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British Analysts Side with Argentina on Falklands/Malvinas dispute

By Sara Kozameh | CEPR Americas Blog | March 15, 2013

On Tuesday, the results of the British Referendum on the Falkland/Malvinas Islands came in. According to the BBC, out of the 1,517 votes cast in the referendum, representing 90 percent of eligible voters on the island, all but three of them voted for having the islands remain territory of the U.K. As the British government must have realized before holding the poll, this is not surprising. Despite the relative proximity of the islands to the Argentine mainland, their inhabitants of the island have very few ties to Argentina:  they are descendants of British colonizers, they speak English and maintain British traditions and citizenship.

An episode that aired Wednesday of the Russia Today TV program “Crosstalk” focused on the question of sovereignty and self-determination of the islands and featured an Argentine researcher, an analyst from the conservative Heritage Foundation, and a British historian who sided with Argentina’s legal claim for sovereignty on the islands.

Among the highlights from the episode is a discussion over whether the claim for the islands is an imperial project of the U.K. or whether the claim is legally legitimate.  Luke Coffey, a “Margaret Thatcher Fellow” at the Washington D.C.-based Heritage Foundation, argues [9:40] that the islands are in no way a British colonial project, while British historian, Richard Gott, disagrees [10:07]:  “I’m afraid it’s just not true. The British seized the islands in 1833 and subsequently settled it…”

As Gott and British journalist Richard Norton-Taylor both point out, Britain has always been aware that its claims to the islands may not have been very strong. Norton-Taylor writes:

The dispute over sovereignty has been going on for centuries, and Britain has never been really confident over its claim to the islands. In 1829, the Duke of Wellington observed: “I have perused the papers respecting the Falkland Islands. It is not clear to me that we have ever possessed the sovereignty of all these islands.”

Prior to the 1982 invasion of the islands by the leaders of the bloody Argentine military dictatorship, the two countries had been negotiating potential deals, with options on the table that included a lease-back plan and joint- sovereignty. Newly released British archives show that Margaret Thatcher was in favor of reaching a negotiated deal even after the April 2nd invasion.

Despite the British rhetoric behind this week’s referendum, other British analysts maintain that the 2,932 inhabitants of the islands– who are, by the way, outnumbered 167 to 1 by sheep- do not actually have a right to “self-determination” in this case. As Seumas Milne argues:

Self-determination requires a recognised and viably independent people, which is why the UN has rejected its application to the islands. Clearly the residents of, say, the Wallops in Hampshire, with a similar-sized population to the Falklands-Malvinas, can’t exercise such a right. Nor can forced colonisation of other people’s lands legitimate self-determination – otherwise Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank would have the right to decide the future of Palestinian territory.

Near the end of the Crosstalk episode referred to above, Luke Coffey insists on his position regarding self-determination: [18:20] “There is nothing to discuss here. As far as the U.K. is concerned, as far as the Falkland Islanders are concerned, this matter is settled. The Falkland Islanders voted overwhelmingly to be part of Great Britain. And we should respect that.”

Chuckles from all the other participants on the show follow as Richard Gott answers him: [21:19] “One of the purposes of the referendum is to use it as a propaganda point in the United States and I’m sure Luke, that you will be active in that… in trying to persuade the Americans to side with the British and not with Argentina.”

Something that nobody mentioned is the vested interest that the U.K. Defense Ministry probably has in maintaining control over the island. The Falkland-Malvinas are also home to a British military base, its 1,300 U.K. military personnel, and the various [PDF] artillery, aircraft, and missiles that are also stationed there.

Argentina has unanimous support from regional governments on its claim to the Falkland-Malvinas, as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and its 33 member countries, made clear in 2011. Part of this support is probably due to the presence of the British military base on the islands, as the region has been increasingly opposed to any foreign military presence in the region, and as can be seen in the cases of Ecuador expelling a U.S. military base from Manta, and the case of the U.S.-Colombia Defense Co-operation Agreement, which was met with disapproval in the region and finally rejected by Colombia’s supreme court.

To add to that, there is the issue of recent speculation over the possibility of oil reserves on the islands. Both of these might be sticking points in any attempts to get a new round of negotiating over the islands.

But as Seumas Milnes points out in his column:

Britain’s refusal to negotiate with a democratic Argentina – when it was happy to talk to the country’s dictators – has no significant international support: least of all in Latin America, which has been booming for a decade, while Britain’s and Europe’s economies are on their backs.

March 15, 2013 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Forgetting Torture: Lee Hamilton, John Brennan, and Abu Zubaydah

By Kevin Ryan | Dig Within | February 10, 2013

The pervasive news surrounding the confirmation hearing of John Brennan, Obama’s nominee for CIA director, is paralleled by another, related story that has been largely ignored by the U.S. media.  That is the story of the man called Abu Zubaydah, whose alleged torture testimony, obtained by the CIA while Brennan was the head of the agency’s Terrorist Threat Center, built the foundation for the official account of 9/11.  This week I spoke to Lee Hamilton, former vice-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, about the serious problems that the government’s new stance on Zubaydah creates for the 9/11 Commission Report.

As stated in my last article on the subject, Zubaydah is at the center of an unraveling of the official account of the 9/11 attacks.[1]  His extensive torture at the hands of the CIA during Brennan’s tenure, which included at least 83 water-boarding sessions, hanging the man naked from the ceiling, slamming him against a concrete wall, and other atrocious experimental techniques, was said to produce valuable evidence about al Qaeda.  However, the government now claims that Zubaydah was never a member or associate of al Qaeda and therefore he could not have known any of the information that the 9/11 Commission attributed to him.

From the start of our conversation, Hamilton told me that he was having trouble remembering Zubaydah.  That was odd considering that an article he and Thomas Kean wrote for the New York Times in 2008, describing how the CIA obstructed the 9/11 investigation, referred several times to Zubaydah specifically.[2]  The article claimed that “Beginning in June 2003, we requested all reports of intelligence information on these broad topics that had been gleaned from the interrogations of 118 named individuals, including both Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, two senior Qaeda operatives.”  Kean and Hamilton further wrote that, “in October 2003, we sent another wave of questions to the C.I.A.’s general counsel. One set posed dozens of specific questions about the reports, including those about Abu Zubaydah.”

These requests from the 9/11 Commission should have resulted in the release of some revealing records.  That is, while John Brennan was leading the CIA’s Terrorist Threat Center, the agency videotaped the torture of Zubaydah and others, and proceeded to intentionally withhold that information from the 9/11 Commission.  Brennan and CIA director George Tenet were almost certainly involved in the decisions regarding that obstruction.  The two men had worked closely together for years.  As CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, Brennan often communicated directly with Tenet, avoiding the usual chain of command.  At the time, as an apparent favor to the Saudis, CIA analysts were discouraged from questioning Saudi relationship to Arab extremists.[3]  It seems that Brennan and Tenet had a tendency to protect some terrorist suspects and cover-up the agency’s treatment of others.

It was revealed that when Brennan was the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, in 2005, the CIA had destroyed the torture tapes, most of which featured Zubaydah.[4]  Describing the CIA’s obstruction, Hamilton wrote — “The agency did not disclose that any interrogations had ever been recorded or that it had held any further relevant information, in any form. Not satisfied with this response, we decided that we needed to question the detainees directly, including Abu Zubaydah and a few other key captives.”[5]

Therefore Hamilton remembered very clearly, in 2008, that he had asked the CIA at least twice, in a potentially contentious manner, for information specifically about Zubaydah.  Having not received that information, Hamilton asked the CIA for the opportunity to question Zubaydah directly.  The CIA not only denied these requests, it denied the Commission access to the interrogators who compelled the alleged testimony.  Despite such memorable denials, however, Hamilton cannot seem to recall anything about Zubaydah at all other than his feeling that Zubaydah did not play a significant part in the 9/11 Commission Report.  He told me “I’m a little fuzzy on this but the information that we had from him was not critical to our report.”[6]

Reasons for Hamilton’s new, unconvincing amnesia on the subject might include that the U.S. government recently backed off its claims about this “detainee,” who has been imprisoned by the U.S. for eleven years without charges.  The retractions about Zubaydah create a tension with the 9/11 Commission Report that reveals an obvious need to revise the report.

For example, in response to the habeas corpus petition filed by Zubaydah’s defense team, the government stated that it does not contend that Zubaydah had “any direct role in or advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.”[7]  The same response states that the government no longer claims that Zubaydah was ever “a member of al-Qaida or otherwise formally identified with al-Qaida.”  But footnote 35 to Chapter 5 of the 9/11 Commission Report states the exact opposite.  According to this footnote, “Abu Zubaydah, who worked closely with the al Qaeda leadership, has stated that KSM originally presented Bin Ladin with a scaled-down version of the 9/11 plan, and that Bin Ladin urged KSM to expand the operation with the comment, ‘Why do you use an axe when you can use a bulldozer?’”[8]  That’s pretty extensive and intimate knowledge for someone who was never associated with al Qaeda.

In our talk, I reminded Hamilton that Zubaydah was mentioned over 50 times in the 9/11 Commission Report, and that his alleged torture testimony, along with that of KSM and Ramsi bin Alshibh (both of whom Zubaydah identified as being involved in the attacks), produced the foundation of the official account of 9/11.  Creating the background for the official myth about al Qaeda, Hamilton’s report called Zubaydah an “Al Qaeda associate,” a “long-time ally of Bin Ladin,” a “Bin Ladin lieutenant,” and an “al Qaeda lieutenant.”[9]  Despite these important references, Hamilton told me that he just couldn’t remember Zubaydah, saying “my recollection is really quite vague with regard to him.”

To refresh his memory further, I reminded Hamilton that nine separate dates of Zubaydah’s interrogation were referenced in his report.  After these reminders, Hamilton said that he still had to “stretch his imagination to remember” him.  It seems that if Hamilton had read my article on Zubaydah, which I had sent to him over a week before he agreed to meet and eleven days before we talked, his memory would have returned easily.  Instead, Hamilton’s inability to stretch his imagination on the subject was reminiscent of the “failure of imagination” excuse used by the 9/11 Commission when it proposed an overall explanation for the events of 9/11.

Because the government no longer contends that Zubaydah was in any way associated with al Qaeda and now says that he had no knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, I asked Hamilton if he had an opinion on how Zubaydah could have known so much about al Qaeda as stated in his report.  Bluntly stating “No,” Hamilton suggested that he was not concerned with these contradictions.

Our discussion went into the recent conviction of John Kiriakou, the CIA’s Chief of Counterterrorist Operations in Pakistan after 9/11, who was originally said to be responsible for the capture and initial interrogations of Zubaydah.  Interestingly, Kiriakou’s story has evolved much like that of the official account concerning Zubaydah.  According to people who would know, with regard to Zubaydah “Kiriakou now rather off handedly admits that he basically made it all up.”[10]

Kiriakou has since been heralded as a whistleblower.  And he recently said that, for embracing torture, John Brennan is a terrible choice to lead the CIA.  Kiriakou claimed that he has known Brennan since 1990 and has worked for him twice.  While in the CIA, Kiriakou noted, Brennan “would have had to have been intimately involved in—not necessarily in carrying out the torture techniques, but in the policy, the torture policy.”[11]  It is true that this would seem to make Brennan an especially poor choice but today it is clear that those who engaged in torture, and those who used alleged torture testimony to create false reports, will not be held accountable.

This week I also spoke to Brent Mickum, Zubaydah’s attorney.  Unlike Hamilton, Mickum was very straightforward and convincing.  The information he possesses suggests that Zubaydah was a victim of false claims from the beginning.  Mickum believes there may be alternative reasons why his client, who does not support the murder of innocents or suicide attacks and who repeatedly refused to join al Qaeda, was chosen to become the first, experimental, torture victim.  Mickum expects Zubaydah to be charged sometime this year but cannot say what the charges will be.  The evidence no longer supports claims that Zubaydah conspired with al Qaeda in any way.  Additionally, he cannot be charged as an enemy combatant through the 2006 Military Commissions Act considering that he was captured and tortured years before that law was enacted.

With this in mind, I asked Lee Hamilton if Abu Zubaydah should be allowed to tell his own story now that his illegal detention and torture have proven to be based on falsehoods.  Hamilton said that he would not take a stand on the subject one way or another.  This refusal is yet another reason to suspect that Lee Hamilton will never come clean on the 9/11 Commission’s use of unreliable torture testimony.

Although Hamilton has repeatedly stated publicly that he believes torture is immoral and that the U.S. must take a strong stance against it, his actions and his work speak otherwise.  The glaring problem he faces now is that it is the 9/11 Commission Report that stands as the definitive argument supporting the use of torture.  After all, if not for the alleged torture testimony of Abu Zubaydah and the people he reportedly identified (KSM and Ramsi bin Alshibh in particular) Hamilton’s report would have little evidentiary basis.  Consequently, as the U.S. government strains to come up with charges to apply to Zubaydah after disclaiming his connections to al Qaeda, the Commission’s report remains at risk of being further challenged by whatever charges are ultimately filed.

[1] Kevin R. Ryan, Abu Zubaydah Poses a Real Threat to Al Qaeda, Dig Within, October 15, 2012, http://digwithin.net/2012/10/15/zubaydah/

[2] Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, Stonewalled by the C.I.A., The New York Times, January 2, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/02/opinion/02kean.html?_r=0

[3] James Risen, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, Free Press, 2006

[4] Mark Mazetti, .U.S. Says C.I.A. Destroyed 92 Tapes of Interrogations, The New York Times, March 2, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/03/washington/03web-intel.html?_r=0

[5] Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, Stonewalled by the C.I.A

[6] Notes from my talk with Lee Hamilton, February 7, 2013

[7] Zayn al Abidin Muhammad Husayn v. Robert Gates, Respondents Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Opposition to Petitioner’s Motion for Discover and Petitioner’s Motion for Sanctions. Civil Action No. 08-cv-1360 (RWR), September 2009

[8] See the footnote 35 to Chapter 5 of the 9/11 Commission Report, which sources the information from “Intelligence report, interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, May 16, 2003,” http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report_Notes.htm

[9] National Commission on Terrorist  Attacks Upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report, www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report.pdf

[10] Jeff Stein, Foreign Policy, CIA Man Retracts Claim on Waterboarding, January 6, 2010

[11] Democracy Now, Whistleblower John Kiriakou: For Embracing Torture, John Brennan a “Terrible Choice to Lead the CIA”, January 30, 2013, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/1/30/whistleblower_john_kiriakou_for_embracing_torture

March 15, 2013 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment

The Corries’ Ten-Year Quest for Justice

Rachel’s Legacy

By TOM WRIGHT and THERESE SALIBA | CounterPunch | March 15, 2013

“Parents can be awakened by their children”

–Cindy Corrie, 2003 Commencement address

Ten years have now passed since we received the terrible phone call telling us our young friend Rachel Corrie was dead.  We had gone to see her off the drizzly winter day she left Olympia to work in Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement.  We couldn’t know that we were seeing her for the last time, nor foresee the legacy she would leave as she said goodbye to her hometown, and stepped into history.

Rachel would be killed on March 16, 2003, crushed beneath an armored Israeli bulldozer as she tried to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Gazan border town of Rafah.

It seems likely that Rachel’s story would by now have faded from memory as just one more among the thousands of deaths in Gaza over the past decade, but for the efforts of her parents, Craig and Cindy.  Having no prior involvement in the Israel-Palestine issue, they immersed themselves in a process of self-education and public activism so relentless and untiring that even now it leaves their friends slack-jawed in amazement.

Rachel’s family has witnessed an eventful decade—in the Middle East and at home.  They’ve pursued legal struggles, led public campaigns, traveled the world, and kept Rachel’s story alive through books, plays, films and media outreach.

We sat down with them recently to talk about the changes they’ve seen.

Working Inside the System

As we detailed in an article five years ago, much of the Corries’ initial efforts focused on moving the three branches of the American government to deliver justice after Rachel’s killing.  They pressed the Executive branch, through the State and Justice departments, for an investigation, they used the court system for a civil trial against the Caterpillar Corporation, and they sought a Congressional resolution calling for a U.S.-led investigation.  As hardly needs saying, these efforts failed spectacularly in their primary goals.  The Corries challenged—and for many newcomers, exposed–a powerful and deeply entrenched foreign policy apparatus that grants virtual impunity to Israel, even for the killing of an American peace activist.

But the Corries take a long view, and try to see the good.  Cindy says, “Many people in government, particularly in the diplomatic corps, are there for good reasons– there are people with good hearts.  I think their willingness to meet with us is partly because they know that Rachel’s story does have significance, around the world, and in the Arab world particularly. And certainly they know it has resonance in Gaza and with Palestinians.”

Craig and Cindy know that they carry an authority that few others can claim, and although it was unsought, they use it conscientiously.

“It’s been ten years for us now, and for our family,” added Craig. “That includes extended family like sisters and brother in laws, and it’s amazing how many people who are high up in government we’ve talked to.  Either them or their assistants… all these people now have some understanding of the situation, and I think they have some respect, they can’t just write us off as crazy.”

“In the last attack on Gaza, in November, we were there.  Israel started to drop bombs, and we woke up to a flash of light, then the concussion–it was that close to us. When we came back, we went to the State Dept. We spent about an hour talking to the head of the Israel-Palestine desk. They’ve never been to Gaza, none of these people knew anything about Gaza.”  In a sense, the Corries have become civil society’s ambassadors to Gaza, a region abandoned by U.S. (and European) diplomatic isolation since the rise of the democratically elected Hamas government there.

Cindy said, “The State Department doesn’t have anybody in Gaza.  I think many of them know that’s maybe not the most productive policy for them, it’s difficult when they don’t have people in places.    We shared with them that we went to the funeral of a young boy killed playing soccer in front of his house in Khan Younis by the Israeli military.  I went with his mother, and we talked to his friends who showed us where they had been playing soccer. You realize that for these children, that’s an experience they may carry with them forever. If you want to make progress, you have to stop these kinds of situations that have to fill people with so much hurt and rage. It shouldn’t happen.”

The Civil Trial in Israel

The Corries, at their own expense, have spent the last eight years pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit in Israeli courts, charging the State of Israel and its Defense Ministry with the intentional and unlawful killing of their daughter.  If the effort to move the U.S. government was Herculean, the task of moving the Israeli government would prove Sisyphean.  Personally attending all of the courtroom proceedings, the family logged some nine months in Israel for the trial.  Seeking accountability, not money, they asked for $1 in symbolic damages.

Craig explained, “The courts are the way that we have agreed as a society to settle our disagreements nonviolently.  That’s the official way to do it.  And so I feel very strongly that you have to demand that they work. And so we did.”

They encountered double standards from the outset.  Cindy told us,

”They didn’t want to hear anything about home demolitions. In some ways, Rachel’s lost in the trial. She’s just a dead person.  And the reasons for why she was there, the home demolitions and all that was happening, oh they bristled so.  When B’tselem gets brought up, the Israeli human rights organization that’s reporting what’s happening in the Occupied Territories, they just brush it away: ‘What’s B’tselem? We don’t trust their data!’  It’s so shocking because this is the Israeli state. That’s what we were seeing, the Israeli state, in the courtroom. And it’s very shocking, the lengths to which they will go to prevail.”

“They had a woman who testified as an ‘expert’ on the International Solidarity Movement—she had never done any research on ISM.  She was the military spokesperson when Rachel was killed and so that made her an expert on ISM. She submitted to the court a 100-page report demonizing ISM, demonizing Rachel.”

Craig broke in:  “She submitted that two weeks before she was coming to testify, so it’s all in Hebrew.   We said, ‘How are we going to get this translated? ….What are we gonna do with it?’” (The Corries had to pay for the English translation of thousands of pages of documents).  “Then we learn that she just picked it up off the internet.  She has no expertise on this. And it all goes in, and it’s just made-up garbage.  When we have witnesses, it can’t be about what Israel is doing in Gaza, but when they have witnesses, it can be about what the ISM is doing in Jenin. “

They were struck early on by the casual trial preparation by the military, signaling its confidence in a friendly judge’s courtroom.  Craig recalled with exasperation the testimony of the former Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade Commander, Colonel Pinhas (Pinky) Zuaretz, who was in charge when Rachel died.  The colonel had testified in a sworn affidavit that an injury he had received had occurred in the area Rachel where was working, known as the Philadelphi Corridor, which was untrue.  “So our attorney says, ‘So you’re telling me, you’re injured near the Philadelphi Corridor?’  And he said ‘No, I never said that’.  ‘Well, here, you want to read this (affidavit)? ‘Oh, well, it’s wrong.’  ‘Wrong? Why is it wrong?’ He said it’s wrong because of ‘inattention’!”

“Then he said his troops had been fired at with rockets from the Nasrallah’s home (the family Rachel was defending). They’re putting in a public document that anybody can read, that the family are terrorists. He then says, well it was after the family had been forced to move out.  So it was when the house was controlled by the Israeli military!  And it completely escapes them that they were safer with the family living in the house than when it was under their control.  These are experienced, good attorneys turning out this sort of (Expletive Deleted), and it’s an important trial, but they know going in that they’ve got it won, and they don’t have to do any better than that. “

Last August the Corries finally received a verdict in the trial.  While not unexpected, it was stunning in the scope of its implications.

The judge, Oded Gershon, ruled that the military was blameless in Rachel’s death.  He said that the military’s own investigation (which had exonerated itself) had been “properly conducted.”  Even the U.S. government rejects that finding; the Bush State Dept. told the Corries in writing that Israel had never conducted the “thorough, credible and transparent” investigation it promised in 2003.

But the judge didn’t stop there.  He went on to condemn the Gandhian tactics of the ISM as “de facto violence,” and– in words indistinguishable from a military press release–said that ISM  protected Palestinian families “involved in terrorism;”  specialized in “disrupting operational activities of the IDF”; and shielded “terror activists wanted by the Israeli security forces.”  The group also provided “financial, logistic and moral support to the Palestinians, including terrorists and their families,” and was involved in “disrupting the demolition or sealing of homes of terrorists who carried out suicide attacks that caused many casualties.”

The notion that home demolitions were defensive actions taken in response to suicide bombings is ludicrous on its face: over 1,600 homes were demolished in Rafah alone, between 2000 and 2004.  This was a policy of mass collective punishment, and deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure, a war crime.   But more galling than this is the sheer hypocrisy.  To Palestinians and their supporters accustomed to decades of Israeli demands that Palestinians use only non-violent tactics of resistance, Judge Gershon’s opinion could have come from the pen of Kafka.

Moreover, the real locus of “terrorism” had indeed been available from court testimony.

The Southern Brigade Commander, Colonel Zuaretz, had testified that the rules of engagement were to “shoot to kill any adult person on the [Philadelphi] route.” Another Israeli colonel had testified, “There are no civilians in a war zone.”  Even the judge himself said, “She consciously put herself in harm’s way.”

As the Corries’ attorney Hussein Abu Hussein put it, “By accepting the testimony of Zuaretz and others, Judge Gershon essentially accepted that the ‘shoot to kill’ order was acceptable, which violates the fundamental tenets of international humanitarian law, mandating that soldiers distinguish between combatants and civilians.”

Indeed.  And in addition, there is the unbounded irony of an Israeli judge dismissing the Fourth Geneva Convention.  That convention, which mandates protection of civilians in wartime, was adopted by the U.N. in 1949 in response to the Nazi atrocities.  In 1993, the Convention became a part of “Customary International Law,” binding even on non-signatory nations.

Following the verdict, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter of the Carter Center joined other distinguished critics in condemnation, saying that the “Court’s decision confirms a climate of impunity, which facilitates Israeli human rights violations against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territory.”

Changes over 10 years:  Getting the story right

When Carter, a former U.S. president, can title a book Palestine: Peace or Apartheid, an undeniable shift has occurred in the public discourse on this issue.  Countless activists working for decades have contributed to this slow change in perceptions. Palestinian civil society, religious activists, organizations such as ISM and the U.S. Campaign to end the Occupation, and prominent figures like Carter have all contributed.

Cindy particularly emphasizes “the Palestinian voices that have become so strong in this decade” and the importance of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement: “It was courageous of those who first stepped out to support BDS, but now more and more people understand that BDS developed because other things have not worked, that there’s injustice to address, and this is a way that people are doing it.”  She further highlights groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and Young, Jewish & Proud who confront Israeli political figures and lobbyists and pointedly challenge the Occupation.  She gives special note to “the remarkable courage of human rights organizations in Palestine and Israel” for helping to change public attitudes.

And, we believe, some of this shift can be attributed to Rachel’s inspiring stand for justice, the global impact of her story, and her family’s unrelenting work.

Ten years ago, Rachel was an early international witness to the mounting human catastrophe in Gaza that continues to this day.  She wrote of Israel’s demolition of water wells, greenhouse cooperatives, and family homes, describing “the systematic destruction of people’s ability to survive.”  Today her father contrasts this to the vast Israeli construction in the occupied West Bank, of settlements, roads, the Separation Wall. “You see the construction and you think ‘maybe this is better,’” as there is at least some employment.  “But the people living there see the last parts of apartheid being set up–maybe it does matter if you have a little bit better standard of living under apartheid, but apartheid is what they are seeing there.”

In recent years, the mainstream media has come closer to getting the story right.  The Corries pointed out the novelty of a major U.S. network reporting live from Gaza, during Israel’s November 2012 attack (a.k.a. “Operation Pillar of Defense”). Anderson Cooper’s coverage for CNN was “a huge sea change,” Cindy said.  “It’s a bellweather…people may not  know much about the issue, but they now know there’s something wrong with what Israel is doing there.” But, Craig added, “The part you don’t see in the paper is the siege of Gaza, which is always there—the basic injustice. “

Yet Israel’s attempt to isolate Gaza from the world, and the unprecedented destruction of its 2008 attack (“Operation Cast Lead”, which killed over 1400 Palestinians), has only brought more attention to Gaza’s plight. The Corries found themselves at the center of public response.  In March 2009, they joined a Code Pink delegation, which included such public figures as Alice Walker and Medea Benjamin, to bear witness to Gaza’s destruction.  Cindy also recounts how Rachel’s own congressman, Brian Baird, visited Gaza in the wake of Cast Lead, then “stood on the floor of Congress with a photo of three dead Palestinian children… and tried to speak to his colleagues about why there was something very wrong with all of this.  I don’t know if this ever happened before. . .”  Baird’s shift in position grew from his relationship with the Corries and his own eye-witness encounter with the sordid realities of daily life in Gaza.  As Cindy explains, “When he first started talking to us, he started almost every sentence with ‘I’m supportive of Israel, but . . . ‘ and I said to him at one point, ‘I’m tired of hearing that.  Can’t you just be pro-people?’”

The growing violence also spurred international activism to new levels of commitment.  The Gaza Freedom Flotillas (2010-11) sought to break the siege of Gaza by delivering much-needed humanitarian supplies to the coastal strip, using unarmed civilian ships reaching Gaza from its Mediterranean coast.  Israel’s military assault on the relief ship Mavi Marmara, killing eight Turkish activists and one Turkish American, drew widespread condemnation and further contributed to Israel’s pariah status.  Another aid ship, christened MV Rachel Corrie, was intercepted in international waters by Israeli commandos in May, 2010.  The Corries would tour the Mavi Marmara on a visit to Turkey in 2011, giving their condolences to the families who had lost loved ones in circumstances so similar to their own daughter’s.

Craig believes such actions have only backfired.  He points out, “When you look at who voted for recognition of Palestine at the United Nations (last year), “it’s the U.S. that’s being isolated.  You got the U.S., Canada, Israel and a couple of islands in the Pacific–and the rest of the world either voted Yes or abstained.”

Rachel’s Legacy

The award-winning play, My Name is Rachel Corrie (2006), produced by Alan Rickman and Kathryn Viner, has reached audiences in more than 20 countries and over a dozen languages—a fact that Craig thinks is “fairly astounding.”  In addition, Rachel’s collected journal writings in Let Me Stand Alone (2008), published by WW Norton, convey Rachel’s gift as a young writer and poet, with an intense awareness and creatively quirky self-expression.  Craig describes Rachel as a flawed, joyous, much more humorous person than the iconic figure of Rachel that has emerged, but he is glad that some of her humor comes through in both the play and the book. He explains, “When she went to Palestine, her voice changed and her writing changed dramatically.”   Cindy, however, sees continuity in Rachel’s writing and her empathetic way of looking at the world: “She wrote a poem when she about 12 years old about lost souls. I think more than about anybody I know she made a conscious effort never to look away from somebody.  And I think going to Gaza is a rational extension of that.”

Here in Olympia, the impact of Rachel’s story is manifest on the walls of our city and in the collective efforts that made the Olympia Food Coop the first grocery in the U.S. to successfully boycott Israeli products.  In 2007 the Olympia City Council voted against official recognition of the Olympia-Rafah Sister City relationship initiated by Rachel, despite over 70% support in public testimony.  Shortly thereafter, plans for the world’s largest Palestine solidarity mural emerged under the direction of Susan Greene, a Jewish American mural artist from San Francisco, whose work also appears on the Separation Wall in Palestine, as well as in the Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatilla. Olympia’s mural, in the heart of downtown, can be viewed at (http://olympiarafahmural.org/).

Local BDS activists also won a significant victory when the Olympia Food Co-Op board passed a boycott in July 2010.   They compounded that victory when they defeated a lawsuit brought by plaintiffs backed by the pro-Israel group Stand with Us.  The lawsuit was struck down in February, 2012 as an illegal attempt to make it prohibitively expensive for the Co-Op to exercise its right to free speech.  Under the provisions of a new Washington State law, the plaintiffs were ordered to pay attorneys’ fees plus $160,000 in damages to the Co-0p board members. This victory establishes a precedent for other groups to embrace the boycott strategy free from legal harassment.

In their travels across the country and around the world, Cindy and Craig encounter young people who have been inspired to act by Rachel’s story. “That happens over and over again,” Cindy said.  “People say that her example resonates with them, and makes them feel they have to do something more with their lives.”  She told us of a young man who approached them at a recent talk in Washington, D.C. and said that Rachel was the reason he had become politically involved. Craig recalled an actress who had done two long runs of the play in Australia, then went and volunteered in Africa.  “And she told us, ‘I didn’t do that, Rachel did that, that’s not anything that was in me before I played Rachel.’”

Cindy spoke of being approached by Palestinians from the beginning. At first, she said, she didn’t understand why it was so important for Palestinians, young and old, to come meet them. Many would cry.  “It took me awhile to understand it, and all that they were carrying, and have been carrying for over sixty years. I think it’s that there was this American kid–and as they struggled to get their message out and struggled to challenge what’s happened to them—she came, and she did that.  I know, because they tell me how much that means, and it’s very personal.”

In the weeks approaching this 10th anniversary, the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice  has been coordinating with activists in Australia, Scotland, Israel and Palestine, as well as in the U.S.  In the past week alone, Craig and Cindy have traveled to Edmonton, Calgary, San Diego and Portland, and will be home in Olympia for a March 16 commemoration titled Rachel Corrie, 10 Years: The Person and the Continuing Struggle.

Cindy and Craig couldn’t throw out even a wild guess as to how many places they’ve traveled to in the past decade.  “Continents,” Craig said.  “I could tell you how many continents.  All but Australia and Antarctica.”   Recalling one event in Mobile, Alabama, Cindy said,  “To me it’s heartening that no matter where you go, the smallest places, there are people—it may not be Palestine exactly—but they’re really a part of the movement, they know that it needs to be changed, and they’re finding a way to respond to that.  It’s really inspiring, it keeps us going.”

Tom Wright directed the 1997 documentary, Checkpoint: The Palestinians After Oslo.

Therese Saliba is on the faculty of International Feminism and Middle East Studies at The Evergreen State College, Olympia.  Mail can be sent to tomwright59@comcast.net.

March 15, 2013 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Reasons Why the Courts Aren’t Enough to Ensure Drone Privacy

By Jay Stanley  | ACLU | March 15, 2013

Yesterday the drone regulation bill in the Washington state legislature died, having failed to meet the cutoff date for moving to the House floor. Although our lobbyist there thought the bill would have passed both houses had the Democratic leadership allowed it to get there, they did not. Boeing lobbied against the bill, as did law enforcement.

One of the arguments presented by opponents, our Washington state lobbyist Shankar Narayan reports, was the claim that no regulations are needed for drones because we ought to let the courts work out the privacy issues surounding drones and deal with any abuses that arise. I have also heard spokespeople for the drone industry association, the AUVSI, making this argument lately. It seems to be emerging as a primary argument of drone-legislation opponents.

This is a weak argument. Let me briefly give five reasons why:

  1. There is no reason to wait for abuses to happen when they are easily foreseeable. When you put an enormously powerful surveillance technology in the hands of the police and do not place any restrictions on its use, it will be abused, sooner or later, in ways illegal (i.e. by bad apples) and legal (i.e. through officially approved policies that nonetheless violate our Constitution and/or values). Why wait, when we can prevent them before they take place and spare their victims the grief?
  1. The legal system has always been very slow to adapt to new technology. For example, it took the Supreme Court 40 years to apply the Fourth Amendment to telephone calls. At first the court found in a 1928 decision that because telephone surveillance did not require entering the home, the conversations that travel over telephone wires are not protected. It was not until 1967 that this literal-minded hairsplitting about “constitutionally protected areas” was overturned (with the court declaring that the Constitution “protects people, not places”). Today, technology is moving far faster than it did in the telephone era—but the gears of justice turn just as slowly as they ever have (and maybe slower).
  1. There are many uncertainties about how our Constitution will be applied by the courts to aerial surveillance. Just as the new technology of the telephone broke the Supreme Court’s older categories of understanding, so too will drones with all their new capabilities bring up new situations that will not fit neatly within existing jurisprudential categories of analysis. For example, how will the courts view the use of drones for routine location tracking? The Supreme Court started to grapple with such questions in its recent decision in the Jones GPS case, but it is far from clear what the ultimate resolution will be. The Supreme Court has ruled before that the Fourth Amendment provides no protection from aerial surveillance, even in one’s backyard surrounded by a high fence, and while the new factors that drones bring to the equation could shift that judgment, we cannot be certain. Legislators should not sit around waiting for cases to come before the courts; they should act to preserve our values now.
  1. Legislatures often set rules even when the Constitution would seem to cover something. To take just one example: after the Supreme Court issued that 1967 ruling that a warrant was needed to tap someone’s phone, Congress went on to enact detailed standards the government had to follow before it could do so. What it did not do was throw its hands up and say “the court has ruled, if there are any further abuses we can let the courts take care of them.”
  1. Our courts often defer to the judgments of elected bodies. While the courts’ role is to step in and protect fundamental rights when they are threatened by the majority, they normally show great deference toward the judgments of elected representatives of the people. And for good reason—we live in a democracy, and unless fundamental rights are at stake decisions should be made by our democratic representatives. A legislature acting to protect fundamental rights such as privacy does not threaten such rights, and there is no reason why elected representatives shouldn’t act to protect our fundamental values if they feel that the citizens in their districts want them to.

Let’s hope that state legislators in other states don’t fall for this line of argument.

March 15, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

President Chavez: A 21st Century Renaissance Man

By James Petras | March 14, 2013

President Hugo Chavez was unique in multiple areas of political, social and economic life. He made significant contributions to the advancement of humanity. The depth, scope and popularity of his accomplishments mark President Chavez as the ‘Renaissance President of the 21st Century’.

Many writers have noted one or another of his historic contributions highlighting his anti-poverty legislation, his success in winning popular elections with resounding majorities and his promotion of universal free public education and health coverage for all Venezuelans.

In this essay we will highlight the unique world-historic contributions that President Chavez made in the spheres of political economy, ethics and international law and in redefining relations between political leaders and citizens. We shall start with his enduring contribution to the development of civic culture in Venezuela and beyond.

Hugo Chavez: The Great Teacher of Civic Values

From his first days in office, Chavez was engaged in transforming the constitutional order so that political leaders and institutions would be more responsive to the popular electorate. Through his speeches Chavez clearly and carefully informed the electorate of the measures and legislation to improve their livelihood. He invited comments and criticism – his style was to engage in constant dialogue, especially with the poor, the unemployed and the workers. Chavez was so successful in teaching civic responsibilities to the Venezuelan electorate that millions of citizens from the slums of Caracas rose up spontaneously to oust the US backed business-military junta which had kidnapped their president and closed the legislature. Within seventy-two hours – record time – the civic-minded citizens restored the democratic order and the rule of law in Venezuela, thoroughly rejecting the mass media’s defense of the coup-plotters and their brief authoritarian regime.

Chavez, as all great educators, learned from this democratic intervention of the mass of citizens, that democracy’s most effective defenders were to be found among the working people – and that its worst enemies were found in the business elites and military officials linked to Miami and Washington.

Chavez civic pedagogy emphasized the importance of the historical teachings and examples of founding fathers, like Simon Bolivar, in establishing a national and Latin American identity. His speeches raised the cultural level of millions of Venezuelans who had been raised in the alienating and servile culture of imperial Washington and the consumerist obsessions of Miami shopping malls.

Chavez succeeded in instilling a culture of solidarity and mutual support among the exploited, emphasizing ‘horizontal’ ties over vertical clientelistic dependency on the rich and powerful. His success in creating collective consciousness decisively shifted the balance of political power away from the wealthy rulers and corrupt political party and trade union leaders toward new socialist movements and class oriented trade unions. More than anything else Chavez’ political education of the popular majority regarding their social rights to free health care and higher education, living wages and full employment drew the hysterical ire of the wealthy Venezuelans and their undying hatred of a president who had created a sense of autonomy, dignity and ‘class empowerment’ through public education ending centuries of elite privilege and omnipotence.

Above all Chavez speeches, drawing as much from Bolivar as from Karl Marx, created a deep, generous sense of patriotism and nationalism and a profound rejection of a prostrate elite groveling before their Washington overlord, Wall Street bankers and oil company executives. Chavez’ anti-imperial speeches resonated because he spoke in the language of the people and expanded their national consciousness to identification with Latin America, especially Cuba’s fight against imperial interventions and wars.

International Relations: The Chavez Doctrine

At the beginning of the previous decade, after 9/11/01, Washington declared a ‘War on Terror.’ This was a public declaration of unilateral military intervention and wars against sovereign nations, movements and individuals deemed as adversaries, in violation of international law.

Almost all countries submitted to this flagrant violation of the Geneva Accords, except President Chavez, who made the most profound and simple refutation against Washington: ‘You don’t fight terrorism with state terrorism’. In his defense of the sovereignty of nations and international jurisprudence, Chavez underlined the importance of political and economic solutions to social problems and conflicts – repudiating the use of bombs, torture and mayhem. The Chavez Doctrine emphasized south-south trade and investments and diplomatic over military resolution of disputes. He upheld the Geneva Accords against colonial and imperial aggression while rejecting the imperial doctrine of ‘the war on terror’, defining western state terrorism as a pernicious equivalent to Al Qaeda terrorism.

Political Theory and Practice: The Grand Synthesizer

One of the most profound and influential aspects of Chavez’ legacy is his original synthesis of three grand strands of political thought: popular Christianity, Bolivarian nationalist and regional integration and Marxist political, social and economic thought. Chavez’ Christianity informed his deep belief in justice and the equality of people, as well as his generosity and forgiveness of adversaries even as they engaged in a violent coup, a crippling lockout, or openly collaborated and received financing from enemy intelligence agencies. Whereas anywhere else in the world, armed assaults against the state and coup d’états would result in long prison sentences or even executions, under Chavez most of his violent adversaries escaped prosecution and even rejoined their subversive organizations. Chavez demonstrated a deep belief in redemption and forgiveness. Chavez’s Christianity informed his ‘option for the poor’, the depth and breadth of his commitment to eradicating poverty and his solidarity with the poor against the rich.

Chavez deep-seated aversion and effective opposition to US and European imperialism and brutal Israeli colonialism were profoundly rooted in his reading of the writings and history of Simon Bolivar, the founding father of the Venezuelan nation. Bolivarian ideas on national liberation long preceded any exposure to Marx, Lenin or more contemporary leftist writings on imperialism. His powerful and unwavering support for regional integration and internationalism was deeply influenced by Simon Bolivar’s proposed ‘United States of Latin America’ and his internationalist activity in support of anti-colonial movements.

Chavez’ incorporation of Marxist ideas into his world view was adapted to his longstanding popular Christian and Bolivarian internationalist philosophy. Chavez’ option for the poor was deepened by his recognition of the centrality of the class struggle and the reconstruction of the Bolivarian nation through the socialization of the ‘commanding heights of the economy’. The socialist concept of self-managed factories and popular empowerment via community councils was given moral legitimacy by Chavez’ Christian faith in an egalitarian moral order.

While Chavez was respectful and carefully listened to the views of visiting leftist academics and frequently praised their writings, many failed to recognize or, worse, deliberately ignored the President’s own more original synthesis of history, religion and Marxism. Unfortunately, as is frequently the case, some leftist academics have, in their self-indulgent posturing, presumed to be Chavez’ ‘teacher’ and advisor on all matters of ‘Marxist theory’: This represents a style of leftist cultural colonialism, which snidely criticized Chavez for not following their ready-made prescriptions, published in their political literary journals in London, New York and Paris.

Fortunately, Chavez took what was useful from the overseas academics and NGO-funded political strategists while discarding ideas that failed to take account of the cultural-historical, class and rentier specificities of Venezuela.

Chavez has bequeathed to the intellectuals and activists of the world a method of thinking which is global and specific, historical and theoretical, material and ethical and which encompasses class analysis, democracy and a spiritual transcendence resonating with the great mass of humanity in a language every person can understand. Chavez’ philosophy and practice (more than any ‘discourse’ narrated by the social forum-hopping experts) demonstrated that the art of formulating complex ideas in simple language can move millions of people to ‘make history, and not only to study it’..

Toward Practical Alternatives to Neoliberalism and Imperialism

Perhaps Chavez greatest contribution in the contemporary period was to demonstrate, through practical measures and political initiatives, that many of the most challenging contemporary political and economic problems can be successfully resolved.

Radical Reform of a Rentier State

Nothing is more difficult than changing the social structure, institutions and attitudes of a rentier petro-state, with deeply entrenched clientelistic politics, endemic party-state corruption and a deeply-rooted mass psychology based on consumerism. Yet Chavez largely succeeded where other petro-regimes failed. The Chavez Administration first began with constitutional and institutional changes to create a new political framework; then he implemented social impact programs, which deepened political commitments among an active majority, which, in turn, bravely defended the regime from a violent US backed business-military coup d’état. Mass mobilization and popular support, in turn, radicalized the Chavez government and made way for a deeper socialization of the economy and the implementation of radical agrarian reform. The petrol industry was socialized; royalty and tax payments were raised to provide funds for massively expanded social expenditures benefiting the majority of Venezuelans.

Almost every day Chavez prepared clearly understandable educational speeches on social, ethical and political topics related to his regime’s redistributive policies by emphasizing social solidarity over individualistic acquisitive consumerism. Mass organizations and community and trade union movements flourished – a new social consciousness emerged ready and willing to advance social change and confront the wealthy and powerful. Chavez’ defeat of the US-backed coup and bosses’ lockout and his affirmation of the Bolivarian tradition and sovereign identity of Venezuela created a powerful nationalist consciousness which eroded the rentier mentality and strengthened the pursuit of a diversified ‘balanced economy’. This new political will and national productive consciousness was a great leap forward, even as the main features of a rentier-oil dependent economy persist. This extremely difficult transition has begun and is an ongoing process. Overseas leftist theorists, who criticize Venezuela (‘corruption’, ‘bureaucracy’) have profoundly ignored the enormous difficulties of transitioning from a rentier state to a socialized economy and the enormous progress achieved by Chavez.

Economic Crisis Without Capitalist Austerity

Throughout the crisis-wracked capitalist world, ruling labor, social democratic, liberal and conservative regimes have imposed regressive ‘austerity programs’ involving brutal reductions of social welfare, health and education expenditures and mass layoffs of workers and employees while handing our generous state subsidies and bailouts to failing banks and capitalist enterprises. Chanting their Thacherite slogan, ‘there is no alternative’, capitalist economists justify imposing the burden of ‘capitalist recovery’ onto the working class while allowing capital to recover its profits in order to invest.

Chavez’ policy was the direct opposite: In the midst of crisis, he retained all the social programs, rejected mass firings and increased social spending. The Venezuelan economy rode out of the worldwide crisis and recovered with a healthy 5.8% growth rate in 2012. In other words, Chavez demonstrated that mass impoverishment was a product of the specific capitalist ‘formula’ for recovery. He showed another, positive alternative approach to economic crisis, which taxed the rich, promoted public investments and maintained social expenditures.

Social Transformation in a ‘Globalized Economy’

Many commentators, left, right and center, have argued that the advent of a ‘globalized economy’ ruled out a radical social transformation. Yet Venezuela, which is profoundly globalized and integrated into the world market via trade and investments, has made major advances in social reform. What really matters in relation to a globalized economy is the nature of the political economic regime and its policies, which dictate how the gains and costs of international trade and investment are distributed. In a word, what is decisive is the ‘class character of the regime’ managing its place in the world economy. Chavez certainly did not ‘de-link’ from the world economy; rather he has re-linked Venezuela in a new way. He shifted Venezuelan trade and investment toward Latin America, Asia and the Middle East — especially to countries which do not intervene or impose reactionary conditions on economic transactions.

Anti-Imperialism in a Time of an Imperialist Offensive

In a time of a virulent US—EU imperialist offensive involving ‘pre-emptive’ military invasions, mercenary interventions, torture, assassinations and drone warfare in Iraq, Mali, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Afghanistan and brutal economic sanctions and sabotage against Iran; Israeli colonial expulsions of thousands of Palestinians financed by the US; US-backed coups in Honduras and Paraguay and aborted revolutions via puppets in Egypt and Tunisia, President Chavez, alone, stood as the principled defender of anti-imperialist politics. Chavez’ deep commitment to anti-imperialism stands in marked contrast to the capitulation of Western self-styled ‘Marxist’ intellectuals who mouthed crude justifications for their support of NATO bombing Yugoslavia and Libya, the French invasion of Mali and the Saudi-French (‘Monarcho-Socialist’) funding and arming of Islamist mercenaries against Syria. These same London, New York and Paris-based ‘intellectuals’ who patronized Chavez as a mere ‘populist’ or ‘nationalist’ and claimed he should have listened to their lectures and read their books, had crassly capitulated under the pressure of the capitalist state and mass media into supporting ‘humanitarian interventions’ (aka NATO bombing)… and justified their opportunism in the language of obscure leftists sects. Chavez confronted NATO pressures and threats, as well as the destabilizing subversion of his domestic opponents and courageously articulated the most profound and significant principles of 20th and 21st Marxism: the inviolate right to self-determination of oppressed nations and unconditional opposition to imperial wars. While Chavez spoke and acted in defense of anti-imperialist principles, many in the European and US left acquiesced in imperial wars: There were virtually no mass protests, the ‘anti-war’ movements were co-opted or moribund, the British ‘Socialist’ Workers Party defended the massive NATO bombing of Libya, the French ‘Socialists’ invaded Mali- with the support of the ‘Anti-Capitalist’ Party. Meanwhile, the ‘populist’ Chavez had articulated a far more profound and principled understanding of Marxist practice, certainly than his self-appointed overseas Marxist ‘tutors’.

No other political leader or for that matter, leftist academic, developed, deepened and extended the central tenets of anti-imperialist politics in the era of global imperialist warfare with greater acuity than Hugo Chavez.

Transition from a Failed Neo-Liberal to a Dynamic Welfare State

Chavez’ programmatic and comprehensive reconfiguration of Venezuela from a disastrous and failed neo-liberal regime to a dynamic welfare state stands as a landmark in 20th and 21st century political economy. Chavez’ successful reversal of neo-liberal institutions and policies, as well as his re-nationalization of the ‘commanding heights of the economy’ demolished the reigning neo-liberal dogma derived from the Thatcher-Reagan era enshrined in the slogan: ‘There is no alternative’ to brutal neo-liberal policies, or TINA.

Chavez rejected privatization – he re-nationalized key oil related industries, socialized hundreds of capitalist firms and carried out a vast agrarian reform program, including land distribution to 300,000 families. He encouraged trade union organizations and worker control of factories – even bucking public managers and even his own cabinet ministers. In Latin America, Chavez led the way in defining with greater depth and with more comprehensive social changes, the post neo-liberal era. Chavez envisioned the transition from neo-liberalism to a new socialized welfare state as an international process and provided financing and political support for new regional organizations like ALBA, PetroCaribe, and UNASUR. He rejected the idea of building a welfare state in one country and formulated a theory of post-neo-liberal transitions based on international solidarity. Chavez’ original ideas and policies regarding the post-neo-liberal transition escaped the armchair Marxists and the globetrotting Social Forum NGO pundits whose inconsequential ‘global alternatives’ succeeded primarily in securing imperial foundation funding.

Chavez demonstrated through theory and practice that neo-liberalism was indeed reversible – a major political breakthrough of the 21st century.

Beyond Social Liberalism: The Radical Definition of Post-Neo-Liberalism

The US-EU promoted neo-liberal regimes have collapsed under the weight of the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Massive unemployment led to popular uprisings, new elections and the advent of center-left regimes in most of Latin America, which rejected or at least claimed to repudiate ‘neo-liberalism’. Most of these regimes promulgated legislation and executive directives to fund poverty programs, implement financial controls and make productive investments, while raising minimum wages and stimulating employment. However few lucrative enterprises were actually re-nationalized. Addressing inequalities and the concentration of wealth were not part of their agenda. They formulated their strategy of working with Wall Street investors, local agro-mineral exporters and co-opted trade unions.

Chavez posed a profoundly different alternative to this form of ‘post-neoliberalism’. He nationalized resource industries, excluded Wall Street speculators and limited the role of the agro-mineral elites. He posed a socialized welfare state as an alternative to the reigning social-liberal orthodoxy of the center-left regimes, even as he worked with these regimes in promoting Latin American integration and opposing US backed coups.

Chavez was both a leader defining a more socialized alternative to social liberation and the conscience pressuring his allies to advance further.

Socialism and Democracy

Chavez opened a new and extraordinarily original and complex path to socialism based on free elections, re-educating the military to uphold democratic and constitutional principals, and the development of mass and community media. He ended the capitalist mass media monopolies and strengthened civil society as a counter-weight to US-sponsored para-military and fifth column elites intent on destabilizing the democratic state.

No other democratic-socialist president had successfully resisted imperial destabilization campaigns – neither Jagan in Guyana, Manley in Jamaica, nor Allende in Chile. From the very outset Chavez saw the importance of creating a solid legal-political framework to facilitate executive leadership, promote popular civil society organizations and end US penetration of the state apparatus (military and police). Chavez implemented radical social impact programs that ensured the loyalty and active allegiance of popular majorities and weakened the economic levers of political power long held by the capitalist class. As a result Venezuela’s political leaders, soldiers and officers loyal to its constitution and the popular masses crushed a bloody right-wing coup, a crippling bosses’ lockout and a US-financed referendum and proceeded to implement further radical socio-economic reforms in a prolonged process of cumulative socialization.

Chavez’s originality, in part the result of trial and error, was his ‘experimental method’: His profound understanding and response to popular attitudes and behavior was deeply rooted in Venezuela’s history of racial and class injustice and popular rebelliousness. More than any previous socialist leader, Chavez traveled, spoke and listened to Venezuela’s popular classes on questions of everyday life. His ‘method’ was to translate micro based knowledge into macro programed changes. In practice he was the antithesis of the overseas and local intellectual know-it-alls who literally spoke down to the people and who saw themselves as the ‘masters of the world’ … at least, in the micro-world of left academia, ingrown socialist conferences and self-centered monologues. The death of Hugo Chavez was profoundly mourned by millions in Venezuela and hundreds of million around the world because his transition to socialism was their path; he listened to their demands and he acted upon them effectively.

Social Democracy and National Security

Chavez was a socialist president for over 13 years in the face of large-scale, long-term violent opposition and financial sabotage from Washington, the local economic elite and mass media moguls. Chavez created the political consciousness that motivated millions of workers and secured the constitutional loyalty of the military to defeat a bloody US-backed business-military coup in 2002. Chavez tempered social changes in accordance with a realistic assessment of what the political and legal order could support. First and foremost, Chavez secured the loyalty of the military by ending US ‘advisory’ missions and overseas imperial indoctrination while substituting intensive courses on Venezuelan history, civic responsibility and the critical link between the popular classes and the military in a common national mission.

Chavez’ national security policies were based on democratic principles as well as a clear recognition of the serious threats to Venezuelan sovereignty. He successfully safeguarded both national security and the democratic rights and political freedoms of its citizens, a feat which has earned Venezuela the admiration and envy of constitutional lawyers and citizens of the US and the EU.

In stark contrast, US President Obama has assumed the power to assassinate US citizens based on secret information and without trial both in and out of the US. His Administration has murdered ‘targeted’ US citizens and their children, jailed others without trial and maintains secret ‘files’ on over 40 million Americans. Chavez never assumed those powers and never assassinated or tortured a single Venezuelan. In Venezuela, the dozen or so prisoners convicted of violent acts of subversion after open trials in Venezuelan courts, stand in sharp contrast to the tens of thousands of jailed and secretly framed Muslims and Latin American immigrants in the US. Chavez rejected state terror; while Obama has special assassination teams on the ground in over 70 countries. Obama supports arbitrary police invasions of ‘suspect’ homes and workplaces based on ‘secret evidence’ while. Chavez even tolerated the activities of known foreign (CIA)-funded opposition parties. In a word, Obama uses ‘national security’ to destroy democratic freedoms while Chavez upheld democratic freedoms and imposed constitutional limits on the national security apparatus.

Chavez sought peaceful diplomatic resolution of conflicts with hostile neighbors, such as Colombia which hosts seven US military bases – potential springboards for US intervention. On the other hand, Obama has engaged in open war with at least seven countries and has been pursuing covert hostile action against dozens of others.

Conclusion

Chavez’s legacy is multi-faceted. His contributions are original, theoretical and practical and universally relevant. He demonstrated in ‘theory and practice’ how a small country can defend itself against imperialism, maintain democratic principles and implement advanced social programs. His pursuit of regional integration and promotion of ethical standards in the governance of a nation – provide examples profoundly relevant in a capitalist world awash in corrupt politicians slashing living standards while enriching the plutocrats.

Chavez’ rejection of the Bush-Obama doctrine of using ‘state terror to fight terror’, his affirmation that the roots of violence are social injustice, economic pillage and political oppression and his belief that resolving these underlying issues is the road to peace, stands as the ethical-political guide for humanity’s survival.

Faced with a violent world of imperial counter-revolution, and resolved to stand with the oppressed of the world, Hugo Chavez enters world history as a complete political leader, with the stature of the most humane and multi-faceted leader of our epoch: the Renaissance figure for the 21st century.

~~~

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). Petras’ most recent book is The Arab Revolt and the Imperialist Counterattack. He can be reached at: jpetras@binghamton.edu.

March 15, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

WAR CRIMINAL BECOMES ISRAELI DEFENCE MINISTER

By Damian Lataan | March 15, 2013

Moshe Ya’alon, an ex-Israeli Chief of Staff and now Member of the Knesset, has been appointed Israel’s Minister of Defence in Netanyahu’s latest government coalition. Ya’alon replaces Ehud Barak.

Ya’alon was Chief of Staff of the IDF in July 2002 when Palestinian activist Salah Shehade was murdered in the Gaza Strip by a one tonne bomb dropped by an Israeli Air Force F-15 jet. Fourteen Palestinian civilians were also killed in the attack.

In 2005 a group of relatives of victims of the 1996 Israeli shelling of the Lebanese town of Qana, where some 106 civilians died, filed a suit demanding a jury trial against Ya’alon in Washington DC. Predictably, the case went no further. A year later in 2006 Ya’alon was visiting New Zealand on a fund-raising trip when an Auckland court issued a warrant for his arrest on charges relating to the Gaza Strip deaths. The warrant was over-ruled by New Zealand’s Attorney-General and Ya’alon was able to return to Israel. Then in October 2009 Ya’alon was forced to cancel a trip to the UK for fear of being arrested on war crime charges, again relating to the 2002 killings in the Gaza.

This man, who is pro-settlement, stridently anti-Iran, and fervently against the existence of any kind of Palestinian state, will be Israel’s next Defence Minister. This war criminal will probably be shaking President Obama’s hand when the President visits Israel next week.

No doubt more crimes will be planned when they meet.

March 15, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US drones violate Pakistan sovereignty: UN

Press TV | March 15, 2013

A UN team investigating civilian casualties from US assassination drone attacks in Pakistan has stated that the terror airstrikes violate sovereignty of Pakistan.

Ben Emmerson, head of the UN team, said in a statement on Friday that Pakistani government told him at least 400 civilians have been killed in US drone strikes.

The team paid a three-day research trip to Pakistan that ended on Wednesday. The trip was kept secret until the team left the country.

“The position of the government of Pakistan is quite clear. It does not consent to the use of drones by the United States on its territory and it considers this to be a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Emmerson said.

The attacks “involve the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” he added.

The UN launched an investigation into civilian casualties from drone attacks and other targeted killings in Pakistan in January 2013 and will publish the final report in October.

Pakistani officials have condemned the attacks as violation of the country’s sovereignty.

The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism said in a report in February that the United States has carried out more than 360 drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004, killing nearly 3,500 people.

Over the past few months, demonstrations have been held across Pakistan to condemn the United States for violating Pakistan’s sovereignty.

On February 13, hundreds of Pakistani tribesmen held an anti-US demonstration in Islamabad to protest against the killing of innocent civilians by the US drones.

March 15, 2013 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment