Tuesday, January 31, 2006

100 posted by bat020

British death toll in Iraq reaches 100

Update: The Stop the War Coalition has called a protest for 5pm this evening (Tuesday 31 January) in Parliament Square. Stop the War has also called for protests in other city centres at 5pm tomorrow night.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Hamas, and liberal terror. posted by Richard Seymour

"Wait til you see the whites of their eyes, boys..."

The reaction to Hamas' electoral win has been almost universal: horror compounded by the darkest imaginings about exactly what these guys have in store. An Islamic State, the dread burqa, suicide bombings, and absolutely no recognition of Israel's Right To Exist. Decades of bloodshed, all because of Extremists On Both Sides/Palestinian Intransigence/Hamas' Refusal To Stop Terror/Etc. There are threats that aid to the Palestinians will be cut, a more or less open admission that aid is a political tool to domesticate and control Palestinian politics.

A couple of observations. Here's Shuggy, one of the sweeter HP Sauce types, pouring what I suppose he imagines is scorn on the "bloggers, clapped-out pseudo-Marxists, and liberal journalists" (and, he forgot to add, "bruschetta munchers, wreckers, woolly Hampstead liberals, car theives" etc). What's eating him apart from tapeworm? Well, Jonathan Steele - said liberal journalist - remarks that "Murdering a Palestinian politician by a long-range attack that is bound also to kill innocent civilians is morally and legally no better than a suicide bomb on a bus." Unto which: "I'm still shocked to read the liberal apologetics for those that declare there to be no difference between civilian casualties incurred and those who target only civilians; between those who might be shown to be careless, even criminally negligent with regards to civilian casualties and those for whom killing civilians is as legitimate pursuit of their ends as killing Israeli or American soldiers - because for them the concept of a civilian is meaningless, if the civilian in question happens to be a Jew."

Why does it have to be repeated and underlined? Israel deliberately and specifically targets civilians all the time. Here are some samples:

[Human Rights Watch] found a pattern of repeated Israeli use of excessive lethal force during clashes between its security forces and Palestinian demonstrators in situations where demonstrators were unarmed and posed no threat of death or serious injury to the security forces or to others. In cases that Human Rights Watch investigated where gunfire by Palestinian security forces or armed protesters was a factor, use of lethal force by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was indiscriminate and not directed at the source of the threat, in violation of international law enforcement standards. (Source)

[T]he majority of people killed were taking part in demonstrations where stones were the only weapon used ... A large proportion of those injured and killed included children usually present and often among those throwing stones during demonstrations. Bystanders, people within their homes and ambulance personnel were also killed. Many persons were apparently killed by poorly targeted lethal fire; others ... appear, on many occasions, to have been deliberately targeted. In many of the locations where children were killed there was no imminent danger to life nor reasonable expectation of future danger. (Source)

[Open-fire] regulations apparently enable firing in situations where there is no clear and present danger to life, or even in situations where there is no life-threatening danger at all ... the Military Police investigations unit has opened almost no investigations into cases where soldiers fired in violation of the Regulations ... During the first months of the al-Aqsa intifada, Palestinians held hundreds of demonstrations near IDF posts ... there was no shooting by Palestinian demonstrators in the vast majority of demonstrations. The soldiers’ response to these demonstrations is characterized by use of excessive and disproportional use of force, leading to the death and injury of many persons, including children. (Source).

Samples, mind you. The daily war on the Palestinians, where demonstrations against the occupation are a frequent fixture of political life, must inevitably eventuate many such incidents given the open-fire regulations that B'Tselem discusses. And, of course, one could think of grand massacres like the one in Jenin, where both HRW and Amnesty found ample evidence that civilians had been killed deliberately by the IDF. It isn't as if the IDF is somehow incapable of sparing life and limb - no Jewish demonstration has ever been fired upon, not even with rubber bullets. Not even the cringeworthy, lachrymose, but often quite violent demonstrations organised by the colonists of Gaza could induce the IDF to pull the trigger. For the IDF, 'civilian' is a meaningless concept if you're a Palestinian.

To acknowledge this is to be guilty, in Shuggy's eyes, of 'moral equivalence' - that greasy neocon phrase, as meaningless as it is supposed to be disarming. Of course it isn't Shuggy's fault, or at least not entirely, as we shall see. But I do want to mention a few other things before departing from his post: he notes that Hamas "played down" its tactic of suicide bombings in the elections, and takes satisfaction that "most people - including, obviously, people in Palestine - take a fairly dim view of this blowing yourself up business ... Because most people haven't been trained in the moral relativism laced with western liberal guilt that seems to be so popular with the Guardian." He goes on to add "expect lots of hand-wringing about the hypocrisy of our democracy from the usual suspects, with liberal eyes rolling at the mention of anything to do with terrorism from any western politician. Just quibbling because they don't like the result of the election, they'll say." And then, in a scandalous use of hypertext, he ironically links to a "quibble" which turns out to be a story about a suicide attack in Israel. As one of the "usual suspects" (people who actually do give a damn about the Palestinians) I have no desire to make Shuggy feel guilty, or to drag him down into a morass of relativism where there are only various shades of grey. (Curious, however, that this alleged "liberal guilt" so captures the imagination of the pro-war crowd.) What I will say is that: a) he is wrong if he imagines that most Palestinians do not endorse the tactic of suicide bombing (the last poll I saw in 2002 showed that approximately 7 in 10 Palestinians supported it - see also. As Diego Gambetta et al point out, suicide attackers in Palestine rely upon a community of support and an enabling infrastructure supplied by the public); b) Hamas is by no means alone in using the tactic, since many of these attacks are carried out by groups within Fateh and by other secular groups like the PFLP, so the 'quibble' amounts to precisely fuck all, c) of course the occupiers of Palestine and their international backers are not just "quibbling" over the election results. They are both furious at the Palestinians' insubordination and at alert to the possibility of finally implementing the Sharonist/Kadima programme of ethnically cleansing the West Bank, colonising it in the same process and demolishing the Palestinians as a nation. This has nothing to do with suicide attacks, since Hamas has not launched one in a whole year, and has offered a truce. It is to do with seeking excuses to further marginalise the Palestinians and crush their expectations.

Ben White writes, in an excellent article:

In the last few years Israel has continued its time-honored practice of establishing facts on the ground, unhindered in part due to its stalling tactics in the remaining vestiges of a 'peace process'. The typical argument has been that there can be no progress in negotiations or concessions until the Palestinians, one, 'reform' their institutions and purge the corruption from the PA, and two, 'rein in the militants'.

The implications of these demands have almost been rendered irrelevant by the spirit in which they are repeated – to distract from the main issues of occupation and rapacious land confiscation. 'Reform' and disarmament became the tests the Palestinians are intended to fail, foiling even feeble efforts at energizing negotiations.

The same can be said of demands that Hamas 'recognise Israel's Right To Exist', as if the Palestinians can really, genuinely be expected to consider the occupation of any part of their land legitimate. But of course, the discussion of this issue is permanently crippled by wilful and engendered ignorance, as well as no small measure of racism. On Channel Four tonight, Azzam Tamimi was asked to debate the Hamas victory with someone whose brother was killed by a Hamas suicide attack. A nice, even-handed debate, then. What was noticeable was just how much Mr Tamimi would have had to explain to make his points remotely comprehensible to his opponent, to Jon Snow, and to the audience. How does one call Israel a "terrorist state" - which it is, and much more besides, if so few people understand that Israel does in fact engage in terrorism (I'm talking text-book definition terrorism) and targets civilians? How does one even begin, if the news routinely gives people the impression that the conflict is over Palestinian aggression, or religious intolerance, or a struggle over a strip of land between two contiguous states - as various respondents told Greg Philo's study (see Bad News From Israel)?

Hamas has won the election because Fatah has shown that it is hideously servile, prepared to accept US-Israeli tutelage in return for control of a corrupt little fiefdom. Whether there will be suicide bombings or not depends on whether Israel intends to relinquish its present plan to leave Gaza an open-air prison and continue to expand settlements into the West Bank as 'facts on the ground' while constructing a wall that will subsume huge amounts of Palestinian territory into 'official' Israeli boundaries. It depends on whether the five thousand residents of Qalqiliya will continue to be imprisoned in an Israeli-siezed ghetto. It depends on whether Israel continues to impose 'collective punishment' on Palestinian neighbourhoods, blockade the cash-strapped Palestinian economy, imprison children, beat and torture prisoners. This much would be balls-achingly obvious to anyone who understood either the history of the Zionist movement or its present comportment, or indeed the condition of Palestine. Whether you like it or not, the Palestinians want freedom: that is why they voted Hamas.

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The forgotten Shiite resistance, briefly remembered. posted by Richard Seymour

I wrote some while back about how the southern Maysan region of Iraq had been the most turbulent area for the British occupying forces. Indeed, it was there that the support for resistance attacks rose to 65%. Today, the region is suddenly in the news because a British soldier has been killed.

No context, background, or history. Just a killing, properly senseless in viewers' eyes, because the reporting gives it no sense. Cut to John Reid in army fatigues looking red-faced. "Gad, sah, we shell quell these savage Mohammedans! By dem, we shell!" I didn't actually hear what he said, but that must be a reasonable approximation.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

New Menezes Cover-up Revealed. posted by Richard Seymour

Exactly a week ago, the Menezes family held a vigil outside Stockwell tube station, and demanded that the Independent Police Complaints Commission report be made public. Ian Blair, exercised of late about media racism (a bit like the BNP calling UKIP a bunch of fascists), denied that there was a cover-up.

The punchline? There was a cover-up - by Special Branch:

Specific words were understood to have been changed to cover up the fact that surveillance officers had wrongly identified Mr de Menezes as terror suspect Hussein Osman.

Alterations were hastily made to amend the wording of the official log once the shocking truth emerged that the dead man was not, in fact, the extremist wanted in connection with the failed 21 July Tube bombings.

This was in a bid to pass the blame for the shooting on to the firearms officers who actually shot the electrician and on to senior officers at Scotland Yard who were in charge of the operation.

These revelations are reportedly contained in the report of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

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Attack of the drones. posted by Richard Seymour

The US military's use drones in Iraq is at least now heard of, if still languishing in obscurity for most, but today the LA Times reports that the CIA is intensifying and expanding their use in other situations, like the attack in Pakistan. These are used for targetted killings in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. The drones are deployed in "lawless pockets" of the Middle East, Asia and Africa, where troops dare not venture. This, of course, guarantees the killing of innocents, such as in Pakistan. The US claims the right to unleash such attacks across the world as part of the 'war on terror', and there is actually a 'debate' presented about where and when this can be done:

Some critics, including a U.N. human rights watchdog group and Amnesty International, have urged the Bush administration to be more open about how it decides whom to kill and under what circumstances.

A U.N. report in the wake of the 2002 strike in Yemen called it "an alarming precedent [and] a clear case of extrajudicial killing" in violation of international laws and treaties. The Bush administration, which did not return calls seeking comment for this story, has said it does not recognize the mandate of the U.N. special body in connection with its military actions against Al Qaeda, according to Amnesty International.

"Zawahiri is an easy case. No one is going to question us going after him," said Juliette N. Kayyem, a former U.S. government counter-terrorism consultant and Justice Department lawyer. "But where can you do it and who can you do it against? Who authorizes it? All of these are totally unregulated areas of presidential authority."

"Paris, it's easy to say we won't do it there," said Kayyem, now a Harvard University law professor specializing in terrorism-related legal issues. "But what about Lebanon?"

Paul Pillar, a former CIA deputy counter-terrorism chief, said the authority claimed by the Bush administration was murky.

"I don't think anyone is dealing with solid footing here. There is legal as well as operational doctrine that is being developed as we go along," Pillar said. "We are pretty much in uncharted territory here."

This is not 'uncharted territory' at all. In 1986, the US bombed targets in Lebanon and killed 100 people - the justification was 'preemptive': "self-defense against future attacks". Article 51 of the UN Charter was invoked. (Ironically, when the Libyans captured two pilots who had bombed Libya and killed 37 people, it was used as an excuse to reject a Libyan offer to release those falsely accused of the Lockerbie bombing for trial in some neutral venue: to a judge nominated by the UN, at the Hague "under Scottish law" - exactly what transpired in the end, in however farcical circumstances). Aside from which, it is easy to see how this can be used as a tactic in other wars. Consider: the US bombs and kills "Islamist militants" in, say, Uzbekistan. Despite the fact that there is no threat to the US there, it can be justified as a strike against 'terrorism'. The opposition in Uzbekistan is largely not composed of Islamists, yet any such strike could be portrayed as an attack on 'Al Qaeda'. Subsequently, and surreptitiously, the tactic is used in other counterinsurgency campaigns, such as the one to crush the Maoists in Nepal, or Farc in Colombia (already, Dyncorp uses these planes to dump poison on coca growers in Colombia).

Drones - coming to a civil war near you.

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Sleight of hand. posted by Richard Seymour

I do, admittedly, like to try out the odd 'magic' trick. This doesn't involve me in any particularly dextrous activity, because a) I don't have the time for it, and b) my hands are spectacularly inflexible. However, as you must know, it isn't even necessary to fuck around with too much fancy stuff. To achieve the desired effect, it is sufficient to distract the mark with some irrelevant behaviour that appears to be central to the trick, yet is not. For instance, while palming a card you might have the mark count or inspect a portion of the deck. You might also keep up an ongoing spiel, a superficially relevant barrage of meaningless data that is supposed to overload the brain so that otherwise trickery on your part goes unnoticed. I think, reader, you detect a parable already. Lenin's Tomb does not suddenly suspend political perspicuity for a foray into gimcrack mentalism.

Quite right. The latest buzz from the liberal left in the United States is that Molly Ivins - hallowed be her name - is not going to support Hillary Clinton for President in 2008. She says it: I Will Not Support Hillary Clinton for President. I am glad to hear it, and I too pledge not to support this lachrymose ambulance chaser, or any other member of the pampered US bourgeoisie. This is seen as a radical challenge to the Democrats. But what's Ivins so worked up about? Well, apparently there's too much triangulation, equivocation, "clever straddling" etc. Aside from the fact that this misses the point of triangulation, which is not the same thing as "equivocation" (see Hitchens' No One Left To Lie To, one of his earliest ta-ras to the American Left and perhaps his last bout of full sanity), I wonder what exactly it is that Hillary prevaricates about? Ah: "Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq" Except when she does (she's all for it). Oh, and also: "Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo". Well, what could she say? "This woman's brain has liquefied, and all her biological lines are flat - put her on the payroll"? Hillary 'panders' on issues such as "flag-burning". And how does this come to be a surprise? Does not the infantile American Left like its politics diapered in the stars n stripes? Has Hillary not always been a mountebank for capital, willingly purloining the medicine of the reactionary right? Did she not also advocate teenage abstinence, when she was doing her "soccer mom Democrat" thing? Didn't she applaud the bombing of Afghanistan? Isn't she a repellent supporter of Zionism? Didn't she hypocritically support her husband's tax cuts for the rich, before finding herself opposed to Bush's extension of the same logic?

Of course, the former First Lady has started her campaign already, resurrecting her terminal healthcare programme, which in fact involved a costly and complex scheme that would benefit large HMOs where a single-payer system would have been more advantageous and fiscally conservative to boot. She has already been branded "formidable" by President Bush (and how she must bask in that judgement). So perhaps it is important to get these things out of the way, and declare up front that one will not be that much of a sap. As Ivins points out, there is a majority in America that could easily be coalesced around a reformist platform - healthcare, the minimum wage, taxes, the environment, Iraq - so why fuck around with snake oil? Still, if you've read the Ivins article now (difficult as it is to negotiate away from my compelling prose) and still don't see the ruse for which she has fallen, I shall explain: the entire article is advice offered to the Democratic Party and its leadership, as if they were the proper audience for a reformist address. As if, in fact, they were not themselves parties to the ongoing crime. As if one of the leading profiteers from the destruction, military take-over and ethnic cleansing of New Orleans was not Louisiana Democratic Party chairman and Shaw Group CEO Jim Bernhard. As if the Democrats were not themselves thoroughly imbricated and implicated in the Abramoff scandal (like Dick Gephardt, Tom Daschle, or Harry Reid - whom Ivins regards as a liberal). As if most Democrats had not voted for war, and for giving Bush the extraordinary powers that he now wields. As if they had even properly formulated an objection to Bush's conservative supreme court nominations. As if they did not represent a section of the US ruling class that is itself moving sharply to the right, as it has been for some decades. As if the Democrats had not criminalised hundreds of thousands of black men, thus - not at all ironically - leading to their electoral weakness. As if, perhaps, an Al Gore presidency would have been less concerned with such matters as oil extraction and more impressed by environmentalist arguments (whereas in fact Gore owned $1 million of shares in the Occidental Petroleum Company when he recommended as Vice-President that the Elk Hills in California be sold to the same company).

The perplexity in the article at the Democrats' putative spinelessness, purblindness, failure to spot an opportunity when it presents itself, is ubiquitous on the articulate American Left. How do they come to miss every opportunity, the proud blue-staters wonder? Is it really because of Joe Lieberman and the DLC? Is it because of corporate pressure and the right-wing noise machine? Is it because of God and his earthly affiliates? Maybe, some liberal voices venture, gays were too truculent with their demands for gay rights? You really have to be living in denial to miss the fact that this is not political timidity but outright aggression against the Left, the peaceniks, the gays, the blacks, the working class, the disenfranchised etc. The Democrats rely on the support of all these groups, but do not mean them anything but harm, and do not want anything but silence from them.

Alright, granted, sometimes the conduct of the Democrats does puzzle. Why, for instance, did they not challenge the spate of bizarre results in the 2004 election, never mind the manifestly rigged 2000 election? In 2000, the National Opinion Research Centre checked the votes and found conclusively that no matter what way they were recounted - even excluding the question of illegally disenfranchised voters who could not get into the polling station - Gore won the Florida election, and hence his absolute majority of the votes would transmute into a majority of the electoral college votes. So why did Gore 'graciously' concede, and why didn't the Democrats fight it? In 2004, in Florida, there were 237,522 more presidential votes cast than the actual turnout - and this doesn't suggest fraud? In the same year, Clinton Curtis - a registered Republican - signed an affidavit saying that he had been asked during his employment at Yang Enterprises Inc to devise voting software that would allow votes to be stolen without trace - by future Republican congressman Tom Feeney. No worries here, then. During the 2004 election, the exit polls were more wrong than is mathematically probable: The odds of the exit polls being as far out as they were in swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida are 250 million to 1. So, some glib explanations were offered: perhaps Bush voters had been overly reticent in talking to exit pollsters (not a credible thesis say statisticians); or maybe the moral majority had spoken. Talk of the morals and values governing the election outcome was shortly ubiquitous despite the fact that, as the Economist pointed out, substantially fewer voters had identified their reasons for their vote choice as moral ones than in previous elections.

Now, it is quite possible that even without substantial fraud going on, Bush would still have won it - because the Democrats did not care to even pretend to offer a serious alternative, because they failed in their endeavour to fetishise the flag more ardently than their Republican opponents, because they couldn't bash gays and criminalise blacks more completely than the theocrats in the White House. However, the fact that the Democrats didn't even ask too many questions suggests that they perceived that their interests lay more closely with allowing the electorate to be ripped off than in stirring up dissent from potentially implacable and ungovernable constituencies. This points not to the 'cowardice' of the Democrats, however, but to the parlous state of democracy and political culture in the US: if the Democrats are happily raking in a fortune on Wall Street, taking bribes from Jack Abramoff, lying through their teeth, weeding out and trampling on the would-be insurgents within, back-stabbing, selling out, jacking up the value of their shares and attacking the poor, then who are they to complain of a little electoral fraud or worry about disenfranchised voters? It's all just tough competition, a plutocratic catfight in which the lower orders are either potential saps or employees.

Back to Ivins' celebrated piece, I note that it doesn't even mention Katrina, murderous neglect, racism, expropriation for the real estate kings, military occupation of the city etc. It extemporises on how to handle the charge of insufficient patriotism (dress up as Captain America would seem to be the answer), but doesn't level the more appropriate charges of murderous imperialism, racism, theft and so on. In fact, it is astonishing to note just how obedient the commentariat have been on this issue. The media treats New Orleans as if the crisis were over, and 'recovery' beginning - and so, it just slips out of the Bush-haters' eyeline. The 'liberal' press, for its part, has found the correct, capital-friendly critique of Bush: the administration, having solicited a plan that would disregard the wishes of residents and allow the destruction of large areas of the city, now refuses to use the plan devised by Nagin and his cohorts. No one, mark you, will dare during an election campaign to step outside the parameters of that 'debate'.

If the herbivorous gaggle of eunuchs on the US left - at least the articulate left, the ones who pleaded with Nader not to stand last time round, the ones who are in such awe of the flag-n-foetus right, the Todd Gitlins who insist tying the left to 'patriotism' (read unabashed American nationalism), the MoveOn cocktail party activists - cannot get beyond worrying about which Democrat will piss on them less, the road to future defeat is mapped out: they shall submissively defer their political engagement to the next electoral pantomime; allow the capitalist media to set the terms of debate; insist on settling for whatever cheap, lousy scumbag the Democrats offer up; furiously impute all manner of hidden radical stances to their candidate (which will in turn be energetically denied by the candidate's agents); lose the election again. And all of this will have happened because instead of supporting the unions, instead of joining the New Orleans residents marching for their right to life and property, instead of trying to forge an organisation that unites the various bases of the left, they were obediently hearkening to the noise and displacement activity and tasks set by capital and its political advocates.

"I will not vote for Hillary Clinton!"

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Friday, January 27, 2006

How shall the Masters of the Universe deal with us? posted by Richard Seymour

Via Le Colonel Chabert, Haitian Government Announces No Voting Stations for Cite Soleil:

[T]he Haitian government has announced it will not be putting any voting stations inside Haiti’s largest poor community, Cite Soleil. The announcement comes just one day after hundreds of Cite Soleil residents took to the streets to demand polling stations. Between 250,000 and 600,000 people live in Cite Soleil. It is widely known as a stronghold for the Lavalas movement of ousted President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Haitian officials said the neighborhood is too dangerous for voting. But a UN official told Reuters voting is feasible in Cite Soleil, pointing out thousands of voters have been registered without incident. Rene Lundi, a local community leader, said: "It is clear they want to prevent us from voting, because they know our vote won't go their way.”

Becuase international capital and the local client elite own Haiti and determine the rules about who gets to vote and why. Because Israel owns Palestine, and can say what is a legitimate government to talk to, and who may vote and why. Because, the US government owns New Orleans and says who gets to have their property back, under what circumstances and why:

So: as far as the platitude providers, faux leftists and provocative trolls are concerned, They don't even have to establish, legally or practically, their possession of the prerogative to dispose of other people's property (property damaged through their criminal negligence which they will, only naturally, steal in recompense). Thus a delicate, risky assault on the laws and ideology of private property right in the US, which even this divinely ordained despot and his court might hesitate to push too far, will not be required. The Bush Crime family and their caporegimes already own the 9th ward, according to the magnanimous volunteer overseers of their disempowered victims. It is a fact universally acknowledged. Due process? Another noisome technicality to be swept aside by the benevolent They Who Decide For Us (with our wise vizierly advice weighed of course). No need to linger over the dull, passé issue of legality; comment must rush forward into fascist utopian dreams.

Right on the money: to speak of the fate of New Orleans as if the people who own those houses, who paid taxes to build those amenities, who lived and worked there are irrelevant except as passive recipients of government largesse (ha!) is to give the federal, state and local government as well as the real estate kings the power to callously dispose of even those rights that we might have taken for granted in a capitalist society. That, just as the society is mounting a fight-back against the city's attempts to flush them out, to convert the place into a playpen for the rich, is criminal subservience. The residents of the 9th ward have just won a battle to stop the government from bulldozing their houses without due process. The fact that they had to fight this battle at all, and every other fact about the fate of New Orleans before, during and after Katrina, tells you exactly what the government and its capital affiliates reckon of such small lives.

But, you know, human rights, democracy, legality is all so passé.

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Homophobia: still the rule, not an anomaly. posted by Richard Seymour

Watching the alleged 'controversy' over two Liberal Democrat contenders for the leadership of their party, one is struck by how much homophobia really persists under the surface. I can't believe that the whisphering campaign about Simon 'ban-tube-strikes' Hughes is really about the fact that he didn't come out openly and admit that he had slept with men when asked. For one thing, given the scale of homophobia in this society, it would be perfectly understandable if someone wanted to keep that secret. Hughes must have rightly calculated that the public can handle anonymously gay politicians, but a gay leader is still subtly beyond the pale. For another, those who are so sanctimoniously demanding that public figures confess their guilt - and that's exactly the flavour of it - forget something crucial: what business is it of yours?

And the answer to that is generally some flannel about "judgement" - what does this say about Hughes' judgement? What does it say about Mr Oaten's "judgement" that he went off with rent boys and didn't expect to be recognised (not an unreasonable assumption)? I saw a news anchor on C4 yesterday suggesting that Liberal Democrats might just want to "put a question mark next to Simon Hughes' judgement" after this admission. This strikes me as a silly public school euphemism - what is actually meant by it is that someone who dares to have secrets, to live, as it were, as if there was still such a thing as privacy, as if the age of the confessional had not destroyed any such notion, is not quite top drawer.

Now, there is an awful lot of schtick from certain quarters about "yes, but we're not as bad as those dark-skinned countries - look at China, Sudan, Iran etc". Others still insist that Islam is more homophobic than Christianity and Judaism, a remarkably dim assertion that nevertheless issues from intelligent people who ought to know better (if you want to think about this seriously, consider the former Chief Rabbi's call for the genetic elimination of homosexuality). The unstated assumption is the old colonial one - that people from "backward" countries are less Enlightened, cultured and civilised than those in the West. This gesture manages to both apologise for and minimise homophobia in the West and introduce an insidious racism into the discussion. Let's take it head on: the homophobic laws in many countries, such as the ones mentioned, are much worse than those in, say, the US. And the UK has formally allowed 'gay marriage' and repealed that execrable Section 28. But this was not a gift of liberal and enlightened societies: it is the result of decades of struggle, of risk, of resisting homophobic violence. It is an ongoing struggle, because homophobia persists in the culture, gay pubs can still be bricked or blown up, homosexual men can still be beaten to death, and because reactionary leaders like George W Bush and his temporary ally in the Vatican continue to insist that gays are less equal than everyone else.

Now, consider this: US aligned with Iran in anti-gay vote. Forget, if you like, that the scary tell is supposed to be that the US would align with Iran (as if the US doesn't have enough of its own homophobia to be getting on with). What it illustrates is that homophobia is still very much a 'ruling idea' in the world, and that this is not the preserve of various official enemies. There is a curious ideological movement here, too: when a form of bigotry becomes disreputable, the majority disavow it and transfer it onto a minority. Hence, when gay rights or womens' liberation make inroads, pompous white liberals and even reactionaries pat themselves on the back for having been obliged to concede the terrain (in public, at least) and start to complain about the homophobia and misogyny in 'black youth culture' or Islam or "backward" areas of the world. And one is not racist to behave like this, of course, because "I've got black friends and they're great fun, I just don't like this political correctness" etc.

I modestly suggest that the struggle for gay rights is far too important to be left to those whose sole point of consistency is they are apologists for the West, and certainly too crucial to be imbricated with the naked and unashamed prejudice of some groups (like Galha) which divides the movement and demeans the struggle.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

How to Cover Up a Massacre of the Innocents. posted by Richard Seymour

Don't talk about it, mention it only in passing, get the facts wrong, refuse to investigate. The massacre is as follows:

Before dawn on January 15th, an Israeli special forces unit killed a Palestinian mother and her 24-year-old son in their home. The mother had three bullets in her; the son 15. The Israeli soldiers also shot and wounded the woman's husband and four other family members: young women were shot in the pelvis and chest, young men in the foot, chest, torso, liver. The firing lasted over an hour. Then the Israeli squad shot at an arriving ambulance and prevented it for 45 minutes from tending to the dying, bleeding family.

It was all the result of a "misunderstanding," as the Israeli press put it.

The Israeli special forces commandos, invading a Palestinian village, had mistakenly taken a man standing guard in his home against vandalism for a resistance fighter. At first the Israeli military claimed that the now-dead man had shot at them, but before long the soldiers admitted that they had fired first. They saw the man cock his gun, they explain. The soldiers say, and at least some witnesses concur, that after they killed the man, someone from inside the house returned their fire. The soldiers claim that they then continued to shoot, but that their firing was "precise and limited." The husband says that even when he yelled at them to stop, that his wife and son were dead, the onslaught continued for at least an hour. None of the Israeli soldiers were killed or wounded.

According to the Israeli military, none of those they killed or injured had been wanted by Israel. It was simply an error. The 4,000 villagers of Rojeeb, east of Nablus, declared a state of mourning to honor the dead. Hundreds attended the funeral.

And the coverage:

That day and since, the US press has carried long news stories on Israel/Palestine. Yet, almost none of the reports have mentioned the above incident. The Boston Globe seems to have missed it entirely, as did the Chicago Tribune, the Atlanta Constitution, the Baltimore Sun, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, a multitude of other papers across the country, and, it appears, every mainstream American television and radio network.

The LA Times mentioned it in two sentences in the next to the last paragraph of a 20-paragraph story titled "Israel Eases Curbs on Palestinian Election" (and got the facts wrong); the New York Times reported it in the last two paragraphs of a 24 paragraph story. The Washington Post and Newsday reported it in their briefs columns. Not one reported the raid correctly.

And the intermediary:

How did AP cover the killings?

For almost all American newspapers, the Associated Press is the primary source for international news. AP supplies 24-hour news feeds to 1,700 U.S. daily, weekly, non-English and college newspapers; 5,000 radio/TV outlets; and 1000 radio stations.

A Lexis-Nexis search of its coverage of this incident, and others, is revealing. The Associated Press has several wires that distribute the news.

On the "Associated Press Worldstream" wire, AP sent out a story headlined "Israeli troops kill Palestinian mother and son in apparent mistake, Palestinians say." This Worldstream wire is distributed throughout Europe, Asia, South America, and the UK. Only a smattering, at most, of US papers appear to receive it.

On the "Associated Press Online" wire, AP distributed a report headlined "Israeli Army Kills 2 in West Bank Village." Stories on this wire appear to be sent in an automatic feed to newspaper websites, where such stories are typically filed under the "additional AP stories" link. Most readers don't come across them if they're not featured in the print version of the paper.

On the "Associated Press" wire, the wire from which almost all US newspapers draw the news that they print in their newspapers, it carried a report headlined "Disgruntled policemen block main roads in Gaza Strip; Israeli army kills two in West Bank."

As with the Online and Worldstream wires, the US wire also included some information on the incident near the end of some of their other stories. This information was minimal; sometimes incorrect. None of the above stories told that the soldiers were part of an Israeli special forces unit, the kind that is sent to assassinate resistance fighters; none reported that an ambulance had been fired on and prevented from attending the wounded; almost none, in fact, even mentioned that there were wounded. Most emphasized the false report given by Israel that its soldiers had been fired upon first.

Perhaps most troubling of all is the differential in headlines. It is hard to understand why the American wire carried such a different headline from the other wires, and one that so underplayed the deaths, since all three stories were so similar.

The Third Filter: Sourcing Mass Media News.

Or, from Guardians of Power: The Myth of the Liberal Media by Messrs Edwards & Cromwell:

Robert McChesney, professor of communications at the University of Illinois, notes that professional journalism relies heavily on official sources. Reporters have to talk to the PM's official spokesperson, the White House press secretary, the business association, the army general: 'What those people say is news. Their perspectives are automatically legitimate.' Whereas, McChesney notes, 'if you talk to prisoners, strikers, the homeless, or protesters, you have to paint their perspective as unreliable, or else you've become and advocate and are no longer a "neutral" professional journalist.'

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How to Cover Up A Terrorist Atrocity. posted by Richard Seymour

According to Professor Bruce Lawrence, you fake a tape of Osama:

"It was like a voice from the grave," Lawrence said.

He thinks bin Laden is dead and has doubts about the tape. Lawrence recently analyzed more than 20 complete speeches and interviews of the al Qaida leader for his book. He says the new message is missing several key elements.

"There's nothing in this from the Koran. He's, by his own standards, a faithful Muslim," Lawrence said. "He quotes scripture in defense of his actions. There's no quotation from the Koran in the excerpts we got, no reference to specific events, no reference to past atrocities."

While the CIA confirms the voice on the tape is bin Laden's, Lawrence questions when it was recorded. He says the timing of its release could be to divert attention from last week's U.S. air strike in Pakistan.

And then you keep unfriendly faces away from the scene of the crime.

Unnatural disaster.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

CIA: Jews Control the Media. posted by Richard Seymour

Mark Elf notes that the latest twist in the propaganda campaign against Hugo Chavez amounts to systematic lying. FAIR has produced a report showing how the US media have manipulated Chavez's words to declare that he is an anti-Semite. Here's how it goes:

It began with a bulletin from the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles (1/4/06) accusing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of invoking an old anti-Semitic slur. In a Christmas Eve speech, the Center said, Chavez declared that "the world has wealth for all, but some minorities, the descendants of the same people that crucified Christ, have taken over all the wealth of the world."

The Voice of America (1/5/06) covered the charge immediately. Then opinion journals on the right took up the issue. "On Christmas Eve, Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez's Christian-socialist cant drifted into anti-Semitism," wrote the Daily Standard (1/12/06), the Weekly Standard's Web-only edition. The American Spectator (1/6/06) was so excited about the quote, which it called "the standard populist hatemongering of Latin America's new left leaders," that it presented it as coming from two different speeches:

Venezuela's Chavez in his 2005 Christmas address couldn't resist commenting that "the descendants of those who crucified Christ" own the riches of the world. And on a Dec. 24 visit to the Venezuelan countryside, Chavez stirred up the peasants by claiming that "the world offers riches to all. However, minorities such as the descendants of those who crucified Christ" have become "the owners of the riches of the world."

Then more mainstream outlets began to pick up the story. "Chavez lambasted Jews (in a televised Christmas Eve speech, no less) as 'descendants of those who crucified Christ' and 'a minority [who] took the world's riches for themselves,'" the New York Daily News' Lloyd Grove reported (1/13/06). A column in the Los Angeles Times (1/14/06) used the quote to label Chavez "a jerk and a friend of tyranny." The Wall Street Journal's "Americas" columnist, Mary Anastasia O'Grady (1/16/06), called Chavez’s words "an ugly anti-Semitic swipe.”


The biggest problem with depicting Chavez's speech as an anti-Semitic attack is that Chavez clearly suggested that "the descendants of those who crucified Christ" are the same people as "the descendants of those who expelled Bolivar from here." As American Rabbi Arthur Waskow, who questioned the charge, told the Associated Press (1/5/06), "I know of no one who accuses the Jews of fighting against Bolivar." Bolivar, in fact, fought against the government of King Ferdinand VII of Spain, who reinstituted the anti-Semitic Spanish Inquisition when he took power in 1813. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, a Jewish sympathizer in Curacao provided refuge to Bolivar and his family when he fled from Venezuela.

Most of the accounts attacking Chavez (the Daily Standard was an exception) left the reference to Bolivar out entirely; the Wiesenthal Center deleted that clause from the speech without even offering an ellipsis, which is tantamount to fabrication.

Now, Le Colonel Chabert reminds us that the tactic has precedent:

Edgar Chomorro recalled a meeting with three CIA officers in the spring of 1983 to discuss ways of promoting the contras inside the United States. One propaganda idea was to target American Jews by portraying the Sandinistas as anti-Semitic. According to Chamorro, the CIA officers "said that the media was controlled by Jews and if we could show that Jews were being persecuted it would help a lot."

The CIA introduced the anti-Semitic slur. The rather sick irony is that it is the CIA which backed anti-Semitic forces, not just in Latin America but in most of its counter-insurgency wars - from ex-Nazi Argentinian generals in Nicaragua to the use of General Reinhard Gehlen in Europe after the Second World War.

Speaking of anti-Semitism.

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Emerald Pile. posted by Richard Seymour

Noreen has tagged me for this meme and when Noreen tells you to do something, you do it or risk being told off.

Seven things to do before I die:
1) Lead the revolution to success.
2) Counteract the Thermidorian reaction.
3) Etc.

Seven things I cannot do:
1) Feign enthusiasm.
2) Get published for money (or love).
3) Grow up.

Seven things that attract me to a city:
1) Enormous populations.
2) Endless Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Ben Elton musicals.
3) Urban working classes malleable to my malevolent message.

Seven things I say:
1) I do not have catchphrases, so kindly fuck off with your "Let's see what lenin's little foibles are" madness.

Seven books I like:
1) I've done this sort of thing before.
2) Almost anything by Gore Vidal or Oscar Wilde.
3) The Ticklish Subject by Slavoj Zizek.
4) Several hundred others.
5) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Foucault before Foucault).
6) Everything by Noam Chomsky.
7) Some Martin Amis stuff, but someone needs to explain to him that a cliche doesn't cease being one because you make it readable (as in "I saw in his eyes the assertion that..."), that Trotsky was not into killing nuns, and that things don't reside "in the back" of one's mind as if the brain is a theatre with all the light gathered at the proscenium.

Seven movies that I’ve loved:
1) Three Kings.
2) Cradle Will Rock.
3) The Battle of Algiers.
4) Nico (Steven Segal kicking Reaganite CIA ass/arse).
5) Citizen Kane.
6) American Beauty.
7) Fight Club.

Seven people to tag:
1) I'm not putting anyone else through this. Want to take part in this unenlightening charade? And end up like me? Fine. If you want Bloggery to end up even more self-referential and navel-gazing than it already is, go ahead.

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A Full and Independent Inquiry. posted by Richard Seymour

US Government Blocks Katrina Probe:

The White House is crippling a Senate inquiry into the US government's response to Hurricane Katrina, senators leading the investigation have said. Democrat Joseph Lieberman, a member of the Senate panel, said warnings about the risk Katrina posed to New Orleans had been ignored.

He accused the White House of being unwilling to hand over documents which might explain why no action was taken.

A White House spokesman insisted the administration was co-operating fully.

Homeland Security Committee senators said agency officials had refused to answer questions about times and dates of meetings and telephone calls with the White House.


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Separated at Birth. posted by Richard Seymour

Harry Lime:

In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed - but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that produce - the cuckoo clock!

The Late Christopher Hitchens:

But those who view the history of North America as a narrative of genocide and slavery are, it seems to me, hopelessly stuck on this reactionary position. They can think of the Western expansion of the United States only in terms of plague blankets, bootleg booze and dead buffalo, never in terms of the medicine chest, the wheel and the railway.

One need not be an automatic positivist about this. But it does happen to be the way that history is made, and to complain about it is as empty as complaint about climatic, geological or tectonic shift.

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Trials of Galloway. posted by Richard Seymour

Victory In Absentia:

The Daily Telegraph's libel action appeal against George Galloway has been dismissed.
Mr Galloway successfully sued the newspaper in 2004 for alleging that he had received a portion of Iraq's oil revenues, worth £375,000, from Saddam Hussein's regime.

The Telegraph was ordered to pay £1.2m legal costs and £150,000 in damages.

As for this, just let them try nailing him with those old forgeries.

Yes yes yes, the desperados of imperialism are eager to dredge up all the old shit, anything to divert attention from the rotten carrion-like smell issuing from Iraq: did you know, for instance, that Galloway visited Iraq in 1999? Oh yes - here's footage. Look at him - he's smiling and talking about weight loss! And on top of it all, the bastard's pretending to be a fucking pussycat on Big Brother! What more do you need? Perfidy! Scandal! His constituents have been duped!

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Pensions, healthcare, education, welfare: it's all up for grabs. posted by Richard Seymour

Eagerly floating measures to increase the working age, the government casually misinformed the public about a savings crisis that necessitated cuts, in a strategy that mimicked Bush's "social security crisis".

Today, we hear about "perverse incentives" that encourage people to laze around in their wheelchairs rather than seek work. There is, the government says, is "sick note culture" which means that the ranks of the disabled and infirm are peppered with fakes, and they intend to do away with it. The two subjects are not unrelated, for when Blair was asked how he intended to handle the "pensions crisis", he denied that tax rises would be necessary: instead they would do it "cutting welfare costs by making changes to incapacity benefits".

So, John Hutton MP, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has the ideal neoliberal solution:

Under the slogan "work is good for you", John Hutton, the Work and Pensions Secretary, will say that the Government will offer more support to people looking to re-enter the job market, but that this must be matched by "increased obligations" for claimants.

People on incapacity benefit will be summoned to interviews to see if they are genuine cases and risk losing part of their benefit if they refuse to take part in back-to-work programmes. Payments could be cut by up to £10.93 a week - from a maximum of £76.45 - for refusing to go to a work interview, and by up to £21.86 for a refusal a second time.

The number of people of working age on incapacity benefit is 2,638,400. Undoubtedly, a huge amount of this is simply concealed unemployment, since research shows that four out of ten people on these benefits want to get back to work. However, the same research also shows that:

a) "[L]ess than 1% of claimants were fraudulent".

b) Many disabled people face "prejudice when trying to find work".

c) "The number of people who get [incapacity benefit] has been falling for years."

d) "Britain spends much less on employment help for disabled people than other European countries."

The average number of job vacancies in 2005 was 606,500. That, of course, includes a huge number of very temporary vacancies created by shifts between work, maternity leave etc. And it is by no means clear that even if the work was suitable for those who want it, and have disabilities, they would be able to access it. Vacancies are often created by skill shortages in particular areas: one's suitability for a job often doesn't correlate to its availability. That is why those 606,500 vacancies are not immediately wolfed up by the million or so classified as unemployed (depending one whether you accept the claimant count, which no one should, or the International Labour Force survey). To put it bluntly, the jobs simply are not there for the wheelchair layabouts, even if they could do them, even if there were a million fakers ready to be copped by a New Labour feeler. The UK economy is simply not equipped to handle a large influx into the labour market unless the government is about to undertake public works programmes, which I sort of feel would be on a par with child abuse as far as this government goes.

Almost simultaneously, the government is attempting to introduce an Education White Paper which, the Audit Commission says, works "against the interests of the most disadvantaged, least mobile and worst informed parents and children". The proposals include allowing a new breed of "trust schools", independent from democratic control, to have much more say in determining what pupils they include - and exclude. Business-owned City Academies already operate on this basis. Far from assisting Labour's key constituents, the policy would involve the unfair advantage that already accrues to middle and upper class pupils as a result of their mobility and resources being compounded. The source of the policy is believed to be the same intellectual midget and former Observer columnist (if that isn't a tautology) that promoted the 'city academies' from within the Downing Street clique, Lord Andrew Adonis. The government's white paper, the Commission notes, assumes that spare capacity in schools is somehow due to poor performance and unpopularity and therefore a little healthy competition will oblige them to buck up their act - yet, in most cases it is actually due to demographic change. Further, if choice is really what is at issue and if it really were a virtue, then much more spare capacity would be needed. Finally, the transfer of the public education system into private, unaccountable hands - bear in mind that every primary and secondary school would be encouraged to become a trust, in which the local elected authority has no direct authority - would be extraordinarily difficult to reverse once effected. Local authorities need to provide an overall strategy for provision based on aggregated information, whereas what the government intends is an inefficient, marketised free-for-all that will disadvantage the poor.

Finally, and again coterminously, the unctuous health secretary Patricia Hewitt is leading the charge against the greedy bastards on hospital beds. There is too much of a 'handout culture' in the NHS, according to the government - so it is demanding that financial management be put ahead of clinical objectives, which is about as nakedly callous as one can get. If there is a financial crisis in the NHS, it will be in no small part due to the extraordinarily wasteful PFI projects that New Labour continues to impose on the public sector (do you notice a common thread developing here?). Once again, hospitals are encouraged to compete over meagre resources:

Until this year, hospitals could fairly accurately predict the number of patients they would be expected to treat. They agreed contracts with local primary care trusts guaranteeing most of the income they needed to do the work. Patients can now choose, however, from a menu of at least four local NHS trusts where they are entitled to free treatment. Consequently, hospitals can lose income if they do not attract enough patients.

The fee they get for each attendance is also being priced differently. A national tariff was set last April for all non-emergency operations. If a hospital spent more than the norm for a particular procedure, it lost money on every patient treated.

That is, hospitals that are most in need of investment receive less cash, and those stuck with the 'underperforming hospital' get an underfunded service.

There is, underlying all of this, not mere opportunism or an obsession with 'pragmatism' or polling data or technocratic efficiency - it is an ideologically coherent project. The government intends to reduce the role of the state in the provision of key services on the basis of the neoliberal doctrine that private enterprise and markets are more efficient than planning and public ownership. And, proceeding in accordance with another dogma of neoliberalism, the idea of a 'natural' or 'non-accelerating inflation' rate of unemployment (NAIRU) which can only be reduced through supply-side measures, they intend to coerce a large number of people in incapacity benefit into the labour market, thus reducing the cost of labour in general. Finally, accepting these doctrines, the government intends to restore profitability to British industry by compelling workers who are not fortunate enough to be able to afford an early retirement to labour for longer. Despite paying tax and national insurance, despite a lifetime of contribution to the growth of the economy, workers will be obliged to work longer and harder. Some will never see a day of retirement, and many already do not: in Calton, Glasgow, the average life expectancy of a male is 53.9 years. Poverty kills, particularly pensioner poverty. The government's response: "work is good for you".

How to resist this neoliberal offensive? Well, striking dockers gave a glimpse of how this week when they defeated the EU's attempt to liberalise ports and diminish working conditions. Here are some future possibilities.

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"Soft Power" posted by Richard Seymour

If the soft power doesn't win, hard power follows.

In Haiti:

AMY GOODMAN: Anthony, can you just lay out what the National Endowment for Democracy is?

ANTHONY FENTON: Well, yeah, they were formed in the early 1980s under the Reagan administration. Ostensibly, they purport to promote pro-democracy organizations and democratic values across the world. Just last October, President Bush spoke at a National Endowment for Democracy gathering, reiterating the vision of Reagan as he set about to, as they say, “promote democracy throughout the world,” and they were given – they've been given various budgets allocated by Congress every year, as you said at the onset. Now their budget stands at $80 million a year. But they are, of course, just one organization among many that are linked to the U.S. Agency for International Development, as I said, the State Department. Hundreds of millions of dollars now, in fact, more money is now being spent than ever before on what they call democracy promotion.

Now, the historical record on the National Endowment for Democracy is very clear, when we look at the work of people like Philip Agee and William Robinson and William Blum, Noam Chomsky and others, and most recently, if we look at the work of attorney and independent journalist, Eva Golinger, who exposed, through Freedom of Information Act requests, the role that the N.E.D. played in attempting to subvert democracy and the revolutionary process that’s unfolding in Venezuela in 2002. The N.E.D. played a crucial role in fomenting the opposition to Hugo Chavez, and they did play a role in the attempted coup against him in April of 2002, and very much the same patterns we have seen develop in Haiti.


Now, I would like to mention that in my interview, and this is a rare interview with an N.E.D. program officer, and this is the program officer in Washington who is responsible for Haiti currently, a woman named Fabiola Cordoba. She took over in, I believe in, November, as the program officer, and she revealed to me, not only an extensive list of documents that show the N.E.D.’s approved grants for 2005. These are, in a sense, declassified, because these are documents that are not supposed to be published until May of 2006, at least according to another N.E.D. spokesperson. But what’s clear in these documents is that the N.E.D. went from, for example, a zero dollar budget in Haiti in 2003 to a $540,000 budget in Haiti in 2005.

What they’ve also done -- and many Haitian people that I speak to have told me that Haiti is considered the laboratory for these sort of subversive activities on the part of the United States government. And in the context of this experimental process, they’ve hired, for the first time, an in-country program officer, as you mentioned, Régine Alexandre, who was a stringer for the Associated Press and the New York Times, was doubling, moonlighting as an N.E.D. program officer, and the Associated Press severed ties with her as a result.

Now, Fabiola Cordoba also told me that when she was in Haiti in 2002, working for one of the N.E.D.’s affiliated organizations, the National Democratic Institute, she said a lot of lines were being drawn between Haiti and Venezuela, where although 70% of the population supported Aristide, there was a very fragmented opposition. The rest of the 30% was divided between 120 different opposition groups, so the objective of the I.R.I. and the N.E.D. was to consolidate this opposition to build a viable opposition to somehow break the grip that the popular movement in Haiti had on the political environment there. And she said that Chavez – something very similar was happening in Venezuela, and of course, in 2002, the coup d’état happened there on the basis of this sort of analysis, the basis, this fear that the United States has of popular democracy and the need to subvert any attempts at consolidating popular rule and implementing policies that are in the interests of the majority poor in places like Venezuela and Haiti.

And in Palestine:

The Washington Post On Sunday reported that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) gave $2 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to boost its image before the polls.

The paper said the assistance was intended to counter Islamic resistance group Hamas, which the US considers a terrorist organisation.

Fatah is the de facto governing party of the PA and faces a formidable challenge from Hamas, which is participating in legislative elections for the first time.

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An Audience With George Galloway (update) posted by Richard Seymour

Speaking of court cases, law suits and that sort of thing, it has been drawn to my attention that my fellow left-winger Stephen Pollard has been obliged to back-waddle from an attempted slander against Interpal, the Palestinian charity. He wrote:

Interpal, his [Galloway's] 'designated charity' is described by the US Treasury as a "Hamas-related charity" and has been listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. So a vote for Galloway is, quite literally, a vote for an organisation described by the US government as terrorist.(1)

Oh dear. Someone must have apprised him of the fact that the Charities Commission had investigated Interpal twice and found not a solitary thing wrong, and that the Board of Deputies had been heavily embarrassed over a similar claim. For, the following day:

You might notice that a posting from yesterday on Interpal is no longer up. I removed it after a few minutes (although I understand that it remained visible for a little while afterwards). It concerned its nomination by George Galloway in the Big Brother programme.

I want to make clear that the charity operates as an entirely legitimate organisation for the relief of suffering and no evidence has ever been produced to suggest otherwise.(2)

Via Islamophobia Watch. So, I guess we now know what to make of America's definition of a terrorist organisation: humanitarianism toward the enemy is sufficient, as Dr Rafil Dhafir has discovered to his immense cost.

1) http://www.stephenpollard.net/002424.html

2) http://www.stephenpollard.net/002433.html

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Reds On The Doorstep. posted by Richard Seymour

An inspiring panic in today's Telegraph about the wave of victories for the Left in Latin America. Just a few delicious nuggets of absurdity:

The next country in the region that could soon turn "red" is Peru. Among Mr Morales's personal guests was Ollanta Humala, a favourite to win April's Peruvian presidential elections.

Like President Chavez, Mr Humala is a former army colonel who led a coup. Like Mr Morales he has the backing of his country's militant coca farmers. Like both he is an ultra-nationalist, and should he win the Bush administration will lose another friendly regime in the region.

Ultra-nationalists. Chavez' comportment makes him out to be an internationalist above all else, not least his supplying cheap oil to America's poor. Yet, anyone who is not automatically susceptible to neoliberal dogma, does not tear down 'trade barriers' and tarrifs, does not reduce 'barriers to investment' such as the minimum wage and safety regulations, does not wish to sell off any prime asset in the country's possession, is an ultra-nationalist.

The White House has decided not to react to Mr Morales's critical rhetoric, but rather wait and see what the new president does rather than says. Washington sent Thomas Shannon, the assistant secretary of state, to attend the swearing-in ceremony.

The language of pure power: it is for the White House to decide what fate will befall democratically elected leaders whose policies are not strictly compatible with Washington's concerns.

Apart from Mr Chavez, sitting astride the largest reserves of oil outside the Middle East, and Mr Castro, still unbowed after four decades of a US economic embargo, Latin America's Left-wing leaders have taken a pragmatic approach to relations with the US, and Washington is hoping that Mr Morales will do the same.

With more than 60 per cent of the population living in poverty, the new president can ill afford to reject US aid nor can he hope to exploit the country's massive gas reserves without international help.

Yes, you certainly can't go around rejecting US 'aid' when there's so much poverty, even if that aid comes with strings that will deepen the impoverishment. And by all means, seek "international help" in exploiting your own resources. The euphemism is delectable, and can be reiterated endlessly. Imagine if Iraq hadn't sought "international help" in exploiting its oil resources.

Curiously enough, while much was made of Bachelet's victory in Chile introducing the first woman president to the country, comparatively little has been said about the fact that Morales is the first Indian president in Bolivia. It isn't that Bachelet's being a woman is insignificant - it just may be the only significant thing about her victory. Whereas Morales background intersects with the whole variety of reasons why he was elected. In short, this is the first Indian political leader Bolivia has had, in a country with an Indian majority, since Spanish colonialists conquered the area in 1525. It was the Indian population that provided an army of slave labourers to augment the "international help" in exploiting the silver mines. It was the colonial elite that controlled the country even after the colonists had been kicked out in 1809 - and a weak elite it was, too, susceptible to invasion and the loss of territory on all sides. It is fairly safe to say that this elite would have been dispatched a lot more rapidly and properly buried had it not been for US intervention. For although the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement had, following the 1952 revolution in which it ousted much of the old landed oligarchy and expropriated the mines, begun the process of consolidating the rule of the domestic middle class, it did create the conditions in which dual power could subsist. That was terminated by a CIA supported military coup in 1964, which saw Rene Barrientos take power until 1969, during which time miners had their wages cut and were massacred at Catavi. There was a short-lived left-nationalist regime under Gen. J.J. Torres in which workers's self-government was created in a popular assembly, and - yes - that too was supplanted after a mere two years by yet another CIA backed coup in 1971. General Banzer, after seven years of rule, was followed by a succession of military dictators known for their corruption, illicit narco-trafficking, and extraoardinary brutality. Subsequently, a sequence of liberalising governments allowed the country's nationalised assets to be bought off in large chunks by foreign investors - the so-called 'capitalisation' programme. Gen. Banzer won power electorally in 1997, with a mere 22% of the vote, and proceeded to crack down hard on the coca growers whose militancy had dogged previous governments, privatise industry, and renege on his pledge to suspend the privatisation of the oil company. All in accordance with the wishes of Washington. In 2001, he gave way to a former IBM employee, who in turn gave way to another 'technocratic' neoliberal. However, by then the genie was out of the bottle again - in 1998, the World Bank refused to guarantee a loan to finance water services in Cochabamba unless the utility was privatised and the costs passed on to consumers. In 1999, consortium led by Bechtel won the contract, and immediately doubled the price of water, which meant that for many it cost more than food. The World Bank kindly announced that it supported the full-cost pricing and declared that none of its loan could be used to subsidise water for the poor. In 2000, mass strikes and demonstrations broke the government and Bechtel were ordered out.

And of course, the most recent wave of strikes and protests led to the Bush administration saying it was "very concerned about serious challenges to Bolivia’s stability from radical opposition groups that threaten the country’s hard-won gains in democracy". There have been threats to impose yet another dictatorship, (and of course, as we all know, multinationals have a history of deep support for and involvement with these dictators). The domestic Bolivian ruling class is a very weak one, moulded during colonialism, broken through various lost wars and internal rebellions, and yet saved every time from the latter by US imperialism. One assumes that it will happen again, if Mr Morales does not care to be "pragmatic" (oh, this is real Mafia talk - "'Ey, think it over, be pragmatic, don't bust my fockin balls..."). Self-evidently, Bolivia's workers can take on their own government, but not the combined might of international capital, and certainly not a US military intervention - even by proxy. Had the Venezuelan coup not been botched, it is very unlikely that Morales would have been sworn in. If the Haitian coup is not botched (and there is still considerable room for that), then Morales cannot expect to stay in power for long and do anything meaningful. If Afghanistan can be off-loaded onto the Nato forces, and Iraq pacified somehow, then perhaps Iran can expect a noisy public strike while death squads are despatched to Bolivia direct from the School of the Americas (now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).

To say that capital is only as strong as its weakest link only rises above useless platitude if those who are ideologically prepared to strike against it at its weakest points are supported by those who live in its centre. That is what anti-imperialism is about. And that is what the neophytic leftie converts to imperialism have forgotten, if they ever knew it in the first place.

Bolivia: Between Colonisation and Revolution.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Haiti: the mildest hint of criticism... posted by Richard Seymour

...will probably have Amnesty International branded 'extremist'. Here is their latest press-release:

According to eye-witness accounts provided to Amnesty International, at least one civilian died and another was injured last Thursday in the locality of Ouanaminthe (on the Haitian-Dominican Republic border), after shots were allegedly fired from a convoy consisting of a Dominican truck accompanied by vehicles from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

The crowd was demonstrating as the bodies of more than 20 Haitians -- who died after being illegally trafficked to the Dominican Republic – were being taken to the Ouanaminthe cemetery to be buried.

The demonstrators wanted to prevent the burying of the bodies in a mass grave without a proper identification of the victims or a formal ceremony. They threw rocks at the truck transporting the bodies and at MINUSTAH vehicles escorting it. According to the eye-witnesses, none of the civilians demonstrating was armed.

Furthermore, a second person was reportedly injured when hit by a MINUSTAH armoured vehicle. There are also reports that several MINUSTAH peacekeepers were injured.

Two journalists from a local radio station were physically prevented from covering the events and had their tape recorders confiscated by MINUSTAH personnel.

Amnesty International is calling on MINUSTAH officials and the Haitian government to launch an urgent, independent investigation into this incident and to make the conclusions public. Those found responsible for using or ordering excessive force should be brought to justice.

MINUSTAH has been deployed in Haiti since June 2004. According to reports, MINUSTAH officials recently admitted that an internal investigation concluded that a number of unarmed civilians may have been killed during a UN operation in Cité Soleil on 6 July 2005. Amnesty International urges UN officials to make public its findings.

Scroll back up to that bit about being "illegally trafficked to the Dominican Republic". What's that all about? you wonder. Well, as I mentioned last year, one thing that has really thrived under the UN occupation has been the trade in Haitian slave workers, mostly children, in the Dominican Republic: they are used for domestic service, prostitution or rural labour. Of course, Haitians are uniquely positioned to be exploited, as MediaLens noted shortly after the coup:

The United States is Haiti's main commercial 'partner' accounting for about 60% of the flows of exports and imports. Along with the manufacture of baseballs, textiles, cheap electronics, and toys, Haiti's sugar, bauxite and sisal are all controlled by American corporations. Disney, for example, has used Haitian sweatshops to produce Pocahontas pyjamas, among other items, at the rate of 11 cents per hour. Most Haitians are willing to work for almost nothing.

Pochohantas pyjamas, boys and girls - that's what the killing is for.

Speaking of killing, eyewitness reports suggest that UN troops have attacked St Catherine's Hospital in Cite Soleil, presumably one of the UN's increasing number of "anti-gang raids". In fact, the reports appear to be confirmed by Aaron Lakoff, who visited the hospital some days ago and noticed "that the exterior and interior walls of the hospital were covered with bullet holes. In a shocking image that will never leave my mind, there was a large bullet hole in a glass window looking in on cribs in the children's ward. Eyewitnesses told us that at around 11pm the previous night, the hospital came under heavy fire, and the perpetrators were MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) troops". For the UN's part, it can only consider itself at war with "gang members", universal code in Haiti for armed supporters of Aristide fighting against the coup government.

Meanwhile, Lavalas party member Reverend Gerard Jean-Juste, declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International last year, has predictably been acquitted of the trumped up charges against him, but still insist on keeping him in prison for "weapons possession" and "conspiracy". This coming from the government that conspired in a bloody coup to bring down the democratically elected government is almost admirable for its brutal, ruthless chutzpah. Hardly a surprise, however, as Lakoff notes:

The Group of 184 is led by a shady cast of characters. Their spokesperson, Andy Apaid Jr., is the owner of Alpha Industries, the largest garment producer in Haiti. In his factories, more aptly called sweatshops, workers toil to produce clothing for Montreal-based Gildan Activewear. Most are women between the ages of 18-30 years old, and are paid a measly 75 Gourdes (Less than $2 US) per day.

Another important Group of 184 player is Reginald Boulos, head of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce. According to the Haiti Information Project, Boulos was also implicated in the death of 60 children after his company, Pharval Pharmaceuticals, produced a poisonous cough syrup distributed throughout poor neighborhoods of the capital. . Patrick Elie, a Haitian activist we met the other day, recounts to us how he applied for a job with a pharmaceutical company in Canada. When he told his prospective employers that he used to work for the Boulos family in Haiti, they replied, “You know, those guys are killers...”


So how does a group of rich maquiladora-owners and mad scientists maintain even a shred of credibility on the international scene? Through plenty of funding and support from the USA, France, and Canada.

Since the 2004 coup d'etat, Canada has lent its explicit support to the Group of 184, not only in sending 500 soldiers to aid in the process of ousting Aristide, but also by funding many of the opposition groups in the Group of 184 via CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency). Seemingly progressive Canadian NGO's such as Alternatives and Rights and Democracy have helped maintain the Group of 184's credibility by affirming that they are indeed a 'civil society' group.

Through this support for the Group of 184, Canada has also supported de facto all the institutions that are committing human rights abuses in post-coup Haiti, including the interim Haitian government. Thousands of political prisoners continue to sit behind bars without charges since the coup, while Paul Martin has denied their very existence as such. At the same time, known killer and coup leader, Guy Phillipe, who was trained by the CIA in Ecuador, is running for president. The Canadian Embassy in Haiti, who was quick to support the removal of Aristide, has had little to say about this.

And, as they have been doing for some time, coup leaders are demanding that the MINUSTAH troops get tougher with "the gangs", while still threatening a capital "strike" if they don't get their way. It occurs to me, however, that there may be a certain amount of panic among Haiti's elite. If, two years after the coup, they still haven't put down the resistance and still cannot control the society, they are in trouble. The apparent favourite to win the frequently deferred Haitian elections is Lavalas member and Aristide ally Rene Preval. Unlike in 1991, it seems that Haitian society is equipped to fight the death squads and their UN guarantors. If this is correct, then it means that they will turn to more and more desperate measures: the last thing they want is a Lavalas president greeting Mr Aristide as he lands at Port Au Prince airport. One expects the atrocities to intensify - those 'gang' hospitals heard the last of it.

Finally, a number of people e-mailed this to me over the last few days: the 'security company' Consultants Advisory Group, it appears, has been shopping whistleblowers who report human rights abuses so that they can be detained. Read the whole report for some enlightening background...

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

An Audience With George Galloway. posted by Richard Seymour

This is not a post about Celebrity Big Brother. If you're still watching that shit, you are personally evil and deserve to be burnt at the stake. No, Mark Elf has been on the case of accusations of 'anti-Semitism' against George Galloway. Such claims typically come from untrustworthy buffoons whom one does well to ignore. However, if they come from Matthew Kramer, Professor of Legal and Political Philosophy at Cambridge University, you sit up and pay attention (unless, of course, you are one of his students). And when Professor Norman Geras repeats them on his site (1), that's two potential libel suits. Double trouble. (Note that as I have no desire to improve the traffic for a number of the sites that I will be discussing, the URLs will simply be provided at the end of the post for you to pursue if you insist).

Matthew Kramer, writing to the Cambridge Arts theatre to protest Galloway's appearance in An Audience With George Galloway, suggested:

[Y]ou are apparently intending to allow the Arts Theatre to be used as a platform by a man who has made a number of anti-Semitic pronouncements in various settings. I shall be happy to supply you with relevant quotations. I should note that, when I say "anti-Semitic", I mean "anti-Semitic"; I do not mean "anti-Israeli" (though Galloway is of course implacably opposed to the state of Israel).

Naturally, the director of the theatre told him in various pacifying terms to cram it, but the allegations have not been retracted. As Jews Sans Frontieres asks "Leaving aside the fact that being anti the State of Israel doesn't make a person "anti-Israeli", does anyone have any quotations from Galloway that are anti-semitic?" Someone tried to find out. A friend of Mark Elf wrote to Mr Kramer to see if he would yield the "relevant quotations". The response: "He referred my friend to the comments of Harry's Place on 6 December 2005. Don't laugh it's true. A Cambridge don has used, not just Harry's Place, but the comments at Harry's Place as source material."

This called for some detective work. Reading HP Sauce, I suspect the comments box he refers to is actually from the post 'Mr Galloway Goes to Cambridge' from December 7th. HP contributor 'Gene' links to a post by Geras which cites, but does not link, comments GG allegedly made on Al Jazeera referring to "the newspapers and news media which are controlled by Zionism". This, Norm says, is 'conspiracy theory' with 'poison at its heart' - the Professor is not a prose stylist (2). But let's put it bluntly: there are newspapers and news media controlled by Zionists, not least the Telegraph (well, it was at any rate). Rupert Murdoch is a Zionist, par excellence, and manages to control four of the nation's newspapers, not to mention Fox News, Sky News etc. Unless referring to obvious facts is 'anti-Semitic', Professor Kramer's defense team would struggle with this one (3).

Zionist academic David Hirsh of Goldsmith's College provides further such 'examples' in the same comments box. There is one in which Galloway is actually acquitted of having referred to Israel as a "Hitler state" (much to the chagrin of the Engage author), but then accused of conspiracy theories and "dehumanising" language, because he refers to the war leaders as having a "simian swagger". Galloway is then quoted as saying that Israel engaged in activities to drive Jewish people out of Arab countries. This happens to be true, and it was largely driven by the Jewish National Fund Yet, it is simply cited in order to imply some an anti-Jewish animus at work (4) Then there is some guilt by association in which Galloway and Joseph Massad are crudely compared to David Duke by Mr Hirsh because the latter believes the Jews control the global media and conspire to control governments. Hirsh adds that "George Galloway ... also believes that the 'Zionists' control the global media", which could land Hirsh in court too, as the evidence he adduces plainly confutes his claim (5).

Another article is sourced to support the claim that Galloway is anti-Semitic, despite the fact that Galloway is not mentioned once in the whole article (6). And yet another, where Galloway correctly pins Louise Ellman as "Israel's MP on Merseyside" because she is one of the most disgraceful apologists for Israeli crimes as well as a member of Labour Friends of Israel (7).

And that's it. From this, I would have to deduce that a) referring to Zionists controlling newspapers is 'conspiracy theory' (and no need to ensure the translation is accurate or that the words were ever said, is anti-Semitic, b) to refer to certifiable facts about Zionist history is anti-Semitic, c) to vilify warmonger Richard Perle is anti-Semitic, d) to criticise a Jewish MP is anti-Semitic... in fact, to oppose Zionism and to criticise anyone who happens to support it - especially if they are Jewish - is anti-Semitic. That's a definition that no court would accept, (unless perhaps it was an Israeli one).

What I'm saying is that these calumnious slagheaps, who are themselves - all of them - apologists for Israel, a racist settler state whose very existence relies upon ethnic cleansing, really have more to worry about than, say, Endemol productions. In fact, Respect could use a nice shiny new bus, so I hope George can be persuaded to sue.

1 http://tinyurl.com/9x9eb

2 http://tinyurl.com/9esss

3 http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/comment.php?id=53

4 http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/comment.php?id=162

5 http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/comment.php?id=128

6 http://www.engageonline.org.uk/archives/index.php?id=7

7 http://tinyurl.com/763gb

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