist prescription for Haiti can be read most succinctly in a piece last week in the Washington Post by one James Harding, formerly of the Financial Times. In a piece last Sunday entitled "In Haiti, the Vote Isn't Nearly Powerful Enough" Harding writes from Port-au-Prince:
"Beyond the poverty statistics and the kidnapping numbers, the signs of Haiti's miserable failure as a country are literally littered across the capital: the rats squirming across the piles of garbage that festoon the streets; the bloated corpse of a dog lying on the roadside in an upscale neighborhood; the kids paddling through fetid green water in the slums of Cite Soleil."

"This is a country where there is nostalgia for strong, even if bloody, leadership. Many Haitians cite the corrupt and murderous Duvalier regime as the best government in living memory."
As, no doubt, some in Jamaica long for Governor Eyre.

Utopia on a Dungheap

In a piece which reads like the Master Narrative for Hapless Haiti, Harding quotes, among others, Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State:

"Throughout history, people have fought for the right to vote. Some have indeed died for the right to vote. There is no more powerful weapon in the hands of a citizen than the vote. And so to the people of Haiti, I urge you to use that powerful weapon, the vote, in the days ahead."

Tell that to the Marines

In Harding's unintentional parody of the parachuted periodista, he stumbles across some truths: "In a country of eight million people, Haiti's paltry budget means that the next president will have about $100 to spend on each person, dispensed through a corrupt and incapable bureaucracy, not to mention a lawless and often violent police force."

He also quotes, without explaining his role in the chaos, Andy Apaid, "one of the country's wealthiest businessmen", who, according to Harding, says simply: "We are in a very, very serious hole."

As perhaps the chief hole-digger, one would have expected Apaid to have had more to say, and that Harding would have asked him more questions. Alas, we have to accept Mr Apaid's Delphic and no doubt, deeply significant utterance.

Harding says: "Even Juan Gabriel Valdes, the top United Nations official in Haiti, takes a fatalistic view of the presidential contest that the international community is working so hard to make happen: "We will have the election, but the country will not be very different the day after. What we would like is to build a consensus around the priorities."

The problem, of course, is that that was precisely what Jean-Bertrand Aristide was attempting to do when Apaid, Colin Powell and assorted murderers and rapists, assisted by the US Marines, put an end to Haiti's democratic experiment.

As I said, Harding does stumble across some truths. He even says something that I said ten years ago, that Haiti's problems can only be solved by long-term dedicated help, but Harding doesn't think Haitians are capable of being in charge of the process. Strangely, he ends his piece thus:
"Instead, it is to say that Haiti is a case for nation-building, not mere liberation. It is a task for a development-minded administration, not one single-mindedly focused on democracy. Another Haiti crisis will not be far off. It is in America's interests to be looking well beyond the election to the less newsworthy, less Manichaean business of road construction, power generation and clean water distribution. The priority is not freedom, it's the garbage."
Somebody must have lent him one of Aristide's books. Aristide spoke of the possibility of building 'Utopia upon a Dungheap', but he was sabotaged by the United States, France, and the European Union as well as by the International Financial institutions, the World Bank, the IMF and the ineffable Kofi Annan.

As I said earlier, I am convinced that it is Haiti's perceived moral superiority to her persecutors which is responsible for the mess. If they let Haitians do their own thing they may be in danger of exposing the truth: that people like us, Haitians, like the Cubans and the Venezuelans may actually expose the hollow pretensions of the 'civilised world'.

16 October 2005

The Python that Exploded

Common Sense
John Maxwell

William Burroughs should be alive at this hour if only to savour the latest news about ganja - marijuana. Scientific experiments on rats indicate that the clinical use of marijuana could make people feel better by helping control anxiety and depression by promoting brain cell growth.

According to a report in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, a synthetic chemical similar to the active ingredient in marijuana makes new cells grow in rat brains. What is more, in rats this cell growth appears to be linked with reducing anxiety and depression. The results suggest that marijuana, or its derivatives, could actually be good for the brain.

What will they think of next?

A report from the Florida Everglades sounds more like a parable than a true story, but it is a true story. It appears that Florida is becoming increasingly infested by Burmese pythons, sold by pet stores years ago to parents who either forgot, or never knew, Ogden Nash's celebrated 'couplet' about small animals:
"The trouble with a kitten is that
It very soon becomes a cat."
In the case of pythons there is no phase change, they just keep getting bigger and hungrier, and the adorable little wrigglers must soon be turned out to pasture, which, in Florida, means the Everglades. There, the pythons find their true destiny and continue growing until some natural or unnatural disaster puts an end to the process.

This week, a 13-foot python lost his lunch, fatally. The snake had overpowered a six-foot long alligator and was in the process of swallowing him whole when the alligator, still alive, began to try to claw his way out of the python. The messy result was an exploding python, still enveloping, in death, its saurian lunch.

I don't know why this story reminds me of what's been happening to the United States over the past several years, particularly in places like Cuba, Vietnam, Somalia, Venezuela and Iraq, to name a few. On Thursday, in Salamanca, Spain, the Ibero-American summit of Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries unanimously called on the United States to give up its almost half-century-long war against Cuba - to end the blockade and to give up, to Venezuela, that felonious friend of the Bush family, 'Bambi' Posada Carriles.

Fidel Castro wasn't even at the summit, although he'd been invited. The Latins acted not on emotion, but on principle.

"We ask the US government to fulfil 13 successive resolutions approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations to put an end to the financial, commercial and economic blockade which it maintains against Cuba," the ministers said in a statement.

"We reaffirm once more in defence of the free exchange and transparent practice of international trade, that unilateral coercive measures which affect the welfare of people and obstruct integration processes are unacceptable," the ministers said.

Cuba says the blockade/embargo is an illegal act of war and has cost the Cuban people $82 billion in addition to the more conventional aggressions, terrorist attacks, deadly sabotage, biological warfare and the false imprisonment of five Cubans engaged in anti-terrorism intelligence work in Florida.

The Haitian people yet haven't calculated what the US owes them, but it must also be substantial. Their problem is slightly different from the Cubans' - the United States pretends that Haiti doesn't really exist and that its people are not really entitled to human rights.

Meanwhile, back in Washington's halls of justice the American python-in-chief, one Karl Rove, appears on the verge of a new career, defending himself in court against the charge that he conspired to break US law by 'outing' Valerie Plame, a CIA undercover officer, in an attempt to revenge the administration against the truth-telling of Ms Plame's husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Truth-telling is not among the strong points of the present administration. The administration has been condemned by the General Accounting Office of the US Congress for buying reporters and news coverage, in effect, using public money to distort public opinion. President Bush was at it again, last week.

This time the Looking Glass President was allegedly engaging in what Newsday says was "billed as a folksy question-and-answer session in which President George W Bush would talk to soldiers about their activities in Iraq and assure them of popular support".

The folksy chat turned out to be a rehearsed advertorial for the president, with American troops hauled from the battlegrounds to act as the president's 'straight men'. So, now the war effort includes using soldiers to support the Republican Party.

Some people appear to be shocked that Mr Bush should stoop so low as to arrange a kind of Potemkin fireside chat. After the disasters of Iraq, Katrina, DeLay, Rove/Judith Miller and the new SEC enquiry into the financial behaviour of the Majority Leader in the Senate, plus his guttering polls, I consider that the president has got to do what he has to do: defy reality hoping that someone will take notice.

We are watching the disintegration of the military industrial complex prefigured in the collapse of its public image. The edifice itself will take some time to disintegrate and collapse, but the facade is being blown off, strip by strip.

Blogging and press freedom

As recently as two years ago many of the stories which now show Bush and his backers for what they really are would never have been published, and if they had, would not have been noticed, or followed up.

But in the last two years new technology has freed up the press to the people: blogging software has enabled anyone to be a publisher, and in A J Liebling's words - "freedom of the press belongs to those who own one".

The blog has become the poor man's press and the public interest is alive and well in all sorts of quarters. The media, as McLuhan said, is becoming the message.

Seven years ago hundreds of blue-chip journalists, as I call them, were in Cuba to cover the philosophical heavyweight championship fight of the century between Pope John Paul II and Fidel Castro.

These two represented, for the press, the champions of Light and Darkness, respectively. But the Drudge Report nixed all that. The Drudge Report is, I hear, a kind of drop box for journalists with stories they could not print, mainly for ethical reasons, but wanted published. Give it to Drudge and it would be printed with no troublesome questions of journalistic standards interfering.

When Drudge printed the blue-dress report, the blue-chip reporters took off from Cuba, a flight of starlings, pursued by an eagle. These days Drudge is outnumbered, outwritten and outflanked by thousands of ordinary people, including a sizeable presence of real journalists with real journalistic ethics. The quality, like the bloggers themselves, is uneven. But that does not matter.

As in any other kind of random sampling, given a large enough sample, statistical probability indicates that the result will be pretty much a reflection of the total population.

But there is another, very powerful factor - blogging is interactive, so that any given blog is constantly refreshed and corrected from time to time, by its readers/members. This is truly public opinion in action - informed public opinion - sometimes rude and rough, but generally rational, full of common sense and the courage to call a spade a spade.

Three years ago when the United States was preparing war in Iraq, millions of people round the world came out on the streets to register their disagreement. At that time, the New York Times described this demonstration of worldwide public opinion as "The Other Superpower".

The NYTspoke more truly than they knew. In the old days it took a great deal of money to set up a newspaper or a radio station. Eventually, it was the big money that controlled freedom of speech, freedom of expression; freedom of the press, as Liebling said, belonged to the owners.

Today, as the greed of the military/industrial/transnational complex is causing the world to overheat and melt the Arctic Ice cap, so is the power of the media owners melting like ice cream on a hot pavement.

The technology of cell phones, laptop and handheld computers, small hard drives combine to lower the cost of publishing, the power of the Time-Warners, the Disneys and the network news is also melting. They won't disappear for some time, but the introduction of the video IPod is bound to make as serious inroads into television as television made into magazines.

Podcasters will now be able to podcast their news videos or their mini-features. With the technology available on the basic Macintosh computer for audio and video editing, you can now change the world in your attic while you starve like a proper poet.

The new landscape will also mean that nation states and the bureaucracies which maintain them will become even less relevant since the political parties and electoral machines will no longer be able to control informed public opinion and Bush-league advertorials will be even less relevant, as, thankfully, will people like Karl Rove, George Bush and Judith Miller.

The pythons have bitten off much more than they can chew: as we say in jamaica, their eyes have always been bigger than their bellies. Some of the biggest bangs to come will be the sound of pythons exploding.

09 October 2005

Truth is the Enemy

Common Sense
John Maxwell

All Hell is breaking loose in the corridors of power.

The United States Senate, reflecting the views of most civilised people, voted a few days ago 90 to nine to ban "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of anyone in US government custody". Even the Majority Leader in the Senate, Bill Frist, voted with the majority.

Earlier in the year he had succumbed to pressure from President Bush and the White House to stop the Senate passing such a measure. This time, he seems to have been overcome either by his finer feelings or by the poll figures.

Mr Bush, however, is unfazed. He has threatened to veto the Bill, a waste of time, because the 90 senators voting for it clearly have the votes to over-ride the veto.

So, Mr Bush has at last admitted what we all knew: the Lynndie England's and all the other poor soldiers who have been punished for torturing and mistreating their captives in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere were in fact following orders. Mr Bush has now admitted as much. Which is more than Mr Milosevich, former president of Yugoslavia/Serbia, has admitted in his trial at the Hague for war crimes.

You will remember that Mr Milosevich was kidnapped from Serbia for trial in the Hague on charges that troops under his authority committed war crimes. There is no allegation that Milosevich authorised anyone to commit the crimes for which he is being tried.

Mr Bush, on the other hand, is curiously cavalier about his own behaviour, asserting that his troops need to be able to torture and mistreat their captives in order to get information.

This attitude may yet put Mr Bush in some danger, as two recent European court judgments defy his administration's contentions about the legality of their actions in Iraq. In January, an Italian judge, Clementine Forieo ruled that five North Africans accused of terrorism could not be so described because they were in reality resistance fighters against an illegal occupation force.

That judgment is supported more recently, by the German Federal Administrative Court which ruled that the attack launched by the US and its allies against the nation of Iraq was a clear war of aggression that violated international law - as specified in Article 4, Paragraph 4 of the UN Charter .

Both judgments are further supported by the Scandinavian legislators who form the jury for the Nobel Peace Prize. They awarded the Prize this year to Mr Mohammed Al Baradei and the International Atomic Energy Authority which he heads.

Mr El Baradei, it may be remembered, was one of those who discredited the Anglo-American claim that Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy uranium from Niger, one of the centrepieces of the case for war. The British PM, Mr Blair, had the grace to congratulate Mr El Baradei, but I suspect that Hell will freeze over before we get a similar concession from Mr Bush.

Life in Washington is becoming even more exciting, with many people speculating that the president's consigliere, Mr Rove, and the vice president's apparatchik-in-chief, Mr Libby, may be indicted quite soon for conspiring to leak the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA undercover agent who is the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Mr Wilson - in the New York Times two years ago, exploded Mr Bush's claims about Iraq and Niger uranium. Valerie Plame's cover was blown by some creeps at the White House, in an effort to discredit Mr Wilson.

It is clear that in Washington and in other places of interest to Washington, the truth is an extremely dangerous commodity.
The head of Reuters news agency has complained to Senator John Warner, head of the Armed Forces Committee about the killing, maiming and illegal imprisonment of journalists and media employees by US forces in Iraq.

The Reuters chief, Mr David Schlesinger, said US troops were out of control and their attacks on media people were inhibiting the accurate reporting of the war in the public interest. In a letter to Sen Warner, he said US forces were limiting the ability of independent journalists to operate.

Mr Schlesinger called on Warner to raise widespread media concerns about the conduct of US troops with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was due to testify to the committee Schlesinger referred to "a long parade of disturbing incidents whereby professional journalists have been killed, wrongfully detained, and/or illegally abused by US forces in Iraq".

Schlesinger urged Warner to demand that Rumsfeld resolve these issues "in a way that best balances the legitimate security interests of the US forces in Iraq and the equally legitimate rights of journalists in conflict zones under international law".

At least 66 journalists and media workers, most of them Iraqis, have been killed in the Iraq conflict since March 2003 at least 13 of them by US troops. The most notorious case was the bombing of the Al Jazeera office in Baghdad in March 2003.

In a letter to Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the time, the Committee to Protect Journalists noted that, "the attack against Al-Jazeera is of particular concern since the station's offices were also hit in Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2001". The Pentagon asserted, without providing additional detail, that the office was a "known Al-Qaeda facility" and that "the US military did not know the space was being used by Al-Jazeera", which was palpably untrue.

Then there was the shelling of the Hotel Palestine by an American tank. The shells were directed at the upper floors of the hotel, in response, the US Army said, to insurgents firing from the lobby on the ground floor of the hotel.

Now, journalists and other media people are being selected for arrest and detention by US troops, without any recourse to law. According to Reuters the US military has refused to conduct independent and transparent investigations into the deaths of the journalists, relying instead on inquiries by officers from the units responsible, who had exonerated their soldiers.

The US military has failed even to implement recommendations by its own inquiry into one of the deaths, that of award-winning Palestinian cameraman Mazen Dana who was shot dead while filming outside Abu Ghraib prison in August 2003.

Schlesinger said Reuters and other reputable international news organisations were concerned by the "sizeable and rapidly increasing number of journalists detained by US forces".

He said most of these detentions had been provoked by legitimate journalistic activity such as possessing photographs and video of insurgents, which US soldiers assumed showed sympathy with the insurgency.

In most cases the journalists were held for long periods at Abu Ghraib or Camp Bucca prisons before being released without charge. It isn't only in Iraq that journalists are being targeted. In Spain a senior Al Jazeera journalists, Taysir Alluni, has been given a long jail term essentially for the crime of having interviewed Osama Bin Laden after the September 11 atrocities. There was, according to all the news reports I have read, no credible evidence against him, although he was accused of ferrying money to people on behalf of Al Qaeda.

The Arab Human Rights League believes that Alluni is a sacrifice to the American, British and Israeli interests attempting to justify their war against 'terror'. Alluni was first arrested in September 2003, but was was later released on bail on health grounds -he suffers from a weak heart and back problems - only to be arrested again and jailed in Madrid in November 2004.

He was released to house arrest in March, but taken back into custody on 16 September and is now to serve seven years in prison. A few weeks ago, Robert Fisk, the distinguished Middle East correspondent of the (London) Independent was refused entry to the United States for a lecture tour, as was Ian McEuan 18 months earlier.

McEuan later received an apology from the US department of Homeland Security. As far as I know, neither Fisk, nor our own Wayne Brown has received any similar expression of regret for their treatment. Since I was warned more than two years ago not to push my luck I was unable to attend my sister's funeral, for fear that mine might follow in the not too distant future.

In Haiti, journalists are being beaten and murdered by forces under the influence of the United States and the UN mission. Guyler Delvas, president of the journalist's association, (who has been on Jamaica radio several times) was arrested and beaten by the presidential security guard (Americans) last week as was another journalist with him, Radio Metropole reporter Jean Wilkens Merone.

They were covering a ceremony marking the beginning of the judicial year. Both journalists reported serious injuries after being dragged inside the courthouse and then severely beaten.

On September 9, journalists Jean Ristil and Kevin Pina were arrested while monitoring a search warrant at Rev Fr Gerard Jean-Juste's church in the Delmas district.

On July 10, journalist Jacques Roche was kidnapped and subsequently tortured and murdered by his assailants. On April 7, reporter Robenson Laraque died from injuries suffered while observing a clash between UN troops and members of the disbanded Haitian military in the city of Petit-Goâve.

On January 14, radio reporter Abdias Jean was murdered while covering a police operation and raid in the Village de Dieu sector of Port-au-Prince.

The Wages of Terrorism

If coming events cast their shadows, what are we to make of an incident at the British Labour Party conference two weeks ago? An 85-year-old man, Walter Wolfgang, who has lived in the UK since fleeing the wrath of Hitler nearly 70 years ago, dared to shout "Nonsense" during the speech of Home Secretary Jack Straw.

Not only was Wolfgang bundled out, roughly and unceremoniously, but another man who protested his brutal treatment was also frog-marched out of the conference.

The ensuing press uproar produced apologies from Prime Minister Blair and other notables. Wolfgang and his supporter were both allowed back into the conference on promises of good behaviour. But not before Wolfgang was arrested and charged under Britain's Anti-Terrorism act.

I promise you, I am not making this up. Heckling is terrorism.

Presumably Wolfgang fell under the section of the Act which sanctions the 'glorification' of terrorism.

I am being serious, because Mr Bush has joined Mr Blair in redefining their enemies, and it appears that anyone who dares make any protest will be classified as a member of the new international Islamo-fascist ideology as defined by Mr Bush.

And if you think that you can seek refuge in the law, think again. The woman who does Mr Bush's legal housekeeping, Mrs Harriet Miers, has been nominated by the president to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the US Supreme Court.

And, being from Texas, she may also be a good friend of Mr DeLay and those others who wish to redefine government until it becomes a dish rag for capitalists. Mrs Miers has never, ever, sat as a judge anywhere.

Can you imagine a British or a Jamaican prime minister making a similar appointment? Can you imagine the outrage?
Anyway, Caligula did make his horse a consul.So there is precedent. As Mr Al Gore has said, the current public discourse in the United States is indeed strange.

Dreadful things are happening but the body politic is silent. They must be, if the people who are supposed to inform them, the media, are too rich or bored, or just too cowardly to care

There have been editorials welcoming the Senate's proposed ban on torture, but where were these worthies when the torture was being discussed? Well, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter and the noted (liberal) legal authority, Alan Dershowitz, to name just two, were both publicly recommending the use of torture at the time.
And no one said a word.

02 October 2005

Open Letter to Kofi Annan

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Your Excellency,
You are by far the most experienced, accomplished and skilful secretary-general the United Nations has ever had. I do not say this to butter you up, but to give my readers an idea of who you are.You are uniquely among secretaries-general, a child of the United Nations, for which you began working 43 years ago.

Since then you have worked in almost every possible capacity - in senior positions in Human Relations, Refugee Relief, Emergency Management, Peacekeeping and in Management and Finance. You know the organisation inside out, and you know better than anyone else in the world, what the UN can do and what it can't.

In the preamble to the Charter of the United Nations the founding members declared, inter alia: that the organisation was an instrument:
"...to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

AND FOR THESE ENDS to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples ."
It is this charter and the subsequent Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which persuades millions of poor and powerless people all over the world, that the United Nations is their best hope for freedom, justice and fair treatment, their Court of Last Resort.

Many of us, myself included, marched and demonstrated aginst the decision of the US and Britain to attack Iraq. We considered the invasion and war to be illegal. Almost exactly one year ago, in September 2004, you told a BBC reporter in London, "From our point of view and the UN charter point of view, it was illegal."

You, too, had been opposed to the invasion from the start because as you said, the initiative lacked Security Council approval as required by the UN charter, and you challenged the White House claims that the war had made the world safer from international terrorists.

I, however, and some others fault you for withdrawing the UN Inspection teams which action we believe, facilitated the invasion. The world has now been given ample proof, if it needed any, that the true objectives of the war were not as advertised, but were purely Great Power aggrandisement.

My concern is not about Iraq, however, it is about something much closer home. When the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 it was following, by 244 years, another declaration of universal human rights for the first time anywhere in the world nearly two centuries earlier.

That declaration was in Haiti where slaves destroyed not only the institution of slavery, but three major European armies sent to force them back into subjection.

Supporters of the ousted President Jean Bertrand Aristide take to the streets

In pursuit of their vision, the Haitians also armed and provisioned Simon Bolivar, the liberator-to-be of South America, when he was bankrupt, friendless and disheartened. The Haitians asked in return, only that Bolivar should free slaves anywhere he found them.

This spirit of internationalist altruism has not been duplicated by any other country, as far as I know, except in the cases of Tanzania and Cuba who directly intervened to destroy dictatorships in Uganda and Southern Africa, respectively.

Yet, despite their noble behaviour and their centuries struggle for freedom, the people of Haiti are this day under an oppression more onerous and unreasonable and absolute than slavery itself. At least, on the plantations the slaves were fed and had the freedom to cultivate their own grounds.

Today, as I speak, an alien armed force from many countries is in Haiti, providing protection cover and firepower in aid of the remnants of the most savage and barbaric regime in the history of the western hemisphere. It is not that others may not have murdered more, but the scale of the butchery and brutality of the Duvalier regimes and those dictatorships succeeding are in a class by themselves.

This alien armed force is in Haiti under the auspices, we are told, of the UN Security Council, two permanent members of which, aided by another northern power, sponsored, organised and controlled the armed kidnapping and overthrow of the lawfully elected president and government of Haiti.

Two days before this letter appears in print, people in many countries will have marched in solidarity with Haiti, commemorating the first occasion in which the forces of reaction overthrew the first freely elected government of Haiti in a hundred years.

Last year, had they been allowed, the Haitian people would have - under the auspices of the very United Nations you serve, celebrated their magnificent triumph of liberty over tyranny and freedom over slavery.

Instead, you did not attend the original day of celebration (you were apparently on holiday on the Jamaican north coast 300 miles away) and shortly thereafter, shrouded by a pungent smog of lies, obfuscation, chicanery and duplicity, the United States and its accomplices destroyed Haitian democracy for the second time in 12 years.

Their president, twice elected by overwhelming majorities as attested by the United Nations and the United States among others, with a more secure claim to legitimacy than the president who deposed him, was sent, labelled as cargo, with his family into shameful exile to our ancestral homeland- to a republic which has been more brutally abused than most by its colonial masters. It was hoped, no doubt, that the president and the Haitian people and the rest of the world would have accepted this reverse Middle Passage.

It was selfless altruism by a number of concerned Americans which rescued President Aristide and brought him to Jamaica where he remained for some time. Here, in this country, which probably more than most owes its freedom to Haiti, some of us, out of profound ignorance promoted by massive propaganda, did not make him as welcome as we should have. But that is a small matter.

What has utterly perplexed many of us is that you, as the court of last resort for the hungry, the oppressed and the suffering of this world, did not act to rescue the Haitian people from their oppressors, but, instead, sadly and unfortunately, appeared to connive in their further debasement and disfranchisement, in the most evil denial of the fundamental human rights they alone proclaimed two centuries ago.

You, more than anyone on this planet, should know the insides of the programmes to subvert freedom, planned and executed by a faceless collection of managers who have usurped their own capitalist enterprises, taken control away from their shareholders and stolen the pensions of their workers, and having made themselves richer than any Rockefeller could have imagined a century ago, are now proceeding to wage war on the world, to reduce by the process of globalisation, intimidation and war the rest of us to a state of abject dependence in sweated labour without justice or mercy.

Your plan to reform the United Nations has been subverted by the state representatives of these thugs, some of whom are even now under indictment and or criminal investigation in their own countries. It is a plan which you first proposed in 1997 and represents the work and hopes of most of the world's peoples, but it is at this very moment being sabotaged and undermined by political termites and deathwatch beetles which are intent on returning most of us to the Dark Ages, gated and fenced away from their rapturous bell-curved paradise.

Mr John Bolton, the US Ambassador to the UN, has said:
"There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that is the United States, when it suits our interest and when we can get others to go along. And I think it would be a real mistake to count on the UN as if it is some disembodied entity out there that can function on its own."- Global Structures Convocation, Feb 3, 1994.
He has said more and worse, but there is no need to explore further what passes for his mind.

Another of these conscienceless brutes, one Bill O'Reilly, said that when Mr Bush spoke two weeks ago at the UN about combatting terrorism ". I'm sure all the UN people fell asleep. They don't really care about anything over there at all. I just wish Katrina had only hit the United Nations building, nothing else, just had flooded them out. And I wouldn't have rescued them."

The racism, prejudice and ignorance of these boobies are obvious to most of the world, and in the United States the majority have recovered from the hypnotic trance in which they have been immured for the last several years.

You, Kofi Annan, know better than anyone, that globalisation is a primitive commercial reaction to the UN's Agenda 21, because the aim of Agenda 21 was the eradication of poverty by sustainable development. The intent is explicit: it was Enron, that once admired and now discredited and derided Ponzi scheme, which was given the duty of writing the General Agreement on Trade in Services, the crucial part of the globalisation impoverishment process.

But these yahoos are on the run; their elaborately constructed mirages are falling apart, the law is catching up with some of them and will catch up with more.

The second most powerful man in the US, House leader Tom DeLay is under indictment for criminal misuse of funds. Two of DeLay's associates, Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, are being investigated by at least five federal agencies for wholesale bribery, extortion, fraud and corruption generally; and three associates of Abramoff - Florida 'businessmen' - were last week charged with murder.

Meanwhile, in Haiti, enveloped in an aura of sanctimony, the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice was busy advising the 'government' she helped invent, about the need for better PR: they're locking up too many leaders of the Haitian people prior to their so-called 'election'.

We - you, the Haitian people, the Jamaican people and I all share the same ancestry and the Haitians' ancestors performed deeds that no one else had ever done; their spirits walk uneasily over the lands fertilised by their bones and blood.

Their spirits need peace, Kofi, and you can give it to them by giving their descendants the rights and dignities to which they are entitled and for which they have suffered, struggled and fought so hard for so long.

Yours sincerely,
John Maxwell

That UWI patty shop

The university authorities have published an 'explanation" of their decision to site a patty shop at the state entrance to the university. According to a release, the patty shop has been three years in gestation and has the approval of the KSAC.

My questions are; Does it have planning permission from NEPA? Were Jamaica's partners in the UWI consulted? Was the project put out to tender? What revenue will the UWI derive? Doesn't the UWI realise that under GATS it has now opened all its prime green spaces to commercial exploitation? Is a supermarket scheduled for the Chapel grounds?