Posts Tagged 'imperialism'

The real invasion of Africa is not news and a licence to lie is Hollywood’s gift

Dandelion Salad, February 3, 2012

The real invasion of Africa is not news and a licence to lie is Hollywood’s gift
by John Pilger

Global Research

http://johnpilger.com

January 30, 2013

A full-scale invasion of Africa is under way. The United States is deploying troops in 35 African countries, beginning with Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Niger. Reported by Associated Press on Christmas Day, this was missing from most Anglo-American media.

The invasion has almost nothing to do with “Islamism”, and almost everything to do with the acquisition of resources, notably minerals, and an accelerating rivalry with China. Unlike China, the US and its allies are prepared to use a degree of violence demonstrated in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Palestine. As in the cold war, a division of labour requires that western journalism and popular culture provide the cover of a holy war against a “menacing arc” of Islamic extremism, no different from the bogus “red menace” of a worldwide communist conspiracy.

Reminiscent of the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th century, the US African Command (Africom) has built a network of supplicants among collaborative African regimes eager for American bribes and armaments. Last year, Africom staged Operation African Endeavor, with the armed forces of 34 African nations taking part, commanded by the US military. Africom’s “soldier to soldier” doctrine embeds US officers at every level of command from general to warrant officer. Only pith helmets are missing.

It is as if Africa’s proud history of liberation, from Patrice Lumumba to Nelson Mandela, is consigned to oblivion by a new master’s black colonial elite whose “historic mission”, warned Frantz Fanon half a century ago, is the promotion of “a capitalism rampant though camouflaged”.

A striking example is the eastern Congo, a treasure trove of strategic minerals, controlled by an atrocious rebel group known as the M23, which in turn is run by Uganda and Rwanda, the proxies of Washington.

Long planned as a “mission” for Nato, not to mention the ever-zealous French, whose colonial lost causes remain on permanent standby, the war on Africa became urgent in 2011 when the Arab world appeared to be liberating itself from the Mubaraks and other clients of Washington and Europe. The hysteria this caused in imperial capitals cannot be exaggerated. Nato bombers were dispatched not to Tunis or Cairo but Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi ruled over Africa’s largest oil reserves. With the Libyan city of Sirte reduced to rubble, the British SAS directed the “rebel” militias in what has since been exposed as a racist bloodbath.

The indigenous people of the Sahara, the Tuareg, whose Berber fighters Gaddafi had protected, fled home across Algeria to Mali, where the Tuareg have been claiming a separate state since the 1960s. As the ever watchful Patrick Cockburn points out, it is this local dispute, not al-Qaida, that the West fears most in northwest Africa… “poor though the Tuareg may be, they are often living on top of great reserves of oil, gas, uranium and other valuable minerals”.

Almost certainly the consequence of a French/US attack on Mali on 13 January, a siege at a gas complex in Algeria ended bloodily, inspiring a 9/11 moment in David Cameron. The former Carlton TV PR man raged about a “global threat” requiring “decades” of western violence. He meant implantation of the west’s business plan for Africa, together with the rape of multi-ethnic Syria and the conquest of independent Iran.

Cameron has now ordered British troops to Mali, and sent an RAF drone, while his verbose military chief, General Sir David Richards, has addressed “a very clear message to jihadists worldwide: don’t dangle and tangle with us. We will deal with it robustly” – exactly what jihadists want to hear. The trail of blood of British army terror victims, all Muslims, their “systemic” torture cases currently heading to court, add necessary irony to the general’s words. I once experienced Sir David’s “robust” ways when I asked him if he had read the courageous Afghan feminist Malalai Joya’s description of the barbaric behaviour of westerners and their clients in her country. “You are an apologist for the Taliban” was his reply. (He later apologised).

These bleak comedians are straight out of Evelyn Waugh and allow us to feel the bracing breeze of history and hypocrisy. The “Islamic terrorism” that is their excuse for the enduring theft of Africa’s riches was all but invented by them. There is no longer any excuse to swallow the BBC/CNN line and not know the truth. Read Mark Curtis’s Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam (Serpent’s Tail) or John Cooley’s Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism (Pluto Press) or The Grand Chessboard by Zbigniew Brzezinski (HarperCollins) who was midwife to the birth of modern fundamentalist terror. In effect, the mujahedin of al-Qaida and the Taliban were created by the CIA, its Pakistani equivalent, the Inter-Services Intelligence, and Britain’s MI6.

Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, describes a secret presidential directive in 1979 that began what became the current “war on terror”. For 17 years, the US deliberately cultivated, bank-rolled, armed and brainwashed jihadi extremists that “steeped a generation in violence”. Code-named Operation Cyclone, this was the “great game” to bring down the Soviet Union but brought down the Twin Towers.

Since then, the news that intelligent, educated people both dispense and ingest has become a kind of Disney journalism, fortified, as ever, by Hollywood’s licence to lie, and lie. There is the coming Dreamworks movie on WikiLeaks, a fabrication inspired by a book of perfidious title-tattle by two enriched Guardian journalists; and there is Zero Dark Thirty, which promotes torture and murder, directed by the Oscar-winning Kathryn Bigelow, the Leni Riefenstahl of our time, promoting her master’s voice as did the Fuhrer’s pet film-maker. Such is the one-way mirror through which we barely glimpse what power does in our name.

Copyright © John Pilger, JohnPilger.com, 2013

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Toxic legacy of US assault on Fallujah ‘worse than Hiroshima’

Independent UK, July 24, 2010

Toxic legacy of US assault on Fallujah ‘worse than Hiroshima’

By Patrick Cockburn

Birth defects in Fallujah

Children in Fallujah who suffer from birth defects which are thought to be linked to weapons used in attacks on the city by US Marines.

Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.

Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents.

Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s. Infant mortality in the city is more than four times higher than in neighbouring Jordan and eight times higher than in Kuwait.

Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster and one of the authors of the survey of 4,800 individuals in Fallujah, said it is difficult to pin down the exact cause of the cancers and birth defects. He added that “to produce an effect like this, some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened”.

US Marines first besieged and bombarded Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, in April 2004 after four employees of the American security company Blackwater were killed and their bodies burned. After an eight-month stand-off, the Marines stormed the city in November using artillery and aerial bombing against rebel positions. US forces later admitted that they had employed white phosphorus as well as other munitions.

In the assault US commanders largely treated Fallujah as a free-fire zone to try to reduce casualties among their own troops. British officers were appalled by the lack of concern for civilian casualties. “During preparatory operations in the November 2004 Fallujah clearance operation, on one night over 40 155mm artillery rounds were fired into a small sector of the city,” recalled Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, a British commander serving with the American forces in Baghdad.

He added that the US commander who ordered this devastating use of firepower did not consider it significant enough to mention it in his daily report to the US general in command. Dr Busby says that while he cannot identify the type of armaments used by the Marines, the extent of genetic damage suffered by inhabitants suggests the use of uranium in some form. He said: “My guess is that they used a new weapon against buildings to break through walls and kill those inside.”

The survey was carried out by a team of 11 researchers in January and February this year who visited 711 houses in Fallujah. A questionnaire was filled in by householders giving details of cancers, birth outcomes and infant mortality. Hitherto the Iraqi government has been loath to respond to complaints from civilians about damage to their health during military operations.

Researchers were initially regarded with some suspicion by locals, particularly after a Baghdad television station broadcast a report saying a survey was being carried out by terrorists and anybody conducting it or answering questions would be arrested. Those organising the survey subsequently arranged to be accompanied by a person of standing in the community to allay suspicions.

The study, entitled “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009″, is by Dr Busby, Malak Hamdan and Entesar Ariabi, and concludes that anecdotal evidence of a sharp rise in cancer and congenital birth defects is correct. Infant mortality was found to be 80 per 1,000 births compared to 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan and 9.7 in Kuwait. The report says that the types of cancer are “similar to that in the Hiroshima survivors who were exposed to ionising radiation from the bomb and uranium in the fallout”.

Researchers found a 38-fold increase in leukaemia, a ten-fold increase in female breast cancer and significant increases in lymphoma and brain tumours in adults. At Hiroshima survivors showed a 17-fold increase in leukaemia, but in Fallujah Dr Busby says what is striking is not only the greater prevalence of cancer but the speed with which it was affecting people.

Of particular significance was the finding that the sex ratio between newborn boys and girls had changed. In a normal population this is 1,050 boys born to 1,000 girls, but for those born from 2005 there was an 18 per cent drop in male births, so the ratio was 850 males to 1,000 females. The sex-ratio is an indicator of genetic damage that affects boys more than girls. A similar change in the sex-ratio was discovered after Hiroshima.

The US cut back on its use of firepower in Iraq from 2007 because of the anger it provoked among civilians. But at the same time there has been a decline in healthcare and sanitary conditions in Iraq since 2003. The impact of war on civilians was more severe in Fallujah than anywhere else in Iraq because the city continued to be blockaded and cut off from the rest of the country long after 2004. War damage was only slowly repaired and people from the city were frightened to go to hospitals in Baghdad because of military checkpoints on the road into the capital.

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When the leaders speak of peace … Co-opting the Anti-Nuclear Movement

As Brecht wrote:

When the leaders speak of peace
The common folk know
That war is coming.
When the leaders curse war
The mobilization order is already written out.

Monthly Review MRzine July 22, 2010

Co-opting the Anti-Nuclear Movement

By Darwin BondGraham

No medium of propaganda is as powerful and effective as film.  Think of the classics, the most notorious efforts to sway the public with the electrifying and collective passion of cinema: racial apartheid was justified in the US with Birth of a Nation.  The Soviets glorified their revolution with The Battleship Potemkin.  Then there was Triumph of the Will.

A typical propaganda film tugs at emotions and invokes fears.  It invokes dark threats to “the people,” and it offers up solutions extolling state and corporate power.  Unlike a political documentary it will not criticize the state or corporations.  Instead it will celebrate great men as our leaders and saviors.  Distinct from a run-of-the-mill political documentary, a propaganda film butchers the complexity and contradictions that permeate politics and real life, presenting things in simplistic moral terms.  Functionally, propaganda is mobilized to secure popular support for a primary, often hidden agenda that is not apparent in the film’s narrative.  Propaganda is a tool used by elites to secure the consent of the masses, channeling their anxieties.

Now hitting theaters is one of the most dangerous propaganda films produced in decades.  Countdown to Zero “traces the history of the atomic bomb from its origins to the present state of global affairs.”  A promotional blurb on the film’s web site claims that it “makes a compelling case for worldwide nuclear disarmament, an issue more topical than ever with the Obama administration working to revive this goal today.”

Before I go any further in explaining Countdown as a propaganda film I should note that not all propaganda need be the product of a secretive and manipulative council of elites behind some curtain.  Instead, the many contributors to Countdown and its promotional efforts have different motivations and intentions.  What makes this film a coherent piece of propaganda is its medium, style, and likely effects on the US political climate.  There are powerful actors who will use it for nefarious ends.

On its surface Countdown to Zero is about nuclear disarmament, but deeper down the film is making a very specific case that isn’t about disarmament at all.  Its political function will prove to be quite different.  Countdown is joining a suite of political campaigns and other propagandistic efforts, the point of which is to build support for increased US spending on nuclear weapons, as well as a more belligerent foreign policy, based around Islamophobic depictions of “terrorists” and “rogue states.”  Countdown is likely to be used by hawks to drum up support for military action against Iran, North Korea, and other states that would dare to transgress the current near-monopoly that a handful of states have on the bomb.

To understand how this is possible, one has to break through the simplistic and moralizing presentation of issues in the film and its promotional materials, and explore the complex political situation into which it is being launched.

The first and most important thing to understand is that the Obama administration does not have a disarmament agenda.  Because the entire moral thrust of the film rests on this notion, it’s important to dispel it right off the bat.  Obama and his military advisers have made their nuclear ambitions abundantly clear on multiple occasions.

The administration’s Nuclear Posture Review in no significant way changed the nuclear force structure or use doctrines.  The NPR makes it abundantly clear that US national security is founded on the nuclear “deterrent” and that no one in government will seek to reduce the role of nukes in the foreseeable future.

The recently negotiated New START treaty does not significantly cut the US and Russian arsenals.  In fact the treaty language secures an allowance for US “missile defense” programs as well as the “prompt global strike” weapons system while consolidating the US stockpile and reaffirming existing strategic agreements with Russia that are about balance.  As noted by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the irony here is that the Senate’s possible ratification of New START is premised on the Obama administration’s pledge to fund US nuclear weapons programs upwards of $180 billion over the next ten years, something even George W. Bush could not accomplish.  The down payment for the next fiscal year includes a $624 million surge in nuke spending, for a total of $7.01 billion.  The administration foresees spending more than $1 billion each year to refurbish and upgrade existing warheads and bombs.  To support New START requires accepting these huge infrastructural and programmatic investments in nuclear weapons, far into the future.

To put it more simply, the debate in Washington revolves around two camps fighting over how large an increase in nuclear weapons spending there will be.  At this point in time all agree on expending billions more.  All agree on building a new plutonium pit factory, a new uranium processing facility, a new components factory, and five other major capital projects in the nuclear weapons complex to extend the US nuclear enterprise half a decade or more into the future.  Most agree on procuring a new class of nuclear equipped submarines.  Most agree on new ballistic missiles.  Everyone seems to be fine with upgrading warheads and bombs.

Some conservatives are uncomfortable with the cosmetic cuts to the stockpile that will be made under the auspices of New START.  Senate Republicans have circled their wagons to demand greater funding increases in consideration of ratification, and given all of the agreements they have with the Democrats and the Obama administration over expanding the weapons complex, they are actually correct.  In order to carry out this bi-partisan nuclear arms buildup, quite a bit more than a $1 billion per year boost (at its peak) will be needed for the NNSA‘s budget, especially as inflation eats into the real value of future year budgets.

Determining the future of the US nuclear weapons complex is a tricky balancing act for the foreign policy elite because it is embedded in a larger set of much more important goals.  The overriding goal of foreign policy for the United States, with respect to nuclear weapons, is to maintain control of nuclear weapons and materials.  Forget lofty ideas like disarmament.  Lofty moral oughts only matter with respect to the realpolitik of geo-strategy (and this is where Countdown comes in, as we shall see).

To elite strategists who will decide at the end of the day, the power of nuclear weapons only matter within, and comprise a small part of, a much greater geopolitical game.  Henry Kissinger made this very point in 1957 with his first book, the subject being the role of nuclear weapons in US foreign policy.  Controlling resources, energy supplies, and access to geo-strategic regions for US corporations and allies is the primary goal of US foreign policy, and this requires a stable imbalance of powers, with the US the weightier.

Nuclear weapons are problematic today because they remain a necessary means of overpowering other nations and intimidating foes, but they have also become a liability as other states threaten to go nuclear in order to restore balance to a unipolar world.  A blatant display of American hypocrisy is seen as a major weakness for the maintenance of American power by liberal imperialists like Obama.  Conservatives like Senator Jon Kyl would rather just avoid soft power altogether and stick to a hard-nosed defense policy.

This is why US policy with respect to Iran seems so disjointed and paralyzed.  Iran possesses immense energy resources, it straddles a region of geo-strategic importance, and its influence and power is growing.  For US elites, Iran must be controlled at all cost.  A nuclear Iran would make this much, much more difficult.  Regime change is the goal, just like in Iraq.  Nonproliferation as an end in itself seems to offer the most justifiable reason for using force and “rebuilding” nations (remember that it was the reason given for the 2003 invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq).  But with its Bush-era reputation of seeking new nukes, liberals fear, the United States can hardly coerce or attack Iran in the name of nonproliferation.  The US being the world’s preeminent nuclear power with no interest in disarming, that would be bald hypocrisy.  But then again the US will not disarm, for this would be anathema to the needs and goals of the foreign policy elite.  What to do?

Into this mix arrives Countdown to Zero and similarly crafted propaganda pieces.  Countdown‘s major achievement is repackaging the strategy of anti-nuclear nuclearism into a sexy and thrilling propaganda film full of special effects and heart-pulsing music.  It will invoke fear of nuclear weapons to justify aggression, war, and the extension of US control over much of the rest of the world.

While the film’s title and a lot of the fanfare surrounding it emphasizes the “zero” message of disarmament, Countdown is actually an alarmist portrayal of dark-skinned men, Muslims, “terrorists,” and other racial or ethnic bogeymen who we are told, over the span of 90 minutes, are seeking nuclear weapons to use against the American people.  A related theme in the film is the demonization of Iran and North Korea which are portrayed as dangerous rogue states with ties to terrorist organizations, and who must be controlled, against whom military action may be warranted — or else.  Or else what?

One of the main “experts” in Countdown to Zero, Joseph Cirincione frames the take home message at the outset by invoking a very post-9-11 Bush administration theme:

“That day changed our sense of security and how we view the world.  We learned how vulnerable we are to the destructive acts of a determined few.  Just think how worse it would have been if the terrorist had nuclear weapons.”

Cirincione is not just any expert.  He is the doyen of the Democratic Party’s NGO apparatus that shapes nuclear weapons policy through foundation funding of grassroots groups and elite policy shops.  Cirincione is president of the Ploughshares Fund.  In spite of its name, Ploughshares’ mission these days actually involves beating ploughs into swords.

Throughout the 1990s, but especially during the George W. Bush years, Ploughshares and its circle of foundations called the Peace and Security Funders Group increasingly narrowed the range of acceptable anti-nuclear activism, while simultaneously ghettoizing the field so that the work of various NGOs became less and less applicable to social justice and economic development issues, and increasingly focused on abstract global problems and hypotheticals, such as the possible use of nuclear weapons.  In the process, discussions of the injustices of the global political economy and how nuclear weapons fit into it were silenced.  Anti-nuclear activism became increasingly specialized, boring, and disconnected from issues that affect people’s everyday lives.  Arms control eclipsed abolition as the rallying cry.  Those NGOs that obeyed the consolidation period survived with funding and access to media, so long as they kissed the ring.

Ploughshares was at the center of it all.  Today the Fund’s priorities are shaped by its board of directors made up of Democratic Party donors, other foundation executives, and liberal academics.  The Fund’s advisers include men like George Shultz, the former Bechtel president who served as Reagan’s Secretary of State, and former Defense Secretaries William Cohen and William Perry.  The last is actually a board member of the for-profit corporations that manage the nation’s two nuclear weapons labs, Los Alamos and Livermore.  You figure it out.

Ploughshares’ adviser and propagandist Jeff Skoll is president of Participant Media, one of the production companies behind Countdown to Zero. The film’s co-producer, the World Security Institute (a major recipient of Ploughshares Fund dollars), tapped its Global Zero project membership to narrate the film through dozens of interviews with the likes of elder statesmen and NGO executives like Cirincione who are very friendly to the Obama administration’s nuclear buildup.

Participant Media is a full service propaganda shop for liberal campaigns, producing both documentaries and dramas.  In addition to the benchmark documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Participant is responsible for some very excellent and thoughtful films like Syriana, Food, Inc., and The Cove.  And this is where complexity comes in.  Some of the producers and voices featured in Countdown to Zero have wonderful intentions, and all of them are probably genuinely concerned with, and fear, the possible day that nuclear weapons might be used, whether by a state or by a criminal group.  Herein also is the propagandistic danger of Countdown to Zero.

Albert Camus once wrote that “the evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.”  Backed with a lot of foundation money, the producers of Countdown to Zero have paid organizers across the US to do considerable outreach for the film, whipping up interest on Facebook and other social media and generally co-opting the energies and intentions of many anti-nuclear activists.  Countdown premiers July 23 and will be shown in theaters across the US.  Many screenings are being organized by activists whose intentions are unimpeachable, if naive.

What audiences are going to learn from Countdown to Zero is that nuclear weapons are a threat today because the bad guys might get a hold of them.  They’ll learn that al-Qaeda is seeking nuclear weapons, which is their sworn duty; that highly enriched uranium is easy to smuggle; that “we are on the verge of a nuclear 9-11″; that tens of thousands of pounds of uranium are stored under virtually no security around the globe.  In other words they’ll learn that dark scary men, Muslims, “terrorists,” and anarchists are trying to kill them with nuclear weapons, and that nations like Iran and North Korea will gladly assist them.  Their feelings of revulsion for nuclear weapons will be stimulated and channeled against these dark enemies of civilization.

What they’ll learn about US nuclear weapons and policy, if it is discussed in any real and honest depth at all, is that better control and management is needed, a slightly smaller arsenal is desirable.  But mostly they’ll learn to just trust our leaders: everything will turn out alright so long as the proper authorities are in power.  Joseph Cirincione will eagerly explain to audiences that George Shulz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn are hard at work to “secure” our nuclear weapons.  It all sounds great, but the “four horsemen,” as they have come to be known, are actually among the biggest lobbyists for the surge in nuclear weapons spending and the construction of a new US nuclear weapons complex.

In a promotional video attached to the START ratification effort Cirincione urges viewers to “join this patriotic consensus” toward zero.  In a recent op-ed, he has urged Senate ratification of New START, writing, “The statesmanship demonstrated by the Consensus members today could help break the partisan blockade in the Senate and restore America’s leadership on this urgent security challenge.”  The capital C Consensus he’s referring to is a newly formed NGO, created to translate the groundswell of public response they expect from propaganda efforts like Countdown to Zero, into sharp policy programs for government, including aggressive military action against would-be nuclear states, much of it in the name of nonproliferation.  The Consensus for American Security is one manifestation of the platform that many foreign policy elites hope will solve the contradiction in current US nuclear policy.  The mission statement of the Consensus includes, “strengthening and modernizing America’s nuclear security,” because it “is a vital element of protecting the United States and its allies.”

Ploughshares put up the money for The Consensus for American Security . . . an organization dedicated to strengthening and modernizing America’s nuclear security.  Modernizing is not an arbitrary word.  In the current policy debate over the future of the US nuclear weapons complex and stockpile, modernization means a very specific thing.  It means approving the Obama administration’s program to build a pit factory, a uranium processing facility, a components plant, and other billion-dollar capital projects for the weapons complex.  It also means modernizing warheads and bombs by rebuilding them and designing new features.  And it means acquiring new, very expensive platforms like subs, bombers, and missiles.

Members of the Ploughshares Consensus include a predictable list of centrist retired military brass and statesmen, most of whom occupy revolving door positions on other foundation and NGO boards like Ploughshares, and more than a few of whom have links to the military industrial complex: George Shulz, Samuel Berger, Vice Admiral Lee Gunn, and physicist Sidney Drell, all of them strong supporters of US nuclear weapons programs and American empire.

The Consensus’s second mission appears to involve stoking Islamophobia.  A special project of the Consensus, the American Security Project, is a well-funded think tank churning out reports about “al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” and “Are We Winning?  Measuring Progress in the Struggle Against al Qaeda and Associate Movements.”  ASP’s homepage features a photograph of “terrorists” in black masks hauling an American nuclear warhead (a W-76 or W-88 it appears) on a bamboo rickshaw over a wooden bridge toward a waiting van in some distant jungle.

Countdown to Zero is one component of a larger and coherent foundation campaign to stoke up public fears about nuclear weapons for the purpose of extending a near-monopoly on nuclear weapons, and legitimating a more aggressive foreign policy aimed at regime change in Iran and elsewhere.  The consensus behind those who funded and produced the film has little to do with disarmament, and a lot to do with stabilizing the American empire.


Darwin BondGraham is a board member of the Los Alamos Study Group, a disarmament, energy, and economic development organization based in Albuquerque, N.M.  See, also, “The US-Russia START Treaty: Just What Does ‘Arms Control’ Really Mean?” (MRZine, 20 May 2010).

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Minister JR from Haiti, Part 1: Starvation and Jim Crow racism

San Francisco Bay View, February 12

Minister JR from Haiti, Part 1: Starvation and Jim Crow racism

by Minister of Information JR

(JR is on trial on trumped-up arson charges stemming from his coverage of the rebellion in downtown Oakland following BART police murder of Oscar Grant.  His is one of only two remaining charges, after baseless charges were dropped for hundreds of arrestees, and since there is no evidence for his non-existent crime, this prosecution is clearly retaliation for his coverage of police racism.  Please help pack the courtroom at his trial beginning MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22, at 8:30 AM, at Alameda County Courthouse, 1225 Fallon St., Courtroom 11, Oakland (map).

For more information, call (415) 671-0789 or email blockreportradio@gmail.com. Thank you.)

Hunger in Haiti

Today, on the one month anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, I went all over Port au Prince and saw the devastation firsthand and the occupation by Brazil under the guise of the U.N., and of course the U.S.A. I rode through Port au Prince all day and didn’t see one act of recovery going on.  (Picture to left: Some people waiting in seemingly endless lines, knowing there were not enough bags of rice on the truck for everyone, stepped out of line and were pepper sprayed by these U.N. “peacekeepers.” This desperately hungry woman and her daughter pleaded for food. A month after the earthquake, many people in Port au Prince still have received no aid – no food, water, shelter or medical care. – Photo: Ben Gurr, The Times)

I haven’t left Port au Prince. Here it looks like the city was hit with an atomic bomb. All through the city you could smell dead bodies and see people going through the rubble lookin for scraps of metal to build a shanty-house and for anything that can be eaten, drunk or sold.

I don’t see where the millions of dollars that have been raised for Haiti is going. Everywhere people is starving. Me and my comrades gave some of the most desperate some money, but the thing is that it might help them today; what about tomorrow?

We been staying at a makeshift hospital run by some white so-called American missionaries. Today at the house I witnessed my first act of Jim Crow-type racism from so-called friends on this particular trip.

Haiti is like a time machine. It’s like 1920 here in terms of the apartheid type of relationships that the whites have with the Blacks. The white woman of “God” that runs the house says that Haitians can’t come in the house from their shantytown in the backyard after the hospital closes, but check this out: Multiple dogs have free reign all over the property. So in other words, these dogs are more important than the Haitians – including the hungry babies, the old people, the wounded and maimed and regular everyday people.

One of the members of our delegation was told not to feed the Haitians in the tent city in the backyard because they already eat once a day. The issue is, why do they think that they can determine who I share my food with? The house is full of white people who have free reign to eat as much as they want, and whenever they want.

One of the members of our delegation was told not to feed the Haitians in the tent city in the backyard because they already eat once a day.

The second issue is that when we went to Port au Prince we had a 19-year-old Haitian translator named Gady who helped our team. When we got back, the rooster-neck nun who is ultimately in charge of the house told him that he can’t be in the house, although we met him in the house the day before and hung out and listened to music to about 1 a.m.

We asked why, and she told us he wasn’t a good translator. I told her he did great with us, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. She told me he doesn’t know enough English medical terms to assist the doctors. I informed her that my team consists of journalists, and we didn’t need him to know English medical terms.

She then quickly said there were other reasons, then told us that she just didn’t want him in the house, and if we needed a translator, contact her and she would hook it up. Most of the translators that I met were very subservient, except ours, and that’s why we got along.

She kicked him out, and we went out the house after him and paid him a third of what he would make in a month as a translator, because we realize how hard it is to find money, water and food, let alone a regular job.

I’m currently writing this from the house, and God knows I wish I had somewhere else to go out here rather than deal with these undercover racists. I don’t, so like my Haitian “auntie” told me, I’m supposed to see all of this so I can report it.

On another note, most of the Black people from the U.S. out here that I have met are complicit in this Jim Crow racism. They act like they don’t see it because it is not affecting them. These dumb ass people don’t recognize that these same crackers were doing this to their grandparents 60 years ago. It’s like Malcolm taught us, when he talked about the house slave and the field slave.  (Picture at left: A woman salvages clothing from a store in Port au Prince. Is this the kind of “looting” that is the excuse for the U.S. and U.N. to post some 50,000 troops in Haiti? – Photo: Nikki Kahn, Washington Post)

Like my Haitian “auntie” told me, I’m supposed to see all of this so I can report it.

This is my first report, on my first full day here. There is more to come, so stay tuned …

Email POCC Minister of Information JR, Bay View associate editor, at blockreportradio@gmail.com and visit www.blockreportradio.com.

Editor’s note: POCC Minister of Information JR and Chris Zamani, M.D., who were political organizing comrades years ago, have reunited to form the Haiti Media-Medical Team to minister to the needs of the people of Haiti and tell their truth. With Minister JR on the media team are filmmaker Angela Carroll and photojournalist Siraj Fowler; with Dr. Zamani on the medical team are a nurse and a mental health therapist. They arrived in Haiti Feb. 11 thanks to the generous donations of many good folks, most notably Mos Def, Kamel Bell of Ankh Marketing, Pierre Labossiere of the Haiti Action Committee and Walter Riley of the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. Their reports will be posted here as soon as they are received.

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A Gaza Freedom March Participant Tells Her Story

SF Gray Panthers Newsletter, February, 2010, p 5

Our Own GP Foreign Correspondent’s Eyewitness Report from Cairo

In late December 2008, Israel embarked on its brutal assault on the Gaza Strip, Operation Cast Lead, killing approximately 1400 Palestinians. A year later, in late December 2009, approximately 1400 international nonviolence activists from over 40 countries, converged in Cairo, Egypt, with the goal of entering the Gaza Strip to march with the people of Gaza in the Gaza Freedom March (GFM), calling for an end to the siege of Gaza.

From the time they arrived in Cairo, the international solidarity activists—including SF Gray Panther Arla S. Ertz—met with hurdles thrown up by the Egyptian government that prohibited the group not only from entering Gaza, but even from setting out on previously chartered buses to the Egyptian town of Al-Arish, near the Gazan border. Moreover, the Egyptian government revoked all permits for venues the GFM organizers had arranged for the international group’s meetings in Cairo.

Arla and co-marchers with police behind

Arla and co-marchers after police stopped a march through Cairo. See below.

GFM delegates came up with creative ways to communicate, meet, and organize to counter Egypt’s attempt to stop the march.  First, delegates headed in small groups to a bridge across the Nile, where they tied flowers and cards bearing messages memorializing the Gazans who had died a year ago, winning support from Egyptian passers-by, until the police caught on and abruptly ended the tribute, ripping the cards and flowers from the bridge’s railings. Later delegates moved on to the next action—releasing 1400 memorial candles in biodegradable cups into the Nile from dozens of feluccas, traditional open sailboats—but the police ordered the boat owners to cancel their rentals to the group. Undeterred, they conducted a candlelight procession on the sidewalk along the Nile, with much impassioned chanting and singing, lasting for hours into the evening. Egyptian motorists in the heavily traveled area witnessed the strong international support for Gaza.

Succeeding days brought increasingly intensified actions, including a highly spirited rally outside the World Trade Center building, which houses the local UN office. Three representatives, including Philippine parliament member Walden Bello, met with UN officials to persuade them to urge the Egyptian government to reverse its prohibition and allow passage to Gaza, without success. Also, many delegates approached their respective embassies. One day, Arla met with diplomats at the US Embassy, but no amount of discussion would move them to take steps on the group’s behalf. Another day, a group returned to the US Embassy, only to be held in detention by Egyptian police for five hours! Repeated calls to officials inside the US Embassy failed to garner their release. A highlight action was a rousing rally held by Egyptians on the steps of the Journalists’ Syndicate, with internationals present in support, especially moving because speaking out this way is highly risky for Egyptians under their repressive government.

A rally at the Syndicate of Journalists

A rally at the Syndicate of Journalists

Huge banners at rally at Syndicate of Journalists

Huge banners at the rally at the Syndicate of Journalists

In the end, delegates decided that if they couldn’t march in Gaza, they would march to Gaza, and organized the march for December 31. Small groups headed for the Egyptian Museum, posing as ordinary tourists, and gathered relatively inconspicuously in various spots nearby. On signal, they converged, whipped out banners and flags, and began to march! For some minutes, they marched for Gaza.

March under way, represetative from S. Africa

The march under way, representative from Congress of South African Trade Unions carries olive branch.

The march under way.

The march under way.

Then, the police surged on the marchers en masse, using force to stop them. Plainclothes officers dragged Arla by the arms through the street, tossing her on the sidewalk. Police dragged and beat other delegates, finally cordoning all the marchers into one area, which delegates declared “Free Gaza Square,” and held a rally with heart-felt speeches by internationals from various countries.

Police stop, contain GFM marchers

Police stop and contain the Gaza Freedom Marchers, isolating them by holding hands.

Although the GFM was fraught with difficulties and disappointments, positive outcomes rose from it. For one, the GFM closed by adopting the Cairo Declaration, a position statement developed by the South African contingent. For another, the GFM events in Cairo cast a spotlight on Egypt’s undeniable complicity in the siege of Gaza along with Israel, with the US backing both of them. We must all call attention to the underground steel wall Egypt is building, with US financial and technical support, designed to cut off Gaza’s lifeline by blocking the tunnels that provide the only way for Gazans to receive the supplies they need for daily living, such as food, pure water, construction materials, and school supplies. We need to call upon our government to investigate alleged violations of the US Arms Export Control Act by Israel in its assaults on Gaza.  JUSTICE FOR GAZA!


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US-China tensions the result of rise of China’s power

US fears about China reflect changes in their relative economic strength. While the US has been at the centre of the global financial crisis, China has continued to grow. China’s GDP is still well below that of the US, but it is set to overtake Japan this year as the world’s second largest economy. Moreover China is in a stronger position to offer economic incentives to potential allies. A China-ASEAN free trade agreement came into effect on January 1, creating the world’s third-largest free trade bloc, further undermining US influence in South East Asia. … The Pentagon is acutely aware of China’s rising military strength. A recent assessment by the US Office of Naval Intelligence estimated that China’s naval expansion would be at its height in the next 10–15 years, with “one or more aircraft carriers” and 75 submarines operating beyond Taiwan and South China Sea to protect China’s vital sea lanes, particularly to the Middle East and Africa.  Every government has been compelled to try to balance economic relations with China against concerns to maintain relations with the US.  But the US insists it is ““not a visiting power in Asia, but a resident power”.

World Socialist Web Site (UK),  January 15, 2010

Clinton speech underlines US-China tensions

By John Chan

A keynote speech by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Hawaii on Tuesday again underscored the rising rivalry between the US and China in the Asia-Pacific region and internationally. Clinton was in Hawaii to start a trip to Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia, where China would have been a major topic of discussion. The trip was called off following the Haitian earthquake.

In the lead-up to her visit, the Obama administration approved the sale of advanced Patriot-3 surface-to-air missiles to Taiwan. Although it was part of a package agreed by the Bush administration in 2008, the White House decision to proceed with the sale provoked protests from Beijing. China tested an anti-ballistic missile on Monday, destroying a missile in outer space. Clinton denied that the Chinese test was connected to the Taiwan arms deal, but Beijing was clearly sending a message about China’s growing military capability.

In another move that irritated Beijing, Obama recently announced his intention to meet the Dalai Lama, reversing a decision last year not to do so. Speaking to the media, Clinton justified the meeting by saying that while the US recognised China’s sovereignty over Tibet, “we support the legitimate desire for cultural, religious respect and autonomy”.

US-China relations over trade have also worsened, with Washington imposing anti-dumping tariffs against Chinese goods ranging from tyres to steel products. During Obama’s visit to China last November he pressed Chinese leaders to revalue the yuan against the dollar, but was bluntly turned down. In late December, the US announced a 15-percent tariff on Chinese steel pipes as a penalty for allegedly unfair subsidies.

In a statement, Clinton seized on Google’s current threat to pull out of China over Beijing’s tight control over the Internet. She expressed her “serious concerns” over the issue, saying: “We look to the Chinese government for an explanation.” Her statement indicates that Washington intends to ratchet up its rhetoric on human rights in China, including over Internet censorship—issues that it had played down.

In this context, Clinton’s speech to the East-West Centre in Hawaii highlighted the Obama administration’s determination to counter China’s growing influence in Asia. She declared: “I don’t think there is any doubt, if there was when this administration began, that the United States is back in Asia, but I want to underscore, we are back to stay.” She underlined earlier comments by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates that the US is “not a visiting power in Asia, but a resident power”.

Clinton criticised the Bush administration’s failure to participate in Asia-Pacific regional bodies, especially the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The “lack of respect and a willingness to engage” with South East Asia had effectively allowed China to increase its influence in the past decade. “And that is why I made it very clear upon becoming Secretary of State that the United States would show up,” she said. (See: “Clinton’s ASEAN appearance signals US ‘back in Asia’”)

US fears about China reflect changes in their relative economic strength. While the US has been at the centre of the global financial crisis, China has continued to grow. China’s GDP is still well below that of the US, but it is set to overtake Japan this year as the world’s second largest economy. Moreover China is in a stronger position to offer economic incentives to potential allies. A China-ASEAN free trade agreement came into effect on January 1, creating the world’s third-largest free trade bloc, further undermining US influence in South East Asia.

In her speech, Clinton signalled the Obama administration’s intention to make more aggressive diplomatic moves. She declared that the US would seek to “actively participate” in all key regional forums, including ASEAN+3 and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. ASEAN+3 is an exclusively Asian body involving the ASEAN countries plus China, Japan and South Korea. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation was formed by Russia and China in 2001 to counter growing US involvement in Central Asia.

The secretary of state emphasised that the “future of this region depends on America”. It was in the interests of Asian countries to have the US as “a dynamic economic partner and a stabilising military influence”. She highlighted Washington’s formal defence treaties with Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines as the cornerstone of US policy in Asia.

These remarks sought to send a message that the US would not allow Beijing to use its economic power to exclude the US from the region, and would contain China militarily. Clinton was more explicit in comments to reporters on Monday, declaring: “Everyone’s aware that China is a rising power of the 21st century. But people want to see the United States fully engaged in Asia, so that as China rises the United States is there as a force of peace.”

Far from being a “force for peace,” the US military build-up raises the dangers of conflict between the two powers. As its economic power has waned, Washington has increasingly used its military might to further its interests. Its alliances in Asia form part of a longstanding US strategy of encircling China with allies, strategic partners and military bases. As planned in 2006, the US will deploy 6 of its 11 aircraft carriers and 60 percent of its submarine fleet in the Pacific this year, shifting from its previous strategic focus on the Atlantic.

The Pentagon is acutely aware of China’s rising military strength. A recent assessment by the US Office of Naval Intelligence estimated that China’s naval expansion would be at its height in the next 10–15 years, with “one or more aircraft carriers” and 75 submarines operating beyond Taiwan and South China Sea to protect China’s vital sea lanes, particularly to the Middle East and Africa.

The growing rivalry between the US and China is reverberating throughout the region. Every government has been compelled to try to balance economic relations with China against concerns to maintain relations with the US. Those issues would certainly have dominated Clinton’s discussions in Australia, which relies heavily on exports of minerals and other raw materials to China, but depends on its military alliance with the US, not least to back its interventions in neighbouring island states.

Even Japan, which has been a cornerstone of US strategy in Asia since the end of World War II, is torn by this dilemma. While in Hawaii, Clinton met with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in an effort to patch up relations with the Democratic Party government that took power in September. Unlike the previous Liberal Democratic Party governments, which rested on Japan’s Cold War alliance with the US, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has advocated that Tokyo play a greater role in Asia, especially by establishing firmer relations with Beijing.

Japan too has become more reliant on trade with and investment in China, which is now Japan’s largest trading partner. The global economic crisis has battered its export industries. According to official statistics, Japan’s GDP contracted by 5.1 percent in the third quarter of 2009 from the same period in 2008. The Hatoyama government has already reached an agreement with China and South Korea to establish a currency swap scheme to stabilise Asian currencies.

At the same time, Hatoyama has indicated that he wants to refashion Japan’s strategic alliance with the US, leading to tensions over the large American military presence in Japan. His government has called for a renegotiation of a 2006 agreement to relocate a US marine air base in Okinawa, but Washington has refused to revise the pact.

Clinton failed to convince Okada to abide by the 2006 agreement. She had to tell reporters she “respected” Hatoyama’s decision last December to wait until May to decide upon the issue. Previously Hatoyama effectively snubbed Obama, when he refused to settle the issue prior to the US president’s visit to Tokyo last November.

Hatoyama, who is facing an upper house election by mid-year, is appealing to widespread concerns in Japan about the continued US military presence and opposition to Washington’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government will release a report this month that is likely to expose a secret treaty signed by Washington and Tokyo in the 1960s that allowed nuclear-armed US warships to dock in Japan without disclosing their armaments. The disclosure will place further strains on the US-Japan relationship.

As the Obama administration pursues its “back in Asia” offensive, tensions with China will only continue to rise, further exacerbating the dilemmas facing countries throughout the region.

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Haiti: How much is US’s $100 million worth? How much has it cost?

Workers World, January 21, 2010

U.S. aid comes with strings attached

By Sara Flounders

How much is $100 million in U.S. aid to Haiti really worth? $100 million is less than what the U.S. spends in five hours on the wars and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The $100 million President Barack Obama promised in emergency aid to Haiti for earthquake relief sounds like a lot of money. But it is a tiny amount when compared to what the rulers of France and the United States stole from Haiti and its people over centuries.

The U.S. imposed 60 years of sanctions and blockade on Haiti after the victory of the first successful slave revolution in history. This blockade impoverished Haiti. France demanded in 1825, with warships in the harbor, that Haiti repay French slave owners $21 billion for the value of the enslaved Africans who were liberated. Haiti was forced to pay interest on this debt for more than 100 years.

U.S.-supported dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier diverted $500 million in U.S. loans into his personal bank accounts in just the last six years before he fled the country. But the Haitian people still had to repay all the Duvalier loans.

Billions of dollars in debt, Haiti was forced to accept an International Monetary Fund structural adjustment program that promised “debt forgiveness.” This IMF program destroyed Haiti’s sustainable agriculture, bankrupted its cash crops of rice and sugar, raised the price of electricity, and froze pay on public transit, infrastructure and vital social service providers such as doctors, nurses and teachers.

Haiti’s debt to the Inter-American Development Bank was not “forgiven.” It is more than $500 million — five times the amount of U.S. aid pledged for earthquake relief.

It is always important to remember that whatever U.S. imperialism gives with one hand, it takes away with the other. The IMF announced on Jan. 14, the same day that President Obama promised $100 million in aid, that it would be adding a $100 million loan to its current program in Haiti. This only leaves Haiti further in debt.

$100 million is just 7 percent of the $1.4 billion that Haitian workers in the Diaspora send home to their families every year. Half of the population of Haiti lives on less than $1 a day. Yet this U.S. aid and U.S. loan will force even more Haitians to immigrate to find work for their families’ survival.

The people of Haiti are owed reparations from the U.S. and French banks, which have extracted billions of dollars in profits from Haiti for hundreds of years. $100 million is far less than 1 percent of the $18 billion that Goldman Sachs executives will receive in bonuses this year, after a $700 billion U.S. government bailout of the banks.

And $100 million in U.S. aid to Haiti comes with a high price tag: U.S. military occupation.

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Why the US Owes Haiti Billions: The Briefest History

CounterCurrents,  January 17, 2010

Why the US Owes Haiti Billions: The Briefest History

By Bill Quigley

Why does the US owe Haiti Billions? Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State, stated his foreign policy view as the “Pottery Barn rule.” That is – “if you break it, you own it.”

The US has worked to break Haiti for over 200 years. We owe Haiti. Not charity. We owe Haiti as a matter of justice. Reparations. And not the $100 million promised by President Obama either – that is Powerball money. The US owes Haiti Billions – with a big B.

The US has worked for centuries to break Haiti. The US has used Haiti like a plantation. The US helped bleed the country economically since it freed itself, repeatedly invaded the country militarily, supported dictators who abused the people, used the country as a dumping ground for our own economic advantage, ruined their roads and agriculture, and toppled popularly elected officials. The US has even used Haiti like the old plantation owner and slipped over there repeatedly for sexual recreation.

Here is the briefest history of some of the major US efforts to break Haiti.

In 1804, when Haiti achieved its freedom from France in the world’s first successful slave revolution, the United States refused to recognize the country. The US continued to refuse recognition to Haiti for 60 more years. Why? Because the US continued to enslave millions of its own citizens and feared recognizing Haiti would encourage slave revolution in the US.

After the 1804 revolution, Haiti was the subject of a crippling economic embargo by France and the US. US sanctions lasted until 1863. France ultimately used its military power to force Haiti to pay reparations for the slaves who were freed. The reparations were 150 million francs. (France sold the entire Louisiana territory to the US for 80 million francs!)

Haiti was forced to borrow money from banks in France and the US to pay reparations to France. A major loan from the US to pay off the French was finally paid off in 1947. The current value of the money Haiti was forced to pay to French and US banks? Over $20 Billion – with a big B.

The US occupied and ruled Haiti by force from 1915 to 1934. President Woodrow Wilson sent troops to invade in 1915. Revolts by Haitians were put down by US military – killing over 2000 in one skirmish alone. For the next nineteen years, the US controlled customs in Haiti, collected taxes, and ran many governmental institutions. How many billions were siphoned off by the US during these 19 years?

From 1957 to 1986 Haiti was forced to live under US backed dictators “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvlaier. The US supported these dictators economically and militarily because they did what the US wanted and were politically “anti-communist” – now translatable as against human rights for their people. Duvalier stole millions from Haiti and ran up hundreds of millions in debt that Haiti still owes. Ten thousand Haitians lost their lives. Estimates say that Haiti owes $1.3 billion in external debt and that 40% of that debt was run up by the US-backed Duvaliers.

Thirty years ago Haiti imported no rice. Today Haiti imports nearly all its rice. Though Haiti was the sugar growing capital of the Caribbean, it now imports sugar as well. Why? The US and the US dominated world financial institutions – the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – forced Haiti to open its markets to the world. Then the US dumped millions of tons of US subsidized rice and sugar into Haiti – undercutting their farmers and ruining Haitian agriculture. By ruining Haitian agriculture, the US has forced Haiti into becoming the third largest world market for US rice. Good for US farmers, bad for Haiti.

In 2002, the US stopped hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to Haiti which were to be used for, among other public projects like education, roads. These are the same roads which relief teams are having so much trouble navigating now!

In 2004, the US again destroyed democracy in Haiti when they supported the coup against Haiti’s elected President Aristide.

Haiti is even used for sexual recreation just like the old time plantations. Check the news carefully and you will find numerous stories of abuse of minors by missionaries, soldiers and charity workers. Plus there are the frequent sexual vacations taken to Haiti by people from the US and elsewhere. What is owed for that? What value would you put on it if it was your sisters and brothers?

US based corporations have for years been teaming up with Haitian elite to run sweatshops teeming with tens of thousands of Haitians who earn less than $2 a day.

The Haitian people have resisted the economic and military power of the US and others ever since their independence. Like all of us, Haitians made their own mistakes as well. But US power has forced Haitians to pay great prices – deaths, debt and abuse.

It is time for the people of the US to join with Haitians and reverse the course of US-Haitian relations.

This brief history shows why the US owes Haiti Billions – with a big B. This is not charity. This is justice. This is reparations. The current crisis is an opportunity for people in the US to own up to our country’s history of dominating Haiti and to make a truly just response.

(For more on the history of exploitation of Haiti by the US see: Paul Farmer, The Uses of Haiti; Peter Hallward, Damming the Flood; and Randall Robinson, An Unbroken Agony)

Bill is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Quigley77@gmail.com

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Militarization of Haiti Aid: Humanitarian Operation or Invasion?

“The unspoken mission of US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) with headquarters in Miami and US military installations throughout Latin America is to ensure the maintenance of subservient national regimes, namely US proxy governments, committed to the Washington Consensus and the neoliberal policy agenda. While US military personnel will at the outset be actively involved in emergency and disaster relief, this renewed US military presence in Haiti will be used  to establish a foothold in the country as well pursue America’s strategic and geopolitical objectives in the Caribbean basin, which are largely directed against Cuba and Venezuela.”

Global Research, January 15, 2010
And thanks to Dandelion Salad for posting this earlier!

The Militarization of Emergency Aid to Haiti: Is it a Humanitarian Operation or is it an Invasion?

Haiti has a longstanding history of US military intervention and occupation going back to the beginning of the 20th Century. US interventionism has contributed to the destruction of Haiti’s national economy and the impoverishment of its population.

The devastating earthquake is presented to World public opinion as the sole cause of the country’s predicament.

A country has been destroyed, its infrastructure demolished. Its people precipitated into abysmal poverty and despair.

Haiti’s history, its colonial past have been erased.

The US military has come to the rescue of an impoverished Nation. What is its Mandate?

Is it Humanitarian Operation or an Invasion?

The main actors in America’s “humanitarian operation” are the Department of Defense, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). (See USAID Speeches: On-The-Record Briefing on the Situation in Haiti, 01/13/10). USAID has also been entrusted in channelling food aid to Haiti, which is distributed by the World Food Program. (See USAID Press Release: USAID to Provide Emergency Food Aid for Haiti Earthquake Victims)

The military component of the US mission, however, tends to overshadow the civilian functions of rescuing a desperate and impoverished population. The overall humanitarian operation is not being led by civilian governmental agencies such as FEMA or USAID, but by the Pentagon.

The dominant decision making role has been entrusted to US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).

A massive deployment of military hardware personnel is contemplated. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen has confirmed that the US will be sending nine to ten thousand troops to Haiti, including 2000 marines. (American Forces Press Service, January 14, 2010)

Aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson and its complement of supporting ships has already arrived in Port au Prince. (January 15, 2010).  The  2,000-member Marine Amphibious Unit as well as and soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne division “are trained in a wide variety of missions including security and riot-control in addition to humanitarian tasks.”

In contrast to rescue and relief teams dispatched by various civilian teams and organizations, the humanitarian mandate of the US military is not clearly defined:

“Marines are definitely warriors first, and that is what the world knows the Marines for,… [but] we’re equally as compassionate when we need to be, and this is a role that we’d like to show — that compassionate warrior, reaching out with a helping hand for those who need it. We are very excited about this.” (Marines’ Spokesman, Marines Embark on Haiti Response Mission, Army Forces Press Services, January 14, 2010)

While presidents Obama and Preval spoke on the phone, there was no discussions between the two governments, regarding the entry and deployment of  US troops on Haitian soil. The decision was taken and imposed unilaterally by Washington. The total lack of a functioning government in Haiti was used to legitimize, on humanitarian grounds, the sending in of a powerful military force, which has de facto taken over several governmental functions.


TABLE 1

Military assets  to be sent to Haiti. (according to official announcements)

The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) and amphibious dock landing ships USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) and USS Carter Hall (LSD 50).

A 2,000-member Marine Amphibious Unit from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne division. 900 soldiers are slated to arrive in Haiti by January 15th.

Aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson and its complement of supporting ships. (arrived in Port au Prince on January 15, 2010):  USS Carl Vinson CVN 70

The hospital ship USNS Comfort

Several U.S. Coast Guard vessels and helicopters

The three amphibious ships will join aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy and guided-missile frigate USS Underwood.


Leading Role of US Southern Command

US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) with headquarters in Miami is the “lead agency” in Haiti. Its mandate as a regional military command is to carry out modern warfare. Its stated mission in Latin America and the Caribbean is  “to conduct military operations and promote security cooperation to achieve U.S. strategic objectives.” (Our Mission – U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) The commanding officers  are trained to oversee theater operations, military policing as well “counterinsurgency” in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the recent establishment of new US military bases in Colombia, within proximity of the Venezuelan border.

General Douglas Fraser, commander of U.S. Southern Command has defined the Haiti emergency operation as a Command, Control, Communications operation (C3). US Southern Command is to oversee a massive deployment of military hardware, including several warships, an aircraft carrier, airborne combat divisions, etc:

So we’re focused on getting command and control and communications there so that we can really get a better understanding of what’s going on. MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti], as their headquarters partially collapsed, lost a lot of their communication, and so we’re looking to robust that communication, also.

We’re also sending in assessment teams in conjunction with USAID, supporting their efforts, as well as putting in some of our own to support their efforts.

We’re moving various ships that we had in the region — they’re small ships, Coast Guard cutters, destroyers — in that direction, to provide whatever immediate assistance that we can on the ground.

We also have a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, moving in that direction. It was at sea off of Norfolk, and so it’s going to take a couple of days for it to get there. We need to also just resupply it and give it the provisions it needs to support the effort as we look at Haiti. And then we’re looking across the international agencies to figure out how we support their efforts as well as our efforts.

We also are looking at a large-deck amphibious ship with an embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit on it that will be a couple of days behind the USS Vinson.

And that gives us a broader range of capability to move supplies around, to have lift capability to help support the effort there also.

So bottom line to it is, we don’t have a clear assessment right now of what the situation on the ground is, what the needs within Port-au-Prince are, how extensive the situation is.

We also, finally, have a team that’s headed in to the airport. From my understanding — because my deputy commander just happened to be in Haiti when this situation happened, on a previously scheduled visit. He has been to the airport. He says the runway is functional but the tower doesn’t have communications capability. The passenger terminal — has structural damage to it, so we don’t know what the status of it is.

So we have a group going in to make sure we can gain and secure the airfield and operate from it, because that’s one of those locations we think we’re going to have a lot of the immediate effort from an international basis going into.

And then we’re out conducting all the other assessments that you would consider appropriate as we go in and work this effort.

We’re also coordinating on the ground with MINUSTAH, with the folks who are there. The commander for MINUSTAH happened to be in Miami when this situation happened, so he’s right now traveling back through and should be arriving in Port-au-Prince any time now. So that will help us coordinate our efforts there also, because again, obviously the United Nations suffered a significant loss there with the collapse — at least partial collapse of their headquarters.

So that’s — those are the initial efforts that we have ongoing And as we get the assessments of what’s coming next, then we’ll adjust as required.

The secretary of Defense, the president, have all stipulated that this is a significant effort, and we’re corralling all the resources within the Department of Defense to support this effort. (Defense.gov News Transcript: DOD News Briefing with Gen. Fraser from the Pentagon, January 13, 2010)

A Heritage Foundation report summarizes the substance of America’s mission in Haiti: “The earthquake has both humanitarian and U.S. national security implications [requiring] a rapid response that is not only bold but decisive, mobilizing U.S. military, governmental, and civilian capabilities for both a short-term rescue and relief effort and a longer-term recovery and reform program in Haiti.” (James M. Roberts and Ray Walser, American Leadership Necessary to Assist Haiti After Devastating Earthquake, Heritage Foundation, January 14, 2010).

At the outset, the military mission will be involved in first aid and emergency.

The US Air Force has taken over air traffic control functions as well as the management of Port au Prince airport. In other words, the US military regulates the flow of emergency aid and relief supplies which are being brought into the country in civilian planes. The US Air Force is not working under the instructions of Haitian Airport officials. These officials have been displaced. The airport is run by the US Military (Interview with Haitian Ambassador to the US R. Joseph, PBS News, January 15, 2010)

The 1,000-bed U.S. Navy hospital ship, USNS Comfort, which includes more than 1,000 medical and support personnel has been sent to Haiti under the jurisdiction of Southern Command. (See  Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds readies for Haiti quake relief, Digital Journal, January 14, 2010).

There were, at the time of the Earthquake, some 7100 military personnel and over 2000 police, namely a foreign force of over 9000. In contrast, the international civilian personnel of MINUSTAH is less than 500. MINUSTAH Facts and Figures – United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti

TABLE 2 United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)

Current strength (30 November 2009)9,065 total uniformed personnel

Estimated combined SOUTHCOM and MINUSTAH forces; 19,095*

*Excluding commitments by France (unconfirmed) and Canada (confirmed 800 troops), France and Canada were partners in the 2004 Coup d`État,


The contingent of US forces under SOUTHCOM combined with those of MINUSTAH brings foreign military presence in Haiti to close to 20,000 in a country of 9 million people. In  comparison to Afghanistan, prior to Obama’s military surge, combined US and NATO forces were of the order of  70,000 for a population of 28 million. In other words, on a per capita basis there will be more troops in Haiti than in Afghanistan.

Recent US Military Interventions in Haiti

There have been several US sponsored military interventions in recent history. In 1994, following three years of military rule, a force of  20,000 occupation troops and “peace-keepers” was sent to Haiti. The 1994 US military intervention “was not intended to restore democracy. Quite the contrary: it was carried out to prevent a popular insurrection against the military Junta and its neoliberal cohorts.” (Michel Chossudovsky, The Destabilization of Haiti, Global Research, February 29, 2004)

US and allied troops remained in the country until 1999. The Haitian armed forces were disbanded and the US State Department hired a mercenary company DynCorp to provide “technical advice” in restructuring the Haitian National Police (HNP). (Ibid).

The February 2004 Coup d’Etat

In the months leading up to the 2004 Coup d’Etat, US special forces and the CIA were training death squadrons composed of the former tonton macoute of the Duvalier era. The Rebel paramilitary army crossed the border from the Dominican Republic in early February 2004. “It was a well armed, trained and equipped paramilitary unit integrated by former members of Le Front pour l’avancement et le progrès d’Haiti (FRAPH), the “plain clothes” death squadrons, involved in mass killings of civilians and political assassinations during the CIA sponsored 1991 military coup, which led to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Jean Bertrand Aristide.” (see Michel Chossudovsky,  The Destabilization of Haiti: Global Research. February 29, 2004)

Foreign troops were sent into Haiti. MINUSTAH was set up in the wake of the US sponsored coup d’Etat in February 2004 and the kidnapping and deportation of the democratically elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide. The coup was insitigated by the US with the support of  France and Canada.

The FRAPH units subsequently integrated the country’s police force, which was under the supervision of MINUSTAH. In the political and social disarray triggered of the earthquake, the former armed militia and  Ton Ton macoute will be playing a new role.

Hidden Agenda

The unspoken mission of US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) with headquarters in Miami and US military installations throughout Latin America is to ensure the maintenance of subservient national regimes, namely US proxy governments, committed to the Washington Consensus and the neoliberal policy agenda. While US military personnel will at the outset be actively involved in emergency and disaster relief, this renewed US military presence in Haiti will be used  to establish a foothold in the country as well pursue America’s strategic and geopolitical objectives in the Caribbean basin, which are largely directed against Cuba and Venezuela.

The objective is not to work towards the rehabilitation of the national government, the presidency, the parliament, all of which has been decimated by the earthquake. Since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, America’s design has been to gradually dismantle the Haitian State, restore colonial patterns and obstruct the functioning of a democratic government. In the present context, the objective is not only to do away with the government but also to revamp the mandate of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), of which the headquarters have been destroyed.

“The role of heading the relief effort and managing the crisis quickly fell to the United States, for lack — in the short term, at least — of any other capable entity.” ( US Takes Charge in Haiti _ With Troops, Rescue Aid – NYTimes.com, January 14, 2009)

Prior to the earthquake, there were, according to US military sources, some 60 US military personnel in Haiti. From one day to the next, an outright military surge has occurred: 10000 troops, marines, special forces, intelligence operatives, etc, not to mention private mercenary forces on contract to the Pentagon.

In all likelihood the humanitarian operation will be used as a pretext and justification to establish a more permanent US military presence in Haiti.

We are dealing with a massive deployment, a “surge” of military personnel assigned to emergency relief.

The first mission of SOUTHCOM will be to take control of what remains of the country’s communications, transport and energy infrastructure. Already, the airport is under de facto US control. In all likelihood, the activities of MINUSTAH which from the outset in 2004 have served US foreign policy interests, will be coordinated with those of SOUTHCOM, namely the UN mission will be put under de facto control of the US military .

The Militarization of “Civil Society” Relief Organizations

The US military in Haiti seeks to oversee the activities of approved humanitarian organizations. It also purports to encroach upon the humanitarian activities of  Venezuela and Cuba:

“The government under President René Préval is weak and literally now in shambles. Cuba and Venezuela, already intent on minimizing U.S. influence in the region, are likely to seize this opportunity to raise their profile and influence…” ( James M. Roberts and Ray Walser, American Leadership Necessary to Assist Haiti After Devastating Earthquake, Heritage Foundation, January 14, 2010).

In the US, The militarization of emergency relief operations was established during the Katrina crisis, when the US military was called in to play a lead role.

The model of emergency intervention for SOUTHCOM is patterned on the role of  NORTHCOM, which was granted a mandate as “the lead agency” in US domestic emergency procedures. During Hurricane Rita in 2005, the groundwork for the “militarization of emergency relief” involving a leading role for the US military was established. In this regard, Bush had hinted to the central role of the military in emergency relief: “Is there a natural disaster–of a certain size–that would then enable the Defense Department to become the lead agency in coordinating and leading the response effort? That’s going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about.” (Statement of President Bush at a press conference, Bush Urges Shift in Relief Responsibilities – washingtonpost.com, September 26, 2005).

“The response to the national disaster is not being coordinated by the civilian government out of Texas, but from a remote location and in accordance with military criteria. US Northern Command Headquarters will directly control the movement of military personnel and hardware in the Gulf of Mexico. As in the case of Katrina, it will override the actions of civilian bodies. Yet in this case, the entire operation is under the jurisdiction of the military rather than under that of FEMA.” (Michel Chossudovsky, US Northern Command and Hurricane Rita, Global Research, September 24, 2005)

Concluding Remarks

The entry of ten thousand heavily armed US troops, coupled with the activities of local militia could potentially precipitate the country into social chaos.

Twenty thousand foreign troops under SOUTHCOM and MINUSTAH commands will be present in the country.

The Haitian people have exhibited a high degree of solidarity, resilience and social commitment.

Helping one another and acting with consciousness: under very difficult conditions, citizens rescue teams were set up spontaneously.

The militarization of relief operations will break the organizational capabilities of Haitians to rebuild and reinstate the institutions of civilian government which have been destroyed. It will also encroach upon the efforts of  the international medical teams and civilian relief organisations.

It is absolutely essential that the Haitian people forcefully oppose the presence of foreign troops, particularly in public security operations.

It is essential that Americans forcefully oppose the sending of US combat troops to Haiti.

There can be no real reconstruction or development under foreign military occupation.

© Copyright Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2010

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=17000

see

The West’s role in Haiti’s plight By Peter Hallward

Naomi Klein Issues Haiti Disaster Capitalism Alert + “The Sound of Screaming Is Constant”

from the archives:

A Man-Made Famine + Stuffed & Starved: Interview with Raj Patel

The Destabilization of Haiti: February 29, 2004, by Michel Chossudovsky


Haiti Didn’t Become a Poor Nation All on Its Own — The U.S’s Hidden Role

AlterNet, January 15, 2010

Haiti Didn’t Become a Poor Nation All on Its Own — The U.S’s Hidden Role in the Disaster

In the hours following Haiti’s devastating earthquake, CNN, the New York Times and other major news sources adopted a common interpretation for the severe destruction: the 7.0 earthquake was so devastating because it struck an urban area that was extremely over-populated and extremely poor. Houses “built on top of each other” and constructed by the poor people themselves made for a fragile city. And the country’s many years of underdevelopment and political turmoil made the Haitian government ill-prepared to respond to such a disaster.

True enough. But that’s not the whole story. What’s missing is any explanation of why there are so many Haitians living in and around Port-au-Prince and why so many of them are forced to survive on so little. Indeed, even when an explanation is ventured, it is often outrageously false such as a former U.S. diplomat’s testimony on CNN that Port-au-Prince’s overpopulation was due to the fact that Haitians, like most Third World people, know nothing of birth control.

It may startle news-hungry Americans to learn that these conditions the American media correctly attributes to magnifying the impact of this tremendous disaster were largely the product of American policies and an American-led development model.

From 1957-1971 Haitians lived under the dark shadow of “Papa Doc” Duvalier, a brutal dictator who enjoyed U.S. backing because he was seen by Americans as a reliable anti-Communist. After his death, Duvalier’s son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” became President-for-life at the age of 19 and he ruled Haiti until he was finally overthrown in 1986. It was in the 1970s and 1980s that Baby Doc and the United States government and business community worked together to put Haiti and Haiti’s capitol city on track to become what it was on January 12, 2010.

After the coronation of Baby Doc, American planners inside and outside the U.S. government initiated their plan to transform Haiti into the “Taiwan of the Caribbean.” This small, poor country situated conveniently close to the United States was instructed to abandon its agricultural past and develop a robust, export-oriented manufacturing sector. This, Duvalier and his allies were told, was the way toward modernization and economic development.

From the standpoint of the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Haiti was the perfect candidate for this neoliberal facelift. The entrenched poverty of the Haitian masses could be used to force them into low-paying jobs sewing baseballs and assembling other products.

But USAID had plans for the countryside too. Not only were Haiti’s cities to become exporting bases but so was the countryside, with Haitian agriculture also reshaped along the lines of export-oriented, market-based production. To accomplish this USAID, along with urban industrialists and large landholders, worked to create agro-processing facilities, even while they increased their practice of dumping surplus agricultural products from the U.S. on the Haitian people.

This “aid” from the Americans, along with the structural changes in the countryside predictably forced Haitian peasants who could no longer survive to migrate to the cities, especially Port-au-Prince where the new manufacturing jobs were supposed to be. However, when they got there they found there weren’t nearly enough manufacturing jobs go around. The city became more and more crowded. Slum areas expanded. And to meet the housing needs of the displaced peasants, quickly and cheaply constructed housing was put up, sometimes placing houses right “on top of each other.”

Before too long, however, American planners and Haitian elites decided that perhaps their development model didn’t work so well in Haiti and they abandoned it. The consequences of these American-led changes remain, however.

When on the afternoon and evening of January 12, 2010 Haiti experienced that horrible earthquake and round after round of aftershock the destruction was, no doubt, greatly worsened by the very real over-crowding and poverty of Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas. But shocked Americans can do more than shake their heads and, with pity, make a donation. They can confront their own country’s responsibility for the conditions in Port-au-Prince that magnified the earthquake’s impact, and they can acknowledge America’s role in keeping Haiti from achieving meaningful development. To accept the incomplete story of Haiti offered by CNN and the New York Times is to blame Haitians for being the victims of a scheme that was not of their own making. As John Milton wrote, “they who have put out the people’s eyes, reproach them of their blindness.”

Carl Lindskoog is a New York City-based activist and historian completing a doctoral degree at the City University of New York. You can contact him at cskoog79@yahoo.com

Also see “Why is Haiti Poor?”

shortlink to this post: http://wp.me/p3xLR-lU


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