Friday, January 27, 2006

AFTER DOWNING STREET. ORG

Over 2,100 brave Americans and tens of thousands
of Iraqis have DIED because

Bush
LIED

The Downing Street Minutes are the official minutes of a secret July 2002 meeting with British Prime Minister
Tony Blair and his top national security officials. This document contains new and compelling evidence that the
President of the United States actively engaged in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and
the American people about the basis for going to war against Iraq. Such conduct constitutes a High Crime under
Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution. Congressman John Conyers has introduced a bill (H Res
635) to create a select committee to make recommendations on impeachment. He has also introduced bills (H
Res 636 and 637) to censure Bush and Cheney. Help promote these efforts.

AfterDowningStreet.org


Over 2,100 brave Americans and tens of thousands
of Iraqis have DIED because

Bush
LIED

The Downing Street Minutes are the official minutes of a secret July 2002 meeting with British Prime Minister
Tony Blair and his top national security officials. This document contains new and compelling evidence that the
President of the United States actively engaged in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and
the American people about the basis for going to war against Iraq. Such conduct constitutes a High Crime under
Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution. Congressman John Conyers has introduced a bill (H Res
635) to create a select committee to make recommendations on impeachment. He has also introduced bills (H
Res 636 and 637) to censure Bush and Cheney. Help promote these efforts.
AfterDowningStreet.org

Thursday, January 26, 2006

CRIME OF COMPASSION BY GUEST COMMENTATOR KATHERINE HUGHES

Crime of Compassion:
Filed under: Katherine's Writing, Civil Liberties — k @ 9:30 pm
Muslims like Dr. Rafil Dhafir should be celebrated as the outstanding humanitarians they are, not turned into convenient props in the War on Terror.

On October 27, 2005, after being detained 31 months and being denied access
to his own records, Dr. Rafil Dhafir, an oncologist from Upstate New York,
was sentenced to 22 years in Federal prison.[1] A man of Iraqi descent and
Muslim faith, he lived in the U.S. since 1974 and has been an American
citizen for almost 30 years. As a direct response to the humanitarian
catastrophe created by the Gulf War and U.S. sanctions Dhafir founded the
charity Help the Needy (HTN). Despite many difficulties, including the U.S.
embargo and a brutal dictatorship in Iraq, HTN got food and medicines to
millions of starving Iraqis for 13 years.[2] Without HTN aid the UN
statistic of 5,200 preventable deaths per month of children under the age of
five would undoubtedly have been much higher.

On February 26, 2003, the day that Dhafir was arrested, Attorney General
John Ashcroft announced that “supporters of terrorism had been apprehended.”
Since that day senior government officials have continued to paint Dhafir as
a terrorist, and Judge Norman Mordue denied Dhafir bail on four occasions.
Yet local prosecutors successfully lobbied Mordue to prevent the charge of
terrorism from being part of the trial. This ruling turned into a brick
wall that the defense kept hitting during the proceedings: prosecutors could
hint at more serious charges, but the defense was never allowed to follow
this line of questioning. Despite denying Dhafir the right to address the
charge in court, Mordue allowed prosecutors to bring the charge to his
sentencing.

Although the government continues to characterize Dhafir as a criminal
supporting terrorism, the only context in which this case makes any sense is
the overwhelming humanitarian crisis created by the brutal U.S. sanctions on
the country of Iraq.[3]

Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness (VITW), speaking about mainstream
U.S media coverage before the Iraq War had begun, said, “I try to point out
to the mainstream journalists that they have succeeded enormously in
informing the U.S. public about the horrors committed by the current regime
in Iraq while for the most part neglecting the horrors the United States has
committed. That the regime here has used chemical weapons, engaged in
torture, and violated the political and civil rights of Iraqi civilians is
repugnant to all who cherish human rights. And yet, what the U.S. public
doesn’t understand and will possibly never comprehend is that the greatest
violations of human rights in Iraq since the Gulf War have happened as a
result of U.S.-led UN economic sanctions against Iraq.”[4] Indeed, three
senior UN officials living and working in Iraq resigned because they
considered the sanctions to be a “genocidal” policy.[5]

Talking about her return to the U.S. after a 1998 visit to Iraq, Kelly said,
“Upon our return to the U.S., customs agents turned my passport over to the
State Department, perhaps as evidence that, according to U.S. law, I’ve
committed a criminal act by traveling to Iraq. I know that our efforts to be
voices in the wilderness aren’t criminal. We’re governed by compassion, not
by the laws that pitilessly murder innocent children. What’s more, Iraqi
children might benefit if we could bring their story into a courtroom,
before a jury of our peers.”[6]

IRAQ UNDER SANCTIONS

During the course of the proceedings the government did its utmost to
prevent any discussion of the state of Iraq under the sanctions from being
part of the trial. Government employees, including Susan Hutner, of the
Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), testified to having no knowledge of
the effects of the sanctions. As the government attorney addressing the
situation in Iraq, she helped draft the initial legal documentation to
implement the sanctions and then worked on the sanctions for 12 years. When
the defense attempted to question Hutner about the Oil for Food program, the
court ruled the line of questioning irrelevant.[7]

Several government witnesses of Iraqi descent broke down on the stand when
they began to talk of the effects of the sanctions on their families.[8]
Each time this happened the prosecution immediately interrupted the
testimony.[9] The only newspaper reporting on the proceedings, the local
Syracuse Post-Standard, failed to address the sanctions as they pertained to
the case.

Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 1, 1990, and on August 2, U.S.
sanctions against Iraq were put in place. On January 17, 1991, the first
bombs of the Gulf War were dropped on Baghdad. Before this war the people of
Iraq had a standard of living comparable to many Western countries. Although
a brutal dictatorship, the government provided universal healthcare and
education including college for all its citizens. There was virtually no
illiteracy and the education system and health system were the best in the
region.

The result of the war was total devastation: more bombs were dropped on Iraq
in a six-week period than were dropped by all parties together in the whole
of World War II. Taken together, these bombs are at least six times more
powerful than two atomic bombs. Many types of bombs were used including ones
containing depleted uranium (DU), the waste matter from nuclear plants;
hundreds of tons of DU ammunition now lie scattered throughout Iraq. The DU
dust has entered the food chain through the soil and the water, and as a
result many formerly unknown diseases have become prevalent in Iraq. Many
pregnant women are delivering their babies as early as six months, and many
babies are born with terrible deformities. Cancer rates have skyrocketed,
and if current trends continue 44% of the population could develop cancer
within the next ten years. [10]

All major bridges and communication systems were bombed, making any
communications both inside and outside the country extremely difficult. The
water purification system was bombed and the UN has never allowed it to be
repaired; as a result 15 years of raw sewage has piled up in the streets.
This has been the cause of much disease and death, particularly among the
young and very old. Hospitals and schools were not spared and, as a result
of the bombing and the sanctions, the health and education systems in Iraq
went from being the best in the region to being the worst. [11]

Robert Fisk in his new book about the Middle East says, “There was one final
scourge to be visited upon the Iraqi people, a foul cocktail in which both
our gunfire and our sanctions played an intimate, horrific role, one that
would contaminate Iraqis for years to come, perhaps for generations. In
historical terms, it may be identified as our most callous crime against the
Middle East, against Arabs, against children. It manifested itself in
abscesses, in massive tumours, in gangrene, internal bleeding and child
mastectomies and shrunken heads and deformities and thousands of tiny
graves.”[12]

In 1998 Denis Halliday, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations
resigned from the UN after thirty-four years of distinguished service. At
the time he was serving as the humanitarian coordinator in Baghdad, and his
resignation was a direct result of the conditions he witnessed. He said, “I
had been instructed to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of
genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a
million individuals, children and adults. We all know that the regime,
Saddam Hussein, is not paying the price of economic sanctions; on the
contrary, he has been strengthened by them. It is the little people who are
losing their children or their parents for lack of treated water. What is
clear is that the Security Council is now out of control, for its actions
here undermine its own Charter, and the Declaration of Human Rights and the
Geneva Convention. History will slaughter those responsible.”[13]

Hans Von Sponeck succeeded Denis Halliday as humanitarian coordinator in
Baghdad and, and in early 2000 he too resigned from that position. Von
Sponeck, talking about the Oil for Food program, said that it was impossible
for each person to live on the $100 per year that was being allocated,
especially because of the conditions prevalent in Iraq at the time. He
said, “Set that pittance against the lack of clean water, the fact that
electricity fails for up to 22 hours a day, and the majority of sick people
cannot afford treatment, the sheer trauma of trying to get from day to day,
and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is
deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now
it is unavoidable.”[14]

And in a report to the UN Secretary General, Professor Marc Bossuyt, an
authority on international law, stated that the “…sanctions regime against
Iraq is unequivocally illegal under existing human right law and could raise
questions under the Genocide Convention.”[15]

WHAT HELP THE NEEDY DID

Over the course of 13 years, from 1990 until 2003, HTN sent food and
medicines that reached millions of starving Iraqi civilians. The aid was
first sent to Maher Zagha in Jordan. Zagha is a former Onondaga Community
College and Utica College student who lived in the Upstate New York area for
several years before returning to Jordan.[16] He is listed as a
co-conspirator with Dhafir on the indictment.

On the day of Dhafir’s arrest, Zagha was arrested in Jordan and then held in
solitary for 21 days. The Jordanians interrogated him and released him and
since then he has gone about his normal life, including traveling
internationally. After Dhafir’s conviction in February 2005 the remaining
HTN money in Jordan, $138,564.53 was confiscated along with $25,000 of
Dhafir’s personal money.

Throughout the period of the sanctions container loads of good were shipped
by HTN from Jordan to Iraq. Receipts from the purchase of food were shown
in court. For example, an invoice from January 29th, 1997, showed the
purchase of 25 tons of Thailand rice, 35 tons of flour and 2000 cans of
cooking oil. Invoices from other days and years list tons of; American
rice, Turkish sugar, Iranian flour, chickpeas and Iraqi lentils. Tea and
tomato paste was also shipped. Zagha sent the aid into Iraq using the
correct official channels required by the Jordanian authorities. When he
was unable to comply, he gave the aid over to the authorities. In 1990
when Dhafir sent 900 kilograms of medicine to Zagha without the correct
paper work, Zagha had to give the medicine to the Iraqi embassy in Jordan.
It was the only way to get the medicine into Iraq and he could only hope
that it would reach the people for whom it was intended.[17]

>From 1996 through 2003 Zagha sent money to Iraq and local exchangers were
used because there were no banks operating at that time. The money was sent
to Dhafir’s brother Najim in Baghdad (also a physician) and two other men,
Mustapha and Ammar. By getting money into Iraq from Jordan HTN was able to
provide starving civilians with meat protein. The three men in Baghdad
bought animals at the open markets surrounding the city, and
these purchases usually coincided with the major holidays of the Muslim
faith. For example, in January 2003, for one of the most holy of Muslim
holidays, Eid, Zagha sent four lots of money totaling $285,000. This money
bought about 4,000 lambs and cows which were sacrificed, and the food was
distributed to the needy.[18] Looking at the quantities of aid provided to
Iraqi civilians by HTN, it is easy to believe that they were indeed feeding
more people in Iraq than all the other aid agencies put together.[19]

An email read in court showed that Dhafir believed that the U.S. government
was not opposed to Iraqi civilians receiving humanitarian aid of the form
that HTN was supplying. HTN and other groups, like VITW, openly advertised
that they were sending aid to civilians. They did this through leaflets,
websites and fundraising events. For 13 years the government took little
action against people who sent aid to Iraqi civilians, and this tacit
approval must have helped confirm Dhafir’s belief.[20]

Since the day of his arrest, using unfair tactics and innuendo, the
government has managed to transform Dhafir from a compassionate humanitarian
into a crook and supporter of terrorists. They have done this with the aid
of a complicit press and a willfully ignorant public.

THE GOVERNMENT APPROACH

>From the outset in this case the approach of the government has been one of
circumambulation. Michael Powell of the Washington Post said, “There is a
shadow-boxing quality to the terror allegations lodged against Dhafir. In
August [2004], Gov. George E. Pataki (R) described Dhafir’s as a ‘money
laundering case to help terrorist organizations . . . conduct horrible
acts.’ Prosecutors hinted at national security reasons for holding Dhafir
without bail. But no evidence was offered to support the allegations.”[21]

In April 2004 the U.S. government brought new charges against Zagha to
Interpol, and Zagha had to give up his passport. It was returned so that he
could make a business trip to Syria, but on December 20, 2005, the
authorities again took his passport.

To this day no evidence has been offered to link Dhafir to terrorists. And
yet, on November 15, 2005, the government presented a lecture at Syracuse
University’s law school entitled, “A Law Enforcement Approach to Terrorist
Financing,” in which Dhafir’s case was highlighted. [22] The three
prosecutors from the case, Michael Olmstead, Greg West and Steve Green were
present along with Jeff Breinholt, Deputy Chief, Counterterrorism Section
United States Department of Justice who was the main speaker.

Breinholt asserted that the Dhafir case had been “under prosecuted,” this
despite the fact that the government brought 60 counts against Dhafir and
gained conviction on 59. He cited HTN’s use of tax exemption numbers other
than its own as an example of how charities functioned in their criminal
activity. Many of Dhafir’s convictions on tax evasion and fraud charges are
based on the assumption that people who gave money to HTN used the tax
exemption number of another charity and therefore did not pay tax. The
government is holding Dhafir responsible for this lost tax revenue.

One of the two numbers Dhafir used was from a charity that is the Saudi
Arabian equivalent of the American charity United Way.[23] The use of
another charity’s number is not an uncommon practice. What is uncommon is
the fact that it resulted in a criminal prosecution. Barrie Gewanter,
Director of the Central New York ACLU, has explained the normal procedure
for this type of situation in numerous interviews about the HTN case.
Ordinarily the state government intervenes and shuts the charity down until
the situation is sorted out to their satisfaction. When and if this is
achieved, the charity continues its work.[24]

The government’s philosophy in prosecuting this case was made clear in the
course of the lecture. Olmstead, the head prosecutor of the Dhafir case,
cited the philosopher Emmanuel Kant’s imperative, “To obey the law because
it is the law.” He added that “if you break the law, you must pay the
price,” apparently regardless of the unfairness of the law and the
humanitarian nature of the act. Compassion comes with a very high price.

Dhafir is undoubtedly paying the price of breaking the genocidal policy of
U.S. sanctions against Iraq. However, the government was unwilling to
prosecute him for this without the attendant obfuscation and cover provided
by the laundry list of charges that he faced. A clear message is being sent
that humanitarian acts like this will not be tolerated and will be punished
accordingly.

By hosting this lecture on terrorist financing, Syracuse University Law
School provided the government with a platform that gives credence to an
accusation that is wholly lacking in evidence. They have become the most
recent government accomplice. The “shadow boxing” continues with the media,
public and the local law school as willing participants in the charade.

The journalist John Pilger writes, “It is not enough for journalists to see
themselves as mere messengers without understanding the hidden agendas of
the message and the myths that surround it”[25] It is also not enough for
citizens in a democracy to see themselves as mere receptors of information.
As citizens in a democracy we have an obligation to seek justice for each
other. In this case it means actively going beyond the government’s
obfuscation and seeking hard facts and other sources of information. If
this can be achieved, Dhafir and the other HTN defendants will be
vindicated; but it is no easy task.

ACHIEVING JUSTICE

Many people are reassured by the fact that Dhafir can appeal against his
conviction and sentencing. But most have no idea what this means in terms
of practicalities. Under the best possible circumstances the chances of a
successful appeal are slim.

Seven government agencies investigated this case for five years. The
prosecutors presented the case in minutia over the course of the seventeen
weeks of proceedings. What was expected to be a 6-week trial turned into a
17-week trial and the three defense lawyers have received a fraction of
their fee. Due to this lack of finances a request for transcripts was made
at the beginning of the trial.[26] Judge Mordue denied this request and so
one of the three defense lawyers typed the proceedings on his laptop.

But official transcripts are essential to an appeal and even if ordered
today, it would take two years to get the transcript in full. The cost
would be around $60,000. before any lawyer fees or other costs are taken
into account.

Dhafir has been bankrupted by this course of justice and has no money for an
appeals lawyer. His only hope is that people who care about compassion and
justice will be able to raise enough money for him to have a viable chance
of a successful appeal.

——————-
Katherine Hughes is a potter and a voracious reader of history and current
events. She responded to a request from the ACLU for court watchers and
attended virtually all of the Dhafir trial. To find out more about this
case, please visit her website: www.dhafirtrial.net
.

—————————-
[1] Write to Dr. Dhafir: Rafil Dhafir, 11921-052, FCI-Fairton, PO Box 420,
Fairton, NJ 08320.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

BUSH WORLD - TOO MANY STATES - -

BUSH WORLD - TOO MANY STATES - by Stephen Lendman

Choose from the following:

a. U.S. - imperial state
b. U.S. - terror state
c. U.S. - criminal state
d. U.S. - rogue state
e. U.S. - corporate state
f. U.S. - military state
g. U.S. - aggressor state
h. U.S. - torture state
i. U.S. - all of the above

Answer[s] found below. One other choice can be added - a state of disgrace. One choice not included - a model democratic state. One choice not needed is a state of confusion. The evidence is clear, overwhelming and conclusive. Explanation below with some brief background.

The history of U.S. governance has never been an exemplary standard to emulate. Although our leaders always claim it is, and all of us were taught it in school, this nation has never been a model democracy or champion of the rights of all people everywhere. Even our venerated Founding Fathers, elevated to near-sainthood by succeeding generations, were flawed mortals. A few hundred years of slavery and the near extermination of our native people ["merciless Indian savages" they were called in our Declaration of Independence] are just two stark examples that come to mind. And incredible as it seems, this nation since its birth has been at war with one or more adversaries every year without exception up to the present day. That's in addition to all our other attempts to destabilize or overthrow governments of other nations for the "audacity" of their wanting to decide how to govern in their own national interest rather than do it in service to ours.

With so many instances of U.S. meddling and unwarranted intrusion to choose from, it's hard to cite a single example. But a little known and now forgotten event is especially important. As early as 1917, the U.S. and U.K. [then the powerful British empire] were on record as wanting to destroy the newly emerged Soviet state. In 1918 [3 months before the end of WWI] the U.K., commanding a multi-nation force including thousands of U.S. marines, invaded Russia intervening in their civil war to fight against the Bolsheviks, who, of course, won. The importance of this act of aggression [unimagined at the time] and the seminal effect it had on events that followed changed history. We stayed embroiled until 1920, caused great upheaval and added human suffering, contributed to the rise of Stalin and Hitler, probably helped cause WW11 and all the fallout thereafter, and [aside from the Philippines] was the first international intervention that would eventually transform the U.S. from a regional to a world imperial power displacing the British. Those "great democrats," Lloyd George of Britain and Woodrow Wilson, began it along with France, Canada, Japan and over a dozen other nations. The even "greater" most Machiavellian of modern statesmen, Winston Churchill [the Minister of War and Air in the Lloyd George government and 22 years before he became the British Prime Minister] fully supported it. Both nations feared the creation of a serious rival economic model that might spread like a virus to other nations and undertook a policy of "preventive war" to annihilate it at its birth. They also later allied themselves shamelessly with Mussolini, Hitler, Franco [during the 1930s before WW11] and all other fascist and tinhorn tyrants after the war as long as they embraced the capitalist economic model and dutifully genuflected to U.S. authority.

An important footnote to the campaign against the new communist/socialist state was the "great red scare" and Palmer raids from 1918 - 1921. Initiated by A. Mitchell Palmer, Woodrow Wilson's Attorney General [the John Ashcroft of his day] and his aide, J. Edgar Hoover, the raids capitalized on a post-Soviet revolution state-induced climate of fear and repression against communists, socialists, anarchists, radical unionists and even 5 time socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs who served time in prison for opposing and speaking out against the U.S. entry into WW1. Debs, in fact, ran his 1920 and last presidential campaign while in prison and received 1 million votes losing to that "great American president" Warren G. Harding. Harding wasn't all bad - he released Debs on Christmas day, 1921, a sort of backhanded Christmas present to a great man.

Through the years as the nation grew and matured, things got worse. In wealth, influence and dominance we peaked post-WW 11. With most of Europe and much of Asia devastated by war, only the U.S., unscathed, stood preeminent as the world's only superpower, militarily, politically and economically. Even though the Soviets, once they acquired nuclear weapons, were anointed as "the other superpower" and a dire threat to the "free world" by our political establishment, that country was in such ruin it didn't begin to return even to modest normality until about 1960. And the truth was, especially post WW11, the Russians were never coming and the "cold war" scare was that era's "war on terror." It was used as a convenient ruse to scare the public to support the building of the military-industrial complex Dwight Eisenhower warned against - while he himself went along with it. The U.S., in fact, had no threatening enemy [but the Soviet Union did, and we were it], and was mostly free to decide how the post-war world would be run with it in charge and using the political and financial institutions it helped create to carry out its bidding. It built and maintained enough military power to enforce its will against any potential challenger including those nations' leaders not beholden to U. S. authority. The Soviet Union could never match us, except for their nuclear weapons and effective delivery systems that could be used against us in retaliation had we launched a nuclear strike against them first.

As disgraceful as our past record was, Bush-Cheney took it to a new level of shame and outrage with the onset of their extreme reactionary, statist and sociopathic administration. Let's be clear, the current Bush-Cheney leadership in essence is a continuation of and natural extension of all that preceded it. It's pursued much the same policies seeking the same ends as its predecessors. What sets this regime apart from all those it followed is its brazen uncompromising methods, fanatical extremism, bold rhetoric and almost pathological insistence on secrecy. All other U.S. administrations at least paid lip service [and most often adhered] to the Constitution, the rule of law, international law, the sacred Geneva Conventions we're a signatory to, multilateralism, international treaties and more. Not the Bush administration. From its inception in January, 2001, and especially after 9/11/01, the mask came off and the true face of its intent and methods were revealed - make or break the rules as it choses, ignore long-standing international norms, pursue its policies unilaterally and unchecked, let no other nation interfere or stand in its way and back it all up with a strong military ready and willing to act against any outlier. Nobel laureate Harold Pinter expressed it well several years ago when he said "U.S. foreign policy can be defined as follows: kiss my arse or I'll kick your head in." And he said that during the Clinton years.

The record of Bush-Cheney policies is unambiguous - a permanent state of war against a so-called and ill-defined "terrorism" threat [Dick Cheney's "global war on terrorism" for decades to come]; an unstated class war at home against the poor and most disadvantaged and a partly hidden one against most middle income working people and families; the most massive transfer of wealth in our history from lower and middle income workers and families to the wealthy; an undisguised extreme alliance between the federal government and corporate America [the most extreme hard-wiring of government to business interests in U.S. history, especially in the energy and defense sectors] - a literal takeover or buyout of government by giant corporations for their own benefit; a systematic assault against all social services including an attempt to end those held most dear - Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; a continued campaign to weaken the role and destroy the power of organized labor; the remaking of the U.S. into a garrison state; an attempt to go further and move the nation closer to a full-blown police state - through legislation like the U.S.A. Patriot Act and its newer proposed version that would make it even more extreme if enacted, stacking the federal judiciary including the Supreme Court with the most extreme far right ideologues, attempting to subvert the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act that prohibits use of the U.S. military for domestic law enforcement, and most insidiously the use of Executive Orders under the radar to give the Chief Executive near dictatorial power and a policy of extreme secrecy along with it to keep the public unaware of what's happening. All that and a weak-kneed opposition willing to support nearly all Bush policies with only a hint of some opposition recently.

Further, add to the above Bush-Cheney's assault on the environment; disregard for human and civil rights; the desire to privatize everything including the most essential elements of the commons like all health care [including for seniors now on Medicare and public health services]; Social Security; education [using vouchers to destroy the public system], water, you name it if it can yield a profit - maybe even the air we breathe one day if they can meter it; the corruption of the political/electoral process to a level never before achieved - with corporate dollars more than ever before able to buy the government they choose and corporations able to control election results through easily manipulated electronic voting machines they produce, program and service [with no verifiable paper trail as a validity check]; the transformation of the U.S. into a pariah state reviled and/or feared by the great majority around the world; the creation of a modern-day Sparta writ large with unchallengable military might and openly claiming the exclusive right to use it as it chooses, including a nuclear first strike, along with a formidable national homeland security apparatus and intelligence network - all of which combined poses the most dire threat to world and national security and to democracy at home.

The Bush-Cheney administration has recklessly and wantonly pursued policies to create and secure a global U.S. empire to control and exploit with no rivals the world's resources, markets and cheap labor. It has openly made its intentions clear through its belligerence and diplomatic bullying at the U.N. and in one-on-one dealings especially with developing nations. At other times it's acted more furtively to get its way as it has and continues to do in its trade negotiations. Under the guise of so-called "free trade" the U.S. goal has been to gain every advantage for U.S. transnational corporations while giving up little in return. But beginning in Chiapas, Mexico on New Year's Day 1994 the Zapatista National Liberation Army [EZLN] staged an armed rebellion against the newly enacted NAFTA "free-trade" agreement. Then in Seattle in 1999 they encountered a level of "people resistance" at home they had never before experienced, and after a temporary pause post-9/11, that resistance continues unabated to the present.

At the November, 2005 34 nation summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, as many as 100,000 Argentines protested the Bush visit to their country in a mass expression of contempt and derision against this president and U.S. neoliberal and imperial policy while huge cowds greeted and cheered their Bolivarian populist hero and champion, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias who spoke out in support of the people and railed against the destructive policies of Bush-Cheney. At the end of the summit, the U.S. proposal for a sweeping hemispheric "free trade" zone failed after it met stiff resistance and was rejected by 5 attending nations including Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. The stage then was set for a lively WTO Doha ministerial round ahead in Hong Kong in December for which difficult pre-negotiations have already lowered final agreement expectations. After the September, 2003 failed round in Cancun, Mexico, there's no guarantee about the outcome this time but a certain guarantee of extreme U.S. pressure and intimidation to force opposing nations to succumb to our will. Those doing it guarantee great benefits for the transnational giants and the elite in their countries and more poverty and human misery for their own people. And working people here at home are also affected with the continued loss of higher paying skilled manufacturing and other jobs exported to lower wage countries.

Nothing characterizes the Bush-Cheney junta more than its policy of military aggression post 9/11. In its first 4 years it committed two acts of illegal aggression against countries posing no military threat [Afghanistan and Iraq], carried out a middle of the night coup against a third country with a democratically elected leader beloved by his people [President Jean Bertrand Aristide in Haiti], and attempted and nearly succeeded in carrying out one other coup against another democratically elected leader [President Hugo Chavez Frias in Venezuela]. They did this claiming these 4 nations posed a threat to our national security or were unstable or failed states and/or their leaders were corrupt, dictators or demagogues and that we acted to "liberate" those nations and bring "democracy" to the people in each instance. All untrue and deliberate lies. More on this below.

In 2001, his first year in office, Bush's ratings were sinking, and his inner circle was seeking a way to revive them. 9/11 solved their dilemma transforming overnight a mediocre president, put in office by 5 arrogant Supreme Court Justices who annulled the will of the people, into a larger-than-life "leader" spoken of in the same breath as Lincoln, Jefferson and FDR. The republican spin machine along with their complicit corporate media partners played no small role in this near-miraculous reshaping. All significant policies and events that followed were only possible because of the effect of that fateful day, which has now been investigated independently in great detail revealing a sinister and disturbing story far different from the official explanation and the so-called 9/11 Commission investigation and report that suppressed the truth in their shameless whitewash. Had we known early on what's now known, and had that information been revealed to the public, Bush-Cheney probably would have been impeached and removed from office. Instead, until the Iraq war began turning sour and the stated reasons for undertaking it were shown to be false, George Bush was portrayed as worthy of Mt. Rushmore status instead of ignominy or even criminal guilt.

We now know beyond any doubt, from thorough investigation and documented evidence, that the U.S. intelligence community knew as early as 1995 of terrorist plans to strike the World Trade Center by an air attack, but nothing was done to prepare for, prevent it or inform the public. In fact, from 1995 to 9/11/01 efforts to counter such a terrorist attack were deliberately curtailed and obstructed. It's also now known prior to 9/11 that hijacked civilian planes would be used to attack key U.S. buildings like the World Trade Center, Pentagon and/or others in New York and/or Washington, and it was known these attacks would occur on or around 9/11/01. Since that day, a deliberate and systematic effort has been made at the highest levels of government to suppress the evidence to allow the Bush-Cheney administration to be able to pursue its extremist policies without opposition and with strong support from a public ignorant of the truth.

To gain public support for a state of permanent war abroad and oppressive assault on civil liberties at home, Bush-Cheney used a proven effective golden rule technique. They created a climate of fear in the public mind to allow them license to do as they pleased to appear to achieve promised homeland security. [In fact, we're now far less secure because of their actions.] At key moments, they cited supposed credible [but unsubstantiated and likely fabricated] intelligence claiming an imminent potential terrorist attack. They further heightened the level of fear through clever color-coding, highlighted and repeated round-the-clock by their complicit corporate media partners, and then sought to allay it by clear and forceful action including going to war, witch-hunt mass roundups and illegal detentions with no allowed contact with families or legal counsel, and immigrants-of-color and fundamentalist Islam bashing to create an illusory bogeyman - all done, they claimed, to protect the public and national security. All deliberate calculated lies.

Reichsmarschall Herman Goering, second in command to Adolph Hitler, explained the technique well in a private interview conducted at his Nuremburg trial after WW11 [before he took his own life] by prison psychologist U.S. Army Capt. Gustave Gilbert. When asked how the Nazis ever convinced the German public to go along with all they did, Goering candidly explained that "common people don't want war." But it's easy for leaders "to drag people along whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship...........All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country." It worked well for Bush-Cheney, at least for a while.

The U.S. record of illegal aggression against weaker adversaries goes back to the beginning of the republic. However, it can be argued that it became standard practice post WW11 once the U.S. became the preeminent world power. From Korea to Vietnam to Granada to Panama to the Gulf War to Yugoslavia/Serbia/Kosovo, the U.S. in each instance committed an act of illegal aggression against other nations posing no threat whatever to this country. In each case we were lied to about the reasons for doing it, and in each case the chief executive with no congressional authority [as constitutionally required] acted on his own. In each of the foregoing instances, the president did pay lip service to and made a pretense of adhering to the law and common international norms. With the onset of the current Bush-Cheney administration everything changed post 9/11. This administration on its own, with no pretense and no regard for the law in any form or concern about world opinion, committed acts of illegal aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq that continue under an equally illegal occupation of these countries by the U.S. and forces from other countries the Bush administration has enlisted as war crime allies. The Bush-Cheney administration is guilty of the same crime as high level Nazis, including Herman Goering, were tried for and convicted of at the Nuremberg trials after WW11. But victors aren't indicted and brought to trial, only losers. That's victor's justice, which is no justice at all when the victor is the war criminal.

U.S. and especially the Bush-Cheney administration's designs on Afghanistan and Iraq go back at least to 1992 and a Pentagon document written by Paul Wolfowitz and the now-indicted Richard Cheney aide Lewis Libby. Rejected at the time as off-the-wall and over-the-top, the document was an outline of a plan for U.S. world dominance with no allowed challenge from other nations. In September 2000, the neo-conservative think tank Project for a New American Century [PNAC - established in 1997] revived the plan and put meat on its bones in a document they called - Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century. PNAC members included Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and many other high ranking current Bush-Cheney administration officials. This document was an imperial plan and for U.S. global dominance to extend well into the future and to be enforced with unchallengeable military power. The PNAC plan was a blueprint for the current "war on terror" and "preventive war" and was a 21st century update of the Truman Doctrine, conceived by State Department advisor and analyst George Kennan who was the ideological godfather of "containment" and the "cold war." Kennan's plan became the first post WW11 formulated strategy for U.S. global military, political and economic dominance.

In September, 2002 the Bush administration made its intentions even clearer in its National Security Strategy. This "imperial grand strategy" was nothing less than a declaration of "preventive war" against any nation or force this administration claimed to be a threat to our national security or an unstable or failed state [not defined] on its unsubstantiated say-so only. And it got still worse two months later when the Air Force Space Command issued their Strategic Master Plan FY 04 and Beyond which outlined their plan to "own outer space" as an exclusive franchise and weaponize it with the most advanced and destructive weapons and technology, including nuclear ones and unmanned space vehicles to surveille the entire planet.

Two other important U.S. planning documents are also key to understanding current Bush-Cheney policy and intent. One is the Department of Defense's Joint Vision 2020 issued in May 2000 that outlined a plan for "full spectrum dominance" by any means including war as a strategy for achieving total global military and political control. The other is the Nuclear Policy Review of December, 2001 that shows how we might unilaterally decide to wage future war using first strike nuclear weapons. Both of these plans and the ones discussed above clearly show the great danger we all are in should the Bush-Cheney administration continue to act as they already have in Iraq and Afghanistan without restraint and with no regard for the potentially disastrous consequences.

Containing communism during the "cold war" became today's permanent "war on terror" and current doctrine of "preventive war." Invading and controlling Afghanistan and Iraq are two key parts of it and were planned long before 9/11. They were part of an overall "grand strategy" to control and/or contain all Central Eurasia and its essential resources to include all nations east of Poland to the Pacific, including China and Russia, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. Afghanistan was key to establishing an opening to that vast area as well as being in a strategic location for pipelines to transship Caspian oil to the west. And, of course, the U.S. had long coveted direct control of Iraq's vast and largely untapped oil reserves [second in amount only to Saudi Arabia]. All this, with more to come, is a modern-day version of the 19th century "Great Game", today pitting the U.S. against Russia, China and even possibly a united block of western European and/or Asian nations. One can only tremble trying to imagine how it all will play out.

It's likely by all the current signals the U.S. is next targeting Iran, Syria and possibly Lebanon to solidify its iron grip on the Middle East, gain control of Iran's vast oil reserves and serve the interests of the Ariel Sharon government in Israel by removing a threat it sees to its security, especially from Iran. And without a doubt, the U.S. is again targeting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias and the "viral threat" of his populist Bolivarian government for elimination by any means [preferably by elections they can manipulate] including assassination. But with 2 out-of-control tigers already by the tail, it seems hard to imagine Bush-Cheney would want to risk tangling with 3 or 4 more. They already know they've created in Iraq possibly the greatest blunder and disaster in U.S. history and that the battle for control of that country can't be won. They also know as renown Middle East journalist Robert Fisk has said that "they must leave [Iraq], they will leave, and they can't leave." But in spite of this hopeless quagmire, they don't seem ready to let it or any other formidable obstacle stand in their way [or maybe they're just afflicted with tunnel vision], so it's quite possible and maybe likely they'll add new battlefronts in the new year. Should they do it, the consequences would be enormous, far-reaching, incalculable and even devastating.

In its ruthless policies at home and abroad, the Bush-Cheney junta is a rogue, criminal, terror state unlike any other that's ever preceded it - likely the most unrestrained and dangerous ever. It's overwhelming power, with weapons and technology of almost unimaginable destructive capability, and an out-of control and reckless intent to use them with impunity against any stated adversary is a classic definition of criminal terror and a rogue state. The U.S. doesn't just wage war. It does so without restraint using every weapon in its arsenal thought necessary to achieve its objective, including nuclear, illegal chemical and possibly biological agents [in the 1950s and later, the U.S. tested the effects of toxic biological agents through aerosolization and dispersal on our own unwitting population in selected U.S. cities including New York and San Francisco]. Through the years post WW1, the 1925 Geneva Protocol and various succeeding Geneva Weapons Conventions specifically outlawed the use of chemical and biological agents in any form for any reason in war. Although no Geneva Convention or other treaty specifically bans the use of radioactive uranium weapons including so-called depleted uranium [DU], these weapons are, in fact, illegal de facto and de jure if only judged by the standard of the Hague Convention of 1907 which prohibits use of any "poison or poisoned weapons." DU weapons in all their forms and uses are radioactive and chemically toxic, and thus clearly fit the definition of poisonous weapons banned under the Hague Convention. Any use of them for any purpose is a war crime.

The U.S. military under Bush-Cheney in Afghanistan and Iraq has and continues to use these outlawed chemical and radioactive DU weapons in clear violation of international law this country is a signatory to. The U.S. uses various toxic substances and agents that fall into these two categories, the two most prominent being DU used in projectiles fired from aircraft and tanks and napalm-like white phosphorous bombs and shells, known as Willy Pete, that burn flesh to the bone and an updated version of napalm called Mark 77 firebombs which do about the same thing to flesh. Used against civilians, these weapons are illegal under the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and as U.S. forces use them, they really are weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. military admits to using them - in their words "very sparingly." That's a deliberate lie based on clear documentary evidence from Fallujah alone that these weapons are used freely and indiscriminately against civilian and military targets and that use of these and all other of the most dangerous and destructive weapons are authorized by officials at the highest level of the Bush-Cheney administration.

In the Iraq border town of Al-Qaim as part of operation "steel curtain" and in nearby Husaybah in western Iraq, U.S. forces have attacked civilians as part of a broader effort against the Iraqi "resistance" using these and other illegal and questionable weapons like chemical gases, cluster bombs and a terror weapon called "flashettes" which explode and shoot out 1000s of nails in all directions with deadly results. White phosphorous shells and DU weapons are also being used in an operation based on the "Fallujah model" to destroy these cities and the people in them. Along with these terror weapons, all water and electricity in these towns were cut off, homes, schools and mosques destroyed or severely damaged, hospitals entered violently and the patients in them terrorized and/or taken prisoner and doctors targeted as they might treat the wounded thought to be part of the "resistance." Overall, just as in Fallujah one year ago, in Tal Afar in September this year and elsewhere, a scorched earth policy is being employed to terrorize and destroy everyone and everything in the targeted areas. This seems to be the central depraved U.S. strategy to "win hearts and minds" and bring "democracy, humanitarian intervention and liberation U.S. style" to the Iraqi people. I doubt Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine would approve. The latter's historic quote - "These are the times that try men's souls" - is most apt in Iraq today and sadly here at home as well. And I wonder how Martin Luther King, if he were alive today, would update what he said in 1967 [one year before he was murdered] when he called this country "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world."

All the weapons discussed above as well as the more conventional ones are deadly and destructive and especially so when used against weak or defenseless adversaries and innocent civilians who just happen to be in the area attacked. However, DU weapons are especially dangerous and lethal. They're the likely main cause of "Gulf war syndrome" causing chronic muscle and joint pain, fatigue, memory loss, birth deformities and a significant increase in cancer among those exposed - both Iraqis and U.S. Gulf war veterans. As many as 200,000 U.S. soldiers complained of these symptoms and problems following the 1991 war. No one knows how many Iraqis were and are affected, but clearly this illegal weapon along with about 12 years of brutal economic sanctions caused the death of over 1 million Iraqi civilians, at least half of them children, as well as an incalculable number of cancers and other serious and fatal illnesses that add to the death toll each day under an illegal occupation - in sum, a massive war crime of clear and deliberate genocide. The effects of DU exposure are already showing up in our military from the current Iraq war and probably from Afghanistan as well. With much longer deployment now in those countries than in the 1991 Gulf war, it's likely hundreds of thousands more of our military will be affected by a new "Iraq and Afghanistan war syndrome." And vast areas of Iraq especially are so contaminated with lethal radiation and other toxins in soil, water and air [that's easily ingested into the lungs] they should be judged uninhabitable for many thousands of years.

In its campaign against Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military, despite repeated denials, systematically violated the rules and established codes of warfare [as established at the Geneva and Hague Conventions going back to the 1850s] including using banned weapons, mistreatment of prisoners and denying proper care for the sick and wounded. It also invented the category of "illegal combatant" that has no legal basis whatever. In addition, it's done little to avoid civilian casualties and at times deliberately and willfully attacked civilian targets as part of an overall assault against a neighborhood, town or city. While always claiming to be targeting only "terrorist insurgents," al-Queda elements or foreign fighters, nearly always those most affected were innocent civilians including women and children.

No target symbolized these brutal attacks more than Fallujah, a city of about 350,000 and site of repeated resistance against the illegal occupiers. After the killing of 4 American private military contractors [aka "paramilitary hired guns" with license to kill with impunity] in March, 2004, the U.S. military began a campaign of retribution against the city that culminated in November with a full force assault killing a large but unknown number of mostly civilians and injuring a great many more, causing vast destruction, and forcing half the population out of the city and into temporary camps under harsh conditions. The city was largely destroyed using "scorched earth" tactics in the manner described by a special forces colonel in Vietnam when he stated regarding the city of Ben Tre that "we had to destroy the town in order to save it." Iraqis thought otherwise and haven't forgotten the atrocities committed against them in Fallujah, a war crime by any standard of international law.

Since the March, 2003 illegal assault and invasion, war crimes have been widespread, systematic and sanctioned by those at the highest level in the Bush-Cheney administration. Probably no crimes resonate more than the systemic and officially approved use of torture. Since the first photographs and reports surfaced of U.S. personnel torturing prisoner/detainees held at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, it became apparent from eyewitness accounts and detainees later released that often brutal physical as well as cruel, inhumane, and degrading psychological torture has been systematically used as standard practice. Further evidence was obtained from leaked International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] reports, inquiries by Physicians for Human Rights and some reports by investigative journalists. At this time, it's clear that torture is widely used at least at most U.S. prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo as well as being "subcontracted out" to other willing terror state partner countries like Syria, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere in a practice known as "extraordinary rendition." In addition, secret CIA run prisons have been revealed in Romania, Poland and other unnamed countries where torture is used. Using torture routinely as a way to break down resistance and obtain intelligence not only doesn't work, as is widely known, it's a practice of extreme depravity for those nations using it, especially those claiming to be "democracies."

Because of all the practices discussed above, the U.S. under Bush-Cheney is the world champion rogue, criminal, terror state. Thanks to them and their high-level officials and policies, the U.S. is feared and overwhelmingly reviled as a pariah nearly everywhere abroad and heading there at home. The term "ugly American" when first coined referred to the misbehavior of American tourists when traveling abroad. Today the term might be used to apply specifically to George Bush, who can't escape mass protests against him whenever he travels abroad and at times at home, far greater and more frequent than any previous U.S. president would ever experience even occasionally. Through its reckless, outrageous and criminal practices, this administration squandered the overwhelming [but unjustified] world sympathy it had after 9/11 when Bush's approval rating jumped from 51% on Sept. 10 to 86% 5 days later as polled by the Gallup organization. Today his approval rating at home is below 40% and dropping - surprising since his "base" is about 40%. As judged by world public opinion, Bush's world is unmasked and clearly understood by the world's majority. It's one based on brazen unrestrained imperial world domination and rule; aiding the rich; depriving, demonizing and oppressing the poor and disadvantaged, especially people of color and immigrants from developing countries; ignoring the rule of law and international norms and backing it all up with overwhelming military power used willfully, brutally and recklessly around the world to achieve its ends. There's no sign of a change in this policy. There's every sign it will get worse. But the Bush administration may have an achilles heel that could prove its undoing. It's afflicted with the sometimes fatal disease of hubris and is blinded by the notion that its way is not the right way. It's wrong, dead wrong, and hopefully its miscalculation will be our salvation.

Overwhelming public disapproval alone may prove their undoing. But if there's to be any true justice, Bush and Cheney should be impeached and made to answer for their crimes against the American people and against all those people abroad affected by their administration's illegal aggression. Bush-Cheney and all officials at all levels in their administration connected to their criminal acts should be indicted and tried in federal courts, convicted of the most egregious possible crime of deliberately and willfully lying to take the nation to war and given the harshest penalty for their crime without the possibility of parole or pardon. They should also be taken to the International Criminal Court [ICC] at the Hague [even though the U.S. refused to ratify the Rome Statute it signed but 100 other nations did] which was established in 2002 to try individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Bush, Cheney and those administration officials complicit with them are guilty of all three crimes. They should all be held and brought to trial at the ICC, convicted and again sentenced with no leniency to the harshest possible penalty. Might this happen? Probably not. Could it? Absolutely, if mass public opinion demands nothing less.

Short of achieving real justice, thoughtful, caring people everywhere should wonder when this appalling criminality and reckless endangerment will end, where it will lead us and what will be its consequences. We must ask, can we even survive unless and until a way is found to stop this out-of-control force that may consume us. We better hope so and soon.

An important worrying sign was clear and present at the January signing ceremony for the FY 06 Defense Authorization Bill. That bill contained the McCain Amendment (banning the torture of detainees) and Graham-Levin Amendment (effectively denying detainees their sacred habeas rights and taking a reckless first step toward denying those rights to all of us). At the ceremony George Bush made an extraordinary statement. In it he effectively nullified "McCain" entirely by claiming the right to govern as a "Unitary Executive" with the power to abrogate the separation of powers doctrine (implied though not specifically stated in the Constitution), bypass the Congress and courts and act as he chooses to protect national security. In effect, he way saying to protect the nation, he will ignore the law if he chooses and govern by presidential edict - an unequivocal usurpation of dictatorial power. He also violated the notion of "judicial supremacy", established in 1803 in the famous Marbury v. Madison Supreme Court decision which affirmed that the Court alone is the final arbiter of what is and is not the law.

Rule by presidential decree alone is called a totalitarian police state where the people have no recourse through the courts or legislature to protect them against government abuse. We should all be very worried. We should also be fed up and willing to act in our own defense. We can't afford to lose hope and should take heart and be driven by the words of famed civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer when she said over 40 years ago she was "sick and tired of being sick and tired" - a call to action. And we should be inspired by the wonderful aphorism of equally famed Italian political theorist and revolutionary Antonio Gramsci who spoke of the "pessimism of the intellect and the optimism of the will."

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be contacted at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net

Monday, January 16, 2006

COMMENTS ON NORMAN FINKLESTEIN'S NEW BOOK - "BEYOND CHUTZPAH"

COMMENTS ON NORMAN FINKLESTEIN'S NEW BOOK - "BEYOND CHUTZPAH" - by Stephen Lendman

Professor Norman Finklestein of DePaul University in Chicago and an expert on zionism (the subject of his doctoral dissertation), Jewish and Israeli history and the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict has just completed a very important book. It's called "Beyond Chutzpah" and it's about Israel's and its supporters' "misuse of anti-semitism and abuse of history." The book is extremely well written and reflects Dr. Finklestein's brilliant scholarship, keen analysis and scrupulous integrity. In style, the book is powerful and elegant and will greatly impact all those who read it.

Dr. Finklestein showed great courage tackling a subject as sensitive and vitally important as Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity and how they're able to deflect them from public view, especially in the U.S., by creating or resurrecting the myth of a virulent and pervasive "new anti-semitism" as well as exploit "The Holocaust" as a "unique" event in history only affecting the Jews under the Nazis.

Dr. Finklestein knew full well because of his great credibility, integrity and reputation for meticulous scholarship he would have to brace for the inevitable assault against him after or even before publication. It certainly came and quite viciously - cancelled scheduled appearances to discuss his book, an effort to keep it from being published and more. If he were unimportant, unknown or produced mediocre work, he probably would have been ignored. But by attacking him, his critics (with no credible evidence to support them) acknowledged just the opposite, and by doing it by relying on little more than hollow ad hominems, they showed themselves to be on the defensive and had no other recourse. Using a familiar metaphor, you could say when the (Israeli) emperor was shorn of its protective clothes, its defense was to deflect attention elsewhere, blame its victims to justify its own abuses and attack all adversaries as anti-semites, liars, terrorists or their supporters or whatever else they thought might work for them.

Professor Finklestein documents in great and impressive detail what this reviewer has known for a considerable time from my own extensive reading and following events in the "occupied territories." For many years I've occasionally discussed Israel's shocking and callous treatment of the Palestinians with friends and acquaintances. At times I've stunned and disturbed them when I explained that beginning with the deliberate "ethnic cleansing" in 1948 to the present, Israel created a racist, apartheid state even worse than in South Africa and went on to treat the Palestinians as brutally as the Nazis treated them, except for the death camps - especially after 1967. And after that crucial year, these policies were supported and financed by all U.S. governments. Israel's overwhelming victory in their "six day war" when the U.S. was beginning to be bogged down in Vietnam clearly showed the Johnson administration how important a strategic ally this nation was and how it could be used in that vital region as "our cop on the beat" (using Noam Chomsky's characterization) along with Iran (under the Shah).

Dr. Finklestein spends much time documenting Israel's record of abuse. It's vast and disturbing and includes systematic and routine extrajudicial murder (sanctioned by Israel's High Court), theft of land, bulldozing of homes (at times with occupants still inside and almost always in the middle of the night and with very little time to leave and never any right to appeal), denial of all or most civil liberties and basic needs like enough water and freedom and access of movement, the routine use of torture (at times prolonged and severe - Israel had its Abu Graibs long before the U.S. did in Iraq), the construction of the "apartheid" wall ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice (to seize Palestinian land and as another act of repression), and the unending military occupation including in Gaza even after the recent sham withdrawal with the IDF not leaving but just redeploying. Today Gaza and the West Bank are the world's two largest "open air" prisons.

I'm struck by the similarity between the ploy used to justify the so-called "war on terrorism" and the tactic used by Israelis and their supporters to create the myth of "unique Jewish suffering" to justify their criminal acts. Our government's gross exaggeration of a terror threat was and is being used as cover to justify waging illegal wars against Afghanistan and Iraq and be able to declare a permanent state of war against any nation designated a threat to our security -- translation: any nation not subservient to the U.S. or whose policies don't serve our interests. It's also enabled it to establish a near lockdown police state at home (and, in fact, has done that in New Orleans as it's "ethnically cleansed" the city of its poor and especially black population to steal those neighborhoods to redevelop them for profit), desecrating our civil liberties with little opposition mounted to stop it or explain the grave danger of allowing it.

The Israelis have achieved their goals by turning the Nazi myth of "the eternal Jew" on its head and created in its place "the eternal Jewish victim" and uniqueness of Jewish suffering. That accomplished, they've been able to subvert and ignore international law and sacred Geneva Conventions, countless UN resolutions unfavorable to them, and all condemnation of their crimes against the Palestinians - one of the most defenseless and oppressed people on earth. Using Nazi terminology, the Palestinians are Israel's "untermenschen" or subhumans.

There's one other war deserving mention as well which is the most important one of all, I believe. It's the "war on truth", and it's the most dangerous and damaging of all the so-called "wars." We know truth is the first casualty of war, but the "war on truth" is much more than than that. When waged effectively, it can justify almost anything no matter how egregious.

Since WWI in this country, the art of creating myth out of whole cloth has been refined and perfected to a degree that would impress even Goebbels and probably leave him in awe. Through the all-pervasive corporate media, right wing think tanks, our entire educational system from pre-school through the doctoral level (with only rare exceptions like Professor Finklestein, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Edward Herman, Michael Parenti, Doug Dowd), and even the clergy, only or mostly acceptable doctrine is disseminated and taught. The alternative media and internet violate this rule, but their reach and influence are limited. As long as real information and truth are suppressed and sanitized, a slumbering public can be convinced through brainwashing of almost anything. What better example of this than the October 30,1938 on-air presentation of the H.G. Wells science fiction drama "War of the Worlds" narrated by Orsen Wells. The story was about a fictional attack by aliens against the U.S. and apparently seemed so real that a great many listeners actually believed it and panicked. If that story was believable, it's easy to see that the public could be convinced that threats of weapons of mass destruction and future terrorist attacks were real.

Professor Finklestein does a superb job exposing and debunking the chicanery and mendacity of apologists and fraudsters like Alan Dershowitz especially in his discredited 2003 book "The Case for Israel" which is replete with egregious lies and outright plagiarism, a book that was heavily promoted and became a national best seller. In other books Finklestein has written and again in "Beyond Chutzpah" he also exposes Joan Peter's 1984 book "From Time Immemorial" which he proves through extensive documentation was a complete hoax. Not at all done, Dr. Finklestein presents substantial evidence to expose convincingly the duplicity and shamelessness of such noted figures as Elie Wiesel, Kofi Annan, Martin Peretz and many others. All these individuals deserve the harshest condemnation, and Professor Finklestein has delivered it very effectively and conclusively in his book.

This writer would like to add his own comment about Elie Wiesel, who along with Alan Dershowitz warrants special rebuke in my mind. Mr. Wiesel has and continues shamelessly to exploit his status as a "Holocaust" survivor and most undeserving stature as a nobel laureate. The way he's abused his world prominence for personal gain spreading lies and acting as an agent for Israel and its crimes has desecrated the spirit and memory of all those who suffered and perished during the Nazi holocaust (including all Professor Finklestein's family members on both sides) or those who suffered as he did - including the now departed beloved parents of Professor Finklestein who, as he explained, survived the Warsaw ghetto and years in concentration camps including time at Auschwitz.

I'd like to end with a comment from the moving and wonderful last paragraph from the forward to the first paperback edition of one of Dr. Finklestein's other important books (that should be read and that deserves far more comment than can be made here) - "The Holocaust Industry." Professor Finklestein quoted a piece of wisdom taught him by his late mother: that "it's not an accident that Jews invented the word "chutzpah." That was followed by his praise for Raul Hilberg as the "undisputed dean of holocaust scholars" that "perhaps it's not an accident that Jews also invented the word "mensch." For those unfamiliar with this special Yiddish word, it means a person of special integrity and honor. It's a word of great praise that's used very sparingly or should be. In carefully researching and writing "Beyond Chutzpah" and having the courage to defend it in the face of relentless attacks on his scholarship and integrity, Professor Finklestein, like Raul Hilberg, is indeed a "mensch."

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net

THE NEW ORLEANS AFTERMATH AND AN UGLY GLIMPSE OF THE FUTURE

THE NEW ORLEANS AFTERMATH AND AN UGLY GLIMPSE OF THE FUTURE - by Stephen Lendman

The most important and lasting story of New Orleans is not the catastrophe wrought by nature, important as that is. It's the planned and now being implemented one brought to that city and its benighted majority poor and mainly black population by the combined and complicit federal, state and local governments beholden to corporate interests. The overwhelming destruction and human misery and death caused by a natural phenomenon has quickly metamorphosed into an extraordinary golden opportunity for business profit and predation. The brazen and out of control Bush administration has taken full advantage by rewarding its corporate cronies well with lucrative contracts for what they and the major media call "rebuilding." What's really happening is something much different and well concealed that should be exposed as a national scandal. It's exploitive predatory disaster capitalism that's an unexpected "windfall" [excuse the pun] for the usual corporate "favorites" - Halliburton [of course, always first chosen], Bechtel, and the oil, chemical and all other corporations that will benefit from redevelopment contracts plus those to receive large federal subsidy handouts [above the large ones already gotten] . And, of course, all this will be funded, as it always is, mostly by middle and low income taxpayers who receive only the bill and none of the benefits.

To enhance corporate profits even further, the Bush administration has suspended Davis-Bacon Act law which guarantees that prevailing wage rates be paid on all federally funded or assisted construction projects. This will enable contractors to pay poverty wages and be able to employ immigrant or undocumented workers [rather than the now displaced and unemployed New Orleans poor black population] least able or likely to protest. In addition, to assure all evacuated neighborhoods remain that way, even after flood waters recede, as well as to protect local business interests and upper income people remaining or returning and corporate contractors coming in to redevelop, paramilitary "hired guns", some fresh from Iraq, have been hired with license to shoot to kill with impunity anyone "perceived" to be a threat. New Orleans has now become our Baghdad [without the car bombings and strong resistance committed to end the illegal occupation] or "hostile Indian country" for the scattered poor black and Latino residents remaining. And if that weren't enough, environmental regulations have also been suspended in an area desperately needing remediation and already well qualified to be designated a superfund site or toxic waste dump [but never will be].

To make all this happen, according to plan, New Orleans was left extremely unprepared for a natural catastrophe sure to come eventually. There were deliberate and punitive federal budget cuts, an attitude of extreme arrogance and neglect of the majority poor and most vulnerable population that would pay the price, and a flippant disregard for the irrefutable truth about and threat from global warming - a threat confirmed by the most reputable climate scientists including a recent study by an MIT scientist showing that overall hurricane intensity today is 50% greater than in 1970. The price being paid is very high. Poor blacks mainly were assaulted when in desperation they tried to get food and other basic necessities from stores unable to be open, they were routinely arrested, shot and killed in cold blood, and finally "ethnically cleansed" en masse to distant locations where they were treated with disdain. Now most of their neighborhoods [those most wanted for "redevelopment"] have been or will be "appropriated" by the state and city, and these people won't be allowed to return to them. Probably they'll be dispersed to other "ghetto" locations in New Orleans, other parts of Louisiana and other states. Perhaps the most blatant and galling example of arrogance and indifference to the massive human suffering and loss was demonstrated by the Bush family matriarch - Barbara Bush - on the Larry King show when she callously dismissed the great tragedy the displaced people in the Houston Astrodome had endured by saying how lucky these deprived people were to be where they could be cared for better than they were able to do it for themselves before the storm. George Galloway, the British MP, said it best that Mrs. Bush will now go down in history as a modern day Marie Antoinette [the French Queen and wife of King Louis XVI] who when told the French peasants had no bread suggested they eat cake instead. The French Revolution followed in the wake of that arrogance and misrule, just as we had our own shortly before it because of foreign misrule here and a desire for freedom. At some point, as has happened so often in the past elsewhere, oppressed people here may once again rise up to throw off their oppressors.

New Orleans after the natural catastrophe is not an isolated once in a multi-generation event. It's only the most current example of exploitation of the poor and disadvantaged [mainly people of color] that's been ongoing since Columbus [the first western genocidist] arrived over 500 years ago. The only difference in New Orleans is that the development and rebuilding there will be on a much greater scale. In other cities, like my own in Chicago, it's always ongoing. It's called "gentrification" to build upscale residential apartments, condominiums or homes for the privileged or "slum clearance" to build a new super sports stadium or arena or other new corporate development projects. In all cases, it's predatory capitalism supported and/or financed by government for the rich and at the expense of the most disadvantaged and least powerful.

What's happening now in New Orleans and other US cities is also happening around the world. In New Orleans it's "predatory disaster capitalism", in Baghdad it's "conquest and occupation capitalism", and in Haiti it's "coup d'etat and return the poor Haitians to serfdom capitalism" [enforced by "neutral" UN peacekeepers]. And those along with Afghanistan are only the most visible examples of what has and is now happening in developing countries everywhere affected or dominated by US directed policies and actions. Disaster profiteering at home is possible as opportunities present themselves. Its conquest and occupation equivalent abroad is only the alternative chosen after all other less extreme choices have been tried and failed to succeed. In our own cities, "redevelopment" for the betterment of the community is an easy sell [except to those people affected], while abroad similar "development" aid through World Bank and IMF [onerous] loans to developing nations claim to be promoting economic growth which will reduce poverty but, in fact, benefit only US or western corporate interests and an elite few in recipient countries while causing extreme deprivation and increased poverty in the greater population. In both instances, corporate interests and those in power benefit at the expense of the most deprived and defenseless. The result for the mass population is always catastrophic. In this country, it becomes a race to the bottom as wages stagnate or fall, low paid service jobs replace higher paid manufacturing ones and essential social services are reduced or denied. In the developing countries it's far worse and includes the theft of their land and resources and ability to earn even a minimally acceptable living as well as denial of basic needs like essential health care, education and clean water - resulting in mass deprivation, disease and death.

The rise of the extreme neoconservative right and philosophy and practice of so-called "free market neoliberalism" at home and abroad combined with growing and dangerous militarism especially since the 1980s now threatens the security and welfare of people everywhere. At home it's apparent in federal, state and local budget cuts in all categories of social needs, corporate downsizing and exporting of the best high-paying jobs, the slow destruction of organized labor, an even more extreme and dangerous ecological neglect and destruction, an intensified militarization and frequent use of it to wage foreign wars of conquest and police state control here at home, and an overall fundamentalist Christian, military and corporate takeover of the country and systematic disregard of our basic and most cherished constitutional rights. There's a word for that type governance, and it's not a pleasant one. It's called fascism, and if we're not quite there yet, it's surely in sight.

In a nation like ours where almost from birth and surely from pre-school on we're all "assaulted" and programmed to accept the so-called "American way" or "American exceptionalism" as the best of all possible worlds. The dominant corporate media suppress and sanitize all our news and information and act merely as complicit transmission agents for the state and their own corporate interests. And throughout our school years from early on through the doctoral level, we're taught only acceptable doctrine. Throughout our history as a nation, the real story of war and endless conflict, imperial expansion and conquest, and oppression of the most defenseless is never taught and has never stopped. The way we treated black people as slaves, slaughtered our native peoples by the millions and stole their land and resources {both glaring examples of genocide on the most massive scale but never so labeled] are still repeated today in different forms. Instead of slavery, we now have the world's largest gulag prison system {mostly for blacks and other people of color ] and impoverished ghettos. And instead of Indian wars of conquest and mass slaughter, we have bantustan-like reservations on the most inhospitable lands and even greater poverty, disease, hopelessness and cultural genocide. In New Orleans today, the beat merely goes on, and it's the same business as usual story. But let's be very clear what all this really means. What's happening now in its most extreme form in New Orleans [unreported in the mass media and concealed from the public] is what will happen all across the country tomorrow unless enough dedicated good people can find a way to stop it before it's too late - and the time left is very short. If we who care fail, "America the beautiful" will only exist for the privileged few and no one else.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net

HAITI'S ACHIEVEMENTS UNDER ARISTIDE AND LAVALAS - NOW LOST SINCE THE U.S. LED COUP OUSTING HIM

HAITI'S ACHIEVEMENTS UNDER ARISTIDE AND LAVALAS - NOW LOST SINCE THE U.S. LED COUP OUSTING HIM - BY STEPHEN LENDMAN

The long-suffering people of Haiti suffered a catastrophic blow in February, 2004 when U.S. Marines kidnapped and deposed democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The U.S., supported by Canada and France, forced him into exile, forbade him from even returning to the hemisphere, and reestablished a despotic interim puppet government backed and enforced by so-called UN peacekeepers and a brutal Haitian National Police. U.S. officials also threatened Aristide with a second abduction followed by a trial and imprisonment in the U.S. [on totally fraudulent charges of looting the Haitian treasury, money laundering and taking payoffs from drug traffickers] if he dared act or speak out forcefully against his ousting, forced exile and the deplorable situation now in Haiti. These charges are currently included in a baseless lawsuit the so-called Interim Government of Haiti has filed against President Aristide even as they carry out a reign of terror against the Haitian people. And as they do it, conditions in the country continue to deterioriate as the occupying forces clamp down on the people ahead of so-called Presidential and legislative elections in January. With Haiti an occupied country, the freedom and democracy they had is now lost and along with it a decade of impressive social, economic and political gains they never had before.

Why did the U.S. plan and carry out this act of savage banditry against a leader beloved by his people and last reelected in 2000 with 92% of the vote? It was because he cared about the 80% or more desperately poor and disadvantaged Haitians and was committed to improving their lives. He was determined to serve their interests rather than those of his dominant northern neighbor. That policy of any nation, especially less developed ones, is always unacceptable to the predatory neoliberal agenda of all U.S. administrations, the giant transnational corporations whose interests they serve, and in Haiti, their elite junior business partners. The Bush administration, in league with these dominant business interests, intends to return this nation of 8.5 million people, the poorest in the Americas, to its pre-Aristide status of virtual serfdom. To do it they destroyed Haiti's freedom and first ever democracy in its history and turned the country into a killing field. And to justify what they did, they conducted a shameless disinformation campaign, aided by a complicit and corrupted corporate media, falsely claiming the Aristide government was rife with corruption, trafficked drugs and violated human rights. They also claimed Haiti was poorly governed by inherently inept people [shameless racism]. They called it a failed state needing "reform" and "humanitarian intervention."

For U.S. corporations and the Haitian business elite, Haiti has always been a paradise for some of the cheapest labor on the planet. It's also had a long-term endemic problem of men, women and children being victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation, debt bondage and chattel labor. No one leader or party, no matter how well-intentioned, could solve all these problems easily or quickly. But Aristide tried. He wanted something better and for ten years accomplished impressive achievements with little outside financial support and against great odds. What Lavalas administrations accomplished is explained below.

SOCIAL GAINS UNDER LAVALAS

1. HEALTH CARE

The Aristide government renovated and built health clinics, hospitals and dispensaries and added improved medical services. It greatly increased the number of health care workers including doctors. It spent a larger percentage of its budget on health care than any previous Haitian government. It began a meaningful AIDS prevention and treatment program praised by international experts that reduced the HIV prevalence rate from 6.1% to 5% and the mother to child transmission rate from 30% to 9%. In a cooperative effort with Cuba it sent hundreds of Haitian medical students to that country to study to become doctors and were aided by many more hundreds of Cuban health care workers coming to Haiti to work in rural areas. It established a new medical school in Tabarre which provided free medical education for hundreds of Haitian students and planned to open a nursing school which the 2004 coup prevented.

Overall, health care availability and improvement made impressive gains from its formerly dismal state. One measure was the decline in infant mortality from 125 to 110 per 1000 and a drop in the percentage of underweight births from 28% to 19%.

2. EDUCATION

Aristide and Fanmi Lavalas implemented a Universal Schooling Program intending to include all Haitian children. 20% of Haiti's budget was devoted to education, and between 2001 - 2004 school enrollment rates rose from 68% to 72%. Under Lavalas administrations, 195 new primary schools and 104 new public high schools were built including in rural areas where no schools ever before existed. To supplement further, Fanmi Lavalas provided thousands of scholarships for children to attend private schools. It subsidized schoolbooks and uniforms and expanded school lunch programs to serve 700,000 hot meals a day to children who otherwise might have had no meal.

The Aristide government also began a national literacy campaign, printed 2 million literacy manuals, and trained thousands of students as literacy workers. It opened 20,000 adult literacy centers many of which combined a literacy center with a community kitchen to provide low cost meals to communities in need. Between 2001 - 2003 this program taught 100,000 people to read, and from 1996 - 2003 reduced the illiteracy rate from 85% to 55%.

3. JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Contrary to the demonization and disinformation campaign against Aristide and Lavalas, human rights and conflict resolution achieved significant gains under Lavalas administrations. For the first time ever in Haiti, the rights of the accused were respected. Those arrested had a formal hearing before a judge usually within 2 days. Court proceedings were conducted in Creole, the French derivative language all Haitians understand. Since the 2004 coup, Lavalas supporters have been routinely murdered or jailed for months without charge and without recourse to a fair trial in court.

In 1995 the Lavalas government opened a school for magistrates. It graduated 100 new judges and prosecutors between 1996 - 2003. Also, courthouses and police stations were constructed and refurbished throughout the country. Special courts for children were established, and a special child protection unit was created within the Haitian National Police. Laws were also passed prohibiting all forms of corporal punishment against children. And in 2003 a new law was passed repealing a labor code provision allowing child domestic service [mostly unpaid and thus chattel labor], and additional legislation passed prohibiting all trafficking in persons [a long-term endemic abuse in Haiti affecting adults and children].

Aristide removed the main instrument of state repression and dozens of previous coups by disbanding the hated Haitian military - trained by the U.S. to be an instrument of civilian control and to use brutal and abusive tactics to do it. This allowed the Haitian people an unprecedented level of freedom of speech, assembly and personal safety unknown before. He also created the National Commission for Truth and Justice to investigate and report on the crimes committed during the 1991-1994 coup period. It made its recommendations for a measure of justice in 1996. As a result, former soldiers and paramilitaries were tried for their crimes and convicted when found guilty in fair trials.

POLITICAL GAINS UNDER LAVALAS

Until Aristide's election in 1990 Haiti had never before had a democratically elected President. Aristide took office in 1991, but his administration was short-lived because of a military coup that deposed him later in the year. But in a deal struck with the Clinton administration Aristide was restored to office in 1994 and served out the remainder of his term until 1996. Then, prohibited from succeeding himself by Haitian law, Aristide ally and Prime Minister in 1991, Rene Preval, was elected President with 88% of the vote. Aristide was then reelected in November, 2000 [representing the Fanmi Lavalas party he formed in 1996] and served until the February, 2004 coup deposing him.

Haiti's independent electoral commission oversaw the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections and 3 parliamentary and local elections. In May, 2000, 29,500 candidates ran for 7,500 posts. Four million Haitians registered for the election and 60% of them voted. Many women and peasant leaders were elected to the House of Deputies, formed a caucus and worked in Parliament to improve the lives of rural farmers. For the first time ever Haitian women held the posts of Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Finance and Chief of Police. Also, in 1995 President Aristide established a cabinet level Ministry of Women's Affairs to work for women's welfare. Its purpose was multifold and included help for rape victims, improving literacy and access to education, vital health services like pre-natal care and inclusion of women to benefit from increases in the minimum wage.

During this period, the Haitian people enjoyed unprecedented freedom to organize, speak out freely and assemble. The number of radio stations in Port-au-Prince expanded to 44 and another 100 outside the capitol. 16 TV stations were registered in the capitol and 35 more nationwide. Also, the Haitian Constitution of 1987 was printed in Creole and was widely distributed so Haitians were aware of their rights which, for the first time, they really had.

For nearly 10 years the Haitian people had its only democracy in its 500 year history and a government and leaders it chose who for the first time cared about the welfare of ordinary Haitians and established policies to improve their lives. All that was lost in February, 2004. The Haitian people want it restored and resistance is growing to try and achieve it.

ECONOMIC GAINS UNDER LAVALAS

Aristide raised the minimum wage in 1995 and doubled it in 2003. He instituted an extensive land reform program distributing 2.47 acres of land to each of 1500 peasant families in the Artibonite River Valley. His government provided tools, credit, technical assistance, fertilizers and heavy equipment to farmers. Irrigation systems were repaired bringing water to 7000 farmers. As a result, rice yields [from Haiti's main staple crop] rose from 2.7 tons per hectare to between 3 - 3.5 tons.

The government distributed tens of thousands of reintroduced Creole pigs to Haitian farmers. This reversed a 1980 U.S. International Development Agency [USAID] extermination policy done for fraudulent reasons to prevent Haitian farmers from competing with pig farmers in the U.S. This act cost Haitian farmers hundreds of millions of dollars for which they received no compensation.

The Aristide administration campaigned aggressively to collect unpaid tax and utility bills owed the government by wealthy and powerful elite businessmen. Through this effort they generated new revenues which were used for health care and education.

The government repaired and reopened the state owned sugar mill in Dabonne that enabled Haiti to process its own sugar. Also, 30,000 fishermen received technical aid and training to build boats, Haiti's lakes were planted with fish stocks and 50 new lakes were built.

The Lavalas administrations created hundreds of community stores and restaurants which sold food at discount prices forcing the wealthy elites' import monopolies to reduce their prices and make them more affordable to poor Haitians. As a result, by 2003 malnutrition dropped from 63% to 51%.

In 2002 and 2003 more than 1000 low cost housing units were built, and low interest loans enabled ordinary working-class Haitians to buy them.

In 1994 the Haitian government established a program to help refugees who fled the country after the 1991 coup to return. Programs included carpentry and sewing workshops and help in setting up agricultural cooperatives. This initiative helped 100,000 refugees return to their homes. The government also established an Office for Civil Protection to support the Haitian Red Cross send out early warnings of impending natural disasters and help those affected they they occurred.

All of these vital gains are now being reversed or adversely affected by the current interim U.S. installed puppet government.

OTHER NOTABLE LAVALAS ACHIEVEMENTS

Despite misinformation to the contrary, Lavalas administrations passed legislation to combat drug trafficking and money laundering and worked cooperatively with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency [DEA] to inderdict drugs and deport drug dealers wanted by U.S. authorities. In addition, the National Committee Against Money Laundering, the National Committee to Combat Drug Trafficking and Substance Abuse and a Financial Intelligence Unit were created to enforce the laws passed.

The government also campaigned against public corruption by producing public service announcements and instituting new procedures to combat this abuse. Investigations of government officials and other employees involved in improper or illegal activities were conducted, and those found guilty were fired or prosecuted.

The Lavalas administrations made major investments in projects to help the Haitian people. They included important improvements in infrastructure, public transportation and agriculture. Thousands of miles of drainage canals were constructed, repaired or dredged. In Jacmel a new electric power plant was built, and the port and wharf were renovated. In Port-au-Prince the international airport and national stadium were renovated. Dozens of open-air markets [an important Haitian institution] were built or renovated in cities around the country.

CONDITIONS IN HAITI TODAY SINCE THE 2004 COUP

All the achievements discussed above were impressive and remarkable considering Haiti's long and tragic history as a brutally exploited state - first by Spain and France and then by the U.S. However, since the 2004 coup ousting President Aristide, all of them have been adversely affected or reversed.

Most serious has been the destruction of real democracy and freedom in Haiti and the tragic and horrific fallout from it. To serve the interests of U.S. corporations and the elite Haitian rich, the Haitian National Police [PNH] and so-called UN peacekeepers [MINUSTAH] have unleashed a reign of terror against the Haitian people. President Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party has been destroyed and its officials jailed, murdered or forced to flee to avoid either fate. In addition, thousands of Lavalas supporters [the great majority of Haitians] and community and labor activists have been killed, jailed, disappeared or forced into hiding. Also, thousands of small businesses have been burned and destroyed as have the homes of large numbers of the poor. Jobs have been lost as well, including those of 4000 public sector workers hired under President Aristide immediately eliminated after the coup. As a result, the already very high level of unemployment has risen further.

The brutal and hated former Haitian military has also been reinstituted and now controls large areas of the country in an environment of martial law. In the cities the PNH operates as a de facto paramilitary force with a license to terrorize and kill with impunity. Along with MINUSTAH [led by contingents from Brazil and Chile, with a long history of repressing their home populations], the PNH conducts frequent violent sweeps through poor communities and neighborhoods, like Cite Soleil and Bel Air, attacking, arresting and murdering community leaders, activists and other Lavalas supporters.

In rural areas, absentee landlords along with armed paramilitaries have seized peasant farmer land given them as part of the Land Reform projects by Lavalas administrations. The new interim U.S. installed government headed by Prime Minister Gerard Latortue [imported from Florida for the job] ended subsidies on fertilizer vital to peasant rice farmers. As a result, the cost of fertilizer has more than doubled, and the price of rice [Haiti's main staple crop] has risen sharply, adversely affecting the poor majority [80% or more of the population]. The interim government also cancelled school subsidies for children and textbooks and stopped funding literacy programs. Many poor families have thus been unable to keep their children in school.

U.S. agencies like the U.S. International Development Agency [USAID] and the Washington based and nominally independent Haiti Democracy Project are also deeply involved in making Haiti policy. The latter is funded by the wealthy right-wing Haitian Boulos family, USAID funded Radio Vision 2000 and other Haitian business interests. Its board of directors includes former U.S. ambassadors to Haiti, others close to the U.S. State Department and Haitian business leaders. This organization [or independent think tank as they call themselves] along with U.S. acting ambassador Timothy Carney are likely making day-to-day policy decisions in Haiti while USAID is serving overall U.S. Haiti policy objectives by attempting to "pacify" the country. It's doing it through a sham and grossly inadequate fig leaf program of establishing a few nongovernmental organization [NGO] type operations to provide some essential services like "primary care" and "child survival services," in place of Lavalas, while at the same time administering with an iron fist. It started the first prison for children with others for children and adults likely to follow. The overall aim is to turn Haiti into a tranquil combined open air and enclosed "prison colony" to create a favorable climate for business.

In addition, the predatory international lending agencies, including the IMF and World Bank, are demanding their pound of flesh that will further deepen Haiti's already overwhelming and crushing poverty. In their business as usual fashion they have actively implemented their exploitative and destructive structural adjustment policies of forced privatizations and downsizings of state owned industries and elimination of Lavalas instituted social programs in return for financial aid, adding to Haiti's already onerous debt burden [most of it "odious" debt].

The dominant U.S. corporate media and international community overall have largely ignored the ongoing tragedy and horror in Haiti since the coup. With no pun intended, Haiti today is literally a black hole, out of sight and out of mind. The U.S. now calls the shots while their complicit and subservient in-country proxies have turned back the clock to its ugly despotic past of brutal repression and even more extreme poverty, depravation and human suffering.

SCHEDULED PRESIDENTIAL AND LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS

The so-called Interim Government of Haiti [IGH] has scheduled a first round of Presidential and legislative elections on January 8 with a runoff to follow on February 15 and local elections finally on March 5. This is the fourth reset of elections dates in the last 5 months. That's because the planning and preparation handled by the Provisional Electoral Commission [CEP] has been as flawed as the notion of a free and democratic process in a nation now led by a U.S. appointed Prime Minister in charge of a de facto military junta answerable to the Bush administration. Although reportedly 3.5 million of the estimated 4.2 million eligible to vote have registered, the list of candidates running excludes nearly all former Lavalas members. At present and subject to change, 32 candidates are running for President including Rene Preval who served a full term as Lavalas' democratically elected President from 1996 - 2000. With Lavalas a destroyed party and out of the political process, the fact that Preval has been allowed to run means it's likely he's been co-opted and has deserted his former democratic allies and accepted or joined with those now in power.

The most beloved and popular man still in Haiti, Father Gerard Jean-Juste, will not be allowed to run and has been imprisoned without charge to prevent his inclusion in the election. He currently has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition requiring his release to be able to be treated properly. Without a strong outcry and intervention for him it's doubtful he'll get it, and that may jeopardize his life. Most other candidates are those the Bush administration finds "acceptable" including Dumarsais Simeus, a Haitian born Texas millionaire, Guy Philippe [a former police chief and paramilitary thug who led the armed coup against President Aristide in 2004] and Dany Toussaint [a suspected murderer]. In addition, over 1100 candidates are running for parliament.

Whenever these so-called elections are finally completed, the result will not represent the will of the Haitian people. With Lavalas [the overwhelming choice of the Haitian majority] mostly destroyed as a political entity, the country under a repressive foreign military occupation, and the entire electoral process deeply flawed and effectively rigged, the hope for a democratic election is nil. In addition, the likelihood of electoral fraud is very great, and the Elections Canada Monitoring Mission there to detect it is unlikely to do so because of Canada's support for the U.S. led coup and its participation in MINUSTAH. There is also no way of knowing how many Haitians will actually vote despite the reported number registered. Those wanting to do so will be greatly hampered or unable to as the number of polling stations have been reduced from 12,000 in 2000 to 600 now, mostly in urban areas. The majority poor who supported Aristide/Lavalas are in the rural areas, hours away from where they could vote. Distance and the threat of electoral violence may stop them.

For now the dream of most Haitians remains unfulfilled and unlikely to improve any time soon. Still, in spite of their desperation and without outside support, the Haitian people remain resolute and courageous. Since the coup, they have rallied repeatedly and protested in the streets en masse for the release of political prisoners, the return of President Aristide and a restoration of their brief democracy. And despite the daily terror and violence against them, they have continued their resistance bravely. Their story needs to be told, and they deserve the full support of caring people everywhere.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net