27 November 2005

Obituary: the Late, not Great, King Sugar

Common Sense
John Maxwell

The decomposing corpse of the West Indian sugar plantation system was officially certified dead on Thursday, half a century after it had ceased to show signs of life. The declaration was greeted, as such declarations generally are, by much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The 18 African/ Caribbean/Pacific countries which are most affected have lost a pillar of the slave-owning community, a system which has supported for five hundred years the dehumanisation, degradation and inhuman subjection of millions of people, mainly of African descent.

In our part of the world sugar is more than an industry. It is the living ghost of the slave system under which between 18 and 30 million people were transported across the Atlantic, their lives, families, communities and cultures destroyed, to produce wealth for capitalists in Britain, Europe and the United States. It was the acme of human parasitism.

And it has taken an unconscionably long time to die. Among the reasons for its longevity are its offspring; among them modern capitalism, the Industrial revolution, the rotary newspaper press, the steam engine, the railway, the proletarianisation and dehumanisation of millions of people in Europe and elsewhere.

And it is this which makes the plaintive bleats of the bereaved so heart rending. A man would need a heart of stone not to laugh, as somebody once said.

According to the ACP countries, the European Union's cutting of the Gordian umbilical cord last Thursday will bring in its train a host of disasters:for ACP sugar supplying states "and inevitably lead to the destruction of centuries old traditions of sugar production with devastating socio-economic consequences".

I don't know about the devastating socio-economic consequences, but I do know that we are all well rid of the "centuries-old traditions of sugar production". I cannot believe that this argument could ever form part of an appeal by any self-respecting ex-colonial - but it is the official position of the ACP countries.

According to them:
"It is estimated that the [European] Commission's proposal would lead to a loss in income of up to euro 400 million annually in ACP countries. the knock on effects of this reform, which hardly bear contemplating, would include:
  • macro-economic instability;
  • the crippling of national efforts to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals;
  • the closure of countless estates;
  • the complete undermining of modernisation efforts already underway within the sugar industry;
  • the failure of smallholders' cooperatives and collapse of local farmers' banks;
  • massive unemployment, rural instability and urban migration; a dramatic and alarming increase in poverty; increased crime;
  • national destablization in all ACP countries and heightened insecurity in the Caribbean region; and
  • environmental degradation."
If all this were true it would indeed be tragic, except that the foolish virgins of the ACP have known for nearly 40 years that this day would come and did nothing to prepare for it.

If they had had the imagination and the will to act to defend the interests of the ordinary people, the poor, they would not, as Jamaican Prime Minister P J Patterson has done, concentrate on improving the confidence and bank accounts of the rich at the expense of the poor; they would not, as Mr Patterson has done, undertake billion US dollar 'infrastructure programmes to build new highways when what was needed was to build the social infrastructure for human development and to reduce poverty, inequality and crime and violence.

Get a Life!

For 500 years the best land in Jamaica and in the ACP countries has been sequestered by the agents of Diabetes Inc. to produce a 'good' which has no food value although it is classed as a food.

The best agricultural land is held in latifundia, all over the ACP countries, starving the peasants whose forefathers made the latifundistas wealthy, in a social system which destroys families, corrupts, depraves and and devastate community and erodes and devalues social capital.

Before now I have said that growing sugar cane in Jamaica is as appropriate as it would be for the Jews to make bakeries out of the ovens of Auschwitz and Dachau.

Because of sugar and its sequestration of land and power, parasitic elites, providing moneylending and merchandising services to the industry, have grown up in turn to batten off the surplus labour of the peasants and to despise them privately as they do explicitly to the Haitians, as incapable of governing themselves.

This, incidentally, is a rich irony, as anyone who has read anything by me over the last year or so will realise, and as some scholars such as Sibylle Fischer, Verene Shepherd and Clinton Hutton are pointing out, the modern world had its genesis in the Caribbean where the Haitians were the first to declare and implement the fundamental, inalienable human rights of every human being.

But the elites - and their honorary brothers-in-office - have always been lazy, have always been able to rely on the softness of heart of their European patrons. When it came to the crunch, the metropole would never let them down.

Of course they don't count what happened upon the abolition of slavery because although they thought the empire niggardly, the owners at least were recompensed for slavery while the slaves were not.

Four decades ago then prime minister of Jamaica, Alexander Bustamante, arrived at my workplace, the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, to demand that I be dismissed, fired, because I had dared to expose a truth: that the British, after exploiting us for 300 years, were leaving us with the munificent gift of the Jamaican army headquarters- which they could not take with them - and enough money to service the government for 11 days. It was lèse majesté to speak like that.

What I had forgotten to say at the time was that the British had 'forgotten' to return a quarter of a million pounds they 'borrowed' from us during the war, and had not recognised the blood sacrifice of Jamaicans killed in Imperial service in West Africa, in the Boer War, in both World Wars, or to even say they were sorry about the hundreds of thousands they had sacrificed in slavery in Jamaica and the millions elsewhere.

As the people of Colombia and Peru are now being punished for the American addiction to cocaine, so were we punished for the European addiction to sugar.

Ask the Cubans about the Platt Amendment which yoked them to sugar in perpetuity to the US in order to finance the Cuban elite and the Mafia, but which, when it came to the crunch in 1960, was found to be dispensable, no matter how much hardship its abrogation would cause the ordinary human beings whose production and labour and humanity were devalued at a stroke - by one flourish of President Eisenhower's pen.

Much of the best land is Jamaica has been effectively idle for decades. As Mr R F Innes, then Director of Research for the Sugar Manufacturers Association said in 1963, Jamaica could be producing then, at least 30 per cent more sugar on the land the estates occupied.

Since then production has declined by 70 per cent, but the land is still sequestered from the people who earned it by their tears, sweat, blood and their suffering, their misery and their dehumanisation.

Meanwhile, as Cuba was doing in 1960, Jamaica is doing now; we are importing tomatoes and cabbage and eggs and bread and water and sugar and you name it from the United States and the people who used to grow or make those things are selling hairpins and boxes of matches by the roadside. They are self-employed entrepreneurs - just like the elite.

During the war, Jamaica could not import food from abroad because all the cargo space available was needed for the war effort. The problem was solved by a functionary called (with bureaucratic felicity), The Competent Authority. This worthy simply decreed that 10 per cent of all sugar lands be planted in food crops.

Now, while in Florida, farmers will produce US$60 million worth of citrus on land equivalent to the acreage occupied by the Monymusk and New Yarmouth sugar estates, in Jamaica we stare vacantly and dream about riches from the land overgrown in bush.

While sugar was king, even when, as recently it was a king in exile, it has always been able to prevent Jamaicans from taking action to save themselves, to rescue, rehabilitate and educate their children and to create caring communities in which crime would be the outsider's game.

We have always known, for instance, why people steal farm produce - praedial larceny it is called here, but we have never attempted to understand how we could get the malefactors to grow their own food and so increase the size of the national bread.

Sugar is the antidote to thought.

Sugar is a specific against imagination, against everything except money and depravity. It incites hyperactivity, noise and mindless idleness.

It is time for us to go cold turkey.To kick the habit. To end the addiction and to go to work for ourselves and our people

A 'Heck' of a world

On Tuesday my email was suddenly populated by spam of a peculiarly sinister sort. Under a variety of inducements, these emails instructed me to open an attachment. I didn't obey the summons. Instead I went to my menu, found the "long header" option and redirected the email to (abuse@xxx.com) the internet service provider from whose domains they had come.

One or two thanked me, although one replied huffily, that I had sent them a forbidden type of attachment. That ISP was probably one of those inundated by the Sober worm which was what my emails contained.

Because I didn't open the suspect emails, my computer was neither affected by the virus nor could it dispatch copies of it to my correspondents, as did the computers of those unwise enough to open the attachments.

I bring this up because the person who sent the worm obviously knows a little psychology. Most people who get an email saying it is from the FBI or CIA and alleging that the users have visited 'illegal websites' are almost certain to open the attachment.

In normal times some of us would have opened the emails anyway, simply out of an ingrained sense of guilt. But I believe the reason this worm spread so fast was that so many people have lost confidence in their governments and are afraid of them, afraid that in this age of War Against Terrorism, they may have unwittingly entrapped themselves and thus need to plea bargain with their minders.

If that is true, it is a frightening index of how the War on Terror has corrupted all of us, from the functionaries of the state to the poor, inoffensive non-journalist who is simply out to have fun on the Internet.

Of course, he or she will have read about the British government invoking the Official Secrets Act to ban any further disclosures about President Bush's reported desire to bomb Al Jazeera. Of course, if the story were not true, it would not be an Official Secret, would it?

We really do live in a hell (ooops ! "Heck") of a world.

20 November 2005

Breaches of Trust

Common Sense
John Maxwell

As I understand them, the rules are pretty simple. Freedom of the press is the public's right to truthful information so that people can make up their own minds on matters which may concern their survival, their happiness and their ordinary existence.

Corporations cannot have human rights because they are not human beings. Freedom of expression, of which freedom of the press is just one part, is the essential baseline of democratic organisation. If people do not know the truth, if it is distorted, skewed or hidden from them, they are likely to endanger themselves and others because they do not have the information on which they may act rationally.

It is now clear from the opinion polls that in the matter of the Iraq war, most Americans are now aware that they have been misled, lied to and deceived by their leaders as well as by the press whose duty it is to keep politicians honest and the stream of public information pure and unsullied.

The press, which is one expression of this freedom of expression, has the duty and responsibility to tell the truth as completely and as accurately as it can. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is a rubric not just for the courthouse but for any purveyor of public information.

The people have the right to know where their news originates, just as they have the right to know where their drinking water originates. In both cases, the people have the right to know that what they are consuming has not been tampered with or adulterated in any way.

So I have been bemused first by the case of Judith Miller and now by the case of Bob Woodward. Both claim to be journalists, and until now, both seemed to be. But now both have been exposed as stooges of power, accomplices of people who distort the truth and feed lies to the public to satisfy their own lusts and ambitions.

The recent disclosure by Bob Woodward that he has been, for two years, helping to defend an official programme of lying and disinformation has destroyed for me, whatever credibility Woodward may have had as a chronicler of important events. He is an accomplice in the falsification of history.

Some commentators in the US appear to believe that Woodward's announcement means an 'ease-up' for Mr Scooter Libby, because Woodward has said that Libby was not the first official to leak the name of Valerie Plame to a journalist.

But that is not what Mr Libby is charged with. He is under indictment for lying to a grand jury and to an FBI investigation and for obstruction of justice. Nothing that Mr Woodward has said or can say will change that. In fact, Mr Woodward's testimony may make life more stressful for Mr Libby, since it is probably now possible to reconstruct the lines of an official conspiracy to mislead the American public and the world.

Two questions occur to me in this regard. First is to whom could Mr Woodward have been talking who could have referred, almost as gossip, about Mrs Wilson? The second is why would Mrs Wilson's name have come up in this conversation, apparently, out of the blue?

Mr Woodward has bought himself a lot more time infront of the grand jury and may end up being indicted himself.

Reasonable Doubt

In July 2003, shortly after Ambassador Wilson's op-ed piece in the New York Times exposed the Niger uranium hoax, the Italian journalist, Elisabetta Burba told Corriere della Sera that she gave documents on Iraq seeking uranium from Niger to the US embassy in Rome last year to try to find out if the information was credible.

"The story seemed fake to me," she said, and she published nothing on it. "I realised that this could be a worldwide scoop, but . . . if it turned out to be a hoax and I published it I would have ended my career."

Miss Burba had gone to the trouble of going to Niger herself to check the story before turning the papers over to the US embassy in Rome. Presumably she told the embassy what she had done. She heard nothing from the embassy.

One would have imagined that the Embassy would have made its own inquiries before sending suspect documents up the line. It would have been as easy or easier for the Embassy to send a fact checker to Niger as it had been for Miss Burba.to go For some reason, however, they appeared to have simply transmitted the documents to Washington.

Miss Burba says that if the documents were true she would have had a world scoop but that if they were not and she published them it would have meant the end of her career.

If an Italian journalist could have had such reservations, would we not expect that seasoned diplomats and intelligence professionals would have had their own doubts and would have tried to resolve them. They could simply have phoned the French Embassy in Rome or the IAEA in Geneva. They did not apparently do any of these things. The hoax had wheels and was moving fast.

In July 2003 when the hoax fell apart, the Sunday Telegraph phoned the french Ambassador to Niger and the Independent phoned the Niger minister of mines who both dismissed the story out of hand. France controls the mining of uranium in Niger and the International Atomic Energy Agency controls the disposition of uranium. Didn't the US embassy know that?

Miss Burba, according to the Associated press, told Corriere della Sera that the documents appeared to show that Iraq wanted to buy uranium from Niger. She became suspicious because the documents talked about huge amounts of uranium yet were short on details. She then went to Niger.

On her return, she told her editor "the story seemed fake to me". After further discussions, Burba brought the documents to the US embassy. "I went by myself and gave them the dossier. No one said anything more to me," Burba was quoted as saying.

An extract from the top secret National Intelligence Estimate which was used in composing Mr Bush's speech was released by the White House in July 2003. According to that extract, the State department told the CIA that "The claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in INR's [the department's in-house intelligence arm] assessment, highly dubious," the State Department wrote in a 90-page report prepared by the CIA in October.

The State Department's said Saddam Hussein "continues to want nuclear weapons" and is making "at least a limited effort to maintain and acquire nuclear weapon-related capabilities". Those activities "do not, however, add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing an . . . integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons".

One imagines that such a report must have been prepared for the White house, for the National Security Adviser certainly. Condoleezza Rice, who then occupied that position. According to her, when the yellow cake hit the fan, nobody in her neck of the woods was conscious of any doubt about the claim.

However bizarre that explanation sounds, it does make one wonder why then did Mr Bush transfer his source attribution to the British, when his own intelligence agencies had told him four months before, in October, to remove the reference to uranium from a speech he was due to make.

According to a letter written to the chairman of the Permanent Joint House Committee on Intelligence (then congressman, now FBI chief) Porter Goss, Congressman Henry Waxman said that the White house needed to explain the many discrepancies in how the uranium claim came to be used in the president's State of the Union speech.

This was particularly because Mr tenet had fought hard for the removal of a similar reference in the Cincinnati speech and was now being blamed for its inclusion four months later in the State of the Union speech.

Mr Waxman also wanted to understand Ms Rice's claim on "Face the Nation in July 2003, that "Had there been even a peep that the agency did not want that sentence in or that George tenet did not want that sentence in, that the Director of Central Intelligence did not want it in, it would have gone."

Can anyone believe that Ms Rice, her deputy, Stephen Hadley and whoever was the speechwriter, were not aware of the brouhaha about the Cincinnatti speech? That they did not know of the State department's reservations?

It is clear to me either that the conspiracy is much bigger than anyone seems to think or that the entire Bush White house spends lots of time asleep at the wheel.Whichever is true, it seems to me that there should be some extremely important changes coming soon in the makeup of the Bush Administration.

As Mr Waxman put it two years ago, the credibility of the United States is at stake. It has since been shredded by all the disclosure about torture, outsourcing torture, secret prisons, terror weapons and other flagrant breaches of the human rights of Americans, Iraquis, Muslims in general and all sorts of other people, not to mention the Haitian people moldering away in their island concentration camp.

There was always the lingering belief that when all else failed, the American press would rise up and do its duty. Bob Woodward has for 30 years been a worldwide icon for the integrity and doggedness of the press in the pursuit of the truth. Today, the reputation of the administration is in tatters and the probity of the press is seen to be a comforting myth.

There are just two developments to be optimistic about. The Congress and the American public both appear to be awakening after a long slumber, induced by the opiate of the Big Lie. It is not only Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro and their people who feel menaced by a superpower apparently out of control.

The rest of the world is just as uncomfortable. But even if balance, peace and rationality are restored, most of us outside the United States will not be comforted by the knowledge that it is so easy for a small group of dedicated and unscrupulous men to capture the wheelhouse of the world's only remaining superpower and steer it to destabilise, fragment and eventually obliterate any chance of a peaceful world order, wondering if they will wake up to smoking guns in the form of mushroom clouds.

Almost exactly four years ago, in November 2001, then Attorney General John Ashcroft proclaimed, "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is that your tactics aid terrorists".
He was not talking about the government of the USA but about the Taliban.

Rightwing commentator William Safire said in that same week: "The sudden seizure of power by the executive branch, bypassing all constitutional checks and balances, is beginning to be recognized by cooler heads in the White House, Defense Department and C.I.A. as more than a bit excessive" and Safire believed that the American constitution, the American legal system, American journalism and other democratic institutions would, with spirit of the American people, soon put things to rights.

He was wrong.

13 November 2005

Let Them Eat Merde

Common Sense
John Maxwell

"Man is born free and everywhere is in chains" was said by a Frenchman, Jean Jacques Rousseau. Two centuries after Rousseau, another Frenchman, one Nicholas Sarkozy describes millions of his fellow citizens as "scum", among several other pungent epithets directed at them because they happen not to belong to what Sarkozy clearly conceives of as the master race.

Fortunately for France, its president, himself no paragon of egalitarian virtue, is at least more intelligent and civilised than Sarkozy. Speaking at a news conference with the visiting Spanish prime minister, President Chirac said: "Once order is restored, France will have to draw the consequences of this crisis, and do so with a lot of courage and lucidity.

"There is a need to respond strongly and rapidly to the undeniable problems faced by many residents of underprivileged neighbourhoods around our cities."

A French firefighter tries to extinguish a car set alight by rioters in Venissieux, a district of Les Minguettes, near the central French city of Lyon, Thursday, 10 Nov. 2005 (Photo: AP)

It seems that the statesmen of the world are divided, like the general populations, into the realists and the fantasists. Sarkozy wants Chirac's job and he is appealing to the crasser sentiments of his fellow citizens, a sizeable portion of whom voted for Chirac's racist opponent last time the president was elected. He calculates that with the hardcore of the Gaullist movement allied to the far right fascism of the ultra-nationalists, his bid for the presidency is all but assured.

It may well be, but a Sarkozy government of France may very well provoke the defining convulsion of the 21st century civil commotion which will not be confined to France or to Europe but spread to the whole world. As Mr Blair has been told by a panel of advisers, reacting violently to terrorism is more likely to spread the disorder than contain it. His parliament was wiser than Blair; they defeated his propoal for a 90-day police detention without trial.

American observers of the nearly two weeks of rioting in France have consoled themselves with the thought that the underclass exposed by Katrina was as nothing compared to the French landscape of burning cars and looted shops. They forget that while the American race problem is five hundred years old.

The problem inside France is less than 50. And despite the mess they made of Haiti, the French did have the nerve, and the humanity, immediately after the Second World War, to try, however timidly, to integrate their colonies into their nation.

They can also point to such as Gaston Monnerville, a black man born in French Guiana (Cayenne) President of the French Assembly and of the French Senate, French delegate to the inauguiral meeting of the UN in 1945. They can also point to Alexandre Dumas and even to Napoleon's Empress Josephine. The United States has no comparable examples.

If, however Sarkozy goes where only Petain has gone before, it seems pretty clear that he will bring down on France and probably Europe and possibly much of the world, the conflict which the fundamentalist Christians have been waiting for, the clash between civilisations, the war between Islam and Christianity Armageddon. (Incidentally, this week, the remains of a Christian church were found at Armageddon now the site of a prison.)

Naima Bouteldja on Z-Net, quotes Laurent Levy, a founding member of the Movement of the Indigenous of the Republic, a network which campaigns against the "oppression and discrimination produced by the post-colonial [French] Republic".

Levy says, "the explosion is long overdue. When large sections of the population are denied any kind of respect, the right to work, the right to decent accommodation, and often the right to even access clubs and cafés, then what is surprising is not that the cars are burning but that there are so few uprisings of this nature."

There is a structural peculiarity in the French North African ghettos: because they were purposely built to accommodate the immigrants, there is very little communal mixing. Structurally, discrimination is therefore much easier; as in the Jamaican slums, your postal address condemns you. In the French ghettos, one in two inhabitants is under 20, and nearly one in two is unemployed.

The stimulus for the recent riots was the electrocution of two youths coming from a football match, who hid in an electricity substation simply to avoid the identity checks and police harassment which are a daily torment.

A euphemism for slavery

The pundits of the western world are sure that all France needs to overcome these problems is to embrace globalisation and to tear down its welfare state. The problem, as millions in France and in this hemisphere see it, is that globalisation is another word for imperialist exploitation and competitiveness is a euphemism for slavery.

When Chirac says, "Whatever our origins, we are all the children of the Republic and we can all expect the same rights", he is in direct opposition to the rightwing globaliser, Sarkozy, who dismisses Chirac's "children of the Republic" as "yobs", "fundamentalists", "riff-raff" and "vermin" and speaks of the need for the suburban ghettos to "to be cleaned out with Karsher", an industrial cleanser Sarkozy's problem, and George Bush's, is that 50 years on there are millions of Rosa Parkses around the world who are refusing to be moved to the back of the bus.

Last week in Mar del Plata, tens of thousand showed up to explain their feelings to Mr Bush, only to be dismissed by the US press as just another bunch of unruly noisemakers.

The US press general tried to downplay the size of the demonstration and to connect the peaceful demonstration addressed by Hugo Chavez and Cindy Sheehan, among others, to the nihilistic troublemakers who torched banks and multinational brand named shops hours later, and miles away.

It was strange that 40 years after the US managed to throw Cuba out of the Organisation of American States, another US president was trying to neutralise another Latin spokesman and hero. Forty years ago it was Che Guevara, leading the Cuban delegation as Minister of Economics, who told the Americans that their mini-globalisation project, then called Alianza para Progreso, Alliance for progress, would not work.

Last week Hugo Chavez was saying the same thing about the Free Trade Area of the Americas. This time the anti-hero, Chavez, had with him not only the crowd, as Guevara had, but the presidents of Latin America's most important nations.

Forty years ago these countries were ruled by American approved caudillos. This week, Fujimori is in jail in Chile and Evo Morales, an indigenous American, is favoured to become the next president of Bolivia. Morales also spoke at the demonstratiion in Mar del Plata with Chavez, making it clear that as far as his Movement Toward Socialism was concerned, national resources were national property to be used in the national interest.

Across the Atlantic, in Nigeria, the Ogoni people were this week in the 10th year of their mourning for their hero, Ken Saro Wiwa, who they say was executed by the government of their country, by the military dictator Sani Abacha, a man who got along well with the transnational corporations. The Ogoni people say Saro-Wiwa was framed by the military.

In a memoir published this week his son wrote: "His death on 10 November 1995 shook the world. John Major [then British PM] described the trial that sent him to the gallows as a 'fraudulent trial, a bad verdict, an unjust sentence'.

Nelson Mandela thundered that 'this heinous act by the Nigerian authorities flies in the face of appeals by the world community for a stay of execution'. Bill Clinton and the Queen added their voices to the worldwide condemnation, Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth, countries recalled their diplomats and there were calls for economic sanctions and a boycott of Shell oil."

Ten years later, Shell still devastates the Ogoni homeland with oil spills and other environmental abuse and waste. More than 900 million barrels of Nigerian sweet crude (the easiest to refine and most profitable) have been pumped out of the Ogoni homeland since 1958.

"All told, there were once over a 100 oil wells, a petrochemical complex, two oil refineries and a fertiliser plant in the region.

"An area which, as my father once wrote, should have been as rich as a small Gulf state, stood as an example of how Africa's rich natural resources have impoverished its people and the land they live off.

"Associated natural gas has been flared into the atmosphere for over 40 years in Nigeria - pumping noxious fumes into the atmosphere. Nigeria alone accounts for 28 per cent of total gas flared in the world and the flared gas volume in Nigeria translates into the crude oil equivalent of 259,000 barrels per day."

Western governments now get more from gasoline taxes than the oil producing states get for selling the raw material to the oil companies. The US and Canadian government get slightly less than the equivalent of the FOB price, which itself is more than the oil producers get.

Japan, Italy, Germany, France and particularly the United kingdom, get considerably more from oil than the oil producing states or even the companies.

And when one considers that this year one oil company, Exxon-Mobil, in three months had over $100 billion in sales and more than $9 billion in profits you may appreciate the kind of money being made outside of the oil producing countries.

In the Niger delta, public dissatisfaction with the unsustainable mining of oil has taken drastic forms. There is sabotage, kidnapping and murder. There is also increasingly sophisticated siphoning of oil from pipelines, now estimated to cost Shell up to 15% of daily production ? for resale to tankers bound for the world market!! Free enterprise for you.

Delta residents, "most of whom earn less than $1 a day", accuse oil companies of colluding with Nigeria's government to foment divisions between rival community groups in a strategy to deprive them of benefits from oil.

That doesn't happen in Venezuela, where the government of Hugo Chavez has nationalised the oil industry. For decades Venezuela has been one of the world's largest oil producers (It is now number five and Nigeria is eighth) but the people of Venezuela never saw the benefits of their oil riches.

Under Chavez things have changed. Oil revenues are being poured into public works and social programmes. A nationwide chain of low price supermarkets is run by the state, thousands of schools have been built, there are thousands of medical clinics staffed by Cuban doctors and university education is free and is available to almost anyone who wants one.

Outside of Venezuela Chavez is exchanging oil for medical and other technical assistance from Cuba and is funding, in PetroCaribe, a plan to bring cheaper fuel and the chance to invest savings to Caribbean countries including Jamaica. No wonder Chavez is a superstar in Latin America. No wonder Mr Bush and his cohorts hate him.

Political influenza

Chavez is to Bush the political equivalent of avian flu: enormously dangerous and extremely contagious. No wonder that Bush intimates such as the Rev Dr Pat Robertson consider Chavez such bad news.

In October, a few months after having half apologised for advocating the murder of Chavez, Robertson said on CNN: "[The US] could face a nuclear attack from Venezuela.

The truth is, this man is setting up a Marxist-type dictatorship in Venezuela, he's trying to spread Marxism throughout South America, he's negotiating with the Iranians to get nuclear material and he also sent $1.2 million in cash to Osama bin Laden right after 9-11."

The televangelist maintained that Chavez sent a "warm congratulatory letter to Carlos the Jackal, he's a friend of Muammar Qaddafi". He said, "He's made common cause with these people that are considered terrorists."

Meanwhile, safe and sound in the US are Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, two of the last century's most dangerous terrorists, one pardoned by President Bush I, the other protected by a system which says he cannot be extradited to Venezuela because he might face torture there.

Of course, the US is very sound on the question of torture. This week the US senate voted to investigate how come it was disclosed in the Washington Post that the CIA had perhaps dozens of secret prisons cum torture facilities round the world.

They didn't vote to investigate the scandal, but to investigate those who brought it to public notice.

They forgot, however, that we've known about the secret prisons for a long time. In may last year Human Rights Watch estimated that there were 10,000 prisoners in these satanic dungeons from more than 20 countries, some of them children, some of them innocent adults just "scraped up" on suspicion.

Among these is at least one journalist, a Sudanese employee of Al Jazeera Sami Muhy al-Din al-Hajj, arrested by the US military while working for Al jazeera during the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and detained in Guantanamo for four years without trial.

Aljazeera.net spoke to al-Hajj's lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, regarding his case and the prospects for his release.
He said al-Hajj had suffered extreme physical and sexual abuse and religious persecution.

According to al Hajji, he is being tortured not for information but for something more important, to get him to accept American money to denounce his employers as an arm of Al Qaeda. When next the assorted heroes of journalism are saluted, perhaps the hero-makers might care to take a look at the case of Sami Muhy al-Din al-Hajj.

Did I hear right? "Extreme physical and sexual abuse" in the War against Terror?

06 November 2005

The Nescafé Machine

Common Sense
John Maxwell

It sits balefully in the corner of the restaurant, with dials labelled 'coffee', water', 'sugar' and one or two other descriptors. When I asked the waitress for coffee, preferably 'espresso' she referred me to the machine. I put my cup underneath the spot marked coffee and turned the dial, expecting a flow of something that would be identifiable as coffee.

What came out was about a teaspoon of powdered ersatz coffee. I had no choice, I turned the dial again for another teaspoonful and then the sugar dial and the water dial and having fabricated my cup of 'coffee', I went back to my seat and ingested it.

Most sinister of all, I thought, was the dial labelled 'whitener'. There is no longer any euphemism; no more 'creamer' - fabricated from beans or petroleum or "corn syrup solids, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, sodium caseinate (a milk derivative 0, dipotassium phosphate, monodiglycerides, sodium aluminsilicate, diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono and diglycerides artificial flavour and artificial colours".

I don't use creamers or cosmetic whiteners or milk. But Nestlé has a place in my pantheon of the wicked because having exploited Jamaica and Jamaican dairy farmers for more than 60 years, and having bought out Jamaica's last big icecream maker, they promptly shut down the factories, threw thousands of Jamaicans out of work and moved to the Dominican Republic where there would be no troubles from unions or laws regulating decent treatment of workers and severance pay.

Others doing similar moves included Goodyear, Reckitt and Colman, Carreras and that one-time paragon of Jamaican cleanliness, once called Soap and Edible products, transformers of the coconut into cooking oil, animal feed and cosmetics, now merely a distributor of stuff bought abroad.

Countries which used to feed and clothe themselves now must borrow money to pay for food imported from the US. Jamaica's trade deficit is twice as high as much as it earns from exports of all kinds. We now import sugar and water from the US and ice cream from the Dominican Republic and cigarettes from Trinidad.

This is called globalisation, and is said to be a boon to the developing world, according to people as wise as President Bush, Mr Tony Blair and the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Mr Patterson.

An alumina refinery plant in Jamaica

Meanwhile, people who should be engaged in production, in farming and in teaching, are busy firing guns imported from the United States at each other, to the horror of the US, which tells its nationals to beware of Jamaica ! Don't go there!!. "Don't go there."

The blessings of Globalisation

The blessings of globalisation include strip mining the countryside, extracting millions of tons of Jamaican earth, dosing it with caustic soda and bombarding it with electric charges and exporting a white powder called alumina and a green material called super profits.

Jamaica gets to keep enormous holes in the ground and the effluent that is gently, invisibly, percolating down into the water table and gradually poisoning our water supplies.

But, not to worry, globalisation will mean that we will be able to buy water from Exxon and Shell as a cheap by-product of their global warming experiment.

If only we had forced the aluminum companies to leave a little bauxite to line the mined-out craters landscape, we might have been able to store some of the flooding we can now confidently expect from fossil fueled hurricanes, which are now becoming more and more cost effective at slum clearance and electoral redistricting. Progress, I tell you, it is wonderful!

Sadly, there are those who don't want to accommodate themselves to the inexorable crunch of development. In that famously independent little island, Anguilla, the government has decided to put a moratorium on large developments because such projects are threatening to overwhelm the island by swamping its labour force and population with imported manpower and womanpower, suffocating the culture of Anguilla and replacing it with Bush knows what.

As I write this, we are flying over the southern coast of the Dominican Republic where there is evidence of rivers running loose, eroded hillsides and vast areas of unused land. I know that if we fly over the republic's border with Haiti, even this unpromising landscape will make Haiti's look like a desert.

Further west of course, lie Jamaica, where I am headed, and Cuba, a mythical country where every person is said to have a job and where every child, it is alleged, goes to school. This story is obviously invented to upset Americans and to spread disaffection and bad feelings among the Latin and Caribbean leaders meeting this weekend down Argentine way.

The last time the US supped with the Latins was at the Organisations of American States special meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida earlier this year, when Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State made it known that the United States wished to impose some new rules on its neighbours.

The most important was one allowing the united states and whichever state felt able to be its ally, to invade any other state which the US did not consider to be behaving according to established democratic norms.

The Latins, uncharitable as usual, did not agree with this new dispensation, because as they saw it, it would allow the US to invade any other state with whom it did not happen to agree at any time.

The lever of their independence

Oddly, because of the racism built in to the Latin cultures, none of these states brought up the question of Haiti, which, more than any other factor, was the main lever of their own independence.

In the second decade of the 19th century, when Simon Bolivar saw a whole continent waiting to be liberated but found himself without the means to begin the job, it was to Haiti he turned, the first independent state in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States.

At that time the Haitians were determined to do all they could to assist the liberation of Latin America from the Spaniards, so they gave Bolivar arms, money and encouragement, sending him off to liberate Gran Colombia, asking Bolivar to liberate all slaves wherever he found them. Since many of Bolivar's best generals were black that should have been easy, but the Haitians reckoned without the spiteful selfishness of the United States which saw the ending of slavery as a direct threat to its own economic system.

And when the freed Spanish colonies came together with the US in the first Summit of the Americas in Panama in 1824, the only independent state not represented there was the prime mover in their liberation- Haiti.

Haiti, being a black state, is quite frequently invisible to world statesmanship; since black is the absence of light in physics, the doctrine of intelligent political design has never been able to discern the human rights of the Haitian people.

This is ironic, since it was the Haitians who first implemented the doctrine of the universal rights of man. The French and the American revolutions, which had preached that doctrine, maintained slavery for decades after they themselves were free.

This is more than a rhetorical statement. Margaret Laurent, perhaps the most eloquent of the fighters for Haitian freedom now writing, believes that the recolonisation of Haiti is an essential fraction of the doctrine of globalisation.

"...In Haiti, the imperialists have also found the formula for outsourcing wars so that the blood of their sons and daughters are not on the line."

A prison for children

The UN forces in Haiti, are made up of troops from the developing countries. These poor, black and brown soldiers are now fighting the imperialist's' wars for him in Haiti.

Even the African Union's rejection of the re-colonisation of Haiti is reported to have been neutralised with the sending to Haiti of African soldiers from the Francophone countries. Not surprising, considering France's investment in Haiti's bicentennial coup d'etat.

It was, after all, Francophone Africa that was used to stop the spread of Pan-Africanism after the independence movement, mainly through French expatriates like Houphouet Boigny and Leopold Senghor.

In Margaret Laurent's opinion, the recolonisation of Haiti is not simply a political action, it is part of a programme to criminalise the people of Haiti and to control them by taking away all their rights.

"The scariest thing to happen to Haiti and Haitians this month, has gone unnoticed with these election terrors of the imperialists and their Haitian sycophants morbidly drawing attention away from the colonial realities of the matter.

"USAID has started its FIRST prison for children in Haiti.

"Yes, the systematic criminalisation of young black males in Haiti, parallels their criminalisation in the US. There are some white towns in the US where the towns people's sole income comes from the incarceration of young black and brown men who make up the bulk of the prisoners.

"The imperialists' game plan for Haitian boys and men, is moving along well. By the time a puppet Haitian president, like Preval, Simeus or Bazin, is installed in Haiti on February, 2006, more prison centres will have to be built to contain the Haitian 'criminal elements'."

Laurent argues that the RE-installation of former US Ambassador to Haiti, Timothy Carney, is a portent of things to come. Carney was the leader of the so-called Haitian Democracy Project, a fascist front organisation funded by the US Republican party which was responsible for the coordination of the coup d'etat against Aristide.

This group paid and bribed a collection of Haitian 'civil society" organisations to form an anti-Aristide bloc which though small and representing little more than its sparse membership, was given yards of print and hours of television publicity in the run up to the so-called rebellion, carried out by mercenary gangsters armed and uniformed by the United States.

Since that time the US/Canadian/French governing coalition has imprisoned without cause or due process, a constellation of Haitian popular leaders, from the former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and Father Gerard Jean Juste, the leader of the Lavalas movement to the Haitian equivalent of Jamaica's Louise Bennett, a folklorist named Anne August - "So Anne".

While these representatives of Haitian politics and culture are in jail and unable to function, the tripartite coalition is proceeding with its sham election which is intended to provide a legitimate democratic face for the fascist gangsters who actually rule Haiti.

To the puppetmasters, it does not matter that most of the Haitian people are disfranchised and that the major political force in Haiti has been neutered, their money and influence will provide solutions acceptable to the corrupt and spineless North Atlantic press.

What is planned for Haiti may be gauged by examining the US plan for a transition to democracy in Cuba detailed in a 423-page report prepared in May 2004 for Bush and signed by Colin Powell, then Secretary of State. It represents the official policy of the United States toward Cuba. ( http://www.state.gov/p/wha/rt/cuba/commission/2004/c12236.htm)

Among the gems: "The US Government and private organisations have determined that there may very well exist a severe case of malnutrition and lack of available supply and money to feed the Cuban people, or sectors of the Cuban people, to avoid massive sickness and disease.

"Should the food security system in Cuba deteriorate and malnutrition rates rise, children under five will be at particular risk." (page 80) Cuba's education system, recognised by UNESCO, the World Bank and the UN as one of the best in the world will be destroyed in the interest of democracy and replaced by schools run by fundamentalist fanatics:

"[The United States must] Prepare to respond positively to a request from transition authorities to help keep schools open, even if teachers are paid with food aid or volunteers have to be temporarily imported, in order to keep children and teenagers off the streets during this potentially unstable period."

The Offices of Non/Public Schools and Faith-Based Initiatives, US Department of Education, could serve as facilitating agencies in ensuring that the system recognises private as well as public educational providers, and could:
  1. "Facilitate the development of private, including faith-based, education.
  2. "Ascertain which of the religious groups that had schools in Cuba have plans to reopen their schools.
  3. "Assist in consideration of changing laws and regulations to permit private providers to operate and offer a full range of services, from short courses to degree programmes."
It is clear that the transition to democracy in Cuba involves the destruction of the entire Cuban culture and all the institutions of the Cuban state. It envisages a reduction to conditions of lawlessness, hunger, privation and social disruption.

If Cuba is to be treated in this way, the decapitation of democracy in Haiti may very well lead to much, much worse - to the hell that Margaret Laurent envisages, because the Haitians, as we have seen, are not regarded as human by the United States, the Canadians and the French.

They will be easier to subdue than the Cubans. And no one will say a word.