Archive for June, 2004

Latin America Is Growing Impatient With Democracy

Thursday, June 24th, 2004

Unreal. The United States military coup in Haiti is labelled a ‘popular uprising.’ And Latin Americans, fools that they are, are apparently not capable of democracy. First, the mistake is made of equating voting with democracy. A popular mistake of course: see they vote! That means they are free. Latin Americans I am sure are not ‘impatient’ with democracy. Perhaps they are impatient to see some, especially since their new leaders and the US are trumpeting about it all the time. I am sure they are impatient for economic and racial justice, having been despoiled and despotically ruled for so many centuries now. This article assumes a tone of somehow blaming the people of Central and South American for their damned impatience, especially since now things are so wonderfully better. Ridiculous.

By JUAN FORERO new york times article
Published: June 24, 2004

LAVE, Peru — On a morning in April, people in this normally placid spot in Peru’s southeastern highlands burst into a town council meeting, grabbed their mayor, dragged him through the streets and lynched him. The killers, convinced the mayor was on the take and angry that he had neglected promises to pave a highway and build a market for vendors, also badly beat four councilmen.

The beating death of the mayor may seem like an isolated incident in an isolated Peruvian town but it is in fact a specter haunting elected officials across Latin America. A kind of toxic impatience with the democratic process has seeped into the region’s political discourse, even a thirst for mob rule that has put leaders on notice.

In the last few years, six elected heads of state have been ousted in the face of violent unrest, something nearly unheard of in the previous decade. A widely noted United Nations survey of 19,000 Latin Americans in 18 countries in April produced a startling result: a majority would choose a dictator over an elected leader if that provided economic benefits.

Analysts say that the main source of the discontent is corruption and the widespread feeling that elected governments have done little or nothing to help the 220 million people in the region who still live in poverty, about 43 percent of the population.

“Latin America is paying the price for centuries of inequality and injustice, and the United States really doesn’t have a clue about what is happening in the region,” said Riordan Roett, director of Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University.

“These are very, very fragile regimes,” he added. “Increasingly, there’s frustration and resentment. The rate of voting is going down. Blank ballots are increasing. The average Latin American would prefer a very strong government that produces a physical security and economic security, and no government has been able to do that.”

These at-risk governments stretch thousands of miles from the Caribbean and Central America through the spine of the Andes to the continent’s southern cone, and increasingly the problems associated with weak governments are spilling beyond Latin America and affecting United States interests in the region.

“We’re confronted with large increase in illegal migration,” Mr. Roett said, “more drugs pouring into the American market to meet an insatiable demand, and the potential for regime failure that could spread in the region and bring serious threats to our security position in the hemisphere.”

Among the weakest states is Guatemala, which struggles with paramilitary groups, youth gangs and judicial impunity and has become a crossroads for the smuggling of people and drugs to the United States.

Several other governments are fragile at best and susceptible to popular unrest that could further weaken and topple them. These include the interim administration of Prime Minister Gérard Latortue in Haiti, which took power after a popular revolt this year, and President Carlos Mesa in Bolivia, who took power after such a revolt last year.
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ICC to Probe Congo Crimes in First Investigation

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2004

Wed Jun 23, 2004 02:28 PM ET
By Emma Thomasson Reuters article

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The International Criminal Court has opened its first investigation, into crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo including rape, torture and the use of child soldiers, it said Wednesday.

“The opening of the first investigation of the ICC is a major step forward for international justice,” Luis Moreno-Ocampo, ICC chief prosecutor, said in a statement.

Prosecutors will investigate crimes committed in Congo since July 2002 when the court’s statutes came into force, noting that thousands of deaths by mass murder and summary execution had been reported in the country since that date

Well it is either curious or completely appropriate that a situation that inaction by the UN (Rwanda) is what set recent mess in Congo in motion, and that THIS is waht the ICC chooses to go for first. Does Kofi Annan’s inaction on Rwanda before he was Sec. General constitute a war crime?

Another Fascinating Beheading

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2004

So check it out.
At 6amET Reuters says the kidnappers extended the deadline.
At 11:54amET (Reuters) the chief negotiator says the talks are going well and the kidnappers have dropped the demand for S.Korea to promise to withdraw troops.
At 1:20pmET Reuters reports the guy beheaded and American troops have found the body.
WHATever.

africaspeaks weblog

The Final Answer Will Be Given by the Tanks

Monday, June 21st, 2004

Colombia’s new border brigade and the Venezuelan referendum
by Justin Podur; June 19, 2004 znet article
A few months ago, the commander of the Venezuelan Army, Raul Baduel, described something that worried him (1).  Colombia had just purchased 46 AMX-30 battle tanks from Spain.  The media claimed the tanks were to fight drug trafficking, but that hardly seemed plausible.  Baduel suspected that the tanks were going to end up on the Venezuelan border.  

This deployment was blandly reported in El Tiempo, Colombia’s national newspaper, yesterday (2).  The 46 tanks will be part of a new Brigade, especially created, to ‘patrol the border’.  Four battalions and a Special Forces group form this new Brigade.  The tanks are supposed to arrive in (and watch the timing carefully, for we will revisit it) August. 

The El Tiempo article refers to the need for the tanks in order to “defend Colombia” from an “eventual incursion from Venezuela”.  The Brigade is also charged with the defense of the Wayuu indigenous people, who have been victims of massacres by “illegal armed groups”.  Thus, the indigenous can rest secure under the protection of the very army that is killing them directly or working with the paramilitaries (“illegal armed groups” who happen to work with the army) who are killing them.

As for the tanks themselves, their location is unknown.  The deal was signed between the current Colombian government and the Spanish government of Jose Maria Aznar, who made sure he sold the tanks before he lost the elections in March.  But, an El Tiempo editorial in the same issue speculates, the Venezuelan government is pressuring Zapatero’s new Spanish government to call off the deal.  “The final answer will be given by the tanks,” writes the Madrid correspondent for El Tiempo, Victor Manuel Vargas.  “That is, if they are delivered or not.”

That is a very good description of US foreign policy, in fact, in the region and elsewhere: The final answer will be given by the tanks.

It is not coincidental that the tanks for the Venezuelan border are arriving in August.  The Venezuelan recall referendum, when Venezuelans will vote on whether or not to recall President Hugo Chavez, will take place on August 15.  It will take place, that is, if the Venezuelan opposition thinks they can win.  Since the Venezuelan opposition could not likely win a fair vote, it is more likely that the whole referendum exercise, like the coup attempt in April 2002 and the ‘National Strike’ (3) later that year and into 2003, is just another part of the destabilization campaign against the Chavez government.  In March 2003, just after the ‘National Strike’ collapsed, Colombia’s army raided across the Venezuelan border (4).  Just in May of 2004, another plot involving Colombian paramilitaries was foiled by Venezuela, though the details have not fully emerged.   According to an AFP report Venezuelan police are still finding caches of weapons and individuals linked to the plot. (5) 
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Israel’s Intelligence Scandal

Monday, June 21st, 2004

Irreversible Mental Damage
By URI AVNERY counterpunch.org article

Two weeks ago, the international community made a shocking declaration.

Giving in to a demand by George Bush, the “Quartet” accepted the “Revised Disengagement Plan” of Ariel Sharon. This means that the United Nations, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States confirmed this document. I wonder if any one of the honorable diplomats has read the document with their own eyes.

In the first paragraph of the “plan”, the following words appear: “Israel has come to the conclusion that at present, there is no Palestinian partner with whom it is possible to make progress on a bilateral peace process.”

That is to say, the international community has confirmed that the Palestinian people has no right to take part in the determination of its own fate. Everything will be decided by the Government of Israel alone, with the backing of the United States, whose position will be automatically accepted by the other partners of the “Quartet”.

The European Union with its 25 member-states, the government of the Russian Federation and the organization that represents the entire world have humbly accepted the edict of Bush, the dictator of the world, who is himself a captive of Sharon. Sharon decided long ago that the elected president of the Palestinian people is “irrelevant”, together with the whole Palestinian leadership.

The Palestinian people have been eliminated from the list of decision-makers, thereby also abolishing in practice all the agreements signed with them, from Oslo to the Road Map.

This is a scandalous step, unprecedented in its dimensions, and it passed without comment. Apart from Sharon and his minions, nobody noticed the implications. The big boot of the international community trod on the Palestinian people without even noticing it, as if on an ant.

WHAT??

Monday, June 21st, 2004

Israelis ‘using Kurds to build power base’
Gary Younge guardian article
Israeli military and intelligence operatives are active in Kurdish areas of Iran, Syria and Iraq, providing training for commando units and running covert operations that could further destabilise the entire region, according to a report in the New Yorker magazine.

The article was written by Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who exposed the abuse scandal in Abu Ghraib. It is sourced primarily to unnamed former and current intelligence officials in Israel, the United States and Turkey.

Israel’s aims, according to Hersh, are to build up the Kurdish military strength in order to offset the strength of the Shia militias and to create a base in Iran from which they can spy on Iran’s suspected nuclear-making facilities.

“Israel has always supported the Kurds in a Machiavellian way – a balance against Saddam,” one former Israeli intelligence officer told the New Yorker. “It’s Realpolitik. By aligning with the Kurds Israel gains eyes and ears in Iran, Iraq and Syria. The critical question is ‘What will the behaviour of Iran be if there is an independent Kurdistan with close ties to Israel? Iran does not want an Israeli land-based aircraft carrier on its border.”

This article is written as if the U.S. and Israel do not share common interests all down the line. Historically, the U.S. has used Israel to do things they don’t want to get caught doing, such as selling weapons to S. Africa in the Aparttheid days. I said from the first that the United States has no interest in a stable democratic Iraq. To promote the ‘destabilization of the region’ in order to justify ‘drastic measures’ to gain control of the entire region has been the policy for a long time now. Read Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations 1993.

New Information Shows Bush Indecisive, Paranoid, Delusional

Monday, June 21st, 2004

capitol hill blue article

The carefully-crafted image of George W. Bush as a bold, decisive leader is cracking under the weight of new revelations that the erratic President is indecisive, moody, paranoid and delusional.
“More and more this brings back memories of the Nixon White House,” says retired political science professor George Harleigh, who worked for President Nixon during the second presidential term that ended in resignation under fire. “I haven’t heard any reports of President Bush wondering the halls talking to portraits of dead Presidents but what I have been told is disturbing.”

“George W. Bush is a case study in contradiction,” Dr. Frank writes in Bush On The Couch: Inside the Mind of the President. “Bush is an untreated ex-alcoholic with paranoid and megalomaniac tendencies.”

White House Lawyer Questioned in CIA Leak Case

Monday, June 21st, 2004

capitol hill blue article

The White House’s top lawyer was questioned by a federal grand jury Friday in the criminal investigation of who in the Bush administration leaked the name of a covert CIA operative last year.
White House counsel Alberto Gonzales underwent questioning at the federal courthouse. He was the latest in a string of administration officials to be asked about the unauthorized disclosure of the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame, wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to the news media.

“The president directed the White House to cooperate fully, and Judge Gonzales was just doing his part to cooperate,” said White House press secretary Scott McClellan, who also has gone before the grand jury.

Vice President Dick Cheney was recently questioned…

Here We Are on the Glorious Road to Democracy in Iraq-Democracy or else dammit!

Monday, June 21st, 2004

Iraq Government Considers Using Emergency Rule
By DEXTER FILKINS and SOMINI SENGUPTA new york times article

BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 20 — Faced with violent resistance even before it has assumed power, Iraq’s newly appointed government is considering imposing a state of emergency that could involve curfews and a ban on public demonstrations, Iraqi officials said Sunday.

In his first news briefing here, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi offered no details of what emergency rule might include, only that a committee of cabinet members had been appointed to consider the issue.

Dr. Allawi, who worked closely with the Central Intelligence Agency in opposing Saddam Hussein’s government in the 1990’s, said he would consider “human rights principles and international law,” but made clear that he intended to act quickly and forcefully against the insurgency, using extraordinary methods if necessary.

“We will do all we can to strike against enemy forces aiming at harming our country, and we will not stand by with our hands tied,” Dr. Allawi said. “The Iraqi people are determined to establish a democratic government that provides freedom and equal rights for all its citizens. We are prepared to fight and, if necessary, die for the cause.”

Gotta Love This

Monday, June 21st, 2004

S.Korea Party Asks U.S. to Avoid Intelligence Errors
By REUTERS Reuters article

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s ruling party urged President Bush’s administration on Monday to share more intelligence on North Korea to ensure there is no repeat of what it said was the flawed information that led to war in Iraq.

The bipartisan commission investigating the September 11 attacks in the United States reported last week there had been contact between Iraqis and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden but there was no evidence of a collaborative relationship.

“It was wrongful of the Bush Administration to bring on the war against Iraq,” the Uri Party said in an English-language statement. “Even worse, the administration is losing the justification of occupation policy in Iraq.”

“We urge that the Bush Administration guarantee that such kind of decision making based on false and distorted information as in the case of Iraq will not occur on the Korean peninsula, by sharing nuclear and military information on North Korea with Seoul,” the party said.